Some sharing and swapping of ideas may be needed to finish this Victor Barocas puzzle.

Comments: 206

  1. UPTAKE (to be sung) When the clues are merely dashes I tend to panic, And the circles won’t take rebi, Oh my, I’m seasick. When it’s not “Stuarts” or “Tudors” It’s . . . PLANTAG . . . PLANTAGEN It’s PLANTAGENETS! And when Tirana’s spelled TIRANE That spells lotsa nits. This Boracas guy’s got game, He can splice a GENE or four, Took all my cells to crack the code, But by REGENERATION I cried “More!”

  2. A masterpiece of construction. Loved it.

  3. Challenging. Well Constructed. I’m just not sure I’d call it fun.

  4. With RURAL clued as "Like much of Iowa," I wanted the crossing CRIB to be clued as "Frequent sight in Iowa." (CANDIDATE wasn't in the grid.)

  5. A good answer for “Like much of Iowa” would be VOWELS. Wouldn’t fit in this puzzle of course but I offer it for future use!

  6. Maybe an even better clue for that would be “Like much of Iowa and Ohio.”

  7. Thymine to comment here more often. (It's the splice of life.)

  8. Yes.... YES!!! (I’ve spliced our the rest of the enthusiasm this puzzle GENErated for the sake of brevity.)

  9. P.S. I felt a little frisson of apprehension upon seeing the capital of Albania again, but forged ahead TIRAN(a/e)lessly anyway.

  10. @Sam Lyons To reply to you from the Sat. puzzle--I figure it's too late for you to see it there: I don't consider myself a speed solver. I've just improved a lot over 40 years of solving. In other words, I don't rush through the puzzle to see how fast I can get it done. If I did, I might be able to shave a few seconds off my time, but that's not my goal. I still appreciate knowing what my time was, so I can compare it to other puzzles from the same day of the week. If the answers fill in too fast, I sometimes have no idea what the theme was until I look at the completed puzzle. Occasionally, I'll speed-solve one of the really easy puzzles on other sites to see how fast I can type in answers when I don't have to think about them--like "Animal that moos" type clues--and I can do about 2:30 once in a while. But that's not much of a puzzle, and I like to be puzzled. That's why a good Saturday Stumper is a lot of fun for me. Also, that's why I do the Spelling Bee every day. I can reach Queen Bee only about half the time, so that's a game that still challenges me.

  11. and Elke Steve L--- some days I am happy to just be a GENius......

  12. A sui generis puzzle that I found most challenging and rewarding.

  13. SEPAL and SPAD was a Natick for me as well, and I probably am not the only one.

  14. That was the last thing I filled in. I did not know SPAD but SEPAL was in my cobwebs. I just had to get past the stubbornness and erase PETAL.

  15. @Mr. Mark Yes, Petal would not work with SENSORS, which is when I came to accept SEPAL (also buried way back in my brain). Flowers can be tricky what with all those five letter parts.

  16. @Steve I'm pretty sure I learned SEPAL (along with anther, pistil, stamen and of course petal) in HS biology. I got SPAD from the crosses, though.

  17. The SPAD aircraft are entirely associated with World War I because the company went under / was bought out by another company at the end of the war. Still, it was part of history. I knew the name but wouldn't blame anybody for complaining about the name of a company that has been out of business for a solid century appearing in the Sunday puzzle! Snoopy famously flew the Sopwith Camel, a biplane that only first appeared in 1917. But in the air around him, the French pilots were most likely flying SPADs.

  18. @David Connell Having been obsessed with WW1 aircraft in my youth, I paused at SPAD only because I had throught it was a British plane. But SOPWITH didn't fit, so SPAD it was.

  19. @David Connell - Obviously not widely known, but "Spad" lived on in the military aviation community at least through the 1960s as a nickname for the Douglas A-1 and the "Spad drivers" who flew it.

  20. I too thought that the Spad was a British plane, but it seemed to be the only four letter WW I plane I could remember. The rest of the puzzle was hard work for me, but I had a feeling of satisfaction in finishing it without any lookups. I also pushed my streak to 499, proving nothing other than retirement really gives an advantage in such things.

  21. Fortunately, the wheelhouse was in gear early on, and I followed the "bubble flow" without much delay. Very enjoyable all around. At one point, I briefly considered whether there might be such a word as WARBUR, and how it might look in a mirror: (RUB RAW, RUB RAW, RUB RAW...) But, no. The closest I could search up was Warburg, Germany. (GRUB RAW? Nah!)

  22. @Alan J - go a little farther along and there are a lot of Warburtons to consider, including Ft. Warburton (renamed Ft. Washington), the defensive fortification for Washington DC.

  23. Round up the usual suspects: ALE, ASHE, AVOW, EDEN, REPO, . . . even OTT. Well worth it if needed to execute the theme. Lets have more GMO puzzles. Better living through chemistry.

  24. Or would it be “Better living through biology”?

  25. This was a truly fun solve. Staying with this one to finally get the theme was really rewarding. Excellent!

  26. @RP, agree! And because I twigged to the theme sooner than I usually do (REGENERATION was the primer), then it was extra fun to fill in the spliced products.

  27. Fun! Took some thought and careful looking at the grid to figure out where things went. There are too many ways to spell the name LEEANN!

  28. @Liz B Actually, Ms. Womack spells it Lee Ann. Ms. Rimes, whose career in country music overlapped to a great extent, spells it LeAnn.

  29. @Steve L And I have a friend who spells it Leanne. I think! And another who spells it Lee Ann.

  30. @Liz B And my wife is reading a book by someone who spells it Liane.

  31. Questionable cluing in many, many places, which does not work well with the theme that felt forced. Felt like half the puzzle consisted of partial, nonsense words. Not very fun.

  32. @Dean Your assertion that the puzzle contained partial, nonsense words implies to me that you didn't get the trick. The "Today's Theme" section of the column is very lengthy for a reason. Make sure you understand that the "partial, nonsense words" aren't really just part of the trick.

  33. Dean (and your 6 reco's as I write), Could you elaborate? To me, a "theme that felt forced" is one where to fit the theme the answers sound stilted or artificial. I don't run across a hedge nettle every day, but in general I found the theme answers just fine. Could you cite two examples of questionable cluing? There were 16 "word spaces" in the puzzle that were components of the eight theme answer words. Aside from those 16 "word spaces," did you encounter any other "partial, nonsense words?" Did you read the column before posting/reco'ing?

  34. Dean, what are some examples of clues you thought were questionable?

  35. One of the bigger aha moments when I found IONESCO finishing 42D and PLANT starting 26A. Suddenly the "-" clues made sense. Things dropped into place very quickly after that. Kudos for ERELONG and LARC. Not a real fan of OATGRASS.

  36. Bravo, Victor Borocas! Wonderful puzzle! A constructor's feat that's also a solver's delight! Got the gimmick sorta piecemeal. Realized quickly where the entries clued with hyphens were going, but not necessarily in which direction. Tied to the preceding entry? Nah. Turn a corner to go down? Up? Backwards? Skip a black square? Nah, nah, nah. Finally saw the turn to the down staircase followed by the turn to the horizontal at REGENERATION, and immediately its neighbor FRONT PAGE NEWS. Terrific! That cleared up some stuff in SE and let me see DODGE NEON and HOMOGENEITY. Only then did I see that the circled letters in both were the same, so filled in the other two. Plus that revelation revealed the revealer to me. (I'd been working on things with stents and bypasses.) Only real misstep was HEDGE NEEDLE before NETTLE. Wasn't crazy about that entry, which I'd never heard of, but it was more than made up for by PLANTAGENET and EUGENE IONESCO. Wonderful entries! And I don't mean to leave out how impressed I was with HOMOGENEITY. I'd have preferred [Drum line] as the clue for EAR CANAL, since it seems more to the point. The CANAL part isn't the "hole." For the rest, too much good stuff -- fresh entries with sparkling clues -- to single anything out. The puzzle was a challenge and a delight, and I thank you, Victor, and all concerned.

  37. @Deadline I think I might argue that the ear canal is a hole. I mean, a hole in the ground consists of both the opening at ground level, and the continuation below the ground level (which is analogous to the ear canal)

  38. @Deadline I think I might argue that the ear canal is a hole. I mean, a hole in the ground consists of both the opening at ground level, and the continuation below the ground level (which is analogous to the ear canal). But I do like your proposed alternate clue.

  39. @jam Not my proposed clue -- it's the one Victor submitted that got changed. I can't argue with your argument about the EAR CANAL, but I think of "hole" as the opening and the canal as that sort of tube thingy that leads to the drum.

  40. Excellent

  41. Brilliant, brilliant puzzle. Not just the ingenious main theme, but the many intriguing sub-themes. Lots of historical references, including an English history theme from the eras of the PLANTAGENETS and Tudors: BOLEYN and ERELONG; a mythology and ancient history theme: SATYR, LOCH NESS, Philadelphia=AMMAN, TRAJAN, EDOM, STELES. Leaping ahead to the 70s, I was transported back to my childhood with THE ROSE, LOLA from Copacabana, The Brady Bunch (TV PARENTS) and the EWING family from Dallas. Even a mini Beethoven theme with FIDELIO and BONN. Ultra satisfying on many levels.

  42. I found the theme easy (I had GENESPLICING from the get go), but the rest of the puzzle was hard. Over 40 minutes in total.

  43. I’m glad lots of people liked this puzzle. I find the puzzles with answers that scatter around the grid and fill that is nonsense when scanned the normal way to be annoying. I solve on the app. Typos or mid-entries are common when things don’t line up properly and then when I finish it takes me 10 minutes to find them because the words are so hard to scan. Takes all the fun out.

  44. @Margaret Olson I've never solved on the app, so I'm not real clear on what you're talking about with the answers scattering and the "normal" way of scanning, but I can see that it could be annoying. Have you tried AcrossLite? I've always wanted to try Puzzazz because I've read such good things about it. Alas, it doesn't allow for use on a desktop, and that's where I solve.

  45. @Deadline I usually solve on the computer, but on occasion do some solving using the NYT XW app on either my iPhone or iPad. Of those two, I prefer working on the iPad, because of its larger screen and different layouts—it changes slightly as you move from portrait to landscape orientation. Another advantage is that more than one clue is displayed at a time, unlike on the iPhone app. I occasionally use Across Lite and have used Puzzazz as well, but I've not used either enough to make one a favorite over the other.

  46. I got the theme fairly early because I was 100% sure of PLANTAGENTS, so I filled in the circles to complete that answer. GENE SPLICING confirmed it, so filling in GENE for the circles and the (-) clues made it go fairly fast. Got stumped in a couple of places. I worked the puzzle sitting in my mother-in-law's farm house in Iowa. Took me a long time to come up with RURAL. Great puzzle

  47. @coloradoz I was 100% sure of PLANTAGENTS, too, but only about 85% sure of how to spell them.

  48. @coloradoz - I wonder if I'm the only one who tried to put CORNY in there first!

  49. There are at least two of us

  50. Brilliant. My favourite crossword in the 4 months I've been at it. Finished with only a few US specific googles... Great work Victor

  51. Wow! Just wow! I wanted the starfish thing to be REGENERATION early on but didn’t see how it fit at that point, so that kept me from benefiting from the gimmick up front. In the end, it was a bit over my average solve time for Sunday, unlike its Friday and Saturday predecessors. What an ambitious construction idea!

  52. For those who only know "Fidelio" as something to fill in for a crossword - a little bit... Opera just wasn't Beethoven's thing, but he did write this one. "Fidelio" is its most common name now, but he wrote it as "Leonore". It's a timely distinction, since the titular person is the same: the woman Leonore goes into prison disguised as a man Fidelio in order to accomplish the liberation of her husband Florestan, a political prisoner. Certainly one of the most treasured parts of the opera is the chorus sung by the freed prisoners: Beethoven tried repeatedly to write the overture to the opera, and thus left behind a little pile of masterpieces, four in total, and a confused history of performance practice. The energy in the opera is tied up with the tensions between person and state, male and female, individual freedom and empowerment. It's not the sexiest opera in the world - but it's a good one to visit when those themes seem important... If you follow this link you can click where it takes you to the permanent exhibits at the Beethoven-Haus museum in Beethoven's birthplace, Bonn.

  53. @David Connell. My misfire at 1A, RELO, left me with Leonore...outsmarting myself into believing it might be considered interchangeable with FIDELIO. Once I solved the themers elsewhere I could return to that spot and fix it.

  54. I visited the Bonn Beethoven Geburtshaus in 1972 and thought it well worth the time.

  55. @jg I know someone who had just the EL of 3D, searched "shakespeare othello," got some hits and filled it in without looking further.

  56. Loved it! A little over my average but worth it!

  57. I saw GENErally what was going on, but visual cues do nothing for me so although I got GENESPLICING, I never figured out how to make it happen. I tried rebussing my way to completion with GE's here and NE's there, and got the "oops, you have made at least one dumb error" message. So, not that much fun for me, even though answers like FIDELIO are right up my alley.

  58. I’m always amazed by the inGENiousnEss of some of our puzzle creators. This one, though, is beyond amazing to me. Bows to the master. My face was set in a frown of puzzlement through most of it, though the clues for ATM and YOKE gave my face smiling relief. Once I realized what was afoot, I was able to fill in some of the twisty themers. My main problem was in the southeast where I had several mistakes: DENIal before DENIED, El Paso before EAST LA (how embarrassing), and mud before WET (which I still prefer). Big mess. I finished, after checking to find my errors. Whew! What a marvelous thing is a really well made crossword puzzle — this being one! :-D

  59. @Just Carol Hi! Miss you! But always smile when I see your notes.

  60. @Just Carol Your avatar’s expression resembles mine through much of the solve. ;-). In the section that gave you trouble, I was actually thinking that perhaps IRANIANEITY is a word. Talk about a muddle.

  61. @ MOL miss you too, and always look for your comments!

  62. Managed to get this done in a little less than my Sunday average, and found it both informative and challenging. Cottoned on to the them in the NE, remembering PLANTAGENETS and somehow pulling up EUGENE IONESCO from the depths of my memory banks. That helped to figure out the missing parts of the NW and sped the solves for the other themers. GENE SPLICING as the revealer was nice for confirmation.

  63. Caitlin, biomedical engineering has been around for a long time, predating the 21st century by many decades, if not longer. I also could do with less gushing over the puzzle creators.

  64. Fabulously constructed!!!!!Genius at work One of my all time favorite puzzles. Thanks

  65. Had a bit of a brain fart with GLOB instead of BLOB which gave me GROWN instead of BROWN. Finally clued in and heard the music to bring my longest streak to 153. Such a fun puzzle - inGENEous design.

  66. I got the theme in three parts. I skip around a bit, so I got the revealer fairly early but had enough crosses to be confident putting GENE in all the circles. I thought that was it--a little simplistic, but oh well. Then I got to the dash in 42A and saw how PLANTAGENETS could finish up there. So I spotted and filled in the split across entries and *again* thought I had it all. Only later did I spot the downs.

  67. Talk about loading a grid with obscure proper nouns (which the constructor no doubt had to google to himself) so you can make your little gimmick work. Yes I got the GENE thing right away but with all the proper nouns, I just couldn't be bothered to keep going.

  68. LJADZ, Obscurity is in the eye of the beholder, but which proper nouns you did not know -- from the portion of the puzzle you worked on -- could you not fill in from crosses? I certainly didn't know the answer to every clue, but I had no problem with the solve. P.S. Again opinion, but I would not characterize today's theme and its execution as a "little gimmick." P.P.S. I have no inside information, but I'm guessing the constructor did not Google the answers.

  69. @ Barry Ancona Starting with 6a, you have three layers of proper nouns crossed by three other proper nouns. Good enough example? Makes for a bad puzzle, IMO.

  70. NM, I assume you mean 8A? Proper nouns, yes, but the issue was obscurity. My question to LJADZ was "which proper nouns did you not know...[and] could you not fill from the crosses?"

  71. Beautiful puzzle. Scared the daylights out of me on the first run-through, and it took me a long time to get the theme. The insight came in two stages -- GENE, okay, but each one is part of two answers? Gorgeous.

  72. At the risk of overstating, this was a masterpiece. I’m not sure it could be solved without finding the theme. For me it was a real challenge and very satisfying to complete. Lots of good clues. Refrain from nursery singing was one of my favorites. Thanks to the authors.

  73. SPELLING BEE GRID Jan 19th 2020 E H I L N P W WORDS: 48, POINTS: 175, PANGRAMS: 1 Starting Letters-Frequencies: E x 1 H x 7 L x 3 N x 6 P x 15 W x 16 Word Lengths -Frequencies: 4L x 25 5L x 8 6L x 9 7L x 2 8L x 3 11L x 1 Grid: 4 5 6 7 8 11 Tot E 1 - - - - - 1 H 4 - 2 - 1 - 7 L 2 1 - - - - 3 N 2 1 2 1 - - 6 P 8 2 2 - 2 1 15 W 8 4 3 1 - - 16 Tot 25 8 9 2 3 1 48 (Y-Axis: Starting Letters, X-Axis: Word Lengths, X/Y Co-ordinates: Frequency/Number of Words for that letter and length)

  74. @Mari Starting 2: EP - 1 HE - 6, HI - 1 LI - 3 NE - 3, NI - 3 PE - 7, PH - 2, PI - 5, PL - 1 WE - 4, WH - 8, WI - 4 Had to cheat on the P11.

  75. @Mari another slog today. I’m fading fast as the cruise messed up my circadian rhythms. Unusual words are a fencing sword, slang for butt, place you call for product support, something roughly cut by an axe, young person who’s part of counterculture, a bird or dance, male younger relative, center post of a stairwell, bowling variant, part of a hammer, 2 spellings of another bird or youth baseball league, adjective for a male appendage (surprised it’s allowed), 2 spellings of an expression of relief, lover of Greek culture, child’s toy or type of cookie with a swirling pattern, way to transport oil, 2 spellings of a type of sausage (often a hot dog) or male appendage, sad movie, expression of excitement as you go down a slide, showing off on a bike by riding with the front off the ground, animals giving birth, devious persuasion strategy (often preceded by feminine when plural).

  76. @Mari pangram is the toy or cookie, also a verb meaning to spin wildly.

  77. LETTER BOXED THREAD Jan 19th 2020 U - D (9), D - W (4) ... 13! YESTERDAY: WIRETAP PUBLISH (NYT)

  78. i also got U-D (9) and D-W (4) today. my solution yesterday was WISHER and REPUTABLE.

  79. I'm beginning to learn Victor's modus. There will be footholds, enough to get you into the grid. There will be answers I will come across for the first time in my life. The cluing will be mostly direct, and there will be a contingent of one-word vague clues that can't be filled in without crosses. There will be other clues that involve slight wordplay, enough to make you hesitate, but not dig deep. Also, there will be some old-timey answers you don't come across much in puzzles any more. Check to all that in today's grid. Today's theme is impressive -- splice is nice! And after getting the first, it helped to suss out the others, and that was fun. I put on my work clothes, ground my way through the rest, and when I was done the effort felt good on top of being wowed by Victor's execution of the theme (on top of the concept, the theme answers are perfectly symmetrical!) and his coming up with it in the first place. All in all, an experience well worth the time, and much gratitude, Mr. Barocus!

  80. Tough but interesting! Finally remembered THE ROSE for my last entry. Loved Joplin's fire and energy!

  81. judy d, So did I, but for THE ROSE I enjoyed Bette Midler.

  82. For 60A the Capital of Albania is Actually Tirana but the answer on the puzzle is Tirane. Anyone else notice this?

  83. @Rebek Please don’t get them started...

  84. NH may be referring to the fact we had a long discussion some time ago on precisely that name. Somebody may remember which blog it was.

  85. @NH thanks first time commenting thanks for the heads up

  86. With only SPAD, SEPAL and STOAT unknown, I had to draw a grid and rely on phonetic likelihood to solve by elimination. No lookups, but if this were just paper and pencil I couldn’t have solved it. It worked because most letters sound wrong together. Shame on me for not already knowing these words. All three should be common knowledge.

  87. @Pdb No shame in not knowing these. SEPAL and STOAT do appear on occasion. but the last time SPAD appeared was in 2011, and I think we can all be forgiven for for not knowing a WWI French biplane.

  88. @vaer I don't know that I've noticed them in crosswords before, but SEPAL and STOAT aren't rare in real life. SPAD totally new to me too, though.

  89. Thanks. I teach history, so theoretically, I’m responsible for knowing about aircraft. And just about everything ;-)

  90. One of the BEST. EVER.

  91. Simply amazing. I can't imagine how difficult this must have been to construct. Didn't see all of the way the answers work until I had filled it all in. Great job!

  92. Phenomenal. Had a romp with this one. I am also impressed how the theme shows a geometric isomorphism to Feynman diagrams -- which in turn suggests the potential for other crossword fills having this kind of underpinning. The essential Feynman picture is a five-branched linkage -- like a distorted capital H -- used as a visual framework to indicate how particles interact in the quantum world. Kudos again.

  93. Dr W, good point. Even the wiggly lines correspond well to the stairstep appearance of grid diagonals.

  94. Barely “completed”. Had to read Caitlin’s words of wisdom to even have a chance of understanding the “theme”. (I’d prefer “novelty” or “trick” - or something else here. I guess I think themes should rely on wordplay - - but that’s just my preference.) Even when I got to an “explanation”, I was helpless - - until there was a concrete example offered. The rest was Greek to me. AND - - there were so many no-knows in this one that I can’t begin to enumerate. So - - I’ll just opine: There was one extra space for the proper answer to 88A. That answer is AWFUL. And the clue should have been “ALL instant coffees”. I think I’ll go back to bed, turn the blanket up to `9’ and assume the fetal position for a while.

  95. @PeterW I wanted to assume the fetal position, but had to settle for the SEPAL position.

  96. @PeterW SANKA is a brand name and therefore not an umbrella term for all instant coffees. As for pluralizing it, if you're ordering it in a diner for yourself and a companion, you'd ask for "Two SANKAS, please."

  97. jg, I agree with your comment, but I think PeterW would too. I read him wanting one less square not to make SANKA singular but to have the answer be AWFUL (with his revised clue "ALL instant coffees"). Shall we make it a CAF?

  98. Absolutely loved this puzzle. So clever in so many ways!! Was stuck last night but as always the fresh eyes of morning brought insight into the theme. Awesome to see that you teach at the U of M. Go Gophers!

  99. I think today's theme was CRISPR than usual.

  100. @Mike R Or, as we call it in New England, CRISPAH. Did you know that if you edit the lettuce genome, you can make it CRISPR?

  101. To me, this is how a puzzle should be created. Yes, it sets out a construction challenge for the constructor, but it never loses sight of the solver's pleasure -- leaving the solver with plenty to figure out, as it provides a whole slew of "Aha" moments. I loved this puzzle! It wasn't especially hard for me-- except in the L'ARC section. I wanted ARC. I never thought of L'ARC. And because I had PEsKY instead of PERKY for "full of spirit", I ended up with the LASC de Triomphe. I scratched my head, wasn't sure what was wrong, and came here. So a 1-letter DNF. Occasionally I felt a bit dizzy wondering in which direction I was being SPLICED. But even the dizziness was fun. In fact, the dizziness provided the fun. Great puzzle!

  102. Nancy, This is as good a time as any to recognize you as one of the few commenters (if not the only) here who routinely posts "DNF" and "Great puzzle!" about the same puzzle.

  103. I think there are demonstrably different sorts of smarts. I admire those other than mine. This is one. I have more admiration for its creation than salutation for what I think is the longest solve ever for me. Bravo. Boo.

  104. Thank goodness for the musical entries - FIDELIO, HAYDN, ARNOLD, BONN, and even SWEENEY. Without them I don't think I ever would have got started. I caught on to the first aspect of the theme with EUGENE IONESCO, but I did not realize at first that the diagonals would always be GENE. That realization would come with DODGE NEON, and I then could fill in the remaining circled letters, and got the revealer as a result of that. Still it was not an easy solve from then on due to quite a few unknowns. My final square that took forever to find and correct was EMAIL instead of GMAIL. I had know idea what an ELOBE was but had a final D'OH moment when I thought of GLOBE. I couldn't imagine why ARC de Triomphe did not fit. It never entered my mind that it could be L'ARC any more than I would expect THE EIFFEL for the clue "_____ Tower". This puzzle reminded me of one of the first "risqué" jokes I ever heard, back in high school. How do you tell the sex of a chromosome? Pull down its genes. That is about the extent of my knowledge of biotechnology.

  105. Great 'one-liner' joke! I'll have to remember that one :) My usual go-to for a quick laugh is "what do you call an Alligator wearing a vest?"

  106. An investigator! That's a good one. I had to Google it. Never post a joke without the punch line! Lol

  107. @Andrew They put the L in on a L'ARC.

  108. I finished the grid in about 40 minutes, but then had to spend another 8 minutes noodling before I found that LERAUX/ IANESCU is actually LEROUX/ IONESCU. My compliments to Victor on the ingenious theme. That was a fun one.

  109. @Mikeweb Not unless it's Mel UTT...

  110. @Mikeweb Actually, it's LEROUX\IONESCO

  111. Yes, I got the OTT, not UTT, just made a mistake in my comment.

  112. Brilliant! The most fun solve in a while. Having worked in biotech, this was a real treat, Mr. Barocas...please go to the head of the gene pool!

  113. I did not like this puzzle. The theme was great, but much of the fill was abysmal. The SPAT, STELES, SEPAL, ENCYSTS section was just full of junk. The pluralization of SANKA should never be acceptable. TIRANA is the capital of Albania, never TIRANE (we all are doing the puzzle in English, right?). CAF is not a thing. You can order decaf or half-caf, but never in the history of over-priced, fancy coffee places has anyone ordered a "caf" coffee - they just order "coffee". This would have been a great puzzle had much of the junk been edited out. Too bad.

  114. @Rick O What if you're in a diner and order a SANKA for yourself and one for your wife, wouldn't you ask for "two SANKAS, please?"

  115. @jg sank you for this remark....

  116. And wouldn't two half-cafs be one caf?

  117. The puzzle dazzles! Wow, wow, wow, and Thank You, Professor Barocas, for your contribution to my happiness. (Seriously, I don't think that's going too far.) The only big hold-up was the Romanian author, because there are several 'accepted spellings' of his surname out there. I had to ask DHubby about 'O LINES'--new one on me. The French biplane was also a 'Thank goodness for crossings' entry. Hope we don't see that one again any time soon; it's the only bad note in the piece. And today, at last, we see the sun. The much-colder temps are a small price to pay after the wet, stormy week!

  118. MOL, OLINE (singular) was just here on a Sunday in November and a Saturday in October. American football wants a frequent O to rival hockey's ORR and baseball's OTT.

  119. @Barry Ancona I admit I do not read every clue--which I recognize is not the smartest, but when a puzzle fills quickly I don't usually retrace. And I am always happy to see Mel OTT, the Little Giant.

  120. MOL, OTT appearances remind me of my maternal grandmother, a dedicated crossword solver and Giants fan, who reported having had a drink or two in a speak with Master Melvin.

  121. Great Sunday and lots of fun. Briefly considered a possible rebus, but the revealer got me on the right track. I personally loved all the music, theater, film and TV clues and words, especially EUGENE IONESCO, one of my favorites. There seemed to be a wonderful variety in this puzzle. Suejean has lost her link to the comments and hasn’t been able to find a fix yet. She is still enjoying the puzzles and wanted to say that she got WINE TASTING first thing in the puzzle a couple of days ago. :)

  122. @Beejay Send greetings to suejean and tell her we hope she gets a fix soon. It sounds as if she is not able to get to Wordplay even though she can get through to the puzzle. I thought there was a link to Wordplay over at xwordinfo, but I can't seem to find it. Maybe Rich or someone knows.

  123. @Deadline Thanks Deadline, If I’m understanding her situation correctly, Suejean can get to the Wordplay blog, but there is no link to the comments. This apparently happened about a week ago. I will send her your greetings.

  124. @Beejay I can't get to the comments or get links from menu bar to work on NYT site from iPad, just desktop. Thought it was just my aging tablet although it works fine on WaPo and other sites. Has anyone else run into this besides Suejean? I go through the site and not app because the app UX bugs me on puzzle page -- might have to suck it up if it works, though.

  125. I have but one word for this construction E G ads!

  126. Extract from the Wit and Wisdom of Puzzlemucker: -Jan. 9, 2020 "One thing’s for sure — the next time “Capital of Albania” appears, the first five letters will be a gimme and the sixth will have to wait for the cross word. My prediction (not quite as safe as Steve L’s predictions) is that it will next appear as TIRANA." TRUA THAT.

  127. @Andrew TRUA THAT was ingenious. I’m quite proud to say that my batting average for making incorrect predictions on here stands at a lofty 1,000%. Is it too early for me to predict that the incumbent will win our next presidential election?

  128. Worst Sunday time ever! And it's especially embarrassing considering I have a PhD in Genetics, preceded by a BS in Genetics and Cell Biology from the very institution from which the constructor hails (Go Gophers!). I was even wearing a U of MN sweatshirt as I solved. I am at least glad to say that I caught on to and filled in the theme answers relatively quickly (with a few exceptions). But the rest of the fill was incredibly difficult, peppered with proper names I simply didn't know which is often my downfall. And while I try not to complain about clues and answers as everyone has different knowledge sets, I will echo @Rick O below that the capital of Albania is TiranA (I can't get google to acknowledge TiranE as the Albanian capital no matter how I search) and CAF is absolutely positively not a thing!

  129. @Rob I did not like this puzzle bit either, even though I was able to get many of the clues and even the 'GENE' thing. But I have friends who live in Tirana, and I could not bring myself to misspell it for anybody, especially someone who wants to be a 'clever' crossword constructor but who goes 'out of bounds' to do so. Honestly, I knew the answer going down was 'truethat', but I decided not to mangle 'Tirana'. So even though I was 1/2 finished, I gave up, did the 'auto-fill' puzzle reveal, and am glad I didn't spend another minute on this one. Not worth my time to try to twist my answers to something incorrect just to match someone's poor construction.

  130. MorningLight, Did your friends in Tirana *tell* you Tirane was not an acceptable answer? (If you scroll down, you'll find links to what others with friends in Tirana had to say ten days ago when Tirane appeared here.)

  131. @Barry Ancona Sorry, Mr. Ancone. (Yeah, I did that on purpose.) I'll stick with the traditional, more widely accepted spelling, and the one preferred by the Albanians themselves. I found the puzzle clever, but some answers were a big stretch in several places...

  132. So I'm on my new laptop, just set up by my handyman 5 minutes ago, AND I'M BEING RECOGNIZED by the two crossword blogs I'm on, plus my two email accounts. I am so relieved. So I won't be disappearing after all!!! Thanks for the shout-out, Barry A.

  133. I'm happy that Victor had the good sense to scrap his first idea and even happier that he has the smarts to create the puzzle we have today: Bravo, Victor! I had a lot of fun figuring out where the GENEs would take me. In fact, at times I was REELING! A bonus for me was EYEBALL crossing EARCANAL. OK, I'm strange. Thank you, Victor, I was thoroughly entertained!

  134. Help! We have successfully completed today’s puzzle, but the app was still telling us something was incorrect. We double and triple checked against the answer key and literally everything is correct, but our puzzle is still showing as unfinished. We’ve also tried closing and reopening the app, deleting a letter and putting it back in. Nothing works. Has anyone had this happen before? We have a 153-day steak and it would be so sad to lose it! Thanks!

  135. Taryn, Step 1: See if any (letter) O was entered as a zero (0).

  136. @Taryn It has happened to me on occasion, but it was always my error. It happened again today. The nature of the software means that it is very easy to over type a letter in clue you have filled in and which was correct. I've perfected the art of checking the across clues one by one. I never check the downs. The logic is that if all the actresses are correct then the downs must inevitably be correct. It is also a structured way of checking, making it easier to avoid your eyes wandering all over the puzzle.

  137. @Niall Perfect example: Your software switch "acrosses" with "actresses"! If I can find something, I "tab" through all the across AND then all the down. More than once I found one direction could be more than one word, but the other direction fixed it.

  138. Not to nit pick (yeah I’m nit picking) - the hyphen in the clue to 113A is misplaced. It should be anti athlete’s-foot, or no hyphen at all would be proper as well. But anti-athletes suggests Victor has something against athletes. My $.02.

  139. David, Could you pick a cite to support your nit?

  140. 'Athlete's foot' is a compound modifier for the noun 'brand,' two words serving as a single concept, and thus no hyphen is needed. Yet 'anti' takes a hyphen for all but a few uses (antibiotic, antiperspirant to name two). Thus 'anti-athlete's foot brand' is correct. Citation: Associated Press Stylebook.

  141. @Hildy Johnson I totally thought what David said so am glad you explained! Thank you!

  142. Love a puzzle that includes the word GOOBER. I did remember the great TIRANE/TIRANA tizzy of a little while ago, and left off the last letter until I got the crossing.

  143. I only started solving regularly a few months ago. Until today, I had no real appreciation for what makes a truly excellent puzzle. This one, with all the ‘spliced’ clues and answers (SPAD / SPADER, REFI / REPO, STOLES / STELES, etc.), puns (EGG / YOKE) and internal references (IAN / EON, AERATE / ERATION, ASHE / AFIRE) reminded me of the first time I saw a Van Gogh painting in person: Now I know what all the fuss is about. This puzzle was thoughtfully and playfully constructed throughout. I especially appreciated the mischievous repeats of two recent controversial answers: TIRANE and KNEE (as in take one). As someone already said, Bravo, Victor!

  144. Hadn't got much when I quit last night, but noticed enough Es and Ns in the circles to catch on, and soon had most of the splices done. (Had to research "hedge ne" to get that one.) After that things came together in bits and pieces, but ended up with my usual "Nearly KEEP TRYING." But already over two hours and my streak has been zero for three days. No hints from Caitlin, so here goes Reveal Puzzle: OK, misremembered the EWING'S name (barely ever knew it) and even forgot BORG! N instead of G for both.

  145. @kilaueabart I was helped in that NETTLE was a word in SpellingBee a few days back!

  146. Nice puzzle with palpable resistance, with lots of deceptive clueing. And a nice innovative gimmick which, because the NW got filled in pretty soon, didn't mystify for very long. Almost had no errors when filling the last square, just had to see that snile does not mean insinuating and do an L –> D. Elam, Edom, somehow those two get confused in my mind. Favorite clue: Berry receiving much attention in the 2000s. Now, açai is too short, so which berry am I forgetting? Cute! The author works at the same place I had my first teaching job. I remember well a flight I took, from a visit to my grandparents in Miami back to Minneapolis, on January 1, 1973 in the course of which the temperature went from 75º at takeoff to -25º upon deplaning four hours later. But I digress.

  147. I especially liked the crossing words had the shape (I'll try to 'draw' with ascii): __| \__ | So down-diagonal-down and across-diagonal-across. Neat!

  148. Excellent fun! I had to beg, borrow, and steal to get some (ok, a lot) of the obscurities, but I dug in and figured out the theme after a few, feeble attempts at forcing a rebus solution, and that was extremely satisfying.

  149. What a wonderful puzzle! I realized the theme relatively quickly, which is always such a rush, and the overall clueing was just delightful! I did get stuck on SEPAL / SPAD as others apparently did. Am I the only one to be amused by 101A leading into 103A (HOMOG - INNES)?😊

  150. The theme is a clever idea on paper, but the execution is lame. It's lousy enough when fill is archaic and obscure (e.g. LARC, ENCYST, STELES), but when the theme entries are just as bad (e.g. HEDGENETTLE), it's unforgivable. Clever theme, but pretty terrible construction and editing on the whole.

  151. This goes down as one of my Sunday favorites. It was very cleverly composed and made me be careful and pay attention. I liked that the obscure clues gradually revealed themselves by the crosses. Well done; no cross words from me today.

  152. A very sweet puzzle; theme was solid and attractive, and the fill was a very nice mix of old and new; balancing STELE with TRUE THAT. AUTOSAVE was a great misdirect; just a lot of fun to solve.

  153. This was like a Thursday puzzle on steroids! I loved it! So clever! I ran out of steam in the SE corner, though. Too many little things tripped me up - I never heard of the Dodge car and I thought HOMOGENEtic was the answer, so it brought me to a standstill. After reading the clues again and again, and taking a break, and reading them again and again, I gave up. But it was a lot of fun while it lasted! I'm just sorry my brain couldn't do it justice.

  154. @Mary “Thursday puzzle on steroids!” Love it!

  155. @Mary when I realized homogeneous was wrong I tried homogeneric, also wrong!

  156. I would almost say a Friday puzzle on steroids. At least that seems to be the consensus from all the crabby comments here. For the record it took me 48 minutes without any look-ups.

  157. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up. I got the GENE SPLICING midway through, but finishing this beast took all afternoon. Had to Google several fills to make sure that I got them right, 'cuz I sure didn’t really know the answers. HEDGE NETTLE was one that I guessed correctly. TIRANE threw me ‘cuz I absolutely knew that it had to have been TIRANA. TRUA THAT!

  158. @SteveG You fought on the beaches, you fought on the landing grounds, the fields and the streets. Never surrender!

  159. @SteveG Not the first Sunday puzzle with TIRANE rather than TIRANA!

  160. @SteveG agreed, especially since I’ve actually been there. Oatgrass? Never heard of OATGRASS! This is the second crossword where I have seen Tirana spelled incorrectly

  161. I'm not someone who wants to spend hours on a puzzle and I really dislike the fact that so many clues were not clues at all. Several clues were just hyphens. Totally useless....They are not clues! At least give us one clue per entry. Awful.

  162. spartan, There were eight clues that were dashes. The dashes were very useful because they indicated the answers were continuations of answers that started and were clued elsewhere. Those eight "dash-clued" spaces were the completions of the theme answers.

  163. Totally disagree. The dashes did not indicate anything, that’s what made them so frustrating. If they said “4d” or “101A” or something to indicate that they had any relation to other clues that would have been useful. Of course, when the creator goes around just making up words, it doesn’t help.

  164. This makes me smile. I watched the movie 'The Two Popes' last night and at the end there is a montage of places Pope Francis visited after his ascension to St. Peter's Throne. One of them was Tirane (the 'e' augmented with an umlaut) and I thought of the recent uproar in this space. Kinda spooky.

  165. This place is usually called Tirana; Tiranë is the name of the river that flows through it (according to Wikipedia)

  166. So, 10 minutes longer than normal. What did it for me was Edward I. The family name was Plantagenet, no if’s ands or but’s, (one but, tho, I did do a search on the Plantagenet origins in case there was some totally obscure other name) so I ran that down thru the bubbles. Then Romanian writer was, if not a gimme, made more obvious by the g e n e. So that gave me the theme trick. Lots of additional fun and tricky fill so all in all a satisfying Sunday.

  167. I cannot fathom the brainpower it would take to craft this puzzle - with the double branches of GENE answers. I don't even have the vocabulary for what he did here. At just over an hour it was a long, leisurely, satisfying gustatory experience and I loved every bite. Like a supper in Spain, unrushed, nuanced, finely spiced and surprising. One of my favorite Sundays ever.

  168. CAF is not a real thing (like decaf) and WET being "good for leaving handprints in" just seems incomplete. These minor flaws, however, can be forgiven and forgotten because this crossword is a remarkably clever construction. It took a bit to get going but it was worth the effort.

  169. Wow, we either loved it or hated it - sign of a real cracker IMHO. Almost gave up on the solve until I realized I had DOOR for "secure" instead of MOOR. Duh. As for Tirana/Tirane, remember when we used to say Bombay and Peking?

  170. Finished up by straightening out my errors in the SE corner: DENIal at 95A, mud at 115A (WET??), and Eous at 120A. Then I had to fill in a couple of blank cells that were Naticks: the cross of ENA and PLANTAG, and cell 68. Amazingly both my guess were correct. 😊 Absolutely loved it! Not only the "GENE splicing" of the across entries, but also the verticals. Amazing construction. 👍

  171. As with most complex puzzles -- and this one was a masterful doozy -- Deb's admonition of YMMV is certainly at play. I just wonder if the negative comments have to be SO negative. No one is going to love every puzzle but even the ones I don't love I recognize that it just wasn't in my wheelhouse and move on. Okay, rant over. My entree into the solve was 14D/26A PLAGENG E N E T S EUG E N E I O N E S C O with the NESCO coming way before and realizing it wasn't the world heritage conserving organization UNESCO. Thank you, Victor Barocas and the puzzle editors and testers, for a very enjoyable Sunday solve.

  172. A brutal drag today that felt like a chore. Humorless and too many obscure clues. In honor of Larry David who is back on TV tonight, I’d say this was pretty, pretty, pretty bad.

  173. Took me a long time and I left it and came back several times. I saw how the theme was working (partly, anyway) as soon as I came to Edward I, since I knew he was a Plantagenet and that didn’t fit, but there were those handy bubble steps where it did fit. Several spots had me stumped for quite awhile, HEDGENETTLE being one. I’m a hiker and know a lot of wildflowers, but not that one, and kept trying to make “thistle” work. I was frustrated at times by the theme because I felt just on the verge of understanding but couldn’t quite put my finger on it, couldn’t quite see the whole picture. To my embarrassment, I even had the revealer filled in early on, but still hadn’t noticed the GENEs in all those bubbles. I didn’t get that bit until I peeked at Caitlin’s column for inspiration. It was all deliciously fun though, when it finally all came into focus. I’m so impressed at the talent and patience it took to construct a puzzle like this, not to mention (but I will) the job of explaining it to us. So I’d say Caitlin deserves kudos as well.

  174. I wrote one year ago to celebrate having finished a one year streak and now it’s two years. I wasn’t going to write again but it came hard won. I had food poisoning and, after a night spent praying to the porcelain god, I had just enough energy late on Friday afternoon nine days ago (1/10/20) to realize that I had forgotten the puzzle, only to be greeted by the BEQ (APPLESHORTCAKE, SIL = embossed S) morsel of creativity. I thought that my difficulties were due to my weakened state and that this was going to end my streak. However, between naps I powered through and finished within an hour of the deadline. And then, near the end of my recovery, I hit the Thursday, January 16th phonetic defiance puzzle (JOURNEYMAN/German, GENEALOGY/geology). Again, I thought, this is it, my streak is done. But, again, I powered through and this time I managed to solve in a time barely over my Thursday average (plus a considerable post-solve period to really figure out the trick). For me, it was challenging enough to make the aha moment very enjoyable. This community gave me comfort while I was sick and throughout the years. (I only look here after solving.) Thank you, all, for always being here as a fun delight on ordinary days and a bit of solace on tough ones. I’m completely recovered now and ready for whatever comes our way but I don’t think I’ll try to keep the streak going. Best wishes for a happy 2020 to everyone and to those you love!

  175. @Cindy Thanks for sharing, Cindy! and CONGRATS on your two-fer streak!!

  176. @Robert Michael Panoff Thanks!

  177. They did TIRANE again, which is kinda upsetting and makes it seem like they're trying to make it into some new crosswordese. Other than that I was just minorly grouchy about certain things. 56D, I think the clue should've been "Insurance for the crash-prone?" rather than "Insurance for the crash-prone"; it didn't really seem to fit as a definition (like 119A - "provider of child support?"; AUTOSAVE : insurance :: KNEE : child support - from my perspective anyway). There were only 3 declared pun-clues too, which might have dulled the fun a bit (I think everyone likes getting those small "a-HA"s). I agree with another commenter about 55A - no one in the history of the universe has ever said "Hi, I'd like a CAF latte please"; unless CAF stands for something else that I just don't know. Other than that I could grumble grumble about some obscure answers I'd never have known, but I don't want to be too much of a debbie-downer. The theme was cool and there was still a decent amount of fun to be had.

  178. “Half-CAF” is a thing though.

  179. 31A Do we really know Humpty Dumpty, is an egg?

  180. @LSR nowhere in the rhyme is he called an egg!

  181. @Matt K and @LSR, the nursery rhyme does not specify that he’s an egg, but Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass (the sequel to Alice in Wonderland) describes him as such.

  182. He’s portrayed as an egg in the illustrations in Through The Looking Glass. Alice also notes that he looks like an egg

  183. Worst. Time. Ever. Why an extra large grid with a diabolical scheme, word debuts and STELES / STOLES / STOAT today? It was impressive and I got within a few clues in the NW and SE corners of completing this without scouting through the Wordplay blog; with the theme realized I didn’t glom onto the symmetry of each theme answer. Down clues ended going down, across clues ended going across. I spent a lot of time trying to make sense of IN _ E _ _ TTLE before realizing INGENERAL was right, as long as it ended in the same direction it started. A lot of this was pretty enjoyable, as others have noted; AUTOSAVE, AERATE / ERATION, the subtle cue from 98-Across and TVPARENTS were fun, unfortunately things like MIND / RUBRAW / TAUNT / MADAT made the entire experience a little confrontational. Ah well ... not the first time Sunday has humiliated me. Nice.

  184. @Caitlin, FYI, I'm afraid that the "start at the end" and "end at the start" section would not be useful as a hint. In fact, it didn't make sense to me and I had already completed the puzzle! ;)

  185. Can someone explain 115A. How is “wet” Good for leaving handprints in? Wet what? Thanks

  186. @Doogie Wet cement

  187. @Raf thanks. But where does cement come into play? Is it implied somewhere from the cluing?

  188. @Doogie It's a bad clue IMHO.

  189. Since there has been a recent rash of “love it or hate it” arguments over puzzles with tricky themes (looking at you, last Thursday), this is a really good example of a good, tricky theme. The solves all still make complete words (when you factor that the dashes signify a continuation of a previous clue). There are no made up words or other weirdness going on. That being said, this puzzle was a bear to get through because the non-theme clues themselves were especially tough (for me anyway), making it take that much longer to get enough crosses to figure out what was going on. But I don’t blame the theme for this one; that part was actually quite fun, and properly clued and indicated so you didn’t have to spend hours figuring out why something didn’t work. And even for the clues that were hard, they weren’t the kind that made me groan upon realizing what they were; they were simply things I would’ve never gotten without enough crosses (out of my wheelhouse as it were). You only know what you know, you know? So overall, I have to say this was a good puzzle. I wouldn’t say I loved it simply because there weren’t that many “a-ha” moments for me, but the theme was well crafted enough for me to appreciate the hard work involved in crafting it.

  190. an especially clever theme, but a lot of disappointingly unclever fill. meh.

  191. Very clever theme. I figured out the theme pretty quickly but it was a tough fill for me. Congrats to the constructor.

  192. It’s late, and almost no one will read this, but count me in on the “great fun, challenging but ultimately enlightening theme” side.

  193. This puzzle totally ruined my Sunday average, but it was so satisfying to finish. And no look ups! I was so impressed with myself for getting STELae after attending a four-hour lecture on ancient Egypt on Saturday (yes, Saturday!), so I was mildly chagrined to see STELES. I did get the theme on PLANTAGENETS, though, so I guess I still get some nerd cred. Very creative and impressive work by the constructor!

  194. Today is Janice Joplin‘s birthday 

  195. Ugh. This puzzle was impossible for me. It is the first time I really didn’t care if I finished it our not. I didn’t finish it; I finally surrendered and felt I could use my time to do something more satisfying. The hyphens were mystifying to me. I know someone explained their purpose, and I get it, but I would expect some gimmick like this to be in a Thursday puzzle. The only good part about this puzzle is that no one (yet) has bragged that they finished it in under 20 minutes.

  196. Maybe it’s the medical side of me, I adored this tricky puzzle! After a few false starts & trying to fit in a rebus, I started getting it when I saw how IN GENERAL fit. I had to do a little googling (never crossword site hints! That takes the fun away) to finish filling it all in, but made it before checking wordplay or comments. Love it when I learn so much & see things in a new way. Another gorgeous fill & love the DNA shape!

  197. Until recently, I thought the capital of Albania was Tirana. Not crystal clear to me that a rototiller would be very useful for aerating the lawn. That would be like using a shovel to apply drywall compound. Does anybody look at the puzzles before they are published? I like a mystery wrapped in an enigma etc. as much as anybody, but enough is enough.

  198. The themed part of the puzzle was both fun and tough. The overall puzzle was marred by less than inspired clues for much of the other parts.

  199. As a scientist, I was delighted to see a DNA theme. it's rare to have biology front and center. and what a feat to put it there! four times!

  200. This was one of the most rewarding puzzles I have solved, ever, partly because even when you think you're done, more mysteries await. A tiny camera inside my head might have recorded the SLOW craaaank craaaank craaaanks of cogs turning until EUREKA! --it all came to me. Funny what made it work: after filling most of the grid, I wondered for a while whether Ionesco's pals had called him Gene. Nah! Then the whole thing fell into place. All this was happening as I watched a rerun of "Endeavour" on PBS. Maybe the creative ratiocination of the brilliant young Morse rubbed off or inspired me.

  201. I don’t even understand the explanation of the hyphens. How do you solve those without a clue??!??

  202. @Logical The dashes represent spaces that end an answer that began three lines away and linked by the G-E-N-E bubbles.

  203. Brilliant. I especially loved one set of intertwined answers: 26 A: Ruling family of Edward I. Answer is “PlantaGENEts.” 14 D: Romanian-born writer once in the French Academy. Answer: “EugGENEIonesco.”