Symbol over "i" in the Tropicana logo / TUE 7-5-22 / Swimmer's set / La Posay skin-care brand / Well-orchestrated ruses / Household gas that may require mitigation / Start of a classic breakup letter / Mischievous creature of folklore / COVID-19 slangily

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Constructor: Malgorzata Nowakowska and Eileen Williams

Relative difficulty: Medium (normal Tuesday)

THEME: Taylor SWIFT (49D: Taylor ___, some of whose hit songs are featured in the answers to the starred clues) — that's it ... it's just song names:

Theme answers:
  • FEARLESS (20A: *Like daredevils, seemingly)
  • BABE (25A: *Little one in arms)
  • RED (30A: *Visibly embarrassed)
  • BLANK SPACE (34A: *Void)
  • SHAKE IT OFF (41A: *Get over a minor injury, say)
  • DEAR JOHN (54A: *Start of a classic breakup letter)
Word of the Day: SUDAN (40A: Formerly the largest country in Africa, but since 2011 the third-largest) —
Sudan (English: /sˈdɑːn/ or /sˈdæn/Arabicالسودانromanizedas-Sūdān), officially the Republic of the Sudan (Arabic: جمهورية السودانromanized: Jumhūriyyat as-Sūdān), is a country in Northeast Africa. It shares borders with the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west, Egypt to the north, Eritrea to the northeast, Ethiopia to the southeast, Libya to the northwest, South Sudan to the south and the Red Sea. It has a population of 45.70 million people as of 2022 and occupies 1,886,068 square kilometres (728,215 square miles), making it Africa's third-largest country by area, and the third-largest by area in the Arab League. It was the largest country by area in Africa and the Arab League until the secession of South Sudan in 2011, since which both titles have been held by Algeria. Its capital is Khartoum and its most populated city is Omdurman (part of the metropolitan area of Khartoum). (wikipedia)
• • •

I am in no way averse to the idea of a Taylor SWIFT-themed puzzle, but this ain't it. There is nothing here, puzzle-wise. Just a list of songs. If you love Taylor SWIFT and are thrilled to see all her songs here, just imagine this theme being done with an artist you don't like. Or just ... any artist. I mean, if the themers were just Beatles songs and the revealer were merely THE BEATLES, people would be booing, not at the Beatles (well, mostly not at the Beatles), but at the weakness of the puzzle from a conceptual standpoint. There's no wordplay, no cleverness, no nothing but a list of songs. I mean, it's harmless—you can sort of enjoy it as a very easy themeless puzzle, which I imagine is how a lot of people enjoyed it—but I don't get how this passes muster as a NYTXW crossword puzzle. The *topic* is fine, but there is nothing *puzzle-worthy* in the theme execution. If there were—if the revealer (SWIFT) really snapped, or offered us anything besides merely literal explanation—it would be very easy to overlook, say, the odd placement of the revealer, or the non-symmetrical ("bonus"?) themers (since "PER" and "SOWN" are not Taylor SWIFT songs (that I know of...), "RED" and "BABE" are kind of left hanging out to dry. There's nothing puzzly about this theme. It's a list. The lack of real puzzleworthiness to this theme makes the whole thing seem like a publicity stunt—there's no doubt that social media is already *humming* with the buzz of adoring fans (as well as the grumping of non-fans and "kids these days" oldsters). Again, from my perspective, Taylor SWIFT's talent (considerable, IMHO) is beside the point. If you're going to pay homage to an artist you like, you gotta do better than just list some hits. 

I guessed the theme right here...

... but when I looked downgrid I didn't see any space where TAYLORSWIFT would fit, so I was very much hoping that something much cooler than just her name would be serving as the revealer. Maybe there was going to be a final SWIFT song that would end up tying everything together. She does, famously*, have a lyric about crossword puzzles, after all. It's even in one of today's featured songs. Surprisingly, that song is *not* "BLANK SPACE"—it's "RED": "Fighting with him was like trying to solve a crossword / And realizing there's no right answer." If you track the word "crossword" across Twitter, as I do, then you have seen this lyric A Lot. Would've been cool to try to turn that lyric to a SWIFT-themed crossword. Would still be cool.

The basic quality of the grid seems fine, even slightly better than your average Tuesday fare. STORYBOOK and "I OWE YOU" are lovely (they sound like plausible Taylor SWIFT song titles, actually). I had trouble parsing PUT-UP JOBS, but I have no objection to it. "YOINK!" may be my favorite answer in the whole thing, though I think of it more as a sound effect *accompanying* the snatching of something than the snatch itself. Weirdly struggled right out of the gate with this one, as I tried to make FINS work for 1A: Swimmer's set (LAPS), and couldn't remember what the hell was on the Tropicana logo ("... banana...?") (1D: Symbol over the "i" in the Tropicana logo (LEAF)). But that was very minor as struggles go, and once I got traction, the puzzle became regular Tuesday-easy. Didn't know ROCHE, but that's about all I didn't know today (27D: La ___-Posay (skin-care brand)). I have just one major, and predictable, objection to the grid today, and that's the NW corner, specifically the clue on RONA (19A: Covid-19, slangily). I have never ever understood giving a cutesy nickname to something that killed millions and millions of people, that continues to kill them, in fact, though everyone's pretending it's not happening any more. In fact I don't know anyone who has ever used this term. I just know that it exists, and I knew very early on that constructors were going to be tempted to clue RONA this way. Thankfully, they haven't. Well, mostly they haven't. 

Yes, the virus is newsworthy, it exists, but mass shooters also exist and I doubt anyone's clamoring to see their names in a puzzle. Cluing 'RONA this way is depressing and disrespectful and (most importantly) completely unnecessary. There is nothing forcing you to go the "sassy slang" route here. And it's not like that corner is even good. You shouldn't reclue RONA, you should junk it entirely. Here's a better corner, RONA- (and ERAT-) free. I made it in three minutes:

I don't know what constructors and (especially) editors are thinking, but above all, I wish they were thinking, "hey, can I spend a few more minutes making this corner better?" Some day...

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


OffTheGrid 6:26 AM  

The puzzle is a plenty good enough Tuesday exercise. Like @Rex, I don't like "RONA" and the plethora of cutesy abbreviations that exist. But to spend 12 lines on it and propose a re-construct is ridiculous.

jammon 6:28 AM  

RONA is disgusting, but YOINK? It's not a word. It's not a sound. It's nothing...a bunch of letters strung together. I don't know what is the best Crossword Puzzle around, but it sure as hell is no longer the NYT.

JD 6:48 AM  

Somewhere between the Rexian pan and the Chen Pow lies the reality of this puzzle, a good, solid Tuesday with a lot to love. Dear John, Shake It Off, I Owe You, Put Up Jobs. That some things are Taylor Swift song titles, great for fans. If Tuesday is aimed at beginners, this is one of the rare Tuesdays when they won’t be on Medicare (like me).

And this is a debut puzzle for both constructors! With no made-up junk or partials among the 3-letter words! I couldn’t name a single Taylor Swift song and yet the puzzle worked for me. That’s a tough trick to pull off for a constructor.

As for Rona, look at some of the post WWII NYT puzzles. Within boundaries, they didn’t pretend like it never happened.

Good work. Looking forward to more from these two.

Anonymous 7:14 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous 7:17 AM  

YOINK? C’mon, man.

Anonymous 7:24 AM  

Agree with Rex, this is a bizarre way to theme a puzzle at NYT. I could see this being in Rolling Stone as a tribute to a new compilation? Something? I don’t have any feelings about Taylor Swift either way, but this was so boring. Didn’t care for the fill. STORYBOOK is nice I suppose…

pabloinnh 7:29 AM  

Somehow I totally missed the clue for SWIFT, having it all filled in from crosses, and when I went back to see what the starred clues might have in common I had no idea. Don't know a single Taylor SWIFT song, and that's on me, but try making a theme out of that random coleection of answers.

MARRY befor MERGE and BLANKSLATE before BLANKSPACE but those were the only slowdowns.

Also, my favorite SWIFT is still Tom. That's how old I am.

Congrats on the debut, MN and EW. Maybe Next time you'll Engage With something a litle mor within my knowledge base. Thanks for the fun.

Son Volt 7:31 AM  

It’s so tough to build a worthy tribute puzzle and it feels like we’ve seen a bunch of them lately. The themer locations are odd here - and the revealer weak. Limited 3s which is nice - but the resulting 4s create the slog.

Thankfully the fill was pretty straightforward because I had no clue on either YOINK or PUT UP JOBS. “Household gas” implies a gas like propane or natural gas intended for use in a house. The issue with RADON is when it enters a house and remains trapped - didn’t like that clue.

I hear RONA from laborers on every construction job I’m on - no issue there. Liked BABE MAGNET together.

The deal was made in DENMARK

Highly talented I especially like Taylor’s first two records - not sure this puzzle does her justice or not.

Joaquin 7:37 AM  

I wouldn't know a Taylor Swift song if you YOINKed me on the head with it. And, as you can likely tell, I know even less about YOINKing.

MkB 7:38 AM  

YOINK probably shows an age divide. As far as I can tell, it was coined by the Simpsons sometime around 2000ish, but became pretty widespread after that; my friend group and my kids’ both use it pretty often while swiping something with fake stealth (like a couple fries).

Lewis 7:47 AM  

After reading the constructors’ notes on WordPlay, it’s clear that this puzzle is a labor of love – of Taylor Swift, yes, but also of crosswords. I can’t speak knowledgeably about Taylor Swift, as I haven’t listened enough to her music, though I know she is popular and accomplished (11 Grammys and more American Music Awards than any other artist, and she’s but 32 years old). On my to-do list is to give her a good listen.

But I can speak about crosswords, and this puzzle was lovely to uncover, being junk free, and including some wonderful answers, my favorites being STORYBOOK, SHAKE IT OFF, I OWE YOU, and the marvelous YOINK, which has many meanings (as my initial foray into the word has shown), so I think it’s fair game to just use the darn word anytime it feels right – I don’t give a yoink at what anyone says.

So, there was much to like here. I also love labors of love. I can’t think of a single labor of love whose path I’ve crossed that I haven’t loved.

Your paean to Ms. Swift wasn’t a dry colorless solve, Malgorzata (who goes by Margaret) and Eileen. It bounced with energy, like a toe-tapping song, and got me in a good mood. Congratulations on your debut, and thank you!

SouthsideJohnny 7:51 AM  

If you are going to do a single artist tribute/trivia puzzle, this is probably the way to do it - run it on a Tuesday with very fair crosses, which I believe they accomplished here.

Similar to others, the gunk for me today was also RONA, YOINK and PUT UP JOBS. Rex probably gave it a fair review. The editors probably have enough talent to clean it up a bit, but they were obviously at least satisfied with the finished product. I wonder how OFL would do as an editor - give the constructor free rein (doubtful)? More likely he would scour every grid removing anything that could possibly be construed as contrary to his worldview. Yes, now that I think of it, if Rex were a full-time editor he would probably drive himself nuts.

albatross shell 7:52 AM  

Just about doubled my time on this one trying to find something to change in YOINK to make it make sense. Then eventually noticed that the VALOR and DOOR (after exit) I had typed in had become VALOd and DOOd somehow. Zoinks and boink, nothing to blame but my careless typing , no random pandomness involved at all.

The theme tuezzed a bit. I enjoy hearing Swift once in awhile but not so much to know any of these song titles but enough to know they might be Swiftian song titles.

Fair and solid puzzle ignoring the tuezzy theme.

Now if I my name were RONA I might care about the cutesy name for a devastating disease. Otherwise I take it as gallows humor. Maybe a sign of bravery under fire.

B Right There 7:55 AM  

Don't know a single Taylor Swift song but the puzzle played like an enjoyable Tuesday for me anyway. YOINK is totally new to me, and even with OFL's comment that it might be a sound effect, it doesn't sit well with me. I actually like @Lewis's "I don't give a yoink" phrase much more and will immediately adopt this phrase into my daily speech! Other than that, had to build ROCHE and tried putting in (Zach) BrAFF in at 25D
(BANFF, Canada's Oldest National Park). My apologies to my Canadian friends, and Happy Belated Canada Day).

Nancy 7:58 AM  

It's not so much that I solved this as a themeless -- it's more that it WAS completely themeless for me. There was a BLANK SPACE in my head as I tried to GRASP what on earth the starred clue/answers had to do with one another. I had no idea, and it took me a while to even track down the location of the revealer.

Well, of course I didn't know that I said to myself when I found it.

It didn't matter at all. I like themelesses and this was a nice, clean, mostly junk-free Tuesday. I especially liked STORYBOOK, SILENT B and SHAKE IT OFF as clued and PUT-UP JOBS and DEAR JOHN as answers. YOINK is new to me and I will probably try to forget it soonest. But all in all, a very pleasant Tuesday.

Conrad 8:10 AM  

Add me to the "Tuesday themeless" crowd. I couldn't have named a single Taylor Swift song. Still can't, really, although RED might stick. Only non-typo overwrite was LADEd before LADEN at 18A, easily corrected by DENMARK.

TKL 8:34 AM  

There are definitely better "Rona" clues: Author Rona Jaffe and gossip columnist Rona Barrett both come to mind. (Although admittedly more accessible to more mature solvers.)

Zed 8:36 AM  

YOINK is common enough to have been appropriated for a computer app name.

Flew through this in under five, which is Monday fast for me. Basically a themeless. I picked up the SWIFTness of the puzzle the same place Rex did, but that didn’t help my solve at all. Just a sort of, “well, okay, Taylor Swift songs strewn about.” Tribute puzzles are a half step above quote puzzles, duking it out with anagram puzzles for second worst puzzle type, and Rex explains why. Tribute puzzles are just lists. I use lists all the time, they are very useful tools. But they are the epitome of mundane. To Do lists. Grocery lists. Lists of state capitals. I suppose people like to fight over Top Ten Lists, but really, it’s just a list. So as a themeless Tuesday this was fine. The SWIFT songs just added a layer of tuezz to the endeavor.

@JD - I think Rex is suggesting that being cutesy about six million dead people is crass, not cute. Most things crass don’t bother me, but it does seem a little tone deaf in a puzzle.

Unknown 8:41 AM  

Alas, Rex is spot on I came here hoping to find something more interesting about the puzzle, even a good gripe.

The one thing I'll say for the puzzle is it demonstrate why I don't object to crosswordese. I'd take a bunch of over familiar short words in exchange for some interesting clues.

other david 8:45 AM  

Oh nice. A cutesy name for a killer of millions, including my father in law (he got it from a lovely unvaccinated "health care" aide) and 7 other people I know. Then there are all the others.

That's really some sick stuff, NYTimes.

mmorgan 8:59 AM  

I’ve heard of Taylor Swift but I don’t know any of her music, so that fact that these are all song titles meant nothing to me. But these were all easily gettable from clues and crosses, and this played as a pleasant themeless for me. I bristled a bit at RONA (how dumb is that? And I have the damn thing right now, day 6, feeling a bit better but still mostly like a dead raccoon). My only whaaa? was YOINK. YOINK?!?!? Of course that’s Rex’s favorite answer. Ha!

Whatsername 9:01 AM  

A perfectly appropriate and well constructed Tuesday. I think most new solvers would probably really like this, especially the younger ones who are familiar with the theme subject. And speaking of, there are few things in the world I care less about than Taylor SWIFT or what she considers music so count me among the solved as a themeless crowd. No aha moment. Just oh, those are song titles? Okay we’re done here.

My thoughts exactly in agreement with OFL. Maybe I would’ve liked it better if it had been the Beatles or Abba or Lady Gaga but it still would not have been any zippier. And speaking of zippy, having recently had RONA, that’s one thing I am not feeling and Rex has a good point there ALSO. No matter where or how it’s done, just extremely poor taste to joke about it.

Chen’s choice for puzzle of the week. YOINK!

JD 9:08 AM  

@Zed and @Unknown, I don't think of Rona as cutesy. I've mostly heard it from young people and frankly I think it's a bit of whistling past the graveyard. When my husband was dying an old army buddy sent him a picture of a poster that said F**k Cancer. I think dissing the virus sends that same vibe.

jberg 9:25 AM  

What does it say about me that I knew YURI Gagarin instantly, but did not recognize any of the Taylor Swift songs? Apparently it says that I'm like a lot of the rest of you. The puzzle might be helped by following the visual hint at the top of Rex's comments -- clue 49 as something like "flying insectivore, and a hint to the answer to the starred clues." It wouldn't have helped me with the themers, but at least the revealer would be fun.

I've always wanted a faiRY tale romance. I put it in, but immediately saw that the swimmer's set would have to end with an unlikely f, so went for alternatives.

My favorite RONA is definitely the gossip columnist. I was going to go for the RNC chair, but turns out she has an extra N, which disqualifies her.

RooMonster 9:30 AM  

Hey All !
DEAR JOHN BELTs out a YOINK. Details at 11...

Interesting puz. I've heard of a couple of the SWIFT songs here. I remember when she first burst on the scene at 17, or whatever age she was. You're telling me she is now 32? YOINKS! Where the hell does the time go?

Could've put BABE in a symmetric spot of MINE. The lower left word even already starts with a B (BELT). My 2¢.


Neighbors were very fireworky last night, until about 1:30 AM. Now my yard/house is covered in firework detritus. Thanks for that. Nothing caught on fire, at least.

yd -6, should'ves 5
Duo 35, missed 1-2-8

Five F's

pmdm 9:40 AM  

I guess I've learned that when Sharp inserts some kind of question when he begins off explaining the puzzle theme, the main body of the write tends to be a run-on dissertation of why the puzzle is not good. So even though I disliked today's puzzle (I am not a Taylor fan which mean this was essentially a themeless puzzle for me), I didn't bother to plod through today's write-up. And Jeff awarded this horror a POW? Might it be time for me to retire from solving? Close, but no cigar. Perhaps it's the other puzzles that get published in print that force me to continue the crosswords.

I would believe that for some, this puzzle hit the early week spot on. Just not for me.

Mike in Bed-Stuy 9:46 AM  

As I never tire of repeating, I'm 61 years old. I have never listened to a Taylor Swift album of my own volition. That being said—Taylor Swift is perhaps the most critically acclaimed singer-songwriter of the 21st century, and she's only 32 years old, so she will likely be dominating the pop music scene for at least another decade or two (Ray of Light, one of Madonnas most critically acclaimed albums, dropped when she was 40). Those of you who minimize or trivialize this woman's influence, impact, and artistry—Would you be equally dismissive if it was Stevie Wonder or Bob Dylan or Paul Simon? Is this sexism at work, or a sort of reverse agism, where we "olds" roll our eyes and turn up our noses at any cultural phenomenon under 50? Or is it an elite culture versus popular culture thing? SMH.

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

Clean up from yesterday,
No. Dily52 was describing vireos arriving in Spring, not departing in the late Summer or early Fall. And of course, she was not describing their diet on their wintering grounds.
I say with renewed surety, that red eyed Vireos do not roost, nor eat holly berries
in Oklahoma in the Spring.

Whatsername 9:51 AM  

@mmorgan (8:59) Re “Feeling like a dead raccoon” - what a great metaphor. I sympathize with your suffering as I am only a week out from it myself. Starting now to feel more like a raccoon that got knocked to the side of the road and resting for a while in the ditch. From what I have read this may go on for a while. I’m just thankful I didn’t end up in a hospital.

Anonymous 9:55 AM  

I have no doubt Rex doesn’t know anyone who uses Rona. But that says more about him than the term. Rona is, of course, widely used.
Rex has written several times of his fear regarding his young, healthy fully based wife being in schools. I feel for him. But his fear is misplaced.
Corona overwhelmingly killed the elderly or those white underlying co-morbidities. His wife was in. Ore danger in an automobile than that virus.

Beezer 9:56 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle as a themeless like many here. The Simpsons have coined a lot of slang like d’oh and meh but somehow I missed out on YOINK. I’m sure it’s a “thing” as @Zed points out, but I find I can’t know every “thing” these days and I learned a new “thing” today. Also, at this point in my life I’m not much up on popular song titles…I’d probably recognize many of the songs as Taylor SWIFT if I heard them but I think the only one I know the name of is DEARJOHN which I THINK refers to her break up with John Mayer…so now must Google to see if that’s correct.

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

I’ve never listen to z of my own volition, Mike in Brooklyn but that doesn’t mean I don’t know his favorite hobby, his taste in suds, and his hometown.
What does volition have to,do,w gaining info?

Liveprof 10:04 AM  

Back in 1970, when I was in college, my economics professor needed to use a beautiful woman in an example, so he used Sophia Loren. But he called her “Sophie,” and one student in the back yelled out “Sophie?” My professor, quick as a whip, shot back, “Well, to her friends.”

Forty years later, after I became a professor myself, we reconnected. He was nearing 90, and the first thing he asked me was whether I remembered his Sophia Loren moment. I said, “Of course, the class loved it.” “But, you know,” I went on, “if I had to use a beautiful woman in class today, I wouldn’t use Sophia Loren – no one would have heard of her -- I’d use Taylor Swift.” And he replied, “Who’s Taylor Swift?”

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

She’s overrated!

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

Taylor Swift is lesbian with Karlie Kloss (documented by independent media, before you mods take this down). KLOSS should have been the revealer.

burtonkd 10:13 AM  

YOINK is in common usage because of the Simpsons, as MkB mentioned above. You use this while you swipe something mock-stealthily, like a french fry. Today, I feel like a teenager telling their parents to just stop while trying to use slang in different ways. I can't even...Yes, wiktionary has other usages listed they seem to have gone out of usage for good in the '50s.

I didn't mind RONA in the puzzle so much as I was weary of its existence in the first place along with referring to getting vaccinated as "the jab". It feels like people trying to show their self importance with off the cuff dismissals, as if these were things for lesser people. OTOH, I kind of do appreciate gallows humor in general.

I think I am a bit old for Taylor Swift and my kids a bit young to really have her hit my cultural awareness. Like Lewis, I have her on my list of artists to discover at some point - when someone is that big, there is always some reason for their popularity worth investigating, whether it's my thing or not.

Off to the New Yorker puzzle, slightly disorienting bc they start the week with challenging, and get easier, then there is no discussion afterwards. The constructor roster is all the NYT favorites from years back. Wondering if the reason is better pay, the chance to be published regularly, or more editorial control?

SEXT doesn't seem to bat an eye, or arch an eyebrow anymore...

Anonymous 10:20 AM  

I've never heard RONA here in Seattle. I guess it must be a term used by people who are in COVID-19 denial.

Joseph Michael 10:23 AM  

From RONA to YOINK, I enjoyed everything about this puzzle except the discovery that this was all about Taylor SWIFT songs. And now I’ve got a SHAKE IT OFF ear worm to deal with.

I also must protest the 56D description of the Abominable Snowman. Adding a “probably” to the clue does little to dilute the flagrant yetism that is clearly at work here.

Anonymous 10:30 AM  

Surprised that Rex did not complain about the 'scrabbleze'inherent in the first constructor's name.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

As trial lawyers are increasingly proving in courts of law, 19A did not kill millions of people. The evidence is growing that vaccines, comorbidity and depression killed more than the virus. Grow up Rex.

Gary Jugert 10:32 AM  

ZZZZZ ... YOINKS, what a snoozefest.

I'm betting Taylor SWIFT woke up this morning in her palacial Beverly Hills home, walked barefoot over heated floors to the seaside veranda in her silk pajamas sewn personally by Gianni Versace on his death bed, sat on her Bar Sauvage lounge chair, sipped her espresso served to her by her morning team from a solid gold cup with a medallion on the side carved from mammoth tusks, and as she began solving today's puzzle she thought, "OHO, it's about me." Then five minutes later she put her ballpoint down (she's FEARLESS, ya know) and thought, that's the best they could do? "Shall we frame it and hang it in the memorabilia room, ma'am?" asked Jeeves. "No," she said trying to SHAKE IT OFF, "it's not worth remembering... wish I'd have been a Wednesday."

One of the smartest, cutest and funniest musicians working today served up on this platter of beige. The editor of this puzzle probably watches PBS for amusement.


Taylor Swift


Boring editors phoning it in.

Maybe these'll be mo' bettah (maybe):

1 Black hole that does crosswords in pen.
2 Girlfriend known for wanting it all.
3 That spot in my belly ready and willing to accept more candy.
4 Pre-Jazzercise pastry name.
5 Nickname for growing phenomenon of Scandinavians hating the metric system.
6 Bluetooth enabled pants-holder-upper gave bad advice.
7 See above.
8 Editors' actions when they just can't tolerate one more grassy knoll.
9 Thomas thanks spelling rules for making him grave.
10 Turns out boy scout wasn't entirely honest.
11 When I confused Oslo with Copenhagen.
12 Tool for Styx.
13 Save time by combining pranks.


DJG 10:33 AM  

Regarding RONA, I have heard it used that way and don't have a problem with it. I think just about everybody in the world has now lost somebody they cared about deeply to the RONA. But merely saying (or in this case writing) RONA doesn't actually infect anybody with a virus.

It's just gallows humor -- joking about something serious as a coping mechanism. As a member of a group of people who will someday die, I reserve the right to make fun of death.

You don't have to like it, but at least now you know the reason, so you don't have to act so baffled whenever things like this come up.

TJS 10:37 AM  

"Shake it off", Rex. And anyone who likes a good laugh, check out You Tube for the video of the cop lip-syncing the song. It was huge about ten years ago. (15 ?)

"yoink" ticked me off but I guess if we ever used "Yikes" we can't complain. What really bothered me is "let on". In my experience it means "to fake" or "pretend" as in "He let on that he was an expert on modern art", not "divulge", but I have seen this usage in crosswords and it grates every time.

@Southside brings up an interesting premise. What would result if OFL replaced Will ? YOINK !

Anonymous 10:45 AM  

There’s a seaside veranda in Beverly Hils?🙄
Santa Monica, Malibu, Eunice?Yep.
Beverly Hills is a good bit inland.

Rug Crazy 10:55 AM  

did anyone else het the puzzle from 1/18/22 in their Times Digest feed?

bocamp 10:55 AM  

Thx, Malgorzata & Eileen; excellent Tues. offering! :)


Pretty much a smooth solve, moving counterclockwise from the NW ending at ERAT in the NE.

Slight amt of resistance aROUND the FREAKy, PUT-UP-JOBS area.

Know of Taylor SWIFT, but none of her songs. Will listen to them today. :)

Liked OLAF in the 'Frozen' movies (watched w/granddaughter).

Enjoyed the romp.


Got Croce's 723 (in 2hrs) with the exception of the 4 ltr one you mentioned. Unfortunately, don't know the 'competitor'; haven't filled in the last letter yet, so have some brain-stretching to do to try to make sense of it. Will report back (soon hopefully) :)
yd 0 / 34

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

Joaquin 10:56 AM  

I find it quite interesting that the vast majority of the posters to this blog (myself included) are so unfamiliar with one of today's most influential and important pop stars. Did our parent's generation know that little about Elvis or The Beatles?

Birchbark 11:13 AM  

The revealer was a surprising solution to a mystery that hadn't occurred to me. I was thinking about Taylor Swift, as random thoughts come and go during a solve -- turns out the puzzle was the prompt.

We listened to these songs over the the long years of raising our daughter, who deployed advanced Swiftie-research skills to explain what was really going on with the lyrics. Many phases across a spectrum of growing up -- no matter what else was on the playlist, I'm glad Taylor remained a steady friend in the mix. And in the conversation.

Especially the country music.

Joe Dipinto 11:15 AM  

Kanye West has contacted the Times to demand that the Taylor Swift titles be replaced with Beyonce titles.

Anonymous 11:17 AM  

Can we at least pause to recognize the number of theme answers in this? It’s no small accomplishment.

egsforbreakfast 11:17 AM  

Not having ever noted any TS songs in particular, I was thinking as I solved that the starred clues might make a haiku.


Doesn’t quite meet the haiku form standards, but it does feel profound nonetheless.

Loved the sly reference to RADON Chong as an offset to Taylor Swift.

Also really like YURI YOINK lying directly atop OLAF OUNCE.

I’m about where @Zed is as far as the place of tribute puzzles in the hierarchy of theme types. That said, this was well constructed and the appearance of RONA doesn’t bother me.

Anonymous 11:23 AM  

Apparently "yoink" means whatever you want it to. Like "mindfulness."

Anonymous 11:28 AM  

Was not a fan of YOINK until I googled it and found this:,vid:CJh1hmmLLzw,st:0

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

I loved this puzzle. I was nervous about some of dated-feeling fill up top (ECARD, YENS) and the NE corner is painful, but the farther down I went the more I was delighted. YOINK is 100% a thing people say! And props to the NYT editors for deciding that a SWIFT-themed puzzle was worthy of inclusion. Millennials represent!!!

jae 11:42 AM  

Tough. I do know who Taylor Swift is and I could pick her out of a line up, but if I’ve heard any of her songs it was not tough. Very smooth, liked it.

My Name 11:56 AM  

@Rex This just shows you you can't sanitize life no matter how disgusting it gets (and yes, the RONA thing was... ugh...). IVAN from your remake is what they call Russians. On how many levels this is unacceptable, eh?

Gary Jugert 11:57 AM  

Joaquin 10:56 AM Since 1946, Boomers are about Boomers. They are so good at it. They were able to deify Bob Dylan. That's excellence in action.

burtonkd 11:57 AM  

For the first time I can recall, Urban Dictionary has the best definition/explanation. Yoink!

Anonymous 11:58 AM  

Anything and everything can kill, but ignorance is near the top of the list.

old timer 11:59 AM  

RONA is not disgusting as a word. It is in the language and timely. The disease is no fun, but I liked the nickname the first time I heard it. Spoken of course by a man putting a brave face on things, and grousing about having to put up with the required isolation that he had to endure.

Now I had never, ever heard of YOINK. Got it entirely on crosses. Looking it up it seems to be a Simpsons' thing, and much as I once loved that show, I have not followed it recently. I found an amusing little video when I Googled YOINK.

What I know nothing about is Taylor SWIFT and her songs. But other than traditional folk music songs I know only the songs of my childhood and youth (often in the crossword), the Beatles, the Stones, and of course the Grateful Dead (seldom in the crossword, but should be IMO -- Robert Hunter, their lyricist, deserves every prize ever given for songwriting).

Anonymous 12:02 PM  

Says something about the NYT crew and something about Chen. Not a good thing. And RONA? WTF.

Gary Jugert 12:17 PM  

@Anonymous10:45 AM As a fellah who can move Oslo into Sweden without thinking about it, allow me a moment to consider the geographical limitations you've placed on this imaginary account of Taylor's seaside veranda in Beverly Hills. Perhaps it's a REALLY big veranda and she uses a helicopter to get from one side to the other. Perhaps she alone can summon the sea into Beverly Hills with her wand as easily as Cnut kept the sea away. Or, perhaps she owns the first warp coil and is able to bend time and space to bring the beach anywhere she happens to be... she does seem very summery. I've been to California and it's a magical place with magical people. Taylor Swift has money and power few of us will ever understand, and so yeah, she's got a seaside veranda in Beverly Hills, sayeth I.

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

Old Timer,
I’m awfully ambivalent about The Dead, but boy when Hunter was cooking he was hard to beat. Penning Broke Down Palace, To Lay Me Down, and Ripple would be a nice career. He penned them all in one afternoon.
Asked whether there would ever be another burst of so much creativity he didn’t hesitate answering “Yes! Ah, but not for me”.
A beautiful and winsome answer.

Son Volt 12:21 PM  

RONA is not an attempt at cuteness - it’s a hypocoristic started by and commonly used primarily by young minority groups. Diminutives like RONA are a way for people to deal with - or at least in their minds deal with the more threatening word. If you don’t like it you don’t like it - but there’s no disrespect there.

Masked and Anonymous 12:27 PM  

@RP: Shoot, if yer gonna bother to rewrite a corner, at least splatz a U or 2 in there somewhere.

staff weeject pick: RED. Given its puztheme due as a Swift tune. Kinda sorta ditto for OUR. Only 7 weeject choices today, btw.

Puz theme is fine by m&e. Have seen my share of Taylor Swift performances on TV, over the years. Sorta knew a few of these themer songs. But couldn't come close to singin any of the lyrics, tho. (Not that anyone would want M&A to do so.)

some faves: DENMARK. FREAKED. STORYBOOK. YOINK [har]. SILENTB ?-marker clue.

Thanx for gangin up on us, Eileen & Malgorzata darlins. And congratz on yer fine debuts. And congratz on yer POW award over at xwordinfo.chen.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


Nancy 12:31 PM  

Although I haven't burdened you with news of any of my Phreagles in many, many weeks (I now have accumulated 70 of them!), I couldn't resist sharing my hole-in-one today. It's only my second ever.

Phrazle 156: 1/6
🟩🟩 🟩 🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

I seldom try for a hole-in-one because every time I do, that's when I give up any chance of getting a "2". You give yourself better odds when you go for letter distribution. But I just had a strong hunch today.

Camilo Fontecilla 12:34 PM  

As a TS fan, I agree this 'tribute' puzzle falls flat.

As an irreverent person who deals with anxiety and general existential angst with absurdity & dark humor, I fully embrace ridiculous terms line RONA because it momentarily lightens an otherwise terrifying disease. It does not mean I am in denial of its tragic consequences nor that I am behaving irresponsibly – quite the contrary – and the same is true to of everyone I know who jokes around about it. I'd venture to say – with no statistics to back this up – that the truly humorless and self-serious are more likely to be unvaccinated.

Anonymous 12:39 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous 12:44 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carola 12:57 PM  

I know more titles from Jonathan SWIFT than Taylor, but I enjoyed the puzzle with its high count of engagin entries. I thought BLANK SPACE functioned as an amusing placeholder for another (sadly lacking) song title with the right number of letters to balance the parallel SHAKE IT OFF.

New to me: YOINK (which gets an "okay, whatever") and the much more interesting to me PUT UP JOB, which I had always thought referred to something makeshift, ramshackle, jerry-built - so, an extra treat to get educated via crossword.

John Everett 1:09 PM  

The oddest thing to me is that "Hoax" is also a Taylor Swift song, but was not clued as such.

oldactor 1:10 PM  

A few years back, I was on an AMTRAK going from Dallas to Penn Station to see Helen Reddy at BB King's Club on 42nd St. when passing thru (I think, maybe) St. Louis? We passed a large Arena outside of which were parked 8 or so huge tractor-trailers, painted red and each emblazoned TAYLOR SWIFT. I was VERY impressed! What could be in all those trucks, Ringling Brothers? How big is that show? I'm still not aware of her work, but she must be VERY good. Now I'm off to YouTube to find out.

Masked and Anonymous 1:24 PM  

@RP: F'rinstance:

10. No ifs, ands, or ___ [or ronas]
16. "___ and Away" [Hit tune that ain't at all swift]
19. One raised by the wolves
10. Standout in the middle?
11. Based ___ (using)
12. Toothpaste source
13. Make out

M&A did this as swiftly as he could muster. Hope it works. Wanted, but failed, to also splatz a U into each clue. [Just couldn't pass up the 10-A and 19-A ones, as is.]

M&A Help Desk

CDilly52 1:29 PM  

Totally a themeless for me. Everything I know about Taylor Swift I learned from crosswords. That said, I enjoyed the solve’s fun phrases, learned YOINK, could do without ‘RONA, but overall well done constructors.

Anonymous 1:37 PM  

I’m doing the puzzle that was in the Times Digest and it is a completely different puzzle. How bizarre.

LZA 1:46 PM  

New commenter here. I had to register my objection to “Rona” (maybe I live in a glass bubble - well, we all did for two years) but this is not a nickname I’ve heard of and more importantly, I agree that to give this catastrophic disease a nickname that then appears in the NYT puzzle is unconscionable. My second complaint is to Yoink. What?? Horrible clue.

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

LOL ditto

okanaganer 3:01 PM  

@Joaquin 10:56am: "Did our parent's generation know that little about Elvis or The Beatles?" Well, mine knew of them because they had kids in the house at that time. My aunt, who was childless, certainly didn't. And I'm sure my grandparents didn't. I have heard my great niece talk about Taylor, but as good as I'm sure she is (Taylor that is), it is not a style of music I enjoy. Same as rap, for instance.

[Spelling Bee: yd 0, pretty fast; my last 2 words.]

Joe Dipinto 3:04 PM  

@John Everett 1:09 – I guess the idea was to have only across answers as themers, with the down revealer. But it's pretty dumb. Did the constructors not notice it was there?


Lyn 4:09 PM  

Never heard of 'yoink.' Is it a verb? I yoinked it? Let's go yoink some stuff? Not a word.

The Bard 4:38 PM  

Antony and Cleopatra, Act I, scene V

CLEOPATRA: My salad days,
When I was green in judgment: cold in blood,
To say as I said then! But, come, away;
Get me ink and paper:
He shall have every day a several greeting,
Or I'll unpeople Egypt.

Birchbark 5:21 PM  

@old timer (11:59) and @Anon (12:19) -- I too vote for a Grateful Dead/Robert Hunter tribute puzzle. I always liked when Hunter warmed up for Dead, solo acoustic guitar and harmonica (usually the early act, when no-one's around yet and you can get right up to the stage).

His lyrics are a strange blend of desperadoes, mythology and folklore, nonsense, and the natural elements. Some favorites, or what's been going through my head as I write this:

"Leavin' Texas, first day of July -- sun so hot, the clouds so low, the eagles filled the sky." ("Jack Straw")

"Whichever way your pleasure tends, may the four winds blow you safely home again." ("Franklin's Tower")

"Promontory Rider, Territory Ranger -- Promontory Rider, what makes you ride so high? To put a lovin' star back in an empty sky." ("Promontory Rider")

"Look for a while at the China Cat Sunflower, proud walking jingle in the midnight sun." ("China Cat Sunflower")

Beezer 5:41 PM  

@anonymous 9:48…Clean up!? After reading your comment it took me a nanosecond to search and find that the range (including breeding) of a red-eyed vireo includes Oklahoma. Yes, they ARE very elusive because they tend to hang out in the tops of trees but they DO eat berries (as do many insect/worm eating birds like robins. Do you assume @CDilly52 has no trees nearby in Oklahoma? In fact, why DID you feel the need to weigh in on the matter?

On a positive note, @oldactor I love seeing your posts. You MAY be an oldie, but you are a goodie!

burtonkd 5:59 PM  

@Lyn: As of 4:09pm, Yoink has been thoroughly covered in the comments section with links and citations.

@Joe: Would a "My Sha__" clue be kosher for 19A? Or a "request when thirsty on a Caribbean beach".

dgd 6:32 PM  

One thing that this blog has made clear to me is the variability of the way people use certain expressions. I for example had no problem with the meaning of "let on" in the puzzle. Perhaps it is declining in usage? I am old after all. But I found it quite common.
On the other hand, "led on" to my ears is used in cases of deceit.
So the usage in the puzzle didn't bother me at all.

dhamel 6:56 PM  

I haven’t seen anyone comment that 60-D is another Taylor Swift song, although not part of the theme. Odd choice. Love me some Taylor Swift, though.

Bubby 7:27 PM  

What is SILENTB for 5d Without knowing Taylor. Swift songs this was a good Tuesday

Anonymous 7:39 PM  

What is going on with the moderators? In response to old timer et al I posted something like:

Everyone should have a copy of Robert Hunter's "A Box of Rain" in their library and should read it often.

It was deleted by a moderator. What is offensive about that? Hunter had already been included in several posts.

JC66 7:42 PM  


5d Element of doubt.

The B In dlouBt isn't pronounced; e.g. SILENT B.

LateSolver 7:53 PM  

Didn't know any of those songs - never heard a Taylor Swift song, ever, but I do know who she is.

YOINK! is best described as onomatopoeia, the sound of swiping something (or more exactly what someone says when swiping something), not the act.

RONA does not offend me - I've heard it enough, but would we accept 'THE BUBE' for the Black Death? Looking at it like that I might reconsider and take more offense to RONA.

egsforbreakfast 9:14 PM  

@JC66. But how is the “dl” in dlouBt pronounced?

JC66 9:26 PM  



My first mistake this year.😂

Anonymous 9:40 PM  

@Anon 7:39 - You essentially called CDilly a fool yesterday because she said she regularly sees red eyed vireos eating her holly berries in the spring. Why? They eat berries. They eat berries whenever they're available. Spring berries would be a great boon to a migrating bird. Do you somehow know that they wouldn't grab some berries on their 5+ thousand mile trip? Red eyed vireos don't roost? Do they not sleep, or do they just lie down on the ground to sleep? I'm guessing they roost. Kind of hard to not sleep when migrating from South America to Canada (and back), given that lying down on the ground to sleep probably gets you et in Ok if you're a little bird. I don't know, maybe they make a new nest every day, and sleep in that. Is that your assertion? That they build a new nest every day? I'm guessing not.

At worst CDilly conflated perch & roost, while at best you behaved like an ass.

kitshef 9:52 PM  

Only knew two of the songs, but those two (and many other TS songs) I like.

Whatsername 12:11 AM  

@Anomymous (9:38) I only made that comment yesterday in defense of @CDilly and because of your rude response to her post. However, as @Beezer pointed out at 5:41, it doesn’t take much effort to find sources verifying her original statement. It’s clear you assume a strong sense of surety, in this case at least based purely on your belief that you alone are right. I expected nothing less.

Anonymous 12:54 AM  

I might have made a face on seeing the RONA clue (I mostly agree with Tex...for once?) Nothing wrong with RONA Jaffe or Barrett... go figure, the latter's still alive, who knew? Not me, until just now

Mike in Bed-Stuy 9:49 AM  

@Anonymous 9:59 AM - OK, so, I don't know who or what "z" is, and your comment is incomprehensible to me. But as far about the volition part, what I meant was, I'm not speaking as a Taylor Swift "fan," per se; but as a living, breathing, aware person in 2022, I know that she is an artist of great achievement, and critical as well as popular acclaim. I was not saying that volition had anything to do with gaining info.

CAK 11:59 AM  

Darrin/Roo - you are the COOLest commenter on this blog (re: your avatar)! I look forward to your posts every day 😊 Just wondering why you like the letter F? Now I notice them while solving and think how happy you'll be 😉 Thanks for all of the smile moments 🤗

Anonymous 1:19 AM  

Caught a comment on FB about your BLOG traffic! You have 2 dedicated fans in Macon, GA. Hated RONA!

bier_ist_gut 10:08 PM  

It's an onomatopoeia, like *bam*.

bier_ist_gut 10:11 PM  

This comment was a joy to read. Thank you.

spacecraft 9:47 AM  

1. Cmon guys, have a heart. WAKE UP!!!!!!!! We are still on June 30!!!!!!!!!!

2. Cmon guys, have a heart. Find SOMETHGING better than this piece of trash. Ran into SILENTB, and it was all downhill from there. We will gladly award DOD to the subject of today's puzzle Taylor SWIFT, but that's it. The rest can...well, let's be kind and hold it to a double-bogey.

On a happier note, Wordle birdie.

thefogman 11:12 AM  

Like the answer to today’s Jumble said, a puzzle should be “Pun to solve.” Sorry. This one isn’t. I give the new constructors full marks for their efforts on their debut NYTXW but this one needed a REDO or at the very least extensive editing. The theme is flatter than flat. No symmetry. No real Aha! moment. Only of passing interest to TS fans. YOINK is not a word. Maybe it’s a sound in a cartoon or in the comics and if so it should have been clued to reflect that. But it isn’t a word. No puzzle should include SILENTB or soft g or any of its ugly variants. RONA? Nobody says that. People say they caught Covid. Gossip columnist ____ Barret would have been okay, but not great. Cluing and answer for 67A SEXT is kind of creepy. What happened to the breakfast test RULE? Not sure it would have gotten the green light if the constructor(s) weren’t both female. It’s just a bad editorial decision to keep it in. Why? To save PUTUPJOBS? Not worth it. Overall, pretty easy to solve. Had faiRYtale before STORBOOK and that was about the only challenging part. Rex is at the polar opposite of Jeff Chen on this one. This time, Rex is right.

Burma Shave 11:34 AM  


I'm FEARLESS with that LAD of MINE,
I'll SEXT an IMAGE VARY oft,
real SWIFT he'll GRASP a solid NINE,


rondo 3:08 PM  

Sorry Taylor BABE, don't know any SWIFT songs.
Would've been wordle eagle, but too early to the party.

Anonymous 4:04 PM  

@egs 11:17am :
Radon Chong!!!
I'm still laughing out loud!!
High Larry us!!!

Diana, LIW 8:26 PM  

Who YOINKed the Syndie Button?

A fine Tuesday here.

Diana, LIW

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