Stalin defier / SAT 12-7-13 / Keel extension / Sportscaster Nathan with star on Hollywood Walk of Fame / Onetime pop star who hosted Pyramid

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Constructor: James Mulhern

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: none

Word of the Day: SKEG (48A: Keel extension) —
skeg (or skag) is a sternward extension of the keel of boats and ships which have a rudder mounted on the centre line. The term also applies to the lowest point on an outboard motor or the outdrive of an inboard/outboard. In more recent years, the name has been used for a fin on a surfboard which improves directional stability and to a moveable fin on a kayak which adjusts the boat's centre of lateral resistance. The term is also often used for the fin on water skis in the U.S.A. and for the tail bumpers of aircraft in the US Navy. (wikipedia)
• • •

I wish beginning themeless constructors would have a close look at this puzzle, because I think it does a lot of things right. Themeless puzzles are hard to do well. If you don't construct, they seem like they'd be easier because of the lack of theme restraint—you can put whatever the hell you want in them. But the very lack of pre-determined structure can make them a formless mess in the hands of a novice (I speak as a novice themeless constructor myself, having published only one). Your temptation might be to drop the word count, because somehow that's somehow more legit, or cram the grid with Scrabbly letters, because those just look so cool. Problem—you will sacrifice overall smoothness and polish in order to clear your imaginary high bar of Cool. This grid is a 72-worder (that's the max, and thus the easiest to fill) and it's got a couple pairs of cheaters* (weird how many cheaters we've seen this past week…). So he's made it easy on himself—and with very nice results. The grid is a bit choppy and you definitely have a decent fistful of crosswordese in here, but virtually all of it is being used to hold together substantial sets of lovely, long answers. No one's going to care much about your OGEES and you LEOIs when they are proximate to big banks of solid longer answers. I'm tepid on USER NAME, but every other 8+-letter answer in this thing is a winner. BUG ZAPPER, SANDAL TAN, and BOOK SMART stand out, but the most important thing about the longer answers is that even the weakest one is strong. What's the weakest one? HAS NO IDEA? I like that. So I'll take the multiple BAAS and multiple OBIS if the end result is a smooth, interesting, EASY-GOING puzzle like this.


Four proper nouns in a row to start the Downs (all of them crossing three more proper nouns). I didn't have a problem with this, and I think the names today are colorful, but names can definitely get solvers into trouble fast. You know 'em or you don't, and when you don't, you better pray for good crosses. Actually sometimes you know 'em, sometimes you don't, and sometimes you can infer them from the pattern you've got going. I mean, even if you didn't know RA-EAU, I doubt you're going to guess ERMA STONE. Or maybe you would, but you then maybe you know enough about French names to know RAREAU is absurd. At any rate, there are ways to work through thickets of names. I didn't find this particularly thicket very thickety. Had most of my trouble in and around AIRER (because, you know … it's AIRER). Had to change SO FAR AS to AS FAR AS. Had PU-SE and still couldn't see PULSE (16A: Take it as a sign) (cute clue). OLD GEEZER feels redundant but looks too good for me to mind much. ANAIS, KAL and BPOE were all the gimmes I really needed to get my claws into this thing. All in all, an enjoyable 7+ minutes.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

*cheater squares are black squares that do not add to the word count. They make the grid easier to fill. Today, see the black square after 1A or before 63A, for example.

81 comments:

jae 12:04 AM  

Easy-medium for me too. But, except for NW more easy than medium.   Needed a lot of crosses for PROACTIV, blocked on PHELPS for a while ( I hate when that happens...you know you know it but can't quite dredge it up), RAMEAU was a WOE, had SUr for SUD until it had to be OSMOND...so, NW took about as long a the rest of it combined.  ANAIS, LEO I, and COS were gimmes and EMMA should have been except "co-star"  had me thinking Viola Davis who of course doesn't fit.

SKEG was the only other WOE. 

EMMA STONE was also terrific in "Easy A" and "Crazy, Stupid Love".

Thank you BEQ for teaching me that ELO also has something to do with chess.

Really liked this one.  It has a boat load of zip that had me smiling all the way through it.  From HAD NO IDEA to JEZEBEL to SANDAL TAN this was a fun solve!  

Very nice James Mulhern.

Joe The Juggler 12:05 AM  

Am I missing something, or wouldn't a SANDAL TAN be a sign of wearing sandals and not thongs?

Benko 12:13 AM  

@Joe--"Thong" can be a name for a sandal as well as bikini piece or underwear.
Good puzzle.

Anais Chill Movies 12:18 AM  

@Joe, I know, right? That's why had SANDytoes!!! MUCH too long.

Also had rerUN for "Air piece?" which then confused me when AIRER in that sense turned up later.

Love EASYGOING and BACKBONE JEZEBEL and ICKY.

Tsar for TITO screwed me up for a long time.

If COS had been for Bill COSby, you would have had SIX names next to each other (PHELPS, RAMEAU, OSMOND, ANAIS, COS, TITO) stemming down from a brand name.
I wouldn't exactly rave over that, but I enjoyed piecing it all together EVERSO.

(Other tough spots... I'm a former chessplayer that didn't know ELO and Harvard grad that had to did a lot of memory searching to come up with GLEECLUB. I associate that more with Yale...
And STU nearly did me in as I had HEns/HERD)

Anonymous 12:18 AM  

There is a reason these are called Crossword Puzzles--they are suppose to puzzle the mind. They are not supposed to be so logical that answers come easily. There is nothing wrong that 3 of 4 theme answers start with SQ and the 4th one doesn’t. Where is that axiom writing? Are you the sole arbiter of crossword rules? I think not! Awhile back you ranted about Max not being a classical dog name when it is the most popular dog name in America; get a grip Rex and stop your unrelenting bitch-fest.

Questinia 12:20 AM  

Peezy.

Anonymous 12:31 AM  

I gotz to say that Rex's review was very instructive.

Easy puzzle if you knew most of the trivia I suppose, but it had a nice tightness, including the repetition of two word answers.


Signed Wrecks Parka 29th greatest drycleaner's nightmare in the world

Graciekitty 12:37 AM  

I speak French, so I liked états d'âme, so much more expressive than "moods".

August West 12:50 AM  

Liked it much more than the venerable Ms. Gorski's from yesterday (which I was quite surprised to see was not just... smashed), although it took me 1:09 longer to solve. Glad MOB was inferrable from its clue, as I did not know about glacial "calving." Sparkly longs, clustered in stacks, together with some great clues, all served to temper my usual negative reaction to short crud. That said, I suppose it's too much to ask that IAMBS be banished once and for all? That said, even my groans were overridden by happy grins while working my way through this zippy, fine offering. Nice job.

Li'l help: Would someone please explain the clue for 16A? One takes one's pulse. But why/how is it a "sign?"

Oh, fer crissakes! These "new" captchas are really beginning to piss me off. If this attempt to post "takes," it will be on the fourth try....

cascokid san 1:05 AM  

A pulse is a vital sign, like blood pressure, etc.

Another 90 minute 15 google adventure,with 3 errors at the end. But I finished a Saturday. Ok you'll say I am far from finishing a Saturday. SKEGs, JIB cranes, and how many LEOs there were are things I have to look up to be sure I shouldn't erase the solution and start again. I don't know how you guys just know all this, but you do. Wow.

Please return the favor: what is BPOE and why is it a gimme?

Let's lose the new captcha, huh? Thanks.

acme 1:48 AM  

@cascokid san
Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks.
not a gimme here, so can't explain that part

August West 2:20 AM  

Thanks, cs! I knew I'd have a forehand palm-slap moment on having the obvious, yet escaping me, made clear. I kept thinking, "It's a sign of life," but just couldn't call up "vital signs" from the dark recesses.

BPOE is the abbreviation for the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, your local "Elks Lodge."

Want to "just know" mega gigs of esoteric minutiae? Keep doing crossword puzzles! Like anything else, practice and repetition breed familiarity. You see the same clues/answers all the time, over time. I'm no smarter than the average bear, but I've been doing these puzzles religiously for over 35 years. It is only because of crossword puzzles that I know important stuff like BOZ being Dickens' pen name, a "Lamb's dam" is a EWE, a NEF is a "ship-shaped clock," and AGENA a bygone type of rocket.

Also, the more you do them, the more you begin to think like the constructor (or editor), and be on guard for twisted or alternative meanings of clue words and phrases. You also become adept at "sussing out" problem areas by processes of elimination or deduction. Illustrative in this regard, see Rex's comments today re: working out RAMEAU.

35 years ago, we didn't have Google and I would have never finished this puzzle, let alone in 90 minutes. Today, I beat Rex's time. Did I get smarter over 35 years? If "smarter" be defined as "knowing more arcane stuff," then I absolutely have become smarter, which I owe largely to this pastime.

Even today, I learned something I never knew, and never would have had cause to look up but for doing this crossword puzzle. It gets easier. Much, much easier. And it's always cool to keep learning -- to "get smarter." Stick with it!

Steve J 3:12 AM  
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Steve J 3:20 AM  

Loved this. The long answers were uniformly excellent (although the NW was a tad too heavy on proper nouns; I can see some people getting stuck there), cluing was excellent throughout (I really loved the MOB clue), and the functional fill (what I'm choosing to call the short fill that holds the showcase bits together, rather than other terms that may presume its inherently dodgy) did its job perfectly, which is to not call undue attention to itself and allow good stuff to happen in key parts of the puzzle.

@cascokid san and @Acme: I interpreted Rex's comment about gimmes as being *his* gimmes, not gimmes for everyone. BPOE was, coincidentally, one of mine and definitely helped me get the NW going. (I have no idea why that's one if my gimmes; it's just one of those things I know for no apparent reason.)

@cascokid san: As @August West said, a lot of this stuff comes through practice and repetition. The more you slog through 90-minute Saturdays, the more you'll find your earlier-week puzzles coming together quicker, and you'll start seeing your Friday and Saturday puzzles come together with less and less outside assistance.

For the last several years, I was a Monday-Thursday solver only. Sometime in recent months - no more than six, but I think it's more like four - I started pushing myself to tackle every Friday and Saturday, figuring I'd never get good at theme if I didn't do them and struggle through them (most weeks for the past few years, I'd skipped them because I found them too intimidating). I've gone quickly from struggling consistently to feeling pretty comfortable. Now I'm at a point of finishing about 50% of Fridays unaided (meaning without using Google or IMDB), and I finish the occasional Saturday unaided now. Others involve much less assistance than they used to (I only had two lookups today).

Your progression may take more or less time, but it'll come. Even doing a lot of early- and midweek puzzles provides a foundation that helps tremendously with the late-week themeless puzzles, because you start seeing patterns more readily and you start being able to sniff out clues, especially the trickier ones, more easily.

Keep plugging away every day you can, and do other puzzles out there, too. You'll be surprised a few months from now how much more things are becoming second nature, and you'll keep seeing that progression over time. And it's a great thrill when you finally are able to regularly fell a Thursday puzzle or complete your first weekender without assistance.

Anonymous 3:36 AM  

Am seldom able to solve a Saturday puzzle, but keep trying them anyway. Thought this was a great puzzle, extremely fair,and my (small) DNF was certainly not the fault of the constructor. Thoroughly enjoyed this, Mr. Mulhern. Thank you.

GF

John Child 3:37 AM  
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John Child 3:40 AM  

@August Thanks so much for your gracious encouragement to @Casco. I'm two and a half years into a crossword addiction and can vouch too for the effect. I now start every puzzle expecting to finish.

Doesn't always happen tho. Today I couldn't imagine what ACNE product ended in "v" and was sure that the first name in erotica was Erica. Mr Google helped.

Learned something about pansies and cranes too, so all for the good.

jae 5:06 AM  

@casco & John Child et. al. -- I've been addicted for just over 10 years and have found that the acquisition of expertise in doing crosswords is pretty much like the acquisition of any complex skill.  The 10,000 hour rule applies. I currently do around 20 per week, but I was doing more early in the process, so  I've probably done over 15,000 puzzles. I got to the "flying solo" point about 4 years ago.  I stopped using my second crossword dictionary (I wore the first one out) and googling in 2007 when I discovered Rex and realized that there are people who actually solve these things with out any help.  For the next few years I allowed myself to ask family and friends for help (I figured humans were somehow more "authentic" than google).  As I approached the 10,000 hour point I found myself asking others less and less.  So, now I'm solving according to ACPT rules:  you alone do the puzzle and if you miss a square you don't get the extra points for a correct puzzle, i.e. DNF.   But, four years ago solving with help from friends would not have been a DNF for me. 

So, goal posts are definitely movable and practice makes...


Danp 5:41 AM  

Another request for constructors: ESE is sometimes unavoidable. But creative cluing goes a long way. In this case, ELO: not the pop band. OBIS: not hard, but cute clue. ETAL: Name-droppers abbr. led me into the land of stuffy cocktail parties.

Anonymous 7:19 AM  

I've heard about the 10k hour rule--is it Gladwell or did he just popularize it?--but I think it can be quite misleading. If someone diligently, but improperly, hits golf balls for a total of 10k hours the only thing he'll excel at is being a bad golfer

This is not to suggest that doing crosswords won't help your crossword skill because it certainly will. I just think the 10k rule can be overstated and misapplied.

Glimmerglass 7:52 AM  

Enjoyable, yes. Easy-medium, no. The names in the NW corner got me, because I had tHorPe instead of PHELPS (swimmers, both) and tinACTIVE. But even though I got the rest of the puzzle, I thought it was challenging.

Michael Collins 8:15 AM  

SANDYBUNS would have been much better than SANDALTAN.

jberg 8:26 AM  

Well, I'm in this one (20A), and then my whole family makes it at 62A, so I have to like it -- and I did. My first entry was OGEES - not only ESE, but a POC; but I was grateful for it. In addition to what's been mentioned, I liked all the ordinary phrases: TAKE OVER, EASYGOING, ON END, HAS NO IDEA. They were fit in very well, and seemed fresh. I'll accept SKEG in exchange for that.

Minor nit: I don't think geishas really 'draw' OBIS; they wrap them around and tie them.

Writeovers: basis before AEGIS, EVEn SO before eVER, BOOKworms before SMART, PLAn before PLAT, and BuGle before BB GUN. That last was devilish because of the G and the misplaced U.

@cascokid san, you've been given good advice by many here, I'll just add a tip. You don't need to know how many LEOs there were; often you get an answer without "knowing" that it is correct, just because it fits and makes sense. In this case, you probably have to know that there was more than one Pope named LEO, but you know this one is the first so you just have to trust the constructor about the other 12.

Pete 9:17 AM  

@Rex - Have you ever noticed how your "snarkiness" varies in direct inverse proportion with the quality of the puzzle? It's truly amazing. You might want to examine this with the help of a professional - it may provide some insight into your personality.

Sir Hillary 9:21 AM  

@Rex's point about this puzzle being a great tutorial on how to do a themeless is extremely well-taken.

That said, I think I have become spoiled by the vast seas of white space in NYT themelesses, especially Saturdays. So I was a bit put off by the choppiness of this one.

Favorite clue today was for DISBAR. I had DISuse for a while.

NCA President 9:22 AM  

I played peewee baseball and my team was sponsored by the local Elks lodge. we had BPOE on our uniform (bright yellow) tee-shirts...so that was a gimme.

SEENTO seems wrong to me. if I were to express that something was dealt with, I would probably try to word it as "saw TO," that is, I saw to it...not that it was seen to...that really seems inelegant to me.

As a musician, the key setting was bothersome. is there a difference between key and cay? because there should be.

BTW, Rex gave the example of figuring out RAMEAU from EMMASTONE. Being profoundly challenged in the world of pop culture, especially among women starlets in films, I actually used RAMEAU to jar some remote memory that the other actress named STONE was EMMA.

And good clue on RAMEAU...Bach is kind of in his own world and in his own time...it's him and the rest of those baroque composers.

Otherwise, relatively easy. I judge my difficulty level by the number of times I have to consult outside sources in this order: check for incorrect letters, check a dictionary, google. Today I only googled once...and it didn't help. Abercrombie design turned up lots of moose...no TARTAN.

loren muse smith 9:23 AM  
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Gritty 9:26 AM  

I've been solving for a couple years and agree with the folks above that the only way to get better at Fridays and Saturdays is to do them -- lots of them. This might just have been me, but I also found that a glass of wine before tackling one could do wonders. I tend to be a pretty linear thinker and Saturdays in particular are heavy on the playful "?"-style clues. Giving my mind a few more "degrees of freedom" proved to be really helpful. Now that I'm playing more for speed, caffeine is my drug of choice, but you've got to love a hobby where some light imbibing can actually be considered part of a training regimen!

loren muse smith 9:30 AM  

I fairly "quickly" (read just under one hour) dispatched all but the southeast. Some of my troubles:

"jaw" for JIB
"ore" for OAF
"book sorts" for BOOK SMART (and grumbling that the answer should be an adjective)
"torn" off the above T for RENT
"strapline" for SANDAL TAN
"relax" for CHILL
"Stan L_ _ _" for STALLONE

What a hot mess I created. When I finally saw DISBAR (great clue), things started straightening out.

IAMBS is an OAF of a word. Seriously. So if you throw SKEG in, do we have two OAFs of words or OAves?

What an eclectic cocktail party in the northwest. I can just hear Anaïs asking Donny about his experience on Dancing With the Stars over their KIRS. (Great puz yesterday, Liz – no internet access until too late. I used to love KIRS.)

KEDS, PUMA, VAN – remember the skateboard craze? My son *had* to have a pair of VANs. He also had this hair gel, Ice Spiker Wicked Grip, and once his bangs were sticking straight up and liberally gooed up with this stuff, he could have easily impaled small mammals with the DO.

Rex is so right about constructing themelesses. It's counter-intuitive that they're, well, impossible to construct. Fresh out of brilliant theme ideas that are regularly, politely "thanks but no thanksed," I sat down a few months ago to try a themeless. I had GREAT WHITE SHARK (Byron Walden can tell you without hesitation that that's a 15) crossing SURREPTITIOUSLY and pretty much called it a day.

How cool to learn about glacier "calves!!" What a weird term. I mean, who gets to coin this stuff? I witnessed a glacier in, uh, labor (when I was on a ferry headed to Cordova, Alaska to "find my BACKBONE" and I'm not making that up. Sheesh. Insufferable youth.) I tried to find a good youtube clip to share what for me was the most remarkable thing about watching a calving – It. Was. So. Loud. The people in the clips are all yelling too much for you to appreciate how loud it is.

So if you see a bunch of little BERG calves, is it a HERD? Pod? Clutch? School? Brood? Again – who gets to come up with this stuff? Little-known fact – a group of PUMAS is called a PULSE. (@M&A – a group of pewits is called a GLEE CLUB.)

BUG ZAPPER – terrific entry! A couple of months ago, someone showed me a picture of a jumping spider with a ridiculous water droplet hat. Upon further investigating, I learned that lots of these spiders sport water hats. I was never a spider-hater to begin with, but somehow this revelation has made me much more loath to kill a bug. I mean if they wear hats, maybe they have a soul?

spider hats

People are talking about their personal "cheating/finishing" policies – I have a blogging policy I stick to almost 100% of the time – I write my comments, read Rex, read the other comments, amend my post to respond to some people, and then post it. After that, I sometimes go to Fiend and always now to Chen. (So just if you ever wonder if I noticed that brilliant cross or other remarkable observation or just copied from Amy, I didn't copy.) Anyway, since Rex intimated that this was James' themeless debut, I checked XWord Info. Wow, James – very, very nice themeless. Well done!

Andrew Morrison 9:34 AM  

I am vaguely aware of EMMASTONE, although I wouldn't recognize her in a police lineup. Never heard of RAMEAU but it sounds right. I thought I was struggling but ended up about about 33% q uicker than average so I guess it was easy. All in all a fun, fair puzzle (ie no HINKAJUJUGIRLS or whatever they were!)

joho 9:44 AM  

This puzzle is truly lovely and totally fresh. I just had a few sticky spots where I spelled VENDORS wrong with an "e", soFARAS like @Rex and SANDALToe (thinking it was a condition like hammertoe). SANDALTAN is so much nicer! But all fell into place and happiness ensued. Finishing a Saturday correctly never gets old.

The cluing was great, too. Loved Open love? for ZERO.

I agree with @Rex's write-up wholeheartedly!

Bravo, James Mulhern, and thank you for your beautiful Saturday creation!

Knitwit 10:02 AM  

Could someone explain 43D? A quick read of comments didn't seem to discuss and I feel like a bit of a dimwit not "getting " this.

loren muse smith 10:09 AM  

@Knitwit - my favorite clue/answer of the puzzle I forgot to mention - you comb or brush out mops of hair to transform them into hairDOS.

AliasZ 10:11 AM  

There is much to like about this super-clean puzzle, a little too easy for me. I think Will Shortz should have followed his instincts and made this one a Friday instead. I loved all the long trip-stacks, OLD GEEZER [me] and BOOKSMART crossing the threes running in the down direction. They are all impeccable. I liked the EASY-GOING BUG ZAPPER, it almost made me BREAK INTO song about an OLD GEEZER without a BACK BONE, who also HAS NO IDEA.

A few observations (rather than critique):

- The names. There are seven of them stuck in the NW. Also JEZEBEL, STU and STALLONE, plus with a little stretch: COS as in Bill Cosby, VAN Johnson, BERGS (Alban and namesakes), USERNAME, OLD GEEZER [Are you calling me names?], an almost-mention of @Aegis Cos Mob with ACNE, ETAL.
- A's. SANDALTAN, ASFARAS, TARTAN, BAAS. Abracadabra, Maharaja Mahatma had a banana. What more can I say?
- Word count. I was surprised at the high number of shorts (3-4 letters), pushing the total word count to 72. I do not consider this very endearing for a themeless on Saturday, unless it serves the purpose of an exceptionally open, visually pleasant grid. This was not one.

RAMEAU and ANAÏS a space apart suggested this obvious musical choice: Orchestral excerpts from the opera NAÏS by Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764), who was two years older than J.S. Bach but outlived him by 14 years.

A terrific second effort, Mr. Mulhern. Your next one will be a sparkler, guaranteed.

Z 10:18 AM  

Let's see - stuff I didn't know: RAMEAU, EMMA STONE was in "The Help," ETATS d'âme, Johnny-jump-up, STU Nahan, SKEG, PHELPS was on Wheaties as early as 2004, OSMOND hosted 'Pyramid," Abercrombie is something other than a clothing store my offspring make fun of, Harvard has a Glee Club. Then there is stuff I only know from doing xwords: LEO I through XIII, OGEES, OBIS (the shortness of this second list speaks to the quality of the puzzle). Puzzles where one actually knows all the answers aren't much fun.

What OFL said. Good, clean fun. I did have my hopes up that 61A would be less than clean, but the disappointment at uncovering SANDAL TAN was minor. Finished with an error. I didn't go back and change OAt to OAF. I knew it was wrong at the time, but didn't spend any time there because I still had a big white corner in the NW. I forgot to back and suss it out. I would have never known I had the error if I hadn't read @LMS' post.

@Pete - Har! Exactly. I used to be amused by the armchair psychoanalysts. Then bemused. Now I find those comments mostly annoying and try really hard to just ignore them.

Nancy 10:21 AM  

I also liked the clues for ZERO, PULSE, DOS and DISBAR. I also didn't know that little BERGS were calves. Calves????? I also thought there were too many proper names in the NW. Guess I agree with just about everyone on everything.

Bill from FL 10:30 AM  

Rex's comment on themeless puzzles reminded my wife of the old controversy over free verse as a form of poetry. This is from the Wikipedia entry:

Some poets have considered free verse restrictive in its own way. In 1922 Robert Bridges voiced his reservations in the essay 'Humdrum and Harum-Scarum.' Robert Frost later remarked that writing free verse was like "playing tennis without a net." William Carlos Williams said "being an art form, verse cannot be free in the sense of having no limitations or guiding principles". Yvor Winters, the poet/critic said 'the free verse that is really verse, the best that is, of W.C. Williams, H. D., Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, and Ezra Pound is the antithesis of free '

Mohair Sam 10:32 AM  

Great Saturday puzzle! Insisting on Ore for OAF moved this from easy to medium for us. Amazing how much time a two letter mistake can cost you.

Very informative write-up from @Rex, thanks. And we were nearly naticked at the "M" in RAMEAU and had used exactly Rex's logic in rejecting "r" in favor of "M" - Rareau just didn't sound right to one who had a couple of years of French.

mac 11:02 AM  

Beautiful puzzle, a real Saturday, but my problem area was in the SE, everything else was pretty easy.
Sandy feet, oir and oil for oaf, self for zero made that more than medium.

We have a friend who is an Elk, but then he will join any organization that will let him wear a uniform.
Apparently some translate B.P.O.E. into Best People on Earth.

mac 11:03 AM  

Of course that would be ore, not oir.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:06 AM  

Good puzzle with some tricky clues.

Only write-over, shared with others, SO FAR AS before AS FAR AS.

cascokid san 11:34 AM  

Thanks @acme, @AugustWest, @jae, @johnchild, @Steve J and @jberg for the encouragement. I've been at it daily since July and can feel some improvement over time. For instance, OGEE is part of my vocabulary now, although it does draws strange looks.

Also, I'm delighted every time ORONO makes an appearance. It is one bit of xwese that I already knew, albeit for geopolitical reasons.

More on today's puzzle: a better clue for 62A "there are more of them after calving" or is that a Wednesday clue?

ZenMonkey 11:37 AM  

A fun workout with lots of tasty answers. Never heard of a SKEG or a PLAT before, so it was educational as well.

OGEES is one of those answers that pops up a lot yet each time I think "Oh jeez, I should know this." I liked the sonorous proximity to OLD GEEZER

retired_chemist 11:38 AM  

"Four proper nouns in a row to start the Downs (all of them crossing three more proper nouns)...... You know 'em or you don't, and when you don't, you better pray for good crosses."

The NW was my Waterloo today. When I needed acne cream Proacvtiv wasn't on the market AFAIK. Nor did my kids use it. Had annA STONE and dAiSY, which obscured PHELPS and OSMOND. HTG to be sure of PROACTIV and the learn it was EMMA STONE, then it all fell into place. Too much dependence on proper nouns in that area IMO, but otherwise a fair and well done Saturday challenge for this OLD GEEZER.

Tried to remember which was the first American state to ratify the Constitution (Delaware) but couldn't abbreviate it in 4 letters. Turned to Popes and - voilà! I always remember how many LEOs there were from the movie Saving Grace,featuring Tom Conti as the fictional Pope Leo XIV. There was a Conclavist Antipope Leo XIV in 2006-2007 whom we won't count.

Had MAE WEST for JEZEBEL. Hall of fame error IMO..... StEm, which I believe does need to be attached to the keel, for SKEG, not so much. Nor BiG diPPER for BUG ZAPPER. [Really!]

Thanks, Mr Mulhern. Medium-challenging at 1:45 AM and tons of fun.

Susan McConnell 12:04 PM  

On the easy side AS FAR AS Saturdays go. I knew neither LEOI nor RAMEAU, and the intersecting E was the last letter to go in. Still unsure of what LEOI is. Lots and lots of fun long answers though!

AliasZ 12:06 PM  

A few alternate clues occurred to me:

BPOE: Lesser verses of Ulalume's creator.
BOOKSMART: Bazaar dealing in novels and such.
PROACTIV: Supporter of Aida's closing scenes.
RAMEAU: Cologne that smells like urine of male sheep.
TARTAN: Sailor's sunburn.
OGEES: "Wow, gosh!"
IAMBS: Je suis merde du taureau (Eng., for short)
GLEECLUB: Baseball bat used to beat happiness into people.
TAKEOVER: 180° from "give below."

Dis EASY GOING guy sitting on a stool in DISBAR says to the bartender, "LEOI beg of you, give me another BAAS ale, this time from thi SKEG" and points to a fresh one just rolled in. "Mine is PLAT and ICKY." To which Leo says: "I just gave you one." "OBIS o kind and pour me another. True, I just had one, YETI need another. You know you only RENT beer, the last one I deposited in the STALL,ONE behind that door in the corner. And while at it, throw a couple of BERGS on the grill, with an OAF of bread and a bowl if CHILL."

Just then the door swings open and in walk the Tan brothers: Al (short for Alfonse) and S (nobody knows what it is short for, they just call him "S"), affectionately known in the neighborhood as S-AND-AL-TAN. One of them (I think it was S) walks over to the jukebox, EVERSO gingerly drops a quarter in and selects this hit by TITO Puente.

ASFARAS I know, a great time was had by all, as I hope you all will this weekend.

Carola 12:07 PM  

O, GEE this was EVER SO hard for me, but what a fine puzzle! I tell you, I was never so glad to see OGEES, ANAIS, BAAS, and OAF (I've gotta remember about LEO) in order to BREAK INTO the grid. Loved seeing BUGZAPPER, SANDAL TAN, BOOK SMART, JEZEBEL, ETATS come into focus.

NW was the toughest for me, too, although I knew RAMEAU - no idea about EMMA STONE, thought "shrugs" would be "... at sEA"; went back and forth between PANSY and dAiSY about ten times. Anyway - felt lovely to finish. Great Saturday workout for me.

Tita 12:19 PM  

An extremely rare Easy Saturday for me! Never time myself, but started at breakfast and was done in time to go get a Christmas tree at the local Boy Scouts' sale.

Knew SKEG from my windsurfing days.

@August - not sure if it helps you, but the captchas are NOT case sensitive - one less thing to worry about.

@cascokid - what the others said... do the puzzles as often as you can, and come here for every one - not only for Rex, but for all the amazing commenters. I NEVER got more than about 5 words in a Saturday puzzle not that long ago.

Hah - @LMS - HOTMESS was a much discussed answer a ways back... I remember it was a great puzzle, with lots of good answers, but that's all I remember...

Oh, what an OAF I am - reading the last comment made me realize I DNF!!!!! :(
PLAn for PLAT... How ICKY. I will now BREAKINTO some sad ETATS d'âme. Maybe I'll CHILL and decorate the tree...TADA!!

Congrats, Mr. Mulhern, and thanks.

Tita 12:25 PM  

@August - you also need only enter the wavy CAPTCHA word - of course, that's the tough one, but there you go.
I guess we're back to helping them improve their digitizing of books...(and the NYTimes archives, btw)...
I don't mind helping out with that, as the books are made available for free, and making books even more accessible is a noble thing.

Much better than helping them to read my house number, which they then sell to anyone who wants MY data.

(google 'wiki recaptcha'.)

Sandy K 12:35 PM  

This was not EASY GOING for me either... a few mis-directs like Ore for OAF, Jaw for JIB and naTO before TITO- uy!

I was not familiar with this def. of BERGS, SKEG, KAL or STU, YET I was able to UNDO my little messes and finish. TADA! 'Really' due to the constructor- since he made it all gettable.

Nice ONE, Mr. Mulhern.

Sunday 12:38 PM  

OMG! Patrick Berry tomorrow!

btw - anything works for the readable captcha word, including numbers. Can't wait to read a digitized book full of numbers instead of words.

Anonymous 12:38 PM  

LEO I was first of 13 popes.

Anonymous 12:41 PM  

Besides some risqué nouns following SANDY for 61-A, I considered SANDYFEET for a long time before realizing it would never work. Still seems a better answer than SANDALTAN.

Benko 1:08 PM  

I can't be the only person who confidently entered HANDEL for RAMEAU.
Never heard the expression "états d'âmé" but the literal translation "states of soul" makes sense.
@gritty--One drink can be helpful in loosening up the mind, you're right. Last year I did the ACPT for the first time and was kicking myself over making a stupid mistake in the second puzzle. Went to the bar and had a pint of Guinness over lunch. My times for the next three puzzles were far better, relatively speaking, than those of the first three. Like spinach for Popeye, I guess!

lawprof 1:11 PM  

I always approach the Saturday puzzle with a certain amount of trepidation; I DNF most of the time. So finishing without error today makes my weekend.

Writeovers: naTO/TITO; basIS/AEGIS; insofAr/ASFARAS; latch/OCEAN (thinking key referred to, oh, you know).

Lots of zippy, clean, fun fill. Good job, Mr. Mulhern.

(The kaptchas today are harder than the puzzle).

jae 1:28 PM  

Just to clarify, the 10000 hour rule assumes that you have an aptitude for what ever expertise you seek, i.e. the bell curve applies. You won't get good at something unless the hard wiring, physical coordination.. that you need to succeed is already there. Perspiration is essential but...

ahimsa 1:43 PM  

@Rex, I enjoyed your write-up today, thanks!

My only quibble (purely subjective) is that you didn't mention PROACTIV as one of the lowlights. For me it's a bit ugly to start a themeless puzzle with the name of a medicine. The ACNE cross-reference at 25 across didn't help much.

It's not a personal issue (never had ACNE, e.g.) and it did not prevent me from finishing. I got the name eventually, probably a vague memory from seeing their commercials. It was just not my cup of tea.

The puzzle was fun so I hope this does not sound like a serious complaint! I enjoyed the clever clues and so many of the other entries like OLD GEEZER, BUG ZAPPER, BOOK SMART, etc.

RE: SANDAL TAN, I have never heard of that phrase but the idea seems fine. I wanted "tan lines" when I read the clue but it didn't fit. I've heard of a farmer's tan, and even a sailor's tan, but SANDAL TAN is new for me.

bhikkubum 2:37 PM  

A good Saturday puzzle. The proper names required more googling than usual.

LaneB 3:05 PM  

NW completed, but the rest of the clues much too subtle or tricky for me . So I threw in the jock early and moved on with the rest of my [quite cold for Sausalito) day. Hope for a more satisfying Sunday. Congrats to all who found this one "easy."

retired_chemist 3:07 PM  

Just saw the first PROACTIV commercial I can recall. How timely. Or, maybe they have been on programs I watch and I never noticed them before today's puzzle.

R. McGeddon 3:12 PM  

From the OED, it seems that the use of "calf" for a small iceberg simply came from sailors' talk. Not a surprise, since sailors have always used language in a colorful way.

PLAT was totally new to me.

Anonymous 3:21 PM  

I enjoyed it overall, but I call serious BS on the OGEES/BPOE crossing, having never heard of either of those.

retired_chemist 4:07 PM  

@ Anon 3:21 - bad call. Both OGEES and BPOE are familiar to a good number of this crowd IMO. You don't know either, and that happens to all of us sometimes. Just learn them for next time.

mac 4:20 PM  

@Benko: I thought of Handel, too.

Seeing -IV at the end of 1A I thought 28A had to be pretty serious….

Anonymous 4:38 PM  

Thanks for the clarification jae.

sanfranman59 6:03 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 5:43, 6:07, 0.93, 19%, Easy
Tue 8:18, 8:12, 1.01, 57%, Medium
Wed 10:50, 9:52, 1.10, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 19:17, 17:47, 1.08, 66%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 13:44, 19:17, 0.71, 7%, Easy
Sat 23:22, 26:56, 0.87, 22%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:40, 3:46, 0.97, 31%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:46, 5:01, 0.95, 31%, Easy-Medium
Wed 6:26, 5:49, 1.11, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 10:32, 10:07, 1.04, 57%, Medium
Fri 7:50, 11:12, 0.70, 7%, Easy
Sat 13:21, 17:17, 0.77, 9%, Easy

Notsofast 6:03 PM  

Now that's how to do it. Beautiful, smart, clever and fun. It was hard to get a toehold, but once I did, I had a blast!

gifcan 6:38 PM  

I knew PLAn and ETAL but didn't know PLAT and EnAL. I fuessed wrong and got the big DNF.

Johnny-jump-up, to me, is hard, Irish cider. Johnny Jump Up

Dirigonzo 6:39 PM  

I'm a Type B (EASYGOING) and I breezed through this i8n my leisurely fashion until I had all but the NW section complete, and Rex's write-up on that section was prophetic: "I mean, even if you didn't know RA-EAU, I doubt you're going to guess ERMA STONE. Or maybe you would, but you then maybe you know enough about French names to know RAREAU is absurd." I did guess ERMASTONE but RArEAU didn't seem absurd to me, so I finished with OWS, which on a Saturday I call a total victory.

okanaganer 6:57 PM  

Enjoyable puzzle; I would have finished a lot quicker if I hadn't fallen into a couple of traps through bad luck. I bypassed the NW and ended up getting ACNE (well, getting the word, not the disease), so immediately jumped up to 1A and confidently typed in TINACTIN. Much, much later, struggling to finish off that pesky NW corner, it dawned on me that Tinactin is for something else. It fit so well with ANAIS, COS, TITO, and IDOL, it just had to be right!

Dolgoruky 7:36 PM  

I worked hard at this one, but I got it (Yippee!). For some reason, I had trouble with the SW, even though I had "sandal tan" figured out from very early on. I liked Rex's review of this puzzle very much. Unlike some of the people who write comments here, I don't think Rex complains too much. I just wish people who design crosswords would listen to us fans and get their acts together a bit more.

Joe The Juggler 8:00 PM  

At Benko:

I was talking about the difference between two types of footwear: thongs and sandals. I don't agree that the former is a type of the latter. Thongs are "flip-flops" and sandals are closed with a series of straps going across the foot. (The tan lines would be very different.)

Anyway, I'm not complaining that it was a difficult answer to get.

Dirigonzo 8:31 PM  

I feel compelled to take note that today is December 7, Pearl Harbor day - "A date that will will live in infamy" - or maybe Check this out
not. It seems worth mentioning.

meg k 8:37 PM  

This is the first Saturday I've ever completed without outside help. Put me in a great mood all day. I wonder if my daily ETATS d'ame rely too much on crossword success or failure.

Knitwit 12:00 PM  

Thanks!!!!!!

spacecraft 11:18 AM  

Talk about your education via crossword. Here's a list of things this OLDGEEZER HASNOIDEA about:

RAMEAU
EMMASTONE
SKEG
calves: little BERGS? Really?
ELO as other than a rock group
KAL Penn??
And finally: SANDALTAN? That's not a thing, that has to be a made-up phrase to fit in this grid.

Tell ya the truth, I don't know how, with all these WOEs and with Saturday-brutal cluing, I managed to get this done, with no lookups and not even a writeover. I know I made several leaps of faith--"Wow, could THAT really be it??"--which turned out to be, um, it. Call me vastly lucky. The rating of easy-medium is a joke. I'm not laughing.

Oh, and "Nonstop" would be NOEND, not ONEND. That little hiccup stalled me for a while in the SW. But then that was only STALLONE.

Hey, if you're gonna throw tomatoes, could you make them fresh ones?

@Diri, looks like you crossed over. We will miss you here in Syndiland.

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

Thanks Mr. Mulhern for an easy Sat puzzle. Easy but delicious. I jump all over the grid on the newspaper, and when everything falls into place - with only one lookup - it's a real pleasant way to start the day.

Ron Diego 8:35 PST 1/11/14

Ginger 12:09 PM  

Haven't done the puz yet, but want to weigh in with
GO HAWKS

rain forest 3:34 PM  

This must be an excellent puzzle! Just like @Spacecraft, there were so many opaque areas, that I thought I would DNF, but the clever cluing, and some intuitive leaps got me through. It was almost as if the constructor was guiding my pen/mind as I went along.

Perhaps the grid is chopped up, but I found the overall solve very smooth, even with several words or people I didn't know. I have heard the term "calves" applied to large chunks of iceberg that drop off, somewhere.

A nice Saturday which started off challenging, but ended up medium.

Dirigonzo 6:47 PM  

@Spacey - sorry, no such luck. I do the Saturday puzzle in real time because my local rag doesn't publish on Saturday, so no syndi-puzzle and I have to shell out $2.50 (now plus state sales tax in Maine) for the NYT to get my daily puzzle-fix. The rest of the week you're still stuck with me, though.

Ginger 7:46 PM  

Weird looking grid, but I really enjoyed this puzzle. It's rare for me to finish a Saturday, but this one must have been in my wheelhouse.

Surprised that STU Nahan hasn't generated more complaints. He was a sportscaster in LA, oh so many years ago, and this is the Times of New York.

SANDALTAN is a real thing. I've had one, and it sure looks dumb when you wear a sandal with a different strap configuration.

I've played a lot of BlackJack at a BPOE Lodge, and even won on occasion.

Love the clue for ZERO, @DMG The Australian Open is coming up soon.

@August West 2:20 Thanks for the very apt description of crossnerding, and why so many of us are addicted to it.

Way to go Hawks! But it sure wasn't easy. Phew

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