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Constructor: Ruth Bloomfield Margolin

Relative difficulty: Medium (10:26)


THEME: "Buzz Cut" — I don't really understand the title, but the theme premise is that voiced "S" (i.e. "Z") sounds at the ends of phrases (most of them plurals) are rewritten as if they are just the regular hissing "S" sounds, which entails all new words and spellings and, if you're lucky, wackiness and hilarity:

Theme answers:
  • JURY OF YOUR PIERCE (23A: Facebook friends weighing in on the new belly button ring?)
  • TWO-PIECE IN A POD (44A: L'eggs brand bikini?) (LOL this is gonna need so much explanation to someone who has no idea what the L'eggs egg is, i.e. most people under 40???) ("Though the L'eggs egg became integral to the brand and their marketing and advertising, in 1991 Hanes ceased packaging the hosiery in the hard plastic containers, as the plastic eggs were seen as an example of wastefulness."—wikipedia) (looks like they brought the eggs back for a limited time in 2014 as part of some promotion)
  • HISS AND HEARSE (70A: Final scene of "Antony and Cleopatra"?) (there was a "hearse" in that play?)
  • DOWN ON ALL FORCE (96A: Like a confirmed peacenik?)
  • CAN'T BELIEVE MY ICE (120A: "Our driveway has been incredibly slippery since the storm!"?) (this phrase is very weird without the subject, "I")
  • TELL ME NO LICE (16D: Parent's fervent prayer to the school nurse?)
  • WARM AND FUSSY (64D: Like a sick baby?)
Word of the Day: MASER (60D: Atomic clock timekeeper) —
noun
  1. a device using the stimulated emission of radiation by excited atoms to amplify or generate coherent monochromatic electromagnetic radiation in the microwave range. (google)
• • •

ILRE *and* ORLE in the same damn grid? To say nothing of all the other klassic krosswordese in this thing: MASSIF, NEY, AMAHL, ALIG, ARTIE, ANYA, TENTER (?), TEENER ... I mean, there's the tell: if you think TEENER is a word, then your frame of reference is a good half-century out of date. Also, if you think L'eggs still come in a plastic egg (i.e. "pod"), which hasn't been true for 28 years, this puzzle will be right up your alley. Otherwise, yikes. There are some more modern things here (E-SPORTS, The BIEB) but mostly this puzzle was *aggressively* dated. Again, we aren't talking about some stray answers—we're talking about a strong, persistent, overall vibe. This puzzle is only for people who have been doing puzzles forever, and particularly for those who cut their teeth in a much earlier, much stodgier era. This puzzle might have been fine in the '80s, but today it feels exclusionary. Only for the cognoscenti, the longtime, inveterate solvers, the Maleskavites among us. I myself am a former Maleskavite. I left the Party after Maleska's death and, after a brief flirtation w/ Shortzianism in the late '90s / early '00s, found myself firmly in the neo-Tausigian camp (if you don't know what that means, then you don't subscribe to the American Values Club Crossword (AVCX), and, honestly, why is that? You should change that.). Seriously, though, ILRE is the worst thing I've ever seen in a grid, ever (well, worst thing that wasn't absolute sexist / racist garbage). And crossing ADLER and a weirdly "?"-clued REHAB, oof and woof and ouch. My printed-out grid is just a lot of angry ink in that section.

Massive Attack - Protection - YouTube

It's a piercing, not a PIERCE, so that first themer is rough, but I do like the effort. It's really trying to be clever and current. I actually don't mind the theme that much. I didn't really grok the premise very clearly as I was solving, but in retrospect, it's executed pretty cleanly and consistently, and the resulting themers aren't totally unfunny, as change-a-sound puns often are (that is ... they are, often, unfunny ... and here they aren't ... that is, they are ... funny). I made pretty good time, but then I know ORLE, which will not be true of most solvers. Well, of most younger / newer solvers. Can't much more obscure than heraldic terminology. What's next, GULES? (no, seriously, that's a thing—trust me, I'm a medievalist!). Weirdly, the very very hardest part of the grid for me, the very last part I finished, was the section in and around MASSIF. Biggest problem (besides not really knowing MASSIF) was that I could not, for the life of me, parse "I MIGHT" (45D: "It depends on my schedule"). That stuff about a "schedule" had me thinking the answer would be some much more specific phrase, and when I got "IM-" I thought it was "I'M... something." Didn't trust RIBMEAT, didn't trust GRANNIE (-IE??? not -Y?), and didn't even get HISS AND HEARSE at all. HISS part was all screwed up because of the MASSIF section, and the HEARSE part was all screwed up because what in the world is MASER?!?!?!? (60D: Atomic clock timekeeper). Apparently this is the fourth time it's been in a puzzle in the Rex Parker era (i.e. since '06), and somehow I've never bothered to look it up. So now it's my Word of the Day. You're welcome.

$teven Cannon, Lil Xan - I Might (Official Video) - YouTube

Someone should now do an inversion of this theme, with answers like BRUISE LEE (see 112A: Actor with a famous side kick). What does "Buzz Cut" mean? Nothing is "cut." There's no such thing as a "bus cut." I'm so lost. Oh well, it's not the first time. Hope you enjoyed this more than I did.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]
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Constructor: Paolo Pasco

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (6:21)


THEME: none

Word of the Day: Howard ASHMAN (54A: "The Little Mermaid" lyricist Howard) —
Howard Elliott Ashman (May 17, 1950 – March 14, 1991) was an American playwright and lyricist. He collaborated with Alan Menken on several works and is most widely known for several animated feature films for Disney, for which Ashman wrote the lyrics and Menken composed the music. Ashman and Menken began their collaboration with the musical God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1979), for which Ashman directed and wrote both book and lyrics. Their next musical, Little Shop of Horrors (1982) for which Ashman again directed and wrote both book and lyrics, became a long-running success and led to a 1986 feature film. The partnership's first Disney film was The Little Mermaid (1989), followed by Beauty and the Beast (1991). After his death, some of Ashman's songs were included in another Disney film, Aladdin (1992). [...] On the night of the 62nd Academy Awards, Ashman told Menken that they needed to talk when they got back to New York, where he revealed to Menken that he was HIV positive. He had been diagnosed in 1988, midway through the making of The Little Mermaid. During the making of Beauty and the Beast, the Disney animators were flown to work with Ashman at his home in Fishkill, New York. There they discovered that he was seriously ill. He grew weaker but he remained productive and continued to write songs. After the first screening for Beauty and the Beast on March 10, 1991, the animators visited Ashman in the hospital. He weighed 80 pounds, had lost his sight, and could barely speak. The animators and producer Don Hahn told him that the film was incredibly well received by the press. On the early morning of March 14, Ashman, age 40, died from complications from AIDS, in New York City. Beauty and the Beast is dedicated "To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman 1950–1991." Ashman was survived by his partner Bill Lauch, his sister Sarah Ashman-Gillespie, and his mother Shirley Thelma Glass. He is buried in Oheb Shalom Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well this was probably my least favorite Paolo Pasco puzzle ever, and I really liked it—just to give you some sense of how far beyond most constructors this kid is (he's my daughter's age, I get to call him "kid"). ONALEASH was a little wobbly and RATA and ENE, bleh, and who the hell says "DASH IT!" and I just personally hate the phrase "drop TROU" (not the puzzle's fault, exactly) and I have never seen GLADHAND (57A: Insincere welcome) as a noun (as a verb, yes, and GLADHANDer, yes), and ASHMAN strikes me as pretty obscure (only his second appearance of the millennium, and the center stack, though very solid, is not exactly scintillating, and (saving worst for last) ILIADS, plural, dear lord no, the dictionary has betrayed you! (34D: Epic narratives). OK, so on one side there's all that, but on the other side, everything else was delightful and current and smooth and occasionally EDGY, drawing from all over the knowledge spectrum, and some of the clues were so great (don't know if they were Paolo's or the editor's, and I don't care—just glad they made their way to me). Stupid fun clue on DELIS (20A: Establishments whose products might be described by this answer + H), interesting and original clue on NON (56D: Prefix with binary), and great deception all over, including [Push-ups, e.g.] for LINGERIE and [Off in biblical lands?] for SMITE. Honestly, this thing had me at CHRISTIAN MINGLE (8D: Website relative of JDate)—finally, a reason for having suffered through those TV ads so many times. What show was I even watching when the CHRISTIAN MINGLE onslaught happened? I don't remember. But this payoff is sweet.

The Little Mermaid - Under the Sea - YouTube

I was cruising—absolutely shredding this thing in the NW and then down through CHRISTIAN MINGLE—but those three central Acrosses just wouldn't budge. I had the vast majority of all of them filled in before even one of them fell. I'm embarrassed that HAWAIIANSHIRT took so long (33A: Top of a Pacific island chain), but CATE BLANCHETT ... I'm not even sure what movie she won the Oscar for (36A: Only person to win an Oscar for playing an Oscar-winning actress). I thought she won for "Blue Jasmine"? She played an Oscar-winning actress in that? I never saw it. Whoops, nope, she played Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn in "The Aviator," and won Best Supporting Actress for that (she won plain old Best Actress for "Blue Jasmine"). Well, at least I know this trivia for future use now. As for MICHELIN GUIDE, I had considered at least two other kinds of "stars" for the frame of reference (movie, outer space), but neither one was any help (37A: Book of stars?). I didn't get hung up, but I definitely had to labor my way through the middle. And finally the SW was really threatening to sink me for a bit. MIDRASH / MIDROSH??? Couldn't decide, and that vowel is the first letter in ASHMAN, which I didn't know at all. In the end, OSHMAN seemed far less like a name, so "A" won. STOPGO was hard (59A: Congested, in a way). I had STUFFY at first. So I ended up with a good but not great time on this good if not great puzzle.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]
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Constructor: Stanley Newman

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (6:43)


THEME: QUEEN VICTORIA (35A: So-called "Grandmother of Europe," born 5/24/1819) — actually it's a themeless with this commemorative answers just plunked in the center

Word of the Day: LANDAU (2D: Horse-drawn four-wheeled carriage) —
landau is a coachbuilding term for a type of four-wheeled, convertible carriage. It was a city carriage of luxury type. The low shell of the landau made for maximum visibility of the occupants and their clothing, a feature that makes a landau still a popular choice for the Lords Mayors of certain cities in the United Kingdom on ceremonial occasions. (wikipedia)
• • •

This??? This is your Queen Victoria's 200th birthday tribute puzzle? Just ... her name? Look, do a damn tribute or don't do a tribute, but this half-assed half-themed junk has got to go. I kept looking around for Victorian material. Kept thinking there was some theme building that I just couldn't see. Seriously, when I got to the cross-reference clue at 65A: Some descendants of 62-Across (MEXICANS) I briefly thought "... MEXICANS are descended from QUEEN VICTORIA???" But no. "Grandmother of Europe," ugh, why are we "honoring" her? Was the idea ... what was the idea? Just put her name in the middle and then build a very old-fashioned, very old, kinda mediocre themeless around her? LINDY in a LANDAU, that's what this thing was. For the NONCE. It's painfully hoary, and could not have been more off my wavelength if it tried. This was some classic Maleska-era stuff, complete with your classic crosswordese (ÉTÉ! ODIE! LANDAU!!) and your almost exclusively olde-tymey frame of reference. Who the hell is Manchester, the WRITER (24D: London or Manchester). That clue killed me, and kept me from accessing the NE in a way that had me wondering if I was even going to finish. Satan is The DEUCE!?!? LOL, when? Who? Woof.

Melissa Manchester - Don't cry out loud - YouTube

But seriously, Manchester? There is a guy I found named that, and he wrote books, but I would submit to you that he is not not not famous enough. Which is why I'm not naming him—I think I must be overlooking someone. But I can't figure out who. [Do so hope]??? I just stared at that going "what does that ... even mean? When would you say that????" The phrasing ... so archaic and forced and sad. Why is an EDGER [Tool used while on foot]??? You might use any tool while on foot. Why would *that* be your clue? The cluing here is perverse in stupid ways—designed to make things hard, no doubt, but mostly just off. If you're gonna go hard, you better be on. And this thing is off fro stem to stern.

YOU SHOULD HEAR HOW SHE TALKS ABOUT YOU | Melissa Manchester 1982 Audio Enhanced - YouTube

OK, since no one has offered a better explanation, it looks like the Manchester in question is William Manchester, a historian and biographer (!?!?) that I've never ever heard of. The idea that you think he is an iconic WRITER on the level of Jack London (or Jack Vance or even Jack LaLanne) is hilarious. Did you really want your English city "joke" so bad, So Bad, that you went with William (??) Manchester!? Every idea this puzzle has about being "difficult" is actually bad. It's sour. It's off. EMAILS are not a "cause" of flooding. They are the substance. Whoever's sending them is the cause. Some bot or spammer or whatever. Or, just, all the people who (still) email you for some reason. (Thanks to my friend Helen for pointing out that particular cluing infelicity). Also, EMAILS with an "S," ugh. Grating. I felt guilty getting ABRAM instantly. I Don't Even Know Whose Middle Name That Is, but I've done enough crosswords to know that it's a [Presidential middle name], ugh. I also felt guilty at having the entire arsenal of carriage lingo at my fingertips thanks to decades of doing dated puzzles. LANDAU! (ask me about the SURREY, the HANSOM, the TROIKA, etc.)

The Midnight Special More 1974 - 11 - Melissa Manchester - Midnight Blue - YouTube

Had KEPT TO for HELD TO (9D: Didn't stray from), AMASS for HOARD (9A: Stockpile), AMENS (?) for SMARM (21A: Unctuous utterances) (had the "M" from ST. ELMO, my first answer in the grid). No idea who Jamie DORNAN is (45D: Jamie ___, co-star in the "Fifty Shades of Grey" movie). Please stop putting TEC in puzzles, as I can assure you, as someone who studies and teaches crime fiction, it's a non-thing. No one says that. Even re: Spade. At least indicate its datedness, its bygoneness, whatever. Quit passing it off as an ordinary slang term. It isn't.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]
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Constructor: Alex Vratsanos

Relative difficulty: Easy (5:35)


THEME: Belaboring the point — actually FOURTEEN POINTS (59A: With 61-Across, what President Wilson proposed for a lasting peace ... or what's missing from the starred clues): well there are literally fourteen answers here for which you have to mentally supply "point" as the second word in order for them to make sense:

Theme answers:
  1. PIN
  2. NEEDLE
  3. PLOT
  4. PRESSURE
  5. TIPPING
  6. BALL
  7. STAND
  8. EXTRA
  9. POWER
  10. GRADE
  11. BROWNIE
  12. DATA 
  13. WEST
  14. SET
Word of the Day: Sarah ORNE Jewett (40D: Author Sarah ___ Jewett) —
Sarah Orne Jewett (September 3, 1849 – June 24, 1909) was an American novelistshort storywriter and poet, best known for her local color works set along or near the southern seacoast of Maine. Jewett is recognized as an important practitioner of American literary regionalism.

• • •

This was easy and the theme was incredibly dense, so people will be aglow from personal success and perhaps impressed by the technical achievement. These are wrong and bad feelings and you should throw them out the window because this puzzle was tedious and "theme density" is not not not, in and of itself, a good quality. It is often, as it was today, a punishing quality, as it compromises the quality of the overall fill and, if the theme is relentlessly the Same, just pummels you with its repetitiveness over and over and over. I will say that, given the theme density, the fill could've been much worse. But there I go, making excuses for CLU and ORNE etc. I should not have to do that. You wanna go dense, that grid better hold. Full stop. End of sentence. There are a few nice answers here, like CHEAT DAY (a phrase I despise, personally, but an original phrase nonetheless) and GUT PUNCH, but overall the grid is (again) choppy and the short stuff is (again) stultifying. Once I got the "point" I just went on a "point" scavenger hunt, which, let me tell you, is the saddest scavenger hunt that ever was. Point Point Point Point Point Point Point Point Point Point Point Point Point Point. Uncle! A lot of something is not a good something.

Destroyer - A Dangerous Woman Up To A Point - YouTube

I knew ORNE and CLU and ASTA (sorry for those of you not well versed in the pantheon of crosswordese) but O'GRADY, hoo boy, what? I do not have a clue who this [Sweet Rosie of old song] is. I'm guessing we're talking very, very old song. Wow, yeah, looks like late 19th century. There are barbershop quartet versions. Here's a Bing version.

Sweet Rosie O' Grady(Read NOTE Below!!) by Bing Crosby on 1961 WB LP. - YouTube

Gail O'GRADY was great on "NYPD Blue" and is still working. Just FYI. I have no idea what the clue on SWAGS means. Swag curtains? And they're called SWAGS? This "word" has appeared just once in The Entire Time I've Been Blogging (i.e. since Sep. '06). In 2010 it was clued as [Festoons], so clearly even in Crossworld there's no agreement about what the hell this thing means, so let's banish it to wherever it came from for another nine years at least. I thought the GORES might be the DOLES, which share 3/5 of the GORES' letters, so that was odd. I had the "C" and put [Homer's home] down as ITHACA, for reasons (not good ones, but sorta kinda understandable ones). Seth ROGEN appears a number of times in the new Wu Tang Clan documentary on Showtime, which I'm very much enjoying. (WUTANGCLAN has appeared once in the NYTXW, WU-TANG no times; since they are frequently colloquially referred to as just WU-TANG, please add WU-TANG to your word lists and unleash it at will, thanks).

Wu Tang Clan - Protect Ya Neck - YouTube

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]
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Constructor: Alex Eaton-Salners

Relative difficulty: Easy (3:32)


THEME: "one for the money etc." — I guess this is a counting rhyme? I know it only as the opening to "Blue Suede Shoes"; anyway, the theme clues are "One for the money" "Two for the show" "Three to get ready" and "Four to go" (not "Go cat go," sadly):

Theme answers:
  • LEATHER WALLET (19A: One for the money)
  • BROADWAY TICKETS (24A: Two for the show)
  • STOP DROP AND ROLL (43A: Three to get ready)
  • ALL-WHEEL DRIVE (50: Four to go)
Word of the Day: WAVESKI (9D: Surfboard/kayak hybrid) —
Noun
  1. Short water craft seating one rider, propelled by a two-ended paddle, designed for surfing waves. (yourdictionary.com) (I wanted to use wikipedia, but the entry was "written like an advertisement")
• • •

This is an "F" right out of the gate. Well, not right out ... but once you get to that third themer, yeah, fail. How did STOP DROP AND ROLL get by the constructor himself, the editor, proofreaders, etc. Already a bunch of solvers are remarking publicly on how it doesn't work. We saw it instantly—how do the people making these things not see it? The *&$^ing complacency of this old boys' network, I swear to *&$^! Hey, fellas, you have confused STOP DROP AND ROLL (which you do after you are already on fire) with DUCK AND COVER, which is what you do "to get ready" for, let's say, a nuclear attack.

Duck And Cover (1951) Bert The Turtle - YouTube

So the theme is DOA. There's not much reason to go on about it, but I will say it's not that interesting to begin with, in that it puts all the theme "interest" in the clue, and the answers just end up being pretty tortured examples. The LEATHER in LEATHER WALLET is a million percent arbitrary. And then the grid today, again, is just chop chop choppy, with lots of unfortunate short stuff, and almost nothing of note in the longer answers. The one answer that actually *tries* to be of note is WAVESKI, which is ... I don't know. Not interesting to me at all. Not even known to me. If you want to be original, why not do it ... in some more satisfying way. "Oh, some arcane 'sport' ... how fun!" Bleh.

Elvis Presley - Blue Suede Shoes ('68 Comeback Special 50th Anniversary HD Remaster) - YouTube

IN IT, CAB IT, RAP AT, OCTANT ... where is the good here? The NYT's themed puzzles really, really should not be this miserably mediocre. LAI BAHAI KAUAI goodbye.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]
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    Constructor: Evan Kalish

    Relative difficulty: Medium (3:52)


    THEME: CHANGES THE WORLD (35A: Has a huge impact ... or a hint to this puzzle's circled letters) — two-word phrases contain letter strings (circled squares) that are anagrams of planets, which I guess we're calling "worlds" now. Anyway, "CHANGES" = anagram, "THE WORLD" = one of the planets:

    Theme answers:
    • "IGNORE THAT!" (Earth) (17A: "Oh, it's nothing to concern yourself with")
    • LEAVES UNSAID (Venus) (23A: Omits mention of)
    • ARMY RECRUITS (Mercury) (47A: Ones with private ambitions?)
    • BONUS TRACK ((Saturn) 57A: Extra song on an album) 
    Word of the Day: GRIEG (14A: "Peer Gynt" composer) —
    Edvard Hagerup Grieg (Norwegian pronunciation: [ˈɛdvɑɖ ˈhɑːɡərʉp ˈɡrɪɡː]; 15 June 1843 – 4 September 1907) was a Norwegian composer and pianist. He is widely considered one of the leading Romantic era composers, and his music is part of the standard classical repertoire worldwide. His use and development of Norwegian folk music in his own compositions brought the music of Norway to international consciousness, as well as helping to develop a national identity, much as Jean Sibelius and Bedřich Smetana did in Finland and Bohemia, respectively.
    Grieg is the most celebrated person from the city of Bergen, with numerous statues depicting his image, and many cultural entities named after him: the city's largest concert building (Grieg Hall), its most advanced music school (Grieg Academy) and its professional choir (Edvard Grieg Kor). The Edvard Grieg Museum at Grieg's former home, Troldhaugen, is dedicated to his legacy. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    This was an unpleasant solve. There was simply no joy anywhere. The theme answers were blah, the theme was a let-down ("WORLD" as a synonym for "planet" = disappointing / off). And the fill, yeesh. A 78-worder where 65 (!?) of the answers are five letters long Or Shorter!?!?! That's 65 of 73 non-themers! So choppy, so relentlessly crosswordy. And with no real interest in the actual themers, or even in the few "longer" non-theme answers, this one was just a slog. People seem to be finding it easy (perhaps *because* of all the short stuff), but it was a grind for me. Choppy grids really slow me down, and I wasn't only this puzzle's wavelength At All with regard to Anything. From 3D: Let secrets out (SING), and over and over again, I just couldn't lock on to the cluer's sense of cluing. Had ANTS for MICE (26D: Little scurriers), couldn't get DYE at all (41A: Red 40 or Yellow 6), and so I couldn't get SYNC at all either until I got that terminal "C" (37D: Match up). Struggled to make sense of most of the themers. Really wanted CHANGES THE GAME for the revealer but it wouldn't fit. Had to make up the phrase "IGNORE THAT!", which seems about as strong as "IGNORE THIS!" (i.e. not strong). LEAVES UNSAID is not exactly sparkling. The whole SW was a nightmare for me because I had no idea what kind of RECRUITS these were, and my first pass at the answers in that section yielded almost nothing. It's trying to be repeatedly colloquial, in a very tiny area, which made things dicey. "WHO ME?" crossing "AW, MAN" crossing a "?"-clued GYM RAT? I mean, we're not talking Saturday-level difficulty here, but for a Tuesday, I was very very slow through here. In the end, it's a weakish theme with an incredibly tepid grid. I felt run down by the EEK ATIT URSA UAE IDA ERIE onslaught—no one answer particularly terrible, but en masse, ouch.

    Stevie Wonder - Saturn - YouTube

    Not sure why GYM RAT even had a "?" clue, given that its clue was pretty literal (43D: One doing heavy lifting, informally?). I get that "doing heavy lifting" is a metaphorical phrase that is being used literally here, but ... literal is literal is literal. "?" clues should really yank you off of the expected path. This one did not. TDPASS was hard for me to parse, but it's clear I didn't really read the clue while solving (10D: Six-point accomplishment for a QB). I just kept expecting those letters to arrange themselves into something familiar, but because they looked insane (starts "T" ends "-ASS"??), I had to keep filling in crosses. The answer that most irked me though, both because it cost me time and because the clue was just wrong (actually, it cost me time because the clue was wrong), was MALL (53D: Development that might compete with a downtown). Have you been to a town with a MALL lately?? Hoo boy, no. All over the country, MALLs are falling apart, losing anchor stores as people increasingly shop online, etc. Our MALL is quickly turning into an abandoned building. Next stop: actual ruin. Actually, they're trying to figure out what its future is, because it will not continue on as a MALL, that's for sure. This clue was very true for 1989, but in 2019, nonononono. Good day.



    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]
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    Constructor: Gary Cee

    Relative difficulty: Easy


    THEME: "HIT IT!" (39A: "Start the music!" ... or what one could do to the finish of the answer to each starred clue) — last words in themers can complete the phrase "hit the ___"

    Theme answers:
    • DEBT CEILING (17A: *Government's credit limit)
    • HACKY SACK (28A: *Beanbag juggled with the feet)
    • CHECK MARK (46A: *Symbol for "O.K.")
    • WESTERN WALL (61A: *Much-visited site in Jerusalem)
    • CLAM SAUCE (11D: *Seafood topping that may be red or white)
    • LOWER DECK (34D: *Part of a ship just above the hold)
    Word of the Day: ROLF (32A: Massage intensely)
    verb
    1. treat (a person) using Rolfing, a proprietary term for a massage technique aimed at the release and realignment of the body.

      "I had the negative emotions Rolfed out of me" (LOL) (google)
    • • •

    Too old-fashioned and too rough, fill-wise, for my tastes. It's a pretty mundane "last words"-type puzzle, with many many many other possible last words that weren't used (I always find it really distracting when very colorful possibilities are left out of a theme like this: ROAD BRICKS HAY LIGHTS BOOKS CLUB DANCEFLOOR GROUND ICE JACKPOT etc. LOWER DECK is also pretty weak, as DECK-ending answers go. UPPER DECK is actually Much Much Better (it has baseball cred). This is one of those themes that confuses being dense with being good. The choice to include so many themers undoubtedly has something to do with the mediocre-to-poor overall quality of the fill. That NENE / INURN (!?!?!) / TRI area down below is quite hard to look at, as is TEC over EEK crossing OGEE, as is the whole western section. OTOE / OTOH looks like the stuff of parody, and ROTC / ROLF isn't helping matters. TAR crossing TARTARE is absurd (I'd've preferred CAR there, and CHEM in the cross,\—one of the few times you're going to find me advocating for the abbr.). I like the image of DEBS smoking E-CIGS, but on their own, as fill, I'm not as big a fan. I tore through this, but it was a largely TEPID and EMPTY experience.

    Toni Braxton - Hit The Freeway ft. Loon (Official Music Video) - YouTube

    Five things:
    • 10D: Motorized two-wheelers (SEGWAYS) — lost time trying to spell this SEGUES (like the actual word). I can't believe self-respecting people actually ... drive? ride? ... these.
    • 65A: Bury, as ashes (INURN) — this answer bothers me on so many levels. It's an ugly, rare word, so I just don't like it, but also shouldn't it refer to the act of putting the ashes *in* the urn, and not the act of putting the urn *in* the ground? Bah!
    • 20A: Like many infield grounders (ONE-HOP) — "ONE-HOP grounder" is actually not that common a phrase on the internets (~3,000 hits). "ONE-HOP groundball" is even rarer. It's totally intelligible, but you're gonna call that a "one-hopper" most of the time (~17x more often, if my ["one-hopper" baseball] search is at all meaningful). Or you'll say the infielder fielded it *on* ONE HOP. I don't really think ONE HOP stand well on its own, is the upshot of this comment. It's a minor nit, I know, but I'm tired of the puzzle mucking up or otherwise only half-nailing clues and answers from baseball, a game I love.
    • 55A: Like a gift from above (GOD-SENT) — another clunker for me. "Heaven-sent" makes sense to me. A "god senD" is certainly something I've heard of. But I've never heard anything described as GOD-SENT. Remember: "Dictionarily defensible" and "good" are not the same thing.
    • 18D: Org. concerned with ecosystems (EPA) — can we stop pretending the EPA cares about anything any more besides abetting polluters and destroying as many species as possible?
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]
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    Constructor: Natan Last

    Relative difficulty: Medium (10:25)


    THEME: "Hook-Ups" — themers are all Downs containing a letter string that is also a fish; this fish name has been "hooked" and pulled "up" to the top of the answer

    Theme answers:
    • TROUT WORKOU / INE (workout routine) (1D: Gym rat's development)
    • COD MOLLY / DLE (mollycoddle) (4D: Act overprotectively toward)
    • BASS LA / ISTANT (lab assistant) (12D: Role for a biology grad student, perhaps)
    • CARP MAGIC / ET RIDE (magic carpet ride) (26D: The "Aladdin" song "A Whole New World" takes place on one)
    • TUNA CAUGH / WARES (caught unawares) (48D: Surprised)
    • PERCH SU / ARGED (supercharged) (56D: Gave extra juice)
    • PIKE S / D PUNCH (spiked punch) (63D: What might get you a "ladle" drunk?)
    Word of the Day: MOIRA (43A: Fate, in Greek myth) —
    The name Moira is a given name of Greek origin, deriving from μοῖρα, meaning "destiny, share, fate". In Greek mythology, the Moirai (Greek: Μοῖραι, plural for μοῖρα), often known in English as the Fates, were the white-robed incarnations of destiny. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Normally I hate Sundays and normally I am opposed to answers that come out as nonsense in the grid, but today is Sunday and the resulting theme answers are nonsense and yet I really, TRULY liked this puzzle. I had to hack at the grid quite a bit to get TROUTWORKOUINE (!?!?) to fall into place, and my first reaction was "Ugh, what?" but as the solve went on, I found myself kinda looking forward to the next themer, seeing if I could infer the fish up front and then mentally plug it into a phrase that might make sense as the overall answer. It was fun. That was enough. Actually, the relatively smooth quality of the fill helped as well. Really lit up at STEAMPUNK and STORM SURGE, and though the grid was pretty choppy, and there's def some chunks of crosswordese in here, once I got my theme footing, I really sank into this one and enjoyed it.

    Parov Stelar - Hooked On You feat. Timothy Auld (Official Video) - YouTube

    Sailing was not smooth for me at first, though. Severe flailing all over the NW corner, as the first themer made no sense to me (yet) and I got increasingly furious that I couldn't drop the damn Steve Perry song in instantly. How could there be a 1984 (my sweet spot!) Steve Perry "hit" that I did not know well enough to just plunk in. Steve Perry is the former lead singer of Journey, just FYI, and I've never been more pop-music alert than I was in 1984, probably. But my brain was like "OH, SHERRIE?" and when I said "no" my brain was like "FAITHFULLY?" and I was like "That's Journey! You're useless, brain!" Honestly, I could hum precisely no bars of "SHE'S MINE" right now if I had to. I'm going to look it up, and I am 97% certain it will be very familiar to me when I hear it, but on its own, the title "SHE'S MINE" is meaningless to me. "The Girl Is Mine" (McCartney/Jackson) is familiar to me. "The Boy Is Mine" (Brandy/Monica) is familiar to me. "She's Gone" (Hall/Oates), familiar to me. But "SHE'S MINE," no, nope, and nah. OK, here goes, Look-up, commencing ...

    Steve Perry - She's Mine - YouTube

    The charts are so weird, man. Like, this only went to #21, and though I've definitely heard it, I probably haven't heard it (or thought about it, clearly) since 1984. But then something like "Foolish Heart" (another Steve Perry "hit" off this same album, "Street Talk"), which only went to #18, is very very familiar to me. Why? Three positions on the chart shouldn't make That much of a difference, but it's night/day with these two songs. "Oh, Sherrie" (the uber hit off this album) went to #3 and was a radio / MTV juggernaut. And this has been my Steve Talk (suck it, Ted Talks!).

    Brandy & Monica - The Boy Is Mine [HQ] - YouTube

    Hardest part of puzzle for me was DESI over MOIRA (!?!!??!!), especially since CLUB worked very well for 40D: Clobber (DRUB). I have heard of DESI (40A: Member of a South Asian diaspora). I have never ever heard of MOIRA in this context (43A: Fate, in Greek myth). That is, I've never heard of MOIRA except as a woman's name. So much for my "education." Also ugh to [Bygone Apple laptop] let's never speak of IBOOK again. I wrote in EBOOK in defiance (actually, just instinctively, as EBOOK is a real, if not exciting, thing). Not that thrilled with MOOK, either, as it feels borderline ethnic slur, even if it only rhymes with ethnic slur. [1930s uncertain origin] says the google dictionary. So it's fine. Just skeezes me out a little. I knew ARGOSY because it was a popular pulp magazine in the early 20th century. I always want SIOUAN to have an "X" in it. No idea who this ELISE is (61A: The miser's daughter in Molière's "The Miser")—and I'm damn sure I've read "The Miser" (in French, in fact, where it's "L'Avare"). But that was bloody yesterday (i.e. 33 years ago), so no hope. Felt like I plodded through much of this puzzle, but my time was quite normal, and, as I say, the time I had was delightful.
      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

      [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]
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      Constructor: Andy Kravis and Erik Agard

      Relative difficulty: Easy (5:04)


      THEME: none (I hope ... I don't think I missed anything ...)

      Word of the Day: Richard ADLER (4D: Richard who composed the music for "Damn Yankees" and "The Pajama Game") —
      After establishing their partnership, Adler and Ross quickly became protégés of composer, lyricist and publisher Frank Loesser. Their first notable composition was the song "Rags to Riches",[5] which was recorded by Tony Bennett and reached number 1 on the charts in late 1953.
      Richard Adler (August 3, 1921 – June 21, 2012) was an American lyricist, writer, composer and producer of several Broadway shows.
      At the same time Bennett's recording was topping the charts, Adler and Ross began their career in Broadway theater with John Murray Anderson's Almanac, a revue for which they provided most of the songs.
      Adler and Ross's second Broadway effort, The Pajama Game, opened in May 1954 and was a popular as well as a critical success, winning Tony Awards as well as the Donaldson Award and the Variety Drama Critics Award. Three songs from the show were covered by popular artists and made the upper reaches of the US Hit Parade:  Patti Page's version of "Steam Heat" reached #9; Archie Bleyer took "Hernando's Hideaway" to #2; and Rosemary Clooney's recording of "Hey There" made it to #1.
      Opening almost exactly a year later, their next vehicle, Damn Yankees replicated the awards and success of the earlier show. Cross-over hits from the show were "Heart", recorded by Eddie Fisher and "Whatever Lola Wants", by Sarah Vaughan.
      The duo had authored the music and lyrics for three great Broadway successes in three years, and had seen over a half-dozen of their songs reach the US top ten, two of them peaking at #1. However, their partnership was cut short when Ross died of a lung ailment[4] in November 1955, aged 29. (wikipedia)
      • • •

      Very nice work. Kind of reserved for these two. Only a couple showy answers, not much that's ultra-contemporary. But overall smooth and entertaining, if much easier than a Saturday normally is or should be. Predictably, my main troubles involved unknown-to-me proper nouns—ADLER and ELIAS specifically, though now that I think about it, I must have read or otherwise "known," at some point, that ELIAS was Disney's middle name. I know at least one ADLER (Irene) and at least one ELIAS (Sports Bureau), but not these ADLER/ELIASes. But no matter. I was able to move right through them anyway because of very gettable crosses. The biggest hold-up (again, predictably) was an unforced error on my part. Over and over, time and again, the biggest time loss I experience while solving involves leaving a wrong answer in place for too long. Today, it was a stupid ticky-tack coulda-gone-either-way foreign language error: UNE instead of UNO (27D: One overseas). "Overseas," :( Give me a crack at the damn country, you stupid clue. Anyway, Faced with UN-, I chose the French over the Spanish. That vowel was vital, as I could not parse TIGER-PROOFING at all until I changed it (I was coming at it entirely from the back end) (33A: Measures taken to make golf courses tougher in the early 2000s). Later, I also botched CAPOS (I was like "Ooh I know this!" ...  and wrote in COPAS). That made the SE probably the diciest section. But again, the confusion didn't take long to clear up. Had SIN for MIN (confusing trig and calc, I guess) (54D: Calculus calculation, for short). But otherwise, not much resistance to be found in this one. Just a smooth good time.

      Pat Benatar - Hit Me With Your Best Shot (1980) - YouTube
      ["That's OK, SEE IF I CARE!"]

      I just saw another VR- answer recently (maybe it was actually in the NYT...) and so I'm super-on-the-lookout for them. Got today's (VR HEADSET) off just the "V" (30D: Modern game equipment). Saw right through 1A: Jets are found in it, though did have to work crosses to see if it was NFL or AFC. Grateful for easy crosses because both E STREET and G CHORDS would've been total guesses for me at their first letters. "SEE IF I CARE" is a nice answer, but the one answer that really made me sit up and say "dang!" was "SOME PEOPLE..." which was the perfect Saturday combination of hard and clever (53A: "What a jerk!")—brutal to parse, but then boom, a wonderful revelation.

      Nick Murphy - Some People (Official Audio) - YouTube

      Thanks to Rachel for subbing for me yesterday. I'll be on every write-up from now through the very end of the month, at which point I will be at the Indie 500 Crossword tournament in Washington, D.C. and yeah, you'll probably get a sub or two. I'm lucky to have so many able and willing back-ups. See you tomorrow.

      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

      [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]
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      Constructor: Adam Fromm

      Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging



      THEME: Themeless (?)

      Word of the Day: UNGULATE (18A: Having hooves) —
      Ungulates (pronounced /ˈʌŋɡjəleɪts/) are any members of a diverse group of primarily large mammals that includes odd-toed ungulates such as horses and rhinoceroses, and even-toed ungulates such as cattlepigsgiraffescamelsdeer, and hippopotamuses. Most terrestrial ungulates use the tips of their toes, usually hoofed, to sustain their whole body weight while moving.
      The term means, roughly, "being hoofed" or "hoofed animal". As a descriptive term, "ungulate" normally excludes cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises), as they do not possess most of the typical morphologicalcharacteristics of ungulates, but recent discoveries indicate that they are descended from early artiodactyls.[4]
      • • •
      Hello! Rachel Fabi in for Rex today.

      Fridays tend to be my favorite puzzles of the week. The themelessness usually means that you can expect new and exciting entries or an interesting grid design (or both!). This particular Friday was a bit of a disappointment, for a not particularly good reason, which will be revealed AFTER the rest of the write-up.

      First: the good news. Maybe an unpopular take, but I love triple stacks. When I open a puzzle and see that wide open space, the anticipation of finding out how the constructor filled it always kicks off the solve on a high note.

      Not suitable for a general audience
      The bad news: This triple stack is kind of dull! MAJOR LEAGUE GAME, PRIVATE PRACTICE, and GENERAL AUDIENCE are all pretty bland, and the clues are also a let down. Yes, ESPN airs MAJOR LEAGUE GAMEs in the summer. Sure, some doctors and lawyers work in PRIVATE PRACTICE. I'm not totally clear on how a GENERAL AUDIENCE is "sanctioned" by a G-rating; it's not like a GENERAL AUDIENCE needs official permission to attend, but I guess that's a plausible clue.

      The dryness of the entries was not limited to the triple stack, although I enjoyed the long downs. I like JINGOISTS (as an answer, not IRL) and its clue (32D: Country superfans), and I added DEAD AGAIN to my mental Netflix queue (but not my actual one, because it's not on there. I checked.).

      I ended up with a pretty average Friday time, but my solve was verrrry patchy. I particularly struggled in the Northeast, as evidenced by the "pencil" squares in the screenshot above. I may have heard the term UNGULATE before, but if I did, the brain cells that previously stored that information have long since been appropriated for other purposes, like maintaining my mental Netflix queue. I had never heard of bubble and squeak, and now that I've googled it, I can't say I'm particularly excited to try it any time soon, despite my love of SPUDs. I was also unfamiliar with the HARP SEAL, but I am so glad I know what they are now, because:

      !!!
      My lack of jazz knowledge really slowed me down on this solve. I had no idea that TRANE was a nickname for John ColTRANE, and I am unfamiliar with Jimmy Dorsey's SO RARE. Fortunately, the clue on that one (25D: Jimmy Dorsey standard with the line "You're like the fragrance of blossoms fair") hinted that the answer rhymed with "fair," so I got there eventually. I know this wasn't a universal experience, and that more cultured solvers probably flew through these clues without pause, but jazz is just not my thing.

      John Coltrane - I'm Old Fashioned - YouTube

      Overall, this was a decent but kind of boring Friday puzzle that was not my speed. Thanks to Rex for letting me review at you! See you next time.

      Bullets:
      • OHARA (45D: John who wrote "Appointment in Samarra") — I loved this for two reasons: (1) I'm happy to see OHARA clued as something other than Scarlett, and (2) This story featured heavily in an excellent episode of Sherlock, which I love. I didn't know the author of the story, and I'm glad to have learned it!
      • MCC (35D: Three CDs?) — If you must use Roman numerals, this is the way to do it! It took me some longggg seconds to work out that CD = 400 so Three CDs = 1200 = MCC. Into it.
      Signed, Rachel Fabi, Queen-for-a-Day of CrossWorld

      [Follow Rachel Fabi on Twitter]



      Oh you thought the write up was over? SO DID I. And then I saw that I had twitter notifications from Rex, and now we all have to keep going, because:

      LOL this bad puzzle is bad at least in part because IT HAS A THEME good luck finding it. My god themed Fridays are the worst. #Friday #NYTXW
      — Rex Parker🏹🏹🏹 (@rexparker) May 17, 2019
      Ok, so, for those of you sticking around for the coda: I wrote that entire write up ^^^ twice. Because when I went to edit it to include some points about the FRIGGING MINI-THEME, my entire post was deleted. It's been a long night, and it made me EVEN CRANKIER about the "mini theme" than I otherwise would have been.

      So. The triple stack has military ranks in it. MAJOR, PRIVATE, GENERAL. The end.

      Theme answers:
      • MAJOR LEAGUE GAME (30A: Summer broadcast for ESPN)
      • PRIVATE PRACTICE (37A: What many doctors and lawyers work in)
      • GENERAL AUDIENCE (38A: It's sanctioned by a "G")
      Signed (again), Rachel Fabi, Queen-for-a-Day-and-an-extra-hour of CrossWorld

      [Follow Rachel Fabi on Twitter ]
      [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]
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