Porter created by Burroughs / SAT 9-14-13 / Assistant played by Bruce Lee / Fuel for warp drive engine on Star Trek / First capital of Last Frontier / Ham's handoff / Basidium-borne body / Drink said to have originated on Lesbos

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Aldrich AMES (5D: Subject of the 2012 book "Circle of Treason") —

Aldrich Hazen Ames (born May 26, 1941) is a former Central Intelligence Agency counterintelligence officer and analyst, who in 1994 was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and Russia. So far as is known, Ames compromised the second-largest number of CIA assets—second only to those betrayed by Robert Hanssen.
While spending nine years working in CIA counter-intelligence, he declared an annual income of $60,000 but his credit card spending of up to $30,000 a month funded a lifestyle that included a new Jaguar and a $540,000 house (2012 value: $810,000) paid for in cash. (wikipedia)
• • •

A snazzy Saturday puzzle. Really impressive on the cleanliness front. Very little to snipe at here, at least in terms of the fill. Pretty tame on the Scrabbly letters except for that 1A, which was definitely a seed answer, and which, like all 1As, can hold Scrabbly letters more easily than most other answers (since it puts the tough-to-handle letters at the beginning of all the Downs). Little bit of Scrabble-f*cking there in the SW, but the resulting fill (except for LYIN') is good, so no harm done. What's most impressive here are not the 9-stacks in the NW and SE—though those are nice; it's how clean the fill stays through those two rather large 7-(ish)-stacks in the puzzle's midsection. I also like the preponderance of colloquialisms and 3-word phrases. Really gives the grid some character.


Parts of this puzzle felt very easy, but others stopped me cold, at least for a while, and so my time ended up pretty normal. PIZZA JOINT went right in, but after that corner was polished off, things slowed down a bit. I really really really have to learn to look at all possible avenues out of any given section, however unlikely it seems that they'll be fruitful. Today, I had the initial "T" at 23D: Temptation for Luke Skywalker but didn't even look at the clue when trying to exit the NW because the odds of my getting an answer that long with just the one letter in place are low, and my clue-looking-at time was (odds are) better spent in the east, where I had the initial letters for a lot of considerably shorter answers. Just playing the odds. Except that I eventually got bogged down, later in the puzzle, with the entire SW still wide open, and I had to jump into white space with no crosses to guide me (always terrifying). If I'd only looked at the clue for THE DARK SIDE right then, I'd've got it instantly and probably finished a good minute faster. Instead, I threw down INHERIT, and did a bunch of other stuff in there and when I *finally* looked at the "Star Wars" clue I had it 50% filled in. Got this horrible "Why Did I Not See This Clue Earlier!?" feeling. Gah.

No real screw-ups today. Hardest section for me was the far NE, where WI-- and LL-S and -SSO just were not computing. That ESSO clue (14D: Standard breakup creation), with its disguised proper noun "Standard," totally fooled me. Eventually just put vowels in that first slot, and was like "well, ESSO is at least a thing, so .... Ohhhhhh." Biggest snag in the rest of the puzzle was HTS—that clue is Ri-Dick-ulous (that is "ridiculous" + "dickish"). "O"? When was the last time someone abbreviated "Ohio" that way? Again, the rule with terrible fill (which HTS is) is "don't do stupid things to make it hard." Because now it's bad *and* I resent it. "O." The only reason "O" is here is because people specifically *don't* associate it with geography (which makes the HTS abbr. harder to come up with). Since "Oregon" is a state that exists, I never considered Ohio, i.e. never considered a state at all. Junk. Also, Broadview HTS — is nowhere. It's not famous. I thought "Oh, this must be some famous place I just don't know about." But no. Population 19,400. Again I say "What the hell?"

Also tough: SNL ("Celebrity Jeopardy!" sounds like a real thing), SPENCE (he wasn't actually involved in the O.J. trial, the way the clue makes you think), LYIN' (clued via Young instead of via Eagles), and JANE (6D: Porter created by Burroughs) (Q: Which Burroughs?) (A: Edgar Rice, of "Tarzan of the Apes" fame). Also tough—having east/west dyslexia, which I do. Hence GO EAST for 25D: Follow the sun? Hence trouble.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Pete 12:08 AM  

Hey, I associated the "O" with geography. I thought that maybe b O was standard Canadianese for Ontario. Because, you know, we here in the states use two letter abbreviations for our states.

You sure do like that Motels video.

Carola 12:10 AM  

After finding Thursday and Friday on the easy side, I knew I was due for a comeuppance, and this was it. Had to cheat up a storm, using the AcrossLite solution checker, in order to "finish" the NW. I'd guessed PIZZAplace - "Incorrect!" - and just couldn't get enough Downs to see my way out. Had fun puzzling out the rest of the grid.

@Rex - My first entry was HTS :)

Steve J 12:13 AM  

Wow, I'm kinda glad to see that I'm not alone in having "east/west dyslexia". Hadn't heard that termed as a thing, but it's always been a problem for me. (Incidentally, @Rex, it looks like it may have snagged you in the writeup; I'm assuming the SW was the corner you meant to tag with the Scrabble-f*cking - a new term that I love, btw.)

I'm not a proficient Saturday solver yet by any means (I'm finally getting to a point where I can get easy/medium Fridays on a reasonably consistent basis), so I struggled through big chunks of this. The long acrosses took long time to come to me. Got PIZZAsomething straight out of the gate, but for some reason JOINT would not come to me (my brain would not let go of "parlor"), and since I'm not a Trekkie, ANTIMATTER in this context did not spring to mind. The SE long crosses were even slower in coming.

SW was the first corner I got, thanks to picking up THEDARKSIDE nearly straight away, seeded from the T in 22A. That's about where I am with Saturdays: I'm happy that I'm starting to get the short fill more consistently, so I can work some of the long crosses.

Liked several clues, such as the "Standard" use for ESSO in 14D, 17A (I had some kind of sleeping pill on my mind) and the "Follows a military order" repetition for ATTACKS/RETREATS. Did not like 32D's clue: NESS is not a mobster; while he pursued them, I think the connection is pretty tenuous (but I get the appeal of the clue from a phonetic standpoint).

"Eager" is not the first thing that comes to mind with HOTTOTROT, although I suppose it does still apply.

Nicely done puzzle.

optionsgeek 12:32 AM  

Nicely executed puzzle. Much harder for me than yesterday's effort. ANTIMATTER was really tough to get because the crew was always trying to bogart those dilithium crystals, which I swear must have been painted on the fuel hatch. Yes, advanced, beyond-the-Standard-Model-Physics was involved, but that was Scotty's job. He just wanted the crystals. Also, that seems like a fairly tenuous way to get JANE, but I have to admit it's just inside of the foul pole.

jae 12:33 AM  

Ok, back to reality.  Actually, this was mostly easy-medium for me with the South easy and the NE medium.  What helped in NE was doing SW first and getting LOTS, so WIFE went right into 11a.   Unlike Rex, however, the NW nearly killed me.   I knew ANTIMATTER and OTOES were right but I couldn't get any thing else.  SIn for ZIT and yEarLING for NESTLING and failing to remember TREO didn't help.  Plus, Z-TILE was just evil as it kept me from putting PIZZA in for way too long.  Got it all worked out but it took a while.

@Steve J -- Re 32d: I think the key word is "associated"

Fantastic puzzle.  Major zip and a crunchy corner.  An excellent Sat.!  Thanks Jeff.

retired_chemist 12:41 AM  

Started with Patisserie @ 1A. Gave me eriES for 7D. And so it went.

Got the SE fairly easily but had a lot of white space for a long time elsewhere. INHERIT, ATTACKS, and RETREATS came into view and showed that a flirtation with TOEFL TEST @ 36D was wrong. Then HOT TO TROT. OUZO and IZOD followed quickly and were almost simultaneous.

PIZZA place replaced Patisserie, and soon morphed into the correct answer. But the whole NW revealed itself slowly, with "Hey, that's pretty nicely done" following every answer I put in. First thought of Rudolf AbEl for 5D, which led to ANTIbosons @ 15A. Didn't last long.

This was a challenge for me but well worth it. Good job, Mr. Chen. Thanks.

wreck 1:27 AM  

Very tough Saturday for me after feeling pretty good about myself after Thursday and Friday! Had to google a bit -- but that was really not much of a help. Oh well -- that is how I get better!

Questinia 2:04 AM  

I clasped @jae onto yearling for deer life despite knowing it was IT ISNT and an I and y juuust never look good together.

Funny thing was my first guess was PIZZA JOINT which I rejected out of hand as too easy. So it never was the seed for me as it was for @Rex.

However, I know I can often get long answers from just one letter and so the T in THE DARK SIDE was my seed for what amounted to be the rest of the grid (I got TO A FARETHEEWELL a while back just off the first T)

Leaving the NW behind, I sped through the puzzle only to return to the NW and sin for ZIT (again @jae) and aforementioned yearling (make it Bambi damn it!). I felt myself getting into that familiar wallow of uncertainty and ambivalence.

My emotional pull to Bambi was so strong and so was that Cosmo, that I did what I virtually never do... I checked the answer for wrong letters and was *crushed* to see only the E and LING were correct.

My babe was gone. I became deranged, joined THE DARK SIDE and decided to whup Jeff Chen's popo in the NW by harrumphingly speed-filling the rest of the blanks whilst plotting revenge with tepid ATTACKS as to how NESTLINGS are just so, you know, suburban!

Take that, Mr Chen. Suburban!

Antimatter Carla Michaels 3:35 AM  

Loved it, tho took me over an hour!

Hand up for yEarLINGS.

parlor wouldn't fit, nor PIZZeria...here is an example where Scrabble letters help the solve.
Ironically ZTI?E was my last entry and I'm going to be in a Scrabble tourney tomorrow!

Liked the NESS clue.
Thought it was fun that WALKONWATER crossed NEWWAVE.

I was dEnsE about EERIE for too long. And darkness at Noon. ISCREWEDUP.

Had sort of a Star Trek/Star Wars vibe...
At least no baseball nor Simpsons... But they wonder why there are fewer women constructors than men?

Really impressed with the ten stacks high and low.
Great great tough but super fun puzzle, Jeff!

John Child 4:10 AM  

I loved ATTACKS and RETREATS, IN HIS steps and WALKONWATER, and LOT'S WIFE. Nice puzzle without any WOEs (though it took a long time for the light to dawn on Z TILE).

loren muse smith 7:15 AM  

First I have to say I was delighted to see Jeff's name at the top. He is, hands down, the nicest person in Crossworld. Period. I associate him with over-the-top-clever themes, so I was curious to work this one. Jeff is up there in my book with PB, so where I normally would have thrown in the towel about 45 minutes ago, I trusted Jeff, dug in, soldiered on, AND FINISHED!!!! That's the sign of a great puzzle, imho.

I can't believe more people aren't gushing about this beauty. WALK ON WATER, HOT TO TROT, THE DARK SIDE, WHITE NOISE, ILL AT EASE, I SCREWED UP, PIZZA JOINT, ANTI MATTER, TASTE TEST, ATTACKS right on top of RETREATS. . .All. In. One. 15x15. Grid. Seriously? And just HTS and ETE to complain about? (IN HIS didn't bother me.) Watch out, PB1. We have a contender.

@jae and @Questinia – hand up for "yearling" first and @Questinia, then questioning that IY sequence but keeping it because, after all, it is Chen.

Mobster/monster clue – brilliantness.

JOINT – There was this guy from Norway at Ga.Southern for a year abroad. One night at dinner he was recounting an experience he and some friends had at a bar and concluded with, "We owned the JOINT." I still marvel at his grasp of English – to use "own" and JOINT so perfectly. I can't believe I still think about that sentence. Hi, Alf N.

Weird – so yesterday I had to drive to the Columbus O. (morning, @Rex ;-)) airport in the morning. I was so glad that I was fortunate to GO WEST – I had this compulsion to make sure all the cars eastbound had their visors down. I hate it when I get that thought/compulsion and can't not look. (Hey, David Sedaris. You would totally understand.) Then I had to look for N. Yearling St, *and* I had a young dear run in front of me in the woods yesterday when I was mountain biking. I was so pleased with that serendipity. Oh well.

I think this was a work of art. " It's my goal to achieve all-around greatness, and I realize I have work to do in the themeless arena." I beg to differ. You're there.

Danp 7:25 AM  

How did I miss Pizza Joint. It is such a crosswordese clue. Without it, I couldn't touch the NW.

Slight complaint with One L, though. In the movie, almost all the characters were first year students, so why "Main character"? In the series, they were only One L's the first season.

Great long answers. I may have to change my user name to 62A, though.

August West 7:35 AM  

Demonically clued and a helluva lotta fun. PIZZAparlo...oops. JANE stopped me right there, although I didn't know her 'til later. I guess that was her last name? PAWN was also so... Man, I stared at that clue for a long time after filling its answer. And just had to f'n laugh, it's so perfect. Damn, you, Mr. Chen! And then there's NESTLINGS down the road apiece, shouldered up to... ::..in best Dr. Evil..::something I've never heard of...

So....eminently doooooable, but I had to really stretch the ol' grey matter. I won't summarize every following quadrant, as I'm sure others will comment on the other gems found throughout. But I must say that there were smiles and ahas and youbastids all the way around it. Tough. Fair. Fun. I think I smashed Jeff's last entry. This is a smash. I loved it. Thanks You, Sir.

August West 7:47 AM  

Holy shit, @Questinia, you owe me a keyboard. Dual coffee nostril expulsion. It's fried.

r.alphbunker 8:05 AM  

That is a very nice observation about trust. You are more successful with constructors that you trust. I might also add that includes editors. It might explain why I have so much trouble with Newsday's Saturday Stumper.

Another IY that I encountered recently was IYAM which is a texting abbreviation for "if you ask me" and is roughly synonymous with IMO.

Glimmerglass 8:06 AM  

Oddly, my first entry was LOT'S WIFE. No problem with HTS. O. has other cities with that last name (e.g. Shaker HTS). Got PIZZA right away, but didn't think of JOINT for the longest time. I liked ATTACKS on top of RETREATS. I don't know what "babes in the woods" had a question mark. Lots of fun stuff, fresh cluing, especially the long downs. Lovely Saturday!

Rex Parker 8:43 AM  

Steve J,

Yes, fittingly, I displayed my dyslexia in the write-up where I mentioned it. Ugh. I fixed it. Thank you.


Z 9:13 AM  

Just a little embarrassed that ANTIMATTER took me so long to get. Hand up for be stuck thinking dilithium crystals and that error blocking the NW for a good long time.

Unlike OFL, when I lightly penned in SET as my first answer, I immediately checked all the downs, so the Los Angeles section then the San Fran sections were the first to fall. TASTE TEST got me into the SE, so the entire left side of the middle diagonal of black was Easy for me. The north took me at least twice as long.

This is a wonderfully constructed and clued Saturday.

mathguy 9:38 AM  

It was a real challenge for me. My wife pulled me out of a hole by spotting NEWWAVE and NESS. Felt good about finishing correctly without Mr. Google although I did have help. I thought that thirteen clues were quite fresh. There were eight entries that I didn't know before. I'm a Jeopardy watcher and am sorry that I missed the SNL send ups. I agree with Danp's comment about ONEL.

joho 9:44 AM  

I got PIZZA right off the bat but took forever to see JOINT. Who knew JANE's last name much less that she even had one?

Already mentioned by @Steve J and @John Child, but worth repeating just like the clues for ATTACKS over RETREATS plus the lovely WALKONWATER INHIS steps.

I had STEELyeyeS for a brief moment.

I live in Ohio and balked at the O. Shaker would have been a neon clue, guess that's why we got the more Saturdayish Broadview.

In the end the grid was all gettable and filled with much unforgettable great stuff.

@Jeff Chen, this puzzle is a thing of beauty ... thank you!

dk 9:58 AM  

@loren (insert gush about here).

Most STEELTRAPS are rusty and little used. Just suggestin!

Red for RAW and Yaks for YAPS were my only write overs.... oh and had Alan for YURI for about 3 seconds. You know it is not often mentioned that the Russians won the space race.

🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4 Stars) Can not argue with greatness or grape nuts for that matter.

jberg 10:00 AM  

@ACME, me too with Z TILE for my last entry -- and I didn't understand it till I read your comments! I googled it (after solving, of course) and there's some kind of floor tile with sensors in it marketed under that name, so I just figured the 10 must be part of their trademark and let it go. Doh!

I used to have a TREO, but took forever to remember it while I worked through some kind of machiNe, then some kind of plaNT before I saw PIZZA JOINT. Tried dark MATTER before ANTI, STillettos (misspelled, I know) and STEEL TackS before TRAPS, dEnsE before EERIE. Just real hard to figure this one out - in fact I wasn't sure about the Z TILE/NIL crossing until I came here.

Somebody has to complain about I BAR, so I will -- but as @Rex said, some really clean fill and lots of nice answers.

Ken Aaron 10:14 AM  

I must be missing something - but shouldn't the clue for 10 down be "Smartphone SUCCEEDED by the Pre" or "Smartphone PRECEDING the Pre"? The last Treo was released in 2008. The Pre came out in 2009. I kept trying to shove "Pixi" in there and failing hard.

Anonymous 10:20 AM  

Had the W and K at 11 down and promptly started to 'go to work'...as in miracles or magic or something. That held up the NE for a period. Also, hand up for dilithium hang up. Until I remembered one of Scottie's great quotes. "Captain, the matter/anti-matter pods are fused. The warp drive engines are totally useless and I canna change the laws of physics!

Dsigruntled 10:23 AM  

Impossible. I quit. I used to be able to finish every puzzle every day of the week. I was the go-to guy for my friends -- didja get this across or that down, help! And now -- I'm still at the top of my game in everything else, but somehow the cultural frame of reference in many puzzles leaves me far behind.

Couldn't get a grip on this one.

Paul Keller 10:35 AM  

Great puzzle. As for some others, the NE held me up the longest. In my case, the hold up was my unwillingness to give up SEEDLINGS for 9D. It seemed too clever to be wrong.

HTS might have beeen a problem, except that the dubious notion that Ohio can be abbreviated O. came up earlier this year in this very same blog.

mac 10:42 AM  

Loved the puzzle, although I got hopelessly mired in the NW. Had the pizza, not the joint and the rest of that block. Too much in a rush to come here to leave it 'til later.

Hand up for yearlings and East-West dislexia. Fantastic clues for inherit and Ness, and Lot's wife was cute.

Good Saturday!

quilter1 10:48 AM  

Solved this from the SW to the NE with the NW last to fall. It took me awhile to remember that Sabu was the actor so JANE was hard to see. But very enjoyable and many aha moments today. Thanks, Jeff. Always like seeing your name.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:55 AM  

Wonderful puzzle.

Put me in the crowd that had a hard time getting past DILITHIUM. Good thing it was one letter short!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:57 AM  

(One write-over: 51 D, EYES before LYIN -- but YURI had to be right; it was my first entry.)

Nancy 11:15 AM  

This was HARD, Rex! Nothing medium about it. I had to Google the NW to complete it and still had square 28 unfilled. I NEVER cheat! I hate it when a puzzle makes me cheat! (I cheated on AMES and PAWN, PAWN being a word I'd actually thought of, but wasn't sure enough to fill in. I use a WHITE NOISE machine, but never thought of it until I cheated on PAWN. ZTILE is brilliant; all I had was the E and I was thinking of a coin like ruble or rupee. I had dense for EERIE, which I couldn't come up with even when I had the IE at the end. A real toughie.

Chad Montgomery 11:29 AM  

I also thought the NW would break me. Wanted DILITHIUM and took forever to get PIZZA JOINT. I wanted PIZZA>, but couldn't get any of the crosses; not one.

Held on to YEARLINGS for a long time. Finally kinda sorta saw OTOES / IT ISN'T / NESTLINGS / TREO fitting together with <JOINT, and down it came.

Cheerio 12:09 PM  

Hmm. I'm not getting the PAWN clue. Could somebody explain?

Sandy K 12:11 PM  

I'd be LYIN' if I wasn't ready to WAD this UP...just couldn't get the NW for a loooong time.

Had PIZZA_sIy_ all SCREWED UP- semiS for OTOES, yEarLINGS, and no idea for 6D and 10D.

And then it came to me...JANE Porter! of me Tarzan, you JANE fame...so that opened up a whole new world of OTOES, those NESTLINGS, you're right @Questina- lol- "suburban"... and in went TREO. @Acme- thought of you at Z TILE.

Excellent Sat-puz with great clues, Jeff Chen! And adding to my pleasurable solve, so glad I wasn't "Incorrect!"

bigsteve46 12:27 PM  

Is there a rule in xword puzzle land that there's some thing wrong with a "write-over?" I thought eventually having the right answer after finally putting your pen down was the point. If I didn't experiment with answers that were initially wrong, I'd never finish a puzzle. And,btw, what exactly is a "write-over" for the folks who do these on a computer - don't you need a writing instrument to "write-over?" Just askin...

Masked and AnonymoUUs 12:31 PM  

Did my fave constructor's masterpiece tag-team style. Got ZIT, then PIZZAJOINT, then OTOES. Then handed the works off to the PuzEatinSpouse, who did 3 or 4 more. Then got it back, with a heads up from her that there were several shlock movie clues to be had. Got THEDARKSIDE off the top T. Got ANTIMATTER with only the aid of the OTOES and a ZIT. Did one or to more, and handed itoff like a hot baton. Etc.

This process continued smoothly, with very few pauses for coffee swigs and cinnamon roll chomps, until the Happy Pencil sang. We owe it all to a gobsmackingly 99.9% pure, astonishingly clean, primo display of gridword buildin wizardry. QID. Bravo city, J.C.

Then had a har-dy yuk, watchin 4-Oh rant, snarl and yap at the HTS clue for most of his blog. Have seen this behavior before, from dudes fresh offa viewin Plan 9 from Outer Space. Flick plumb sucks all the sense of time and space and what might be of interest to vertebrate lifeforms right outta a person.

But even a squid knows this was a great, great SatPuz. thUmbsUp.

Anonymous 12:47 PM  

The Smart People just take the Across clues in order and fill in the squares. Doing them out of order or using any of the Down clues is not acceptable. Of course, a write-over is an embarrassment.

I, on the other hand, had 26 write-overs today; 16 of them in a block in the area of 6D - 9D.

I tend to have a fair number of write-overs because I just don't care. One write-over is easy. Two write-overs I do try to avoid because that makes a heck of a mess of the square. (I use ink.) I rarely need a second write-over.

Richard 12:51 PM  


"advance" is a chess term. I am sure that someone who knows more about chess can explain it better, but you "advance" a pawn when you move it to the the last row of the board. You then can convert the chess to any other piece, usually a queen.

Richard 12:52 PM  


"advance" is a chess term. I am sure that someone who knows more about chess can explain it better, but you "advance" a pawn when you move it to the the last row of the board. You then can convert the chess to any other piece, usually a queen.

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

@Cheerio - In chess, if a pawn reaches the last row it gets "promoted" to a queen.

Sandy M.

Richard 12:54 PM  

oops - I meant to say that you convert the "pawn" to any other piece.

Steve J 12:59 PM  

@jae: I see "associated" more broadly in the bright light of morning than I did last night. Since there's a very direct relationship between NESS and monsters, and only a second-degree relationship between NESS and mobsters, I thought they both should have been directly connected. But, since we wouldn't know about Elliot NESS were it not for his chasing mobsters, it works. Objection correctly overruled.

@Ken Aaron: That's a good question. The TREO actually dates to 2002, when it was introduced by Handspring (who merged with Palm in 2003). When I did the puzzle, I parsed the clue as the phone that preceded the Pre, but you're right that the clue is actually written to indicate the opposite chronology. Not sure what's going on there. Hopefully Jeff drops in to elucidate.

@Cheerio: In chess, if you get a pawn to your opponent's back row, you can replace it with any of your pieces that have been removed from the board. That move is called "promotion".

@bigsteve46: All a write-over indicates is "I thought it was this, then realized it was something else". Just a shorthand way of people indicating where they had missteps, and pointing out how many one has is just a way of indicating how many spots there were that were problematic because one had the wrong letters in place.

Anonymous 1:07 PM  

Had trouble in the NW due to trying to figure out a variation of dilithium that would fit.... tried pizza joint but couldn't come up with Z tile. Wanted seedlings instead of nestling. Finally got it. Harder than medium for me. -Skeptic 53

Luckies 1:08 PM  

Lovely puzzle game. My kid really enjoyed this. Awesome work.

Mohair Sam 1:19 PM  

Struggled for quite a while and then filled LOTS WIFE and for some reason the rest of the puzzle fell like it was a Wednesday. Apparently others found it fairly tough, must have hit our sweet spot.

I see @rex was annoyed with the HTS clue - once I guessed O was Ohio I had not problem. I've spent some time there and it seems like about 10% of Ohio towns are some Heights or other. Odd for such a flat state.

I have no cachet to be grading puzzle quality, but this one was really enjoyable - fun clues and very little garbage fill and proper names. A fair test.

Anonymous 1:31 PM  

Not familiar with "stiff" referring to drunkenness, except for maybe a distant "dead drunk." If there were any other tips to be had, I sure got stiffed on this one. Sober truth.

Lewis 2:34 PM  

@dk -- and up for ALAN also, and stubbornly held on to it. A big Oh Yeah when I realized why it was wrong.

I liked that all the long answers except for one consisted of more than a single word. That adds zip to the puzzle. I loved the clever cluing, such as for PAWN and ESSO. I liked ISCREWEDUP, WHITENOISE, BIODATA, WALKONWATER, TASTETEST, WADUP, THE DARK SIDE -- just so much to like here.

I like the column that reads IN HIS NITE OUZO, perhaps a cousin to TIE ONE ON.

Acme 3:18 PM  

In Will's talk in Mpls, he specifically said what he was looking for are two-three word colloquial phrase to make a puzzle sing. This certainly is a perfect example.

@mohair sam
Funny about Ohio being flat... I've never been but when i think of names, esp suburbs they do seem to be Shaker Hgts, cleveland Heights, etc tho it feels the abbrev needs the "g".

Funny about the ANTIMATTER comments, where once again ignorance (in my case) actually helped so i didn't get hung up on the whole crystal thing.

ahimsa 3:37 PM  

I liked the puzzle a lot! It was one of those puzzles that started out "I'm never going to finish this" and ended up "Wow, I actually finished it!" As others have said, so many lovely long entries, such great colloquial phrases. Kudos to Jeff Chen!

But I guess I'm the only one here who didn't care for ZTILE much. I got it after a while, and it didn't spoil the fun or anything, but I always find those ?TILE entries kind of meh. It seems that I'm in the minority since so many people loved it. I did love the tough clue for one of its crosses, "Zip around the field?" for NIL.

That whole top left section was hard for me. Hand up for having trouble seeing NESTLINGS. I wanted duckLINGS then seedLINGS (I thought that was a really good answer--nope!) but never thought of yearLINGS. And I also was looking for some kind of dilithium (maybe tri-lithium? LOL!) crystals before ANTIMATTER appeared.

As @Acme said, this is a case where having that extra Star Trek knowledge doesn't help. I've noticed the opposite in other puzzles where solvers list 3 things they thought of first and my own complete ignorance of the subject matter really helped me. :-)

ahimsa 4:06 PM  

Re: thinking of Alan first, I was lucky not to fall into that trap and wrote in YURI.

But it reminded me of a conversation I had at breakfast with my husband. I mentioned YURI as the answer and he said, "Oh yeah. And Gherman Titov was the second guy." (I hope this is correct - I had to check online because I'd already forgotten what he said this morning, not to mention how to spell it).

And I thought, who on earth remembers the second guy? But my husband was the right age to be interested in that sort of thing so of course he'd remember. :-)

Anonymous 4:45 PM  

Broadview Heights (HTS), Ohio a gimme. My nephew lives there. Outside of Cleveland.

michael 5:08 PM  

I had to do one google (Ames) to get this. Just couldn't get the nw, partly because I was trying "sheep count" instead of "white noise." When I gave up on "sheep count," I wrote in "yearling" for a down answer.

I got the se right away, but was really stuck for quite a while before having a few "ahas" and quickly filling in everything by the the nw.

Dirigonzo 6:48 PM  

I generally do well with puzzles that have totally in the language phrases for the long answers, and I nailed this one - maybe my fastest Saturday puzzle ever (not that I time myself). The answer that caused me the most grief was dry>Red>RAW at 48a (WADUP looks stranger in the grid then it sounds when said aloud). My 1st spaceman was neil but happily the long down crosswords quickly revealed YURI. My only complaint about the puzzle is that it was over too soon - not enough time to even finish my first glass of bourbon for the evening.

As to ZTILE, I regarded it as a shout-out to the Scrabble aficianados among us and was surprised it caused trouble for so many.

acme 7:02 PM  

Partially bec no one would ever say Z TILE. Except for "I'm missing the Z Tile from my bag." You would say "Z" The Z is worth 10 pts.
That was the opposite of the Star Trek thing, I know Scrabble so well, I couldn't see it bec we don't actually say it. It's like calling Berkeley UCAL! ;)

Dirigonzo 8:07 PM  

@acme - I think "...is inscribed on it" necessitates the TILE and since I already had the Z from PIZZA(something) at that point I thought it was a great clue - but I take your point that Scrabblers (is that a word?) would not usually refer to it that way. I'll be watching for UCAL in a Monday puzzle from now on!

chefbea 8:19 AM  

where is sunday's write up???

Carole Shmurak 8:46 AM  

Thanks, chefbea. I thought it was me...

B Donohue 9:00 AM  

Maybe Rex should outsource blog entries a little more often.

While I value his voice/insight/opinions, it must be a phenomenal amount of work to do the blog 365 days a year.

Rex- I hope that you are relaxing somewhere and not dealing with an emergency. Best,

Oolong 11:56 PM  

Thanks for sharing.

Dirigonzo 7:33 AM  

@rain forest, re: your late comment yesterday - love you right back. I'm always mindful that what amuses or interests me may annoy someone else and I try to avoid topics totally unrelated to the puzzle or comments. That said here's something I posted on my own blog
a couple of years ago about why I comment here every day - of course you don't have to read it if you don't want to!
Happy Saturday, everyone.

spacecraft 11:41 AM  

DNF: epic fail in the NW. Could not let go of YEARLINGS. Didn't know any (ANY!) of the other downs. "Temple imperfection" made no sense to me; sure, I thought of ZIT, but rejected it. Jeff, I've seen zits on almost every place on the face you can think of...EXCEPT the temple! I realize that on a Staurday you feel like doing more than simply "face imperfection," but really. Temple??? Nah. I throw the flag on that one.

Even reinforced by the idea of PIZZA-something, I couldn't come up with ZTILE. Now, after I see it, it's headslap city, but it just wouldn't come. Neither would the "One with promotional potential." Yes, of course, PAWN. NOW I see it. The irony is that chess and Scrabble are two of my favorite games. "Celebrity Jeopardy" is a real thing; if SNL ran a skit on it, I'm surprised they didn't get sued. And ITISNT?? Of all the stupid-sounding fill I've ever seen, that has to be the winner. I thought, "ITISNT fits--but that can't be right. Nobody would put ITISNT into a puzzle."

At least I got ANTIMATTER--after trying three times to make DILITHIUM fit. Ah, but then I remembered: DILITHIUM is simply the medium through which the fuel is aligned and focused; ANTIMATTER (actually, a matter-antimatter mixture) is the fuel itself.

Oh well, back to the drawing STEPON.

rondo 1:33 PM  

@rain forest I think I'm with your sentiments about 99.44%

@acme prove to me you don't snore

@spacecraft keep posting, I sometimes like your take

DMG 4:35 PM  

Another Saturday DNF! Lots of blanks in the NW and SE. The NW died because we have PIZZA stores, shops, and places around here. Joints are where one gets booze. Add to that no knowledge of Star Trek and thinking "causes" makes things happen and...... In the SE I was equally done in by no knowledge of the Misfits. Kept thinking of a great war movie which I just now recalled is The Dirty Dozen. Then, the across below seemed to start ISuRE, and you get the picture. Not a pretty one!

It even took me a dozen or so tries to find a Captcha I may be able to copy! Looking forward to Monday!

Just realized the Captcha is minghic: a Chinese rube?

BedfordBob 5:14 PM  

I liked the puzzle but not as much as yesterdays. I had everything except the NW pretty quickly. Put PIZZAplace in, thought maybe JOINT but still couldn't fill much in vertically except ZIT.

The last to fall was ZTILE and despite my wife being an avid Scrabble competitor it made no sense until I read it here.

I read the entire blog but still don't understand ONEL.

Waxy in Montreal 5:36 PM  

@BedfordBob, I think it refers to the first year of law school. Pretty vague though.

TAM 5:45 PM  

Where's @sanfran man? Haven't seen him lately, and I miss his reports.

rain forest 5:59 PM  

Really liked this puzzle. Tougher than yesterday's, but I got PAWN and guessed WHITENOISE, and PIZZA-something, and a few three-letter answers, and it went slowly but smoothly from there.

About yesterday's comment to @Dirigonzo, I screwed up. I didn't want to sound negative at all. I always enjoy what you have to say, @Diri. I was just in my "I only do the NYT xword" mode. Sorry.

I read your "Occupy" post on your blog, and a lot of what you said resonates with me. For some reason, I like being part of the Syndi party, sort of in the garage while the main party is in the house (and in another time). Every once in awhile, I just feel like letting off steam. I'll just be more careful the mext time that I do that.

Waxy in Montreal 6:00 PM  

Count me in with those who had major problems in the NW. JOHN before JANE (obviously confusing Burroughs characters John Carter & Jane Porter). Also, YEARLING didn't help as well as not knowing of Aldrich AMES.

OTOH, LOTS WIFE & YURI were gimmes along with RENONEVADA, HTS, ATTACKS & RETREATS (great pairing, even though I anticipated YESMAAM in 40A) and IZOD which made solving the lower half of the grid relatively straight-forward.

Overall, a fun Saturday and for the record - yes, I always read and almost always enjoy @Rex's daily commentary. Also, appreciate @Diri's efforts to enrich the cultural milieu of syndiland - thanks.

Solving in Seattle 7:04 PM  

As for "Celebrity jeopardy," if I had RtFQ I would have noticed the uncapitalized "j" and wouldn't have had such a hard time with SNL. But I still am holding my nose on that clue.

Got THEDARKSIDE with the lead "T." (Pat me on the back @Diri.)

Is a NOTE a musical production? ITISNT.
My fog was dEnsE before it turned EERIE.
Thought space was the last frontier.

When I was in law school, which was at the same time The Paper Chase came out, no one ever said the term ONEL. Ever. Or twoL, or threeL. Ever.

From my sniping you might think I didn't like this Jeff Chen puz. You're wrong. I loved it. Great clues.

@DMG, I like your Chinese hick. My Capcha was noontoti, which I believe is a snort at lunch.

Go Huskies!

Dirigonzo 7:48 PM  

@rain forest wrote, "For some reason, I like being part of the Syndi party, sort of in the garage while the main party is in the house (and in another time)." I love that image and I feel the same way. A couple of years ago someone wrote that being a syndicated solver on the blog is like showing up late to a party and all that's left is some watery punch and a drunk passed out on the couch* - I like the garage analogy better.

(*and of course I had to expound on it here.)

Solving in Seattle 8:01 PM  

@Diri, visited your blog and the term you used visavis arriving at Rex's place 5 weeks after the real timers have "picked over" the puzzle.

I love the image it evoked. Like arriving late to a Thanksgiving dinner after all the other relatives are done eating and in a tryptophan stupor on the sofa while you're staring at the turkey bones with nothing left except the neck and the ass.

Unknown 8:41 PM  

I held off on putting ESSO in because ESSO was not a result of the Standard Oil breakup. It was one of many Standard Oil brands that were replaced by Exxon.

Waxy in Montreal 9:23 PM  

@Unknown, the clue refers to the massive breakup of Standard Oil in 1911.

From Wikipedia -
The successor companies from Standard Oil's breakup form the core of today's US oil industry. They include:
Standard Oil of New Jersey (SONJ) - or Esso (S.O.) – renamed Exxon, now part of ExxonMobil.

Ginger 9:31 PM  

Beautiful puzzle which I finished with just a little help from Google. Love the 3 word contemporary phrases, and the wonderfully broad vocabulary. I think of Winnebagos as being upper Midwest, and so I put in cree. Took a bit to correct that area. since I thought OTOES had gone WEST.

@Diri, just read your 'Syndi-Blog' which was written before I found Rexville. Well said. To you, and the other 'regulars', this area in time and space has it's own flavor that is unique. Thanks to you all.

syndicate bob 9:15 AM  

@Solving in Seattle ditto your I was in law school when the movie Paper Chase came out remark. I too never heard it. One L is Harvard thing I think. Also the title of a Scott Torow memoir.

Go Ducks, good luck to your Huskies.

RCTID 4:57 PM  

I lurk a lot, comment rarely, and no one will read this since I live in syndi-land and solve a day late.... But I had to comment on the rare NYT crossword error (10D): The Palm Pre was preceded by the Treo, not the other way around!

Dirigonzo 5:29 PM  

@RCTID - "...no one will read this since I live in syndi-land and solve a day late.... " If you just read the comments immediately preceding yours you will realize that is not true. As to the Pre/Treo situation I seem to recall that the issue was thoroughly discussed in the comments for the date on which that puzzle appeared, but that wasn't this puzzle. Still good to hear from you, though!

Bananafishie 12:03 PM  

I agree wholeheartedly with 'spacecraft' on the clue for ZIT ... really awful clue that was an unfair misdirection just for the sake of adding difficulty. There must be a thousand ways to clue it without doing that. E.g., hard but fair would have been something like "Belushi impersonation?"

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