Old music halls / THU 10-13-22 / Extended feature of "Hey Jude" and "Layla" / Congress-created media giant / Churchill portrayer in 2017's Darkest Hour / Mankind biblically / Jamaican sprinter Thompson-Herah / Fruit liqueur from Italy / Evidence provider for some citations

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Constructor: Lewis Rothlein

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: SKIP TOWN (62A: Run off ... or how to make the answers to 17-, 21-, 34-, 44- and 53-Across fit their clues) — "skip" the name of a "town" (from the state in parentheses at the end of each theme clue) to find a regular word, which is the answer to the clue. The actual answer you see in the grid? Completely unclued:

Theme answers:
  • REBUTTED (17A: Sunset shade? (MT)) = RED
  • BLARED OUT (21A: Start of an objection? (TX)) = BUT
  • CHEERIEST (34A: Booty spot? (PA)) = CHEST
  • HOME SALES (44A: They're the pits (AZ)) = HOLES
  • PROVOLONE (53A: Sole (UT)) = LONE
Word of the Day: ELAINE Thompson-Herah (64A: Jamaican sprinter Thompson-Herah with five Olympic golds) —

Elaine Sandra-Lee Thompson-Herah OD (nΓ©e Thompson; born June 28, 1992) is a Jamaican sprinter who competes in the 60 metres100 metresand 200 metres. Regarded as one of the greatest sprinters of all time, she is a five-time Olympic champion, the fastest woman alive over the 100 m, and the third-fastest ever over 200 m. 

Thompson-Herah is the first female sprinter in history, and the second sprinter after Usain Bolt, to win the "sprint double" at consecutive Olympics, capturing 100 m and 200 m gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics and again at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. A six-time Olympic medallist, she rose to prominence at the 2015 World Athletics Championships, winning a silver in the 200 m. At the Rio Olympics, she became the first woman since Florence Griffith-Joynerin 1988 to win 100 m and 200 m gold at the Olympics. (wikipedia)

• • •

Much as I hate saying this (and I do), this was not enjoyable to me at all. The theme didn't seem to be playing fair, and the "reveal" was completely deflating. The worst part of all, from a puzzle-enjoyment standpoint, was that the answers in the grid are not clued. There is literally nothing pointing to them at the level of meaning or sense. This is an *especially* galling problem when getting those answers is so hard. I've seen unclued puzzle elements before, but usually they aren't your endpoint. They aren't your goal. They're incidental, or you get them relatively easily but don't quite know why? But here ... a lot of work for an answer with no apparent relationship to anything. You have to put the themers together from a formula ... for no reason. You just do. There is no thematic coherence to the set. What does REBUTTED have to do with BLARED OUT (an awkward phrase to begin with)? Nothing. At the level of meaning: nothing. None of the answers have anything to do with each other (at the definitional level) and none of the answers are even clued (at the definitional level). So you have this incredibly arduous task of having to figure out what the formula is for making the clues make any sense, and then you have to make a plausible (again, unclued) answer from that formula. When I say that the puzzle wasn't playing fair, I mean not just that the answers are unclued, but that they are unrelated to one another. I was really, really expecting the non-town elements of the theme answers to have *something* to do with each other. I somehow got REBUTTED (slowly, completely from crosses—had REBUTTAL in there at one point), and then thought "oh, ok, colors are involved" (because "BUTTE" appeared inside "RED"), and then ... well, the next themer started "BL-" so obviously that was going to have something to do with "BLUE," right? Ugh, wrong. With CHEERIEST I realized that the container words, i.e. the literal clue answers (RED, BUT, CHEST, etc.), unlike the "towns," were *also* not going to have anything to do with each other. It's just arbitrariness after arbitrariness, and for an extremely anticlimactic payoff. Anticlimactic at the level of the individual answer ("the answer to the clue .. is just ... BUT?"), and anticlimactic at the revealer (SKIP doesn't even accurately describe what's happening in every case—see below).

Add to all this the fact all the clues in the puzzle feel like they were turned way up, difficulty-wise. It was such a slog. I actually came to a dead stop with the entire SW mostly empty, wondering how in the world I was going to get in. I had DONNE and RELO written in there and that's about it. Couldn't get: SUITE, NPR (clue made it seem like something I'd never heard of) (46A: Congress-created media giant), TRAVAIL, RECIPROCAL, RADAR, MALTED (ugh), RECANT, ELAINE (just didn't know her), POLLED. But ... and maybe you can see where this is going ... the real issue in this section: PROVOLONE. Why? Because "SKIP" implies "jump over," i.e. start on one side and then continue on the other. But this answer Does Not Do That. The "answer," LONE (53A: Sole), "skips" precisely *nothing*. You don't even deal with PROVO. It just sits off to the side, and then LONE comes after. That is not "skipping." And the letter combinations in that word meant that even though I knew PROVO was the "town" involved, I tried to put PROVO in using the "O"s from DONNE and HERO (i.e. the 2nd and 3rd "O"s) instead of those in RECIPROCAL and DONNE. And then of course couldn't make any answer fit. And since, as we've established, the full answers are Completely Unclued ... ugh. The only joy I got from this puzzle was writing in YEA HIGH, which is a fun thing to say (39A: "... about up to here"). The rest: a deliberately obtuse* chore. I just don't understand where the fun is on this one. 

Had a few wrong answers, like SOLO for CODA (1A: Extended feature of "Hey Jude" and "Layla"), and ODE for OED (15A: Meaningful work, for short?). But mainly I just couldn't get things. I knew people got their GEDS, but I didn't know they had "scores," and boy does that look weird in the plural (40D: Their scores are on some coll. applications). Speaking of abbreviations, it felt like an onslaught at times. NBA OED BEEB ADDL is just the densest example. There's other clusters too, like NCIS IFC. And NSFW WDS IDS. And it's not like there's a lot of lovely fill to make up for it. I had this theme that was slow and unpleasant to solve, and then this grid that was both full of less-than-sparkling fill *and* clued hard. It just wasn't my day. Ooh, sorry: LIMONCELLO. I do like that (both as fill and as beverage). Ultimately, it just felt like there was no consideration given to what it would feel like to solve this thing. If you're gonna put me through the wringer, at least give me a prize for my perseverance. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

*apparently I meant "abstruse," not "obtuse." Thanks to the commenter for the correction :)

P.S. worth noting / confessing that I once published a puzzle with unclued theme answers, and that PROVOLONE was actually one of those answers (!?). My themers were more in the "real things clued wackily" vein, so the sense of the answer was literally there in the clue. Anyway, it's highly possible that many solvers failed to enjoy my puzzle, the way I failed to enjoy this one. It happens.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Conrad 6:04 AM  

Like @Rex, I had big problems in the W and SW, but mine were because REversible at 28D made me doubt SUITE at 42A and RADAR at 49A (sonAR?), and IFV looked perfectly fine as a TLA for a bygone cable channel. It also didn't help that due to crosswordese I kept looking in 53A to fit "Orem" as the town to skip.

Anders 6:13 AM  

When reading PROVOLONE left to right as normal, you have to skip the PROVO to find the answer. Seems a perfectly fair reading of "skip" to me. But it is correct it doesn't fit the pattern implied by the other entries which break up the answer -- around town, one might say.

I liked OH FUN even though only the sarcastic version fit this puzzle for me.

Anonymous 6:17 AM  

I can’t remember giving up on a Thursday before. Thursday the 13th. Very grr…!!

Anonymous 6:38 AM  

Couldn’t agree more with today’s assessment. Thanks for reaffirming my frustrations.

OffTheGrid 6:45 AM  

I didn't love this BUT it's about as good as it gets on Thursday. The state abbreviations in the theme clues give a good basic hint. I needed the revealer, as I'd guess most solvers did**. I appreciated the lack of circles, in fact circles would have ruined it. Not quite sure what @Rex was going on about. I don't know why PROVO PROVOked him. You still SKIP it. It doesn't matter where it is in the answer.

**Or not.

kitshef 7:06 AM  

Alas, got the theme right away at RE BUTTE D, which made things too easy. I think if the clues had not had the states, it would have taken a lot longer to cotton on, and made it more fun. Not that it was not fun as is. It was fun, but not for a long enough time.

The little section with NBA, OED, BEEB and ADDL stands out in a mostly clean grid. ADDL is mostly forced by the theme. Maybe CPA/OLD where NBA/OED sit?

JJ 7:17 AM  

I too skipped right past PROVO. This is one of those puzzles that you have to just keep chipping away at, just like the one’s that Lewis loves.
I loved the “Aha” when I finally figured out the theme. He left us several toe holds for those that solve every day, I can’t imagine the work that goes into trying to create something different for us to figure out.
I usually read this blog to see what LMS and Lewis have to say. He’s relentlessly positive-always. In getting to MESA and PROVO I enjoyed my stopover in ST LEWIS.

Anonymous 7:20 AM  

Yes, what Rex said. Got all the themers from crosses only, which was a chore. OH FUN indeed. I need a shot of LIMONCELLO to get the taste of this puzzle out of my mouth.
On the bright side: tomorrow is Friday.

SouthsideJohnny 7:49 AM  

I thought the puzzle that ran last Thursday was pretty much as bad as it can get; this one tried to go even lower but probably didn’t quite get there. Another puz that I believe may have a fan base with the hard-core cruciverbalists, but will be an absolute turn-off for most casual players. Congrats to anyone that was diligent enough to decipher the cryptic theme and actually finish this thing. To me, it functioned more like a cure for insomnia.

Peter P 7:50 AM  

For once, I agree with a grumpy Rex review. Like @Anonymous 6:17 above, I also gave up on this puzzle about 20 minutes in. It was completely unenjoyable for me. I started out well with CODA, and I sussed out all the theme answers except PROVOLONE, but the SW in particular just did me in. Even with a few "reveal answers", I just couldn't get enough of a foothold to finish and I didn't care enough to plod through.

Joaquin 7:52 AM  

Great puzzle, Lewis! It was fun, unusual, and clever. Mazel tov on its publication! It was tough so I'm proud of myself for finishing it (but confess that I had to visit Wordplay to finally understand the [booty]/CHEST connection at 34A).

It was fun to discover my mother's hometown (BUTTE) right off the bat, and also, loved PROVO as I enjoy the Provo-based Dry Bar comedy online and was watching it just before the puzzle dropped.

Greg 7:53 AM  

Awful. Where are the good Thursdays?

Anonymous 8:04 AM  

Much as I hate to say it, I have to agree with Rex when he says this puzzle was "a deliberately obtuse chore," except that he meant "a deliberately abstruse chore," which is what I agree with.

It falls into the category of puzzles that show off the constructor's (formidable!) abilities, instead of providing enjoyment for the solver. So naturally, it's a grid that Shortz would love, since his goal seems to be inserting every other kind of puzzle there is into crosswords.

mmorgan 8:10 AM  

Didn’t love this but didn’t dislike it as much as Rex did. I even thought the gimmick was kinda cute with the extra layer of work involved. PROVOLONE did make me roll my eyes a bit as it didn’t fit the same pattern, but I let it go. But — I agree that BUT was a letdown. Coming after BUTTE, I was hoping that subsequent theme answers would follow the city in the answer before, but nope.

pabloinnh 8:12 AM  

I caught on, I thought, after the BUTTE and LAREDO answers--aha!, I said the answer to the clue has the abbreviated state inside it, which worked until PROVO, but by then I had filled in SKIPTOWN, so decided that you just left out the town's name and read the rest of the letters to arrive at the answer suggested by the clue, and that's enough words for that sentence.

The cluing was a little sideways but I like that. I still have no idea about some people like TESS and OLDMAN, didn't know ELAINE as clued, and always need crosses to spell LIAISE, but the rest went in with a few slowdowns. Hardest thing for me was parsing BEAHERO, which eventually made sense as three words. The one-word approach was certainly going nowhere.

Musical help from CODA and Holst's SUITE.

OK Thursday, LR. I agree with OFL that the answers for the clues were unrelated to anything, but so what. Liked Rasslin' with this one, and thanks for all the fun.

Barbara S. 8:13 AM  

Always a treat to solve a puzzle by our own Lewis. I seem to bask in some sort of reflected glory when the puzzle’s by someone I know! I found it pretty tough, but with persistence I finished with no help and in a reasonable time.

As usual, at the start I failed miserably at 1A (and in the whole NW corner). Like Rex, I considered “sOlo” instead of CODA but left it blank. I scooched over to the NE, was pretty sure about FABLES but cautiously let AILED, ESAU and SENT confirm it. Then I worked my way south down the eastern seaboard, until I had the strangest looking grid – the whole eastern third was complete and the whole western and mid-western two-thirds were blank. Help!

At this point I had the revealer (positioned squarely in my finished eastern third) but none of the themers, although I had partial answers for BLARED OUT and HOME SALES. So, I had an inkling about the theme but no more than that. I had a struggle to break into the central section, mostly because I got what turned out to be a key answer wrong. I misread the clue for 47A [Dispensed, with “out”]. I read it as “Dispensed WITH, with ‘out,’” so I merrily popped in “threw” (threw out). Well, understandably, nothing worked after that, and I kept staring in despair at acres of blank real estate. Finally I realized my error, filled in METED and then everything worked! I had another problem on the west coast, where I’d put “rule” in place of NORM, but again, once that was sorted, the dominoes fell rapidly.

In the end I fully grasped the theme at PROVOLONE, and then went back north filling in the theme answers in whole or in part. As a non-American, I was grateful that all the U.S. towns were recognizable – no obscurities in the bunch. Lewis, you sneaky devil, there was a plethora of tricky clues scattered everywhere, with a particularly fiendish group at the top: [Heat setting, in brief], [Mankind, biblically], [Meaningful work, for short?], [“Sixteen Tons” singer, often] – no wonder I had to abandon the NW. But you did AMUSE ME, I ATE IT UP, and I’m now in the CHEERIEST mood. Thanks for the challenge!

thfenn 8:20 AM  

Yes, one of those Thursdays you just chip away at. "OK, CHEERIEST is at least a word but I've got no idea how it could be the answer" is pretty much how I got through all of them, but I did get a little bit of that AHA moment when I solved the reveal. Just not smart enough to have had @kitshef's experience. Much more of a slog, and agree with OFL.

SW was toughest. Embarassingly went with sWan as the bird with eyes that don't move which is just more evidence of having to chip away. Even with the reveal and the themers nailed down I couldn't wrap it up. But it was late and some sleep and a fresh start let me close it out.

JonB3 8:26 AM  

I would love to read Lewis' assessment of his own puzzle - it's construction trials and tribulations and if he were an unbiased commentator, how he would describe this work. His daily positive reports here are always a pleasure to read.

GAC 8:40 AM  

I thought it a tough but very enjoyable puzzle. Thank you, Lewis Rothlein.Assumed that the state abbreviations had something to do with solving, but needed the revealer of SKIPTOWN to realize what the gimmick was. Although Rex could not skip PROVO, I was able to do it.

Anonymous 8:41 AM  

Amy: Skip town is a neat phrase, has a 40s movie feel to it. Enjoyed this: finding ERIE in Cheeriest is my favorite. Reading a book about Churchill at present which of course didn't give me Oldman, but I knew that. That NE corner is cool. Liaise is a fun word and Limoncello is really fun. (Wonder if you could find a way to create a theme around citrus ( looking at you down there in the SE, Ugli).

Mr. Cheese 8:43 AM  

Can someone please explain 55D

AP 8:49 AM  

Sorry, I really hated this puzzle. Limoncello was the only moment of enjoyment. The "in brief", "informally", "for short", "abbr", and "indicator", stuff was just too much. Clueing felt intentionally misleading, which can be fun if it's done well with a good aha moment, but I found many of the answers very unfun and flat (see NPR clue). And who says "gives a shot" (31d)?

Anonymous 8:51 AM  

Around town indeed.

TTrimble 8:53 AM  

Man, that was a pretty tough puzzle. About twice my usual solve time. My first "get" was, unfortunately, PROVOLONE, and yes, saw the Utah town PROVO, and LONE for Sole, and thought that I understood what the themers were doing, like a one-two punch. But then nothing else made sense within that imagined framework*.

Does that mean Rex is right about PROVOLONE? No, I think not. To skip means to omit, and that's what we're doing in every case, including PROVOLONE. I reckon he fixated on a sense of "skip" best conveyed by skipping stones, where you touch and then skip, touch then skip, but that's his problem, not Lewis's.

HO(MESA)LES: good one. But it made me wonder where "the pits", as in "the absolute worst", comes from. Strangely to me, most of the first few Google hits regarding this question and its answer fix upon the idea that it refers back to armpits. You know, the absolute smelliest things in the world. A more plausible explanation to me is that "the pits" could refer to the coal pits, an awful place to work (cf. "the salt mines", "the trenches"), or more generally holes or abysses, the lowest of the lows, as in "the pit(s) of despair". But for some reason, people seem to really dig this armpit explanation.

Speaking of etymology, TRAVAIL has a weird one, shared with "travel". Goes back to Late Latin tripalium, an instrument of torture (tri = three, palus = stake). Don't know any more than that.

Tough for me: BASSO, IFC, OLDMAN, ELAINE. Also CODA and ADAM took a while to see. As did OH, FUN. Oh, and how could I forget SUITE: I had the --ITE and was going, WOE?

From the a propos of nothing department:

My daughter, a first-year college student, has become well-known on her dormitory floor for her art, and particularly her drawings on request of animals that have some sort of sexualized feature. Recently, an ingenious drawing of an OWL which is NSFW, requested by her roommate. AMUSE ME it did. Then there is the large-breasted duck, the frog with the very well sculpted BUTT, and the horse pictured from behind with back legs in a lateral ballerina split and voluptuous hindquarters and tail, face turned in profile with a coy and knowing expression. I'm glad she's having FUN and everything, but I hope she's studying hard.

*Some light began to creep in with CHEERIEST.

Bob Mills 8:53 AM  

Finished it, but only after going through the alphabet to get the W in WDS. I don't think WDS is a legitimate abbreviation. Tough puzzle, even after getting the trick.

Can someone explain BEEB? I got it from the crosses, but it didn't make sense.

Anonymous 8:54 AM  

provAlone leads to “DANTE” leads to ELAITE (as plausible a name as Usain, or FloJo, or Dante if you ask me). The lesson here : read your cheeses well.

Anonymous 8:55 AM  

Had OH JOY which is more common sarcastic celebration in my circles.

Son Volt 8:56 AM  

Some flashy Thursday chicanery from @Lewis. Quirky and nuanced - I liked it for the most part. Upon first view - I knew the choppy grid was not going to provide a smooth path - and it didn’t. The clueing was weekend level at times - cool to work through. You’re a bad guy if you don’t like seeing CHEERIEST front and center.

I think the big guy had a swing and miss on the theme critique - but agree with him on some gluey short stuff - those little 3 x 4 blocks in the center top and bottom were rough - WDS, ADDL etc. RECIPROCAL and the three word ATE IT UP were fantastic. No clue on ELAINE or TOG but crosses were fair. I always assumed it was Yay HIGH.


Enjoyable Thursday solve - congrats @Lewis!

Anonymous 8:57 AM  

Had FADE instead of SOLO and that gooched things for a bit.

ncmathsadist 9:02 AM  

The theme answers just ate letters. Ugh.

Carola 9:02 AM  

For me, the idea of theme was easy to see, after REBUTTED, but it was still hard for me to get the rest of the theme answers. I enjoyed the triple challenge: What was the city? What word was the clue looking for? What was the. new unclued word? Using pattern recognition as an aid to get the new word turned out mostly well (BLARED OUT, CHEERIEST, PROVOLONE) but also led me astray, to "caMiSoLES" before HOME SALES. As we Midwesterners say, I found this Thursday puzzle "real different," and I mean in a good way.

@Lewis, the puzzle was replete with the kinds of clues I love: words that can be multiple parts of speech or have multiple meanings: Heat, Props, Booty, Bluff, citations, Consumer, Ready, and my favorite: Meaningful. It was great to see your name at the top of the puzzle. You were a lot harder on us than I thought you'd be, and, again, I mean that in a good way.

Cathi 9:07 AM  

I’m not the best or fastest solver so I give a lot of passes to clues and reveals and whole puzzles. But today I actually solved faster than my average and yet was suuuper bummed by the lack of cohesiveness in this one. The words in the theme were random. The cities used were random. And then that PROVOLONE. I could see lone as the solution and then Provo fit the rest but there was no skipping. Feels very amateurish or just lazy especially for a Thursday.

B Right There 9:09 AM  

Ditto. Exactly that for me, too.

JD 9:11 AM  

Thanks @Lewis, you bring me a little joy every day and today you doubled it! Worked through my usual fog and actually got the theme at Laredo. It was the Cheeriest I've been on a Thursday in a long time. Perfect reveal.

Got hung up at Provolone looking at the letters I had for a long time, thinking it should be Provo but (see @Anders above). Also didn't think of NPR as a media giant but maybe. Favorite answer was Yea High.

Great word play. We need more like it.

Anonymous 9:13 AM  

The clue for 43D is amazingly self-referential. "Painful effort."

NSFW ALERT: This puzzle really chafed my RED BUT. OH FUN, now all I have are UGLI CHEST HOLES.

That is all.

Loren Muse Smith 9:13 AM  

Our own @Lewis! I couldn’t disagree with Rex more. What a terrific aha moment. I kept looking at BLARED OUT, looking at SKIP TOWN, looking back. . . then bam. I saw it and was delighted. I thank whoever decided not to use circles because having the trick finally materialize was just delicious.

This must have been a ton of work: not only do you have to find cities hidden in expressions, but the expression disencumbered of its city, must still be a viable word. AND… there has to be symmetry. I’m beyond impressed, Mr. Rothlein. Bravo!!!

After a ton of playing around, I came up with PERE NOEL (NV) and METRONOMES (AK). Ick. That’s why @Lewis gets paid the big bucks, people.

Liked ALL TIME crossing HIGH. And the “going both ways RECIPROCAL crossing the palindrome RADAR. I know Lewis, and I’m thinking this coulda been deliberate.

“Redact” before RECANT. That southwest corner put up a mighty fight until I finally saw MALTED.

I can’t be the only one who was thinking rear-end area for “booty spot.” Speaking of which – given that I watch so much Real Housewives, I couldn’t help but think implants when I wrote in REBUTTED. Ahem.

Very nice Thursday fare, Lewis. You definitely did AMUSE ME. This is one I’ll remember for a long time!

Anonymous 9:15 AM  

Skip breakfast, for instance

Anonymous 9:30 AM  

Bravo, Lewis… tough (very) but fair. And I certainly felt like a bad ass when I finished it off.

Anonymous 9:34 AM  

BBC often abbreviated in UK as the BEEB.

kitshef 9:36 AM  

To any moderator:

The way all the theme answers are valid entries with the cities and without reminded me of another Lewis puzzle that also had that feature from March 30 2017. When I went back to look at that, I noticed a huge amount of spam in the comments section - mostly about getting ATM cards. One spellcaster. At least a couple of dozen of them, all at the end of the comments section. It would be nice if those could be deleted. No need to post this comment either way.

Peter P 9:39 AM  

@Bob Mills - (the) BEEB is colloquial for "(the) BBC". Oh, and you reminded me of WDS, which is perhaps the one that stuck in my craw the most. Just seems like such an arbitrary abbreviation to me. Not really commonly used, and just flat overall as fill. I was originally looking for something that fit "etymologies" or "definitions", something a little more colorful and specific to the OED.

@Mr Cheese - NSFW is "not safe for work." It means the content (usually a link, but could be an email) may not be work-appropriate (nudity, swear words, etc.)

Anonymous 9:39 AM  

-NYT editor should have seen that this puzzle absolutely needed something additional to clue the full themer words.
-Too many bible clues (no puzzle needs more than 1 unless it's the theme).
-100% agree with @AP about the spate of "in brief", "informally", "for short", "abbr", and "indicator" which just seemed relentless. Basically a stand-in for "?" clues and a crutch for bad fill.
-NBA as the "setting" for the Heat was bad the last time I saw it and is still bad clueing.
-WDS is not good fill. Especially when referencing another "for short" clue.

jberg 9:41 AM  

So my first enouncter with the theme was reading the clue for 21A, which made me think the answer would be the name of a place in Texas. Since nothing was obvious, I figured we were going the obscure-towns route -- you know, like Natick or that place with the marina. But pretty soon LAREDO stared to emerge from the crosses, so obviously I had to add some letters, but nothing fit the clue. finally I had enough crosses to see BLARED OUT. That might happen at the start of an objection, but it was in the wrong tense, so by now I was pretty unhappy with the puzzle -- and only then did I think to look at the constructor's name. Oh dear, not what I expecteds.

But THEN, a fair amount later, I got the revealer, and it all fell into place. Brilliant idea, IMO, though I see others disagree. Like @Loren, I was looking for the wrong kind of booty, but that was part of the fun.

Even understanding the theme didn't help all that much, I still needed a fair number of crosses for each; but then id did help.

I didn't mind PROVO at the beginning, and I loved PROVOLONE as the unclued answer. What would have made it even greater: every answer a cheese! For example, PARMESAN. But that's too short, unless you stick it in the center, and I can't think of any others. (Finding Limburg in LIMBURGER or Roma in ROMANO doesn't count.)

Sincere question: do any birds' eyes move? I'm a birder, and I have no idea, but I think maybe they don't.

I am very proud that my generation created the verb LIAISE by back formation from liaison, but I still hate the word.

@Lewis, thanks for a challenging but fun puzzle. I suppose your own clues are hors concours for clue-of-the-week, but "Meaningful work, for short" deserves it.

NYDenizen 9:46 AM  

Wordle 481 4/6*


Onelook.com script: ???al,//e????-ristknlg

livebug 9:51 AM  

I thought this puzzle was delightful. Challenging but doable once SKIP TOWN told you the trick. Just wanted to add a positive voice for this constructor — hope to see more like this!

MarthaCatherine 9:56 AM  

Is it a DNF if you resort to Google? I resorted a lot today. Didn't know the Jamaican sprinter. Spelled 11D LeMONCELLO, which made 16A about impossible. And I made the same mistake Rex did about thinking it was going to be about colors because of 17A and the beginning of 21A.

Figured out the embedded cities but didn't go back to the clues to suss out what RED, BUT, CHEST, HOLES, and LONE had to do with the cities.

To me, though, everything was redeemed by the clue for 69A. "After, before." Made me smile out loud. Please don't tell me it is a common clue for POST.

A million commenters have probably noted for those who asked: NSFW means "not safe for work," which means you have to be careful somebody doesn't see you looking at something embarrassingly inappropriate on your office computer. And BEEB is a nickname for the BBC.

kitshef 9:58 AM  

@jberg - most birds can't move their eyes, so it's a clue that is technically true but very misleading.

RooMonster 9:59 AM  

Hey All !
Kept wanted TOWNs with the "TOWN" name, as in the (PA) one, wanted ALLEN in there somehow (from Allentown), but couldn't come up with anything. For the (AZ) one, I had it as yuMaSALES for a while, wondering what that could be. Grocery store stir in Yuma? Har. Never occurred to me to take out (SKIP)TOWN from the Themers. Was left scratching the ole head. Came here to see what clever trick @Lewis did, outsmarting me.

I did sorta kinda see what PROVOLONE did, although I grokked it as "being alone in (UT)", ala PROVO LONE, not knowing it should just be LONE, once you "SKIP TOWN". CHEERIEST really threw me for a loop.

You got me good, Lewis! Unfair for shrinking brain cells! 🀣😜

Had a FWH (Finished With Help), having half the puz done and just stone cold stuck in most of W half. Googed for ELAINE, then SUITE (unsophistication...), and also BEEB, which I originally had in as BBCI (after looking it up.) After all that, still a (personal) DNF, having ODiA/RiBUTTED. Oof.

Sorry for the UGLI POST, @Lewis. This OLD MANs EGO was bruised. Har.

Three F's (YEA!)

Carolita 10:00 AM  

So nice to see your name on today's puzzle, Lewis. Got the theme at blared out, as the NE was my first section to fall. BUT the SW did us in (had hubby working with me on it by then). We both guessed lone and Provo in that order, BUT were so convinced that it had to follow the pattern -- ah, 'twas not to be. That was my only beef with the puzzle. We finally gave up. I, too, could not believe that we could not solve a Thursday.

Very clever theme, and the fact that the answers were not clued or related didn't bother me a bit. I thought it was great fun with that little exception of provolone. (And, it's hubby's favorite cheese!) Thank you, Lewis, for a very challenging Thursday. You really exercised my brain cells today, and I always enjoy that. Would love to hear your comments on this puzzle.

Sir Hillary 10:02 AM  

Rex's commentary makes no sense to me. The themers *are* related in that they all require SKIPping over a TOWN for the clue to make sense. That neither the pre-skip nor clued answers are related *to one another* is irrelevant.

That said, I didn't love this one -- certainly not as much as others from Lewis. But the theme wasn't the problem -- the fill was. As I look at it now, it's less extensive than I thought while solving, but I rolled my eyes at BEAHERO (green paint), AMUSEME (no one says that), ASHOT, WDS and ODEA.

On the plus side, the double-meaning clue for ATEITUP is great, and an entry in the NE brought this to mind, which is welcome anytime.

thfenn 10:12 AM  

@lewis I'm just taking in this was yours today, and it occurs to me it's exactly the kind of puzzle you'd love - so well done. It was for me, in retrospect, what Thursdays should be, a slow chipping away at an overall picture that works, and that AHA at the end. It's ended up being a lesson for me, which seems appropriate. Congrats.

Nancy 10:21 AM  

This is how it's done, folks! I'd say that even if Lewis weren't my pal.

So clever. So challenging. So perplexing -- until finally, finally it isn't anymore.

And every last bit of the difficulty is accomplished through diabolical cluing and none of it through a plethora of useless trivia.

I loved it -- at least I loved it once I finally stopped "suffering".

I picked up the trick when LAREDO belatedly BLARED OUT at me before I filled it in and I then noticed the BUT surrounding it. After that I began trying to remember all the cities in all the various states -- geography not being my strong suit.

As I say, the cluing is fiendish. It doesn't matter when you have 3-letter fill if you clue it as brilliantly as NBA and OED. I was completely stymied in that section and had to go over to FABLES, one of the very few easy-ish clues, in order to finish off that central area.

Fortunately it didn't fit, but I wanted I'VE HAD IT "about up to here" rather than YEA HIGH. This one seems a little green-paintish, but it's my only nit and it's a very small one.

A challenge and a pleasure to solve. Kudos, Lewis!

Bekkieann 10:27 AM  

Getting BUTTE and LAREDO early told me the commonality was cities in those states. It didn't take me long to figure out by dropping the city name, I was left with the clued answer. I got SKIP after getting all the cities, so it didn't bother me. But isn't one definition of skip "omit?" It's a trick answer because the definition implied by SKIPTOWN would be to hop over.

Lewis 10:35 AM  

Whew, it’s only 10 in the morning but it’s becoming quite clear that this puzzle is harder to solve than I thought it was when I made it. My goal was to give a satisfying solve to a typical Thursday solver, but it looks like I made the hill higher than I should have. I see from the comments that it made for a satisfying solve to some, but not to as many as I would have liked. My apologies to those who found it unenjoyably tough!

I always appreciate Rex’s comments. Some people assert that he’s nasty, but I never get that from him. He lays out his reactions, and they’re smart, and funny, and I learn from them. He made some excellent points today.

But here’s the killer. I went to the Diary of a Crossword Fiend site to see what the reviewer said, and in the comments to the review was one from Evan Birnholz, who makes the Washington Post Sunday puzzle, and whose puzzles are brilliant. He pointed out that in the spring of 2018 he made a Sunday puzzle with the same theme as mine today – its title was even SKIP TOWN! Two of our answers were dupes! Well, I had no idea! My usually reliable ways of checking to see if a theme was done before didn’t reveal his puzzle.

Evan and I communicate occasionally, and we emailed back and forth this morning about this, and he was as gracious as he always is, saying it was a case of “great minds think alike”. And I'm honored that independently I was able to come up with a theme that he did. But I feel bad about it, and never would have turned in this puzzle had I known.

So, some Live and Learn for me today. To those who enjoyed the puzzle – I’m so glad! And to those who didn’t, I feel bad about that, and thank goodness tomorrow is another day! Thank you to those who expressed their sympathy over the loss of my beloved dog Chester.

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

Nasty cross at DONNE/ELAINE. I’ve never heard of either, and “DonSe/ElaiSe”, or “DonTe/ElaiTe” etc. look like perfectly feasible poet/sprinter combos to me

Melrose 10:42 AM  

Yes, challenging for me, at least until I got the revealer correctly. Started out thinking it was skipdown rather than skiptown, thought it involved having part of answers skip down the grid to complete, couldn't figure out how that was being implemented. Once I got the revealer I finished fairly quickly, but I agree with Rex that the lack of association of the theme answers with the clues, before removing town names, was not nice.

Lawrie 10:47 AM  

I think that this is the best Thursday puzzle ever. It was wonderfully clever and challenging. The level of difficulty was definitely Friday or Saturday, but there is no day set aside for a themed puzzle this challenging. And, that's not Lewis' fault. It's really no one's fault, and I would not want Friday or Saturday to be themed (ever). This was a wonderful surprise. Thank you Lewis.

fifirouge 10:49 AM  

I agree with Rex that the unclued answers and the actual answers were a bit of a letdown. Particularly because at the start I thought the answers were going to be colloquialisms common in each of the states. At 21A I confidently dropped in "I'll reckon" off of the crosses with 7D, 8D, and 9D. Was really disappointed when the actual answer was "B.....UT"

I did appreciate all of the towns were at least somewhat well known. I was hit with dread after I figured out the gimmick, thinking there was no way I was going to come up with all of the town names. Particularly in MT and UT, I'd be hard pressed to name 3 towns/cities. Luckily I knew both PROVO (thanks to Dry Bar Comedy) and BUTTE.

I had the grid filled completely and didn't get the happy music. Turns out it's YEA HIGH, not YEAH-IsH ("How high was it? Oh, I dunno. Yeah-ish").

But it that wasn't the end of it! Even though I knew it was PROVO, I had it spelled PROVaLONE, which crossed DaNtE (not knowing my poets, the fact that that fit was good enough. I guess I missed learning about DONNE in high school English class). I also didn't know ELAINE Thompson-Herah, so ELAItE seemed at least possible.

Diego 10:49 AM  

This puzzle is a perfect example of why I dread Thursdays. But it takes the TRAVAIL to a new level. It’s so contrived and tortured, featuring no real (fun) aha moments, plus a singularly lame theme. Mesa, Butte, Erie??? Really??? Excitement all around!!! I didn’t know the maker was THE Lewis but I’m not surprised. I prefer OFL’s insightful critiques—granted he goes off the rails some days—to Lewis’s daily rhapsodies. So, I just SKIP over them.

beverly c 10:49 AM  

I enjoyed the challenge in this puzzle. I hopped around getting a foothold here and there, but the informal clues made me hesitant to commit. Once crosses gave me the revealer, I went up to the NW and fount BUTTE. Racing to the NE I entered LAREDO. MESA came pretty quickly. By ERIE I was slowing down, and I came to a dead halt at PROVO. I put it in a step too far too the right. No. So I thought - is there an OREL in Utah? OREM? That would make the clue answer aLONE - works okay, I thought. I completely forgot to look at the unclued word, although I had noticed the other answers formed them. That mistake made my finish a bit drawn out.

I really really wanted OHBOY for for 27D, but try as I might, Holst wouldn’t let me. Thanks to my sweetiepie for playing DJ for 41 years.

Got a chuckle from OED, like SKIPTOWN and YEAHIGH for the retro feel, and had daDA for 1A - that's how I sing Hey Jude! Hee hee.

Oh, also, I love the understatement of the answer for 10D.

I didn't realize until I got here that it was your work, Lewis. Thank you for a very engaging puzzle. Come back anytime!

Anonymous 10:50 AM  

Thanks Lewis - it was the kind of slog that both of us like. Only one quarrel and one ?. You always give “it” a shot - never give a shot - and in what sense is Adam mankind? I mean, yes, he was the progenitor and first man, but not synonymous with mankind as a whole. Thanks again, enjoyed your puzzle and always enjoy your write-ups in the blog - the positive antithesis to Rex’s constant curmudgeon.

RunRun262 10:54 AM  

Loved this one. Nicely challenging and the reveal clue / answer was truly vital to understanding and solving the theme clues. I don’t feel that the theme answers need to correlate on a meta level and Rex’s point about PROVOLONE is off … the point is to SKIP the town, not SKIP OVER it. Kudos and a big thank you to Lewis Rothlein for this one.

Whatsername 10:56 AM  

When I see Lewis’ name on a puzzle I expect greatness and today I was not disappointed. Not that I ever have been. This is one I will remember for a long time. Just skimming comments it appears some had trouble sussing the theme. Maybe the fact I was not one of them was the reason I enjoyed it so much. I saw BUT/LAREDO at 21A before even getting the revealer and was off to go TOWN hunting across the map. Jeff Chen suggested circles would have made it easier to see the trick and yes, of course it would have. However I think that might’ve made it too easy for a Thursday. The state abbreviation in the clue was enough of a hint IMHO.

Thank you @Lewis. This one was everything I always hope a Thursday will be. And I extend my most sincere sympathy for the loss of your sweet Chester. Every good dog leaves a paw-shaped hole in your heart. I have no doubt you are a better person for having known him.

Nick 10:58 AM  

Oof. This was unpleasant. So many abbreviations and C-list bits of trivia and so few delightful ‘aha’ moments. And all in service of random geography. Hard with no payoff.

Liveprof 11:01 AM  

Oh, no! Has OFL's curmudgeon-liness spread this far? I loved the puzzle, and loved the theme. Also, may I remind you -- Man cannot live by provolone. (Wait, what?) Also love LMS's reading of "rebutted."

Can someone please explain the "green paint" reference that sometimes comes up? (e.g., Sir Hillary) I know there's a joke: What is blue and smells like red paint? And the answer is "blue paint." Does it relate to that?

jae 11:07 AM  

Yep, tough, but I had the Padre-Dodger game on so I probably wasn’t giving this my full attention (As you probably already know, the Pads won and tied up the series.) Once I carefully read the revealer I was able to finish.

YEAtall before HIGH was it for erasures.

Challenging solve that entailed a fair amount of floundering, liked it more than @Rex did.

JC66 11:08 AM  

Last night, I emailed @Lewis that I loved this puzzle.

Like him, I'm surprised so may found it so hard.

Long timer here 11:10 AM  

@Live Prof = "Green Paint" is an adjective/noun pair that, while it makes sense, isn't enough of a "thing" to warrant it being a stand alone entry. Green Paint is to be compared to "Wet Paint", in that wet paint is a common, in the language phrase where as green paint is not.

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

I have to disagree with @OFL, a bit. If only with PROVOLONE, which does fit both the theme, clue, and answer very, very nicely. That's when I got the gag. The others, not so much. You skip the town, you dunce; doesn't matter where it appears. Gad.

Newboy 11:17 AM  

OH FUN! Come on folks, it’s Thursday so we’re gonna get some hijinks or at least a rebus. I’m all in for @Lewis any day of the week & today’s grid was exceptionally interesting just to see how Mr. Positive would rattle my cage….and how OFL would respond……and what the commentariat would opine. Egads, as granny would say, whatta ya want? Eggs in yer beer?

Clues for NBA &OED alone were worth the price of admission. Seeing all those towns in new lights was just gravy on my hash browns. Having pbs entered early instead of the NPR really made that hard west block a needless TRAVAIL, but my ultimate lesson in humility came in failing to remember our lunch times on CInque Terre sipping LeMONCELLO until She Who Must Be Obeyed corrected my Italian.

Thanks @Lewis; you and Chester deserve the happy reflections today’s grid must have brought.

Anonymous 11:17 AM  

@Lewis--How like you to post such a kind comment about reactions to your puzzle. I didn't really like this one, but I sure do like you, and I recognize your construction abilities even when the result isn't my cup of tea.

bocamp 11:19 AM  

CHEERs, Lewis, thx for this chewy serving; anything but the 'pits'. :)


Not on the right wavelength for this one; required Lewis's 'faith solve'. πŸ™

Partially caught on to the theme at PROVO; thus, went back to look for TOWNs in the other themers. Major assistance in solving!

CODA: an excellent Apple TV+ movie.

Had just looked up NCIS vs CSI the other day. Big help there.

Got my GED in the Navy.

My kind of Thurs. puz. Had to fight hard all the way to the end; loved the early morning workout! :)
Peace πŸ•Š πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all πŸ™

Chip Hilton 11:20 AM  

Well done, Lewis! Just having a work chosen as a Thursday puzzle is a heck of an honor and I found this one to be a clever challenge. You did, indeed, AMUSEME, so, thanks!

Beezer 11:21 AM  

After reading @Rex and much of the commentariat today I felt like I was from another planet! I LOVED this puzzle! I must be from Planet Lewis because I got it done in 19 minutes with NO cheats, I found almost all of it cleverly clued, plus I could figure out the theme AND use some of that knowledge to help in my solve. To shorten my assessment I say ditto to what @Nancy and @LMS said.

@Lewis, I chuckled at 27D because I cannot imagine YOU saying OHFUN sarcastically. 🀣

@Peter P…not that it makes one whit of difference but I always heard it was “Not SUITABLE For Work”

As for the birding…the results are kind of all over the place on the eye movement thing but it mostly has to do with the eye being huge within the socket so any movement is minimal in ANY bird. One site said owls eyes are virtually “attached” and cannot move. Here is a snippet from one birding site: While a few birds can move their eyes in all directions, there are many that cannot. Owls are one of these species. Anyway, in my case ignorance was bliss because OWLS came to me right away due to their ability to swivel their head.

Anonymous 11:21 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
BobL 11:23 AM  

Puzzle was fun!

egsforbreakfast 11:34 AM  

I thought this puzzle was more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Being something of a geography nut, I really liked reverse engineering the themers. First, you are given the state, then you start thinking about towns in that state. As you think of towns, you try to insert each one into a longer word that contains it and might make the clue make sense. I was able to do this with relatively few crosses on most of them. I also thought the the cluing in general was tough but very fun.

Thanks for a wonderful puzzle, Lewis.

mathgent 11:39 AM  

I needed to cheat to get ELAINE but that didn't spoil it for me. It just meant that I got to bed a little earlier.

What a great puzzle! Everything I love. Sharp cluing, sparkly entries, fresh theme (I don't remember seeing it before) beautifully done, junk-free. Happy to see that the people I respect on the blog admired it too.

How typical of Lewis to say that Rex's comments were fine. I thought that they were garbage.

DAVE 11:46 AM  

I don't think the constructor should have to apologize for making his puzzle too hard. He (or the editor) made it way too easy! How? By adding the giant and UNNECESSARY hints of giving the STATE in each themer. How hard is it to come up with a city in Utah? Salt Lake City is too long, so what's really left to PUZZLE. Too hard?? And on a Thursday no less.

Anonymous 11:47 AM  

Lewis, that was a very gracious commentary you posted. I think part of what you're hearing is that the theme, for the reasons pointed out, is very hard to suss out. Then the cluing is ALSO very difficult, which makes it even harder to suss out the theme. As someone said, the non-theme part of the puzzle is almost Saturday level of difficulty - clever, but with the long theme answers not directly clued at all (ie, you can not figure out the answers without having determined the theme), it gets to a frustrating point. I think if the non-theme cluing was a bit more straightforward, that would have enhanced the puzzle and made it less frustrating for some of us.

Joseph Michael 11:47 AM  

Congratulations, Lewis. Fun puzzle with a clever theme. And thanks for giving us not only a great revealer but also themers with three answers for the price of one: the clued answer, the unclued answer, and the town. Yes, it was challenging but worth it in the end. Chester is surely wagging his tail.

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

Gracious comment and thanks for taking the time to reflect and share. Enjoying this community as I am still new to the crossword world.

Anonymous 11:58 AM  

Anyone else put in MIA for 7A instead of NBA?

Camilita 12:01 PM  

I did get the theme but I eventually gave up. I thought the Utah town would be MOAB or OREM because LONE I thought had to be ALONE. Because all the other cities were in the middle of the word.
Also SW was not coming together. I had POLLED. I finally just gave up and I can't remember doing that in 2 years. It was just not fun. I did get LIMONCELLO immediately with no crosses. Better luck next week!

jcal 12:02 PM  

I know I'm a day late - but I have to write that I think Rex was wrong yesterday when he wrote the following:

30A: Some damning evidence (TAPES) — I'm too old to believe this is true. People do and say horrible *&%^ on tapes all the time and somehow don't end up "damned" at all. Also, we're entering the age of Deep Fakes, which makes the future persuasive value of TAPES even more dubious. Have a nice day!

Today, for example, there is a huge upheaval in the Los Angeles City Council - deserved calls for resignation from everyone from President Biden on down - demonstrations and the like precisely because of the damning evidence from secretly recorded tapes. Couldn't be a clearer example of the persuasive value of Tapes!

Angie M 12:03 PM  

I had SogdenOLO. I know it doesn't match the clue *exactly*, but when I eventually got the provoLONE answer, I too disliked that it wasn't skipped over.

Lizard Breath 12:03 PM  

I spent way too long misled by thinking "but booties are tushes, not chests!" It finally clicked 10 minutes after I finished the puzzle.

Joaquin 12:04 PM  

@Lewis - Your love for Chester shines through, and I'm sure Chester felt the same way about you.

My take on dogs: Everyone believes that their dog is the "best dog in the whole world." And everyone is right.

Anonymous 12:04 PM  

I mostly agree with Rex about the last themer but it is possible to skip the first question in an exam.

Angie M 12:04 PM  

Also, shoutout to my hometown of BUTTE :-)

Liveprof 12:08 PM  

Thank you, Long timer -- very helpful.

Anonymous 12:18 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
BlueStater 12:27 PM  

Why the NYT continues to employ Shortz and publish his puzzles is beyond me. I say this having actually finished this one. Gimmick laid atop gimmick laid atop gimmick. Utterly without redeeming value of any kind. Puzzles are supposed to be *fun*. This one absolutely wasn't. As are[n't] an increasing number of NYTXWs. Enough.

J. Eubanks 12:33 PM  

I found this one tough but ultimately satisfying. Many of the themed clues looked wrong even completely filled in (especially BLARED OUT) until I grokked the theme all the way down at PROVOLONE, when I was like "Wait... PROVO, Utah... sole, LONE..." and the dots all suddenly connected. Feels like it's been a minute since I had to really work for the theme revelation. Felt nice.

Speaking of PROVOLONE, it fits fine into the "skip" theme. You can skip the first chapter of a book. It's being a touch too prescriptivist to nitpick that one, imo.

A lot of high highs and low lows. Was proud of getting FLORAL without crosses, but initially had almond instead of MALTED.

YEA HIGH was easily best answer of the day. I liked RECIPROCAL a lot too. Got it with RECI; really helped with that SW corner.

burtonkd 12:33 PM  

@ Lewis, loved this! I found it tough, but had that great experience of having to put the puzzle down, then continue later and have the SW reveal itself

albatross shell 12:37 PM  

I felt I must be trying to be intentionally obtuse doing this puzzle. I held on to SKIPdOWN way too long because, even SEEing SILOS was certainly correct, I had become overly attached to ATEadog (with relish) because of the PETA incorrectness of it all. Tell me that was an intended trap Lewis, please. I could not find where to skip down to make anything make sense and surrendered to SKIPTOWN and ATEITUP.

Another masterwork of abstruseness was the NBA crossing BEEB and the related clues. I maintained my pretense of dimness by not getting NBA until I got BBALL. @Lewis made a fool out of me.

I did draw the line at LeMONjELLO being an Italian anything and worked on the crosses to get something I had no idea existed but was correct.

So the solve was a bit slow and sloggy as per Rex but he seemed to miss the good fill and the AMUSEME clues and the Masterpiece of Thursday theme trickery that emerged.

Each part of the theme is a wonder. A Thursday's Thursday without a rebus.

One last bit of dimness. Being a fan of Edward Abbey, I momentarily forgot his self- mythologizing town in Arizona was Oracle and his self-mythologizing town in Pennsylvania was Home. I moved HOME to AZ and yes in a recession SALES maybe in the pits but that really flops and the town is totally obscure and it is all in one word and not part of both words. Then I saw MESA and realized HOME was in the wrong state and order was restored.

Anonymous 12:42 PM  

Definitely amongst the least enjoyable Thursdays ever.

Anonymous 12:48 PM  

I also thought it was “yay high” and will very much keep on assuming it is.

Masked and Anonymous 12:59 PM  

Dang, @Lewis -- yer puz put up quite a fight, at our house. Luved it, when I got er all done, tho.
Really cool theme idea, replete with both bonus BUTTEs and MESAs.

Kinda tough to get a toe-hold on the whole theme mcguffin at first, as the themers of course didn't initially match up with their clues. M&A peeked at the revealer's clue, but about all it told m&e upfront was what I already knew … gotta do somethin, to make sense out of the clues. Splatzin TX into BLAREDOUT didn't seem to help, tho ...

Only no-knows were: LIMONCELLO & ELAINE. LIMONCELLO was a nanosecond-eater, becuz it was a longball that crossed that there TX-themer [and also the AZ-themer] of mystery.

Liked that @Muse darlin also was hidden in an answer, even tho she ain't a city name.

fave stuff: AMUSEME [Made m&e contemplate a puztheme with a MUSE UMS themer]. ATEITUP [as in ate up them city names]. RECIPROCAL. ALLTIME. YEAHIGH [har].

staff weeject picks: OED & WDS. Luv it, when the lil rascals talk to each other, durin the solvequest.

Thanx for the looong fun experience, @Lewis dude. Nice ahar-moment job.

Masked & Anonymo4Us

got yer illustrations, so better to use the "Down Home" solvequest option:

Gary Jugert 1:03 PM  

Definitely not on my wavelength for a Thursday. Had to Go-ogle a few proper names, otherwise I'd still be at it. It was fun re-grokking the theme answers. Kinda wish it had been backward and we would have gotten a normal clue for the theme words and then directions how to parse them in the revealer.

Delighted with YEA HIGH! OH FUN was fun. Love ODEA.

Way too many "for shorts," and ADAM, OED and WDS were particularly brutal.

@Lewis is the man. He praises every puzzle and has the bravery to put his own out among the wolves. Let's be more like him.


1 ... but of course he didn't listen.
2 Trait of the ME generation baby boomers.
3 Hey, your table is ready.
4 Where I intend to spend my later years.
5 Seinfeld anti-heroine given Jamaican tangelo.
6 Emotional turmoil of every stand-up comedian.
7 "Justin, stop being a turd."
8 Biblical icon heard they taste just like chicken.


Israel Padilla 1:11 PM  

Nope, not happening. Today's theme was too cryptic for me so I completely agree with Rex's take on it. It's as if they were messing with us. Who knows.

I really enjoyed 59D because I learned something new! Owls cannot move their eyes because they don't really have eyeballs - their eyes come in a different shape. Now I can see why they are so good at rotating their head. Good stuff.

How to deal with hard crosswords...

Crosswordeze 1:14 PM  

@Mr. Cheese 8:43

NSFW = Not Safe For Work (as a web link)

old timer 1:14 PM  

I just didn't get it. Oh, I caught on that each answer included a city in the state referred to. But I somehow thought the revealer was SKIP dOWN, put it in, so a DNF for me. I did note the puzzle was by our very own Lewis. And now that I do get the trick, I approve.

Joe Dipinto 1:19 PM  

@liveprof – "The Green Paint Mystery" is the title of an unfinished manuscript created several years ago by members of the commentariat here. It has untold value as a collector's item.

I didn't find this too difficult. Seeing that postal code MT was attached to an answer that had to be REBUTTED, made the city-state connections quickly obvious. Then it was just a question of what the revealer would be. I did get briefly held up in the SW with SECEDE as the answer for "withdraw". Nice job, @Lewis.

I almost posted a 1974 song yesterday. I'm posting a different one today. (But actually this one works for yesterday too, sort of.)

Teedmn 1:20 PM  

I'll agree with Rex on the difficulty level of this puzzle but that's about it. I can't even agree with him on enjoying YEA HIGH because that;s where my error was. I had _E__I_H in at 39A for so long that I decided it was going to end in IsH. I splatzed it in and when the rest came in, YEAHIsH was a WOE that the kids must say nowadays. YEAH, should have seen GEDS, oh well.

34A was briefly CHEEkIEST because of cheeks and Booty but I knew kir wasn't in a Manhattan, the only 3-letter liquor-related K word I could think of.

DONNE being the source of the 50D quote was just on Jeopardy! a week or so ago. Did I miss anyone commenting here on Dan Feyer's appearance on the show last week? Now I see @Hartley70 mentioned it. I was bummed he didn't win.

Lewis, great puzzle, a tricky Thursday but with no crazy tricks, thanks!

Anonymous 1:27 PM  

NSFW = not suitable for work. In other words, don’t open this at the office!

okanaganer 1:31 PM  

Like Rex and many others I found this quite challenging, largely because of the clues. If maybe both the types of answers had been clued (with the town; without the town)?

Even though it didn't click perfectly for me, I gotta say that @Lewis is one class act... just read his 10:35 am comment.

My favorite answer was YEAH HIGH. At 20 across I couldn't fit TENNESSEE ERNIE FORD so I tried just ERNIE briefly.

For "enjoyed with relish" I initially ATE A DOG. Then right next door, the Lufthansa flight was FLUG, which is German for flight, and I thought: wow, this is a tough puzzle.

[Spelling Bee: yd pg-1, missed this 7er.]

Anonymous 1:50 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SFR 2:09 PM  

@Lewis: A delicious Aha moment from this one. Thank you! The only hesitation was UT's city as a prefix when the other states' cities were all infixes.

ghostoflectricity 2:32 PM  

Actually thought this one was pretty easy. I have more issues with yesterday's puzzle, with two "car" themes citing actual brand names and two more generic; I thought the theme execution was flawed.

My only question is, how is CHEST a BOOTY SPOT? In the slang with which I am familiar, BOOTY refers to hindquarters, not chests. Someone please educate me.

SantaMonica Pete 2:35 PM  

Actually enjoyed the puzzle thoroughly. Would have been nice to realize that Dante couldn’t possibly have referred to the bells tolling and that provolone has no “a”, but otherwise fun solve.

Hack mechanic 2:47 PM  

Also known as "Aunty" to Brits

Hack mechanic 2:54 PM  

Bit of a slog all round. Had the revealer early on but never did suss the theme. Ground it out on crosses except for the NW & rebutted

CDilly52 2:55 PM  

@Anders 6:31 AM. I agree that “around town” would be more descriptive of the task requires for one’s brain to arrive at the theme’s “trick.” Excellent solution to what bothered me most about the puzzle today.

bertoray 2:55 PM  

Hi and thank you Lewis. Very chewy. Seemingly more so because, catching up after having missed a few days puzzles, I thought I was doing a Tuesday puzzle. Hilarity did not ensue lol.

Peter P 3:00 PM  

@Beezer - either "safe" or "suitable" work for NSFW, as you noted. Wikipedia has it as "not safe for work." Merriam-Webster lists both, with "safe" as the first definition. Apparently, "not safe for wife" is another expansion. NetLingo, a dictionary of internet words and initialisms, only gives "not safe for work."

CDilly52 3:04 PM  

Decent start followed by a whole lot of nothing-particularly at the first theme answer even though I had BUTTE. The issue is exactly as @Rex described. No actual clues exist for the complete word including the city in the theme answers.

I picked up momentum again at the bottom including SKIP TOWN, which got me back up to BUTTE and because I had also gotten PROVOLONE completely with crosses, I figured it out. However, I do not think SKIP TOWN is as accurate as it could have been. @Anders has a much better idea with around TOWN (6:14 AM).

G. Weissman 3:06 PM  

I completed the right-hand side of the puzzle and then decided it was such an unenjoyable effort that the puzzle was not worth completing. Then I read Rex’s almost invariably meh-to-negative (typically realistic) review and looked for Lewis’s inevitably super-positive review. Wow, I thought upon not seeing it, even Lewis didn’t have a kind word for this puzzle. Then I discovered that he authored it! Congratulations are in order …

Peter P 3:06 PM  

@BlueStater -- While I did not like this particular puzzles, Thursday are pretty much supposed to be gimmick puzzles. That's why they're my favorite puzzle of the week, though it's been a few weeks since I really enjoyed a Thursday. I see no issue with gimmicks or even layers of gimmicks on that day. It's understood that Thursdays will likely feature some sort of gimmick, whether it be a rebus, words nested in the answers, words snaking around the grid, black squares being used somehow in the solve, etc. That extra layer of lateral thinking is enjoyable for me in a puzzle. It's cool if you don't like it, just skip Thursdays.

G. Weissman 3:09 PM  

Ghostofelectricity @ 2:32 PM asked “how is CHEST a BOOTY SPOT? In the slang with which I am familiar, BOOTY refers to hindquarters, not chests. Someone please educate me.” There “booty” refers to pirate booty, not to butts, and chest refers to a treasure chest. I think that’s pretty clever of Lewis!

Chirp 3:18 PM  

Yes agree I had to come back to it a couple times but loved the aha moment when I typed in provolone. It was a good Thursday puzzle

A 3:23 PM  

Wow, different strokes indeed, @Rex! This was my favorite solve of the week - clues that twisted and turned, answers that described my progress (TRAVAIL —>TRIES —>EKED —>OH FUN), and ultra low PPP (especially if you SKIP TOWNs). My favorite entry was WDS - so audacious it made me laugh out loud. “Take that, crossword! Here’s mud in your RYE.”

I wasn’t disappointed by the “arbitrariness” at all, though I did glance back to see if the themers related in some way. No? Okay, no worries. One trick per theme is plenty to AMUSE ME.

CODA and POST provided pleasing grid symmetry, as did RADAR and ALERT, and the vowel-rich LIAISE and ELAINE.

I counted fourteen double-your-money WDS: REBUTTED BASSO BEEB ADDL BADDEAL ALLTIME CHEERIEST LIMONCELLO TESS TOSS SEE DONNE POLLED and the small but mighty BBALL. If you count BBALL twice that’s 15.

Nice collection of BASSO EGO HERO RELO LOGO. SILOS is just out there by itself.

NORM over CHEER reminded me of the song about wanting to go where everybody knows your name. (Almost didn’t link it, but I found a version of the writer singing it during quarantine and it takes on a new meaning.)

Thanks, @Lewis, OLD MAN, for the workout. I ATE IT UP.

Bauskern@nmh.org 3:27 PM  

Lewis - - - - your comments on this blog stand out as being always positive and classy.

Your puzzle today was devilishly hard. My slowest Thursday in forever.
But I enjoyed it.

Putting down ALMOND milk made the SW corner super tough for the longest time.
Once I saw MALTED that helped (a little).

Masked and Anonymous 3:38 PM  


BE NO MEAN FEAT = {Magic stalk growth? (AK)}.

Thanx again, @Lewis.


Gruff 3:56 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lewis 4:03 PM  

@M&A -- Hah!

Anonymous 4:11 PM  

I rather enjoyed the theme and the challenge. I was surprised to see so many (other than the usually grumpy Rex!) who didn't.

Tobias 4:24 PM  

"If you're gonna put me through the wringer, at least give me a prize for my perseverance."

Thank, perfectly sums my feelings of exhaustion after this one.

Epmac 4:39 PM  

Rex, I often think you are too tough on the puzzles, but I hated this one. It was exceptionally hard and basically a slog.

Eniale 5:00 PM  

Of course it goes without saying this was a DNF for me, but I got most of it.

@bocamp, thank for nice comment yesterday.

BTW, John Donne was indeed a poet, but the "no man is an island....... it tolls for thee..." quote comes from one of his sermons. He was a churchman too.

Masked and Anonymous 5:30 PM  

@Lewis - Well, hey -- at least my extra themer suggestion woulda been more acceptable than:

WE'RE NOT DREAMING = { (you make up the clue here) ? (NV)}.

M&A Think Tanked

Anonymous 5:32 PM  

Started this last night and could tell after about five minutes that it was going to be a tough one. I had just about the whole grid filled in after half an hour, but I couldn't make sense of the theme, so I decided to sleep on it. Things were no clearer in the morning, and another half hour of staring and letter substitutions didn't unlock the solution. Finally, I returned to it this afternoon and immediately grasped the theme. Alas, something was still amiss as I was not getting that satisfying chime indicating that I had successfully solved the puzzle. Another quick scan revealed the culprit: I had spelled LIMONCELLO with an E as the second letter instead of an I. Puzzle solved! I was certainly baffled for a while, but in retrospect I don't think the theme was unfair or boring, especially given the state initials in parentheses. I enjoyed some of the cluing despite the overabundance of abbreviations and "informallys"; the clue on OED (Meaningful work?) was especially good. For Rex the puzzle was clearly a TRAVAIL, but I relished the challenge.

Joe 5:43 PM  

IFC crossing with OH FUN did me in. Did not enjoy this puzzle.

albatross shell 5:47 PM  

The theme answers in the the puzzles are actually clued by the clue as listed plus the the answer to the revealer. HOMESALES is
town in Arizona (MESA) added to HOLES (the answer to Pits) in a way consistent with the the revealer and to make a new word. Correct answers are determined by other clues and other answers all the time. Themes often make no sense until you get one or all of them. People say all the time solved as a themeless. Didn't see the theme til I came here. He may not like it. Fine I understand. But @kitshef saw it after the first one. Me? I needed three of them.

Rex also changes skips to jump over to make his argument LONE is PROVOLONE when you skip the town PROVO or if you jump over the town PROVO. It is different in that it is not buried in the word but since it is one word it is still hidden in the word.

ghostoflectricity 5:58 PM  

Thank you, G. Weissman. A few hours after I posted the quizzical comment about "chests" and "booty," I remembered the old term for a pirate's ill-gotten loot, or booty, often stashed in a treasure chest. D'oh! on me. But really, in this day and age, when anyone sees or hears the term "booty," is pirate's pelf the first thing that comes to mind?

Anonymous 6:15 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous 6:20 PM  

Great puzzle. Haters gonna hate. It’s their right. This is America man. H/T The Wire.

jazzmanchgo 6:34 PM  

At one time, "BOOTY" meant "loot" (usually stolen). Pirates stored their stolen "booty" in a chest (and then, according to legend, often buried it).

MkB 6:35 PM  

I mean, I usually love really weird Thursdays with hard to crack tricks and this…was just miserable. Between the abbreviations and the “informals” that have never been used by a real person in the history of the English language, I truly grew to hate it even aside from the theme.

Smith 6:46 PM  

@Lewis wow, super challenging!

I actually saw the theme at BLAREDOUT, and still could not finish. Partly, as others have said, after that and REBUTTED I thought the town had to be in the middle. Was completely destroyed by PROVOLONE! But I accept that by skipping PROVO you get LONE.

No harm done, good to be made humble once in awhile.

Thanks for the puzzle and *especially* for your daily awesome comments!

Lewis 6:46 PM  

Just a quick thank you to all who shared your feedback -- good and bad -- on my puzzle. It will help my future puzzles! Grazie!

BobL 7:56 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
tea73 8:09 PM  

I don't leave comment regularly and rarely on Thursdays and my husband and I do them over dinner, but wanted to tell @Lewis we thoroughly enjoyed this one. My husband was sure there were Renos in other places besides Utah, but eventually we realized it must be Provo. While I thought it was fine to skip over it as the initial word, I did think (channeling my inner Rex) that it would have been more elegant if another clue had had the city at the end.) A couple of awkward abbrevs. (Looking at you WDS), but nothing we couldn't suss out.

While I'd rate the puzzle the puzzle slightly harder than our average Thursday, (it took all of dinner), but its crunchiness was appreciated, definitely not too hard at.

Anonymous 9:03 PM  

I always get a kick out of the effusive praise for difficult puzzles from those who are trying to foist themselves above other solvers, while likely hitting the 'reveal' but before any of us did.

Anonymous 9:25 PM  

I’m a longtime follower of this blog, especially the comments. I thought the puzzle was straightforward, halfway between my best time and my average. So, not bad here. But I only just found out that Lewis wrote it! Congrats!!

Anonymous 9:29 PM  

I look forward to Thursday puzzles for fun. This was definitely not fun. We saw Holst’s “Planets” performed live last week, and still I was stumped on “suite.” SW corner was a slog, “theme” made no sense. Looking forward to next Thursday.

Bernie 10:27 PM  

I thought it challenging and the clues work if you skip the town. Nice.

Anonymous 10:28 PM  

Agree. I had fun with it, thought it was appropriately challenging and enjoyed having to figure out the theme to complete the puzzle.

Martha 10:48 PM  

I agree with Diego @10:49!

Anonymous 10:56 PM  

with all the carping??? at least it's not a rebus, too.

Laura 11:07 PM  

Much as I loved the puzzle, I can't really argue with Rex's point about included words. But...since except for the themers the puzzle was easier than a normal Thursday, I guessed the included words before I untangled the theme, which was a fun aha for me, unlike OFL. Great puzzle with it's original theme...hope we see more with themes with this originality.

Aelurus 11:18 PM  

I had a hard time with the five themers as across answers and so enjoyed bopping around the grid figuring out the devilishly clever cluing (and was it ever), filling in squares until the trick would become clear.

Was three-quarters through the puzzle (so the app told me) and still I’d no idea about the top four themers I had filled in, hard won, wholly from the down crosses. For 53A I had only LONE and thought (read knew) the “L” was part of a “missing” first word. The SW looked impossible. Could not completely fill in RECIPROCAL, TRAVAIL, ELAINE, and POLLED.

Took a crossword break, came back to it hours later, and after a few seconds saw POLLED! Then PREP and RELO, which gave me PROVOLONE (just one word!). Finally I saw that it wasn’t REleNT but RECANT and that impossible SW area fell.

But what’s going on? I’d avoided reading the revealer at 62A and it was time. SKIP TOWN? I went back to the top thinking they might contain the capitals of the states in parentheses. First one, nope; no Helena, that’s for sure.

Oh wait. Not capitals but TOWNs. And there in 17A was BUTTE, within RED, a definite sunset shade! And I got it, the other four themers too, finishing cleanly. Funny how when you see it, you can’t believe you ever did not see it. No way can you unsee it.

That AHA moment was so satisfying it left me delighted too. Just a quick look at the comments: Hi, @Joaquin, @Barbara S, @Carola, @JD, @Nancy, and all the many others who enjoyed the solve. Completely agree with OffTheGrid 6:45 am, @Loren 9:13, and @Whatsername 10:56 that having no circles made the aha moment even better.

And @Lewis 10:35 am: Thank you! Had a wonderful time. How gracious your own comments. My heartfelt condolences on the loss of your beloved Chester.

noni 11:31 PM  

I am impressed that a lot of people could solve this puzzle. I got the theme eventually but even after that I got hung up on all the informals and abbeviations. After 2 hours, I just looked up a couple of the celebs and then I could finish.

Anonymous 12:27 AM  

Terrible puzzle on many levels. Thanks, Rex.

sean thomas hennigan 12:32 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous 12:41 AM  

Holy moley, y’all — stop complaining about obscure this and abstruse that, and remember that this is a PUZZLE. By definition it’s supposed to take figuring out, be perplexing even. Lewis, about whom the worst thing anyone could say is “Ah, that guy, he’s just too nice”, has served up a puzzle with with a bit of a head-scratcher vibe. On a Thursday. Works for me.

BTW, Lewis, we already suspected you were classier than the rest of us, and your beyond-gracious comments proved it. Very sorry about your pup — he was lucky to have had a Lewis In his life.

Clark 1:25 AM  

I love Thursdays--this one included. I was quite a ways into it, starting to feel the frustration of not knowing what was going on. It's Thursday. Be patient. All will become clear. And it did.

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

I agree. This was superb!!!!! There are a lot of boring, easy puzzles in the world. This was NYT worthy. Thank you for making my Thursday, Lewis!

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

PLEASE don't apologize! This was everything that a NYT Thursday should be- interesting and exciting, with a delightful AHA. 😊 I used to think that Times solvers were thoughtful. Not everything needs to please the lowest common denominator.

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

Wow, loved this one. Easy, easy, sweet reveal of theme, suddenly a brick wall in SW, crumble and done. Thank you.

Anonymous 7:52 AM  

Still dunno what WDS means in the NBA sense.

Anonymous 8:04 AM  

Nevermind re WDS. I misread the clue as 5A not 15A and due to 68A’s physical relationship to 5A, and 5A being referenced in another clue, never looked back.

CAK 11:18 AM  

An unnecessarily harsh comment, Diego. Poor form...

thefogman 10:58 AM  

Not enjoyable at all.

rondo 12:16 PM  

Rare DNF due to the W and SW. The PPP bit me.

spacecraft 12:18 PM  

Wow. So the only reason this Herculean task ran on a Thursday was because it's themed? C'mon, man, this is Saturday stuff, and you know it. Had the rating been anything but challenging, I'd have BLAREDOUT an objection.

No, I didn't SEE that one, or any of them--until I came to the SW, saw -OLONE, and thought "The only -OLONE I know is my favorite cheese, PROVOLONE..." and then "Hey, wait a minute. There's a PROVO, UT!" And then, with many AHS, I saw it all.

Tried IVEHADIT for the "...up to here" clue but the damn thing wouldn't snit--I mean fit. For a while I even thought it was a rebus so it would fit. I now want IVEHADIT in a puzzle with that clue.

The clue set is from hell, but I managed to work through it. While I agree some of the fill is iffy, this was a great brain exercise, and the triumph points accrued are simply unmeasurable. Birdie.

After BBGGY, I had two choices for my second guess--and picked the wrong one. No eagle today, had to settle for a bird.

Burma Shave 12:57 PM  


TESS likes an OLDMAN,
NOT a BADDEAL, I've found,
EKED OUT what she can,


Diana, LIW 1:55 PM  

Took me forever to figure out how to SKIP TOWN. When I saw it - and AHA moment if ever there was one.

Of course, I did have to look up some names.

I remain

Diana, LIW, Nameless in Crosswordland

Dr. B 3:51 PM  

I like to like the puzzles, and I am grateful for them. That said, this one made no sense. Out.

BS2 5:36 PM  

from yesterday:


a BADASS AUTO right ASIDE her,
IT will ENTICE her UP TO so far,


Jayson J. Nicholas 2:17 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP