The First Shall Be Last

Aug 28, 2016 · 76 comments
Jon d (Boston ma)
I still don't understand 6D MONTH. Would anyone be so kind as to explain how they got from that clue to that answer?
Blue Moon (Where Nenes Fly)
It's a difficult misdirection clue. It is designed to look like the fraction 1/2, so you think the answer might be "numerator" -- which obviously doesn't fit. You can try staring at it, or in my case, it revealed itself through some of the crossings. Another hint is the quotation marks, which mean it is not to be directly interpreted in the simplest way (that is, as a fraction). In the end, it just stands for Jan 2, and since the "1" represents Jan, the answer is MONTH.

This is a common type of late-week difficult clue, like the "4.0, for example" which is designed to get you thinking (maybe) about GPA, but the answer turned out to be TREMOR (earthquake scale).

If you look through the postings, you will see that many veteran solvers found this puzzle a little opaque and needlessly dense in the clueing. I believe one person said the puzzle "needed to breathe more" (in crossword-ese).

BTW, at this point most people have probably "gone home" with this puzzle -- you would be better off posting this question to the newest puzzle comments hoping someone there will take it up.
MTF Tobin (Manhattanville)
Posting on one Comments section about another puzzle is generally disfavored.

At any given time, someone may have saved up the most recent weekend puzzles (for example), knowing they are going to have a plane flight or something in a few days. But they may be doing the Monday and Tuesday crosswords in a timely manner.

The standard approach in this forum [from my observations] is to post something on the most active comments section such as, "I left a late comment on the column for the crossword of [date] seeking an explanation of an entry, which no one has yet answered".

There is also, "[person], I left a late Reply to your inquiry about vampire bats in the Comment section for July 30, if you are still interested."
Blue Moon (Where Nenes Fly)
Good points!
Donna (CT)
I too finished the puzzle before I could figure out the theme. Sprite de corps was the one that gave me the strongest clue. I enjoyed reading your column to find out about the construction and the bonus!
Blue Moon (Where Nenes Fly)
52A: Support some posters?
Leapfinger (Durham, NC)
Blue Moon (Where Nenes Fly)
Got one!
suejean (Harrogate)
I was very slow to get the theme for a few reasons too embarrassing to mention; in fact it wasn't until I really studied them after finishing the puzzle and finally noticed the anagrams, so a sort of gigantic AHA moment and very satisfying. My favorite was SPRITE DE CORPS.

I never begrudge a constructor challenging himself or herself to come up with clever new ideas. We all want to excel in what we love to do. So I've been meaning to say for a while that I can't agree with criticizing the puzzle because it shows off the constructor's cleverness.
Beejay (San Francisco)
Here, here, suejean!
MTF Tobin (Manhattanville)
I very much appreciate the kindness that suejean has expressed and that Beejay seconded. When another now-banned Commenter assailed me verbally on no provocation, I know I would have liked to experience the kindness of Commenters.

I don't want suejean OR Beejay to change their own behavior; but I'll just present 3 things I believe to be true, which could help justify a nonconforming attitude.

1. There are performers and authors who never read reviews. Crossword constructors have the same option. Solvers have no place other than this Comment section for expression of their views to other solvers, which leads me to the next point.

2. "Constructive criticism" is a way of communicating with other solvers what we don't like. I never imagine I am writing to the constructor, other than HEX. But FAR more important, it's a way of expressing likes/dislikes to the people who decide what to publish, what not to publish, how to clue things, which entries are disfavored, and etc. Factboy is essential, in my book; and he comments very rarely. I have Will Short's email address, which I have used very sparingly for very specific purposes (for example, typos). One time I asked if a particular clue was consistent with his "rules"; he said No and forwarded that to his team. I would NEVER email him to say a puzzle was below par; I reserve that for the Comments.

3. I accept the "rants" if a Commenter also "raves". I dislike when Commenters speak up only to complain and never to praise.
MTF Tobin (Manhattanville)
suejean and Beejay, I'd benefit from your views on another type of comment - not the type that says the constructor was really stretching the them or that the theme was not enjoyable.

Some solvers regularly include in their Comments the specific clues or entries that they didn't "know". Some Comments consist almost entirely of a litany of same. Some solvers continue on to a second comment to get all of their "unknowns" in. Some solvers have pet names for the type of clue or entry they don't "know": "sports clues" [which could include an 8-letter word for an ancient battlefield that has a race named for it]; "Nixons"; "factuals"; "pop-culture clues" [which could include knowing the media nickname for a universally-known politician]; and the like.

Anyone could do what many do: Just say, "this puzzle only had 2 entries I had to Google, which is low for me"; or "I finally decided to give in and use Reveal for the first time in months". But when people list the specific things they didn't know, are they telling us something vital about the puzzle? Or are they criticizing the clue-writers? Clearly they are pointing to something that made the puzzle less accessible for them. I read it as a criticism of a basic function of constructor/editor: making the entry gettable from clue and crossings. I also read it as a criticism of the audience for whom the puzzle seems to have been intended.

Are such Comments the type we should avoid posting?
Starchild (Indianapolis, IN)
I, too, fell into a mousetrap baited with HEAD CHEESE, even knowing that Bill HADER was one of the leads in "Trainwreck" (having not seen it, I figured that the clue was referring to an obscure character or cameo instead). Even so, this was the clue that broke the theme for me once I solved some of the other crossings.

Add me to the list of people who found the themers to be a bit too much of a stretch, with the notable exception of SPRITE DE CORPS.
hepcat8 (jive5)
I guess that I'm the only one, but I found this puzzle to be too clever by January second. Once again, a misspent life of not going to movies or watching TV led to requiring a couple of dozen lookups, especially since the devious clues to the simple words did not provide the usual helpful crosses.

I didn't start to get the theme until SPRITED CORPS, and maybe it's just as well that I never got REAR ENDED. Despite my personal difficulties, however, I must commend Paolo on an exceptionally intricate and ingenious puzzle.
archaeoprof (Jupiter, FL)
Theme eluded me, too, until it was finished, and DAMECHEESE finally made sense. Enjoyed that aha moment, but circles surely would have helped with the theme reveal. For a Sunday, I spent too much time wondering what was going on.
judy d (livingston nj)
cler pizzle. enjoyable solve. ended with month for 1/2!
John (Chicago)
Actually, putting circles for the letters that spells REAR ENDED would have been a nice elegant touch and an improvement. You might say I've come full circle.
Barry Ancona (New York, NY)
I had thought you would miss this puzzle en route to Maine and the circles (h/t RMP) could appear while you were away. I'm delighted you have reconsidered your position on "plain only," but I hope for your sake and mine that we are not in for a spate of gimmick puzzles.

Martin (California)
REAR ENDED is not part of "the theme," as some commenters have asserted, but the solution to a typical meta-puzzle, or meta. With no notice to the solver, it's more of an Easter egg.

Something less obvious, but more obvious than nothing, would have been nice. A note about an alternate title hidden in the solved grid would have been my preference. It would have been very much like the metas that the Wall Street Journal crossword includes on Friday, or that Evan Birnholz occasionally includes in the post-Reagle Washington Post Magazine Sunday crossword.

Metas can be great fun for us on the lunatic fringe, but frustrating for many solvers, so I imagine Will Shortz considers truly challenging metas a bit too controversial for a general audience. As always, that's my speculation and not based on any "inside" knowledge.
Barry Ancona (New York, NY)
I am surprised that you made your comment in a reply to John, who makes no mention of REAR-ENDED as a theme in his comment. In any case, since the "theme" of this puzzle involved moving letters to the "rear end" of selected theme words, I'm puzzled that you do not consider this meta theme-related. If it is not part of the theme, how is REAR-ENDED any more valid a "bonus" than RESPEND AS?
JJ (Petaluma)
Solved the whole puzzle, but the theme was still baffling. After reading Wordplay, I have to say this theme was not amusing.
Johanna (Hamilton, OH)
I was blindsided by REARENDED. Wow. Just wow.

Thank you, Deb, for revealing the extraordinarily clever final touch to this puzzle.

Bravo, Paolo! What a way to go with your first Sunday NYT crossword. I look forward to more from you.
Dr W (New York NY)
Another clue-fill alternate: 79a -- what to do when seeing a door showing the outlne of a small figure in a dress in a German restaurant.

Wouldn't 108a be more correct if medieval was replaced by Scots?
Barry Ancona (New York, NY)
Dr W --
Re 79a alternate clue -- Were you thinking of restaurants *in* Germany or do you just miss Luchow's? (If the latter, see earlier discussion of restaurants in the Amanas.)
Re 6d alternate clue -- not for too long, I hope.
Dr W (New York NY)
My last (and probably second) visit to Lüchow's had to be in 1960 -- and the neighborhood has been altered drastically long since. It was located on the south side of 14th St where Irving Place ends. Most people pronounced its name like it was a Chinese restaurant, but one of my physics professors -- who was a stickler for dictive accuracy -- called it "Leekoffs". There were some great tech bookstores nearby too.
Barry Ancona (New York, NY)
Speaking of changes on that site, I'm sure there are some NYU students who don't know why their dorm is called Palladium.

S. Klein -- on the square
Dr W (New York NY)
Very satisfying -- especially with almost no arcane entertainment clues or fills. And a clue-fill relationship that was quite chewy -- even Ogden Nash might have liked it. And NO lookups.

I have concerns for the anemone
....... so I list it as itemone.

Alternate clue game continued:
25a: singular of uzi
87d; red face

I really wanted NUMERATOR for 6d.

Anent 52a: a few years ago there were three blue moons in row -- the middle one occurred on New Year's Eve (Dec 31- Jan 1). I can't remember the years but should be easy to find.
jg (bedford, ny)
To the extent possible, I always try to fill meticulously from NE to SW, so the theme wasn't clear to me until HEAR PERLMAN. (I was also stuck on HEAD CHEESE and had to backtrack for DAME.) My one wince came with summoning Itzhak to get Rhea...too literal?
jg (bedford, ny)
I meant NW to SE! I'm not that abstractly gifted.
Charlotte K (Mass.)
Rhea Perlman was the key for me, but I totally missed "rear ended" -- that's clever.
Lewis (Asheville, NC)
There were at least 18 non-theme answers that turned into words found in crosswords when you shift the last letter to the front, my favorite being HARKS. When you put the 18 shifted letters in order, they spell BOSNIA_HERZEGOVINA (just kidding).

The puzzle was neither exciting nor boring, IMO, but it kept me in my solving gear (as opposed to being on autopilot), so it was worthwhile.

The theme is impressive, especially with the meta, and I'm guessing it was hard to come up with these answers, even with your program writing, Paolo, and thank you for putting in that effort!
Jimbo57 (Oceanside NY)
Hey everybody, I haven't gotten to the Sunday puzzle yet, but I just want to see if this message gets through. I tried to post twice last night about Saturday's puzzle, and neither has shown up as of this AM. Hoping the emus aren't mad at me.
Barry Ancona (New York, NY)
Hey Jimbo. If it wasn't something you wrote, perhaps it was something they ate. A new day, a new diet?
Deb Amlen (Wordplay, The Road Tour)
Got it, it's published. I won't even go into why it was held back. That in itself is a fun puzzle to solve.
Jimbo57 (Oceanside NY)
Thanks a million, Deb! I appreciate your help on my behalf. Relieved to know it wasn't a serious problem.
Rich in Atlanta (Decatur, Georgia)
I didn't enjoy this one as much as I probably should have. I agree that it's a clever piece of construction, but with the exception of SPRITEDECORPS and DAMECHEESE (sort of), the resulting theme answers are pretty flat. And working them out didn't really feel all that much like wordplay - it felt more like working out an equation.

Deadline mentioned this being a good challenge and I agree with that. It's just that this one was probably more of a challenge than I wanted. Lots of unknown factuals and a several mis-directions that I never caught on to. Eventually I just got kind of tired of it. That probably says more about my solving prowess than anything else. And then, after all that work... I ended up with the little mid-north-east section. I think that the clue for HARKS was quite clever, but I never caught on. Didn't know either HADEN or REMY and so I ended up with a fail. Ah, well.

Hearkening back to yesterday's late discussion of RONCO - the interesting clue history today is for EENIE. It's only appeared 24 times in NYT crosswords, but 14 times in the last 5 years and 3 times this month. Also only 3 times prior to 2004, though the first two times were in 1948 and 1954. So exactly one time (1970) during a gap of 50 years. It's hardly a new word and seems like a very crosswordy collection of letters. I'm a bit surprised.
Despite being of the 'See Spot run.' generation, I would never have made the VETerinarian connection.....My read on the answer was in the context of (it pains me to write this) 'extreme VETting'....
pblindauer (stl)
This kid is on fire! Great stuff from Paolo, as usual. Really wanted DOMEHEAD and MOLE, so VAPOR was tough to see. Loved all the musical theatre refs, natch.

PS: it's the LAST DAY to buy the xwords for Lollapuzzoola 9: It's Hip to Be Squared. Visit bemoresmarter dot com and bring $12 for all the tourney puzzles plus a "Twinlets" puz from my cohost Brian Cimmet and "Different Strokes," an 11-puz meta suite by me. Strong stuff from Mike Nothnagel, Doug Peterson, Evan Birnholz, Francis Heaney, and Sam Donaldson. Was sorry that some people couldn't make it, but we were packed to the rafters, anyway. To paraphrase "Jaws": "We're gonna need a bigger church."
Andrew Greenhouse (New York)
Ms. Amlen, there is no evidence that Ava DuVernay was ever nominated for an Oscar.
Barry Ancona (New York, NY)
After the copy desk deals with the reveal of the "bonus answer," they can edit the comment on 4D to read:

• 4D: AVA DuVernay is the very talented director of the Academy Award-nominated movie “Selma.”

Deb Amlen (Wordplay, The Road Tour)
From Wikipedia: "With Selma, she was also the first black female director to have her film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture."

I was close, though. I've edited it in my post.
MTF Tobin (Manhattanville)
She was, indeed, invited to join the Academy recently.

I am too lazy to look up the cite. Anyway, that's also kind of like the clue. But you know my philosophy on clues: We aren't taking a test. The entry words aren't answers to questions. We're just putting letters into squares, and hopefully they are vaguely related to the clues as worded.
John (Chicago)
Martin, this is my last post for a while. After doing the puzzle I was going to pick Ray Bolger because he was the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz protecting the corn (for the punny themes answers). Then I read Deb’s explanation of REAR ENDED and realized how tortured this puzzle is because of that hidden theme that NOBODY will ever see, so I thought of going with Mel Gibson for his role in Braveheart. But in the END I decided to go with a boiled lobster (they are blue until cooked) because they are often eaten with corn and I can’t think of a worse fate than being boiled alive.

Besides, I’m off to Maine.
MTF Tobin (Manhattanville)
This guy ... Oh, you revealed already. Well, the grid connections are every entry.

In fairness to other relatively recent Best Picture winners in which a muscular actor had too much screen time, "Gladiator" is as tortured as "Braveheart" (IMO). But I have a friend who will make a pretty good argument that Braveheart is the worst movie ever, if you catch him in a sufficiently curmudgeonly mood. Sometimes I can quiet him by suggesting we agree that both films were undeserving of the awards they received. I'm not about to defend either of them.

BTW, I always thought you didn't see movies made after 1960.
Martin (California)
All the recos on a post announcing this is your last post reminds me of Johnny Carson's many comebacks as Carnac to the audience applauding his last prediction. Like, "May a desert weirdo lower his figs into your mother's soup."
Beejay (San Francisco)
Solved the SE corner first so had the theme with IMED dime NOVELS, but my favorite was INSIDE dope OP ED. Although THANE Ethan ALLEN was very fun too. It was nice to have the theme early on, to look for and solve the others. I had thrown in Miss CHEESE at first (thought it might be some sort of pageant) but then got the DAME Edam. Took a bit longer to realize the trick could be the first or second part of the theme. Lots of fun though.

7D made me think of the Eggheads, suejean.
suejean (Harrogate)
Me to, Beejay. I've got it on pause whilst reading the comments..
Jamie (Chicago)
I get that Paolo Pasco is the current darling of Will Shortz and the puzzle fanboys and girls who fawn over every young constructor as the possible savior of crosswordom. And, yes, he's good for a teenager. But this puzzle is neither clever nor well-constructed. The theme does not hold together and the title is inaccurate. And much of the clues and fill lacks creativity or originality. Paolo may be cute with the theme, but this can't make up for dullness like BAY_____ (AREA), Tourist's Report (TRAVELOGUE), TLC and DESTINY'S CHILD (GIRLGROUPS), and on and on. These just beg for some wordplay or cleverness.

I solved this in a pretty fast time for me, so I'm not complaining because I couldn't solve it. I could. I'm complaining because it's not a good puzzle.
John (Chicago)
Jamie, I am giving you one of my rare recos. I don’t hand them out like candy which sometimes seems to be the criteria here. I do not agree that this puzzle is neither clever nor well-constructed. In fairness, it is both. But I agree with your instinct.

Its problem is that it is a puzzle for the constructor, not for the solver. It is, as they say, too clever by half (like that ½ clue).

Sundays are for leisure. Who needs a puzzle like this for relaxation and entertainment as solvers have their second cup of coffee and escape from the insanity that seems to engulf the planet these days? And, to make it worse, solvers can do the whole puzzle correctly, think they’ve solved it and find out they weren’t as smart as the oh-so-clever constructor.

As Sylvester J. Pussycat Jr. would say, "Oh, the shame of it."
Jamie (Chicago)
Thanks? I guess. My problem isn't really with the too-cute theme. Or with the hidden meta when we weren't told there was a meta. My problem is with the utter dullness and lack of creativity in the rest of the puzzle.
Rich in Atlanta (Decatur, Georgia)
John, I am probably one of the most frequent recommenders here. I may recommend a post because I strongly agree with an opinion expressed, or because it is clever, insightful or funny.

I don't, however, recommend posts that include a gratuitous insult to the rest of the wordplay community. I do find it a bit odd that one of the few regulars here who (with some regularity) mentions the lack of recos on his own posts, would then complain about them being handed out 'like candy.'
Deadline (New York City)
Mostly positive thoughts here. I have really missed having Sunday puzzles that pose a challenge, and this one did. More like this, please! I want a large grid that is more Saturday (or at least Thursday) level, rather than Tuesday (or even earlier).

One unfairness, though. Couldn't there have been some clue somewhere that we were supposed to be looking for the "bonus"? I don't mean hitting us over the head with it, which would mess up the welcome difficulty level. But bury a hint somewhere in there that that there's something else to look for. (Deb, did you figure it out for yourself, or did Paolo point you to it? If the latter, my hat is off, but I wonder how.)

The best part was figuring out exactly how the theme worked, what with some of the switched front-to-back (back-to-front?) stuff being in the first word and some in the second. Nice to keep me on my toes. (I might have been more tickled if the trick words had been in symmetrical entries.)

I only sorta saw what was going on with RADARANGER and then got hopelessly confused at 23A. Like Peggy, I went astray trying to do something with HEAD CHEESE/CHEESEHEAD, but it just wasn't going to work with where I'd already started going with RADARANGER.

A few things that left me cold, notably 17A: I avoid SNL in general, and I avoid Adam Sandler like Zika, so OPERAMAN was a complete unknown. I think I'll let it stay that way. Also didn't know DOPE-SLAP or REMY as clued.

But ... basically bravo!
MTF Tobin (Manhattanville)
SNL of course has been a home for satire -- and a breeding ground for humor-writing talent -- for much of our lives. During the years between the end of Laugh-In and the rise of Jon Stewart, its fake news segment gave TV a sorely-needed clear lens on US political realities. (So much so, that Dan Aykroyd's Jimmy Carter or Dana Carvey's George HW Bush nearly took on lives of their own, and Aykroyd had to come back on live TV when Bob Dole ran for national office 20 years later. Kate McKinnon's Hillary Clinton impersonation was so good that Clinton was left with no choice but to do a skit with her, live, before the first Debate of her current Presidential run, playing a character rather than herself.) It has given well-deserved exposure to emerging musical talent such as Prince. Plus of course it features a lot of Canadians. Other than that, it should be avoided. It's a no good low-down etc.

Adam Sandler has a comedy shtick I can't defend, but he does a very good acting job when cast in a well-written film. Very good. Besides, he's done a big favor for 2% of the US population with his Chanukkah songs.
Deadline (New York City)

I knew what SNL is. I know its history.

I have seen it. That's how I know I don't like it.
Blue Moon (Where Nenes Fly)
"(I might have been more tickled if the trick words had been in symmetrical entries.)"

Exactly my thoughts as well DL (and Craig and Emgee). What is the rationale for whether the first or the second word would be the one affected for each theme answer? Agree that consistency there would be better for the solver, while this puzzle is more a tribute to the constructor with the obfuscated bonus. (Surprised this point was not mentioned in the column or by the constructor.)

Or maybe there was a hidden theme within the theme within the theme?
Emgee (NJ)
I really look forward to the Sunday puzzle (ok maybe I need to get a life). This one was disappointing. The lack of consistency with the theme answers bothered me. :(
Peggy Poznanski (Kalamazoo, MI)
I read the theme and for the Wisconsin honorary title clue boldly put in HEAD CHEESE, thinking the words of the answer would be reversed (CHEESEHEAD). I still think my idea was pretty clever, but very soon my folly in filling a long answer into an empty grid was revealed. Bill HADER caused my "Trainwreck". Once I got RADAR ANGER the schtick was revealed. I've loved the Amana RadarRange for as long as I can remember. My parents grew up in Mt. Vernon, IA and for every big family reunion our grandma dragged us to Amana to eat a huge meal at a restaurant whose name escapes me. But the slick, extended, beautifully mid-century modern (maybe?-I'm sure you brilliant people will correct me) typology of the logo and the sonorous way the name slips off your tongue is what really attracted my younger self. "Radarange, radarange, radarange," I would say over and over to myself in the back seat of our blocky green Impala.
Peggy Poznanski (Kalamazoo, MI)
Here's the logo I remember:
Barry Ancona (New York, NY)
The Ox Yoke Inn (my favorite) or the Ronneburg next door?
Peggy Poznanski (Kalamazoo, MI)
I'd say Ox Yoke. It's been a verrrrry long time though.... >30 years since the last time. I'll have to ask my aunt, who still lives in Mt. V.
Liz B (Durham, NC)
This puzzle was slower and stickier (ha!) than many recent Sundays have been.

About halfway through, I decided to look closely at the theme entries and try to figure them out. The title was "The First Shall Be Last," but there was PERLMAN at the end of an entry, and CORPS, and ALLEN. So it wasn't switching first and last names. Peering hard at DAME CHEESE, I figured it out. But then ran into INSIDE OP-ED. So I had to relax a little bit, which was okay.

I had various random blank boxes throughout that had to be gotten back to and filled in. The area around STEEPLE/INTERS/NES (I had RES) was the last to fill. I don't think of a STEEPLE when I think of a cathedral, but I think that's just because if it's a cathedral I call it a spire. But I guess they're pretty much the same thing. To me, steeple makes me think of a classic New England brick or wood church on the village green, with a white steeple over the front entrance. While a spire could be on a tower or over the crossing or anywhere, really. But from the little bit of research I did, they seem interchangeable.
Leapfinger (Durham, NC)
I didn't aspire to Gothic architecture and Romanesque was just plain dome .
David Connell (Weston CT)
Deb, in discussing the clue for NESTS, reminded me of a favorite joke among 11-year-olds with whom I work:
"What's brown and sticky?"

"A stick."
Robert Michael Panoff (Durham, NC)
What do you call a boomerang that doesn't come back? A stick.
Barry Ancona (New York, NY)
I'm not a big fan of "bonus answers" that contribute nothing to the solve. I think the constructor is respending the currency of words as a lark. With different end letters, instead of REAR-ENDED you have RESPEND AS.

Robert Michael Panoff (Durham, NC)
This was a particularly obscure "bonus". I shudder to think it would have been revealed by circles or some sort of tagging.
Leapfinger (Durham, NC)
No maraschino cherries atop y'all's sundaes, gentlemen!

I thought it was like a big bow on a wrapped present.
Leapfinger (Durham, NC)
otoh, REAR-ENDED sounds a trifle oxymoronic and (at the present time) is a slightly sore subject for me and my little Camry.
Fact Boy (Emerald City)
La sultane Scheherazade, en achevant l’histoire d’Abou Hassan, avoit promis au sultan Schahriar de lui en raconter une autre le lendemain, qui ne le divertiroit pas moins… Scheherazade…lui raconta l’histoire qui suit, en ces termes: Sire, dans la capitale d’un royaume de la Chine, très riche et d’une vaste étendue, dont le nom ne me vient pas présentement à la mémoire, il y avoit un tailleur nommé Mustafa, sans autre distinction que celle que sa profession lui donnoit. Mustafa le tailleur étoit fort pauvre, et son travail lui produisoit à peine de quoi le faire subsister lui et sa femme, et un fils que Dieu leur avoit donné. Le fils, qui se nommoit Aladdin…

— Antoine Galland, Les mille et une nuits (1704)

Aladdin is Chinese.
Barry Ancona (New York, NY)
Fact Boy might have a point.
Waiting for refutation from the usual suspects.
steve l (Chestnut Ridge, NY)
Possibly, he's an Arab in the Disney movie?
Barry Ancona (New York, NY)
The clue was "Aladdin, e.g." not "Aladdin, as portrayed by Disney."
Paul (Virginia)
This was a lot of fun (how's that for insightful analysis!).

I will definitely be listening to the Hamilton album after hearing "My Shot".
Craig (Washington, DC)
I found the inconsistency of the theme placement to be inelegant. I suspect that many potential answers were rejected that could have been used to get to the same effect with greater consistency.

I found my slog through the grid's numerous short words to be a bit tiring. The grid needed to breathe more. I suppose that will improve with time.
Barry Ancona (New York, NY)
Note to copy desk...
It was a bit awkward to read this in the Constructor's Notes --
"Did you notice the nine-letter bonus answer? If you haven’t gotten it, I’ll give you time to look for it before you read on."
-- *after* Deb had already explained and illustrated it in the column.
Robert Michael Panoff (Durham, NC)
Simply too many clues with ?. Not only the themers, but so many for one puzzle leaving on to look for a theme when it wasn't. And not really needed (Listens to Shakespeare, for instance, wouldn't have been a nicer aha moment without the ?)

But a great puzzle otherwise. Just don't over cute it.
See also