Poker snafus / THU 4-14-22 / Subject of rationing in the old English navy / Homer's self-satisfied assertion / Yam source historically / Facility often referred to by its first letter

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Constructor: Ashish Vengsarkar and Narayan Venkatasubramanyan

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: FROM STEM TO STERN (56A: Thoroughly ... or a hint for parsing some lowercase letters in four of this puzzle's clues) — you have to read "m" as "r n" if you want to make sense of the theme clues; the theme plays on the idea that if the kerning of a font is bad, "rn" can easily be mistaken for "m" (if you don't know what "kerning" is, see the Word of the Day, below):

Theme answers:
  • WHAT A GOOD BOY AM I (17A: Homer's self-satisfied assertion?) (i.e. not "Homer's" but "Horner's..." (as in "Little Jack Horner / Sat in a corner etc.")
  • SCOTTISH POET (29A: Bums, for example?)  (i.e. "Burns...")
  • SPINNING WHEEL (35A: Yam source, initially?) (i.e. "Yarn source...")
  • BRASS SECTION (43A: Place to find a comet?) (i.e. a "cornet")
Word of the Day: kerning (not in the puzzle, though I thought it would be ...) —

In typographykerning is the process of adjusting the spacing between characters in a proportional font, usually to achieve a visually pleasing result. Kerning adjusts the space between individual letterforms, while tracking (letter-spacing) adjusts spacing uniformly over a range of characters.[1] In a well-kerned font, the two-dimensional blank spaces between each pair of characters all have a visually similar area. The term "keming" is sometimes used informally to refer to poor kerning (the letters r and n placed too close together being easily mistaken for the letter m)

The related term kern denotes a part of a type letter that overhangs the edge of the type block. (wikipedia) (emph. mine)

• • •

Holy cow, that revealer! I don't think I've been as pleasantly, joyfully surprised by a revealer in a long, long time. By the second theme answer, I knew what the theme concept was, so I was just working my way down the grid waiting to see how the puzzle would end, i.e. how the revealer would express the theme. In my head, I thought, "well, this involves poor kerning ... so maybe KERNING is in the grid somehow ... that's an interesting word, but ... it's not going to fit in that long final themer ... and it's not part of any longer expression that I know ... so maybe the revealer is going to be one of the shorter answers ... or maybe ... oh, god, it's not going to be some kind of "kern" pun is it, that would be tragic ... maybe there's no revealer! ... ah well, I guess we'll find out eventually ... best to just keep solving and see what happens." Or something like that. This is to say that the concept was simple and I grokked it so I didn't think the puzzle had anything left to show me. And wow, was I wrong. FROM STEM TO STERN is so on-the-money that I was very nearly AGASP (which I thought was a mythical, crossword-only state until today).  They must've started with this phrase and built the puzzle around it, because it is right on the money: it's a familiar idiom that could stand on its own in any puzzle *and* it uses clever wordplay to indicate the theme (instead of just pointing at it) *AND* it's a perfect grid-spanning 15 letters long. This is what's known as "sticking the landing." So much of the pleasure of solving rides on this moment: the revealer revealing. And it is such a pleasure to have a revealer surprise you, especially when you already think you know (or actually do know) what's going on with the theme. Simple concept, absolutely killer reveal. FROM STEM TO STERN took me from Like to Love with one great flourish. The bow on the present, the icing on the cake. Yes, I'll take this.

The theme was deceptively simple. I say "deceptively" because Thursday is not gonna sneak up on me with its tricks. I know it's Shenanigans day, and I can see that the clues are question-mark wacky, so I'm proceeding cautiously, waiting for the booby traps to start springing. But with the first themer, I can see / feel that the answer is going to be WHAT A GOOD BOY AM I ... but then I thought "nope, you can't fool me, stupid puzzle. It can't just be WHAT A GOOD BOY AM I ... because that has nothing to do with Homer! That's not wacky at all. Where's the "D'OH!"? Oh no, it's not WHAT A GOOD D'OH! AM I, is it!?!?! Please say that's not it." The upshot of this wariness is that I left the BOY part blank because I figured that's where the wackiness was going to be ... but then the crosses eventually revealed no (apparent) wackiness at all. Just the familiar WHAT A GOOD BOY AM I. If I'd stopped to think about Where That Phrase Comes From, I might've figured out the theme early. But as it was, I didn't get it til the next themer, which I actually had to squint at to see if it said "Bums" or Burns" ... and then SCOTTISH POET has to be "Burns" ... but the clue (resquints) says "Bums," so ... aha! There it is. That's the theme. Not Homer but Horner, not Bums but Burns, etc. So that was my mini aha. And that was all the aha I thought I was going to get. Which is why the revealer was such a stunning delight. The only fault I can find with the theme is that SCOTTISH POET is not a good standalone answer (any more than BELGIAN POET or PERUVIAN POET is). It's a clue more than an answer. But for the purposes of this particular theme, it's fine. That's the thing about puzzles with clever themes that are elegantly executed—you forgive and even forget the faults of such puzzles very easily.

Five things:
  • 1A: Tour de France leg (STAGE) — me, a genius: "ah, I know this one—it's Γ‰TAPE! ugh, not a great word, but at least I knew it!" And of course Γ‰TAPE shares three letters with STAGE, so it took me a minute to figure out I had the answer wrong. Very happy to have been wrong, even if knowing the word "Γ‰TAPE" did make me feel perversely proud for a half second.
  • 61D: "J to ___ L-O! The Remixes" (2002 album) ("THA") — this feels like a long and weird way to go for THA (a remix album!?) ... but I like it. The early aughts seem like yesterday and ancient history simultaneously. I have no idea what happened. It's all just a blur of marriage kid house dog job ... and post 9-11 awfulness. Wars and what not. But apparently also J-Lo, which is nice.
  • 30D: Caesar dressing? (TUNIC) — me, a genius: "TOGAE!!! ... but why is he wearing more than one ... just Caesar being Caesar, I guess ..."
  • 12D: Band with the 4x platinum albums "Out of Time" and "Monster" (R.E.M.) — me, a genius who doesn't read clues all the way to the end: "ELO!" Also me, later: "'Monster' was 4x platinum!? Wow, I love that album but I had no idea so many people bought it."
  • 44D: King of Saudi Arabia beginning in 2015 (SALMAN) — I didn't know this, and that made the cross at 53A a little harrowing—[Steps on a scale] could've been FAS or LAS, but in the end SAFMAN seemed ... unlikely. Behold the power of educated guessing!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


OffTheGrid 6:57 AM  

Terrible, just terrible. Making a theme out of a common problem in reading clues is nasty. Maybe forgivable on April Fools Day but not any other day. Another problem is "identifying" theme clues with a "?". The "?" is a staple of crosswords. There were other ?'s in this puzzle! An * would have been the way to tag these. The constructors and editor were more interested in fooling the solver than in providing a fun puzzle. BAH!!!

Lewis 7:02 AM  

I come into Thursdays like a child staring at a gift with their name on the label. I’m psyched because there will be mischief in the grid and the cluing will be ramped up in difficulty, and my brain, which craves stimulation, will find joy.

And joy it found. There was a huge “Hah!” when the trick hit me at SPINNING WHEEL, gratitude when it helped me get BRASS SECTION, and a genuine jaw-drop when the reveal showed itself – now *that’s* a reveal, one of the best I remember.

The hits just kept coming, the best being reading Narayan’s notes (they’re in XwordInfo and WordPlay) and learning how this theme came about. It warmed my heart and made me shake my head with wonderment. It reminded me of what Vonnegut said, “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize that they were the big things.”

Yet it took Narayan’s radar to bring that happy accident to the grid, and Ashish’s brilliance to come up with that magnificent reveal. All in all, one happy story, and for me, one happy brain. What a buoyant start to my day – thank you, so very much, you two!

BunnyR 7:05 AM  

I was all set to complain about not being able to tell the m's from the rn's, when it dawned on me about Little Jack Horner, and I was enchanted! What a great revealer! Fun puzzle!

Conrad 7:13 AM  

For once, solving without reading the clues for the long acrosses made the solve easier. Only overwrites were @Rex elo before REM at 12D and THe before THA at 61D (I don't know my J-Lo).

kitshef 7:16 AM  

Thought it was fine, but could easily have run on a Tuesday.

It would have been more elegant to avoid the letter m in non-themer clues. Or at least lower-case m.

bocamp 7:41 AM  

Thx Ashish & Narayan, not a dumb puz; actually, 'dum' good! :)

Easy …?

Caught the theme early and pretty much breezed thru this one, except …

Didn't know SALMAN, so guessed 'L' over 'f' (pretty easy choice, but then ya never know). lol

The major holdup was not having a 'clue' for THA. OH YAY just sounds strange, but what else could it be?

I wasn't at all confident when entering that 'H', but it tumed out O_ YAY!

Another delightful Thurs xword; very much enjoyed the adventure. Dum fun it were! :)
yd pg -2 (didn't have much time to hunt down the missing two; will look closer today)

Best sedecordle so far (I find these tougher than the duotrigordles); no more here unless I get the elusive 17/21

Daily #59 18/21

Peace πŸ™ πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all πŸ•Š

Anonymous 7:46 AM  

What a great start to the day: a fun, clever puzzle and, to top it off, cornet variations on “Funiculi, funicula”! Joy is everywhere! Thanks, Rex, for spreading the happiness.

Anonymous 7:48 AM  

Interestingly, the constructors say in the Wordplay column that they didn't think of FROMSTEMTOSTERN until relatively late in the game. That they were able to find that phrase is really impressive.

smalltowndoc 7:52 AM  

What a great puzzle! Magnificent! A perfect, very clever revealer. Very little drek.

Admittedly, it was a bit too easy for a Thursday (but that’s not the constructors’ fault) and I was pretty sure I understood the theme before getting to the revealer. But, oh, that revealer! Like Rex said, it stuck the landing!

Here’s the proof how good the puzzle was: my wife hates crosswords. But I showed her today’s completed grid and the themed clues, she gave a "wow!" (She also asked who’s Burns, so…)

For @Off the Grid’s complaint, all I can say is I had bilateral cataract surgery and have anterior basement membrane dystrophy, and I had no problem at all differentiating "m" from "r n". So, OtG, consider making an appointment with your ophthalmologist.

Joe Welling 7:59 AM  

I'm surprised OFL didn't object to SALMAN in the puzzle. The crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, is responsible for the murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Kashoggi.

mmorgan 8:11 AM  

Terrific! There’s something really delightful when Rex likes a puzzle.

SouthsideJohnny 8:16 AM  

Wow - this one is brutal if you don't discern the theme. SCOTTISH POET is borderline impossible without a clue, and if you don't get the theme, well I guess you are pretty much without a clue.

NOSE STUDs may be perceived to be decorative in someone's nose - if so, great. Not very decorative crossing two theme entries on a tough theme day like today.

Others here found this to be on the easy side (OFL included), so I am guessing that I was just fighting from behind the whole solve. I'll take a challenge like that anytime - much more enjoyable than trying to parse every cross during a PPP or arcane-laden trivia exam.

Good to see that the NYT is having a Times-worthy week. Keep it going guys !

pabloinnh 8:18 AM  

Why is this day not like any other day? Because OFL got as much a kick out of the puzzle as I did. Check mark on the calendar for memory purposes.

I can't be alone in saying this particular "kerning" problem happens to me all the time when I'm reading clues, sometimes with unpleasant results. Today I was actually trying to distinguish between "Bums" and "Burns" forever, which gave away the game, but like OFL totally failed to see the revealer coming, which I also thought was brilliant.

Liked to see a GATO in here, also an ODDSOCK. And perhaps it is because of spring, but the ERNS have returned to crosswordlandia after a lengthy absence. Welcome back!

Thanks for a real Thursdazo!, AV and NV. An Admirable Vehicle for a Nice Variety of great themers. Thanks for all the fun.

Mr. Grumpypants 8:24 AM  

Where's my Thursday puzzle? This can't have been it. Nice enough puzzle but a waste of a Thursday spot.

JonB3 8:34 AM  

I typically reserve looking at the constructor's name until I'm into the NE of the printed puzzle. Not today - it was right there at the NW. Guinness World Record for most constructor(s) name letters?

Nose ring before stud.

paige worthy 8:41 AM  

I *adored* this puzzle. It went so smoothly for me, and I too was delighted by the revealer.

Son Volt 8:49 AM  

A revealer a puzzle does not make. Solved as a themeless - that to me should exclude it from running on Thursday - plus the overall fill was early week level. Kicking off with SEWER at 1d was apt.

No TOOTHY grin from this one.

Smith 9:16 AM  

Very easy, solved as themeless, did not get the theme while doing it. But, as it was 3:00am EDT and no Rex, no comments, went back to peruse the finished work and I think because the app has the M and RN in circles, got it!

But it's a weird puzzle feeling to get all the themers based on just knowledge of English, since the clues as I read them didn't make sense.

Anyway, it was a fun start to Maundy Thursday. We then went to the Berliner Dom, climbed all the way up (whew), and back down and got in an outdoor lunch before it rained.

Nancy 9:23 AM  

"Plagiarist!!!" I'm shouting at this Homer guy. "Thief!!!" "That's Little Jack Horner's line and you can't have it!!!"

(Admittedly I had to run the poem in my head to remember which Nursery Rhyme character had said it.)

I couldn't come up with SPINNING WHEEL at first because I had LOBE STUD before NOSE STUD. Nor was I at all happy to change it -- which shows you what I think of NOSE STUDS as "facial decoration". "You really think that's attractive????" I want to say. "Are you out of your everlovin' mind???"

WHAT A GOOD BOY AM I came in readily, but all the other themers flummoxed me for a long time. Which goes to prove what I've always said: Putting the "trick" in the clue rather than in the answer makes a puzzle immeasurably harder.

It's a terrific trick -- based on something that all us solvers with diminishing eyesight have had to contend with in normal puzzles. And yet I didn't enjoy solving this puzzle much. First of all I was frustrated by answers I wasn't understanding at all. Second, there was so much really ugly fill: BAE; FHA; EPA; PSI; REM; OED; EOS; AIG; IDNO; STU; THA; and OH YAY. I wish this theme could have been worked out in collaboration with a really talented grid-maker. It would still have been frustrating, but it would have been a lot more elegant. There's a lot of unrealized potential here.

But the themers are great. And the Horner/Homer switcheroo is inspired!

Perry 9:30 AM  

What a stupid waste of time this themer was. I hate the Thursday NYT. Contrived doesn't even begin to cover it.

Carola 9:42 AM  

That reveal - genius. Many's the time I've misread a clued "stern" as a "stem," so I was delighted that the puzzle capitalized on that sort of mistake. Like others, I caught on when Bums had to be Burns, then went back to mop up 17A, dealt quickly with the "comet," and had just enough crosses to pounce on the reveal. An extra tip of the hat to the constructors for coming up with Horner/Homer. Too funny, to have solvers pondering "Simpsons or...Greek poet?" and have it turn out to be Little Jack. Easy, I thought so, too, but a lot of fun.

Nancy 9:45 AM  

It's quite strange. I read "Homer", "Yam", and "Comet" -- considering no other possibility. But I also read 29A as "Burns" -- likewise considering no other possibility. I wonder why the discrepancy?

P.S. I feel I have to steal this comment from the Wordplay Blog and pass it on to you because it's so good:

"My wife and I usually take turns filling in the clues, but for this one we had to take tums."

RooMonster 9:52 AM  

Hey All !
Nice puz, but less nice for me, as my silly brain wouldn't let me see the theme. Kept wondering what I was missing. Came here to see the M to RN in the clues thingie. Aha, says I, clever, but that's it? Then I read Rex only to realize the quite apt Revealer. Each M goes to RN, changing the clue so that it makes sense for the answer. And not only that, but the Revealer itself goes FROM STEm to STErn. See the double meaning? So it's a Meta Revealer. Tres cool.

Two potential Naticks, one I passed, one I failed, which got me my one-letter DNF. SALMAN/LAS, got that one. PAYGAP/LUG, had a C for PAY CAP. Failed! A LUC could be a Kind of nut. *Sure, Roo, let's get you back on your meds*

Thought initially theme would have something to do with double letters, an OO in first, a TT in the second, then the third had a triple S, SSS. Hmm, don't think that's it. Revealer didn't reveal squat to me. Hate it when I can't see something. Especially this clever. WHAT A SILLY BRAIN AM I. 😁

However, flipside of that, @bocamp, I got a 35/37 in Duotrigordle yesterday! First complete one ever!

However however, yd -5, should'ves 3 😒 😁

Two F's

thfenn 9:54 AM  

Today's was the kind of Thursday that just makes me want to hide. Labored to complete it, couldn't finish without coming here, and I find out it not only was easy but also a great puzzle. All true, I'm sure, but the hoped for growth in my solving skills just got some comeuppance. Even with Homer's assertion and most of the reveal in place I couldn't get it done. Sigh.

amyyanni 9:54 AM  

Utterly delightful. I'm an Aries; while today is not my bday, this puzzle is exactly as Rex described: "the bow on the present, the icing on the cake." So good!

Joaquin 9:55 AM  

Easy? Not for me. I found it easier to pronounce the names of the constructors than to grok their theme. Oh well ...

andrew 9:57 AM  

What day is it today? Thought it was Thursday but must be Monday or Tuesday.

I didn’t share the love for this one - didn’t get the theme until I read Chen’s POW review. Just easy fill of the downs without any Thursday trickery - by the time I did the long across answers, the phrase was virtually spelled out.

(Even had a boost due to my declining eyesight - read Bums as Burns so Scottish Poet was the obvious answer).

While the revealer seemed to resonate with Rex and Jeff, was an after the fact “so what” to me. Enjoy Thursdays - this felt like a USA Today level puzzle.

Whatsername 10:01 AM  

Flew thru this, AGASP at how much I was on the wave length of the constructors. although not really an EGOIST, I was terribly impressed with myself when I managed to GET the trick with the first themer. Still my first response was lukewarm - kinda like when I find an ODD SOCK I’ve been looking for - oh there it is, YON. Then I saw the revealer and said OH YAY!!

Then I went one step further and read the constructor notes of Mr. Narayan V who set the STAGE for how this idea originated with a communication GAP between him and his mother-in-law. It’s such a sweet story that it gave the whole puzzle a much happier ENDing and put a big TOOTHY smile on my face. Thank you gentlemen! Very nicely done and a joy to solve.

MarthaCatherine 10:07 AM  

I spent most of my adult life in a business that tangentially involved typefaces, kerning, serifs, and other print and printing issues. Intimately familiar with the word kern.

But I did not get this theme. Finished it all thinking I was learning all sorts of new fun facts. For all I know, at some point in his travels, Homer did call himself a good boy, which spawned a nursery rhyme in a later century. Or there was a famous poet from Scotland known for being a transient or drifter. Or there's some obscure astronomical nomenclature about sections of space referred to as brassy. Or some such. The circled letters m, r, and n didn't even jog my feeble brain.

Then, when I read the explanation, I thought, Hoo boy! "kern" is a pretty arcane term and there will be lots o' complaints from the commentariat.

Wrong-o, Martha!

Chicago Chica 10:10 AM  


But I enjoyed it very much thank you!

Joe Dipinto 10:14 AM  

Just okay, no great shakes. You get one theme answer, the experience is over. Having POET in place at the end of an answer clued as "Bums..." gave it up immediately. The rest offered no challenges.

A brass instrument playing a Jerome Kem song.

jberg 10:30 AM  

I prefer to solve in the printed newspaper, which uses a tiny font for the clues, so this happens to me all the time. Cataract surgery helped, but because of some anomaly in my eye, I still need reading glasses for close-up stuff. So when I got WHAT A GOOD BOY AM I, which seemed an unlikely line to have appeared in the Iliad or Odyssey, I was ready to believe that Homer Simpson said it; then I started thinking about the source of the line. Was it Simple Simon? No, it was Little Jack Horner. I was going to come here and make some sort of joke about that, a la @Nancy's 'Plagiarist!' -- but it slowly dawned on me that I might have misread the clue. I stared at it closely, but that was definitely an m, not an rn. Hmm. But then I gradually noticed yam and bum, and I knew what was going on. Comet=cornet took a little longer. (And thanks for that cornet clip, Rex! Good thing that guy isn't a soccer player, or he wouldn't know if people were cheering or shouting his name.)

As many have said, the revealer was just perfection.

As for SALMAN, you just have to remember that the guy who just gave Jared Kushner $2 billion is named Mohammed bin [i.e., son of] Salman.

Nolaist 10:32 AM  


Adam 10:34 AM  

I'll add my voice to the "this was tough" crowd - floundered for quite a while until I finally saw the theme. I understand puzzle difficulty is often subjective, but come on, no way this would fly on a Monday or Tuesday.

Harryp 10:35 AM  

I never heard of kerning, but solved it as a Themeless. I do remember looking back at the clue for Scottish poet and actually reading Burns! What I always remember about Robert Burns is that when a memorial was dedicated to him his mother said in effect, "Aye Bobby, Ye asked them for bread and they have given you a stone!"

EdFromHackensack 10:38 AM  

I thought this was a great puzzle, not “easy”. I solved in the hard copy newspaper early (5am) this morning in bed with my wife sleeping next to me. Whenever I do this I often have to squint to read it, still kinda dark. I got to BRASSSECTION and said - wait is that “comet” or “cornet”?, and then I got it and the rest came easily. I actually had WHATAGOODBOYAMI thinking that well could be something Homer Simpson could have said. Had PAYcAP instead of PAYGAP though so I ended with an error. And was jonesing for Togas for the Caesar clue for awhile. Writeover - OneSOCK to ODDSOCK. I got FROMSTEMTOSTERN with only the RN filled in.

Gary Jugert 10:41 AM  

Wonderful and quite challenging for me. I was 100% done reading clues with only 15% answers (OH YAY) which is typical for me on a Saturday, so the fear and sadness crept in, until I grokked Homer and Bums, and suddenly the puzzle was super cool.

FROM STEM TO STERN is magnificent.

One Ug:

I am in the music business and even after I finished the puzzle I didn't understand why Steps on a scale was LAS. I see it now, but sheesk, I think the pluralism is poor here. LAS are A step on MANY scales.

Beezer 10:44 AM  

This puzzle was delightful and my only complaint is that it was over too soon! It also made me happy that @Rex liked it…win-win all around today!

Anonymoose 10:44 AM  

The approval threshold is very low on this blog.

Canon Chasuble 10:52 AM  

Like jberg I only thought of The Iliad and the Odyssey, and when I saw "BUMS" I only thought of the old Brooklyn Dodgers -- two wrong paths to travel. But I am absolutely astonished at people not knowing Scotland's most famous poet since we all sing his
most famous poem every New Year's Eve: "Auld Lang Syne."

Newboy 10:54 AM  

Puz was delightful, brilliant as many note above. Would have been even better without the circles on the reveal. @Lewis & @Nancy get their usual nods for reminding us of xwordinfo which often brings additional morning fun. LAS was a perfect head scratcher when lbS wouldn’t sing!

Joseph Michael 10:55 AM  

As one who has more than once stared at a crossword clue and wondered if that was an M of an RN, I thought this puzzle was brilliant. Took me a while to realize that Homer Simpson didn’t steal Jack Horner’s famous line and that yams don’t somehow come out of spinning wheels (that could make for a complicated Thanksgiving dinner).

Also thought the puzzle offered a lot of great fill, such as NOSE STUD (good crossword answer, bad choice for your face ), GREAT APES (how could they not be great if they’re related to King Kong?), and HAD A HUNCH (how Dr. Frankenstein described his assistant Igor).

Kudos to the constructors not only for their terrific puzzle, but also their fantastic names.

Anonymous 11:01 AM  

Next in line (no comments read, I'm so pissed). SALMAN ain't the King, just the usurper.

jae 11:04 AM  

Easy. Much easier than yesterday’s, they should have been switched. I caught the theme early and my only hiccups were @Rex eTApE before STAGE and ring before STUD. Is this one making fun of geezer eye sight? Liked it.

GILL I. 11:06 AM  

@MarthaC 10:07
Good post. I sorta did the same thing but not as elegantly as you put it. I thought B U M S might be SCOTTISH PIGS. Well...that wasn't very nice, I thought. So what did you do? you ask...I ran around looking for my magnifying glass and looked carefully. Oh, wait...we're turning this from sneaky Bums to a sneaky Burns. Phew....I'm not going blind after all . didn't fool me at SPINNING WHEEL..I saw what you two did. My DING DING went off and I want to sing: Yo ho ho and a bottle of GROG. Is it permissible to dance the RUE OVI with my BAE? He GYRATES with the best .
I know a lot of folks here like a rebus and some other fan dangled things to dangle with on a Thursday, but I thought this different and clever...all of it....FROM STEM TO STERN...bravo!

Fellow Earthling 11:16 AM  

Ha ok. I had NO IDEA what this theme was about, even after slogging my way through the puzzle. It didn’t make sense until I read this blog. So OOF. I maybe would have gotten it if the M and RN were lowercase but those circled letters gave me no clues. I kept thinking I was supposed to read the clues in a different direction or something. And then I was trying to figure out which part of the boat was the stem and which was the stern. Just brutal! But super clever (if you get it).

What? 11:22 AM  

Finished without the revealer which mystified at first and then - revealed and delighted! Terrific work.

Shortz should hire the authors along with Robyn and other masters as the Times group with no need for puzzles from outside. Why not aim for great puzzles like today’s instead of amateur stuff? I don’t see a downside unless it’s a question of generating enough puzzles to fill the space. Maybe have an Amateur Day or some such. And being more selective among amateur contributions can only increase quality.

Anonymous 11:31 AM  

I thought this was pretty hard, but that's probably because I didn't get SCOTTISHPOET until pretty late in my solve. I still didn't get it immediately when I got FROMSTEMTOSTERN.

Hartley70 11:34 AM  

Fantastic puzzle! I did not know what the devil was going on until the revealer, although I kept checking “Bum” because it looked like “Burn” to me. The revealer was a Eureka moment that I won’t soon forget. Congrats to the constructors!

bocamp 11:42 AM  

@RooMonster (9:52 AM)

I had confidence in you! πŸ‘

@jberg (10:30 AM) wrote:

"I prefer to solve in the printed newspaper, which uses a tiny font for the clues, so this happens to me all the time."

I solve on line and I still have to sometimes zoom in to the see if I'm looking at an 'm' or an 'rn', lol (hi @Joseph Michael (10:55 AM))

@Fellow Earthling (11:16 AM) wrote:

"I maybe would have gotten it if the M and RN were lowercase …"

That removed a tiny bit of the luster from the overall excellence of this puz! Not the constructor's fault, but I wonder if, being a Thurs, there wasn't some way to use a rebus to convert those letters to lowercase. πŸ€”
td pg: 15:09 / W: 4* (lucky guess at 4)

Peace πŸ™ πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all πŸ•Š

egsforbreakfast 11:45 AM  

It took me a bit to see the theme, but when I got to SCOTTISHPOET, all of a sudden barn!.

KENYA tell me wheres your CARAT? I’m EAGER to look at the SPINNINGWHEEL under the HOOD.

Delightful puzzle with a great revealer. Thanks, Ashish Vengsarkar and Narayan Venkatasubramanyan.

TJS 11:45 AM  

Yes,the hits just kept coming...How's this for a corner? epa,rem,psi. And oed,stu,rbgfha,tha,eos,aig,usta,una,ovi,ores,las,bae and the great idno ! OH YAY

It seems that the constructors were so impressed with their theme gimmick that they just threw any old junk in the rest of the puzzle and figured it was good enough. And apparently many people are agreeing.

And how can our King of finding offense let Salman slip by with nary a word ? Not even a fainting spell, I guess Salman is no Pepe.

puzzlehoarder 12:15 PM  

I had no idea what this puzzle was up to until I figured out the revealer. The first themer went completely over my head because I thought it was an actual Homer Simpson phrase. Even when I realized it was Horner I didn't think of the nursery rhyme. I actually wondered if a Horner was meant to be someone who blows their own horn.

All this near-sighted dense thinking on my part let a couple of glaring dnfs slip through the cracks. I had PAYCAP crossed with LUC and RECANTS with RING. What was worse was that all I worried about was SALMAN crossing LAS. SALMAN was the only option that looked like a name but I couldn't be 100% sure of it.

This was a bad outing for me but thank you to all who welcomed me back. @Hartly70 and @CDilly52 thanks for remembering my knee. It held up fine but for my sister it was a bit of a Bataan Death March. @bocamp we hiked about 120 miles of the trail in San Diego and Riverside Counties. We started in the Laguna Mtns about 60 trail miles north of the border and finished in the mountain town of Idyllwild after hiking through the San Jacinto Mtns.

yd pg-2

old timer 12:26 PM  

I am one of the many geezers who read many of the clues as RN instead of M. But there was no doubt at all that "Bums" was "Bums", and yet the answer was SCOTTISH something (I actually wrote in "play", and was wondering how Macbeth came into it). It was a joy to figure it all out. And, OFL, BURNS is the only Scottish POET most of us have ever heard of, so no problem there.

But I really am here to say how AGAPE I was to hear that Chevel Shepherd song. Watched it twice now, and plan to hear her other songs, to the extent they are online. I haven't the slightest idea why OFL included it. But I am very, very glad he did. And I really think the music clips in this blog are reason enough to read it every day.

af 12:26 PM  

It gave me a good laugh when I read what the theme was and found out that it wasn't just that I have bad eyesight.

spyGuy 12:51 PM  

Good puzzle. I had several "D'OH" moments, though. First, just totally bombed on RBG, and had RGB, and then had a ton of trouble as seeing anything other than BOOGIES in for doing the watusi. Then, had TOGAS, which, when I started getting the themer in there, gave me a REALLY not-good string of letters that I knew had to be wrong. Got WHAT A GOOD BOY AM I early, but didn't think much of it, just assumed it was something Homer would say (cue "I am so smart! S-M-R-T!" song). But, the funniest was when SCOTTISH POET fell into place, and I ALREADY had STEM TO STERN in, and I literally went back to the clue and really focused on it and was thinking "no, that isn't BURNS, it really is BUMS....OHHH!", and the rest of the puzzle fell quickly.

thfenn 1:13 PM  

Wordle 299 3/6


Salvaging the day. QB -1 (and not upset at the one missed).

burtonkd 1:19 PM  

One crossword-friendly puzzle by 2 constructors with very crossword-unfriendly names.

Thank you @Nancy for providing the list of answers OFL would have highlighted if he hadn't liked the theme. I can also hear it now:"Why these particular clues where rn and m are confused?" I love reading him in analyst and comedy mode as someone pointed out the other day.
The keafal(o)a at 53a was my last minute correction to get the happy music. I guessed "fAS", assuming there would be easier ways to get to LAS.

Wanderlust 1:28 PM  

Is there a crossword rule that all clues for foreign words must alliterative? If so, why? Is “cat in CΓ³rdoba” really more clever than “cat in Granada”? I’d love to see a constructor break this rule just to see how people would react. “Mom in Lyon” for MERE?!?! No, it must be “Mom in Marseille”!!!!

It took me until BRASS SECTION to get the theme, and even then I didn’t get the first one. How I did not remember the nursery rhyme, I don’t know. But I was thinking that the asserter of WHAT A GOOD BOY AM I was a dog, and I couldn’t figure out how a “horner” was a dog.

But in the END, I agree it was a great theme.

Adam M. Donahue 1:34 PM  

You’re got to be kidding me. For once Rex likes a puzzle and it’s THIS one? What a mess. I’m convinced at this point he’s a troll.

Masked and Anonymous 1:39 PM  

Cute idea … monkeyin with the clues, again. Kinda easy-ish for a ThursPuz, once U figure out the theme mcguffin. Didn't get our ahar moment from WHATAGOODBOYAMI, but it sunk in, once we saw the SCOTTISHPOET bums come into focus.
Overall, a real fun smooth & friendly one, with primo revealer. Sooo … M&A ain't bumed out.

staff weeject pick: RERN. (Don't work quite as well, with them capital letters.)


Thanx for gangin up on us, Ashish & Narayan dudes. Very enjoyable.

Masked & Anonymo6Us


Elena 2:38 PM  

I appreciate the cleverness of the theme and the revealer, but this was one big headache (literally) to solve for those of us who are nearsighted. I have to squint through my reading glasses on a good day. This just seemed cruel! (OK, I'm sort of kidding, but sort of not.)

okanaganer 2:49 PM  

I thought the theme and revealer were first rate, but the rest of the fill was so-so. I agree SCOTTISH POET is a bit green-painty.

[Spelling Bee: yd 5:50 to pg, got to -1 missing this word. No fair!]

Anoa Bob 2:55 PM  

I was primed for today's puzzle and didn't even know it. The Tuesday March 29 puzzle started at 1 Across with a "Came ___ taco" clue and I was flummoxed because I thought I was knowledgeable about all things taco. Even after the answer ASADA filled in, I was still perplexed. It wasn't until later in the solve that I realized the clue was "Carne ___ taco". D'oh! I even commented here that day on my careless mistake. So today's reveal was especially nice. I agree that it would have worked better with lower case letters "from stem to stern", but I also agree that even so it still stuck the landing.

I've lived near either the Pacific or the Gulf of Mexico for over four decades---and did a hitch in the Navy---and I have never seen any ERNS (39D). They must exist, though, because ERN or ERNS has appeared in the NYTXW 220 times during the Shortz era. Maybe that is what SCOTTISH POET Robert Bums called "Sea eagles".

AT 4:48 PM  

Just want to mention once again for Rex that the murderous crown prince of Saudi Arabia is Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) whom I think many know. Bin means “son”. So King is Salman. Don’t forget!

thfenn 4:59 PM  

@Anoa Bob, I think if you've seen a bald eagle you can rest assured you've seen an ern, tho I think it is North America's lone representative. It, the white tailed eagle, African fish eagle, Stellar's eagle (one from Russia making its way around Maine of late, oddly enough), and a couple others all qualify.

Simpson 5:07 PM  

I really felt the clues should avoid all instances of “m” and exchange “for example” with “for instance”, other wise the theme makes it read “for exarnple”!

Rachel 5:31 PM  

I hated it! So hard! Even after I figured out the theme trick, it was still hard! Who is Horner? What's a cornet? Aggghh. Also I've rarely heard the expression from stem to stern, so even though I recognize it as an expression, I never would have come up with it.

I had nits with some of the clues. For "falls into line" I thought, obeys fits, but no that can't be it because the expression is "fall in line," not "fall into line"! I've never heard anyone say it that way. So I left obeys blank for a long time refusing to believe that could be the answer. I also don't really think peruse works as a clue for scan. They don't have similar enough meanings. I definitely wouldn't use them interchangeably. This puzzle was no fun for me, and so hard.

Aelurus 6:22 PM  

Love that the puzzle has an interactive component for solvers – like so many others, I did look closely at the “m” in 29A to make sure it was an “m.” I had SCOTTISH P_ _ _ and when arse was eliminated, I realized the trick to this puzzle must be, really?, yes!, it must be that particular optical diphthong that often occurs when the letter spacing is too tight and makes me look again. Glad I was familiar with Scotland’s Robert Burns. Didn’t know Little Jack Horner so didn’t understand the first themer till I read @Nancy’s 9:23 am post – thanks, Nancy!

Sounds like it created an interactive moment for Ashish and Narayan, too, when they thought of the revealer well into construction. Though it, as noted, brilliantly fits their theme, it was hard for me to warm up to it.


Harry 10:41 PM  

When Rex enjoys and savors a puzzle it brings to mind the feeling I had when I was a kid and an evening would pass in which my parents simply enjoyed spending time with each other. (14 years that were otherwise acrimonious ...)

Danny and Rachel 11:58 PM  

OK...I feel like an idiot...but can someone explain why so many people find this revealer perfect? I get that the m's change to rn's, but why is putting that in STEM/STERN "perfect?" What am I missing here? I keep thinking, "Yes, that's an expression, but the clues/answers don't at all involve the "STE" part of the revealer. I must be missing something, though, because y'all are losing your minds over this revealer.

Z 12:06 AM  

@Danny and Rachel - They must've started with this phrase and built the puzzle around it, because it is right on the money: it's a familiar idiom that could stand on its own in any puzzle *and* it uses clever wordplay to indicate the theme (instead of just pointing at it) *AND* it's a perfect grid-spanning 15 letters long. This is what's known as "sticking the landing." So much of the pleasure of solving rides on this moment: the revealer revealing.

faber 1:01 AM  

The clue here says that the answer is a clue for parsing lower case letters of 4 other clues. And the answer is the example of how stem goes to stern if you squint. Isn't that clever?

The funny thing for me was that I thought the m's were rn's while I was solving. It took a while to figure out how the revealer was supposed to be revealing anything.

JC66 8:38 AM  

@Danny and Rachel 11:58

Simply put, the m in STEM changes to rn in STERN.

Anonymous 3:05 PM  

Horrid puzzle - not a "crossword" puzzle, IMO, due to the bizarre 'trick'. And not worthy of publication in the NY Times.

spacecraft 3:46 AM  

Decided to see what all the fuss was about, so I tried Wordle. My first one ever:


A "par." Is that good? For a first time?

JChristopher 11:48 AM  

Sometimes I hate Saturday puzzles, but this is the lowest point in recent memory.

Simply atrocious.

Anonymous 4:58 PM  

Salman. Or mbs. Is a murderer. Plain and simple. Sliced up a reporter and hid it because of his connections In the White House who by the way he just gave 2 billion dollars to against the recommendation of others. So miss me with anything good to say about this puzzle.

thomas 9:50 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
thefogman 10:52 AM  

Ditto what Rex said. Excellent puzzle. Well done Ashish Vengsarkar and Narayan Venkatasubramanyan More please!

Wordle 334 4/6*


spacecraft 11:00 AM  

Wow, how did my post above (from at least a month ago) wind up here? I've been "Wordling" that long. Today's (again taken from yesterday's grid):


for a second consecutive birdie.

Anyhoo. I've been thrown off many times by the bad kerning in the font in which clues are printed in my paper, and today I get a whole puzzle built around it! I couldn't tell which it was anyway, so I just waited till I got enough letters to figure it out. Like a long across ending in -OET. Well, that just about had to be POET (checking the down: yep, -GAP looks right) and so the key word becomes Burns. See? This font is much better. You can see the difference easily. Bums, Burns.

So it was a bit of a different solving experience for me. But I think we all agree about the stuck landing. 10 out of 10. Plus clean and interesting fill as well. Put me down for a sea eagle!

Diana, LIW 12:41 PM  

I usually fear the Thursday rebus or missing letter type thingy.

But I LOVED THIS. I see RN for M all the time! (The good news is I'm getting cataract surgery next week - can't wait!)

This puz was right down my alley. Where my alley cat was my ally.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords - and Clarity of Vision

Burma Shave 1:31 PM  


STU was a DING-dong EGOIST,
an ODDSOCK, yet an EAGER, TOUCHY guy.
Just SPINNINGWHEELs will GET him pissed,
but still TELLS himself, “WHATAGOODBOYAMI!”


rondo 2:00 PM  

Come on now, admit it. Right about when you got the SCOTTISHPOET and figured out the trick you put that paper with the agate type right up next to your NOSE and said, "Oh, yeah." HADAHUNCH you did. Well done, especially for Thursday.

Wordle par today leaving me at 6 under after 15.

Waxy in Montreal 2:34 PM  

OHYAY, loved this grid! Creative and so on the money for this solver who always has trouble with the (rn or m?) kerning issue. @Diana, the bad news is that cataract surgery doesn't help - have had both eyes done and while overall vision is much improved, this problem persists.

Only delays that had me me SPINNING(my)WHEELs were PAYOLA before PAYGAP, OBE before ODE and ONESOCK before ODDSOCK. And scratched my head like a GREATAPE over BAE. Huh?

THA's all folks!

Anonymous 5:11 PM  

I have had cataract surgery in both eyes, and have lost my sight in my right eye, due to glaucoma. And yet, I loved this puzzle. I do agree that it was very easy, though. It might have been my easiest Thursday NYTX ever, and I've been doing crossword puzzles for over 60 years.

Anonymous 3:53 PM  

Truly exquisite point!

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