Infotech standard akin to ASCII / WED 11-8-23 / Industry term for action-ready film locales / Bornean primate, informally / Vape "health" claim / Lumbering creature of fantasy / Dongle connector, in brief / "Pierce film with fork" might be the first one

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Constructor: Daniel Hrynick

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: SMASH HIT (18A: Runaway best seller) — songs that were SMASH HITs "in two ways" (very successful + literally concerned with smashing), with an imagined-scenario bonus answer involving DEMOlition: 64A: What 25-, 40- and 51-Across might originally have appeared on (DEMO TAPE)

Theme answers:
  • "WRECKING BALL" (25A: 18-Across by Miley Cyrus, in two ways)
  • "BREAK ON THROUGH" (40A: 18-Across by the Doors, in two ways)
  • "SLEDGEHAMMER" (51A: 18-Across by Peter Gabriel, in two ways)
Word of the Day: UNICODE (61A: Infotech standard akin to ASCII) —

Unicode, formally The Unicode Standard, is a text encoding standard maintained by the Unicode Consortium designed to support the use of text written in all of the world's major writing systems. Version 15.1 of the standard defines 149813 characters and 161 scripts used in various ordinary, literary, academic, and technical contexts. 

Many common characters, including numerals, punctuation, and other symbols, are unified within the standard and are not treated as specific to any given writing system. Unicode encodes thousands of emoji, with the continued development thereof conducted by the Consortium as a part of the standard. Moreover, the widespread adoption of Unicode was in large part responsible for the initial popularization of emoji outside of Japan. Unicode is ultimately capable of encoding more than 1.1 million characters.

Unicode has largely supplanted the previous environment of myriad incompatible character sets, each used within different locales and on different computer architectures. Unicode is used to encode the vast majority of text on the Internet, including most web pages, and relevant Unicode support has become a common consideration in contemporary software development. (wikipedia)

• • •

This is a good example of a puzzle where the core theme idea is great but the execution (the grid shape, the fill (!), the "bonus" answer) takes things off track, turning what might have been a light-hearted romp with a clean, tight theme into ... this. I stopped over and over again to take screenshots of moments I thought the fill was weak or bad until I realized the problem wasn't going to stop and I should just get on with solving. What this puzzle *should* have been was three themers + a revealer (SMASH HIT). But the groany, hypothetical (!?) DEMO TAPE bit got added and somehow we ended up with these corners that are stacked 8s, both of which are kinda ugly *and* extremely cut off from the rest of the grid. After enduring MY MAN, GEST, ISH, NIH, and EZINE before I'd even exited the NW, I was feeling pretty much done with this puzzle before I'd even started. I didn't know I'd already seen the revealer because the revealer doesn't tell you it's the revealer. Instead, the "reveal" comes in the most awkward of ways—through cross-references in the themer clues (all of which send you back to "18-Across"). So the theme feels upside-down and backward, with the revealer sneaking past you unnoticed, and then the themers pointing back to the revealer going "the revealer's back there," and just when you thought you'd endured enough of this out-of-order awkwardness, along comes DEMO TAPE to do a little vaudeville act that you definitely did not order, and that has only an *imaginary* relationship ("...might originally have appeared..."!?) to the theme. Further, those themer clues should, properly, have had "?"s on them, since one of the "ways" in which they are SMASH HITs (the way in which they are all about smashing) is a totally figurative, not in-the-language way. Meanwhile, non-winners like NOTAR and ADA LTE GMC ENS ARS STS ENID ORANG keep raining down on you. By the end, I was wondering why such a good theme idea had resulted in such an unpleasant solving experience. Let the themers be themers and the revealer be the revealer, tame those NW and SE corners, fill the grid less gunkily, and you might have something nice here.

I absolutely resented the HOT SETS / UNH crossing, first because HOTSETS (69A: Industry term for action-ready film locales) is a dead giveaway that your wordlist is controlling you and not the other way around. That is a bought-wordlist word if ever I saw one; stands out like the sorest of thumbs in this otherwise believably filled grid ("believable" in the sense of "I believe you knew that word and put it in the grid intentionally"). It's possible I might have "enjoyed learning a new word" (as I'm repeatedly told I'm supposed to do in situations like this), but that "Durham" quasi-misdirect on the "H" felt cheap. If you're the puzzlemaker, you know you've got the most unusual / unfamiliar term in your grid down there (in HOTSETS) and you decide that *that* is the right moment for pulling a little "nope, UNC is in Chapel HillDuke is in Durham! It's Durham, New Hampshire, idiot! Gotcha!" stunt?? Great. Good thing COTSETS sounded (very) wrong.

Bartleby is a scrivener. It's ... in the title of the story. Yes, that technically means "SCRIBE" but, still, a literary boo to that clue. Beyond that, and the UNH clue, I don't have many clue gripes. I had FEAT before GEST (largely because FEAT is a word people use) (4D: Heroic exploit). I had FDA-compliant because any alphabet-soupy answer seemed like it might've gone there (43A: ___-compliant). Still not over the ungainly shape of this grid, with a highly black-squared midsection, where all the proper themers are, and then these chunky 3-stacks of longer answers in the corners. You don't usually stack longer answers in a themed puzzle—that's Friday's and Saturday's job. It's like the grid doesn't know how to be, physically, so it ends up kinda Frankenstein's monster-ish. But I think the main issue today was the way the theme flowed. Revealer not revealing up top, "bonus" revealer being corny down below, theme clues all starting with awkward cross-references ("18-Across..." "18-Across..." "18-Across..."). The theme makes sense, but it doesn't have the, let's say, impact it might've had if it had been executed differently. Three solid songs, solidly hits, solidly about smashing. The puzzle's got good bones, as they say (about houses). But the non-bone parts (i.e. the fill), and the cluing scheme really undermined solving pleasure today.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 6:32 AM  

I went to UNH and I initially had UNC.

SouthsideJohnny 6:42 AM  

I like Rex’s idea for how the theme could have played out better as well, but I think this one at least checked in as acceptable. For some reason I had trouble with a lot of the cluing on the pretty much standard crosswordese today - stuff like LTE, USB, ARS, UNH, ADA, ENT and even MOC just didn’t seem like they enjoyed being in the grid (or at least they were feeling very shy today). Bizarre to have so much trouble with all of the threes.

Anonymous 6:49 AM  

Hmmm. I liked this XW. Unlike Rex, UNH was a gimme after a 2-second rule out of UNC. ADA seemed obvious. FEAT before GEST, for 2 seconds (double AA at crossing ruled out GEST). Liked it!

noni 6:52 AM  

COTS ...commercially off-the-shelf. Of course, that is missing a second S. So really, Durham, NH? Bleck!

Iris 7:06 AM  

Spot on commentary.

Conrad 7:08 AM  

Damned near lost my (minimal) streak thanks to UNH. Saved only by cheating. Nothing on my conscience; it was a cheap trick.

Anonymous 7:12 AM  

Ditto--hahaha. I have an advanced degree from there, my 3 kids and wife undergrad degrees, and my ex-wife works there. Moreover, one of my UNH-grad kids now lives in Durham, NC, and I know damn well UNC isn't there-there. But none of that stopped me. Corrected the C with H. Done. Sheesh.

Anonymous 7:22 AM  

Yeah, had to check every cross a couple of times before I figured out what COTSETS was supposed to be. I disagree with Rex about the revealer - I didn’t expect it and thought it was cute and didn’t really care that it was “hypothetical.” The fill though was definitely not great.

4thewin 7:22 AM  

I chuckled at 'lumbering' creature..

Andy Freude 7:26 AM  

Hand up for cOTSET and flinching for poor, misunderstood Bartley.
One of the reasons I love this blog is getting Rex’s insights into grid construction. Now I can go back and see what he’s talking about. Yeah!

Stuart 7:27 AM  

I thought this was “meh!” But I didn’t get nearly so worked up about it as did OFL. And even if I absolutely *hated* it, I wouldn’t waste my time writing a lengthy explanation of why.

kitshef 7:27 AM  

Cute idea for a theme, and I liked it.

While any of those songs could, I suppose, theoretically have appeared on a DEMO TAPE, none did. It's like using "Man who could have been the first US president" as a clue for GILBERT STUART. No, he wasn't president, or involved in politics at all, but he was alive and living in the US so he COULD have been president.

In particular, I got a giggle out of the idea of a demo tape for Wrecking Ball. By the time that was recorded, Miley had already had two #2 albums and a bunch of top-ten singles.

PaulyD 7:28 AM  

While I'm greatly predisposed to like any puzzle that includes Peter Gabriel, the HOTSETS/UNH cross left me SMH. That is the crossword equivalent of the butt fumble.

pabloinnh 7:31 AM  

Boy are we in grumpy primate mode this morning. I had a good time with this one, as all the songs were at least semi-familiar, they all connected with SMASH (and HIT) very nicely, and I thought DEMOTAPE was just the cherry on top. You even had THEDAMAGE as a good example of what people who practice redundancy refer to as an "added bonus".

HOTSETS is of course unfamiliar but both my sons are UNH alumni and I've been to Durham many, many times. There's also the fact that COTSETS makes no sense at all.

I even liked seeing some little-used answers like CLARETS and GROVELED.

So in the "no surprises" category I enjoyed this one a lot more than OFL Definitely Had me smiling often, DH, and thanks for all the fun.

Mack 7:35 AM  

Very easy, although a few answers seem a bit strong for Weds. GEST, CLARET, TYRO, HOT SETS, and the clueing on SCRIBE (a gimme for me, but I have to imagine a lot of solves aren't familiar with it) made me wonder if the puzzle was trying to make up for its own simplicity.
Unlike Rex, I think the theme works fine. The revealers are symmetrical and DEMO TAPE is a great tie-in to the theme. My only pause was at the Miley Cyrus song, and I fully admit it was probably a Me-Problem. The answer was obvious enough from crosses, but I stopped and thought, "Was that actually a 'smash hit'? I've never heard of it." Obviously me not knowing a song doesn't mean it doesn't exist but SMASH HIT implies, well, a smash that would have permeated its way into the general consciousness. I don't like or listen to either of the other themers (or Van Halen, for that matter), but I'm at least aware of them. WRECKING BALL just seems like an outlier.

The genius Archer on "Bartleby the Scrivner"

Anonymous 7:44 AM  

This is why I support RW financially (even if, me being a left-of-middle conservative, I might as well be Trump from where he stands): anytime something really, really irks me about a crossword, I just need to come here to come here to see that exact issue fully exposed, skewered in detail, and the author sent off to the corner in a dunce cap. Vindication.

I would pay good money for this. I DO pay good money for this.

UNH, gah... my first job ever was a visiting faculty stint there, over 30 years ago, and I still fell into the trap.

Anonymous 7:46 AM  

Google actually autofilled "cot set" when I searched to see if it was a weird new word I'd never heard of. They offered up "cot set" "cot set film" and "cot set film locale". I wish I'd taken a screenshot. If your puzzle cluing is so bad it effects Google searches, well.......

Shandra Dykman 7:59 AM  

I’m not the biggest picker of nits, but I have to point out that, though a classic rock staple and routinely listed as one of the greatest Doors songs, “Break On Through” didn’t even crack the Top 100 as a single!

Dr.A 7:59 AM  

Did anyone else felt like My Man, Tepee and Moc were bordering on Cultural appropriation/weirdly uncomfortable?

Bob Mills 8:15 AM  

Had to cheat to get Paula ABDUL, because I was sure it was "Abell." ADA-compliant was also an "I dunno."

The theme was relatively simple, even though I hadn't read any of the books. BREAKONTHROUGH was the hardest for me, because I had "Breakout" in mind for the first 8 letters. The clue for NORAD was clever, even though Santa Claus has never really threatened anyone.

Question for the forum...on 9/11/2001 NORAD (North American Air Defense System) was shut down temporarily for anti-terrorist practice (believe it or not)...did the actual terrorists know in advance that this was the perfect time to strike? Just asking.

Fun_CFO 8:20 AM  

It was easy, had some bad fill, a low blow crossing, and a theme that, I agree, could and should have resulted in a great “aha” moment.

It’s really just the pointing back to 18a in the themer clues that robbed any possibility to finish with a flourish. Just clue those songs normally, as if not part of a theme, and finish with SMASHHITS in the DEMOTAPE spot, I’d been all OHEMGEE.

I enjoyed typing in those songs, didn’t mind the stacked long corners, and coulda lived with the rest if theme execution fulfilled its potential.

Anonymous 8:28 AM  

Before I started figuring out the crosses, I had NCC for Durham school. Thought I was pretty clever for a little while

Anonymous 8:41 AM  

Wrecking ball is in the general consciousness, if not for the song, then for the video where a naked Miley Cyrus rides a wrecking ball. Lots of articles and “what is happening to our society?” columns about that.

Google wrecking ball and the song comes up before the item itself. I’d say that made it into the consciousness.

kitshef 8:47 AM  

1) Typo in my Miley comment. She had two #1 albums, not #2 albums, when WRECKING BALL was made.

2) BREAK ON THROUGH was certainly not a SMASH HIT. Peaked at #126 on the US charts, and #64 in the UK.

JD 8:57 AM  

Agree with @pabloinnh, fine, fun puzzle, Cot Set and all.

But the Scrivner v. Scribe thing is an error. I started to shoehorn in the former and then thought ok-may-they're-the-same-thing and threw down the latter. Looked it up and no, they ain't, cause something called The Content Authority says, "... a scribe is a person who writes by hand, while a scrivener is someone who copies, writes, or edits texts."

There's actually some legal thing called a scriveners error relating to contracts or pension plans like 401(k)s, so the word has legs, whereas the Scribe now toils in obscurity.

Both words have always amused me. Especially when you bring Bartleby in.

RooMonster 8:58 AM  

Hey All !
Agree the grid was somewhat strange, but enjoyed the puz. I liked having a Primer and then a Revealer. We're always looking for something new, yes? Well, here it is.

Neat dual-thingie songs. Seems as though a song for each Generation, too. BREAK ON THROUGH for Boomers, SLEDGE HAMMER for Gen X, WRECKING BALL for Gen Y?Z? DEMOTAPE is solidly Gen X, I believe Boomers were still futzing with 8 tracks. (Side note: I have an 8 Track player in my 1976 Lincoln, and it works!)

Is this a debut? Don't recognize the name, and haven't read anyone yet.

Fell into the UNc trap, Wondering why the movie industry calls ready -sets cOTSETS. Just something I didn't know, I thought. Oh well, UNc, UNH. @pablo, was that to get a point? 😁

Either way, a good WedsPuz, Except, missing a vital element. I'm sure you know what I'm talkin' 'bout.

No F's

RooMonster 9:01 AM  

Ooh, just saw that grid is 16 wide, in case y'all didn't notice. More puz for your hard earned bucks. More difficult to fill those large corners. Good job, Daniel.

RooMonster Obviously Observant Guy

Twangster 9:13 AM  

Peter Gabriel gets a double shot here with DIY along with Sledgehammer.

gfrpeace 9:13 AM  

Never heard of a one of those smash hits. It's like solving downs-only. By the way the phrase is WHAT'S THE DAMAGEs.

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

Rather easy to complete with crosses but found confusing what was going on with DEMOTAPE. I guess a demo tape was made for each of these recordings but DEMO in no way stands for demolition, does it? Confusing.

Sam 9:19 AM  

I knew the phrase HOT SETS…

Anonymous 9:23 AM  

Never heard of GEST so assumed the rebus was G = QU even though I never found another G to change to a QU. The puzzles “ theme” answer was totally lost on me. Got all the answers but had no idea what the constructor had in mind. Also had UNC instead of UNH which I intuitively believed to be wrong but since I do this on paper had no way of knowing I DNF at the end.

Anonymous 9:26 AM  

Agree with the HOTSETS/UNH cross. Just clue UNH as "Granite State School" and there's no problem.

Nancy 9:26 AM  

If I knew any of these (song? album?) smash-em-up titles, I'm sure I would have found this puzzle much cleverer and more interesting as I was solving it. But I had to rely completely on crosses and word pattern recognition to get any of them. For me, it was a work-around -- trying to ignore all those (bands? singers?) I didn't know and sticking with the puzzle anyway.

But I do absolutely love the dual use of DEMO here: demonstration and demolition. Quite clever. A really well-conceived and executed theme -- but too bad it's so heavily reliant on pop culture.

For those of you who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you like. I expect that a great many people will absolutely love this puzzle.

EasyEd 9:29 AM  

Like 4thewun got a chuckle out of “lumbering” creature. Also didn’t know any of the songs but the theme became so obvious early on from the crosses that it didn’t matter. Four Marvel comic Hulk fans, this was right in the wheelhouse. Surprised Rex didn’t flag this. Thought DEMOTAPE was good fun. But could have applied some smashing to the UNH/HOTSETS crossing!

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

UNH was a while coming. No idea about movie business jargon. Otherwise came together pretty well. Not the greatest solving experience for sure.

Jim in Canada 9:42 AM  

Not for nothin', but HOTSETS was a gimme for me.
Had no clue about UNH, but I absolutely knew HOTSETS was right, so I just went with it.

As for BREAKONTHROUGH, maybe it wasn't a SMASH HIT, really, but it ended up being the song that plays during the load screen for Rock Band 3, so I was well familiar with it.

Anonymous 9:44 AM  

Thank you for validating my feeling that UNH/HOTSETS was a cheap trick.

My Name 9:46 AM  

I wasn't going to comment here today (as most of the days), but the chuckle from @4thewin somehow didn't sit well with me at all.

If you think of it you must admit that the clue for ENT is actually a hate speech. Never mind that it's applied to a "fantasy creature": an ax is an ax.

I'm surprised to see this in the NYT puzzle. I guess nobody gave it a thought, and I think they really should have.

Dylan 9:51 AM  

You realize writing a lengthy explanation of his opinion about puzzles is literally the reason the blog exists?

jberg 9:57 AM  

I thought I didn't know any of these songs, but on further reflection I'd heard BREAK ON THROUGH, though I didn't know the title. My knowledge of pop music pretty much ended when I stopped driving my kids to school with the radio on, sometime around 1990.

Still, it was easy enough to figure them out once I got 18-A. As for 64-A, what you gonna do? It's symmetrical with SMASH HIT, so you want something themeish (themish?) there.

I was saved from UNc because that school is so firmly associated with Chapel Hill. Duke wouldn't fit -- but it still took precious nanoseconds to remember that there's a Durham in New Hampshire!

In the small TYPE SIZE used in the printed NYT, Fiat looked like "Flat," and when I finally figured it out I started trying to think of car model names. Then I got the ED, and saw the light. That corner was tough, with two bits of arcana from different fields, HOT SETS and UNICODE. I've seen the latter term, but didn't really know what it referred to.

So a decent puzzle -- my only real grievance is TRAPEZISTS. Really? It's in the dictionary, but I've never heard them called anything but 'aerialists.'

Until I read Rex, I'd never, ever seen the word GEST, not even while solving this puzzle. If I had seen it, I would have freaked out. In practice, it's always only said/written in French, where it's "geste." But again, it's in the dictionary.

floatingboy 10:07 AM  

Yep, I got got by the Durham misdirect. Bastards. I FLEW through this puzzle only to take just as long to find the problem. I even suspected that COT SETS was fishy but I "knew" that UNC was right Ugh.

Nancy 10:07 AM  

Oops. Reading the comments, I now see I had a UNC/COTSETS DNF.

I didn't know what a COTSET was (you sleep on the set because there's no hotel nearby?) but I didn't know what a HOTSET is either. Oh, well...

Back to the comments.

Gary Jugert 10:09 AM  

DEMO TAPE. Har. Goofy theme I kinda like.

I wish trapezing was more mainstream entertainment. I still play Man on the Flying Trapeze regularly. Things don't go well for the narrator.

THE DAMAGE is funny.

Again, I'm confused between JEST and GEST. Gest seems so blah for an heroic exploit. If you put an E on the end it helps.


1 Why my head hurts, in two ways.
2 Saruman.
3 Those fleeing from Alec Baldwin who swears he won't pull the trigger.


My Fascinating Crossword Uniclue Keepsake from Last Year: The nagging feeling you're actually going to be required to watch the Simpsons if you're going to keep doing crossword puzzles in the age of oily youngsters writing them. "AY CARAMBA" TERROR.


Adam T 10:14 AM  

I grew up in Durham and Chapel Hill and have worked at both universities, and even so I automatically typed UNC there at first.

fezzik 10:18 AM  

I got WRECKING BALL before I got SMASH HIT. I guess I'm the only one who thinks "runaway best seller" refers to books?

egsforbreakfast 10:23 AM  

Isn't anyone going to address the elephant in the room? SLEDS and SLED GEHAMMER. Well it so happens that I used a SLED GEHAMMER to wreck a SLED just yesterday, and I had a WRECKIN GBALL doing it.

Conundrum for an apathetic fan: TORAH or not TORAH.

Just the other day we saw THEDA Bara, silent movie star, in the puzzle. Today it's her cousin, THEDA MAGE.

Golfers need to be able to read the break on th' green, but there is no need to read the BREAKONTH'ROUGH.

As @Rex says, lots of things about this puzzle were different from a typical mid week themer. I like different, and I liked this puzzle. Thanks, Daniel Hrynick.

Bob Mills 10:26 AM  

For Fezzik: I made the same mistake, if we can call it a mistake. "Best seller" has always been a literary term.

mathgent 10:30 AM  

Hilarious! Some of us are put off because ENTs are described as lumbering. This takes political correctness to a whole new level. If ENTs existed, they might be offended by being called lumbering. (Btw, Tolkein describes ENTs as "somewhat treelike.")

Anonymous 10:48 AM  

I proudly filled out “GONEGIRL” for runaway best seller as a first guess

Carola 10:50 AM  

I join @JD in agreeing with @pabloinnh (how's that for cross-referencing), except that I'm not familiar with any of the songs. But the SMASH idea was clear enough and the titles fun to figure out. Totally agree about the double delight of DEMO and the extra DAMAGE. I also liked GHOSTLY next to IMAGINED, GROVELED, CLARETS. I'm trying to forgive the cross of "other" Durham school and the unknown-to-me HOT SETS.

GILL I. 10:50 AM  

Good gravy! The terrible threes! I counted 14..maybe there's more. I can't keep up.
So a prairie product is WHEAT? What a way to clue THAT one. PHI is the flyers on some scoreboard? See, that's what I'm going to remember...or not.
I got the long ones; they were kinda neat in a destructive sort of way. OK, fill in the rest. I did. May I jump on the bus filled with COTSETS? Boy is @Rex right on with his assessment. I agree.
This wasn't too difficult, but it was a tad tedious in parts (for me)....For some reason TRAPEZIST rubs the wrong way. Try putting that on your resume. And then ENDIN and its whacky clue Uncouple? At least I got MOC and OVA. That would be a good bar name.
I forgot what Soupçon meant but then I remembered....SMIDGE. I like that word.
So that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Nancy 10:51 AM  

I just went to YouTube to have a peek at the naked Miley Cyrus video. Dear God!

Whatsername 11:01 AM  

Wow! Great puzzle with a dynamite revealer but oddly placed at the top of the grid. That’s unusual, thought I, but figured let’s move on THROUGH and see what develops. But then much to my surprise, I get to 64 across and find . . . the revealer? How can that be?And these songs were originally found on a DEMO TAPE? Yeah, so? Why would that have any significance? Big shrug.

So, totally missed the demolition part of the revealer but would’ve been perfectly happy to have left it at SMASH HIT. Like @Nancy I had no idea on any of the names of the songs but they were not difficult to parse. However I must say I could’ve done without the imagery of Miley Cyrus and her WRECKING BALL. I fear it may haunt me all day.

Doug Garr 11:08 AM  

I disliked this puzzle the way Rex did. I of course had "cotsets" and was confused. And I know people in the film biz that never use hotsets. Gest was a WTF word for me. And I wondered why scrivener didn't fit for awhile. Standard Wed. difficulty for me but otherwise unsatisfying.

jae 11:17 AM  

Medium. The Peter Gabriel song is the only one I didn’t know. I enjoyed the theme but agree with @Rex about DEMO TAPE. I’ve seen the UNH misdirection before so it wasn’t a problem for me. Liked it more than @Rex did.

Jim mcdougall 11:27 AM  

I was hard pressed to see any hate in the lumbering ents thing given what is going on real time in the world !!!

Paula 11:32 AM  

Quick question: what is a bought-wordlist? Thanks to anyone who can edify me!

Jim mcdougall 11:35 AM  

Well I had to look k too..a bit different than the video on cliff swallow nests that I looked at yesterday!

Tom P 11:43 AM  

I got caught on the HOTSETS/UNH cross, and I still resent it. Thanks for making me feel a little better about it, Rex.

jb129 11:57 AM  

Well, I finished it but I can't say that I enjoyed it. Sorry, Daniel.

Tom T 11:58 AM  

Regarding the much discussed UNc trap (I honestly thought the Times had made a cluing error and they were called cOT SETS, because you could shoot the scenes with such ease that you only needed cots) ...

in the words of Mr. Melville ...

"Ah, humanity!"

Anonymous 12:01 PM  

No. I mean cmon. It’s a crossword puzzle, and things can be taken too far with sensitivities…

Nancy 12:10 PM  

I think that I shall never see
An ENT as lovely as a tree.
An ENT who some today have slurred
With "lumbering" -- a putdown word!

Oh, Creature born of Fantasy,
You long have been unknown to me.
But now, today, I rise to stand
And clasp your slandered tree-like hand.

Or is it branch? Or is it twig?
I gather that it's very big
And treelike in a certain way,
But after that, I cannot say

Because I never read the book
So I can't grok the way you look.
But dignity should be your lot --
O Creature that the world loves not.

And thus that "lumbering" remark
Is cast aside with other snark.
And hate speech -- it will now desist
For creatures who do not exist!

Masked and Anonymous 12:12 PM  

Almost always like pop music themes, especially when the songs are oldies but goodies themers. In this case, I knew all the "Smashin" hits tunes. Altho, as some have pointed out, BREAKONTHROUGH is a SMASHHIT in only one ways.

staff weeject pick: Gotta go with UNH. It pleased so many solvequestidors, today. Durham, NH is sorta a runty little town, with pop. < 15K. Sooo … mighta been a no-know for many of us, m&e included.
And some honrable weeject mention luv to LTE, the semi-semi-semi-famous Long Term Evolution cellphone spec.

some fave stuff: THEDAMAGE. GHOSTLY. SMIDGE. Funny DEMOTAPE re-revealer. 16x15 puzgrid (more for yer moneybucks). L-shaped cheater squares on the sides that look like escapees from an Erector Set.

Thanx for the MANEATER oldies serenade, Mr. Hrynick dude. And congratz on a neat debut puz. No ahar revealer moment, but DEMOTAPE sure was a har-larious mic drop, IM&AO.

Masked & Anonymo4Us


Gary Jugert 12:13 PM  

@egsforbreakfast 10:23 AM
+1 On your game today. Mos Def RAH.

Anonymous 12:14 PM  


Craig C. Shelton 12:25 PM  

Strangely easy for me today, but then again, I grew up in New Hampshire…

Chip Hilton 12:30 PM  

Too many complaints on here about UNH. I read the clue, knew it couldn’t be Duke because of the abbreviation, saw it was 3 letters, boom! We’re talking New Hampshire. Quite fair, in my book.

Ben 12:32 PM  

I'd just like to make a note that North Carolina Central University is a part of the UNC system and is located in Durham, North Carolina.

bocamp 12:35 PM  

Thx, Daniel; nice job! 😊


Except for a dnf at UNc / cOT SETS. D'oh!

Initially, I had the same thot (more or less) as @Nancy (10:07 AM) re: the 'cOT' set-up. The real issue was that once again I didn't pay attn to spidey-sense and come back to it before filling in the final cell. Given a bit of thot, I'm pretty sure I'd've recalled UNc as being in Chapel Hill. Whether or not I'd've gotten the 'H' is another matter. πŸ€”

Otherwise, pretty much MARCHED thru this one.

Enjoyed the adventure, despite the RISKY debacle at the end. :)
Elizabeth Gorski's Mon. New Yorker was very easy (under an avg NYT Fri. time).
Peace πŸ•Š πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness ~ Freudenfreude & a DAP to all πŸ‘Š πŸ™

Anonymous 12:49 PM  

Yes! TRAPEZISTS seems to be a totally made up word. I’ve always thought of them as trapeze artists.

SFR 12:50 PM  

Love the 'Ent Ode'! And thanks for explaining the other meaning of 'DEMO'.

Jim mcdougall 12:52 PM  

And Joyce Kilmer comes lumbering in to the blog!! And that, I thought I'd never see!!!

My Name 12:57 PM  

Well, if I have to explain it I'm sure the same people will laugh it off anyways. However, to explain the obvious: it's a very specific type of discourse that I recognize here. Ents are tree-like creatures. What makes epithet "lumbering" sound funny to you in this case? A pun? But what exactly does it mean? That ents are in essence wood? But they are trees, not wood. To make wood out of a tree you need to fell it. So killing ents sounds funny. That's fine, you are entitled to your chuckles, but in the same way I'm entitled to feel uneasy facing the fact that people don't recognize hate discourse unless there actually is someone who can complain about being mistreated.

Gary Jugert 1:00 PM  

Here is today's top 10 list from Billboard magazine, i.e., smash hits. It's fair to say very little of this has permeated into the general consciousness despite having some familiarity with the artists. I find it easiest to assume the new music being made is great by somebody's standards, even though I have no intention of listening to any of it.

Heat Waves - Glass Animals
As It Was - Harry Styles
Stay - The Kid LAROI & Justin Bieber
Easy On Me - Adele
Shivers - Ed Sheeran
First Class - Jack Harlow
Big Energy - Latto
Ghost - Justin Bieber
Super Gremlin - Kodak Black
Cold Heart (PNAU Remix) - Elton John & Dua Lipa

okanaganer 1:05 PM  

When I like a theme as I did here, I don't really notice any other weaknesses. The 3 theme answers and 2 revealers is unusual!

WRECKING BALL to me will always be the Neil Young song of which Emmy Lou Harris did a wonderful cover.

I did web programming for many years and one thing I could never get a grip on was the baffling field of character encoding. ASCII is easy; it's basically what you see on a US English keyboard. UNICODE, UTF-8, UTF-16, etc, I somehow managed to avoid.

I hate college sports clues and college initials pretty much more than anything, so having UNC crossing COTSETS was annoying. I did fix it, though.

[Spelling Bee: Tues 0, QB streak 14 days!]

SharonAK 1:10 PM  

I'm with Nancy on the double meaning of demo in the revealer.
Since none of the songs were remotely familiar I needed Smash hits, and the referrals back to it, to be able to guess the titles even when they were more than half filled by crosses.
Did not enjoy the puzzle much, but smiled big at the revealer and thought it enhanced the theme a lot.

Loved the poem by Nancy said, 12:10 pm

Elena 1:15 PM  

Having just spent some time in Durham, I thought I was losing my mind with that UNC/COTSET thing. No way is UNC in Durham. It was only when I went through every other letter that could start _OTSET that I hit on HOTSET and realized it was the other Durham. Ugh!! That seemed like a very unfair cross there. Went way over my average time for a Wednesday because of it.

johnk 1:26 PM  

SCRIBE? Well, I suppose so, but I would prefer not to.

kitshef 2:13 PM  

@Gary Jugert 1:00 - that list is actually the top ten songs of 2022.

The top ten list for this week is basically a bunch of Taylor Swift songs (she has eight of the top ten, thirteen of the top twenty).

Anonymous 2:13 PM  

Very happy to see that I wasn't the only one to fall into the UNC/UNH trap. Had to Google "cot sets" which was very unhelpful before figuring it out.
Otherwise, kind of a bland and easy Wednesday

egsforbreakfast 2:55 PM  

@My Name 12:57. OK. You got me. I hate ENTs. When I see an ENT walking toward me on the sidewalk, I cross the street. And I never make eye contact. If my daughter married an ENT, I'd disinherit her. I'm sure that the term ENTropy came from their tendency toward disorder and randomness. I refuse to see an Ear Nose Throat specialist 'cause ........ ENT. I even avoid going to the dENTist. I've spent my ENTire adult life trying to turn over a new leaf, but I can't. It doesn't mean I have to agree with your woke Critical Ent Theory.

Anonymous 3:52 PM  

The Beatles did demos throughout their careers.

dgd 4:09 PM  

I do the puzzle on paper so I found my dnf here. I didn’t check the cross. If I had as cot made no sense I might have avoided it. I usually don’t agree with Rex but this was a nasty trick.

Stuart 4:13 PM  

Of course! It’s those rats that keep me coming back. 😁

dgd 4:28 PM  

Thanks for the research. Close enough for crosswords but as a retired lawyer I do remember scrivener’s error so that answer sounded off to me.
I think scribe is more commonly used for ancient and Medieval history while scrivener is used for the centuries after, until the typewriter came along.

Anonymous 4:40 PM  

I remember the ay caramba answer because I misspelled it. That and a difficult cross at the second A caused a dnf. Funny the things I recall. Liked your uniclues today and last year
Appropriate that I dnf at the unh horsey cross

Anonymous 5:03 PM  

Worst. Wednesday. In living memory. A chore to finish. My sister and brother-in-law live in Chapel Hill NC and he taught at UNC Med School 30+ years until retirement, and I wondered if the constructor had made a mistake, then remembered UNH, though I’ve never heard the expression “hot set.” SW corner thus was a giant pain.

Anonymous 5:50 PM  

I worked this with my partner who's British and the claret(s) plural didn't sit right with him. He said you would never ask for two clarets. You would ask for two bottles of claret. Interesting puzzle overall. Also got cot set.

Anonymous 6:45 PM  

Same. I hadn't heard of HOTSET and I justified COTSET as "oh, the set is ready for filming, let's rush in some cots and do some non-stop filming and sleeping".

Anonymous 8:30 PM  

Had pretty much the same experience as everyone with UNH/c. Thought the puzzle overall was nicely done. Loved @Nancy’s tree poem!


Mack 8:31 PM  

I think we must just have different definitions of "smash hit". For me, Billboard has little to do with it. Billboard is constantly populated with songs that show up at the top and disappear the next week. I don't consider that a smash hit. In fact, a quick glance seems to indicate Wrecking Ball hardly spent any time on the top of the charts. At the same time, as someone points out below, Break On Through was never #1 but it's probably the biggest song of a massive band. So again, I'd argue Billboard has little to do with smash hits.
Don't get me wrong, Wrecking Ball is great for the demolition part of theme. And while I dont doubt it was popular, it just seems to fall slightly short compared to the others.

Teedmn 10:45 PM  

@Nancy, thanks so much for the poem. I heard a tad bit of Blake “The Tyger” in the 3rd verse. As always, I stand in awe of your lyrical talent.

Jim in Canada 10:19 AM  

OK, I feel like I can't just let this slide...
To the person complaining that "lumbering creature of fantasy" is hate speech toward ENTs.
Stop. Please, just stop.
This smacks of when PETA went on a tirade against Pokemon Go because it "teaches people to capture animals" - even though the animals don't exist in the real world.

I grew up gay in small-town Texas. My town was so racist they literally made a movie about it ("Whitewash: the Clarence Brandley Story"). So I know how incredibly hurtful hate speech can be. It leads to real, actual hurt. Or worse. I had a classmate who was beaten every day by other students because someone 'outed' him and the teachers willfully ignored it. I saw the janitor at my high school convicted of murder because he was the black guy (they used another term).

But to call out "hate speech" on a mythical being is crying wolf. When you get your undies in a bunch over something like this, it serves no purpose than to make people more willing to overlook REAL hate speech as "so much overblown political correctness."
How about we focus on actual, real-world, consequence-causing hate speech first, before we go looking into the realm of fantasy to get our danders up?

I'm sure your intentions are good, but from where I'm sitting, you're doing more harm than good.

Anonymous 11:37 AM  


MrBanjoPierre 12:18 PM  

Agree, the "deomlition tape" suggestion gave me a smile!

My Name 12:38 PM  

Well, I know for sure what I'm _not_ doing: I'm not yelling in capitals at anyone to stop or start doing anything whatsoever, I'm just politely stating my personal opinion.

PGOhio 1:12 PM  

Only Thursday in years that I've felt amused enough to attempt to finish, which I did.

Coincidentally I've inherited a medieval manuscript once owned by William Randolph Hearst, so it felt cozy to have the Citizen Kane bit.

Anonymous 11:41 PM  

I live in Maine, so I knew about UNH in Durham. And it seems to me that HOTSETS makes much more sense describing an 'action ready movie set' than COTSETS.
Just saying...

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