SATURDAY, Jul. 4 2009 — 1946's Giant Brain / Parlor pic / Baseball's Dark Dowling / Non-coffee order at Starbucks / 1973 Ali jaw breaker

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Constructors: Peter A. Collins and Joe Krozel

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: INDEPENDENCE DAY (7D: Highest-grossing film of 1996) — four theme answers relate to today's national holiday

Word of the Day: Athena ALEA (14A: Greek goddess Athena _____)

Alea (Greek: Ἀλέα) was an epithet of the Greek goddess Athena, prominent in Arcadian mythology, under which she was worshiped at Alea, Mantineia and Tegea. Alea was initially an independent goddess, but was eventually assimilated with Athena. (wikipedia)

Expected something super-gimmicky, but got an oddly straightforward and uneventful holiday-themed puzzle instead. It's like a Saturday puzzle mated with a Tuesday puzzle, and this odd hybrid was the result. Big and relatively obvious theme answers made the puzzle super-tractable, but then there were these patches where clearly the difficulty had been artificially spiked. ARIS!? (39A: Greed war god, to Greeks). Even googling ARIS doesn't explain that one to you. I'm guessing there are untold numbers of people who have ARES here, grudgingly or happily accepting that the otter-hunting dog is an AEREDALE (actually AIREDALE, 36D: Dog originally bred to hunt otters). Aside from the strong double shot of Greek Goddery, there's not a lot to kill you here. In fact, the puzzle is oddly strong on (overly) familiar fill. EMEER (25A: Big man in Oman) and ENIAC (5A: 1946's "Giant Brain") and EDEL (62A: Henry James biographer Leon) and DDE (29A: Old White House monogram) and even ALAI (57A: Trans _____ (Kyrgyz/Tajik border range) are all old friends, though I'll admit to trying URAL at first for that last one. ALEA/BAKU crossing was a flat-out guess for me, though I'm sure BAKU has been in the puzzle before (4D: Azerbaijan's capital). One of those cities of well over a million people that I've never (or barely) heard of. There are a surprising lot of these, most of them in Asia.

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Fastest ocean liner ever in a transatlantic crossing (3 days, 12 hours, 12 minutes) (THE UNITED STATES)
  • 34A: Private reading? (STARS AND STRIPES) — U.S. military's independent news source
  • 54A: Patriotic display (RED WHITE AND BLUE) — is this a specific flag reference, or just a reference to anything RED WHITE AND BLUE, like party cups arranged on a table or M&Ms on a holiday cake or something?

Started up north, where somehow I was right about SARTRE (1D: He wrote "Life has no meaning the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal") and SERB (1A: Landlocked European) right off the bat. Soon I had everything up there but the ALEA/BAKU square, including ROCK, which got me ROCK GARDEN (17A: Landscaper's project), and off we went. INDEPENDENCE DAY followed shortly thereafter. Honestly, the rest went so quickly that I can't break remember it well enough to break it down for you. I know I had NEW TO and had to change it to NEW AT, which I like less (27A: Inexperienced with). This got me TAT, which is beautifully and enigmatically clued, 21D: Parlor pic. TALENT was tough because of the plural clue, 24A: Showbiz bookings. Thankfully, TRAVELED was utterly transparent (35D: Broke a court rule), because that "V" made KVETCH (49A: Bellyache) much more seeable than it might have been otherwise. Didn't know ROD STEIGER (58A: Oscar-winning portrayer of Police Chief Bill Gillespie, 1967), but once I finally got TOLL (55D: Single stroke), I knew who I was dealing with. Wife was upset at herself for not getting 58A because she assumed the answer was "that guy who won an Oscar who just died who played a policeman ..." I said "You mean KARL MALDEN?" "Yeah ... [looking at letters she had in place] ... oh."


  • 10A: "Seance on _____ Afternoon" (1964 suspense thriller) ("a Wet") — one of your uglier partials.
  • 15A: Planet ruled by Ming the Merciless in "Flash Gordon" (Mongo) — annoyed I didn't get it right off, but needed just a cross or two. Alex Raymond is a god among comics artists.
  • 19A: 1920s leading lady _____ Naldi (Nita) — more crosswordesey stuff. I gotta remember her in my list of Silent Actresses You Must Know (MABEL Normand, Clara BOW, POLA Negri, THEDA BARA, etc.)
  • 30A: Baseball's Dark and Downing (Als) — I know neither. Clue made me think only of Ron Darling.
  • 51A: Non-coffee order at Starbucks (chai) — does CHAI go with NAN? (32A: Asian flatbread). It's a combo I've never tried.
  • 6D: 1973 Ali jaw breaker (Norton) — Boxer Ken. That's back-to-back days with toughish Ali-related clues. Had no idea NORTON broke his jaw. Should have listened to the shorts (see right).
  • 33D: It may be down (pile) — as in carpet? Hmmm. There's a tertiary meaning of PILE: "Soft fine hair, fur, or wool." Maybe that's it.
  • 34D: It may make people jump to a conclusion (sack race) — That's very clever.
  • 37D: PAC for those who pack? (NRA) — another Tuesday clue.
  • 46D: Bath beads maker (Calgon) — "take me away!"

  • 48D: Disc holder (stereo) — The CD/DVD player holds the disc. This clue ... is like calling a HOUSE a [Couch holder].

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


John 8:35 AM  

Fairly easy puzzle, very enjoyable.

I knew AL DOWNING for some unknown reason.

I actually met ROD STEIGER in a movie theater in London in 1974.

imsdave 8:53 AM  

Easy for a Saturday, as to be expected for a holiday theme puzzle. The NE was my only tough spot - held up for a while because I stupidly put in USSUNITEDSTATES. SS would be correct or THE but not USS - that's reserved for the Navy. And I didn't know ALEA (Pallas yes) or ELOHIM, but the L seemed right.

SACKRACE sort of invokes a 4th of July picnic which I really liked.

Happy Fourth all - off to Wilton CT for the big family BBQ.

joho 9:09 AM  

I fell to the Greeks. I also cry Natick at ALEA/ELOHIM.

I had SoCKRACE which evokes hop, no?

This wasn't the challenge I like for a Saturday but that is forgiven as it honors INDEPENDENCE DAY and the REDWHITEANDBLUE in THEUNITEDSTATES OF AMERICA.

Enjoy everybody!

sillygoose 9:25 AM  

When I saw the easy rating I thought I'd give it a try. I got the NW super fast and was feeling encouraged, but then... oh well. Clues like "copy cats?" = PURR are going to keep me from ever getting the weekend puzzles, and I even had the U in place.

Happy 4th everybody!!

Greene 9:36 AM  

Agreed. Pretty easy for a Saturday puzzle. In fact, I felt like I might accidentally be working a LAT Saturday puzzle for a while. Overall, I thought it was a fine theme puzzle, and it was nice not to be quite so stymied while struggling with a NYT weekend puzzle. I'm guessing that most of Rex's elite solvers will rate this one a yawner.

As Rex predicted, I was one of those who had ARES for 39A, but I was able to recover because I knew how to spell AIREDALE. Only got 57A, ALAI, through crosses and the L was a total guess.

@JOHO: I had trouble with ALEA also, but not at the ELOHIM cross. For me, it was BAKU that had me staring for a while.

@IMSDAVE: Love your avatar! Very theme specific.

Off to work the LAT Saturday puzzle now. Happy 4th all.

edith b 9:51 AM  

I played a hunch and entered INDEPENDENCEDAY as my first answer and it was all downhill (uphill?) from there.

I agree with Rex: Who hijacked my Saturday puzzle and turned it into a Tuesday? I had my first true malapop at 5D and 60A, initially entering ELATE at 5D but the crosses were all wrong.

I got the NE very quickly but got a little cute in the NW, having ROSEGARDEN at 17A. That was cleared up as it was obvious that 20A was going to be THEUNITEDSTATES as I had the back end of that answer from the NE.

Knowing how to spell AIREDALE held me in good stead and prevented me from falling into the ARES/ARIS trap and that was my only trouble spot in the South.

Crosscan 9:52 AM  

Not going to KVETCH today about ARES.

BAKU could be the scariest place in crosswords ever. Wiki says:

Baku (Azerbaijani: Bakı), sometimes known as Baqy, Baky, Baki or Bakü...

or any 4 letters you want.

Speaking of 4, Happy 4th of July to all you SERBS, MONGOians, Greeks, Trans ALAIs, Asians, Omanis, and Azerbaijanis out there.

Clark 10:02 AM  

I sheepishly admit to having ARES/AEREDALE. The dog didn't look right, but I couldn't figure out what was wrong with it. So what's with ARIS? My best guess is that it has something to do with modern Greek. What I know about ancient Greek doesn't suggest an explanation.

HudsonHawk 10:06 AM  

I'd kick it up to Easy-Medium. Still plenty of Saturday cluing to slow me down a bit.

Being a sports fan helped me out with NORTON. Another day with Howard Cosell in my ears. ALS was gettable, but I recall that Dark was always called ALVIN. Watching the Wimbledon final while solving slowed me down on 35D, as I was thinking tennis court, not basketball.

Had a write over in the deep South, with SHASTA coming after SONOMA.

treedweller 10:09 AM  

This might not be up to the standard Saturday difficulty, but calling it Tuesday-level is a bit cruel to those of us who still struggle to get the late-week puzzles done. Either that, or it was a really big mistake to try it last night after a big 4th party. Or maybe I just psych myself out on Saturday. Anyway, I can generally count on finishing a Tuesday in a few minutes, and this took almost an hour.

Denise 10:13 AM  

I had lots of time last night, waiting for our house guest to arrive, but I finished it relatively quickly, and so finished the book I had been reading.

I changed ARES to ARIS, just on a hunch.

Everyone is here -- decorated bike parade on Main Street this morning ---

Happy 4th.

mac 10:15 AM  

This was my fastest Saturday ever, of course. I had to fix my Ares, too. Some of the clues were so easy that I was reluctant to fill in the answer, as in 63A - a fox and French seasoning. It's a good thing today, I've got a lot of food to prepare!

Happy 4th everyone!

Rex Parker 10:19 AM  

Nowhere did I say that this was, overall, a puzzle of Tuesday difficulty. If a Saturday mates with a Tuesday, the result is probably something resembling a Thursday. Maybe this was Thursday+. But I finished in half the time it took me to do yesterday's (Friday) puzzle.

I'll be truly surprised if sanfranman's numbers don't show this puzzle to be easier than avg (for a Sat.) at the end of the day.


Glitch 10:20 AM  
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Glitch 10:36 AM  

Made most of the false starts above, but all in all all, a fine puzzle for me.

Generally I refrain from "Should have been a xxxday" type ratings, other than for construction, but just between me and my coffee pot, I give it 2 cups, which is my Wendnesday average, and Saturday easy.


Isn't it:

USS = US Ship = civilian
USN = US Navy = military

(I don't think the N is reserved for Nuclear.)



You have to drop back two generation or so and think record (not CD) for disc (we called vinyls discs too), and the Stereo as that big piece of furniture in the living room, and the clue/answer fits.

If you only drop back one generation, you're dealing with component systems, which would lead to an "couch holder = den" analogy unless the answer was turntable ;-)


still_learnin 10:46 AM  

Way easy for me, too, resulting in my best Saturday time ever. Couldn't decide between PILE and PIKE for [It may be down]. I leaned toward the "L" for {French seasoning], but couldn't figure out how [PILE] fit. So, I ended up with one wrong letter.

Happy 4th everyone!

Leon 10:50 AM  

Thanks Mr. Collins and Mr. Krozel.

Happy July 4th to all !

As a mid-level solver, I agree with RP that for a Saturday, it was easy.

Earl "The Pearl" Monroe's classic "Spin Move" was a traveling violation. But, it was a thing of beauty.

Hobbyist 11:14 AM  

I'm with Treedweller who was so honored yesterday, being a clue and all. I got the puzzle but didn't find it be duck soup at all.

Doug 11:15 AM  

@Glitch: Other way around on the USS/USN. Interesting article on US ship naming is here.

Happy 4th to you all down south. We've also been given a day off today, how about that?

Geek 11:17 AM  

Odd -- I thought TRAVELED meant that a bail restriction was the COURT VIOLATION. Right answer - wrong reason. Too much "Law & Order" marathon for me, I guess.

Not as easy for me as most commenters, but like my colleague, I'm "still_learnin." At least no Googles. Happy 4th!

ArtLvr 11:24 AM  

Happy 4th, all... Speaking of NITA and other early film stars with xword-worthy names, let us not forget INA Claire who played the love rival in "Ninotchka" with Garbo. They also were rivals in real life over silents' star John Gilbert!

KVETCH is a favorite...


JC66 11:30 AM  

I am among the many that had ARES/AERDALE.

ALvin Dark and AL Downing were both NYC baseball players. Dark was the starting shortstop for the Giants in the 50's and Downing a pitcher for the Yankees in the 60's.

Sara 11:30 AM  

@fergus from yesterday: yes, but - to paraphrase Tom Lehrer - when Keats was my age he had been dead for 22 years, so I figure I'll forgive him the adieux.

PuzzleGirl 11:35 AM  

I was wondering the same thing as treedweller: Do I psyche myself out by going into a Saturday puzzle certain that it's going to be hard? I finished all but the NW corner last night but had to sleep on it before SARTRE would come to mind.

I finished this one in exactly my average Saturday time. Really enjoyed it too!

I started out with STAYED UP for WAITED UP, ROSE GARDEN for ROCK GARDEN, and COSECANTS for CONSTANTS (haha! math!!).

foodie 11:35 AM  

Definitely easier than yesterday, but plenty to chew on.

I liked the Asian feel of this puzzle. Kyrgyz/Tajik, Azerbaijan, Oman vibe. The area of the "Stans" is a total mystery to me, but apparently that's not uncommon. At one point, I got tired of people telling me they detect an accent and asking me where I was from. Because once I said Damascus, we would get into Middle Eastern politics. My daughter suggested I tell people I was Uzbek. I tried it a few times. It's hilarious-- a total conversation stopper!

XMAN 11:53 AM  

Well, I won't let the fact that this was tagged "easy" for a Saturday ruin my day. I finished it without googles and that's that.


Can someone please explain 21d: TAT as the answer for "Parlor pic"?

Snoopy4 11:56 AM  

Please explain toll=single stroke

bookmark 11:58 AM  

I, too, thought it was easy for a Saturday but still took
two tries to finish.

I knew AIREDALE, as my father told of how after his mother died when he was five, one took care of him during the day. My grandfather confirmed this story, but it's still hard for me to believe. Dad would have been 90 last week.

Happy 4th to you all!

edith b 12:03 PM  


You are right, it was cruel to say this puzzle equated to a Tuesday and misquote Rex in the process.

I should remember how long it took me to be able to solve a Saturday and show some respect to others who are still on the road. I'm sorry, treedweller.

Blanche 12:05 PM  

A stroke of a church bell, especially for a funeral..."for whom the bell tolls."

Anonymous 12:15 PM  

@XMAN A "tat" is short for "tattoo," an abbreviated pic created at a tattoo parlor

Am I the only person who got stuck on ALOP for awhile? Knew the crosses were right, but just had not heard of the word before. It drove me batty. Well, I also thought a catawampus was a kerfuffle. So I was all wrong there.

matt 12:24 PM  

Can anyone explain how "ELATE" means "send"? I feel like an idiot. --ATE were my only missing pieces.

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

Never want to see ARIL in too many puzzles, but maybe here ARIL crossing EARL would've been better than ARIS/EARS.

Altogether a super easy Saturday, but the crossing 15s in the timely theme made the puzzle well worth it.

ChemProf 12:35 PM  

@ matt:

I'm guessing the operative definition here is 2c from the OED:
" c. slang (orig. U.S.). To transport or arouse emotions in (a person); to enthral, delight (esp. of popular music). "

Or, the more fun version:

Peter 12:38 PM  

Thanks for all the kind comments on today's puzzle -- of course, anything less would be downright un-American. Joe and I were very fortunate to find four 15-letter patriotic phrases that interlocked symmetrically, and Joe is a very clever man when it comes to filling a grid under tight constraints.

As for baseball's Al Downing, he is the pitcher who surrendered Hank Aaron's 715 home run. That vaulted Hank ahead of Babe Ruth for the all-time lead -- that is until the bloated behemoths took over the game in the '90's.

I hope everyone enjoys their Fourth of July. Last week the family and I visited Washington, DC, and Philadelphia. A trip I recommend for anyone with children who, like mine, need a little exposure to how, why, and where our country started.

Pete Collins

Anonymous 12:40 PM  

Intersecting two 15-letter theme entries with a third 15-letter theme entry is a real challenge...especially when the theme entries are limited in subject matter. Intersecting three 15-letter entries with a third is even more a true feat of construction and worthy of praise.

archaeoprof 12:45 PM  

@Matt and ChemProf: "send" as a clue for ELATE struck me as very old school crosswordese.

fergus 12:53 PM  

I guessed that you could have a single PEAL of a bell as well as a single TOLL.

jeff in chicago 1:00 PM  

@edithb: I, too, had my first true malapop today, but it was the opposite of yours. Considering what day it is, I assumed the 15s would be patriotic. That made 7D a no-brainer. With the A in DAY I filled in EMAIL for 60A.

Two Googles and a fairly long time later I had a full puzzle. I liked it. I like any Saturday I can finish, be it a semi-Thursday or not! KVETCH is a fun word.

MONGO only pawn in game of life.

fikink 1:03 PM  

Glitch beat me to the FIL's message to Rex. Discs were definitely played on the turntable, which, before the component system, everything - tuner, turntable, amp, pre-amp, - was in one behemoth called "the stereo," usually in "the living room."

In the throes of the Fikink High Holidays (birthday, Independence Day and anniversary, all in the same week), I was happy to have this fast Saturday puzzle.

As Rex suggested, Ares just made me think I had been spelling AIREDALE wrong all these years. That is a bit of a disservice...made me have to research after the fact!

HudsonHawk 1:04 PM  

@foodie, I love the Uzbek angle. Very funny!

Anonymous 1:14 PM  

I enjoy a difficult puzzle and although ARIS wasn't going to happen for me, I spent some time thinking about doggies. What I want to know is what crimes against nature did the poor otter population commit in England. I wonder if it had to do with eating sickly song birds. Someone otter know.


janie 1:16 PM  

glory be -- found an aris explanation on the internet. and one that connects to the wording of the clue, too.


Glitch 1:16 PM  

@doug (Thanx for the link.)

I had it more like incorrect --- USS and USNS are "official" prefixes used (only) by the USN (US Navy).

On first pass of @imsdave missed that it's the SS United States, with SS standing for Steam Ship.

It's the correct prefix for civilian cruise ships like the "SS Minow".


Elaine 1:30 PM  

Hi -- easy or not, it's fun to FINISH a Saturday without google help!

@jeff in chicago -- thanks for the "Mongo" chuckle. Alex Karras was a kick!

XMAN 1:47 PM  

Thank you Anonymous for explanation of TAT.

Clark 2:07 PM  

@janie -- the explanation you link to for ARIS didn't clear things up for me. But, I did some checking. The second vowel in the name of the Greek God of war is eta. That vowel is transliterated into our alphabet as 'e' (ARES), using the conventional system for transliterating ancient Greek, and as 'i' (ARIS), using the conventional system for transliterating modern Greek. (The difference reflects a shift that took place long ago with the pronunciation of the vowel eta.) I don't know how modern Greek speakers pronounce ancient Greek names, but I wouldn't be surprised if they used the modern pronunciation.

Mike the Wino 2:15 PM  

@fikink: Happy Indebirthersary to you and mister fikink!

*clink* (of wine glasses)

Enjoyed the puzzle as we don't usually see themed puzzles on Saturday, except in cases like today. It made for an enjoyable start to the weekend.

Happy 4th, all!

joho 2:16 PM  

@Peter, so nice of you to drop in. I agree with you that more people should visit Washington D.C. and Philadelphia and remember how this great country began. My mom and dad are buried at Arlington and everytime I see those white crosses I get emotional.

chefwen 2:17 PM  

The Star of India is a very old and beautiful ship in San Diego, so my very first and confident fill for 31 down was sailboats, BEEP, WRONG! Of course, that didn't work, thought of the gem, but couldn't remember how to spell SAPPHIRE, finally got that mess straighted out and the rest went down easily. Oh, had to change tweed to TWILL and I'll admit to one google on BAKU. Easy to medium for the short one.

jae 2:48 PM  

I'm with HudsonHawk on easy-medium. There were enough challenging spots in this one to bump it up from easy for me. Being from San Diego I, like chefwen, got side tracked to boats on Star of India clue plus I also had to change TWEED to TWILL. And, like PG, I had STAYEDUP and ROSEGARDEN for a while. However, I knew AIREDALE and guessed right on the ALEA/BAKU cross. Nice holiday puzzle. Happy 4th everyone!

Stan 3:34 PM  

@Anon 12:15

I also was puzzled by ALOP and also didn't really understand the clue. But (as I know now)'catawampus' is defined as 'askew' or 'diagonal' so I guess 'alop' is kinda crossword-y diction for 'lop-sided'.

Not complaining here, just noting. I really enjoyed this puzzle!

Tigger 4:40 PM  

Happy 4th U.S.A.!

Fun puzzle with two malapops for me: wanted elate coming off eniac and Stars and Stripes at 54a.

Almost went to work for "Stars and Stripes" in '60s Germany, but headed off to Afghanistan instead.

Fond memories of riding the "Shasta Daylight" back in the '50s.

Off to grand-daughter's b.d. party.

Rex Parker 4:54 PM  

ALOP is weird. I got it no problem. I've seen it before. 27 instances in database, yet ... it's not in Webster's 3rd Intl (enormous) dictionary at all. And good luck googling it. Must be in OED, somewhere. Too lazy to look it up now. Can't believe a word that's not in the big Webster's (and not part of common parlance, and not googlable) is so well attested in xwords.


Anne 5:03 PM  

After I finished Friday's last night, I printed Saturday out, simply to look it over. Much to my surprise, I started filling it in and finished half of it before I went to bed and the rest this morning. I used my dictionary for a couple of things (Baku for instance) but didn't google. I knew it had to be easy.

Rod Steiger was fabulous as Bill Gillespie in "The Heat of the Night" (with Sidney Poitier) and well worth watching if you haven't seen it.

And I love nan and Chai but have never eaten them together. How bad could it be?

Lots of clever clues - I liked it may be down and it may make people jump to a conclusion.

Good holiday puzzle.

Crosscan 5:03 PM  

Just doing an old puzzle in a book. 78A is "Out of alignment" - ALOP. It is everywhere.

foodie 5:03 PM  

I've been trying to decide all day, is Peter Collins Michigan Pete??

Regardless, nice to hear from you, Peter. I do agree with Anonymous @12:40, the construction is really impressive, and beyond the theme density, there were interesting long answers, ROCK GARDEN, SACK RACE, ROD STEIGER. And the SARTRE quote is perfect! I didn't know it but it had to be him.

In case there are Uzbeks out there reading this, I meant no disrespect about Uzbekistan. The comment was about my ignorance and apparently that of many others about this part of the world. I've gotten interested in it, in fact, and it looks like a breathtakingly beautiful country, with an amazing history (e.g Samarkand on the Silk Road) and an ethnically very diverse population. Today, I looked up photos of Alai mountains, and they look impressive as well! So, I've decided I need to learn about Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Put some meat on them crosswordese bones!

Fikink, Happy everything! We have 2 birthdays, a wedding anniversary and Christmas happening within 4 days of each other. It's crazy!

Anonymous 5:12 PM  

alop adj. In a lopsided state.
(Webster's 2nd International Dict.)

Anonymous 5:19 PM  

These two constructors began with a grid of 57 permanent letters in it.
No substitute theme entries allowed...unlike other grid designs. As a result, a few words like ARIS and ALOP were no doubt

Anonymous 5:35 PM  

@Stan suggests ALOP as derived from "lop-sided." Problem: I cannot find ALOP in any online dictionary that I have access to. Perhaps someone can check the OED as a last resort.

"Atilt" derives from "tilt" in the manner proposed here. Problem: "Atilt" is an English word, attributed back to 1562. "Alop" doesn't exist, AFAIK.

This is a GNARLy problem, as the definition of GNARL isn't much different from that for "knurl," (1. A knob, knot, or other small protuberance.) and of which "gnurl" is a noted variation. Not that I think "ulop" is a better entry for 23A. So 23A is ALOP for sure, but it is not for sure in the English language.


Lurking Larry

kevin der 5:36 PM  

killer crossing: STEIGER / CALGON... loved the clue for SACK RACE.

Doc John 5:48 PM  

I was gonna call Natick on the ALEA/BAKU cross but since nobody else has complained about it, I'll just chalk it up to my own ignorance.

LOVE the MONGO quote, jeff in chicago! Frankly, I'm surprised that it took so many comments before that reference appeared.

Happy 4th, everyone! Today's my anniversary, not of my wedding but the one we count as our real anniversary: the day we met. Seven years and counting (and no itch).

sanfranman59 6:16 PM  
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sanfranman59 6:19 PM  

This week's numbers ... the number in parentheses is the number of solvers.

Mon (all) 7:07 (857) prev 3 week avg: 6:44 (907)
Mon (Top 100) 4:01 prev 3 week avg: 3:37

Tue (all) 8:40 (776) prev 3 week avg: 8:30 (878)
Tue (Top 100) 4:26 prev 3 week avg: 4:20

Wed (all) 11:56 (685) prev 3 week avg: 14:38 (641)
Wed (Top 100) 6:14 prev 3 week avg: 6:58

Thu (all) 21:34 (401) prev 3 week avg: 14:52 (640)
Thu (Top 100) 11:17 prev 3 week avg: 6:56

Fri (all) 33:18 (306) prev 4 week avg: 26:10 (456)
Fri (Top 100) 18:18 prev 3 week avg: 11:22

Sat (all) 22:04 (342) prev 4 week avg: 29:33 (318)
Sat (Top 100) 12:19 prev 3 week avg: 17:11

I think this may be the first Saturday NYT I've ever solved without consulting the internet, so I knew it had to be on the less-than-challenging end of the rating scale. Based on the median top 100 solve time, it slots somewhere in the challenging Thursday/easy Friday range. (Note that I posted the wrong previous 3 week Friday average for the top 100 yesterday.) I think maybe Will took pity on us after a tough week.

I now have 4 or 5 weeks of data and a picture is beginning to emerge. Here are the average median times (to the statisticians in the audience, please pardon the awkward terminology) for Monday through Saturday. The first number is for the top 100 solvers, the second for all solvers:

Mon 3:43 6:51
Tue 4:21 8:32
Wed 6:47 13:58
Thu 8:01 16:33
Fri 13:06 27:36
Sat 15:58 28:04

If you plot the times for the top 100, they're pretty linear with a bit of a jump between Thursday and Friday. The plot of the times for all solvers looks more like the hockey stick that someone hypothesized a while back with a bit of a discontinuity between Tuesday and Wednesday and a much larger one between Thursday and Friday. The ratio of the "all solvers" times to the "top 100" times increases in a fairly linear fashion from Monday through Friday (1.84 to 2.11) and then drops to 1.76 for Saturday. Since there are many fewer solvers on Saturday, I think this suggests more die-hard crosswordaholics in that sample.

retired_chemist 6:35 PM  

Happy fourth, everybody. Hope y’all enjoyed the day and the patriotic theme.

My best Saturday time ever: 12:43. Didn’t notice that there was a theme until I had solved the puzzle. Lots of fun cluing. 33A “Copy cats?” is my favorite. SARTRE (with a couple of crosses), ELOHIM, ENIAC, NANO, NITA, EMEER, ALS, NAN, SEL, ROD STEIGER, DOSE, and SLY AS came easily and everything started falling into place.

Note that this includes a TON of crosswordese. I am thinking Crosscan is right – solve thousands of puzzles and your time improves markedly. I expect this is in part because the crosswordese no longer mows you down and in part because you just get a richer vocabulary of non-crosswordese answers.

Some odd clues IMO – 45A Branches = SECTS? Sort of, maybe…. Thanks all for the discussions of TAT and ARIS, which were the NETTLES in my netherclothes today.

BTW if you do the puzzle in Across Lite, does your timer reset seconds to :00 (minutes stay OK) if you quit and restart? Mine does…..

ArtLvr 7:11 PM  

@ Xman -- You asked: Can someone please explain 21d: TAT as the answer for "Parlor pic"? and one answer is surely "short for tattoo in a tattoo parlor"... However, TAT is also an old word for embroidery or crochet, and especially that kind of needlework with an adage or prayer framed and displayed in the parlor or sitting room of a home in Victorian era... The adjective "tatty" meaning some sadly worn or un-chic garment or decor is related to this old-fashioned TAT.


treedweller 7:28 PM  

@edith b
No need to apologize--I meant my complaints to be taken tongue-in-cheek. It's all in fun, after all. But thanks for the sentiment.

PlantieBea 7:43 PM  

What a nice doable July 4th Saturday puzzle. I got tangled up in the ARIS, ARES problem and didn't think twice about AEREDALE. As ArtLvr just pointed out, tatting can refer to lacework, and that's what I thought the parlor pic was about. Agree about ALOP being a strange word.

Happy 4th and safe fireworks for all of you. We just got back from the beach and will head over to the backside of Magic Kingdom later for the happiest fireworks on earth.

treedweller 9:46 PM  

Aside from last week:
I am visiting family this weekend and the Peanuts Cookbook is still at my mother's house. There is, indeed, a recipe called "Lucy's Lemon Squares."

Glitch 9:51 PM  
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mac 10:35 PM  

@Fikink: congratulations on all those important days. To you too, Dock John.

@Foodie: that is really increadible. I thought we were unusual with Christmas, wedding anniversary and both our birthdays within 1 month. Our birthdays are 1day (and ten years) apart, though, two Aquarii (Aquariuses) in one house.

mac 10:36 PM  


mac 10:39 PM  

Forgot something else. The Beets Ulrich were superb!

foodie 11:04 PM  

@sanfranman you're making me realize how much I LOVE data! I mean I always knew I love to look at data from my own lab or from collaborative projects. But I see your name and it makes me happy: Data!! I was so excited today when Rex seemed to be awaiting your numbers to back up his impression. And of course, your data did!

It's also great to see the multi-week pattern. That self selection process is interesting--so many people dropping out on Saturday. Since by Saturday, the top 100 represent may be 30% of the total number, the remainder of the solvers are probably needing a significantly longer amount of time relative to Friday.

This all says that Will et al do a remarkable job of gauging difficulty of a puzzle. But your data suggest that may be they need less experienced testers (less capable than the top 100) to even out that jump between Thursday and Fridays.

@mac, yes it's pretty wild. I totally crash after Christmas...

andrea kvetch michaels 12:23 AM  

@Peter and JoeK
WOW! I was in total awe that there were FOUR fifteen letter phrases that fit perfectly, but that INDEPENDENCEDAY could intersect exactly where it would need to seems almost a miracle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I totally salute you guys!!!!!!!!!!

Also misunderstand what catawampus was...
BTW, ALOP is not good in Scrabble...I've been caught playing it...more than once :(
KVETCH is good but not KVELL... go figure.

Think Sam Cooke's "Youuuuuu Send me"

Stayed up till 3:30am trying to work out a corner of a Sunday I'm trying to make...and there I was wondering if EDEL could possibly be good and here it is in today's puzzle!!!!!

It's hard bec ALL Scrabble words, practically, are good in crosswords but there are 75% more things you can use in crosswords...proper names, partials, initials and on and on.
That only occurred to me TODAY.
(Yay database! Otherwise I'd be s-t-u-c-k)

Second moment of total synchronicity, yesterday my friend Elisa and I were discussing her 13 yr old daughter Chaityn's wanting to be called Chay (Eliza's relieved it's not Chaz!)
She ruled out CHE and decided not to spell it CHAI bec of the tea/chai and the chai, as in Hebrew for "life", (which I think is cool, personally).
Anyway, there it was in the puzzle... but I inexplicably tried FOAM first off the - - A -!

My take on TAT was also the old-fashioned parlor clue but how incredibly cool that it works both ways!!!
Love that it's super old and super hip all in one clue that I didn't even really get!

"Should have listened to the shorts"!!!! hee hee hee hee hee

Off -OR--N I tried FORMAN! Misspelled and just plain wrong

(I should have listened to the Shortz...)

Crosscan 1:03 AM  

@andrea - FORMAN is fine if clued "Crosscan's boss Ian". He hates when it is mispelled FOREMAN (and it always is).

sillygoose 1:29 AM  

Based on the data I am faster than average for Monday/Tuesday, average for Wed./Thur., and totally unable to bring home a Fri./Sat.

I have been getting about 40% of Friday puzzles, including this Friday, and opting out of Saturday for the most part.

I can tell I am making progress by the sheer number of things that are now gimmes that used to confuse me (Nita Naldi!), but I wonder if there is a genetic cap on crossword solving ability. Dad has been doing these for 70 years and he is still shaky on weekends.

Why is there such a big step up from Thursday to Friday?

Stuck in the Sunday-Thursday rut but still loving it...

andrea itsallabouthtethemebaby 3:28 AM  

"Why is there such a big step up from THursday to Friday?"
Because there is no theme, you sillygoose!

Themes totally kickstart you when you get stuck...but on a Fri/Sat, you're just stuck.

That said, you should try this Saturday's (if you are still reading this a day later) bec it HAS a theme (due to the holiday tie-in) and it will totally help you solve it.

singer 4:44 PM  

Being in syndication land I forgot that this was a 4th of July puzzle. Got the theme about half way through and enjoyed the construction of the puzzle. It took a long time to get "tat" but when I got it I said "doh". Rose Garden seemed like another theme answer, and I was disappointed to change it to rock, but resede didn't work. The hardest piece was Baku and Alea, and I admit I guessed. But it was cool to be able to correctly complete a Saturday puzzle without Google.

RB 1:39 PM  

I had a baseball card collection with about a dozen Al Darks. Made that one a gimmee.

organic intellectual 6:54 PM  

Unlike many of those people who have commented above, I found this crossword particularly challenging, not only because I am new to crosswords, but also because I am young (don't get many of the historical references) and I am Canadian (don't get a lot of the patriotic American references).

But as they say... practice makes perfect.

Nonetheless, the following answers bothered me:

"Nan" is rarely spelled that way. Usually it's "naan".

"Emeer" is usually spelled "Emir", and furthermore, "Emirs" tend to be rulers of an Emirate. But Oman is not an Emirate, it is a Sultanate! So the big man in Oman should be a Sultan, not an Emir!

XMAN 12:31 AM  

@organic intellectual: Yow! Everybody (including foodie) missed that one. Good work!

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