Lab-engineered fare, facetiously / SUN 11-13-22 / 1993 R&B hit with the lyric "Keep playin' that song all night" / Mesopotamian metropolis / Tree of the custard apple family / Brand name-checked in Paul Simon's "Kodachrome"

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Constructor: Samuel A. Donaldson

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: FRANKENFOOD (62A: Lab-engineered fare, facetiously ... or a hint to the six crossings of shaded squares) / BUMPER CROPS (73A: Bountiful harvests for farmers ... or another hint to the crossings of shaded squares) — there are six different "crop" collisions, or "crossings" in the grid; the crops appear as letter strings inside circled squares inside ordinary puzzle answers.

Word of the Day: "HEY, MR. DJ!" (49D: 1993 R&B hit with the lyric "Keep playin' that song all night") —
Hey Mr. D.J." is a song by American R&B group Zhané, recorded for their debut album, Pronounced Jah-Nay (1994). It was released as the group's debut single in August 1993 and also features a rap from Rottin Razkals member Fam. The song samples "Looking Up to You" by singer Michael Wycoff. The single peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold by the RIAA for selling 500,000 copies domestically. In Australia, it peaked at number nine, while reaching number 20 in New Zealand. Originally, the song was recorded and released on the 1993 compilation album Roll Wit tha Flava. // Zhané (/ʒɑːˈn/ zhah-NAY) was an American R&B duo, best known for their 1993 hit "Hey Mr. D.J.", which reached No. 6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Other popular hits include "Groove Thang" (U.S. No. 17) and minor hit "Sending My Love", both released in 1994. The group was part of Queen LATIFAH's Flavor Unit collective [!!?]. (emph. mine) (wikipedia)
• • •

Never good to finish the puzzle with "holy s***, that is Awful!" but that is exactly how this one concluded. That SW corner is ... I dunno. ACTIVES???? Is that short for ... "active ingredients"???? I was wholly willing to believe that [Some skin care ingredients, informally] were ACTIVOS, as I had regular crosswordese ODESSA at 120A: Mesopotamian metropolis instead of godawful crosswordese EDESSA. Throw in the never-seen-it-in-the-singular VAGARY, and you have one untasty soup down there. Makes TOMATO/CORN sound downright tasty. Which brings me to one of my main problems with this theme: FRANKENFOOD suggests something, well, horrifying, or at least unappetizing, and, well, MANGO and BANANA go great together, actually, as do OLIVE and RICE and TOMATO and CORN. And FRANKENFOOD is, as the clue says, "lab-engineered"... which has nothing to do with crossing two pre-existing foods. BUMPER CROPS makes *much* more sense as the revealer here, since, in every theme answer instance, two "crops" sort of "bump" into each other and ricochet off at a ninety-degree angle. The FRANKENFOOD thing probably seemed like a cool idea, and certainly gives the puzzle a highly unusual double central reveal, but it doesn't really make sense. It's decorative, and so inapt that it's a distraction. Basically, this is an OK theme if you ditch FRANKENFOOD—it's a cool answer, sure, but it's just not an accurate reflection of what's going on in the theme. I actually couldn't even see the theme until I got BUMPER CROPS. That is, despite having three of the six "crossings" in place, FRANKENFOOD didn't help me see the "foods" that were involved at all. But BUMPER CROPS. Mwah. There it is. The only true revealer.

The fill on this one seemed fine. Except for that egregious SW corner, I don't really have any complaints. And it wasn't a breeze, either. Not hard, but I definitely had to work in places (unlike yesterday's Tuesday-posing-as-Saturday). I had PECAN before PAPAW (1D: Tree of the custard apple family). I needed a bunch of crosses to get LASER TAG (33A: Game typically played in the dark). I have never, ever heard of AERObiology (and don't understand calling attention to your crosswordese by turning it into something semi-obscure like this, but whatever) (69A: Prefix with biology). Again, it seems like the editor was inexplicably smitten with the idea of duplicate cluing (see 81A: Prefix with biology = ASTRO). Almost always makes one of the clues feel really clunky ... and yet he persists with this conceit that most people don't notice and no one really enjoys. The whole eastern section was by far the hardest part for me. AXE HEAD??? (48A: It might be stuck on the chopping block). I had HEAD but zero idea what could come before it. I only ever think of the "chopping block" as something metaphorical. Also, ITTY!?!? Ugh. I had EENY (ugh) and ITSY (also ugh). Just an awful little (!) "word" to get held up on. Was unsure of both TONES and FILM, and LATIFAH was reasonably well hidden, and HARD G was doing what it always does (ugh) (78A: What gorillas have that giraffes lack?), so yeah, that whole section was a wrestling match, and not a terribly fun one. Everything else felt pretty normal, difficulty-wise. 

This puzzle had one great answer, and here it is:

I got JIF and thought "... terminal 'J'!?!!? Seven letters ending in 'J'!? What the hell can that possibly be!?" And then I took one look at the clue and thought "Oh, wow, yes, Yes. Now we're talking!" A great answer that I came at from just the right angle. The rest of the grid is solid enough, but nothing comes near the dizzying high of "HEY, MR. DJ!"

Had TORRENT before TORNADO (89D: Relative of a waterspout). Hilariously, wrote in LON before LIZ (52A: Politico Cheney). That NFL TEAM clue is really not good, considering only one person on the "TEAM" actually does any "hiking" (86A: Hiking group?). In case you were worried that there was some progressive politician you'd never heard of called FLO, don't worry (83D: Longtime Progressive spokeswoman). It's capital-P Progressive, and she's just the longtime spokesperson for that particular insurance agency. Binghamton grad! We're very proud. Have a nice day. And happy birthday to my mother, without whom I would literally physically actually be nothing. See you in a week, mom!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:38 AM  

Easy-medium. Clever and fun to solve/figure out. No erasures and no WOEs. Liked it a bunch and Jeff gave it POW.

Joe Dipinto 12:43 AM  

The print edition ruins the LIBIDO clue by capitalizing Congress.

egsforbreakfast 1:31 AM  

There probably should have been a last second re-cluing of 81A ASTRO as a mini tribute to the new World Series Champs. It looks odd that ASTRO sits SMACKDAB on top of NFLTEAM.

I’m SO UP to RE UP that I could REAR UP. If I were still doing the daily ASS-derivative tally, REARUP presents some interesting possibilities.

I got the theme quickly (SQUASH/OAT), and this proved helpful at several later crossings, resulting in a fast solve. I thought the shaded down part of many of the crosses made for a plausible name for the new hybrid. SQUAT (SQUASH/OAT), BANGO (BANANA/MANGO), BELON (BEET/MELON). Of course, without the “B”, BELON is just Space Karen.

Thanks for a fun puzzle, Samuel A. Donaldson.

Loren Muse Smith 1:51 AM  

I got a real kick out of this one and had no issue with the extra FRANKENFOOD reveal. I had never heard that term and now love FRANKEN as a prefix. It has a negative connotation, so calling a portmanteau a frankenword doesn’t really work.

I was stunned to learn the word VAGARY. I had no idea this word existed. I’ve probably heard vagaries a ton and just assumed they were saying vagueries, something completely different, if even something at all; vaguery doesn’t appear in Merriam-Webster. I vote it be included ‘cause it’s definitely a word for me.

I have an issue with the clue for DINES ON. This implies you’re respectably seated at a table, using utensils. A napkin is involved. Pachelbel’s Canon may be playing. What if you’re standing over the sink eating the last pork chop with your fingers? Dipping it in the mashed potatoes? Below Deck rerun airing in the background. That’s more of a chowed down on type situation.

I also gave the side-eye to 118A: “Is delighted by the invitation” LOVES TO. I sat and thought about this for a while. “Invitation” implies whatever thing it is hasn’t happened yet, so “would love to” feels more natural. But I guess if it’s a standing invitation - Mrs. Voelker told Sage she could come over any time to play with her dog, Miss Wicket, and she LOVES TO.

“Eye-grabbing email subject line.” Hmm. LIBIDO POLICE, TAPIR SOUP, NFL TEAM DINES ON GIFT HORSE…

I’m no baseball aficionado, but over in the east, we have PIRATE crossing ASTRO. (Hi, @egsforbreakfast.)

I know I’m in the minority for liking entries like HARD G. For this one, I immediately think of the word gif and remind myself it’s not supposed to sound like 82A, right? ‘Cause that G stands for graphics. I hate saying it that way.

I’m just going to come out and admit that I didn’t know congress had another meaning. So what a helluva clue. Hah. And it crosses that town in Maine. I imagined an ambiguous conversation between two Mainers in, say, Kenduskeag:

A: I finally convinced LIZ to let me take her ON A DATE. Took her into the city and splurged.
B: Oh yeah? BANGOR?

. . . and we’ll just leave it right there. Ahh, the vagaries of language. . .

(I’m sure this is a joke as old as the hills, but I want credit for arriving at it independently as a Maine outsider.)

Ken Freeland 5:09 AM  

Almost agree with @jae 's positive assessment, but turns out I had a natick after all, which I would never have known about without Rex's review (odessa vs EDESSA). I just figured that mesopotanian was to be understood literally as middle of the rivers, and knowing little about Odessa (and less about lotions) though it might well apply. Shucks.
The clue for "LIBIDO'" was exquisitely witty, and almost made the puzzle worthwhile by itself!

Conrad 5:20 AM  

No happy music at first, due to the eDESSA/ODESSA trap. But I take issue with the clue for 46A. It should be “Like some diamonds”. There certainly are (very rare) red diamonds, but the clue seems to imply that all diamonds are red. In any event, it doesn’t imply but states outright that anything red is diamond-like. “Why the disappointment? A tomato is practically a diamond.”

Loren Muse Smith 5:51 AM  

@Conrad - dude. I was right there with you wondering about a RED diamond. Then I remembered all the great times I had playing Spades (they're black) and Hearts (they're red).

mmorgan 6:37 AM  

The gimmick was very clever, but this was not at all a fun solve for me. There were some cute clues and answers, but mostly it felt flat, not sure why. Just realized I though it was SQUASH/gOAT and was confused that goats would be considered a crop.

Lewis 6:50 AM  

Neither a trudge, nor a flyby; neither a brain twist, nor child’s play. This hit my Sunday sweet spot, with smart answers and clues, and with the underlying purpose being to entertain rather than vex. With the feeling that from start to finish, I was in good hands. And in which soon after I’ve started, I was immersed in an “Oh I’m loving this” feeling, a genuine vacation.

Buoyed by humor – i.e., clues for CRIER, PEDDLE and the magnificent one for LIBIDO – buoyed by running into answers not often seen in Crosslandia, lovely answers like CREEM (its logo immediately flashed in my mind), I NAILED IT, BUMPER CROPS, and HEY MR. DJ. And buoyed by a fun theme that helped with the solve.

I left the puzzle happy and satisfied, and grateful for what you made, Samuel. Thank you, this was a gift!

BritsolvesNYT 6:52 AM  

Not a huge fan of this one, just some foods crossing to justify the inclusion of frankenfood and some fill that felt pretty rough… quite a lot of brand references made this one frustrating for an overseas solver.

Son Volt 7:34 AM  

Liked the wordplay in the themers - didn’t mind FRANKENWORD at all. Sunday sized - I think the overall fill didn’t hold up well. Some good things here and there - but a lot of glue and fluff.

The LIBIDO clue was fantastic. Not sure what Rex was going for ripping the Hiking group clue - clear as day and fun. Is it HEY MR. DJ or MR., MR. DJ? . Nice to see EUCLID get some props. Can still see and smell my sisters’ can of AQUA NET.

@LMS - LOL the joke has some mileage to it. My favorite variation is the conversation around the coffee pot at work Monday morning:

Joe: What’d you do this weekend?

Tim: Took my girlfriend to Maine.

Joe: Bangor?

Tim: Nah - just talked.

DYAD x EDESSA was rough. Another ANORAK sighting. Kind of like the violent bent of AXEHEAD and LACERATES.

They put Geronimo in jail down south where he couldn’t look a GIFT HORSE in the mouth

A little long in the tooth - but overall an enjoyable solve.

TTrimble 7:48 AM  

I had trouble in many of the same spots as Rex. To bottom it off, that nasty little trick EDESSA, a WOE if ever I saw one. And I too was prepared to think ACTIVoS was a thing. (It sounds better than ACTIVES, which just sounds wrong in the English I know.) I mean, true, oDESSA made sense only if my geography is waaaay off, but that's another thing I was prepared to think in the moment. Funnily, I also stupidly put in "Lon" before LIZ although I know damn well his last name is Chaney, not Cheney.

I knew deep down that Rex would go gaga over HEY MR DJ, even though I don't know the song. I just knew it anyway. I for one was much keener on LATIFAH because I was going a little nuts wondering who this queen might be (Grace Kelly???), and then it hit me, and anyway she's great and welcome any time in my puzzle.

"Cocksure" has much more attitude than SMUGGER. In addition, it's difficult to picture someone being cocksure without that person being male. It just is.

LIVER, like BEETS: one of those FOODs that you either love or hate. (Yuck.)

A variant of @LMS's BANGOR joke is played out in this scene from Frasier. That show defines the word 'cringeworthy'. But in a good way.

Pangram puzzle today. But in an understated way. Rex either didn't notice or didn't mind or care.

Besides EDESSA, the main thing I didn't like about the puzzle is that it was very segmented and played like a bunch of little puzzles. These little apertures separating regions like the A followed by T in LASER TAG, the A and E in TAKE ROOT, the two A's in SMACK DAB (which answer I LOVE; I use it frequently), and so on -- there are LOTSA these, and they obstruct flow. An anti-zoom, anti-whoosh aesthetic. The theme is also a bit meh, even though I agree BUMPER CROPS is fun as revealers go. But making up for it is a nice variety of words from all over the map, without too much three-letter crosswordese, so in that sense it was a pleasant diversion. Clever cluing btw for LIBIDO.

SB: QB yd and dbyd. Felt lucky to get yd's longest W, mate. Currently at pg -6.

NYTom 7:55 AM  

Help me out here… how are Diamonds RED?

Colin 7:57 AM  

Also had ODESSA instead of EDESSA; I thought ACTIVOS, yeah, that's a thing. (Turns out I was thinking of Pro-Activ...)

Kudos to Sam for this clever construction. I didn't have as much of a problem with the idea of FRANKENFOOD as Rex did. The foods are not technically crossed (which would then be hybrids?), but more twisted. Quite a few PPP's crossing made this medium-difficult.

My vote for best clue goes to: "Beast with a mouth best left unexamined." - The SW corner being what it was, I stared at "_IF_ _ _ _ _ _" for a long time!

kitshef 8:00 AM  

I thought this was really cute, and enjoyed imagining what, say, a cross between a beet and a melon would taste like. And look like.

In places the fill was iffy, though:

pabloinnh 8:17 AM  

No real snags in this one, felt easier to me than OFL's description. Also, I lack his enthusiasm for HEYMRDJ, which I'm sure is fine for many, but a total WTF for me.

Hand up for the O/E DESSA conundrum. Went for ACTIVES and not ACTIVOS and was gratified when I checked it out here, as my paper is still reluctant to emit happy music.

Yay for SMACKDAB (hi @TTrimble). Always makes me think of the song "The Railroad Runs through the Middle of the House". (Right SMACKDAB through the middle of the house....)

Seems like we just had the kind of a gimmick with answers heading off at right angles. Maybe one of you historians knows what I'm thinking of.

Solid enough Sunday, SAD. Some Assorted Delights and nearly smelt=smooth. Thanks for all the fun.

SB yd--1 Cpngrats to @TTrimble, who I'm sure came up with the word I was missing, which for me is still a ???

@Son Volt, @bocamp-Finshed the Stumper but one of the Left Coast verticals was totally new to me, and that's with about six decades of crosswording. It's a poor day when you can't learn something.

Colin 8:20 AM  

@NYTom, 7:55 AM: I was stumped on this for a lo-o-ong time too! Diamonds in a deck of cards: Diamonds and hearts are red, spades and clubs are black.

pmdm 8:25 AM  

Read Jeff's POW commentary yesterday. Came here today. Goes to show how different a reaction a puzzle can evoke. Very, very subjective. My reaction? Subjectively, I liked it. Did not at all understand the diamonds clue. Perhaps if the clue was "Like a certain set of diamonds." For me, the clue implied the word "all" which would make the entry incorrect. Still, I liked the puzzle. Perhaps not as much as Jeff and certainly more than Mike. We'll see how things go this week.

Anonymous 8:30 AM  

The clue refers to playing cards. Diamonds and hearts are red. Spades and clubs are black.

Burghman 8:34 AM  

Did Rex not understand FRANKENFOOD? OLICE/RIVE, SQUAT/OASH, etc. I took it to be the lab-combining of the two crossing foods to make a new food. Or maybe I’m wrong…

Unknown 8:52 AM  

Cross a goat with squash you're left with just the goat.
That sw corner was a stinker.

NTTom 8:59 AM  

Thanks for the replies! I went for a walk and it hit me with a blast of cold air… Cards!

John H 9:04 AM  

Thank you, @Colin. That stumped me, but now that I understand I think it's a pretty good clue.

"Liver meat?" Who says that?

RJ 9:09 AM  

It took me more than a few NSEC of looking at the RED diamond answer until it realized it referred to a card suit. Many nsec.....

CVS still sells Aquanet, which used to be so sticky that in high school, we used to spray it on runs in our L'Eggs.

I had the same experience as Rex - the SW corner didn't fall into place until I got "actives".

I assumed that the Frankenfood answer referred to lab-cultured meat (which I would totally eat) but google gave me articles about GMOs. The GMO reference is a better fit - corn, squash, beets, and rice.

Not my favorite puzzle, but some answers made me smile.

Wanderlust 9:14 AM  

Slowly getting over my sputtering rage at EDESSA/ACTIVES. I also thought oDESSA seemed kinda far from Mesopotamia, but I’ve never heard of the E version, and I wouldn’t know a skin care ingredient if it was slathered on my face. When I didn’t get happy music, I went through it with a fine-toothed comb and found no errors. Had to come here to find it. Very unfair cross.

The theme was fine. The revealers didn’t help me figure it out, and I thought I’d just solve it as a themeless and puzzle out the theme afterwards. But both the SW and the SE were tough for me, so I decided to figure out the theme and use it to finish, which worked perfectly except for the natick. TOMATO got me COMATOSE (nice clue misdirection) and MELON got me ALLAN, ETOILE and MENTOR.

Great clues, including the GOAT contender for LIBIDO. I also like “old yellers” for CRIERS and “return payments” for RANSOMS.

Love the BANGOR jokes, and there’s a nice, salacious story happening up there in the NE.

Felix is ON A DATE, and he DINES ON some oysters to get his LIBIDO going. He thinks, “I can’t really BANGOR tonight, can I?” Later, he boasts, “I CAN TOO! I NAILED IT! Literally.” But he went a little hard, and MANANA, some serious aches TAKE ROOT and he has to take LOTSA ANACIN to be able to walk again.


Anonymous 9:18 AM  

Amy: Answering LMS asking "Bangor?" is 14 Down.
Liked this more than Rex did. Not a lot of fill and I learned Frankenfood.
Went on an art walk yesterday and got a few pieces: bright poppies painting and a photograph of ducks under a bridge. Now must find fitting wall space (or evict some old friends).

Pete 9:30 AM  

The whole renaming to FRANKEN___ irks me, with its reductive dismissal of a very important field of development. Recently I saw two extended stories on salmon fisheries on TV. One was a fish-farm in Indiana raising salmon. They had genetically modified salmon where the modification was the insertion of a gene from another fish which caused them to eat constantly. Between this modification, and only raising sterile females, they could get fish from roe to full size in a year or so, and at a sustainable price. The second was about the wild salmon in the Pacific, where they had been so over-fished that the number of fish returning to spawn was unsustainable. The piece on the fish farm concluded with video of Sen Lisa Murkowski decrying the fish farm, saying (more or less) "they call them FRANKENfish. I don't know what that is, but it just sounds wrong". Great, just dismiss a potential solution to a serious problem by coupling the solution to a monster (I know, Frankenstein was the doctor, not the monster).

Anonymous 9:38 AM  

I am completely stumped by the libido clue.

Lori 9:45 AM  

Had a really good time solving this puzzle. The paragraph up top refers to solvers possibly not being able to figure out the theme until the puzzle was done, so of course after I got the first themer I examined that for a good while until the penny dropped. I thought it was an original and fun theme - I've never seen this particular configuration before and looking for foods helped and informed the rest of the solve. Agree that BUMPER CROPS was the revealer; Frankenfood has a slightly different connotation to me.

I visited the town of Natick so technically DNF (by one letter). Still enjoyed the puzzle, thank you Mr. Donaldson!

NYDenizen 9:59 AM  

Wordle 511 2/6*

⬜R🟩A⬜ I ⬜S🟨E


Anonymous 10:01 AM  

My goodness… I’ve never heard of an “NSEC”, wanted it to be a rebus “One Sec”. That answer crossing the inscrutable RED was even worse for me than Activos.

RooMonster 10:11 AM  

Hey All !
Yes, yes, that dastardly SW corner. Last area to fill, ended up with SMUGiER/VAiARY/oDESSA/ACTIVoS. No Happy Music. Hmm. Said, "Maybe it's SMUGGER, not SMUGiER? Is SMUGGER even a word?" Then saw VAGARY as making more sense than VAIARY, but... still no Happy Music. Let out a "Aw, screw it!", as angstness set in, and hit Check Puzzle. It crossed out the O. Puzzlement ensued thereafter. (How's that for a sentence?) Tried I, A, E. Bam. Done. Left a sour taste in my mouth.

Full disclosure, angstness already had set in at next section over from SW corner,when I just could not come up the geometry guy. Had to Goog. Had Comb for CURL, because I had mauDe for RHODA. Completely forgot about RHODA. (I can see youngers saying, "RHODA? Maude? Mary Tyler Moore? What in blazes are those?") Nothing else was happening down there, so after the unabashed cheat, was able to finish that section.

Neat puz. Got a chuckle out of FRANKEN FOOD, so the Double Revealer is OK in my book. Interesting closed off middle/Revealer section. I would've tried (as I'm sure Samuel did) to take out the Blockers twixt FILM and AERO / OVUM and IRAN. That would've opened it up a bit. Probably couldn't get clean fill.

Anyway, HEYMRDJ looks quite funky in a puz grid. Lots of three-letter F words today!

Six F'S

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

LOL. Thanks LMS.

Tom T 10:37 AM  

Delighted to see SMACKDAB, which took me back about three decades when we fell in love with a Buster Poindexter album, featuring a song that our toddler son sang along with in full voice, highlighting his darling toddler mispronunciation: 'MACK DAB in the middle, I wanna be, 'MACK DAB in the middle! 'MACK DAB in the middle, people, so I can wock 'n woll to satisfy my soul.

Continuation of @LMS conversation:
B: Did you BANGOR?
A: No, but I considered a run for congress.

Had I been solving on paper, I would have ended a streak. But the no Happy Music enabled me to decide there must have been a Mesopotamian metropolis that wasn't named oDESSA. That was a WOE, but I corrected it for the technical victory.

The OLIVE/RICE combo had me wondering if there was a name of some celebrity hidden there--OLIVER somebody.

Enjoyable Sunday puzzle.

Diego 11:04 AM  

Agree with OFL and others about the SW. Libido was fresh, unlike the tired jokes herein. Has anybody mentioned the puzz title, Collision Courses? These are foods, not courses, right? Am I missing something? The puzz title shoulda been Bumper Crops, a cute “revealer” Also, one too many brand names methinks.
So, basically enjoyed the solve but felt a tad meh after I finished—in medium time for moi.

lodsf 11:05 AM  

Enjoyed this Sunday puzzle with BUMPER CROPS SMACK DAB in the middle. Took me forever to untangle the section right between those answers— had ‘go solo’ for the flight training milestone & not knowing either of the two crossing proper names (“Elsa” sounded fine at first & fit with “solo”) or the rock magazine made this tricky … even though the 85d vehicle definitely didn’t start with “o”.

Alas, OLDNF with the oft here mentioned erroneous “o” at the ACTIV*E* / *E*DESSA crossing.

John Oliver 11:13 AM  

Liver is an organ, not a meat.

OffTheGrid 11:14 AM  

Loved it over all. Hated the parts @Rex hated, SW, middle west, and ____biology clues. ASTRObiology? What is that?!! Study of the Texas baseball team? Study of the Jetson's dog?

oliar 11:17 AM  

Two major issues: the capitalization of Congress in 13 across makes the answer just wrong and outdated in a sexist way. The answer to 76 down ("Bygone magazine for rock enthusiasts") is also plain INCORRECT: Creem is back in magazine form! See here for deets-

Amy and Guy 11:26 AM  

Yes! Yes! Joe -100% right

Teedmn 11:39 AM  

EDESSA, oDESSA, whatevs. The theme took an NSEC to figure out post-solve, and I must say, I will not be making BEET MELON SOUP anytime soon, nor SQUASH OAT pie. The other crosses could conceivably be found in a "course" but they strike me as more random than not.

On the other hand, after reading Sam's notes at xwordinfo, I was reminded of the central revealers. While FRANKENFOOD doesn't make all that much sense in regards to the puzzle's theme, in my opinion, BUMPER CROPS does make sense and adds flavor to the solve. Somehow, when looking at the circled crosses, I'd (already) forgotten about 62A and 71A!

ACTIVES? I'm not up on skin care discussions but ACTIVES, really?

I like HEY MR DJ crossing HARD G, unexpected consonant combos that were fun to see in the grid. I liked GIFT HORSE with its clue. CHIMES IN and SMACK DAB are great phrases. I tried to get cute with 39A and put in LEa for the calf's place, making GENTLER a bit harder to fill in. Was I wrong to try "una dia" at 24A before MAÑANA arrived?

And 1A shone today, PEDDLE the pedals, har!

Thanks Sam Donaldson, it's good to have you back again!

Anonymous 11:45 AM  

“And FRANKENFOOD is, as the clue says, ‘lab-engineered’... which has nothing to do with crossing two pre-existing foods.”

That’s exactly what they do in a lab: cross different foods together. Whether it’s cross breeding to create new hybrids, or cross-splicing DNA from other foods (or non-foods) to create GMOs, they are most certainly “crossing foods.”

bocamp 12:07 PM  

Thx, Samuel; well-prepared Sun. feast! :)

Med, except for a huge blunderous dnf. :(

Had oDESSA / ACTIVoS; spent the better part of 1/2 hr. trying to discover my gaff.

My spidey-sense just didn't click in; I know generally where 'Mesopotamia' was, and I know where Odesa is … d'oh!

Learned that ancient 'Mesopotamia' extended beyond Iraq, into Turkey, hence the EDESSA region.

Otherwise, very tasty with lots of variety; enjoyed the meal! :)

@pabloinnh (8:57 AM yd) wrote:

"On to see by how many magnitudes of difficulty the Stumper exceeds this one."

6 'mags' for me. Had some luck, as I knew the PM in question, otherwise wouldn't've had any idea of the Hajji cross.
Happy 'World Kindness Day! (Random Acts of Kindness .org)

Sam Ross 12:23 PM  


Anonymous 12:24 PM  

How do you get libido, regardless of whether or not congress is capitalized?

Anonymous 12:26 PM  

Blew through this. Surprisingly had no problem with the SW corner—could tell it was going for ACTIVES, so assumed EDESSA was an old spelling. Doesn’t mean I liked either one. And VAGARY went right in. Again, the whole time hoping I was wrong. I wasn’t. LATIFAH and LASER TAG, and JIF and even HARD G all went right in. Had no idea how diamonds were RED (thank you, readers), but it had to be true. Only sticky spot was SE—could not for the life of me remember Hagar’s dog for awhile, so struggled to cross it with the unknown-to-me ALLAN and ETOILE. But a few good guesses and some word structure clues and it came together.

But the theme. Hmph. I’m usually more of a sub-Lewis baseline: I just like doing my daily puzzle—even if they are sometimes too easy, or have construction flaws, or lame fill. I might be less-impressed some days, and I might critique some, but that’s just part of 365 puzzles a year. It makes the delightful ones even more delightful. Doesn’t elicit a blind rage like Rex, and I don’t stew on something just bc it has answers that I don’t know. And I resist the urge to judge puzzle themes by some imagined rule that the puzzle did not establish… However, I did not enjoy this puzzle. Or the theme. Not sure exactly why. I just know I enjoyed the solve even less after I grokked the theme. Maybe the disdain for FRANKEN- as noted by @Pete above. Maybe too many words that sound made up. Maybe the awful clue for LIBIDO. Maybe it was just not not an interesting theme (even if the conceit was tight and consistent). But I’ve had themes be uninteresting, yet still dazzle with their concept or construction and make for a perfectly fine solve. This one did not. It did help with a few of the shaded fills, but that’s about it. I found myself desperate to hurry up and finish that last SE corner that was sticking. Even tried cheating to get it over with faster, but today’s blog entry hadn’t been posted yet. So I pulled myself together like an adult, and cleaned my FRANKENFOOD plate.

Hate to be rude, all I can say is I just know what the heart wants. Maybe next week will dazzle.

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

I just happened to see an ad or post for CREEM in print yesterday, so this clue had me really second-guessing myself for a moment… Bad timing.

puzzlehoarder 12:30 PM  

@lms, In regards to your flaccid pronunciation of GIF, just add at T to the end of it and see if that doesn't put some lead in that old Gs' pencil.

Anonymous 12:31 PM  

Papaw is not a thing. At the very best it is an alternative spelling for something obscure enough. The “Paw Paw” is, in fact, having its moment per many recent articles. I have planted a few myself in my yard. But in everything I have read I have never seen it referred to as a “Pa Paw”, and I am going to call that an egregious editing mistake (especially for a puzzle focused on food).

thefogman 12:40 PM  

I hope you’re happy Samuel A. Donaldson. You win. Had RaD not RED for 38D. Yeah, I get it now. Diamonds on playing cards are RED. Very clever. Also had oDESSA not EDESSA like just about everybody else. You must feel pretty SMUG. Boo! and rotten TOMATOes for a puzzle that made me CUSS many times. Where is the editor?

thefogman 12:44 PM  

PS - HARDG is the kind of thing that should be forever banned from the NYT crossword. Same with NSEC, DPS and USC.

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

What's an example of where you could use LOTSA for hella?

puzzlehoarder 12:56 PM  

This was a very compartmentalized grid and it made for a very choppy solving experience. The SW corner was the stickiest section. I had to change ODESSA to EDESSA in spite of how unatural ACTIVES sounded. It also took me a few beats to realize that ATS was a word and not some odd looking initialism.

Until coming here I completely missed the meanings of the clues for RED and LIBIDO but got them anyway.

The theme seems reminiscent of the Paolo Pasco Sunday puzzle we had a few weeks ago.

I now have to wonder if Queen LATIFAH has ever been LACERATEd in a game of LASER TAG.

Elena 12:57 PM  

An easy, joyless solve for me. More of a chore than anything else. FRANKENFOOD made me think of something more along the lines of GMOs.

Anonymous 12:59 PM  

Frustrating at the end:

I agree that ACTIVES/VAGUARY was a bit of a head-shaker.

Kal/Rad was a tough mistake to catch (took a full two minutes) when the answer was actually KEL/RAD, and I didn't know "Kel" - felt Natick-y.

GHarris 1:00 PM  

Because I went with the plural “alecs” I came up with Fransenfood. I googled it and would you believe there is a famous food photographer named Maurice Fransen and that was my undoing.

julia 1:12 PM  

Haha, I knew all the guys would be getting pissy about ACTIVES. It's a very common word when discussing skincare, a 100 billion dollar industry. Sometimes crosswords means knowing about things you don't personally care about (like, in my case, professional sports of all kinds).

Suits me 1:22 PM  

"Diamond" has been used as a misdirect for so long, my first thought is baseball, followed by card suit, and then as the gem. BTW, Ernie Harwell had a book of memoirs titled "Diamond Gems".

Ed 1:31 PM  

I’m at a loss as to what DPS is. Can anyone enlighten me?

thfenn 1:37 PM  

For those enjoying the Bangor jokes, or even just a great clip, don't miss this:

Nancy 1:38 PM  

I started the puzzle, wasn't sure what the gimmick was, and dropped it early: it felt like it wwould be a bore and a chore.

Besides, I had a home Covid test to take -- one I had to wait 4 days to take if I didn't have symptoms. Was I worried? You betcha! My PT therapist called me Wednesday evening of the day he treated me to say he'd just tested positive. I had been in close physical contact with him for 45 minutes and we were both maskless. I had just had the bivalent Pfizer booster (my 4th shot) in mid-October, so I hoped I wouldn't get all THAT sick, but I never expected to escape unscathed.

Here's the email I just sent my PT:

"My doctor's office told me to test immediately if I had symptoms and to wait 4 days from exposure to test if I didn't have symptoms. I felt tired and dragged out -- which could have been lack of sleep; mostly imagined fatigue caused by worry; or my body hard at work fighting off infection -- but I had no other symptoms so I waited to test myself until this morning.

Those 4 days felt interminable, but a happy result. Not a trace of a second line.

So even though I know you tried as hard as you could, you didn't give it to me (LOL). I'm giving thanks for a bivalent Pfizer vaccine on October 14 that seems to have been REALLY powerful and was effective even under the worst possible odds: 45 minutes of extremely close contact, unmasked. I'm not quite sure how I dodged the bullet and I certainly didn't expect to.

I hope your case has been very mild or, even better, mostly asymptomatic. I hope you'll be able to return to work very soon."

JC66 1:42 PM  


DPS (Producers of multiple outs)

In baseball, DP = Double Play

TTrimble 1:47 PM  

That was cute; thanks. I'll remember it.

DP in baseball means double play.

KateA 2:01 PM  

I saw some of the circles incorrectly and thought that squash was being served with goat.

Masked and Anonymous 2:05 PM  

Whoa -- This doesn't look like an easy puzgrid to construct. Woulda expected more desperation than we got [but ... yo, DYAD & ACTIVES].

Not a real humorous theme in and of itself, but enjoyed the whole idea of playin a game of BUMPER CROPS, yieldin such primo FRANKENFOOD as: COMATO. SQUAT [yum]. O'LICE. BANGO. BELON. OASH. har

staff weeject dyad pick: FLO/FLU. Nice FRANKENFLORIDA bumpers.

Agree with @RP, that the SW corner was the most feisty & desperate. [fessperate.] Had PAIR instead of DYAD. Then DUET instead of DYAD. The vagaries; they were all over m&e. Lost precious NSECs.

Kinda ended up havin a soft spot in my (admittedly) weird heart for ACTIVES, tho. Opens up a whole new can of puzworms, makin plural nouns outta yer adjectives meat. Just marvel at the possibilities … DESPERATES. WONKIES. WEIRDS. ANONYMOUSES [/Anonymice]. FEISTIES. [insert gleeful gurgle here]

Thanx for the frankenfun, Mr. Donaldson dude. Heckuva cool job.

Masked & Anonymo9Us


old timer 2:57 PM  

As our great national poet once sang: "Third boxcar, midnight train, destination BANGOR Maine." (Sounds like "banger" though I think natives say "ban-gor"). I had no trouble at all with EDESSA, which, unlike Odessa, was in Mesopotamia. We went to Maine once, to Bar Harbor, but my real reason was to see where E.B. White lived. We ate a picnic lunch on the Brooklin dock, and though we did not see Mr. White, I'm pretty sure we saw his wife. Makes sense, because the dock was also home to Joel White's boat yard, and no doubt his mom was a regular visitor.

(Pro tip: the city of Bath is well worth a visit).

I don't think it deserved POW, but it was a reasonable Sunday effort.

Joe Dipinto 3:02 PM  

@Anonymous 12:24 – the word "congress" (uncapitalized) can be a synonym for sexual relations; you need to infer that meaning to understand LIBIDO as the answer to the clue. (Your libido prompts you seek out sexual relations.)

Joe Dipinto 3:14 PM  

That is, your libido prompts you *to* seek out sexual relations.

Anonymous 3:43 PM  


Anonymous 3:43 PM  

Don't get the hiking clue?

Chris 3:48 PM  

I absolutely hated this puzzle. I resorted to random fill so I could click "check puzzle", and then suffered through the completion. Why? I don't know. In real life, I leave a lot of things uncompleted. This puzzle and my time with it was... Ugh! Diamonds are... RED ? Really? ...Oh, yeah, in cards. EDESSA and ACTIVES are parts of some other universe, not mine. IAM is terse?? I guess IDO is terse also ...and almost everything else of 2 words or 3 letters, too. VAGARY, DYAD... kill me. SNERT... never found humor in Hagar. My brother-in-law sends me Hager comics sometimes. Really sends my day down a droll path when he does this. I think he does it to torture me. HEYMRDJ, SMACKDAB... make it go away.

My only pleasure was when 64 down stimulated my memory of the beautiful Ana De Armas and her amazing dress in the last James Bond movie. Have a good week to everyone who read my rant !

sixtyni yogini 3:55 PM  

FRANKENFOOD made the theme seem fun (but before it, I thought — so what? 🤷‍♀️)
Enjoyed the difficulty level for a Sunday - one easy cross usually gave way to the whole answer.
Agree with the 🦖nits. But my bar is low for Sundays, so was pleased not to be bored or slogged, as it were.🤸🏽‍♀️

Anonymous 4:35 PM  

@Anonymous 12:52 asked for an example of "hella" used to mean LOTSA. I saw this bumpersticker on a minivan (of course) just the other day:

"Hella kids in this bitch. Honk if one falls out"

kitshef 5:00 PM  

@Teedmn - congrats on your runt solution today. Took me more than three times as long.

jvicmag 5:36 PM  

As soon as "Itsy" went onto the page, followed by another error with "Astro," nothing could get me out of my funk - even "Hey Mr DJ." Next time, no more working right to left either on the horizontal nor the vertical....

Ed Rorie 5:54 PM  

An axe head might be stuck in a chopping block if the last person to use the axe left it embedded there, handle in the air, rather than putting it away safely.

Bill in Maryland 6:55 PM  

Did not get to Maine this weekend because I took my girlfriend to Florida. Did I get to Tampa with her? Nah her parents were with us.

CDilly52 7:08 PM  

Never heard of FRANKENFOOD! Thought it was not only funny, but an excellent descriptor, as @LMS observed. I has tons of trouble every once in anwhile, but overall pretty easy.

Anonymous 7:13 PM  

Actives are actually a thing in the world of skin care discourse.

thefogman 7:21 PM  

Did anyone try that Cascades puzzle in the puzzle section of the Sunday NYT magazine today? Quite an enjoyable challenge.

Joe Dipinto 8:49 PM  

@thefogman – yeah I did it. The answers themselves weren't hard but keeping track of the "cascades" along the way was somewhat tricky. I made one stupid mistake which caused a writeover.

I see there's a "Monthly Bonus" puzzle on the site now — when did they start doing this? It's themed and very easy.

Anonymous 8:59 PM  

I suffer from not knowing any French, hardly, but I knew Spanish "estrella." Clearly did not help.

The names always trip me up. ARMAS/AERO was hard.

TTrimble 10:36 PM  

@Joe Dipinto
I haven't bothered to check the archives, but the Monthly Bonus has been there for quite some time. Yes, it's at most Monday-level easy: that's been consistent since I've looked at them.

Gary Jugert 11:50 PM  

Just sneaking in at the end of the day.

This is my 365th NYTXW puzzle in a row. I'm surprised I haven't missed a day in a whole year. I will not mention my streak again until I get to 1000 (if I get there). Some of you have decades-long streak, so...

I found this puzzle tedious, but as I look back on it everything seems fine. My days lately have been overwhelming so I may not be focused.

I will go read the comments and see if I should have a more passionate feeling about filling in these squares.


1 The Broncos said no more Skippy.
2 Her former friends want to go fast.


Robin 2:07 AM  

The last few years, I have pretty much hated the Sunday NYTXW. Too much slog filling in so many 3-letter answers, and then dealing with is a stupid theme.

So this one maybe had a stupid theme, but unlike many others, I figured it out early enough that it proved useful in figuring out a corner of the puzzle where I might have been stuck. It was seeing -FOOD in the supposed revealer that gave me a grok.

So, my rating is better than what Rex expressed.

Anonymous 2:14 PM  

I’m a woman and I was pissy about ACTIVES. I use all kinds of skincare products, moisturizers for morning noon and night, scrubs, peels, masks, with AHA, BHA, antioxidants, hyaluronic acid, retinol… have never heard the word ACTIVES, either in marketing or on the bottle. Guess I’m the wrong kind of woman.

Anonymous 8:48 PM  

Shouldn’t the “G” in “GOAT” be circled?

Anonymous 3:03 PM  

As a native Mainer, I have never heard Bangor pronounced “ bang her” by anyone from Maine. We pronounce it Bang or, rhyming with “for.” Sorry to be a Debbie Downer.

spacecraft 12:26 PM  

Not much to say about this. Simple, pointless theme, EKE and HARDG in the fill. Bogey. Wordle bogey as well. See you MANANA.

Diana, LIW 1:52 PM  

I agree with @Spacey on the theme. The puzzle was fine w/o it - didn't help or hurt the solve.

Diana, LIW

Burma Shave 2:37 PM  

From yesterday:


she'll REALLY pass the TEST,
IT'SA fact she'll DO IT ALL,
get HIGH, and DO the REST.


and today:


URGENT LIBIDO, so she should,
that TOMATO knows what FOR,


Anonymous 2:43 PM  

That happened to me as well. I had not heard of either of them. Wasn’t crazy about the puzzle

rondo 2:52 PM  

Yup, what @spacey and @Diana,LIW said. I do, however, remember my mother using AQUANET; a blast from the past for me. Ana de ARMAS, yeah baby.
Wordle par despite 3 shots at BGBBG.

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP