Friday, August 15, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Corn dogs and spoons

I finished this in under 20 minutes, which I consider a massive success considering the often brutal nature of a Byron Walden puzzle. Very difficult, very clever, very entertaining - everything I want in a Saturday. It's a got a signature weird word (HERBARIA - 2D: Mint preserves?), but not a ton of weird words. It's got a slew of proper names, many of them just famous enough to be in puzzles but not famous enough to come readily to mind. I got KYL (45A: Arizona pol Jon) because I'd seen him before (though I had KYD in there at first), and I flat out guessed MCPHERSON off the "MCP," woo hoo (53A: James Birdseye _____, Union general in the Civil War)! Then there's that other Greta, SCACCHI (39D: Greta of "The Player"), and Jerry HERMAN (42D: Jerry who wrote "Hello, Dolly!"), and Reed RICHARDS (yay comics - 29A: Reed _____, Mr. Fantastic of Marvel Comics), and the very famous Isaac ASIMOV (44D: "Pebble in the Sky" author), here clued by reference to one of his less famous works. Familiar place names with odd clues - yep, we got at least two of those in TACOMA (43A: Western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad) and OSAKA (47A: City of 2 1/2 million at the mouth of the Yodo River) (Pacific Rim!). Did you know that my city's housing market is the second-best in the nation, after Yakima (TACOMA, Yakima ... you can see how I got there, right?)!? Weird. Back to puzzle. We have some music in CON ANIMA (21D: Spiritedly, on scores) and HARMONIC / TONES (49A: With 58-Across, violinists' productions) (Hey, TONES is an anagram of STENO - 23A: Recording artist?). Nutso pop culture clues? Sure, here, have some STRATTON (23D: "Silver Spoons" family name). High-end science term? How about KETONE (9D: Compound used to stabilize perfumes)? Then there's the "?" clues - all over the damned place. Here's my feeling about "?" clues. They are Great when they land and Horrible when they don't. Here, they mostly land: The very first clue is a simple beauty (1A: Pacer pacer? => SHOT CLOCK), and SKY WROTE (36D: Used lofty words?) and SKI PARKA (39A: Protection for someone on the run?) and ORES (50D: Groundbreaking discoveries?) all have clever and gettable "?" clues. Not as many wacky letter combos or Scrabbly letters as I expect from a B.W. puzzle, but VIP PASSES (with its own great "?" clue, 59A: Fancy entrees?) does its part to keep you on your toes, parsing-wise. Overall, a fabulous, first-rate job.

What else is there to say? Well, quite a bit, thanks for asking:

  • 10A: It began with the slogan "It's time to get connected" (MSNBC) - one of the main reasons the NE was the last area to fall. I hd ALERO (16A: Old Olds) and ROCKETTE (20A: One in a line of 36) and SENS (28A: 45-Across and others: Abbr.) and nothing else for a while. Put in and took out BRITON a few times (13D: Lion and unicorn wearer) - same with NESTLE (12D: Spoon, say). But it was only when BRITON and NESTLE were both in that I saw the "NB" combo I needed to guess MSNBC.
  • 22A: Winston Smith's greatest fear, in "1984" (rats) - I haven't read this book since 1984, so this did not come readily to mind. Lots of authors in the puzzle today, with Orwell and Asimov and the woefully under-famous Alice MUNRO (51A: "The View From Castle Rock" author).
  • 27A: _____ Island, birthplace and longtime home of Cornelius Vanderbilt (Staten) - meant nothing to me. Thankfully, I know that STATEN Island is indeed somewhere. I went to a wedding there once. The air reeked of garbage. Is that normal for STATEN Island?
  • 8D: Some reds (clarets) - see lion and unicorn picture, above
  • 55D: "Happy Days" event (hop) - hmmm ... I remember a marathon dance (à la "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?") where Fonzie did some weird Russian number at the end to psych out Joanie's bitchy nemesis ... but a "hop?" I'm sure it's correct. At any rate, this clue reminds me of the fabulous video for "Buddy Holly," by Weezer (I can't embed the full video, with extended "Happy Days" intro - you'll have to go here to see that one)

  • 38A: Serve without consequence (let) - just a great clue. "Serve" really really looks like a verb here.
  • 46A: With 34-Across, protests peacefully, in a way (goes / on a fast) - four-word phrase, broken up. You don't see that kind of inventive gridding very often.
  • 48A: Small two-master (yawl) - "YAWL wanna come back to my YURT(s) (48D: Mongolian dwellings) for some CONEYS (14D: Corn dog alternatives)? ... No?"
  • 57A: Columbus's flagship? (Ohio State) - so "flagship" means ... the "chief," as in "chief" ... state University? It is THE Ohio State University, after all.
  • 1D: Patron of pregnant women (St. Gerard) - the key here was a. knowing it would start "ST" and then b. having enough patience to wait out the crosses.
  • 5D: Prefix in many juice names (cran) - I love seeing this answer, as I have a little puzzle of mine out in the garage with this answer in it, and anything that makes it seem more legitimate ups the chances I will fix the puzzle up and take it out into the light of day.
  • 11D: Company retirement asset? (sleep sofa) - I know this as a SLEEper SOFA, so despite having SOFA, it took some time to get the first half (and, by extension, the entire NE).
  • 32D: P, in a phonetic alphabet (papa) - uh, what?
  • 34D: Relenting assent ("OK, OK!") - very nice.
  • 37D: Hoisted quaffs (tall ones) - excellent answer; I thought for sure that "hoisted" was a verb, and the answer would be HAD ... something. HAD CONES was on the table at one point.
  • 41D: Attain on the wing (soar to) - clue feels odd or wrong to me. But the answer goes nicely with SKY WROTE.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


mustafa johnson 12:48 AM  

I always end up doing Saturdays late at night when I really shouldn't be doing them, and it always makes me miss a few relatively easy ones. For instance, I had TAL-ONES and couldn't for the life of me make sense of it. Then in a moment of weakness I look to see that it's TALLONES and spend the next five minutes thinking of what the hell kind of drink a tallone is. Also I was looking for a specific compound for that perfume clue but instead got a general class of compounds, KETONE. I'm a person who likes my descriptions hyperspecific so that clue/answer pair kind of bothered me even though it probably shouldn't. I've never heard the word TENURABLE. Usually those positions are called tenure track positions, aren't they?

Crosscan 12:53 AM  

This was the ONE. I refused to let Walden beat me. No google, no cheating, no blogs. Started at 7:17PM PDT. Finished at 9:35 PM, less about 30 minutes in breaks, Olympic watching, etc. But I did it! Saturday, Byron Walden, no mistakes! It can be done.

It was the NE that stumped me for the longest time. I considered and rejected at various times, MSNBC and ALERO. I had -SOFA but kept wavering between EXTRA SOFA and SPARE SOFA.

What was one in a line of 36? Letters, politicians, countries? Only had the starting R.

The breakthrough started with SENS; didn't know Jon KYL but pol had to be senator, right? That led to CUDDLE which became NESTLE. NESTLE meant MSNBC and ALERO were right and the corner fell at last.

Earlier had TERRARIA for HERBARIA which gave me STOP CLOCK for SHOT CLOCK. CLAM[ato] for CRAN. OH OK for OK OK. PISA for PAPA.

YURTS came from some unknown Mongolian corner of my brain.

RICHARDS was my opener. Comics, yay.

I knew Greta SCACCHI but the spelling took awhile.

TACOMA came quick as I went through the Pacific Northwest cities around here.

I am wiped out and elated. I love puzzles. Bring it on, Walden.

Orange 2:02 AM  

Morning, suckas! It's the wee hours, and I am tempted to disagree with Rex's assessment of the puzzle as "medium-challenging." I thought it was mighty hard, and the applet times reflect a high degree of difficulty, too. Perhaps Rex has cracked the Byronic code and need not fear future puzzles by him?

Barry 7:08 AM  

Morning, folks!

I had a grand old time with this puzzle! Certainly challenging, but doable (for the most part) with lots of great AHA! moments when I figured out what the clues were really asking for. A few gimmes, such as Reed RICHARDS and RATS, but everything else was just a slow but steady slog. Probably took me close to 1/2 an hour, total.

I can't claim total victory, however, because I did have to resort to Mr. Google at the end to get 45A. I've never heard of Jon KYL and it certainly wasn't a name that could be guessed. I knew YAWL, but just couldn't remember it in time to be of any help. And with those two missing I just couldn't suss out 36D and 37D for the life of me. At the time, I also had SKIPAR__ for 39A and kept thinking the first word was SKIP instead of SKI.

Once I got Mr. KYL, however, the rest fell into place quickly. I dunno, maybe if I had stared at the puzzle long enough, the answers to 36S, 37D and 39D would have eventually come to me. In retrospect, they seem kind of obvious to me now. But part of the problem was that KYL just does not look like it could possibly be a real name.

Anyway, it was a truly great puzzle and no complaints from me.

SethG 7:54 AM  

Morning, homies!

I found this...not too bad, actually. Why I maybe got lucky:

I did about fifteen minutes and then slept, so I unintentionally attacked it in two sittings.

I knew the right stuff: Like Jon Kyl. And actually had REPS in place of SENS for a while 'cause I knew he was a Republican. He's actually the Minority Whip right now, which was my Halloween costume in maybe '98?.

I guessed right: CRAN, LAS, OBE, CLARETS, KETONE with no crosses made the upper left a breeze and gave me momentum.

I was lucky: I know Silver Spoons. We talked about Mongolia at dinner. Just tried to use AGHAST for an answer the other day.

I was on: SKYWROTE from the Y. HOLY SMOKE from the L. BRITON from the BRITxN. (My final letter.)

Ladel 8:14 AM  

Been solving NYT puzzles about thirty years now, can count on one hand the number of Saturday attempts that actually ended with a completed puzzle, that's pre and post Google, so my focus tends to wander a bit. Was reported by SI yesterday the Mr. Phelps consumes between 8 to 12 thousand calories each day to fuel his Olympic body, I wonder how many calories a world class solver should eat to maintain peak performance.


dk 8:28 AM  

I thought I was off an pacing with stopwatch and roulette... RATS. Once I knew pasta for Rigatoni was TUBES, an old girl friend was a Holly Golightly clone so I knew Ebsen, the terrible sounding TENURABLE fell into place. Then began my march to the sea.

The lower right with YAWL and YURT went well except I wanted swillale instead of TALLONES. Fixated on the thread drinking game I guess.

Great puzzle, my challenge was falling in love with the wrong answer(s). Reminds me of a movie with a meal and gem stones... wait its coming to me.

Off to tear up an old linoleum floor to be replaced with Marmoleum an eco-floor. Asbestos fibers for lunch... yum

dk 8:30 AM  

that would be off and pacing (Vernon Downs any of you upstaters)

jannieb 9:13 AM  

Wow - a two-cup Saturday puzzle. Definitely more challenging than medium. Got a bit of a toe-hold in each quadrant on the first pass, then slogged around in the NW, then NE, SW and lastly to the SE. Kept wanting to enter ski patrol, McClellan, and was completely taken in by fancy entrees. Well done Mr. Walden. A great Saturday!

PhillySolver 9:17 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
PhillySolver 9:23 AM  

Borrowing from the Tour de France, this one was beyond category for me. It sure looks nice after a number of Googles in order to discover the clever clues. I just had too many unknowns to get a foothold. ST. GERARD ? STRATON? RICHARDS? HERBARIA? MCPHERSON? I finally got KYL on my own, but that one seems obscure, too.

Add SKYWROTE (clever but not in the language) SLEEPSOFA (Sleeper sofa to me also) TUNURABLE (I was on a tenure track and never heard the word used this way). Put it all together and even understanding the Medium assessment since Saturdays are the hardest puzzles, it was totally Challenging to me.

Barry 9:32 AM  


Am I, like, the only person around here who has never heard of Jon KYL before? And by "never" I mean NEVER. I don't mean I heard it before and simply forgot or that it was on the tip of my tongue. I have honestly, truly never heard the man's name before. Or seen it, for that matter. It was completely unknown and completely unguessable.

I really should pay more attention to politics...

Ulrich 9:38 AM  

Three googles for me to do it--and I still do not understand the P at 32. Was held back b/c I refused to believe that the patron saint of pregnant women was not a woman herself. Didn't like "sleep sofa" (is there such a thing?).

But even with all of that (and more), I had enough lucky guesses that panned out in the end, as well as some vaguely remembered gimmes (I also have an irrational fear of rats, while spiders and snakes do not move me), that I'm not unhappy with my performance--nor with the puzzle, but that goes w/o saying for this constructor.

My new goal in life is to reach a point where I'm able to do a BW Saturday w/o googling.

joho 9:53 AM  

Until I came to this blog I didn't pay attention to constructors. Now that I do, I'm sure to beware of Mr. Walden. Like Ulrich I Googled three times -- something I call cheating -- but today I couldn't solve on my own which to me is the only true victory. Anyway, I really admire this puzzle and totally enjoyed doing it. My goal now is to solve a BW puzzle unassisted.

jannieb 9:55 AM  

BTW - Did I miss a memo? Rex, are you going to post your blog in the late evenings from now on? I sometimes check the blog one last time before shutting down the computer and have accidentally stumbled on the next day's puzzle. Inquiring minds want to know!

evil doug 10:11 AM  

I'm usually the contrarian voice here, but not today. I don't ordinarily note the puzzle builder, but I'll try to remember this fellow. Terrific puzzle that left a smile on my face with the clever clues and requirement to sift through several potential answers on many occasions.

When speaking over the radio, it's often difficult to distinguish letters or even words. The phonetic alphabet was designed with words serving as letters to make these transmissions clearer. "Alfa" (and that's the correct spelling in my experience, 'alpha' notwithstanding), bravo, charley...papa (pronounced pa-PA'), quebec (pronounced KAY'-beck), and so on.

Tenpoint, OH

Bill from NJ 10:18 AM  

My problem here was overthinking the clues, I was looking for a name for Columbus's ship, a food for fancy entrees, a fabulous resort for Vanderbilts island, something horseracing for 1A.

I was misdirected all over the lot and once I started going with my first instinct, I was all right. I knew all the names and crosses helped me out it a big way on this puzzle.

I was able to put together the NW ala Seth G with a lot of gimmes which produced TENURABLE, a word I never heard of.

Most of my problems came in the NE where I stared at many white spaces. I didn't know the BRITON spelling for the English which kept me away from RESIN which I knew to be right and it wasn't until I sussed out SLEEPSOFA that I caved on BRITON and that area fell.

The SE, on the other hand, was all instinct and I ws able to fill in that section Bada Bing, Bada Boom.

I found this puzzle essentially difficult until I adjusted my approach to it.

bill from fl 10:24 AM  

It's a rarity when I solve one that Orange thinks is hard. The NW was hard enough, but the NE nearly killed me. It only fell when I saw MSNBC with the help of the S in SLEEP SOFA. But I'm still confused by some of it. Why is a CONEY a corndog alternative? I thought it was a rabbit or something. And, like Ulrich, I had never heard of PAPA--I only learned afterwards that it's P in the "NATO phonetic alphabet," which I'd also never heard of. And, of course, I was delighted to learn that Myrrh is a RESIN.

ArtLvr 10:36 AM  

@ crosscan -- Me too, I did finish this without help! It took forever, but what a great feeling... I didn't have any distractions except a trio of fat raccoons finishing their fancy entrees in the garage, today being garbage pickup day. Talk about VIP's (my last fill) -- very impudent pests!

I had to tease out practically every single letter after gimmes of ARI, LAS, OBE, CLARETS, (and it wasn't even Costa "Rica"). Some of my byways included Rocky Mts for ROCKETTE, Tallyhos for TALL ONES, plus others only a mother could love.

Many thanks to Byron Walden for the masterwork!


chefbea1 10:42 AM  

A really tough Saturday puzzle!! Had to google a lot.

My daughter went to school with Ricky Schroeder - one of the Strattons.

My husband's favorite pasta is rigatones (as he calls them.)

Better go harvest all my mint, basil,oregano etc and make an/a herbarium.

joho 10:45 AM  

@billfromfl: Have you ever heard of Skyline? A CONEY is a hotdog on a bun covered in chili, finely shredded cheddar cheese and onions and mustard if you want them. Very famous in the Cincinnati area.

joho 10:49 AM  

Should have said Skyline Chili.

foodie 10:50 AM  

Well, Orange says it's challenging and who am I to disagree. Actually, I'm like Phillysolver on this one, it was beyond category, totally impossible without googling.

So, here's one thing I do know: A position is tenured, or is on the tenure track or in the tenure line. A person is tenurable if he or she meets the requirement for tenure when evaluation time comes.

Beyond the proper names cited by others, I had my own idiosyncratic challenges that made this like trying to climb the Himalayas without an iceax... I don't think I've ever eaten a corn dog or a coney-- may be this is grounds for taking away my foodie label or even possibly my hard earned US citizenship... So, ON A STICK" made sense only after the fact, and CONEY I'm assuming refers to a species of (hot) dogs in Coney Island. Goes to show all the cultural recesses that constantly need to be filled when you grow up elsewhere. I'm not complaining, I learn this way. So, now, I need to go find me a corn dog (while Elvis's voice is playing in my head-- You ain't nothin but a hound dog).

foodie 10:56 AM  

@Joho: ooh, thanks for the description of a Coney! Now I want one! And I'm glad that someone else did not know it either.

Anonymous 11:07 AM  

Hated this puzzle. There's a difference between hard and cruel. Thought this was on the wrong side of the line. Too much "who wrote this" junk.

Ulrich 11:08 AM  

@foodie: I'm another one who didn't know coneys--even googling for a definition brought up only fishes and animals. Had to add "hot dog" as keywords--after reading the comments above--to get a wiki article. The funny part is that they are (apparently) named after Coney Island (that was my guess. too), but unknown there--reminds me of hamburgers, which were also unknown in Hamburg until McDonalds moved in.

Orange 11:17 AM  

Ulrich, my mechanic shares your fear. He was totally freaked out when he discovered my check-engine light was on because a rat had chewed through a wire. Once there's rat evidence, I think he delegates the work to someone else at the garage. He couldn't even bring himself to tell me over the phone. (My car overnights in a lot down the block, so it's not as if I have rats in my garage to horrify me.)

Anonymous 11:21 AM  

Thank you thank you for translating TALLONES for me...kept trying to make ALE fit in there somehow. Got OHIO STATE right off the bat and am SO thankful that Vanderbilt grad Walden didn't add the THE.

Anonymous 11:21 AM  

Thank you thank you for translating TALLONES for me...kept trying to make ALE fit in there somehow. Got OHIO STATE right off the bat and am SO thankful that Vanderbilt grad Walden didn't add the THE.

Twangster 11:23 AM  

I also found this impossible. Even after googling was still short a few. Most devastating was that it was HOLYSMOKE, not HOLYMOLEY. Also, never heard of mail as a type of armor.

Pinky 11:28 AM  

1984 - Desperately wanted to fit SOMA in for RATS but no deal.

Wanted MSGs for ACCENT, which would have been more fun, deal.

Had LAKOTAS (not DAKOTAS) for a long time

Good Saturday Puzzle!

Joon 11:29 AM  

tough puzzle, obviously, but eminently solvable. the NW was thisclose to falling on the first pass, but after i filled in PASTA CRAN LAS OBE i knew there was something wrong... it never occurred to me to just take out PASTA and see what happens.

loved pretty much all the ? clues. i'm not sure there is a canonical name for SLEEPSOFA but that's certainly one of the ones i've heard, along with sleeper sofa and sofabed and fold-out sofa.

ulrich, there are incredibly few sainted women who are actually mothers. they (i'd say "we," but laypeople don't get much say in the matter) seem to have a bit of a virginity obsession when it comes to these things. i really wanted the answer to be STELIZABETH, whose pregnancy is actually a major plot element in luke's gospel. but no, it's gerard majella, somebody i've never heard of, despite what i thought was a more-than-passing knowledge of hagiography. oh well.

Ulrich 11:29 AM  

@orange: And reading the description of "death by rats" in 1984 played right into this fear--absolutely unforgettable in its gruesomeness: It's the only detail I remember after decades.

mustafa johnson 11:32 AM  

I don't think a fear of rats is irrational at all. Rodents in general and rats in particular carry diseases (like the plague...THE BUBONIC PLAGUE), so it's best to stay away from them. I think rats tend to be unfriendly as well, but maybe I'm just thinking of cartoons/Magic: The Gathering cards/movies on that one.

However there is one Russian guy (I think he may be dead now) who started breeding friendly rats back in...a while ago by taking the friendliest of an initial group and mating them together, then doing the same for multiple generations, and now those rats are incredibly friendly and unscary. There's potential for good in those (sort of) little beasts.

On the flip side, he also bred the meanest ones together for multiple generations and now they're not even let out of their cages for fear that they'll either bite the handler (to death?) or escape into the Russian sewer system and create a race of super mean rats. When they change their cages they essentially hook two cages together, remove a removable wall that separates the two, then replace it when they've moved into the new cage. I'm not sure why anyone would want to make really mean rats, but I suppose it's just to show that one could, from a starting population, make polar opposites of a single trait from artificial selection.

He also tried to domesticate foxes and wound up with something close to a dog in looks/temperament.

Norm 11:39 AM  

@twangster: think "chain mail" for "armor" -- remember frodo in the lord of the rings and that protective shirt of little links of whatever it was when they went through the mines of [i forget].

Shamik 12:02 PM  

Brilliant puzzle. My time was long, but i solved it completely. Won't list all my stops and starts. Brilliant.

miriam b 12:05 PM  

HOLYSMOKE, I can't believe I finished this awesome puzzle without help. It took two cups of chai. Lacking a YURT(s) or a YAWL, I had to GRABASEAT on my front porch. Wonderful solving experience.

I've never heard of a SHOTCLOCK before, nor was STRATTON familiar, nor - as a non-comics fan - did I know RICHARDS, but it's always nice to emerge from a solving session with yet more trivia on board.

As you say, Rex, Alice MUNRO merits greater recognition. She sometimes publishes in The New Yorker, as does Annie Proulx. They're both truly gifted writers (pace joon). Admittedly their stories are pretty dark, particularly Proulx's, and it can be harrowing to follow their characters to the awful fate, emotional or physical, which looms before them.

RATS was my first fill. I'm not nuts about them either.

JC66 12:53 PM  

Definitely challenging. Took me over an hour with four googles and many aha moments.

Great fun.

Karen 12:54 PM  

Norm, that would be mithril, which would be a great word to show up in the crossword some day. At least for me.

I thought 'drama' for Breakfast at Tiffany's and filled in IBSEN for my one mistake (and really, doesn't St Gerard look better? like Gil Gerard, of Buck Rogers.) Okay, for the first time now I connect the actor for the Tin Man with the Beverly Hillbilly. Weird.

The cage of RATS in 1984 made a big impression on my psyche.

Put me in the group with no knowledge of JON KYL.

Crosscan, by now you know the line of 36 were the kicking ROCKETTES.

joho 1:09 PM  

Just wondering, am I the only one who had TANKARDS for 37D at one point?

joho 1:33 PM  

@karen: the actor who played the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz was Jack Haley ... not Buddy Ebsen, unless maybe you're thinking of another Tin Man?

Bill from NJ 1:40 PM  


I travelled through Cincinnati in the 70s and used to eat at a Skyline's all the time. There was also another chain called Gold Star. I think they were referred to as Greek Chili Parlors and you could order your Coney's 3,4 and 5 ways, depending on what you wanted on it.

I ordered mine 3 ways- cheese, chili and onions.

Somebody here in South Jersey opened what he called Cincinnati Chili several years ago but it did not take.

Christ, here I am talking food

fikink 2:03 PM  


foodie 2:08 PM  

Ok, I feel honor bound to say something positive about rats. I'm talking about the lab rats in particular, and I would say humanity and the rest of the animal kingdom owe them a great deal, both for medical discoveries and behavioral analysis. Mice are equally important (especially for genetic studies). And all rats are not created equal. Some are friendly, can be handled if you pet them, make good mothers, and get bummed out if their cage partners change, whereas others are nasty, aggressive, prone to take drugs and alcohol but are also adventuresome and risk-taking. You can breed these (human-like) traits in them. I understand that the wild ones are on the nasty end of things. But have you ever seen feral cats? They can be terrifying.

Okay, okay, rats did carry the bubonic plague, but not by choice, and IMO, they have since redeemed themselves.

jae 2:09 PM  

Very challenging for me also but doable with a little spelling help from my bride. So much I didn't know --STRATTON, RICHARDS, GERARD, MUNRO, HERMAN, and more. So, I pretty much guessed my way through this one. I think the key for me for very tough puzzles like this one is making good guesses. Oddly, I've found my ability to guess right improves as I solve more and more puzzles. Kinda like how you get to Carnegie Hall...practice, practice ...

Great puzzle by the way!

dk 2:15 PM  

@fikink, generally speaking, "hello sailor" will do ;)

@bill from nj, yes you are speaking food so now I must quaff a TALLONE before returning to floor tearing up duty.

@joho, you know of coneys as well (insert heavy sigh about here).

Alan 2:19 PM  

Perfect example of the Natick rule. Also perfect example of Will Shortz's philosophy ie. give them enough trivia they'll think it's difficult and beg for more.Could not be done without googling. Bring back Ferrar,Maleska, and Weng.

jlsnyc228 2:27 PM  

a one-sitting byron sans google = one terrific saturday. not sayin' it was easy, cuz it weren't. but managed to get all the fill from the crosses so i'm not complainin'! like miriam, my first fill/gimme was "rats." ditto karen for the psychological imprint factor... ;-)

btw, buddy ebsen did play the tinman. but very briefly and it almost, um, cut him down permanently.

and as for "hop" -- oh, boy, that's authentic. take a look at this #1 hit from 1957 by danny and the juniors.

cheers, all --


fikink 2:31 PM  

@dk, well played, my friend!

Anonymous 2:33 PM  

@ joho

I'm too lazy to Google, but I seem to recall reading that Buddy Ebsen was originally supposed to be the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, but he was terribly allergic to the aluminum makeup and they had to get someone else for the part.

evil doug 2:45 PM  

re: Cincinnati chili....

The small dogs doused in chili---"coneys"---are actually kind of a side dish. The star of the show is the chili spaghetti.

Start with a pile of noodles; ladle on the chili; then top with a huge handful of shredded cheddar, and you've got what's known as a "three-way". A "four-way" adds either beans or diced onions, while a "five-way" includes both.

The chili---brought to Cincy by Greek families, and nothing like Tex-Mex---is rumored to include cinnamon and even chocolate. It can be an acquired taste, but it's terrific comfort food on a brisk winter day.

Skyline is the best known purveyor, but Gold Star, Dixie and Empress are also popular regional brands.

Lotsanapkins, OH

Anonymous 2:49 PM  

I'm so pleased with myself to have finished the puzzle all by my little old lonesome. Took me a long time, but I got there :)

Keep in mind people, this is the New York Times....not the Cincinnati Times.....I think we're talking coneys like the hot dogs at Coney Island and Staten Island always smells like garbage because it has a mile high garbage dump for the city of New York on it. Knew there were lots of mob figures with mansions on the island, but I think Vanderbilt was there pre-dump.

Anonymous 2:57 PM  

@billfromnj: You're absolutely right about Skyline. I'm new to this area and just recently learned that a Greek family originated their special menu. I, too, always order the 3-way.

@dk: Are you yearning for a Coney?

@jlsmy228 & anon 2:33: I just learned something. I never knew Buddy Ebsen to be the Tin Man. Sounds like it almost killed him!

evil doug 3:01 PM  

Any Mouse:

Don't knock the Cincy chili talk. It could've been beets, rats or exponential math running away with the dialogue.

"Knowledge is good": Emil Faber


Bill from NJ 3:39 PM  
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andrea carla michaels 3:43 PM  

Great puzzle...
but some weird moments...even tho I knew SCACCHI as my first answer (love her, where has she gone? Saw her in a tiny Henry Jaglom film a year or two ago but not since)
I had trouble spelling her name so at one point I had DAKOTA where TACOMA is and then later got DAKOTA elsewhere, so knew that couldn't be right!

I still want to know if others have that phenomenon where you put in a completely wrong answer early on and it turns out to be the right answer elsewhere.

I mean, I hadn't understood the Drift Prairie clue, I suck at geography and had the K (from ONASTICK my second answer, as I am from Minneosta and the state fair has EVERYTHING on a stick, even salad!) so I put in ESKIMOS.
And I KNOW the Pacific railroad couldn't end in Dakota, but still!

So it's freaky where one mistake becomes another answer and that happens to me all the time.


joho 3:49 PM  

@evil doug: hear hear!

@andrea carla michaels: It's happened to me for years. I come up with an answer that's wrong only to find out it's right in another part of the puzzle.

Crosscan 3:55 PM  

Can we call the unexpected appearance of a wrong answer an "Andrea"?

Are we still doing that?

Bill from NJ 3:56 PM  

@evil doug-

Thanks for bringing my memories into sharp focus - I was reminicising about things that went back 30 years.

@anonymous 2:49-

On the other hand, at least they relate to the puzzle at hand.

Noam D. Elkies 4:12 PM  

All I know from "scacchi" is that it's Italian for "chess" (or the chess sense of "check").

foodie 4:30 PM  

@ Andrea, re this phenomenon you describe of coming up with the right word but elsewhere in the puzzle, here's a hypothesis: I think it's because one is resonating to some implicit association in the constructor's mind. These associations are manifested in sub-themes that are noted by Rex and others even in themeless puzzles. But this resonance can also be based on word structure not just meaning associations-- rare letters that appear repeatedly in a puzzle (K, Q, and especially Z's, etc) may tap into a more limited pool of associations on both the constructor's and the solver's end, increasing the odds of pulling out the word but not in the right spot. Hope I'm making sense...

tarheel 4:41 PM  

I thought there were far too many proper names in this puzzle. Poor construction. And I have been dismayed by the trend to a greater number of movie and TV names in the NYT puzzle in the past year. Is this what 'general knowledge' means in the 21st century, or it just a ploy to make the puzzle more accessible? Whatever, it's getting very tiresome.

fergus 5:15 PM  

I was just reading about Mongolia and how locals insisted on the term GER and not YURT, like everyone else says. But I was desperate to fill in anything other than the odd S, though I did have TACOMA and OSAKA. (They are now sister cities.) Nearly every other square caused letters to rattle around both sides of my brain.

Almost needless to day but this was a sizzling Saturday puzzle, stretching the limits in both Clue and ANSWER.

Rex Parker 5:25 PM  


Your complaint is common of ... let's say "old" people. It gets voiced every couple of weeks. "Too many proper nouns." You are ignorant about what millions of people do indeed have as part of their "general knowledge," and you're probably not used to having your ignorance pointed out. Just embrace your ignorance instead of whining about it and blaming the puzzle. Jump in - the ignorance water's fine. I don't like having to know obscure science baloney, but there it is - that's my cross to bear.

And you're only saying "poor construction" bec. you got pwn3d. Look it up.


Norm 5:39 PM  

Well ... I think @tarheel and anonymous@11:07 have reasons to gripe about this one than up-to-the-moment Rex was willing to credit. If someone wrote a puzzle based on 19th century English lit, I bet you'd have howls of protest. I don't mind current references (I'm not a movies/People magazine fan but I try to keep aware of enough to do these puzzles), but you ought to have a chance of sussing them from the crosses. This one had a bit too many for my taste (check my time at Orange's place if you want to know why I think so), and I think we need a variant on the Natick rule.

fergus 5:52 PM  

The RATS from 1984 didn't register with me. All I really remember from that novel, which I read in the winter of the appropriate year in an attic in Toronto, was Winston's consternation about the ulcer on his leg. It's a book whose importance is overrated, but that's only because it had such a big impact. Sort of like complaining about cliches in Shakespeare ... .

Corn dog anecdote: my son, who is now a quasi-Buddhist, virtual fruitarian 12 year-old, was curious about that product that came ON A STICK, half his life ago. He took a bite or two, then surreptitiously hid the offending item under the seat. At least six months later, for that is how often I clean my car, I found a perfectly preserved specimen. Only the stick showed any sign of deterioration.

fergus 6:02 PM  

PS I like Rex's Stoical acceptance of areas outlying his field of knowledge. The obscure names were not pleasing to me as a smug solver today, but I've learned not to direct that displeasure anywhere else.

Rex Parker 6:02 PM  

What, exactly, was unfair about this puzzle?


foodie 6:31 PM  

The issue of fairness has come up a number of times before and I'd like to say this about that:

In my view, the concept of fair (meaning consistent with rules, logic, or ethics) can only be applied to the puzzle in terms of formal rules of construction and factual accuracy of the clues.

Otherwise, this is a totally optional construction and our solving it is an equally optional exercise. Nothing depends on it, in the way an exam needs to be fair. So, IMO, all content/knowledge is open for usage by the constructor. Even if the puzzle were made up of nothing but a mesh of Naticks, we might hate it, but it would still be fair if the above criteria are met. And if, as was the case today, someone can solve it in matter of minutes and I cannot, then I figure it's not the puzzle's problem.

fergus 7:28 PM  

Foodie's got such a keen insight on it all. The fairness issue that Rex refers to, I think may be located in the 'prettiness' factor appended to this hairy beast of a puzzle. The grid was visually amazing, but there was some lip-syncing in the Clues.

KarmaSartre 7:38 PM  

@foodie -- You may want to limit "all content/knowledge" to primarily "in English".

PuzzleGirl 7:39 PM  

I just want to give foodie a big AMEN.

@joon: Maybe you could make a website for people to reminisce about the Good Old Maleska Days

Norm 7:52 PM  

@foodie has the right take on it and, Rex, I don't think I (or anyone else, altho' I haven't gone back thru' all the comoments to make sure) said it was "unfair." I think we're actually talking about matters of taste. I did not care for today's puzzle, and I can understand others who felt the same way.

dk 7:56 PM  

err, ahh, well.. can you use puzzle and fair together.

@foodie, you go grrrrlll.

And, whomever mentioned it a puzzle based on 19th century lit would be find be me. May we explore the death of god theme in Moby Dick, please?

@fergus, at the MN Statefair -- tell your son I think they have enlightenment on a stick.

Have I mentioned I love (in the literal sense) this blog site.

Fair in a puzzle (insert the Jokers laugh about here).

jannieb 7:59 PM  

@foodie - my sentiments exactly!

Joon 8:03 PM  

puzzlegirl, i do take requests. i'll open up my forum to the neomaleskans.

chefbea1 8:39 PM  

@fergus lol lets all eat corn dogs maybe with a side of beets

green mantis 8:42 PM  

Ha ha ha yeah Fergus tell your son to have the hot dog lady make him one with everything. Zing!

Sorry. Anyway, I can't pass up an opportunity to praise Alice Munro. My all-time favorite short story writer, and my secret inspiration/hero figure. That lady had a bunch of kids to raise and just quietly wrote award-winning fiction for decades. Truly breathtaking work, in such a low-key, beautiful style. I always get that buoyant, slightly breathless feeling at the end of her stories, as if the story and the emotion inside it just kind of leap off a cliff into white air and hang there. It's writing full of edges and space in equal parts, perfectly balanced.

fergus 8:49 PM  

She's doing almost what Joyce did in Dubliners. Bedside, I have her collection, Open Secrets, waiting to be read.

Orange 9:13 PM  

Miriam mentioned short stories in the New Yorker. There's a recent one in which a widower gets a pet snake, gets a rat to feed to the snake, then finds the rat cuddly. It'd be fine if he stopped there, but he bought some more rats. They bred. Ulrich, do not seek out this story!

You know who likes Cincinnati-style chili? Byron Walden himself. My god, can he polish off a heap of chili, spaghetti, and all the toppings. (My local chili joint, Chili Mac on Broadway in Chicago, offers the Cincinnati five-way option. I like the turkey chili, no noodles, with cheese and beans on top. Yum!)

fergus 9:26 PM  

Orange, that recent story was not one of the best by another great current writer, T.C. Boyle. He's not quite up to Annie and Alice standard, but he is extremely good on most occasions. I haven't read any of his novels ; is he Irish or just a cool American guy who lives near Santa Barbara?

chefbea1 9:44 PM  

@orange nothing better than the chili mac at steak and shake. Grew up on it in St. Louis.

Doc John 10:03 PM  
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Doc John 10:04 PM  

I liked the puzzle today. Lots of twisty clues. Finished unassisted in about an hour- not bad for a Saturday, especially for a Walden Saturday!

In my crossworld view, a puzzle is fair if all the clues point to their answers, however obscure they may be. Other than for SLEEP SOFA, which was a little out there but still in bounds, this puzzle was eminently fair. Stop whining if you don't know names or whatever. Keep doing puzzles and in time you will learn them or will learn how to make a good guess at what certain letters might be. Hey, I even knew what YURTS were this time!

Nice to see my name in the puzzle- well, sort of. The saint's name is my last name.

As for CONEYS, maybe you've heard of a little hot dog stand called... Nathan's? Also, if you're familiar with Sonic, at every one I've been to there's a neon sign in front that says "Coneys". That's what they call their hot dogs.

Mmm, Skyline Chili! There was a small place around the corner from me here in San Diego called CinCity Chil which had that type of food. Lasted about six months. Must really be a regional thing.

Missteps: drank ale for TALL ONES, cuddle for NESTLE, play for PLOY.

Fave clue: [36D. Used lofty words?]=SKYWROTE

Rex Parker 10:23 PM  


Read your own comment. You said we should have a chance at sussing out crossings. This implies you didn't have that chance, which implies lack of fairness. You even invoked the Natick Principle. I want examples. From this puzzle. Taste is not my point here.

And I love foodie, but I completely disagree with her, and thankfully, editors do too. Of course there are unfair crossings. And if you saw them All The Time, you would begin to hate the puzzle; in fact, people just wouldn't do them. Editors work very, very hard to make sure that even very difficult puzzles don't contain near-impossible crosses, and we should all thank them for it. It's damned hard work to calibrate the puzzle, and to make it hard but not undoable for seasoned solvers.

I do however agree with foodie that the general principle when criticizing puzzles should be: consider the vastness of your own ignorance. This doesn't mean you can't wail in pain or frustration, but open yourself up to possibility that stuff you don't know might be worth knowing. OK, maybe NSYNC isn't going to lead you on a path to moral or spiritual enlightenment or benefit your mind or soul in any way, but neither is ADIT. ADIT just leads to a dark hole in the ground and possibly black lung.


Bill from NJ 10:30 PM  


Just a cool American kid who lives in Santa Barbara. He changed his name from Thomas
John Boyle to T Coraghessan Boyle when he just a kid.

About 20 years ago, I read his first collection of short stories Descent of Man and was hooked. His novel The Road to Wellville will make you rethink your position on Kellog's Corn Flakes (if you have one.

He's in the English Department at USC and has been for the last 30 years

fergus 10:31 PM  

Dr. John,

Since I know San Diego pretty well, I am curious about where you are situated? As I mentioned before, I'm a graduate of La Jolla High, but understandably, the Berkeley experience rather trumped that. My parents found a refuge from there in Hillcrest in 1979, prior to it becoming a gay central zone.

I love going over the Coronado bridge, playing golf, where on the 11th and 15th holes in 1987, my card would read one.

fergus 10:38 PM  

Bill in Jersey,

Thank you for that bit of information, yet I hoped he was more of a renegade,

Rex Parker 10:46 PM  


Please, please respect the three-comment rule. This chatting among a few people is out of control. It may seem no big deal to you, but it's off-putting to Lots of people who think the comments section is just for a cliquish group of insiders. Most of the chatter is super dull and not related to the crossword. Get each other's emails and Go Off Site if you want to have an extended chatty back-and-forth. Consider whether what you are saying will be relevant or interesting to Anyone besides yourself and your interlocutor. I need to keep this site and the Comments section fresh and interesting to Lots of people. Help me out! 3 and out. Remain in the proximity of the puzzle. That is all.


fergus 10:51 PM  

Rex, as a most recent offender, I will abide by your rules.

Orange 11:12 PM  

BTW, if you haven't clicked on Joon's link for an open forum for Maleskans, try it. I wasn't disappointed!

I meant to append a Bill from NJ-esque "christ, now I'm talking about food" to my previous comment.

fikink 12:17 AM  
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Crosscan 12:19 AM  
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Crosscan 12:19 AM  

23+ hours after I (almost) started all this, some closing comments.

This was a hard but fair puzzle. I think that is what we all want, although based on our personal skill level, it may occur on a different day of the week. It was not very long ago when I didn’t even attempt Saturdays.

This year I have had only 2 unassisted perfect Saturdays and I was determined to make today number 3, no matter how long it took, to prove it can be done. And it can.

Never heard of some answers like KYL and MCPHERSON but crossings and logic sussed them out. It means we learn something new. I learn other new things from reading Rex.

3 and out.

fikink 12:43 AM  

s/h/b "kitsch"

Anonymous 12:53 AM  

I liked this puzzle. It was challenging. So I had to google some answers. Fine. I learned some things. It may not be rocket science or Latin derivations or French literature, but it's still learning new things. And thinking. And putting letters together, etc., etc.

And that is fun!

Kathy D.

fikink 12:56 AM  

@right on, Kathy D!
Viva la revolucion!

acme 1:51 AM  

I know no one is ever up this late reading by the time I get around to chiming in, but I think this is an important discussion.

To be "fair", I kind of felt what Norm was talking about when I took my first pass at today's puzzle.
(And you know I lovvvve Byron)

Seeing ""Silver Spoons" family name" (a show that is hardly a classic) crossed with a comic book character I had never heard of, plus three geographical clues: DAKOTAS, TACOMA, OSAKA
(the latter two you would have in turn needed to know SCACCHI, whom is impossible to spell even if you know exactly who she is) + PAPA whom even evil Doug knew not, ASIMOV's obscure work and McPHERSON.

I mean it's obviously solvable, as we all seemed to have managed,
(it took me about a half an hour) but there WAS something about that STRATTON/RICHARDS crossing, tho hardly a Natick, that DID feel more zeroed-in on folks your age/interests than what may have traditionally been the average NY Times solver...
which makes sense bec you and Byron share a lot of the same demographic information.

Those of us outside that demographic (which seems to be increasing as the constructors lately seem to be teenaged boys and lots of 20-yr old guys(besides the venerable Ms Tracy)
so we may feel it more acutely than those of you who are not 20-40 years OLDER than the constructor.
(No matter how hip we try and still be!)

Yes, a constructor is free to do as s/he pleases, and the editor works to temper that, and it's all A LOT more arbitrary and personal and subjective than sometimes we'd like to admit...on BOTH the constructor's and editor's part...

From my perspective, again as both solver and constructor, it CAN feel very white boy, 20/30-something...
(Same is true about the writers on Jeopardy! Same is true when you play/write other trivia gameshows).

I don't mean this as too whiny and bitter, or as a feminist diatribe (or maybe I do) but the rules have ALWAYS been established by whatever the mostly white BOYS thought was interesting/hard/easy/funny.
They become the standard you have to abide by if you want to "play" too. I swear I speak from a s*&(load of experience in this area.

(That's even a bit true in how these crossword tournaments have been set up. Just the fact that speed is such an important element)

Girls can play too, and there are ALWAYS exceptions to the rules,
BUT as an "older woman" who has managed to be a sort of member of a lot of different boys clubs (chess, standup, gameshow writing and NY Times construction to a certain extent) I say we are still up against "it" explaining to Will, (or whomever) who, say, Hello Kitty is, than Byron might be about who Reed Richards is, or to Peter G who Cool "papa" Bell is.

Know what I'm saying?
(Bec I sure as hell don't, but I feel like I do!)

Rex Parker 2:37 AM  

Well, Cool "Papa" Bell is neither white nor 20-40 years old. I'm not sure I buy that the puzzle has gender bias (your "Hello Kitty" experience aside). I know that the world of constructors and (esp.) editors is a total sausage fest, yes, and have bemoaned the fact multiple times before. But women seem to do just fine on the puzzle, from what I can tell.

Reed RICHARDS, while still current, has been around for four decades, so he's not (just?) a young man's answer.

Orange 9:23 AM  

The comic book world is probably even more of a sausage fest than crosswords. I sure didn't know Reed RICHARDS. Mary Richards, an iconic character. Reed Richards, a big "who?"

Walden 3:51 PM  

Just found your blog after giving up on the NE corner.
Some impressive solvers here.
Well done.

Walden 3:51 PM  
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Yancy 1:04 PM  

Whew, this was quite the puzzle.
Was thrown by the on the run and spiritedly, on scores till I wised up.
Should have gotten St. Gerard off the bat as my first job has at a school named after this saint.
And, another day thinking about the great Minnesota get-together with the onastick fill.

PPSolver 8:11 PM  

I live in Portland, Oregon and the daily puzzle is usually three weeks in transit to the left coast. I have only one quibble with this one: All my dictionaries have "tenurial" as the adjectival form of tenure. Made up words do not a hard puzzle make.

cody.riggs 11:44 PM  

I liked this puzzle, though it took me a LONG time. The only answer I found foul was SKYWROTE. I mean, really: DID SKYWRITING, maybe. Can you really conjugate that noun, or "verb" it, as Calvin (Hobbes's buddy) would say?

But better than the Daily crossword on the same day. It had ENSKY as [elevate to the heavens]. Truly awful, that was.

A funny mistake I had: Put STOPCLOCK in at 1a, not knowing the basketball term. This gave me TERRARIA as 2d [Mint preserves], a perfectly reasonable answer. Except that made 19a ERSEN, which was fine for all I knew. Never saw "Bkfast at Tiff's" though I do know Buddy EBSEN.

...The real problem is that STOPCLOCK resulted in [Rigatoni, e.g.] being PUBES.

Pity the one whose would resemble said pasta. ok, BREAKFAST TABLE!!! or should I say, BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY's TABLE!!!

Another funny: I told my partner the clue for 37d, "Hoisted quaffs." He immediately replied: BEEHIVES, understanding it aurally as "Hoisted COIFS." I was so proud!

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