Milquetoast of old comics / FRI 2-18-11 / Bird in Sean O'Casey title / Unseen Mork & Mindy character / Common praenomen Roman emperors

Friday, February 18, 2011

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none


Word of the Day: PAYCOCK (5D: Bird in a Sean O'Casey title) —

Juno and the Paycock is a play by Sean O'Casey, and one of the most highly regarded and oft-performed plays in Ireland. It was first staged at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1924. It is set in the working class tenements of Dublin in the early 1920s, during the Irish Civil War period. // It is the second of his well known "Dublin Trilogy" - the other two being The Shadow of a Gunman (1923) and The Plough and the Stars (1926). [best I can tell, PAYCOCK is some kind of phonetic rendering of "peacock" (!?!)]

• • •

Status: IRRITATED (37A: Peevish). I'm used to Loving Patrick Berry puzzles, and I just didn't love this one. It's fine, but sub-Barry. Got annoyed at the uneven difficulty level, first of all. Super easy NW. Most of the rest was ordinary Friday-hard, but the NE, jeebus! Half my time was spent in that damn quadrant. OK, maybe not half, but at least a third. Couldn't see LEECHES off the LE-. Didn't know ISLA. Could never have guessed STET for 35A: Indicator of second thoughts. Could Never have guessed GRECO- for 20A: Roman leader? Thought the clue on INANE (16A: Like wearing socks on your hands) was just that (esp. after watching the latest "Glee," where leg warmers worn on the arms became a fashion fad). So many other adjectives fit that stupid clue. Thought PALAU instead of SAMOA at 9A: 2009 "Survivor" setting. No idea what an AEROSTAT is (13D: Balloon, e.g.). As for 12D: Like early life, I believe the term is "single-cell(ed)" — ONE-CELLED looks INANE. In short, the only answer I had in there was HALT, and I wasn't even sure about that (28A: Stop order?). I'd still be solving that damned quadrant if I hadn't just guessed NADER (18A: Four-time presidential candidate) and gotten the ball (finally) rolling.

I liked the SE best, with CASHES OUT being perhaps my favorite answer (31D: Quits gambling). I also like that HAVE A GO AT (14A: Attempt) looks like HAVE A GOAT (don't mind if I do!). Too much of this grid was simply dull. ASSIST, SNEERS AT, SENSE, ATTESTS, "ERES TU" (23D: 1974 Billboard hit with Spanish lyrics)—it all felt uninspired. Too many of the "?" clues fell flat. The very word "milquetoast" is annoying to me and despite knowing a thing or two about comics I'm utterly unfamiliar with the character of CASPAR Milquetoast from the 1924 (!?) comic strip "The Timid Soul" (24A: Milquetoast of old comics). I figured The Friendly Ghost was at issue. And then there's the matter of PAYCOCK, which I assumed was some kind of close relative of the gamecock. But no. Some Irish play I don't know. . . this puzzle just wasn't for me.

Bullets:
  • 19A: "Isn't that so?," to Rousseau ("N'EST-ÇE PAS?") — big fat gimme that opened the NW right up. From there, LENTO, ARTOO (21A: Sci-fi beeper), GHANA (1D: African soccer powerhouse popularly known as the Black Stars), etc. Then I dropped TESLA COIL (15D: Early radio transmitter). Then ... nothing.

  • 33A: 2008 greatest hits album that includes the song "Proud Mary" ("TINA") — first guess, but couldn't believe *that* would be the clue for an ordinary name like TINA.
  • 34A: Palindromic name high on the Forbes billionaires list (SOROS) — even with the Os, I couldn't see this. Kept wanting PEROT, despite his name's being utterly non-palindromic.
  • 53A: Unseen Mork & Mindy character (ORSON) — wow, it's been a looooong time since I've thought about "Mork calling ORSON, come in ORSON!"

  • 55A: Common praenomen among Roman emperors (GAIUS) — not sure where I pulled this name from, but it came pretty easily.
  • 30D: 1997 animated film set in Russia ("ANASTASIA") — I have only a dim memory of this movie's ever existing. Clue made it easy enough to get from crosses.
  • 33D: More than a quarter of native Filipinos, ethnically (TAGALOGS) — knew Tagalog was the language; had no idea it was an ethnicity :(
  • 50D: ___ Research Center (NASA lab in Silicon Valley) (AMES) — I must have heard of this place before, bec. I wanted AMES early on, but I honestly don't know how.
Put your OATER in the OSTER and your STOAT in an AEROSTAT, get an ASSIST from a FANTASIST ... yeah, I'm done.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

79 comments:

Darryl 12:09 AM  

I don't know how to say this politely, but it really is HAVE A GOAT. Goats are agile, wary, and really mean. Sure, they're cute after a fashion, but all attempts to 'have' them are just that, attempts. One invariably gets butted in the most, I guess, appropriate places.

Trust me on this.

Anonymous 12:09 AM  

Peevish is right. Sheesh. All those complaints wasted on Inoffensive clues, and no mention of the terrible-looking ARTOO? The INANE clue was the only one In the NW that seemed a bit sketchy.

Hmm, maybe I'm a bit IRRITATED today myself. After all, I didn't love this one either.

foodie 12:15 AM  

I really like this one! The mix of MORK & MINDY, Milquetoast, HAVE A GOAT (which start as HAVE A STAB), FANTASIST and many other clue/answer pairs made for a fun Friday, N'EST CE PAS?

At one point, I interviewed for a postdoc position at NASA AMES... in a lab that did stress research on astronauts. That helped in the SE.

I actually had an easy time in the NE but struggled with the ---POST until -HANA revealed itself and led me to the starting G.

All in all, a terrific Friday, IMO

retired_chemist 12:16 AM  

This was a fun solve. Pretty easy, but with enough trickiness to keep interest up.

Had PALAU first for Survivor 2009, but the crosses were not working out, so I tried SAMOA. Bingo! Had TAKE A STAB @ 14A, with similar results. Guessed the soccer powerhouse as GHANA, which made it HAVE A STAB. Crosses fixed STAB, then briefly wondered whether HAVE A GOAT was a Simpsonian expression related to HAVE A COW. Nope…. And then WRONG (a fine answer) turned out to be INANE (16A).

40A was FINGER, ruled out by ERES TU and TESLA COIL. STYLUS led me to SPORTSMAN. Later corrected.

Do. Not. Know. Where I knew TAGALOGS from, but I wrote it right in, scratching STAB @ 39A in the process. Gave me ORSON (53A) from O???N.

The NE was easy, in contrast to Rex’s experience. The SE was the hardest. Kept thinking that AMES was in Iowa (it is) so I didn’t trust it. Then remembered that NASA AMES was @ Moffett Field, and that I visited it once when I lived in the Bay Area, and all was well. Having ZERO for 51D and DULL for 52D did not help. A couple of crosses gave me 46D ASTRA, and once I fixed these 4 the rest of the quadrant fell smoothly.

Thanks, Mr. Berry. Nice one.

syndy 12:35 AM  

yup started with take a stab but liked HAVE A GOAT better!was sure (maybe hoped aerostat would be WOD now I have to look it up for myself!But then paycock stomped me too!took an hour but got my happy pencil and BARRY usually kicks my ass!

Ulrich 12:43 AM  

Well, I decided to have a go at this one right after I printed it, which I normally do not do with a Friday puzzle b/c it may prevent me from getting a good night's sleep. But I got off to a flying start in the NW and kept going. Like for @ret._chem., the SE was the hardest b/c I made the same initial mistakes. But still, I managed to get things done in one sitting, and with a success like this under my belt, I can't be peevish about little details...I mean, is there really a person like a fantasist?

Ulrich 12:54 AM  

...yes, there is. Google says the term is most often applied to guys who fantasize about the Porsche model they would like to own, but cannot afford--makes sense...

SethG 12:59 AM  

My 2008 April Fools Day blog entry was on goat-having. GRECO was I think my first answer.

Had blank SLATE, filled in HISPANIC instead of TAGALOGS and changed it to blank CHECK, eventually worked back to SLATE. I'm sure I've seen that weird name for first name before but it didn't ring a bell. CASPAR did, which I could have sworn I learned here but maybe it was a different puzzle.

Even I knew that French thing with no crosses.

Matthew G. 1:00 AM  

Set a Friday record today. Actually thought I was gooling to _shatter_ my best Friday time, as I absolutely rocketed through the NW, SW, and center. But then I got bogged down in the SE and NE and ended up only barely making it a personal best. The two biggest stumbling blocks were: (1) refusing to accept NEON TETRA as a thing -- now that I look it up, I remember what it is, but I forgot; and (2) having IRRITABLE instead of IRRITATED. The latter entry, which I didn't even question even as I struggled to cross it, slowed me down for an absolute eternity and wrecked my overall time.

But I loved the puzzle. I felt so plugged into this one despite my struggles at the end. Got off to a great start with GHANA and NEST CE PAS and felt like I was really on the puzzle's wavelength. And it's fun to have that feeling when it's a Berry themeless you're solving.

assante caspar michaels 1:31 AM  

@Sethg
NESTCEPAS was my first answer and I actually worried about you! Needlessly, I see :)

Mistakes for those playing compare and contrast: Palau, IRRITAble and with @Rex that I did not know TAGALOG was an ethnicity, as well as thinking they were talking about Caspar the Friendly Ghost, tho he's prob with an "e". I will add to that that I tried rheoSTAT and sIgnS for "Handmade things".

The D in NADER was my last entry, despite having voted for him at least 3 times! (I had MAkEHASTE, but couldn't remember any -AKER running for office.)

Doesn't ANARCHIST look like ANTICHRIST if you read it quickly?

Finished, but I had FIVE wrong squares, since I didn't notice I left tANmASIST/ SPORTStAr, with mUtE not TUNE!

That left me with those colorful roOtTETRA and AMoS (and Andy?) Research Center: those crazy slapstick Minstrel NASA guys down in Silicon Valley.
Oh @Foodie, if only you had taken that job!

This was anything but Scrabble-y, as there was not one JXQZ...tho there was a "Blank ___".

Since I initially had cursor not STYLUS, I managed to condense Armand ASSANTE's name into ArmANTE.
What ever happened to him? Did he become Joe Mantegna?

shrub5 1:44 AM  

Thought this puzzle a bit easier than yesterday's. Knew CASPAR Milquetoast because I remember a friend called a mutual friend's husband that [meow] and somehow it stuck with me. I had SAND at first for 'make less sharp' before it gradually morphed into TUNE.

ANARCHIST, FISTS, ASSIST, FANTASIST -- that's a lot of ISTs.

Another finger up for FINGER before STYLUS. Also had Blank STARE until it became SLATE.

With SAMOA and TAGALOGS (sic) in the grid, I started to see a mini-theme of Girl Scout cookies. Correct name for the latter is, of course, Tagalongs. Never mind.

Anonymous 2:02 AM  

Beautiful grid for 62 words. Even though it's a Berry and virtually goes without saying, it's worth mentioning that it is Smoove. Crazy smoove. No 3s is a rare treat. Elegant grid design. Suprisingly fun entries, considering the difficult of the grid: CASHES OUT, HAVE A GO AT, TESLA COIL, N'EST-CE PAS. A solid A!

Gil.I.Pollas 2:27 AM  

I stared at this for what seemed like 20 years and the only thing I could come up with was TATA and Venezuela's ISLA Margarita.
I think my British husband would rather eat dirt than say TATA.
We lived in Caracas in the early 50's. My parents seemed to always end up living in countries that fancied a Dictator.
Anyway, ISLA Margarita was a place my parents would always go to. My father would charter a yacht and go fishing. I'm not sure he ever caught anything but he was always whistling when he came back.
I only remember this because they left my brother and me with our maid Carmen. She had a voodoo doll that looked suspiciously like my mother.

Octavian 2:50 AM  

When I first scanned this puzzle, I could not get anything. I thought I was going to not just DNF but DNS (did not start).

But then I got TINA. Then TAGALOGS. Then GASH. Then GAIUS. Then SLATE. ... wow ... suddenly I was on a roll.

NW went down in a flash, like I was taking dictation, starting with GHANA and GOALPOST.

And after that, I was flying and actually finished in record Friday time despite having FINGER for too long in place of STYLUS. Had penciled in "POLOHORSE" for "SPORTSFAN," but once FANTASIST came together (wanted HEINLEIN, for his "Stranger in a Strange Land", the real game animal revealed himself and it was a wrap.

If you do a lot of Peter Gordon puzzles, answers like GRECO for "Roman Leader" come immediately to mind; ditto STET for "Second Thought Indicator."

Always love a Patrick Berry puzzle and this was the usual great effort. Nothing to sneer at.

jae 3:06 AM  

On the easy side for me and I too liked this one. Hand up for PALAU plus I started out with INANYCASE which made NW tricky to unravel (@joho -- I had a reright with OATER). I also went with SPORTSMAN at first but had to answer the question "WTF is a MANTISIST"? Other than those, no real problems.

DJG 3:35 AM  

This one is definitely an example of less-than-exciting fill to get a super low word count, which is fine once in a while.

I wouldn't like it if all the NYT themeless puzzles were like this, but the occasionally low-60s-worder is okay by me. It really is impressive constructing.

I skip M-W 4:52 AM  

Fine puzzle, I thought, themeless, no multiple letter entries, very few pop songs or sports stuff. Somehow ??? knew Ghana at once for Black Stars, as soon as I saw South Africa wouldn't fit. Struggled for a bit before seeing Paycock, very well-known play , though never seen it. Caspar Milquetoast also a gimme, except spelling. Just had seen a Daily Show satire on G. Beck that had him frightened of George Soros, so that went fast.
I used to keep neon tetras, live in Bay Area and know Ames researcher, so that was another gimme. But 4-time pres candidate went from Debbs, (I now recall his name is Debs) to Bryan to Nixon, although he only did it 3 times, before finally stumbling onto Nader, whom I've met several times, and voted for once. Also had Gallo before Greco. Tried weird for socks on hands. Also tried Orion before Orson; never saw Mork and Mindy.
I'm guessing that last fill, the t in stet and aerostat is because a (tethered) balloon can sit still (stationary) in the air.

Nancy in PA 7:31 AM  

Was congratulating myself on 22 min. w/ no Googles until I came here and discovered my mistakes. Didn't know ASSANTE and thought Ascante made sense...aren't lists just as handmade as FISTS?...and that made colas, which support TV shows, not viewers. Oh well.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 7:37 AM  

While I hear you that it lacks the Berry-ness of other puzzles, this one was a jaw dropper. 62 ties the record for lowest word count, and in order to make these "show off" puzzles work the fill invariably suffers. The fact that ONE CELLED is probably the shittiest entry in the grid says something about the tour de force construction.

I believe the ball is in Frank Longo's court to set the record, again.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 7:38 AM  

Whoops, counted wrong. Frank's 52 is still the undisputed winner. Damn coffee hasn't kicked in yet!

christelb_devlin 8:00 AM  

I loved this puzzle at first sight. I thought the layout of the grid was amazing. It was like five little puzzles.

Anonymous 8:00 AM  

Wasn't timing carefully as I usually don't finish Friday, but this baby went straight through without a burp in well under 10 minutes. Felt ike Thursday.

Rex Parker 8:47 AM  

Political screed unrelated to puzzle: Deleted.

I never noticed that this puzzle's word count was particularly low. Weird.

rp

Anonymous 8:52 AM  

Time for Rex to take a class in Irish Lit.

mmorgan 8:55 AM  

Fun puzzle for me, and a good challenge! I had some almost-but-not-quite errors that I just couldn't see were wrong and it took me forever to change them. For example, I had INANYCASE for ATANYRATE (17A) for a long time. Also had blank VERSE, blank STARE.... and finally blank SLATE (57A).

Unlike @Rex, the NE fell very quickly, and I found that the easiest part of the puzzle. The NW fell a bit more slowly, then the SW with some effort, and then I had a long, sloooow slog through the heartland and SE. For one thing, I was mis-remembering the inventor of 15D as TESLER, and had SPORTSmAN forever. Fixing those two (eventually!) took care of the rest pretty quickly.

Interesting (no value judgment) that @Rex is unfamiliar with Caspar Milquetoast -- beyond his life in the comics, his name became a pop culture synonym for a spineless wimp.

I never like ERES TU, but the S gave me the last letter of a 5-letter palindrome, which instantly meant SOROS.

Really liked OATER for "Gun show?" at 2D. Didn't love IRRITATED for "Peevish" at 37A. But overall, it was my kind of Friday. Thanks, Patrick!!

Samantha 9:08 AM  

Re: PAYCOCK, consider your mythology. Juno is the Roman form of Hera, and her favorite bird was ... yeah, the peacock. She put Argus' eyes on its tail after he died, and all that. It's sort of the phonetic spelling of how an Irishman would say the word "peacock". Pretty sure I've read something by O'Casey, but not this one ...

Weird puzzle, but I'm excited that I finished a Friday in under an hour, so I'll take it. :)

Glitch 9:16 AM  

For once, I agree with most (if not all) of the comments so far, AND Rex, where he wrote, "... this puzzle just wasn't for me" [Rex].

Enjoyable Friday in a Wednesday time for me.

.../Glitch

Jim 9:17 AM  

Got entire west and middle w/o much difficulty (given that it's Friday). Had -ble from IRRITAble, got LEECHES correctly, but had (WJ) bryan in the NE...and only SOFAS correct in the SE. Had STOle instead of STOAT, but it didn't much matter. I lacked the patience to see those quadrants through. Meh.

Really? Nader has run for president four times? Sheesh! Will always hate him for giving us eight years of Bush. He gets not nearly enough opprobrium for this feat.

Loved GAIUS (big Rome fan). Dislike ARTOO when it shows up (like BTEN)

Howard B 9:30 AM  

Well, it's a good sign for the puzzle when you can be really frustrated by it, have all kinds of trouble all over the place, and still look back and say, "Yep, that was a fun solve". This was a rocky road full of nasty, sharp pointy thingies causing a flat tire or two (PAYCOCK! LEECHES! CASPAR? Are you kidding?!?), and yet still felt fair and reasonable.

Oh, and GRECO was my entry into the grid as well.

mac 10:00 AM  

Liked the puzzle, and the whole top half fell very quickly. Had to work a little harder on the rest, but enjoyed the work.

Ghana and n'est ce pas were the first entries, the last area the SW. Don't know my Mork and Mindy. Started out with Titus, blank stare and for Proud Mary I couldn't get Credence, Clearwater Revival out of my head.

Is Mr. Berry talking about a weather balloon here? I knew 9A had to be Palau or Samoa, although I've never seen the show. Learned it from Crosswords.

I use legwarmers on my arms when I ride my bike in Holland during the winter months. Great invention!

jesser 10:02 AM  

PAYCOCK sounds like a Vegas hustler, not a bird. That quadrant was by far the toughest for me because of that bird, to which I give The Bird.

Otherwise, a fine solve. I loved NEON TETRA as clued. And TAGALOGS was easy for me, because I used to live among them, as well as the Visayans.

I'll be in Vegas next week, so I pray I'll have the good sense to be one of the ones who CASHES OUT before the odds take their inevitable toll. I'm a decent blackjack player, so I'm not overly concerned. But if you see no posts from me after Tuesday, that's why. And no, I won't be hiring any 5Ds. Not my style. But I'm not judging anyone. :-)

You can't be a fan of John Irving and have any trouble with 20A, which was my toehold into the NE. Otherwise I suspect I'd have had troubles there similar to what Rex experienced.

Thanks, Patrick. Thanks, Rex. Thanks, fellow solvers. And happy weekend to all!

Gusnerep! (she's ain'y gussied at all, and I guess I'll have to take care of that for her) -- jesser

Matthew G. 10:08 AM  

I'm puzzled by the objections to ARTOO. If this were an invented spelling for crosswords, it would be a problem, but Star Wars fans have been referring to R2-D2 as "Artoo" pretty much since the beginning. You even find that spelling in official Lucasfilm materials and Star Wars novels. It's the little guy's nickname.

David L 10:11 AM  

Very mixed solving experience -- NW and SE were Wednesday-easy, SW was from a Thursday, and NE was Friday-plus. Making the whole thing, um, Thursday and three-quarters, or something.

I had IRRITABLE at first, and still think it fits the clue better. IRRITATED = 'peeved,' n'est-ce pas?

I think this is a very well made puzzle, in terms of getting nice fill in all quadrants. ONECELLED is the only dodgy thing, to my mind. But some of the cluing is bit INANE, as others have remarked.

Lindsay 10:23 AM  

I'm out of step today, as I found this Challenging+, particularly in the NW. My sci-fi beeper was a robOt, while my dish contained SloP. Approached ???COCK (post-fixing robot) with trepidation as I was on the losing end of the hencock argument a while back.

Despite having been born in the '60s, I remember Mr. Milquestoast from comics pinned to the wall of our summer cottage (time does not move at summer cottages). Unfortunately, it never registered with me that he had a first name, and I posited that it might be CAesAR.

More trouble in the middle. Stylus for a touch screen? My finger is enough to squeeze money from an ATM.

Oh well. I did escape unscathed in the end.

CaseAce 10:25 AM  

Exactly, which Roman Emperor was truly the Gaius?

newspaperguy 10:25 AM  

I thought this was enjoyable and fairly easy for a Friday. Putting socks on one's hands is not inane if you have misplaced your mitts, which I did occasionally as a child growing up in Calgary, which can get very cold in winter.

CaseAce 10:37 AM  

20A and GRECO ROMAN wrestling reminded me of an old joke; "I went to a solo wrestling event last week just to see a washed-up shlub trying to get a grip on himself!"

Two Ponies 10:51 AM  

I enjoyed this one very much.
I fell for the sportsman trap for a bit. Having the _ck of the bird meant it was either a cock or a duck. I don't know the play.
Have a goat really cracked me up.
The shape of the grid struck me as quite whimsical. It looks like a wheel with four little feet walking to the right.
Thanks Patrick, as always.

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

HAVE A GO AT not HAVE A GOAT.

Jim 11:17 AM  

Had very little difficulty with this one, all in all an elegantly designed puzzle.
First 6 words I got were CASPAR, SOROS, STYLUS, ASSIST, PARRY and ERESTU so I had my own little grid going. Then the SW where I got TINA (a gimme) guessed at GASH which gave me TAGALOGS. I also thought it was just the language.
Hand up for STARE and CHECK for 57A.
Got NOON and OSTER ("The Osterizer push-button classic 8! (Give it a whirl!")) guessed FISTS and ASTRA and the SE fell easily. ASSANTE gave me IRRITATED which led to TESLACOIL, LEECHES and BACKSPACE.
Got 10,11 and 12D with just the last letters ("...a ONE-CELLED Hammond organism..." -Zappa, Excentrifugal Forz).
Actually struggled in the end with the NE. First had DROID for the beeper and thought of R2D2 and C3PO
(THREEPIO in the movies) before I got ARTOO. Put in TATA (bodacious!)
and stopped. After a minute of staring I read .......AT, leading to HAVEAGOAT (TOAT!) GHANA and ATANYRATE and the NE dropped like flies.
On a scale of MondayMorning to SaturdayNight, I give it a Wednesday,2:30 pip-emma.

nanpilla 11:23 AM  

Sir, may I take your hat and goat?

This was a solid medium for me. Looked at it for the longest time wondering where to start. GRECO was my first fill, too.

william e emba 11:31 AM  

I'm surprised that no one seems to have heard of CASPAR Milquetoast before this puzzle. He was the original!

I did not fall for the SPORTSmAN trap, since I was trying for some well-known word for "mascot" here, and failing.

I found the NE easy after I thought of BIDEN for 4-time presidential candidate and rejecting him (hah, he was only 2-time), then NADER popped into my head, then SINGE on the cross and everything followed immediately.

Off of ERESTU and the palindromic cluing, I knew S---S was SOROS instantly.

On a Google fight, ONE-CELLED slightly edged single-celled. They are synonyms. I don't see why the complaints even exist.

The ORSON I'd like to see is Orson Pig, from Jim Davis U.S. Acres.

The SE was the only difficulty I had, and even that was pretty routine. I think it's pretty funny that I now know certain state mottos, like Kansas', by instinct.

JaxInL.A. 11:31 AM  

I had a very good Friday time on this one, despite leaving the clock running while I ran out of the front door in my pajamas to intercept my departing husband to ask him not to take the car this morning.  And of course this morning of all mornings, the neighbor I never see was standing on her front porch and called out "howdy" as I held down my PJs over the bits that I didn't want flaunted.  And still I finished a Berry Friday in under an hour.  I'm pleased.

The grid was pretty to look at, and it fell right in my wheelhouse.  I have no idea how I remembered ORSON. It was fun to see the clip of the young Robin Williams.

Rex, you often make my morning with your choices for illustrations. The pic of leeches and the comic of CASPAR Milquetoast, the video of the Tesla Girls song, the above-mentioned Mork, all made me smile.  Thanks!

P.S. My cat's name is CASPAR and when I told him of the honor bestowed on him he interrupted his morning ablutions long enough send Mr. Berry a long meeeeow.  Funny cat. 

matt 11:36 AM  

Like others, it seems, I had a smooth time on this one until the NE. For me, the problem was not being able to see past my mistakes of IRRITAble, Bryan (turns out he only ran 3 times), and misspelling LEaCHES. Triple oops.

quilter1 11:52 AM  

This was a great puzzle IMO. It proved to me I should go with my first thought. Lots of times I will think the right answer but not put it in without supporting crosses. This time I went with it with no crosses and got a surprising number of right answers very quickly.
Solved from west to east. I had irritable first. Remember CASPAR Milquetoast as an insult not a cartoon.
@nanpilla: Ha! Good one.

Anonymous 12:37 PM  

hand up for sportsMan, alas! i never heard of Mantasist but i never thought to rethink the M in sportsMan. my only mistake. second best i ever did on a friday, having completed the crossword for the first time 2 weeks ago.
when i was a child my uncle sent me home with 5 neontetras and 1 japanese fighting fish. next morning there was only the fighting fish swimming. others were floating. so we named the menace dopey dick.

WBY 12:45 PM  

So, 'Juno and the PAYCOCK' is about an Irishman who brags too much, drinks too much and works too little? Way to fight the stereotyping there Sean!

PuzzleNut 12:56 PM  

Found the south pretty easy, the NW pretty tough, and the NE extremely tough. Tempted to throw in the towel a few times, but after trying SAMOA and SINGE, I was finally able to crack that corner, IRRITAble, notwithstanding.
skYlarK and LargO screwed me up for quite a while in the NW, along with inANYcAsE.
Got mANTASIST entirely from crosses, which turned out to be a bad thing. Frustrating that my one error was easily fixable.

Kerry 1:00 PM  

Ah, subjectivity. I found NE to be the easiest quadrant, or close to it. Immediately thought SINGE, which made NADER and GRECO obvious... made great haste through it, finished with a "huh?" on AEROSTAT.

treedweller 1:18 PM  

I was really proud of myself for remembering this was Friday and going for "outre", then really bummed that it turned out to be INANE. On the bright side, I apparently have learned at last that "Kansas motto" leads to ASTRA. My weak French got me "Ne c'est pa" for a bit but it was fixed easily. Was really sure PAYCOCK was going to prove wrong.

@Jim [I promise to keep my screed short] You give Nader too much credit. The Supreme Court gave us 4 of those years. Blaming the 3rd party for a "major party" loss is just sour grapes. Put up a platform I like and I'll vote for it.

I've often said I prefer to vote for who I want and lose than to vote for who I dislike slightly less than the other guy I really hate and win.

efrex 1:24 PM  

Agree with the previous comment about this feeling like 5 mini-puzzles. Also agree with Rex on the NE, which totally spat me out. Having IRRITABLE for IRRITATED didn't help, either.

Seeing Patrick Berry's name gave me courage to truck on for longer than I usually do on a Friday, and it was quite rewarding. Naticks on NEON TETRA/ ASSANTE/ASTRA, but the rest of the puzzle came together quite beautifully. 65% of a Friday puzzle is about where I'm at now, I guess... :/

Ayn 1:46 PM  

@ Jim and @ Tree Dweller – Look at the bright side. If it is true NADER gave us Bush. Trump says Bush gave us Obama. Ergo, Nader gave us Obama, so that should make both of you happy.

As for my take on this puzzle, there is SOROS, NADER and ANARCHIST. But on the other side we have ALAS with a “T” directly above the A, so ATLAS SHRUGGED….

Clark 1:50 PM  

CASPAR the ghost was the whimpy character that occurred to me. I know the word 'milquetoast', and the look of that other old cartoon character is familiar somehow, but I had no idea that that is where the word came from. I feel wiser now.

My GAIUS was spelled cAIUS (which is actually legit) -- TAGALOG, TAGALOc, let's call the whole thing off.

r.alphbunker 1:50 PM  

7D alga-->fOod-->SOAP
5D PeaCOCK-->PAYCOCK
27D mAybe-->PARRY
40A finger-->STYLUS
24A CASPeR-->CASPAR
18A Nixon-->NADER
35A orso-->STEw-->STET
37A IRRITAble-->IRRITATED

The NE did not open up until I got rid of IRRITAble and that took a long time, especially since I thought that a disorderly sort was some kind of slob.

This was a good workout and I appreciated it for that.

austinarborworks 1:55 PM  

@Ayn I'd be happier if a Green candidate had won.

Anonymous 2:52 PM  

I found this puzzle delightfully clever and difficult at the same time. How can you not like fresh entries like GOAL POST, HAVE A GO AT, AT ANY RATE, BACK SPACE, BILATERAL, ANASTASIA, CASHES OUT, MADE HASTE and ONE-CELLED? I'll take these any day over obscure trivia.
I stared at the blank squares for the longest of time and was unable to get anything going. Luckily I persevered got the NE corner completed and that gave me the confidence to go on. Next fell the SW corner.
The NW was next. I had SOUP instead of SOAP and TADA instead of TATA. So I could not see AT ANY RATE. But the rest was OK.
The SE corner was tough. Had SPORTSMAN instead of SPORTS FAN. Wanted MENTALIST in 49A ABOMINATE in 54A and ASTAIRE in 38D. So you can imagine the mish-mash I got into.
But I loved the puzzle overall and did it without any google help. Many difficult clues but a lot of them were in the end "gettable" even for a non-pro like me.

Stan 2:53 PM  

I wanted FABULIST for FANTASIST, a mistake that gave me the F for SPORTS FAN (instead of the unknown three-letter animal I was searching for).

Nice, in-the-language phrases, N'EST-CE PAS? A fun Friday.

Fanny Farmer 3:03 PM  

Milktoast is a simple old-fashioned dish that was commonly given to sick people.
It fell out of fashion around the time of that cartoon quite possibly because of the negative fallout from the character involved.

I skip M-W 3:08 PM  

@anonymous 12:37
Was it perhaps a Siamese fighting fish? Japanese don't always deserve stereotype of Asian fighter
@WBY O'Casey wrote way before JP Donleavey did The Ginger Man, or Brendan Behan did anything, so the drunken Irishman stereotype was hardly used up by him.

I skip M-W 3:10 PM  

@ Fanny Farmer
I was given that yucky treat twenty years later

sanfranman59 3:59 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Fri 20:39, 26:12, 0.79, 12%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Fri 10:14, 12:51, 0.80, 16%, Easy

My solving experience often coincides with Rex's (albeit at a much, much slower pace). But today, we were opposites. As always, I started in the NW, but in spite of getting several of the downs, I couldn't come up with the acrosses (part of the problem was that I had LargO for LENTO ... 5 letters for musically slow is almost always one or the other and I usually seem to guess wrong). The NE is where I found my first foothold and it went down quite easily. The NW was the last to fall for me.

Kendall 4:04 PM  

Destroyed the northern half of this puzzle, but the rest was just too much for me. I eventually got the SW with some struggling, especially since it took forever to get TAGALOGS and SLATE. To be honest, I've never heard of a Blank SLATE. I've heard of a fresh one, a clean one, and a new one. Never in my life have I heard anyone say that I needed a Blank SLATE to start out on though. Oh well.

I really liked TESLA COIL and got that just from the TA. Also liked BILATERAL and I think MADE HASTE and ANARCHIST were my favorites. The clues for the NE I thought were much more enjoyable than many of you for whatever reason.

On to Saturday, where I will undoubtedly have less luck than I did today.

joho 6:00 PM  

The puzzle was pretty easy for me until I got to the NW. Total HALT there. BTW, before HALT I had Hush and, yes, Hash as in the dish you'd get at a truck "stop." Oh my!

Too busy to address my problem so I Googled to get PAYCOCK and then zipped through that pesky corner.

HAVEAGOAT is my favorite answer either way you parse it.

Thanks, Patrick!

Doc John 7:31 PM  

Wow, I thought the NW was the toughest by far. But as Rex always says, one man's WTF is another's gimme.

Anonymous 7:34 PM  

Mr. Parker, you have to go see some plays. I remember when "Gypsy" snowed you. Now, when of the greatest Irish plays of all time, "Juno and the Paycock" leaves you guessing. You are much, much smarter than I, but this is a field where more knowledge would help you!

Anonymous 7:50 PM  

Teachers say that students minds are blank slates. That's mostly how I have heard that phrase in use. Or also more generally, young impressionable people have minds that are blank slates. Maybe in the Internet age some other metaphor would be more natural. Even though kids minds are crammed with Internet impressions, they are probably still as impressionable.

TimJim 8:10 PM  

Stared at this one for a long time but finally got going. NE the last to fall. Hand up for Irritable (which had be looking for some sort of SLOB for a disorderly sort) a more accurate answer IMO than Irritated. Tagalog and Orson a Natick for me ....

JenCT 8:52 PM  

Wow, this was hard for me, and like a few of you, I actually found the NE to be the easiest quadrant.

The middle of the puzzle gave me the hardest time.

DNF for me (practice makes perfect - at least that's what I keep telling myself.)

sanfranman59 10:01 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 6:53, 6:54, 1.00, 52%, Medium
Tue 7:28, 8:56, 0.84, 6%, Easy
Wed 13:28, 11:47, 1.14, 82%, Challenging
Thu 20:13, 19:07, 1.06, 70%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 20:55, 26:12, 0.80, 12%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:47, 3:41, 1.03, 62%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:02, 4:35, 0.88, 11%, Easy
Wed 6:34, 5:48, 1.13, 82%, Challenging
Thu 9:16, 9:12, 1.01, 63%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 9:48, 12:51, 0.76, 10%, Easy

michael 10:07 PM  

I got off to a bad start by writing in Bryan instead of Nader, but after that this must have been my fastest Friday ever. I had to look up neon tetra when I was done, though.

the chili mac 10:14 PM  

i just wanted to share that i thought the NE and SW were easiest... got those filled in off the bat. struggled most with NW which you thought was the easiest. i guess that is what makes these fun.

Tita 11:34 PM  

Another DNF!!!! I always feel triumphant when I breeze through one that REX deems Medium-Challenging, and just a tiny bit crestfallen when one I struggle with is deemed Medium or Easy!

My one consolation - HAVE A GOAT...

Reading through the comments, wondering how I possibly missed that answer - wah?? Don't remember it at all...

Oh - HAVE A GO AT...!
I much prefer the alternate parsing!!!!!

Thanks all for putting a smile on my face as I get ready to print Saturday...!

hazel 10:30 AM  

i did my master's thesis on foraminifera, a one-celled organism (the term was used interchangeably with single-celled). I don't get the fuss either.

Great puzzle.

cody.riggs 1:31 PM  

Normally I agree w Rex, but I have to say I loved this puzzle, especially after solving it and just looking at the grid. One great answer after another...just lovely. Except maybe HAVE A GOAT, which is hilarious.

I would have found this a challenging Saturday, just for the SE corner. The SE corner's clues were so far off my wavelength, I actually solved it one letter at a time, as if I was constructing it. Reason: I had inked in ASTAIRE at 38-D. Fortunately, the AS_A__E was correct.

Other answers of note: 12d [Like early life]. Had O_E_E__ED and almost wrote OPENENDED...thought, hmm that's a cool clue/answer.

Annoying write-over on the second A of CASPAR, since after _ASP_R I presumed it was the friendly ghost. I still thought it was the friendly ghost until coming to this blog (relieved that I didn't misremember the spelling of CASPER.)

I always forget how to spell "N'est ce pas" me: "NE CE EST PAS"? Lovely answer, however.

Again, fun, fun puzzle.

Anonymous 9:36 AM  

Normand Houle

N'est-ce pas (no cédille under the c) was of course a gimme for a frenchie. I have to say I had quite a few aha moments, even getting HAVEAGOAT from just the H from GHANA (married to an african lady thatwas a GIMME/her). Greco roman wrestling, art, etc, didn't seem too hard to find. I really loved the 4+ letters in all words style and have to say that I found it to be a good effort by PB. No idea on neontetra, though ... :)

Norm

Waxy in Montreal 1:41 PM  

From syndcity: great puzzle IMHO as it appears that all those who commented had problems with different sectors of it. For me, the entire west coast was Mondayish, especially the NW, the NE was problematic but doable but the SE led to a DNF (NEON TETRA, OSTER, wha?). But a really enjoyable DNF! Thanks, PB.

Dirigonzo 4:38 PM  

I think some of PB's cluing is almost diabolic. I like diabolic -it makes the "aha moments" that much more satisfying when the answers finally come into view.

Last letter in was a total guess, the "t" in STET/AEROSTAT. Despite the lucky guess I finished with one error because I mispelled FANTAcIST. Still had fun though, with a lot of muttering to myself along the way.

Anonymous 5:27 PM  

This was nice one. The SW fell immediately, and the NW soon thereafter. I had a little trouble with the SE, and the NE was a bear. I got GRECO for Roman leader? right away, and LEECHES as well, but after adding SINGE I was stuck for a long time. Finally, after much experimentation, got MADE HASTE and then the rest of the grid fell into place.

I liked SPORTSFAN for game animal? Of course I thought of DOG and CAT but neither made sense.

Medium for a Friday, but I agree with Rex that some of it was easy, and some of it more challenging.

rawcer 8:58 PM  

Gee, I thought "Soros" and "Greco" were the two big gimmes in the puzzle, along with n'est ce pas. Still couldn't get the NE till last though, because I kept trying to make some kind of "slob" out of 10 down, as I had irritable instead of irritated for 37 across.

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