Strawberry, for one / SAT 2-1-14 / "The Wizard of Oz" farmhand / He wrote of a "vorpal blade"

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Constructor: Will Nediger

Relative difficulty: Not that tough for a Saturday


Word of the Day: EMIL NOLDE [Member of the German Expressionist group Die Brücke]
Emil Nolde (7 August 1867 – 13 April 1956) was a German Danish painter and printmaker. He was one of the first Expressionists, a member of Die Brücke, and is considered to be one of the great oil painting and watercolour painters of the 20th century. He is known for his vigorous brushwork and expressive choice of colors. Golden yellows and deep reds appear frequently in his work, giving a luminous quality to otherwise somber tones. His watercolors include vivid, brooding storm-scapes and brilliant florals.
Nolde's intense preoccupation with the subject of flowers reflect his continuing interest in the art of Vincent van Gogh. [Wikipedia]
• • •
Another good freestyle, more Scrabbly than yesterday's. I took a stab at ON-SITE for 6-Down [Like some inspections] as my first answer but that turned out to be RANDOM. Slow start continued when I couldn't come up with BARBARA BUSH for [Her 1994 memoir has the chapter "Desert Storm"] even with six of the letters including the initial B. AQABA didn't fool me, though -- I sensed the Q up there and there it was.

More high-value entries all over: YOUR MAJESTY, OLIVE GARDEN and UNDEREXPOSE are a nice trifecta along the bottom, with JAX tying it all together.  FLEX TIMER, L.A. LAKER, almost symmetrical ERIK SATIE and ERICA KANE. That last one is the Susan Lucci character, and Ellen Ripstein was the "Susan Lucci of crosswords" for many years because she made it to the ACPT finals something like a dozen times without winning and Lucci was nominated for a daytime Emmy some similar number of times without success. But Ellen won the event in 2001 and Lucci eventually won too.

  • Needed every crossing for EMIL NOLDE but an interesting and prominent artist is the kind of thing you're glad to learn from a crossword.
  • The German word for "bridge" is "Brücke" and it makes two appearances in clues today: once under the EMIL NOLDE clue, and once in the clue for KOLN [Severinsbrücke's city]. But we call that city Cologne in English so the clue should've had an indicator for that. UPDATE: Wrong. As NDE points out in comments, the German word for bridge is the indicator. Entschuldigung.
  • Let's give this themeless the Worst-5-Entries test we tried yesterday: F-STAR, MANA, OBES, RRR and AVI. Not bad at all.
  • I like cluing MADONNA classically ["___ With the Long Neck" (Parmigianino painting)] instead of referencing the pop icon.
  • I wasn't done with good fill: WE DID IT, ALARM BELL, BETAMAX, always good to mention Lewis CARROLL, and LEADS IN.
  • Echoes of earlier in the week: Fibonacci made Monday's puzzle, and today he's used to reference his hometown of PISA. We also see MADCAP as an entry for the second time this week.

"I alone keep this tower standing!"

So now this is what I will call the best puzzle of the week, overtaking yesterday. Can Sunday beat them all? I happen to know who wrote it and he's very good. One of his puzzles was recently nominated for Crossword of the Month at my blog. So we'll all find out tomorrow. Pisa out.

Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent for two more days of CrossWorld


Norm C. 11:49 PM  

The east side of the diagonal went down in less than five minutes. The west side, not so much. Never heard of Emil Nolde. Couldn't recall Erica's last name, but all were gettable by fair crosses.

Some nice stacked elevens with very little junk in the corners.

And MADCAP! It seems as if it was just yesterday... There it is: last Tuesday. What a MADCAP week!

And it's a pangram. A smooth unforced one, too, IMO.

Happy February, everyone.

Noam D. Elkies 12:19 AM  

German Severinsbrücke seems sufficient to clue German Köln as opposite to French Cologne.

The best-known work of 13D:ERIK_SATIE is not the Gnossienes but the First Gymnopédie.


Matt Gaffney 12:22 AM  

Duh, good point.

cascokid san 12:44 AM  

This time I tried without googling for 75 minutes. What a mess. DOCENT went in early but came out when I couldn't cross it. lADyaNn for MADONNA, because without certitude, any credible fill goes. Had bonN for KOLN, again, as the first four letter German city I could think of. Pressed hard to make each of those wrong fills (and many others) work. Ugh.

Finally googled for MADONNA, ZEKE, ESTES, WAYNE, EMILNOLDE, MANA and CARROLL, which settled enough ambiguity that I could suss out the rest of the puzzle in another 30 minutes. I'll call them all Naticks, except for CARROLL, which was a total fake out: Jabberwocky's well-known vorpal sword was switched for Alice in Wonderland's totally obscure (to me) vorpal blade, so I switched CSLEWIS in for Lewis CARROLL in my mind, which I'm inclined to do even on the best days. Nevermind that CARROLL wrote both Alice and Jabberwocky. Clearly I was appealing to Narnia. #DopeSlap

So I'm a DNF by a mile. Hard puzzle. Impossible without several points of certitude.

So I'm ready to hear how easy it was. . .

Anonymous 12:45 AM  

Not that difficult for a Saturday because you knew most of the trivia? This puzzle is loaded with knowledge based questions, overly so IMHO.

Questinia 12:49 AM  

I was a teenage DOCENT who now EXFOLIATES* regularly, loves EMIL NOLDE, plays ERIK SATIE, and has read Melanie KLEIN. So, Gimme Central.
An easy puzzle but enjoyable.

Something very yummy about EQUIVALENCE over FASCINATION... which is then considerably rendered less so with the baby blue and gray coating of BARBARA BUSH.

MADCAP-MOMMY-MAMBA-MADONNA-MARLENE is mellifluously concupiscent. Well, not really. But kind of. Sideways.

Elegant: Subject to change- FLUID. Like a string of pearls.

* I use besan (chickpea flour)

okanaganer 12:55 AM  

I screwed this one up, and it's all Prince's fault. No, not the one you might "bow low" to, the other Prince:
"She wore a Strawberry BERET..."
Okay, so 40A was "Raspberry", not strawberry. But it seemed to work:
36A: EMIL NOLOE (sounds plausible)

This was a good puzzle, although I didn't like it quite as much as yesterday's, mainly because I had to guess at so many crossings of names like ERICA KANE / CARROLL / EMIL / ZEKE, although I did eventually get them.

okanaganer 12:56 AM my raspberries and strawberries mixed up there.

AliasZ 12:57 AM  

What a beautiful puzzle by Will Nediger. Polite, cultured and reverent. A DOCENT shows us around to see oil paintings by EMIL NOLDE and Parmigianino, whose MADONNA dal collo lungo is captivating in her graceful elegance. Not being familiar with these artists, it was with great FASCINATION that I learned about them, and found a new niche to explore. After such a beautiful visit to the museum, we DESERVE better than OLIVE GARDEN or a HAM OMELET.

What else? I shouldn't BROADCAST that my brain was UNDEREXPOSEd for ERICA KANE or Melanie KLEIN and did not remember ZEKE from "The Wizard of Oz," but I got them from the zigs and ZAGS of crosses. I was able to MANA...MANAGE this beaut without any help, and without needing to EXFOLIATE afterwards. We had AQABA a week ago, so it was easy after I had the Q from EQUIVALENCE. BARBARA BUSH, BETAMAX, PISA and a couple of others were easy gimmes, giving me AHEAD start. But _STAR was no help to figure out what was intended by "subject to change" until I had __UID. Stars may be class O, B, A, F, G, K, M, L, T, Y, C, S, etc. etc. The only thing I'd like to add is that if you ever see a MAMBA, ring the ALARM BELL and hightail it outta there.

Favorite clue: "Persian language unit." Favorite entries: FLEXTIMER and YOUR MAJESTY.

Here are the beautiful Trois gnossiennes by ERIK SATIE. They have no time signature or bar lines. They are deeply melancholic, yet the sun shines through and exudes a warm, quiet, peaceful and relaxing atmosphere found in no other composer's works quite like his. I strongly urge you to also listen to his Gnossienne No. 4, 5 and 6. You won't regret it.

Enjoy your weekend.

jae 12:58 AM  

Easy-medium for me.  Solid Sat. but not as much fun as yesterday's.   Only a couple of erasures:  nyMET for EXMET and UNIte for UNIFY.   Did not know EMIL NOLDE or KLEIN.  So, liked it fine just not much of a wow factor.

@casco - Successfully navigating crosswords is actually kinda intuitive.  Humans are hard wired to classify/categorize/look for and recognize patterns.  We do it more or less automatically.  So, the more puzzles you do (the harder the better) the better you get at it, given you have an aptitude for it.  The 10000 hour rule (Malcolm Gladwell - Outlier) is likely true for crosswords.

John Child 1:12 AM  

EMIL(someone), EXMET, MEW, (random-letter)STAR, psychoanalysis ??EIN, and BonN for KOLN made the south much harder for me than he north. I finally saw that Bonn couldn't be right and knocked down the rest.

A little quicker for me than most Saturdays at 45 minutes, but my times are coming down as I get more practice. @casco: I'm another relatively novice solver, about a year ahead of you I think. Hang in there. I find that perseverance helps: when you feel stumped give it another few minutes. Something often reveals itself and opens up another answer. When you need google, look for one search that will help you with the most crosses and then plug on from there.

cascokid san 1:22 AM  

@jae - The Gladwellian wisdom is well taken. He, and you, are almost certainly right. Sooner or later, or in about 9500 more hours, I won't need EMILNOLDE handed to me to be able to see its crosses. I'll see its crosses, then I'll meet old EMIL. I look forward to that day.

I've been staring at MEW trying to think of a word or two of Urdu that might help make sense of a "Persian language unit" when my Maine Coon came along and purdled to be let out. OK. I get it now. ;)

chefwen 1:30 AM  

@Cascokid - I too struggled with this one. Even after my minor Googlefest I ended with a bunch of white stuff in the NW and SE. I'll blame my absentee puzzle partner, yeah, it's all his fault!

Likening Uno's to Olive Garden seems like a bit of a stretch to me.

@Matt has dangled a Sunday carrot, hope it's as fun as he says.

I skip M-W 2:01 AM  

Very easy for this old timer. The only WOE was Erica Kane, and I even wondered briefly if it might be Erica Jong, supposing that the zioless fuck made her persona non grata on network TV. But crosses made it come out right if still mysteriously.

Barbara Bush a gimme to start off. For what other woman would Desert Storm possibly be a memoir chapter only in '94?

Watts = volt-amperes a gimme for anyone who's taken, much less taught freshman physics.

I'm not sure Parmagianino would have given his painting that title, since it was just his mannerist style to make necks long.

jae 3:06 AM  

@casco - In the interest of full disclosure (and I've admitted this before on this blog) I wore out two crossword dictionaries (they literally broke apart) and did a massive amount of googling during the initial stages of those 10000 hours.  How else are you going to learn?  I also recommend Amy's book -- see the Fiend website on Rex's list of other blogs.  I currently do around 20 a week not counting Peter Gordon's book of very tough NY Sun puzzles I keep in my car for long traffic lights.  Practice practice....

Aqaba Carroll Majestys 3:06 AM  


Hard hard hard but doable and fun!
Interesting the return of the MAFCAP AQABA...and Fibonacci yet again!

Even tho I loved the pangram to death (esp because I was stuck with an empty SE but knew there had to be a J, so YOURMAJESTY/JAX finally cracked it.

Masterfully made, but what I didn't like was you have 225 squares, only 26 Black squares, so 199 letters more than 100 squares were devoted to proper names and that is way way way too much.

I love names and even I found it way too much...but can't decide if having full names:
ERICAKANE, ERIKSATIE, BARBARABUSH, EMILNOLDE mitigates because that is so damn hard to do, or makes it worse because if you don't know, you're really screwed.
(and that Strawberry was a person)

I think the challenge, the pangram, the double triple eleven stacks, and the overall sophistication and the eventual get-ability made me admire it overall.

Gareth Bain 3:13 AM  

I wonder if MANA can't be clued as [Spell-casting stuff, in computer games]. It seems to be a pretty well-established mechanic.

Garth 3:22 AM  

@Gareth: Give me my "e" back.

Had the exact same experience as @chefwen. NW and SE were pretty bare.

I've been enjoying Matt's write-ups: informed but fair.

Campesite 4:42 AM  

Lovely puzzle with some cluing ratcheted up. Great Rift Valley Port is a tough way to get to AQABA. (But not as tough as TE Lawrence's route. The first time I was in Jordan I channeled Peter O'Toole and must've said to my then-wife "tomorrow we ride, to Aqaba" about 200 times--I think it was the beginning of the end of my marriage).

Danp 4:59 AM  

Is there a Rex Parker term for someone who is perhaps best known for appearing in Xword puzzles, such as Uta Hagen, Yma Sumac, Erle Stanley Gardner, ELO and Emo? I think Fibonacci is reaching that status.

jberg 7:57 AM  

ACED this one -- Not! And I'm feeling stupid; I could see the pangram coming, but decided there was no Z, even though I had that farmhand staring me in the space. I couldn't remember his name, so decided it must have been pEtE, and that the X or Y lead in was the algebraic "lEt". pAss didn't quite work for the switchback, but I let it go -- so finished with a messed up SW corner. I can only bow low in apology.

@cascokid, I'm pretty sure it actually is a vorpal blade that goes snicker-snack in the poem.

I thought of BARBARA BUSH right away, but didn't dare write it down until I had most of the crosses. OTOH, I put in AQABA right away, despite thinking - "but isn't the Rift Valley in Africa?" But I had EQUIVALENCy for way too long. And I couldn't think of KOLN, so put in Kiel from the K.

I had a little trouble because I thought NOLDE's first name was Ernst, and somehow didn't notice that that was too long -- but the HAM OMELET soon set that right.

Which reminds me, it's time to go have breakfast! Have a nice weekend, everybody.

Suzy 8:59 AM  

Thank you, Matt, for a week of very enjoyable and intelligent commentary!

MetaRex 9:01 AM  

Loved the profusion of people...perhaps I'm biased because two of Will N.'s many names were mine (46D) and my sister's (33A)...hers doesn't appear often.

Just entered my word-by-word ratings on r.alph's implementation of the piedmonteseomenter...

Will try to make it to Westport this afternoon...hope to see some of you there!

Z 9:11 AM  

NW - easy. SE - med. easy. NE - med. SW - challenging.

Lots I didn't know, but if worked it all out. I'm pretty sure the 1794 General is the same Anthony WAYNE as the WAYNE County from earlier this week. Hand up for bOnN. Two right letters made it hard to let go of. Finally getting rid of the card game for the restaurant cleaned that up for me. @chefwen - If you are referencing the Chicago original, I would agree. Sadly, the franchise version we get in the hinterlands is all too similar to OLIVE GARDEN.

EMIL NOLDE was a big WOE. Having MARilyn in the movie with Cary and drawing a blank on DOCENT made that section a twenty minute struggle by itself. I also had Lab before LOT. Finally seeing that EM- - could be EMIL let me see MARLENE and boom boom boom, in went DOCENT, MANA, ERICA KANE, ZEKE, ZAGS. Last letter in was fixing LaT to LOT.

Without boring everyone, I did look at the esses in today's puzzle. Roughly 33% better than yesterday.

Mohair Sam 9:12 AM  

Enjoyable medium Saturday here. We get a DNF for our natick on MEW/WAYNE, we guessed pAYNE.

Hey on-line solvers: If you had the puzzle done except for General Payne/Wayne and tried the "P" with no Mr. Happy Pencil - would you declare a DNF, or would you key the "W" and log your time?

Hey everybody: What's a MEW?

Stated yesterday that we love triple stacks. We're celebrating two 11 letter triples today by going to the local diner and ordering two "short stacks", probably blueberry.

Mohair Sam 9:14 AM  

The cat thing. Sheeeze.

r.alphbunker 9:20 AM  
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r.alphbunker 9:22 AM  
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Anonymous 9:33 AM  

I LIVE in Jacksonville and it took me forever to get Jax! Couldn't believe we were puzzle-worthy.

loren muse smith 9:36 AM  

@cascokid – I barely finished this one, and it was an epic struggle to the end. A year ago, I wouldn't have been able to get one third of it before throwing in the towel. All the advice people are giving you is good stuff – practice, practice, practice. Unlike others, ZEKE went in with no crosses because he's the four letter Wizard of Oz go-to guy. KOLN was my first choice there, but your "Bonn" was a great instinct. Like @John Child advised – put the grid down, go do something for a few minutes and then come back to it. When I did that this morning, after inhaling my breakfast, OLIVE GARDEN jumped right out at me. Boom.

"Not that tough for a Saturday" – I have to agree. Since I was able to finish it, it had to have that rating.

Embarrassingly, MEW was my last entry.(Hi, @Mohair Sam) I was completely duped by that "Persian language" clue and panicked. "Mes?" "Mec?" something about Farsi that everyone knows, that makes it into a crossword, and I don't know it????. Talk about feeling silly. gRRR.

Agree with Andrea – tons of people and place names. Am I the only one who dug in with "Earl" before ERLE? I even had "Duke" at one point.

Liked BEFOG crossing GAS.

So while, after so long, I was still misreading "bow," I knew there would be a J in the SE for that pangram.

I bet if I unexpectedly happened upon a MAMBA, I'd commence to MAMBOing my way out of there. (Hey – it was Tuesday – we can still capitalize, right?)

ERICA KANE was a gimme for this People-reading, Housewives-watching solver. SATIE's first name, on the other hand, to quote Borat, "Not so much." Fancy music, paintings, works of literature (Jabberwocky notwithstanding), words like concupiscent (Morning, @Questinia) are usually just beyond my grasp.

So of course I struggle a lot in a museum. I do like Baroque paintings, which seem to be more an end in themselves rather than some symbolic somethings that mystify me. (And I enjoy the samurai weapons/armor display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art – I always picture some guy decked out in that mask with that sword coming at me on horseback over a hill, and the image scares the bejeezuz out of me every time.) But put me in front of a Kandinsky or Miro, and I'm feeling secretly like a Painting Understander Poser Lady. A wannabBEE. That is, until the time I was with my son's class and we had a DOCENT. Wow – it's a whole different experience when there's someone who LEADS you IN and explains a lot of art. I loved every second of that visit.

Will, Will – I'm glad I dug my heels in and finished this really great Saturday. It was a GAS.

MetaRex 9:38 AM  

The mock-up is groovy, @r.alph!...nice to be able to rate just a word or two.

Just tried to sign up for Westport...on the wait list:( ...puzzling is a popular pastime in these here parts.

joho 9:42 AM  

Gotta run but had to pop in to offer my kudos to Will Nediger for his beautiful puzzle. @Rex, please admit that this is how a pangram should be done!

Matt Gaffney 9:52 AM  

Danp -- the term is "crossword famous."

Andrew Morrison 10:00 AM  

Gotta call bs on ERLE. I put it in after exhausting all logical possibilities. Never heard of ERIKSATIE - the whole name seems like a mispelling - but BEE was the only logical answer up top.

Have to disagree with the person who said this was easy only if you knew the trivia. I did this in half my average time and I never heard of NOLDE, SATIE, KLEIN, didn't take college physics, blah blah blah. I may just have been lucky today to get some key crosses and make some good deductions.

Whatever the reason, I will take the ego boost on this quiet Saturday morning.

Carola 10:05 AM  

Catnip for me - happen to be a fan of EMIL NOLDE, MARLENE, ERIK SATIE, Mannerist painting; pseudo-know Melanie KLEIN. Didn't find it easy, though - didn't get my first word in until the middle with MAMBA, but then the crosses gave me what I needed. Loved MEW, RUSES, FLUID.

@jberg - Me, too, on the Rift Valley and Kiel. I resisted KOLN because the clue had the umlaut in -brücke, so it seemed that the city should have its umlaut, too (KOELN).

@campesite - I'm sorry your mariage ended, but the "Tomorrow we ride..." story really made me laugh.

Notsofast 10:07 AM  

Another fair and fun puzzle. Clever cluing, but everything was doable by crosses. Fastest Sat for me in a long time. I only noticed two clunkers, BEFOG and the cringe-worthy MISDO. A hat tip to Mr. Nediger.

quilter1 10:11 AM  

More challenging for me but finally finished. I enjoyed the tussle.

Nancy 10:47 AM  

Couldn't get past NYMET for EX MET which led me to enSERVE??? unSERVE??? inSERVE??? for 37D. And since I've never heard of EMIL NOLDE, I ended up with 2 squares wrong and 2 unfilled.

Norm 10:52 AM  

No. No. No. No. No. Too many obscure names. Thia was the worst puzzle of the week, hands down. That the names eventually appeared from the crosses did not make solving it a pleasure. Ugh.

Carole Shmurak 11:03 AM  

Can someone explain LEADS IN for "gets to a seat"?

Rex Parker 11:06 AM  

Easy (under 8)

Best NYT puzzle of the week.

Do today's LAT, as it is great and you won't be disappointed. Also the Newsday Saturday Stumper. Good stuff.


AliasZ 11:10 AM  

There once was a Persian named Pew
Whose unit of language was MEW.
That cat was a GAS,
Which is what he'd pass,
While all within nose-shot waved "Phew!"

DeanR 11:21 AM  

This was that rarest of things: a difficult but very enjoyable puzzle. DNF for me- SE was a bitch- but liked it nonetheless. Don't mind getting my ass kicked every once in a while...I'd wager it's less than one percent of the general population who can do a Saturday NYT on a regular basis....but I never sensed a hint of crosswordese BS. Hats off to all who thought it was easy. You are better solvers than I.

Ruth 11:37 AM  

@Carole: I interpret it like "He GETS (YOU) TO A SEAT. He LEADS (YOU) IN."
It sorta works.

pmdm 11:38 AM  

Actually, those who subscribe to the paper edition of the Sunday paper already know who the constructor is (or, in this case, who the constructors are) and may have, like myself, already completed solving the puzzle. But no more about that.

By the way, those of you who are fans of anagrams, check out tomorrow's Variety Puzzle.

Z 11:52 AM  

Re: LEADS IN - think Ushers.

Melodious Funk 11:54 AM  

What a beautiful puzzle today. I really needed it as a break from our sadness. We had to euthanize our wonderful 12-yo apple-head Siamese cat this morning and welcomed the puzzle challenge. I got to the Persian clue and the tears started.

She would lie on my stomach while I was reading in bed and stuffed her head under my chin. I never wanted the cat but somehow we bonded early on, I became her main go-to. We were buds.

Enough. Thanks Mr. Nediger. You're a pal, too.

foxaroni 12:01 PM  

@caskokid san -- never heard "purdled" before. What a great word! We have three Maine Coons. They do, indeed, purdle, chirp, MEW, chatter and murph (among other things).

I had to Google, but finished today. First time in a loooong time.

Thanks, Will N. And Matt G.

foxaroni 12:08 PM  

@melodius funk -- sympathies to you on your loss. We've had to do it twice. One of the hardest, and saddest, things we have to do for those who occupy such large parts of our hearts.

Blessings and prayers to you.

mac 12:18 PM  

Thank you Will, thank you Matt. Beautiful puzzle.

Love Emil Nolde and know Erik Satie, so no problem there. Had Earl, Duke and then Erle, plus Bonn for Koeln. Did not know Melanie.

Just returned from a beautiful Paul Klee exhibition in the Tate Modern.

Steve J 12:21 PM  

Struggled quite a bit, but enjoyed most of the struggle. Got about 60% filled in (primarily the SW and E sections, with feelers into the other corners) before I had to hit Google, and eventually had to peek at a couple answers to get some headway.

Like many others, I also had Bonn (another case of specific knowledge getting in your way: Köln is spelled Koeln when you can't/don't use an umlaut, so I didn't think it fit), and I also had Earl. Had DSCS instead of OBES, CRTS and LCDS before LEDS. VIKING didn't fit at 24A, and it took me an inexplicably long time to get LA LAKER (probably because I was looking for a single word).

Some fiendish but fair misdirection (40A in particular), all the 11s are really good (well, the fill OLIVE GARDEN is really good; the restaurant itself is not so much).

Personally found yesterday's a little more fun, but this one was arguably tighter. Good themeless weekend, regardless.

wreck 12:43 PM  

I started last night after a few glasses of wine ............ needless to say, I did not fare too well!
@cascokid san:
I am about 10 months into retuning to the NYT crossword after about a nine year hiatus. I am now able to do Sunday through Thursday fairly well, but Friday and Saturday are still a googlefest for me. I don't see myself EVER getting to the four minute times some get here -- besides the fact that I couldn't, I don't think it would be enjoyable anymore!

Gene 12:54 PM  

A heck of a lot easier than yesterday's!

OISK 1:01 PM  

Loved this one, one of my fastest Saturdays ever, which makes up for my careless DNF yesterday. First time I recall "Erle" being clued without reference to the mystery writer! I didn't know Nolde, but it easily fell from the down clues. Very small quibble - I thought of UNO as a pizza joint - Olive garden is an Italian restaurant not specializing in pizza. But, I am a New Yorker, and UNO is deep dish, so I never go there. Agree with Matt again! Best puzzle of the week! Right up my alley as well, since I have walked on the Severinsbrucke, and have seen Aqaba (from Elath), and knew that a watt = a volt-ampere. Enjoyed your comments all week, Matt, even if we disagree about pop culture. (this great puzzle had practically none!) I brought a book of Maleska puzzles on the subway with me last night. One of the answers was "Proems." Didn't know that word, so I looked it up ( introductions). Aha! Didn't know that! Not the same as discovering that there was a "Ramone" named "Dee dee." Great puzzle Will. Thanks!

lawprof 1:40 PM  

A very satisfying Saturday, but then any Saturday I can complete is, by definition, satisfying.

Slow going at first with several writeovers: walkMAn/BETAMAX; UNIte/UNIFY; Earl/ERLE; nyMET/EXMET; stEIN/KLEIN.

Sorely tempted to put in HAMandegg, but held off, and even then I wasn't sure of OMELET, which (I think) I usually spell omelette.

Didn't know EMILNOLDE or Melanie KLEIN or General WAYNE, but all gettable from crosses.

Figured that only a SCOT would have the stomach to eat a cock-a-leekie, which I think I'll eschew.

Good one. Thanks, Mr. Nediger.

ludyjynn 1:50 PM  

Thoroughly enjoyed this week's gamut of puzzles, all of which I finished (yahoo!), and our guest commentator's insights. Thanks to all.

RnRGhost57 2:04 PM  

@Z, the Fallen Timbers Wayne is the Wayne County Wayne (not to be confused with the Jayne County Wayne). My hometown, Waynesville Ohio, is also named after General "Mad Anthony" Wayne.

Acme 2:07 PM  

@Melodius Funk 11:54

cascokid san 2:09 PM  

@wreck - I have a puzzle buddy here in Maine -- a 40 year vet of nytxw. He'll still google on occasion because he'd rather brag ignorance of Dr. DRE than a google-free solve. No joke.
@chefwen the Uno's-OLIVEGARDEN connection was a stretch. I had constrained my thinking to national pizza chains. Which is why I have to have trustworthy crosses. OLIVEGARDEN was forced on me.
@jberg. You are quite right. Both vorpals sword and blade are in Jabberwocky. I forgot about the latter. What's more, Jabberwocky was published in Alice in Wonderland. The poem always appears separately in collections, so my ignorance has a structural foundation, for what that's worth.
@lms. I'll remember that about ZEKE. Thanks. LAHR is my go-to Oz actor.
@foxaroni Not every breed purdles. So keep that in mind for future clue spotting!
@john child I'll sleep on a lot of these puzzles. Just by the nature of the 10 pm publication time and my multihour solve times, I'm forced to take a break. And, yes, it makes a big difference.
@jae a book of hard Sunday puzzles in your car for long traffic lights? Hmmm. Ahh! NEWJERSEY. amirite? Thanks for reference to Amy's book. I should order that.

T Minus 4 hours until tomorrow's battle...

AliasZ 2:18 PM  

An aside, if I may.

As @Rex suggested, I finished Stan Newman's wonderfully challenging Saturday Stumper. That was the toughest one today (they usually are), but not as tough as many of his previous ones. Some of the cluing was downright diabolical. I had one Natick: a foreign word and a Moody rating, neither of which were known to me. Second toughest was Doug Peterson's LAT puzzle, which also presented a Natick square: two totally unknown (to me) proper nouns.

Compared to them, the NYT today offered a totally enjoyable, albeit easier challenge, and a satisfying finish without major hang-ups or outside help, in a relatively short time (20-or-so min. with some interruptions).

The NYT Variety puzzle was a joy to behold by the other Patrick B. The only problem I encountered was with a few entries that had 2 or more possible anagrams. That slowed me down bit, but I did finish it eventually on the train from NY to NJ last night. Great fun, I highly recommend it (not the train ride, the puzzle).

As you were.

Numinous 2:38 PM  

A technical DNF for me today as I had to google WAYNE, KLEIN, NOLDE and, I'm ashamed to say I had to look up Cock-a-leekie to figure out SCOT. I like leeks so that soup sounds like something we might try around here.

I got most of the NE first with ERIKSATIE a big gimme. UNDEREXPOSE was the first to go into the SE. On to the SW where the vorpal blade broke it open for me. Then back and forth between NE and SE. The last to fall for me was the Mississippi River with DESERVED and FLEXTIMER. I wanted nyMET for the longest time which slowed me considerably. I might have gotten the X if I'd noticed the pangram but I tend not to see those things while I'm solving. I had Zack at first for ZEKE.

I had a white cat who had one blue eye and one yellow eye. She was deaf. She used to like to sit beneath a table lamp and hold her face up to the light. Her name was Medcat for the exam her previous owner was about to take when her got her. She purdled and chirped. She must have been an albino Maine-coon. Alas, I had to pass her along to a new owner who worked for a sound fx company in "Hollywood" (not a whole lot of the film industry is actually in Hollywood). They did the SFX for a bunch of really big movies including Gremlins. Medcat's voices were recorded and combined to create a sound they referred to as a pigeon purr and were used for some of the sounds made by a critter called Gizmo.

I had quite a struggle with this one but I enjoy a struggle so it was all good.

Mette 2:43 PM  

Thanks Will and Will.

Gill I. P. 3:30 PM  

I'm yelling "Cock-a leekie eater" and spouse yells back "SCOT".... and I thought oh great!
This puzzle sang to me in a MADCAP sort of way. Perhaps because I knew all of the proper names except ERICA KANE. I should have known her since I became a Soap junkie when I was on maternity leave way back when. My go to was "Days's of our Lives." All I remember is that it took an eternity for Bo and Hope to finally ride off in a motorbike to get married. Talk about the biggest let down in T.V. history.
Super fun, Will. Can we have seconds?

Gill I. P. 3:32 PM  

P.S. @Melodious Funk...Triste..

jae 3:37 PM  

@casco -- Close, San Diego. And, no the book edited by Peter Gordon are tough Thurs. and Fri. puzzles from the now defunct NY Sun where Peter was the puzzle editor. The Sun did not publish on the weekends (I may be wrong about this but I'm pretty sure there were no weekend puzzle) so the end week Thurs. and Fri. Sun puzzles were as tough or tougher than the NYT Fri. and Sat. puzzles. Plug Peter Gordon in to an Amazon search to see the collections from the Sun. He currently does the Fireball puzzle which is also very tough.

Carole Shmurak 3:46 PM  

Thanks to those who answered query about LEADS IN. I had thought of that, but when Rex said it was one of the better clues/answers, I thought I'd missed something!

Susan McConnell 4:24 PM  

Too many names to be much fun for me. I liked yesterday better. But can't wait for tomorrow.

jazzmanchgo 4:30 PM  

So . . . "OLIVE GARDEN" is the name of a pizza franchise?? Is this another N.Y.-centric thing, or am I just woefully out of touch (probably because I still try to patronize neighborhood mama-and-papa pizza places whenever possible)?

Z 4:44 PM  

@jazzmanchgo - OLIVE GARDEN is to Italian Restaurants what TGIFridays is to neighborhood bars or Red Robin is to local burger joints. I don't think they have pizza on the menu. Pizzeria Uno on Ohio in Chicago is definitely worth the trip. As I said before, the franchise versions I've visited were best skipped.

bigsteve46 4:56 PM  

RE: jazzmango
Gadzooks! No real New Yorker would be caught dead in an Olive Garden. That's what passes for Italian food in flyover country.

Anonymous 5:44 PM  

I knew very little of name after name after name and unlike some here whose view of a puzzle turns on whether they finish it, I say this puzzle is meh at best and yes I completed it. I just have to laugh at how so many humans are. Laugh, cause if I didn't I'd be puking continuously.

Dirigonzo 6:07 PM  

When BARBARABUSH went in with no crosses and turned out to be right I thought I might actually stand a chance of finishing the puzzle, and so I did. Finished in the NE where EarL held reign for too long; it was "Elementary education..." that saved me, appropriately enough. It's nice not to MISDO a Saturday puz once in a while.

LaneB 6:22 PM  

Any time I get through a Saturday puzzle is a good time. There was plenty of stuff I didn't know [EMILNOLDE, KLEIN, SCOT and ERICAKANE] but Google helped. Had final trouble in the SE corner, what with MEW and the awkward MISDO. What does MEW have to do with the Persian language anyway? After excessive pondering it all came out in the wash.

sanfranman59 6:43 PM  

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

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

Mon 6:46, 6:26, 1.05, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 9:32, 8:15, 1.16, 85%, Challenging
Wed 10:08, 10:26, 0.97, 44%, Medium
Thu 15:01, 19:03, 0.79, 14%, Easy
Fri 25:10, 20:15, 1.24, 89%, Challenging
Sat 23:18, 28:35, 0.82, 11%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:24, 4:00, 1.10, 85%, Challenging
Tue 5:44, 5:12, 1.10, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 6:19, 6:15, 1.01, 54%, Medium
Thu 8:56, 10:36, 0.84, 19%, Easy
Fri 15:53, 11:32, 1.38, 93%, Challenging
Sat 15:19, 18:32, 0.83, 18%, Easy

Ellen S 6:44 PM  

@melodious funk, let me add with the others my condolences on losing your cat. Our animals are like heartworms, in a good way; they worm their way into our hearts, and what a hole they leave when they depart. They're not any of them replaceable, but the good news is, they are all irreplaceable, in their own way.

I finished the Friday puzzle with **NO CHEATING**!!!! First time in ages. (I've been doing the NYT puzzles for over 30 years, and some Dells on the side when traveling, when my hubby was alive. My ability to do Fridays or Saturdays depends on something other than the length of time I've been doing them; sometimes my head is just in the wrong place. ... no suggestions, please, as to where that might be.)

I finished today's puzzle with a teeny but of clearing wrong letters very early on, lost about 3 letters and figured out it was SCOTs and not brits who eat Cock-a-leekie. Well, not surprising I got that wrong -- like @Jberg, also thought the Rift Valley was in Africa. Whatever. I'm an American and not required to know geography or foreign eating habits. Or USA eating habits either. I'm originally from Chicago, and the Uno clue stumped me until I got almost all the crosses. I'm thinking, there was a "Due's" pizza when I lived there, but obviously not the right answer. Straw Hat? Roundtable? Digiorno? OLIVE GARDEN never would have occurred to me in a billion years.

From somewhere in the recesses of my brain, maybe where I lost the car keys, I dredged up EMIL NOLDE, and more miraculously, Billie Sol ESTES. Wow. But when I saw the "Persian language unit," I cussed; no fair. I don't even know what language Cock-a-leekie is! When I figured it out (entirely from crosses), I laughed out loud. That's my favorite clue ever for a three letter answer.

Fibonacci is reaching EEL status here. Enough already.

Flyover Z 6:48 PM  

@bigsteve46 - I didn't know Manhattan was considered "flyover country." There are 2 OLIVE GARDENS there according to their web site.

I'm no expert, but Roman Village in Dearborn and Windsor's Little Italy restaurants are cited as among the best Italian restaurants on the continent. Maybe that's just parochial hyperbole. Or maybe there are descendents of Italian immigrants throughout the country making great Italian cuisine.

Mohair Sam 7:02 PM  

@jberg, @carola, and @Ellen S - I too thought Rift Valley in Africa. I wonder if the errant memory is from the movie ZULU which portrayed the battle of Roark's Drift - located in a deep valley in South Africa? Drift / rift?

LaneB 7:08 PM  

@cascokid san
You and I approach these puzzles in quite the same way, and our experience level [insofar as solving is concerned] appears to be similar. Without Google in the latter part of the week, I'm not likely to make a lot of progress. I am also in awe of many of the bloggers who race through the toughest ones without seeming to break a sweat. Sometimes it is disheartening, however, to hear how "easy" an edition is after spending a few hours struggling to finish. I was more or less buoyed by the comment of @jae regarding the impact that 10000 hours might have in honing one's expertise in such matters. There is hope---with this caveat in my case: Since I will be 81 in a few months, If I spent an average of 3 hours a day, 365 days a year starting today, I'd be very close to 90 before achieving real competence.. Of course, assuming I made it that far, I'd probably be INcompetent, wandering around assisted living quarters with the Onion rather than the NYT.

I do enjoy reading your comments and others as well, particularly those of the irrepressible [and quite beautiful it turns out] lms.

This blog makes my day.

Z 7:20 PM  

The Great Rift Valley is in Africa. Being the visible aspects of a tectonic feature (according to Wikipedia, a compilation of features), it extends to AQABA and beyond.

Dirigonzo 8:08 PM  

@LaneB 6:22pm, you asked: "What does MEW have to do with the Persian language anyway?" Has anyone mentioned, or have you figured out on you own, that the Persian in the clue is a cat? MEW, MEW - pretty cute, no?

Bob Kerfuffle 1:49 PM  

Rushed through this to get off to Connecticut in time Saturday morning, thought I would have to leave it unfinished, but everything fell into place so beautifully, just one write over (shared with @Z), 34 D, LAB before LOT.)

Had circled the clue for 49 A for possible comment - wonder if Mr. F liked Beets and Eels?

@lms - I always thought the four-letter Wizard of Oz guy was TOTO. Was a time he seemed to be in every puzzle, but haven't seen him lately.

KMS 2:58 PM  

flowed relatively easy once BARBARA BUSH went in basically first...until the lower mid - kept calling Daryl an NYMET, and the shift-ing was gobbledygook for too long, but EXMET came and finished off...Persian language awesome clue, although maybe better MEOW, no MEW..yesterday hammered me for too long (VOYAGE, broke ice) and seemed too hard...reminder of the obselesence of the BETAMAX struck me fine...and finally WAKE & ERIKA, at he k was somehow confounding, but love the aftermath clue.

Anonymous 3:48 PM  

Only sorta for me. Should have been takes to a seat say

spacecraft 12:30 PM  

"And as in uffish thought he stood..." and pondered what in Wonderland Uno has to do with OLIVEGARDEN...apparently somewhere (that I've NEVER been!) there's an Italian restaurant called "Uno's." Luckily, I DESERVE to get that on crosses.

The cluer tried to BEFOG us with "Gets to a seat" for LEADSIN. Yeah, I've seen the explanation and (just barely) buy it, but I still need to open a door for the DRAFT. The spacecraft flag fluttered, but stayed put.

For the second time in one puzzle, DESERVE bailed me out; I had EMILNOL_E and was thinking about a T--maybe an ancestor of Nick?--but when I got DESERVE it had to be D. Is this guy Mr. Obscurity 2014, or am I hopelessly non-intellectual? Ne. Vah. Hoidofim.

Hand up for taking a while to get MEW; brilliant, fun clue. Gives YOU plenty of chance to MISDO.

No problem with ERLE, who finally gets a NON-Gardner clue. This puzzle, looking typically Saturday-tough at first, seemed to yield somewhat more quickly than most. I'm not gonna give it an "easy," but maybe a medium-to-easy. Once well started, the entries just sorta plopped in.

Pretty good effort, a little heavy on the proper names, yet the 11-stacks only contain one (olive garden can just be a thing, y'know). Thumbs up.

4's full of 5's, but if you let me use the short side I can table four 4's. No? Didn't think so.

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