1985 Ralph McInerny novel / FRI 3-14-14 / Rectangular paving stone / Gervasi who directed 2012's Hitchcock / Longtime airer of any Questions /

Friday, March 14, 2014

Constructor: Alan Olschwang

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: "THE NOONDAY DEVIL" (3D: 1985 Ralph McInerny novel) —
The KGB has infiltrated the Catholic church hierarchy in America! That's the chancy premise of this thriller by the author of the Father Dowling mysteries and other Catholic-theme novels (Connolly's Life, The Priest). But, despite more than a few implausibilities, McInerny manages to avoid the heavy, shrill, or murky dangers inherent in such a notion--thanks to charmingly offbeat characters, a variety of issue-viewpoints, uncluttered plotting. . . and a hint of tongue-in-cheek. Cardinal Fergus of N.Y., leader of the US Church's right wing, has been assassinated in Rome by leftist terrorists. So the Church's left wing--led by Cardinal Carey of San Francisco, supported by ex-monk Matt Hanratty, religion editor at the N. Y. Times--quickly comes up with a two-part agenda: to grab some power away from the Pope by ""electing"" Fergus' successor at a meeting of US clergy; and to make sure that the post doesn't go to another right-winger. Meanwhile, however, Myrtle Tillman, devoted secretary to the murdered Cardinal, has taken his secret legacy--a dossier on the KGB's Church infilitration--to rightwing think-tanker Harold Packard, who hires quirky shamus Philip Knight to determine which of three bishops (all candidates for the N.Y. post) is a KGB mole. And then the novel takes its oddest, least credible twist: at their unprecedented election-meeting, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops winds up choosing an unknown Trappist monk, saintly Abbot Peregrine, as N.Y.'s new archbishop! Was Peregrine's election a KGB plot? Is he too a mole? How many KGB-ers, indeed, are lurking beneath robes and cassocks? Well, sleuth Knight (with help from his grossly fat mad-genius-brother) figures it all out--but not before the most ruthless of the KGB agents starts trying to kill just about everybody. . . including adorably feisty Myrtle. Shrewdly balanced between timely issues (e.g., liberation theology) and light Hitchcockian suspense, nicely warmed by flickers of middle-aged romance: a bright, neat tangle of Machiavellian clerics and cynical journalists--entertaining even if you don't go along with the undercurrent of serious KGB-alarm. (Kirkus review)
• • •

Way off my wavelength. Way way. These things happen. Between RON, ELLIE, SACHA, and (esp.) "THE NOONDAY DEVIL," the proper names were just beyond my grasp today. I had a lot of trouble finding *any* information on "THE NOONDAY DEVIL." I've never even heard of the author, Ralph McInerny. Jay McInerney, I've heard of. "The Noonday DEMON," I've actually heard of—it's a bestselling book about depression from a few years back. But Devil? Ralph? One-e McInerny? No way. The 15s are pretty decent in this one, the shorter stuff (predictably) pretty awful. Super-choppy grid gets us lots of 3s and 4s. I'm always put off by a bad NW corner, and this one is pretty dire. GOTAB and its ilk (namely, I guess, GOTAC and GOTAD) are deeply unwelcome. Slightly less unwelcome than, say, GOTACAT, but not much less. And IIN … is IIN. Short stuff didn't get worse from there (how could it?), but it didn't improve. That said, I've seen worse. My main problem with this is that it appears to have been written / clued by someone who lives on a different planet from me and shares virtually none of the same experiences as me. Planet Olschwang. I simply don't live there. But someone probably does, so if he/she enjoyed this (more), fantastic.

Thought the [Longtime airer of "Any Questions?"] was PBSRADIO. That one help-hurt. There should be a word for that—helped me and hurt me simultaneously. Had no idea Mecca and Medina were oases. They are the birthplace and burial place of Muhammed, respectively … that is mostly all I know about them. Thought you needed a GUN or a SKI to be a biathlete, but AIM probably helps too. "WE'RE back!" If you say so. I know SETT now, but it still always makes me sad. Same with ROTOS. I know you are defensible "words," but please go away. Had PALMS for a second at 50D: Holders of many selflies. Seemed plausible. COMPLEX ANALYSIS is just a random phrase to me; had no idea it was a branch of mathematics. This is what I mean about being on a different planet. I just wasn't the ideal audience for this puzzle. So it's important to distinguish the grumpiness caused by objectively bad stuff (quality of the short fill) vs. that caused by an unfamiliar frame of reference and different taste. Sometimes I don't particularly like a puzzle and it's not entirely the puzzle's fault. This is one of those times.

I am, however, having fun trying to reclue GOTAB. [Cheer for one's favorite diet soft drink?] [Slogan for a single torso muscle?] Etc.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Blue Stater 9:06 AM  

    Jeez, am I the first? Has there been a massive power outrage, as we call them in these parts?

    As usual, I agree with Rex. Way, way, way off my wavelength. I was doing OK until I got into the Maine-Florida side. The killer was COMPLEXANALYSIS. A *branch* of mathematics? Isn't *all* mathematics "complex analysis"? Etc.

    evil doug 9:08 AM  

    "Had PALMS for a second at 50D: Holders of many selfies."

    Yes, I frequently hold my selfie in my palm.


    Sir Hillary 9:08 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Z 9:09 AM  

    What Rex said about wavelength. I was stuck in the snowbank with nobody to help push me out. Rocked it a little here, threw down a little sand there, and almost made it to the finish line. aETT and ROTaS/eAR did me in. Just never grokked what kind of shell we were talking about. My preferred shell has Stroh's in it while I'm eating a burger at Miller's (an oft cited "Best Burger in Metro Detroit" bar). I plopped in AAa for small power source and never considered aETT.

    Five vertical 15's are a fun change of pace. Puzzle put up quite the fight. The puzzle GOTAB. Me? I GOTAD.

    Sir Hillary 9:10 AM  

    I really wanted to hate this puzzle. The short fill is ubergunky -- as bad as I can remember.

    But in the end, the 15s and the down 9s seduced me. That's a really impressive set, especially considering how many of them intersect.

    I have an image of a crate-unloading USEDCARSALESMAN who prefers not to LIVEDANGEROUSLY BEATINGARETREAT. "ONSECONDTHOUGHT, I'll use the SERVICEENTRANCE."

    Wouldn't want to solve too many of these, but it was fun today. Thank you, Alan.

    Andrew Morrison 9:11 AM  

    No problems here, except a minor brain blockage when I accepted CBCRADIO, whiffing on the above part of above-average. Took a while to sniff out that stupid mistake but still finished in well under my avg time. Pretty impressive lineup of long answers. I, too, have never heard of that author but crossfill got me within guessing distance of the answer. All in all, for me, a very enjoyable Friday puzzle.

    Anonymous 9:18 AM  

    Some of us, just regular solvers, enjoy answers such as I IN or GOT A B that are clever, cute and provide a "chuckle break" in a tough puzzle.

    Today's NYT offering was a wonderful treat from a seasoned constructor.

    Thanks, Alan.

    Glimmerglass 9:30 AM  

    Interesting puzzle. I knew (or maybe guessed) parts of the long answers (...RETREAT, ....ENTRANCE, COMPLEX..., ...STRAIN, ...DANGER...). The partial answers helped considerably with the fill, which in turn got me the rest of the 15s. Just once I'd like to read a Rex blog that says "I sweated bullets on this one and it took me a long time, but I wound up loving it." Long time Rex readers, has this ever happened?

    Anonymous 9:32 AM  

    I would have rated this clever puzzle Easy-Medium for a Friday. Finished in 7:07 with no googling. BBC RADIO and the cross of SAHIB were a quick start to getting the nw corner, and the rest flowed easily and quickly.

    Pete 9:36 AM  

    My main complaint was COMPLEXANALYSIS. I've taken courses in complex analysis, so it fell into place readily. What pissed me off about it is that apparently I'm so damned old that when I took the course fractals were unheard of.

    wreck 9:37 AM  

    First pass through was bleak. I had to google early just to get a foothold. That said, once you get a grid spander -- it starts to move fast. I liked it better after finishing than I thought early on.

    chefbea 9:41 AM  

    Too tough for me. DNF

    Tracy Bennett 9:41 AM  

    COMPLEX ANALYSIS was my favorite entry, but I'm biased. I work for a mathematics database and publication. Also, it's Pi Day today! And we're celebrating math. The level of difficulty was right where I like a Friday puzzle---I was a little late getting to work, but I finished.

    joho 9:45 AM  

    This was a struggle for me but because I ultimately won I have to say I liked it.

    It was really hard to see EXGI which at first looked like gibberish and then, oh! EX GI! I don't know how I got COMPLEXANALYSIS as I am mathematically challenged.

    I had THENOONDAY but no DEVIL for the longest time but finally got it with crosses. I didn't want to accept WERE back.

    I thought the 15s were above average my favorites being: LIVEDANGEROUSLY, BEATINGARETREAT and ONSECONDTHOUGHT.

    Thank you, Alan Olschwang!

    Questinia 9:50 AM  

    Same rating. I think Mr Olschwanger didn't want a puzzle on anybody's wavelength. The entire puzzle is a mis-direct. Besides the NOONDAY DEVIL vs NOONDAY DEMON, I wanted something like Methicillin Resistant Staphylococccus Aureus and Point Set Tolopolgy. THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN is a movie isn't it? Loved COMPLEX ANALYSiS in the end though.

    Had GOTAs because I forgot that a C was average. Not in this over-achieving neck of the woods. That tripped me up for a long time. Also had chessmen instead of THE SLOTS, the plural making me go to SISSY but the n making me change to nancy and then back again.

    Loved the clue for TRILL (shake in an opera house) even though I didn't like the word "shake".

    Neuroplasticity index (NI) = Ganglia Twitches/Time. This one tickled the fractals of my mind.

    jberg 9:50 AM  

    Count me with those who thought the beautiful 15s made up for some bad fill. While I didn't enjoy I IN (I guess you could like these things the way you do a bad pun), I did like the clues for YER and CPR -- I had 'nod' for that (one way to get the beat going) far too long; it made me want nUmeric ANALYSIS, which gave me Elroy for the magazine award (much better name) and really messed up the NE.

    France has only had 40 kings, so I feel I really should know the birth and death years of all of them, but as it was I had to guess -- THE NOONDAY DEVIL did sound a little more likely than DEVIx, DEVIi, or DEVIv.

    SETTs are also where badgers live; somehow, I'd like them a lot better clued that way, but maybe that's just me. Here's how to recognize one.

    What I learned today: there are only 2 Ses in YESES.

    Susan McConnell 9:51 AM  

    I understand what Rex said about not being on this puzzle's wavelength, but by the time I was done, I was very pleased with myself for solving it and impressed with all of those long downs. So I liked it in spite of myself.

    M King 9:57 AM  

    Google n-gram viewer agrees with me that it really should be BEATINGAhastyRETREAT. By far the more popular phrasing.

    And Wikipedia tells me McInerny was more well known for his Father Dowling mysteries. I never watched the show, but I remember seeing commercials for it.

    RnRGhost57 10:01 AM  

    Good but tough. Much Googling.

    AliasZ 10:01 AM  

    Terrific Friday puzzle by Alan Olschwang.

    The sheer number of grid-spanners were a pleasure, and the fact that three intersected five of them was a terrific feat. Not only that, but they were all excellent phrases, not a "ONE'S" phrase in the crowd, and half of them appear for the first time in the NYT. Add to that the other 4 long (8 & 9-letter) entries which are all debuts, and you've got a terrific puzzle all around: fresh, challenging but fair, and very few clunkers. Favorite: ON SECOND THOUGHT, which I find myself saying too often. Do you remember the terrific 1971 sci-fi thriller The ANDROMEDA STRAIN, based on the novel by Michael Crichton?

    Now the less than zippy stuff: ROTOS (short for rotogravures), IIN, GRE, URI, SML, MDL, ENGR & ENTR' and GOTAB (the capital of Greenland is Godthåb in Danish, Nuuk in the Greenlandic or Kalaallisut language). But that's about it. All in all, well worth it.

    Best clues of the day: "The shorter you are?" for YER, and "Jazz player Malone" for KARL because it wasn't Marx.

    AMICI seems to be fast becoming crosswordese. This year (and we are only in March) it has already appeared 5 times, while only once in each of the last three years.

    What surprised me more than the somewhat obscure novel THE NOONDAY DEVIL by Ralph McInerny was that it appeared in a NYT puzzle once before. BTW, McInerny was the creator of the Father Dowling Mysteries books that were adapted into a TV series starring Tom Bosley that ran from 1989 to '91 first on NBC, then in ABC.

    This is the NOONDAY Witch Overture, Op. 108, by Antonín Dvořák.

    I truly enjoyed this one. Thanks, Alan.

    Happy Friday!

    Michael Hanko 10:03 AM  

    "Shake" is actually a technical term--an old-timey synonym for TRILL, making possible the musical pun in "Thus saith the Lord" from Handel's Messiah, when the bass soloist sings long trilly passages on the lyric, "...and I will sha-a-a-a-ke..."

    Cheerio 10:03 AM  

    I have a question related to Pete's comment. Would a typical undergraduate text book in use today for a course in Complex Analysis have a whole chapter on fractals? Would this be included as a topic on a syllabus? Or would it be more likely just a short aside?

    AliasZ 10:06 AM  

    That is "The sheer number of grid-spanners WAS a pleasure..."

    Proof read, proof read, proof read.

    Ludyjynn 10:07 AM  

    Like @Glimmerglass noted, somehow the long answers just revealed themselves to me, making this medium-challenging puzzle do-able.

    Puzzle was not in my wheelhouse, as Rex also stated, but it was enjoyable nonetheless as it unfolded w/ some persistence. NE corner fell last; ELLIE award is new to me. All in all, a good workout.

    mac 10:40 AM  

    The long answers were very nice in this, to me, tough puzzle. This time not just the clues, also some of the answers.

    I was slowed down mightily because of "Got As", and 38D "The A team" stayed in to long as well.

    Anybody thought of "chute" at 1D?

    wreck 10:44 AM  

    Hands up for "chute" for a long time.

    Mohair Sam 10:44 AM  

    A triple stack 15 with 5 more 15's. Knew we were gonna love this one and we did.

    Didn't mind the obscure THENOONDAYDEVIL - it is Friday after all, and there were no naticks hidden in the crosses. Got COMPLEXANALYSIS off the C and X, but I've studied much more math than English. Loved the clue for TRILL, and had a gimme on LEEDS but don't know how I know it. Doesn't NPR have a show patterned on "Any Questions?"? I wanted to use NPRRADIO until I realized it was redundant.

    Anyhow, thank you Alan - your puzzle really sent us.

    Steve J 10:44 AM  

    I wasn't really on the same wavelength as the puzzle, either, and there were parts I struggled mightily with, but I nevertheless rather liked this one.

    The strength of the long answers was what made this one. The central triple stack is especially good, with ON SECOND THOUGHT my favorite. The three horizontal 15s were great, too. They were impressive enough that the ample - and, at times, very shaky - sort fill was pretty easy to overlook (other than IIN; ow).

    @jberg: The clues for YER and CPR were among my favorites, too.

    Like @joho, I couldn't see EX GI to save my life (I literally had E_GI, and I still couldn't see it until I crossed it). I bafflingly dropped in GED for GRE. Didn't know SAHIB or ROTOS.

    Good challenge for Friday. It's good to be pushed outside of one's wheelhouse sometimes.

    Gill I. P. 10:55 AM  

    Didn't know what a fractal was - looked it up and I still don't know what it is...Wanted something like siMPLE but CPR (loved that clue) gave me the COMPLEX and YER gave me the ANALYSIS.
    I LOVED THIS PUZZLE!!!! I wasn't the least bit bored. Maybe because I finished it sans Google but more so because I was on the wavelength today.
    Had several write-overs. Wrote puSSY for the unlikely bruiser. AURic which gave me THEScoop for the playing matches thing. It all came together after several breaks and I did a happy dance.
    I'll take this kind of puzzle every Friday thank you very much.
    @evil. Hah! - but do you take a picture?

    OISK 11:00 AM  

    LOVED this one! For me a perfect Friday is one where I start out not knowing where to begin. Then I find a few spots I think I know. Sinai, Hanna, Tso, Ron,…and it somehow breaks for me, and the full length clues click in - Andromeda Strain! I was looking for a scientific name, not a science fiction novel. So that's what someone from Leeds is called? Interesting!
    Great puzzle Alan. Loved the clues for CPR, "the slots" "Got a B" Just a lot of fun.

    David 11:01 AM  

    Fractals are associated with geometry - that's it. Complex analysis can apply to anything... most bogus clue / answer ever!

    Two Ponies 11:01 AM  

    ExGI nearly did me in.
    Complex analysis meant nothing to me but sounded like a real thing.
    I'd like to see Edina clued ala
    Like someone else said, without the word hasty 8D doesn't ring true.
    Decent Friday workout.

    jae 11:07 AM  

    Medium for me.  I'm with the contingent that thinks this has enough good stuff to offset some of less adorable fill...MDL, YER (good clue though), ROTOS, IIN, ENGR, TSO, AAS,  OK'D... I liked the center vertical  3 stack and the 3 horizontal 15s.  Me too for never heard of the McInerny novel which along with SACHA was a WOE. 

    For some reason 1a brought to mind this this little ditty.

    Amusing Fri. Liked it.

    Bob Kerfuffle 11:13 AM  

    Wonderful puzzle. Loved it.

    @AliasZ has already mentioned the absence of ONE and ONE'S, to which I would add that none of the 15s is a POC either.

    If there was any flaw, I do remember that at least one (former?) Rexville-ian finds 63 A, SISSY, offensive. (I just heard a promo for a radio discussion to the point that someone wants to ban the word "bossy" because it is somehow hurtful to girls. To each his own!)

    John V 11:16 AM  

    I am on such a roll; my Groundhog Day is that yesterday and today felt like replays of my performance on ACPT puz #5. You could look that up.

    Some days you can't do nuttin'

    COIXT RECORDS 11:21 AM  

    I had a great time with this 'un.

    For me it was that perfect solving experience wherein almost nothing falls in the first pass, prospects looking bleak, but slowly and steadily scattered footholds build until it's miraculously complete! While never hitting a wall along the way to the point where I become frustrated or bored. Very satisfying!

    John Child 11:26 AM  

    Pretty much what @Gill I.P. Said except that I never got rid of pussy and therefor never saw the slots. Finished with a few blanks in the SE after a lot of fun.

    COIXT RECORDS 11:39 AM  

    ALSO, I ended with one incorrect crossing that still seems vaguely plausible, if tenuous:

    47A - I supposed that 'ROTeS' could be 'Old paper parts,' as in academic papers, back in the heyday of rote learning

    48D - And that lead to an 'eAR' being a 'shell accessory,' as in the classic "listening for the sound of the ocean inside a seashell" routine.

    Well, not quite, as it turned out.

    I still do not understand how an OAR is a shell accessory, anyone?

    COIXT RECORDS 11:41 AM  

    ...John Child, why in the world would you want to get rid of pussy?? ;)


    Moly Shu 11:46 AM  

    My first few entries included OKD and AAS, and I thought " if these stick , I'm going to hate this puzzle " . Then came OHO and SML "oh no, it's getting worse". Eventually was swayed to the "liked it" side by the long downs. My main sticking point was YuR and CuLLS. Just could not change the u to an e. Finally did and then had to fix INTHEWILL, which fit the clue according to me. The RRN couldn't end in LL once I remembered L=50. Rating this one mostly medium with a bonus for changing my mind mid-solve.

    Two Ponies 11:47 AM  

    The blogger who didn't like sissy was @jesser. Too bad he stopped commenting. Funny guy.

    Between @ED and @COIXT I'm still grinning. Maybe a continuation from yesterdays rated X.

    evil doug 12:08 PM  

    ..."I never got rid of pussy so therefore never saw the slots."

    I would think the opposite would be true....


    Pete 12:09 PM  

    @COIXT - A shell is a small boat, propelled by oars.

    Numinous 12:12 PM  

    @COIXT, in rowing events the vessels rowed are called shells.

    Unlikely bruiser? Maybe or maybe not. Overly vex a SISSY and he'll hit you with his purse.

    Had to google for LEEDS. But my time was lowish in the Magmic statistics and lower than where I usually wind up so I'm guessing lotsa folks found this a toughie.

    I didn't mind the three letter entries as much as some of y'all and I rather liked IIN as it presented me with an image of King Lear in an Alzheimers moment.

    Yeah, the 15s were all groovy, the along the continental divide all fell fast for me. For the longets time I tried to hang on to THE NOONDAY traIn which messed me up for getting the SW. Baja California, Florida and Maine had me stymied for the longest time though the rest came fairly easily.

    Good puzzle that kept me thinking and entertained. I had to google though so I guess I GOTAB.

    Masked and Anonymo3Us 12:13 PM  

    Five grid spanners intersectin 3 more grid spanners. This can't be an easy grid to dress up and get out the door. U have my E-ternal respect, Mr. O.

    Wonder if he got down to everything except SETT, and saithed "Well, shoot... waddatheyexpect, for a bottom feeder?" I'm totally willin to look the other way on that one, but sure wish he'd clued MDL as "Gold unit: Abbr."



    Numinous 12:16 PM  

    @AliasZ, YER right. Proofread proofread proofread!!!
    Transposed letters and inelegant duplicated phrases are doing me in today. :-(

    Gareth Bain 12:17 PM  

    "...appears to have been written / clued by someone who lives on a different planet from me and shares virtually none of the same experiences as me. Planet Olschwang. I simply don't live there."

    That sums up what I experienced as well! I assume this is very much in a male Boomer/Silent Generation American's sweet spot?

    Numinous 12:19 PM  

    Oh, yeah @jberg. Reading about SETTs was fascinating. Thank you for that.

    And a belated Thank You to Alan Olschwang for 8 fun 15s.

    JTHurst 12:30 PM  

    At First I thought this was a theme puzzle with Andromeda Strain, past tense of Living Dangerously, and Used Car Salesman from Robin Williams in Cadillac Man, but alas not.Guess I got a 'D'.

    Matthew A. Harmer 12:51 PM  

    I had one nitpick about 57D, "The Rams of the A-10 Conf.": there are *three* A-10 teams that go by Rams (VCU, URI, and Fordham). The phrase "The Rams" hinted to me that there was a single answer.

    wreck 12:59 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Lewis 1:05 PM  

    @rex -- terrific writeup today. Funny and insightful, and well expressed.

    @M&A -- SO wanted 48D to be HAR

    For me it was a medium. I hadn't heard of the novel or math branch, but they fell in. I was on a roll -- got ANDROMEDASTRAIN from three letters. SETT makes me sad as well. Go away, SETT, please. I pulled RON out of I don't know where. Almost Naticked at ROTOS/OAR. Felt about this puzzle much like @SirHillary.

    Overall, a great solving experience. Alan, YER a hero to me today. Thanks for the puzzle!

    PK 1:05 PM  

    Disliked it as much as you did, sweetie. Multiple OMGs and WTFs scrawled in margins. And the amici/ital cross-referenced foreign language abbrev has to get an award for suckiness.

    optionsgeek 1:29 PM  

    Can some one give me a pointer - how is ROTOS being used in this context? I'm drawing a blank.

    Nancy 1:34 PM  

    Loved this puzzle. Struggled hard and had fun doing so. Getting USED CAR SALESMAN early helped. Then SOBS and ENEMY led me to ON SECOND THOUGHT. Loved the clues for CPR and YER like AliasZ and also the clue for TRILL. My only miss was the B of GOT A B. I thought it might be GOT AA for aBC RADIO and left the square blank by mistake.
    And I have a question for OISK, since we seem to love the same puzzles and hate the same puzzles, usually for the exact same reasons. Are you man or woman, young or old? You don't have to answer, but I'd guess you're probably a woman of a certain age, like me.

    Fred Romagnolo 1:41 PM  

    Didn't know Ellie, and aha and oho seem to be interchangeable in definitions so NE was hardest for me. ExGI clinched for me. When I was a boy, sissy didn't imply gay, but it seems it does now. Like the word, gay, itself: an example of the constantly changing language. Makes it hard on us oldtimers.

    John V 1:44 PM  

    @optionsgeek. I take ROTOS to be short form for ROTOGRAVURE -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotogravure. Take note of the lyrics in Easter Parade by Irving Berlin: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/i/irving+berlin/easter+parade_20068099.html

    Z 2:04 PM  

    @Nancy - If you click on people's blue names you will be taken to a page with anywhere from no information to quite a lot of information about the poster. If you like, you can also start a blogger account.

    Z 2:17 PM  

    @Bob Kerfuffle - While I am loath to ban words, I do understand the "bossy" concern. In brief - behaviors in boys that often get described as positive, like "showing leadership," are ascribed negative descriptors, like "bossy," when exhibited by a girl. Personally, "bossy" behavior is bad in boys, girls, men, and women, but I get their point.

    Anoa Bob 2:25 PM  

    Sometimes a puzzle wins me over right off the bat and thereafter the constructor can do no wrong. That happened here when my first thought for "He may be trying to unload crates" was USED CAR SALESMAN. Hell, I didn't even notice any POCs after that!

    As for Rex's quest for a word that means "helped me and hurt me simultaneously", how about "autoschadenfreude"?

    @evil one: Yo, flyboy! Back to your cockpit. Find an instrument to amuse yourself with. (Oh, wait. Looks like you already did.)

    mathguy 2:46 PM  

    I'm not an expert on fractals but I've worked with them a little. They are graphs created by iterating certain functions. The ones I've seen were functions of real variables but I suppose that they could work with complex variables as well. I would call this a bogus clue even though I got it rather easily from the crosses.

    I was impressed that the crosses over the triple stack of 15s wasn't junky.

    Tracy Bennett 2:46 PM  

    What's a POC?

    Secretariat 3:04 PM  

    Plural Of Convenience

    Hello Mr. Turcotte

    Anonymous 3:20 PM  

    AAA PLUS! Best puzzle I've done in six months. You people and your complaints, you seem to want trivia you can input right away instead of making yourself think. There was no need to know the "Noonday Devil" novel or what fractals or the microbes are -- I never heard of them either and filled the puzzle in completely. Very few gimmees, mostly clues that could go in several directions. Only Googled "sett", "ellie", and "Sacha", and none of the three were terribly important to the solve. Lots of well-disguised clues, and if you got those clues you didn't need to know the novel, the microbe or the obscure math term. This puzzle took massive persistence, because the answers don't jump out at you. Very rewarding!!!!

    Carola 3:34 PM  

    I was surprised at @Rex's rating, as "easy for a Friday" was my experience. Started with GSUIT x SAHIB and made steady progress from there. My one hold-up was the center 15-Across, where, like @Questinia, I expected some horrid flesh-eating staph or strep, or, once I had the A, an Anaerobe. Laughed when it turned out to be the ANDROMEDA STRAIN, Also laughed at myself for having to run the alphabet for T_ILL, opera fan(atic) that I am.

    I liked the "life on the edge" feel of the puzzle - besides the dread ANDROMEDA STRAIN, we have WILD, DANGEROUSLY, DEVIL, ENEMY. BBC RADIO over LEEDS is nice.

    @Tracy Bennett - Happy Pi day! My favorite pie plate has pi to I don't know how many decimel places around the rim and the nice big pi symbol in the center. Glad to know I have a reason for dessert when going out to dinner tonight :)

    @Gareth Bain - Could you explain why "male"?

    sanfranman59 3:41 PM  

    Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

    Fri 22:14, 21:16, 1.05, 64%, Medium-Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Fri 16:09, 12:18, 1.31, 88%, Challenging

    Ellen S 3:58 PM  

    Pretty much took the same wrong turns as everybody, but no googling and I loved it. I must come from planet Olschwang. For the record I am female and older than the oldest Boomer. Boomers might have more trouble remembering the ROTO section of the newspaper. However, not knowing the ELLIE award, I had ELsIE for a while, making 10D "----sEXANALYSIS." Dang! I started out in college as a math major; if I'd known it was going to be that much fun, I'd have stuck around.

    I DNF, though, because I had SeL instead of SAL, and even though I knew SePS didn't make any sense, and SAPS did, I didn't fix it before filling in the final letter. I'm glad the "Sorry your answer is incorrect" banner doesn't come with sound effects.

    @Jae, thanks for the Cheech & Chong link. I'm glad I got here late enough to be diverted by it. And the same, only different, @Jberg's badger SETT link.

    @Gill I.P., GGGGG, don't encourage @Evil!!! Shades of Anthony Weiner!

    Oh, speaking of @Evil, I find myself referring to controlling women as "bossy" and such men as "bullies". Not that @Evil is a bully, but I did once say he reminded me of my brother, who is. Anyway, I'm glad to have @Evil back here.

    Anonymous 4:07 PM  

    did this while taking a break from grading mid-terms-- started with 1A and filled in "got a b" instantly. flew along from there, finishing well below my my usual Friday time

    Anonymous 4:27 PM  

    Shouldn't yeses be spelled yeses?

    Anonymous 4:29 PM  


    I guess not. It got auto-corrected😊

    Pete 4:34 PM  

    @Numinous's attempt at a joke at 12:12 serves as a perfect example of why people object to the use of SISSY.

    Stuart 4:49 PM  

    As a mathematician, I am always happy when professional mathematical terms (I've seen "Erdos" and "coset"- even if it was clued wrongly, in the last year) like "complex analysis" make it into the puzzle.

    But I'm sad, when a University faculty member such as Rex doesn't know that one of the most important fields in mathematics even exists!!!

    Well, par for the course. In the movie, "Good Will Hunting", the character playing the mathematician (with my favorite pickup line ever- "Want to come to my apartment and see my Fields Medal?") says that the only mathematician known to the general public is the Unibomber!

    The Unibomber's field of study? Complex Analysis!!!

    Arlene 4:52 PM  

    I'm glad to see that others needed to google to get this puzzle going. Equally nice to finish!

    retired_chemist 4:53 PM  

    Liked it, mostly, despite the flaws everybody noted. Any puzzle with 5vertical15s and 3 horizontal 15s needs no apology for a little crap. But much of the fill was nice. (be fair: much wasn't.)

    Karl Malone is an EX-Jazz player. Got it instantly but didn't like the implication that he is current. Long retired. Most famous in my twisted mind for being available when the Mavericks picked, but they took the largely useless (mostly because of substance abuse). Roy Tarpley instead.

    Thanks, Mr. Olschwang.

    retired_chemist 4:55 PM  

    Oh - and Happy Pi Day everyone.

    wreck 5:40 PM  


    After your Mavericks comment, I looked at your profile. I used to know one of your "dog" friends "Paul"!

    retired_chemist 5:54 PM  

    @wreck - paul L?.

    retired_chemist 5:55 PM  

    @wreck - paul L?.

    lawprof 5:58 PM  

    This was a real workout for me. First pass through the grid yielded little: SAHIB, ENEMY, RIVET, SINAI, ALI. Had Saudi before OASIS for a long time, so that slowed the NW for a while. SERVantsENTRANCE didn't fit, and the otherwise correct SERVICE... was slow to register for some reason.

    Had to put it down for a while and come back; then it started to click, albeit slowly.

    Had to chuckle at the [Utah] Jazz reference. If ever there was cognitive dissonance associated with the transfer of a professional sports franchise, this was it. Picture the Mormon Tabernacle Choir skatting? Doubtful.

    Another satisfying grind. Medium difficult about right. Thanks, Mr. Olschwang.

    wreck 6:33 PM  

    @RC -- yes. We worked for a common owner (different businesses)

    gifcan 6:38 PM  

    Wandered around the puzzle looking for and in and somehow managed LIVEDANGEROUSLY.

    it was a tought DNF for me. The only person's wavelength I was on was @jberg. Everything said by @jberg was true for me. Everything.

    Thank you, Alan O, for the challenge.

    LaneB 7:49 PM  

    Googled COMPLEXANALYSIS and THE noonDAY devil but still DNF unable to get YER or TRILL from the clues. SACHA over SETT also painful as was OHO as something meaning " Well, well! well" Admirable to put all the 15-letter crosses together even tho parts of the fill were strained.

    michael 7:53 PM  

    I liked this puzzle -- started slow, but finished fast once I got the 15s. I got complex analysis early (math major), but the noonday devil was news to me despite my compulsive reading.

    I knew Rex would say something about "complex analysis" -- he always makes a remark about not knowing math clues.

    Dean 8:21 PM  

    The "Any Questions" was and is BBC Radio FOUR. I picked up on the hint immediately, but couldn't make RADIOFOUR fit.

    OISK 8:54 PM  

    @Nancy - I am male, and 68 yrs. old - you might have guessed I was male (and from Brooklyn) if you knew who OISK is. (my boyhood idol - pitched for Brooklyn…) But we do seem to agree most of the time! About "Rotos", some of us might recall "The photographers will snap us, and you'll find that you're in the rotogravure…oh, I could write a sonnet…"

    Davis 8:57 PM  

    @Cheerio — Fractals were not typically covered in undergraduate complex analysis when I was an undergrad, and were not even covered in my graduate-level complex analysis series. Complex analysis tends to focus on the behavior of complex analytic functions (i.e., functions that can be represented as complex power series). I think you'd need to take a class focusing on dynamical systems if you wanted to learn about fractals.

    So unless that's changed in recent years, I'd consider the "fractals" reference to be a "loose fitting" clue. The Mandelbrot set is a famous fractal that results from iterating a simple complex analytic function (a polynomial), so it's not exactly wrong to connect fractals to complex analysis. But many fractals (such as the Sierpinski Gasket) have nothing to do with complex analysis, so the overlap is pretty weak.

    sanfranman59 10:02 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 5:58, 6:18, 0.95, 22%, Easy-Medium
    Tue 7:35, 8:16, 0.92, 21%, Easy-Medium
    Wed 8:14, 10:14, 0.80, 8%, Easy
    Thu 18:34, 18:41, 0.99, 46%, Medium
    Fri 22:39, 21:16, 1.06, 67%, Medium-Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 3:54, 4:00, 0.98, 32%, Easy-Medium
    Tue 4:55, 5:11, 0.95, 29%, Easy-Medium
    Wed 5:15, 6:14, 0.84, 9%, Easy
    Thu 10:56, 10:44, 1.02, 53%, Medium
    Fri 15:36, 12:18, 1.24, 86%, Challenging

    Noam D. Elkies 10:24 PM  

    Yes, the fractals clue for 10D suggests "dynamical systems", or (given the length and the first word) complex *dynamics*, rather than COMPLEX_ANALYSIS. But then I'm glad to see "complex analysis" in the grid at all, especially on Pi Day (lots of formulas in complex analysis feature a factor of 2πi or 1/2πi).

    Anonymous 11:05 PM  

    Had ear for oar and I think messed up gotab too, but I believe in moral victories and I got all the 15s.

    Liked this puzzle very much.

    Steve J 11:23 PM  

    @lawprof: The NBA has the two most ill-fitting team nickname/locale combinations in American pro sports that I can think of: the Utah Jazz and the LA Lakers. It's pretty close, but I agree that the Jazz win it with a buzzer-beater.

    wreck 12:55 AM  

    The Washington Bullets had the most apt name until the PC police made them change!

    Anonymous 9:53 AM  

    According to the information provided by Lloyd Security, this company offers residential and commercial security sales and installation. And also provide full service design and monitoring, medical alert systems, camera systems, safe rooms etc.
    Home security systems MN

    Anonymous 8:52 AM  

    Lloyd Security Offers innovative, affordable solutions that deliver greater safety, awareness, control, convenience, and efficiency inside the home and wherever you go.
    Minnesota commercial security

    Anonymous 9:02 AM  

    "Maine-Florida"? That's worse than the stupid "NW" corner. Can we all agree to say "upper left"? Or in this case, "the right side"?

    spacecraft 11:36 AM  

    Hand up for SKI; that one really seemed obvious. On a Friday? I should know better.

    This one was slow starting, but I knew if I could just get a couple of the 15s it would come crashing down. Still, with typically wry endweek clues...not easy.

    Finally decided to take a flyer on LIVEDANGEROUSLY; it so neatly fit the clue. Then, once I took off my SKI and improved my AIM--giving me RIVET and AMICI--the three central downs could offer no further resistance. From then on it was fill in the blanks, the last being the natick at SAL/ELLIE--easily inferrable.

    So, like most multi-15'd grids, this was "challenging-easy." The fill? You have six spanners including three triple-intersections. There's gonna be a ton of shoet entries, and some of those are bound to be nose-wrinklers. Price you pay. Maybe Patrick Berry can come up with a multi-15 grid that's smooth. I know it's a feat beyond mere mortals. So I accept it, even to the horribly-obscurely-clued Romanumeral. Good grief, there were NINE Charles'??

    As for liking it, any puzzle that starts out looking hopeless that I wind up solving (unless it's really awful, which this wasn't) is a thumbs-up here.

    I'll try for the pot with four 4's.

    BedfordBob 1:25 PM  

    I loved the puzzle but thought it difficult. I had "let it all hang out" for LIVEDDANGEROUSLY forever but finally gave up on it and progressed.

    I also had chute for GSUIT and thought it correct since it crossed successfully with USEDCARSALESMAN.

    I had a few letters wrong mostly because I didn't recheck it at the end. While it was technically a dnf I felt really good about finishing it.

    rain forest 1:30 PM  

    I loved this puzzle, and actually sailed through it, in my form of sailing. I was surprised to see the "challenging" rating. As every on has said, the 15's were a treat, as were several other entries, to the point I didn't notice any crap (except maybe for the RRN, but I didn't really see it--crosses took care of it). Just a nice, smooth experience, for me.

    Why do people object to SETT? It is a thing. I have used setts in a few landscaping escapades. Does *brick* incite the same reaction? I don't get it.

    Dirigonzo 2:22 PM  

    Rex said, "Planet Olschwang. I simply don't live there. But someone probably does, so if he/she enjoyed this (more), fantastic." I don't live there now but I must have in a previous life because I had a blast with this puzzle and managed to finish with NO write-overs and NO wrong squares, in a leisurely hour or so. I didn't know all of the long answers off the top of my head but with enough crosswords I was able to figure them out, and isn't that how xword puzzles are supposed to work?

    Nothing to beat spacy's fours so I'm out.

    DMG 2:28 PM  

    First pass through left me blinking-all those grid spanners. Then I started putting in an "s" here and there, saw RIVETS, then USEDCARSALESMAN and I was off and running. Alas, not to the finish line! The incorrect TSe for the Chinese dish led to my novel being THENEONEYEDEVIL, which sounded plausible even if it destroyed a couple of crosses. With no idea how to fix this mess, I let this great puzzle have the last laugh and bowed out. (BEAT a swift RETREAT?)

    Two pairs too tiny to mention!

    Solving in Seattle 5:54 PM  

    SAITH crossing THY? Alan, are thou a Quaker?
    My monitor was first an LeD. And 51D was DulLY before crosses worked it out.
    The Eastern Seaboard fell first.
    Got the middle cross on -----RAIN, the top one on US------SMAN, and the bottom one on ------R-USLY. So Alan and I were somewhat on the same planet O.
    How in the hell to natives from Leeds get called Loiners, do they run around in loin cloths?
    So, how did you do on your test today, Gunga? I GOTAB, SAHIB.

    Two pair. Spacy takes my ante.

    eastsacgirl 6:24 PM  

    Yowza! Got ONSECONDTHOUGHT from SOBS immediately and 4 hours later finished clean. Have to take a nap now though.

    Solving in Seattle 6:31 PM  

    BTW, can anyone help me with how ENTR is "Start of an intermision"?

    Steve J 6:43 PM  

    @Solving in Seattle: It's from entr'acte. One of the definitions M-W gives is "the interval between two acts of a play".

    eastsacgirl 6:43 PM  

    Entr'acte - between acts. Google is a wonderful tool (except don't use for solving puzzles or its a DNF for me)

    Solving in Seattle 6:49 PM  

    Ahhh, thank you Steve & eastsacgirl, it would help if I spoke French or attended plays.

    leftcoastTAM 7:44 PM  

    I finally get to say about a Friday puzzle, as so many annoying solvers have said before me, "I found this easy."

    Dirigonzo 8:05 PM  

    @leftcoastTAM - somehow it's not annoying coming from you here in syndiland. Congratulations and I predict you will find this happening more and more often. Now about those Saturday puzzles...?

    strayling 8:11 PM  

    That was different. I got nowhere and took a break, seriously thinking that I was through with this puzzle. Then I decided to fill in the most tenuous answers I'd come up with and they all turned out to be right.

    I solved it, but my subconscious gets the credit.

    leftcoastTAM 8:24 PM  

    @Dirigonzo: Yes, there is always Saturday....

    Waxy in Montreal 1:41 AM  

    A Good Friday challenge. Other than a GOT AA / ABC RADIO miscue, few problems. Liked the shoutout to great Canadian jockey Ron Turcotte who rode Secretariat to the Triple Crown in 1973.

    Finishing these puzzles mostly between periods of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. During the first round, there's anywhere from 3 to 5 games so actually completed this baby after midnight here in the east following a game from Anaheim. In the @leftcoastTAM and @Diri camp: bring on Saturday's xword.

    Trio of 5's.

    Honey Crueller 3:28 PM  

    Loved the feeling I had when I finished this one. Started to be able to fully solve Fridays only over the past few months - mostly the ones that were easy-medium.

    Didn't automatically know some of the more specialized / difficult answers - but the crosses made it able for me to infer what right answer COULD go there (ERAT / LEEDS / TRILL / KARL / SACHA ) for example.

    When I finished with the O in the ROTOS / OAR crossing - that sense of accomplishment made me all tingly.

    Thanks Mr. Olschwang - you made my day.

    LongBeachLee 5:43 PM  

    Wheelhouse indeed. I must have halved my best ever, and was shocked that this got such a tough rating. Any other retired engineers in their 80s?

    Dirigonzo 6:18 PM  

    @LongBeachLee (hereinafter @LBL) - I suspect "retired engineers in their 80s" is not a very large demographic here (I could be wrong). "Retired bureaucrats in their 60s", of which I am a member, is probably a larger group (again, I'm speculating). In any event, apparently we share a wheelhouse as I, too, was shocked at the difficulty rating. Congratulations on your success (puzzle-wise and career-wise).

    lbl 11:56 PM  

    @dirigonzo, how about the next one, 315? That played close to hardest ever for me, and it was a medium.

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