A.F.L. All-Time Team member with a law degree / SUN 1-15-23 / Phenomenon also known as data decay / One of many in the Disney Morgue / Turn from an old pallet into a bookcase for example / Old-timey listen / Hawaiian fish also called a wahoo / Convict in old slang

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Constructor: Michael Schlossberg

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Abridged Too Far" — theme answers are literary works that contain circled squares; those squares contain names of other literary works (with, obviously, much shorter titles, hence "abridged"); theme clues can be applied to *either* work, and the whole theme is summed up by the phrase TO MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT (121A: "In a nutshell" ... or an alternative title for this puzzle?):

Theme answers:
  • "A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM" ("MEDEA") (23A: "Play about love and heartbreak in ancient Greece [1605, 431 B.C.]")
  • "THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS" ("HEIDI") (37A: "Timeless children's classic about country dwellers' friendships [1908, 1881]")
  • "CRIME AND PUNISHMENT" ("DUNE") (64A: "Magnum opus about a young man, family and the concept of free will [1866, 1965]")
  • "THE CATCHER IN THE RYE" ("HATCHET") ("Hatchet"???????????) (76A: "Coming-of-age novel about a teenage boy and his isolation [1951, 1986]")
  • "FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS" ("OTHELLO") (102A: "Tale about soldiers and treachery in southern Europe [1940, 1603]")

Word of the Day: RON MIX (104D: A.F.L. All-Time Team member with a law degree) —

Ronald Jack Mix (born March 10, 1938) is an American former professional football player who was an offensive tackle. He is a member of the American Football League (AFL) All-Time Team, and was inducted into the  Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.

Mix attended the University of Southern California, where he was an All American. Upon graduation, he played right tackle and guard for the AFL's Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers (1960–69) and the National Football League (NFL) Oakland Raiders (1971). An eight-time AFL All-Star (1961–68) and a nine-time All-AFL (1960–68) selection, he is also a member of the Los Angeles Chargers Hall of Fame. [...] 

Mix went to the University of San Diego Law School in the off-season and earned a Juris Doctor degree in 1971. He was nicknamed "The Intellectual Assassin" for his combination of intellectual excellence with his style of physical play. (wikipedia)
• • •
[Me at work ... Olive ... doing something ...]

***THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU*** Today is the last day of my annual week-long pitch for financial contributions to the blog. It's hard to express my gratitude in ways that do not devolve into platitude (!) but I'm genuinely and sincerely appreciative of everyone who supports the work I put into this blog. It's been a delight hearing from readers this week. Most of the time, I am aware that y'all are out there, but I don't have any real sense of who you are, where you are, how often you read, etc. And then fund-raising week comes and bam, there you are! Actual humans who read me with varying degrees of intensity and enjoyment (not to mention agreement). And even though my fundraising-week encounters with you are still, technically, virtual, it still feels like we've confirmed something about each other's reality, and it's nice. Your cards and letters began arriving this week, and I'm excited to dig into those (I'm expecting many cat cards, cat pictures, and cat stories, and I couldn't be happier about that prospect). For those who contributed via regular mail, my crossword thank-you cards are a bit late coming from the printers, but they should arrive early this week and I'll start mailing them out immediately. 

[They're coming ...]

If you were able to contribute this year, that is thrilling to me, but if you weren't able, that's also OK. Money is tight for many and you can only manage what you can manage. This blog will always be free to anyone who wants it or needs it, and whether you are a financial backer or not, I just want you to keep solving and keep reading. Thanks for taking the time to pay attention to any of this. One last time, here are the various ways you can contribute (now, or at any time during the year). 

There's PayPal:

There's Venmo: @MichaelDavidSharp (the last four digits of my phone are 4878, in case Venmo asks you, which it apparently does sometimes)

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Rex Parker c/o Michael Sharp
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Binghamton, NY 13905 

All this contact information lives full-time in the sidebar of my website, in case you feel inclined to contribute months from now :) 

OK. That's it. Mwah! You all mean a lot to me. (Yes, even you, person looking at their screen skeptically!) Thanks a million. Now here's your Sunday puzzle!

• • •

This one felt forced. Very forced. Forced by its very nature (i.e. you gotta make one clue for two often exceedingly different works). Further, "Abridged Too Far" doesn't really get at what's going on here. I get the pun (on the book / movie "A Bridge Too Far"), but ... and I get the basic idea of "abridgment," in that one title is a shorter title made from the letters of the longer title ... OK ... but is "Too Far" supposed to convey that the works are not actually alike? Is it undermining the very idea of "abridgment"? Is it a joke? It ... feels like you just wanted the pun on "A Bridge Too Far" and decided "sure, that works, I guess" ... so again we're back to my initial feeling about the theme as a whole: "forced." This is one of those Sunday puzzles that's got a title as well as a revealer, and they seem to be working at cross-purposes. The revealer feels much more apt, largely because it doesn't have the dumb / confusing "Too Far" part on it, so it doesn't seem to be winking at or otherwise offering ironic commentary on the very idea of the theme. There's definitely a certain amount of creativity on display here—finding the works inside of works and then finding ways to clue them both that are at least vaguely plausible. But every time I got an answer, I just kinda squinted and thought "uh ... sure ... I guess." I just had to trust that the clues were accurate some of the time, as I don't really know the plots of "THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS" or "HEIDI" or even "DUNE" that well. But at least those are genuinely classic, exceedingly famous pieces of writing ... which brings me to the most forced thing in this forced puzzle, and that is ... "HATCHET." What on god's green earth is that? The distance between the fame of Every Other Work Of Literature in this theme and "HATCHET" is ... I can't see that far. It's a gulf. An abyss. An unfathomable void. "HATCHET?" This 53yo professor of literature who was very much alive (and very much a "teenage boy") in 1986 has zero idea. Nil. None. My not knowing a work is unremarkable in and of itself. But you can't have a themer be ttttthhhhiiiisssssssss much of an outlier, fame-wise. It's way too jarring. Every work involved in a theme like this should have at least an "oh yeah I've heard of that" level of fame (esp. if literally all the other themers have that level of fame and then some). Truly ... head-shakingly weird choice for an "abridgment." 

["'A Wrinkle in Time' and 'THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS' / Hiding behind 
the summer clothes that billowed / On the line..."]

Speaking of jarring ... TREPID (56A: Timid). I literally said out loud "oh no, no no no, it can't be TREPID, can it?" And it was. Some words should be hurled into the sea, and that is one of them. "Intrepid" = wordful. "TREPID" = immoral, unlawful, bottom-of-the-sea-worthy. The other word that had me wondering "what?" was WHEATEN (112A: Yellow-brown shade). I know an actor named Wil Wheaton, with an "O." And a Wheaton College. But that is the extent of my "Wheaton" familiarity. WHEATEN ... if you say so. WHEATEN is that no-good kid that OATEN is always hanging out with. WHEATEN makes me feel warmly protective of OATEN (a word I never see anywhere but crosswords). But I have every faith that WHEATEN is the color that the puzzle says it is. A NUTSY-sounding color, but a color nonetheless. I'm also just gonna trust the puzzle that BITROT is a thing (82A: Phenomenon also known as data decay). 

By far the hardest part of the puzzle for me was the final square. Having zero, absolutely zero, no no no idea at all who RON MIX is, I needed every cross, and not one but two of those crosses had me flummoxed, or at least highly unsure. I knew that REX meant king (hi there!), but so does REY (I think), so only the fact that -IY seemed an improbable final letter combination, even for a proper noun, led me to favor REX over REY. But even then I was left with RO_MIX ... was that one name or two? Is there a guy whose last name is ROMMIX? ROEMIX? Let's check the cross: 115A: Mercury and Mars, for two. And I've got TE-ORS. OK, well Mercury and Mars are ... gods? ... planets? ... cars? Is "Mars" a car? Candy? Is "Mercury" a candy? What the hell? The only letter that works at all there is "N" but how can TENORS be right, I don't know any sing- ... oh. Cute. [eyeroll] (the clue is referring to Freddie Mercury and (I assume) Bruno Mars). Would not have minded the misdirection on TENORS so much if the answer hadn't run through the patently obscure (and inscrutable) RON MIX. Tom Mix? Heard of him. Chex Mix? Heard of it. RON MIX? Well, no.

I am 86% sure we just had this exact clue for MIME, maybe just in the past week (62D: Act out?). I remember my wife reading me the clue with suspicion, and my rationale was "yeah, they perform ... publicly ... like in the beginning of "The Conversation" (1974) ... so, "out" ... unless they're implying that miming is gay ... no, that can't be right, it's gotta be the first one, the performing outdoors thing" (note: I was right—it was this past Thursday, and the clue was [One who's acting out?]). 

Anything else need explaining? [Deets] is short for "Details," hence INFO (1A: Deets, say). Naples lends its name to Neapolitan ice cream (131A). The Minnesota Wild are an N.H.L. team (33D: Wild group, for short). I don't know what the "Disney Morgue" is but it sounds like the place animation CELs go when they're dead (34D: One of many in the "Disney Morgue"). Does the "Morgue" hold just CELs or whole films? I searched "Disney Morgue" just now and, supremely unhelpfully, half the sites that came up were crossword answer sites. It looks like the "Morgue" isn't nearly as ominous as it sounds; it's more of a library and archive. Not sure why I'm supposed to know this, but now I do, and now you do too, sort of. Hope you enjoy the rest of your Sunday. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joe Dipinto 12:09 AM  

Wheaten Terrier is a dog breed. It's yellowish-brown.

jae 12:17 AM  

Medium. Clever, mostly liked it but I’m with @Rex on WHEATEN and TREPID. I too have never heard of “HATCHET”. I did know RON MIX, but then I’m a tad older than @Rex.

Joe Dipinto 12:20 AM  

MIME means "act out" in the same sense as charades: the mime is acting out (miming) an activity (such as trying to get out of a box), without the use of any props. Next?

Anonymous 12:21 AM  

Love Hatchet!! Had to read it as a 4th- or 5th-grader and remember it being the only assigned book I liked in school for like two years. Agree with the rest of Rex’s comments, though.

Anonymous 12:29 AM  

I thought this was the perfect Sunday puzzle—so much so, I kinda wish I had saved it for tomorrow (which I expect will be even more relaxing in light of the Monday holiday). I didn’t find it to be forced at all.

I think such concern over the title might be treading a bit too far into the weeds. Perhaps

Anonymous 12:41 AM  

Let’s not forget two other NFL greats who went on to incredible legal careers.
Byron "Whizzer" Raymond White (June 8, 1917 – April 15, 2002) was an American lawyer, jurist, and professional football player who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1962 until 1993.

Alan Page, in full Alan Cedric Page, (born August 7, 1945, Canton, Ohio, U.S.), American gridiron football player, jurist, and writer who in 1971 became the first defensive player to win the Most Valuable Player award of the National Football League (NFL). He later served as an associate justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court (1993–2015).

Matthew B 12:58 AM  

Agree with Rex on this one. I got the themes very quickly so it became a fill-in-the-blanks chore. I'm not a fan of the circled letters themes anyway....they have nothing to do with the pleasure of solving the puzzle. They're just there. To each his or her own. I also never heard of Hatchet but it became series of young adult fiction...always nice to learn something new.

Alice Pollard 1:01 AM  

RONMIX/REX was tough. I also had YaP/BaTROT for an error, I do hard copy so I never am sure if I wind up error free. Today I didnt. Loved the TENORS clue. Told the family about that one

Anonymous 4:10 AM  

"Hatchet" will hold a place with a lot of solvers as a core elementary school reading requirement.

Julian 4:17 AM  

Huh, HATCHET sparked exactly the same feeling of vague childhood nostalgia for this 32-yo as did HEIDI and THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS. I could even envision the cover before I saw it. Maybe this is a generational YA lit thing?

Annabel 4:42 AM  

"Hatchet" must be more generational than I realized. As a 23yo, it was assigned reading in elementary/middle school (I can't remember which). I actually very recently saw a meme referencing its upiquity in the Gen Z/Millennial-Adolescent-Experience.

Loren Muse Smith 5:04 AM  

Jeez Louise, I couldn’t disagree more with most of you. I was completely stunned when my first themer fell – THE CATCHER IN THE RYE and HATCHET. (You can’t spend any time in a middle school ELA classroom or middle school library and not pretty much trip over copies of HATCHET.) I love me some Gary Paulsen.

That Michael found stories within stories like this. . . Oh. My. God. This is brilliant. So happy I am with the conceit that I won’t be bothered by any kind of over-scrutinizing the clues to question the connection. I do agree, though, that the reveal eclipses the title in its aptness.

Loved the clue for TENORS.

“Juicy gossip” – DIRT. It’s always a delicious feeling when I go to my co-worker’s room for lunch, and she says, I gotta tell you something. . . and gets up to close her door. She’s too nice to actually gossip about people’s lives and woes. No, her INFO is all about the latest “Can You Believe that Email?” from the new leadership at our school. She’s more plugged in than I am, so her INFO invariably has me relax a little about the ridiculous admonishments concerning all the bureaucratic hoops we’re supposed to be jumping through.

“Just what you’d expect” – mediocrity and apathy. It’s everywhere. I get that I’m cynical, but still. Yesterday I found myself roped into going to a women’s excursion where we made pottery coffee mugs. There was a table with stamps to press little sayings on your mug, but they were all so positive and, well, disingenuous. Thankful, Grateful, Blessed, Always be Positive blah blah. I told the person next to me that I was too cynical for these and was there anything snarkier? Something like Surely not everyone was Kung Fu fighting woulda worked, but, oh well. Didn’t matter; I couldn’t separate my mug from the bottle I had molded it around, so I just gave up and left with my friend, hoping that no one noticed the huge clump of misshapen clay at my place that probably screamed I don’t give a &%$# and just want to leave here to take a nap

I’ve said many times that by the time someone says it, the LONG STORY SHORT ship sailed about 20 minutes prior. Yeah, yeah – the irony of my too-long posts is not lost on me.

Michael – bravo. Just. Bravo. I loved it.

Anonymoose 6:27 AM  

"Poker great" is a thing? Really? HILARIOUS!! What's next? Maybe UNO great?

LIL is not a word.

abalani500 6:42 AM  

Didn’t bother reading the themed clues and it turns out I didn’t need to. All of them were filled with a few crosses so the whole concept of the theme was lost on me (until I checked after the fact). Felt like a dull literary trivia puzzle. A let down after yesterday’s fun effort (absolutely crushed my best Saturday time).

OffTheGrid 6:52 AM  

I didn't love it or hate it. Theme was pretty sharp. Better than lots of Sundays. Seemed to be a ton of 3,4,and 5 letter entries. Maybe this is normal for Sunday? I scored a rare 2 on The Wordle, only my 5th out of 178 plays.

Lewis 7:02 AM  

@rex: "WHEATEN is that no-good kid that OATEN is always hanging out with." -- Hah!

Lewis 7:05 AM  

What a lovely collection of classic theme answers – four novels and a play – that would look good to me on anyone’s bookshelf. When I saw that the theme answers were simply titles, without tricky letter switches or re-arrangements, the solve became much easier, and it was fun figuring those titles out with as few crosses as possible.

Until that point, the clues/answers were giving me a stiff battle, kept shunting me all over the big Sunday playing field as I kept getting stuck. I’m not complaining, mind you, because in Crosslandia, I live for stiff battles.

When I did fill in a theme answer, I became like a little kid with a word search puzzle – “What do the circles spell?” Truly, my eyes would get wider, and I’d follow the circles with my finger to spell the embedded title. It thrust me right back to my childhood brain – a gift.

After solving, my vanity took over, and I wondered if my name embedded in any classic literary titles. I punched *l*e*w*i*s* into XwordInfo’s “Clue and answer finder” – the asterisks mean “any letter or letter string can go here” – and then sat up a little straighter, as I saw not one, but two magnificent titles that it worked with: “a taLE of tWo cItieS” and “oLivEr tWISt”!!! Furthermore, with “tiLtEd at WIndmillS”, it hinted at another.

Two more observations. One, oh man, did I love [Mercury and Mars, for two] for TENORS. And two, a PSA for those who need a reminder to help remember a newly-learned word – RORQUAL.

I feel all the richer for having experienced what you created, Michael. Thank you so much!

Colin 7:18 AM  

REX The King! I was also contemplating ROY but quickly saw this did not fit. After some head-scratching, I thought TENORS was clever for Mercury and Mars. The NW corner stumped us for a while.

I liked this theme. No, I didn't know HATCHET, but there are some answers I don't know, in every puzzle. (My middle school coming-of-age required reading was SE Hinton's The Outsiders.) Yup, it's pretty cool that one can find such titles within the longer titles. THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS is one of my favorite books - I found Toad of Toad Hall in my elementary school library randomly (the joys of library stacks!), and read TWITW a little later on.

Thank you for your debut Sunday puzzle, Michael!

Wanderlust 7:29 AM  

“Hatchet” must be generational because this OLDISH (59) solver has never heard of it either. I just looked it up on Wiki, and it sounds interesting.

I’ve read all the others except MEDEA and HEIDI, but I’ve definitely heard of those. As the longer works started to come into view, I resisted filling them in because I assumed there would be some kind of pun involved, with a letter cleverly off here and there. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE was the one where it became clear that no pun was involved. I filled in all of the long themes, looked at the hidden short title on the first two, then finished the fill and then read the rest of the short titles, leading to my WTF on HATCHET.

I, too, loved the misdirection on the clue for TENOR. I first had Roy for the kingly name (hadn’t gotten OLE OLE yet, or even seen its clue) but not much ends in “iy” so I changed it to REX. RON MIX was a mystery to me - when I saw the name, I thought “Isn’t that a star of old Westerns?” No, that’s Ron’s brother Tom.

I actually liked TREPID because it’s one of those words that has been forgotten while its prefixed opposite is in common use. It made me think of words like ruthless and reckless. If you are TREPID, you’re probably not ruthless or reckless, but does that make you full of ruth and reck?

Random observation: As the world becomes ever more digital, and paper slowly disappears, POST IT notes will be the last survivors. There’s no digital way to leave reminders on physical things. I spent the past few days pet-sitting for friends with three dogs and a cat (bringing my own dog for a sleepover with her buddies). Betsy left POST ITS everywhere, calling attention to things I would need, color-coded for specific beasts. Emailed instructions would have been so much harder to figure out. When the last humans roam a planet destroyed by climate change or nuclear war, POST IT notes will be survival gear on a par with HATCHETs.

Robt 7:40 AM  

And Bob Thomas, the Bears’ place kicker in the 70s and 80s, served on the Illinois Supreme Court, including a few years as chief justice.

Anonymous 7:49 AM  

Finished up just like Rex: changing REy to REX. And with that, a feeling of warm gratitude for all the added value this blog and its comments provide. I used to just do the puzzle and then have to move on to the rest of the day. Now I have this lovely way to prolong my distraction.
@Loren: Your avatar today is genius!

GAC 8:03 AM  

Today's Rex review is a nice example of why I come here every day. I have expressed numerous times my view that Rex is unnecessarily critical, and that's still the case. But his lengthy commentary is fun to read even when I disagree with it. Carry on Rex! You're a good man.

Twangster 8:20 AM  

By chance I'm reading Hatchet with one of my kids right now, so it's funny seeing it get so much attention here. She likes it. Actually missed it in the puzzle as I didn't bother to decipher half of the shorter books. No spoilers!

mmorgan 8:22 AM  

I’m usually quite generous and tolerant of puzzles and generally enjoy them no matter what. This one left me completely flat. Less than flat. Even bored, mostly. I guess it’s nice that the constructor found titles that had other titles within them, but that had absolutely nothing to do with my solving experience. No wordplay, puns, twists, groaners, discoveries, nothing. The full answers were easily discernible from the clues which left me then just looking to see what the circles spelled. The title made me think the names of the works would be abridged or combined somehow, but nope, nothing.

I also guessed the N in TENORS because it couldn’t be anything else (I think), so that cross wasn’t quite a Natick for me. I only saw the connection to the singers afterwards. Nice clue.

My main problem was with the NW corner, where I couldn’t get the opening letters to INAPP, NEAL, NEMEA, or OLDISH, despite having much of that corner in place. I really struggled there, which at least gave me something about the puzzle to remember.

Anonymous 8:32 AM  

Rey to go, Rex! You parsed this puzzle perfectly.

SouthsideJohnny 8:39 AM  

My wheelhouse is so tiny that I’m below the Mendoza line for my career Trivia batting average. I suspect that I’m one of a fairly large group that didn’t know STU Ungar or RON MIX. Unfortunately, I also had no clue Re NEMEA, GOLEM, BITROT, WHEATEN, EROS, DKNY, BIANCA, ALMA, ROCCO and KORMA. The puzzle then becomes quite a slog for me trying my best to parse together cross after cross to come up with a NEMEA or a KORMA for example.

I’ve always seen ECO Hotel as two words or at least hyphenated as ECO-Hotel, so I don’t know if that really counts as a prefix (one definition I saw included “to place in front”, so probably close enough).

Nancy 8:51 AM  

Sonuvagun -- they are both TENORS!!!!

I almost didn't finish this. I never heard of RONMIX and I had
TE???RS for "Mercury and Mars, for two". At first I'd put in TITANS, but OLEOLE made me give up the "I" and then HARKEN made me give up the "N".

Were they some kind of cars? (It's always the car clues that get me.) TE CARS? What are those?

Then I remembered there was a singer called Fred Mercury. Was there also a singer called Mars? Were they both TENORS? I wrote it in; after all I can't sit here all day.

I was right!!!!!!!!!!!! Puzzle finished.

Oh, yes, the theme. All the titles are extremely well known and I solved them all based on letter recognition. Barely read the clues. Ignored the tiny little circles completely. They made mo difference to my solving experience -- though I imagine that Michael had fun embedding them.

I enjoyed the puzzle anyway. I found it pleasantly and familiarly literary.

pabloinnh 8:52 AM  

First I missed HATCHET entirely, as I was so delighted to finally see THECATCHERINTHERYE that I didn't bother to check out what was in the circles, so when I read OFL I had no idea what he was ranting about. I think I would have had a similar rant because I missed it in middle school too, which was a long time ago. I still remember having to read The House of the Seven Gables in seventh grade though. Why anyone thought that is a good idea remains a mystery.

NEAL seemed like it had to be right, or I'd still be stuck at INAP, which is the "modern kind of purchase" I have yet to make. BITROT sounds mysterious and icky, and ROASTPORK is a little desperate. WHEATEN reminded me of my younger days when I wore wheat jeans. Also I knew RONMIX, so there.

TREPID is one of those words like "kempt" or "plussed" that doesn't exist in the wild without a prefix. And it took me, a proud and loud TENOR, far too long to come up with that one.

Overall thought this was a great concept well-executed and a very satisfying solve. Many Smiles indeed, MS, and thanks for all the fun.

Barbara S. 8:54 AM  

I really enjoyed this, but it’s hard to imagine any kind of literary theme that I wouldn’t like. I was thoroughly bowled over by the shorter titles embedded so beautifully in the long ones – what terrific finds. I have to say, though, that there are only two themers for which I’ve read both titles: A MIDSUM(M)(E)R NIGHT’S (D)R(E)(A)M and T(H)(E) W(I)N(D) (I)N THE WILLOWS. I found MND and MEDEA to be a jarring pair, one a comedy with its movement toward birth (reconciliation of all couples, many weddings) and the other a tragedy with its movement toward death (and what a lot of death there is, including, most shockingly, infanticide). But I guess you can say that the clue’s description somehow stretches over both. In contrast, THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS and HEIDI are a much more comfortable pair. From my bookstore days, I’m aware of HATCHET and know the basic plot (though I haven’t read it), so no mystery there. Will it become a classic on a par with the others? Is it a classic already? It’s hard to say, but it’s helped along by the number of people who read it in school.

I did a bit of a dive into the crescent and star as symbols of ISLAM. They appear together everywhere in the ancient Near East (on coins, seals, and relief sculptures) and precede the advent of ISLAM by a lot, going back as far as the Bronze Age. I’d love to hear what any Muslims in the commentariat would say about the meaning of the crescent and star as emblematic of ISLAM.

I happened to watch that Groucho Marx/Dick Cavett program the other day, and mercifully I was spared your Lydia earworm, but -- compulsively -- I’ve been “Singing Willow, Tit-Willow, Tit-Willow” ever since.

[SB: I haven’t posted for an age, so I’ll give you my week: 0,0,-1,0,-1,-2,-1. Yesterday I was pleased with my progress through a big list, but missed this wonderful word.]

Anonymous 9:06 AM  

Are the theme clues backwards? Is intentional? Did I misread? E.g. in 21A MEDEA is in MIDSUMMER … DREAM. not the other way around. I think all the theme clues (except the revealer) are similarly reversed.

Anonymous 9:07 AM  

No clue who Ron Mix was...got me too. I had Rei...I have an Albanian friend Rei and his name means "king". Thank goodness I remembered Oedipus Rex. 😁

king_yeti 9:13 AM  

Reg also means king although maybe would be clued with an abbreviation. Ron Mig looked better than Ron Miy to me for a while!

Anonymous 9:15 AM  

Amy: This is a fabulous puzzle! Right in my wheelhouse. Some fun clues (@LMS, love the TENORS entry, too). Say, as Anonymous at 12:41 noted, Alan Page was a Viking and an Appeals Court Judge in Minnesota. He's also an author of 2 books for kiddoes, one featuring his perpendicular pinkie. Met him at a law function; he's a charming man.

Anonymous 9:16 AM  

HATCHET is very likely familiar to every student born in the mid-90s or later. I also studied literature, and think we sort need to admit that we will always have blind spot books, that is, famous titles we are somehow the last people on earth to read.

egsforbreakfast 9:18 AM  

So far, we haven’t heard from the contingent that always says “it would have been a better challenge without the circles.” Actually, I suppose it would have been the same challenge since most everyone seems to have just let the themers develop from crosses until the famous books/play became obvious. I did have to do some head scratching when I had arrived at CRIMEAN for the start of a book title. I suppose that Ukraine hopes to put a can of CRIMEAN PUNISHMENT on the Rooskies, but I don’t know what to do with the “D”.

Here in Mexico I’ve been known to drink a RON MIX or two before dinner, especially since I’ve been mas o menos humiliado on the pickleball court. If you need me, I’ll be ENRON.

What do you get if you cross LUST and ISLAM? I’m afraid to go further with this

11 letter answer for COW would be LANDMANATEE.

I thought this was a wonderful conceit for a theme, even though it wasn’t important to the solve. Thanks, Michael Schlossberg.

Son Volt 9:20 AM  

Yet another circle filled grid. I solve on the app in dark mode - the circles cannot be seen and so the second layer is rendered useless. Workmanlike theme - revealer does not work as intended. The circled terms would have to be related to the themers somehow. Have a CIGAR

We’ve been seeing a lot of Stoats and ERMINEs lately. Nothing here that jumped. I remember Ron Mix but needed crosses to fill. ROCCO on the other hand was new and I struggled with ELLEN.

Not a fan of KORMA - I like the spicy food from the south. My son will be glued to the NYGs later today.

Unsatisfying Sunday solve.

Just because you ASK ME to

burtonkd 9:28 AM  

fuNNy that I left 2 squares blank until the end and they both turned out to be "N" with an "aha!" for one and "oh, yeah" for the other. Te_or was a great clue, and I_APP crossing (kneel), okay then...in the "good name for a" clue variety, I preferred TORTE.

I think more needs to be made today about how amazing it was to find these works within works that worked! I agree that the title was one step too far.

@Loren, I love your mug sentence - can I borrow that if I ever print a T-shirt? In every school, there is always that person who is WAY too involved in and dishy about administrative goings-on. I guess this is good in a checks and balances kind of way, but I would find it pretty depressing.

Robt 9:41 AM  

And it just dawned on me, Page and Thomas were teammates for a couple of years. I wonder how many former NFL players (let alone former pro athletes) went on to become state Supreme Court justices. Seems like it would be a small group, so the fact they were teammates seems to make it even more of a curiosity.

Rube 9:44 AM  

Mercury and Mars for 2 is the best single clue in months and the best clue for TENORS ever.

Anonymous 9:47 AM  

Please explain “Neal” as an answer. Also the answer “tenors”. I should think would be sensitive to some of these odd answers. Jim

smalltowndoc 9:48 AM  

Is A PLUS a "score" or a "grade"? Asking for a friend.

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

Amy: Love this most excellent puzzle that is right in my wheelhouse! Lots of fun cluing as well. Agree, @LMS, the TENORS entry is marvelous. And note, as Anonymous at 12:41 points out, Alan Page, who is in the football HOF, is also a retired Minnesota Appeals Court Judge AND the author of children's books. One features his unusual perpendicular pinkie. Met him at a law conference: he's very charming.

andrew 9:56 AM  

This was a drudge for me (was so sure 93-A would fittingly be SLOGS, not PEONS).

Didn’t read or analyze the theme clues - once the downs made it clear that it was book names with no punny twists, filled out the missing letters in the longs. That’s it? Spent 5 minutes before trying NUTSY vs. NUTtY - still beat my average time.

TENORS was the only oho clue in the mix - and with a great guitarist dying last week, thought 9 down should have been clued, “Beck in ‘65” YARDBIRD (as later were Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page - what a succession!)

May have been clever construction but not Sunday fun, at least for me.

Anonymous 10:03 AM  

Agree with the comments saying this is generational. I’m 31, and HATCHET is absolutely right-over-the-plate core wheelhouse. I think it’s a great answer, and absolutely on a level of fame with several of the others. Certainly, for me, much more so than MADEA or HEIDI, which I’ve vaguely heard of but don’t expect I know anyone who has ever read. Team HATCHET over here.

Anonymous 10:07 AM  

You should give Hatchet a try. I loved when my kids had to read it in middle school because I'd re-read it each time. It's and excellent Cast Away for kids.

andrew 10:08 AM  

Also, and not to be too Rexlike nit-picky, but NYG clue is backwards - the only stadium where the Giants are NOT listed as NYG is MetLife Stadium, where their logo or Giants or helmet image is showcased. Only out of town scoreboards would use the NYG initials.

That said, SKOL VIKINGS! (Don’t like the chances of this uneven team but hoping for some playoff payoff after 61 years of personal heartbreak)…

Laura 10:13 AM  

My 80 year old father-in-law sent me Hatchet. I read it, and all 4 sequels to my son. And will to my grandkids..a story to read after they are old enough to read it themselves. Had great fun with the puzzle, and all the deliberately hard clues. Tenor? At least Mercury's range is obvious..if not higher. I never knew trepid was a stand alone word. And my modern purchases are e-sale...in app is for my gamer kids.

Hope Rex is patient on snail mail. I have the dollars..but who has the time.

Lovely puzzle. Friendly write up. Thank you.

Robin 10:15 AM  

The Sunday NYTXW has become such a... something or other. An eight letter-word that starts with S, I guess.

I can't recall the last time I paid attention to the Sunday title. I just start filling in and eventually it solves itself, in about 1/4 the time it used to take 20 years ago.

Anyhow, the long themers today, a half dozen crosses and you could just write those in without reading the clues. Although, TBH, A CATCHER IN THE RYE took like no crosses at all if you read the clue.

I paid no attention to the circled/abridges answers within, so never noticed HATCHET until reading Rex's write-up. Every word of which is bang on.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

I'm a librarian who has worked with young adults for more than 20yrs. While Hatchet is not a classic like Wind in the Willows it is an exceedingly popular book and is commonly read as a classroom novel for kids in late elementary - middle school.

RooMonster 10:17 AM  

Hey All !
Thought my unsophisticationness was going to rear its ugly head, seeing as how all the Themers were books. But, I have heard of all of these, regardless that I haven't read any of them. (Yes, never read THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. Sorry if that shocked you into a spasm. 😁)

Always thought it was A MIDSUMMERS NIGHT DREAM.

The "Abridged" ones were WOEs, however, but didn't need them to complete the Themers. (Well, heard of DUNE and OTHELLO, I'm not completely without knowledge of such things. Close, but not completely. 😁)

Of course, seeing FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS gets me to the Metallica song...

UNESCO reminds me of the guy who can't decide whether his name has an O or a U. Naturally, I can't think of the name right now. A lot of 3's in the Downs, I'm sure @mathgent will give us an accurate count. Fill not terrible considering the Themer square-count. Plus the Middle Themers only one row apart. Makes for sticky filling spots. Hence ROCCO and KORMA. (Which I had as KOReA first, because an Asian dish.)

SEANCE clue seemed a bit stretched. As @Z used to say, I'm sure it can be lawyered to fit. Just odd.

Nice puz, Michael. No, not REX, the puz constructor.

Four F's

Anonymous 10:19 AM  

Aggressively joyless and boring. When the themed clues of a Sunday are just book titles what’s the point of spending the time on the other 80% which is inevitably disinterested fill? Maybe if the fill popped but this was 40% 3-4 letter fill which is inevitably dull and lifeless. Had the emotional payoff of a word search puzzle. Sorry to be so harsh but this type of puzzle needs to be rejected by the NYT. It’s not good.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  


Liveprof 10:34 AM  

Ron Mix was an offensive tackle for the Chargers in the old AFL for ten years and is in the pro football Hall of Fame. Amazingly, he was called for holding only twice in his career. He played college ball at USC and was an All American.

In 1965, the AFL planned for its All Star game to be played in New Orleans, but the Black players organized a boycott. They said they wouldn't play in a city that denied them basic rights -- to eat in restaurants, get cabs, etc. Mix was the first white player to join them, after which others did as well. The game was relocated to Houston.

Mix is still living, at 84. He's Jewish. His mom must have said: Go ahead and play that game with the silly hats, but just for me, maybe you can go to law school too? So he earned a law degree during the off-season and maintained a practice after he retired from football. He got involved with some shady deals, however, and ended up pleading guilty to tax fraud. He was disbarred in 2019, and penalized fifteen yards. (Sorry, that last part about the fifteen yards I made up.)

Here's a bad joke for you: Three Jewish women are talking. The first says, "I'm so proud of my boy Abie, he's a doctor." The second says, "I'm proud my Ronnie too -- a lawyer." The third says, "My Alex is a rabbi." Aghast, the first two say: "A rabbi!! What kind of job is that for a Jewish boy??"

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

I loved your little vanity project so much I did the same, though with a common noun and verb first name, *m*a*r*k*, I expected a few results where all four letters were in a row (which are unremarkable for this exercise.) I did get (The) Miracle Worker and Maurice Sendak, but was maybe more impressed by the non-literary Matryoshka doll answer. THAT must have been a tough puzzle day.

Paul F 10:50 AM  

Hatchet is super famous; don't know what to tell you. And you can't really squeeze My Side Of The Mountain in there.

Trina 10:58 AM  

NEAL as in taking a knee as a gesture of protest. (Kneel)

bocamp 11:01 AM  

Thx, Michael; a masterful creation! :)


No major issues, but needed @Rex & the commentariat to fully grok the theme.

Hadn't heard of 'Hatchet'; got the audiobook on hold.

Fun romp, loved it! :)

@Son Volt, pablo: still struggling with the Sat. Stumper; 2 hrs in, with NY to Fla. in want of inspiration. πŸ€” πŸ’‘
Peace πŸ•Š πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all πŸ™

Anonymous 11:03 AM  

Controversial Statement Alert!

I would argue that Freddy Mercury was NOT a tenor. Yes, he often sang in the tenor range, but he also sang soprano and baritone. He had a four octave range!

If you ever heard him speak, you would clearly hear that he was a baritone. One who happened to be able to sing very high notes.

Just nitpicking… I still enjoyed the clue!

Anonymous 11:05 AM  

This was a total failure, at the A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM / MEDEA entry, as all the other pairs were of the same genre, but MEDEA is a play and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM is a comedy, and we all know those two aren't the same, not even in the same category.

I was hoping for an Easter Egg in that RON MIX played for Oakland who played the Jets in the infamous HEIDI game in '68, but he didn't play for Oakland in '68. Also, he was a crook but an anti-racist crook, so he's more ok in my book. Steve Young is my go-to NFL player/lawyer.

Gary Jugert 11:10 AM  

Wonderfully fun puzzle and solidly in my wheelhouse once I finally got things moving. The top played tougher than the bottom half, but I kept slogging and eventually the book titles dropped.

Despite being an English major back in the '80s, I've read only two of the five. I suppose I should catch up on those.

Circle-haters: These are the good kind of circles that are just extra. The, "hm, how 'bout them apples," kinda circles.

The downs ended up with a lotta iffy fill due to the pressure of those big spanners, but it didn't bother me. It's Sunday and the clues have a bit of fun so all is forgiven.

NUTTY for NUTSY kept the Congrats sign elusive since I don't have all the asteroid names memorized.

@Nancy Just now saw your uniclues from yesterday. What a hoot! I loved them all, especially cussing in the mall! AND, my wife does the NYT mini and Wordle, but not the NYTXW, so I keep her updated on fascinating things people say here on the blog. Today, I couldn't understand why [Mercury and Mars] meant TENORS. My wife looked judgmentally and said, "Freddie Mercury and Bruno Mars, and Nancy will hate that clue." Apparently I've told a few stories about your disdain for pop culture trivia.

Congrats to πŸ¦– for making the puzzle in the southwest.


[College next door to Little Squirrels Day Care] ALMA


1 "You're in grave danger."
2 Shakespearean heroine finally owns her buggies.
3 Opinion of successful political actions by opponents.
4 Temporarily peaceful AI villain (?) being serviced by computer programmers.
5 The odd enthusiasm for using trash as stuff.


Anonymous 11:12 AM  

Many protestors kneel as a sign of protest during events where you’re expected to stand (eg, the National Anthem).

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

I think the “Act out?” clue refers to acting out (like a mime does) an action or phrase instead of verbally stating what it is outright. I don’t think it references where the activity happens.

pabloinnh 11:20 AM  

@bocamp- I went around counterclockwise, NE to SE, with each section getting progressively harder. The spanner across the middle became obvious and that was a big help.

Good luck!

PS-Today's Acrostic is fun and not too bad.

Deb Sweeney 11:21 AM  

Tenors was a genius clue that was so satisfying to finally get. "Hatchet" is upper elementary canon for sure, but yeah more Gen Z than Gen X. And, you don't really need it to fill in the clue. I liked the theme. Granted the circles didn't really help at all but I did enjoy seeing them after and I personally enjoyed the pairings.

A side note about upper elementary canon. I went to Prince Edward Island a few years back due to my love of Anne of Green Gables. When we got there there were TONS of Japanese tourists, we even saw a destination wedding. Someone explained to me that Anne of Green Gables is part of the national curriculum and every child reads it. Unexpected and delightful.

Nancy 11:26 AM  

@Barbara S (8:54) -- Yes, I've had "Tit Willow" as an earworm too in the past, though not recently. Maybe now? It's a lot better than "Lydia" and I'll make the trade in a minute.

Would you believe -- "Lydia" is STILL embedded in my ear (how many days? Weeks?), though now it's sharing the stage from time to time with "What Do The Simple Folk Do", though I have no idea why. A shared earworm is always better, don't you think?

If "Tit Willow"'s your thing right now, you might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb and listen to someone who can actually sing it. I love Groucho, Groucho was adorable, winning, and quite touching in his rendition, but at that age he had lost full control of his ability to hit notes correctly. If you've never heard it, here's Martyn Green in the definitive version.

pmdm 11:33 AM  

It is very easy to overthink a puzzle. And I would say the entries in this puzzle are ripe for overthinking. Jeff Chen explains why with a somewhat level head. For myself, I didn't mind the puzzle but was put off by the PPP. Even though I knew some of the PPP theme entries. All in all, I would rate this puzzle as meh but would rate it much higher has the non-theme entries been massaged into what I would call better entries.

Maybe I am just annoyed that the Sunday sections of the Sunday paper were not delivered today.

bocamp 11:34 AM  


Thx for the encouragement & reminder of the Acrostic! :)
Peace πŸ•Š πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all πŸ™

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

HATCHET is a wonderful book for middle school age kids, and especially for boys who think they don’t like to read. The author, Gary Paulson, died recently; his lengthy and very touching obit in the NYT is worth looking up and reading.

Anonymous 11:42 AM  

I enjoyed the theme, but — like you — thought “Hatchet” was too obscure and some of the other clues were misleading (I know Disney. They do not call their internal storage of animation cels a morgue). As for Hatchet, my first reaction was that even though I was an English major, none of the professors of any of my English courses ever mentioned this book … maybe I took all the wrong courses? Nutsy aggravated me a bit, too. I got it, but it’s hardly a word I use. Nutty, sure. Nutsy? Never. Maybe it’s a dated term, like something you’d hear from a character in “Happy Days.” “Putzy Potsy is so Nutsy … and coming from someone named Ralph Malph that’s saying a lot.”

Sam Ross 11:49 AM  

Agree with many other commenters that HATCHET is very well known. I’m 30 and I would guess that 90-95% of folks I know my age would recognize the title. That’s just a gap in your knowledge, Rex.

Separately, I found myself in the same position at the end of the puzzle. My last two squares were the N and X in RON MIX. I had ROY before REX.

lodsf 11:58 AM  

Enjoyed this Sunday puzzle immensely. The theme/ circles actually helped this solver for 64A as I saw DUNE before the full answer. With Rex on HATCHET ???? but see from comments that apparently it’s a generational thing.

Finished with (what seemed to me like) a legit Natick where “nutty” was a perfectly fine answer for “wackadoo” and “Erot” seemed plausible as an asteroid name. Looking further seems that the asteroid EROS gets a lot of crossword play so I guess I better remember it.

Beezer 12:00 PM  

Count me in with the “love the puzzle” crowd and will also pile on with love for the TENORS clue! My son definitely read HATCHET in school. I read Crime and Punishment (for some reason on my own) in my late teens or early 20s. So. I Google after the solve thinking…I remember a lot of angst…and find it is considered “Young Adult”! That got me thinking…what in (as @Roo would say) the tarhooties constitutes a YA book? The last book I read that I realized was YA was The Hunger Games. I almost couldn’t finish it because it read like 4 th or 5th grade level. Crime and Punishment, otoh, took every bit of my adult vocab to read so I find it hard to believe it is YA.
Any thoughts on this?

Weezie 12:01 PM  

I’m 39 in a couple weeks and also have never heard of HATCHET, so hopefully that helps locate the prevalence from younger millennials onward.

@Mmorgan, you hit the nail on the head with what felt off about this puzzle. I kept thinking there would be some fun, aha moment with the puzzle, some punnery. But nope, just fun for the constructor, not for us.

Yet another plus one for TENORS, my goodness that was magnificent.

Nancy 12:03 PM  

@Gary J (11:10)-- I'm extremely flattered to be part of your wife's Rexblog conversation. And that was a very apt observation of hers today.

Ken Freeland 12:10 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph Michael 12:15 PM  

To make a long story short, this puzzle was fantastic.

Anonymous 12:20 PM  

Thank you for the belly laughs! I needed that.

Teedmn 12:40 PM  

NUTSY? I was left wondering if anyone had named an asteroid EROt but chose to go with NUTSY EROS.

Other than that, this was a medium Sunday solve and the theme worked pretty well. I had to wait to figure it out after finishing because the first theme answer I got was THE CATCHER IN THE RYE - having never heard of HATCHET, I didn't bother with the circles in the other answers until after, at which point I caught the drift.

Thanks, Michael Schlossberg.

Ken Freeland 12:41 PM  

Too many naticks in this one to consider it a great puzzle, but my hat is off to its constructor for discovering all these book within a book themers.... Who knew? With a bit of luck I soldiered through the RONMIX natick, and got really lucky with NEAL/INAPP because I missed the "kneel" wordplay, but though I had guessed correctly initially, I talked myself into TAtIA instead of my original correct guess of TALIA, so bah, humbug! I 'm for fining constructors for each natick they create... They can pay their fine to Rex's fundraiser-- poetic justice!

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

And don’t forget flaxen too

Barbara S. 12:54 PM  

@Nancy (11:26)
That’s really eerie: I go around singing stuff from Camelot all the time, the two most frequent songs in my repertoire being The Lusty Month of May and What Do the Simple Folk Do (The wee folk and the grown folk/Who wander to and fro/Have ways known to their own folk/We throne folk don't know). I watched Martyn Green and indeed that’s a wonderful voice and wonderful performance. And is his lady-love Katisha being played by a man?

@Nancy and @Gary Jugert


1) The process of trying on jeans and then settling for the brand you always buy
2) The devil shows up to claim you; you try bargaining; after you’ve failed, your relatives gather to chat


Masked and Anonymous 12:55 PM  

OK. Neat theme finds. Definitely worth puttin in a SunPuz. No big problem, there. But since this ain't exactly a humor-filled theme type, they needed to inject more humor elsewhere, to keep us goin for all those Sunday nanoseconds.

We did have 6 ?-marker clues. M&A fave was: {Burner on a range?} = CAMPFIRE. Nice.
Some of the ?-marker clues were more confusin, than humorous, at our house. One in particular: {Act out?} = MIME.

Best desperation laugh: {Phenomenon also known as data decay} = BITROT.

Had some enjoyable extra answers, such as: FAIRYTALE. ROASTPORK. UPCYCLE. NETWORTH. YARDBIRD (sorta apt, since we just lost Jeff Beck, our best guitarist on earth, no matter what Santos claims himself to be).

Thanx for the shorties in the longies, Mr. Schlossberg dude. Nice work -- U clearly suffered, findin all those cool themers.

Masked & Anonym007Us

just lightly illustrated, to lightly blur some stuff:

Carola 1:02 PM  

I appreciate the constructing feat, just wish I'd have needed the "abridged" titles in order to help me get the long ones - instead of picking them out after the fact. For me, the "aha" highlights were understanding the clues for TENORS and NEAL. Also liked TREPID sharing the grid with PERIL and the cross of FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS with HARKEN.

Do-over: beef before PORK. No idea: RON MIX, HATCHET.

puzzled 1:05 PM  

@Anonymous 9:15 & 9:48 : I've seen it mentioned in the past and can't figure out who the heck AMY is. Can anyone explain?

Dan 1:05 PM  

Controversial Statement Alert!

I would argue that Freddy Mercury was NOT a tenor. Yes, he often sang in the tenor range, but he also sang soprano and baritone. He had a four octave range!

When he spoke, you could hear that he was a baritone. One who happened to be able to sing very high notes.

Just nitpicking… I still enjoyed the clue!




thefogman 1:13 PM  

Yet another really bad Sunday xword. Weak theme. Was not worth the effort. Naticks, mainly because of bad cluing. INAPP-NEAL? Since when is Neil spelled like NEAL? Cutesy internet lingo should be banned from the NYT crossword. Also, RONMIX-ELI-REX were deadly for anyone who is unfamiliar with old football stars and obscure western movie actors. Bad, bad, bad. No more like this one please Mr. Shortz.

JC66 1:16 PM  


I think AMY is the poster's name,.

She seems to be unwilling to check the "name" box and shows up as ANONYMOUS.

Teedmn 1:24 PM  

After seeing the cover of HATCHET, I guess I have heard of it - I'm pretty sure I gave it to my young nephew last year. I try to encourage his reading though I don't ever get any feedback so I have no idea of my success.

@egsforbreakfast, got a laugh from your "11 letter answer for COW would be LANDMANATEE"!

Anonymous 1:25 PM  

I too thought it was a Midsummers Night Dream. And, picky, yes, but as Rex points out there is no initial “The” in Wind in the Willows, I settled on REG after I had initially tried ROY. Figured RON MIG was more of a name (?) than Ron Miy for the AFL player (and didn’t really care). Sorry REX!

Anonymous 1:37 PM  

I enjoyed the heck out of this puzzle! Very creative themers, and I like the way my fellow Bendite’s mind works (…the TENORS clue for one). I have a PCP who I really like, but if anything happens to her I will seek out Dr. S.

MJB 1:39 PM  

This 82-year-old gave Hatchet to her grandson this Christmas and his 42-year-old dad said it was still his favorite book.

Anonymous 1:39 PM  

Yes! I have 2 Soft Coated Wheaten terriers and was thrilled to see the beautiful color in the Puzzle!

noni 1:49 PM  

I love your posts. Definitely not too long. Sometimes it is the only one that I read and I am disappointed when it is not there.

Gary Jugert 1:52 PM  

Barbara S. 12:54 PM
Love 'em! You'd think buying jeans would be simpler by 2023.

fiddleneck 1:59 PM  

@ Loren: Your avatar is brilliant today. Usually are, but this one is stellar. Thank you.

Anonymous 2:05 PM  

Hatchet is frequently assigned in late middle school / early high school.

Anonymous 2:47 PM  

BITROT is a thing, especially with older computers that used magnetic tape or floppy disks that refused to be read properly. But also used in modern lingo to refer to software that used to work correctly but works more poorly with age because of external factors.

Anonymous 3:16 PM  

Loved this puzzle. This 43 year old read Hatchet in school and wouldn’t consider myself non-tech savvy but had never heard of bitrot!

Anonymous 3:32 PM  

Here in Canada I think everyone in our 40s read Hatchet in our teens. Totally know this one. Great book for the 10-14 set!

JillDNY 3:52 PM  

Nutsy?? Nutso or nutty, yes, but I have not heard of nutsy.

Chip Hilton 4:18 PM  

Rex, I suggest you ask your students if they’re familiar with Hatchet. I’m guessing at least 75% of them will be. I read scores of books with my fifth grade students over the course of thirty-three years, and few resonated with them as did the Gary Paulsen classic. Yes, classic.

MKM 4:39 PM  

@puzzled 1:05

Amy is a commenter who thinks it is cute to go against convention. Or who knows what her problem is?!?

Nancy 4:56 PM  

@Barbara S. The same earworm!!! That certainly is a coincidence. I'd actually forgotten the lines you cite. The ones I especially remember are:

They obviously outshine us at turning tears to mirth
And tricks a royal highness is minus from birth.

It's too bad you live so far away, Barbara. Otherwise we could have a duet.

Anonymous 5:45 PM  

I got the Neal/kneel part but don’t understand “inapp” which it crosses. And to cross “nutsy” (which autocorrect wants to change to “nutty”, just sayin) with that famous asteroid “eros” where “nutty/erot” seemed equally as likely is poor constructing.

puzzled 6:44 PM  

@MKM & JC66 - thanks for your replies. I guessed that was who Amy was, but she has it in a way that most posters use to identify to whom they are replying. I thought I might be missing something.

Joe Dipinto 6:57 PM  

When they're beset and besieged
The folk not noblessely obliged
However do they manage to shed their weary lot?
Oh, what do simple folk do we do not?

@Nancy & Barbara– Useless trivia: at 5 minutes, "What Do The Simple Folk Do?" is the longest song on the "Camelot" original cast album. I like it too, but it could easily have been cut from the show altogether, since it doesn't provide any character development or advance the storyline. Two other songs on the cast album were cut early in the show's run: "Then You May Take Me To The Fair" (the second-longest) and "Fie On Goodness".

Now back to our regularly scheduled puzzle-damning/praising.

Anonymous 7:48 PM  

Has anyone ever actually heard ole at a sporting event, any kind of sporting event?

Joey 7:49 PM  

Plenty of people are named Neal.

Beezer 7:56 PM  

FWIW…and very late. I don’t think Amy is being “cute.” There are still many peeps who think we all look at the blog on phone and don’t so @ convention. Amy, if you read this, I’m not a blue person (yet) but I press “name” and put in Beezer. Some folks just don’t “get” the way you post because it looks like you are addressing someone named Amy.

Smith 8:15 PM  

HATCHET is ΓΌberfamiliar to parents of kids of a certain age. Our now 32yo had *all* of Gary Paulsen's books, and I read them, too. Had them in my classroom for the few ESL 4th & 5ths who could actually read them.

Got all the themers easily, and noted the "condensed versions". Pretty clever, although zero effect on the solve.

Re HEIDI and a previous convo about bears (I think that was here?). Many years ago on a trail outside of Jasper with our kids and my dad we came upon a gorgeous mountain meadow and I said, wow, I feel like I'm in HEIDI. And then we saw the cute little...bear...ears...poking up from a bush. Well, our youngest sucked down all the water in his Camelbak as we beat a very hasty retreat.

Nancy 8:26 PM  

@Joe D and Barbara --

I always like to analyze if there's one or more songs so inextricably bound up with a musical's success that the show would a) not be the same show and b) might not even be a success at all without it/them. It's often the title number, but not always.

In Camelot, the title song is EVERYTHING. It provides the mood, the meaning, the emotion. A better song to fit that slot cannot possibly be imagined, I'd argue. Sondheim couldn't write a better one, nor Hammerstein, nor Loesser, nor Berlin.

But there's a lot of fluff in the score. There are only a handful of other numbers in Camelot that one can argue are really important to the show. For me, they're "I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight"; "C'est Moi"; "I Loved You Once in Silence"; "How to Handle a Woman" and "Before I Gaze At You Again." Those, plus "Camelot", could by themselves take care of both plot and character. Certainly no one would miss the extremely repetitive and boring "You May Take Me to the Fair" or the cynical and not especially tuneful "Fie on Goodness."

OTOH, removing just about any song from "My Fair Lady" would be a huge and irreparable loss. In fact, the only song that I find removable is many people's favorite number, though I've never much liked it: the sappy "On The Street Where You Live". Take it away and nothing in the arc of the show really changes. I imagine someone must have said: "Let's give poor Freddy a song."

For tomorrow's blog, let's pick out our choice for the most important song in some major musicals. (Extra points if it's NOT the title song.) My vote for the most important song in "My Fair Lady", btw, is "The Rain in Spain". Agree?

Anonymous 8:36 PM  

Hatchet is one of many great Young Adult novels by Gary Paulsen. Nice to see that the puzzle creator is keeping up with YA lit because a lot has happened since Catcher.
Thanks for what you do!

Barbara S. 8:47 PM  

There is no title song in "My Fair Lady." Or even a song that could be said to fulfill that role. Would you agree? I think you could make a case for "Why Can't the English?" being absolutely indispensable because it sets out the problem right off the bat. But, it's hardly melodious. There's a certain amount of actual speaking in it and with Rex Harrison "carrying the tune" it's hard to distinguish from the spoken word. But content-wise, it's crucial.

Nancy 10:11 PM  

"Why Can't the English" is a clever song, an important song, a song that lays out both the plot about to unfold and the character of Higgins. It's a terrific song. But I can easily imagine another song in its place that could work just as well. Call it "Hear Them Screech in Covent Garden" or "My Old Oxford Don Is Turning In His Grave". What I'm saying is you need that kind of song, a song that makes that kind of point, but you don't have to have exactly THAT song for the show to succeed.

Whereas "The Rain In Spain" -- I can't imagine another song that would so capture the joy and euphoria of the moment. And that also shows the transformation as it is happening. So dramatic. Take away "Rain" and you remove much of the guts of the show. I don't think "My Fair Lady would have been the hit it was without it.

Of course Lerner did have expert help. It's GBS's almost exact words from that pivotal scene in Pygmalion -- brilliantly turned into lyric form by Lerner.

Anonymous 10:35 PM  

Agree, with everyone saying Hatchet is famous. I'm not even that young. Just turned 39 and it is actually the only one of the lot I've read, assigned in grade school (before I cheated and cliff notes-ed everything). Of course I've heard of all the others and know the basic plots of most. Knowledge gap, you're getting old Rex! πŸ˜† If nothing new can ever become classic how will we ever expand?

(Oh, actually, I think I (mostly) read Midsummer, too. But, it was gibberish pulp to me and I remember it worse than most of the ones I didn't. πŸ˜†)

Anonymous 11:12 PM  

NUTTY: the term is nutty. No one says nutsy. That usage is such utter, obvious, odious garbage, my dumbass phone is currently trying to correct me as I type. Eff you, Will Shortz, you useless dinosaur overstaying your tepid-at-best welcome, for screwing up what otherwise would have been my best Sunday of the last 20 years. I’m angry. End this.

CDilly52 11:46 PM  

Mercy! It’s late and t’all have already said everything there is to say about this one, and I have nothing to add. The TENORS clue baffled me and I was absolutely certain that it had to be TENORS but couldn’t come up with operatic ones. Decided I needed pop singers and then just put the answer in anyway. Thank you all for Freddie and Bruno. I admit I rarely (possibly never) consider the specific range of pop singers, and I listen to many of them.

My decision not to try to figure out the TENOR misdirect pretty much sums up my feeling about this whole very easy Sunday puzzle. I could not get excited about it. Perhaps the good news is that it was incredibly easy.

C. Justice 12:28 AM  

I'm quite late chiming in on this one, but BIT ROT is a very real thing in the information science corner of the world. It's basically the danger in storing all our created *stuff* electronically rather than on paper, or parchment, or clay and stone tablets.

See, digital media -- especially magnetic media, but optical storage, too, given enough time -- isn't perfectly stable over archival periods of time. Sooner or later, that magnetic encoding gets a little fuzzy, or the optimal matrix degrades a little, and one of those millions upon millions of binary 1s and 0s stops being... whatever it was supposed to be.

It's no big deal if you've got a traditionally written, on-paper thing and a bit of the ink fades and one of the letters gets hard to read. But depending on which bit goes bad, it's possible for even that tiny flaw to render a program unusable or a data file unreadable.

That's BIT ROT. It's the sort of thing that keeps information scientists -- and archival librarians -- up at night.

Bob Mills 8:47 AM  

Didn't finish it until early Monday morning. I think the puzzle is brilliantly constructed, considering that there are several levels of theme built into one revealer. I never heard of HATCHET or DUNE, and didn't know that AMIDSUMMERNIGHTSDREAM took place in Greece. I had read CATCHERINTHERYE in high school or college, but didn't know it had been remade.

I did know Ron Mix, but like Rex, I was trying to come up with a single last name.

Made in Japan 10:16 AM  

The hardest part for me was the INAPP/NEAL cross. I had it right, but when I was told that I had something wrong, I changed it to ItAPP/tEAL, because, you know, the Teal Revolution and Tealpeace. When I found a typo elsewhere in the puzzle, I forgot to change it back. INAPP sounds like something your iPhone needs when it is iTired.

Anonymous 11:10 AM  

Someone already said this, but if you missed it, “act out” means mime in way that in charades you “act out” a word. Nothing to do with outdoors.

Anonymous 10:25 PM  

Right, another eye roll. Dumb joke, bad clue. This whole puzzle had me saying “What?? Ok, I guess so”. A real clunker, drove me nutsy

Anonymous 2:19 PM  

Thank you for posting this! 😊

Anonymous 3:32 PM  

Hatchet definitely threw me for a loop. Because the only thing I could pull as a cultural reference was Adam Green's hillbilly slasher movie franchise.

janet schulman 6:34 PM  

Freddie Mercury is NOT a tenor! He has a very high range but he is really a Baritone as per many opera singers. He also has a low range.

janet schulman 8:26 AM  


listen to Freddies baritone

Susan Kristol 1:12 PM  

My kids, who were born in the 1980s, and now my grandchildren as well, are/were great fans of the book hatchet.

kitshef 8:06 AM  

Really great theme, but the puzzle was marred as noted by Rex by ROY MIX, BIT ROT and HATCHET.

Margofardargo 1:12 PM  

Dear Rex, I come to your site when my own resources fail me— or when I need confirmation that a clue is just plain NUTSY. Thanks for affirming how badly RON MIXed up my otherwise usually musical inclination to look for TENORS. I am sending you $$ right now. (In the newspaper in Bangor, Maine, we are doing NYT crossword puzzles two weeks after the rest of the world).

Geome 1:13 PM  

Fabulous puzzle! Rex's nit-picking is a tiresome constant, but at least I can depend on him to be a querulous curmudgeon and I check in now and again to make sure he's still kvetching.
I'm amazed that the Crossword King had trouble with his own name, although Rex can also refer to a yappy, little pest so maybe he was distracted.
As to the commentariat, I trepidly aver that one's like or dislike of a particular puzzle depends on whether or not one successfully completes it, and when one does not, one scrounges around for all the excuses one can come up with.(Amazing how that formerly disparaged British anachronism - "one" - has become so useful in these precious times).
Fabulous puzzle! (I completed it).

Burma Shave 2:43 PM  


AND DREAM of LUST all THE time


Anonymous 4:31 PM  

I am an old hacker. As such, I’ve not only heard of “bit rot” but I’ve used it often. I however have never heard of data decay.

Diana, LIW 5:32 PM  

As a lit major from way back (waaaay back), this was in my wheelhouse. But RONMIX - nah.

Diana, LIW

spacecraft 7:05 PM  

@Anonymoose (6:20): STU Ungar was indeed a "poker great," at which title you scoff. He won two consecutive World Series of Poker championships and was said to be able to read his opponents better than anyone ever. He was a genius, but he died way too early of a drug overdose. Let's show a little respect.

Today's offering was rather typical of the circles-within-long-answers genre. As we've noted before, you can pick almost any word/phrase/title out of a long entry if you can circle at random. Props for finding plot similarities in unrelated works, all but one of which are classics. Sorry, but that HATCHET job stands WA-A-Ay out.

Tricky cluing helps with the difficulty here, but still only medium. Par.

Wordle birdie.

And the E!A!G!L!E!S! are through to the Super Bowl!!!!!!! Yaaay!

Monsta 9:37 PM  

33 down: yeah. No. This clue for the NHL is terrible—Wild Group? Athletic. Skillful. Artfully graceful at times. Yes. Wild. No. And 122 down: wth does that even mean?????

rondo 12:04 AM  

@Monsta - The Minnesota Wild are a NHL team. Don't shoot you mouth off before thinking.

Anonymous 12:45 AM  

@Monsta 9:37pm :
The Minnesota Wild are a NHL team. That's their name.

Anonymous 3:23 PM  

Shirley, you jest?

Anonymous 3:38 PM  

I was going to say the Ryder Cup but your next question would undoubtedly be “does anyone know anyone who watches golf…?”

Anonymous 5:52 AM  

Wild, Hurricane, Avalanche. Worst names ever for sports teams. You skate for Boston ? Yeah, I'm a Bruin. And you ? You skate for Minnesota ? Yeah, I'm a Wild.

Natick at 88 across and 90 down. Why must we learn the name of rappers in order to finish a crossword puzzle ?

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