Pop singer who came out as nonbinary in 2019 / SAT 6-25-22 / Playthings with belly badges / Chains of churches / Texter's preamble / Surname of a star-crossed lover / Classic Vans sneaker model / Poke alternative / Brand name on Cakesters snack cakes / Source of protein in a poke bowl / Kind of loop in programming / Succession co-star Ruck

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Constructor: Adam Aaronson

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: SAM SMITH (26D: Pop singer who came out as nonbinary in 2019) —
Samuel Frederick Smith (born 19 May 1992) is an English singer and songwriter. After rising to prominence in October 2012 by featuring on Disclosure's breakthrough single "Latch", which peaked at number eleven on the UK Singles Chart, they were subsequently featured on Naughty Boy's "La La La", which became a number one single in May 2013. In December 2013, Smith was nominated for the 2014 Brit Critics' Choice Award and the BBC's Sound of 2014 poll, winning both. // Smith's debut studio album, In the Lonely Hour, was released in May 2014 on Capitol Records UK[...] The album won four awards, at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, including Best Pop Vocal AlbumBest New ArtistRecord of the YearSong of the Year, and nominations for Album of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. [...] As of April 2022, Smith has sold over 33 million albums and 227 million singles worldwide. Smith's achievements include four Grammy Awards, three Brit Awards, three Billboard Music Awards, and an American Music Award, as well as a Golden Globe and an Academy Award. Smith is genderqueer and uses they/them pronouns. (wikipedia)
• • •

This puzzle really wants you to know how young it is. I can't decide if all the slang is what a 20-something sounds like, or what a 50-something imagines a 20-something sounds like, or what a 50-something who wants desperately to sound like a 20-something sounds like. Anyway, there's a lot of slang that is not mine but that is Very Familiar to me. Oh, wait: "QUITE SO," that's all mine. I will cop to that. That's the kind of thing I'd say "ironically" but then you'd also have to put the quotation marks in quotation marks because, PSST, [whispers] not so ironic. But "it's a BOP," "I'M SO OVER IT," "KILLED IT!" "THAT!," all of these answers demonstrate a real awareness of how people are using the language "these days," whatever their age, and yeah, that's cool. I think you're kind of pushing your luck on the "look at all the youthfulness!" front when you insist on putting both the MUPPETS *and* the CARE BEARS in your puzzle (I might have shouted "REAL MATURE!" at this puzzle when I hit CARE BEARS ... "ironically" shouted!), but you wanna wallow in your childhood, go off. There are worse things a puzzle could do. I'll take nostalgia for one's lost childhood over stuff like SPACE FORCE, that's for sure (5A: Branch of the U.S. military launched in 2019). This puzzle has wide range and nice bounce, but not a ton of bite. Easier for me than yesterday's puzzle. The top half felt like it was hardly there at all—when you just *hand* me OXY right up front, well, I can do a lot with that (4D: Competitor of Stridex). The second half was somewhat harder, but only because I (not being 20-something) totally blanked on SAM SMITH's name. I was like "ooh, I know this one, that's ... gah, they're mega-famous, British ... delicate, kinda soulful voice ... you get them confused with ED SHEERAN for some reason (sorry to both) ... SAM ... SAM ... ADAMS? No, that's a beer, damn it!" I was so mad at my brain that I wouldn't do the normal human solver thing and just Move On. The SAM SMITH troubles pretty much cascaded into the whole SE (amazing the damage that losing momentum can do), but that just meant that that corner felt like a proper Saturday. The rest, I blew through like it wasn't there.

As I say, OXY had some real slingshot power. I wrote in OTOH for 1A: Texter's preamble, for some reason (IMHO), but OXY fixed that *and* got me COAX, and with the front ends of those long Downs in place, I was in business. For someone who is my age (think Stranger Things kids if we followed them allllll the way to 2022), and for someone who saw all those exceedingly boring Peter Jackson movies, and for someone who actually played D&D for a time as a kid, I remember surprisingly little about "LOTR," so ARAGORN came to me out of the cultural ether rather than any particular part of my knowledge storehouse. Or that's how it felt, anyway. Even if it had given me trouble, everything around it is so easy that it wouldn't have stalled me for long. Entire NE was done in Monday/Tuesday time (not getting PEDANTIC by *me*, that's for sure). But as I say, things stalled a little on the descent to the bottom half of the puzzle. That was mostly SAM SMITH's fault, but also partially Alek WEK's fault. I am doomed to forget her name every time she comes up, no matter how many times she comes up. Not having the "K," I couldn't see SKATER (the phrasing on that clue is preposterous, since it makes it sound like the same person is doing both sports ... also made it sound like the clue wanted a specific athlete, not a kind of athlete ... also, why is "in different sports" on there at all?—Winter and Summer Olympics don't share any sports, so that's a redundant qualification). But I rebooted in the far SW with STY (48A: Where snorting isn't rude), which gave me SCRIM THEME YEAST, bang bang bang, and then I whooshed back into the middle of the grid from there, finishing in the SW, where there was still trouble waiting even after I'd sorted SAM SMITH. I had JUMP / JAM before BAIL / BOP, so that gummed things up (61A: Abandon ship / 61D: Catchy song, in modern slang). And then, more dangerous because less completely wrong, I had SPAT instead of SPAR at 38A: Squabble. This made parsing ROSARIES impossible until the bitter end. "TOSA ... what? Aargh, great, some religious term I know nothing about ..." But no, just ROSARIES hiding behind a completely understandable error.

  • 57A: Classic Vans sneaker model (ERA) — LOL I've been wearing Vans off and on for my whole life and I had no idea about this model or that Vans had model names at all. 
  • 37D: Place where shells are put away (TAQUERIA) — ah, right, the other reason I had trouble getting into the SW. The attempted misdirection here with "shells" didn't work on me at all, and yet ... I couldn't get past TACO ... TACO STAND, TACO BAR, TACO TRUCK ... nothing about the clue suggested I'd be getting the Spanish term, so I just stalled and ended up having to work the answer from the back end later on.
  • 55A: What comes before a bet (ALEPH) — now this misdirection *did* work. This is a very well disguised Hebrew letter clue. Not sure I love the cheap trickery of adding the indefinite article "a" to the clue, but I respect the attempt to at least *try* to make this puzzle a little tougher.
  • 60D: 2020 thriller in which Jessica Chastain plays the title role ("AVA") — I vaguely remember seeing this come across my Netflix menu a couple years back. I wonder if pandemic-era movies ... if anyone's going to remember they happened. 
  • 63A: Brand name on Cakesters snack cakes (OREO) — I had HOHO in here at some point. I'm kind of sad now that the "Is OREO in today's #NYTXW?" Twitter account is gonna have to reset its "Days since last #NYTXW OREO" count to zero. The streak was up to 33! 
See you tomorrow!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 6:04 AM  

regarding the oreo twitter rex refs, does anyone know who's behind that?

Unknown 6:59 AM  

It’s neither! Instead, it’s perfect for someone in their mid-30s. It’s the puzzle version of someone who says “millennial”, thinking that still means early-20s.

kitshef 7:07 AM  

Where yesterday had a ton of complete unknowns, today had only AVA and ALAN.

I have this weird relationship with Lord of the Rings where I have never read any of the books but most of my friends have, so a lot of things have soaked into my consciousness from their discussions. Things like ‘Sarumon’ and ‘Legolas’ and ‘Aragorn’. I know the words but I really don’t know what any of them mean. But just knowing the words is often useful for puzzles.

JD 7:11 AM  

At Xword Info Aaron Adamson says he's working for a language learning app where they have a lunchtime club that meets every day to solve the NYT puzzle. He says he's looking forward to watching them solve it.

Can't kvetch about the youthiness of this thing when I think of their joyful nerdfest.

(Psst, see what I did there, gracious AND cool for a curmudgeon. But getting a littttle worried that late week pop culture will soon start relegating me to Monday thru Thursday.)

Is it Pedantic to point out that Yammer On is redundant because Yammer specifically meaning talking incessantly? Just because it fits doesn't make it right kids.

Shouldn't have hung onto Dioceses and IPod. Are they still calling them IMacs or is it just Macs now? I hate Cole Slaw. Capulets, small dosage gel caps. What a Wek it's been.

Lewis 7:14 AM  

A Saturday indeed, for me, at the pace of a stroll but with none of the ease, like walking through a thicket, drawing on all my inner resources, each step a victory, until the next obstacle. And did I like this? Yes I did. It wrung my brain out and somehow afterward I felt remarkably refreshed, cleansed, and hit up with clean energy. A struggle with a satisfying aftertaste, with a worthy adversary.

Adam had nine NYT puzzle debut answers for freshness and new challenge. My favorites were I’M SO OVER IT, METRO AREAS, SPACE FORCE, UP TO BAT, KILLED IT, and YAMMER ON.

There was a mini theme of “rise” with CRANE, YEAST, and relatedly, SPACE FORCE placed high above.

Saturday tough and Saturday satisfying. Thank you for this sweet challenge, Adam!

Joaquin 7:40 AM  

Two names got me: One is unusual - WEK - and the other is painfully common - SAM SMITH. Both were unknown to me.

SouthsideJohnny 7:46 AM  

Rex thought it was easy-ish, while it looks pretty brutal to me. The NE for example has no real access point and one of the marquee answers is TELENOVELA, so if you don’t know the name of the actor there you are pretty much toast.

Similarly, over on the west coast you have the clique of POE, ARAGORN, CAPULET, NELL and WEK just mulling around on the street corner waiting to cause trouble.

It doesn’t get any better as you traverse over to the SE to be greeted by Rowlf the dog, the CAREBEARS, a pop singer named SMITH and a rap artist (thrills aplenty, I know).

And just so the SW doesn’t feel somehow neglected, we can drop in a FLOR, MOO, AVA and ALEPH for good measure. It seems like we’ve had back-to-back trivia tests to end the week. Please, please bring back Robyn soon.

Conrad 8:15 AM  

Thanks, editors, I’m on a time constraint today and I needed an easy puzzle. Pretty much what @Joaquin said — no clue on SAM SMITH or WEK but able to infer them from crosses.

Laura 8:23 AM  

An easy start but much tougher finish. That's a good combo. People I've never heard of...not so good, but a 3 letter title role is somewhat guessable. Loved the pun on launching the space force, the deception on bet, and the nod to another culture with two long words... telenovela, taqueria. So good puzzle.

thfenn 8:24 AM  

Interesting reading the takes on this puzzle's age. I couldn't quite peg it, but am old enough to still have Kramer vs Kramer at the top of my best divorce movies list, and to barely remember my complete absorption one summer in the LotR trilogy. But I love a Saturday I can solve, so this was fun.

My only beef is with IMHO being a preamble. It's a qualifier of what's been said, not an intro to what's coming. Held on to OTOH much longer than OFL.

Been away awhile, hope everyone's enjoying summer.

Anonymous 8:25 AM  

Amy: had trattoria (spelled incorrectly with one t because spelling is not my strong suit) instead of taqueria for too long. Liked Telenovela and Chef clues.

Nancy 8:40 AM  

What on earth are TOSA?IES? I didn't know the "classic Vans sneaker model", natch, (what a horrible, horrible way to clue ERA; couldn't possibly come up with a worse one) and I had SPAT instead of SPAR for "squabble" which is a far more accurate answer, IMHO.

And so I did not see ROSARIES, which I must admit was cleverly clued. I was looking for some variety of megachurch that's sprouting up all over the country like McDonald's. Are ROSARIES actually on a chain? I thought they were on a string or a rope.

ENVY is not a "coveted object". It's the emotion you feel when you covet an object. A tortured and completely inaccurate clue.

Throw in the co-star...and the thriller...and Stridex...and the supermodel...and the King...and the belly badges...and the non-binary pop singer, and you end up with a puzzle that I liked very, very little about.

Anonymous 8:52 AM  

Even though I got "skater" from the crosses, (46D) I'm still confused about the clue. Is there a skating event in the Summer Olympics as well?

Mary Sofia 8:57 AM  

@unknown 6:59-- as a 36-year-old who zipped through this puzzle (would've been my second fastest Saturday time to date if it hadn't been for COAX crossing OXY), I second that. (I really enjoyed it, though.)

Anonymous 9:13 AM  

I think the constructor is still in college. I agree though that the puzzle is straining to include current casual phrases, which seems to be a thing now. Indie crosswords have had that for a while, and I guess Shortz has given in, but so much of that is green paint. IMSOOVERIT=green paint. YAMMERON=green paint. It doesn't that satisfying to fill in green-paint stuff, at least to me.

Son Volt 9:18 AM  

Good puzzle - not stumper level but a fun time. Liked the literary stack with ARAGORN and CAPULET x STARRED.

Some of the colloquialisms did feel strained. Never like full name longs - we get two today. Backed in to WEK and CARE BEARS.

I still have the original vinyl of Surfin USA - Ooh REV it UP now

Enjoyable enough Saturday solve.

pmdm 9:47 AM  

I am surprised that Nance did not throw the puzzle against the wall. With all the PPP unknown to me, I certainly did. Should not have spent so much time with a puzzle I disliked so much. Now on the the Sunday puzzle.

stills 9:52 AM  

Agree with unknown 6:59 and Mary Sofia, this was tailor made for millennials. As a 38 year old I breezed through it, hitting a personal Saturday record.

RooMonster 9:52 AM  

Hey All !
Well, stupid DNF for me in two spots. First, having TELEN_VELA/F_R in, and for some unknown reason, the ole brain flat refused to come off actual bar soap for thinking what 16A would be. Didn't know whack-a-vowel FOR, so put in an A thinking it was how you say "soap" en Español. Soap opera! And dang it, I knew that!

Second spot was SPAt for SPAR, getting me tOSR_IES for 39D. Didn't know the Vans sneaker (I'm a Chuck Taylor guy myself), so thought chains of churches was TOSALIES. "Hmm", says I, "didn't know a collective bunch of churches was called a TOSALIE." Rosary beads=chains. Man, you got me on that one Adam!

But otherwise a nice SatPuz. Typical difficulty all over, but plodded through and should've got the Happy Music, but impatience won out in the end.

REAL MATURE over IM SO OVER IT was neat. IM SO OVER IT looks like IM SOOVER IT. Seems a fair amount of double letters today. Too lazy to count, @Lewis?

Agreed with Rex on his SKATER bit. Wanted a particular athlete also. Didn't agree on his "youthiness" scree. I know he says he wants modern things in the puz, but is he saying this one is trying to be modern, but modern in the way an older person thinks? Curiouser and curioser.

yd -10, should'ves 4 (these Bees have been killing me lately.)

Two F's

Teedmn 9:54 AM  

I totally muffed this easy Saturday - I'm blaming the head cold I'm suffering from, my first in over three years - I don't remember how to be sick anymore and I guess that's a good thing. But the SE got me - I had SPAt for my squabble, EtA Vans sneakers (7th in a series of styles?), a BaP for a catchy song, no idea about the OREOS-Cakesters tie-in so my rosaries ended up as tOSAtInS, which I took to be some sort of self-flagellation tool in a monastery, I'm not kidding. QUITE SO!

And then there's my mistake in the NW - I decided 15A, Soft-soap, was sugar-COAt. But I didn't even manage to write in COAt; when I looked up there, I had written in COAl, so I was doubly wrong, sheesh.

So this fairly easy Saturday turned into one of my worst outings in a long time. Oh well, I'll get OVER IT.

Thanks, Adam Aaronson!


The Space Force was created to serve the supreme ego of Trump. There is actually nothing that it does superior to the former Space Command, which was one of the major commands in the US Air Force. Same mission, same focus,same technical proficiency. I cringe when I see it in print. Not for men and women who proudly serve in the blue, but for the orange ass it assuages.

To all in service to your country....hand SALUTE!

Prior enlisted USAF. Aim High!

Smith 10:01 AM  

New PR for Saturday. Kinda Tuesdayish. Needed that what with the news. Was looking forward to home, flimsy reason: AC, which doesn't exist here in heat wave Deutschland.

But "home" isn't looking good at all right now. How can a poor woman stand such times and live (apologies to Bruce)? And Thomas nastily insinuating that contraception, consensual same sex relationships and gay marriage should be "overturned"? Who died and left these clowns g*d?? Why does the whole country have to suffer for what these jokers believe? And Susan Collins's picture should be plastered on a wall of shame. Manchin was already a DINO. He's crying crocodile tears.

So "home" for as little time as possible.

And TG for puzzles.

MetroGnome 10:03 AM  

Names, names, brand names, brand names, names, names . . . Yuck.

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

@anon 8:52. Skateboarding was added in 2020 Olympics. Skateboarders are often called skaters

Lewis 10:12 AM  

@Roo -- Eight double letters, about average. High is 20+.

jazzmanchgo 10:12 AM  

Agree with Nancy 100% about "ENVY." Clue makes no sense at all.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

Clean up from yesterday.
A certain someone spoke out of his hat. The fact is anything called a Philly cheesesteak is not a cheesesteak at all but invariably some ersatz mess. The so called Philly cheesesteak never has the right roll or meat and often the wrong cheese to top it off.
That same ill-informed post mentioned mozzarella. Mozzarella is never, ever on cheese steak. A pizza steak? Absolutely. And I’m perfectly willing to listen to those who say that properly a pizza steak must be slightly toasted in an oven and those who say not.
But only someone who didn’t know Chestnut Hill town from Society Hill would say Philly cheesesteak.

Zed 10:19 AM  

Definitely not a millennial but still found this 75% easy, then bungled through the SE. Trying to cram trattoria into too few squares and the jump/jam gaffe sure didn’t help. Sorting out the not pasta shells but taco shells thing was vey important.

Is TAQUERIA even Spanish? Do they even have them in Mexico? It really looks like a Spanglish word, something invented in SoCal maybe to make the taco joint seem more upscale. But that just can’t be done so now it’s just what taco joints call themselves, maybe at least a little ironically.

@JD - No problem with the ON here, as it’s linguistic role is emphasis. That annoying uncle at Thanksgiving YAMMERS. And YAMMERs ON. He YAMMERs ON and on and on and on…

RDuke 10:20 AM  

I hear COLESLAW is a side dish at some fast food restaurants.

Blue Stater 10:20 AM  

I see Nancy (8:40 AM) beat me to the punch about ENVY. This is an all-too-frequent occurrence in WS puzzles. ENVY is sorta kinda in-the-park of the discourse *about* "coveted object[s]," but it is not, repeat not, the coveted object itself. Copyediting 101. I repeat (for the Nth time) my urging that the NYT run the puzzles through its very fine copydesk. Doing so would eliminate a ton of embarrassing errors.

Carola 10:27 AM  

KILLED IT? Eventually, but it was a struggle. Name overload almost sank me, but I was buoyed up by the finely clued ROSARIES, TELENOVELA, and TAQUERIA.

Help from previous crosswords: Lots! Without my familiarity with METRO AREAS and the idea of being OVER IT, I never would have cracked the SW. Also NAS and THAT, as clued.
Do-over: SPAt.
No idea: ALAN, AVA, WEK, BOP.
From the "There's No Cure for Idiocy" department: I couldn't believe that TrattorIA wouldn't fit for the (pasta) shells and rejected the possibility of TAQUERIA because they don't serve pasta there. Finally went with it out of necessity but didn't get the taco shells until now.

@Son Volt 9:18 - Thank you for CAPULET x STARRED.

JT 10:32 AM  

Nancy, Jazzmancho, Blue Slater - One can say, "Her natural charm was the envy of all her friends." Used in this way, "the envy" refers to the coveted object...

Gary Jugert 10:41 AM  

Last night, in praise of this puzzle, Ross Trudeau wrote on Twitter:

@TrudeauRoss: setting aside matters of justice and kindness, gosh i hope never to feel compelled to criticize any individual crossword on the internet. and relatedly, i hope i always remember to share the admiration/appreciation i bear for, e.g., today’s #nytxw from @aaaronson, which is dope

My takeaway is he wouldn't participate in public critique of this art form. I would assume most constructors would want their work discussed. Every artist learns to face this process. Some people like your work, some hate it, but for an active creator your already working on something new and people's opinions are out of your control. Critiques hopefully make you a smarter creator.

Speaking of smart, I could not figure out how soft-soap=COAX. Better read @OFL's critique, eh?


All six long horizontals filled themselves right in. I love it when that happens.

YAMMER ON. I'm an old man, it's what we do.

CAPULET. Yes to Shakespeare always.

The return of COLESLAW!!



I know so little TV and fewer and fewer singers, so there's always a little research to be done on Saturdays. Can't say any of the people chosen for this exposé led me deep into their Wikipedia pages. They're fine, just not that fine.

The clue for SKATER. Who wrote that?

I am now ready to go into the drapery business thanks to learning SCRIM.

1 What every Kylo Ren wannabe does.
2 The theme of Rex Parker's blog.
3 Decorations on a train in the sky.
4 One who knows too much about ollie.
5 Add a turbo to stuffed animals.


Anonymous 10:48 AM  

Shouldn’t 8 Down be “concrete” rather than “cement,” an ingredient in concrete?

Mike in Bed-Stuy 10:53 AM  

@thfenn 8:24 AM - RE: "My only beef is with IMHO being a preamble." Yeah. I had IMHO first, then thought 1D might be FREEZER, so changed 1A to FWIW. Of course, turns out I was right the first time.

Birchbark 10:53 AM  

ARAGORN CAPULET KILLED IT, if you were wondering what that mouse was doing on the doorstep this morning. Quite the cat, THAT.

@JD (7:11) re YAMMER ON -- The "ON" here is like the sustain pedal on a piano, less redundancy than dimension-adder to an already drawn-out spiel. IMHO, PEDANTIC tho' it be.

TTrimble 10:56 AM  

Easy-medium? IMHO, not QUITE SO, but I might be persuaded to go along with Medium+.

I had trouble remembering how to spell TAQUERIA correctly, so was flummoxed by an apparent --iPH that had something to do with a bet. I was also thrown by the fact that "bet" supposedly is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, whereas I've always seen beth coming after ALEPH.

For the longest time, I wanted "I'M dOne here" rather than I'M SO OVER IT. And that wasn't helping matters. Generally, I found the SW, e.g., the cross of YEAST with CHEF, a bit on the tricky side. AVA I didn't know. And SKATER: I'm not up to speed on roller skating as an actual Olympics event. Maybe that's because it's not? It's appeared in Youth Olympics, apparently, but that's different. So what's going on? There's skateboarding, but I've always thought the performer was called a skateboarder, not a SKATER.

I like you and so many others had SPAt before SPAR. Obviously we were all thinking noun, not verb.

But ENVY is fine. Consider: "our K-12 school system is the envy of all our neighboring districts".

Mike in Bed-Stuy 10:56 AM  

@Nancy 8:40 AM - I too wrinkled my nose at [Coveted object] for ENVY; but, to be fair, in the phrase "the envy of," as in, "His pecs are the envy of The Pines" (little Fire Island reference for Gay Pride), "envy" is indeed a noun that means "coveted object" (or feature, vel sim).

Mike in Bed-Stuy 11:02 AM  

@JT 10:32 AM - ikr?!

Zed 11:04 AM  

BTW - 20 of 70, 29%. So the PPP is on the high side of the normal range. And it’s pretty inclusive, so really not much of an excuse. Here’s the whole list:

Edgar Allan POE
NAS (every veteran solver should be automatic with a 3 letter rapper clue)
NELL Carter
Alek WEK (Hey - just remember that first and last names end in K)

ALAN Ruck (with a not Ferris Bueller clue)
SKATER (Olympics clue)

Let’s see, POE and Shakespeare, 80’s movie star clued by his latest resurgent role, a Roman poet, a super model in her 40’s, Kylo Ren clued by a non-Star Wars role, LOTR, …This is about as fair and diverse as PPP gets. Even the youthy PPP is a singer who’s been huge (Not BTS huge, granted - Did you see the news about them going solo and what it did to their management company’s stock value?) for a decade. Given that the NYTX is going to be between 20 and 30% PPP, this is as fair as it gets.

pabloinnh 11:06 AM  

Puzzles like this make me wish I were still teaching high school, not because I want to be teaching these days, but because I miss all the groovy slang the hep cats are using these days. On my first quick read through of the clues I must have hit all the pop culture with which I am unfamiliar, so I wanted to start with the Spanish word for "soap" which is jabon, accent on the o, which of course didn't fit, and took me forever to see, even though I used to show TELENOVELA spoofs to my Spanish classes. That kind of a day.

My problem in the SE was UPATBAT for UPTOBAT. Not recommended. The last thing to fall was ALEPH as clued, which needed every cross, and still made no sense when it appeared. Also took forever to remember that some skating is done on wheels. Sheesh.

At least it was a break from the news. We went to a demonstration yesterday afternoon protesting the SC decision and the frustration and anger and disbelief shared by many speakers were nearly palpable. And this in rural, although a deep blue part, of NH.

Thanks for the diversion, AA. Thought I was going nowhere, but it was Actually Accessible. Thanks for the fun.

Gary Jugert 11:11 AM  

@Anon 10:48 AM
I will never ever learn all these random people in these puzzles, but thanks to your bit of commercial geological pedantry I will never forget cement and concrete are not synonymous. This is worth knowing. This I shall weaponize this knowledge in future driveway and sidewalk related conversations. Perhaps @Nancy should consider replacing her plaster-covered wall with a concrete wall. There's more 30-year-old singer-filled puzzles on their way.

Wanderlust 11:13 AM  

I zoomed through three quarters of this one on record pace, then slammed to a stop in the SE. At the top, I figured 5A was SPACE something, which got me PEDANTIC, CEMENT and END. In the SW, guessing STY got me SCRIM and YEAST (nice clue on that one). Getting a solid block on a Saturday is so important, the opposite of @Lewis' faith solve. Also helped that I knew all the PPP in this puzzle except WEK, ALAN and AVA, but none of those was very hard to get.

In the SE, I had the same problem as everyone else with SPAt instead of SPAR, but I also got held up by pUPPETS instead of MUPPETS. YAP--- as the beginning of the talk clue seemed right, and as everyone has said, SPAt seems like a better answer to that clue. So I did not see any reason to give up on those, and it cost me a lot of time. Finally got SAM SMITH (I love his song, "I Know I'm Not the Only One"), and that pretty much ruled out YAP.

BTW, @Z, yes TAQUERIA is absolutely a thing in Mexico. So hungry now.

ARAGORN CAPULET -- Juliet's sexy, sultry and sensitive older brother. Those Montagues know he could wipe them all out in an eyeblink, but he only resorts to violence against orcs or when humans are utterly despicable. But if he did have to reach for that sword, you can bet he KILLED IT.

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

I remember when pride was a sin….
Envy dripping with concupiscence, wow.

Anonymous 11:19 AM  

@SGT: By creating Space Force, Trump added even more cost to the defense budget. By elevating it to the level of the other services, we now have layers of management that didn't exist before. All Trump did was to increase the cost of the mission. Next, some high-ranking official will be pressing for their own service academy.

I don't know if I was in the target demo for this one (I'm 58 - tail-end boomer, not-quit-Gen-Xer, and don't fit well in either category, TBH), but this played easy to me. My time was under 9 minutes. My Saturday average over 8 years of solving stats is 25 minutes. I made just one pass through, working from top to bottom, which is very rare this late in the week.

Whatever happened to ERA laundry detergent? Do they still make it? I never see it in the stores. There's 15 different types of Tide, and nearly as many Gains, and maybe a couple types of that Euro-interloper, Persil. But the days of dozens of brands seems to be gone forever.

Paperback Writer 11:22 AM  

"Taqueria" is clued all wrong because the last place you'd ever find Old El Paso-style taco shells is an actual Taqueria. Seems like a better clue for an Italian restaurant (maybe for "Trattoria").

Wanderlust 11:22 AM  

Re Sam Smith, should have said "their song."

bocamp 11:45 AM  

Thx, Adam; excellent Sat. challenge! :)


Had a very reasonable result until the extended SE section, which took as long to piece together as the rest of the puz combined.

PUPPETS before MUPPETS, TAttoO before TAPE TO.


Didn't want ALEPH, but it had to be. Later concluded that it must precede 'bet' in the Hebrew alpha.

So, once again, a chance to learn some stuff (maybe). lol

A very enjoyable Sat. morn adventure! :)
yd 0 / 34

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

GILL I. 12:11 PM  

I can't believe how much I actually got done given the boat load of names. I wanted to BAIL but my inner brain was saying "fish or cut bait."
Neither ADAM DRIVER nor SAM SMITH have ever had a snort at my bar. Of course they are welcome to come and bring WEK and CAPULET. The CARE BEARS and the MUPPETS can sidle up to the piano bar and belt out a song with NELL and NAS. Oof. I'll have to start charging admission.
My first entry was TELE NOVELA. Jabon and I danced the fandango tango at the corner TAQUERIA. The shells were soggy so I went on to eat some AHI. I was tap dancing everywhere and I kept tripping with my ERA.
This took two sittings...the first was late last night because I couldn't sleep. Riots to ensue. The second was early this morning and I seemed to do a bit better. I needed help with some of the names because....I can't spell and I'm not hip.
After all is said and done, I felt the cluing in some parts was just a bit too cutesy for my delight. I ENVY those that sailed through; I just felt like Sisyphus .
Major screw up: Did anyone else think SPACE CADET? I guess I'm not REAL MATURE.

Tom T 12:23 PM  

I had the SPAR/SPAt problem that made ROSARIES a challenge, and could only think TeleTubbies (which clearly didn't fit) where CARE BEARS was required. Spent way too long trying to parse what kind of "shells" were being "put away:" pasta, seashore, weaponry. So, like others, the SE was a grind.

Actually the entire puzzle was a grind. The only early gimme was ALAN (Ruck), who was an undergraduate in the Theatre Department at the U. of Illinois when I was a Theatre grad student.

Ultimately I was facing the combo of ARAGO_N, S_AR_ED, _ELEN_VELA, F_R and would never have unraveled that successfully without assistance from my savvy spouse.

I also spent some time with the answer to "Party decision" being THE DJ. Oof.

Good Saturday workout.

Anonymous 12:24 PM  

Sorry you’re having a tough time. The good news is lots of unborn babies are today not thanks to Dobbs.
But as you know, the real thanks goes to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But for her narcissistic refusal to retire Roe would still be the law of the land.

Anonymous 12:27 PM  

I love your posts JD.

Adam S 12:27 PM  

Thought this was harder than average, notwithstanding the complete gimme of SPACE FORCE that needed no crosses along the top. Not helped by two traps on short but critically placed words combined to gum up the entire SE. In addition to the SPAr/SPAT issue i confidently wrote in ANTES off the a in Aleph which staunched flow into the middle of the grid.

Loved the clue on YEAST!

jae 12:43 PM  

This was easy except for the SE which took more time than the other 3/4 combined. So my solve was QUITE similar to @Rex’s. SAM SMITH was a WOE, plus SPAt vs. SPAR, and BOP?, then there’s the novel clue for OREO, oh and I did not know CARE BEARS had belly badges...so tough corner. Solid Sat., liked it.

Pete 12:47 PM  

This puzzle was totally out of my cultural wheelhouse. For instance, when OXY became clear as the answer to "Competitor of Stridex" I knew that my knowledge of slang for heroin was hopelessly out of date. I'm purposeful about ignoring anything about heroin, but in my subconscious I'm well attuned such things. Live and don't learn, that's my motto.

@Zed - Consensus is that TAQUERIA dates back only to the early 1980's, so it's a bastard word no matter what. Spanglish, some ridiculous portmanteau, whatever. It's there, it does it's job, it's half-assed at best. A Mexican Sandwich Shop. I stuck with my two-t Tratoria for way too long.

IMSOOVERIT made me wonder what was the longest complete sentence that's appeared as an answer without being part of the theme.

This puzzle wasn't custom made to please me. Oh well.

I couldn't bear to mention it last week when everyone liked the joke about vacuums sucking - I'd spent the week earlier agonizing over putting in a dust collection system in my shop, and I spent hours reading comments re the various systems. Every fifth comment was a "this dust collector really sucks", each thinking they were the first to make that joke.

I finally put one in - a two stage job, with large particles falling into a garbage can before the fines go into the vacuum bag. This morning the whole thing fell over, because the vacuum it produced crushed the garbage can, causing the whole thing to fall over. Yes, I said "this really sucked because it really sucked". Anyone know where I can buy a reinforced garbage can?

sixtyni yogini 12:48 PM  

What 🦖said


Enjoyed it, but with lots of things that kinda fit but were wrong. Wanted TACOTRUCK so badly but after all, TEQUERIA is much better, more fun anyway. 🤗


Anonymous 12:49 PM  


a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another's advantages, success, possessions, etc.

an object of such feeling:
Her intelligence made her the envy of her classmates.

sixtyni yogini 12:55 PM  

And yes, the name thing is feeling like a constructor’s cop-out.
Names are doubly specific, so many are impossibly obscure: WEK ! ECK!
Just my HO.

Anonymous 12:59 PM  

"ENVY is not a "coveted object"...A tortured and completely inaccurate clue"

You are wrong. Aggressively wrong. Why so confident?

Anonymous 1:11 PM  

As a 35 yo this was easily the fastest Saturday I have ever done. A full 15 mins faster than my average. I don't think I stopped at any point. What a rush.

DavidP 1:16 PM  

I doubt a TAQUERIA would serve tacos in a hard shell. They use soft tortillas, which nobody would call shells.

JD 1:25 PM  

@Zed and @Birchbark, Ask and ye shall be answered. In fact, the uncle does yammer on and on and on so I accept it.

@Anon 12:27, Thanks!

@Anon 10:48, Yes, I cringed. But only people who work in the design or construction fields know the difference between cement* and concrete and I've given up on that one. I could Yammer but I won't.

*Ingredient of concrete.

floatingboy 1:27 PM  

I've yet to see a hardshell taco at a TAQUERIA.

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

@rduke 10.20

it is not.

Anonymous 2:04 PM  

Way way too old to do this one
Age discrimination 😣

Anonymous 2:14 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous 2:23 PM  

Wrote in HAVEAPLAY for 3d (go in prepared) and then couldn't figure out my error since yell is a real word. oh well!

GILL I. 2:23 PM  

Here in Sacramento there are a ton of TAQUERIAS. "American" tacos are usually flour tortillas or hard shelled corn tortillas. So, theoretically, you'd find some hard tacos shells strewn all over the place.
In Mexico, an authentic "taco" is a soft corn tortilla that is seared on a comal.
You can YAMMER ON til the cows come home about what is authentic and what has been invented by our migrants. If you want the most authentic, exquisite Mexican food, go to Oaxaca.

Speaking of food and sandwiches...Here in my neck of the woods one of the most iconic "old" restaurants that has always made the best...and I mean best...garlic steak sandwiches is about to close. For 45 years the Club Pheasant has been a wonderful little hiddie hole in West Sacramento. Operating for over 45 years and now it's about to become a parking lot or a gas station. Damn!
If you know of a steak garlic sandwich pub, restaurant...I'd like to know of one.

Linda R 2:38 PM  

@Unknown 11:23 AM, @Beezer, @Whatsername, @Suzy, @Anonymous 3:34 PM, @JD, @Gill I:
Thanks, everybody, for your posts in response to my giving-cats-meds post yesterday. After Rex told us about his traumatic experience with his cat, I just had to share it. I'm so glad you got a good laugh out of it.

Anonymous 2:38 PM  

Do you happen to know how Club Pheasant came by its name?
Pheasants hold a special place in my heart is why I ask.
I didn’t see the reason for the name it on the website. Looks like they may have been in business for 87 years. Always sad (to me) when an institution closes.

Zed 3:11 PM  

There seems to be some confusion over the meaning of “shell” in “taco shell.” Definition 4D at Merriam-Webster is:
an edible outer layer of usually baked or fried pastry dough or bread for holding a filling
a pastry shell
a taco salad in a tortilla shell

In other words, whatever kind of taco you are having, the tortilla is the shell. And if you are having tacos at a TAQUERIA you might find flour, corn, deep fried and formed corn tortillas, or, these days, something even gluten free and vegan.
BTW - a “tortilla” in Spain is an omelet.

@JD and @Anon - Related to the burglary v. robbery discussion, there’s the language of the field and there’s the vulgar tongue. Xwords speak both, generally in a way to deceive the solver.

GILL I. 3:13 PM  

@Anony 2:38. I don't really know...I do know that it was called something else before this family bought it.
My wild guess is that maybe there were a bunch of pheasants from that area. That part of West Sacramento was agriculture so maybe one of the family members named it that....I also remember that (I think) they wanted to name if Pheasant Gold? but that was already a name of a restaurant in SF.
I have yet to have a more delicious beef sandwich with garlic. The bread is special !

Anonymous 3:16 PM  

I’m 85 and I breezed through it, so it wasn’t just for millennials. It helps to have been doing crosswords for a long time.

Anonymous 3:29 PM  

Thanks. I confess I did some research and discovered— to my surprise—that California had a viable ring neck population until the 80s. I’m certain you’re correct that the restaurant was in pheasant country when it started way back when.
Coincidentally, my home state—Pennsylvania— had a very large pheasant population until the early 80s… about the same time Cali’s came to an end.
Your beef w garlic sammy sounds great.

Newboy 3:41 PM  

For my seventy-ninth birthday I wanted to enjoy an age appropriate puzzle, but IM SO OVER IT that I just settled.

Birchbark 4:29 PM  

@Newboy (3:41) -- 79 is a prime birthday. If I had an OREO, I'd put one of those candles in it that never blows out and wish you the best. But as neither is at hand, will settle for smoked salmon on a table-water cracker. Many happy returns of the day.

Anonymous 4:46 PM  

Add me to the count of millennials (33) who hit a personal best today! Definitely had a crush on ARAGORN back when the movies came out (which are NOT boring, though the Hobbit ones that came out later definitely were). As someone who started doing crosswords from camp COTs around that same time, think I KILLEDIT.

Now I'm off to make some COLESLAW. Lots of cabbage in the fridge.

@Gill -- I'm also in Sacramento, will have to check out Club Pheasant before it closes.

CDilly52 4:56 PM  

I get the trying to be young thing except that much of this one was just all over the place for me. Liked seeing my 43 year old daughter’s favorite toys the CARE BEARS, and thought “Low call” the cleverest clue. Overall though, this didn’t seem to quite measure up to a sparkling Saturday. But just fine.

Masked and Anonymous 6:16 PM  

Ah yes, ye olde FOR-loop. Remember him from a Java class I took back around '95 or so. The Java class book had a cute motto upfront: "Shift happens". Gotta be our staff weeject pick, for today.
Brings back fond memories. Kinda like ye olde DO-loop statement, that I learned back in a college Fortran class in '66. Ironically, the FORtran lingo didn't have a FOR statement in it, tho.

Kinda cool, that @RP counts his OREOs.

Well, I got to the puz real late today, due to M&A givin some art lessons to a real nice 15-year-old fellow [grandson of a friend], and a few other unexpected unrelated events after that. Turned out the kid's at least as good an artist as m&e, so we mostly just showed each other our artworks and compared notes. Gave him some souvenir M&A full-page cartoons.

TAQUERIA. ARAGORN. ALAN Ruck dude. Not too bad, on the no-knows.

Thanx for the theme-dry fun, Mr. Aaronson dude.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


puzzlehoarder 6:27 PM  

I commented about 5 hours ago and just now checked and found it got lost in the ether. Like many I struggled to get the SE done but it finally fell. The rest was was below the usual difficulty level for a Saturday.

yd -0, dbyd pg -2, Sun-Wed -0

Anonymous 6:34 PM  

I'm an old millennial (38) and I too scored a personal best on this Saturday--a good several minutes faster than I went on yesterday's Friday, actually. I put in "IM SO OVER IT" right away, thinking that couldn't possibly be the actual answer, and was blown away when it held up to the end! Also had the SPAT/SPAR confusion, and for some reason put in SAM SNEAD before remembering SMITH, which I guess means I really am an *old* millennial.

Anonymous 8:47 PM  

Exactly, this clue is nonsense. No shells ever at a taqueria

Teddy 8:49 PM  

Loved it. Didn’t seem try-hard at all, and I’m 26.

Kate 8:55 PM  

A telenovela is a genre of TV show in Mexico. It's a pretty common cultural touchpoint; they're even more exaggerated soap operas.

Anonymous 9:03 PM  

I’m with Nancy on this one (comment early in the day).

Also, I’m so over this non-binary/gender pronoun thing. Just next level stupidity.

Anonymous 9:23 PM  

was going to point out that CEMENT isn't a monolithic substance, being an amalgam of non-obvious molecules. which exhausts my knowledge. so off to the wiki for this:
"The silicates are responsible for the cement's mechanical properties — the tricalcium aluminate and brownmillerite are essential for the formation of the liquid phase during the sintering (firing) process of clinker at high temperature in the kiln. The chemistry of these reactions is not completely clear and is still the object of research."

note the last sentence. the better part of 3,000 years, and the egg heads still can't explain the stuff.

GILL I. 9:25 PM  

@Anony 4:46...I talked to my friends today and we're going to do a last hurrah....Probably this or next week.
You can catch me at the bar where we'll be ordering either a Manhattan or maybe an Old Fashion. Then escorted to the back where we'll be feasting on several steak garlic sandwiches.
I'll probably be the loud one. You can't miss me! Join us!

Joe Dipinto 9:26 PM  

Santa baby, I want a yacht and really that's not a lot

What this puzzle needed was a "Star Wars" clue for ADAM DRIVER.

There was no challenge to this thing. Please bring back challenging Fridays and Saturdays.

Anonymous 9:53 PM  

I found the clueing confusing. Squabble has a diminutive connotation that is much more SPAT than SPAR. I even thought about ALEPH but figured what would come before “a bet” would be AN ALEPH. And BAIL is a weird word for abandoning a ship because it’s also what you do to try to save a ship and stay aboard.

And the X in OXY/COAX was my last letter, found by the ignominious practice of typing every letter in keyboard order when I think I just have one square wrong. Don’t know the brand and don’t know “soft-soap.” But hey, congratulations popped up when I made it to X and I’ll take it.

Anonymous 10:02 PM  

I’m very proud of how old I am. I am ______years old.

Anonymous 1:51 AM  

I'm 51. Fastest Saturday ever. No kids and don't hang around them often. I just try to stay current!

Burma Shave 12:25 PM  




spacecraft 12:38 PM  

Way to toot your own horn there, ADAM! Again, though, Fearless one: NOTALOT of easy, and via clues, not much medium either.

CAPULET/GULPED was my shoehorn, so at least for a change the NW actually fell first. It was the NE that snagged me, and the east central that almost sent me to another DNF. I had pUPPETS because YAP-something seemed in tune with talk. Wound up with YApathON, plausible enough, but had to tear it out because of the CAREBEARS. YAPATRON?? I thought. Well, maybe...but no. I finally made some desperate guesses up top, got enough letters to see ADAMDRIVER, and was able to fix everything. But easy-medium? Not on your life.

The "before a bet" clue was really nasty, flirting--hard--with unfair. Then again, it IS Saturday, so caveat emptor.

Salvaged an improbable par from a rather inelegant start:

Diana, LIW 1:40 PM  

I thought of that answer to "before A bet" but said "nah."

Got the top half. DNF on the bottom. Good enuf on a Saturday for moi. IMHO

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rondo 2:18 PM  

The PPP in this puz occupied at least 43% of the squares. Yes I counted.
One write-over in the 39 square, SPAt to SPAR. TIME for an ITEM in the corners.
Wordle bogey.

thefogman 2:50 PM  

NOTALOT to say. I too had jump/jam before BAIL/BOP and had no idea OREO had anything to do with Cakesters, whatever that REALly is. Can’t say I KILLEDIT. I rate it medium-challenging. No THEME but that’s a MOOt point. OK puzz IMHO.

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