Old Isle of Wight settlers / SAT 12-4-10 / Tony-winning Tessie / Housemate Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat / Capital NE of the Gulf of Trieste

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Constructor: Doug Peterson

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: LJUBLJANA (1A: Capital NE of the Gulf of Trieste) —

Ljubljana (locally: [lʲubˈlʲana]( listen); German: Laibach, Italian: Lubiana, Latin: Labacum) is the capital of Slovenia and its largest city. It is the centre of the City Municipality of Ljubljana. It is located in the centre of the country in the Ljubljana Basin, and is a mid-sized city of some 270,000 inhabitants. Throughout its history, it has been influenced by its geographic position at the crossroads of Germanic, Latin and Slavic cultures. (wikipedia)
• • •

And to think, one of my commenters the other day thought RIGA was beyond the pale. I'd hate to see what happened to his head when / if he figured out today's 1A. I'm mildly embarrassed to say I've neeeeever heard of the place. I know that Slovenia is a place, mainly from Olympics, but the capital. Nuh uh. Took me a while to get out of the NW because the Downs were making sense but 1A, not so much. Finally just decided to give into the absurdity of the letter string and cross my fingers that it made a real place (and it did). From there, found the puzzle mostly easy, until I hit the SQ, where I could not find a way in. Couldn't remember my "Dallas" characters (33A: Victoria's "Dallas" role=>PAMELA). Couldn't remember Mrs. Dalloway's first name (it's CLARISSA). Couldn't figure out what 49A: Dress down like a sailor? was getting at, mainly because I thought the SWEAR AT meaning of "dress down" was the obvious one and that the "?" must be signifying something sartorial. So I was staring at a ton of blank space there until god sat in my lap with 27D: Home of Whitman College. I applied to and was accepted there (in the late '80s), so I knew very well where it was located: WALLA WALLA, WA. That was enough for me to get ILIAD (I sometimes teach it, and somehow remembered the number of books it has) (60A: Collection of 24 books). I then remembered ALMA (again, my educational background helped out, as I went to grad school in Michigan and vaguely recall hearing about ALMA College at some point) (37A: Presbyterian-founded Michigan college), and from there, that quadrant went down as easily as the rest.

If there's a Natick in today's puzzle, it's going to be the LJUBLJANA / JUTES crossing (6D: Old Isle of Wight settlers). As a medievalist (my version of "As a mathematician..."), the JUTES are very familiar to me from various accounts of the settling of Britain by Germanic peoples (Angles, Saxons, JUTES). But I don't think of JUTES as being terribly well known. I've seen them in puzzles before but ... well, not crossing LJUBLJANA, that's for sure. Elsewhere, there are several relatively obscure names (PABLO and O'SHEA were mysteries to me) (10A: Housemate in Steinbeck's "Tortilla Flat" + 52D: Tony-winning Tessie), but they're pretty gettable from crosses. Also, there were several neons today, including 2D: De ___ (by law) (JURE) and 57D: ___ Hari (MATA), which I at first assumed was some kind of trick. All in all, I liked this grid. A bit name-heavy, but with names like WALLA WALLA and LJUBLJANA, I at least can't complain about the grid's being uninteresting.

  • 18A: "You're nothing but a pack of cards!" speaker (ALICE) — as in "in Wonderland." Great clue. Great line.
  • 26A: Easter egg design (SWIRL) — clue did nothing for me. You can put any design you want on an Easter egg.
  • 56A: Monarchy since the 1740s (OMAN) — not sure how, but guessed this with no crosses (before I even saw clue for MATA). I guess there aren't that many four-letter countries that fit the bill.
  • 62A: Russian famously played by an Egyptian (DR. ZHIVAGO) — Omar Sharif. Getting this answer helped me get DANZIG (47D: Birthplace of Günter Grass), which I always think of as a band, not a place.

  • 67A: It may have you in an awkward position (YOGA) — well that is sure enough true. There's usually at least one pose per class where I feel like an absurdity. "My leg ... doesn't do that."
  • 34D: Sting in 1980 headlines (ABSCAM) — pretty easy. Another Sting in 1980 headlines: Sting. In March, The Police did their first World Tour.

  • 36D: Brie alternative (PATÉ) — So ... not a cheese. Tricky.
  • 42D: Its highest mtn. is Meron (ISR.) — did not know. Wanted to guess ESP (for ESPAÑA)
Happy Birthday, Jay-Z (8 days younger than me)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Clark 12:37 AM  

Well I never been to Natick
But I been to Ljubljana

And that sure helped with this one.

ArtLvr 1:37 AM  

Good one, Clark! Good write-up, Rex! And good puzzle, Doug! Loved the YANKEE ingenuity, with the Slovenian capital. Sounds a bit like "I love you, Anna" in Russian, with DR ZHIVAGO to boot.

I wanted Hope College in Michigan before ALMA, and I thought maybe 26a was ready-made Easter egg design, so I tried Decal there until SWIRL appeared. Otherwise it was fairly smooth sailing, and fun with INKSPOTS and ALICE's pack of cards.

Never got to Woodstock until years after the music fest, but I did see Joan Baez at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963, and Bob Dylan too although he didn't have a guitar with him and had to borrow one when invited to perform on the spur of the moment.


ArtLvr 1:50 AM  

p.s. Odetta was one of the biggest stars at that early Newport event -- I always think of her when the crossward wants Odessa!


John 1:58 AM  

AUNATUREL???? with an E? REALLY???? Sounds more like a nudist camp out west (ie, The big Chapperel)

Had NEA for PTA and EQUIP for TROOP but got OPENSESAME off the P anyway

Overall an enjoyable puzzle, but 1A was just absurd. I wonder if that was the only thing in the puzzle that qualified it for Saturday???

D_Blackwell 2:17 AM  

The second J in LJUBLJANA was a dart; the last letter down. I was pretty sure the first J was right, though can't say I knew it exactly. So why not go double or nothing. I'll have to check and see if there is a relationship to the fiber JUTE.



The SW went last and getting IMMATERIAL off of one M was huge.

Xed a lot of clues that I didn't like - but I finished it, so should shut the f... up.

r.alphbunker 2:18 AM  

Initially wrote in DJARLEENG which turned out to be a mispelling of Darjeeling which is not in Slovenia and is not a capital either. "get down" is a misleading clue for EAT. The best clue I have ever seen for EAT was the "throw down a fish" that was in a BEQ puzzle. Remembering that helped me here.

A good solid Saturday puzzle.

jae 2:59 AM  

Dang! After 3 plus error free weeks I got personally Naticked. No idea on the 6d/1a so I just guessed wrong. Corrected missteps were ATM for STL, UNATTIRED for AU..., SPIRAL for SWIRL, and, like John, NEA. Liked the puzzle and it seemed about right for a Sat., except for 1a (JURE was also a guess that happened to be right). I checked my 1a guess with my Oxford's Atlas which confirmed my DNF. I was in the right geographic neighborhood, but I just had no clue. Dang!

i skip M-W 3:57 AM  

A third great day, solving-wise. tried a different spelling for Ljubljana at first, Lubliana, but too short. Jure gave me correct spelliing. Tried Gdansk first for Danzig, but Zhivago made me realize had to be German form. Couldn't remember Clarissa, at first for Mrs. D., though had just read about it today. Crosses gave it to me easily.Proud to have recalled Salem, without ever having watched the Soap. And from some unknown recess, Whitman college I guessed at once was in WW W. That told me 24 books was not Q'uran or Koran. tried iona for waht turned out to be Alma, b'c'se I figured Presbyterian college might have Scottish name. Fun!!

immaterial carla michaels 4:36 AM  

Word for word your mistakes (except for BUTT/BUCK I had BARE)
That NW took me an extra hour of going away and coming back...
Changing AGAR to LABS
BAMS was the only thing I had right originally!!!!!

And Rex called it...my last letter the second J, but how cool is that word, clearly the seed for the puzzle and ha! Some Riga heads probably did explode!!!!!!

If you are from WALLA WALLA and graduated from a small Presbyterian-founded college, is it called your ALMA ALMA MATER?

That ALICE clue was lovely...and a bit of a bleedover. I mean, isn't ALICE a Woody Allen film...and...and...oh no nevermind!

DRZHIVAGO my first answer. All the Russian History I know, I know from a teenaged mishmash of loving that film (Julie Christie was my ideal of perfect beauty), reading Ayn Rand and being forced to read "Crime and Punishment" which I ended up wildly enjoying.

Speaking of J-Z's bday, lots of wonderful Js and Zs floating around this pjzzle.

Yay, Doug Slovenian-sounding Peterson!

glimmerglass 8:13 AM  

LJUBLJANA? Yes, my head is exploding. I gave up and decided that I couldn't finish the NW (the rest went quite easily). Wanted to make the capital Lillehammer, in some odd Scandinavian spelling, but the downs just wouldn't cooperate. I just went with the downs and logged on here. Lo and behold! Ljubljana is actually a place, and an important one. Shows how ignorant I am of Slovenia. (Can anyone name another word in which BLJ occur in order? Must be an LBJ anagram here somewhere.)

mac 8:19 AM  

Great puzzle, Doug, and great write-up! If I hadn't know Ljubljana I would have been baffled at -utes, 6D.

I had put in au naturel, then took it out again when I wanted barnstorm instead of brimstone (great word). Yes, great words and several outstanding clues. Had Redgrave for Clarissa for a while, love that film. Surprise at "space ships", had expected something more specific. And mishap in the kitchen: scald, not necessarily bad, for lots of recipes you have to scald the milk (hopefully without scalding yourself).

nanpilla 8:31 AM  

@ArtLvr - I always hope it will be HOPE when it's a four letter Michigan college, but, being an alumna, I know it is Dutch Reformed, not Presbyterian. Maybe someday.....

Never heard of 1a either, but love the look of that word. Great puzzle, Doug!

Leslie 8:48 AM  

I'm hooting that several posters are all "Ljubljana? Oh, yeah. Knew that one. Heck, I've been there . . ." Never been there, never heard of it, it ate my lunch and tonight's supper as well. Did not finish.

Anonymous 8:51 AM  

Would someone please explain "nene" (New Mexican?)

Thank you

Anonymous 8:53 AM  

Ljubljana makes more sens if one knows that 'ana' is a Slovenian suffis for little. Ljubljana is then simply little Ljublj. See how much easier that makes it?

Spanglish Speaking Guy 8:54 AM  

@Anon 8:51 - NENE is Spanish for baby, so in a new Mexican (a baby) would be a NENE

Anonymous 8:56 AM  

Thanks for the explanation of "nene". I had Hawaiian goose in my head, so didn't make the connection.

Ulrich 9:09 AM  

This puzzle confirms what I've felt for a long time: Some gimmies off the bat on Saturday (or Friday) are real game changers. 1A was a gimmie, and with that, the whole NW fell like on a Monday. Give the poor Jutes some credit--they were there with the Anglos and the Saxons!

Same in the SE: With Dr Zhivago and Danzig in place, it felt like a Monday. The other stacks took a little (euphemism!) longer, but being able to do a Saturday in one sitting and in under an hour is a huge accomplishment for me.

The sad part: Some who did NOT know these words still beat me by 1/2 hr or more. Well, one has to take the small favors life offers...

donkos 9:09 AM  

Just wondering if the denizens of LJUBLJANA that are reading this blog are trying to figure out where Natick is :)

Bob Kerfuffle 9:23 AM  

At 40 minutes, on the easy side of Saturday for me, but a darned good puzzle.

As soon as I saw the clue for 1A, I was sure of two things: (1) the answer was LJUBLJANA, and (2) I had no idea how to spell LJUBLJANA. So for me as for many, that second J was my last fill.

One write-over at 13 D, where I carelessly started putting in LOCATIONS before I ran out of letters and had to put in LOCALITIES.

And as a gimme, DRZHIVAGO was a big help!

joho 9:24 AM  

My Waterloo was spelling it AUNATURaL. I am very proud of myself, however, for getting LJUBLJA_A. I never saw NENE because of that darn "A." So close but no cigar for me.

LJUBLJANA would be a great name for a dog.

Thank you, Doug!

retired_chemist 9:26 AM  

Epic fail. Basically got the south quickly, but the entire north was a disaster.

Kurt 9:31 AM  

Exactly what @ joho said.

Thanks Doug and Rex. Good weekend everybody.

Anonymous 9:33 AM  

Please explain STL for card letters.

Big Albert 9:36 AM  

@Anon 9:33 The St Louis Cardinals are a baseball team.

Lindsay 9:50 AM  

My first words in were Clarissa crossing Abscam, a juxtaposition that amused me. Leaving aside the second "j" of the Slovenian city, which I flat-out didn't know, I found the SE to be significantly more difficult than the rest. I had the four four-letter words filled in; unfortunately one of them was wrong (my olives were Oily, not OVAL). This left me wondering what out-there interpretation of Othello I had missed, given that the Russian playing Egyption ended in IAGO. Plus, I had Blend for BUDGE at 38A, so I thought that the color-coded sections had to do with the lSAT.

Straightened it all around though, save for the Jutes.

@Big Albert -- thanks for the STL explanation. I hadn't been able to see why "snl" was wrong, though it obviously was to cross with TERSE.

quilter1 10:47 AM  

Got SCALDed by this one. I was doing OK solving from bottom to top, except I wanted Mrs. Dalloway to be Eleanora for too long before I sussed out CLARISSA from crosses. But 1A defeated me as my brain wouldn't let me believe the LJ's and I didn't know this name. So DNF, but very much enjoy all the comments and surprised at how may people are familiar with this city. I hope I can remember it for next time.

OldCarFudd 10:48 AM  

Thoroughly enjoyed this. Looked at 1A and thought it was going to be a slog. Got 2D immediately and realized 1A had to be. From there it was a cakewalk until I worked back around to the NE, where I knew zilch. I just started mentally noodling possibilities until things started to mesh (not knowing Pablo, Alice or Arles, but they interlocked so well they had to be right).

@Donkos - LOL!

foodie 10:57 AM  

This puzzle had stretches that seemed incredibly easy for me and others that seemed quite hard. I pulled LJUBLJANA out of some deep recess but actually wrote LJUBLIANA and therefore IUTES...

Vinny Gambini: It is possible that the two yutes...
Judge Chamberlain Haller: ...Ah, the two what? Uh... uh, what was that word?
Vinny Gambini: Uh... what word?
Judge Chamberlain Haller: Two what?
Vinny Gambini: What?
Judge Chamberlain Haller: Uh... did you say 'yutes'?
Vinny Gambini: Yeah, two yutes.
Judge Chamberlain Haller: What is a yute?
Vinny Gambini: Oh, excuse me, your honor...
[exaggerated]: Two YOUTHS.

Speaking of which, Omar Sharif was the love of my yute...

Norm 11:10 AM  

I remember reading an essay in high school English with a line along the lines of something [comedy? tragedy? drama?] being the willing suspension of disbelief. That's 1A for today. Knew the downs had to be right(JURE and JUTES in particular); was still very surprised when Mr. Pencil appeared. Fairly easy puzzle other than the NW (which I gave up on at first and left for last, since ALICE was such an easy starting point).

PuzzleNut 11:11 AM  

Unlike @BobK, found this one tough. Finished with one error, vENE for NENE. Had recently spelled AUNATUREL with an A and decided I wouldn't make that mistake again. Originally had the N correct in LJUBLJANA, but kept trying to fit NiNo of NiNa for the New Mexican. I couldn't let the E's go and "knew" that NENE was a Hawaiian goose, so finally changed the N to a V. Would have helped if I knew where Trieste was. Was pleased to know the JURE and JUTES, although I was a little iffy on BAMS. The best part of Rex's write-up was the RIGA comment. Couldn't have said it better myself.
Slowed down by making my olives Oily instead of OVAL. Thought INKStain was a better answer than INKSPOTS, but it didn't fit.

JC66 11:29 AM  

Never heard of LJUBLJANA and had to guess at the second J to make Mr. Happy Pencil appear.

Also had AU NATURaL at first.

For some of us Geezers, the INKSPOTS will always remind us of this and other classics.

Shamik 11:38 AM  

LJUBLJANA wasn't the main sticking point. It was the entire W and SW that I had to pause, do something else to shake out my brain and finish. And there at 27 minutes I had a complete puzzle, but no Mr. Happy Pencil. So I looked again.

Apparently, I'm watching too much "CSI" or "Criminal Minds" or "Dexter." My kitchen mishap was SCALP.

Found it in 50 more seconds for a total Saturday medium-challenging time of 27:50. Worth the extra time to think of the serious kitchen mishap.

grava: appropriate seriousness to the kitchen mishap

Shamik 11:45 AM  

@JC66: Not quite old enough, but old enough that on one of our first dates in 1998-1999, my husband took me to a club called Yesterdays in Phoenix. It no longer exists. But that night, in the audience and introduced to all of us was the last surviving Ink Spot. Don't remember his name....just "last surviving Ink Spot."

Mel Ott 11:45 AM  

I sat staring at the TIDAL pool behind my condo for the longest time with ---AL at 31D. Didn't get it until The D in BUDGE. Doh!

Slowed down in the NW by the impossibly spelled city. In the NE because I wanted GETUP for "outfit". In the SW until I finaly saw SPACEsomething and WALLA WALLA (what a great name!)

My only smooth ride was in the SE, where DR ZHIVAGO was a throwdown.

@JC66: Thanks for the INK SPOTS clip. Great early doo wop group. Just a few days after we had the PLATTERS, who were in many ways their heirs.

I think DANZIG is now called Gdansk. I guess it depends on whether it's under German or Polish control??

Doug P 11:52 AM  

Thanks for the comments. I was hoping Ljubljana would be a mind-blower.

@Rex - Loved the Danzig video. I think of the band before the city too. In the late '80s, my college buddies and I used to go to the monthly L.A. comic conventions. We often saw Glenn Danzig there, looking through boxes for old Marvel comics. He was a big Iron Fist fan. He was a nice guy and seemed to enjoy talking with us for a few minutes about music & comics.

David L 11:56 AM  

Good steady Saturday puzzle. I kinda knew LJUBLJANA but needed crosses to get the spelling right. Had SPACECRAFT for a while, which slowed that corner down. But all in all a medium puzzle with a couple of gimmes and no groaners.

Also, do I really share a birthday with our ESTEEMed leader and Jay-Z? A great honor. I'm guessing I am more than 8 days older than both of you... Another birthday celebrant today (or would be if here were still around) is the great and cantankerous 19th C historian and essayist Thomas Carlyle.

mmorgan 12:10 PM  

I spent a long time mumbling, "I hate Saturdays," until everything started to click, from the bottom (starting with DRZHIVAGO) on up. I couldn't believe how well I was buzzing along... but I hit some bumps in the NW. I first had BUTTNAKED for 17A (With nothing on) but that didn't seem right... And I had BEBE for 8D, but couldn't make it work. Then I was afraid it was NINO, which didn't seem quite right, and was delighted to find it was NENE (which is what I wanted from the start!!).

Then I hit a total brick wall in the NE but somehow it all fell, letter-by-letter. So I went from a near-HTG (Had To Google) and almost DNF to a very relieved error-free Mr. Happy Pencil! Wheee! (Even though it took a fair amount of guessing -- e.g., CLARISSA and PAMELA.)

Loved LJUBLJANA and OPENSESAME -- and how I knew WALLAWALLA, I'll never know!

Thanks for a pleasant workout, Mr. Peterson!

@ArtLvr: I was also in Newport in 1963 and I remember seeing Dylan just walking around. My mother ran up to him and said, "Mr. Dylan, cam I take your picture?" and he mumbled something like, "Sure, lady, go ahead."

Mjasked Ajnd Anonjmousjj 12:23 PM  

Darn good puz, considerin' it had no theme. Thumbs up. First entry entered: DRZHIVAGO. Omar rocks.

Ljubljana? Har. Can see it now. Some dude way back when was tryin' to say "Love a banana", or somethin', while chokin' on an olive pit. And the name stuck.

Then, of course, some wise-ass writes in to the founding fathers, complainin' about their burg's new name: "Oh sure... go for the big scrabble count! How do I teach my kids to say/spell that?!? No way will this fit on my address labels! etc."

Founding fathers defensively write back how cool the name is, 'cuz it's an anagram for "Crossword Puzzle" or "Go Daddy" or whatever in Ancient Slovenian and that they wanted some fresh fill on the courthouse signpost, etc. etc. But they will organize a big commission to study the matter, at taxpayer's expense . . .

ArtLvr 1:07 PM  

@nanpilla, it was neat to hear that you're a Hope alum, and that it's Dutch Reformed. I always enjoyed looking for unusual bulbs for the garden when traveling through... After moving to the Albany NY area I was confused at the name of the Reformed churches here, until I found out they'd dropped the "Dutch"! And it turns out that there's a whole new history project here, finally getting very early accounts translated. The takeover by the English had led to seemingly total loss till now!

@mmorgan, such fun to hear you were at Newport. We happened to see Dylan a bit afterward at a nearly empty restaurant, sitting alone in a blue funk, and somehow didn't dare to say hello. Sad! The other lasting memory was the baby crocodile in the bathtub of the apartment where we stayed. Surprise! The owners had left instructions just to lift it out and set it in a corner of the bathroom when we wanted to shower. We chickened out of that too, though having access to such amenities was the whole point of the arrangement!


JaxInL.A. 1:10 PM  

One known for ingenuity= Holmes > hAckEr > YANKEE

File stuff = EMERY? Gotta remember that.

Otherwise, what lots of others said. Hard hard hard for me today. Even with Google, nearly DNF.

Whew. Really Great Puzzle.

ArtLvr 1:14 PM  

p.s. re confusion of the NENE goose or baby Mexican, here's a cute trivia item -- Wikipedia takes its name from a Hawaiian word for "quick": wiki-wiki!


SethG 1:28 PM  

My biggest problem was believing that SCALD has a noun form, and my biggest failure was requiring 4 crosses to get ALICE.

Nice work.

archaeoprof 1:36 PM  

As usual, I agree with @Foodie and @Ulrich.

Didn't know 1A, and that doesn't bother me at all.

Happy Saturday!

shrub5 1:40 PM  

@masked: LOL

I listened to the Merriam-Webster audio clip on how to pronounce Ljubljana:

Lee ooh blee ah' nuh

And I will try to remember this name has two LJs in it.

Like @mac, I put (Vanessa) REDGRAVE in before CLARISSA. Seemed to me that the clue was going after the actress rather than the character's first name. My kitchen mishap was a SPILL at first and I had TASSELS spelled as TASSLES. Having PLAIN instead of TERSE for 'Not flowery' messed me up in that area for awhile.

Really loved this puzzle esp. OPENSESAME and the ingenuity of YANKEE. Unfortunately, a few googles were necessary to finish if I was to do anything else today.

Jim 1:55 PM  

Not perfect (NW downs screwed up since I couldn't cross-check LJUBLJANA), but I WRESTLED this bastard to the ground through sheer spit and grit and...I don't know anything else that rhymes.

Don't care about perfection quite yet on a late-week puzzle, I just don't want not to finish. Mission accomplished today. Lots to talk about.

So many seemingly-legitimate 9-letter possibilities went through my mind.

To wit:
15A: bucknaked, fullmonty, inthebuff
17A: hyperbole
62A: NicolasII, NicholasI
65A: erstwhile (although, yeah, a little redundant)
67A: wrestling, firstkiss

Also had INKyPenS for the longest time.

NE was the slowest to develop, since I got OPENSESAME rather (relative, of course) quickly. Dribs and drabs from there.

Then SE. When I finally saw NODS, then AGES, a few twists and turns aside the rest of that fell.

Most interesting was SW. Got SWEARAT and smiled, and was sure of nothing else. Of course, I solve in ink on paper, so I can't just willy-nilly started jutting things down. But for some reason I tested out WALLAWALLA in my mind to see what that might do to -ISSA and -LA and, OK, CLARISSA and PAMELA work. SWIRL, ALMA, and EAT and...YAHOO!! Why would I know WALLAWALLA? Why, Drew Bledsoe, of course!! Don't remember if that's where he grew up or where Washington State is, but I'll take it. Like others, was ultimately, thoroughly disappointed with SPACESHIPS, especially because the clue is singular!

That's it!! And, oh yeah, I've got to keep EMoRY (the University, which I had) and EMERY (the board) separate. Hopefully this will help.

Take care everybody!

PlantieBea 2:07 PM  

Nice work Doug Peterson. Yes, my mind was blown by LJUBLIANA! Natick, Natick, Natick; Red flag ALERT! Fortunately, the crosses, even JUTES, were not crushing.

I also tried REDGRAVE for CLARISSA at first. Mrs. Dalloway, the movie, is very good, but the book is even better.

Had to write-over SPILL/SCALD, AZIC/AVIA, ARLES/PARIS. Otherwise, fairly smooth solving in most.

Perfect Saturday puzzle!

whatevernext 2:09 PM  

Problem w/C18: Alice said "They're [not "You're"] nothing but a pack of cards. Otherwise, all fine. Got Ljubljiana as soon as Lj became apparent.

mmorgan 2:09 PM  

@Jim: Craft is (are?) plural as well.

Can't imagine doing this one on paper. Or in ink. Nice going!

Jim 2:10 PM  

Would have linked this, but it's not on The Onion website anymore; had to get it off some other site. Immediately thought of this after reading Rex. From 1997:

Clinton Deploys Vowels to Bosnia

Cities of Sjlbvdnzv, Grzny to Be First Recipients

Before an emergency joint session of Congress yesterday, President Clinton announced US plans to deploy over 75,000 vowels to the war-torn region of Bosnia. The deployment, the largest of its kind in American history, will provide the region with the critically needed letters A,E,I,O and U, and is hoped to render countless Bosnian names more pronounceable.

"For six years, we have stood by while names like Ygrjvslhv and Tzlynhr and Glrm have been horribly butchered by millions around the world," Clinton said. "Today, the United States must finally stand up and say 'Enough.' It is time the people of Bosnia finally had some vowels in their incomprehensible words. The US is proud to lead the crusade in this noble

The deployment, dubbed Operation Vowel Storm by the State Department, is set for early next week, with the Adriatic port cities of Sjlbvdnzv and Grzny slated to be the first recipients. Two C-130 transport planes, each carrying over 500 24-count boxes of "E's," will fly from Andrews Air Force Base across the Atlantic and airdrop the letters over the cities.

Citizens of Grzny and Sjlbvdnzv eagerly await the arrival of the vowels. "My God, I do not think we can last another day," Trszg Grzdnjkln, 44, said. "I have six children and none of them has a name that is understandable to me or to anyone else. Mr. Clinton, please send my poor, wretched family just one 'E.' Please."

Said Sjlbvdnzv resident Grg Hmphrs, 67: "With just a few key letters, I could be George Humphries. This is my dream."

The airdrop represents the largest deployment of any letter to a foreign country since 1984. During the summer of that year, the US shipped 92,000 consonants to Ethiopia, providing cities like Ouaouoaua, Eaoiiuae, and Aao with vital, life-giving supplies of L's, S's and T's.

Rex Parker 2:13 PM  

`Off with her head!' the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.

`Who cares for you?' said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) `You're nothing but a pack of cards!'

Geometricus 2:30 PM  

Sick in bed today with a headache, not feeling up to the challenge of a Sat. puzzle, so I cheated from the beginning, 'revealing' my many mistakes like EVERYWHERE for IMMATERIAL as well as a lot of the mistakes commanders made above like SPILL for SCALD etc.

That still wasn't enough to finish though. There was so much I did not know I made a list of all the Googlable clues and spent a half hour educating myself about Van Gogh, Vanessa Redgrave, ISR and Mt. Meron, Days of Our Lives, Sting's personal life (been married twice and has 2 kids w/1st wife and 4 w/2nd wife) that we was a 'tax exile' in 1982 and moved to Ireland. So I thought ABSCAM was going to be SUMNER (as in Gordon). Oh, and now I never have to sit through 'Avatar' because I read the entire plot looking for what turned out to be SPACESHIP.

But I got LJUBLJANA all by myself. And I've never been there.

Anonymous 2:39 PM  

My wife is of Slovenian ancestry. Her maiden name sounds more French that Eastern European. While most Slovenians are actually akin to Austrians (which is different from the other countries that once formed Yugoslavia), Napoleon's army left a lot of French men behind who gravitated to Slovenia. Never heard of LJUBLJANA. I had the same reaction as Rex about LJUBLJANA and RIGA and just LOL. A solid and fun Saturday. I loved Omar Sharif as DR. ZHIVAGO but preferred Julie Christie....

mitchs 2:47 PM  

Medium? I'm a schmuck, then. I mean, C______SSA has to be Contessa. DNF

Sparky 3:18 PM  

DNF. Barely started. DRZHIVAGO first in. Filled that corner. And that's about it. Nike sneakers, Redgrave, TASSleS, kitchen SpiLl. LABS my only fill for 1A. I enjoy puzzles anyway.

@Clark, Mjasked and others laughed a lot. Where else can you get completely clobbered and have such a good time? I love this blog.

Thanks Doug, thanks Rex. Have a good weekend everybody.

davko 3:58 PM  

I've not only heard of Ljubljana, but have been there -- twice. It's actually a popular weekend getaway for Southern Austrians with Slavic roots. But I still can't spell it! Hence, an assist from the likes of JURE, UNIT, and JUTES was indispensable.

Especially liked this puzzle for its multiplicity of plausible answers for a given clue when crosses weren't yet available. For example, for 24A, I stubbornly clung to TALISES [sic], the fringed scarves worn by Jews, and couldn't decide between EQUIP and GETUP -- both perfect synonyms for "Outfit" -- before finally seeing the light with TROOP. Now that's craft! Kudos to Mr. Peterson.

Say, whence the term "Yankee ingenuity?" Never heard of it prior to today, but guessing it must be something Derek Jeter has had to draw upon in his current contract negotiations.

NATE 4:10 PM  


Your article about vowel and consonant shipments was hilarious.
It made slogging through the mass
of mostly picayune comments worthwhile

retired_chemist 4:29 PM  

Had TINKER instead of YANKEE (ingenuity) @ 21D. The idea was that a tinker, a medieval repairer of tinware, had to be clever at his craft to be successful, thus leading to the verb "tinker," meaning to play around with something in order to fix it. That seemed to connote ingenuity to me. Eventually I had to give it up, of course, but reluctantly.

retired_chemist 5:40 PM  

ALMA was a giveaway. Mrs. Retired_Chemist is a Michiganian who lived in Alma for nearly twenty years before I married her and spirited her away to Texas. We were married by the retired chaplain of Alma College and, of course, many of the good folk who are her friends and attended our wedding are Alma College faculty/employees/alumni(ae).

Anonymous 5:55 PM  

@ Clark - Best opening comment I've ever seen. You said it all in an appropriately TERSE manner....

No BS 6:14 PM  

Felt like a newbie today. Only gimmes were jure and mata. Might have come up with pamela eventually. Had to cheat a bit. Ljubljana? Seriously? Even when i had lj (having guessed labs) I only concluded no word starts lj! Guessed Pablo after trying Pedro, but couldn't get confident with the guess.

Seemed "hard" to me, that's for sure.Humility!

Ulrich 7:06 PM  

@Clark: Yes. Flush with my triumph, I forgot to thank you for getting us off to a flying start...and BTW I've been to both--heaven can wait.

@Jim: :-)

sanfranman59 7:49 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 7:03, 6:56, 1.02, 61%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 8:29, 8:56, 0.95, 43%, Medium
Wed 15:48, 11:43, 1.35, 95%, Challenging
Thu 17:22, 19:01, 0.91, 40%, Medium
Fri 19:36, 26:13, 0.75, 10%, Easy
Sat 29:13, 30:38, 0.95, 39%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:48, 3:42, 1.03, 64%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:24, 4:36, 0.96, 43%, Medium
Wed 7:31, 5:46, 1.30, 95%, Challenging
Thu 8:31, 9:10, 0.93, 45%, Medium
Fri 10:00, 12:49, 0.78, 14%, Easy
Sat 15:33, 17:27, 0.89, 28%, Easy-Medium

Anonymous 8:02 PM  

Sometimes, @sanfranman59, me thinks all you prove, if anything, is that statistics lie. Not that I don't appreciate your effort....

John the Banished....

retired_chemist 8:48 PM  

@ Anon 8:02 -

Statistics NEVER lie. Interpretations sometimes do. But SanFranMan59 seldom interprets. We just get data to mull over. Thanks, SFMan.

Two Ponies 9:03 PM  

I was so proud to get through this one except for the impossible 1A.
I had to laugh at Rex's comment about the Riga grousing earlier in the week.
At least the puzzle didn't ask for the name of that Icelandic volcano that caused the chaos last summer!
Actually it might as well have.

ksquare 10:00 PM  

As a retired nerd who used a plastic pocket protector full of pens, 35A was almost a gimme, but didn't anyone else enter 'inkBLots' before 'inkSPots' for 35A?

michael 10:08 PM  

For me, this was on the easy side for a Saturday. It helped that I knew Walla Walla right off and have some friends just back from the Slovenian capital (the spelling eludes me right now, but I got it right in the puzzle). Sometimes -- probably like many of you -- I wonder what all this stuff is doing in my brain and whether it is replacing some other stuff that might usefully be in there.

Anonymous 10:33 PM  

@ Retired Chemist - Nothing lies except a liar, but I am reminded of what Henry Fonda, playing Admiral Nimitz, told John Wayne, playing Captain Rockwell Torey, when Nimitz was giving Torey his admiral stars after being cleared of charges for violating Navy rules during Pearl Harbor: "Well, we all know the Navy's never wrong. But in this case, it was a little weak on bein' right."

John the Banished....

Greg 10:39 PM  

Got Ljubljana right off the bat, thinking at the same time "I'm sure I'm in a tiny minority of people who will." Geography geek that I am.

Smitty 7:07 AM  

I remember the INKSPOTS as that old vocal group from the 30s (along with the spinoff group, the POCKET PROTECTORS)

aleph1=c 3:44 PM  

Surprising to me how many didn't know LJUBLJANA. It's a world capital, afer all. Study a world map for a few minutes so that if BISHKEK ever comes up you'll be much happier.

Anonymous 6:50 PM  

I know it's late and few any anyone will read this, but I've finished the puzzle and made the die. Can anyone tell me how to get rid of all those black squares?

NotalwaysrightBill 11:14 AM  

Syndicated paper solver.

Yeah, but who followed ARLO?

Nice construction (although PTA STS STL INC all in line going down seems like it could be worked on), some really great words and phrases (don't believe I've seen BRIMSTONE or YOGA CLASS or OPENSESAME before), and A FEW pretty cool clues (59D Signs an agreement?=NODS was nice).

But I could SWEARAT some of the other clues, some of which have already been pointed out (e.g. those for TROOP SWIRL SCALD). Bad clues create a mental arhythmia and a DAM (61D Stop from running) where mental effort goes to DIE (32A Stop running). I don't mind having my mind blown by great Who-Knew? geographical names. I actually dig learning new trivia from xwords; it's one of the reason I like doing them. Intentionally frustrating (NOT cute: frustrating because they're non sequituresque) clues are quite another matter.

Enough INKSPOTS from me. Time to get AUNATUREL (except for the AVIAs and TASSELS) and wish I were in SALEM while watching "Days of our Lives."

smeealaska 1:48 PM  

I thought the capital was Lyublyanka (actually the KGB prison in Moscow), but luckily I have a globe at my elbow.
Yes, I know I'm late; it's just getting light here.


clansman9448 7:31 PM  

Thought I saw someone comment about Ljubljana here a few days ago.Tough day for me but finally had to use one "cheat" for the "A" at 23. Couldn't get ALL as the American leader for some reason, and I still hate the ASA+UNIT clue. Finally got CLARISSA not CONTESSA & YANKEE not TINKER & PTA not NEA. Oh, yeah. 29D CAN for "Rear". I'm not sure I understand that one.(So some one send me a simple expl. so I can slap my forehead & go "Duh!") Sorry, I don't do "DOH"

clansman9448 7:35 PM  

OH & one more that fits 15A, INTHENUDE.

clansman9448 7:40 PM  

Sorry, this is getting silly, but also BAREASSED, & INTHEBUFF.

That's 3. Good night.

Anonymous 2:10 PM  

I found Ljubljana on a Mediterranean map. I had the first J and some other letters. I don't quite understand rear for can unless they mean the behind. Also would have that an alternative for Brie would have been another soft cheese. sl

Anonymous 2:40 PM  

"Ljubljana" was prominently on the spine of a coffee-table book in Frazier's TV apartment; apparently the set dressers found this to be just the sort of obscure title that would appeal to a snobbish intellectual.

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