Steinbeck siren / SAT 8-17-13 / Baker's predecessor / Carota Blue II for two / Skillful slangily / Legendary spring figure / Daily Rundown carrier / Vindaloo accompaniment / Merry Mex of golf

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Constructor: Ed Sessa

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Jim OTTO (52D: Raiders Hall-of-Famer Jim) —
James Edwin Otto (born January 5, 1938) is a former Professional Football center for the Oakland Raiders of the American Football League. (wikipedia)
• • •

Weird. This played super hard for the first (top) half, and then pretty easy the rest of the way. I mostly liked it—though there were a fair number of grunts and groans in there, the long answers were very nice. [Brother's keeper?] => TYPEWRITER STAND => exceptional cluing. So why the struggle? Hmmm. First, NW corner was impossible for me at first. Had NAAN and ANT HILL (*dzzzzzzz* wrong) and nothing else, so even when I got the top middle, I couldn't see TYPEWRITER STAND at all. Then there was the NE, specifically ABRA, ugh (10A: Steinbeck siren). These horrid names from literature and opera that are like 3 to 4 letters long and look like tortured letter combinations no one would ever name their kid. Your ABRAs, your ANSEs, your ASEs (yep, pretty sure that's a name from something ... ah, yes, "Peer Gynt"). I still, after many years of constant solving, can't keep them straight. They all qualify as Terrible Fill. Clue on MEAN is ruthless (16A: Skillful, slangily). I see it now ("... sure plays a MEAN pinball"), but not during. And I tried to write in ORLANDO at 12D: Tony with an Emmy (RANDALL), so ... yeah, that was sad.

But I got helped out by great guesses / massive store of crosswordese. TVA was a gimme (53A: Big inits. in power). MIROS, strangely, was a gimme (5D: "Carota" and "Blue II," for two). OTERO, ditto (42A: County whose seat is La Junta). Anytime you're asked for a five-letter *county*—think OTERO. I wanted MECCAN immediately (why?) but waited for a cross or two to confirm (25A: Muhammad, e.g.). NAIAD? Straight in (30D: Legendary spring figure). POULT ... I saw recently, so boom (31A: Young turkey). These answers all kept the difficulty from getting out of control, which it constantly threatened to be. Once Alfred E. Neuman and his "WHAT, ME WORRY?" went in (18D: Mad person's question), the puzzle finally seemed to stop threatening to kill me, and I swept west to east across the bottom pretty easily.

Worst clue in the whole thing—annoying beyond belief—is 1A: Baker's predecessor (ABLE). If the clue had added "... before 1956," then *maybe*. But who the &%^$ knows the pre-1956 U.S. phonetic alphabet??? I looked this up and all I got were space monkeys. You heard me—Space. Monkeys. Horrible thing to behold. Looked like maybe ABLE was in the nosecone while Baker was, I don't know, in the cab (?), so I was like "well, I guess ABLE was the "predecessor," if she was in the nosecone, but ..." Then I just read they were both in nosecone. Anyway, this is the stupidest dark alley I've ever gone down in an attempt to understand a clue. I hope all you WWII vets liked it, because it was gibberish to me (and, I'm going to guess, millions of others).
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    jae 12:04 AM  

    Like Rex, top half tough, bottom half medium.  A DELICIOUS crunchy zippy Sat.  My biggest problem was in the NW where I went with Baker the  politician. Haig fit but wasn't right and Schultz was right but didn't fit.  ABLE, D'oh!  Hit for FAD didn't help either. 

    The only mundane 15 was TPYE WRITER STAND but the clue was great.  The rest of the 15s were terrific! 

    WOEs:  D'OR (as clued, Palme anyone?) and OTTO (as clued, Graham anyone) and I do have crosswords to thank for NAIAD. 

    Just about perfect for a Fri.!  Thanks Ed. 

    jackj 12:05 AM  

    There are constructors with whom one is able to establish a semblance of symbiosis, (Barry Silk, Manny Nosowsky and Martin Ashwood-Smith come immediately to mind) and then there are those who produce perfectly good puzzles but fail to make helpful, fluid connections with solvers, (yes, Ed Sessa has been one for me, along with Stan Newman).

    Perhaps with today’s Ed Sessa puzzle there was a disconnect right at the outset when he clued one of my least favorite artists, Joan MIRO and then doubled down with a non sequitur of sorts, ENE, presented as “One way to fly: Abbr.”, followed by a gaggle of strained entries, SLIT, NITS, BEEP, CDROM and AMT.

    Fortunately, things improved with some of the long entries, especially the most difficult, the cleverly clued STEPOUTSIDE, followed by MAKEMINEADOUBLE and SORRYFORTHEWAIT but then TYPEWRITERSTAND stretched things beyond the pale with a clue hinting biblical connections but with an answer that elevates a fax machine maker to a surprising level of recognition.

    No matter, as Alfred E. Neuman is fond of spouting, WHATMEWORRY?

    (Of course, that was before NEEDERS reared its ugly head and preempted the default entry, BEGGARS, as cluing for “Indigent individuals”).

    But, fortunately, Ed and I began to hit it off with the likes of POULT, MECCAN, ANTFARM, ITEMONE, SALTAIR, YESM, COUSINS and Lee TREVINO, allowing me enough progress to wind things up with a new found respect for my former confounding constructor.

    So, Ed, to coin a phrase, “this could be the start of a beautiful friendship” but, sorry Stan Newman, you’re not yet invited along.

    August West 12:08 AM  

    A maddening juxtaposition of admired ahas and (to me) obscure cr@p that prompted Garry Lee's Rodeo Song to run in loop through my grey matter. I call Bravo Sierra on ABLE Baker, which hasn't led off the phonetic alphabet since the '50s. Last time NAAN appeared, about a month ago, I promised myself I'd remember it next time 'round. I didn't. Quite a stretch calling a LAP DESK a clipboard's relative, so Bravo Sierra on that, too. Also don't know my MIROS, and I'm not a musician so ANDANTE was a battle. Thankfully, the rest of the NE was simple and allowed me to lay down some stakes. Loved all the 15s and both 11-letter downs, as well as the clues for LSD, BEARCUB, SEDATED and SALTAIR. Jewel cases for SAFES felt trite. Never heard of ANN Packer and fell for the trap at NAIAD, failing to see the lower case "s" in the clued "spring". Oh, NEEDERS blows.

    All-in-all, about 7 *loooong* minutes above my usual Saturday time. A challenging, annoying, yet (sometimes) fun slay.

    Richard 12:10 AM  

    @jae - I fell into the same trap as you did with 1A but I filled in HAIG, forgetting about Schultz coming after Haig. I realized this was wrong only after getting FAD, which led to ANT FARM.

    I liked this one a lot, including the
    AHA moment when I got the Mad Magazine misdirection, as this magazine was a favorite of mine as a teen-ager.

    Steve J 12:33 AM  

    Brutal. First pass through gave me only NAAN, OTTO and VOL, which turned out to be the wrong abbreviation for peck at 10D. Could not make any headway with any of the crosses, so resorted to googling far earlier than normal. When even that doesn't help, you know it's going to be a long, long day.

    Things would have been helped if my first guess at 17A had been correct: TYPEWRITERCASE, but that fell one letter short (I'd quibble that a stand is not a keeper, as in it's not a storage device, but I suppose it can be reckoned that it's something that keeps a typewriter in place, and it is a great clue nevertheless). Finally just put TYPEWRITER back in in hopes other stuff came together.

    Had to finally give up and look at Rex's key to get ABLE. Bravo Sierra, indeed.

    The two long downs are absolutely brilliant. But overall, this was a brutal slog for me that was satisfying only in hindsight in a few spots.

    Bearistotle 1:07 AM  

    It's a spelling alphabet, not a phonetic alphabet.

    August West 1:36 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Questinia 1:49 AM  

    Yes to tough top, medium bottom. But fast Saturday nonetheless.

    This was one of those funny puzzles where I got all the long answers on just two or three letters but needed many more than that for the short answers.

    Had DELICIOso at first because evidently I had the chef working in a Mexican restaurant, a mind contaminant, probably, of the clue for TREVINO.

    I laughed out loud @ Rex with the sadness that was Orlando. Fine brain burp. ABRA is indeed awful, and may I add Anitra to that list?

    ANDANTE saved me as a toehold gimme in the NE where I ended up spending most of my time (blithely unaware of the rabbit hole of ABLE as the NW was solved entirely in downs).

    WHAT ME WORRY. Delicioso, SENOR Sessa.

    Anonymous 2:24 AM  

    I always thought Able Baker Charlie was a weird name when I would read Richard Scarry with my kids. Now it makes sense!

    Abra Cousins Messrs 2:48 AM  

    You are lucky for your toehold, because apparently "I" like my sonata's second movements AL DANTE...
    A cross between ANDANTE and AL DENTE...
    DELICIOUS, but, alas, TWO wrong squares as skilfull for me was rEAL :(
    (as in "He's keeping it real.. skilfull?")

    Mess due to TYPEWRITERSTore, lionCUB and Muslim.
    Eventually Straightened out except for REAL :(


    ANTFARM first answer as it remains my favorite rejected puzzle to date.

    My grandpa used to say MISLED like, Myzzelled, ABRA myzzelled him.

    Perhaps ITEMONE will be on the table at ONETEN.

    SOMESAY pretty grid, fun solve.

    chefwen 3:38 AM  

    After my Friday puzzle bragging I knew I was due my comeuppance. First pass through got me zip, zero, nada. Mr. Golfer Guy came up with 40D TREVINO, so I decided to work off of that. Bottom to top was the way to go.

    Quite the work out, but the finished product was quite satisfying.

    Didn't help that I always serve rice with my Vindaloo, but NAAN will do the job too.

    I love Mr. Sessa's puzzles, this on just took me a lot longer to solve, not a bad thing.

    jae 4:15 AM  

     Errata: Speaking of D'oh:

    "Just about perfect for a Sat."... Hey, it was Fri. when I posted.

    Also...the rest of the 15s [and the long downs] were terrific..

    And a ? after "Graham anyone"

    My only  excuse is I was going to watch the Breaking Bad debut after posting  so I got careless/impatient.  On the plus side, I think I've finally sorted  out the ricin/Lily of the Valley plot line from Season 4.

    Anonymous 7:13 AM  

    What's with the ABLE rant? There is mammoth amounts of fill for crosswords that pre-date the use of ABLE (as defined in this crossword). What's next to incur wrath - the Greek alphabet?

    Robso 7:38 AM  

    I only have a few nits: "One way to catch the game" is a little contrived ("the" game?); "radio ad"? Who says that?; and the jury is still out as to whether or not "ll" is an actual letter in spanish (at least with me . . . I'm sure the experts know).
    I loved "Bill with barbs;" "Mad person's question;" "What gobs take in;" and "Took the wrong way."

    Robso 7:40 AM  

    Oh yeah . . . and "Leave to scrap" . . . nice.

    August West 8:51 AM  

    I dunno, I liked "the game." "The" instead of "a" led me to infer that "game" was being used as a global term for prey, and not to describe a singular event.

    No issue with RADIO AD, either, clued nicely. Also loved Engagement rings? for ARENAS at 23A, one of my very few first-pass, no-crosses entries.

    Holding out the Greek alphabet, which has remained static through the millennia, as counterpoint to anonymously snark those under 80 who called foul on ABLE -- plucked from a near-sixty-year-dead identification system -- is kind of like comparing apples to anvils, isn't it?

    Hater Love

    Anonymous 9:12 AM  

    Thanks for explaining ABLE! This was a tough one for me. Loved WHATMEWORRY Mad & Tiger Beat were the best!

    DBlock 9:16 AM  

    Also had Haig before Able, Case before Stand and Alma before Abra but loved Step Outside and What Me Worry was a gimme, as my mom used to deposit me in the Mad Magazine section of the market so she could get her shopping done unencumbered. I kept my subscription up through my 20s when, being the pseudo-intellectual that I am, I replaced it with the New Yorker. Still think Mad is better.

    Anonymous 9:19 AM  

    Great one for me. I thought it was insanely tough at first but I slowly got into the groove, mostly south to north.

    I loved Alfred E. making an appearance!

    Plus RADIOAD.

    What's the deal with ABLE? Isn't that the standard word for "A" in radio-speak? What am I missing

    About 45 minutes for me, just the amount of time for a Saturday.


    Carola 9:25 AM  

    A fast Saturday for me - too fast, it turns out, as I see that I DNF: got my Steinbeck confused with Swedish pop and wrote in ABbA without even thinking. That gave me Tony bANDALL, actor pal of Rich o'RENE from the other day.

    I liked how saying "MAKE MINE A DOUBLE" might lead to later saying "WHAT ME WORRY?" or "STEP OUTSIDE." Or to feeling ELATEd or SEDATED.

    A MEAN person could chortle "I LIED" after they MISLED someone into a SNARE.

    NEEDERS made me think, "Hit RESET!"

    In grade school, I learned ABLE, baker, Charlie, dog, fox (so, yes, Anon 2:24, that always got a smile when I was reading Richard Scarry to my kids) and was thus stunned when it was suddenly alfa (alpha?). Anyway, in the NW I switched out ABLE and Alfa a bunch of times, having aNa (All Nippon Airways) as the way to fly for a while.

    Other do-overs: rice before NAAN, man o' war before ANTI.

    Susan McConnell 9:28 AM  

    Tougher than yesterday for me, but the 15s were fun and helped me with the rest of the fill.

    August West 9:38 AM  

    Able Baker v. Alpha Bravo

    Jeff Chen 9:47 AM  

    Nice commentary from Ed about his puzzle:


    Allison the happy camper today 9:51 AM  

    I finished the whole thing!! Without resorting to Google or looking at Rex's blog posting!! We don't need to go into the minor detail of how long it took me. The finish is what counts. :)

    Anonymous 9:54 AM  

    Not fun, not clever. Just tedious.

    Anonymous 9:59 AM  

    "It's a lesson to me
    The Ables and the Bakers and the C's
    The ABC's
    We all must face
    To try to keep a little grace"
    -Touch of Grey

    (you don't have to be old enough to have used the old phonetic alphabet, but most of us Deadheads have a touch of grey these days

    joho 10:04 AM  

    I think the clever cluing took this puzzle from great to exceptional. So kudos to Ed and Will!

    I struggled from the bottom up like others and finally finished at ABLE. @Carola, I was trying to cram Alfa in there, too, but was pretty sure it's Alpha.

    Brother's keeper? is brilliant! And also kept me stymied forever!

    Loved, loved, loved this ... and so happy I was ABLE to complete it correctly!

    August West 10:05 AM  

    Wow. Great touché point, Anon. Saw over 80 shows and the lyric never entered my mind. Shame on me.

    Anonymous 10:19 AM  

    Since I frequently DNF Fridays and Saturdays, when I solved this one I expected to see an "easy" rating.

    I had no idea why 'Brother's keeper' clued TYPEWRITERSTAND until I went to the blog. I suspect this cluing totally misses the oldies (like me) who remember: Remington, Royal, Underwood, IBM, and Smith Corona, and also the youngsters who have never seen a typewriter.

    As for Able, Baker, ... for me this is common knowledge which seeped in either from WWII novels or films.

    I'm often amazed at some of the things people say they "only know from doing crosswords".

    Gerry W

    chefbea 10:30 AM  

    Delicious puzzle though DNF. Lots of stuff to google. Knew naan of course.

    Didn't understand Ann for 28 across. Guess there is an author named Ann Packer???

    Gill I. P. 10:39 AM  

    Just got back from a little jaunt to Carmel where we stuffed ourselves with some mighty DELICIOUS cooking and beaching. Now to get caught up...
    I found this puzzle easier than yesterday's (I'm still working on that one). Ed Sessa's cluing always has me smiling. Really liked the 13th Spanish letter at 48A for EME. YESM I did.
    When I lived in Spain my phonetic alphabet name was Espana, Cadiz, Huelva, Oviedo, Lerida, Sevilla. Hah! Thanks @August West for the reminder.
    I met Lee TREVINO on one of our flights to Mexico. He is about the nicest person you could ever meet. And he has a wonderful crinkly smile.
    Now to unpack and dive into the crosswords I missed.

    Z 10:40 AM  

    Blogger decided to log me out instead of posting my comment. I would have asked it to STEP OUTSIDE, but I would have TROD alone.

    I lost the Guess a Vowel game at ABR-/-NDANTE. MY losing guess was O. Otherwise a fun puzzle with lots of great cluing. Like others, I was slowed by ANT FARM/FAD or ANT hill/hit.

    Two thumbs up, here.

    Norm 10:45 AM  

    No complaints with ABLE-Baker [see The Thin Red Line, From Here to Eternity, The Naked and the Dead, etc.]. No complaints with ABRA [I think Rex complains every time it shows up]; East of Eden has always been one of my favorites. I thought this was an excellent puzzle from hard upper to easier bottom.

    Mike Rees 10:49 AM  

    DNF for me today, top corners were too tough. Did not know ABLE, although I guessed ENE and lucked out. Did not know ANDANTE, RANDALL or ABRA so NE corner was a complete fail. Isn't that what the crossword folks called Naticks?

    That being said, I loved the clues on ALL the long answers and enjoyed figuring them out tremendously. I just wish I could have finished it up :)

    Susan McConnell 11:02 AM  

    Congratulations Allison! That great feeling of completing a Saturday with no outside help never gets old :-) Good for you!

    Nancy 11:07 AM  

    I finished the puzzle, but I STILL don't get "TYPEWRITER STAND". Is "Brother" a brand of typewriter. I never heard of it, and yet I'm from the pre-computer, typewriter generation. Please tell me, someone! Thanks!

    Ray J 11:08 AM  

    Despite not knowing OTERO, DOR or ABRA, I easily finished in less than half the time it took me to do the Friday puz. Able was a real head scratcher here too. Had the same connection with Tommy as @ Rex when entering MEAN. The Who’s Acid Queen may also be appropriate today.

    @ jae – It took me a while to sort out the ricin/lily of the valley problem too. It seems WW hasn’t yet found the bottom.

    Z 11:24 AM  

    Brother Typewriters

    Kris in ABCA 11:30 AM  

    Is a typewriter stand a thing? I thought they just sat on desks.

    Mohair Sam 11:34 AM  

    What Rex said except for his ABRA rant. And I bet Ed Sessa knew what he was doing when he stacked her over MEAN.

    Took us a long time before my wife yelled TYPEWRITERSTAND and the north central and NE filled and we were finished.

    A really fun Saturday for us.

    Mohair Sam 11:37 AM  

    @Kris. You're showing your youth. Yup, typewriter stands were common in most offices 50 years ago.

    quilter1 11:52 AM  

    I got nowhere with this one and no idea why. Boo.

    chefbea 11:55 AM  

    @Kris they had sides that folded up and down so you could put the manuscript that you were typing on the left side. They also had wheels so you could roll it to wherever!!

    PhiskPhan 12:04 PM  

    Since when does "misled" mean "TOOK the wrong way?" Doesn't it mean "made someone take something the wrong way?"

    mac 12:06 PM  

    Fun solve this morning. Got myself into trouble in two sections: a poor at 28D and lion instead of bear. As soon as I switched the animals I finished the puzzle.

    I thought the clues in this puzzle were exceptional, probably because I took the time to savor it.

    Anonymous 12:34 PM  

    wonderful puzzle. Loved the clueing and chuckled throughut asi closed it up. Lots of wide open spaces, mecifully few proper names - only one and not obscure, and little crosswordese.

    I'm notan alien solver like Rex and others here and it is gratifying t find I rate the puzzle somewhat easier: Easy-Medium. One of best Sat solves and lots of fun!

    dick S 12:57 PM  

    'Able, Baker ...' for 'Alpha, Bravo ...' nothing compared to Nita Naldi, Clara Bow, and other actresses who reach back to the rise of the xword when the talkies were hot stuff.

    1956 a mere half-step to yesteryear. I learned 'Alpha, Bravo .." in 1957 at Ft Hood, TX with headphones on in 103 degree heat.

    For a break, "A Soldier-boy's Deck of Cards" would be played.

    Ann Heil 1:19 PM  

    Exceptional cluing today! I had so many wonderful aha moments as the clues came together. ABLE BAKER seemed right from some recess of my brain....thanks to @anonymous for pointing out the Grateful Dead lyrics ... that must have been why. TYPEWRITERSTAND took me sooooo long to get. NAAN was a gimme, as that's what I always have with my vindaloo. I'd have a minor quibble with putting Napa Valley in the Bay Area - it's definitely north of what I consider to be the Bay Area, but perhaps from a New York perspective this works.

    A perfect Saturday crossword - challenging but fair.

    Evan 1:48 PM  

    Somehow I finished this in what I'd call an Easy-Medium to Medium time. I expected doom since Ed Sessa's last themeless puzzle (the one with BALL THE JACK) really stymied me. I did not know Brother was a brand of typewriter so that went over my head. Nearly went with TYPEWRITER'S BAND (?!).

    I thought the long answers were great otherwise, but some short crap didn't sit well with me -- EME, ABRA, D'OR, NAIAD, NEEDERS, OTERO, MESSRS., the bizarre clue on ABLE, and I'm surprised nobody's brought up the very strange partial AN ILL yet. Still, I liked this just fine.

    I'm getting ready to go to Portugal tomorrow night, so unless I come by to comment on tomorrow's puzzle, I'll probably be outta puzzle range for a couple of weeks. Hope everyone's remainder of the summer is good!

    Evan 1:49 PM  


    If you mislead someone, you take them the wrong way (like, down a pathway or road). Now remove "someone" and "them" from that sentence and it works as a simple substitution.

    Casey 1:55 PM  

    Easiest Saturday ever! Entered messrs and was off and running. Must have been on my wavelength.

    Anonymous 2:04 PM  

    Oh my. Horrible start for me. Baker's predecessor gave me fits, as I tried to remember James Baker's and Howard Baker's predecessors. And they fit, as I had BEEHIVE for the place to observe workers. My life got much better after I abandoned the NW corner and started in on the SE. And I was giddy when I ran into Alfred E. Newman....

    Merle 2:24 PM  

    Easy-medium for me. All went well until the south/southeast, but it fell into place eventually.

    Same old same old -- we know what we know. And I'm old enough to know of the Able Baker alphabet.... The 15 letter across clues and answers were fun.

    What's with the grrr-attitude about names, Rex, when you have a literary background? Gee, if you didn't read Steinbeck's "East of Eden", surely you saw the movie version? No? Too young?

    I liked the North Down clues and answers in a row -- Miros, Slit, Nits, Beep, CDRom -- all over the place in terms of what someone might know, and yet, it all fell into place easily enough. Love the clue and answer for 45 Across -- Messrs indeed is quaint. Actually, Sirs is quaint now.

    Amusing puzzle by Ed Sessa. Kewl dat.

    retired_chemist 2:39 PM  

    Challenging here, which I rationalize by being half asleep from the Benadryl I took for my sinus congestion.

    Nonetheless I loved it, largely for its challenge. Cluing was mostly stellar,especially for the long answers. MECCAN (25A) was an obvious trap for the unwary who put, and I bet stuck for a long time with, MUSLIM. Lucky me - I had put, and knew it had to be, COUSINS @ 26D so I was saved the agony.

    Before I was ABLE to see that a political predecessor to James BAKER was not going to cut it, I thought of every 4 letter politician I could. He served in three administrations (Ford, Reagan, Bush 41) so there were a lot of ways to go wrong.

    TVA isn't as obvious as Rex makes it out to be - consider PG&E, TP&L, and probably others (you have to finesse the ampersand, however).

    Put in OTERO with little hope it would remain - a blind guess, based on having seen it in crosswords before and sensing that both it and La Junta were southwestern. Yet stay it did.

    Why is YES'M a backwoods thing? Seems nineteenth century,and more general, to me. Wasn't there a lot of YES'M in Tom Sawyer?

    Thanks, Mr. Sessa.

    Lewis 2:55 PM  

    @allison -- way to go!

    There was so much good to this puzzle, it overwhelmed my nits. I loved the clever cluing: such as the clues for EARPLUG, WHATMEWORRY, even SORRYFORTHEWAIT and HOTSPOT.

    LaneB 3:10 PM  

    Began with 2d vinyard instead of BAYAREA, adagios instead of ADANTE and began a 49 with audio instead of RADIO,and the rest became iimpossible. A typical Saturday DNF, but I thought the cluing was very good and tough, indeed.

    Mette 3:48 PM  

    Really crunchy. Cluing was marvelous. @retired chemist - thanks for the explanation of ledge yesterday. Using a dictionary - what a concept. OED has it as definition 5b.

    John V 4:38 PM  

    Good one. I typically connect with Ed Sessa's puzzles and did with this one. Got it with no errors, so I'm happy. The secret is my red, Pilot FriXion erasible pen. Seriously.

    sanfranman59 6:08 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 7:35, 6:09, 1.23, 98%, Challenging (5th highest ratio of 191 Mondays)
    Tue 9:26, 8:16, 1.14, 82%, Challenging
    Wed 10:26, 9:43, 1.07, 71%, Medium-Challenging
    Thu 15:07, 16:30, 0.92, 32%, Easy-Medium
    Fri 21:15, 18:52, 1.13, 78%, Medium-Challenging
    Sat 26:04, 25:53, 1.01, 60%, Medium

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 4:52, 3:47, 1.29, 99%, Challenging (2nd highest ratio of 191 Mondays)
    Tue 5:41, 5:00, 1.14, 82%, Challenging
    Wed 6:12, 5:35, 1.11, 79%, Medium-Challenging
    Thu 8:07, 9:30, 0.85, 21%, Easy-Medium
    Fri 11:35, 11:02, 1.05, 59%, Medium
    Sat 16:51, 16:06, 1.05, 64%, Medium-Challenging

    SueR 6:41 PM  

    Could someone explain "step outside" and "numbered relations? Thanks.

    Evan 6:48 PM  


    You may step outside to fight someone, as in "Why don't we STEP OUTSIDE and settle this?" And I interpreted COUSINS as first cousin, second cousin, first cousin once removed, etc.

    Anonymous 6:48 PM  

    @SueR - If you're about to get into a fight at a bar you would STEPOUTSIDE (Leave the bar to scrap).

    You have first cousins, second cousins, ...

    Dirigonzo 6:58 PM  

    I loved this puzzle - I couldn't quite finish it but I loved it anyway!. TYPEWRITERSTore and lionCUB obscured the NE corner and I never recovered, but I still loved it - MAKEMINEADOUBLE!

    Gill I. P. 7:41 PM  

    Hey @Diri...Love the new avatar...Any relations?
    Thought of you and Perseids last Mon.

    Dirigonzo 7:57 PM  

    @Gil I.P. - relations in spirit only. Still star-gazing and bird-watching in syndi-land, but I missed the Perseids. Nice to hear from you!

    ahimsa-NYT 8:23 PM  

    Several writeovers but I eventually finished. My ANT FARM started out as a hill, my Bass parts were liCKS before NECKS, and I had TYPEWRITERscAse ("typewriter's case") for a long time. But everything got fixed eventually.

    I can't believe that I filled in SIDEWALKARTISTS correctly with only one letter filled in! That's a first for me on a Saturday. Quite different from the bottom entry where I thought hold-up meant robbery.

    I didn't care much for that NEEDERS entry but all the other fill seemed good to me.

    There were so many clever clues and lots of nice long entries. Thank you to Ed Sessa for the fun puzzle!

    Anonymous 10:02 PM  

    Sunday: Love Liz Gorski but finished this without the slightest sense of what the theme was.

    Carole Shmurak 11:35 PM  

    Anon, it was called Edginess. All the answers to clues around the perimeter ended in the word "line" .

    retired_chemist 12:40 AM  

    Anon and Carole S -

    Please do not discuss tomorrow's puzzle on today's blog. You spoil it for those of us who have not yet done it.

    jberg 7:14 AM  

    Drove seven hours yesterday, finished this at 6 AM Sunday, and there are only 69 comments. I'd say it was hard.

    No trouble with ABLE, but I held on to Tony Bennett and Moslem way too long. Also dryAD. Amazed I finished--now time to bring in Sunday's paper

    treedweller 1:48 PM  

    When I learned Spanish, che and elle were considered distinct letters, so eme nunca no me vení. But google tells me this is no longer true. Who changes their alphabet in 2010? No me gusta.

    Mr. White 6:18 PM  

    I think it's safe to tune into Breaking Bad tonight. After all, it's just
    a T.V. show, nothing all *that* sacred. That way, you can get an idea if the pace (ahem, slooooowww) and random acts of violence are something you want to spend many hours catching up on.
    Just don't get any ideas..

    kamran shiakh 9:17 PM  

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    spacecraft 12:01 PM  

    I'm with @Phiskphan, despite @Evan's explanation. That clue certainly MISLED me. Another rotten clue--but not in the way OFL mentions--is "Steinbeck siren" for ABRA. I don't know if Mr. Sessa read the same "East of Eden" as I did, but "siren" would be one of the LAST words I'd think of to describe Abra. That clue is so far off base you could catch it in a rundown. And NEEDERS??? Yougottabekiddingme. That "word" wins the ugly prize for this year, no contest.

    To be honest, with all this crap going on I don't know how I managed to finish it. Just lucky, I guess. But my biggest disappointment was not finding an image of the redoubtable Alfred E. Neuman in OFL's blog.

    rain forest 1:47 PM  

    To me, ABLE is the *preceder* of BAKER, not the predecessor. I was trying to think of another B word that would have been the predecessor (making me think of BEEHIVE for 1D). Bad clue, in my opinion.
    Some of this puzzle was great, particularly the long answers,and some was not so great. NEEDERS??

    Red Valerian 5:02 PM  

    DNF on account of errors, but had fun! I stuck with Alfa, so had lAYAREA, fAPDESK, and aNE. And I had STayOUTofit for 19 down ("leave to scrap, maybe") and just couldn't see that it was people leaving to do the scrapping, not people leaving other people so that those other people could scrap. (sorry--disambiguating that is not pretty) This was pretty stupid, since it made Muhammad a MaCCAN and a young turkey a yOULT. phhbt. Oh, and misread second A in my ANTFARM as an R, so took forever to see ARENAS. But that, I got.

    Ginger 5:27 PM  

    @spacecraft - I agree, ABRA in East of Eden is in no way a 'siren'. Not by any stretch.

    TYPEWRITERSTAND bothered me a lot, until I came here and read comments about them. Now I remember actually using one. Great clue for HOTSPOT, and who doesn't smile at the image of Alfred E Newman WHATMEWORRY!

    It's rare that I'm ABLE to finish a Saturday, and I needed help on this one, but nevertheless, I enjoyed it immensely.

    @Red Valerian Good to see you back. I miss @DMG, hope she's off playing with the grandkids!

    I cry foul on NEEDERS, and apparently blogger does too, my captcha 'neepoor'.

    Dick 8:47 PM  

    For you non-Californians doing this puzzle, the Napa Valley is not in the Bay Area. Near the Bay Area, yes. In the Bay Area, no. Just like Newark is near Manhattan, not in Manhattan!

    Mark DeGraffenreid 10:52 AM  

    Perhaps my grasp of the Spanish language is faulty, or perhaps I am bad at math, but 'EME' is not the '13th letter of the Spanish alphabet' (48 A), last I checked. There is a 'second C' letter, 'CHE', which makes the 13th of the alphabet letter 'L', not 'M'. There is also a 'second L', 'LL' (pronounced EH-YAY), and a 'second N' (with tilde, pronounced EN-YAY). So, anyhooo, I was annoyed/thrown off by that, as well as the whole Able/Baker thing.

    Dirigonzo 12:54 PM  

    @Mark DeGraffenreid - It's good to see a new name among the syndi-commenters - I hope you'll join us on a regular basis. As to EME, @treedweller had the same complaint but @Gil I.P., a former syndi-commenter and native Spanish-speaker liked it, so I guess there's room for disagreement on the clue.

    Mark DeGraffenreid 5:57 PM  

    Thanks, Dirigonzo. I do the Wed-Sun NYT religiously (I've long since outgrown MON and TUE), and have used Rex as a resource/WTF corroborator for years. I missed @treedweller's comment, but I see it now...very interesting. I did not realize there was a 'new Spanish'. Anyway, thanks for the warm welcome...I'll be sure to chime in from time to time going forward.

    Gill I. P. 10:14 PM  

    Hey Mark DeG....Welcome! Post more often if you can. I'm in your future but I love to look back at my long lost syndy friends......
    Sorry, there is no "new Spanish" - the "eme" is real. However, once you get in the enes you can have some fun....See you.

    Anonymous 9:30 AM  

    August, I believe it is ALFA, rather then ALPHA.

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