Connective tissues in the leg, informally / SUN 11-5-23 / Commit a holiday etiquette no-no / Bone insert following an accident / Totally phat / Potato, in Indian cooking / Air-___ (extra-secrure, as a computer) / Currency unit in Laos

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Constructor: Rich Katz

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Double Talk" — words in theme clues have to be read as homophones in order to make sense for the theme answers:

Theme answers:
  • JUNK IN THE TRUNK (21A: But wait!) (i.e. Butt weight) (!)
  • STRING BIKINI (38A: To peace!) (i.e. Two-piece)
  • TUCKERED OUT (55A: Holy week) (i.e. Wholly weak)
  • CORONATIONS (77A: Air rights) (i.e. Heir rites)
  • SUPER BOWL WIN (91A: Bare feet) (i.e. [Chicago] Bear feat)
  • KINDERGARTENER (112A: We won!) (i.e. Wee one)
  • ROBITUSSIN (30D: Flew by) (i.e. Flu buy)
  • BEACH HOTEL (51D: See in) (i.e. Sea inn)
Word of the Day: KIP (112D: Currency unit in Laos) —

The kip (LaoກີບromanizedkibcodeLAKsign or ₭NFrenchkip; officially: ເງີນກີບລາວ, lit. "currency Lao kip") is the currency of Laos since 1955. Historically, one kip was divided into 100 att (ອັດ).

The term derives from ກີບ kì:p, a Lao word meaning "ingot." (wikipedia)

• • •

[Extreme AC/DC voice...]
There's something perversely amusing about this theme. I mean, it's silly, yes, but there's something grandly, ambitiously silly about it. It took me an embarrassing length of time even to understand what the theme was. Wasn't until my third theme pick-up ([Air rights] => CORONATIONS) that I heard what I was supposed to hear: namely, the homophones happening in the clue. Coronations involve "heirs," frequently, so that was what did it for me. Before that, I was totally lost. I even looked around for a revealer, to no avail. I think the two first Across themers are actually the two where the punniness is the hardest to see / hear. I don't know if that was by design or by accident. If 112A: We won! (KINDERGARTENER) had been the first themer I encountered, I would've seen what was up right away. But JUNK IN THE TRUNK was welllllllll hidden in [But wait!], as was TUCKERED OUT in [Holy week]. Just inscrutable. But after the dime dropped at CORONATIONS, all became clear and the relatively easy puzzle got even easier. Do I love this theme? That's too strong, by far. But I've definitely seen cornier and more irritating Sunday themes, and there was something about having to translate the homophones that was mildly entertaining. The rest of the grid was pretty blah—there are no long answers that aren't themers, except for a few scattered and unlovable 8s (e.g. SKATE RAT, HD VIDEOS) (please cull your massive wordlists, people). And the short stuff was often oof-y. Three-letter foreign currency! Who doesn't love that? (A: me). A single MINUTIA! Wow, OK. We only get half of DUA Lipa, and half of a Lhasa APSO, but we get both MSN *and* AOL! And *both* Beethoven crosswordeses! (ELISE, EROICA). And once again we get AMIDALA (LA DI DA). I am ABLUSH with whatever it is that makes one go ABLUSH. Shame? Rage? VERMOUTH? This is all to say that I enjoyed the theme antics Way more than I enjoyed anything else about this puzzle (save VERMOUTH, I 'm sorry VERMOUTH, you know I love you, VERMOUTH).

Michel de Montaigne wrote ESSAIS. If you're gonna spell his name fully, all Frenched up like that, then the answer should be French. Mike Mountain wrote ESSAYS, Michel (LA DI DA) de Montaigne wrote ESSAIS. Here look:

[roughly what I would look like if I grew a mustache and lived in the 16th c.]

Speaking of AMIDALA (which I was ... somewhere back there), Once Again I have to pull up short at that mysterious second vowel, where that vague schwa-ish sound has no obvious spelling correlative. Gotta go to the crosses, but Once Again, that specific cross is opaque, this time because of one of the weirder themers: ROBITUSSIN. "Flu buy" is probably the second loopiest homophone clue of the day (after [But wait!]). So I had AM-DALA for a rather long time. Til almost the very end, actually. I was lucky enough to know Hermann HESSE (70A: "The Glass Bead Game" author), so I was able to build ROBITUSSIN from the bottom up without too much trouble, and that's pretty much where I finished. 

Hardest part for me was probably parsing REGIFT (26D: Commit a holiday etiquette no-no). Sincerely, I had REGI-T and assumed I had an error. Again, as with AM-DALA, the cross on my missing letter was no (initial) help, as FRAT BRO meant nothing to me (even though I teach at a university that has plenty) (50A: Classic Greek archetype?). It's not just that the clue is a "?" clue, it's that there's nothing in it to indicate the slanginess. In fact, it's the opposite of slangy. So I floundered in REGIFT FRAT BRO land for a bit, but only a bit. Overall, there wasn't much here to challenge the solver beyond the basic nature of the theme itself. 

That's all for the puzzle today. A few more puzzle-related things before I go:
  • First, as I wrote earlier in the week, cryptic crossword lovers should rejoice at the existence of, an archive of every cryptic crossword put out by the legendary constructing team of Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon since they were making them for The Atlantic in the late '70s (!). I've solved a bunch of the earliest ones and they are ridiculously entertaining (and, given their age, surprisingly doable).  
  • Second, I had the privilege last month of getting an advance copy of Anna Shechtman's forthcoming book, The Riddles of the Sphinx: Inheriting the Feminist History of the Crossword Puzzle, and found it engrossing, informative, and (frequently) funny as hell. It's a mix of history and memoir, all about women's (including the author's own) relationships to crossword puzzles and crossword culture, and rather than being a mere cataloguing of The Unheralded Women Of Crossword History, it's an incisive exploration of the role crosswords have played in various women's (complicated!) professional and personal lives. Crosswords become a framework for understanding women's relationships both to language and to patriarchy. There's some truly incredible research in here. It's not out until March 2024. But you can (and should) pre-order it now.
  • Somebody dressed up as me for Halloween. I repeat: Somebody. Dressed up. As me. For Halloween. Also, importantly: "No one got the reference." I have somehow peaked and nadired simultaneously. Life is long, and very weird (thanks, Julia, for sending me the picture, and tell your fiancé I'm ... well, startled, but also honored):
  • Postcards! I've gotten so many in the past couple of weeks, including two from France (!) and two featuring Mexican movie posters from the Rancho Gordo collection (these arrived on the same day ... from two different people in different parts of the country???!):

And here's one of Kirk Douglas's "Footprint Ceremony" at Grauman's Chinese Theatre (1962) 

I really appreciate the additions to my postcard collection, as well as the kind sentiments that most of the card writers pass along. My address is in the blog sidebar. Feel free to send me a postcard any time. If you want one in return, just include your address. Thanks!

 See you next time.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 12:02 AM  

This puzzle sucks. It is uninspired recycled garbage. Not sure how it amuses Rex so much. It was a total drag for me and it was very easy.

jae 12:23 AM  

Easy-medium. My problems with this one were almost identical to @Rex’s especially the ROBITISSIN vowel issue.

No WOEs and SOnIce before SOKIND was it for erasures.

I thought the puns were clever and amusing. A fun Sunday, liked it.

Kent 12:31 AM  

The Star Wars princess tripped me up too. Unfortunately, ROBaTUSSIN did not look wrong.

okanaganer 12:56 AM  

Like Rex, this was my favorite Sunday theme in a looooong time. And like him, it took me a loooong time to figure out what the heck it was! Which was part of the fun. Good homophones (not to be confused with homophobes, which is something else). It's great that in each case, both words changed spelling.

I actually finished with an error at the place Rex mentions, where AMADALA crosses ROBATUSSIN. I couldn't find it for the life of me, so had to click "Check all letters".

[Spelling Bee: Sat 0, QB streak 11 days! My last word was this 8er which only came after a lot of guessing; though I may have seen it before in SB. (Note!: Merriam-Webster says it's not a word. Sam: shouldn't that tell you something?)]

Melrose 1:33 AM  

Took me a long time to grok the theme. Even then slow going. Medium-challenging for me.

egsforbreakfast 1:43 AM  

Time bomb
What's Up?
(Answers below)

I apologize if I sound incoherent, but I took an LSDTAB and I'm now on an LSDTRIP. Maybe I should just SMOKEPOT. But I'm sure a HEP cat.

I've gotta say that this puzzle really delivers, courtesy of the USPS not far from the UPSSTORE.

Liked the translation process from clue to answer on the themers. Thanks, Rich Katz.

Soothing herb
Power eat.

Ann Howell 3:11 AM  

Fairly easy, but never got the theme, so had to intuit the theme answers. Cute once explained, though, so no complaints!

Joe Dipinto 3:47 AM  

One of this constructor's previous two puzzles had SUPER BOWL reimagined as SUPERB OWL. This one has SUPER BOWL crossing OWL. That same puzzle recast DUA LIPA as DUAL IPA.

I enjoyed this theme. Except I didn't think of ROBITUSSIN as "flu buy", I thought if it as "Flu? Bye!" Like, if you take Robitussin you say goodbye to the flu. (Except I guess that isn't really true, it just makes you stop coughing.) Anyway, the puzzle was fun.

One of the Star Wars answers also shows up on the Variety page. Fairly easy Acrostic, I thought.

Conrad 5:19 AM  

I realized early on that I was not going to be able to derive the theme answers from the theme clues, so I solved as a themeless without using the theme clues at all. Still fairly easy. Got hung up on AMIDALA (45A), as @Rex and several others did, but when I had ROBaT... something I decided it was going to be ROBoT... something. But that was ironed out once I got the bottom part of ROBITUSSIN filled in. My biggest trouble spot was the NE, where I didn't know KEENAN Wayans (23A) or the first magic mushrooms state -- although I shouldda guessed -- and wanted obiwON for the 16D Jedi. I tried several variations on the first two letters in --YES (19D) before settling on AH.

Iris 6:09 AM  

Didn’t get the theme until very late but at least I wasn’t alone in that. Ablush is not a word. Amidala sounds like amygdala, which is a better word and would have made a much better name.

Brett 6:23 AM  

“Mike Mountain wrote ESSAYS.” Funniest line written in this blog all year. Literal lol.

Son Volt 6:27 AM  

Yech - who puts VERMOUTH in a martini? Cute theme but oddly filled. The wordplay fell with TWO PIECE - and parsing the rest was fun. For some reason SEA INN fought me.

You must be so LONELY

FRAT BRO, USERER, TWERKS, LSD TABS etc are rough - the grid is loaded with garbage - I guess the consequence of a dense theme.


Maybe it’s the time change - this one didn’t do it for me. At least Rex was in fine form today.

Drop the PILOT

mmorgan 6:27 AM  

Finished this, 100% correct, Mr Happy Pencil and everything, with absolutely no idea whatsoever how the theme worked. And I see I’m not the only one…

Alix F 6:42 AM  

Great costume idea and execution!

Andy Freude 6:47 AM  

Ditto, @mmorgan. Came here to see what the theme was.

And is it any wonder that I love seeing Beethoven not once but twice in this puzzle? Pure joy!

Anonymous 7:02 AM  

Same here! Fun!

Anonymous 7:06 AM  

Same here! And thought it was fun anyway!🙂

Adam 7:07 AM  

I'm surprised there is no mention of having JUNKINTHETRUNK, ASS, and TWERKS all in the same puzzle. The constructor definitely had something on his mind.

Anonymous 7:12 AM  

Totally agree....until the last word HARD AND NOT FUN

Lewis 7:13 AM  

All three of Rich’s NYT puzzles (all Sundays, all this year) have had word quirk themes. One had clue/answers such as [Brew that’s both bitter and fruity] for DUALIPA (Hi, @Joe Dipinto!), and the other played off of the first letters of answers, and thus COMMONCOLD was clued [Seasickness]. I adore word quirks, and thus I am a Rich fan.

Fun fact that may help explain the seeming randomness of today’s [Group of mimes, maybe] for TROUPE: Rich performed in a mime troupe in college.

Never seen this theme before, and kudos to Rich for snatching it out of the ether. I liked the interconnected trio of KENOBI, DENALI, and BIKINI, all near PANINI; the backward TIN next to a Boggle-style CAN; and the PuzzPair© cross of TIRE and TUCKERED OUT.

Rich, please keep word-quirking away! Your silly/clever themes set off my happy buttons, and I’m psyched to see in your notes that you have a Thursday in the queue. Thank you so much for this beauty today!

bocamp 7:15 AM  

Thx, Rich; crunchy, lively and slyly clued! 😊

Med (a few mins under avg, but felt tougher).

A pleasant surprise to have no 'fat finger follies' today.

Haven't grokked the theme yet, but will work on it today. [ok, the 'to peace' (two-piece) got the job done! Very clever!]

One semi-educated guess at the AMIDALA / ROBITUSSIN cross.

Just finished an excellent KONDOish book, 'Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism' by Fumio Sasaki

A most satisfying solve, and fun trip! :)
Steve Mossberg's Sat. Stumper proved to be up there with the most difficult yet (8x NYT Sat.), with the NW & upper-Midwest raising Cain. One cell dnf at the cross of the Brain's / passage. On to Balton & Stewart's NYT acrostic.
Peace 🕊 🇺🇦 ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness ~ Freudenfreude & a DAP to all 👊 🙏

kitshef 7:16 AM  

Solved almost the entire puzzle with no clue what the theme was. Finally, after filling in SUPER BOWL WIN, I got it. At that point, though, I had only six blank squares left to go.

Was not sure at the vowel for the ROBITUSSIN/AMIDALA cross. Really wanted a 'y' for AMyDALA, but ROByTUSSIN looked very wrong. Also considered ‘a’, ‘o’, and ‘u’ there. In the end, I guessed correctly.

Big resentment of the day was coming to 11D and having to leave the last letter blank. Would it be the Italian PANINo or the Anglicized PANINI?

Gotta love ABLUSH. Missed possibilities:
In the lav: ALOO
On the steeple: ASPIRE
At the pants cuff: AHEM

JD 7:51 AM  

Not easy. Felt like hacking through the jungle with a kitchen knife, blindfolded in the pouring rain, especially in the NE corner. Just waited til I had enough letters in the theme answers to squint a while and see some word possibilities.

Didok and Kondo should also be Star Wars characters. Sokind could be a character from The Pilgram's Progress. Every time we have Amidala, I wonder if the name was inspired by the amygdala. Is she an emotional character?

Love the theme now that I know what it was.

ncmathsadist 7:54 AM  

Never got the annoying theme. It looked like arbitrary words to guess to me. Ugh.

Mr. Grumpypants 7:55 AM  

Hated it.

Rich Glauber 7:57 AM  

But wait for JUNK IN THE TRUNK is an all time great clue. I loved the theme though it took me half the puzzle to grok it. But once I did, it was a delight to go back and fill in the formerly mystifying answers. Terrific Sunday puzzle!

SouthsideJohnny 8:02 AM  

The theme held up about as well as could be expected. The SUPER BOWL WIN clue may be a bit of a stretch (wasn’t that like 1985 or something - maybe the ‘72 Dolphins would be a “feat”); ok we’ll go with close enough for CrossWorld.

That entire middle west coast is a trivia hater’s nightmare. You’ve got the Simpsons (at least I recognize MARGE), an Indian potato (ALOO), another feeble attempt by the Times at being HEP (you encounter PHAT and DA BOMB much more frequently in NYT grids than you do IRL), plus AMIDALA (another of the mind-numbing STAR WARS MINUTAI). Oh wait, we’re not done with the trivial section yet - we still have France (MON), Latin (I believe) APSO, and of course Mr. or Mrs HESSE. It’s only been 48 hours and I miss Robyn already.

I also enjoyed the cool trifecta of ASS, SLOB and TWERKS.

Anonymous 8:12 AM  

The answer for11D grilled sandwich… should be panino (singular); the clue for panini should be the plural, sandwiches

Mike E 8:14 AM  

Pretty easy and entertaining except somehow in the Northeast I decided To peace! was going to be two peas (ignoring the slightly off sound of the soft c) and mentally froze into STRING BEANS even though it didn't quite make sense and it was a letter short, and stared at the Hershey clue which didn't help because I never heard of SKOR BAR in my life. Woe cup eventually.

Todd 8:16 AM  

I hate puzzles that I finish in normal time without a clue what the theme. If you can just figure it out with the crosses what is the point??

Todd 8:18 AM  

Dry vermouth is a standard in martinis, has been forever. Some people pour the vermouth into the shaker and dumb it before adding the vodka or gin for a drier martini.

Dave L 8:21 AM  

Arousal, Junk in the trunk, String Bikini, Twerk. Between those, the LSD, and the magic mushrooms, I’m all Tuckered Out.

Joe Dipinto 8:22 AM  

@kitshef - I did the same thing at PANIN_ but I was 99% sure it would be an "I".

Phillyrad1999 8:24 AM  

So, I got the theme fairly early but I thought some of the cluing was a stretch. Didn’t enjoy it as much as Rex but didnt’t hate it either. Love the Halloween pic. We love that day in our house. One year I dressed as Einstein. My 9 yo daughter at the time said I looked like the Lorax’s dad going to work. We rand the first bell and the person who opened the door and said hey look it’s Albert Einstein!! To which my daughter just groaned.

Anonymous 8:36 AM  

Mea culpa - I got a DNF. Just realized I had the A instead of I in the AMaDALA/ROBaTUSSIN cross. I work in pen with no auto check but saw the comments and realized I had the same thing. Doesn’t change my dislike for this puzzle. Still easy. Still recycled nonsense.

Smurphy 8:47 AM  

Everyone puts vermouth in a martini. It’s a two ingredient drink - and guess what one of those is…

pabloinnh 8:47 AM  

Well I read the title like I always do, good test-taker that I am, and when JUNKINTHETRUNK showed up I knew we were in for some rhyming themers. Uh, no. I even saw "butt weight" but didn't think much of it until STRINGBIKINI, which didn't rhyme, and then I saw what was going on. Finally.

Time to learn the Star Wars queen, as I know she's appeared before. Can't say the same for ROBITUSSIN, as that seems like a one-off. Hand up for guessing wrong but the paper solve doesn't let you know about that, so close enough for me.

Maybe FRATBRO has replaced FRATBOY, but I missed the message. Added some nanoseconds there.

I'm a pun fan so good on you for that, RK. Really Kinda liked the whole thing, and thanks for a fair amount of fun.

IrishCream 8:49 AM  

Would you call tahini a DIP? It’s a key ingredient in hummus (more of a spread but sure, it’s served as a dip too) but tahini on its own? Not tasty!

burtonkd 8:49 AM  

@Joe, thanks for bring up the SUPERB OWL. I was watching "What We Do in the Shadows", and a plot had the vampires visiting their very normal, fratboy-like neighbors to watch the Superb Owl. I knew that sounded familiar.

Even Gary is probably all ABLUSH somewhere what with JUNKINTHETRUNK, ASS, SLOB and TWERKS populating the grid

Jeff & Pam 8:54 AM  

Love the costume, and we would have gotten it. You are honored and it’s creators lauded.

Bob Mills 8:59 AM  

What a total waste of time this puzzle was. "Bare feet" is supposed to suggest a SUPERBOWLWIN, when the Chicago Bears have been consistent losers in recent years? "Flew by" (flu buy) for ROBITUSSIN is almost as bad. And to describe a 5-year-old KINDERGARTENER as "wee" assumes that all 5-year-olds are very small (I wasn't). I had almost all the answers, but couldn't make sense of any of them.

Sunday puzzles were once the highlight of the week for me. Now they're like most Thursdays, but with a larger grid.

Anonymous 9:01 AM  

who spells it "la di da"??? In arguably the most famous use of the expression, by Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, it's spelled "la de da." More colloquially, it's la-dee-dah. Sorry, LADIDA makes no sense.

Sideshow Ben 9:04 AM  

Have to admit, I did the whole puzzle with no clue as to the theme’s gimmick. I only learned it here. Gotta say that Tempe homophone clues are really obtuse.

Jim mcdougall 9:13 AM  

Stopped using vermouth years ago and just add liquid from olive jar along with a few olives,to the gin.."dirty martini" so struggled with vermouth for a bit 'een tho I had the V. DUH!!

Liveprof 9:16 AM  

@Lewis (7:13) -- That the constructor was in a mime troupe goes without saying.

The theme came to me early because of the puzzle's title: Double Talk.

Bad memory from Robitussin. When Daughter #1 was a freshman in college, she and a friend took a large dose of it, having heard somewhere it can get you high. What it got her was an ambulance ride to the ER and nearly kicked out of the dorm. How she (and I) made it through those years is a mystery. She's a very successful RN today, with five (!) gorgeous kids of her own. And she almost never coughs.

RooMonster 9:18 AM  

Hey All !
Rex : Got a good laugh out of your "peaked and nadired simultaneously" line! Good stuff! (Who was that, BTW? And he should have had a globe.)

Neat puz. Got a kick out of some. Adolescent me liked But wait! the best. That's some quality schtick right there. What was nice is that (for me) each one took some thinking to get, they weren't auto-fills. First one I figured out was KINDERGARTENER, and as Rex mentioned, that got me to what the theme wanted. But still fun figuring out the homophones. ROBITUSSIN the toughest one. Never know ALOO is an Indian potato. So if you scamper to the table in India, do you... (Wait for it)... Skip to ALOO?

We get both UPS and USPS in here. Early reminders to send your presents?

73 Blockers, on the light side for a SunPuz. More puz for the money.

That EDU DOT thing was a touch off. Where's the COM? Not too many NITs today, as it was a fun puz. Clean fill mostly. I DID OK on time.

Hope y'all set your clocks! It is now 9:16 EST, 6:16 PST where I'm at. Have a great Sunday!

One F

Mack 9:25 AM  

PANINI just about ruined the whole puzzle. How can you be that incorrect about an entry? They managed to get the form correct for UTERI; how did they mess up PANINI?

Anonymous 9:28 AM  

What else would you add to a martini? There are literally only two ingredients: gin and vermouth.
It's like saying, "Yuck. Who puts rum in a rum and coke?"

Beezer 9:39 AM  

I can’t remember a time when HOW @Rex solved the puzzle AND his feelings about it were exactly like mine, but today was that day. The ONLY difference was I had figured out the idea at STRINGBIKINI/two-piece. I can’t say that knowing the conceit helped me with the rest of the themers since I kind of flew around with down crosses. It was fun to figure them all out at the end.

I think(?) @Rex was joking on his Montaigne take. Now I’ll have to read what he said again. I just know I haven’t read Montaigne’s essay but DID read a book about Montaigne. I think the point of that was Montaigne was transformative in HOW he wrote. Don’t be impressed…I read it as a book club assignment!

Bottom line…I enjoyed the puzzle!

pabloinnh 9:51 AM  

For all you folks complaining about the PANININ/PANINO confusion, now you know how some of us feel about tamal vs. tamale. See also "toston", accent of the last o.

I sympathize but I'm afraid it's a losing battle.

Niallhost 9:52 AM  

I can't believe I got the happy music when I put in my last letter. There were many places where I wasn't sure I was using the right letter. Robitussin was actually one of the easier ones. TROoPE, KEENaN, APSa, KENOBe, cONDO, SKOlBAR, aDVIDEOS, LADeDA. Saved because I could figure out the crossing word for each of them. I finished in 25 minutes without having any idea what the theme of the puzzle was.

PaulyD 9:57 AM  

As an Italian-American, the continuing misuse of plural Italian nouns as singular nouns in English is maddening (e.g., PANINI, cannoli, etc.). To see it perpetuated here ruined an otherwise perfectly acceptable Sunday puzzle.

Nancy 10:07 AM  

What on earth does JUNK IN THE TRUNK have to do with "But wait"?

What on earth does TUCKERED OUT have to do with "Holy Week"?

This better be good!

I'm writing this about a third of the way through and these are the only two themers I've filled in. They make no sense to me at all. Nor am I enjoying filling in the other stuff (or perhaps stuffing in the other fill) which seems to me to be more mindlessly trivial than usual.

There's the kind of curiosity about a theme that engrosses you and makes you want to continue. And then there's the kind of curiosity about a theme that makes you want to drop the puzzle and Just Find Out Once and For All.

This is the latter.

I'll come back when I have the answer to what on earth the connection is between clue and answer. And as I said before, this better be good! If it proves to be my own dimwittedness, trust that I'll fess up to it.

Anonymous 10:12 AM  

You could try actually reading the blog

Son Volt 10:14 AM  

@Smurphy and anon - maybe in your martini - but not mine.

Anonymous 10:15 AM  

The singular PANINI ship has sailed

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

The name is Michel de Montaigne. He wrote essays. Do you want it clued as Michael of Mountain? What a bizarre gripe.

Nancy 10:21 AM  

No, it's not my own dimwittedness. I think you might describe this puzzle as too clever by half. The homophone conceit is so, so difficult to parse that you'd better make sure that your answer to the homophone is absolutely literal.

Let's take "Butt weight" = JUNK IN THE TRUNK. That's not even accurate. Your trunk is your belly, not your butt.

And then, the other themer that I filled in. "Wholly weak" doesn't mean TUCKERED OUT. Arnold Schwartzenegger (sp?) can BE TUCKERED OUT, but that doesn't make him weak. A more specific answer to "wholly weak" would be LACKING MUSCLES or NEEDING STRENGTH TRAINING.

Without that level of specificity, I doubt that many will be able to figure out the theme. You might have filled in the whole puzzle, but you won't really have "solved" it.

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

Sadly, this has changed. The vodka martini seems to have replaced the “traditional” martini. I often hear the words bone dry which I understand means no vermouth.

Gary Jugert 10:31 AM  

I planned on singing the blues over this one, but after 🦖 explained the theme I decided this was pretty great. Never figured it out.

Cluing was wildly uneven, but lots of comedy and not many proper names, so a lovable mess.

I can't spell AMIDALA or ROBITUSSIN or KONDO so it tends to slow things down.

Tee-Hee: If you have any desire to publish a NYTXW puzzle, you gotta get past the slush pile editor. This one would've been fasttracked to Will I. Am's rubber stamp with its delicious fifth grade appeal: ASS, LSD TAB, FRAT BRO, AROUSAL, JUNK IN THE TRUNK, STRING BIKINI, TWERKS. Another pull-my-finger kinda day. (Repeating from same day last year.) Keep up the juvenalia you lonely NYTXW editors, you titans of tee-hees, you purveyors of the putrid, you knights of the naughty, you solicitors of the scatalogical, you fans of the fart farce fun, you assessors of our asses.


1 Magazine rep a bit too excited over successful close.
2 Larger-sized Indian potato fan beachwear.
3 Our slush pile editor.
4 Tearfully opening candy after a breakup.


My Fascinating Crossword Uniclue Keepsake from Last Year: My ass (ehem). BIG ON EASY CHAIR.


Anonymous 10:33 AM  

You could take two seconds to look up “junk in the trunk.” Or you could keep talking, I suppose.

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

Funny. It’s been forever since I had this much fun on a Sunday puzzle. All theme-related, admittedly. Great moment when I realized what that theme was. And lots of fun using that knowledge to suss out the last few themers.

Beezer 10:40 AM  

@Andrew, I meant to thank you for pointing out the Connections game. My first try was Friday. I THINK it might progress in difficulty like the xword but today was the first day I completed it.

Everyone take a deep breath on martinis. Can’t we all agree that the “classic” martini has gin and vermouth? Variations abound now. I RARELY drink a “martini” but I prefer vodka.

@Nancy…you are correct about trunk/torso but there is actually an idiom for people with big “rear ends”…they have JUNKINTHETRUNK (think of a car trunk being in the rear).

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

Not meant as an insult…I feel sorry for anyone who never had the opportunity with Herman Hesse. Not the Glass Bead Game necessarily…I could never make it through that.

minoirdreams 10:54 AM  

A mere drop (a single small drop) of vermouth transforms the beverage from a bucket of booze to a sophisticated cocktail - a Maftini!

EasyEd 11:05 AM  

Seems to me a silly/clever theme with all kinds of ambiguous wordplay. Easily assailable for lack of strict clinical accuracy but could be described as being close enough for handgrenades and horseshoes. Or thereabouts.

Anonymous 11:07 AM  

It’s very good. You have to use homonyms for each word in the clue.

Liveprof 11:25 AM  

Re: RE-GIFT at 28D.

One of the funniest cartoons I've ever seen is a take-off on the classic children's book, The Giving Tree. It has that same little boy standing below that same tree. And the caption says: The Re-Giving Tree. And the tree throws a box down to the boy and is saying "It's a blender."

jb129 11:27 AM  

While watching the Marathon, I sped through this puzzle.

A fun Sunday, thank you, Rich!

Anonymous 11:30 AM  

@Nancy you need to take in some pop culture, either old ones or new ones. Junkinthetrunk has long been slang for a big booty! Being cultured is fine, but not if you keep not knowing sland, etal

Nancy 11:37 AM  

Thanks, Beezer. I've never heard the term and it's actually pretty funny when you think about a car.

I also thought of "belly" because that's where I carry my own extra pounds. I carry nothing in the rear -- which is why, I suppose, no one has ever said JUNK IN THE TRUNK to me.

(They corrected me over on Wordplay too, btw.)

Librarian 11:40 AM  

I thought the use of both "crushed it" and "Beethoven" twice in one puzzle would annoy Rex, as it did me.

Carola 11:55 AM  

Homophones on parade! I loved it. Clueless after entering the first three entries, I went back to the start and tried to put two and two together: the title and the theme phrases. The two-piece STRING BIKINI got me my answer. And I had fun trying to anticipate, way, who the wee one might be or what an heir rite consist of. I thought the "butt weight" was inspired and the KINDERGARTENER especially cute. A very enjoyable Sunday that made the most of quirks of English. Fun!

Joseph Michael 11:55 AM  

In my martini-drinking days, I used to keep VERMOUTH in a plant mister in the refrigerator. At cocktail hour, I would then spray the inside of a martini glass with the vermouth, add ice-cold vodka from the freezer, and drop in an olive. Not shaken. Not stirred. Best dry vodka martini ever.

As for the puzzle, I DID OK, but kept waiting for an aha! that never arrived. When I came here to see what I had missed, I was both amused and further frustrated. I like the idea of the homophone clues, but some of them are just too tortured to enjoy, with “Bear feat” being the worst.

kitshef 11:57 AM  

@Beezer - a fine example of how different people can be. Today was my first ever failure at Connections. Got two groups immediately, and was left with a gang of five and a gang of three. Knew one of the five must also fit the three (with I'll call the SPIN group), and started trying them one at a time. Alas, five options but only four remaining guesses, and the right answer I considered the least likely to be the one.

Early Bird 1:10 PM  

Star Wars is one of the biggest franchises of all-time and Amidala a prominent character. There's no reason to complain about it.

A to ofore obscure references are made in this puzzle. How much do you want to bet that more people know how to spell Amidala than any muse's name?

Also, wtf is hep?

Anonymous 1:35 PM  

Mille grazie! Amazing how many "authentic Italian" menus have this same error and no one catches it

Masked and Anonymous 2:06 PM  

Definite stretched-out (Katz) paws in figurine out this puztheme. Kinda liked it, tho.

What sorta concerns the M&A more, is the apparent new, raised-by-wolves staff of clue-writers at the NYTPuz. I mean, day-um … OREGON inspires them to come up with a psychedelic mushrooms clue? har. Hang on to yer junks in the trunks, xword-solvers.

Had a slight precious nanosecond blip at DUA/KONDO, btw. Enough to honor DUA with today's M&A staff weeject pick.

BTW: We decided to go with a classics Nov Fri-Nite Schlock-Flick themes, for the M&A/Bro-in-Law viewin sessions. This past Friday featured: King Kong (1933) and The Thing (1951). Far-out stuff. No psychedelic mushrooms required.

Some fave puz moments: MAKEGOOD. MINUTIA. TWERKS & its clue. The ROBITUSSIN spellin challenge.

Thanx for a butte of a SunPuztheme, Mr. Katz dude from Utah, no less. Didn't get to see yer part of the state, on our recent trip, tho.

Masked & Anonymo12Us


Anonymous 2:06 PM  

I liked this, I guess, but I had no idea what the theme was even after I finished. I did it all from the crosses. Which I guess is pretty good, with no idea about the theme at all.

Couple notes:

* I took ROBITUSSIN all the time as a kid. It seemed obvious that was the answer after a few of the crosses.

* Had no trouble with AMIDALA. Gotta read the credits!

BobL 2:14 PM  

wow Bob Mills, you've cloned SS Johnny to a tee.

Very fun puzzle.

Gary Jugert 2:44 PM  

@burtonkd 8:49 AM
I swooned over the scandal in this puzzle. Wrist to forehead. Audible gasp. And ... kerplunk.

johnk 2:47 PM  

The KONDO/DUA cross was intentionally created to DNF me. I DID OK otherwise.
More groans: Too many ADs. And as several others have pointed out, PANINI needed a more grammatically correct clue, i.e., "Grilled sandwiches on Italian bread."
AH YES, I did form a SEVERE picture in my mind of MARGE with her ALOO ASS in a STRING BIKINI, but I was not ABLUSH.

Beezer 2:55 PM  

@kitshef…HAH! Yes, IKNOW what you mean! Never heard of it but weird enough so I took a “stab” at it! 😉

Anonymous 3:13 PM  

Loved it. First theme I got was we won. Filled it long before I understood it. Never saw robitussin.

Joe Dipinto 3:22 PM  

Funny, this song doesn't mention anything about Michael writing essays. He's too busy sloshing around in the rain.

sun 3:39 PM  

Wonderful puzzle. "But wait!" as JUNK IN THE TRUNK is objectively hilarious.

Diane Joan 4:59 PM  

I got the puzzle but was completely confused by the theme clues. Thanks Rex for this blog that enlightened me!

Smith 5:41 PM  

After reading @Rex and some of the commentariat I feel like the odd solver out. I got the theme at 21A, which filled itself in briskly (not because of the clue), and after thinking, "hmm, doesn't that mean....?" the penny dropped. The "To peace" clue took the longest because it got jumbled in my mind with "visualize whirled peas" so I was looking for pease (the original word, from which the singular "pea" is a back formation, but I digress), not piece.

I didn't see any complaints about the Lord's Muslim name in writing...

And I really liked the clue "column that might lead to a row" for OPED.

For 91A I had the end ___WLWIN and being not a sports fan I guessed that a team called the Bears must have won a Super Bowl, correct as it turned out. I see per Rex that they are from Chicago, which adds a layer to the title of the show The Bear, set in Chicago. Why? Are there bears in Chicago?

Fun stuff, thx Rich Katz.

dgd 6:03 PM  

Me also.

EdFromHackensack 6:09 PM  

I finds it hard to believe so many people had trouble with the theme, the title kind of gave it away “Double Talk”. Got it early at Holy Week. I enjoyed thought it was clever. I have to bone up on the spelling of the cough medicine. And I have made this mistake more than once- for Relaxation spots I had inNS before DENS. I also had KEENEN’s name with an A at the final E spot. Those were my only writeovers. Hard copy.

Anonymous 6:14 PM  

You’re welcome! ~RP

Anonymous 6:25 PM  

Auto correct really did a wonderful job. Autocorrect can be so annoying!

Anonymous 6:35 PM  

Because Americans speak English not Italian. In American English panini is singular. That’s just the way it is. American crosswords are not designed to teach Italian. They reflect what people speak and write. A long time ago the same thing happened to ravioli, spaghetti, rigatoni etc etc etc. that’s language.
Nothing wrong with the clue/answer.

Anonymous 6:40 PM  

I am 100% Italian American and I agree with Pabloinnh. It didn’t bother me at all. It is a losing battle. English and Italian after all are very different languages.

Anonymous 6:50 PM  

As the clue indicates, it is (very) old slang. It is related to the adjective hip. Hep was big in the 1930’s and ‘40’s I think. Hep cat. . Hip survived a long time ( I still hear it) but hep is long gone.

Anonymous 6:56 PM  

I had trouble because double talk didn’t signal pun clues to me unfortunately. It could easily mean repeating words etc. , I had to come here to learn what was going on.

Anonymous 7:16 PM  

Would’ve loved it if I ever got the theme! Just filled in a bunch of random words. Grrr…

KennyMitts 7:55 PM  

Yes@anon9:01, my favorite part of Annie Hall is when Annie spells out La Di Da

Anonymous 8:47 PM  

So, I enjoyed the theme for the most part, all in all a pretty easy time, finished filling in the grid around the 30m mark. And then I spent 10 minutes staring at it trying to find what was wrong, why the counter was still running, why no happy music?? In the end had to look it up to find out that the dated way of saying cool wasn’t the already uncool hip (seriously who under 50 says that) but instead its predecessor from the 1940s??! Do they really assume everyone doing the crossword is in their 80s?

Anonymous 1:30 AM  

Agreed! Tahini is a dip ingredient, at best.

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

I have no knowledge of Star Wars trivia which seems to be a requirement for puzzle solving these days. Otherwise got through it with only a few hangups. Good writeup!

Anonymous 6:36 PM  

By that logic, they’re, their, and there ought to be interchangeable in crosswords. That would reflect how most Americans write.

Anonymous 2:39 PM  

The answer for 1D, HAJ, should have been spelled HAJJ, I think.

Fred 8:47 PM  

I completed this one in reasonable time (21:51), but did not have a clue about the trick to the thematic answers until I read Rex's column. Some of the fill was challenging, but overall, this puzzle was no fun at all.

Anonymous 4:17 PM  

As several people have said, the singular "o", plural "i" of the Italian language has been lost in America, including, unfortunately, many Italian restaurants. But still, if I'm on a very strict diet, I just have a spaghetto.

Burma Shave 4:35 PM  


NOT a HINT of VERMOUTH IN your martini;


spacecraft 6:40 PM  

You take that back, Rex!! There is no way the word "easy" can get within shouting distance of this puzzle!

First of all, there might be some kind of warning that we have a couple of DOWN themers, a "?" or something. No. Just "Flew by" and "See in." Perfectly innocuous. No warning.

But all the rest of it! Clues to confuse all over the place! Solving this puzzle earned me the most triumph points EVER! It took me all day. Eagle.

Wordle par, after three shots at BBBBG.

rondo 9:37 PM  

Did the east side first and got the gimmick with the STRINGBIKINI. Not so tough after that but crosses definitely required. HANK in the corners.
Wordle par on a tricky one.

Monsta 9:41 PM  

The misspellings or call it inconsistencies: ladida, essays for essais—plus the inconsistency in the theme clue. I was thrown off because the first two were in the form of a question—the question mark signaled to me these were the theme answers, then it disappeared—mixing in downs as part of the theme was unexpected. Figured out the homophone trick but had a hard time seeing the non questioned mark themed clues as that. Oh well.

And vermouth is part of the martini. How sweet you like it is personal. I prefer to measure a capful of vermouth into the vermouth bottle cap (a nice dry French vermouth please), toss that in the shaker with about 3 ounces of gin. Always gin. Never vodka. Eww.

spacecraft 10:14 PM  

Old (dad?) joke: Man walks into a bar and asks for the driest martini possible: "Pour gin into a glass, whisper 'vermouth' over it, and give it to me." The barkeep does as directed. The man takes one sip and says, "Loudmouth!"

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