Trick-taking game / SAT 11-26-11 / Sambuca flavorers / 18th-century London political literary establishment / Target of criticism Vincent Bugliosi's 1996 book Outrage

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Constructor: Brad Wilber

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

 Word of the Day: KLABERJASS (27D: Trick-taking game) —
Klaberjass or Bela is a widespread international trick-taking card game that is most popular in Jewish communities. In its basic form it is a 6-card trick-and-draw game for two players using a 32-card piquet pack. // As in other point-trick games of the King–Queen group, players can score points for the "marriage" (bela) of king and queen of trumps. The distinguishing feature of Klaberjass is that the jack (Yass) and nine (Menel) of trumps are elevated to the highest ranks and highest card point scores. (wikipedia)
• • •

A suitably tough Saturday that ended up being less than satisfying because of several long answers I'd just never heard of, the most notable being KLABERJASS. I don't care how "widespread" wikipedia says it is, I'll eat my hat if most of you have heard of it before. Not some of you—this is an answer designed to delight the constructor and that minority of solvers who know and play and possibly love the game—most of you. If you've never heard of it, then no amount of crosses helps. You need them all, and when you finally get it, there's no joy, no wow, no nothing. Just gibberish. In this case, long gibberish. So I am stumped, and I learn a new word (I'll never need again), and that's something, but entertaining it's not. When I (finally) got CHAIR BED, I assumed it was a makeshift bed created by the pushing together of two chairs (1A: What might unfold when you have guests). I've never ever heard of a CHAIR BED. I wrote in HIDEABED right away. CHAIR BED? I can barely look at that answer. I checked, and of course CHAIR BEDs are actual things, in that you can buy them at K-Mart, but ugh. The less said about OOFY the better (28A: Rich, in slang). The one stumper that I feel bad about not knowing was KITCATCLUB (29A: 18th-century London political / literary establishment). The puzzle is generally well constructed (not surprising—Mr. Wilber's usually are), so I, despite my considerable ignorance, could still reach the finish line because of fair crosses.

One thing you'll notice in a low word-count puzzle (typically) is a preponderance of words ending -ER or -ERS. Most every point where the last letters of two words intersect, you will see an "S" or "ER" or "ERS." When you've got this much white space to fill, the stress starts to show first around the edges in this way. Now, to this puzzle's credit, it doesn't resort to really horribly made-up-sounding words, like RE-ICERS or something (I made that up, but I assume it's a legitimate cake-related word). You can hardly fault the intersection of BAD LOSER and BARTENDER. Still, I always notice the heavy padding of -ER and -ERS in low word-count puzzles. Once you dip into the mid-60s, word-count wise, the chances of your having a really compelling, scintillating, memorable grid diminish considerably. At those depths, even a superior constructor is only going to producer tolerable, passable work most of the time.

JUDGE ITO has the same number of letters as LANCE ITO (15A: Target of criticism in Vincent Bugliosi's 1996 book "Outrage"), I found out the hard way. I assumed [Bouillabaisse base, sometimes] was some kind of FISH for a while. That also hurt. CLAM BROTH seems arbitrary, but, I'm sure, accurate enough. Once I changed ETAS to ETDS, I saw ANISEEDS (17A: Sambuca flavorers), which was vital to my (finally) getting those long Downs in the NW. "ANIMAL FARM" in particular gave me fits. Completely forgot there was a Napoleon in that (3D: Napoleon is a commander in it). I lucked out in the musical realm—got Randy TRAVIS with no crosses and only a few seconds of thought / humming, and I'm not even a (modern) country fan (16A: Singer of the #1 country hit "Forever and Ever, Amen"). Also got HERB ALPERT off the -ERT (35A: "Whipped Cream & Other Delights"). Speaking of whipped cream and other delights, I've been eating chocolate pie every few hours for over 24 hours now, and putting whipped cream on and in whatever seems to warrant it. Especially coffee.

I just started watching "Friday Night Lights," so I have no idea who this AIMEE Teegarden person is, but once I had the -EE ending, guessing her name wasn't tough (40A: Teegarden of TV's "Friday Night Lights"). EVIE was slightly tougher, but the crosses helped me out (12D: One of the Wilcoxs in "Howards End"). Never heard of a LUNE, but, again: crosses. Had CAPE for [Bullfighting cloak], obviously (CAPA). Very fixable. Thought LES was the Fender of Fender guitars (LEO)—thanks a lot, LES Paul. CAMISOLE is not a particularly British word, so I don't know why "knickers" was in its clue (33D: Knickers go-with), but it's not like the reference was confusing.

Have a lovely day. I know I will. 42!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Pete 12:08 AM  

Man, if we're going to follow the dictum about not bitching about OOFY I've nothing to say.

Michaela 1:17 AM  

I was once at a bar trivia night where the quiz host was positive that no one would be able to identify the musical artist given only a verbal description of the album cover shown above. Someone on our team was the only person in the whole bar who knew it and she took home a bonus bottle of wine.

So that was pretty much the only gimme in this puzzle for me. Glad Rex didn't dub this one Easy -- that tends to happen a lot when I spend 45 minutes doinking around on one.

r.alphbunker 1:34 AM  

A mountain of a puzzle. Lots of slippery rocks and deadends. Needed oxygen (Google) to make it to the top. But feel a sense of accomplishment for what I did on my own.

Words googled
HERBALPERT (was thinking punk rocker)

Write overs
46A JuN-->JAN (JuN is probably not a legal abbreviation)
4D Ize-->ICS (ATOMICS fictional superhero team!)
32A etA-->etd-->TbA-->TSA (all are legit)
28A easY-->OOFY (cmon!)
26A ascetIc-->NEATNIK
12D Edna-->EVan-->EVIE
24A asian-->BREED (Burma is in Asia!)
49D LEs-->LEO
43D LiNE-->LUNE (I knew that LiNE was not a figure!)

chefwen 2:08 AM  

This was a tough one for me, as was yesterdays. Physically and mentally drained after slinging hash all day yesterday for friends and family.

Pulled a DNF both days, sigh!

Highlight today was KITCATCLUB which is where I think my Tuxedo cat has been frequenting when he disappears for 24 or so hours and comes home demanding food, smelling like cheap perfume and cigar smoke.

syndy 2:12 AM  

After all the WTF's rex mentioned when I answered BEATNIK for my non-hoarder it gave me BIPPIER for my winter and I considered it for a long time! so many writeovers-so many answers that I didn't understand!(and some I came up with anyway)I got CAMISOLE and knickers via THIS

jae 3:08 AM  

Mostly medium except for SE which was tough. Yes for WTF on KLABERJASS. I needed every cross and missed it by one square. OPALENCE, while not really a word, seemed sort of OK.

Took a while to give up CHAIRLEG (as in folding chair).

Insert OOFY comment here.

Liked the puzzle (except for ...), a good crunchy Sat.

ana camisole memoirs 4:05 AM  

First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY< REX!!!!!!
If I remember correctly, 42 is a good used to be the age I arbitrarily would answer in my 20s when folks asked me how old I was.
I would say "42!" and we'd all laugh bec it seemed so old and far away and impossible...
Now I'm ten years older than that!!!

Secondly, this puzzle took me 2 hours AND I had to google AIMEE and TRAVIS to kickstart after I had the entire SE and NW but I swath of blanks diagonally, but happy to say that was all I needed.

Odd about AIMEE as she was in the puzzle two days ago and is the name of one of the gals I sort of semi-mentored from Brown, whose work will appear next week here AND in the Onion, AIMEE Lucido
You go, girl!)

Hand up for never having heard of CHAIRBED, OOFY, KLABERJASS, SEARLE and misspelled KITkATCLUB for a long time. Only vaguely get the BEANBAG/Ashtray base answer...

ditto on half your write-overs:
26A ascetIc-->NEATNIK
12D EVan-->EVIE
24A asian-->BREED (Burma is in Asia!)
49D LEs-->LEO

I would add:
13D RING-->RIte-back to RING
19A fox --> MGM
42A lego --> ATOM
32A cle --> TSA (don't ask!)

After half an hour I only had 9 words!!! One wrong!

However, I did not have to google HERBALPERT as that album is the sole one I took from my father's stash when he died.
I LOVE HERB ALBERT and the Tijuana Brass...that and the Beatles and the Mamas and Papas were my father's musical legacy to me and carry sweet uncomplicated memories of childhood...

Brad, thanks for the MEMOIRS ;)

Anonymous 6:44 AM  

If you'd ever had a child who was hospitalized from time to time, you would definitely know what a CHAIR BED is...and you'd think how great that they actually provide a CHAIR BED in the room instead of having a roomful of mats on the floor where all the parents have to sleep. CHAIR BEDS are the best thing since sliced bread. I suppose 'You can get them at K-Mart' is your ultimate put-down...but I rather doubt that children's hospitals are buying them there. CHAIR BEDS get a lot of use. If you've never heard of one, you're just lucky, that's all.

Clark 6:45 AM  

Ok, that was way too hard for me. I am just not in the same league as you people. CHAIR BED? I had no idea. Even though I had such a thing once. It was like a folding futon couch, only it was a chair. A folding futon chair. We never called it a CHAIR BED, so it never crossed my mind.

I am going back to the little kids table now.

I skip M-W 6:52 AM  

got this except for bracers (had brakers) bec of kitkatclub , but oofy???? of course many, many writeovers, such as coffeeshop to Kitcatclub, alanis to travis, futon bed to futon mat to chairbed, etc.

johnranta 8:05 AM  

You are far too forgiving, this puzzle was poorly constructed, relying on misused words and misspellings. It should be "Anise seeds" not "aniseeds". "Oofy" is just nonsense. "Blares" should not be used as a noun. The clue for "capa" was not in Spanish, so the answer should not be a Spanish word (the puzzlemaker contradicted this rule himself with "una corona" - let's follow the rule all the time or none of the time). This was one of the sloppiest puzzles I've seen in some time. JR

Blue Stater 8:05 AM  


exaudio 8:14 AM  

Barely filled in anything on this puzzle, mostly just clicked "reveal" over and over. "Pays to be Jewish" crossword advantage did not help, as I've never heard of Klabberjass. Rummikub and Mah-Jong are the only games I know associated with my people. I am old enough to have a mental image of that Herb Alpert album cover with the woman all covered in whipped cream, though.

nanpilla 8:26 AM  

So many times I was tempted to just give up, but if this blog has taught me anything, it is that persistence pays off. I did finally finish it, and was amazed that it was correct. Some of those words just looked like gibberish to me. With so little intersection between the SE and the NW to the rest of the puzzle, it would have been easy to get completely stalled. I do vaguely remember seeing those little ashtrays made with beanbag bottoms, but BEarcAn seemed more likely for quite a while.

retired_chemist 8:51 AM  

Back to a Saturday time like I had a year or two ago. So, challenging but DNG.

Hand up for @Syndy's BEATNIK/BIPPIER which got fixed with a minute's thought. 33D Knickers go-with was KNEE SOCK to start. Oh, THAT kind of knickers. The footwear stayed for a while, which slowed me down.

From UNBALANCE, tried MAR for Blood Donor month (for too long). Switched to JAN - BARTENDER and KLABERJASS immediately appeared.

Had a friend in college who played KLABBERJASS. Seems the double B sounds better, but not acc. to Wikipedia.

Hand up for KIT KAT CLUB, remembering it from Cabaret. The eponymous knockoff in Berlin is, well, a place I, as a socially conservative American, an not going to.

Nice to learn a new fact about HERB ALPERT.

Put in AL UNSER and TURBOT immediately but was surprised when both were correct. Had to give up on LEGO for "Small building block." (Smaller, smaller....)

Nice one, Mr. Wilber. Thanks.

Oscar 9:00 AM  

Wow. That was rough. Wish the OOFY clue had referenced the source so I'd know there was no reason I would know it: Sounds like a charming fellow.

Raúl 9:02 AM  

An interview with "Whipped Cream..." model Dolores Erickson reveals that she was covered in shaving cream over a bikini. The only Whipped Cream was on her head and fingers.

foodie 9:05 AM  

Rex, Happy Birthday! I knew when you were 39!

This puzzle was so far from finished that I do not even deserve a DNF, as it implies something better than my performance.

What was hardest on the ego was the fact that there were not a million sports related clues, or very esoteric names. Just a few crazy entries--- KLABERJASS and OOFY!!! and then really hard cluing.

But LALALAND made my day :)

No half CAF for me, I need a doppio espresso, STAT...

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I was in the same state as @Chefwen, and with a sick baby in the house. Yeah, that's my excuse!

Wade 9:09 AM  

I had all the blind spots Rex did except getting Napolean and Aimee on the first go-round. I also learned you never really know what's going to piss somebody off (that anonymous "chairbed" rant above reminds me of the Seinfeld pony episode.)

Klaberjass is freaky crazy. I had that corner and was working up from it, so had the ASS and was looking for the month, which had to be JUN or JAN (and aren't those "National [Something Dumb] Month" clues really like a constructor just flipping you the bird?), and just had to surrender to the puzzle and let that non-word thing form itself.

Happy birthday, Rex. 42 is best age ever.

David L 9:15 AM  

OOFY is British, huh? Well, so am I, and I've never heard of it. Perhaps because I'm not 118 years old.

I couldn't get anything in the NE except for ESSE, and finally googled for TRAVIS in order to finish.

I don't understand BEANBAG or DOS. Anyone?

Gill I. P. 9:16 AM  

Stomach and brain way too taxed to even get much of a foothold. I finally managed ANISEEDS, and LANCE ITO to get me going and then I just stared at the puzzle for hours. Had to Google a lot and even then I didn't finish.
ANIMAL FARM was required reading according to my brother. He told me I had to find the "symbolism." I remember Old Major and Snowball because I liked the names. NAPOLEAN was mean.I couldn't figure out why a bunch of pigs were so angry but I didn't tell anybody.
I've seen CAPA (45D) clued like this several times. A CAPOTE is the cape the torero first uses to test the bull. It's yellow and pink in color. The red cape or cloak is called a MULETA.... a regular old cloak is called a CAPA but you won't hear a bullfighter use that word.
Hope everyone had a safe and filling Thanksgiving. Happy birthday @Rex. I loved being in my 40's because I knew everything...

johnranta 9:28 AM  

I'm old enough to remember when everyone had ashtrays scattered around the house, and one popular (tacky) style was a small metal dish embedded in a little bean bag. The "dos" column goes to the left of the "don'ts" column.

I realised that most of my criticisms are about the clues, not the actual words (except for "oofy" - that still seems like it's just a made-up word, and "aniseeds" is missing 2 letters). If the "capa" clue had said something like "cloak for una toreador"' and the "blares" clue had said "what an annoying taxi driver does" - I'd be a lot less riled by this puzzle. JR

joho 9:38 AM  

@nanpilla, I too have learned persistence with this blog but today, unlike you, I ended up with three wrong squares.

I had CHAIR but couldn't see BED for the life of me. I quit with the nonsensical CHAIRTEM ... you know a temporary chair ... thinking tIERS to be totally plausible as well as mOS as in months before years. Makes sense, right?

@David L, I didn't get it until coming here: DOS come before DONTS.

My third error was KLuBERJASS/uNA.

Great writeup today, @Rex, I couldn't agree with you more. Happy, happy birthday and enjoy your whipped cream. I'm doing the same thing.

Brad Wilber, tough, tough Saturday.
I wanted to clobber you with my KLuBERJASS at one point!

evil doug 9:40 AM  

Since 1A was "guests", I wanted sofa bedS. Crosses worked me out of it. (And to Anonymous at 6:44: Sorry about your child's apparent medical trouble, but c'mon: Don't try to lay a guilt trip on us because of our unfamiliarity with an unusual piece of furniture. Shall we all trade tales of medical woes now? Mine don't include chair beds, but they're not all that pleasant just the same....)

Thought of Roy Orbison and "Ooby, Dooby" for the oofy thing; saved by Animal Farm, and the "is" in that Napoleon clue instead of 'was' told me some trickery was afoot.

The Lonely Bull...Not generally a big fan of instrumentals, but Herb had some good ones. Then he decided he could sing---"This Guy's in Love With You"---gag me!

Had "tracers" for shots for a bit, but finally came up with "besiege" and then bracers" with the b.

An hour or two of hopscotching, double-backing, vigorous scratching out, out-loud cussing---just the kind of puzzle I want on Saturday.

From today's WSJ, in "Chains That Set Us Free" by Jonah Lehrer:
"It's not until we encounter an unexpected hindrance—a challenge we can't easily solve—that the chains of cognition are loosened, giving us newfound access to the weird connections simmering in the imagination. The benefit of obstacles also carries over into totally unrelated tasks, which is why beginning the day with a difficult crossword puzzle or writing a haiku can help people to become better real-world problem solvers."


Leslie 9:56 AM  

Evil Doug, thanks for the quote! If that's true, I'm going to be a champ problem solver today, because this one took me a loooooong time.

True confession time: I had "Get Here" for the "invitation exhortation," and when I realized "Burmese, e.g." had to be BREED, I couldn't let go of the word "here." "Bet Here? Bet Here? It's a gambling party? What? . . ." I wrote in the B but didn't get BE THERE [or be square] until coming to the blog.

My other write-over, which turned out to be a wrong-over, was when I changed the correct LUNE to "line." I figured "tirbot" must be a variant spelling of TURBOT.

Johnranta, I completely agree with your criticisms, and I'm one who's often dispirited at the seemingly constant carping at the various puzzles' construction quirks. OOFY? No. Just no. And Rex nailed it when he said finally getting KLABERJASS didn't feel worth all that effort. As for CHAIR BED, it's surprising how many other phrases fit there. "Hide-a-Bed." "Rollaway." Sigh.

I'm patting myself on the back a tiny little bit for knowing about the KITCAT CLUB, even though I misspelled CAT and thus got "brakers" for BRACERS.

Happy birthday, Rex. Is the fam even going to bother with a birthday cake, so soon after all that chocolate pie and whipped cream?

jackj 9:58 AM!

No, not OOFY who I recall is the older, playful brother of Muffy, love children of two of the posh, stiff upper lip crowd.

And, no, it's not KITCATCLUB, though any 18th century London political/literary club which doesn't have Samuel Johnson as a member makes it suspect as a legitimate entry in a Times puzzle.

And, I can live with HASIDIC and CHAIRBED; loved the cluing for KILOMETER and BARTENDER.

LALALAND gleefully tripped off the tongue onto the page and a brief but intense dalliance with country music made Randy TRAVIS a gimme (and, I'm still singing the song), but, no, that one word won't be repeated by me.

Rumor has it that Eugene Maleska kept a slip of paper in his billfold with the one word he promised he would never use in his Times puzzles. It was a 10 letter word for an obscure card game, and it wasn't a weird version of whist. (But, it was THAT unmentionable word!)

Will must have found the wallet.

mac 10:12 AM  

Happy birthday, Rex! And hope the cream will be on your plate for a long time!

Tough puzzle, but I almost finished it without help. A little bit of information is a dangerous thing: 1D Fishbones for clam broth, Bloomsbury for 29A Kitcatclub, nomadic for 26A neatnik. Oo-y was empty for a long time.

Melange is salad?

Beautiful day in NY, we're going gallery hopping in Chelsea!

M07S 10:13 AM  

@Evil...Great quote and exactly why I liked this puzz. As an aside, I've been using a program called USAPhotoMaps for quite a few years. Yesterday the light came on that YOU are the author. Sweet.

mac 10:15 AM  

Forgot: I also had to get Klaberjass from the crosses, but now realise that it is the same as the Dutch "klaverjassen", a very popular card game. I don't know how to play it, though.

evil doug 10:16 AM  

USAPhotoMaps? Not me, I'm afraid. But if there are royalty checks involved, I might adopt a new position on that....

Anonymous 10:42 AM  

Evil - good to see you. I missed your comments.

Anonymous 10:45 AM  

Did not like the puzzle - too many
unknown and not correct clues.

Doug Cox 10:54 AM  

@M07S - USAPhotoMaps was written by me, Doug Cox. Evil Doug may be a d****, but he's not a Cox.

Tita 11:01 AM  

Back to my Saturday groove - AFWG- almost finished wihtout google.

Thought there was a fishy theme, with the 2 bouillabaisse clues, then ----SOLE...

@johnranta - ANISEED is in fact an acceptable name for the pod, though that held me up forever, and was one of my googles...
First had ANISEtte, tried to fit Almonds some how (almond and anise flavored liqueurs are my least favorite, so I don't know one from the other)

suwie>BLEAT (!!)
coNE>LUNE (never heard of it, though I loved planar geometry in HS. (Yea, I bit the heads off chickens...)

Liked STREETART, and 10D Group sitting under a tree...that held me up forever!! But timely...

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

This was satisfying to finish as I did not find many points of entry on first go-around. Herb Alpert being one. I've heard of Klaberjass though was unsure of the spelling. Oofy was one of those "Hey, if you say so" answers, as were chairbed and lune. Having cooked with aniseeds I think they make a totally acceptable answer though it took me a while to remember the usage. Final moment of indecision was brakers vs. bracers. Had assumed that it was Kit Kat but brakers made less sense than bracers so I took a shot, as it were. Initially had (George) Strait for the country singer (it, too, crosses with ring) so that made the northeast the last to fall.

John V 11:33 AM  

Not much to say. Seemed unfairly difficult for what others have said. I am reasonably certain that I don't suck at the Times puzzle so, to end up with maybe six correct answers suggests there's something wrong here.

OOFY: Mickey's friend loses his head?

treedweller 11:33 AM  

We had the Herb Alpert when I was a kid and I stared at it lasciviously for many long minutes during my pre-pubescent days.

I learned to play KLABERJASS from some (non-Jewish) friends in college, but we spelled it Pinochle. Until I saw the box for the cards, I never put the word together with the spelling and always assumed it was Pea Knuckle. KLABERJASS sounds like the name of the Katzenjammer kids' neighbors.

I knew the Travis song and remembered it was by one of those guys who kept country music alive during the 90s when "Country" radio was a lot closer to Britney Spears than Hank Williams. Unfortunately, I picked George Strait, instead.

finally finished after a few googles. OOFy!

Tobias Duncan 11:40 AM  

@foodie said "This puzzle was so far from finished that I do not even deserve a DNF, as it implies something better than my performance.

That is why I use DNEFCCTF on days like today.

I made it all the way here thinking Herbal Pert was some Reggae guy.

retired_chemist 11:40 AM  

Hand up for having, early on, FISH STOCK, LINE/TIRBOT, and SPICES. But that is a big part of the fun - solving correctly in the face of such ambiguities.

I will, however, try to forget putting TILLIS in place of TRAVIS.

TomAz 11:52 AM  

Worst puzzle I've seen in months.

Two Ponies 11:54 AM  

I was expecting something classier sounding for the London place not what sounds like a strip club.
Wanted chalk someplace in the street art. Parasols with your knickers?
Measly for meager.
It finally came together but my grid is an inky mess.

North Beach 12:06 PM  

The only thing that kept me slogging through this puzzle (Sats are not my forte) is waiting to get here to see if Rex featured one of the best album covers of all time, IMHO. You did not disappoint, Rex, and HBD. My first records were Herb Alpert & The TJ Brass and I have no idea why. Gifts? I played them endlessly and disagree with you, @Evil Doug; this gal liked Herb's singing. I think that album had him in an open white shirt, riding a horse on the beach. 'Nuf said..

@Evil: currently flying Delta RSW-DTW-SFO and thinking of you... I'm going to read that article next, thx.

Oh, and GARCETTI shares letters with LANCEITO, for the record.

Anonymous 12:14 PM  

The blogger and I come to puzzles from two different perspectives, but it's hard to disagree with him on this one.

I thought 'oofy' was in the Addams Family theme song for a while. Had 'klabberjas' and still had to get the last s from the cross.

But my hate answer for this puzzle is 'ics' ick.

I finished the thing with just a little bit of help from the most recent evil empire, but not a lot of joy. not that much dislike, though, either.

evil doug 12:16 PM  

North Beach: I'm envious, especially if you call that home. SFO layovers always the best. Originally stayed at the old Cantebury Hotel off Union Square---all the airlines stayed there, and we'd all put our tables together and get rowdy in the bar until it resembled the cantina scene in Star Wars. Later moved to the St. Francis(!)---"I'm getting paid to stay here?!", among others. My wife and I agree that our fave bar on earth is the Buena Vista....

Safe travels,


ps: Cox? Eat me. Evil

monty burns 12:19 PM  

I always wore knee socks with my knickers.

Lewis 12:21 PM  

@wade -- made me laugh out loud with your "national ____ month comment".

@rex -- happy birthday, and interesting to learn about the "er" word endings in small word-count puzzles...

@evil -- great post from top to bottom.

Hand up for a Jew who's never heard of klaberjass, and I needed all the crosses. Loved the clue for PRESENTS. Googled five or six words. I loved the puzzle. I felt good at the end of the slog, like I do after a strong yoga practice...

Lindsay 12:27 PM  

Thought I had fought the good fight and won, but alas, no. LiNE crossing TiRBOT. Obviously I need to bone up on fish; BREAM sunk me last week. Also confused the political club with the candy bar. Two errors.

My NE originally featured students sitting under a tree and studying aramaic dynasties while listening to George Strait. All of which cross with each other, but none of which is correct.

Then they went back to their dorm and unfolded anAIRBED.

Have a good weekend everyone.

GillyMonster 12:29 PM  

even with saint google's help I could barely get a toe hold in this one. long obscure words with vague cluing. toughest sat in a while for me.

oofy just makes me think of "oofing" which is hawaiian slang for something ... you'd only find in the Onion AV Club puzzle.

Mel Ott 12:36 PM  

I've never cared for this kind of grid, which is basically 3 separate puzzles: NW, the NE-SW diagonal, and SE. The communication between the puzzles consists of two difficult crosses: HERB ALPERT/ANIMAL FARM and the brutal KIT CAT CLUB/KLABERJASS.

@Two Ponies; I agree. Sounds more like a titty bar than an English establishment. Not that I've ever been in one. ;-)

Sparky 12:42 PM  

Today's Business Section of the Times has Call Centers in the headline of an article on that subject.

The puzzle: Hard for me. DNF and then some. An AIR BED for 1A, MtM for MGM. I actually had ANIMALFARM and OPALESCE. Go figure. OOFY, say no more.

I am going to buy chocolates for Christmas presents and I may add a box for me.

Happy Birthday @Rex.

Masked and Anonymous 12:44 PM  

Happy #42, @31. Har. Forget about candles, just set the whole darn cake on fire. (What I always tell 'em, anymore.)
Re: your write-up: Another thing that thins out, as the word count gets lower: U's.

As kids, we went through each game in Hoyle, trying each one out. Our fave was Casino. Must not have liked KLABERJASS much, altho do remember the name. I think 31's hat is safe, tho. Wouldn't be a very OOFY b-day snack, anyhoo. [Where do they get these doggone OOFY-ish words? Not from my dictionary, that's for sure.]

Y'all have fun shopping today. Beware CHAIRBED bargain shoppers bearing pepper spray -- and be safe.

hazel 12:49 PM  

Right on! @evil d!! Great quote too.

The puzzle, on the other hand, just irritated me. Thats me purveying some sour grapes.

PuzzleNut 12:52 PM  

LiNE and URSA were my only toe-holds for quite a while, so was sorry to find that LiNE was wrong. My other error was OOFi crossing REi. Always get confused between OOFY and OOFI (not!).
I was ready to quit on this one about five times, but I held on and it eventually came together, albiet with a lot of letter runs.
Some of my write-overs included BEFOLD for BEFALL, EVIL for EVIE and of course KITKATCLUB. Had S?A??? for 41A and thought the company might be SEA-SIK or something like that. It got me the E, but for the wrong reason. Also thought that National Blood Month was FEB (for Valentines Day), but that eventually got cleaned up.
Overall, a nice Saturday diversion.

Sally 12:55 PM  

I love a difficult Saturday puzzle, but this one was just toooo...oofy!!
But I do enjoy reading all the comments. I learn from them, I laugh from them, I relate to them...loved the quote, Evil, and agree with the person who saw the Seinfeld similarity. Also Herbal Pert--LOL
Happy Birthday, Rex!!

quilter1 1:04 PM  

Ok, CHAIRBED never crossed my mind. SofaBED, hideaBed, all those, but not CHAIRBED. The children's hospital where I worked for 18 years provided beds for parents in the child's room. If they wished to sleep in a recliner, they could.

The card game was unknown, but HERB ALPERT was a welcome memory, and although I am preparing our Thanksgiving feast today (to be consumed tomorrow) the talk of bouillabaisse made me want to change up the menu. I liked CIPHERS and have vaguely heard of the KITCATCLUB. OPALESCE was an early entry as was MEMOIRS and BLEAT.

I agree some of this was unknown to the general solving public, and so a little unfair, but it was a good and challenging Saturday.

Happy birthday, Rex, and enjoy the pie!

JaxInL.A. 1:06 PM  

I'm joining @Clark at the kids' table. I popped in OPALESCE and a couple of small things and then just stared at this for ages. I agree with Rex that the struggle was not rewarding. Getting the few unaided answers I managed to eke out produced not "aha!" but "ugh!" Major help from the GoogleSPHERE required, and a slog even then.

I have to confess that I could picture the HERB ALPERT album cover but couldn't get his contemporary Al Hirt out of my head and took forever to remember him. Which is ironic because we are exploring private high schools for my daughter and just visited New Roads School in Santa Monica, whose facility is located in the Herb Alpert Education Complex. I guess his foundation gave them money to build the gym and theatre now under construction.

North Beach 1:10 PM  

It's the Era of Good Feelings: I'm reminiscing w/@Evil Doug and @Tobias made me LOL on a plane with his Herbal Pert! Let the holidays begin!

Flyzerda: I don't know who Zerda is but it's workin' for me.

M07S 1:27 PM  

@Doug Cox...To quote Rick Perry, "Oops". Wrong Doug. And you are both retired Delta pilots. And you both are Rexites. Too weird.

JaxInL.A. 1:37 PM  

Oh, and a very happy birthday to our faithful leader! I have just sent a birthday present via Paypal, and I make bold to suggest it here "For Your Consideration," as they say in the Oscar campaigns starting up here in LALALAND.

I can't even get here to read and write every day, much less analyze a puzzle, think up clever graphics, compose cogent opinions and combine it all into a post every single day. I'd feel bereft without this space, and this is a (very) small token of appreciation in celebration of Rex and all of you. Thanks!!

Oh, and my country singer was shAnIa Twain.

Anonymous 2:04 PM  

Out here in syndicated Portland OR, we got a puzzle by Barry Silk from 2007! any idea why?

Anonymous 2:11 PM  

Don't understand the complaints about KLABBERJASS. Yes it's a WTF and I never heard of it either, but did manage to get it from crosses -- isn't that pretty normal for a challenging puzzle? In fact, completing a hard Saturday sometimes requires flat-out guesses at plausible letters, but not in this case.

My problem was I never heard of TURBOT, so left LiNE/TiRBOT. Still satisfied to get the rest of this toughie.

foodie 2:12 PM  

A profusion of Dougs...

That's why Evil Doug gave himself this name. He was being a nice guy and distinguishing himself from another, very nice Doug, who was afraid of catching it from Rex after one of Evil's pointed comments.

@Tobias Duncan, I'll bite: what's DNEFCCTF?

LOL.. HERBAL PERT is a shampoo!

Shamik 2:24 PM  

Happy Birthday, Rex.

KLABERJASS...that's a no.

KITKATCLUB seemed as good as BRAKERS. So there was my one error in over 50 minutes of mind wracking, enjoyment.

snession: snarky session of puzzle solving, ie., this puzzle

JC66 2:24 PM  

My younger son and his newly pregnant wife are visiting from Colorado and we did the puzzle last night while playing scrabble with them so it was a back and forth exercise. WE finished; it was a unique and fun experience, but it took forever.


SEARLE was a rather large pharma that's been acquired by Pfizer. It was brought to mind recently when Rumsfeld (president and CEO before joining the Bush admininisgtration) and Cheney were flogging their MEMOIRS.



Have a great day and an even better year.

Lewis 2:27 PM  

Does the Kit Cat Club have a bar?

r.alphbunker 2:33 PM  

Birthday candles normally use unary to represent the age ( This gets to be a problem as you age.

Binary can save on birthday candles in your later years. 42 is 101010 in binary. If you light the candles in the 1s positions you get:

*    *    *
| | | | | |

You can represent up to 127 with seven candles which is probably all that we will ever need.

@Cox I liked your site. I am thinking of doing something similar when I retire which is not far off. My last birthday was 1000001.

retired_chemist 2:33 PM  

@ Lewis - check out my 8:51AM post for an answer to your question. :-)

Clark 2:48 PM  

@foodie -- I bet it means Did Not Even F****** Come Close To Finishing. Just a guess.

That the two Dougs in question are both readers of this blog is too crazy. Evidence that we are really brains in vats (and the crazy scientist who is running the whole thing didn't work out all the details).

Herodotus 3:16 PM  

Evil Doug was born June 6, 2008, at 4:47 p.m.:

fergus 3:39 PM  

Betty Draper ("Mad Men" 3rd) has been smoking a lot lately, and tends to favor her BEANBAG ashtray.

I would not let go of CONTENDER for One making the rounds, which left me with KITCATCHIC, IMBALANCE, and some questionable though plausible other stuff. Probably Will would have added a ? for my interpretation of the Clue?

Chip Hilton 4:22 PM  

Happy 42nd, Rex!

The SW below the diagonal blacks really hammered me. Otherwise, I enjoyed the experience.

The Alpert cover was certainly memorable. Right up there with the bizarre 'Satan is Real' by the Louvin Brothers. Check it out.

pk 5:14 PM  

DNEFCCTF, as @tobias duncan would say. Throwing down gargoyles when sandcastles didn't fit (where streetart was supposed to go) did not help at all.

Happy Birthday, Fearless Leader! Love this blog, and am looking forward to many happy returns.

KarenSampsonHudson 5:27 PM  

Happy Birthday, Rex/MS! Your time and talents are gifts to us all. Wishing you many more!

michael 5:48 PM  

Hardest Saturday I've ever tried. Massive googling. And I usually either finish Saturdays or miss only a couple of squares. I had _laberjass and still couldn't get it.

The only part I got on my own was the southeast (except for the k in klaberjass). This has not happened to me in years.

M07S 5:52 PM  

@Herodotus...Thanks for the link to that blog. Fun reading. The wit, wisdom, sarcasm, et al. is a daily tonic for me. I live in an area where the general consensus is that "I ain't doin no cross word puzzle. Readin the clues makes my lips tired." Ignorance is worn like a badge.

sanfranman59 6:09 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 7:35, 6:51, 1.11, 90%, Challenging
Tue 9:51, 8:52, 1.11, 81%, Challenging
Wed 9:43, 11:48, 0.82, 14%, Easy
Thu 13:23, 19:01, 0.70, 6%, Easy (8th lowest median solve time of 128 Thursdays)
Fri 26:21, 25:31, 1.03, 60%, Medium
Sat 41:41, 30:03, 1.39, 97%, Challenging (4th highest median solve time of 119 Saturdays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:15, 3:40, 1.16, 94%, Challenging (8th highest median solve time of 126 Mondays)
Tue 5:07, 4:34, 1.12, 83%, Challenging
Wed 5:13, 5:50, 0.89, 26%, Easy-Medium
Thu 6:55, 9:17, 0.74, 13%, Easy
Fri 13:32, 12:37, 1.07, 67%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 24:30, 17:08, 1.43, 97%, Challenging (5th highest median solve time of 118 Saturdays)

This puzzle had the second fewest online solvers of the 118 Saturday puzzles in my spreadsheet. This could be related to the holiday weekend, but the previous two Thanksgiving Saturdays had an above average number of solvers and they were both Mediums. So I think the Challenging rating on today's is legit.

Anonymous 6:12 PM  

klaberjass? star of "FNL"- a show I've never watched? CHAIR bed? GMAFB- this puzzle was stinky as all hell. The worst I've seen in a long time. Difficult, OK; but UNFAIR- no.

evil doug 6:27 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
evil doug 6:31 PM  


Ahhhhh, D-Day, 2008. Appropriate, no? Realllllly pissed Michael and his little posse of sycophants off, but it was gratifying to see how many people got it.

Thanks for digging that up. Nice to remember what a satirical genius I was in those formative days---and, of course, still remain....

You're all welcome,

The Poser with a Pen

Anonymous 6:59 PM  

Happy Birthday, Rex. I thought 42 was quite young when I hit that milestone. I was right.

I hope you keep the blog going forever. Oofys and klaberjassies to you.

As for the puzzle: OOh, gFYs, constructor/editor. Anyone can find weird words nobody has ever used in conversation or read in a book. I was raised in the UK and have never heard of the expression oofy. Ditto klaberjass. And I am not the better for having heard of them for the first time today.

Big fan of the constructor - hated this for the reasons you gave. There was no reward when Mr HP appeared, just a loud WTF.

evil doug 7:13 PM  

Okay, one last comment....

To his credit Michael's generously come off his end of the spectrum, and to be honest farther than I've come off mine. We've had some notable dust-ups---one particularly tough contratemps---but I think we've reached a comfortable level of mutual tolerance and even appreciation. He's matured at 42; I'm still working on it at 60.

...but don't tell him I said so. I have a reputation to live down to.


Clay C 7:16 PM  

At first, I thought I was never gonna find an 'entry point' for this thing, then saw 35A and knew HERBALPERT. Spent an absurdly long time before giving up on NE Area=REGION and 2/3 Magi gifts=SCENTS, with OATH as the Nuptial need cross, but I was fairly confident about Randy Travis, and finally used the eraser. I do remember those BEANBAG ashtrays ... Managed to finish it, even KLABERJASS, though only by getting every cross, and I agree, with no sense of accomplishment. But as IMHO the only true clunker was OOFY, I decided I liked this one quite a lot - Tough but possible.

Anonymous 9:06 PM  

Time for the Sunday puzzle!

Goodnight, all.

Anonymous 9:25 PM  

Klabberjass---you must be kidding. This is a well knnown game in the Jewish community? I've been a member of the tribe for 55 years, have lived in NYC and Baltimore with big Jewish communities. I went to college with a very large Jewish population (where Rex teaches)and I have never heard of this game. I asked about a dozen folks at synagogue this morning if they heard of it---no one had.
This puzzle was very challenging, but not at all enjoyable. So many obscure words.

Matthew G. 9:56 PM  

For my money, this was the hardest puzzle that has appeared in the NYT since I became a daily solver about 18 months ago. Epic. Fail.

I won't bother listing all the stuff I flat out didn't know. All I'll say is that if you finished this puzzle without hints, I bow to your crossword-fu. I've reached The point where I always finish Saturdays, and usually in decent time. But this? I got through the NW, but could only get bits and pieces everywhere else. Just unbelievably hard.

Tita 10:37 PM  

Happy Brithday Rex - and thanks for providing us with this cyber gathering place.

Dirigonzo 11:25 PM  

Newbie-solver friend and I spent a pleasant couple (OK, Maybe 3) hours filling the grid in one letter at a time and felt a grand sense of accomplishment with every answer that appeared. We were slowed down in the NE when she, a country music aficianado, insisted the #1 country hit was sung by George Strait. Still finished with no outside help so we felt pretty proud of that.

Happy birthday, Rex - 42 is the new 31!

jberg 9:23 AM  

I'm just commenting for form, since it's sunday morning now. We were away Friday night, in Provincetown, and I didn't have a chance to buy a paper - so I didn't get a crack at the puzzle until about 6 PM. I was really stumped at first - got the MEMOIRS/ANIMAL FARM cross, and that was about all I was sure of. I came back to it a couple hours later, and it fell into place (slowly), with the aid of a couple of internet searches.

I knew SEARLE because my father was a pharmacist, and because I used to need dramamine every time I got in a car. I didn't know KIT CAT CLUB (one letter different from the one in Cabaret - someone could put them both in a puzzle).

I, too, never heard of KLABERJASS. It sounds similar to skat or sheephead - I used to play the latter more or less constantly, but I bet it's almost equally obscure here in the East, where I live now.

A belated happy birthday, Rex!

NYTcrossfan 6:11 PM  

Happy belated birthday Rex.

I read every comment and did not see LALALAND- is that a plaNe? or a PLACE for a space cadet in 48A?
My paper said PLANE- was there a TYPO???

FearlessK 6:42 PM  

It happens that 26 Nov is also my birthday (belated hb, Rex!) so I've just attempted this puzzle: epic fail hardly does it justice. So glad I didn't attempt it on the actual day: that would have been more than this 53 (!) year old could take on an *ordinary* day, much less a birthday!

Ron 8:49 AM  

Dumb puzzle.

Thanks for your commentary Rex, always interesting.

tap hat 10:15 PM  

Don't we all long for a village where we are an integral part of the whole? Living in a city as I do, we become so disconnected. This was a lovely reminder of what can be.
Tks so much, and remember me!

Greg Peterson 1:44 PM  

Oofy Prosser was the rich twit in PG Wodehouses world. Member of the Drone Club with Bingo Little, Bertie Wooster, et al. Oofy dates to the Edwardian schoolby slang of Plums youth. Also the noun: oofiness

Anonymous 1:53 PM  

Connie in syndicated Seattle here; I liked the Burmese breed above the Kitcat Club; the bartender and the bracer pair; and the Bugliosi clue up top and Lalaland at bottom.

Anonymous 3:43 PM  

Also in (or near) syndicated Seattle, Gene. Took me just less than 30, most of it in the NE. Caf to befall to opalesce, then stuck. To the west, ursa to alunser to kilometer to herbalpert and the entire west fell, despite the awful oofy and the difficult but legit aniseeds.

When my brother and I were kids, we got a copy of Hoyle's Games and taught ourselves most of the games we'd never heard of. For me, it was an absolute delight to uncover--slowly but most pleasurably--the game of klaberjass. It was one of our favorites, and one of the better two-handed games you'll come across.

I'm sad that there exists this temporal disconnect in syndication land; this would be a fun place to hang out more. Always enjoy reading it.

Anonymous 3:51 PM  

Spacecadetcraft here in LALALAND. This was a DNF for me; way too many unknowable--even unGoogleable-things. CHAIRBED: it should make up its mind, is it a chair or a bed? Sheesh! OOFY: that's just a YGTBFKM (you gotta be f***in' kidding me). Utter nonsense. Mod Squad studio: I misunderstood the clue and went for the airing network, ABC. Who knew the freakin' studio? And then there's KLABBERJASS. Who named that game? Odds are long that you could even spill those letters out of a scrabble bag!
Oh, I'm just getting started. "One making the rounds" for BARTENDER?? Come on, at least pretend to be a little fair. "Melange" for SALAD?? How in the world do you expect that get?
I'm a bit sore at myself for not getting ANIMALFARM off of the Napoleon clue; yeah, I shoulda had that one. My bad. But the rest... just what is a LUNE in geometry? I took that, and aced it, but I've never heard of a LUNE.
If you think I'm being overcritical, well, just call me a BADLOSER.

cousi: My uncle's kid who played point guard for the Celtics.

Anonymous 7:10 PM  

Got HERB ALPERT right off the bat, then struggled all day (or at least two-and-a-half bowl games worth) to get the rest. In the end I was amazed at how well I did, with KIT kAT CLUB as my only error outside of the southwest. I guess I was thinking of the Bay Area nudie bar.

In that SW corner, however, I crashed right into the brickyard wall. Would have helped if I'd remembered that The Brickyard was a racetrack. I also ended up changing AIMEE to AoMEE just so I could have CAMOMILE with my knickers, even though I was pretty sure (a) chamomile has an H, and (b) nobody would name their kid Aomee.

Could've done without CHAIR BED and BAD LOSER, and I'm glad I didn't see OOFY until I came here but I appreciated the workout.

Several years ago I visited the Seattle Music Experience, and I'm not sure if this is still there (may have been a temporary exhibit) but at the time they had an entire wall filled with parodies of that Herb Alpert cover. Some funny stuff. Was it Stan Freberg who covered himself in spaghetti?

Anonymous 8:29 PM  

I've been doing c-pzzls for over 50 years, and doing them quite successfully. This one is just too too esoteric and artsy fartsy to contend with. It belongs in the bottomless abyss of "Why Bother!" Sorry, Evil D, I don't agree.

Anonymous 11:49 AM  

Oofy? Bah, humbug!

iswayel, alt pronunciation for the Jewish homeland??

Bad loser / cipher

Anonymous 6:06 PM  

Hated it. What if your hoarder had all his stuff cataloged and organized, stored neatly? Would he not be a NEATNIK and a HOARDER? I wanted SPENDER or WASTREL for this answer. NEATNIK is an OOFY word. I figured a CONTENDER made the rounds. Worst puzzle of the year(syndicated).

CindyMBlack 3:20 AM  

GRRRR!! I've just this year graduated from Tuesdays to ~~Fri's on the NYT, and I DID get MOST of these, so I guess I can't grumble TOO hard... I have never accessed a puzzle on the web but decided to Google that book by Bugliosi; and there was this site in the search results! Cool! I didn't want to cheat but finally peeked at just Lance Ito answer. Zounds. Never did get "Klaberjass" or "Oofy" (OH, Puh-leeze! )-- but in reading the comments it's so good to know you all share the same frustrations re the same answers. Really: LESS THAN ENJOYABLE; and many of these answers, once revealed, are just plain irritating. This is cool; I'lll be back.

CindyMBlack 3:24 AM  

And, BTW, how is "LALALAND" a freakin' PLANE for a SPACE CADET or anybody else for that matter? Sure doesn't sound like no "plane" to me.

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