Color of the Owl and the Pussy-cat's boat / SUN 7-3-22 / Last name of the Boxcar Children in children's literature / Rathskeller decoration / Demeter's mother in myth / Anthropologist's adjective / Cocktail made with ginger beer / Brand that comes in short sleeves

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Constructor: Tom McCoy

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: "Expansion Pack" — theme answers don't appear to fit the clue; they're all two-word answers, where you have to read the first letter of the first word as *its own word*, and then take the second word normally (e.g. BOTTOM LINE = "B" LINE = BEELINE for 23A: Direct path) (there were "Puzzle Notes" that offered standard clues for the actual answers that appeared in the grid ...


... but those were an annoying distraction so I ignored them):

Theme answers:
  • BOTTOM LINE = "B" LINE = "beeline" for 23A: Direct path
  • OLDER BROTHER = "O" BROTHER = "Oh, brother!" for 29A: "Sheesh!"
  • PUTTING GREEN = "P" GREEN = "pea green" for 41A: Color of the Owl and Pussy-cat's boat
  • IN CONTACT = "I" CONTACT = "eye contact" for 63A: Something avoided during awkward situations
  • CHARLEY HORSE = "C" HORSE = "seahorse" for 84A: Fish with a prehensile tail
  • GIVING THANKS = "G" THANKS = "Gee, thanks" for 97A: "Oh, that's so nice of you to say!"
  • THIRD PARTY = "T" PARTY = "tea party" for 105A: Mad Hatter's social event
Word of the Day: CLANGOR (84D: Cacophony) —
a resounding clang or medley of clangsthe clangor of hammers (merriam-webster.com)
• • •

There's gotta be a better way to execute this concept. I kind of enjoyed figuring out what the hell was going on with the theme, but being confronted with the horrible "Puzzle Notes" ahead of time really mucked everything up. Just put a lot of wordy and dull and unnecessary blather between me and the puzzle experience. It's not That unusual for tricky puzzles to contain what are essentially unclued answers, so I don't know what the Notes were necessary. The first part of the "Notes" is actually fine—the part that says, essentially, "yo, a bunch of these answers aren't gonna match their clues, you gotta figure out why." That seems like plenty of help for any solver who might wonder what the hell they've stumbled into here. But the part where "standard clues" are offered up, in no particular order (???) as if they were somehow a feature and not a bug ... I don't get. The unclued answers remain a bug. You can embrace the bug-ness and just let them be, or you can try to eliminate the bug but end up smushing the bug and making an awful mess, which is essentially what happens here. Without the "Puzzle Notes" ... I think I like this concept fine. I definitely enjoyed not having any idea what was going on for a little bit. I like tricky themes that don't reveal themselves so easily, and this one definitely delivered on that count. Didn't put the trick together until right ... here:


Before that, I was under the impression that the first word of the themers was simply ballast, and its existence would be explained at some later point in the solve. That is, I assumed the literal answer to 23A: Direct path was LINE, that the color of the Owl / Pussy-cat boat was GREEN. Both answers seemed to work fine, so the whole first-letter concept didn't register. Then, as you can see (in the incomplete grid I just posted above), I had no idea how to spell GALL-VANTS, and while the only phrase that made sense at 63A was IN CONTACT, I wasn't about to commit to that answer until I had a grasp of what the hell was going on. Then I got to OLDER BROTHER, and saw the "Oh, brother!" connection immediately. Then I looked back on those earlier three themers and they all suddenly and clearly came into focus: beeline, pea green, and eye contact. True aha moment there. That was definitely where the puzzle peaked. The rest was easier and less exciting because the mystery was gone, but conceptually I think this one holds up pretty well. The unclued answers were always going to be a problem, and I just didn't like the clumsy attempt at handling them. Otherwise, thematically, thumbs up.


I also enjoyed the long Downs, particularly the fact that 3/4 of them were bouncy colloquial phrases. "LET'S GET ON WITH IT!" "WHAT'S YOUR SECRET?" and especially "ON THAT NOTE ..." were all winners. There were a few times when the fill felt a little anemic or downright ugly. That ATARUN (?) / TERCE corner (SW) is very unpretty (except for PRINCE, who is very pretty), and the "WAH!" "AH, ME" AMIGO cluster in the mideast was no looker either. "AH, ME" is always awful, and ... well, AMIGO is fine as an answer, but man do I hate that clue (46D: Broseph). Do people really talk that way? It's like a caricature of a caricature of how a "bro" talks. AMIGO is such a decent, all-purpose word, so why go and muck it up with fauxbrospeak, why? Sigh, ah me, etc. But beyond those two little sections, the weak spots appear only sporadically. My ALECTO (the one in every translation of the Aeneid I've ever read) has two "L"s, so that was weird (88A: One of the Furies of Greek myth). But I guess Virgil's spelling is anomalous. Or just a Latin variation. Dunno. No idea re: "A TO Z Mysteries" or ALDEN. I assumed the Boxcar Children were strictly a recent phenomenon, but it looks like they date back to the 1920s. Ah, I see the book series died out in the mid-70s but then got rebooted in the '90s. I missed both incarnations. The "A TO Z Mysteries" started in '97, way way past my time (they somehow missed my born-in-2000 daughter as well—weird). 


Mistakes? Sure, some. I had UNAPT at 5A: Not suited (for) (UNFIT) and that was oddly consequential for a while, since that answer contained the first letters of two Downs I didn't know (7D: The yolk's on them and 8D: ___ Malcolm, Jeff Goldblum's role in "Jurassic Park"). How is the yolk "on" FRIED EGGS any more than it's "on" any eggs? I get the pun, but it's UNAPT for the FRIED part of FRIED EGGS. I had BLAST before BEAST at 14A: Wild thing. I like that mistake. LOATHE before SCATHE at 94A: Excoriate. I like that mistake less. And CLANGOR, yeeeeesh. I wanted to write in CLAMOUR (British spelling?) and now the more I look at CLANGOR the less wordlike it looks (84D: Cacophony). It's like ... it wants to be CLAMOR, but also wants to be from BANGOR. It also sounds like an obscure "Star Trek" race, maybe one that got mentioned once, in a single episode of "TNG" in 1992, and then was never spoken of again. "Klingon" + "Borg" = CLANGOR


Taking a week off from Letters to the Editor this week. More next week. Any crossword or blog-related questions can be sent to me at rexparker at icloud dot com. Have a lovely rest of your 4th o' July weekend.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. RITZ crackers come in "sleeves" (something like OREOs) (33D: Brand that comes in short sleeves) and I guess STARs "heat" ... outer "space"? (113A: Space heater?). Oh and the [Big Bird?] is LARRY Bird because he was a big basketball star and also just big (6'9").

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

102 comments:

jae 12:19 AM  

Medium. I finished this with out reading the note so I stared for a while and then went back and read it....a delayed aha experience. Smooth grid with some fine long downs and an oddly interesting theme, liked it.

egsforbreakfast 12:28 AM  

I never saw the Puzzle Notes, but still got the gimmick at the first themer (BOTTOMLINE).This made it an easy peasy puzzle, but enjoyable enough. I thoroughly enjoyed my G-RATED GRATED cheese. I’m sure @Lewis will point out the palindromic 54D (TENET).

Is a Hawaiian goose who is resident in Manhattan a NYNY nene? OTIS true!

Very fast, but easy, puzz. Thanks, Tom McCoy.

Anonymous 12:56 AM  

I think Tom's original way of cluing the theme, as explained in the constructor notes on the Wordplay blog, would have made for a much cleaner puzzle

okanaganer 1:10 AM  

Wow I am channeling Rex tonight. Totally agree on the Notepad not making things better; they could have left it at that first sentence. I actually solved referring to the Notepad clues, and Rex's way was probably better.

Also ditto for hating the AMIGO clue, for UNAPT before UNFIT, BLAST before BEAST, CLAMOR before CLANGOR, and LOATHE before SCATHE. (spooky!) ALECTO was a WTF, and its cross with CLANGOR was a bear.

Another typeover: AVOID before AVERT, and PHIS before PSIS (those danged Greek letters. At least I got ALPHA no problem.)

[Spelling Bee: Sat currently pg-1, missing a 7er. 65 out of 66 isn't too bad! Crazy number of pangrams today (6).]

Amagerikaner 1:24 AM  

Didn’t even see the notes until after completing the puzzle on the iPad app.
I had to scroll down on the Info button under Expansion Pack to even see those odd sentences.
This was a minor annoyance after the fact, but I am not even sure if seeing those clues beforehand would have enhanced the solving experience.

Zed 1:45 AM  

Sunday Rule: Never read the note. The note wrecks the puzzle at least once a month.

One of my favorite Sundays in awhile. I actually got the idea fairly early, but still enjoyed sussing out the other themers. 21x21 grids often bog down and turn into slogs, but this one was an enjoyable solve from start to finish. I’m glad I didn’t read the note.

Brian A in SLC 2:56 AM  

When I log on to the NYTs Crossword app on my Android phone, no notes appear, no puzzle title, nothing. After kinda slogging through and getting the happy music, I sat back and had not so much of an "aha" moment as a "Duh" moment ... oh, yeah, it's just the first letter. So, I probably had more fun than Rex and some of y'all.

Geneva Girl 3:23 AM  

I guess I was lucky not to have the notes in the international paper version of the puzzle. Still needed Rex to understand what was going on, so thanks!

Anonymous 3:27 AM  

As less-skilled solvers than many here, my wife and I appreciated the true definitions in the puzzle note. As many have observed, the Times seems to be catering to the hoi polloi. That's certainly where the money is. :)


Villager

Ann Howell 3:39 AM  

The best thing about this puzzle was being reminded of The Boxcar Children - some of the first books I ever read as a kid, along with Nancy Drew. Setting up house in the woods with my siblings seemed like a good idea at the time, but in reality we wouldn't have lasted a day...

Harry 4:38 AM  

Rex is on his game! Every comment nailed it. (well, one mild exception - his disparagement of BROSEPH. New to me, but the explanation of "Average Joe, Bro" works for me.)

Loved how I caught onto the theme. Filled CHARLEYHORSE from the crosses and said to myself, "WTF ... seaHORSE, maybe ... DOH!"

In lieu of the sledgehammer Puzzle Notes, would have appreciated a witty reference to the theme concept. (A little too tired to suggest one.)

Surprised that TERCE didn't get an explanatory note from Rex. Total head scratcher for me until I looked it up after the solve. Suppose it's appeared before and I gave it a passing shrug rather than committing it to memory.

With a more finessed theme note, this grid would totally rock! As it is, it's a high note to a festive weekend.

Conrad 5:09 AM  


As @Amagerikaner noted, on the iPad you don't see the note unless you click on the i-in-a-circle info button. I got two of the themers and thought it was some kind of code where the "ee" in Bee Line translated into the "ottom" in BOTTOM LINE and "ea" in Pea Green became "utting." That's when I looked at the note and decided "I don't need this unclued themer thing." So I used the note for the rest of the clues and finished in normal Sunday time. ALECTO and TERCE were WOEs, but fairly crossed.

Anonymous 5:18 AM  

I thought this was pretty stupid so I used Rex's summary to fill in the themers and finished it as a themeless. So you have a two word answer whose clue is in a separate list and the answer to the actual clue is the first letter of the first word in the pair plus the second word. WHY?

Shirley F 6:42 AM  

Two replies to commenters yesterday:
Nancy, yes, you can google the mountain named after my family, it is Duckwall Mountain, elevation just under 6,000 feet.
Another twist: the son of the girl who got sick crossing the high Sierras was a kind of ne'er-do-well who worked for a time at a relative's cigar store which also sold magazines. Decades later, I met an elderly gentleman who'd been a boy in those days, and he told me that in the back of the store you could buy "dirty" magazines.

@unknown who posted at 8:17, about Tioga Pass being the highest pass - you are correct on both counts. Tioga wasn't one of the routes used to cross the Sierras back in the day. Sonora Pass was the highest route and the most difficult.

Lewis 7:00 AM  

[Crack]
(Nine letters)

Standard clue: [Black tie required, say]

Please don’t give this away in a reply. It’s okay to say if you got it, though. I’ll give the answer later. If you get it, you'll see that the answer is what you did.

Colin 7:11 AM  

Not a fan of this theme. The Puzzle Notes were confusing up front, then finally were helpful as I started figuring things out. I wish there were more of a link between the short and expanded versions of the answers.... Perhaps one could circle the first letters and then clue accordingly:
- "Most direct path to net profits"
- "(Facepalm to big sib)"
- "Unlikely election winner's afternoon social"
ETC., ETC.

I also don't quite understand the "purpose" (if you will) of the long downs, which don't relate to the theme. Agree with others that this could essentially be a themeless.

Thanks for the Carol Burnett clip - I always enjoyed her amazing, zany talent!

Happy July 4th, everyone!

JD 7:11 AM  

Ah yes, the Boxcar Children. At 5, my son wasn’t catching onto reading. His teacher told me to read with him not to him, and sent me to the school librarian for some simple chapter books. She gave me the Boxcar Children, the most painful, simplistic pap on paper that ever existed. Long paragraphs on things like a small pink, cracked cup that they found. How I loathed those children.
For weeks he wasn’t getting it. And then one night bang, he just read. When I asked him how he suddenly got it, he said, “I had a breakthrough.” Now he’s a doctor of neuroscience, but he never caught onto anything fast as a child. Just all at once.

Scanned but didn't understand the note. Dabbed around a lot as words came into view. Accepted what I was seeing but dense as always, didn’t see the theme. Deep Sea Horse isn’t a thing I guess.

Tom McCoy is a fascinating, brilliant linguist. Check out the video that Jim Horne shares at Xword Info. I learned a valuable thing or two about cluing and how to read into it.

pmdm 7:13 AM  

Let me start off by saying I enjoyed solving this puzzle a lot. I would judge the puzzle to be one of the better Sunday puzzles.It would be tough to figure out which puzzle I enjoyed solving more, the crossword of the variety (acrostic),And that doesn't happened often.

Two additional things. First, the notes. They are published to be read, so I read them. I ignore them during the solve, but I like the idea of Shortz writing about the constructors. The solving clues? Less so. The reaction to them? I laughed at some of the comments. Nothing seems too trivial to avoid the wrath of most who pronounce judgment here. I really don't care that much.

Second, I have to admit I got the idea of turning the first word of the theme themes into a single letter and the entry into a common phrase the way it was done, but I ignored the "bonus" answers. Midway through the solve I understood the relationship between the "bonus" answers and the theme entries, but didn't bother to use the extra clues. I could could see how they might help newer solvers, so their publication was, in my mind, justified. I must admit to being annoyed that the single letters did not spell out an appropriate word of phrase and am a bit surprised on the lack of negative comments about that. And I seem to remember a similar puzzle with entries that added letters to the entry so that an unclued phrase emerged, and that some disliked the fact that the actual entry did not include an apt clue. I guess there's no satisfying some people. (I do acknowledge my memory could be misleading me.)

One day early to wich a happy holiday, But I don't know I will will comment tomorrow. Hope the noise doesn't upset the dogs too much. And hope it gets less muggy around the NYC area.

Lewis 7:31 AM  

I love Tom McCoy puzzles. They are always creative in a most wonderful wordnerdy way. It made me so happy to see his name atop this grid, because his puzzles have become scarce in the NYT. After six of them in 2017, there were but two in 2018, one in 2019, zero in 2020, and one in 2021, before today’s offering.

This one delivered that sweet McCoy fix, once again, to wordnerdy me. Where I had to work to figure out what was going on in the theme, and then when it hit me, it hit me with a thunderous kapow of “Yes!” and “Sweet!” and “How did he come up with this idea?”

Today he also threw in four long-and-lovely non-theme down answers in LET’S GET ON WITH IT, GALLIVANTS, ON THAT NOTE, and WHAT’S YOUR SECRET (Hi, @Rex!). Plus, there were some word-fun clues, my favorite being [Like some cheese … or some movies] for GRATED. For me, the solving was more a glide than a trek, which allowed the theme to shine, allowed the focus to be on the fun of guessing the theme answers.

So nice to see you again, Tom. It was all smiles today. Thank you so much!

MkB 7:37 AM  

Never saw the puzzle notes, which made it a pretty enjoyable solve. Being especially dense, the fact that something was up didn’t hit me until I had almost all of the themers. I thought they were just really weird or that I just didn’t understand. The “aha” moment was fun.

kitshef 7:44 AM  

Got bogged down enough in that bottom section that I thought I was going to have to go figure out the theme, but once THUS came to me that was not necessary. In other words, solved as a themeless with seven unclued words.

I feel like we had a similar theme recently, and that I liked it. But if that is true, it’s too soon for a repeat.

Never saw the note, and I’m glad of that.

First thought was SUE for “Big Bird”, which seems like a big win for the WNBA.

Did not understand “Broseph” when I read the clue, nor when I got the answer, nor after reading Rex.

SouthsideJohnny 7:57 AM  

I realized that this one could be a rocky ride right off the bat when three of the first four clues in the NW were trivial (OSLO, RHEA and NORAH) so it took some real effort to get to BOTTOM LINE - and got the gimmick there. A lot of the rest was pretty easy and others have mentioned the toughies like TERCE and ALECTO.

The whole “fake clues” and the notes thing was hit-or-miss (a miss, in my opinion). Would have preferred something a touch less ambitious construction-wise, perhaps with a revealer - but that is just my one solver’s experience. Others may prefer the option to just guts it out without the additional hints, so six of one and half a dozen I suppose.

Son Volt 8:03 AM  

Off-beat theme which actually kept me interested on a Sunday. I solve on an old iPad that doesn’t display the solver notes. Took me until PUTTING GREEN to really get it. Agree with Rex on the wonderful long downs. Never read the Boxcar Children or AMANDA Gorman. Cool to see PEORIA right in the middle along with its clue.

Not sure the alternative answers are Schrödinger like or not but we do have PSI here to represent.

Last week CBGBs - today the BOTTOM LINE where Tom Waits played a very famous show. Here’s NORAH covering Waits

Enjoyable Sunday solve.

Gary Jugert 8:45 AM  

After yesterday's meltdown, I promised a one sentence review today, and therefore, with sly use of punctuation and weighing every syllable like a poet on a bathroom scale, I offer this: FUN (!), but geez it took forever (probably due to the Star Wars marathon on cable TV), and those alternate clues were wasted on me ... on to Monday.

Uniclues:

1 Fat Swedes rescue fat cat.
2 Feisty "habit" of lying cloisterers.
3 Why you'd rather move to Bozeman.
4 Dance coach visually describes Nick's failings as a ballerina.

1 OSLO UNFIT HELP BEAST
2 NUN FALSE-TRUTH FLAIR
3 BUTTE VALUES NASTY
4 NOLTE GALLIVANTS THUS

Phillyrad1999 9:02 AM  

This was one of those where I really didn’t get the theme and so a little hard to appreciate. I guess I should have looked at the notes but whatever. Now that I get it - still not over the moon about it. It was a meh for me. Never really hear any one say Ah Me. But I did learn how to spell GALLIVANTS to day sop there is that. Wasn’t a fan of either SCATHE (never see it used as a verb) or CLANGOR.

Tom T 9:15 AM  

Chose not to read the bonus clues until after the solve, and finished in "Easy" Sunday time (for me). Other than not grasping what the theme answers were doing until after it was all done, I felt like clues and fill were easier than most Sundays. Liked GALLIVANTS and WHATSYOURSECRET.

Fun Sunday solve.

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

Amy: Totally agree with Rex on Clangor, right down to Star Trek and Maine. (Perhaps that explains Mr. Spock nearby.) Otherwise, liked it a bunch.

BDJ 9:29 AM  

The only reason I got CLANGOR (and fairly quickly) was thanks to Stephen Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series.

There were a group of coursers (fantasy world beasts of burden) named Din, Annoy, Clash, and Clangor.

Nancy 9:30 AM  

Here's the way I feel about the puzzle note in my paper edition:

You can climb a precarious tree and crawl onto a branch that may not fully support your weight in order to gather fruit or you can sit comfortably in the shade under the tree and let someone bring it to you on a silver platter.

I guiltlessly availed myself of the note and didn't worry my pretty little head about what the real clues were all about. When I saw the note's "Peyton, to Eli Manning", I told myself to be on the lookout for OLDER BROTHER. And very, very soon, there it was.

The note clues were very straightforward and very specific and I checked each one off as the answer appeared in the grid. Somewhere along the way I went back to see what the actual clues said and how they related to their respective answers and I had Absolutely No Idea. So I came here.

I bet if I'd spent even 3-4 minutes thinking about it at greater length I might have seen it. Not in all the theme answers, but perhaps at "beeline" or "pea green" or "tea party", say. There was definitely something stirring around in my subconscious and I think I may have been subliminally aware of the trick. But, alas, I was my usual lazy and incurious self -- making a beeline for the finish line because it was...right there.

You are one clever guy, Tom McCoy! You also created my favorite puzzle of all time. More about that in my next post.

Mr. Cheese 9:30 AM  

Solved the puzzle without getting the trick.
Having Rex show me what was going on didn’t make me any happier.
Never saw notes…. When I do look at them (which is rare) it usually happens when someone mentions it in this blog.
Is it cheating to looks at the note BEFORE solving?

Anonymous 9:39 AM  

kinda hated this theme

Rick 9:44 AM  

the note was helpful and without it we probably would have taken much longer to solve it (we did it in 42 min)

I think the difficulty jump between not and sans note would be very high because the grid is divided into diagonal stripes and many of the words that bridge between them are phrases making progress in one stripe hard to continue into others

colin's idea of combined clues might have been better but some of the themers may be tricky

puzzlehoarder 9:52 AM  

An average Sunday solve. I started slow but sped up as I learned to mostly rely on the real clues. The more themes that went in the fewer the choices left. It's a good thing clamor and CLANGOR don't have the same number of letters.

yd pg -2

JD 10:06 AM  

@Gary and @egsforbreakfast, Funny!

Nancy 10:06 AM  

My favorite puzzle of all time is Tom McCoy's March 8, 2015 Sunday puzzle. If you have access to it and it's one that you never did, you should beg, borrow or steal to get hold of it.

Being me, I of course didn't initially remember that that puzzle was a Tom McCoy puzzle. I barely remember what I had for dinner last night. But a while back, when I was hunting it down by theme instead of by constructor, it took me forever to find it. I then made a mental note of the constructor's name so that I could find it more easily in the future. This was highly unusual for me as I never remember constructor's names -- much less attach them to particular puzzles or even particular styles of puzzles. (PB and Robyn are two exceptions -- but only for the fact that I like them so much and not for any particular puzzle of theirs I can remember.)

Now usually the "mental notes" I make to myself aren't worth the paper they're printed on. But my mental note about the 3/8/15 puzzle actually took root and I highly recommend it to those who never did it.

Zed 10:09 AM  

@pmdm - I don’t read the little bios because they too often contain spoilers. Which I just don’t get. Why publish a puzzle and then publish something that diminishes the puzzling aspect of the puzzle? Post solve, sure. It’s nice to learn a little something about the constructor. And I don’t even mind if they wanted to include a hint for solvers who are just stuck. Just do something to alert people who don’t want or need the help. In the print version the hint is separated from the bio, but I still skipped the whole thing.

@JD - At 5? That seems like more of a first or second grade worry. Any age from 3 to 9 is “normal” for acquiring reading. Granted, not picking up the skill until age 9 can have some negative ramifications, but those are more something imposed by adults than inherent to the child. That is, not acquiring reading until age nine is not indicative of any sort of intellectual short-coming but adults often treat it as if it were. I’d compare it to solving tricky puzzles. Some solvers will see through a trick, it “clicks” and they sail through the puzzle, while others flounder about. On the next tricky puzzle the positions might be reversed. Neither is indicative of how smart either solver is.

Am I the only one here who loves the word CLANGOR? CLANG CLANG CLANG and you have CLANGOR. There’s a certain onomatopoeic quality to it that makes it the perfect word for what it describes. It is a specific kind of din for which there is no better word. Maybe it is just because in the puzzle it is absent context, so it loses its evocative power, but I think it is a great word.

RooMonster 10:19 AM  

Hey All !
Head over to xwordinfo and read Jim's note. Decide if the clues turned out better or worse than the original ones. Also, see if you can see a Jim Carrey resemblance...

Had a tough time in SW/SCenter. Eventually broke down and Googed for AMANDA, as didn't know her or the crossing Muse. Once that happened, was able to suss out SCenter. Holding me up nicely there was THen for THUS, edit for UNDO, nada for STAR. Yikes. And wanted CLAmouR also like Rex, but the N in THANKS was locked in. What the what is CLANGOR? Sounds like someone who plays with pots and pans.

Someone kindly explain TERCE as 9AM service. Is it for tea or mass? Am I a heathen for not knowing? Or just thirsty?

Interesting puz. I must confess to using the Note Clues to ferret out some of the Themers. I eventually did figure out the first-letter-is-a-word trope. Yay, brain still functioning.

Some writeovers I won't bore you with. (Read: most I forgot!) Another fast-ish puz for me today, 35 minutes for everything except my stuck areas, which took 10 minutes longer, for a total of 45:37. Still not too shabby.

What is shabby...
yd -16 (isn't one supposed to get better as you do more SB's?), should'ves 10 ( missed one of the 6(!) pangrams, which I didn't know)

Three F's
RooMonster
DarrinV

Paul F 10:22 AM  

I feel like ETAL and ETCETC is a dupe—especially since they cross each other!

Anonymous 10:42 AM  

Where do the Puzzle Notes Rex refers to show up? Are they in the hard copy of the NYT, which I don’t use?

EdFromHackensack 10:44 AM  

Did not even realize INCONTACT was a themer. Guessed vERCE for TERCE.... really struggled in that corner, I did not think ATARUN looked right at all. I had UNapT before UNFIT too. I listened to a comedy bit by Richard Pryor yesterday as I did work around the house. He may be the most famous PEORIAn I can think of. LETSGETONWITHIT and WHATSYOURSECRET and ONTHATNOTE all came to me with only a few crosses. the Big Bird/LARRY clue went over my head until I read Rex, I got it right, but I didn't even make the connection with LARRY Bird. duh. I love Sunday puzzles. I get up early on Saturdays (Sunday magazine section gets delivered a day early), way before anyone else is up and I go out on the back deck with my coffee and solitude. It's my favorite part of the week. I do not time myself, but I try to finish by 8am when the landscapers invade the neighborhood and ruin everything :)

Mike in Bed-Stuy 10:53 AM  

@Zed 10:09 AM - I like the word CLANGOR very much. It's a perfectly good noun formation from a perfectly good Latin verb that means to resound or make a noice, and is used widely in Latin literature for the sound of horns, the cry of a bird, the bark of a dog, the baying of a wolf, etc.

Georgia 10:53 AM  

Clever! Fun! But I wanted those first theme letters to spell something. Instead of BOCICGT.

Beezer 10:58 AM  

Pretty much what @Egs and @Zed said for me. Best Sunday in a while.

@Zed, I’ll only say CLANGOR is a great word but I spent more time trying to create a “variant” of CLAMOR than I did on the rest of the puzzle. Once I took the CLANGOR leap of faith I was able to figure our HANG for chill.

@JD, I probably read the original versions of the Boxcar Children books when I was in first or second grade. I read them on my own and loved them because it was about children taking care of each other and being clever. Here’s the thing…I remember opening the very first first- grade Dick and Jane primer and NOT knowing (or having a clue about) the word on the first page (Look!). At some point within six months it ALL came together. I think today we worry needlessly about things like this…(I did with my kids too…I worried because my son would force me to turn the pages and not actually listen to the story!)

beverly c 11:04 AM  

I'm with Z - I don’t read the bios and spoilers until after, so I enjoyed this puzzle a great deal. I realized what was going on in the midst of it. GRATED was a fun answer. I'm on the side of folks who never heard of Broseph and/or plain don’t like it. My final struggle came with INCONTACT because I got stuck thinking the unclued word should start with a long “i.” Don’t ask me whi.

Mike in Bed-Stuy 11:05 AM  

It's fine not to look at the note if that is one's preference. In this case, however, the list of "standard clues" for the themed entries was not, in my view, any kind of spoiler. It was part of a fun game, like writing an exquisite corpse with a group of friends, or spinning a pencil with a piece of paper affixed to it with a bird on one side and a cage on the other and seeing the bird-in-the-case phenomenon. You see the clue (29A) "Sheesh!" and you think, "Huh?" And then you get it from crosses, and you think again, "Huh?" And then you get it! Oh, yes!! Peyton Manning is Eli Manning's OLDER BROTHER. But what does that have to do with...Ahh! Yes!! "Oh, Brother!" Nice!!! It's not a total gimme, because, even though you have the list of "standard clues," you don't know where they go in the grid. You find out one by one, and it's fun. Finally, when I was almost done and the only standard clue I had left was "Showing gratitude," I thought, Gotcha! It's "Gee, Thanks!" and "Giving Thanks." By that time, I already had THANKS at 97A from crosses. Yay! That's it!! It goes right there!!! The I see the clue ["Oh, that's so nice of you to say!"], and again I think, Nice. Devilishly clever. Like a good sight gag on I Love Lucy.

Birchbark 11:48 AM  

t'aiNT before SHANT (as in "T'aint funny, McGee," one of Molly's standards to Fibber.)

@Nancy (10:06) -- On your recommendation, I went back and resolved 3/8/15, enough water under the bridge to seem like a new challenge. What I like about the puzzle is its multiple layers of theme content, very well balanced.

Then I went back to read @Rex's write-up -- 'twas a guest post by @PuzzleGirl full of bright wit. Always fun to read the old comments from the familiar who haven't changed a bit, as well as the not-forgotten we don't see these days (@George Barany, @'Mericans in Paris, @Aketi, @SirHillary to name a few). And a gem from @Bob Kerfuffle, who cites his "nerd credentials" though finding the term pejorative, describes his "transcendental hatred of the [theme] concept" though liking the puzzle, and finishes off in latin.

So thanks for the suggestion -- a nice, unexpected diversion.

bocamp 11:53 AM  

Thx, Tom; cute idea for a theme! :)

Med.

Got the general idea at PUTTING GREEN.

Didn't twig until post solve that all the second parts of the themers fit the clues as stand-alones.

Had some trouble with the HANG / CLANGOR cross.

Also, some hesitation with the 'i' in GALLIVANTS. Had to go back and read the notes to see that IN CONTACT works.

Fun adventure; liked it! :)

@okanaganer (2:04 PM yd)

That was my final word as well.

I also kept another tab open earlier in June; in both cases to maintain a QB streak which will likely end with yd's doozie.
___
yd pg -8 (took forever just to reach pg) / 35 (one gaffe)

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

Anonymous 12:05 PM  

Thanks for mentioning your loATHE for SCATHE error. I made the same mistake (“excoriate” is one of the many words I sort of know the definition of but usually rely on context to make sense of it). And SCATHE as a verb isn’t that common.

That whole part of the puzzle was hard for me between my mistake on “excoriate” and my inability to catch the punny use of “dressage” in the clue for POLO SHIRT.

alexscott68 12:18 PM  

Yolks are not on scrambled eggs or omelettes, and are in (not on) hard- and soft-boiled eggs. So FRIED EGGS made sense to me. But while RITZ crackers come in sleeves, they don’t come in short sleeves. If anything, I’d describe them as long sleeves.

Got the theme right away, despite not reading the note (though I did see the theme of “Expansion Pack”), as I wanted Bee LINE for BOTTOM LINE. Still, I never felt I was on the same wavelength as the creator. Like I would never say LETS GET ON WITH IT, but “Get on with it.” So I wanted the answer to be LETS GET a move on, or LETS Go already. Little things like that just kept me off balance, making for a longer than usual solve time.

I agree with @Colin that better clues that incorporated the full theme answers would’ve been the way to go. The Notes seem like a clumsy way to do that.

Slambino 12:25 PM  

A much more difficult (and less fun) holiday puzzle than usual. Not at all a big fan of obscure names and references. Atoz Mysteries? Kemper of The office? One of the Furies of Greek Myth? Broseph? Poet Gorman? Bilolgiest E.O. Wilson?

Give us a fighting chance and not obscurity please

Unknown 12:36 PM  

One of my grandkids is reading “The Boxcar Kids” as we speak.

Masked and Anonymous 12:43 PM  

Sidebar list of random real clues! [Which M&A hadn't noticed until over halfway thru the solvequest, btw.] Different! Like.

M&A filled in BOTTOMLINE, and wondered what the heck its {Direct path} clue was gettin at. But after fillin in the OLDERBROTHER themer's answer, I finally figured out what them themer clues were up to.
Then, M&A pondered "How are folks supposed to be led to them OLDER/BOTTOM answer parts?" Oblivious to the Notes again, M&A breath.

staff weeject picks (only 10 choices): WAH & HEE. Cuz both could be clued as: {Puz solver sound?}.
fave clue: {Brand that comes in short sleeves} = RITZ. Actually, there were a *lotta* primo clues, which really made this SunPuz extra fun.

Neat THEOTHER stuff: LETSGETONWITHIT. FRIEDEGGS. WHATSYOURSECRET. BACKSTAB. CLANGOR. GALLIVANTS. FALSE TRUTH [G, where have we heard that before?].

Thanx for the fun and the extra clues that I evidently didn't really need, Mr. McCoy dude. But I can see why U (or the Shortzmeister) went and did it.

Masked & Anonymo12Us


holiday meal??:
**gruntz**

Photomatte 1:00 PM  

No puzzle notes available on the iPad version of this puzzle. Without the notes, some of the clue/answer combinations - even the ones that weren't part of the gimmick - were just bad, really bad. I hope next Sunday's is better.

Zed 1:17 PM  

@iPad NYTX App Solvers - Click on the i symbol next to the cog/settings symbol if you ever want to know if there is a note.

SharonAK 1:21 PM  

Well I definitely needed the the note clues to get the theme and enjoyed matching them up with the answers.
I don't see how "loathe" equates to "excoriate". I didn't think of scathe when I read the clue, but with a few crosses I saw what it was.

Norah 2:02 PM  

20 years ago. Come Away With Me.

sixtyni yogini 2:08 PM  

Don’t read the notes- good thing today!
The theme is fab and clever and learning it (via 🦖) - AFTER solving (got to slow down on these speed obsessed solves!). That confusion made for an annoyed 😡solving experience bc getting the theme is a big part of fun on Sundays imho.
But discarded all FALSE TRUTHS - and ended up impressed and happy w 🧩
🤯🤗🦖🦖🦖🦖🦖🤗🤯

Monty Boy 2:16 PM  

@Gary 8:45 - Having grown up in Montana and gone to MSU in Bozeman, I heartily agree with Unclue #3. Not that Butte is so bad, but Bozeman is so good.

I solved essentially as a themeless. I saw OLDER BROTHER, and Peyton vs Eli but had to have the "trick" explained to me.

SouthsideJohnny 2:18 PM  

@slam 12:25. Obviously, I agree with you 100%. I’ve heard some here state that they enjoy the extra “crunch” (paraphrasing) - their crunch is our drudgery, lol. Someone must like it though, because week in and week out we get crap like BROSEPH and ALECTO. We just have to get better at the crosses and parse (e.g.slog) our way through the obscure stuff.

JD 2:22 PM  

@Zed and @Beezer, Yes, 5. That's what our district was looking for. We lived in a place where all the women were strong, all the men were good looking, and all the children were above average. The meeting room of the local grocery store was full of children being tutored in every subject imaginable, who'd just come from their private tennis, pitching, swimming, etc. lessons, or their SAT coaching.

Now retired back in my hometown where all the women doubt their men's mental capacity, all the men are watching Fox, and all the children are just waiting to leave.

diane 2:22 PM  

Librarian here-I’ve shelved returned Boxcar Children books about a million times but never open one so had no clue to the name. My bad.
Any riders here? I think 111across is quite wrong. Halters do not have reins, they have lead ropes. Bridles have reins. But I ride English. Are reins on halters something done in the Western disciplines?

thefogman 2:54 PM  

Surprised Rex held back so much. This is yet another disappointing Sunday offering. Such a boring theme. Nothing particularly bad about it, just lacking pizzazz. None of the seven themers have anything in common and that’s where it falls flat. Just wordplay with no reward. At the minimum, the first letters of the themers should have spelled out something clever. Alas, it was not to be. WAH!!!!

SFR 2:54 PM  

Got it. (Easy one!)

Nancy 3:03 PM  

You're welcome, @Birchbark. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

@JD -- What an absolutely withering (but extremely well put) appraisal of your current hometown! Propelled by curiosity, I pulled up your blog profile -- and then was really disappointed when it failed to specify where you live. Are you at liberty to say, @JD? (I wouldn't want you to get in trouble, though).

Lewis 3:08 PM  

Answer to the 7:00 a.m. PPP (Post Puzzle Puzzle):

DRESSCODE, which using today's puzzle motif, translates to DECODE, which is what you did if you successfully solved this.

Joaquin 3:09 PM  

Speaking of BUTTE, my grandfather arrived from Russia in 1879 and my grandmother arrived from Romania in 1904. Both wound up in BUTTE. I have never understood why they landed in such a god-forsaken town.

My grandfather and his brother-in-law had a men's clothing store (Wein's) that to this day still exists! My grandmother moved to San Francisco in the late '20s after Grandpa died during gall bladder surgery.

Joaquin 3:12 PM  

@Lewis - Very good! I tried to come up with a similar challenge but couldn't come close to what you did.

Joe in Newfoundland 3:31 PM  

CLANGOR might be a perfectly good word in Latin; is it English?
I don't get "Ready for ___?" is "Ready for THIS?" really a thing.
fine as a puzzle to solve, but the puzzle notes seem to indicate that the creator knew the theme was weak. No connection between the "expansion pack" and the original letter. I agree - better cluing would have been better than the notes. But apart from CLANGOR and THIS, a fun puzzle.

Lewis 3:32 PM  

Thanks, Joaquin!

Anonymous 3:39 PM  

In the Android app title bar, there's a little stylized letter "i" along with icons for other options. You can tap the "i" to see the Information page about today's puzzle, which includes the title and notes.

Zed 3:47 PM  

@Joe in Newfoundland - Merriam-Webster says CLANGOR has been an English word since 1593 and was verbified in 1837.

Anonymous 3:56 PM  

Rex, I find your inability to approve of any puzzle ever in any post of yours over the last 20(?) years endlessly amusing.
It’s like if Ebert was only allowed to review Adam Sandler and Vin Deisel movies over the course of his career.
Don’t ever change, brosefski

JD 4:19 PM  

@Nancy, Thanks. Somewhere just north of the South.

Anonymous 4:27 PM  

Slambino - ATOZ? Try parsing "A TO Z". ELLIE Kemper is well known and Poet Gorman has been in the news recently. Just because you so not know things doesn't make it a bad puzzle

Smith 4:41 PM  

It's rare... but I did not like this puzzle. The first phoneme in CHARLEYHORSE is not /s/ so that doesn't work, same problem with THIRDPARTY, and that one reminds me again of teaching my Spanish-speaking THIRD graders to pronounce /th/ so they didn't make fools of themselves when answering the question, "What grade are you in?" No /th/ in Spanish...

Nancy 4:42 PM  

That's a really good themer, Lewis!! I got it this p.m., but I cheated more than a little bit. I'd completely forgotten about the challenge (which I couldn't solve this morning). When I saw your first sentence at 3:18 that here was the answer, I thought: "Let me try again." I scrolled quickly away so as not to see the answer. Then I re-read your 7:00 post, saw the line about "it's what you're doing now" and looked up synonyms for "solve". When I saw "decode" I knew I had it.

Not entirely kosher. But I wasn't making any progress with FORMAL AFFAIR, FORMAL EVENT or FORMAL INVITATION -- and anyway none of them were 9 letters:)

Beezer 4:48 PM  

@JD, I remember when my daughter was 17 months old and didn’t really talk (read: talk in sentences) and I a certain acquaintance with a child the same age said HER daughter could already recite (something ridiculous) X. I worried! Through both my children’s young life there was pressure, and I always thought…”Geez, I was just galumphing along having fun during childhood…am I right or wrong to think this way”? I think many of us/we Boomers struggled with that crazy-think when our children were young. Surprise! Both my kids ended up GREAT!

Lewis 5:23 PM  

Thanks, Nancy!

pmdm 5:35 PM  

Z: Certainly the online version of the puzzle should require a click to display spoilers or something that older solvers would prefer not to see. I think most would accept that. Stupid the way it's done now.

To add something to your second response, your thoughts reminded of someone I once worked with. His parents came from Italy and only taught him Italian. They believed it was the "job" of the grammar school teachers to teach him English. For a number of reasons I don't think the approach was ideal, but he certainly showed no ill characteristics resulting from his parents' idiosyncratic methods.

Nancy 5:46 PM  

And here's a themer challenge from me:

Theme clue: "Place within"

Standard clue: "Tiny house need, maybe"

Please don't reveal the answer if you figure it out. It's late -- so I'll put the answer up tomorrow morning. (But not before breakfast.)

Nancy 6:02 PM  

Oops. Forgot to say: the answer is 9 letters.

Eejit 6:35 PM  

I don’t do Sundays as I find them pretty tedious, but it seems the nyt crosswords have become a lot easier in recent times. I haven’t had a dnf for a couple of months and my completion times are down quite a bit. I’m not very good either.

Cyrus 7:01 PM  

So dumb. None of the theme clues connect to the answers: B Line, becomes "Bottom Line." Why!? Beyond the obvious sound of the first letter cueing a new word. I don't mind the obscurity of "Terce," or the weird sounding "Clangor," a great word for city living. But how is a T Party like a "Third Party?" Wish I knew what Will Shortz was going for these days. Sundays used to be witty, now they're just a drag. I'm having more fun with Spelling Bee and Wordle.

jberg 7:11 PM  

I found the standard clues helpful, but might have figured it out without them. I think less experienced solvers would have had a hard time without them. Francis Heaney has recently been publishing cryptics on AVC, with multiple versions of the clues, graded by difficulty. The equivalent here would have been to put the standard clues on a different page, along with the answers to this week's Sunday Spelling Bee (the one by Frank Longo).

I'm with @Zed, I love the word CLANGOR. So did Edgar Allan Poe:

By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells-
Of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!

@Gary, as a proud Norwegian-American, I have to object to your idea that OSLO is in Sweden.

For 43D I wanted GAd about (too long) or GAdding about (too short), then saw it has to be LL, so put in GALLops off. That one really held me up.

I too started with UNapT; however, I never changed it, so DNF in this otherwise enjoyable puzzle.

Escalator 7:54 PM  

In Rex’s notes, he says “Mistakes? Sure, some.” Should have been “Mistakes, I’ve made a few” in a nod to Ol’ Blue Eyes”.

SFR 8:18 PM  

Yeah! Got it! Good one! Thank you @Lewis

Anonymous 8:38 PM  

Terre is one of the seven canonical hours when Christian religious and monastics say specific prayers. The seven are Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, Nones, Vespers, and Compline.

Anonymous 9:40 PM  

For the first time ever, I didn't read or even notice the puzzle title. Bad Idea.

Joe Dipinto 11:55 PM  

I'm bored. What this puzzle needs is to be turned into...

a musical!

1. 84d
2. 43d
3. 52a
4. 33d
5. 11d
6. 30d (clangor included)

Anonymous 12:01 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous 12:04 PM  

To expand just a bit. These "specific prayers" are known as the Divine Office or the Liturgy of the Hours. Prime, Terce, Sext and Nones refer to the actual hour -- Terce being at the third hour, or 9:00 am, etc. These prayers are beautiful, consisting of the Psalms and additional prayers. The beautiful idea behind the Office is that the entire Church offers prayers together and continuously throughout the day. In their sung version, the prayers of the Office have inspired great works of art.

Anonymous 1:11 PM  

the puzzle maker is trying so hard to show he is ‘the smartest guy in the room’ that he makes his puzzle hard to enjoy.

Ashkitty 3:21 PM  

Thank you for your honesty!..I did the damn thing you did after several hours of frustration. I STILL don't get it and I HATE when that happens. Just guve me a straightforward crossword puzzle.

Anonymous 4:33 PM  

The largest boxes of Ritz do, indeed, come in short sleeves, which help to keep the contents fresh. Hated "Broseph", or maybe just still don't "get" it. Disagree with Rex on the value of the Notes. I'm a not-terribly-skilled solver, and would have failed utterly without the Notes, which I crossed off as I solved them. Interesting puzzle on many levels.

Ken Freeland 9:36 PM  

Agree with Rex's assessment... I don't knock any puzzle I'm able to successfully finish, so I will say this one is ok in my book, but I was unable to catch on to the theme about the first letter of the "extra" word creating a new descriptor. See. s to me the constructor could have easily clarified this by encircling every first letter!

Anonymous 2:49 PM  

Does anyone know how to see title of Sunday puzzle in iPhone app? Frequently helpful.

Burma Shave 2:32 PM  

BACKSTAB SORT

NORAH's INCONTACT with ONE or THEOTHER,
her SECRET's THE ACT with THE OLDERBROTHER.

--- CHARLEY ALDEN

Diana, LIW 4:00 PM  

OK. Anyone who has read more than three of my posts probably knows that I really dislike name-filled crosswords - I just don't know a lot of actors/mythological characters, etc.

But...I do know that guy who played music - from Minnesota. Could picture him. But I could not remember his name. Which is ironic since he had such a tortured history with keeping and/or changing his name/symbol/mental aura. That was the area where I stumbled.

Got the rest. And yes - got the theme/trick.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Diana, LIW 4:02 PM  

P.S. The Owl and The Pussycat was one of the poems I memorized at a VERY young age. (3 or 4) So I knew peagreen.

Lady Di

rondo 6:22 PM  

Got the gimmick right at the BOTTOMLINE, which of course was near the top. To tell the TRUTH I don't think I had a favorite themer.
Wordle par.

Anonymous 11:25 AM  

Lucky me. The type in the puzzle notes was too small to read so I was never bamboozled by alternate clues.

Also I think there are some configurations of Ritz crackers with shorter sleeves.

Brett Alan 11:38 PM  

I liked the theme more than some, and I did use the mixed clues in the note. I'm wondering whether it would have been better to combine the two clues, e.g. "Go straight to the total" or, if you want it to be more descriptive of the gimmick, "direct path, in the accounting total". Just a thought.

Didn't like the "Broseph" clue, especially since it crossed with the very odd "AHME". Basically a DNF for me on that one.

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