SATURDAY, Nov. 7 2009 — Dancer in a suite / Damn Yankees chorister / Cheyenne Kid portrayer / Lead female role in TV's Peter Gunn

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Constructor: Bob Klahn

Relative difficulty: Challenging +

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Flagitious (51D: Flagitious) adj.

  1. Characterized by extremely brutal or cruel crimes; vicious.
  2. Infamous; scandalous: "That remorseless government persisted in its flagitious project" (Robert Southey).

[Middle English flagicious, wicked, from Latin flāgitiōsus, from flāgitium, shameful act, protest, from flāgitāre, to importune, to demand vehemently.]

-----

Flagitious. Yes. That sounds about right.

This is the hardest NYT puzzle I've done since late 2007, when Bob Klahn unleashed another, even more flagitious beast on the unsuspecting solving public. I still remember words from that puzzle, so traumatic was the experience (GOLCONDA! OCHLOCRACY!). Today's puzzle, I actually managed to finish. With no mistakes. In something under a half an hour. There was a point early on in the solving experience where none of those things seemed possible. Got 1A: Peter who wrote "Underboss" (Maas) right off the bat, so things were looking rosy for about ... 3 seconds. Then I went begging. Wanted DION (17A: "Little Diane" singer, 1962) but couldn't confirm it. Everything else up there was a bust. Same thing in the far north. Had HMM and SAY at 9D: "Oh, I don't know" ("Gee") and then abandoned that section for the NE. Finally, finally, traction. ETON was a gimme (16A: Where Aldous Huxley taught George Orwell), and the "E" let me get ME FIRST (10D: Selfish), which was confirmed by FAST (19A: Like some friends). Even though I couldn't remember what "Doughty" meant (INTREPID), the NE actually fell and my penetration into the puzzle's interior extended as far west as the front end of UNION SHOP (27A: Local operation?) and the bottom end of NANCY DREW (22D: "The Bungalow Mystery" solver). And then ... oh man, Nothing. Just the sound of wind. An occasional tumbleweed. The menacing ticking of the clock on the wall (I don't have a clock on my wall, but you get the idea).



A few things I kicked myself for after I was done. One, not looking at or even seeing 14A: "Down _____" (1967 Janis Joplin song) ("On Me") the first time I was up there — that might have allowed me to connect MAAS and DION and pull Something out of my, er, hat. Two, not seeing MODIFY (1D: Reshape) early on (see "One," above). Three, taking longer than I had any right to coming up with LUCIFER (39D: "Doctor Faustus" character) and EL DORADO (32D: The first complete navigation of the Amazon was in search of this). Both feel like they should have been gimmes, but neither one showed up at first. Mephistopholes ... is the main flagitious character in "Doctor Faustus." I teach that damned play from time to time, and I can't even remember LUCIFER's part (actually, he's in there, but it's not a big part ... kind of like God's part in "Paradise Lost" — now *that* had a LUCIFER in it). And I'm sure I just heard some book reviewed about exploring the Amazon ... ugh. But back to the stuff that was legitimately brutal.

Lucky to have practiced Tai Chi, because when that didn't work as an answer for 42D: Chinese meditative practice I had something else to got to: QI GONG! Which gave me that "Q," which I really, really needed. Turns out I've heard of / seen ODALISQUE before (41A: Harem slave), but I couldn't retrieve it at all. That "Q" made it a lot easier to find the answer, eventually. SKA was a gimme (53D: Music genre of the English Beat and the Specials), but virtually nothing else in the S or SE was easy. Had REAMS for RAFTS (43A: A slew). Didn't know 48D: Artist Rembrandt (Peale). Couldn't see any of the other stuff until two things happened. The word SALABLE occurred to me for 40D: Ready to move). Seemed worth a stab. Then at 54A: Remark from draft-dodger? with the initial "B" in place I knew "draft" would not be a beer (first suspicion) but a breeze, and the answer "BRRR!" Goodnight S, Goodnight SE. Onto the SW...

Two words: EDIE and HART (55A: With 52-Across, lead female role in TV's "Peter Gunn"). W(ho) T(he) F(lagitious) is that? Know *of* "Peter Gunn," but never seen an episode (before my time) and certainly don't know secondary or tertiary characters. The fact that this utter unknown was camped out in not one but two of my short answers down there made that corner painful. I was eventually saved by knowing the definition of "flivver" (a former Word of the Day on this blog, I think). Once I got SCORCHER (31D: Hard-hit line drive), and then (eventually) TIA MARIA (33D: Liqueur reputedly named for a noblewoman's chambermaid), I managed to put in CRATE for 49A: Flivver. Then EL DORADO decided to show up, everything fell into place, and I rode the wave of happiness up to the NW / N for my final stand.



YAZOO??? (26A: Mississippi river named by La Salle). Not on my radar. To me, YAZOO is a synthpop band from the early 80s. I think the NW was the hardest corner by far. OK, MAAS and DION and ON ME are pretty gettable, but ANITRA? AMOS OZ? YAZOO? I guessed SENATOR at 4D: "Damn Yankees" chorister only because I had the S-N and I knew "Damn Yankees" involved baseball. Finally threw IT'S A STEAL across and moved in for the kill in the N. But not so fast. Standing SPANG in my way was ... SPANG! SPANG (5A: Squarely). That's not a word, that's a comic book sound effect (and a good one). That "P" was the last thing that went in. SPANG looked so weird that I worried a bit about SLATY (5D: Dull blue-gray), which I'd never heard of before. But I left it all as I had it. Turned out to be 100% correct. So, the verdict: LOVED IT. Exceedingly hard puzzles should have a (rare) place in this world, and *this* is how they're done. They give you a whiff of hope, then they crush your soul, but if you're persistent and patient ... eventually, you can stab them with your SLATY knives and, in fact, kill the beasts.

Bullets:

  • 10A: Landlocked Muslim land (Mali) — wanted CHAD.
  • 15A: Cheyenne Kid portrayer (Larue) — Like MAAS, Lash LARUE is crosswordese.
  • 22A: West Coast N.F.L.'er ('Niner) — another reason the NE was the most gettable of the four corners. CHARGER, RAIDER, SEAHAWK ... none of them fit.
  • 24A: Appeal from a diplomat (démarche) — wanted IMMUNITY. No idea what DEMARCHE is. Let's see: "a diplomatic representation or protest." OK, now I know.
  • 28A: En _____ (by the rules: Fr.) (règle) — thank god for 7 years of French.
  • 47A: Don Quixote type (romantic) — really wanted to write QUIXOTIC in here.
  • 53A: World capital at the foot of Mount Vitosha (Sofia) — Bulgaria. Inferred it from "SO-..."
  • 2D: Dancer in a suite (Anitra) — had trouble finding out what this meant even after I was finished. Turns out it's from Grieg's "Peer Gynt, Suite No. 1, Op. 46 — Anitra's Dance," which, now that I hear it, is very very familiar.



  • 3D: "A Tale of Love and Darkness" author, 2003 (Amos Oz) — What a great entry. Never read anything by him, but I know the name. Didn't *see* the name, however, until the very last letter. Me: "It ... kind of looks like ASIMOV..."
  • 7D: Strauss heroine from classical myth (Ariadne) — she's in both Ovid's "Heroides" and Chaucer's "Legend of Good Women," so I managed to pick her up. I also remembered that Strauss wrote something called "Ariadne auf Naxos."
  • 21D: Low finish? (shoe shine) — niiiice. First wanted a really really long suffix for "low," then thought "low" might refer to what cows do...
  • 27D: 1805 Napoleonic victory site (Ulm) — got it off the "U"; not many three-letter Euro place names starting with "U."
  • 45D: Four-note chord (tetrad) — with "-RAD" in place, the TET part (TETR = Gr. "four) was easy.

Off to listen to 39A: The Who's "Live at LEEDS," 1970 double-platinum album. See you tomorrow.



Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

107 comments:

Tom 8:19 AM  

Impossible: Crushed me. Annihilated me. Filleted me. Good God.

I'm just glad that there are people in the world who actually could solve this puzzle.

imsdave 8:39 AM  

MAAS/ANITRA/SENATOR - wow, this is going to be as easy as yesterday - uh, not exactly. Two hours, and (ashamedly) one Google later I finished.

I shudder at the name KLAHN - I have nightmares that his work will show up as #5 at this years ACPT.

Excellent puzzle, just out of my league.

dk 8:53 AM  

SPANG was WTFlagitous number 1.

Like Rex I had some quick fill, but my confidence PALEd and I did not fill my first guess TIAMARIA as ODALISQUE was WTF2. The result was a case self doubt (or solver doubt) that killed me.

Knew EDIE HART and Lash LARUE from late fifties TV. Peter Gunn was one of those shows we could only watch on holiday. I think P Gunn came on at 9. while Cheyenne Kid was Sat. AM fare like this puzzle.

TT Talkin about my GG generation - I got really small listening to both Down ONME and Live at LEEDS back in the day.

I second @Tom. I thought about selling my soul to finish but LUCIFER had met his quota.

Karen from the Cape 8:53 AM  

Klaaaaaaaaaahn!
I lost track of my googling. Pretty much all of the NW and N. Persistent wrong answers were UNION STOP (after LOCAL STOP was wrong) and BULLET for PELLET. I was afraid my sleuth was from Botswana (nope, that's Ramotswe).
SET=sink...is that like a screw?
I was hit SPANG in the gut with this one.

Greene 9:00 AM  

I actually filled in the NW corner pretty quickly. Knew MAAS, SENATOR, ON ME, even ANITRA's Dance (from Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite). That made IT'S A STEAL sail into view and I actually thought "Hmm...not so hard for a Klahn." Famous last words.

As for the rest, all I can say is "Why God, Why?"

OK, so I guessed ETON and knew NANCY DREW and LUCIFER. I even wrote in OCTOPI without any crosses, but ODALISQUE and QI GONG?

I was up half the night with this beast and finally threw in the towel, but I did manage to get about 3/4 of the thing done.

Here's some of those Damn Yankees choisters doing "Heart." Would that these song lyrics were true with regards to a Bob Klahn puzzle.

Eli the Conquered 9:00 AM  

There is a difference between being humbled and humiliated. I'm at the latter end of that spectrum.

Meg 9:00 AM  

I feel much better now. I am not alone in my death at the hands of Bob. I actually enjoy being outwitted by misdirection, but too many words I've never heard of (ODALISQUE, DEMARCHE, SPANG, and doughty) do not make me feel outwitted, just smacked upside the head.

dk 9:01 AM  

Boring geezer story alert!

To beat @acme at name dropping. I photographed both the Who and Ms. Joplin. Joplin was shot at the Syracuse War Memorial and we had to destroy the negatives because she was really drun... err sick. She could not do the first set and there was a cry for refunds, etc. The promoter had the evidence eliminated. Barfing rock stars, those were the days my friends. Soooooo ROMANTIC.

Retired copy editor 9:03 AM  

I'm a longtime lurker, first-time poster. Hardest NYT puzzle I've been able to finish. But fair. Even flagitious was gettable if you had the -ile and ran through the alphabet to the only adjective. Great sense of accomplishment to start the day.

Crosscan 9:04 AM  

Somehow in an hour I got 3/4 of this puzzle. The NW I declare unfair. Even after Googling and looking at the solution, I know there is no way I could have gotten MAAS/ONME/DION/YAZOO/ANITRA/AMOS OZ. No way.

Klahn also has today's Cross Synergy puzzle and that one is wonderful. This one? no.

Leslie 9:04 AM  

Klaaaaaaaaaahn!

HA! Karen, that kills me.

Once again, my habit of not proofreading, and thereby leaving ONE DAMN THING wrong, bites me in the you know what. With great puzzlement and head-shaking, I put YAHOO instead of YAZOO, all the while thinking, "Really? Way back then, the colloquialism 'Yahoo?' Well, I guess colloqualisms have to start somewhere. Maybe it was some perfectly logical French spelling that got bastardized into 'Yahoo.' "

And there my stupid answer sits, for the rest of the puzzle, and I never go back.

I'm just a bit too young to remember anything about "Peter Gunn" except the awesome opening music and Mary Tyler Moore's crossed legs, so EDIE HART had to come from crosses, as did most of this whole puzzle.

Really wanted CLICHE to be SIMILE for a while there.

Greene 9:40 AM  

I see I linked to the same Anitra's Dance as Rex. Sorry about that Rex, I really do read your excellent write ups, every word. Chalk it up to sleep deprivation from my clash with Klahn.

As for you @IMSDave and your puzzle #5 nightmare: Don't give Will any ideas!!!

retired_chemist 9:42 AM  

What Tom said. What Meg said.

I got about 3/4 through, feeling I had no shot at finishing without Googling, at 1 AM. Went to bed, got back at it at 7:30, and got a few more. Googled unabashedly the rest of the way.

Much too much not in my frame of reference. EDIE HART - who? I had barely heard of Peter Gunn. ANITRA? QI GONG? MAAS, LARUE, DION, I had at least heard of. Ditto ODALISQUE - but only in crosswords, and that rarely.

Had TIA MARIA (33D) but gave it up for WRECK@ 49A, TODO @ 58A, SIMILE @ 37A.

SET TO GO @ 40D made the SE a mess. BRRR and PELLET are either brilliant or nasty. I vote nasty.

ME FIRST an adjectival phrase to parse as selfish? NO. Boo.

Props to those who solved it without Googling.

ArtLvr 10:01 AM  

Me, I solved it with out googling! Whew. Old-timey crosswordese Oda for Harem room led me to the ODALISQUE whence QI GONG, pure guess that it had to be SPANG on.

"Ready to move" SALABLE was only apparent after i gave up Reams for RAFTS as Rex did. If you have a Rembrandt PEALE in your attic, it's more than Salable!!!

Loved ALICE blue crossing Dull blue-gray SLATY and both involved with the shade of TEAL hidden in IT'S A STEAL!

Odd one to me was LOAM as wall-plastering stuff and wondered if this harks back to log cabins?

Killling with kindness, that's Klahn!

∑;)

JannieB 10:12 AM  

Saw that it was a Klahn and turned off the timer. Didn't want the pressure. The NW was one Natick after another - even though I had "It's a Steal" early on. I also want Maas but couldn't confirm it. Didn't help that I had slate instead of slaty for way too long.

NE corner was the easiest for me, then the Dakotas, the SE, SW and lastly the NW. I also held on to Simile forever. I confess to some confirming googles, but feel like I solve 99% on my own.

Loved every torturous minute/hour!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:15 AM  

Me too, me too! I solved without Googling or any other reference, although I ran the alphabet once or twice.

Ah, the wrath of Klahn!

My first fill was ALICE Blue Gown. (I've tried three times to embed a link, but it doesn't take!)

Several write-overs, starting with SLATE before SLATY, then a real mess in the SW: SIMILE before CLICHE, AMARETTO before TIAMARIA, ATUNE before AGREE. Also wanted but didn't write in SEOUL before SOFIA, and haven't looked yet to see how LOAM can be used to plaster a wall!

edith b 10:20 AM  

Oddly enough, I remember the puzzle that Rex remembers and for the same reason: I didn't finish it.

Being older does have its benefits and this was one of those times. I associate Peter Gunn with visiting my grandmother and this was her favorite program. I wasn't allowed to watch "this sort" of television at home but I managed to finagle a visit to my Nana's house every Tuesday night and we watched Peter Gunn together and I still remember EDIE HART as the love interest of Peter Gunn. These two answers sealed up all of the East and I remember ODALISQUE from Impressionist art.

I made any number of good guesses in the West RAFTS BRRR MALI DEMARCHE - all of which were right (will wonders never cease!) and I was able to piece together all the rest.

I spent over an hour on this one and my progress was slow but steady - contrary to my usual experience with Mr Klahn.

Martin 10:29 AM  

You plaster a wall with a totally different loam. Interestingly, in many dictionaries it's the first sense listed.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:29 AM  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PP0TtIG1EYs

Still not working, but here is a raw link.

Meant to say the puzzle took me twice as long as it took Rex, no surprise.

Kurt 10:31 AM  

Stick a fork in me! I'm done!

Klahn -1, Kurt - 0

retired_chemist 10:38 AM  

@ Bob K - {a href = "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PP0TtIG1EYs"}ALICE BLUE GOWN{/a}, with curly bracets replaced by the usual less than/greater than brackets, will do it.

Anonymous 10:46 AM  

I wonder how many lives were lost to suicide because of this puzzle. Just painful. Maas, Dion and Senators were the only gimmes on the grid for me. I wonder how long it will take for me to get back the will to live.

Rex Parker 10:50 AM  

These are the days I love this blog — stories of painful struggle and colossal failure are sooo much more interesting than stories of success. God Bless you, Bob Klahn.

NYT should be like a good pitcher — every once in a while, he's gonna throw at you, just to keep you honest. Look alive!

rp

Anonymous 10:50 AM  

Plural of octopus is not octopi, not matters how often it's used. The correct plural is octopods; use octopuses at worst. Dull gray blue is a noun; slaty is an adjective. A pox on this puzzle.

ArtLvr 10:51 AM  

More MAAS, if you google natural homes, loam --

"In The Netherlands big farmhouses were built with loam already almost 7000 years ago. The oldest villages in Holland have been found along the Maas River in the south of the country. The people of the so-called ‘bandceramiekers’ put oak poles in the ground, fixed a roof on top of this and built walls from twined twigs covered with a sheet of loam. The largest house that has been found had a length of some 30 meters...."

mac, where are you?

∑;)

Rex Parker 10:52 AM  

OCTOPI is in every respectable dictionary (or at least the one I have handy) as an acceptable plural. And colors are, of course, adjectives as well as nouns.

But I completely understand the "pox" sentiment.

rp

hazel 10:53 AM  

Congratulations to all who conquered this beast.

I usually get irritated with puzzles that are this hard. But this one was in a class of its own - it wore its erudition lightly, and when I was absolutely done with what I knew, it willingly gave up its esoterica to an easy wiki lookup - to keep me on my way.

The whole puzzle had a cool vibe for me - and contained lots of things I just like - HENRY MOORE, NANCY DREW, QIGONG, SKA, THE WHO, JANIS JOPLIN, SCORCHERS, NINERS (in that the Falcons scorched them earlier this year!) ODALISQUE (in that it reminds me of reading Remembrance of Things Past while we were living in Germany), EDDY (in that it reminds me of my new kayak). I read up on Peter Gunn and am sure I would have liked that, had I been old enough to watch it.

Really fine Saturday puzzle.

Mike P 10:53 AM  

@Rex - Getting thrown at is one thing, laying face down on home plate, unconscious for 5 minutes after getting beaned by Clemens is another. Klahn is Clemens, back in the steroid days.

joho 10:54 AM  

I got Klahned but good by this one.

SLATe is a color, too. Was'nt SiNATra also in a musical? ONME told me no but didn't help much in the NW. What a mess.

Eunuch didn't fit, I thought of the devil but LUCIFER didn't appear forever. What a mess.

My carryover word from yesterday is IGNORAMUS, not because it's in the puzzle, but because it describes me.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:57 AM  

@retired_chemist --

All I can say is . . . . , but it didn't work. (Click on the blue dots.)

retired_chemist 11:10 AM  

@ Bob K - assuming this works, you can download the appropriate part of the source code and use it as a pattern in future.

ALICE BLUE GOWN

Two Ponies 11:14 AM  

What a terrible way to start my weekend. On the other hand, it can only be uphill from here.
My experience was similar to Bob K's except I didn't finish (I refuse to Google.)
My first impulse for Dancer in a suite was hooker!!?! I've been in Vegas too long I see.
All I can reap from this train wreck is the hope I will remember many of the things I didn't know for the next time.
I have a charming paper doll with four dresses called Alice Blue Gown that belonged to my grandmother.

retired_chemist 11:15 AM  

@ Bob K - didn't understand the dots before I posted. Sorry. But they link to a different clip....

The Corgi of Mystery 11:16 AM  

Murdered horribly. Missteps included CASANOVA for ROMANTIC, SIMILE for CLICHE. WHAT A DEAL, for IT'S A STEAL, AMARETTO for TIA MARIA. Took about 30 minutes to finish the SE and SW before giving up in anguish and using Google for the first time in ages. I feel that the NW bordered on being unfair, although I suppose the more parsimonious explanation is just that I'm an ignorant savage.

Smitty 11:28 AM  

Getting any word in a Klahn puzzle makes you feel like a Rhodes scholar, so I enjoyed this it, even though I only got 9/10ths of the way before running to Rex.
Only one objection - SLATY?? Even if it;s a word, shouldn't it be SLATEY?

Now on to see if I have better luck handicapping today's Breeders Cup races

Brendan Emmett Quigley 11:31 AM  

I'm a pretty good solver, but I'm never on Bob's wavelength. Just ground to a halt immediately even with all the gimmes: LEEDS, WRONG, SKA, NINER. That's a beacoup amount of gimmes from a guy who loves writing never before seen clues. BEQFAIL.

treedweller 11:33 AM  

OOOFFF! I got everything I could (four answers, including "what a deal" for ITSASTEAL) and sarcastically handed off the laptop to my wife. In a one-in-a-thousand moment, she actually pulled out a right answer, QIGONG (no slam on her--she just isn't a puzzler, so much so that I was surprised she even attempted).

Then, looking over her shoulder, I managed to finish the east and swoop across to Texas. That was it. The only ---sque word I could think of was "arabesque." Don't know any Peter Gunn characters (wasn't even sure Peter was a character, technically). Tried "coupe" for CRATE and "simile" for CLICHE. The only things I had in the NW were ONME and the incorrect "what". Put in SLATe but took it out because I was so proud of dEAL. ALICE, SPANG, LARUE and ARIADNE? Time for bed. This morning was decidedly NOT one of those times where a break allows new revelations to bring down the remainder. Google got me EDIE HART and the SW, but finally I just threw in the towel and came here for the remainder. Congrats to those who got it done.

But I really enjoyed finally plowing through that one side, and am relieved to find the problems in the west weren't just me.

At least I did the Friday this week.

mac 11:33 AM  

For the longest time all I had was "Moore"...

I'm going shopping. Not that I deserve it.

@Artlv: .... and I haven't ever worn wooden shoes either.

SethG 11:42 AM  

No problem with ODALISQUE or QIGONG. Lots of other problems, though some of them might result from the headache I have after last night's SKA show.

Duane EDDY did versions of the Peter Gunn theme song. But was Jonathan HART related to EDIE?

Van55 11:51 AM  

Brutal!

Anonymous 12:13 PM  

In early-week puzzles, the more interestingly clued answers enable me to fill in the factoids I don't know.

On Fridays and Saturdays, it's the other way around. The factoids, which are googleable (for the most part), are the only way I can get going.

I couldn't possibly have filled in this puzzle without the aid of Google.

Charles

mccoll 12:40 PM  

Good Grief!There were lots of gimmes such as LUCIFER, MOORE, TIA MARIA, ETON, LOSEHOPE, etc.but they didn't help. So I wore out the old google key. This would be impossible for me wihout it. Kudos to those who managed this thing unaided. The Wrath of Klahn is right Bob K.
Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos of Crete. She aided Theseus in his escape from the labyrinth as I recall.
Knowing this gave me Larue, spang and demarche.

WOW! I hope i don't see BK for several weeks.
Thanks all.

nanpilla 12:46 PM  

No MAAS !!!!!!!

Didn't even notice the constructor's name til I came here in defeat. I had to buy the paper today, and it isn't as obviously displayed as when I print it out. Probably a good thing, or I would have thrown in the towel that much sooner.

archaeoprof 12:50 PM  

Ouch. Mistakes included "chambord" for TIAMARIA, "putty" for SLATY, and "simile" for CLICHE.

Brutal, but fair. I agree with Rex: the NYT should be like a good pitcher who sometimes throws a little chin music.

There's an old story about a rookie whose first at-bat was against Nolan Ryan. He struck out on 3 pitches, went back to the dugout and said, "That's the best fastball I've ever heard."

If you ask me, Bob Klahn is the Nolan Ryan of CrossWorld.

Leslie 12:53 PM  

Retired Chemist: You're like a drug dealer. Oh, sure, you show us the first puppy pics for free . . . just a taste to get us hooked.

C'mon, produce!! I need more puppy pictures! In fact, video would be even better.

You guys are making me feel ridiculously proud that I finished the puzzle without Googling. In fact, I'd shout "Yahoo!" (Except, see my post above.)

bookmark 12:53 PM  

Brutal! Just like most of you. The only words in the first go-round were MAAS, ETON, MOORE, and ODALISQUE (from art history class last week). I also had REAMS for RAFTS for way too long. Took me forever to come up with LUCIFER, even though I'd taught it years ago.

The hardest section was the left side and could go no further than about 80%. Didn't google; just waited until I could get to Rex's site.

I should have known TIA MARIA from Jamaican cruise I took decades ago. Before disembarking, we drank all the TIA MARIA we'd bought so we wouldn't have to pay the taxes on it.

still_learnin 1:20 PM  

No MAAS! No MAAS! And, yes I know it's spelled differently.

Lon 1:32 PM  

I love a tough puzzle on Saturday (or any day, for that matter), and am always sad when they're done. I also enjoy validating my experience with Rex's review -- if it's tough for me, I want Rex to find it tough, also.

Many times, like today's puzzle, our experiences are not atuned (I tried ATUNE for AGREE at first). I sorted this one out in about my average for a Saturday, but often I'll have to come back to a puzzle more than once during the day, only to find Rex's analysis "Easy-Medium."

Rex, thanks for your work!

Rex Parker 1:35 PM  

@Lon,

Thanks for the thanks. I appreciate it.

I got VILE exactly as was described by someone above — get -ILE, run alphabet for something resembling an adjective.

rp

DiNo 1:43 PM  

This one took me much longer than normal - about 25 minutes (the last four of which were convincing myself "spang" must be a word, as it was the only thing that fit). Don't mind getting my butt kicked on Saturdays, but "slaty" and "spang" kept me from feeling this was done completely on the up and up.

Rex - love the site!

Anonymous 2:03 PM  

totally agree, nice decent appropriate for saturday killer, best in a long time, got the whole thing but wouldn't have been able to a few years ago -- whereas i often disagree with your ratings

still, wish we didn't have things like "that's..." as a clue for "it's..."

actually, "...rules" as a clue for "regle" too

miriam b 2:08 PM  

At first, I was so immersed in this puzzle as to be oblivious to my surroundings. I was yanked back to reality by an abrupt and somehow urgent-sounding knock on the door. Turned out to be a woman looking for the next-door neighbors (Hello! All the folks on this street have large and legible house numbers on our doors!). Muttering darkly, I returned to the puzzle and suddenly realized that SIMILE should have been CLICHE. Or CLICHÉ, but let's not get into that. The puzzle was delightful to chew on, and it did take a while, especially the SE, but I finished it sans outside help. I had to busy myself immediately thereafter with necessary household chores so as to stave off incipient post-puzzle depression. Does this happen to any of you?

Aside to mac: You are obviously un fin bec, so I would appreciate your opinion of a Dutch cheese I have been enjoying: Belle Blanche, a goat-cheese gouda. Is this familiar to you?

hazel 2:13 PM  

I got vile the same way - alphabet run - but the "answer" seemed improbable, given that the word flagitious had a rather happy sound to me - like delicious or propitious. I suppose i was just in a good mood (with my new kayak) because i could just as easily have associated it with malicious or flagellate I guess.

miriam b 2:14 PM  

@mac: OOPS - shoulda said goat-milk cheese.

While I'm back: I didn't get SET for the clue Sink.

fergus 2:17 PM  

Not even a third of the way done, and realized I was thoroughly stuck. Then Mt. Vitosha wasn't in either my Atlas or big Dictionary. Then the recognition that I would have to Google about a dozen unknowns, and meekly surrendered. Normally I would keep plugging away, but this was much so more factual than wordplay-oriented that I realized there wasn't going to be much pleasurable payoff to any further masochism.

jeff in chicago 2:22 PM  

I felt like a villain in a Batman fight doing this.

BAM! BOFF! CRASH! OOF! ZONK! KAPOW!

I think I'll go do a TV Guide puzzle now while my brain unscrambles.

Total fail for me. Even will Mr. Google. (But I'm not complaining...really!)

bluebell 2:25 PM  

I'm grateful for this blog, because I have a company of mourners to help in recovery from a total wipeout. Well maybe not totally total--I did know Alice (have sung that song since I was a girl), and remembered that the first daughter was Alice Roosevelt Longworth(?) But my college music theory class was too long ago for me to remember tetrad--that's one of my "doh's" for the day--though I knew Anitra. I too had slate, until frothy set me straight.

Thanks for the info on "loam." I've never seen this usage.

Ah, well, we live to puzzle another day.

edmcan 3:03 PM  

I got about half the puzzle, surprisingly, before I started googling. I'm glad I had a lot of company. Masochist that I am I enjoyed the puzzle.

treedweller 3:09 PM  

@miriam
if you set someone's contract in bridge (for example), they're sunk.

retired_chemist 3:23 PM  

@ Leslie - for links to the puppy pics click here. Scroll down and then click on dates in the list. Oct. 29 - NOV. 1 is up. I have pix and video clips from Nov. 5 I will post today (or maybe tomorrow.)

joho 3:31 PM  

@hazel ... re: flagitious my first thought was gassy.

Reading all the comments today makes me think we should crown the constructor "King Klahn," the Big Gorilla of crosswords. I don't think anybody comes close to being a tough as he.

mac 3:42 PM  

@miriamb: There are quite a few Dutch goat's-milk cheeses, even smoked ones, and what I like is that you can slice some of them.

Our cheese of the day is Tomme de Pyrenees chevre; a firm and clean-tasting goat's milk cheese from France.

Meg 3:42 PM  

@Ret Chemist:

Those are some mighty cute puppies. And a very patient mother. I think I can get a whiff of that puppy smell coming off my computer screen.

Shamik 3:43 PM  

Been ridden hard and put away wet on this one. Prostrate on the floor. But I learned something today. The AcrossLite timer stops at 99:59.

I had a 78% accurate completion rate for a Klahn puzzle, so wasn't intimidated by the name. Should have been.

Four letters wrong all in the NE. Didn't Peter DAIS write lots of stuff. And what about that author IMOSOL? (Ok...that sounds like some sort of antibacterial thing.) And if we're going to reshape something won't we do rap-speak and DO DIFF? And on my last transcontinental trip, I'm absolutely positive I crossed the FALOO river in Mississippi.

It's a Judy Tenuta day: It could happen.

But now I really need some encouragement to go to the ACPT this year. I've worked on this puzzle for so long it's beer-thirty time.

Clark 4:16 PM  

NW was tough, but somehow out of the mysterious depths of memory, YAZOO popped up, some scandal or other. That let me get the rest of the corner, though ANITRA didn't mean anything to me until I heard Rex’s clip.

NANCY DREW was a helpful gimme. (I have four sisters.)

‘Elektra’ gummed up the works until ITS A STEAL got me ARIADNE. ‘Ariadne auf Naxos’ is an opera with a hilarious premise. As the opera opens, the characters are discussing the plan for the evening. There is supposed to be a serious opera followed by a comic ballet. But then the order comes from the Major-Domo: It is “his Lordship’s pleasure that both pieces, the comic one and the tragic one, complete with all characters and the correct music, just as it was ordered and paid for, be served up on his stage simultaneously.” And that’s what they do. Sort of.

The SE killed me. I had TETRAD and GIVE WAY TO, and that was it. Gah!

Frances 4:33 PM  

Started out fast in the far Northeast, and thought "Wow, I'm on Klahn's wavelength!" NOT! Needed three Googles: both authors and the Peter Gunn female lead (that was a two-fer; I'm counting that as a single Google). Also consulted IMDB for the Cheyenne Kid protrayer, and no one had a 5-letter name. Had to get LARUE from crosses and crosswordese vocabulary. Loved the puzzle, Googles and all. Props to King Klahn!

Elaine 4:37 PM  

Hand up for just about everything! I got so tired of Googling that I gave up and ran home to Rexy. I am in the Massacred column.

Oddly, ITSASTEAL, ROMANTIC, BRRR, ETON, and ALICE were kind of gimmes. And our daughter now works in Vicksburg, so YAZOO was a freebie!
But SIMILE, REAMS,and UNION????...and I had to MODIFY SLATE to get SLATY

@Smitty
No, you must drop a final E before adding a Y. SMOKE-SMOKY, except when it's The Bear. Who, may I ask, was your 3rd grade teacher? You should sue!

@bluebell
Yes, Alice Roosevelt (Teddy's daughter by his first wife, who died after the birth) married Nicholas Longworth, a prominent politician. She lived to a ripe old age and was pretty famous for her acid but entertaining tongue. After cancer surgery, she styled herself as "Washington's only topless octogenarian."

Michael 4:42 PM  

I saw the name "Klahn" and immediately remembered the incredibly difficult one that Rex refers to. I then had a hard time getting started and thought I might not get anywhere with this. But ultimately it did not turn out to be as bad as I feared. I did have to do some minor googling in the NW (a couple of words), but otherwise got it. Not quickly...

however, I am not convinced by spang and slaty. I had "slate" for a long time, leading me to write in "blithe" (instead of "frothy") which did not seem to be quite right (and wasn't).

The answer I am disappointed in missing was "Amos Oz" -- especially since I had Maas, Dion, and Yazoo, A-o--z. Just didn't look like a name to me.

chefbea 4:57 PM  

I agree... a wicked puzzle. I looked at it all day long googling a bit then trying to figure out the rest. Finally had to come here a few minutes ago to see the finished puzzle. Knew Nancy Drew and a few others. Never heard of spang. I'll have to look it up and see how to use it in a sentence.

chefbea 4:57 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
chefbea 4:59 PM  

don't know why my post printed twice. I have clicked on the trash can and it won't delete :-(

retired_chemist 5:18 PM  

@ chefbea - BTDT.

clear the cache on your browser, exit both blogger and your browser, and log in to both again. If this fails, reboot.

bookmark 5:36 PM  

Bob Klahn also constructed the Washington Post crossword today. Same one as ours? There're two of them? OMG!

Glitch 5:50 PM  

@miriamb and @Anon,

What treedweller wrote, or, "...as the Sun SET, we watched it SINK in a western sea".

_____ and courtesy of crosswordmanblog

"30a OCTOPI: The conventional plural is octopuses, but dictionaries have been weakening and allowing that octopi does get used a lot. I see that MWCD11 lists both plurals without comment, but The Chambers Dictionary and The New Oxford American Dictionary continue to explain that octopi is wrong (because it is a Latin plural form, when octopus in fact comes from the Greek ... octopodes is the Greek plural)."

But then, as I have noted before, there is no requirement a word be in the dictionary, just "in use".

Much of the rest of the puzzle I'm less sure about ;)

.../Glitch

sanfranman59 6:13 PM  

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 5:48, 6:57, 0.83, 14%, Easy
Tue 9:38, 8:39, 1.11, 77%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 12:16, 11:47, 1.04, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 16:33, 18:26, 0.90, 24%, Easy-Medium
Fri 26:11, 26:00, 1.01, 55%, Medium
Sat 42:09, 29:12, 1.44, 98%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:07, 3:42, 0.84, 15%, Easy
Tue 4:56, 4:26, 1.11, 80%, Challenging
Wed 5:55, 5:46, 1.02, 63%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 7:40, 8:53, 0.86, 16%, Easy
Fri 12:19, 12:22, 1.00, 54%, Medium
Sat 26:31, 17:08, 1.55, 100%, Challenging

This one is, by far, the most challenging puzzle (relative to the day of the week) for the top 100 in the 20 weeks I've been tracking solve times. There have been two other puzzles that were more challenging for all solvers (the Corey Rubin Wednesday puzzle of June 24 and the Ashish Vengsarkar Thursday puzzle of July 30). I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who Mr. Klahn chews up and spits out.

miriam b 6:15 PM  

@glitch: Later I thought of using a nail SET. By means of this device one sinks the head of a nail below the surface of the wood..

Norm 6:47 PM  

I'm way late (and a dollar short?) but I have to chime in on the octopus plural -- courtesy of my usage guru Brian Garner:

"Because this word is actually of Greek origin -- not Latin -- the classical plural is "octopodes" /ok-TOP-uh-deez/, not *"octopi." But the standard plural in American and British English alike is "octopuses." Still, some writers mistakenly use the supposed Latin plural. Language-Change Index -- *"octopi" for "octopuses": Stage 3. *Invariably inferior form."

That it's in the dictionaries makes it acceptable; doesn't make it right. And, isn't that what we so often spar about.

Anonymous 6:53 PM  

Doughty means brave and stubborn? It sounds so wimpy.
There are a lot of Moores in the world and the only clue I get is some English guy named Henry?
We saw what I thought was flivver recently but didn't have to do with money?
I guess you had to be in the Ku Klux Klahn to be on the same page as this puzzle.

Two Ponies 6:58 PM  

After thinking about this puzzle all day I think I love it.
I love it because it really put me in my place.
Miss Smarty Pants can get her ass kicked by the likes of Bob Klahn and she had better never forget it.
Nothing like a little humble pie to remind us of who we are in this big universe.

Stan 7:00 PM  

Big hats off to those who solved this! I was not anywhere close. Enjoyed very much the few sections I did finish. Then, the neural networks went dark...

Excellent clue for 53D. Saw the Specials back in the day (total fun). Never saw the great English Beat, about whom I could drone on, but won't.

XMAN 7:53 PM  

how can I get today's puzzle of "Archives"? I tried selecting and clicking, but nothing happened.

Ulrich 7:59 PM  

What made this one so brutal, for me, was that I got about 3/4 relatively easy, for a Saturday and a Klahn, but then came to a complete, utterly frustrating stop in the NW and SE.

I learned that when as many unknown names/titles cross each other in an area like the NW quadrant, guessing one doesn't help at all (MAAS in my case), and surgical googling is the the only way to get out of it, and so be it.

But in the nameless SE, even that didn't help. Like others, REAMS held me back for a long time, as did a plethora of wrong guesses--DAUB for the plaster material, ODOR for stuff near a drain, SHABBY for not fair, SET TO GO for ready to move and so on--I just kept on writing stuff down and erasing it until the print started to fade. Finally reached a state where guesses started to confirm each other and finished the whole thing.

And remember, Einstein was born in ULM.

Elaine 8:10 PM  

@ Anonymous 6:53

Now, now. Don't be bitter. "Doughty" is just an old word-- like a lot of the solvers, in fact--aged but intrepid.

Flivver never had to do with money; that was Fiver. But Rex was wrong to think CRATE was a "definition." It was merely a synonym--much harder than COUPE or HOTROD or such. I did not get it, either.

If you do not know HENRY Moore, you did not receive a proper education and should sue your college. (I am feeling litigious today. See my note to Smitty.)

And (Sorry) the KKK is never joke-worthy. But if it was, yours was very well done!

Keep solving!

Rex Parker 8:16 PM  

I never said CRATE was a "definition." Jeez, just read the words that are on the "page." If you're going to say someone's "wrong," it's the least you could do.

And that KKK shit wasn't funny even if the KKK were joke-worthy.

mac 10:16 PM  

Husband is reading a book on the Civil War and, hours after I mentioned it in the puzzle, found "doughty" used in it!

Denise Ann 10:28 PM  

I . . . could . . . not . . . do . . . this . . . puzzle . . . until . . . I . . . did

Bill from NJ 10:37 PM  

Leave it to Bob Klahn to lay down a clue like flagitious to torure us. As it turned out, it was fully gettable by way of crosses. Not that it did me any real good.

Add me to the list of people whose tuckus was kicked by this puzzle. To continue the Yiddish idiom: Like a loch in kup I needed this.

My grasp of Napoleonic trivia, Chinese medicine and all things relating to harems, for G*ds sake, is a little weak. I felt like a newbie today.

Loch in kup: a hole in the head.

ArtLvr 10:55 PM  

@ mac: I did have a pair of wooden shoes as a child! They had bright red paint and came from a souvenir shop in Holland, Michigan, I think. Totally unwearable and not my first choice in dress or home decor -- but whoever gave them as a gift must have been pleased they were around for many years. I can still see them in my mind's eye.

Nick 11:13 PM  

Absolutely fucking batshit insane. I really thought I'd lost some significant brain mass since last week. Glad to see it's being acknowledged as utterly (nearly) impossible. Certainly there have been other Saturdays where I agonize over the puzzle for hours only to log on and see that Rex classified it as "Easy," but at least this time we were on the same page. (Except for me not coming close to finishing it.)

fergus 12:35 AM  

These little NYT puzzles are always approachable, given the familiarity. And generally there's not too much of a problem in filling in all the squares, often quite rapidly.

Yet today was a blank, but that was, in my opinion, due to a bunch of obscure meaningless Clues that brought no joy or satisfaction. All hail to Mr. Klahn for his other constructions, but today's puzzle was a load of emptiness in ideas, creativity or cleverness. It felt like he had an axe to gtind, or was being punitive, or just didn't give a shit about his standing in the puzzle world.

jimjam 2:18 AM  

Do people actually enjoy these terrible puzzles? What a waste of time.

jimjam 2:48 AM  

"I'm just glad that there are people in the world who actually could solve this puzzle."

I'm not; if it weren't for these people, we wouldn't have the annual "Bob Klahn intentionally impossible Saturday suckfest". Once every year there's one of these puzzles that just isn't worth trying because the NW corner alone has 8 obscurities crossing 8 other obscurities, and the best thing to do is just say fuck it and go read a book.

And it's not like these people's crossword skills necessarily translate into useful real life applications. I'm glad there are people who know how to design sweet computers or swine flu vaccines or the incredibly comfortable bed I'm lying on. I couldn't care less about elite crossword solvers.

Orange 2:48 AM  

I always like a Klahn puzzle, and I'm usually on his wavelength, as I was today. Nowhere near the toughest puzzle of the year for me. His standing in the puzzle world remains intact.

edith b 8:43 AM  

I have an interest in popular music from the 50s and 60s, history of a diverse nature that includes Organized Crime, warfare and the movies, all manner of fiction and to a lesser extent theatre and music.

All things that made doing this puzzle both fascinating and interesting. I have been doing crossword puzzles since the late 50s and, unlike Orange and other elite solvers, I did find this one to be probably the most difficult puzzle of the year. But I persevered, spent more than an hour on it and, by God, finished it.

I don't consider myself a freak , just a person whose particular body of skills allowed me to complete this one.

PlantieBea 9:45 AM  

A brain cruncher...I didn't have time to work on this much yesterday and after struggling with it this morning, I abandoned ship. The only gimme was Nancy Drew. Gotta get me a solvable Sunday.

Van55 12:56 PM  

A day later, after thinking about this one a bit, I concluded that Mr. Klahn's use of the arcane and esoteric trivia for its own sake is both unfair and not fun. Will Shortz never should have accepted this puzzle for publication. I relish a challenge, but this one was, for the average solver, simply impossible.

andrea carlapi michaels 12:56 PM  

Tuned in for the tweets today (Sunday) and I'm still halfway thru and going to take another crack at BK's, now that I accidentally saw FLAGITIOUS I'm sure the rest will fall!

Hobbyist 7:26 PM  

Solved this whilst out of town. Took a long time and a bit of help from passers by but I did it and did it right. WAY more than one half hour. WAY more but I conquered the Wrath of Klahn and fell a bit proud.

Ben 6:58 AM  

Few of you will probably see these comments, as it's now Tuesday, but here goes anyway.

Like Rex, I finished this one without Googling but was pushed to my limit. Felt the same sense of accomplishment that @Retired Copy Editor mentioned. As tough a puzzle as we have seen in a very long time.

Nice job on doing it in less than an hour, Rex. I ground doggedly through about 2/3 of it like the Russian army, hit a wall, set it aside, then broke through and finished it on my Monday train. As we all know, you can see a puzzle a whole new way after taking a break.

@DK: I was born in 1971 but I used to listen to "Live at Leeds" constantly in 6th grade, as many of the kids in my Chicago suburb were way into The Who, so that helped.

@Karen: Klaaaahn! Haha! BTW, Karen, did you mean LOCAL STOP? The word local was in the clue.

ODALISQUE I eventually filled in. -ONG gave me QIGONG so I had the -QUE, but ODALISQUE was only vaguely familiar. And I was too young for some of the pop culture stuff. Peter Gunn lady way over my head. SENATOR was inferrable but I sort of thought the Cleveland Indians were the patsies in that show.

Iniitally had WHATADEAL, then SUCHADEAL, eventually ITSASTEAL. The -EAL was correct by complete coincidence but I'd corrected the error by the time I got to that brutal N section, where I finally finished, so it didn't even help.

@Tom, @Hazel, @Treedweller: Thanks, that's nice of you to say.

@Leslie: I believe the word "yahoo" was coined by Jonathan Swift. The Yahoos were one of the several groups of creatures/people encountered by Gulliver on his travels.

@retired_chemist: Also had TODO at first. A number of 7-letter colloquialisms ending in O seemed possible for a noisy racket. Also worked with the O in El Dorado, which I had for the wrong reason. I thought the Amazon holy grail was something DE ORO. I wanted a lost city of gold, couldn't think of a three-letter word for "city" in Spanish, and knew Rio de Oro was wrong as the Amazon was already a river in the first place. Eventually got ROMANTIC and SET and then remembered the poem about the search for El Dorado.

And I still don't know what a flivver is.

Ben 7:02 AM  

More comments since I can't sleep:

TIAMARIA made sense with the female connotation but I don't drink and I'd never even heard of it. DEMARCHE, also never heard of it. Had -MARCHE, knew it was right, and still had to grind out the rest of the word. The N was tough. I was proud to get ARIADNE after straining to get there with few letters. I really had to rack (wrack?) my brain for mythology characters because I know so little about classical music.

SOFIA as capital of Bulgaria was one of the pieces of trivia I didn't know on my qualifying test before appearing on Jeopardy. After that experience I knew it for life and it finally paid off. I certainly didn't know what mountain it was near, but at least the word was in my head.

@Anonymous: DION wasn't a gimme for me. I needed one or two letters first.

@Rex - I agree, every once in a while a Saturday puzzle should be super-tough and live up to what the actor Paul Sorvino called it, "the bitch mother of all crosswords." Love being punched in the face by a very hard puzzle... every once in a while.

And after a pretty routine Friday puzzle too!

@Joho - you're not an ignoramus, those were good guesses.

@BEQ: Agreed, I too am rarely on Bob Klahn's wavelength. I think he himself is one of few people alive who is.

@Bookmark, Rex and others: I too had REAMS for RAFTS. Klaaahn!

@Rex, Hazel et al.: Same here, it took me getting -ILE to get VILE. Who besides Klahn knows the word flagitous?

Too young for ALICE blue but inferred it eventually. Didn't know ANITRA either.

I agree with whoever expressed terror that ACPT puzzle #5 in a few months might be a Klahn. I eventually finished this without googling but not in a half hour.

@Nick - did you lose brain MASS or MAAS? :)

@Jimjam: I for one enjoyed this a lot not despite that, but because, it was so hard. A lot of people here clearly felt the same way. I submit that you might agree had you made more headway. No need to be so bitter and denigrate elite puzzle solvers as having useless skills. For Pete's sake it's just a crossword puzzle, get over it.

@Andrea Carlapi Michaels: Hahapodes.

@Hobbyist: Ditto and bravo!

Ben 7:19 AM  

Oops meant to say under a half hour, Rex.

Aviatrix 2:45 AM  

My most stubbornly held wrong answer was SADENDING for 21D. After a few days I gave up and Googled to get the thing done. A low finish indeed.

Anonymous 3:52 PM  

The BEST puzzles are the ones where you say "Oh yeah" when you finally get it not the ones where you say "Huh".

Chelan 6:55 PM  

I thought my brain was going to explode, dribble out my ear, and leave a big mess on my kitchen table. Holy cow. Thank goodness for a misspent childhood reading Nancy Drew books - at least I got ONE answer right before I had to start cheating! Rex, I bow in your general direction.

Anonymous 11:04 PM  

octopose or octopuses is taxonomically correct. (greek, not latin!)

Singer 8:22 PM  

Holy Cow! My wife asked me several times how long I would fight this thing until I sucumbed to Google. Well, it was probably a net of about 1.5 hours, and I had everything but the NW. Old rock is not my strong suit, and I didn't know ON ME or DION. Also didn't know MAAS. ON ME and DION were the only Googles, and I blame my Rock loving wife for not being helpful. After I told her the name of the Joplin title, she said, "of course". Too little, too late.

I was gratified to find that I solved all but the NW by myself and it was rated challenging+.

And ANITRA was a gimme for me.

I did have what a dEAL too long, and also had dogooder for Qixote and to do for hubbub (ROAR). I had Oda Eunuch for a long time - glad to see the instincts about ODA were right. I didn't understand LOAM, but got it from crosses.

Most of the answers seem so obvious after you get them.

Charles 9:50 AM  

I actually finished this one with no errors, in about an hour and a half. I was proud to see that even Rex Parker rated it as "Challenging +." It was certainly the hardest puzzle I have done in a long while.

There was some really fun stuff in this puzzle, but I can't quite call it lovable. The obscure words ("odalisque," "demarche," "doughty") were fun, as were the trial-and-error compound answers ("it's a steal," "give way to") and the misdirections ("shoe shine," "qi gong," "cliche").

But there were too many cheap shots. Bogus semi-words like "slaty" or "spang." Too-cute clues (does "gee" really mean "oh, I don't know"?). A heavy weighting to the 50+ demographic (obscure music by Dion, the Who, Janis Joplin, obscure characters from 60s TV, obscure western stars, Nancy Drew).

Most objectionable was the NW, a major Natick zone. I'm a pretty literate guy, but I've never heard of Peter Maas or Amos Oz, never heard of the song "Down On Me" (early on I had "Down To Me," then later "Down Once"). Dion was a reasonable guess for 1962 and Anitra sounded vaguely familiar. Given my uncertainty as to "it's a steal" (I went back and forth from "what a deal"), "frothy," "yazoo," "slaty," and (especially) "spang," there was nothing for it but lots of trial and error. After spilling a lot of ink, I finally found a combination of letters that looked appropriate, and they turned out to be correct. Ugh. Not pretty at all.

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