Mexican state that touches Texas / TUE 5-1-18 / Stanley who wrote Magic Kingdom / Early means of providing light for photograph / Bit of wear for Colonel Sanders

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Constructor: Jacob Stulberg

Relative difficulty: Easy but with several uncommon answers that might slow you down; also I just botched the SW for dumb personal reasons (4:00)



THEME: ROAD BLOCK (64A: Obstacle ... or any one of  four black squares in this puzzle?) — circled squares spell synonyms of "road" and each is "blocked" (i.e. interrupted) by a single black square.

  • SLAVE NUEVOLEON
  • SHANGRI-LA NETS
  • AIMLESS TREETOP
  • PAID RIVERBANK

Word of the Day: Stanley ELKIN (57D: Stanley who wrote "The Magic Kingdom") —
Stanley Lawrence Elkin (May 11, 1930 – May 31, 1995) was an American novelistshort storywriter, and essayist. His extravagant, satirical fiction revolves around American consumerismpopular culture, and male-female relationships. (wikipedia)
• • •

This theme does what it does just fine. It's very workmanlike, straightforward. Since there are no true themers (besides the revealer), you never real feel the theme. Mainly, the theme serves as a thing that explains why some of these answers are here, specifically NUEVO LEON, the existence of which is news to me. It's a fine thing to be in a puzzle, but as a themer in an early-week puzzle, it's at least a little on the obscure side. But in the end, yes, the circled squares all contain words for "road," and yes, each one is "blocked" by a black square, so, sure ROADBLOCKs. I think the lack of real theme answers made the odd answers stand out. Like FLASH LAMP (?). The word "Early" in that clue (which I assume means "Old") tells you that the concept is not going to be that familiar. "Bygone." Inferrable, ultimately, but something that needed lots of crosses before it became apparent. STRING TIE was also tough, as I kept picturing the damn Colonel and could only see a white suit and white hair and black-rimmed glasses. There is one very, very bad crossing that is destined to Natick at least a handful of solvers today: ILYA x/w ELKIN. Now ILYA is crosswordese, but it's the kind you forget. I routinely forget what string of letters make up that guy's name. And Stanley ELKIN? "The Magic Kingdom"? Who is this clue for? Barely heard of the guy, never heard of the book. It's Tuesday. And you wanna ELKIN w/ ILYA? Yeesh, no. Most of the rest of the puzzle was actually very much on the easy side, though, so the strange (to me) longer answers didn't do too much damage to my time. But then I hit the SW and the wheels came off for understandable as well as stupid reasons.


So I have -----LOCK for the revealer and my brain assumes that LOCK is the last word in the phrase, so [Obstacle] is not helping at all. Then later when I can finally see ROAD coming into view and ROAD BLOCK seemed right, my brain goes "No, ROAD doesn't fit, you need five letters!" But of course I didn't need five letters. I needed five letters when I thought the final word was LOCK, but once it toggled to BLOCK, I needed only four, but try telling floundering solving brain that! That whole SW corner was rough without ROADBLOCK helping out. Clue on DODGE did zero for me (55D: Word before City or after Fort on Midwest maps). Had RECD instead of PAID for 52A: Word stamped on an invoice. I think of PORTS as sweet but not "Strong" (52D: Strong wines). There are so many "Polynesian lands" that are five letters long that I had no hope there without crosses. STEER? So [Part of a cattle roundup] is ... another word for cattle? Oof. Oh, and I wanted 60D: Skier's convenience (TBAR) to be TRAM. Typical trip-all-over-yourself-at-the-finish-line performance for me. The theme seems adequate. Sufficient. I wouldn't have enjoyed it much even without the face plant at the end there. I'm trying to take the face plant out of the equation—since I should've gotten ROAD BLOCK much more easily—but man it's hard.

Hey, big crossword news! The New Yorker has a new weekly crossword puzzle that is going to be written and edited by an all-star team of constructors: Patrick Berry, Liz Gorski, Natan Last, Kameron Austin Collins, and (first up) Anna Shechtman. It's available solely online, for now, which is radically stupid, and presumably they will realize this and put it in the goshdurn printed magazine where it belongs. For now, though, be sure to do the puzzle online every Monday—the current one is absolutely first-rate. Print it out or solve right on the page. They're all gonna be high word-count themelesses, which is basically the best kind of puzzle there is. Great constructors making the greatest kind of puzzle. It's exciting.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. if you are a fan of disgraced crossword constructor Timothy Parker (of the whole plagiarism / Puzzlegate scandal of a few years back), well are you in luck. He *appears* to have an incredible website where he ... does stuff ... including hype himself, hype himself some more, misspell things, and [drum roll] publish alleged fan letters alongside crossword grids that are not actually his but that belong instead to [second drum roll] the New York Times. Seriously. Go here and look. I say he "appears" to have this website because it is (not-at-all bizarrely) written in the Third Person. Also, there is this Amazing video, which is an ad for his crossword website, in which the URL for his crossword website ... is misspelled. 


The ad features German Wilford Brimley, '90s computer tech, and a cat who really deserves much, much better:

I'm told this is not an original video but some kind of video ad template. I don't even know, man...

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

81 comments:

Harryp 12:34 AM  

ILYA, ELKIN, CEVICHE is Natick country for sure. For that alone it should not have appeared in a Tuesday puzzle. That said, this solved in under my Tuesday time by pure guesswork on ILYA because it sounded Slavic to me. The theme was uninspiring also. Thumbs down on this one.

TomAz 1:02 AM  

In The Godfather Part II, in the 'prequel' parts, there is a scene where young adult Vito Corleone's friends are proposing a scheme to him. In this scene, Vito, mostly mute coming from Italy at age 9, and then heard only to speak Italian, speaks his first words of English that we the viewer hear: "Yeah, sure." It is brilliant: tentative, mostly believing, and yet with a reserved skepticism, all in two words. To this day it is one of my favorite Robert DeNiro lines in any movie.

This puzzle? Yeah, sure.

Larry Gilstrap 1:15 AM  

That was lackluster enough for a Tuesday, but I got my money's worth. so it's all good. I find it difficult to believe that this theme has not been done numerous times in the annals of puzzledom. No problem, yesterday has already taken on a certain haze. Try it again tomorrow; I bet you could sneak it by me.

My personal Nurse Ratched solves M-W, so when she bellows Natick post-solve, I dig in harder, and sure enough that ILYA/ELKIN cross creates a problem, almost a ROAD BLOCK, as it were. Not really a rage quit; I circle the square on the printed page, dust off my hands, and walk away as innocent as a lamb. DKDC.

FLASH LAMP was a new one on me. I've heard of a FLASH pan, a FLASH bulb, or just plain FLASH. Who knows? I see people on Twitter getting all EMO about audio cassettes and vinyl discs. What's next CD's and a camera guy waiting for lightening?

I've taught English to language learners for more than a few years and I enjoy the time hanging out with my guys. I use drill and practice and my students know we are there to practice English. So I'm retired and you work 70 hours a week and have three kids? Let's get to work. One of the texts has a lesson dealing with physical ailments. Every time through this, I lose it. Head ACHE, Ear ACHE, Stomach ACHE, and Back ACHE seem fairly accessible to me, any way. How do they morph into some unpronounceable word, every time? They seem amused at my flustering, and that's a good thing. My students speak and read a lot more English than I do Spanish, after their having started with baby talk, so there's that.

Can't wait for the MITER vs. Mitre palaver destined to begin in three, two, one...

JOHN EX 2:05 AM  

I liked this puzzle a lot. I think it was a good Tuesday, tough but fair, and everything was gettable. I've never heard of NUEVO LEON but what else could it be? And I filled in the circles on downs but I saw the street theme, and then got the whole ROADBLOCK answer in the bottom.

One quibble, one nit to pick: There's no such thing as a FLASHLAMP in photography now or ever. I own speedlights, I own strobes, I own hot lights of all types, and I even have FLASHBULBs (the word that was supposed to be in 3D) and I love the hell out of those flashbulbs. I have some G.E. #50's that will light up a beach at night and if you're close enough the air charges when they fire and you can feel your hair stand on end. Look at the night photographs of steam locomotives by O. Winston Link and you're seeing the output of banks of these bulbs. They're pretty cool.

That's my flashbulb rant. Carry on.

chefwen 2:24 AM  

Poor kitty, sounded stressed.

Puzzle almost as easy as yesterday’s. Struggled a little in the SW with DODGE, PORTS and OF NOTE, finally sorted that out. Thought I was going to have to accept a DNF at the ELKIN ILYA crossing. L seemed like the logical choice and WOO HOO I was right. YAY me, lucky guess.

Loren Muse Smith 3:54 AM  

Rex – you said, Since there are no true themers (besides the revealer), you never real feel the theme. Absolutely not the case for me. When I got SLAVE and NUEVO LEON, I saw AVENUE and understood immediately what was going on. I actually finished STREET and LANE since I already had a couple of letters in place. So I thought the reveal would be DIVIDED HIGHWAY or some such. ROAD BLOCK is much better.

The only TONI Morrison I’ve read was not fiction but rather chapters from Playing in the Dark : Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. It was so obfuscated that I asked my husband to have a go at a couple of passages to see if he could make sense of them. He’s a much better reader than I am, for sure. So he sat there for a bit, read them out loud, and then put the pages down saying, She must have been high when she wrote this. It’s unintelligible. I felt less dumb.

Gotta go deliver a bunch of beef to a co-worker. Long story. But what an exit line, huh?

Jacob – neat idea. I liked the STERNS/REAR cross.

@Joe DiPinto from yesterday. Mea culpa, man. You’re right – it was totally unprovoked. I picked a fight where there was no fight. Sheesh. I had started to write something like Me and two teachers... and was instantly and completely enraged again about the Annabel casegate. I do need to let this go, and swear I’ll try. I pulled the same stunt over at Wordplay a while back when a bunch of people went after a commenter for using it’s instead of its. I couldn’t let it go. I don’t have many buttons, but this one is a huge, overwhelming one for me.

sanfranman59 4:20 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 1/2/2018 post for an explanation of my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio & percentage, the higher my solve time was relative to my norm for that day of the week. Your results may vary.

(Day, Solve time, 26-wk Median, Ratio, %, Rating)

Mon 5:27 4:30 1.21 87.7% Challenging
Tue 6:39 5:37 1.18 81.8% Challenging

It sounds like I had an almost identical solving experience as Rex. A Medium Wednesday time for me. But unlike yesterday's, I felt like I was cruising on this one until I hit the SW. I was through everything except that corner in 4:43, then took almost two minutes to finish. So, Easy-Medium for 80%, Very Challenging for 20%.

Looking back at it, I don't know why I had so much trouble down there, though I may have been nodding off. CEVICHE and ELKIN both gave me trouble. I knew the former, but didn't trust it and ELKIN was a complete WTF for me. But I still shouldn't have been as blocked down there as I was.

Andrew 6:06 AM  

Ugh. Great theme and made good time at the start but I indeed Natick'd (was guessing L as it was the only thing that really worked for ILYA) and then proceeded to DNF the NE corner. Could not get my brain to process anything from OASIS/ALLeN/NETS (and that error screwed up LEAGUE).

Lewis 6:07 AM  

Something that I don't think has been specifically mentioned yet is that in addition to being an obstacle to some kind of roadway, the black square in question in each theme answer is literally a BLOCK (as black squares are called). So there's that extra layer to the theme.

I agree with Rex that hockey name crossing not-well-known author name is not a good idea.

Then I found a GAP gap between TONGA and PHI, as well as a THE Gap between LOATH and ELKIN.

I kind of love the juxtaposition of the glowing loving look on parents' faces when they sing "Rockabye Baby" to their little ones, with the words they are singing about a baby falling out of a tree.

RJ 6:30 AM  

Finished the puzzle, then read the blog, then followed the link to the New Yorker puzzle, spent almost 45 minutes guessing at the answers, and completely forgot about today's NYT puzzle. Definitely worth the visit!

Hungry Mother 6:33 AM  

Close to Natick a couple of places, but some wags took me through it. An easy theme was helpful.

Glimmerglass 6:46 AM  

I breezed from the top down to the southern quarter. I made a lucky guess or two and survived, but that bit was as hard as the rest of the puzzle was easy. In the early days of photography, flash powder (actually gun powder?) in a metal trough was lit for indoor portraits. Was that called a FLASH LAMP? LAMP mostly from crosses.

BarbieBarbie 6:59 AM  

Wow, it’s vs its is really unfair to pick on, along with pretty much any punctuation, since in a comment post your device can easily do that for you. I’m sure all of us have had that happen. So the nitpicking should be over whether you should proofread your comments better, and that would really be a boring argument to have. Thanks for the heads-up, @lms; I won’t be following that blog’s comments.

Also kind of glad I didn’t read yesterday’s and have no plans to go backwards to see what fuss happened. It’s finally Spring and you can be outside getting some air.

Port is stronger than wine because it is partially distilled, or maybe blended with distilled... the continuum goes wine, port, brandy. But I forget the details. And see above. Heading outside now. Have a great day, everyone.

Two Ponies 7:04 AM  

OK for a Tuesday but strange for all of the reasons Rex noted.
Puzzles like this allow my mind to wander.
Wonderwall has to be the most uncool pop song ever. How did the kids let that pass?
I checked out the Timothy Parker stuff. How strange. Is that for real?

I may have heard of the hockey player but if you want an Ilya in your grid I prefer a Man from U.N.C.L.E. clue.

clk 7:07 AM  

Sure, the L of ILYA/ELKIN was the last thing I filled in, but it didn’t even occur to me to be bothered by it. I didn’t need to run the alphabet or anything. What else could it be?

I wanted dogie instead of STEER, had to get BLINI from the crosses and thought FLASHLAMP was stupid but still finished way faster than yesterday.

kitshef 7:19 AM  

The spores of club mosses were once used as flash powder in FLASH LAMPS. They are oily and tiny and go up like nobody's business.

kitshef 7:27 AM  

There is an old riddle that goes "what word is always spelled wrong"? The answer is W-R-O-N-G. Well for me, you can add a second: S-e-i-G-E. Every Single Time.

@Two Ponies - Wonderwall uncool?! I will not hear it.

QuasiMojo 7:50 AM  

Rather a contrived, ho-hum theme today for all of the effort put into the fill. Why is it the NYT seems to struggle in finding themes that are actually worth the time and trouble? The WSJ seems to knock 'em out of the park everyday. Rex, thanks for the New Yorker puzzle link. I did that one too but it took four times as long! It definitely runs the gamut from highbrow to lowbrow. Quite fun!

GHarris 7:57 AM  

Flew through this without the problems encountered by Rex in the SW. However, dnf because I had Glad the impaler, misled by thinking of the pronunciation of the v as a g as in Vladivostok. Anyone else?

SJ Austin 8:01 AM  

Definitely some weird ISH in this puzzle for a Tuesday, and yet my slightly-over-average finish time was due to drawing some huge blanks on stuff I should have known quickly, most notably SIEGE. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Excited for the New Yorker puzzles! Thanks Rex. (Come for the hypercritical snark, stay for all the links to other good puzzles.)

Shafty 8:17 AM  

Man, I do love a good cossword.

ghkozen 8:22 AM  

Shockingly, Rex once again beclowns himself with regard to hockey. Somehow, he praises, rather than criticizes, obscure baseball players from the 50s, 60s, and 70s when they mar grids. But heaven forbid a major star in the NHL from the last decade, who at one point signed the largest contract in league history, who was the top player and a gold-medal winner in the 2018 Olympic hockey tournament, and all we get are complaints that ILYA Kovalchuk is too obscure. That’s like saying “2012 Golden Glove winner” is too obscure for a crossword. Is simply is not—there are hockey players beyond Bobby Orr, and they’re fair game on crosswords.

golfballman 8:26 AM  

What happened to Evil Doug, is he still alive?

mmorgan 8:28 AM  

ILYA x/w ELKIN was briefly a Natick for me (can something be a brief Natick?), but I figured it just had to be an L. I've been to Nuevo León. Took me a while to give up FLASHbulb for LAMP. Nice puzzle!

Clueless 8:33 AM  

Natick?

Nancy 8:40 AM  

When I saw "early means of providing light for a photograph", I was thinking FLASHbulb and feeling miffed: Hey, it's not all that "early", it coincides with almost my entire lifetime and I'm not all that old, thank you very much. So I was delighted to fill in FLASH LAMP instead, which is something I clearly have never heard of. Whew.

If you think you need to test the weight of something by lifting it, don't! It's a great way to throw out your lower back.

I had AE--- filled in and spent the next few seconds guessing whether the clue would be for AETNA, AESOP or AERIE. That's how I often amuse myself when the puzzle doesn't provide enough stimulation on its own. This one didn't. Meh, and I'm being kind.

pmdm 8:42 AM  

As a NY Rangers fan, I should have known right away it was ILYA and not ALEX. But I'm bad with names.At least the crosses led me to the correct answer, with ELKIN falling into place. (Does anyone remember ILYA's diver which negated a Washington gola any and have saved the Rangers' drive to the cup?)

Good puzzle and fair write-up, I think.

Jaboc states that Mr. Shortz made him remove TURNPIKE from the puzzle because he wanted all the theme words to refer to local roads. Doesn't work for me.

QuasiMojo: things seems to have a momentum of thier own at times. Or could it be the choices Mr, Shortz makes?

Calman Snoffelevich 8:43 AM  

41D: Are ELS really so prominent in Harlem?

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

@Clueless - Natick is a town located in the FAQs.

Anonymous 9:03 AM  

Check Wikipedia, it’s a thing, way before your time. It lit the flash powder that gave an explosive poof of light, through the early 20th C.

jackj 9:05 AM  

ILYA (Kovalchuk) is to professional hockey fans what NICKI (Minaj) is to rap fans.

Each are fair game in crosswords.

Adam Garlock 9:24 AM  

Just did NYT puzzle followed by today's Newsday's puzzle, which have 3 answers in common: IOU (not that strange), AISLE(S) (clued fifferently -- grocery walkways vs. bride's path), but also HASH with identical corned beef cluing.... Seems odd??

Rita 9:29 AM  

@JOHN EX, for an image and description of a flash lamp, check out the Wikipedia article at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash-lamp

GILL I. 9:37 AM  

@Lewis...You should see some of the gruesome art of the baby falling out of the tree! I bet nobody knows that the sweet lullaby "Alouette" is about plucking a poor lark to death. "I'll pluck the feather off your head....off your head." Sweet, huh?
Breezed through this one. ILYA made sense but not ELKIN. Didn't matter. Love CEVICHE. I may be wrong but I think the Mexicans invented it. One of the must eats when you go to Vallarta or Cabo.
Funny about Work like a dog being SLAVE. I've never seen a dog work - well maybe a sled dog. But I bet they consider it play. Who comes up with these things?
I LOATH Cream SODA and am glad they crossed each other. The only head-scratcher was STEER. Strange clue. Otherwise, OK Tuesday.

Z 10:07 AM  

The Best Tuesday ever.

Two writeovers, the first just because I was reading the next clue and mis-entered ALotT. The second because I forgot to wait to see if it was MITre or MITER. The only real slow down was trying to solve with nine pounds of ruckus on my lap (Lulu, our chihuahua mix, who has been known to antagonize our 60 lb lab mix just for the joy of antagonizing him). I got the theme early, liked the revealer well enough, and filled several answers without bothering with the clues. No issue with ILYA, but I had the same thought as Rex, “oooh, suboptimal crossing that is sure to trip up a few people.”

@clk - I disagree. Foreign names are second only to Rap Artists in the “the spelling could be anything” category of words. So, yeah, that L seems reasonable to us, but an N isn’t ludicrous, nor a B, D, F, G, K, M, P, R, S, V, W, or X. And where else besides hockey does one frequently run into Russian first names? Heck, how does one narrow “Kovalchuk” to Russian first names. I follow hockey and know the guy and still had to look him up to make sure. I don’t know how to fix that one, but definitely a hard crossing for a Tuesday.

@ghkozen - Did you read what Rex said about ILYA? Candidly, it does not appear that you did.

@LMS - I didn’t take it so much as “picking a fight” as still feeling deep antipathy towards grammar shamers. Not as much of a button for me as for you, but I think it is a windmill worth tilting at now and then.
I am not familiar with Playing in the Dark since it was written after my college years, but I’m guessing at least one of my three sons has read it since it is one of her most assigned texts. I read “metacritical exploration” in a synopsis and could feel my eyes start to glaze over. Still, it’s only 90 pages so I’m sure it won’t take me more than 5 or 6 hours to read.

Now, where did I leave that shield...?

signed,
Z the Magnificent White Beast Knight of Crossworld, Defender of Pewits, Earl of Scarlet Tanagers

paperandink 10:07 AM  

loved the theme... for siege .."i before e except after c or in words that sound like neighbor or weigh"... as a dislexic, i am continuously quoting that rule to myself..

sprinter MAY be morphing into spring at last! off to the beach for a long and refreshing walk to say so long to all the winter cobwebs..yahoo!

Bob Mills 10:16 AM  

Except for CEVICHE, which I got from crosses, this was a reasonable puzzle. Easy, like most Tuesdays.

Roo Monster 10:29 AM  

Hey All !
Not too many Road Blocks in this ROAD BLOCK puz. (Lame? Yes...) Didn't know the ILYA dude, or the ELKIN dude, for that matter. DNF. CHEVICHE waaay in the dark recesses of the ole brain. So that didn't help. Otherwise, a fairly easy, not too shabby TuesPuz.

SHANGRILA all together like that looks like a DOOK. SHAN GRILA. Har.

lift-TBAR, dogie-STEER, wanted bushes for OBAMAS, didn't write it in, though. Didn't fall into the FLASHbulb pit, as had LISA already, giving me the L. Because I'm the "wrong way solver" in doing all the Acrosses first, then all the Downs second, then haphazardly bounce around until I'm finished. Or DNFed. :-) ILtellYA.

AIMLESS, AS AM I. Who GNU?
Is a good choice an APT OPT?
Alf, More, Predator, et.al. - ALIEN OF NOTE
Pancake get-togethers? BLINI LEAGUE
Pot run? HASH TROT

OK, I'll stop. :-)

IN & OUT Burger. Yum!
RooMonster
DarrinV

kitshef 10:41 AM  

@paperandink - but there are so many exceptions to the 'rule' as to render it useless: keister, either, protein, leisure, seize ...

And exceptions to the 'except after C' - glacier, concierge, species etc.



Nancy 10:44 AM  

Is everything utterly different right now about Rex's website set-up and typeface since I posted just an hour ago? Is it just a temporary glitch that will revert to normal soon? Or is something in my own computer that's gone crazy? I'll turn the computer off for now -- which is my default position when something happens online that I don't like and don't understand -- go to the park and enjoy the beautiful day, and worry about it later.

Anoa Bob 11:00 AM  

Living in TexMex land, I'm familiar with CEVICHE, and NUEVO LEÓN is just up the road. Bet we never see the Mexican state that I can almost see from where I sit, Tamaulipas, in an xword grid. Well, maybe in one with a "Birds named for Mexican states" theme. There's the Tamaulipas crow, the Chihuahuan raven, the Baja blue jay.... Okay, I made that last one up, but the first two are legit.

It's been said before and I'll say it again. I play a sheeshload of poker and have been doing so for years and I have never, ever seen an IOU chit in the pot. Never.

Name an adjective in English that becomes a verb when an E is added to its end. LOATH is one. Any others?

Is an INOUT related to an INUIT?

Trolley Dodger 11:03 AM  

@C....8:43 a.m. Yes

jberg 11:10 AM  

Fun theme; as always, I found myself wondering whether it would work without the circles. Maybe later in the week, I guess.


In the printed paper, the crossword is right next to an ad for "Jeopardy," there's an answer every day, and the qad gives the question from the previous day. Today's solution was "Edgar Allan Poe," which I'd already looked at when I got to the crossword, helping me evade the risk of putting in ALLeN.

As @Z pointed out (perhaps a little obscurely), @Rex's objection was not to the crossworthiness of Mr. Kovalchuk, but to the problem of crossing one propername with another. Not everyone follows hockey (I certainly don't), nor does everyone read ELKIN's fiction. I didn't mind it, though, because while ELKIN might well be EsKIN, IsYA is not probably as a first name. And I've never heard of anyone named EnKIN or ErKIN, though those seem possible.

@Loren, do try her fiction -- start with "The Bluest Eye." BTW, is that an URN? Or am I missing something more subtle?

Well, I'd better get to work, although I'm LOATH to Depart. (Sorry, I can't find a version with the vocal line.)

Carola 11:12 AM  

A clever Tuesday. Like @Lewis, I really liked how the ROAD BLOCK actually was a BLOCK. The AVE NUE with its median strip alerted me to the theme and helped me get the other thoroughfares. As I was writing in S TREET..., I thought, "What in the world begins with TREET?" Loved that one. On the DOWNS, with STRING..., I thought, "Oh boy, STRINGent on a Tuesday!" Nope.

jberg 11:22 AM  

@barbiebarbie -- I don't know if you were really answering, but here's the story on PORT. Wine is made alcoholic by yeast, which feeds on the sugar and produces alcohol as a waste product. Usually the yeast will consume most or all of the sugar and then die because they have nothing to eat. However, they will also die when the alcohol concentration gets too high for them. So port is made by pouring brandy into the wine while it still has a lot of sugar; as a result, it is both sweet and strong.

Probably more than anyone wanted to know, so I shan't go on!

Mr. Benson 11:27 AM  

Having a hard time seeing what's wrong with ILYA/ELKIN. I don't know of either of those people (if I've ever heard of them, I've forgotten). But ILYA is a common Russian name, and literally no other letter besides L would make any sense there.

The problem with a Natick/N.C. Wyeth crossing at the initial "N" is that many, even most, letters look plausible if you don't know those proper names.

paperandink 11:44 AM  

agree @kitshef that makes english such a difficult language...which is why a flunk spelling on a daily basis! but that rule works enough to keep me in line most of the time...the plurals are easy to get and obvious. but the spelling of other words is just a roadblock for sure...

Robert A. Simon 11:45 AM  

I solve by first scanning for proper names and then for nouns. If I know them, they serve as a firm anchor.

Today, ILYA was the first word I filled in.

Remember, solvers: it's no what you know, it's who you know.

Mohair Sam 11:59 AM  

Fun Tuesday. Easy here except we knew not ILYA, nor ELKIN, nor CEVICHE. But all fill around them was easy and the YA caused me to guess ILYA from "The Man From Uncle" and all was well.

@Loren - Oh no, you don't have many hot buttons. "Me and her lay down every afternoon for a nap until its four o'clock." Discuss.

@Gill I - You hate cream soda? Commie Rat. I live on the stuff.

@Rex - Thanks for The New Yorker tip. Fabulous puzzle, played like a Friday/Saturday for us. I've bookmarked the page.

The New Yorker puzzle also swayed me from the middle to the left on the "should we worry about the sex of constructors" argument. That puzzle is by a woman (Anna Shechtman) - and some of the very best clues in the puzzle would be very unlikely to have been written by a guy. Feminist icons and poets instead of Star Wars and GoT characters and actors. Would be nice to see that here once in a while. Shechtman once worked for Will Shortz, why isn't she one of his Young Guns?

Z 12:02 PM  

@Mr. Benson - explain to someone who doesn’t know that Kovalchuk is Russian how ILYA is better than Ibya, Idya, Ifya, Igya, Ikya, Imya, Inya (seems new agey to me), Ipya, Irya, Isya, Itya, Ivya, Iwya, or Ixya. Literally every other consonant could plausibly fit a foreign name with I-LA in place. Ibya looks like a good name for a Shiba Inu. Idya and Itya could be the evil twins in some obscure part of the Edda. Imya and Inya are clearly Irish singers who form a super group with the welsh singer Iwya. This is a classic natick any day of the week, most certainly on a Tuesday.

newspaperguy 12:05 PM  

Of course ports are strong. That they are "fortified" (with brandy) wines might be a subtle clue.

mathgent 12:06 PM  

@jberg (11:22): Thanks for the explanation of fermentation. Alcohol is yeast leavings. Never heard that before. I'll take your word for it.

Talking about waste products, I was reminded recently of one of my brother's favorite expressions. "We all love the smell of our own farts." He used it as a comment on human egotism. I haven't seen it anywhere else so I Googled it to learn if it was original to him. I didn't find the expression attributed to anyone else.

@Nancy (8:40): I agree that it didn't have much crunch but I enjoyed it. It has that indefinable quality I call personality.

Masked and Anonymous 12:22 PM  

I was afraid @RP was gonna go berserk all over this theme, but glad he was in a good mood. Considerin there were the circles in play, this puz walked off with few bullet holes, from the blog write-up corral. This is a gimmick that's been done before, but it'''s a cute one. As @Lewis wisely points out, it'''s the black square bein a double-entendry "block" that really seals the deal, here.

Like most everybody else, had blockage issues in the CEVICHE/ILYA/ELKIN zone. Nice desperation, gettin that grid fill to work at all, in them dicey parts.

Hey -- Two of the themers had only their very first letters blocked off. The S in circle-STREET and D in circle-DRIVE were kinda BLOCK-HEADS, yes? Also: Wonder why BOULEVARD got left out? har

staff weeject pick: RTE. It has a block in it, too boot. [Hint: See bottom grid row.]

Thanx, Mr. Stulberg.

Masked & Anonymo4Us


**gruntz**

JOHN EX 12:25 PM  

Well I'll be damned. I guess there was a flashlamp. Go figure.

Just Askin' 1:01 PM  

@Rex: Does the New Yorker pay constructors more than the Times does? I'm just curious how this new offering fits with your theory that the Times would publish better puzzles if it paid more.

Masked and Anonymous 1:02 PM  

p.s.
mUcho Thanx to @RP, for pointin out that new New Yorker puz … and it'''s a freebie! And a gal wrote it. Roz Chast oughta illustrate em.

Also, second puz girl alert … Wall Street Journal crossword today is by C.C. … and it'''s a freebie, two!

Just sayin'''.

M&Also

Teedmn 1:17 PM  

@Nancy, hah, I put in FLASH bulb at 3D, thinking, "Well, they were earlier than now at least." bISA Simpson cured that error which was my only writeover today. Although I had the NEUVOLEON and ILYA/ELKIN slow-downs (speed bumps rather than ROAD BLOCKs), I still ended up 30 seconds under my average, so a pretty easy Tuesday for me.

I love the subtle change in the TH of LOATH to LOATHe and breath to breathe, bath to bathe, wreath to wreathe. Can't explain why.

And while a T-BAR might be more convenient than crawling up a mountain AFOOT, carrying your skis, (or a tow-rope), I'd much prefer a lift or funicular or tram or gondola or just about anything else.

JS, thanks for the near-perfect (ILYA/ELKIN, egads!) Tuesday.

Anonymous 1:44 PM  

@Z

Because Ilya is a common name. The other words are not.

Ray Yuen 1:59 PM  

"Workmanlike?" You're quite good at pointing out the "old boys" ways of the puzzles but you let a sexist term like "workmanlike" seem into your review?!

Amelia 2:33 PM  

Thought I posted on my phone. Hasn't turned up.

Elkin was a gimme. Have read all of Stanley Elkin and own the works. A great novelist who was probably not as well known as he could have been because he spent his adult life in St. Louis teaching English at Washington University and because he died fairly young. I recommend reading him to people who teach the subject and to the others. His books are available online and in good libraries.

Nice puzzle, by the way. Although I'm not sure there are as many elevated lines in Harlem as there are in the Bronx. Here's a film about them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8-qPKqkouw

pmdm 3:01 PM  

The Man From Uncle was a very popular TV program and included a Russian character whose first name happened to be Illya. OK, there's an extra L, but I would guess some might believes that justifies ILYA in a Tuesday crossword. I don't, but I'll let others hast it our.

Nancy: must be on your end. Safari displays it normally on my computer.

kitshef 3:26 PM  

@Loren Muse Smith - perhaps Weird Al can help you let go ...

Anonymous 4:03 PM  

Any secret point to "car port" lurking there on the west side--sort of a
vertical themer sitting in with the horizontals...

Razorback

Elena 4:04 PM  

The trains go underground just south of Harlem through lower Manhattan. They are elevated from Harlem through upper Manhattan and the Bronx.

Malsdemare 4:21 PM  

This was fun. I had to guess at the perfidious ILYA/ELKIN cross (the only Elkin I know is Aaron ELKINs). I'd heard of CEVICHE but wasn't clear on the spelling so diddled around there for a while. But the rest fell like dominoes and a good time was had by me.

There are lots of places — the Navajo Nation is one — where sheep are still herded by dogs. They are on duty 24/7, and in some instances, getting fed is a tad random. The dogs are amazing to watch, alternating between resting, rounding up wanderers, and intimidating the hell out of any predator, two- or four-legged. If you ever seen them at work you'd understand a) the SLAVE part and b) why Aussies and border collies are impossible to love with.

I'm okay wih LMS's hot button. Seems to me she isn't the only one to get a bit overwrought over a pet issue; I know I have my Achilles heel, though at the moment I can't remember what it/they is/are.

I took Rex's advice and made a donation to Planned Parenthood to obtain copies of the 20 puzzles by women. Did two last night and had a wonderful time. I highly recommend making a donation to one of their charities; the reward is worth it.

Anonymous 4:54 PM  

By my count there are only six above-ground (or surface) subway stops in Harlem, five on the 1 train and one on the 3 train. I’m fairly certain those represent all of the “elevated” subway stations in Manhattan. Commuter trains also run elevated through parts if not all of Harlem.

The5th Harp 5:28 PM  

Spot-on. If u knew ceviche — with RETRY and OBAMAS being easy — ILYA/ELKIN cross is no Natick. The L was as obvious as 41D.

Elena 5:59 PM  

@anon 4:54. The clue was “Harlem sights.” I’d say 6 train stops as well as a Metro North station qualifies as “sights.” Not to mention the fact that the el trains obviously seen between the stops.

Amelia 6:24 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amelia 6:25 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 6:37 PM  

two Sherlock clues: His last Bow

(the game's) afoot.

LindaPRmaven 6:54 PM  

Flash lamp was easy for me, which tells me I've watched too many Victorian/Edwardian era movies. I believe director James Ivory, doing a cameo as a photographer, uses one when he takes a portrait of the couple played by Uma Thurman and Jeremy Northam in the film adaptation of Henry James's "The Golden Bowl." https://youtu.be/OyVZi8NQoO8

I love that The New Yorker has a puzzle and that it appears Mondays! It's a boon for experienced solvers to have a more challenging xword early in the week.

Anonymous 7:02 PM  

@mathgent 12:06 your brother owes royalties to W.H. Auden
https://roymcduffie.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/ironic-points-of-light-w-h-auden/

Elena 7:03 PM  

@Amelia Cheers. I think you and I are probably the only ones still reading these comments.

Malsdemare 7:11 PM  

Elena and Amelia, I am!

Z 8:21 PM  

@Anonymous 1:44 - Maybe in Trump’s America? Not so much in the majority of the country. {C’mon man. They* put it on a tee for me, how could I not take a swing?}

@Malsdemare, Elena & Amelia - I make at least four. And the half dozen moderators. And Syndyland in five weeks.










*Just channeling my inner Shakespeare with the singular “they.” Y’all should try it some time.

BarbieBarbie 9:33 PM  

@Z and gang, I also came back in and read. And probably nobody will read this, but a lamp is a bulb plus power source, so arguably a flashbulb is part of a flash lamp, and some types of lasers were powered by flash lamps— pretty sure not any more. So, it doesn’t have to be Edwardian.
Thanks for the brandy/port info. Knew it was something like that.

Two Ponies 9:48 PM  

@ Razorback 4:03, Great catch, I didn't see that.

Also, if PP is getting money from those puzzles I won't be buying any.

Azzurro 10:58 PM  

Love the Michael CHE/COLIN Jobst cross in the Mini!

Anonymous 1:19 AM  

Correction to my 4:54 post: all but one of the above-ground stops on the 1 train are situated north of 155th St. So they’re not in Harlem. Also the 3 train terminates at surface level. That leaves only a single stretch of ELevated subway track in Harlem—the number 1 line between 122nd and 135th Sts. (a few blocks north and south of the 125th St. station), running over the Manhattan Valley Viaduct.

SandySolver 7:28 AM  

Stanley Elkin was my teacher (beloved and greatly feared) at Washington University, so a gimmee. (Behind on my puzzles this week, so just now solving this.) The first time he wad in the NYT xword, in the early 90's, he claimed he got more mail in response to that than any single thing he'd written.

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