She hid Zeus from Cronus / FRI 6-3-11 / Literally barley / Biblical 912-year-old / Misanthrope We are all born mad / Principal player Grease

Friday, June 3, 2011

Constructor: Jeffrey Wechsler

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none


Word of the Day: WALLY COX (15A: Voicer of Underdog on TV) —

Wallace Maynard Cox (December 6, 1924 – February 15, 1973) was an American comedian and actor, particularly associated with the early years of television in the United States. He appeared in the U.S. TV series Mr. Peepers (1952–55), plus several other popular shows, and as a character actor in over 20 films. Wally Cox was the voice of the popular animated cartoon character Underdog. Although often cast as a meek milquetoast, he was actually strong and athletic. He married three times and was a close friend of Marlon Brando. (wikipedia)
• • •

I got demolished by this puzzle. In fact, I was borderline certain that I would not Ever get the NW corner, which was empty save SIRS (23A: Generic addressees) for something close to ever. I often tease puzzles for feeling "old," which is generational bias on my part, I realize, but holy moly this puzzle reeks of mothballs. Is there anything post-1965 in the whole thing? Jeez louise, check out this litany:
  • WALLY COX
  • AL OERTER (3D: Winner of gold in four consecutive Olympics, 1956-68)
  • EVE ARDEN (37D: Principal player in "Grease") (I guess "Grease" is 1978 in this case, but EVE ARDEN's career has its center of gravity way, way earlier. She was 70 when "Grease" came out; "Grease 2," starring Michelle Pfeiffer, was her last movie (1982). In case it's not clear from the clue, EVE ARDEN played the school principal, not the principal (i.e. main) role.
  • Peter O'TOOLE (who gets a "Ratatouille" clue, but come on...) (16A: Voicer of Ego in "Ratatouille")
  • RICH (bleeping) LITTLE (!?) (51A: Great ape?)
  • Nina SIMONE (I do love her) (47D: She had a 1959 hit with "I Loves You, Porgy")
  • BATES MOTEL (I do love "Psycho") (24A: Chilly shower setting?)
SPACE AGE is right (1A: Launch time?). I'd have thrown ANTONIO Vivaldi (42D: Composer Vivaldi) and CATO (56D: Foe of Caesar) in to that list to strengthen the point, but you get the idea. This is a puzzle that (912-year-old) SETH would have loved. It's also aggressively high culture (the anti-(current) pop culture folks have their ideal here, I think): ROSS, ESTRAGON, RHEA (29A: "King Richard II" lord; 39A: Misanthrope who says "We are all born mad. Some remain so"; 20A: She hid Zeus from Cronus). Throw in some high-end SAT words like NEMATODE (59A: Wheatworm, e.g.) and PALLIATE and you have a very challenging puzzle. I'd be stunned if this was easier than normal for most folks (esp. those under 50), though I would Not be stunned if the majority of my audience had a far easier time with this than I did. I haven't tanked a puzzle this bad in months.


Spent close to half my (long) solving time in the NW, as I say. The worst part was that I had EXERTED, and that "X" should have been Gold; but it gave me nothing. In the end, I guess I've vaguely heard of WALLY COX, but not such that I could plunk him down without significant help from crosses, which was Not forthcoming. Ironically, the only reason I was able (eventually) to make a dent in that corner At All was AL OERTER, someone I've never seen or heard of outside of crosswords. I learned his name because I had to (it's very vowely, and thus shows up from time to time). This allowed me to get OAT (??? come on!) milk. I must have put UTE in and taken UTE out a million times. A single UTE warrants an entire museum? Interesting. She must be quite impressive. (30A: Subject of a museum in eastern Colorado)

Stupidest thing I did was fail to get HUES (28D: They can be saturated). I looked at HU-S, and then actually ran the alphabet and still only came up with HUTS ("wow, that is lame," I rightly thought). This kept TERSE well hidden for a long time (33A: Without any embroidery). No hope on "ALOUETTE" (17A: Children's song that's based on an old work song melody). Had SWAPS OUT as an early guess (1D: Exchanges), but it yielded little until I got AL OERTER in there. Wanted PLEBS to be the much nicer-looking/sounding PEONS (19A: The unwashed). People juggle CLUBS? (4D: Set for juggling) BALLS, yes. Bowling pins, sure. CLUBS? OK ... looks like those things I thought were bowling pins were actually just CLUBS. Hmm. ACT was brutally clued (6D: More than talk). Figured GAB or YAK would be the answer. GOT was also nearly impossible without crosses (7D: Confounded). And despite knowing what PALLIATE means (2D: Ease), it took me Forever to get there.


Grid as a whole seems just fine, but this one was Way out of both my comfort and pleasure zone. Best part of the puzzle by far, for me, was the clue on BATES MOTEL (24A: Chilly shower setting?).

Bullets:
  • 46A: Alternative to being tapped ("PSST!") — again, Saturday-tough. No idea why anyone thought this was a Friday.
  • 55A: Literally, "barley" (ORZO) — got this easily, but have no idea why. Four letters, small and grain-like ...
  • 14D: They might provide coverage for racecars (DECALS) — clever, but again, quite tough.
  • 36D: Spinning device giving the illusion of motion (ZOETROPE) — I know this only as the name of Francis Ford Coppola's studio (American ZOETROPE, actually). Now owned entirely by Coppola's children, Roman and Sofia.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

102 comments:

jae 12:19 AM  

Definitely on the tough side. I had it at med.- challenging. But, I am over a certain age and WALLYCOX was my second grid entry off the C in ACT. That said, I had plenty of missteps, e.g. saturated FATS, TWISTED, OIL for ORE. I also needed my bride's help with spelling ALOUETTE when what ever name I had for 3d made even less sense than the correct answer. I've seen ALOERTER in puzzles before but he unfortunately didn't stick. Really liked the puzzle, lots of meaty/fun fill.

Anonymous 12:25 AM  

Completely sparkle-less fill, but some nice cluing and no bad groaners. A toughie, as Rex pointed out in detail.

CY 12:30 AM  

What I like about Fridays and Saturdays is how at first glance I don't see how I'll make any headway at all, but with persistence, they are somehow doable. With this one in particular, my sense of "I don't see how I'm gonna finish this one" stayed strong till the end. Even when I finally submitted the correct solution, it surprised me when it came back as correct.

I agree with most of Rex's comments on this one. Here are the answers that I had no idea about: WALLY COX, O' TOOLE, RHEA, BATES MOTEL, OAT, ESTRAGON, RICH LITTLE.

And here are the answers that may have rung a very, very faint bell, from crosswords or other things, but that I couldn't have come up with from just the clue if I tried for a hundred years: AL OERTER, EVA ARDEN, SIMONE. Since many of the above were long answers, my ignorance of them made this a rather difficult puzzle to complete (although, surprisingly, my time on this ended up being about average for me on a Friday).

The hardest cross for me was AL OERTER and OAT (milk) since neither of these answers seemed particularly plausible to me.

Thanks to Rex for clarifying "Principal role"--I wouldn't have understood that one otherwise.

Clues I didn't like: 46-across: "Alternative to being tapped": PSST: I don't know why this one was clued in the passive. I would have put it, "Alternative to a tap".

First of all, it's not your choice whether to be tapped or not, so "PSST" is not your alternative. Secondly, even if it were a person's choice whether to be signaled with a tap or a hiss, PSST would not be an alternative to being tapped--rather "hearing PSST" would be an alternative to being tapped. The PSST corresponds to the tap. Something else needs to correspond to the "being".

11-down: "Gobbledygook": ROT.

The two are different things: gobbledygook is "wordy and generally unintelligible jargon". It's not illogical, nonsensical or wrong; it's unintelligible. Rot, meanwhile, is "Nonsense".

***

It was somewhat surprising that 10- and 11-down ("Superior group" and "Superior groups") were essentially synonyms (or at least could be understood that way), rather than taking the phrase in two different directions.

Sign that Crosswords Have Affected My Brain for the Worse: I really wanted the answer to one of those to be something like LAKES or HOMES (even though those wouldn't quite have made sense).

Joel 12:32 AM  

As a teen solver, this was absolutely out of my zone. But I admire the construction, it's really smoothly filled despite the bulk of the names and trivia being long before my time. Trouble spots were the SW, where POISED for PRIMED completely baffled me, and obviously the NW. I was pretty positive ALOERTER was wrong until the happy pencil told me otherwise. Overall though, it's nice to have a tough Friday, learning new things never hurts

I skip M-W 12:55 AM  

Well, I'm a bit too old for this. it took me forever too, especially the NW, but almost as much the SW. Quite familiar with Wally Cox from Mr. Peepers, but never watched Underdog. (shocked that Cox died so young.

Eve Arden also familiar from radio and TV versions of Our MIss Brooks, but never saw Grease. Interesting that both Cox and Arden played schoolteachers in shows I remember. I did get pretty quickly that "principal actor" meant actor who played principal, but ti didn't help much.

For 42 D, I put in and took out Ritz about 4 times before leaving it in. Had ouzo before orzo, though the Greek drink seemed way off. And, @Rex, had act, then took it out, put it back, etc.

Had confidently put in BARE as start of 24 A, but eventually did get that was wrong. Antonio was the only gimme, other than short things like ovo. Estragon was close but not very close.

Next good guess was isotope, but think of this as more physics than chemistry. Isomer would have been more like it but didn't fit. Only vague knowledge of Rich Little or Nina Simone. had no idea she went back to '59, when I graduated from high school.

@Rex, I did get hues right away, but took forever for sirs, since yous seemed to fit. Tried raw milk and ewe milk before oat!!!????!!

I guess Rhea was another gimme. Who can forget Zeus's loving mother?

Elsewhere had spare before terse, opposite before opponent, soggiest before sorriest.

Thanks to those who offered condolences. Loss is still painful even when parent has lived far longer than anyone would have guessed.

syndy 1:17 AM  

just plain brutal!I did know WALLY COX and NINA SIMONE but she was not who I was trying to remember!DID a little better once I realized cluing was not just misdirecting but just plain cussed!LIKE BATESMOTEL and NEMATODE for some reason-HAted ISOTOPES;OATmilk RICHLITTLE HUES !!hereby dub the man EVIL JEFFREY WECHSLER

Anonymous 1:39 AM  

To misquote the very funny Lewis Black - "there's no such thing as oat milk....it's oat juice!!!!"

alouette cato michaels 2:11 AM  

Ha! I made the exact same list as @rex...I could literally "hear" him while solving this, knowing ANYONE under 50 was going to have serious serious serious problems...
I'd even add conventionEER to the ancientness of this.

I'll bet even odds that EVEARDEN and Peter OTOOLE had even older, moldier definitions and that "Ratatouille" and "Grease" was a valiant attempt to bring this into this century, and still didn't quite manage to!
Might as well have clued ROSS from "Friends"!

Finally got WALLYCOX off the X. Could see his little face, sitting in a Hollywood Squares square, but couldn't dredge up his name.

And I finished with a mistake :(
OleO/TWIlLED/RITE!!! (I convinced myself that RITE-brand crackers!!! I missed a second Z, in this very non-Scrabbly puzzle.

This puzzle really OOZES with a USEDTOBE quality, but at least it's clean.

I'm surprised folks got a happy pencil when completing this, I would have guessed a quill feather!

andrea carded michaels 2:27 AM  

Looked for a pic of Jeffrey Wechsler on Jim Horne's amazing database...

All I could find is this is his third puzzle, the others were both Tuesdays, in 2009 and 2010.
I remembere the 16 x 14 of the Dante quote (ABANDON ALL HOPE...)
and a fun one where the ends of words were synonyms for JAIL: POKEY, COOLER, JOINT, CAN.

Make of that what you will.

chefwen 2:58 AM  

I came, I saw, I Googled, I failed. If Rex had rated this anything but challenging I would have been stunned. I am hopeful that Saturday will be a little less difficult, I'm worn out.

r.alphbunker 3:23 AM  

USED TO BE is an apt center clue for this puzzle. The NE was the last to fall for me. METRIC and BATESMOTEL finished this one with a bang for me.

I really enjoy a puzzle with no rock groups in it!

The Bard 7:03 AM  

Richard II – Act 2, Scene 1.

Lord Willoughby
Quick is mine ear to hear of good towards him.
Lord Ross
No good at all that I can do for him;
Unless you call it good to pity him,
Bereft and gelded of his patrimony.
Northumberland
Now, afore God, 'tis shame such wrongs are borne

Glimmerglass 7:46 AM  

I know what a ZOETROPE is because I've often seen pictures/films of them in the history of cinema, but damned if I could remember the name of the thing. At the end, I was unsure of the T, because I don't get how a STAR goes out with a bang (the big bang? a nova? Bonnie and Clyde?). Couldn't move anything else, and ZOETROPE turned out to be correct. I agree with all comments, but I'm wellll over 50, so this puzzle turned out to be just barely doable. Definitely challenging. Love the cross of AL OERTER with ALOUETTE. BATES MOTEL is clued excellently.

CY 7:58 AM  

@Glimmerglass: Yes, a nova, or actually, to be more accurate, a supernova It's one of the two ways that stars die. Why doesn't that make sense to you?

Re zoetrope: I liked that the word was so obscure that it could be clued with a completely straight definition, on a Friday. (For me it actually turned out to be one of the few gimmes, because I had a toy zoetrope as a child, from the local science museum, but if not for that, I don't think it's something I would probably have heard of/remembered.)

David L 8:00 AM  

I'm in the target age range for this one, by Rex's reckoning, but I still found it tough sledding. Not so much the fill (WALLYCOX was the only total unknown) but because of TWISTED, I mean TWIRLED cluing.

I've never heard of an OREO cake or pie -- sounds appalling. I hope I never see either.

Agree with @CY about ROT not being the same as gobbledygook.

According to Wordplay 8:05 AM  

He had other puzzles, just in the 1960s.

SethG 8:19 AM  

I guessed ADAM and NOAH before SETH. Before today, I wouldn't have said Estragon was a misanthrope, but I would have believed he was the voice of Underdog.

DECALS was my first answer.

Anonymous 8:34 AM  

Ute is an Indian tribe...I guess they have a museum.

Campesite 8:50 AM  

Glad I like Saturday puzzles. I seem to recall Wally Cox mostly as a celeb in Hollywood Squares from my childhood. God, I hated that show.

Here is (possibly a link to) an incredible Zoetrope an artist made for Burning Man. It is about 2 stories high and human powered. I'm a novice linkster, so if it doesn't work you can Google Peter Hudson monkey zoetrope.

Crazy Zoetrope

twangster 8:59 AM  

Had to google 4 things to solve it.

Before doing so I had TRADESIN for 1D and EXERTED correctly, which led me to REDDFOXX for Underdog's voice.

John V 9:00 AM  

This will be brief. We talked earlier in the week about garage-sale wipe-outs on the ski slopes, Okemo? This is a spill where you lose skis, poles, hats, gloves, goggles, everything, stuff ends up in the trees, etc. Yep, this puzzle was one of those. There are DNFs and then there are DNFs. Wow. This was a DNS: Did Not Start

Grape Ape 9:01 AM  

I thought REDD FOXX might be the voice of Underdog, despite semi-remembering that Underdog had a wimpy voice, and finally realized I was thinking of Scatman Crothers and Hong Kong Phooey--i.e., old black guys with distinctive voices in early seventies cartoons.

I finished with three wrong letters--PASS for PSST and a guess at IMO/SIMONE.

NEMATODE is disgusting. Big flat worm? Yuck.

jackj 9:10 AM  

All those solvers chiming in to agree with the "post-1965" rant, sorry, but, turnabout is fair play.

Mr. Wechsler, we who hate facing the latest hip hop clue salute you!

And, for those of you who are just too young to grasp 25down, "Mediterranean or Baltic: Abbr.", the clue refers to locations, (AVEnues), in Monopoly (a pre-1965 game from Parker Bros.).

Brilliant work from Jeffrey Wechsler!

No BS 9:19 AM  

How is confounded got? I don't get it, confound it

Lindsay 9:25 AM  

Came here expecting no chance my grid would be correct .... but it is.

Way too many totally unknown proper names: WALLY COX crossing AL OERTER, EVE ARDEN next to ZOE TROPE.

Good grief.

Anonymous 9:36 AM  

People who don't know who Al Oerter is should be ashamed of themselves. Winning the same event (discus) in four consecutive olympics is unbelievable. Next you'll tell me you don't know who Bob Beamon is.

Orange 9:49 AM  

I like Andrea's declaration that it's because I'm under 50 that I struggled with this puzzle. The occasions to be told I'm too young are few and far between now!

Felt like a super-tough Saturday to me, and I pieced together WALLY COX strictly from the crossings. Had hoped that RONNY COX, whom I've actually heard of, started his career with cartoon work, but no.

Matthew G. 9:53 AM  

Yesterday, I ate the bear. Today, the bear at me.

What.

Rex.

Said.

Ow. That screeching sound you heard was my beating-the-curve streak ending after two days. This puzzle would qualify as an iron maiden even on a Saturday. Like Rex, I'm stunned that Will ran this on a Friday.

Never heard of: WALLY COX, AL OERTER, RICH LITTLE, ZOETROPE, or OAT milk. My brain resisted the notion that there is an actress named ARDEN because it confused her with the cosmetics lady with the same first initial. How are HUES saturated? I've heard the word NEMATODE but had no idea a wheatworm was one. Know Peter O'TOOLE, of course, but did not know he voiced a supporting character in a kids' movie.

All of that said, the NE, SW and upper center were not so bad. Got through them in only somewhat subpar time. BATES MOTEL was downright easy as clued, and although I don't know RICH LITTLE the crosses made the name pretty undebatable.

I would have gotten the rest of the lower center much faster if I hadn't tried first WHIRLED and then SWIRLED before finding TWIRLED. Love "Waiting for Godot" but not having that T in TWIRLED made ESTRAGON impossible to see. Finally broke through the SE with OPPONENT and a moment of inspiration on ISOTOPE.

As for the NW ... I had precisely the same experience with UTE. Could not believe that the answer could be a singular noun. I finally got through the NW by guessing ACT and GOT and then getting SPACE AGE and ALOUETTE (thank you, ninth grade French).

@No BS: Think "You got me on that one!"

Anyway, going to PALLIATE my {Ego} with my morning tea now.

Hobbyist 9:56 AM  

I'm over fifty and found this easy as pie for a Friday. Guess Jackj and I form a minority.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:09 AM  

DNF.

But somewhat relieved to see that I am not the only one who found the NW a real puzzlement.

I worked my way through most of the puzz, slowly but correctly, but just died in the NW. Even with 1A, 15A, 17A, 23A, and 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8D filled in correctly, I was stuck, in part because I had 19A as SLOBS instead of PLEBS, and in desperation had entered 30A as ETS. The "A" in 27A could only signal RAW milk, and, OK, I will allow being ashamed at not knowing AL OERTER.

joho 10:12 AM  

Sloooooow going. See what time I'm arriving here.

Somehow I managed to finish correctly. The NW was the last to fall preceded by the also tough SW.

It's soy milk, silly.

@SethG, I had lEaH for a while before I got your name.

I rate this a ZOETROPE a NEMATODE and a SCONCE harder than most Fridays.

jesser 10:19 AM  

What Rex (and so many others) said, and then some. This puzzle kicked my ass and threw me to the lions. DNF is a wild understatement. I am humbled by those of you who finished this thing. I never got a chance to do yesterday's so I'm looking forward to that later today, in hopes it will make me feel less stooooopid.

jesser, demolished

quilter1 10:26 AM  

Well, I knew all the old stuff and just kept chipping away. The NE was my last fill and I kept sabotaging myself because I, too, wanted native American tribes for Superior groups. I agree with both the rating and admiration for clever cluing. Nice to be reminded of entertainers I enjoyed, COX & ARDEN. I went to Psycho with my parents as a young teen and remember how we all jumped when the shower curtain swept open.

CY 10:27 AM  

@Lindsay, zoetrope is not a person's name--it's an old-fashioned moving-picture device. @Campesite, the thing you link to isn't really a zoetrope (it uses a strobe light to produce its effect, rather than slits in a drum) but it's still pretty neat.

@Rex, Matthew G., and anyone else who doesn't like the singular UTE--I thought it was fine. The clue doesn't say that a single UTE "warrants an entire museum"--only that the Ute is (one) subject of the museum. There's a difference, IMO.

@Matthew G., like you, knew NEMATODE but didn't know that a wheatworm was one, or for that matter what a wheatworm was. Still, the "worm" part made this not such a hard clue to get.

Here's a Wikipedia article about saturation in the color sense, among other things.

@jackj: come on, everyone knows Monopoly. That game has stood the test of time.

@No BS: I guess that clue got you, eh?

@twangster: I also had TRADES IN before SWAPS OUT.

For 35-across, had daZES and laZES before hitting on OOZES. Anyone else fall for those?

More Clues I Didn't Like:
9-across: "Found to be legal, in a way": CARDED. As a commenter on the NYT blog points out, carding someone is no guarantee of finding him to be legal. The clue should have been "Found to be legal, perhaps".

quilter1 10:30 AM  

I looked up OREO cake and pie and the cake is the so-called dirt cake that emerged in the '90's. The pies seem heavy on Cool Whip but an ice cream pie with an OREO crust sounded OK.

Filliam 10:36 AM  

Found this very hard, took me twice as long to finish as last Saturday's did.

Had ACT as 43D (Do stuff), once I fixed that was amused to see it at 6D.

Never heard of a NEMATODE, but had no trouble with ZOETROPE, partially because there's one I pass in the NYC subway every day on the way to work:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IwVD5efXz0&feature=related

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

@noBS: confounded = got as in "gotcha!"
@jackj and hobbyist: Right on! Those of us who are of a certain age are experiencing schadenfreude right now. We all know Simone, Wally Cox, Rich Little, Eve Arden, etc. It's a trip down memory lane. :-)

Matthew G. 10:42 AM  

@CY: I did eventually get NEMATODE without all that much trouble. I was just observing that it was yet another tough-as-can-be clue. That's not a bad thing, especially since it's generation-indifferent, unlike some of the other toughies today. Oh, and good point on CARDED -- something undefinable didn't ring true about that clue for me, and you just put your finger on it.

@jackj: AVE was not only a gimme, it was my first entry in the grid. Unaware of the twelve-car pile-up that awaited me down the road, I chuckled and thought, "Well, this puzzle isn't fooling anyone." But that was the last easy clue I saw for a while.

XOXwOrd 10:56 AM  

Killin me on the variety of firstname-lastname v. just lastname when nothing in clue suggested one or the other. .

E.g. SIMONE, OTOOLE v. WALLYCOX, RICHLITTLE

hazel 11:03 AM  

ay chi wa wa that was hard! outrageously hard. and not in a fun way. it was either give up or get some google toeholds and limp home, which is what i did.

@quilter - i think you could make an oreo cake with crushed up oreos more in the manner of prince william's groom's cake and it could be pretty good. my stepdaughter and i made a moon-pie cake in such a way a few weeks ago and it was "by far" the best cake she'd ever eaten (she had never had a moon pie before); it had TONS of dark chocolate in it so, hard to go wrong if you're into that. it was almost like fudge. and oreo cheesecakes are pretty delicious too.

Nancy in PA 11:04 AM  

ACT was my first entry but otherwise the NW was murder and I had to Google for ALOERTER. Had "soy" and "balls" for juggling for way too long. But hey, it's done. And my last name is in it so I got the Shakespeare clue for once. On to Saturday!

Ruth 11:06 AM  

Woulda been easier if I hadn't read the clue for ORZO as "barely" not "barley" right until I got the last cross. Grr.
Guess I'm old, as I did OK on this. And an old biology major--I came up on NEMATODE from the back end (not its best side probably) and plunked it right in on the basis of ODE and the worm clue.

Anonymous 11:23 AM  

Went through the north really fast, working off METRIC (the easiest mid-length answer in the puzzle for me) and knowing that WALLYCOX was the voice of Underdog; except for ALOERTER, who I did not know and am not ashamed not to know, discus records or no. Thing is, it doesn't sound like a name necessarily unless you know it is one, so I kept wondering if they were employing some alternative spelling of Alouette. . .

Things bogged down in the south. Had DOLES, then DOZES for "Passes out slowly," which left me with a persistent and impossible BD-- for "Really thin." (Finally, with B_NY in place, had to do one of those looking-too-long-at-the-wrong-answer survey of the vowels to arrive at BONY.) Figured the wheatworm for a PARASITE until remembering ANTONIO Vivaldi and catching on to NEMATODE.

Loved it overall. A satisfying one to finish, and any puzzle with BATESMOTEL and ESTRAGON is a winner in my book. And "Chemist's relatives?" is a pretty nifty clue for ISOTOPES.

GenJoneser 11:31 AM  

Knowledge has less to do with your age than your interest level. Isn't that the point of history classes? Do you have to have lived through a time to want to learn about it and retain that knowledge? When I hear my teenage niece say she hates (yes hates!) history I say we've failed her. On the other hand, it seems epidemic to recent generations to reject anything not current. Ironic isn't it considering all the tools at their immediate disposal to learn about almost any subject and learn quickly?

I enjoy learning and experiencing all things from Gaga to the ancients and will never stop.

Thank you Mr. Wechsler for a fun solve without a Simpson in sight!

Two Ponies 11:32 AM  

Another big DNF here.
I am rather proud of how far I did get with some very tough clues.
I was done in by the crossing of alouette (which I could not spell) with the athlete whose name looks like a misprint.
Wineries don't make me blush but they do make me grin.
Now off to look up the unknown Estragon.
@ Anon. 9:36, I don't know Bob Beamon either.
I enjoyed the lack of current pop culture so I must be the right age today (for once).

Dough 11:35 AM  

"It's also aggressively high culture (the anti-(current) pop culture folks have their ideal here, I think ... I would Not be stunned if the majority of my audience had a far easier time with this than I did."

I'm just here to confirm your speculation. I'm 56 and this was a medium puzzle that I enjoyed a lot. Took my usual Friday time to solve. For my generation, Wally Cox makes the NW very accessible. Without him, I'd probably also have to struggle.

But that's how I feel about those "gimmes" like "Rap Singer with the mega-hit 'My Bitch She Be Lovin' Me All Over" and the answer is some strange name-like set of letters. (End of mini-rant.)

Different strokes. It's all good.

Sparky 11:43 AM  

DNF-big surprise. Filled in one quarter, the NE. First entries WALLY COX and EVE ARDEN. Age a plus though not for me today. Had OTO for tribe, thought King Kong or impressionist for 51A, Doe for SIRS, soy for OAT.

Laughed at @Rex's opening sentences. Never heard SWAPSOUT. Ran out of time. Here's to the weekend.

steven 11:44 AM  

Not easy at all, especially if you thought it was Al Oerder for any length of time instead of Oerter

BigSteve46 11:45 AM  

Doing NYT x-word puzzles requires knowledge that is similar to what someone long ago described as Richard Nixon's political support: "a mile wide and an inch deep."

If the Friday and Saturday puzzles are to be difficult - and they have to be, otherwise what's the point? - they have to be like this. I am a classic old fart and even I agree that Wally Cox and Eve Arden and Al Oerter are a bit much in one puzzle. Then just alternate some puzzles top heavy with current pop culture stuff. I'll piss and moan about it, bit I get the point. Many descriptions are technically inaccurate and deliberately obscure and misleading. That's the essence of a challenging puzzle. Hated this one as I struggled through, and then felt a real sense of accomplishment (at least as much of one as you can feel from a crossword puzzle) for toughing it out and solving. Crosswords are not important in any grand scheme of things but - unlike much of what we wallow through every day - they can serve a useful and, at least, ultimately benign, purpose.

No BS 11:49 AM  

Right, got confounded me. Got it now, thanks to several of you. Imagine explaining this to an ESL student. Gotta love this language.

Bassetwrangler 11:57 AM  

Remembered that Francis Coppola's film company is called American Zoetrope. Al Oerter's amazing feat of consecutive gold medals (discus) was recalled on television when he died in 2007.

Mel Ott 12:01 PM  

Old crock here. Loved this puzzle, which was an easy to medium Friday for me.

Despite my aversion to proper names, WALLY COX & AL OERTER were throwdowns for me.

Underdog was part of the background soundtrack when my boys were small. I remember being mildly amused at using Mr Peepers' milqeutoasty voice for a cartoon "superhero". The fact that Underdog was combination superhero/antihero was I think part of the point.

AL OERTER was the epitome of the olympic amateur. Every four years he seemed to retrieve his old discus from the closet, dust it off, and go win the gold medal. I believe he was from Babylon, LI and worked at Grumman Aircraft in the inbetween times.

PuzzleNut 12:15 PM  

Definitely tough, but was able to finish. Spent more time in the NW than the rest of the puzzle. EXERTED and soy milk were my only inroads. UTE hinted at SWAPSOUT which gave me TERSE and another long pause. ALloETTE was enough to clean up the tough ACT GOT area and the rest finally yielded.
Like others, had noaH and OuZO. Got ISOTOPES off the IS and took me another few minutes to understand the clue. The whole puzzle seemed to sparkle with wonderful puns and plays on words, and once I accepted that it was a really tough puzzle, my mind slowly acclimated to the challenge.
When I can finish a Friday that Rex rates Challenging, I'm a happy camper.

Sarah 12:20 PM  

For me this was easy/medium (unlike yesterday's, which I just couldn't crack and threw aside in frustration). I agree, though, that the references are, shall we say, Maleska-esque.RICHLITTLE? Really? Had to google WALLYCOX (no idea who he was) and EVEARDEN (would have got it if the clue had been about, say, "Mildred Pierce," but I had no memory of her being in "Grease." Loved "chilly shower setting" for BATESMOTEL, though.

Matthew G. 12:20 PM  

@GenJoneser, BigSteve:

It's worth mentioning here that pointing to the things that make a puzzle incredibly hard or generation-specific is not the same as criticizing it. This is a beautiful grid with a lot of juicy letters and words. It's a finely made themeless puzzle that's just way, way out of the wheelhouse of a 35-year-old such as myself.

I love hard puzzles. This one just happens to derive much of its difficulty from cultural touchstones much older than the average NYT puzzle. I don't have a problem with such puzzles cropping up now and then.

Also, @GenJoneser, there's a huge difference between not knowing history and not knowing old pop culture. Nothing in this grid really relies on knowledge of "history."

Three and out.

Way Way Over 50 12:23 PM  

My condolences to the young solvers. WALLYCOX was a gimme, here. Which then quickly gave me SWAPSOUT, SIRS, UTE, etc. Ditto for OTOOLE, BATESMOTEL and RICHLITTLE; they were all seed entries for my very fun solving experience. Only slight stumbling block was ESTRAGON, which required all the crosses to get.

Entertaining write-up, Rex.

Cheerio 12:30 PM  

This puzzle was very hard! But, hey, I just set up a blogger page and added a photo! I'm so excited, I could sing "Alouette." Do little kids still sing that in the US?

D_Blackwell 1:14 PM  

I felt that this closed grid was seeded not with cool entries (ZOETROPE being about the only one that stands out), but with the crossing triple stacks of 8s. The challenge was to fill it with entries that would fit.
.......................

I hate, hate, hate surrendering, much preferring to be KIA from mistakes. Often, just getting one more entry down will crack a section.

I did quite well actually, until I had to deal with NW crossword.

EXERTED, and much later TERSE, finally got me in a little bit. I considered a number of correct entries but also had good looking incorrect entries in mind and just could not sift through to a combination that proved or disproved the correct choices. DNF, with -15 letters.

With 4 of the 8 letters correct, I don't think that I ever would have gotten away from STAR DATE for SPACE AGE.

KarenSampsonHudson 1:17 PM  

A real toughie---and no theme to smooth it. Even the easy fills were slow in coming---"swaps out?" I've never done that!....I've never heard "pleb" (guess I dwell among polite people with a social conscience!), only "plebe". "Ovo"---I looked up "embryonic" and found this usage, although to me "ovo" indicates egg, ovum, which is not really embryonic since it needs to be fertilized to form an embryo! A little careless Latin there, maybe...

WESISLAND 1:21 PM  

In the right age group; have a friend named Rich Little; and knew Al Oerter and Eve Arden but still a DNF.

Googled "we are all born mad...." quote and but in S. Beckett for 39 across, which didn't help things.

Anonymous 1:36 PM  

According to XWord Info, Jeffrey Wechsler was also published by the NYT back in the 1960s and had a 40 year gap between 1969 and 2009 before getting back into the construction biz.

Dizzythecat 2:13 PM  

I had so much fun with this tough little nut!
Good work, Jeff!

David 2:41 PM  

Wow, this was a tricky tricky puzzle. Got off to an outstanding start by nailing RICHLITTLE, EVEARDEN and ALOERTER (very proud of knowing that one) without any crosses, but then slowed mightily in the NW and SE corners, even with the big clues solved.

Still, I did finish those successfully, and instead had one mistake in the middle CAMEAT for HAVEAT (Medit. AVE and Baltic AVE - D'OH!!).

Wanted MELBLANC for WALLYCOX for a bit, given the L from ALOERTER. Thought I was golden there.... Never heard of ESTRAGON but got it with crosses. And ended with NEMATODE (never heard of that one either, or ZOETROPE). I was ready to give up and get a DNF, but CIRRI came to me after I wanted CITRI (which of course made no sense).

Last few days have been some wonderfully difficult puzzles. Can't wait for tomorrow....

The Raven 3:00 PM  

I'm 76 and still found it challenging though I finished w/o Googling. NW was toughest: OAT milk???? One lucky mistake at 33A ("Without any embroidery")--I put down PER SE, which turned out to be 80% right.

Neville 3:20 PM  

Couldn't do it - was able to get maybe 6 right entries and a handful of wrong ones. Didn't find it any fun to Google half of it. Too many references out of my ken for me to stand a chance. (Though I should've had RICH LITTLE.) If you're in your early 20s and had no problem with this puzzle, you might be David Plotkin, but you're not me.

miriam b 3:37 PM  

ALOERTER was a gimme bc we lived in Babylon, LI, as did he, during his Olympic career. This was tough - one of the hardest in memory. I wrestled with the NW for quite some time before everything was sorted out and I finished. Exhilirating! FYI, I'm older than dirt.

sanfranman59 3:46 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 32:06, 25:53, 1.24, 87%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Fri 17:33, 12:44, 1.38, 93%, Challenging

Being old enough (barely, mind you) to remember WALLY COX, AL OERTER and EVE ARDEN wasn't enough to save me from seeking guidance from my Uncle Google once or twice to finish this puzzle. Happily, Friday DNFs are the exception rather than the rule for me at this point in my crossword-solving career. So I was relieved to read Rex's write-up and to see that today's METRICs confirm his difficulty rating.

Joe 3:47 PM  

Wally Cox was Marlon Brando's best friend.

Al Oerter was the greatest champion in Olympic history.
He won one of his gold medals with torn rib cartilage, which is an absolutely unfathomable injury for a discus thrower.

Chip Hilton 3:48 PM  

Is it Eugene Maleska's birthday?

Being of a certain age, I loved it but needed my wife's help to unlock the dreaded NW. She supplied WALLYCOX and the rest fell.

Cool old stuff.

efrex 4:06 PM  

This has been a bear of a week, and today's puzzle didn't help a bit. Not even close to finishing. Loved the BATESMOTEL and METRIC clues, and pulled ANTONIO & NEMATODE from some godforsaken corner of my brain.

One of the most talented people you've never heard of, a cabaret singer named Natalie Douglas, did a Nina SIMONE tribute show a few years back, opening with "I Loves You Porgy." Unfortunately, even knowing that didn't open up the SW at all.

Sheesh...

The Old Man 4:06 PM  

Chemists have relatives that are isotopes? And I thought my family was unstable. [snark]

baja 4:24 PM  

Was hoping for my first slumdog millionaire friday. This definitely wasn't it!

JD 4:31 PM  

Incredibly tough. Glad to see it wasn't just me having a late-afternoon fizzle. Only thing of note: I couldn't for the life of me get ANDYWARHOL out of my head for 15-Across. Which is funny and/or embarrassing, since I was thinking of this, which is (a) not the voice of the character, (b) not Andy Warhol, and (c) not even Underdog...

Two Ponies 4:52 PM  

@ JD, How well I remember seeing that, thanks. Strange how our minds make these obscure connections.

andrea coxla michaels 5:17 PM  

@baja
I love that "Slumdog Millionaire Friday"!!! What a great concept!

Clearly Jeffrey Rip Van Weschler made this back in the 60's, woke up, dusted it off, and submitted it to Will! I'm going to try that in 2050 (anshallah)

If you live in SF, ZOETROPE is a common word, Coppola's literary magazine is called that as well...
but it still didn't stop me from trying to jam in gyroscOPE!

Ended up spending half the night wondering what exactly went on between Marlon Brando and Wally Cox, thanks to Wikipedia! Wow, you take one picture with someone fellating you and you have to live it down forever!
Caution whippersnappers!

michael 5:47 PM  

I found this of average Friday difficulty and finished without difficulty. Also liked it. But I am 50+.

First entry Al Oerter

foodie 6:08 PM  

I love that quote! (we are all born mad...). It's even true in its own way (I'll spare you my neuroscience take on it). So, I loved seeing it.

And I loved the ISOTOPE clue.

Otherwise, epic fail. Even though I haven't been CARDED in decades! There must be a sweet spot where one can be old enough, erudite enough, and experienced enough as a puzzle solver to breeze through this, but not so old as to have forgotten most of it.

ksquare 6:39 PM  

Rich Little is/was not a great ape, but a great apeR.

mac 6:41 PM  

I got beat. Too many unknown people and terms.

Estragon? That's French for Tarragon. Will have to look up who he was.

I liked a lot of the clues for the little words: mop, ESP, gel.

Don't you think "sorriest" sounds old, too?

skua76 6:44 PM  

As someone who is 60+ (not that I think about that much) I really liked this puzzle even though it was a horrible DNF! I eventually got the NW thanks to crosses, but the center got me...I was fixated on FATS for 38D (saturated) and that led to FACE AT for 28A. At that point I knew then that I should just set the puzzle aside and come back to it later, but I was impatient. Never could see AVE or USED TO BE.

I learned crosswords by helping my mother with NYT puzzles in the 60s so I probably ran across Jeffrey back then.

captcha: reishn, something a bad moon is doing!

miriam b 7:00 PM  

@mac: Estragon is oe of two characters (the other is Vladimir) in Beckett's absurdist play,"Waiting for Godot." Godot never shows up. This is Beckett's translation of his original French text, "En Attendant Godot."

I think I know this because I'm older than dirt.

Generation reX 7:13 PM  

3x my usual Saturday time (ran out the Across Lite clock.) Wonderful torment in the NW corner. Nothing but ACT and SIRS to hold onto. Anyone try crossing 4d.BALLS with 19a.PROLE? That wrong turn kept me busy for a while.
The A TEAM and the ELITES made me feel like a NEMATODE, but Beckett would't allow me to quit;
"You must go on. I can't go on. I'll go on"

Love Nina SIMONE. Listen to her "Mississippi Goddam."

davko 8:00 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 8:00 PM  

Rich Little was a popular mimic/comedian in the 60s and 70s, hence "great ape".

jberg 8:01 PM  

Ah, Zoe Trope, that old star of the silents (who went out with a bang).

Finished (after 3 hours), but with Google - and also with an error, as I had 1D = SWAPS FOR, crossed with FAT milk (recycling the FAT I couldn't use at 28D) and OTE (confused with our old favorite, the OTO). (No RERSE didn't make any sense, I just didn't notice it).

But - high culture? I wish it had been more of that, it was Underdog and Ratatouille that threw me!

I'd forgotten that Estragon was in Godot, figured he must be one of the Three Musketeers. Glad to come here and learn!

davko 8:07 PM  

I too had a monstrous time with the NW, and just finished the puzzle after walking away and come back about six times. Managing to avoid the carnage and getting through it flawlessly felt like I had just climbed Everest.

Getting EXERTED (8D) was what finally got that corner to budge. With just an X to work with for 15A, though, I kept coming back to Fox or Foxx (as in Jamie or Redd), and that mired me again. Then, I just happened to recognize the possibility of Al Oerter for 3D. He had been a colleague of my father at Grumman Aerospace in the 60's -- a fine gentleman for whom shotput was a passion, before the days of the professional Olympian. It's appropriate that his name crosses with SPACE AGE.

Wally Cox was prominent during that era, too -- as a regular contestant on the original Hollywood Squares. Will never forget the bow-tie, bookish mannerisms, and that distinct voice that I could easily connect to Underdog -- even though this is the first I've learned of that fact!

Found the clue to 49A to be questionable, as I believe it should have correctly read "...drinkers' blush," with an apostrophe.

Overall, a mix of great cluing tempered by some obscure proper nouns (ESTRAGON, SIMONE for me; no doubt AL OERTER and WALLY COX for others).

Arundel 9:57 PM  

OAT milk? Oh, puleese.

I'm with Andrea - this one's been in cold storage since the 60s and it hasn't aged well. I did like NEMATODE, since the subject came up at the garden supply store yesterday, and PALLIATE is a lovely word, but so much of it felt not just dated but creaky.

Challenging can be excellent. Challenging and out-of-time is not my kind of Friday. Although I'm probably old enough, Wally Cox and Eve Arden are not iconic. Nina Simone had a fabulous career, but "I Loves You, Porgy" was not the high point.

And Rich Little would be long-forgotten if not for the fact that he was the headliner in a 2007 White House Correspondents' Dinner where, as Wikipedia says, "he was panned for his ancient jokes and impressions of dead people." Yup.

sanfranman59 10:00 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 6:40, 6:52, 0.97, 44%, Medium
Tue 7:49, 8:55, 0.88, 18%, Easy
Wed 13:20, 11:48, 1.13, 80%, Challenging
Thu 20:45, 19:05, 1.09, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 33:01, 25:54, 1.28, 88%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:43, 3:40, 1.01, 58%, Medium
Tue 4:03, 4:35, 0.88, 14%, Easy
Wed 6:35, 5:49, 1.13, 83%, Challenging
Thu 10:10, 9:12, 1.11, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 16:26, 12:44, 1.29, 89%, Challenging

Stan 11:02 PM  

Dropping in very late after a busy day.

As a film person, I of course loved BATES MOTEL and ZOETROPE.

Also liked COMES TO in a puzzle with "Passes out."

I actually remembered the Hitmen video from MTV's 120 Minutes.
Which probably makes me as dated as Wally Cox.

william e emba 9:37 PM  

I had to overnight this puzzle.

ESTRAGON is not a misanthrope. This is an outright error on Shortz' part. And Wikipedia's for that matter: one negative bit of sarcasm about humanity does not make someone a misanthrope.

And no, Waiting For Godot is not absurdist, although that was a popular early label.

Anonymous 10:13 PM  

You made my day with your comments on this puzzle. Most of the time, I struggle to get done in a reasonable time, and always marvel how you manage to knock them out so fast.

Today I actually breezed through quite a bit (although not everything).

Clues like the voice of underdog, and the Bates motel seemed like a a gimme to me.

Every once in a while it pays to be over 50 :)

Anonymous 10:30 PM  

Having finally finished this, and having had to google all sorts of things to see if I was actually right, I now know that the Ute Museum is in Montrose.

Very much the WESTERN, not eastern, side of Colorado.

Anonymous 1:34 PM  

So I did my initial scan of the clues and the first gimme is 22a ITA. 23a is very likely SIRS, but I decided to SIT ON that for a while and leave it blank.

Eventually started filling in SW off the ENCASE/SCONCE cross and basically worked my way around the grid counter clockwise. Had a little trouble in the middle, and NW was still a complete blank. Entered ballS and SIRS just to get something in there.

When I finally saw HAVE AT and USED TO BE, I had everything but that NW corner.

Then came EXERTED. Hope! An answer ending in X! I took another look at the clue for 15a and realized I had never even seen that clue. I somehow scanned right over what would've been my first gimme. ('cause, you know...I'm old).

So I finished with a bunch of write overs.

@ ksquare 6:39 PM
"Rich Little is/was not a great ape, but a great apeR."

even that is debatable.

"Charlie Weaver, Paul Lynne, Wally Cox: dead, dead, dead! Apparently there was something a lot more mysterious about the Secret Square than we've been led to believe." -- Bob Goldthwait.

Deb @ RoomscapesDecor.com 3:29 PM  

Okay, I know Fridays are *supposed* to be hard, but OAT milk? Puh-leeease! Also was completely confounded by GOT for "confounded," though I GET it now that someone here has explained it.

Being of the over-50 variety, I had no problem with WALLY COX (that was my second write-in off the C in ACT) or RICH LITTLE (yeah, he was cheesy, but along with Frank Gorshin, he was the most successful impressionist of his time) and ALOUETTE, but I did have to pull up imdb.com to solve EVE ARDEN.

I Loves You, Porgy is one of my all-time favorite songs, but I wasn't aware Nina Simone had performed it.

Hardest for me was the SE, not only because I'd never hard of a NEMATODE, but also due to thinking of "rain-makers" in the slang, money-makers sense.

Like CY, I wanted one of the "Superior" clues to be a nod to the lakes, so confidently wrote in LAKES instead of ATEAM which held up the NE a bit.

@Anonymous 10:30 pm: I'm a native Coloradoan and was completely unaware we had a Ute museum anywhere, so the clue was as obscure as it was incorrect.

All in all, I agree with Rex and most of the rest of you: This one was a bear.

Captcha=woodp: A dwindling pile of wood.

Karl 3:34 PM  

Finished with 2 incorrect letters. Once I saw the answer to 28a, I got the Monopoly avenues reference, but I still am not sure I know what a saturated hue is. I had CAMEAT rather than HAVEAT, but I knew something was probably wrong and came here hoping that someone could explain to me what a saturated CUE was...

Deb @ RoomscapesDecor.com 4:17 PM  

@Karl - A saturated hue is just what it sounds like: A color that is dripping with color/intensity. For instance, neon green would more saturated than lime green and both would be more saturated than, say, chartreuse or olive.

A saturated cue is one that is carelessly placed on the bar next to raucous revelers.

Captcha=cordshly: A raucous reveler's rendition of "cordially."

J.D. 5:17 PM  

principal is always your pal;
principle is what your live by.

Anonymous 5:25 PM  

THIS PUZZLE SUCKED!

Anonymous 6:39 PM  

DNF, thanks to 1-down. After the WALLYCOX gimme, I have 8 letters for "exchanges," with the second letter W. Naturally, it's SWITCHES. What else? But I couldn't make the rest of it work, and didn't know what might be wrong. From "launch time" to SPACEAGE is a leap I could not traverse. OAT milk?? Oats ive milk, I uess, if the G on your keyboard is busted. Oh, the answer to 1d, SWAPSOUT??? Swaps out. Who says that? I'd like to swap that for "swaps in." Makes just as much sense. SWAPS by itself, sure. BUT I HAD EIGHT LETTERS! Never heard anybody say "Swap out." There was no chance to get that corner. None.

Waxy in Montreal 8:25 PM  

Sometimes you just have to cry "uncle". Or maybe "ugh". This is one of them. Despite being way north of 50, I knew ALOERTER & AVE and then absolutely nothing else! Saturday can't be tougher than this, can it?

Dirigonzo 9:33 PM  

I was pretty proud to finish this one with no help and no mistakes. I finished up in the SE corner where I literally solved square by square, running the alphabet until I came across a letter that made sense or just looked right, as so much down there was unfamiliar to me. Ignorance is an obstacle, but it can sometimes be overcome with hard work and an open mind (and a lot of luck.)


@Deb, I would have expected you to know what a saturated hue is, but your definition of saturated cue and your captcha makes me think that maybe you hang out with a pretty rowdy crowd (nothing wrong with that, though.)

novemberyankee68 5:21 PM  

I dont feel so bad now. This was a killer but good clueing (agree on shower setting). Being 40 something helped me immensely too knowing Rich Little and remembering who voiced Underdog. Overall this was one of the more brutal ones I've seen in a while. Really worked for it.

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