Vingt-et-un, e.g. / SAT 4-13 / Conductor Leibowitz / Part of the Ring of Fire / Gessen who wrote the 2012 Putin biography "The Man Without a Face" / Modern resident of ancient Ebla

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Relative difficulty: WHO KNOWS REALLY?


Hey, everybody! PuzzleGirl here with your Saturday puzzle. I tell you what. I had a long day at work, I have a headache, and my Nats just lost a game they shouldn't have lost. So maybe I'm not the best person for the job. Or maybe talking about the puzzle will take my mind off my troubles. Let's find out ....

Here's the cool thing about doing crosswords as a hobby. If you just keep doing them, you get better. You recognize some of the cluing tricks, you know some words that you wouldn't have known had it not been for other puzzles, and you don't completely panic when you see a grid like this one. When I first started doing puzzles daily and reading this blog, I thought for sure you people who talked about completing a Saturday puzzle were lying. Just flat out lying. I didn't think it was actually humanly possible to finish one of these guys. But now, a few years and a few hundred (thousand?) puzzles later, I can almost always finish a Saturday.

It's funny. People who don't do puzzles often say to me, "Oh you're so smart!" But you and I know it's not really about being smart. I've always felt a big part of it is pattern recognition. And, more and more these days, there seems to be a spatial element to it as well. When I'm trying to suss out a fifteen-letter entry and I have a couple of letters scattered here and there, it's as if solving it requires both thinking and seeing. It's almost like I squint at the entry and hope the other letters kind of appear out of nowhere. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is your crossword philosophy lecture of the day. Please pick up a study guide for next week's quiz on your way out.

I zipped through the top of this puzzle pretty quickly. And I kept having that "Hah! You can't fool me!" feeling. For example, I looked at 17A: Not have a hunch and thought to myself slyly "Oh, you mean like a hunch...BACK?!?" Or 7A: How some instruments are sold. "Oh, you mean ... FINANCIAL instruments?! HA!" And it just kind of went like that until the top part was all filled in. Then I skipped down to the bottom and had much the same experience.

I had a little tougher time getting through the middle, but that's what I expected. I got enough of the short(er) downs that I could do the squinty thing and figure out the beginnings of three of the four middle fifteens. AGUA (a guess), URNS, and IF AT were the keys there (29D: Arizona's ___ Fria River / 30D: Some of a caterer's inventory / 33D: "___ first ..."). As for GROVES OF ACADEME, well, that's not a phrase I've ever heard in my life (37A: Ivory tower setting). That's the only one where I got the end first, and the beginning could just has well have been GRAVES OF for all I knew.

The only other WTF moment for me was AMERCE (26D: Punish by fine). I don't doubt it's a word and a completely legitimate one -- it's just not one I personally am familiar with.

Other than that, highlights for me include:
  • PEARL JAM (1A: "Spin the Black Circle" Grammy winner of 1995).

  • RENO (24A: City near Pyramid Lake). Hi, PuzzleSister!
  • 40A: "Boxing Helena" star Sherilyn FENN. When I went to find a picture of her, it turns out she's not at all who I thought she was. She sure looks a lot like Julianna Margulies in some of her pictures though. And now that I say that, I realize I said exactly the same thing back on August 27, 2010, over at my old blog and even put together a little visual aid for you. See?

  • LAFF (42A: Comic response, in Variety). That spelling makes me laff.
Thanks for hanging out with me today. With any luck, Rex will be back tomorrow.

Love, PuzzleGirl


Pete 12:17 AM  

Thanks a lot MAS, you reminded me of the worst day of my life.

6YO Pete: Mom, I know why Dad says he's off to the Halls of Academia. It's goofy, but I get it, he's a professor. But why does he sometimes say he's off to the Groves of Academe?
Mom: He said what?
6YO Pete: He's off to the Groves of Academe.
Mom: That irrepentant ponce. You want to know what that means Pete? I'll tell you what it means. He's off to relive his days at Eton. Where "bugger" wasn't a mild oath, but an active verb. Maybe I should say an active butt verb. It means your Daddy is back on the down-low.
6YO Pete: Does the down-low mean what I think it means?
Mom: Yup. Don't worry though, he's not really your father. Did I mention he's a ponce?

Anonymous 12:23 AM  

Anonymous Pete said...

"Thanks a lot MAS, you reminded me of the worst day of my life."

No problem. I aim to please ;)


retired_chemist 12:39 AM  

Liked it. Medium. The quality of the fill is amazing considering the difficulty of constructing eight 15s including a quad stack. And - it is all fair IMO. Not a Natick anywhere.

First answer in was GROVES OF ACADEME, which I confirmed with AGUA. URNS, IF AT, and AMERCE (one of those go-to words that are real but spend a lot more time in crosswords than on peoples' tongues). Guessed right on RENO and that helped. Was WRONG, WRONG on 3D (AMMAN) and it killed me in the North for a long time, together with EAGLE @ 12D. Finally decided that I needed the Q for QUIET..... and the B for DEBTS, which left AQ_BA for 3D,et voilĂ ! GAS BAG soon followed to correct 12D.

IN the S, guessed right on SYRIAN, knew a lot of the downs right off, so the 15s fell quickly. More or less the same for the middle.

A truly fun solve. Thanks, Martin. I always enjoy your puzzles.

CAPTCHA tsinner, as in 'hate the tsin but love the tsinner."

retired_chemist 12:45 AM  

Puzzle Girl deserves her own thank-you note for a great writeup. Her take on puzzles and how one grows into doing them well is spot on, and should hearten the newer aficionados. Very nice! Thank you, PG!

syndy 12:56 AM  

I was mopping up the bottom when my eye caught the middle right and I flashed on ASSOCIATEDPRESS!yeah!pattern recognition!...and just plugging awayat the thing!Scary at first but opens up to a sharp solid foresquare tour de force!I was soo glad that the ALEUTIANISLANDS wasn't some hard to pronounce volcano!

okanaganer 1:05 AM  

Yes as Puzzle Girl said, it's quite a rush when a 15-wide answer just leaps up from only a letter or two. Except when it's way wrong, as when I got the initial F for 60A, and immediately, confidently wrote in FLUORESCENT BULB. Oops...wrong kind of light alternative.

I was also hung up forever at 15A. The clue "Buttoned up" immediately suggested the word TIGHT, so I entered AS tighT AS A MOUSE. I just couldn't let go of that word..I kept thinking yes, that's the phrase...isn't it?...I'm sure it is...but what the heck does it mean?

Greg Charles 1:11 AM  

I wanted BJays before LEAFS for Toronto team, briefly, but then it struck me how ridiculous that would be.

Wade 1:32 AM  

Oh. Puzzlegirl. I mean, hey. How are you? Kind of awkward, I guess, running into each other here. How you been? I still got that nice dish you gave me. I eat out of it everyday. We had some good times, didn't we? Anyway, um, see you around.

Groves of academe was one of my only early footholds. I had hell with this puzzle and gave up on it with NW unfinished and two long middle answers a mystery to me. The Atlas thing I didn't get. Foreign conductors always kick my butt. So do domestic conductors. Why the hell are conductors such hot caca anyway? All they do is stand up there and wave their hands around and have funny hair. The people playing the song don't even pay attention, I bet. I'd feel awkward if I were trying to play my fiddle and some crazy-haired homeless-looking guy stood in front of me doing his jazz-hands dance. I might have finished it but I'm too old to stick it out the way I used to. Plus I've somehow slid into Reverse-Wade over the last few days, gradually finding that I'm staying up all night and sleeping all day. That's all for now. See ya around, PG.

Anonymous 1:33 AM  


I just checked my completed puzzle. I had in MEATLOAF for one-across. *facepalm* It looked halfway plausible, because it fit with the gettable downs (ESTER, LIDS, ATPAR).

I suppose TUNT instead of RUNT should've clued me in, but I was pretty tired of this puzzle.

What awful fill this grid had. Really awful.

Anonymous 1:45 AM  

"What awful fill this grid had. Really awful."

At least it matches your solving abilities.

-- Denis

Evan 2:04 AM  

This one really stymied me. I eventually got it, but it was slow-going all the way. It's amazing how much a mistake like AS I before SO I caused me so much trouble.

Quad-stacks just aren't my thing, unfortunately -- just too much stuff CROSSING them that I wince at (well, okay, CROSSING is apt, so that's good). There's IF AT and A SNIT (partials), PAS DE (a French partial?), MASHA (who?), MOVE OFF (seems a little contrived, maybe it's missing an OF at the end), AMERCE (ugh), TODS (almost never shows up in puzzles despite being a 4-letter Scrabble-friendly answer), and SESS (though the clue is good).

Didn't like the fact that STAMPS is in the puzzle when an abbrev. has the root word in it (Self-Addressed STAMPed Envelope); same deal with ASSNS and the American Medical Association, plus the ASSOCIATED PRESS (plus there's Emergency MEDICAL Technician, too, although I usually have less of a problem with it if they're both abbreviated). AUTOMOBILE TIRES doesn't feel right -- it's just TIRES -- and I've never, ever heard of GROVES OF ACADEME (almost went with GRAVES, too, given how its where too many dissertations and publications go to die).

Love PEARL JAM on top of AS QUIET AS A MOUSE and STAND UP STRAIGHT, though, and thought the clue for FOUR-WAY STOP SIGN was real nice.

Benko 2:37 AM  

I found this puzzle to be very difficult, taking me almost 15 minutes to complete. It's been a long time since any non-Sunday puzzle took me that long.
Not too many easy answers until I got to the bottom, which I finished quickly. Then I worked back up, the hardest part being the middle.
Good puzzle, but not in my wheelhouse at all.
I had a long Dialog published in CMJ magazine years ago debating with their editor about how I thought PEARL JAM was terrible and, despite their Ticketmaster-baiting, completely pro establishment musically.

jae 3:09 AM  

Caveat:  I'm on vacation so alcohol will be a factor in my puzzle solving for the next week or so.  That said, this one was tough!  Did it while watching Monday Mornings (Alfred Molina is excellent) and Blue Bloods (so is Tom Selleck) and was actually surprised when my iPad app gave me completed.  

OK, I just looked it over and maybe medium-tough is more appropriate.

WOEs: PEARL JAM clue (I do know the band), PAS DE, JEU (I assume someone will explain this), TODS, MASHA, URSA...

Stuff I only know from puzzles: AMERCE, SASE, ESTER, GAR, ESTHETES...

@PG -- Delightful, Rex should invite you more often.  My memories of Ms. FENN stem from Twin Peaks and later as Jack Nicholson's companion at Laker games.

@ Wade -- Nice to know you are still around.

So, zippy (yes...PEARL JAM, GAS BAG, ASSES (( great clue))...) crunchy (yes...see above)...liked it!

chefwen 3:49 AM  

Sooooo close, but a DNF here. Got messed up with 2 and 3D so STAND UP STRAIGHT never really appeared. No idea what I had there originally, whatever it was, wasn't right.

@Benko - Seriously, 15 minutes and you thought it was tough? 15 minutes on a Saturday, not even in my dreams. I was doing the "happy dance" when I got FOUR WAY STOP SIGN.

Speaking of GYROS, I'd sell my soul for one of those right now. Must get back to the mainland soon.

jae 5:00 AM  

And, @PG -- Pattern recognition has a whole lot to do with smarts.  Just ask chess or bridge masters or check out the Raven's Progressive Matrices which is the current zeitgeist measure of Spearman's g,  id est IQ.  So, yes, doing a lot of crosswords helps you get better at it, but you still have to be able to see the patterns.  Which is why attendance at the ACPT is a small fraction of the attendance at...(fill in any other event here)...

Jim Walker 7:17 AM  

'Tis always a great Saturday when no googling is needed. I have never listened to a PEARLJAM song in my life but somehow got the name from the p and the j, so I think Puzzle girl's insights are validated. The cluing was the most fun. Cold war grp. Was not KGB. Good for you MAS.

MetaRex 7:36 AM  

A lot of wows in this one...enjoyed getting beaten up...quickly laid down SPACE JAM, AMMAN, MISHA, and AS I up top, and slowly repented the errors of my ways...

Is PEARL JAM GASBAG libelous?! I guess truth is a defense...

Eddie Vedder

loren muse smith 7:46 AM  

PG – Loved your entertaining and spot-on Saturday Puzzle Discussion! SO True. I came very, very close to finishing this in about 35 minutes and probably could have if I had put it down and revisited it later. (@Benko – you sub-fifteen ARCHIPELAGO-loving solver, you. ALEUTIAN ISLANDS was probably a toe- hold for you today?!) Two years ago, I would have had a couple of S’s and an ED in this and called it a day.

After I plopped down AQABA, AMERCE, and ALPH right at the GET GO, I came to a standstill and yes, I’m being a GASBAGgy ASS.

I, too, felt really clever and smart when I saw STAND UP STRAIGHT – off of only the I!! Yay! I felt pretty pleased to get DEBTS fast, too. And like @Syndy –seeing ASSOCIATED PRESS early on thrilled me.

I had “peu” for JEU and my only thought was “How subjective is *that* clue? Really?” Also MOVE “out” first. And like @Metarex – “Misha” before MASHA.

Fiendishly Saturdayish to have “buttoned” as an adjective.

But my truly fatal mistake was seeing 29A as ending with …..”tides” and not TIRES. (My mind went, ridiculously, STRAIGHT to “almanac” instead of “atlas”) Maybe if I had gone ahead and incorrectly put in Bodega BAY, I could have seen AUTOMOBILE, but no. I was one of those pesky “dunces” I had stuck in the corner. Forever. Stalwart SASE rescued me from that one.

@Evan –as a fledgling constructor who immediately dismisses a Crossword Compiler grid with triple 6’s or 7’s in corners, I have to say I’m still impressed with any kind of 15 stack. How. Do. They. DO. That???

@Wade – a foreign conductor was my undoing on I think puzzle five at the ACPT. He probably had a hair thing going, too. Let’s be fast friends. I like your style!

MAS – I almost did it. TIRES was my undoing. Thanks for the workout!

Bookdeb 8:15 AM  

JEU was a fun suprise. Tried to think of a French word for number that is only three letters... Then the aha moment when I remembered that 21 is a GAME (JEU). What fun.

Bookdeb 8:18 AM  

@jae that was for you :)

Bill from FL 8:36 AM  

Atque inter silvas academi quaerere verum. --Horace (via Mary McCarthy)

Glimmerglass 8:37 AM  

Great lecture, PG. I mostly agree. I got no traction on top, but found the bottom more accessible. Next I saw that 37A had to end in either ACADEMy or ACADEME. The GROVES part was pretty easy after that (it's a familiar phrase in my academic-type life). The top eventually fell, even though I don't know PEARL JAM, PAS DE, or MASHA. Worked from right to left with xxxxxMOUSE and xxRxxGHT. I thijnk @Benko is pulling our collective legs. A Sunday almost never takes me more time than a Saturday.

Z 8:38 AM  

@Greg Charles - I considered the improbable bjays as well. What a great nickname, though. The next time the Jays are at Comerica you might just hear a "b jays suck" cheer starting in section 129.

AQABA always sounds more like a rebel hide-out to me, not an actual place I could visit.

I made a total hash out of the middle SydneY BAY, asec for SESS, RAngERS for RAIDERS, just a total hash. A fine puzzle, but no UNDERSTATEMENTS here when I say the middle did me in.

Zeke 8:48 AM  

@Wade - Your steady decline saddens me. I finally found your CD, "Armadillos of Loving". I thought the title was a metaphor for human interaction, how we always curl up into little balls to avoid it. But no, it was 12 songs about Armadillos in West Texas. Armadillos eat ants, armadillos get leprosy, .. Sad.

Now I find you're afraid of conductors. Seriously, a Texan afraid of conductors? You know you've got to move to Arkansas now, right?

Get a grip man!

Twangster 8:52 AM  

I found this one crazy hard and had to google like a fiend to finish it.

retired_chemist 9:05 AM  

@ Zeke - We have armadillos - 30 miles NE of Dallas. They eat fire ants, believe it or not. This is a good thing. They also only have litters of identical quadruplets. So far ours have not given us leprosy and I doubt ours have it.

Sir Hillary 9:05 AM  

Damn, Saturday at Augusta can be a tiger. Always nice to have a tap-in birdie at the first (PEARLJAM), and I cruised through the front nine (top), missing a fairway along the way (Amman for AQABA) but recovering without losing ground. Then I shredded Amen Corner (bottom) and was feeling as "in the zone" as I have in a long time when I came to the finishing stretch. RangERS for RAIDERS seemed like a perfectly-played pitching wedge, but instead it hit the bottom of the flagstick, sending my ball into the pond (middle stack). I really had to gather myself and focus. Very proud to have salvaged my round and finished.

@PG - Wonderful write-up.

@jae - I too know Sherilyn FENN mostly from "Twin Peaks". However, I think Jack's former paramour was Lara Flynn Boyle, who was also on the show.

dk 9:24 AM  

Had the same puzzle verve as our hostess. GROVES of whatever man was my WTF moment in an otherwise delightful solve.

May relocate to Austin Texas where i am told wearing clogs with my Resistol is not a fashion faux pas -- What do the Armadillos say?

These robot tests are getting longer and longer. I expect an essay test any day now.

*** (3 stars) thanks martin

jackj 9:56 AM  

Martin Ashwood-Smith, “King of the Triple Stacks”, drops in with a bit of knottiness that’s salted with his Canadian gentility to temper the misdirections that abound, (but doesn’t make them any easier to sort out).

And MA-S gets right to it with a clue that demands we dredge up a good guess, a “hunch” he says and then goes all Quasimodo on us by looking for another kind of “hunch” with a clever answer of STANDUPSTRAIGHT and the challenge is joined.

Before leaving the puzzle’s northland we also get a clever tie in that produces a LEG CRAMP, two successive clues instructing a GASBAG to “button up” by becoming ASQUIETASAMOUSE and an entry for “Uglify” (that has a vaguely playful feel) but seems overblown with MAR as the answer. (And that may be the nittiest nitpick ever).

There’s too much going on in Martin’s superb offering to try to capture all of it but, suffice it to say, that things get rather trying in the puzzle’s midsection, though learning a new phrase and having it be as elegant as GROVESOFACADEME, made the struggle highly rewarding.

It was also nice to see a nod to the entertainment industry’s bible, “Variety”, with the clue that gave us LAFF, but it also serves as a reminder that the present owners of the estimable trade paper ended publication of the daily print edition two weeks ago and are left with only a Newsweek-ish weekly edition and an online web site, signaling that a Hollywood tradition has sadly begun its disappearing act.

A terrific puzzle today, from a favorite constructor!

Thanks, Martin.

Carola 9:57 AM  

Too tough for me. Had to abandon my newspaper and pencil and go to Across-Lite and turn on the "show me incorrect letters as I type them in" function. That showed me the error of my Amman x ban, age (for 21)and as I (for SO I), and helped with my guesses at the proper names, none of which I knew today.

Agree entirely with Puzzle Girl about pattern recognition, but man, my brain was having some sort of CRAMP because I could look at FOURWAYSTO_ _ IGN and read it as "FOUR WAYS TO...reIGN? alIGN?" When I finally got it, it was more with a groan than a LAFF. And I spent 30 years in the GROVES OF ACADEME (and knew the phrase) and still couldn't see it for ages.

Looking back over the grid, I see so much to like. Wish I could have had more lovely AHA moments!

@Puzzle Girl - Really liked your write-up!

chefbea 10:04 AM  

Too tough for me. Googled a bit and then came here to hear how hard it was for most everyone.

Lindsay 10:10 AM  

Finished with FiNN crossing A MERCi. We had PAS DE, so why not?

Writeovers: 43D inLaY >>> ALLOY, 32D BOTneY BAY >>> BOTANY BAY (half-remembered geography led me astray), and inTrO >>> GET-GO.


Off to the Saturday Stumper.

Anonymous 10:28 AM  

Note to all guest analysts: skip the personal philosophies and bios and ALWAYS include a difficulty rating.

jackj 10:34 AM  

A nice tutorial from Puzzle Girl.

Words of wisdom, especially for those who are hesitant to move beyond Wednesday level solving.

loren muse smith 10:39 AM  

One of my absolute favorite write-ups all week. I look forward to lots more from you, PG!

lawprof 10:51 AM  

Saturdays are a real challenge for me. I only finish (maybe) half of them. Sometimes I can tell just five minutes in that it's hopeless and just go out and mess around in the yard.

But today's puzzle kept falling slowly, bit by bit until I finished...or so I thought. Ended up with a natick at the 26D/40A crossing. I ended up with AMERCi/FiNN. Nevertheless, a nice Saturday morning workout.

One sports curiosity: the Toronto hockey team's nickname. Maple Leafs. The plural of "leaf" is "leaves," so I've always wondered about that. Gotta concede, however that "Toronto Maple Leaves" would sound pretty dorky.

Sir Hillary 10:53 AM  

Note to all guest analysts: ignore advice from posters who don't even bother coming up with a fake name.

Photo Ed. 10:56 AM  

Took me an embarrassingly long time, with several crosses, to get ASSOCIATED PRESS at 39A, considering that I've worked at the AP for more than 20 years. Maybe because "wire service" sounds better than simply "wire," though of course "wire" is common usage.

Our union local, formerly the Wire Service Guild, is now the News Media Guild.

Found the puzzle moderately difficult. Also went with Amman at 3D; briefly had flora instead of FLEUR at 44D; some other snags as well.

Thanks for the APpealing puzzle, Mr. Ashwood-Smith.

Sandy K 11:16 AM  

Agree with PG's write-up. So true!

To say this was challenging from the GET-GO for me, would be an UNDERSTATEMENT.

Thought I finally had it, but put in GRaVES OF ACADEME! Hate when that happens. Not LAFFing...

joho 11:22 AM  

This was tough. Super tough. I was happy to get the top & bottom but finally gave up in the middle.

ouzOS/zumba, anyone? I did fix that section. But muTiNYBAY (doesn't exist!) and MakEOFF tripped me up. I did erase the fake bay but kept the "K" which did me in.

Loved the clue and answer for FOURWAYSTOPSIGN!

Looking as the grid I keep parsing IFAT as I FAT.

@anon 1:33 a.m., I, too, had mEAtLoAf for a minute but RUNT changed that. I was thinking, yesterday CAESARSALAD at 1A and today, MEAtLoAf!

Oh, GROVESOFACADEME was totally unknown to me which further made the middle impossible.


Nice, but cruel, puzzle, MAS! @PuzzleGirl ... fantastic write-up!

Anoa Bob 11:55 AM  

Question: Who made his greatest, most enduring contribution to philosophy only after completely rejecting everything he had been taught in the GROVES OF ACADEME?

Hint: LMS' avatar du jour.

Merle 12:20 PM  

What's in anyone's wheelhouse? What's in Puzzle Girl's is totally different from what's in mine. Generational? What we find of interest? I've known the phrase Groves of Academe since I first contemplated going to college. It meant college! And it also is the title of a book by Mary McCarthy, a novel published in 1952. A novel I read.

I also knew the word "amerce", although I initially spelled it wrong, with an "s".

But Pearl Jam's 1995 album is a WTF for me, as is the "Superman II" villainess, although I got that one from a combination of crosses and figuring out the missing "u", As always, some gimmes, some WTFs.

I do share with Puzzle Girl an automatic reaction to a grid with so many 15 letter answers. For me, pure despair. Especially since my method of puzzle solving is not the best way -- I know I should just go through the puzzle and automatically enter every answer I know offhand. But I prefer to work my way down, systematically solving the north east and north west first. So I went all the way down through the entire north without one answer, and then through the center -- still nada. I got Groves of Academe only after a few crosses eventually popped up, and the answer became clear -- much as Puzzle Girl describes how we solve puzzles spatially. When I get stumped, I stop, distract myself with something else, and, when I return to the puzzle, just look at it -- not at the clues, just the grid, and, of course, letters just tend to fill themselves in at that point.

At any rate, after hitting the 60 A "four way stop sign", I no longer stopped. I went in every direction and finished the puzzle. Whew.

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

Harsh. EV is so lovable. Indulge him!

Lewis 12:29 PM  

Several PG-esque moments on the 15s. Those were nice ahas.

I don't think I knew any of the proper names, which made this very tough. I finally Googled a few, and the puzzle fell, and then fairly easily. I'm looking forward to the day where I don't need Mr. G on Saturday.

M&A -- 8 U's. Gotta at least crack a smile on your face.

And no eels.

I never use it in real life, but I love the word GASBAG. Have a good weekend, y'all.

jae 12:57 PM  

@Bookdeb -- Thanks, I had no idea.

@Sir Hillary -- Of course Flynn-Boyle was Jack's companion, D'oh!  FENN was Laura Palmer, the plastic wrapped corpse.  The other Laura went on to star in The Practice on TV.  I blame it on booze, age, and a stubborn refusal to google stuff I think I should know.  

BTW did you know you got a 2 stroke penalty for an improper drop after you hit the flag stick?  

retired_chemist 1:04 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
retired_chemist 1:05 PM  

Re Sir Hillary's comment re the Anonymouse: Hear hear!

JenCT 1:31 PM  

@Sir Hillary 10:53: LOL!


Had to chime in to say how much I appreciated Puzzle Girl's write up & explanation of the solving process.

Masked and Anonymo8Us 2:05 PM  

@Lewis: Well tallied. Would have a more photogenic smile, but...

This puz was a mother. Mother's Day done came early this year. Sufficient suffering for two SatPuzs. Extra rows of ass-whuppin, too: 16 x 15-er. Day-um, MAS.

Don't wanna be no GASBAG on my solvin troubles, so will just move on to...

MOVEOFF. Huh. This sounds newish. As in made up, in honor of Mother's Day. SHOVEOFF, yes. BUZZOFF, okay. BACKOFF, sure. Woulda even accepted BLASTOFF.

LAFF. Now see there, how the contagion of MOVEOFF started to spread. Lucky they went ahead and published this puppy, before things got any worse. Otherwise the whole sheebang mighta turned to French, or somesuch. shudder.

Wonderful writeup. They saved the youngest and cutest of the under-30 constructors, for last. Bravo, darlin.
Still, will be good to get the ugliest and crankiest one back, soon... har.

Never Owned a Car 2:28 PM  

So, is Atlas a company that sells AUTOMOBILE TIRES, or what is that?

Anonymous 2:41 PM  

I was so EXCITED to see Pearl Jam at 1 across, hoping the whole puzzle would be an Evenflow....but alas, it wasn't. I told myself to Just Breathe, and finally finished with some googling! Great Puzzle would be and UNDERSTATEMENT! Thanks MAS!

M and A and no S 2:43 PM  

p.s. Make that 15 x 16-er. Got my balls and strikes counts mixed-up.

Also, I shoulda mentioned that I do like a puz challenge. So this puz was really a lotta fun. But what a mutha.

OISK 3:12 PM  

Finished slowly,but finished. I have no idea who or what Pearl Jam is, but I have heard the name often enough to have gotten it from the "J". Never heard of Tods shoes, and had ECCO at first, and also never heard of Sheryl Fenn, but it all fell into place. I really enjoy this kind of puzzle. I like gasbag, and asses; ester is a gimme for a chemist; there are preferable ways to clue "Ursa" than a movie reference, but it is Saturday. All in all, beautifully constructed, well clued puzzle! Thanks.

LaneB 3:22 PM  

Early mistakes caused me to throw in the towel early (takeOFF for MOVEOFF; rangers for RAIDERS; Amman for AQUABA) These coupled with too recondite clues led to a merciful DNF before useless frustration. Look forward to a more rewarding Sunday.

Jeff Chen 3:33 PM  

Yay PuzzleGirl for the fun and shiny write-up! Nice to read pleasant words in the morning.

Boo PuzzleGirl for falling into the old "all you white girls look alike" trap. =]


mac 4:28 PM  

Thanks, PuzzleGirl, great wrote-up and reasoning.

I did the squinting as well and got the Aleutian Islands and the Associated Press out of it, I think. I had the most trouble in the NW, where Amman and ban made my life difficult. I considered goats for 45A and the groves were new to me. Good think I know my shoes.
Very few write-overs this Saturday, though.

As quiet as a mouse doesn't sound like the meaning of buttoned up to me. Zipped up maybe.

@jae: we can use that as an excuse? OK, I'm flying on Wednesday.

Anonymous 5:19 PM  

Thanks for the feedback folks. The rather formal phrase GROVES OF ACADEME is usually used somewhat facetiously these days (in my experience, anyway) hence the use of "ivory tower" in the clue.

-Martin Ashwood-Smith

sanfranman59 6:01 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. 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 5:33, 6:10, 0.90, 10%, Easy
Tue 7:16, 8:15, 0.88, 15%, Easy
Wed 9:50, 10:16, 0.96, 40%, Medium
Thu 13:57, 16:58, 0.82, 18%, Easy
Fri 16:46, 22:14, 0.75, 13%, Easy
Sat 28:50, 25:16, 1.14, 84%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:22, 3:42, 0.91, 9%, Easy
Tue 4:25, 4:49, 0.92, 15%, Easy
Wed 5:12, 6:04, 0.86, 12%, Easy
Thu 8:37, 9:56, 0.87, 22%, Easy-Medium
Fri 8:38, 12:47, 0.68, 5%, Easy (9th lowest ratio of 172 Fridays)
Sat 17:27, 15:01, 1.16, 82%, Challenging

jberg 6:46 PM  

I knew the GROVES OF ACADEME from the McCarthy novel, but didn't know AMERCE or FENN, so I finished with the A MERCi/FiNN error. I still enjoyed it, though - just as @PG said, it started out looking impossible, but gradually fell into place (except for that error!) Lots of writeovers - besides Amman, CRAsh before CRAMP, Orem before RENO,Agape before ASHEN. But I really enjoyed the solve. I never really understood how those long answers swim into one's mind; pattern recognition is as good an explanation as any!

Thanks, PG!

Aqaba Crossing Mashas 8:03 PM  

I love Martin's particular genius...and the name AQABA is the coolest ever!

@jeff chen...funny! In the all white girls look alike category, I was conflating Sherilynn FENN with Lara FLYNN Boyle.

Yay, puzzle girl.

ArtO 9:20 PM  

Hoe anyone could complete this puzzle is well beyond me. My hat's off to you geniuses.

Nice to see Sherilyn Fenn. Hand up for remembering her from " Twin Peaks". One of the weirdest shows ever.

chefbea 9:30 PM  

I have finished Sunday's puzzle!!! A rarity, cuz I usually don't do it til Sunday morning. The blog isn't up yet. Hope Rex is OK and will be posting soon. See you all in the morning

Robso 9:46 PM  

I love Rex's write ups (yours too, PG!) . . . all the same, I was glad he was not around to complain about the stacked 15s.

This was a grind, but I loved the "light alternative," the "large wire" and the "not have a hunch?" clues. Guessed on the "groves of academe." That must be in Florida orange country. Do they have schools there?

Anonymous 9:56 PM  

@jae 12:57

No, Sherilynn Fenn didn't play Laura Palmer on Twin Peaks. She played Audrey Horne, the daughter of the town's hotelier.

retired_chemist 9:58 PM  

@ Robso - in case you are serious, here is the origin of the phrase, per Wilipedia:

"The word [Academe] comes from the akademeia in ancient Greece, which derives from the Athenian hero, Akademos. Outside the city walls of Athens, the gymnasium was made famous by Plato as a center of learning. The sacred space, dedicated to the goddess of wisdom, Athena, had formerly been an olive grove, hence the expression "the groves of Academe.""

Robso 10:20 PM  

Thanks, retired chemist!

jae 12:36 AM  

Dang, wrong again. Sheryl Lee was Laura Palmer. Apparently I've completely confused Lauras, Sheryl and Sherilyn over the years. It's more embarrassing because my daughter went to high school with and was good friends with Dana Ashbrook, so we were fans of the series until it got very weird. Next time I'll cave and resort to google.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:05 PM  

A day late, because I was away (skiing on the 13th of April in Vermont!), but . . .

Another hand up for AMMAN before AQABA as the hub for Jordanian aviation. But how can that be, as the runways at Aqaba face the sea, and they cannot be turned round.

Dirigonzo 2:31 PM  

I started the puzzle after work Saturday evening and put it down half-done about two hours later. This morning (Monday) I picked it up and finished the rest of the grid in about 15 minutes. Apparently being well-rested and sober does wonders for my solving ability. Giving up becluelessAbouT in favor of STANDUPSTRAIGHT was the turning point.

Dirigonzo 2:33 PM  

(Just checking the email follow-up box)

NM Robin 11:19 AM  

An extremely challenging puzzle for me. DNF. I knew the Ivory Tower was referring the ACADEME but didn't know what to put in front of it. @EVAN: I also had GRaVES OF ... and since I didn't know 31D it was a natick for me.

Also could not figure out ESTHETES.

@Greg Charles: I tried to fit Blue Jays at 42D every which way and just couldn't make it work. Finally got LAFF and knew it was LEAFS.

@Brenko: 15 minutes - REALLY!!!! It took me more than 2 1/2 hours and still DNF.

DMGrandma 2:09 PM  

So many proper names made this one slow going for awhile, but perseverance paid off. Once I had an aha moment and replaced Assess with AMERCE, the center was solved, and I was done. Except for 1A. I don't follow the music scene, and crossing some Grammy winner with two French words and a proper name left me with 3 blank squares, up from my usual 1!

For all the squinters out there, I find it helps to write out what I have blanks and all. The words become much more obvious when seen in familiar handwriting. This is how I got AUTOMOBILE this time, as I'm not familiar with Atlas TIRES, and was looking for some kind of tides, though those would be in an almanac, not an atlas.

Thanks @Diri for the RPG explanation.

rain forest 3:20 PM  

Hey, @Dirigonzo, have you gone to the dark, aka, real-time side? You, a syndi stalwart?

I really liked PG's write-up. Total lack of pomposity, yet insightful nonetheless, and sharing in the joy of solving with us plebes.

Today, I started in the SE with AHA, ASSNS, HEDGE, ASSES, ASNIT,etc, and from there got the entire bottom. Just a couple of entries in the middle, then up to the top where PEARLJAM came from ESTER, AQABA, and JEU. Finished the top, finally parsing GASBAG, and then trudged through the middle, endind with the AMERCE/FENN natick, and just guessed the E. This all took a long time, but I managed to do it after almost giving up after the first run through almost all the clues.

PG's description of her handling of stacked long answers is spot on-the only way I can manage it, hence, GROVESOFACADEME off of just four letters.

Fwiw, and I know I'm going on here, I only do the NYT puzzle (don't have time or inclination to do other puzzles), and so getting to the point, after many years of solving, where I believe I can complete most Saturdays, if slowly, is very satisfying.

Spacecraft 4:04 PM  

I'm probably too late today for anybody to read this, but there's a good reason. It took me this long to get done!

Searching frantically for a gimme, I shoehorned in with the LAFF/FEUR/FENN complex, picked up the rest of the SW, and the bottom 15s fell into place. I had the bottom third, plus center starts with BOTANYBAY (Kahn!), CROSSING and the STAMPS on the SASE.

AH, but I never heard the phrase "GROVESOFACADEME," so the middle was much tougher. Didn't know the shoe--I do NOT buy high-end--so had to guess between TADS/GRAVES and TODS/GROVES. The latter seemed more reasonable, so I went with it (yay!). Was a bit disappointed at AUTOMOBILETIRES; I know there are other kinds of tires, but really...looked like green paint to me.

The top was even tougher. Figured 6d had to be JEU, but forgot about PEARLJAM, and no other J-group would occur. Gotta admit, I get glassy-eyed with all music (?) after the '80s. Sheryl Crow excepted. Had a hand on the yellow hankie ready to pull when 16d turned out to be STIMULATE, but then realized, hey, what does getting goosed do? Right. OK, tricky but fair.

This thing, as I said, took me all morning, including a breakfast break. I did finish, correctly, but whew! Let me replace "Who knows really?" with "challenging."

Solving in Seattle 4:18 PM  

This one took me most of the Mariners/Indians ball game to solve. A toughy. Didn't know GROVESOFACADEME, and still don't.

As for Saturday puzzles, some times I just have to write down answers with no crosses except my fingers. Writeovers were Amman before AQABA and PREsEntS before PRECEDES. I think SESS for "short term" isn't clued properly and "Squad leader?" ESS, a little cheap, otherwise a solid puzzle, Martin.

A good write up, PG.

@rain forest, every once in awhile @Diri strays out of Syndiland. He'll be back.

Waxy in Montreal 8:02 PM  

PG set the tone for intelligent comments throughout today's blog. Thank you. A pleasure to read as was the puzzle to solve.

Count me in the A MERCI/FINN camp and also had TAKEOFF before MOVEOFF and PRESENTS before PRECEDES, and didn't know TODS, all of which muddled the middle. RENE was my AHA moment, but only after googling conductor Leibowitz.

LAFF CROSSING LEAFS won't come as a surprise to any NHL fans, though they acquitted themselves much better this year. Knowing our constructor is a Canadian means this was probably no accident.

Finally, hope all my fellow Syndiland Canucks are enjoying the long Victoria Day weekend. The weather here is as pleasant as I'm sure it always is under the GROVESOFACADEME so hoping it's great where you are too, eh.

strayling 8:28 PM  

I got over half of this one without cheating so that's a win. My main reason to post is to recommend a drive out to Pyramid Lake, which is one of the most surreal places I've ever seen. It looks like the cover of Wish You Were Here: a perfect blue lake with natural rock pyramids rising out of the water. If your tyres are up to it, keep driving along the gravel track and you'll find ghost towns, swarms of iridescent dragonflies, eagles, and a glimpse behind the scenes of the American expansion to the west.

Dirigonzo 8:48 PM  

@rainforest - my local paper doesn't publish on Saturday so I have to buy the NYT and solve in "real time" to get my daily fix. The upside is that as a syndisolver I don't feel bad about commenting hours, or even days, after the regular crowd has left the room. I always come back to read the syndicomments, though.

@Strayling - it sounds idyllic but I'm still trying to figure out if your "if your tyres are up to it" remark was a reference to the Atlas clue.

Anonymous 9:30 PM  

I have been reading this blog for a couple of years but usually don't comment since I am a syndi-solver and all is typically covered by the time I read the blog.

I was able to plod through and solve the puzzle however it was not an enjoyable workout. I much prefer yesterday's fabulous offering from Mr. Berry than today's from MAS. I'm sure it is due to PB's cluing and my ability to connect with him. Today's puzzle didn't produce the smiling moments I get when I crack PB's clues, just not in my wheelhouse.

Sunny CA Murray

Dirigonzo 12:33 PM  

@Sunny CA Murray - There's a growing community of syndi-solvers who comment regularly and we'd love to have you join us. Starting with NM Robin's post all of the comments above were posted five weeks after the regular crowd had left the room, so you'll fit right in!

Anonymous 3:08 PM  

I just gotta say that that Sherilynn Fenn is about 10,000X sexier than Julianna M.

strayling 8:33 PM  

I only wish it had been. Well played!

strayling 7:52 PM  

@Sunny. Welcome to the after-party.

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