Cotton fabric named for a French city / MON 6-20-22 / Strong negative reaction as from the public / Late-1950s car stylings designed to look aerodynamic / Lady in Progressive ads / Large props held by contest winners in publicity photos / Leafy fresh herb in caprese salad / Singer Paul with star on Canada's Walk of Fame

Monday, June 20, 2022

Constructor: Christopher Youngs

Relative difficulty: Normal Easy

THEME: NATIONALS (65A: D.C. baseball players ... or what the ends of 17-, 21-, 39- and 55-Across sound like) — last words of themers sound like the name of people of various nationalities:

Theme answers:
  • EXIT POLLS (Poles) (17A: Data sources for Election Day coverage)
  • NECK TIES (Thais) (21A: Accessories that may feature Windsor knots)
  • OVERSIZED CHECKS (Czechs) (39A: Large props held by contest winners in publicity photos)
  • TAILFINS (Finns) (55A: Late-1950s car stylings designed to look aerodynamic)
Word of the Day: METTLE (4D: Test one's ___ (be a challenge)) —
1avigor and strength of spirit or temperament (see TEMPERAMENT sense 1a)a girl of … mettle who lost a baby brother to leukemia— Bill Zehme
bstaying quality STAMINAequipment that proved its mettleproved his mettle in battle
2quality of temperament or dispositiongentlemen of brave mettle— William Shakespeare
on one's mettle
aroused to do one's best (
• • •

Some days, I just ... don't have much of anything to say about a puzzle. I nearly fell asleep in the middle of this one. Do you know how unlikely that is? It's Monday—there's only a 3-or-4-minute window for falling asleep. But this thing just couldn't get up off the ground, somehow, and so I felt very tuned out. The puzzle had a couple of remarkable moments, at the very middle, and the very end (when I went back to see what the hell NATIONALS meant), but in between, it was like watching paint dry. Beige paint. Eggshell. You might say it was ... Ecru-ciating (how is ECRU not in this puzzle?—it really feels like the kind of puzzle where ECRU is lurking, somewhere...). I think the theme works just fine, actually. Of course I didn't notice the theme at all as I was solving, but realizing what the theme was, and that it was pretty consistent and tight, did elicit a little curious / mildly impressed "huh" from me, I'll admit that. I just wish there'd been anything between start and finish to kind of liven things up a bit. There's nothing horrible here. There's just a lot of stale, if perfectly legitimate, short stuff. Well, I said "nothing horrible," but that's not entirely true. There's ISMS. I'm never going to understand any constructor being content to have a non-word like ISMS in their grid when there's absolutely no need for it (as, today, there is not). Do you have any crosswordese like this that drives you nuts, where you're like "no, come on, anything, Anything, but that." ISMS is so made-up that I would happily accept ESAI and ECRU and EPEE in the same small section if it meant not having to see ISMS. I redid the ISMS corner just so I wouldn't have to look at ISMS any more. It came out blah, but blah is 1000x better than what's currently in the grid because what's currently in the grid is ISMS.

And before you knock IRMA, first of all, IRMA Thomas was a great soul singer, and secondly, there's a new TV series on HBO called "Irma Vep," based on a mid-'90s French movie of the same name (starring Maggie Cheung, really worth seeing). "Irma Vep" anagrams to "Vampire." But it's not a vampire movie. Not in the traditional sense. Anyway, the movie version is on The Criterion Channel. Where was I? Ah yes, my No-ISMS policy, which is firm. Definitely a "break only in case of emergency" word.

So, aside from the realization that the theme works just fine, even if it's not terribly exciting, the puzzle's other slight high point came midway, with OVERSIZED CHECKS, easily the most original and interesting answer in the grid. But to my ears the phrase is missing something, specifically the word "NOVELTY" between OVERSIZED and CHECKS. The phrase OVERSIZED CHECKS just doesn't get across the uncashability of said checks. I like the visual image that the clue conveys, but the phrase itself feels, well, passable but not on-the-nose.

I had trouble (not capital-T trouble, but trouble nonetheless) coming up with POOL (18D: Game with 15 numbered balls) and METTLE. I kept wanting POOL to be KENO, despite the fact that there are (I think) way more than 15 balls involved in KENO. Something about the way the clue was asking me to imagine POOL just didn't click. As for METTLE, the clue phrase wasn't terribly familiar to me, and the parenthetical part only made things worse (4D: Test one's ___ (be a challenge)). I think if I'd been constructing this I'd've done Anything I could've to turn METTLE into KETTLE. Oh, hey, look: change ATOM (1A: Tiny unit of matter) to AMOK, and bingo, there you go. Done and done. And you get a bonus "K" in the bargain. Sigh. Anyway, METTLE is not bad. I'm not knocking METTLE as a word. But I am saying KETTLE is better. Esp. for a Monday. That's quite enough about this puzzle. See you tomorrow. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Lewis 9:29 PM  

My five favorite clues from last week
(in order of appearance):

1. Good or bad vacuum review? (5)
2. "Mom" for a day, say (4)(6)
3. French, to the English (4)
4. Match point? (6)
5. Treacherous places to land for eagles? (4)(5)


Anonymous 10:10 PM  

ANGELOU / ELEGIAC for a Monday?

Z 10:34 PM  


Joaquin 10:51 PM  

Geez, Rex, did ya have to be so harsh? It's a Monday, ferchrissakes.

I do think it would be fair to question the inclusion of ELEGIAC on a Monday, and some solvers may be too young to be familiar with TAILFINS.

But half a blog bitchin' about ISMS and crying about METTLE almost ruined a nice day for me. Almost. But it didn't.

Ryan Miller 11:17 PM  

Isn't Irma Vep a reference to the 1915 silent movie/serial series Les Vampires? Worthwhile watch honestly, I'm watching through the 1001 movies to see before you die list and that was one of the first ones on there chronologically. It's something like 7 hours long, but it has a whole ton of cool pioneering things in it.

Very curious to see the HBO Irma Vep too.

jae 12:15 AM  

Medium. Smooth and an OK Mon., ETHNIC homophones work for me, liked it.

@bocamp - Croce’s Freestyle #719 was medium-tough i.e. over 2 hours to finish. Good luck!

okanaganer 12:37 AM  

Rex, could not disagree with you more about the SE corner. I don't mind ISMS too much; and there are no names in there. Unlike your suggestion, which contains 3 very boring names and an abbrev!! Are you crazy?

Solving by looking at only the down clues, I just couldn't figure out what the heck the theme was. 39 across sure looked like the revealer, and it had to be OVERSIZED CHECKS, but... what?? What the hell is are OVERSIZED CHECKs? Also, I had LYSEE for the fabric/French city (whadda I know); it made sense with crosses of SUNNY and ALE.

That clue for ETHNIC was just brutal!

[Spelling Bee: Sat pg-1, missed this 7er which was new to me. Sun -0!
My week, Monday to Sunday: -1, -1, -1, -1, 0, -1, 0.]

Joe Dipinto 12:47 AM  

Irma Thomas *is* a great soul singer. She hasn't gone anywhere.

I liked this theme.

Gary Jugert 12:58 AM  

Blueberries for Sal has become the NYTXW most essential read lately. Could go with Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, or McCloskey's children's book. Either way, it's all just collections of words as the Anonym-oti tell us often. Basically the same thing.

Nice surprise to find the revealer, but it feels wrong to me. NATIONALS fits the first part of the clue, but the homophones are NATIONALITIES.

I need to know when they changed the spelling of METTLE. Who knows how many times I've written "test your metal." Sheesk. I see its etymology is the same, so why two spellings? I also couldn't spell ELEGIAC, because I was positive it's ELEGAIC (and should be). See the constructor's own GEESE/MEESE conundrum. English is the worst.


OVER SIZED CHECKS: I remember an episode of The Office where they wanted to use a big check, but it was too expensive to make.

TAIL FINS: Should be a federal requirement to have them on all cars. You don't need a turbo if you have them. They make children smarter, girls prettier, and the economy greener.

SNIFFLES: We used to allow sniffles. Remember how we used to poo-poo illness? If you have sniffles now, you will be ostracized like a leper. Take your box of Kleenex and go away... far away.

KOLN: Years ago we stepped out of the train station in Cologne and gazed upon the cathedral there. One of the most beautiful sites I'd ever seen.

DAFT: A wildly underrated word that keeps crazy on the right side of mental illness.


EXIT POLLS: Thanks to one nut bag and a retinue of sheeple, we're stuck listening to polls and uncertified results everywhere we go. I weary of the noise.

CYST: Way to end a puzzle with a tumor.

1 Modern jabots made from funny smelling run-off paper.
2 Enticing junkyard sign.
3 Reaction of the bromine sensitive upon entering a motel's most dubious amenity.


Annabel 1:07 AM  

Maybe ELEGIAC was simply a bit fresh in my mind after doing some recent googling of its spelling for a Spelling Bee (really wanted it to be "elegic") but especially factoring in the crosses I found it to be a reasonable inclusion. As for TAILFINS - I'm 22 and about as far from an autophile as one can get but still managed to fill it in with very few crosses. No worries for us youngsters! :)

Sharon AK 3:06 AM  

@ Lewis I agree the vacuum review clue was great. And thanks for the last now Eagle/sandtraps. I didn't understand that when I did the puzzle but didn't think much about it. Just passed on. Seeing it in your list I realized Eagle as in golf scoring..

Took me a second look to "get" the meaning of the reveal. ?then I smiled.
Seemed generally fine for a Monday.

Lewis 7:07 AM  

I love when a Monday theme defeats me, that is when I have all the theme answers and still can’t guess what connects them, which happened today. That means my brain was fully engaged, plus I was rewarded with a big aha when the reveal revealed what eluded me. Good one, Christopher!

Some random PuzzPoints:
• I liked the five in-the-language four-letter semordnilaps – SIRI, ABUT, POOL, IRON, TRAP.
• Some lovely answers for any day of the week, but especially for a Monday puzzle: SPATIAL, ELEGIAC, TAILFINS, DANK, METTLE, SNIFFLES, DAFT, BACKLASH, and LISLE. I assume Monday solvers have the same vocabulary base as the rest of us, they're just new at solving, and words like this are terrific on Monday, if fairly crossed.
• Funny what the brain does. I glanced at FORESEE and my brain inserted “all to” right between FORE and SEE. And then I noticed that ALL is placed right above FORESEE.
• So, I got to thinking about those OVERSIZED CHECKS. Is there a place whose business is to make them? Yes, actually, there’s a business called the Big Check Store, and this is what they do. (Other places make big checks, but as part of a host of other services.) Are big checks legal, that is, can they be cashed? Yes, it turns out, but banks do have the option to reject them.
• Rare to see a puzzle anchored by three ANKs, in ANKA, ANKLE, and DANK.
• Playful clues do not happen often on direct-clue-day Mondays, but today we are gifted with two, for GEESE and AUTO.

So, Christopher, this was a feast for me, not simply a quick dash-off. Thank you so much, and thank you for all the rework (as you detail in your notes on you put into it!

Son Volt 7:33 AM  

Pretty much solved this as a themeless - the revealer is fine but the sounds like gimmick is tough to get right. Overall fill is good - liked the TAIL FINS x SNIFFLES cross and the clue for GEESE was top notch.

A man must test his METTLE in the crooked old world

Enjoyable Monday solve.

SouthsideJohnny 7:41 AM  

I liked the way Rex complains that METTLE should be KETTLE - no, big guy, sorry, but it is just fine the way it is. It’s a real word, Monday-level in difficulty and clued appropriately. Case closed.

Agree with the others who have remarked that ELEGIAC is a bit of a stretch for this early in the week. At least the concession was just on a potentially difficult word and not an obscure bit of archania (or a math exam in a random foreign language). So I would vote to give that one a pass as well.

Anonymous 8:07 AM  

I hate OREO in a puzzle. I've seen exactly one clue for the hated cookie that was clever and funny (it was by Robyn Weintraub), but it still offered no resistance. But sometimes ya gotta just fill. Rex's ISMS rant was pretty funny, considering that his alternative involved an example--PSAT--of a fill genre I really hate. The aptitude tests: LSAT PSAT GRE MCAT GMAT.

It's a Monday, and the level of annoying fill was low. I enjoyed this puzzle. Thanks, @Lewis, for pre-retorts to all the cavilling. (Look it up. And don't tell me how it *should* be spelled.)

CAK 8:27 AM  

What I really enjoyed about today's puzzle was the cluing! Seems like Christopher had some fun with that 😉 What I most appreciated was the clue for 13D. If I had a dollar for every time "less" was heard or written when it should have been "fewer" - I would be a millionaire! (I also have a gut reaction to "good" vs "well" - my K-12 teachers taught me well!)

My brain likes to start the week with a Monday warm-up followed by a bit of light cardio on Tuesday. By Wednesday it's on a steady jog, gearing up for a possible "rebus" hill on Thursday and a definite climb on Friday. By Saturday it's ready for the NYTXW obstacle course! And Sunday is a day of rest - as a print version solver, the letters and numbers are too small! Even with my new reading glasses!

Anonymous 8:27 AM  

Amy: Amusing Monday. When I was very young and tailfins were new, I thought that just as adults grew wrinkled and stooped as they aged, cars did the same, so the tailfins gradually rounded down and became less sharp.

Anonymous 8:28 AM  

I have a degree in Poetry and “elegiac” took me a second - interesting choice for a Monday. I didn’t get the theme until I looked back and had the same “huh”… could have left out the theme entirely and would have solved it at the same speed. Meh.

Trinch 8:29 AM  

Big old DNF for me here. I was not familiar with Blueberries for SAL and had assets for subject to a tax. No excuse for my lack of 40’s kiddie lit knowledge, but can’t figure out the connecting between ASSESSing property for its value and subjecting it to taxes. As far as I’m concerned, the assessment only comes if, and when, something is already subjected to taxes. And for all I knew, sweet Talia, nicknamed Tal, was in for some blueberries.

Whatsername 8:46 AM  

DITTO what Rex said that there’s not a lot to get excited about here but still, it’s a solid grid with a nice FLO and a perfectly serviceable Monday. I did kind of tsk tsk at the revealer however because what we’re really talking about here are ALL NATIONALitieS . . . so that kind of wobbled a bit IMHO.

If there’s one thing I cannot ABIDE on Election Day it’s EXIT POLLS. As distasteful as being asked my ETHNIC origin at the doctors office. I thought SARA Bareilles and KOLN were a little much for Monday but ALI and ANGELOU are pretty high profile. And I have no objection to ISMS. It’s a term I have used and heard used in conversation which appeared in three on-line dictionaries as “a distinctive doctrine, cause, or theory.” Seems like an innocuous entry, not to mention an actual official “word” in our current vernacular.

Mike in Bed-Stuy 8:52 AM  

My quibble is not with the entry ELEGIAC per se, but the cluing. "Mournful" is okay, but, as the word refers to elegy, a poetic form or genre, it always has to do with expression (typically in speech, but potentially in music or dance or visual art, etc.). So I would have clued it something like "mournful in tone" or "expressing sorrow." A rather narrow quibble, but then, my nits are usually on the picky side. I'm a big fan of precision, especially in thought and language.

KT 9:03 AM  

I think the POOL cluing comes from the lyric for "Trouble" in Meredith Willson's The Music Man "That game with the 15 numbered balls is the devil's tool"
Perhaps the current Broadway revival has created an earworm for the constructor.

idlechatter 9:08 AM  

As you note, Keno is not really an apt answer for “Game with 15 numbered balls.” The correct answer was quite obvious. The clue is drawn nearly verbatim from “The Music Man’s” exhortation on the evils of Pool: “That game with the 15 numbered balls is a Devil’s tool.”

RooMonster 9:12 AM  

Hey All !
ASSEtS. Harrumph. One-letter DNF on a Monday. Heck, someone could've given TAL some blueberries...

Interesting sounds-like theme. Could've worked in ETHNIC as part of the theme. And it's symmetric partner, METTLE. Why not? So sayeth this TWIT.

Unusual place names next to each other, GOBI/SUEZ. Juxtaposed also being a desert and water.

TAILFINS, the picture Rex shows is a 1959 Cadillac, which claims the highest FiNS ever. There have been some Plymouth/Chrysler products with big FINS, also, seemingly (to me):to out-FIN that Cadillac, but it must be the slope of the trunk on that Cadillac that makes it the winner. The last true FINS were on a 1964 Cadillac, and by then they were little FINS. 1965 eliminated them completely.

Anyway, fun puz. Some un-Mondayish things in here, previously mentioned by others, including ELEGIAC and KOLN. I FORESEE some with troubles.

Gonna get my DAFT-ness outta here.😁

yd -5, should'ves 3

Three F's

pmdm 9:26 AM  

I don't like to publish a comment unless there is a reason for it to be published. Today, I would like to point out the constructor's comments. (You can find them ain a few places, including He seems a bit unhappy with his puzzle. Perhaps more critical of it than Sharp. Interesting. At least to me.

I like to skip the theme entries (usually the longest ones) on Mondays, resulting in my reading the reveal clue before the other theme clues. That took away the AHA moment that Lewis liked so much. Liked the puzzle anyway. Not much else original to say.

OxfordBleu 9:27 AM  

@Trinch 8:29 try SUBJECT as a verb and it should make sense.
Puzzle fine. Rex whiny as usual.

bocamp 9:32 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom T 10:05 AM  

Some POLLS and some TIES and some CHECKS and some FINS walked into a bar. But it was too crowded, so they ALL left.

Nancy 10:09 AM  

I got sidetracked by taking care -- or at least hoping I have -- of a Big Problem plaguing me in my apartment building. I forgot that I hadn't yet completed the puzzle and was surprised to see that I still had about half left to do when I returned to it.

That will illustrate how engrossed I was in the puzzle when I put it down for a while.

bocamp 10:16 AM  

Thx, Christopher, for the multi-NATIONALS puz; well done! :)


Smooth solve.

Pretty sure I wouldn't've gotten the theme without the nudge from Christopher.

Nice to see SPATIAL again, after my recent SPAcIAL blunder.

Had ELEGIAl. Thank goodness for the fair cross.

Was no DAFT TWIT on this one. Very enjoyable start to the puzzling week! :)


Thx; on it! :)

Another excellent NYT' Acrostic yd!

Very doable SB today! :)
yd 0 / W: 3* / WH: 3 / Duo: 34

Peace 🙏 🇺🇦 ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

jimihaveaname 10:22 AM  

Cologne in German is Köln (w umlaut), not Koln, but that doesn't work for the cross.
Could almost forgive this error except that the clue correctly included the umlaut for München. I don't love non-English words in crosswords, but at least spell them correctly.

Did love the clue for LESS, however.

pabloinnh 10:31 AM  

"Either you are closing your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge, or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated by the presence of a pool table in your community."

There's some context for the "fifteen numbered balls".

Solid Monday puzzle, revealer in the right place, couldn't see it coming, so that's all good.

@R00-great info on the TAILFINS. Some of us remember them very well.

Anonymous 10:49 AM  

Irma Thomas IS a great jazz singer! Saw her in New Orleans last month — she’s still got it! And her grandson performed too. He is an aspiring rapper.

Whatsername 10:54 AM  

@CAK (8:27) Either I haven’t been paying attention [likely] or you are relatively new to the blog. Anyway I just had to say your second paragraph sums up my approach to the NYTXW perfectly. The week-long “treadmill” experience Monday through Friday, the nearly insurmountable Saturday and then a total pass on Sundays for the same reason. We must be kindred crossword spirits. My initials are even CK. 😄

@Trinch (8:29) I think you have a valid point about ASSESS, kind of an awkward way to clue. Matter of fact, I hesitated there too because I had the same thought - you wouldn’t be assessing it if it’s not already subject to taxation.

Nancy 11:03 AM  

Anon 8:27 -- Anyone interesting enough to come up at a very young child with the theory that *cars grow stooped and rounded in old age, just like people, and therefore lose their tailfins* is interesting enough to have a nom de blog. Why not invent one for yourself and become known to us?

Victory Garden 11:23 AM  

I finished this in about 3m, but never did get the Nationals theme so thanks for 'splaining. This happens to me a lot. I can get every answer but the theme fails to make sense. A weakness in big-picture vs. detail thinking or some dang thing.

Masked and Anonymous 11:32 AM  

ISMS really PSST @RP off, I reckon.
But, shoot … if yer gonna redo a corner, at least put some ELEGIAC-worthy stuff in there. And at least one extra U. Example:

54. It's from Mars and is tasty
60. Greek port and Prince Philip's home isle
70. Y.S.L. start-up?
73. Dutch painter dude Jan van der ___
52. English version of another country's name, like Germany instead of Deutschland
61. Appraisal full of praise
62. Get out of Dodge pronto
63. "Back in the ___" (Beatles tune)

staff weeject pick: TUE. Also, winner of the moo-cow eazy-E MonPuz clue award, for its sparklinly obvious {Mon. follower}.

Theme was pretty clever and different. Like.
fave themer: OVERSIZEDCHECKS. Better cut down on the schnitzels, U guys. And go easy of the rice, chex.


Thanx for the fun, Mr. Youngs dude. Nice job.

Masked & Anonymo4Us


Mary McCarty 11:32 AM  

@Gary Jugart: mettle (n.)
1580s, a variant spelling of metal. Both forms of the word were used interchangeably (by Shakespeare and others) in the literal sense and in the figurative one of "stuff of which a person is made, (a person's) physical or moral constitution" (1550s), hence "natural temperament," specifically "ardent masculine temperament, spirit, courage" (1590s). The spellings diverged early 18c. and this form took the figurative sense.
Others: since ELEGIAC is the adjective formed from ELEGy, it follows the spelling “rule” (if there are such things in English) of “change the Y to I and add…”

Agree with Lewis “I assume Monday solvers have the same vocabulary base* as the rest of us, they're just new at solving, and words like this are terrific on Monday, if fairly crossed.” IMHO, much better than random cast/characters from TV and films.( *i.e. geography, history, literature, math & science base + sports & you get the typical Trivial Pursuits categories, tho’ for Mondays, they should be more well-known than trivial.)
Mondays are also for the easier “clue tricks” like “what you say inside quotes”20A; Change the accent 7D; abbreviations beget abbreviations 31D; foreign language /reference in clue begets foreign language in answer, tho made way to easy here in 15A.
Only a few of those tricks today, making is easier than average, for me.

mathgent 11:49 AM  

Nice puzzle.

mathgent 11:58 AM  

Some of you may remember Fred Romagnolo. He regularly made incisive comments here until two or three years ago. I just heard that he died on May 24 at 90. He lived here in San Francisco his whole life. He was a brilliant teacher in our middle- and high-schools.

old timer 11:59 AM  

I thought the puzzle was just fine, though I agree ELEGIAC isn't very Mondayish.

But let me point out a NATIONAL of a country is quite different from the nationality of its inhabitants, at least in two or the four countries cited. Maybe in all four. A NATIONAL of Poland is most likely a POLE, but his nationality is Polish. A NATIONAL of Finland is a FINN, but his nationality is Finnish. A NATIONAL of the Czech Republic is a Czech, but until recently his nationality would have been Czechoslovakian. And for all I know, the THAIS also make some distinction there.

tea73 12:04 PM  

To pile on, in German it is acceptable to use an "e" after the vowel to represent the vowel changed caused by the umlaut. So you if don't have an umlaut on your keyboard you type Koeln.

I agree that "National" feels just a little off as a revealer.

I wanted to spell ELEGIAC ELEGaiC, thankfully thought better of it.

Z 12:06 PM  

When my sons and their friends dabbled in the NYTX it was never words like ELEGIAC that would throw them, it would be entries like Paul ANKA.

@Whatsername - Nice Avatar.

@Mary McCarty - Thanks for the full METTLE jacket history. Where does Meddle fit in?

@pmdm - Yep. Rex actually varies positively from his initial reaction so I'd say the constructor is far harder on the puzzle than Rex was. I am also with whoever said ISMS>PSAT, but de gustibus and all that.

Z 12:07 PM  

@mathgent - Thank you for sharing.

Masked and Anonymous 12:08 PM  

Typo correction, from first msg.:
"And go easy ON the rice, chex."

Way to blow a punchline, M&A breath.

Will weakly attempt to make "amends", with a bonus runtpuz, below.

M&A Corrections Desk


GILL I. 12:16 PM  

My new avatar is the cup of coffee I have every morning. It's delicious and it makes me happy. I'm inviting dear @Rex over for a morning taste. It just might make him smile as well a put him in a better mood.
I thought this was cute. Finding the NATIONALS at the end, then wondering what is hiding under an umbrella. Ah...lookie here. Just an interesting switcheroo Monday.
My favorite was OVERSIZED CHECKS. I love the Z in there....Zdenka checks her oversiZed mushrooms while her husband, CZechs, holds up the bar with his beer.
I have no problems seeing ISM. I ISM perturbed in the least. My favorite is hypercatabolISM. I have no idea what it means, but I like it.
15 A needs a little AY in front of it. Ay DIOS mio....cierra la window que eta reinando...Curtesy of Miami Cubans.
Nice Monday, Christopher...see you in the future.

SFR 12:39 PM  

We had an enthusiastic East-European professor in college. We referred to him as the 'bouncing Czech'.

egsforbreakfast 1:03 PM  

DeSantis to Romney: “IRON, call on you, OMIT, to don’t GOBI ABUT and admit that EXITPOLLS are EASY to RIG and mean LESS than NIL. Just BEG for OVERSIZEDCHECKS.”

Weren’t Ellie Jack and Angie Lou in Smokey and the Bandit?

Nice Monday puzzle with a tight set of themers. Thanks, Christopher Youngs.

CDilly52 2:06 PM  

Agree completely @okanaganer. All the way through, I was thinking that this was an unusually PPP free Monday and had lots to praise-especially the “you didn’t see it coming” theme.

okanaganer 2:33 PM  

@jimihaveaname 10:22am: I'm pretty sure it's difficult to put diacritics etc in the xword answers themselves, and I for one hope we NEVER see them! English can function just fine without the stupid things (take that, New Yorker magazine which refuses to print "coordinate" without an umlaut).

[Spelling Bee: td pg in 2 min flat, then another ~8min to QB!]

CDilly52 2:55 PM  

What an unusual yet absolutely Monday-appropriate puzzle. This one solved themeless and I was surprised at the end to find the reveal. Maybe not totally surprised. After all, the marquee OVERSIZED CHECKS sure wanted to occupy my notice throughout, but until we got to the reveal, I had no idea. None. And that makes me very happy. Because of the cleverness for a Monday, I can forgive my initial “ugh! Improper word form!” frisson at plopping in NATIONALS to make me go back to find the homophones (that I had completely overlooked) to pull it all together.

I refuse to cry foul on this theme. Rachel Fabi’s analysis didn’t include any objections, and I find her comments to be cogent and fair. Occasionally when @Rex has a knee-jerk dislike of a puzzle, he seems (to me) to work way too hard to try to justify the extreme dislike. Today is a good example. An inch or so on ISMS?! Really? Is that all? I have to agree with Rachel Fabi on this one. It’s a wonderful entry level NYTXW Monday with a little vocabulary crunch and very, very little junk. Just the type puzzle to lure daily subscribers. Christopher Youngs even takes the time to clue many words “other than” the standard Monday style which added more interest to the Monday solve. I can forgive the ISMS, improper word form and loved inclusion of my favorite modern American poet, Maya ANGELOU. Strong Monday puzzle. Not boring at all.

Whatsername 3:40 PM  

@Zed (12:06) Thanks. Some people think I’m joking.

A 3:49 PM  

Sorry, @Rex, I BEG to differ - this was the opposite of bland. The word “colorful” actually came to my mind as I was solving, especially with all the ETHNIC NATIONALS, the musicians and poets, and a virtual trip around the world. Wacky places like the intersections of DAFT/TWIT and FLO/SNIFFLES added humor, and the constructor even managed to cross AUTO and TAILFINS. I couldn’t FORESEE the BACKLASH from OFL.

Speaking of DAFT TWIT, what’s with kETTLE? I’ll take a puzzle with METTLE any day. But now I wonder, does an IRON kETTLE have more METTLE than a TIN one?

TAXI makes a timely appearance after the links to the video yesterday, with synonym IDLE in the corresponding NE spot.

RURAL - this made me think of my mom, SARAh, who, even though she had a master’s degree in education, struggled to say RURAL. It’s had to describe, but it sounded like she used a short U and left out the second R. Born and raised in the deep South, she somehow still got two or three syllables out of it.

Easy Monday, though I did observe the yellow/amber light and waited to fill in the last part of ELEGIAC until the crossing traffic had safely passed. Here’s a remarkable musical example of an elegy, Poulenc’s Elégie pour cor et piano 'In memory of Dennis Brain.’

Thanks for the fun ride, Mr. Youngs.

Unknown 4:06 PM  

CDIlly52@ 2:55

rex parker is no rachel fabi.

and the rant about ISMS is just classic rex. it's his party, so he gets to whine about whatever. . . .

dgd 5:32 PM  

"National" can be used tor a person. She is a national of Finland. She is a Finn. I think the theme works.

Michael G. Benoit 5:57 PM  

ISMS has been in the lexicon at least since Ferris Bueller's Day Off. And as others have noted, it's much preferred to PSAT. 🤮

Ditto everyone else about NATIONALitieS. I only came here to see what the theme was. I didn't get it at all after finishing the puzzle.

Anonymous 7:02 PM  

I nearly Naticked on LISLE. The clue took my brain straight to DENIM, but I’ve never heard of LISLE. Does this belong in a Monday?

Anoa Bob 7:33 PM  

If memory serves me correctly, on U.S. military overseas the local citizens of the host country are officially referred to as NATIONALS. My trusty hard copy Random House Webster's College Dictionary says "-n. a citizen or subject of a particular nation who is entitled to its protection".

I always drop in ISMS right away for any clue like today's "Ideologies" but I think using a suffix, which is what -ISM is, to discuss anything as weighty as an ideology, degrades the seriousness of that discussion. Sounds more like text or tweet speak. There's already an endemic infestation of that in NYTXW grids. I'd prefer to see it clued something like "Suffix for ...". Plenty of options there. Own it for what it is, grid fill, space taker, glue or the like, clue it straight up and move on.

Usually we see ASSESS in a rightmost column or bottom row where it can enable four crossing POCs (plural of convenience). I thought the mother of all super POCs, ASSESES, was a mythological creature but I saw one in the wild while doing a 2003 Friday puzzle. Further research shows it has appeared nine times during the Shortz era. It's a super POC because it is a POC itself plus it enables four potential POC crossings.

Anonymous 7:43 PM  

Anon 7:02,
Be happy you’re unfamiliar w lisle. If you owned a Ford F-150 with their Three valve engine (Triton)of a certain vintage you’d almost certainly know lisle for their tool which one uses to extract spark plugs which have broken off in the head.😡

Joe Dipinto 10:06 PM  

@Mathgent — I remember Fred Romagnolo. I used to like his posts. There's an obituary online for him at (I tried to bring a link over but am getting an error page).

JC66 10:21 PM  

Fred Romagnolo obituary.

Amy 10:59 PM  

Mettle is a fantastic word! Leave the mettle alone!

Sarah Jordan 12:22 AM  

Appreciating the persistence, you put into your blog and detailed on Pool Filter Ball you provide.

thefogman 10:07 AM  

EASY even for a Monday. No INKfest today. In fact I ACED it. Not one writeover. Can’t say I ADORE it. But it did the job and will please new solvers. And isn’t that what Mondays are all about?

Burma Shave 10:39 AM  


CAME to CURL for wins,


rondo 10:57 AM  

Yes, quite easy. I can think of other themers but they would be disparaging to the ETHNIC folk they represent.
Back to birdie after worst wordle week.

spacecraft 12:01 PM  

Hand up for transposing the A and I of ELEGIAC (not, I would say, a Monday word, but there've been worse). I like the rare appearance of DOD Maya ANGELOU's surname--and the NOVEL crossing clue mentioning colleague Toni Morrison.

I admit I should've gotten the theme after that amusing gridspanner, but it did serve to make the aha moment a small one: oh, of course, silly me.

A very serviceable Monday, nothing outLANDish. (Not so sensitive about ISMS.) Birdie.

Congrats to Tony Finau on a long overdue win. Birdie seems to be the WOD:


Diana, LIW 3:19 PM  

But @Rondo - what could follow (TAIL) the FINnS?

Happy Monday.

Lady Di

rondo 5:30 PM  

@D,LIW, overLAPS, or earLAPS? Or bigSAMMMYS?

Diana, LIW 8:49 PM  

@Rondo - at this rate, the French could be toast.


rondo 11:23 PM  

That would be leapFROG

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