Saturday, October 6, 2012

Constructor: Steve Salitan

Relative difficulty: Medium


Word of the Day: IMPALAS (1D:  Savanna leapers) n. An African antelope noted for its leaping ability; the male has rigid, curved horns (wiktionary). 

I’m pretty surprised that, after four years of constructing, I don’t know this word: what great vowels!  Alas, the CrossWorld has only taught me one antelope native to East Africa – the ORYX

No doubt the King of CrossWorld would have known IMPALAS.  This is Anna Shechtman again, subbing in for Rex, who is on vacation.  To start with, I should say that I am completely enamored of this puzzle’s grid: the 15-letter “triple stack” never fails to amaze me.  ONE CELLED ANIMAL over CALCULATING MIND over ANTIPERSPIRANTS! Swoon!

I particularly liked the top stack’s homophonic clues: 1A: Straight person’s statement (I CANNOT TELL A LIE) over 16A: #1 Dire Straits hit (MONEY FOR NOTHING).  The latter totally stumped me – never heard it!  It falls right in my “music void” – not of my generation (The Game) nor of my parents’ (The Miracles) and therefore not on my iPod.  For first-time (or not-so-first-time) listeners, a clip follows:

In general, this was not one of those coolhipyoung puzzles, marked with the traces of twitter, youtube, and reality TV.  I am totally okay with that.  It had great fill, impressively few pseudo-words, and clues that, if not inspiring, stumped me well enough.  I really liked 40A: Need for war games (CARDS), but it threw me off for 37A: Justify (WARRANTS), which I got from the rest of the fill and kept reading as WAR-RANTS...some offshoot of the war cry?

I will never understand the crossword rules of the “?”. My gut tells me that it should apply when polysemy is involved: when the clue plays on a double meaning.  Alternatively, it just goes wherever Will Shortz says it does??  Let’s take a few examples to see if we can figure out the abiding “?” rule:
  •    23A: Sweep spots? (SOOT) -- Not at all sure what this question mark means…is a “sweep spot” a (terrible) pun on “sweet spot”?  Is it a place to watch sweeps week?
  • 46A: Turn around on Wall Street? (RALLY)  -- Is this an Occupy reference?  If so, the puzzle’s one effort at coolhipyoungness flops in my book.  I guess it’s a pun, literalizing the phrase “turn a profit”?
  • 48A: Real lowlife? (ONE CELLED ANIMAL) -- Now, this!  This is a question mark used as it should be!  I think…
  • 26D: Core units? (SEEDS) -- Again, I think this is an apt use of the mark, assuming that “core units” means something.  Like core courses?  Or each pack on a 6-pack?
  • 46D: Not go out of service? (RE-UP).  --  Someone please explain this "?-usage" to me.  Am I too accustomed to seeing cell phones associated with "service" that I am missing the pun?  Is the "?" just there to buffer a mediocre clue?
My other quibble – and it is quibbling, because this really is a beautiful grid – is Salitan’s use of pluralization.

  • 10D: Former Senate majority leader and family (LOTTS) A mouthful of clue – generally means that something’s not quite right with answer.
  • 9D: Afflictions for the world-weary (ENNUIS) This strikes me as preposterous.  I guess in French, ennui can be pluralized (meaning something like troubles, problems, or snags) but no way does it work in English.  Waves of ennui?  Yes.  Ennuis?  No.
  • 35D: Tiny dots on maps (HAMLETS)  Apparently hamlets are “small villages or groups of houses” (wiktionary), but, I would have gone with something like “princes with ennuis.”  See below for an ad-hoc greatest hits reel of such HAMLETS.

Thanks again for the blog-opportunity, Rex!
A pleasure as always,


jae 2:44 AM  

...and chicks for free... I'm going with easy-medium again.  Had  16a coming out of the printer so the  north half was over quickly.  I'm probably closer to Anna's parent's generation but Dire Straits was on my stereo system (8 track?)  for a while.  This illustrates the weakness of 3 stacks.  If one's a gimme its pretty much over. The middle/south was a bit crunchier, but no more than average for a Sat.  Only erasure was COunt for COMTE.

Got to agree with Anna on the questionable use of ??s, but REUP is a military phrase meaning you have decided to "not go out of (the) service."

The WOE (I like it too) cross of the day:  STEARNES/ARNEL.  Fortunately I've seen ARNEL before and was able to dredge it up.   Also WOE: ABRI.

Very workman like Sat.  Nothing stands out except the Dire Straits song.  Too bad it had to follow a PB.

C. Ross Word 2:54 AM  

I am in agreement with Anna's high regard for this impressive grid. It seemed like two separate puzzles to me: a remarkably easy, for a Saturday, top half and a quite thorny bottom half. All in all, a nice puzzle and a fun solve.

In response to Anna's question: RE-UP relates to the reenlistment of a service person - ergo the pun.

Learned several new words and their meanings:

ABRI - abridged "abridged"
TOES HOES - garden implements attached to one's feet
ARIES - India's family
CARDS - Andrew's family
ANI MATE - member of the Cuckoo family
ANI MA - another member of the Cuckoo family
SONDE - new spelling extolled by Spanky and Our Gang in their hit "SONDE Will Never Be The Same"
STE ARNES - Patron Saint of "Gunsmoke"

There are more but I'll stop! Apologies to all who dislike puns or especially these.

Animate Collar Moneys 2:54 AM  

I so want to answer your questions I've forgotten what I felt about the puzzle.
Since Steve Salitan (no Z) is my generation, I felt in sync.
Plus "Money for Nothing" was one of the first MTV videos, these animated guys singing "MONEY FOR NOTHING...and chicks for free" while in the background you here "I want my MTV" sort of first metavideo, in heavy rotation...which makes it "heavy meta"?

(there is that a correct use of the "? "?)

I think the Core units arent school but corps/army units pun...which brings us to REUP that's military service, not celphone service! Ha!
( You must be part of the post Hippie, Yippie, Yuppie Yappie generation who thinks phone as the kine of service one (ONEA?) reups for!!!)

RALLY is a normal Wallstreet term for stocks having a turnaround, SO not Occupy, I'm afraid.

There, clearer, @Anna? Tho by the time I finish writing maybe five folks will have beat me to the punch.

Total agreement about LOTTS and ENNUIS but also in awe of double triple stacks!!
FOUR wrong squares as i didn't know STEarNES and had enDS not RIDS so didn't get ARNEL :(

I think Turkey STEARNES was the star dancing partner of smokin' hot EDYTA Slivinska on DWTS last year.

HAckSAWS held me up as I still don't know SONDE. I also thought salsa was a sALTY DIP.

Having gone to a transgender gala last night (had made a crossword for them as part of their biggest dilemma was what to wear!) and being the token straight person there, I thought long and hard about 1A.
Too Seinfeldian

Oooooh, ICANNOTTELLALIE (so George Washingtonian)

Bravo, Steve! My fave thing was the very last clue 50D...realizing the letter I only appears In April! I thought P till I ran the calendar...three times I'm embarrassed to say!

Anima Correct sMuts 3:03 AM  

@jae ha! i was right, but now she for sure knows REUPS. And i typoed here/hear. That's the only one I'm gonna actually CORRECT. "Hey, I'm not perfect".

Look at the video for Dire Straits song (local boys, and the pun in their name WAS about being straight in San Francisco...well, Marin County actually.)

Also @Gareth Bain must have been thrilled with SMUTS, ELS and IMPALAS that's a lot of South African shout outs up top!

Acme 3:09 AM  

@anna scratch that DIire Straits are British.

jae 4:03 AM  

@andrea -- I really wanted NOT THAT THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT. There's got to be a potential puzzle in there somewhere?

chefwen 4:07 AM  

@Animate Collar Moneys - Sure hope you are kidding about Stearnes and DWTS seeing as how he died in 1979. That would be gruesome. Which reminds me of a really good joke. Later.

Top half a lot easier for me also, bottom, not so.

My nephew was about three when Money for Nothing came out and he liked to screech MONEY FOR NOTHIN, CHICKS FOR FREE every 10 minutes or so. Obnoxious little brat, I blame my brother.

Good puzzle but I pulled a DNF due to boredom trying to figure out the last few long ones. Should have saved it for tomorrow but impatience reared its ugly head. Part time puzzle partner is MIA again to rein me in. Ahh Well!

Anonymous 4:14 AM  

ARNEL,ARIES,STEARNES too much trivia grouping COMTE,SONDE kinda too

Who's Anna Schectman? Student of the Rex?

Anonymous 4:56 AM  

Hi Anna,

To answer the other two of your questions about the ?s:

Sweep spots = chimney sweeps sweep the soot out of your chimney.

Core units = apple cores have seeds


dk 6:54 AM  

I cannot and will not complain about a fast Saturday. Up early as rumor has snow will be made tonight. Skis need to be waxed and tuned. Was it not summer yesterday?

Op Eds:

Anna, I might agree with your ? position if I knew what polysemy meant. Is not Polysemy the company that makes ARNEL.

Here in timber country we fellers use a chainsaw or bucksaws: but who cares as the fill makes sense.

SMUTS? Those are the bad smurfs. You may recall that Smurfette (sultry smut) was created by Gargamel (COMTE of Canards) to destroy the Smurfs but Papa Smurf's magic changed her (rumors abound as to just what Papa's magic is and I am not touching his wand).

Please note 1d could be clued as preferred late 60s low rides found in East LA.

Leave it to Andrea to try to make an old school puzzle hip. The unfortunately rare times we are together she tries to do the same with me.

๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ (3 Stars) My favorite puzzle of the week.

JanetG 7:49 AM  

There's a lot of speculation about The Father of Our Country's sexual orientation, so I found 1A funny/possibly inaccurate

loren muse smith 8:22 AM  

Anna – thanks for pinch-hitting – great write-up. I always forget to thank the writer-upper, and I apologize to all the subs I forget to thank. Thanks, Evan, for your take on yesterday’s puzzle..
Four huge problems contributed to a shameful dnf:

1. Too many WOEs to name, especially that South African one-two punch. Hi, Gareth.

2. I stupidly filled in S’s going all the way up the staircase, thinking, “How cool!” If you don’t know PELL/ARNEL, then Pels/Arnes works just fine. And Brahams wrote some of his best work in the key of S.

3. Always confusing Abba and the Dire Straits, I confidently had Money Money Money and didn’t even think to question it.

4.“Back stage passes” has 15 letters.

Three unexpected spellings:
AERI (aerie – I didn’t know it was dug out, or is AERI different?)
ENURE (inure)
ONE CELLED ANIMAL (Amoeba, but it’s always spelled differently)

Two fancy-sounding unknown French (?) words crossing – SONDE/COMTE

@C. Ross Word – love TOES HOES. Vivid mental picture!

@Acme – too funny about Turkey STEARNES and DWTS!

@Chefwen – even funnier about Turkey!

@dk – I drove a remarkably ugly ’70 beige IMPALA in high school that could flat fly.

HAMLET could be a porte-manteau for what I just might make for breakfast, ALEUMIN and all.

Thanks, Steve. This one kicked my LEAR to PELL and back!

Glimmerglass 8:59 AM  

@Anna: Nice write-up. Don't forget GNU is another African antelope. The Chevy was named for the swift running antelope. I think you are right that the question mark alerts the solver to an unusual use of a word in the clue. A noun/verb confusion, for example. "Sweeps spots" is an excellent example: "Sweeps" is a plural noun (chimney sweeps), not a singular verb. RALLY is a real WS term for rising stock prices; no question mark needed. Core units (SEEDS) means apple cores. There is a distracting (polysemic) meaning of "units" (college credits), but that's fair for a Saturday. Monday or Tuesday, "core units" would need a question mark, not today. "out of [military] service" is borderline. Perhaps it's distracting enough to need a ?, even on Saturday.

Anonymous 9:06 AM  

Surprised that nobody has remarked on ANIMA/ANIMATE/ANIMAL. IMO this is a major major defect in the grid.

Gerry W

jackj 9:08 AM  

Triple stacks can make for fun solves and Steve Salitan gave us a beauty of a themeless puzzle to deal with today even though, truth be told, with no EDYTA Sliwinska to cope with it was a bit easier than yesterday’s Patrick Berry themeless crossword.

But, for Steve, who had only previously given us three early-week puzzles in 2011 (two Mondays, one Wednesday), it was like a Red Sox rookie making his major league debut by hitting a grand slam home run against the Yankees on his first at bat.

SMUTS and LOTTS were first up and led the parade of special fill along the way, not least of which was a word I would never have thought to pluralize, ENNUIS, (now that is a really clever bit of wordplay).

Among the triple stacks, my favorites were the first and last of them, beginning with ICANNOTTELLALIE, whose misdirect of a clue failed to trip my gaydar and thus proved to be only a simple, honest, straightforward answer.

Then, for the final puzzle entry, after getting the A of TAPIOCA, the N of BRENNAN, the P of REUP, the S of HAMLETS and the N of ALBUMIN, (and the clever but obvious clued reference to “Sure”), the rest of ANTIPERSPIRANTS just filled itself in, no sweat.

With all the wonderful challenges Steve posed for us, my favorite was one that qualifies as “Most Playful” and that is the delightful slangy answer to “_______me?” (“Wha?”), for SCUSE and oddly elegant it was, indeed.

Thanks for a great Saturday solve, Steve!

(Welcome back, Anna!)

jberg 9:31 AM  

And to add to Andrea's answers, in the old days when a sweep actually crawled down a chimney, he would be covered with spots - or more - made of SOOT.

@Loren, that's ALBUMIN/ABRI. Though I had it as ALBuMeN until a CALCULATING MIND fixed the spelling for me.

I agree, ANIMA should not have been found in the same puzzle with a couple of words derived for it - especially crossing ANIMAL as it does. And I think HAND SAWS are used by woodworkers, not tree fellers (they're small), though I guess the temptation to cross it with HAMLET (who could tell one from a hawk) was too great to resist.

Nice Saturday debut.

thursdaysd 9:35 AM  

Unlike today's esteemed commenter, I always groan when I see stacks of long words, or, rather, phrases. But this time I didn't have too much trouble, despite never having heard of Dire Straights. I was lucky not to be in dire straights solving, though, since I've also never heard of ABRI, ARNEL or SONDE. Had to look them all up afterwards.

I look on ? as a warning, although agree it wasn't needed for RALLY.

I really hate the name TOE SHOES, when I was taking ballet claases back in the dark ages in England, they were called pointe shoes.

loren muse smith 9:39 AM  

@jberg - thanks. I feel a lot better about ABRI than aeri. So I had two completely reasonable Naticks. I'm envious that so many of you called this one easy!

Anonymous 9:40 AM  

Turn around on Wall Street: literally, would be e.g. turning your car around on the street. I think that's why there was a question mark. It was a double meaning.

mac 9:49 AM  

A real feel-good Saturday puzzle for me, showing off doing the top half in the doctors' waiting room (flu shot clinic) in record time.

When I see core I think Pilates, so I had to wait for a couple of crosses. Also started out with a hack saw.

Smut(s) is something very close to soot. Sonde is a probably more common word in Dutch, used for different sorts of probes, some medical.

@dk: great post, you should get up early more often!

Very nice puzzle, thanks Mr. Salitan.

Merle 9:56 AM  

Nice post, Anna! Very worthy. C. Ross Word, I enjoyed your puns. And hey, Anonymous, what's with the animus for the anima-animal-animate trio? Nice Saturday morning romp. Question marks -- hmmm -- indicate a think outside of the box, don't they? Hmmm??? So -- sweep spots -- I didn't go the chimney sweeper route, though -- I'm 170 years old, and alas I forgot what it was like in the good old days when I lived in 19th century London, circa 1858 to 1882 -- but I do remember soot spots speckling NYC windowsills in the 20th century, and soot spots on the floor below the windowsill. Although it is easier to mop soot spots than sweep them. Liked the 31A something to scan clue -- no question mark, but still a think outside the box clue -- not about MRIs or computer printer/scanners of any other of those fancy 20th and 21st century gadgets -- just plain out poetry -- aha, poems scan! Iamb that iamb! And ah, the things we know and don't know -- knew Jan Smuts, don't know any Dire Straits music, knew Pell grants, but not winners of any U.S. opens, no matter the nationality of the winner. Iamb that iamb, and I know what I know. Iamb gives us dactyl, which rhymes with fractal and tactile -- hah! Scan that! What we know -- I know Wall Street sometimes rallies, and sometimes crashes. Occupy that! Nero's soul clue yielded an answer that once discerned, was obvious, and yet -- did Nero have a soul? So, the clue was cutely misleading. Anyway, a pleasant Saturday morning diversion.

retired_chemist 9:57 AM  

Nice. Medium here too.

@Anna- good one with HAMLETS.

Hand up for ALBUMEN - either spelling is correct so only the cross will tell.

ABRI - new word. Nice. STEARNES also new - less nice. I don't expect he will make many return visits.

OIL WELL @ 33D was a slowdown. Finally noticed that a piano trio IN W was not gong to happen. Except that W is sort of B modulo 7 (assigning numbers to the letters of the alphabet, B = 2 and W = 23). OK, esoteric, but I think at least NDE will get it....

HAND SAWS sound like poor things for fellers. Wondered what 4 letter word would describe a CHAIN saw after I gave up on ???? AXES.

Last letter was the T on SOOT. 23A seemed to ask for a plural so I had an S there that I only found in a check.

Thanks., Mr. Salitan.

chefbea 10:00 AM  

Lot of words I never hear of...abri?..sonde??. Thought they might be WOD.

Found it difficult but after I googled a few things it all came together.

Thanks for the great write-up

Sir Hillary 10:07 AM  

Mixed feelings on this one. On the plus side...a nifty-looking grid, interesting 15s, some superb clues (52A and 8D stand out for me) and solid long downs. On the not-so-plus side...way to many weird plurals (sorry, but ENNUIS crossing DIORS is weak), some bad crosses (ABRI/ANIMA, ENURE/ENGR) and especially the Natick-ish STEARNES/ARNEL.

Anyone else see SHIELDS and ARNEL and think of Shields & Yarnell?

Finally...can someone help me with the clue for 31A? Is it common to scan poems?

Cathyat40 10:20 AM  

Easiest Saturday ever.

Notsofast 10:28 AM  

"Moneyfornothing" made for a quick start. "antiperspirant" was fun, and gets an "A". Fairly easy and very enjoyable. Well done!

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

Who scans poems?

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

@Anon 12:29, @Sir Hillary


to analyze (verse) as to its prosodic or metrical structure; read or recite (verse) so as to indicate or test the metrical form.

joho 10:47 AM  

MONEYFORNOTHING really helped me up top. Love that song. Thanks, @Anna, for posting it and also for your write up.

When I finally decided it had to be an A in STEARNES I got ARNEL which solved the missing last letter in PELL. So I finshed a Saturday correctly ... always a triumph!

@C. Ross Word, very funny putting ANI MA and ANI MATE in the Cuckoo family! It's also true that ENNUIS are not only related to IMPALAS but also ELANDS and ORIBIS.

@anon 4:56 a.m., totally with your thoughts on SOOT and SEEDS, the clue is definitely referring to an apple here.

I really liked this one, Steve Salitan ... thank you!

Gareth Bain 10:51 AM  

I may have been born the year "Money for Nothing" came out but I'm still amazed anybody could not have heard of that... First entry into the puzzle (checked by IMPALAS). Jan SMUTS instrumental in setting up both the League of Nations, and, whilst South Africa's PM, the United Nations, only to not be re-elected leading to the National Party returning to power and enacting 46 years of apartheid... true story. Finished this in 7:24, which is within 30 seconds of my fastest Saturday; I mean when you can slap down a 15 straight away and the grid doesn't have closed off corners... Maybe more of a Friday-style puzzle, but all the fun words people mentioned make it a great puzzle!! The difference between STEARNES/ARNEL PREBEND/EDYTA that makes the latter a riduculous crossing, IMO, is the A here is totally inferrable; that and I learned ARNEL from crosswords a long time ago! (Don't confuse it with ARNEE the water buffalo!!!)

PS 13D is a shoutout to the All Blacks Springboks (not IMPALAS!) game about to start!

Sandy K 10:57 AM  

Most of it went it pretty smoothly.

Then, SCUSE me, but WHO IS this Turkey guy? But the downs helped to CORRECT that.

NEVER heard of SONDE, but LOTTS of ANTIPERSPIRANTS and lucky guess led to AHA moment...

A ? to me, indicates that the clue has a double meaning. And I should think of the unexpected way to pronounce or answer, because it's gonna be 'punny'...

Enjoyed the puzzle Mr. Salitan- esp. the long answers!

Nice write-up? Anna! ; )

Anonymous 11:02 AM  

Agree that STEARNES crossed with ARNEL is quite a reach. Otherwise an Easy-Medium for a Saturday. Enjoyed "sure things"...

Carola 11:23 AM  

I had trouble piecing together the bodice of my DIOR; the skirt was easier. I began at the bustline with ELS, and then IMPALA and EGESTS allowed me to get the sleeves, followed by the neckline. Had to rip out Old King Cole for LEAR. Across the hips, "chainsaw" snarled me until the SONDE and SEEDS darts put HANDSAWS into place. Really like the trim along the hemline with the ONE-CELLED ANIMAL abutting the CALCULATING MIND. However, the ANTIPERSPIRANTS seem out of place here - really should be up where ARMED is.

@jberg -
Thanks for pointing out Hamlet and the hand saw! Terrific.

Steve and Anna - Thank you for the perfect-for-me Saturday puzzle (initial impression: dire straits, but then yielding to patient pressure) and the great write-up.

Mel Ott 11:42 AM  

I generally like stacks of 15's and today's were especially good because they were supported by a minimum of 3 and 4-letter answers. Avoids the plethora of crappy short fill that @Rex often complains about when these stacks appear.

Learned about Jan Smuts in grade school or high school. Came to appreciate him much later when studying WWII. He managed to keep South Africa on the Allied side despite the affinity of many of his fellow Afrikaaners for the Nazi world view.

@jae: I would also love to see a puzzle on that Seinfeld line.

Anonymous 11:58 AM  

1. A chimney sweep will get spots of soot on him.
2. Increase in price of stocks = rally.
3. Agree.
4. Items in an apple core = seeds.
5. A term for re-enlistment by a military person.

syndy 12:36 PM  

A hand saw for the feller may be a hard row to hoe but it sure beats a hacksaw!I once Had a handsaw that was 5 foot long with 2 inch teeth-would have worked.Turkey dude should have lived in natick but yes when you got right down to it the "A" was inevitable.If we presuppose the theme as ANIMA:ANIMATE:ANIMAL:ANI-problem solved! but my worst objection(and I can't stress this enough) NO BOBA! not ever!I want to hear Chefwen on this.

Anonymous 1:07 PM  

I am also 170 years old. Marlin Perkins and I used to chase impalas together while Jim Fowler followed in his Chev--.
that used to be a good way to see the USA. If I remember correctly, " s'cuse me" was a favorite line of that youngster Steve Martin. Methusela and I both enjoyed the calculating mind that constructed today's puzzle.

Joseph B 1:09 PM  

Hi Anna - I liked your write-up.

I especially liked your exploration of the "?" clue. I do the puzzle daily, so I have a general feel for it, but when asked by a new puzzler what the question mark is meant to convey, I can never put it into words.

I like thursdaysd's (above) explanation, that it serves as a warning: "I'm trying to trick you." But then, why not a question mark on "sure things," or the "fellers" clue, etc.

Oh! And thank you for teaching me a new word. I'll have to figure out how to use polysemy in conversation.

DigitalDan 1:13 PM  

Anonymous 10:29 AM:

There once was a man from Spokane
Whose verses never would SCAN.
When told it was so,
He said,"Yes I know.
But I always try to get as many words into the last line as I possibly can."

chefbea 1:20 PM  


Kris in ABCA 1:25 PM  

Like others, I found the north to be easier than the south. Also had ALBUMeN.

What is an OILBELT? I'm in the oil business and that term is not in the vernacular. There's a field in Venezuela called the Orinoco Oil Belt. There are oil fields, oil wells, oil plays, oil windows...


Lindsay 1:34 PM  

Well, I can't spell, so I finished with ANTI-PERSPIReNT crossing ANIMe, which looked OK at the time.

I started at the bottom and tried to get to the top via 8D ofasORt instead of TREMORS for "No great shakes". That and the only two Dire Straits songs that came to mind were Sultans of Swing and Walk of Life.

Years ago, a former supervisor of mine asked if I would apply for a part-time position at her new organization. I said sure, and where the application form asked why I had left my previous job (at which I had worked for this same woman) I filled in "ennui".

Which became part of the company lore, repeated endlessly until I wished I'd never done it.

John V 1:47 PM  

Mostly easy for a Saturday. Like @jae, 16a was a complete gimmee. Always mindful of @Rex's guidance that stacked 15s are a)scary to look at a b) pretty easy once you crack on of them.

Ditto what others have said re:the many esses, especially ENNUIS, which may be an acquired taste.

High point 52A Sure things; fabulous indirecton.

SCAN poems? Really?

Finished okay with a couple of mistakes at STEARNES/DRIES cross and HANDSAWS/WARRANT cross. Otherwise, pretty easy stuff.

A good week. Nice to be in CT for Columbus day weekend.

ksquare 2:14 PM  

Knew ABRI only from puzzles.Learned they were used in trench warfare (WWI). In WWII we had foxholes which didn't need them
My spell checker doesn't recognize it.

Sparky 5:07 PM  

Managed the fifteens quite nicely, thanks, but stumbled in the Middle East. Couldn't get SCUSE though I thought of the SEEDS. No cigar if you do't write it in.

Same with HANDSAWS. Somewhat dainty for a tree feller. (I'm a lumber jack, and I'm okay...SCUSE me, I had a little fugue.)

Really nice write up Anna, thanks. Thanks Steve Salitan.

retired_chemist 5:37 PM  

@ Sparky - AHA! Another Monty Python fan, eh?

michael 6:52 PM  

A very easy Saturday. However, I am a longtime baseball fan/geek and I need several letters to get Turkey Stearnes, who is at the outermost recesses of my memory.

Dirigonzo 7:53 PM  

90 minutes and I'm done is lightening fast for me on a Saturday, and I would have been even faster if my salsa hadn't been zesTY and then tAsTY before it became PARTYDIP. Finished with ACME's inevitable OWS when I ended up with SOOs at 23a - the result of automatically putting an "s" in the grid in response to a pluralized clue. Great puzzle, great write-up by the guest blogger, great fun. Happy weekend.

ShortShrift 8:59 PM  

Thanks for questioning the question mark, Anna. The five you've questioned mostly make sense to me 'cause they're puns (as others have explained). Which is why I think "Sure things" ought to have had one too, yes?

chefwen 9:14 PM  

@syndy - ??? I'm not following.

Sparky 11:33 PM  

@retired_chemist. A fan for years. Fawlty Towers, too. I don't care about Big Bird, I want my Britcoms Mr. Romney.

retired_chemist 11:44 PM  

@ Sparky - Blackadder?

sanfranman59 1:20 AM  

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 5:57, 6:47, 0.87, 5%, Easy (9th lowest median solve time of 169 Mondays)
Tue 9:14, 8:57, 1.03, 64%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 13:28, 11:51, 1.14, 82%, Challenging
Thu 22:23, 18:51, 1.18, 82%, Challenging
Fri 21:47, 24:28, 0.89, 31%, Easy-Medium
Sat 21:32, 29:14, 0.74, 8%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:23, 3:41, 0.92, 16%, Easy
Tue 5:03, 4:40, 1.08, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 6:45, 5:57, 1.13, 84%, Challenging
Thu 12:33, 9:23, 1.34, 90%, Challenging
Fri 12:31, 12:11, 1.03, 59%, Medium
Sat 11:47, 16:34, 0.71, 6%, Easy (9th lowest median solve time of 159 Saturdays)

Seth 10:37 PM  

About some question marks:

They're often used when the clue is a common phrase, but you're supposed to interpret it in an uncommon way. Often it involves parsing the phrase differently: maybe a verb becomes a noun, or vice versa; or the phrase just means something different.

For example, to me, not go out of service normally refers to cell phone reception. But with the question mark, the phrase means something different. This us also the case for "real lowlife." And I think it should have been the case for "sure thing."

DMGrandma 2:22 PM  

Enjoyed this puzzle, but that doesn't mean it came easily! Unfortunately, while I somewhat smugly knew SMUTS, I wasn't smart enough to put it in the proper place. So a hold-up there it's the NW corner. Beyond that, I wondered if people really give their dogs TBONES and struggled over the Sure thing. But I ended up with only one question mark square, where, despite never having heard the expression, decided OILBELT was the only logical fit, and actually finished a Saturday puzzle! Hope next week doesn't do me in.

Spacecraft 3:51 PM  

Well, I just posted a whole blog, but it didn't take. Try again. 16a was a gimme for me: I think Mark Knopfler may be one of the three best guitarists the world has ever known. The top filled quickly; the bottom a lot less so.

First problem was ALBUMeN. The way it's clued this should be the spelling--and it threw me way off, because after doing the SE corner I had --MEND for the end of 51a. Had the I made it --MIND instead, I might have solved the whole puzzle without help. In the SW I had TAPIOCA and BRENNAN...and OIL-something. But what? 45a is one of those IN+ a key letter music clues that I loathe. This is one of the things I would ban unconditionally if I made the crossword rules. So OIL-something that starts with one of the first seven letters of the alphabet. But what? Couldn't get it. Finally I threw in the towel and Bing-ed the Brahms. It's INB: who knew? Now, OILB...what?

Eventually I glommed onto the meaning of "lowlife" and got 48a, which helped get the other 15s and finish. OILBELT?? Ya got me there. Corn, cotton, Bible I'll buy. But OILBELT? What--and where--is that? Ne-vah heard of it.

And while we're at the subject of LTRS like "INB," here we have another one at 50d. Please, guys, if you must have ANI in your grid, then bite the bullet and trot out your blackbird, or Ms. DiFranco. But DON'T, please, parse it as AN I. It grates against me like fingernails on a blackboard.

Ginger 7:28 PM  

Thanks Anna, for The Dire Straits tune, which was just not in my reference frame. So..I struggled with the top 15s, tho PRIVATE ENTRANCE was my first entry.

@joho and @glimmerglass, I took SEEDS to mean 'core words' of crossword construction, though the apple core use also works.

If a logger feller here is the Pac NW were to try to fell a tree with a HANDSAW he would be laughed to the nearest ABRI!

@Spacecraft Bravo on your post about RML (random musical letters)

Hands up for ALBUMeN. It made sense to me.

This was a really good workout for me, but since it's so late, my comments may remain unread. Nevertheless, Thanks Mr. Salitan,I'll be watching for more.

Ginger 7:30 PM  

Oops, that logger feller is IN the NW

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