Chinese provincial capital more than two miles above sea level / WED 9-8-21 / Power source for the first Green Lantern / French city where William the Conqueror is buried / Tiny purchase at a haberdashery

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Constructor: Lee Taylor

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Hurry up!" — idiomatic phrases meaning "hurry up!" clued punnily in relation to their imagined addressees: 

Theme answers:
  • "ON THE DOUBLE!" (16A: "Hurry up!" to a batter?)
  • "SHAKE A LEG!" (24A: "Hurry up!" to a dancer?)
  • "LOOK ALIVE!" (50A: "Hurry up!" to a zombie?)
  • "GET CRACKING!" (62A: "Hurry up!" to an omelet chef?)
  • "HIT THE GAS!" (2D: "Hurry up!" to a nitrous oxide user?)
  • "I'M WAITING!" (35D: "Hurry up!" to a server?)
Word of the Day: LHASA (1A: Chinese provincial capital more than two miles above sea level) —

Lhasa (/ˈlɑːsə/; Lhasa dialect: /l̥ɛː˥˥.sa˥˥/Standard Tibetanལྷ་སlit.'Place of Gods') is the urban center of the prefecture-level Lhasa City and the administrative capital of Tibet. The inner urban area of Lhasa City is equivalent to the administrative borders of Chengguan District (simplified Chinese城关区traditional Chinese城關區pinyinChéngguān Qū), which is part of the wider prefectural Lhasa City.

Lhasa is the second most populous urban area on the Tibetan Plateau after Xining and, at an altitude of 3,656 metres (11,990 ft), Lhasa is one of the highest cities in the world. The city has been the religious and administrative capital of Tibet since the mid-17th century. It contains many culturally significant Tibetan Buddhist sites such as the Potala PalaceJokhang Temple and Norbulingka Palaces. (wikipedia)

• • •

Cluing LHASA as a "Chinese provincial capital" feels aggressively political and kind of hostile. I struggled with that clue so much up front, wondering what the hell this city could be, only to realize it's a city that's been in crosswords forever. It's just that this is the first time ever (literally ever, going back to 1944) that LHASA has been clued as part of China. The word "China" or "Chinese" had appeared in precisely zero LHASA clues before today. The preferred, and still accurate, term for the location of LHASA is "Tibet." I'm not going to go into a whole "Free Tibet!" thing here, but yeesh, there's a whole famous ongoing dispute about Tibet's political status, and it is bizarre beyond belief to see the NYTXW deciding, after 75+ years of neutrality on the issue, to formally recognize Chinese sovereignty. Yes, the Tibet Autonomous Region is in China, but lots of Tibetans and others consider the Chinese an occupying force. If you'd just stuck to cluing LHASA as Tibetan, you would've evoked none of this controversy. I just don't understand this clue at all (and at 1-Across, of all places). Here's a brief profile of Tibet from the BBC, just for historical context.

As for the theme, it worked until it didn't. Four of the themers make sense as clued, but ON THE DOUBLE has no meaning for a baseball player ("double," yes, ON THE DOUBLE, no), and I'M WAITING is a complete wash-out, since it reverses roles, i.e. you're supposed to be saying it *to* the "server*—the server is the one "waiting," not you. Beyond that, lots of crosswordese (CAEN, IRES (!!!?), AGUE ZEROG -INES OHARA on and on and on) and not a lot to like. No need to go to "Gone with the Wind" for O'HARA btw, unless you just enjoy romanticizing the antebellum South. Both my main struggles today were geographical, with LHASA confusing me up front and then KIGALI having seemingly disappeared from my brain completely. Not a world capital I ever put on permanent file in my memory stores. Had TIE CLIP before TIE TACK (48A: Tiny purchase at a haberdashery), and needed every cross to get CPA (64D: Figurehead?). Seriously, I had -PA and no idea ("hmmm, is it IPA? ... beer has a "head" on it ... nope, IPA's already in the grid ... hmmm" etc.). 

Oof, "play HOB," what the hell is that? (22A: Play ___ with (make trouble for)). Got the HO- and then my brain somehow knew it was "B" but my shadow brain was like "that's absurd, how do you even know that?" Try using that phrase today. I guarantee no one will understand you. So in the end, 2/3 of the themers work, and the grid is filled in a not-so-great but passable way. I've had worse Wednesdays. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. I thought I'd share this email I received yesterday with you. It reminded me a little of why I love what I do (even if, on some days, like today, that might not be soooo evident :)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Eddie 6:54 AM  

The letter has made my day. Thank you for posting it.

Anonymous 7:11 AM  

SILT UP? Is that really a thing?

Lewis 7:19 AM  

@rex -- Thank you for posting that letter, it was heart-wrenching, yes, but mostly it was uplifting.

Zipped through this puzzle; felt like I was living the theme!

I loved [Word that rhymes with its exact opposite?] for YEA. Are there other possible answers? It did remind me of contranyms, where a word can have opposite meanings, such as screen, cleave, seed, and sanction. The wordplay rascal in me adores things like this.

A lot of A-ending names flew by – RITA, LANA, OHARA, BARBARA, and ALDA.

Next thing I knew it was over. Sometimes it’s refreshing to start the day with a sprint. Thank you, Lee!

amyyanni 7:19 AM  

Came here today rather cranky about 22 across (HOB, Tx Rex, for calling that one), but after reading the email from Sheila's husband in CA, I will just tiptoe away to go discover some joy awaiting out there this morning. Grateful to be a tiny part of this crossword group.

kitshef 7:27 AM  

Condor not in my top three LANAs. Turner, Lang, del Ray off the top of my head.

Bit of a PPP cluster in that NW with LHASA, MAISEL, LANA, ASHTON, ALDA.

Impressive theme density including a couple of crossing themers - though the cross is a little less impressive when you cross at "ING".

Still don't know who RITA Ora is, but boy do I know how to fill in that name in crosswords.

Son Volt 7:29 AM  

Played like a Monday - thought the puns were light and agree with Rex that some were just clunky - GET CRACKING was nice. Whether we like it or not - the clue for 1a is not in error. During the solve I realized a lot here to trigger Rex - surprised he didn’t go off on Musk, BARBARA Bush and the odd BEST MAN entry.

Not my type of Wednesday solve.

Amie Devero 7:34 AM  

I may be completely overlooking the obvious, but I have no idea what 51D means. Got it through the crosses, but can someone please explain it to me? OCEAN??? "Body resting in bed?"

Unknown 7:47 AM  

The clueing of Lhasa was horrible. Agreed, a blatantly political act.

Joaquin 7:48 AM  

What a strange week! Seems to me we got three Mondays in a row. Of course, YMMV.

Even today didn’t play HOB with me, despite never, ever, having heard that expression before. And has anyone in the history of the world ever said SILT UP to describe a clog?

Ω 7:49 AM  

I've had worse Wednesdays.

So much better than the last two PPP-based themes that I’m naming this one my PoW (so far). I see Rex is right on two of the themers, but being bad puns is practically a compliment so it bothers me not at all.

The LHASA clue didn’t really register last night, specifically not the oddity of cluing it as Chinese. But to have never clued it that way before and to now do so is weird.

For those catching up on late comments from yesterday, that letter is what I mentioned that Rex posted on Twitter last night.

Fellow Earthling 7:50 AM  

That letter was the sweetest. It reminds me of my own parents. My dad took the train to work before he retired and he used to search the seats for a leftover copy of the paper to bring the puzzle home for my mom. I remember waking up on weekends to see them on the couch with their coffee, working through the Sunday puzzle together. Both my parents are showing signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s claimed my paternal grandmother years ago. My dad has stopped doing the puzzles because he gets too frustrated but my mom and I do them daily. We text every morning to compare times and complain about all the BRA-related answers or overuse of old sports trivia.

Ω 7:52 AM  

@Amie Devero - If you’re like me the answer hit you right after you clicked on “Post.” An OCEAN is a body of water that sits above the seabed.

Verdant Earl 7:55 AM  

Knew HOB more from the expression "play merry HOB with". Was used in the film Serenity by Mr. Universe. Also pretty sure Neil Gaiman used it once or twice in his Sandman series.

Anonymoose 8:04 AM  

I think LHASA has mostly been clued in connection with APSO but I have no problem with today's 1A clue. I seriously doubt that constructors and editors give all that much thought to politics, let alone write intentionally political clues.

Wally 8:06 AM  

For 61-Across I put TEA (word that rhymes with its exact opposite).

TKL 8:06 AM  

Great point about Tibet! But also: "Ires"? Does anybody say "that really ires me"?

jonkotaco 8:09 AM  

Was on track for a record time until, having never seen Gone With The Wind or used Bengay, thought maybe Bengay could be used for ACNE?

GILL I. 8:13 AM  

Well...let's see. You start me off with a boat load of names and all I want to do is sit in a corner and suck my thumb. But...because I'm an adult, I pulled up my big boy pants and kept on trekking through LHASA LANA MAISEL ALDA. Then I got to SHAKE A LEG and thought: "Well I'll Be A Monkey's Uncle." I know that's not one of those "Hurry up!" things but that's what I thought. Maybe I'll like this I murmured after a little cocktail. Well did you? you ask...I did. I love little things like this. It's what makes the English language impossible to understand. Can you imagine shaking your leg just to get up in the morning? Do you crack it first thing in the morning ? Do you look at it and ask it if it's ALIVE? I certainly would do a DOUBLE TAKE if any of these things occurred....
Speaking if HOB (my ugh de jour)....A HOB is that little hotplate on a stove - at least in England. I also know it as something I do when I can't shake my leg in the morning.

@Rex....What a wonderful letter "From a fan with Alzheimer's? I'm so glad you posted it. My Dad, who I adored and idolized my entire life, developed Alzheimer's in his late 70's. He knew he had some sort of dementia because he couldn't remember names. He never did crossword puzzles but he loved to read. When he had trouble with that, my siblings and I would read to him. It was his one true joy and kept him alive for many years. I hope your "fan" continues with his "joy."

pabloinnh 8:17 AM  

Had OFL's reaction to the 1A clue as a capital at that elevation is in China!? Also, actress Condor? The starter's pistol went off, but there I was stuck in the blocks. Eventually got going and picked up speed and finished with a reasonable time, I think.

Knew play HOB with. Don't know how I knew play HOB with.

Back when ties were and inch or less wide, I owned a TIETACK. I wore a tie to school for all of my teaching days, but by then TIETACKS were oasse, as were tie clips.

The puzzle was OK but the letter is the part of this Wednesday I'll remember. Just wonderful.

Thanks for some Wednesday fun, LT. Lost Time on the PPP's but all gettable, so OK.

TTrimble 8:18 AM  

Thanks for posting that letter, Rex. (And thanks to the couple for sending it.) @Lewis said it best: uplifting and heartening.

Rex is also right about LHASA, although I don't imagine there was any hostility or explicitly asserting any political claims. Remember Hanlon's razor: never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Reasonably easy puzzle, completed in almost the same time as yesterday's (which was not hard either). Some of the fill-in-the-blanks are particularly easy (e.g., MELD, DO I, LION, NASH, and I'll include OTIS) -- one of my tried and true tricks for getting started is to look for fill-in-the-blanks.

But HOB is indeed an exception. (Together with AGUE and SPINET, it imparts a slightly old-timey vibe. A dated British idiom or rustic American one -- read on.) According to this online dictionary, HOB here is short for "hobgoblin", thus to make mischief or stir trouble. Wiktionary is even more informative, citing "From hob (“elf”) (from Hob, a variant of Rob, short for Robin Goodfellow, an elf in German folklore)", which damned if I ever knew. It seems Robin Goodfellow is another name for Puck. And now I learn that "pixie" is a diminutive form of "Puck". (All of which is bringing back the memory of loving to read the dictionary as a teenager.)

yd 0
td pg -1.

Carence 8:23 AM  

I rarely post anything, but the clueing for Lhasa is unconscionable. So wrong. An insult to the entire Tibetan population, so many of whom are, to this day, living as refugees, including His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

Anonymous 8:27 AM  

I would have gotten a personal best (for Wednesday) time if I hadn't spent several seconds choking incredulously on the LHASA clue.

Mikey from El Prado 8:32 AM  

That letter means so much to me. Thanks Rex. I lost my mom a year ago to dementia and COVID. One of the last things she gave up doing was crossword puzzles a few years earlier. That was tough to see as we always shared love of them despite 2000 miles apart. Whenever together we would do crosswords. I miss her. I only hope that the couple who wrote the letter continue to find joy in life as they go through one of the toughest experiences in life.

bocamp 8:37 AM  

Thx Lee; outstanding Wednes. puz! :)

Easy-med. solve.

Loved the theme.

Pretty much breezed thru this one.

Enjoyed watching The Marvelous Mrs. MAISEL.

'Play HOB' was new to me. Thx, ASHTON for the 'O'. :)

Liked this one a whole bunch! :)

@TTrimble 👍 for 0 yd

dbyd pg -4 (missed two easy ones:( / yd pg -1 (tabbed)

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

JD 8:37 AM  

Trying to figure out why this is the first puzzle I've enjoyed since Friday. Agree with @Joaquin, and even agree with a few of Rex's rant points, but I guess it's that it didn't feel like a slog.

Not so much wheelhouse as wavelength. Slap on that Fez, straighten your Tie Tack, Look Alive and Shake A Leg. We have a parade to go to.

It pegged the fun meter.

Frantic Sloth 8:43 AM  

Nothing terribly snazzy, but it went fast, so there's that.

Nits and notes:

Omelet chef? Are we getting that specialized with our cuisinery-doers now? What's next - Frickin' chickassee chef?

LOOKALIVE for "hurry up" is a stretch. I think of it as more of a "be alert" or "pay attention" kinda thing. But, what else is there to say to the walking dead, really?

HITTHEGAS Whenever I jump in the getaway car, it's just "HIT it!"

SILTUP is an anagram of tulips and that's the nicest thing I have to say about that. And you're welcome, you-know-who-you-are. 😉

"Play HOB with" is new to me and that's always fun. Learned it's short for HOBgoblin and of course it is.

Hey, @Z - looks like RITA is back to reclaim her place from her slacker brother PLETH.

Never heard of LANA Condor or that movie, so I looked it up. It's described as a "teen romantic comedy". Don't they have television for that?

Personal oddity of the day:


Don't ask why.


Unknown 8:43 AM  

Came for the answers, stayed for the rant, and then was surprised by the very nice letter, which made it all worthwhile, and puts everything in context. What a horrible disease.

A personal best for me on a Wednesday, although I thought, Huh, I thought Lhasa was in Tibet? But I didn't get upset about it.

mmorgan 8:59 AM  

Lovely letter. Inspiring.

And to add to Rex’s nits, I would say that LOOK ALIVE means something more like “wake up” or “get active” than “hurry up,” but it’s still a cute clue/answer combo.

Phaedrus 9:00 AM  

But shouldn’t they give it a thought? I mean they are “editors”.

ow a paper cut 9:04 AM  

Beautiful letter!

mmorgan 9:06 AM  

Oh, the only thing I know with HOB is nob. Or goblin, I guess.

G. Weissman 9:07 AM  

I was quickly put off by the torrent of proper names (five in the upper left corner alone) and thought “why am I bothering to spend time on this” when I got to the CATO/CAEN cross. The extremely tired and nonsensical theme answers were the final straw for me. How poor does a puzzle have to be to trigger this community’s collective gag reflex?

albatross shell 9:18 AM  

Bye rhymes with hi.

pabloinnh 9:19 AM  


I struggled mightily to get to Genius yesterday, which is my usual stopping point, and then I was sure I had it as I confidently entered INTROIT, only to find it unacceptable.

I have been singing INTROTS for sixty years or so. My laptop nearly went flying at Nancy's Wall. I mean, really.

Whatsername 9:21 AM  

Enjoyed this nice little Wednesday with a cute and clever theme, by far the easiest this week. The zombie clue made me LOOK twice and the omelet one kept CRACKING me up. A fun and entertaining solve. Thanks Ms. Taylor.

I do have to join the chorus of asking WTH is HOB and SILT UP was a brow raiser too. On the other hand, I got WATT immediately after having just bought some new super energy-efficient bulbs the other day that are only supposed to cost $.36 a year to operate. I don’t know how I will ever know whether that’s true or not but it was a good enough sales pitch to get me to buy them.

6D was also a gimme as I recently began reading “Sooley,” John Grisham’s new novel about a young man from SOUTH Sudan who is selected for a national basketball team and travels to the USA to play in a tournament. While it is far from Grisham’s familiar law firm and courtroom drama, it’s certainly not lacking his usual literary brilliance. The man is simply unparalleled among authors of fiction. IMHO.

Anonymous 9:29 AM  

Thanks for sharing that letter.

RooMonster 9:37 AM  

Hey All !
Glad our little group here can help the letter sender. *Group Hug*

Across and Down themers are always nifty to me. As y'all probably know, theme density is also fun to me. Six today, with no Revealer need. Really wish Lee could've incorporated the Center 39A in the theme. But I like it as it is. 🙂

Grid looks bigger than 15x15 to me for some weird reason. Probably because of the corner blockers. One of those illusions that messes with the ole brain.

Agree with Rex on the ON THE DOUBLE Themer. Doesn't quite work. The IM WAITING one can go either way. Customer: "Hurry up! IM WAITING!" Server: "IM WAITING! You're not the only customer!" /scene 😁

Nice fast WedsPuz. (WednsPuz?) Couple Natick possibilities at the L of LHASA/LANA, and the C of CATO/CAEN.

Gonna get the HOB outta here.

One F

Frantic Sloth 9:39 AM  

@Rex Such a wonderful letter! Thank you for sharing it with us. ❤️

@Wally 806am Okay, I'll bite...what is the opposite of "tea"?

@TTrimble 818am Thanks for introducing me to Hanlon's razor. Can I use it the next time I'm being, you know, me? If you say "yes", I promise to pretend you never said "loving to read the dictionary as a teenager". 😘

Hunter S 9:41 AM  

Loved Hanlon's razor and explanation of the heretofore unknown "hob".
Again the commentariat make any puzzle informative and fun.

Chris 9:41 AM  

I knew HOB b/c my father used to sing an old novelty song "The Martins and the Coys" which includes: "Oh, the Martins and the Coys, they was reckless mountain boys
But their shootin' and their killin' sure played HOB."
Googling for the exact lyrics, I find that Disney used the song in "Make Mine Music" which seems pretty interesting in its own right.

Ω 9:46 AM  

@anonymoose - I mostly agree with @TTrimble here, but I will disagree with you on one point. China has been claiming Tibet for something like 70 years, so for 70 years it seems the crossword editors were making a conscious decision not to clue LHASA that way. To me the oddity is that they stopped being consciously political today.

@Frantic Sloth - Rest assured that at Z’s Placebo and Tentacle we will have an omelet chef for our Sunday Brunch Buffet. Every truly outstanding Sunday Brunch Buffet has to have an Omelet Chef and a Mimosa Bar. RITA and Pleth Ora will be our buffet house band. Margaritaville and Cheeseburger in Paradise played only on request.

@jonkotaco - Bengay™️ on Acne! 🤣😂🤣 Way to make me feel old and laugh all at once.

jberg 9:52 AM  

Wonderful letter. My father cut out the crosswords from the Milwaukee Journal's Green Sheet and put them on a clipboard. When he had time, he would sit there working on them; as he developed dementia he would still do that, but could not actually solve them any more. I think he got a little pleasure from looking at them.

LHASA really held me up, because I found it hard to believe that they would clue it that way; I figured it must be a different city in different mountains. It took almost all the crosses.

So did IRES, just because I refuse to accept the NYT's belief that ire is a verb. I'd have put in IRkS out of spite, but it didn't fit the clue.

I've frequently read, and probably sometimes heard phrases like "we were going on a picnic, but the weather played HOB with our plans." But the clue had me looking for some intentional action by a person; not the clue's fault, just how I read it. So there was a nice little 'aha' when I saw it.

@Frantic, it's a brunch buffet thing -- there is often a separate station where someone in a toque will make you an omelet to your specifications.

All the non-omelet theme answers were pretty loose, I just accepted that. I've never heard HIT THE GAS, though, only "step on it."

beverley 9:56 AM  

LHASA clue is blatantly political. Ugh.
Just adding my voice to that objection.

Unknown 10:00 AM  

Thank you for pointing out the Lhaso problem, I had a "oh no they didn't reaction" and was glad to see you agreed.

Lewis 10:01 AM  

@albatross shell -- Good one!

Nancy 10:03 AM  

The theme is quite wonderful; the rest of the puzzle not so much. If you knew all or most of the names, you had a different experience than I did. But since I didn't know LLASA or LANA or ASHTON or KIGALI, I had to work harder to get the theme answers and that was OK. Because getting the theme answers was fun.

My biggest hangup was at 50D, where I had the L and the E and wanted LEVEL, but RNA made it impossible. I ran the alphabet to get the Y of LAYER. I also have absolutely no idea what "play HOB with" means.

But a delightful theme -- with GET CRACKING my favorite clue/answer.

Whatsername 10:07 AM  

Just saw Rex’s fan mail and read the eloquent missive with tears rolling down my face. A beloved friend of 34 years was recently diagnosed with AD and the heartbreaking journey has already begun. This is my first TIME dealing with it in someone so close to me. I’m finding it is best to not take any word or gesture to heart, to keep a sense of humor and to take one day - or some days, one hour - at a time.

Anonymous 10:19 AM  

Kigali is a source of great pride to Rwandans who have suffered so much— just as much as Tibetans have.

jae 10:20 AM  

Easy. No WOEs and no erasures. Cute, liked it.

...and in case you weren’t keeping track, Mrs. MAISEL should be back for season 4 in 2022.

Thanks for the letter.

Carola 10:24 AM  

Cute and quick. Like @Rex I thought the theme was a little uneven, but LOOK ALIVE for the zombies redeemed any deficiencies. I liked the array of geographic names: LHASA, FEZ, CAEN, KIGALI for the not-your-usual-line-fup of vowels and consonants.
Help from previous puzzles: RITA. Fun to learn: HOB. No idea: LANA.

Thank you, @Rex, for posting the letter.

Bogart 10:29 AM  

@pabloinnh - Along the same lines, I complained about the rejection of “fronton”. They replied with a note in the spirit of “We know what words are acceptable, so just go away.”

rjkennedy98 10:43 AM  

The start of this puzzle was horrendous with 5 names in the NW corner: LHASA, ASHTON, LARA, MAISEL, and ALDA. Luckily, that was about half of the PPP, and it turned into a quick and easy solve.

MetroGnome 10:46 AM  

I call PPP Foul on the NE.

MetroGnome 10:48 AM  

. . . Sorry, I meant "NW" -- no fewer than FOUR proper nouns (incl. three show-biz names) crossing.

V.V. Putin 10:49 AM  

And Sevastopol is in Russia.

bocamp 10:51 AM  


Loved the "From a fan with Alzheimer's" letter. Thx for sharing! :)

Remember Mom and Dad doing the xword together every morning.

LHASA will always be only Tibet to me.

OCEAN bed reminds me of the mini-debate that ensued the last time we had this clue and answer not so long ago.

"River management is a continuous activity as rivers tend to 'undo' the modifications made by people. Dredged channels SILT UP, sluice mechanisms deteriorate with age, levees and dams may suffer seepage or catastrophic failure." (Wikipedia)

For me, HOB connotes a shelf for warming food, and/or invokes images of hobgoblins. M-W's first def. is: "Mischief, Trouble – used with play and raise". It's also defined as a machine cutting tool.

@TTrimble (8:18 AM)

Thx for "Hanlon's Razor" and the wealth of info re: HOB. :)

@Whatsername (9:21 AM)

Thx for the SOUTH Sudan shoutout, "Sooley". Love Grisham; got the audiobook on hold.

@pabloinnh (9:19 AM) / @Bogart (10:29 AM)

Same here for 'introit' & 'fronton'. :(

yd 0 / td p -29

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

G. Weissman 10:53 AM  

Carola @ 10:24 writes: “ Like @Rex I thought the theme was a little uneven, but LOOK ALIVE for the zombies redeemed any deficiencies.”

Look Alive is an online game set after a “zombie apocalypse.” One call also but a sign that reads “Zombie Zone - Look Alive” on Amazon. If you google “look alive” and zombie you’ll find that this connection long precedes today’s puzzle. I’m happy you enjoyed this theme answer, but it hardly redeems the puzzle.

Joseph Michael 10:53 AM  

A rave review from Rex: “I’ve had worse Wednesdays.”

A beautiful message from Rex’s fan that illustrates how crossword solving can be much more than a trivial pursuit.

A fun theme, with LOOK ALIVE my favorite entry. Those Zombies will cost you an arm and a leg if you don’t keep on top of them.

The puzzle does have an old-timey feel and is not stingy with crosswordese, such as ALDA crossing ANTE, or proper nouns, such as KiLGALI and CAEN, but I liked it overall and appreciated the sense of humor driving it.

TIME to run and plunge my sink which is about to SILT UP.

Anonymous 10:54 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous 11:00 AM  

1 - China just opened a high speed railway into Lhasa, thus telling the World that Tibet no longer exists (nicely un-reported in this NYT, near as I can tell: )
2 - no problem with WAITING or DOUBLE: in both cases the idiom makes sense. the patron is WAITING for the server and is speaking to him/her and the batter is encouraged to hit a DOUBLE.
3 - does this LANA woman have a 7 foot wing span and live in the Andes?

then, of course, we should all stop referring to Taiwan?

Frantic Sloth 11:00 AM  

@Z 946am What? No Sunday Brunch Buffet Buffett unless requested? Now, the Mimosa Bar, OTOH, really sings to me.

@jberg 952am Thanks for the explantation. Yours makes perfect sense - not like some other people's. Can you answer the "opposite of tea" riddle, too, please?

@Whatsername 1007am As Mrs. Sloth likes to say "buck up, little buckaroo". (Yeah, I know - but she means well) I feel for you and your friend, but as a firm believer in the healing power of humor, I think your attitude is the best plan. ❤️

@jae 1020am Thanks for the MMM update!

Masked and Anonymous 11:03 AM  

Some mighty tough NW openers. Got WATT and ALDA, then fled to the SOUTH/SUMO nanosec-peace treaty area.

day-um. Six themers, swishin around all over the puzplace. Toss in a GRENADE or two, and there's yer rodeo. fave themer: That zombie-flavored LOOKALIVE one. Extra themer suggestion: {"Hurry up!" to a roach exterminator?} = ?*

staff weeject pick: HOB. Male ferret, btw. And y'all just leave his hob-nob alone, please; don't even ask.

IRES. Always worth a har.

Thanx for the fun, Lee Taylor. Good job.

Masked & Anonymo3Us


@RP: Excellent shared letter. All the best to that great 81-year-old fan and his luvly bride.


thfenn 11:04 AM  

I thought the themers (albeit with no reveal) were fun, and had no concerns with either ONTHEDOUBLE or IMWAITING not working perfectly, or LOOKALIVE not really meaning "Hurry up". The all seemed close enough to still be fun. But then I wanted my heart (and ship) to SINg before SINK, and went with buBbly before UPBEAT, so I might just he in a good mood. I miss not getting to go to both SOUTH Sudan and Kigali anymore, but maybe will have eastern and southern Africa back on my beat again before I actually retire.

Definitely agree the cluing for LHASA was, well, stupid (thanks for Hanlon's Razor @TTrimble, helping keep things UPBEAT). And @Rex, count me among the many that are both grateful for and touched by the letter you got. Nice Wednesday.

Newboy 11:06 AM  

Thanks for that upbeat ending letter Rex; it more than compensates for the Tibet tirade opening. Aging and the inevitable decline we all face is so often taboo in the American mind that any way of advancing the discussion seems like a worthy public service. Doing the grids is on par with reading Being Mortal as I lurch toward my final decades….and your blog adds yet another tool I enjoy as a mortal being.

Wish that those TESLAS could have gotten a theme cluing as they are not only green, but go like stink…..another interesting phrase from days past for the theme? Also had to wonder if anyone under 50 owns a TIE or the TIE TACK to accompany it? Lee did a nice job of stretching cluing from a thoughtful CATO to a whimsical NASH (a TESLA of another age?) and elevated OTIS beyond the usual cluing conveyance, so pretty good for Wednesday.

Owen 11:09 AM  

Very cheesy but it's a "body of water" and the bottom of the ocean can be called a "seabed", ergo a body resting on a bed.

Michael Page 11:20 AM  

Mikey: exactly the same experience, lost my mom 2 years ago, and the first sign she was fading was when she gave up on doing Sunday. Then backgammon. I’m struck by how many of us had that parent-child bond over NYTXW; we used to sit across the table on Sundays, each doing our own copy. It was the first thing where I got treated as an intellectual equal (or close; she would kick my butt til I got older). Later the postmortem cross country call trading notes as an excuse to touch base. She never talked about quitting the puzzles, but it was a big deal to her, the first little surrender.

old timer 11:26 AM  

This Giants fan really liked ON THE DOUBLE. Our boys seem to be especially proficient in getting DOUBLEs. And most of the other themers made me smile. Though the WAIT one did seem backwards, as OFL points out.

LHASA? Let me bring you back to those thrilling days of yesteryear. Maybe you once said (as Catholic bishops still do), "Bob and Hank have been living together for EONS, but they can't get married, because marriage is only between one man and one woman." And yet, thanks to our liberal Supreme Court, Bob and can get married, and there are a lot of people out there, myself included, who say, "You know, Bob and Hank act just like an old married couple, so why don't they just tie the knot?" Times change. In this case, the Chinese government has ruled over Tibet for many decades, and every year incorporates it more and more into China's economy. At some stage, facts must be faced. Same is true elsewhere. Tibet may have its own language, but then there are parts of France that speak other languages, including Breton, Basque, Catalan, and even German (Alsace). And some would say the language of rural Yorkshire is not quite English.

hieutonthat 11:37 AM  

Agree about IRES. “Ire” is a noun; there is no verb form in multiple online dictionaries. So, unless the clue refers to multiple “angers,” I call BS.

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

LOOK ALIVE, at least in old war movies, may be IRL, does mean hurry up. well... let's go see...
"Look alive is a phrase that means to hurry up or to get moving. It is nearly always used as a command."

so, YES, yes it does

egsforbreakfast 11:43 AM  

Alternate clues:

10D. What Tipper calls her overweight hubby? FATAL
11D. Tardy to a Zoom. ELATE
20A. Something that’s neat when stirred. ANTE
41A. Egotist’s formal title. MRI

@Wally 8:06. Is Pee the opposite of Tea? One goes in and the other comes out? All I could come up with.

Thank you, Rex, for publishing that moving letter.

Anonymous 11:59 AM  


a more widely accepted idiom:
"you don't buy beer, you rent it."

KnittyContessa 12:12 PM  

@Rex Thank you so much for sharing the heart warming letter.

Ω 12:19 PM  

@Anon 11:00 - What? I cannot figure out how what I wrote led to your response. Thanks for the link about the railroad, though. I got to be candid, though, my subscription to The Internationals Railway Journal has, uh, "lapsed," and lots of those citations might as well be in Chinese for all the good they do me.


I was just catching up on my September issue of Harper's Magazine and ran into the essay The Third Force: On stupidity and transcendence by Garret Keizer. Quite the expansion on Hanlon's Razor.

BunnyR 12:20 PM  

Am I the only one who noticed that all of the theme clues appeared in mirrored pairs in the grid? Hit the gas mirrors I'm waiting, on the double mirrors get cracking, etc. Is that something that happens often, or did Lee Taylor work extra hard to make it so? Maybe I've just never noticed it in other puzzles? That's entirely possible, but I was impressed with that added facet to the grid.

SharonAK 12:35 PM  

Sorry if someone's already said this, but I think the people having trouble with "silt up" are thinking of clog as a noun. Silt can indeed clog a river, or other body running water. And "silt up" is certainly a common term.

SharonAK 12:44 PM  

I enjoyed all the themers. Especially chuckled at " Look alive". Was not troubled by its more commonly meaning something like "be alert". I thought it worked beautifully.
"On the double" was weaker to me, but I didn't analyze, just recognized a baseball term in it, so it worked. "I'm waiting" worked perfectly - another meaning of waiting used to fit the "hurry" to the person

Hotels often have omelet chefs at breakfast.

Blue Stater 12:59 PM  

The NW was just one gigantic Natick, the worst being, as OFL points out, LHASA as a Chinese provincial capital. There's just no point in that.

Blue Stater 1:01 PM  

Try again (got a curious, never-before-seen, error message after I clicked to post). The NW sas just one gigantic Natick. Utterly no point to cluing LHASA as a Chinese provincial capital, as OFL correctly pointed out. Unfair, no fun.

A 1:06 PM  

Rex has “had worse Wednesdays.” I’d say a lot worse - this was funny and UPBEAT. Just don’t be too literal about the the themers and YEA, we all WIN. Spamalot!

Nice neighbors LAYER and OCEAN reminding us of the composition of our planet. The METEOR seems to be keeping a safe distance. TIME will tell.

Maybe the LHASA clue was not a statement of acceptance, but the opposite - a nudge intended to raise awareness. “Hurry up, to the world a’WAITING?”

The LION, by Ogden NASH
Oh, weep for Mr. and Mrs. Bryan!
He was eaten by a lion;
Following which, the lion's lioness
Up and swallowed Bryan's Bryaness.

How heartening is was to read that letter - such a beautiful description of shared intimacy. The writer frames his experience in terms of dementia, but I imagine a good deal of what he says could apply to anyone here. “A type of recreaton-psycho-therapy…under the guise of fun…turns isolation… into belonging.”

When my mother, Sarah, was in her 70’s she began having trouble remembering things. It got to the point that I was dreading the “take the car keys” moment, which would have been devastating to her, a lifelong lover of travel. At the same time, she began having trouble with excess bleeding, so her doctor took her off coumadin (blood thinner). Amazingly, she regained her clarity of thought, and continued driving into her 90’s. Always check your meds, folks.

Here is Sarah Vaughan singing Dancing in the Dark, by Howard Dietz, lyricist and librettist, born September 8, 1896.

What though love is old
What though song is old
Through them we can be young

Hear this heart of mine
Make yours part of mine
Dear one, tell me that we're one

Dancin' in the dark till the tune ends
We're dancin' in the dark and it soon ends
We're waltzin' in the wonder of why we're here
Time hurries by--we're here and gone

Lookin' for the light of a new love
To brighten up the night I have you, love
And we can face the music together
Dancing in the dark

Here’s a captivating ten minutes by birthday composer Anton Dvorak (1841), his delightfully imaginative Carnival Overture

Teedmn 1:06 PM  

I had a similar moment to Rex's with HOB. HO_ and the brain provided B, but I thought I'd confirm it with the downs, just in case. BARBARA!

LOOK ALIVE - This immediately gave me a scenario where the zombie's boss has important people coming into the office and needs his undead employee to LOOK ALIVE. Similar to what dreams do, a whole backstory filled in, taking only nanoseconds.

HIT THE GAS and SHAKE A LEG were very nice theme/clue pairs.

As LHASA filled in, I had a moment of consternation towards the clue; not because the NYTimes seems to have ceded the territory, because I knew nothing about previous LHASA clues, but just cuz.

Lee Taylor, thanks for the pun-ishment.

Ω 1:25 PM  

@BunnyR - Theme entries are almost always symmetrical. Either rotationally (i.e., turn the puzzle upside down and the themers are in the same place) or bilateral/mirror (fold the puzzle down the middle and the theme answers are atop each other). Today’s puzzle has “rotational” symmetry because if you turn it upside down GET CRACKING ends up in the same place that ON THE DOUBLE is when right side up.
For that matter, themeless puzzles are also almost always symmetrical in one of these two ways. Really challenging is a grid that is symmetrical when you only rotate the puzzle 90° instead of 180°. I think I’ve only ever seen one or two of those.

mathgent 1:30 PM  

Fun, breezy. I agree with most of the criticisms
(not the political one) but they didn’t spoil it.

Thinking about OHARA (not RHETT) and dementia together reminds me of the heart-wrenching scene in GWTW. Scarlet comes back to Tara and finds her father wandering around the plundered house. She asks him a question and he says, as he often would, “You’ll have to ask Mrs. O’Hara.” He couldn’t remember that she had died.

Anonymous 1:45 PM  


once more, with fervour:

China has claimed Taiwan as a 'province' since, I don't know, 1949, yet 'we' continue to refer to it as its own country.

if 'we' decide to accept that 'Tibet' is just a province of China, then why not Taiwan? sauce for the goose, and all that.

Lyn 1:53 PM  

Rex, thanks for the letter from Sheila's husband. I was feeling a little put out by today's puzzle telling me to get a move on with my day. Much better now.

Barbara S. 1:55 PM  

1) “Hurry up” to a snowplow operator?
2) “Hurry up” to a bungee enthusiast?
3) “Hurry up” to a grouch?
4) “Hurry up” to a nomad?

Sped through it and liked it. Possibly the two phenomena are linked, but most of those expressions were said to me at one time or another by my mother, who was always telling me I was a “slowpoke” and a “dawdler”, two of her favorite epithets for me. And, yeah, they totally fit, although I prefer to think of myself as deliberate and sometimes over-focused.

I knew KIGALI from the award-winning Canadian novel, Un dimanche à la piscine à Kigali by Gil Courtemanche, first published in 2000, and subsequently translated into English as A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali. It was a big deal during one of my stints in the book trade. It’s about the genocide in Rwanda, extraordinarily difficult subject matter handled well. Staying with faraway places, add my voice to the chorus finding the clue for LHASA objectionable.

Hmm, words that rhyme with their opposites. Sad/glad? Small/tall? I’m not sure those are sufficiently exact. Cheer/jeer?

I was very moved by the letter Rex posted. Someone as close as my own soul has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It’s a heartbreak. She’s doing well so far thanks to her native determination and grit. Like the letter-writer, she’s making a life for herself, moment by moment and day by day in and around the disease. She said just this week that she didn’t feel it was defeating her, and I replied that nothing ever has, but we both know what's coming. It’s such a shame that she doesn’t like crosswords, but she has an extended family of loved ones, friends and supporters who are helping her live a good life.

1) Make tracks.
2) Jump to it.
3) Make it snappy.
4) Get a move on.

Tim Carey 2:04 PM  


albatross shell 2:05 PM  

Hurry up to a drummer with "the"*

I would have gone with squirrel over omelet chef.

My guess was BUG OUT. But your answer is probably funnier.

The clue made it pretty obvious it was going to be Tibet. Politically, let it be a reminder of an injustice or tragedy. You do not need to think appearance in a C-W means approval. Do you need do clue Ayn Rand as Repubucan leaders' favorite atheist and free-sex advocate? Or appropriate nickname for Fountainhead author: Inane Rand. Feel free to express your opinion about her though.

@Kitshef on another day INUITs.
Not only does M-W allow Inuits, it also uses Inuit to mean a single person. Usage. I mentioned usage dictionaries do perpetuate and extend errors irregardless of technical accuracy. Factual errors are in a different category. The bi- and semi- problem is an example of this. M-W reports how bi-weekly is used. If the dictionary reports bi-weekly is used to mean both twice a week and once every two weeks (which is true), it makes the word worthless and informs you to rephrase to be clear in your meaning. Life is hard. Language changes. What is a plural and how words are used change beyond all expert influence. Facts do not, but they may need re-phrasing. Well actually facts change too, but that's a horse of a different color.

* UP (the) BEAT. Yes, it's not perfect, but it is already in the puzzle.

Tim Carey 2:05 PM  

Yep. The NYT has now recognized the occupation of Tibet.

mathgent 2:08 PM  

My favorite posts this morning.

GILL I. (8:13)
TTrimble (8:18)

Tim Carey 2:14 PM  

You're making our point.

Tim Carey 2:18 PM  

Does: "we should all stop referring to Taiwan" mean we'll see it clued in the xword as a Chinese province?

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

Lots of antonym rhymers:

tea73 2:26 PM  

Same reaction as Rex to 1A. I didn't put that last L in until the very end of the puzzle. Left a bad taste in my mouth.

The swee letter at the end of Rex's post reminds us all that there is no one right way to do the puzzle. It's designed to give you enjoyment. If looking things up on Google is fun - go for it! If getting hints, checking answers or revealing whole words doesn't bother you, who am I to complain? We knew my Dad's Alzheimer's was serious when my parents gave up the daily cribbage game. They'd kept a cumulative score for decades.

I know HOB as a cooking word and as a shortening of hobgoblin. This idiom not so much.

Rex's insistence that themers should be consistent reminds me of the quotation from Emerson. "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."

Anonymous 2:41 PM  

Thank you for sharing that letter. Can't type more ... seems to be something in my eye.

kitshef 4:07 PM  

@albatross shell 2:05 - I did respond to you on the day, but the gist of it was that I accept that pronunciation, spelling, usage change over time. But not for proper names. If "Tenessee" starts appearing frequently, that does not make it an acceptable alternate spelling and you still can't use it in a puzzle. Same for Inuk/Inuit.

Rug Crazy 4:13 PM  

100% with Rex on Lhasa.

Unknown 4:14 PM  

Same here. This was beautiful.

Ω 4:20 PM  

@Anon1:45 - Again, with puzzlement, why did my earlier statement generate that response? It would be equally odd if today, after 70 years, the NYTX suddenly clued Taiwan as a province of China. I tend to agree with @TTrimble (see how I mentioned him in my 9:46 post?) that the clue is probably not actually the NYT recognizing China’s claim (never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity), but @anonymoose made the claim that the crossword editors don’t take politics into consideration. If Rex is right that this is the first time “China” has ever appeared in a clue about LHASA then, as I asserted, the NYTX has been aware of the politics of the situation up to now. That’s it. That’s all I said. You seem to be imagining I said something else.

albatross shell 4:21 PM  

Keeping with the 3 letter ones. RAH BAH either way.
FEE Free at least seem to be an opposite situation. But you got that adjective noun thing going on.

GILL I. 4:55 PM  

@egsfor 11:43. You tend to give me a chuckledoo. I particularly like the oversize hubby. Who doesn't know a FAT AL?
@mathgent. I aim to please with crumbly cheese....... ;-)
@old timer 11:26. I love your stories....Where haven't you been?

Whatsername 5:05 PM  

@Barbara S (1:55) I like your alternative themers, One that popped into my head while I was reading your post: “Hurry up” to a sharp shooter? GET THE LEAD OUT

Sure sorry to hear about your friend’s diagnosis. I am experiencing the same inexorable journey with my companion of many years. Life is still relatively normal much of the time and I cherish those moments while at the same time wondering how many more of them we have left. As you said, it’s the knowing what’s coming that is hard not to think about.

Smith 5:10 PM  

@TTrimble 8:18

Hanlon's Razor made my day 😄 thank you!

(was going to comment on Tibet, for once I agree with Rex, but yours is my favorite post today)

Smith 5:18 PM  

@Pablo 9:19


We've known for a long time that Sam doesn't like "churchy" vocab; no intinction, either. I'm sure there have been others. Once when I submitted to "Think you missed one" I got back that it's "specialized language". I try it every time anyway (or "anyhoo", which is accepted). And it's weird how he accepts "lite" which seems like advo speak.

Hope you're enjoying the condo!

Smith 5:32 PM  

@Z 12:19

Somewhere along the line we stopped getting Harper's, but, oh boy, Garret Keizer! Guess I'll have to find that September issue. Thx for the heads up.

albatross shell 5:38 PM  

Yes. Well I was trying to reply to your reply. If it is not a mere mistaken spelling of Tenessee but its starts being an accepted spelling in newspapers, occasional official state documents and 10 to 20 per cent of the state population at some point you have to just sigh and say alternative spelling. You don't have to like it. Of course we all enjoy being the guy yelling "get off my lawn" about some things.

William 6:09 PM  

I only read this blog once in a while. Today I definitely made it a point to do so, because I too was upset about cluing Lhasa as a province of China, and I was hoping Rex would call the NYT out on it, as he did. Thank you!

Anoa Bob 6:33 PM  

I'm always giving the grid a once or twice over before I start solving. This one kind of put me off with its helper/cheater square right out of the gate. That and a total 38 black squares meant a generous serving of shorter stuff, never a happy prospect.

The day was saved somewhat by the lively theme entries although I agree with others that "hurry up" might not be the first meaning that I would give to all of them.

The grid fill got some help from the modest Letter Count Inflation (LCI) with the -ER at LAYER and the _ED at EMENDED and a few POCs including a couple of two-for-one variety at the ends of VICE/POP and INE/HANG.

The touching email and comments about dementia are very thought and emotion provoking. I believe that maintaining optimum health is the best way to stave off dementia, delay the onset of dementia or deal with the reality of dementia onset. (Also to face the reality of a world always filled with viruses and other potentially harmful microbes.) Good, reliable information on maintaining optimum health is out there. We just have to do it. Oh, and be wary of all those meds. Okay, I'll get off the soap box now.

TAB2TAB 7:35 PM  


The last was inferable, the first two, not so much.

Many thanks to Rex for posting the letter from Sheila's husband. I do hope you will write back and make sure he sees how much his words mean to us.

pabloinnh 7:52 PM  


I somehow missed the aversion to "chuchiness" in the SB answers. That's a good observation and something I'll try to keep in mind if I'm trying "shalt" or "hath" or something else that strikes me as remotely biblical.

I think the condo falls into the "best we could do" category but will never be a house with some land that we're used to. Thanks for asking, it reminds me of the way our little community cares about each other.

Nancy 8:14 PM  

Well, that's two more LANAs than I know, @kitshef. I only know Turner.

Nice themers, @Barbara S. I could only get the bungee enthusiast.

SB allows ANYHOO and LITE????!!!! A good reason never to do SB, I'd say. Sam and I would be playing from a very different deck.

Is anyone else seeing their comment typeface today blown up disturbingly large on this blog. My heart was pounding when I typed my comment this morning -- the bulbous letters were actually creepy-looking -- but a trip to my email and another trip over to the Wordplay Blog eased my mind that it's only happening here. I reduced the typeface size on the entire page with the +/- function(now much too small) in order to make my own typing bearable to look at. After I hit "Send", I'll enlarge the page again. But why is this happening???. I must have inadvertently pressed something right before I began typing this morning, but what? Or is it Rex's fault?:) Oh, and btw, when my comment appeared on the blog, it was the same size as everyone else's.

TTrimble 8:23 PM  

I didn't want to be maudlin, but my dad and at least two of my grandparents (my maternal grandparents; I didn't really know my paternal grandparents) died as Alzheimer's patients. I think I've mentioned this fact here before, and that it's one of my greatest fears that it could happen to me as well -- I think genetics plays a role.

That said, I think there's good reason for hope. Biomedical science is probably the fastest growing field -- genomics particularly -- and already there are treatments that may hold promise. The stakes couldn't be higher, with the aging Boomer population.

I hope the lovely couple who wrote in are among the first wave of patients who receive effective treatment.

@Frantic Sloth
It's a deal!

td 0

Eniale 8:38 PM  

No-one else tried "Starts" before ONSETS?

Enjoyed @barbara's alternative clues & answers

Hope Sheila and her hubby can keep going for a long time!

Unknown 10:04 PM  


Anonymous 10:14 PM  


RooMonster 10:50 PM  

Late, but...
@Anoa Bob, does LAYER really count as an LCI? I can see LAYS, but LAYER seems its own word. Serious question, btw.

@BunnyR 12:20
You must be a newer solver. 9 out of 10 themed puzs have the Themers in the same spots opposite each other, if that makes sense. It's called symmetry. That's why you read here about letter counts, and finding Themers that are the same amount of letters, do they can be put in opposite spots. Regular, or as @Z said, Rotational Symmetry is like todays puz, Mirror, or Left/Right Symmetry let's you put in different letter-amount Themers not in an opposite spot. The Rare Diagonal Symmetry is not often seen. That works if you told the puz along the diagonal, it lines up.

Hopefully, all that made sense. Not sure if it did to myself! 😁

RooMonster Crazy Explainer Guy

Cliff 12:07 AM  

Thank you for sharing that email. Very nice.

sasses 12:53 AM  

Isn't Sevastopol in Crimea?

Marc 12:23 PM  

Since there was already one Green Lantern clue, was there not a way to give Cato a rest, and include Kato, the Green Lantern sidekick?

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