SATURDAY, Mar. 7, 2009 - J Krozel (Undercover Playboy bunny 1963 / Money-changer's profit / W.W. I battle locale near Belgian border / Bygone boomers)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Not sure I'd call it a "theme," but unchecked letters act as compass points, with N in the north, E in the east, S in the south, and W in the west

Word of the Day:

AGIO (plural agios)

  1. The premium or percentage on a better sort of money when it is given in exchange for an inferior sort. The premium or discount on foreign bills of exchange is sometimes called agio. (wiktionary)
When I saw opened this puzzle and saw the unchecked letters and the grid with infinite symmetries, I got a little worried that I would once again be forced to dine on a joyless technical marvel. But the whole "look-at-me" appearance of the grid is a bit of a fake-out - the puzzle is a rather enjoyable Saturday puzzle with no real gimmick beyond the compass points, which are kind of cute. They certainly made the puzzle easier to solve - once I got that "W," I went and filled in the N, E, and S right away. Started at a nice, longish gimme in LOU REED (24D: "Walk on the Wild Side" singer), which led immediately to RUN (35A: Continuous series) and UNC (32D: Family moniker). I blanked at first on 31A: Pitcher Orlando Hernandez's nickname, even though I have watched him pitch often. I knew that I knew the answer, I just needed a little mind-jogging. Once I allowed for the possibility that the adjective coming down from 2D: Not perfectly round (ovoidal) might end in "AL," I had the "L" which made me remember the "EL" part of "EL DUQUE" - and then I was off to the races. Actually, in post-tournament mode I'm not racing much. I still have a deliberate stride, but I'm trying actually to see the whole puzzle. When I finished puzzles in the tournament, I often couldn't remember more than two or three details about it, even immediately after I'd finished. Freaky.



"THEME" answers:

  • 1A: Drug combination? (mortar and pestle) - OK, I get that old-timey pharmacists ground drug combinations using a MORTAR AND PESTLE, but are these a "drug combination" in that they are a "combination" (there are two things) used to make "drugs?" The trickiness feels stretched thin.
  • 14D: One set for a future wedding? (engagement stone) - Had the ENGAGEMENT part, but had to wait on the rest. I was not aware this was a phrase that one used.
  • 62A: Doesn't get wrapped up well? (ends on a sour note) - came to me ridiculously quickly. I think I had most of ENDS and this was the first phrase I threw across.
  • 1D: Not taken to the cleaners? (machine washable) - hey, these are all "?"- interesting.
I think this took me just a bit longer than yesterday's puzzle - somewhere in the 11-12 minute range. It seemed easier than it might have, perhaps, because I'd just solved three "Cranium-Crushing" Frank Longo puzzles earlier in the evening. If you want to get better at late-week themelesses, his collection is highly recommended. His puzzles run from tough to ridiculously tough. A great, if relentless, puzzle collection that will teach you the virtue of patience whether you like it or not.

What I liked about today's puzzle, among other things, is that the stuff I didn't know at all (particularly names) had unimpeachable crosses. Didn't know LON (45A: _____ Morris College, in Jacksonville, Tex.), which sounds both tiny and impossibly regional, but the Downs allowed me to piece it together. Didn't know IAN (36A: "Lost" Emmy nominee Henry _____ Cusick), but again, Downs save the day. What do you call words that you kind of know, or have a vague sense of, but don't feel great about until you've gotten every cross? Whatever you call them, ARGONNE was one for me today (7D: W.W. I battle locale near the Belgian border). Same thing with LEA (22A: River that meets the Thames at London). Both are foreign place names I know I've seen before, but ... they seemed slightly shaky until I had them held firmly in place by crosses.

I love today's cast of characters. Seems a varied and fascinating group, one that would make for a genuinely interesting dinner party. I would love to hear Samuel BECKETT (56A: "Krapp's Last Tape" playwright) and Gloria STEINEM (33A: Undercover Playboy bunny of 1963) RIP INTO (58A: Chew out), or hear EL DUQUE tell ARSENIO (42D: First name in late-night talk, once), "You're my IDOL" (23A: Very hot star), while RIC Flair (21D: Pro wrestler Flair) and Calvin TRILLIN (12D: Longtime columnist for The Nation) try to convince LOU REED to pick up his STRAT (47A: Electric guitar model, familiarly) and play "Satisfaction" with DEVO (which would be awesome, by the way) (53D: Band that famously remade "Satisfaction" on its first album). Bebe DANIELS (53A: Bebe who co-starred in "The Maltese Falcon," 1931) is not there because I have no idea who she is. Maybe there is a poster of her on the wall somewhere.



Two more things: a. DEVO gets name-checked in "Watchmen" (the comic). I will find out tomorrow if that (and other things) make it into the movie (no spoilers!). And b. I never thought about the similarities of STRAT and STRAD until today, when the latter showed up in one puzzle I did, and then the former showed up here. Abbreviations for famous kinds of stringed instruments, with only one letter's difference between them. I like that.

Bullets:

  • 27A: Players that replaced Minis (Nanos) - one of a handful of gimmes today. I have a NANO. It's red.
  • 51A: Bygone boomers (SSTs) - another gimme, though I confess my first thought involved people born in the post-war era who are now dead.
  • 61A: Dweller along Lake Volta (Ghanian) - ah "Dweller," one of the great cluing words, up there with "locale" and "bygone". I had BAHRAINIAN in another puzzle last night, so I was prepared for the long national adjective.
  • 5D: Money-changer's profit (agio) - I've seen it before, but completely forgot it and needed every cross to be sure. I guess that puts it in the same category with ARGONNE and LEA. Only moreso. Not sure what I mean by that, but there it is.
  • 9D: It may be received after sweeping (prize) - uh ... don't like this, in that the World Series Championship (and other titles one might win after sweeping a series) is not a "PRIZE." Or, rather, it is, but the word feels too trifling. It suggests something you'd get in a Cracker Jacks box, not a gigantic spiky trophy.
  • 10D: Sedative target, with "the" (edge) - Loooooove this. Brilliant.


  • 26D: Upright relatives (spinets) - ever feel like you're being haunted by a word? Like you're seeing it way more than you used to, and more than any ordinary person rightly should? That is how I feel about SPINETS.
  • 38D: Legalese adverb (therein) - Had THERETO, which seems more legalesey to me.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

70 comments:

Megan P 8:54 AM  

Yay Krozzie - what a gorgeous grid, and with cardinal points thoughtfully included for the directionally challenged (like myself.)

No help today from the Simpsons, so the puzzle was hard.

It took almost 45 minutes, but maybe I got my picture back.

Rex Parker 9:03 AM  

Picture back.

Based on Google searches today, I would say the "famously" part of the DEVO clue is slightly off the mark.

Crosscan 9:08 AM  

40+ minutes for me as well, but a perfect solution, despite lots of stuff I don't know.

I misread 26D as UpTight relatives, and tried to enter in-laws. Not saying why.

Also tried to start 1D with WASH... so that took a long time to sort out.

Thought 14D ended in TENT.

DANIELS? TRILLIN? ARGONNE? OVIODAL? This is a puzzle saved by crossings.

I'm not going to END ON A SOUR NOTE - Krozel rocks again.

retired_chemist 9:19 AM  

Oh, easy(-medium) for Leonardo. A nightmare for me. Toughest all year so far. By far.

I read 39D hastily and incorrectly as "some navels" - looked for a noun and had ORANGES. This would have been made impossible by BECKETT (56A), which I couldn't recall. Eventually resolved, but with Google as a crutch for Beckett. I herewith call a 5 yard delay of game on myself.

41A UNLEARN sounds, well, ungainly at best. OK, it's in the dictionary, but still.....

Never heard of STRAT (47A). Google finds also a STRAD guitar, but not electric.

EL DUQUE (31A)- totally unfamiliar. Another Google. LOU REED ditto and ditto.

12D was BRESLIN for a long time, resolved in favor of TRILLIN by SLOGging through, albeit without the help of SLOG (26A) as a cross.

Even my wife, who is my muse of non-classical music, didn't know DEVO (53D). Bebe DANIELS? Really? If you say so. At least it was a name, and it gave me the D in DEVO.

And so forth. Thank you. I feel better now.

Wade 9:25 AM  

I thought this was a really gorgeous puzzle. I almost hated to do it just because the empty grid was so pretty. I did it last night while watching "Wordplay" (I'd seen it before but wanted to watch it again now that I am more familiar with some of the people who appear in it) and had just seen the part where Merl Reagle explains the rules of American crosswords, including the rule that every letter has to cross another. When I saw the four orphaned letters in the grid of today's puzzle, I told my wife, "This is huge. Historic. The crossword world will be atwitter tomorrow. There's not been anything this revolutionary since the rotationally unsymmetric puzzle of a few months ago." That's a historical re-enactment and dialogue may have been embellished for dramatic purposes.

Orange 9:48 AM  

Wade, I hope you took some time to watch the Wordplay main menu screen. Every half minute or so, the video loop circles back to my Famous Curtsey.

Those of you who've never read Calvin TRILLIN should check him out if you like your humor to be dry, droll, and quirky. I'm partial to Travels With Alice, in which Calvin, wife Alice, and their daughters travel Europe and eat good food.

Campesite 10:10 AM  

I've got to take another look at Wordplay to see Orange's curtsey. My kind of puzzle: Steinem crossing Trillin.

bigredanalyst 10:22 AM  

I agree with retired_chemist that this was the toughest puzzle of the year. Even after entering EL DUQUE as my first answer (I live in NYC) and quickly getting most of the words surrounding him.

The E came reasonably quickly (although I also tried BRESLIN rather than TRILLIN -- whom I never heard of -- at 12D).

They nada, nothing, zilch for most of the W.

Even after Googling to get BECKETT.

And checking here for MACHINEWASHABLE.

I was still stumped on way too much.

So score one for Krozel.

I "receive" nothing because the only thing I "swept" was the floor after conceding defeat.

Kurt 10:27 AM  

I, too, loved the puzzle. But easy-medium??? Not for me. This was flat out difficult. I got 'er done with no Googling, but I now have a bald spot from all of that head scratching.

Great puzzle. Great grid. Great cluing. Medium hair loss.

What a good week it has been! Thanks Commander Shortz.

joho 10:33 AM  

Wow, I am amazed that I finished without help, correctly. I guess I have to agree with Rex that this was easy-medium because of that fact.

My only real stopping points were tend for HEED and tar for TIN. Once I got those sorted out I was able to complete the puzzle. I had a reright at LINEONE because it seemed too simple an answer at first.

I just loved this puzzle! I was excited when I saw Joe Krozel at the top and was rewarded with his expertise and sense of fairness.

What a week this was! Every single day brought us an excellent solving experience!

archaeoprof 10:51 AM  

Easy-medium for #44 in the world, but much harder for us mere mortals. I had 13 write-overs.

Learned AGIO from doing business with moneychangers in the middle east.

Great finish to a strong week. Thanks to all the constructors and to Will Shortz!

And of course, to Rex, the founder of the feast.

Doug 10:55 AM  

1 vote for "ass kicking" difficulty. I like how these long answers just come to Rex, the way the gimmees come to me.

I liked the musical answers, but had to turn off Devo. They were amusing when I was a teen but just annoying now. I've been enjoying the U2 bits on Letterman every night this week. Their Top 10 List.

twangster 11:03 AM  

Great puzzle.

retired_chemist 11:09 AM  

Echo the enthusiasm for this week's puzzles. Even including this one, humbling though it was for me.

mac 11:11 AM  

I lost a whole day to what I think was a form of food poisoning (we had to stop at this little Cuban place for lunch....) but I did do yesterday's puzzle and liked it a lot, as much as I liked today's. This one had a lot of names and words I didn't know but I still got the whole thing without mistakes, and with a lot of happy Aha moments. It has been one great puzzle week, but maybe I'm still on a high because of the tournament.

What are minis and nanos? I also
considered oranges for 39d, and doesn't Ghanaan make sense? Good thing I had heard of Arsenio. Believe it or not, Strat(ocaster) was a gimme, we have one in the house, plus a few other big named ones.

Off into windy South Beach to look for a decent bookstore and "Travels with Alice".

Leon 11:17 AM  

Fabulous puzzle Mr. Krozel. My rating: WHOOOO!

Here's Bebe as Wonderly and Dwight Frye as Wilmer in the 1931 version of the Falcon. Frye played Renfield in Dracula and Fritz - don't call me Igor - in Frankenstein.

evil doug 11:20 AM  

Best week ever? Got my vote. Two hours or more today, including multi-tasking with Law And Order reruns on.

I measure a puzzle's defense by the number of scratched-out answers, and I count about 25 of my squares that required editing from two to six times: ATD->ETD->ATA->ETA->ARR, for example.

Stratocaster: What a glorious name for an icon. A salute to that product manager or ad exec.

Speaking of "Gloria-ous": Steinem looked fine in that Bunny costume.

Speaking of hot: Some piercing is, but not navels or tongues.

Evil

SethG 11:21 AM  

I'm pretty sure I learned about turducken from Calvin TRILLIN. I'm very sure I learned about alternate side parking from him. (Here is an alternate-side-parking blog.)

A whole lot I didn't know, but I was somehow able to piece everything together anyway. (In an average Saturday time.) Got ARGONNE from our national lab, BECKETT from yesterday, MORTAR AND PESTLE from *DPEST*, and AGIO from the crosses.

Arsenio was actually a wrestling fan--not sure about Ric Flair, but The Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper and Macho Man Randy Savage and Ravishing Rick Rude and Bobby the Brain Heenan were all definitely on. Maybe PuzzleGirl can tell us--she's the biggest wrestling fan I know.

PlantieBea 11:38 AM  

Oh boy, this was a tough puzzle for me. I thought for sure that the beautiful grid was pointing to "+" and "-" signs in the answers, especially when I filled in MORTAR AND PESTLE. Somehow, I knew that Gloria Steinem was the undercover bunny, though, which completely ruined that theory.

FUN, but very difficult! Needed help from husband with DEVO and STRAT, Mr. Google for Beckett, El Duque and the location of Lake Volta before I could get unstuck to finish.

Great week for puzzles!

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

About the cardinal points: I thought it was a Shortz rule that every square needed to be part of a down clue AND an across clue. But given how beautiful this grid was (almost fractal-like), I won't quibble.

Alby

Anonymous 11:53 AM  

Joe Krozel knows almost everything so I am sure he is aware of the history of the Compass Rose. NASA made the largest Compass Rose I know of here at The Dryden Research Center.

In the East, the four points of the compass rose reflect earth - dry/cold (stone), air - wet/hot often depicted by music (note), water - cold/wet (wash) and fire - hot/dry (can be depicted as ground earth as in a mortar and pestle). However, the orientation is wrong. A scholar knows the name of all thirty points on a compass rose and their symbols, but this rose shows only four and the inner circle, which represents true north, is absent.

/mee

addie loggins 11:59 AM  

Wow, this puzzle CRUSHED me! I had been doing so well all week, and this one absolutely CRUSHED me.

I do love Calvin Trillin ("Bud" to his friends). He started writing humorous political poetry while back, and whenever his name comes up I think of his poem about George Bush ("Obliviously on he sails, with marks not quite as good as Quayle's")

I got ENGAGEMENT STONE from only the S, T, and N in stone, which seemed like an impressive feat, but it was mostly downhill from there.

edith b 12:07 PM  

I like Joe Kozol. I'll get that out of the way. I remember his LIES puzzle from last year and one from last September that had four discreet sections that corresponded to the four corners of the puzzle with large Ls in the grid like a whirlygig

This one has an old fashioned feel to it as I seem to recall AGIO from the Maleska era and ENGAGEMENT STONE out of my dusty past as I recall my boyfriend and I going ring shopping before we got married and, since we were poor in those days, we were shown a number of rings without diamonds, described to us euphemistically as "engagement stones". This was the mid 60s and I wonder if anyone else had similar experiences.

I had to work from the midsection of this one outward as none of the long entries came easy. I had to chip away at the East Coast thru STEINEM and STRAT to uncover my old memory for the first 15 that tipped me to the compass feature, not that it helped me solve the puzzle except in the West where I solved from Southern California up and BECKETT was the key entry here.

From here on out it was a real SLOG, to quote the puzzle, and I finally saw SOUR in the South that left just the one long "theme" entry that had to wait until the morning where, curiously enough, it was the word AND in the Northern 15 that allowed me to finish.

I said I like them tough and crunchy and I got my wish today.

Thank you, joho, for your support

Two Ponies 12:12 PM  

Great week of puzzles but this one mopped the floor with me. A few gimmees but not enough to save me.
Oh well, leave it to Joe K. to keep me humble. And I am.
Anyone going to be in LA for that tournament?

foodie 12:26 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
HudsonHawk 12:27 PM  

Bravo, JK! Great puzzle, and absolutely in my sweet spot. I fully expected AGIO to be the word of the day, and Rex nailed it. Nice EDGE segue, also.

I dropped in LOU REED and EL DUQUE immediately and was off to the races. I got a little concerned when I filled in RESPOND because 19A was screaming for LIT. But with the HIP connection, MACHINE WASHABLE came into view. There were a couple misdirections, but they didn't hold me up. I was expecting a pharmaceutical conglomerate for 1A and a vacuum cleaner type for 26D. Speaking of which, I liked the crossing of SPINE and SPINETS.

SethG beat me to TRILLIN's Tepper Isn't Going Out. A fun, breezy read and apropos for anyone that's dealt with alternate side parking rules in NYC.

foodie 12:28 PM  

I'm doing this sitting in a Starbucks in Amman airport on my way to a place where the internet don't shine... It's so weird because when I google, I get an Arabic page with english thrown in there.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that I needed to google. For example, after putting it in, I questioned OVOIDAL. It seemed to me that the "OID" part of it was already saying "oval-like" so why does it need the AL? And I needed help with DANIELS to open the south. The only Bebe I could think of is Rebozo...

Lots of mis-starts, which I blame in part on traveling through the night to a place 7 time zones away. Still I had enough brain left to wonder, like Wade, about the solo letters breaking a cardinal rule of NYTimes crossword puzzles.

@mac, glad you're feeling better. Nano is a kind of iPod. I actually put iPod there for a while then recalled that the Minis were iPods too...

Beautiful puzzle in spite of my marginal performance.

prochefnyc 12:38 PM  

Nice Saturday puzzle, although I think I had more trouble with yesterday's. . .

To Mr. Parker, I considered 9 Down ("It may be received after sweeping") to be a reference to some sort of sweepstakes winning. IMHO.

Thanks for the blog and keep up the great work!

Richard

allan 12:46 PM  

I'm with Doug on the difficulty rating, so make that 2 votes. I came here for the last few letters.

Not being a reader of the Nation, I never heard of Trillin, wanted linkage at 13d, and all the staring in the world never got me to seals at 30d or spine at 30a.

But all in all a great week which ended with a slog for me.

BTW, I'm pretty sure that the lady in the red sweater dancing in the Devo clip was Paula Abdul. She still dances like that on AI.

And for all you newbies out there, I can't begin to tell you how much this blog has helped my solving skills. Two months ago, I never tried to solve a Saturday, and now I complete about half without help. Thank you all.

retired_chemist 12:51 PM  

@ foodie - I too question OVOIDAL. Ovoid is an adjective. I think the *OID --> *OIDAL construction converts a noun to an adjective (stops tormenting *OIDAL itch, e.g.), not an adjective into the adjective's synonym. I agree that is pointless, except possibly to professional sesquipedalians. Can't think of a counter-example off the top of my head - anyone?

Also FWIW who wants to try to use ODORIZE and "scent" interchangeably in a sentence?

JC66 1:03 PM  

@ retired_chemist

How's this?

"I'll scent the soap with lavender and odorize the closet with mothballs.

Kurt 1:07 PM  

@R...C...

You just did!

Katherine S. 1:44 PM  

Just a correction in spelling for the answer to 61A: The word used as the adjective and the citizen of Ghana is Ghanaian, pronounced Gha-nay-an. Here the pronounciation is Ghan-ee-an.

Last week the puzzle had Afghani (which is the money) for the people who are Afghans. Now the poor Ghanaians are missing an "a". I've lived in both those countries so feel someone should make sure they are represented correctly!

fikink 1:57 PM  

Kudos, Joe Krozel! What an enjoyable puzzle, which I made artificially difficult for myself. LOU REED, BECKETT and STEINEM were all loopers and, I've just experienced something that ENDed ON A SOUR NOTE, so you'd think with all those gimmees, I would have sped through this puzzle. Worse, my house is filled with MORTARsANDPESTLES, and it was the last to fall.
(Note to Rex, there are many extant "compounding" pharmacies around and M&Ps are still very much in use.)
Moreover, I was absolutely wedded to "riposte" for RESPOND and "rives" for RENDS - my own worst enemy.

jeff in chicago 1:57 PM  

Crushed. Absolutely crushed. [sigh] I thought the unchecked squares were going to be a rebus for AND based on the word "combination" in 1-A. I'm a tiny bit ashamed that the first thing I put in was RIC (Flair). I really don't watch wrestling. Really.

I was asked just yesterday to act in a Pinter festival, and Pinter is famous for his take on BECKETT's "Krapp's Last Tape," so that one came easily. I'm a "Lost" fan so I knew IAN. Also knew STRAT, DEVO, STEINEM, LOUREED, ARGONNE, ARSENIO and TRILLIN so I thought I was on a roll. Not so much. Guessed DOSIDOS. Had ORDERUP for too long. Most of the rest was a SLOG.

Lots of cheating, so this is ultimately a fail. I'll give it a go again next week.

fergus 1:58 PM  

I'll second the sweepstakes interpretation for PRIZE, though first reaction was the same as Rex's. Took a little while accepting SNIDE for Insinuating, but OK. SPAR Work for KOS didn't earn any Cluing prize, though I didn't mind OVOIDAL or ODORIZE. LIE OVER seemed kinda weak, though. SPINE was clever.

Got suckered into LIT for In the dark, which made it hard to RESPOND. TEND for HEED muddied things as well. TAR instead of TIN. Why the question mark for LAUDE?

Hadn't seen AGIO since it showed up frequently in the Maleska era.

mccoll 2:06 PM  

This was pretty difficult in some ways. Maybe 40 minutes or so. There is a doubtful answer. Strictly speaking it is dosados meaning "two by two" so it took me ages to get odorize and then prize. Also, I agree that it should be Ghanaan. Good puzzzle.

Shamik 2:14 PM  

Whew! I feel like Rocky saying "Cut me, Mick." Whew! Went the distance...but in 40:17. Since watching my times and accuracy, this is the toughest successfully completed Saturday, second only to the November 8 Byron Walden puzzle. Whew!

After 21 minutes, only about a quarter of the squares were filled in. Happily, those were filled in correctly. I DOSIDO'ed with letters in and letters out. Then made a few SNIDE comments. Thought I might LIEOVER and wait 'til later to finish. Seeing those individual letters made me UNLEARN everything I thought I knew about crosswords. Starting with LINEONE, I knew it would be a SLOG. However, I RESPOND to those naysayers that you, too, can be ATPEACE after you've PIERCED this one. RIPINTO it and you, too, shall receive LAUDE. RUN away from it and your puzzle ENDSONASOURNOTE.

Loved this puzzle.

bill from fl 2:30 PM  

I loved this one: a very creative and ambitious grid, with HIP cluing and a minimum of tired crosswordese. I think the preferred spelling is GHANAIAN, but i won't quibble.

chefbea 2:44 PM  

Tough puzzle. Love the north, east, south, and west which I didn't see til I got here.

Yesterday's puzzle was really hard. Didn't get to look at it til late in the day and didn't have time to google and get it. I will now go and read yesterday's comments.

Mortar and pestles are also used in the kitchen for crushing herbs, spices, garlic etc.

fergus 2:56 PM  

Do Rexall pharmacies still exist? Their logo had a M&P if I call correctly.

Also, wouldn't 'dos-a-dos' really mean back to back?

jae 2:58 PM  

Yes, a delightful puzzle which was medium-challenging for me mostly because I made some missteps in SW. I had to let it sit overnight to get the last few squares. Had SIRED for 44a which seemed like a Sat. level answer for Started. Also had LEVEN (short for ELEVEN) 49d thinking the dropped A in Round meant I could drop the E. I still don't entirely get LATEN. This made BECKETT hard to see plus it was hard to convince myself that LIEOVER was right. Oh, and after INNIE and OUTIE would fit I too starting thinking about ORANGES. Got it all sorted out with no help but like I said, it took a while. A fine effort Mr. Krozel!

jae 3:02 PM  

Meant to add that I also had TEND for a while as well as ETA for the Gate clue. SW was really a mess for a while.

Rex Parker 3:05 PM  

If GHANIAN is a variant, it's remarkably well attested. Dictionaries and everything. 2.5 million hits vs. 2.1 million for GHANAIAN.

Also, dos-a-dos? Really? Yes, that's the origin phrase, but we're not in France.

rp

allan 3:27 PM  

@ fergus: I think the back to back thing is exactly what the dos a dos is all about. Partners start off facing each other and without turning, they circle each other. When they get to the 180 position they are back to back. At about 2:45 into this video there is a dos a dos. Don't blink, you'll miss it.

davidb 3:42 PM  

I agree that this was a fantastic puzzle. A quintessential example of what the solving experience should be: felt impossible at times but with perseverance and patience eventually everything fell into place and in the process discovered a lot of things that I didn’t know I knew. It was quite a bear and I nearly maxed out the Across Lite timer but it all ended on a very sweet note: the first time since I have started doing the NYT puzzles every day that I have successfully completed both Fri and Sat of the same week with no errors. Feels like a real accomplishment!

ArtLvr 3:43 PM  

Neat grid, daunting at first until I started with STEINEM, UNLEARN and STRAT -- guessing E had to fill in the M_NT down the far east coast and lo, that gave the key to the compass points... thank goodness!

Not that it didn't take ages and ages to work it all out without googles, but that was a PRIZE in my book. Thanks to Joe Krozel, and commenters too.

∑;)

mac 3:57 PM  

@Fergus: I love your logic! I bet it comes in handy in other areas of your life, as well ;-).

@Orange: I went down to the concierge to ask for the nearest Barnes & Noble or Borders, and was told there wasn't one in South Beach, and "we don't read here". There is one about 45 minutes North of here. I found a small, beautiful bookstore though, that didn't have the Trillin book, but I espied the first novel of the son of good friends, "The Cradle" by Patrick Somerville (who lives in Chicago).

Daniel Myers 3:59 PM  

Did anyone else have a problem w/ 49 Across? Perhaps I should rephrase that as - Did anyone else take 4 years of Latin? It really should be "Laus" it seems to me. For it to be in the Locative, Dative or Ablative- "Laude"- requires some other hint, such as a preposition like "Cum". I don't think a puzzlemaker could get away with this sort of thing in, say, Spanish or French. Ah well, it's Saturday, right? Great puzzle otherwise. I couldn't belive it when I came up with Steinem--I was gobsmacked! You mean Gloria?!?

Anne 4:05 PM  

With hindsight, it was easy. With foresight, it was not.

I did my usual Saturday routine, work on the puzzle, chores, work on the puzzle, etc. and finished it without googling or checking my spelling. Ultimately, I thought it was fair and doable and clever and I liked it a lot. Also I thought yesterday's was much harder. And ditto to practically everthing Rex said.

I have to share this. According to Wikipedia, there was a 1931 version of the Maltese Falcon (one of my favorite films) which starred Ricardo Cortez and Bebe Daniels in the roles made famous in 1941 by Humprehey Bogart and Mary Astor. I looked this up because I assumed Bebe was Bogart's secretary. I learn something new every day on this blog.

Rex Parker 4:15 PM  

@Anne,

Actually, technically, I think you learned that on your own, with no help from the blog. But I appreciate the credit. :)

Sorry I didn't make that "MF" tidbit clear. I know the 1941 film so well that it didn't occur to me that people might think today's clue referred to the Bogart/Astor film.

rp

Stan 5:09 PM  

Embarrassed that I didn't know there was an earlier "Maltese Falcon," or put it together from the clue.

My second cousin, Jerome Cowan, played Miles Archer in the 1941 version.

joho 5:28 PM  

@davidb: congratulations!

Donald 6:13 PM  

I didn't understand "spine" --

Donald 6:22 PM  

Just got it!!!

Noam D. Elkies 6:38 PM  

Again (as on July 16) Joe Krozel finds a clever way around the 3-letter minimum to achieve an all-white border. The NEWS squares are in effect "checked" by that compass-rose pattern (which has also been seen before at the center of the grid). But we still await the first puzzle with three 15-letter entries at each edge.

NDE

Anonymous 6:57 PM  

@NDE For God's sake, don't goad him!

Glitch 6:58 PM  

@Anon 11:48 am (Alby)

You will have a better time if you realize there are no rules (Shortz's or otherwise).

There are standards, conventions, and best practices, all sometimes called "rules".

They are posted on websites, cited circularly.

And when any are run afoul (did I say that?), this blog will rise up in indignation and cry FOUL! (ah, that's why).

NEVER discard an answer just because you think it voilates a rule, there can be many other reasons it may be wrong, but then, it could just be right.

Today was such a puzzle, if you read the blog you picked up why.

For me it was a 3 cupper, just right for Saturday, for all the reasons above.

.../Glitch

Stan 7:18 PM  

@NDE

Great explanation of how the constructor both broke and followed(!) the basic puzzle-rules here.

Excellent post -- and excellent puzzle.

Kurt 8:16 PM  

And to all a good night!

michael 10:05 PM  

I got this, but it took me forever. If I had tried this at a tournament, my score would have been very low. But slowly, slowly I managed to fill in the squares. Once I finished, the puzzle seemed easier and fairer than while I was doing it. I guess that makes this a good puzzle...

kathy d. 10:53 PM  

Hardest puzzle in months, Saturday or otherwise. Took a long time and had to google. Stared, thought, stared some more, wrote in guesses, etc.

Finally had to concede defeat on the West Coast and look up answers on this site which normally, I never do until I'm finished.

Enjoyed the puzzle nevertheless and the blog, of course.

Kathy D.

Anonymous 12:29 AM  

Enjoyable solving experience, yet one has to wonder.

JK seems to have cornered the market on look-at-me rule-breaking. No raison d'etre here, so what was the point. Lots of great themeless puzzles that don't break the rules. Was this so exceptional .... No.

Sam

edith b 1:53 AM  

@ Sam-

You know what I like best about Joe Krozol? He may not hit a homerun every time he steps to the plate but he changes the way a puzzle might be i.e., he sparks discussions just like this one.

He had a puzzle last year which used 11 two letter state codes and one with four groups of random clustered vowels in each corner and I didn't care for either one of them but attention was paid and I think the puzzle world is better for it as a result.

william e emba 5:15 PM  

Difficult, but not the upper range I've seen this year.

I had a special smile, though, when I realized I almost tipped off everyone on Friday. I mentioned I knew of Patrick MAGEE because I know everything BECKETT. I left out mentioning that Beckett had written "Krapp's Last Tape" for Magee in the first place.

Southern Ma'am 12:53 AM  

Great puzzle; never paid much attention to Magee but loved Diana Rigg...
Remember Alice Coooper's "Ballad of Dwight Frye"? I date myself; at least I'm sitting home alone on Saturday night. : )

Nebraska Doug 6:02 AM  

Since it's now Tuesday morning, I realize few will see this, but I had a hell of a time with this one - which is why I had to wait till now to read the blog...I was really struggling and peaked at the rating and thought, "easy-medium, WHAT?! I'd better keep trying" So I stuck it out and it finally came to Tuesday night. Definitely a challenging puzzle for me. Took far longer than recent Fri/Sat puzzles that were rated tougher than this. Ouch!

Stan 9:09 AM  

@william e emba -- Thanks for the comments on Patrick Magee, which prompted me to look him up. What a remarkable career! (Beckett, Pinter, Kubrick, Coppola, etc.) I do learn a lot from this blog.

@Nebraska Doug -- Good for you for sticking with it and finishing.

boardbtr 8:55 PM  

Five weeks later -- this puzzle is one of those that I just can't enjoy. It simply had too many clues and answers that I just have never heard of - even after managing to google for them.

Anonymous 2:45 PM  

kathkin says ---
absolutely adored this one. The grid, the combination of things i knew and things that just made me go 'what'. Although i do have a quibble with Strat, as haven't heard that reduction, only Strato.

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