Transcaucasian capital — SATURDAY, Jul. 11 2009 — Nirvana attainer / Pteridologist's specimen / Zulu relative / Rapacious flier

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Constructor: Karen M. Tracey

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: XHOSA (54A: Zulu relative) [pronounced 'KO-sa] — also n., pl. Xhosa or -sas also Xosa or -sas.

  1. A member of a Bantu people inhabiting the eastern part of Cape Province, South Africa.
  2. The Nguni language of this people, closely related to Zulu. (

So Karen Tracey lives! Hurray! I haven't seen her by-line on a puzzle in what feels like ages, and doing this puzzle made me realize how much I miss her work. Snap, crackle, and pop everywhere I turned. More 3-, 4-, and 5- letter words than I'm used to seeing in her grids, but because Karen's a pro, not too much slippage into tired fill. It was a little weird to see stuff like ST. LO (13D: The Vire River flows through it) and ALAR and ERN and NALA (12D: Simba's mate) in my Saturday puzzle ... but a. that handful of answers is forgettable next to the amazing longer stuff, and b. I'll give myself permission to complain about NALA the second I can @#$#ing remember it. "FALA ... no, that's FDR's dog ..." There are a surprising lot of valid -ALA words. VALIDALA!

Anyway, this puzzle might have been rated a little easier if I hadn't frozen up completely in the NE, where 11D: Response to a ding-dong? held me up longer than anything in the grid. I had -HOCA-IT-E and couldn't process those letters to save my life. At first, because of the "?" and the "ding-dong," I was sure that the first letter would be "C" ... Near the beginning of the puzzle, I actually considered something like CHOCAHOLIC (CHOCAHOLIA?), though that "A" should have warned me off right away. Ding-Dongs are cream-filled chocolate cupcakes produced by Hostess, which brings me to another feature of the clue that should have warned me off the cupcake answer: those "d"s weren't capitalized. Ugh. "WHO CAN IT BE" seems quaintish. The phrase exists in my head only as a 1981 query sung by an Australian and followed by the word "Now":

"IN HER SHOES" (27D: Jennifer Weiner best seller made into a 2005 film) and KATE SPADE (17A: Big name in bags) give this puzzle a more distinctly feminine slant than many puzzles have, though both the book/movie and the designer are mainstream enough to be familiar to anyone. JOHN LARROQUETTE (36A: Winner of four consecutive Emmys for his sitcom role as a prosecutor) would have been a gimme with no crosses, so despite the "Q," I wasn't that excited to see him. I was, however, excited to see SUSQUEHANNA (24D: Three Mile Island is in it), as I practically live on its banks. Five-minute walk to the river. I drive over it nearly every day. I gotta say, it doesn't feel very Three Mile Islandy. I'm sure it's polluted as @#$#, but it's actually one of the nicer features of this town. My geographic good luck continued in this puzzle with NASHUA (23A: Second-largest city in New Hampshire), which I knew, but also had the good fortune of seeing in a BEQ puzzle just yesterday. Geographic good luck ran out completely with HANAUMABAY (39A: Snorkeling spot near Honolulu). I'm really glad those last three letters ended up spelling BAY, because otherwise the entire answer would have been unintuitable gibberish to me. Hit the jackpot in the Shorter Exotic Words and Names category today, as BAKU (1D: Transcaucasian capital), ARHAT (16A: Nirvana attainer), ARRAU (10D: He recorded all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas in the 1960s), and XHOSA (54A: Zulu relative) all came to me quite easily (I'd know none of these were it not for crosswords). All in all, an entertaining solve, with the E and NE providing the greatest resistance. NW started out tough, but then I got KATE SPADE, and the "K" fixed everything (as it often does).


  • 14A: Trade name of daminozide (Alar) — this is what you do to crosswordese on a Saturday. Hide it. At least DAMINOZIDE wasn't the answer.
  • 19A: Internet forum menace (troll) — Reminder: Do Not Feed.
  • 21A: Major Côte d'Ivoire export (cacao) — makes me wish 11D had been a CHOCO- answer. Would have made a perfect Chocolate Cross.
  • 35A: Early Saint-Laurent employer (Dior) — wasn't sure at first how "employer" was being used here. Or "Saint-Laurent," for that matter (person? brand?).
  • 57A: Pteridologist's specimen (fern) — national symbol (or one of them) of NZ. Also, the name of my (Kiwi) nephew. Yes, a handsome, strapping young man named FERN. It's kind of awesome.
  • 60A: Org. created by Carter in 1979 (FEMA) — now synonym for "incompetence," sadly. One of the first disasters to which FEMA responded: Three Mile Island. And FEMA crosses SUSQUEHANNA in this grid. Dang, that's nice.
  • 5D: To whom Stubb and Flask answered, in literature (Captain Ahab) — Flask and Stubb!? I love their music:

  • 4D: Peach variety (freestone) — no idea. None. I will eat a FREESTONE peach by HANAUMA BAY one day, in honor of this puzzle.
  • 6D: Unlike fairies (real) — this made me laugh out loud. Excellent.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Crosscan 8:46 AM  
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JannieB 8:47 AM  
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Crosscan 8:49 AM  

Enjoyable puzzle. When I saw Karen Tracey's name I was expecting Z's and Q's all over; turned out to be less than expected. I knew JOHN LARROQUETTE but the spelling took awhile.

Thanks to BEQ for NASHUA.

I'm sure I wasn't alone in putting CREAKS for GROANS.

Never heard of KATE SPADE or IN HER SHOES. Does that make me uninformed or just a guy? Is there a difference?

JannieB 8:49 AM  

Didn't realize I had a mistake till I read the blog - Tuff/Taku looks quite nice in my grid, thanks. I easily got Larroquette & Susquehanna - it was spelling them correctly that took me awhile.

The SW and NE corners took me the longest. I stubbornly tried to keep "even" for fair despite knowing that "thru" and "shoes" were correct. Also insisted "Lip" was right and that held up the NE for quite awhile. Still not 100% on board with Nip for edge.

Kept re-righting preen in the SW and cacao in the NE.

Loved the Saturday clues for the Tuesdayish St Lo and alar.

Happy to see a woman's byline today after the conversation yesterday. Very nice Saturday!
8:47 AM

foodie 9:20 AM  

Thank you, thank you! KT for an excellent puzzle and WS for bringing us a woman constructor on Saturday. For a change, there were fancy purses and chick lit clues and no sports in my saturday puzzle!

The puzzle was EASY- CHALLENGING! Easy everywhere except the northeast, where I could not think of ARHAT, never knew ARRAU, wrote COCOA, and NASSAU...

Rex, HANAUMA BAY is awesome! You stick your face in the water and a whole gorgeous world lives there, beautiful, colorful fish of all colors and strips envelop you. I'm guessing your daughter would love it. Being surrounded by Hawaii doesn't hurt either. You're more likely to be drinking guava juice, though... I think FREESTONE peaches are so called because the flesh and the stone are not stuck to each other... (haven't checked, just an assumption).

foodie 9:23 AM  

PS. I meant to write: fish of all colors and stripes-- I remember how many striped kinds there are.

PPS. And let's not forget the BUFF hunk in 1A!!!

edith b 9:32 AM  

All of 4 comments so far and they outline some of the trouble spots that held me up for what seems like forever.

When I first moved to South Jersey from NYC, I read a longish article on Jennifer Weiner who wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer and, like Pete Dexter before her, found fame and fortune after leaving Philadelphia.

I had many holes in my puzzle, most of them scatteed across the North but - DING DONG - sorted most of them out in the NE and ULAN bailed me out of the NW as BUFF was my last entry.

If was nice to see Karen Tracey making a triumphant return after what seemed like a long absence.

Long live the female bias!

PlantieBea 9:34 AM  

I started this last night while watching Bottle Shock--fun film about the CA wine business. I finished this AM and enjoyed the Scruggs and Flat while correcting my errors. Thanks, Rex.

I finished this medium feeling Saturday puzzle, but had a few problems. First, ARROU/ARHAT was a blind spot and I ended up with ALROU/ALHAT. In the SW my street sign said TURN instead of THRU. I figured ONST was an acronym of some type for cashier, XUOSA looks almost as good as the correct XHOSA. Glad the latter is the word of the day.

Like Crosscan, I had CREAKS for GROANS for a long while. One I did not like was SEPARABLE.

Answers I liked included FEMA, KATE SPADE, DIOR, and EDYS, SORBET. Also liked ST. PAUL, which will be my Mac son's home for the next four years.

joho 9:36 AM  

Not knowing ARROU or ARHAT, I squeezed the word Natick into the square next to the number 16 square. I also had PiTCHY (Dawg) for PATCHY which created some pretty weird answers: INATICKHAT & ANATICKROU. Despite this unfortunate spot in the puzzle for me, I still liked it a lot.

I, too, was happy to see Karen M. Tracey's name up at the top.

I wish I go could snorkeling today at HANAUMA BAY.

Anonymous 9:37 AM  

Yes, there are freestone peaches, and clingstone. When I canned peaches, def. preferred the freestone.

Easy/Challenging sounds right. It filled in strangely for a Sat. - lots of long answers crisscrossing over the grid, rather quickly for me, then the fill-in, that took much longer.

Loved how I thought, "Ooo, I'll never figure this one out", to "hey, I think I know this one!"

PlantieBea 9:39 AM  

I also liked the FREESTONE peach--they are in season now and absolutely deicious. Much easier to clean and cook with than their CLINGSTONE relatives.

HudsonHawk 9:39 AM  

Great puzzle, KT! I was cruising through the grid, with the exception of the small SW and NE areas. Was thrilled to come here and see that I didn't have any errors, especially in the SW. PREEN had been LEARN for a bit, which slowed that down.

I recently took the Asian Capital quiz on Sporcle, so BAKU was easy (not to mention it was just in the grid). I was confident in ULAN Bator, as well. The funny thing is that the Sporcle quiz only accepts the spelling of Ulaanbaatar.

retired_chemist 9:48 AM  

Tough, tough, tough in spots. Easy in others. But fair, mostly. Nice workout. Knew very little to get me started – FREESTONE was about all for the long answers. Used to watch Night Court, so JOHN LARROQUETTE emerged pretty quickly, as did CAPTAIN AHAB and SUSQUEHANNA.

Made good time except for the NE and SW like @JannieB. SW was thrown off by being SURE 41D was CREAKS like @ Crosscan was. But no…. GROANS emerged after 54A XHOSA was confirmed by 47D EXPO. CAP looked right at a glance for 41A, but I hadn’t checked the clue, which made GAP obvious and further confirmed GROANS. Took 10-15 min there. Is the XHOSA NOSTRA a group of African mobsters?

NE was a total blank except for the S in 9A/13D for a long time. Was fairly sure of NASHUA (23A) but not absolutely. Only Google was to confirm NASHUA while I was doubting myself. 30A was RIM and LIP before NIP, making “WHO CAN IT BE?” much tougher than it needed to be. Didn’t even have that B because I didn’t see BAY – not knowing HANAUMA, I was stymied and tried to think of ten letter place names in HI to no avail. ARHAT crossing ARRAU – a true Natick IMO, as @joho says.

Did NOT try “IVORY” as a major export of Côte d’Ivoire (21A), tempted though I was. Thought of all the offers of millions of Euros I (and probably you) get from rich women there with only weeks to live who want to give it all to me (us) to use for charity, and really thought about E-MAIL or E-SCAM as the export. Never heard of NALA (1D) – had ELSA until crosses precluded that. Former is Lion King, latter is Born Free. Still not sure what a TROLL is in context of an internet menace, but I expect someone will explain on this blog. Anyway, a good 15-20 min. in the NE.

Thanks, Ms. Tracey. Your puzzle pushed me hard. Burned lots of cerebral glucose but it was fun.

chefbea 9:52 AM  

Fun puzzle

Love Kate Spade bags

Love freestone peaches. And there is nothing better than peach sorbet

retired_chemist 10:01 AM  

An oops for RP's terrific video clip of bluegrass - it isn't FLAT (see title) but FLATT & Scruggs (as in the video). They were gods to those of us who grew up in/near bluegrass country. Unless FLAT is a sneer at the music, in which case BOO to the author of the clip.

Leon 10:01 AM  

Thanks Ms. Tracey.

A NYT blog linked to the original Mai Tai recipe yesterday.

Cheers !

Dough 10:12 AM  

Terrific puzzle. Great entries, great clues. I thought of REAL for the fairies clue, but resisted fearing the NYT would get inundated by fairy/ghost/wraith believer hate mail. Hah! The NYT puzzle taking a controversial stand! A shout-out to Claudio Arrau. I've got a bunch of his stuff on 33-1/3 rpms and pull them out now and again for a reminder of his brilliance.

retired_chemist 10:13 AM  

In today's e-mail:

"Dearest one
....I am Rabecca old and
the only daugther of my late parents Mr and Mrs Jerome. My late father was a highly reputable business merchant in a cocoa who operated in the capital of Ivory Coast ...sum
of($11,500,000.000)...account overseas....Can you honestly help me... "

Frances SC 10:13 AM  

This was a fun one for a Saturday. The SW gave me fits as well, couldn't get CREAKS out of my head until I erased the entire corner and started fresh, then it all fell into place. My grandson supplied NALA and my husband ARRAU and XHOSA, so it was a family game in the end. Thanks to everyone for your interesting comments. I am new at this blog, just retired a couple of weeks ago, and this has made morning coffee time a nice start to the day.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 10:16 AM  

Fun stuff, even though there's tons of 3-, 4-, and 5-letter entries. Doesn't seem as wide-open as it actually is. I was worried I wouldn't know who JOHN LARROQUETTE was (the classic Karen Tracy entry of you-either-know-it-or-you-don't-might-as-well-be-unchecked entry), but that was not the case. Approved.

Pinky 10:21 AM  

I agree 95% Easy + 5% Challenging=Medium.

Don't understand why Ousts = Cashiers

PlantieBea 10:33 AM  

@Pinky--I had to look this one up myself. Turns out that cashier is a transitive verb meaning "To dismiss from a position of command or responsibility, especially for disciplinary reasons." So, oust fits that definition of cashier.

treedweller 10:46 AM  

Well, this puzzle/discussion has served to boost my feelings of manliness, since I never seem to benefit from the "male bias," but definitely suffered from the female slant today. On the plus side, femininely speaking, I got DIOR pretty easily for some reason. But, I saw a clue about bags and knew I was dead as soon as "Samsonite" wouldn't work. PREEN was slow to come, since I was in the "creaks" camp. INHERSHOES was a google. I got enough of it to make the guess, but figured I'd recognize a movie title that recent. So the SW was my biggest downfall.

Well, check that. I never got SEPERABLE. I think I just put "super" at the beginning as a guess and forgot about it. Unfortunately, when I looked up "superable," I got an answer as plausible as the correct one. The only Fox I could think of was the former Mexican president, and nothing would make him work with T_PEE. Got a couple of interesting hits googling "tupee", along with a suggestion that I meant "toupee," but never sorted out the problem.

A good job both today and yesterday of making puzzles that didn't submit readily to google. I say that mostly with admiration and only a little annoyance. Way to keep us honest, constructors!

treedweller 10:50 AM  

Sorry if any women (or men) feel it was patronizing to include PREEN in the list of female-slanted clues. Didn't really occur to me till now that it might, but I really was just searching to fill out my list and dropped it in on a whim. I fully acknowledge that PREENing is seen in both sexes.

Alex 11:16 AM  

Never heard of KATE SPADE. Unfortunately I have heard of JACK SPADE who also makes bags.

So the absolute certainty of JACK SPADE completely broke the NW corner for me.

ARRAU/ARHAI was a thorough Natick. That R didn't even make my "possible" list when running through the alphabet.

Typoed ST PAUL as ST PUAL and took forever to see it and fix it.

JC66 12:06 PM  

ARHAT/ARRAU definitely a NATICK for me. I knew last night that Rex wouldn't agree when I googled ARHAT and this was the first item listed.

Please note it's a BEQ puzzle from 2 years ago. I only hope I remember ARHAT & ARRAU 2 years from now. (-;

JC66 12:09 PM  

Actually, I googled "nirvana attainer."

Rob Jr. 12:14 PM  

I'll second Rex: Karen's byline is a breath of fresh air, and her trademark professionalism shines through.Before I found Rex's site, I never looked at bylines..I don't think I've seen so few women puzzlemakers in the Times, as in 2009. Let's hope the NY Times puzzle VIPs commit to an equitable treatment of women puzzle compilers.This is the year of Change.

@Lee: I'm a recovering labor lawyer

archaeoprof 12:19 PM  

I, too, "creaked" before I GROANed.

PuzzleGirl 12:21 PM  

Absolutely typical Karen Tracey experience for me today. Scanned through the clues and thought "There's no WAY I'll be able to finish this one." But bit by bit it all fell into place. Great puzzle!!

The SW corner took me a full 1/4 of my solve time because I've never heard that definition of "cashier." When I had my first job as a cashier at Target a hundred years ago, we were called "Touch Key Professionals." Shame that wouldn't fit.

I'm in the CREAKS for GROANS camp. And SAMSONITE for KATE SPADE. Oh, and PITCHY for PATCHY. To much AI I guess.

"Gear to help you hear"! Love it!

still_learnin 12:35 PM  

Sigh... a DNF for me. I did miss the letter R at the ARRAU/ARHAT cross in the NE, but my real problems were in the NW and SW.

I'll use my guy-ness as an excuse for not knowing KATE SPADE or IN HER SHOES. For the latter, I tried IN HER STEAD, IN HER SPELL, IN HER SPACE, etc.

In the SW, I never got XHOSA and could only come up with EVEN for [Fair]. In the NW I had PENH for ULAN and THROTTLES for UNSETTLES.

HANAUMA BAY is fantastic. I can't believe the fish continue to hang out there with so many humans sharing the water.

Ulrich 1:03 PM  

Before we cry "bias", let's remind ourselves of the big hoopla about the Chrysler dealerships that are being closed as part of the bailout (aplogies to thsoe who've read this before): 9 out of 10 of the closed dealerships were owned by Republicans, and people cried "foul"--unjustly so, b/c in the general population, 9 out of 10 dealerships are owned by Republicans (serves them right!)--i.e. the selection is what one expects from a random sample--no bias involved.

I do not know the ratio between female and male constructors, but my hunch is that men outnumber women by a large margin, simply b/c in the fields in which constructors typically work (math, computer science) women are way underrepresented. So, let's be careful before we jump to conclusions.

In any case, as orange has pointed out numerous times, the remedy is to make more women interested in xword puzzle construction--they are certainly able to do it, as the outstanding women constructors we know demonstrate.

Rex Parker 1:04 PM  

CORRECTION: Tomorrow's NYT "Fashion & Style" section has article on the recent demise of several newspaper/magazine puzzles. Several readers of this blog are featured. And I get the last (weird) word.

Article is HERE.

Emailing article to others from the NYT site is great way to push the story's visibility.

Thx, RP

Pinky 1:06 PM  

@Plantiebea, thanks for the explanation.

now if I can just figure out how EDGE is a clue for NIP (there's an edge in the air? It's edgy out?)

jeff in chicago 1:12 PM  

Liked this a lot. A 1-hour, 1-Google puzzle. And it gets a medium. Me happy. Loved loved loved "Unlike fairies" = REAL. Ha! The SW corner had me totally stumped. Had IN HER S___ - had no idea. That was my Google. EXPO took a long time to parse. XHOSA? Really? Looked it up to confirm. By golly! It's a thing!

Getting JOHNLARROQUETTE and DEARSANTA right off gave me hope early. Liked "They may call the shots" as a clue. I had to trust that HANAUMA BAY was a place since all the crosses seemed certain.

Nice start to what's shaping up to be a great Saturday in Chicago.

Be good.

HudsonHawk 1:25 PM  

@Alex, Jack Spade is KATE SPADE's brand for men. Same company.

joho 1:46 PM  

After reading the article you posted @Rex ... I think somebody needs to make the movie "Wrath Of The Puzzle People."

And your words, while a bit weird, aren't as strange as somebody who does take their laptop to the bathroom.

PuzzleGirl 1:52 PM  

@joho: Hey now! Who're you callin' strange?!

JC66 1:57 PM  

Count me in the "strange" camp.

XMAN 1:59 PM  

With googles of 27d and 39a I was able to get the rest. (Actually, had all the other long stuff in before I g'ed.)

More fun than a barrelful of monkeys on pot. Thanks KT.

Clark 2:00 PM  

ARHAT / NALA was a no go for me, and HA_AUMA_AY just looked like it wanted any old consonants (though with hindsight I see that I should have tried B, which would have opened up WHO CAN IT BE). I had no trouble spotting ARRAU (having studied piano with one of his students).

I could not see IN HER SHOES, even though I have seen it. It’s a chick movie, I guess, but I thought it was terrific. A rare movie in which a character’s character improvement (Cameran Diaz, from jerk to non-jerk) is believable. And Shirley MacLaine is in top form as the wise grandmother, who balances world-weariness and feistiness, and who still has the sparkle in her eye that she had as Fran Kubelik in The Apartment.

Welcome Frances SC.

@Pinky -- I think that 'edge' and NIP are both verbs here. A frayed bit of cloth might need to be edged or nipped. Or?

rpl 2:09 PM  

IMO, to edge is to nip in the sense of edging out the 2nd runner in the race (think of nip at the tape).

retired_chemist 2:23 PM  

According to the article Rex cited:

“You get the pleasure of solving each clue, so there’s that ‘aha’ moment over and over — it’s like having multiple orgasms,” she said.

To quote Johnny Carson, I DID. NOT. KNOW. that. Wonder what THAT says about gender bias in crosswords....

Glitch 2:27 PM  

As always he glanced through the window to remind himself how cold and miserable it was outside, how the wind had an edge like a saw and the ground breathed ...

"The Spark And The Exodus Benedict And Nancy Freedman"


Bob Kerfuffle 2:30 PM  

Because this was the cause of my greatest difficulty also, allow me to quote a definition from my paper Webster's Third New International Dictionary (in perfect agreement with @rpl): nip . . . 7: to beat (an opponent) by a very small margin of score, distance, or time {nipped him by 6 in. at the tape -- Time}

Not so infrequently, I find that even mighty Google doesn't have all the answers, and it is good to have paper references to fall back on.

PlantieBea 2:33 PM  

There's plenty of video of Claudio Arrau up on youtube. Here's a sample performance from an 80th birthday performance of Liszt:

Wow-he was amazing.

Alex 2:39 PM  

@Alex, Jack Spade is KATE SPADE's brand for men. Same company.

Huh. Good to know. I'll let my wife know she needs to buy some girlie bags and not just the messenger bags she has (and is why I even know Jack Spade).

XHOSA was actually a semi-gimme for me only because of a trilogy of novels by Tad Williams which involves a Xhosa bushman trapped in cyberspace. Semi because I couldn't remember whether it was xhosa or thosa.

chefwen 2:39 PM  

I'm thinkin MAITAIS on the shore of HANAUMA BAY is the way to go.

Loved the puzzle but sorrily did not finish, had four little squares in the southwest that remained empty, GROAN, the XH in XHOSA and the OU in ousts (thanks for the earlier explanation)

Lauren 2:54 PM  

Karen, my husband and I admire your Sat. puzzles! I lift my KATE SPADE Jane Street Dominique wallet in salute. Karen's by-line is synonymous with excellence and needs no *approved* stamp from anyone.

Thx to Rex for my daily read..

FredBurt 3:02 PM  

Super puzzle for Saturday! Started on Friday night, but after completing JOHN LARROQUETTE in first couple of minutes, thought it was going to be too easy and left for Saturday finish. WRONG. NE and SW were tough enough. ARRAU, ARHAT, NALA, even PREEN came to me slowly. Lots of alphabet runs. In my book, 5% challenging = challenging puzzle. I'm all about the last square.

fergus 3:11 PM  

What a tough Friday/Saturday combo we've had. I don't recall ever having spent so much time battling the prime puzzles. But then, I also used to just give up. My Natick was the R in ARHAT, which I guessed correctly but with no satisfaction. Disappointing way to finish a really fantastic, spellbinding puzzle.

CREAKS for GROANS messed me up, and the confounding option of COCOA or CACAO made those opposite corners such a stain of ink that they're hard to read.

SEPARABLE made me think of micro-economic theory in both a fond and dismissive way. Using partial derivatives to decipher one's optimizing choices really wowed me when I was a credulous student. Back then I honestly thought that you could map the decision-making process -- and was also under the delusion that I was rational.

The latest theoretical work, however, appears to show some recognition that 'homo economicus' is not such a competent mathematician.

Anne 3:17 PM  

I spent too much time in the SW where I had In Her Shoes but took forever to finish that corner. I wanted soso or even for fair and had creaks instead of groans. And then spent even more time in the NE where I finally googled nashaua/arrau/hanauma to finally get out of that area. I worked on it for a couple of hours which means I'm making progress!!

jae 3:35 PM  

Very enjoyable Sat. Fairly easy except... I had the same problems in NE as many of you with PITCHY and COCOA (which I fixed). For the ARRAU/ARHAT cross I had to go to my music professor friend for the right answer (my best guess was an M). I was tempted to call Natick on that cross but when I saw the ARHAT answer I realized I'd seen it before. Thanks @JC66 for showing me where. Oh, and add me to the CREAKS bunch on the first pass. Great puzzle KT!

fergus 3:36 PM  

Rex, what an odd comment to be the only one quoted in that article. I'm sure you had many other pithy observations that, as they said, fell to the cutting room floor.


CAPTAIN AHAB took a while to appear today, sorta like in the book. Saturday Cluing precluded Starbuck, Queequeg and Ishmael -- so I was fishing around with Dickens or Thomas Hardy.

Another NE corner combination, starting at the 9 square, was TOOLS and TOUCHY (though the latter was a stretch), and I was also wondering if there could possibly be a river in that arid Yemeni capital?

Two Ponies 3:40 PM  

I loved so much of this puzzle but, like fergus, I find myself in the same sort of jam two days in a row. Sigh.
Arhat and Arrau were unknown to me so I had to throw in the towel.
It was a good mental workout with nip, ousts, Stlo, aand alar being clued in a very Saturday + fashion.
Even seemingly easy answers like gap were so cleverly disguised that what might have been a gimme took some effort to suss out.
The only forced answer for me was zip-a-dee. No do-dah?

fergus 3:58 PM  

I've always disliked the term 'puts paid' for ending something, but with OUSTS and Cashiers, I now see the connection.

foodie 4:03 PM  

IMO the newspapers have it wrong, in terms of their strategy re what to preserve. Of course there is journalistic excellence, but the news themselves and the immediate reports are more compatible with the electronic format. There is such a thing as a newspaper experience, and part of that is the format, the in-depth analyses, in some cases the funnies, and the puzzle! People get the paper because of all their associations with what a paper stands for, and if you start eating away at its distinctive features, it becomes increasingly dispensable.

I'm among the older solvers but I'm not afraid of technology, which I use on a regular basis. I even have an on line subscription to the NYT puzzles, but I prefer the printed version. There is a feeling about carrying your paper and your coffee and sitting on your porch and doing the puzzle. Take that away, and I would actively reconsider my NY Times subscription. I'm perfectly happy reading Le Monde on line or on my Kindle (No French puzzles for me...)

edith b 4:28 PM  

Claude Arrau makes his yearly appearance in the Friday or Saturday puzzle so that cross at ARRAU/ARHAT didn't present a problem, luckily, to me. My problem was WHOCANITBE at NIP as I had LIP and could not parse the Ding Dong till near the end of the puzzle. ARRAU also helped me see the difference between CACAO and Cocoa and thanks to BEQ for giving us NASHUA on Friday.

One needs all the help one can get on a Karen M Tracey.

joho 4:34 PM  

@Foodie: exactly! I, too, have an online subscription to the puzzle ... but I print it out and do as you do ... sit down with a cup of coffee, relax and enjoy. It's a ritual with me. And I'm sure with many others.

Oh, and @Puzzle Girl & @JC66 ... me calling somebody strange is like the pot calling somebody black (is that the saying?) And JC66 ... your avatar scares the heck out of me as I once had a close encounter with a hammerhead shark!

3 and out, have a good evening everybody.

Glitch 4:39 PM  


To all who have an opinion as to the *correct* interpretation of the pairing, believe in the one(s) you prefer.

As @Bob_K pointed out, there's many places to find backup, and each in their own way, plus personal opinion, all are right to someone.

The authoritative source however, would be that of the constructor / editor ;-)


Anonymous 4:46 PM  

Tough one for me..never finished NE or SW.

Can some 'splain the ousts for
cashiers as I don't get 'puts paid' either. thanks

andrea xhosa michaels 5:06 PM  

Yay Karen Tracey!
I liked the female bias, tho that didn't stop me from putting in INHERSTYLE, despite having seen the movie
(@Clark, we would not make good film companions, I found it dreadful, but that's for another blog, no doubt!)

Since my entire SE remained blank till the end, despite the WHOCAN and the incorrect COCOA, and TOUCHY, I would have to rate this medium-challenging-wait-till-Rex.

Scrabble observation:
Bec it was the Mighty Karen Tracey, I decided there might be a Z in that corner, so for a while, the ungoogled Vire River flowed thru GIZA, GAZA, and SOZA (!!).

(My NE went very ARRAU, needless to say.)

I knew the X in XHOSA, I just didn't know WHERE in the word it went... Oh learned ones, is the X the click sound?

In the SE, SEPARATED/AIDS threw me off for quite a while. EDYS something I know only from puzzles.

Bleed over word: MAITAIs...and I got BAKU only bec it was earlier this week.

May I add one more girl phrase?

For those who have missed KT's byline, it's been on display, albeit in microscopic print, on those overpriced cookie jars NYT was hawking (with no residuals to the writer)(Yes, I never give up!)

(Gotta go, time to feed the troll!)

fergus 5:09 PM  

Very reluctant to accept NIP when LIP was soundly established, yet the noun to verb response to misdirection allowed me to ink in the N firmly.

With a bold hand, I might add.

How do computer cursor solvers sketch in outlandish possible answers? Do you just throw in the letter or leave it blank? My favorite pen for solving lately has been an almost dead Waterman felt-tip, which can scantily trace the appearance of a letter, but by pressing hard can make it clear that is the letter I want.

mac 5:12 PM  

I creaked and groaned all through this puzzle - I think I started it too late in the day with lots of other stuff going on; next week I'm doing it earlier. That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.
I was completely stuck in the SW and had to come see Rex to get some answers... Maybe if he hadn't had his geographic good luck, he would have found it challenging as well...

Jack Spade is the company of Andy Spade, husband of Kate and brother of David.

Am I mistaken, or have we had 4 women constructors since last Saturday? This was a good week.

Bill from NJ 5:34 PM  


Since we have so few female constructors I appreciate the occasional feminine bias or, as I prefer, point of view when it rears its head.

I do not much care for the obviously chauvanistic puzzle from either direction or one that calls for more than a casual appreciation of sports trivia. In my opinion, a basic knowledge of popculture is a good thing, although I may get an arguement from some people along that front but it does represent my opinion only.

retired_chemist 5:49 PM  

@ fergus - Across Lite allows fill to be penciled in with a different visual effect from the solid black for an answer you are "sure" of. The default is a gray, but you can change that to any color you like. I don't do it myself but now that you have prompted me to look into it I might start.

Ulrich 6:06 PM  

@Andrea, Bill: I'm totally with you re. female bias IN a puzzle.

What I was saying is that there may be not enough female constructors to make a significant dent in the male dominance when it comes to bylines--remember the week of young constructors that didn't have single woman among them?

Which makes it, of course, the more heart-breaking when we hear of the rejections experienced by that Xhosa woman:-)

fergus 6:25 PM  

Why face the screen? OK, that is my angle, bias or whatever perturbation with regard to the solution venue.

When it comes to gender, I now have nothing to say. Even though I'm reading Steven Pinker's book right now, which has a lot to say about male and female differences. (The Blank Slate, from 2002, which seems such a long time ago.)

cheryl 7:10 PM  

Rex, we love your blog at work, and would love to meet y'all some day...the NYT is in no danger of female bias. I read a stat ( posted on our legal network, linked from the blogs) that women constructors were paid under 5 percent of the total NYT puzzle compensation during March.Intensely ironic, since March is Women's History Month, and our social justice org. had just celebrated WHM.

Seriously, a diverse work force isn't optional, it's the law.(rec. lawyer here too, civil rts activist,legally blonde, and loves Kate Spade bags!)
---cheryl s.

Clark 7:17 PM  

@Andrea -- We can go to different movies and then have lunch together and chew it all over. Someday when we're a bit closer than Chicago/LA that is.

chefwen 7:44 PM  

@joho - I think the phrase is "The pot calling the kettle black". At least that's what Mom used to say.

Off to the Sunday puzzle now.

andrea pawns michaels 8:13 PM  

OK, but I live in SF!

@Ulrich is right that there are 100 more male constructors than females...and you couldn't get parity if you tried.

Obviously it's a much deeper, complex issue of what is considered a good puzzle and who makes those and recognizing inner biases and on and on and on...

The NYT situation is not the problem but a microcosm of the world at large.

I mean, yes, you'd have to get more women even interested in creating...where does that start?
Well, they need to be interested in solving or in puzzles in general but if they are rife with sports, obscure geography, etc. then they may never glom on long enough to say "Hey I want to contstruct!"

(Just like speed is valued by males, then the competitions get set up to favor that...
and if construction is geared towards praising grids over content, then that's another whole thing.)

There are always exceptions to any rule, with certain women being speed demons, other women capable of making the best Saturdays, etc. but it goes so so so to the core of what we value and's really the same feminist arguments over and over.

(I'd hate to think my puzzles were accepted or not based on a quota!)

But there are so many internal biases of editors, and what they value...I'm sure Will would love to see more women, if only to get this issue to go away!
(Many folks, particularly young males, don't even acknowledge there is any sort of problem...lots of denial about lots of things, it's human nature)

The overall question of what even constitutes a good puzzle and who sets the rules...might be a good place to start.

I mean, really, you could discuss this for hours and hours and hours.
(I know! I have!)

@cheryl, et al
Keep up the good fight!!!!!!!!!
I sincerely hope you don't get burnt out.
Things have changed ever ever so slightly in the 40+ years I've been facing these battles in all sorts of fields, not just in reference to puzzles, but with totally parallel issues.

(And of all the things I love to do, getting a puzzle now and then in the NY Times still remains my happiest achievement)

I'm sure @foodie could write a book on what women scientists have faced, etc. Or @ruth on women surgeons...It's distressingly the same issues.

Now back to Rex and doing puzzles on the toilet!

foodie 8:27 PM  

@Ulrich, I has similar thoughts as you did re the size of the pool of submissions from female constructors. This is an issue we face all the time in science and medicine: why are there not many women chairs of science departments, deans of medical schools, presidents of major scientific societies? And the answer is that there are still very few senior women in science. So, your point is well-taken-- It is quite conceivable that Will is being more or less proportional to the submissions he is getting...

But it's reasonable to step back and ask why? There are a lot of young women who start off in my field (neuroscience) but the pipeline is leaky. Are there aspects of the culture, local or broad, that discourage these talented young women from staying on track?

How about for building crossword puzzles? I really don't know, having never constructed, much less submitted a puzzle. And I always entertain the possibility that women are simply not interested... they're busy doing other things. But I also consider the possibility that may be there is a sociology to it that is not very appealing to some people.

Here's what I have learned: It pays to examine the issue in a dispassionate way... understand what the facts are, what the barriers might be. And then the part I did not expect: It does pay to be proactive. In crosswords, I don't know what that translates into, but at the very least it might be to give feedback in a supportive and constructive way. For all I know, may be Will Shortz already does it? People who know him can clue us in.

@Andrea, I wrote this and as I previewed it, I saw yours... I'm leaving it as is, but obviously same idea from a different angle
: )

mac 9:03 PM  

@foodie and acme: you are both so right and you also both put it so well.
The best thing we can do is show in this and other blogs our appreciation for quality puzzles, and when they are made by Andrea, Amy, Karen, Lynn or other women, I'm sure the editors take notice.
How to go about getting young women to get into puzzle, I have no idea. I only have one female and two male friends outside the Rexblog-people who do the puzzle on a regular basis, and we're under the smoke of NY!

Lisa in Kingston 9:19 PM  

My 2 cents, (with a happy nod to edithb): I sincerely hope that WS is accepting puzzles at the NYT based on their quality, not the gender of the author. But as Andrea has commented several times, she has submitted identical themes only to have them rejected by WS. Rejection is the Editor's prerogative, of course.
Absolutely fantastic puzzle from Karen Tracey, loved it. Took me half of Saturday morning, just what I want from the Saturday NYT.

Stan 9:29 PM  

Doing the puzzle outside (on the first nice day in what seems like months), I looked up face to face with a wild turkey, cleaning up under the birdfeeder. It was a great moment.

Did not come close to finishing this one, but found it fresh and different. Kudos.

Orange 11:45 PM  

@Stan, how do you convince the wild turkey to do the clean-up for you?

Stan 7:57 AM  

@Orange-- Just by being very sloppy when filling the feeders. This broadcasts seed onto the ground. Ooops I hope we're not getting into Biblical territory here....

pinky 9:45 AM  


Thanks for the insight. I guess it still doesn't jibe with my limited vocabulary...

edith b 10:23 AM  

I suppose if you are as talented as Karen Tracey, you don't have problems getting published.

Brilliance will out.

Deborah Beale 1:03 PM  

XHOSA - the Tad Williams books feature the Bushmen (one in particular named !Xabbu) is Otherland and in 2011 the whole series is being turned into a World of Warcraft-type game...

william e emba 3:37 PM  

The only reason I have ever heard of JOHN LARROQUETTE was because he was some kind of Pynchon fan, and he kept putting Pynchon references in his show, and this was a topic of discussion on the Pynchon list way back when. I shocked myself by remembering his name from a few crosses. Just possibly because there's a medium-famous mathematician Peter ROQUETTE, whose very weird son I got to know at math camp thirtysome years ago.

On the other hand, I stared at HANAUMA-AY, and did not guess B, as in BAY, until forever, and then it was from the WHO CAN IT BE?, which I was trying to fill in with an M or L or H, all good Hawaiian consonants. Even then I didn't realize it was B as in BAY for a bit.

I have a dumb way of remembering ARHAT: it's some Buddhist word (actually it's none) that's the second half of Siddh-ARTHA (well, it's close). I'll never make lama at this rate, but I will finish the NYT Saturday crossword, correctly! Hah.

As for 6D "Unlike fairies" meaning REAL, I quote from Pioneer Press, about a New Age magazine trying to rethink what to include or not, and stirring up controversy: He says he would include stories about "nature divas," the politically correct name for fairies. "We would never say those do not exist. We are one of the forums where people can share those ideas," he said.

Anonymous 5:25 PM  

Get Smart = preen???? WTF?

Mirror On The Wall 6:36 PM  

To smarten one's appearance, carried to excess, might be considered preening.

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