Some high-end headwear / MON 11-20-23 / Sci-fi film tech, for short / Computer debut of 1998 / Acronym for a quartet of entertainment awards

Monday, November 20, 2023

Constructor: Sam Ezersky

Relative difficulty: Easy (Downs-only)

THEME: CONNECTICUT (60A: The Constitution State ... or, when parsed differently, what you gradually do with this puzzle's circled letters?) — so, you "connect" the letters "ICUT" as you descend the grid. In the first themer, they're evenly spaced, one square apart, and then, with each subsequent answer, a space is eliminated, until in the fourth themer, there are no more spaces between them:

Theme answers:
  • TENNICOURT (19A: Where to find singles, a match and love?)
  • "PICUTHE PHONE!" (25A: Exasperated cry you might make when being turned over to voice mail)
  • MULTICULTURALISM (40A: Form of social diversity)
  • PLASTIC UTENSIL (49A: Disposable bit of cutlery)
Word of the Day:
HOUSE WHIP (11D: Congressional V.I.P.) —

whip is an official of a political party whose task is to ensure party discipline in a legislature. This means ensuring that members of the party vote according to the party platform, rather than according to their own individual ideology or the will of their donors or constituents. Whips are the party's "enforcers". They work to ensure that their fellow political party legislators attend voting sessions and vote according to their party's official policy. Members who vote against party policy may "lose the whip", being effectively expelled from the party. 

The term is taken from the "whipper-in" during a hunt, who tries to prevent hounds from wandering away from a hunting pack.

Additionally, the term "whip" may mean the voting instructions issued to legislators, or the status of a certain legislator in their party's parliamentary grouping. // 

The expression whip in its parliamentary context, derived from its origins in hunting terminology. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term whipper-in as, "a huntsman's assistant who keeps the hounds from straying by driving them back with the whip into the main body of the pack". According to that dictionary, the first recorded use of the term whipper-in in the parliamentary sense occurs in 1772. (wikipedia)
• • •

Greetings from sunny Colorado. Actually it's kinda gray, but it's warm, and beautiful, and I've already eaten my weight in fantastic Mexican food, and I got to spend the afternoon with my sister, who is the best, so it feels sunny. I remembered to bring my bluetooth mouse and keyboard this time, so I've got a whole blogging command center set up here in my room at my sister's house. See:

Yes, my brother-in-law has a full-sized arcade game cabinet that he built a while back, and you can play all kinds of games on it. This appears to be the gaming room, in fact. There are at least three TV screens in here, and at least as many gaming systems (including crossword favorites WIIU and XBOX). An ironic room theme for me, the person who does not game, but at least the full-sized arcade game reminds me of my afternoons spent playing Donkey Kong at Round Table Pizza in the early '80s. There's a dart board in here too, maybe I'll play darts later. Anyway, currently, I'm playing this puzzle, and I gotta say, this one definitely falls in the "So Dumb It's Good" category. As those themers were coming together, I was like "How in the world is he gonna make 'I CUT' pay off!?" And then the revealer arrived and ... well, I did not see that coming—and I don't know what else I can ask of a revealer but for it to make me say "Well, I did not see that coming." It's true that *I* don't really connect "ICUT"—the letters just kinda ... come together that way. The puzzle connects them. But leaving aside the technicalities of the revealer clue phrasing, I think that conceptually, this one works perfectly. And it's just so weird. I respect that. Forget the tried and the true—give me the bizarre, especially on a Monday, when I need something to make up for the puzzle's extreme easiness. 

Not sure about a few of these themer clues—I mean, why are you shouting "PICK UP THE PHONE!" when it's already gone to voice? Shouldn't you be shouting it earlier? I mean, you shouldn't be shouting it at all, no one can hear you, but for your inherently ineffectual shouting to make any kind of sense, you gotta be doing it earlier. And [Form of social diversity] feels tepid and vague as a clue for MULTICULTURALISM. But the real weak spot today was the fill, which seemed, well, weaker than it should have been. Starting with AGASP got things off on a very wrong foot (1D: Audibly shocked). Like ABES (43A: $5 bills, in slang), AGASP is a word that exists only in crosswords. I would be AGASP if I saw ABES in the wild. And then TES, ITA, ISMY, two Greek letters (?) (PHIS, PSI) and then a Roman letter to top it off (??) (CEE). And what the hell are SILK HATS and how are they "high end" (15D: Some high-end headwear)? When I google [silk hats] the first thing I get is a sleep cap. The photos, though, are all of top hats, or maybe opera hats (?), which, yes, are ... "high" up on the "end" of your body (i.e. your head) ... and they're fancy, but woof, not in love with that answer. I was really expecting something ... current when I saw "high-end," which implies a pricey version of things people actually want to buy. Can you even buy a top hat any more? I'm sure you can. Still. SILK HATS

No troubles with the Downs-only solve today. Wanted PICK UP THE to be followed by PACE (didn't fit) or SLACK (wrong). Had a little trouble with HOUSE WHIP, since I know the term "Majority / Minority Whip" better, but I got there. Thought -SAGO would be HAS A GO, but no, it's the airplane-related IT'S A GO (34A: "We're cleared for takeoff!"). Speaking of airplanes, jet lag is taking hold of me, so I'm gonna go now. IT'S A GO. Me going. To bed. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 2:34 AM  

Tough for me…because bad typing, misreads, and clues that ate up nanoseconds trying to parse (@Rex like the clue for SILK HATS). This would have been a fine Tuesday. That said, very clever, liked it.

Croce Solvers - Croce’s Freestyle #860 was on the easy side for a Croce (about 2 X Sat. NYT). Having recently rewatched the Seinfeld pilot was helpful. Good luck!

Lewis 5:48 AM  

My five favorite original clues from last week
(in order of appearance):

1. Motion propellers (4)
2. Focus of a get-rich-quick scheme? (5)(5)
3. Sessions of congress? (6)
4. Sharp point on a kite (5)
5. Shiny silver sticker? (4)


Son Volt 6:06 AM  

Cardinal sin of including two Greek letters in a small grid - and to make matters worse one is a convenient plural!

Never had a chance.


Joe Dipinto 6:56 AM  

A beehive is not a hairCUT, I don't think, it's a style. Everything is piled up and teased to skyscraper heights. Perhaps you would wear a "high-end" SILK HAT on top of it.

SouthsideJohnny 7:10 AM  

I saw the constructor’s name and suspected that I would be slightly off-wavelength today (which I was) but it’s Monday and that wasn’t much of a problem - the theme is a pretty neat trick, and it must have been a fair amount of effort to come up with the theme entries with the proper letter configurations. Nice change to have something a little different instead of plain vanilla to start off the week.

kitshef 7:16 AM  

Well, I was flat wrong yesterday. We did get an entertaining Monday puzzle to get us back on track. What makes this so good are the completely unforced theme entries and the consistency of the ‘connection’ process.

DeeJay 7:19 AM  

Well, I live in Connecticut, so this was special. It is a beautiful state and I am immune to the criticisms we get for being small and relatively minor on the national scale.

In fact, in Richard Russo's latest novel, he's got a character who says, "I've been to 14 states, 15 if you count Connecticut."

Cracked me up.

kitshef 7:20 AM  

Croce Freestyle 860 was pretty easy overall, though the last two squares (towards the middle of 16A) were tough for me.

Todd 7:22 AM  

Pick up the phone is a throwback to a time of actually answering machines connected to actual home phones. You could hear the message being recorded and pick up.

Anonymous 7:36 AM  

In the olden days of landlines and answering machines, you could yell "pick up the phone" and the person you called could hear it if they were around. Yes, I'm old.

Lewis 7:44 AM  

So, I liked the theme echo, seeing ICUT in HAIRCUT.

I liked ACE abutting TENNIS COURT, as well as EAT catty-corner to SPOON, and I’M OUT crossing SLEEP ON IT.

I also liked my weekly Monday trial, trying to guess the revealer before uncovering it and before even reading its clue, as it’s something I’m weak at. Today I tried so hard, parsing ICUT as “I SEE YOU TEE” (or TEA), among other things. I got nowhere, finally read the clue, and all became immediately clear, followed by a “Dang!” Then a pause, and then “Next time!”

And finally, “Brilliant!” Here’s a word – CONNECTICUT – so ripe for wordplay with that “connect” start, but has any crossword constructor ever made a theme of it? I don’t think so. Bravo, Sam, for plucking this one out of the ether, and figuring out such an ingenious way to make it work, by gradually bringing the four letters ICUT closer together in the theme answers.

Was this a lovely way to start the solving week? Oh, absofrICkinglUTely! Thank you, Sam – I love your puzzles!

pabloinnh 8:08 AM  

Started in the NW, per usual, and sailed down the West Coast arriving in CONNECTICUT which was not only unexpected geography but gave me the revealer before I had completed any themers, darn it. Oh well.

I was making notes in my "Please Dpn't Do That" column and I wound up with three, viz. AGASP, ABES, and SILKHATS so on the same page with OFL there.

Some good candidates for M&A's moo-cows today. I'd pick ___stick (toy) myself.

Any puzzle that contains the answer to "Will you love me forever?", which of course is "Let me SLEEPONIT." is aces with me.

Nice Monday, SE. Some gunky fill but the Skill Exhibited with the ICUT ploy was worth it, and thanks for all the fun.

Bob Mills 8:08 AM  

Thanks to Sam for calling attention to the most annoying aspect of contemporary life...being forced to talk to a vocal robot on the telephone. How much time do we waste every week because companies have replaced human beings with machinery? Does anyone benefit from this?

The clue for TENNISCOURT was very clever. Overall, a nice start to the week.

mmorgan 8:15 AM  

Not so easy going Downs-only for me. I got about half done and then — as all too usual — I had to look at some across clues. Then it was easy, of course. For a while, I thought we were supposed to sound out the circled letters, as “I see you tee” but that didn’t go anywhere. Nice Monday, and yes, as Rex said, something different.

bocamp 8:35 AM  

Thx, Sam; you definitely made the CUT today! 😊


By far my fastest downs only.

Very clever theme, which definitely helped the solve.

Always good to see ENYA and SIRI, both of whom I appreciate on a daily basis.

Enjoyed this adventure GALORE! :)

Thx @jae; on it! :)
Ty for the encouragement @Carola (5:58 PM yd); you're a FRIEND, indeed! 😊 Steve Mossberg's Sat. Stumper was definitely the toughest one yet (13 NYT Sats), but a most satisfying experience and result! πŸ‘

Balton & Stewart's NYT acrostic will have to wait, as Tim Croce's 860 is up next, followed by Anna Shechtman's New Yorker Mon. 🀞
Peace πŸ•Š πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness ~ Freudenfreude & a DAP to all πŸ‘Š πŸ™

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

Which is why I had hairDOS mucking up my grid for a while. Bad clue.

KateA 8:44 AM  

The puzzle reminded me of a state spelling test when my son was in elementary school. We had a song for Mississippi and he learned connect I cut, which worked well today.

RooMonster 8:51 AM  

Hey All !
C'mon, Rex, PLAY NICE.

I used to live in CONNECTICUT, and knowing that was the Constitution State, was wondering how in the world it could be a Revealer. Had some of the circled letters in some of the Themers, saw the circles started getting closer together, said, "Is it that you COMNECT "ICUT"?" And whaddyaknow, it was. Got a chuckle out of it.

Grid is 16 wide, we found the lost column from YesterPuz. So all is rebalanced in the world.
Also the clue for WISP that should've been in the SunPuz...

Fill was OK, considering the 5 Long Themers taking up plenty of real estate.

Alt clue for 51D, What is said to oneself when doing a crossword. 😁

Puz not CRAPPY. I wonder if Sam gets a bonus in his pay for having a puz in, or is it just part of the job. πŸ€”

Anyway, Happy Monday. Or whatever.

Three F's

Beezer 8:56 AM  

Breezy Monday puzzle. @Joe DiPinto brought up my only nit about a beehive NOT being a haircut, but rather a hairdo that can be achieved with many different lengths of hair. And yes, you can get “hits” if you search beehive haircut, but dang, there are SO many actual “haircuts” why throw that into the mix. I’m outraged, I tell you, OUTRAGED! πŸ˜‰

jberg 9:37 AM  

I did see it coming. Once I had circled ICUT twice, I asked what it could possibly mean, and thought, 'well, it's the end of Connecticut, but what does one do with that? Wait -- what do you get when you take the ICUT out? CONNCET!" It was so weird I didn't really think it could be right, but was happy when it was.

ITA is my granddaughter's name, so I was happy to see that. OTOH, I think expecting us to know the order of the Greek alphabet is a step too far.

I'll come back and read the comments after my music lesson, which starts soon and requires moving things around so I can play over Zoom.

Pete 9:38 AM  

You yell PICKUPTHEPHONE when you know that the person has a home voice mail system and no caller id and is screening calls to see who it is and you know that the person they're screening out is you but you feel obligated to try and make them pick up the phone anyway.

Not that this ever happened to me.

egsforbreakfast 9:38 AM  

Seems a bit odd that there would be an answer (HAIRCUT) that is not a themer but includes "ICUT". If I'm constructing this, I cut this one.

Welp, winter seems to be arriving, which makes me think back with longing to the lazy, hazy days of summer. The days when it's nICe oUTside and I eat spICy nUTs with rICh aUThors.

I may have misunderstood my research from yesterday on the CAP/NOCAP meaning, but I think if something is CAPpy, it's also CRAPPY. AAVE speakers, please advise me on this.

I haven't heard of many people who are ANTI TENNISCOURT, but boy-oh-boy is Pickleball a whole 'nother kettle of fish.

I see that ENYA made the transition from Sunday to Monday, but ANYA was left in the dust. Kenya believe it?

The repetitive circled letters made this an extraordinarily easy downs only solve, but I still thought it was original and quite enjoyable. It made the (I) CUT for me. Thanks, Sam Ezersky.

Carola 10:23 AM  

I thought it was great - seeing the possibilities in CONNECTICUT and then coming up with the four solid, grid-fitting phrases with the right letter spacing. I loved PICK UP THE PHONE and was almost rendered AGASP at the letter line-up in PLASTICUTENSIL (I'd noticed them coming together...thought maybe we were dealing with a deck of cards somehow).

I smiled at the explanations above about landlines and answering machines, not having thought about the fact that they're becoming unknown. We have both, and I only PICK UP THE PHONE if I hear the start of a message from someone I need or want to talk to.

@jberg - Hats off to you for seeing CONNECTICUT looming ahead.

@bocamp - Congratulations on subduing the Stumper!

Sir Hillary 10:30 AM  

Cute puzzle with a nice payoff in the revealer.

Parsing CONNECTICUT as such brought to mind a game I used to play with my nephews. I would hide state names and/or their capitals in sentence for them to find. Something like, To get the WiFi to reconnect, I cut the power to the router, but I flipped the wrong fuse because I couldn't find the schematic chart for doing it.

dragoo 10:33 AM  

@Son Volt

I'm not sure what the Haircut 100 tune has to do with your comment about the two Greek letters, but I'm so glad you posted it. I have a vague sense that I know this song (and the band) but I really can't say I remember the name. Very much reminds me of one of my favorite 80s bands, The Higsons. Thanks for the song

Gary Jugert 10:55 AM  

A rather ambitious Monday took much longer than usual. Working through the thicket made for lotsa fun. Theme isn't inspired, I {woulda} CUT it, but the fill kept me enchanted.

Tee-Hee: This was a CRAPPY puzzle.


1 Pro-Pickleball area.
2 President Lincoln's horrible play list.
3 Jersey cow's younger and more liberal cousin.
4 High tea.
5 Predecessor to a roughhouse fork.
6 Prepares for visit of a very naughty boy.


My Fascinating Crossword Uniclue Keepsake from Last Year: That weird section of classified ads they used to have in the back of the paper and is now probably online somewhere. LOVE TRIANGLES ON SALE.


bocamp 11:00 AM  

@Carola (10:23 AM) ty 😊
Peace πŸ•Š πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness ~ Freudenfreude & a DAP to all πŸ‘Š πŸ™

Nancy 11:02 AM  

It's always a pleasure to have a Monday that doesn't insult the solver's intelligence, but then Sam is a real pro. The biggest disappointment for me was already having TENNIS written in before I got to the delightful clue at 19A. Would have enjoyed figuring it out with no crosses at all.

I saw the revealer halfway through and then put in the rest of the ICUTs I hadn't yet done. It made the theme answers much easier, of course. But not until I'd finished did I realize that the tiny circles were getting progressively closer together and that ICUT was truly being CONNECTed.

One of those rare puzzles where I actually enjoyed the tiny little circles. And the puzzle was so nice that I didn't even mind the squooshed squares in the oversize grid. Between the circles and the squooshing, I had limited space to write my own letters. But sometimes you have to make demanding accommodations for a good puzzle:)

burtonkd 11:36 AM  

@dragoo, I don't think it was related. Just a play on the theme haIrCUT, if I may connect the dots...

johnk 11:57 AM  

I usually do Mondays by either solving the whole thing in my head or else by filling in only the margins and the two diagonals. I decided to print the puzzle out today, so the latter. Then I saw that the grid is 16x15, so I filled the margins and 2 sets of diagonals.
Yes, this was very easy, but a more interesting experience than most Mondays.

jberg 12:27 PM  

As Rex pointed out, any hat is "high end" unless you wear it while dangling from a trapeze -- but silk hats are certainly more expensive, so high end in that sense. And many top hats are indeed made of silk -- not that I've ever had one.

The clue for 1-A resembles the little letterplay puzzles that run alongside the crossword and the kenkens in the printed papers. I think they should stay out of the crossword, but I don't think they will.

Another thing that seems to be creeping into the crosswords is crap. I think they should get their sewer drain snaked out.

Teedmn 12:48 PM  

This was a CUTe puzzle today, thanks Sam Ezersky!

@Carola, from this weekend, I am in awe of your Stumper solve - it took me most of yesterday afternoon, pecking at it, despairing, putting it down again, despairing, finally getting a breakthrough at some point, can't remember where, and finishing with a sigh of relief. I had so much black ink on the paper, I'm surprised I could read anything in the NE. So your solve description as a single sitting, wow!

okanaganer 1:07 PM  

Also solving down clues only, the revealer was a pleasant surprise and luckily I didn't need the clue to get it. However a couple of unknown names -- which are dreaded at all times but more so when I don't have crossing words to help -- were annoying: LUIGI and IFILL. Somehow I finished with no error!

HOUSE WHIP and PLAY NICE were pretty tough to get. I wanted something like MR SPEAKER and OLD SAWS which didn't fit. And yes, HAIR CUT seemed really wrong at first. "What kind of hair cut are you going to get?" "Oh, probably clippers first and then scissors."

[Spelling Bee: Sun 0; last word this quaint 6er.]

Masked and Anonymous 1:10 PM  

Great to hear that @RP is safe, sound, and happy and well-electronically-equipped, in Colorado. He evidently snuck the planetrip in before things really got crazy at the airports.

Cut(e) albeit raised-by-wolves puztheme. ICUT? U wanna connect ICUT? Shouldn't it be I CUT? Or is ICUT somethin famous in computer terminology or Lord-of-the-Rings world or some such? What's so noteworthy about ICUT? Confuses the M&A. Just can't connect with it. But, hey -- any puz that serves up double-digit U's gets an automatic pass from m&e.

staff weeject picks: UNI & TES. Cuz they aptly can be connected … unlike ICUT.
fave moo-cow eazy-E MonPuz clue: {"Your wish ___ command"} = ISMY. FRIEND clue gets honrable mention, tho.

some faves: CRAPPY. HAIRCUT [extra I CUT holder, pre-connected in a reasonable final manner]. SILKHATS [I KAT holder]. ITSAGO + DIN GO.

Thanx for the laughs, Mr. Ezersky dude. Was ICUT maybe sorta like an ICARVE (turkey) reference?

Masked & Anonymo10Us


JDogNYC 1:41 PM  

I don't know why I struggled this much with a Monday. Just had trouble navigating to the parts that worked for me (which on Monday should be everywhere).

Agree with Rex that AGASP is weak, but especially coming from the constructor who doesn't allow AROAR (arguably more common than AGASP) on the Spelling Bee!!!!!!

Bob Mills 1:50 PM  

I had "party whip" before settling on HORSEWHIP. It's a faulty clue, because nobody is a whip for the House, only for the party he/she belongs to.

Don 3:27 PM  

A successful downs only solve today. Paying attention to the letters that were sprinkled in the crosses let me plug the gaps on multiculturalism and tennis court and really freed things up.
Downs Monday is a great way to get better at parsing words/phrases. And make use of the Monday archive in my app subscription. I'm back to mid 2017 and currently batting about .175, so trust me, it's not an exercise in ego boosting.

Anonymous 5:00 PM  

Frosty the Snowman is perhaps the most famous wearer of silk hats. Specifically the "old silk hat" the children found that must have held some magic.

dgd 6:08 PM  

It may be a bad clue, but I didn’t even notice, having h & r and c& t from the crosses. Can’t be plural as the clue says or. Maybe close enough for crosswords?

Anonymous 6:18 PM  

I live “next door “ in Rhode Island which is much smaller than even Connecticut so we get even more jokes. On trips some people even confuse Little Rhody with Long Island.
CT is a beautiful state but Rhode Island gets flooded in the summer by its residents looking for better beaches

dgd 6:30 PM  

Knew you would like the tennis themed clue/answer (19A).
For forty years I have had a habit of doing these across first so I enjoyed putting in tennis court with no crosses.

Anonymous 6:33 PM  

Apparently Shortz adores these letter play clues (1A), so you’re right; they are not going anywhere, at least as long as he is editor!

dgd 6:47 PM  

There are whips in the House and Senate so the word House or Senate is appended to the title of Majority or Minority Whip. So House Majority Whip Emmer ….
I think 11 down is close enough for crosswords. Remember, clues are hints, not full definitions, even on a Monday. He is a bigwig in the House after all.

Joe Dipinto 7:52 PM  

I immediately put in USA at 1-a, figuring the editors are so inexact they'd probably consider a frequently spoken abbreviation a "name".

Joe Dipinto 8:42 PM  

@dgd – for the editors the sparklingly witty "b" alliteration in the clue took precedence over reality.

jb129 10:28 AM  

This was in today's NYT (article on Will Shortz). I thought I'd pass it on - I don't know if it will happen here but if it does, it's certainly worth a try! Have fun, everyone :)

Easy: Monday and Tuesday


Intermediate: Wednesday and Sunday


Tricky: Thursday


Hard: Friday and Saturday


Anonymous 3:57 PM  

Got it with downs-only, so I enjoyed it. Otherwise I agree with Rex. No idea who/what FREIDAPINTO is until I was done and looked at the across clue

Anonymous 10:34 AM  

A few blemishes like PHIS but overall a nice little Monday puzzle.
Seasons Greeting to all.

spacecraft 11:29 AM  

ISMY "meh" showing? Okay, I get that the connection is being done one step at a time, in order from top to bottom, which is sort of impressive. But it's STILL basically four random letters that show up in order in four random entries with no relationship to each other. Another bunch of messy circles.

The revealer does tie in and relate, sure. The fill? Right away with 1-down I was groaning. HAIRCUT might be a bonus themer. DOD's GALORE: RENEE, ENYA--and don't forget Honor Blackman as Pussy GALORE!

Never heard the term HOUSEWHIP, but horsewhip is only one letter off. I'm going to PLAYNICE (it's Christmas here in Syndiland; hope you all got what you wanted) and give this one a par.

Wordle bogey.

Burma Shave 12:55 PM  


SNAGS GALORRE, you won't GO IT alone,


Merry Christmas to all SyndiCats

rondo 2:52 PM  

CONNECT ICUT. Hmmm. Probably of more interest if you live in NY or CT. For those of us in fly-over territory maybe not so relevant. PAYS to be in the corners.
Wordle bogey.

MERRY CHRISTMAS. A balmy 54 degrees in this part of MN!

Diana, LIW 4:52 PM  

Puzzle - A.

Theme - Cut! Take home and try again.

Can't make a SILKHAT out of a PLASTICUTENSIL. Or something like that. (no ears were harmed for that sentence)

Merry Christmas - don't SHOP - call a FRIEND instead!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

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