Career diplomat Philip / SAT 2-6-10 / Blue II Harlequin's Carnival / Relief pitcher Craig / Tasty torus

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Constructor: Frederick J. Healy

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (leaning easy)

THEME: None

Word of the Day: TINKER'S DAM (24D: Whit)

Meaning
Something that is insignificant or worthless.

Origin
There's some debate over whether this phrase should be tinker's dam - a small dam to hold solder, made by tinkers when mending pans, or tinker's damn - a tinker's curse, considered of little significance because tinkers were reputed to swear habitually. (read more on this phrase's origin at phrases.org.uk)
• • •

This was fairly enjoyable, but man, the -ERs, yikes. At the ends of answers, in the middles of answers, just ... everywhere. Plus, notice how often words / phrases in the puzzle end in -ER, -S, or -ED. Virtually every answer that ends on the northern side of the central black diagonal, and then there's all the S-enders created by CREVASSES (9D: Levee breaches), and then check out the 6-E diagonal running NE from the second "E" in GOOD DEEDS (44A: Samaritans' doings). And a 4-R diagonal immediately under that. All that in the middle of a MOTHER / FATHER / LUTHER / MASHER mash-up. And PRESS crossing PRESS (up top) ... the other stuff is just annoying, but that ... that is flat-out horrid. Duplicating letter strings that long *anywhere* in the grid is rare / frowned upon. Crossing them!? Seems like something that should have at least raised an eyebrow.

This played out like two puzzles — the first one in the NW, where I died a hard death. Fell flat on my face with DONUT for BAGEL (16A: Tasty torus), and not much else. Tried ARETE right away (11A: Alpine feature), but yanked it when I couldn't get any of the Downs to work: never heard of HABIB (1D: Career diplomat Philip) or ARAME (2D: Mild-flavored seaweed in Japanese cuisine), and REGIS (while familiar now) (3D: Denver university) was invisible to me, blocked in part by the tasty torus doppelganger, DONUT. Actually wrote in STUNTED GROWTH for 4D: Slow an increase (stem the tide).


So ... I abandoned that disaster and started hacking at the N / NE. Put in ESSEN without even thinking (14D: Ruhr Museum locale), and followed that with NEED (6D: Grant consideration). Somehow that "N" got me NONCE (6A: Present), which got me EDNAS (10D: "Hairspray" mom and others), which got me UVA (20A: Cavaliers' home, for short) and CPAS (22A: Calculating bunch, briefly), though I probably could have gotten EDNAS, UVA, and CPAS without any help at all. This is what I mean about this seeming like two puzzles. The NW killed me, and then ... easy clues came out of the woodwork, in droves. I mean ... 29A: ___ Mae (Fannie)? 43A: Pulitzer-winning poet Mark Van ___ (Doren)? 33A: King's middle name (Luther)!? 41A: "The lady in red" betrayed him (Dillinger)!!? That last one is a Monday clue, for crying out loud. Anyway, once I made that initial breakthrough in the NE, I headed back west across the grid and then counterclockwise all the way around to finish in the SE with the "A" in TINKER'S DAM (a phrase I didn't know at all).

Bullets:
  • 23A: Relief pitcher Craig (Hansen) — really annoyed with myself that I can't picture him, can't place him, don't know what team(s) he pitched for, whether he still pitches, etc. I follow baseball reasonably closely, and I'm just blanking on him. This is especially weird (I just looked him up) as he started his career with the Red Sox (!) in 2005 (it appears he is now a Pirate). He is so marginal a player, with such a short career under his belt, that I am completely stunned he was deemed worthy to be a crossword clue. Most of his career in the minors?! Including all of 2007? His career (CAREER!) stats are 4-9 with a 6.39 E.R.A. and 65 strikeouts. Maybe he'll go on to be a legend, but right now, there are probably several dozen active relief pitchers in the majors with greater stature ... how he got into the puzzle is absolutely befuddling.
  • 47A: Socialite who inspired "Call Me Madam" (Mesta) — as in Perle MESTA. She's been in the grid a bunch, at least once with this very clue (or something very close). She killed me once, long ago, and I've never forgotten.
  • 7D: Goose, in Spain or Italy (oca) — I know that in French it's "OYE" ... and I thought OCA was some kind of seed or grain or fruit ... aha, a tuber! What's this "goose" stuff?
  • 35D: Mysterious word repeated in Daniel 5:25 (Mene) — as in "Mene, Mene, Tekel"; that was the title of a book my grandma got me when I was a teen-ager. I never read it, but I sure did remember the title. Sorry/thanks, grandma.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

98 comments:

lit.doc 12:39 AM  

“Mene, mene, tekel, uparsin”. Read the writing on the grid. Shoulda known this from teaching Brecht’s “Endgame” so many times. But hey, it’s a Saturday. @Rex, thank you for posting so early, so I can quit obsessing and go to bed. Your write-up was painfully educational. Argh.

Got maybe 50% of the grid filled. Googled to get MESTA. The rest was either right or amusing. DONUT was an excellent answer, despite dooming NW. Ditto CLEveland in NE. And OSHA for MADD effed midwest.

Award for Most Ironic Screw-Up goes to FATHER’S DAY. Imagine the impact on further solving. Sigh.

nanpilla 12:53 AM  

A pretty fast Saturday for me, and I'd never heard of HABIB, ARAME or TINKERS DAM. The crosses were all fair, so the solving was pretty smooth. I was also fooled by donut before fixing that to BAGEL.
I eat a lot of Japanese food, and I don't remember ever seeing ARAME on a menu. IMIMPRESSED looks really strange! Never heard crevasse used in relation to a levee, just mountain climbing and glaciers. A quick google shows that it is valid, though. Embarrased to admit that I tried DerrINGER before DILLINGER. I knew it wasn't right, but just couldn't get the right name in my head!
The grid reminds me of a bug- and having just seen a monstrous centipede (in my house!!) in the Keys, I'm still a little freaked out by bugs. It's snowing like crazy here in south Jersey - time for a nice long sleep. Thanks for your great, early post, Rex!

Elaine 2:35 AM  

Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin... I forget what it meant, but it sure scared the king; (was that before or after the Lion's Den bit?)

I just skimmed along like a bird (recalling that BAGEL/torus clue, even) until I got shot down in the NE. I mean it-- no write-overs, no hesitations, and then BOOM.

Well, I confess there was that little matter of PRIESTS, then MOTHERS, before FATHERS-- since I was trying to put MYRTLE MAE (from "Harvey") into the grid. Finally caught on to Magic's BASKETS and cleaned up that section.... but I still had the 6A/12A/17A mess.

Being a refugee from Ohio, I put CLV into the grid without fear...and RUSTED OUT fit so nicely!...and for some reason another meaning of "Present" (gift? not absent?) would not come to me; I put in SINCE/SEED (seed money for a grant?) and declared it done....until I came here.

ICA looked as good as OCA. Goose? really? Why would anyone put in a Spanish or Italian word that obscure and awful? (insert rant)I don't know why I give a TINKER'S DAMN (which is how I write it) but that bit makes my eyes glow with an unearthly red intensity.

Thanks for the early write-up (and for hating the puzzle!)

jae 4:16 AM  

On the easy side for me also, except for NW. Had the same DONUT problem as Rex and tried to make NORI fit for 2d. I'm old enough to know TINKERSDAM but I agree HANSEN is pretty obscure (got it on the crosses). I liked this one but not as much as yesterday's (I think that's an appropriate apostrophe as well is the one in that's)?

lit.doc 4:19 AM  

And worse (other than not yet having hit the sack), I grew up in Denver, so "Why the heck won't Regis fit here?" shoulda fixed the "donut" problem. Geez.

jae 4:26 AM  

Oh, and on the topic of "what you don't know what you know", 1d was a complete blank for me until I filled in BESTWISHES and then, ta da, I knew HABIB (which fixed my DONUT problem). Go figure?

andrea frankly my dear I don't give a tinker's dam michaels 5:14 AM  

I thought the grid looked way cool.

I put in EDNAS then asked my new roommate Silvia from Tuscany how you said "goose" in Italian. I should have just googled, bec by the time I explaned to her what a goose was in English, through charades, the word duck, maybe white and Mother Goose thrown in, we finally got to OCA.

Actually my only write-over was MESTA for Perle. Oh! And NOTinTOIT even tho I had CPAS, I thought maybe the P was wrong.

I thought Mark Van Doren was that QUiz show scandal guy, but now I realize that was Charles....and maybe not even Van Doren.

And, as per usual, it took me forever to parse LONGE as LONG E, the type of clue which is my personal bugaboo.

@Rex,
I thought your writeup was pretty spot on...but no mini-rant over the pile up of ugliness that was 42D? C.E.O., e.g.: Abbr. = LDR!?

ARAME, why not take ARAME...can't you see, IMIM no good without uuuuu

I liked how FATHERS cross MOTHERS
and that IMIM that @nanpilla pointed out seems begging to be a theme of some sort...

dk 7:25 AM  

Little picture is the Levee breach in NOLA's ninth ward. The CRAVASSES are numerous. The major one is the wedge in the middle. Needless to say the small church (see yellow cross in foreground) is no longer with us. The horror is best reflected in the ever rising water in the background (Lake Pontchartrain). File this under "lest we forget" or "terror, I'll show you terror."

Ok the puzzle. Seemed easy for a Saturday. Not to say it was not fun. My challenge was over thinking. Naw, I said, it can't be TOTS, BASKETS, BAGEL, etc. I also misspelled HANSEN and had RUSTedout. So 29 minutes later... here I am.

*** (3 Stars)

dk 7:34 AM  

Click on little picture for a larger view (on blog site) and a "cute" picture of one of the Katrina storm clouds.

foodie 8:08 AM  

For some reason, I struggled with this one. The most enjoyable moment was when I first looked at the grid: I love the way it looks. But, as pointed out by Rex, the price was high. And the crossing of IMPRESSED and PRESSER was, well, eyebrow raising!

I knew of Philip HABIB because he was a prominent US diplomat who was involved in negotiating the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel in the 70's. Born in the US, he was of Lebanese christian background and his name means: Loved One. If someone calls you HABIBi, you're their beloved.

I am in NY on business, and took time off to go to the Guggenheim with my family. My granddaughter pointed to the red eyes of the funny creatures in a big painting, and I taught her to say MIRO...

@dk, lest we forget, indeed.

Sara 8:42 AM  

Andrea FMDIDGATD Michaels: Charles Van Doren was Mark Van Doren's son!

PlantieBea 8:42 AM  

A medium for me; solved with my puzzling mother who's here for a visit. She provided MESTA and TINKER'S DAM. Had to swap HEED and NEED several times in the NE. Other first stabs included RUSTED OUT, DONUT, and CENTER FRONT.

The snazzy grid looks like a diamond-back cootie. Off for the day.

tptsteve 8:57 AM  

I, too, ran into the donut for BAGEL problem, which was only one of my problems in the NW. Everything else fell with a little bit of thinking and guesswork.

This was one of the easier Saturdays I've done.

Can someone explain Lothario/MASHER @ 27D? I don't (and didn't) have a clue

MsCarrera 9:05 AM  

@ andrea frankly my dear I don't give a tinker's dam michaels said... (Thank goodness for the copy & paste function.)

Thanks for the explanation of "long e." Everything else fit nicely, so I knew it had to be correct. That type of clue gets me a lot of the time.

I knew "nonce" right away thanks to it being used often by my mother. It seems we do retain some things our parents say.

@Plantiebea I, too, thought the grid was great, and your cootie comment even better.

Leslie 9:14 AM  

Well, phooey. The NW corner was a big giant Natick for me. Now that I think about it, yeah, I KNOW what "torus" means, but I just went with the "tasty" part and threw in "morel." That gave me HAMIB, AROME, and RERIS (which should have been the tipoff, but at that point I was all, "Reris? There was somebody named Reris? Sure, why not?"

VaBeach puzzler 9:22 AM  

Oh PLEASE let the tournament puzzles be as easy as this one and maybe I won't come in next to last ...

The Bard 9:23 AM  

Hamlet > Act IV, scene VII

KING CLAUDIUS:
Let's further think of this;
Weigh what convenience both of time and means
May fit us to our shape: if this should fail,
And that our drift look through our bad performance,
'Twere better not assay'd: therefore this project
Should have a back or second, that might hold,
If this should blast in proof. Soft! let me see:
We'll make a solemn wager on your cunnings: I ha't.
When in your motion you are hot and dry--
As make your bouts more violent to that end--
And that he calls for drink, I'll have prepared him
A chalice for the nonce, whereon but sipping,
If he by chance escape your venom'd stuck,
Our purpose may hold there.

Meg 9:50 AM  

Pretty steady solving, even with DONUT and OSHA until I hit the NE. I wanted RUSTEDOUT for too long.

I have a problem with BEST WISHES for "Cheers" alternative. Who says BEST WISHES while clinking glasses? Who writes CHEERS on a card? Doesn't work for me.

@Elaine: Where did you want to put MYRTLE MAE? What a great movie!!

They "have no life" = They aren't? Well those dead guys... They aren't. They aren't what? Maybe I'm missing something.

I was so proud of myself for seeing LONG E fairly early on. I've been killed by those cryptic-like clues too many times!

So, pretty darn easy for a Saturday, but fun. The Second Sunday is a diagramless by Joon Pahk. Going there next.

Elaine 10:05 AM  

@jae
Yes, your apostrophes were juuust right. One is used for a possessive (yesterday's puzzle) and TWO (I'm, that's) are used to denote dropped letters. TaDa.

@Meg
MYRTLE [MAE] fit perfectly into FANNIE's spot, esp if you have MOTHERS to confess to.

I say "for the NONCE" all of the time! making it even more of a dull-witted error. And I've been to DC more than a few times to sit on Peer Review Committees for NIDRR, reading grant proposals and decided who was most in NEED!

Not sure I dare do a Joon Pahk puzzle, but my husband has just brought me the magic elixir...coffee. (I am now dreaming about crosswords. Sheesh.)

joho 10:05 AM  

@andrea @foodie @Plantie Bea @ MsCarrera ... first thing I wrote in the margin was "cool-looking grid."

@andrea ... LOL "ARAME ... ARAME ..."

Great write-up, Rex.

I only guessed at TINKERSDAM and ARAME ("Can't you see"), unknowns to me, but they were easy to get through crosses.

The clue at 19D seems off to me. Shouldn't it be "A dead one looks like someone else ... not something else? Aren't ringers always people?

This seemed too easy for a Saturday, but it's nice, too, as finishing so quickly with no errors always feels good.

retired_chemist 10:20 AM  

Another good puzzle. This one would have been quicker had I not made some silly errors in the NE. Had CPAS @ 22A, erased it, then decided it was right after all when I got the C from CORNER STORE @ 22D. However, I carelessly put in CEOS - subconscious push from the 42D clue, I suppose. Had CLE @ 20A. Had RUSTED OUT @ 17A. Spent a couple of minutes looking at the garbage I then had for7- 8-9-10D. Aha! Noted that the Cavaliers could also clue UVA, saw the CPAS error, and the NE fell.

ARAME – never heard of it. I have been to Japan six times and that’s a new one. Looks delicious in the Wikipedia article though.

Clues/answers I really liked: 31A Magic acts (BASKETS – by Magic Johnson or the Orlando Magic, you get to choose), 32A Safety Org (MADD – was OSHA), King’s middle name (LUTHER), 27A MIROS, and the trivia clues for DILLINGER (hand up for DERRINGER), MOTHERS’ DAY, and MESTA. Less felicitous: 27D MASHER (who EVER says THAT?), 12D PRESSER, 37D chemical AGENT. Wanted chemical ALI – wondered briefly if I misremembered it and it was a 5-letter name like ABDUL or AHMED.

Thank you, Mr. Healy.

edith b 10:21 AM  

For once, the meta-type clue LONG E at 33D didn't hurt me as I had the whole answer in before I ever saw it. I did spend some time trying to figure out what LONGE meant, though.

I found this one pretty simple with very little snap to it. Like others, I didn't know HANSEN and, like Rex, I know a little about baseball but the crosses, as already noted, bailed me out.

MESTA NONCE HABIB DILINGER, this puzzle skewed right into my comfort zone. Or maybe I should say skidded as I live in South Jersey like Nanpilla and I am looking out my window at 20" inches of snow on the ground and it is still falling.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 10:33 AM  

Okay, while there were a load of -ER words, they were practically all quality. Okay, maybe not PRESSER. Maybe my dictionary will tell me otherwise, but I don't have a problem with that crossing I'M IMPRESSED. On the whole a very clean grid for an eye-popping 60 worder. And I still misread this guy's name as "Francis Heaney." Approved.

Bill from NJ 10:34 AM  

Ditto Nanpilla and edithb. I also live in South Jersey and we have a real blizzard on our hands. Don't even see kids with snow shovels trying to hustle a buck.

I wish the puzzle had put up a little more resistance and had been a litle less boring with a lot fewer oddjobs. Just sayin'.

twangster 10:42 AM  

Habib was the inspiration for "The Envoy," the title song of a Warren Zevon album from 1982.

I shudda known 10:54 AM  

@twangster

Of course

archaeoprof 10:58 AM  

NW was hard for me too, primarily because I just cannot think of a BAGEL as "tasty."

In the SW I first tried "osha" instead of MADD. That messed things up for awhile.

@Foodie: on my recent trip to the Middle East I frequently heard "habibi" used as a friendly greeting between men.

mac 11:17 AM  

Did the puzzle this morning with Karen from the Cape. Actually, we both had a copy and finished in about the same time, and very good time for a Saturday. Hope it's an omen for the Westport tournament!

Never heard of arame and tinker's dam, thought it might be a tinker scam. I was fooled by longe as well.

Thank you, Rex and Bard!

@Foodie: the new exhibition at the Guggenheim must have been fun for a little one!

Of to the Library and the contest, meeting up with IMSDave and Ulrich.
Chefbea is joining us for dinner tonight.

presse 11:18 AM  

I don't know how you found this easy. For me it was hard and boring. First Saturday in a long time that I didn't even bother to finish.

Bill from NJ 11:21 AM  

As a nice Jewish boy, my mind went right to BAGEL as opposed to Donut. I thought BAGEL complemented Phillip Habib very well.

slypett 11:30 AM  

So what? It took me an hour and a half for what turns out to be a peanut of a puzzle. I like peanuts.

slypett 11:34 AM  

Everyone: Have any of you had this problem? (Seriously.)

Can't get current puzzle off my desk-top. And also won't accept entries. It appears "faded-out" and the buttons in the upper left corner don't light up, and there is a small, blank oblong box on the grid, that accepts text. Tried to get rid of the whole shebang by shutting down computer (a Mac-mini running OS 10.5), but I can't do this because I can't quit Across Lite.

nanpilla 11:38 AM  

@twangster: The things I learn on this blog....
Lyrics to Warren Zevon's "The Envoy"

Nuclear arms in the Middle East
Israel is attacking the Iraqis
The Syrians are mad at the Lebanese
And Baghdad does whatever she please
Looks like another threat to world peace
For the envoy
Things got hot in El Salvador
CIA got caught and couldn't do no more
He's got diplomatic immunity
He's got a lethal weapon that nobody sees
Looks like another threat to world peace
For the envoy
Send the envoy
Send the envoy

Whenever there's a crisis
The President sends his envoy in
Guns in Damascus
Oh, Jerusalem

Nuclear arms in the Middle East
Israel is attacking the Iraqis
The Syrians are mad at the Lebanese
And Baghdad do whatever she please
Looks like another threat to world peace
For the envoy
Send the envoy . . .
Send for me

Just finished the first round of shoveling and snow-blowing. Will have to wait for the storm to end to do it all again....

ArtLvr 11:57 AM  

I giggled at MASHER, NATTER and NONCE -- very old-timey, tying in with MOTHERS' DAY for me. The crossing of the Scout's BADGE and his GOOD DEEDS was cute too.

CPAS with NOT UP TO IT, plus BANE, had echoes of the Ides of April... HELP WANTED with tax stuff always, but we AREN'T going there yet.

CO___ at 22D for the milk place started stray thoughts of Cows' Anatomy, but only for a second. The names of MIROs, FANNIE, LUTHER, DOREN and MESTA put me back on CENTER STAGE with the CORNER STORE.

Did anyone wrinkle the nose at the partial, - CIDE? Or think of a short form of "Selah" before MENE?

Magic's BASKETS and HABIB's diplomacy posed no problems, and OCA will get filed away in a round container.

Ending query -- what did that silly clue for ATT mean? Ma Bell would have been a better clue! Oh well, I'm not going away MADD. Rather liked it...

∑;)

Two Ponies 12:03 PM  

Best wishes to everyone at the tournament. Good luck!
One little corner bit kept me just shy of a victory.
Did not hesitate on bagel but the diplomat and the seaweed were off of my radar. I had piste for arete so I was doomed.
I know nonce from another use completely. I have heard Brits use it to call someone an idiot as in "Don't be such a nonce." I've never seen it in print, however.
Favorite clue - killer ending.

jesser 12:07 PM  

I ripped through this thing until I hit the SE, where TINKER___ had me scratching my noggin something fierce. I also had __THERSDAY for a long time before I saw that FATHERS was already entered (and crossing!) so it had to be MOTHERS, but, like Rex, I looked back up at PRESSER crossing IMPRESSED and thought, "Well, maybe..." So the SE corner was not willing to fall easily, and I spend easily (if Healy can do it, so can I) 50 percent of my solving experience slogging around down in the Everglades. Didn't help that I was confident about YENTL and was reluctant to scrap the L for the A to give me MESTA. AArrgghh.
In totally unrelated news, my Significant Other has declared today a Pool Hall Day instead of a Jeep Day, so I should probably change my avatar. But I won't, because even though I'm gonna go along with his wishes, my heart will be crawling the mountains instead of pursuing a dead-on shot at the 9 ball. Such is life today in Las Cruces.
Happy weekend, Rex and family!
tauterod is my (insert the word I can't remember which allows me to post my comment), and I like the sound of it.

Elaine 12:14 PM  

@ArtLvr
ATTempts (tried a pass play, I guess; I am actually fairly ignorant of football, so I have a lot of nerve answering this!)

@Slypett
Sorry, but isn't that what you get for being a Mac person? (Ducking and running....)

@Two Ponies
I've seen PONCE but not NONCE...I read a lot of British writers but haven't run across a homophone for NONCE, either.

Good luck to all you snow-bound folk! Stay safe!
three and out

ArtLvr 12:20 PM  

@ Two Ponies -- I think the Brit word is "Nance"!

@ Snowbound in the Mid-Atlantic states -- Good luck to all in getting through the record snowstorm safely!

OldCarFudd 12:24 PM  

@ArtLvr - ATT had me scratching my head, too. I think it means attempts, as in four completions in nine attempts. Just guessin' - I don't know squat about spectator sports.

Never heard of arame or Regis (sorry, Coloradans) but got them from the crosses. The Dillinger clue may be Mondayish to some, but I don't ever remember hearing the story of the lady in red. I did, however, know Mesta and tinker's dam(n).

I hadn't noticed the diagonal string of Es, but I've noticed similar strings many times before. I never knew they were discouraged. I would have thought there were many other, more important constraints. I have no objection to presser crossing imimpressed, since the meanings are so different. They're similar to homonyms, and I don't know of any prohibition against those.

@tptsteve - Masher is sort of an archaic equivalent of lounge lizard.

poc 12:35 PM  

A disaster. CPUS for CPAS, no idea about the various sports clues. DONUT for BAGEL (but caught it in time), DEED for NEED. DERRINGER for DILLINGER (also caught it). Not at all easy I'm afraid.

Can someone explain ARENT? The clue doesn't seem to match the asnwer.

twangster 12:50 PM  

Here's a live version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0ZVFOkx2fc

fikink 12:51 PM  

Enjoyed NONCE, NATTER, BANE, YENTL, CREVASSES, MASHER.
Learned what a LONGE is, after the fact and then parsed LONG E!

@twoponies, @nanpilla, bet you both know or use the word "longe" - weigh in on that please.

@dk, started with RUSTEDOUT, too.

@tptsteve: from The Music Man (set in Iowa, of course)

Marian:
Momma, if you don't mind my sayin' so,
You have a bad habit of changin' ev'ry subject--

Mrs. Paroo:
Well, I haven't changed the subject!
I was talking about that stranger--

Marian:
What stranger?

Mrs. Paroo:
With the suitcase who may be your very last chance.

Marian:
Mama!
Do you think that I'd allow a common masher--
Now, really Mama!
I have my standards where men are concerned,
And I have no intention--

Dough 12:55 PM  

I just tiptoed through the tulips on this one. There seemed to be more gimmes than a usual Saturday. Did the SE really fast and then plowed up through the NE and finally the NW. The first entry I put in was DONUT. Oops! @Rex you ranted, "there are probably several dozen active relief pitchers in the majors with greater stature ... how he got into the puzzle is absolutely befuddling."
Of course you know better than this. You don't start by asking, "Gee, what relief pitcher will I memorialize in my nice Saturday puzzle?" The challenge is how to clue HANSEN. I tried Googling the name to do better. The best I could find was serial killer Robert Hansen, who killed between 17 and 21 people near Anchorage, Alaska (wikipedia). From a constructor's perspective, "Hansen" seems clueable until it comes to clue-writing time.

fikink 12:56 PM  

Hand up also for DONUT first, simply because I learned "torus" from puzzles.
(What William James said about memory)

chefbea 12:59 PM  

hard puzzle today. had to google a lot and still had to come here to finish.

I too would like the explanation lothario=masher???

Looking forward to dinner tonight with IMSDave, Karen, Ulrich and Mac.

jesser 1:07 PM  

I'm now officially jealous of ChefBea! That's gonna be some seriously sparkling mealtime banter!

Auntie AnaGram 1:07 PM  

MASHER was a term long before Meredith Wilson penned "The Music Man," but it's a great example. Also, think about the defending attorney's questions to a witness in _Anatomy of a Murder_ (James Stewart was fine in the movie, but the book is oh, so much better.)
Other terms would be: wolf, cad, Lothario, Casanova, Don Juan, ladies' man, or (more currently) player. It would generally refer to someone pressing unwanted attention on a female. Miss Manners would disapprove of such a person...

chefbea 1:22 PM  

@Jesser Last year when we all got together I of course ordered the Beet salad. We will report tomorrow about the food and the tournament.

Shamik 1:24 PM  

@Va Beach: Agree with you...please let the tournament be like this one...initially seeming un-doable, but ending up being easy. However, I doubt it will be. Why have a tournament if it's going to be easy? I don't want to end up last or next to last, either.

Seems many of us have brains with a sweet tooth that immediately go for DONUT. Really pathetic for me, because I actually had a BAGEL for breakfast.

@chefbea: MASHER is a word we used in high school...yes, Stamford High School for an older man hitting on young girls.

I wanted the iron-handed one to be something with golf.

We're surrounded by safety organizations. First had in OSHA which made me remove STEMTHETIDE! Then threw in USDA and finally MADD.

And DILLINGER for me was not a Monday clue.

Good luck to all going to Westport...didn't know there was a tourney going on there.

Captcha was "thyprin," surely another hormone pill....

Rex Parker 1:48 PM  

@Dough,

Your "HANSEN" research is shoddy.

To start, you might try Liane, who *interviews Will Shortz every week on NPR*.

Also, Ron HANSEN is far far more famous as a novelist than Craig is as a pitcher.

There are others.

rp

nanpilla 1:57 PM  

@fikink : what brought up longe?

To longe a horse is to exercise him from the ground rather than in the saddle. I usually use a longe line, attached to his halter or bridle. You stand in the middle of a circle formed by him working around you, either at walk, trot or canter. You hold a long whip with a lash at the end which you can either snap behind them, or tickle them with. Ideally, there should be a V formed with your body being the point of the V, and their nose and hindquarters forming the two legs. Slightly moving your body toward the nose slows them down, moving the point of the V toward their hindquarters signals them to speed up. When done properly ( which is a lot harder than it looks!) it is very pretty to watch. This is done to check for lameness, or to "get the bucks out" if the horse hasn't been ridden in a while before getting in the saddle, or just as exercise. You can also "free-longe" a horse in a round pen. The positioning of the body remains the same, but there is no attachment between you and the horse. This is what you may see on one of those "horse whisperer" demonstrations. These exercises can really bond a horse to a human, since they have to pay close attention. There is a lot more to it than that, but I hope it answers your question!

nanpilla 1:59 PM  

Nevermind. Long E ! How wierd that I didn't even make the connection!

Four and out.

Appropriately enough my captcha this time is indope!

SethG 2:02 PM  

Beck. Gus. Sally.

There was a lot in this puzzle I didn't know, and AGITATION certainly didn't help. The E/SE felt like a Wednesday (except for the TINKERSxAM/xOREN), and the NW most certainly did not.

Darth Vader. Who knew?

Clark 2:06 PM  

I hit the sack last night with 12A undone: PRE_ESOR_. I had OsA for OCA for some reason. (I’ve got to get the Simpsons dubbed in Spanish.) Sometime during the night (can’t remember if I was awake or dreaming) I remember realizing it had to be PRERECORD. I love it when that happens.

“Yet only by reason of something present-at-hand, ‘is there’ anything ready-to-hand. Does it follow, however, granting this thesis for the nonce, that readiness-to-hand is ontologically founded upon presence-at-hand?” That’s where I first saw NONCE (Heidegger, Being and Time, Macquarrie & Robinson trans. 101 [71]). Memorable because . . . Oh, yea. This is not the phenomenological existentialism blog.

Good luck to you tournament participants. Knock back a beet for me.

Two Ponies 2:18 PM  

@ fikink,
Like nanpilla, I am more used to the phrase longe line.
Thanks for thinking of me.
Maybe nance is the word I was hearing but because of the short A and British accent wasn't sure how it would be spelled.

George NYC 2:46 PM  

Thanks to this puzzle, CRAIG HANSEN is the new Mario Mendoza, pitching division.

joho 3:31 PM  

Good luck to everyone at the tournament! I wish I could be a fly on the wall at dinner, too. You will have so much fun! @Chef Bea ... definitely report back.

hazel 3:33 PM  

@George - good one. What are we calling the Hansen line? 6.00?

Tommy Hanson I will point out is a notable pitcher. He was the Braves' pitcher of the year last year, and will (knock wood) will be mowing 'em down for years to come. Alas, RUSHOD can't be clued, I suppose.

In other news, I found the puzzle Hard, mostly because it all just seemed so generic with enough well-placed obscurities to make it irritating. Ho-hummer for me.

retired_chemist 3:42 PM  

@ Slypett and Mac denigrators everywhere -

All you need to do is hit the three keys "command - option - escape" simultaneously. This gets you the "force quit" menu, from which you can take appropriate action.

Hansen 4:03 PM  

My personal preferred clue would be "Leprosy's eponym."

R_C

miriam b 4:05 PM  

A NONCE word is one made up for a single use and not likely to recur.

The handwriting on the wall is "mysterious" all right. I've been visiting various sites where it's still under discussion after all these milennia. The only consensus is that it's Aramaic. "Tekel" is often interpreted as "weighed and found wanting". Good name for a weight reduction product?

Ben 5:34 PM  

@Fikink: "I know all about your standards" was Mrs. Paroo's next line, if memory serves.

@ACME: Agreed, a very cool-looking grid. Like Tyler L. Hinman's TLH model, if Lex Luthor and Lois Lane were the co-constructors.

@Hazel: I'm with you. Puzzle was mostly routine but occasionally impossible in a few Natick spots (TINKERSDAM/MESTA and ARAME/ARETE come to mind).

All in all, I give it a "meh."

Stan 5:42 PM  

Somehow I ended up with HEED and HENCE in the NE. Convinced myself that 'hence' could mean 'the present' because 'henceforth' means 'from now on'. Interesting delusional states we can get into when trying to justify an answer.

Good luck with the storm!

Rex Parker 5:42 PM  

ARETE is a very common word in the crossword lexicon. You can (and do) find it in Monday puzzles.

hazel 6:03 PM  

Not to be disagreeable to @Rex, but to support @Ben's point, the last time ARETE was in a Monday NYT puzzle was 1999 - although it has been used in many late-week puzzles since then.

This particular word wasn't a problem for me because its a geological term. I had plenty of other crossing problems, though, too numerous to mention.

ARETE has, however, been used twice by crossword constructor Frances HANSEN!

sanfranman59 6:07 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 7:39, 6:56, 1.10, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 8:25, 8:44, 0.96, 46%, Medium
Wed 10:51, 11:58, 0.91, 27%, Easy-Medium
Thu 24:51, 19:40, 1.26, 94%, Challenging
Fri 26:36, 26:00, 1.02, 61%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 27:13, 29:57, 0.91, 29%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:54, 3:41, 1.06, 74%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:18, 4:28, 0.96, 45%, Medium
Wed 5:10, 5:53, 0.88, 18%, Easy
Thu 11:08, 9:26, 1.18, 88%, Challenging
Fri 13:00, 12:30, 1.04, 70%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 14:14, 17:11, 0.83, 12%, Easy

michael 6:24 PM  

This was the easiest Saturday (for me) that I've ever done. Except for Craig Hansen. I'm a baseball fanatic and have never heard of him. As Rex says, Ron (Hansen) would be better, but he's also too obscure even for a Saturday. Liane would be a much fairer clue.

jesser 8:07 PM  

It's late so no one will read this, and likely no one will care, but in the great 9-ball tournament of this afternoon, I emerged victorious. My opponent -- love him as I do -- simply was NOT UP TO IT.
3 and out, and chanting GO SAINTS! -- jesser

Not to be disagreeable to @hazel 8:24 PM  

I fail to see how your comment on ARETE in any way supports @ben over @rex.

Ben 8:48 PM  

@Anonymous just above this:

I called ARETE half a Natick (i.e. a weird word irritatingly crossing a similarly obscure one). @Rex disagreed and said it was typical Monday fodder. @Hazel pointed out that it's actually late-week fill, not having appeared on a Monday in a decade.

Me, I'd prefer if they'd arrêtaient themselves from using it.

Quibbles aside, I'm with @Bill from NJ (and from his writeup I gather Rex is too): "I wish the puzzle had put up a little more resistance and had been a litle less boring with a lot fewer oddjobs. Just sayin'." Exactly.

chefbea 8:51 PM  

just got home. Had a great dinner in Westport with Mac, Karen, Ulrich, IMSDave and various puzzle husbands. Will try to send fotos tomorrow and tell you what we had for dinner. Yummm

fergus 9:03 PM  

Figured I had to shift to PLEATERS since the lame PRESSER was invalidated. DECELLERATE fit in 4D, and I liked FERAL as an answer for SAVAGE.

8D describes this puzzle, 21A

Stan 9:11 PM  

@chebea: Yes, yes, pics and menu!!

The blogosphere waits...

Rex Parker 9:38 PM  

No, ARETE simply is not "late-week" fill. It is ultra-common, as 95% of the people reading this right now (the constant solvers, anyway) know.

Not having appeared on a Monday since 1999 is neither here nor there. If anything, that shows that it's Monday-worthy. It has Tuesday appearances far more recent, if that's what you require as proof that this word just doesn't qualify as "Natick" territory.

chefwen 10:23 PM  

Thanks for the update Chefbea, can't wait for photogs. Happy you had a grand time, the rest of us are envious.

Just finished Sundays puzzle, fun times.

Anonymous just above this:to @Ben 10:53 PM  

Now, "@Hazel pointed out that it's actually late-week fill, not having appeared on a Monday in a decade."

It's late week, plus common fill to those with experience here ... I find your comments as curious as Hazel's.

@Ben said: "I called ARETE a weird word irritatingly crossing ..."\

I'll chalk that up to inexperience, and the inability to aknowledge same.

...P.G.

foodie 10:54 PM  

@archaeoprof, yes, HABIBi has gone from a term of love to a term of affection. And as you know, men in the Middle East express much more affection towards each other than I see in the US. Young males who are friends walk arm in arm and it has no sexual connotations.

@Mac: I imagine you're talking about the two people enacting a love scene in slo- mo, for an extended period, on the bottom level of the Guggenheim? It was visible from every vantage point up the spiral staircase. I thought it was different : ). My granddaughter, a true New Yorker, took it in stride.

lit.doc 10:55 PM  

@jesser, oh yes we will! And anyone who can even *play* nine ball is pretty effing amazing to those of us who came of age in white-trash biker-bar pool halls.

@fergus, your closing comment captchas my Saturday solving (not!) experience perfectly.

mac 11:02 PM  

Had a great time today! Most importantly, Ulrich and I, the two ESL participants, both had NO mistakes in our puzzles and were given a certificate. Now we just have to get faster......

Will Shortz was in good form and the library people worked so hard. Amazing that a small town like Westport gets 100 participants plus a waiting list, filling up within days. We'll see a lot of the participants in Brooklyn in a matter of days.

Karen from the Cape and I tried to solve a lot of the world's problems during various conversations, and it's clear that at least WE are in agreement.

ChefBea will take care of the food reporting, and I'm sure imsdave will have something to tell. Odd how the tournament lasts only about two and a half hours and we partied for five!

My husband was a good sport and a good host this afternoon/evening, although I did see his eyes glaze over a few times when we got too puzzley. He even produced a couple of WSJ puzzles for Karen and me without being asked!

@Two Ponies: could they have said "dunce"?

mac 11:05 PM  

@Foodie: I must not have read the review carefully, I did not know they moved! I like your granddaughter!

edith b 11:50 PM  

I'm a little on the fence about 40D: Killer ending. I sussed it out right away but I'm not sure if it is proper misdirection or just off-base. I've never seen it expressed that way before but that doesn't make it per se "wrong." I just don't know.

slypett 12:42 AM  

Retired_chemist: Thanks! It worked like Paul Bunyan!

slypett 12:57 AM  

jesser: I was going to send you a short story of mine about hustling pool in NYC, but you haven't left an e-mail address on blogger. Tried to post it, but it was over the character limit. My e-mail is cliffpost910@gmail.com.

Elaine 4:07 AM  

@jesser
You'll love Slypett's story!

@slypett
Glad ret-chem could help you out! I was thinking of sending you my kids' addresses. (Rascals-- just when they get really useful, they move away)
I notice I did get targeted only that once...and here I was hoping to start a Mac/PC war.

Just printed up the Sunday and it's... well, I am gonna need a magnifying glass!

Ben 9:29 AM  

@Rex and @P.G. (nice work on at least semi-signing your name to the swipe you took):

I defer to your greater experience. I usually just do late-week puzzles, so I am happy to concede that you have a better sense than I do of which unusual words are nonetheless typical crossword fare. I'm not above admitting when I'm wrong, as I apparently was in this case.

I prefer to solve tougher puzzles and usually wait until Thu. or Fri. before jumping back in to the NYT puzzle (and Matt Gaffney's contest). As a result of solving just a few puzzles a week where some people solve three or four a day, there are certain gaps in my knowledge base. (I think LACUNAE is the puzzle word for them.)

Words you consider routine crosswordese, I might just consider weird words. Surely you can agree that however common ARETE is in puzzles, it's not a word most people often see in everyday life. Hence my Natick post, however misguided.

There are other things you miss out on by just solving on the weekend. I haven't gotten to know the work of constructors who mostly contribute early-week puzzles. Also, I have solved relatively few themed puzzles as late-week grids tend to be themeless.

For the record, I have seen ARETE in puzzles over the years, but I still think of it as a weird word mostly seen in crosswords. Someone above commented that since it's a geology word, they had no trouble with it. Me, I know nothing about geology, and as far as I know this is a word I have seen only in puzzles.

Then again, Rex also referred to MESTA as a word that gave him trouble once, a long time ago, but one he learned from that singular experience. My hat is off to him; as often as not I forget those occasional rarities.

I didn't mean to be strident above, though apparently came across that way. My first post made a point, rightly or wrongly. I was done when someone (anonymously again - you?) said they didn't see how @Hazel's stats supported me. I responded to that, and here we are.

I enjoy Rex's writing, wouldn't keep coming back if I didn't, and hope I have contributed to the blog just a little over the past year or two as many commenters have. I'm not here to stir anything up. No hard feelings.

Rex Parker 10:05 AM  

@Ben,

Well of course there are no hard feelings. I meant only to point out that ARETE is far more common than you initially suggested. Someone else then came along with alleged "evidence" about the word, suggesting it made a point that it simply didn't (I had already been to the databases and knew exactly what I was saying).

My first ever comments (several years ago) on ARETE were about how "hard" it was for a Tuesday, so the fact that it would trip someone isn't terribly surprising.

hazel 11:07 AM  

Good grief. This is the most ridiculous series of comments over a word I've seen in ages.

Kind of reminds me of Sayre's Law - which ends with something about "where the stakes are so low."

Sorry to have gotten involved!

retired_chemist 12:00 PM  

Getting to have lunch with geology faculty for decades certainly improved my vocabulary - or at least knowledge of their argot. ARETE, SCARP, SCREE, GEODE, and more!

Why are there fewer complaints about chemical argot? We see ENOL, ESTER, AMINE, and AMIDE reasonably often too.

Anonymous 5:02 PM  

Can anyone explain BASKETS as the answer to "Magic Acts?" - I just don't get it! Thanks

slypett 5:17 PM  

Anonymous 6:02: Earvin "Magic" Johnson
was a great basketball player of the 80s and 90s.

Stephen 9:44 AM  

I'm also astonished that LDR got no rant. Yuckkk.

The NW corner was brutal everywhere, and
I needed to be told about LONG E, and BASKETS.
I am still waiting for someone to explain ARENT.
"You have no life == You aren't"?? Choke.

poc 6:53 PM  

@Stephen: ditto re ARENT, which I also asked about. It's either blindingly obvious (so no-one bothers to explain it) or doesn't make any sense at all and people are too embarrassed to admit it. I hope it's the former and I'm just obtuse.

slypett 8:18 PM  

poc: Put your money on "everyone is thumb-sucking".

Leisha 3:33 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leisha 3:35 PM  

I really wanted ON A PEDESTAL for 40A and, seriously, MOTHERS TEAT for 22D (although I knew that couldn't be correct).

I didn't get HABIB, ARAME, REGIS, and NONCE/OCA, plus kept thinking TRESPASSES for a while (although it doesn't fit) instead of CREVASSES.

I only do this one puzzle, only on Saturdays and Sundays, and I love you and your posters, Rex. Thanks for the blog!

bob 3:59 PM  

I had agitation for animation. Almost as hard to give up as a donut for a bagel. Had a rioter looking like something else when dead, instead of ringer. CPUs for CPAs.

Near record time, but still over 2 hours.

Anonymous 4:31 PM  

@STEPHEN & @POC: It's AGENT not ARENT.

Anonymous 4:34 PM  

Sorry, ARENT is there too. Meaning ARE NOT.

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