Leafy shelter from the sun / WED 8-3-22 / Carpenter's bladed tool / Healthful practices collectively / Swahili word meaning freedom / Striped aquarium denizen

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Constructor: Daniel Bodily

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium and then a final square that ... ??? I have no idea how people filled that one in, or what the app accepted, or really anything ... 


THEME: "SHADE" in the "D"! — [deeeeeep sigh] the theme is a hypothetical multiple-choice test question about Scrabble from some mythical place where people take multiple-choice tests about such things, what in the world...?  — 16A: With 30- and 49-Across, test question to be answered by filling in the correct circle ("IN A SCRABBLE GAME / WHAT TILE IS WORTH / TWO POINTS?"); at the bottom of the grid are circled letters "A" through "E" (like multiple-choice exam answers) and every letter goes in like normal except "D" (one of two correct answers to the theme question); instead of "D" you are (apparently????) supposed to write in "SHADE" (even though you do not need "SHADE" *at all* to make sense of either the Down or the Across answer o my god this puzzle is so ill-conceived I don't even know ...). So you "SHADE" in the "D," as you would shade in any bubble on a multiple-choice Scantron-type test.

Word of the Day: EPODE (47D: Classical lyric poem) —
noun
  1. 1. 
    a form of lyric poem written in couplets, in which a long line is followed by a shorter one.
  2. 2. 
    the third section of an ancient Greek choral ode, or of one division of such an ode. (google/Oxford Languages)
• • •

Another very brief write-up today, as my Michigan vacation continues for another couple of days. It's going great, thanks for asking. Farmers markets and sand dunes and picnics and hikes and camp fires and cocktails and ice cream and everything you could hope for from Michigan. Even the horrible "Don't Blame Me, I Voted for TRUMP" flag hanging outside a house just down the road turns out to be very handy as a marker for figuring out just when our own driveway is coming up. Even the bad is magically good here in Michigan, is what I'm saying. What is not magically good is this puzzle, holy moly. Let's start with the fact that "D" is not the only tile that's worth two points in Scrabble. "G" also has that point value (if google isn't lying to me). So the very question is stupid from the get-go. The question implies (strongly) that there is just one such tile.*** There is not. This turns out to the be the least of the puzzle's problems, but it's still a pretty big problem. Then there's the recurring problem of having instructions and/or questions as your theme answers. Always a total vibe-killer. Not at all interesting to uncover. Especially uninteresting in this case, as the question is misleading in the first place (as we've established) and in the second, what the hell "test" would ever have such a question???? The very idea that you would take any test anywhere at any time that would have such a question is flat-out ridiculous. But the worst is that the "D" "answer" is supposed to be ... not a "D" (which my software would not accept) but ... [SHADE]. LOL how in the world was I supposed to know that? True, PASTEL [SHADE] (40D: Hue such as pale mint or lilac) and [SHADE] TREE (64A: Leafy shelter from the sun) work for their respective clues, but (wait for it, drum roll, etc.) So Do PASTEL and TREE. All On Their Own! Actually, now that I think about it, [SHADE] TREE is at least something I've heard of, but PASTEL [SHADE], yikes, no. I mean, the answer is PASTEL. [SHADE] is not self-evidently missing. Hoo boy. So bad. That [SHADE] / "D" is seriously the worst "rebus" square I've ever seen. Or close to it. And for the world's dumbest, most preposterous "test question." Even the perfect Michigan vibe in which I am currently living cannot make me warmly disposed to this clunker.


ODIC!? As a suffix? It's like the puzzle was trying to invent ways to hurt me. And the spelling on WOOSH, ouch, my eyes (30D: Rushing sound). It's like when people write WOAH instead of the correct WHOA ... only worse. The word is WHOOSH. I use it a lot, primarily to describe the ideal Friday-solving experience (WHOOSH WHOOSH!). Merriam-Webster agrees with me and has many recent examples for you to peruse if you are so inclined. WOOSH just looks anemic and sad. Which I guess is fitting. Gotta get back to more pleasant diversions. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

***if this were an actual multiple-choice question (yes, absurd, but bear with me), the wording would not be "WHAT TILE..." but "WHICH OF THESE TILES..." or "WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING TILES..." and then, with the set being thus delimited, you wouldn't be thinking "But What About The 'G'!!?"

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

167 comments:

Anonymous 12:06 AM  

Just realized, as I read through your blog, that the “D” is filled in, like on a bubble test. So it is essentially another black spot.

Still not crazy about this one.

Anonymous 12:09 AM  

RITARD/UHURU
RITARD/UHURU
RITARD/UHURU

It will be tough to get the taste of today's xword out of my mouth...

WHY can't solvers be warned that printing out certain puzzles (like this one and the recent Poker Sunday puzzle) may save them mucho aggravation in solving????

jae 12:10 AM  

Medium-tough. I had to pause to figure out what went in the “D” square. Plus A CAPELLA took a while and I always have trouble spelling HYGIENE which made BREW PUB tough to see.

I liked this more than I typically like quote/phrase puzzles. It was oddly amusing as the “test question” is @Rex pretty absurd.

Joe Dipinto 12:11 AM  

I can't even...I just can't.

(R.i.p. Nichelle Nichols, aka Lt. Uhura, btw. I don't think anyone mentioned it.)

Kent 12:13 AM  

Agreed, it was aggravating to the extreme. I don’t play Scrabble. I guessed a “BLANK” tile would be worth two points (since as Rex points out neither the across or down answer needed anything in that space). But no.

Tita 12:22 AM  

With UHURU, thought maybe it was a tribute puzzle to classy Nichele Nicole, RIP. Also STARRY, and then TAKEI with an extra T...

Thought the grid art was relevant, but don't quite see how. Anyone?

Gotta agree with Rex on this one, until other contentious point out all the really cool stuff that he and i have overlooked.

Gary Jugert 12:22 AM  

Two squares in the lot I find no good,
The S in PASTELS and the H in THA. I loathe both.
I've looked down my life as far as I could.
UHURU is meaningless, lest I misunderstood.
And it's a singular clue for the hue I'd swear on my oath.*

I filled the circles, though not quite fair.
It's D not S but "you are WRONG!!!!" the Anonym-oti might exclaim.
And so I stare and stare and stare.
What is my brain missing right there?
Nothing, it's lame, the answer came.

The WOOSH of the puzzle felt fine to play.
Scrabble a crossword yet I won't make a crack.
I'm sticking to Frost-length just for today.
Dear @TJS, way leads on to way.
And my scrollable rants will soon be back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
I like writing in rhyme like I like eating Thai.
Despite what the ladies say, I'm not that kinda guy.
And that has made all the difference.

*I learn upon blogging the S in PASTELS is short for SHADE which I think makes all this worse! (Or maybe it's brilliant, just dunno.)

Uniclues:

1 Upon returning home with Mexican food, the family will erupt in jubilation.
2 The Caymans.
3 Raise elicit funds occasionally.
4 I saw they shaved everything!
5 Hand out sing along books.
6 Daredevil's response to the plan to stop at the top of the volcano.
7 Horace unplugged.
8 Fablevision's motley crew of teenagers who form a band.
9 Boulder, when it rains.
10 What the NYTXW team failed to do today.
11 Die by Optimus Prime.

1 TACOS CUE REVEL
2 SKI TRIP RIVALED
3 PIMP A BIT
4 HYGIENE VISIONS
5 SCRIPT BREW PUB
6 "RIM? I SAY NO."
7 A CAPPELLA EPODE
8 ZEBRAFISH VIDEO
9 LIB SHUT IN
10 REVIEW PASTELS
11 MEGATRON KISMET

Karl Brophey 12:30 AM  

I came hoping you had explained the puzzle solution. Alas.

I noodled it out:

Multiple choice answers A through E as bubble on a scan form. So instead of being able to see "D" instead you see the bubble shaded. Tortured.

The "test question" asks which tile is worth 2, so of the answer options, that's the only one (the other would be G, but since it didn't ask all tiles worth 2, it is maintaining its own tortured consistency).

In the end, it feels akin to a joke you have to explain.

okanaganer 12:38 AM  

About the theme: everything Rex said. Pretty much exactly. I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to put in that square: D?...no, DEE?..no. I even tried things like BLANK or FILL...nope. Even reading xwordinfo's explanation, it still doesn't make sense. Yikes.

Typeover city: CLOWN FISH then TETRA FISH before ZEBRA FISH. LOST CATS for LOST PETS. And, humiliatingly, RETARD for RITARD.

[Spelling Bee: Tues 6 min to pg, then another 9 min to QB. Proud of myself for getting these 4s.]

Anonymous 12:39 AM  

I’m wondering how Pangloss would manage to praise this turkey of a puzzle.

Anoa Bob 12:57 AM  

Huh? Do I need a Scantron to finish this one? Or maybe a MEGATRON.

Although the theme was a STRAIN to decipher and made me feel A BIT like a RITARD, the fill had lots of nice touches. Stuff like A CAPPELLA, ZEBRA FISH, HYGIENE, SHANTY, KISMET and, this old beer hounds favorite, BREW PUB made for an enjoyable solve.

Joaquin 1:01 AM  

Must be that New Math Scrabble game. I play Scrabble "original" where SHADE is worth nine points minimum.

Otter 1:04 AM  

This might end up being an unpopular opinion, but I think this was a clever theme. I’ll try to forgive Rex for not understanding how a multiple choice question works - you only need to select the correct choice from the options given (D), not every single answer that would fit the question (D and G).
Imagine this: What is a mammal?
a) lizard
b) eagle
c) bear
There’s only one correct answer. You’re not going to list off every single mammal.

I do get the frustration with not knowing how to enter the solution on the app, and the constructor admitted he wasn’t thrilled with how they had to make this work. Definitely more geared for a paper solve.

If I’m remembering correctly, just recently we were griping about how a fairly minimal rebus puzzle was too simple for a Thursday and should instead have appeared on a Wednesday to throw us off a little more. Well now we have our Wednesday rebus trickery, so let’s appreciate it a little.

Michael Page 1:22 AM  

My internal rant turned out to be almost word for word Rex’s. D is worth two points. So is G. SHADE isn’t a tile, or necessary to the two answers that meet there. Idiotic theme. The problem is that (1) you had to find some reason to put either D or E in that circle and (2) then find some reason to replace it with a rebus of SHADE that adds nothing to the existing answers. Ugh.

okanaganer 1:23 AM  

@Otter: but we are required to initially put a D in that square to make the multiple choice thing work. But a D does not in any way make sense for the answers that intersect there, so why would we put it there? SHADE makes sense for both, after the fact, but is not obvious from either answer. Just a mess.

My Name 1:28 AM  

What @Otter said

Brian Q 1:39 AM  

I agree that the multiple layers made this theme a bit tricky. I actually put in A, B, C, D, and E for the circled items in the beginning, after reading clue 16A. And as a person who has taken many a scantron test, D would still be the best answer; none of the other choices have 2 point tiles. HAd a heck of a time at that area as it was filled as (D) throughout most of the puzzle. Accidently solved the puzzle when I put in pastelS in the down clue. Nonsensical "Stree" be damned. Then after solving the puzzle and seeing "shade" in the box, I find out they added another layer to the scantron theme.

People have made some fair points about "fill" "x" or other options for that square. But back in the 80'-90's it was all about the #2 pencil which has a distinctive dark grey color. And my elementary teachers got really strict about about 1) erasing changed answers completely, and 2) shading in your answer without pressing the pencil too hard. Perhaps Daniel and I are children of the same decade.

I am not sure when the scantron theme will be seen in the puzzle again, but I now know what to do in order to designate the shaded answer.

Loren Muse Smith 2:20 AM  

@Otter – bravo for your most excellent explanation as to why a G-tile also being worth two points is not problematic for this trick. (Hi, @My Name)

I have to disagree with Rex A BIT in that when I finally saw how this works, how it resembles a multiple-choice test and you shade the D answer, I smiled. No need to fret about the rebus; it’s obvious that under the SHADE is the “D” answer, so it works for me. Nifty that the multiple-choices are equidistant.

@jae – I knew you would have the same trouble I had, both in blowing through several iterations of the spelling of ACAPPELLA and fumbling with how to spell HYGIENE. You’re my people.

I had no idea that SLASH was ever in any movie, so I’ll have to rewatch Face/Off. Just kidding calm down people sheesh.

I’ll say it again – I know that DIE is the singular for dice, but I can’t bring myself to use it this way ‘cause I’d feel like a pretentious prisspot. Same reason I never use whom or lain and always eschew the ridiculous he/she for the tidy singular they.

@Anoa - I actually had “retard” before RITARD and kinda oofed at its ugliness. Ugly enough to have spawned the suffix -tard to uglify other words. Color me a LIBtard. It’s August 3 . . . any leotards in the commentariat? Unitards at Oxford or Cambridge? My personal favorite is the magnificently descriptive f&%$”> tard.

*Ex-NCO from yesterday – Hah!

Anonymous 2:59 AM  

Aside from that very confusing final square, I loved the rest of the puzzle. So much fresh and modern fill, like WOOSH (the gen Zs say it when a reference goes over someone’s head on social media), MEGATRON, TACOS al pastor, Velcro STRAPs, LOST PETS, ACCAPELLA, Mars as a clue for BAR… I really enjoyed this puzzle!

Melrose 3:28 AM  

This was dreadful. I didn't get that it referred to a multiple choice test, so it just didn't make sense.

Anonymous 3:35 AM  

I just started doing these on the app. I usually take pen to newspaper, the way it should be done. Since I didn’t know about the rebus feature I had to get the answer even though I knew what it was. So for the two puzzles I’ve done I’m batting .500. D’OH!

Breakfast Tester 4:03 AM  


Even though it's true that the question technically works given the five multiple choice options, it sure does seem to imply that there's only one 2-point letter. And the fact that there's just one other 2-point letter makes it that much more inelegant. (In Scrabble there is a letter whose point value is not shared by another letter — the K, which is worth 5 points.)

I still would have disliked this puzzle, but it would have been improved if they called it a "bubble" instead of a "circle" and worded 16A in a way that made the word SHADE satisfy a requirement, so that it tied in better with the whole test-taking conceit — e.g., "What you need to do to the correct bubble in order to answer this question." Something like that.

๐ŸŒฎ๐ŸŒฎ๐ŸŒฎ

Zed 4:45 AM  

I must confess that I look back on this puzzle with mixed feelings. On the one hand, the critic in me frowns on the blindly clued, seemingly random trivia question.

SCRABBLE. A quote puzzle. Scantron tests. Anyone care to guess how I reacted to this? Yep. Best Tuesday Ever. Yeah Yeah, Shortz tried to trick us by running this on a Wednesday, but look up “Tuesdays gotta tuezz” and this puzzle is there.

Vincent Lima 5:06 AM  

What @Otter said about that being an unpopular opinion?

First, such multiple-choice questions start, "Which of the following" to limit the scope. This one doesn't. Second, a bubble sheet doesn't have the actual answers but the answer labels. It's just a mess.

Anonymous 5:51 AM  

“Shade”??? Really? Not puzzle material. It doesn’t reflect anything coherent about the scrabble theme.

Anonymous 6:01 AM  

I entered S (PASTELS) and the app accepted it. It seemed wrong because the down clue didn’t seem to be asking for a plural and I didn’t think STREE was a word, but it was accepted.

Ed G 6:06 AM  

This is not how a multiple choice test actually works. First, the a b c d e are not the answers themselves - in your example above this would be like someone covering over the whole word “bear” with their number 2 pencil. The letters are paired with the actual answers in real life. Second in the puzzle you have to interpolate the letter d since it doesn’t actually work for the across or downs so it isn’t a legitimate answer. Third, “shade”? I don’t remember shading as part of the instructions. I remember having to completely fill in the bubble. If you shaded it in lightly the automated answer reading machine probably wouldn’t record it.

J Dubs 6:12 AM  

OK, this isn't how multiple choice questions work. @Otter spelled it out above, but thought it made sense. It doesn't. For this test to make sense, it would have to be laid out as: Which tile .... ?
A) A
B) B
C) C
D) D
E) E
We can infer that D is between C and E, but there is zero information to tell us what the actual answers are behind the letters. I mean,
A) G
B) R
C) O
D) A
E) N
Would be a valid test question if you catch my drift.

Anonymous 6:30 AM  

Wow, thanks, this is the clearest explanation I’ve read. Btw, part of my problem was that on the app, I filled in S in the shade circle and it worked, so I was really lost.

Anonymous 6:39 AM  

Another reason “pastel shade” is terrible is that it’s an oxymoron. In basic color theory, a tint is a hue with white added (aka a pastel) and a shade is the opposite, a hue with black added. This puzzle was a mess.

kitshef 7:04 AM  

Really pushing the envelope on the definition of ‘accessory’ to get CUE.
Driving accessory: CAR
Breathing accessory: AIR
Platform diving accessory: WATER

I predict we’ll get a ton of complaints about how to get the puzzle to be accepted on the NYT app, and justifiably so. Both PASTEL and TREE work fine without ‘shade’. That intersection needs to be between words that don’t work without the ‘shade’. Like … ‘window shade’ or ‘shade of grey’.

Anonymous 7:15 AM  

It is sometimes said that you should “shade” in the correct answer with your pencil. Just saying.

Anonymous 7:17 AM  

Oh god. You SHADE it in.

Anonymous 7:25 AM  

Spot on, Rex.

Son Volt 7:28 AM  

I think the big guy did whiff on the multiple choice nuance - still doesn’t make this a good puzzle. I haven’t played Scrabble in over 40 years. Useless game -> useless puzzle theme.

Actually like most of the fill here - clean solve for the most part. Like that NW corner with SKI TRIP x LOST PETS x PIMP.

The great Black UHURU

As a themeless - a decent solve.

Anonymous 7:32 AM  

Awful!
Just. Plain. Awful! ๐Ÿ˜–

Conrad 7:32 AM  


I don't understand why Jeff Chen gave yesterday's puzzle POW, but I sure understand why he didn't give it to today's.

B Right There 7:38 AM  

Ok ok. Nits be picked about having to choose D by SHADing it in. It's just a little mental gymnastics, people. Other than that, I found it fine for a Wednesday. Agree about WhOOSH. No idea on RITARD, and did have to google for UHURU. Also no idea for Bligh's genre. Googled again and got 'dance', so SW corner was a problem for me. Also, my brain really wanted to misunderstand the theme clue. I saw the 5 circles and read 'blah blah blah Scrabble' in the theme clue, and promptly wanted to fill in the 5 tiles that only occur once in a standard Scrabble' game (J, K, Q, X, Z). Had to let go of that idea as soon as I hit that area, but brain was a little disoriented. So the revealer/tricky answer square D/SHADE did not tickle me as much in the moment as in hindsight. Still, a neat concept. Not sure I want to see many more puzzles like that, but it was something different and that's fine by me. @Gary Jugert, no need to return to your 'scrollable rants' any time. I am quite enjoying the rants in rhyme.

Robert Lockwood Mills 7:42 AM  

There was a time when the New York Times printed reasonable crossword puzzles. Now the game seems to be, "Let's find something so bizarre that nobody will figure it out."

This is absurd.

Anonymous 7:51 AM  

My puzzle accepted the letter S for that strange rebus square!!! I guess by 7:30 AM they had received so many complaints they decided to make that square a “gimme.”

OffTheGrid 7:52 AM  

Perfect analysis from @Rex. I thought I was having some kind of cognitive breakdown while trying to solve this nightmare. It had to be PASTEL but too short. I finally entered PASTELs, assuming the clue was wrong (should have been AND not OR, and HUEs not Hue). But then I had sTELL with RANDB (WTF is that?) in the other corner. I'm not reading @Lewis today. If he gushes over this one my head would explode.

Moving on: I liked "What microchips help to find/LOSTPETS." A few years ago a man brought a stray cat to the animal shelter where I volunteer. This was in early spring and the cat had clearly been out all winter, or most of it. He wasn't critically ill but was kinda beat up and under nourished. This is in northern Michigan near Traverse City. A microchip scan revealed that his owners lived in New Jersey. They had been on vacation in a motor home the previous August. The cat got loose and they had to return home without him. Arrangements were made and I took the crated cat to the airport and he flew home to his people.

TTrimble 7:54 AM  

Oh FFS. This was deeply flawed, fully deserving of Rex's deeeeeep sigh. A conceptual mess.

I think Ed G summed up my own complaints very well (better than Rex did) -- no need to rehash them. The only thing I'd add is that it's a little nasty to have a single "rebus" (as people call it) among the five circled entries, even putting aside the flaws and incoherence of that answer.

Folks, it can only go up from here!

Had "atic" before ODIC. Mostly agree with Rex about WOOSH, even if it is a Scrabble word.

Nichelle Nichols was Lieutenant UHURa. (I never knew her first name was Nyota.) Wikipedia tells us it is indeed derived from the Swahili word UHURU. Not to be confused btw with "Uluru", aka Ayers Rock.

The other day, word came out that they're discontinuing Choco TACOS.

Phillyrad1999 7:56 AM  

Was scratching my head a little as the last letter I filled in was an S in PASTELS. This confused be because or statements are conventionally singular and and statements plural. Oddly, simply typing in the S completed the puzzle on the iPad app. This left me wondering what in the wide wide world of sports an S TREE was. Until I read Rex’s write up. Whatever. Felt more like a Monday-Tuesday otherwise.

Anonymous 8:05 AM  

I would not have a major issue with this puzzle if putting "D" in that final square meant the puzzle was solved. But PASTEL SHADE isn't really a thing, so I think the expectation that we are supposed to figure out to put a lone rebus of "SHADE" into that final square moves my estimation of the puzzle way, way down.

Way, way, way down.

OffTheGrid 8:10 AM  

@ kitshef 7:04. Loved your comment on CUE, and your list.

mmorgan 8:11 AM  

Totally, utterly, completely agree with Rex. Although I didn’t mind ODIC.

Dr.A 8:13 AM  

I had no idea what went in that extra rebus square. I somehow put an E and the app accepted it but I had to read your post to figure out what that even meant. I guess it was just accepting any part of “Shade”? Weird. And Woosh really bugged me too. thank you for pointing that out. What the WH? Lol

EdFromHackensack 8:16 AM  

this was the worst puzzle I have ever done. anywhere. Will??? how did this get past you

SouthsideJohnny 8:17 AM  

Once again the NYT offers up a decent feat of construction where the ultimate solving experience becomes a secondary concern. Shortz and his team have definitely cornered the market on that concept (we can all be thankful for that). It’s clear that they could use some adult supervision at the NYT Crossword editorial desk.

This type of nonsense would be tolerable once in a blue moon, but now that it has become pretty much standard fare - it’s time to concede/admit the obvious, the New York Times no longer publishes world-class puzzles on a daily basis. They are carving out their own niche, which is their prerogative; however they have badly tarnished the image of the Old Gray Lady in that regard.

Anonymous 8:18 AM  

I wouldn't want to see the puzzles that were rejected in favor of this one.

NYDenizen 8:21 AM  

Inelegant.

Anonymous 8:21 AM  

Nothing but relief in reading these comments. I dropped an S in that square by mistake and got the happy music without having a clue. Went to the NYT Games page to get an explanation. Read the explanation. It made no sense to me and still doesn't. The "instruction" answers were easy to get but I couldn't see how they linked to the final answer. And still don't.

Also, memo to Shortz: You don't get to change the spellings of common words just because you want them to fit into a NYTXW. Your name is Shortz, not Sortz. And it's WHOOSH, not WOOSH. Period. I haven't looked, but I'm sure that one of the two Major Pomposities among the regular NYT commentariat have provided an anti-prescriptivist justification for WOOSH. I say it's spinach, and I say the hell with it.

This was a terrible puzzle. Let's move on.

Rich Furman 8:26 AM  

How did I fill it in? I ran the alphabet until I got the music at "S," said WTF, well that's solved, and moved on. Now that I see it was supposed to be shaded, I have to note that, yeah, that's the first time I've seen a real rebus in the puzzle as opposed to a word-squish.

Anonymous 8:43 AM  

Bodily injury

Anonymous 9:01 AM  

Can’t believe the hate on this puzzle. I figured out the three-line scrabble phrase first, then I noticed the circles contained A, B, C and E. The only thing that worked with TREE was “shade” … so… I get it! Hah!

Funny. Clever. Made me smile.

It’s the NYT crossword people, think outside the box and appreciate the cute idea.
I know it’s Rex’s shtick to be grumpy about 99% of the puzzles, but I really don’t understand the hate in the comments…

Didn’t y’all fill out like a billion scan trons growing up??

bennys 9:02 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sir Hillary 9:06 AM  

Most ODD NYT puzzle in a jillion years.

Tried "D" -- nope.
Tried rebusing "BLANK" (because PASTEL and TREE stand on their own) -- nope.
Tried "S" (thinking maybe the down clue had a typos and was meant to be "Hues...") -- solved!

Still confused, with no desire to change that. Hated it.

Anonymous 9:07 AM  

Google “scan tron form” and you’ll get it

Lewis 9:14 AM  

(Hi, @OffTheGrid!)

This puzzle felt very fresh to me, in a very pleasing way. It was like meandering through an unfamiliar garden and running into delights at every turn, or like meeting a new person who you are charmed by. Like brushing against a new splash of beauty in an ever-surprising world.

Part of it was running into lovely answers that don’t show up often in puzzles: VISIONS, UHURU, ZEBRAFISH, LOST PETS, even HYGIENE. There was also a trio of magnificent words: ACAPPELLA, KISMET, REVEL. Added to that was a supporting cast of enjoyables, the PuzzPair© of BAR and BREWPUB, the backward SORE crossing STRAIN, and a pair of five-letter semordnilaps when puzzles are lucky to get just one: STRAP and REVEL.

Then there was the audaciousness of the theme, the mash of a quote theme that led to a multiple choice answer, that led to which circle to fill in, and then the kicker – filling that circle in with SHADE. SHADE! At first it seemed like a totally random clue/answer unrelated to anything else in the theme, and the stickler in me railed against that, even as the rebel in me loved it. But when I realized that SHADE is what you do to the bubble in a multiple-choice test answer sheet, its brilliance overshadowed the love/hate.

Fresh and brilliant. My review? A triumph. Thank you for making this, Daniel. It brightened my day!

Rachel 9:21 AM  

Did anyone know to just fill in SHADE instead of D?

I also thought the question was confusing, because I assumed it would have one answer. Then when I saw that A B C D E filled in the circled squares in the bottom row, I figured each of those letters is worth two points (I don't play Scrabble often). I also thought DTREE and PASTELD didn't make sense, but didn't know what else to do. So I finally had to have SHADE revealed, and was like, what???? It's so random. Yeah, didn't like this puzzle.

Wanderlust 9:32 AM  

Boy this one went right over my head. I filled in PASTELS, which gave me STREE. That was the last square and no happy music, so I knew that was where the error was. But all the crosses seemed unimpeachable. Went looking around and found RUP in the SW. turns out I thought Mary J Blige was a practitioner of Rap ‘n’ B. My own invention, but it kind of describes that kind of hip hop that has a lot of R ‘n’ B in it, so I like it.

Anyway, once I fixed that, I got happy music (the app did not require the SHADE rebus) and only then tried to figure out what the circles were about. I stupidly thought, “ A, B, C, S and E are all worth two points? E? Really?”

Only figured it out when I came here. Re LOST PETS: Have any of the dog people here listened to Alexandra Horowitz’s podcast Off the Leash? It’s fantastic. Each episode delves into a different canine theme and includes the host on a walk with a well-known person and their dog. It’s always funny and insightful. The last episode I listened to was on “strays” and one of the guests makes an intriguing argument that all dogs would be better off LOST - living as strays rather than being coddled by us. Not saying I agree but give it a listen.

And finally, YAY KANSAS!!!!

burtonkd 9:34 AM  

Hands up for filling in "S" and having no idea why it worked for STREE.
@Anon 7:51 et al, you can fill in just the first letter of a rebus, in this case we were lucky because the rebus was "S"HADE.

@kitshef - I see your point, but a more similar analogy might be
cue:pool::steering wheel:car.

Thanks Lewis for reminding us that there were plenty of terrific parts to this puzzle that weren't a question, and weren't worth throwing SHADE at.

Nancy 9:38 AM  

What on earth? I've played SCRABBLE enough to know that the very valuable *blank* tile isn't worth two points. It's worth zero points. So what in the name of crosswords goes in that last mysterious tiny little circle?

I had no idea. I came here to find out. And I still don't know.

Rex says "shade". Well that makes no damn sense at all. "Shade" is not a SCRABBLE tile.

A truly ODD puzzle. Maybe the ODDest I've ever seen. I'm going over to the Wordplay Blog now to see if they can explain it. Somehow I doubt it.

Anonymous 9:45 AM  

Is there a list of genres somewhere in this crossword metaverse we inhabit? My apologies to Mary J Blige as I created some weird genre for her music. I had “RANOB” thinking the down answer was “ritaro”.When I didn’t get the happy music I had to use Autocheck. Of course it’s “R and B”!

Marley 9:46 AM  

LMS, I think you would like the book Words on the Move by John McWhorter, if you haven't already read it.

RooMonster 9:49 AM  

Hey All !
I rebussed in SHADE, scratched the ole head, then came here for the explanation. I sometimes criticize Rex, sure, but more often than not, I really appreciate his blog, to explain themes like this that WOOSH over my head.

So, it's supposed to actually be a D there, that you need to "SHADE" in with your pencil? Interesting. So, what works as the actual final solution? Is this a Schrodinger thing? Do you put in a D, or the word SHADE, or make it a black square? Asking for my cat...

Did get the Happy Music once finished, so Yay Me! SW corner was a toughie. Had BREWery first, deciding twixt SUR and Ben, THA and lil, plus an "AND" answer. Dang

Grid art looks like a face with puckered lips (eyes in the Blockers on top, the lips being the cross set of Blockers in the middle.) Squint a bit, you'll see it. ๐Ÿ˜

I see OOXTEPLERNON's brother here, ONTBAAHUPMAN. Maybe we'll see them in a REVIEW VIDEO of LOST PETS. Details at 11.

yd -4, should'ves 3

One F
RooMonster
DarrinV

Tom P 9:50 AM  

Glad I wasn't the only one who responded with a big "Huh?" to this one. When I entered an S in the box where PASTEL crosses TREE, I got the happy music to let me know I had solved the puzzle, but I still said "Huh?" Thanks to Karl and others who provided the explanation, I was able to change the quizzical "Huh? to an emphatic "Unh-uh!"

Joe Dipinto 9:59 AM  

Forgot today's installment of WHY THIS CLUE SUCKS:

What do they mean, "singing in the rain, usually"? When was the last time you were walking down the street or driving in your car and the advent of a sudden downpour gave you the urge to start singing?

People sing a cappella in the shower. Or on an echoey subway platform. Rain is not a factor. But apparently a feeble reference to a famous movie was just too tempting to pass up, however irrelevant it is to the answer.

That concludes today's installment of WHY THIS CLUE SUCKS. Please continue to complain about the general badness of the puzzle.

L. Mondello 10:02 AM  

One thing I don't get...

Do we have to know this for the final exam?

danny 10:06 AM  

I solved this on the app, and I entered an “S” in the “SHADE” square, because I was thinking the down answer was “PASTELS”. I finished it with the rest of the down answers and it accepted that. I was wondering what “STREE” means.

Nancy 10:07 AM  

Eureka!!! This could be made to work. Or at least to make sense.

The last line of the question is TWO POINTS. 9 letters.

But supposing that line were: TWO OR ZERO POINTS?

That's 15 letters. Another grid-spanner. Matching the two you already have. (You'd need one more, of course.)

You could then have the [BLANK] tile as your final tiny little circle entry. Which actually exists in SCRABBLE, even as the not-so-famous SHADE tile doesn't.

It wouldn't be a great puzzle, mind you. But it would be an infinitely better puzzle.

Joseph Michael 10:11 AM  

Why would this question be on a multiple choice test to start with? Is this the final exam in Scrabble 101? I think the S in the missing word is misplaced. It should not be SHADE but rather HADES because that’s where I felt I ended up when the puzzle was done.

Well, all right, that’s a slight exaggeration.

No, actually, that’s a huge exaggeration.

What I’m trying to say is that this wan’t my favorite puzzle. Crossing UHURU with RITARD and acknowledging the existence of THA only made it worse.

CuppaJoe 10:12 AM  

I finished the whole thing without noticing the circled ABCDE which I had as ABCSE; had no idea what the circles meant (or what a stree is) and the NYTimes blog confused me more. They were discussing, what?, one rebus!! …. Where?

The NYT app grid will not accept a rebus after the puzzle is marked correct.

Thank you, Rex, another spot on blog that got me laughing first thing in AM.

Anonymous 10:12 AM  

so... Shortz throws SHADE on the solvers. guess that makes him feel better.

a drill sergeant says HUT. always has and always will.

a quote puzzle?? even worser than those rebi abominations.

do modern day carpenters ever use an ADZ?? just askin. last I read, that was an stone age tool.
"Modern adzes are made from steel with wooden handles, and enjoy limited use: occasionally in semi-industrial areas, but particularly by "revivalists" such as those at the Colonial Williamsburg cultural center in Virginia, USA."
-- the wiki

Anonymous 10:12 AM  

Remember this day, folks. Years from now there will still be whispers and rumors of the mythical WORST PUZZLE IN NYT HISTORY, and you'll be able to say, "I was there. I tried to solve it. Gather 'round, children, as I tell my fearsome tale..."

Allison 10:12 AM  

Husband and I generally do the crossword together. We couldn't figure out what that square wanted and he eventually just smashed his hands on the keyboard and frustration. That was accepted as the answer and generally is how we felt about the puzzle..

Anonymous 10:15 AM  

Thank you. Now that I understand what was going on I like the puzzle a lot more. Even though I couldn’t figure it out on my own, I give points to the constructor for coming up with something novel however wacky

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

to make matters worse, just parse the clue: 'hue' is singular and 'or' is too, so the answer can't be (if the NYTXW follows the rules) the plural PASTELs. so that shouldn't get the Good Sound.

OffTheGrid 10:22 AM  

Well, @Lewis. You had me at "Hi" and I read your comments. Fair enough. My outlook brightened ABIT.

TJS 10:28 AM  

"Asking for my cat". Great one @Roo. Ah ! Brevity !

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

Alternatively, “PASTEL SHADE” and “SHADE TREE” work fine as a rebus. I think that’s the intention but either way would “make sense”.

Julius C 10:31 AM  

And I'd feel like an ignoramus if I said "The dice is cast."

bocamp 10:34 AM  

Thx, Daniel; a great workout, but, alas, I wasn't up to the challenge. :)

Easy-med-hard. This would have been a very tough Thurs. puz!

A true dnf, as I just couldn't think of anything to put into the final cell.

Spent a long time in the dark; just couldn't see the SHADE. :(

Have played lots of SCRABBLE, but bad memory wrt letter's POINT values, so the 'S' didn't pop.

At least, this one really got the mental juices flowing!

Appreciated the 'test'; will try to learn something from the failure. :)
___
Peace ๐Ÿ™ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all ๐Ÿ•Š

Newboy 10:48 AM  

I often feel that Rex has become jaded after years of grid/blog grind, but not so today. Blindingly easy with only a HUt to replace with HUP and then that WTF square …. and I treasure a rebus. Had to vent before reading commentariat, but I don’t think even @Lewis can tailor this pigs ear, but it’s off to see.

Anonymous 10:49 AM  

Loved the coincidental tribute to the amazing Nichelle Nichols passing with UHURU, the basis for her Star Trek character’s name of Uhura.

GILL I. 10:54 AM  

I'm not even sure where I should begin or even end.
I'll start with begin:
It started out with a very nice cup of French press Peet's coffee. I was enjoying the aromas. My croissant arrived and that aroma was also enticing.
Continued on hoping this would reveal something enticing. O MAN...it's one of those quote themes involving SCRABBLE. Just keep going sez I...you might find this interesting.
Some side dishes I couldn't figure out or at least took a long time to see. PIMP my ride? I had PUNK. I guess it's hard to punk a ride but why not. Erase, erase. I order another croissant and it too, is pretty good. It was a bit too crusty here and there but It got wiped away. A CAPELLA and ZEBRA FISH smelled really good. I also liked SHANTY and I even got META TRON. I was further happy that I could spell HYGIENE correctly.
So I have IN A SCRABBLE GAME WHAT TILE IS WORTH TWO POINTS. WOOSH...right over my head. So I come to my ODIC end:
I don't understand (at all) the ABCSE....Wait...there has to be a trick. I'm assuming it's ABCD and even then I couldn't quite understand. I thought the Q and the Z's had a little more value?
And then I come to the conclusion that STREE is a leafy shelter. I thought it should be SHADE but alas...no deal.
I wanted to leave a big tip for my waiter but he only got 10% instead of my normal 20%.
At least the coffee and croissant was pretty good.

Liveprof 10:55 AM  

Thanks, Daniel Bodily, for inspiring so many enjoyable posts today.

Bodily injury – hah! (Low-hanging fruit, but still, someone had to say it.)

Loved learning the difference between a tint and a shade.

Loved seeing Otter swim upstream, and the wonderful Offthegrid/Lewis interplay.

The puzzle itself, for me, was like trying to get across a stream by stepping on shaky rocks. I was supposed to infer a “D” from the A, B, C, and E, realize it is the only two-point letter (from those) in Scrabble, and then “shade” it in like an exam answer by seeing “shade” as following pastel and preceding tree. I tumbled into the stream repeatedly and my shoes and socks are all squishy today.

I appreciate all the nits OFL and the others among you have picked, but I guess I’m in a forgiving mood. Thumbs up, DB!

Anonymous 10:55 AM  

THIS SUCKED. I almost want to create a twitter account to complain to Shortz

Whatsername 10:55 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jwaan 11:03 AM  

I solved on paper, "filled" in the D just as the "instructions" say, and thus assumed it was meant to be a black square. Which as Rex notes, works fine for the clues. Understood that way, the puzzle may not have been fabulous, but I didn't think it was so terrible either.

That said, if I'm being asked to accept that the only "right" answer is to rebus the word "shade" into that square, then I agree with everyone here--that does indeed suck, and not in the 15D way.

Lewis 11:07 AM  

One more piece of brilliance I didn't mention. If you solve this online and fill the circle in with SHADE, then PASTEL SHADE and SHADE TREE work with their clues. If you solve on paper and simply shade in the circle as you would on a bubble answer sheet, effectively making that box act as a black square, then PASTEL and TREE *still* work with those clues. The puzzle goes both ways (Hi, @Jwaan!) -- amazing!

nunya 11:09 AM  

Yes, thank you.

Anonymous 11:09 AM  

Hello! Always love your comments!

Anonymous 11:12 AM  

Seems an odd week to have UHURU appear in the NYTXW...

https://www.tampabay.com/news/crime/2022/07/30/what-to-know-about-possible-russian-ties-to-st-petersburgs-uhurus/

Newboy 11:13 AM  

Thanks @Lewis for finding the silk purse I must have lost among the PASTELS. And thanks to Daniel for engaging/outraging so many among the lexocryptoverbalist community. Now I have to see your constructor note at xwordinfo!

Whatsername 11:14 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Molson 11:18 AM  

Puzzles and posts like today's are why I read this blog. Bravo.

Anonymous 11:21 AM  

was also annoyed at this puzzle, the app should have at least accepted D over S in that square.

Tom T 11:21 AM  

My Scrabble playing years have receded, replaced by Words with Friends, in which several letters (D, L, N, U) are worth 2 points. So that just increased the puzzlement and frustration over that last blankity-blank-blank blank.

Anonymous 11:21 AM  

It accepted S and not D, I never come here but I had to see what other people thought about this one lol

Beezer 11:30 AM  

Wow, is there a lot of energy on this puzzle! I dunno. I worked the puzzle without a mistake until I got to the SHADE box. I thought “hmmm, is there a variant word PASTELA since ATREE could work”? Um no…that didn’t work. So. I gave up and looked at Rex…BRILLIANT! In retrospect it totally makes sense whether the clue says what or which and just because the other letters are A, B, C, and E ONLY means that through process of elimination the rebus tile HAD to be the answer and SHADEd in. I’m okay with a puzzle kicking my butt.

Yeah, @anonymous 6:39a, I JUST finished Watercolor I and II classes and I kind of get you with the color wheel thing but if you Google PASTEL you will mostly find sites that say that PASTEL is a medium and not a pigment. If you Google PASTEL COLORS you get charts that most of us think of and that the clue listed. Even after having the knowledge that SHADE is the addition of black I’m pretty sure when I want to paint my walls and go out looking for my paint chips I’ll be thinking I want something in a SHADE of green (just an example!) which could run the whole gamut of green.

albatross shell 11:34 AM  

I thought singing in the rain clue was a good one. You are unlikely to have instrumental back up when you are singing in the rain. My garden has been drying up and my collected rainwater exhausted and I sure felt like singing in the rain this last rain storm we got. A bit of the blues when it wasn't a real soaker.

I was in the what is STREE and and why does the PASTELS clue want a plural answer group. And then I remembered rebus answers have been counting as correct with only the first letter in. There must be a rebus!

And then Eureka! SHADE makes everything work perfectly. Yeah right. More like I came here and read til it made sense.

Too clever by half or more for me.

Harder than your average Wednesday square.



Mike 11:38 AM  

Hey Rex, are you in Holland MI by any chance? Dunes, farmer's market, and a specific "Don't blame me flag" are all on my dog-walking route!

bocamp 11:42 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 11:42 AM  

Given the way the question is worded, the correct answer is any tile worth 2 points. PASTELD and PASTELG make no sense but are the only correct answers. Ergo, the puzzle makes no sense,

sixtyni yogini 11:43 AM  

Well, didn’t see that coming! Knew something was up with the keystone PASTEL✅TREE square - so left it blank while trying to remember what tiles were worth 2 points. Of course that didn’t make sense and choice letters A B C and D (with D being the only 2 pt letter - ๐Ÿ˜ ) did… there you have it - as ๐Ÿฆ– pointed out: does not make sense, a “mess.” (Haven’t read comments yet - so maybe someone found the logic…)

UGH!

๐Ÿฆ–, glad you have vacation to enjoy to compensate for this bummer. ๐Ÿ˜‚

Enjoy y’all - vacation or not!

๐Ÿ˜œ๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿ˜œ


Whatsername 11:48 AM  

WOOSH! That’s the sound of this LEAKY clunker (too kind) aimed at Nancy’s Wall and I’m not sure it didn’t bounce. Right off the bat, the thing I dislike the most in a crossword - the quote/quip/question involving multiple clues. Still, I could’ve dealt with that had I not ended up feeling like my intelligence had been insulted. So the nicest thing I can say is that if you got the trick I’m sure you loved it.



As one who obviously did not love it, I could barely stop fuming long enough to read Rex’s breakdown. Now that I have read the explanation and understand it, I can see how it was supposed to work but that really shouldn’t happen. I appreciate a novel theme as much as anyone but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If it has to be explained en masse it probably wasn’t a great idea to begin with.



Truly I hate to be negative in a REVIEW, but this was so not WORTH the frustration.

heidi k 11:55 AM  

When I finished this puzzle last night, I said, out loud, “go home crossword puzzle, you’re drunk.” (Cue wtf face from my partner.)

I often miss puzzle themes/gimmicks and have to rely on good ol’ Rex Parker to help me out. This time felt like something was actually wrong. PASTEL/SHADE had to be the right answers… what’s this extra square for?

On top of that, as an avid scrabble player, I was confused — why are there circled letters for tiles that aren’t worth two points?

I finished the puzzle fine and with a decent Wednesday time because I just rolled with the weird PASTEL(S)TREE situation. It did not sit well with me, it was a joyless puzzle. Boo.

Hack mechanic 12:00 PM  

I thought the tree must be on Fantasy island. D tree, D tree!

johnk 12:14 PM  

Another little game disguised as a crossword puzzle.

SFR 12:21 PM  

PASTELS and STREE triggered the happy music for me

bocamp 12:21 PM  

Thx to @Karl Brophey (12:30 AM) & @Otter (1:04 AM) (and many others) for explanations that make sense.

I originally placed a 'D' into the cell, but no happy music. (I did eventually plug an 'S' in, resulting in the happy music, but had no clue why). As I previously mentioned, I don't recall the point values for Scrabble tiles, but the fact that all the other circled letters worked for both the down and across answers made it pretty clear that something more than a single letter needed to go into the 'D' spot. Didn't think of shading in the implied 'D' cell, as 'Scantron Test' isn't a familiar term to me, altho, I've taken many such tests.

It all makes perfect sense now, so kudos to Daniel for this masterpiece! :)
___
Peace ๐Ÿ™ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all ๐Ÿ•Š

Nancy 12:25 PM  

@Whatsername -- Wondering what the rectangle with an "L" above a "SEP" at the ends of your first and second paragraphs means? And is it an emoji? (Probably not; most emojis I've seen have contorted looking faces expressing God knows what.) This symbol, if you squint, sort of looks like it's written in Mandarin.

(I may be the only person on the blog who has no idea what it is. And I don't even know how to Google it.)

RAD2626 12:42 PM  

While I have not done a precise count I would save 75% of the negativity or at least aggravation focuses on the one rebus square at the bottom right. I think that is much more an IT or editorial issue than the constructor’s fault. If we were all doing this in the newspaper, as those of us old enough did twenty years ago, you would have put a “D in that box and the if you were anal(clever) shaded it in. Voila! Cute. Harmless. And different.

I liked the puzzle and the fill. WOOSH would be my only raised eyebrow.

Anonymous 12:43 PM  

Since from whenever when I didn’t finish a Wednesday. Not my fault. NYT group is on a (mental) vacation? Is there another group that takes over in August?
After reading the comments, I’m relieved that I hadn’t suffered a stroke.

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

I had no idea what to put into that last square so I came here.
Ridiculous.

Beezer 1:08 PM  

@Nancy, I don’t know if @Whatsername will be back, but I don’t see what you describe in her message. Curious.

Anonymous 1:10 PM  

That actually would be a cool answer. I put in PASTELS which it accepted, and I just assumed a STREE was some arcane trivia.

albatross shell 1:13 PM  

It was a puzzle. You didn't solve it. Ergo blame the puzzle. It has been explained here. It makes sense. Stop running back and forth in the same rut. Every puzzle demands a few leaps. Leap.

Doesn't mean you have to like or enjoy the puzzle. You are allowed to.

I hope someone appreciated the Yogi Bear paraphrase in my last post.

Ride the Reading 1:19 PM  

Somewhat groggy when working on puzzle. I don't even remember what I put in that rebus at 64 - probably D. But on the Times site, once I'd filled in another square I'd missed, got the happy music, and SHADE was written in the rebus.

"It's a Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World" on WHOOSH.

https://getyarn.io/yarn-clip/a2d9a06d-f60b-4e35-9438-9bb3524e7f33



Teedmn 1:27 PM  

I'm so glad I did this on paper - I got to SHADE in the D spot and so I have less SHADE to throw at this rather goofy puzzle.

I found the EPODE ODIC VIDEO area was the sticking point of my solve. I blame the less than obvious clue for ECO - there are so many to choose from and ECO-conscious is possibly the least likely to reside in my consciousness.

Aร‡AI, I was introduced to the Aร‡AI bowl in Brazil a few weeks ago. It seems to be the national flavor. It is eaten with toppings like bananas, muesli, and, very ODD to me, powdered milk. Can't say I'm a convert though it wasn't bad, just ODD.

Whatsername 1:30 PM  

@OffTheGrid (7:52) What a great LOST PET tale! Sad story but happy ending. Blessings on you for your volunteer work.

@Nancy (12:25) I’m not seeing what you referred to at all. I did not put anything like that in my post intentionally and while it does sound like a rogue emoji, I didn’t put one of those in either. Can’t imagine how that would happen. Very curious.

albatross shell 1:37 PM  

@Beezer
End of the first paragraph in the 1148am p0st, I believe.

albatross shell 1:39 PM  

The constructor's notes at the end of Wordplay may make some of you feel better. Or maybe not.

Beezer 1:49 PM  

@albatross shell…yes, maybe it’s because I am on an iPad and you guys are on pc laptops? Almost sounds like some of the weird formatting symbols if you press a certain button on a Word doc or something. At any rate, nothing shows in her message (on my screen) regular words…and no emojis!

JC66 1:54 PM  

I'm on a MacBook Pro and I see what @Beezer sees.

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

Thank you for mentioning this. As an art teacher my whole career I always taught this. I was beginning to think I made it all up!

A 2:03 PM  

What, a Scrabble puzzle and no pangram? And the tortured theme clue - pathetic. Calling for fellow volunteers to rebuild @Nancy’s wall!

@Rex’s descriptor for WOOSH (anemic) gave me a mental image of a comfortably plump WhOOSH going on a crash diet to squeeze into 5 squares.

I also had VISIONS of a NORI-clad ZEBRAFISH with a PASTEL EAR TAG singing A CAPELLA on the MEGATRON. It was a sea SHANTY. I SAY NO more.

At least we got the nod to Nichelle Nichols. Kirk might’ve been captain but UHURa ruled the bridge. What a presence. Nichols sang and danced on tour with Ellington before her acting career, sang with Hampton on tour, danced with Sammy Davis, JR in Porgy and Bess, and more.

Here she is with “Why Don’t You Do Right” on Epic. Lyrics by Joe McCoy. (Not a doctor AFAIK.) Hot band with arranger Gene Page.

If you thought it offensive to cross UHURU with RITARD, relax, literally. It’s just short for the musical instruction RITARDANDO, which means to gradually relax the tempo.

@Lewis, I just saw your 11:07 comment. So you’re saying that the ambiguity was intentional. Well, that is impressive. Too bad it was LOST on the rest of us, including OFL. I’ll give the constructor a thumbs up and blame the editor, lol! BTW, is the symmetry unusual?

Thanks for the heartwarming LOST PET story, @OffTheGrid.

Ok, Mr. Bodily, nice trick. Mr. Shortz and his cluing owe you one.

DigitalDan 2:24 PM  

I had to read Rex's treatise as well as ten or more comments before I understood the gimmick. I don't shade in answers in multiple choice questions (ballots, these days.) I fully blacken them. Also, there are apparently two correct answers, one of them not D. Sigh.

albatross shell 2:27 PM  

Test to see if it copies.
I am guessing no. But it is visible in my comment before being sent.

you got the trick I’m sure you loved it.



As one who obviously did not love

Lewis 2:31 PM  

@A -- Well, I'd like to think the ambiguity was intentional, though, of course, I can't read Daniel's mind. Regarding the symmetry, it's a left-right symmetry, as opposed to the usual 180-degree rotational symmetry, where if you turn the grid upside down, the black and white squares are in the same locations. Daniel used that because he had two horizontal 15-letter theme answers plus one more at nine letters. That wouldn't work with the usual symmetry.

Whatsername 2:32 PM  

@Nancy et al. - I’m not seeing anything unusual in my post. I did not enter any kind of symbol like what Nancy described and although it does sound like a rogue emoji, it didn’t have one of those either. I normally use an iPad but I also looked on my iPhone and my ancient desktop, but saw nothing other than text on any of them. Very very curious indeed.

kitshef 2:46 PM  

@Whatersname, @Nancy, et al. I don't know if I get the same thing as Nancy, but it's weird. Like two boxes, each with two rows, and each with the letter L on the top row and the letters SEP on the bottom row. It appears after both paragraphs in whatsername's original post -as though it is some kind of paragraph indicator that got messed up.

Sharonak 2:47 PM  

@Otter 1:04 I agree with LMSyou had a clear explanation for why it works - which Rex messed up soon. But
Okanager 1:23 had a gfood explanation for why it didn't work very well.
I agree with Anon.2:59 and others who found many words to enjoy in this puzzle. But chuckled at the irony when Anon listed one of his favorites - acapella - he misspelled it -as did I at first. The cross words forced a correction.

Anon 6:39 See LMS re why she doesn't say "die".
In fact adding "shade" after "pastel" improved that answer because it is so commonly said, and it was absolutely needed for the across "tree'.

Aelurus 2:49 PM  

Almost finished but at the circled missing D I was flummoxed (24 points!, if, of course, there was an “ed” on the board to attach it to...hmm...which would actually add 50 points to my score for using all my tiles, right?*).

Like @Beezer 11:30 am, I also put an A at the end of PASTEL, thinking it’s a word I don’t know, all the while thinking, too, that “a TREE” is like Rex’s “eat a sandwich,” but okay, as @Zed (I think) sometimes says, It’s close enough. I guess.

Anyway, not really my puzz. Came here to see what everyone had to say about this oddity (hi, @Nancy 9:38 am) and to agree with you, @kitshef 7:04 am, that the definition of “accessory” as a clue for a pool CUE (14A) is seriously understating it in the extreme and to say: Muchas gracious for the wonderful repeated laughs your examples engendered! Oh yes, and I remember what someone once said about NBC weatherperson Mr Scott’s occasional use of toupรฉes: “Willard, hair is not an accessory.”

* Just checked – yes, there are only two M tiles and I was lucky to get them.

Tobias 3:21 PM  

Thank you for taking your metaphorical ADZ to this one, my sentiments exactly - esp. on the inaneness of the question itself and also the SHADE/D thing.

And I'm a big Scrabble Guy, so I knew right off that D=2 points...which quickly enabled the circled letters to fall as well as sussing out the awkwardly phrased (thank you for pointing out) triple-word theme question.

There was better potential here than the execution provided.

albatross shell 3:22 PM  

It showed up on my comment on my phone.

CT2Napa 3:29 PM  


@Whatersname, @Nancy, et al.

What you're seeing is called a Line Separator [Unicode Character U+2028]. How it displays depends entirely on the font being used: If the font is compliant the character displays as a space, otherwise it displays as that [or possibly some other] symbol. It's one of many invisible encoding characters included when content is copied from other sources... especially web sites.

Darwin Award Winner 3:30 PM  

Man, took forever to get that final square. Went to Jeff Chen. Came here. Put in “s” “d” “shade” and still nothing worked. Finally hit “check puzzle” thus ending my streak. Of course there was a typo elsewhere in the puzzle. LOL.

Nancy 3:34 PM  

@Whatsername -- @albatross shell (2:27) just copied the L/SEP thingie!!!!! Saving me the trouble of trying to copy it and then sending it to your email. You can see what we're all talking about. You may still not understand what's going on or why -- but at least you'll be able to see it.

egsforbreakfast 4:05 PM  

All of the negative comments today make me wonder what you’d call a thumbs down review of a comedy sketch. SKITRIP

I’m not sure what a STREE is, but if you walk around Chicago you’ll go PASTELS

A Buddhist cookie containing the sound of the universe would be an OROMEO.

I’ve never seen a ZEBRAFISH. Wonder if they catch many.

I thought that this was a pretty nice puzzle. The rebus works fairly well, though there are some nits that have been picked. But ghee wiz (a subtle dig at WOOSH), one square can’t make it the worst puzzle ever, as a number of commenters claim. Thank you Daniel Bodily for trying something different, and largely succeeding.

Karl 4:11 PM  

Horrid.
I am sorry, but that square with SHADE? Unsolveable. I can't believe Will Shortz let this one get by.

A 4:21 PM  

@Lewis, I sure hope so! And thanks for the explanation.

Anonymous 4:22 PM  

I figured out the “shade” after some deliberations but no happy pencil. After many, many minutes of review figured out I had spasmotic instead of spasmodic. Ugh!

dusky 4:22 PM  

Worst puzzle of all time.

If anyone is every taking a "test" with that question, they should question their sanity for being there.

So many lousy clues and gimpy cluing and
"shade"? Woosh spelled like that? Still don't understand the ODD for the Monopoly clue.

But the real question of the day is, this former Michigander who often vacationed on and around Lake Michigan want to know. Harbor Springs, Beaver Island? Benton Harbor? Traverse City? Leelanau Peninsula? Inquiring minds want to know.

Anonymous 4:23 PM  

Definitely not unsolvable. A little tough but not that much tougher than your typical Thursday.

Anonymous 4:33 PM  

The rough theme aside, PASTELs are generally tints of colors, not SHADEs

Anonymous 4:44 PM  

Hated it

Anonymous 5:05 PM  

Me too…and I still don’t understand why

Alexander 5:15 PM  

I did think that was a nice touch that they had that in there. Not quite enough to redeem the rest of the puzzle, but a ray of sunshine in an otherwise cloudy mess.

Anonymous 5:15 PM  

R and B….rhythm and blues

Snare 5:19 PM  

Couldn't agree more. So infuriating. We are not being asked to solve a crossword, but instead asked to figure out what demented twist they are thinking of for this one particular clue that really makes no sense for actually solving the puzzle. Sat there and worked on what "filling in the correct circle" could possibly mean, that would satisfy someone's warped view of a crossword clue.

Whatsername 5:46 PM  

@CT2Napa (3:29) That more or less explains it. I often write my comments in the Notes app of my iPad, then copy and paste it to this page. It normally is seamless but for some reason this morning my separate paragraphs in Notes transferred as one long block of text. So after pasting, I had to re-enter the paragraph breaks. Judging from your explanation that must have been what caused it. Thanks for solving the mystery!

TAB2TAB 5:55 PM  

Okay here's my theory:

It was all about UHURa. Even though this puzzle had The Most Ill-Conceived Theme Ever In NYT Crossword History, it was the *only* puzzle in Shortz' database that popped up when he searched for the Federation's most esteemed communications lieutenant. I'm sure others on staff pleaded against it: "What is WOOSH?" "What's an STREE?" "If D is the right answer, why is it wrong?" you can hear Shortz reply: "Dammit Jim, I'm an editor, not a Scrabble player... I need an UHURA! Give me an UHURa!"

So despite his overly human emotions and highly illogical puzzle choice, Shortz ultimately stood firm and got his UHURa. And though many in RexWorld may be unhappy with the solving experience, I'm sure Nichelle Nichols is smiling down on us. And at least for me, that is sufficient consolation.

Whatsername 6:15 PM  

OffTheGrid (7:52) Great LOST PET tale. Sad story but happy ending. I’m glad Kitty not only survived the winter but found his way back to his people. Blessings on you for your volunteer efforts.

Beezer 6:25 PM  

@CT2Napa, I join in the thanks for solving the mystery! Well, @Whatsername…I NOW know that even what you did was brilliant, I shan’t do what you did! ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ
PS…if I decide to Google something “mid-stream” I copy what I have so far…but I access Rex on Google app and search (mid-stream) on Chrome but I very seldom have to “paste” back after I’ve left Rex. It’s a PITA but it works!

Anonymous 6:40 PM  

Me too!! I’m so baffled by this. Why would it allow S as the right answer?

Stephen Minehart 7:07 PM  

I haven't posted in a long time (major life issues) and I hoped that someday a puzzle would be so good I would be forced to again leave an unsolicited opinion. Sadly, not so. Despite still being in awe of LMS being able to find something good in every puzzle, this one is definitely a "yikes" for me. Maybe 7 or 8 minutes of my day filling in all but one square, then maybe 5 minutes of googling "D-tree" and "Pastel-D" followed by giving up and coming to this site was a complete joyless experience.

Charlie 7:33 PM  

I finished, with an s that didn't make any sense to me (and a misspelled "woosh"), but this should be sent back from whence it came. Mr. Shortz, you are nutz.

Christopher Jones 7:43 PM  

I read the “Wordplay” column on the NYT occasionally and it always seems no matter how bad Rex (or I or anyone else on this blog) thinks a specific puzzle/theme, etc. is, the Wordplay columnist thinks it’s awesome. Period, no questions asked.
Today was no exception either. Thanks Rex for calling a spade a spade with this lousy theme. As a sometime Scrabble player I am pretty disappointed.

Blue Stater 8:50 PM  

I know I keep saying this, and I'm sorry, but this is the worst crossword puzzle I have ever seen, anywhere, any time, anyhow.They just keep getting worse, acceleratingly worse. I cannot imagine what prompted WS to accept and publish this aggressively awful monstrosity. Shame on him, and shame on the NYT for printing it.

JC66 9:18 PM  

@CT2Napa

I love your theory, and wish it was true, but, as we all know, the lead time required to get the puzzle published precludes that possibility.





LateSolver 9:22 PM  

Solved it in average time. Got the question, figured SHADE in the SE corner, but never pieced together the circles or multiple choice hook. I, too, originally put UHURA in for 59A, thinking the puzzle was paying homage to Nichelle Nichols. Not remarkable, but no complaints, either.

Euclid 9:31 PM  

I'll just add: a CUE is an accessory to pool/billiards as an engine is to an automobile.

Anonymous 10:22 PM  

Uhuru was on the first page of the Arts Section! Well deserved!!!

Aqua Products BD 8:00 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous 8:58 AM  

If you're using the app and entering in a rebus, the app will mark EITHER the first letter of the rebus as correct or the whole rebus. Therefore, because "shade" was correct, it will alternatively mark "s" by itself as correct. I hate that feature.

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