Mideast city with an eponymous pepper / SUN 1-1-23 / Seminal 1980 hit by Joy Division / Moon of Saturn found to have a potentially inhabitable ocean / Old video game console inits. / Stick of butter geometrically / Hit 1998 Eddie Murphy comedy based on books by Hugh Lofting / Loser to Herbert Hoover in 1928

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Constructor: Adam Wagner, Michael Liberman and Rafael Musa

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "In Play" — playing around with (the meaning of) "IN". Circled squares in the first four themers contain words that become the basis for understanding the last four themers; that is, in the top half of the grid, the circled-square words are "In" the longer answers, providing "literal depictions" of the corresponding theme answers in the bottom half of the grid (where all answers follow the pattern ___ IN ___). Thus:

Theme answers:
  • RECTANGULAR PRISM (23A: Stick of butter geometrically)
  • "LOVE WILL TEAR US APART" (31A: Seminal 1980 hit by Joy Division)
  • MOUNTAIN STATES (50A: Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming, among others)
  • "DOCTODOLITTLE" (61A: Hit 1998 Eddie Murphy comedy based on books by Hugh Lofting)
  • GET BACK IN SHAPE (71A: Recommit to one's fitness ... or what 23-Across depicts literally) ("reclaim" (i.e. a word meaning "get back") is literally inside RECTANGULAR PRISM (a "shape")
  • BREAK OUT IN SONG (82A: What characters in musicals often do ... or what 31-Across depicts literally) ("erupt" (i.e. synonym of "break out") is literally inside "LOVE WILL TEAR US APART" (i.e. a "song" title)
  • FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES (98A: Useful people to know ... or what 50-Across depicts literally) ("mates" (slang for "friends") is literally inside MOUNTAIN STATES (i.e. "high places")
  • PICTURE IN PICTURE (110A: Screen feature that facilitates multitasking ... or what 61-Across depicts literally) ("doodle" (i.e. a "picture") is literally inside "DOCTOR DOLITTLE" (i.e. a motion "picture")
Word of the Day: SNES (120A: Old video game console inits.) —

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), commonly shortened to Super NES or Super Nintendo, is a 16-bit home video game console developed by Nintendo that was released in 1990 in Japan and South Korea,1991 in North America, 1992 in Europe and Oceania, and 1993 in South America. In Japan, it is called the Super Famicom (SFC). In South Korea, it is called the Super Comboy and was distributed by Hyundai Electronics. The system was released in Brazil on August 30, 1993, by Playtronic. Although each version is essentially the same, several forms of regional lockout prevent cartridges for one version from being used in other versions.

The Super NES is Nintendo's second programmable home console, following the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The console introduced advanced graphics and sound capabilities compared with other systems at the time. It was designed to accommodate the ongoing development of a variety of enhancement chips integrated into game cartridges to be competitive into the next generation. (wikipedia)

• • •

Apologies for what will undoubtedly be a somewhat brief write-up—we actually have New Year's Eve plans! This never happens! But we are committed to an 8pm dinner reservation at Parlor City Vegan, a delightful local restaurant run by even more delightful people, and since I don't want to blog *after* dinner, and since I *definitely* don't want to try getting up early (yet ... still adjusting to this northern hemisphere / eastern time zone nonsense), I need to do this now, when the puzzle comes out (at 6pm on Saturday) and I need to do it fast (in time for me to shave and shower before dinner). There's going to be a tarot reader! I didn't even notice this part of the dinner until my wife pointed it out to me just now. I saw that there were various courses named "Water Sign," "Air Sign," etc. but I had no idea they were committing to the bit so hard. I've never had any formal occult experience, but I am Ready for anything New (no matter its Truth Value). OK, I still haven't started the write-up. You see how this is a problem. Remember: blame jet lag. Onward!

This was a three-parter—the first part, where I solve the puzzle normally, putting the theme answers together, top to bottom; the second part (the funnest part), where I hit the first "depicts literally" clue and then the entire theme concepts drops at once, and I solve all the remaining themers bam bam bam; and the third part, clean-up. I think it was worth it for part two alone. I decided to just gulp all the themers down at once. I challenged myself to see if I could solve them all with no help from crosses. And I'm happy to say: challenge ... risen to! That was awkward. Let's try again: mission accomplished!

Sometimes I take issue with themes that give themselves away so easily, but not so today, because there was the secondary puzzle element to those later themers, where you had not only the straight definitions but the visual cues from the earlier (upper half of the grid-) themers to help you out. This meant that getting those themers in the bottom half with no crosses went from highly unlikely to definitely possible. I enjoyed the adventure (and the success!). As for the rest of it (parts 1 and 3), yeah, sure, it all holds up fine—better than most Sundays, for sure. I had no idea butter was shaped like a "prism"—the only prisms I know are not rectangular, and they refract light, but I just trust this is a mathematical / geometrical concept of which I am ignorant, fine. I really really Really loved the Joy Division clue. About as "in my wheelhouse" as you can get without actually taking the exact shape of my wheelhouse. I threw "LOVE WILL TEAR US APART" across the grid with only the "V" in place and was so happy that I got suspicious, and then my brain started in with "well, you probably f'd it up somehow ... isn't 'LOVE WILL TEAR US APART' an INXS song!? Do you even know anything about music?!" (this is how my brain treats me roughly 16 of the 24 hours of the day). But no, ha, happily, my Joy Division memory was spot on. I like the way the puzzle kinda sorta half-fudges "DOCTOR DOLITTLE" into being a "picture" (by simply cluing it as such). It's a book series, but ... yes, also a (motion) picture, several times over, first in 1967 with Rex Harrison in the title role (9 Academy Award nominations!?), most recently with Robert Downey, Jr. in the title role (in 2020, just before the COVID shutdowns), but most iconically (and successfully) with Eddie Murphy in the title role (1998). 

I was completely baffled by ENCELADUS (3D: Moon of Saturn found to have a potentially inhabitable ocean), which looks like Latin for "enchilada," so I needed every single cross there, but luckily those were all readily gettable. No other serious challenges. Had some hesitation over completing "IT'S NO ___" (coulda been "IT'S NOT ___" or ... well, it coulda been a lot of things). Wrote in OSAGES (!?!?!) before OZARKS because I have no idea why actually (62D: Region encompassing most of the Arkansas/Missouri border). Wrote in PERLS before PURLS because I really thought that's how it was spelled (48D: Makes certain knitting stitches). Got ING and AIG confused, as I often do (6D: Big inits. in insurance). Misremembered NIALL as NEALL at first. Thrilled that I remembered that SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System) was a thing, because that is one ugly and hard-to-infer abbr. Otherwise, no struggle. Big thumbs-up to POSES NUDE, "IT'S NO BIGGIE," and POUR IT ON. OK, that's it, gotta get ready to go out and eat / get my tarot on! Happy New Year, everyone!

P.S. very cute that the three of them worked COLLABORATE into the grid. Yay team!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Loren Muse Smith 12:31 AM  

Rex – terrific write-up. You described the (my) solving experience to a tee. I especially got a kick out of your ENCELADUS looking like Latin for "enchilada."

I absolutely adored this theme. I got the trick with the FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES/MOUNTAIN STATES. Thought, Wow. Just. Wow. That the bottom three revealers occur in the same order as the top themers – beautiful. I can’t imagine the work that went into this COLLABORATION. What a way to start the new year!

(And the Dawgs advance – my cup runneth over.)

I liked GUINEA sharing the grid with DOCTOR DOLITTLE. Chris Rock was great as Rodney, the GUINEA pig.

Is there such thing as a salad green that’s not leafy?

The clue for POSES NUDE belongs in the hall of fame.

And the clue for MEAT reminded me of this.

“One might move fast in stores” – a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Harris Teeter has it on sale 3 for 10 dollars. Since the price had been approaching almost 6 dollars apiece, I snatched up 12 containers and am considering heading back today for some more. Mom and I are on a Salted Caramel Core kick.

Happy New Year! In a couple of days, you can register for the ACPT, people. Don’t dawdle - the rooms sell out fast at the Stamford Marriott. I just booked my plane tickets yesterday. And if you don’t go ‘cause you’re too intimidated to compete, you’re missing the point. For most, it’s not about how well you do; it’s all about hanging out with really, really quality word nerds all weekend.

Ken Freeland 12:35 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
okanaganer 12:53 AM  

Rex: there may be more to Tarot than the occult. One of my favorite authors, John Sanford, had a hero (Kidd) who used the Tarot as a mental tool for mystery solving. Keep an open mind!

As an astronomy buff I got ENCELADUS from the EN, then because I was young in the 80s, LOVE WILL TEAR US APART from just the L. The theme seems a bit convoluted but OK. I liked AXIOM crossing XENON just because. For "Primo" looking at A--E, had ACME before AONE... is that a Kealoa?

[Spelling Bee: Sat currently pg-2; missing a 5er and an 8er.]

Happy new year all, and really hope 3 is better than 2 was!

Joe Dipinto 1:13 AM  

Exhibiting respectful humility...or what LMS's avatar depicts literally:
H__ I_ H___

Ken Freeland 1:42 AM  

Despite the high PPP quotient, I was able to finish this puzzle cleanly so kudos to constructor and/or editor for that! Never completely understood this convoluted theme, but that's ok. Concur with Rex that "barely sits for" is a first-rate clue, with honorable mention to "it's just under a foot..". Happy new year to all

jae 2:11 AM  

Easy-medium. NOsE before NOTE through me off more than it should have. Very clever and a fun solve, liked it a bunch. Great way to start the new year! Have a happy one everybody!

...me too for.no idea about ENCELADUS

Conrad 5:15 AM  

A few WOEs and such, but my biggest flub was 100% on me: I misread the clue to 37D as "Title food for writer Mary Berry." I had no idea who Mary Berry is, but I had DA_E and the only food I could think of was DAtE. As a result I needed way too many crosses to get MOUNTAIN STATES.

Anonymous 5:50 AM  

No need to panic. There are plenty of other hotels in Stamford, some walkable to the Marriott, though I imagine the Marriott will be offering special rates for the puzzlers.

Anonymous 5:57 AM  

I’d call it medium. Didn’t know Enceladus nor any Joy Division songs, so had to put some extra effort into those areas, but still managed to finish in decent time (for me).

Lewis 6:57 AM  

I sit here marveling at brilliance. Yes, brilliance – the shining leaps the mind is capable of. Jaw-dropping talent that showcases humanity’s good side, balancing, nay, upending the ills of the world during the moments I contemplate it. *This* is the way to start a new year.

Oh yes, there’s Albert Einstein, Alan Turing, Katherine Johnson (look her up!), et al. But for one entranced by wordplay, as I am, I sit dazzled by the brilliance displayed by the collaborators of today’s puzzle. Punnificence in the highest.

It’s impressive enough that the constructors found phrases with the embedded words capable of punning on. But the puns themselves!

(My three favorites):

And my favorite from their editing room floor (you can read their notes at XwordInfo, or Wordplay):

Oh, ain’t we a grand species at times? This is brilliance, and I will remain blissfully in awe for a while, starting my ’23 with hope and thrill. Thank you, gentlemen, for starting my year just right!

Anonymous 7:52 AM  

Seminal? Really?

Son Volt 7:57 AM  

Not so sure this 8x phrase within a phrase play holds up in a Sunday sized grid. A couple of real solid ones - BREAK OUT IN SONG and FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES. I guess GET BACK IN SHAPE is apt for those who use the new year as a turning point.

Halfway through I was done with the theme - and it’s so densely populated that the remaining fill suffers. I did like ITS NO BIGGIE, UNICORN and the giant ENCELADUS. Joy Division brought me back to 1980 - still so depressing.

The grid is loaded with 3 and 4 letter ROT - MAC, COB, GOA etc are the collateral damage of an over aggressive theme. Nothing difficult here - typical Sunday time.

The chops here are evident - I would assume having three constructors agree on things is not so simple. I would have liked it more in a midweek sized puzzle.

DRAG the River

SouthsideJohnny 8:17 AM  

I went toe-to-toe with this bad boy and thought I had a chance to emerge with a 12 round split decision victory. Alas, by the time I circled back to the North my legs were shot and it was evident that it was time to throw in the towel. Having no clue on the Saturn moon didn’t help, however the one-two punch of ALLELE and NIALL were the real knockout blow and I was toast - that left me nothing to work with for JAPAN as the month could be any one of 12.

The OPA, FL crossing the Spanish before would likely be at least worth a side-eye (and probably ridiculed) elsewhere, unfortunately though that type of thing has become pretty much standard NYT gruel - so suck it up, salute and march back down the hill soldier. WOWIE x HIE are similar but slightly less egregious.

I never thought about raw cookie dough being hazardous - in retrospect it makes perfect sense. Of course, I’m not the one to consult with on such matters (my meat loaf glows in the dark and I can usually tell that it is done when the smoke detector goes off).

mmorgan 8:24 AM  

Rex liked it! I did too. “Bare sits for” is a great clue that I solved immediately as POSE naked. Oops. But that was quickly fixed. I’m eager to hear about Rex’s dinner.

Lizard Breath 8:28 AM  

My main delay was that I committed a grave Gen X sin and confused my Joy Division with New Order. So I had BIZARRE LOVE TRIANGLE instead of LOVE WILL TEAR US APART until it really obviously couldn’t work.

Barbara S. 8:38 AM  

Upper Answer: BIG-HEADED

Great theme! And I was really happy to learn the term RECTANGULAR PRISM. Where was it when I was about 12 years old? I remember being really bothered that a 3D square was a cube, a 3D circle was a sphere, a 3D triangle was a tetrahedron, but a 3D rectangle was…nothing. Only it was something, if only I’d known. I got RECTANGULAR very quickly but it took a little while to see PRISM, although none of the crosses there is particularly hard. But, as the solve went on, I got GET BACK INTO SHAPE pretty fast and then saw the relationship between the two answers – yes!

Sometimes my brain is just bent on muffing 1A even when it’s handed to me on a platter. For [Image on the flag of Oakland, California, appropriately] I wanted “leaf”! (Funny that another LEIF was lurking in the SE, although I believe you pronounce that name to rhyme with “chafe.”) But then I worked the down clues 1-4, and got TYRA, REEL, ENCELADUS and ESTROGEN – bang, bang, bang, bang. I knew ENCELADUS because of my ice-loving husband. He’s not just a terrestrial glaciologist but studies ice elsewhere in the solar system, most notably on Mars, but he is, of course, aware of repositories of ice elsewhere, including ENCELADUS. Getting those 4 downs in quick succession gave me the NW corner early on, so yay for that.

I wonder if our constructing trio plays the Spelling Bee. There’s a bunch of SB words here, such as AIOLI, LAIC and ALLELE. I keep misparsing the answer to 104A as LE GROOM (what the Francophile bride called her husband-to-be at the wedding). I was intrigued by the clue for JAPAN: apparently Kyoto means “capital city” while Toyko means “eastern capital.” I loved the Doctor Dolittle books as child and because I loved them so much, I’ve successfully avoided all the movie and TV adaptations. I get misty-eyed just thinking about Polynesia the parrot, the Pushmi-pullyu, and Puddleby-on-the-Marsh.

[SB: It’s been a rough couple of days. Fri: -1 and Sat: -3. On Friday, our theme song didn’t play, @okanaganer – the 7er that you said was your last word was the one I missed. And on Saturday, I blew two obvious 5ers and this 8er, whose meaning I didn’t know until looking it up (and for which even now I'd be hard-pressed to give a coherent definition).]

Lower Answer: NAME IN VAIN.

Anonymous 8:52 AM  

Anyone else get hung up on the MIRACLE anagram with RECLAIM? Maybe it is not surprising that in my mind “miracle” seemed somehow connected to getting back into shape…

TaylorSlow 9:00 AM  

Great comments, Rex and @SouthsideJohnny!

Never heard of the Joy Division song, or Joy Division, for that matter, so I have no idea why the constructors described it as "seminal." Anyone? That slowed me down, but the other theme answers were pretty easy to get, even though I'd forgotten all about DOCTOR DOLITTLE and kept trying to fit "Beverly Hills Cop" and "Coming to America" into 61A. Along with everyone else, I'm standing and applauding for POSES NUDE. Also liked THE MAGI, POUR IT ON, and ITS NO BIGGIE. Not so fond of TKT and FINE ART, which is found less often in a gallery than contemporary art, isn't it?

Happy new year, everyone! I notice that a lot of people are adding something like "Let's hope it's better than 2022," but here in Michigan, we think 2022 was pretty fantastic.

kitshef 9:03 AM  

Swings and roundabouts … Got ENCELADUS off the first ‘E’, but I’ve never heard the Joy Division song. Or any Joy Division song as far as I know, although the band name is familiar.

I thought this was a really well-executed theme. Only downside is it loses a little lustre (and difficulty) once you figure it out.

Really really strange clue for SEDGE. Of all the wetlands you could think of, swamps are notable for the scarcity of sedges. Sedges are common in marshes, bogs, riversides. Swamps have mostly trees and shrubs – woody plants.

Lewis 9:05 AM  

ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE: I will present on Monday, as always, my favorite clues from last week. But please stay tuned for Tuesday, when I will present my favorite clues from last YEAR.

pabloinnh 9:09 AM  

After more than enough time spent looking at JA___ and trying to think of some country, I thought this was going to take at least until lunch, but things eventually started falling into place and I did the required forehead palm after JAPAN was obvious. I mean, really.

Caught on with GETBACKINSHAPE but had to fill in all the top themers before I could guess their descriptors. Not knowing the Joy Division song and never having seen any of the various versions of DOCTORDOLITTLE were not helpful. And hand up for the moon of Saturn being as mysterious as, well, a moon of Saturn.

I liked the college football playoff games, and was a little disappointed that the late one was even better than the earlier one, as I was by then sound asleep. Hope your team(s) won, and Happy New Year to all. It's got to be better than the last one, but I've been saying that for a while now.

Sundazo! indeed, AW, ML, and RM. Always Rewarding, Many Laughs, and Really Masterfully done. Thanks for all the fun and a great start to a new year.

Anonymous 9:36 AM  

Amy: intricate and sparkly. Great start to 2023. Managed to stay awake past midnight. the Dawgs won spectacularly, and my Swedish Meatballs were a success (the secret is mace). Best to you all here in The Rex Posse.

bocamp 9:49 AM  

Thx, Adam, Michael & Rafael for this 'play'ful Sun. offering! :)


Another Sun. with no typos; yay! :)

Felt pretty much on the constructors' wavelength, despite not knowing many of the answers. Thank goodness for fair crosses! :)

Clever theme; enjoyed sussing it out post-solve.

Fave clue: 'Barely sits still'.

Mini malapop, thinking TOIL away at 7D.

Unknowns/hazies/learnings: ENCELADUS; PRISM; LOVE WILL TEAR US APART; SNES; 'Mary Berry'; TOBIN; 'National Blood Donor Month'; AL SMITH; BNAI; NIALL; ARI; TETRA; AREA; ANTES.

Interesting juxtaposition of AXIOM and ZERO.

Finally got PURL down pat, rather than PeRL. yay!

Wanted to visit GOA when in India, but it wasn't to be. Heard the cost of living was very attractive there in the '60s & '70s.

Learned to drive at age 15 on fam's MANUAL Plymouth.

Enjoyed watching the FCS SEMIS on YouTube.

Very smooth, satisfying puz. Liked it a lot! :)

On to the NYT Sun. Acrostic! 🀞

Best of the New Year to all! πŸ₯°
Peace πŸ•Š πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all πŸ™

RooMonster 9:52 AM  

Hey All !
2023. Man, times flies. Seems like only yesterday, as I graduated High School in 1987, I was joking I'd be 30 in 2000. 30 seems old when you're 17-18. Now, Blam! It's 23 years past that yet, and I only have fuzzy memories of that whole time.

Boy, that sounded depressing! Forget all that, hows about just Happy New Year!! πŸŽ‰πŸ₯‚πŸŽ†

Impressed by this puz. Liked how you had to figure out the __ IN __ thingamabobs. Got a smile each one I grokked. My 31A originally was neVErcanTEARUSAPART, which worked for the circled letters. Quickly figured out the "can" part wasn't working with the Downs, so erased it, and got the correct answer.

Great job, you three (Amigos). Fun solve, good flow, neat theme. No SNORTs or SNEERs on this one. Now I'll GOA way.

Three F's

Weezie 9:58 AM  

WOWIE!!! That was so fun! And I somehow beat my PB solve time for a Sunday by 23 minutes! Lots of similar thoughts to Rex. And like many of you I needed every cross for ENCELADUS, which is now a delightful new piece of trivia I’m filing away.

The only place where I wasn’t whizzing through while humming Joy Division was 65A and points immediately south. I tried LOGIC and then PROOF before getting to AXIOM (still humming Joy Division, to be clear). A hazard of having been married to a philosopher trained in formal logic, I GUESS.

I loved the clever cluing throughout; BAIT actually made me laugh out loud. I agree with you @kitshef about SEDGE. I held off on filling it in because I was grumpy about the inaccuracy, having just done some reading about riparian plants in my region.

Do ETHIC and ETHOS count as kealoas? Not sure if they can be from the same root to qualify.

Oh and while I’m asking NOOB questions - what is a WOE? I’ve tried googling that one and no dice.

@Lewis, I really love your commentary. Not just because I tend to agree but because of the deep respect you have for the constructors but also your wit and the effervescent joy you take in word nerdery. Looking forward to your lists!

And looking forward to continuing to learn from and dialogue with you all in 2023!

Gary Jugert 10:00 AM  

I'm rarely a fan of Sundays, especially Sundays where the theme does nothing, or worse, when it gets in the way like it does today, but this puzzle was still nifty because it has a sense of humor. I'll forgive an entire puzzle's ills with one good guffaw.

It culminates with [Barely sits still?]. Hope that makes @Lewis's clues of the week, since I vote it as clue of the year. Well, it's only the first day of the year, but still... and it gives us our LNETH of the day to let constructors know 2023 will be another year to lean into your fifth-grade boy brain.

Now that I am searching through it, there's a lot of junk in here, but it's Sunday, and I guess it'll happen. I looked up the soccer player, but everything else went in eventually.

I just discovered PICTURE-IN-PICTURE became available in widespread consumer use around 1983 and I have used it never.

In bed at 10:30 pm every New Year's eve for the last 35 years to stay out of the way of the cheerier sorts inhabiting this planet. I normally catch a few minutes of the televised enthusiasm featuring an ocean of scrubbed up anonymous 20-somethings I'm led to believe I should know as they sing and dance and be over-the-moon excited about the evening, and am reminded nothing is ever "new."


1 Advertising slogan taught at The Pathological Liars School of Real Estate.
2 What it seems the entire country is struggling to do and honestly we're not really killing it here either.
3 TV sales manager's direction to staff to whole-heartedly recommend mid-80s technology.


Michael 10:01 AM  

New Sunday best, breezed through this. Always appreciate a Joy Division reference.

Anonymous 10:08 AM  

ENCELADUS … looks like Latin for "enchilada," - best line of the year (so far)

SIzeman 10:37 AM  

My "love will tear us apart" coffee mug, bought in Manchester UK, sits next to my "love is love" pride mug. Made me smile when I got that clue/answer!

Nancy 10:38 AM  

RECTANGULAR PRISM appeared so quickly on Google when I started typing in R-E-C-T that I figure everyone in the world has heard of it but me. I then realized that it was the rectangle's equivalent of the square's "cube" and that I would have known it if I'd ever taken a course in Solid Geometry. And while, gee, I took an awful lot of math -- including the very difficult Calculus (and to this day I still ask myself "Why?") -- I never did take Solid Geometry. And so, thanks to what I learned today, I will never look at a stick of butter the same way again.

The rest of the themers were a lot more familiar. And the wordplay was fun. I had no idea what was going on in the MOUNTAIN STATES answer with all those tiny little circles, but when I saw FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES, I chuckled. Cute.

I only looked at the tiny little circles when I needed them later on to help with another clue. They seemed superfluous at the time while I was putting letters inside them.

And it was tedious to go back and try to pick them out and see what they added up to. I vowed not to bother my pretty little head about it -- but I ended up checking all of them anyway. For me the clever idea behind the puzzle was more fun than the actual process of solving the puzzle. The back-and-forthing reminded me of all the Acrostics I routinely skip.

Joaquin 10:58 AM  

I guess I am in the minority here. I love all crosswords but my love for this one is less than my love for any other crossword I have ever done. Just too complex a theme with the fill being as far from my wheelhouse as possible.
Now I'm off to enjoy a Chiefs game.

egsforbreakfast 11:09 AM  

We watched Banshees of Inisherin as part of our very sedate New Years Eve. Enjoyed it a lot. But now I’ve got their speech patterns and usages cemented in my brain, so I’ve just got to say that this puzzle was feckin’ awesome. I was Lewis-like over the execution of the theme, and bowled over by some of the clues, particularly “Barely sits still?”

No anti-sexism rant about MISSUSA was a disappointment. OTOH, there’s a nifty USA/USA crossing within the MISSUSA/ LOVEWILLTEARUSAPART cross.

I found it jarring that 63D (Copy, in brief) is REPRO. First because “copy” is briefer and, second, because REPRO isn’t something that anyone says anymore. I see that the clue works fine, it just caught my eye.

I just got the @LMS avatar, which gave me the @JoeDipinto 1:13 am clue. Good on both o’ ya.

Happy New Year to all and thanks Adam Wagner, Michael Lieberman and Rafael Musa for a fantastic kickoff COLLABORATION.

Nancy 11:10 AM  

Let me add my enthusiastic vote to those of many others here who have chosen the POSES NUDE clue for inclusion in Lewis's list of Best Clues.

Yay!!!! @Barbara S had never heard of a RECTANGULAR PRISM either.

Nancy 11:22 AM  

@Joe D -- I never notice avatars, not even Loren's, so thanks for drawing attention to it. I readily figured out the answer -- but by then I had already seen your big hint, so who knows if I would have gotten it without it.

Deb 11:34 AM  

Favorite puzzle of the year (let's pretend it's still 2022). Really smart and fun.

pabloinnh 11:39 AM  

@bocamp-Found the Acrostic to be pretty easy, even though some of the stuff in the quote was a little strange. Fun though.

Anonymous 11:52 AM  

@Nancy 10:38: I didn’t know rectangular prism either. I would guess the reason that it Googles so well is that a lot of people, like you and me, Googled it this morning and their algorithm takes into account current trends.

Anoa Bob 12:02 PM  

A long, long time ago, I took solid geometry in H.S. and today's RECTANGULAR PRISM was a head scratcher. I would have GUESSed RECTANGULAR BAR since I associate PRISM with a three-sided object such as found in optical devices.

A long, long time ago, I lived and worked in JAPAN for a couple of years. One of my favorite outings there was riding the Bullet Train or Shinkansen (sheen kahn sin) from the capital Tokyo to it's anagram former capital, Kyoto. Almost all of the former was destroyed during WWII while the latter was spared. With many a classic Buddhist and Shinto SHRINE there, it still has a an Old World charm that is not to be missed.

I wonder if there is a mnemonic for Saturn's moons. With 63 named moons, per nasa.com, that would be the mother of all mnemonics, right?

I agree that the clue for POSE NUDE was first rate but what I noticed most was that POSE NUDE is one letter short of its slot. S to the rescue!

Beezer 12:09 PM  

Great Sunday puzzle!

@Taylor Slow…I did not know this either but found the following on “seminal” using “influence” in my search:

Joy Division have influenced bands including their contemporaries the Cure and U2, to later acts such as Bloc Party, Editors, Interpol, The Proclaimers, and Soundgarden. In 1980, U2 singer Bono said that Joy Division were "one of the most important bands of the last four or five years".

Joseph Michael 12:13 PM  

Great way to start the year. Enjoyed it from beginning to end. Not the year. The puzzle.

My only nit is that a SOLE is not *under* a foot any more than the first floor is under a building or the tires are under the bus.

Still trying to figure out @LMS’s avatar and @Joe Dipinto’s clue is not helping. Can anyone enlighten a poor Irishman on the first day of the rest of his life?

Masked and Anonymous 12:19 PM  

Real good SunPuz start to 2023. Incredible set of themers … just discoverin em took the dedicated work of 3 constructioneers. M&A is suitably impressed.
Kinda glad I didn't think of that general theme idea and set about tryin to construct a SunPuz for it. Woulda taken m&e at least a dog's lifetime to finish.

staff weeject pick: JAN. It's obviously #1, today.


Had no idea about the theme mcguffin, until I figured out 71-Across. Nice ahar moment.

Thanx for gangin up on us, Lieberman, Wagner & Musa dudes. 35-Down job.

Masked & Anonymo12Us


Diego 12:29 PM  

Great puzzle, particularly for a Sunday. Bodes well for the New Year. . .maybe? Bravissimo, guys!
A clever, convoluted construction that featured playful humor and a light, bubbly touch, perfect for NY’sE consumption.
It’s almost warm enough here in NYC today to POSENUDE after a brutal Christmas stretch.
Happy, happy to all.

Anonymous 12:48 PM  

Hi Loren. Just wanted to say that you posted the Olive Garden soup recipe a couple weeks ago on Malaika’s soup blog day. My family made the soup together on Christmas (following your suggestion to double the bacon). It was wonderful! Thank you for the treat

Tom T 12:50 PM  

Delightful review, Rex! Perfect for the opening of the New Year!

One of my fastest Sunday solves and I loved it.

Another hand up for ITSNOBIGGIE and POSESNUDE.

Noticed the cross between missUSA and lovewilltearUSApart.

Wishing all blessings in 2023.

Carola 12:52 PM  

I echo the WOWIE! on this one. What a terrific idea - and execution. As I made my way solving from top down, I wrote the four words-from-the-circles at the top of the page in the mag and did some fruitless pondering on how they might relate to their phrases, to each other, or to some common theme. Then came GET BACK IN SHAPE and a mental jaw drop + yelp of delight. I did fairly well at guessing the next two (people IN HIGH PLACES, BREAK into SONG), needing crosses and space counts to straighten me out; the final -TURE got me the last one. Lots of fun in the Downs, too; favorite: IT'S NO BIGGIE. A Happy start to the New Year for sure!

Anonymous 1:04 PM  

Wow surprised by the love. Thought I was coming on to read a scathing review by Rex.

I guess this was in my wheelhouse, because I found it painfully easy. I wasn’t rushing, and I finished it in 16 minutes, no errors, no cheats or hints. Didn’t even pause to fill in the answer for the Joy Division clue, as that song is imprinted in my brain since high school in the 90s. The clueing was so easy, that I just ran through all the acrosses and downs one time, and had about 95 percent filled in. So I didn’t even need to pay attention to the themes until I was totally done. Ymmv,

Lori 1:24 PM  

I am in the minority today and although I generally enjoyed solving this puzzle I DEFINITELY remember "Picture in Picture" a while ago, a very similar theme but I believe that time was for the entire puzzle; and that made solving the themed answers very easy (as was the whole thing.) Once again I congratulate the constructors and appreciate their efforts but this one just didn't do it for me. Happy New Year to Rex and all my fellow solvers :)

Tom T 1:31 PM  

Brief tarot related memory. I was at a writers' workshop in Chicago where we were introduced to the idea of using the placement of the 9 tarot cards to develop a plotline. (I don't know much about tarot, so that may be gobbledy-gook.) Anywho, I went to a Cubs game that week and decided to keep a scorecard substituting the numbering of the tarot card positions for the normal 9 positions of the players on the field. And all hell broke loose in the game--one player so angry at the umps he threw 30 or 40 bats from the dugout onto the field; fans throwing items onto the field; and a relief pitcher (Rob Dibble) getting ejected for deliberately hitting a baserunner in the middle of the back with a hard throw! I figured I caused it all by messing with the tarot/baseball universes.

OffTheGrid 1:33 PM  

Acceptable Sunday. Theme was interesting. Got a little sloggy but over all it was ok.

puzzlehoarder 2:09 PM  

Happy New Year to all my fellow commentators. What a great start to 2023. I'm not a theme person but this puzzle won me over. Any puzzle that has Joy Division in it would but this one took their best known song and makes it an integral part of this brilliant theme. I'm sure at least one of the constructors is a fan as the inclusion of INSIGHT creates a mini Joy Division theme.

Today I got to have my cake and eat it too. I tend to completely ignore themes and plow along like there just isn't one and that worked perfectly today. The top half is an excellent themeless in and of itself.

If every circled letter puzzle were as well executed as this one was I'd lose all disdain for them. The thorny crosswordese wasn't a problem either. It's just a part of puzzling and sometimes hacking through it is the only enjoyment I get out of a Sunday. Today it was just another layer to a very lavish cake.

A popular term here is POC. The 78D entry made me think we should add COC, as in conjugation of convenience , to our initialisms. If I recall correctly we had POSENUDE last year with a "Titanic" clue.

@Barbara S, as an SBer the AIOLI/ALLELE cross jumped out at me too. Speaking of SB....

YD -0, that 8 letter algebra term was an unknown to me I just made it up and it stuck and got me a hard fought QB.

Doctor Work 3:24 PM  

Early on, I did not notice the circled letters, so I was confused how a rectangular prism could literally depict reclaiming one's fitness, but then it came to me: we should strive to be in "butter" shape! Of course, I didn't really think they were going for that bad pun, and that is when I realized what was going on with the circles. I wonder if that occurred to the constructors...

Unknown 3:30 PM  

Wowie! Puzzle was no biggie. BRB - gotta head to a bnai mitzvah.

Anonymous 3:31 PM  

Why is subtle flavor to a wine enthusiast note and not nose?

Nancy 3:33 PM  

@Joseph Michael -- It's a 3,2,4 phrase. It describes (metaphorically) how people are described as arriving on other people's doorsteps when they are planning to beg for something.

Got it now?

Joe Dipinto 3:37 PM  

@Joseph Michael – if you email me via my profile I will explain

JC66 3:56 PM  

@Nancy & @Joe D

But the H__ isn't completely I_ the H___.

WoeIsMe 4:00 PM  

@Weezie: I believe WOE stands for "WHAT ON EARTH?"

Smith 4:37 PM  

Happy New Year to all!

Nice, easy puzzle to kick the year off. RECTANGULARPRISM popped in before any crosses, because I taught 5th grade math to speakers of other languages and it was in there. One HW assignment was for the kiddos to find examples at home... stick of butter it is.

Quibble (sorry) with clue for 109A. It feels to me like it's going in the wrong direction... when you beseech, you are basically begging someone to do something for *you*, so a couple of reasonable 4 letter answers would be "plea" or "pray". It took me the longest part of the time spent on this puzzle to see URGE because that, to me, is you trying to get *someone else, your interlocutor* to do something. But that's probably just me.

The Barely sits still clue is the best of the year! Oh, wait, maybe I mean last year!


Joe Dipinto 4:56 PM  

@JC66 – Yeah it is. (?)

Anonymous 5:07 PM  

I also have never heard RECTANGULAR PRISM. I was taught RECTANGULAR parallelepiped for a stick of butter.


H. Gunn 5:14 PM  

This was a great write up. EXACTLY my experience, which is not always (often) true.

And a thorougly delightful puzzle.

Joseph Michael 5:24 PM  

@ Nancy and Joe Dipinto, Aha! Yes! Got it! The problem was caused by the fact that I had been seeing only a section of the avatar. Once I clicked on it and saw the entire thing with your hints in mind, it all became clear.

Mile buiochas!

TTrimble 5:52 PM  

@Anonymous 3:31 PM
As in "citrus notes", "floral notes", "herbal notes", etc. I'm not a wine connoisseur, but my understanding is that the "nose" of a wine is a general term referring to the aromatic character. To answer more specifically what the nose of a wine is like, you might refer to these sorts of notes.

@Joseph Michael
This may be a barrage, but think of a supplicant who wants to be granted a favor from someone higher up. He arrives ___ in ____, where the first word is a near-synonym of "cap", and the second is a noun that can substitute for "round of applause".

Other notes:
RECTANGULAR PRISM is sometimes used in mathematics classrooms, but it's not a term I'd use a lot. A simpler and more intuitive term for the shape of a stick of butter is "rectangular box", also a legit math term. See here and the surrounding text for some precise definitions.

AXIOM: once upon a time, "axioms" were described as "self-evident truths" from which mathematical arguments proceed. And that's still the common meaning, as when one says, "it's axiomatic that...". In mathematics today, the "self-evident truth" part is dropped, but the idea that axioms are the starting points of theories is retained. So, we can write down axioms for Euclidean geometry, and we can also write down axioms for systems of non-Euclidean geometry. The derived consequences of the first theory will be inconsistent with those of the second theory, but there's no problem, as long as we don't claim legitimacy of one over the other, but think of them as pertaining to different mathematical worlds. You could think of axioms as provisional: if we suppose a world where such-and-such axioms are true, then certain consequences follow. Thus "truth" is relative and contextual. It took a very long time for mathematicians to attain that understanding, but it's a commonplace today (even though the struggle continues at the logical and foundational levels).

SB: Sigh, I threw in the towel on yesterday's, and these are the ones I missed. Lousy brain, as Homer Simpson might say. Still have 2 to go for today.

Anonymous 7:05 PM  

I’ve been following your page for a while now. I can usually solve the puzzles but I get really tripped up on the themes still and your explanations are great. I had no idea you live in my town until you mentioned my favorite restaurant. Hope it was delicious they sold out of spots.

Anonymous 7:15 PM  

Theme doesn’t work for me at all. Has no bearing on solving the puzzle which was easy. Not sure why it even needed the theme.

Anonymous 1:11 AM  

Surprised to see PRISM confound so many. For me, it was one of the basic shapes we learned in elementary school, along with "cube", "pyramid", "sphere", and so on. Perhaps different terminology is used elsewhere?

Anonymous 5:48 AM  

Rex, the INXS song is Never Tear Us Apart.

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

Newbie here. Can some explain 102Across to me? I filled in to get the answer but the meaning is not clicking. Happy New Year.

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

Oops. Meant the question to be on 102D.

Anonymous 11:03 AM  

Where in the u.s.a. is "hie" a word used to denote the clue (57A) "hurry, quaintly" is that a colloqualism and from where? Ive heard of hightail it as a phrase but never HIE

Anonymous 10:05 PM  

It's from Shakespeare

thefogman 3:59 PM  

Just got around to completing this one today - Jan. 12, 2023. Frankly, the reward is not worth the effort. This kind of gimmick turns me off because there are too many hoops to jump through in order to get the pun.

Burma Shave 1:42 PM  


or DOLITTLE but STATE they viewed
THE PICTURE or TWO with NO dress,


rondo 2:03 PM  

This seemed sloggy. A TON of itty-bitty words. Semi-interesting concept but as @foggy notes by the time you get to the payoff you're kinda bored to tears.
Wordle bogey; too many shots at GGGBG.

spacecraft 5:26 PM  

The usual Sunday slog. Theme mildly interesting but convoluted; circles a messy necessity. You can pluck almost any word out of almost any long phrase if you can just circle at whim. The fill isn't terrible, nor does it bring the house down. It's a par, folks.

Wordle birdie after three hits in the opener.

Diana, LIW 5:56 PM  

Glad OFL is also baffled by the moons of Saturn. sheesh

Surprised the authors didn't do something cool with 16-D, since they had such a good ability to do so. IMHO

The theme wasn't the best, but it did help me with some of the answers - a surprise.

As always, I'm glad I never rush thru a puz, or "time" myself - 'twod ruin many a Sunday. I just play a while, do something else, pet the cat, come back. Repeat as needed.

Diana, LIW

Chenequa 6:31 AM  

Hey Rex, I don't get why you put in OSAGES instead of OZARKS.
I'm not saying you should know OZARKS, but how could it possibly be OSAGES when the G would be the middle letter in a 3-letter word for "goof"??

Anonymous 10:08 AM  

From Left Coast Syndicat Land: Easy solve without worrying about the theme which isn't worth trying to figure out. But even without a theme this is a great Sunday puzzle. Best in a long time.

And also - even though the CDC recommends against eating raw cookie dough my older brother once ate a whole batch of raw chocolate chip cookie dough - in a few sittings at least - and I think perhaps before there was even a CDC around to nanny us.

Congrats to the constructors.

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