Loaf-shaped cake / MON 1-2-23 / Classic song about a soulmate / Ford model that's also a zodiac sign / One born shortly after WW II informally

Monday, January 2, 2023

Constructor: Seth Bisen-Hersh

Relative difficulty: Medium (normal Monday)

THEME: 2(BU) — theme answers contain two words, each of which contains the letter pairing "BU," which gives you 2 "BU"s ... all tied together by the revealer, "IT HAD TO BE YOU" (50A: Classic song about a soulmate ... or a phonetic hint for repeated pairs of letters in 19-, 27- and 42-Across):

Theme answers:
  • TRIBUTE ALBUM (19A: The 2005 compilation "Killer Queen" is one honoring Queen)
  • BUNSEN BURNER (27A: Chemistry lab device)
  • HAMBURGER BUN (42A: Topper for a Whopper)
Word of the Day: BABKA (20D: Loaf-shaped cake) —
babka is a sweet braided bread (not a cake) which originated in the Jewish communities of Poland and Ukraine. It is popular in Israel [...] and in the Jewish diaspora. It is prepared with a yeast-leavened dough that is rolled out and spread with a filling such as chocolate, cinnamon, fruit, or cheese, then rolled up and braided before baking. (wikipedia) (emph. mine)
• • •

Was a little ho-hum on this one upon completion, but once I noticed that the revealer indicated not just "BU" ("... BE YOU") but actually the pair of "BU"S ("... TO BE YOU," i.e. 2(BU)), I was won over. Conceptually, this was on a somewhat higher plane than most Mondays. Plus the fill is whistle-clean, and occasionally even interesting. Further, there are no other stray "BU" pairs lying around the grid—every "BU" is involved in a themer. This indicates a certain measure of polish and attention to detail, and gives the puzzle a certain elegance, even if most people won't really notice it. The solve itself wasn't terribly exciting, but the revealer provided a good "aha," and with no grievous fill to distract your attention along the way, the strong revealer is enough. No real complaints. I do have a question, though: BABKA—what is it? I mean, is it cake or is it bread. Wikipedia insists it is "not a cake" (see "Word of the Day," above), and Merriam-Webster calls it "a glazed sweet bread made with dried fruit (such as raisins)." But then Google (Oxford Languages) calls it a "loaf-shaped coffee cake," and something called spoonuniversity.com says, "Babka is a dense cake, although it looks a little like a bread." I will say that BABKA was the answer that held me up the most. I had the "B" and could think only of BUNDT. There were more hold-ups than normal for me on a Monday, but then the non-hold-up parts were sub-Monday easy, so ... Medium, i.e. typical-Monday easy, for me.

Other hold-ups included ABOUT US (8D: Information header on a business's website)—just had trouble parsing it. And then I had CLASP for CLAMP (33D: Gripping tool) and could not see ORCHID from the -RC- (46A: Flower that vanilla comes from) (sadly, I don't think I knew that about vanilla!). TRIBUTE ALBUM also took more than just the TRI- to give itself away, which it shouldn't have, but it did. I hesitated over BIG IF, too—once again, issues with parsing. I really like BIG IF (3D: It's very unlikely to happen). Colloquial, in-the-language / current, makes a conjunction into a noun, squeezes two words into a small space—all fun. That should be enough for today. Hope you are continuing (or beginning) to enjoy the new year. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Robin 12:05 AM  

This was one of those puzzles where you solve a fair amount of answers via entirely crosses. I had no idea BABKA was even in this puzzle until reading Rex's write-up, and had to go back and find it. ORCHID was almost another such; I did notice that after filling in the last cross.

ABOUTUS struck me as pretty obvious, but YMMV.

Joe Dipinto 12:42 AM  

Who wants to tell Bugs Bunny he wasn't invited to this shindig?

egsforbreakfast 12:56 AM  

I suppose that one BUM and two BUNs might result in a BOOMER or two. And speaking of BUMs, WTF is a TRIBUTEAL BUM? Maybe a BUM with three BUNS?

The answer to 23A (Drill sergeant’s “Relax!”) must be A TEASE because you don’t actually get to relax during boot camp.

Put peanut butter on celery. Garnish with a single raisin. Congratulations, you’ve made ANTON a Log!

Loved the 2 x BU theme, and in a debut to boot (or two butte). I know it’s one where the revealer doesn’t help with the solve, but it was da bomb to see how it worked. Thanks and congratulations, Seth Bisen-Hersh.

Gary Jugert 1:17 AM  

Yesterday, POSE NUDE, today, first ASS of many to come. Blowing the top off 2023. I do adore the slush pile editor there in NYC. Unapologetically juvenile.

Along those lines I was pretty sure the theme reveal was gonna be BOOZE-related due to the multitude of BUs. Not quite... sadly.

I enjoyed working on this puzzle.

TABOO currently occupies #19 on my favorite words list. ALIAS is lovely too.

I should probably dedicate some time to learning African geography. Every time it comes up in a crossword puzzle I become surprisingly aware of how little I know about the entire continent. I loathe the idea of SAFARIS. Leave those animals alone and go to the movies instead.

I don't think I've ever had BABKA. I think we've discussed them in the past, but I haven't gone in search of one yet. Apparently they make them at the vegan bakery near my house.


1 The guy in charge of making foreign policy embarrassments go away worrying about the likelihood he's going to need to pretend his boss's drunken son's laptop matters.
2 What goes on at the botanic gardens, rather than the stick I'm pretending is still alive in my windowsill.
3 How cows rock.
4 The Rex Parker comentariopode.


Anonymous 1:42 AM  

The only time I've ever heard of a babka is on Seinfeld.
A classic!


okanaganer 2:02 AM  

Solving by looking at only the down clues, it went pretty well... except for 3 down "It's very unlikely to happen." With 1 and 2 down in place, the across TRIBUTE ALBUM was obvious, SA-ARI had to be SAFARI, and for EP- I could only imagine EPA. So 3 down was -A-IF. Then... nothing. So I finally "cheated" and looked at the 1 across clue, saw my EPA mistake, and got BIG IF. So close!

50 across made the theme obvious, but I didn't notice the TO = 2 part until Rex set me straight. IT HAD 2BU!

BABKA popped immediately to mind; thank you Spelling Bee.

Typeovers: HOTTER before WARMER, PLIER before CLAMP, DARN before DRAT.

[Spelling Bee: Sat pg-2, missed this 5er (embarrassing!) and this 8er which I should have gotten, give I know the "bi-" version. Sun: so far pg-2 AGAIN! Arrgh.]

jae 2:18 AM  

Easy- medium. A solid and smooth Monday with a subtle and clever theme, liked it. A fine debut.

@bocamp, pabloinnh, et. al? Croce’s Freestyle # 771 was pretty easy for a Croce. I finished well before noon. My biggest problem was hanging on the the wrong answer for 1a too long. Good luck!

Joaquin 3:45 AM  

My first thought when seeing the clue "loaf-shaped cake" was Twinkie.
A great debut and a wonderful Monday puzzle.

CWT 3:52 AM  

It was easy, for sure, but a total delight. Clean, clever, and cute! Perfect Monday for beginners. No rappers, no twisted clueing, no modern slang, and a very original theme. Bravo!

Loren Muse Smith 3:57 AM  

This was a two-part aha moment. I got the B U part and seconds later I realized it involved Two of them. How fun. Then I imagined taking it a step further, as in IT had to be U. So emit becomes emu, trite – true, site – sue. Got nowhere fast.

@Joe Dipinto – you burst my bubble! I already had my avatar in place, so great minds and all that. Not too many more in-the-language possibilities – burning bush, bubble butt. . .

Speaking of which, I’m mystified by women who pay good money to enlarge their backsides so that they have to buy a small top and a 3xl bottom. Seems it’s called a Brazilian Butt Lift. I guess Kim Kardashian finally looked in the mirror and got rid of hers, but Larsa Pippen didn’t get the memo.

Oh, and since I’m all sophisticated and well-traveled, I can brag that I ate at a Shabu Shabu establishment once in Kobe. It’s pretty much Japan’s version of fondue. Right after dinner, we went to a Noh play that lasted like 14 hours. I sat there trying to seem captivated while my two hosts promptly went to sleep. It was brutal. But the Shabu Shabu was terrific.

Hand up for not knowing the vanilla/ORCHID factoid. Cool. I guess the poppy caught wind of this and said, Hold my beer. . ..

Do we still call it instant message? Is that just like a text or something? I know on Instagram you "slide into someone’s DMs," but that’s Direct Message.. I tell ya – I might would give Instagram another go if I thought some smart, dapper, irreverent smart-ass would slide into my DMs. Hah.

I always say bass ackwards, and I’m pretty sure we’ve been over this issue here.

I long for the days when HAMBURGER BUNS were a viable option at a dinner party. Remember when everyone ATE beef, gluten, carbs, dairy, MSG, salt? Good times.

Hey 1A Kerfuffle – see you in Stamford?

Seth – congrats on this fabulous debut!

mathgent 6:17 AM  

49D is DUETO and its clue is "Because of." I was taught in high school to use "because of" instead of "due to" at all times, but I have heard that "due to" should be used as the beginning of an adverbial phrase and "because of" should be used as the beginning of an adjectival phrase. The NYT seems to think that they can be used interchangeably.

AnnieD 6:47 AM  

Babka had me stumbling as the only babka I've had, the way my Polish grandmother made it and the way I make it, is round, not loaf-shaped. I consider it a sweet bread, not a cake.

SouthsideJohnny 6:51 AM  

I wonder if it was by design that the BU’s all lined up with each other vertically.

It’s interesting that the NYT doesn’t seem to be able to help themselves - so they take a normal, perfectly fine Monday puzzle, drop in a gratuitous ASS here, then add a LECHE crossing an ESPRIT for good measure, and voila - it’s now suitable for the Old Gray Lady.

pabloinnh 7:09 AM  

Straight schuss to the bottom, with the only mogul being BABKA, which was new to me, and now I don't know if I should remember it as a bread or a cake. Oh well.

Didn't see the revealer coming and even had to work a little to get it, so that was fun. I knew the vanilla thing, and the puzz had a TAO and a TSO. plus GUITARS, so extra points there.

Like some others I was running through some possible BU's and thought of BUbble BUtt, so thanks to @LMS for offering some further explanation. I share her opinion on the desire to acquire such an appurtenance.

On to the Croce and the New Yorker Monday. Duty calls.

Nice Mondecito indeed, SBH. Sending Big Hopes that you'll construct many more, and thanks for all the fun.

OffTheGrid 7:40 AM  


SteckMark 7:46 AM  

I was disappointed that you didn't put a link in to the Seinfeld episode with the chocolate/cinnamon babka fiasco. Did you ever notice that most Seinfeld dilemna could be solved if they'd only had cell phones?

My wife has done crosswords for 30+ years. I started a year or so ago when I retired. Thanks for your reviews, educating us crossword mortals.

I didn't know the vanilla/orchids connection.

Son Volt 7:48 AM  

Quirky little puzzle today. Only a few themers - but the anticipated long downs in the corners are missing - grid is loaded with mid length fill. I like @Joe D’s Bugs in lieu of HAMBURGER BUN. Workin’ for the CLAMPdown.

Traditional BABKA is definitely bread dough - see Seinfeld for more details. I like the old school version - tons of good ones in NY but try the chocolate from Oneg Heimshe in Williamsburg. Not sure the TAURUS is still in the mix. Lots of trivia - but nothing over the top. ELLA and BASIE.

Overall an enjoyable Monday solve.

Fred Eaglesmith

Anonymous 8:07 AM  

I flew through this one, beating my previous best Monday time by over one minute.

JHC 8:09 AM  

I classify BABKA as a cake, in that my mother serves it for holiday dessert.

Barbara S. 8:11 AM  

Well, bust my buttons and start the bulk buying – this was fun! Although I have to confess that I solved it as a themeless and only grasped the BUs in retrospect. Plus I didn’t get the plural implication of the revealer until I read Rex. So I enjoyed the puzzle even though I wasn’t entirely keeping up. I liked all the themers – they were solid – and also the fake BUs in TABOO and BOOMER.

1A and the NW corner were a snap. Done and done. My only write-over was “helio” for SOLAR – but really, get a grip, Babs, it’s Monday. Here’s ORSON Welles on ORSON Welles: “The word genius was whispered into my ear the first thing I ever heard while I was still mewling in my crib, so it never occurred to me that I wasn’t until middle age!” Oh! – and I have a uniclue (apologies to @Gary Jugert):

Feels empty, turns to Eastern religion

[SB: None of the regular reporters seem to be doing particularly well these days. Yd, -1. And I missed the achingly obvious – sheesh.]

mmorgan 8:26 AM  

Really nice theme. Often these can be just clever construction without much fun, but this was fun indeed AND some clever construction. Did the constructor go to BU, by chance?

Anonymous 8:33 AM  

Amy: wonderful start for the week. And having gone to school in Boston, I have 2 BU degrees. (We used to call it Big & Ugly.)

TaylorSlow 8:38 AM  

It's a good day when a puzzle turns out to be very easy (right in the neighborhood of my PB time) and very satisfying at the same time. Nice trick to pull that off. I thought this was about as close to a perfect Monday as it's possible to be. Nice theme and above-average Monday fill!

About babka: It's interesting that some people decide whether a baked item is bread or cake based on how it's served while others decide based on ingredients. I've always thought of babka as a sweet bread, because it has the yeasty consistency of bread. Any master Jewish bakers out there to settle this?

The "bread or cake" question reminded me happily of Eddie Izzard's hilarious "Cake or death?" description of the Church of England. Never a bad way to start the day.

kitshef 8:55 AM  

“Polish and attention to detail” was a good description. In particular, having all the BU's in the same columns is an extra nicety that most constructors would not think of, let alone be able to execute.

@Jae Croce 771 was very easy. Only overwrites were at 7D (made the obvious mistake), 32A (took me a while to come up with the right answer) and 40D, which I've never heard but makes sense, as a back-formation if nothing else.

pmdm 8:57 AM  

Wonderful puzzle. I hope this constructor sticks with it. Other places (like the LAT) have published him already. This puzzle deserved to be accepted. Hopefully more will follow. And Sharp was even gentle in the write-up.

My thoughts about babka. (That's a word not recognized by the spell checker. Guess it's not a gourmet.) My grandparents came to this country from Austria-Hungary. Seems to me it's as much a Slavic thing as a Jewish thing. Anyway, if plain, it resembles more of a bread to me except that it's a bit sweeter than regular bread. If you add cheese or chocolate to it, it definitely resembles cake more than bread. At least to me. And I love going to the Ukrainian place on Lockwood Avenue in Yonkers to buy the chocolate variety. With a little butter and heated up a bit in the stove, I live it with a meal. For me, it you eat it with the main course, it's a bread. After the main course, it's a cake. Yum.

Nancy 8:58 AM  

I hadn't read the clue yet, but looking at the letters I had, it had to be "IT HAD TO BE YOU".

And what themer did I look at first? TR[I(BU)T]E ALBUM.

Of course. "IT" "had" "BU" contained within. That was the theme. But when I looked at the other themers, there weren't any "IT"s.

Now I see. There are two "BU"s in each themer. As in "it had two BU".

Oh. Not "Aha!" but just a mere "Oh."

The fun, I imagine, was in thinking up these theme answers. The fun certainly wasn't in filling them in.

I did appreciate the lack of pop names and other trivia in this puzzle. But other than that, an underwhelming solve.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 8:59 AM  

All I have to say about the puzzle is that I never heard of baking babka in a loaf pan.

But LMS's comment about party food: I was at a classy luncheon shindig yesterday in the leafy Boston suburbs. There were very few items on the menu, waffles, scones, hot chocolate and ice cream mainly. But every one of them came in four varieties, normal, gluten-free, lactose-free and vegan. I myself always offer vegetarian option, I think vegan goes a little far. But the others: Do rich folks all have major problems with their digestive tradts?

RooMonster 9:13 AM  

Hey All !
BABKA is a cake-like bread. My grandmother was 100% Polish, so I've heard of it my whole life. I also worked at a bakery for a number of years. If made correctly, it's quite good.

Fun puz, thanks to @SouthSide Johnny 6:51 for pointing out all the BU's are lined up in the columns. NEATO. Happy accident? Funny, if you isolate the BU_, you get BUT BUM, BUN BUR, BUR BUN. And the top two Themers share both the B's and U's in the Downs, netting actual words! BABKA, TAURUS, BABES, ABOUT US. Nice job Seth.

Puz good for @M&A, now we need a IT HAD TO BE F puz. 😁

PINGS, dINGS, or bINGS. Who can keep them straight? IPhones PING? Do Androids dING? Bada bING!

TELLS crossing ALL in SW.
Puz seems like it was tough to fill to get clean fill. So nice job (again) Seth. Got the ASS in, so that's all that counts!

Two F's

J.W. 9:17 AM  

Incredibly easy. I don't keep track of stats or PBs or anything like that, but at 3:31 I have to imagine this is my fastest Monday ever. Theme was well-done in spite of it all, however. Because of the holistic "any port in a storm" way I solve crosswords, I didn't even notice BABKA until the write-up.

At this point, complaints about ASS are more annoying than seeing it in the puzzle. One's hardline stance on bell pepper–mild cusses isn't as noble a hill as one likes to think.

Nancy 9:35 AM  

I was about to offer a Seinfeld link, but when I went to the comments I saw that many, many others already had.

This blog never disappoints. And if there's anyone here, anyone at all, who never saw this hilarious episode, go click on it right this minute for heaven's sake!

Gary Jugert 9:47 AM  

Barbara S. 8:11 AM
Put on your TURBAN, sit on a mountain top, I'll climb up to sit at your feet -- my swami. Genius level.

Tom P 10:13 AM  

Average Monday in terms of time, but well above average in terms of quality. Thanks, Seth, for getting the new year off to a good start.

bocamp 10:22 AM  

Thx, Seth; 'U' nailed it! :)


Very much on SBH's wavelength, so BOB was my uncle.

No LACK of ESPRIT today; this PRIMA performance put me right AT EASE.

How to pronounce NIGER

Embraceable You ~ ELLA Fitzgerald ft Nelson Riddle & his orchestra

Great early MORN offering; loved it! :)


Very much agree with your assessment of yd's Acrostic.

Thx @jae; now embarking on Tim Croce's Freestyle 771. 🀞

Tomorrow's agenda includes Anna Shechtman's Mon. New Yorker.
Peace πŸ•Š πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all πŸ™

TTrimble 10:27 AM  

Rex raises a fascinating question. BABKA: cake or bread? In fact, what precisely is the difference between cake and bread? Based on quick internet reading and a 10-minute conversation with my wife, the answer does not seem entirely straightforward.

This is one baker's weigh-in: "For me, bread is predominantly flour and water and requires yeast and rising before baking. A few are sweet and/or rich (think brioche, Challah, panettone, stolen, babka), but most are not. As such, if you ask me, quick breads (even the ones that are savory or simply not sweet) are not true breads at all. And most of the sweet, rich loaves that we call breads (like those in the quiz above) are actually cakes baked in loaf pans."

That seems to be a start, and places things like zucchini bread and banana bread firmly in the cake camp (I think! I'm not a baker though), but it's interesting to me that he classes babka as a bread. I put the question to my wife, and she found the question tricky, but in the end she put babka on the cake side, and suggested that the cake/bread distinction might be a cultural thing -- and, she firmly rejected the notion that yeast and rising before baking has much to do with the distinction, followed by her rattling off a bunch of desserts that Germans would consider yeast-risen cakes. I dunno, to me and my American upbringing, babka eats, texturally, more like a sweet braided bread.

Hope I didn't burst anyone's bubble just now!

A nice observation by @Southside on the columnar placement of the BU's, which can only increase one's admiration.

Thanks are due to @mathgent... [oh no, maybe I still haven't learned the "correct" grammar? no, I think I'm okay...] pointing out this grammar thing
about "due to", which no one ever tried to teach me before, thank god. Actually, I found this article helpful, for the express purpose of keeping the grammar police off your back. So did I just now use "due to" acceptably? There are two senses of "due to", one being "caused by", and the other being "owed to". I just used the "owed to" one.

(But who gives a rat's ASS?)

SB: I was down to -1 pg yesterday, and after a long while allowed myself a sneak peak to figure out the letter that my missing word started with. I'm sure that's considered cheating among my fellow solvers, so I can't award myself the crown, but at least I was put out of my misery.

Wanderlust 10:35 AM  

I thought the revealer should have been “IT HAD TO BE YOUse” (guys). Because it’s Two BUs in every themer. I actually thought Rex might criticize that. No matter, I liked it.

Like @Okananager, I solved downs-only - finally remembering not to charge recklessly through the acrosses. I also had everything except BIG IF. But I took the A out if EPa and saw it. But alas, no happy music. I had gone with BUBKe and ELLe.

I liked TRIBUTE ALBUM crossing ABOUT US. Someday, someone will make a tribute album about me. Not that I’m a PRIMA donna or anything.

Joseph Michael 10:58 AM  

Congrats to Seth on his clever debut. Had a three-part aha on this one after seeing the revealer:

* Each of the themers were U words (not impressed)
* Each of the themers were BU words (well at least there’s that)
* Each of the themers had two BU words (cute)

IT HAD TO BE YOU was also a Broadway play by Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna, a comedy about two people trapped in a New York apartment during a blizzard. It was later adapted to film in the late 80s. There were no BABKA cakes involved.

Airymom 11:01 AM  

I just browsed about a dozen cookbooks compiled by synagogue Sisterhoods. If babka was in the index, then the recipe was in the cakes and pies section. Then I looked in the index of "Spice and Spirit, the Complete Kosher Jewish Cookbook", a large and comprehensive cookbook which some Jewish women consider the "bible' of cookbooks. If you look up "babka" in the recipe index, it reads, "Babka, see yeast cakes."

In practice, it's also a cake. If you bake a babka, you serve it for dessert or at Kiddush (collation) after services. No one says, "I think I'll slice two pieces of babka and make a pbj sandwich."

Score----Seth--1, Wikipedia--0.

Terrific puzzle. Congratulations to Seth on his debut.

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

Very easy for me (born in1942)

Carola 11:22 AM  

Thank you to @Rex and @commenters for opening my eyes to the reveal's TO = 2 and to the BU's lined up in columns. Having missed those, I'd finished the puzzle thinking, "Great grid, theme a little wan." More like, powers of observation a little weak. I agree with others about this being such a good Monday, easy but engaging throughout. In the AWARD x ABOUT US category, I appreciated TAURUS x TRIBUTE: sure, we might be stubborn, but give us some credit for our being right all the time.

As I grew up in a Scandinavian immigrant community, BABKAs were unknown to me until a couple of years ago, when I read about them on a food blog. The enticing description of the confection + the "you can do this" reassurance of the instructions convinced me to give the recipe a try. Folks, it's worth it.

Tom T 11:26 AM  

I had a grad school professor (in the 70s) who was adamantly opposed to the interchanging of "because of" and "due to." "Because" was about causation, in her view, "due" about timing, and never the twain should meet! Personally, I hope the grammar police have backed off on this one in the decades since.

Harry Nilsson 11:35 AM  

The theme, along with other songs from the era, appeared (with wonderfully lush arrangements) in the ALBUM "A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night."

Teedmn 11:39 AM  

Refreshing that we get a great revealer on a Monday accompanying a Monday-level difficulty. Except for briefly wondering if it could be jinni or djini at 40A, there wasn't much to hold me up here.

For some reason, PRADA PRIMA tickles my fancy.

Seth Bisen-Hersh, congratulations on making your NYC debut. It has to be good 2 BU!

Weezie 11:41 AM  

I thought this was good enough, though I’m probably still just coming down off the high of yesterday’s magnificent puzzling. Easy, solved mostly without looking at the downs. But I could have used a bit more sparkle or humor in the cluing; it was serviceable but not delightful. Maybe that’s just Mondays for you.

That said, I have such admiration for the dogged determination that made this the constructor’s first acceptance after 38 rejections. Congrats!

Masked and Anonymous 11:42 AM  

2023 is startin out puz-primo, with a puztheme sportin the U's. Respect.

some fave stuff: ABOUTUS & TAURUS [Happy New Year, 2U]. That ATE clue.

staff weeject pick; BOB [cuz IT HAD TO BE!]. Superb weeject stacks in all 4 corners, btw.

Theme mcguffin kinda snuck up on U, more than yer average MonPuz. Very nice and above average. BUGSBUNNY woulda indeed been a funny extra themer … maybe they didn't go for it, because it woulda made the double-BU dealy too obvious? They had already slightly tipped their hand with BUNSENBURNER… Coulda gone all in, with BUGSBUNNY and BURNINGBUSH.

Thanx for the fun, Mr. Bisen-Hersh dude. And congratz on yer marvelous deBUt.

Masked & Anonym007Us [and 11 B's]


Joe Dipinto 11:56 AM  

@LMS – Oops, sorry. When I finished the puzzle my first thought was "How could they do this theme without Bugs Bunny?" (btw we had fun decoding your avatar yesterday, don't know if you saw...)

Continuing with things I don't know: I don't know bubkes about babka, but I'd probably consider it to be more of a cake if it's usually served as dessert.

Today's no-brainer musical selection. Too bad they didn't record the titular song together.

mbr 12:05 PM  

@Son Volt: Have you ever had BREADS BAKERY's chocolate babka? I'm curious since I'm rarely -if ever- in Williamsburg, and wondering how they compare. Fortunately for me, there's a BREADS in my neighborhood (near Lincoln Center) and their chocolate babka is heavenly.

Anonymous 12:06 PM  

Nice theme. I thought only tenses in English were present and past. Future perfect “form” is not inflected,

Garett 12:15 PM  

This might have been the easiest Monday puzzle I have ever done. Just a hair over 4:00–and that’s only because I lost time when I sneezed twice in the middle of it. Otherwise, I would have been in the 3’s. I honestly didn’t even bother trying to figure out the theme.

Lewis 12:22 PM  

Just a reminder... tomorrow I will be posting my 10 favorite clues from 2022.

Peter P 12:24 PM  

It's been like three years leading up to this, but I've FINALLY gotten my Roger Bannister moment and broke a 4-minute solve on the NYT crossword, at 3:59. I didn't even think it was remotely possible two years ago, now I think I could have shaved a good 10-20 seconds off Monday's solve.

@AnnieD - The Polish babkas I've had (I was the first generation not born in Poland), have been of both types: round/bundt-like as well as loaf, though more often round. Traditional for Easter. I consider babkas in that weird nether zone between breads and cakes. I think of it more as a type of cake-like bread than bread-like cake but, hey, I can see it the other way, too.

Peter P 12:28 PM  

Oh, and I've always wondered. Why is starting down-only considered more challenging that going across the whole way? Is it because themes are generally across? I usually find in later week puzzles, the only way for me to get a good foothold is to start with the downs and then work my way to the acrosses. I generally find, at least with Friday and Saturdays, that I'm able to get many more footholds that way.

Rebecca 12:46 PM  

I grew up eating BABKA every Saturday morning and consider myself a relative expert on it. The word BABKA comes from the Yiddish word "BUBBE" (or technically "Little Bubbe") which means "Grandmother." Traditional BABKA was made from leftover Challah dough that your BUBBE would roll into a long and thin flat dough, spread with chocolate or cinnamon and raisins, and then roll up - for all her grandchildren to eat as sweets. Of course, any BUBBE worth her salt would make sure to make enough Challah dough so that there would be plenty extra. The end product is not all that different than a modern day chocolate danish or cinnamon roll, although instead of being formed baked as single servings, BABKA is baked as a loaf and the servings are sliced. Cinnamon rolls are formed in almost the exact same way, but they are sliced from the roll into patty shapes before baking. Notably, both cinnamon rolls and danishes are made with egg-and-sugar enriched yeasted dough, just like Challah, so they really are the same thing, especially since there are many Challah dough recipes and it would be easy to find the same recipe labeled as Challah dough in one place and Danish dough in another. BABKA is traditionally eaten in the same contexts that one might eat a cinnamon roll or danish. These things are not quite a bread anymore despite having a base of bread dough, but they are somehow acceptable to have for breakfast with a cup of coffee, even though eating a slice of true cake in the same context would not come with the same free pass. So, is BABKA a bread or a cake? It's a danish. Perhaps this simply semantically passes the buck on the question, because ... what is a danish?

MarthaCatherine 12:59 PM  

Loved this puzzle.

@Mathgent (6:17 a.m.): You broke my brain. I realized that I could not easily find the words to actually describe the real difference between an adverbial and adjectival phrase (I know you see what I did there--at least I think I did it...).

It sent me down a rabbit hole of discovery regarding minutiae about, well, information I don't know how I've heretofore gotten through life without.

"Due to" vs. "because of."

Y'all can argue about the difference between bread and cake or babka and gateau, but I'm thinking the future of our planet might just rest on making sure people don't misunderstand each other because one person said, "The traffic jam was because of a terrible accident at the intersection." vs. "The traffic jam happened due to a terrible accident at the intersection." (I have it on good authority that both of those sentences are grammatically wrong.)

Oh, the humanity.

Alice Pollard 1:00 PM  

Lewis - I am looking forward to your Top Ten. The first Monday of the year and I had a write over on the very first clue 1A. Had “ais” before BOB. This Catholic NYer knew BABKA in a heartbeat. I also did not know the vanilla/ORCHID connection. You learn something new every crossword.

Anoa Bob 1:06 PM  

This got off to a promising start. I was disappointed, however, when the second part, that noble beast of Indonesian, smallest of the buffaloes, failed to appear. Seems like my namesake, spirit animal is anathema in crosswords. DRAT! Some kind of bio-bigotry going on there, if yous ask me.

I didn't know that GIFs had gender. They must; how else could there be a BI-GIF?

There are few more grid-fill friendly three letter sequences than ASS. It has appeared 336 times in the Shortz era. As evidence that it is becoming less and less TABOO, 2022 had more appearances than any other year. If that trend continues, 2023 should be a big ASS year. A possible clue could be "Subject of Sir Mix-A-Lot's 1992 classic Baby Got Back."

okanaganer 1:14 PM  

@Peter P 12:28pm, I actually think doing only down clues is easier than across clues. It's because the theme answers are usually acrosses and long, and longer answers are easier to get without the clue.

CDilly52 1:22 PM  

What a delight after a few days of “ok but nothing to write home about”. Puzzles. This is a theme to love! I solved the seemingly unrelated “themers” and I honestly was wondering if we had a themeless Monday. What? I got to the reveal and actually gave a loud “Yes!” that caused a feline eruption.

My cat enjoys climbing on top of me with a blanket pulled up over her when I am lying back on the couch. She had gone to sleep, and was purring loudly when I cheered for the reveal, and bolted off, giving me “the look of disgust and displeasure.” It’s a real cat thing, for those of you not living in servitude to a feline presence. Disturbing a for real cat nap is grounds for getting ignored for a period of time, and punished in some manner.

Whatever amends it will cost me, I shall make them cheerfully. This was such a clean, not boring, creative, and well devised puzzle. Not a downer in the entire grid. I hope to see more Seth Bisen-Hersh - and soon. Excellent debut!

Bob Kerfuffle 1:31 PM  

@LMS - Sorry, no. Time takes its toll.

Barbara S. 1:41 PM  

@Gary Jugert (9:47)
Seek not to know the answers, Grasshopper, but to understand the questions.

Nancy 1:42 PM  

Gee whiz. If @Gary J is proclaiming @Barbara S "a genius" for her uniclue today, I'd like to try my hand at it too.


1. "Damn! I wanted that sun drawing on my arm!"
2. The longest home run The Sultan of Swat ever hit.
3. It makes even better neighbors, according to Frost


Anonymous 2:37 PM  

Laugh of the day! Thanks πŸ™

Son Volt 3:00 PM  

@mbr 12:05p - we’ve had the BABKA at the Breads off of Union Square - my wife loves the stuff but for me it tastes more like a big croissant plus I don’t care for the Nutella-like filling. Since you brought up Breads though - can we talk about their lemon pound cake?

Gary Jugert 3:02 PM  

Nancy 1:42 PM and Barbara S. 1:41 PM
Woot woot! Starting the year off with so many sultans of schmarm. Nancy, I stared at 1 and 3 before giving up on them, and then you show up and crush them both. Thanks for a fun day.

mbr 3:45 PM  

@Son Volt 3:00pm: You made me laugh since I've never had anything at Breads that didn't have the word "chocolate" in the name....besides which I regretfully admit that I'm not a fan of anything lemon. But while we're talking about things we shouldn't eat on a regular basis but are worth the calories even if we do, have you ever been to Aux Merveilleux de Fred? (There's one on 8th Ave near Jane Street & another on 6th Ave just south of Bryant Park.) Their specialty is a concoction of very light meringue & flavored whipped cream, my favorites being the chocolate, coffee, and praline versions.

kitshef 4:04 PM  

@Peter P - once per month I do M-W across-only and once per month down-only. I'd call them equivalent in terms of difficulty. Today's was exceptionally easy doing across-only, as the themers were all familiar and easily gettable.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 4:32 PM  

OK, I get it, you guys have a completely different take on baked goods than I because I bake them, and you guys buy them in bakeries. If you went to the trouble to making a braided bread and waiting for it to rise, you would not put it into a loaf pan, where the beautiful structure you produced would get squished. Phooey on that.

jae 5:06 PM  

@kitshef - Re: Croce 771 - We had similar experiences with 7d and 40d.

dgd 6:05 PM  

I don't think the Times is giving a an opinion about proper usage. This a crossword clue which can be just a hint, not always a definition.
Also those types of rules, which were mostly invented in the 19th & maybe early 20th Century by academia are often ignored ( I think rightly) by most English speakers.
To my ears, due to is more formal than because of, but not otherwise that different.

dgd 6:24 PM  

Really liked the link to the discussion of those old rules (which I have read were imposed on the English speaking world in the 19th Century by academics in the 19th Century.)
Decent puzzle for a Monday.

spacecraft 10:47 AM  

A fine debut. I did notice the -BU- combos about halfway through, but the revealer was still a surprise--and spot on. Good stuff. And I even got the "to" (2) part without having it Fussbudget-splained.

Fill likewise was a cut above, though BABKA seems a bit strong for a Monday. ELLA reprises as DOD.* Eagle.

Wordle par.

*@Seth and other newcomers: Damsel of the Day.

thefogman 11:33 AM  

A very solid and fun-to-solve debut. Perfect for a Monday. Bravo to Seth Bisen-Hersh.
PS - The Syndicated Puzzle link is broken. Again…

Burma Shave 12:57 PM  




Anonymous 2:16 PM  

This was one of the easiest Mondays in the history of Mondays, and I've been doing crossword puzzles for over 60 years!
I mean grade school easy.

Anonymous 3:11 PM  

The Russian word for grandmother is babushka.
The Russian word for grandma(or granny) is babka.

rondo 5:53 PM  

Wordle bogey.

Diana, LIW 7:03 PM  

Yes, aside from a question or two about spelling, it was fairly easy, even for a Monday puz.

Lady Di

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