Bird notable for walking rather than hopping - SATURDAY, May 9, 2009 - Faint, to Shakespeare / Exclamation near runway / Emergency racetrack turnoff)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Constructor: Brad Wilber

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: UNAS (2D: Last pharaoh of Egypt's Fifth Dynasty) - Unas (also Oenas, Unis, or Ounas) was a Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, and the last ruler of the Fifth dynasty from the Old Kingdom. His reign has been dated as falling between 2375 BC and 2345 BC. UNAS built a small pyramid (now in ruins) which contains the oldest of the "Pyramid Texts," which themselves are the oldest known religious texts in the world.

The spells, or "utterances", of the pyramid texts are primarily concerned with protecting the pharaoh's remains, reanimating his body after death, and helping him ascend to the heavens, which are the emphasis of the afterlife during the Old Kingdom. The spells delineate all of the ways the pharaoh could travel, including the use of ramps, stairs, ladders, and most importantly flying. The spells could also be used to call the gods to help, even threatening them if they did not comply. (wikipedia)
It started out so well, but it ended in tragedy. Well, not tragedy, just a painful slog to the finish line. Despite not knowing UNAS, I took the NW out fairly quickly, but having OSAKA for OTARU (7D: Port on the Sea of Japan) was the first indication that the rest of the puzzle was going to be rocky. My hopes soared after I threw "BEGIN THE BEGUINE" all the way down the grid (8D: Song standard from Broadway's "Jubilee," 1935), but ... all activity after that was slow and tentative. The worst section, by far, was the center, both for how much I struggled and how unpleasant I found it. The partial "ALL I" (which, to my shame, I got instantly) crossing the oddly-clued SLUE (had to look it up after I was done to fully comprehend the connection to "fishtail"), which crosses the obsoletest word I've ever seen in a puzzle: SWOUND (32D: Faint, to Shakespeare). That crosses SHIN (which I wanted to be SHOE - 32A: It's just over a foot), which then crosses the valid but ugly and creepily clued STRIAE (21D: Stretch marks, e.g.).

I guessed SFO, but did Not like it (9D: Hub northwest of LAX). It's way way way NW of LAX, so it's valid, but it's stupid. I have a thing against the very concept of the UNLITERARY (13D: Like much pulp), so despite my manifest love for all things pulpy (or perhaps because of it), that clue didn't thrill me. Strangely, DIAPER-CLAD was one of my favorite answers in the grid (12D: Like tiny tots). Interesting. Original

Outside My Comfort Zone:

  • COUNT FLEET (23A: Triple Crown winner between Whirlaway and Assault)
  • ELLIE (11D: "Show Boat" girl who sings "Life Upon the Wicked Stage")
  • MORRO (46A: New Mexico's El _____ National Monument) - feels like it might have been in some other Saturday puzzle in the not-too-distant past, but it was as good as unknown to me today
  • PIPIT (22A: Bird notable for walking rather than hopping) - don't waders, in general, walk, and Not Hop. EMUS don't hop. Why would a bird be notable for not doing something Many Other Birds Don't Do?
  • VERA (30D: Tennis star Zvonareva) - all the Russian tennis ladies are the same person, as far as I'm concerned
  • UNAS (2D: Last pharaoh of Egypt's Fifth Dynasty)
  • "IKO, IKO" (52A: Mardi Gras song that was a 1965 hit for the Dixie Cups) - I recognize the title, and I think there was a version of this song played in "Rain Man," but the clue did absolutely nothing to cue the answer. It may as well have read, simply, [Song]


  • ESCAPE ROAD (26D: Emergency racetrack turnoff) - makes sense, but I've never heard of it. I had ... LANE at first.
  • MSGT (31D: U.S.M.C. E-8) - had SSGT ... military rank = total guess, esp. when clued like this
  • SWOUND (32D: Faint, to Shakespeare) - I read Shakespeare (teach it, in fact) and I still can't imagine this in a sentence except as a past tense verb. Is it an adjective? No, it's a present tense verb, just as the clue says:

CASSIUS: But, soft, I pray you: what, did Caesar swound? (from "J.C.")

The puzzle felt downright hostile toward younger solvers. There's nothing from this millennium (except for that J Lo song, 2003, and the Russian tennis player). In fact, there are as many clues from the 3rd millennium B.C. as there are from this millennium. Look at the frame of reference in this puzzle. A Dixie Cups song from the 60s ... a Triple Crown winner from the 40s ... a role from a 1920s musical and a song from a 1930s musical ... a cubist who died in '27 ... I mean, the weatherman from "Mary Tyler Moore" looks fresh and hip in this puzzle (42A: "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" weatherman), as does Baryshnikov (31A: Perfume named for Baryshnikov) and IRON WEED (54A: Pulitzer-winning William Kennedy novel). Oh well, some days you gotta fight through puzzles that just don't share your wavelength.

Bullets:

  • 18A: Exclamation near a runway ("Oolala!") - lack of an "H" in "OOH" always bugs me, but I like the clue here.
  • 39A: Tony award nominee for "Anna Christie," 1993 (Meara) - holy crap, a third Broadway clue. You're Killing Me. I can't be mad at Anne MEARA though. I love that woman.
  • 47A: Emulate Cyrano (duel) - I wanted "WOO." or "WOOO," I guess.
  • 56A: Good place to look when you're sole-searching? (sea bed) - Oh boy, horrible puns.
  • 14D: Everglades deposit (peat) - bah, this took me way too long, perhaps because I had an "-ED" in the last two spaces of SPED UP for a while (9A: Was a catalyst for).
  • 25D: Bluffing bar game (liar's poker) - don't know it, but got POKER and then the "Liar's" part was easy. I think I read a book by that name recently. Or started to.
  • 36D: Classic novel whose title means "Rover" ("Omoo") - ah, the old cover-the-crosswordese-with-arcane-trivia clue. Works for me.
  • 27D: Wicked king of Israel (Ahab) - back-to-back AHABs. Quite a weekend.
  • 49D: TV opponent of Ares (Xena) - see my comment re: "OMOO"
  • 46D: Paste in Asian cookery (miso) - good stuff
  • 23D: Peak projection (crag) - took way way longer than it should have. I blame COUNT FLEET.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Orange's write-up of the (much easier) LAT puzzle is here.

77 comments:

Tom Mc 1:16 AM  

I got to this puzzle a bit late due to a late dinner, and it picked me up and threw me down and left me for dead. But in the end I ground it out, fully expecting to have a horrible time. To my surprise lots of others had the same hard time, and now my time doesn't look so bad.

"Liar's Poker" is a pretty well-known book by Michael Lewis about his time as a bond salesman on Wall Street. Well-written, and somewhat prescient about how things have collapsed these days.

I luckily saw the same "airport NW of LAX" clue for SFO recently. I first had SASHA for MISHA based on the same SSGT mistake, and it took a while at the end to root out that error. BOND for FUND made COUNTB____, thereby tempting COUNTBASIE for the horse, and making TRUE impossible to see.

chris 2:53 AM  

"Downright hostile toward younger solvers" is about right. This puzzle was written to be deliberately inaccessible to young'ns like me. Lots of Broadway (and really, really old Broadway at that), lots of old pop culture (pop culture is bad, but old pop culture is the worst fill of all, I think, although Broadway is pretty close), horseracing (really, who cares about that aside from old white guys and degenerate gamblers?). None of it was enjoyable. This was even worse than the puzzle from two Saturdays ago, which was also full of Broadway stuff and also by Brad Wilber. I guess I really don't like Brad Wilber puzzles.

Beth 5:38 AM  

At 52, I probably don't qualify as a "younger solver" but still most of the cultural references were way beyond me. Combined with other weird and/or obfuscated cluing, and this puzzle was Not Much Fun.

At least it wasn't full of obscure (to me anyway) references to sports terminology and past baseball, football, or basketball stars... those are the worst.

John 6:36 AM  

Somebody's channeling Maleska!!!!

JannieB 8:04 AM  

Hey - it wasn't all that bad. Some really nice fill - cushy job, egg crate, diaper clad, main drag - with some clever cluing. Yes, it was hard, but after yesterday's romp in the park it was a challenge worthy of a Saturday and aside from Omoo and OD's; remarkably free of cop-out fill.

My sticking point came in the NE where I held onto "caused" for way too long. Once I took that out and tried SFO, it fell. And I agree - OOLALA needs that H.

If you want current, do BEQ's puzzles. They make me feel totally ancient but I solve them with great determination and a real sense of satisfaction when I get them done.

edith b 8:16 AM  

I started in the SE with IRONWEED which was a neon for ME and IDEE crossing it allowed me to guess EXGI and get the rest of the corner and I was able to move into the lower Midlands thru the LIARSPOKER cross via ZEROG and this gave me the two crossing 15s in the middle.

Everything else, however I had to grind out and I had an error at SWOOND/SLOE that ended up uncorrected along with the mess I made in the NE, having PIPER at 22A that held up to the bitter end until I finally figured out UNLITERARY.

I had to ask my husband for COUNTFLEET and I am a little tired of folks throwing around words like old white people and degenerate gamblers to describe fans of horse racing as my husband is neither of those things and I fully agree with the point that Ulrich made a couple of days ago about lack of understanding about a given subject not automatically implying obscurity and no place in the puzzle. Don't dismiss things out of hand just because you don't understand it, folks. That path does not lead to learning .

retired_chemist 8:34 AM  

I liked it. OK, it was a geezer's puzzle, sort of. AHAB and UNAS are only geezer-related to millennia-old geezers. Also it had a bunch of stuff I didn't know anyway. But it was pretty much all gettable from crosses and fun to figure out. Agree it was challenging - took me nearly an hour.

Several clues were misdirections - always simultaneously fun and irritating. REV clues as Preach - OK, but I spent a lot of time thinking preach was a verb. ACRE as a plot segment is also OK but I was thinking of a graph or a book. In fact the mid-Atlantic was my worst section even though it wasn't the last to fall. VERA Zvonareva? Who knew? MEARA? GORDY? OK, geezerish, but both took a while. Anne Meara I think of as a comedian and not as a dramatic actress.

@ Rex re pipit - it's a passerine (a usually smallish songbird, cf. wrens and sparrows). Over 50% of bird species are passerines. So I buy the clue. Might have helped to clue it as "songbird notable for walking....." I suppose.

Did anyone else spell it SACAJAWEA and stew for a good while over the J that put in 23D?

edith b 9:16 AM  

I feel the same way as Jannie B about BEQ's puzzles. All "pop culture" is not created equal and his brand makes me feel old and I am forced to rely on crosses and wordplay and doing his puzzles helps me understand the pop culture haters who do the Times puzzles and complain about it.

The difference is I try to get a grip on what I am trying to solve rather than bitch about it.

Rex Parker 9:20 AM  

Horse racing is simply dead as a national concern, except for during Derby season, and as soon as it becomes clear there won't be a Triple Crown winner, it goes right back to being something no one cares about. Dead / injured horses have done nothing to improve its image. You may enjoy it, or someone you know may, but on the whole - it's over as a "sport" of national interest. Doesn't mean it's not valid as a topic for xword fill. But the difficulty of said fill for a solver will (I think) break hard along generational lines. I'm gonna draw that line at b. 1970, but that line might be earlier.

And @edith ... bitching about other people's bitching is still bitching. :)

rp

alanrichard 9:29 AM  

I got Count Fleet immediately. Although I agree horse racing has been put to pasture. When I was a kid every year there was a big todo about the next Triple Crown hopeful. I was there when Majestic Prince was beaten by Arts & Letters at the Belmont. Of course I haven't been to the track since 1971.
I aggree that there was some passe allusions here. Begin the Beguine by Artie Shaw - pretty far back. And sacagawea made her 2nd appearance in the last few months.
There is a reggae group Amazulu that sang IKOIKO. talk about useless information!!! The lead singers name is Annie Ruddick.
I guess this is where 57 across comes in - NONSENSE!!!

Pinky 9:32 AM  

@Rex Sorry to disappoint, but I am a horseracing fan, and especially a fan of Triple Crown history. Last I checked I'm not dead yet.

Today however, it did me no good. I could only remember 10 of the 11 horses who have won the Triple Crown in its 135 year history

Count Fleet was the only one who eluded me until the last minute. Unfortunately War Admiral has the same number of letters and was more or less around the same time period.

Today's puzzle was hard, but perfect for a Saturday.

fikink 9:35 AM  

Well, BEQ sometimes leaves me in the dust with his obscure (to me) African capitals and marginal pop, but I continue to do them and his cluing is clever in a cryptic sort of way.
This one beat me up but had me reading about many things. Liked the clues for GRAB and GO LONG and remembered a great lyric from Sir Noel:

"She refused to begin the Beguine when they besought her to
And with language profane and obscene, she cursed the man who taught her to,
She cursed Cole Porter, too."

Leslie 9:40 AM  

Yes, this was a challenging puzzle, but I'm in the camp that says "Oh, c'mon, suck it up!" when the clues aren't of your generation/on your wavelength. That doesn't make the puzzle bad, or unappealing, or somehow vaguely wrong or inferior. I don't bitch about hip-hop clues, and I figure it's equally silly to bitch about 1930s Broadway tune clues. Are you alive, living in the world, and interested in learning something today that you didn't know yesterday? Then roll with it!!

That said, I'm getting tired of myself always getting One Thing Wrong when I've finally wrestled the rest of the puzzle to the mat. Today it was leaving the top S for Staff Sergeant instead of Master Sergeant, even though I had SEEN "Misha" as Baryshnikov's nickname before, darn it.

I did adore "diaper-clad," "cushy job," and so on.

And . . . I'll live with it, but I'm beginning to get downcast when I see I'm going to have to decide between Sacajawea and Sacagawea as an answer. Hey, it beats Khadafi/Khaddafe/Kadafe/you know, the guy in Libya? An evil crossword constructor could really go to town with that one.

Kurt 9:42 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle. But then I'm a Geezer...or at least on the cusp of Geezerhood.

IRONWEED went straight in and the SE fell. LIARS POKER went straight in and the SW fell. I struggled with the NW until I tumbled to JARGON and YTD. Then the rest came pretty easily.

I hated (really hated) UNLITERARY but between that and DIAPER CLAD, the NE was doable. The center was challenging, but I thought that the only knuckle-buster was the SWOUND/SLUE cross. U or O? U or O? U or O? The U won by a nose. Unlike COUNTFLEET who won by three lengths!

Enjoy the weekend. Thanks Brad and Rex.

Rex Parker 9:54 AM  

What part of "Oh well, some days you gotta fight through puzzles that just don't share your wavelength" do you folks not understand?

There's precisely one comment so far that's outright hostile to the puzzle. That's it. Self-righteous, preachy comments about how one *should* solve (with an odd fondness for the verb "bitch") is dwarfing any negative comments about the puzzle today. Weird.

3 and out

rp

Rex Parker 9:56 AM  

Whoops, missed the "Maleska" comment ... but that might not have been a criticism :)

Really 3, and really out

Dumbish Blonde 10:15 AM  

Dr. John's version of "Iko Iko" is a radio staple. Turn on your classic rock station and there's about an 18 percent chance it's playing now. If not that, it will be "Rickie Don't Lose that Number" or Bob Seger's "Main Street."

"Liar's Poker" is also a stupid and dishonest chick-flick "memoir" (one of those "memoirs" in which dialogue from 40 years ago is quoted) by Mary Karr.

Hard puzzle for me. Having CAKEWALK for CUSHY JOB slowed me down for a long time. Got the SE quickly ("Ironweed" is one word) and then very slow, finishing in the NE. Well, I didn't fill in the UNA_/E_TE cross, because I didn't know it and didn't care.

bill from fl 10:29 AM  

Horseracing may be dead (almost as dead as boxing), but this last Kentucky Derby was awesome. If you haven't seen it, go to http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/30538272
and be sure to watch both the call and the "overhead look." The guy calling the race doesn't even mention the winner until the horse has a 3-length lead.

Dough 10:49 AM  

I struggled through this puzzle and enjoyed the challenge a lot. I don't understand people expecting everything in a puzzle to be in their wheelhouse, especially on a Saturday. I have seen the list of Triple Crown winners myriad times, but it didn't help me in this puzzle. That felt ok. I thought of Anne Meara, but rejected it. When it was right, that was cool. I never watched the Mary Tyler Moore show when it was on, but I asked my wife. She said, "hmmm. Don't remember." I must say that "diaperclad" is kinda weird, though. Anyway, this felt great to have a real Saturday puzzle, after last week's too-easy offering. I started off with a lot of nothing, and read the "Jubilee" clue. I kinda knew it was Gershwin or Kern or Porter, but couldn't remember. Like @Rex, who admits to being weak on theater music, I got it at about the same time as he did and had pretty much the same solving experience. So I count that as a successful Saturday. I struggled with stuff I'm good at and struggled with my weak stuff.

Leslie 10:52 AM  

Rex, am I being oversensitive, or was your next-to-last post directed at me?

If it was, my apologies. Didn't mean to offend or come off as preachy and self-righteous. I'm one of the newbies you invited to join the crowd a while back; I guess I should withhold my comments until I get a better feel for the back-and-forth here.

twangster 10:53 AM  

I got most of this but stalled in the top right.

But I wanted to say I saw the Dixie Cups two weeks ago at Jazzfest (in New Orleans) and they were fun. Still sound good and of course they Iko.

Crosscan 10:57 AM  

This puzzle had stuff I didn't know crossing other stuff I didn't know. Unsolvable.

sbmanion 11:00 AM  

One of the great heroes in American history was the turn of the century harness horse Dan Patch. Until about 1960, the three great sports pastimes were boxing, baseball and horse racing.

Tastes change over time, but horse racing died in part for some reasons that you may not think about. One was the introduction of exotic bets. If a racetrack had its way, the favorites would generally win. This increases the churn and leaves a bunch of bettors moderately happy. When one bettor wins a lot of money, a lot of that money is never bet again. The introduction of lotteries made big winnings the norm. Another killer was OTB, which took the fun out of being at the track. Big crowds, such as those at the Kentucky Derby, are fun to be part of. The third was casino style gambling, which is faster and easier.

Steve

Anonymous 11:20 AM  

Rex --

No Belle Stars clip for "Iko Iko"?

-Wavy Eighties

Two Ponies 11:27 AM  

Ouch, this one hurt. I liked much of the clever misdirection and wordplay but, like Crosscan, too many intersections of unknowns.
I don't think of the Everglades when I think of peat. I think of Britain and esp. Scotland as I am a fan of peaty scotch.
Lots of birds walk rather than hop.
Race horses can have very unusual names and this was a good example. Never heard of it.
All-in-all a rough Saturday that was humbling after the fun of yesterday.

Joni 11:28 AM  

I have to say, I always feel better after struggling through a puzzle when I see others have had the same experience (but with different difficulties!)

Rex Parker 11:35 AM  

Mr. Manion is good for the inside sports dope.

@Leslie, don't take anything I say personally. I was reacting to what I saw as a commenting trend, and not to you specifically. Your commentary is always welcome.

I like film noir with horse racing elements. Kubrick's "The Killing" was very good. Boxing is also good in film noir (see "The Set-Up"). Boxing and horse racing are linked in my mind - major betting sports that used to be huge that few (or fewer) people care about any more. Someday, sadly, baseball will be on that list.

Four and out,

rp

edith b 11:40 AM  

I struggled with this one but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Every time I react to some thing that offends me, I get into trouble and I always say I'll never react publicly again but I always do.

I'm sorry that I p.o.'d our host and this time I mean it. I think.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 11:42 AM  

A real kick in the teeth for sure. Normally like Brad Wilbur's stuff as he seems to have a couple two three amazing things, and very little bullshit. This seemed to be a little heavy on the bullshit today. And yeah, seemed a little too historical for me.

hazel 11:47 AM  

@Leslie

Now you can consider yourself officially welcomed! The one from Dr. Jekyll is one thing, but its the one from Mr. Hyde that means you have arrived. And then to get another one from Dr. Jekyll - bonus!!

@Rex - please don't yell at me again. I still haven't fully recovered from the last one. You know I'm just kidding. You're not evil. You do a wonderful thing by being so entertaining and bringing all these people together to talk about crosswords...

Regarding the puzzle, I really liked the Saturday-level cluing (no backbreaker, like tiny tots, indian currency), but not so much some of the Saturday-level fill (Countfleet, Begin Beguine, Unas, etc.). To me, the former outweighed the latter so I found it to be an OK puzzle - although I did have to resort to some strategic googling/cheating/whatever, which doesn't ruin a puzzle for me, just lessens its fun factor somewhat.

Pitchy puzzle for sure (thanks again @ Joho!), but it did hit some good notes.

Anonymous 12:20 PM  

Septagenarians unite. We need more
puzzles like this one! lol!

Leon 12:31 PM  

Thanks Mr. Wilber.

In Typee, Melville twice mentions the OMOO tree. No other references list such a tree.

Moby Dick on AHAB's name:
"Ahab of old, thou knowest, was a crowned king!" "And a very vile one. When that WICKED KING was slain, the dogs, did they not lick his blood?" "Come hither to me--hither, hither," said Peleg, with a significance in his eye that almost startled me. "Look ye, lad; never say that on board the Pequod. Never say it anywhere. Captain Ahab did not name himself.”

Vega 12:32 PM  

For me also, too many unknown things crossing unknown things. I googled about a dozen times (which for me is, finally, becoming rarer and rarer), and still couldn't (or stopped trying to) finish and came here. My experience was that there was lots of stuff I don't care about and won't remember. Ah, well.

-Vega

Anonymous 12:41 PM  

Pretentious clues and grid fill.
I feel sorry for the solvers.

PuzzleGirl 12:42 PM  

I really like this one! I only had to Google twice, which is not bad for me for a Saturday. One of my Googles was the racehorse, which I had entered as COUNT BASIE thinking, "Ooh, a horse named after Count Basie — cool!" My mom (degenerate gambler) and dad (old white guy) really enjoy horse racing. I am SO bad at handicapping, that it just became no fun for me after a while. That said, if I turn on the TV and see a horse race in progress I get super excited and start shouting at the TV until it's over. I think that just makes me a sports fan, but I don't know for sure. I also get a real kick out of the way many horses are named — mashing together both parents' names in an often amusing (or at least clever) way. In fact, I have a very funny story about a racehorse's name, but I'll have to go find it to make sure I tell it right. So you can all be looking forward to that.

CUSHY JOB, MAIN DRAG, and GORDY delighted me. Didn't the Grateful Dead do a version of "Iko Iko"?

imsdave 12:43 PM  

Tough slog for me today. I got 3/4 of it in about twenty minutes and then just stared at New England. Really stared, like forty or fifty minutes of staring. Off to the golf course and then had the vision of that ending LE being PEOPLE. Wrote it on my score card before I teed off so I wouldn't forget it.

Got home and finished in about five more minutes, so technically, this was a 6.5 hour puzzle for me. Not that it matters to anyone, but I thought it would make Ulrich happy :)

mccoll 12:46 PM  

I liked this one a lot! Pop-culture only bothers me when it is not MY pop-culture. I fully agree with Leslie's comment. Roll with it.
We play Liar's poker with dice and that slowed me down for a while. OoLaLa is French and that's how they spell it. I had OSAKA for a while too but ANNOTATE fixed that up. Also, writing in Begin the Beguine instantly saved my bacon. Oops! (H1N1) I suppose we'll see a puzzle with swine flu references soon. Still, this one took an hour to do and I had to google Count Fleet and Iron Weed.
I enjoyed the challenge of many of the clues despite misdirections. Diaperclad, seabed, tribe, and go long come to mind.
@Rex Swound can be used as a noun. The Ancient Mariner "..fell down in a swound."

Rex Parker 12:50 PM  

I have already seen SWINE FLU in a puzzle. There's this guy ... writes timely puzzles ... kind of arrogant ... :)

rp

Lisa in Kingston 12:52 PM  

Quite the slog for me today. On my first pass through the clues, I had exactly 4 entries: misha/msgt, miso, and ods. Seeing all the theater-related clues was kind of disheartening, but after 60+ minutes, I found myself finishing with only one error: that dang slue/swound crossing.
Even though I didn't really like this puzzle, it was a good challenge, which is what I want from the Saturday puzzle.
P.S. When I had countfl---, I briefly thought "Count Floyd!"

PuzzleGirl 12:53 PM  

@Rex: I hear he makes a mean whipped cream.

Jerry 12:56 PM  

Dead IKO IKO

George NYC 12:58 PM  

@sbmanion et al: There's a great book about the horse Dan Patch by (my friend) Charles Leerhsen, called "Crazy Good." It just went into paperback. Dan Patch was a trotter, which back in the day was more common than a thoroughbred (pacer). Anyway, the horse "earned" more money than Babe Ruth at the time. Millions of people went to see him run.

Dept. of Odd, Personal Complaints: I have a weird distaste for "Begin the Beguine." Not the song, exactly, but the title has always bugged me. Maybe it's because I don't know how to pronounce it.

George NYC 1:11 PM  

@rex
Next time it snows, practice the old "handbrake turn" in your Volvo: lock the rear wheels just as your entering a curve, and try to control the ensuing SLUE by using front wheel drive to pull you through! Works best in light traffic...

Ruth 1:14 PM  

I'm mad at myself for not putting in "ESTE" sooner than I did. I was going to complain that this clue is like cluing DELHI as "town in Iowa" but on reflection, 4-letter place name in Italy, for pity's sake--I should have gotten it! Had "-LAD" on DIAPERCLAD, had to leave for a while and the answer came to me while I was driving around. (love when that happens.)

ArtLvr 1:17 PM  

Well, I had War Admiral at 23A for quite a while -- the Triple Crown winner just before Whirlaway, not right after, and noted son of the legendary Man O'War. It was corrected to COUNT FLEET by the need for a CO_ start due to CRAG and JARGON, and I was finally off to the races... Great sport! I'm watching the OTB commentary on TV as I write, and not with any interest in betting on results.

I saw the bilious rant by a newbie commenter here the other day in regard to horse racing in general and refrained from saying anything that day, it was so upsetting and so out of line. I was sorry everybody let it go then! Some of us have a deep love of classical music and other time-honored and peaceful pursuits, others don't.

Horses were a major factor in the development of human civilization, and modern devotees have nothing to apologize for -- we don't make sport of killing them like bullfighters, or make them attack each other like cockfighters, or use them for food or even in making war any more. Their breeding and training is an art to be cherished. These days we also have miniature horses serving as guide companions for the blind! I do hope we've heard the last of that cant.

∑;)

Ruth 1:20 PM  

"Not a wholesome trottin' race, no, but a race where they sit down RIGHT ON THE HORSE! Wanta see some stuck-up jockey boy settin' on Dan Patch?" --"Trouble" from The Music Man.
Have known this line since I was a kid. Now I know about Dan Patch! Thanks for rounding out my education.

joho 1:30 PM  

Does anybody here know somebody who has a CUSHY JOB?

I did finish this puzzle but had to resort to Google which always makes my solving experience less than stellar. I'm still basking in my brilliance of yesterday, undeserved or not.

This was downright hard and a worthy Saturday puzzle.

HudsonHawk 1:37 PM  

I had several of the long answers in the grid early on (including both 15s) and still struggled with this one. Just brutal. And not in a fun way.

@Rex, even with legendary mismanagement, baseball's still doing OK. I think it will outlast us...

Jet City Gambler 1:47 PM  

If this was an Onion puzzle, 12-Down could be clued "Like Louisiana Senator David Vitter."

Bill from NJ 1:47 PM  

@mccoll-

Pop-culture only bothers me when it is not MY pop-culture.Truer words were never spoken. Jannie B and Edith B were making that point about BEQ and his puzzles and their determination to see them through even if it is "not their thing." Brava!

Shamik 1:54 PM  

@retired chemist: Yes, I actually googled the spelling of SACAGAWEA/SACAJAWEA being happy with TOUNTFLEET (ok, i don't google before I'm done) and TRAJ for trajectory of "Peak projection." You can be right about an Anglicized name for years only to be wrong in the future. Example: Peking/Beijing.

With my husband being a former trotter driver, horse racing is a familiar thing in our household. But he's in Alaska for the summer so couldn't ask him about COUNTFLEET...and wouldn't have until I was done anyway. That just how I roll. And yes, people over 50 roll...just watch us fall down some time...especially on a hillside.

As for the whine about pop culture in a puzzle being geared for one generation or another. THAT IS ONE OF THE GOOD POINTS ABOUT CROSSWORDS, PEOPLE! (shouting intended)

Don't watch the Simpsons? Do a puzzle.

Don't like Broadway musicals? Do a puzzle.

Don't know obscure monetary units? Do a puzzle.

Don't know artists, scientists, authors, poets and their odes? Do a puzzle.

Learn what you didn't know and wouldn't have been exposed to unless you lived multigenerationally. Then go play buzztime trivia at a bar and amaze your friends with your esoteric knowledge.

IKOIKO was stuck in my head all day a couple of weeks ago. Phooey Brad Wilber...that will be in my head all day again. Just when I thought it was safe...........

Shamik 1:58 PM  

@Dumbish blonde: Fascinating about Dr. John's "Iko Iko." As one travels around the country it's interesting to see what different regions consider oldie staples. Can't remember the last time I even heard Dr. John's "Iko Iko."

PlantieBea 2:09 PM  

Tough puzzle that was not up my alley. I had to google the cubist and the FLEET part of the horse. I stuck with STILT for the walking bird way too long and couldn't get past the clue preach being intended as verb form. Didn't we see OH LA LA recently? I plugged in the H instead of the O on first pass--yet another problem.

My husband and I used to go to the Arlington track in college. Learning to read the racing form and handicap, making $2 bets, all fun. Since then I've ridden a number of thoroughbreds off the track; some of these horses definitely have "issues". Tracks also got seedier and we gave it up. I still do like watching the three big races on TV.

On the positive side, I really enjoyed the Eddie Vedder link and learned that I had heard IKO IKO--just didn't know that was the title. Thanks Rex.

chefbea 2:19 PM  

Tough puzzle but a bit easier than yesterday.

@joho - I had a cushy job... when I was a demo-chef at our supermarket. Had a small kitchen, cooked and served samples to the customers for 6 hours and talked about food. What could be cushier. Many of the recipes called for a tsp. of miso.

Shamik 2:23 PM  

@George NYC:

Begin (as in the word meaning to start)

the

bay-GHEEN

Bob Kerfuffle 2:57 PM  

Defeated by this one. Putting pen to paper, I thought I had finally worked my way through it until I came to read Rex's commentary. I had two letters wrong: SWOOND for SWOUND (when it became obvious that SLEW wasn't going to work, I stopped checking. Never saw SLUE before.) And I had GOUDY instead of GORDY. No excuse for the Shakespeare, but the latter I blame on that period in my young adulthood when I was Too Smart to Watch Television. (Those days are over now, but I still Don't Have Cable.) ;>)

fergus 2:57 PM  

I had a J for the Dollar too, and could completely believe that a four letter word might end in J, in Norwegian, maybe?

Nation and PEOPLE took a long time to tease out. I had that malapop thing going on with STOKED as 5A Was a catalyst for, but when STOKER seemed more apt down below, that got everything to click up the NE.

No argument with the Challenging rating.

Ben 3:25 PM  

Rex, I may not have been on this puzzle's wavelength either, but I was apparently on yours. I also had ESCAPELANE and -ED in the NE for the catalyst clue.

Re SWOUND: I haven't looked it up but it strikes me as an archaic version of SWOON (clue: Faint). This is also consistent with its use as a noun as another commenter posted above.

COUNTFLEET should have been easier when I had CO_N_FLEET, as I had at least heard of him over the years. All I could think of was Coin A Fleet.

Love the R.E.M. "Begin the Begin." Even Eddie Vedder couldn't ruin that one. R.E.M. was my favorite band in high school and I listened to "Document" and "Lifes Rich Pageant" (no apostrophe, thank you) innumerable times in those years. Suggestion for your next YouTube clip when the NYT has a clue about a sand trap: "Underneath the Bunker."

Anonymous 3:51 PM  

shoot me!

chris 3:54 PM  

ArtLvr, FYI, I'm a Rex Parker OG. I'm even referred to as "the reliable Chris." I ain't no newbie, yo. And even if I were, so what?

Also, I feel like a lot of posts have been directed at my rant. Just to set the record straight, I don't mind when I'm not on a constructor's wavelength when it comes to wordplay and such. However, I have an extremely low threshold for pop culture (old AND new), Broadway, and modern art clues. Don't make sweeping generalizations about my crossword philosophy based on one or a couple of piss-and-vinegar rants about how much I hate Broadway and horse racing.

Rex, baseball will never die. If nothing else, it's the only game in town come summer, so the choice for a lot of sports fans is follow baseball or not follow any sport for a few months. Fear not.

Norm 5:03 PM  

I vote with BEQ: "This seemed to be a little heavy on the bullshit today. And yeah, seemed a little too historical for me."

foodie 5:05 PM  

This puzzle made me crazy. Enough said about that : )

@hazel, I just responded to your post from last night regarding puzzle-solving strategies. Not that I am any poster child for great success, especially today. But of course thinking about strategies is particularly needed when we haven't got a clue...

Paul 5:07 PM  

Glad to see so many others struggled with this one. I am not sure if 41 counts as younger for solvers, but I just struggled even to get a foot hold on this puzzle. Had to google- which is admitting defeat for me, early in the game. remembered Gordy- loved MTM reruns as a kid, and EGGCRATE halped with the SE- but all in all a brutal, humbling, stumbling saturday. Going to do LAT now- hope it is easier, as Rex says.

Anonymous 5:10 PM  

Didn't like this puzzle.

Couldn't finish it, the second Saturday puzzle since 2009 began.

Yesterday's was a breeze in comparison. Got it, liked it. It was fun.

This wasn't.

Kathy D.

jae 5:17 PM  

Tough but doable, although I did need my bride for the UNAS/ESTE cross. She knows Italy, not pharaohs. Guessed right on the OTARU/COUNT/GRIS cross which was another set of unknowns for me. I'm with Shamik on the somewhat obscure stuff. It's an opportunity to learn (or try to learn/remember) something new. The magic of BEQ puzzles is that while there are a lot of unknown (to me) pop culture references the puzzles are, for the most part, doable if you are will to persevere.

jae 5:18 PM  

Rats, that should be "willing to"

mac 5:48 PM  

Im with Crosscan, but I had fun trying. Not knowing Iko Iko, I filled in I do, I do, but I have no idea where I dug up this Begin the Beguine with just a few crosses!

On to the LAT.

Ulrich 8:04 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ulrich 8:06 PM  

@foodie: Here's a good strategy for finding out how resilient the ink in your printer is: print a difficult puzzle and then alternate between putting guesses in and erasing them. That was my strategy for the NE today, which was my Waterloo (after getting the same running start that Rex had). I don't know how often I wrote and subsequently erased PEOPLE, OOLALA (hate that spelling), and the PIPER. When the ink had assumed a light-grey hue, I looked up, in an act of quiet desperation, alternate meanings for catalyst and put in SPED UP. That made DIAPER appear out of the mist, and things started to fall into place, and the PIPER, whom I had gotten very fond of, bit the dust. It was not over, but the end was in sight.

Speaking of birds biting the dust: Today I saved the life of one that had flown into a window pane and had the wind knocked out of it. A cat noticed it lying on the ground and was approaching when I picked the bird up and put it into a place that I could fortify so as to keep the cat out. It was really moving to hold this little featherlight thing with a beating heart in your hand. It was breathing rapidly and I feared it was a goner, but no, it recovered after half an hour and flew off, with me sitting near-by, xword puzzle in hand, guarding the fort.

mac 9:33 PM  

@Ulrich, what a lovely story!
We had a group of wild turkeys in our yard, 6 males with their feathers up chasing 4 females, who were a lot more interested in their snacks than in the guys.... One of the birds was enormous, with a bright red waddle (or didn't we learn wattle last week?).

Greene 10:16 PM  

This was one tough puzzle for me, even with some Broadway gimmies (or neons as EdithB would say). It was fun to throw BEGIN THE BEGUINE down as the first entry in the puzzle, and even ELLIE Mae Shipley from Showboat as the second, but that kind of knowledge only takes you so far.

You still have to play at the puzzle, think outside the box, put in wrong stuff, take our right stuff, walk away, come back, put in some more wrong stuff, stare a bit, curse a bit, wonder how many other puzzles Rex and Orange have solved while you're still stuck on 52A, surf the net to take your mind off the puzzle, do the LAT puzzle ('cause, well I can finish that one), return to the NYT filled with resolve, and finally finish only to find you've got two squares wrong.

Yes, I actually spelled SACAGAWEA with a "J"...again! What? You've never heard of a CRAJ? Neither have I. Also had SWOOND instead of SWOUND, which in retrospect, seems pretty boneheaded. But hey, I finished the beast and it only took most of the day. I even beat IMSDave's time of 6.5 hours so I think I'm ready to take him down in the next crossword puzzle tournament that features a round of golf in the middle! :)

BlueStater 12:01 AM  

As an AARP- card-carrying geezer, I have to say that it wasn't only young uns for whom this was impossible. When things get nutty on the NYT puzzle page, I make a practice of circling clues that I think are outrageous, crazy, unfair, or just plain wrong. I think this one broke the record. And let's not blame it on the shade of Maleska, who is no longer around to defend himself. Eugene Maleska would never have published a dog's breakfast like this.

foodie 12:27 AM  

@ulrich, greene & BlueStater: I forgot to think of a good sense of humor as a great strategy! You all you seem to have developed that facet!

And I agree with mac that the bird story was heartwarming, ulrich!

Charles Bogle 8:18 PM  

this budding enthusiast couldn't get out of any of the quadrants, w or w/out google....totaly agree w the "challenging" description.

In lieu of knocking myself silly Fridays w this puzzle, I've taken to doing the puzzle in The Week which, fortuitously, comes to me on Fridays.

No problem there w ancient references. Instead, it pays to know the real name of this year's Miss California.

For now, that'll do!

Anders Weinstein 11:43 AM  

Urgh, was right on the verge of that satisfying feeling of finishing a toughie unaided, but find I guessed wrong with an N at UNA_/E_TE. One man's ESTE is another man's Natick. :(

jpChris 3:47 PM  

I have to cry "foul" on 9D: Hub northwest of LAX.
Burbank Airport is a hub NW of LAX. SFO is almost 350 miles (as the crow flies) and almost 500 miles driving. It completely messed up the NE corner for me!

808 8:23 PM  

Greetings from syndication land... I've been reading Friday and Saturday comments for several months, but this is my first post. As a pilot who frequently flies to the West Coast I would consider as Hub Airports only major airports where small commuter planes bring in folks from the hinterlands to connect with Large, or International, Carriers. On the West Coast, I would call only LAX, SFO, SEA, and maybe ANC and PDX Hubs. Burbank definitely doesn't qualify, and SFO is, in fact, the nearest hub from LAX towards the NW. As for the puzzle, yes it was challenging. No googling for me as internet service in unavailable in my prefered sovling locale. One bad square at GRIA/ATRIAE. Is 42 young or old? Mid-life Crisis?

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