Vocal trio / SAT 1-18-14 / Severed Head novelist 1961 / Cop car to CBer / Beyonce's alter ego / Cornerback Law others / Wear that was one of Oprah's favorite things four times / 1983 song with lyric Let's leave Chicago to Eskimos

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: none

Word of the Day: TERZETTO (34A: Vocal trio) —
npl -tos or -ti (-tɪ)
1. (Classical Music) music a trio, esp a vocal one
[C18: Italian: trio; see tercet] (thefreedictionary.com)
• • •

Well I thought this was just fantastic. Personality and color and spark as far as the eye can see. Very little junk. Really first-rate stuff. IVAR's kinda icky, but it was entirely gettable from crosses. I didn't know several of these answers, actually—Katharine Lee BATES, TERZETTO, TIJUANA TAXI—but I battled through them with the aid of fair crosses. Happy to learn colorful stuff like TERZETTO and TIJUANA TAXI. Not sure what a cop car has to do with Tijuana. Definitions I'm seeing involve any vehicle with "flashing lights and bright markings." Are the taxis in Tijuana garish? I don't remember. Anyway, that's a cool bit of slang. My favorite thing about this puzzle is how Now it is. Feels like it was actually made in this century: UGG BOOTS, SASHA FIERCE, FACE PALM, ADOBE READER—even the horrific "IF I DID IT" (36D: 2007 book subtitled "Confessions of the Killer")—all give the puzzle a feeling of contemporary relevance. Puzzles are always going to have room for older stuff—both very old stuff like POUF (31A: High style of the 1700s) and modern older stuff like, I don't know, "NO JIVE" or CLARA Bow (33D: Bow no longer shot—great clue). The point is that answers from *all* different times are valuable and contribute to the interestingness of the crossword. But too often it's the current stuff that gets neglected, making the puzzle feel like an exercise in nostalgia and arcana retrieval. This one doesn't have that problem. You can tell how good the good stuff is by the fact that I haven't complained once about ARNEL, a "fabric" that I've never encountered and sounds made up and appears to exist now only as a crossword answer with lots of convenient letters (6D: Vintage fabric). Not once have I complained. OK once.


Would've blown through this thing pretty dang fast were it not for … well, most of the NW. Had CRUNCH for CLUTCH at 24A: Do-or-die situation. That is one hell of a trap. I completely bought CRUNCH and would still buy CRUNCH. Anyway, that wrong answer kept me from seeing both ARNEL and RAT-A-TAT, so my ways into that section were limited. I wanted BANANAGRAMS (1A: Fast-paced alternative to Scrabble) from the beginning even though I couldn't remember the game well at all. Just *felt* right. But even with that in place I had a bit of trouble bringing that section down. Eventually decided to go for ADIDAS (which had originally been SKORTS) (2D: Court wear, maybe), and then EDIT went in, and the whole thing quickly fell.

This was tons of fun. Wish every weekend had a puzzle like this. Nice work, David. This may be my favorite thing you've done to date, but you've already done so many, who can remember?

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

94 comments:

Clark 12:03 AM  

This one just kicked me all around the grid. DNF doesn't even begin to tell the story.

JFC 12:03 AM  

Agreed....

JFC

John V 12:04 AM  

I got four words. Four. I do not get David's vibe. Cannot think of a worse outing for me, ever. Maybe it's the heavy Now mix.

jae 12:06 AM  

Deja vu except today the killer section for me was NW.  The rest was easy medium. So, medium maybe or medium-tough.  I've barely heard of BANAGRAMS, did not know BATES, never knew TIJUANA TAXI (a Herb Alpert song) was used by CBers, vaguely recalled ARNEL after getting four letters, forgot about SRIS...  Plus, TERZETTO and PALO were WOEs and I had Crisis before CLUTCH... so that whole chunk took a loooong time.

Now I concede that zip is a subjective judgement, but, compared to yesterday's, this one has a bunch...SASHA FIERCE, BANANAGRAMS, TIJUANA TAXI, SETH (as clued), EJECTOR SEAT, FACE PALM, I LOVE LA, ZANTAC, UGG BOOTS, MEGAN FOX...I could keep going but that's a bunch!

Liked it a lot, zippy and crunchy!

wreck 12:13 AM  
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Carola 12:32 AM  
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Carola 12:34 AM  

I've never before finished a David Steinberg Saturday - they're often loaded with proper names that are big ??? for me. At first pass this one seemed particularly undoable - I had CLARA, CLEF, FAIR SEX, RE-UP, DON, and IF I DID IT. And was stuck. Combing through the clues again ("nope, nope, nope..."), I vaguely remembered the name SETH Green, which turned out to be my "Open, sesame" to the rest - the H got me CHEEP, which in turn led to CLUTCH, AEC, and FACE PALM. Enough to allow me to chip and guess my way through to the end. Enjoyed the cluing and the brain-racking.

wreck 12:42 AM  

One of those puzzles that is way too hard for me, but once you see the answers -- you think: "Boy, I should have gotten that!"

mforrest73 12:45 AM  

This one was definitely on the harder end of the scale for me. I put down Crisis instead of CLUTCH too which screwed me up good in the middle for a while. Is USM a thing? I thought it was USMC.

chefwen 12:53 AM  

Me + David Steinberg + Saturday would usually scream disaster, but I got a toe hold and stuff just started to fall in place. Granted I Googled a few and granted I did end up with some unfilled white spaces, so a DNF here, but I had more fun with this one than many of my outings with David, so thank you for that.

Have I told you lately how much I like the number capchas?

wreck 12:55 AM  

Gomer Pyle USMC

Steve J 12:59 AM  

I've not really enjoyed Steinberg puzzles much in the past, so it's not exactly a high hurdle I'm clearing, but this was by far the most fun I've had with one of his puzzles. Even considering the considerable difficulty I had in several spots.

There's some really great fill, with FACE PALM being my favorite. EJECTOR SEAT, TIJUANA TAXI, UGG BOOTS (very appropriately named phonetically; they're one of the ugliest things a person can put on their feet), OCARINAS, TAXONOMISTS (for most of the puzzle, I kept trying to find tax-related jobs to fit in there, as I got the TAX part quickly; TAX AUDITOR fits).

And a big improvement in cluing compared to past efforts. Seemed much more in-tune with the meaning of the words, much less forced. The clue for CLARA was fantastic, and the clue for GAG was fun.

A couple entries in the NE seemed a smidge off as clued, which threw me for a while. The abbreviation for the Marines is almost always USMC, not USM (I can't ever recall seeing USM, but I'm sure it exists somewhere). G as slang for 1,000 has always been G, not GEE, in my experience.

I had the hardest time in the NW, as all the acrosses took forever to sink in (it doesn't help that I still think of it as Acrobat READER, even though Adobe changed the name years ago now). HORAE/TERZETTO crossing was tough, as I know neither.

For once, I had fun with the struggle of a Steinberg puzzle. Hopefully this is a good sign of his obvious talent coming together in a more elegant way.

AliasZ 1:09 AM  

The problem with a puzzle full of fleeting pop culture references is that if you blinked and missed one or two of them, you are stuck. And you feel like an outsider. This is how I felt about David Steinberg's puzzle today. What the heck is a SASHAFIERCE? And what is a BANANAGRAM? I must have blinked. Once I got them from the crosses, I thought: "What...? That's it? Can't be!"

My point is, what David thought were fresh and interesting seed entries turned out to be yawn-inducing, meaningless ones for me. And so it goes. Multiple entries with one repeated vowel were a further letdown: the aforementioned BANANAGRAM, IFIDIDIT, RATATAT, and ITISI.

For me the "A Severed Head," Chicago-Eskimos and "The Twilight Saga" clues were unsolvable. They may have as well been clued "?" I am not aware of UGG BOOTS either, although I saw the name on a poster at my dry cleaner "We Clean Ugg Boots." That's about it. I also did not like: SAV, CHEEP (chirp, chirr, roll your own, I guess), ARNEL, IVAR, NOJIVE, and a few others.

What I liked: TIJUANA TAXI, TERZETTO, EJECTOR SEAT, OCARINA, ASPERSE and a few others. I also liked the meta clue for ACROSS. My favorite one however was "Bow no longer shot" for CLARA Bow (1905-1965), the original "It Girl" of the silent film era, star of the classic William A. Wellman movie Wings, the first ever to win the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1929. It also featured Gary Cooper in a supporting role. I saw Wings recently on TCM. I highly recommend it.

All in all a formidable puzzle with two trip-eleven stacks and two trip-eights, but not an enjoyable one for me.

Darkbloom 1:17 AM  

Wow, stunned by Rex's writeup. One of the most unambiguously positive reviews in recent memory, for...this? It's good, but I didn't think it was spectacular. Rex's "Now" comment seemed sarcastic to me, until I realized he wasn't kidding. How is this Now? Post-2000, yes; Now, not so much. As Amy pointed out, a lot of the stuff is from 5 or 6 years ago, the "awkward age" for a lot of would-be crossword answers –- take SASHA FIERCE as an example: it would've been great 5 years ago, but today it's stale, and tomorrow it might not be crossworthy. There's definitely solid work here, but nothing commensurate with Rex's raving (though it's great to hear him give a rave review again!).

Benko 1:27 AM  

I just got BANANAGRAMS for Christmas; it's fun. And since it is a crossword-influenced word game, it definitely deserves to be in the grid. UGG boots were incredibly popular among younger women when I first moved to Amsterdam in 2005. Virtually every Dutch woman under the age of 40 wore them all the time. Not as much now.
SASHAFIERCE is the kind of thing I missed when I was living overseas. Beyoncé was not nearly as popular over there.
Is TIJUANATAXI racist? I looked up the origins of the phrase but couldn't find it. It seems suspicious to me, or maybe it's me.
All in all a fairly difficult puzzle for me.

Garth 1:32 AM  

Got a toehold with AJA and then EJECTOR SEAT and then...well pretty much nothing. Had an emphatic dnf. Had some other answers scattered around the grid but couldn't break it open. Unlike @wreck, when I checked the answers, I realized that I never would have finished even if I spent a lot of time on it. So I practiced the piano and was able to be productive at something.

Really enjoyed Rex's writeup tonight.

g 1:34 AM  

20 years over-the-road long-haul. 48 states and Canada. Not once have I heard "Tijuana Taxi". Smokey, plain wrapper, city kitty and other unpublishable epithets. But never "taxi".

George Barany 2:25 AM  

Anyone else having trouble getting this catchy Herb Alpert tune out of their heads? I never cease to be amazed at some of the stuff that @David Steinberg manages to get into his grids.

Questinia 2:34 AM  

Great cluing and a nice romp around the grid. Opened with ENS=> ZINGS=>FAIR SEX=>MEGAN FOX.
Good one David.

Medium +

Arnel Clutch Murdochs 4:21 AM  

3Xs, 2Js, 2Zs = lots of fun, I wouldn't eject David from my car!

Must say what @AliasZ complained about is exactly what I enjoyed... The repeat As, the (dotted) i only answers...

Tho yes, SASHAFIERCE is a few Beyonce refs back, but we don't know when this was written... And the irony is it's a catch22 because if it is super current, sometimes it's rejected because not enough folks know it...
And you'd need a crystal ball to know if it will stick or not, it'd be like guessing what Sean Jean, Sean Combs, Puff Daddy, P-Diddy will be called six months from now much less in five years...

As a Scrabble player, people have tried to foist BANANAGRAMS on me for years... No thank you.

Anyway, nice puzzle, young Steinberg.

Am spending this weekend with four different folks I've met thru crosswords or this blog. Crazy.

Anonymous 6:25 AM  

Today's (Saturday) NY Times print edition has the solution to yesterday's Livengood crossword puzzle.

Anonymous 7:02 AM  

I liked the puzzle well enough, although I can't agree with Rex about "a bow no longer shot." Are bows ever shot? I thought it was the arrow...maybe i'm being too literal...

Randy Neuman 7:28 AM  

Rolling down imperial highway, big nasty redhead at my side

jberg 7:45 AM  

Thank God for Katharine Lee Bates, whose name I know only because her house on Cape Cod has been made into a museum -- I'd never have got started without her. I thought this was impossibly hard for the longest time, possibly because of Crisis, orlon (or rayon) IVAn or IVoR, FACE slap, mAalox, tiarAS, mil -- well you get the idea. I also thought 51 across was going to tell me that 36 words were entered backwards, or with the letters in alphabetical order, or something. Finally I grokked CLARA and MURDOCH, and it all kind of ell into place.

Only it didn't. No idea about SASHA FIERCE, so I figured she must be pIERCE, and that left me thinking the Mad bit must be a ScOOp, rather than a SPOOF. I loved the magazine, but it's been at least 40 years. DIc seems just as good as DIM to me - still not sure what that means.

I didn't know TERZETTO either, but should have got it anyway if I'd thought more - instead, I finished with TERpETTO/pINGS.

I think the idea must be that if you go to a bar in Tijuana, you'll end up getting a ride in a cop car--though they won't be taking you home, but to <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUZDBQ2zrU0'>some other place.</A. Just a guess, though.

Having solved the Ian Livengood puzzle yesterday, I was expecting to find Kevin Der in my paper today. Maybe I'll never see that one.

loren muse smith 7:45 AM  
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jberg 7:46 AM  

Thank God for Katharine Lee Bates, whose name I know only because her house on Cape Cod has been made into a museum -- I'd never have got started without her. I thought this was impossibly hard for the longest time, possibly because of Crisis, orlon (or rayon) IVAn or IVoR, FACE slap, mAalox, tiarAS, mil -- well you get the idea. I also thought 51 across was going to tell me that 36 words were entered backwards, or with the letters in alphabetical order, or something. Finally I grokked CLARA and MURDOCH, and it all kind of ell into place.

Only it didn't. No idea about SASHA FIERCE, so I figured she must be pIERCE, and that left me thinking the Mad bit must be a ScOOp, rather than a SPOOF. I loved the magazine, but it's been at least 40 years. DIc seems just as good as DIM to me - still not sure what that means.

I didn't know TERZETTO either, but should have got it anyway if I'd thought more - instead, I finished with TERpETTO/pINGS.

I think the idea must be that if you go to a bar in Tijuana, you'll end up getting a ride in a cop car--though they won't be taking you home, but to <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUZDBQ2zrU0'>some other place.</A. Just a guess, though.

Having solved the Ian Livengood puzzle yesterday, I was expecting to find Kevin Der in my paper today. Maybe I'll never see that one.

Glimmerglass 7:50 AM  

I agree with Rex that today's was a great puzzle, for many of the reasons he listed. But it was anything but easy-medium for me. I'm kicking myself for missing CLARA Bow! I didn't know I LOVE LA, but it would have been easy to get it from crosses if I hadn't shrugged and decided a "cyara" must have been some medieval weapon. Being a geezer, I generally have trouble with pop music (and a lot of contemporary culture),so I got hammered at the bottom. I didn't now AJA or MURDOCH and guessed that Beyonce must have been known as SiStA FIERCE (a reasonable guess, but wrong). Ah, it was still a great puzzle, and it took me a very long time to get the rest of it.

loren muse smith 7:50 AM  

Rex – I was crestfallen to see "easy medium," but thrilled with your write UP!! I'm sure like many of us here, I'm so pulling for David! I met him the Saturday morning of last year's ACPT – I was still working on his collaboration that day with Silk. I shook his hand, and said I was still struggling with the whole bottom half. He smiled shyly and said, "That was my part." Well, "duh." FACE PALM. (To me, FACE PALM means more like "Oh GEE. I shoulda known that." "You've got to be kidding me" would be JAW DROP.)

Rex – CLUTCH went right in off the C (first in "chirp" and then in "chirr" –{ Jeff, memories of your CUT grid will haunt us indefinitely; I can't be the only one who put in GEEZ and vaguely thought GGGG}) and T in RATATAT.

@AliasZ – "Multiple entries with one repeated vowel" for me (morning, Andrea) = masterstroke. RATATAT, BANANGRAMS, IT IS I, and IF I DID IT were the bright spots for me. Bloody good show, Mr. Cool Boyo. Top notch.

I fell for the trap that had to be intentional: "no joke." So my "bargain store" part was "rak."

Appreciated TIJUANA TAXI crossing MEX. And I'm always fascinated that SRIS backwards means the same thing in English.

So does a USM GEAR UP to RE-UP? Whatever the case, HORAE for your service!

"Pomp" before POUF, even though I know better, abbr and all that.

MEGAN FOX frightens me, and I don't know why.

I wish I had ASPERSE and "impugn" at my fingertips when I'm talking.

"Chalk talks" did happen in locker rooms at half-time, but I had "def" crossing Beyonce's "Sofia_ _ _"

@Questinia - *loved* your post yesterday!!!! Like someone else said, I had to read it twice, but it was impressive on so many levels. Any story that combines Vermeer with the quest for an orifice is ok by me.

Little known fact – the only reason I wear hose with skirts even in the middle of August is because the feel of a shoe on my bare foot has that effect on me that a fingernail scratching a chalkboard has on others. Just the thought makes me shiver. Seeing a picture of Cameron Diaz in high heels in People and knowing it's her bare feet in there gives me the heebie jeebies. Exception – UGGs. (Sorry, @Steve J – I find their shape, build, everything just da bomb.) But you cannot wear socks with UGGs. Period. @Steve J to me without a doubt the absolute UGGliest shoes out there are those extremely pointy toe ones. Sorry if some of you women wear them, but I just don't get it. I find them truly, remarkably hideous. Hey, admittedly, I'm way past being a slave to fashion.

When I see David's name at the top, I feel all nervous, both because I know I'm in for a fight but mainly because I really, really, really despise seeing some people launch mean-spirited attacks on the guy rather than the grid. I mean, c'mon – someone called him a brat told him to go out and play in the traffic last time? Seriously? Boy, mister. You really ZINGed him with that WISE crack, didn't you? (We have an expression in the south – show your fanny. Some meanies sure don't hesitate to, uh, share their "clever" cracks.) I'm very happy today that so far, so good.

David, this is the closest I've come to finishing one of your themelesses. Keep'em coming, kid. I'll get there SOON enough!

jberg 7:57 AM  

Apologies for the duplicate posting - no idea how that happened - and for the bad link, which should have been:

Tijuana Jail

Smitty 7:57 AM  

Hands up for difficulty. I admit to being a fuddyduddy but sometimes obscure is obscure in any century.

Could be me, but some of the cluing/answers sounded off (FACEPALM, CHEEP, NO JIVE, ERASER, CLEF)
Lots of organizations - although the one time I wanted an organization, SAG (screen actor's guild) for "Inhibitor of free speech", it was the wrong answer.

August West 8:05 AM  

Had my usual Pavlovian cringe on seeing David's byline, but must say I had real, actual *fun* with this one. I enjoyed it much more than any of his prior offerings. I found this nearly bereft of the "affected air" with which I have indicted his prior work, replaced by a kind of sly, impish, playfulness.

Loved BANANAGRAMS, ADOBEREADER, UGGBOOTS, NOJIVE, GEARUP, SETH and ENS as clued, FIARSEX, POUF, FACEPALM, the clues for CLARA, TAVERN and GAG, OCARINAS, IFIDIDIT, EJECTOR SEAT and my favorite answer in the grid, TAXONOMISTS, considering its fantastic clue.

The HORAE have haunted puzzles for decades, so they went in easily to help fairly cross the one answer I did find a bit affected, TERZETTO. I realize it may well be an extremely common musical term of which I was simply unaware, but I adopted my "Steinberg Face" only on seeing that word appear.

Grew up with a dad enamored with CB radio, who liked to chat with OTR haulers during long vacation drives. Never heard a police car called a TIJUANATAXI. Ever. I guess the analogy between the city and a fully marked squad car with lights and sirens blaring spawns of Tijuana being pretty garishly loud and "colorful" place? Maybe it is SW CB slang.

SASHAFIERCE sucked.

And never, ever, ever, ever call the USMC the USM again.

Overall, tho, fantastic job. Nice one, David!

evil doug 8:43 AM  

The nyt says it's flipping Der and Livingood next Friday.

Evil

James Bond (in Goldfinger) 8:57 AM  

EJECTOR SEAT? You're joking!

Susan McConnell 9:06 AM  

Easier than yesterday. Crisp, current, fun.

Am also a Scrabble purist. Have heard of BANANAGRAMS but not played it.

Interesting update from @evil doug.

NCA President 9:52 AM  

Rex obliquely touched on why this puzzle was difficult for me. It's the "Now" factor. I am so used to having gimmes (read: crosswordese) sprinkled all through a puzzle, that when I'm confronted with answers that are newer, I can't see them right off the bat.

Conversely, when I do a puzzle from one of the independent sites, I can see these answers right off since I've come to expect them (even the more "off color" answers...heh).

So what does that say about the branding of the NYT crossword? the collection of crosswordese seems to have, at least for me, become so associated with the puzzles that when they don't appear, the puzzle becomes doubly hard. Not only do I need to process the clues, but I need to shift from expecting certain answers.

I wish either a) more puzzles were like this one, or b) none of the puzzles were like this one. At the very least I wish these puzzles were more consistent in terms of old v. new fill. I don't mind struggling with a puzzle, especially on a Saturday, but I don't care to struggle with a puzzle on a meta-level. That, to me, affects my trust of the puzzle itself and makes my solving experience very frustrating.

/rant

#firstworldcrosswordproblems

Notsofast 10:03 AM  

Too many things I've never heard in 68 years of hearing things. Some were just ridiculously obscure. TAXONOMISTS? SASHAFIERCE? TERZETTO? FACEPALM? MEGANFOX? I could have gotten some of this with GOOGLE, but I just refuse. I got everything but the SE and enjoyed it, but it just kicked my ass! But... I do think David Steinberg is one of the best. Just not today.

Notsofast 10:06 AM  

Oh; and hand up for USM being inexcusable. It's just egregious. Shame.

Mohair Sam 10:14 AM  

It is USMC, not USM - ask any Marine. It is never USM. Lost some time in the NE because of that, but filled it when UGGs became obvious, and then MEGANFOX.

Overall we liked the puzzle, but no love fest here. Did enjoy the fact that we've never heard of taxonomy or Beyonce's alter ego and yet filled SE quickly. Fun to correctly guess SASHAFIERCE on just a few crosses.

DNF'd because we hit the crossword dictionary for BATES. My fault for misspelling TIJUANA, forgetting ADOBE (I use it all the time), and having never heard of BANANAGRAMS. And the obscure ARNEL made it hopeless in the NW.

Disagree with @Rex on the freshness here. The "new" stuff wasn't overly new (this old couple got 'em all) and there was a mix with CBing, CLARA Bow (awesome clue, btw), and old Iris MURDOCH. I think Steinberg mixed things up very nicely, thank you.

Never thought of the term FAIRSEX as poetic. Patronizing maybe, but not poetic.

I suffered through two Harry Potter books so as to keep up with young constructors. David Steinberg, et al - you will never get me to read or watch "The Twilight Saga".

John V 10:14 AM  

Ditto on USM faceplant, from this son of a WW II USMC Captain.

Z 10:15 AM  

My UGGs are nearing 20. Absolutely the best thing ever for doing outdoor chores in the winter. Imagine my surprise at helping out to cover a lunch (all the APs had to be out of the building) and seeing every cheerleader wearing UGGs. Asked my kid about it and he did the eye-roll thing as he explained that they were all the rage with the "in" girls. Clearly, I am no longer to be seen by anyone he knows while I shovel.

Slow but steady on this one. First pass I had USM, CLEF, AEC/CLARA/RE-UP, AJA (listened to it just yesterday), EJECTOR SEAT, and TYS. TAVERNS gave me I LOVE LA and the SW fell. POINT A/ACROSS opened the SE for me. Trying SEA ROUTE, even though it seemed to straightforward for a Saturday, got me through the NE. Finally, with much of the backside filled, I saw BANAGRAMS and ADOBE READER. I still had to undo koJackA TAXI (I didn't notice that extra A at first) to crack the NW. I think it was finally understanding the clue for 4D, giving me that U, that allowed me to finish.

SABRA has something to do with Israelis? In these parts it is the primary hummus brand on store shelves. I see, now, that it is the "official dip of the NFL." I also hesitated at HORAE because I have them filed under Egypt instead of Greece.

AliasZ 10:28 AM  

@loren and @acme, it only proves that one person's treasure is another's trash. An adamant cumulus of nihilistic, phantasmal and monotonos references was limiting & dispiriting at a max. Mundungus-smoking Sununu would agree. Now if it were part of a theme, that would have been terrific. Perhaps I was influenced in my assessment by the large number of pop culture and obscure entries/clues that turned my solving experience from joy to chore.

In my opinion Jeff Chen's review was a fair, logical, unbiased and accurate analysis of the puzzle.

I love the FAIR SEX though, I have a weakness for it. I also love this gorgeous TERZETTO in C major, Op. 74, for two violins and viola by Antonín Dvořák.

PS. Anyone desirous of more severe punishment should give Brad Wilber's Saturday Stumper a try.

Nancy in PA 10:31 AM  

I loved this puzzle. Perfect Saturday--tough but gettable. I have played Bananagrams but prefer Scrabble. Once again, having teenage girls in the house saved me with UGG and Beyonce. Thought the CLARA Bow clue too clever for words.

Anonymous 10:35 AM  

I assumed Tijuana Taxi referred to cop cars that returned illegal immigrants to Mexico. But I'm only guessing.

Anonymous 10:49 AM  

Oops, on further research, TT refers to the fact that the taxis in T are brightly (garishly, even) painted. By analogy, the cop cars with flashing lights are bright and garish.

quilter1 10:53 AM  

So much I had no idea about starting with BANANAGRAMS, but managed to finish. Liked it very much.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:00 AM  

Medium verging on Challenging for me, which is to say, finished breakfast before I finished the puzzle. Which makes it a very good Saturday puzzle! Took my time, so no write-overs.

BANANAGRAMS reminds me of last year's ACPT, the one and only time I have played the game. (I learned that it is not a winning strategy to play against people who have memorized the Scrabble dictionary plus variants allowed in Bananagrams.)

Which further reminds me - I have signed up for this year's ACPT; have you?

(And, yes, I saw the clue for 51 A long before I solved it, and had all sorts of wild speculation about what kind of theme to expect. Maybe it had something to do with the missing "C" in 12 A?)

Steve J 11:31 AM  

@Mohair Sam: I got a good laugh out of your comment regarding Twilight. I'm with you. Although, I'm unlikely to suffer through Harry Potter to cover that. Someone needs to write a Clif Notes version so I can catch up on all the crosswordy terms.

I'm a little surprised no one has cast aspersions on ASPERSE yet. Many of us (including me) blasted that word a few weeks back. I still am not fond of it, but it does illustrate how much impressions can vary based on how prominent a word is within a puzzle, as well as by overall impressions of the puzzle.

RnRGhost57 11:39 AM  

Wharever Rex is on today, I want some.

ludyjynn 11:54 AM  

What @Garth said, word for word.

Nancy 12:22 PM  

ALIAS Z posting at 1:09 a.m. said exactly what I feel. This was an impossible puzzle for me, with ridiculous "pop" answers that underscore what is so trivial and superficial about contemporary culture. My problem is that I struggled and struggled and spent several hours on this because I'm very stubborn and hate to be stymied. With the result that I actually got all but the NW after thinking I would get exactly nothing. But am I proud of myself? No -- because despite all my efforts I still DNF and should have spent those hours on a good book.

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

12-A is USM? Tell it to the USMC!

Sanford Meyersfield 12:53 PM  
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Thomas808 1:16 PM  

Definitely not easy or medium for me, but still doable and very enjoyable. Never heard of SASHAFIERCE but I was saved by my love of the word SPOOF. I actually read the first Twilight book, trying to stay relevant with my daughters, but I don't think ALEC is in the first book. I'm pretty much limited to Bella, Jacob, and Edward.

I agree that USM is just plain wrong. I believe that no one affiliated with the Marine Corps would use anything other than USMC as an abbreviation. It's so wrong it threw me off wondering if there was a dropped C theme going on. Please, if you need to use USM, find a clue to reference the University of Southern Maine or U.S. Mint.

Many great clues -- I like the ILOVELA clue the best because if you know the song well it's a gimme but if you don't know the song you can still get it from the meaning. The reference to Chicago in the clue actually come from the intro to the song, which frequently does not make it to the radio version. Right before that line is the line, "Hate New York City, it's cold and it's damp
and all the people dress like monkeys". I think people don't get that the Randy Newman song, though including an upbeat, singable chorus, is actually partly mocking LA for its shallowness. The lyrics at the peak of the song celebrate what? Streets! And the ultimate street named? Sixth Street! Anyone who knows LA knows that Sixth Street is the very heart of Skid Row. It's classic Randy Newman. I remember when the LA City Council honored him with a proclamation I was thinking that Randy must have loved the irony.

Z 1:17 PM  

@Comment deleted 12:53pm - All of us who get the email follow-ups heard that FACE PALM, right after you clicked on the "Publish" button. If it is any comfort, almost everyone here has done that at least once, sometimes ranting on at great length before the light goes on.

Colin 1:35 PM  

Loved this! Not Easy for me - I'd say mostly Medium, and Medium-Challenging in the NW. MEGAN FOX and SASHA FIERCE got me some traction to start out, and I nearly have up on the NW before I tried GEAR UP, which gave me BANANAGRAMS and. BATES, and then ADOBE READER. I'm flabbergasted by this kid's cleverness - I always love his work and I remembered that he was a young constructor, but I thought he was something like 25, not 17! Really remarkable. So many great clues here - particularly loved the ones for CLARA BOW and TAXONOMISTS. Terrific Saturday!

Anonymous 2:01 PM  

Tijuana Taxi is flat out racist.

wreck 2:07 PM  

Lighten up, Francis

Lewis 2:14 PM  

I've liked David's puzzles from the start. He puts his own stamp on them while constructing according to conventional rules.

Like yesterday, very little grid gruel. I enjoyed both puzzles equally, even though today's was more current -- both high quality, and examples of crossword construction being an art.

Benko 2:50 PM  

@NCA President nailed it in his review. That is exactly why I struggled with this puzzle far more than I would have if it had been a BEQ. Perhaps we need to change our expectations.

Garth 3:19 PM  

@ludyjynn: Did you also have a good piano practice?

MetaRex 3:46 PM  

DNF--had to rush this morning to catch the train to NYC and so looked up BATES to crack the NW after 20 or so pleasant minutes. Back from the city now. So where does a not-young man's fancy turn on a pleasantly lazy Saturday afternoon? To crucimetrics, in my case. Is today's high sparkle puzz better on a word by word basis than yesterday's serene, smooth puzz? My answer is here,

mac 4:09 PM  

I'm risking a face palm, but what is the meaning of Cannes neighbors / ens?

August West 4:25 PM  

mac: the letters "nn" are "neighbors."

Z 5:08 PM  

@anon2:01 - I couldn't find any support on the web that the origin of the term is "flat out racist." However, this site seems to use the term in a very racist way. So even if it didn't start out as racist slang, it may become racist slang.

**SPOILER ALERT 9-22-53**

@mac - "DDE, for example" resulted in INITIALS, a clue and answer much of the same self-referential type as "Cannes neighbors" resulting in ENS. I arched an eyebrow when I filled that one in, as I've promised myself multiple times not to get tripped by those kinds of clues.

Anonymous 5:12 PM  

Easy???? Rex, what part of the multiverse are you from???? Terzetto, bananagram, Ivar, Tys, katharine lee bates, sasha fierce, etc., etc., WTF???????? How DARE you call this easy???? Are you BRAIN DAMAGED or something????????

wreck 5:14 PM  

Tijuana Taxi is a song from the 60's and the clue reference was to the 70's.

cascokid san 5:17 PM  

DNF. No traction. I filled in a couple dozen solos, but most were way wrong. I quit after an hour at Lance Cpl 3 letters. USMC is so obviously and exclusively what is being clued that it demanded a rebus. Yes, a Satuday rebus with a Steinberg byline. So how many of my solutions had to be reconsidered in light of a required rebus?

USM is the three letter acronym for the "university in Maine's largest city" or if you need a post 2000 era pop Saturday clue "Adrian Monk's alma mater" "Monk's mater." Tony Shaloub may not mention it much anymore, but he was in Portland before his Yale acting days.

Sigh.

Carola 5:35 PM  

@Alias Z - Thanks for the link to the Saturday Stumper - took me to the mat. I had to go to Wikipedia for the last three letters of 33A; then I closed it out. Great workout.

mac 5:58 PM  

Thank you, @August and Z, I usually don't get tripped up by those….

Ruth Anne Baumgartner 6:22 PM  

Alias Z, agree, and Nancy. Twenty-first century cultural references are not my bag, and before you say "Well, too bad, you're old," I'd like to say "I like puzzles that test vocabulary and mental agility, not cultural references that can't be guessed from good crosses." Totally frustrating. And "Tijuana Taxi" is a whole lot tackier (one might even say negatively stereotyped) of a cultural reference" than an allusion to being colorful. But maybe the 21st-century culture isn't aware of that.

Anonymous 6:30 PM  

I agree with Clark and wreck. My head just exploded...

sanfranman59 7:17 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 5:48, 6:22, 0.91, 12%, Easy
Tue 9:52, 8:15, 1.20, 90%, Challenging
Wed 8:46, 10:26, 0.84, 13%, Easy
Thu 14:44, 19:03, 0.77, 12%, Easy
Fri 21:05, 19:52, 1.06, 67%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 33:12, 28:53, 1.15, 84%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:35, 3:58, 0.90, 5%, Easy
Tue 6:21, 5:12, 1.22, 95%, Challenging
Wed 5:28, 6:11, 0.88, 18%, Easy
Thu 8:37, 10:36, 0.81, 16%, Easy
Fri 12:57, 11:32, 1.12, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 22:17, 18:12, 1.22, 87%, Challenging

okanaganer 7:18 PM  

Why would I bother commenting this late?...because I just now finished the puzzle, after going away and doing something else (like shopping), two Googles, and with many wrong squares. My worst performance in about 8 months. At least 25 percent of the answers I have never heard of. Makes me feel like playing computer solitaire instead. Ouch!!!!

OISK 7:50 PM  

I finished it with no errors. But I can count on David to fill the puzzle with all I like least. Computerese? This time Adobe, last time (about 5 Saturdays ago), two Apple references. Product names? Bananagrams, adidas (last time it was reebok )Zantac, uggboots - at least I have heard of Zantac-. "Hip slang" - face palm, no jive, and last and least, pop culture, sashafierce?Seth Green? Aja? Do I really know or care about what Oprah wears? Another big boo from Brooklyn.

Dirigonzo 8:20 PM  

It took me a long time to reduce the grid to one blank square and onew wrong square. But it's Saturday and it's David Steinberg so I'm claiming victory anyway.

I'm with @cascokid san - USM = University of Southern Maine (I'm listening to their radio station, WMPG, right now) and USMC = United States Marine Corps, which is a "Lance cpl.'s org".

I'm the only one here who solved David Steinberg's ERASE R puzzle , the syndicated puzzle this Thursday, recently enough to remember it, so 48d was definitely a moment of syndication synchronicity.

Dirigonzo 8:28 PM  

ERASE R puzzle

Nikki 8:44 PM  

On the younger end of crossword lovers, I loved this puzzle solely because of it's nowness. Finally a puzzle with more current long answers that I've actually heard of and only a few before-my-time music references. And zero before-my-time sports references, whaaat? One before-my-time subject I do happen to be schooled in, however, is vintage fabric and yet I've never heard of arnel. Hmmm. I hope there's more "now" puzzles like this coming down the pike!

LaneB 8:55 PM  

Should have noticed the Steinberg heading right away. It would have saved me a lot of time. The towel would have right away been hurled into the DNF pile. This one really should have qualified for the DNET. No amount of Googling would have [nor did it] save me. First enormous failure of the week. I just don't get his clues at all. I don't think I'm alone in that regard.

Judith Koveleskie 9:00 PM  

FYI - Arnel is a real fabric! It was very popular in the late 50's and 1960's.

Andrew Morrison 10:12 PM  

Easy? No. When you have USM as an answer to a clue that demands USMC, you are setting people up to fail. There is no branch of the military that is referred to as USM. Hence, the only possibility is a rebus.

I can't believe the gushing praise this puzzle received from RP. Given the vitriol he has spewed towards other, far less objectionable, puzzles, I find his review questionable. He complains about NATICK, which must appear on at least 20 big highway signs around Boston, but totally bogus answers like USM pass without comment?

Tita 11:11 PM  

BANANAGRAMS - if you come to my mother's house, you WILL play this game. It's her absolute favorite. She has invented a bunch of other ways to play it too - including as a solitaire.

Thought it augured well that I popped that in instantly. Sadly, this was a big DNFwoG.

@Bob K - One of the more surreal moments of my life was playing BANANAGRAMS at the bar in the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott.

Feeling way out of my league at my first ACPT (2012), I had great comfort in my new friends, made at my first Westport Tournament the month before, and it was @imsDave who brought his set.

@Bob - I was doing passably well until they punched it up by disallowing 2-letter words. POUF! Outta my league again...

Great fun. I hope tp be there again this year.


You beat me up again, Mr. Steinberg.

Numinous 11:52 PM  

A lance corporal might be a U. S. Marine but the clue requested his orgaization, the U. S. Marine Corps. I'm vaguely offended since the abbreviation is, 99.44% of the time USMC. There maybe one saving grace for David however:

"I'm a hayseed,
"My hair is seaweed
"And my ears are made of leather.
"How they flop in rainy weather.
"Gosh all hemlock,
"Tough as a pine knot:
"We're United States Marines!"

Mother taught me that song along with a few others. Near the end of WWII she was a staff sergeant in the Corps, a Link Trainer instructor at the Cherry Point, NC Marine Corps Air Station. One day, she was tasked to instruct Tyrone Power in the skills of instrument flying on the 1944 equivalant of MS Flight Simulator. Another girl, however, rigged the assignment so she would get the movie star. Tough luck but there was a compensation. A tall young pilot, a T3 sgt, who eventually became her husband and my father.
CORPS was drilled into me from the age of four. My mom even taught me hospital corners and to bounce a quarter off the blanket of my "rack" (that's USMC for bed). When I was eight or nine, I called my mother a BAM to be funny. She actually slapped me. (Google "bam usmc" and you'll get it).

Ok, so overall, I liked this puzzle. I had to google for three proper nouns though: BATES, IVAR, and SASHAFIERCE. I'm a blues guy, I don't listen to R&B so I don't think I've ever heard anything by Beyonce. Other than those, I enjoyed wrapping my head around the other clues. Loved the [Cannes neighbors] when I finally figured out the clue was meta.

Do I apologise (note 'Anglo-Saxon spelling) for a rant now?

I first came across UGGs in 1968 or 9 in a little shop in Crows Nest, a northern suburb of Sydney. They were fairly dear for those days at A$12.00 but I bought them and loved them almost instantly. Those early forms had only the same sheepskin as the tops for soles. Still, they lasted a decent time before wearing out. @LMS, I hate wearing socks and have done since I was in second grade when I pressured my mother to buy me cowboy boots and the socks would bunch up inside them.

The story of UGGs: a surfer from the northern beaches around Sydney was cold one morning after riding the waves. After walking up the beach to the towels etc. he stood on a sheepskin he and his mates had brought with them to the beach (sheepskins are a common thing to have in Australia) and decided that was comfy and warm so he went home and made the prototype booties. A few days later, he wore them to the beach and one of his mates declared, "Those are Ugly! Will you make me a pair?" UGGs, born of the surfing culture of New South Wales and an icon of Australian foot ware. I owned UGGs the entire time I was in Australia and wore them often in lieu of shoes. I next found them in a large department store with the initial "N" in the mid eighties and I've not been without them since.

I have to thank young David for a 99.44% great puzzle and for pointing out to me that Oprah and I actually have something in common.

KMS 9:02 AM  

Didn't look for Steinberg's name, but his interesting background post-facto nice effect. Missed IVAR, because resisted Google, and OCARINAS one for my dustbin (tried ODORINAS once to tell you where I come from, and gentle winds), used Ivor, from the famed Seattle clam bar, and Jeopardy-like give-in, guess FADEPALM, whatever that is...ADIDAS and EDIT were breakthrough guesses, crossword BA-degree experience.

adicecream 9:08 PM  

I just spent two days on this puzzle, DNF, and wouldn't have gotten as far as I did if my husband hadn't told me EJECTORSEAT and my daughter SASHAFIERCE. UGH/UGG. First DNF in several weeks. I am not a "now" person.

Mark M 7:32 AM  

Hi. I'm a fellow Syndilander who always enjoys the comments here but rarely submits anything myself. Why? Well, because I'm probably one of the rare few who subscribe to a late afternoon-delivered paper. Even then I don't usually get to the puzzle until the next day, so I figure no one will read my comments. I am typically a Monday through Thursday solver, though I usually attempt the Friday and Saturday ones. I actually felt pretty good about getting half of yesterday's "wrong" Ian Livengood puzzle correct. Way late, but just to chime in on Thursday's big dotted i debate, of course it's a thing right? If we are to assume that "dot your i's" is in the language, then the eye has to be undotted before it can be dotted??

Anyway, just wanted to introduce myself and let everyone know that I really enjoy the comments here. I'm thankful for this blog. As often happens, I completely missed that the word "dot" was over all the i's in said puzzle. I saw the "o" and thought that was the dot. So this blog has often straightened me out. Oh, and as much as many others abhor sports clues, they have saved me on many an occasion! Cheers and have a happy Saturday!

spacecraft 11:30 AM  

I hate it when OFL goes "Easy-medium" and I can't even come close to finishing because there is just flat-out too much I don't know. Yeah, EJECTORSEAT/AJA, but I barely know who Beyonce IS, let alone what else she calls herself. BANANAGRAMS? Never heard of it, and I'm a Scrabble addict. Then again, when you do anything "fast-paced," you begin to lose me. This old boy is slow--and getting slower.

But PLEASE, someone tell me: why is an ERASER "taken to a slip?" That one has me completely buffaloed.

At least I have 8's full.

Z 12:00 PM  

@spacecraft - if you make a slip while solving you might take an ERASER to it instead of just writing over the wrong answer.

Bob Kerfuffle 12:02 PM  

@spacecraft - Re: Thing taken to a slip : ERASER, think of taking a hammer to a protruding nail, or taking a mop to a spill, where the "slip" is of the pen or pencil.

Anonymous 3:29 PM  

Hey, I'm on the side of those who felt this was CHALLENGING. Not Easy/Medium, not Medium but CHALLENGING! I stopped after getting about 80% with the help of Mr. Google. From the tenor of most comments today, I would rate this puzzle with a big Blaah.

Ron Diego 12:30 PM PST 2/22

P.S. To Mr. Steinberg: Difficulty is one thing and obfuscation is another thing.

Anonymous 3:43 PM  

Spacecraft @11:30 If I had sussed out that "eraser clue, that would have helped to complete the one section I had empty. And c'mon, One way to crack??

Solving in Seattle 4:11 PM  

I take issue with 41A. Never heard the term FACEPALM. I had FACEPuLl until I gave in. Thought it was wrong.

43A deserves an @Spacy flag.

CHirP before CHEEP.

I kinda agree with @Alias Z about this puz.

My daughter lives in LA and wears Uggs whenever she's not at work.

Love the word TAXONOMy and its derivitives.

The SW is great: ILOVELA (where OJ murdered his wife and friend) IFIDIDIT (his confession) DARN, ITISI who did it in the LAVATORY with an OCARINA. (Insert FACEPALM.)

Welcome to Syndyland, @Mark M.

Back to watching golf.

My boat is nines over sixes.

Red Valerian 4:34 PM  

Found this difficult. DNFwoG indeed. I couldn't decide which was worse: OCoRINAS or IVAR. Guessed wrong. So, DNFwoG and OWS.

@Mark M-thanks for mentioning that! I didn't get a chance to look at the blog that day, but fortunately I am a complete slob, so have basically the week's puzzles in archeological place on my desk, obscuring the work I'm supposed to be doing. Dug up that day's. Now I see DOT! Maybe I will avoid yet more work by checking out that day's postings….

My captchas aren't numbers :-( thee itoOuts Something to do with OJ Simpson?

Waxy in Montreal 5:44 PM  

Rarely happy about visiting the blog with so many unsolved clues left but it seems I've saved myself hours of frustration. No way SASHAFIERCE, FACEPALM, TERZETTO and a host of other answers are in my wheelhouse. Definitely CHALLENGING to say the very least.

Off to bed early tonight as Canada plays Sweden tomorrow morning at 7:00 am eastern time for the Olympic men's hockey gold medal. Apparently, TAVERNS and other round houses are opening at 6:00 for the big game. NO JIVE.

Anonymous 7:14 PM  

USM was a killer. The clue for 51 across made me look for 26 rebuses like 12 across just had to be. USM is a horrible clue and an insult to the U.S. Marine Corps.

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