Slave in Buck's House of Hwang — Thur., Sep. 17 2009 — Tulip-growing center of Holland / Massenet opera based on Daudet novel

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Constructor: Arthur Schulman

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Olde Skool Crosswordese — six impressively long theme answers are definitions of words that used to be very common in crossword grids, e.g. "crosswordese" (i.e. the puzzle wherein Will pats himself on back for (mostly) killing these words).

Word of the Day: ... so many choices ... how 'bout VETCH ... no, that was Word of the Day in April (didn't stick, obviously). Let's go with ERS (27D: Ers => BITTER VETCH) — no, the only dictionary def. I can find gives "BITTER VETCH" as the exact and only definition. Alright: ERI (9D: Eri => ASSAM SILKWORM) — Samia ricini, or the Eri silkworm, is raised in India and parts of the Orient for its silk. Raising Eri silkworms is referred to as Ericulture. (wormspit.com ... I swear) (can't wait to see ERICULTURE in a puzzle)

Puzzle Note:


HALF-CENTURY PUZZLEMAKERS' WEEK

All the daily crosswords this week, Monday through Saturday, are by puzzlemakers who have been contributing to The Times for more than 50 years. Arthur Schulman, a retired psychology professor at the University of Virginia, had his Sunday Times debut on September 14, 1954. The puzzle below should be easy for solvers who remember their old-fashioned crossword vocabulary.


-----

Finally, this week's theme pays off. I have no idea what half the !@#@ in this grid means, but I enjoyed wrestling with it all immensely. The theme density and unusual Down-heavy theme structure gave the grid an unusual and (at first) daunting feel. The conception and execution of the "Return of the Dead" theme was really marvelous. Especially marvelous was the fact that despite the fact that the grid was loaded with words I didn't know, everything was crossed fairly and pitched right to Thursday level, difficulty-wise. At least from where I was sitting. I have this feeling the puzzle may have been stymieing for some. Even though the puzzle sort of winks ironically at crosswordese, it also indulges in it a bit, just as it indulges in some proper nouns that have "Only In Crosswords a Half Century Ago" written all over them (Note: nowhere in the following sentences do I complain or say the answers are "bad" answers). SAPHO! (1D: Massenet opera based on a Daudet novel) — would've been easier if the opera spelled her name with two "P"s like everyone else does. Then there are the hissing Euro twins LISSE (41A: Tulip-growing center of Holland) and ISSY (64A: _____-les-Moulineaux (Paris suburb)). If I've seen these at all, they've been exceedingly rare. ORSINI (23A: Noble family name in medieval Italy shared by two Popes) is a cool name, but one constructors aren't apt to use unless they're well and truly stuck (Terminal "I"! — I know because ORSINI was one of several options for me in one corner of a crossword I was constructing yesterday— I ended up going with something better known, though no less Italian). Finally there's the venerable dames of Crosswordese: EVA, who's very inferrable today even if you didn't outright know her (54A: "Uncle Tom's Cabin" girl) and OLAN, who gets one of the best clues known to mankind (39D: Slave in Buck's House of Hwang). I knew OLAN as a piece of crosswordese, but ... honestly, I had no idea about the House of Hwang. I'm sure it's horrible, and something that shouldn't cause me amusement, but too bad: but it sounds like something out of an 80s teen sex comedy. "Porky's," to be exact.

Theme answers:

  • 37A: Ais (three-toed sloths)
  • 3D: Ocas (wood sorrels)
  • 18D: Ara (constellation) — this is one that never really went away
  • 7D: Moas (flightless birds) — gimme gimme gimme. Having a Kiwi wife pays off from time to time. (just to be clear, wife is a human New Zealander, not a FLIGHTLESS BIRD)
  • 9D: Eri (Assam silkworm) — looove the inventiveness of adding ASSAM to this answer to get the answer length right. At one point I was trying to make ASSAM SIDEARM(S) work.
  • 27D: Ers (bitter vetch) — I was thinking ers, ums, uhs ...

Bullets:

  • 9A: Jordan's only seaport (Aqaba) — perhaps the best Q-that-doesn't-need-a-U place name. Beats QATAR hands down.
  • 30A: Mountain near Pelion (Ossa) — Daughter now knows more about Greek geography than I do, I think. Why don't we see PELION in the grid more? It looks cool.
  • 35A: They're often served with caviar (blini) — another crossword staple, this one with the cool non-S plural.
  • 42A: "Fish Magic" and "Viaducts Break Ranks" (Klees) — just learned who painted "Fish Magic" last week, from a puzzle.


  • 55A: Westernmost of the major Hawaiian islands (Kauai) — really wanted that "U" to be a "W"
  • 28D: Danish astronomer who followed Copernicus (Brahe) — I love his name. That's a name you don't forget. First name also great: TYCHO!
  • 34D: River through Köln (Rhein) — Germanic spelling, yipes.
  • 38D: Ziggurat features (tiers) — "Ziggurats" are ancient, pyramid-shaped temples. Maybe that should have been the Word of the Day. Too late now.
  • 45D: Abbey Theater playwright (O'Casey) — he is like Yeats to me. Both Irish. Both unread by me. Both likely staying that way.
  • 51D: Literary character who says "O, beware, my lord, of jealousy" (Iago) — more Old Skool crosswordese. Also Nu Skool crosswordese. Crosswordese Eterne.
  • 53D: Major leagues, slangily, with "the" (bigs) — all kinds of awesome. Super great. Dead on.
  • 56D: World champion of 1964-67, 1974-78 and 1978-79 (Ali) — ungainly clue, but shows ALI's impressive resilience. Had no idea that first interval was so long.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

131 comments:

Gavin 8:24 AM  

So, "Fathful woman" wouldn't make a great clue for "flightless bird"?

Anonymous 8:27 AM  

With all due respect - WTF?

"Old-fashioned crossword vocabulary"? Unsolvable w/o Google, an old dictionary and a prayer.

nanpilla 8:28 AM  

OK, Uncle, already! Never should have complained about how easy yesterday's puzzle was.
That said, it was great to have a real workout on a Thursday. Since I didn't know some of the theme answers, it was real work to suss them out through all of the crosses - and I mean ALL of the crosses in some cases.(ASSAMSILKWORM, you know who you are). Lots of fun duos in here:
PRISMATIC, PROSCENIA
SAY SO, ILL GO
WRENS, RHEIN
SAPHO,EXACTO

@Rex, loved the ISSY, LISSE pair you mentioned.

JannieB 8:34 AM  

Easy-medium for me - loved every minute of it! Makes all those years plodding through the Maleska era pay off! My favorite of the week thus far.

Crosscan 8:36 AM  

I'm amazed I finished with only 2 errors. This was so far out of my zone that it became funny and an oddly compelling challenge.

The comments this week make me wish there could be a "blind taste test" version of puzzles to avoid our biases and preconceived notions about puzzles.

Do no puzzles all week. Have someone send them all to you in random order, without any identifying information - no date, constructor, editor or source info. Solve and rate them, and try to figure out which one was which.

Sara 8:37 AM  

Rex, I cannot leave this unsaid - you have a PhD in English literature and you haven't read Yeats? Why and how aside, please, please go give him a shot. He is absolutely great.

joho 8:42 AM  

I chuckled when I got the theme. Definitely a puzzle crafted with a sense of humor. Just the right difficulty for a Thursday.

I guessed wrong at BIGa/ISay having never heard of BIGS/ISSY. BIGS??? That was my only ERROR and it didn't involve the fun theme, so I was happy in the end.

Thank you Arthur Schulman for poking fun at old crosswordese so brilliantly!

Leslie 8:47 AM  

I think Rex and I mind-melded--he said every.single.thing. I was going to say, right up to and including the chortling at "Buck's House of Hwang."

Love the puzzle, love the winks at (and simultaneous use of) old-school crosswordese, lovelovelove that karma came back and smacked us all for noting the ease of yesterday's puzzle. "Be careful what you wish for," indeed!

nanpilla 8:49 AM  

@Crosscan: I think that's a great idea. I'll be away for over a week during the month of October. I'll have to try it when I get back. I'll let you know how it goes, sanfranman style.

Lurene 8:56 AM  

Ditto Sara. Especially since you have a daughter. Read Yeats! "crazy salad with her meat."

Stan 9:04 AM  

Could not get anywhere with this. Oh, well...

william e emba 9:12 AM  

Rex, I cannot leave this unsaid - you have a PhD in English literature and you haven't read Yeats?

Life is too short for Yeats and rap, apparently. (Actually, I almost filled in Yeats for "Abbey Theater [sic] playwright". Yeats helped found it!)

David Lodge in Changing Places and Small World has English professors play the game of "Humiliation", in which they try to one-up each other in to who can name the most impressive classic author/work that they have not actually read. I thought it was a joke.

Hah! I knew what Ai, Ara, and Moa were. I assumed Ers was bitter like the goddess Eris.

As for Eri: utterly bizarre, as I've actually heard of "sericulture", but not "ericulture".

As for Ocas: nothing whatsoever. Oddly enough, Wikipedia says they are also known as "New Zealand Yams", yet Rex doesn't thank his wife??

How hard was SAPHO? I mean, if the Italians can give us Otello, why not?

I did not like the "Danish astronomer who followed Copernicus" clue. BRAHE followed him temporally only. He in fact rejected heliocentrism, and had his own mixed system.

Orange 9:18 AM  

People! Did you not read Rex's explanation the other day of why he's not planning to read Yeats? He has forbidding stacks of unread books and comics by his bed. He teaches comics as literature at the university, so that's both work and entertainment.

I vote that every person who tells Rex he needs to read [insert canonical work/writer here] is honor-bound to first read something Rex recommends. If you haven't read Alison Bechdel's graphic (i.e., comic book style) memoir Fun Home, you might start there, or with any of a dozen other comics Rex was knocked out by.

I'm a quarter Irish and majored in English and don't recall reading any Yeats, but I did love Fun Home. I had bought that one but didn't start reading it until Rex raved about it.

@anonymous, this puzzle doesn't require Google or an old dictionary—it just requires having done crosswords since the '80s or earlier.

Orange 9:22 AM  

P.S. Yellow wood sorrel grows as a weed in my front yard. I seldom pull it because (a) it's cute, (b) I was fond of it as a kid, and (c) the leaves have a tasty tartness. When I do pull the plants up, there are no potato-like tubers on the roots.

John 9:24 AM  

Solved ALL the theme answers from the crosses. Unfamiliar with any of them. 30 mins on a thursday is a very good time por moi.Very enjoyable solve!

Dough 9:24 AM  

From a long-time solver, this was a joy, and extremely funny. Also, very easy to solve! A note to @Rex, ERI (also ERIA) was always clued precisely thus: "Assam silkworm." Once I was in the far distant racks of books in a library and I spotted an old heavy tome with the title "ERIA." I said to myself, there is some obscure novel that I must read -- an alternative to the silkworm in life! But, alas, no, it was an extensive treatise on attempts to import the eria (eri) to the Western World to produce silk locally. The efforts all failed, btw.

Bravo to Arthur Schulman for a superbly constructed puzzle (and a lifetime of same). It felt so fresh! It was like a high-school reunion with so many old friends I haven't seen in ages! I must admit, I kind of miss seeing them once in a while!

Humorlesstwit 9:32 AM  

Rex, I cannot leave this unsaid - You said again that you haven't read Yeats and don't plan to? Last time wasn't bad enough?

I loved this puzzle. Totally reversing the crosswordese was an elegant construct. Didn't know a single answer from the clues, but as the crosses came they became clear, and rang bells from when clued/answered in reverse. At the risk of contradicting Orange, I didn't do puzzles in the 80's and still have seen these clues as crossword answers.

A fun solve.

Leglegl 9:32 AM  

Word of the day should have been "Proscenia"

Crosscan 9:32 AM  

This could make a good drinking game Have one everytime someone reacts to Rex' no-Yeats references

Denise 9:35 AM  

I loved how these "clues" jumped into my mind -- I have been doing crosswords for 50 years, so these were old friends.

I didn't know the guy named BRAHE. Oh well.

I was recently on vacation and in a bookstore, and bought myself a Dover Thrift early Yeats, just because . . . I love him.

If it is ever offered to you, take the opportunity to see an O'Casey play staged.

And, I have also read FUNHOUSE.

dk 9:37 AM  

BITTERVETCH -- Table for one.

I have been solving puzzles since 1963 (1967-73 don't count as friends don't let friends solve stoned) and this one was a hoot.

I am not sure if Dr. Schulman has a practice on the side, if he does this puzzle is bait.

My big (as in minor league) ERRORs: mops for SEWS, parabolic for prismatic, and terra for BOSSA these early egotistical mistakes made this adventure one of my slowest Thursdays.

I was schooled as the evil step twins would say.

Agree with @Joho all the way.

@Sara read Ishmael Reed's Yellow Back radio Broke-Down and call me in the morning.

I think I am going to work on profiling evil crossword constructors and use Arthur as my avatar: Perchance do you drive a VW?

Sara 9:43 AM  

Okay, Okay, if Rex really, really doesn't want to read Yeats *now*, I will respect that. I missed his explanation, but I do know about forbidding stacks of books (and yes I remember the David Lodge game - very funny). I'll take up the challenge and add Fun Home to the stack.

Nevertheless, I'm still amazed that Rex managed to go all those years in college and graduate school (I'm an English PhD program dropout, btw - I couldn't hack all those years) without being exposed to Yeats. Yeats isn't O'Casey or Synge, who, right or wrong, are kind in the Irish ghetto - Yeats made it into the bigboy canon! He's hard to avoid.

fikink 9:51 AM  

Rex, re: ORSINI, did you end up going with Medici?
"Crosswordese Eterne" LOL!

This is the way I remember NYT crossword puzzles to be. Solid and fair and not very amenable to speed-solving.

The only reason I was able to succeed this time is because, fortuitously (altho I didn't think so at the time), Mr. Fikink once beat me at Scrabble by making AI and I have never forgotten its definition (or my loss, obviously;)
THREE TOED SLOTH was my entry into the puzzle and I chipped away from there.

...and look, @Jackie, first they "reified" the ARPS and now the KLEES! :)

The FIL calls some people HODs - is that a regional expression?

Thank you so much, Mr. Schulman, a real treat! Hope you come by today.



(A moment of silence for Mary Travers.)

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

@Orange- Today's puzzle exemplifies why I've only been solving crosswords for the last 10 years.

Anna

Norm 9:52 AM  

This was a wonderful, hilarious puzzle for an almost geezer like me. Took me awhile to remember some of my old friends. Ah, ers, where have you been all these years? But when I [finally] saw what was going on, it was smooth sailing. Pay back for all those rappers, etc., that stump me so often but are gimmes for the young uns. Thank you, Mr. Schulman (and Will)

twangster 9:58 AM  

This felt like a hard Saturday to me. I might have stood a better chance if the fill was less difficult.

So even though I knew this was awful puzzle week I had no idea what the theme was (having not seen the hint in the note). It did not occur to me that ais, eri, etc., were actual words -- I thought maybe you had to put them all together and unscramble them or something.

retired_chemist 10:00 AM  

Wow. What everybody who liked it said, especially Norm 9:52. Retro almost to the point of being campy, but a lot of fun.

I remembered AIs, ERS, and MOAs from long, long ago, and could figure out ERI and OCA from crosses and the theme - short, crosswordese names as clues that you only see in crosswords. Saw, actually, since I do not think most of these have been current for quite some time. But, as I remember, the short, odd names used to be the answers, not the clues. I wasn’t doing the NYTs then but remember much of this from the syndicated daily puzzles in the Huntington WV papers in the fifties.

Don’t know where I knew PROSCENIA from, but I did. Tried MEDICI @ 23A before ORSINI emerged from proper crosses. Also tried TYCHO first for 28D since that is how he is best known. Checked Wikipedia post-solve – did NOT know that Kepler was once Tycho’s assistant. Tycho might have been transitory, as Wm. E EMBA said, but Kepler’s work done in Tycho’s observatory was a brilliant leap forward and I am sure there was a real collaboration. Newton’s law of gravitation had as its main evidence the laws of planetary motion of Kepler. Wow again.

Nice to see der RHEIN – reminds me of a discussion some months back with Ulrich about the genders of German rivers.

Thanks, Mr. Schulman. And Will for allowing this trip down memory lane.

Howard B 10:04 AM  

Right with you on this one, Rex.
This puzzle had no business being as fun as it was, and yet,
Buck's House of Hwang (chortle). 'Nuff said.

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

Although today was very difficult for me, it has really been a great week. You can almost tell the oldschool constructors personalities through their puzzles. Indeed "How can we tell the dancers from the dance?"

Sandy 10:11 AM  

Thank you Orange.

Also, is the Anonymouse from yesterday who incorrectly claimed that Rex always dislikes words he doesn't know reading the blog today?

I don't know where I would have been without MOA. This puzzle killed me.

XMAN 10:26 AM  

Wow! Finished with two errors, which I
should've been able to avoid (red face), in not bad time, considering.

Only "ais" and "moas" of the theme clues were known to me, but being familiar with WOODSORREL and BITTERVETCH helped some.

I remember thinking that the opera clues in the same corner were unfair, that I was going to fail in the NW, but they turned out to be gettable.

A really good Thursday workout, Mr. Schulman!

Ulrich 10:28 AM  

I did not do xwords way back then. So, when I got on to the theme, I was amused, but in this somewhat detached standing-on-the sidelines way. But amused I was, and enjoyed myself, nonetheless b/c I managed to solve (almost) everything with crosses--it took a while, tho...

...@joho: Exactly my mistake that remained uncorrected until I came here! Now I feel better...

edith b 10:36 AM  

I've been doing puzzles since the early 60s and, once I saw the conceit was reversing definitions and clues from the Maleska era, this one was laden with neons for me. @Jannie B succintly said what this puzzle was about.

Once I saw WOODSORRELLS at 3D, I was amazed at how quickly all the dusty old chestnuts came back to me. I was looking for Guidos high note to rear its ugly head as commenter Bill from NJ likes to cite as quintessentially Maleskan. I really liked how Mr Schulman sprinkled this puzzle with blasts from the past then plopped THE BIGS down with, what I like to think, was a twinkle in his eye.

And on a personal note I think we have to just plain STOP beating up Rex over not reading Yeats. I would certainly hate to have someone pick at a hole in my intellectual canon and cite that as a "failure to launch" based on not having read some lion of English Literature. We all have them.

Charles Bogle 10:39 AM  

Had experiences/reactions similar to nanpilla, crosscan, dk, joho...incredibly challenging and different puzzle, seemingly from another dimension; I learned a lot and was again reminded of my limitations as finished w three errors. Still don't get BITTERVETCH...what is that? Loved the grid w the long vertical answers. A very pleasant "old world" feel/aroma to this puzzle. Am sorry to learn puzzles have lost that quality; now, we must be current on tv sit-coms, FOX broadcasters etc. Liked byplay LISSE/LESS, THREE/TEE, KAUAI/ALI, PRISMATIC/MCAT...a lot of hard work and ingenuity in this puzzle and I don't feel badly I had some ERRS...congrats Professor Schulman

Bob Kerfuffle 10:42 AM  

This wonderful puzzle had me on something of an emotional roller coaster. My heart sank at first when I read WS's note -- OHNO, a whole puzzle of crosswordese! Then as I got into it, and saw the long theme answers, I was elated -- this really turned the Maleska answers on their heads! Further in, I was literally (yes) laughing out loud, in part as I imagined the vitriol this puzzle might elicit from Rex. My laughter ceased for awhile when I got down to the far SE and found myself at a dead end. Before I could finish successfully, as I did, I had to correct the Assam silk from WARE to WORM, and realize that 48A, Rounded out? did not end in ED, but was CONVEX. Then I came to the blog and had to laugh again to see how wrong I had been in predicting Rex's reaction! He loved it too!

BTW, seems to me that Tycho BRAHE was at dinner with the king, and thought it would be rude to leave the table before the king did -- and BRAHE died of a burst bladder.

"The guns at AQABA face the sea, and they cannot be turned 'round."

Anonymous 10:43 AM  

Rex are you going to have Orange, or Puzzle Girl do a blog on your puzzle for Kevin? I think it would be a great idea, tough puzzle. Golfballman

Two Ponies 10:46 AM  

This one had me feeling left out of the party. I guess I am too new to this game.
This one also was very heavy on foreign words, names, and places. At least 22 by my count without the theme clues.
Liked the clue for convex.
Knew Aqaba from Lawrence of Arabia.
Glad everyone else had fun with the nostalgia. Not my cuppa.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:50 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Kerfuffle 10:54 AM  

May have over-simplified on the death of BRAHE, but unpleasant in any case.

Here is Lawrence on Aqaba.

(Forgot to hit the "Command" key in previous, deleted, post.)

Nebraska Doug 10:54 AM  

Yikes! This puzzzle killed me. I thought this was beyond Saturday level difficulty. Didn't even get close to finishing it. Ouch!

HudsonHawk 10:59 AM  

Since I just missed out on the Maleska era, this one was pretty tough. But it was an enjoyable challenge, and I finished with only a couple errors in the NW. The SAPHO, PROSCENIA, ORSINI and WOOD SORRELS crosses were brutal.

For awhile, I wondered whether 9D could be an ASSASSIN'S WORM (?!?!), but Paul KLEE came to the rescue. Glad he was recently in the grid.

retired_chemist 11:00 AM  

@ Bob K - Wikipedia discusses Tycho's urinary problem but his death followed the banquet by eleven days. More likely he actually died from ingestion of mercury. Poisoning perhaps, and even Kepler is a suspect.

A group of conservators, chemists and physicians plan to open the vault this year and perform a forensic analysis on the body.

william e emba 11:30 AM  

Tycho BRAHE's work was more than transitory. His work was "merely" the most extraordinarily accurate and voluminous astronomical measurements made before the 17th century. He took the heliocentric model seriously, and realized that its truth or falsity could be decided by data, data, and more data. He built instruments that allowed him to measure celestial locations accurate to an arcminute (that's 1/60th of a degree), and he made daily measurements for years on end.

Tycho was a towering genius in his own important way. His methodology has had permanent influence on all of science, far beyond the question of who was actually right.

Jane 11:32 AM  

Liked this one a lot, had trouble with SAPHO.

A little story about crosswordese: years ago, my mom was in a coma for several days after her heart stopped beating during a surgery. When she "woke up" we weren't sure how much brain damage there might be, and she had hardly any short-term memory. Asked her: What's a mine opening? ADIT, she replied promptly. We knew she'd be OK. She was.

william e emba 11:54 AM  

Well, Rex, if you don't have time to read William Butler Yeats, do you have time to look at brother Jack Butler Yeats' paintings? Or father John Butler Yeats' portraits?

For what it's worth to some of the shocked readers here, it's entirely possible to dislike Yeats. Samuel Beckett greatly admired Jack (including his little known fiction and drama) and greatly loathed William.

Jack, in return, talked Routledge into publishing Murphy.

Rex Parker 11:56 AM  

I'm going to do a brief write-up of the Kevin Der birthday puzzle this evening, and I will be grateful to anyone who wants to discuss it or provide feedback in the Comments section then.

Primary objective achieved, i.e. Kevin loved it. But there are many things about the puzzle that might have been different if we'd been making it for newspaper publication. More later.

rp

Wade 12:00 PM  

If you're going to not read somebody, you shouldn't not read Yeats. You should not read Henry James. Everybody doesn't read Yeats. Somebody everybody doesn't not read is Henry James, which is a much more original and impressive choice. I've been not reading Henry James for about twenty years, and every year my not reading of Henry James illuminates something else in his work I haven't read. I plan to not read Sully Prudhomme next.

My wife subscribed to the paper again. I relented. They've been begging us to come back, so I take that as an implicit apology for their past treatment of me.

I could not do this puzzle.

Anonymous 12:02 PM  

Or, perhaps you could find time to look at the artwork, crayon on posterboard, of their lesser know family member, Jeeves Butler Yeats.

Ulrich 12:03 PM  

Another Brahe anecdote: He had a metal nose installed (I don't remember how he lost his real one)...

@Jane: great story about your mother!

A (longish!) note on Köln:

I know of no other German city that instills in its inhabitants such a strong love and fierce loyalty, as expressed in the city's anthem with the following chorus (freely translated from the local patois it is written in):

When I'm thinking of my Heimat
and the see the cathedral stand before me,
I want to turn immediately homeward,
I'd go on foot back to Cologne.

True story: Two years ago, police in a small town in the Palatiate, near the French border, were notified one summer morning that a little boy was wandering alone along a rural road. They picked him up, and when interviewed at the station, they learned that he was from Cologne; his mother had dropped him a few days ago at her parents' for a vacation, but he was so homesick that he took the advice of the song literally and started to march on foot back to Cologne. The story had a happy end: The next day, his mother arrived by train and took her boy back to Cologne.

Sara 12:04 PM  

@dk: c'mon! Rex didn't get his PhD from Ishmael Reed! I'm simply saying it's hard for me, given my own experience, to imagine how he avoided Yeats!

Other than that, I feel completely chastened.

Clark 12:09 PM  

I made it well into adult life without ever eating corn flakes. It was a quirk that I kept up just because it was fun to say I had never eaten corn flakes. And I know a professor of philosophy at a major university who has never read Plato.

Two little mistakes. Not bad, considering that I had no idea what any of the 'theme' clues meant (except ara). I just got in the groove somehow. VETCH I remembered from last time. Yay.

Pope Nicholas III (1277-1280), who was an ORSINI, was one of the popes stuck upside down in hell with his feet on fire in the 19th Canto of the Inferno.
"And truly was I son of the She-bear,
So eager to advance the cubs, that wealth
Above, and here myself, I pocketed."

This puzzle was lots of fun in a blindsight kind of way.

Greene 12:14 PM  

Ah, this was the puzzle I was dreading all week. I knew there would be a Maleska salute coming, but I thought it might arrive on Saturday. Since I've only been doing crosswords for about a year and a half, you can imagine how tough this was for me. I figured out the theme pretty quickly, but with the exception of "Moas" I didn't know what most of the short clues meant. Still and all I was able to fill in about 3/4 of the puzzle before I finally raised the white flag. All during my struggle though, I kept thinking how much fun all the veteran solvers must be having with this one

This was yet another fascinating and entertaining puzzle, by far the most impressive of the week. Can't wait to see what Friday and Saturday have in store.

PhillySolver 12:16 PM  

Wohoo! OLD crosswordese and contemporary Wade return in the same day. I have decided not to read Sue Grafton... I is for Ignore.
I struggled with this one and both loved and hated the experience. Clever puzzle, but I did not recognize anything but the constellation on the first several passes. I used to know all of the terms and others mentioned, so I hated being reminded that if I don't use it I lose it.

Campesite 12:24 PM  

Puzzle: Ali; Me: Sonny Liston. Fun and brutal. I dug it.

Go to Jordan and see Petra. While there, resist the temptation to annoy your partner, like I did, by repeating ad nauseum, "tomorrow we ride... to Aqaba."

Susan 12:25 PM  

LOVED it. Fun! Reminded me of the kind of clues from when I was little and learned to do xwords with my late grandmother. Three-toed sloths: Good times.

Anonymous 12:26 PM  

How could a professor of philosophy have not read Plato? With the possible exception of Bertrand Russell, he's the best writer philosophy's got. The Republic may promote a tyrannical hell-hole of a society, but goddamn if it ain't lyrically fleshed out.

This puzzle annihilated me.

coach k 12:30 PM  

don't believe the hype about having to be *older* to solve this!! Today's wasn't difficult , though I've solved puzzles for only 8 years...the terms pop up occassionally. Strategic hint for tournament solvers: remember them forever. Folks who get angry at 3-letter words don't win tournaments.

Greg 12:31 PM  

This is the hardest Thursday puzzle I have ever encountered. Period. I didn't come close to solving it.

Nick 12:34 PM  

This was not a Thursday crossword. The next "Saw" movie went direct-to-crossword, and this was it.

obertb 12:42 PM  

As a long-time xworder (even before the Maleska era) I loved this puzzle and the way it turned the tables on that old crosswordese. BITTER VETCH! Wow, there's one for the olde books. And for once, I anticipated correctly Rex's reaction to a puzzle. Super sophisticated, very fun puzzle!

Karen from the Cape 1:08 PM  

I thought this was a great hard puzzle. My mistake was crossing BIGL/ISLY. So I had to look up a bit about Issy-de-Moulineaux, which is an area of Paris, and includes a playing card museum. The name comes from an old prehistoric settler, and windmills. The communes in France are different than out in California, they replaced the old French parishes and are administrative districts about 4-5 square miles with a few hundred people and have their own mayor (please anyone who has actually lived in France correct me on this).
I kept thinking of ocarinas when looking at OCAS.
And I have to confess that in the science fiction canon, I have not read Hal Clement yet. I know, it's a shame.

joho 1:13 PM  

@Jane ... great story!

@Ulrich ... metal nose? Yikes. Your and others comments are a riot today which brings me to @Wade. LOL.

It always seems to me a great puzzle brings out the most interesting comments from everybody, positive and negative. Makes the blog sing!

Anonymous 1:14 PM  

Got flightless bird, then I was seriously lost.

schmidtenor 1:30 PM  

Well, I'll just echo Anonymous #2's comment.

With all due respect - WTF?

"Old-fashioned crossword vocabulary"? Unsolvable w/o Google, an old dictionary and a prayer.

Glad it was fun for NYT solvers age 60 and up.

Bob 1:36 PM  

@schmidtenor:

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats

Too noble to neglect

Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect

Good and bad, I defined these terms

Quite clear, no doubt, somehow.

Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now

sex porker 1:43 PM  

I didnt read the other comments so someone else may have posted it but right now im a bitter kvetch!!!

Rebecca 1:45 PM  

Yay, finally one Rex liked!

I enjoyed it too, the backwards crosswordese was fun. Not that difficult either. I looked up oca in the dictionary and had to google the hawaiian islands and the rest came from crosses and inspiration.

maureenr 1:51 PM  

That was a blast! And I'm not 60 yet, but have been doing puzzles since I was a wee one, when I would read the clues to my blind grandfather and fill out the grid. This was quite a stroll down memory lane - thanks, Arthur and Will.

Glitch 2:02 PM  

@schmidtenor & @Anon #2

All the clues have been in puzzles within the last ten years.

It's not the age of the solver, it's the years of experience, little grasshopper.

.../Glitch

Ulrich 2:14 PM  

@Glitch: Or, alternatively, an open mind that welcomes new experiences, which was the case with me...

capesunset105 2:15 PM  

my performance stunk up the joint but that does not preclude from loving this puzzle. I will review it again later tonight and add much of what I learned from this puzzle to my crosswordese compilation.

Now i know what a ziggurat is. who can ask for more than that???

as long as i have a spirited grapple AND learn something afterwards, it gets a thumbs up from me.

Anonymous 2:15 PM  

It was fun and clever! I usually only do the Saturday puzzles so it seemed not too hard to me. I also have been doing NYT crosswords for decades and though I am also nowhere near 60 I thought these were reasonable clues/answers for anyone who keeps up. Sort of crossword classics. Fun to see (and try to remember!) them all.

mac 2:23 PM  

Brilliant puzzle! I enjoyed it from start to finish, although I also found it daunting. I haven't done puzzles that long, either.
I had to piece it together from the fill, but that was fun, too.
Lisse (much better answer than Haarlem) and Issy were gimmes, thank goodness, and I suddenly remembered the Klee "Fish Magic", which opened up that corner.

I know the feeling about those forbidding stacks of books.... Just dug up Steve Martins "Born Standing Up"; like it a lot.

@Rex: is the clue non-vegetarian?

@Karen from the Cape: couldn't get the ocarinas out of my hear, either.

fergus 2:28 PM  

Glad I had time to do this because it was a great treasure hunt. I wonder sometimes about the order of letter entry in a relatively difficult puzzle? Today I would imagine that I would have had a close duplication of the way Rex filled it in, only in slo-mo.

MikeM 2:31 PM  

I love it when I learn something via the crosswords. Fish Magic/KLEES of the not to distant past proved handy today. Will never forget it.

Jim in Chicago 2:35 PM  

Medium? How about impossible, but I give a huge thumbs up for the cleverness of the concept anyway.

I found out today that the Borgias also produced two popes - didn't help me any however.

I've actally been to Lisse, just a hop and a skip from Schiphol, it is most known for the Kukenhof - this giant display of flowers that I found mind-numbingly boring. Imagine a bunch of Dutch women waaaay beyond a "certain age" (many of them were in walkers) hobbling along and exclaiming at the gloriousness of the it all. Miss it.

I discovered today what while I've seen Kauai in print a million times and even been there that I couldn't spell it to save my life when I needed to.

For the longest time I was thinking "hmmm, Thursday", those funny little words must be a code of some sort. Nope.

I did very much like CONVEX as an answer for "Rounded out?" Very nice.

ArtLvr 2:36 PM  

Like the rest of the eldersolvers, I adored this NYT puzzle. I even once dreamed of making one with a reverse-clue theme, but never could have topped Mr. Schulman.

Loved the commenters' super stories too.

∑;)

Susan 2:36 PM  

The ONLY thing I ever remember about Tycho Brahe is his metal nose...

retired_chemist 2:47 PM  

Metal nose? How did he smell?

(add punch line yourself.)

Anonymous 2:50 PM  

@Glitch -
Can you be any more condescending?

XMAN 2:52 PM  

Yo, Fergus! Slo-mo is better than no-mo.

Schlomo

Orange 3:20 PM  

Perhaps some are laboring under the misapprehension that graduate studies in English-language literature involve taking a series of survey courses and becoming familiar with every corner of the canon rather than focusing more keenly on a smaller number of writers and works? I'll bet anyone with a PhD in English has read a boatload of stuff most of us have not encountered, and yet most of them do not berate acquaintances for the lacunae in their reading. (Except their students, when it comes to assigned reading.)

Orange 3:23 PM  

(I'm Wadeishly not reading most all mysteries, Laurence Sterne, and Emily Dickinson. And I always think Henry James' Portrait of a Lady, which I read, is by Edith Wharton.)

Four and out. Time to supervise my son's math homework. I hope I am better able to distinguish between three and four there.

sanfranman59 3:25 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Thu 20:42, 18:49, 1.10, 74%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 9:59, 9:13, 1.08, 75%, Medium-Challenging

Crosscan 3:25 PM  

I thought the syllabus was :

Yeats 101
Yeats 201
All about Yeats 202
Let's Read Yeats 301
Cook With Yeats 101
Yeats and Beets 203
Yeats - The Shortz Years 402
Rap With Yeats 501

Howard B 3:28 PM  

Ulrich:
Visited Köln for the first time this year traveling north via the Rhein, so that answer today was made much easier. The Dom (basilica? cathedral? forgive my architectural ignorance here) was inspiring, and I can understand why the city is respected as you describe. Had a great time and took in some amazing sights.

Anonymous 3:39 PM  

The answer to the metal nose query, awful!

fergus 3:39 PM  

For two years I had a girlfriend who was finishing her dissertation with a focus on 19th century English novel. Dutiful boyfriend slogged through first bit of "Middlemarch" then got into it, with a bit of tutelage. I cheated on Jane Austen though. She's probably the tops in my David Lodge (whose novels I have enjoyed) game of missing authors. I can see what Wade is saying about Henry James, but he's an author I enjoyed, though admittedly only under academic instruction. Said former sweetheart got me through "Ulysses" since, on my own, I had dropped it twice shortly after the first page. If there's any point to this aimless ramble, which I'm mercifully cutting short, it is that reading is not a solitary pursuit. We all have enormous gaps in our learning, and it's generally a pleasure when someone can tell you, with great sincerity, what you're missing if you haven't read _____.

fergus 3:46 PM  

... and back to the puzzle comment I was intending to make: First obvious entry was SHOW for 53Down, but on Thursdays I start checking crosses before writing in letters.

Stan 4:18 PM  

@Crosscan:

One addition --

The Influence of Yeats on Howard Hawks' "Red River" (an elective from the Comp Lit department)

chefbea 4:21 PM  

It's late in the day. Took forever to do this puzzle even with google. But I kept at it.

I will read all 89 comments later

dk 4:23 PM  

@sara, just some fun at well, err, ahh your expense. I think we should make Rex read Whitehead's Process and Reality and have welcome back @Wade grade it.

@crosscan, Yeats with Beets... totally tubular.. dude

The posts on this puzzle are ranking high on the intellectual scale. I am working with the @sanfran guy to create a smarty pants rating for the posts to go with his challenge ranking (just kidding).

Back to Raymond Chandler: Yeats, Yeats...ain't he dat grifter what works Noon Street.

Leslie 4:31 PM  

Orange, it's bad of me to reply after you've signed off and can't/won't come back to smack me, but this:

most of them do not berate acquaintances for the lacunae in their reading

isn't quite what's going on. Nobody's berating Rex for not having read Yeats; a number of people are chiding him for saying, in effect, "And I'm never gonna, either" (unsoftened by ". . . at least not in the next few years/until I retire/until I start teaching a course in 20th-century British poets").

That's what's gotten up some people's noses--to those who love a specific author, a heels-dug-in refusal to even consider ever letting him/her into one's life sounds perversely, pointlessly stubborn. Cutting off your nose to spite your face, to wrench things back in a vaguely Tycho Brahe direction.

Noam D. Elkies 4:35 PM  

Yes, that was (mostly(*)) fun — enough so that I didn't mind having to guess the last two letters of 45A:ISSY. I didn't notice the new last sentence of the Puzzle Note until I saw it here, but the theme was clear enough without it.

(*) I wonder whether we have Schulman or Shortz to blame for the garbage clue for 14A (AROD is bad enough without identifying him by the utterly meaningless trivium of his uniform number).

Yes, the SE felt much harder than the rest, even though I got the tricky 50D:XACTO, but that's because I had no idea of 9D:ASSAMSILKWORM and 27D:BITTERVETCH, whereas I did guess the 15-letter entries and the 18D:CONSTELLATION quite quickly, and the NW wasn't too hard once I believed 17A:PROSCENIA even though I didn't recognize Ocas (3D). Re 9D, "Eri" = "tu" in any crossword I can remember, and even xwordinfo.com (which offers some rare alternatives) only barely remembers the silkworm from 15 years ago. Able was I eri saw a rat, or however that palindrome went...

Now I wonder how what the Olde Style Fri/Sat puzzles will be like!

NDE

Poetry Man 4:46 PM  

Quote of the day:

"All empty souls tend toward extreme opinions"
~W.B. Yeats

fikink 4:52 PM  

Competing quote of the day:

" Able was I eri saw a rat"

SethG 4:54 PM  

I got a degree in math without ever taking any analysis or geometry, but I am an award winning Mathematical Poet. One who spelled PRIZM with a zed, spelled VATCH with an a, and didn't know the ISSes.

Melvin Simon died yesterday. He produced Porky's and developed the MOA.

The only Yates I know is Rowdy, and I doesn't like Sara Lee.

retired_chemist 4:55 PM  

My one trip to Köln was, by sheer good fortune, during the Tutankhamen exhibit. Quite an enjoyable trip, that. Also (and not by accident) I met König Pils, which I wish traveled well enough to be imported here. Wikipedia says it is exported worldwide. Not here in TX AFAIK, or anyplace else in the US I have tried to find it..

Mike 4:59 PM  

This puzzle kicked my ass. Each time this happens to me I come here hoping to read that the great Rex Parker found the puzzle difficult as well. As usual he did not (does he ever?) and I feel like a child. Ah well, next time.

Anonymous 5:18 PM  

Tara was I eri saw a rat.
Scarlett O'Hara

chefbea 5:21 PM  

@Crosscan lol loved your beets/yeats

@Sanfranman... where in North carolina are you going?

fergus 5:42 PM  

Being lost and broke on the Paris Metro at 22, the word ISSY seemed more pathetic than I would let my self feel, so I bucked it up. Went to a phone booth (remember those?) and dialed a few numbers until I could find somewhere to stay for the night. Hooked up with an itinerant HS friend, who was on some fellowship by now. T'was was Xmas Eve, so we went to the midnight Latin service at St Germain des Pres, where shelter and comfort were most welcome. Then on a bitterly cold Christmas Day we went awandering to the Cimetiere Pere LaChaise, and while it didn't snow, the mists of time defied the cliche.

Each big city distinguishes itself by its transportation map. London, Paris and New York are so well simplified and confused. Paris uses the butt ends to identify the tangled lines, but I never found that very helpful.

VANDERGRAAFK 5:53 PM  

This puzzle wasn't too bad except for the old, odd clues. I did take exception to the clue with "mason's trough". How does this generate "hod"? I know what a hod is, and I know what a hod carrier does. Thanks to my dad, I've even used a mason's trowel. Whatever!

Anonymous 6:10 PM  

hod |häd|
noun
a builder's V-shaped open trough on a pole, used for carrying bricks and other building materials.
ORIGIN late 16th cent.: variant of northern English dialect hot [a basket for carrying earth,] from Old French hotte ‘pannier,’ probably of Germanic origin.

Bill from NJ 6:16 PM  

I had the oddest experience today: My credit card that I used to pay for my puzzles was shut down for a time today because of suspected fraudulent activity at the vendor end. In other words, the New York Times was suspected of fraudulent acts. I got a letter to that effect later in the day with a phone number to call to verify that I had made the charge. It turns out that the Times is used by identity thieves to test card numbers that are stolen to see if the charge goes through. So all's well that ends well.

I was going to mention some of my favorites that were left out of this puzzle but I see that edith b already beat me to the punch. It took several crosses in several of the words for me to finally crack the case but I did it through Assam Silkworm and the blinders fell all at once. I really enjoyed this Walk down Maleska's Memory Lane. In an exchange between Glitch and Ulrich it was said this was an exercise in experience rather than age and I agree with that sentiment, Glitch's supposed condescension to an Anonymouse notwithstanding.

treedweller 6:24 PM  

Okay, what's up with the NOTEPAD entries? Each day, I only get the first three or four lines. It didn't matter earlier, but this one actually had something to say about the puzzle, which I failed miserably.

I knew "Moas" and guessed THREETOEDSLOTH, but never figured out what the short clues had in common. I ended up borrowing liberally from Rex to fill in the last quarter or so. Usually I hate cheating because it makes me realize I should have stuck it out. Today, I'm glad I cheated because I realize how happy I am to solve in the Shortz era, and I never would have finished otherwise. And I was really not enjoying myself while trying.

I read on "The Straight Dope" that BRAHE lost his nose in a duel.

I have a BA in English and managed to avoid a pretty substantial portion of "the canon." I think I will take a cue from Rex and just admit I'll probably never catch up rather than feeling guilty and saying I'll get to it someday. In your face, Proust! I prefer the modern novel.

Two Ponies 6:59 PM  

After reading everyone's comments as the day has progressed I second the thankfulness for the Shortz era. Give me clever wordplay and misdirection any day. That being said, I have enjoyed this week's homage to these seasoned constructors and wonder what the next two days will bring.
Welcome back Wade!
I have a large pile of books I should read but probably won't. There is just so much good stuff out there! The ease and appeal of the modern novel, along with some great talent, keeps me plenty busy.

fikink 7:37 PM  

All this talk of Brahe's nose just congers up Kid Shelleen for me. A wonderful movie, "Cat Ballou."

Out at third.

Sfingi 8:06 PM  

A fish out of water, I'm going back to stopping at Wednesdays. Even some of the ones I thought I had right were wrong. Google didn't help. I thought we were moving towards a theme of extinct plants and animals and I got very creative. Since I do my puzzle in Flairs, it was a rainbow mess.

Brahe had a copper nose. The silver nose belonged to a fairytale Bluebeard.

These days I read science books.
But, as for English Lit I prefer any and all Irish writers, and Irish music to British. Yes, I said yes.

I'd sure like to see the puzzle Rex couldn't finish. It would probably blind my eyes.

@Noam thanks for explaining 14A #13.

jae 8:12 PM  

I've only been doing puzzles seriously (i.e. not looking stuff up) for a few years, so this was very tough for me. I didn't read the note but figured out about half way through it that it was some sort of Maleska salute. With that perspective I enjoyed the struggle and finished with 2 errors. I had SASHA for 1d even though I knew at some level it was ORSINI not ARSINI. It was nice to come here and see all the comments from long time solvers. They added to my appreciation of this one. Thanks all!

PIX 8:24 PM  

Rex,
Don't take this the wrong way but: I just don't care at all whether you ever read Yeats or not. Nothing personal; just not something I am concerned with. I've got other things to worry about about.

Rex Parker 8:39 PM  

And yet you have time to type that comment. Weird.

foodie 8:50 PM  

I knew AQABA... That's about it...

michael 8:51 PM  

Although I got this completely right, it took me a looooong time. Seemed like a Saturday to me. I was around during the Maleska era, but didn't do the puzzles much because they weren't nearly as enjoyable as they are today.

Anonymous 8:54 PM  

UGH! The worst puzzle in the last five years...just die already and get back to the 21st century stuff...

Anonymous 8:59 PM  

For anyone under forty, this puzzle was massively difficult. I had never heard any of the words before (except maybe "ai," but I had forgotten that one).

Rex Parker 9:13 PM  

I'm 39 5/6 years old and I did this in under 7 min. But I dream in crosswordese, so I hardly count.

rp

Anonymous 9:16 PM  

Watch out PIX!
You're in the cross hairs!

fergus 9:32 PM  

Rex, you are you a 17th child, too? I hesitated but did celebrate my 11/12ths birthday. 5/6ths is pretty shabby, 3/4 is OK and 1/2 is fine, but I fall into the oddball faction with my twelths' fraction.

Teresa 9:38 PM  

I am late getting into the literature discussion, but I loved Wade's comment. I have been not reading Henry James for 37 years, and it was 1 year too few. (And I am still irked about it .. imagine!)

fergus 9:54 PM  

Teresa, the pages fell apart when I was reading "The Pupil" and HJ's other stories. From the late 1890s, he became increasingly complicated - so much so in the depiction of interpersonal nuance floated way too high. Nonetheless, I could not ever disregard or disparage HJ's mastery of internal thought and its jutting into another's self-same contemplation, which is probably the essence of his art?

DougE 10:24 PM  

I'm 51 and probably too young to be this grumpy, but I haven't stumbled on a puzzle in weeks. This one stumped me, particularly the NE corner. Couldn't get Assam (though I had SILKWORM, WAY and HARM) or AQABA (though I had SUNUP). I got run over by the BUS, for which I had RUN (as in "run the pool table"). And BITTERVETCH? Even when I had it, I didn't believe it. BITTER KVETCH, maybe. I got the rest and believe it was fun if you remember these old clues. I didn't and though I slogged through the crosses, it felt like a chore with very little reward. And now I have to restart my clock on "Days with no incomplete puzzles". On the bright side, tomorrow can only be easier...

fergus 11:01 PM  

DougE, I'm 51 too ....

sanfranman59 1:53 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 8:16, 7:00, 1.18, 92%, Challenging
Tue 8:11, 8:25, 0.97, 46%, Medium
Wed 8:39, 12:00, 0.72, 4%, Easy
Thu 21:17, 18:52, 1.13, 81%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:14, 3:43, 1.14, 83%, Challenging
Tue 4:20, 4:21, 0.99, 53%, Medium
Wed 4:21, 5:53, 0.74, 5%, Easy
Thu 9:45, 9:13, 1.06, 72%, Medium-Challenging

@ChefBea ... I'll be in Wilmington overnight Saturday and then at Holden Beach for a week.

andrea the bitter vetch 3:18 AM  

no time to write in today, too busy reading Yeats...in comic book form!

Lacunae Lacaniennes 4:52 AM  

I completed a PhD equivalent (in France) in psychology and did not ONCE cite Lacan in my mobius strip of a thesis. Lacan was still the hub around which all French psych./political thought swirled in the mid/late 80s and it was my own small act of defiance to bypass him. Never in five rounds of criticism and defense did anyone even point out the omission--kind of disappointing....I did throw in some Dante, however. Lacan remains unread, and will remain so. I do not feel impoverished either....

Fisher of Soles 6:49 AM  

@fikink, 7:37 PM - LOL! Bringing eels into the discussion of this puzzle was magic!

Jackie 11:26 AM  

Did. Not. Like. This puzzle. At. All. For someone who has not been doing puzzles since the early 80s, the theme clues were just random letters. Wednesday's and Sunday's puzzles may have been kind of dumb, theme-wise, but at least they had a recognizable logic.

(On the other hand, I suppose my Dad and other old-timers would say that this one is payback for all the references to rappers and other people in recent pop culture...)

fikink 4:37 AM  

@Thank you Soleman!

Will 7:02 PM  

Wonderful puzzle. Much fun. I'm another old-timer who has been doing t`he NYT since the 60's.

Scrabble experienced helped, especialy with ais, the plural of a two letter word. One of the first things scrabble players learn is the 2 letter words.

Singer 1:04 PM  

I am 62 and didn't have much trouble with this puzzle. I have seen some of the crosswordese before, although I didn't find the time to do crosswords until the Shortz era. I didn't know many of the long theme answers right off, except for CONSTELLATION. But the crosses weren't all that hard and they filled in enough blanks that most of the theme answers came clear after a while. I did want BITTER kVETCH, though. I had some writeovers - Medici, Lanai for two. Also started with Babe for 14A - had no clue whose uniform number was what. Also had Aroma instead of ATTAR until I got to the place-kicker and tried *sat for MCAT. I still had MSAT until I got here, thinking that vetsh was perhaps the correct spelling. So I didn't think the puzzle was terribly hard, although I spent about 15 minutes on it, but had an error in the end.

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