Santa drawer / SAT 2-19-11 / Controversial color enhancer / Classic novel with biblical parallels / Picasso painting sleeping mistress

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Constructor: Tim Croce

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none


Word of the Day: Emma SAMMS (48D: "The Colbys" co-star) —

Emma Samms (born Emma E. W. Samuelson; 28 August 1960) is a British television actress best known for her role as Holly Sutton on the American daytime soap opera General Hospital and for replacing Pamela Sue Martin as Fallon Carrington Colby on the primetime soap opera Dynasty. (wikipedia)

• • •

This was good, but had way too much short stuff to be very interesting. Tons and tons of 4- and 5-letter answers, more (or so it felt) than your average Monday puzzle. I count 14 answers at 9+ letters and 56 (!) 3-, 4-, and 5-letter answers. No mid-range fill. That's weird. Grid is also weird, with a ton of black squares (again, about as many as one might expect to see on a Monday). Not a lot of fun in going into one of these 4x4 nooks. The one in the SW was the toughest for me, and was not, in the end, very tough. I solved this faster than I did yesterday's, which I did in pretty good time. First thing in the grid was JAZZ (11A: What makes cats happy), and from there proceeded to wipe out most of the grid without much resistance. There were so many blind alleys, I kept expecting to get caught short in one of them (esp. the center), but that just didn't happen. Not a bad experience, but not a memorable one either. I'm thrilled to take a Saturday down in under 8 minutes, but somehow doing so today didn't feel like such a big accomplishment.

All the 4s and 5s gave me ample opportunity to slice into those longer answers, and they all went down without a peep. Up top, after getting EAST OF EDEN (20A: Classic novel with biblical parallels) out of the NE, I dropped ODEA, RDAS, and NAST (9D: Santa drawer) in order, which gave me HAD A BAD DAY (15A: Needed to relax and unwind, say), and the whole NW fell from there. Tried LEMON tart at first, but then a fat gimme just fell in my lap at 24D: "Wannabe" hitmakers (SPICE GIRLS), and LEMON became PECAN (35A: Kind of tart) and center went poof. GO WIRELESS (nice answer) was probably the toughest for me to pick up because I solved it from the back end and it looked like an adjective (ending in -LESS) despite the clue's clearly calling for a verb phrase (43A: Eliminate lines of communication?). From SPICE GIRLS, OMAR (54D: Baseball's Minaya), and MMES, I was able to take out the entire SE in about 30 seconds—the easiest Saturday quadrant I've ever solved, probably. Hardest section for me was that pesky 4x4 bit in the SW. Nothing in clue for N.F.L. UNIFORM to signal abbrev., so N.F.L was hard to see (50A: Wear for some guards), but EXES and FLAX were virtual gimmes, and with the exception of an APSE-for-NAVE hiccup (50D: Mass gathering place), that last section wasn't that hard, in the end.


Got interviewed by local NPR station today for some future segment on crosswords. Interviewer had me solve a puzzle in studio, commenting as I solved — the only puzzle she had handy was the Newsday puzzle, which I normally don't do. But I dove in and really enjoyed it. Turned out it was written by my friend, all-star constructor Doug Peterson. So happy to have a decent puzzle to talk my way through.

Bullets:
  • 19A: "Wielding ___ Sword" (Piers Anthony novel) ("A RED") — I think I read some of his stuff when I was an adolescent. Never heard of this title, but phrase was very easy to pick up from crosses.
  • 31A: Language with 44 consonants (THAI) — this clue may as well have said, simply, [Language], though that is an interesting bit of trivia.
  • 58A: Controversial color enhancer (ALAR) — had SLUR here at first, figuring a SLUR would be controversial and (euphemistically) colorful, language-wise.
  • 11D: "Death in the Desert" writer, 1930 (JAMES AGEE) — got the JAMES easily, then just guessed the AGEE part a bit later. Never heard of this work.
  • 55D: "Le ___," Picasso painting of his sleeping mistress ("RÊVE") — thought it might be "Le DORA" or "Le MAAR," but the masculine "Le" was wrong and anyway the very idea is preposterous. Blew through that corner so fast I never even had to figure it all out. Crosses just took care of it.
  • 28D: Hissy-prone missy (DIVA) — wanted SNIT, but figured that was gender-neutral. Then wanted some kind of cat ... got DIVA from crosses.

[Why God invented Youtube]

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

80 comments:

SethG 12:30 AM  

JAZZ area down to SPICE GIRLS was done in less than 2 minutes--every first thought I had was right. Continuing around and the bottom was 6 more. And the NW corner, everything above EAST OF EDEN, took another 16.

Couldn't decide between AMMAN and MECCA. Between ODEA and STOA, which I thought could maybe be plural. Couldn't see RDAs, forgot NAST (SERT?). Didn't know anything else. Basically, that corner wasn't easy, and it made the overall difficulty feel really uneven.

syndy 12:30 AM  

Hand up for lemon tart! I wanted Willa Cather for Death in the Desert'but no contraction would fit.SW was HARD started with SPLIT peas to SPLIT ends ,briefly had Camp for 50 down but my final letter was middle of 60 D where the change from BAS to BSS got me a smiling pencil

jae 1:36 AM  

Easy-medium for me, mostly because I had a ton of missteps in the top half ... REAM, SSS, REGS, TIME for ZONE, and me too for LEMON. I liked it overall but the south was a tad to easy.

chefwen 1:40 AM  

Just the opposite of Rex, I thought this puzzle was more difficult than Fridays, which I flew through in record time, for me. Just finishing a Friday and Saturday is a major feather in my cap. Part time puzzle husband filled in a couple of holes and I did have to Google Baseball's Minaya, never heard of him. Kept trying to squish Spain into 18A but it just wouldn't fit, finally got it MANO, Doh!

I have really enjoyed this weeks puzzles, thank you all you wonderful constructors, and thank you Rex for the great write ups.

aerie cairo michaels 2:19 AM  

wow, i couldn't even start. i had Am/tOI and that was IT other than the incorrect 1A waterproof and SRAS where MMES would be.

So Sad! 7 Googles later I was done
(Colby co-star, Minaya, Death in the Desert, JAMESAGEE, BRETT and the SPICEGIRLS, "Billy the Exterminator" and double-checked CAIRO.

Hardest puzzle for me ever :(
No idea why I'm writing in.
HADABADDAY
(which sort of looks like YABBADABBADO sideways, sort of.

Had lots of fun trying to think of reunion questions! "Were you in my class?" "Didn't you used to be a man?" "why did you read my love letter to the rest of the football team?"

Clark 2:20 AM  

My tart started out apple. SW corner was the hard part. Put in Acid for 'controversial color enhancer'. That got me NAVE, then NFL UNIFORM. Dropped the Acid, got LANE and FLAX. Funny how the 3/4 wrong Acid broke open the corner for me. This was a fun puzzle.

Shamus 3:43 AM  

Rex - Sometimes I wonder where you are coming from. This was a solid Saturday puzzle.

I skip M-W 4:53 AM  

DNF because of NW. Had broom as tidying tool, same for old, had Nast right but also page for paper unit, so got nowhere. had ___openers but didn't see eye. An eye opener isn't usually a surprise, particularly, is it? All the rest fell into place but only slowly. Had moral code for a while, had cater, replaced it with marry, then back to cater. Just not very alert tonight, as ACM says, had a bad day. perhaps should have waited till morning, but like to do puzzles the night before.

btw, have finished my novel. any literary agents out there?

DJG 5:02 AM  

Also found this one really easy, except I made a stupid mistake putting in OCEANBOUND instead of OCEANBORNE. It wasn't so stupid until I convinced myself that "dye opener" is some sort of old-timey phrase meaning surprise.

Anyway, solid puzzle overall. I enjoyed it.

imsdave 7:10 AM  

I think this would have been an easy for me if I had not convinced myself that our anthem started OSAY and I kept trying music stuff in that slot. First pass gave me CAIRO and ala jae, SSS, REAM, and REGS. Totally obscured that section for a long time. The rest of the puzzle flew by, so the overall experience was like SethG's.

Anyone else go all classical and try ARES instead of A RED?

christelb_devlin 7:26 AM  

This took me about 35 minutes to do. It wasn't easy, and like @word of the day michaels I had to Google few things in order to finish - CAIRO, OMAR, BRETT.

Misreading paper quantity as paper quality did not help.

Come to think of it, of course I would have a hard time with this puzzle! I'm a 4th generation NY Yankees fan. This puzzle had both George Brett and a Mets GM in it.

Satisfying nonetheless.

Gerard 8:08 AM  

I did not think this puzzle was easy. Except for a couple of clues, it took me 10 minutes or so just to start getting the gist of the clues. I also stuck with REAM way too long. Once I got into thegroove, I thought the clues were very challenging and satisfying.

But wait -- what's all this about googling? Is that allowed? I don't event let anyone look at my puzzle until it's done. For me googling would ruin it. Who cares, really, just wondering what the poractice is among this erudite group.

Great clip of Aretha. I donlt know why she is so commonly referred to as a dvia. She seem like a nice Southern girl except with a voice like an army of angels.

Smitty 8:41 AM  

@Andrea, I'm with you.

I know it's Challenging when I google a word and one of the first to appear on the list is Rex Parker's answer to today's puzzle.

I was so proud of myself for inserting RIND for "Fresh". Turns out even that was the wrong answer.

mitchs 8:52 AM  

Weird. This was my fastest Saturday by a long shot, I think. I'm with SethG in that first guesses always seemed correct. Got it in Wednesday time.

mmorgan 8:59 AM  

What @Andrea said.

HAD A BAD DAY with this one. (My first attempt at the reunion question was WHO WERE YOU.)

Didn't Google, but got through by Revealing Incorrect Letters. (Lots of 'em.)

Glimmerglass 9:26 AM  

Interesting contrast between Rex (and commenters who found it easy) and the rest of us. I agree with chefwen, shamus, et al who found it hard. I got it all right, but it took me two hours (that's a "challenging" time for me), longer than Friday's this week. It took me forever to see PREF for window/aisle. The F gave me IT FIGURES, the U of which gave me NFL UNIFORM, both of which I hadn't seen. The SE was hard for me, mostly because I had "stair" and then "strip" for "takeoff point," and didn't immediately remember SAMMS and BRETT without some crosses.
The Google question comes up every so often. I don't Google until I'm done. (Today I had ALAR from crosses, but thought it was an insecticide until I Googled it afterwards.) There will be comments on both sides.

Jim 9:45 AM  

Went thru the across clues with an "uh-oh" feeling...wasn't picking up anything until I got to EXES which gave me FLAX and I was underway.
Moved into the SE and hand up for SRAS and BAS, but got ___SS___ for 64A and figured it for a kind of TEST. SPICEGIRLS also a gimme which pointed to STRESSTEST, FEET, LEAVESTIME, BRETT and BASS (the only kind I drink if I can help it). SE complete!
Actually had PEACH for the tart leading to PENAL, SPACECADET (hand up) ;), erased OMNI and put in EVER. Always seem to have trouble with "use" in answers (INUSE).
Had ___ESAGEE, my own first name didn't sound familiar.
I equate drafting more with NASCAR than any other sport even tho all major sports hold drafts these days. Quickly filled in CAIRO, RDAS, EYEOPENERS and FCC and with _S_OF__ got EASTOFEDEN. Had NASH until then but it never looked right. HADABADDAY fell in and the NE filled in easily. Also had ARES for a bit before kicking myself for not seeing AANDE, another "TOAT" answer.
Couldn't get my head off _CORDLESS even tho I had the E from SPICEGIRLS. The midwest was last to go for me.
Thursday noon rating on a scale from MondayMorning-SaturdayNight.

IMHO 9:47 AM  

@Gerard

HTG (Had To Google) is generally a sign of defeat (or at least that the puzzle won).

As is using "reveals" in the computer version.

But the main "rule" is there are no rules, each (should) set their own standards.

P>G>

nanpilla 9:49 AM  

Definitely a challenging here, too. Funny how this one seems to have two personalities. In retrospect, nothing seems that difficult, but I found it very hard to get started. Once I got a foothold, the rest of the puzzle fell in fits and starts. I finished it in 38 minutes, but it felt like much longer!

Matthew G. 9:49 AM  

This was actually my worst Saturday time in a couple of months, so I was very surprised at Rex's rating. I did start off with a bang — EAST OF EDEN is my favorite American novel, so I threw it down with no crosses. But those common letters didn't help with much, and I struggled with pretty much all of the grid. The only exception was the SE, which was definitely easy -- early 80s AL hotshot has to be Mr. Pine Tar himself, George BRETT, and that gave me LEAVES TIME, and so the rest of that area fell quickly.

Tons of wrong guesses tripped me up today. CASH instead of TENS, OMNI instead of EVER, FORA instead of ODEA, just to name a few.

But the real devil was the NW. For the longest time my only entries up there were EAST OF EDEN and A RED. I was stunned to see an obscure Piers Anthony novel in the NYT puzzle, even on a Saturday. Like Rex, I read some of his stuff when I was in my teens, but later realized what gobbledygook his books are. Never thought he had enough mainstream resonance to make the puzzle. But it got me a toehold where I had none, so for that I'm grateful.

I can see how this might have been easy if JAZZ clicked early. But for me, no.

joho 9:50 AM  

This was a walk in the park compared to my struggle yesterday in the NW.

I had a similar experience to @Rex and @SethG with my first answers being the right ones starting with JAZZ, ZONE, ATAD, ZION, EASTOFEDEN, JAMESAGEE and quickly on from there. I don't time myself but this had to be my fastest Saturday ever.

It's interesting how opposite our solving experiences were today.

Lindsay 9:53 AM  

Breezed (by my leisurely standards)through today's offering without any hiccups. The utter absence of pop culture undoubtedly helped. I mean, even I've heard of the SPICE GIRLS.

twangster 9:54 AM  

I got most of it relatively easily but thought I might get stuck on the top left. I tried a lot of possible answers, most of which conflicted and were wrong.

The best was MALAR for key starter. Also had BROOM, ERST, REQS and toyed with STRESSEDDRY.

Eventually I whited out the whole thing, got OHSAY and figured it out.

foodie 10:05 AM  

Given the contrasting opinions today, I thought it was time to post my Quick & Dirty Index (QDI) for guesstimating the difficulty of the puzzle based on early returns. So, if you click on my avatar and got to "Food for Neurons" under blogs, you will see it. Lots of caveats, and it's subject to tweaking, but I thought it would be fun to share it.

I totally rely on SanFranMan for the REAL answer. And I want to thank him not for the amazing work he does. In playing with this QDI, I have dropped the ball on so many days, I marvel at his consistency.

Any feedback, criticisms, helpful suggestions for tweaking of the QDI are cheerfully accepted.

PS. QDI says today that it is EASY/MEDIUM. We shall see what The MAN says!

foodie 10:08 AM  

PS. I think that all these measures capture the performance of the people who do best, but do not speak to the possibility that a subset of people found the puzzle particularly difficult. Some puzzles can be quite binary-- easy on some and hard on others and it's hard to capture that fully without more complex stat. SanFranMan, by looking at the top 100 versus all solvers does it to some extent, I think.

Rex Parker 10:09 AM  

Solving time variations are interesting. I can see how this could have been hard had just a couple of my initial guesses not gone the right way (esp. in the NW—knowing NAST really helped, though I, like SethG, first thought SERT!). Nothing in the grid is particularly obscure, so it's all about one's ability to find the cluing wavelength. Hence (perhaps) the widely divergent solving experiences.

rp

Howard B 10:18 AM  

Actually found this pretty tough - A RED was nasty as there was nothing to give it away - last 3 letters from crossings. REVE, same thing; I have little knowledge of French, unfortunately. The difficulty of this puzzle really depends on matching the constructor's "wavelength" - here, how many of the clues and answers fall squarely within one's frame of knowledge. This puzzle definitely cut across the grain for me making for a rough go, but I can see that others will find it a much smoother ride.

Very interesting, different design. I liked the change of pace.

David L 10:30 AM  

Wow, not easy for me -- total failure on the western half. Couldn't get into the NW at all, despite getting EYEOPENERS and AANDE. I had FLAX and EXES and ___UNIFORM, also GOWIRELESS and ANEW, but that was it.

Once I came here and saw the answers, it all made sense, but none of the long phrases jumped into my head. Just not on my wavelength at all.

Although, now I think about, what is NFLUNIFORM? The teams have uniforms, sure, but the NFL? That possibility entered my mind and I dismissed because I couldn't make sense of it.

Matthew G. 10:47 AM  

@Rex: Yeah, I was rubbing my temples hard trying to remember NAST. I knew exactly what the clue was going for, and I just couldn't summon up the guys name.

@foodie: I had the same thought. I'm more eager than usual for sanfranman's report today.

Anonymous 10:49 AM  

I suppose having gotten in on the ground floor with Apple stock might SIGNAL one's future financial EASE. Or maybe a piece of yesterday's GOAT is still stuck in my craw.

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

Rex, thanks Aretha clip! She could sing row, row, row your boat and I'd get chills.

dk 11:16 AM  

As a solver of a certain age NAST and JAZZ came easy.

I avoid the reunion questions by not going.

Although I did show up at my five year on a motorcycle (Triumph Trophy I think), with an assignment in hand to shoot the Nevelson exhibit at the Everson. This was a lame attempt to show the girl that dumped me (Hi Sue) that I turned out to be really cool. I was dumped because I did not wear wire rim glasses (I looked more like the Devo guys with horn rimmed glasses and tab collar white shirts). Sad to say she was not there as she was skiing in the Alps and most of my classmates had no idea who Nevelson was and thought that living in NYC was gross. Heavy sigh. It is much like today when I tell people the only blog I know is this one.

You think after 60 years the cool kids would let me sit at their lunch table.... My life in the Slam Book by dk.

I thought this puzzle was fun for a Saturday maybe because it is somewhere on the Q continuum of easy to hard.

I was listening to Had a Real Bad Day by Taj Mahl yesterday so 15A was a gimmie as well.

*** (3 Stars)

Anonymous 11:23 AM  

Why not clue ASSY as "Like J-Lo"? Once bootilicous doesn't fit, you're home free.

Ruth 11:30 AM  

Awww, dk--where YOU sit defines the "cool kids' table." Really.

Not usually into listing my captcha but it's exobleb--that's gotta be something anatomic in molluscs!!

Ruth 11:30 AM  

Awww, dk--where YOU sit defines the "cool kids' table." Really.

Not usually into listing my captcha but it's exobleb--that's gotta be something anatomic in molluscs!!

JaxInL.A. 11:33 AM  

Count me among the strugglers on this one. Took ages to get anything at all, and even when I got JAZZ, ZONE and ZION, the rest of that corner still eluded me. Didn't know the JAMES AGEE novel, never read EAST OF EDEN but I do remember the movie and it's famous sex on the beach scene.

I loved the cross of SPACECADETS and SPICEGIRLS. Thought there might be a theme there for a moment.  In the end, though, even Google could not save me.  Had to come here for the NW. I refused to put in CASE for paper quantity when I already had CASES for Spade work.  I thought that was a rule of some sort.

This puzzle was not on my wavelength, and had too many common letters and too few mid-length words to give me a toehold.  Definitely not enough Scrabble letters. 

Think I'll check out the L.A. Times and see if I can have a bit of fun.

jberg 11:57 AM  

Is there really such a thing as a pecan tart? I was so convinced that tarts had to be fruit that - since PEACH didn't work - I stuck with LEMON, and discovered (cheating with Google) that there really is a parody group called the SLICE GIRLS -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWbrUH8eAuk. But then I was stuck for 26 and 27 down, and had to come here to see my error.

quilter1 12:01 PM  

Harder for me than for some and easier for me than for some so I guess it was medium for me. It felt good to say Hey, I'm done! Then saw I didn't have the p in PREF. Dang.
Re: Googling. I try not to look anything up unless I'm confirming a spelling, but most sports answers do not give me a qualm about looking up if the crosses don't do it. It isn't a moral or ethical issue after all--its a game.

Anoa Bob 12:19 PM  

Rex, hope you can post a link to your NPR interview when it airs.

syndy 1:11 PM  

On a friday or saturday if all else fails I allow myself 3 googles in cases of sports figures, geographical unknowns and pop culture names.It constitutes only a minor failure! The check feature is evil incarnate!!

christelb_devlin 1:26 PM  

Re Googling - I allow myself to do it only on Fridays and Saturdays, and I then categorize it as 'research'. If I use Google to get answers, that means I may have finished, but with an asterisk next to my name, stats, and reputation.

I do the puzzle on an iPad, which doesn't have the check answer feature.

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

I didn't think Brett would be a name since the clue was all abbreviations.

Anonymous 1:42 PM  

For foodie, I like your stats, but am wondering what you get by combining the 4 stats into one index. Is the agreement rate better than each of the 4?

Gil.I.Pollas 1:50 PM  

Well, I'll try this again.
I started this puzzle last night and the only thing I had was isla for 18A MANO.
Finished this morning but had to google a lot.
What I liked the most about this puzzle was Rex's clip of Aretha and @Aerie Caro Michaels comments on her reunion questions. I'm still laughing.

Kerry 2:09 PM  

Jeez, I stared at this one for 30 minutes... not a gimme in sight. Finally OHSAY, OCEAN and YORE revealed themselves and I started plugging in answers -- then it was about Easy-Medium.

But man... what a long ramp-up period. Nothing obvious for me today.

Alan 2:24 PM  

Like the lovable @aerie, I never could take flight. Finally reaching the SW, I resorted to google and was again Thai-ed up by discovering 44 consonants in that language, 11 more than the other 4 letter candidates, Pali, Puxi and Erse.

Doc John 2:39 PM  

Thanks for the Aretha clip, Rex.

fergus 2:46 PM  

In slight opposition to Rex, I really like the 4X5 boxes, with Saturday Cluing. With all the possibilities it really makes one cross a bunch of words.

Biggest sticking point was 38A, for which I had INURE employing Not free as a verb. Plausible, plus CARES could be some gardening Spade work?
(Went with CASES, though.)

Anonymous 2:49 PM  

What farmer puts unshucked ears in a bushel? Also, too few policemen are given stress tests (witness all the overly quick trigger fingers) for this to be a credible clue. Otherwise, a reasonably challenging puzzle.

Masked and Anonymous 3:27 PM  

Puz put up a fight at my house. Not a pretty sight. Debris scattered everywhere.

Similar MIS-starts to IMS-Dave. But I wanted SSA. Hey! Old IMS term, ain't it? Can't quite remember what it stands for. Think the A was for Argument.

Better puz, Croce dude. No Bestial Boy this time. Thumbs up, for that alone.

PuzzleNut 3:30 PM  

I'm with @Kerry on this one. Took forever to get a toehold anywhere, but it finally came together. Figured that since I was able to finish, Rex would undoubtedly rate it Easy. No surprise when I saw his comments.
My first dozen or so answers were written in lightly as I couldn't confirm any of them. EndS for EXES and omni for EVER were typical of my solve. BRYCE didn't fit for the Utah canyon. Thought immediately of OSAY for 1D, but that didn't fit either. In fact, this puzzle may have set a record for wrong answers, which makes my ultimate victory that much more pleasing.
Lot of outstanding clues and nothing in the finished puzzle that I wasn't confident was right. That is saying a lot, IMO.

Sparky 3:33 PM  

Managed about a third today. Prefer not to Google but tried it today and Rex came up several times as first or second choice. Hmmmm. Might just as well go to the blog.

@jberg. Pecan tart seems to be a favorite of NYT puzzle. Last thing I think of when at the bakery. @dk. Awww, me too. That's why I'm afraid to go to ACPT.

New World Symphony tomorrow. Will see the new Gherey building and hear fine music. Have a super Sunday everyone.

jgovern 3:42 PM  

To have Rex rate the difficulty of a puzzle (to me) is like having Tiger Woods rank a golf course.So there!

mac 3:55 PM  

This one was medium-challenging for me, much, much harder than yesterday's. Looking back at it I don't know why. Just not my wavelenght.

I'm slinking to the LAT for a little ego boost, hopefully.

Anonymous 4:10 PM  

Nothing easy about this puzzle. While I enjoy very much Rex analysis I often find Rex ratings difficult to accept.
I'm with @jgovern who said: "To have Rex rate the difficulty of a puzzle (to me) is like having Tiger Woods rank a golf course."
I got the small NE corner OK but the rest was very difficult. Had STRESS TEST, SLEET, ODEA and CAIRO and EAST OF EDEN and a few others but not enough to make much headway. That's when I started to GOOGLE.
Eventually I was able to get most of the puzzle but not all of it.
No idea why SPACE CADET is a flake.
But liked many of the words entries (HAD A BAD DAY, SIGN A LEASE, GO WIRELESS).
The absence of pop culture entries is always welcome by me.

Clark 4:28 PM  

@jgovern and @anon4:10 -- I figure that Rex's blog is the Augusta National of crossworld. I am grateful for being allowed to play here.

@foodie -- Thank you for the tour of your elegant and elaborate tree house. Or is it more like visiting the laboratory of a slightly mad but delightful inventor. Either way.

XWDer 4:38 PM  

Question to Rex: How does one create a themeless puzzle with twelve 10-letter words, two 9-letter crossings, and not have multiple 3- and 4- letter words? (From a grid construction perspective).

Rex Parker 5:07 PM  

The question is really one of balance — here, between long answers (high potential to be interesting) and short ones (less such potential). In this puzzle, the divide is dramatic and lop-sided, whereas in this puzzle, it is not. I picked this grid at random. Most Fri/Sat grids have a better balance of short and long than this one does.

RP

r.alphbunker 5:14 PM  

25D morse-->PENAL
41A ushER-->CATER
29D omni-->EVER
56D sraS-->MMES
47D oharE-->AERIE
55D goya-->REVE
31A urdu-->THAI
40A seat-->PREF
7D stoA-->ODEA
5D sss-->NBA
2D mecca-->CAIRO
22A serE-->YORE
6D ream-->BALE
50A copUNIFORM-->NfLUNIFORM
58A phAR-->ALAR
50D apsE-->NAVE
61A tide-->VANE

URDU seems to almost always work when I need a 4 letter language name but not today.

Typical Saturday for me.

M & A 5:23 PM  

@foodie: Sweet QDI formula. Only (real dumb) thing I can chip in is that you might add 1 to the stuff in the denominator. Then you don't have to divide by zero, if no one can do the puz in 15 minutes. Could happen, if all the real smart solvers are on vacation, I guess. Or if the online solving machinery swallows a loaf?

michael 5:42 PM  

Neither easy nor hard for me. A typical Saturday, except that I got it all. (Usually I have at least one mistake.) I was baffled until going to google after I finished by "signalease", which I was reading as one word. If I had understood this (which held me up a while), I'd probably think this was on the easy side.

Two Ponies 5:51 PM  

This took forEVER to get started. The southern hemisphere came first with the NE falling last.
Nowhere near easy for me.
I have no idea what The Colbys is/was. Samms? Who?
I also was sidetracked thinking the terminal S for the beer was a possessive like in Dad's root beer.
Stress test for policemen? Too bad they don't seem to do that here in Vegas. It's the only place I have ever lived where I fear the cops more than the criminals.

quilter1 6:09 PM  

All of these lemon, apple, pecan tarts makes me want dessert.

JenCT 6:15 PM  

@David L: I guess that NFLUNIFORM was used because not all sports have guards (like football does); therefore, using "team" for a clue wouldn't be correct.

This was hard for me - I have to laugh at Rex's under 8 minutes; it took me over an hour. Such is life.

Personally, I don't Google at all, until I've either finished or quit altogether.

Just could not see JAZZ; was thinking of the furry kind of cats.

fergus 6:16 PM  

Typical pleasures on Saturday. Pondered each and every one of these, along with a few more, yet my cautious pen only fell victim to SRAS and APSE.

(inerst -- n. (1) lazy feeling of half engagement. (2) bygone APR on ARM)

JaxInL.A. 6:46 PM  

Well, I feel much better now that I have heard a bit of Dvorak and Bernstein at an L.A. Phil children's concert, and defeated both the LAT and WashPost/CrossSynergy puzzles. Whew. There's a REX in the latter as well, clued as "Good name for a demolition derby driver." I like it.

On to Sunday.

Stan 7:09 PM  

Sadly, I wanted a prune tart.

Glitch 8:37 PM  

Since Sanfranman doesn't post on weekends, QDI correlation will have to wait.

And on a similar issue, one doesn't have to agree with Rex's rating any more than he with yours.

Everything is relative.

.../Glitch

foodie 9:23 PM  

Re the QDI

Thanks to all of you who commented on it. I really appreciate the input!

@Anonymous 1:42- I came to it through an iterative process. I started off looking at the 10 minutes cut off-- How many people had finished? I found that I missed some key information for Monday and Tuesday, where the number of early solvers is most telling. But if I used 5 minutes as my criterion, then hardly anyone would be done on Fridays and Saturdays by 10:05pm. It would have been possible to come up with different time points for different days. But wanting a single measure for all the days led to this combined statistic. It also captures the rate at which the solutions are coming. I should include a clearer paragraph on this in the description... Thanks!

@Clark-- I like that! my goal in life has always been to grow into a crazy old lady... Better than a depressing one, right? I guess I'm getting there!

@M & Amp; A, I never thought of that! I guess I've never seen a puzzle that someone did not complete in the first 15 minutes. But I have seen a couple where no one was done in the first 10. So, definitely possible. Great idea!

All these smart people! I love this blog!

@Glitch, Sanfranman typically posts on Saturdays, albeit late. This is how I was able to calibrate my difficulty ratings for that day. But you're right that he does not post on Sundays. We'll see if he posts tonight.

I'm ready to be embarrassingly wrong. One advantage of being in science-- being wrong is seen as educational :)

fergus 9:40 PM  

Dear Ms. Foodie,

As you likely realize, quantification of crossword solution will not be found in our lifetime, and I hope it never will be. Every time a measure is found, I suspect some odd human will find a way to confound all the measures and statistics. While I know you're only looking for a trend, I am riffing on the care-free simian.

izmir çetesi 10:23 PM  

thanks

Glitch 10:57 AM  

@Foodie

Ah, that "relatively speaking" thing again ...

Meant SF man only analyzes M - F, but due to his location, posts T - S, east coast time ;-)

.../Glitch

PCS 11:52 AM  

OK, I give up ! No-one has mentioned the James Agee answer ? As a foreigner with a technical rather than literary education, I may be at a disadvantage here. But nowhere (Google, Amazon, Wikipedia) can I find a link between the "Death in the Desert" title and a writer named "James Agee". "Death in the Family", yes. "Death in the Family", no. What am I missing here ??

Anonymous 12:12 PM  

Apparently Agee wrote a short story by that name. It's listed on his Wikipedia entry in a list of stories. "A Death In the Family" is much more famous though.

Edward 12:46 PM  

I'm old enough to remember listening to Fibber McGee & Molly but didn't remember they lived in Peoria. I was distracted by remembering the name of their house, I think: "Wistful Vista," I think it was.

sanfranman59 10:12 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
Sat 28:48, 30:25, 0.95, 34%, Easy-Medium

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
Sat 15:04, 17:17, 0.87, 23%, Easy-Medium

I didn't read the blog comments here on Saturday, so I totally missed the discussion. But I did record the stats in my spreadsheet. Perhaps better late than never with my post in this case. This one rates as Easy-Medium by my method also.

Marc 9:58 PM  

Reasonably challenging for me. I did get through it without resorting to Google.

My thoughts on the Google issue is that, ideally, a puzzle should be designed so that any item that CAN be googled (dare I say, "i googlable?") should be crossed with something that cannot be googled.

I generally consider the puzzle incomplete if I have to resort to Google, but I can still remember when I looked things up in dictionaries and encyclopedias (yes, I'm that old). Somehow that didn't feel quite so much like cheating.

However, I feel much more satisfaction in finishing a puzzle with my own resources. On Saturday, it's easier said than done, but I keep trying.

Anonymous 11:56 PM  

If you had to google or use any reference source-even if just for one clue, you did not finish the puzzle. It's really as simple as that.

Anonymous 4:54 PM  

Just stumbled onto this website. Wow, crossword-obsessed people like y'all exist. I'm learning new things every day. What a world!

Gil.I.Pollas 5:57 PM  

Anon 11:56
Technically you're right. Logically you aren't. "It's not as simple as that."
Before google I think many relied on encyclopedias, dictionaries and just about any reference books available.
When I used these references, I would take the time to read a particular thorny clue. It was fun.
Google does the same if you take the time to read the answer.
Cheating to me is looking over someone's shoulder and copying the answer - or better yet, having the answer written on your palm.

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