Scene in Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks" / THU 9-2-2021 / Harold who sought the Republican presidential nomination nine times over 48 years / Co-star of 2019's "Joker" / Parents and grandparents, in slang, with "the" / Mideast locale of Sira Fortress

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Constructor: David W. Tuffs

Relative difficulty: Medium (3:50)



THEME: Endlessly [On and on ... or how to read 18-, 27-, 37- and 51-Across to understand this puzzle's theme?] — the theme answers are clued as if the first/last letters aren't part of the answer, and the puzzle's even nice enough for to circle them for you to make it more clear what's going on.

Theme answers:
  • ZEN GARDEN [Fencer's cry]
  • PROSECUTE [Style of diamond with a flat base]
  • STABLEMATE [Spot for a dinner plate]
  • WEATHERED [Roadside restaurant sign]

Word of the Day: FIONA (Apple on Apple Music) —
Fiona Apple McAfee-Maggart (born September 13, 1977) is an American singer-songwriter whose five albums have all reached the top 20 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, stretching from 1997 to 2020.
The youngest daughter of the actor Brandon Maggart, Apple was born in New York City and was raised alternating between her mother's home in New York and her father's in Los Angeles. Classically trained on piano as a child, she began composing her own songs when she was eight years old. Her debut album, Tidal, containing songs written when she was 17, was released in 1996 and received a Grammy Award for Best Female Vocal Rock Performance for the single "Criminal". She followed with When the Pawn... (1999), produced by Jon Brion, which was also critically and commercially successful and was certified Platinum.
For her third album, Extraordinary Machine (2005), Apple again collaborated with Brion and began recording the album in 2002. However, Apple was reportedly unhappy with the production and opted not to release the record, leading fans to protest Epic Records, erroneously believing that the label was withholding its release. The album was eventually re-produced without Brion and released in October 2005. The album was certified Gold, and nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album. In 2012, she released her fourth studio album, The Idler Wheel..., which received critical praise and was followed by a tour of the United States and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 2013. Apple's fifth studio album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, was released in 2020 to widespread acclaim, earning two Grammy Awards: Best Alternative Music Album and Best Rock Performance for the lead single "Shameika". (wikipedia)
• • •
Apologies for the lateness of this—was too tired to solve this last night, set an alarm to solve it early this morning, and then the alarm did not go off™. This not a LIE ["I was stuck in traffic," maybe], though I can't say I was shouting I'M LATE ["Alice in Wonderland" cry] as I sprinted from bed to my computer to solve posthaste.

Anyway, indie constructor Christopher Adams filling in for Rex one more time on a Thursday that was alright—as noted above, the circles kinda gave it away, and getting to ZEN GARDEN with the first five letters already filled in from the downs made it really clear. To be honest, with the circles, I don't think this puzzle needed a revealer—solvers will see what's going on, and as far as reveals go, ENDLESSLY is a bit boring. Why not just give us a fifth example of this sort of wordplay? I'll add that ZEN GARDEN was my favorite of the four that were here because its a two word phrase that got cut down to another, completely unrelated two word phrase. But four good finds, and some great fill throughout as well, made for a fun solve even with a revealer that wasn't really needed.

"impossible soul", the 25+ minute closer to sufjan stevens' "the age of adz"
1D: ADZ [
Wood-shaping tool]

Olio:
  • OBERON (Titania's spouse, in Shakespeare) — we would have also accepted a reference to Bell's Oberon Ale, which is how I know this name (and by extension, how I knew this clue).
  • T-PAIN (Rapper featured on Flo Rida's "Low")this is the song about the apple-bottom jeans, the boots with the fur, the baggy sweatpants, and the Reeboks with the straps; I'm not sure if one person is wearing all this at once, or there's multiple people wearing this, or it's one person over multiple visits to the club, or what have you, but it's a fun song, with plenty of memes (e.g. this "car seat headrest" ("quote quote") "cover" ("quote quote") that's really just "bodys").
  • JEAN-LUC (First name on "Star Trek: The Next Generation") — Captain Picard, played by Patrick Stewart. Not getting into the whole Kirk/Picard debate other than to say that I live 15 minutes from the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise, so I might be biased here?
  • SEN (Ottawa N.H.L.er, to fans) — short for SENATOR, which at least makes sense, unlike HAB being short for CANADIEN somehow. Also not making sense: the style guide that insists N.H.L.er and not NHLer. Drop the periods! It's more aesthetically pleasing!
  • DINER (Scene in Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks") — there's no door, so it's like the Hotel California, in that you can never leave, and hey, NIGHTHAWKS DINER and HOTEL CALIFORNIA are both fifteens...do I smell a theme brewing here?
Yours in puzzling, Christopher Adams, Court Jester of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]




66 comments:

jae 12:33 PM  

NW and SE easy, SW medium, NE tough. I caught the “theme” early but the NE took some staring. I finally saw PRENUPS and finished.

I’m not happy about the time I spent trying to make something out of the circled letters, but the grid was very smooth and the theme was clever. Liked it, but not as much as Jeff did when he gave it POW. Nice debut.

@TTrimble - RE: Six Feet - you can stream it anytime on HBO Max

Lewis 12:39 PM  

I’m a sucker for when words do cool things, such as in this puzzle, where seven- and eight-letter words can become lovely nine- and ten-letter words simply by slapping letters on their ends. So, all through my solve, I was “Wow!”-ing, and “Neat!”-ing.

I needed no more to love this puzzle. And yet it gave me more. It gave me a solve that fought me, that I had to work at, an obstacle to crack and conquer, and I’m a sucker for that too, as there’s joy to be earned in the conquering.

Thus, I needed no more to love to love this puzzle during the solve and upon completion. But afterward, I did, just out of curiosity, see if those circled letters anagrammed to something salient. Had they done so, I would have been utterly blown away, a trembling mass of amazement. They didn’t, but no matter. I was still riding a high from such a gratifying journey through the squares.

And I still am. Thank you, David, for a puzzle I loved, and WTG on your debut!

Robert Morris 12:40 PM  

“Hab” is short for “Les Habitants,” which is a much more French way of saying “Canadian,” for the already Frenchified “Canadiens.”

Joaquin 12:40 PM  

Am I the only one who noticed? The circled letters - ZNPESEWD - are an anagram of “dewpzens” which means “goofy crossword” in ancient Sanskrit.

bocamp 12:42 PM  

Thx David for this crunchy Thurs. puz! :)

Hi Christopher, you must have needed the sleep 😴. Thx for your write-up! 😊

Very tough solve.

Not sure why the ends of the themers were circled. Can't make any special sense of the those letters. Maybe the puz would have been even more difficult than it was, so I'm not complaining … just curious. 🤔

Nevertheless, a fun, challenging adventure.
___

yd pg -1 / td 0

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Jim 12:44 PM  

37A - I've heard of a Placemat, but Table mat? I don't think so. But, all in all a fun puzzle. Don King is a blast from my childhood, staying up late to sneak a listen to the Rumble in the Jungle on my radio.

Shawn 12:54 PM  

I’m being grumbly because this one caught me particularly slow today, but SORTDATA is no more a spreadsheet command than “paste words” is a word processor command. Between that, PETSPA (which admittedly after Googling is at least sort of an actual term) and TABLEMAT rather than “placemat”, a lot of partially baked answers left me soured

I did enjoy the “lab coat” play on PETSPA at least, and JEANLUC was fun

Masked and Anonymous 1:05 PM  

Well, thank goodness. Was afraid the theme might be worduckens ®. Altho a couple of the themers do qualify as such, it appears that the theme was of the related word-tuck-ins variety.

M&A joins @Joaquin in wonderin what the ZNPESEWD the circled letters mean. Gotta mean somethin. Surely the Shortzmeister would not leave us with eight unchecked puz letters! Best M&A guess so far is: Almost a SWEDEN P(u)Z anagram. (Cuz, when in doubt, just add a U.)

staff weeject pick: YER. As in: Well, there's YER "Gen"!
fave fillins: WIDEST & FIONA. Cuz they are also fully qualified 5+ letter word-tuck-ins. honrable mention to OBERON.

Thanx for the tuff stuff fun, Mr. Tuffs dude. And congratz on YER debut.
Sleep tight, @Chris Adams dude. har

Masked & Anonymo3Us


**gruntz**

SharonAk 1:06 PM  

Where is everyone today?

Teedmn 1:06 PM  

I'm having fun coming up with connections between the shorter and longer versions of the theme answers:

EN GARDE/ZEN GARDEN = War and peace.

ROSE CUT/PROSECUTE = Marriage vs divorce

TABLE MAT/STABLE MATE = picturing eating dinner on a bale of hay in the barn, not sure why. Rather odiferous for lunch, I would think, but I've seen the kids at the State Fair sleeping and eating next to their animals so...

EAT HERE/WEATHERED = Rundown diner, looking dubious (see picnic in the barn.)

Anyways, this took me longer than it seems it should have since I got the theme idea right away, at 18A. I did have NEE instead of AKA for 21A which held up filling in the NW for a bit.

Nice puzzle, David W. Tufts, and congrats on the debut.

jberg 1:09 PM  

Yeah, I held on to SORTATOZ for far too long. Not only did it block a lot of crosses, it kept me thinking about the Z in ZEN the wrong way. I didn't notice the circles till later.

We always had our dog combed by a groomer; at a PET SPA do they add a massage?

Anyway, thanks, Christopher -- I'm glad it was just oversleeping, rather than being flooded out.

jberg 1:12 PM  

@Nancy from yesterday -- thanks for the great lyrics! I've never seen Carmen Jones; if I had, they would probably be even funnier, but they're good all by themselves.

jb129 1:15 PM  

Welcome back Rex - for all you "bashers" I (for one) needed my security blankie

The puzzle? Just ok.

Doc John 1:20 PM  

I’m with you on all of this!

Doc John 1:20 PM  

I’m with you on all of this!

Ω 1:24 PM  

@Lewis and @Muse love this sort of letter puzzle but I’m an avowed Meh SPEWer at any theme that is all about the letters. Meh Meh Meh Meh. Take off enough of the ends of my last name and you find “term.” Ooh. Excitement. Got what was going on at (Z)EN GARDE(N) and briefly hoped that the constructor had found a connection between the themers. But no, just some words have other words within them. Yeah yeah, nifty little party game but not a crossword theme to me.

So our late blogger posts a Sufjan Stevens tune from ADZ making me ponder what a collaboration between him and FIONA Apple might be like.

@Joaquin - Good Catch.

Hartley70 1:38 PM  

Very interesting Thursday theme with a few clues that gave me some trouble. T-PAIN was never happening and UPTON was beyond me, but I was fascinated to discover Stonybrook wasn’t the correct answer.

I kept checking here earlier to see what extra surprise I was missing with the significance of the circled letters, once the short and long versions of the themers were revealed. I guess I’ll be back...

Masked and Anonymous 1:48 PM  

p.s.
Oh, yeah … CONEY also kinda qualifies, as a word-tuck-in themer.

M&A Wordtuckin Desk

JD 1:51 PM  

The circles should have added up to something or not be there. It also threw me that the middles of the first three themers were two words, and the last was one word. I'm overlooking that Rexian-type nit because that last reminded me of an ad (Weathered goat for sale) that I saw in the classified ads 20 years ago. Still funny, but probably not to the goat as I later found out.

Got the gimmick at Z engarde n, making it an unusual Thursday for me. Can't believe I remembered Don King. How much space is he taking up in my brain that might be used to help me remember why I got up from this chair and headed to the kitchen five minutes ago. Probably the hair. His, not mine.

Anonymous 1:53 PM  

A TABLEMAT is a mat which covers the entire table, to be covered by the table cloth. This enables people to not worry about how hot the plates or serving trays are when they put them on the table. Many finer tables come with custom fitted ones.

How did he find all those entries?

Select a.* as longword from wordlist a
where ( exists Select b.* as shorterword from wordlist b) where longerword = ? + shorterword + ?) (? is a wildcard )

That's how, and if you're impressed it's because you don't know how things like this work.

Anonymous 1:54 PM  

Meh for a Thursday. The circled letters were a distraction, leading me to think they must spell some important word.

"Tablemat" is totally BOGUS. I have NEVER heard of a tablemat (would they use them at the automat?), but I and many other people *have* on many occasions used a PLACEMAT.

TPAIN is beyond stupid; I do the Times crossword to keep my brain sharp, which is the opposite direction from listening to rappers.

Carola 1:55 PM  

I thought was a creative take on the Thursday work-trickery front. Liked it, liked the fight it put up. I have to give myself a technical DNF, though, because I read PROSECUTE as the two words PROSE CUTE (justifying it as possibly the "Adorbs!" equivalent for literary types). Add me to those raising an eyebrow at TABLE MAT: for me, those are the pads used to protect the finish on a dining room table, and a table cloth would separate them from a plate. PRENUPS was nice crossing the ensuing ROSE CUT.

Do-overs: hEctor before AENEAS, dog SPA. Help from previous puzzles: FIONA, OLDS. No idea: TPAIN, UPTON.

johnk 1:58 PM  

I totally agree on the SORT DATA issue. That command is not on the menu. The problem is the clue, and thus the Editor. Why not "Do this with Excel"? Next time, ask your IT GUY (one of the 14 guy answers in this puzzle) for a clue.

brendal 1:59 PM  

You made my day.

CDilly52 2:02 PM  

@Joaquin-ROFL!!! I spent waaaaaay too much time actually trying to make those letters “do something” because with the first theme answer I got the gimmick and thought that it couldn’t be everything and the circles “have to” mean something. Joke’s on me! Thanks for my best laugh of the say, though.

CDilly52 2:03 PM  

Can I have a big AMEN!!

KayBee 2:03 PM  

First time I’ve made a mental list of annoyances in a NYT puzzle so I can see if Rex noted them. Then he wasn’t there this morning! Anyway, I’m in full agreement with Shawn’s list. Too much straining to make things fit.

Stephen Minehart 2:06 PM  

I liked this puzzle, but I think I would have had even more fun without the circles - probably tougher, but still Thursday difficult. This actually seemed easier than yesterday's puzzle, that was likely due to all the cultural references that were gimmes for this Gen-xer. Don King, Fiona Apple, Patrick Stewart's Jean-Luc Picard, Shaquille O'Neal, Sean Astin, Robert DeNiro, these are all celebrities pulled straight from the time in my life when I paid attention to celebrities. If your wheelhouse leans more towards Harold Stassen then this puzzle was probably more of a challenge.

kitshef 2:09 PM  

Terrible clue for ‘widest’. Please avoid all font-dependent clues in future.

Don’t understand the clue for DEA.

But overall, it kinda worked for me. Too many proper names, but where they cross, they are from different eras. So if you don't know DeNiro, you might know Astin and vice versa. Same for Stassen and Upton, Ving and Sagan, Sagan and Fiona, etc.

CONEY dog is new to me, and that's a mighty weak clue for ICE, so that cross was a semi-guess.

mathgent 2:20 PM  

I had a tough time with it. Happy to see that Lewis also didn't find it easy.

The four long acrosses were very nice. Even after seeing the gimmick, it was a struggle to find them. Especially the two which were a single word.

I would be remiss if I didn't register a tsk-tsk for the 24 threes.

The clue for 33A is very sweet.

Good puzzle.

600 2:25 PM  

I know what "I" and ROYAL WE mean, but can't for the life of me see why "I" is an appropriate clue for ROYAL WE. Can anyone explain?

Son Volt 2:26 PM  

Had some fun with this at first but I think in the end the circles dumbed it down. Fill was middling - DRONE, GINS, JOTS etc. Did like the ADZ x ZEN GARDEN cross and DINER.

I guess I could look it up but I don’t know what a CONEY dog is - never saw one on Surf Ave. Worked in a basement lab at BNL following undergrad - that lasted about a week.

Nearly 8” of rain last night in a 4-5 hour period - standing water everywhere today. This puzzle didn’t do much to help matters.

David 2:26 PM  

This was fun enough, but I don’t get it. Words are turned into other words by adding random letters on either side? Yes and?

albatross shell 2:27 PM  

@Kitshef
Schedule C drugs. Different schedule drugs have different laws and penalties.

Joe Dipinto 2:34 PM  

We forgive you Chris, because your writeups are always so donkingly ace.

Is Dr. Shaq bffs with Dr. Jill Biden, I wonder? Glad to see widths of alphabet letters get some love; I consider that area underrepresented as clue fodder, outside of em- and en- dashes.

Mainly I liked this puzzle because it allows me to present a classic installment of:
Mondegreen Madness!

Today we have the Young Rascals to sing their kinky 1967 chart-topper.
Life will be ecstasy
You and me and Leslie...groovin'


(I still would like to know what Eddie Brigati sings right after that line. "Feelin' the roses"? "Feelin' neurosis"? It's never included in lyric sheets.)

Anonymous 2:48 PM  

Son Volt,
The Coney phenomenon is mystifying. It means a chili dog. I have no idea how the mooks in Michigan--that's where its usage is most pervasive--came up with the idea that Coney Island served chili dogs, but they took it and ran with it. It' so pervasive a term in Michigan that in upstate New York, Plattsburgh for example, they call Chili dogs Michigans. Yuck!
It's so grating to my ear. And, of course, the dogs in Michigan aren't a patch on what we have in the NYC metro area. NYC has good hot dogs, but a lot of aficionados think New Jersey, particularly North Jersey has the best hot dogs.
Ever been to Rutt's Hutt? one of the few institutions that exceeds the hype attached to it.

Whatsername 2:50 PM  

Goodness. You never know how much you enjoy the company of a bunch of wordy cyber friends until you invite them in for your usual morning chat and find they’re missing. Welcome back!

And speaking of letdowns, on to the puzzle. Yesterday was a very tough act to follow I admit but this one just kind of fell flat for me. Oh, so I just leave off ONE letter ADDED at each END? Okay, in that CASE, is there more to this? No? Just a word inside another word which is completely unrelated to the first one? YER kidding, right? And this is our POW? Well alrighty then.

Still, a debut deserves recognition and I extend my congratulations to Mr. Tuffs. Although I MIGHT WHINE a little, it’s an accomplishment that is far beyond my capabilities, and I have great respect for the effort it took.

Douglas 2:52 PM  

😂

Anonymous 2:52 PM  

Volt, I forgot. Last night's rain was a record setter. 3.15 inches of rain between 8:51 and 9:51 last night. That shattered the old record of 1.94 inches in a single hour, set way back on August 21st....of this year.

MBI 3:17 PM  

T-Pain is not the rapper on "Low," he's the singer. Flo Rida is the rapper. This crossword clue is inaccurate

Also haha that we have a "rap is crap" commenter in here, I thought all those people were dead by now

kitshef 3:18 PM  

Thank you, @albatross shell. Never heard of that in my life. Wanted IRS there but already had ADDED solidly in place.

Anonymous 3:25 PM  

Agree with Robert Morris. "Les Hab" is a well known reference to the Canadiens, "Les Habitants." You'll see it used regularly on ESPN's Sports Center. Would suggest that Mr. Morris needs to be a little less derisive in his comments about words he may not know, but that are clearly part of the linga franca to most of us who are (a) sports fans, and (b) live in the 21st century.

CDilly52 4:19 PM  

Tough! But it’s a memory puzzle day for me.

Loved that OBERON triggered proud maternal memories of my daughter’s “sparkling, clever yet multi-layered emotional portrayal” (Boston newspaper review) of Titania one summer on Boston Commons, and a story of personal triumph.

Cast as Titania (all 5’ of her) opposite a gigantic 6’7” OBERON, presented more difficulties throughout the rehearsals to the director than it did (according to my daughter) to the actors. Yet, she was absolutely despondent days before the opening, and called home in tears. Grasping at straws for comforting and useful advice, I asked her to recall something in her life that she counted as a personal triumph and perhaps recreate that feeling. She did.

The year she was 9, she was stuck on a frustrating learning plateau in her ballet studies. Her ballet mistress at the time was a tiny Chinese woman and brilliant but demanding teacher with comparatively little command of English. The crisis occurred one winter evening after class when Miss Lady as she was called kept Kate back to work out the trouble with the triple pirouette.

The evening of The Triple ended rather suddenly. I heard the bang of the cane and Miss Lady’s shrill shout but couldn’t understand what was said. I was thoroughly convinced that the evening would end with a teary and inconsolable 45 minute drive home. Just about the time my maternal worry-meter was hitting its “Red Zone” the music stopped and Miss Lady came bursting out the studio door, thumped her cane at me, pointed and said, “Mama, come! Now!” Expecting the next order to be “Call for an ambulance,” I hurried into the studio to see my daughter’s beautiful joyous face as she bounced up and down. Miss Lady clapped her hands signaling Kate to the corner and motioned for the pianist to start. Kate effortlessly danced across the floor doing a combination of steps separated by pirouettes, first a single, next a double, and as I held my breath, Miss Lady started gesturing with one hand tapping her nose and the other as if she were pulling something out of the top of her head. Kate’s eyes were fixed straight ahead and she seemed to grow several inches taller as she ripped off three triples in a row, and finished the combination at the opposite corner with a beautiful grand jete’. On the way home, I asked what happened and the answer was “It’s a Miss Lady thing.”

Fast forward about a dozen years to Boston Commons where Kate had become despondent about the play because apparently the director constantly complained about her height. We planned a trip to see the play the second week. It was truly a magical evening. As we waited to greet her after the show, a young girl in line in front of us was telling her mother that she wanted Titania’s autograph. When we got to the stage door, the principle actors were all greeting folks and Titania and OBERON were standing together. The young fan went up to Kate and asked “Are you really Titania? You looked so tall!” As Kate signed her program she bent down and told the youngster “I have some secret magic for while I am on stage.”

As we walked across the Commons together later that night, I just had to ask about “the magic .”
She handed me her backpack and giant duffle and proceeded there on the grass to take two preparatory steps, and launch into a triple pirouette while patting her nose and appearing to pull something out from the top of her head.

After saying ”I know you remember The Triple,” Kate explained that all those years ago, Miss Lady demonstrated triples and kept patting her nose and pulling on the metaphorical string and saying “String hold up just like big nose puppet!” “Big nose puppet makes me tall on stage,” Kate explained. “All I have to do is rely on my magic string.”

Suddenly, I understood the analogy to the marionette, Pinocchio, and was again grateful for a compassionate, skilled teacher and her profound impact on my daughter’s life. Thanks for OBERON today, Mr. Tuffs.

Unknown 4:38 PM  

Thanks David and congrats on your debut! I finished in under 30 minutes, which means it was easy... But I'll take that any day over DNFing or googling! Really loved the themers, and the way you clued the inside word of the pair. I agree that if you could find a fifth themer, I'd skip the revealer... Though it was apt enough. And even though I'm one of those million who practice it, it took me FOREVER to get MEDICINE. Loved it!

Unknown 4:50 PM  

This was the definition of the Rex's Thursday difficulty - hard till you figure out the trick - then easy. I knew something was going on with the start and end circles, yet the crunchiness of this puzzle made it tricky to get enough crosses to expose the pattern. Eventually I got to (S)TABLE MAT(E) - where it was obvious that the inner pattern was the answer - and kaboom - everything fell into place. My only disappointment was the revealer ENDLESSLY, which felt a little blah for a puzzle with a very cool trick.

Tim Carey 5:01 PM  

Still alive apparently, just irrelevant.

RooMonster 5:16 PM  

Hey All !
Impressed at finding those words inside other words. Not easy. If you think it is, come up with a list. (Disclaimer: I don't know if constructor used some sort of new-fangled computer program, or just tried to find words himself. If it's the latter, then it's impressive.)

Anyway, liked the puz. Would've been nigh impossible for the circled letters to make a word. Cracked up at @Joaquins "ancient Sanskrit", and @M&A's "SWEDEN P(U)Z".

Noticed the 16 wide grid, brain still ticking! No one's commented about it yet. I know I can't be the only one who saw that. That'd be miraculous. 😁

@CDilly 2:03
You can have a Big If!

One F
RooMonster
DarrinV

JD 5:42 PM  

@CDilly52, That's a really wonderful story! I loved it.

Anoa Bob 6:09 PM  

I bet the impetus for this one was ENDLESS with the notion of doing something to the ENDs of the potential themers. It then became ENDLESSLY to match the letter count of its symmetrically located themer. So maybe it's ironic that with the circles the reveal becomes unnecessary. The circles took the wind out of the reveal's sail, so to speak.

I think it is still a well-crafted puzzle with lots of good entries. Full confession---I was won over by ZEN GARDEN.

I enjoy regular walks around the neighbor partly because I get to watch lots of FEATHERED friends do their thing. I did WHINE a tad when I had to change it to WEATHERED.

We usually get a more constricted grid with 38 black squares but that's with a 15X15 grid. Today's 16X15 grid avoids that pinched-off look by providing those 15 extra squares.

I like hot dogs but never heard one called a CONEY dog (29A). I almost never eat one any more because of all the recent EVIDENCE linking them to bad health outcomes. A report I saw just a week or two ago said that for every hot dog we consume, we shorten our life expectancy by something like 35 minutes. That means I've probably already consumed too many and if I suddenly disappear from these pages, you'll know what happened---it was the dogs.

jae 6:20 PM  

@Roo - I’m inferring from David’s comments ar Xwordinfo that he manually searched through list of words to come up with the theme answers.

Anonymous 6:22 PM  

The original French colonists of what is now the Canadian province of Quebec were called "habitants." Hence the Habs or more correctly, Les Habs.

Nancy 6:28 PM  

This was great fun to solve. Once I had the clued answer, I relied on word recognition patterns to get me the 2-letter longer answer in which it was embedded. I didn't worry my pretty little head about why certain letters were added or dropped -- I just got pleasure out of the lovely jump from, say, TABLE MAT to STABLE MATE and from EAT HERE to WEATHERED.

And it's a good thing I didn't worry my pretty little head about the why, because there wasn't any particular why. Which was perfectly fine with me. Interesting wordplay doesn't have to have a special reason to exist: without any reason at all, good wordplay is always enjoyable.

Sorry I'M LATE getting here, David. Gorgeous weather in NYC today (finally!) and I left my house before the blog went up. Now quite tired from a lot of walking and I didn't get home until 6 p.m. EDT. But wanted to extend to you the kudos you deserve for a really entertaining puzzle.

Richard Stanford 7:07 PM  

Failed at AENEAs/sEN. Just had no clue without running the alphabet.

Donna 7:27 PM  

You certainly are a cunning linguist. Very funny. 😝

albatross shell 8:13 PM  

A group of seamstresses devoted to Japanese philosophy started a commune in far eastern Oregon and it eventually incorporated into a town. Their cops have abandoned foot and car patrols. They control crime through the practice of meditation. It has been quite successful. This puzzle is a tribute to them, the members of the Sew Zen PD.

Which is one more reason for @Z's antipathy to this one. A spelling based, anagram tribute puzzle. He may have nightmares tonight.

@anon
Thumbs up on Rutt's Hutt. Strangely, I've only been there in my dreams.

TTrimble 8:27 PM  

Christopher Adams is a crossword bad-ass. I did not fare that terribly by my lights, especially considering that I found it hard at first and had to come back to it, but holy smokes, 3:50 flat. That's impressive.

Despite knowing the Flo-rida song pretty well for someone of my age and background, I'm sad to say I did not know the answer T-PAIN. Was it a sense of propriety that prevented our guest blogger from "fleshing" this out a little more?

Baggy sweatpants
And the Reeboks with the straps [with the straps!]
She turned around and gave that big booty a slap [heeeyy!]
She hit the floor [she hit the floor!]
Next thing you know
Shorty got low low low low low low low low...

High literature it is not. But honestly, I can forgive a certain amount in rap if it's got a good beat and groove. And yup, I'll give some credit to Flo-rida for accomplishing exactly that.

Oh, there's the IT GUY again. (Quite a difference between an "It Girl" and an IT GUY.) I've been thinking about @Loren's recent experience which is quite a universal one. The sad thing is, hers was with someone who presumably identifies as an educator. Total lack of empathy and imagination, what it must be like on the other side. Terrible teacher.

11D reads strangely. (At first I was thinking: MEDItatE?) Now, if they had left off the "regularly", I would have thought nothing of it. Physicians practice MEDICINE, yes. But physicians practicing MEDICINE 'regularly'? As in often they do, but sometimes they don't? "Mostly I prefer practicing medicine, but now and then I like to try voodoo." Does the "regularly" add anything useful, is what I'm asking. Or, do they mean ordinary people who are not physicians "practice" medicine "regularly"? If I usually remember to take my pills in the morning, does that mean I "practice" medicine regularly? Also sounds weird to say.

VING Rhames. Such a cool-sounding name.

I'M LATE in commenting today. Still recovering from de-flooding my basement and cleaning the mess around the pool. Could this be the new normal?

yd pg -2 (haven't given up!)
td pg -1

Lewis 8:36 PM  

@cdilly -- Thank you for sharing that. So very moving...

Unknown 9:13 PM  

To the guest blogger, I believe that a HAB is a "habitant," a resident.

Took me a while to grok the theme, so this took me longer than usual, but I enjoyed the slog. And the circles helped me, so I'm guessing that outside of the rarefied air of this blog, must solvers probably appreciated them.

PETSPA was awesome. Since I grew up near BNL, UPTON was a gimme, although I think it was technically called CAMP UPTON. Actually BNL is in Yaphank.

stephanie 9:59 PM  

after some rough thursdays this one was solveable for me so, feelsgoodman. EN GARDE was just too good of an answer for me to abandon even with too few letters, and seeing how it was thursday and it fit so nicely between the circles, i decided to leave it. i then had CUSHION fitting nicely, and PLACEMAT...and just kept chipping away.

of course, those last two turned out not to be right which made me start questioning everything...and then i ended up further complicating things by filling in ADZ and wondering "is that a thing?" so i googled it, and google said ADZE. which, if you go around the corner through the ZEN GARDEN, you do indeed get ADZE. so i started thinking the circled letter must be a joint. but...it wasn't. it wasn't anything really.

so this puzzle had a good difficulty level for me, but lacked in the zip department, at least in terms of thursday weirdness. there were some nice clues to uncover, like PRENUPS, EVIDENCE, PET SPA, DEA, DREAM ON, and NEUTER. IT GUY was a gimme because my partner is one, and TNG is my favorite trek so it's always nice to see JEAN LUC. nighthawks has hung in the dining room of my parents' house since we moved in there when i was 3, and my mom passed on her love of hopper (and art in general) to me.

the PPP luck continued with me today, as i do love FIONA apple, although admittedly i only know the first two albums. (and her amazing intro to the tv series "the affair.") i also know OBERON but only because it's a club here we used to attend in The Before Times so it's recognizable to me as a word, and i've seen it in the crossword before. had UTICA before UPTON but the latter seemed plausible enough. guessed correctly on the first S of STASSEN, i know who T-PAIN and VING rhames are, ONEAL is one of the six basketball players i know, thankfully recalled nadal's home country from a recent puzzle, and my yiddish is good enough. had HAB before SEN but as a bruins fan i knew it had to be one or the other.

in general i must give this puzzle credit, as aside from ADZ, SRO, and ERE, there really wasn't anything i raised an eyebrow to. and i expect a bit of three word bs in a puzzle, so overall despite the sort of sad trombone-ness of the "reveal" i thought the overall puzzle and individual clues were actually really nice.

stephanie 10:05 PM  

@SharonAk i was surprised to see about half as many comments as usual, but i think many solvers are early birds (at least compared to me) and with no blog this morning, i saw several commenting at the bottom of wednesday's blog instead.

stephanie 10:16 PM  

@MBI agree - people who think rap is beneath them are ironically uneducated about the genre. (enjoyment of songs from a musical standpoint is of course subjective, but it's the gross and inaccurate generalizations about the genre from a high horse perspective that are painful to read.)

stephanie 10:32 PM  

@CDilly52 what a wonderful story! and hello from boston :) (where there is also a club called OBERON in harvard square. double boston oberon love today!)

Anonymous 2:10 AM  

@1:53pm, NOPE! The thing that covers the entire surface of a fine table to protect it from heat, etc.is called a "TABLE PAD" (and they are usually fairly thick).

I have literally never heard of a "tablemat," but I've certainly heard of *and used* both a placemat and a table pad.

Shawn 10:26 AM  

@MBI There was a puzzle a month or so ago that had the *gall* to include two clues related to rap. Some wonderful comments in here, as expected.

old timer 1:24 PM  

I chime in to belatedly thank Christopher for his write up, and to say the puzzle was quite enjoyable.

Also to say we sometimes call placemats TABLE MATs, if they are part of an overall design and are suitable only on our big dining table. Don't ask me why.

Anonymous 9:47 PM  

Never got the theme, so I couldn't understand the link between the clues and the answers, and what was in the circles didn't spell anything, so those got me nowhere. Lots of help from google to kick start a corner or three.

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