Cocktail named for two iconic beverage brands / MON 1-9-23 / Bigeye or yellowfin tuna at a sushi bar / Coral reef producer / Gooey lunchbox sandwich informally / Concept that can't be criticized or questioned metaphorically

Monday, January 9, 2023

Constructor: Andrea Carla Michaels and Kevin Christian

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: AC/DC (55D: "Highway to Hell" rock group ... or a hint to electrical switches found in 16-, 23-, 36-, 44- and 57-Across) — theme answers contain both "AC" and "DC" letter pairs:

Theme answers:
  • SACRED COW (16A: Concept that can't be criticized or questioned, metaphorically)
  • CRACKED CRAB (23A: Seafood often served with picks)
  • BACKGROUND CHECK (36A: Pre-employment investigation)
  • JACK AND COKE (44A: Cocktail named for two iconic beverage brands)
  • ACTED COOL (57A: Behaved in a laid-back way)
Word of the Day: S.Pellegrino (33D: San Pellegrino offering) —
S.Pellegrino is an Italian natural mineral water brand, owned by the company Sanpellegrino S.p.A, part of Swiss company Nestlé since 1997. The principal production plant is located in San Pellegrino Terme in the Province of Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy, at 358 metres above sea level. Products are exported to most countries in Europe, the Americas, Australia and the Middle East, as well as in Asia in Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. [...]  In 1932, the Aranciata orangeade variant was introduced. Containing S.Pellegrino as its primary ingredient, the soda added concentrated orange juice. Today, Sanpellegrino S.p.A. also produces various other flavors of carbonated beverages: Limonata (lemonade), Sanbittèr (bitters), Pompelmo (grapefruit), Aranciata Rossa (blood orange), and Chinò (chinotto). (wikipedia)
• • •
***HELLO, READERS AND FELLOW SOLVERS*** How is the new year treating you? Well, I hope. Me, uh, not great so far (COVID, you know), but I'm 95% better, and was never terribly sick to begin with, so I have every reason to believe things will turn around for me shortly, thank God (and vaccines). Anyway, it's early January, which means it's time once again for my annual week-long pitch for financial contributions to the blog. Every year I ask readers to consider what the blog is worth to them on an annual basis and give accordingly. I'm not sure what to say about this past year. This will sound weird, or melodramatic—or maybe it won't—but every time I try to write about 2022, all I can think is "well, my cat died." She (Olive) died this past October, very young, of a stupid congenital heart problem that we just couldn't fix (thank you all for your kind words of condolence, by the way). I'm looking at the photo I used for last year's fundraising pitch, and it's a picture of me sitting at my desk (this desk, the one I'm typing at right now, the one I write at every day) with Olive sitting on my shoulder, staring at me, and making me laugh. It's a joyous picture. Here, I'm just gonna post it again:

I love the photo both because you can tell how goofy she is, and how goofy she made me. Her loss hurt for the obvious reasons, but also because she was so much a part of my daily routine, my daily rhythms and rituals. She was everyday. Quotidian. Just ... on me, near me, being a weirdo, especially in the (very) early mornings when I was writing this blog. She took me out of myself. She also made me aware of how much the quotidian matters, how daily rituals break up and organize the day, mark time, ground you. They're easy to trivialize, these rituals, precisely because they *aren't* special. Feed the cats again, make the coffee again, solve the crossword again, etc. But losing Olive made me reevaluate the daily, the quotidian, the apparently trivial. In a fundamental way, those small daily things *are* life. No one day is so important, or so different from the others, but cumulatively, they add up, and through the days upon days you develop a practice—a practice of love, care, and attention given to the things that matter. If you're reading this, then crossword puzzles are undoubtedly an important ritual for you, just as writing about crosswords for you all is an important ritual for me. It gives me so much. I hope that even at my most critical, my genuine love for crosswords—for the way my brain lights up on crosswords—comes through. I also hope that the blog brings you entertainment, insight, laughter ... even (especially) if you disagree with me much (most? all?) of the time. 

[man, I really wear the hell 
out of this red fleece...]
The blog began years ago as an experiment in treating the ephemeral—the here-today, gone-tomorrow—like it really mattered. I wanted to stop and look at this 15x15 (or 21x21 thing) and take it seriously, listen to it, see what it was trying to do, think about what I liked or didn't like about it. In short, I gave the puzzle my time and attention. And I continue to do that, every day (Every! Day!). And it is work. A lot of work. Asking for money once a year (and only once a year) is an acknowledgment of that fact. There is nothing to subscribe to here ... no Substack or Kickstarter or Patreon ... and there are no ads, ever. I prefer to keep financial matters simple and direct. I have no "hustle" in me beyond putting my ass in this chair every morning and writing.

How much should you give? Whatever you think the blog is worth to you on a yearly basis. Whatever that amount is is fantastic. Some people refuse to pay for what they can get for free. Others just don't have money to spare. All are welcome to read the blog—the site will always be open and free. But if you are able to express your appreciation monetarily, here are three options. First, a Paypal button (which you can also find in the blog sidebar):

Second, a mailing address (checks should be made out to "Rex Parker"):

Rex Parker c/o Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton, NY 13905

The third, increasingly popular option is Venmo; if that's your preferred way of moving money around, my handle is @MichaelDavidSharp (the last four digits of my phone are 4878, in case Venmo asks you, which I guess it does sometimes, when it's not trying to push crypto on you, what the hell?!)

All Paypal contributions will be gratefully acknowledged by email. All snail mail contributions will be gratefully acknowledged with hand-written postcards. I. Love. Snail Mail. I love seeing your gorgeous handwriting and then sending you my awful handwriting. It's all so wonderful. My daughter (Ella Egan) has designed a cat-related thank-you postcard for 2023, just as she has for the past two years, but this year, there's a bonus. Because this year ... the postcard is also a crossword puzzle! Yes, I made a little 9x9 blog-themed crossword puzzle for you all. It's light and goofy and I hope you enjoy it. It looks like this (clues blurred for your protection):

I had fun making this puzzle (thanks to Rachel Fabi and Neville Fogarty for proofing it for me!). For non-snail-mailers who want to solve the puzzle, don't worry: I'll make the puzzle available for everyone some time next month. Please note: I don't keep a "mailing list" and don't share my contributor info with anyone. And if you give by snail mail and (for some reason) don't want a thank-you card, just indicate "NO CARD."  Again, as ever, I'm so grateful for your readership and support. Now on to today's puzzle...

• • •

Well, apparently I am feeling well enough (finally) to attempt the Monday puzzle Downs-only again. Not only attempt, but finish, with little trouble. Unlike with most Downs-only endeavors, I got to actually see one of the themers this time—and the revealer, at that. Weird place for a revealer, but I guess if you cram in this many theme answers, space gets limited and you put it where you can. That's not a problem. What is a problem is how thin the concept seems. There's an "AC" and a "DC" but I don't get why that's interesting. I think the theme answers themselves are solid, particularly JACK AND COKE (which seems outright original), but the revealer was a massive let-down. Worse, the clue on it feels convoluted, like it's pretending that there's more going on with the theme than there really is. What are these "electrical switches" the revealer clue refers to? That makes it sound like something is being "switched" as part of the theme concept, but I think here the clue just means "there's an AC in there and a DC in there." That is, the phrasing makes it seem high-concept, but the reality is just deathly literal. I know that AC and DC are currents (alternating and direct, respectively), but the whole "switches" thing I am not getting. The worse issue, however, is purely editorial—how is the "BACK" from KICKS BACK allowed to not only duplicate but actually *cross* the BACK from BACKGROUND? It's one (bad) thing to dupe an over 3-letter word in the grid like that, but it's a much worse thing to have the dupes cross, *and* to have one of those dupes be your marquee theme answer. *And then* to put "laid-back" in the clue for yet another answer (57A: Behaved in a laid-back way) when you've already got KICKS BACK in the grid. It's like this wasn't proofed carefully at all. So the concept felt a little flimsy and the editing / proofreading was subpar. But as I say, the theme answers themselves are largely decent stand-alone answers, so the puzzle wasn't a total loss. It was fun to watch those longer answers come together using just the Downs. 

Outside the theme (and the BACK fiasco) the only real gripe I have with this one is the clue on LEMON SODA (33D: San Pellegrino offering). San Pellegrino does not, from what I can tell, make a product that it calls LEMON SODA. Also, it's Sanpellegrino, one word, in their branding. Here, I'll show you. Here's a can of the product in question (I assume this is the product in question: a "sparkling lemon beverage" called LIMONATA, i.e. "lemonade"):

Note the one-word spelling of "Sanpellegrino," and the fact that not once does the word "SODA" appear on this can. Now yes, if you look up the definition of "[any fruit] SODA," it basically matches what's going on here—some juice (or other natural or artificial flavoring) and some carbonation. OK. But it's Monday and *iconically* S.Pellegrino makes mineral water, not sodas, and anyway they don't use the term "soda" in their marketing, and so ... I don't get this clue at all. It's not indefensible, it just seems ... like you shouldn't need a defense team for a simple Monday clue. 

My Downs-only whiffs were relatively few. I had to work to get LARVA (not sure why—should've been a gimme) (11D: Stage in a butterfly's development) and DWEEB (12D: Socially inept sort), and then LEMONSODA (obviously) and finally POLYP (52D: Coral reef producer), which was probably hardest of all the Downs to get with no Acrosses. It's clued the way it is because the puzzle is trying to do that cutesy successive-clue echoing it sometimes does: here, both 51D: Coral islet chain and 52D: Coral reef producer start with "Coral"—not the most intuitive way to clue POLYP, but it's fine, and only troublesome from a Downs-only perspective, and not that troublesome even then. That'll be all, I think. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joaquin 12:04 AM  

Early in the solve I was looking for something "themeish" with the two BACKs crossing in the NW. Thought I might come upon two "belly"s crossing somewhere for a theme of "Back to back/belly to belly". As it was, it was a well-hidden theme for a Monday, adding a level of enjoyment to this puzzle.

okanaganer 12:54 AM  

Like Rex I did this downs only (I think I've been doing it that way a lot longer than he has but never mind). However unlike him, I crashed and burned big time! I got hung up in the right middle, with really no idea for 32 and 33 down. So I decided the San Pellegrino drink was BERRY SODA, which made the acrosses 32, 41, 43, and 50 respectively: OBIE, AGREE, OSER, and YAP. In my defense all kinda plausible. Anyway, not even close. 7 incorrect squares (seven!!). But I had fun anyway, in my own private puzzle disaster.

Here in Canada we have Canadian whisky, which naturally we call "rye whisky" even if it actually has no rye in it. But it is SOOO much better than Scotch or American, trust me. JACK AND COKE no; RYE AND COKE yes!!! And if you get a premium "rye", simply pour it on a giant ice cube; it is so tasty. That was my nephew and me, xmas night, big time. Played the board game "Things you should know" and I won, even though I was slurring my answers near the end.

[Spelling Bee: Sun 0, last word was this odd 6er which I somehow typed in desperation having no idea what word I was actually looking for. 5 day QB streak!]

Adam S 1:33 AM  

Limonata is totally a lemon soda. A good one that contains real lemon juice, but any canned drink that contains 25 grams of sugar is fair game to be described as soda whether that is what the company says in its marketing or not.

jae 1:41 AM  

Easy. Got the theme post solve. Smooth (with the exception of the “BACK fiasco”) with a bit of sparkle and a subtle theme, liked it.

@Croce solvers - Croce’s Freestyle #775 was a medium Croce for me, with the east side tougher than the west. The SE was last to fall partly because I held on to the wrong answer for 48a for a skosh too long. Good luck!

egsforbreakfast 1:54 AM  

The first time I went into a bar I ACTEDCOOL. Apparently not cool enough as the bartender went beyond a normal ID Check, and insisted on a full BACKGROUNDCHECK. I probably should have known better than to order a cACKANDjOKE with a LEMONSODA back.In fact there were about two too many BACKs in the puzzle already, as Rex points out.

I’ve also gotta agree with Rex about the revealer. What do switches have to do with the themers? And, in addition, it’s not like there are AC/DC switches (there technically are such things, but it’s not a switch in the normal lights on/lights off sense).

Loren Muse Smith 3:54 AM  

First of all, we should start calling Kevin “Devin” instead. Hah. I loved this for two reasons: 1) the letters are not circled, leading to 2) the trick was really hard to figure out. When I finally allowed myself to look at the reveal, I smiled. Well played, you two.

DWEEB is I think my favorite word in English. It’s just fun to say, to draw out. Lots of lip action.

SPARE is, ahem, very timely. I can’t decide where I come down on all that royal mess.

Andrea and Kevin missed a chance for a (gruesome) echo clue – 64A coulda been “remove skin from.”

Look, I totally mean to brag when I say I’ve eaten at PER SE in NEW York. Alone. (See also Le Bernardin and Le Cirque. Alone.) It’s a hoot to dine alone at the heavy-hitter restaurants once you muster up the courage. I guess they feel sorry for you and go overboard to be nice. At PER SE, I was given a tour of the kitchen (all the counters were covered in pristine white butcher paper) and a complimentary menu to take home as a souvenir. At Le Bernardin, Eric Ripert came to my table and gave me a signed Zagat’s book. So I’m kind of a big deal, ok?

Rex – your plaint about LEMON SODA was mystifying. (Hi, @Adam S.) I’ve bought that stuff a million times (delicious) and I’ve always referred to it as LEMON SODA. I mean, can’t you call Fresca a diet SODA? Or a diet grapefruit SODA? I’ve read and reread your take on that clue and still can’t follow.

The part of me that’s certain a dead body has materialized in my trunk whenever I see a police car is the same part that is certain that a BACKGROUND CHECK on my will uncover aggravated assault, tax evasion, and aircraft piracy.

Loved, loved, loved ACTED COOL. On the first day at my first ACPT, I was sitting there in the lobby alone and found myself invited to play this new game with Peter Gordon, Patrick Merrell, and Matt Ginsberg. People, in my world, these guys were like Barack Obama, George Clooney and Noam Chomsky. It was a name-game app that Peter had developed, if I remember correctly. I was beyond nervous and upset, but I ACTED COOL. At least I tried to. There was some Georgetown/Alonso Mourning/Patrick Ewing (can’t remember which) one I had to get them to say, and I was successful. I was hoping for astonished admiration, but they ACTED COOL, too. Sigh.

I’ll leave you with this JOKE David Sedaris told me. Well, it’s in his new book:

Guy gets woken up at 2AM by his doorbell. He opens the door and sees a snail perched on his porch.
The snail says, "Hi, I'm going door-to-door selling magazines. Could I interest you in a subscription?"
Enraged, the guy boots the snail off his porch, sending him sailing.
Two years later, doorbell rings again, and one more time it's the snail.
"What the f&%$ was that all about?" says the snail.

It’s corny, but it has Sedaris immunity, and I love it.

Andrea, Kevin – nice one! Hope to see you both in a couple of months!

Karl Grouch 5:04 AM  

lots of lips action, indeed.

Conrad 5:23 AM  

I'm not into downs-only, but I try to do early-week puzzles without reading the clues for the long acrosses. Today I expanded my reach by also skipping the clues for the long downs, 3 and 33. As a result, at 44A I had JACK AND jill, plus innER at 49D. Easily rectified when 48D couldn't be anything but COCOA and 43D had to be OKIE.

Wes 5:32 AM  

I'm guessing Italy is like Germany, where generally ANY soda is labeled a "lemonade." Having tasted San Pellegrino's overly-sweet offering, I had no issues plugging LEMONSODA in.

Lewis 5:51 AM  

My five favorite clues from last week
(in order of appearance):

1. Wheels on a base (4)
2. Character who's striped and spotted? (5)
3. Eco-centric college class, informally? (7)(3)
4. Ambidextrous features? (5)
5. Path covered with diamonds (7)(4)


SouthsideJohnny 6:18 AM  

Large foreign contingent today with ET TU, PER SE, OUI, LAO, THAI, OSLO . . . JAPAN. All of it seemed Monday-appropriate; I wonder if it’s a harbinger of things to come along during the remainder of the week.

Anonymous 6:18 AM  

I went through this pretty much on Acrosses only, so I didn't register the theme or the revealer until later. I do appreciate that the D-C broke across the last two words of each theme answer. Not sure how that fits with the electrical switch theme, but I like the consistency.

Phillyrad1999 6:36 AM  

CRACKEDCRAB made me wish I was somewhere where it was in season. Rex - love your share about Olive. Maddie the chihuahua sometimes perches in mt shoulder like a Pirate’s parrot. Pre-Covid it was always a toss up between me and my wife but post-COVID there is not doubt I am her human in this house. I think your philosophical out look is spot on. Nest

Anonymous 6:41 AM  

I would not be blasé about the derogatory term 'okie', no matter how it was used in the book.

Enjoyed puzzle

Slowly learning how to spell

Wanderlust 6:44 AM  

Sanpellegrino’s marketing team is in a tizzy right now, preparing a campaign to counter any implication that they are a SODA that could possibly share a grocery store shelf with Coke, Pepsi, 7Up and - we can’t even say it - Nehi.

But sorry, it is a soda. (With you on this, @Adam S and @LMS.) JACK AND COKE, JACK AND Sanpellegrino, same thing. I agree it seems odd that Rex of all people is going with the PR folks on this one.

Anyone else have STaId before STOIC? Classic kealoa.

@LMS, I definitely started out on Team Sussex in the royal imbroglio - I have no idea why I care but as for most Americans, the royal family holds a strange fascination for me. But the more new money-making ventures Harry brings out to air his complaints, the more I am becoming a CYNIC. Curious about others. (BTW, your take on BACKGROUND CHECK was hilarious - me too.)

Lewis 7:14 AM  

Number one job of Monday puzzles is to be solveable by new and newer solvers – this comes down to leaving out more arcane answers, and to tailoring the cluing. Both are an art. Leaving out the arcane is tough, as so often, in constructing a puzzle, because when so many letters have to mesh, there are slots where only one word will work, and that word is often arcane. Kevin, who designed and filled in this grid, did great, with only GELID that might qualify as arcane.

The cluing is an art because if you make the clues embarrassingly easy, you insult the solver. The clues have to be that one thin level of difficulty higher, to give the brain a little to do, but not abrasively tough for the beginning solver. Andrea, who did today's cluing, is a master at this. It is why she is one of the queens of Monday.

Bravo you two!

A post-solve scan brought some thoughts. I found interesting that KICKS BACK can mean “relaxes” or be an aggressive act, and that ACTED COOL can mean “behaved in a hip way” or “was remote” – how one phrase can have such opposite-pole meanings. I also liked all the first names today: ANDRE, AIMEE, ALEXA, SACHA, KEANU, PHIL, and JACK. And did I hear a theme echo? – AC/DC, AIMEE, ODDLY, NAVY, OKIE, KESEY.

Way to spark a new week, AC and KC. And thank you for this high-quality offering!

Son Volt 7:51 AM  

Cute theme - well filled. Agree with the big guy on the ho-hum subject but it’s dense and the revealer placement is odd enough to make things interesting. Hand up with @LMS’s take on the lack of helper circles. In August of ‘72 the Dead played a charity show in Veneta, Oregon to support the KESEY family creamery

SACRED COW and CRACKED CRAB don’t feel early week to me. Don’t know who would add anything to JD other than ice. Agree with others here - if you’ve had the Pellegrino limomata you know you are drinking LEMON SODA. I would think the lack of the term SODA on the can is the marketing slant. OKIE from Muskogee.

Enjoyable Monday solve.

Peter CASE

OffTheGrid 7:56 AM  

I liked this solve very much. It was interesting and Monday appropriate. At first I wasn't too impressed with the theme but it required a little work and made sense. Again, it's Monday. Many electrical devices use AC or DC with a switch to change from one to the other. @LMS, I also appreciated no circles. @Wanderlust, I tried STaid, too.

GAC 8:08 AM  

Another example of why Rex annoys me. Here we have a very fine Monday puzzle with FIVE (count them: 5) excellent theme answers, and OFL begins his discussion by slamming the puzzle: "What is a problem is how thin the concept seems. There's an "AC" and a "DC" but I don't get why that's interesting. I think the theme answers themselves are solid, particularly JACK AND COKE (which seems outright original), but the revealer was a massive let-down. Worse, the clue on it feels convoluted...." This puzzle had to be tough to put together, and Rex could have started off by saying that and praising it in other ways. But that's not our Rex. Despite my grumbling,I have made my annual donation and encourage all to do the same. We need this guy, warts and all. Although, as I have commented before, that's Rex's schtick and he doesn't see warts, only beauty spots.

Taylor Slow 8:15 AM  

What I liked about this smooth Monday puzzle: Along with the excellent themers, there were a lot of heavier-than-usual-for-a-Monday answers: I give you ASKEW, DWEEB, REINS (nice clue), the embattled LEMON SODA, and the side-by-side ATOLL and its precursor POLYP. The theme itself wasn't all that compelling, but the answers were.

Agree with Rex about the proofreading, especially the misspelling of Sanpellegrino, maker of an iconic range of Italian sparkling drinks, as they would have it.

@LMS: You met Eric Ripert in person. I M dying of N V.

@okanaganer: You're not seriously suggesting that any Canadian whiskey is better than bourbon, are you? If so, I don't know whether to laugh until I cry or suggest that you need to consult Dr. PHIL. My point is solidified by the fact that the best way to consume bourbon is with some plain old water, as opposed to having to ice it. JACK is not even close to the best bourbon, but bourbon is the drink of the gods.

(It's Sanpellegrino LEMON SODA, according to their PR department, made with the finest fruit, ripened under the Mediterranean sun, which I guess must be different from other suns.)

bigsteve46 8:34 AM  

If you don't know "anyone who would add anything to JD except ice," you're not hanging around many "franchised" (Buffalo Wild Wings. Hooters) bars. I think most of the guys there in their MAGA hats have large dollops of coke mixed with their JD. Not that I recommend those places - but if you're stuck out there in flyover country, sometimes it seems that's all there is.

Anonymous 8:35 AM  

I mean that’s true’ish’ but as a drinker of such drinks I was first thinking ‘lemon seltzer’ which did not fit and then Lemonata which is what the company calls it. Seemed confusing for a Monday unless you DONT know the product.

kitshef 8:41 AM  

Downs only the hardest ones were GELID and PARES (the latter because 'peels' fits).

If anyone knows what either of these comments mean, please enlighten me, I'm sure they must be clever, but are apparently way over my head:
'First of all, we should start calling Kevin “Devin” instead.'
'SPARE is, ahem, very timely. I can’t decide where I come down on all that royal mess.'

kitshef 8:45 AM  

Croce 755 was an absolute beast, particularly in the NW. 45 minutes in had all but 15 squares in the NW. Twenty minutes later, I had managed to fill three more squares. Finally I hit on 1A, but even after that had to sweat it out to get the last six squares about 75 minutes in.

Anonymous 8:46 AM  

Amy: not only did I have Staid instead of STOIC, @Wanderlust, but also Peels instead of PARES. Jack and Coke makes me wonder: is there a drink dubbed Jack and Jill?

TaylorSlow 8:47 AM  

@bigsteveapparently from NYC or LA: "Flyover country?" Really? Such an out-of-date, cliched term. You don't think there are good bars--and good drinkers--between the Rockies and the Appalachians? I live in FC and I've never been to a Buffalo Wild Wings or Hooters, and I assume they have those on the coasts too. I have, however, been to any number of excellent bars, including a local bourbon bar.

Reminds me of a time, back in the early 1980s, when a writers group I was part of got together in Chicago, where our lone NYC member told us all about this amazing new invention just popping up in New York: the salad bar! Which had been around in Chicago for years. I was thinking that the "coastal elite" bit had had its day. Apparently I was wrong.

Anonymous 8:52 AM  

Agree that the revealer didn’t reveal much, but hey, it’s Monday. Also, that particular rock group, while very cool themselves, is a tired XWD reference.

Thanks, Rex.

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

Electrical systems have to be GROUNDed and there it is, smack dab in the middle of all the ACs and DCs.

RooMonster 9:30 AM  

Hey All !
Just when you thought you'd get an ASS free day, it gets sneakily put in at 1D, ASSAY..

Nice to get five ACDC answers in. Got another one from @LMS's avatar.

Nice MonPuz. Nice to see ACME. Been a minute. Still miss her comments here

As a Steelers fan, I gotta say, Dang it Jets. What was that? Or was it sneakily Flacco getting some revenge? Anyway, enjoy the playoffs to the teams that made it.


bocamp 9:47 AM  

Thx, ACME & Kevin; just right for a Mon. puz! :)


Needed crosses for CRACKED CRAB, & POLYP, as well as for JACK AND COKE & LEMON SODA, both of which were unknowns.

Otherwise, a smooth solve with lots of stuff I could relate to, e.g., SPARE (bowled with Dad in his company league), NAVY (served from '62-'65), PBJ (go-to's in grade school days), ALEXA (assists me every day), CTRL+V (Cmd+V on a Mac; use daily), Ken KESEY (who grew up in Springfield, OR, next door to my home town, Eugene), and many other familiar entries.

Helped re-write the BY-LAWS for our strata corporation.

Nice stroll in the park, and a fun start to the solving week! :)

Thx @jae; on it! 🤞


Good effort! If I do a Croce in 75 minutes, I consider it to be relatively easy! lol
Peace 🕊 🇺🇦 ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🙏

Gary Jugert 9:47 AM  

Excellent puzzle.

Never ever heard of SHOOFLY PIE. After studying up on it now it sounds like a coffee cake. Sorry, don't wanna start another babka controversy.

I gave some thought to adding PER SE onto my least favorite word list since it always looks so ugly in crosswords, but it's two words, and I don't have a least favorite phrase list since I wouldn't get anything else done.

Had melanoma surgery on the top of my head last month, and suddenly the word SCALP (noun and verb) are a part of my every day worries.


1 Aristocratic type enthusiastically agrees to a platter full of murder.
2 Typical activity done near a dumpster.
3 Poet haunting the hot chocolate shop.
4 Syrupy citrus-flavored concoction rendered undrinkable by the cruel ravages of the hour hand.


Whatsername 9:59 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Whatsername 10:09 AM  

In tune with Rex today on most points. (And BTW, can’t wait to add that new card to my collection.) Yes, the theme was thin but I keep thinking how cool it would’ve been in a Thursday rebus. I saw RED in SACRED COW and noticed all the CK‘s falling in the themers, and I first thought it was going to be some sort of red wire/black wire theme. And on that note, I agree the BACK duplication was cringe worthy, but I dislike any duplication in the grid so maybe that’s just me.

Never heard of Limonata but it sounds like a light sparkler which I would enjoy. LEMON SODA on the other hand sounds like Grape Nehi. In the 70s, I had a thing with a guy who drank BLACK JACK and he always ACTED all COOL about it. But of course at that time, I thought it was too.

TTrimble 10:16 AM  

No, I won't trust you, @okanaganer. And I don't know what "American whisky" (or whiskey) is, unless all you mean is whisky that is produced somewhere in the US and regulated under US law. Seems like kind of a broad brush.

Also, as long as we're categorizing by nationality, the assertion that Canadian whisky is SOOO superior to Scotch whisky (of whatever type) is a mighty bold claim, my friend.

I'm not sure you were around when guest blogger Christopher Adams also made a snide reference to (crossword solvers) in flyover country. I agree, it's not pretty.

And yes, it's a SODA for crying out loud. Kudos to @TaylorSlow for checking in with their PR department, this would seem to outright refute what Rex said. Anyway, those who are griping can "can" it. (By the way, I always thought "soda" is broadly applied to drinks with carbonation and doesn't have to do with sugar necessarily. As in "club soda".)

Is it significant that in each of the theme answers, there's a crossover from one word to the next when going from D to C? I didn't see Rex comment on this.

SB: I'd meant to finish yesterday's with one to go, but my tab crashed and when I came back, the new one had taken up residence. So I missed the 6-er that @okanaganer mentioned. That would have been a three-day streak.

MKM 10:16 AM  

@Kitshef 8:41

First of all, we should start calling Kevin “Devin” instead.'
Then you have Andrea Carla and Devin Christian

'SPARE is, ahem, very timely. I can’t decide where I come down on all that royal mess.'
"Spare" is Prince Harry's new memoir.

Smith 10:16 AM  

@kitshef 8:41
SPARE is the name of a new book by Harry and Megan, and that's all I know (other than the title seems to refer to the phrase "an heir and a spare", meaning William as the heir and Harry as the spare).

Nancy 10:18 AM  

What a nice Monday dinner party ACME an Kevin have prepared. CRACKED CRAB, AHI, THAI and PIE -- washed down by JACK AND COKE on ICE, COCOA and COLD GELID LEMON SODA. And if you're still hungry after all that, have some SACRED COW.

After which we can KICK BACK and take a well-earned NAP.

The theme was cute and fun and I couldn't figure it out without looking at the revealer clue. It seems impressive to find these themers, only I'm led to understand that there's software that can do it for you. Sure wish I knew

Where to find such software
How to set it up and use it

I could have saved a lot of sleepless hours tossing and "ideating" in bed, that's all I have to say.

Colorful fill; imaginative un-Mondayish cluing such as 9A for COLD*; and a dearth of proper names and crosswordese. A really, really enjoyable Monday!

*The only thing worse than pizza for breakfast is COLD pizza for breakfast. Yuck.

Smith 10:24 AM  

Downs only, no big probs. PeelS before PARES. Weirdly, got all the themers as they are plenty "in the language", and the revealer, but could not make the connection!

Masked and Anonymous 10:46 AM  

@RP: Like the look of yer runtpuz postcard.

Cool "Highway to Hell" MonPuz theme.
fave themers: SACREDCOW & ACTEDCOOL. Cuz they managed tp cram AC/DC into the smallest spaces. Are there smaller AC/DC answers in our universe? Can't think of any. ACID CC?

fave moo-cow eazy-E MonPuz clue: {What a diagonal line represents on a bowling scoresheet} = SPARE.
staff weeject pick: WEE. Sooo … NW corner did real good on awards, today.

other faves included: DWEEB. POLYP. CTRLV. BACK/BACK.

Thanx for gangin up on us, ACME & Kevin folks. It was electric.

Masked & Anonymo3Us


EdFromHackensack 10:50 AM  

same as Smith. PeelS before PARES. easy. so easy I completed this while shaving

Joe Dipinto 11:02 AM  

I buy the SanPellegrino Limonata, Aranciata (orange), and Pompelmo (grapefruit) flavors all.the.time. They are sodas. (The lemon-mint flavor is good too. The others are too sweet.)

I don't particularly like that all the ACs are contained within a single word, but all the DCs are broken across two words. I realize that's kind of by necessity, but still... Trying to think of ways to vary it:

What was last night scenic
May seem cynic by today

kitshef 11:09 AM  

Thank you, @MKM and @Smith. One over my head; one completely outside my ken.

Joseph Michael 11:31 AM  

ALEXA’s bad day. She had a note TO TED in her PERSE but forgot to bring it. Then on her way here, she didn’t have enough cash to pay A TOLL and had to take the BACK roads. By the time she finally arrived, the A lot was full and she had to park in the B LOT where she stepped on a PBJ that some DWEEB had dropped. But in spite of all that, she would like the constructors to know that she enjoyed the puzzle very much.

Wanderlust 11:46 AM  

Amen! This Missourian had the same reaction.

Whatsername 11:49 AM  

@bigsteve (8:34) Personally I would never ruin a shot of JACK by mixing it with anything but … as one who’s been “stuck” out here in flyover country most of my life, I assure you that’s not all there is. Those MAGA hats have all sorts of way more deplorable places where they like to gather before they’d rub shoulders with the snooty liberal elites who might be in a Buffalo Wild Wings.

kitshef 12:09 PM  

Fun fact: The US state with the most flights passing over it but not landing is Virginia. #2 is North Carolina. But somehow I don't get the impression that this is what people mean by 'flyover states'.

Camilita 12:39 PM  

I remember drinking Jack and Coke on my first visit to the Deep South on January 1979. My neice was born in Biloxi Mississippi. It was culture shock! I was a college student at the time in NY. I felt like I was in a foreign country. Someone actually gave me a KKK business card, which I found recently with my old papers and stuff.. My kids were gobsmacked to see that! I save everything though that is unusual or gobsmacks people-a historical relic i guess. It's disgusting. It has a diatribe about white supremacy on the back.
One difference I noticed is my brother's in-laws were showing me their High School yearbook, and on every page, a few students were pregnant or a mother. Comparing that to my high school, there was no one coming to school noticeably pregnant and not one who became a mother. My guess is that high schoolers in Long Island at that time got abortions. I did have some female friends who went that route. Jack and Coke had all those memories rushing back to me.

Anoa Bob 12:41 PM  

I'm a CYNIC (9D) about many things and it isn't a matter of being a "Jaded doubter", as clued. I think a "doubter", of whatever stripe, would be a skeptic. CYNICs are absolutely, 100% certain that they are being lied to and taken advantage of, no doubt about it. And if you don't believe me then I have some deep hydrating, rejuvenating and anti-aging butt balm that will make your booty a cutie. It's marked down to only $56.73 per jar, but hurry, supplies are limited.

I was in electronics during a hitch in the NAVY (62A) and worked for a few years after that in the aerospace industry. Never saw or heard of an AC/DC "switch". Maybe "...or a hint to electrical options found in..." for the 55D reveal clue would have worked better.

For those working toward their POC (plural of convenience) Merit Badge, there are four of the two for one variety, where a Down and an Across share a single letter count, grid fill boosting S. The first occurs early on when both ERR and ARK need help filling their slots. Do you see the others? (There's also what some call a stealth POC where KICK BACK falls short of doing its job.)

Tom T 12:48 PM  

Tried the "downs only" approach today; did alright with it, but doubt that I'll stick with it. Old dog, new ... (possibly "The CASE of the OLDER DWEEB, but I hope not!)

Liveprof 1:02 PM  

Reportedly, after SACHA Baron Cohen's Borat films put a spotlight on Kazakhstan, the number of men married to goats in the country dropped substantially.

Carola 1:47 PM  

Things beyond my ken: the band ACDC, CRACKED CRAB, JACK AND COKE. Still, an easy puzzle and fun to solve. With memories of Philosophy 101, I liked a CYNIC and a STOIC sharing the grid.

Do-over: SAsHA resulted in SACRED sOW, which according to Wikipedia might have been found among the Druids.

Gene 2:18 PM  

I also did downs only, also successful. And also found POLYP the hardest to finish. And I never heard of JACKANDCOKE. And I agree with Rex on most of the write-up. Just a weird day. 😁

Weezie 2:48 PM  

I had STONY instead of STOIC, but also PEELS instead of PARES, so add me today’s Kealoa Klub. A fun puzzle; I loved the inclusion of POLYP but I have a special affinity for marine life.

bocamp 3:09 PM  


Easy-med. according to my scale (just n. of 1 hr). Agree with @kitshef: the NW was by far the toughest area. See y'all next Mon.! :)

On to Natan Last's challenging New Yorker Mon. 🤞
Peace 🕊 🇺🇦 ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🙏

Maybe . . . 3:34 PM  

Unlike Rex, compared to yesterday's very uninteresting non-word theme clues in a crossWORD puzzle, I thought today's offering was practically fascinating. Plus, it was fun.

Hance Huston 4:03 PM  

Does the fact that each of the theme answers switch from the penultimate word to the last word with DC count?

old timer 5:06 PM  

I liked a lot of the puzzle, which was very hard for a Monday. What I did not like was that the payoff answers were sometimes Green Paint. ACTEDCOOL? BACKGROUNDCHECK?
Still, some answers brought back memories. I was in Rome during a hot spell once, and divided by time between many a COKE and bottles of Aranciata San Pelligrino, the most delicious drink ever made. Would not call it a SODA, but I call nothing SODA other than SODA water. But there are places where every soft drink is a SODA, and some where every soft drink is a Pop. The Dictionary of American Regional English has a long article about this, I believe.

I did love CRACKED CRAB. Iconic, in season, in San Francisco, and now at last available in Northern California. The classic SF experience: Wait for the season to begin, and then order a half CRACKED CRAB at Zuni. The classic New York experience once involved pigging out on Blue Crab at Sidewalker's, now sadly closed. (Oh well, the Oyster Bar is still with us). My other classic NY experience involves a visit to McSorley's, followed by a perfect Martini several blocks away at Gramercy Taverm

I will probably never have a JACKANDCOKE, but people my age thought a rumANDCOKE was supersophisticated, especially when we were still under 21.

Nancy 5:26 PM  

Can you believe it? Over on the Wordplay Blog there are people -- lots and lots of people! -- who are waxing rhapsodic over cold pizza for breakfast. And evidently there's a SONG dedicated to this perfectly revolting idea!

Actually the song is pretty cute. I went and listened to it. But that's as close as I ever want to get to cold pizza for breakfast.

dgd 6:46 PM  

There is a type of pizza which has a soft thick "crust" with usually just tomato sauce on it (no cheese) which is MADE to be eaten cold. It is cut into rectangular pieces - 8" by 2" inch say - and often eaten at parties buffet style- but not at breakfast! .At least among Italian- Americans it is very popular where I live. Sometimes it is referred to as "pizza strips". It is made by Italian bakeries, I wouldn't be surprised if it existed in NYC.
It is nothing like left over pizzeria pizza

Joe Dipinto 7:21 PM  

@Old Timer – I agree ACTED COOL is flimsy but BACKGROUND CHECK is solid. Google the term and you will get site after site offering to perform exactly that.

albatross shell 9:51 PM  

Entertaining Monday.
SACRED COW CRACKED CRAB and almost some GROUNDCHuCK on the menu.

The King of Cool: Steve McQueen Dean Martin Miles Davis Sammy Davis or... . I wanted Relaxes as KICKSBACK (and collects bribes?) and Behaved in a laidBACK way as ACTED COOL to be in the same tense.

KESEY OKIE ANDRE AIMEE POE POLY P ALEXA in order of decreasing enjoyment.

Keep it Clean
(Lyrics Dave Van Ronk)
Wanna get frisky, don't wanna pay the price
Fill it up with whiskey and pack it down with ice
Ahh, roll her over, give her coke-a-cola
Yes, a dish of ice cream, lemon soda
Well, take soap and water, baby, for her to keep it clean

Or you can listen to the original by Charlie Jordan with even funkier lyrics here:

I prefer my JACK on ICE (not the other way around and on the other side of the room as it was today), and my COKE powdered.


JC66 10:23 PM  

ANDREa couldn't quite squeeze her name in. (-;

spacecraft 10:55 AM  

Sorry, kids, but could you throw MY breakfast pizza in the nuke? Hot foods were meant to be eaten hot, says I.

Other annoyances: ACDC, to me a group that simply screams rather than sing. No thank you. I do, however, note that I couldn't find the common GROUND for all the themers until hitting the reveal, a genuine aha moment. PeelS for PARES and SAsHA for SACHA. SACHA himself: ugh. CTRLV. And the crowning touch: EKE for the THIRD DAY IN A ROW!!! Stop already!!!

If I seem grouchy today, it's because of the Super Bowl result. To be scrupulously fair, this is a typical Monday offering with a well-hidden theme and deserves a par.

I was off my game in Wordle too, struggling to a bogey. I'll be BACK on horseBACK tomorrow.

Burma Shave 11:54 AM  


AIMEE knows you've ACTEDCOOL.


rondo 12:19 PM  

ACME's BACK. OKIE dokey. OUI WEE. Hand up for PeelS before PARES, otherwise no trouble ATOLL. Second day in a row for AIMEE Mann, yeah baby.
Wordle par.

Diana, LIW 12:54 PM  

A tad more complex (not necessarily tougher) than most Mondays. Count on ACME to do the honors.

yes, yes, SASHA for SACHA at first. Even when I know a name, I don't "know" the name.

mmmm...breakfast pizza

Diana, LIW

Anonymous 3:50 PM  

@kitshef 8:41am :
Andrea Carla michaels
Devin Christian

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