Secondary story, in TV lingo / MON 5-20-24 / Ogre with a donkey sidekick / Travel from Kauai to Maui to Oahu, say / mascot who must be a commanding officer / Fast-food icon who surely heads a brigade / Purple pop / Yucatán people of old

Monday, May 20, 2024

Constructor: Jack Scherban

Relative difficulty: Easy (solved Downs-only)

THEME: "YOU AND WHAT ARMY?" (49A: Unfazed response to a threat from 20-, 31- or 38-Across?) — non-military figures with military titles:

Theme answers:
  • SERGEANT PEPPER (20A: Beatles album character who apparently is an infantry leader)
  • CAPTAIN OBVIOUS (31A: mascot who must be a commanding officer)
  • COLONEL SANDERS (38A: Fast-food icon who surely heads a brigade)
Word of the Day: COLONEL SANDERS (38A) —

[no emails, please]
Colonel Harland David Sanders (September 9, 1890 – December 16, 1980) was an American businessman and founder of fast food chicken restaurant chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (also known as KFC). He later acted as the company's brand ambassador and symbol. His name and image are still symbols of the company.

Sanders held a number of jobs in his early life, such as steam engine stoker, insurance salesman, and filling station operator. He began selling fried chicken from his roadside restaurant in North Corbin, Kentucky, during the Great Depression. During that time, Sanders developed his "secret recipe" and his patented method of cooking chicken in a pressure fryer. Sanders recognized the potential of the restaurant franchising concept, and the first KFC franchise opened in South Salt Lake, Utah, in 1952. When his original restaurant closed, he devoted himself full-time to franchising his fried chicken throughout the country.

The company's rapid expansion across the United States and overseas became overwhelming for Sanders. In 1964, then 73 years old, he sold the company to a group of investors led by John Y. Brown Jr. and Jack C. Massey for $2 million ($19.6 million today). However, he retained control of operations in Canada, and he became a salaried brand ambassador for Kentucky Fried Chicken. In his later years, he became highly critical of the food served by KFC restaurants, believing they had cut costs and allowed quality to deteriorate. [...] 

Sanders was commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel in 1935 by Kentucky governor Ruby Laffoon. // Kentucky Colonel is the highest title of honor bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and is the best-known of a number of honorary colonelcies conferred by United States governors. A Kentucky Colonel Commission (the certificate) is awarded in the name of the Commonwealth by the governor of Kentucky to individuals with "Honorable" titular style recognition preceding the names of civilians aged 18 or over, for noteworthy accomplishments, contributions to civil society, remarkable deeds, or outstanding service to the community, state, or a nation. The Governor bestows the honorable title with a colonelcy commission, by issuance of letters patent. (wikipedia)
• • •

A few quibbles with this theme, which I otherwise loved, mostly for being completely bizarre. Firstly, the "Sgt." in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is not written out. It's definitively "Sgt." and only "Sgt." This is what I'd call "The Reverse DR. WHO Problem" (in that the "doctor" in DOCTOR WHO is always written out fully but crosswords seem to think it's OK to stylize it as DRWHO). Having SERGEANT written out fully here feels like some kind of violation. Further, it seems that "Sgt. Pepper" really was a military leader—that is, the dude in the photo used to represent him on the album was a real military leader, though James Melvin Babington seems to have been a Major General rather than a Sergeant. SERGEANT PEPPER does, technically, remain mythical. But other than that, I thought this theme was delightful. When I'd finished, the connection between revealer felt pretty tenuous, and ever after reading the clues, it still seems highly contrived, but its nutso hypothetical context is what makes it hilarious. The idea of any of these guys "threatening" you (or me, or anyone) is bizarre, but somehow, once you imagine it, the non-military impotence of these dudes with military monikers becomes absurd. Funny. CAPTAIN OBVIOUS is a great answer all on its own—I was actually happier (solving Downs-only) thinking it was just the general term one might hurl at someone saying something everyone already knows, but if you need it to be the guy, sure, whatever. The whole concept here feels bonkers, which is to say it feels genuinely risky, which is part of why I approve. Fake military dudes with phony credentials issuing idle and possibly drunk threats with no real possibility of violence in sight—this is my idea of a good Monday time.

As a Downs-only solve, this one was a breeze, and there were a couple of genuinely lovely and/or surprising Downs along the way, specifically B-PLOT (rare that you get a 5-letter answer that feels fresh) (and yes, it's a debut) (25D: Secondary story, in TV lingo) and ISLAND HOP (also a debut) (33D: Travel from Kauai to Maui to Oahu, say). My only hesitations when solving came at the tail ends of answers. For some reason, I pulled up short after GRAPE at 8D: Purple pop (GRAPE SODA) because I was picturing an ice pop / Otter Pop / popsicle-type pop and not the more obvious soda pop. Guessed right on the KEBAB spelling, which is always nice (though having SERGEANT PEPPER in place meant that one of the vowels was already sorted). I wasn't sure if the CHOY in "bok CHOY" was a CHOY or a CHOI, so I left it blank and thankfully S-ST clearly called for a "Y" and not an "I" (41A: The "S" of GPS: Abbr.). I thought the [Arizona city or county] might be MESA (?) so I left it blank at first pass. And then with VIDEO, for some reason the first thing in my head was VIDEO DISC (??) instead of the (again) more obvious answer, VIDEO TAPE (34D: Medium for old home movies). Oh, and I had GRABS before GRIPS ( 46D: Holds tightly on to). Otherwise, whoosh, no resistance, no trouble, definitely among the easier Downs-only experiences I've ever had.

What's the difference between MAYAS (59A: Yucatán people of old) and MAYANS? Is there one? MAYAS somehow looks weird to me. Like, I'd have called the people in question MAYANS or simply MAYA before calling them MAYAS, but what the hell do I know about ye olde Yucatán plurals? Seeing Mike MYERS in the grid made me laugh, as I was just recently telling someone my only good celebrity sighting story, which involved going to the Beverly Hills eatery Kate Mantilini after a performance of my sister's then-boyfriend's play, and in this seemingly ordinary-looking, maybe slightly fancy diner, which wasn't very crowded, there was Mike MYERS, in a Toronto Maple Leafs jacket, sitting at a booth with two other people, and there was someone I believe was the composer Marvin Hamlish (don't ask me how I knew what he looked like) and then later in the evening I noticed a couple leaving (or maybe they were coming in, I forget), and while the man was in the entryway, waiting for his date to come back from the bathroom, he started doing a little dance to the music that was on the radio, and that music was "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" by Culture Club, and that man was Jon Cryer. Of course, this all now feels like a fever dream, so if I have misidentified any of the people in question, I apologize, it was 1994, no one really knows What was happening in 1994. In fact, 1994 might actually have been 1993. Years were wobblier then.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


MexGirl 3:21 AM  

For what it’s worth, those of us native Spanish speakers call our ancestors MAYAS (and Incas and Aztecs and Mapuches and Tahinos and Olmecs, etc)

jae 4:25 AM  

Easy. No WOEs and illS before AILS was it for erasures. Reasonably smooth grid with some nice long downs and a goofy theme, liked it.

…and the years just keep getting wobblier, trust me!

Croce Solvers - Croce’s Freestyle #912 was again on the easy side for me. The toughest part was the NE. Good luck!

Conrad 6:06 AM  

Easy, breezy fun Monday for all the reasons OFL cited. Got hung up very briefly at 19D, K[a/E]B[A/o]B. I didn't recall immediately 24A, EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) even though it's in every food store I visit.

I wasn't solving downs-only, and I filled in the NW without reading many of the down clues. When I saw that 4D was ONE G I assumed the clue would be something along the lines of "Force that keeps us on earth," and was surprised that the clue involved a blood type, O NEG.

Bob Mills 6:19 AM  

Easy but enjoyable. Haven't heard the expression YOUANDWHATARMY in a long time, albeit I remember it as, "You and whose army?"

Nice start too the week.

SouthsideJohnny 6:30 AM  

Very easy, even for a Monday. The theme was cute - I enjoyed the fact that Rex enjoyed it. The only tough spot for me was the MAYAS crossing the TV character. I let the crosses take care of KEBAB.

I’m learning way more about yoga poses than I ever wanted to or thought I would know.

Anonymous 6:36 AM  

You say you solved downs only but had SERGEANT PEPPER in place - do you do the themers first, then the downs?

kitshef 6:39 AM  

Very easy; I had a puzzle rejected with CAPTAIN OBVIOUS in it, clued as "Master of the self-evident". I have no idea who the mascot is. I'm never quite sure of the spelling of SERGEANT, so happy to get that right first try.

Anonymous 6:39 AM  

But what’s the deal with the progression from ‘apparently’ to ‘must be’ to ‘surely’?

Brett 6:51 AM  

The plural form of Maya is not really the issue. The problem is the clue: “of old.” Thousands and thousands of Maya people live in Yucatán today. Referring to indigenous people as if they only existed in the past is a long-standing and serious problem that implies that contemporary indigenous people, and their issues, simply don’t exist.

Anonymous 7:05 AM  

No. As with many Acrosses, I inferred SERGEANT PEPPER from the letters I had in place. ~RP

JJK 7:14 AM  

I tried solving downs-only and got about 80% of the way through before I had to look at a few across clues. I confidently put in GRAPEnehi, dating myself I suppose, and since CAPTAINOBVIOUS was a name I really didn’t know because I can’t stand that guy so I’ve actively tried not to know his name, that was a difficulty. Also, I really think the clue for AILS is bad - “Troubles” here seemed to be a noun, and AILS is a verb. Right? So I wanted ilLS.

But other than that I enjoyed the puzzle and the downs-only thing was fun to seriously try but I don’t care too much about achieving that goal.

Wanderlust 7:15 AM  

No, he means that as he got most of the downs answers, it became OBVIOUS that the long across was SERGEANT PEPPER, and then he had the first vowel of KEBAB in place.

Wanderlust 7:19 AM  

Excellent point. There are still about 30 Mayan languages spoken in Mexico and Guatemala today.

Anonymous 7:24 AM  

Why is Orville Redenbacher’s picture attached to Colonel Sanders’ bio?

Max W. 7:28 AM  

I was wondering the same thing. Seems a touch arbitrary and was one of the few things that took this down a notch for me.

I also feel like I’ve heard “B STORY” more often than “B PLOT”

PH 7:29 AM  


Nice debut from Jack Scherban. Silly, fun theme. All recognizable and 14 letters long. Cap(tai)n Crunch would have been 13, so he didn't make the cut.

Some notable Kentucky Colonels: Ali, Arthur Ashe, Wayne Gretzky, Elvis, Ringo Starr, Johnny Depp, Bill Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II, Pope Benedict XVI. Wiki says the total # of inductees is around 350,000. So maybe not that amusing. I just like the idea of the Pope eating chicken from a KFC bucket on his lap.

Barry 7:30 AM  

Isn’t that a photo of Orville Redenbacher, the popcorn magnate, and not Colonel Sanders?

Lewis 7:51 AM  

Hah! A theme based on not only wordplay, but silliness as well. Not only a riddle to crack, but humor to amuse. That is, a treat!

And a debut. The constructor indicates that he is anxious to make more puzzles. That makes me happy, as I’m intrigued to see more from the mind that made this puzzle.

SERGEANT PEPPER thrust me back to the era when I must have listened to that album hundreds of times, each time fully involved and thrilled. What a gift to get right back into what it felt like to be me back then! The sensational CAPTAIN OBVIOUS and YOU AND WHAT ARMY buoyed, lifted the entire solving experience. The joke behind the theme – military people who aren’t military at all – so elegantly punch-lined in the reveal, elevated my fill-in from enjoyable to scintillating.

Congratulations on your debut, Jack. What a treat – thank you so much for making this!

Anonymous 7:52 AM  

Your picture is of Orville Redenbacher not Colonel Sanders!

Joe Dipinto 7:58 AM  

@Anon 7:39 -- I know, why didn't they all just use the same adverb? And why is said adverb italicized? Nice revealer, but marred by weird build-up clues.

Eater of Sole 8:08 AM  

Words are coming easily today. Personal best time for NYTXW, Dordle in 5, Quordle in 7. Maybe I'll try talking later.

pabloinnh 8:10 AM  

Well, aside from having my day completely ruined by seeing SERGEANT spelled out instead of abbreviated, I thought this was just delightful. Haven't heard YOUANDWHATARMY since I was a kid trading threats with other kids, my other favorite being "you'd better bring a lunch", when someone threatened to beat you up and you were assuring them that it would be an all day job.

OFL's fascination with celebrity sightings continues and reminds me of a Bob and Ray sketch with a grocery checkout clerk being interviewed and asked about all the famous people that he had seen. Eventually he remembers that he thought he saw a famous person once, but it turned out to be someone else. The absurdity of that faux interview reminded me of the absurdity of any of the theme guys having an actual army, so all good.

Very nice debut indeed, JS. Jump Started my day in a nice way, and serendipitous that you share a first name with my grandson who is about to turn two. Thanks for all the fun, and keep 'em coming.

Long Time First Time 8:12 AM  

CAPTAINOBVIOUS has been in the language for decades. Don’t see why the puzzle should shill for a company that co-opted it. There are other ways to clue that one. Otherwise 👍

Liveprof 8:15 AM  

On wobbliness, this limerick is by Garrison Keillor:

There once was a teacher named Didi
Who came home to her squeeze, and said Sweetie,
I'm so tired I'm wobbly
So pour me some Chablis
And don't be emotionally needy.

thfenn 8:15 AM  

Here's a BPLOT for you. If you were someone who RAKESITIN and went on an ISLANDHOP to various EDENS but SLEPT with the MAIDS you might want to SHRED the VIDEOTAPE. Fun Monday, for all the reasons Rex mentioned.

mmorgan 8:23 AM  

Yay — my first-ever, 100% complete Downs-Only solve! I’ve gotten close before but always had to check out a few Across clues. Yay, a wonderful feeling!

I originally had projector for 34D, but I guess that was for really old home movies! VIDEO TAPE was for the slightly newer ones.

I don’t really get the italicized parts of the theme clue but I never saw them while solving.

Cliff Francis 8:24 AM  

It's "You and whose army?" Always has been. Always will be. Period.

Trina 8:31 AM  

I too don’t get the “surely” “apparently” “must be” qualifiers…

Fun puzz!

Anonymous 8:36 AM  

Hmm. No comments about the photo attributed to Colonel Sanders is actually popcorn king Orville Redenbacher?!?

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

Hard to be both this wrong and this confident, congratulations

Georgia 8:44 AM  

HA, YES!!!

Anonymous 8:44 AM  

Isn’t a universal donor O Positive? How can the answer be O Neg?

Georgia 8:45 AM  

We said "what army."

Anonymous 8:46 AM  

Yes why is that?

Nancy 8:47 AM  

I hoped that the military titles -- hardly all that interesting in themselves -- would be justified by the revealer. So I spent my time trying to guess the revealer in advance. And I couldn't.

But my excuse is that I've never heard the expression YOU AND WHAT ARMY? I've only heard the expression YOU AND WHO ELSE? When YOU AND WHAT ARMY came in, I enjoyed the joke. The joke being, of course, that none of these characters leads a real army, not being real themselves. I found it quite an amusing revealer.

And now a word about CAPTAIN OBVIOUS.

He's a mascot for Why on earth would I ever want to stay at a hotel that boasts such a mascot? "You need fresh towels? It should be obvious where to find them." "You're looking for our dining room? It should be obvious what floor it's on." No, CAPTAIN OBVIOUS is the last hotel mascot I'd be looking for. I'd so much prefer...


I thought this was a breezy and enjoyable Monday puzzle. It was pretty easy -- but not insultingly so.

Anonymous 8:48 AM  

Isn’t the Universal DONOR O POS? Not Neg?

RooMonster 8:51 AM  

Hey All !
Quickie. And I was trying to slow it down. Quickie doesn't equate to a bad puz, though. This was good.

Could've tried to sneak in GENERAL ELECTRIC, although that doesn't bring a person to mind.

Hardly any junk, which is nice. Nice Long Downs. Only missing one thing. I'll let you figure it out, from what I track. 😁

Another Monday, dang, stop coming around so fast!

No F's (AINT a one)

Anonymous 8:52 AM  

Rex Parker is a fake phoney fraud, he claims that he solves these puzzles in record time with no help but actually googles for answers.

EasyEd 9:05 AM  

Fun and breezy puzzle. Filled in the themers from a few letters each. First thought YOUANDWHOelse, but the military context above led to immediate change. Have a friend who when younger loved to say YOUANDWHATARMY. May be regional variances—this from NY area.

Casarussell 9:10 AM  

Had "grapecola" instead of GRAPESODA, with "aca" and "stl" being plausible crosses (solving downs-only, of course). Couldn't find my mistake! Otherwise super breezy and fun Monday.

Sam 9:15 AM  

Agreed, easy even solved downs only

Chris 9:21 AM  

EBT? Had to look that one up after the fact. "Electronic benefit transfer is an electronic system that allows state welfare departments to issue benefits via a magnetically encoded payment card used in the United States. It reached nationwide operations in 2004." - Wikipedia

Gary Jugert 9:23 AM  

Please, where is HOA President? They're the real warriors. These other guys have armies.

I do love the phrase CAPTAIN OBVIOUS. I love fried chicken, but the COLONEL'S isn't my favorite. I've eschewed added sodium thanks to clogging arteries, so there's more PEPPER in my life now.

Propers: 6
Places: 3
Products: 5
Partials: 9
Foreignisms: 1
Gary's Grid Gunk Gauge: 24 (32%)


1 How an ogre craps out.
2 Redline rhyme.
3 Custodial staff protesting a shortage of gardening implements.


My Fascinating Crossword Uniclue Keepsake from Last Year: Local establishment offering warmed up fish that seems like it might be ready to turn. B-GAME SUSHI BAR.


Anonymous 9:24 AM  

Thanks so much for your this comment. Fascinating!

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

OFL is also a celebrity in certain circles.

Anonymous 10:01 AM  

Ya, first thing I noticed too!

Anonymous 10:08 AM  

Gene Vincent may call 19 Down a Kebabaloa

Masked and Anonymous 10:10 AM  

Clever theme idea, especially with that revealer. thUmbsUp.

staff weeject pick: EBT. A no-know, at our house.
fave moo-cow eazy-E MonPuz clue: No choice. Gotta go with:
{ mascot who must be a commanding officer} = CAPTAINOBVIOUS.

other fave stuff: SNAKEEYES & clue. RAKESITIN. WASNT next to AINT. ISLANDHOP. LABOR clue.

Thanx, Mr. Scherban dude. And congratz on a primo debut.

Masked & Anonymo3Us


Anonymous 10:11 AM  

Agreed. Thanks for the reminder

Beezer 10:29 AM  

I think this was a very nice Monday offering and agree with @Rex that the themers had an endearing wacky quality.

@Chris, I missed EBT as an entry because I must’ve not needed it but I will say it is one of the better things that technology mixed with plastic had to offer. No longer do people have to be embarrassed (not that they should’ve been) when they go to the grocery store and hand over “food stamps.”

@Gary J., I asked too late yesterday but what are “partials” in your gunk gauge?

GILL I. 10:32 AM  

A CHILI SHREK filled the AIR on ULNA ISLAND.....It came from ANTSY ALICE who does DAY LABOR with the MAIDS for the CAPTAIN of ULNA. She yelled "There's a SNAKE on the AIN'T OBVIOUS, but that SNAKE has an ARMY of EYES that PEEP at YOU when YOU RAKE the POD LEAVE!" "AND WHAT else AILS YOU, ALICE?" the CAPTAIN would AVER. ALAS, ALICE would SIT, all ASHEN, under the GRAPE tree and sip SODA. "This AIN'T the EDENS" she would AIR to no ONE.

ALICE would OBEY her CAPTAI, of course...He had GRIPS on her and the MAIDS who took care of the MEN OER the B PLOT. The MAIDS wold SHRED TSPS of EBT on the KEBABS so the MEN, MAY AS they be, could HOP during the DAY as they SLEPT at night.

ONE DAY, some SANDERS came to the ISLAND. The MEN spent all DAY with their WEDO and PEPPER SPRAY trying to RID THE ISLAND of the SNAKE with the ARMY of EYES. ALICE would SHRED some PAPER with PAM oil and ONE by ONE the MAIDS would HOP on their ESSES to SPRAY the AIR with PAPER WEDO. The COLONEL in charge of the SANDERS, would get out his LASSO and TIMER in case his MEN became SLO. THE MEN were SLO! The MAIDS took over the LABOR and an EMCEE from CCS came to VIDEO TAPE this GEM. A RAYE of hope for ALICE. She'd SOAR with a HOP....An ODE to ALICE! How OBVIOUS is THAT!

THE SNAKE with an ARMY of EYES was gone. YES!...even PUGS, the CHOY, would WAG his ASANA; THE MEN and the MAIDS were like ONE pea in a POD and ALICE finally SLEPT without AILS.

THE LABOR SERGEANT of the ISLAND of ULNA lifted the BARRE. An ODE is WHAT YOU and the OVIOUS ISLAND wanted to SERGE. What a GEM! Not a PEEP. SIT down. ISLAND EDENS in the AIR.....

The SYST works and that's NOLA.

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

For Purple pop, my thought process went straight to the Smurfs (showing my age), then realized they were blue (which confirmed my age!).
The word Mayan is an adjective; Maya is a noun. That cleared it up for me.

David Grenier 10:41 AM  

What I learned today: I have no idea how to spell SARGEANT? SEARGENT? SARJ…. Screw it, ol’ three stripes.

egsforbreakfast 10:50 AM  

Personally, I'd prefer a forceful "you bet" to a SNAKEEYES.

I tried baby sittin' fer a while, but found I prefer watchin' over garden tools. Yep, RAKESITIN' is my idea of a good job.

There's a long and fascinating history of senior army officers and the weird afflictions that have sent them to the emergency room. You can even read a book about one such cohort by I.M. Nosy called COLONELSANDERS.

Mrs. Egs and I use YOUANDWHATARMY on each other in a loving way all the time.

Fun Monday. Thanks and congrats, Jack Scherban.

Gary Jugert 10:56 AM  

@Beezer (yesterday)

Yes, I know we use PPP as an initialism from a former blog participant as product names, pop culture, and proper nouns. I think that's a fun and easy reference. As for me, there's more things gunking up grids and so my list is longer.

Proper names (mostly people): A lazy way of making a puzzle harder. If you know the actress in question, it's great. If you dont, it's gunk and if crosses are lousy, you're headed to Google.

Places: I am a geography fan, but again, county names in Delaware where a Home Depot is next to the Dairy Queen, most popular dish on an island nation with 17 permanent residents, fourth largest city in [pick your African country] are all poor ways to construct, clues this staff of editors will let slide, and handy ways to divide up the solving experience into fun or impossible.

Products: Song titles from the Baby Boomer era or from yesterday morning, video games or the company creating them, anything tennis shoes, it's all fun stuff, but again, we can't rely on this editorial crew to check crosses and so often you're staring at a clue or an answer with a specific cultural reference or a titan of industry you couldn't care less about who sold a gee gaw in 1978. It ruins a puzzle for me when they start to stack up.

Partials: The second you see [for short] in a clue, you know the constructors constructed themselves into a junk fest. It's inevitable (I'm assuming), but we see sooo many chopped off words, starts or ends of real words, initialisms, acronyms, cutesy elisions used in teenager slang, and at some point as they're stacking up in a grid, usually when the theme is burdening the fill, or even on weekends when long answers are so glittery we forget the nonsense created in the rest of the grid.

Foreignisms: How do you spell kabob? Does a word of Greek origin take an English plural? Did they force Latin on you in high school in 1950, or did you actually stay awake during your first year in law school so now that three letter part of a Latin legal concept makes you thrilled with the puzzle? Isn't it cool to learn the root of Cinn-a-bon comes from the Bantu language? Do Germans only have one word? ACH! Again, a little goes a loooong way when the crosses don't solve the puzzling for you.

As for 30%, in the last month we've seen great puzzles with high gunk counts because the rest of the puzzle was a delight. Saturday solvers are particularly eager to ignore the trash when the whooshy feeling of filling in grid spanners clouds their brains. We've seen at least one dreadful puzzle that the only thing we could admire was the clean grid. It appears about a third of most puzzles is regrettable gunk, so maybe it's the way of the world.

Trentiel 11:02 AM  

I must not be privy to the joke … Orville Redenbacher instead of Colonel Sanders, with the admonition of “no emails please”. Was Orville a Kentucky Colonel? Is he Sanders’ kid brother? Is this Sanders in witness protection? Enlighten me, please…

MexGirl 11:06 AM  

Exactly! 👍🏽

JC66 11:19 AM  

@JJK (7:14)

I'm sorry that troubles you so much.

old timer 11:26 AM  

This puzzle demonstrates how much I live in the past. 150 or 200 years ago, a colonel was in charge of a regiment, which he might have raised himself with the help of some recruiting SERGEANTs, though his Lieutenant Colonel might have been the one leading the regiment in the field. It seems that in today's Army a brigade is usually led by a full COLONEL, which is also counterintuitive. Surely a brigade ought to be led by a Brigadier (British) or Brigadier General (American), but that is no longer the case.

Oh well, at least the CO of an Army company is still a Captain (I think).

The puzzle was fun today, and if it was a bit OBVIOUS, it is a Monday.

johnk 11:49 AM  

Easily solved in my head.

Surprised to see Martha RAYE today, and with no Natick complaints. Hard to imagine that any of these youngish downs-only solvers ever heard of her. When I watched her show as a kid, my dad and I would end up on the floor laughing.

My old friend, the German filmmaker Sandra Nettelbeck, made a 2004 film titled "SERGEANT PEPPER" featuring a dog by that name, which was spelled out.

Chip B. 12:00 PM  

Looks like Orville to me, also.
O-Neg IS the universal Donor type. Google it for explanation.
I too, did not grasp the italics - surely, apparently, must. I was looking for a pun or a mis-spelling or something. They just emphasize the officer without troops image I guess.

Anoa Bob 12:00 PM  

I didn't see any kind of threat, as clued, in the non-military military figures, so the reveal seemed to be a disconnected "where did that come from?" non sequitur. I wonder if that was part of the B PLOT.

In the NYT online crossword site each clue for the theme entries not only had an italicized adverb in it but each one was also lifted slightly above the rest of the clue base line and it had a slight upward tilt. There must have been some reason for that but I never did figure how why.

In the 90s there was a group of us who made regular trips into Mexico and Central America on what we called our Explorando La Ruta Maya excursions. Although the Maya empire is no more and the ancient temples that we visited have been abandoned, yes, there are still plenty of Maya people around, especially in southern Mexico and Guatemala. I think the preferred designation for them is just MAYA but if you have a few spare ESSES laying around that you need to use, then MAYAS it is.

Anonymous 12:05 PM  

MAYAN is also a noun.

Gary Jugert 12:07 PM  

@Nancy 8:47 AM
I've spent time with DRINKS ON THE HOUSE HANNAH. She's very (very) fun, but phew, those free drinks end up costing a whole lot more than you'd think.

jberg 12:09 PM  

I loved the revealer, even though my friends and I all said "whose ARMY?" But it must be regional, because I see some commenters said WHAT. My only trouble was knowing CAPTAIN OBVIOUS, but not knowing he or she had become a mascot for a booking website. So I held off on putting it in until I had the O-V___S in place.

However, my old home movies are all on Super eight film, so I needed a bunch of crosses to see VIDEO TAPE.

Yet another instance of cluing an abbreviation with an acronym. In addition to being annoying, it's putting the answer in the clue.

I think that picture of Orville is Rex's idea of humor. Not sure it works this time. Or maybe it's a commentary on America's association of quality fast foods with small town life, I dunno.

I'm just saying... 12:17 PM by doing it "Downs-only," aren't you really missing the theme? I'm not a particularly speedy solver, so trying to do it as fast as possible also strikes me as ruining the experience...just my opinion.

Anonymous 1:17 PM  

To be a universal donor, one must have red blood cells that are unlikely to trigger an immune response from the person receiving them. Therefore, O is best (as it lacks A and B antigens) and Negative is best (as it lacks rh factor antigen)

Anonymous 1:23 PM  

The Neg or Pos describes whether a red blood cell has (Pos) or lacks (neg) an rh factor antigen on it. Some people will react poorly to the rh factor. Therefore Neg is needed to be a universal donor

Anonymous 1:30 PM  

Another Monday with a bland theme but a spot-on revealer. I say "another" because it reminded me of that other Monday puzzle where the theme was just song titles with fruit, with the revealer THAT'S MY JAM that worked so well (better than today's, IMO). But I still enjoyed uncovering "YOU AND WHAT ARMY?"

Beezer 1:36 PM  

@Gary J…thanks for the explanation! Yeah, I think @Z threw some things you mention into “pop culture” but it’s all good. I THINK that you and I agree that some history, geography, people, music, art, etc…can transcend “gunk” status, but do you include it anyway? Anyhoo…some of my puzzle enjoyment comes from learning new things (fondant!) and I know I tend to generally have a “low bar” compared to some folks for “gunk.” It’s kind of funny. @Nancy mentioned (either Sat or Sun) getting excited at long “white-space.” I tend to look and I imagine my face looking like a “deer in headlights” when I see a lot of grid spanners! I’m ALWAYS the person that thinks “I can’t solve this” when I see that, but have learned to have faith that I usually will eventually solve!

Anonymous 1:41 PM  

it is my understanding that a "downs only" solve actually takes longer, as it creates a challenge on the days there would otherwise be none. so it enhances the experience that would otherwise feel like, to some solvers, filling in a first grader's homework assignment. once the puzzle is finished, you still go back and see what it was that the long answers have in common, so nothing is missed :)

[for the record i haven't tried a downs only solve yet. i do try for speed on mondays because it makes it a little more fun for me. days later in the week i don't really care what my time is.]


Anonymous 1:45 PM  

re: orville redenbacher vs. colonel sanders -

rex tends to use images and songs that pop into his head while solving. things he's reminded of. they are almost never literal representations of clues or answers. it's especially fun when it's something your brain took the same detour on. so i felt this was no different, but knowing many would be like "hey, isn't that..." he also added the [funny, i thought!] caption :)


Lewis 2:01 PM  

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

1. What's needed to make bale? (3)
2. Brewer's implement (8)(3)
3. Very clear, as a stream (4)
4. Cross state lines? (6)
5. End of the line? (4)


Anonymous 2:03 PM  

Underneath Orville's picture is, "no emails please" I think it was intentional.

Anonymous 3:14 PM  

Gary Jurgert,
Delaware has all of three counties. It wouldn’t be much of an ask, Home Depot or not.

Anonymous 3:17 PM  

This is an anonymous response to anonymous insults from 8:52
1: Why do you read Rex if you think he is a fraud
2. 19 years of fraudulent behavior?
Only Trump would get away with that
3. Without any evidence you make a very nasty accusation, and piling on insults like a school yard bully, you do in fact sound like Trump.
Well done imitation.

dgd 3:28 PM  

Don’t know if Cliff Francis is exaggerating for effect, but the rebuttals should tell you that just because you haven’t heard and/or don’t like some expression, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
I have heard both. Never used either.

dgd 4:03 PM  

Anoa Bob
About the “threat “ issue.
What I see are 3 fake military titles.
Followed by a joke.
Of course there is no reference to a threat in the first 3 , but the joke is saying assuming the 3 fakes made it threat, what would be a funny response.
I don’t see any disconnect

Joe Dipinto 4:21 PM  

Sorry, this reply was intended for @Anon 6:39, not 7:39

Nancy 5:47 PM  

@Gary J (10:56)-- Wonderful comment today! I agree with every single one of your definitions of "gunk" and hate all those things that you hate too, with only one exception* -- even though I'm someone whose brain "can get clouded by white space" as it did very, very recently.

I laughed out loud at your Germans/ACH comment.

*The one exception? I really have nothing at all against tennis shoes.

Anoa Bob 6:32 PM  

@dgd, This comes up occasionally for me and your comment hit that nail right on the head. What I'm talking about is when a reveal asks the solver to make an assumption, in your words "...assuming the 3 fakes made it threat...". We are expected to add some missing information, today by assuming that there is some kind of "threat" somewhere in the theme entries or their clues in order for the theme and revealer to make sense. For me that's always a major demerit for the puzzle.

I can't help but wondering if that "threat" angle was an editorial decision and if the constructor's original clue for the reveal wasn't something highlighting the fact that not only are the military titles fake but that those people don't even have any military at all. I think a clue along those lines would work for YOU AND WHAT ARMY.

This is just a personal preference, that the puzzle do all the work and not expect the solver to add missing elements, and obviously lots of solvers either don't mind or even like that sort of thing. Does that mean I'm lazy? [no emails, please]

CDilly52 6:41 PM  

My one and only real nit today is that the phrase is YOU AND WHose ARMY, but since it’s a marquee answer that acts as the cherry on top of the Monday sundae, I forgive it entirely. That’s why they call it a nit.

This theme was cleverly conceived and executed with legitimate wackiness. I got the first theme answer (agree, by the by with OFL that this SERGEANT is always and forever will be a “Sgt.,” but again, a nit,) and thought possibly a Beatles theme. I was delighted that it was some creative silliness instead that well and truly befits a Monday.

My only small slowdown was sussing out ISLAND HOP. I don’t solve downs only or across only for that matter, but today I was all the way down to the YOU AND WH and continued with WHose when I realized that I was out of squares. Checked in with some downs and finished in near record Monday time, according to the app (I don’t keep time either).

Really solid Monday. Liked it.

Trentiel 7:09 PM  

Re: Orville Redenbacher …

Okay, now I get it. It is a POP CULTURE reference!

Wipe Out Hate 7:13 PM  

Pretty sure the picture of Orville Clarence Redenbacher next to COLONEL SANDERS was meant as some sort of dead white male joke. Hilarious. Can’t wait until RP posts a picture of Bessie Smith next time ELLA is clued as Jazz Singer Fitzgerald.

Anonymous 9:18 PM  

Wipe out hate
There is no evidence that Rex intended a joke here, although he may have.
On the one hand we have of 2 commercial brand symbols, that are not even photos, with Sanders rendered as a Civil War Confederate colonel and Orville presented as a 19 th Century businessman. Don’t know much about Orville, but for most of the history of KFC Sanders has been just that, a commercial mark. He even complained about what happened after the sale.
On the other hand 2 famous Black Americans, a group, who unlike white men have been repeatedly told, by white Americans throughout the history of this country, with insult intended, that they all look alike.
Saying that making a joke about the 2 brand symbols is the same as insulting Bessie Smith and Ella Fitzgerald is a perfect example of a false analogy.

Karl Kline 9:56 PM  

Oh em gee. That brush-with-fame story was hilarious. Thanks for the laugh!

kitshef 11:07 PM  

Croce Freestyle 912 was easy overall, but I did finish with one error at 24D/27A cross. Had three reasonable guesses for 24D and picked wrong.

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