English poet/composer Gurney / SAT 1-29-11 / Smallish ballpark in slang / Freshwater plant also called wild celery / Soapmaking compound chemically

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Constructor: Ned White

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none


Word of the Day: EEL GRASS (38D: Freshwater plant also called wild celery) —

Vallisneria is a genus of freshwater aquatic plant, commonly called eelgrass, tape grass or vallis. The genus has 6-10 species that are widely distributed, but do not grow in colder regions. // Vallisneria is a submersed plant that spreads by runners and sometimes forms tall underwater meadows. Leaves arise in clusters from their roots. The leaves have rounded tips, and definite raised veins. Single white female flowers grow to the water surface on very long stalks. Tape grass fruit is a banana-like capsule having many tiny seeds. (wikipedia)

• • •

Wow, this one put up almost no resistance, and my experience of Saturdays being easier than Fridays continues. More often than not, in recent months, I've dusted off the Saturday faster than the Friday. I thought Fridays were supposed to be easier, but I'm just not convinced they are any more. Can't imagine someone taking longer to finish this one than it took to do yesterday's, for instance (which took me about 50% longer). I started with the cinchy MEL (4D: TV diner employer of 9-Down), which gave me the obvious ALICE at 9-Down, and that pair gave me toeholds in two different parts of the grid. Pretty serendipitous. Crossed MEL with WHOEVER (15A: "It doesn't matter ... anyone's fine"), then crossed that with SWEATSHOPS (1D: Much of New York's Garment District, once) and proceeded to take the NW apart. I might have gotten slowed down here and there, but I never got stuck. Not once. Not complaining; just puzzled.

Today's puzzle provides an excellent illustration of how the joints, or narrow passageways connecting the more wide-open white spaces, bear a lot of stress so that the longer answers can shine (which is as it should be). The ugliest things about this grid are these passageways: OVIS over ATA in the SE, KOH in the N (27A: Soapmaking compound, chemically), AIS (aieee!) in the NW—all bad, but all holding big chunks of deliciousness in place, and therefore all forgivable and forgettable. Nothing terribly obscure today, except perhaps this IVOR guy (5D: English poet/composer Gurney), and EELGRASS, which I'd never heard of but got easily from crosses. Didn't know what [Lazuline] meant, but I had the BLUE and just guessed the SKY part (confirmed by ENYA—see, she's good for something; 55D: Mononymous four-time Grammy winner). In the "Lesson Learned" category today we have BANDBOX (58A: Smallish ballpark, in slang), which baffled me earlier in my solving career. I was told then that "any baseball fan knows what that means"—but I'd been a baseball fan for 30 years and had never heard it. To this day, the only place I've encountered it is in crosswords. Twice now. [Note, that may be a lie—I have a faint memory of seeing the word in print *just* after my first crossword BANDBOX experience]


Bullets:
  • 1A: Eric ___, Google C.E.O. beginning in 2001 (SCHMIDT) — I think I just read that this won't be true anymore, or maybe already isn't true. Something about going younger, getting back the entrepreneurial spirit, businessspeak businessspeak, etc. Yep, it looks like Google co-found Larry Page (b. 1973) will take over as C.E.O. in April.
  • 8A: Period between Shaban and Shawwal (RAMADAN) — "Period between" and Arabic-sounding names tells me all I need to know to get this one.
  • 16A: Home of Nascar's longest oval (ALABAMA) — the whole damn state is the "home?" Random.
  • 18A: Title for Columbus, in the Indies (VICEROY) — when you've got "-ICERO-" in place before you ever see the clue, this one's not hard, though I thought briefly CICERO might be involved...
  • 40A: Present day figure in Paris? ("PÈRE NOEL") — i.e. Father Christmas
  • 2D: Upscale wedding reception amenity (CHAIR COVER) — interesting answer, though "amenity" seems weird to me. They're usually plain and don't exactly provide added pleasure. Also, not terribly "upscale," in my experience.
  • 7D: TV host with a star on Canada's Walk of Fame (TREBEK) — off the "R" in WHOEVER, I honestly considered DR. PHIL.
  • 11D: He had righteous blood, per Matthew 23:35 (ABEL) — nice little misdirect there, using N.T. to clue O.T. figure.
  • 28D: Texas city near the Coahuila border (DEL RIO) — really helps to know your southwest geography today, with DEL RIO and TAOS (21D: County with the restor town Red River) holding the key to the grid's NE territory.


  • 31D: Staples of jazz music (TENOR SAXES) — Didn't think of Mavis Staples as a jazz singer, so took "Staples" at face value and was eventually rewarded for doing so.
  • 45D: Emmy-winning reality show host of 2008, '09 and '10 (PROBST) — Jeff PROBST of "Survivor" fame. I used to watch that show. Wife still does. It's a (very) minor point of contention in the household.
  • 42A: Cheap cigar, in slang (EL ROPO) — I know almost all my cigar terminology from crosswords. I can only think of CLARO right now, but I'm sure there's more.
  • 33D: Big creature in un zoológico (OSO) — a bear. I had the last "O" and just guessed. Correctly.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

75 comments:

No Hablo Espanol 12:17 AM  

Oh, that OSO. I thought spanish speaking people called their O's OSOs, and zoológico sure had enough Os.

Clark 12:30 AM  

If it was ever true that Eric SCHMIDT was the CEO of Google beginning in 2001, then it will always be true that Eric SCHMIDT was the CEO of Google beginning in 2001. Just sayin’.

Now if only I could still do crossword puzzles.

chefwen 1:15 AM  

Easier than yesterdays bloodbath but still on the tough side for me. It didn't help that I put check IT OUT at 30D and did not want to take IT OUT for far too long.

Be kind, gentle, and fun Sunday!

ArtLvr 1:26 AM  

Rex SAILS ON to an easy finish, I get close as the proverbial EL ROPO... I even had the NACRE inlay, EEL GRASS and ANGERS, but still was caught in a tiny eddy around those.

Not knowing the LIEV or PROBST persons, I was happy with a Spike driven into a railway bed rather than a STAKE into a vampire's heart... Yikes!

I might SCOPE IT OUT with VOTE and BAND box in the light of day, but I decided to reveal them right away rather than DARE leave UNSOLVABLE bits floating through my brain overnight.

RIB TICKLERS were more fun than my first idea of a surgeon's rib spreader, and the Lapis Lazuline clue was a gem! I don't like puzzles making me jump around, like 36D to 56A, but otherwise it's a very good one. Bravo, Ned!

∑;)

syndy 2:04 AM  

Gave up the southeast corner and came here for a total arexia moment! Unsolvable!!! gonna drive that big fat STAKE through my heart.I had TEASERS for 63a (and I still don't get it) so I was going for some kind of a tour! Wasn't there a oldtime Jazz singer named STAPLES?Also STOGIE for (puke)EL ROPO.

I skip M-W 2:11 AM  

Was distracted, but found it much harder than yesterday. Why do tea sets help prepare spots?... Oh, now I see, a spot of tea. Thanks anyway. Knew Liev,and of course Schmidt, but in NW had 1 D as SEVENTH AVE, for too long. Had CHER, not Enya, whom I know only from x-wds. I've been to Taos, but never heard of Red river near there, so thought of Red River of the North, tried Tany, etc. before recalling that soap uses KOH. for glass part, tried eye before I got Liev. Definitely a case of arexia,until it all came together w/ scope it out.

captcha combines preositons in puzzle : outat

7thecow 2:34 AM  

Tough one for me. Got started in the NE, added MEL, TREBECK and SWEATSHOPS, even had DEBIT, but took it out because no one has a name that ends in DT. HTG for SCHMIDT, finally ended at PERENOEL, which I liked. A big meh for "sends=ravishes" and "works with steam=erotica" and still don't understand TEA SETS. Or is it TEASETS (small Teasers?}?
Some RIBTICKLERS, but overall did not get my POPULAR VOTE.

chefwen 3:31 AM  

@syndy and @7thecow - what @I skip M-W said, insert English accent here,
By George it's 4P.M. I'll think I'll have a "spot of tea" to go with my crumpets.

jae 5:33 AM  

I really liked this one but it was not easy for me. North was tough and south was medium. I'd seen SCHMIDT in Newsweek recently but had no memory for the spelling so IVOR was a guess (EVOR seemed wrong). And TREBEK took longer to surface than he should have. PROBST however was a gimmie (after I changed RIM to LIP). I've never seen the show but my daughter is a big fan and occasionally updates me.

JaxInL.A. 6:56 AM  

Despite a severe case of negative arexia, I had a good time with this one.  

Anyone else notice the way the letter A's line up with RAMADAN above ALABAMA?  "Mononymous" and "Lazuline" both feel lovely in the mouth. The Clue for UNSOLVABLE gave me the momentary illusion of math prowess. And the grid is just pretty to look at (though I said "oh, no" aloud when I saw it).

As Rex noted, ugly fill really kept to a bare minimum, but the obscurity of the small fill poses a major challenge. In a grid like this you count on the small words to give you purchase, and some of them I couldn't get in a million years. 

E.g. I'm hoping @retired chemist and others here will explain KOH.  I get the idea, but not the specifics. 

FLO usually gets all the xword attention, so I liked seeing MEL and  ALICE get some grid time.  I did love that show in my youth, heaven help me.  The NE came together okay but got stuck in each of the other corners. HTG for PROBST, SCHMIDT (I could kick myself for not remembering someone in the news so recently) and DEL RIO. each one broke the surrounding are wide for me, so okay.  

Ended with the T in SCOTS/STERES crossing. What are STERES?

r.alphbunker 7:20 AM  

So close. Finished with OLO/OVERULE. If I had not stopped my alphabet run at L I surely would have gotten it. At least I now know that overrule has two rs in it.

Definitely easier than yesterday's but not an easy for me. Don't really get AIS. Is it two words: A IS? Like A is an armadillo. Or is it a picture of a family of two toed sloths? Or is it something else? Will probably get it once I tap the Publish Comment button.

conomist 7:25 AM  

NAYS and NAE? Ugh.

r.alphbunker 7:31 AM  

@r.alphbunker
Put in a "for" to get A IS for armidillo.

Falconer 8:18 AM  

I can't even believe that I managed to rip through this puzzle like it was a Wednesday or Thursday.

I was failing out squares so fast, I had to look at the date to make sure I hadn't downloaded the wrong day.

This is very exciting: First time I have been able to complete the Friday and Saturday puzzles in under 30 mins. and without a Google search ... ever. Must have just really been on this constructor's wavelength, as SCHMIDT, RAMADAN, WHOEVER, ALABAMA, HORSEOPERA, SWEATSHOPS and PERENOEL went down in the grid as if I were coying them down.

OK well that's enough self-congratulation. Bacially, liked the puzzle a lot. Thanks, Ned White. Do more!

Cathyat40 8:53 AM  

Had baNISHES instead of RAVISHES, so couldn't work out the NE and DNF.

mrstanley 9:11 AM  

Not. Easy.

poc 9:14 AM  

The spy plane was a U2, not a UTWO. No-one ever called it a UTWO. I filled it in with a grimace :-)

Webmasters don't approve POSTs as part of their job, unless they also moonlight as list moderators. Totally different function.

Never heard of TREBEK or PROBST or MEL or that ALICE, not having access to US broadcast TV. Ditto ELROPO and DELRIO.

And I don't understand what TEASETS have to do with preparing spots. Had TEASERS for a while.

So on the whole, definitely not Easy for me.

Anonymous 9:17 AM  

Somebody please explain 17A. I've never heard the expression overuse is to turn into a chectnut.

jackj 9:26 AM  

The equation was certainly UNSOLVABLE, the puzzle was the opposite.

A decent and fun challenge from Ned White.

Edwords 9:26 AM  

Rex, if you were (or are) a Red Sox fan, you definitely would have heard Fenway Park referred to a "lyric little bandbox." I believe it comes from John Updike's legendary piece on Ted Williams final game (in which he hits a home run in his final at bat) entitled "Kid Bids Hub Adieu." You hear it referred to on radio and TV broadcasts, and in sports columns, approximately 5 times per season ... maybe more.

Cynthia G 9:45 AM  

Easy for a Saturday? Maybe I should just give up on this day. I put down a couple answers but couldn't get any momentum going. And you guys make it sounds so effortless! Humbug.

Anonymous 9:57 AM  

Finished in about 20 minutes. Not too difficult. VERY unhappy with AIS. There have been some lame entries before, but this has to be the worst I've ever seen. Unless I'm misinterpreting it and it does not refer to "A IS for anti-propsychadelisessationalistism."

Bob Kerfuffle 10:01 AM  

@JaxinLA: From online: The stère is a measurement unit for volume of wood and equals one cubic metre.

@Anonymous 9:17: Chestnut - From Merriam-Webster: 6 a: an old joke or story b: something repeated to the point of staleness.

Tobias Duncan 10:06 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tobias Duncan 10:09 AM  

My little town is in the grid !!!
Woohoo I am famous !!

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

I found Friday a breeze and today took about 25. I was lost until I got "sentence", then it broke open. I'm 62. I think age might be a factor in the ease of solving. I found this puzzle fun. It's cheating to use any reference source, right?

DBGeezer 10:20 AM  

@jaxin la,

KOH is Potassium (K) hydroxide (OH)

Effect of the alkali
The nature of the soap depends on the alkali metal. Sodium soaps, prepared from sodium hydroxide are firmer. Potassium soaps, derived from potassium hydroxide are softer or often liquid. Historically, potassium hydroxide was extracted from the ashes of bracken or other wood ashes. Lithium soaps also tend to be harder - these are used exclusively in greases.

Soaps are derivatives of fatty acids. Traditionally soaps are derived from triglycerides (vegetable and animal fats). Triglyceride is the technical name for these triesters of fatty acids. Sodium tallowate, a common ingredient in many soaps, is derived from rendered beef fat. Typical vegetable oils used in soap making are palm oil, where the product is typically softer. If soap is made from pure olive oil it may be called Castile soap or Marseille soap. The term "castile" is also sometimes applied to soaps with a mix of oils, but a high percentage of olive oil.
Aside from olive oil, other saponifiable oils and fats include coconut, palm, cocoa butter, hemp oil, and shea butter to provide different qualities. For example, olive oil provides mildness in soap. Coconut oil provides lots of lather. Coconut and palm oils provide hardness. Sometimes castor oil can also be used as an humectant. Most common, though, is a combination of coconut, palm, and olive oils. Smaller amounts of unsaponifiable oils and fats that do not yield soap are sometimes added for further benefits.
wikipedia

mitchs 10:32 AM  

I'm getting worse relative to Rex. Easy? Really tough for me and no doubt a DNF had I not wore out the "check" function.

CHAIRCOVER?

Great puzzle, though. Turn into a chestnut = favorite clue/answer.

Anonymous 10:34 AM  

Have to stop being intimidated by Saturday puzzles. Solved in a little over 20. Would have started filling in faster if wasn't so cowed by "SATURDAY". Put this in on Thursday and it wouldn't have taken me much more than 10.

Lindsay 10:37 AM  

I'm the least mathematical person in the universe, so I was pleased to immediately grasp that 29D "x = x +1" is impOssiBLE. Ergo, the eastern half of the grid was rendered UNSOLVABLE. For a while, anyway.

Also, couldn't remember how to spell Trebec/k, and the chemistry cross didn't help. But guessed correctly.

Have a good weekend everyone.

foodie 10:42 AM  

RAMADAN was a gimme, and I put PAPANOEL right away, before I had to switch to PERENOEL. It was not Easy for me, but it felt very fair-- I felt that if I let my mind work in a more flexible way, I could get it, and almost every place where I hesitated (DUST, OVERUSE, UNSOLVABLE, EROTICA) was followed by a sense of rightness when the answer revealed itself. So, I consider this puzzle to be very well constructed and very well clued. And very enjoyable, in the end.

I'm with Rex...A truly upscale wedding may be should have real chairs, well padded, rather than the el-cheapo kind with the covers?

Two Ponies 10:46 AM  

Easy-medium except I had one error.
No idea who this Probst guy is so my ball park was a sand box. Seemed reasonable since proper names can be spelled any old way. Sand box sounds cuter as a nickname.
Very odd clues today. For some reason the clue for earlobe both puzzled me and grossed me out.
This one also was barely in English.
Too much dependence on foreign words and proper names. Meh.

emily litella 10:55 AM  

What do PUPAL LARVAE have to do with running? Oh, never mind...

Kurt 11:00 AM  

Yep! Pretty easy. But also fun. Thanks Ned. And great work as usual Rex.

Shamik 11:01 AM  

Easy at 14:19 for me. But it felt like a car on a very cold day...nothing, nothing and then as quick as you can say PERENOEL and LIEV, it tumbles into place.

Real chairs with padding that look good after many uses would be ideal for an upscale wedding. However, most places the chairs under those covers are pretty darned ugly. Cover those things! It does make a difference!

Delightful puzzle without much blah. Almost wish it lasted longer. I said "almost."

Stan 11:09 AM  

I agree that this puzzle was exceptionally well clued, even where I'd never heard of the answers (EL ROPO).

Nice to see our puzzle friend RAVI SHankar, even as a partial.

mac 11:19 AM  

Only just now realized what UTWO stands for...

One mistake in the end, I thought a smallish ballpark was called a sandbox. Prosst sounded pretty good, too, not knowing this guy or show.

Loved the puzzle; the NW fell very fast because I know the garment district well.

Excellent puzzle, with fun clues that you sort of had to let sink in to get. Loved the teasets and Pere Noel. @ArtLvr: I too thought of some gadget to crack open the ribcase. Like this answer much better!

smoss11 11:26 AM  

Had "stogie" for cheap cigar which threw me off. Did not care for the "popular vote" clue. I have never heard a candidate called a "runner"

Mel Ott 11:38 AM  

I got EEL GRASS, but I was thrown a bit by the freshwater clue. The EEL GRASS I know is an extremely important part of the ecology of saltwater bays and estuaries like the Great South Bay on the south shore of Long Island. Don't know whether it's the same critter or not.

@Rex. Wrigley Field has also been referred to as a BANDBOX, as was the old Ebbets Field of Brooklyn Dodgers fame. Some newer BANDBOXes are the new Yankee Stadium and the Phillies' and Astros' home fields, whatever their corporate names of the moment might be.

David L 11:49 AM  

A little faster than yesterday, but just a little. I plonked down SCHMIDT immediately, since he's been in the news lately, but unfortunately typed SCHIMDT in my haste, which held me up for an absurdly long time.

I suppose I should have seen UNSOLVABLE immediately, but I was put off by thinking that x = x+1 is used in programming and sometimes in math as a shorthand for "increase the value of x by 1."

Didn't like AIS, or NAYS and NAE in the same puzzle. Also, I don't have a clear idea of what a CHAIRCOVER might be, but then I am not one to frequent upscale wedding receptions. A chaircover sounds to me like a cheap fix to hide the fact that your chairs are not, in fact, of the upscale variety.

Sparky 12:00 PM  

Easy for you, difficult for me. Managed to fill in something more than half the words which is a good thing. Have done terribly this week. Thursday had 7 answers and yesterday just folded.

TREBECK a gimme and ANSWERS as I am a big fan of Jeopardy! Managed RIBTICKLERS but then did more in South. Agree with @poc re UTWO. I have a feeling this has been argued before.

I see now, as @mac says, clever clues needing to sink in. Thanks @DBGeezer and @ Bob Kerfuffle for explanations. So what does DBS mean? Sigh. I hope it's a silly Sunday.

Anonymous 12:09 PM  

59A DBS = Decibels (a measure of sound volume; Bel = Alexander Graham Bell). Cf. 23D STERES (a measure of bulk volume; stere as in stereo -- space).

Sparky 12:15 PM  

Thanks @Anon 12:09. That Bell derivation is so interesting. Good weeekend one and all.

treedweller 12:15 PM  

I echo the confusion around BANDBOX. I was a pretty big Rangers fan as a kid and still vaguely keep in touch with the sport, but never heard of this term. I tried BANkBOX, which seemed pretty darn wrong but kBS worked for me so that's how it ended here.

I also struggled with ABEL, so I tried to look it up in an online bible. Unfortunately, Abel is not mentioned in Matt. 23:25. Pays to read carefully. That had me really steamed until I finally read the correct verse.

@Sparky decibels

Greene 12:24 PM  

I finished without any errors with about 43 minutes on the clock which makes this a super-easy puzzle for me. Consider though that I may work on a thorny Saturday puzzle on and off all day and never finish.

I think I have finally started to learn the art of relying on intuition, word play, and letter pattern recognition rather than acquired knowledge to solve these late week puzzles. I was really surprised to see how much I didn't know, and yet I was still able to fill in the grid little by little. I got SKY BLUE, for instance, just the opposite way that Rex did. I had the KY in place and knew it was a color. What else could it be?

Much of the cluing was challenging, clever, and fun. I think the only place I really got stuck was in the SE where I plopped in LAREDO instead of DELRIO. What can I say? I know nothing of geography in that part of the country and LAREDO is my 6-letter go to town in Texas. Stumbled around on 29D as well. Had IMPOSSIBLE, then UNWORKABLE, and finally UNSOLVABLE.

So, a happy ending for me. Which is more than I can say about more than a few Saturdays with the NYT.

archaeoprof 12:34 PM  

@Rex: I think your early morning classes are helping your crossword skills!

Hard, but got it eventually.

Misread the clue for 55D as "monotonous" 4-time Emmy winner, and immediately thought of ENYA.

Down here in the South, no self-respecting NASCAR fan would answer ALABAMA to 16A. They would all say "Talladega." The answer for 16A in other words, is most assuredly NOT "in the language."

Masked and Anonymous 12:34 PM  

Constructor friend Erul sent me a message this mornin': "Happy National Puzzle Day."

I fired back: "In what country?" But evidently, it's right here in river city. Anybody ever hear of this holiday before?!? 29 January, says Google. Well, I guess I participated; I was sure puzzled today.

Speaking of puzzled -- SatPuz put up a nasty fight, at my house. Never did get what the clue for TEASETS was talkin' about, even after I'd filled in the whole SE. BANDBOX was news to me, too. 44 wins on knowledge base "volume measures", today.

ani 12:43 PM  

Breezes through Friday,struggled to finish today. can someone explain the clue for earlobe?

mac 1:02 PM  

I think the point of chaircovers is that you can get them in many different colors and patterns to go with the color scheme the bride (or her mother) has chosen. It's a huge job to co-ordinate chairs, table cloths, flowers, dresses etc. I'll never have to do it, I only have a son.

Anonymous 1:59 PM  

This might have been easy for Rex but for some of us it proved to be very hard and included several answers not known to ordinary man....

Jim 2:41 PM  

Rex is right. Easy...also random, though.

SCOPEITOUT, CHAIRCOVER, and TENORSAXES, all either ugly answers or poorly clued. Not to mention my favorite random answer of the day: HORSEOPERA. Is that as ridiculous as it sounds? Even SWEATSHOPS is not quite an appropriate answer to that particular clue.

On the other hand, I loved POPULARVOTE and EARLOBE.

BANDBOX is perfectly common, non-baseball fans. And Rex, since I'm pretty sure you're a Sox fan, I'm particularly surprised you maintain its uncommon usage, given that Fenway, more frequently than other parks, is characterized as such.

Thanks to Mr White for such an easy Saturday puzzle, especially since it made me appear more brilliant than I am in the eyes of the date in whose presence I burned through this one.

Second try at this 2:46 PM  

@ani (xwordese from earlier this week!):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Earlobes_free_attached.jpg

fergus 2:58 PM  

Oops, I left in SANDBOX. And I'm a baseball fan. LAREDO and EL PASO sure made a mess of Texas. CATER-something caused some delay before sitting on the uncomfortable CHAIRCOVER.

SethG 3:16 PM  

If one were to read, say, the sports pages of the NY Times, for, say, the last 30 years, one would have encountered Fenway being described as "a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark" once. It may well be a perfectly common term, or phrase, but it's pretty easy to see how one can be a baseball fan and yet remain unfamiliar.

Now, they ship coupons to Del Rio, TX. Anyone who gets a local Sunday paper should know that.

Anonymous 3:25 PM  

An attached ear lobe is one that is attached to the neck all the way to its tip. A free ear lobe dangles free from the neck. Ear lobe structure (unattached/attached) is a dominate/recessive genetic trait like brown/blue eye color. You should have seen it in high school biology class.

tony macaroni 3:25 PM  

Like David L, the x = x + 1 clue threw me off because I was thinking about computer programming. It's such a common occurrence that in C, x++ is shorthand for x = x + 1. I was thinking more along the lines of iterative or incremental than unsolvable.

I didn't like seeing NAYS/NAE and TEASES/TEASEtS in the puzzle. Too repetitive.

quilter1 3:29 PM  

First answer in was RAMADAN and ALABAMA slid right in underneath. Last letter in was the r in ELROPO/DELRIO cross. I was surprised at how easily this fell.
My first thought was CHAIRCOVER but rejected it as not an amenity. I had the CH and waited for champagne to appear. Loved the clues for PERENOEL and TEASETS.
Dad played alto SAX.

Anonymous 4:06 PM  

@masked and anonymous - tea sets aid in preparing a "spot" of tea

Jim 4:55 PM  

SethG:

I love the New York Times, but I wouldn't consider myself a Red Sox 'fan' (as I am) if I only read what an out-of-town paper had to say about my team.

BANDBOX, esp. in the last 10 years, it seems to me, has been used by TV announcers and ESPN-types, to the point of cliche-dom.

aleph1=c? 5:07 PM  

I remember as a kid doing crossword puzzles whose words twisted and turned. 8A and 16A made me think of it. Clue: Month of fasting in Talladega. Answer: RALAMABADAMANA

CaseAce 5:47 PM  

Rex, old stick, you rate this Saturday offering as "Easy?"
As Senor Wences's little puppet use to say, back in the day on the Ed Sullivan Show, "Easy for you...deefeecult for me!"

dk 6:01 PM  

I am ridden with @two ponies on this one, and what CaseAce quoted.

Wanted some kind of fountain for 2D and when I got CHAIRCOVER my reaction was -- HUH. A further problem for the NW was paper instead of DEBIT.

*** (3 Stars)

dk 6:04 PM  

or perhaps i am ridding with deux cheval

Anonymous 6:10 PM  

This one was OK. SCHMIDT, RAMADAN, TREBEK (and ANSWERS) were gimmes--rabid Jeopardy fan. As was LIEV and EELGRASS. Got really stuck with 45 across. Had STOGIE for the longest. Also on 1 down. Kept SEVENTH AVE forever until I finally saw the light. All in all, fairly-well constructed.

By the way, Rex, that's a photo of Sade, not Enya.

PuzzleNut 6:15 PM  

Agree that this was much easier than Fridays. Still had one error, sANDBOX/PROsST. Never watched Survivor, so PROsST looks just as good to me as PROBST.
Had the O in DELRIO and was waiting to see if it was El Paso or Laredo. I kind of like A IS and liked its cross, HORSE OPERA. Actually, the whole NW was pretty good, although it was my last corner.
Had bTWO before UTWO and agree with the rant about that. Really looks ugly.

sanfranman59 6:32 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 6:03, 6:55, 0.87, 7%, Easy
Tue 11:40, 8:58, 1.30, 99%, Challenging
Wed 11:45, 11:44, 1.00, 57%, Medium
Thu 17:57, 18:59, 0.95, 45%, Medium
Fri 29:19, 26:16, 1.12, 74%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 30:59, 30:30, 1.02, 56%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:15, 3:41, 0.88, 4%, Easy
Tue 5:35, 4:36, 1.22, 96%, Challenging
Wed 5:57, 5:46, 1.03, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 8:13, 9:08, 0.90, 36%, Easy-Medium
Fri 15:03, 12:54, 1.17, 82%, Challenging
Sat 17:09, 17:22, 0.99, 49%, Medium

Beadola 7:44 PM  

Agree that Saturdays have been easier than Fridays lately - have been wondering about that. But, not this week. DNF

mac 7:54 PM  

@dk: you driving a deux chevaux? Or a deux poneys?

CaseAce 8:31 PM  

It's never a Sad Day when SADE, steps up to the mike and warbles a tune in her singularly sensuous style.
The lady is OSO fine!

andrea koh-la michaels 10:02 PM  

VERY pretty grid...

@tony macaroni
Yes, TEASES and TEASEtS looks disconcerting. Maybe TEASEtS are little flirts.

Never gave up ELPASO, never got ELROPO after the other 9/10th went so quickly. So, again DNF :(
(Or should I say, for me, UNSOLVABLE? FMU)

Sitting with non-puzzler Brother-in-Law, who was doing my Monday while I was tackling Saturday...
we were trading clues back and forth.
I asked what a small baseball field was and without looking up, he said "Is it 7 letters starting with B?" and I said, "Yes! how did you know that?!" and he smiled and went back to his puzzle.

(On the other hand, he insisted on Stogie)

HATE that UTWO thing...it gives me the UTmost WOe. UTWO, Brute?

Enjoyed seeing both TREBEK and PROBST, set up opposite each other.

Learned the word "Mononymous" today...and in blogworld, Anonymous is mononymous, right? Would Pixie and Dixie be considered mononymice?

nebraska doug 9:18 AM  

What a contrast. I found Friday's puzzle FAR easier than this puzzle. I managed to finish it before bed on Thursday night without a mistake, I was sure it would be rated easy. I didn't even get close on this one, only managed to get about 8 answers. Came back to it off and on all day Saturday, nothing would come to me, I finally gave up Sunday morning and came here to find it rated easy! Another case of sometimes you are on the same page as a constructor and sometimes you aren't?

dls 1:39 PM  

SW and NE were definitely easy for me, but NW and especially the SE were a real struggle.

NW: the top half went in fine, but lost a few minutes first because of PAPANOEL in place of PERENOEL, and second because I was hesitant to put in CHAIRCOVER (since, well, it's just not a satisfying answer to the clue).

SE: ended up with an error here (PROsST/sANDBOX). I had filled in UNSOLVABLE without any crosses, but when the rest of the SE wasn't filling in, I wondered whether this was a mistake; took it out, and from _AN____ thought "oh, SANDLOT!" but UNSOLVABLE had to go back in, of course, so SANDLOT switched to SANDBOX and the mistake was locked in.

Still took me too long to fill in the last letters in NAE/TILT/DELRIO/SCOPEITOUT (never heard of ELROPO, was reluctant to put in NAE with NAYS already in the puzzle, etc.) Basically, looks like I got stuck at all the problem areas!

Totally agree with the criticism of ALABAMA as an oddly non-specific answer to 16A. Would THEEARTH have been an acceptable 8-letter answer for that clue?

Andy 7:07 PM  

I think 60 minuti is 1 ore not 1 ora. So I think the creator of the puzzle got that salery cap wrong.

Waxy in Montreal 5:12 PM  

Serendipity strikes - saw Eric SCHMIDT on the tube yesterday so 1A was a gimme which made TREBEK, ANSWERS & SWEATSHOPS very easy, uh, ANSWERS too. Only real difficulty was entering INEQUALITY for x=x+1 and refusing to budge for far too long. And, oh yeah, never having heard of this dude PROBST (had PROUST for a while!), SKYBLUE & TEASETS took way too long to tease out.

Think this was the easiest Saturday puzzle in a long, long time but certainly enjoyed it. Thanks Mr. White.

Anonymous 9:22 PM  

I'd rate this as easy for a Saturday, and did it more quickly than yesterday. However, I was stumped by the cross between KOH and TAOS, and had to google the answer.

SCHMIDT was a gimme, so I got off to a fast start in the NW, which fell easily. Spent most of the time in the E and SE --- was working on some variation of GENE for "something handed down". Never heard of PROBST, but managed to put it together from the crosses.

A nicely done, accessible puzzle, but not the kind of blood-sweating experience I generally expect from a Saturday.

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