Response to thumb-biting in Romeo and Juliet / SAT 3-18-23 / Trickster in Polynesian mythology / Name meaning long-lived in Arabic / That would change everything in internet lingo / Words that form other words when read backward / Citrus also known as uniq fruit / French for canvas

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Constructor: Ada Nicolle

Relative difficulty: Easy 

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: SEMORDNILAPS (21D: Words that form other words when read backward) —

This is a close relative of the palindrome, a string of letters that reads the same backwards as forwards (“Madam, I’m Adam”; “A man, a plan, a canal: Panama!”; “Was it a car or a cat I saw?”).

In a semordnilap the text is likewise reversed but it must turn into something different. For example, if you reverse “diaper” you get “repaid”, and if you invert “desserts” the word “stressed” appears. A more complicated example is “deliver no evil”, but you can probably invent better ones for yourself.

As semordnilap is palindromes written backwards, it’s a self-referential word, one that encapsulates within itself the thing it represents. You could hardly say that it’s common, but many earnest palindromists have accidentally discovered it, and it has some small circulation among word wizards and elsewhere.

Derrida particularly favors the figure of a “headstrong dog,” possibly because dog, a semordnilap for god, helps him to configure an immanent versus transcendent ontology.Animal Capital: Rendering Life in Biopolitical Times, by Nicole Shukin, 2009. (World Wide Words) (my emph.)

• • •

I loved this puzzle, best puzzle I've done all week, except for two answers that ... well, I question their general familiarity. Really really question. They were fun to piece together, but seemed ... yeah, extremely off the beaten path. The first is the Word of the Day, SEMORDNILAPS, which, well, whoever coined that must really hate intelligibility because you cannot say it without sounding like you're trying to imitate some space alien language. Seems rather typical for a word nerd to prize cleverness ("it's PALINDROME backward, get it!") over functionality. It's actually an interesting phenomenon that should have a name, but this one is terrible. The only good thing about this name is that it helped me solve this crossword puzzle; that is, after a while, I realized that the gibberish I was looking at was going to be PALINDROME spelled backward (+ S). So I guess that counts as an "aha" moment, which is cool, but it was followed immediately by an "oh come on" moment. This is just another example of how, crossword / Wordle / Quordle obsession, I am actually an outsider in the world of Puzzle & Game People (the ones who Gotta Love 'Em All). The word "SEMORDNILAP(S)" was coined by a "recreational linguist" (!?) and only appeared in print for the first time in 1961 (and probably hasn't appeared much since). So ... I liked the "aha" moment and I liked learning a new *concept* but man I hate this word and also it is 100% obscure, if ever a word was obscure. 

Also, to my mind, obscure, is the Romeo & Juliet quote (37A: Response to thumb-biting in "Romeo and Juliet" => "DO YOU QUARREL, SIR?"). Is this ... a famous quote? I could piece it together fairly easily, but ... is this just before Tybalt kills Mercutio (after Romeo steps in to try to stop the fight)? [looks it up] ... oof, no, it's from Act I scene i and is said by some minor character named Gregory (?!??!). I never teach this play, so the specifics are gone from my brain. Gregory? Gregory? Who is Gregory? How did this question become famous? Was there some pop culture moment that I missed, something that brought the quote to the forefront of general knowledge? Looks like "Gregory" is one of the Capulet servants and "has a tendency toward wordplay"—I wonder if he enjoys SEMORDNILAPS (or whatever they were calling them back then?). If I search "DO YOU QUARREL, SIR?" all the hits I get are just Shakespeare sites telling me it's from I.i of R&J. I can quote R&J a bunch, but this is not among the quotes I can quote. Luckily, this puzzle was so easy overall that neither of these (to me) obscurities created real trouble. And I learned a (terrible) word. And the Shakespeare quote is colorful and energetic, if nothing else, which brings me back to my initial point, which is that I loved this puzzle. More on that ... now.

I had NOEL for 1A: Merry air, but that got me nothing, so I wiped it and used LAGS and I'M IN to get LILT, and I was off like a shot. The Friday whoosh-whoosh feeling was in full effect for much of the solving experience. BIG IF TRUE! That was when I knew I was in. "I'M IN!" The fantastic juxtaposition of GET RICH QUICK and ATROCIOUS sent my hurtling down in the center, where HOT DOG BUN awaited me. STATS SANS STEP ended up being a staircase to the SE, which allowed DREAM TEAM to drop down and helped me pick up KETTLE DRUM and CHEAP DATE (great answers both). After working out the reverse palindrome thingie (can't bring myself to type that dumb word again), I just had those small corners in the NE and SW, and I was a little worried that they would somehow be my undoing (small corners on Saturdays can sneak up and kill you). But no. DRONE MUSIC before NOISE MUSIC (11D: Experimental nonmelodic genre), but OSLO took care of that. UNMOVABLE before IMMOVABLE ... shrug, not very interesting a mistake, but it happened. SW corner was easier. "MAY I COME IN?" (great answer) was too easy, and I had so much in place so quickly down there that ROSA PARKS went in without my even having to look at the clue. Wrote in the "B" in BIERS as my last letter and didn't get the "Congratulations!" messages, so panicked. After scanning the grid, I discovered an obvious typo (meant to type in METE and entered MENE (?) instead—I wish all mistakes were as easy to find as MENE crossing ISNN). 

I knew MAUI because my wife is from NZ and "Polynesian mythology" is kinda in-the-general-culture down there (7D: Trickster in Polynesian mythology). I bought my daughter a picture book about the trickster MAUI when she was little. I didn't know a bunch of the other names in the grid today (NINA, EDDIE) but they were easy to get from crosses. No real trouble spots beyond the two big ones I've already covered. Overall, I just adored this one, and only wrote about the stuff I didn't like because my ignorance is more interesting (to me) than my prowess, and also I don't actually *hate* hate those two answers. They *do* involve two things I generally like (Shakespeare and wordplay). I just can't remember the last time I saw either a Shakespeare or a wordplay answer that was as ??? as those were. But if you're gonna expose me to obscurities, this is how you do it—make them at least colorful, and put them in a grid that is, in all other respects, a blast.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Conrad 6:13 AM  

Medium-ish for me. Never heard of BIG IF TRUE or NOISE MUSIC and needed virtually all the crosses for the Shakespeare quote.

I know SEMORDNILAP, ironically from comments posted here a few months back. I tried to enter it starting at the bottom and typing "palindrome" in reverse, but it didn't fit. It took more than a few crosses before I realized I'd missed the pluralizing S.

Anonymous 6:38 AM  

Unlike Rex, I was hyper-familiar with the term SEMORDNILAPS, and so while it evaded my consciousness for a bit, I was able to fill it in with the __ORDN___. Loved seeing NOISE MUSIC! I kind of hated the clue for HOT DOG BUN, wtf! But love the answer. A lot of these were gimmes.

Coniuratos 6:46 AM  

Can't speak for everybody, but I'm no Shakespeare expert, and I threw down DOYOUQUARRELSIR with just a couple crosses at the end of it (I think just the IR). That opening scene's pretty iconic.

Lewis 6:51 AM  

Oh, so many luscious answers: BINGO / KETTLEDRUM / CHEAP DATE / IMMOVABLE / MAY I COME IN / GET RICH QUICK / BIG IF TRUE / SEMORDNILAPS. Just a tour through beauty and freshness. Those last four, by the way, are NYT debut answers, sweet additions to the oeuvre.

In addition to those beautiful answers, it gave my brain the type of work it craves. I just love the quirky “DO YOU QUARREL, SIR?” spanning across the middle. Also, I, who use “timpani” for the instrument, loved having the more colorful KETTLEDRUM pop out from hiding in my consciousness. Furthermore, there was a very big “Hah!” at cracking [It’s a mouthful, frankly].

Lovely, just a lovely outing today. Thank you so much for this, Ada. You’ve got the gift. More, please!

kitshef 7:10 AM  


Did not like the puzzle at all, as it seemed like I was constantly stymied by the likes of:
Effing ERIC Effiong
'Gaffel Kölsch, Augustiner Helles and others' for BEERS
NINA Dobrev, etc.

All of those are fairly ordinary entries, and could have been clued in a comprehensible fashion. I love a difficult puzzle, but not when the difficulty comes from unknown PPP.

Rich Furman 7:12 AM  

On the Shakespeare, I had trouble getting past "I DO bite my thumb, sir!" which couldn't be it. But the scene, from Franco Zefirelli's newly controversial film of the play, was definitely firmly in my mind.

SouthsideJohnny 7:21 AM  

I’m pretty much 180 degrees opposite OFL on this one - yes to SEMORDNILAPS and Billy Shakespeare, no clue on BIG IF TRUE and NOISE MUSIC. I know I’m such an expert on popular culture - and please, please will we ever exhaust the supply of GENRES with which to torture ourselves?

BIERS crossing TOILE is classic NYT gibberish.

Anonymous 7:22 AM  

BIG IF TRUE is definitely one of those Twitterisms. Sometimes said in seriousness (to actual shocking news) or sarcastically (to something inane). Believe it got it’s start in sports Twitter usually in reaction to big trades or free agency signings.

Anonymous 7:24 AM  

Agree, memorable phrase from iconic scene (at least according to my memory of performing R&J 20 years ago.

Son Volt 7:34 AM  

Not as enamored as Rex - but a decent puzzle. Liked the grid layout but give me more wide open space on a Saturday. The segmented little blocks drag this down - I’m looking at you UTNE, EPEE, METE and the ATROCIOUS ISN’T.


Knew the quote a few letters in - although I thought it was “will” not DO. If you read this blog the past few years you will know SEMORDNILAPS cold. You will also know that @John X claimed that CALI was not a thing.

Liked KETTLE DRUM and the proper MAY I COME IN. HOT DOG BUN fell flat as did the nothingness of BIG IF TRUE. Really liked the German BIER entry.

Enjoyable solve - but I favor Stella’s Stumper for some real Saturday fun.

@JoeD - great MONKEES clip yesterday. Last night I was watching a doc on the Wrecking Crew - Glen Campbell, Carole Kaye etc who claim to have played all those original songs. Interesting stuff.

Tears of RAGE

Anonymous 7:42 AM  

A lot of dull trivia answers here I struggled to piece together letter by letter, so didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as you.

Anonymous 7:53 AM  

The plural of bier (Gaffel and Augustiner) is biere, ist es nicht?

andrew 7:59 AM  

Oh yes. Unknown quote from Shakespeare + ridiculous backwards term (pluralized) + common names clued obscurely + UTNE + BIERS/TOILE = EASY.

It only became easy for me when I constantly used Chen answer key to fill in my many blanks. Then TADA - “finished” (with multiple *s)!

Weezie 8:07 AM  

It’s funny how often I now solve puzzles and predict what OFL and the commentariat will think of them. So far, today, that prediction was right on the money. I’m curious to see if @Nancy will hate the PPP and neologisms in this as much as I think she will, for example.

As for me, I liked this puzzle. Even for me, as a lover of trivia and a relatively online person, the niche content got a bit overwrought and only *just* fairly crossed in some places.

But I appreciated a lot of the cluing and answers… I loved the misdirect of the much less common GAMS for “Group of whales” instead of PODS. I have no QUARREL with the Shakespeare quote; that’s a great scene. I liked learning that KETTLE DRUMS are tuned for pitch - of course they are, but I never thought about it, just have always loved seeing them played. And while I think asking for the first name of a supporting (if incredible) character on a niche tv show is a little dastardly, I highly recommend “Sex Education” on Netflix. A brilliant coming-of-age dramedy that somehow manages a fresh take on the genre. It’s also got excellent performances from basically every actor in the dang thing, including of course Ms. Emma Thompson. And I like being rewarded for having once dated a NOISE MUSICian; at least something good came out it. 🙃

All in all, easy-medium for me. I wish it’d taken me longer, now I need to get to CFP studying sooner than I’d bracing for!

Unknown 8:08 AM  

Liked the puz but seems like SW could have been done without the TOILE/BIERS crossing. Crossing foreign language words at a vowel seems unfair. Not exactly a Natick so maybe Rex should refer to an alt.language crossing as a "TOILE".

Fun fact: the names ROSAPARKS and KARLMARKS both contain 9 letters and end in ARKS

RJ 8:09 AM  

I'm usually happy with an under 30 minutes solve time on a Saturday, but it "trivia I don't know" had to be gotten from the crosses made me struggle. I love a good struggle, but not this way.

Had pods before gams but changed after singing the Mary Poppins song in my head. I don't Twitter, so BIGIFTRUE seemed like nonsense. Loved NOISEMUSIC and CHEAPDATE, which could also be clued as "Only needing a half glass of wine".

How many ways are there to clue OSLO?

Have a good weekend.

Dr.A 8:13 AM  

I found it very hard. I had to look up a bunch of stuff which I never do. Liked it, but had a lot to learn here.

Anonymous 8:14 AM  

It bothers me a bit that that word works only in the plural. Shouldn’t the singular be EMORDNILAP?

Anonymous 8:27 AM  

@RJ: there many ways to clue OSLO. I'mma say 17. And there are 3,982 ways to clue OREO, as has been discussed so often, and today's clue was a nice one.

Anonymous 8:30 AM  

(I had to look that up. Wanted LCTS.)

OldCarFudd 8:36 AM  

If the answer is in a foreign language, ought it not to be CORRECT in that language? In German, as Anonymous 7:13 said, the plural of Bier is Biere, not Biers. And crossing a French word made it tough. But otherwise, agree it was a great puzzle.

puzzlehoarder 8:36 AM  

Most of this was easy but thanks to the NW corner it actually took me 9 more minutes to solve than yesterday's puzzle. Getting MAUI was the key up there. That got me ROIDS which gave me ONSTEROIDS and the leverage I needed to finish. If I had been able to recall what "Bracken" was that would have sped things up and so would knowing LOBO. Sections that stump you initially are always the best to solve so the NW corner redeemed the whole solve for me.

I learned SEMORDNILAP from this blog so that's proof that our host does not read the comments. The only reason I read his is because I've cut back to just Fri-Sun and I feel like I have the time.

yd pg-2, two compound words that used the W ... sheesh

Joaquin 8:49 AM  

@Rex has claimed he doesn't usually read the comments posted in his blog. That's BIG IF TRUE and I guess it is true. SEMORDNILAPS was a total gimme for me as there was a lengthy discussion of that word on this blog not too long ago. Cool word! Rex rates this puzzle as "easy"; my mileage did vary!

Anonymous 8:54 AM  

Fun fact: the names ROSAPARX and KARLMARX both contain 8 letters and end in ARX

(or is KARL MARKS a real person that I should know about??)

Anonymous 8:55 AM  

Confidently threw pods in at 5 across and left it there way too long. Slowed my solving down immensely.

frankbirthdaycake 8:57 AM  

Great puzzle! This was a lot of fun. I initially wanted LSTs but figured it out pretty quickly. Perhaps “Do you quarrel, sir?” stood out to the constructor – sometimes incidental lines stick with me but are not popularly noted – but I don’t remember it. Maybe it stood out in the 1968 film? (I don’t remember.) A pleasant and enjoyable weekend to all.

Lewis 8:58 AM  

The word "semordnilap" was coined by Martin Gardner, whose long-time column in Scientific American I always used to read. It was the first thing I turned to, a puzzler’s fantasyland. No mathematician I, it was still so enjoyable and accessible. I see now that he was also an authority on Lewis Carroll, and so much more. If you want to read about an inspiring life, read the Wikipedia article about him. He was a gift to the world.

Anonymous 9:10 AM  

Glad to see others liked this puzzle. My time was slower than normal, but when I finished, I had nothing but admiration for the clues / answers.
Excellent Saturday challenge!

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

Biers, not beers…. german

Winnifred Banks 9:24 AM  

The quiet-people shaming in this puzzle is outrageous.

To assert that those who say it loud enough sound precocious when they say "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," and that quieter people sound atrocious is just rank sonoritism, and has no place in the New York Times Puzzle - or in civilized society.

Where is Rex's righteous outrage here? How can he let this pass?

mathgent 9:32 AM  

Rex reads the comments at least some of the time. A few days ago he responded on the blog to one of the commenters.

I had a lot of trouble with this one. My deteriorating memory is largely responsible. I've seen MAUI and SEMORDNILAPS here before and I've heard the lyric to the Mary Poppins song many times (ATROCIOUS). Plus I don't listen to rap (CALI), I don't watch NCIS, I've never seen R and J performed, and I don't do social media (BIGIFTRUE). Even though I didn't like it much, it had some sparkle and I learned a few things. I may even remember some of them.

beverly c 9:43 AM  

This puzzle was mostly enjoyable for me. Thanks to @Lewis for frequently pointing out SEMIORDNILAPS. I liked the Shakespeare quote, though it took some crosses to get to QUARREL.

I hate when I need to resort to looking up things to find my error, but today I did it for BIERS. I thought the clue consisted of human names. I had it right (TOILE) initially, but an error at FERN/NCIS blocked the happy music and I second-guessed at the wrong spot. My seed mistake was BIG is TRUE. Sere seemed off for Bracken, and it was. I needed to slow down a bit I guess.

GAMS (as pods) are not familiar to me.

No laughs today, unfortunately, but in addition to the thumb biting, ONSTEROIDS and HOTDOGBUN felt light-hearted. And Mary Poppins!

jberg 9:54 AM  

Well, I left home on March 9th and am now here in the Keys (FL) for another 11 days, so I finally gave in and solved the puzzle online, on the NYT site. I mean, there it was, right next to Wordle and the Mini, so I couldn't resist any longer. The experience was very annoying-- everytime I would highlight an answer space, the screen would jump so that I couldn't see the clue. Still, I solved it -- with a little help from the website, which told me that I had finished with errors. Only at that point did I realize that it was ATROCIOUSly calling groups of whales something other than podS. GAMS did have sort of a truthiness to it, and MAUI was plausible. If I'd ever been to the eponymous island, I'd probably have known it, but this was pure guesswork.

I knew SEMORDNILAPS from @Lewis, who often lists the ones in the puzzle; and while I didn't know the Shakespeare line, it was inferable; that is, the thumb-biting had to be insulting, and lead to a QUARREL, so I just had to figure out the auxiliary verbs.

I liked the struggle, but I would have liked it more if I'd had to figure out where I was wrong myself, instead of letting the website clue me in. I never do Sundays, so I'll see how I feel on Monday. If I decide not to do it, I look forward to seeing you all again on April 3.

RooMonster 9:54 AM  

Hey All !
"It can't possibly be SEMORDILAPS, can it?" said I to thyself as I was looking over the letters I had in already. "I thought that was only used here." Welp, I found out through Rex it started circa 1961. The things one learns here. Some might not remember the discussion (kerfuffle? [Bob, you still lurking?]) we had over SEMORDILAPS a while back, whether it's pluralizable, whether it should have the first S... Good times

Started as a typical tough SatOus here, with just a sprinkling of answers hither and yon, but managed to solve at a pretty reasonable speed. I don't go for speed, but you notice these things (along with the incessant clock running when doing puz online) when a SatPuz fills in more easily than normal.

My sticky section was the NW. BIG IF TRUE was a Huh? for me. Along with OMAR as clued the FERN/ERIC cross, plus throw in ETAL/MAUI cross, made an ATROCIOUS area. I ended up with a one-letter DNF, withe a BIGIFTReE crossing trickster MAeI. Should've followed @M&A's mantra, when in doubt, throw in a U.

KETTLEbell first for DRUM (is there such an instrument as a KETTLEbell?) RAvE before RAGE, giving me at that point __TDvBU_, and I was scratching the ole head wondering what in tarhooties that was going to be. I thought initially it would be some gibberish, as indeed that would've been a mouthful. Erased the V, got the ATROCIOUS O, and finally saw HOTDOGBUN.

So a good SatPuz here. The ole brain still functioning at an acceptable level. Is that a BIG IF TRUE?

One F

jberg 9:56 AM  

Oh yeah--what does NCIS have to do with the Marine Corps?

And if you pay close attention it says today that "All comments must be approved by the blog author," which I think means that Rex is reading them. Most days it says "All comments must be approved by a moderator."

Liveprof 9:59 AM  

Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, who played Juliet and Romeo for Zefferelli, are biting their thumbs at Paramount Studios. They are also suing for $500 million for sexual abuse and fraud, asserting they were tricked into a nude scene. They were under 18. They took advantage of California's temporary extension of the statute of limitations for child abuse claims. It could have been worse -- Alec Baldwin might have been in the cast in which case they'd be lucky to get out alive. (Sorry! Too soon?)

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

Non-French or German speaker here, so relying on Google Translate. That has TOeLE meaning “Canvas” (the, er, clue for 46-D), with TOILE meaning “Cloth”.

Avid BeER drinker, here: BeER means “beer”, and the 56-A clue lists a couple BeERs.

So…not loving the DNF here. Any Francophones able to reassure me that TOILE really is correct for “Canvas”?

Kyle 10:20 AM  

Is anyone else bothered by BIERS? Never been clued this way before in NYT history, and there is nothing in the clue to really indicate that a German spelling was required. This is simply not the German plural of BIER, and we do not not say BIERS in English, ever, because we have a perfectly good word in our language for this already: BeERS. It's on me for writing in TOeLE.

burtonkd 10:27 AM  

If Rex would read the comments here with any regularity, he would have learned the WOTD from Lewis, our regular SEMORDNILAPdog. I still don't understand why someone would put out a blog, and not engage at all afterward. Oh well, chacun son gout. And thanks for the public service!

I agree that it was easy for a Saturday. Still in brain fog after catching a nasty intestinal virus that kept me in bed sweating for 2 days, and it was still half my times for difficult Saturdays. I liked that the difficulty was in just vague enough clueing that it was tough to get a foothold, but then everything sprung into shape when critical mass was reached. I thought some PPP was a bit obscure - I saw Sex Education, but individual character names a year later (or even while I'm watching, truth be told) are a bit tough.

Was happy to throw down MINIMALISM before NOISEMUSIC came into shape. Never heard GULLS used as such, but inferrable. Two happy clue types for GAMS: either groups of whales, or shapely legs - what's not to like?

Anonymous 10:34 AM  

I think I am the anti-Rex. When he loves a puzzle, I always dislike it and vice versa. QED for today....

Gary Jugert 10:41 AM  

Kept me enraptured throughout (for a themeless) and found plenty to celebrate along the way.

@Lewis Thanks for teaching me about SEMORDNILAPS.


Boos: BAS and MBAS.

No knows: GAMS (surely I've seen it before, but pods wouldn't let go), LOBO, FERN, and don't remember seeing GULLS used like that.


1 Thinking, "I think she likes you," when you see her teeth.
2 Norwegians pumping up.
3 Savor Circle-K culinary offering.
4 Uncomfortable moments listening to suspicious rustling.
5 Groups I'm not in.
6 Sweet skeletons.


myisronu 10:42 AM  

The plural of Bier in German is Biere, not Biers. If you are going to use a native word, you should use the native plural.

pabloinnh 10:54 AM  

Thanks to the blog, and especially @Lewis for SEMIORDNILAPS, which made me smile.

Many smiles here in a trip down memory lane. A few of us were so delighted by "Do you bite your thumb at me sir?: when we were studying Shakespeare in college that we used to ask it of each other, and of course the reply was always "I do bite my thumb, but not at you sir."

Another smile would be remembering Holden and his brother Allie both getting a kick out of watching the KETTLEDRUM player tune his instrument. I'm not kidding either.

Made a total mess of the SW by having AMT for LIM which led to AAA for the trip inits. I mean, they provide maps, no? I then tried TENTE for the French canvas, which I thought was wonderfully clever. It wasn't. And some of you will be happy to know that ROSSPEROT also fits for ROSAPARKS, and is even dumber than KARLMARKS.

But a real joy when everything finally was untangled, and a delightful Saturday, AN. Anyone Needing a good workout will have a good time with this one, and thanks for all the fun.

Connie 10:56 AM  

Really wanted DOYOUQUARRELSIR to be a SEMORDILAPS when I saw the U on either side of the Q.

Nancy 11:10 AM  

Today I learned that...

There's thumb-biting in "Romeo and Juliet". Who knew?

MAUI is named after a Polynesian trickster.

MOMA changed the public's perception of movies. It did? How?

There's a non-melodic genre called NOISE MUSIC. Pray God I never hear it in real life.

This puzzle required both faith and patience. The pop names kept popping up like they were ON STEROIDS, but I'm proud to say to EDDIE and NINA and ERIC and LOBO that none of you guys could force me to cheat today. I finished the puzzle cleanly, if slowly.

Favorite clue/answer by far: CHEAP DATE (58A). I was barking up the wrong tree as I kept pondering what dish at Burger King was best for sharing?

And keeping to the food theme: I'm wondering why a HOT DOG BUN is pegged as "a mouthful" compared with all the tens of thousands of other possible mouthfuls that exist in the world? Is it more of a mouthful than, say, a ham sandwich?

And finally -- a big shoutout to Lewis and Loren for enabling me to recognize SEMORDNILAPS. Oh, sure, the always-absent-minded-me needed more than a few crosses. But when SEMORDNILAPS started to emerge, it was like recognizing an old friend.

Teedmn 11:18 AM  

I know the word SEMORDNILAPS due to all of you wordies on this blog but today that knowledge didn't help as much as one might think because 1) I failed to note the clue was asking for a plural and 2) if I started from the bottom with PALINDROMES, the N fell right where the N in GNAT would be if the little biter was, today, GNAT. I finally got rid of gnat and noted the plural but that issue held me up a MITE.

Not knowing the Romeo and Juliet quote and having nothing in place for 5D except the GE, I watched the bottom of 5D fill with its _UIC_ ending and tried to come up with a scheme-y phrase ending in jUICe. On the other hand, I could think of no percussion instruments beginning with E so that never went in. (Possibilities going through my head for the R&J quote were DO YOU jUst ??? SIR?)

Thanks, Ada Nicolle, for the Saturday-ish Saturday, nice!

jae 11:20 AM  

Easy-medium and easier than yesterday’s. Thank you @Lewis for 21d. I did know LOBO but MAUI and BIG IF TRUE were WOEs, so that section took some work. Solid with some interesting long downs, liked it.

Anonymous 11:20 AM  


John Prine 11:21 AM  

I'm just trying to have me some fun
Well done
Hot dog bun
My sister's a num

Anonymous 11:23 AM  

NCIS has jurisdiction over the Marines as they are in the Department of the Navy.

Anonymous 11:25 AM  

Inner circle puzzle hated it

GILL I. 11:27 AM  

Well I'll even start by saying: "Thank you @Lewis for introducing me to a word I actually thought you and @Loren invented!!!" Fun to see it today in a Saturday I enjoyed.....
I'll start with ATROCIOUS and that supercali yada yada yada clue. I actually had EVIL as that replacer of names which gave me a new word that I invented: AVROCIOUS. MIMI looked about right for a tricksters name.... Erase, erase...Go on about your business:
I didn't whoosh, but I did dance a fandango tango...I think MAY I COME IN was my first longie. Imagine that phrase just opening all kinds of doors...It did. And then the GET RICH QUICK !!!. Aren't you just the thing I needed. You treated me to a HOT DOG BUN. BINGO. Weren't you just the nicest. IMMOVABLE AMOUR SMILE was my ticket in. I had front row seats.
I had three people sitting in front of me that kept me from watching the entire play: NINA, ERIC and LOBO obstructed my view. I politely asked for their names so that I could tell them that they were ruining my enjoyment They stayed; they were actually nice people, though.
After finishing up my ATROCIOUS mistake, I wanted to see if I could understand some Romeo and Juliet. I did. DO YOU QUARREL SIR was my favorite. The play was just about over and I wanted to gush at my CHEAP DATE EDDIE playing the KETTLE DRUM. I did.
Other than my three interruptions, I really enjoyed my evening....and I wasn't even ON STEROIDS or LSD. How about that!

PS...I looked up the plural of German beers and per Britannica, it is BIERS.

bocamp 11:45 AM  

Thx, Ada, not an ATROCIOUS effort at all; nicely done! :)


Fat fingers resulted in BIG IF TtUE, which left me with ATTOnIOUS, not knowing ERIC. Technical dnf, easily repaired when 't' was made TRUE, and ERIn got changed to ERIC.

The remainder fell into place nicely, with the final entry (aside from the original typo correction) being at BIERS / TOILE. Had BeERS, but TOeLE didn't look right, and knowing the German word for BeER was BIER, TOILE was familiar, and Bob was my uncle.

Had NCoS (which I gave the side eye to), and fixed it when I remembered that the Marine Corp is part of the Navy, hence NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service).

Knowing the backwards PALINDROMES was very helpful.

Worked at a TRAP 'shooting' club in h.s.. Had quick reflexes on the 'pull' call, so shooters liked to see me in their scorer chair. Some allowed me to shoot when the competition was over.

Fun solve; liked it a lot! :)
@Son Volt (7:34 AM)

Joining you on Stella's Sat. Stumper. 🤞
Peace 🕊 🇺🇦 ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🙏

Whatsername 11:46 AM  

Another slog for me, primarily because of the names and trivia but outside of those, the fill wasn’t bad. One thing I did know though and proudly threw down was SEMORDNILAPS. Thanks @Lewis!

Appreciated the original idea for OREO but I didn’t really GET the clue for HOT DOG BUN. Seems to me “a mouthful” would be big bite of a hot dog on a bun but I don’t think anyone would ever just eat the bun by itself.

Death Before Boredom 11:50 AM  

Who is Xram Oprah?

Beezer 11:51 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle a lot but found the northwest fairly inscrutable so I had to do a “surgical” cheating strike in order to finish it. Of course I always chuckle when I see that @Rex has deemed the puzzle easy when I am patting myself on the back for getting some of the wordplay clues and struggling (but happily) through the rest!

I found ONSTEROIDS very difficult to parse out and had never heard BIGIFTRUE. Ah well, we can’t win’em all. And yes, I knew SEMORDNILAPS from this blog, courtesy of @LMS and @Lewis. For those that do NOT read this blog regularly, I agree with @Rex that it’s a fairly obscure word.

@jberg, I know many people complain about the “official” NYT xword app but if you have to solve the puzzle on a computer it is WAY better than the on-line version. I only do the xword on the app but I HAVE to go on-line to access the Acrostic. Yes, the screen jumps around and it’s annoying!

Also…NCIS do criminal investigations when the Navy or Marines are involved since the Marines are a “subset” of the Navy. I found the clue kind of amusing because if you watch the tv show they also have long-running sub-plots that indicate they are also protecting everyone from terrorism all over the world!

Joe Dipinto 11:57 AM  

@Son Volt – I've seen the "Wrecking Crew" documentary, it's great. Much better than the largely content-free "20 Feet From Stardom".

This puzzle feels sort of pushy. Like, "Come on, you really wanna get all these long answers, right? Yes you do. They're weird but they're fun! Just try. I insist." Why does "Yes, MA'AM!" have an exclamation point? Are we supposed to say it like Gomer Pyle? (I once worked with a guy who said, "Igzaaaaactly!" all the time.)

Jim Horne posted a lyric version of this at XWord Info – here's the L.A. cast of "Something Rotten" performing "God, I Hate Shakespeare", which semordnilaps to "Era epsekahs eta...Hi, dog!"

Me and you and a hot dog bun named Boo!

Death Before Boredom 11:58 AM  

"Ma'am, back of the bus", to whom?

Death Before Boredom 12:00 PM  

Noise music created by a Grand Wizard

pabloinnh 12:01 PM  

My deathless commentary has disappeared somewhere, so I'll try again.

I join others in thanking @Lewis for SEMORDNILAPS. Very helpful.

DOYOUQUARRELSIR brought to mind college days when a few of us from my Shakespeare class took to asking each other "Do you bite your thumb at me sir?" Of course the answer was always "I do bite my thumb, but not at you sir." Fun times.

Tuning a KETTLEDRUM made me think of Holden and his brother Allie getting a kick out of watching the percussionist do just that in a novel I'm fond of. I'm not kidding either.

I made a total mess of the SW by trying to enter with AMT for LIM, leading to AAA for the trip inits. They used to provide maps, right? I also tried TENTE for the French canvas, which I thought was remarkably clever. It wasn't. And for those of you who wanted KARLMARKS for ROSAPARKS, I started with ROSSPEROT, which indeed fits, and is even dumber.

Excellent Saturday, AN. Anyone Needing an enjoyable challenge will like this one, and thanks for all the fun.

Death Before Boredom 12:03 PM  

Scratchy noise music from the South_______

JC66 12:14 PM  


I initially missed the FRANKly part of the clue for HOT DOG BUN, too.

Rich Glauber 12:21 PM  

Thought it was pretty challenging and was happy to finish, although I didn't get the music reward. I guess those are BIERS not BOERS. The latter seemed plausible and that's what I typed in... Doh! er I mean Ach!

Whatsername 12:23 PM  

The best SEMORDNILAP I ever heard: BOSS spelled backward is double S-OB.

Anonymous 12:35 PM  

Interesting that Rex points out that he loves wordplay but doesn't seem to be into the whole recreational linguistics/Language on Vacation type of stuff. If he loves wordplay, I would think he would eat that up.

Robt 12:38 PM  

Semordnilaps has both a palindrome crossing it (ma’am) and a semordnilap (trap/part). That can’t be an accident, can it? Well, maybe it can but if it’s intentional then that’s all the better.

Death Before Boredom 12:42 PM  

Egad, a base tone denotes a bad age

Beezer 12:46 PM  

@GILL I…I thought @Lewis and @Loren made up SEMORDNILAP too at first!

Death Before Boredom 12:51 PM  

Toile seed?

Joe Dipinto 12:51 PM  

@Nancy, the nonsensical HOT DOG BUN clue is just to get their tortured "frankly" non-joke in there.

I was curious about the MoMA/Oscar connection too. You can read about it here, see also the "Learn More" link. Sounds like MoMA amassed a large film collection for preservation and research purposes. I don't know how profoundly that would have affected the general public.

Death Before Boredom 12:53 PM  

NYC institution that changed perception of noise music (1979)

DigitalDan 1:02 PM  

EMORDNILAP reminds me of the old gag, "LOTIREG is GERITOL spelled backwards." You had to know the name of the competitor and its ad campaign.

Death Before Boredom 1:05 PM  

Rapper who said, “I want to do this, Brutus, but I don't want to pay.”

JT 1:10 PM  

GAMS are groups of whalers, not of whales

Anonymous 1:27 PM  

I zoomed through the puzzle today. ATROCIOUS and SEMORDNILAPS, big gimmes for me. BIG IF TRUE and ON STEROIDS, great stack.

My biggest slowdown was seeing the clue at 1A and instantly filling in NOEL, because of "merry". Yesterday, however, I had a bunch of incorrect first guesses (CIAO for WAVE, PEON for PLEB, SAMMIES for SAMMICH...) and it was my slowest solve of the week by far.

Not my favorite puzzle this week but still a blast to solve. TOILE/BIERS is... ugh-inducing.

jazzmanchgo 1:28 PM  

Actually there was once an over-the-counter laxative called Serutan, and the slogan was "Serutan spelled backwards is NATURES." It was advertised on the old Lawrence Welk show, if I'm not mistaken, leading me to believe that the slogan was a subliminal suggestion to the program's aging male viewers that Serutan also had the power to restore their virility -- their "nature," as it used to be euphemistically called -- even though it couldn't technically be marketed as an aphrodisiac.

Masked and Anonymous 1:29 PM  

Suitably SatPuz feisty. Lotsa Effiong-type no-know stuff to learn about, at our house.
And yet I don't recall seein any ?-marker clues, until they wrapped things up with SUMS = {Additional solutions?} & EPEE = {Poker game?}, down there in the bottom row.

staff weeject pick: LIM. Only 6 choices today. Quite LIM-ed.

All kinds of good stuff --some sorta unfamiliar -- includin: BIGIFTRUE. GETRICHQUICK. HOTDOGBUN & clue. ROSAPARKS. ONSTEROIDS.

Thanx, Ms. Nicolle darlin. Nice job. M&A learned some neat new stuff [and also BIERS/TOILE].

Masked & Anonymo8Us


Death Before Boredom 1:29 PM  

Swans’s songs 1982?

Death Before Boredom 1:35 PM  

Percussion instrument for industrial noise music

Anonymous 1:40 PM  

If you're fine with LAMA and EBERT stacked in a corner then you could have those plus ALIKE and DENSE in the SW. And you get the perfectly normal words LEAD, TABLE, TEE going down. Bam. No TOILE x BIERS nonsense.

TAB2TAB 1:53 PM  

Good puzzle, difficult puzzle, relies a bit too much on esoteric PPP for my taste, but otherwise a perfect amount of crunch. Managed to get GAMS eventually, but GAMS are groups of whalers not whales, and the World Wide Web tells me that whales come in pods. I can't find any reliable source pointing to GAMS of whales, but BIG IF TRUE. GULLS as a verb was outside my wheelhouse, but appears to be fair, if rare. NCIS as "Protectors" of Marine Corps seems a bit of a stretch (protector of Marine Corps secrets to be more precise), but it *is* Saturday. NINA / EINE seems a bit Naticky, as does TOILE / BIERS. UTNE is new to me, but loved learning of its existence. SEMORDNILAPS was familiar to me, thanks to this fine group. For 5D Schemer's mantra I had --------UICK for many nano-seconds and could not for the life of me think of a mantra with bUICk in it.

okanaganer 2:10 PM  

Rex is an outlier re SEMORDNILAP. Maybe because the Venn diagram of his interests includes wordplay but not science or tech?

Agree about the beers. When I didn't get the Happy Pencil my first thought was "maybe that actually is BIERS... but surely not?"

Whenever Romeo and Juliet is mentioned I think of the 1960s movie, and the song that began: "What is a youth?" That song was re-arranged by Henry Mancini and it was EVERYWHERE when I was a kid.

[Spelling Bee: yd 0; my last word this 8er. It was a toughie and I narrowly avoided missing 2 QBs in a row.]

Death Before Boredom 2:13 PM  

It’s a mouthful, Frenchy

Anonymous 2:35 PM  

Well, Biere is the actual plural, I believe. This one didn’t really make sense.

Anonymous 2:36 PM  

Yes, just noted above. I believe for NYTXW standards correctness only matters for French.

Anonymous 3:00 PM  

@16 Again Maybe you could wait to post your punny creations until you have finished your list. That would make it easier for the many non-pun-lovers among us to skip over your inspirations. You'll notice that the several uniclue posters do it that way. There used to be a rule, no longer enforced, about three posts and done for the day.

gdaddywinz 3:38 PM  

Alas my wife is from Waterbury and I thinks of GAMs as legs, not PODs. Natickville.

CDilly52 3:51 PM  

OOF!! Somewhere between yesterday and today, I had my wheelhouse visa revoked because this one was so far out of my frame of reference on the trivia that I just had yo make stuff up and keep guessing. The R&J quote was gettable but sure not one I recall. Other than ROSA PARKS, the names were guesses.

My one spot where I felt a teensy bit clever was at BIERS. My German heritage (danke fiel Oma) helped me notice the care taken with the very German names including the umlaut on Kölsch, and Ingot a mini “aha.” That’s how desperate I was today.

I still don’t get why HOTDOG BUN is “a mouthful, frankly.” Is it the bun SANS dog? Is it bun and dog because of the frank(ly)? Just weird. Or I’m the weird one. ✅.

And of course I first put in PALINDROMES. Did not read the clue thoroughly. Ugh.

Saw the doc for a post catastrophe followup, and some of the swelling around my fractured sternum is continuing to make breathing problematic (ya think?) so I’m ON STEROIDS for a while. Eating everything in sight. Not a good plan with life being on the couch. But if my crabbiness meter is any indication, I am getting better every day, just not fast enough to suit my desire to do things. Most of which I don’t want to do, like acquire a car.

Enough with the whining. I have puzzles to solve and old movies to watch. Hapoy St. Patrick’s weekend. Those of you in the Chicago area were treated to the whole week of green river! BIERS hier, bitte!

Anonymous 4:15 PM  

Not seeing how NCIS “protects” Maines. It certainly prosecutes them, however.

Anonymous 4:33 PM  

Same! Haven't read/heard this since freshman English 25 years ago, but as soon as I got -OUQUA- it came right back to me. Great line, great grid entry.

Nancy 4:37 PM  

Two blogs have alerted me to the fact that I entirely missed the "frankly" hint in the HOT DOG BUN clue. My bad: I should have been paying much closer attention.

But guess which blog let me know with the greater amount of affection, wit and irrepressible good nature? Love you guys!

mbr 4:37 PM  

@Anonymous 10:14am: Yes, "toile" means "canvas". I've heard it mostly as the surface for an oil painting, which is more specific than just "cloth".

Anonymous 4:45 PM  

Enjoyable puzzle! SEMORDNILAPS and NOISE MUSIC went right in, as I'm a fan of wordplay and experimental genres. Not a huge Shakespeare fan, but I definitely recognize DO YOU QUARREL SIR? and think it's lovely seeing that across the center of the grid. I adore the BIG IF TRUE and ON STEROIDS stack, and just looking at it is making me smile (though the symmetrical KETTLE DRUM and CHEAP DATE are not nearly as cool). All in all, quite fun!

egsforbreakfast 5:10 PM  

Writing from Santiago. Very pleasant city. Friendly people, good food, manageable traffic and transit. 80 degrees. What’s not to like.

In fact I’d like EINE BIERS.
You mean EINE BIER?
Just gimme SUMS

There is allegedly a Vietnamese proverb that is translated as “If true, then good.” I use it often. I now also like BIGIFTRUE.

And it’s true that this puzzle was good. Thanks, Ada Nicolle.

Camilita 5:15 PM  

Funny that Rex says SEMORDNILAPS hasn't been seen in print in years, when it's been seen a lot in this comment section! That's also how I knew of it. I think LMS likes using it.

For the record 6:35 PM  

Emma Thompson is not in the Netflix series “Sex Education “. Gillian Anderson, best known for “The X Files”, however, is.

B-money 8:05 PM  

@Camilita 5:15 exactly. or . . . . BINGO!
I only heard of SEMORDNILAPS from this blog.

And, yes, rex does read it.

Weezie 8:25 PM  

Ack! Ty for the correction!

Randy Miller 2:03 AM  

I also had DRONE before NOISE MUSIC, big fan of both but most of what people refer to as noise music is really quite melodic, with noisy textures and interludes, though there is of also some that decidedly not.

Anonymous 9:28 AM  

NOISEMUSIC in my head, almost all the way THRU.

Anonymous 12:34 PM  

Yeah, Liveprof, not cool...

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

Loved that song - and the movie! What 15-yr-old girl at the time wouldn't?

Anonymous 1:20 PM  

It's real easy to scroll past comments or commenters that you don't care to read!

Anonymous 10:31 PM  

With all due respect…

Can someone explain to me exactly what is the appeal and satisfaction of racing through a crossword as fast as possible?

I’m a retired baby boomer who’s been doing puzzles ever since I can remember…but I’ve never had the urge to try and Speed Solve.

For one thing, I cross out the clue numbers as I go, which makes it easier to see the clues yet unsolved.
And whenever I puzzle out a particularly clever answer, I like to take a few moments and luxuriate in it’s creativity. I revel in those “AHA!” and “OMG!” moments when it feels like your mind stops,and you’re floating on a feeling of Enlightened Ecstasy.

So please tell me…what am I missing?

Anonymous 2:38 PM  

Toile has many meanings including cloth, a (spider’s) web, meshing on a wall to paint on as well as a canvas

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