SATURDAY, Feb. 23, 2008 - Barry C. Silk (CORDAGE MATERIAL)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

Now this is a Saturday puzzle. No foolin' around. I got roughed up badly. Very badly. Took me longer than any puzzle has taken me all year. The worst part of all: despite hacking through many lethal clues and obscure answers, I ended up undone by my failure to see a number of very gettable answers, including one that, in retrospect, was embarrassingly obvious (especially given the crosses I had in place):

SACRILEGE (20D: Profanity)

By the end of the puzzle, with all four quadrants completed and just parts of the center left open, I had SA--I--GE. Later, when the puzzle was done, I would give my wife the clue and this letter combination and she would take less than twenty seconds to render SACRILEGE. So what happened. Well, first, I blame EWA (41A: _____ Beach, Hawaii), one of three geographical names in the puzzle that I have Never seen before in my life. That "E" would have made all the difference. My brain saw the final -GE in SACRILEGE and wanted only an "A" in that "E"'s slot - I imagined the word was a word of French derivation rhyming with, say, FROTTAGE or BADINAGE. Yes, good one. Then there was the horrific problem of having both of the 11-letter Acrosses be mysteries. Again, looking back, how did I not see them? I had the ROAD in ROAD WARRIOR (30A: Frequent business traveler) and still had no clue. None. I kept wanting the section word to end TION, not RIOR. ROAD ... CAPTION? Seriously, though it makes No sense, CAPTION would not leave my head. Then there was STALACTITES (39A: They hang from the roof). Or rather, there wasn't STALACTITES - a great answer that I wanted to be some kind of MEN or some kind of LINES. Lastly, SACRILEGE might have fallen earlier if I'd considered PAC at 28A: Candidate supporter, briefly. I did not. I could think only of POL, which seemed (and was) wrong.

Ironically, I started out the puzzle very strongly. Had the NW wrapped up inside a minute and dropped answers all the way down to the bottom of the puzzle shortly thereafter. CARGO PANTS (6D: Wear for rough outdoor activities) led to the great guess XES (40A: Indications of good bowling) led to the obvious- in- its- initial- X-ness XANADU (40D: Exotic estate). Then everything ground to a halt. This was my first great pause. There would be several more. A good measure of how hard the puzzle was for me: NARIS was a gimme (8D: Nostril). I mean, when you can nail some obscure Latinate @#$# like that right off the bat, shouldn't you be entitled to waltz through the damned puzzle? But no. Used REVE (21A: Vision de nuit) to pinch the NE closed from the opposite end. Best answer up there is NETFLIX - "best" in terms of the wicked way it is clued (8A: Service with a queue). NETFLIX provides us with yet another initial-X answer, XYLEM (14D: Botanical nutrient conductor), which I never ever would have gotten without the XY already firmly in place. In fact, I knew the word before I even looked at the clue.

Even the little pockets in the W and E were super-tough. Amazed that I fought through the W effectively, as ATTN (25A: Ltr. recipient pinpointer) was really hard to get my head around, and HTS (38A: Abbr. in some city names), little though it is, was a bear to uncover. Had the "S" and thought "oh, come on, this could be anything." As for the E ... well, that was the very last place to fall, due mainly to today's showcase clue: 33D: Cordage material (jute). It would really have helped if I'd known what "cordage" is. With no idea, and having only -U-E, I despaired, until I got 33A: Flow stopper (jam). And by "got" I mean I wrote in the obvious DAM. This gave me DU-E for [Cordage material], so I figured "cordage" must have something to do with the desert and I wrote in DUNE (which gave me the "N" that went Great with my something-LINES hypothesis for 39A: They hang from the roof). One final thing about the E - is MT ST Helens really written that way (35D: _____ Helens)? Officially? Dang. I had MONT there for a while, thinking maybe there as an Alp called MONT HELENS.


  • 29A: First to be admitted?: Abbr. (Del.) - I nailed this, and once again, as with NARIS, I feel that the puzzle should have recognized my puzzling bad-assedness and just rolled over and surrendered. Oh, DELaware was the first state in the Union, in case that wasn't clear.
  • 36A: One who didn't say no? (consenting adult) - There are many reasons to object to this clue, but at least one of them gets me into pretty blue territory for a Saturday morning, so I'll just say that I liked the answer.
  • 1A: Lard source (fatback) - it is certainly one of my lard sources.
  • 43A: Home to Al Jazeera (Qatar) - Nailed it. I mean, come on! Where is my victory laurel? I pwned the village of NARIS DEL QATAR and still took over 30 minutes to do this damned thing. Lo how the occasionally mighty have fallen. QATAR is one of four Islam-oriented answers today. See also AMEER (5D: Robed ruler: Var.), HAREM (24A: Part of some Muslim households), and .... this guy, one of today's two pillars of geographical obscurity:
  • 24D: Afghan province or its capital (Herat) - would have had a better time solving this if the clue had been ["I'm supposed to meet _____ noon"]. Then there's:
  • 31D: River formed by the junction of the Fulda and Werra (Weser) - These all read like geographical terms out of a Dr. Seuss book. As of now, I couldn't tell you where this abominable triumvirate of rivers is located. I'm gonna say ... somewhere in Europe. Germany? Yes! Northwestern Germany! And the smallish contingent of German NYT puzzle solvers did loudly rejoice. So, let's see, EWA, WESER, HERAT. Oh, then there's:
  • 48A: _____-Ude (Russan city on the Trans-Siberian Railroad) (Ulan) - at least I've seen ULAN before, as part of the more common "ULAN Bator." Then there's one my wife knew, but which meant nothing to me:
  • 23D: Atlanta commuting option (MARTA) - MARTA, my dear, I have never had occasion to ride you (!). Your name seems more appropriate to, say, someone's aunt than to a public transportation system.
  • 54A: An ace is a good one (aviator) - this was a gimme ... when I thought it was PITCHER.
  • 57A: County west of Dublin (Kildare) - sure, that's Irish, that'll work.
  • 58A: Some oilseeds (sesames) - thought "oilseeds" was some technical botanical term I would never know, but it seems it just means a seed from which one gets oil.
  • 13D: Donation declaration ("I gave") - Super weak. This is a declaration of Having Given. I'm just trying to imagine someone putting money in the Salvation Army bucket, turning to the bell ringer, and declaring "I GAVE." What are you, five? "I brush my own hair!"
  • 46A: "Oh, right" ("I get it") - "I GAVE" "I GET IT!"
  • 49D: Feelthy stuff (porn) - all kind of wrong. Horrible disgusting horrible clue. I'm routinely disturbed by the way the NYT clues and generally treats adult viewing material. There is an underlying prudishness that actually creeps me out Way more than a simple straightforward reference to PORN would. The only person who would say "FEELTHY" is a. Peter Lorre, or b. the guy hiding in your bushes watching you read this blog in your underwear right now - behind you!
  • 29D: One who might pick up toys (dog catcher) - brutal. Had the DOG part and figured it must refer to someone who owns or trains or dogsits or something. No. The toy is the dog. Nice.
  • 43D: Faultfinder's concern? (quake) - there will be a huge one on the south island of NZ some time in the near future. One of the perils of living in paradise.
  • 44D: Gridder Harper (Alvin) - "Gridder" hurts my head. Does anyone outside crosswords say it any more?
  • 45D: Heads-down view (tails) - another nice clue.
  • 55D: Sea bream, in a sushi bar (tai) - last of the brutal exotic answers (I count five, six if you throw in MARTA). Apparently TAI is a "favored dish for celebratory occasions in Japan and a commonly invoked emblem of good fortune" ( Fat lot of good it did me today.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Here is last night's Chicago radio interview with 3-time crossword tourney champ Tyler Hinman and some other chick who blogs or something... [her name is "Orange" and she is not amused]

PPS Must give a shout-out to today's LAT puzzle (by Manny Nosowsky) ... I'm not even done yet, but the NW corner is such a masterwork that I had to come here and tell you about it. Now. See "The Country's Other Puzzles" in my sidebar for directions on how to get there. While you're at it, see also today's Newsday "Saturday Stumper" by Doug Peterson. A wicked good time. 15-letter answer Across the middle is a gimme ... but the 15-letter Down that it intersects!? Whoa. That took some work. Brilliant.


Coop 8:48 AM  

"Service with a queue" = NETFLIX.

I don't get it.

PhillySolver 8:54 AM  

@ coops

As a new memebr, I maintain a que of films I want to see, and they send it to me when I return the previous one. If you are not a member I would say this is next to impossible.

For me, it was next to impossible and in the NE I had NETFLIX and still had a miserable 30 minutes. This was one hard puzzle.

jannieb 8:58 AM  

Netfflix is a by-mail cd/dvd rental. You keep a wish list (or queue) on file and they send your next item by return mail. I feel avenged after yesterday. Nailed the puzzle but am still having trouble seeing LOVER for gallant. Just doesn't work for me. Got all the geography from the crosses - enjoyed TAILS, DOGCATCHER, CARGOPANTS. Gimmes for me were MARTA, PAC, ATTN - in other words, one woman's gimme is another's WTF - as we've all said many times before. A fun outing for a Saturday.

Coop 9:03 AM  

I know what the Netflix service is (my son belongs) but when I think of a queue I think of people physically standing in line for something.

You're certainly right about the difficulty of the puzzle. There are some devious (but fair) clues.

Karen 9:06 AM  

So often I fall into the exact same traps and deadfalls as Rex that it seems uncanny. Not today, however. My gimmes included ONELEG, PAC, XES, NARES (I've never seen the singular before!), MTST, MARTA and XYLEM (a fine WIKFC (word I know from crosswords)). STALACTITES, ROAD WARRIORS, and NETFLIX came easily after a few crosses; and I was stumped by DEL, until I started thinking of quarters.

For me, this was a medium (but enjoyable) Saturday puzzle. Lots of great clues, and the awesome word FATBACK.

PhillySolver 9:17 AM  

Ok, the stats are in. No one needs proof this was hard and it is Saturday after all, but here we go: 9 words(12.5%)are used for the first time including a few surprise me like ERODERS, REMOVAL and ENSUING. Others like SACRILEGE can hit the DIRTROAD. 9 words make their encore and another 9 are Juniors. I usually don't track beyond that, but 6 are seniors (that is, occurring for the fourth time). Nice to see LRON's twin ARON make it kinetically in this puzzle. I recall our discussion on SESAMES and report that it should now be a red flag. It appears almost always in hard Friday and Saturday puzzles .

All the letters are used (what is the term for that?) Qutejezey?

Did Amy and Tyler recruit the rest of America for our hobby last night?

Badria 9:27 AM  

Rex, Re: "feelthy:" THANK you. Just despicable cluing.

Orange 9:32 AM  

PhillySolver, a pangram uses all 26 letters.

The radio show was fun. If you have 44 minutes to spare, you can listen to it here. Thanks to Nancy Shack for staying up late to listen and then using Audio Hijack to record it!

bill from fl 9:49 AM  

For some reason, this one fell pretty easily for me (although I took longer than Rex), because of few lucky happened-to-know gimmes: fatback, badlands, quatar, roadwarrior, stalactites, and cartel (although it's not, strictly speaking, a trust).

My one disappointment on opening Rex's blog was finding that I left in "dam" for flow stopper, without questioning "dute," which should have felt wrong. Is there a word for a clue that invites an obvious answer that turns out to be wrong, when the "right" answer turns out be a bit questionable? I would have though a jam was a flow stoppage, not a flow stopper.

Cool profile in the Chronicle, Rex!

johnson 9:52 AM  

Other suggestions for the title today Rex:

Vision de nuit

First to be admitted
Afghan province or its capital

River formed by junction of the Fulda and Werra

IMHO these are way more obscure than cordage material!

Enjoy the weekend

Liz 10:04 AM  

Today's puzzle was far easier for me than yesterday's. I finished it off last night before going to bed. No errors, although I didn't tumble to "del" as Delaware but it fit from the crosses.

My parents used strips of fatback atop baking roe shad, my absolute favorite fish, long only a memory as it is an east coast delicacy.

I especially liked fatback, attn, tails, stalactites and quake. The stalactites and stalagmites at the Carlsberg Caverns in NM are mighty indeed.

kratsman 10:18 AM  

I had ROADWARRIOR at 30A, so when I came to 37D, it just *had* to be DIRTLANE. No way they would use ROAD twice. I was very surprised when it turned out that they did.

wendy 10:20 AM  


TELE - how's that an MTV segment? Not seeing the meaning here.

Is it kosher to have the same word part of two answers in one puzzle? See: ROAD WARRIOR and DIRT ROAD. Maybe it is, in which case, OK, but I thought I remember hearing that's taboo.

I would have preferred KILDARE to have been clued in relation to Richard Chamberlain ;) I agree that the PORN clue was cringeworthy.

I got much further with this today than I usually do on a Saturday, but then just screeched to a halt. Lots of lovely answers, though.

Btw, that DOG CATCHER clue is clever, but it's kind of contrived to my mind because I don't think of toy dogs being the kind that would run away. They seem kind of loath to be separated from their owners. Or am I stereotyping the poor things?

Hobbyist 10:25 AM  

Usually Mr. Silk is my nemesis but not today. Hard, yes, but doable and clever. Yesterday's tougher for me.

Hobbyist 10:26 AM  

I thought a queue was referring to a Chinese pony tail a la Pearl Buck or something.

wendy 10:30 AM  

Re TELE - I just saw it. Never mind.

Kathy 10:50 AM  

Bill from fl,

I did the same thing as you on dam/jam and didn't notice. Was very pleased to get stalactites from the t in cargo pants and then the consenting adults from the lt at the end. I did better than I usually do on Saturday puzzles.

Thanks, Rex, for the tip on the LA Times puzzle--I needed some reason to procrastinate working today!


Orange 11:00 AM  

Rex, would it kill ya to use my name? Crikey! I should go back and edit my mention of your CHE feature. "Some weary schmo who blogs or something..."

Rex Parker 11:11 AM  

Wow, I thought you'd take the obvious teasing a little better than that. I'll amend.


Joel 11:27 AM  

My 7th grade Life Sciences teacher taught us a mnemonic that she still remembered from her 7th grade Life Sciences course (and she was, to my 12-year-old eyes, ancient, so she'd been out of 7th grade for a while): Xylem up, and phloem down. It works a bit better when you say it out loud, of course, but I've never been able to forget the two types of plant transport tissue and their respective functions. Thus, I had XYLEM instantly upon seeing the clue, and then spent the rest of the puzzle doubting myself because I couldn't think of a "service with a queue" that ended in X. Brutal puzzle.

Anonymous 12:08 PM

See this for a hilarious way to eat sushi. Nollie

Jim in Chicago 12:09 PM  

Brutal, just brutal, and as others have pointed out, a great puzzle spoiled by a few bad eggs.

This was made all the more brutal for me since I started out so well, filling in FATBACK, ROADWARRIER and a few other long answers almost immediately. That, with a few lucky crosses, gave me about 1/2 of the puzzle within 2 minutes. Then I just ground to a halt, like an SUV stuck in a big pothole on a DIRT ROAD.

Just a few comments to add to things already said by others.

I liked REMOVAL for ousting, and was reminded that in the UK "movers" are called "removers" and you contract with a "removal company". Always sounded to me like you were being "ousted" rather than voluntarily moving.

Instead of HAREM, I had HAMAM, thinking it likely that some large Muslim houses might indeed contain their own HAMAM. I really doubt that many Muslim households actually have a Harem.

Isn't a PAC a Public Action COMMITTEE? I think of "Candidate supporter" as singular, as in an individual, and would have prefered to see "Candidate supporterS, briefly".

I didn't get DEL or TAI until I read Rex today.

I also fell into the DAM/JAM trap.

Instead of HTS for the "abbreviation in same city names", working off the plural nameS I went with STS (for Saints), which gave me ARCS for "mischeivous" which to me makes as much, or little, sense as ARCH.

I misspelled Stalactites as stalaGtites, which gave me Dog GROOMER, sending me badly into the woods in the SE.

I thought than an ENCYclopedia would be a great library space hog, missing the fact that the clue wasn't looking for an abbreviation.

Finally, put me in the "I HATE FEELTHY" clue. What is the connection between that corruption of filthy and porn? I just don't get it. And, isn't porn just another form of artistic expression? grin.

Anonymous 12:10 PM  

If I didn't have your blog to refer to I'd go to my grave wondering how del related to first to be admitted. Thanks for the clarification.
Proofreading again, found this, which I'm sure you'll want to correct.
"I would give my wife the clue and this letter combination and she would taken?? less than twenty seconds to render.....". Grammar errors in Rex's blog? SACRILEGE. LOL.
Old proofreaders never die they just become general pains in the ass. Sorry about that :)

billnutt 12:25 PM  

Oh, the humanity! (Although I still feel that the last Saturday puzzle of 2007 was rougher.)

I wanted "potent round" to be AMMO.

I assumed that "Reunion nickname" would have soemthing to do with a CLASS reunion, not a family reunion.

Remembered EZER Weizman easily enough, but wanted the "Space hot in a library" to be ENCY.

CONSENTING ADULTS took FAR TOO long for me to get.

At the time, I was cursing it, but in retropsect, DOGCATCHER is pretty darn clever.

Rex, I was a little disappointed that you didn't gave a picture of Bruce Springsteen in connection with BADLANDS, but that's me. I guess it wouldn't be cool to have a certain chipmunk for "GRidder Harper."

Today is even more of a crossword puzzle kind of day than the usual Saturday. I didn't get yesterday's TIMES because of the weather until today. So now I've done Friday AND Saturday, and now I'll tackle Sunday.

Finally - and I think I can mention this because of AVIATOR, if that's OK, Rex - I wanted to let y'all know that I host a radio program at called the Nutt-House, which airs Sundays from 6 to 8 p.m. East Coast time. Tomorrow's show will be devoted to songs from movies! And yes, I'll play something from THE AVIATOR.

Jim in NYC 12:30 PM  

"Due to a production error, our Friday and Saturday puzzles were reversed this week. We regret any inconvenience."--The New York Times

Really, what's with cluing 49D PORN as "feelthy stuff"? For me, it raised a bizarre racist image of a [insert foreign origin here] guy slinking around selling porn from under his raincoat. Maybe it was an attempt at a joke?

One error today, 20A, "ses" instead of SIS; and 8D, "nares" instead of NARIS (I too had never seen the singular). After writing in "nares" I failed to check the crossing word to make sure it made sense. Grrr.

Noam D. Elkies 12:33 PM  

Like several others here, I suspected that Will Shortz switched yesterday's and today's puzzles... After yesterday's disaster, this one fell in 16-17 minutes. Other comments, including those of Rex himself, suggest that we're just the lucky minority. Which reminds me: funny how "might have fallen" occurs twice in Rex's write-up but one of those is a typo.

This one had a surprising number of easy clues to get into the grid, including 1D:FASO (Burkina ____) [a pleasant surprise to start off], 52D:EZER (Israel's Weizman), plus the already-mentioned 14D:XYLEM, 21A:REVE, and 43A:QATAR. 9D:ENES would have been immediate early in the week, but on a Saturday other guesses come into play. And of course there were some mysterious entries that could only be guessed from crosses, especially towards the bottom (41A:EWA, 48A:ULAN, 44D:ALVIN, 55D:TAI). As for 31D:WESER, I did actually recognize Fulda as German, but could only think of RHINE/RHEIN until the W of 30A:ROADWARRIOR came to the rescue.

Re 33D:JUTE (cordage) -- cordage is just cords, i.e. ropes, though on a Saturday "cord" could also be a volume unit for wood.

Apropos mnemonics: to resolve 39:STALACTITES vs. stalagmites, remember to "hang on 'tite" :-)

Nice to have 8:NETFLIX and the GPS-clued 15A:AREAMAP as consecutive across answers.

49D:PORN (Feelthy stuff) -- is "feelthy" supposed to be an off-color pun on "feel" or just a colloquial pronunciation?


pomegranate 12:39 PM  

Usually Saturdays are killers for me. This is the first I've finished without any of the levels of cheating on a letter or two in at least a month. So it was a shock to find Rex's assessment. It helped that ROADWARRIOR and NETFLIX fell into place right away. Initially had WOOD for 33D, per Noam's comment. But getting 36A solved that mistake.

The SE was the last to come together. I'm not used to thinking of a CARTEL as a "trust", rather than some price-fixing, anti-consumer conglomerate. It didn't help that I was convinced SHMOOZE could only be SCHMOOZE and really wanted the "space hog in the library" to be the OED.

Judgesully 12:54 PM  

Some bizarre clues and answers made this a schzoid puzzle, i.e., some gimmes like "Qatar" and "one leg," mixed with devious ones like "reve" and "xes." I never remember how to spell the plural of a letter. For the longest time I had 'nares" which made "sis" into "ses." Made it through labeit with much pain in the noggin.

Anonymous 12:55 PM  

Thanks for the LA Times recommendation, Rex, your tips are always appreciated.

However, as for the LA Times site, after messing around for about 4 minutes and not seeing how to get anything but last Sunday's puzzle, and a strong indication that it's a pay site, I bailed. Really not user-friendly. If there had been a "newbies" button with instructions, I might even have signed up.

Rex Parker 1:16 PM  

As Noam points out, I made a typo, not a grammatical error - and "old proofreaders" are fine by me as long as they point out the errors privately, or at least graciously.


Orange 1:20 PM  

Rex, I see you omitted any descriptor like "attention hog." Impressive restraint! (I, too, lack enough celebrity to weary of it in the slightest. I like to see my name. A lot. With awestruck adjectives.)

Nancy added an MP3 version (quicker to download, apparently) of the radio show, downloadable here.

Frances 1:30 PM  

I'd have given this one a "medium," whereas yesterday I had to Google four or five answers to finish.

For the "donation declaration," think: I GAVE at the office.

Here's another mnemonic: stalaCtites hang from the Ceiling, whereas stalaGmites come up from the Ground.

Jim in NYC 1:34 PM  

Agree with frances on "I gave". Also, I'm pretty sure the Red Cross gives out or has given out "I gave" stickers for blood donors to wear.

Kathy 1:45 PM  

Anonymous 12:55, you can get the LA Times puzzle through the site--there's a link on the right side of the page.

Rex loved the NW; I had to google to get anything in that quadrant. Guess I got stalactite and consenting adults faster than he did, though.


karmasartre 1:48 PM  

The NETFLIX corner did me in. I wanted IGAVE, but it seemed a bit pedestrian after doing the rest of the grid. Tried "Latent" prints where FLORAL goes. Ugh.

JUTE was a gimme for me because of a song from Van Morrison's great but much-maligned mid-"90s songbook, in this case the silly but irresistible "dump the jute on the 'Burning Ground' ", which got a lot of play hereabouts in '97.

I love the sound of Burkina rolls off the tongue like "Sanjay Gupta" or "cellar door" or "gingivitis".

@JIM IN NYC -- yours is my favorite name among the contributors, because when I add "ricket" to the end and parse it differently, it sounds wonderful.

Anonymous 1:58 PM  

This puzzle slapped me around like I owed it money. I started well (I thought), had expectant mother but then decided that couldn't be right because 29D HAD TO BE vetinarian. Until stalactites, that is. Had ensuing but also blame (quake). Also couldn't understand how nares could be singular, but didn't get naris until the end. Too many googles later I finally finished. Going for a walk now, even tho its colder than a well diggers feelthy, well...

Blue Stater 2:01 PM  

This was another case, for me, of being more able to do the Saturday puzzles than the Fridays. Fairly consistent over the years -- I've no idea why. Perhaps it is because I really, really dislike tricky puzzles and the Fridays are trickier than Saturdays (are they?), which are just difficult, rather than difficult and tricky?

I thought NETFLIX was over the line. If you have to be a member to have even a chance of getting this, then it's out of bounds, I think, particularly when it's crossed by two marginal clue-answer pairs (12D and 13D) and two extremely obscure corners of knowledge (8D and 14D). I don't mind obscurities, of course -- I vastly prefer them to tricks -- but in conjunction with all the rest it's a bit much. Still, I got it and the rest of the puzzle.

saudia 2:01 PM  

I got all but the lower left quadrant solved when I decided to run for Google. I could have typed in "Harper NFL" but, for some unfathomable reason, I went with "gridder Harper" and--how auspicious that your site came up. Immediate gratification--TODAY'S very puzzle under discussion. I went straight to the clue in question (had to avert my eyes to not look at your solution), entered "Alvin" into my puzzle and had the rest of it finished within a minute.

Anonymous 2:22 PM  

Oh, duh. You have to register to get the LA Times puzzle, but it's free.
Anonymous 12:55

Leon 2:23 PM  

I think RP nailed it with the Peter Lorre reference. The bad Peter Lorre imitations like Ren - You feelthy swine - or Rocky Rococo of Firesign theater stand out as does Python’s Frenchmen in the Holy Grail - You feelthy English-

dk 2:24 PM  

My lovely wife and I just chugged this one except for NAIRS, the inability to remember how to spell XYLEM and DAM for JAM... until we figured out what cordage must mean.

My/our view is NETFLIX, XYLEM, XES and REVE are great in this puzzle.

It is also fun to see where we all struggle. It is different everyday. I guess that is why they call these things puzzles.

wendy 2:36 PM  

bluestater, yes NETFLIX is a membership service, but according to some accounts it's one with nearly 7 million members, so I don't think that counts as obscure. If it makes you feel any better, I'm a member and still didn't see it.

foodie 2:49 PM  

Jim in Chicago, I too was tempted to say Hamam instead of Harem. And I first felt, as you did, that Harem may not be appropriate. But in fact, the term "hareem" in Arabic can mean women in general (the ones that can be forbidden) and where there is communal living, there is a quarter for the "hareem". That does not imply multiple wives and/or concubines. Rather, sisters-in-law, mothers-in-law, etc.. all the women in the family where multiple men live and they are not blood-related to all the women.

I had "lune" for "vision de nuit" and that really messed me up for the longest time... "baby sitter" first which morphed into "day watcher" for the toy picker... Still, really good puzzle, with the right mix of easy and hard to keep one going...

Thank you Jimhorne from yesterday for the info re the use of rete in artificial intelligence. I think "neuralnet" as opposed to "neural network" would have helped me make that connection better. Still, your response made me rest easier : )

JC66 2:49 PM  

jim in chicago -

I think PAC stands for Political Action Committee and is a candidate supporter.

I, also, fell into the DAM trap and agree that feelthy/PORN s*cks.

wade 3:00 PM  

I got my comeuppance today for finding yesterday's puzzle eminently doable. I slogged through everything (except that I too fell into the DAM/JAM trap) until throwing in the towel in the NE. Even thought I figured TAM was a gimme, I was just too fond of FUNERAL for "Service with a queue" and also wanted POINTER in place of ANALOGY. I don't get "Feelthy" either, and I'm as big an aficionado of pornography as Rex is of comic books.

Badir 3:12 PM  

I felt like I was moving along with most of this puzzle, and I got all of it but New England a lot faster than I finished yesterday's, but I spent 20 minutes and Could Not finish that bit! I thought HAREM was going to be some obscure Arabic word, and I didn't know HERAT. And my French isn't great, so I didn't get REVE until my wife finally started helping me out with FLORAL (of course!--I wanted PENCIL, but didn't like it). Oh, and I didn't know "Gallant" was a noun, meaning LOVER. But MARTA was a gimme, since I've been to Atlanta, and I didn't have that much trouble with the middle acrosses. So different trouble areas for me and Rex today.

johnson 3:12 PM  

I also remember Xylem up and Phloem down from science class.

How about this other long remembered factoid:

StalaCtites come from the Ceiling, while stalaGmites grow from the Ground.

Matthew 4:14 PM  

How it is noone as of yet has mentioned the way this puzzle goes up against the breakfast test? There's the obvious one, Porn, but throw on top of that: Consenting Adult, Sacrilege, (crossing each other down the middle), Xes, Harem, and Dirt Road. Ones which rings suspiciously as if they could be dirty would be: One Leg, Xanadu (a pleasure-dome?), and then Lover next to, "I Gave".

Fergus 4:15 PM  

Well, well, I felt like the West Coast counterpart of the phenomenal and astounding Orange today. Didn't see her time on this one but I'm sure I was less than 2x hers. Very surprised to see it rated as Challenging for Rex, with lots of concurrence. Seemed like a Tuesday, and took only slightly longer because I found it hard to believe that everything was falling into place. Sometimes the solver happens to tune into the constructor's channel, and the picture is crystal clear. This was exceptional for me, as was yesterday's excessive time -- probably more than two cumulative hours stolen while administering quizzes.

Having just read "Kublai Khan" brought XANADU straight out, and recently met a woman from Burkina FASO. Clicked straight into the noun for Gallant, whereas normally would have hesitated with the verb. The Flamingo on ONE LEG, plowing through the BADLANDS, was a sign that a clear path lay ahead.

What about the two ROADS in the grid, though? Isn't this a tiny stylistic violation? And too bad that STALACTITES had to be entered horizontally.

Matthew 4:17 PM  

Also, FWIW, when we first filled in 40A we had XXX instead of Xes, which really is a better answer.

Bill D 4:32 PM  

Got a late start on this one today, but a week wouldn't have helped. First puzzle in months I was unable to complete unaided (although I'm no speed demon.) Like Rex, I thought the puzzle gods should have lain down when I gimmied in FASO, ONE LEG, KPS, BADLANDS, ATTN, DEL, XES, EWA, ULAN, MT ST, PRE, PORN and XANADU. I figured I was golden, getting that many short answers to work from the first! TANS led to HTS, from where I plodded outward across the puzzle and down into the bottom third, and then the NW fell. Ultimately the NE did me in, even after I wrestled out NETFLIX and REMOVAL. My science knowledge lies with geology and physics, so NARIS and XYLEM were new to me. Wanted I GAVE in the worst way, ultimately put it in and managed to get as far as I did.

In addition to your comments on "feelthy", I thought it just plain gave away the answer. Had DAM but the "U" in --ADULT gave me JUTE and JAM. Jute once appeared comically in a Brock Yates cartoon article on ficticious naval engagements - "plucky" Ecuador's contribution was running a jute blockade, so I'll never forget jute.

Not crazy about ERODERS (may be a geology thing), did not like ROAD appearing twice without being the theme, thought having HERAT and HAREM cross at the first letter for both was not cricket. Actually had DOG CAT before filling in CHER - that looked strange!

I don't do the Sunday puzzle with you guys (I save them for airplane rides). I find the bigger Sunday puzzle time-consuming rather than challenging. I love diagramless puzzles - do you guys do those when they appear with the Sunday crossword?

doc John 4:34 PM  

I was surprised to see that Rex tagged this one as Challenging. Although in no way did I blast through it, I did go slow and steady and so I would give it my own relative rating of Medium. But, as they say, one's gimme is another's head-scratcher. Yesterday's puzzle was definitely more Saturday-like than this one.

Never seen NARIS as a singular so stuck with SES and thought I'd come here and find out how that related to reunions (I was thinking high school, not family- duh).

Lots of strange geography, to be sure. So, is any geographical location in the world fair game for inclusion or does it have to have some modicum of public awareness?

Add me to the anti-feelthy group. That clue gives me the shudders. I wasn't too happy about ALES, either- it just didn't feel right to me.

[42A. What's left]=REST reminds me of the theme song for the first season of Gilligan's Island: "...the movie star, and the rest..." I mean, for cryin' out loud, how hard is it to include only two more at that point! Apparently others felt the same way because by the next year it was changed. Sorry if some of you now have that song stuck in your head. (You can get rid of it by mentally humming some other repetitive, but less bothersome, song for a short while.)

Finally realized that 21A. was looking for the French word for "dream", which I didn't know (among the thousands of other French words I don't know). To quote Steve Martin, "Those French! They have a different word for everything!" Finally, after a couple crosses, I was reminded of the name of a show in Vegas at The Wynn called Le Reve. And I always thought it meant The River- especially since there's a lot of water in the show.

The mnemonics that work for me:
-phloem doesn't flow
-the humps in the M in stalagmites point to the roof

And speaking of the STALACTITE answer, I was very lucky to have initially spelled it with a G that looked more like a C. Very helpful when I was working on the DOG CATCHER clue.

Fave clue: [46D. Heads-down view]=TAILS

Big Lefty 5:49 PM  

Go get 'er Rex. The long answers came relatively easily for me, while my short-lived puzzle experience caused trouble on shorter answers. Like in the NW corner. I just can't bring myself to memorize a ton of trivia (words) for crossword puzzles at my age. I memorized too much already in chess and scrabble. ;)

The puzzle was great. The write-up by Rex was great.

PeterAtLarge 6:00 PM  

Jannieb--try "gallant" as a noun rather than an adjective. It's a bit of an anachronism, but I think that's how it makes sense.

Bill from NJ 6:44 PM  

@Karen -
I, too, find myself in the same traps as Rex but, bear in mind, we are all quality solvers (or we wouldn't be at this blog in the first place) and we all think along roughly the same lines so it stands to reason we would have the same general problems.

I struggled in all four quadrents but finally got 3 out of 4 in roughly half an hour.

I failed completely in the SE.

It has been a long time since I solved a Saturday. Is it fair to have the same root (ROAD) twice in the same puzzle? I was so convinced that it wasn't that I set myself up to fail.

C'est la vie.

Michael 6:46 PM  

Although I didn't zoom through this one, I made steady progress. For a while I thought the NE would not fall, but then I had my aha moment with netflix. I ended up with no errors, which is unusual for a Saturday.

I have known Tuesdays, and this was no Tuesday...

John Reid 8:15 PM  

It's a good feeling to see so many clever solvers on this blog rating today's offering as extra tough... makes me feel like I'm getting better at these things considering that I was able to finish it off in under 26 minutes (admittedly, with 2 incorrect letters.)

As others before me, I fell for NARES/SES - I didn't like it, because nares seemed plural while nostril certainly wasn't, but I have no Latin and didn't see Sis. My other error was XYLOM/REVO - rats! Thanks to doc john for explaining the meaning; I got lost in my own little REVErie trying to work that one out! (I'd also tried lune here but abandoned it quickly.)

I feel somewhat proud that I changed dam to JAM - lucky guess of the two feasible-seeming alternatives.

I agree with Rex regarding today's LA Times puzzle. For those of you who haven't tried it yet - do! The grid is such a piece of work, beautifully put together with no less than 44(!) seven letter entries. Try as I might, I can't get into that NW corner though! Today's Newsday was also great; took me a few minutes longer than the Times puzzle but no mistakes.

ronathan 8:23 PM  

I'm really annoyed by some of these clues, most of which have already been commented on ad nauseum. So let me just add 2:

Don't like 21A "Vision de nuit" (REVE). This held up the NE quad for me, b/c I too did not like LOVER for 12D or I GAVE for 13D, and was desperately trying to make something else work. Oh well.

Also, I'm sorry, but just like the proper spelling of Hannukah is actually Channukah, the proper spelling of SHMOOZE (56A Chin-wag) is SCHMOOZE. As anyone like myself who speaks Hebrew and knows a little Yiddish will tell you, whenever you see an "H" sound at the beginning of a word (in either language) it is always more appropriately translated to English as the "CH" sound. I know that you can find either spelling in the English dictionary, but frankly it's just wrong.

ArtLvr 9:04 PM  

Come-uppance Day for this solver-in-ink -- made it through without help, but the over-writing is sorriest ever! Take 22A, They travel by air? Why "arrows", of course, crossing nicely with the first two letters of my 20D, profanity = "swear word". But with PAC next? Yikes.

"Dam" would go well with "dete" for cordage material, but that was misremembered too: "det cord" (short for detonation) featured prominantly in the Dick Francis novel "Decider", but I'd read it long ago...

Back on track finally, much chastened. My gimmes are always different from Rex's -- knowing about Weser and Xylem, for example -- but "Faso"? Ugh. The last thing I filled in was 17A "solders", still half thinking about irons as golf clubs or steam irons or manacle or ?

Now, having saved yesterday's for today, I think I'll put it off again for tomorrow... Sounds fierce.


mac 9:24 PM  

I really got stuck in my NE: I also had lune, and then started reasoning: vision de nuit, night vision, must be something scientific, infrared I don't know the term for..... Of course I tried to squeeze an "addict" into the end of 36 across, which slowed me down no end.
Talking about service with a queue, check out zooba's, all books, hard-cover and paperback, are $ 9.95 incl. shipping and handling!

jannieb 10:44 PM  

peteratlarge - thanks for the explanation - just never heard "gallant" used as a noun before. That's what makes this (usually) fun. I'm always learning. Is it just me or are the constructors all channeling the Maleska era these days - lots of golden oldies cropping up. Burkina Faso (gotta look that up some day); rete from yesterday, and several others of late. I agree that schmooze is misspelled, it just looks wrong without the c. And I still don't get "feelthy". Is that a word or just a bad joke?? Night all - happy reves.

Bill D 11:05 PM  

Burkina Faso, a country in West Africa, was formerly known as Upper Volta.

ArtLvr 12:20 AM  

@Bill D -- Many thanks, thought it was one of those pop singers or groups everyone else follows! Hard to keep up with the newer countries' names...

My mind is currently back in 1603 with book by Chas. Nicholl called "The Lodger Shakespeare", about the period when the Bard rented rooms with a French-born couple who were tiremakers. Tires, or head-attires, turn out to be the intricate fashionable constructions of webbing, hair pieces, lace, jewels, feathers, etc. worn by ladies from Queen Elizabeth I and her court on down, and immediately aferward by Queen Anne, wife of King James VI of Scotland who became James I of England... same James who was in Friday's puzzle!


william e emba 4:38 PM  

Yiddish is correctly spelled with the Hebrew alphabet. SHMOOZE is the "English" transliteration, and SCHMOOZE is the "German" transliteration. Neither one is "right".

I used to consider 20-30 minutes my normal Friday solving time, and 30-60 minutes my normal Saturday time, but the past three weeks had been giving me doubts on that, especially having to overnight yesterday's Friday. So solving this in 50 minutes was actually pleasing.

"Feelthy" is a foreign accented version of "filthy". I think the cliche is that only French immigrants would peddle the stuff once upon a time.

Anonymous 11:45 AM  

A six-weeks-after comment: wow, shows how we all live on different planets. I'm a relative novice and not uncommonly take "all day" to do a Saturday, but I whipped through this one in about 15 minutes. Went to the blog expecting to see a bunch of complaints about this being too easy for a Saturday, and lo and behold, a big gripe fest. Well, I will savor the rare opportunity to feel like I'm "getting there" but will no doubt find myself smacked down to my usual level in a few days. Tis in the nature of crosswords! Mamadoc

Anonymous 3:20 PM  

CAlady said:
Amazed (and relieved?) to see that I'm not the only one to spell 39A stalagtites! Hung on to it far too long trying to make dog-whatever fit. Finally fiddled with schmooze vs shmooze, decided the beach had to end in a vowel, and realized my error. Glad to look here and see I'm not alone. Did finally get the whole puzzle except for "ses" which probably should have been a gimme-but clearly wasn't.

retired_chemist 5:23 PM  

Much easier for me that the usual Saturday. The whole S, for some reason, was particularly straightforward, largely because I lucked out with the world geography clues and because tai is among my sushi favorites. 1A being fat pork early on made 4D and 5 D come slowly. The 9D clue was completely useless for a chemist - enes, anes, ites, ates, ides,ones and MORE! would all fit, absent knowledge of the crosses. 33A was dam until 33D was obviously not dute. I did the puzzle in the car between agility runs, making 29D (dogcatcher) particularly apropos.

Any others who, like me, are forced to do the puzzle in syndication who write on Fri thru Sun will find me a receptive reader of their comments. Retired_chemist

The Daddy Man 6:31 PM  

I missed yesterday's NYTCWP so I didn't notice the transposition... but I too found today's puzzle challenging, Rex. In nearly the exact opposite way that you did-- I got the top left, entire center section, and lower right fairly easily, then just lost it on the lower left and upper right corners. I kept trying to fit something about a tennis serve or playing cards into the 54A spot! And "Netflix" really fried me, not because I don't know what it is, but because I have the service, use it all the time, and I STILL didn't get the clue! In fact, that's how I found your blog, by trying to find "vision de nuit" online. I know have something else to check every day besides my email! Thanks for the great blog!

cody.riggs 9:37 PM  

Glad there are others in syndication, because I have to crow about my puzzle performance today (and not EAT CROW like yesterday.) This was my fastest time EVER on a Saturday, and I'm stoked, especially when it was no easy puzzle by any standard. I think my walloping yesterday really sharpened my skills for today.

I must boast about the following clues I filled in immediately with no crossings: FASO, XYLEM, STALACTITES, QATAR, ULAN, ENSUING, BADLANDS, DEL, TAM, XES and even SSE (I'm good at geography.) I knew 8a would be some website from the "queue" clue, and my gimmes quickly helped me with WESER (I used to live in Germany)QUAKE (great clue) DOGCATCHER (very proud of getting that immediately, though I wanted DOTING MOTHER at first, which didn't fit.) I even remembered MARTA from Atlanta (many probably wanted METRO)...was afraid CARGO PANTS would turn out to be "Cargo shorts," but PAC assured me...the dominoes fell one by one so quickly.

I love how CONSENTING ADULT, PORN, and somehow FATBACK appear in the same puzzle...though the clue did suck for PORN. I guess it is sorta-slang for the longer term "pornography," but the Dogpatch-ism was unnecessarily deceptive and prudish.

Never seen "NARIS" as singular before either, though it was quite inferrable. Also unsure that "gallant"=LOVER, and "mischievious" is unheard of (by me) for ARCH... Oh, I GET IT, I presume this is the prefix, as in 'archcriminal'?) I need some explanation of this, perhaps in the form of an ANALOGY?

Only two stumbling blocks for me. Or shall I say JAMs? I was sure "Weizman" would be "CHAIM" (the prime minister) and was shocked to see only 4 letters available. Almost wrote "XAIM," subbing the Greek letter chi(!) Had to wait till the "Z" in SCHMOOZE to guess this one, though now I remember seeing the name before.

And I inked in LUNE (my only error) confidently at 21A, "vision de nuit," especially when the "E" matched that in "XYLEM," until the "R" in "FLORAL" became undeniable...then I wondered if it would be "RIEN" (you know, some French form of nihilism?) But no, xylem had to be right. Going to have to look up REVE now, don't know it, and my French is really good.

ONE LEG was another good one, though I hesitated whilst writing it in...the initial "ON-" looked redundant after the clue ending with the preposition...

I lived well within the blast zone of Mt. St. Helens in 1980, so that was a real gimme. One time my family tried driving in the ash cloud, and even at 10mph almost rear-ended someone due to the awful visibility...went back home immediately and didn't try driving again for a couple weeks.

Finally, I kinda liked the clue "Donation declaration," though initially wanting some tax-write-off phrase. Perhaps Rex would have liked the clue better if it had read, "Office donation declaration." Perhaps that would have been too easy.

I'm framing this one.

cody.riggs 10:07 PM  

Bill D will probably never see do you write to an individual address?

The Sunday puzzle is indeed easy, but time consuming. I've been told it is equal to Thursday difficulty, but just bigger. Friday and Saturday are much more fun.

I read the explanation of "REVE", but know the French word for 'dream' as "SOIN"... if it's related to 'reverie', I consider that a DAYdream, and therefore a "vision du jour," right? Are ya with me?

And that "feelthy" clue...still bugs me. All I could picture was Gollum panting "feelthy Hobbitses..." Porn with Smeagol, now THAT's a picture you don't need in your head.

And yes, XXX would have been a GREAT answer for the bowling clue, especially near PORN. I wanted it so bad, but knew no river with X as the penultimate letter.

Anonymous 1:23 AM  

I'm a newbie to this site, but I've been a puzzle addict for YEARS. I BUY books. This puzzle 4-05-08)was a toughie. I have a NYT dictionary but it's not as easy as you might think.. often you can only look up the answer. I solved all but the lower left section. I try real hard not to 'cheat'. I get one clue and try to solve the others with those letters provided. Is that cheating? For me it is also learning... lots of new words and meanings. Did I mention I'm a wordophile? Also, in youth I won all the spelling bees? Anybody got a word for me? Love you all. PUZZLERS RULE !!

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