Boxer Wolfe who played Artemis in Wonder Woman / SUN 11-7-21 / Star Trek virtual reality chambers / Make a flying jump onto a slope / Disney film with more than a million hand-drawn bubbles / Seasonal fast-food sandwiches that aren't halal / Quaint locale of first-aid supplies / Vegetable in bhindi masala / Behaves like a fool informally / Bespectacled Peanuts character

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Constructor: Sid Sivakumar

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "This and That" — code for "there is no theme"

Word of the Day: ARECIBO Telescope (9D: Puerto Rico's ___ Telescope, formerly the world's largest single-aperture telescope) —

The Arecibo Observatory, also known as the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC) and formerly known as the Arecibo Ionosphere Observatory, is an observatory in Barrio EsperanzaArecibo, Puerto Rico owned by the US National Science Foundation (NSF).

The observatory's main instrument was the Arecibo Telescope, a 305 m (1,000 ft) spherical reflector dish built into a natural sinkhole, with a cable-mount steerable receiver and several radar transmitters for emitting signals mounted 150 m (492 ft) above the dish. Completed in 1963, it was the world's largest single-aperture telescope for 53 years, surpassed in July 2016 by the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China. (wikipedia)

• • •

Themeless Sundays are always a cop-out, and this one is a boring cop-out at that. How do you have this many long answers and yet still not come up with one truly winning marquee answer? Smh. It's all fine, just fine, but it's 21x21 and you don't have any thematic restrictions, so if you can't get to "fine" under those conditions, you're really in trouble. I have next to nothing to say about this puzzle. ACTS THE GOAT is something I've never heard (34D: Behaves like a fool, informally). I can't tell if it's super-current or super-dated, but I'm pretty sure it's one of those things. The rest of it—right over the plate. Nothing special. The answers that are closest to special (in the sense of "most original")—VAPE SHOPS, ELIMINATION DIET—are things I don't think are that great, i.e. vaping and dieting. But at least those answers are trying. The rest are just taking up space. I guess ELIMINATION DIET is probably not about dieting so much as it is about figuring out what food specifically your body might be allergic or otherwise reacting badly to, so ... that answer goes into the plus column. There's not a lot in the minus column, honestly. It's just that there's So Much in the "meh" column. I really wish the NYTXW would stop with the Sunday themelesses, but I *really* wish that they'd stop with the tepid Sunday themelesses. This is just coasting. Space-filling. Resting on laurels. Step it up, team.

Last week the puzzle had some bad timing with an Alec Baldwin clue appearing right after the horrible on-set prop gun tragedy. Today, more bad timing, as Travis Scott appears in the puzzle just days after eight people died and dozens were injured during his performance at the Astroworld music festival in Houston. The dead ranged in age from 14 to 27. Sorry to bum you out, but I just thought I'd acknowledge what thousands of solvers would've been thinking when they hit SICKO today (20D: "___ Mode" (2018 #1 hit for Travis Scott)). No reason the clue should've been removed. Just bad luck on the timing. Let's change the mood. Yesterday's puzzle + today's puzzle have me wondering ... Diane AIRBUS, is that something? Can you make a theme out of that "punny" answer? Someone please try.  Are FISH SCALEs tough? I confess I've never tried to eat them, as I am not a bear. I have also never eaten MCRIBS, but I'm glad I know they exist, as I had ARECITO for the Puerto Rican telescope. Pretty sure I made that exact mistake the *last* time ARECIBO was in the grid. I had no idea "MAD MEN" caused a surge in the name "Betty" (36D: Drama linked to the resurgence of the name "Betty" for baby girls). My first thought for that clue was ".... 'Ugly Betty'?" My butcher sold RED MEAT before he sold RAW MEAT (69D: Butcher's offering), and I exclaimed "NO DICE!" before "NOWISE" (77A: Not at all). Otherwise, my solve was uneventful. Wish the puzzle had had the decency to be outright bad; at least then I'd've had something to write about. This ... I don't really know what to do with this. If you want to do a really, really good themeless puzzle, just go back and do yesterday's puzzle again. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Frantic Sloth 12:02 AM  

Saw that sea of white and thought "yikes!"
Was able to tough my way through, but then....theme? Is there a theme?
I wouldn't put it past Sid Sivakumar to do something dastardly...this is one possibility.
The other two: There is no theme. Or there is, but I'm too dense to grok it.
Let's go with "no theme", shall we? For now. Might need to revisit.

This was fun - even the entries that were strange to me (Hiya, NOWISE).
Lots of long words, lots of medium words, lots of short words. PLUS, there were some words. Very little, if any dreck.
A work of art.

Why do we acknowledge the existence of MCRIBS? I'm semi-convinced that if we ignore them and crawl on the floor below the windows they will give up and go away.

Still thinking on the theme....I'd be okay with none because I enjoyed the solve, but part of me wants that old-timey feel I used to get as a beginner solver. The Sundees were for punnin' and funnin'.
Ah, but I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now.


Matt Stone 12:02 AM  

I so look forward to the Sunday puzzle being clever and a fun solve. This was neither. Sigh.

Bruce Fieggen 12:19 AM  

Tough Southeast corner.

EdFromHackensack 12:34 AM  

pleased with myself that I got CANADIANROCKIES off the K. Found the puzzle to be more Medium .... I do need a theme for Sundays - without one the puzzle is kind of flat. But thanks Sid, I did enjoy the puzzle.. my daughter is a premed student at WashU St Louis, btw.

okanaganer 12:38 AM  

HELISKI before PARASKI (clue would still be good). ACTS THE FOOL before ACTS THE GOAT (yes FOOL was in the clue but, geez it shouldn't have been because it should be in the answer). ERASE before EATS IT (except i thought "didn't I just put ERASE in somewhere else? Oh yeah it was ERASURE.")

I finished and then spent 5 minutes trying to figure out what the heck the theme was. "This and that"?

"Capsice" in the clue again! Will S., you dog.

[Spelling Bee: Sat. 0; my final word.
My week in review, from Sun. to Sat.: -2, -1, -2, 0, -1, 0, 0. The words I missed that week.]

Joe Dipinto 12:43 AM  

Music terminology error (this reminds me of the time a tritone was wrongly clued as a chord):

"Root" refers to the foundation note of a chord, not of a key. If you just say "C Major" (devoid of any context, as here), it will be generally understood that you mean the key of C Major. And C in the key of C Major is called the "tonic", not the "root".

The clue should have read: "The C of a C Major chord, e.g."

This puzzle was so boring I can't even come up with a song to link to. I really dislike themeless Sundays. And they really need to get rid of "capisce" as a clue and as an answer.

Acrostic was pretty easy. Clue G threw me for a loop, because my immediate thought was what turned out to be the correct answer, but I didn't think it *would* be correct because the clue was worded so weirdly and because some punctuation was missing. So I didn't fill it in until I was at least halfway through.

Kid Phoneme 1:54 AM  

Got Acts the goat, then erased a quarter of the east to recalibrate and still ended up with Acts the goat. Seems like some Tom Brady tossing the super bowl trophy onto another boat level of play.

Wanted red meat and no dice. Got Raw Meat and Nowise. What's nowise? Ya Got Me.

Where I work Moscato D'asti "The Sprite of Wines" Elba is much preferred, I mean Alba. (And Barolo).

Three-ish letters and clued by Australia? Put an Emu on it.

Meanwhile, I stuck erases in 47d and [Eating] it. Then faltered on Erasure. I'll have to try to discover something to make me sweeter. Oh, There's the Candy Counter.

Anonymous 1:59 AM  

Sadly the Arecibo Telescope, in the beautiful Puerto Rican mountains, was damaged by hurricane Maria and given no hope for repair, so it was demolished.

chefwen 1:00 AM  

Finished, finished it right. Boring.
Where’s my Sunday trick, where’s my Sunday theme?

I’ve never eaten a MC RIB and never will, just looking at a picture of one makes me gag. Yuck!

I’m hopeful the LA Times will lift my Sunday spirit.

Del Taco 1:02 AM  

For a long while, I kept trying to figure out the theme,
Came here and found out there is no theme
Really ??
Some parts were a chore to solve.
and some answers made no sense,
Really ??

egsforbreakfast 1:23 AM  

I agree with Rex on pretty much everything he said. But the biggest point I’d like to second is ix-nay on the Sunday themelesses. This one was smooth and fast and borrrrrring. I can’t remember encountering a 21 x 21 themeless that was exciting.

Rique Beleza 2:56 AM  

I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle. Way better than a lame theme.

Anonymous 3:07 AM  

Oh, the time I spent trying to figure out the punchline... Thank you for explaining the thud. If this really is themeless, then what's up with titling it?

jae 3:37 AM  

Easy-medium. I’m kinda with @Rex on this one. Liked it but a tad meh.,

Anonymous 5:09 AM  

I wish — if they were going to go themeless on Sunday — they wouldn’t name the puzzle. “This and That” had me searching all over for some connection among the longer answers. By the time you realize there isn’t going to be that “aha moment,” there’s no enjoyment left.

ZenMonkey 5:49 AM  

I agree with the unnaming of themeless Sundays. The blinding whiteness (literal) of the grid led me to interpret “This and That” as a themeless, but I’m sure @Anonymous wasn’t the only solver to look for meaning in the title. Or a puzzle note, maybe.

Between ARECIBO and Travis Scott, it was a kinda somber mood. Not the constructor’s fault of course.

Anonymous 5:50 AM  

The trick was no trick. Is that a meta of some kind?

I liked the puzzle. These days any Sunday themeless is better than most of the themed we've seen.

Anonymous 5:55 AM  

This Sunday themeless is beautiful in every way. Can't wait to read @Lewis.

Lewis 5:57 AM  

Oh yes, lots of white space in this gorgeous grid design. A typical Sunday has 140 words and today we have but 124, with only 12 threes. And the grid is filled so cleanly! It’s hard to fill a weekday puzzle this cleanly. Sid’s 15 NYT puzzle debut answers probably helped with that – some of them quite lovely, like ACT BIG, PRIVATE ENTRANCES, KEYNOTE ADDRESS, and DIGS IT.

There was some wordplay in the cluing, notably in the clues for CASH CROPS, DRAWS LOTS, RUNIC, VALETS, and PRINTS, but the great majority of the cluing was direct, which made for a smooth as silk solve for me, hardly a hitch along the way. Not that it was Monday or Tuesday easy; I was kept engaged throughout, in a sweet groove.

TAPAS BARS sound like they belong in their abutting CANDY COUNTERS. I like “SCAT!” on top of MAKE HASTE. And there was an EATS IT mini-theme with SCONE, MCRIBS, NUTMEG, CANDY, MEAT, RAGU, OKRA, and SEASALT.

That sweet solving groove felt a bit like tubing down the river under THE SUN, a lovely contrast to a morning where the temperature dipped into freezing. Thank you for this, Sid!

Conrad 5:58 AM  

Sid's puzzles always kick my butt. Sid is from Mars, I'm from the Ice Planet Hoth. I see his byline and my brain goes to a galaxy far, far away.

Trey 6:18 AM  

So, for all the haters of the clue “Capisce?” Yesterday, today’s is exactly the same. The answer GOT ME with a question mark following is appropriate for capisce, whereas without the question mark, it would not be. It would be more like GOT ME as the bad guy says to the sheriff in the movie who just gunned him down. As noted by some yesterday, you have to read the answer with the same inflection as the clue for it to make sense in either case.

If there is a theme, it has completely escaped me (at least before reading @Rex), even knowing the title of the puzzle. I like the stacks on the top and bottom, and the layout is visually pleasing. The fill is good overall and the PPP runs the gamut from older to newer. While the long answers are good, there was nothing that really stood out to me as memorable other than the layout (although I did like the TREX reference to Calvin and Hobbes)

SouthsideJohnny 6:44 AM  

This one had a foul smell right from the get go. Way too much work for much too little payoff - I understand that clues are meant to be more “hints” than pure synonyms, but sometimes you just take too much license and the result isn’t pretty - for example, where is ATOMIC REACTORS on the list of things one may conjure up when asked to provide an example of “Piles” ? - Maybe it’s hiding in the top 1000 somewhere. Has any one of the 300 Million+ people in the United States used the term “ACT BIG” this year ? Maybe somebody, somewhere has their hand up - how about you all over in Europe or Asia - any takers ? When a puzzle detaches itself this far from reality, it descends into a state of nonsensical self-parody. Yesterday we had a fine time with an excellent puzzle that was tough but fairly clued, whereas today we just drift from one WoE or WtF to another all throughout the grid.

mambridge 6:59 AM  

ACTbig and ACTsthegoat?

Colin 7:27 AM  

This was difficult - long answers are always tough for me. But, we (my wife and I) finally got through it. I appreciate the challenges in constructing this puzzle. Yes, Rex, fish scales are tough! - I was wondering when I had xxxxSCALES if this would be something to do with a double bass trying to play an alto scale or something...

I've met Sid (virtually, via Lollapuzzoola)... Congratulations on this Sunday!

Tom T 7:27 AM  

As the resident hidden diagonal word (HDW) compulsive, I looked at this grid with all those staircases of diagonal black blocks and thought, "Got to be some especially unusual HDWs in this. Sadly, the diagonal farming was right in line with Rex's meh assessment of the puzzle.

But there is a decent 4 letter word riding up on one of those escalators, and here's the clue:

Word with little and poetry (Answer below)

As for the puzzle, I am really surprised that none of the responses so far have addressed a NATICK at 9D and 26A. I'm not complaining; there are sometimes going to be things I simply don't know, especially as a person who hasn't been solving for many years. I suspect ARE_IBO and A_ELA are words that have appeared before and will appear again. But if you happen to live outside the I-95 corridor and aren't well versed in big telescopes, there is essentially no way to grok that C. It could be almost any consonant! With LA at the end of A_ELA, I was trying to find a letter that might make sense in the context of Los Angeles--That's how far off I was. So, I "solved" the puzzle and kept my streak alive ... but not really. Just plugging in random letters until the happy music plays is not solving.

I'll have to hope I remember these for the future. Took some of the joy out of the effort, for sure.

Answer to the HDW in this grid:

SLAM (Starting with the S at the end of MCRIBS and moving up to the "top of the stairs.

Qpwoei 7:29 AM  

I always enjoy reading Lewis because he helps me enjoy the puzzles more, not less.

kitshef 7:44 AM  

Can one bad cross ruin an otherwise entertaining puzzle? I give you 39A/39D. You can’t clue DINA in a way that one person in a thousand will know, then cross it with an inscrutable clue for DON’T. Whatever pleasures were to be had today are already forgotten, but the stink of that cross endures.

Part of the problem is the choice of DINA, which may not have a crossworthy option. DANA and DONA do. But really, just give us a reasonable clue for DON’T and we’d be good.

Son Volt 7:45 AM  

After the last themeless Sunday - there was a Twitter thread among the standard NYT constructor group explaining how themeless Sundays are a positive thing. I guess if you can have Berry do one a year like his initial 2018 offering maybe that would be true - but to run middling efforts out with frequency is not ideal. The scale and magnitude mean something.

Just too much real estate for flat fill. Some splashy stuff - CANADIAN ROCKIES and HOLODECKS etc but far too many losers. This type of puzzle is why I don’t do the WP Sunday.

pmdm 7:46 AM  

Shortz refers to this puzzle as themeless, so those who were surprised about this need to rethink whether to read the note composed by the editor. Personally, if a person takes the times to write something, I believe I have theobligation to read it. And none of his notes ever ruined a solving experience for me.

The main difference between a Saturday and a Sunday themeless puzzle is the difficulty level. Often, that would involve the PPP difficulty level also. It also means the puzzle is humorless (usually) and for me, that can be fatal. But I did not mind this puzzle.

What is the difference between the root and the tonic? For me, the tonic refers to a chord and the root refers to the bottom note of the chord. I can think of a number of ways to improve the clue. For example, "tonic chord of an all natural key" or something similar. Jeff Chen and Jim Horne, who are/were both musicians, were tacit about the clue. And I suspect most solvers might not have picked up on the problem. So Dipinto is right to complain, but how should the clue be rewritten? Perhaps it doesn't matter in the solvers' universe. I, for one, needed a cross to figure out the clue, but when the first cross was not the second letter, I confidently filled in NOTE.

John H 7:53 AM  

@Joe Dipinto, thank you for clearing up that C root thing. I took music so long ago that I knew it was wrong, just couldn't remember why.

Vainly searched for a theme, but had my suspicions.

Long accrosses at the NW and SE made this one a pretty easy solve.

I knew Carl Sagan a little way back when, and watched "Cosmos" religiously, so Arecibo was a gimme. What the clue doesn't tell you is the tragic end of that telescope. Read about it here:

Wanderlust 8:12 AM  

I wondered if the theme is that all the long acrosses are things, which could be described as “this and that.” No famous people, no verbs, no sayings like “Don’t overthink it.” (“The Little Mermaid” could still be a thing because the clue refers to the film, not the character.) that would be a WEAK theme, I admit.

bocamp 8:21 AM  

Thx Sid, for a fine Sun. puz! :)


A fun adventure, providing just the right amt. of resistance to make for a wonderful solving experience.

Unfortunately, a dnf at the T REX / SEX cross. Had TREE / SEE. Just couldn't 'see' the dino, and was 'clueless' re: the '–– -positive movement'. Besides, being chased by a tree seemed viable, lol. Just finished watching 'The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers'. The Ents (trees) are a formidable force to be reckoned with.

Nevertheless, a nice challenge; time well spent! :)

@okanaganer πŸ‘ for 0 dbyd

Sometimes ya just gotta go fishin'. 🎣

@Eniale πŸ‘ for -2 dbyd

yd pg -2

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all πŸ•Š

Jim Lemire 8:22 AM  

Can someone explain 1A? It was the last answer I put In and only because it was a thing I knew and it worked with the remaining crosses I had left. But I can’t grok how ATOMIC REACTORS is an answer for “Piles”. Any help?

amyyanni 8:28 AM  

Sad to learn the Arecibo Telescope had to be demolished.πŸ™ Agree, @chefwen, a McRib is not a sandwich experience I have had, nor will. Okay with the puzzle, but may use part of my extra hour today on a New Yorker puzzle. Used the fireplace last night for the first time: very cozy. The (Florida born) cats were thrilled.

pabloinnh 8:38 AM  

This had a lot of answers and a lot of words and I filled in a lot of letters and I was done.

Wasn't looking for a theme, so not disappointed.

Best fun moment, had TRE_ and I"m thinking, Calvin was afraid of a TREE? The rest was mostly one of those worksheets you give a class when you have a lot of time left over and you need them to be doing something.

Certainly serviceable for a Sunday, SS, but it just Sorta Sat there. Thanks anyway.

J. Beard 8:40 AM  

Hardly an ELIMINATION DIET with all that food...


Some of the meat a bit GAMY, perhaps, but easily washed down with OAT MILK, GIN and PORT

J. Beard 8:41 AM  

Oh, and GOAT

Nancy 8:46 AM  

A very, very handsome grid design and a masterful job of filling it in. Do you think it's easy to put together a triple stack of ATOMIC REACTORS, CANADIAN ROCKIES and THE LITTLE MERMAID? Or (and I liked this one even more) PRIVATE ENTRANCES, ELIMINATION DIET and KEYNOTE ADDRESS? Even more miraculously, there's no junky glue holding it all together. Quite amazing, really.

I did not find it easy and I badly needed to lean on a lot of crosses. It challenged me and constantly kept me thinking. In fact it had everything I desire in a puzzle -- everything, that is, except playfulness and surprise. And for me, when there's less playfulness and less surprise, there's also a lot less joy in solving.

Among my favorite clue/answers -- the ones that are playful and surprising -- are FISH SCALE (though I knew from the get-go that the "bass" would be a fish); KEYNOTE ADDRESS; and FINAL LAP. That's not much in a puzzle of this size. It's not that the cluing is bad: "clear spirit" for GIN, say, accomplishes its task of not being at all obvious without crosses. And on that basis, most of the cluing works just fine. But is it lively enough to bring delight and a happy smile? Not really -- and that's a shame. Because with a genuine sense of joy in the clues, this well-made puzzle could have been a really dynamite Sunday.

Anonymous 8:57 AM  

Totally agree with Rex--a terrible bore with a lot of iffy clues. I tried to find some evidence that the Betty Draper character--who was widely despised--was responsible for a sudden upturn in the name Betty for baby girls, or if such a thing had even existed. Found none. I'm sure the constructor could point to one Web site or other to back up his clue, but that doesn't make it a universal truth.

And does anyone like or admire clues like the one given for 25A? Your answer is BIPED: Clue it with any random two-legged creatures. Lazy and annoying. When was the last time you heard or read anyone say "NOWISE!"? If you didn't go to Eton and Oxbridge, have you ever used DWELT to mean "dwelled?"

I say it's spinach and I say the hell with it.

burtonkd 9:05 AM  

@Joe, while you are absolutely correct, "C Major" can refer to a chord, even if we usually think of a key first. Usually kosher for a crossword if it can be correct?

Hilarious to see anon 5:55 and Lewis back to back above, and Lewis didn't disappoint as usual.

I followed Rex's Travis Scott link, that I had vaguely noticed before. What a horrible way to go. Also, I know we are trying to open up from covid, but 50,000 people at an event jamming together???????!!!!!

I think the shape and number of long answers were worth the price of admission today.

Geoff H 9:14 AM  

I put in the last W on RAWMEAT / NOWISE not expecting the finish bell because I couldn’t and still can’t parse NOWISE as anything. Is it “no wise”? That doesn’t even sound grammatical let alone like a phrase I’ve ever heard anyone use. WOE is NOWISE?

TJS 9:20 AM  

5 o'clock in the morning ???

Teedmn 9:21 AM  

Sid's "This and that" took me all over the place. With this themeless puzzle, it might have been more exciting to play this straight rather than random solve as I do on Sundays. It seems that with a themed puzzle, once the theme comes clear, there's a cascade effect, which didn't happen today. I fought for every bit of fill (besides HOLODECKS).

Some nice entries, some great clues (what could ostriches and kangaroos have in common, I wondered). "Employees who work a lot" = VALETS is great. Cluing MCRIBS as non-halal.

DON'T tell me we're going to get into another scry/scried discussion is all I could think when 31D filled in, sigh. I guess I'll start reading the comments to find out if I accurately foretold the future.

Thanks, Sid, this was an amazing looking grid with all sorts of fun stuff.

RooMonster 9:31 AM  

Hey All !
While I appreciate the toughness of constructing a SunPuz, themed or themeless, my reaction is:
Themeless SunPuz? Ugh.

DNF at bASHED/bRAM. How does DASHED=Shattered? Too strong a word for DASHED. IMO. And 1A. Huh? Piles=ATOMIC REACTORS? Is that a misprint? And have to look up NOWISE to see what it is, and if it's one word or two.

Fill was good, but as others have said, boring. Apparently I wasn't in the mood for a Themeless SunPuz. I didn't DIGS IT.

With DR_WS___ in for 76A, really wanted DReWStraw, but Straws was in the clue. DRAW LOTS is a new one on me. An ERASURE there. Others I can remember, rejEct for VOTENO, spLiCING-ENLACING, seth-DINA, nukE-TASE, probably a couple others.

Well, that's about it puz wise.

Hope y'all didn't forget to set your clocks back last night/this morning. You'll be sitting down to watch football an hour too early! OOPS.

Two F's

Anonymous 9:32 AM  

Rex, I totally agree with you today. Boring puzzle. I found it a bit of a slog filled with disappointment and let downs. Too many times after I solved a clue, i just had a 'Really? That's it?' response. At least the answer to 'capisce' was better than yesterday. Meno male.

KnittyContessa 9:48 AM  

You know the saying "If you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all"?

I'm mute today.

JD 10:00 AM  

Make Haste to the Holodecks. The Pile Holds Fast. We have criticality. The Privateen Trances and the Draw Slots.

Boring?! No, four party favors. Concur.

Tron-like I was sucked into the NYT app while doing this puzzle, running up and down the staircases throwing in letters and wild ars guesses, trying to find the theme and yelling, "Is this really a thing? How bout this! Pile for Nuclear Reactor! Will the Codger Carp?"

The Little Mermaid was there. Trex and Sex and a Tapas Bar. There were tough-scaled Bass and Madmen. A Fest. Combat and Heroic Nuns. It was surreal. All from the very special mind of Sid Sivakumar. Beautiful grid. Wild.

More themeless Sundays.

GILL I. 10:04 AM  

Holy tamales sold as RAW MEAT and a side of FISH SCALES. NO,NO, NO. You can't give me a themeless on a Sunday. You might as well serve me Eggs Benedict on Monday. Oh,'ve also thrown in a little GIN (Hi @JC66) and MC RIBS and why not an ELIMINATION DIET (What the infierno is that?)...
But did you like this? you be fair, there were a bunch of things I actually did. But first...I spent so much time acting like a puppy sniffing for a bone. Is it in the CANDY COUNTER? Maybe the TAPAS BAR? Should I go ROOT out some VILE NUNS? No?
OOPS...No bone to be found. I smiled at MAD MEN....because I loved that show. Remember the "greatest Insults?'....Maybe my pal, @Frantic, can show us some clips....? Then I got to ACTS THE GOAT and I had to get up and brush my teeth. How do you act like a goat? We had one and we named him "Chichi." He'd always find a way to get into the house and loved to poop on my dad's favorite chair.
I seriously want to know why Will thought KEY NOTE ADDRESS has great letters. I also want to know why RAW MEAT is a butcher's offering. I've never met one that gave you a fried one.

Liveprof 10:13 AM  

I enjoyed seeing The Little Mermaid right above Biped (22A and 25A). And that Raw meat at 69D, was right next to Caliente at 66D, so it won't be raw for long. Last, some big doings were going on in the southeast -- Valets (72A), Guests (75D), Private entrances (85A). Who was giving that Keynote address? (92A)

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

Viz a comment made at 9:20 last night:
I always shake my head when someone says a man have a prims, I laugh when thy double down and tell me it’s all part of the broad range of normalcy.

bocamp 10:32 AM  

@pabloinnh (8:38 AM)

But, unlike me, I'm guessing you dropped an 'X' in there. lol

@okanaganer (12:38 AM) πŸ‘ for an excellent week of SBing)

Love Ngram views! :)

td 0 (may spend some time today on yd's -2)

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all πŸ•Š

Pamela 10:39 AM  

I want a refund! (chuckle) Seriously, what a let-down. My only 30 minute time, no challenge and no pleasure.

Anonymous 10:43 AM  

*** I always shake my head when someone says a woman can have a penis….

Sorry I’m not a touch typist.. Not sorry I’m in touch with reality.

oceanjeremy 10:48 AM  

The fiancΓ©e and I only had one serious error, but we screwed it up twice so it’s double embarrassing.

We first had THE GREAT SMOKIES for 19A, then I said “Wait, I’m almost certain Banff National Park is in Canada.” So we wrote in NORTHERN ROCKIES over it and thought “Not a bad save.” That obviously didn’t fit so we wrote in CANADIAN ROCKIES and rued the illegible mess we’d made (we solve in pen, which is almost never a problem — today notwithstanding).

Nit to pick: no one says “atomic reactors.” It’s “nuclear reactors.”

My proudest moment: I got VALETS without any crosses. That made me feel clever for a few seconds.

Many thanks to all who wished us congratulations and good luck regarding our upcoming elopement nuptials. We found a great dress for her yesterday! Very affordable and just so beautiful.

I’m renting a tux for the occasion (I am quickly losing weight at this time in my life, just took up running again and the weight is coming off fast — don’t want to buy a suit that won’t fit me in a few months’ time). I grew up in Texas and have been needing a new formal pair of cowboy boots for some time, so we’re off to find a good pair then I can rent a tux that matches them.

We have our marriage license appointment set up, and have a photographer, and our witnesses. Now all we need is an officiant!

18 days to go, I’m sure we’ll find someone. :)

Anonymous 11:09 AM  

Googling shows sites that explain Nuclear PILE was an early term for nuclear reactor. I doubt this is common knowledge but seems fair for Xword.

JD 11:09 AM  

@Jim Lemire, Chicago Pile-1, the first "nuclear reactor" was ridiculously primitive and demonstrated the first nuclear chain reaction. I think it led up to the Manhattan project.

We might get lucky today and have a physicist drop in and comment on this story. It's detailed in the book The Making of the Atomic Bomb, a serious page turner. Not kidding.

sixtyni yogini 11:18 AM  

Agree but did like TREX showing up
(And clues “special delivery”, “vegetable in bhindi,masala” , and “bhikkhunis”)

Mary McCarty 11:23 AM  

Joyless and extra-long time today due to coffee pot fiasco. But I wonder: if I’d started any time between 1 and 2 am, would my time of 1:06 netted a grand record time of 6 minutes for a Sunday? That’s my only bit of joy this morning. (Tho I am proud of knowing ARECIBO, specially since I spied Saturn’s rings through a telescope last night, πŸͺ but the rings were slanted the opposite way.)
Made my own joy/theme by looking for classical references: ANT (& the grasshopper- Aesop); MAKE HASTE (slowly- Augustus); TITAN, mythos, aETNA, DAEDALUS- from Greek Mythology); HEROIC (-my buddy Homer); op.CIT (opere CITato “in the work cited); ok, AETNA was a stretch, but I’m not even counting derivatives from Latin ROOTs like PLUS.

Mary McCarty 11:28 AM  

P.s. it’s nit-picking, I know, but technically PLUS is not related to “greater”, in the sense of MAGNItude, but amount, in the sense of MULTItude. It’s the difference between quality and quantity, which is my last word on this puzzle.

Anonymous 11:28 AM  

I’ll trade a theme for the stacked long answers. Often imho the Sunday themed puzzles try to achieve cuteness too hard. I liked this one. Far NE was last to fall in place.

Captain Obvious 11:30 AM  

When Will said, "This themeless puzzle is Sid's 10th for The Times," I thought that was a pretty good hint.

mew1 11:32 AM  


I think they were going for "BASS" meaning the musical instrument and a FISHSCALE is a hard thing to play on the bass? Anyway you parse it, it's pretty lame.

puzzlehoarder 11:36 AM  

"He who smelt it DWELT it" is the official motto of Eton. In Latin of course.

DavidinDC 11:42 AM  

A near homonym for wrecked a constructor’s puzzle: “Rexed”

Frantic Sloth 11:42 AM  

@GILL Here ya go.

Brooklyn Roasting 11:56 AM  

Record time for me… Almost. Nowise/raw meat just stopped me right at the end, dead in my tracks.

Joseph Michael 11:59 AM  

ACT THE GOAT? Can somebody please make that an ERASURE and replace it with an actual phrase?

This was like solving three puzzles separated by the long black diagonals. Each puzzle was progressively harder, but doable in the end with crosses that helped fill in the blanks of the more obscure answers, such as actress names and rap group references Thought the fill was pretty solid overall with minimal crosswordese.

The high point for me was the discovery that Disney animators hand drew more than a million bubbles for THE LITTLE MERMAID. I mean, who counted?

The low point was the discovery there was no theme to pull this all together. A few more fun clues, such as the one for VALET, would have helped ease the separation anxiety resulting from knocking at the door and finding out that the theme doesn’t live here anymore.

In fact, now that I look at it again. the clues are mostly straightforward without a lot of imaginative ENLACING to complement the impressive construction.

jbh 12:14 PM  

I KNEW Rex wouldn't like this puzzle. Since I myself have never even tried to construct a crossword, I feel ill-equipped to criticize.

Southeast corner WAS tough!
But I was able to get all the answers I found rough from the crosses. So:
Fine job, Sid!

At first had CREMORA for 68D and HAWAII for 2D.

Blue Stater 12:33 PM  

Good Lord, what a mess. *Full* of errors and stretchers, as commenters above have noted. Since when is MCRIBS a seasonal dish? My second most ardent desire in this milieu (you can guess the first one) is to appoint a Sunday puzzle editor to straighten out the Sunday shambles. The Sundays have been going downhill precipitously -- so, for that matter, have the dailies, but the Sundays are a convenient and finite target. Cut out the gimmicks; get the facts straight.

JC66 12:41 PM  

I prefer themed puzzles on Sunday.

Hey @Roo

The Packer's hopes of a championship were DASHED (50A) when Aaron Rogers got Covid.


Unlike @Nancy, I threw in GIN (35A) off the clue "Clear spirit" without any crosses. Of course, I was drinking my Saturday evening martini at the time.

Jeff 12:44 PM  

The Mad Men think feels largely made up. Checking the SSA site, Elizabeth's rank by year:

2000: 9th
2005: 11th
2010: 12th
2015: 13th
2020: 16th

Mad Men ran 2007-2013, so it had seemingly zero effect on the frequency of baby girls named Elizabeth. Maybe someone wrote an article somewhere claiming more girls were going by Betty but I think that data would be purely anecdotal at best.

old timer 12:45 PM  

I was pretty satisfied to finish this one. Technically a DNF because I did not go back and put in NOWISE instead of NO DICE. But that is because I don't think VALETS is the name for those who use VALET parking lots. Bunter of Lord Peter fame is a VALET, and there are others in those big British Dramas of the Rich. And I might say, those who park cars at big parties, or at some restaurants, may be VALETS of a sort -- but in my neighborhood, back when a lot of people had parties in their big old houses, VALET parkers had to find space on the streets. As indeed to the VALET parkers at my favorite restaurant of all time, Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. As you can imagine those guys had quite a challenge. But if I took the family there, good like finding space for a minivan anywhere nearby, at Market and Gough. I usually could find space for my little Honda sedan. The airports are far easier, as there are handicapped spaces in the parking garages next to the terminals.

I enjoyed enough of the answers not to get upset about this being a themeless Sunday. CANDY COUNTERS, CANADIAN ROCKIES, MEDICINE CHEST! My grandmother had a MEDICINE cabinet in the bathroom, like everyone does, but she called it a CHEST.

In honor of this puzzle I plan to have a little GIN at lunch today.

JC66 12:48 PM  

@Blue Stater

There's a lot to complain about in this puzzle, but you picked a bad example. MCRIBS is a seasonal offering.

Carola 12:48 PM  

Medium-challenging for me, given my Sunday practice of solving solely from the first cross I'm sure of, which today was APPS x ANT and which meant I had to back into the rest of the grid. Thanks to the easy crosses in that corner, I was able to move westward with MAKE HASTE and ASTI crossing DAEDALUS, the D of which got me THE LITTLE MERMAID and access to the left side of the grid. From there, happy Across and Down ENLACING to the bottom.

Favorite grid neighbors: DAEDALUS and THE SUN, the heat of which melted the wax of his son Icarus's wings, causing the fatal plunge.

NH 12:51 PM  

I'm surprised that Rex, a comic-book aficionado, didn't recognize "ACTS THE GOAT" from the English-language version of "Tintin." (It's the one thing you *never* want to accuse Professor Calculus of doing, if you value your health.)

puzzlehoarder 12:55 PM  

The whole point of a themeless puzzles is the challenging level of solving they can produce. This puzzle just didn't have it. It was easy Friday level at best and the fact that there's more of just makes it seem all the more flat.

Clean fill can be nice in and of itself but it can also feel bland. Ironically the more there is of it the blander it feels.

If a Sunday puzzle is going to be themeless it needs a high level of challenge throughout to justify it. As nice as this puzzle looks solving it was meh and it didn't justify the Sunday spotlight.

yd pg-1 Spoiler alert: think of
Cheesy 70s car roofs.

jb129 12:58 PM  

I usually like themeless, but not this one. I think this was for Sid not or us (or me).

PhotoAde 1:03 PM  

Repeating here, but...

Is there an actual plausible explanation/rationalization for Piles = ATOMICREACTORS ?? Is it that nuclear weapons can be stockpiled, and ATOMICREACTORS are used in the making of nuclear weapons, which are then put into piles? Completely lost.

Same for Not at all = NOWISE ?? Is there any rational way to tie these two together? An unintended coincidence using broken English:

"Shall I eat this poison toadstool?"
"This no wise"

How could this have happened?

Anonymous 1:14 PM  

"Easy-Medium"? How about impossible?

JD 1:14 PM  

@PhotoAde, Google Chicago Pile-1

Beezer 1:26 PM  

Wow. As I worked this puzzle I thought it was fun AND a work of art. I was shocked to see that Rex, at best, thought it was “meh,” and possibly even disliked it! Doubly amazed when I saw many negatives from the commentariat.

Like @bocamp I dnf’d at TREX/SEX. I somehow convinced myself that Calvin would have dreams about a predatory TREE, you know creepy branches like hands coming after him.

I agree with @Nancy that the large expanses were quite elegant and yet there was very little dreck. I did NOT like NOWISE. It brings to mind a cartoon character (non-specific) saying “not no how, not no wise”!

TTrimble 1:53 PM  

A lot of negative comments, so I'll point out some positive. There is very little dreck: few acronyms, nothing objectively obscure. Out of 441 squares, only 69 are black. Only ten three-letter words by my account (all but one actual words, not abbreviations). The grid design mostly flows, with some slight stoppage in the SW and NE corners. As far as I can make out, the most substantive general complaint comes from @Nancy who says that with better (or more exciting) cluing, this puzzle would have been dynamite. Well said.

It took me a bit longer than most Sundays in recent months, but that's okay.

As usual, I disagree with @SouthsideJohnny: for example, where is ATOMIC REACTORS on the list of things one may conjure up when asked to provide an example of “Piles” ? -- well, I didn't get ATOMIC REACTORS right away, but that meaning is familiar to me as well as to many other people. Around the same time as the Manhattan Project, Enrico Fermi had amassed such piles at the University of Chicago, and back then they were calling the processes under study ATOMIC REACTIONS. I'm not absolutely sure, but for those saying it ought to be Nuclear REACTIONS instead: I'd think "piles*" would today be about equally anachronistic as "atomic", so the two go together well in my mind.

(Speaking of physics type stuff -- I just figured the last entry I had for yesterday's SB was a physics term, since it's also the name of a physicist who is somewhat less famous than Fermi. I wouldn't put anything past Ezersky, after all. But no, it's just a noun I didn't know.)

I got hung up a bit in the NE corner, since for example rap groups are not my metier, and I didn't already know PARASKI, but NARC followed by APPS was enough to crack it open, and close out the puzzle.

Didn't know DAEDALUS was in the labyrinth business. Was thinking Theseus. Nope -- same myth, but he was the one who killed the Minotaur who DWELT in the maze, the one built by DAEDALUS and his son Icarus. (I thought those guys were in the wax wings biz. Which they were -- they got around, I guess. Boy, is my Greek mythology ever in need of refreshing.)

TAPAS BARS will forever remind me of the time that my parents came up to visit us in Chicago (to see the huge Chuck Close exhibit), and we were discussing what to do about lunch. I had suggested that I knew a good TAPAS BAR we could go to. My mom paused, and said, "huh... well, that sounds... cute." And a little later, "how would Andrea feel about that?" I told her she would be fine with it; she likes that sort of thing. Well, in case you didn't figure it out already, my mom was under the impression I was taking her and Dad to a topless BAR. What I love about that memory is the effort my good liberal-thinking mom was making to go with that particular flow...

Am glad to see the ever musically articulate @Joe D weigh in on ROOT (I was also thinking "tonic", but it wouldn't fit) -- and also glad for his Acrostic comment.

yd 0
td 0 (took a while getting to p)

*"Piles" can also mean hemorrhoids. When I say Fermi amassed piles at the University of Chicago, I assume this other meaning doesn't apply. But who knows. BTW: little known is the fact that his initial preparations for the atomic reactions were at first unsuccessful; in fact there were seven such attempts, referred to as A through G. So you can imagine his relief when at last his eighth attempt was successful.

Joe Dipinto 2:00 PM  

@Jeff 12:44 – the "Mad Men" clue seems to be an outright lie. I checked "Betty" as a given name on its own, not as a diminutive of "Elizabeth", and the result is even worse (trigger warning: the linked article also contains references to someone named Don(ald)).

@burtonkd – I think clues for terminology in specialized fields should be crystal clear. How many commenters here have pointed out errors or omissions in clues for scientific matters and other things? It happens a lot.

In the case at hand, I think if you ask any musician "What is the root of C Major", they will say "do you mean a C Major chord?" Because what you are asking will not be clear. If you ask, "What is the tonic of C Major?", they will say "C, of course." I pointed out how easily they could have amended the clue to make it precise.

SharonAK 2:01 PM  

I found this puzzle tough enough that I cheated for a couple of answers to get it moving again. Did find several clue answers amusing. Especially liked "employees who work a lot" for valets. But found it less amusing than usual, maybe because not theme.

@liveprof 101;13 thanks for the riff on the southeast corner. I got a real chuckle out of wha t you found there.

Surprised at how many complained at "no wise" It did not come to me quickly but seemed very familiar once I got it.
"Played the goat" on the other hand was unfamiliar and I'm going to haave to Google "sex-positive ....

Tim Carey 2:05 PM  

Wow. It took you three times to make this transphobic comment? Maybe you SHOULD take a typing course.

And oh, by the way, you should not hide behind "Anonymous", if you are serious about your beliefs. Put your name on your trolling. Coward.

thefogman 2:08 PM  

I agree with Rex 100%. What a cop out. Will Shortz needs to pull up his socks.

jazzmanchgo 2:19 PM  

I'm familiar with "ACTS THE FOOL," but not "ACTS THE GOAT."
Since when are McRIBS (or any other fast foods) "seasonal"?

thefogman 2:29 PM  

@jazzmancho MCRIBS is seasonal because you can’t buy them all year round - like Shamrock Shakes or Pumpkin Spice lattes…

TTrimble 2:38 PM  

Re MCRIBS: here you go.

ACTS THE GOAT: this might be more common in British Commonwealth countries than in America, and even so it might be a bit old-fashioned. Discussion. But the meaning seems intuitive all the same, or at least not outlandish.

A 3:23 PM  

No problem with themeless if it’s this professional. No tortured grid to support a ‘meh’ theme. Today we are invited to the TAPAS BAR for little plates of This and That. This puzzle was Here, There and Everywhere, not the same old song. And congrats to @oceanjeremy!

Loved the 1A clue, Piles. It was such a throwing down of the gauntlet. Had to work that one from the end. Thank you, OKRA, for making me give up trying to force Alberta in at 19A.

Knowing DAEDALUS Books MADE that entry HASTier.

I dwelled on DWELT. Also had -OOT before I thought of ROOT. Hi, @Joe D! Like your clue.

Think I learnt NO WISE from Ellery Queen mysteries. “I ain’t gonna confess to nuttin’ NO WISE. GOT ME?”

Today’s obscure birthday composer is Henry Balfour Gardiner, also great uncle of conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Not a prolific composer, but he promoted other composers such as Holst, and helped some of them financially, including purchasing Delius’ home so Delius could continue to live there rent free. Here’s an intriguing little piece, Shepherd Fennel’s Dance.

burtonkd 3:23 PM  

@chefwen - I have noticed that pictures of food, particularly highly manufactured ones like the McRib do not entice me. I used to see the stories of how they use shaving cream instead of whipped cream when shooting under hot lights so it doesn't melt and be amazed it looked so good. Now even the best photography makes that type of food just look like unappetizing plastic.

@Joe - agreed; not sure why I'm choosing to be devil's advocate for a clue that is either ignorant of your point, or a less-than-stellar misdirect.

GILL I. 4:08 PM  

Thank ye mucho, simpatico, @Frantico. @JC66 sent me a cheat sheet that I put in a special place but I can't find it.....If I could do an emoji on my MacBook, I'd send you that happy face one.
@TTrimble 1:53. Thanks for the "piles" laugh. Yep...Nuclear REACTION, indeed.
I'm off to making my yumilicious lemon bars.....I'd drink a little GIN martini but it's too early. Instead, I'll have some Prosecco. HAH!

Anonymous 4:28 PM  

Rex, even more tiresome than your wokism and politically correct slant on harmless clueing is your negativity and predicable imaginary speeds in which you complete the puzzles. Get another hobby if the NYT Sunday puzzle is so distressful to you.

Former donor to your annual funding request

Trey 4:39 PM  

@RooMonster 9:31 (sorry if already answered - catching up on the blog late) - it one’s hopes are DASHED they are shattered

Anoa Bob 4:50 PM  

Here's a copy and paste from the NYT xword guidelines page:

ANNOUNCEMENT: Submissions will be temporarily closed starting Nov. 22, 2021 and will reopen Jan. 3, 2022. We will be reviewing already submitted puzzles during that period, so you may still hear from us while submissions are closed. In the meantime, please review our submission guidelines below in preparation for when we reopen in January.

I went over there to find the clue difficulty guide and here 'tis:

Clues should reflect the difficulty of the puzzle. Our difficulty scale increases through the week, with the easiest puzzles on Monday and hardest on Saturday. Sunday puzzles should reflect midweek difficulty levels. [emphasis mine]

Here's the site.

Maybe that's why many of yous are praising the construction but thinking the clueing is tepid. It's essentially a super-sized Wednesday level themeless.

If someone handed me an open grid like this and said "It's themeless. Fill it and make it interesting.", I would say "Yeah, right after I go on a month long OAT MILK ELIMINATION DIET! Filling this thing is dang near crossword HEROICs if you ask me.

pabloinnh 5:04 PM  

@JoeD- Liked the Acrostic a lot, and I bet I had the same reaction to G as you did. My problem was I wasn't sure how to spell it, but the correct spelling gave me the right number of spaces and off I went.

I don't think there's such a thing as a Monday-easy Acrostic. Even the ones I do in the shortest amount of time always put up some kind of fight, which is fine with me. Never tried the fish/barrel thing or the three-piece jigsaw puzzle, but can't imagine they're much fun.

stephanie 5:16 PM  

why aren't sundays fun anymore :(

yesterday was so awful, i felt like i was struggling to get through an exam in high school - the kind that makes you wonder why nothing you studied for was on the test. like a bad dream. today was better in terms of difficulty, but it was just so...meh. lots of starts and stops, where i'd feel like i was on a roll and then get hung up again and start to zone out due to disinterest.

forever terrible at geography i typed in COLORADO ROCKIES as those are the only rockies i had heard of. took it out, put it back, guessed TAHITI very early on and thought that must have been where i went wrong...took that out...put it back...etc. had CURSED before CUSSED which caused a DNF as i didn't notice DARHED for DASHED. wanted NO DICE for NO WISE (??) but the other answers in that area were too good (however RAN OUT is suspect), FLOUNDERS for DRAW SLOTS...DRAWS LOTS (again ??), ACTS THE GOAT (?????)

had CREPE before MOIRE...and after i googled what the heck that was, the grid looked wonky XD

for all the long fills i got easily this still just took an inordinate amount of time but not in a fun way - don't ask me why MEDICINE CHEST was at the forefront of my mind for the picking, must've been something my grandfather said, like calling the fridge the icebox. MCRIBS, HOLODECKS, ELIMINATION DIET, THE LITTLE MERMAID, PRIVATE ENTRANCES, TAPAS BARS, CANDY COUNTERS, all good. ok, the mcrib wasn't a long fill but i just wanted to mention it. never had one but almost bought one the other night on a rare fast food stop after hours in the ER. (not to worry, we're fine. partner had a mysterious allergic reaction and i'm sure we'll be seeing a massive bill soon for what amounted to "who knows what's wrong with you, have some steroids, bye.")

otts 5:18 PM  

@ Joe, a song for the puzz? How about "is that all there is"?

stephanie 5:34 PM  

@pmdm i solve on the web, and there was no such note. that said, i think of "this and that" like the "potpourri" category on jeopardy so i didn't expect a theme.

stephanie 5:42 PM  

@Tim Carey hear, hear. not sure why mods on rex's blog would even permit blatant transphobia for transphobia's sake to be posted, especially when it's not even related to today's puzzle.

stephanie 5:43 PM  

@oceanjeremy congratulations and good luck with all the little details :)

bocamp 5:45 PM  

Fond memories of Banff and the CANADIAN ROCKIES. Doesn't get much more awe-inspiring!

@Joe Dipinto (12:43 AM) / @pabloinnh (5:04 PM)

Probably my fasted acrostic; seemed to almost fill itself in – which is how I got 'G' (a d'oh moment). lol

Knocked off one the of the missing -2 from yd :)

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all πŸ•Š

stephanie 5:51 PM  

@old timer here in boston, a valet has a similar purpose. truthfully i have no idea where they even put the cars in these areas. never been to the zuni cafe, but after learning the recipe for the roast chicken i've never made one any other way. absolutely delicious.

stephanie 5:59 PM  

@Nancy it's interesting to read how everyone parses the clues differently. personally, i could think of no other three letter clear spirit than GIN. (i did consider RUM as white rum is A Thing, but traditionally/usually/most commonly rum is considered brown liquor.)

stephanie 6:04 PM  

@Jim Lemire & @RooMonster re: ATOMIC REACTORS - A nuclear reactor, formerly known as an atomic pile, is a device used to initiate and control a fission nuclear chain reaction or nuclear fusion reactions; An early type of nuclear reactor whose core consisted of alternating layers of uranium pellets and graphite bricks, designed to create a sustained fission reaction.

certainly wasn't among the information stored in my brain though, even after "enjoying" (yet permanently scarred by) hbo's chernobyl.

DGD 6:19 PM  

I believe Etna is the Italian version of Aetna.

Hartley70 6:22 PM  

Thank goodness for @Lewis. I can always count on not being alone when I really enjoy a puzzle. I can’t recall ever seeing a themeless Sunday, but it didn’t bother me a bit today. No theme can be better than a mediocre one. Today the grid itself gave me the zip I can get from a good theme. I loved the look of it and there were stacks everywhere, so I was pleased before I even read the first clue. I found the fill very doable and only got stuck once while I struggled with RANDR. That trick gets me every time no matter how many times I see it. The fill wasn’t tired. The long answers were fair and interesting, so I give the solve two thumbs up! Thanks.

egsforbreakfast 7:24 PM  

@Hartley70. I’m tempted to point out that a great theme, or even a good one, can be better than a mediocre one. But there is no accounting for taste.

jberg 7:42 PM  

I don't usually do Sundays, but this one looked interesting so I plunged in. Now, the reason that it looked interesting was that I started with 92A (because Will said it was the seed entry), and said to myself, "Hey, that could be CAESARIAN BIRTH!" Fortunately, I didn't write it in, but went back and started at the top. There were still enough interesting answers to keep me going.

NO WISE is an adverb, equivalent to today's 'no way.' "I am in no wise enamored of your argument," that sort of thing. Seen a lot in 19th century literature.

Also seen a lot in literature -- science fiction of the 1950s -- was Atomic PILE. So that was OK with me.

In my day, no parents ever named a girl "BETTY." If they wanted to call her that, they'd name her Elizabeth. So if only a few parents did it because of Mad Men, that would be an upsurge.

@pmdm, I'm glad to hear that if someone has written something, you feel obliged to read it. You can find my latest book on the ABC-CLIO website. (Search for 'john berg' as author.) They're charging $50, sadly, so you might want to turn to your local library.

I've always thought of SEX positive as originating with third-wave feminism, though now applied much more widely -- but I just looked it up, and it turns out the phrase was coined by Wilhelm Reich.

@Oceanjeremy, congratulations! I'm trying to get my mind around the concept of renting a tux for an elopement; I guess it does make some sense, so go for it!

Euclid 8:34 PM  

1 - ATOMIC over fission or nucular REACTOR recognizes that light-water reactors are atomic, not thermonucular (fusion) devices.
2 - in the old days, before light-water reactors were the preferred design, carbon (I think) rods were used to control fission all by their lonesome. the device looked like a pile of stuff, thus the appellation.

Anonymous 8:40 PM  

methinks MCRIB isn't seasonal just because it's only available sporadically (seasonal should mean it shows up on time each year...), though when it is, it's only a short time. let's go ask the wiki...
"After poor sales, it was removed from the menu in 1985. It was reintroduced in 1989, staying on the menu until 2005 in many countries. From 2006 until 2020,[2] it has generally been made available for a short time each year in most markets where it is sold, typically during the fall season, although it is a permanent menu item at McDonald's restaurants in Germany[3][4] and Luxembourg. "


TTrimble 8:49 PM  

Ha ha, @egsforbreakfast points out a clever way to misread @Hartley70's statement: "No theme can be better than a mediocre one." Evidently Hartley meant it's possible for a themeless puzzle to be better than a puzzle that is mediocre among themed puzzles. Seems a fair assertion.

@egsforbreakfast retorts "I’m tempted to point out that a great theme, or even a good one, can be better than a mediocre one. But there is no accounting for taste." I suppose @egs might be having a little fun here, (mis)interpreting @Hartley's statement as asserting it's impossible for a theme(d puzzle) to be (any) better than a mediocre(ly) theme(d puzzle).

I'm now looking back at Rex's opening salvo: "Themeless Sundays are always a cop-out". Oh? Is that a law of nature? Or did God decree that Sundays should be themed? Or is there some sort of logic behind that?

The most generous reading is that all other things being equal (ceteris paribus), themed puzzles are better than unthemed ones, but clearly Rex went far beyond this. I reject his assertion. It would be interesting to articulate how and when themed puzzles deserve a pass over unthemed ones.

(I can imagine such arguments; I'm just interested in whether anyone has attempted them.)

stephanie 9:02 PM  

@Hartley70 R AND R was definitely the head-slapper of the day! i had RAND_ at one point and was sure i must have messed something up, since the only options that seemed to exist in my mind were RANDO and RANDY, neither of which made sense. then suddenly... πŸ’‘πŸ’‘πŸ’‘

Z 9:48 PM  

@Joe Dipinto - For The C of C Major, e.g. there are (at least) two correct answers. This is just typical crossword cluing. That you were fooled by the misdirection is in no way different than people being fooled by Piles at 1A. When you wrote I think clues for terminology in specialized fields should be crystal clear. How many commenters here have pointed out errors or omissions in clues for scientific matters and other things? It happens a lot, I guffawed. Errors, actual errors, are extremely rare. Almost always it’s an expert who was fooled, nothing more. The point of crossword puzzles is that clues are not crystal clear. It is the the misdirection that makes cluing and puzzles fun.

I generally like 21x21 puzzles less than 15x15 puzzles, so it takes a lot to get me to really enjoy a big puzzle. This was fine, and there have been themed puzzles I’ve liked a lot less, but I still prefer a good themed Sunday.

Nancy 9:51 PM  

@GILL and @stephanie -- I guess the reason that GIN did not spring immediately to mind for me is because I think of liquor as being "spirits" rather than "spirit". So I was initially looking for some sort of spirit -- a genie? a ghost? a poltergeist? -- that had three letters and was (in some manner I hadn't yet figured out) "clear".

Of course this was today, Sunday, at 8:46. Had I done this on, say, Monday at 9:27, I might have thought of GIN immediately. I'm convinced that not only do different solvers vary greatly in how they solve and in what gives them trouble, but the same solver will solve a bit differently on a different day and may be more stymied or less stymied by the same answer he sailed through or struggled with the day before.

A 9:53 PM  

@Anoa Bob, wow, they’re closing submissions for over a month? Does this happen regularly - it seems like a strangely long hiatus. Liked your HEROICs POC, btw.

@bocamp, @pabloinnh, hand up for wondering about killer TREes. I opted for SEX.

@TTrimble, enjoyed your comments of PILES, and your piles of comments, as usual. Ditto @JD with your wild ars guesses, and @burtonkd - Anon and @Lewis two minutes apart was a riot. @Lewis, thanks for pointing out the 15 debuts - I knew some of these had to be, but had no idea there were so many!

Finally, I have to acknowledge credit to Mr. A for giving me NARC IN the NE corner. I had N-R- and couldn’t get NeRd out of my head, as in some card-counting brainiac messing with the casino dealer.

PS. @egsforbreakfast 7:24 - nice one, and thanks to @TTrimble for making sure I didn’t miss it.

Z 9:59 PM  

@TTrimble 8:49 - Themes add constraints that a themeless doesn’t have, so themeless puzzles are easier to make. In that context, a themeless 21x21 puzzle is always a cop-out. I don’t think this means there should never be themeless 21x21 puzzles, but I think Rex is pretty spot on. When Rex writes, It's all fine, just fine, He seems to be saying “fine” isn’t good enough when you don’t have theme constraints to work around. That’s not all that different from what he’s written about Friday and Saturday puzzles.

stephanie 11:12 PM  

@Nancy oh absolutely! i usually solve at night, but just the other day i decided to solve shortly after i woke up and, while i eventually solved as much as i would have any other time, getting there and the way i thought about clues was noticeably more convoluted. ("convoluted" not relating to your ideas about clear spirits though - the image of a transparent ghost did graze my mindgrapes!)

Anoa Bob 11:25 PM  

@A 9:43 this is the first time I can remember them closing submissions like this. They only recently changed from requiring hard copy submissions via USPS to accepting them electronically. This may have opened the flood gates and overwhelmed them with tsunami of submissions. Just a guess.

Wellmet 11:41 PM  

The perfect puzzle to do on a 1 1/2 plane ride. A slog. A struggle. But ultimately a success. A lot of words were figured out because of crosses. Challenging to say the least.

TTrimble 11:54 PM  

"Cop out" conveys a moralizing tone that I find distasteful. But if the criterion is the difficulty of construction, then I think the current puzzle passes handsomely: relatively few black squares, rather few 3-letter words, excellent flow, attractive appearance. Those are grid constraints and aesthetic constraints that require a lot of skill and creativity to work with. A different set of constraints. I think Rex is being provincial. Fellow constructor @Lewis is the one who's spot on.

I agree with @Nancy that the main fault is in the cluing -- and this might lie more on the editorial end than on the construction end. Very low on dreck, 15 debut answers. I think HOLODECKS and TAPAS BARS are great. It's well better than "fine, just fine".

J. Axton. McBride 3:00 AM  

Excuse me, "Nowise"?! Nowise is bullshit, when's the last time Anyone's said or heard that said. If anyone can come up with a provable instance of that word(?) being used, I''l say something like 'Huh. Bet you can't name TWO!!'

TTrimble 7:45 AM  

@J. Axton. McBride
It's two words, not one. Mostly you see it in the phrase "in no wise". Try googling that. It means "by no means" or "in no respect" or "not at all" or "in no way".

For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall IN NO WISE pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:18)

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will IN NO WISE cast out. (John 6:37)

Perry 10:25 AM  

I generally detest themed puzzles, so I was pretty happy with this puzzle. It was like a big, themeless Friday instead of an oversized Thursday.

Bob Mills 10:37 AM  

What a pleasure to work on a puzzle without the usual Sunday gimmickry. Thank you.

CuppaJoe 2:11 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
spacecraft 11:47 AM  

Saw the grid and thought: Wow, a 21x21 Saturday! Actually, it played more like a Friday; the periphery filled in fairly quickly--but that center was a beast!

34 down couldn't be ACTSTHEfOol--because "fool" was in the clue! But "acts the fool" is the in-language saying here. I have never in my life heard of "ACTSTHEGOAT." That has to be a huge minus.

Still a tour-de-force of a big grid, with 6-ladders instead of the usual 5. Must give points for that, and for some resistance without slogging through a plethora of short fill. Birdie.

pkat4202 12:26 PM  

Just think it’s a formed hamburger in the shape of ribs with a ton of bar b que sauce and sliced onions. So it’s pretty good actually.

Burma Shave 2:56 PM  


she'll MAKE MADMEN of all MALES.
She AGREES it's not ADDRESS she wears,


BS2 3:49 PM  


they COME for R_AND_R AND SEX.


Diana, LIW 3:54 PM  

2-word, 4-letter dnf.

SCRIED anyone?

Lady Di

Diana, LIW 3:56 PM  

SCRIED anyone?

4-letter dnf.

Lady Di

rondo 4:30 PM  

Did you realize that both rockiemountains and northernalberta are the same length as CANADIANROCKIES?
Lotsa long answers to be found today. And OFL is bored with it? Huh.
I thought it was just fine.

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