FRI 6-21-13

Friday, June 21, 2013

Constructor: Michael Sharp, a.k.a. Rex Parker

Relative difficulty: EASY



THEME: Freestyle Friday, no theme

Word of the Day: EARL MONROE (N.B.A. Hall-of-Famer who, with Walt Frazier, formed the Knicks' "Rolls Royce Backcourt") —
Vernon Earl Monroe (born November 21, 1944, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an American former professional basketball player known for his flamboyant dribbling, passing, and play-making. He was nicknamed both "Earl the Pearl" and "Jesus".
• • •


Matt Gaffney here filling in for the vacationing Rex Parker, who wrote today's Times crossword under his pseudonym "Michael Sharp," which doesn't even sound like a real name.  

Quick solve for me -- 5:56 in Across Lite and I'm no speedster. Didn't start off too well since nothing in the NW corner would fall (knew 2-d was either AIME or AMIE but couldn't remember which, so didn't chance it). But then the RENAL/SENEGALESE crossing fell (my wife did Peace Corps in Senegal and speaks fluent Pulaar) and it was off to the races. PORTLANDIA was a gimme (TV sketch comedy set in the "city where young people go to retire") and then, marching counterclockwise, the SW, NE, and then finally that tricky NW.

Everything 8 letters or more in this grid is somewhere between fine and excellent; below that it's a mixed bag. Starting with all those nice 8+ entries; besides the ones already named we've got AMY POEHLER, MIRACLE-GRO, TYLER PERRY, READ-ONLY, SNEAK A PEEK, SMELT ROE and hip TRENDING. So it's going to be hard not to like a crossword with all that, and there's good stuff in the short entries as well; the whole SE coming together with PHD/DKNY is especially elegant.

But you sometimes pay a price for all those fancy words, and here it's a smattering of suboptimal fill:  AIME, ATA, SMA, LGA, ORL, MAI, INSP, ROG, ETNAS and NEN. We'll charge the constructor with a misdemeanor fill offense (MFO) there since that smattering doesn't rise to felony level.

Bullets:
  • 37-a Element with a low atomic number that is not found naturally on Earth -- BORON. For having a single-digit at. no., you really don't hear much about Boron , do you? Now we know why.
  • 11-d Kind of request in a Robert Burns poem -- SMA. Seems like there should be a way to get rid of SMA. SPA/PARS and SEA/EARS don't work because of SPA elsewhere and ASEA, but MMA/MEGA looks better to me than SMA/SEGA. 
  • 10-d "Ye gods!" HORRORS. Had the ??RRORS but could've been either an HO or a TE there. "Ye gods!" is an expression worth reviving. 
  • 50-a Jelly Belly flavorPEAR. The pear-flavored Jelly Bellies are too sweet. The best ones are buttered popcorn and blueberry and root beer. The worst are licorice and the dark-green ones. 
On a scale of 1.00 to 5.00, I give it: 4.05.

Signed, Matt Gaffney

123 comments:

jackj 12:02 AM  

One section of XwordInfo displays a colorized grid that shows the uniqueness of entries in any given puzzle. The color scheme used is red for unique (never previously used in a Times puzzle), orange (used only one other time in a Times puzzle), on down through yellow, green, blue and gray.

The colorized grid for today’s Michael Sharp puzzle is festooned with red and orange markings, making it look like a Salvador Dali version of the Spanish flag and to Crossworld, that means bring your “A” game if you want to play.

Up on your sushi are you? So it was no problem getting SMELTROE.

Keeping tabs on movie moguls? Then you probably saw TYLERPERRY on “60 Minutes” a few years ago and learned that he is one of the richest dudes in all of Hollywood.

How about those French-speaking Africans? Yes, those SENEGALESE claim French as their official language, (but if you’re up on your African trivia you know that more of the SENEGALESE actually speak ethnic languages Wolof or Pulaar than speak French).

TV your thing? Surely then, getting SNL alum AMYPOEHLER was a piece of cake and if you’re really into the idiot box then PORTLANDIA must also be high on your list of comedy favorites.

Science maven are you? You’ll likely tumble to ETNAS, BORON and ANTIBODY while being surprised to find RENAL failure.

Ah, but maybe you’re of the business world? Then you’ll tut-tut about LEHMAN Brothers when remembering their spectacular collapse, but you’ll think nice trendy thoughts about Donna Karan’s DKNY line and certainly be thankful that there’s a company named MIRACLEGRO to help give your manse its green, green lawn.

Or do you just cotton to interesting words? Go ahead and revel in GREGARIOUS and SNEAKAPEEK at INSIGNIA, ALLTERRAIN and ASSAILANTS and you’ll undoubtedly be more than satisfied.

Wrap it all up with MARS and ARES going all kissy face with each other, making love not war and you’ve matched wits with the 40th Greatest Crossword Solver in the Universe and survived to brag about it.

Great stuff, Michael!

Have a wonderful vacation.

jae 12:08 AM  

Easy for me too partly because of the zippy gimmes...AMY POEHLER,  PORTLANDIA, TYLER PERRY...  Plus, I put in TABLECLOTH with no crosses and was pleasantly surprised when it worked. 

A fair bit of crosswordy fill but my only real cringes were NEN (a WOE I hope never to see again) and OLDNESS.

Liked the Hot pair, smiled at the morbid RENAL failure, and was pleased to find out that the orange stuff on my California Roll  is SMELT ROE (tried to fit GINGER in there at first). 

So, not a mind blowing Fri., but any puzzle with PORTLANDIA in it has my vote.   Now there's a show that does NOT have a "serious lack of whimsey"!

Thanks for the write up Matt. 

Matt Gaffney 12:08 AM  

Thanks alot, that was better than my writeup

okanaganer 12:22 AM  

I did NOT find this easy, but I did finish with no errors, and it was fun with all those fresh answers. Never heard of AMY POEHLER so the NW was tough.

For 38A I immediately typed in VIADUCTS--right idea, wrong letters. Also temporarily had ARGON instead of BORON, which made "red-carpet interview topics" GRINS and the basketball star EARL MONGOE. Why not?...basketball familiar with am I not. I must have been thinking of Mungo Jerry.

But seriously: OLDNESS...really? That's so bad, I guess it's good.

optionsgeek 12:32 AM  

Not an easy by a long shot. Enjoyable, with toughish, thought provoking clueing and the occasional a-ha moments. But, no, I would not call this easy by any stretch of the imagination.

Noam D. Elkies 12:45 AM  

Argon *is* found on earth, and in copious quantities: it's about 1% of air. Boron is found too, but not as a free element; if you've used borax-containing detergent, or boric-acid insecticide, then you've used boron.

As for the puzzle: surely it's possible to make a good 3x10 stack without resorting to some showbiz celebrity/title or other for one of the 10's, but you wouldn't know it from any of the four such stacks in this puzzle... Anyway Fri/Sat puzzles are usually unthemed so I concentrate my solving on Wed/Thurs/Sun unless I'm about to compete in ACPT or Lollapuzzoola or somesuch.

NDE

Questinia 12:52 AM  

Liked the range as per first commenter. However hung up on BORON for a while as I thought it is indeed an element found naturally on earth. Turns out it isn't found as pure boron but as a part of various compounds. Very tricky!
Loved ANTIBODY and RENAL failure. Poetic clue for TRESTLES. Needed nearly all the downs to capture TYLER PERRY. Thought ROG was awkward but found the puzzle very nicely constructed otherwise. Really liked the proximity of GREGARIOUS ASSAILANTS and PORTLANDIA OPERATIONS.

syndy 12:54 AM  

Yeah what about the Borax mine in BOROB calif? What does Rex think those 50 mules were hauling around! shesh. And don't get me started on OLDNESS. Not only did I never hear of PORTLANDIA I stopped my timer to look it up-never heard of the channel either!.and HOW many basketball obscurities were we handed? The big open planes were gorgeous but those peninsulae were pure doggerel.

retired_chemist 1:00 AM  

Easy. Agree with Matt that there is good stuff that outweighs the dreck he mentioned. Overall, very good.

Clue for 37A BORON is bad. Boron IS found naturally on earth, in borate minerals chiefly. How it is NOT found naturally on Earth is in elemental form. I'd guess that Michael (or Will) picked through the Wikipedia entry for Boron to find a Friday level clue and didn't have enough chemical knowledge to express it quite right. My Friday level clue would be: Element found in Corning Pyrex glassware.

Figured the one thing Family Head would NOT be is DAD (or POP - well, TWO things). So my first shot was EFF. Wrong....

BRYN (3D) presumably refers to its lead-in to Mawr, in toto a leader in women's education. Coed at graduate level though....

Tried DANA CARVEY @ 17A - easily corrected. AMUN-RA @ 20A ditto. I think MAI is the only 3 letter month in French, so that was that.

More, please, Mr. Sharp. I hope that your assertion on your blog, that this may be your last NYT puzzle, does not come to pass.

Questinia 1:00 AM  

How can someone have done this puzzle in 3 mins. and change?
@syndy "those peninsulae were pure doggerel" ... love that!

syndy 1:01 AM  

Um that was BORON ,Calif. worked ther in the '80's so I knew the answer was not...

Amenra Cleated Miraclegro 1:04 AM  

I think AMYPOEHLER (which I had trouble spelling) and PORTLANDIA, TRENDING and Chris Rock's "Bigger and BLACKER" up the hipness factor of this puzzle tenfold.

I liked BOWOUT...

At first didn't like short sportsy things like NEN and ORL, but even I know Earl "the Pearl" Monroe...but only bec Woody Allen once told me that was his hero.

MARS/ARES thing very clever and GREGARIOUS is pretty impressive.

If I were @Rex I'd be dismissive of SMELTROE, but I'm not. :)

Nice weird PEAR trivia.

Timely to see DON day after Tony Soprano's portrayer's untimely demise.

Ted Widlanski 1:07 AM  

Retired Chemist- having the same argument with people on the wordplay blog. When something is part of a compound, it is not an element. So that clue for Boron seems fine to me. I didn't have to think twice about putting it in.

retired_chemist 1:18 AM  

@ Ted W. - it is not in elemental form but it is still an element. Sorry, that wouldn't pass muster on any chem. exam I know of.

Dana Carvey, it turns out, was not ever AFAIK (Wikipedia) a Weekend Update anchor. However, a lot of them were 10 letter names: Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Colin Quinn, Seth Meyers (except he is current) as well as Amy Poehler.

Benko 1:25 AM  

Liked the pop culture, very much in my wheelhouse, especially PORTLANDIA.
Felt a little slow in the NE corner, cost me at least a minute off where I should have been,
Liked the long entries on this one, but I think Rex would rip this puzzle apart because of the short fill...

Ted Widlanski 1:32 AM  

Retired chemist- I beg to differ. You are using element in one sense- a perfectly reasonable one. Rex, um, Mike, used it in another perfectly reasonable sense. If I asked you what forms the element carbon comes in, you would not say methane. You would say graphite, diamond, fullerenes, etc.

I'm not known for writing easy chemistry exams, but my students wouldn't have a problem with this.

Anonymous 1:46 AM  

Easy for a Friday puzzle is about right.

Earl Monroe is not an obscurity.

In my day, it was AMUN-RA.

Long ones were great, short ones were okay.

Good work, Rex. I enjoyed it.

-Brennan

Greg Charles 1:49 AM  

Clever puzzle, and quite easy for a Friday. My fastest Friday ever actually, though not even close to Matt’s 5:56, who's "not a speedster". Humph, at least I can spell "a lot"! :)

retired_chemist 1:54 AM  

@ Ted W. - Your argument has to claim that an element is not an element if it is combined. Can't buy it. Boron is found in borax, which is found naturally on earth. Does boron lose its elemental status when it is in borax? If it is then not an element, what is it?

Replace "naturally" with "in elemental form" in the stated clue and I'm fine with it.

And so to bed.....

Evan 2:07 AM  

[Streets of Rage maker]. Rex (or Will....whoever made that clue), are you after my heart or something? I mean, other stuff made me smile like BRYN Mawr (my wife went there), but it's that game that really sang to me. I played Streets of Rage 2 at least 100 times during my youth. As some other YouTube user put it, that was the kind of game where, once you heard the boss music, you got pumped because you knew sh*t was about to go down. Here's a clip of that game where Axel punches three robots to death. There's yet another crossword clue for the word AXEL: [Streets of Rage hero].

Enjoyed this one, felt pretty easy, though I take Matt's point about the shorter fill. I'm not a big fan of CLEATED as an adjective, but its clue was creative. I made a hilarious mistake on 40-Down: BLADDER before BLACKER. I didn't think BLADDER was right when it first occurred to me, but I had BLA-, and then I thought, well what else could it be? It didn't help that I put in TORRID before EROTIC, so BLADDER looked at least somewhat promising before I gave up on it.

Funny story about 37-Across: Back in 1997, my older cousin (a budding physicist at the time) came to my parents' house and we decided to go to the movies. We told him we were gonna watch "The Fifth Element." He then shouted, "Alright, a movie about BORON!" He was completely serious, too. Nerddom. It runs strong in the family.

Well played, Rex. Well played.

Steve J 2:15 AM  

Agreed largely with Matt's writeup (other than his Jelly Belly assessment; licorice is always unfairly dissed, when in fact it's the best flavor). Most of the long fill is good to great (SNEAKAPEEK was my favorite), and the cluing was solid to match (esp. 14D). Short fill was less stellar, and the cluing sometimes matched (I don't know what his friends called him, but I've never heard Ebert referred to as ROG).

Agreed with the rating as well: This was an easy Friday (not an easy puzzle, for those quibbling; easy Friday), at least for me. It's exceptionally rare that I finish Fridays or Saturdays without any googling at all, and this was no exception, but I got 90% of the way through before having to result to looking things up (ESTA, particularly because of the cross - I've never heard of an ETNA in this context - AMENRA). With those in place, everything else came together in what, for me, is typical Thursday time.

When I do tackle Fridays, I find them a challenge more than fun. This one was fun. That says something. Nicely done.

John Child 2:30 AM  

Average time, below average fun for me. Never heard of AMY POEHLER,  PORTLANDIA, TYLER PERRY, NEN or the Egyptian god in that variant. Surprised to find that OLDNESS is a word.

Pedantic chemist says... 2:35 AM  

Finally, a debate about the natural occurrence of boron!

Anonymous 3:28 AM  

Good write-up. Enjoyable puzzle that definitely skews to a younger audience, which I appreciated (I imagine some of the older solvers had the reaction to, say, Portlandia, that I often have when confronted with any of the obscure celebrities from the 1950s that show up in a lot of Friday and Saturday puzzles). This puzzle was particularly in my wheelhouse, as I was able to put in NEN as my first answer down, then get TMAN, then AMY POEHLER off of just the A. PORTLANDIA and EARL MONROE followed as other answer I could put down without any crosses.

I also have to disagree with your Jelly Belly choices. Buttered Popcorn is horrible--the single worst flavor of jelly bean. And the dark green one--Watermelon--is one of the best. I'm with you on root beer, though.

derpp 5:12 AM  

Nice one rex. I enjoyed it. Very fresh stuff.

Anonymous 6:39 AM  

Some nice stuff, but way too easy for a Friday.

Jill D 6:44 AM  

First Friday I ever finished without serious googling and hints. Very enjoyable.

DBlock 7:37 AM  

Any time we can have a reference to Earl"the pearl" Monroe is a good day in my world. I flew through the puzzle but wonder if it reflects having insight into Rex after reading the blog all this time.
In any way, a delightful puzzle. Thanks and have a great vacation.

Glimmerglass 7:37 AM  

You may not know her name ( or how to spell it), but you've seen her in the Best Buy ad. "What number am I thinking of?" She's brilliant.

loren muse smith 7:45 AM  

Thanks for the write-up, Matt!

@jae – I guessed TABLE CLOTH off the A in AIME and was so happy to be right. But then I immediately put in “holy cow” for HORRORS, and that took a while to correct.

I agree with @okanaganer and @optionsgeek that this was pretty hard. Too TRENDING for me; needed more OLDNESS! WOE – PORTLANDIA (huh?) BLACKER (@Evan – I had “blanker” for a while), SEGA ( I have never played a video game not even PacMan and I say that not in an “I’m better than you because I don’t know PORTLANDIA or TYLER PERRY and I just listen to NPR and shop only at Talbot’s and I never saw one episode of the Sopranos”-because I watch all of the vapid Real Housewives train wrecks while I work out and I’m powerless not to buy a People magazine but I’m proud to say I still don’t know if Kim had a boy or a girl.)

I liked TELL crossing SNEAK A PEEK.

And MARS over ARES and the clues were cool.

Because of my ridiculous “dos” for IOS, I had “designia,” thinking, “Seriously?

The best Jelly Bellies are SMELT ROE. End of discussion.(Actually, the grapefruit ones are the best.)

I have to weigh in here – @retired_chemist – I immediately thought of Pyrex, too. True, Boron does not occur naturally on Earth, but it DOES occur as orthoboric acid and shows up in certain volcanic spring waters and as borates in colemantie. (And you have to factor in that the isotopes boron-10 and boron-11 do occur naturally.) Plus, it has the capacity to form stable covalently bonded molecular networks, making it similar to carbon. I find that all very EROTIC. And I’m totally full of IRT. I’m ASEA on this BORON argument. I will announce here that I currently consume one tablespoon of flea killer every morning and I’m not making that up. It kind of tastes like PEAR jelly bellies.

SMELT ROE is such an unfortunate phrase I don’t know where to begin. I would pray to AMENRA never to be reincarnated as SMELT ROE. Michael really OED this grid – DOES AMY POEHLER or EARL MONROE eat SMELT ROE?

I’m not going to panic that the “outgoing” clue (for GREGARIOUS that I got off only the I, and I am crowing about *that*) crossing BOW OUT might be some kind of message to us. Is there an HEIR apparent out there?

Hope you’re enjoying your vacation, Michael! You in PORTLAND?

Milford 8:07 AM  

More of a medium Friday for me, mostly got hung up in the NW, where TABLECLOTH did not occur to me easily, and I was up in the air about most of the short downs. AMY POEHLER was all I had for awhile.

Loved "box fillers" as the clue for POSTMEN, even though I had (packing) Peanuts first.

I have a Twitter account that I never use, but I am often sent emails to alert me what is TRENDING. I'm sure, @lms, that Kim and her spawn are on the list, but I have no clue what she had either!

Just started Roger Ebert's autobiography, "Life Itself", and he does indeed refer to other people calling him ROG.

No MIRACLE GRO will be touching my tomato plants this year. My goal is to have them as tall as DON Corleone's in "The Godfather".

Thank you, @Rex, and thank you, Matt for the write-up. Love the idea of issuing MFO tickets.

Carola 8:27 AM  

I really enjoyed this one. Lots of fresh, fun-to-fill-in answers. Also liked the pairings that others have mentioned: ARES/MARS, the two "hots," the sneaky TELL crossing SNEAK A PEEK, and the "treat" of having both OGLE and LEERS AT in the same puzzle - a fun example of OLDNESS, crossword-wise.
I also liked HORRORS next to TRENDING, since that's my reaction to Twitter and other "social media" (no doubt reflecting my own OLDNESS).

EROTIC over SNEAK A PEEK is nice, too.

By chance knew AMY POEHLER from seeing the Golden Globes, where she and Tina Fey may have discussed GOWNS. What a funny team! No idea about TYLER PERRY, Guessed at PORTLANDIA from having seen an article about it. EARL the Pearl MONROE is more my vintage.

Thanks, @Rex, very fun!

Gareth Bain 8:31 AM  

Oh dear... It sounds like Loren's DH hacked into her account...

Z 8:42 AM  

OO OO - the chemists are having an epistemological fight. Stand back everyone.

Apparently I am the only one to notice that tROpIC and EROTIC share four letters and could both be considered answers to the clue "Hot." Why would sushi be garnished with some sort of ROt, though. So 95% easy and one little section that gave me fits.

Give me SMA over MMA any day. I also liked CLEATED as I still try to get CLEATED up at least one or two times a week and play some Ultimate.

My list of bad short fill includes RRNs, LEO and OLAF/V, Crossbirds, the musical collaboration of ENO and ENYA. The worst I see today is NEN and the LGA/LAG pair. Beyond that it is all in the category of "short fill happens." Great puzzle in my book, although maybe a tad on the too easy side. Nah, that must mean I'm just getting good at these things.

Elle54 8:48 AM  

Banana chocolate jelly bellies are the best

Amelia 8:59 AM  

Not a "bad" puzzle. But it was too easy for a Friday, which made it unsatisfying, and it had all the mediocre fill that Rex complains about in others the rest of the time. I think you're all being nice, which is certainly understandable. I'm not playing Thumper today.

Liked postmen, cleated, read only. Did like all the long answers but they weren't a challenge at all.

retired_chemist 9:11 AM  

@ all pedants - there is no scientific issue re the BORON clue. All know and agree that in isn't found in nature in elemental form. The issue is semantic: does "not found naturally" require or imply "in elemental form?" Not to me.....

And, not that it complicated the solve for more than seconds.

Sir Hillary 9:26 AM  

Great Friday fun - I loved it.

chefbea 9:29 AM  

Fridays are usually too difficult for me and this was no exception. DNF. Came here to read all the comments.
Great puzzle Rex/Michael Have a great vacation

Anonymous 9:47 AM  

Trendy is hot. Trending not so much -- up, down, sideways?

Fake Will Shortz #getreal 9:51 AM  

BORON is only found in nature as a molecule with other elements. BORON's natural state is part of a molecule. Elemental BORON is not natural. It is the element BORON that is in the periodic table.

If you don't want a note with the puzzle saying "Frequently, and specifically when referring to scientific clues, some ambiguity between technical and natural language occurs. Today, 37A is such an occurance. Please be fexible in your thinking"

Carola 9:56 AM  

@Z - My first thought was tROpIC, too. But I couldn't make pEL_ work for "Giveaway."

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

@Anon 9:47 People say something is "TRENDING on twitter" to indicate that it is a hot topic.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:21 AM  

Since, as @Milford tells us, ROG is legit, I am only left to complain about OLDNESS - not that it isn't a word, but, really, what would Rex Parker say?

Perhaps in addition to requesting no hints with our grids, as we have in the past, we should ask that the constructor's name be hidden until we have finished the puzzle. If I had not known this was Rex's, I might have guessed that it was BEQ, toned down for the Times. As it was, I went through the whole thing (and not that quickly!) thinking, "What would Rex say about that entry?"

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

I'm confident someone's mentioned this laready, but just in case. Boron is most certainly found naturally on earth. Once again, Shortz and Parker's startlingly-weak grasp of things scientfic is on full display.
But that's oldness news. Is that usage OK?I'm no antiquarian.

Steve J 10:46 AM  

@Milford: Thanks for the info on ROG Ebert. I stand corrected on my comment in that clue.

I, too, wonder if part of the reason a lot of us found this a relatively easy Friday is because of some familiarity with the constructor. I generally don't look at the constructor's name before I start the puzzle, and I'd initially forgotten that Rex/Michael authored today's. When I noticed that I seemed to be particularly in tune with the cluing, I checked to see who wrote this one and had an aha moment.

Or maybe for me it simply comes down to the fact of many of us having a lot of the same cultural checkpoints with that were in the puzzle. I can see how people not dialed into contemporary comedy would come up blank on PORTLANDIA and AMYPOEHLER, for example, just as I come up blank on opera, non-A-list actors from the past, etc.

Naugahyde 10:49 AM  

Say hey hey, why no "What's Happening?" clue for 36A?

Licorice is the VERY BEST jelly bean flavor. So you're wrong, Matt Gaffney. So so so wrong.

Gill I. P. 11:00 AM  

Easy???? HORRORS, LEERS AT, EROTIC, SNEAK A PEEK and OGLE were my only gimmes....
The only OLDNESS I found was TMAN, ETNAS MAI and IRT.
Didn't know AMY, EARL nor TYLER, PORTLANDIA a total guess and the little ones that were head scratchers were NEN, ORL and REA.
I don't think I've ever had a Jelly Belly. Popcorn flavor?
What a work-out and congrads to those that found it easy.

Anonymous 11:06 AM  

Fake Will,

Please be flexible in your thinking?
I think you meant, "Gosh, you're right. i'll try to be more precise in my cluing."

chefbea 11:11 AM  

Meant to say earlier ..Puzzle husband's name is Rog and he use to be a box filler!!!

Masked and Hey One Stinkin U?? U? 11:11 AM  

har. Well, this puz definitely weren't BORON. Fun and funky stuff. Hate to see 4-Oh go out on an AIME/NEN nat-tick, tho. Best hang around and build that missin SatPuz, one fine day.

OK. Enough kissin up. Now, on to all that stuff that don't occur natural-like on Earth...

Silver Bullets
* SMELTROE - Shoulda been clued as "Bacterium binder".
* ANTIBODY - Coulda been clued as "common sushi garnish".
* OLDNESS - Woulda been kuler, clued as "Bacterium garnish". Nah. Even that wouldn't pull that puppy out of the septic tank. Hey-- how'bout "No match for Young Capone"?
* SENEGALESE - Always hate to see too much of this, in the puz. But there's a passle of it: NEN. INSP. ECO. SMA. ATA. ORL. REA. PRE. Sure like ROG, tho. Stronger than 'IRT.
* HORRORS - Who wrote these clues?! Far better one, here: "Common OLDNESS garnish".
* U - uncommon SharpPuz garnish.

Bitchin good 10-stacks, 4-Oh. thUmbsUp, for those. That there is primo construction. Looks like a lotta work. No wonder U need a vacation.

M&A

PuzzleGirl 11:21 AM  

I haven't read all the comments, but does anyone know if BORON is really found naturally on earth?

ArtO 11:26 AM  

Any Friday I can almost finish is always "easy". Lots of stuff out of my age range. Did not like OLDNESS or TRENDING. Don't think Rex would have either.

Benko 11:30 AM  

I've never seen anything TYLER PERRY has made, but I don't understand how you can live in this country and not have ever heard of him. The guy puts his name in front of every TV show and movie he makes: TYLER PERRY Presents...and he makes tons of TV and movies.
I once was at a party and had to listen to someone detail the entire plot of one of his Madea movies.

Ellen S 11:34 AM  

First, most important: @Questinia, what breed is your dog? His muzzle looks a lot like my big blond's, and he has short fur on face, long (and kind of wiry) on body. I'm too cheap to pop for the DNA test; besides, I think he's too many different things.

The puzzle felt to me like a Tuesday -- easiest Friday ever. No Googling, no naticks. TMAN was a gimme, then AIME (never heard of the movie but Je t'aime is a regular French phrase). And from that TABLECLOTH just filled itself in. I never heard of any of the sports references or most of the pop culture, but all were easily inferrable. SEGA is pure crosswordese, as is ETNA, which is probably the third answer I learned as a new solver. I've seen the first three episodes of PORTLANDIA so that wasn't a problem (Episdoe 1 really made me squirm - I'm a vegetarian so I don't need to know the name of the chicken I'm eating, but when I buy eggs, I want to know who the hen was that laid them, how she lived, could she find bugs to eat, what were her hopes and dreams.)

I did resist putting in BORON, thinking, Huh? That's not one of those super-fragile radioactive things they only make in laboratories, is it? Isn't it in that soap Ronald Reagan used to hawk? Maybe the element was brought here by space aliens? How did Rex find that out? Did the aliens tell him during the probe?

In some important way that I can't define there's not that much difference between Shortz and Maleska -- my husband got me started solving in 1980 and we never had a problem or really noticed when Will took over. We used to also do the Dell puzzles together. After hubby died, I kept on doing the NYT puzzles and buying the Dell magazines. I could do the Saturday NYTs, but never more than the easy-medium Dells. Just something in the mindset of their constructors/editors didn't match the way I think. Today's puzzle matched my word-association process perfectly.

I used to hate licorice when I was a kid but I like it now.

Ellen S 11:39 AM  

@M&A, nice dance around the fact that Bacterium is the most common Sushi garnish.

@Puzzle Girl -- you mean you haven't read ANY of the comments! Pick one at random, it's all we've been talking about.

Paul Keller 11:45 AM  

Overall, I liked the puzzle. Some of the 10s came a little too easily. In places where the answers did not come easily, the variety of answer types and the recognizability of the correct answers made working on the puzzle a good experience.

I was natticked by IOS-ROG (guessed E), but I doubt many others were. I probably had more company at the AIME-NEN crossing (guessed U).

Susan McConnell 12:00 PM  

Agree for the most part with Matt. Longer stuff was fun and fresh, shorter stuff was weak, and would certainly be called out by OFL. You just gotta hope the good outweighs the bad, and aside from being easier than I'd like on a Friday, I think this one passes.

mac 12:20 PM  

Wow, talking about pros as guest bloggers! Great analysis.

What a coincidence that Portlandia shows up the day Rex is traveling to Oregon.

Giveaway/tell seems off to me, shouldn't it be telling. When I saw the cross referenced clues at 16 and 18A I immediately thought Eros and Amor.

Many beautiful, long words. I had a little trouble with the spelling of Amy Poehler's name as well.

Really enjoyed this one, Rex!

r.alphbunker 12:21 PM  

allMAN brothers instead of LEHMAN brothers slowed me down in the NW. Also wanted osiris instead of AMENRA.

NEN was pretty bad but the crosses were fair. The clue {Three-time All-Star pitcher Robb} seemed to be trying to justify that the answer was not obscure. I would have preferred the clue {Pitcher whose entry music was "Smoke on Water"}. At least that is an interesting clue and then I could proceed to get the answer from the crosses.

John V 12:23 PM  

Nice one, Michael. Fun, fresh as others noted. AMY P was hard, otherwise easy. Corner stacks nicely done.

Enjoy Oregon!

JanetM 12:44 PM  

Finished by myself without the aid of my husband, which is often the case on a Friday. Any puzzle with Amy Poehler and Earl Monroe, two of my favorite people on the planet, is a winner for me.

OrsonWelles 12:44 PM  

Is TYLERPERRY really a "movie mogul"?? I have heard of him. Large African American male. but a movie mogul is a stretch

Z 12:47 PM  

@mac - you are a lover not a fighter, apparently.

dk 12:50 PM  

Okay. Some state this blog is overly negative and not representative of the general population. 83% of the commentary today is positive and 7% is negative. Text analyzer to the rescue.

This puzzle is not my cuppa. I like puzzles that tell me a story and this one was all over the periodic table. Some of the clueing and fill is strained and obscure but overall nice work.. It is fun to watch Dr. Sharp grow as a constructor.

���� (2 Stars)

Anonymous 12:53 PM  

Thank you, Rex -- this was the very first Friday I was able to successfully solve after two years of building up my NYT game. Finally -- no @#()*ing NATICKs or completely stupid crossings anywhere.

John Vanadium 12:57 PM  

Just read the BORON smackdown. You know, it really does not get any better than that.

joho 1:03 PM  

@mac, I think in poker when you giveaway your hand it's called a TELL.

I thought this had an admirable freshness factor ... and congrats if it's your first Friday, @Rex!
Hopefully not your last!

Rob C 1:03 PM  

As easy as a Friday gets for me. Only the SW was presented a problem. Somehow I never heard of PORTLANDIA, but it seems like common knowledge from all the comments. So I had to "back" into that corner.

Hated OLDNESS - everything else was fine.

@r.alph - had the same thought on NEN

@LMS - "consume flea killer"?!? I hope that's the name of a TRENDING new alchoholic beverage. If not, it seems as if M&A is posting under your ID.

@Matt G - How dare you criticize the short fill. The regular blogmeister doesn't harp on such things.

Stevlb1 1:32 PM  

Hey Rex, I don't know if I've ever done another puzzle, that you constructed, so I don't want to judge your ability , by this one. However, I do not find this one, superior to any of the puzzles that you so frequently criticize. I see that most of your subjects like your latest outfit, Emperor!

M and A with garnish and gusto 1:35 PM  

@Rob C: Re "consume a tablespoon of flea killer every mornin" -- it does almost seem like I've got a twin, out there. Goes good with yer cinnamon roll.

Glad several are commentin on TRENDING. A HORRORS garnish that I plumb forgot all about.

Still and all, an excitin solve. Not perfect. So, need to try try again, @4-Oh.

Milford 1:47 PM  

Hey, @lms - my oldest daughter just informed me that Kim and Kanye's baby is a girl.

Named North.

North West.

Ye gods, HORRORS.

MetaRex 1:55 PM  

Rex's puzz is a good test case for looking at the "how much is the logic of the art form, how much is the constructor's personality?" issue...

Answers (and a feature) I think are a lot or somewhat more likely from Rex than from a random constructor:

AMY POEHLER...
TYLER PERRY...
EARL MONROE...
PORTLANDIA...
A pop name in every stack (the biggest insignia of OFL)
SNEAK A PEEK...
SMELT ROE...
LEERS AT...
READ ONLY...
TRENDING...
HORRORS...
GOWNS...
T-MAN...
OGLE...
AIME...
DKNY...
PHD...
ROG...
ORL...
REA...
ARP...
OED...
IOS...
NEN...

And how about answers *less* likely from Rex than from a random constructor but that came in owing to the logic of the grid? That's a lot harder...I'd suggest the following:

TABLE CLOTH
SENEGALESE
ETNAS
RENAL
BORON
ATA




evil doug 1:59 PM  

Jesus, Muse, are you drunk? (If so, come join the pilot party in Dallas....)

If you don't watch Parks and Recreation, you're missing out on the greatest TV character extant: Ron Swanson.

Evil

Rob C 2:03 PM  

@M&A - I know it was a cheap shot but I couldn't resist. I know you have a sense of humor.

loren muse smith 2:04 PM  

@Milford - Hah!

@Rob C, M&A, and Evil - I assure you it's food-grade flea killer. I dissolve one tablespoon in water every morning and gulp it down. Gonna make my hair thicker. Just wait.

Lewis 2:05 PM  

@pedantic 2:35 -- made me laugh out loud
@lms -- hand up for HOlycOw

No one has complained about the 10s, nor will I: they were strong. But often that comes at a price, as Rex would surely agree, and the question is if the end justifies the means. I thought it did.

This puzzle felt fresh with answers like TRENDING, PORTLANDIA, TYLER PERRY, and AMY POEHLER. I filled in the first three across answers, which never happens on a Friday. I would agree with the "easy for a Friday" rating.

Happy neighbors include the GREGARIOUS HEIR, the EROTIC SNEAK A PEEK, the ASEA TYLER PERRY, the NIL EROTIC PHD, the TRENDING HORRORS, and the TABLECLOTH in the LAP.

My heart goes out to the Spurs fans...

Gabe Gonzalez 2:09 PM  

Very fun puzzle. Always like a Bryn Mawr reference, and gregarious is a word that puts a smile on my face. I didn't know Garth was bilingual; Trisha, too? And, Amy Poehler and erotic obviously go hand in hand.

eckmanro 2:25 PM  

It was fun for me because it had two home towns for me in it. Portland and Boron.

WA 2:29 PM  

I think a better clue for Miracle Gro would have been-Viagra substitute.

I knew Robb Nen, did did not know smelt roe. To each, their own esoterica.

Overall, extremely easy for a Friday.

Eric 2:39 PM  

Mezel Tov, Rex. Loved the puzzle. Fill was impressive and you mixed in a lot of modern (TRENDING, AMYPOEHLER, PORTLANDIA), semi-modern (LEHMAN, NEN, MIRACLE GRO), and olde-timey (EMENRA, HORRORS, TMAN) very well.

Sprinkled in there you had some real hits (SNEAK A PEEK, GREGARIOUS, ANTIBODY) and only a few misses (ROG, SMA, OED [it's just a tired clue by now]).

Great cluing all around. Very clever.

Though relatively easier than most Friday's this felt fresh and good.

Bird 2:47 PM  

Easy indeed, but I still finished with an error. Didn’t know BRYN and NED was the only name that made sense. I miss AMY POEHLER on SNL and I loved her cameo on the season finale.

OLDNESS? Really?

For the 16A/18A combo I originally had AMOR/EROS. I don’t have a PHD in Roman or Greek history so it seemed legit.

Also had EFF for 25A, figuring the same as others that it would not be MOM, DAD or POP.

BALLOTS filled my boxes at first.

@Steve J – Licorice is also my favorite flavor. As a kid I used to trade for them with my brother and sister when we opened our baskets on Easter Sunday.

TGIF!

evil doug 3:00 PM  

Muse: Take another drink of that poison--I promised the guys you'd video a pole dance for 'em, and it sounds like you're almost there...

Evil

Sfingi 3:30 PM  

Easy for you, deeficult for me.

Much sports and young people stuff. As an exemplar of OLDNESS,and definitely not TRENDING, Googled 10 X. Do hate OLDNESS, but consider the alternative.

Love me some Licorice, but only the simple stuff made with wheat and molasses. Don't care for the salty Dutch stuff.

Glad for the double HOT clue, Rex.

You may also be amazed at the history of AL Aluminum, #13. It is not found as an element kicking around the earth like gold nuggets, but it's all over - in compounds. Sir Humphrey Davy extrapolated that it had to exist. Chemistry and finally electricity drew it out of hiding.

retired_chemist 3:42 PM  

Just be careful about dissing boron and/or aluminum - an element never forgets.

Anonymous 3:52 PM  

@ED - Naughty, naughty

chefbea 4:03 PM  

@Milford..North West...really. Did Acme have a say in naming the baby?

Z 4:04 PM  

@Milford - someone we all know tweeted his belief that North West is named as an homage to Hitchcock. Seems plausible to me.

@retired chemist and @Ted Widlanski - If nothing else, I've learned that chem profs don't believe in giving easy exams.

Regarding the best Jelly Belly flavor, I'm quite sure that MSNBC established a direct link between butter popcorn and Iran-Contra.

And regarding Bud Light in my post yesterday... I was going to use Oberon and Two-Hearted Ale but decided that was too regional a reference. All you regular commenters are like a good beer to me. For example, ACME is Oberon. LMS is Third Coast Ale. M&A is a Short's Pandemonium, Evil is a dark, rich Porter, and SanFranMan59 is Final Absolution. The great thing about the mitten these days is that there are enough local brewers that there is a separate brew for everyone here. As far as I know none of them use BORON in elemental or any other form.

Anonymous 4:05 PM  

When I made the first pass through the puzzle, I thought it was going to be hopeless. But by plugging away at it, I did manage to finish, and without any Googling or other cheating. I suppose that means, for a Friday, it was easy, but it was no snap.

sanfranman59 4:45 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

Fri 16:31, 20:22, 0.81, 19%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Fri 9:58, 11:37, 0.86, 26%, Easy-Medium

@Z ... I'm honored to have a place in your beer cooler. According to the Dragonmead website, Final Absolution has "a balanced bitterness with no noticeable hop aroma". That suits me just fine, thank you.

ZenMonkey 4:50 PM  

Agree on OLDNESS and LEERSAT also gave me a bit of a groan. Otherwise, I didn't find it as easy as many people, but it was a very enjoyable workout with all the previously noted interesting answers as constant payoffs.

Never thought about Amor/Eros, Hera/Juno, and Ares/Mars until this puzzle, when I tried those first two combos before getting the third.

Joe The Juggler 4:51 PM  

In Rex's defense, OLDNESS is a valid Scrabble word (on the TWL), so it's definitely fair game in crosswords.

But yeah, the BORON clue could've been more accurate.

M and A's Trending Silver Garnish 4:53 PM  

@Z: Well, that's news. Normally I don't get the shorts pandemonium... lessn I've dined at the local Mexican restaurant, a few hours previous.

@lms: Top euphemisms I ever heardt, for demon rum:
1. flea killer
2. hair thickener
3. glove cleaner
4. hair of the dog that bit yah
5. aunt Minnie's liver medicine
6. prune de-wrinkler
7. board straightener
8. birth control antidote
9. blood thinner
10. de-icer
Note that yer two contributions have been moved immediately to the top of a mighty fine list. thanx.

@evil duck: har.

Bird 5:35 PM  

@M&A - Freshman year: The Friday night before Parent's Weekend we had a party in our dorm. Well, I enjoyed a 6-pack of Molson Brador that was brewed and purchased in Canada (Clarkson U is only 20 miles from the border). Never thought twice about the double alcohol content (those Canadians, eh?) and suffered a major hangover the next day. My father sees my condition, looks at the empty bottle of vodka in the room and asked, "Is this the dog that bit ya?"

Milford 5:51 PM  

@Z - sure, it's an homage. Sounds perfectly plausible, @Rex.

Hey, do we all get to claim a beer? Since Oberon is taken I'll claim Atwater's Dirty Blonde ale.

retired_chemist 5:57 PM  

Make mine a BORON beer.

Kris in ABCA 6:04 PM  

Enjoyed the puzzle, Rex. Must have been on the right wavelength. Close to record time for a Friday and fun to boot!

OISK 6:05 PM  

I am a not yet retired chemist. Boron clue is no good. If you accept that, then MOST metals are not found on earth, including aluminum, magnesium, sodium, iron...The usage "elements not found naturally on Earth" would apply to Technetium, element no. 43, which has medical uses, but is entirely man-made. It somehow seems ungentlemanly to criticize Rex's puzzle on his blog, which I value so highly, but I didn't like this one at all. Finished it correctly, but never heard of Amy Poeller, Tyler Berry, find "oldness" very contrived, never heard of Chris Rea or Portlandia, too old to know Inspector Gadget, don't like product clues (Miracle Gro, fortunately I use it, and DKNY, never played a "Sega" game..took me about an hour.
However, I know from Rex's comments that he favors exactly the kinds of clues that I dislike, so I shouldn't be surprised. In all, a very nicely constructed puzzle with a lot of clever clues, but way, way outside my pleasure zone.

Anonymous 6:07 PM  

OLDESS is 100% valid. Not particularly scintillating
crossword fill for sure, but it's still fine as a
word. There's a big difference between
a word's fill value quality-wise and its actual
legitimacy. I think some commentators (with all
due respect) forget this.

-MAS

Z 6:39 PM  

@Milford - Not Arbor Brewing Company's Strawberry Blonde? ABC is owned by another K Grad, after all.

@M&A - I still have you as Pandemonium but the label looks suspiciously like someone else's avatar.

@SanFranMan59 - Final Absolution is very smooth and very strong.

@Bird - Friends after college named their dog Brador in homage to the beer. Far better than North West.

3+1 and out.

Questinia 8:03 PM  

@ Ellen S... She is a Maremma, akin to a Great Pyrenees. Giant breed livestock guard dog.

michael 8:06 PM  

An easy Friday for me and I'm about a generation older than Michael/Rex.

LaneB 8:11 PM  

Decided to do some writing this morning, having been visited by my muse [well, actually not MY muse], so I got a late start and did not find it easy going.. Never heard of TYLER PERRY [not a Forbes reader] or AMEN-RA [though the name is close to Amneris from "Aida"] and didn't recognize that some files are READ ONLY. Then there was the Robert Burns request SMA. What the hell is it? I wanted to SMAck whoever let that get through.
More success as a storyteller than solver today. Maybe the brain works on different planes and it's tough to go from one level to the other.That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Mohair Sam 8:40 PM  

Grabbed the puzzle late today. I'm a generation ahead of the constructor but it still was an easy Friday. Liked the longer clues but not the fill.

Geez Rex, Robbie Burns stuff? C'mon.

geordiegirl 9:42 PM  

Did anyone else try table d'hote instead of tablecloth? It didn't ruin the solve but did slow me up.

sanfranman59 10:01 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 6:07, 6:12, 0.99, 43%, Medium
Tue 8:12, 8:16, 0.99, 48%, Medium
Wed 8:43, 9:44, 0.90, 28%, Easy-Medium
Thu 14:01, 17:11, 0.82, 18%, Easy
Fri 16:20, 20:22, 0.80, 18%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:42, 3:49, 0.97, 28%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:59, 4:55, 1.02, 55%, Medium
Wed 5:37, 5:38, 1.00, 48%, Medium
Thu 8:39, 9:49, 0.88, 25%, Easy-Medium
Fri 9:22, 11:37, 0.81, 21%, Easy-Medium

Jeff 10:37 PM  

Thank you for showing me that Friday puzzles can be fun AND possible. The best gateway-Friday a young puzzler could hope for.

Joe 7:48 AM  

I would have preferred "common sushi ingredient" to "common sushi garnish" as a clue for "smelt roe." Garnish means to decorate or embellish. Roe on sushi is more often the core ingredient. Roe, like tuna and other fish, are the core ingredient, not a garnish.

It's true that smelt roe could be considered a sort of garnish on chirashizushi. But even there it's less a garnish than one of the main ingredients that turns flavored rice into sushi.

DPH 1:30 PM  

I learned some time back that Will Shortz is precise about sports, Yiddish and some other things, but not about science. Scientific sounding clues should be read as if they were formulated by an English major who looked something up
in Wiklpedia.

ANON B 3:17 PM  

I just read yesterday's comments
and saw that the nit pickers were
at it again re: whether boron is
an element found naturally on earth. This is supposed to be a
crossword puzzle, not a lecture
on semantics(if that is the right
word).

zahid ahmed 6:11 PM  

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jburgs 9:42 PM  

Regarding the boring, I mean boron dispute. I think Joe's complaint about the smelt roe clue is very legitimate. It is not a garnish.

spacecraft 12:09 PM  

I wish reviewers would refrain from rating typically tough Friday puzzles "easy" and following that up with a time of under six minutes--with the extra kicker "and I'm no speedster." OK, Matt, you have reduced me to the level of Cretin. I can't believe I'm the only one. Proud of yourself?

I did finish this, no help or errors, but it was anything but easy. I guessed at a lot of it. My lone writeover was trying scalDING for "hot" before TRENDING. It was just way out of my wheelhouse. Never in a million years would I have conceived of TYLERPERRY as a "mogul," and highest-paid? HORRORS!

Antiquity: OLD____. OLD what? Turns out NESS. OLDNESS? [wish I had bigger, bolder type] OLDNESS?? Who chased down old Capone? Why, OLDNESS! I looked this baby up, and whaddya know--it's a WORD! Wow, I can't get over that. OLDNESS.

Does that blow my mind? Sure DOES (?). Joyce? No. Smothers? No. Allman, at least? No. LEHMAN. Hello, MSNBC...Maria? Call me.

The puzzle? I liked it. It's the REVIEW I'm shredding. And BTW, I would NOT call the PHD/DKNY crossing "elegant."

CaliTina 12:17 PM  

Wow! So many things that @Rex rants about in this blog were present in this puzzle: partials galore (23a 35a-really! so many things besides kidneys fail - 44a 2d 7d 40d 54d) and cross referencing clues (16 and 18a) . I could go on but . . .
However I loved 14d Hit makers, say and the stacked 10s were fun, so I'll get over it.

LongBeachLee 2:31 PM  

Am I the only one who had rrated before erotic?

PdxAnn 2:35 PM  

First-time poster, from Syndication Land, and a lurker to boot!

Had to chime in, after seeing that Rex came to visit my hometown, then mentioned Portlandia in this hugely enjoyable puzzle. Of course, the two events are closely related only in Syndication Land, but still...

A possible connection in the puzzle between Portlandia and smelt roe. Smelt "fishing" is very big on the Sandy River just outside Portland, where they are caught using long-handled nets, sometimes just by wading into the river.

They can be eaten, and Lew and Clark dried them, and burned them like candles for light. Who knew?

Thanks again for the great puzzle, Rex, and for visiting Portlandia.

Off to make my first contribution to your terrific blog.

PS: Almost attended Binghamton in the early 70s, but ended up instead at Barnard. During the Will Weng administration of the NYT Crossword Puzzles. Never hear him mentioned in the blog...

ahimsa-NYT 2:46 PM  

@spacecraft, I laughed at your comments, esp. about how to rate puzzles as easy vs hard. As another solver who can't imagine solving this puzzle in 6 minutes here's why I would rate it as easy.

Even if it takes me a very long time, if I finish a puzzle without giving up or googling then it's "easy." Even if it takes me an hour! :-) Today's solve wasn't quite that long, fortunately.

I'm no youngster, and definitely no hipster, but I do live near Portland. So, PORTLANDIA at 27 Down was my gimme for the day. That show and Grimm are both filmed in the Portland area. I know because there are regular stories about them in our local paper. The fact that I still read a physical newspaper must be due to my OLDNESS.

I laughed at the "Bigger & ___" clue for BLACKER. Those who like Chris Rock should check out "Totally Biased." It's hosted by W. Kamau Bell but produced by Rock.

I found the BORON discussion interesting, not boring. After reading comments by @retired_chemist and others I think they have a good point. The clue seems a bit off. And it's not too hard to fix the wording to be accurate. So why not do it?

I like seeing SMA but then I've been reading Burns poetry since I was a kid. "O wad some power the giftie gie us/To see oursels as ithers see us!" Must be my Scottish heritage.

DNGrandma 4:06 PM  

Too any proper names that were way out of my zone. But then, I am an example of OLDNESS, and this played to a different generation. Played with it, got about 75% , and threw In the towel I'm surprised nobody commented on the Burns clue. I thought SMA meant small. So for the request, I tried GIE as in "some giftie GIE us". Of course it didn't work! I'll try again tomorrow.

ahimsa-NYT 4:46 PM  

@DMGrandma, the SMA does mean small. The clue says it is the kind of request, e.g., Burn's poem "To a Mouse" has the quote, "'S a sma' request" (is a small request)

I can't vouch for its accuracy but here's where I got that quote: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_a_Mouse. That was easier than finding the book on my messy bookshelves.

ahimsa-NYT 4:53 PM  

PS. Welcome to fellow Oregonian @PdxAnn! I forgot to say "Hi" in my last message.

Dirigonzo 6:19 PM  

I finished after thinking I never would and I mostly had fun in the process - that pretty much defines a good Friday puzzle for me. My only quibble with the short fill would be those three partials (35a ___failure, 44a ___glance, 53a "Sure___!") blocking the long down answers in he SW. I finally figured it all out - INSP Gadget helped a lot. RENAL failure is a serious matter - ask any dialysis patient. Ultimately, I spelled LEeMAN wrong and Amy What's-her-name was no help so finished with OWS.

@amhisa-NYT - I live near Portland on the right coast. I have never seen the show so PORTLANDIA remained hidded until the aforementioned partials were resolved.

I like OLDNESS (I had OLDtime for too long) much better after reading the syndic-comments - it sounds like many of us are afflicted with it, and it is indeed better than the alternative.

It's always nice to see new commenters arrive, so welcome @PdxAnn. You have discovered the phenomenon of "syndication synchronicity" (syn-sync) whereby an entry in the puzzle is made relevant by events 5 weeks later - sometimes it can be spooky.

rain forest 7:09 PM  

If I had known PORTLANDIA and TYLERPERRY, this would have been easy. However, I had to get both of those completely from crosses, and that took a lot of time.

Similar feelings about some of the crappy fill, _____failure is "green paint", sure___ is a very forced partial, and my feelings about OLDNESS echo those of @Spacecraft. Har.

As yet another chemist, I must say that @retired chemist is, of course, correct. Like many elements (sodium, potassium, calcium, and many more) BORON is not found in its elemental form on earth. Some might argue that the others I mentioned exist in their ionic form in the ocean, but that is definitely not their elemental form. You have to do some fancy stuff to get them as pure, uncombined elements. However, it was clear what element was being clued, regardless of the incorrectness of the clue.

Overall, this is a strong puzzle with lots of "sparkle", and it was quite enjoyable to complete despite my ignorance of two long answers.

spacecraft 9:30 PM  

@PdxAnn: welcome to our humble abodey.

@ahimsa NYT: Interesting discussion of rating symbols. I see your point: if able to finish unaided and unerred, in a way that would be "easy." My scale is a bit different:

EASY = I just filled it in, having to work crossways at no more than two or three spots. Time: I don't time myself.

MEDIUM = I found several gimmes, which helped in areas of stickiness. A few "it could be ANYthing" entries, cleared up on crosses, and maybe an obscurity or two, again c.u.o.c. Time: see above.

CHALLENGING = There! There's a gimme at last! I labor around that, screwing up my face and biting my tongue like a D student at the SATs, eventually oh-yeah-ing or aha!-ing my way to the finish, with perhaps a fortuitous guess at a natick. Time: well, you get the idea.

FUHGEDDABOUDIT = the rest of 'em.

In retrospect, I'd have to rate today's as medium-challenging.

re the BORON issue: the clue phrase was "not found naturally." To me that means there aren't hunks of pure boron lying around. That's because it's so super-reactive that it attaches to common elements and produces compounds. Of course, it is possible to extract it if you want some for your chem lab, provided you can heat your borate up to 1500-1800 C. I wouldn't call that "found naturally."

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