SATURDAY, Mar. 15, 2008 - David Quarfoot (BASHKIR'S CLOSE COUSIN)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none

Today's puzzle makes me indescribably happy. Just when I was beginning to wonder "Hey, whatever happened to The Magician, The Future of Puzzling, The Golden Child, The Kandinsky of Krosswords, etc." along comes not just a new Quarfoot puzzle, but one of the most enjoyable DQ puzzles of all time (which, believe me, is saying something). I will admit that part of my love for it involves my having broken my personal land speed record for a Saturday. When my wife described breaking a board in karate, she talked about how surprised she was when it happened because it felt like there was no resistance at all. That's how I felt with this puzzle. I was expecting trek through harsh climate and instead got world's best waterslide ride. There were only a few times that I paused at all during this puzzle, and several of those times were simply to gawk in admiration at the astonishing answers.

What's strange to me is how many of these answers felt super-easy to me; some of them had no business being as easy as they were. I knew some things instantly that I really have no business knowing. I was in some kind of zone, where the right answer just floated right to the top, completely at my command. Why Isn't Every Day Like This? Here are the all the clues I've written "easy" next to (keep in mind, by "easy" I mean that I got it easily - often for reasons that are unknown to me - and not that the clue is actually empirically easy)

  • 17A: "Family Ties" family (Keatons) - an absolute gimme for me and most people of a certain age (30-50?) who lived in / grew up in America in the 80s. I hesitated, and went through the first names of everyone in the family, trying to get a last name to follow: "Elise ... Mallory ... Alex ... Alex P. Keaton!" The role that made Michael J. Fox famous.
  • 15A: It began in 1968, for tennis (open era) - got it off one letter (the "n"). Why? The phrase announced its rightness so forcefully that it couldn't be denied.
  • 37A: Chips-in-a-can brand from Lay's (Stax) - never had these in my life, but got it off the "S"; not the direction most people would go for STAX, but I like it.
  • 38A: Silicon Valley city (Los Altos) - there are a billion LOS this and LA that cities in California. Why I was able to retrieve LOS ALTOS, I don't know, but again, I *knew* in my bones it was right. The Force was strong in me.
  • 46A: Hill of law (Anita) - like KEATONS, a gimme. I was just starting grad school when she was undergoing her horrible public degradation.
  • 47A: Milieu for Katarina Witt (Eis) - I just wrote about how I know only three German words; I named them all, and this was one of them.
  • 49A: Old Testament patriarch (Enoch) - had the "EN," piece of cake (perhaps because I TA'd for a professor named ENOCH when I was in grad school).
  • 51A: Female demon (lamia) - love of D&D and Keats made this one a gimme.
  • 53A: People's 1999 Sexiest Man Alive (Gere) - in four letters? Who else? Oh, PITT, I guess. He never even occurred to me.
  • 65A: Banderas's "The Mambo Kings" co-star, 1992 (Assante) - where did this come from!? I never saw this movie. I had the last three letters, so maybe I would have gotten ASSANTE no matter what the clue.
  • 10D: "But hark! _____ comes gently to the door": Robert Burns ("a rap") - had the "P" ... and knew it instantly. I have no idea what poem this is referencing - Google tells me it's something called "A Cotter's Saturday Night."
  • 28D: Speedy express (Acela) - super common crossword fare, which just happens to lie right in the heart of the only section of the puzzle that might have given me trouble.
  • 32D: Piece of a candy bar? (Kat) - it was that or KIT.
  • 39D: One way to do something stupid (on a dare) - had ON in place, so this was obvious.
  • 48D: Bimonthly magazine for environmentalists (Sierra) - had the RA in place, so this was obvious (it seems So Much of slaying a Saturday has to do with the auspicious placement of your crosses).
  • 51D: Stimulating order (latte) - off the "L" - literally, these answers were falling into place like God Himself was directing my hand. Or ... more like I was Neo at the end of the first "Matrix" movie, when he figures out and finally believes that the "reality" he knows is just an illusory program that he can manipulate at will.
  • 61D: Setting for an idyll (lea) - off the second "A" in ASSANTE. Piece of cake.

The grid structure makes the puzzle very easy to tame. There are no wide open spaces, no vast expanses of white squares daring you to try to get into them. Instead, lots of little words allow you many opportunities to claw at the puzzle, while every section of the puzzle has at least two different ways in and out of it - compare yesterday's, where, especially in the SW, there was no exit. Overall, this puzzle was way way easier than yesterday's, which is a slam on neither puzzle. Just an observation.

The marquee answer of the day, for me, was GAY ICON (1A: Judy Garland or Liza Minnelli). I have said before that DQ has a signature, showy 1A, and not only did he not disappoint today - this may be his best 1A ever, and it is certainly my favorite. Bold, original, daring, funny. Literally, you had me at GAY ICON. I didn't think GAY ICON could get any better ... until I saw it crossed with APE SUIT (2D: Popular costume party costume). Genius. Other marvelousness includes X'S AND O'S (18A: Football coaching figures), BAD PERM (55A: Botched salon job), and the ultra-fantastic DOE, A DEER (36D: Rodgers and Hammerstein refrain starter). Weirdly, before I came upstairs to get the puzzle, I paused the PBS special I was watching on Carol Burnett. The special featured Julie Andrews very very prominently (contemporary interviews, plus footage of her performing with Burnett in the 60s). It's a great documentary.

The rest:

  • 8A: Sushi covering (sea weed) - NORI. Delicious.
  • 25A: Bashkir's close cousin (Tatar) - another "how did I know this?" moment. No idea what "Bashkir" means, but I had the "T" and thought only TATAR.
  • 27A: Weapon for Wonder Woman (tiara) - HA ha, I forgot she used that as a weapon. Oh, did I have a crush on Lynda Carter when I was 9? (A: yes)
  • 29A: TV shopper's option (QVC) - DQ in his "I'll just shove as many damned Scrabbly letters in the puzzle as I can" mode.
  • 24D: Episcopal leader (primate) - here was my one and only problem in the puzzle. I wrote in PRELATE. It's nice when your wrong answer shares 5 out of 7 letters with the right one. As soon as things felt off / squirrely, I took out PRELATE and everything fell into place. Sometimes the best thing you can do is pull an answer you're pretty sure of - if all the trouble is in that answer's vicinity, pull it.
  • 31A: Dancer's guider, for short (St. Nick) - had the ST. part and wanted VITUS. Once I changed PRELATE to PRIMATE, it came easily: Dancer = reindeer. Great clue.
  • 42A: Top of a slope? (ski hat) - had SKI CAP, which slowed me up for a few seconds, I guess.
  • 54A: City ESE of Utrecht (Ede) - utterly unknown to me.
  • 60A: 1970 western named for a fictional Texas city (Rio Lobo) - John Wayne film written by Leigh Brackett.
  • 63A: Ethnic conflict (race war) - see also the Democratic Party's presidential nominating process...
  • 1D: Some four-wheelers (Go-Karts)
  • 21D: Some four-wheelers, for short (ATVs) - not the biggest fan of pairs like these, but when you pick up a "K" and a "V" in the process, I guess it's OK
  • 5D: High-ranking suits (CEOs)
  • 8D: Bodybuilders' prides (six-packs) - OK, the clue feels a little iffy, with the possessive plural and all, but I like the colloquial answer.
  • 9D: "Scandalized Masks" painter, 1883 (Ensor) - Meet James Ensor! His stuff is scary to me.
  • 13D: Chanel fragrance for men (Egoiste) - goes nicely, and pretentiously, with ARTISTE (62A: Virtuoso).
  • 26D: Warning about people moving from side to side? (Ped Xing) - great clue, great answer.
  • 40D: Bit of cocoa? (silent A) - DAMMIT! I vowed I would never fall for this variety of trickery again! And yet I fell right into it. Only when I had SI---NTA did I finally grasp the answer. Quarfoot!
  • 55D: Blowout (bash)
  • 43D: 55-Down with fiddles (hoe down) - this may be my favorite clue. "Just add fiddles!""
  • 44D: Flipper (acrobat) - this was an answer in a recent puzzle of note, so I got it easily.
  • 45D: 2003 sci-fi disaster film featuring subterranean team of "terranauts" ("The Core") - pop culture absurdity - one of the things I count on DQ for. Again, I don't know how I knew this. I had "THE C..." and the title limped forward from the back of my brain: "I'm right here, sir, ready for duty [cough]"

Please don't think that I'm bragging today. I just felt like ... I spend much of my time on this blog expressing annoyance or frustration; today I just wanted to try to convey the rare feeling of unalloyed joy.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


johnson 9:25 AM  

Unlike you, I had to torture my brain to come up with KEATONS (it was in there, but wouldn't simply regurgitate)

I looked at G_Y_C__ for a very long time til I came up with GAYICON.

I couldn't decide between SIERRA and TIERRA, finally chose the former, and so successfully finished the puzzle. I couldn't finish yesterday without your help.

Also, I got screwed up with he XSANDOS for the usual parsing reasons, but got that great AHA feeling once it fell.

I would not label this puzzle easy; medium and very enjoyable for me.

Have a great weekend, all.

billnutt 9:29 AM  

Am I first? Wow!

I sorta flew through the NE, which is a bit unusual for me. For some reason, I usually get the SE and or SW first on Saturdays. But in this case, the South practically demolished me. It took me much too long to get SIERRA. ACELA threw me completely, and I floundered before getting LOS ALTOS.

Yes, I would have gone musically for STAX. ("Staples label"?)

I had PITT for the Sexiest Man of 1999. Shows what I know. And I'm sure ACELA has shown up before, but I couldn't get it without every cross.

I initially had ICE for EIS, of course.

This was fun, but I spent way too long just staring. But then, I'm not tournament timber.

On to Sunday!

PhillySolver 9:45 AM  

The reward for your suffering earlier in the week is a brain wired in a new structure better for crosswording. You are now at xword Nirvana and should volunteer to enter the A division next year. I am sure many more people will report that they agree with me that this was a hard puzzle. (Not unfair or full of rarely encountered junk, but one that taxes your memory.) Why? the puzzle is designed around

dell notebooks, skihut, prelate, almost anything other than SILENTA, I even entered antonio, geton, and doadeer. I finished in less than an hour though, so whopee! I am ready for the E division.

Reported elsewhere, the obit for man behind Spaghettios is in the news today. :(

PhillySolver 9:57 AM  

BTW, Mr. Eberling lived in the Philadelphia suburb, Paoli. He was born in Germany and not Italy, but he doctored the recipe as it went international based on local tastes. He spoke five languages and the obit in the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that he loved to travel. No word on his crossword skills, but I am sure he had several uh, oh! moments.

Anonymous 9:58 AM  

Saturday puzzles usually take me until midday, but this one.... I actually had the NW corner BEFORE I walked the dog, and finished the rest before breakfast, although the "silenta" thing nearly did me in. Have to agree, for a Saturday, easy.

Pete M 10:22 AM  

Love the Quarfoot. I wasn't superfast, as I fell into a couple of traps (ICE/EIS, POPICON/GAYICON, RIATA/TIARA) and also took a few moments to dredge KEATON out of the brain fog. But, I got SILENTA almost immediately and, no joke, my first two entries were the SIXPACKS/XSANDOS crossing. It was my foothold into the puzzle.


Rockonchris 10:25 AM  

Wonderfully clever and challenging! I went wrong so certainly with PALO ALTO for Silicon Valley city.

Loved the cluing for DESKTOP, ST NICK, and all the other ones mentioned.

Great start for the weekend.


curler 10:35 AM  

Not that much mojo in today's puzzle for me...let's see, I wrongly put in DELTOIDS for the bodybuilder, LASSO for Wonder Woman, SERVING for slice, and ICE for Katarina. Also I had a SKI HUT at the top of my slope. But despite the time it took me to correct everything, I ended up with a decent time and a perfect grid. I would rank it easy-medium.

For 1A, I had ___IC__ and got ICON, decided it would be fun but not likely to put GAY in there, and was amazed that it stood.

I'm going off to look up James Ensor now.

jannieb 11:01 AM  

Rex- It's so obvious that you are fully recovered! What a nice way to end your week. Us mere mortals had more of a struggle, but it was an enjoyable one to be sure. I had icon filled in very early on, but the prefix wouldn't break through. I kept thinking broadway (SRO icon???) but didn't buy it. Loved the NE - x's & o's came to me in a flash, as did sixpacks and Egoiste (I remember a tv commercial with lots of flying underwear for some reason). Went with "ice" and "Pitt" for too long or the south would have been quicker. Anita was a gimme, "tale" took forever. Last section to fall was the tip of Nevada (acela/Los Altos). A great DQ entry.

bill from fl 11:02 AM  

I found this puzzle flattering because it gave me the feeling that I was seeing stuff that was fiendishly hidden, and not only because the many head fakes like ice/eis. Liza Minelli and Judy Garland, for example, have lots of connections that could have lead to answers. Most important, though, all of the correct answers, once reached, were delightfully clever. A masterpiece.

Anonymous 11:27 AM  

Quite a hard one for me, had to Google several things. For one thing, the "Keatons" mean nothing to me even now. Is this because I'm 51? Also fell for "ICE" not "EIS" initially and wanted "SERVING." Had to Google "LOSALTOS." Primate was a gimme for as an Episcopalian. Had to Google Ensor, never heard of him, and that's what it took to break loose "XSANDOS." Very nice. Loved "DESKTOP." Was never going to snap to "SILENTA" even after I filled it in correctly until you guys explained it! I thought I was looking at a brand I'd never heard of. Loved STNICK, SIXPACKS, HOEDOWN, ACROBAT, many others.

Phineas 11:34 AM  

After finishing today's puzzle - I'm about 50% on Saturdays now thanks to Rex - I briefly celebrated, then realized that Rex would likely put the dreaded "easy" value on difficulty.

But I didn't really care because he's spot on about the enjoyment of this puzzle. I won't regurgitate the praiseworthy clues and fill, just register that it was a blast at so many turns.

doug 11:41 AM  

Anita Hill wasn't only "undergoing her horrible public degradation." She and some congressional allies were doing a pretty good job of providing the same for Clarence Thomas. I don't pretend to know who was truthful and who wasn't---who in all honesty could be sure?---but I'm always amused when a political bias sneaks into the open through one's word choice. How about sticking to the crossword without editorial political commentary, Rex? That's why we're here, and we can get plenty of the other on way too many TV channels.

treedweller 11:43 AM  

Add me to the list of people stuck at LOA ALTOS and ACELA. I think I've read ACELA here before, and I know I've seen it in a puzzle, but it did not stick then.

I couldn't give up on Los Gatos, KAT might have been Kit, saga seemed wrong but I took a long time to give up on it, and I'm not Episcopalian. I finally had to google acela and filled PRIMATE in when I checked my answer online doubtfully.

All in all, a pretty easy Sat., I agree. Maybe the closest I ever came to finishing one. But I had a similar experience to Rex--I kept bumping into things I didn't/couldn't/wouldn't know, then a cross would fall and I'd come up with impossible answers (notably, ASSANTE, LAMIA, TATAR, ENSOR).

Bill from NJ 11:46 AM  

This is weird, Rex. I went through this so quickly, I just had to tell someone.

Since I did this last night, I went to Orange's blog and left a comment similar to what you said.

I seemed to be flying without a net in the North and things came to me on instinct: KEATONS OPENERA
XSANDOS GAYICON SODAPOP YEAHMAN and on and on. I finished the North in a 3 minute rush and concentrated on the South.

Bad mistake.

I started thinking about the clues rather than letting them come to me and had very few gimmes: ANITA ARTISTE ASSANTE ENOCH GERE and that was about it.

I finally wrestled it to the ground in little over an hour with the final S in EIS/SIERRA to finish up.

David Quarfoot has me so buffaloed that I couldn't imagine an easy puzzle from him and so, I didn't get one.

Too clever by half.

Ulrich 11:50 AM  

I'm so glad that there are others who didn't find this easy.

I had the triangular half above the NW-SE diagonal quickly, but then got really bogged down in the other half bc. I stuck with "Prelate" to the very end; more importantly, didn't know how to choose between "rump" or "hump" bc. neither seemed to mean "behind"--learned the true meaning of "rump" only after the fact. "Rumpf" in German clearly has the same Indo-European root, but designates the whole middle body, and it never dawned on me in all these years to look the English meaning up. As someone said yesterday, no better way to learn a language than through puzzling.

But a really great puzzle with a lot of great two-word answers--agree totally with Rex on 1A (and 2D, although I'm not sure I would go to a party where people appear in ape suits:-))

Anonymous 11:58 AM  

I didn't find this easy either. East half I got, finally; west was a brute. Harrison FORD was sexiest man alive in 1998 - that didn't help.

Eli Barrieau 12:06 PM  

I wish that an easy time on this one equalled A division! But this C rookie found it pretty easy,too. I looked at my clock when I finished and thought, "Wow. If I was in Brooklyn, I could leave the room with the other cool kids. I could escape Will telling me time is up."

Loved GAYICON. Put in POPICON because I thought there's no way, NYT will be so bold. Pleasantly surprised! Loved SILENTA. Like a Reagle, twisted, but fair. Would have been stuck on Acrobat as well, but dodged that bullet.

Joon 12:14 PM  

i, too, broke my saturday speed record today. it was a really enjoyable puzzle. i slapped down OPENERA and KEATONS and was off and running. had a mix-up with PRELATE and KIT for PRIMATE and KAT... my goodness, it's been a long time since i thought about MEAD notebooks. didn't they make the trapper keeper? that was hot stuff back in 5th grade.

beautiful fill: XSANDOS, DOEADEER, EGOISTE/ARTISTE, HOEDOWN, PEDXING... simply terrific overall.

Rex Parker 12:17 PM  

Doug- I don't care why you're here. You don't like it here, get lost. I have never "stuck to the crossword." What an idiotic thing to say.


Kathy 12:18 PM  

I found this tough, too, and I think it's because the fill is so out there, but in a good way! You tend to look for familiar things when you do a puzzle, but this one had very little of those. Really a brilliant puzzle.

Every now and the I think about constructing a puzzle; these types of puzzles make me resolute to not quit my day job!


Mike 12:29 PM  

I finished that puzzle thinking, Who puts their trash can on top of their desk? Now it is so clear, except my desktop has a recycling bin. My only stumble to a best ever Saturday.

Ulrich 12:37 PM  

@Doug: The reason why I am here is precisely bc., following Rex's lead, I do not have to stick to crosswords. I like this blog bc. we may to go off on tangents (like a recipe), w/o. getting corraled in.

There are limits, of course. The rule I've set for myself is "one degree of separation" from a clue/answer (never cleared this with Rex, though).

archaeoprof 12:40 PM  

Glad you're feeling better, Rex. Thanks for explaining "silent a"! Even after getting it on crosses, I didn't understand it. What a fun and interesting puzzle today. Yeah man.

Rex Parker 12:40 PM  


One degree of separation - I like that. Good rule of thumb. As long as people keep coming back to the puzzle, I'm cool with that.


Judgesully 12:51 PM  

Did anyone else think "Milpitas?" For the longest time I was stuck in SW until I realized the lovely Katarina Witt's milieu was Deutsch!Then remembered the "eis wine" I sampled and BINGO!!

Dan 1:19 PM  

DQ rules. "Gay icon" came to mind immediately, but I thought it unlikely. Then I looked at the constructor's name... "Ah, Quarfoot. Yep, that's gonna be right."

I too was fooled by ICE/EIS. Had ONALARK for ONADARE at first, which gave me ULM for the German town. But I was ready for the signature DQ SILENT[x] entry, and that cleared up the SW right quick.

Isn't RACEWAR a bit of a downer for a NYT puzzle? I waited for some crosses before entering it...

Sadly (for me), the puzzle didn't show up the first couple times I clicked into the applet, so the timer was at 1:50 by the time I started - might have been my first Saturday in the top 10.

scriberpat 1:43 PM  

doug@11:41 re: you "are amused when a political bias sneaks into the open through one's word choice."

Two points: you want Rex to write about what is on YOUR mind but you don't want Rex to write about it in his crossword blog?

Having read your entire Comment, it appears to me that what you found amusing, and what you meant to say is " . . . into the open through one's having left out words that I think he should have written in."

doug, your call of "bias" is just way to early with reference to Rex's Blog where he didn't write about something you think he should have written about when he wrote about The clue 46A: Hill of law (Anita).

You wrote that you are amused that because Rex wrote no words, had nothing to say, about "Clarence Thomas" that Rex is responsible for your perception that there is a bias of some sort to be found in the fact that there are no words from Rex addressing ideas that are in your head. How can you expect Rex to know what you are thinking?

This calling "bias" before a discussion has even occurred on a topic, would best be replaced with, first, the one doing the calling collecting his or her thoughts and finding a welcome forum in which to bring forth his or her ideas.

You say you don't want "political commentary" in Rex's Blog; why do you then introduce it into this Comments section? There must be Blogs to which you can go to explore your thoughts about Clarence Thomas. If you don't want Rex to write about your thoughts on Clarence Thomas, godspeed your writing about them yourself at a Blog you deem appropriate for "political commentary."

doug 1:47 PM  

Gee, Rex. Ad hominem attack the best you got? Would have expected more from you.

Amusingly ironic that you would choose to defend the free exchange of commentary by attacking my own as "idiotic".

I come here to escape that political stuff for a few moments of pleasant puzzling and discussion. Naturally I appreciate your asides on the puzzle and its clues (as I presumed you'd infer was my intent when I wrote "sticking to the crossword"), or I'd---as you so graciously suggest---"get lost".

I was very specific in my suggestion: Stay clear of the tiresome political commentary. It's your baby, so I fully accept that you'll do whatever you choose. It was merely a recommendation from one of your fans; sorry it struck an open nerve to the point that you felt a need to respond emotionally.

BT 2:05 PM  

Does anyone here use the puzzleprint program to automatically print their puzzles via Acrosslite every day?

Anonymous 2:25 PM  

Can't believe it -- thought I aced this puzzle but I had "xyandzs" for 18-across (don't football coaches use y's and z's?), thinking the constructor had a grammar lapse. After all, Egziste would make a much better name for a men's fragrance than the self-centered Egoiste. And I'm not up on my 19th century painters... -- Lynn in Va. Beach

Mary 2:28 PM  

Glad you are feeling better, Rex.
You guys (Rex and his readers) are peerless in your puzzle prowess.

I picked this up last night and got no traction at all. This morning was a little better and with husband's help ("Open era" he said instantly, and "Rio Lobo" he said with an air of incredulity that I had to ask.)I got something entered into every blank.

Not necessarily something right but something defensible.

I tried a variety of critters coming gently to the door. A rat? A cat? And was still wondering what Silenta tasted like til I checked in to the blog.

But it was fun anyway and distracted me from the tornado warnings here in Atlanta. It wasn't so long ago I wouldn't have had the guts to even attempt a Saturday.

Someone told me recently that not only do the puzzles get harder through the week (which I knew, of course) but they also grow more challenging through the month. Do you think that is true? I never noticed that trend through the month.

Just wondering.

ArtLvr 2:42 PM  

Congrats to Rex and the rest of you who found the whole puzzle easy! Even if I got a major fever, I wouldn't recover and suddenly find myself knowing odd things like the KEATONS and EGOISTE... I did google those, and they got me most of the rest --

There were just a few small spots left to fix when I gave up, feeling sad to be IN RANGE and not able to EIS it! In fact, I felt especially lame-brained with the tune for "Do, a deer" running through my head and not seeing that DOE was the fit needed. Must be coming down with something? Happy weekend, all.


p.s. I agree with Rex about the tenor of the Thomas confirmation hearings -- he was no Thurgood Marshall, and no amount of P.R. or strong-arming from the VIP handlers could change that. This from one who participated in Marshall's first civil rights march in D.C.!

Geometricus 3:04 PM  

When I was a kid, the Mpls Sunday Tribune used to run a partially done puzzle called "Prizeword Pete" where you had to fill just a missing letter or two, based on a vague clue which could be taken two different ways, then they actually gave out small cash prizes for whoever thought the most like the constructor. The answers were explained in great detail and I couldn't fathom (as a smart 12-yr-old) how anyone could think this way.

Anyway, that's a roundabout way to say this puzzle reminded me of a Prizeword Pete puzzle in at least one spot: I googled a map of Utrecht and zoomed out until I could see two cites: EDE and EPE. I wrote in EPE because I mistakenly read the "ESE" as "ENE". (You gotta love the E*E structure of that whole thing.) I also had SVC for some reason unstead of QVC, but couldn't understand why Microsoft would have a market for "NASDAS". Filled in the whole thing, whereas yesterday I barely got anywhere.

Rex, I enjoy your Dem-leaning comments even though I'm at the other end of the spectrum. It's always interesting to see well-written and clever comments from the other side by intelligent thinking people, that's what I think. "I beleive CT!"

pistachio diguise 3:06 PM  

like everyone else, i was incredibly impressed by all of the answers in this one that were perfectly legitimate phrases and yet hadn't appeared in any puzzles i've done before (that i can remember). i especially loved X'S AND O'S, but now anon 2:25 has me second-guessing my admiration. i think he/she is right that X's and O's are used in diagramming basketball plays, and X's, Y's and Z's are used for football. i am somewhat doubtful that any football coaches out there are going to comment to clarify the issue, but i'll hope to be pleasantly surprised.

Betsy 3:12 PM  

I often skip Saturday, since it's usually a bit too hard for me. But even I thought this was an easy one. I ended up googling a little at the end, but made it through most of it on my own.

My first answer was GAYICON, but thought maybe it was too good (ie easy) to be true. Brilliant.

Joon 3:15 PM  

i'm no football coach, but i've seen my share of episodes of "NFL matchup" with ron jaworski. they definitely use X's and O's. re: XYZ, what would you need three letters for, anyway? there are only two teams.

jae 3:25 PM  

I also found this delightful puzzle mostly easy with the exception of the center. I was fooled by ICE, (fortunately, like Rex, EIS is one of the few German words I know so I was able to fix it), had PRILATE (?), tried KIT, misspelled ACOLA, and didn't know LAMIA. Seeing DOEA...and getting a bit of spousal help with MEAD cleared everything up but it took a while. I'm definitely not up to solving within the tournament time limits.

SILENTA was a gimme off the SI because remembered MN (I think) saying a while back that it was like a DQ signature. Either that or DQ said it about MN?

I didn't understand 57a MOCS for OB , is it some sort of footwear?

Noam D. Elkies 3:28 PM  

Well-constructed and clever this puzzle certainly is, but easy, no way, even for a Saturday. My only interesting point of entry was 12D:ENDNOTE (though in my line of work endnotes have been out of fashion for decades), and for a long time all I could get from that was 8A:SEAWEED (as in "neither my dad NOR I care for sushi") and the neatly clued 22A:NIK. I did actually know the rare palindrome 54A:EDE -- because I've been there once: it's the train stop nearest Wageningen, where I went for a chess contest (those 8x8 puzzles can be hard); but my first guess was ULM, which is actually in Germany and not quite ESE of Utrecht. Also had the bad guess BADHAIR for 55A:BADPERM, which helped with the SW but did no favors to the SE. 51A:LAMIA I'd never heard of; it could also have been clued "My, in Milano".

1A:GAYICON? If you say so; not in my working vocabulary, and even less familiar to me than POPICON which I guessed from the CO. Still better than its mirror image 64A:ASSANTE, whatever that is. Hm, is David making some joke about 23A:RUMP and ASSante? Better not go there or I'll be DQ'd. Anyways GAYICON is not an entry that inspires me to go 2D:APES*IT, but different strokes etc...


PS: [@Jae 3:25] MOCS = Moccasins.

ArtLvr 3:33 PM  

@jae -- MOCS = moccasins (not that I ever heard anyone say it)


Anonymous 3:37 PM  

Two problem wrong answers Ice and eterra for Eis and Sierra and dell for big name in notebooks slowed me down

jannieb 3:43 PM  

jae - Answer to 57A is DOC for OB (Obstetrician). Mocs is 56D

Leon 4:05 PM  

Re Politics -
Pogo said: "Learn some Parlor tricks and go to a party..."

As a High School level b-ball coach, I use X's and O's just like football coaches. Higher levels can expand the concept and add letters or schemes but the basic beginning is X's and O's.

Idioms X's and O's
Informal the basic elements of a specified field of work, knowledge, etc.; often, specif., the plays and strategies used in a particular sport.

Anonymous 4:13 PM  

I had the complete opposite
experience from Rex in that his gimmes were my no-clue head scratchers. Complete guess on LAMIA and EIS (only got those from the crossings) and did not get KEATONS until I had all the crossing as well. Never heard of ANITA HALL and RIO LOBO / LEA was an educated guess.

The first thing I wrote in was STAX, which I've never eaten but have seen in many pharmacies (strangely) and then got ITS, SKI HAT, THE CORE, and ACROBAT quickly, and the SE fell. I wonder if Will used the "Flipper" clue on purpose just to reward ACPT attendees? Got tripped up a little bit for SODA POP where I had ___P UP for a little while. TATAR I knew was a word but have to go look up what it means. Really liked the PED XING and NASDAQ clues.

Kevin Der 4:13 PM  

Sorry that was me last post.

chefbea 4:22 PM  

Mary in Atlanta - saw what happened with the tornadoes. How awful!! Hope you are ok.
I found the puzzle easier than yesterday

Doug - I like exchanging recipes!!!

jae 4:28 PM  

janie,art, noam -- thanks for the help. I seemed to have gotten my clues/answers crossed up late last night when I was doing this. That "M" would have made BADPERM obvious and cleared up my ICE/EIS problem much faster. Rats!

PhillySolver 4:38 PM  

Ice Eis Baby!

I hope all of our NYC friends are ok. Anyone posting here near the collapse?

Sorry to hear about Atlanta's tornado. I think they were having a drought and now this unkind weather.

I leave the rules to Rex and while I may have crossed them (second degree of separation), I am amazed by some people wanting to set their own. e.g. I have now tried bacon and browned onions in my Himmel und Erde and think I won't have to eat for days the way this sticks to your ribs.

Badir 4:49 PM  

I agree that this was easy for a Saturday--it was my second or third fastest correct Saturday. And it was fun! I grew up in San Francisco, so got a kick out of GAY ICON.

Most of the puzzle went pretty easily, though I stalled for a while in the SW and western SE, since I had PRELATE and ICE. Also, I was thinking, "Wasn't the patron saint of dancing St. Vitus or something?" I eventually put in ST NICK from crosses, but it wasn't until later, when I was discussing the puzzle with my wife that I figured out that Dancer is the reindeer!

My Bay Area herritage failed me for a while, as it took a long time to get LOS ALTOS, but once I got that, my rhythm returned, and the rest went reasonably straightforwardly. Well, except that I was thinking "Silonta?? Silanta??" I think it took me about three minutes to finally suss that one out!

Kate 5:02 PM  

Haha, I came to find out what the heck a "silenta" is. Some obscure chocolate manufacturing word? Smacking my forehead now. I got GAYICON pretty fast, also loved it, and the rest went from there, definitely medium difficult for me, biggest problems came from stubbornly sticking with ICE when I needed EIS.

chefbea 5:09 PM  

just turned on cnn. the collapse in nyc is on the upper east side. a crane collapsed onto a building. several people killed.
Saw the devistation in Atlanta - terrible

Rex Parker 5:40 PM  


"Ad hominem" would imply that you were attacked on the basis of who you are rather than what you said. Patently untrue. You said something idiotic - telling me to "stick to the crossword," when I have never, Ever done that. Thus, my comment was perfectly apt: "ad rem," not "ad hominem." Calling you a total [bleeeeeep] or suggesting you have unsavory or illegal sexual predilections - THAT would be "ad hominem."

"Idiotic" perfectly suits the notion that this (the entirety of what I said) constitutes "editorial political commentary":

"I was just starting grad school when she was undergoing her horrible public degradation."

First, it's a single @#$#ing sentence; hardly a diatribe. Second, it's factual. Does anyone, of any political persuasion, think her time in the public eye wasn't degrading? No - that is the answer. Most people who disagree with the things I write (as many do, every day, on this site) do so in a way that is not smug, self-righteous, and condescending ("[stick] to the crossword ... that's why we're here" - who the @#$# are you to speak for everyone else?). You love Clarence Thomas? Write him a letter and tell him.

Meanwhile my comment about the Dems being in the middle of a RACE WAR yields NO responses?? - remember that next time anyone says that Dems are the whiny sensitive ones. Sheesh.

@geometricus - thanks for the conservative back-up. I guess you read me for the same reason I read The Atlantic (just, you know, politically in reverse).


Big Lefty 5:43 PM  

Glad Rex and others enjoyed it. For me it started easy then got worse. I liked 20A (sneaky!) 31A, 3D (retro) and 8D. I didn't like 18A (just looks icky), 50A (weak), 24D (contrived, if not silly), and 28D.

I wanted "permfry" for badperm and first turfwar then hatewar for racewar. And losgatos for losaltos. Oh well. I wasn't on my good biorhythm today like Rex. The puzzle to me was a medium for a Saturday, not so easy. I did enjoy doing it in spite of my foibles.

Sandy 5:50 PM  

Um, I don't think Rex showed particular bias - he just commented on why he remembered the person in the clue and didn't say anything about anything else. He didn't say THomas was humiliated, he didn't say he wasn't. And Rex gives his opinions on lots of things (tv, music, food, grammar, even the puzzle) - why not the occasional political opinion? Doug, were you also offended by Rex's "race war" comment about the Democratic Party nomination process?

And, BTW, I did not find this easy. I'm still working my way up to Saturdays...

Eric H 5:55 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric H 6:00 PM  

An Episcopal priest I know cattily remarked last year that the worldwide Anglican PRIMATES, embroiled as they are in a muddy fight over the gay American bishop, were starting to really act like...primates. Touché.

[Sorry about the blanked comment, I had a typo in the original and thought I could transparently fix it by deleting. Not.]

miriam b 6:10 PM  

Real fun puzzle. My one question: What's "int" stand for (4D)? It fell into place, but continues to puzzle me.

I'm about to fry a whole lot of onions for Himmel und Erde.

Big Lefty 6:10 PM  

Forgot to say Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter) also tripped my trigger a bit when the show was on TV. ;) Also it seemed like a lot of the letter "k" in the puzzle; maybe just my perception.

I personally enjoy opinion or perspective that isn't strictly "crossword" on this blog, whether I agree with it or not. It is free speech. Censorship is when you must restrict what you say. Right, Doug?

Mary 6:18 PM  

INT, Miriam, is an abbreviation for Interception, which would be an unfortunate result of making (throwing) a pass. It goes nicely with the x's and o's.

My little town near Atlanta is unscathed, but downtown was hit pretty hard. Thank you all for your concern.

Ulrich 6:35 PM  

@phillysolver and miriam: I am positively delighted to see this lowly German dish get this amount of play (yes, yes, I know--two degrees of separation--sorry, folks). And phillysolver: it's supposed to stick to your ribs :-)

doug 6:56 PM  

"We"? You're wrapped around the axle on that? I was speaking about my wife and me, or my computer and me, or my dog and me. No; I'm actually the Queen---code name "Doug"---and I'm invoking the "royal we".

But I'm not surprised. Your apparent technique is to parse, extend and exaggerate. "Diatribe"? Not my word. "Love Clarence Thomas"? Where do you find, or even infer, that?

Tomorrow, after some rest, try to look back at my original comment objectively---I concede, flawed grammar and all---and ask yourself: "Is my response not at least a little disproportionate?"

Is it that hard being you? Does this blog really require that much defensive vigilance? If so, my disappointment in your lack of civility is replaced with pity, Rex.

green mantis 7:07 PM  

Kick ass puzzle. I was on its wavelength too, and wrote in GAY ICON off the bat, right into the vast whiteness, no crosses, like I was born to answer that clue. My only brief sticking points were silent a and ice for eis, but they went down.

Oh and Doug, suggested reading: Strange Justice. It's a page turner.

Michael 7:18 PM  

At first I had no traction at all on this puzzle, but I eventually got through it with only one error -- "port" instead of "post." I thought that the puzzle had many clever clues, but I would never call it easy -- about average for a Saturday in my view. I was relieved to see that a mathematician way smarter than me felt the same way.

John Reid 7:28 PM  

Not tough for a Saturday, I thought. The top left and bottom right flowed very smoothly, to the point where I was thinking 'Saturday? Really?' The only place I got stuck for a while was in the bottom left. I couldn't make any headway there until I finally just tried throwing LOSALTOS in to see what would come of it. Then I tried ANITA, and things started moving again.

I loved XSANDOS when I finally got it. Also GAYICON which it seems was a favorite for most of us. I had -A-ICO- and was thinking 'Calicos? What the?' Then I thought of looking for a two word answer, and I worked it out a moment later. Great! Also loved PEDXING, SILENTA and OPENERA (being a tennis fan.)

[Just as an aside... all those long entries with Xs remind me of one of the toughest clues I ever saw in a crossword. It was from one of Stan Newman's 'Saturday Stumper' puzzles from about 9 months ago as I recall. The clue: 'Address of many bars' - the answer: FTKNOXKY. Now that one was sure a nightmare to work out!!!]

DESKTOP was also clever, although upon reflection I agree with the earlier comment that perhaps it could be more contemporarily clued as 'Place for a recycle bin' instead. Thoughts?

At 19 minutes, almost certainly my fastest ever Saturday time. Although I see that Orange solved it in 5:38 and Byron Walden's time (on the NYT online applet) is 7:40! Who knows how they do it!?!

I had great fun with today's puzzle. I don't recall having seen anything by David Quarfoot before, but I'll certainly look forward to tackling more of his puzzles in the future. 7:31 PM  

Since my smack-down at the tournament a couple weeks ago, I've been steering away from the hardest puzzles in an attempt to get my groove back and it was nice to run into a very solvable Saturday - and oh what fun!

One mistake - missed the LOS ALTOS / ACELA crossing. Really a comedy of errors here, I was thinking of the Hyundai AZERA which I spelled ACERA (which turns out to be the Spanish word for sidewalk) and crossed with the mythical city of LOS ARTOS (which at least sort of sounds like a name). Even when I saw the answer of LOS ALTOS, I was thinking of LOS ALAMOS, the site of the Manhattan Project and other research, which I knew wasn't in the Silican Valley. So at least I've finally cleared up my confusion.

Last letter to fall today (besides my error) - the STAX / PED XING x-ing. Worked my way slowly through the alphabet and as the answer suddenly dawned on me, broke out into a grin.

Everything today reminded me once again why I love crosswords!

Joon 8:36 PM  


probably the reason that rex & i found it easy is that it's chock-full of pop culture. three sports clues (OPENERA, EIS, XSANDOS), plus GAYICON, KEATONS, STAX, MEAD, GERE, ASSANTE, RIOLOBO, THECORE, EGOISTE, DOEADEER, QVC, a wonder woman reference... just a whole lot of pop here. not to mention SODAPOP itself, also clued with a brand name (slice). of course, that's also a big reason i liked the puzzle so much. but if you weren't in america in, say, the 1980s, it would have been a lot tougher.

re: DESKTOP, yes it's a recycle bin... in windows. on a mac it's still a trash can. the same goes for many linux/xwindows-ish GUIs, i'm sure.

doc John 8:51 PM  

First thing I noticed about today's puzzle was DQ- I was sure I was in for a thrashing. Then, all these answers kept coming to me (unfortunately, "lasso" was the first thing I entered which held me up when I got back to the NE later). THE CORE, HOEDOWN (a really fun Copland piece to play- now why do I want a steak?), RIO LOBO, even PED XING!

So I was thinking that this was an easy puzzle until I got to California. I came up with a few answers (like LATERAL and ARTISTE) but was hesitant to write them in. I had earlier gotten PERM but was again hesitant to write in the BAD part. I had a feeling the cocoa clue had something to do with the 'a' but all I could think of was "final a". I finally put the puzzle down and did some errands, letting the SW percolate. Then, RAN LATE and then LATTE came to me and when I realized [bombed] and LIT were yet more synonyms for drunk, that corner fell.

So overall, it was easy-medium for me. My grid would have even been pristine if not for that lasso mistake early on. Oh well, better than yesterday and MUCH better than last Saturday's (which I finished several days later).

So many good and fun clue/answers in this one!

And how can I not include a Simpsons reference? (You'd think I was a huge Simpsons fan but actually haven't seen a new episode in years.) Anyway, there was a memorable scene where they're driving (more like careening) through a park when Homer hits a deer and says, "D'oh!" which through other family members' subsequent comments becomes "DOE A DEER, a female deer".

Fave answer of the day: DOC, of course!

Orange 9:23 PM  

I loved this puzzle in so many ways, as I blogged last night. What, nobody else is commenting on the GAY in GAY ICON parked a few rows atop the RUMP? I liked that bit, too.

This afternoon, I read Doug's first comment aloud to my husband, and together we remarked on the gall of telling a blogger what he should or should not write about. There are other crossword blogs out there that maybe didn't say anything at all about Anita Hill, so Doug could always explore those if the Aggressive Lib'rul Lack-of-Reference -to-Clarence-Thomas approach doesn't suit him.

Noam D. Elkies 9:24 PM  

Joon writes:

"probably the reason that rex & i found it easy is that it's chock-full of pop culture. three sports clues (OPENERA, EIS, XSANDOS), plus GAYICON, KEATONS, STAX, MEAD, GERE, ASSANTE, RIOLOBO, THECORE, EGOISTE, DOEADEER, QVC, a wonder woman reference... just a whole lot of pop here.
[...] if you weren't in america in, say, the 1980s, it would have been a lot tougher."

Well I did live in America since 1978. But I've never been nearly as avid/gluttonous a consumer of pop culture and spectator sports as I gather you and Rex are -- most of the pop entries that inspire Rex to Rhapsodize are just "oh, another one of those" to me. Give me more sweet fill like DISACCHARIDE. (I did appreciate EIS, XSANDOS, and DOEADEER, which btw is way before 1980.) Of the examples in your list, the only ones that mean nothing to me are ASSANTE, RIOLOBO, THECORE, and QVC. The others I could eventually get once I found enough crossing letters. It just was far from easy, even compared with other Saturdays of recent memory. [Of course I'm not complaining about the difficulty and obscurity -- that's what Saturday puzzles are for...]


andrea carla michaels 10:01 PM  

I'm always bummed I don't finish the Saturday puzzle till Saturday night here and you've all gone on to Sunday already by the time I check in to see what you thought of GAYICON!!!!!!!!!

ACELA was just in the news, saying that Eliot only bought a cheap train ticket for Kristen instead of on the ACELA!

Otherwise that was a sort of a bitch that LOSALTOS, SANMATEO (which I tried first),MILPITAS (where I'm going tomorrow for my Scrabble tourney) all are eight letters with a T in the same place!

I, too, had ICE that led to SCAM instead of SIMP (for "fool") so I guessed SIERRA started with ECO- - - - something!

The other odd thing is bec I had PITT I had to have my neighbor google to be sure it was 1999...he gave me GERE, but FORD was the year before...many Sexiest Men with only four letters all in a row!
FORD, GERE, PITT sound like some sort of race-car (RACEWAR?) reference.
And is it my imagination or was there some sort of SK thing going on?:
SixpacKs, SKindeep, StnicK, KeatonS, goKartS, SKihat, SnaKe...

and ironically, since I had ---ANTE I had to approach ASS from the rear, but maybe somehow that was again a nod to the whole GAYICON thing, that I'm still in ShocK over!

Orange 10:40 PM  

Andrea: Yes, ASSante's GAY icon of a RUMP. I meant to include ASSante in my tableau.

SteveB 12:18 AM  

andrea - not to mention LOSGATOS!

Joon 12:21 AM  

how many westerns are titled "rio ___" for some value of ___? at least half a dozen, i'm guessing.

THECORE is on the short list for worst movie physics ever (trailing only the end of "superman" where supes reverses the direction of time by zipping retrograde around the earth, causing it to spin backwards on its axis). so it's notable for at least that much.

overall, i'm with you--i'd take DISACCHARIDE over ASSANTE any day. (and i could certainly stand never to see another three-letter entry which can only be clued as the first name of an actress.) but it only takes one nostalgic pop culture reference to make my day. today it was KEATONS.

fergus 1:40 AM  

Stuck with a BAD PEEL for the Botched salon job, and SAT BACK instead of RAN LATE. Also was tempted by GNARL for the Wind Clue that turned out to be SNAKE. Just enough to leave plenty of puzzle to mull over, which is almost as gratifying as a quick solution.

Robert 3:28 PM  

I was stumped by A1 across for the longest time, partially because I had the "IC" and assumed the answer was "MUSICAL". And like others, I had "ICE" in place for most of the time.

Zach M. 11:38 PM  

Meet James Ensor! A TMBG reference! Sweet!

Jan 1:06 AM  

I have been breezing through the puzzles for the last month or so...but both Friday and Saturday stumped me. It was like hitting a brick wall.

Bob 5:16 AM  

How deflating! To come here with the expectation that everyone (or at least many) (or at least more than a couple) would find this fully daunting and find it rated "easy," with most agreeing. I got the east half without much difficulty, but not even google could save my bacon on the west. Completely flummoxed for the first time in a long, long time. I am, apparently (and hopefully only briefly), on the opposite side of the karmic spectrum from Rex and his smarty pants cohorts. Oh well, tomorrow's a new day...

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