Horror director Aster / SUN 11-28-21 / Model featured on many romance novel covers / Banh mi toppings / Name for zinc sulfide that is one letter short of a kitchen appliance / Hebrew letter between kaf and mem

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Constructor: Jeff Kremer

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Garage Sale Pitches — sales pitch phrases clued as if they referred literally and specifically to items you might buy at a garage sale:

Theme answers:
  • "CAN'T TURN THAT DOWN!" (23A: "TV, volume knob broken, only $10!") (you can't turn it down because the knob is broken)
  • "DROP EVERYTHING!" (43A: "Baseball mitt, has a small hole, just $1!") (you will drop everything you try to catch with this holey mitt)
  • "NO STRINGS ATTACHED!" (68A: "Guitar, never used, $15!") (this one makes no sense—a never used guitar would still have strings ... but whatever, just roll with it)
  • "LIMITED EDITION!" (91A: "Textbook, a few pages torn out, $2!") (you can't read the whole edition because of the missing pages, so it's a limited edition)
  • "ROCK-BOTTOM PRICES!" (114A: "Two fish tanks, accessories included, $5!") (the rock bottom comes with the tank, as does the deep-sea diver and the grotto with the treasure chest, probably)
  • DOOR-BUSTER DEAL (16D: "Prop ax used in 'The Shining,' a valuable collectors' item, $200") (a deal on a literal door-buster) (that ax sold for £170,000 at auction two years ago, btw)
  • "BUY NOW, PAY LATER"  (51D: "Wallet, in good condition, plenty of card slots, $5!") (er ... uh ... see below)
Word of the Day: ARI Aster (37D: Horror director Aster) —
Ari Aster (born July 15, 1986) is an American film director and screenwriter known for Hereditary (2018) and Midsommar (2019). (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow, this theme has no idea what it's doing. All over the map. Just spraying bullets. First, well, these are advertised as "pitches" but only some of them are. "DOORBUSTER DEAL" is not a "pitch," it's a concept. You might use it in advertising, but it's not a thing a salesperson would say, and it's especially not something you'd say at a "garage sale," where for starters there is no "door" to speak of except maybe a garage door but ... anyway, it's just wrong. Contextually wrong. Speaking of things you wouldn't say at a garage sale (ever, and I mean ever): "BUY NOW, PAY LATER!" You've solved enough puzzles to know that the only phrase associated with garage sale wares is AS IS. The idea that you could pay on the installment plan, what? Further, the clue on "BUY NOW, PAY LATER!" is so awkward that I honestly didn't understand how it was supposed to "work." I asked Twitter and immediately got two *different* answers, so people are going to be misconstruing (or variously construing) that one all over the world, all day long, clearly. I think the idea is that the wallet has card slots where *credit* cards go, and that by buying this *magical* wallet, you can ... use your credit cards to ... purchase things ... on credit? Why the *number* of card slots would affect this, I don't know. "Buy this wallet and use your credit cards like you normally would!" is a hell of a pitch. What else? Oh, "DROP EVERYTHING!" has absolutely no relation to garage or any other kind of sales. It's just hanging out here like "hey, a phrase party cool," and the other phrases know he wasn't really invited but they really don't want to ask him to leave because then it would be a whole Thing so *here he is*, just lounging around the garage sale, no one knows why. "CAN'T TURN THAT DOWN!" has nowhere near the iconic, stand-alone phrase status that you need for a theme like this. "NO STRINGS ATTACHED!"—that's solid! A phrase we all recognize. Hear it all the time. "CAN'T TURN THAT DOWN!" cannot say the same. They have to be solid, real, plausible sales pitch phrases before you wackify them. Otherwise it's all just nonsense. Chaos. A MESS.

Do you know how awful AGE TEN is? Do you? How about BLENDE? (122A: Name for zinc sulfide that is one letter short of a kitchen appliance). LOL, BLENDE!? It's funny just typing it. Also, who can forget the timeless saying, "NO NEWS is good"? (96D: It's good, in a saying). Mwah. Nailed it. Moving on: LAMED!? (73D: Hebrew letter between kaf and mem) So I have to know the whooooollllle damned Hebrew alphabet now? KAF? MEM? Never seen those, for instance, but LAMED is fine? I get that you are trying to steer away from the yucky verb there, but how about just steer away from that specific 5-letter combination altogether? Yeeeeee-ikes and Yeesh. RESANG, again, hard LOL. Do you really, truly imagine that anyone, even his family, wants to remember the "acting F.B.I. director after James Comey was fired"?? Or any "acting F.B.I. director"? or any "acting" anything? or James Comey at all under any circumstances!?!? There are times when a puzzle is simply not *my* idea of a good time, and then (today, for instance) there are the times where I truly don't understand *whose* idea of a good time this can possibly be. AGE TEN!!? So it's just AGE ANY NUMBER now? Those low digits I was maybe kinda sorta willing to let you have, but double digits!? No. Permission denied. Now I'm laughing again because I re-ESPY'd BLENDE. And Lloyd BENTSEN!? We're just going full-on bygone bizarro politics now, I guess. "Dukakis and Comey, people will love remembering those guys!?" (Me: "GOD, NO"). 

No idea PATÉS were things that went on banh mi. I've had banh mi several times, but that topping option must've just missed me. Also no idea who ARI Aster is, but I think that's it in the Proper Noun Mystery Department today. Oh, "NARCOS," that took some doing (99D: Netflix crime drama starring Pedro Pascal). That whole corner was a little rough for me, since IT'S A PLANE had an awkward and ineffectual "?" clue on it (105A: Super wrong identification?), and I wanted RAZE (or RASE?) for 123A: Demolish (ROUT). Throw in my not watching or knowing the star of "NARCOS," and you've got a bit of a hairy situation, but YEASTY got me out of it OK. Terrible vague clue on IMPORTS (92D: Some beers), doubly terrible because it's doing that thing where it thinks it's being clever by copying the clue for another answer, for which it is actually appropriate (72D: Some beers = ALES). Had ASAMI before ASDOI because yes KEA LOA, ATON ALOT, even some letters in place, who the hell knows? 

I am very happy to announce that the American Values Club Crossword (AVCX), already the best indie subscription puzzle in existence, is now expanding to something close to a DAILY (!), with six or so puzzle offerings a week: themed and themeless crosswords, variety puzzles, cryptics, mini- and midi-puzzles, and a trivia game. This is a big move, a huge flex, involving four (!) new editorial teams. The talent pool is deep and wide, and includes some of my very favorite puzzle-makers, including Francis Heaney, Aimee Lucido, Brooke Husic, Christopher Adams, and more. The puzzles are gonna rule, the different editorial perspectives are gonna allow for all kinds of innovation and experimentation, and puzzle-makers will be paid *fairly*, far more in keeping with the money they generate than at any other outlet I know of. Here's the most relevant paragraph from the Kickstarter page:
AVCX has corralled four new, independently governed editing teams to deliver four new weekly features: one additional regular crossword (with an emphasis on themeless puzzles), one cryptic crossword, one or two midis (between 9x9 and 11x11), and a trivia game each weekend. These features will all be solvable on our new website interface (as well as via emailed files).
Seriously, this is the most ambitious move yet from an indie outlet, and I'm excited to see where it goes. Get on board! And while you're at it, why not give the puzzle-lover in your life not named "you" a subscription too? Go here to get all the details, and then subscribe subscribe subscribe. Take care,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joaquin 12:14 AM  

I don't care what @Rex says. Who cares if one themer is a "pitch" and another is a "concept"? Not me. I found this puzzle a bit harder than the usual Sunday and a whole lot more fun than the usual Sunday. Liked it a lot.

bocamp 12:21 AM  

Thx Jeff; delightful Sun, puz! :)


I rarely make it thru a Sun. puz without at least one typo somewhere. Happy to say, this one was an exception. Yay! :)

Top to bottom solve, with no hitches. Ended up on the LOIRE.

Remember to chalk your CUE Roo! 🎱

ECARDS are the way I go; haven't used snail mail in ages.

Overflew the Italian ALPS en route from Rome to Paris. Nice view of Mont Blanc along the way.

A most enjoyable solving experience! :)


Thx for the AVCX Kickstarter heads-up. Signed on for a year. :)

yd 0* (missed this one Fri.)
Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Marc Kwiatkowski 12:22 AM  

Totally in agreement with OFL here. Kept thinking the dollar values at the end of each themer clue would somehow clarify the answer. Nope! I know pitchblende (uranite) but never heard of BLENDE

okanaganer 12:39 AM  

The theme was okay, but everything else isn't. This is the dreaded Sunday where the solve is kind of a long slog, all those 3 and 4 letter words!! Ironically, LOW POINTS was kinda the high point for non theme answers.

Hand up for RAZE before ROUT. "Super wrong identification" was a bit funny.

If I google BLENDE I get: "Did you mean blender?" I wonder if that's where they got the clue from. I know the term from pitchblende; dunno where I've seen that.

[Spelling Bee: td (Sat.) 0.
My SB week, Sun. to Sat.: 0, 0, 0, -1, 0, 0*,0.
(* = last word entered in overtime, after midnight.)
Wed.: I missed this word, which is stupid cuz I have a Master's degree in architecture. Spandrel, quoin, corbel... I know all those terms, dang it.]

EdFromHackensack 1:00 AM  

Can someone explain the Home clue, 13D. At first I had Run. As in Home Run and Run Home. seemed reasonable . but wrong. I corrected it but I dont get it... ROW Home is a thing, but Home ROW? I am missing something. other than that I enjoyed the puzzle. Loved the clue for ITSAPLANE

Joe Dipinto 1:06 AM  

"Oh, yeah. You blende."

Well none of these are things you'd actually *say* at a garage sale. Is the constructor to blame for the puzzle title, or is that Shortz's call? I imagined the clues as being written down on little tags next to the items. The wallet one is admittedly a headscratcher, but the others are fine as far as I'm concerned. Slightly corny, but sort of amusing.

I wrote BANANA in for the dessert based on the "split" prompt, and then couldn't figure out if 27a was SODOI (change the dessert to SUNDAE), ASAMI (leave it as BANANA), or ASDOI (change it). We get yet another creative clue for OBOE and also ARI. Why no 007 clue for GALORE – squeamishness? They could gone with "Blackman's role in 'Goldfinger'".

Nothing great on offer here, but I enjoyed it anyway.

Lots of 80's music lurking around the grid . "ADDICTED To Love" (Robert Palmer), "EAT IT" (Weird Al), "The PIÑA Colada Song" (Rupert Holmes), "ENDLESS Love" (Richie/Ross). Not to mention Irene CARA, Mötley CRÜE and NAKED Eyes. And of course this.

jae 2:39 AM  

Easy. This was reasonably smooth and actually amusing. Liked it a bunch, or pretty much not what @Rex said.

Jeff at Xwordinfo gave it POW.

OffTheGrid 5:25 AM  

Anyone else remember THIS OLDIE? There's a marvelous easter egg so watch the whole thing.

Conrad 5:26 AM  

I fell in love with Broadway musicals via "Fiorello." In one scene, the title character is campaigning in a Jewish neighborhood and spells out his name in Hebrew letters: LAMED, Alef, Gimel, Alef, Resh, Dalet ... I *knew* that'd come in handy one day!

I Naticked on the Clockwork Orange narrator x the Poet Laureate. My "split personalities were EndS and for some reason that makes no sense in retrospect, ALEn and RITA DOVd looked okay to me. D'oh!

@EdFromHackensack: apologies if I'm not the first to point this out, but the "HOME ROW" is the line of typewriter keys where a touch-typist's fingers sit when they're at rest: A, S, D, F, etc.

Kevin C. 5:42 AM  


HOME ROW refers to the middle row on a keyboard (ASDF...) -- the one where your fingers tend to return to when you're touch-typing.

Anonymous 5:49 AM  

@Joe. Fun link. Talk about DYNAMOS!!

Anonymous 5:53 AM  

Wonky but Wonderful!

Lewis 6:20 AM  

Not only a NYT puzzle debut, but one with moxie! Audacious clues for the theme answers, hitting strongly, IMO, on six of the seven. That quirky [What the universe may or may not be] for ENDLESS. A new clue for OBOE, which has appeared almost 800 times in the NYT puzzle. Even a dook (PATES). Not to mention a 21 x 21 for a debut.

And, for the second day in a row, fun coursing through the puzzle. Plus, great skill in squeezing those seven theme answers in. How could I not like this bravo ho-ho combo? I’m very thankful you TOOK A STAB, Jeff, and I hope you do it more!

Harry 6:55 AM  

Enjoyed this one quite a bit. Almost saddened that Rex pitched a fit today. I had a difficult time getting a foothold on the fill, but once CANTTURNTHATDOWN was revealed, momentum ensued. The remaining themers still required a modest uphill climb.

Did Rex really not make the "super"/ITSAPLANE connection? I'll grant that it's likely most under 40 couldn't complete, "It's a bird; no, it's a plane; no, it's ...". Suffice it to say, it worked for me.

The high density of short answers did make a bit of a hash out of the grid. But on the whole this was one of the most pleasurable Sundays in recent memory.

Anonymous 6:59 AM  

Yawn. That was a snooze.

Son Volt 7:33 AM  

There may be a question about the universe - but not this tedious, slog of a puzzle. The unfunny themer quips had no spark - no appeal to me at all. Most fun in this huge grid was getting LAWN BOY - a connection to my father whose prize was ‘58 model that he kept for 35 years.

In rare agreement with Rex - I can’t see how this puzzle was selected for a Sunday.

Anonymous 7:35 AM  

Zinc blende, another term for sphalerite.

Tom T 7:46 AM  

After something of a PPP grind today, I offer a Monday easy clue for a Monday easy Hidden Diagonal Word in today's grid.

The clue:

Aged (three letters)

The answer:


The beauty of OLD in this grid is its location in the south central, where it shares its D with -- wait for it -- ELDEST:

O _ _ _ _ _
_ L _ _ _ _

A nifty ELDEST/OLD(est) combo.

As for the puzzle, it took me a loooong time to solve; clearly neither in my wheelhouse nor on my wave length. But I had fun slogging though.

One nit. I've eaten barbecue GALORE in my time, but never, not once, with BEAN SALAD. Baked BEANs, yes; coleslaw, sure; fried okra, bring it on; I'll even try some of that potato SALAD. Let's leave the BEAN SALAD for a potluck supper at the fellowship hall.

Trey 8:25 AM  

@Lewis 6:20 - what is a “dook” (other than a “university that shall not be named” in Durham NC)? I have seen that word here for awhile and have not yet been able to figure it out.

I partially agree with Rex on the theme. I really enjoyed the long answers (and some of the other clues were great, such as that for ITS A PLANE). Rex is right that some of the phrases would not apply to a garage sale. What about using a Black Friday theme to capture those phrases? Well, you would never sell a knowingly broken TV or a book with torn pages at a Black Friday sale. The clues would have to be rewritten (maybe the first one to reference a child's toy that makes a lot of noise and there is no volume control on it [like the one you may buy a nibling to annoy your sibling], and the second could reference an abridged version of a book). However, I am sure that this plan would also have some deficiencies in tightness as well. Sometimes it may just be better to accept a theme that has really good clues and answers and worry less about the inconsistencies of the theme (or puzzle title, in this case) than to have a tight theme with “meh” answers.

My only possible Natick was RITADOVE and ALTON. Have heard of neither. I was thinking the A could be an E, until I realized that the poet was a first name, last name and that RITe was probably not a first name.

AGETEN is very appropriate here (as opposed the AGE-whatever number that Rex ranted about) because of the show Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? which was the reference in the clue. Perfectly fine

Lots of crosswordese and short fill that included two-letter words that seemed repetitive but may not have been (felt like UP, IN, ON, TO etc kept appearing over and over), but you may need this with so many ling theme answers, so I find it acceptable.

Really liked SET ON over DISMOUNT

Anonymous 8:34 AM  

Thank you Rex.

Unknown 8:36 AM  

Never saw the title, so I thought the puzzle was about Black Friday. Made me laugh. Not easy but fun.

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

Typing/keyboarding term: https://www.techopedia.com/definition/2582/home-row

Unknown 8:38 AM  

Methinks many commentators should skip Sundays, or at least learn a new word for slog.

Same gripes, same people, every week.

Nice debut, Jeff

Z 8:42 AM  

Well alrighty then. Somebody had to post the Seal song.
And what is happening in that Aldous Harding video? I’m thinking satire.

I can’t decide if I agree with everyone or disagree with everyone or both. The solving experience seemed initially tedious, then I sort of liked the theme answers, but then I thought they didn’t quite work, but then it was like @Joe Dipinto said and Mr Dad of Dad Joke infamy had written little signs for all these items, but then the whole BUY NOW PAY LATER conundrum raised its head. I was amused by FABIO’s hairless pecs making an appearance after referencing him earlier this week, but it was an odd dinner party where we get EMMA Watson discussing gender politics with Lloyd BENTSEN and Andrew MCCABE trying to deal more successfully with AURIC Goldfinger than he did with Donny boy. Meanwhile Madeline KAHN and ARI Aster are in the corner bitching about not being EGOT eligible with the ALOU family, all of whom know they’d have won ESPYs if they’d been a thing back in the day. And who the hell let SIRI be the DJ and why is it all EDM?

Anyway, I think Rex is mostly too hard on the theme except when he’s not, the fill is mostly okay except when it’s not, and this was nowhere near as good of a puzzle as Friday’s so Chen is wrong about which puzzle should have been the POW.

@Albatross Shell late yesterday - Whatever works, but I read that and thought to myself “boy, you need to read more actual literature.”

TJS 8:47 AM  

Another Rex classic. I would have sworn this was one of his crossworld enemies if I didn't just learn that this is a NYT debut for this constructor. But a masterpiece of nitpickery.

I thought this was an above-average Sunday. Enjoyed trying to figure out the phrases with only a few letters to go by. Only "huh" moment for me was the row-home-row deal but that's why I am still a two-finger typist, I guess.


Z 8:49 AM  

@Trey - DOOK - When you misparse a puzzle entry into befuddlement. For example, reading Do O.K. as “DOOK” or Go At as GOAT. Often accompanied by posting a question about an answer or at least wasting precious nanoseconds reparsing the answer into correctness.

SouthsideJohnny 8:52 AM  

Congrats to the constructor/editor. With ANN, ALEX, RITA DOVE, and DAHL not even separated by a single white square, you have achieved the elusive Quadruple Trivial Stack ! ! I understand that they are all reasonably well known, but it seems so terribly American Bourgeois to stack them all together - “Gee, this brandy is good, let’s finish the bottle”.

Please raise your hand if you are one of the select few that wrote down MCCABE and AURIC without any crosses (and if you also did so with BLENDE, you may stand on the podium over there and we will begin the Gold Medal ceremony).

The late great Norm McDonald used to pine for what he referred to as the perfect joke - one in which the set-up line is the joke. He tried one on SNL to the effect that “Julia Roberts got divorced from Lyle Lovett this week. She filed for divorce when she realized she was married to Lyle Lovett” - I think Shortz has achieved something similar here in CrossWorld with LAMED being about as LAME a crossword entry as one can imagine.

In the learn something new category, I never had a clue where the title of the Jay and the Americans song came from (CARA Mia). All these years I thought CARA was his lady friend.

mmorgan 8:56 AM  

I knew Rex would complain, but y'know, low hanging fruit. I don't mind groany and slightly off Sunday themers because, well, Sunday. Various small things were speed bumps and huh? moments for me -- like DREW (for "started a turn") and NARCOS and ALTON. But I have no complaints about good old Lloyd BENTSEN; I don't know if he or one of his aides came up with it, but he did leave us with a very memorable line about Dan Quayle.

Rock Hard 8:57 AM  

"Buy now pay later" aka layaway is older than your life, so it doesn't really exist, typical

Richardf8 9:06 AM  

Ah, a consistent parade of dad jokes is sufficient to kerp me happy, and this puzzle had them. I spent it chasing down the themers for the groans. The Southwest was a little rough for me. I blame the wine I had with dinner.

Yes, the whole Hebrew Alphabet. TFW you want to know what the bible actually says. And when you want to order off a menu that’s printed in Hebrew an Russian- Trusr me, Hebrew׳s easier.

Richardf8 9:09 AM  

Let’s not forget HAS AT IT as HAS A TIT.

Now for some chickadees in England and Balaam’s ride, so that we can have some delightful puerility without having to misread stuff.

bocamp 9:19 AM  

EdFromHackensack (1:00 AM)

I see many others have clarified home ROW; I chuckled, because I had the opposite reaction: ROW home just sounded off, to me. Giving it some thot, I guess there are at least couple of ways it would make sense.

One of the most useful elective courses I ever took was typing in grade 10. It paid off big time in the Navy, and has stood me in good stead thereafter, esp with the advent of the computer.

@okanaganer (12:39 AM ) 👍 for another great week of SBing :)

Just embarking on today's SB 🤞

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

kitshef 9:25 AM  

Great clue for ITS A PLANE.

This is the kind of D-grade theme that used to be very common on Sundays. Happy to say things have perked up recently, so this is a bit of an aberration.

Loved RESANG. Every grid should have one absurdity.

Birchbark 9:25 AM  

I've been to who-knows-how-many garage sales where citizens ply their wares frankly in terms you wouldn't expect, so the theme worked fine. A clearing house of anomalies, words suitable to the homespun merchant olio, NAY, this free country full of closets and their uncluttering -- we see the garage-seller scrawling increasingly desperate slogans on masking tape, late into the eve of the big day, thinking "I don't know what one says about this holy mitt, let the muse be my guide, DROP EVERYTHING -- oh, that's good."

It is well and good. https://youtu.be/kTdScE3Rqh8

Rube 9:25 AM  

No problem with this puz. Yeah, no idea about RITADOVE or ALTON or NARCOS but all gettable. and for me, BENTSEN is a huge gimme.

Whats'wrong with a Comey reference. I have never understood why people try to inject real culture or political opinion into their solving experience. Why does nobody complain about the cheating ASTROS?

@ Southside. As someone who watched S1E1 of SNL, sorry, I would never put great and norm mcd in the same sentence without a not. Just my opinion.

amyyanni 9:31 AM  

Love the Seal song! 🎶 Great seeing RITA DOVE. Until paring down for the recent move, had some of her books.
Marvelous Sunday. Able to use the theme to get some of other answers, very smooth solve with pockets of resistance that eventually fell.
Shopped downtown yesterday; delightful experience. Non holiday music played by a DJ on the common with ppl dancing and hanging out in sunny 60 degrees. 😎 And I picked up Ann Patchett's newest, a book of essays, as the indie bookshop was giving out free books throughout the day.
Hope everyone gets their boosters. 🤞

Teedmn 9:31 AM  

This was a very clever idea with a few clunker clue/answer combos. But CAN'T TURN THAT DOWN, NO STRINGS ATTACHED and LIMITED EDITION all hit it out of the park for me. The wallet, baseball mitt and fish tank, not so much. But this is new and exciting and fun.

DNF when I could not interpret 99A's "Or rather" and didn't know the name of the 99D TV show. I had sAY in place. sARCOS, some Italian crime drama, I suppose. Check puzzle, no, try mAY/mARCOS. Finally NARCOS occurred to me as a likely crime show title and NAY = or rather? Well, okay, if you say so.

I didn't think "Fiend" = MeNace very closely and was glad when 20A turned out to be MANIAC.

Jeff Kremer, congrats on this debut!

I wrote the above before reading Rex. And while I admit he makes a few good points, it doesn't change my opinion of this puzzle as new and inventive.

Teedmn 9:35 AM  

And re: yesterday's grouse discussion: I have tried to determine whether I'm actually hearing a grouse drum or feeling it. It seems to be coming from within my core rather than from outside. It's very cool, anyway.

JD 9:46 AM  

I'm assuming Buy Now Pay Later for a wallet with a lot of credit card slots means that you buy the wallet now, put credit cards in it, and then charge things that you'll pay for later.

Retrospective fun reading the finished puzzle. The themers were crazy but it was fun figuring them out. It had a happy suburban dad joke nostalgia vibe.

Favorite clue was Evidence Of Disorderly Conduct. Come home from work, see the Mess and yell, "I suspect disorderly conduct!" Funny. Somewhere I'm going to use that line.

Googled to see a Fabio book cover and found a People mag article from this past August. It said, "He sleeps in a hyperbaric chamber which, he says, "reverses the aging process."

Imagine being married to Fabio. Nite Fabio, you want me to close the lid? Sì grazie. Buona Notte JD.

I had Rout for Rout because I love that word.

Matt 9:49 AM  

Oh, I beg to differ. This was the most delightful Sunday schtick/theme in months and months! I read the theme answers to my spouse after finishing every week and gauge her reaction, and she laughed harder and harder at each of the answers. If you read the clue aloud, followed by the answer, it sounds like a single phrase and there's a great rhythm to the whole puzzle.

As for the fill? I enjoyed the cluing here quite a bit. Sure there are a lot of Dad jokes. So what? They're funny-ha-ha, they don't have to be laff riots. Super wrong identification ITSAPLANE is a Hall of Famer.

One minor missed opportunity: repeating "Some beers" a third time for YEASTY.

(Yes, you have to know the whole Hebrew and Greek alphabets, Rex, it's part of the common knowledge base of our civilization and has been for a thousand years. Feh.)

A+ job, Jeff, keep 'em coming.

Nancy 9:59 AM  

Really, really clever and really, really fair. Loved it!!

The secret of a good wordplay-type puzzle, it's always seemed to me, is to clue your themers 1) in a way that absolutely no one will be able to figure out just from reading the clue and 2) in a way that will give them a big "Aha!" and an "of course, now why didn't I think of that?" when enough crosses are in to make the answer suddenly apparent.

In other words, you have to be ENDLESSly devious and scupulously fair at the same time. This puzzle accomplishes that in spades.

Making it even more challenging was the tricky cluing (and the less appreciated occasional obscurity like that Hebrew letter, for one) of much of the surrounding fill. It was hard to get the crosses needed for the themers. And while there were much harder answers than 35A, my "TOOK A Shot" istead of TOOK A STAB really bollixed up the entire NE for me for the longest time.

It's a cold, damp, gray, dreary morning here in NYC -- and I was glad to have this delightful and engrossing puzzle as company through some of it.

RooMonster 10:08 AM  

Hey All !
Last letter in, crossed my fingers, and... Happy Music! *Fist pump*

A little tough in spots, but turned out mediumish overall. Some of the Themers missed, but I still liked the concept. We even get Crossing Themers, so y'all need to quit yer bitchin'!

Inspired clue for ITS A PLANE. Rex, take in the punniness. You'll live longer. See also clue for EXES.

Had roo in for EMU. Disappointed! Also Aft for AGO. There AGOs a valuable F.

Risqúe puz today, with DISROBE and NAKED. Or is that my inner 12 year old? At least there's a TUB in the middle. Lawyerable defense. "I DISROBEd to get NAKED to jump in the TUB!"

*This* close to a one-letter DNF. Had sARA for CARA Mia, and IsAYsO for ICANTO, but DYNAMOS took me to the end to figure out, which would've left NOyEWS, and couldn't think of a saying about having no yew trees as a good thing! So managed in the nick of time to see it'd be NONEWS, which got me to erase that S, and see ICANSO. Phew!

Anyone remember the movie ERASER with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vanessa Williams? No? It wasn't terrible. 199For Froman actiony movie. From 1996.

Gotta love a puz with a Monty Python reference. And EAT IT from Weird Al.

EGOT to go. I CAN SO use it like that!

One F

Colin 10:18 AM  

Congratulations to Jeff on his debut! The theme was a cute and pleasant solve. I'll add my vote to those who enjoyed this.

Chip Hilton 10:18 AM  

Here’s to the laddie who launched . . . so many extraordinary American musical moments.
Rest In Peace, puzzle aficionado Stephen Sondheim.

Barsk 10:20 AM  

This is a classic, whole 'nother level of Rex crankiness.

The beauty of crosswords is how they exist on so many levels at once. I was challenged and entertained by this morning's offering, and still find myself mumbling, "damn, Rex has a point!"

Anonymous 10:21 AM  

Like many others today, I must completely disagree with Rex on this one. I thought the theme was very clever and creative and many of the answers really made me chuckle. Congrats to Jeff Kremer on a terrific debut!

Z 10:23 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
JD 10:28 AM  

@Birchbark, If there's a Pulitzer for blog content, you just aced it.

@Richardf8, Are you relatively new here or did you once use the phrase, "into which anachronistic tech sometimes falls?"

@Southside, Re your comments today and yesterday. I think some of your frustration was with things that are generational. I read A Clockwork Orange in the '70s, Dahl to the kids in the '90s, and shopped at the Ann Taylor store in the early 2000s. Yesterday I knew Valkyries from the movie Apocalypse Now in the '70s (music from an opera that I would've never seen, played during a helicopter scene). Not knowledge, brain detritus.

Z 10:30 AM  

Wow - too much html and I botched it somehow. Anyway:

@Birchbark - Thanks for the Waits and he should always come with subtitles.
@JD - Are you sure he sleeps at night and that “hyperbaric chamber” isn’t really code for coffin?
@bocamp - ROW homes are a big city thing. Think of any movie in a big city with a shot of homes with shared walls all in a ROW, perhaps with a scene taking place out on the front stoop. In small towns we get yards and porches, in big cities we get stoops.
@Matt - Last parenthetical- No. Just no. Even in Greece they add names written with the Latin alphabet because they know the Greek alphabet isn’t part of the “common knowledge base.”

RooMonster 10:42 AM  

Hate typos like that indecypherable line I had. Supposed to have said - For an actiony movie. -
I know y'all's day will be better knowing that!

yd pg -9 (missed some easy words)

RooMonster Typo Guy

Anonymous 10:42 AM  

On the subject of a DOOK I offer an alternate clue for SET ON. _____Hall.

Georgia 10:55 AM  

Lame. I almost quit with _____ colada.

Joe Dipinto 11:04 AM  

@OffTheGrid 5:25 – I'm stumped as to the Easter egg in the "Cara Mia" clip. Becker and Fagen of Steely Dan played with the group briefly but that was later and they're definitely *not* in that video. Is it something with the miniskirted dancers? They look they're in an entirely different location.

Carola 11:12 AM  

Double the pleasure! I enjoyed the puzzle and@Rex's take-down. I like @Joe Dipinto's (1:06) idea of the phrases being written. - by a garage sale host with a sense of humor - on tags for the items. A creative and witty effort, fun to solve.

Kid Phoneme 11:19 AM  

I slouched through this one (I didn't call it a slog @unknown). Groaned at "Can't turn that down," feeling like I'd seen that in a crossword before, but maybe I just hang out with too many dads. My opinion of the theme didn't improve as I slugged through.

Anyway. I'll have to look up Rita Dove. Alton Brown is great, though. Narcos came pretty quickly. I couldn't parse ANTE UP for the life of me, though. Is it still a dook when the correct answer registers as grawlix?

What rough beast delivered me to my Natick? Lloyd "essing" BENSSON. I admit the two esses looked questionable, but I figured an S Strap was the name for those "Roman" type sandals that wrap around the ankles and shins. But seriously, here's to not knowing how to spell Bentson.

P.S. @JD wins the comment section for me today with: I had Rout for Rout because I love that word.

JD 11:42 AM  

@Zÿ You might be right 😬

BEE-ER 12:01 PM  

Sam Ezersky does not like medical terms.

OffTheGrid 12:04 PM  

@Joe Dipinto. It's the dancers. They greatly amused me.

egsforbreakfast 12:18 PM  

Worried Mom: My boy’s a vegan and can’t eat this barbecue.
Barbecue Bob: Don’t worry, we have BEANS A LAD will love.

I never realized that Audrey Hepburn and Andrew Lloyd Weber worked together enough to win all four major awards. What a team!

The weirdest things I’ve seen in the ALPS ARE A RUG and SOME NAKED NARCOS. That’s probably why I’m ADDICTED to a DIET of PATES.


I enjoyed this puzzle a lot. Great debut, Jeff Kramer. Hope to see many more from you.

Blue Stater 12:23 PM  

An utter waste of time. No fun, no "aha" moments, riddled with factual and linguistic mistakes. Who edits this stuff? Oh wait....

Trey 12:40 PM  

Could have clued LAMED as “Dey vehicle, had it been based in a hospital”

Colette 12:43 PM  

Really enjoyed the themers -- agree with Nancy that we can overlook how carefully they hew to the puzzle's title. They are all phrases used regarding great deals or sales pitches, so who cares? Loved the dad jokes. Found this a harder Sunday than usual because of that cluing, and enjoyed its cleverness. Great job on the debut, Jeff. Thanks for diverting me from the post-Thanksgiving slump -- whether from the food or the return to whatever normalcy I might have. Still and forever grateful.

Joseph Michael 12:44 PM  

Thanks to my S-STRAP sandal and LAWN BOB mower, I had two errors but I enjoyed the puzzle nevertheless. The theme was amusing enough to keep me entertained for most of it. I agree that BUY NOW PAY LATER is the LOW POINT of the theme choices but the other sales pitches were fun, with my favorite being LIMITED EDITION. The optimist’s view of a book with missing pages.

Also really liked IT’S A PLANE as super wrong identification and the discovery that SIRI can now be. D.J. The perfect entertainment for you and all of your virtual friends.

Something about TOOK A STAB crossing a clue from a horror movie seemed a bit disturbing. But good job overall. Congrats, Jeff, on your debut.

Colette 12:47 PM  

BTW, did anyone else put in "may" for "nay" and Marcos for Narcos at 99A & D? I figured there could be a TV series titled Marcos about Imelda et al. And then, I may (or rather) may not.

Masked and Anonymous 12:49 PM  

Altho SunPuzs just ain't runty enough in general, to suit M&A's taste, I thought this one was kinda enjoyable. Had yer humorous themers, which really helps get U through the sloggy parts. Also had some humorous non-themer clues. Good stuff.


Had some of the ASUSUAL troubles with names of mystery: RITADOVE. ROY. Maybe a coupla more. Knew BENTSEN, tho -- except maybe for how to spell him.

fave themer: CANTTURNTHATDOWN. Right outta the rodeo chute.

staff weeject picks: ROY & ROW. Both had head-scratcher clues, at our house. Actually, "ROY home" made about as much sense to m&e as "ROW home".

INHEAT = {Like a wailing cat} reminded m&e of the marathon Beatles documentary we just watched, in where Yoko Ono was doin a freak jam, during some of the Beatles rehearsal lulls.

Thanx for the curvy Sunday pitches, Mr. Kremer dude. And congratz on yer debut.

Masked & Anonymo10Us


Schuly 12:55 PM  

Really? I thought it was the hottest concept in Fintech.

Ken Freeland 1:31 PM  


puzzlehoarder 2:00 PM  

I got exactly an hour of solid crosswordese hacking out of this puzzle. The experience was gratifying and the strained nature of some of the themes clues didn't bother me. I'm not a theme person to begin with.

To me "ROW home" describes what you do at the halfway point of your ROWboat trip. The buildings I refer to as ROW houses. The crosses said it was so and that's what matters. There was a lot of that today.

Shades of my FAcIANO dnf but no problem with FABIO.

yd -1 An eight letter conjugated version of a word on my list.

GILL I. 2:02 PM  

Ah, yes. A GARAGE SALE pitch. Who hasn't had one? Our son would put up signs like "Take It Or leave It", "If You Break It, You Buy It," and...his favorite.... "All Sales are Final and No Refunds."
But did you sell anything? you ask....Trinkets galore.
How do people come up with a phrase like ROCK BOTTOM PRICES...? Why does the lowly rock belong at the bottom?
I think I might ponder the proper noun mystery and maybe try a little AURIC with a BLENDE of MC CABE's BEAN SALAD.....
My NARCOS runneth over.

DigitalDan 2:11 PM  

Mostly agree with Rex, but some are up on literature and pop culture, others on politics.

BENTSEN was famous for putting Dan Quayle down in a debate ("Senator, you are no John Kennedy.") MCCABE is the poor guy who was fired on a (take it two ways) Trumped up charge the night before he had earned his full pension. He joins Strzok, Page, and Vindman in the panoply of people who were evilly shown the door during the horror years of the last term.

Anonymous 2:18 PM  

I liked this one, in general, even if the themers were all over the place.

I, too, don't understand NAY = "Or rather." Can anyone explain?

bocamp 2:37 PM  

@Anonymous (2:18 PM) re: NAY vs 'rather'

Definition of nay (Entry 1 of 2)

1. old-fashioned + literary —used to correct what has just been said by replacing a word with one that is more accurate or appropriate (M-W)

"The letter made him happy, nay, ecstatic."

td 0*

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Anonymous 3:07 PM  

@Kevin C:
HOME ROW refers to the middle row on a keyboard (ASDF...) -- the one where your fingers tend to return to when you're touch-typing.

HOME ROW refers to the middle row on a keyboard (ASDF...) -- the one where your fingers are supposed to return to when you're touch-typing.

@Rock Hard:
"Buy now pay later" aka layaway is older than your life, so it doesn't really exist, typical
"Pay now buy later" aka layaway is older than your life, so it doesn't really exist, typical

you pay for it first, in installments, then you take it home ('buy it')

Anonymous 3:07 PM  

To Jeff Kremer - Please, PLEASE pay NO attention to this whining, quibbling, complaining nitpicker. . . This was a lot of fun. . . As a first effort, it certainly bodes well for the future. CONGRATULATIONS!!!

KnittyContessa 3:25 PM  

This was the most fun I had solving a Sunday in ages! I laughed and that's what I look for in a Sunday. I loved ITSAPLANE, so clever!

I did Natick at 90a/73d. I had no idea what the Hebrew letter was and for some reason I thought Nautilus was SpA related.

Thanks Jeff Kremer for making a fun Sunday!

JC66 3:35 PM  

@Rock Hard

@Rex didn't say BUY NOW, PAY LATER isn't a thing; but that it isn't a thing at a garage sale.

Editor57 3:53 PM  

I thought this puzzle was a nice challenge. Not sure why Rex even does NYT puzzles anymore. He doesn’t like any of them. I try not to take the themes or the clues too literally and it’s fine.

egsforbreakfast 4:12 PM  

@Editor57. I thought your 3:53 comment couldn’t be topped, but then I read your 3:55!

Anonymous 4:40 PM  


as you may see, there is no 3:55/Editor57. must have been really naughty.

Trey 4:48 PM  

Were you thinking Nautilus as in exercise equipment (spa related) instead of the animal/shell (sea related)?

JBB94956 4:54 PM  

Yes! I think it’s a regional thing where they’re using barbecue imprecisely. Bean salad at a picnic or cookout maybe … but I’ve never seen it served with true barbecue.

Anonymous 4:56 PM  

Please, would you Rex "analyzers" just stop it. Hi, editor57.

Wanderlust 5:05 PM  

Didn’t even see the title of the puzzle until I had finished it, so I just thought these were expressions intended to lure you to buy something, and I thought most were clever. The two that didn’t work so well for me were NO STRINGS ATTACHED because a “never used” guitar would still have strings; and ROCK BOTTOM PRICES because “rock bottom” doesn’t really seem right for an aquarium. Oh well - they weren’t that bad, and the others were great.

As for garage sales, I am visiting dad and stepmom for the holidays, and me and my sibs wish we could convince them to have a garage sale, call Goodwill for a pickup or just take a flamethrower to the interior (of the house we grew up in). They cannot get rid of anything, but fret about how the house looks so bad when we visit. We offer to help, but that seems to stress them out even more. I snuck around the house one day taking pics of some of the bizarre things piled up everywhere - suitcases from the 50s that no one on earth would ever use, eight-track tape players, and of course all of our junk from childhood that we assure them we will never want but they will not let us toss. They are not quite at reality TV hoarder level because you can still move from room to room and there’s no danger of them being crushed under a toppled tower of old National Geographics, but it’s close.

Lots of good clues, including where I finished, right around the delightful crossing of LOIRE and IT’S A PLANE.

RooMonster 5:40 PM  

Do some research on the stuff in your pics from your parents' house. The stuff might be worth something, and then maybe you can convince them to sell some items for extra money for vacations, or whatever.

RooMonster Too Much Stuff Myself Guy

Trey 5:44 PM  

@Wanderlust 5:05 - for rock bottom, think of the colored gravel in the bottom of many fish tanks.

Joe Dipinto 6:04 PM  

Anyone do the cryptic today? I liked it. Mostly smooth sailing but there were two that gave me a hard time.

Also: RIP Stephen Sondheim. He gets mentioned here quite a bit, particularly by @Nancy. A loss to the theater world.

Suzy 6:06 PM  

Way late today! but for once, I’m with Rex, more or less. I didn’t find the theme answers as offensive as he did. I just
found the whole puzzle boring, a bit of a slog. Keep at it, Jeff! Boring at the NYT is better than most anything else out

albatross shell 6:18 PM  

That fast ball went by so fast or so car over my head I didn't even see it. Was it about paragraph 4, 5 or 6?

If you lost a comment at 2:30 pm it's at the bottom of yesterday's comments. I found it looking for my comment that @Z mentioned.

Smith 6:47 PM  

Sooo, found the puzzle a slog and kinda gave up filling it in once the themers dropped. But that's probably just my fogged brain after a week of beloved GenZ and partner in our 2 BR apt.

We were on train when Sondheim news broke, rushed thru an otherwise lovely dinner due to poor service at a place we love [sigh] and had a blast at American Utopia (hi, Albie!!), absolutely so much fun. Dancing in the rows (not in the aisles as David Byrne said that would "give the aisle dancers an unfair advantage in case of fire") with husband and kids,can't be beat. And the kids were pleased to be with us, super nice.

But, honestly exhausting for us. The young folks went out to mourn Sondheim with friends after the show, wow, stamina. They got home after 2am.

Plus we had people over both Weds night & yesterday, no wonder my brain is mush.

I guess I'm glad to go back to work tomorrow? One more month and I'm re-retired. Gonna do the puzzle in the morning then!

Happy first night of Hanukkah and first Sunday in Advent, and everything else.

thefogman 7:09 PM  

I thought this wasn’t bad for a first-timer. But Will Shortz should reserve Mondays for debut constructors. The Saturday and Sunday puzzles should be better than okay. They should be amazing. Clearly this one is not. Nor have many others lately.

Irishmaineiac 7:24 PM  

I agree! Maybe still suffering from a bit of holiday indigestion?

Irishmaineiac 7:27 PM  


Anonymous 7:34 PM  

Also had mAY and mARCOS.


old timer 7:47 PM  

Thanks, @albatross. Weird!

albatross shell 7:55 PM  

Nevermind. I should have re-read your post, not mine. I thought you meant I should read more literature instead of the constructor. I realized my summary was a bit wordy, but didn't expect that reaction.

Overall a fun puzzle with a fun theme. The credit cards you put in the wallet's slots allow you to buy now pay later. The guitar had no strings attached, and so was never used. They are all common phrases adapted to particular objects that might be for sale in a garage sale, not common phrases you might use at a garage sale. Is that too hard to understand? I hope not.

And Rex you must know It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Superman. Did anyone else not know it? Not that it was easy to get, but so good, NAY brilliant. Thanks @bocamp for that.

First thought: BENSON. Oh, one letter short. Ah a T quickly. The E a bit longer.

MCCABE a gimmie if you follow national politics. He got his pension now too.

BLENDE. no idea but got enough crosses to see BLENDEr.

Easier than the average Sunday here except the SE and SW corners.
I got several of the themers with few crosses once I got one. Otherwise it would have been a slog, nay a mountain too high.

Nancy 8:42 PM  

@Joe D and @Smith -- Yes, it's an incalculable loss to the musical theater world. I've been telling myself not to be sad over the passing of a man who had a fabulous life, lived to be 91, and seems to have died quickly and unexpectedly after a whirlwind couple of days -- seeing a matinee and evening performance of two shows on the same day (I didn't even do that when I was 25) and going out the next day for Thanksgiving with friends.

But I do feel sad -- almost as though I knew him. And in a way I feel I did -- not only through his music and lyrics but also through his lengthy, open and revealing interviews. I've spent the last few days looking for interviews I hadn't seen, and there actually were two. Most, though, I have. Sondheim was one of the best interviewees of all time. I highly recommend that anyone who admired him spend a few hours in his company. It's like being at the best dinner party. Since I can only put up one link at a time, I'll instead give you a list you can find on YouTube yourselves. I'm including the amount of time of the video -- which will make these easier for you to locate:

The Art of Songwriting (Sondheim and Adam Guettel -- (1:04:47)
Sondheim and James Lapine 1994 (56:44)
PBS Newshour with Jeffrey Brown (16:33)
60 Minutes Archive with Diane Sawyer (15:28)

Happy watching!

albatross shell 10:12 PM  

Not so weird if you hit the wrong day when you went to the blog. I have done it more than once, but usually catch it.

Nancy 10:22 PM  

...and one of the best Sondheim tributes and appraisalsI've ever read.

Finbarr 2:38 PM  

I get the print edition, so it is interesting that it clued 72 as "The Hebrew letter (followed by the actual CHARACTER." No hint as to what two letters it is between. But since I had the no brainer ALOU, I knew what I was looking for. BTW, I read classical Greek so that alphabet is second nature to me; I find the Hebrew alphabet is somewhat similar in its arrangement of letters.

I am currently watching Narcos on Netflix, so that was easy, even though I don't pay attention to the credits for the cast.

William 8:13 PM  

I have never hated a Sunday Times puzzle more than this one.

Everything about it is a salesman's con job.

Burma Shave 1:27 PM  




rondo 2:06 PM  

CANTTURNTHATDOWN was amusing and NOSTRINGSATTACHED paints a picture. The rest, meh. Maybe a more apt title could bring the themers together better.
EMMA Watson TRUE yeah baby.

Diana, LIW 6:22 PM  

I thought this was sorta cute for a themey Sunday puzzle.

But wait...there's more!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

spacecraft 6:34 PM  

Okay. Tries to be funny, and is--a little. Shout-out to Honor Blackman as Pussy GALORE: DOD. Fills the Sunday slot; par.

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