Natural Process

Jan 21, 2018 · 94 comments
Dan (Hatfield PA)
Childish.
Deadline (New York City)
The theme neither helped nor hurt my solve; in fact, it didn't even register until I saw the revealer and said, "Oh, okay." But then, I don't expect an "Aha!" on a Monday. Only real hesitation was MAMBO, since I thought of SAMBA and RUMBA. I'm not a good dancer. (Don't ask me.) Anyway, pleasant enough beginning to a new week. Let's all have a good time.
Deftleigh Daft (Cheshire, England)
Simply atrocious. The last words of the "clues" to "EROSION" are ONE, ONE, TON, and either DINGO or ON. EROSION, indeed- it's the puzzle that's wearing thin. Hopefully, nobody had to rob Peter to pay Paolo.
Andrew (Ottawa)
I am not sure what happened at your end , but I can assure you that the entries for 18-, 24-, 37-, 54- and 61-Across were STONE, TONE, TON, ON, and O at my end. Erosion indeed!
Barry Ancona (New York NY)
Daft to be sure but not Deftleigh.* *no clue
Martin (California)
I think Mr. Daft is making the point that "last word" could be ambiguous. The intended last word of the phrase "EMMA STONE" is, of course STONE. But treated as a string of letters, the last word might be ONE. His examples are not consistent (why TON and not ON?), and he confuses entries with clues, but I believe I have caught the gist of the argument. Of course, interpreting the "last word" of I MEAN COME ON as ON is reasonably obvious if you're not Daft.
Lewis (Asheville, NC)
My five favorite clues from last week: 1. Maker's mark? (10) 2. Asian vessels (4) 3. Small grouse (3) 4. Meals for seals (4) 5. Gray head (3) APOSTROPHE WOKS NIT EELS LEE
Wen (MA)
Lewis, I was going to say - Asian vessels, what else could it bebut WOKS? But then I remembered from my childhood looking at pictures of all kinds of bronze vessels from various dynasties during the Bronze age, there are a ton of them. Each with its own name. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_ritual_bronzes
David Connell (Weston CT)
Not to mention Dhows and Junks (which float into our puzzles often).
Deadline (New York City)
Lewis, please keep doing this. It's so much fun. Every time I see your list I wish I had made one of my own.
tensace (Richland MI)
Are you really trying to tell me Bert and ERNIE were sex MATES??? Maybe in the AFTS they tried to SEEK a STANDINGO, or horizontal big O. IMEANCOMEON. I, oh so wish the NYTimes were a bit MUTER on this, instead of the relentless PC insertions into, for gosh sakes, a crossword puzzle. And now wait, wait, wait for it… SCORN.
Robert Michael Panoff (Durham, NC)
In "It's a wonderful life" Bert and Ernie were the two cops. Supposedly that is where Sesame Street got the names for the two friends.
Deb Amlen (Wordplay, the Road Tour)
What RMP says is true. The clue is an urban legend.
Jimbo57 (Oceanside NY)
In the movie, Bert is a cop, and Ernie is a taxi driver.
Jimbo57 (Oceanside NY)
Filled in the grid in average Monday time, then went back and sussed out the EROSION theme. Sports and pop culture gimmes got me started, per usual. Liked the NANA/ELNINO crossing. Always glad to see CDS clued as something other than outdated media. When I started in publishing 37 years ago, we used XACTO blades all the time; these days, not so much (they tend to leave scratches on the monitor). Too bad MAMBO wasn't located at 5D, could've made for an interesting meta clue. I'm bumptiously pleased with myself for coming up with today's music link, since it ties in so well with the theme: "Chip Away the STONE" by Aerosmith, from 1979: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpUMsK6h0-I
Barry Ancona (New York NY)
"When I started in publishing 37 years ago, we used XACTO blades all the time; these days, not so much (they tend to leave scratches on the monitor)." When I started in publishing a bit more than 37 years ago, we used XACTO knives when we weren't at work for building models; they weren't of much use with hot metal.
Deadline (New York City)
When I started in publishing over half a century ago, it was the art guys who used the XACTO blades.
Leapfinger (Durham NC)
"When I started in publishing a bit more than 37 years ago, we used XACTO knives when we weren't at work for building models" BarryA, are you sure you aren't XACTly 10 years off? Naomi Campbell is 47. When my little mum had to get a job 60-some years ago, she found work doing silk-screening. I still have some of the intricate little film-pictures she made tucked away in a folder.
Mac Knight (Yakima, WA)
Falling asleep while doing a puzzle is a bad idea. I opened my puzzle this morning and the timer was just under 40 minutes. I average under 10 minutes on Mondays. I just laughed, finished the puzzle and went about my morning. I also had an error I couldn't find, so my streak of 1 was lost. Happy Monday.
Barry Ancona (New York NY)
Speaking of waking up in Yakima, Mac, the Times today [finally] has Rattlesnake Ridge as the full-page lead story in the National section (with front page mentions in the print and online versions). Here's a song for our rural Washington friends from a couple of urban legends: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNt5FnMK2sM
Dag Ryen (Santa Fe)
Lots of fun comments on a puzzle that went very smoothly for me. Question: Did this puzzle come with a title? If so, why doesn't that show up on the online version, which is what I see before I come here?
Martin (California)
Only Sunday crosswords have titles in the New York Times.
David Connell (Weston CT)
The other half of the response - Deb Amlen selects a phrase from among the clues to serve as the title of the blog for the day on non-Sunday puzzles.
Bob Liddington (San Diego, CA)
Christie and Smith were bestowed the title: Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE), which allows them – as Commonwealth (that "loose association" mentioned last week) citizens – to use the title "Dame". It the female equivalent of Knight/Sir.
Meg H. (Salt Point)
It always amazes and sometimes dismays me that reading these comments makes me go back to the puzzle to see a word being discussed -- which I had not noticed at all. That, of course, is often where my errors lie; I solved the crossing clues to my satisfaction and didn't notice whether or not there's an error in the other direction. Enjoyed today's puzzle by the way.
Incontinental (Earth)
If MUTER is a word, it shouldn't be. It's a mute button, not a mute dial. Just like you wouldn't say "uniquer". Never heard anyone say AFTS before, but I guess they must say that somewhere.
Wen (MA)
MUTER you're not ok with but AFTS you forgive by saying they must say that somewhere? Why can't they say MUTER somewhere, too? If suddenly during your Superbowl party someone turned off the sound and no one admits to having the remote or being the one who pressed the mute button, can you not ask "who was the MUTER" instead of "who pressed the mute button? Or, in a order of monks that have taken the vow of silence, and on very rare occasions some them may have made some small utterances, could you ask, of all of them, who was MUTER than the others, therefore is the MUTEST? http://www.dictionary.com/browse/muter Or is it one of those "you're either pregnant or you're not, you can't be a little pregnant or more pregnant" kind of things that is the basis of your objection?
tensace (Richland MI)
Nonsense. You either make a sound or you don't. Quiet has a range. Mute is a toggle switch.
Barry Ancona (New York NY)
Yes, Wen, it is one of those... Your "OK, who was the muter?" is the only one that works, and that's not responsive to the clue. You *are* either mute or not; being mute longer means you are mute longer, not that you are muter. I went through all of the adjectives in your cite, and while I saw muter and mutest listed next to mute, IMO they do not work logically for any of the adjectival definitions. Of course, this is a crossword puzzle, so logic and grammar need not apply.
Johanna (Ohio)
STANDINGO for PaolO! And a 10 for concept and execution. Perfect opening to the week. CHALUPA, TOSTADA: OLE! TANLINE next to SPEEDOS: perfect pair! I also like those derisive SNORTS right next to MUTER. I liked everything about this puzzle. Thank you, Paolo!
Dr W (New York NY)
Agree with RiA that it was a chewier Monday than usual. Happy to learn from Fact Boy about scrod being a prep rather than a fish, although I often have wondered if it is the past subjunctive of some verb. Quibble: it should be "metric tonne".
Figgie (Newton Center, MA)
Quibble quibble: I believe that "METRIC TON" is how we commonly (and not incorrectly) refer to the "TONNE" in the U.S.
Barry Ancona (New York NY)
Love your screen name! (And I'm sure you have no trouble with Naticks)
archaeoprof (Jupiter, FL)
Spotted the theme at 24A when I first tried QUARTERnOtE. It was ELAINE who showed me the error of my ways. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
CS (Providence)
Clever theme, but Monday easy. Didn't see the theme until AFT completion, but enjoyed the visual it created. I was a little surprised to see AIM AT and SET AT in the same grid. Didn't mind other repetition as much -- EXACTO and ACT; CLAP, METRIC TON, and CLAPTON; and METRIC TON crossing TRICE. Love MID smack dab in the MIDdle!
Rich in Atlanta (Clarkston, Georgia)
Unusually tough for a Monday (for me). A couple of complete unknowns and then some of the clues seemed to be skewed a bit toward the younger crowd. Won't belabor that point but will just note that the last six times DRE appeared in a puzzle (Tuesday through Thursday), 'Dr.' was always in the clue. I would have gotten it with that. There was one clue which I didn't particularly care for, but I think I'll just let it go. Clever theme which I didn't fully appreciate until after I finished. I got how it worked but it didn't really register that it was a STONE that was being eroded. Very nice. Three song possibilities, all of which I know I've linked before. Paul already covered one of them below. I know I've also linked 'Layla' at least once. I think I linked the Youngbloods cover of this old favorite the last time, so I'll go with the original by the Cadillacs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9uZvrsAoyE ..
dk (Saint Croix Falls, WI)
The Lou Bega reference in the write-up made my morning. As a young dk I aspired to be a photographer. One of my assignments was to capture "a clearing in a distance" (see F. L. Olmsted). Happily I had access to an Electron Microscope and thought this will be fun. It was. Do not remember the grade but the instructors comment was something along the lines of "too esoteric." Making lemonade out of lemons I titled my portfolio 2 Esoteric. Tangential reference to this blog was my very close up photograph of sand. Thank you Paolo.
Amitai Halevi (Regba, Israel)
A pleasant, rather more than Monday, puzzle with a neat theme. I worked pretty hard with the crosses to get what the constructor probably intended to be gimmes and was left with one NIxON* (probably not a Natick as properly defined). I didn’t look it up, costing me a perfect solve! I had AFL EAST before AFC EAST at 3D (I’d do better at locating Israeli soccer teams in their proper leagues) and was so sure it was right that I assumed offhand that X-ALTO must some new variety of razor. Now I have learned – at the cost of nice little streak – that it should have been XACTO. Oh well. I never was a streaker. (Will the emus let this pass?) ____________________ *DC. Do you agree to my using NIxON in this sense.
David Connell (Weston CT)
Yes, Amitai - the top tier of NixoNs in my book are those fills that include initialisms like AFL, NFL, NHL, MBA, NBA, NBC, QVC - precisely because any letter can go anywhere. As soon as I saw the clue for 3D I groaned, knowing it would be what it turned out to be, something that is meaningless to me and that I have no interest in "learning." I buy X-Acto blades in bulk, so the C crossing wasn't at issue for me. I use NxN when it is plausible to use multiple letters in a square, and your X-Alto is perfectly fine as a brand name. Also a descriptor for many baritones in their late teens...
Amitai Halevi (Regba, Israel)
David. To be consistent, is it NixoN or NIxON?
Nobis Miserere (Greenwich CT)
Why do you buy X-Acto blades in bulk? Or at all? Not that it’s any of my business.
Laura Rodrigues (London (UK))
My favorite visual: the stone being eroded gradually till it’s just a pebble!
Lewis (Asheville, NC)
The puzzle's theme is lovely -- simple and elegant. The answer STANDING O gets a lot of attention, crossed by CLAPTON (who has gotten his share), abutted by CLAP, and crossed by TADA. Mostly, though, my keep falling to that MID right in the mid of the grid.
Lewis (Asheville, NC)
Insert "eyes" between "my" and "keep".
Wen (MA)
No thanks, Lewis. Not inserting any eyes between your and whatever a "keep" is. Eww, I think.
Leapfinger (Durham NC)
Didn't catch the EROSION till it announced itself. Elegant job whittling the STONE down to the little O pebble, Paolo, and a lovely shot from Deb (from a book by a book?). I didn't know there a sand collectors, other than the usual bits after a day at the beach. Appropriately for an EROSION theme, I noticed an easy dozen nautically associated entries. I think it took guts to work in SPEEDOS; hard to top how our Johanna used it in her grid. Shall have to search that, as failing memory only recalls it cracked me up. Clever how the CLAP TON for CLAPTON winds up with a STANDING O, but it's hard to say whether DR. E the OB LASTS longer than the MIDwife. Enjoyed the solve, the post-solve, and the post-post solve wandering through images of Capitol Reef, Arches and other sites of Great American Erosions
Rich in Atlanta (Clarkston, Georgia)
Leapy, here's the Xword Info link for that puzzle (I think): https://www.xwordinfo.com/Crossword?date=7/5/2011&g=17&d=A And that's OUR Johanna? I didn't know that.
Leapfinger (Durham NC)
That's the one, RiA, thanks. Still funny!!
suejean (Harrogate, UK)
Perhaps Will is running out of Monday puzzles. I wonder if Paolo intended it for a Monday. Which isn't to say I didn't enjoy it, and loved the clever theme which I didn't get until I'd finished the puzzle and had another look at the reveal and theme answers, nice AHA moment. I was pleased with remembering CATO, and knowing OMAN led me to changing OCTet to OCTAD. Good (if a bit tricky) start to the week.
Meg H. (Salt Point)
Exactly my route. The A in OMAN was the change that brought the music. It's always fun to know that others traveled the same mental roads. I also had QUARTER NOTES before TONES.
suejean (Harrogate, UK)
I agree, Meg, one of the most fun things about wordplay is comparing mental roads.
Robert (Vancouver , Canada)
and Elke This puzzle seemed more difficult than a Monday one. I MEAN COME ON - a racer needs more than one SPEEDO ? And there is a MAMBO and a rumba ? All that deep-frying of CHALUPAs and TOSTADAs made me think of frying SCROD in butter. Of course, people would like to see EROSION of 'butter'. Maybe if one is on a high 'butte' in the hot South-West, while warming one's 'butt' in the sun ,'but' I doubt one could watch a whole 'bu.'(bushel) melt away. Then a 'Plan 'b' would be called for. What TO DO ? Good thing that the LEERS are separated by two very proper VPS from the BLONDE.(Well, at least one of them is very proper). More then one hand CLAP for this OH so FUN puzzle.
Martin (California)
I saute and fry fish (and a lot more) only in ghee now. It's just super-clarified butter and has the most wonderful butterscotch smell, although the cooked foods only taste subtly buttery. We don't use enough fat in cooking that I'm the least bit guilty about it. (Our LDL's are fine, thank you.) I make ghee, 5 pounds at a time. A few hours in an uncovered Dutch oven at 275 and you have a half gallon of Indian schmaltz. I smoked a salmon today and I cut off the tail ends of the filets, which we had tonight, dusted with flour, seared in ghee and finished in a hot oven. Elaine made some couscous. The salmon nestled in their couscous beds and seemed very happy. We certainly were.
Robert (Vancouver , Canada)
and Elke O MAN , I won't MINCE my words. YUM .
Leapfinger (Durham NC)
Gee, R/Elke, you did a great job with the EROSION of butter. I do it the old-fashioned way and try not to think about my LDL.
judy d (livingston nj)
good Monday puzzle. disappearing STONE wearing away to nothing!
Wags (Colorado)
CHALUPA as deep fried I'll buy, but I'm not comfortable with a TOSTADA being a deep fried dish. I've always thought of it as a toasted (thus the name) tortilla with stuff piled on top, open-faced. I will leave it to Noel and other SW experts to give the definitive word on this issue.
Martin (California)
Theoretically, the tortilla in a tostada can be toasted, but I've never seen one that wasn't fried. At least in California.
Barry Ancona (New York NY)
I was going to make this comment, but I found catpet's on another thread: catpet Durham, NC 1 hour ago The chalupas and tostadas of our experience may include a deep fried tortilla but that's hardly the end of it. In fact you'd have quote a mess if you deep fried the whole shebang.
Retired Army (Joseph, OR)
Knocked this one out on a Sunday early evening in Oregon. Thanks for the fun, although we also thought "OH MAN" made for a better fit. We also thought of PUN before APT. Now, we're heading out for a Mexican dinner, looking for CHALUPAs and TOSTADAs. Ole!
Rebekkah (London, Ontario)
Fun theme! I didn't see it until after I finished the puzzle, but the concept is delightful. Thanks for a fun start to the week, Mr. Pasco! :)
Liz B (Durham, NC)
I keep looking at METRICTON and STANDINGO and mispronouncing them with the emphasis on the second syllables.
Wen (MA)
Indeed, why can't DINGOs be named STAN?
Wen (MA)
And I guess METRICTON must have been named after some important Mr. METRIC.
Wen (MA)
Sorry for the spam - I know my replies haven't exactly been on the pronunciation emphasis, more along the lines of how words can be re-broken apart. Last one. EMMASTONE - the way she said that wasn't very friendly. EROSION - a new charged particle discovered to cause amorous feelings. Funny enough, there is CLAP and TON from METRIC TON to make CLAPTON, and along with Bert and ERNIE there is, after much canonicalization and proof of miracles associated with him, ST ELMO.
mjengling (Bar Harbor)
Erred quickly writing SCEPTRE instead of SPECTRE I think my NANA GRAM made me do it.
Michael Regan (New Hampshire)
A pleasant puzzle for a Monday--but AFTS for "Times past noon, informally"? Formally or informally, I don't buy it.
Dr W (New York NY)
Well, the rear of a boat is "aft", which is past its midsecton. So it actually fits.
Andrew (Ottawa)
More random thoughts: Why does the Monday puzzle come out 4 hours earlier than all the rest? After the 10 minutes it takes to solve it (I know you guys, I'm pretty slow...), there is nothing left to do until Monday at 10 pm... I MEAN COME ON! For those of you who didn't know about QUARTER TONEs, don't worry. They are not pleasant sounds at all. Glad to see VPS with no scatological dialogue. 14A at first I had OH MAN. I thought that would have gone nicely with 32D. I know MUTER is a word. I just don't like it. You won't get much of a TAN LINE wearing a SPEEDO. I had SCOFF before SCORN. Hadn't heard about the Bert and ERNIE thing. Sounds like fake news to me. I've been on this blog too much today. My energy is fast eroding.
Robert Michael Panoff (Durham, NC)
Andrew, to get me through the time gap, I have learned to appreciate "ARCHIVE". I pick a year and go back and solve all the puzzles from that year. Quite a challenge to remember who played on which teams, who was in which cabinet, who was on Broadway, what movies came out, etc. But the training is superb. Direct link: https://www.nytimes.com/crosswords/archive/daily (pick a month and year).
Ken (formerly Upstate Kenny) (Naples FL)
Andrew, I agree with your SPEEDOS comment. Actually unless you’re wearing a sarong/other wrap of some kind, you will get at least three up to perhaps six or seven TAN LINEs (plural). So not sure how the singular fits here. Oops. I just realized my crossword clock was still ticking. Need to get back to finding my inevitable typo. No Mr HP yet for me. The days of solving on paper during my downtown WS IRT days are long gone. I’m sure I had a lot of ‘typos’ then. Ignorance was bliss, I guess. But no distant strangers to talk about the puzzle with then either.
Amanda Schwartz (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
I thought Ernie and Bert were supposed to be the left and right brain personified. Perhaps the gay couple accusation comes from the likes who think the same about Tinky Winky the Teletubby. And that Harry Potter is too satanic for tender American children’s eyes and ears!
Barry Ancona (New York NY)
"And, for an “I really wish I wrote that” clue, see 58D." I'm guessing that should be 58A, Paolo?
Kathy (Cary, NC)
Re: DAME - there is always wikipedia. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dame It is equivalent to a knighthood.
hepcat8 (jive5)
Wikipedia also tells me, Kathy, that Agatha Christie was made a Dame in 1970 for her contributions to literature, and Maggie Smith in 1990 for her services in the performing arts. IMO, both honors were well deserved.
Martin (California)
Some might be misinterpreting Deb's comment to mean "I'm not sure how Agatha Christie or Maggie Smith got to be a Dame..." She's saying "If you don't get the clue, 'Dame' is a British title even if it sounds like a slur to an American ear." I'm sure she agrees the honors are well deserved.
Deb Amlen (Wordplay, the Road Tour)
Thank you, Martin.
Nobis Miserere (Greenwich CT)
If you go from 0 to 60 in an hour, for example, you’re not flooring it. Just sayin’.
Leapfinger (Durham NC)
If you go from 0 to 60 in an hour, you're probably driving directly in front of me.
David Connell (Weston CT)
If you go from 0 to 60 in a minute, you probably just pulled onto the Merritt in front of me.
Andrew (Ottawa)
Up here in km/hr land, if you go from 0 to 60, you're barely in 3rd gear.
Fact Boy (Emerald City)
Scrod is not a fish; it’s fish prepared in a certain manner for eating, i.e. split and boned. Cod and haddock are commonly used, but any fish will do; cf. “Split and boned entree” = SCROD (2/21/09). “Scrod” comes to us from Middle Dutch schrode, “a piece cut off” (cognate to Anglo-Saxon screade, “shred”). In any event, fish fingers aren’t scrod no matter what species of fish goes into them.
Barry Ancona (New York NY)
Hi, Fact Boy. The story in the link is closer to what I heard as the origin of the term "scrod" in my youthful visits to New England. In any case, the clue and entry are correct: any of the species of fish that are called scrod are typically split before cooking. https://newengland.com/today/living/new-england-history/the-legend-of-th...
Robert Michael Panoff (Durham, NC)
Hotel guest to Concierge: Can you recommend a good place in Boston to get scrod? Concierge: It's been a long time since I heard the pluperfect subjunctive verb form.
Barry Ancona (New York NY)
All U.S. junior high schools have a common core, RMP, and you've just cited one of its elements.
Paul (Alexandria, VA)
6A: Not sure how “Agatha Christie or Maggie Smith” got to be a DAME, other than they are both women? They both earned the Order of the British Empire, and are entitled to use that, um, title. From South pacific: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ljm9CDRAhMQ
Leapfinger (Durham NC)
Thanks, Paul. Some may feel that RETRO is as RETRO does, but I had OH great FUN revisiting some numbers from South Pacific. A nice balance to the AtlaNTIC in the grid. Juanita Hall rocks.
Rich in Atlanta (Clarkston, Georgia)
That song's a favorite, Paul; thank you. You also helped me eliminate one of three possible song links today - all three of which I knew I'd linked before. I'm down to two now. Leapy, agree on Juanita Hall. It wasn't until many years after I first saw the film, when I finally read Michener's 'Tales of the South Pacific,' that I realized that 'Tonkinese' are not a native south Pacific islanders, even though there's a significant clue in that term.
Rich in Atlanta (Clarkston, Georgia)
Footnote regarding Juanita Hall. I remembered that I was thinking about 'Flower Drum Song' a few days ago, but I couldn't remember why. It finally came back to me. I'd been trying to think of some notable unusual rhymes in song and one that I recalled was the rhyme of 'Grant Avenue' with "can't have a new."
William Innes (Toronto)
A Monday Puzzle: I MEAN COME ON.
Petaltown (petaluma)
How do you see the previous day's Wordplay? The link used to appear on the right.
David Connell (Weston CT)
The easy links seem to be coming and going for the past several days. I've settled on this solution: Click on the word "Wordplay" between the daily blog's title and Deb's byline. (Or anywhere else that "Wordplay" appears on the page. That takes you to the listing of daily blog posts - you have to scroll down below all the showpiece articles, but at least the whole list is there below.
Barry Ancona (New York NY)
I went back to yesterday's Wordplay comments using the route you describe, David, and left a reply to one of your replies. I was able to get back here quickly because the list of recent Wordplays *was* appearing (at that moment) on *that* Wordplay page.
David Connell (Weston CT)
What I have said in repeated posts over the past three days is that the usual set of links has appeared only irregularly, unpredictably, and never on more than one page when the links are chosen. This is still the case for me. I'm glad someone else posted about it. The page setup was clearly tinkered with and it has made the experience more difficult & tedious. Petaltown's description is perfect: the link used to appear on the right. It doesn't.
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