Good or bad vacuum review / THU 6-16-22 / Eventgoers / One performing a palm print analysis / Trochee's counterpart / Facts First sloganeer / Setting for memorable cable car scene in Moonraker / Leads as a D&D campaign / Biblical patriarch with two-syllable name / That's a goldang lie! / Tree in the etymology of gin

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Constructor: Parker Higgins and Ross Trudeau

Relative difficulty: Well, I thought it was Easy, but early social media response indicates otherwise, so who knows?

THEME: "That TTTTTTT Show" (i.e. "That 7 T's Show" i.e. "That '70s Show") — OK, that's not the theme, but that is an example of how this theme works: what *sounds* like an enumeration of letters (four N's, eight O's, two T's, ten D's, respectively) is represented in the grid by that Actual Number Of Letters. So:

Theme answers:
  • NNNNIC SCIENTIST = "forensic scientist" (NNNNIC => "four N's" + -IC => "forensic")
  • TOMOOOOOOOO = "tomatoes" (TOMOOOOOOOO =>  TOM + "eight O's" => "tomatoes")
  • CUTIE PATT = "cutie patooties" (PATT => PA- + "two Ts" => "patooties")
  • ADDDDDDDDDD = "attendees" (ADDDDDDDDDD => A- + "10 D's" => "attendees")
Word of the Day: "Moonraker" (54A: Setting for the memorable cable car scene in "Moonraker" => RIO) —
Moonraker is a 1979 spy-fi film, the eleventh in the James Bond series produced by Eon Productions, and the fourth to star Roger Moore as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. The third and final film in the series to be directed by Lewis Gilbert, it co-stars Lois ChilesMichael LonsdaleCorinne Cléry, and Richard Kiel. Bond investigates the theft of a Space Shuttle, leading him to Hugo Drax, the owner of the Shuttle's manufacturing firm. Along with space scientist Dr. Holly Goodhead, Bond follows the trail from California to Venice, Rio de Janeiro, the Amazon rainforest, and finally into outer space to prevent a plot to wipe out the world population and to recreate humanity with a master race. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well I'm awake in the middle of the night because of the worst thunderstorm I've ever been in in my life. It's still happening, though the rain and lightning have abated a bit. At its worst, the sky was constant flashing, like God 's streetlights were flickering, and the lightning + thunder were pure assault. I'm awake. Wife's awake. Cats are ... god knows ... all over the house, looking at me like "Why?" So I thought I better sit down and solve the puzzle and post the blog quickly, before the power goes out. While these are perhaps not ideal conditions under which to solve a puzzle, this puzzle was So Good that conditions ceased to matter. In fact, maybe they helped. Maybe the puzzle felt even More delightful than it was because it took my mind off the menacing cacophony. Kind of impressive that the puzzle was able to do that, but the wackiness involved here is such loopy, gonzo, avant-garde, NTH-degree wackiness that I could not resist. I could only succumb to the vibe. I mean, I thought "wow, it takes a ton of courage to just go with eight damn O's in a row" ... and *then* I met the 10 T's. LOL. What a ride. And the grid shape made this solving experience extra-special. The whole thing felt alien, in the best possible way. The mirror symmetry, the stacked Acrosses up top, and especially the column of three 9s at the center bottom, all gave this a look and feel that took it way, way out of the ordinary. And yet not so far that it was undoable. It was, in fact, extremely doable, though I can see (online, already) that people are not grasping the theme concept as easily as I did, and are getting, let's say, frustrated. I completely sympathize with this feeling. And I'm very sorry you didn't grasp the concept in a more timely fashion, because it made the whole solving experience a joy.

I was on this puzzle's side from 1-Across (1A: Good or bad vacuum review? = "SUCKS!"). Yeah, I know it's kind of childish, but so am I, so there. Those four N's in the first themer came together very quickly, and the only way I could make sense of them was, it turns out, the right way. Just say the number of letters out loud! Only ... at that point, I thought it was more an equation-type dealie, where I was supposed to say 4N, i.e. "foreign." So I was trying to make the "palm print analysis" performer into some kind of "foreign" person ... I had to build the rest of that answer from back to front, and then look at it again. "What's a "foreign I.C. SCIENTIST!?" And then I saw it. Boom. Truly one of the most satisfying Aha moments of the year. What I really loved was that the next themer didn't just throw me more N's!  I wasn't paying close attention to how the theme clues were marked (with quotation marks, so you know that in order to be correct, the answer must be *spoken*). So I went into the "tomato" answer trying to make it work normally. And since I had CAN instead of MAO (45A: Repeated Warhol subject), I had trouble seeing the "O"-string clearly at first. But then the "O"s kept piling up and I thought "ah, it's tomato something!" But no, once you put in 8 O's, you're out of room. It's just "tomatoes." I can't believe someone turned "tomatoes" and "attendees" into fascinating theme answers. Highly unlikely scenario. And the two T's! So wee! So cute! You got these ostentatious letter strings on the side of the grid, and then tucked down there at the bottom, just two little T's ... inside an answer that is *about* cuteness. Ha ha, there is no part of this ridiculous theme that doesn't work. 

I had little bits of trouble here and there, but nothing out of the ordinary for a Thursday. LOL'd at the "goldang" in 9D: "That's a goldang lie!" ("AIN'T SO"). Is that how HICKS talk? (HICKS felt a little icky, in that it's got an elitist / derogatory tone to it, but that was the only part of the puzzle where my joy wobbled a little ... I guess I didn't mind "HICKS" so much because it's the name of one of my favorite TV shows ... oh wait, that's "HACKS" ... nevermind). Anyway, that "goldang" answer held me up for several goldang seconds because I couldn't figure out what kind of goldang HICKSpeak they were going for. Then I put Samantha Bee on TNT (sorry, Sam) (12D: "Full Frontal With Samantha Bee" airer) ... then I couldn't make any sense out of 8D: Something that's asked (PRICE). After the top was sorted, though, the puzzle was very much a fast ride to the finish. I somehow remembered that RAJ was a character on that show I never could stand (39D: "The Big Bang Theory" role). I never saw "Moonraker," which feels like a betrayal of my gender/age cohort, but it wasn't hard to work out RIO

I love that the puzzle went to D&D instead of social media for DMS (49A: Leads, as a D&D campaign). The "DM" stands for "Dungeon Master," and to DM is to play that role in the game. Retro! (although people still play D&D ... it's just that in my mind, anyone playing it is automatically transported back in time to the early '80s ... a wormhole opens up the second you start playing ... it's weird). I balked a tiny bit at BUDDY MOVIES, since "BUDDY COMEDY" feels like the more correct phrase, esp. for this clue, but sure, BUDDY MOVIES, that sounds fine (26D: "Booksmart" and "Dumb and Dumber," e.g.). Certainly not "off" enough to ruin my enjoyment of this puzzle. Wow, look at that! Done with the write-up at 5am! What a ride. And the thunderstorm has (mostly) passed. And the birds are singing their "WTF!?!"s. Cool. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


zarlino 5:40 AM  

Coincidentally this week, this was published in last Monday's (UK) Guardian (see puzzle number 1):

And here is some information about the horse referred to:

Unknown 5:43 AM  

Had no prob with this one either. Fun puzzle.

Conrad 5:57 AM  

Easy for me as well. Got 17A without reading the clue and figured out the "Four N's ic" part. Loved the theme -- highly unusual for me on a Thursday -- and especially 35D. Couldn't figure out how CUTIE Pies could possibly work when I already had VAT, ETC and NTH in place. Voila!

Only overwrite was jfk(?) before MAO for the Warhol subject.

jimihaveaname 6:06 AM  

Was not smart enough to grok the themers, but just trusted the crosses and that the themers meant Something to be understood after the dust settled. So a fairly easy solve with that willful ignorance to sustain me.

Anonymous 6:10 AM  

Ross Trudeau is one of my favorite constructors! He didn't disappoint.

Anonymous 6:38 AM  

Nice puzzle. One quibble: Biblical ELI was a priest, not a "patriarch". There was even a curse on the House of Eli that none of his male descendants would live to old age.

Anonymous 6:43 AM  

Liked the puzzle OK, but enjoyed Rex’s write-up even more. That is, I got more pleasure out of reading how much pleasure he took in the solve than I did in solving it myself. Well done, constructors, and well done, Mr. Parker!

Phillyrad1999 6:49 AM  

Ok so I’m the outlier it looks like. While it didn’t take me long to finish, i did not enjoy it one bit. For me it was epitomized by evoking MOONRAKER, the worst of all the Bond films. Didn’t get the theme until I read Rex’s blog but I’m not sure it would have helped. Thunderstorms woke me up too. Maybe just soured my mood. Enjoyed seeing a Sonny and Cher reference though. During the first Stay at Home phase of the pandemic, my daughter and I used to write and perform song parodies. Wear a Mask Babe was our favorite.

Lewis 7:02 AM  

Oh, a ton of fun, as much fun as I had in the DDDDDD.

I love this playful kind of word-nastics. My brain takes to it. As soon as I saw those four N’s, it all clicked, and I thought, “Foreign what?” Then I was off to the races. This kind of silliness with words was something my sister and I engaged in as kids, and still do as adults, and when I shows up elsewhere, as it does today here, I revel.

The final grid was something CC. Lost in the fun may be that Ross and Parker threw in some worth NYT answer debuts: AIN’T SO, BUDDY MOVIES, and ITALIAN ICES, and if you blind yourself to the gimmick, FORENSIC SCIENTIST and CUTIE PATOOTIES are debuts as well. This is the kind of theme that I want to romp through; I don’t want the fun sullied by brain-wracking difficulty, and to me, at least, it was the perfect level of difficulty.

Oh, yes, for those wondering, your resident alphadoppeltotter must report that this puzzle has an unusually high number of double letters, but, of course, it comes with a huge “theme related” asterisk.

Congratulations on your debut, Parker, and Ross, QQQQQQQQQQ for your not only your expertise, but also your personality, which always shines through your puzzles. Much gratitude -- I loved this!

Gary Jugert 7:06 AM  

Homophonic fun and surprisingly easy. Guess it's a wheelhouse week for me. That'll change soon enough and I will be back to Google. Cutie Patootie is the best themer, but Attendee redefines how big Ds can get.


Good or bad vacuum SUCKS. Hahahahahaha.

Tossers is a funny word.

Delighted I knew juniper. Wondering why I knew juniper.


Common scat syllable. You can do DOO better.

Who devised the spelling of EYDIE GORME?

Every time you see seaside storms, you see houses falling off the stilts. Seems like the stilts guy isn't good at his job.


1 Six pack used to lure comics from comedy clubs by force.
2 A little swallowed a lot of legendary explorer.
3 Haircut designed to repel borscht.
4 Retail supermodel.
5 "So you're saying the deli gave you gas?"


kitshef 7:09 AM  

Very good puzzle that could have been great by either eliminating any non-theme repeating letters (very hard, I suspect) or having all the theme entries have at least three of the repeating letters. As thing stand, there is really no differentiation between theme CUTIEPATT and non-theme DOO or ALLEYCATS.

Only one overwrite today: SoapY before SUDSY.

Mary in NE 7:22 AM  

Once again I was glad the version I printed did not have any indications of the theme clues. I had the pleasure of uncovering them without assistance. I also thought 17A started with "foreign" until I backed into the correct answer.

Anonymous 7:23 AM  

Lethal Weapon and 48 Hrs. are Buddy Movies, but not Buddy Comedies... No quibbles with that answer for me.

Nickyboy 7:24 AM  

I solved it fairly easily, but completely missed what the theme was. Finished it and said "What?!....better let Rex explain it to me".

Sane guy 7:30 AM  

No idea and never got the theme, very fast time based on crosses only. Some call it clever. Yawn, but I can’t stand obtuse themes, just don’t see the point.

pabloinnh 7:33 AM  

Well this was a lot of fun and I get to use YY, as in, you guys were not YY for me today. Caught on with the eight O's tomato and then the NNNN made sense. Did a double take at CUTIEPATOOTIE, which is not in my vocabulary, and did the CAN before MAO thing but otherwise pretty straightforward.

The "vacuum" clue reminded me of the observation that "life is like a fan, you turn one way it sucks, you turn the other way it blows".

Nice to get to use IAMB, but I haven't seen "trochee" since college.

And someday I'll spell EYDIE without resorting to crosses, but that day is not today.

Really nifty Thursday, PH and RT. Plenty Happy to get a Real Treat like this, and thanks for all the fun.

Anonymous 7:33 AM  

One of my faves in a long tome zoomed through… fastest Thursday in forever! This kind of silliness is my wheelhouse. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Anonymous 7:39 AM  

Got and understood all the themers except cutiepatt. I kept thinking cutie pies and just couldn’t let that go. Thank you, Lewis, for spelling patooties out for me. It’s been one of those mornings. Great write up, Rex.

Anonymous 7:50 AM  

Agree, Rex. Easy.

Son Volt 7:51 AM  

Neat trick - early week difficulty. After FORENSIC - the letter strings were just filled in implicitly. CUTIE PATOOTIES was fun. A little side eye to the first O in the TOMATO themer.

I didn’t like the grid as much as Rex did - lots of short glue. Again with the TV channels - USC/ESC and ETC/NTH - DOO all rough stuff. Doubling up on ICE so close was clunky.

Liked JUNIPER and ALLEY CATS. I’m an ITALIAN ICE snob - lemon from Corona only.

Gin and The TOSSERS sounds good to me

Enjoyable Thursday solve.

TJS 7:57 AM  

A workout for me, but worth it. Lots of fun. And nice to see OFL enjoy a Ross Trudeau effort.

Roger Moore, worst Bond EVER !

Dddaly 8:05 AM  

That was a terrific Thursday puzzle.

Mike E 8:11 AM  

Pretty easy for me. Laughed right away at guessing "sucks" for the first answer and the NNNN came easily enough but got stuck on insisting that the C in Macy's be the end of the word "Forensic." Once I got that sorted out, the rest was quick and fun. (The only thing I noticed as it went by was ABET and ABUT but that was just a quibble.) And just in time to close windows for the thunderstorms!

SouthsideJohnny 8:12 AM  

I discerned the gimmick (just repeat the same letters for some reason), but did not understand it until I read OFL. I stuck with it until the end (was actually hoping for a revealer somewhere to enlighten me, lol). It definitely helped that the rest of it was pretty mainstream so the crosses were a help and not a hinderance.

Would have been more fun if I did in fact have an aha moment and caught onto the theme while solving - although today I suspect I will be part of a not insignificant cohort of individuals with a similar experience. Interesting way to spend my morning solve time though - so no complaints.

Anonymous 8:17 AM  

Seems fitting that “Dumb and Dumber “ were included here…..
Along with one across,says it all for me…

GAC 8:18 AM  

A fine puzzle. I finally got the theme at FOURNSICSCIENTIST. But it still took me a long time to understand 35D since CUTIEPIES fit so nicely.

Anonymous 8:21 AM  

I thought “tosser ” as the description of someone who plays cornhole was pretty funny actually - assuming you’re familiar with the game and the British meaning of tosser. Didn’t get the theme until Rex explained it - pretty clever I think.

Anonymous 8:22 AM  

Got everything up to “wedding toast” without getting theme. Entered “at last.” Thought it fit perfectly!

Joaquin 8:23 AM  

Surprised - but thrilled - with @Rex's rave review of this puzzle. Both the puzzle and @Rex's comments were superb.

I had never heard the word "patootie" used to mean anything other than "rear end" so I was sure that was an error. I checked with Uncle G to be sure. Note to self: Get out more. Or maybe I should have gotten out more as "patootie" to mean "sweetie" is pretty much a bygone usage.

So ... I loved this puzzle and if you didn't I say this: QQQQ.

MkB 8:32 AM  

Found it to be a bit of a weird cross (sometimes literally) of fun takes on clues and words with just awful "by god we've got to fit something in these spaces" crosswordese (NTH, DOO, APSES, various exclamations, ETC...)

Ray Yuen 8:34 AM  

I would have loved to see this turned into a meta. You could do something with the 2, 4, 8, 10 to complete the meta. Without, it just leaves me thinking? Why? Why these numbers?

Whatsername 8:37 AM  

Expected this one to get rave reviews and in the aftermath I can see the genius in it, but unfortunately that did not equate to much joy in the solve for me. Mr. Higgins, in his constructor notes, refers to a joke that is “centuries old.“ Well I’m still a few decades from the century mark but the theme concept was totally foreign to me. It was a fine crossword puzzle, and very deserving of POW. But I’m not laughing because I just didn’t get the “joke.”

As a Midwesterner, I bristled a little at HICKS (“a person regarded as unsophisticated, gullible, or coarse from having lived in the country” - American Heritage Dictionary). We are all supposed to be so woke and politically correct and not use any labels which might offend someone who, shall we say, marches to a different drummer than we do. I appreciate Rex’s comment that it feels a little bit “elitist” because it is.

Zed 8:43 AM  

Here’s the phenomenon that is catching my eye, the highlighting of the theme clues. It seems like the people who grokked the theme did not particularly need the hint while people who did not suss out what was going on we’re not helped by the italics. So what purpose did italicizing the theme clues serve? I think they were supposed to help with the solve, but in this instance they didn’t, at least not much. Would anyone’s solve have been different without the added hint?

For everyone not sussing out the theme, we have all been there, even Rex. Usually it’s just a clue here and there that doesn’t register, but tricky Thursdays can catch people, too.

Does this count as a letteral theme? I usually think of letteral answers as things like “long A” or “capital F” or “ens.” This strikes me more as an inverted version of that cluing conceit. So “aletteral” or “inletteral” might be better terms for what’s going on.

Only one answer severely arched my eyebrows, BLTS. Who serves a BLT hot and who taught them how to cook?

Laura 8:43 AM  

Thank you, Rex. I was got to gripe the puzzle was too easy, but it really was glorious and you focussed me on that. You made my day better.

Anonymous 8:56 AM  

Fun, quick puzzle. More of a Wednesday, really.

Anonymous 8:56 AM  

Finished the puzzle in about 20 min, which is on the faster side for a Thursday for me. I didn’t try to parse the the theme answers until I’d finished the puzzle, but once I did I got it right away from the 4 Ns. Liked it!

Helena 9:01 AM  

Did the puzzle on my PC -- and I don't understand why the answer to 62 Down ("you") turned color after the letters were entered -- Y in a yellow box, O and U in green boxes. Some Wordle connection?

Sasha 9:21 AM  

When I got to the part in Rex’s writeup where he said the puzzle was So Good, I laughed out loud, literally, because when I (finally) finished the puzzle, my thought was: this is Totally Not My Jam.

I’m truly glad others liked it, but oh dear, I never want to do that again.

Anonymous 9:29 AM  

Zed, I think the italics were key for me for understanding which answers were theme answers and which were not in the early going. After a while, it's obvious, but it definitely helped me in the beginning to ignore the repeated letters and not think I was entering wrong answers.

Anonymous 9:39 AM  

Did not enjoy this one at all. Nothing like some repeating letters to really get the zzzz's going. Also "hicks" was extremely off-putting. Agreed with Rex that it did give off that elitist vibe.

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

Absolutely loved the theme and the creativity

Anonymous 9:44 AM  

I'm here because the NYT can't handle the truth!....or just keep the links working or something.
My solve illustrated the value of working sort of backwards... I had ----IC SCIENTIST in place and the slotted the Downs into place--NNNN for the delightful Gotcha! Moment.
My favorite was 35D.

Used to live near the JUNIPERo Serra Freeway (in Silicon Valley.)

Irene 9:47 AM  

Not hard or easy but totally delightful.
My final two squares were the two Ts in cutie patootie.
How adorable!

Nancy 9:48 AM  

Well, today we have moved from what @Lewis likes to call Crosslandia straight into what I'll call Crypticville. It's a place that some people like me love inhabit and other people not so much. At its heart, this puzzle is a true and quite splendid Cryptic that I quite frankly wish I'd dreamed up myself.

Was I as frustrated and confused as you were at the beginning? Of course I was. I saw that there were going to be an awful lot of "N"s at the beginning of 17A and I had no idea why. Then there were even more "O"s at 23D and I didn't have the "T" from WIT yet. I then thought to start counting. Good idea, Nancy!

FOUR-Ns-IC SCIENTISTS is just brilliant. A-TEN-Ds is just brilliant. TOM-EIGHT-Os is a bit weaker, but it's still pretty darn good.

The one I thought wasn't working was 35D. I wanted a lot of "I"s for CUTIE PIES, but they were nowhere to be found. Finally I parsed CUTIE PATOOTIES from the TWO Ts. It's a revolting term that makes me cringe; that I would never use; and that I never want to hear uttered in real life. But for the purposes of this puzzle, it works great and it almost stumped me. Happily, it didn't.

A nice puzzling puzzle. A worthy Thursday. This has so far been an uncommonly good week of puzzles, wouldn't you all agree?

Beezer 9:57 AM  

Brilliant! Had a lot of fun with this and my only “hold up” was sussing out the area around POPDUO because I thought the Dumb and Dumber answer started with BAD 🤣

burtonkd 9:58 AM  

@anon 8:22: Remembering that At Last was played at Obama's inauguration had me thinking about that for weddings, so hand up for that wrong letter. I wanted "clink" at first.

I think I may need to frame Rex's write-up today to remind me why I bother to read him on those dreary runs where he eviscerates everything. I could throw a picture of Lewis in the same frame:)

Seeing iamb + trochee in a puzzle = rare LMS appearance? Here's hoping...

I didn't get the theme until post-solve and it was a great AHA indeed! So glad Rex pointed out the best one, PATT - it looked strange solving, but the crosses were solid and I didn't see it post-solve. Lots of other double letters probably kept me from seeing it (hi, @kitshef).

Joseph Michael 10:13 AM  

Loved it. Best puzzle of the year so far. Each themer led to a big aha and there was some great bonus fill to boot, especially I CAN’T EVEN. I wish every puzzle could be this fun.

beverly c 10:15 AM  

I liked it. When I saw those Ns lining up I thought I had an error, but no. Then I wondered if the answer was some comic stutter. Aha! fourNSIC! The next themer I came to was 35D and I didn’t make sense of CUTIEPATT but forgot about it until I saw Rex's write-up. I do know and use the term, so that’s on me. The stacked Ds were the last aha I needed. Fun puzzle!

Mary McCarty 10:22 AM  

Loved, loved, loved the theme...knew something crazy was happening at my first 2 Ns at 17A. Thought, “an en-...” maybe? Then my least favorite kind of answer at 28A. I hate the random “the” or “A” tossed in for some answers. (51A is’s part of the phrase.) Then wondered why not “an”, as in “anURN”2D, “anICEPACK” 55A. Anybody know if random, superfluous “an”s have been used in puzzles, or do desperate constructors limit themselves to “a” and “the”?

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

But “you” didn’t solve the puzzle. “I” did. I actually had “moi” in there briefly.

Carola 10:31 AM  

I'll give it an "easy, except...." The "easy" came from getting the the idea of "forensic" right away; the "except from my (mis)understanding the first part as "four N" and thinking I needed to put an S in a space, so I wasn't able to finish the phrase until returning to it at the end. Back to "easy": having the theme idea made TOM+8 Os and A + 10 Ds almost auto-fill-ins; the "except" is for needing almost every cross for the indeed adorable sweethearts - that one alone made the puzzle worthwhile for me.

Aunt Hattie 10:33 AM  

Loved every minute of this one, from the initial"sucks" to the 4Ns(said this out loud to myself for the aha)--and it was delightful to have Rex agree! For once he got it right---

Anonymous 10:33 AM  

Pardon my ignorance but how is yodel the answer to “together”?

Zed 10:36 AM  

Autocorrupt Happens. Why my iPad insists on "we're" when I want "were" is a mystery. I usually catch it, but not always. Sigh.

@Anon 9:29 - True. I did the NW starting with SUCKS then all the downs and saw NNNN and did a "whaaa?" until I saw the italicized clue and knew something was up. Didn't know what yet, but the italics did stop me from thinking those N's were wrong.

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

Great Thursday puzzle!! Only misdirect was RIB instead of WIT which I quickly figured out at the end. Thanks Parker and Ross!

SaltySolver 10:38 AM  

Really fun puzzle. Grokked the theme early and smooth sailing from there. New PR for Thursdays!

Barbara S. 10:40 AM  

1) Say “Actions speak louder than words,” say
2) Develop into a regular procedure
3) Online exchanges of ideas
4) Citizens of the country invaded by Iraq in 1990.

I get happily swept along by most puzzles – and this one was a total joyride. But I fully expected Rex to pan it, so big smiles all around. Like Rex, I slapped in SUCKS at 1A and I never looked back, grasping [forens]IC as soon as I had enough letters to see SCIENTIST. And I was all agog to find out what other themers our constructors had devised.

If you know Brit slang, TOSSERS front and center is a bit startling – I might be insulted if I played cornhole. What’s with BLTS being served “hot”? Aren’t a lot of lunch orders served hot? I had a slight hesitation at the pound cake clue given that both FLOUR and sugaR fit, but having IAMB which gave me ABUT sorted that out. Loved seeing ALLEY CATS, KIDDO, JUNIPER and ITALIAN ICES. Liked KEEP WATCH, which evoked compassionate vigilance in the face of unknown danger. Wish the ICE PACK had been closer to the PAIN, but I liked the temperature juxtaposition of ICE PACK directly below STEWS. Appreciated the WITty clues for a bunch of M&A’s weejects: PAR [Round figure?], WIT [Essence of a good roast], ABS [Core assets], CUE [Something used to improve one’s English?]. I assume the latter is a billiards reference – I gather “English” is a term for sidespin on a cueball.

I CAN’T EVEN say how much I enjoyed this puzzle. Thanks, Parker and Ross.

1) AIIII (Aphorize)
2) ROUIIIIIIIIII (Routinize)
3) DISCUSSIONMMMM (Discussion forums)
4) KUTTTTTTTT (Kuwaitis)

JD 10:43 AM  

@albatross from yesterday, I'm retired so everyday is Today and I make my best guess on the formal day of the week by the puzz difficulty. In Retirelandia, yesterday was Tuesday and Today, appropriately, is Wednesday. So, technically, I was correct.

@Zed, The italics did tilt my solve toward easy. Those first four N's, gotten on the crosses, told me something was up so as at the italicized clues, I just filled in a bunch of repeating letters as seemed appropriate and then circled back and corrected as needed. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Italics would be a good name for a sect of Catholics who converted to Islam.

GHarris 10:45 AM  

Got sucks right off and loved it. Filled in the NW in a breeze, saw the 4 ns and quickly grasped the theme. Continued to fly along until I fell flat on my TTs.

kitshef 10:45 AM  

'Hick' and 'Rube' were both originally shortened forms of names - for Richard and Reuben, respectively. Both of these were at some point perceived as typical names for rural folk, and became applied to anyone from the country. The equivalent today would probably be something like Billy-Bob, or Cletus. I wonder whether in 100 years, 'clete' will be an in insulting word.

Unknown 10:46 AM  

Agreed! One of the best puzzles in a while and it had me at "SUCKS" too!

SharonAk 10:48 AM  

Not much fun for me. Could not figure out what the theme was..

bocamp 10:53 AM  

Thx, Parker & Ross; CUTE puz! :)


Had trouble from the get-go. Even with SON, URN & KONA, didn't trust all those 'N's. The light bulb finally went on after getting the SCIENTIST part of the answer. 💡

The cluing was clever/tough.

Wasn't on the right wavelength for much of this adventure.

Nevertheless, enjoyed it immensely! :)
yd 0 / W: 3* / WH: 3 / Duo: 34

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

pmdm 10:53 AM  

If you could not. like myself, figure out the theme trick, the puzzle kind of seemed like a dud. Great idea, but a failure for those who never got it.

Yesterday, my worries about Lewis, who usually posts early (seems to me) were unfounded. I guess our comments were waiting approval simultaneously.

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

I liked this puzzle right from the start; I mean, "sucks"? I distinctly remember when Bart Simpson caused a stir in the 90's by using that term; now to see it in the Newspaper of Record? Got the theme early, and like OFL, had "can" for "Mao." A few other stumbles, but I really think the constructor did a great job with the theme.

Anonymous 11:00 AM  

@Anon 10:33 - You're one clue off. 65A is High number? (Ans: YODEL). 66A is Together (Ans: ASONE).

Agree with other comments regarding hot BLTs. Every BLT I've ever had (or any "B" sandwich, other than when bacon is sitting on top of a burger) has been cold. Bacon, when served by itself, is rarely served hot anyway, since most eat it with their fingers.

I caught on right away. When I start a puzzle late in the week, I immediately check the downs after entering an across answer. I put in 1A right away, and started working the downs, which were all gimmes, so I was sure those answers were correct.

I had two stumbles: 38A had SUGAR rather than FLOUR, and 45A had CAN instead of MAO. Both of those meant that the themer at 23D was the last to fall. Even so, it's a rare Thursday for me that takes less than 10 minutes to solve.

Tom T 11:19 AM  

Great puzzle! I figured out the 4 N's fairly early on, and it flowed nicely from there until ...

I failed to notice that the 35D clue, Adorable Sweethearts, was italicized! So I struggled and struggled, wanting CUTIE Pies yet knowing it could not be. So, the T in ETC finally finished things off.

Though BUDDY flicks would be a better answer, but it clearly couldn't work with all those D's.

Two tricky first names in this grid--EYDIE (which I knew) and MARISA (which seems like it should have a second S)

As one who has performed weddings, I had the ST ending for 28A (Beginning of a wedding speech) and wanted some sort of King James "EST" ending (takest thou this woman ...).

Arna D 11:23 AM  

1-accross cracked me up immediately because it reminded me of an old slogan for Electrolux vacuum cleaners that was clearly translated from Swedish into English by someone whose English wasn't particularly fluent. In Swedish, a vacuum cleaner is a "dammsugaer" (literally "dust sucker"). The slogan: Electrolux really sucks! Priceless.
Otherwise, I filled in the entire puzzle without completely "getting" all of the theme answers,

Margaret 11:29 AM  

I thought it was easy but 23 down doesn't work with my English accent.

sixtyni yogini 11:52 AM  

CUTIEPA2T ? ! In the center!!
How could I not love it?
A10D’s … yes, and all of the four multiples!

Great symmetrical design. Fun! Easy-ish.

Newboy 11:58 AM  

Thanks certainly justified for everyone today: constructors, editors, critiques and commentariat were all making this grid one to remember,
I always start our morning by printing a copy of the grid for Mrs and her beloved number 2 Ticonderoga® while I settle in with the iPad version and a second cup of coffee. Today’s online with italic clueing was much easier to confirm the essential trickiness of the 4Ns & prompt a change at 5d from STairS to STILTS. I’m not sure I would have picked up that gambit since the others ran vertically.

Having enjoyed this tag team before, I was amazed that Parker is credited with his NYT debut today. Indeed worthy of the POW credit on xwordinfo, & for those who enjoyed today’s solve, the constructor’s notes there link to several additional rabbit holes.

Joe Dipinto 11:59 AM  

An amazingly excellent puzzle. It all works, brilliantly. I would like more of this caliber, please.

Alternate clues for 33a might have referenced jazz pianist John, or Dan & His Hot Licks.

WestofNatick 12:02 PM  

The genius of the Thursday puzzle lives on. Thanx for the thrill.

Tom P 12:03 PM  

Loved this puzzle! It took me a while to grok the theme, but once I did, I sprinted to the finish and ended up with an average time for a Thursday -- and a level of enjoyment that was way, way, way above average!

Anonymous 12:15 PM  

What are PATOOTIES? I had CUTIE (PI Pi)S.

Masked and Anonymous 12:16 PM  

Cryptopuz! Luv it! Nice indirect ode to the ailin bitcoin (also now known as "penny").

staff weeject pick: CNN [Sea tunes, if U stretch the theme mcguffin ever-so-slightly].
Weeject stacks: NW & NE. Deep South. E & W sides. Wowjects!

fave themer: TOMOOOOOOOO. It was moooooooo-cow eazy-E to figure out.

fave clue: The SUCKS one, right outta the rodeo chute.
fave fillins: ICANTEVEN. AINTSO [debut!].

Thanx for gangin up on us, Higgins & Trudeau dudes. And congratz to Parker on his half-debut. Superb job.

Masked & Anonym007Us


Anonymous 12:17 PM  

Literally came here to mention the best horses name ever (Potatoooooooo)

Lewis 12:39 PM  

@pmdm -- I did post later than usual yesterday, due to logistical issues.

Aelurus 12:50 PM  

Knew something was seriously afoot after the first four down answers. But what?

As I worked around the grid and uncovered additional duplicate letters, the mystery deepened.

Thought the amazing amount of D’s at 25D (not the same number as the N’s) had to be wrong everywhere, somewhere, but, no, all the acrosses seemed right...

Hmm, the number of repeated letters...

Brain still working...creak, creak, creak



And then, omygosh, THEN, suddenly I saw that CUTIEPATT, counting the duplicate T’s, was CUTIE PAtootie and delightedly laughed way out loud. Just saying cutie patootie is a smile for your brain.

Like Tuzigoot [National Monument], shpilkes [Yiddish for state of agitation or anxiety; shpeel-kez], and so many more wonderful words I can’t think of right now but always wanted to make a list. I guess today’s the day to start on that. I’m sure everyone here has their favorites.*

Looked at the rest of the themers and what I thought a WOE ended up a fabulously clever puzzle.

Thank you, Parker and Ross, for the fun workout. And all while waiting for breakfast, too.

*Like @bocamp yesterday, I usually post first then read the comments and look forward to that now.

Anonymous 12:51 PM  

Very clever theme. Really enjoyed this puzzle.

Aelurus 1:03 PM  

Thought of another! Frizzante...Italian for sparkling, not still, as in mineral water. Or wine, of course. And my list has begun.

GILL I. 1:04 PM  

DELISIOSO.....Where to start? I'll tell you should you care:
When I got the 4 (FORENS), I let out a little mouse squeak. Do I really know where this might take me? Does my brain need a twerk here, a twist there? I kept telling myself (as I did the joy dance) that not only could I figure this out, but that my face was tired of smiling and yelling OOH...I got it!
A CUTIE PATT made my grin look like a Cheshire Cat eating some ITALIAN ICES in RIO. It just got better and better.
I can't even tell you what my favorite answer was. They were SO SO bueno.
Is this a debut (tubed backwards) for Parker Higgins? Even if not, I want to invite him to my place for either a KIR or a bodacious martini prepared by @JC66.
Best Thursday in for ever....

@Rex....Ay Dios mío....The thunder and lightning storms! When I lived in Cuba, we would have them in the summer. You'd be outside playing maybe cornhole or even Jacks when the very still, blue sky would turn to black in a nano-second. I mean really black. We knew to run to a shelter because the birds suddenly disappeared and you knew that the lightning was going to be fierce and the thunder would split your ears. The rain falling from the sky made you blind to all things. It would only last for about 5 minutes or so. The birds would come back and sing their happy song when it was over. It was phenomenal. Strangely, though, to this day, I'm not afraid.

RooMonster 1:07 PM  

Hey All !
Quick bop in to say this was a way cool puz! The ADDDDDDDDDD got a hearty chuckle. Inspired, that.

Figured out the theme early, with those NNNN's. Cause I's be smart. 😁

Was genuinely surprised Rex liked it!

Darrin V

egsforbreakfast 1:08 PM  

Waters plied by a lifelong sailor.
Name-dropping phrase used in some churches
Reagenomics decade.
Woodworkers joints


Loved this puzzle. By the time I finished the NW corner, the question of SUCKS ORNOT was answered for this puzzle. I figured that, as far as complaints, ISLE have NUN. Thanks for a fun time, Parker Higgins and Ross Trudeau.

CDilly52 1:15 PM  

I am a sucker for a Ross Trudeau puzzle. Always. No exceptions. Period. Not so familiar with Parker Higgins, but together they produced an absolute delight! This is the type of nutsy puzzle that would have brought unabashed joy to my sweet grandmother. All through the solve, I found myself hearing her special gleeful chuckle. When I hit the “10Ds,” I even had to stop and chuckle - not her one-of-a-kind musical, tinkly chuckle, but my pale imitation anyway. Today, I absolutely agree with @Rex. This is a “go big or go home” wackiness quotient for sure and for me it worked big time!

My family were a wordy, punny, jokey bunch and we adored word games and repeat letter “words” like those here today were a specialty of my mother’s. This took me back to the days before auto air conditioning. Long hot car trips with the windows open so you had to wear a hat or never, ever get a brush through your hair again. And hot!! Rest stops with old fashioned water pumps that took some muscle to operate as a kid, but the ice cold well water that they produced was the way to stay cool. Soon as we had nearly dried out, - so that the ambient air was no longer cooling, we sent up the alarm that we needed another pump stop. Enough of those and our overpacked Fairlane 500 would finally be in Northern Michigan with a couple days stop near Traverse City before heading to the UP. Bliss.

Enough with my trip down memory lane. This puzzle was so fresh!!! The multi-letter business aside, the clues and answers while easy, were not just rehashes of things we see daily and weekly. C’mon! How many times in my own life have I noted that my vacuum needed emptying or servicing by saying “Sheesh! This vacuum SUCKS-or rather doesn’t!” Beyond that, so SOOO many other fresher words for things we see often or fresher clues for stick answers. Al along with a crazy looking grid.

Classy clues as well. High number? Ones playing cornhole being my faves. Especially since TOSSERS is of the British ilk that seems to have made it officially into the US vernacular. Thank you Harry Potter. I am reading HP again with my granddaughter - mostly keeping up with her so I can discuss the important particulars, but we occasionally read in “Zoom.” I am thrilled to be able to re-experience young peoples’ literature this way!!! Pretty sure I can get used to being a grandma.

No complaints from me! Tough act to follow tomorrow Herr Shortz.

Teedmn 1:16 PM  

I didn't find the puzzle so hard because of the theme (which was great) but because of the hard cluing. And I didn't get any quotes or italics for the theme clues so I had to discover them the old fashioned way - by crosses.

I got the four NS of 17D but then ran out of downs that made sense. I ran away to the NE where only ABETS and EARPS were obvious. I turned the corner and threw in ABS, started to write ATTENDEES in and ran out of letters. KIR to KIDDO gave me a start to the DDDDDDDDDD string and I understood the theme, yay.

TOMATOES wasn't hard to see once I changed my sugaR to FLOUR in the west, but I certainly tried out, mentally, CUTIE Pies at 35D but VAT, ETC and NTH were certainly right so, aha, the last theme answer appeared.

Now I was able to go back to the top where FORENSIC SCIENTIST filled in and allowed me to get the rest of it. Clever clues that came at just the right places to stymie me: 1A, 40A, 8D, 18D, 42A.

Parker Higgins and Ross Trudeau, nice job, thanks!

Anonymous 1:29 PM  

Correct. I had same thought.

Whatsername 1:33 PM  

@Phillyrad (6:45) Sweet story about you and your daughter. I’ll remember it next time I wear my mask. 😷

jae 1:39 PM  

Easy-medium. A typo ate up several nanoseconds. I’m with the loved it contingent. A well deserved POW at Xwordinfo.

Me too for cAn before MAO.

Karl Grouch 1:45 PM  


Anonymous 1:59 PM  

I loved this. Delightful. I will be in a good mood all day after doing this one :)

Anonymous 2:03 PM  

You say tom8os I say tomahtoes.

Eniale 2:05 PM  

What a great puzzle! Surprisingly grokkable for a Thursday.

I agree with Anonymous 6:38 about Eli. The patriarchs were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Had to use google to spell EYDIE Gorme. Seems I've only heard, never read, that name.

And pg too, my cup runneth over.

Eniale 2:16 PM  

BTW, I've always thought that the puzzle may be Opaque, but when I can't do it I'm being Obtuse.

Anonymous 2:17 PM  

What fun!!!

Aelurus 2:27 PM  

@Rex – Loved your review. It’s just about monsoon season in southern Arizona and those storms have scared me. Last summer a very fierce one began mid-evening and after sitting at the corner windows to the backyard and taking in the strobe lightning and pouring rain and the howling wind for a half hour I went to bed, still listening. Pretty soon I heard an ominous thump. Which turned out to be a very old, very tall paloverde tree that had been uprooted and was lying across the patio table, a thick branch holding it up and another just 4 inches from the roof.
@Gill 1:04 pm – Lovely description of what also sounds like a pretty scary storm, even lasting only 5 minutes.

@Lewis 7:02 – “as much fun as I had in the DDDDDD,” LOL.

@Barbara S 10:40 – Wonderful extra themers and post. I too thought those same clues/answers were clever. And especially 1A to start, as most have said.

@CDilly52 1:15 pm – Thank you for more memories of your grandmother’s and family’s love of crosswords and puzzles. Always a joy to read.

okanaganer 2:32 PM  

My Dad had two words that he pronounced oddly: tomato (toe-MATT-toe) and potato (pud-DAY-doe!!??). So he probably wouldn't have gotten this theme. But then he didn't do crosswords (no patience).

Hands up for wanting CUTIE [PI][PI][PI][PI].

[Spelling Bee: yd pg-1 AGAIN!! Missed this 7er AGAIN!]

Maybe . . . 3:26 PM  

Well, I guess I have not been doing crossword puzzles long enough. I got most of the squares, all the Ns, Os and Ds anyway. But to count them up and then say them out loud followed by the letter just counted in order to figure out the "theme" would never have occurred to me in a million years. I had no idea what to make of it.
So I assume everyone who got this so easily had seen a similarly themed puzzle before in their experience. Well, now I have, too, so next time I should be able to actually enjoy it.

Masked and Anonymous 3:38 PM  

@RP: Real glad U enjoyed this puz so much. And great blog write-up, today.
Awful sorry about yer bad weather, tho. Hope it didn't take too long to clear out all the scared cat poop.
We've been havin bouts of hail, hereabouts. Not good, especially since we have to leave our car out, due to the utility company is tearin up the alley where our garage connects out to.


Anonymous 4:03 PM  

I finished it but had to come here to understand the theme

Unknown 4:20 PM  

Great Puzzle, Parker and Ross! Really enjoyed it, especially the theme. Lotsa fun to figure it out. And enjoyed your review too, @rex! --Rick and Jared

johnk 4:24 PM  

I got the theme immediately, as I solved down from SUCKS and said "four ens" to myself and I was out of the gate. This was the rare one I had less trouble solving than Rex. But the storm didn't amount to much here in Columbia County last night.

Elizabeth Sandifer 4:30 PM  

What I loved here was the kind of expanding madness of it. I got 4 Ns and 2 Ts first, so that 8 Os felt like a humorous "oh wow, that got big" escalation, leaving 10 Ds as a kind of cackling, madcap finish. The grid shape seemed keyed to try to encourage this solving order, and I appreciate the way it gave the puzzle a plot arc. Lovely, lovely stuff.

jberg 4:31 PM  

I figured out the theme with the 4 Ns, but it took me a long time to parse the 8 Os and 10 Ds. In the former case, I had cAn before MAO, and that was blocking it -- it gave me TOMOOnOOOOO, which I was reading as "tom2osn5os". Similarly, I wanted the Ds to be proceeded by Atten--I was so convinced of that I took out KIDDO. Eventually the gears started to turn, and I saw both of them. But I put in CUTIE Pies in unquestioningly; only later did I look at the crosses and ask 'What is a ViT, actually?' Then it finally came to me.

One slight problem: D&D in the clue stands for "dungeons and dragons," while DMS are "dungeon masters," so the D is duplicated with the same meaning each time. Just call it an "RPG campaign" and you're all right.

Here's a little EYDIE Gormé.

Unknown 4:36 PM  

wow what a blast!!! kudos to this witty human doesn't get better than this.... so fun!!

Anonymous 4:52 PM  

I thought the same about the BLTs!

camilof 5:16 PM  

I've never been more in agreement with the write-up than today, down to The Big Bang Theory being (IMO) unwatchable. This puzzle had me grinning from ear to ear.

And just this past weekend we had to flee Kansas' Symphony in the Flint Hills along with 7,000 other ATTENDEES because one of these terrifying storms was about to come thru. It didn't disappoint!

Vance Martin 5:35 PM  

I wanted to be SURELY missed. And why couldn’t DOO be DOU??

Anonymous 5:39 PM  

Bashing the Big Bang Theory? That’s a….take.
You know who didn’t dislike the show, Just about everyone else.
It ran for a dozen years. For seven of them it was the number 2 or 3 show on the tube.
It’s currently enjoying massive success in syndication. ( To say nothing of the immensely popular spinoff it generated)

Joe 6:00 PM  

A fun puzzle, and a delightful review. Rex at his best.

Joe Dipinto 6:03 PM  

Oh, I forgot to agree on how odious the "The Big Bang Theory" is. RAJ will always be the character on "What's Happening" as far as I'm concerned.

Anoa Bob 7:04 PM  

I appreciate why this puzzle has garnered so many accolades and see the wit and expertise that went into making it. It was a bit of a chore for me, though, to work out some of the themers---I think I lost count on the longer repeated letter themers a time or two---and my enthusiasm did taper off a bit toward the end of the solve. Still join with those calling this a great puzzle.

I thought the theme clues being in italics was to differentiate the themers from their equally long drop Down neighbors such as ITALIAN ICE and KEEP WARCH.

A long, long time ago when I first joined the Columbia Record Club and started to receive LP vinyl records, an early one was the Steve Lawrence & EYDIE Gormé "Songs From The Golden Circle". The LP got displaced somewhere along the way but I still remember how to spell her name. I really liked that album.

I grew up in the country and don't have a problem with being called a HICK (33A). Red neck or hill billy are okay too. I saw lots and lots of thunder storms up close and personal so have enjoyed reading others accounts of experiencing one of nature's most stunning displays.

One I vividly remember to this day was when I was waiting one out on our roofed front porch and lightening struck very close by in a field right across the road. I learned by direct experience that lightening and thunder happen at the same time and if you are close enough, the hair on your neck and arms will stand up. And what a noise! And the smell of ozone was very strong. I'm not so much afraid as I'm respectful of them.

Meteorologists and climatologists are saying the warming temperatures will bring more frequent and more intense weather events like thunderstorms, tornados and hurricanes.

Like some others, still waiting and hoping for an explanation for 62D "Solver of this puzzle" being YOU. No "I" am the one doing the solving. Who is the "YOU" character? And why do the squares hosting YOU turn a pale green color? I thought maybe the color meant YOU was part of the theme or the reveal. Puzzling.

Camilo F 7:06 PM  

@Anonymous It's telling you don't want to share your name along with admitting the embarrassing fact that you like TBBT :D Just ribbing, I understand the majority of people like it – including my lifetime cohabitant – but that's never been a reliable barometer of quality. Personally it just makes me cringe and certainly doesn't elicit any chuckles. I have been trained to not be in the room when it's on as apparently my disdainful scoffs and groans are not wanted or appreciated. XD

Anonymous 7:43 PM  

I didn’t say I liked the show. I said it was wildly popular.

GILL I. 8:17 PM  

@Karl Grouch 1:45. Fat Fingers. I know how to spell DELICIOSO. You should try some of my black beans. No spelling required.

Blog Goliard 8:45 PM  

Infectiously Joyful Rex is Best Rex.

All hail Higgins and Trudeau for inspiring such delight in him (and me...when I finally finished the puzzle I just kept saying "wow" for a minute).

camilof 8:47 PM  

@Anonymous Ha ha ok you sorta got me– but you can click thru my name, follow my link and from there figure out who I am, something I am 100% sure you want to spend your time on!

Anonymous 9:11 PM  

You’re a good sport. I don’t need your name to know that.
Have a good night.

Anonymous 11:00 PM  

Totally agree

albatross shell 1:46 AM  

Italics were used to make other double letters less confusing for the solver and follow more proper theme etiquette. C-two-ens. Bu-two-dees. And so forth. Maybe even two-so's. I think some solvers would object to having any other non-theme double letters. Also I am assuming Agatha lutists (I forget the rest) must be an anagram with some appropriately nasty message for me. I don't enjoy solving anagrams either. So tell me.

I do enjoy solving short anagrams and I can still enjoy puzzles with them, especially your unexpected fulfillment of my joking request. All of the tribute answers were anagrams plus the revealer. (Very neat that). That makes 4 anagrams. I solved the puzzle and understood the answers except the EI answer. Many thanks.

Joe Dipinto 2:16 AM  

Unequivocal triumphs...


Anonymous 5:39 AM  

Same here. Even after finishing the puzzle, I didn’t get the theme, and now that all has been revealed, I don’t like it any better. (shrug)

JChristopher 11:34 AM  

Once I "got it" I had about 20% of the fill completed, and couldn't bring myself to finish it.

I still stabbed around with complete apathy for another 60 seconds before finally resorting to "Reveal Puzzle" to put this dreadful thing out of its misery. I almost never do this.

Anonymous 1:27 AM  

How did you print the puzzle?

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