Cartwheels and such / THU 11-11-21 / Holding in a cryptocurrency wallet / Bygone game show with a mobile set / Onetime radio host Don / Philippines battle site of WW II

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Constructor: Mark MacLachlan

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (hard while you're trying get the theme, pretty easy after you get it)

THEME: COMPASS (65A: Provider of directions ... or a hint to the four "+" shapes in this puzzle's grid) — the "+" shapes have to have their points (spokes?) filled in with cardinal direction letters or order to make sense of the answers that run directly into them / out of them; the unchecked letters at the center of the grid provide an image of how you have to arrange N E S and W inside the "+" shapes:

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: Cartwheel (19A: Cartwheels and such = HATS) —
cartwheel hat (also cart wheel hat) is a hat with a wide-brimmed circular or saucer-shaped design. It may be made in a variety of materials, including straw or felt and usually has a low crown. It may be similar to the picture hatand halo-brimmed hat in shape. Typically, it is worn at an angle to show off the curve of the brim, rather than being worn at the back of the head in the manner of a halo hat. [...] The cartwheel became particularly closely associated with New Look fashions. Dior's Y-line collection of autumn 1955 showcased cartwheel hats, paired with pearls, princess-line dresses and stoles. While the size and shape of hats could be extreme, such designs were made not just for day but evening wear; the Victoria and Albert Museum archive includes a Christian Dior cocktail frock designed to be worn with matching tulle cartwheel hat. (wikipedia)


• • •

This was something of a slog, and ultimately a familiar one at that. I've seen compass-based themes a million times (give or take) over the years. This one has its own thing going on, but in the end, it's just the old NESW thing again (I was going to say "same old NEWS," but that would be corny, and far be it etc.). What I think is original about the theme is also the most annoying part of the theme, namely hiding the direction letters in the "+" signs. Those "+" signs do not suggest a compass; they suggest, perhaps shockingly, a "+" (or PLUS) sign, a sign of addition, perhaps representing the word "plus" or "and" or something. Calling them "'+' shapes" in the revealer clue only strengthened the impression that something math-y was going on. The (apparent) multiplication (or "x") symbol at the center of the grid had me (briefly) thinking the whole thing was going to be some kind of equation. It was only once I got one of the unchecked squares toward the center of the grid (from SLAW, probably), that the COMPASS concept came to me. There was an "aha" moment then, though it sounded more like a flat "oh..." And then the puzzle got Much easier to solve (once you know the gimmick, you get free letters all over the place (the direction letters, that is), and so filling in the grid becomes a cinch). It would've been cool to do this without populating the grid with apparent gibberish (e.g. ARL, NDO, ATI), but that would probably be a tall order. The answers with two cardinal direction letters—the ones connecting the "+" signs—added some architectural flash to the theme. Ultimately, this puzzle is a somewhat souped-up expression of a familiar idea.

The fill was OK, though there's nothing I would really single out as fabulous. Mostly it just holds its own. I liked PUP TENT (3D: Accommodations on a scouting trip) and GAS HOG (37A: Hardly a green vehicle) pretty well. I don't share this puzzle's idea of fun fill. "CASH CAB" barely means anything to me except dim memories of wondering what I'm looking at and trying to find the remote before I have to watch any more of it (1D: Bygone game show with a mobile set). Crypto still seems like a giant bro-scam to me, so I'm not going to enjoy seeing BITCOIN (8A: Holding in a cryptocurrency wallet) anytime soon. I did enjoy remembering the HUGH Jass joke, because I'm 10 years old, and the baseball clue on LASERS felt pretty fresh. GET A TIP is gruesome stuff. Makes EAT A SANDWICH seem elegant. If you're going to do "VERB a NOUN" then it should be an actual phrase, like LEND A HAND. I'd even accept EAT A PEACH if you wanted to get T.S. Eliot- (or Allman Brothers Band-) specific. GET A ROOM? Yes. GET A TIP? No. It makes bad noises in my brain machine. Didn't know TASHA, but ... well, that's a recognizable name, so ultimately gettable (27D: ___ Smith, star of Tyler Perry's "For Better or Worse"). Didn't know cartwheels were HATS, though I've seen them plenty, it turns out, since I spend roughly half my life watching mid-20th-century movies of one kind or another.

SUPERGS is a super-awkward plural. Hard enough to parse in the singular, let alone the plural. An event is an event. Singular. You wouldn't say WRESTLINGS? ARCHERIES? CLEAN AND JERKS? Even DOWNHILLS sounds really yuck. SLALOMS can at least be a verb, I think. Anyway, no fun getting that one. Also, how is TELECON "briefly"? I guess it's supposed to be "short" for TELECONFERENCE, but a. it doesn't seem very "brief," and b. do people still say this? "I've got a TELECON at 4, Jim?" Wouldn't you just say Zoom or Skype or, I don't know, some dumb E-word? I had TELECO- and honestly couldn't conceive the last letter. But admittedly the world of "business" and its -speak frequently eludes me. Apologies to Nadia Comaneci for briefly imagining that she was from ARMENIA. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

  • CAPTCHAs are the things you have to type in to prove to the interbots that you are not one of them (1A: A test of one's humanity?)
  • The "back" in [Back in college?] (ENDOW) means "support"
  • AQUARIA house schools ... of fish (2D: School houses?)
  • If your kid is a "TikToker" (!?) you might have bigger problems than screen time (10D: Many a TikToker)
  • TOAT is a bag for carrying your oats. Yes, if you need to carry oats, TOATs do the job to a "T"! (49A: Exactly right)
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joaquin 6:17 AM  

I predict a lot of CARPing from the PEDANTS about this puzzle. But screw ‘em. I loved it.

Conrad 6:23 AM  

@Rex got the medium-challenging rating right (TO A T?) I was totally lost until the theme hit -- thanks to the unchecked squares in the center and the revealer -- and then it was Aha! and smooth sailing. Quite enjoyable.

dan 6:56 AM  

I thought it was ... fine, but I can't claim to be thrilled with a puzzle that crosses AQUARIA with AQUEOUS.

Anonymoose 7:00 AM  

I don't usually care for puzzles where letters are hidden in black squares but this was fantastic. After I grokked the theme I found myself wishing for a paper version to help my brain sort it out, but I got there. 30D was a nice touch, "It's on the plus side". And not a single "three", in a way.

Brad Findell 7:07 AM  

Double Natick at BATAAN, as the unfamiliar crosses could have been CASHCA(m/n/p/r/t) and T(e/i/o/y)SHA. Aaargh.

Lewis 7:08 AM  

I’m not one to remember grid design, but I do remember one with the four plus signs like this one has, because it’s one of my favorite Thursday puzzles of all time – by David Steinberg (and I looked it up, 6/8/17) – and I thought “Oh please let this not be a repeat of David’s theme; let that one stand by itself for all time!” As it turns out, this theme wasn’t a repeat of that, thank goodness.

This is a beautiful grid design, with no random black squares anywhere. After getting ADEN and EATS, I figured out the N-E-W-S in the middle, and not too long after, the basic theme trick became apparent, but that didn’t make this solve a sprint, as the vague cluing made me fight for squares. Give me a trick to feel proud about figuring out, and add to it a grid that’s battling me at many a turn, and, basically, I’m in heaven. Thank you for depositing me there, MM!

When the double-N over the triple S appeared in rows two and three, my double-letter-tracking heart went pitty pat. I also smiled when, right next to HUGH, considering its clue, was the word ASS. And, pardon my geekiness here, but all the answers are in lengths of 4, 5, 6, and 7. Only four answer lengths in the entire grid! If that’s not a record, it’s highly highly unusual.

Much to remember and enjoy – a stellar Thursday. Bravo!

smalltowndoc 7:08 AM  

I loved this puzzle. Very clever theme and construction. And what I like most about a good theme: it is key to being able to solve the puzzle.

Son Volt 7:18 AM  

Had fun with the trickery here. Agree with Rex on the free letters once the theme is cracked but no issues. I actually liked the corner 7’s - RAISINS, ITERATE, PUP TENT are all solid. Little side eye to the AQUARIA x AQUEOUS cross.

Nice to see BATAAN on Veterans Day. I know Rex’ panties get in a bunch with anything crypto - but it’s not going away anytime soon.

To put a bow on this weeks Nash discussion - it was a bad batch of cole SLAW that did him in at a fairly young age.

Enjoyable Thursday solve.

Trey 7:24 AM  

Really liked this puzzle. What really stood out was that there were no 3-letter answers. I have not noticed that in other puzzles before. I am sure it has been done, but it has to be rare. Liked the clue for AQUARIA.

bocamp 7:52 AM  

Thx Mark; what a great idea for a Thurs. puz! :)


Same as yd, made tougher by a huge blunder on my part.

I saw the plus signs at the outset, but didn't spend any time trying to figure out how they came into play.

Didn't catch on to the trick for the longest time. I think it was at –LBO– that I started to clue in to the COMPASS idea.

Even then, it was still slow going all the way. So much I didn't know.

The NW was the final challenge, made impossible by not figuring in the 'N' of the plus sign. So, not knowing AQUE–US, I inserted an 'L' to get CLR. I guess they may grow some CORN in Colorado (not sure), but a embarrassing dnf. :(

Also didn't know CASH CAB or 'cartwheel' HATS; the 'H' was the only thing that made sense, tho.

Nevertheless, an excellent challenge, and a fun adventure. :)

yd 0

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

Pete 7:53 AM  

@Brad Findell's comment made me wonder about the "reasonable" as used in the original definition of a Natick - "Where one could reasonably expect...". I can't imagine a world where anyone who's above the age where WWII gets covered in school would not know BATAAN - yet I'm more than willing to assume that only a small portion of HS graduates know of it. It's beyond reason that people don't know it, yet unreasonable to expect them to know it.

I'm glad to learn that Ogden Nass died from bad coleslaw. As he famously said

'The Cow'

The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk
You better keep the product cold,
Lest you never get to be old.

Ogden Nash

ERDRCR 7:53 AM  

How does a 13,000 mile long wall only have 5000 steps?
Each step is 2.5 miles?
Does step refer to something else?

Tom T 7:54 AM  

Fun puzzle that, like the Wednesday this week, pushed me way beyond my average solve time. In keeping with today's theme, here's your HDW (hidden diagonal word) clue:

SW topographical feature located in the NE? (Answer below)

For those who advocate for cluing more in touch with younger generational items, you didn't have to go further than 1A and 1D. I understand that CASH CAB started in 2005 and is no longer airing, but as a clue it plays much more to my thirty-something sons than to their old dad. And CAPTCHA??? So that's what they call those things! (Thanks, Rex!)

Answer to the HDW clue:

MESA (as described in the clue, you will find it in the NE sector of the grid, running just above the "plus sign."

EdFromHackensack 7:55 AM  

If ITERATE is to repeat what is reiterate?

Z 7:59 AM  

To answer your question from yesterday, @albatross shell, I think skewing too much anything is bad. I think breadth is fairer. But skewing dead does seem to be a specifically NYTX phenomenon. I think there was one person in all the clues and answers on Tuesday who was still alive. Today the count is 5 dead and 3 alive. Some of this is inevitable, ETTA and Ella and James AGEE appear everywhere. But some of it is because the cultural center of the NYTX is stuck in 1993. So we get the totally unnecessary Johnny Carson clue yesterday and Fats Domino today. I’m not overly fond of PPP anyway, but I feel like Shortz should stop doing this when he edits clues.

Speaking of skewing dead, I couldn’t help but notice that Rex went to Gene Kelly for his HATS photo. Do they still call them “cartwheels?” Are HATS even in fashion anymore? When I google women’s hats everything is either utilitarian or has a very retro feel. When I google cartwheel hats every image has either “vintage” or a decade from before I was born in the name. Did anyone actually know the answer?

The solve was fine, the theme was fine. The plus sign to represent the COMPASS was odd.

Z 8:08 AM  

BTW - The milkshake discussion yesterday was a fascinating trip down childhood memory lane, but I do wish somebody had spent 42 seconds with our Uncle. And we all need this list, now.

Captain Obvious 8:08 AM  


Walking the Great Wall:

Step 1: Carb load
Step 2: Double tie your shoe laces.
Step 3: Replenish water supply.
Step 4: Walk until you drop.
Step 5: Soak your feet.

Repeat 1000 times.

pabloinnh 8:10 AM  

I have not seen this theme a million times and was therefore surprised and delighted when I finally figured it out. At first I wanted the plus signs to mean adding words to words or something, but when COMPASS showed up it pointed me in the right direction (har!). Except I then wanted something in the NE part of the puzzle to add NE, and so on, but eventually the fog cleared and led to a fabulous AHA! moment.

CASHCAB? A CARTWHEEL is a hat? The things you learn from crosswords. Liked the three-S GUESSSO, a reminder of the three-L stuff from yesterday. And gracias for TIERRA, which was a big help.

Liked the puzz a lot and kudos to MM for a brilliant feat of construction. Bet it took Many Moons to come up with this one. I'm giving it the Thurdazo! prize, and thanks for all the fun.

thfenn 8:13 AM  

So this was one of Thursdays that remind me I'm not quite good enough yet. Could not wrap up the NW. Got the theme, enjoyed the theme, but just could not see enough of the NW and had to come here. Couldnt see CAPTCHA. No idea for CASHCAB. No idea a cartwheel was a hat. Had mAnilla. Worst DNF in a long time.

Also, aren't there 5 "+" shapes? Just with the fifth in the middle being a white "+" but still a compass?

I did overcomplicate things for a bit. Once I had STEPS I thought we were going for an 8 point compass, so took me awhile to let SCOPE in.

Z 8:21 AM  

@ERDRCR - I found this which suggests the clue must be in error. Interesting that the link uses the exact same count of STEPS, but is clearer about the STEPS being just the ones along a marathon route. Wikipedia had nothing about the number of stairs, but did mention that the Great Wall is in disrepair once one gets away from the touristy areas.

Chaiminded 8:23 AM  

"Accomodations" is plural (3D) PUPTENT is singular.

Greg in Sanibel 8:25 AM  

The problem with the Great Wall clue is terrible editing: they left out the word “marathon”. The section used for the annual Great Wall Marathon has 5164 steps. The wall itself obviously has hundreds of thousands more.

amyyanni 8:26 AM  

Veterans Day. @Pete, while I learned about Bataan in school, delved into it when considering the Bataan Death March Marathon, held in March in New Mexico. Survivors used to be honored at the race, which is tough, but nothing like the actual Death March.
Agree with Rex about bitcoin. Thought Captcha was a bit of a marquee entry up there at 1A.
Also did not know a Cartwheel is a hat. Probably too intent on watching Gene Kelly dancing (see picture Rex posted); am a huge fan.
Definitely got my money's worth today. It was a 'leisurely' solve.

Whatsername 8:32 AM  

TELECON took me back to my days in the federal bureaucracy where the old joke was, the “buts” will always get you. “She’s a good employee but ….” This was a fun puzzle but it came close to becoming a LASER aimed at Nancy’s Wall. Lovely aha moment when I saw the trick but a tough one to crack up to that point. Great theme but that NW corner was awful. CAPTCHA is cutting edge but never heard of CASH CAB. Learning that cartwheels are HATS was awesome but AQUARIA made me queasy.

But … was it a pleasant, enjoyable Thursday with a nice little twist to the usual trickery? I GUESS SO.

Except that nobody - and I MEAN NObody - ever said “I need a fresh drink. The ICE in this one has melted and now it’s AQUEOUS.”

Frantic Sloth 9:10 AM  

Well, it's the Thursdee. Shenanigans reign supreme.

Against all reason, I enjoyed this one - once I figured out what was happening. (Quite proud of that minor accomplishment, I confess)
Another marvel of constructioneering that just manages to tippy-toe on the fine line between a challenging (fun) solve and @Nancy's wall.

Likewise, the cluing toed that same line between clever and needy, coming down to alight on just this side of clever. Inches.

I liked the clues for:

1A CAPTCHA (A Test of one's humanity?)
47A CLONES (Double figures?)
24A ENDOW (Back in college?) - added bonus for this and the other themers for their peek-a-booing.
Ditto: 50A THAW (Change states, perhaps?)

Question marks are superfluous, but that might be another line-straddled because it's just a Thursdee? I don't know, but they didn't bother me that much. Except in a gnatty kind of way after going through the midpoint of my solve and sensing that prickly sensation of a subtle, unidentifiable, repetitive annoyance.

Or whatever I mean. This one will live in my "plus" column.

***Footnote of "Who Cares?" Alert***
Because I don't understand it and fear I never shall, cryptocurrency is my personal anti-Christ. BITCOIN and its ilk can take a long walk off a short pier or go lemming off a cliff or the like. I don't even know how to exchange my 2¢, but there it is.


Anonymous 9:22 AM  

Aren't they using TEE twice? Also what is COR?

TJS 9:24 AM  

Oh boy, a gimmick puzzle...

Best moment of the day so far was contemplating the black and white shot of Mitchum and the babe. Is that Sydney Greenstreet lurking in the door way ? Anyone know the name of the movie. I'm all in.

Kid Phoneme 9:25 AM  

Got the theme without too much trouble, though I never grokked the NESW bit in the middle.

Got a bit of a foothold in the NW, but decided it was time to call it when I filled in Aquaria, and saw the only cross that could really work for 15A was Aqua-something and decided this puzzle was either way over my head or not worth it. I'm Sad I didn't get Captcha though. It's always sad to fail a captcha.

Rich Glauber 9:26 AM  

Excellent puzzle, Needed the reveal to figure out what was going on, and it was just the way a Thursday is supposed to be. The trip from getting slight traction to understanding the trick, then filling in the rest.... along with lots of clever cluing. This one goes into the running for 'puzzle of the year'

Bob C 9:48 AM  

A whole story in the middle. ADEN EATS SLAW, SOBS.

Suzy 9:49 AM  

Rex, you’ve definitely been outvoted on this one. You sound like a bit of a pedant today, carping away just because… well, why?
This is a gorgeous grid and a very fun solve. Captcha alone was worth the price of admission! Thank you, Mr Machlachlan!

JD 9:54 AM  

It didn't take long to figure out that it was a hidden letter challenge. What continued to confuse me was the theme, until I got Alpss, Slosers, & Scasa and realized it was Swiss law firms. The compass roses at the end were a nice touch. Apparently, they represent the directionally challenged.

Actually I got it at Salon and Satin, noticing the S N pattern and thinking oh yeah.

The NW corner was brutal. The kids used to watch Cash Cab, the POC Super Gs fit, and Pup Tent went in when I accepted that you are never shown to your Accommodation. But the rest, oof.

I did like the argument "I Mean No" with the responding "Guess So." Been on both sides of that exchange at various times.

@ZΓΏ, I agree with your "dead" complaint at the point where there are better alternatives that would appeal to all or at least a couple generations. Johnny Carson's Birthplace. How many Boomers know this bit of trivia and is there nothing else that could be said about Iowa? Corny Place? Home of Pappajohn Sculpture Park? Same with Fats Domino. Ain't. False Contraction. No need to bother Fats. Thanks for the milk shakes. Never thought of adding booze.

Carola 9:55 AM  

Tough and fun. Finding the NW impenetrable, I started out in the NE with BITCOIN; that got me the crossing TEE with its missing N, followed by the E-less (E)ARL crossing ON STAGE. There I had two of my COMPASS points, except that I mistakenly interpreted them as the first two letters of NEWS....but why was the W out of place in the rotational order? It took a while for the penny to drop. Understanding where the Ws went is what saved me in the NW, with CREW providing enough to open up that quadrant. Bottom half - lots faster but no less enjoyable to figure out. The reveal surprised me a bit, too, as I'd been thinking "weathervane." SUPER Thursday, I thought.

Do-over: A guess at TeSsa before TASHA. No idea: That cartwheels could be hats.

Frantic Sloth 9:59 AM  

@Pete 753am πŸ‘ BATAAN "It's beyond reason that people don't know it, yet unreasonable to expect them to know it."

@Z Re: skewing dead. So what? There are many more dead people than living people. Especially historical figures. "Recently" dead PPPPeople are usually noteworthy, so again, what of it?
To answer your question, I never saw the clue for HATS, but would not know it if I had. Big surprise, that.

Great. Great Wall wall of questions and comments. My first and only interpretation of that clue was stair steps. As in, stairs are intermittently needed because the terrain on which it is built is not flat. The rest (most) of the time, they're not needed. But, maybe I'm - perish the thought - wrong. 🀷‍♀️

CASHCAB was one of those shows that people I knew thought was hilarious. Inexplicably, I'm still friends with some of these people.

Diane Joan 10:00 AM  

This was one of those rare times when I would have found it easier to solve this puzzle with pen or pencil on paper instead of electronic media. It was clever and I enjoyed it, even if I had to imagine the letters in the black squares each time.

This day has special meaning to me as my father was a WWII veteran and my brother is a Vietnam vet. I'd like to send a sincere thank you to all of you who served.

Hartley70 10:00 AM  

Fantastic!! It took me too long to see the theme and even then I had to concentrate to complete the fill. I found the fill fresh and interesting, CAPTCHA and BITCOIN and those darling dancing RAISINS. This is just what I want on a Thursday and the online solve experience was enriched by the images of the black and white compasses with the red points.

Georgia 10:01 AM  

Me too.

Georgia 10:05 AM  

From googling: "How many steps to climb the Great Wall of China? The Great Wall is 21,196 kilometers in total. And it's almost over 30 million steps to climb the whole sections of the Great Wall. But don't worry, most travelers just experience about 3-hour hiking for 4-6 kilometers, which is about 5,000 steps." (So, badly researched clue).

Frantic Sloth 10:10 AM  

@TJS 924am Out of the Past, also starring Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas. I don't know the man in the door, but it's not Sydney Greenstreet. Only know this because of Eddie Muller's Noir Alley on TCM.

Georgia 10:11 AM  

Tee ends in N for North in that black square (each black cross is a compass). So TEEN. Same with Cor, it's CORN when you add the N from the North side of that "compass."

bocamp 10:23 AM  

@Diane Joan (10:00 AM)

Thank you! :)

td pg -2 (timed out)

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

Unknown 10:25 AM  

A joy. Crunchy Thursday.
Maybe a few too many proper names, but I'm no pedant.
I think rex needs to take up a new hobby.
It's obvious he's just looking for any excuse to dis the NYT (or Mr. Shortz).
I often wonder if there was a man crush that went unreciprocated, and we get to read the aftermath.

I thought "steps" referred to the "steps" of a staircase?

Anonymous 10:33 AM  

Hey All !
Let me start with the positives. Tough grid to fill. Every corner is three Across 7's crossing three Down 7's. Then, Mark kept the Blockers count to a minimum, 37, But, 16 of them were part of the theme, so you have to act like they aren't there. So technically there's only 21. THEN, he had to work around Five (5!) locked in NESW quadrants, AND still make coherent entries with tons of space to fill. Wow! So, bravo for the construction, and sympathy for your lost hair from being torn out whilst construction.

Now, the not so positives, what's up with the "?" clues on some of the Themers? Like Back in college?, e.g. Tough enough to imagine (well, for my poor brain) the letters there, then you throw a "?" clue at me. And Holy CORN, that NW corner destroyed me. SUPER GS?? What in the Wide World of Sports* is that? With AQUARIA very tricksy/vaguely clued, CASHCAB which if you never heard of would be nigh impossible (I actually used to watch it!), HUGH if you don't think Bart-ly, HATS as clued. To borrow a Rex-ism, blrggg.

*Line from Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" for you youngsters.

Beside the epic NE fail, also got ONSTAGE wrong. Had ONScAlE, unsure why I thought that was correct. Which got me ScUD for STUD, and AlEE for AGEE. Oops.

Great construction, weird solve.

Did get a good laugh from Rex's "TOAT". Bag for carrying ones oats. I love funny Rex!

No F's (SOBS)

Frantic Sloth 10:33 AM  

A cursory search for Great Wall answers made my head explode, but not before I learned that my interpretation is full of beans.
Gravestone inscription:
"She died as she lived: Stupid"

RooMonster 10:34 AM  

Holy cow, Blogger wouldn't let me post under RooMonster. Didn't want to lose my post, lest I deprive y'all of my wit. πŸ˜†
See what happens now...

mathgent 10:35 AM  

For those who are new to the blog: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."

As Lewis and Trey have pointed out, no threes in the grid. There are twelve slots of length three, but they become four- or five-letter words with the letters in the black squares. Lewis, who knows my extreme dislike for Terrible Threes, once cited a puzzle with no threes, I think, but I had never seen one before.

Wonderful job by Mister MacLachian. Excellent theme, expertly executed, crunchy and sparkly.

Fantastic clue for CAPTCHA at 1A.

GILL I. 10:36 AM  

Ay Dios Mio...or as they say at the HAT SN MEAT SN STUD restaurant...Holy Macaroni without cheese!
I'm very happy for the Mensa crowd who got this. I didn't.
But where did you go wrong? you ask. If an AQUEOUS CAPTCHA BIT me in my SUPERGS, I'd be doing cartwheels with my HAT and maybe some handsome STUD. But guess what? It didn't happen.
Yeah, I got the COMPASS thing, but that's about all.
I feel dumb.

@Joe D from late last night...HAH1. I never had a Bette Davis slam down but I did have a waitress throw some napkins at me moment. I was very polite when I asked her. I guess she was appalled at the BBQ sauce running down my face.

jae 10:40 AM  

Tough. Not only was the theme tough to sort out but cartwheel as a type of HAT was a major WOE. Plus I had meSA before CASA. Tricky and fun, liked it.

Newboy 10:41 AM  

Nicely played Mark. You had me unmanned at CAPTCHA, a word I’ve seen as often as Rex has this theme….unfortunately, I never paid attention to its spelling while checking all the images of trees, bridges, crosswalks, etc. didn’t much help when I entered law(N) at 5down after grokking your cleaver theme. ELBOW & ENDOW were greatly appreciated finds as was having the TITANIC running over the ICE found at the North Pole of your COMPASS! Cute as a Bart phone prank.

Nancy 10:42 AM  

Wonderfully challenging, both in the theme and in the cluing. How good is CAPTCHA??!! It was almost my last answer in -- and I got it only after cheating on the pop culture clue for HUGH.

I didn't want to cheat, but the puzzle was too good not to. I had the theme by that point, along with everything but the very difficult NW corner. HUGH confirmed that my ?U?H was correct, that cartwheels were HATS (who knew?), that staff was CRE(W), that my initial AQUARIA/AQUEOUS were right. I hate those clues that give you the years that Olympic events are added to the mix (SUPERGS). Who can remember what years different events are added?

Nor have I ever heard of CASH CAB or TASHA. That's a lot of pop culture names in the NW. But those, plus HUGH, did succeed in making the puzzle crunchier for me, if not for you.

Only nit: The PUP TENT clue shouldn't have been the plural "accommodations". "Accommodation" would have been fairer and more accurate.

A sparkling Thursday in which I both "suffered" and actually suffered -- but my fierce determination was rewarded in the end. Not with a solve, but with a "solve". (Because of my HUGH cheat, natch.)

JD 10:44 AM  

@Frantic, There are more dead people than living people πŸ˜€. Great Wall ... I thought it referred to stairs and with that thought accepted that you wouldn't want to build too many because invaders would just run up the Steps. Applying flawed logic to get the right answer. It's a gift.

I forgot to hate on the Hat clue. Who knows that?

@Bob C, See grinning face above!

PhotoAde 10:45 AM  

Loved this puzzle. Even after getting the theme, it still felt a little mental gymnastics-y (look it up) to keep track of which black square became NESWs and in which direction. NW section was the last to fall and with many white squares remaining, finally caved and looked up BATAAN, and the B gave us CASHCAB and the rest fell into place. Loved CAPTCHA, very clever and very hard. Never heard of a Cartwheel HAT. Great puzzle!

JC66 10:48 AM  

This puzzle kicked my Jass.

Versifier 10:53 AM  

Can't let go of Tuesday's special guest.

Ogden Nash stimulated laughs belly
While he lived out his life in a deli
How else to explain how and why
He died by coleslaw and was born in Rye.

Malsdemare 10:59 AM  

What @Joaquin said at 6:17.

Crackblind 11:01 AM  

I enjoyed this one. Somehow I never actually caught that the cardinal point letters existed in the plus signs, I just thought that the locations of the threes determined what letter to add (W in the west, N in the north, etc.) to make four letter words and for some reason the cardinal letters were flipped when making the five letter words.

Nice to see the puzzle use misdirection to get a naughty word into it (HUGH Jass). Reminds me of TV shows doing the same, MILF Island being both the most creative and possibly the most egregious example.

Rex's mention of the Allman Brothers remind need me of this classic SNL sketch that's stuck with me lo these 45 years.

Whatsername 11:10 AM  

A bit tardy, but I wanted to wish a pleasant and peaceful Veterans Day to all who served.

jberg 11:25 AM  

cI saw with (E)ARL that I had to add letters, but no idea how to pick the letters until I got to COMPASS. After that, as Rex said, it was pretty easy -- except that I'd never heard of CASHCAB. I actually tried tAxiCAB, but couldn't accept xUPERGS. Nice struggle, generally.

Anonymous 11:28 AM  

Not a fan of this one. Once again, in an effort to "modernize" crosswords, we are now imputing letters into the black squares. Why not design an all-black puzzle?? Call me old-fashioned, but there is one letter per white square. /end rant.

EzMer 11:29 AM  

Would someone please explain to me how "Pup Tent" singular satisfies 3 down Accommodations ... plural?

The Dusty Mongol 11:32 AM  

Did someone say "steppes"?

LuisaT 11:40 AM  

SUPERGS is not a plural, it is a ski term that stands for Super Grand Slalom. Different from a regular slalom ski race, as the gates are spaced much farther apart on the course.

Hats off! To all veterans today and every day. Thank you for your service.

Masked and Anonymous 11:44 AM  

Different and feisty. Great, funky puzgrid. Liked it.
Like most folks, had some initial troubles, "following the directions".
And, man, did I *ever* have troubles in the COR&N/CRE&W(N/W) area. No idea on CASHCAB or HATS. And them clues for CAPTCHA & AQUARIA didn't help much, too boot.

staff weeject pick: Well, the weejects actually all ended up bein longer answers, due to the puztheme mcguffin. I'll go with pretender to the throne TEE, since it weirdly had a nearby legit TEES neighbor.

Got most my early solvequest successes in the ASSET/TIERRA/ROMANIA area. Plus, got AINT and TEES off nuthin, but not much immediately around either of em.

ASSET's {It's on the plus side} clue was kinda ironic, given them two giant black pluses that it was cuddlin up right next to. Hugh-Jass Cool.

Thanx for the fun, Mr. MacLachlan dude. Primo puzgrid layout.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


Anonymous 11:47 AM  

FWIW, SUPERGS is not plural. It's short for Super Giant Slalom and is pronounced Super "Gee Ess".

jb129 11:53 AM  

I got compass & NSEW but no matter how I tried, couldn't finish. Congrats to all who did.

Z 12:01 PM  

@Frantic Sloth - @JD said it better than me. Indeed, all the people in the puzzle could be dead and I wouldn’t notice if there were modern PPP in the puzzle. There’s always the risk of confirmation bias, but I’ve never done a New Yorker, Fireball, Croce, Inkubator, Tough As Nails, Gorski, BEQ, LATX, or USA Today puzzle and felt like the Dementors have sucked everything living out of the puzzle the way I have on occasion with the NYTX. Even this week I might not have noticed if not for the vociferous Nash Love. It was somewhere around the 314th “how can you not have heard of this guy who has been dead 50 years” comment that I noticed that everyone in the puzzle and clues was also dead. Johnny Carson yesterday was just the cherry on top of the Dead Milk Shake (made with Cherry Garcia Ice Cream, of course).

Frantic Sloth 12:05 PM  

@Anonymous 1147am I've only ever heard it referred to as the "Super G", not "Super G S". And besides, the clue is plural: events, so one assumes the answer corresponds. Like accommodations. πŸ˜‰

Anoa Bob 12:05 PM  

One person's thoughtful, incisive critique is another person's whining, PEDANTic nitpicking.

This old vet (USN 1964-1970) noticed that today's online Los Angeles Times and Washington Post had front page articles relating to Veterans' Day while the New York Times didn't. Is BATAAN the extent of the NYT observation? I GUESS SO. The BATAAN Death March is one of most horrific, unbelievably cruel WWII events that show why war is truly Hell. If you are unfamiliar with the details of it, I recommend that you keep it that way. Believe me, you don't want to know.

Z 12:11 PM  

@EzMer - Because “accommodations” can refer to a singular thing. “What were your accommodations on your vacation?” “We shared a hotel room.” Or “I slept in a PUP TENT to get away from the kids. The kids’ accommodations were the spacious yurt.” Why does “accommodations” refer to a singular place? Because English.

Slow Motion 12:12 PM  

True, but anybody who has taken high school chemistry knows that when you dissolve something in water you get an aqueous solution. So I’m fine with the WATERY = AQUEOUS clue.

LuisaT 12:13 PM  

@Anonymous 11:47am, I stand corrected.

albatross shell 12:16 PM  

THE NW was the a killer. Had cUrling for SUPERGS (stupid pkural) and resisted PUPTENT (my only sure reason to abandon the nearly correct answer) because it wasn't plural. How would you answer the clue Accommodation on a scouting trip? PUPTENTS? Hi, @Nancy.

And then STEPS I did put in and thought maybe number of stair cases up the wall? (Hi @Z and thanks for the probable real, mis-edited I guess, reason for the answer.)

I cheated to get CAPTCHA and finished from there.

The other 3/4 of the puzzle was great. Hard until I got the reveal. And even the NW has some good stuff.

And the grid is beautiful. The black squares easy to count. 25 + 12 = 37 and with wide open spaces, no true 3s and a fine Thursday gimmick.

So put me in @Joaquin's PUPTENT, nits, AQUARIAxAQUEOUS and all.

I almost feel like I should apologize for forcing you into pedantic mode, but it is occasionally more informative and you do it well.
I found some of that milkshake stuff too but didn't get back to post. Mine was more New England and Rhode Island specific. Cabinet was a term for milkshake I never knew. I think RI was credited for that one. Saturday clue: Milkshake = CABINET? I did not even know milkshake as milk shaken with syrup, sugar, powder or whatever. And ice making it somehow extra thick. How does that happen?
Friendly's milkshakes were made with ice cream by the 1940's. Now Boston cooler I know. Egg cream too but never liked that one. I remember we once got into malts v. milkshakes here too.

Frantic Sloth 12:21 PM  

@Z 1201pm First of all, @JD says nothing better than anybody. (She must take after you in this regard 😘)
Oh, I kid @JD! ❤️
Secondly, she did say it better and I get your point. But too often the long-dead excuse is used by those who just don't appreciate history. The "it's before my time"-ers who seem to think that life began when they did. Ogden Nash might not be everybody's cuppa, but he's famous enough to be known by a majority of Americans, let alone a professor of English.
If you asked me offhand where Johnny Carson was born, I wouldn't know*, but the answer was inferable. Yes, there are other ways to clue IOWA, but so what? There are other ways to clue just about everything - easy for some, not for others...and on and on and on. It's just a non-issue, IMHO.

*I always thought it was Nebraska

albatross shell 12:22 PM  

You were old-fashioned when old-fashioned was new. Not there is anything wrong with that.

Z 12:25 PM  

@LuisaT and @Anon11:47 - I’ve never heard it called anything but SUPER G. Even the IOC lists it as SUPER G. The use of “events” in the clue also clearly signals the poor POC.

Joseph Michael 12:28 PM  

This puzzling puzzle made me feel like a HUGH JASS until I finally got the trick. Even then it was a LOTT for my morning brain to keep track of which words bleed into the plus signs and which don’t. But a hearty workout overall with lots of great clues along the way, especially the one for CAPTCHA. Also liked ICE under the TITANIC.

My biggest woe was that NW corner with CASHCAB crossing BATAAN crossing TASHA. Uggs.

Are *many* paper handouts really STAPLED? Most of the ones I’ve seen are single sheets, like the one advertising the used GAS HOG for sale. Also have to say that RAISINS is not what comes to mind when I think about California.

Cool that there are no three-letter words in the grid. First time I’ve ever seen that

albatross shell 12:29 PM  

English maybe.
Crossword etiquette, no.

hankster65 12:29 PM  

I super loved this one! Very clever and lots of fun. Took me a full hour and 3 minutes but enjoyed it all.

mathgent 12:33 PM  

My favorite posts this morning.

Lewis (7:08)
Trey (7:24)
whatsername (8:32)
Suzy (9:48)
Georgia (10:05)
versifier (10:53)

Unknown 12:34 PM  

SUPERGS can be a in Super Giant Slalom, although it's usually referred to as SUPERG

Maybe . . . 12:37 PM  

Once in a while, Rex really cracks me up. He complains that for a "compass-based" theme, "it's just the old NESW thing again".
What kind of originality was he looking for? New names for the directions? Compass with different angles? A 3-D compass?
A compass-based theme has certain limitations. All thematic crossword puzzles by definition have limitations. Otherwise, they're themeless.

Unknown 12:42 PM  

A Super G can refer a single to a single race (“I lost the Super G at Vail”), and thus can be pluralized (“I won the Super Gs at Squaw and Chamonix”). Not so for the other examples (can’t say “I won both wrestlings”).
Was still mystified by the Great Wall clue, thinking that if your stride is a slightly long 3 feet, 5100 odd steps would be under 3 miles, not a marathon. But looking it up, it refers to the number of VERTICAL steps (i. e. Stair steps) in the Great Wall Marathon. Agree, terrible clueing.
ACCOMODATIONS can refer to a single room (or tent): on checkout, the clerk asked “How did you find your ACCOMODATIONS, sir?” (“Easily, they put numbers on the doors”).
The joy of a bad memory is that, unlike Rex< I found the theme new and quite enjoyable; it allows for a lot of theme answers in a weekday grid.

Z 12:46 PM  

@Frantic Sloth - Well, at least we agree about SUPER G’S. πŸ‘πŸ½πŸ‘πŸ½πŸ‘πŸ½πŸ€£πŸ€£
Seriously, I mostly agree with you. But if anyone is going to over do the dead and forget that we are now in the third decade of the 21st century, it is the NYTX.

@albatross shell - I’m trying to fathom the concept of being forced to be pedantic… πŸ€£πŸ˜‚πŸ€£
As for “accommodations” I had to squinch to see how it works, too. But then I thought “nice one.” I love it when the cluer uses an idiosyncrasy of the language to fool us solvers.

Frantic Sloth 12:51 PM  

@Maybe 1237pm A compass with more character development.

old timer 12:51 PM  

I got the central cross right away with ADEN, SLAW, etc. Took a while to realize that the four black-square crosses worked the same way. Tne one answer I adored was CAPTCHA, clearly a nod to the folks on this blog. Here is the only place I ever see it. (Fortunately if I post here often enough, CAPTCHA recognizes my computer and gives me a free pass, without IDing crosswalks.)

SUPERGS was my last entry, and seeing a plural form strikes me as odd. Will we have luges and downhills and icedancings next?

Other than that, I felt the cluing was too easy. I do like to see LOSER though -- makes me think of one of my favorite Beatles songs from long ago.

Anonymous 12:58 PM  

"bygone game show"? from the 50s or 60s, sure, but this one (goes to the wiki...) ran/runs until, at least, 2020.

Wanderlust 1:05 PM  

Great puzzle; hard because of the NW, where I struggled for a long time to finish. I had a lot of nothing until I got to the revealer, and then (as Rex said) it got pretty easy. But all I had in the NW were CRE(W), AIN’T and BATAAN. Got PUP TENT and ASSENT and … nothing. Finally saw AQUARIA, and then made it through. No complaints about the corner, really — I loved the clues for AQUARIA and CAPTCHA, and the others were difficult but fair. Never heard of CASH CAB or cartwheel HATS but I like the image of the latter. And I could not wait to find out what covers 90+ million acres of the US. That is the other kind of clue I love - learning some obscure factoid that I can drop at a party to dazzle my friends. (Don’t listen to them; they really are dazzled even if they won’t admit it.)

I disagree with the PEDANTry about accommodations. That is the word we always use for a place to stay. Would you say, “I was looking for accommodation in Antarctica and I found the most charming B&B”? You would probably use the plural. “What were your accommodations on the camping trip?” Sounds right as plural even when the answer - “ a pup tent” - is singular. As a regular camper, I have never heard PUP TENT used since I was a Cub Scout and Webelo. Did not last in Boy Scouts - the military feel turned me off.

Joe Dipinto 1:15 PM  

@TJS 9:24 – More movie trivia for you: "Out Of The Past" was loosely remade in 1984 as "Against All Odds" with Jeff Bridges, Rachel Ward and James Woods (Phil Collins had a hit with the theme song). Jane Greer is in it too, playing her original character's (i.e. Rachel Ward's) mother.

My takeaway from this puzzle: learning that that style of hat was called a cartwheel.

Title for this puzzle:
I Got The NWES

Anonymous 1:27 PM  

Many of the pix of the Great Wall, crowded with tourists of course, show the walkway atop the Wall as flat, i.e. ramping up and down, not with steps. So I had no complaint. As to whether it's really 13,000 miles long...

Teedmn 1:34 PM  

The theme itself was easy for me to discern - similar to @Lewis, I got the N of ADEN, went left for SLAW and splatzed in the S and E. Soon after that, I got TEE[N] in the NE and splatzed in the NEWS in the other plus signs.

This was a relief because I was hating on the clue for 24A. I had thrown in eDu as the "back" of a college email address and had put a big black X next to the clue as a mark of my dislike. But then, why was BIG TOP not working, with that U in place? Theme to the rescue, and I was able to scratch out my black X because ENDOW was clued just fine.

I join @Nancy, @M&A and anyone else who was held up in the NW. I did not cheat on 6D; I threw up my hands, shrugged and tossed in HUsH figuring it was wrong. HUGH makes sense. HUsH doesn't. But I didn't bother to run the alphabet. The only reason I didn't have a completely blank NW was because I finally figured out what four-letter word ending with N was covering 90 million acres. Ironic, considering there was a corn field behind the house where I grew up (well, sometimes it was soy beans but...)

Mark MacLachlan, thanks for creating a brand new way to make my head spin! It was fun.

Anonymous 1:42 PM  

well, at least it wasn't a 'true' rebus. thank Someone for small favours.

bocamp 1:43 PM  

@Whatsername (11:10 AM) / @LuisaT (11:40 AM)

Thank you! :)

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

pabloinnh 2:43 PM  

I would say, wow, Mikaela Shiffrin has won a lot of SUPERGS !

I would only say that because around here we claim her as a local. Also, she's an amazing skier.

okanaganer 3:16 PM  

What an eerie feeling... I just last night watched Out of the Past, with Jane Greer wearing that hat. And there it is in the middle of Rex's write up!

The puzzle was horribly difficult until I hit the revealer, then it was pretty easy.

[Spelling Bee: yd pg -1; I stupidly missed this word, even though I got the "-ed" past tense version. Doh!]

Krytikal 3:20 PM  

Awesome puzzle. A feat of construction that was also fun to solve. Loved.

floatingboy 3:36 PM  

I actually liked it pretty well for a Thursday (my least favorite day) except for the huge puddle of puke in the NW corner.

SkiRush 3:48 PM  

The plural of SUPER GS is justifiable when you consider there are two SUPER G competitions at the Olympics: men's and women's.

TTrimble 3:57 PM  

We're still talking about yesterday? OTIS (Redding) was super-easy; he and the even deader Otis of Otis Elevators are arguably, by a long chalk, the most recognizable Otises around. Then, there's only one four-letter state beginning with I, and that's IOWA. From the perspective of puzzle-solving, it doesn't make the slightest difference whether Carson is alive or dead or even if you've never heard of him. You could have clued it as "one of the fifty states" and (given OTIS, or indeed any correct cross) the answer is still virtually instantly obvious.

So whether the NYTXW skews old or not, or is sufficiently inclusive or not, seems particularly irrelevant for this particular case. There must be more compelling examples where the alleged skewing-old is actually problematic* because it prevents some segment of the population from solving the puzzle.

Today's puzzle was fun. I GoT A TIP from the fact that N, S, E, W in the center were uncrossed, and pretty soon after, having my attention drawn to the "plus signs" by the revealer, the orders were clear. The puzzle design is clean and neat. The solve not sloggy at all.

I'm really *not* a trivia guy**. So CASH CAB was never so much hilarious to me as it was discomfiting, the idea that one day I might hail a cab in NYC and find myself in the clutches of the CASH CAB, where I don't think my pride would allow me to say 'no' to the proceedings, but I'd worry about performing any better than embarrassingly. Ignoramus, IgnorabIMUS: these words apply.

(I kinda thought Rex would have words to say about IMUS, a dead white male who would often revel in political incorrectness. A schmuck, IMO.)

Agree with Rex: BITCOIN is a net bad. It's not the "bro" that's worrisome to me as much as the criminal abuse, and the climate change exacerbating, stupendous expenditure of energy for ... "proof of work", whose value seems highly debatable. (Doesn't mean I think it should be expunged from XWs.)

yd 0
td 0

*My relative ignorance of the oeuvre of dead white male Ogden Nash -- I only remember "Candy is dandy / But liquor is quicker" -- was not in the least an impediment. All you really had to do in the puzzle is follow the rhythm. Trivia knowledge was here a dispensable luxury.

Oh, and I guess that I remain to be absolutely convinced that the NYTXW really does "skew old". There is enough that is new-fangled in it that I am confounded on a fairly regular basis.

**Although I'm not a trivia guy, I reckon that I *am* a puzzle solver.

Nancy 4:04 PM  

@Frantic (12:21)-- You're confusing your late night TV hosts. It's , not Johnny, who was born in Nebraska.

@Z and others -- I don't understand the whole "but they're all dead" thing. It's how famous you are, not how dead you are that makes you puzzle-worthy.

The argument kind of reminds me of Kaufman and Hart's wonderful line: "She lived to be 103 and when she'd been dead three days, she looked better than you do now."

Richardf8 4:19 PM  

SUPERGS made so little sense to me as a plural that I just figured the S stood for Slalom and went on with it.

Douglas 4:47 PM  

I wouldn’t say Bataan is a Natick - sight of the infamous Bataan death march and one of the most recognizable sites of World War II.

Anoa Bob 5:11 PM  

Hey, looks like the NYT has put up a couple of Veterans' Day articles. One noted that this is the first one in over two decades when we weren't in a war. With the ignominious Vietnam and Afghanistan defeats in our rear view mirror, maybe it will be at least two decades before our next one.

Smith 5:14 PM  

Whew, hard for me! Even after I "saw" the hidden letter trick. mAnila before BATAAN. CASHCAB???

Nancy 5:21 PM  

What made Dick Cavett disappear from my 4:04 post? Anyway, it's Cavett, not Johnny Carson, who's from Nebraska.

Smith 5:28 PM  

Hey @Roo this morning

Same thing happened to me a few days ago. No idea why. The about 30 min later it was back to normal πŸ€”

pabloinnh 6:50 PM  


pinnh, master of understatement.

Anonymous 7:30 PM  

I us was awesome.

Anonymous 8:23 PM  

Anyone who doesn't know about the Bataan Death March should look it up.

Anonymous 9:11 PM  

HOORAY! I finished a Thursday (they are my nemesis - usually tougher for me than Fri or Sat) But... I have to agree that i slogged through it in not a great time. Once I go the theme I did a bit better.

I work at an anachronistic, bureaucratic gov't contractor and TELECON is still a much used word. Of course, so is FAX (for those under 40 that is a machine that sends images of documents over the phone line. And, a phone line is the way people talked to each other before cell phones.)

Anonymous 9:19 PM  

BTW...CASHCAB with Ben Bailey won three daytime Emmys for best game show, and another three for best game show host, so far more familiar than some of the minutiae that frequents the NYTCW (e.g., Tasha who??)

Dyslexic Solver 9:24 PM  

Are you a Philly person?

Emily Thall 9:55 PM  

Telecom is absurd. Never has been a word. And I’m on conference calls all day.

Tim Carey 10:50 PM  

Brutal. It's almost 11:00 PM and I've been at it off and on for four hours. Figured out that letters needed to go in the black squares, but didn't have enough of them to know NESW were the letters everywhere. Less than 50% solved. Complaints: CAPTCHA, SUPRERGS. But, the whole west side us mostly blank. Wow. I am humbled.

chefwen 1:47 AM  

Anonymous @ 11:36 - Stuff it! @Frantic is one of the funniest, amusing and interestingly commenters on this blog.

Anonymous 1:53 PM  

I've never seen that Tyler Perry movie but I like seeing my name randomly in a crossword! So, good job, Mark!

Unknown 4:05 PM  


kitshef 4:53 PM  

Puzzle of the year for me, and sorry to have missed the real-time commentary.

TELECON is used, if not daily, as least twice a week where I work.

HUGH was my entry (sorry, Nancy).

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