Title guy in HBO animated sitcom / SAT 9-4-10 / Hollywood acronym / Zeros in sports slang / Tekka-maki sushi source / Steam engine pioneer

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Constructor: Mark Diehl

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none


Word of the Day: "The Life & Times of TIM" (4D: Title guy in an HBO animated sitcom) —

The Life and Times of Tim is an HBO comedy animated television series, which premiered on September 28, 2008. The series was created by Steve Dildarian, and is about a hapless man in his mid 20s named Tim (Steve Dildarian) who lives in New York City with his girlfriend Amy. Throughout the series, Tim constantly finds himself in increasingly awkward situations in both his work and personal life. The first season aired in 2008 and has since been aired in numerous countries, and has developed something of a cult following. The second season debuted on February 19, 2010 on HBO. On June 4, 2010, HBO announced it was canceling the show, but there are rumors that it may be picked up by another network--perhaps even Comedy Central, which originally rejected the show before HBO picked it up. On the 16th of August it was announced HBO had gone back on their original decision to cancel the show and as a result a third season was ordered. (wikipedia)


• • •

Well, that was fast. One of my fastest Saturdays ever. Might have been my fastest if I could have convinced myself sooner that SET OF CLUBS (12D: Course load?) and NESTING SITE (55A: Swift retreat?) were real things—by which I mean, valid, believable answers. I think they're pretty terrible, actually. Most of the rest of the fill seems fine, if unremarkable. Actually, I like BAIT BUCKETS alright (1A: Fishing gear), and I like FOR ALL I CARE (49A: Apathetic person's words) even more. The rest, just OK. That [Number] trick is super old and didn't fool me for a second (26D: Number of folks?=>ANESTHESIA). Honestly, I barely remember the rest of this. Again, getting started (NW) took the longest, but today, not so long, and after that, the puzzle felt more like a Thursday to me. Here's what my grid looked like after maybe 30 seconds:


I knew then that I had a good chance to break the puzzle wide open. With the exception of SEE OUT for SEE OFF (21A: Walk to the gate, perhaps), I just didn't guess wrong anywhere. Most frustrating parts were BAGELS (25A: Zeros, in sports slang), because I really really feel I should get all sports slang instantly (and didn't); and TANIA (30A: "Lost" actress Raymonde), as I resolutely refuse to watch this show *but* have seen TANIA clued this way before, *and yet* still couldn't come up with it quickly. ELSIE THE COW (15A: Company mascot introduced in the 1930s that has never been put out to pasture), ANESTHESIA, and IBMTHINKPAD (53A: Laptop tested aboard the Endeavour) all went in with hardly any crosses, which made 3/4 of this puzzle a cake walk. Struggled a bit more in the NE, despite having the middles of all those long Downs ... finally went down to get their ends, and then used FOREMAN to get ALI/FOREMAN (13D: Like the 1974 rope-a-dope fight) and finish that section off (nice tie-in with DON KING, btw => 37D: Promoter of the 13-Down fight). Finished with the "F" in PFC (45A: E-2 Marine) / FRAT (46D: Frequent party planner, for short), though at that point the grid practically filled itself in. No tough words, nothing terribly obscure ... just not a typical Saturday. A decent, but overly quick ride.

Bullets:
  • 16A: Group with the '79 double-platinum album "Discovery" (ELO) — Right era, three letters ... gotta be ELO (though I've always got one eye open for ELP now ...)
  • 17A: Stance in a fashion magazine (GLAMOUR POSE) — Weird to me that "GLAMOUR" is not an exclusively British spelling.
  • 34A: Popular spectator sport that's not in the Olympics (SUMO) — didn't say it was popular in America.
  • 38A: Babe-in-arms alternative? (STROLLER) — none of the tricky ones were tricking me today. Had the first letters: piece of cake.
  • 52A: John L. Lewis was its first pres. (CIO) — did not know. Would not have gotten. Filled itself in from crosses.
  • 5D: Aid to King Hrothgar, in literature (BEOWULF) — after blowing the medieval English DANELAW clue yesterday, I was happy to redeem myself on this one (anyone who's ever read "BEOWULF" should have gotten this instantly). I needed this answer to make sense of BAIT BUCKETS. Before that ... BAIT ... SUCKERS?
  • 11D: Comic strip adoptee (SWEE' PEA) — That "W" from ELSIE THE COW came in reeeeeeal handy there.
  • 25D: Incentive to buy a CD, maybe (BONUS TRACK) — nice attempt at misdirection here, as a "CD" can be a Certificate of Deposit as well as a compact disc.
  • 30D: Hides on a frame (TEPEE) — Clever clue—nice attempt at misdirection with "Hides"
  • 36D: Tekka-maki sushi source (BLUEFIN) — had the "LUE," so again, bam bam bam. No sweat.
  • 42D: City of 15+ million whose busiest street in Chandni Chowk (DELHI) — cluing just too easy. Massive city in India. Five letters. Not tough.
  • 44D: Steam engine pioneer (WATT) — uh, not sure how I guessed this, as I know nothing in particular about WATT's association with the steam engine. Is this the same WATT as the light bulb eponym? Yes. Acc. to wikipedia:
The watt is named after James Watt for his contributions to the development of the steam engine, and was adopted by the Second Congress of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1889 and by the 11th General Conference on Weights and Measures in 1960 as the unit of power incorporated in the International System of Units (or "SI").
  • 45D: Parental term of endearment, in Spain (PAPI) — had second "P" from IBMTHINKPAD. As you can see from multiple examples today, getting one long answer in the quadrant of a pinwheel-shaped grid like this one can really help you annihilate the short crosses, and thus get the other long answers, and thus move on.
  • 13A: Hollywood acronym (SAG) — that's "Screen Actors Guild."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

74 comments:

Zeke 12:18 AM  

I had the great misfortune of knowing John L. Lewis, but of knowing him as the first president of the AF of L. A little bit of knowledge ...
What the hell is CKS?

nanpilla 12:36 AM  

@Zeke - I'm guessing checks.

Liked this one. Like Rex, I had SEEOut, and also NESTINGSpot. These slowed me down a bit.

@Rex - that picture of the Sumo wrestlers was uncomfortably close to the words GLAMOUR POSE...

Terence 12:45 AM  

@Zeke -- CKS == checks

Can anyone explain that "Number of folks" / ANESTHESIA clue? Rex just says it's some old trick, but I'm being dense and can't suss it out.

nanpilla 12:49 AM  

@Terence- anesthesia is used to numb folks.

r.alphbunker 12:50 AM  

cks = checks

This went down real easy. Elsie the cow was my first entry also and I wonder why it was clued so easily. "Animal voiced by Hope Emerson" or "Star of RKO's Little Men" would be more Saturday-like.

andrea wiseacre michaels 1:27 AM  

Left hand side major problems for me.

Also WIrED for "Got into port" thinking it was a computer port,
(esp with IBMTHINKPAD in the grid) as I didn't know TANIA...and the R was leftover from my mArIA guess.

I had tinDER for READER, even tho I had considered Kindle as an E-Reader, doesn't it need the E?

Would have helped to be a boy for this one, as I thought Smallville might be on Krypton; shocked I got BAGELS, etc. and was so proud of my completely wrong buNt for DINK.

I mean look at the whole Northeast...THREE sports clues next to each other:
SETOFCLUBS/ALIFOREMAN/GOLFRESORT
crossed with SUMO wrestling!
But that's a gorgeous stack of three 10s... and after Thursday, I don't think I'll ever dismiss anyone's construction again!

Other initial problems included having BAITBasKETS for too long and refusing to give up PAPa.

Going to put on my SILKROBE and go to bed.

chefwen 2:49 AM  

Filled out the northwest so quickly after getting ELSIE THE COW with no crosses (it's the cheese head in me) said to my husband "if the rest of this puzzle goes as easily as this, it will be more of a Thursday than Saturday". Well, that's when it stopped being easy. He said "that's what you get for being so cocky!" Ended up with a DNF with soundTACK before BONUS TRACK which screwed me up on the California coast, which I never recovered from. Sigh

Sunday here we come.

jae 3:14 AM  

Easy-medium for me. Had to fix BAGOFCLUBS and SEEOUT which made for the medium part of the solve. Much easier than yesterday's. Mini boxing/golf sports theme? I liked it but it didn't seem like a Sat.

The Corgi of Mystery 4:15 AM  

Close to my Saturday fastest here, which was a comfort since I totally tanked on Friday. Even though it's accurate, I sort of object to ALI/FOREMAN being used clued adjectivally; otherwise, good stuff all around.

Jon 7:36 AM  

How in the world is SET OF CLUBS a terrible answer? Totally in-the-language (and I'm not a golfer or anything; never even played a single hole.) NESTING SITE is a bit more...awkward, I suppose, but still totally legit. I dunno: I love Rex's harsh, direct criticism when it's warranted; someone, after all, needs to fight OOXTEPLERNON and his evil minions.

But recently there seems to be a lot of negativity for negativity's sake. Maybe it's just the end of the summer or whatever, but it just feels old and bitter.

chaos1 8:38 AM  

Ahhh! The Thursday, Friday, Saturday trifecta completed with no errors or help. Very satisfying.

That being said, I must have stared at ANESTHESIA for five minutes, because it made no sense to me at all. I didn't want to check the solution until I was sure that it had to be what it was, but could come to no other conclusion.

I logged into the blog and had no idea what Rex was talking about with the NUMBER trick ?

Thank you @nanpilla: I feel so obtuse now !

Loved the clue for 13D. I was actually at that fight. Well, not in Zaire of course, but at one of the few closed-curcuit venues where it was shown. I was at the Hall Of Flowers in San Mateo California, a very strange name for a union hall. The place was SRO,and the crowd went absolutely nuts when Ali knocked out George in the eighth. The atmosphere was electric. Speaking only for myself, it was the greatest sporting event I ever witnessed or attended. I still have the ticket stub on my bedroom mirror.

twangster 8:40 AM  

This was one challenging for me. I had to google half a dozen things to solve it.

I hate the clue for 13D. It seems odd to say ALIFOREMAN was like the 1974 fight. It was an ALIFOREMAN fight. I was thinking it would be something more descriptive, such as 12ROUNDS or TELEVISED. Would you say "like the current administration" for OBAMABIDEN?

Rex Parker 8:48 AM  

Also in the language: SET OF LUGGAGE, SET OF DISHWARE, SET OF STEAK KNIVES, SET OF INTEGERS, SET OF DUMBBELLS, SET OF ENCYCLOPEDIAS, etc. Are those good answers?

If [Course load?] had been used to clue CLUBS, I'd have thought it was cute. While anyone might say "SET OF CLUBS," the "SET OF" part still feels tremendously tacked-on. To me.

chaos1 9:16 AM  

@twangster: O.K. I'll concede that the clue was a bit clunky, but even if you aren't a boxing fan, ALI was there immediately through the SAG, ELO, TIL crosses. Yes, FRAZIER would have fit, if you weren't familiar with the Rope-A-Dope, but the Z would have warned everyone who considered it, no?

Soooo, it had to be FOREMAN. Put another way, if I said the "Great Debate" and you had LIN to start, would you not have continued with COLNDOUGLAS ? Your point is valid, but I'm just sayin?

donkos 9:22 AM  

Still struggling with DIALIN for phone headquarters?

Always here 9:27 AM  

@donkos - When you have to phone your headquarters, you dial in.

chefbea 9:28 AM  

Had to google a lot and finally come here to finish. I too do not understand Dial in. Can some one please explain?

Van55 9:59 AM  

Medium for me. Add me to those objecting to the ALIFOREMAN clue. "Rope-a-dope participants" would have been better. WEAK is not synonymous with impotent, is it?

The Hag 10:03 AM  

Things can be "in the language" and still be deadly dull. Along with SETOFCLUBS and NESTINGSITE, I found GLAMOURPOSE, SILKROBE and BAITBUCKETS to be snore-worthy. But there was enough overall cleverness (WISEACRE, WINED) and ambiguity (BUNT or DINK? SEEOUT or SEEOFF?) to make me happy. I didn't like the ALIFOREMAN clue at first, but it's grown on me. This was actually the hardest Saturday in awhile for me. *shrug*

twangster 10:04 AM  

chaos1 -- you make a good point but I stupidly entered MGM instead of SAG, so I was starting with GLI____.

PuzzleNut 10:06 AM  

Had DEteR for DEBAR, pElts for TEPEE and ?rS for RMS. Otherwise, it was a pretty easy puzzle for a Saturday. Unusual to start in the NW with no problems at all. Got a little tougher after that, but every time I thought I was stuck, I found another gimme clue and I was off to the races.
@Bob K - It's always a pleasure to find another solver on the same wavelength.

joho 10:07 AM  

Saturday puzzles are never easy for me so I laughed at the easy rating. I, like others, got off to a quick start with ELSIETHECOW. After that it was slow and steady. Some errors were mac/ccS before IBM/RMS, Beast before BIPED and tKS before CKS.

I liked seeing the SETOFCLUBS so near where you need them at the GOLFRESORT.

I was happy to finish with no mistakes as that always makes my Saturday.

I wondered when done, @Rex, since you blog everyday about the NYT, you must be always confident that you'll finish, right? I mean, have you ever not been able to complete one of these puzzles? You may have had a few wrong squares, but I'll bet you've never been totally stumped, have you?

submariner 10:20 AM  

Worst Saturday ever for me.

Still don't get SAG.

Got sideswiped on CIO. First thing that came to mind was UMW (United Mine Workers) which is also a fit and actually more apt.

twangster 10:37 AM  

chefbea -- Phone is a verb here. It sounds like instructions to a salesman on the road ... when you get to your hotel, dial in (phone headquarters).

submariner -- SAG is an acronym for Screen Actors Guild.

JC66 10:38 AM  

On the tough side for me.

Didn't care for the ALI/FORMAN clue, either but it didn't slow me down.

@submariner Me, too. Growing up, I remember a big todo between Harry Truman and John L. Lewis when the latter was president of the United Mine Workers, so I stayed with UMW much too long.

@ Jon I'm also confused about why @Rex objects to SETOCLUBS. I'm not a golfer, but to me the term is quite familiar.

First, in his write-up he says "if I could have convinced myself sooner that SET OF CLUBS (12D: Course load?) and NESTING SITE (55A: Swift retreat?) were real things—by which I mean, valid, believable answers." Then, when it's pointed out the term is valid, he says above "Also in the language: SET OF LUGGAGE, SET OF DISHWARE, SET OF STEAK KNIVES, SET OF INTEGERS, SET OF DUMBBELLS, SET OF ENCYCLOPEDIAS, etc. Are those good answers?"

It seems to me that not being immediately familiar with a clue/answer and not liking it are two different things.

Lindsay 10:47 AM  

Nesting site makes a lot more sense than nesting side, which is what I had after concluding that a grad might throw a party. Of course that made 45A pgc which is nonsense, but I've never been a marine, so I merely accepted it. Military argot or something.

My only mistakes this week. Bah.

chaos1 10:50 AM  

@ Sumariner: Screen Actor's Guild.

Not really surprised to see that you thought of UMW first, @52A. It's our natural instinct is to go down as the first option. Lol.

Your sounding is 600 fathoms. Clear the bridge, submerge the ship!

Chaos1 -aka- SS344

Tobias 11:02 AM  

Of the three Saturday puzzles I have completed. This was the fastest!
Loved it

While I would find set of luggage or set of dishware clunky.Set of clubs ,set of integers or set of encyclopedias seem very different and acceptable to me.

I have been trying to get my friends to watch "The Life and Times of Tim" for two years .Am I the only guy on the planet that thinks this show is brilliant ?

foodie 11:15 AM  

Definitely easier for me than yesterday's puzzle, but I agree with Andrea that it would have helped to be a boy. Clearly in the East as she pointed out, but there is also the BAIT BUCKETS, the RUNS and even BAGELS clued with sports! At least BLUE FIN was not clued as the name of some swimming shorts... And then there's THE DUKE. Thank goodness for GLAMOUR POSE and ELSIE the COW to buffer all this testosterone. I guess ASS can swing either way...

I agree with Rex about SET OF CLUBS and NESTING SITE, with Nesting Site feeling more egregious. These feel like filler words. But it seems to me like the construction is very elegant, with stacks of 3 11mers horizontally and 3 10mers vertically. May be that's a GOOD REASON for some compromise?

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

'set of clubs' is an idiom in the golfing world. nothing wrong with its appearance.

'dial in', however, is a real groaner. know anybody who 'dials' anymore?

The pop culture references pretty much all escaped me. Never heard of "life of tim'. never watched lost. john wayne's politics and mine didn't mesh, so he's not a favorite.

not saying it was a bad puzzle, and i'm likely in the minority,but the puzzle didn't do anything for me.

Rex Parker 11:22 AM  

@JC66, "familiarity" is simply not the issue. You quote me at length, and yet none of what you quote has to do with "familiarity." The issue is whether (to quote me) the "SET OF" phrases are "valid, believable answers" — not "phrases," *answers*.

I was plenty familiar with the *phrase* "SET OF CLUBS," the way I would be familiar with, say, the phrase "BAG OF TORTILLA CHIPS" or "DOOR TO THE BASEMENT" or "USED TOYOTA" or "REAM OF PAPER" — but none of those strike me as good answers, either. Not tight. "Familiar" (i.e. understandable) is different from "sufficiently coherent to be a self-standing crossword entry."

Do I know what a "POUND OF CHICKEN" is? Yes. Is it a good xword answer?

Rex Parker 11:24 AM  

PS I see Nothing "idiomatic" about SET OF CLUBS. It's quite literal. Not special golf lingo.

D_Blackwell 11:45 AM  

. . . still feels tremendously tacked-on. . . .

Phrases do tend to have particular words tacked on - as words tend to have affixes tacked on, e.g., pre-, re- -ing, -ed. What would we do without 'the' tacked stitched into the center of many phrases?

I think that the 'set of' examples are all fine, though the length rules them out of actually being used in most puzzles, including Sunday because most of the longer entries will be devoted to theme stuff.

I had SPOT for SITE and it took several minutes to fix. SITE (to me as with all that I opine) is more in the language than SPOT, so it's funny how hard it was to give up.

Perception of words and clues is entirely personal. How often is there a consensus that something is bad? Sure, others' will feel similarly, but that's a long way from general agreement. If the constructor and Will Shortz both like something, then at worst it is probably perfectly okay (even if he is contriving terrible clues just to make Friday and Saturday hard:)).

I tend to shake my head and be disappointed in clues, rather than entries. Sadly, the orbit of my influence does not extend beyond my own mind.

The best thing about this place is the opportunity to observe perceptions; to see how region, culture, and the like affect the experience of specific clues and entries. I do wonder sometimes if Bloggo Rex actually enjoys crosswords. Too often it seems not, though that can't possibly be true.

(I'm reminded of the cereal commercial: "He won't like it. He hates everything.")

jae 11:59 AM  

I've played golf most of my life and BAG is much more in the jargon than SET which is why I made that initial misstep. Pros will talk about who is on/has their BAG, meaning caddy. I often tell friends that I walk the courses and carry the BAG. I've never said "carry the SET." Hey, the signs in front of golf course pro-shops say BAG drop, not SET drop.

chaos1 12:17 PM  

ALL RIGHT! YEAH! A PISSING CONTEST!

I've learned a lot from you Rex, but I can't recall the last time you defended a position so vociferously and often. I suppose I should use golfing analogies, but that's not my forte. Four at-bats already, counting your lead-off appearance. Go get em Tiger!

Lets break out the Doritos and salsa folks. This one could go extra innings?

In the batter's box: @ Jon
In the on-deck circle: @ JC66
Will we have a pitching change for the lefties?

Don't you just love a good game of semantics and nit-picking? LOL.

jae 12:19 PM  

...but, if the clue had referred to the purchase or manufacture of clubs then SET would have been fine, e.g. "Pro-shop/sports store buy," "Taylormade/Calloway/Titleist product".

Masked and Anonymous may have 12:20 PM  

You folks have no idea how painful this is. I find myself in general agreement with 44 on this "set of" discussion. Not too many idiomatic "set of..." phrases out there. "Set of points" is probably OK, but you might have to be a mathematician to buy into it comfortably.

I'll get this over quick and move on...six U's...fair. I say fair, because on a SaTPuz the words can be just about anything the constructor pleases. More U's tends to pleases me on such occasions.

So, did SETOFCLUBS make **my** engine light come on? Not quite. It's in the set of phrases like ONEMILE or THEDUKE or MORESTEAM, Mr. Watt. Certainly hear 'em all now and then. Heard ONEMILE just last week or two, in some weirdball puz. So they're at least casually correct, to my ear. Which makes them seem kosher (if not awe-inspiring) as puz entries.

Hi-Yo, BAITBUCKETS, away . . .

foodie 12:22 PM  

Taking off on a tangent here, but the word SET is one of the most difficult to grasp for someone who is learning English as an adult, including your truly. I found it bewildering at the beginning. It's used so commonly and has an incredible range of meanings-- from 'ensemble' such as twin set (clothing- that when I first heard it) or set of luggage (and, ahem, clubs) to a manner or a position-- mind set or mental set, to the incredible range of meaning of the verb from the sun setting to setting the table and then all the modified versions- set in, off, back, forth, up, down, etc...

It finally dawned on me that it helps to think of it as "putting in place" or SITing, but that the idea of grouping must have come later.

My take on what Rex is saying is that "Pound of Chicken" would not be a good answer but "Pound of Flesh" would be. Both are familiar, but the latter stands for something unique, as a phrase.

JC66 12:25 PM  

@Rex

Not to beat a dead horse, but my confusion is caused by the fact that in your write up, your concern with SETOFCLUBS was that it was "not a real thing by which I mean, valid, believable answer." It's understandable that, as a college professor, your first thought at seeing the clue "course load" would lead you to think in a different direction than golf. That, however, IMO doesn't make it invalid or unbelievable. Maybe clunky, but that's another matter.

chefbea 12:46 PM  

I am thinking of taking up golf again. I do not have a bag nor any clubs. When I go to the sporting goods store don't I ask to see a set of clubs??? Then I will purchase a bag to put them in.

joho 12:46 PM  

@foodie ... the first thing I wrote in the margin at seeing the grid was: Across:Triple 11's X 2! Down: Triple 10's X 2! Very impressive, and to your point, a GOODREASON for some compromise.

I think you buy a set of clubs and put them a bag.

CoffeeLvr 12:54 PM  

My record is intact; another Saturday DNF. I am OK with that, I am still improving my percentage completed without assistance. Had to Google around in the NE. Had saLtdESeRT for Kiawah Island, aided by SEEOut. More interesting is that GOLF mysteriously moved from 34A to the start of 14D.

@D_Blackwell, I agree wholeheartedly with your comment: "The best thing about this place is the opportunity to observe perceptions; to see how region, culture, and the like affect the experience of specific clues and entries."

@Rex, I never noticed before how angry your avatar looks.

Peace, all.

Danny 12:57 PM  

I also hated ALIFOREMAN but I have an even greater hatred for "Sing Vibrato". One does not sing vibrato. Vibrato is a natural quality of the voice. You can sing with vibrato, but it you don't just freaking sing it. And on top of that, you don't do it by wavering. Just a stupid stupid clue.

Jim 1:04 PM  

Did well for a Saturday for me, but gave up after an hour. Clues like 36A are RIDICULOUS. Wanted Beast, like I'm sure everyone else, but nope. BIPED. BIPED??!! Why not clue it with "Marvin the Martian, for one", or "Tom Cruise's character in 'Top Gun', for one", or best of all, "God, for one". Don't know if I would have made it otherwise, but this kind of stuff, when the rest of the puzzle seemed imminently reasonable, is for the, well, you know. Bye-Bye Birdie.

Masked and Anonymous should also have 1:14 PM  

Was over printin' off the WSJ puz, and ran into this kinda write-up by Dr. Steven Hawking. Deep stuff. Worth considerin'. Says that if you got gravity, then mathematically you've got yourself yer universe, even without yer divine intervention.

Wonder how you get yer gravity, tho...?

Back to the NYTPuz universe... forgot to mention that got into this SatPuz via an answer from a gal that was visitin' us last night. Happened to spot the unworked SatPuz printout, looked at it, and said... "Kiawah Island... I've been *there*. It's a golf resort." Mind you, she couldn't solve her way out of a wet paper bag made out of MonPuzs. Go figure. They oughta sell tickets . . .

dls 1:23 PM  

SETOFCLUBS could easily be changed to TENOFCLUBS.

dls 1:27 PM  

Also, I cannot fathom why ELO has been clued over 100 times in the last 15 years via the rock group, and zero times via the chess rating system. Surely that's not too obscure for a late-week clue?

Vega 1:35 PM  

Yes, I'd rank this an easy Saturday, too, especially because *so many* of my first guesses turned out to be right. Yep, cluing "Elsie the Cow" so straightforwardly, in one of the very first and very longest answers we encounter, seems too easy.

I'm not complaining, however! I still get a charge out of completing a Saturday.

Wondering out loud about the clue for NEO...somehow, I see "neo-[blank]" as *actually* traditionalist, rather than "hardly" traditionalist, in that they want to bring back something traditional, albeit in a contemporary context.

syndy 2:07 PM  

According to wikipedia swifts like the swallows I'm more familiar with build their nests at a particular site-may have to rebuild the actual nest but always come back to the same site!a gaggle of geese,a murder of crows,a set of clubs,played my first round of golf without a bag and at the end of nine I no longer had a full set!(wanted "title" for 36 across)

Jet City Gambler 2:53 PM  

As an occasional duffer, I'd venture to say "Set of clubs" is waaaaay more common than the other examples Rex cites. Golfers say "I got a new set of clubs" all the time.

"Set of clubs" 218 million bing hits
"Set of dumbbells" 1.3 million bing hits
"Set of steak knives" 32 million hits (most of them Glengarry Glen Ross clips)
"Set of dishware" 858 K hits
"Bag of tortilla chips" 4.8 million hits

However, "Bag of chips" clocks in at 60 million

Interestingly, "set" is the word with the most number of definitions in the OED.

Rex Parker 4:27 PM  

Bing's numbers are Insane!

Here's Google:

In quot. marks:
["set of clubs"] 11.3 million (no idea what is up w/ the discrepancy w/ Bing) (and again, NO ONE is saying "SET OF CLUBS" is not *a* phrase)

["set of tires"] 25.2 million

["set of rules"] 141 million

["bunch of things"] 22.2 million

Would not be fond of Any of those phrases as grid fill, despite their being in common use. Come on, ["Trip to the store"] gets 63.7 million, we all know what it means and have probably used it, but in the grid??? I doubt it.

hazel 4:37 PM  

I am fixing to open up another can of worms because I am disagreeing with two of the most beloved people on this blog - ACME and FOODIE by addressing the issue of this being a "boy's puzzle."
I did the puzzle, read this/ese comment(s), did a bikeride, went to the butcher's and I still can't let it go. Sigh. Its just the downside of being me, I guess....

I have no testosterone (well maybe I have some - don't we all?, I'm not really sure how that works, honestly), but I am NOT a boy, and I got BAGELS immediately! I mean immediately! and the other sports answers easily enough, once I had a few toeholds. I am a girl and I like sports, including sumo wrestling. So enough with the gender stereotypes!! They have irritated me all my life!!

Also, as the wife of a birder, I’ve definitely heard NESTINGSITE "in the language" around our house, at least. Although that particular issue does not seem to be a hot potato anymore.

My only nit with this fabulous (MUCH MUCH harder to me than yesterday's) puzzle is that I’ve never equated an EXCUSE with a GOOD REASON. Excuses have pejorative connotations in my mind, and while they may be reasons for having not done [fill in the blank], in my view they are generally excuses and not necessarily/automatically good reasons.

That's my 2 cents! - come back @Edith B!!

archaeoprof 5:20 PM  

@Hazel: thank you for your thoughtful comment! Your observation also applies to claims that a puzzle skews "old" or "young."

Puzzles are like golf courses in that way. They can be hard or easy, in different ways, depending on the player's skill level.

But for puzzles you don't need a SETOFCLUBS...

sanfranman59 6:05 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 7:08, 6:58, 1.02, 63%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 7:09, 8:52, 0.81, 3%, Easy
Wed 11:51, 11:44, 1.01, 61%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 24:26, 19:16, 1.27, 89%, Challenging
Fri 27:42, 26:41, 1.04, 58%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 29:37, 30:53, 0.96, 40%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:54, 3:43, 1.05, 82%, Challenging
Tue 3:49, 4:34, 0.84, 6%, Easy
Wed 5:59, 5:46, 1.04, 69%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 11:48, 9:15, 1.28, 89%, Challenging
Fri 14:01, 13:00, 1.08, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 14:33, 17:37, 0.83, 13%, Easy

There's an unusually large discrepancy between the two groups of solvers on today's puzzle. It seems to have been an easier solve for the Top 100 group than for the All Solvers group.

Nebraska Doug 6:07 PM  

Slow medium for me. Found yesterday's puzzle much easier, which puts me in the minority. Sometimes you just "get" a puzzle, that's how I felt yesterday. It never ceases to amaze me how so many of us have such different reactions to a puzzle.

foodie 6:17 PM  

@hazel, no can of worms. I agree with @archeoprof that your comment was thoughtful indeed. After I posted mine, I thought to myself that I was being too stereotyping. Of course, you're right that women can love sports, know a great deal about them and enjoy seeing clues related to them in a puzzle. And I imagine that some men might know a great deal about what might be considered, stereotypically, more feminine interests.

I can't speak for Andrea, but I'm guessing that we were both trying to characterize a certain vibe in terms of preponderance of a type of clues or answers. But of course, reactions are in the mind of the beholder as much as in the stimulus itself.

So, your comments are duly noted and greatly appreciated.

And I too miss Edith B!

Arpad Elo 6:28 PM  

@dis

Although flattered at your suggestion of using my chess rating system to clue ELO, perhaps the new dog breed would be equally obscure.

Channeled through P>G>

PS: @Jim 1:04

I like your alternate clues for 31A (except maybe the last one). Good Saturday level stuff!

michael Chibnik 7:24 PM  

I thought this was quite a bit easier than Friday's (which I did not finish). "Elsie the cow" was certainly a nice start.

I'm bewildered by Rex's unhappiness with "set of clubs," which seems unobjectionable to me. Why is this worse than "nesting site"?

Is Kiawah Island a well-known golf resort?

As a former chess player, I'd like to see the Elo rating system in a puzzle, but I guess there are more people who know about golf resorts than chess rating systems. But then why does Mikhail Tal (chessplayer) show up sometimes in the NYT puzzle? Why not Que ___?

chaos1 8:15 PM  

EXCELLENT !!!!

Howard Crossell here, Speaking of Sporks: (That's what you use, when you don't have a full SET of flatware)

In a very tightly played game, and despite a late rally by Jet City Gambler, Rex (The Hammer) Parker prevailed in his fifth and final at bat. Noting that he dismissed BING as a totally absurd source for definitive information, his last shot barely cleared the left field wall. Even so, he SET his feet. When the pitcher was SET, Rex delivered a truly Ruthian swat, and rounded the SET of bases. The team was all SET to welcome him at home plate. His wife called him in the club house, to let him know she was using their best China SET to welcome him home. Rex suspected a SET-UP because he's used to eating off paper plates.(Only Kidding Mrs. Parker). We wouldn't want a SETTO between you and hubby!

Thanks for the usual numbers provided by our renowned statistician, sanfranman59.

This has been Howard Crossell, Speaking Of Sporks!

In late breaking news: @Hazel has a gender issue. Sources who wish to remain anonymous have confirmed that Hazel has taken umbrage with those who have tried to reduce Saturday's puzzle to a "Boy/Girl" thing. In her defense, Hazel has openly admitted, that she may have latent levels of testosterone. Speaking Of Sporks can neither confirm or deny this admission, and we have no definitive proof that steroids may be involved. She speaks of Toe Holds and Sumo. Obviously, that infers a close association and knowledge of wrassling? My sources on the street tell me that a NESTINGSITE is gym-speak for a venue where steroid users shoot up, and a Hot Potato is a loaded syringe?

Hmmm? It seems to me that she has a GOODREASON to EXCUSE her actions, but our legal department has advised me against any commentary that may be construed as pejorative.

In any event, should Hazel's physique benefit from an over abundance of certain hormones, I'm down with that! Rock on Hazel!

Rex Parker 8:17 PM  

Nice to see I'm not the only one who's been drinking (somewhat heavily) tonight ;)

rp

chaos1 9:11 PM  

Hey Rex:

HeHeHeHeHe! As Tinbeni would say, Long Live Johnnie Walker, in any of his various color combinations! You rock professor!!!!

dk 9:21 PM  

Mention heavy drinking and look who shows up.

Caddied at the club (WASP for country club) for a year and became very familiar with the course load known as ASETOFCLUBS. In the early sixties golf carts were not allowed so you carried or got a caddy. Carrying 2 bags for 18 usually earned you 30 - 50 bucks. Note: gas was 23 cents a gallon, cigarettes 18 cents a pack. Note 2: Club rules stated member's sons could not caddy once they reached the ripe old age of 14.

I wanted someone v ALI for13d, eventually got it right. Big hang up was BLUEgil instead of FIN.

I thought this one was more Thursday/Friday than Sat. That said I throughly enjoyed the fill.

My only *** (3 Stars) for the week.

I like it here Tom said nestingly.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:28 PM  

Another beach day; only beverage has been Coca-Cola.

My very first fill in this puzzle was 26 D, Number of folks? = ANESTHESIA. The fact that I put it in so quickly could argue for Rex's point that is "super old". I don't know other databases and only refer to Jim Horne's, which says this is only the second appearance of this clue/answer in the Shortz era. More to the point, I have used this as an example several times in trying to show non-crossword people what kind of fun we can have.

I spent some time working around my original idea that 24 A, Lamented, could be REPINED. It fit that P from SWEEPEA so well!

And, @PuzzleNut, as I started reading your 10:06 AM post, I said, "OMG! I also had DETER before DEBAR today!"

Rex Parker 9:53 PM  

Acc. to cruciverb database, "number" has also been used in this fashion (meaning "thing that numbs") in clues for:

ETHER
GAS
NARCOTIC and
OPIATE

with ETHER being by far the most common.

RP

andrea xx michaels 10:03 PM  

@dk
well, now that you've shown up, it IS a party! ("WASP for country club...love it!)

@Hazel
as foodie says, no opening can of worms here either (but only bec they are sort of phallic all that wriggling and used for fishing and scaring girls and stuff?)
I just like to point it out from time to time that there are so many ways to clue things, but some puzzles really end up skewing male. I mean, I put in BAGELS right away too, but only bec I learned to do that from crosswords, that were VERY male!
(As a Jew, I can think of many more ways to have clued it)
Yes, many girls love sports.
Well, some girls love sports...and geography, and pissing contests, and male domination of the language, but not this gal!
Just want to point it out from time to time, as too many folks take it too for granted.

As for being "beloved", um, I recently got a scathing scathing scathing off-blog chiding for telling my favorite little old lady Jewish joke, so yes, I tend to stereotype (which is not the same as being racist by the way, Ms scathing-off-blog-tut-tut-er)

Anyway, I believe the correct term is "a gaggle of" golf clubs.

@chaos1
If you are in Menlo Park, I hope you are planning on participating in, or at least breezing by, the Sept 11th tourney in Alameda.

chaos1 10:51 PM  

@ Andrea(WOTD) Michaels:

I left the Bay area after 9 wonderful years, in 1983. I will always miss my time in the most beautiful city I have ever been in. At least it was then.

I miss the Chateaubriand at the Blue Boar on Lombard and their counterpart Monroe's across the street. Likewise, Marakesh on O'Farell below L'Orangerie. Is Julius's Castle still there by Coit tower? And what would a trip to the city be without stopping at the Buena Vista for Irish coffee? I haven't even mentioned the wharf, with Scoma's and Alioto's.

I do miss it so much, but I understand that it isn't the same place it was back then. Still, I envy you for being there. The beautiful and pristine pastel Victorian houses, the Presidio, Golden Gate Park, the Bridge, the Cliff House, on an on.

At least I can say I was there once during a glorious time. Yes, I left my heart in San Francisco !

acme 2:51 AM  

@chaos1
OOps, somehow I misread your charming anecdote and thought you were still in San Mateo. Feel free to write to me off blog and we can SF trip away. Don't want to use @rex's space for that...but sad to say, Julius' Castle did just close after about 100 years. :(

David E. 5:42 PM  

24-down "Got into port": The fortified wine from Portugal should have been capitalized. Anyone else thrown off by this?

NotalwaysrightBill 10:18 AM  

Syndicated puzzler. Agree with [whomever] about the interesting diversity of perspectives here, very ALIFOREMAN today. With Rex's general instinct to appreciate tightness and concision, and his tendency to question the appearance of tacked-on. With someone else about finding more to quibble about in clueing, usually, than answers. Have to ask the girls if they think that a purposely female-skewed puzzle would even be noticed to be so. Was happy to find that the clue to DONKING had nothing to do with "Crocodile Dundee" but still fit in well with ALIFOREMAN. T

Clamor 6:52 PM  

@notalwaysrightbill

Would a female-skewed puzzle be noticed as such?

Let's see:
* complete paint job, for short; mani-pedi
* word with sweat or feeding: night
* razor brand: Venus
* many competetive executives need one: au pair
* evening wear: strapless bra
* word with test or drivel: Pap
* base choice: matte
* summer hose: sheer toe
* diet alternative: Spanx
* many volleyball players coordinate them: hair
ribbons
* game-changer: Title IX
* National Breast Health Mth: Oct.
* run stopper: clear polish

Maybe!

Clamor 6:55 PM  

oops. make that "word with test or smear."

and add:

*teen fear: split ends

NotalwaysrightBill 8:44 PM  

@ Clamor:

Maybe you got me or maybe not, not sure. Most of those seem perfectly androgenous; and of the rest, none seem to me to be especially (much less objectionably) skewed to the female side. I would have finished a puzzle with those clues and answers without a single wince or flinch, no "Ooh, cooties" reaction at all. Y'all gang up now, y'hear?

Anonymous 10:45 PM  

Got the Friday puzzle done in one sitting; this one took me three days.

"Biped" for "Abominable Snowman" was way too cute; really, Mark Diehl should be embarrassed. Playing with solvers is fine and good; toying with them is objectionable.

Got "anesthesia" but was mystified by it. Don't like "number" used this way; has anyone ever used this in a spoken sentence? Very hard to say, with the syllable break at "numb-er," as opposed to "num-ber."

Not bothered by "set of clubs" or "AliForeman" at all, although this corner was finished last.

Anonymous 1:29 PM  

Dial in is a kind of modem service. Call in is what you do to the office.

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