Streamlined type of baleen whale / FRI 1-13-23 / Onetime N.B.A. star Metta Sandiford-___ / Leonardo ___ (Fibonacci alias) / Jake's love interest in "The Sun Also Rises" / Shiny material in some guitars / Orbiter until 2001 / When said three times 2012 Taylor Swift song / Org with the highest-circulating mag in the U.S.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Constructor: Brad Wiegmann

Relative difficulty: Medium (jarring mix of simple and ?????)

THEME: (My) Bad Luck — a FRIDAY the 13th-themed puzzle, in which we find things that, like the day itself, are said to bring bad luck:

The bad luck stuff:
  • STEPS (?) on a CRACK (the "S" really doesn't need to be involved here)
  • "FRIDAY the 13th"
  • A broken MIR / ROR
  • A BLACK CAT crossing your PATH
  • WALKS (?) under a LADDER (the "S" really doesn't need to be involved here)
Word of the Day: RORQUAL (31A: Streamlined type of baleen whale) —

Rorquals (/ˈrɔːrkwəlz/) are the largest group of baleen whales, which comprise the family Balaenopteridae, containing ten extant species in three genera. They include the largest animal that has ever lived, the blue whale, which can reach 180 tonnes (200 short tons), and the fin whale, which reaches 120 tonnes (130 short tons); even the smallest of the group, the northern minke whale, reaches 9 tonnes (10 short tons).

Rorquals take their name from French rorqual, which derives from the Norwegian word røyrkval: the first element røyr originated from the Old Norse name for this type of whale, reyðr, probably related to the Norse word for "red", and the second from the Norse word hvalr meaning "whale" in general.[4] The family name Balaenopteridae is from the type genusBalaenoptera.

• • •
***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...

• • •

A themed Friday on Friday the 13th—a bit on the nose. This could've been just another Friday, which is what Friday the 13ths actually are, but since there isn't any actual magical reason the day should bring bad luck, the puzzle has apparently decided to force the issue and give us ... this (while at the same time depriving us (i.e. me) of the breezy themeless puzzle that is the one reliably good thing the puzzle has to offer, week in and week out. Bad luck indeed. I don't actually mind the concept here—buncha superstitions represented visually. OK. But the execution was painful. Was it supposed to be? Like, I can't tell if this puzzle is doing some kind of performance art, where it's being obnoxious and uneven and ungainly, but ... knowingly? I mean, it starts out like a Tuesday, with the gimme PEI (1A: Architect of the Museum of Islamic Art) (not too many three-letter architects to choose from) leading to IDEALS  (3D: Things to live up to) and EELS (21A: Symbols of slipperiness) and bam the whole NW is just done, and there's STEPS on a CRACK, so everything is just revealing itself almost too fast, and then ... well, then, things get both slower and uglier. And that ugliness starts with EMITTER (7D: Pollution source, say)

I mean ... EMITTER. One who ... emits, I guess. That word almost (but not quite) makes me miss yesterday's GETTER. So improbable is that word that I actually can't commit to the last letter. "Is it actually an EMITTEE?," I wonder (losing all perspective on the historic -ER v. -EE wars). Normally one would look to the cross to help sort things out, but ... RORQUAL? I ... I ... as the expression goes, I was today years old when I learned what a RORQUAL was. I've rarely seen a word that looks less like a word. I'm imagining a narwhal with a face like a Rorschach test. I actually had NARWHAL in there at some point, and finally committed to the initial "R" only after the broken MIR/ROR made it undeniable. EMITTER / RORQUAL is just awful—bad word into obscure word. But then we're back to ridiculous gimmes again with the theme revealer at 13D: With this answer's number, a hit horror movie franchise (FRIDAY). And then the pendulum (if not the PITT) swings back to rank obscurity again with the laughable WTFery of PISANO (!?!?!) (40D: Leonardo ___ (Fibonacci alias)), while also traversing the confusing corniness of LETTER C (apparently you can just do this with any letter of the alphabet if you're desperate enough). I finished up with something called a SEA ... LADDER? (55A: Dive boat feature). Sure, why not, at least it's inferrable, and both SEA and LADDER are words that I can recognize. I actually think this theme is a NEAT IDEA, but the emphasis is on IDEA. The themers are too often too straightforward, with the words in the various phrases not even trying to hide, just hanging out in street clothes (i.e. FRIDAY appears as FRIDAY, PATH as PATH, WALKS as WALKS ... they aren't hidden inside other words or in any other fashion). Then there's the one exception, the broken MIR/ROR, which is much more in the spirit of the tricky themed puzzle ... but the whole EMITTER / RORQUAL thing makes the execution painful instead of delightful. And as I say in the theme description, circling the last "S" in STEPS and WALKS doesn't make sense, or rather, it makes it all awkward by putting it into the third-person present indicative, leading me to wonder: who STEPS on a CRACK, exactly? Just circling STEP and WALK would've been fine (better). Look, I'm just mad they took my Friday themeless away. I was briefly consoled by the fact that there was a "good reason" (i.e. there's only one day you can do this theme, and Friday is the day), but then the ride was so uneven, the execution so ... well, also uneven ... that beyond the "aha" of getting FRIDAY (the 13th), there was mostly just disappointment.

I wonder what a Venn diagram representing "People who knew RORQUAL," "People who knew the man formerly known as Ron ARTEST," and "People who knew neither RORQUAL nor Ron ARTEST" would look like (28D: Onetime N.B.A. star Metta Sandiford-___). I know there's gonna be some overlap, but I also imagine that most solvers went "whaaa?" at at least one of those. I was fortunate enough to know the basketball one, but that is *only* because I knew that ARTEST's name had once been Metta World Peace. So I knew the "Metta," which was literally the only way I had of finding my way to ARTEST. Filling that in was one of the only times I've ever felt genuinely bad for all the sports-haters out there, because as sports clues go, that's kind of a deep cut. Beyond RORQUAL and PISANO, there wasn't much I hadn't seen before. BRETT was a total mystery (I've never been that big a Hemingway fan, frankly) (33A: Jake's love interest in "The Sun Also Rises"). I'm starting to wonder if the BRETT / ARTEST / LETTER C crosses messed people up today. Had DNA before RNA (of course). Couldn't decide which spelling of BREACH I was supposed to go with (of course) (42D: Violate, as etiquette). Forgot TAWS were a thing (53D: Fancy marbles). Had RUMBA before SAMBA for some reason (9D: Carnival music). But these are all minor snags that might happen on any day. I did not enjoy the puzzle, but I tip my hat to the puzzle for f***ing up Friday in bold thematic fashion (rather than just ordinarily and accidentally). Well played.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


OffTheGrid 6:06 AM  

Forecast: Today's comments will be hot and numerous. Clever puzzle to a degree but NOT ON THEMELESS FRIDAY!! The theme entries were fine but overall execution was sloppy. For example, having "ON" following STEPS when the trick is STEPS (on a) CRACK is inelegant. There is also a dupe of SEA in the grid. And "SEALADDERS" exist but they're not called that. Can opener/LETTERC is not worthy of a Friday appearance. I guess I'll have to be satisfied with drinking my Ovaltine.

Conrad 6:21 AM  

Medium-Challenging. Besides all the WOEs cited by @Rex, I had DivaS before DAMES at 4A, cES before SES for the French at 26A and ass before OAF for the yahoo at 39A

Anonymous 6:22 AM  

OK just try to do that’s NE corner if you’ve misread ATLA in your head as ALTA and come up with ALTARBOY as an absolute lock you’re just not gonna change. I dare you! (Self-inflicted near-fatal wound). Add complete mystification at whatever the baleen class is and that NE destroyed me.

Anonymous 6:52 AM  

Thanks for including “Bad Luck Streak” from a truly excellent though unheralded Warren Zevon album. It was a balm on my RORQUAL wounds.

Anonymous 7:03 AM  

Nothing wrong with EMITTER besides being a bit boring. Any study of pollution point sources probably uses the word multiple times. It's also one of three terminals of a bipolar junction transistor, though I suppose that doesn't really help make my case.

Ben 7:03 AM  

Yes, BRETT / ARTEST was a big Natick for me. I’ve heard of Ron ARTEST (although I couldn’t tell you he was a basketball player) but “Metta” meant nothing to me. And I was looking for a woman’s name for the Hemingway clue. Ultimately guessed the right letter because it was the only thing that made sense, but oof.

Phillyrad1999 7:11 AM  

Rex, I hope you dropped the MIC (just not on a CRACK or a MIRRROR) after you hit post today because you really did cover it all. The idea had some promise…except for everything you noted. Be careful out there today. Going to take my black dog out for a morning walk.

Anonymous 7:12 AM  

Anyone else have ringo before STARR?

Anonymous 7:17 AM  

Absolutely had ALTAR BOY at first —RP

Wanderlust 7:22 AM  

I like it when a theme helps me solve the puzzle or gets me out of a jam, as today’s did a few times. Of course broken MIR ROR made me see that RORQUAL was the only possibility (if anyone DID know RORQUAL, please identify yourself), but it also got me to EMITTER, which helped me finish the NW. Seeing STEPS and CRACK simultaneously also helped there. Same with LADDER WALKS in the other tough area for me, the SE (never heard of TAWS either). The thing that really slowed me down in that section was Nice IDEA before NEAT IDEA.

I’ve been on dozens of dive boats, and I’ve never heard it called a SEA LADDER. We just call it a ladder. When you come up from a dive in rough seas you are hanging onto that thing for dear life while you try to get your fins off so you can climb it.

I didn’t want PEI, even though Rex is right that there aren’t many three-letter architects. I expected a Muslim architect would have designed the Museum of Islamic Art. I assume this is the one in Doha, which I’ve been to. It’s beautiful, so nice job, IM PEI even if you aren’t Muslim.

I liked the Friday toughness of the clues for PISCES (“Last sign”), ENTREE (“It may have one or two sides”), DESK (“Something to work on”) and SKATE (“Travel across the pond, perhaps”).

Anyone else misread the clue for 12 down as “What follows certain DREADlocks?” Um, beads?

Anonymous 7:25 AM  

Thanks, Rex.

I like this one. Fair. One didn’t really need the theme. The theme was sort of an afterthought. RORQUAL was new to me. BRITS instead of DAMES slowed me in the NW, which was the last region to drop in place.

Joaquin 7:32 AM  

Glad to read that RORQUAL isn't something everyone but me is familiar with. For a while, I was feeling rather uninformed.

A fun (tho rather easy for a Friday) puzzle; perfect for this date. I enjoyed it a bunch.

Lewis 7:35 AM  

Some random thoughts:

• The visual puns are a nice followup to Wednesday’s LIE UNDER OATH puzzle.
• RORQUAL, where have you been all my life? I love you and will remember you.
• Regarding RACEWALKS, this is a serious sport, a serious workout. It will get your heart pounding as fast as or faster than running will. I speak from experience.
• Another theme – so many water-related answers! To wit: AT SEA, SEA LADDER, PISCES, RORQUAL, QUAY, SURF, NACRE, PADDLE, CREEKS.
• Regarding bad luck, part 1. In a bit of post-solve reading, I learned that it’s considered bad luck to point at a rainbow (in Navaho culture), and it is bad luck in China to give a clock as a gift.
• Regarding bad luck, part 2. Concerning how it’s considered bad luck to say “Macbeth” while in a theater, I highly recommend reading “The Scottish Play” in Wikipedia, exceptionally entertaining
• Scanning the completed puzzle, after seeing Poe’s story (BLACK CAT), when my eyes fell on PITT…

Brad, your puzzle woke up so many areas of my brain and got it firing on all cylinders. It’s a lucky day for me to have had your puzzle cross my path. Thank you, sir!

SouthsideJohnny 7:37 AM  

So instead of doing away (or at least doing some damage control) with the themes, the NYT’s editor, in his infinite wisdom, decided to go all in. Well, Rex accurately elaborated on how significant the collateral damage is. This puzzle can be summed up pretty succinctly - a gimmick puzzle loaded with garbage clues and entries (with RORQUAL, PISANO and EMITTER being exhibits A, B and C, respectively).

Son Volt 8:02 AM  

I don’t like themed puzzles on Friday either - but picking up on the play here definitely helped the solve. Split decision on the fill - most of it was solid but some outliers. I knew ARTEST and PISANO but needed every cross for RORQUAL. Ballyhoo!.

LETTER C is rough and we get some ugly glue making these theme pairs fit - ICH, UPCS etc. Side eye to RETRIALS and RETHATCH.

Decent puzzle - not a lot of enjoyment.

BRETT Dennen

Rich Furman 8:02 AM  

This is an editor fail. Oh? It's Friday the Thirteenth? Let's run this bad luck themed Wednesday puzzle!

My solving experience differed from Rex's in that for me, the NorthWest was last to fall, because while there's only one three letter named architect, I can never remember which three.

Anonymous 8:15 AM  

(raises hand)

albatross shell 8:16 AM  

If you have a Friday the 13th puzzle then have it on Friday the 13th. Sorry themeless lovers.

RORQUAL is one I did not know at all but worked it out after QUAY and EMITTER.

EMITTER is actually used as defined if that matters to anyone.

I totally blanked on Ron ARTEST it's been so long since I knew him by that name. Maybe you need to fail an AR TEST before you can qualify for an Advanced Remedial Class. Tending to Greta before the BLACK CAT crossed my PATH.

I'll give Rex half credit for the S on WALKS under a ladder but like the elegance of the STEPS completely covering the crack even though even part of the crack damages poor old Mom's back. At least there was no shaded BA-black square-shaded-CK.

Very nice too-easy themed Friday but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Nice one. Solid puz.

mathgent 8:18 AM  

Wanderlust (7:22). I also read it as "dreadlocks" until I came back to it for the third or fourth time.

Lady Brett Ashley. What a fascinating character. Ava Gardner played her in the movie.

God bless all you delicate souls who are put off when a word appears twice in a puzzle.

My father-in-law competed for the US in the RACEWALK in the 1936 Olympics. It is still an Olympic event. In a walk, at least one foot must be touching the ground at all times.

Anonymous 8:21 AM  

Hand up

TaylorSlow 8:22 AM  

What Rex said. Today's blog absolutely nailed it. A bizarre mix of so easy and nearly impossible. Plus, a theme on a Friday: Not happy about that.

36A: LETTER C. PLEASE NOTE: Constructors will lose five grade points for every use of this type of clue--the "opener" that turns out to be just a letter, or in this case, the letter *plus* LETTER, which is even worse. Do better, dammit.

However, A+ for the clue for ENTREE. I loved it, back when I was sailing through the NW corner and thinking that this was going to be a fun Friday.

Anonymous 8:25 AM  

Earbob?!?! Really? WTF is an earbob?

Dr.A 8:41 AM  

In this one case I’m so glad you didn’t love it! I was doing the puzzle thinking, this is really annoying me, but my friend Rex probably thought it was easy! That Emitter/Rorqual cross was one for the books!

Johnny Laguna 8:42 AM  

“WTFery” lol

Brett 8:44 AM  

I had no problem with the Hemingway clue.

MaxxPuzz 8:45 AM  

I actually turned 13 on a Friday the 13th! Lucky day for me. It's now my nth iteration, so I am indeed fortunate to be able to say it.

Cheers, everyone!

Anonymous 8:59 AM  

I did not want to commit to “sea ladder” because “at sea” was already an answer.

TaylorSlow 9:01 AM  

@mathgent: The 1936 Olympics? Berlin, Riefenstahl, Jesse Owens? I'll bet your father-in-law had some stories to tell! How did he do? I love racewalking--easier on the joints than jogging and you work different muscles. So you look dorky--I'm too old to care!

Smith 9:17 AM  

What @Rex said. 👋 for RORQUAL = new to me. Some parts ridiculously easy, others ridiculously WTF. No idea sports clues, had PInk before PITT (black cat, pink panther, nod to earlier this week puzz), obviously never heard of this Metta guy.
Before seeing BLACKCAT I briefly had IrH as the Prussian pronoun, which is hilarious to me in it's wrongness. I actually wanted ihr, which I always forget because in French "hers [feminine object]" is la sienne, while in German "seine" is his [feminine object] so I frequently forget to use ihr/e *even though* it's clearly related to our "her".
Best of luck to all today!

Unknown 9:21 AM  

BRETT crossing PITT and ARTEST was a double Natick for me. TTerrible!

Anonymous 9:24 AM  

Amy: my woe was In Due TIME. Toyed with the DAMES being Altos, and DESK & ATOP are general enough to elude me for a bit. Eventually things fell into place. Overall, liked it. BRETT and BLACKCAT were gimmes and as been mentioned, RORQUAL was fairly clued because of MIRROR. At any rate, am now ready for the rest of the day, and isn't that what a puzzle should do? Going to be on the lookout for a 4 leaf clover.😃

Stewart Gross 9:39 AM  

Wasn’t there an almost identical puzzle a few years ago? I feel like the Blackcat/Path cross is oddly familar

RooMonster 9:41 AM  

Hey All !
Was just feeding my pet RORQUAL comforting him that he's never in puzs, when lo and behold, there it is! His name is BOB. 😁.

Liked todays offering. I'm not one to cry over spilled themelesses. It's apropos for the day.

FRIDAY the 13th and it's "competitor" Nightmare on Elm Street started off decent enough for slasher movies, but dissolved into corniness as the sequels dragged on. Shoot, they're Still making FRIDAY the 13th movies! I remember seeing the first Nightmare when I was young (10, 11, 12? Who can remember exact ages?) and it scared me rather well. I have seen it since as an adult, and ended up laughing more than getting scared. Ah, youth. Gotta love the Emoting Freddy Krueger.

Happy Friday, everybody. Don't let the date bring you down!

Two F's

Bob Mills 9:45 AM  

Easiest Friday in a while for me, even though I never heard of RORQUAL or SEA:LADDER, both of which I got from the crosses. I had DIVAS for "Shirley Bassey and Angela Lansbury," but I knew "Ancient Crete residents" couldn't begin with a V.

I didn't pay attention to the shaded letters. But it was clever to have 13-Down match today's date. All in all, a very good puzzle. One question...why is PISCES "The last sign," when it runs from late February to late March?

Suzie 9:47 AM  

*sigh* Yep.

Michelle Turner 9:47 AM  

I’ve only heard the term ear bob used in Gone With the Wind. It’s what the Union soldier was demanding when Scarlet shot him.

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

Seriously wtf

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

twas terrible. NEAT IDEA really irked me. No one ever says that.

Whatsername 10:11 AM  

A bad luck themed puzzle on FRIDAY the 13th, what a NEAT IDEA! My sympathy to those who are traumatized by that fact and/or by those shaded squares in the grid! But don’t worry, there will be a themeless on some OTHER day, IN DUE TIME. As for me, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks BRAD, I wouldn’t ALTER a thing.

Jason Voorhees 10:15 AM  

Paraskevidekatriaphobia is real !

Kent 10:24 AM  

I guess I’m in the minority in enjoying this one, maybe in part because I don’t have a strong preference for themed or unthemed puzzles on Friday (or any other day). The NW didn’t fall quickly for me (why PEI didn’t instantly leap to mind on 1A, I have no idea), so the theme was a mystery longer and more satisfying when the penny dropped at MIR ROR.

Anonymous 10:26 AM  

Wanted NARWHAL for a while there, even after I had ROR----

Beezer 10:30 AM  

I knew immediately there would be an uproar when I saw the shaded squares in the puzzle today! I love themeless day but as @Albie pointed out, you could never have a Friday the 13th themed puzzle if we always stick to that “rule.”

Hand up for not knowing RORQUAL. NOW I know. Also had BRITS before DAMES at 4A (lol @jae on DIVAS…only because I don’t think of either of them that way. Also, having been “in the biz” I will pile on and say that EMITTER is definitely a common term, I.e. coal fired power plants are the biggest EMITTERS of sulfur dioxide in the world. (Well, coke oven batteries and “new steel” blast furnaces are none too shabby also as EMITTERS)

The transformation of Ron Artest to METTA World Peace to METTA Sandiford-Artest is unfortunately within my wheelhouse having been a Pacer fan up until the Malice at the Palace fiasco whereby I decided I could not support a team that allowed a player with a notable mental health problem (unaddressed) as well as a”thug” mentality in other players. The team has gotten better in terms of behavior and I’m trying to reacquaint myself with fandom. Perhaps it’s time for ME to end their probation.

Nancy 10:35 AM  

Okay, okay. I finally figured out what this is doing here on a supposedly themeless Friday. This theme can ONLY work on a Friday.

In which case, all is forgiven.

Oh, I was so disappointed as I swept through the completely resistance-less NW thinking "this is the easiest Friday puzzle I've ever done." But then it got harder. Not necessarily Friday-hard, but harder.

A word about what's out there in the (literary) ether. I've never read "The Sun also Rises" and if I ever saw the film, it was practically in another lifetime, it was so long ago. But somehow I knew BRETT and Jake. Their names are sort of in the ether. And it's lucky (pun intended) I knew them, because I certainly didn't know ARTEST.

I loved the theme -- and I loved it even more because there's no revealer. Is that because it's a Friday?

One nit is the CLUE for SCARF (9A). First of all, it comes to your neck in spring, summer, winter and fall, not just in winter. And it's not "can come" but "DOES come". Where else would it be if not on your neck?

I thought the general cluing and fill for this puzzle was on the blah side. But the theme itself was a great deal of fun.

Georgia 10:42 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Newboy 10:47 AM  

Wasn’t BRETT BURNS on episode 437 of Days of our Lives? I’m not sure, but then I missed several other obscurata today. Thanks Brad for sharing your cute grid & thanks Rex for letting me know why it was not as much fun as the salt in this morning’s sugar bowl.

Whatsername 10:48 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beezer 10:49 AM  

@Nancy, I see what you mean but not all people (mainly women) wear scarves all year whereas almost EVERYONE puts a SCARF around their neck (or a “gaiter”) in the winter. 🤔 well. Not south of the equator.

Sweet 16 10:52 AM  

I've been baffled all week: What's the significance of the 16 sign at the top of Rex's request for support? Is the blog 16 years old? Does Route 16 run through Natick? Is he asking for $16?

Geezer 10:56 AM  

Why should a bad luck omen themed puzzle need to be published on Friday the 13th? Even with its faults this would have worked just as well on a Wednesday. It really WAS bad luck to not have our Friday theme-less.

andrew 10:59 AM  

As much as I love all things Warren Zevon (except that he’s dead) and thought that Devon’s Whip It (“STEP on a CRACK, break your mother’s back”) would be the featured link, let’s pay tribute to Dame Shirley Bassey. Happened on this amazing 1974 performance of Goldfinger a few days ago: (how do you make the link link here? With the bracketed a before and /a after the address?)

On another (less amazing) note, I was born two weeks late on a Friday the 13th in August 1954. Turned out the extra time in the womb paid off - Nixon stopped the Vietnam draft for those born after 7/31/54. OHO and PHEW to that!

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

Agree with some others that EMITTER is very much in the language in the pollution context ("middle east nations are the largest per capita EMITTERS of greenhouse gases," etc.), so think that's a bit unfair.

But generally agree that there were some obscure/strained entries. And although I knew both ARTEST and RORQUAL, ARTEST is certainly dated, and we're past the point where ARTEST has entered the IPHOTO memorial phase of yesteryear's crosswordese.

Joe Dipinto 11:21 AM  

My sources in Hollywood inform me that "The Rorqual" was the original title of the recent Brendan Fraser movie, but it didn't test well with audiences. No one could remember it ten minutes later.

This puzzle was so perversely weird that I came to like it, despite wondering "wtf?" for a lot of it. I had a minor blip at 41a, vacillating between SNOOTY and SNOTTY before hitting on SNOBBY. I did remember ARTEST from when he changed his name earlier to "Metta World Peace".

John PISANO was the guitarist in Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass. He may not be as famous as Fibonacci but at least that's his real last name.

That's whatcha got, that's whatcha got

MKM 11:22 AM  

@anon 8:25
In my world an EARBOB is a Q-tip.

Joseph Michael 11:22 AM  

NEAT IDEA for a FRIDAY the 13th puzzle. In spite of the EMITTER/RORQUAL cross and in spite of my fancy marbles being DAWS and MAWS before they became TAWS, I enjoyed the solve and in particular loved the clue for ENTREE. The theme is a reminder that if you’re having a dinner party tonight, don’t invite 13 guests unless you want to be betrayed by one of them.

Other things to avoid:


H O U ☂️ S E


*I wonder if Mr. Fibonacci aka PISANO suffered from heptadecaphobia which some say is common in Italian culture.

Gary Jugert 11:31 AM  

Thankful to know:

For crosswording a total of three architects have drawn everything in the world.

If there are multiple British women in a clue, they're DAMES.


The two senses of SCARF have nothing to do with each other.

I'm pretty sure I have never listened to a Taylor Swift song all the way through, and yet I feel like she's a good friend. Her marketing team is phenomenal.

I've been planning on accusing somebody of being an OAF, but weirdly it hasn't come up lately. I must be getting along with everyone, or not paying attention.

Isn't the shiny material in some guitars ... music? Or beauty? Or art? Or my last hope? Or my life savings?

There's a lotta fish stuff in this puzzle. Like a lot.

In 2010, PITT had 22 students in trouble with the law making the school #1 on Sports Illustrated's list of shame. These are the things you learn looking up sporty things you don't have any interest in.

Just awful:

Prussian and French pronouns... even when when everyone knows one occurrence of the English "they" used in the singular will send us into a rage? "ICH."

Panera isn't my favorite restaurant.

RORQUAL... whatever you gotta do to make early Friday solvers Fri.

If I ever write a puzzle, I won't ask solvers to know how many acts are in any given random play. Besides, every play should be one 20 minute act since we're only there to be nice to our friend who is in it and it's getting in the way of drinking the wine in the lobby.


1 The guy who thinks a neatly arranged dollop of sauce on a single bite of something in another language you've never heard of is worth $45.
2 Favre in Hell.
3 Probably what you're actually being served at a Beard-awarded establishment.
4 The process of giving up on everything you once believed while making excuses to yourself.
5 A bangle in flight.
6 What today's crossword constructor did to obscure the answer into the depths of pure trivia. (Nice job by the way.)
7 Sherman.


jae 11:39 AM  

Medium with the top half a bit easier than the bottom in part because I forgot ARTEST changed his name. Plus @Rex WOEs like PISANO, RORQUAL and trying to spell BREACH didn’t help. Liked it more than @Rex did, a little something different every now and then is OK by me.

...and me too for ringo before STARR

Gary Jugert 11:40 AM  

Postscript: I just now learned from 🦖 the them was Friday the 13th and not everything you ever wanted to know about life in the sea. Magnificent.

Anonymous 11:42 AM  

Brett is a woman's name - Lady Brett Ashley.

Carola 11:57 AM  

Easy theme, tough elsewhere. After I saw STEPS on CRACK, I was ready for WALKS under LADDER, but couldn't anticipate the others. I really liked the broken MIRROR and thought FRIDAY x 13 was clever. Struggled in the BRETT, LETTER C, ARTEST area and ended with a DNF (aptly enough for the 13th) with ARTEkt x kNOBBY: I should have done an alphabet run for the S but had run out of steam and enthusiasm.

Joe Dipinto 11:59 AM  

@Andrew 10:59 – I believe you can only post a link with hypertext attached.

If you email me via my profile I can send you the formula .

J.W. 11:59 AM  

Man, this one was brutal for me. A wicked combination of brain not firing, a lot of it not being in my wheelhouse, and simply not connecting the dots to complete some fill. I clawed my way to the ¾ mark on my own, but after that I gave up and went free-for-all on the look-ups. Agreed about the strange mix of very easy and nearly impossible. Did not care for this one at all.

Amazingly, one of the ones I did know was the infamous RORQUAL. But it was a deep pull from the sands of time. It fell to me in a spelling bee once upon a time. (I got it.) I had naRwhAL there originally, but the crosses weren't working, so I thought on it, and it was like, "Wait a minute ... I'm feeling a tingle ... is it? Is it? I think it is ... hhhnnnnnggggg RORQUALLLLLL!" I'll take that victory amid a technical DNF.

I call foul on SRO (23D). Acronym answers typically have a commensurately abbreviated clue. No such formatting here, so it threw me.

johnk 12:04 PM  

I mostly successfully ignored the shaded/circled boxes, solving it like an actual Friday - except it was a Tuesday or Wednesday level of difficulty.
Does the NYT puzzle commemorate each xDay with a theme? No. Have we ever seen a Shrove Tuesday theme? Lord, I pray not. Good things happen every day, including Friday the 13. Let's get over it.

Anonymous 12:53 PM  

Yep. Elsewise easy Friday.

Brian 12:55 PM  

Yeah. And easy Friday

andrew 12:58 PM  

Shirley Bassey sings Goldfinger

(Am testing out Joe Dipinto’s formula, which he was kind enough to send me. If it works, enjoy! If it doesn’t, what did I do wrong?)

Tom T 1:04 PM  

I get that FRIDAY was in square number 13, but it really doesn't work like one of the theme answers in this puzzle. Visually it might be "FRIDAY on the far east," or "Down FRIDAY," or "FRIDAY all alone," or "Friday 13 down," or (with apologies to Kris Kristofferson) "FRIDAY morning coming down."

Also, really disappointing use of the ACT ___ (pick a number between 1 & 5) answer for the end of "Hedda Gabler," which ends, in fact, with a bang--a gunshot--and the line, "People don't do such things!"

I had altos before divas before DAMES.

Had the RET part of BRETT and guessed gRETa.

And PISANO gave me trouble with one vowel (aCH or ICH--that's on me) and one consonant (what the heck is NACRE?! My guess was lACRE, which at least suggested lacquer).

But I got it all right with seeking help, and at a fast Friday time, so always glad to hear the happy music on a Friday.

I like that a constructor named Brad included PITT, but not clued as a movie STARR.

JC66 1:15 PM  


It didn't work.

Email me and I'll send you mu embedding Cheat Sheet.

WestofNatick 1:19 PM  

Thoroughly enjoyed this. Love how 40A PATH gave me 33D BLACKCAT and thereby made the other themers obvious.Thank you for engaging my brain in multiple ways, Brad. This was lots of fun. And thanx to WS who ignored the certain blowback that was to come for doing the right puzzle on the right day. How many would complain if this puzzle DID appear on a Wednesday?

Teedmn 1:22 PM  

I fell into the three-way confluence of Rex's Venn diagram, with the no-knows of RORQUAL, BRETT and ARTEST. Thankfully, the broken MIR ROR confirmed that RORQUAL, odd as it was, was in fact correct. The other cross, I just put a ? where the T went - it might have been BRETa-ARaEST?

I love the theme, NEAT IDEA, but oof, tough in spots.

Thanks, Brad Wiegmann!

Joe Dipinto 1:27 PM  

@Andrew– the url seems to be the problem. Are you sure it's correct?

Joe Dipinto 1:35 PM  

My fault ‐- I made a mistake copying the url. I sent you a correction.

Anoa Bob 1:37 PM  

I'm in the "NEAT IDEA for a theme" camp but this is another exhibit in the "Would work better in a different puzzle format" argument. Having to force it into a 15X15 pixel grid resulted in too many compromises, too much awkwardness and -ESE, for this delicate soul.

Why does AT SEA always seem to get a "Lost", "Confused" or, as today at 22A, "Bewildered" type clue. I've spent many a day AT SEA and with the exception of a few storms here and there, it was always a joyous, uplifting, soul satisfying experience. I never felt lost or bewildered; I always knew where I was, AT SEA!

Most of my scuba experience was from banca dive boats (canoe hulls with outriggers) in the Philippines. They didn't have any kind of LADDER. We had to remove all dive gear in the water and then hoist ourselves back aboard. On those occasions where the vessel had a LADDER it was called a BOARDING LADDER. SEA LADDER? Really? What would that same LADDER be called when the vessel has returned to port and is no longer AT SEA? Is it only a SEA LADDER AT SEA?

DigitalDan 1:42 PM  

The word that, to me, is even less like a word than NORQUAL is GIB. I don't know why I think so.

Masked and Anonymous 1:57 PM  

Always a good Friday for M&A, when there's a FriPuztheme.
Superstitious Circle HighJinx! Extra nice.
fave themer: BLACKCAT crossin yer PATH.

Impressive desperation area: RETHATCH/BRETT/ARTEST/LETTERC.
staff weeject pick: MIR. Broken mirror teammate with the whale of mystery.

72-worder, so definitely a legit themeless puzgrid. Maybe a slightly easyish FriPuz solvequest, but it did have some perky no-knows, at our house.

Thanx, Mr. Wiegmann. Nicely done. Only semi-crucial element missin was a 13 U-count.

Masked & Anonymo4Us


Alice Pollard 2:04 PM  

RORQUAL? EARBOB? hadn’t heard of alot of this, but finished no errors. How can you complain that this Friday has a theme? I normally do not enjoy Fridays as much as the other days *because* there’s no theme. Years ago we drove up to Cape Cod and brought some short stories on CD to listen to on the way up. One was The BLACKCAT. As fate would have it, the CD got stuck in the CD player and would not eject. We never bothered to fix it and for years every once in a while I would shout out to the kids in the back “Who wants to listen to The Black Cat again?”

Donna 2:11 PM  

Dive boat took my brain to submarine, so I insisted on some kind of bladder for submerging and emerging. Grrr.

Anonymous 2:17 PM  

The LA time crossword today also has SES as answer with almost the exact same clue and in almost the exact same location in this puzzle

Joe Dipinto 2:20 PM  

Here is @Andrew's Goldfinger link (sorry, Andrew – you did it right, I screwed up):

Shirley Bassey sings Goldfinger 1974

Isthmus be my unlucky day.

mathgent 2:29 PM  

TaylorSlow (9:01). Sorry. It wasn't the historic 1936 Olympics. It was 1932 in Los Angeles. No medal for my father-in-law.

ghostoflectricity 3:02 PM  

Themed Friday (I don't care if it IS the 13th) + Natick after Natick after Natick after Natick = one very poor puzzle.

andrew 3:16 PM  

Just to test this correction from Joe, here we go.

Shirley Bassey

Sorry if you’re all getting mighty sick of Shirley Bassey now. Will email JC66 for his cheat sheet as well (thanks for offering!)

(The sad thing is I used to oversee websites - but that was over a decade ago and I mostly used Dreamweaver, which automatically did the coding.)

puzzlehoarder 3:22 PM  

A real Jekyll and Hyde experience. The crosses said RORQUAL but the theme clinched it. The BRETT/ ARTEST cross I had to sweat out on my own. The T was ultimately the only LETTER that looked right. BRETT looks vaguely familiar but ARTEST was completely from the crosses.

Sun-Thur -0

OISK 3:57 PM  

Happy to have finished correctly! Last time I DNF was a week ago Tuesday!. But I never connected the puzzle to the date, didn't "get" why mir-ror wasn't mir-rim. Understood Steps on a crack, black cat crossing path, and walks under ladder, but never connected them; somehow missed the "Gestalt." Naturally had no idea why the "Friday" was placed where it was...Anyone else begin with "parka" instead of "scarf" ? Many of the clues were way outside my wheelhouse, but I perservered..... Pisamo, Brett, Rorqual, Stay, Aida, and Nia -got from the crosses....

Made in Japan 4:00 PM  

I normally enjoy themeless Fridays, but I liked this one just as well.

I don't get the uproar about EMITTER. It's a perfectly normal word which we hear all the time. Would someone say "China is the largest EMITTER of greenhouse gases" or the clumsier "China is the country that emits the most greenhouse gases"?

RORQUAL is a weird word, but all the crosses are obvious as well as the ROR from the broken MIRROR. And I learned something that the fictional Woo Young-Woo would appreciate.

Few people know that Fibonacci was never known by that name in his lifetime, and that he lived in Pisa, but maybe they learned something. Again, crosses were fair.

I didn't know BRETT or ARTEST, but T was the only letter that made any sense at the cross.

Good puzzle with a few flaws, which others have already pointed out.

bier_ist_gut 4:04 PM  

Came here to feel better and you did not disappoint. For the longest time I thought the dangler was an EARBOA (a boa for your ear, non?) and had to DNF by double-checking it. Alas, that made _NOB__ finally inferable. Had NO idea about BRETT/ARTEST and RORQUAT. Ffs, man...

dgd 4:30 PM  

Exactly the word for my dnf. I was at earb-b. Was fixated on Yahoo, not yahoo, as an internet site and with all those initials for the internet I gave up and looked.

JC66 4:51 PM  


I emailed you the Cheat Sheet. Hope its helps.

pabloinnh 5:08 PM  

Way late to the party as it turned out to be a grandchild care day, as day care was closed. Well worth it as Baby Jack took a lovely two-hour nap while I held him in my arms and watched junk tv. All good until one tries to get up again, when the body complains.

Anyway-mostly agreed with everything OFL said about this one. I'm never sure if this is a good thing or not.

No on RORQUAL and PISAMO, wanted BRETT clued as "Royal George", knew Ron ARTEST but not the new guy, and since I didn't see @egs mention it anywhere, the idea of a SEAL ADDER is a little terrifying. Sounds like some kind of enormous fat snake.

OK Friday by me, BW, and I don't mind the themed answers, But Where's the consistency? Serious moo-cow to WTF whiplash in this one, but thanks for a large measure of fun.

egsforbreakfast 5:17 PM  

Didn’t have time for any cleveralities today. I’m in Mexico, ostensibly for a pickleball tournament, but also keeping an eye out for @JohnX. Gotta say that I liked the puzzle, and prefer a theme any day of the week.

Anonymous 5:18 PM  

DREADLOCKS here, confirmed haha. I wanted it to be dreadlocks even though I couldn’t compute an answer from that.

Trina 6:05 PM  

Liked it. A lot.

Emitter is in common usage in the environmental/EPA world.

Earbob while a bit obscure is much better known to this female solver than the “formerly known as” ball player completely unknown to my sports fan husband.

Whale, got on the perps, so fair.


Sealadder? Seriously? No.

Letter C? Again, No.

End of Nedda Gabler? Double No. Just stop.

But still fun and get over the theme on a Friday! It’s not like it was a hidden rebus which would truly be annoying.


albatross shell 6:32 PM  

I think on Fri. and Sat. puzzles, just as rules on having ?'s on misleading clues tends to be less strict, so do those on clues having to indicate abbreviations in answers. Late week masochism or learning not to need crutches. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Using a smart phone just clicking on the url in your first post got me there.

I took the 13thD FRIDAY more as a revealer of the bad luck theme than a parallel badluck answer. Opinions may differ. Of course part of the reason I did is because it is FRIDAY 13th today.

The SEA LADDER has its lower part in or near the sea just as a pool ladder has its lower end in water. Are they ever called that? I dunno. In fact I would have no idea if that DOOK is SEA LADDER or a SEAL ADDER without the clue. But if I was trying to find one, the term SEA LADDER would probably get me away from all the land-lubbing and swimming pool ladders.

And cuz of all the whining about LETTERC here I can see in our future:
Letter opener:


Anonymous 6:51 PM  

But @Gary Jugert, the wine in the lobby sucks!

Anonymous 7:20 PM  

Me too with the altar boy

Anonymous 7:20 PM  

I too had Altar Boy

Anonymous 11:38 PM  

Rough puzzle (and/or clueing). No need to dig for critiques re Friday theme, or forcing us to acknowledge a fabricated unlucky date. Those things are fine. The puzzle was not. Just a lot of, “wait…what?”s without much payoff. Good attempt, just wonder why it had to go for so many crosses of obscure trivia with obscure clueing, but not enough dazzle to turn heel and forgive the constructor. I guess someone got their licks in and enjoyed it.

Anonymous 1:39 AM  

The only novel I ever threw in the ocean was “The Sun Also Rises” — loathe Hemingway. Hope a rorqual are the book and choked to a miserable death

Anonymous 4:42 AM  

This!!!! I can’t believe everyone just accepted earbob without comment

goldbug 6:06 AM  

Dreadful for those of us who don't live in North America. Never heard of PITT or ARTEST and PANERA doesn't help one damned bit because we've never heard of that either. I had no choice but to google the answers, never something I appreciate.

Anonymous 9:21 AM  


doghairstew 11:29 AM  

Dude you're missing the positioning of the words. Steps is ON top of the word crack, just as walks is under the word ladder and the black cat crosses the word path. So adding those position words would be gratuitous.

Anonymous 6:06 PM  

Me too!!! Sigh

kitshef 10:48 PM  

Very hard for me. Saturday + . It appears there is not a lot of overlap between my life and Brad Wiegmann's. Troubles include EAR BOB, BRETT, SEA LADDER, ARTEST.

spacecraft 11:10 AM  

I suppose sooner or later we had to sacrifice a FRIDAY to the triskaidekaphobics among us; okay, here it is. Next week we can get back to our themelesses.

The sacrifice was costly. Whole sections Monday-easy, then a bunch of uber-obscurities unknowable but to a precious few. And in the middle of it all, the absolutely horrendous LETTERC. That little piece of garbage almost led to a DNF.

This puzzle certainly defines the term "uneven." Not that that's bad per se, but as it played out, bogey.

Wordle par despite another repeated letter. Course is starting to look like a U.S. Open site.

Burma Shave 12:08 PM  


or IN his PATH A CAT that's BLACK;
he's UP CREEKS without A PADDLE.


Diana, LIW 1:06 PM  

I had good luck with this Friday offering. I knew @Spacey would hate "LETTER C" as a letter add-on.

My only unknown - 28D, the name of the NBA star. Of course.

Diana, LIW

rondo 5:44 PM  

I don't mind a theme on Friday. Easy enough though it was more timely 5 weeks ago.
Wordle birdie.

Don Byas 1:53 AM  

The ROR of the crossword solver the smell of the puzzle. Missed opportunity for: ROREM, RORTY and RORY. Nothing will ever equal the badness of RORQUAL. We should hold onto this word as a unit of bad fill. "How bad is your Natick? Well lets just check its RORQUAL rating"

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