Whatever it Takes

John E. Bennett and Jeff Chen get this puzzle done by any means necessary.

Comments: 80

  1. Easy for a Thursday. My best Thursday time ever, 11:09.

  2. pretty easy Thursday. Love Yo Yo Ma. Saw him in July at Tanglewood at a Das Rheingold concert which he also attended. He was chatting in the aisle beforehand with all his fans!

  3. Slower than average for me today--this one came together very slowly, but finally did come together. I figured SPIRO was a sort of trick clue, no idea who the first resigned VP was, but I knew there hadn't been one since him. Then BMOC and LENA and RAYE and TYRA gave me hope that I could do this.

    The grid design is fun. I took a couple of flyers on words I thought might work out and they did (HAN, DIOR, MOANA) so that was good. I also wanted CLANK or CLANG before CLONK and had no idea about an AMINO GROUP, so that was my last fill.

  4. I don't comment much here, but I had to weigh in on this one. Great clues, great fill, great theme.

    THE M. I especially love that clue.

    Well done Jeb and Jeff!!

  5. Hi Scott,

    Welcome to Wordplay!

    I loved that one too. What a great way to clue a ubiquitous word.

  6. Applause, applause, applause! Super clues, a delightfully smooth and entertaining solve. BYHOOKORBYCROOK opened the entire puzzle up beautifully. Well written, well done ... have I mentioned I liked it?

  7. Disliked BMOC and CLONK, but these are minor quibbles. Overall, really fun and loved the visual.

  8. My first fills were YOYOMA (liked the clue for that) and ASPEN. Took a while to get STUART instead of STEWART which first occurred to me. I really liked PANDORASBOX and wondered if I could now resist opening it.

    Since I had CLANG and then CLANK, my stabs at the chemistry clue for 30d first brought IMINAGROUP which seemed rather odd. Ended with AMINAGROUP until Deb clued me in on CLONK. CLONK?? The dictionary affirms it, but I sure never heard of it.

    And Judy's song would never have been popular if it had said Clonk clonk clonk went the trolley, would it?


  9. Didn't like the clue for AMIGA, which is really just a friend of someone of either sex, who is a female. The sweetie clue infers more novia or guapa, or some other word, depending on the country. I will defer to the true native speakers on this.

  10. I almost put NOVIO in there, too. The AGNUS, I mean LAMB, would not allow it.

  11. AMIGA was such a great computer so far ahead of its time with voicing of typed text, animation, etc.

  12. And another thing. Both FISH and LAMB could have been clued as Christian symbols, not just the former, and I wonder if our constructors were tempted. But that would have given the impression of a sub-theme that not only wasn't there but clashed with the real theme's long answers. I would have preferred the two words had been clued differently, leaving out the symbol parts.

  13. Could have modernized/politicized the FISH clue: Stinks from the head?

  14. I liked the Christian symbols - I thought they made a nice little motif under the theme.

  15. Enjoyable Thursday. Grew up an hour north of LAS CRUCES in the good ol' Land of Enchantment. Go Aggies!
    Also, according to my stat page, I simultaneously completed my 1000th puzzle overall and longest ever daily streak of 200. For perspective, I then calculated that I need only 6.5 more years straight of daily gold stars to approach Cal-Ripken-like (2,632) numbers! What's the longest online gold streak anyone has hit? Anyone in the 1000s?

  16. 200 is amazing! How long have you been solving? Do you use Google/other reference material or other people for help? I'm at my currently longest streak ever at 12... but I have a very strict No Outside Help rule.

  17. I started about two years ago. Practiced lots of archived Mondays and Tuesdays. My only strict rule is no Google. I do use my Merriam-Webster app for spelling and occasional double checks if I get the error notification at the end. If I'm truly stymied, I'll take a mulligan and glance and the Wordplay blog.

  18. That's amazing, CT. Congratulations!

  19. .
    Debbie Harry (sometimes billed as Deborah Harry) has a surname that can be a verb. The same is true of the surname on her birth certificate (Tremble, if I read correctly). So ONEWAYORANOTHER, her surname could be a verb.

    She was in the movie "Hairspray", which has no relevance here, except that Marc Shaiman (who won awards for the stage musical "Hairspray") is a frequent solver. He sometimes reads Wordplay.

    I liked the grid design & the trick in having a this-way-or-that spirit apply visually & verbally. I liked a lot of the fill too.

    Deb had O- - O for the Roman. I had C - - Y for the newspaper desk. Years back, I might be torn between IT & OP there, but those days are gone. So, altho murmuring "surprisingly dangerous" as I did so, I entered CITY.

    Interestingly, the solution presumes that the Spanish sweetie is female while the initialism for the noted individual on campus includes THE M (usu a signifier of maleness in that idiom). If Spanish lacks a gender-neutral term for friend, we have to live with that, but can't a (male) AMIGo be a sweetie as well? Don't campuses have big People who do not identify as male? If we have to be gender-binary, it might be nice someday to see BWOC.

    I thought about that only because PANDORASBOX is so visible. I have read that the myth of that jar blames a woman for the ills afflicting our species.

    Then too, SCOTT can be "Middle name of a King"; and BYHOOKORBYCROOK, STUARTS had Mary & Anne in da House as well as James I & Charles I.

  20. If you put Hairspray on a POUF you won't have to comb it so much.

  21. I'm disappointed. Jeff Chan, whose puzzle note today unsurprisingly includes a touch of arrogance so notable in his daily puzzle comments, was working off of an already fun idea from his collaborating constructor, but only two theme phrases? That's seriously inadequate, even with the hook and crook shapes. Two of the long downward entrees should have been related to the theme -- a pair of phrases both clued with something related to "Whatever it takes", such as "Not enough" or "A step too far". Crossing them would have been appropriate, too.

    Lots of drab fill appear in the four corners. Some clever clueing helped salvage some entries, but as we know, those clues very well could have been from Joel and Will.

    I have to say it: MEH

  22. Sometimes simple is elegant. The two grid spanners, the hook and crook along with their prey, felt just right to me.

  23. A FISH may be prey to the angler's HOOK, but the CROOK is not used to harm or 'harvest' a LAMB. A shepherd must check over the flock--perhaps anointing little injuries with oil. The CROOK would be used to catch the animal needing care.

  24. The puzzle was OK, but the theme was lame, as was the grid. BY HOOK OR BY CROOK explicitly refers to two different things, so using the same layout of black squares to represent them both certainly shows a lack of imagination or creativity. One expects more of a juicy gimmick on a Thursday.

  25. and Elke
    Little time but wanted to try the puzzle, so:
    by any means or
    somehow or other or
    by fair means or foul or
    in other words , used available aids for BMOC , OTHO among others.
    In addition, after a fashion, j'adore DIOR .
    Did like the fish on the hook and the lamb in the shepherd'd crook.

  26. The fills fell into place quickly and, I am proud to say, I got BYHOOKORBYCROOK with just three squares filled by crosses. Having gotten the theme fills and the long verticals early, I had ONEWAYORANOTHER playing in my head almost the entire time I was working this. Gonna getcha, getcha, getcha getcha...

    I like PEW for "seat of Christianity"! I agree, though, with the comment below noting that featuring FISH and LAMB in the circled squares, and cluing one of those as a Christian symbol, comes off as a bit jumbled.

    The fill for 28A (mulching material) is incorrect. Mulch is spread on top of the soil to protect roots, crowd out weeds, conserve moisture and prevent erosion. PEAT is a soil amendment and sometimes a growth medium for sprouting seeds. It is inappropriate for use as mulch because it will soak up the moisture from the soil -- like a sponge -- and allow it to evaporate. Peat dries out quickly, and it crusts over. It is also acidic, and will acidify the soil. Mulch should be a more pH neutral material, like bark chips or compost. Even rocks can be used asmmulch.

  27. Rather doubting that Will does yard work.... If more people would garden, we would not have these dreadful happenings. Sigh.

  28. MOL, it's MULCH ado about nothing, I suppose.

  29. Copy desk before CITY. Otherwise the puzzle was a quick solve. I felt the normal Thursday trickiness to be weak.

    Thanks for the puzzle.

  30. Hand up for copy desk

  31. I had copy desk, too. When I worked for a newspaper they had a copy desk, but the "city" desk was Metro. (Autocorrect keeps changing that to Mateo. One has to wonder why.)

  32. Clonk? Really CLONK?! Jail is colloquially called the CLINK because of the metal on metal sound of the cell door closing. Has anybody ever heard metal on metal go CLONK?

  33. A lot depends on the temper of the metal. Hard steel rings. Soft steel sounds like that ...soft. So yes, "clonk" is possible. Think lead or tin.

  34. I had a terrible time with that entry.

    When I got there at first, I only had the C. I went with CRASH. When other entries precluded that I went with CLASH, CLANK, CLANG, CLINK, maybe some other stuff. I never got to the unknown and unheard-of CLONK until I had to run the alphabet to summon MHP (I couldn't even figure out what the clue was talking about in the chemistry clue).

  35. I'm with capntim. CLONK is the weakest link.easy solve except for that awkward O.

  36. And easily solved by making the last letter an E, and the cross becomes the chemical suffix. (Or for a more common suffix, change the gender of the friend at 37A.

  37. This is a beautifully executed concept -- how could you do a BY HOOK OR BY CROOK puzzle better than this? Two beautiful and theme-perfect longs, the grid art illustrating the phrase, the creatures hooked and crooked. Paradigm of what a theme puzzle should be.

    I love the word CLONK and will be seeing it in my mind's eye and hearing it in my mind's ear today, I'm sure. The puzzle shot me back to youngsterhood, where in every depiction of Little Bo Peep she was carrying what I now know is a crook. Even now, in my brain, that little shepherd girl isn't Little Bo Peep unless she has that crook.

    The puzzle has a mini-theme of double O's (5), and I loved the clues for HOLE and DORK. At first I had ONE WAY OR AN OTTER and I thought the theme was going to be wacky animal-ending phrases. One thing I have confidence in with any puzzle with the CHEN name on it, is that words I don't know will be fairly crossed.

    Well done!

  38. I am not a CROOK. Gee, those were the days. I didn't realize that vice-presidents had the lead in the resignation category. Hmmm...

    Where was I? Oh yeah, the puzzle. Tough for me but ultimately doable. Some unknowns, like MOANA, but it was more the ambiguous answers that slowed me down. I'm looking at you 'dynamite' and of course CLONK, but there were others. Did a lot of pondering of this letter vs. that letter and seeing how it might work both ways. Somehow thought of LASCRUCES with just a couple of crosses and tentatively typed it in. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Did seem a little thin on theme material but still a lot of nice non-theme entries.

    Note to Jeff and John re 31d. You'll put your eye out.

    I think I may have mentioned before the NVA propaganda leaflets (stuck to branches along a trail) that included the phrase: "Your HOARY old mothers." If not, I've now mentioned it.

    Nice puzzle and a nice challenge.

  39. Almost forgot.

    Happy birthday, Leapy.

  40. Boldog sz├╝let├ęsnapot kivanok Leapy-nek!

    hee hee

  41. What David said! (And many more)

  42. I thought the BY HOOK OR BY CROOK reveal was super, but agree it was not a tricky Thursday type of theme, just right for a Wednesday I would say.

    SPIRO was a gimme, luckily no need to know who the first one was, but thanks for the info, Deb. Cute clue for PANDORA'S BOX, and I wasn't fooled for long by the spent clue.

    Looking forward to Jeb and Jeff getting together again.

  43. Well bald spot did not fit in 27d..., a PITHY tale ensues

    Set next to YOYOMA and his Cello on my way to the ASPEN Institute. Told Mr. Ma I recognized him from Sesame Street. He is a charming fellow. At ASPEN the living quarters resemble college dorms done really really well... then Bauhaus school slips across a synapse. I was there to present my research on why coercion and abuse (aka torture) rarely produce reliable information. My results, and the 30 years of previous research, did not fit the then administration's agenda and so here we are.

    Very pleasant Thursday J&J.

  44. I thought POUFS were what you put your feet up on, but maybe that's an OTHOman. Anyway, I's say that cluing POUFS to 'combing' was definitely teasing...

    In re your second paragraph... Sigh.

  45. Yes, I'd definitely say that.

  46. Happy birthday, Li'l Leapy.

  47. The puzzle was okay. Maybe better as a feat of construction than as a solve. As soon as FISH filled itself in, I looked for the HOOK. Then the reveal at 55A came to light with just a few letters.
    YOYO MA is a hero around these parts for something only tangentially related to making beautiful music -- by appealing to the audience at a Tanglewood concert, he helped reunite a lost dog with his owner who may have been conducting. And the dog is a Havanese -- like my little avatar!

  48. Clonk should have gotten the hook!

  49. I was determined to finish this one BYHOOKORBYCROOK and I did - with lots of checks and one Google. I did not know OTHO. Last area to fill was FISH and POSTS.

  50. Deborah, The Year of the Four (or was it Five?) Emperors was pretty wild... If you like historical novels/mysteries, seek out Lindsey Davis's Falco mysteries. Excellent books :0). Robert Graves's well-known pair, _I, Claudius_ and _Claudius the God_ are also great reads. You won't soon forget OTHO, GALBA, and so forth. Hmm now I want to reread those....

  51. Thank you MOL, I'll check them out.

  52. I usually step gingerly into a Thursday grid, looking for tripwires. But after finding none in the north (after noting with amusement that *this* newspaper does not *have* a desk called CITY), and sensing nothing dangerous about the two four-circle words, I raced to completion, with a somewhat yawning "oh yeah" nod to the "theme." IMO this was a fine puzzle for construction; for solving, not so much. I will not repeat the PEAT, amen on the clunker CLONK. *Metallic* impact should be CLANK (as in chains), but since metallic is just one impact and any heavy impact could be clued as CLONK, it's just a poor or misdirecting clue, not a completely incorrect one.

    (Ingredient in moussaka yesterday *was* a completely incorrect clue for FETA, but frankly, my dear, I don't give edam.)

  53. I'm guessing that I won't be the only one who confidently slapped LION into 39A after getting the LAMB at 34A.... it was easily fixed, and this puzzle opened up like a lily....

    I often hear metallic impacts, and CLONK isn't what I hear; CLANK, CLUNK, THUNK, CLINK, CHING--all more metallic than CLONK, but a constructor's gotta do what he's gotta do, 17A or 55A, right?

    Cute puzzle. I also solved this week's BEQ's just as a little treat to myself....
    What a great start to the day!

  54. I am so happy that Jeb and Jeff got together to bring this very clever puzzle to fruition. Surprisingly it was easier than it looked at first but no less enjoyable.

    CLONK is a great word. CLONK, CLONK, CLONK! Perhaps the sound of wooden shoes going down a flight of wooden stairs?

    Thanks to Jeb and Jeff for a most enjoyable Thursday!

  55. Great Caesar's clonking clogs!

  56. This thread tickled my funny bone: the crazy composer Percy Grainger was fond of writing all his musical directions in "English" - for example, instead of "decrescendo molto" he would write "quieten lots." (And, yes, "louden lots" was the opposite instruction!)

    In this piece, a kind of music hall clog dance based on a little ditty by Handel, the opening bars are marked with the simple instruction:
    Enjoy his plonky "Handel in the Strand"

  57. CLONK is in the OED but it has nothing to do with "metallic" sound. That clue landed with a thud.
    The rest of the puzzle was well done.

  58. I thought of it as sounding like a lead weight landing after being dropped from a height.

    Of course, lead is a metal.

  59. I'm glad I am not the only solver to have an issue with CLONK.
    Good puzzle , but terrible clue.
    Your clue leads to clang.
    Clonk is dull thud , not metallic impact.

  60. "Metallic clonk" sounds fine to me too, Martin, which affirms that "clonk" *without* the modifying adjective does *not* inherently imply "metallic."

    Or, as your Google cite wonders:
    Did you mean: metallic clunk

  61. And I have a tin ear .... :-)

  62. Loved the basic visual theme of the hook catching the FISH and the crook catching the LAMB.

    Hated CLONK. Never in my years of onomatopoeiac crossword fills have *I* clonked "metal" in an impact. CLANK and CLUNK for sure. Clink for glasses and tea parties (cf., Despicable Me: keep clinking). But CLONK? Me thinks the cluers clonked on this one.

  63. ETA: I've got to start reading the previous comments before jumping in with my whines. . . I now see my CLONK honk clunked.

  64. Disregarding whether the word signifies a metallic sound or not, here's one example, IMO, for when the word CLONK is perfect, coming from "Reaper Man" by Terry Pratchett (2002):

    The minute hand moved with a clonk, and shuddered to a halt on the 9.

  65. In addition to CLONK, I also took issue with the clue for THEM. It's not "the M" that's silent in "mnemonic," it's specifically the first M. When you have two Ms in a word and only one is silent -- and given that this four letter combination can be clued a million different ways -- this choice strikes me as odd and bad.

  66. Perhaps better to clue as what's silent in "Mnemosyne". Given she's the mother of "Erato" and the source of the word "mnemonic"

  67. Folk today are certainly not silent about THEM mnemonics.

  68. I don't mind admitting that when I start to say "mnemonic", my lips are closed, so even the first M isn't quite silent.

    But maybe that's just the me.

  69. All IN ALL, an OK puzzle. The unusual layout necessitated a lot of 3-letter fill. Pretty sure CLONK was only there to teach a lesson to those of us who confidently entered CLANG without checking the crosses. I would've been more sure of OTHO if it had been clued in regard to the interior decorator in the movie "Beetlejuice," which I've seen about a hundred times (slight exaggeration).

    TONIO K. (real name Steven M. Krikorian) is a songwriter and recording artist who generated a devoted cult following back in the 70s. His songs have been recoded by many top-selling acts, but his own recordings are difficult to pigeonhole. Check out the title track to his 1978 album "Life in the Foodchain" (I can easily imagine Meat Loaf doing this song):


  70. Isn't Thursday often a day for quirky and offbeat puzzles?
    Really wanted "Pence" at 26A, but the clue asks for a first name.
    At 29A, wrote in "tnt" too soon and held onto it too long. Nice one, JEB and Jeff!

  71. Got any SIXES? Go FISH...Many of the byways of NY NY, especially those in Manhattan, have those all too FAMILIAR conveyance restrictions. CITY travelers acquiesce to the ONE WAY OR ANOTHER traffic flow in order that they might avoid the clanking, clunking, clinking and CLONKing of a dreaded head-on collision...With all my answers in place (SEA LION was last) I still had to determine the gist of 55a as clued. Once I'd done that, the subliminal nature of the puzzle morphed from hazy and indistinct to one of crystal clear recognition...This is techno-rock's Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark unwrapping "PANDORA's BOX."


  72. Neat puzzle, only one quibble: I could have dispensed with the hint in 55A -- almost a spoiler.

    I appreciate honoring Yo Yo Ma. He has many youtube appearances in different musically-related roles.

    Ma and Ax have to be the only musicians whose names require just four letters. I expect to see a crossword with that as a clue.

  73. And if their offspring married, a resulting grandson could be MAX MA-AX.

    Shades of PAN vs PA'AN.

  74. This is a test. Please ignore. I'm trying to see how annoying it is to get to Wordplay on my phone.

  75. my experience is that it is horrible.

  76. Heh heh, RMP. It was pretty annoying, but I succeeded. I hate trying to type on the tiny keyboard, and scrolling down to the comments was a pain. I didn't log in with my regular account, but then I got an email welcoming me to the New York Times. Anyway, I was testing out access for when I'm in England and trying to communicate with Suejean! Looks like as long as I have Wifi, I'll be able to do it.

  77. Well executed given the theme and approach, but this one didn't sparkle for me.

    I don't really care for themes that depend on grid art to work. Even after I get the gimmick, it just always seems to fall flat for me. So, while there was a lot to like here, it just wasn't for me.

    I won't belabor CLONK any more than has been done, except that it crossed AMINO GROUP, an unknown to me. CLANK/AMINA works for me, but CLENK/AMINE doesn't. Needless to say, last letter to enter.

    Second only to the O in MOANA/DORK. I was really confused until the cleverness of the clue for DORK gave me an Aha! moment and pleased me bigly. Never heard of MOANA.

    LOS before LAS CRUCES. KYRA before TYRA.

    Anyway, lots of nice stuff: PANDORA'S BOX, AGORAPHOBIA, both the themers, YO YO MA, ANCHOR as clued.

    SPIRO Who?

    Thanks all.