Five-times-a-day Islamic prayer / SUN 9-26-21 / Hyphenated beverage brand / First openly lesbian anchor to host a major prime-time news program / Kind of syrup that's an alternative to honey / Homeland of many Paiute and Shoshone / Kind of data distribution with two peaks / Traditional attire for some martial artists

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Constructor: Priyanka Sethy and Matthew Stock

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging 

THEME: "Study Breaks" — the letters to CUT CLASS appear in circled squares in the grid, in order from top to bottom, one in each theme answer; in each case, the letter "cuts" a "class," i.e. it interrupts (or "breaks") some common class name (or course of "study"), which explains the title:

Theme answers:
  • ARCTANGENT ("C" cutting/breaking "Art") (21A: Function whose output is 45º when applied to 1)
  • ELITE STATU("U" cutting/breaking "Stats") (26A: Premium membership designation)
  • INTERNET CONNECTION ("T" cutting/breaking "Econ") (42A: It lets you see the sites) 
  • DUACITIZENS (60A: "C" cutting/breaking "Lit") (60A: Holders of multiple passports)
  • RACHEL MADDOW ("L" cutting/breaking "Chem") (74A: First openly lesbian anchor to host a major prime-time news program)
  • POLITICAL ACTIVISTS ("A" cutting/breaking "Calc") (92A: Ones fighting for change)
  • CANNABIS OIL ("S" cutting/breaking "Bio") (108A: Hempseed product)
  • LAST IN LINE ("S" cutting/breaking "Latin") (119A: Bringing up the rear)
Word of the Day: SALAT (19A: Five-times-a-day Islamic prayer) —

Salah (Arabic: صَلاة, pl salawatromanized: Arabic pronunciation: [sˤa'laː(h)]([sˤaˈlaːt] in construct state) lit.'prayer'), also known as namāz (Persianنماز‎) and also spelled salat, are prayers performed by Muslims. Facing the qibla, the direction of the Kaaba with respect to those praying, Muslims pray first standing and later kneeling or sitting on the ground, reciting from the Quran and glorifying and praising Allah as they bow and prostrate themselves in between. Salah is composed of prescribed repetitive cycles of bows and prostrations, called rakat (sing. rak'ah). The number of rak'ahs, also known as units of prayer, varies from prayer to prayer. Ritual purity and wudu are prerequisites for performing the prayers.

The daily obligatory prayers collectively form the second of the five pillars in Islam, observed five times every day at prescribed times. These are Fajr (observed at dawn), Zuhr prayer (observed at noon), Asr (observed late in the afternoon), Maghrib (observed at dusk), and Isha (observed after sunset). Salah can be performed either in solitude, or collectively (known as jama'ah). When performed in jama'ah, worshippers line up in parallel rows behind a leader, known as the imam. Special prayers are exclusively performed in congregation, such as the Friday prayer and the Eid prayers, and are coupled with two sermons each, delivered by the imam. (wikipedia)

• • •

Just feels like there's not much here. Did the whole thing as if it were a themeless, because it basically is. I could see that some kind of "DRINK MORE OVALTINE" message was going to come into view eventually, but it had no real connection to the answers. After I was done, I looked at them all and thought "OK, some kind of class is being cut, what's going on?" and then I saw all the "classes" embedded in the theme answers and how the letters in "cut class" sort of "cut" through each "class" and ... OK. The class names are often so short (BIO, ART) that you can barely see them, and so ... it just doesn't feel like a very high bar, themewise, to put letters inside classes *inside* long theme answers. The essential unrelatedness of the answers, and the unrelatedness of their cluing, and the lack of any SURFACE thematic content whatsoever, made the puzzle kind of a drag. I don't really like it when the NYTXW runs themelesses on Sunday, but at least those, the ones that are designed as proper themelesses, make a point of having loads of scintillating, original fill. This one, instead, has just boatloads of 3, 4, and 5-letter answers, a tidal wave of short stuff, and then tries to get some difficulty by making that short stuff odd / hard / unusual. The main result is an overall feeling of fussiness. Spent most of the solving time mired in the short stuff. The long stuff just didn't seem important; it was all solid enough, but none of it was particularly vivid. So you have a grid that mostly lacks any real theme or real points of interest in the fill (there are some, which I'll get to, but not a ton). Felt like a wash-out. Also, did you know that ROBIN ROBERTS and RACHEL MADDOW have the same number of letters in their names. And both (OBVI) start with "R." Yeah, that was a fun mistake :)

Lots and lots and lots of names—admirably inclusive, but a flood of names is a flood of names and for the second day in a row I felt like I was playing a trivia game (though this one felt a hell of a lot less self-consciously erudite ... more pub trivia, which is actually a nicer vibe). Many many of the names were names I "knew," which is to say I did not know them straight off, but then I'd get a cross or two and go "oh, right, that person." Like with TESSA Thompson and Katie NOLAN. There's no necessary reason why you should know the "first female president" of a country, but in Taiwan's case she is also the *current* president, so that makes her very much worth knowing (63D: ___ Ing-wen, first female president of Taiwan = TSAI). I was not at all familiar with the "T" spelling on SALAT, so when I wrote in STASH (finally) I was ... well, I was definitely praying. SALAT reminds me of a sweet moment I witnessed in JFK this past summer, where a Muslim man had laid out his prayer mat in an emptyish part of the terminal near where we were sitting, and as he was preparing to pray, a woman in his party, maybe his wife, went "psst" and then pointed in the opposite direction from which he was facing, so the man was all "whoops" and did a 180 so he could pray in the right direction. 

OPAL Tometi is going to be the BLM co-founder that gets the most xword love because, well, OPAL will always be with us, but TOMETI looks good, and what about the other co-founders: Alicia GARZA and especially PATRISSE CULLORS—doubt you've ever seen PATRISSE or CULLORS in a grid before. Just, you know, putting that out there. JUDOGI was the baffler of the day (66D: Traditional attire for some martial artists). JUDO, OK, I recognize that, but when I see JUDOGI all I see is a JUDO G.I., like a soldier just throwing dudes on the battlefield. But no, it's the name for the traditional Judo uniform. And now you know. Or maybe you knew. In which case, now *I* know. Weirdly, I think my favorite answer of the day was "IT WAS ME!" (45D: Words of admission). I thought it was going to be a different sense of "admission," something like "COME IN," something along those lines. I had "WHAT ONE?" before "THAT ONE" (20D: Choice words?) (my logic, to the extent that I had any: "WHAT ONE do you want? Make a choice!"). No big struggles, but as I suggested earlier, there were lots of little struggles in the short stuff that just added up to a slightly harder than usual solve. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. Hear ye, hear ye, a message from Boswords Crossword Tournament organizer John Lieb; the Fall Themeless League kicks off with a Preseason puzzle *tomorrow* so get in there and get in on the hot puzzle action before it's too late. Here's more:
Registration for the Boswords 2021 Fall Themeless League is now open! This 10-week event starts with a Preseason puzzle on Monday, September 27 and features weekly themeless puzzles -- clued at three levels of difficulty -- from an all-star roster of constructors and edited by Brad Wilber. To register, to solve a practice puzzle, to view the constructor line-up, and to learn more, go to
P.P.S. for the Sunday crowd: yesterday was this blog's 15th anniversary. Just wanted to make sure the Sunday-only solvers also knew how thankful I was for their readership and support. Here are the first three tweets of a 15 (!)-tweet thread I posted in honor of the occasion. Thanks again, everyone.
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Nathan 12:07 AM  

Wow, I’m really surprised that Rex hated this. This felt a *lot* like that Paolo Pasco MAY I CUT IN meta from January 3, 2021, and that was probably Rex’s favorite Sunday puzzle this year. Yes, I agree that some of the theme answers weren’t that ambitious, and this didn’t blow my mind all that much, but I still thought Rex would like this a little more.

Also, this was the fifth debut puzzle this week. It’s nice to see new faces in Crossworld, but I’d rather have someone experienced every one in a while. And while Matthew Stock has plenty of experience, he’s still new-ish.

Frantic Sloth 12:10 AM  

I hated this.
No idea whoTF TESSA Thompson is or how in the name of all that is holy IN TUNE means "Not sharp, perhaps".
And if anyone knows from "not sharp", it's me.

That NE corner was more trouble than it should have been and much more trouble than it was worth.

And WTF is this theme even supposed to be??
Knowing the title of the #@$ puzzle might help - if the NYT would bother to put it ANYWHERE on the website. 
This has become exponentially more annoying because of the whole .puz situation and yes I can eventually get that to my iPod, but I've already jumped through enough freakin' hoops today.
"Use the app" I hear Obi Wanna Blowme whisper. I refuse. I'd rather remain ignorant, since familiarity breeds contentment in this (my) case.

Okay...I see the circled letters spell out CUT CLASS.
A clue!
The shaded squares have ART, STATS, ECON, LIT, CHEM, CALC, BIO, and LATIN.
So the circled letters interrupt or cut into these classes. Got it. Whee.

Clever enough theme, but not a fan of some of this clueing or the fill. (I see you, "What in the...!" trying to masquerade as SONOFA. Joaquin's dictum notwithstanding, it's weak.)

ARCTANGENT was another WOE saved by crosses, as was KATSU. Funny how that worked out seeing as they cross each other...go know.

@Z would you mind doing a quick PPP count? Just wanna know if it was high because I knew practically nothing and need a good excuse. Well, an excuse anyway.

I think I might be grouchy.

🎉🎉 (two party favors because it was big)

My Name 12:39 AM  

When the goalie is pulled it results in empty net. Open net is a situation when goalie is on the ice but left part of the net open for a shooter. Really unpleasant error.

Joaquin 12:42 AM  

No surprise that I disagree with @Rex. I thought the CUTCLASS gimmick provided a super aha moment.

I was, however, very surprised by Rex not making a big deal of the inclusion of RACHEL MADDOW. I thought he's be orgasmic over that.

Ken Freeland 1:10 AM  

Yeah, yet another offering that should be gracing the pages of People Magazine, not the NYT. Literacy may be of SOME help in doing the Sunday NYT xword, but nowhere near as much as pop culture savvy.
Got lucky on STARES/URIE... have never, EVER seen the word "gawps" in my life, so took my best shot. Otherwise, no real naticks to complain of, so credit where credit is due...

Ken Freeland 1:15 AM  

Surely the PPP count is on the high side... a musical instrument out of tune is either too sharp or too flat...

jae 1:45 AM  

Easy-medium. This was POW at Xwordinfo. Clever idea, a bit of sparkle in the theme answers, pretty smooth for a Sun., liked it. A nice debut for Ms. Sethy!

SlowSolver 2:15 AM  

Will someone please explain 1 across?

A very thin theme, not much to play with.

chefwen 2:26 AM  

Going with @Frantic on this one. Hated it. Don’t like to say that on someone’s debut, but this was way too convoluted for me. I got it, I finished it with a modicum of cheating, but I didn’t enjoy it at all.

Where is Liz Gorski when you need her the most?

Anonymous 2:27 AM  

@Frantic Sloth
IN TUNE means "not sharp" in the sense that a musical note may be raised a half tone by making it sharp. It's not a great clue, since an out-of-tune instrument is off from true by less than a half tone.
I has DoT and oNTUNE, since I was thinking of Morse Code as dots and dashes rather than dits and dahs.

Brian A in SLC 3:00 AM  

In tune musically. A note sounded precisely at the correct pitch is in tune. A note sounded a little too high is "sharp." A little low is "flat."

okanaganer 3:43 AM  

@My Name: you are totally correct; EMPTY NET is the phrase the clue asks for; OPEN NET is something else.

I tried but could not get the theme, aside from "cut class". So I went to (and was shocked that Jeff made this his POW = puzzle of the week) and saw the theme was so meta. It reminds me of when I tried doing the Wall St Journal fridays; I just got fed up with the... how can I label it... fragility of the theme.

CALC? STATS? BIO? ECON? I have never heard those abbrev's used in real life, ever, and I was in science. (Maybe it's an American thing? Like Junior, Soph, Senior... terms we never use here in Canada.) Theoretical Calculus, yes I took that. I even took Economics 101, the most useless course ever.

Rique Beleza 4:11 AM  

Great puzzle. Boo Rex.

Conrad 5:39 AM  

Golly. I often disagree with @Rex, but today I also disagree with @Frantic and @Chefwen, both of whom I'm usually IN TUNE with. I had a nifty aha moment when it all fell into place, and I spent the next few minutes appreciating the degree of difficulty. Priyanka and Matthew had to find words that not only contain the letters CUT CLASS but contain them inside words for actual classes. Then they had to arrange them symmetrically in the proper order. I'm no constructor, but I find that achievement remarkable.

De gustibus and all that, I guess.

bocamp 5:57 AM  

Thx Priyanka & Matthew, for this scholarly effort! :)

Med. most of the way …

Just right for a Sunday, a little bit of everything.

Moved leisurely thru this one; no major hitches until the NE, where I had an extremely 'obtuse' experience at 15D.

Took forever to toss out 'obtuse', then almost immediately saw TONE, changed DoT to DIT, got HITS and TUNA, and finally learned TESSA Thompson.

When I saw IN TUNE, I did feel 'not sharp'. lol

All said and done, a fine puz, and a most enjoyable trip thru academia-land.

Thank you Priyanka & Matthew for the adventure!

yd pg -6

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Anonymous 6:01 AM  

I love me a good themeless Sunday but this had a lot of drek. 1A, Ones with big heads around the office/TACKS is the worst 1A ever. You can't just substitute fence for fencing to get a stupid pun. Throw in URDU, KATSU, and a Trig. function to get a very ugly NW corner. I actually enjoyed the rest of it except for OBVI, YUCK! I guess I'll go look at the title and see what the circles and shading are all about. This is really the best Sundee in a while.

Shandra Dykman 6:08 AM  

Tacks as in thumb tacks or push pins. They have big heads, sorta. 📌

Lewis 6:12 AM  

There was an early on sparsity of fill-ins due mainly to clues that could yield several answers – i.e. [Inauguration day activity] – but then suddenly, it seemed, the puzzle’s fight abated and I was throwing in letters left and right, thrashing the grid, which looked up and asked, “Who did this to me?” To which I replied, ”IT WAS ME, POOR DEAR”.

“DEAR” as in a puzzle I was fond of, with lovely clues for JEER, ELECT, STANDUP and TACK, lovely answers ASSUAGE and IMPINGE, a rare five-letter semordnilap TESSA, and 14 – yes, 14! – NYT puzzle debut answers, my favorites being OBVI, CANNABIS OIL, and, of course, IT WAS ME and POOR DEAR.

Congratulations on your debut, Priyanka, and what a cool theme idea you came up with. Props to you, Matthew, for mentoring Priyanka, helping to add her light to what is now a large and blazing corps of constructors. Thank you both for a highly entertaining puzzle!

JD 6:23 AM  

@Frantic, Of the many, many comments of yours that I've enjoyed, this was my all time favorite. "Two party favors because it was big," I can't even. This 2-week sojourn into family land, the bizaar of the bizarre, on this final day, will take years of recovery but at least you kicked it off. Mwah.

I've moved out of a hotel after nearly 2 weeks and am now staying with my near-90-year-old aunt*. Her bundled cable package doesn't include wifi and I had to solve on my phone (you kids and those phones ... I'm 65). Like facing Everest with a jump rope and a steak knife.

Things didn't start well but once my eyes adjusted to the tiny squares, and with some letters coming into view, I started to enjoy it.

I'd like to thank Internet Connection, Dual Citizen, and Rachel Maddow for giving me the confidence to go on. The payoff of was Political Activist and Cannabis Oil, the later hanging me up a while thinking you could compost hemp into Soil.

Last In Line and Great Basin, so much sanity there. Such clarity. Nothing wobbly, like the kitchen trash can with the rounded bottom that my mother bought from the Dollar Store this week. The Dollar Store trash bags were square. Square trash bags in a wobbly rectangular can. Think about manual trash compaction and the mechanics of this setup.

*Her car is 20 years old and has 31,000 miles on it. The windows roll down with a twirling handle. The check engine light never goes off and she said, "Stop worrying about that already." She owns an apartment building. There's a tennant everyone calls Froggy who she says called the election for Biden because the guys at the gun club had turned against Trump**. She wanted to know last night if I'd be up by 8:00 because she needs to start the chili. I guess it will be noisy.

I told her that I thought my brother's friend was strange. She said, "I know, I think he's having sex with his mother-in-law."

**I saw a yard sign that said If You Voted For Biden You're Trespassing (he lost the gun club but he carried the county).

Iceman 6:23 AM  

A couple of clarifications are needed. ThumbTACKS are not push pins. They have the same function, though.

A hockey goalie is pulled (removed from the ice) near the end of a game when a team desperately needs a goal. Taking out the goalie gives them another "attacker" to increase the odds of scoring. They must, of course, maintain control of the puck. There is an open, or empty net. Your choice.

Grande 7:29 AM  

Although it's widely used, I take issue with the term "ahi tuna." Ahi is the Hawaiian name for tuna (yellowfin being the local variety). "Ahi tuna" is like saying tuna tuna. Redundant. No Hawaiian would say it. It's simply ahi or tuna.

Equally incorrect but now commonplace restaurant speak is "mahi." The Hawaiian name for the Dolphin (fish) or Dorado is two words: "mahi-mahi." You say one mahi, you get half an order!

TTrimble 7:56 AM  

I was about to rant about how ARCTANGENT is clued, but I guess I'll dial it back a bit. Suffice it to say that

arctan(1) = 1 - 1/3 + 1/5 - 1/7 + ... = 45 degrees

is something only an idiot would write. Stop it with the shitty math clues!

Hm, guess that was a rant after all. You must be thinking sarcastically, you POOR DEAR. Let me move on then.

This puzzle took me a long time, and I'm not even sure why. I had a heck of a time getting to SALAT. The only SALAT I know is a German salad, like Kartoffelnsalat (yum). Relatedly, STASH and AHI TUNA were hard to get to. Had "obtuse" (which totally works, standing alone) before IN TUNE. I also thought "Robin Roberts" before RACHEL MADDOW, which is a little silly because she's not really prime-time. Had "chAR" before SEAR. Thought of "supposed" before SO-CALLED, as a synonym of "alleged". KATSU: not in my vocabulary. Did not know TESSA or TSAI. SAMOVAR took a while to cough up. Lots of little things like that slowed me down. And I think Rex commented on the plethora of short words, which imparted a needle threading feel.

CUT CLASS. An unpleasant reminder of a student I have who's gotten himself in trouble by missing four out of the first six class meetings and making up bald-faced lies about why. It's CALC III, where cutting class is generally a really unwise thing to do. I mean, OBVI.

yd pg -1 (may have to give up)
td 0

bocamp 8:11 AM  

Nice to see 'freundin' as a clue, and AMIGA in the puz. :)

Had TSAI Ing-wen in (I think) a 'Tough as Nails' puz recently, and was pleased to be able to drop that right in.

Always have trouble spelling AWRY for some reason.

Have been using OBVI incorrectly. Duh!

Also, have had trouble with SAMOVAR in the past; wanted it to be either a warrior or lizard. Just recently have got it pegged as an 'urn'.

KATSU was new for me.

Cool word: JUDOGI.

URDU was a gimme.



Loved the DIREwolves in G.O.T.; wanted them all to come back to life. :(

Fave UBOAT movie: 'The Enemy Below'.

@Grande (7:29 AM)

Agreed, on both accounts. :)

td -6 (bombed bigtime) :(

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Anonymous 8:26 AM  

I completed this (barely) on my commuter train ride, and didn't get to see CUT CLASS in my haste to fill in everything (and goofed / SCREWed up on EMO-SAMOVAR cross). But what classes! Truly a liberal arts education!! Ars gratia artis sort of thing.

Most of the time when someone is out of tune, that someone is flat. And I always wondered about that... So, perhaps a more real-life clue would've been ""Not flat, perhaps."

And Morse code rears its head again (14A) - Waiting to see some comments about THAT!

Agree with those who said that ahi tuna is redundant. Like when folks say HIV virus... "Human immunodeficiency virus virus" kind of redundancy.

dit-dit-dit dah-dit-dah
(now at work)

mmorgan 8:32 AM  

I finished with no errors and saw CUT CLASS but never saw any of the "classes" in the answers. So is this my fault or the puzzle's? Enjoyed Rex's write up more than the puzzle. Happy Anniv, Rex! I've been here for over 10 of those years... sheesh!

mmorgan 8:35 AM  

Oh, the "classes" weren't shaded in AL which is why I missed them. Oh well.

Anonymous 8:38 AM  

Maybe the student has Covid.
I agree the arctan clue is convoluted, but what's wrong with it?

pmdm 8:45 AM  

The good news is that I enjoyed the theme. The bad news is I disliked about everything else, including the write-up. I dislike PPP trivia, so there was indeed a lot to turn me off.

If a team scorse late in the game after the opposing team pulls its goalie, I believe the NHL lists the goal an an EN goal in the box score. I would imagine few hockey fans would refer to the goal as an open net goal. But there are enough examples of clues that are not 100% accurate.

The violin solo in the Scherzo movement of Mahler's 4th Symphony does not tune up with the rest of the orchestra (and is played on a second violin used by the concertmaster). The clue does not specify whether the sound source is in tune with the music that is written or in tune with the rest of the players. While some may find the clue a bit sloppy, Iwould not call the clue inaccurate.

A word about the theme. I figured out CUT CLASS before filling in all the theme answers. Completing the missing word (or, I guess I should say missing phrase) did help me complete a few of the theme entries. So I guess the theme concept was good.

A word about the wealth of newer constructors. Of course, it is good to expand the universe of constructors. Shortz has been criticized about lack of new constructors for some time. So to complain seems to me a bit hypocritical in general. But newer constructors sometimes seem to me to reply too much on using PPP to complete their grids. To to include more answers that reflects their own (esoteric?) likes (not mine) than pleases me. But after a while, it seems to me things settle down. Perhaps, as the Jeopardy! host try-outs, things develop for the better. Until they do, I will complain, but at the same time hope the learning curve will result in better puzzles being published in the future. I say that without regard to the biases of the puzzle editors.

amyyanni 8:50 AM  

Went to school for so long that class-themed puzzles are usually a welcome diversion. This did not disappoint. Yes, lots of names, but appreciated the scope and diversity. Lots of women, and Diego Rivera. Used to study his murals at the Detroit Art Museum eons ago.
Like last Sunday, listening to Will and Lulu on NPR and so sad to hear Lulu is leaving next month. 😢
Happy Anniversary Rex! Please don't you go off anytime soon. Would very much miss this daily visit with fellow solvers.
Still no pumpkin on my porch. Maybe today. Amazing amount of Halloween decorations in the neighborhoods to date! Happy day of rest, everyone: hope you all get at least a bit of down time.

Anonymous 9:07 AM  

Re: "Open net" vs "empty net."

Most denizens here speak to ice hockey. But other sports use nets and goalkeepers, too. So it turns out the 2017 National Lacrosse League Official Rules state: An “open net” is defined as one from which a goalie has been removed for an additional attacking player.

Admittedly, this was the only such definition I could find, at least for lacrosse.


Mikey from El Prado 9:27 AM  

Hoo boy, how do I put it gently…. This puzzle was not-so-good. I wanted to use harsher language, but this is a family blog.

First, an “e” in Morse code is either written as one dot, or pronounced verbally as “di,” not DIT. As in SOS is di di di dah dah dah di di di.

A pulled goalie results in an empty net, not OPENNET.


Some of the clueing was fresh, but some of it was really stretching it.

SouthsideJohnny 9:32 AM  

I liked the OPEC clue - the simple things obviously amuse me. Was glad to see our old friend, Ms. Garr - as I believe I actually took an O-fer on the rest of the proper names. The actual crossword parts of it were pretty reasonable (I thought) and the theme entries were at least common and for the most part discernible, so that was fun. But boy, the trivia was tougher than usual (and I always struggle with PPP) today.

pabloinnh 9:32 AM  

1A was the least obvious answer in this whole thing, and the last one I filled in. Of course, not knowing CECE or KATSU added to that. At least it wasn't a math-based puzzle, which I feared after filling in ARCTANGENT. No disrespect to our math whizzes, whose knowledge and explanations always leave me in awe.

Noticed the riven classes after three or four had been filled in with a circle somewhere in the middle and eventually CUTCLASS became OBVI (new to me), so a pretty neat theme, even if lots of the PPP was totally mysterious.

An "alternative to honey" in these parts is MAPLE syrup. That's it, that's the list.

I have a granddaughter named TESSA so it was nice to see her here, even if I am unfamiliar with Ms. Thompson. Unusual enough name to be memorable when I see it in the wild.

Enjoyable Sunday for me, PS and MS. Pretty Sticky in places but Mostly Smooth. Debut congrats and thanks for the fun.

Anonymous 9:33 AM  

@Mikey from El Prado, 9:27 AM: Nope, they are dits and dahs. You are clearly not a telegraphy (CW) / ham radio operator, as am I. Just ask any CW operator.


Nancy 9:34 AM  

I've always had a keen dislike for puzzles in which embedded letters are arbitrarily placed within words -- rather than being contiguous. But I suppose, because of the CUT CLASS letters, the theme embeds are indeed contiguous. Nonetheless, they had an arbitrary "feel". And I almost ignored them entirely. Only because of the plethora of PPP did I have to pay them any attention at all.

When you cross a "Special K flavor" with the "first female president of Taiwan", I am not going to be happy with you. When you cross a memoir title with an ESPN anchor (or whatever her job is) I am not going to be happy with you.

Why would you clue a simple word like BORN as PPP? Ditto SURFACE? Ditto TNT? Ditto OAT? You know you don't have to do it. So don't!

Also, when I look at a grate, I have no "expectations" at all. If there's ASH, great. And if there's no ASH, that's even greater. This clue (124A) is too cute by half.

As you can see, this one left me cold.

Rob 9:36 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle. I did have Robin Roberts initially and also massage instead of assuage.

Rube 9:40 AM  

Once again we all have strengths and weaknesses. For me the last two letters of 1d were the biggest gimmes in the puzzle. Then with the A, there was only one possible answer to 21A and it was all over.
Mostly agree with Rex including briefly thinking it was Robin not RACHEL in part because I misread clue as major network prime time...
And as huge hockey fan, id say empty is correct but open is no worse than tons if other equally imperfect clues.

Son Volt 9:50 AM  

I’m usually 50-50 with Rex but today I’m all in with him. Any resemblance to a themed puzzle ended somewhere in the center because the overall fill was just so blah. The oversized Sunday grid brings to light all of the reused stuff we’ve seen so many times before and probably spit out of a generator.

Agree with @TTrimble that the ARCTAN clue was clunky. As an ex junior hockey player - the net is empty when the goalie is pulled - OPEN when your goalie is out of position or down.

This was a bad weekend for the NYTXW.

TTrimble 9:50 AM  

@Anonymous 8:38 AM
No, anonymous, Covid is not the issue. I actually know this, and moreover it's not among his list of excuses.

45 degrees isn't wrong, exactly; it's just really ugly and inelegant. The equation I wrote down explains why I consider it ham-handed, gauche. In other words, "shitty". But I wouldn't worry about it.

Anonymous 9:53 AM  

@Rex - regarding 34A - the clue specifically says "prime-time news program" so "obvi" can't be Good MORNING America's Robin Roberts :)

Teedmn 9:58 AM  

Jeff Chen gave this POW. I would have said Stella's Friday was more so. It's true that I didn't see that there were classes actually being "cut" in the grid but even knowing it, I found it hard to see them. [MOPE]

This seemed to take AGES, even using the random function, but I came in faster than last week at least. For a long time, the NE was completely blank except for the D of DIT. At least I knew of EAST TIMOR so that changed pOut to MOPE and allowed me to finish cleanly.

I like the word SAMOVAR. The quote of 1D was always one of my favorites. While it didn't throw me off at all, I liked the clue for 6D, EN GARDE. I've recently taken to using AGAVE as my go-to sweetener. I loved pulling BIMODAL out of some cranial pocket. IMPINGE, ASSUAGE, PAGEANT, all nice to see in the grid.

"Choice words?" for THAT ONE, ugh.

Thank you, Priyanka and Matthew, and congrats on the debut, Priyanka!

Birchbark 10:10 AM  

IT WAS ME and US TOO -- I and we decline and fall. It will sadden my mother next week, when she solves the syndicated puzzle in the Kalamazoo Gazette.

I have time to say something between now and then, soften the blow a little, but what? Right now all I can think of is "These are latter days." Maybe I'll go down to the river and sit on the stone steps, watch the swollen currents go by, higher than all year, just think it over.

OBVI was anything but. But the nice surprise of ONE BC locked it in.

Some fun reading -- @pmdm (8:45) travelogue of the perpetual engine light; @jd (6:23) Mahler alternate-tune-violin swapping as applied to IN TUNE; @ttrimble (6:23) and related ARCTAN-elegance rants.

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

I count 45 PPP. Not as bad as it feels.

My wife and I also got stuck thinking obtuse instead of INTUNE for the longest time.

Learned some geography of Native Americans. I would have placed the Paiutes in the Plains and the Shoshone in Wyoming.

Do any offices still have billboard with notices stuck up with thumb tacks? I guess somewhere, for OSHA and EEOC stuff.

Unknown 10:14 AM  

Great Puzzle, PS and MS, I loved it and was able to finish (except for one type-o which I couldn't find.... but other than that, I'm satisfied!). Didn't even take full note of "Cut class" until I got here--but enjoyed the "study breaks" title and all the classes being broken. Thanks, a nice, theme-dense, enjoyable Sunday! terrific work. --Rick

Nancy 10:23 AM  

Re: Jeff Chen's POW for this puzzle:

I think that if I were to have a blog that awarded POWs -- a blog to rival Jeff Chen's -- our POWs would dovetail maybe 5% of the time. What Jeff admires and what I admire are so completely different.

Jeff, who constructs highly complex grids himself, is an admirer of the intricacies of construction. "How hard was it to pull off?" seems to be his main criterion. "How many limitations were you faced with?" "How many compromises did you have to make and how many were you able to avoid?" Whereas I couldn't care less about any of that.

My criteria: How many "Aha Moments" did you give me? One Very Big One? Smaller ones, but lots and lots of them? And then: How often did you make me laugh? Out loud? To myself? A chuckle? A guffaw?
And then: how much did you surprise me? Did I gasp? Did I actually levitate from my chair?

Jeff cares about the experience of constructing the puzzle and I care about the experience of solving the puzzle. So that today's puzzle is not a puzzle to which I would ever award a POW. But that Jeff did? It's quite predictable, actually.

mikebernsVIE 10:33 AM  

To be as pedantic as Rex is, one must admit that nobody asks, "WHAT ONE?" Rather, "WHICH ONE?"

Anonymous 10:36 AM  

The truth is that the net is empty nearly all the time during a game. Exceptions are when the goalie or another player ends up over the line and when a puck makes it in. It's time for more beating of the dead AHI tuna horse.

Zwhatever 10:38 AM  

The PPP is 37 of 140, 26%. This is NYTX normal. It didn’t feel particularly PPP heavy to me, but that’s often just a sign that the PPP is in my wheelhouse. But no, a good third of the PPP are WOEs and many more are LFC, so not particularly wheelhouse.
@Anon10:10 - 45? I can see two easy to miscategorize (the clue for CAPS and ELI), but not 8, so I’m wondering what you’re counting.

@puzzlehooarder née @puzzlehoarder - Go back to yesterday’s comments and click on your name. Your profile will appear. Click on “Edit Profile,” Scroll down if necessary to “Display Name” and fix the spelling. Scroll all the way to the bottom and hit Save.

I’m sorry @Hockey Fans but an empty NET is an OPEN NET. True, not all OPEN NETs are empty NETs, but all empty NETs are OPEN NETs. @Iceman is correct.
@Not Hockey Fans - This RowdyDow is brought to you by sport nerds.

@TTrimble - Who wrote that? My clue is Function whose output is 45° when applied to 1 which is the sort of factoid common in crossword cluing.

@Nathan - It would be interesting to see what, exactly, is the difference between this and the Pasco puzzle. To me there does seem to be an excess of trivia today. Trig functions are very important, but not what I’d call exactly scintillating. Same with INTERNET CONNECTION. As interesting as, say “light switch.” That is, we only think about it if it’s not working. Personally, I liked this more than many, but it doesn’t seem as good to me as the Pasco puzzle did.

A 10:40 AM  

At it earlier than usual, so savoring the commentariat this morning - @Frantic, sorry you had such a hard time bc of the lack of info - that’s a bite! You actually helped me by using OBVI the other day. Let me return the favor. If you want to see the title, click on the print icon and it will show you the preview (with the title, usually - sometimes I have to click ‘print newspaper version’). Then go back and do your thing. And, yes, you must be grouchy, ‘cause SON OF A… is the BEST!

@Rex was grumpy too. Not me, I’m in the @Lewis and @Conrad camp today. I thought this was engaging and rewarding. Yes, a plethora of short fill, but it is Sunday - there will be a plethora of everything. And I won’t be forgetting CECE Winans anytime soon. @pablo, your last was my last also - almost went with TAnKS, as in water coolers - now those are big heads around the office!

Nice to see my old friend SAMOVAR. One of my favorite college classes was on seven Russian novels. The Brothers K, Anna Karenina, A Hero of Our Time, Oblomov, And Quiet Flows the Don, Dead Souls, and The First Circle - great class.

Lots of experts out there pointing out nits in hockey and math clues, and I do feel your pain, but today the music clue, “Not sharp, perhaps” is dead on, if not immediately OBVI. @bocamp, your tale of woe was most entertaining!

@Anon 2:27’s knowledge is incomplete, and therefore dangerous. Combine it with what @Brian A says at 3:00 and all is well. And so: a B-flat is sharp if you play it a tad too high, and a C-sharp can likewise be flat (or sharp, for that matter). I know. Thankfully most music terminology doesn't do double duty like that. You adjust (you know, like learning computer lingo).

@JD, great post - keep us informed of your aunt’s witticisms!

I bet Shortz thinks he’s clever, tricking us with the Robin Roberts reference yesterday. Well, I didn’t fall for it! Yes, I thought of Robin, but kept EN GARDE. Also, what’s with all the UTERI lately? Does he have a desire to return to the womb?

To ASSUAGE all the grumpiniess out there, I’ll share the wonderfully upbeat An American in Paris by today’s birthday composer and brother of IRA, George Gerswhin. This is the premier recording from 1929, with Gerswhin on the celesta.

Phil 10:40 AM  

What is PPP?

DavidinDC 10:42 AM  

Not only do puzzles need good themes, revealers, nifty themeless construction, interesting fill, avoidance of Naticks and too many PPPs or fill-in blanks, but they must be politically correct with no references to anything red-state related. I am definitely Dem, in between moderate and progressive. So this puzzle with all its inclusiveness and correctness still fails to get the Rex approval seal. It’s a high bar for the NYTXW. Oh well, I’m gonna do some cannabis oil, watch Rachel, tune in my internet connection and let my wife let me know that she has elite status and as far as solving the puz, I am last in line. She’s a beast with the puz!

RooMonster 10:46 AM  

Hey All !
Put me in the impressed by the construction group. Coming up with some of these answers couldn't have been easy. Take CALAC and BISO, for example. Eve ARCT and LCIT. First, the constructors needed to make coherent answers out of those crazy letter combos, then they had to come up with a bunch of them (8!), Then they had to be symmetrical. Dang! Pulled off nicely.

And only 78 blockers. ( Normal amount for a SunPuz.)

Answers may not have blown your skirt up, but still made for a nice puz. Seemed light on the dreck. Well, NW corner not withstanding. So I'm standing across the room from Rex's hating group, sneering at them. 😁

Good job, Priyanka and Matthew. Don't let the bloggers get you down. 😋

Two F's

TTrimble 10:54 AM  

Glad I provided someone with amusement, and in fact almost all my rants are half in jest. But I should have just said more directly: the clue would have been improved by saying "Function whose value at 1 is pi/4." Don't even add "radians"; that's a given. :-)

(Point being that as long as you're torturing 90% or more of the solvers with a clue that has pretense to mathematical sophistication, why not go the whole nine. The clue seems ever so slightly unsure of itself, and it shows. OBVI, I don't mean that literally! (-: )

TTrimble 11:11 AM  

Who wrote that?

I did. It's a satirical take on the clue, you see. I'm making fun of the clue, at the clue's expense. Mainly, I'm just having fun. Not being totally serious. Just half-serious.

"Factoid" is a good choice of word.

Anonymous 11:12 AM  

Not understanding the complaints about ARCTANGENT (other than that it's obscure, but then again almost all of us learned what it is in high school, and plenty of the answers in this puzzle are equally obscure).

ARCTAN(x) = the angle whose tangent is x.

Since tan(45 degrees) = 1, ARCTANGENT(1) is in fact 45 degrees, also called pi/4.


mathgent 11:17 AM  

I didn't do today's but I read the posts here. Nancy (10:23) did a brilliant job explaining why I almost never think that Jeff Chen's POWs are favorites of mine.

Anonymous 11:21 AM  

Thank you to @TTrimble and others who have pointed out the ridiculous error in the ARCTANGENT clue. For the non-math types out there, the problem is that the result of any trigonometric function is expressed in radians, not degrees. ARCTAN(1) = pi/4, not 45 degrees. This is not mere convention: only when expressed in radians does the math hold up, as TTrimble alluded to in his comment. Hey, at least the clues to ORIGIN and BIMODAL were right.

Because this clue is very early in the puzzle, I was somewhat annoyed by it the rest of the way through. Like Rex, I solved it as a themeless, and didn't figure out the class name gimmick until after I was done. Also like Rex, I took SALAT and JUDOGI and TSAI on faith.

Unlike Rex, I thought this was an OK puzzle. I especially enjoyed the misdirection clues for 10A and 89D. "Q followers" made me think of the idiot wearing the horns.

thefogman 11:22 AM  

About average in every way for a NYT Sunday crossword. Which isn’t saying much these days. PS Thanks a bunch Rex and congratulations. Long may you run.

Michele Angelini 11:35 AM  

What an unenjoyabe puzzle. I would use my original answer for 15D to describe it: obtuse!!

Got seriously tripped up a few times. Namely that very corner…I put DOT instead of DIT and with the O and the U of ELITESTATUS gave me OBTUSE. Took a while to realize that error.

Then, 56D I had ENDon rather than ENDAT with which the R-o of 74A gave me RobinRoberts (wasn’t she just in the puzzle the other day, too) and was then in a big bind before I had to replace the namely fully.

Worst though were BIMODAL and TSAI next to each other. Those were my final clues to get. I also did not appreciate JUDOGI, but maybe because I studied Tae Kwon Do as a kid so I’m only really familiar with the Korean terms.

So glad this puzzle is over!

egsforbreakfast 11:46 AM  

I’m with @Roo on this one. Nice construction. The solve was fair. Only A HI TUNA would complain about this.. or as they say at the SWEARINGIN of DUALCITIZENS, all RYES.

Thanks Priyanka and Matthew.

What? 12:00 PM  

Chen gave this a POW. Ok, I know it takes all kinds but that is really hard to understand. If he has anything to say about what is published, I guess it explains a lot.

Jill 12:07 PM  

Could be American. I have taught in colleges across the US (dang adjunct/postdoc life) and these abbreviations were all a breeze for me.

Joseph Michael 12:21 PM  

No. TACkS do NOT have big heads.

Also, I believe that a DUAL CITIZEN has *two* passports not multiple ones.

HIYA, POOR DEAR, MEET ME, IT WAS ME, I SEE, US TOO, THAT ONE, ACT NICE, SONOFA. I might have liked this puzzle more if it didn’t GAB so much. In the end, it felt like much ADO about nothing.

I was so distracted by all of the proper nouns that I didn’t even notice the circles while solving. So I did have an aha when I came here and discovered the CUT CLASS secret message. That was a nice touch that managed to ASSUAGE my feelings about the puzzle. I admire the construction feat, but trivia and math terms are not what i come here for.

Or maybe there was just too much CANNABIS OIL in my KATSU this morning.

faber 12:24 PM  

It's a math joke. If you sum the series he wrote down you get pi/4 which is a number not an angle. The very anal point is that arctangent is defined to be a function which inputs numbers and outputs numbers. The whole degree thing introduces needless units.

Son Volt 12:27 PM  

@Z 10:38a - I agree the crossword world can and will generalize OPEN and empty but in terms of the clue it is not technically correct - at least in hockey. When a goalie is pulled it is defined as an empty net - further it is statistically defined and recorded as an empty net goal when the other team scores and doesn’t count towards a goalie’s save percentage or against average.

Zwhatever 12:28 PM  

@TTrimble11:11 - Thanks. Whooshed right over my head.

@Phil - Pop Culture, Product Names, and other Proper Nouns. When 33% of the puzzle requires PPP knowledge we will see the wheelhouse/outhouse phenomenon (that is, some people saying “easiest puzzle ever” and others saying “hardest puzzle ever.”

Because @Anon counted 45 I went and recounted. I missed EMO, but still only 38 of 140 for 27%. There is lots of non-PPP and foreign language trivia today, so maybe that’s why it feels higher.

I don’t know Hawaiian, so I can’t speak to the AHI=TUNA assertion, but in English AHI TUNA is specifically the yellowfin tuna. Saying AHI TUNA is like saying “coho salmon.” “Coho” suffices but “coho salmon” isn’t wrong. If you say AHI everyone knows you mean AHI TUNA, so the TUNA part is unnecessary, but not actually redundant. Going the other direction, TUNA is sufficient but TUNA fish isn’t redundant. OTOH, if you go around using “AHI TUNA fish” everyone is going to wonder about you.They might also wonder if your piano is a little sharp because everyone knows you can TUNE a piano but you can’t TUNA fish.*

*Seriously - I had to be the one to make the REO reference? What do you mean I didn’t have to?

A 12:31 PM  

@Birchbark, loved your “decline and fall” comments. Sympathies to your mom. BTW, the engine light belongs to @JD’s aunt (6:23).

@Nancy, re SURFACE, OAT, et al, exactly! Nothing wrong with the words, just don’t bring Microsoft into it. I might give anything Roadrunner a 'pass -meep meep'. Sorry those spoiled the lot for you, though. I found much to admire besides the constructing feats (which did impress me, and @Roo points out great details.) I liked the word within a word, the different classes (though lacking band, tragically), and the curiosity-arousing circles, leading me to ask “wonder if they spell anything?” I liked the clues for STAND UP, ONE BC, ALARM and SNOW, to name a few.

And sometimes I appreciate learning not-so-trivial PPP from xwords. Trevor Noah’s “BORN a Crime” looks like a great read: “the only time I could be with my father was indoors”: “If we left the house, he’d have to walk across the street from us.” It was dangerous, as a light-skinned child, to be seen with his mother as well: “She would hold my hand or carry me, but if the police showed up she would have to drop me and pretend I wasn’t hers.” ……Language, he discovered early on, was a way to camouflage his difference. His mother knew Xhosa, Zulu, German, Afrikaans, Sotho and used her knowledge “to cross boundaries, handle situations, navigate the world.” She made sure that English was the first language her son spoke because “if you’re black in South Africa, speaking English is the one thing that can give you a leg up.”

@TTrimble, keep up the good work! I’m half paying attention. Well, maybe slightly less than half, say 45%, but it’s getting the job done.

@Z, good to see you - I was beginning to think something was AWRY, like too much LYE in the everything bagels at RYE’S famous Placebo and Tentacle. But @puzzlehooarder, I like your special spelling - don’t submit to the pressure to be ordinary.

@Anon/Colin 8:26, I just noticed your comment on tuning. That reminds me of a joke amongst musicians: “I think I was sharp on that note.” “Well, at least you weren’t out of tune.” The fact of the matter is we just notice it more if the tone is flat. Playing sharp is actually more common, so we don’t notice it as much.

Off to the local German fest, but I’m looking forward to @Masked & Anonymous’s U count later today.

Oh, re the POW designation - I don’t read Chen, and usually don’t agree with him on those (everyone has different criteria), but I would assume he thinks his readers think highly of his opinion. So why would he spoil their suspense by revealing his opinion before the week is over?

puzzlehoarder 12:42 PM  

I hate to belabor the prolonged dad joke nature of the puzzle but I found it to be sophomoric at best. At it's worst it was mind numbing. Filling in entries like ITWASME and INONIT makes my eyes glaze over. The LASTINLINE theme entry can be added to that list. The way I solved made it the first themer that I got. The theme was painfully clear and all I could think was that there was going to be a great deal more of this and it won't get any better.

Like any other Sunday this one throws so much material at there are bound to be good moments. Today's highlights were KATSU, SALAT, TSAI and URIE. They were all debuts or virtual debuts. My favorite was KATSU. It's one of those entries where you can recognize the word but you're just not sure what it means. Crossing that with the so dumb it's good cluing for TACKS gave me the best puzzling of the whole thing.

OBVI is a debut but I can't warm up to these "modern slang" clues. It's one of my least favorite categories. At least this one was inferable.

@Z, thanks for the advice it seems to have fixed the problem.

yd pg -3

Matt 12:42 PM  

I rather enjoyed it, although I found it quite breezy/easy. On-line solvers lacked the shaded squares that aided finding the "hidden" classes, I'm guessing. I found them OBVI after getting the first few (i got strange help from actually knowing the definition of an ARCTANGENT) and the only really objectionable fill today was...OBVI. Not OBVI to me. I've seen (and used myself) OBVS which would have turned TERI into the clue-able TERS at less overall damage ("Suffix with teams and pranks" or some such) to the elegance of that section.

The shtick ended up being kind of a dad joke, but I have no objection to these if the overall puzzle is as amiable as this one, and there were some lovely modern fills (POLITICAL ACTIVIST crossed with AMAL Clooney bracketed by RACHEL MADDOW and CANNABIS OIL made it feel like it was the lineup of topics and guests for an afternoon MSNBC show.)

Zwhatever 12:53 PM  

@Son Volt - Yeah, no. Notice the first OPEN NET fails in this clip. and the first two here. Or how OPEN NET makes an appearance in this discussion of Empty NETS. Again, Empty NET is a specific kind of OPEN NET, but when you pull the goalie there’s an OPEN NET to shoot at. I’m really surprised this has tripped up so many people, but the clue is correct in HockeyWorld just as much as in CrossWorld. As to your STATS observation- Sure, because not all OPEN NET goals are empty netters. To draw a comparison to baseball, a sacrifice fly is still an out even though it doesn’t count against the hitters batting average. That it is a specific type of out that should be counted differently than other outs doesn’t stop it from being an out.

@puzzlehoarder - You’re welcome.

@A - Have I been missing? And I’m feeling the impulse to change my nom de blog to Ω so that we’re a matched set.

@Everyone - Is this puzzle theme a variation on a Worducken?

Carola 12:55 PM  

I solve Sundays in poky fashion, as I allow myself to build only from my first cross in, which today was AMIGA x SALTINE. The enforced leisurely pace let me see the first three areas of study fairly early, and half-way though I got how the circled letters CUT CLASS. That helped me a lot with the remaining ones. Because of the incorrect END on, my broadcaster was going to be RoCHELle Somebody, but CHEM saved me; BIO gave me OBVI, and LATIN the NBA and the finishing touches. There were lots of unknown-to-me names for sure, but I really enjoyed solving this one.

tkincher 12:56 PM  

The official name of "EAST TIMOR" is Timor-Leste and has been for quite some time.

albatross shell 1:06 PM  

Hate to pile on after you have explained yourself, but ... .
I expect no normal person who is not studying this stuff in HS or need to use it in there profession to even know there is an arctangent. Maybe they know sine, cosine, tangent and maybe even secant. They also might even remember that these terms have something to do with ratios of the sides of a triangle with a 90 degree angle. And if a right triangle has an angle of 45 degrees then the other angle must be 45 degrees and then 2 sides are equal and the ratio of those 2 sides is one. So one of the common geometric functions with co- or something in front of it. Do I expect more than 10% of solvers to get to it this way? NO. But I do expect a higher percentage to be alert that TANGENT is a possibility and with one or two crosses to suss out ARC. So your humor of purposely going obscure on something most people were exposed to in HS, fell flat coming from someone who just recently praised a puzzle for its science theme which you called something like pathetically basic. That was you and not @anoa bob? Pi/4 would be worse in my mind. Would even suggest trig functions to fewer people.

@anon 1038am
Curiously the net is always open too. But I believe both words are used to describe a goalie removal situation.

I am not an expert in the language in Hawaii but I never got the idea they were opposed to repeating sounds or words. NENE MAHI MAHI say. I never tried to tune a tuna, sharp or flat.

Frantic Sloth 1:09 PM  

Aaaaah. Nothing like reading the comments to remove a grouch-on!
Well, most days. 😊

@chefwen 226am 👍

@Anonymous 227am Thank you. Actually, that's the only explanation I could muster and still thought "...nah!" Why I continue to trust this brain is a mystery. 🤷‍♀️
In any case, I found the pairing to be trying on the clever pants in the dressing room and realizing the fit was off. See? I can do that, too! 🙄

@Conrad 539am It's okay when we disagree, buddy! Besides I do happen to agree with you about the constructioneering. 😉

@JD 623am Oh, sweety. You really do have to get out more. 😘 Is there no end to the delightful hilarity that is you and your family? Is there?? Honestly, I'm gonna have a big, fat, grin (take a lesson, Joker [Batman rival, not commenter!]) on my face for the rest of the day. I just wish all this joy didn't come at the expense of your well-being. 🤷‍♀️

@TTrimble 756am Ditto on "obtuse" because I'm so mathy. Or so, well, obtuse?

@Z 1038am Thanks for the PPP count. It's not the answer I was hoping for, but it is the answer that proves the "Sloth Rule": when in doubt, FS is wrong. Your using rowdydow softens the blow. 😊

@A 1040am Thank you! Once upon a time, it was hidden under the i, but then disappeared. Figures they'd make it more complicated. 🙄

Yeah. I'm with Rex, who solved this as a themeless. IMHO if you're gonna do a themeless at all, make it part of the solve. Nothing disappoints me more than a themeless that is only OBVI until the finish. If that's not a "look at me and how clever I am" moment, I don't know what is. Beh.
Or what @Nancy 1023am said!

@Z The omega is worse than that time you changed your name to something multi-Z-ish. I've (thankfully) forgotten the exact words.
Stop it right now! 🤣

Frantic Sloth 1:18 PM  

@Ω So there! Wasn't easy, but I did it, dammit!

Anna 1:31 PM  

Yup, two-brainer for sure. Great debut puzzle.
Intricate theme. Also liked that 79 Down was I-79 which runs down from Erie to Pittsburgh.
Also congratulation to Rex.

Dan and Anna

Zwhatever 1:31 PM  

@Frantic Sloth - Heh Heh. 😈😈

emily 1:33 PM  

Disagree. Was happy to see I agreed w/ Rex. The clues sucked.

MathGirl 1:37 PM  

Where is Loren Muse Smith today? And Yesterday? I worry about her and her Mother when she is silent.

Anonymous 1:46 PM  

Forgot to say I was Villager when I asserted that there were 45 PPP.

I thought foreign words were included in the PPP category. Sorry if I messed that up. :)

I also assert there is NO technical difficulty with the ARCTANGENT clue, just obscurity. 45 degrees is just another way of saying pi/4. Similar to (though not the same as) 2.54 cm being another way of saying 1 inch.


old timer 1:47 PM  

Once I figured out what was going on I had few problems with the themers. Because I had three children who went to high school snd talked about their classes, and they took (or could have taken) CHEM, ECON, BIO, etc. and those were their usual names. I do have a NIT or two though. First, all of the names in shaded letters are (or may be, in the case of ART) abbreviations. But LATIN is just that. No abbr. ever. Does Not Belong!

Second, the Circled Letters bit was lame, as in who cares?

ARCTANGENT was of course fair. I knew it from taking Trig in high school, 60 years ago. Knew it and forgot it at once. One of the blessings of graphing calculators is that my daughters never had to take Trig as a class, though the basic concepts were still taught in their math CLASSes.

D'Oh! moment: Getting GREAT BASIN. My oldest daughter worked as a baker at the GREAT BASIN Bakery in Bishop. All the locals know it is better than the other one, that has been famous forever. (And yes, Eastern California is part of the Great Basin, except right along the Colorado River -- all the rivers end up in a sink, instead of flowing ultimately to an ocean.

Anonymous 1:50 PM  

Thank goodness Interstates go pretty much in numerical order. I knew I-81, which comes up the Shenandoah Valley from somewhere down south, then goes through Harrisburg, Scranton, Binghamton (hi Rex), and Syracuse. So what would go south to north just to the west of that and where would it end? Well, Buffalo isn't 4 letters, nor is Cleveland. Aha!


Anonymous 1:50 PM  

I liked this one … thought the theme was clever and nice to have it as school has been resuming in person, so it was timely, as well.

Son Volt 1:52 PM  

@Z 12:53p - the generalization works fine for the unnuanced here but try getting it past goalies who track their stats to use in contract battles. They won’t recognize ONG or ONGA because they aren’t a thing - you won’t find them in a stat book anywhere. ENG or ENGA on the other hand…

Your baseball example is apt - but if the clue was “Result when a batter hits a fly ball out that scores a run” would you want to see Out or Sac Fly as the answer? I know we see these crossworld arguments all the time - I just thought that once the clue today uniquely specified pulling the goalie it required the specific answer.

Rique Beleza 1:57 PM  

Arctan(1) literally means “the angle whose tangent is 1”, which is 45 degrees (as well as 225). Nothing convoluted about it unless you just don’t get math.

TTrimble 1:59 PM  

@albatross shell
You raise a very good point. A lot of cluing is in brand recognition, and my delicate purist sensibilities overlook that pi/4 just isn't going to be a recognizable brand for people whose memories of trigonometry are fading as it is. So "45 degrees --> hmm, something to do with trigonometry maybe, mumble mumble what fits, begins with A ends with T --> oh let me just try ARCTANGENT".

So, I'll back off. I wasn't being 100 percent serious from the get-go, and tried to transmit that as well, but unfortunately there was some noise in the transmission. :-)

Anonymous 2:22 PM  

does anyone, without looking it up, know what the relation/difference is among

and the

versions? and are there any other prefixed ones?

Anonymous 2:24 PM  

but, but, but... aren't the Black Keys sharp by definition, and, since they're on the keyboard, aren't they IN TUNE?

Elizabeth Sandifer 2:28 PM  

The DIT/DOT confusion, with IN TUNE/ON TUNE also both making sense, is a major editorial failing here. Two entirely legitimate solutions to the puzzle as a result.

Anonymous 2:29 PM  

As a constant critic of Rex railing at the inclusion of his political "enemies" in puzzles, I really cannot be hypocritical and complain about the presence of Amal Clooney, Hanoi Jane, Rachel Maddow, Trevor Noah and the terrorist group BLM in this puzzle-- THEY ARE ALL REAL. . . and belong in any puzzle.

Legume 2:30 PM  

the head of a TACK is way more yuge, relative to its shaft, than a push pin.

Birchbark 2:42 PM  

@A (12:31) -- Thanks for catching the @JD <--> @pmdm inversion in my earlier post. I blame the editor.

Anoa Bob 2:43 PM  

I learned Morse Code in the Navy back in the 60s and even then the manual operation of a telegraph key was becoming antiquated. It was already being done by machines and it was so blazing fast that only other machines could decode it.

Morse Code has only two characters, audible tones actually, a short one "." and a longer one "_". Whether they are called dit, dot, dah or dash is somewhat arbitrary it seems to me. An individual or group may adopt one version as their standard convention but that doesn't mean the other versions are wrong. Morse Code uses sounds not words. .._. . _..

Had my first sashimi in Okinawa. The restaurant had a large aquarium with live fish swimming around and we selected the one that looked yummiest to us. We went into our tatami mat room and a few minutes later our fish arrived. It had been fileted and cut into small cubes perfectly size for eating with chopsticks. The remainder of the fish, the head and tail fin, were artfully placed on a bed of grated Japanese daikon, a white root veggie, to make it look like the fish was jumping out of the water. Best dining experience ever!

I took a plethora of statistics classes in grad school and later taught undergrad research statistics but never heard it referred to as stats, sadistics maybe, but never stats.

I did notice a flock of cheater/helper squares, twelve of them, black squares that don't change the word count but just make it easier to fill the grid. There are two of them in the top row alone. That and the two themers, DUAL CITIZEN and POLITICAL ACTIVIST, that needed some assistance from POCs (plural of convenience) in order to fill their slots left me less than impressed with the construction side of the puzzle.

TTrimble 2:55 PM  

@Rique Beleza
See, that's part of the problem: there isn't a unique number whose tangent is 1. But in order to speak of a function, to each "input" in the domain, there should be exactly one output. So it can't be both 45 and 225 (to use the barbarous degree measure). One has to make a decision or agree upon a convention. In fact, I'll take this opportunity to step right back on my soapbox.

I don't know about pedagogy in the "old days", but as far as these days are concerned, we're doing high-school kids a really terrible disservice if we don't get them thinking in terms of radians, and their superiority over degrees from a mathematical and scientific perspective, right away. Fortunately, from what I can tell from recent K-12 textbooks, there seems to be widespread understanding of this point.

(And then future crosswords could use pi/4 without hesitation or embarrassment. Even if you "don't know much trigonometry", what a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful world it would be.)

In any case, the standard convention is that the arctangent takes values in the interval of numbers strictly between -pi/2 and pi/2. For various reasons, this seems to be the optimal convention. Thus 5pi/4 (corresponding to 225 degrees) is not considered a value (or output) of the arctangent.

Masked and Anonymous 2:57 PM  

This rodeo nearly got M&A all psyched up to cut PHYSED class. A near miss. Still lotsa hope for cuttin PE class, tho.

Gray areas and circles in the themers, all in one get-go. Different. Like.

staff weeject pick: ANI. Celebratin its 179th appearance in a Shortzmeister-edited puz, today. M&A will spare U, on his 179 reasons why he luvs ANI. Better clue, tho: {"___ for an I …"}.
honrable mention to the almost-theme-related GPA.

Got ARCTANGENT off just a coupla letters. Didn't hardly know BIMODAL, altho it sorta makes sense, I reckon. No hope, on JUDOGI.
And sorta cute ENGARDE clue moment. Ditto on PAGEANT's crownin moment. {Grate expectations} =ASH was a primo groaner moment -- lil' dickens.

All in all, a pretty smoooth solvequest, at our house. Took m&e a mighty long time to catch onto that there sneaky theme, tho. "Study Breaks" puztitle shoulda made m&e catch on sooner.

Thanx for the classy SunPuz, P.S. darlin and M.S. dude. And congratz to Priyanka on her half-debut.

Masked & Anonymo10Us


TTrimble 3:23 PM  

@Anonymous 2:22 PM
Lots of people here could tell you, me for example. (But I've made so many comments, I'm slightly reluctant to make more. Maybe just this one.)

Just really briefly: the basis for the pairings (sine, cosine) (tangent, cotangent), (secant, cosecant) is via complementary angles. Two angles (or angle measures) are "complementary" if they sum to 90 degrees (or pi/2 radians), and the basic idea is that, for example, the sine of an angle equals the cosine of the complementary angle. For example, since 30 degrees + 60 degrees equals 90 degrees, this means 60 degrees is complementary to 30 degrees, and then the basic idea means that the sine of 30 degrees equals the cosine of 60 degrees. And also, the sine of 60 degrees equals the cosine of 60 degrees. The same principle holds for the other two pairings (tangent, cotangent) and (secant, cosecant).

You could even think of the "co-" as short for "complementary".

As far as "arc" is concerned, @Rique gave more or less the right explanation. You could think of it like the game Jeopardy!. Instead of giving an answer to a question, such as answering "sin(30 degrees)?" with 1/2, you could invert it, giving the appropriate question for the answer, as in [Miayim Bialik] "Answer: the sine of this angle is 1/2". You respond, "what is 30 degrees?" So it's an inversion of taking the sine. We say "the inverse sine of 1/2 is 30 degrees", or better yet, "the inverse sine of 1/2 is pi/6".

The "arcsine" is just another name for the inverse sine (the "arc" harkens back to the fact that it's calling for an angle measure, which when done right is measured by arclength along a circle of radius 1 -- that's where radians come from). Same deal for all the other inverse trig functions.

The thing you have to watch out for is the fact that many angles have 1/2 as their sine, so you have to make a restriction or enact a convention in order to have a well-defined result, as I explained in my response to @Rique.

I think I'll stop here. Other people can add to this.

Unknown 3:41 PM  

Oh sorry, at 3:23 I wrote, "And also, the sine of 60 degrees equals the cosine of 60 degrees." I meant to write "And also, the sine of 60 degrees equals the cosine of 30 degrees."

Phil 4:16 PM  


Thanks for the PPP lesson. I appreciate it.


Anonymous 4:21 PM  

TESSA Thompson is far more obscure to me than ARCTANGENT. But I suppose it's not that surprising that TV actors are more familiar to the masses than common mathematical functions. Innumeracy is killing America.

Zwhatever 5:06 PM  

@TTrimble - I’d go even further and say introducing radians in middle school makes sense. Yes, some kids at that age may not be cognitively ready (at age 11), but many, probably most, are and I think only using degrees makes it harder to conceptualize radians later.

@Anon2:24 - I agree that The Black Keys are always IN TUNE. But what do you think a piano tuner does if the A# black key is actually playing a B?

@Anonymous Villager - Perhaps we should change it to PPPP, Pop Culture, Product Names, Phoreign Words, and other Proper Nouns. I tend to think of Phoreign words as plain trivia, but I do see commenters complain about them on a regular basis.

@Son Volt - Clearly you’re not alone in wanting the special case answer, but misdirection is what crossword clues specialize in. FWIW - I started writing in “e-m-p” before realizing there wasn’t enough room, but then got one of the letters and realized OPEN was wanted.

Geezus - I’ve got the post game interview from the USAU Pro Championship on and I am so disheartened that the coach has all the clichés. I just about lost it at “flip the switch.”

Anonymous 5:12 PM  

the sine of an angle equals the cosine of the complementary angle.

- the last time I either read or heard that was 10th or 11th grade. I expect the same is true for 99.44% of the cabal of Rex commenters. being a geezer, that's at the very bottom of my lower brainstem memory.
- it was the cabal of Rex commenters to whom I was referring, not the general population, much less the numerate.

even so, I figured only ARCTANGENT (the term, if not the meaning, was a tad higher up my lower brainstem and therefore harvestable) would fit. drew to an inside strait.

Anonymous 5:16 PM  

there is a cabal of avant-garde 'jazz' pianists (mostly European, thus generally disregarded by the likes of Wynton) who use de-tuned instruments. not that I support such, of course.

Anonymous 5:35 PM  

make that @Ω sorry about the typo.

Gio 5:44 PM  

@mathgirl I would not worry. LMS goes on long stretches of time where she does not post. Then she will post almost daily due awhile and then stop. She is by no means a 7 days a week poster like some here. She is actually the only one here who consistently gets Welcome Back posts.

TTrimble 5:59 PM  

I wholeheartedly agree. I estimate that kids would be ready by the 5th or 6th grade. By that time they've already been learning about using pi to measure circumferences of circles and the like.

They'd be ready, but now what about their teachers? At about that point in their education, kids are learning to really hate math: so many exercises in pointless drudgery, and there's nothing quite like math to make a person feel stupid*. One problem is that many of their teachers don't really grasp the point either. Beats the hell out of me how anyone can effectively teach who isn't coming from a position of conviction and understanding. (I don't mean to rag on middle school math teachers. I interact a fair amount with future math teachers, and what I see doesn't make me utterly despairing, not at all. Some are very good, and will be worth their weight in gold.)

We're gonna need a lot of competent scientists in the future, and solid math education in K-12 can hardly be overestimated.

*Mathematicians feel it too. It's not always felt as "stupidity", but it is often felt as confusion and perplexity, and we spend our days trying to get unconfused and sorted out.

Barbara S. 6:12 PM  

I'm here in my capacity as PR agent for ORIGIN. ORIGIN called me, yelling into the phone, because it had somehow found out that it was getting no blog time at all, while its longtime rival, ARC TANGENT was having its way by dominating discussion. With a characteristic combination of hurt feelings and fury, ORIGIN went on shouting that not everybody might know that "(0,0) in math" refers to the intersection of the axes in a Cartesian coordinate system. Quoting Wikipedia at the top of its voice, ORIGIN went on: "The coordinates of the ORIGIN -- me! -- are always zero, for example (0,0) in two dimensions and (0,0,0) in three." By now it was really worked up and I was holding the phone at arm's length to protect my hearing. "Everyone needs to know this! No one needs to know about that self-important prima donna, ARC TANGENT!" Of course I had to ASSUAGE ORIGIN by agreeing with everything it said or risk losing my job. So here I am, to try in a small way to redress the balance.

Trey 6:20 PM  

Kinda agree with Rex - not a bad puzzle but the theme was “meh”. The letter inserted into the class names did not really add much to the puzzle or challenge. Just seemed “there”. Despite that, I liked the long answers on their own accord

Anonymous 6:36 PM  


Not to rain too heavily on your parade (I mostly agree), but the abuse of quantitative methodology (where many maths end up earning a living) led to The Great Recession (her name is Blythe Masters; you can look her up, but she is hardly alone) and other fiascos. The evilly numerate make easy pickings of the innumerate (a major reason Trump is able to convince the rabble that he was robbed), thus offering more moolah to the math-centric than most other professions.

TTrimble 7:32 PM  

@Anonymous 6:36 PM
People adept at mathematics certainly aren't any more or less moral than other people, and like any advanced form of knowledge, mathematics lends itself to both good and evil uses. There are tons of examples. OBVI that's true of science generally.

You may have heard of G.H. Hardy. (He was the mentor of Ramanujan, and arguably the greatest British mathematician of his time.) In his life he took a kind of pride in the fact that his branch of mathematics had no applications whatsoever, and thus couldn't be used for good or evil -- it was a Platonic world of pure conceptual thought. Or so he thought!! The applications of number theory are of incalculable importance to modern life, for example in making e-commerce possible. Fact is, eventually all mathematics of significance seems to find its way to applications, eventually -- for better or worse.

Anonymous 8:07 PM  

I learned Morse code in the 1960's, but I was never very good at it. I knew all the letters and numbers, but I never got up to speed. In spite of that, one sequence (dah-dit-dah-dit-dah-dah-dit-dah) was burned into my brain. Is Morse code still used anywhere?

Anonymous 8:29 PM  


not to drag this out much longer, but consider that Blythe Masters as a single individual, cooking up an algorithm that did evil to millions and millions of people concocted through the expediency of maths, did many orders of magnitude more harm that your neighborhood auto mechanic who sold you a new (priced, but actually salvaged from a junkyard) transmission when all yours needed was a new gasket. leverage of esoteric knowledge is not uniform.

Unknown 8:57 PM  

Engineer here. ORIGIN, BIMODAL, and ARCTANGENT were gimmes. And as a hockey fan, I am on the EMPTYNET side of the debate.

Saw a lot of name clues and panicked, especially since they were less known figures, but the crosses bailed me out.

My two struggles: JUDOGI x JEER (didn't know JUDOGI, didnt get the clue for JEER); and STARES x URIE (who the F is he, and is 'gawp' some sort of combination of gawk and gape?? never heard the word)

LBintheBK 9:35 PM  

Would you mind explaining the clue for JEER to me ? I couldn't get JUDOGI so had a blank for the 1st letter of each

TTrimble 9:51 PM  

I certainly don't need any convincing. Not to brag, but I am much more familiar than most people with the vast sweeping generalizing power of mathematics.

Of course, that power was harnessed and exploited by big business and by the unbridled greed one finds there. Pure mathematics all by itself is mostly harmless, a playground of the intellect, but can, as you point out, be deadly and ruinous when greedy people backed by big money figure out how to utilize it to their advantage (to name but one type of example). It can likewise be used for great good. I think we agree there is something both awesome and terrifying about the potential of mathematics.

albatross shell 10:24 PM  

@Sun Volt
It doesn't count against the goalie because there is no goalie in the game for it to count against. But I know far fewer hockey technicalities than baseball ones. So, can you score a hat trick without touching the puck? Or get a block or an assist? Or anything people won't believe?

Rina 10:34 PM  

I thought the clues were great. Cheers to the new faces!

albatross shell 10:41 PM  

If Alan Greenspan believed in market regulation instead of believing the good people in financial institutions would never do something that would crash the economy, the damage would have been quite small.

kitshef 3:40 PM  

This must have been easy, because a) no help from the theme b) a ridiculous number of WoEs, but still finished in reasonable time. Also ... STATS is a no go for me. Have never heard that class name abbreviated.

tk 7:25 PM  

SO surprised! I’m shocked, I tell you. Normally he just loves Sundays ;)

George Klein 2:20 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Burma Shave 1:25 PM  


I'd take THATONE if not LASTINLINE to have AMAL.


Diana, LIW 4:23 PM  

Got a couple wrong - oh well. GREATplains messed up that area. Names/sports were the usual culprits. went by quickly. And I DO NOT time myself - why ruin a fun thing?

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Army42 9:18 AM  

Mo. is NOT the short form for Missouri. It is MO

Christoph 11:45 PM  

Late to thebgame but our local newspaper ran this crossword last Sunday. “In tune” as in “being tuned”. Think dull ski edges being tuned.

Christoph 11:48 PM  

On second reading, the musical explanation makes more sense.

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