Volcano south of Quito / FRI 12-16-11 / Taiwan strait city / Loser at Salamis and Plataea / Early Appalachian crossers / Longa ancient city founded by son of Aeneas

Friday, December 16, 2011

Constructor: Doug Peterson and Barry C. Silk

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none



Word of the Day: COTOPAXI (31D: Volcano south of Quito) —
Cotopaxi is a stratovolcano in the Andes Mountains, located about 28 km (17 mi) south of Quito, Ecuador, South America. It is the second highest summit in the country, reaching a height of 5,897 m (19,347 ft) // Cotopaxi has an almost symmetrical cone that rises from a highland plain of about 3,800 metres (12,500 ft), with a width at its base of about 23 kilometres (14 mi). It has one of the few equatorial glaciers in the world, which starts at the height of 5,000 metres (16,400 ft). The mountain is clearly visible on the skyline from Quito. It is part of the chain of volcanoes around the Pacific plate known as the Pacific Ring of Fire. // The volcano is the subject of 1855 and 1862 paintings by Frederic Edwin Church. (wikipedia)
• • •

Not a very scintillating grid today. Maybe STELLAR PARALLAX is good (45A: Effect used to measure astronomical distances). Don't know. Never heard of it. Just figured it out from crosses. Other stuff I've seen before. Shorter stuff doesn't really pop. I would love to love COTOPAXI, but I've never seen it before (that I recall), and don't generally like proper nouns that are pretty obscure and look like a random set of consonants and vowels. Puzzle played very easy for me—a series of sprints, interrupted by slight pauses—until I tried to finish off the top of COTOPAXI. I'd gotten all the lower part of it from crosses, but my luck ran out up there, north of PATIO, as it did west of CORVETTE. I spent as much time on that blank patch of land (even removing the -ETTE part of CORVETTE at one point) as I did on the Entire Rest Of The Puzzle. In retrospect, this shouldn't have happened. I wanted PAULO for 26D: "The Alchemist" novelist Coelho from the get-go, but something kept me from writing it in. When I said it to myself, it sounded preposterous. "That can't actually be someone's name, can it? Why would you give your kid a sing-songy, rhyming name?" Also, Tony Coehlo, who I think was a California politician when I was a kid, was running interference. If COTOPAXI was the main bad guy on one side of the Great White Hole in my grid, PETIT was the other. I don't know if I really know what a PETIT four is (26A: Four front?). I am imagining a CANAPE ... crossed with a pinafore (whatever that is). I see it's a dessert thing. O well. JESTS was ridiculous, as I had JOKES and JAPES beforehand. Clues on COALS and CHUTES and CHAIN were all terribly ambiguous, so I just floundered stupidly for a while until I went back to square one and thought "What if I just plug PAULO in here after all...?" So I rate this puzzle Easy-Challenging. Thus, Medium.



I started with WON OUT (2D: Carried the day). Lucky guess? Maybe. Whatever, it worked. Shortly thereafter (once I turned SMIRCH to SCORCH), I threw the 15s across and took HOKKAIDO down. Took care of the NE corner and then got stuck (see above). Went back to W and SW, and polished that off with no problem (except SAN MATEO / AMOY, yipes — the former took a while to come into view, and good thing it did, as AMOY means nothing to me) (39A: Taiwan Strait city). Once AEROBIC EXERCISE went in, the SE was a cinch, and then it was just a matter of climbing COTOPAXI, which I did, cross by cross, until ... (again, see above).


Bullets:
  • 21A: Striking things about rec rooms (CUES) — first significant pause. Even with CU-S in place, I had no idea what was up with this. I found the cluing a little overly clever / precious today. 
  • 8D: Triptych trio (PANELS) — I somehow thought MAGI at first. Then crosses made it all clear.
  • 22D: Orange half of a TV duo (ERNIE) — much easier to get than I thought it would be. Ruled out any possible tanning-bed casualties that might be on TV, then went for Muppets.
  • 36D: Simpson who was Time's first Woman of the Year (WALLIS) — didn't know her a few months back. Still don't. American socialite who married the Duke of Windsor? No wonder I don't care.
  • 43D: ___ Longa, ancient city founded by the son of Aeneas (ALBA) — I have some familiarity with this material, so this was a cinch. See also XERXES (38D: Loser at Salamis and Plataea).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

81 comments:

Tobias Duncan 12:29 AM  

Sometimes my poor spelling is actually a blessing.I am just not ever 100% sure how to spell anything, so when some variant spelling comes up I just shrug it off and put in whatever works.
Today my poor spelling just effing killed me.
Knew it was PHAIR but spelled it, well just wrong,
Knew we needed some kind of PARALLAX but could not get STELLAR because I shorted PARALLAX one L buggering up the whole area.

DK La Fonda sounds great but with family in town I will need a much stronger drink on Christmas day than a fizz.Im thinking double rye Manhattan rocks...

Tita 12:41 AM  

Back before I came to Rexville, it would take me days to solve Fridays and Saturdays - now I stay up late finishing them off same day!
Maybe the sleep deprivation is actually helping.

Rex - It is only fitting that a Brazilian songwriter has a musical name... We Continentals say that Brazilians speak "Portuguese with sugar" - it is, in fact, a very DOLCE and melodius, wonderful twist on the Queen's Portuguese.

Word evolutions:
sAintS-->PANELS
segUES-->ENSUES
tram-->CART
And liked COAL CHUTES, and PINON/PIERCE crossing.

Thank heavens for TROOPERS (met enough of them in my shiny red cars for that to have been a gimme), friend who sends a box of PETIT fours every Christmas, and other happy pools of knowledge that made this a challenge, but doable with no googling.

Gill I. P. 1:08 AM  

I don't know...both Peterson and Silk are such good constructors but this puzzle seemed to be missing their usual bells and whistles.
I didn't mind COTOPAXI since it made me look it up. Now, I'll most likely forget it. Didn't know PHAIR though she sounds like she's missing a T NOTE.
Entered CONESTOGA WAGON without any downs and the rest zipped right along.
Didn't CBers give the cops or troopers the name SMOKEYS?

alba cadre michaels 1:23 AM  

Wow, I'm impressed! I had to google like five things, and each time Rex came up!

Had the whole top half and came to a grinding halt
(didn't help that i had TITAN who clashed, leading to TRAM for the trolley.oy.)

Started with the following: WALLIS and kicked myself...still don't know why i didn't think of her! I kept thinking Althea Gibson...
(Those like Rex who don't know of her, but do care, can learn in a gentle way from "The King's Speech" amongst other films.)

In all, five Googles, a record for me. :(
Had to google Plataea, (which only talked about Persians, but I had the X from WAX), Longa, COTO????, and had to
look up what kind of PARALLAX.

I'll let other PAULO Coelho fans WAX poetic about his books (The Alchemist is one of the biggest-selling books of all times, tho I've never read it...i had his Veronica must Die sitting on my shelf for years...)

Oh, and I had CaliSTOGAWAGONS. AW GEE.

I count this as a DNF even tho I finished it. :(

And , even tho I'm from Minnesota, I've not heard of Columbia HTS. B-r-u-t-a-l.

retired_chemist 1:27 AM  

Started out with almost nothing on the first pass, except SWEDISH @ 1A and IQ TESTS @ 50A. Having so many blank squares was daunting, but after I got a toehold in the SE it turned out to be easy.

Eventually remembered that the Constitution had VII articles, and the V gave me CORVETTE, which changed SSTS to JETS.

Same SMIRCH to SCORCH change as @Rex. WON OUT, HOKKAIDO, and GINGER were now gimmes, which pretty much got me the upper 15s. Similar luck in the south - a few crosses, then the 15s were clear. The 15s gave me PHAIR and XERXES, and the rest fell quickly.

Did not see PANACEA as an alchemist's goal - neither did Wikipedia. Thought it was mostly turning lead into gold. Got it anyway but didn't believe it until I had 5 crosses.

Thanks, Doug and Bsrry.

jae 1:57 AM  

Me too for SMIRCH to SCORCH. Easy-Med. for me. I agree that nothing really pops, but this is a very smooth Fri. themeless. Looking back over it it seems like it should have been tougher. I mean Salamis was a true WTF. But, with the X in WAX....give me losing generals that start with X for $100 Alex. Nice puzzle guys!

Clark 2:10 AM  

@r_c — I figured I'd google (post-puzzle completion) PANACEA and alchemy and I came up with this:

"Panacea Alchemy also gave rise to the concept of the panacea, the 'medicine' to cure all illnesses - also never found, but a search for it led to an interesting number of ways to poison oneself (mercury, silver and lead poisoning being numbered under the chief ways that alchemists died)."

I did not know that.

Semi-puzzle partner helped me out. I'm not sure I would have finished on my own. ALBA, PHAIR, PIERCE, COTOPAXI, AMOY—that's some brutal stuff!

chefwen 2:25 AM  

This one was passed to and fro with part time puzzle guy and he came up with 7D and 45A (he had his ipad and I accused him of Googling, he denied, but I know better) Anyway, we finished and "I" didn't Google, so I'm feeling pretty good about this puzzle.

I wanted rest and relaxation for 48A but it wouldn't fit and there it was at 27A in an abbreviated form, is that a minipop?

Great Friday puzzle Doug and Barry, thank you.

Octavian like Celsius 3:21 AM  

Great puzzle -- fast for me but very enjoyable. Started with ERNIE, HOKKAIDO, GINGER, EAGLE, PANELS, RANDR, STUDIO, SARTRE and then it felt like I was rolling downhill. Never heard of Stellar Parallax but the two words make sense together in this context. Liked the Conestoga Wagons and On Speaking Terms ... and PIERCE came fast cause I was just helping my daughter study for an exam on the run-up to the Civil War ("not POLK, not VAN BUREN, not FILLMORE, must be PIERCE") ... all in all, fun exercise and no crosswordese. Thanks guys.

I skip M-W 3:41 AM  

@ rex, Every time I see that "let's get physical" video, I'm reminded that it's a triple entendre because Olivia Newton-John is a granddaughter of the Nobel-prize winning physicist Max Born, a founder of quantum mechanics, who emigrated to England about the time Edward VIII abdicated so that he could marry "the woman I love" Wallis Warfield Simpson. Edward was a ninny even as British royalty go, quite taken with Hitler, and therefore it was the Brits' good luck that he was off the throne when Germany invaded Poland.

The top half of puzzle just fell into place for me, but I was slowed by a few missteps in the bottom, such as Persia before Xerxes, ear for a seal option (eared seals) and thinking that the star distance thing had to do with a stereoptic effect, which it is, but stellar parallax is the more customary term. I was sure I didn't know rocker Liz, but it turns out I did, so that helped me finish finally.

I had just been scrutinizing the bestseller list, so Paulo was a gimme, except that I tend to think Portuguese should have Paolo and not Paulo. I guess that's Italian.

@ Alba Cadre, I once was in Minnesota, long enough to run through the airport concourse in time to catch a plane, but Columbia Heights just seemed obvious. I think there's another one in Md.

Acme 4:08 AM  

@ i skip m-w
According to wikipedia less than 20,000 people in Columbia Hts , MN... What is this, some sort of plug for "Young Adult"?
The place names, and there were many, were WAY too obscure for this geographically challenged gal

gary 4:18 AM  

Not so bad for a friday. Some words just make you do a double take. The letters look so uncomfortable together. Time to sleep

I skip M-W 4:25 AM  

@ ACME I have no idea what you mean by a plug for "young adult." I'm certainly not one.

Eejit 4:59 AM  

Took me an hour on the nose, pretty good for me on a Friday. Lots of people and places I didn't know but managed to figure them out without googling. I was 80% done after half an hour but struggled with the lower third. Enjoyed it overall.

MaryBR 6:38 AM  

On the easy side for me. RANDR was my first entry into the grid, which got me ERNIE and the middle fell quickly from there. With some crosses, CONESTOGA WAGONS and ON SPEAKING TERMS came quick too, so the top was a breeze. Once I had the SAN, MATEO was my first guess though I was very hesitant to put it in at first. AMOY was a total blank for me, and I'd never heard the term smokeys so TROOPERS took a while.

Finished last in the SE despite throwing down COTOPAXI from the COT. It's a pretty popular mountain to climb if you're down in South America - high but not too technical - so it gets lots of foot traffic. I know several people who have climbed it. I had DuLCE (Spanish, oops) for a while, which gave me ruLeR for one who clashes which gave me AT eASe for the salute (thought it was a military thing) and rAR_???? for trolley. Yeah, that's when I knew something was wrong. Eventually IQTESTS gave me the aha moment I needed to fix up that corner and I was done in one of my best Friday times. Though I still finished wondering what AT OAST was for a full minute! Guess I might not score so high on that TEST...

SethG 7:23 AM  

I liked the Doug half but not the Barry half. I think. Maybe it was the other way around.

Definitely felt like two different puzzles.

Glimmerglass 7:43 AM  

Challenging for me. On the first pass, I had almost nothing. The clues were 1) stuff I'd never heard of (COTOPAXI), 2) stuff that could have been lots of things (ON SPEAKING TERMS), or 3) questionable cluing (JETS don't "misbehave"). Finally got some traction in the SE (WALLIS, IQ TESTS), and slowly worked my way back up the grid. Took about an hour.

dk 7:45 AM  

@Tobias, Whatever we drink we must toast Andrea as the fact that she is not attending is a source of some ENMITIES. Andrea I know the toast will be no PANACEA. Perhaps if you hitch up your CONESTOGAWAGONS and head out ROUTE 66 you could join us for a little RANDR and AHEEP of fun. To get to Sante Fe turn left at Albuquerque.

I had spelling challenges as well. Although they were of the low IQ variety --- spelled CHUTES with an S.

The rest of my solving experience consisted of reactions like: PINON no way too easy. Still some fun fill as noted by others.

*** (3 Stars) My 8th grade paper on Franklin PIERCE and leading a couple of seminars on intellectual property at the law school of the same name saved my bacon.

End notes:

Reading Rin-Tin-Tin. Bert Leonard who produce Rin-Tin-Tin also produced Route 66. Route 66 came to Maine one summer and for some reason (mom's crush on George Maharis perhaps) we got a short ride in one of the CORVETTES.

Nice set of shout outs to MN. XERXES is a street that may run all the way to Columbia HTS.

dk 7:58 AM  

@Iskip.., In MD it is just plain Columbia. I know that as it is where my brick and morter office sits - generally I work from home unless I am cavorting about the Aspen Institute or other places where IQTESTS are superfluous. Hey, I got stupid posts TOSPARE today. Off to the cold PATIO with the other post pariahs for me.

r.alphbunker 8:00 AM  

The Anatomy of a Google
Googled COTOPAXI at the end
Had
40A Ascribe to _IN_N
43A Tons A_EA_
40D Rocker Liz __AIR
31D Volcano COT__AXI

Thought that COTO and ON were likely but an alphabet run did not get me PIN. Only when Googling guaranteed the O, did I see the P.

Had AlOAd for Tons which was tossed by PIERCE. I think that I never really let go of aLOAd and it prevented me from seeing AHEAP. I needed the Googled P to see the H.

PHAIR should have come from the crosses.

If I had put the puzzle aside and come back to it I probably would have gotten AHEAP and PINON and would not have had to Google.

jberg 8:20 AM  

AMOY is now known as Xiamen, which is probably why so many found it hard. It is approximately 350 times as big, in population, as Columbia HTS. Still, once you know it's a 3-letter abbreviation, what are the other choices? Falls, lake, prairie don't really fit. Her in New England it might be ctr, but that's not so common in the Midwest.

But that's a diversion; the real thing about this puzzle is that either you know COTOPAXI or you don't. I knew it from the Frederic Church painting (or one of them, apparently there are two). I've seen the one in Washington. I still couldn't remember its name until I got the X from EXERCISE (AEROBIC took longer).

Hand up for SmiRCH, and also for liveS in instead of STAYS AT at 32D, which kept me from filling in SARTRE, even though I knew it.

I really wanted Doppler shift at 45 A, but PARALLAX started to emerge over in the SE, so it was just a matter of working out STELLAR. For those not familiar with it, it involves measuring how much the relative position of a star shifts against the background view over a period of 6 months, as the earth moves from one extreme of its orbit to the other. The more the image shifts, the closer the star is. Now that you know it, I'm sure you'll find yourself using the technique all the time.

And somebody't got to say it: 3 Xes! And a Q! Makes you hardly notice the 3 Ks and a J.

Tita 8:55 AM  

jberg - nice explanation of parallax... kind of like turning the earth into a giant set of binoculars...
We use parallax every waking moment to judge distance - we can because we evolved 2 eyes...

Doppler shift, of course, is for measuring relative motion.

[Whew] - that made my brain hurt...signing off for a while to rest my parallax detection apparati.

jackj 9:05 AM  

When two top-notch constructors collaborate on a Friday themeless puzzle, you can be sure you’re in for a titanic struggle.

Right? Well, not exactly.

Seems Doug and Barry have given us what is, in my view, arguably the easiest themeless Friday puzzle of the Shortz era. Fun, yes, but not one with which to even break a sweat.

It was nicely clued, it had good fill, it even had some juicy, mysterious obscurities, but, it was just, just, well, .....….."easy"; no other way to put it.

It must have been a case of “Let’s give the Rubes a Holiday Treat” at the grey lady.

retired_alchemist 9:08 AM  

@ Clark - thanks for the alchemical PANACEA search.

@ MaryBR - AT OAST is clear - it means you are out at the kiln drying your hops.

@jberg - also wanted to find a 15 letter phrase involving DOPPLER SHIFT, but THE DOPPLER SHIFT got ruled out early by crosses. If my first two crosses had been TROOPERS and REQ, which are the two that fit, it would have nailed my solve to the wall for a LOOOONG time.

evil doug 9:12 AM  

"AMOY is now known as Xiamen, which is probably why so many found it hard."

Yes, that 'Xiamen' would have made it so much easier....

"@ rex, Every time I see that "let's get physical" video, I'm reminded that it's a triple entendre because Olivia Newton-John is a granddaughter of the Nobel-prize winning physicist Max Born, a founder of quantum mechanics, who emigrated to England about the time Edward VIII abdicated so that he could marry "the woman I love" Wallis Warfield Simpson."

Why, "Let's Get Physical" conjures up that same exact triple entendre for me, too! Luckily I haven't seen that video in about, oh, 25 years....

Surprised there aren't more complaints about Daly City/San Mateo County. If I hadn't spent a lot of short layover nights next to SFO I'd have had no clue.

Evil

jackj 9:18 AM  

Tita, last night, wrote (in part):

"I just finished the 6/23/05 puzzle.

Ummm...thanks, I think, to those who mentioned it, though woulda been fun to say "If y'all liked this one, you should try Courtney Crocker's gem from 2005..." without revealing the details."

When I mentioned this puzzle yesterday it was with the knowledge that some might want to look back and solve the puzzle and too many detailed comments could spoil their solving pleasure.

However, without the few details I noted, I had no meaningful tale to tell so, I tried to minimize the reveals and still let those who had no intention of retro-solving to enjoy the comment, too.

I apologize if it was too much info; it's a fine line to walk.

foodie 9:36 AM  

I thought this was a great puzzle! Very international-- SWEDISH Alchemists, searching for PANACEAs, journeying to South American volcanoes, East Asian cities, and very appropriately, Minnesota, eating DOLCE PETIT fours.

I aced the bottom half, actually the SE diagonal, and then googled AMOY and worked my way up the other side.

You know, brains do well on AEROBIC EXERCISE! The clue seemed like it was attached to the wrong answer...

I don't know, but I think of ON SPEAKING TERMS as indicating a history of conflict that has gotten resolved. Is that not correct? We are now on speaking terms?

I laughed when I got PETIT. Tough clue because the English number is so powerful at blocking the French reading of four (meaning from the oven). Grew up loving that stuff!

OldCarFudd 9:41 AM  

I had exactly the same reaction as jackj.

Doug P 9:47 AM  

@SethG - Funny you should say that, because we basically split the grid between us. I did the top half & Barry did the bottom half. The clues are a mash-up of Barry, Will, and me.

And SWEDISH was a shout-out to Andrea and the "Swedish-sounding" nickname she coined.

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

@Evil Doug - I got the jokes too. Aren't we smart!

Madoff Investor 9:49 AM  

SANtATEO sounded just fine to me. I should have known better.

David 9:56 AM  

Another fun puzzle this week, and Easy-Medium for me except for the SE. After doing my normal Friday stare-in-disbelief for a minute when I only knew 1 or 2 answers, I threw in ROUTE with DEPTs, and 10 seconds later had the NW complete, and about 1 minute later had the entire top half. Having thought about ENMITIES for Rancor immediately and having it confirmed by the 15 letter crosses helped.

SW wasn't too tough, but I had 2 writeovers in the SE - ATEASE for ATOAST (AT EASE usually comes AFTER a salute, not at the start, but I still went with it for a while). Also DULCE for DOLCE. Fortunately I remembered the very 1st Harry Potter movie when the lady sashayed through the Hogwarts Express intoning, "Anything from the trolley, dears?" as she wheeled the snack CART around, otherwise I would have never gotten that one. Today it helped me correct my errors, too...

Bassetwrangler 10:18 AM  

I misstarted with "regular" exercise rather than aerobic. I've heard of Liz Phair but always thought it was an event like Lilith Fair. Hung up for quite a while assuming tetra, and not petit, was the four prefix.

joho 10:24 AM  

That is so interesting @Doug P as I found your half much more doable that Barry's half and therefore more enjoyable.

I used the dictionary to get half an answer when I had COTO and couldn't for the life me come up with a finish for that. PAXI helped me get into the bottom. Knowing Liz PHAIR helped a lot as well. I eventually finished in the SE corner after changing titan to COLOR and tram to CART (Hi, Andrea!) and PARALLel to PARALLAX.

Since I looked up PAXI this was DNF for me. AWGEE!

archaeoprof 10:29 AM  

@jberg: three X's and Q, all in the SE corner!

Easiest way to convert from Celsius to Fahrenheit:
"30 is hot, and 20 is nice;
10 is cool, and 0 is ice."

Wood 10:46 AM  

@ACM: From MN here too! So Columbia HTS was my first gimme. It's an inner-tier suburb of Minneapolis (EDINA, anyone?) and home to the wonderfully-restored Deco movie palace the Heights Theater.

The grid was looking pretty scary until I got down to SE, where WAX and then XERXES seemed obvious. XERXES Avenue, as it would happen, is also a major north-south artery on the west side of Minneapolis. It's the X in the A to Z march of streets from Aldrich to Zenith. Then it starts over again with Abbott and kind of gets weird after about France. But there is also a XARTHAN way out there in Hopkins or somewhere. Minneapolis alphabetic streets would make a great xword theme. Or is that too local??

XERXES made me see PARALLAX, though it took a while to fill in STELLAR. Had rEgular EXERCISE at first which slowed down SW. Never heard of AMOY but it came from crosses; as did SAN MATEO and COTOPAXI. Sheesh.

Don't like the clues for CADRE or PIN ON. How is "ascribe to" a clue for PIN ON?

Overall though, a fast Friday solve for me, 34 minutes.

Wood 10:46 AM  

P.S. @archeoprof, I love the Celsius rhyme. Never heard that, going to remember it.

Matthew G. 10:51 AM  

The top half of this puzzle was the fastest 50% of a Friday I can ever recall doing, but I slowed down considerably in the lower half, particularly in the same spot that Rex hit a wall. Never doubted CORVETTE, but I struggled to see PAULO, CHAIN, CHUTES, COALS, and the first two letters of COTOPAXI. Wanted PAOLO instead of PAULO and couldn't figure out what CHOTES were. I was thinking {Drops for dirty laundry} were going to be some sort of liquid drops for stain removal.

Hand up for REGULAR EXERCISE before AEROBIC EXERCISE.

Two Ponies 10:56 AM  

I liked this even if it was DNF.
The small area of the mid-Atlantic was my Waterloo. Didn't know the author and couldn't ditch those chops I was grilling on the invisible (to me) coals.
I did learn a few things.
@ DougP, thanks for dropping by.

Tita 11:23 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tita 11:24 AM  

Did anyone else cleverly answer WHEEL for Training unit?

@wood... "The cat is painted blue? You're not going to PIN that one ON me...!"

@archeo- nice temp converter...!

@jackj...no worries - like I said, I never would have even known about it were it not for your post.

Lewis 11:31 AM  

Wouldn't have had a chance without Google, feel like I'm still in the bush leagues. But I'm getting better over time, and loving the trip...

retired_alchemist 11:42 AM  

I liked both halves equally.

mac 11:51 AM  

I enjoyed this one, although there were some sticky areas. The top felt easier to me, too (and I thought of Swedish-sounding Doug!). Panacea and conestoga wagons came practically without crosses, but het jets/petit section gave me a hard time.
Wanted regular exercise at 48A, and also spelled chutes beginning with an S, not knowing the volcano.

Nice puzzle, nice clues and a satisfying Friday to me!

Minnesota Eddy 11:51 AM  

Agree with those who said this was like two different puzzles. Funny that, because it was written by two authors. North half went like Monday, south like Saturday. I had pueblos signing the Act, and put on for pin on and so I came to a dead stop.

Stan 12:07 PM  

I liked both halves of this, with tricky clues (e.g., Staples: CHAIN) and coolness TO SPARE in the answers. Loved GINGER Teriyaki, STELLAR PARALLAX, and of course Liz PHAIR: packing for a desert island, "Exile in Guyville" would be near the top of my list.

Nice teamwork!

JC66 12:17 PM  

@ Gill I. P.

I think you may be right that CBers came up with the term Smokey for state TROOPERS. Probably derived from the Smokey the Bear PSAs.

Scott 12:31 PM  

Live in San Francisco and Daly City is the first place South in San Mateo county so that came easily, as did Liz Phair because I've been a fan for years. That made the SW easy. I came to a grinding halt in the S.E., but guessed "Dolce" just because I was drinking a Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce Latte at the time. Synchronicity?

Masked and Anonymous 12:39 PM  

Har. If I (in theory) did the upper half and a friend did the lower half of this puz, we'd have words like CADTY and JESLO in the DMZ. And have a few thousand redos. (And a heap of U's, in the Upper bUnk.)

Anoa Bob 12:46 PM  

When I saw both Doug Peterson and Barry Silk in the by-line, I thought "Not fair! That's ganging up on me!" But it turned out to be an enjoyable solve with some STELLAR spots.

Especially liked PANACEA, HOKKAIDO, CORVETTE (could have been clued "Old sailing warship"), CADRE, SARTRE, and COTOPAXI. And then the centerpiece STELLAR PARALLAX.

You don't have to be an astronomer to experience parallax. It's there anytime movement is involved. Objects closer to you will shift position in your visual field more quickly than objects farther away anytime you or the object is moving. Our brains constantly processes this info to help us judge object size and distance.

BTW, if you or the object is moving and the object stays in the same position in your visual field, Look Out!, you're on a collision course.

JaxInL.A. 1:24 PM  

Hooray for @DougP! He has half of today's LA Times puzzle, too, though with Bruce Sutphin.

I admit, though, that I liked the LAT puzzle better. I never had a prayer with this one. Could not get started and must have had to look up twenty things. Completely outside of my ken today.

Cesaria Evora soothed my wounded puzzler, though. Thanks, Rex!

CBer 1:31 PM  

Was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June
In a Kenworth pullin' logs
Cab-over Pete with a reefer on
And a Jimmy haulin' hogs
We is headin' for bear on I-one-oh
'Bout a mile outta Shaky Town
I says, "Pig Pen, this here's the Rubber Duck.
"And I'm about to put the hammer down."

By the time we got into Tulsa Town,
We had eighty-five trucks in all.
But they's a roadblock up on the cloverleaf,
And them bears was wall-to-wall.
Yeah, them smokies is thick as bugs on a bumper;
They even had a bear in the air!
I says, "Callin' all trucks, this here's the Duck.
"We about to go a-huntin' bear."

Well, we rolled up Interstate 44
Like a rocket sled on rails.
We tore up all of our swindle sheets,
And left 'em settin' on the scales.
By the time we hit that Chi-town,
Them bears was a-gettin' smart:
They'd brought up some reinforcements
From the Illinoise National Guard.
There's armored cars, and tanks, and jeeps,
And rigs of ev'ry size.
Yeah, them chicken coops was full'a bears
And choppers filled the skies.
Well, we shot the line and we went for broke
With a thousand screamin' trucks
An' eleven long-haired Friends a' Jesus
In a chartreuse micra-bus

Well, we laid a strip for the Jersey shore
And prepared to cross the line
I could see the bridge was lined with bears
But I didn't have a dog-goned dime.
I says, "Pig Pen, this here's the Rubber Duck.
"We just ain't a-gonna pay no toll."
So we crashed the gate doing ninety-eight
I says "Let them truckers roll, 10-4."

John V 1:34 PM  

Made a mess of around JESTS, JETS (had SSTS), etc. Got and liked the 15 stacks, esp STELLARPARALLAX, which I got almost entirely from the crosses. Wanted Columbia Mts (mountains) for the longest time. Felt more challenging than not to me. Of course, this had nothing to do with having been out for four straigt nights this week. No, not at all. Feeling very MIDDLEAGED today. Blah.

Bird 1:36 PM  

Wow. Impossible to finish. Way above my skill level. Too much vague and obscure stuff to allow me to try and guess at crosses.

I only managed a handful of answers today. I'll try to regroup tomorrow.

Even after looking at completed puzzle I still cannot I say, "Oh, now I get it".

quilter1 1:36 PM  

Smirch before SCORCH as well. I had to go away and come back and finish over lunch. Nice EXERCISE in figuring out clues/answers and learning new volcanoes and rock stars.

Tita 1:42 PM  

@foodie...
Re: aerobic exercise being good for the brain...

Part of my solving technique when stumped is to write out the partial answer in the margin and stare at that...
As a recent example...
41D Hard to get a grip on:
I jot down what I have, with underscores for missing letters-
_e__ike
Voilá! EELLIKE just jumps out at me!

This is especially helpful for downs.

I attribute the trigger to a few things:
Lowercase letters - more common way to read words.
Horizontal layout easier to visualize than a word written vertically.

But I think that the main reason might be-
the therapeutic feel of pencil on paper,
and the proactive writing out of the letters as opposed to the passive reading of them that fires different synapses...(Kind of like my stroke victim friend who can sing and read out loud, but can't answer a simple question.) Different paths to the same result.

This is certainly absurdly over-simplified, but that is my layman's attempt at explaining my experience.

Thoughts?

Two Ponies 2:00 PM  

@ Tita, I do the same thing, esp. with vertical answers.
@ Cber, Thanks. That song always cracks me up.

retired_chemist 2:06 PM  

@tita - I do exactly the same with my partials. Much clearer than when the partial is in the grid. Might be exactly like you are saying - but I just thought the less clutter around the partial the better.

OISK 2:33 PM  

Finished fast, and wrong - missed two squares because I never heard of "Rocker Liz", and thought of "a deal" instead of "a heap", and Cotolaxi looks just as good to me as Cotopaxi.

Phair??? Unfair!!

Cheerio 2:38 PM  

Very enjoyable puzzle - thanks!

Stellar parallax is very cool to enjoy in a grid, but even more cool would have been "standard candle" in honor of this year's nobel prize winners in physics and their work showing the universe's expansion is accelerating.

Andrea carla minneapolis 2:42 PM  

@doug
Aha! No wonder i got the top half and came to a screeching halt, 5 -google bottom!!!
And now I feel bad that i didn't even get the SWEDISH joke, because i didn't know Celsius was Swedish and originally tried SWanISH thinking that Celsius might also be a constellation in the shape of a swan! Nevermind that is prob Cygnus and Swanish is not a word and if it were there would prob be two n's!

@i don't do m-w
Not calling you anything! I was tongue-in-cheek referring to the new Charlize Theron film where she plays a messed up former prom queen now living the big life in Minneapolis as a "young adult" writer and returns to her tiny Minnesota town
(like columbia hts...but further away, as i now see Columbia Hts is very close to Minneapolis)
It's ironic to those of us who left Mpls as a small town to realize that that is the big town if you are from somewhere even smaller...but I don't know why I've never heard of it.

(The film has incredible acting and some witty dialog, but the character is so hateful, i don't know why the director or anyone would want to spend a couple of hours with her, whether she gets her comeuppance, transforms, or not.
I think Diablo Cody who is an extremely witty writer of dialogue, esp for smart women, thinks it's so hip to have these anti-heroes, non-hollywood endings, but this particular director of "Juno" always wants to have it both ways and imho it doesn't work...
Plus the director Jason Reitman seems to have no feel for Mpls and has twice now inexplicably made Mpls look unappealing and it's one of the most beautiful cities there is...
AND worse, all the ads show a rude hotel receptionist, which wouldn't happen in Minnesota EVER!)

@wood
It continues to stun me how many folks write into this blog from Minnesota...could be what accounts for the general civil tone of the responders on this particular blog...and the occasional irony of me or Seth betrays our transplanted roots (or "ruts" as they say in Minnesota!)
Hug Lake Harriet for me...and Xerxes Ave (back of our home was on Humboldt...or was it Humbolt?) Wow, I am getting old :(

syndy 2:56 PM  

I solve on line but must have a scrap of paper on hand.The byline scared the pants off me but after a quick unimpressive first pass I knuckled down and finished in 27 minutes.regular EXERCISE and Blank PARALLAX yielded to the STATIES.CONESTOGA WAGONS gave me the top. The CHUTES and ladders passage to PETIT was the last to fall.27 for a fri for me is FAST but a very fun fast it was1 thanx Boys !

william e emba 2:56 PM  

I always like it when Rex's "huh" is the entry that was my entry into the puzzle. After a rather dismal few tepid tries in the top and middle, I reached bottom and inked in STELLAR PARALLAX without even bothering to count the letters, which gave me XERXES and WALLIS, and I then ripped through the bottom and middle, and then slowly finished at the top.

Rube 2:59 PM  

Couldn't believe Rex rated this Medium. Any Friday puzzle I can do without Googles has got to be Easy. Actually his Easy-Challenging rating makes more sense -- takes into account differing data bases.

Didn't anyone notice that "Velocity of Light" is a 15 letter answer for measuring astronomical distances. I waited before putting that one in.

Hand up for pERsia before XERXES and having no idea who Liz PHAIR is.

Knowledge bases are funny things. Got AMOY off the M as the shelling of that city was a big item in the news during a heightened period of open hostility between Taiwan and Mainland China in the 50s. That M was a gimme for those of us who live in the Bay area and know SANMATEO well. I must say that it does seem a bit obscure for the rest of you... sorta like Columbia HTS. Shaker Heights I know. That HTS, not so much.

Gotta take the cat to the vet for his annual physical.

Anonymous 3:04 PM  

Get this done in just under six minutes, but probably because I had both Beethovan's 6th and 8th symphonies playing at the same time—as loud as possible—so was somewhat distracted.
As they say in Korean, 별거 없음.
Off to a wine tasting. Ta!

John V 3:13 PM  

@Anonymous 3:04 Try Mahler's 8th next time. Then you will understand from distraction.

sanfranman59 3:53 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

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

Fri 21:36, 25:27, 0.85, 22%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Fri 11:20, 12:36, 0.90, 35%, Easy-Medium

John V 4:23 PM  

@sanfranman59: I don't recall from reading up on your methodology if you are able to develop a count of people completing the puzzle?

600 5:08 PM  

I'm so late with this post, I may be too late for help! Did anyone else using AcrossLite have problems with the timer? I have no timer at all. I just can't find it. It was here yesterday . . . I tried options. It says I have a timer. I don't. Anybody have any ideas?

I liked the puzzle a lot. For reasons mentioned earlier, I couldn't believe PANACEA--wanted some midas touch or gold . . . something. So thanks @Clark. As for the rest, even the things I didn't know eventually came with crosses.

@I Skip M-W: "Edward was a ninny even as British royalty go, quite taken with Hitler, and therefore it was the Brits' good luck that he was off the throne when Germany invaded Poland." I love history, especially around the WWII era, but I did not know that. What an interesting perception. Thank you.

Wow, @jberg. I had never even tried to figure out STELLAR PARALLAX (not the crossword answer, the real thing), and you made it sound so obvious . . . I hope you're a teacher!

Gill I. P. 5:28 PM  

@JC66 - thanks for confirming.
@CBer - I think you would have been proud hearing me sing along in my best Johnnie Cash voice. I tried Burl Ives but it just seemed to miss.

foodie 7:44 PM  

@Tita, yes I agree. I think that a big part of the process is promotin different perspectives including in the most physical of ways. Horizontal vs. vertical, capital vs. lower case letters, and getting rid of the inhibition or interference of certain patterns. The constructors try to fool us into a particular (mis)direction, e.g the Petit four clue today. It's a battle for dis-inhibition!

Nana 11:55 AM  

Obviously you haven't seen "The King's Speech" or you would bloody well know who Wallis Simpson was. She changed the course of history for the entire Western Hemisphere! Either read some British history for 1900-1950 or see the movie!!!!!

Waxy in Montreal 2:48 PM  

Hmmm, think I'll rate this one as EASY-CHALLENGING since I flew through the Doug Peterson top-half in record Friday time but was almost totally flummoxed by the Barry C. Silk bottom-half even though WALLIS, WAX and XERXES were gimmes. Made a stellar effort to finish without Google but in the end did not win out...

coquesse - think that belongs on my canapé.

Longbeachlee 4:46 PM  

Remembered Amoy from the Kennedy-NIxon debates. Like many times, a big campaign issue that as forgotten unimportant quickly.

Waxy in Montreal 5:14 PM  

@Longbeachlee, the real bone of contention were the tiny islands of Quemoy and Matsu which remained under Nationalist control after the Communists took over the mainland (including nearby Amoy) in 1949. The "Red Chinese" as we called them then subjected Quemoy and Matsu to constant shelling throughout the '50's as a provocation to the Nationalists under Chiang Kai Shek and to the U.S. That's how they came to be part of the 1960 debates between JFK & Nixon.

Anonymous 6:17 PM  

Too many flawed, precious, or flatly incorrect clues for me:

GINGER is not an ingredient of teriyaki. It is sometimes added.

Four front is too cute by half. (PETIT) The hint appears to be a pun for forefront, but doesn't connect to anything. It's a French phrase (small oven) so a foreign language gesture would have actually been clever.

A station point (STA) is not a point on a line. It is a viewpoint in space or on a plane for photography, or in perspective construction.

AMOY is obscure and is not even the actual name of the city.

ONSPEAKINGTERMS implies restrained conflict in an uneasy relationship; not friendly acquaintance.

JETS do not misbehave.

Columbia heights (HTS) is a small suburb of Minneapolis. Obscure to the point silliness.

The puzzle maker appears to have attempted a theme, with many sets of doubled letters running through words, and more diagonally around the center, but not enough to form an actual pattern.

Red Valerian 11:57 PM  

I loved it, probably partly because I actually finished, with no googling. But it would have been fun anyhow. Started it in the morning with coffee, did about ten minutes on it in office hours, and took it with me, half-done, to our Department colloquium. I *couldn't* google there, which was good.

I have the feeling that I'd seen COTOPAXI in a crossword puzzle not all that long ago, though it didn't come to me right away (and maybe I dreamed that, since nobody else mentioned it).

Wanted SmiRCH and rEgularEXERCISE, like others. Also wanted CADet instead of CADRE for 25D (Training unit), which I thought was a little dehumanizing.

Nice short video about parallax here. I show it to my intro Phil of Science class.

What's with the clues to 8A (Alchemist's goal) and 26D ('The Alchemist' novelist Coelho)? I found that a little off-putting. But only a little!

(The novel, on the other hand, is utter pap, in my opinion.)

@Anonymous 6:17pm: hope you have a better day tomorrow. FWIW, every recipe I've ever seen for teriyaki sauce (and hence for teriyaki) has ginger in it, and I took STA to be the abbreviation for station on a railroad line. Don't understand your complaint about an almost but not quite theme.

Anonymous 2:10 AM  

Spacecraft here. Please, I hope somebody can shed some light on a couple of things: 1. What does "training unit" have to do with CADRE? 2. Why can't it be PETS/PESTS? That makes AT LEAST as much sense as JETS/JESTS.
I wanted another answer for 45a--but not one that any of you have mentioned yet. Guess how many letters are in DOPPLERREDSHIFT? I'll save you the count: it's 15. And folks, the Doppler red shift is PRECISELY the "effect used to measure astronomical distances!" You can't WRITE a better definition!
Also, no alchemist I ever read about was an altruist; those guys didn't want a PANACEA--they wanted GOLD. Plus, my ongoing angst over written-out ANDs in acronyms continues with RANDR. I feel like I'm in a SANDM trap.
Despite these beefs (beeves?) I managed to finish with only the P instead of the J at 23, and five Googles. Tough Friday, littered with ultra-obscurities.

Dirigonzo 8:02 PM  

I got a late start on this last night (Friday) and managed to finish about 2/3 of it when everything ground to a halt - dead in the water, so to speak. Picked it up again while I had coffee before work this AM and had it done in about 5 minutes - go figure.

@ Spacecraft - My purloined Government issue American Heritage Dictionary (Copyright 1982 - nothing's changed since then, right?)defines CADRE as "A nucleus of trained personnel around which a larger organization can be built and trained". Could that be a "training unit"? The same authority lists "the discovery of PANACEA" as one of the aims of aims of Alchemy. I agree with your other beeves, and I loved you explanation of dopplerredshift - that definitely should have been the answer to the clue given.

r.heeb 11:09 AM  

This was (for me) the hardest fri crossword i've seen in a while. I think it was because I had CORPS in lieu of CADRE (suspected SARTRE was right but couldn't make the connection to CADRE).

Not sure if anyone else chimed in on this but PETIT fours are those mini cakes you see at baby showers etc. I know this because husbands inhale them when they arrive to pick up their wives :)

Anonymous 4:24 AM  

enjoyable puzzle... DNF because I couldn't see AHEAP; never having heard of PHAIR or the volcano in Equador...

@Spacecraft - my astrophysics training was quite a few years ago, but IIRC, doppler red and blue shift indicate more the speed of an object moving toward or away from the observer, rather than mere distance, for which STELLAR PARALLAX is the correct term as clued (and a gimme for me BTW)

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