Japanese fried cutlet / THU 9-22-22 / Camera brand with a red circle logo / Chewy chocolaty morsel / Max Academy Award-winning composer of Now Voyager / Has a wash at the casino / Creatures on an Escher Mobius strip / Sue at Chicago's Field Museum

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Constructor: Helen Chen

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: BLACKJACK (34A: *Casino game associated with the sum of this puzzle's shaded squares) — "cards" totaling "21" are found inside casino-related phrases: 

Theme answers:
  • PLACES A BET (17A: *Wagers at the casino (11))
  • AMOUNT WON (25A: *Profit at the casino (+2 = 13))
  • FACE CARDS (48A: *They're worth 10 points at the casino (+1 = 14))
  • BREAKS EVEN (56A: *Has a wash at the casino (+7 = 21!))
Word of the Day: Max STEINER (13D: Max ___, Academy Award-winning composer of "Now, Voyager") —
Maximilian Raoul Steiner
 (May 10, 1888 – December 28, 1971) was an Austrian composer and conductor who, threatened with internment in Germany during WW1, fled to England before emigrating to America in 1914 and became a celebrated composer for film and theatre. He was a child prodigy who conducted his first operetta when he was twelve and became a full-time professional, proficient at composing, arranging, and conducting, by the time he was fifteen. // Steiner worked in England, then Broadway, and in 1929, he moved to Hollywood, where he became one of the first composers to write music scores for films. He is referred to as "the father of film music", as Steiner played a major part in creating the tradition of writing music for films, along with composers Dimitri Tiomkin, Franz Waxman, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Alfred Newman, Bernard Herrmann, and Miklós Rózsa. // Steiner composed over 300 film scores with RKO Pictures and Warner Bros., and was nominated for 24 Academy Awards, winning three: The Informer (1935); Now, Voyager (1942); and Since You Went Away (1944). Besides his Oscar-winning scores, some of Steiner's popular works include King Kong (1933), Little Women(1933), Jezebel (1938), and Casablanca (1942), though he did not compose its love theme, "As Time Goes By". In addition, Steiner scored The Searchers (1956), A Summer Place (1959), and Gone with the Wind (1939), which ranked second on the AFI's list of best American film scores, and is the film score for which he is best known. (wikipedia)
• • •

I have to admit that I don't quite understand this one. Admittedly, I can't think of very many places I'd less like to be than a casino, so there's an inherent topic aversion, but even so I can usually appreciate or at least understand a basic card theme. But here ... I mean, to be clear, I understand the BLACKJACK concept perfectly. The cards total 21, the highest score in the game, so presumably you "win" in the end, but it feels like there must be some element that I'm missing, since merely putting four cards that total 21 in some phrases doesn't seem ... tricky enough. Thursday enough. I see that those phrases are themselves gambling phrases, so that makes the theme somewhat tighter than a normal "hidden words"-type puzzle would be (usually such "hidden words" appear in completely non-thematic phrases). But whatever is gained by having the theme be tighter in that way is surely lost by the fact that the phrases themselves just aren't that strong, particularly the first two: PLACES A BET (arbitrary 3rd-person verb phrase, à la  "EATS A SANDWICH") and AMOUNT WON, which feels really flaccid and weird. Zero strong associations with the casino. You have "winnings" for sure, but AMOUNT WON feels like a line on some imaginary receipt. Bizarre. Further, the "cards" aren't particularly well embedded, in that only two of them (TWO and SEVEN) break across two words, the way a "hidden word" should, ideally. And then there's the unnecessary remedialness of the parenthetical parts of the theme clues. I guess those clues are trying to create some narrative energy, but ... the revealer has already told me the game I'm playing, and the "cards" are highlighted inside their answers so I can see them and ... I can count, so ... whatever drama the parentheses were supposed to be creating felt oddly condescending. Like the game was being taught to a child. Also, the climactic "21!" is kind of undercut by occurring in the clue for the very non-triumphant phrase BREAKS EVEN. Again, casinos are not my milieu. I have had to walk through them a couple times to get to concerts, but I have never voluntarily spent time there. So maybe I'm not the right audience for this puzzle. But I can't imagine even an inveterate gambler would find this theme that compelling, let alone challenging. If there is an element of the theme that I have failed to appreciate, please, let me know.

There's much better news where the fill is concerned. I really liked how SNAPPY and wide-ranging it was. From Max STEINER to RuPaul ("SASHAY Away"), from VELVETY KATSU to highlighted CHEEKBONEs, this puzzle had a lot of fun things going on. Widespread memes! ("Sir, this is an ARBY'S!") YUPPIE satire! MILK DUDs (underrated candy!), CAT POSE, even stupid GPS voice saying "ARRIVED," all of it made the grid feel very alive and lively. The puzzle was very, very easy (maybe too easy for a Thursday), so my struggle points weren't many, but I definitely had some (unpleasant) trouble trying to suss out the odd phrase AMOUNT WON, and then some more (much more pleasant) trouble in the SE, trying to make sense of T-REX over CTRL-P. Totally forgot there was a T-REX named "Sue" in Chicago, so I thought I was looking for an athlete (something about the "Field" in "Field Museum" was saying "sports?" to me). And I have a MacBook, so when I print it's "Command-P," not CTRL-P. So it was fun / slightly challenging to make sense of that mischievous pair of answers. Otherwise, everything felt very straightforward today. 

A few more things:
  • 29A: Certain buckwheat pancake (BLIN) — the singular of the much more familiar BLINI. Always looks weird to me in the singular.
  • 4D: Fleece (SHEAR) — oh, this also caused me trouble. You SHEAR sheep to *get* "Fleece" (n.) ... but I guess "Fleece" (v.) is also a synonym of SHEAR (though I've only ever heard it used in the metaphorical sense, i.e. if you get overcharged or scammed or otherwise fraudulently separated from your money, you've been "fleeced").
  • 1A: Part of the deck from which a dealer deals (TOP) — you hope. The puzzle tries to throw a little bonus thematic content your way here, and at ANTE (19A: It goes in the middle of a table). I'm more interested in getting *away* from the theme and back to eating MILK DUDs while watching "Now, Voyager" (w/ score by Max STEINER). Sounds like a good plan for this rainy day. See you tomorrow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. I think this is the constructor's NYTXW debut. Given how strong the grid is, I'm looking forward to seeing her byline again.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Conrad 6:09 AM  

@Rex: Who exactly underrates Milk Duds? Not me, for sure. One of my few candy weaknesses.

Naticked at KAT_U x T_A (had TvA for the latter). Only other non-typo overwrite was asFARAS before SOFARAS at 37D. Fun puzzle.

Loren Muse Smith 6:20 AM  

Aw, man. An early assumption/goof left me smug and messed up forever. I always do the fill-in-the-blanks first, little low-hanging fruit amuse bouches. So I had ALEC in place, looked at the 29A cross and plopped in “flap” knowing that the black square immediately to the right was the BLACKJACK, whose clue I inadvertently saw too early.

Abandoning this idea took a minute. Other missteps include …

* “_ _ _ _ _ brow” for _ _ _ _ _BONE. I was thinking “underbrow” for where we smear that sparkly light eyeshadow for God knows what reason. I can’t keep up with all the make-up tricks.
* “warm” before DAMP, spawning the tallest, what, bar in California? Car? Oar? Oh! Erased the R and wrote in “oak” – the tallest oak. My beloved MILK DUD pulled me out of that morass(Morning, @Conrad). Sheesh.
* 58D messenger “cap” ala newsboy cap. SEEMed OK at the time. I was picturing Jimmy Olsen, who apparently never even wore one.

Helen – congrats on your debut! Neat idea, especially since the phrases with the cards were clued to be BLACKJACK related. I agree with Rex - it would have been nice to have the ACEs bridging words, too, as in OF A CERTAIN AGE or PARTS OF A CELL, but, well, nah. I get it.

Mom gets a bajillion robo calls. A. Ba. Jillion. We’ve called the national do-not-call registry several times. What a joke. Here’s what I don’t understand: Those DIALERS must require some kind of investment on the part of the dirtball who’s selling you something. That robo calls are so common would indicate that there is money to be made, which would indicate that someone is biting. You have to be kidding me. Someone actually answers one of those , listens to the recording, and decides, You know what? Why not? Sure, I’ll purchase this. Let me grab my wallet.

Until today, it hadn’t occurred to me that a T-REX could be anything but a guy. Assuming that Sue is indeed female and not the butt of a Johnny Cash joke, shouldn’t she be a T-Regina? [stares at you with raised eyebrows, waiting]

The clue for RENEWAL? Cheaper if it’s automatic? Oh hell no. I bet lots of us have inadvertently signed on for some miracle lotion or coffee or whatnot that keeps showing up both on our doorstep and our MasterCard statement. Run, run far away from that trap.

It was solving crosswords that taught me the expression staircase wit - a SNAPPY comeback that only occurs to you after the fact, the opportunity to mic drop that convo lost forever. I’m working with a couple kids on perfecting one of the best SNAPPY comebacks ever. When someone says, I’m not as dumb as I look/ You step back, give them a casual once-over, and say You couldn’t possibly be that dumb.

OffTheGrid 6:53 AM  

They could have just presented this one with the themers aleady filled in. "condescending" is right. The answers to the shaded squares are given in the clue, for Gof's sake. I would have put a * by the themer clues and written the revealer as "Casino game associated with the sum of what's hidden in the starred clues." No shaded or highlighted squares at all. You would know you needed 4 cards (numbers) to equal 21. Would have been a lot more fun.

Anonymous 6:54 AM  

A puzzle that literally very nearly spells out its theme is weak sauce. In terms of cleverness, I expect much more out of Thursdays -- it's the day to be clever.

orangeiq 7:03 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
kitshef 7:11 AM  

Someone made a terrible editorial decision to include the values of the ‘cards’ in the answers within the clues.

Then there is the cluing and fill that seems to come from some other universe - not the one in which I live; EVA, KATSU, and that clue for ARBYS.

I am not the intended audience for this puzzle; let’s leave it at that.

Anonymous 7:16 AM  

While the game of 21 might be synonymous with blackjack, those cards don’t add up to blackjack - they simply add to 21. Blackjack is only A + 10/J/Q/K…everything else is just 21. This was my nails on the chalkboard…

EdFromHackensack 7:17 AM  

I am surprised Rex did not comment on 56A. They give you have the answer in the clue. DAMP crossing DUMP was cool. Kind of an easy Thursday though I hesitated at 37 across. SILOED? Never thought of it as a verb.

W. Strunk, Jr. 7:31 AM  

@ EsFromHackensack: SILO is one of those nouns that has magically transformed into a verb in business jargon. Other examples of such egregious verbing in the business world are: to impact, to leverage, and to prioritize. Avoid at all cost.

Anonymous 7:36 AM  

To be kind, like @kitshef, I am not the audience for this puzzle. Gambling and casinos. No and NO! Hard to think of anything less up my alley. Maybe a puzzle with a Wrestlemania theme. And most of the clueing was not Thursday-worthy--the "star" is some ARBY'S meme I've never heard of and that turns out to be not funny at all.

But it's Thursday, my favorite puzzle day of the week, one I really look forward to, so I'm not especially committed to kindness right now. Another fun-for-the-constructor one--"Oooh, how clever! Look at how all those numbers do stuff all over the place! 21!" Not fun for the solver.

Maybe we could make it a rule that only Robyn Weintraub gets to have a Thursday puzzle. Or Shortz could get a new job. I'll take the super-low score, but bleah.

Also, because I'm feeling cranky, could we please eliminate the old, old CTRL clues? No one uses them any more. Because we have real menus now, and have for a very long time. You want to print? You click on the printer icon.

Unknown 7:36 AM  

Hey Gang! Jay here….and I’m celebrating my first week-long streak of successfully completing M-Th puzzles WITHOUT googling or looking at the hints! I’m a relatively new ‘puzzler’ compared to Rex and all of you, but I’m really enjoying the daily experience and reading everyone’s comments on each challenge. It makes me feel like I’m not alone in my frustrations and insufficient knowledge on complex topics. YOU’RE MY PEEPS!!

Son Volt 7:43 AM  

Cute enough but not proper Thursday trickery. Agree with Rex that the fill overshadowed the theme here. I liked most of the long downs - TEA KETTLE, CHEEK BONE, VELVETY etc are all really good. Didn’t the PLASTIC Ono band do IMAGINE?

The DAMP x DUMP is a DUD to me as was TIPSIER. Some unknowns to me - EVA, STEINER but each block had gimme crosses.

The Menzingers

Pleasant solve - but I need something a little more edgy.

MadDogCryptics 7:49 AM  

I continue to enjoy listening to Rex and Rachel Fabi and Neville Fogarty as they solve cryptic crosswords on Twitch. Do yourself a favor and check it out. Entertaining and a master class in breaking down cryptic clues. On today’s topic: Arson is a crime making a comeback here, where you essentially burn money (7). This clue from my latest puzzle at MadDogCryptics.com

Anonymous 7:50 AM  

In Russian the singular “blin” is also a very commonly used mild expletive you’d say when annoyed at an outcome, like darn or shoot, which makes it a little more amusing. (To the extent that anything related to Russia can be at all amusing these days. Slava Ukraini.)

Joe R. 7:51 AM  

I enjoy casinos, and I didn’t like this puzzle’s theme, so it’s not just you, Rex. It’s just not a well-executed theme.

I do want to give props to the clue for 21A, that’s a great way to clue that stupid organization.

pabloinnh 7:56 AM  

Nothing like an answer in a clue to ramp up simplicity, so those parts were easy. Still plenty of out-of-my-wheelhouse stuff to present problems.

SASHAY made sense eventually, as did TREX and the STEINER guy went in from crosses, although given that some answers were already in clues I spent a moment wondering if COWPOSE could possibly be right.

Train wreck in the bottom, where TRYOUT for DRYRUN made things impossible. Didn't know the ARBYS meme and even with the answers finally in place kept wondering how you BREAK SEVEN. Major doh! there, and a DOOK yo go with the SEEMOK.

Automatic RENEWALs are OK for pills, unless you forget to tell them you have enough, thank you, and wind up with a medicine cabinet containing a three-year supply of various pharmaceuticals. I really have to notify someone about that.

Congrats on the debut, HC. A Heady Combination of very easy and WTF, which is fair enough. Thanks for all the fun.

mmorgan 7:58 AM  

@LMS — look into Nomorobo. It’s free on landlines and it works really well.

I don’t think I even saw the parenthetical parts of the theme clues. Wow, are those unnecessary! I’m not into cards or casinos but the puzzle was pleasant to solve — maybe because of the strong fill. But it wasn’t very Thursday-ish.

Lewis 8:02 AM  

This was a rich solving journey, where I continually ran into loveliness. Words that made me go “Ahh!” – SASHAY, VELVETY, EXPANSE. Clues that made me go “Hah!” – for EASY, SALIVA, CHEEKBONE, and the devious [Water confiscating org.] for TSA.

After the solve, the loveliness continued. CHEEKBONE crossing FACE. TOP on itself. That backward POT sharing the grid with ANTE. That beautiful looking KATSU. Plus that sweet brain-click, where my eyes fell on CASEY and I thought of the famous baseball poem, and when the line “…there is no joy in Mudville” flew through my mind, my brain pinged, bringing my eyes to EEL, which had “mud” in its clue.

For some people, simply filling in the grid is the point and reward of the solve. For me, that’s a source of satisfaction, yes, but the extras turn the task into an experience. They turn the meal into a feast. And your debut today, Helen, was rife with richness, for which I’m most grateful, and ripe with promise as well, for which I’m most delighted!

Anonymous 8:05 AM  

I did fall for an early “oops” when I added up the number of shades squares (14) and wracked my brain to figure out what casino game has “14” as a central number in 34A. I wonder if anyone else misunderstood that clue at the very beginning of the puzzle?

Sasha 8:05 AM  

I’ve only ever seen the meme referenced at 49D as Wendy’s, never as ARBYS, so I was baffled by those last few spaces for the longest time. Wendy’s, cruelly, just refused to fit.

Joe Welling 8:07 AM  

25A threw me for a bit. When I think of casino profits, I think of the business's profits. So a payout (AMOUNT WON) is deducted from profits.

NYDenizen 8:08 AM  

As someone who *is* familiar with blackjack and Russian cuisine, several references sound stilted and indicative of unfamiliarity with this simplest of card games - in BJ, the 10-spots and facecards are undifferentiated, and thus aren’t worthy of any specific identity - and likewise, ‘blin’ is simply horrible crosswordese for the Anglicized ‘blini’ / blinis’ common locutions.
On the other hand, my (non-midwestern?) blind spots maybe show with, who (or what) is Ru Paul? And the association of a burger joint with (the oh-so-outdated ‘Yuppie’.

Wordle 460 2/6*

Lewis 8:16 AM  

BTW, big family event means that I will be away for a week or so, though I should be able to sneak in my week's favorite clues on Monday. Wishing all a most lovely week ahead!

kitshef 8:17 AM  

@ W. Strunk, Jr. 7:31. The modern business world can be blamed for a lot of things, but the original use of impact was as a verb. The noun is derived from that verb.

@ Unknown/Jay 7:36 Welcome to the PEEP-hole.

Dan A 8:24 AM  

Not my cup of Thursday

Nancy 9:06 AM  

Another puzzle based entirely on a game, but unlike the Tetris one, whatever Tetris is, this one seemed like it would fall within my span of knowledge, or close enough that it wouldn't cause me problems. After all I know what an ACE and a TWO are. I know what BLACKJACK is. What could go wrong?

ARBY'S and BREAKS EVEN and APP -- that's what.

"Sir, this is an ARBY'S"???!!! What the bleep does that even mean??? The less said about this "meme" clue/answer, the better.

I couldn't get the B in ARBY'S because I wanted DREW A SEVEN instead of BREAKS EVEN at 56A. I never saw the "EVEN"; I was too busy staring at the SEVEN. So much for the poker knowledge of mine that I assumed would be ample.

Never thought of SNAPPY, either. I thought of SNARKY when I had the -NA--Y -- possibly because that's how I was feeling by then.

Can you guess that I found this puzzle very irritating?

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

I once stopped at a store to ask directions. Before she answered, the clerk opened, and then emptied, an entire box of Milk Duds into her mouth. I remain lost to this day.

Anonymous 9:14 AM  

I'm guessing the parenthetical numbers were included to assist non-gamblers unfamiliar with the rules of Blackjack (that you sum the card values, that Ace may have a value of 1 or 11.) It may have been an attempt to prevent non-gamblers (such as a certain blogger) from crying foul that one shouldn't need to know the rules of the game to solve the puzzle.

Rachel 9:28 AM  

I was very thrown off by some of the cluing. I had "PLACES BETS" instead of PLACES A BET, and that messed up my NW corner for a long time.

I absolutely hate the clue for CAT POSE (Yoga asana often paired with Cow) because the "pose" is redundant, since "asana" is in the clue and asana means pose in this context. So I had CAT forever, but couldn't figure out what the next four letters were. You just wouldn't say "cat pose asana." A better clue would have been something like, It's often paired with Cow in yoga. That way, the "pose" included in the answer makes sense.

Brainpan 9:28 AM  

So here's the thing about this puzzle that you might miss, though it doesn't add much. This is a thrilling run out to get as the player and an excruciating one to see the dealer get. Kind of the Homer Simpson "Woohoo! Doh Woohoo! Doh!" sequence but not exactly. That point should have somehow been driven home in the puzzle.

As the player ace coming out first is good for you, two next makes 3/13 which is disappointing but not terrible, ace next is 4/14, dragging things out and making them harder, and then a miracle 7 for 21 is a thrill. Seeing the dealer get this, the ace is scary as heck, the two makes them very likely the bust which is great, the second ace is again neither here nor there but adds suspense, and then the 7 is an absolute killer.

Some revealer like "A thrilling or tragic run of cards for this casino ame is found in the shaded squares" might do it better. But maybe tha was decided to be too inside/jargony.

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

I almost always read but never comment, however this was just BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD. Like editor sleeping on the job bad. Seemed like it broke every ‘do not do this when creating a puzzle’ rule in the book.

Anonymous 9:38 AM  

@NY Denizen I have an idea — show us how you did on *yesterday’s* Wordle. You get to share, we CA Denizens can read the comments in peace.

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

I’m with Dan A above,
Not my universe…Rupaul,Katsu ,ctrlp,yoga,arbys
No Tks.

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

Anyone else remember when gambling was considered a vice?
The world has gone mad, and the acceptance of gambling as benign is just more evidence.
Gambling feed the get-rich-quick illusion that debilitates society. It causes individual ruin, despair and suicide. And it corrupts those who seek a piece of its action.
And, I learned this morning, it's a lousy hat to hang a puzzle on.

RooMonster 9:55 AM  

Hey All !
How to live in Las Vegas - Don't go to the casinos. Many people who live here (not all, mind you) avoid casinos. Too easy to lose your hard-earned money. There are lots of "casual gamblers", ala, they set aside $40 (arbitrary number, I don't know people's dollar amounts 😁) to throw into a machine once a week (again, arbitrary) or so. It's quite easy to find slot machines all over town. They are in gas stations, grocery stores, 7-11's, and smaller chain casinos, often in strip malls. Just say no. Har.

Good puz, I do, however, agree the Themer clues seem to not need the actual numbers in them that get put in the shaded squares. Unsure how to handle the first ACE that says (11). Maybe "Great start to getting 34A?" or somesuch. Agree that the Themers are nice in that they relate to casinos.

DNF, though. Argh! Had pReRUN for DRYRUN. Doh! moment. pUMP for DUMP seemed reasonable. Couldn't make sense of ARe, though. Should've seen it was ARY. Dang.

Liked the wide open corners. NE toughest spot for me. ANYE tough as clued. Thinking salt, Matt, large vase with flowers...😁

SEE MOK run. Towards SOFA RAS.
Han Solo OR LANDO?
Water filled trash? - DAMP DAM DUMP.
OK, I'll stop.

One F

Anonymous 9:56 AM  

@Anonymous 9:51: Boy, you got that right! The number of TV ads for online gambling is exceeded only by the number of dead Russian soldiers in Ukraine on any given day. I especially love the teeny-weeny "disclaimer" that flashes on the screen for a few seconds, about where to seek help if you have a gambling problem.

Anonymous 10:07 AM  

Sir this is a Wendy's is much more popular

Peter P 10:07 AM  

@Anonymous 7:16, while that's true that a "blackjack" is an Ace + 10 or face card, nowhere in the clue for the revealer does it even imply that. It just asks what game is associated with "21." And that's blackjack. What a blackjack technically is is irrelevant to the clue/answer pairing.

@kitschef - Yes, "impact" was first a verb before it became a noun. But that meaning was "to press closely on something," which you can see still in the phrase "impacted teeth." The sense "to have a forceful effect on" dates to 1935. That said, we're almost at a hundred years of having that meaning around and in common use. And it's a perfectly cromulent verb in that sense. There's no sense in policing it. (Information pulled from etymonline.com) I'm bemused as to why that word is such a bugbear for some.

Overall, this was among the more disappointing Thursdays thematically. As I've said before, Thursdays are my favorite crosswording day, because I usually have to exercise some extra mental faculty to tease out the theme answers. These were given to you on a silver platter, with part of the answer contained literally in the paranthetical, and where to put it in the shaded squares. No fight whatsoever to this puzzle. I will admit, it wasn't until this morning that I realized BREAK SEVEN was BREAKS EVEN. I was wondering what that idiom meant until I realize I mentally bracketed it wrong.

The fill was clean. KATSU and BLIN were in my wheelhouse, so no challenges there. I was just at the Field Museum on Tuesday photographing a symposium, so Sue the TREX was a gimme. That museum is fascinating. In one of the sub-basements not on display they have three petrified tree stumps from the oldest known forest in the world (in New York) dating back 400 million years. Felt pretty crazy looking at that and trying to conceptualize the time scale. Here's something that was alive nearly half a billion years ago, became mineralized, preserved, and is now is sitting in a museum basement in Chicago. Just an interesting contrast of the modern steel and glass and city din outside, and the quiet ancient ancient natural history hidden below.

bocamp 10:11 AM  

Thx, Helen, excellent 'deal'; managed a BLACKJACK! 🂡 🂫


Slightly under avg time, but seemed harder.

Played a lot of BJ back in the day, altho never in a 'casino'.

Learned BLIN/i from the SB.

CTRL+P = CMD+P on a Mac.

Enjoyed this SNAPPY puz! :)
Peace 🕊 🇺🇦 ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🙏

Joe Dipinto 10:18 AM  

I got two phraces in the space of a week!

Phrazle 313: 1/6
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🟩🟩🟩 🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🟩🟩🟩

The Commentariat:
Sir, this is a crossword blog.

andrew 10:20 AM  

Congrats to Helen on her debut. Creating a puzzle is something way beyond my - and most everyone”s - capabilities.

That said, this was a terrible Thursday. Not at all challenging and putting an answer in the clue is just Highlights for Children Find 10 Hidden Images level easy (albeit confusing) This is just dull and a big DUD for what should be the most entertaining day of the week. Will fell short on this, not the new constructor.

I know diversity is a big thing now but so many debuts don’t have that POW! effect and come at the cost of the subscriber and veteran constructors. How about NYT adding a Debut puzzle in addition to the regular day of the week by the proven pros?

They’ve added Wordle and Spelling Bee to the app - for $40 a year, can afford to add a Rookie puzzle corner while keeping overall quality up to previous NYTXW standards.

bigsteve46 10:28 AM  

"I am not the intended audience for this puzzle; let’s leave it at that"... somebody commented today. Well if you're a fellow schmo who regularly comments on this site or even regularly reads it...guess what? You - and I - and the other 80 or so folks who are going to comment here are PRECISELY the intended audience!

And I confess to have been a part of far worse "audiences" over my 75+ years on this planet. Taken as a group I suspect that we are quite harmless.

pabloinnh 10:31 AM  

Pretty good WSJ puzz today. More challenging than the one under discussion here.

Carola 10:35 AM  

Not a winner for me, I'm afraid, with my aversion to casinos and gambling and with too many clues depending on pop culture references (e.g., on RuPaul for SASHAY). Add me to the MILK DUD fans, though, and discovering one in the grid was an unexpected treat. A nice finish, too, with the VELVETY EXPANSE.

Chicago's T-REX Sue is named after Sue Hendrickson, the fossil hunter who discovered the bones.

Do-over: sine before HEAT. No idea: IRL, SAHAY, EVA, ARBYS.

Whatsername 10:45 AM  

This puzzle was ACES from the first deal of the CARDS at 1 across. An entertaining theme and quite the SNAPPY fill surrounding the excellent marquee answers. I don agree with Rex SO FAR AS the parentheses. I didn’t even notice them while solving and in retrospect they do SEEM superfluous. But still, you hit me with a TOP notch debut today with the hand you dealt today Ms. Chen! Hoping you will continue your constructing career because I’m looking forward to more like this one.

@Lewis (8:16) Wishing you a lovely week as well and safe travels.

albatross shell 10:46 AM  

I guess I am an outlier today. I thought this was a delight to solve, with some wonderful clues and an offbeat theme presentation with clever construction.

The mirror symmetry was an excellent choice.

Did you notice twentyone
has the same letter count as BLACKJACK? That was a bump in the road here.

FACECARDS are a properly separated group because all other cards are the valued at their number of pips except the ACE which has the extra value option of 11. Nice that both counts were in the puzzle.  ANTE and the clue for 1A were also nice bonuses. 

To all the why aren't the ACEs in two words winers: Because they are all in gambling related phrases. Do not ask for the impossible. Also FACECARD is one word.

I love clues like 9D. Really no idea at all but easily guessable from the number of letters or one letter from the first 3 crosses. It also corrected my PLACESbets.

Too easy with the numbers in the clues or too difficult without? Call it a coin flip.

You need to know nothing about casinos except gambling goes on and BLACKJACK is played.

You might have have difficulty if you know nothing about BLACKJACK I suppose.

Best 2 second dook aha:
What is BREAK SEVEN? Oh. Doh.

beverly c 10:59 AM  

I had a terrible time getting a toe-hold. For a bit there I thought I'd stumbled on Saturday. But TEAKETTLE opened it up and things flowed smoothly from there. I didn’t make sense of the parenthetical card counts until after I completed the puzzle, so maybe I was among the intended solvers. None of the unknowns were unfairly crossed.

@Brainpan 9:28 Thanks for pointing out the excitement/tension of the card flow!

My Dad had a nest egg from a high paying job that ended, and decided to see what he could do at the casinos in Vegas. He lived there and it took a year of playing the machines until it was gone. He found another job and moved on. He has no regrets over 30 years later. He says he had a great time that year. I guess if you like gambling, you like it.

albatross shell 11:01 AM  

By the way:
The player of this hand should take another card. Player cannot go over with both aces counting as 1. Five cards is an automatic winner. Ties go to the dealer. If I got my rules right. Never played in a casino.

Beezer 11:04 AM  

I enjoyed working the puzzle but it seemed to be over a little too soon for a Thursday. My solve pretty much tracked @Rex and @LMS in that CHEEKBONE took me longer than I would’ve imagined, but like @LMS I first thought of highlighting under the eyebrow. I’ve officially gotten to the point in my life that I RARELY highlight as I don’t want to look like some version of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard and it just takes too dang long to do it in a way that is subtle.

Given the fact that I have kinda sorta figured out “meme culture” I was able to figure out ARBYS. With that said, anytime I have learned about a meme and check it out I think…hmmmm. why do so many folks think repeating this is so hilarious? Anyway @Sasha the interweb seems to indicate that Wendy’s is used also in that meme and it might even have been first.

@LMS I figure that due to your mom’s age she/you still feel the need to have a landline so it’s good to know about the Nomorobo contraption. What I found was that when WE got rid of our landline all the robocalls started coming to my iPhone! But…at least I can set it to have unknown numbers go immediately to voicemail and block the number (even though they have multiple numbers).

Ms. Chen, enjoyable Thursday and I hope to see you again soon!

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

I ctrlp the xword puzzle every morning!

jae 11:05 AM  

Easy. Did not know STEINER, KATSU, or the ARBYS meme but the rest was not that tough. As someone who has occasionally played BLACKJACK in a casino, I thought this was clever and fun.

Anonymous 11:07 AM  

Actually all of the theme clues do! Bizarre choice.

GILL I. 11:07 AM  

I like @andrew's Rookie puzzle corner idea.....When I find out that a puzzle is a debut I tend to fall into that "if you can't say something nice....." But I AM going to say something nice.....maybe several things.....
I'm not a casino fan unless I'm dressed in a brown satin long gown and floating into Casino de Monte-Carlo in Monaco.
I had just turned 18. My dad and step-mom had a place in Nice so it was just a hop and skip away. In the days of James Bond, people actually dressed up and looked tres good.
Dad was a Roulette aficionado and I had just learned how to play BLACK JACK. I wandered over to a table and learned that you couldn't just plunk down a quarter and start playing. I think it was about 5 Francs or so. I didn't care...I felt like Grace Kelley with red hair.
I sat next to Alain Delon - at least he looked like him....and placed my bets willy nilly. I thought he'd choke on his gauloises. He told me in his beautiful French accent that you don't "hit" on 17. I smiled and swiped my card for one more. Gasps...horrors...who is this Americaine....I'll take another glasss of champagne, please.
I made friends with everyone at my table. I won some Francs despite not knowing why I did. I drank a lot of Champagne and I kept my brown silk gown in case I was to return and play another round.
It's not the same anymore...People don't dress up the way you used to. Sometimes I just need a Charles Aznavour La Boheme moment but, alas....all I get is Diamond and his Forever in Blue Jeans.
My favorite entry? HAVANA.

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

Probably my fastest Thursday time ever.

Anonymous 11:27 AM  

Anon 9:56,
Yeah that disclaimer enrages me every time I hear it.

Anonymous 11:33 AM  

Amy: congrats on this snappy debut puzzle, Helen. Enjoyed seeing Max Steiner (love old movies). Not a casino fan, but if I found myself in one, Blackjack is one of the few card games I can play. Happy Autumn.

MarthaCatherine 11:34 AM  

I am not a gambler. I'm not good at it and I hate losing more than I like winning. I've been to Las Vegas and I'm glad I had the chance to see the place, but I have no need or desire ever to go back.

I am also not up on the lingo. 56A read as BREAK SEVEN and I figured there was something about BLACKJACK that was eluding me. Shoulda paid more attention to the grammatical make up of the clue.

SASHAY is a good word. Sashaying goes well with swanning. If I ever do find myself at a casino again I will SASHAY in and then I will swan out with my considerable winnings, using the royal wave and smiling at everyone in triumph.

Tom T 11:35 AM  

My only slow area was the NE, where I didn't know STEINER, figured any nyt yoga pose clue (7 letters) would have to be 'downdog', and based on the TE beginning thought "Bait" would be TEmpt. So that was a big mess that I figured out in time. When I finished it, expecting "Happy Music," I got nothing--then realized I had temporarily hesitated with the Y in YUPPIE, because I knew nothing about the ARBYS meme.

Apart from the fact that I have, on rare occasions, spent small amounts of time at casino blackjack tables, my take on this puzzle is almost completely in line with OFL (which is certainly not always the case. Har).

Enjoy the family time, @Lewis. I will miss your wonderful "word-ist" analyses of the puzzles.

Welcome, Jay. I have found this a great place to improve my puzzle solving and be entertained by a lively cast of characters!

lodsf 11:38 AM  

I use CTRL— (there are many besides P) whenever I can. Quicker & less distracting to keep fingers on the keyboard instead of using the mouse to select an icon.

Tom T 11:43 AM  

Oh, my other NE problem was wanting 10A, Shots of shooting stars, to be NILS (Name, Image, Likeness), by which college basketball players (and other athletes) can receive money. Thought ARCS was a lame answer.

TJS 11:44 AM  

I now understand the meaning of "beyond parody". That's all I got.

Well, the puzzle sucked, too...And I'm worried about @Z...but that's it...

NYDenizen 11:44 AM  

@anonymous. In response: Since our host has recently seemed to have signaled that Wordle is off limits l, without prejudice, had stopped submitting daily Wordles. For today, however, I submitted under the golfers’ unwritten ‘Hole-in-one’ rule which grants bragging rights to even anonymous acers, so long as they buy drinks all around.

In this case, l submitted it here since I’m not on social media, l was bereft of an audience for the Wordler-equivalent of the hole in one. So l left posting up to the good graces of our moderator.

In a similar spirit l have submitted yesterday’s result - a birdie in 3, unlike today’s eagle.

Wordle 459 3/6*


I leave it up to the Mod whether to show the grid or. As validation, maybe he could just enter the digit 3 below.

Whatsername 11:44 AM  

@Jay (7:36) Welcome to the crowd! I’m pleased to be one of your peeps and wish you luck with finishing your streak.

@Roo (9:55) I always wondered what I’d do if I lived where there was a slot machine on every corner. Let’s just say I’ve seldom left a casino with much in my AMOUNT WON column. But like those folks who put aside their $40 or $50 a week, I just figure that’s the cost of my entertainment. People around here do the same thing with lottery tickets.

Robo DIALERS are a scourge which has gone far beyond the control of any government entity. As @LMS said, the “do not call” list is a joke, and so is reporting any violations of it. Scammers have the ability to disguise their identity by hiding behind virtually any fake persona, often showing a local number so you’ll be more likely to answer. I have actually gotten calls that showed my own name and home phone number in the Caller ID. And like Loren, I always wonder who on earth actually listens to that garbage?

Automatic RENEWALs however can go either way. I use that service when ordering pet food from Chewy and get a 5% discount. But more often than not, I find I do better by renewing manually and using a coupon or on-line promo code.

Anonymous 11:51 AM  

in real casinos, for some decades, the dealer uses a shoe of multiple decks: pretty much impossible to deal any way except from the "top". do it that way to thwart the card counters.

egsforbreakfast 11:55 AM  

The sum of the puzzles shaded squares got me thinking about Glen Campbell’s age when he left Galveston. Now I’ve got an ear worm going and going and going. Oh well, it’s a pleasant song that I hadn’t thought of for some decades.

I was having some trouble with 42D, 43D and 44D, but I eventually ARRIVED at a VELVETY EXPANSE.

I love me a good KATSU while I CATPOSE. I usually wash it down with a STEINER TWO of beer. Of course, after imbibing that much, I might have to do a DRYRUN to the head to avoid a DAMP sprint.

I’m guessing that the decision to include the answers in the theme clues was editorial and didn’t come from the constructor, so I’m giving this puzzle a two thumbs up. Great debut, Helen Chen.

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

Anyone else remember when gambling was considered a vice?

Ah, the Blue Noses! Gambling stopped being a vice when The Rich figured out a slick way to 'tax' the poor with Damn Gummint run lotteries.

Jhawker 11:57 AM  

@MadDogCryptics. Would love to check out the Rex/Rachel/Neville cryptic solving on Twitch, but don’t have a clue as to how to access it. Could you provide some instruction? Thanks!

Anonymous 12:13 PM  

*Has a wash at the casino (+7 = 21!)

Pretty sure "Has" determines that it's BREAKS rather than BREAK

Masked and Anonymous 12:26 PM  

M&A has spent a bit of time gamblin away small amounts in casinos over the years, altho not at all in the past 21 [har] years or so. Anyhoo, the puztheme was definitely ok by m&e -- but not at all ThusPuz tricky, I'd grant.

Was it challengin enough for a ThursPuz, tho? Well, somewhat close, at least at our house. Had only one ?-marker clue, but several M&A no-knows: IRL. CTRLP. EVA. KATSU. STEINER. CATPOSE [tho kinda inferable]. SASHAY clue [but also sorta inferable]. mysterious-ish ARCS clue. Several other clues seemed somewhat sneaky … the RENEWAL clue, f'rinstance.

Also -- just a 74-worder, so lotsa longball answers to sort out. faves: CHEEKBONE. VELVETY. IMAGINE. MILKDUD. SALIVA.

staff weeject pick: ARY. We get a nice prefix fix, today.

Thanx for the fun, Ms. Chen darlin. And congratz on a cool debut, no matter what day one might prefer it to come out on.

Masked & Anonymo3Us


Mr. Benson 12:30 PM  

That’s a “soft” 14 (two aces mean it can also be a 4), so good idea hitting that last time, no matter what the house shows.

Anonymous 12:36 PM  


Whatsername 12:44 PM  

I think @Andrew has a good idea about regularly featuring a debut puzzle - not necessarily every day but once a week or even once a month would be nice. It would give all new constructors more exposure and allow the editing team to give credit where it’s due while still preserving the first cut quality of the published crosswords. The Times already offers a monthly bonus puzzle so if adding a category is an obstacle, then perhaps that space could be reserved for debuts. And make it a freebie to introduce new solvers at the same time. Win-win!

@Carola (10:35) Thanks for the info on the TREX named Sue. What a find! Oh and FYI - IRL stands for In Real Life.

@TJS (11:44) i’ve been wondering about Z too. Anyone heard from him?

TTrimble 12:45 PM  

Wow, this was one of my fastest Thursdays ever. Close to half my regular time. I assume that the NYTXW is just trending easier these days -- not that I've made a sudden quantum leap in my solving abilities.

I can sympathize with the attitude that memes are mostly for the birds. Like certain species of subatomic particles, most arise and vanish so quickly that you never know they are there. Occasionally my kids will try to show me recent memes (which will become "so last week" in another week or so), and I'm baffled how anyone could find them amusing.

But, I think the ARBY'S meme is much more enduring because it summarizes a situation that is relatably funny. Imagine someone on a soliloquy about a grievance. He is going on at some length, with passion and conviction and cogency, addressing himself to all the people listening in. He finally comes to, when a teenage boy with a listless expression breaks in, "Sir, this is an Arby's. Did you want to order something?" and he realizes just how out of context his rant is.

Anyway, it's a phrase that has broken through into wider consciousness, so I think it's fair game for the crossword.

Prof Karl 12:48 PM  

Way too easy for a Thursday. Where's the challenge?

CDilly52 1:02 PM  

My favorite part of today was scratching my head over BLIN. I’m a foodie from way before the word became part of the lexicon. Not in the snooty complain about everything turn your nose up at no stars establishments that don’t feature haute cuisine etc. i just love everything about food from where it originates to how to prepare it to how it tastes. Soup to nuts, A to Z. You get it. And from a very early age. Anyway, did anyone ever, in the history of gastronomy ever, e-VER say BLIN? It’s only me tonight, think I will start with a BLIN. No. First of all, when they are good, blini are like the old potato chip commercial in which nobody can eat just one. I know I can’t. Never. Delectable little mouthfuls with the buckwheaty fluffiness playing so nicely with just a dab of rich sour cream to allow the “grown-up pop rocks” of delectable, seaside-reminiscent saltiness of the caviar and its sassy grassy little sprig of dill. Don’t give me one BLIN on a teensy little smaller-than-a-square-of-toilet-paper cocktail napkin. I want the whole tray! And by the way, hosts of fancy cocktail parties at which those dainties all appear on said little non recyclable papers with nowhere in sight to covertly dispose of said papers intend
to shame hors d’oeuvres lovers (like me) who are necessarily forced to go walking around stuffing used servietts into flower pots or who cleverly have fashioned big pockets in their muumuu styled cocktail dresses just for disposal purposes.

Now I’m really hungry.

old timer 1:10 PM  

I do my puzzle in the actual paper, and as often happens, the shaded squares were not shaded enough for my tired old eyes to see. Still did the puzzle, but missed what would have been an interesting feature.

Have been to Chicago, and IMO the Field Museum is worth the entire trip. SUE is an impressive reconstruction of the bones, but with or without her, it is a marvelous place.

Been to Nevada, too, and lost money at the 21 tables. Or every so often, left with an extra couple of hundred dollars. My plan was always to try my luck at 21 and, win or lose, spend the rest of my time betting with the house at the craps tables. An amusing way to pass the time.

Teedmn 1:11 PM  

Is it meta to have my AHA at...AHA? I had the NE above EPI blank save for REN[EWAL]. I didn't know the CAT of CAT POSE, never heard of Max ___INER and couldn't come up with shooting star shots _R__, a _E__ wave or what _N__ belonged in the middle of the table. I spent a lot of time staring at that sector before going on to finish the rest of the puzzle and coming back to it, still despairing of finishing. AHA indeed!

Could have made the puzzle a lot easier on myself if I hadn't started ignoring the numbers in the theme clues shortly after looking at 17A and 25A, shrugging and moving on. Oh well.

Re: highlighting cheekbones, I recently bought the first makeup I've had in years in order to put some pizzazz in my usual look for two fancy weddings I was attending. I bought a small, mixed-color palette of eyeshadow (with one shiny choice as per @LMS), watched a YouTube on how older women should apply it and, after a DRY RUN, proceeded to laugh myself silly at the results. I ended up applying only mascara, a tiny CHEEKBONE highlight and some lipstick. Ridiculous.

Congratulations, Helen Chen, nice job!

Gary Jugert 1:13 PM  

I did not like today's puzzle. BLIN and ARY? C'mon. However, I won't weep so hard, or threaten to quit the NYT, or judge society's fall into a cesspool, or say WS is on vacation, or freak out about trivia, or stand aghast at the Arby's joke...

BUT, I will draw the line at AHA. It is OHO. Now stop it. And there's no Disney or Harry Potter to compensate. What the actual heck?

Also, 🦖 is mos' def' killin' it in crosswords.


1 99°
2 One bloody spit.
3 "Visit Florida" public relations phrase.
4 Longoria and Baldwin playing putt-putt before hitting the links together.
5 Go for the Szechuan.
6 The last kitchen gadget used by the Muggle caretaker of the cemetery in Harry Potter? Think hard.
7 More Bass Fishing in your mailbox.
8 All of them, as long as they thought it up instead of you helping.


Anonymous 1:21 PM  

Talk about a power lunch

Unknown 1:24 PM  

I thought this was clever and well constructed. No drek in the fill.
I found STEINER to be a bit esoteric, indeed the sort of clue that rex typically will chastise about being so dusty, but since he's a film buff i suppose it gets a pass.
I would have gone instead with RUDOLF STEINER, but he's more in my wheelhouse.

The TREX answer I would never have sussed in a bajillion years, but i recalled she appeared in a puz in the past year or so (or maybe in an old archived puz), so i guess I've learned something over the course of the past two years.

mathgent 1:37 PM  

I played a lot of blackjack in the single-deck days but this puzzle didn't do anything for me. Pretty bland. I missed the usual Thursday trickery.

Anonymous 1:39 PM  

Bluenose? I punch you in the scnnozz if you called me that to my face. But I doubt you'd have the physical courage. As for moral courage, I stand by claim that gambling is a vice. And that's hardly a view embraced only by scolds, schoolmarms and prigs. Every religion holds that view. A lot of pretty great art too--think Hogarth's Rake's Progress or Caravaggio's The Cardsharps or even Jim Thompson's The Grifters.

As for the government finding a way to soak the naïve with lotteries, please. The government didn't figure anything out. Lotteries and numbers game are as old as sin. The new part is the government sanctioning the vice and taking their cut. The worst part of course is that it is a tax on the naïve. State run daily numbers pay out $500 for 1,000 to 1 bet. Appalling odds.
The mob does better on the street. That governments engage in this rapacious and frankly de facto criminal enterprise is repulsive.

Heidi 1:43 PM  

@NY Denizen I'm all for your posting the previous day's Wordles, if you like. As a fellow non-social-media person, this is the one place I run into Wordle spoilers. I like reading Rex (and all of you!) first thing, and the grids are impossible not to see (and even a number count gives me information). I struck two words from today's guesses, for instance, as too rare to have been your second guess. But I'll share bragging rights with you: I did yesterday in 2 with CREEP as my starter. : )

mathgent 1:44 PM  

I learned that BLIN is the singular of "blini." Like "raviolo" is the singular of "ravioli."

Hack mechanic 2:03 PM  

Get your Mum the Google screening tool!

NYDenizen 2:10 PM  

@Heidi. Since this is not a W Forum I’m forced to not comment.

okanaganer 2:21 PM  

Oof, thin theme again. Nice to see a JACK BLACK tribute puzzle, though!

SEEMOK and CTRLP look funny in the grid. I had FLAN before BLIN. For the Ballad of --- Jones, I first thought of DAVEY then INIGO (pretty famous 16th c. architect; yes I know that's ridiculous).

[Spelling Bee: yd 0; 8 day QB streak.]

Anonymous 2:30 PM  


I doubt it. I'm a student of William Chen. Look him up.

Seth 2:47 PM  

I found it really odd that two of the parenthetical clues literally gave you the answers to the shaded squares.

Clue: "(2)"
Shaded squares: "TWO"

Ditto for 7. Weird.

Also before I got any downs, I tried to fill the certain pancake as "MOON" as in the Denny's "moons over my hammy" although maybe the moons are eggs? Anyway, I got there in the end.

Anonymous 2:49 PM  

What do you doubt?

SHaronak 3:15 PM  

YES, THERE WERE SOME LOVELY WORDS. SASHAY CAME EASILY FROM ITS RHYME (AND I WAS SOMEWT FAMILIAR WITH RU PAUL) CHEEKBONES. SNAPPY ( whoops didn't mean to be in all caps) sounds good and velvety does as well. Looking back at the puzzle I definitely see mok at the top though I threw the answer in quickly when starting .
I did not understand the numbers in parenthesis and still do not. But if I just ignore them, as I did, it doesn't matter. Mostly fun puzzle

albatross shell 3:31 PM  

Do Catholics play bingo?
Is bingo gambling?
How many religions endorse a punch in the nose for name-calling?
At least your other cheek won't get bloodied.

Anonymous 3:43 PM  


this is what you said:
"Anyone else remember when gambling was considered a vice? "

i.e., for the semantically impaired, that's in the Past Tense and implies societal view. You can't say that, then contend that certain sects of society still consider it a vice. Either it is, or it isn't. Since the acceptance of multi-state lotteries, it isn't. That's not debatable.

"According to the Washington Post, one of the biggest problems is that the more the lotteries bring in to schools, the more states cut education budgets in anticipation of those windfalls. The Washington Post op-ed states, “Instead of using the money as additional funding, legislatures have used the lottery money to pay for the education budget and spent the money that would have been used had there been no lottery cash on other things.”"
-- https://www.publicschoolreview.com/blog/do-lotteries-really-benefit-public-schools-the-answer-is-hazy

IOW, just another way for The Rich to take from The Poor. the anti-Robin-Hood method.

and, if you contend that parochial schools won't ever, ever take such dirty money:

they may already.

tick, tock.

jberg 4:21 PM  

I finished solving at 11:30, just in time to rush off to the CVS for our bivalent CoVid shots -- then out to lunch to celebrate our lack of side effects. So I'm late in commenting, but here goes anyway.

I liked the theme a lot, and the fill even more. There were two problems, though.

1. The cluing and shaded squares made the theme too obvious. That's on the editor, not the constructor. At least leave out the parenthetical arithmetic -- you can ask us in the revealer clue what game the sum will win. I'd leave out the shaded squares, too, but that's a judgment call.

2. Two of the hidden words are a) identical (OK, I think, wince we're playing cards here) and b) included in a single word rather than spanning two. I'm trying to think of how to do this with ACE: IOWA CEREAL? MANIAC EATER? Those are fun, but lose the blackjack-related element, so you'd have to change the other two, as well. Or redo the theme answers to use non-ace cards. That would be tough, I think.

Congratulations to Ms. Chen on her debut -- hope to see more of you!

Anoa Bob 5:32 PM  

I thought that the themers could be related to BLACK JACK but not necessarily so. They could also be related to other casino games and a couple of them could be used in non-casino contexts, so I felt that kind of diluted their thematic purity, so to speak.

I thought the fill quality was, however, first-rate. With an unusually low for a themed puzzle 32 black squares, there was ample post-themer room left for those triple stacked SEVENs (!) in all four corners. Two SNAPPY nine letter Downs, CHEEK BONE and TEA KETTLE, rounded out an impressive grid display.

I have ideated about the optimum, sweet spot number of black squares for a themed puzzle and today's offering supports 32 as being that magic number. Too many more like in yesterday's 44 and we start to get a parade of 3s and 4s and those can be uninspiring to downright ugly. Any fewer and it starts to require iffy long entries, often of a green paint nature.

Now I'm off to brush up on exactly what a meme is. Thanks to TTrimble @12:45 for explaining how it works with "Sir, this is an ARBYS", but I'm still unclear on the whole concept. And whether meme is one or two syllables. Maybe I'll do that later.

Anonymous 5:39 PM  


Beezer 5:43 PM  

@jberg…when you say lack of side-effects do you mean “hopeful” lack of side effects? Askin’ cuz I got my last booster in early May (second booster) and I’m waiting to get the new one mid-October. I JUST got my first Shingrix shot yesterday and NOT complaining but it seems like I have a needle in me constantly once I turned 65! Btw. My pharmacy technician HIGHLY recommended getting the second Shingrix shot closer to the 6 months date (second shot 2-6 months after first) because a lot of folks have “side effects”beyond injection site soreness when the second shot is sooner. Public service announcement!

NYDenizen 6:00 PM  

@everyonenotnamedanonymous Join me in ignoring@anonymous until Mods throw it off the site!

albatross shell 6:11 PM  

My careful reading does agree with yours but if you intended it the way you said, I am more than willing to accept it and am glad no threat of violence was involved.

I trust your judgment about gambling means you do not accept the logic of Pascal's Wager.

Wordler 6:12 PM  

@Denizen. Very lucky you are but you did it.

@Heidi. You had to try to get any help from Denizen's post. There's no spoiler. It reminds of the story of the old woman who complained to the police about the man who walked around naked across the way with his curtains open. The police checked it out and said "We can't see anything". She responded, "Well of course not, you have to stand up on this stool".

I stopped trying to post my results because of mods rejects. They don't seem to be on the same page here.

Bonnie Sue 6:25 PM  

I miss Pete

Anonymous 6:26 PM  

I said, “The Blue Noses”. Is anyone paying attention to me?

albatross shell 6:42 PM  

@me611pm that was "doesn't agree with yours". I hope one could tell by the context.

TTrimble 6:44 PM  

@Anoa Bob
As far as I know, "meme" is a coinage of Richard Dawkins. It's one syllable and it's supposed to be paired with "gene", the idea being that it carries "cultural" information analogous to the way a gene carries genetic information, with the further idea that memes can likewise mutate and evolve. I believe the scientific merit of the idea, even in Dawkins's original conception, is regarded with not a little skepticism, and that's even putting aside how it's now taken/used in a much broader sense by the people who have developed its common meaning the most (aka, kids).

Well, here, don't just take my word for it.

Yes, this construction is a lot of fun. You could say for example, "Waiter! There's a hair on my spaghetto!", referring to a single strand. It would be fun to say this even just once.

Puzzled 8:00 PM  

Also worried about/missing Z. My favorite (actually my only) Max Steiner story: Bette Davis had a big stair case climbing scene in “Dark Victory” where she was going to her bedroom to die and she told Jack Warner (of Warner Bros.) “Either Max Steiner goes up those stairs or I do, but we’re not going together.”

Anonymous 8:11 PM  

Bonnie Sue,
Head out to Great Bay ( between LBI and Absecon islands in NJ) wait until 3:30 or 4 AM. Pete will be there.

Z 8:48 PM  

I am not dead.
I won’t bore you with the why’s, but I am done with the NYTX. If you feel like a little detective work you can look back at the first day I stopped commenting and you can probably figure out the entry that was the last straw.
I owe several of you an email.
I leave you with a book recommendation. 67 pages that everyone should read.

Anonymous 8:59 PM  

Adios Z, Pete, and michiganman. Glad you’re alive and well. cheers

Unknown 10:36 PM  

@Z - don't go!

Mimi 10:51 PM  

Old lady looking for a little help here. I love working my NYT crossword at breakfast with my trusty mechanical pencil (and eraser!). My local paper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch owned by Lee Enterprises has dropped the NYT puzzle. So I’m trying to learn to solve on the NYT games app. Any tips for making this easier would be appreciated! TIA.

CDilly52 11:43 PM  

Hand up @old timer for the Field Museum being worth the trip to Chi-town. Back in the day, the ICRR had passenger service from Champaign to Chicago and it was cheap. So many weekends a gang of us from the U would ride up and sleep on floors of friends on the area in order to see theater, symphony, opera, art, museums and of course Rush Street and (cheap) restaurants. We never tired of the Field.

CDilly52 11:47 PM  

And how many times has anyone ever ordered a BLIN or a ravioli?! Well, until it became fashionable to put a single egg yolk onto pasta, which does indeed make a large pasta packet appropriate perhaps for an appetizer as a single. But really? No.

CDilly52 11:52 PM  

Thank you @Anonymous 3:43 PM. Why does Oklahoma have one of the worst school systems and most dire teacher shortages in the US? The lottery and Legislative budget slashing. Now the state will see legalization of weed again touting “it’s for schools) just like parimutuel betting in the late ‘80s followed by the lottery. And here I thought the definition of insanity was doing the same thing repeatedly expecting a different result.

CDilly52 11:57 PM  

Welcome, @Mimi! As a Ludite, I struggle with all things techie, but have had such good fortune from the wonderful folks in this neighborhood. Each time I ask a specific question someone has replied. Alas, I am not one with skills to help, but I certainly sympathize. As an old lady and one who welcomes you to the neighborhood.

CDilly52 11:58 PM  

@Z, I’m sorry. I sympathize, and wish you well.

jae 12:38 AM  

@Mimi - If you have access to printer I would suggest printing out the puzzle and going back to solving it with your mechanical pencil,

Anonymous 6:13 AM  

Install the Twitch app. Follow fabioethics. She runs the stream.

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