SATURDAY, Dec. 29, 2007 - Bob Klahn

Saturday, December 29, 2007


Relative difficulty: Infernal

THEME: Greek ... me in misery ... or none

Today is the day you get to feel quite superior to me (unless you feel that way all the time, in which case it's just Saturday) - I tanked this puzzle like I haven't tanked one all year. I gaped in complete dumbfoundedness at this puzzle for what felt like hours. Two quadrants undone and patchily filled in. Today was the first time all year where I didn't finish unassisted. My crutch: I looked up the word "gasconade." This hurt in more ways than you know. After this, the puzzle fell astonishingly quickly. The most horrible part of the experience was figuring out that despite the puzzle's legitimate difficulty, I'd have solved it if I hadn't made one stupid, stupid error.

53A: Grant's position in presidential history (eighteenth)

I had NINETEENTH. I even sat there and counted up from sixteenth (Lincoln) to be sure that no other numbers fit there. Turns out what I was really doing was counting from 6 to 9, looking for four-letter numbers. If someone had told me that EIGHTEENTH and NINETEENTH had the same number of letters, I'd have said "no way," thought about it a second, and then realized "o yeah." This is the dumb dumb dumb stuff you can do to yourself when solving. The puzzle difficulty is one thing. The hole you dig yourself: quite another.

Other serious, horrible problem - I dropped COTERIE into the puzzle like a gimme. I had the CO- and the final E, none of the letters clashed horribly with MOPPET (which I'd also just triumphantly thrown down (39D: Rug rat)), so I was golden. Only I wasn't. COTERIE was wrong. Actual answer:

36D: Retinue (cortege)

Here are some other fun facts about my failure:

  • There are at least three words in the clues that I couldn't define.
  • I have a Ph.D. in English and couldn't have defined PERIPETEIA (48A: Unexpected turn of events, as in a literary work) to save my life.
  • I noticed but managed to avoid an even worse slip-up than COTERIE. How about the trifecta of
  1. MISLABEL (for MISTITLE - 33D: Handle incorrectly?)
  2. WALL (for FORT - 41A: Siege site)
  3. POSTBELLUM (for EIGHTEENTH - 53A: Grant's position in presidential history)
NW and NE look like child's play now, but I was so happy to work through them in reasonable time. The NE was handed to me on a silver platter. Chaka Khan (16A: "_____ Nobody" (1983 Chaka Khan hit)) crossing TAI CHI (11D: Meditative exercise)? Now we're talking. So when I dropped MOPPET and (ugh) COTERIE down into the SE, I was feeling cautiously optimistic.

There were any number of places where if I'd just seen something / thought of something / reconsidered something, the dominoes would have fallen. As it was, my wife looked over my shoulder at one point and gave me BOOTLEGGER (26D: One running for work?), which was sweet of her, and which she did in a very tentative way. The tutee becomes the tutor! I suppose it was bound to happen.

I'm not even bothering with the upper part of the puzzle, except to say that BUBBLE BATH (1A: Modesty preserver, in some films) is a Great answer, and I kicked OPERA SERIA's ass with only a crossing or two (15A: Old form of Italian musical drama). Oh, also, ESCORT (6D: Squire) was, strangely, the first thing I wrote in the grid.

Trouble starts ... here:

  • 4D: Uniform armband (brassard) - well, bras is French for arm, but that's all the help I got. Latter part of this answer went unsolved for a while.
  • 24A: McKinley's first vice president (Hobart) - had the -RT ... eventually got the H ... could think only of HUBERT.
  • 28A: Cupule's contents (acorn) - clue word I didn't know #2 ("gasconade" being #1). Wanted ACORN so bad but wouldn't commit because ... an ACORN is the outside ... it's not in anything. Right? Wrong.
  • 25D: Mob rule (ochlocracy) - I've had the non-word COCKBLOCKRACY in my head all night and morning. OCHLOCRACY is a word I've heard before ... maybe once, in like 1986, when we were learning all the dumb-ass -OCRACIES and -ARCHIES in History class.
  • 40A: Margay cousins (ocelots) - clue word #3 I didn't know. To my immense credit, I got OCELOTS with very few crossings. They have one of my favorite animal names, and I've seen them in puzzles before.
  • 37A: Rich mine or other source of great wealth (golconda) - I have nothing to say here. Just ... no. Nothing. I'll just say that the fact that this kinda sounds like GOLGOTHA is fitting.
  • 42A: Mountain sheep (argali) - typing in the grid this morning, I was laughing out loud at the number of words that seemed to me to come from outer-space. This is one of them. I wanted only IBEXES here.
  • 38D: Top-of-the-line (class A) - got it early, but it weirds me out because CLASS A ball is the lowest rung in baseball's minor leagues.
  • 35D: Price-manipulating group (pool) - the 2007th definition of "pool," I assure you.
  • 32D: Scolding wife: Var. (Xantippe) - OK, if I'd had EIGHTEENTH instead of NINETEENTH, I'd have remembered this sooner. I'd really have remembered it sooner if I'd known that XERES (32A: Spanish city that gave sherry its name) was an actual place. Xanthippe was the wife of Socrates who was conventionally portrayed as a total shrew.
  • 44D: Name equivalent to Hans or Ivan (Sean) - wife wanted JOHN, but that "J" just wouldn't go. I wanted IAIN. Etc.
  • 21D: Catawampus (awry) - I had no trouble here; I just wanted to type "Catawampus."
  • 43D: Gasconade (brag)
  • 51A: See-through sheets (plate glass) - I suppose.
  • 41D: It may be blind (faith) - SO easy ... if I hadn't had NINETEENTH already firmly in place. Only word I could get to work here was FARCE.
  • 27A: It has a smaller degree of loft than a mashie (four iron) - wanted BANGER, then wanted to know what British people were doing playing with their food.
  • 34A: Rocket datum: Abbr. (alt) - wanted ANG. (for angle?). Also wanted ETHNOCRACY, though, so ...
  • 52A: Banks of note (Tyra) - Oh, TYRA, my precious little gimme. Little did I know you would be the foundation for so much evil.
I hope you enjoy sharing in my misery or lording your astonishing success over me.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS - I would like to recommend the Newsday "Saturday Stumper" to people looking for a little trial by fire - a little training for your late-week NYT battles. If you go to either "Ephraim's Crossword Puzzle Pointers" or plain old "Puzzle Pointer's" (Will Johnston's) in my sidebar, you can access a world of decent-to-great free daily and weekly puzzles. Newsdays are quite easy all week long, until Saturday, when they are Not. Today's took me an eternity (20+), but after the NYT debacle, it was nice to get a hard puzzle under my belt once again. I highly recommend all the puzzles accessible from either of the aforementioned Puzzle Pointer pages. NYT and NY Sun are still the best puzzles out there, but the other featured puzzles are consistently entertaining and often as good as anything you'll find in the Big Two.

[drawing by Emily Cureton]

75 comments:

NYTAnonimo 8:38 AM  

So glad to see you ranked it infernal-I couldn't get anywhere even with googling (except for using Orange's blog to cheat). I had a feeling it was bad when I didn't see your blog or Linda's with a Saturday posting yet.

By the way appreciated the comments on yesterday's blog on how to google for definitions, money exchange and calculations. So even when I can't do the puzzles at least I'm learning new things.

Enjoyed your channel 10 interview Rex.

Pinky 8:47 AM  

No superiority here, Rex....just an unsatisfied, disinterested, solver that got a lot more "huhs" than "ahas" out of this one....

The puzzler's name by itself should have been a tip off to the klunky, counterintuitive combination of letters throughout the grid.

Rockonchris 9:14 AM  

So many ways to go wrong:

One running for work - politician
Tries something - attempts to
Scolding wife - harridan
Where to pick up dates - malls
A class instead of class a

Sigh. Even so, I got more than half the puzzle without googling. For me, on a Saturday, a triumph!

Happy holiday weekend,
Chris

Anonymous 9:16 AM  

Everything I ever read had JEREZ as the city that gave its name to sherry...where the heck did they come up with Xeres????
This puzzle makes me want to cancel my subscription to the Times. Yeccccch!!!!!
I'd have been suicidal if I didn't have the reassurance that you would get me past today.
Thanks Rex.

Rockonchris 9:23 AM  

Anonymous, I googled, found autoeurope.com, and got this:

"Named for the town of Jerez which was once spelled Xerez and pronouned Sherez..."

I still couldn't believe it was xerez and kept trying to find scolding-wife words beginning with j.

parshutr 9:35 AM  

Infernal is absolutely correct. I had a busy morning, looked over the whole thing and said to myself, "Self, go and edit that book!" I had NO CLUE about anything.
Now, my task is to take your grid and fill in, as a learning experiment.
Can't wait to see tomorrow. Maybe the clews will all be in Esperanto, and the grid will be filled in with mathematical symbols.

Karen 9:49 AM  

From last December's Klahn puzzle, 'I have it on good authority that Bob Klahn is "pretty much the hardest there is."' Boy, you were right on the money with that one!

Can you make argyle socks out of ARGALI?

My stupidest miss...PLATE GLASS. I kept trying to get plastic or saran or cellulite in there.

wendy 9:54 AM  

Talk about wanting to throw in the towel on puzzling. A few more heinous days like this, and I may find another avocation. Sudoku maybe. Or plate juggling.

I had nothing on my own, so I first googled the Othello clue to get TWAS. That got me started, at least. But every few words I had to go back to google to get another toehold. I did manage to nail the NE and started to feel a bit more confidence. But it was short lived.

Outright errors included Coterie as well, Sven for SEAN, Jerez for XERES, Coop for POOL, and Afro for UPDO (hey, the puzzle has an Afro fetish so I thought I was on FIRMA footing there!)

At the end of the day, there are a lot of nice answers here - I particularly liked ADVANCE MEN because that's an old-fangled term for one of the things I do for a living - but clearly a girl's just gotta have more wits about her than I generally do on these late week puzzles. The constructors are well and truly agents of the devil! No offense, constructors.

PhillySolver 10:11 AM  

I have neither finished nor read Rex yet as I want this to be a fresh assessment. I am giving up on the SE and didn't get 32D(xa something), 37A (goldo_da? maybe) 38D (d-yssa)

In the SE, 43A must be in another language, too many gaps to get 51A and 36D is a mystery.

I used Google for 6 confirmations and figured I can't take credit for finishing this one anyway, I will now go read what everyone else experienced. Good Luck!

I was happy with getting some things and had a few good guesses to get me going. Oh, just recalled I don't understand 14D about cars (stolen?) and DACTYL looks like a dinosaur if it is right.

I am not really complaining as it is Saturday, but I am not sure I would know 32A if it weren't a variation.

PhillySolver 10:28 AM  

Sorry to have two quick postings, but here is what I did wrong...

I guessed 'argyls for ARGALI forced a D in trying to get 37A 'goldonda' for GOLCONDA and can say I know neither word. I should have gotten MOPPET, but I was beaten by then and still am sure I didn't know 48A or 32D and 36D. Guess with a little work I might have figured out PLATEGALSS, but think that I will just stick to the paraphrased line from Julius Caesar, "It is all Greek to me."

Howard B 10:30 AM  

Evil, evil puzzle. You're not alone, Rex. I swear that my screen actually became possessed and tried to throttle me halfway through the solve. Thankfully it wasn't successful, as it has no arms. But still, the words in both the answers and clues were horrendously tough. Maybe they're preparing us for the upcoming tournament.
And yet there are still people who finished this in under 7-8 minutes. That still amazes me, but as I say with any tough puzzles, congratulations to anyone that finished this.

Quick notes - I also initially guessed COTERIE and JEREZ. Chaka Khan was also my saving grace to start this thing. Didn't understand the clue for POOL, and assumed it was a way off-off-alternate definition.
I will not speak of HOBART, GOLCONDA or ARGALI.

Alex 10:44 AM  

No superiority for me, I couldn't even come close to finishing, even with Google and eventually filling in all the words mentioned by Orange in her blog post.

I make the JEREZ and JOHN mistakes. Had TANTRA for TAI CHI for a long time. OPEC for POOL. MELDS for WELDS. AWOL for AWRY (had no idea what catawumpus means and mistakes gave me AW-L).

And to make it all horribly worse I was 90% certain I was missing a rebus. For "End-of-year festival" I had WI----TI-- and the only thing that came to mind was WINTER SOLSTICE. It had to be the solstice. And this was reinforced by "---- Nobody" (1983 Chaka Khan hit).

WINTER TIDE and AINT cross at the INT. So despite AINT NOBODY being a gimme I convinced myself that it must be AINT ER-- NOBODY (erin?) and I had forgotten a word in the title, and that INTER was the rebus.

DONALD 10:49 AM  

Excellent! A classic lament of Brobdingnagian proportions!

Anonymous 10:50 AM  

DACTYLography is the study of fingerprints.

Orange 11:09 AM  

Doesn't margay sound like a rival margarine to Parkay?

Kim 11:19 AM  

I think they published this one in response to the guy who asked last week if you ever rate a puzzle "challenging."

mruedas 11:33 AM  

OK, I'm with all of you on the horrendousness of this particular puzzle, which I'm astonished anyone could finish without Google. I have only a technical question:

Many of you got stuck at Jerez for XERES, as did I. That would be because the current name is in fact Jerez, not Xeres, which was its name historically at some point, but no longer. So is the clue right? Shouldn't it have made some allusion to the fact that it was a historical name, as crosswords do for Edo all the time?

karmasartre 11:36 AM  

Like Rex, I started with an easy ESCORT. Unlike Rex, that was nearly as far as I got. Unmitigated disaster led to two questions --

1) Did Will take the day off?
2) Was that hideously difficult puzzle in the tournament that some of you have alluded to over the last year as difficult as this?

@ wendy, you're not the only one who tried Afro.

@ donald, hey I had enough to google, now I have to check out Brobding.... as well.

@ rockonc, "more than half the puzzle" = A+ in my book.

Utter despair. I think I'll go curl myself into a Netflix return envelope and just land somewhere else and try a fresh start.

Jim in NYC 11:38 AM  

I finished this correctly in two and a half hours (3 sessions), or about 19 x Orange, so I guess I can take some pride here.

Wrong entries: Had COTERIE for 36D, ACES for 50A, various John-equivalents for 44D, OASES for 35A, NATTY and GILTY(?) for 29A. I wanted something about land area or farming for 27D. I tried all kinds of boot testers, racers and managers for 26D. I had HAS A SHOT AT IT at 24D for the longest time.

Never heard of 37A, 48A, 42A, 25D, 33A, 21D.

What gives a "var." entry (32D, XANTIPPE) its legitimacy? It's a misspelling of an unknown part of a word that may be obscure to begin with. After getting some crosses the name "Xanthippe" floated up from somewhere (didn't know who it was however) and I filled in the right answer, but the misspelled part could have been anywhere (Zanthipe, Xanthipe, etc.) Don't know why this sort of indeterminate answer is acceptable. (Cf. "fifth-century date".)

Today's helps: I once visited HOBART college (24A); I've studied patent POOLS (35D) in law school; knew "XERES (32A) we'll drink, Manzanilla, Montero ..." from The Goldoliers (tho I kept trying for HARRIDAN (JARRIDAN?) etc. at 32D).

Insomnia can be very helpful at times.

karmasartre 11:41 AM  

P.S. EIGHTEENTH feels like it could use another T in the middle.

Linda G 11:44 AM  

I was ready to give up totally on this one. Googled and got outside help...wouldn't have finished it otherwise. Not an enjoyable experience by any stretch of the imagination.

Wendy...with you on afro.

My favorite answer was HAS A GO AT IT...if only because it was five words. Originally had HAS A GANDER.

PJ Parrish 11:46 AM  

All Unquiet on the Western Front:

Got "coterie" quickly and felt smug and quite gay.
But that "John" in the corner would not go away.
Knew that "Mina" was Bram Stoker's girl.
But "peripeteia?" Just cruel and unreal...
This one was designed to confound and to vex.
Finished it finally...but with help from big Rex.

Johnson 11:47 AM  

OUCH!

Hobart
acorn
ochocracy
golconda
Xantippe
Xeres
Peripeteia
Brassard
Argali

But I also had trouble with:

witty - just couldn't get it even with several runs through the alphabet

Sean - how is that like Hans or Ivan?

Wintertide - never heard of it!

I'm not sure why I was happy that Rex and others couldn't finish...Schadenfreude?

Have a great weekend!

P.S. How did you do,Orange?

Blue Stater 12:00 PM  

Yesterday? Murderous. Today? Insane. This puzzle has no place in a general-circulation newspaper. All it shows is that if you cross a variant spelling with a variant spelling for two obscurities (XANTIPPE and XERES) and lard up the rest with esoteric crosses (ARGALI and the clue for OCELOTS), you can stump anybody. Big deal.

chefbea 12:13 PM  

I too had afro

PhillySolver 12:25 PM  

I think I have it! Thursday is the new Saturday. Friday is another new Saturday and Saturday is the new Hell.

I think I would have preferred the clues for 48A and 32D to be " a random string of letters that could be a word somewhere if you added a few other letters." or how about, "anagram for 'ERE I RIP TEA'" and "anagram for 'TAX IN A PEP'" or something.

wendy 12:32 PM  

phillysolver - LOL! I think we should come up with alt-cluing for the entire puzzle and send it back to Bob Klahn just for shits and giggles.

Anonymous 12:34 PM  

Lucky for us that ochlocracy happens to be just a couple of entries below ocelot (could it be spelled with an e?) in the dictionary. Also, good thing that my wife knew that Xantippe was the (supposedly shrewish)wife of Socrates. Hardest in a long time, but at least no groaning (except for golcanda).

Rikki 12:35 PM  

Saving the hardest for last, Will? This was definitely the hardest Saturday all year for me. Toughest weekend, in fact, including Thursday. Actually, about half of it felt like a regular Saturday, hard but not impossible. I started off with bodydouble instead of bubblebath, but operaseria was a gimme and the NW fell into place when I stopped trying to figure out how bubblewrap could be used in a film and saw that it had to be bubblebath. So far, so good. NE wasn't too bad either. Taichi and Andy Rooney got me through there. Four iron came out of the blue and firma crossed that nicely. Same with nowhere and notes. Moving to the SE, I got eighteenth and plateglass and was able to fill that corner and up the east coast. Then disaster. Xantippe? Golconda? Argali? Ochlocracy? Finally googled to get Hobart, acorn, and Xeres and that allowed me to finish, but I felt like I went 10 rounds with Chuck Liddell.

Still wondering how the Insurance Institute is concerned with stolen cars. Seems to be more concerned with crash-testing cars for safety. From their home page: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is an independent, nonprofit, scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing the losses — deaths, injuries, and property damage — from crashes on the nation's highways.

Orange...funny!

Johnson... Sean is a variation of the name John, as are Hans, Ivan, Jean, Juan, Gianni, Evan, Ian, Johan, Joao, Jovan, Hansel, Janos, etc. So, you actually could be Seanson!

Rex, you need a cup of tea and an orange roll. Maybe some tai chi?

PhillySolver 12:38 PM  

If we stick to anagrams, then how about SEXER and DANG COOL? for 32A and 37A?

Jerry20020 12:40 PM  

'Peripateia' is one of Aristotle's key terms in his Poetics.

Like anonymous, I've never heard terms like Shiraz et al for the source of sherry but never Xerses.

After Peripeteia and Xantippe here we have another Greek!

This sets some kind of record for difficulty.

Golconda - huh?

The cluing for Bootlegger was clever, though.

Anonymous 12:41 PM  

Hey karmasartre Donald must have read this word of the day. If Will didn't take the day off perhaps he should.

Jerry20020 12:42 PM  

Pool - I think the cluing was over obscure or even clearly incorrect.

Maybe, somewhere, somehow there's a reference that somebody can dig up that justifies the cluing -- it doesn't matter!

The charge stands.

joe 12:45 PM  

Thursday=Saturday
Friday=Saturday+
Saturday=Google+Rex

Anonymous 12:48 PM  

It's puzzles like these that leave me convinced that the NY Sun is doing everything right and the NY Times is doing everything wrong. Klahn's puzzle was loaded with total esoterica, and I think Will Shortz needs to rethink what is considered fair. I bet that less than 10 people in the country finished this puzzle without Googling or guessing. Worst puzzle I've ever seen printed in the NYT in the last 20 years.

Kathy 12:50 PM  

Thanks everyone for your comments--I was able to get myself out of the fetal position after this (literally) puzzling experience. A brutal series of days!

Wendy, perhaps another avocation you would consider is sticking needles in your eyes as opposed to puzzles like these?

Orange, please tell me you googled at least once to solve this monstrosity in less than 8 minutes!

Orange and Rex, the point was made above (by another crabby solver) about the var. designation in clues. What are the "rules" where those are concerned? I kind of agree with the point that you can just spell something however the hell you want.

Looking forward to the Esperanto and math symbol puzzle tomorrow...Thankfully, the Patriots are on tonight, so I won't be starting it until morning! I might be recovered by then.

Kathy

Kathy 12:51 PM  

BTW, the LAT puzzle today is very relaxing...I went to it for solace.

Rex Parker 12:53 PM  

Easy on the hyperbole, folks. This isn't Nearly the worst puzzle in the past 20 years. It isn't even bad, IMO. It's just Hard As Hell. Every once in a while, you have to accept defeat (semi-)graciously.

And I can assure you that far more than 10 people finished this without Googling, and no, Orange didn't Google. Though she politely and privately acknowledged to me that Bob Klahn is indeed among the hardest of hardasses.

RP

Rex Parker 12:56 PM  

Oh ... no, with "Var." (Variants) there has to be a verifiable tradition of spelling the word a certain way. XANTIPPE certainly has authority. Why, it was in a movie title only 90 years ago!

rp

Judgesully 1:01 PM  

Ouch squared! Like Rex I had "nineteenth" simply because I thought "eighteenth" had toomany letters. Also stuck with "coterie" for the longest time. "Xeres" and "peripeteia" are truly vicious. Five googles and I was on my merry way. If I meet this Klahn guy in a dark alley, watch out. I'll remove all his dactyls with a four iron.

Leon 1:11 PM  

I thought after I got Toy Story and eighteenth that all would follow. I put speedlimit for 14 down ,(add me to the list)afro for two down and then I was iced.

Mina is now a member of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, er women.

ArtLvr 1:29 PM  

Quote: "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." -- Francis Bacon, Sr. NYT Puzzles too? Still digesting. I finished the whole thing in ink, with much roaming through dictionaries to start with. Like Rex, found "gasconade/brag" a handy toe-hold to start... and Tyra/Banks ditto. My last correction was to change aces to "ices" on top of Tyra, after googling the mountain sheep. Eureka!

kratsman 1:31 PM  

Jerry said: "'Peripateia' is one of Aristotle's key terms in his Poetics."

Well, yeah, everybody knows that...but that's not how it's spelled it in the damn puzzle. (Just kidding.)

First entries were OPEC and OASES at the 35 square. Things got tougher after that.

Days like this, I wish I had a wife who could toss me a 10-letter fill. Other days, not so much.

The NW, NE, and SE were definitely tough, but to me the SW was killer. Even with TYRA, OCELOTS, and CLASSA, it took forever. Even tried ANACONDA (of mining fame) for awhile.

For all my struggling, this is the kind of puzzle I like best.

billnutt 1:59 PM  

One man's gimme is another man's WTF. That doesn't go to music as well as "One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor," which is a song by Paul Simon. I'm playing Robben Ford's cover of that song on my radio show tomorrow night. Have I ever mentioned I'm a deejay on a local college station?

I digress - mainly because I don't want to talk about this puzzle!

EIGHTEENTH was the first word I entered, closely followed by MINA and TOYSTORY. FINALLY remembered Garrett HOBART from the days when I had all the vice presidents memorized. My mother-in-law loves ANDYROONEY, so I was able to get that fron only a couple of crosses.

But the rest! "Infernal" doesn't begin to describe it. (although I do love your use of it, Rex) I mean - Hophni? Catawampus? Gasconade? Margay? Mashie? And those are words from the CLUES! Fuhgeddabout PERIPETEIA, GOLCONDA, AGALI, BRASSARD, OCHLOCRACY and XANTIPPE.

That said, I thought the NW corner was quite elegant, and there were some very WITTY moments scattered throughout.

I have to say that I feel better about myself knowing that other people had trouble. It's kind of like how I felt when I found out somebody else was suckered by George Plimpton's Sidd Fitch story from that SPORTS ILLUSTRATED issue in the 1980s.

I'm taking a break and then going to the Sunday puzzle to see if I can feel better about myself!

Orange 2:10 PM  

Jim in NYC and others, a variant is fair game if it's in the dictionary—American Heritage lists Xanthippe and Xantippe. It's not random. A variant in a crossword is never a random, pulled-out-of-an-ass spelling—and being listed in a commonplace dictionary like American Heritage (as opposed to being found only in a huge unabrridged dictionary) makes it kosher for crosswords. Variant spellings are never a constructor's first choice, but if they have official support somewhere, they'll do.

Johnson, I always post my solving times at my blog. This one took me 7:57. But it only took Byron Walden 5:31. (Sans Google.) It helps that I've done all of Klahn's themeless NYTs from 1998 to present, and that I lovelovelove his cluing style in the CrosSynergy crosswords he makes. He's almost always tougher than you're used to, but I love that sort of thing.

Blue Stater, it didn't stump everyone.

Jerry20020, you didn't bother to look in the dictionary, did you? See noun def. #6 in American Heritage. It's spot on. (And that wasn't dug up from somewhere obscure. All I did was click "definition" on the Google page for pool.)

marcie 2:12 PM  

Add me to the Johns with Afros. A truly brutal puzzle. I wrote it off to a "learn six or so new words today" day instead of even trying to complete without google or dictionary. Peripeteia (which I will never spell correctly without help), Golconda, Argali, ochlocracy, add a margay (yes it sounds like Parkay's competitor!) and a cupwhatsit... still learning) and a gasconade.

I too wanted a political type for the running worker. I enjoyed the cluing for Tyra and modesty, as well as the plate glass.

brutal, gruelling, infernal... satisfying in "wow I really learned some things today!" sense, not particularly satisfying in having worked a hard puzzle to completion, which I didn't.

I'll definitely BOLO for Mr. Klahn. Can't say if it will be to avoid him or dive right in again LOL!

Fergus 3:36 PM  

Modesty preserver, indeed.

Oh, and for that Clue I felt fairly confident about SINGLE BEDS, that being in the Code, and all.

HAS A GO AT IT, indeed. Well, I finished, so to speak, but with a couple of legitimate-seeming errors. ELYSSA, instead of CLASS A, since this had something to do with the Boardwalk of Paris, or the upper reaches of heaven? Yeah, OK, what the hell. And left in RIMES instead of CIDER for the Fall Production, though that was much less excusable.

It would have been more fitting to have Peripatetic down in that SE corner, since there was a whole lot of wandering around, looking for answers to mysterious questions.

THUGOCRACY was looking good for a while, but that little ACORN managed to stir up the correct answer from some forgotten Platonic dialogue.

The LANTERN didn't shed much light since I found the Clue 'of it' too stretched. Missed the green with my FIVE IRON, and the racehorses being SHOD was crap. Figured that Gasconade was BANG since Cyrano's gang must have done a bit of shooting. Wrong, but that did lead to BAPTISMS, which led to MIST, which was nicely clued by Tear up. I stuck in GIAN, though Rikki seemed to indicate that that form of John doesn't stand alone.

I'm sure it was discussed here at some point, but why are the Titles of the puzzles only published on Sunday? MOSEYS NOWHERE could have been today's correct Handle.

Hobbyist 3:48 PM  

Very hard indeed but look at all the trivia we have learned today. A golconda of useful (?) information w I hope will not be or go awry , I mean catawampus, in my psyche.

Kathy 4:53 PM  

Thanks, Rex and Orange, on the clarification on the variants--figured that was the case but didn't know if there was more to it.

artlvr, have you heard the Dorothy Parker quote--"this book should not be cast aside lightly; it should be thrown with great force." She had lots of excellent lines writing book reviews for Vanity Fair. Think this one was about an A.A. Milne book.

Kathy

Ricardo 5:17 PM  

Just noticed Wrath of Klahn in the important posts sidebar. LOL

jae 5:31 PM  

No mas Senor Klahn, no mas!!

I got the top half fairly easily but the south of this monster killed me. I also had to google for the first time in a long time. Initially had MISLABEL, COTERIE and JOHN but got EIGHTEENTH. Needed google for HOBART, XANTIPPE, GOLCONDA, and ARGALI. Had ACES which made ATIT hard to see and confused TARA Reid with TYRA Banks so SE was pretty much a mess. Got OCELOTS from my bride. I need a nap!

Jerry20020 5:32 PM  

Orange -- definition SIX?? LOL - I rest my case. Pool is almost universally used to denote a collection of money - used by a group to buy something, say, lottery tickets, or to bet on sports. Seriously, have you heard anybody refer to the, say, OPEC "pool"?
As for "margay" - rather than margerine I thought of Eliot and "on Margate Sands I could connect nothing with nothing."
Did anybody mention that Xantippe was Socrates wife?

Jerry20020 5:34 PM  

Did anybody out there ever hear of a "golconda" - ever?

This sounds like something out of Jabberwocky or Lear's nonsense poems.

Blue Stater 5:38 PM  

Orange, I didn't say that this puzzle stumped everyone. I said that (summarizing) with enough cheap tricks like this you can stump anyone. Not the same.

Kathy 5:39 PM  

ricardo, there's also an article on BK I found through google. On his home page there are a bunch of his puzzles that you can do. Why am I doing another???? I confess that I am. I'm spending Way too much time on this today.

Go to bobklahn.home.comcast.net (or just google his name) and click on the link to the Wrath of Klahn. Interesting article.

Kathy

Michael 5:57 PM  

One of the things I've liked about Shortz-era Friday-Saturday puzzles is the combination of tricky clues for recognizable answers. But this one had both clues and answers I've never heard of -- golconda, ochlocracy, peripretia. opera seria, etc, to say nothing of McKinley's well-known first vice-president.

infernal is right...

astonished by Orange..

Karen 5:59 PM  

Thankfully, Saturday puzzles only occur hebdomadally.

Anonymous 6:06 PM  

Jerry: I would have thought of galconda, if it had been in Jabberwocky.
Basically, the only thing I learned today is to add Klahn (along with Quarfoot and Farmer) to my "Constructor Warning" list.

Orange 6:30 PM  

Blue Stater, those weren't cheap tricks. They were awesome tricks! Lovable, all of 'em.

Alan 6:35 PM  

ARGALI,PERIPETIA.OCHLOCRACY,GOLCUNDA,XANTIPPE-BOOTLEGGER FOR ONE RUNNING FOR WORK-HUH?CLUE 14=SINCE WHEN IS AN INSTITUTE A STOLEN CAR?

ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE TO DO WITHOUT GOOGLING!!!
THIS PUZZLE WAS MADE FOR THOSE WHO ENTER CROSSWORD CONTESTS!!! HARDEST SATURDAY PUZZLE EVER.
IF ORANGE DOES THIS IN UNDER 10 MINUTES I EITHER DISBELIEVE OR STAND IN AWE. I LEAVE THIS PUZZLE TO THE BACHS AND BEETHOVENS OF CROSSWORDS.

karmasartre 7:01 PM  

@karen -- good one

Orange 7:30 PM  

@Alan: *curtsying* (Also, please consider using lowercase letters, Alan. It's easier to read than all-caps.)

Rex Parker 7:41 PM  

@Alan: there's no yelling here. Every future all-caps rant like that will be deleted. The BOOTLEGGER clue was totally fair (illegally trading in any good is often called 'running'), and you clearly misread the STOLEN CARS clue.

rp

Alan 8:05 PM  

To Rex I apologize for my rant. I was truly at wit's end on this puzzle.
To Orange I still stand in awe and I believe.

Ellen 8:12 PM  

This may have been the hardest puzzle I've ever done, including tournament finals. It took longer than any SUNDAY I can remember, and took me twice as long as Friday. Friday was in double digits so this is bad bad bad. (I'm solving on paper while proofreading but that only excuses a minute or so.)

Then again, I'm not usually on Bob Klahn's wavelength, except (quite fortunately) in the final the year I won.

Orange 8:52 PM  

Screw Santa Claus. People should believe in me.

ArtLvr 9:54 PM  

Thanks, Kathy -- I love the Dorothy Parker quip. You may try another Klahn immediately: I don't quite have the nerve! But I might get inspired to try constructing another puzzle myself one day (haven't done so for many years). I got discouraged when I had a one with lovely clue "title spelt backward", only to have my favorite uncle note that it wasn't a perfect reverse: "Erewhon". Save for a Sunday?

profphil 12:08 AM  

I steeled myself to bravely do my first Saturday puzzle. It took me an hour and a half and finally completed without Googling. I was so proud and thought this is the way to end the year and start off the New Year in a new category of puzzler. When I checked this blog and saw Rex's infernal rating, I couldn't believe that I had completed it even though Rex gave it an infernal. I was feeling smug and then after reading more of the blog, I realized I had just completed another day's puzzle and NOT Saturday's. My joy was short-lived followed by humiliation. However, I was also relieved as had I actually gotten to this Saturday's puzzle it would have been a hellish experience and I would probably never attempt it again. Perhaps in the New Year I will bravely go where only the valorous go.

Karen 10:30 AM  

I thought that NE corner looked familiar. BUBBLEBATH, OPERA SERIA, ADVANCE MEN and TOY STORY were in the same places in a Patrick Berry puzzle (#150 in Shortz' "Crosswords for 365 Days"). Would this be coincidence, homage, plagiarism, or subconscious? I know it was driving my subconscious crazy with *not remembering* the answers I had done the day before.

Orange 11:09 AM  

Wow, Karen! Cruciverb.com gold members can see Berry's grid here, with that same stack of four answers. BRASHER and HANDAXES instead of BRASSARD and HANDOUTS, and the rest of the fill is different.

Anonymous 2:13 PM  

Mr. Klahn... if you read this, hard does not equal bad. I enjoyed this puzzle as much as any Saturday. The harder they are, the more I learn. So, I say: bring it!!!

Eugene 5:30 PM  

Too tough to do without Googling, although I did get the North done. I had JEREZ (which was the way I learned it) and tried to fit in some variant of JEZEBEL for 35D. Otherwise, my problems are like everyone elses, with words I never knew.

Doc John 1:36 AM  

I think Emily's drawing for Friday pretty much sums it up for today!

Couldn't finish even with Googling and Wiki-ing thanks to ACES not letting me see GO AT IT and not having any clue as to the N in XANTIPPE. And every reference I checked gave JERES as the answer (yes, I understand why it's XERES). As for Xan, had no idea they were looking for a name- I kept trying to think of synonyms for shrew. I fell into the OASIS/OPEC trap, too. I had a feeling OPEC wasn't right, though, because the clue wasn't abbreviated.

Started with TOY STORY and got the NW first, got most of the NE except for the bottom 3 crosses. Kept telling myself that since I had gotten those parts the rest would come. It didn't.

I could go on and on but I do agree with Blue Stater's comment that it is possible to make something so esoteric that nobody could solve it.

BTW, nobody mentioned that [Shuffles] is not a good clue for MOSEYS. To shuffle is walk by dragging one's feet. To mosey is to amble or walk leisurely- completely different.

I find enjoyment in a puzzle when I have to use my brain to make connections to figure out a clue (i.e. BUBBLE BATH, BOOTLEGGER, MISTITLE or WITTY), not when I have to strain in vain to come up with the farthest, tiniest piece of minutiae that might possibly fit the clue (GALCONDA, PERIPETEIA, ARGALI and POOL). Shoot, I was happy just to have guessed OCELOTS right! What's next- a puzzle with nothing but obscure Shakespeare and Bible names?

Crosswords are supposed to be fun, not work.

That said, I won't be forgetting those words anytime soon!

Aaron 10:54 AM  

While being younger usually works against me, it did help me get GASCONADE this time. All I could think of was Gascon in Beauty and the Beast. After crossing with EIGHTEENTH, BRAG fell right in. Just my random comment:)

Eric 4:28 PM  

No lording over here: the hardest Saturday NYT puzzle in many weeks (or many a week, as the puzzle constructors are wont to say).

Eighteenth however was my first entry: the beauty of being a history major, I guess. Gasconade, a slightly archaic usage I think, I also got right away: also from reading nineteenth century newspaper editorials and other such.

After this promising start, I quickly bogged down and spent as much time looking at Google as I did the grid for the rest of the morning.

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