Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday, May 25, 2018, Jeff Chen


How have I never heard the term NUCLEARFOOTBALL before? And why now? Why like this?

I don't actively take in much news. I don't watch televised news or listen to the radio, and I don't receive any newspapers. What I do know about world affairs, I get from the first piece in The Talk of the Town in The New Yorker. Or someone calls to tell me. (When a water main broke near our house a few years ago, three different people called to tell us we should boil our tap water.) And now, I can say that some of my information comes from crossword puzzles! After finishing this puzzle, I Googled NUCLEARFOOTBALL and found that it is the suitcase carried at all times by an aide close to the U.S. president that allows nuclear missiles to be launched. Great.


So why is it the only 15-letter answer today, and why is there a goalpost in the center of the grid? Is it a theme? Is there any more of it? Are the "targets" between the uprights? "Radicalism" embodied in Bobby SEALE? The "old ways" of our ELDERs? (Probably not, given the clue "Someone to respect.") TSARS is a little too obvious, maybe. And too soon? And are KNEELS (7D: Time-killing plays for quarterbacks) and DLINE, because they're football-related, also thematic? What about ENDERS Game?

So maybe there is no theme... but why, then, spend all that time working around the goalpost? As with many things, maybe someone will call to tell me.

Theme or no theme, there's some very good stuff in here. I tried "too hard" at 1A: Frustrated solver's cry (IMSTUCK), but that was (ironically) soon corrected by the Downs. TEDNUGENT (4D: Rocker nicknamed "The Motor City Madman") was a gimme, and the rest came eventually. I really liked ONADARE (17A: How bugs may be eaten), and HATESON (15A: Verbally abuses, in slang) was nice and modern. And I loved all the Downs in the lower left - ANDES (43D: Long range) (more theme material?), HUEVO (44D: Spanish omelet ingredient) (Hah! I kept trying to think of what might be in a "Spanish omelet," but really they just wanted a Spanish word for what's in every omelet!), BCCED (45D: Secretly included, in a way), and LLOSA (46D: Author Mario Vargas ____) - those last two look great side by side.

I'm not super happy with DEEPFAT (8A: Frying need for French fries), as I'm not sure that's a thing by itself without the word "fryer." Wouldn't the need simply be "fat?" or even "oil?" Still, that one small quibble - and the weirdness of the theme - aside, I enjoyed this Friday offering. It's always nice when I learn a little something about nuclear war. Right?

- Horace


  1. 7:36
    Things went very quickly once I finally broke in with KNEELS. Recently seeing Bobby SEALE helped as well. The grid has a lot of flow, with no chokepoints of single squares connecting sections.

  2. 10:01
    Did this one a couple of days late...
    First, I'm betting I saw the same photo of Bobby Seale that Colum did, on CNN pertaining to their documentary about 1968 (I did not watch the documentary, but I saw the photo tease on

    Anyway, let me try my hand at piecing together a theme. It's an ugly one, I think, that doesn't want to be too overt because it might offend a significant segment of the population, although perhaps statistically fewer NYTimes readers and particularly fewer of those with the astuteness and sense to solve crossword puzzles, but:

    The NUCLEARFOOTBALL is tied to the president, a president who HATESON as a part of his core leadership strategy. Who are the targets for his hate, well, certainly minorities and particularly minorities like Colin Kaepernick who have been outspoken about social injustice, Seale's Olympic protest is the default analogy for what Kaepernick tried to do. Both were ostracized for their actions. The president HATESON persons and longstanding traditions and institutions that many would feel ought to be respected. And, of course, TSARS here is not to be taken literally, but rather to simply imply Russia. 'nuff say. What else do we have for theme material? A VP from INDIANA. DEEPFAT? Hah! Ever see the photo of the president playing tennis? PORN crossed with STAR(BURST)! That's not even subtle and pretty much confirms my take on the theme. SMUG? Our leader to a word. NOTTRUE? Overly used campaign mantra. ANTINOVEL? I think, again, the clue about eschewing conventions in more apropos than the answer. Didn't he basically run for president ONADARE from late night comics? According to the majority of economic experts, the new tax bill is certainly gonna RUNATAB on the country's next generations. Who's to be THANKED for getting this person elected? Certainly, in part it was anti-establishment haters, white supremacists, bigots, and other HOSTELS (again, not literal, but HOSTiLes).

    What's the most troubling part of this theme? The stack of TNT, AHBLISS, and the NUCLEARFOOTBALL. How do we UNSNARL that? ALACK and alas. Or do I exaggerate?

  3. 17:22
    An enjoyable Friday solve. I especially liked the inclusion of VROOMED and the full MANOAMANO. I'm sure I've heard HOTROCKS at some point in my life, but I can't picture it. I never said IMSTUCK on this one. I'm with Horace, though, regarding DEEPFAT; that was a bit troubling. ANDES had the best clue (which I read to Sue).