Saturday, April 19, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

I realized this morning why Saturday puzzles stress me out a bit - it's not because they can be brutally hard. I enjoy that. It's because I have a time crunch. I usually go to bed before doing the puzzle on Th and F nights, and so I have to complete the puzzle in the morning. Saturday is the one day of the week that can still send me into free fall, which I cannot afford to be in when the clock is ticking (blog-wise). If only the puzzle would come out at 9pm the night before instead of 10pm (nudge nudge, wink wink ... Santa, are you listening?). Anyway, I saw Bob Klahn's name on the puzzle and visibly slumped in my chair. I love Klahn's puzzles, but you may remember a late-2007 puzzle by Klahn that was a Complete Destroyer (it had XANTIPPE in it - see sidebar, "The Wrath of Klahn," under "Important Posts"). So imagine my surprise when the second clue I look at is not only a total gimme, but a long total gimme that provided the first letters to ten Down clues: MONTEVERDI (5A: "L'Orfeo" composer). "L'Orfeo" is about the only opera I actually own. I forget why. Who really cares!? I'm off to a flying start. Had lots of problems in this puzzle from Missouri all the way to New Mexico, and Florida was largely vacant until the very end. But as Klahn puzzles go, this was easy, which is to say, tough by normal standards: Medium-Challenging.

Rather than blather on, I'm going right to the clues - so much good stuff to discuss:

  • 1A: Lock combination? (coif) - Real trouble here in the final letter. COIN and COIL both seemed reasonable to me at some point. I wondered briefly if LISTIC was a word, before running into the more obviously correct FISTIC for 4D: Boxing-related.
  • 16A: Compulsive shopper (oniomaniac) - normally words or phrases that return only 1490 total hits on a Google search will make me irate, but this did not. It's a perfectly good, if rare, word, and it looks fabulous in the grid. Took me a while to put in the M (from EMOTE - 9D: Engage in cabotinage) because I thought anything beginning ONIO- would have to be about ONIONs. ONIONATOR? ONION LOVER? Didn't help that I had the clearly wrong RHODESIA at 12D: Western Sahara region (Rio de Oro). Once I got the erroneous "H" out of the way, the -MANIAC part of ONIOMANIAC became obvious, and I just took it on faith that it was a word. All the crosses seemed strong.
  • 22A: List on a society calendar (dos) - goes nicely with COIF.
  • 24A: Product once advertised as "Ice-cold sunshine" (Coke) - easy, or at least easily inferrable. There were many answers like this today - way more than is usual in a Klahn puzzle. See also BARCELONA (26A: Birthplace of Sert and Miro), which was easy to get with the -ONA in place; BABA (48A: Spongelike cake); LETS (21A: Court calls); EMPHASIS (31D: What "!" provides); and, my favorite gimme of the day, HICS (44A: Lush sounds). Love those dipsomaniacal answers. Haven't seen DTS in a while... why not? Bring it back!
  • 25A: Bicycle pack (deck) - stared at this one for many seconds, trying to imagine a bicycle and all its component parts. Then "pack" cued "pack of cards" and voila, DECK. Bicycle's a big maker of playing cards (unlike COOPER, which is apparently a 40D: Big maker of tires - I breifly thought the puzzle was going to get cute and try to go with GOOD YR).
  • 29A: "A Clockwork Orange" instrument (moog) - I was thinking "what do you call the instrument they used to hold his eyelids open while forcing him to watch those horrid movies..."
  • 30A: "La Boheme" setting (garret) - I actually had TURRET in the grid for a few seconds until I remembered that the opera had something to do with people living a "bohemian" lifestyle ... in a GARRET. I have never seen "La Boheme," but I have seen the modern Broadway musical based on "La Boheme," which is also in today's puzzle: RENT (57A: Check for letters).
  • 31A: "Casablanca" screenwriter Julius or Philip (Epstein) - and not, as I originally guessed, EINSTEIN.
  • 36A: Dawn observance (matins) - here I was, imagining some kind of pagan ritual involving the sun, and the answer ends up being simply one part of the canonical hours.
  • 37A: Like a raspberry bush stem (cany) - had BONY for a good long time, because I had POSE for 35D: Something well-placed? (pail - great clue, by the way).
  • 39A: Giant perissodactyls (rhinoceri) - wow, Klahn's big on the high-end words of Greek derivation today! I can't believe it took me so long to get this after I already had RHINO in place ... "RHINO CATS? RHINO ... MICE?" I'm not sure I knew that RHINOCEROS pluralized this way. Maybe that's because it really doesn't. Normally, the plural is simply RHINOCEROS or RHINOCEROSES. RHINOCERI is "nonstandard or jocular" according to Wiktionary. Let's see what my giganto-dictionary (Websters' 3rd New International) says - well, it says RHINOCERI is an acceptable plural (third one listed). Did you know that RHINOCERICAL = "full of money: RICH"? It's "archaic," but it really, really shouldn't be. I want to bring it back.
  • 46A: Like M, L or XL (Roman) - oddly easy. After SIZED or SIZES, it was the first answer I thought of.
  • 53A: Council of _____, 1409 (Pisa) - My "Council of" knowledge ends with TRENT.
  • 55A: Lassie creator Knight (Eric) - #76 on the World's Top 100 ERICs list, behind Cartman, Idle, Bana, The Red, etc.
  • 1D: Network seen in many homes, and not proudly (cobweb) - guessed WRETCH at 19A: Poor devil, which gave me ---W-B here. Briefly thought THE WEB before settling on the correct answer.
  • 2D: "The Last Don" sequel ("Omerta") - a great xword word. Learn it, know it, love it.
  • 5D: Phototropic flier (moth) - It's a "flier," it's four letters, it starts with "M," it's MOTH.
  • 7D: "Love Jones" actress, 1997 (Nia Long) - how in the World did I know this?
  • 8D: City whose name is Siouan for "a good place to grow potatoes" (Topeka) - actually pretty easy to guess if you've got the "T" in place.
  • 13D: Flattering courtier who changed places with the tyrant Dionysius, in Greek legend (Damocles) - he of the Sword.
  • 14D: Blade holder (ice skate) - again, surprisingly untough for Klahn. I feel like I'm taunting the tiger here ... and the next Klahn puzzle I see is going to shred me into fine little pieces. Or DICE me, perhaps (49D: Cut to bits).
  • 20D: Only starting pitcher since 1971 to win a league M.V.P. award (Clemens) - my childhood / teenhood idol. Not so much anymore.
  • 24D: Cousin of a kinkajou (coon) - was this a sop thrown to longtime Saturday solvers? Because we Just Had (a version of) this clue, not more than a couple months ago.
  • 25D: Hamlet (dorp) - HA ha. Funniest word ever. Like a typo for DROP mixed with DORF (of "Dorf on Golf" "fame"). DORP must derive from THORP. Eths and thorns both make the "th" sound, but eths kinda look like D's ... and that is my "Uninformed Etymology Lesson of the Day." Thank you.
  • 27D: "Such Good Friends" novelist Gould (Lois) - no idea. None. Zero.
  • 28D: Writer of the story upon which "All About Eve" is based (Mary Orr) - I just rewatched the first part of this (great) movie the other day. Didn't catch MARY ORR's name, sadly, but I pieced it together eventually (obviously).
  • 30D: "Treasure Island" character (Gunn) - quarter century, at least, since I read this. GUNN was an educated guess.
  • 32D: Defensive structure (palisade) - the only PALISADE I know is Pacific PALISADES, and I didn't know the word had anything to do with defense of any sort.
  • 33D: Person not easily budged (stickler) - not sure about this clue. Hmm. I had STICK- and was inventing suffixes: "He's a real STICK-FER. . . he's a real STICK TO'T ... These aren't working."
  • 37D: It could end up in a fiasco (chianti) - "Fiasco" here = Italian for "flask." This is my favorite Fiasco of the moment (warning, that link goes to a rap song that contains profanity, though it's a song largely about how stupid / offensive much commercial rap music is).
  • 42D: Dark purplish blue (raisin) - yuck, really? BRUISE is a more appealing color name than RAISIN.
  • 45D: Dickens's "merry old gentleman" (Fagin) - really really wish I knew my Dickens better. Not sure I'm willing to invest the time it would take to make that happen.
  • 51D: Relief provider, maybe (map) - I had NAP. You had NAP. We all had NAP. Didn't we?
SALMAGUNDI! (50A: Mixture)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


wade 9:05 AM  

Rex, rarely have I disagreed with you more.

Worst. Saturday. Ever.

This is a purely subjective rant. I like my puzzles like I like my women—I want some coyness, I want to be teased, I want mystery and allure, I want it to say no and no and no and then I want the damn thing to say yes! I want it to teach me things I never knew before and never would have learned anywhere else. This monstrosity, this wife of Hagar the Horrible, was either so obvious as to bore me (TEAPOT DOME. Is there any other possible answer? No. Is there anything that comes to anybody’s mind other than the ur-scandal of 20th century scandals, the freaking boring TEAPOTDOME?) or so willfully obscure as to . . . bore me (ONIOMANIAC!) On top of that, there were just too dadgum many “you know ‘em or you don’t” answers, most of which I didn’t, and when I did, I didn’t care. (I saw something about that “All About Eve” short story not long ago—maybe a Times article or maybe it was something on the DVD when I rented the movie not all that long ago—but it didn’t interest me at the time and didn’t interest me here either.)

There were only and exactly two clue/answer pairings that I liked: Windy/SERPENTINE and Blade holder/ICESKATE. Both of those are exactly what I described as liking in a puzzle. They’re coy, clever, mysterious, and when I finally figure them out I know they’ve got me figured out too, that they were there ahead of me. It’s a beautiful thing, man. I want my puzzle to make me feel smart, but I’m okay if I know the puzzle is smarter than me; in fact, that’s all part of the allure. This puzzle, however, made me feel like an idiot for an hour, when I finally realized I wasn’t an idiot at all. I’m not an idiot for not getting a stupid joke like “Network seen in many homes, and not proudly.” Go back to your Rod McKuen if you want, baby. Listen to the warm all you want, but that ain’t poetry, baby. Less egregious but still unacceptable for a Saturday is holding that an exclamation point denotes emphasis. An exclamation point used unironically can denote hysteria, volume, and my depth of displeasure with this puzzle, but I daresay that it doesn’t denote emphasis unless the sentence it ends is “And I really really mean it!” (Okay, in a bludgeonly literal sense it can denote emphasis, but a Saturday is supposed to be smarter than that; it’s supposed to be subtle.) The only thing I learned from this puzzle that is arguably worth knowing is the word “salmagundi,” which is ugly as a mud fence and sounds too much like Solomon Grundy to be useful.

I hated, hated, hated this puzzle.

I got some pretty good hits in there, didn’t I? I mean, you wouldn’t say I totally got my ass kicked, right?

Judgesully 9:13 AM  

Wow! What a "googlepalooza!" It took numerous visits to my dear friend to even get into the grid. By the way, the reason you didn't recall Mary Orr in "All About Eve" is that she is not credited. Since when are raspberry bushes "cany" and who in his right mind would guess that "fiasco" has anything to do with a wine container? Teapot Dome and Clemens were the only answers remotely easy...OK omerta might qualify, but this puzzle was in a word...BRUTAL.

Rex Parker 9:21 AM  


If only we were drunk in a bar, so we could fight about this properly.

from "Dazed and Confused":

Mike: "It was just an observation"
Clint: "Oh, an observation, huh? Well who the hell are you, man? Isaac fucking Newton?"

Thanks (seriously) for opening the day with a contrarian treatise.


The Asian Badger 9:22 AM  

About the only thing I liked about this puzzle was that it didn't have "NABES" in it.

PhillySolver 9:28 AM  

Ok, if one of the clues had been "Mom's Apple ___" I would hesitate to put in an E even if I had PI_. Nothing is as it seems and reminded me of yesterday's Alice in Wonderland discussion.

I certainly used Google for the obscure to me ORR (I want Bobby back), LONG and to get the sense of SALMAGUNDI. I wonder what circles you run in to make that part of your vocabulary. Oh I know, the circle that says ONIOMANIAC, Photropic and Perissoadctyls centered in the Western Sahara of MARS!

I liked the challenges though and the time it took to work things out. I felt proud of most of them and looking at it I might have been able to finish without help, but I am doubtful, so call me a WRETCH.

I bet we read a few wordplays on fiasco today.

imsdave1 9:31 AM  

Cut to bits - yep, that's how I feel this morning. After a few weeks of thinking I was getting pretty good at this, this puzzle was a rude awakening. My computer is smoking and my hands bleeding from googling and wiki-ing and dictionary-ing (cabitinage does not appear at btw). At least now my golf game today can't possibly lower my self esteem any more than this puzzle did. FYI, I didn't hate it - it just hated me.

PhillySolver 9:37 AM  

My Italian friends once recounted that fiasco refers to making (blowing glass) a bottle rather than the bottle itself, but I won't argue with the reference today. The real point of this post though is I asked what word they might use to indicate something is a total mess and they reported, SOQQUADRO (terrible mess) noteworthy because it is considered the only word with a double Q. I wonder when Bob will try that one on us.

Liz 9:59 AM  

Nope, I had mop, not nap and don't understand map either. I had mop because I knew salmagundi. I feel lucky to have gotten through this puzzle with only one error, the above, and although I was slow I didna Google or look up anything.

JC66 10:12 AM  


I was curious to see see which of the myriad of obtuse clues you'd use for your sub-head today. I'm also in the camp of those who got their asses whupped by Mr. Klahn. Not a pleasant or fun experience.

wade 10:16 AM  

Liz, map as in "relief map," a map that has contours to show topography. That was a good clue. So was well-placed/PAIL and the Bicylce pack/DECK pairing. I was a bit stingy in my earlier post in saying I liked only two. And maybe I sounded too angry. I'm sure she's a nice puzzle and that somebody can love her. We just weren't right for each other. I wish her well.

Jane Doh 10:47 AM  

[Say something nice] Good level of difficulty for a Saturday.

Pizazzless, boring, who-cares answers. Clues didn't compensate enough, though there were some flashes of brilliance.

A big yawn.

Norm 10:50 AM  

There used to be a soup & salad restaurant (small chain) in SF called Salmagundi. Only way I got that word. I was guessing that fiasco might be a wine-based cocktail. Tough puzzle. Didn't dislike it as much as Wade, but I agree with his critique of the number of obscure "you know it or you don't" answers. Especially in a tough Saturday puzzle, working that many of them out was more of a chore than a pleasure.

Ulrich 10:56 AM  

@wade: Salmagundi is a beautiful word in my book.

And speaking of beautiful words, Claudio Monteverdi is the most beautiful name I have ever come across (pronounced the Italian way, where the "au" is not a diphthong!--note use of ! for emphasis!!!). I cannot see how a person with that name can not become a musician. Furthermore, Barcelona is architecturally speaking one of the most interesting cities in the world. So, with this and Claudio in place as gimmes, I had to like the puzzle, difficult as it was (requiring some carefully selected googling, more to confirm than to outright obtain a guess).

Footnote: "Monteverdi" looses a lot, sound-wise, in English: Greenberg

imsdave1 11:01 AM  

@Ulrich - I know Monteverdi because of a music course on tape (from the Teaching Company) taught by Robert Greenberg - coincidence?

Rex Parker 11:06 AM  

Well, let's complete the coincidence circle - not only do I own that same Teaching Company course (given to me by my mom when I decided I needed to know something about classical music), but that course is the Reason I Own Monteverdi's "L'Orfeo."


ArtLvr 11:09 AM  

re SALMAGUNDI -- more a stew than just a "mixture".... Famous in the art world because of the venerable Salmagundi Club's many illustrious members over the years. Honorary members even included Winston Churchill. (see

The Salmagundi Club had its beginnings as the NY Sketch Club at the eastern edge of Greenwich Village in sculptor Jonathan Scott Hartley's Broadway studio, where artists, students and friends at the National Academy of Design gathered on Saturday evenings. Its name was changed in 1877 to The Salmagundi Sketch Club. The name has variously been attributed to a stew which the group has served from its earliest years, and to Washington Irving's "Salmagundi Papers". Housed in many temporary locations, from 1917 the home of the Salmagundi Club has been an 1853 brownstone at 47 Fifth Avenue. The building is designated as an historical landmark.


Anonymous 11:12 AM  

I found this one extremely difficult (and I can usually get most or all of the Saturday puzzle). My biggest problem was that I hardly knew any of the answers.

wade 11:24 AM  

anon at 11:12. Agreed that not knowing the answers is often a major obstacle in a crossword puzzle.

Leon 11:26 AM  

SERPENTINE - The word is etched in my mind from the 1979 movie "The In-Laws" (Orange also mentions it in her site.)
I can't stay here.

- Okay! But remember, serpentine!- Absolutely!

What a guy.

You're dead, right?


Serpentine, Shel! Serpentine!

Phineas 11:27 AM  

Total disaster for me. Sad to have to google. But in the end I think this puzzle deserves equal parts respect and disdain.

Fistic/coif, oniomania, salmagundi (see NY Times Cookbook), rio de oro, deck, pail, rhinoceri....


lois, chianti, cany, matins.....

Salmagundi indeed.

Badir 11:27 AM  

Yeah, this was brutal. I can finish the majority of Saturday puzzles, maybe with a mistake or two. But today, I gave up after filling in only ten words (some wrong) and started googling. I only had to look up 17 words to finish! :0

Ulrich 11:36 AM  

Re dorp: It looks very much like the Dutch version of German Dorf, which means "village", plain and simple.

Judgesully 11:37 AM  

Didn't Ogden Nash attempt to use "rhinoceri" in one of his pseudo-poems, or did it have something to do with llamas? In any event it certainly sounds better than rhinoceroses! Emphatically so!!!

SethG 11:40 AM  

I lost, but I went down FISTICally, er, swinging.

What I knew: [this space intentionally left blank]

What I was proud of: Guessed the -IC ending to 4D, which was enough to guess ETAIL and BARCELONA. Worked my way around from there, pulling lots of stuff I didn't know from almost nothing (like EPSTEIN from ExxxExx).

Did wonder whether Superman made any money for saving the world from SALMAGUNDI. This is all you, Puzzle Girl...

In the end, though, I couldn't overcome not knowing MONTEVERDI, ONIOMANIAC, RIODEORO, DORP, and not knowing the clued info about GARRET or DAMOCLES.

BK, there will be a next time. Oh yes, there will.

wade 11:48 AM  

I'll shut up in a minute.

There is one bit of potentially elegant misdirection in this puzzle that should be noted. (It misdirected me anyway, and that's what I meant in my first post about the subjective nature of the relationship between puzzle and solver. When the relationship is meant to be, the puzzle plays teasing little mind games with you, shows you subconscious connections you wouldn't have otherwise been aware of.) For me, the clue "setting for La Boheme" immediately made me think of, first, Paris, second, sewers. I haven't seen La Boheme, nor have I read Les Miserables, but I know, or think I know, that the first is based on the latter, and I know or think I know that Les Miserable is set in the sewers. I may be wrong--I haven't checked. Putting in sewers made TOWN work for the clue "hamlet." I am not at all displeased by misdirection. On the contrary. I am very displeased that I was dorped, however, as a result of that misdirection. When I'm misdirected, I want a payoff. Dorp ain't an acceptable payoff. This puzzle teases and teases but never puts out.

Ulrich 11:52 AM  

In defense of "salmagundi": Not only does it have an interesting history beyond its culinary origins, as artlvr has shown, it also sounds great IMHO if you pronounce it properly, i.e. give each of the 4 syllables its due:

John Reid 11:53 AM  

In the 4 months or so that I've been coming to this blog, this was the HARDEST puzzle I've seen (and that includes all the non-NYT puzzles out there as well). Even harder than that brutal Byron Walden that we had recently with all the sports references. Even harder than that puzzle with the 'Big flaps on the road?' MUDGUARDS answer at 1A (or whatever it was, I can't remember exactly). This is the kind of puzzle that really needed its own day of the week - it was an uberSaturday, a Saturday plus.

About 15 minutes into this puzzle I had about 6 or 7 tentative answers scattered randomly about the grid. I finally went to bed after almost an hour of the struggle, with the left side of the grid completed and some significant headway into the NE and SE as well. I woke up early this morning thinking 'ICESKATE, damn it!' but it still wasn't enough to ultimately get me through this beast.

After another 45 minutes or so I gave up. I was defeated. I had fought and lost. If I had been familiar with DORP for 'Hamlet' I just might have come away unscathed, but it was not to be. I had thought of TOWN or DANE, but finally hit on ROLE and stuck with it.

I had 6 words wrong in the final grid, all in the same section of the East. RACK for DECK, BALLET for GARRET... I even tried BOSN at one point for the Treasure Island character, but had to abandon it. My biggest disappointment however is not having been able to come up with PURPOSE, even though I had P-RE-SE (that middle E from my incorrect ROLE). I don't know how long I looked at that clue. Shame on me!

I had thought of bicycle cards too - why didn't I think of DECK?!

A tough Saturday result from a tough Saturday puzzle. I'm not quite as upset as Wade, but I'm upset!

Mr. Klahn, if you're reading this - keep them coming! I'll get you next time!

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

I was absolutely and brutally defeated even after Googling "Perissodactyls" to get "RHINOCERI," "All About Eve" to get "MARY ORR," "merry old gentleman" to get "FAGIN" (OK, I confess Dickens ignorance; fair clue), "1409 council" to get "PISA," "Western Sahara plus Rio" to get "RIO DE ORO" (I had "RIO NEGRO" for a while), and who knows what else.

At the end I was frankly guessing on "SALMAGUNDI," which I'm sure is a fair clue but unfortunately a word I've never heard, so I had "TAP" for relief, just in case, and some string of nonsense letters instead of "CHIANTI," not getting the "fiasco/flask" thing. I've never heard of "NIA LONG" so I had "NEA LONG," which gave me "ONEOMANIAC," which sounded equally plausible for another word I'd never heard of.

The rest of of I managed to grind out in the end, but I still don't understand "Hamlet" and "DORP" -- what gives?

The "TOPEKA" clue makes me think of the comedienne whose name I can't remember and her schtick about "Minnesota," which is Native American for "Weather sucks big wampum; no pitchum tepee here."

bill from fl 12:12 PM  

I thought I was off to a great start with the entire NW plus MONTEVERDI and TEAPOT DOME. Then it really slowed down, but I finally filled the SW and SE. From there it was a death march. I had AUGUST instead of ROBUST, and I kept thinking perissodactyls must be some kind of flying dinosaur. Even after figuring out MARY ORR, I finally had to google to get RHINOCERI, RIO DE ORO, wherever that is, BABA, and DORP. After all that, I had to guess CANY and PAIL, both of which are a stretch. Not pleasant, but at least it was a learning experience.

ON 12:29 PM  

The Rhinoceros

The rhino is a homely beast,
For human eyes he's not a feast.
Farwell, farewell, you old rhinoceros,
I'll stare at something less prepoceros.

Ogden Nash

Anonymous 12:30 PM  

Did you know that Theo is descended from the Casablanca Epsteins?

Jim in NYC 12:30 PM  

I'm somewhere between Rex and Wade. I would have been proud to finish this one, but ending up with 6 blank/wrong squares was not so bad.

Seconding the multi-cultured Ulrich, DORP came easily in view of the hamlet of New Dorp, smack in the middle of Staten Island, NYC. And my son's "Kleines Dorf" toy village from some years ago. And SALMAGUNDI is not all that obscure.

I stuck with "stop it" instead of DROP IT at 49A. I tried "rice" for 49D but never thought of DICE. Grrr.

CANY is simply a crock. CHIANTI clued by "...fiasco" is off the charts. DECK was fair, but the clue "Bicycle pack" deserved a question mark.

@Leon 11:26 - What the heck are you writing there? Was that supposed to communicate something?

miriam b 1:28 PM  

MONTEVERDI and BARCELONA jumped right out at me. I loved the puzzle and learned a bit through crosses (MARYORR, ONIOMANIAC). I suppose the stems of my raspberry bushes are CANY, but I think of them primarily as being full of treacherous thorns.

miriam b 1:41 PM  

Wasn't GUNN the guy who dreamed about cheese (toasted, mostly)? And the only FAGIN I can think of offhand is the pickpocket guru in Oliver Twist.

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

>>Footnote: "Monteverdi" looses a lot, sound-wise, in English: Greenberg<<

Well, in English it's be Greenmount, "berg" not being English. Recalling the royal Battenberg/Mountbatten switch there.

Dense today, still don't get "Check for letters"-RENT.
As in, your monthly rent for the letters on your apartment door? Uh, whatevs there.

miriam b 1:49 PM  

"Letters" = landlords; those from whom you rent your home. So a check for letters would be a means of paying RENT.

PhillySolver 1:58 PM  

@ anon

...or think of the term, Apartments to Let. The letter lets to the letee?

Anonymous 2:32 PM  

"Check for letters" is a play on "to let" for "to rent" -- a "letter" then would be a landlord. Though we'd probably say "lettor" in that case.

I actually gave serious consideration to "DORF" for hamlet, but it's not an English word, yes? So it doesn't work without the standard "for Jurgen" kind of clue. Not to mention that the "F" doesn't work in the cross. And I've still never heard of "DORP" as an English word for town.

I didn't mind "CANY" for raspberry bushes. Not that I thought of it without a lot of crosses, but once it was there, I was convinced. (As opposed to my reaction to DORP.)

bill from fl 2:41 PM  

It turns out that raspberry stems are referred to as "canes." So CANY wasn't as unfair as I thought--just out of my range of knowledge.

Anonymous 2:47 PM  

You can't grow raspberries here, but they're much like blackberries, right? And blackberries certainly have canes.

Coop 2:59 PM  

DORP is an English word only to the extent that South Africa was once a colony of the British Empire. (Is that English by association!?!) DORP is in the American Heritage dictionary where it is identified as a South African word with Dutch etymology.

Joaneee 3:02 PM  

Actually raspberries are even canier than blackberries (speaking as an experienced raspberry grower). Tough puzzle - had to google Mary Orr before getting the Texas area. I LIKED it though.

Lao Wai 5:04 PM  

See New DORP on Staten Island, NY for an American useage, even though the etymology is Dutch. There are other locations in the NYC, South Hudson Valley area by that name as well.

Even for a Saturday this one was a bear. Since I was trying to do it at a Little League game, I couldn't even Google.

Every RAISIN I have ever seen is dark brown, not remotely purple or blue. Where does Klahn buy his? I got CHIANTI from the crosses. Who knew 'fiasco' (screw-up, disaster) had anything to do with flasks or blown glass?

SALMAGUNDI is one of those polysyllabics that roll delightfully over the tongue, but I guess I never knew what exactly it meant. Something new every day.

I could go on about arcane, obscure, rare and sideways useages, but why further depress a Saturday afternoon?

fergus 5:15 PM  

Never saw CHIANTI, though what a great Clue! Only partially on to Klahn today -- well-placed (though I did initially have COIN), but my Visionary was stuck in the noun form forever, and got annoyed with myself for not seeing the adjective. Check for letters was the biggest groan, though Seeks change? wasn't bad either.

My nastiest region came about from having the setting for "La Boheme" be either STREET or THE MET, and sorta thinking that Reason could be ANALYSE.

If I interpret Rex correctly, it was only Klahn's name that tempered the rating.

Joon 5:16 PM  

somebody needs to come up with a variant of "pwn3d" for "klahned." i guess the closest analogue would be "jl4hned," but it seems to be lacking a little something. what do you all think?

today, i think i was klahned, but not jl4hned. i slogged through this puzzle, eventually finishing it but with several bad crossings. i started out 0-for-the-whole-NW, but MONTEVERDI/TEAPOTDOME were gimmes that opened up the whole NE. from there, it was slow and not very steady progress.

a whole bunch of crazy-ass words today. i didn't mind ONIOMANIAC or SALMAGUNDI (the last sounds at least a little familiar to me). MOOG i know, having read the book. i'm not fond of COON, but it's been in the puzzle three times in the last couple weeks so i guess COON and i will have to learn to accept each other's differences. CANY and FISTIC seem kind of cheap. BABA was a new one for me.

but DORP takes the cake (or perhaps the BABA). what the hell kind of word is that? (yes, i know, a dutch one. or boer, or whatever.) i want it to be an acronym involving RAISINs and peanuts, since i had essentially the same reaction to it as the i had the first time i saw GORP in a puzzle... except that DORP isn't actually an acronym, just a crazy-ass looking word.

anonymous 11:55, NIA LONG is a good one to know, because her first name shows up in puzzles quite a bit. she's not quite the crossword celebrity that ESAI morales or stephen REA is, but she's up there. recently, though, some of her mojo has been coopted by NIA vardalos of my big fat greek wedding fame. there's also NIA peeples (of fame fame), but i haven't seen her around much lately.

there were lots of clues today that i liked, but overall it had this weird sense of too easy in some places and too hard in others.

imsdave1 5:23 PM  

@joon - baba au rhum = rum cake

bill from fl 5:34 PM  

FISTIC is actually a pretty good (if colloquial) word for "boxing-related." I remember from reading The Ring magazine, it was a standard usage among boxing writers.

jae 5:38 PM  

I saw Klahn's name as I hit the print icon and said "Oh S**t" which it turns out was warranted. I haven't googled to finish a puzzle since the last Klahn in late December. (I've googled after finishing and found errors.) I googled ORR, used the dictionary to finish my SALMA string, and spell checked NIALONG, DAMOCLES, and RHINOCERI. I guess the NYT needs to occasionally remind us that puzzles can be constructed that are undoable by the majority solvers.

@Wade -- I heartily agree with your TOWN/SEWER/DORP rant as I went through pretty much the same sequence. I was sure DORP was wrong until I checked my Xword dictionary and there it was under hamlet.

Aren't raisins brown or golden. If I saw a purple one I'm not sure I'd eat it! (for emphasis)

fergus 5:47 PM  

The first thought I had about the 20th century scandal put a GATE at the end, and meekly I put in TRAVEL for the first six letters. That was a tempest in a teapot though, which brought about the right answer.

One of the finest aspects of construction is, of course, misdirection. The range of possibility and the degree to which it's done separates the truly great puzzles from the merely good. Sharing quite a few of Wade's incisive observations, I wasn't in awe of this effort, though I was genuinely quite impressed.

John Reid 5:49 PM  

Some of us are suckers for punishment.

If you, like me, don't know when enough is too much... and if you are still standing after this beast from Bob Klahn... you may find today's Newsday puzzle of interest.

It is a (title-deserving) Saturday Stumper from the infamous Merle Baker. I am halfway through it right now and have been working at it on and off this afternoon.

Proceed with caution! Good night, and good luck!

ps - For something lighter, see today's LA Times puzzle by Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke. Stacked 15s! Nice and fun.

Orange 6:32 PM  

Ooh, the Newsday Saturday Stumper killed me—way harder than the Klahn, which I actually had fun solving. The Stumper took me almost twice as long! (for both emphasis and astonishment)

ArtLvr 6:40 PM  

Thanks to ON for Nash's "Rhinoceros". Here's the "Llama" to remind frustrated crossword solvers of lighter moments...

"A one l lama, he's a priest
a two l llama, he's a beast
and I will bet a silk pajama
you've never seen a three l lllama"

Ogden Nash


Margaret 7:35 PM  

@ Wade -- I loved your rant! Made me laugh out loud with is exactly what I needed after this puzzle. I've only been doing the puzzle daily for a couple of months but this was definitely the toughest Saturday I've encountered. Humbling is hardly the word. Especially since I watched the finals of the ACPT last night on You-Tube. About 20 minutes and 6 answers into the puzzle, I said to myself "Trip and Tyler would be done by now."

One clue I did get was chianti -- from Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the Car Talk Guys. This was their puzzler from about a year ago:

Giacomo's Lackluster Bottles

RAY: This puzzler is from the world of history, folklore, art, art history, etymology, obfuscation, and maybe complete fabrication.

Here it is:

For centuries the world has been astounded by both the art and artisanry of Italian glassblowers of the Rennaisance. In fact, glass making was such a secret that they even moved the artists to the island of Murano near Venice.

While many of these artists' creations have found their way to museums and private collections in virtually every corner of the world, many did not. And even for those with many years of training in this art form success was often elusive. And when these artists of that era would fail in their attempts to create something of beauty, they would save these lacklustre works to serve as a reminder of the fact that they messed up. Maybe there was a flawed technique or some inattention to detail.

These artists often referred to these substandard works of art, these disappointments, these failures, as 'bottles.'

-- Hey, Giacomo, what's a thatta you make?

-- Eh, it's just a bottle.

We use this Italian word for 'bottle' in the English language. In fact we use it intact, unchanged. Except in English, it does not mean 'bottle.' Rather its meaning is derived from its use by those Italian glassblowers.

The question is, what's the word?

Here's a little hint: The word is a common English word that's often been used by many in association with this very program!

Answer: FIASCO! (emphatically)

Jenny 8:53 PM  

So in the scheme of things how hard is Saturday supposed to be compared to the rest of the week? (I'm new to all of this and relying heavily on internet searches to answer mine!!)

Anonymous 9:02 PM  

To Jim in NYC: you said to Leon "what the heck are you writing about?" Leon said that the word serpentine reminded him of the movie "The Inlaws" and he then quoted a very funny sequence from the movie. SERPENTINE!! Maybe you have to see it to understand.

miriam b 9:05 PM  

RAISIN means "grape" in French (raisins are "raisins secs!) I've seen this term used to describe the color of a clothing item. Examples of other French color terms used in the fashion world: taupe (mole); puce (flea); aubergine (eggplant); mauve (mallow plant). More elegant in effect than the English words, n'est-├že pas?

Bill from NJ 9:15 PM  

Had the stacked 10s in the NE and trickled down the East Coast into the SE. Veered into the NW and down into the SW.

Where I stalled.

It's weird. I seemed to be on the same wave length as Klahn getting WRETCH DECK MOOLA MATINS MOOG CANY (!) with minimal crosses but when I arrived in the SW, I just failed to connect.

After 1 hr 45 mins, I called this puzzle complete after staring blankly at it for 20 minutes or so.

It didn't help that I misread 31D as What "I" Provides.

Orange 9:21 PM  

Jenny: Saturdays are the hardest! Many people who can tackle the early-week NYT puzzles alone find themselves turning to the comfort of Google come Friday and Saturday. The Friday and Saturday puzzles don't have themes tying the longest entries together, so finishing one part doesn't really give you hints about the rest.

Anonymous 9:33 PM  

I've been doing crosswords for a year and a half. for the last few months I've consistently completed Saturday puzzles. Not this one. I did know DORP due to Paul Theroux's DARK STAR SAFARI, an excellent book:

'The next day we stopped at Kimberly, a dust-blown mining town, slummy at the edges with a huge pit in the middle, "the biggest manmade hole in the world." Billions of dollars' worth of gems had been scooped from this pit, yet the town was just a dreary DORP of waste dumps and hills of gravel, and bungalows with tin roofs, video parlors and fried-chicken restaurants and burger joints and used car lots and a hideous desert climate with fierce summer heat and wicked winter frosts, nothing to do in the DORP except dig and sift and pick through the dirt for baubles. All this visible tedium and poorly paid labor was the reality behind the wickedest confidence trick in the world, the diamond trade'

Ulrich 9:45 PM  

@margaret: You proved again that it pays to come back to this blog during the day (I belong to the 4% who do this)--how else could I have learned how "fiasco" entered Englich (and other languages, I may add)? Thank you.

mac 9:51 PM  

Let me just say that I learned some new words today and leave it at that.

Thank you all for the funny comments,I needed the laugh!

PuzzleGirl 10:35 PM  

I'm basically a quivering blob of jelly after this one. Totally jl4hned. Google was no comfort. Thank God for Wade -- he really made me laugh today (thanks, Wade!). Following your metaphor, what I plan to do is go right out and find another crossword puzzle that looks like this one and have my way with it.

Margaret 12:13 AM  

@ Ulrich, Happy to oblige you with bits of arcane trivia. Just call me Cliff Claven. Hey, speaking of other languages, it absolutely blows my mind that anyone could do the NYT crossword in a second language, much less a Saturday. Amazing.

BTW, I loved your monkey story the other day.

andrea carla michaels 2:26 AM  

May I try an easier explanation of FIASCO/FLASK?
When I'm trying to teach a friend rudimentary Italian, esp if they already know Spanish or some French, I point out that in English/Latin/Spanish/French: FL, CL, BL, PL in Italian become Fi, Ci, Bi, Pi...
So, for example: (White)Blanco becomes Bianco; Plaza = piazza; Flore = Fiore; Plata = piata

So Flask in English = fiasco in italiano.
"Chianti ends up in a fiasco" (wine flask)

so if you don't know a word in Italian, and it starts with BL, CL, FL, PL, just change "l" to an "i" and throw on a vowel at the end, et voila! instant italiano!
Need a match? Fiammo (FLame, get it?)
Is that now more CLear? Chiaro? Claro?

edwin 5:18 PM  

When I referred a friend to my first post, the Salmagundi word did it, it was gone. What?


PuzzleGirl 5:47 PM  

edwin: I believe you made your Saturday puzzle comment on the Friday puzzle thread. I remember seeing it and not having any idea what you were talking about. In that case, I wouldn't be surprised if Rex deleted it (see FAQ #8).

Bill D 8:28 PM  

I called this one "The Grid of Proper Names No One Ever Heard of Or Cared About". Those unknown losers crossing Klahn's usual difficult but mainly inspired offbeat answers beat me (fittingly) for the first time since "The Wrath of Klahn". As usual, relatively routine answers were rendered nearly indecipherable by what can only be called diabolical cluing. If this is what Rex now thinks is a "Medium-Challenging" puzzle I have fallen further behind than I'd like to admit. I kept putting MOOLA, GARRET, PAIL, MARY ORR (a name I made up), DROP/STOP IT, DANE, ...ORO in and out until they no longer held any meaning whatsoever.

juliegoetzgrimes 5:30 PM  

Can someone explain PAIL as something well-placed???

Rex Parker 5:31 PM  


A pail is often found ("placed") in a well. For retrieving water, I imagine.


Anonymous 6:57 PM  

Dumb puzzle- too many names to look up.
Words like "dorp" are practically impossble for any "normal" puzzler to know.

Was very glad to find your website however!

Anonymous 3:11 PM  

Happy with ArtLvr's Nash-poem on lamas since I knew it only as a riddle:
Q. What is a 3-L lllama?
A. A fire.
It seemed kinda funny when I was ten.

-Abu Owlfish

Yancy 5:02 PM  

I did not understand matins as dawn observance???

Leigh 8:18 PM  

dorp = small town in Afrikaans

That and 'deck' were the only things I couldn't get before coming here. Of course I Wikipediaed like crazy, and even did some Googling. Is that cheating? This crossword was more a test of research skills than wordplay.

jpChris 2:40 PM  

A long while ago, 30A: "La Boheme" setting, the answer was atelier. Garret just did NOT come to me.

Oh, well.

embien 10:30 PM  

This is a prime example of a puzzle that is not fun, and not particularly edifying, either, since it is exceedingly unlikely that any of those answers will appear in other puzzles.

I was so lost at sea that at one point I had CHIA PET instead of CHIANTI for the fiasco clue.

If you go to Wikipedia and look up Western Sahara, RIO DE ORO is nowhere to be found. Now that's obscure (far too much so, IMHO).

For me, part of the joy of crosswords is the gradual filling in of the grid, as one clue leads to another (via crosses). This one was more akin to a trivia challenge, where you either knew the answer or you didn't. There was little of the aha! moment of seeing a few letters in a clue you can't figure out and then suddenly seeing it.

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