Big bass in fishing lingo / FRI 5-16-14 / Admiral who bombarded Tahiti in 1914 / Writer of 644-line poem Ibis / Pistol packer in 1943 #1 hit / Grey alter ego Marvel's X Man / Actress Kazan Kravitz

Friday, May 16, 2014

Constructor: Martin Ashwood-Smith

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: NATE Grey, alter ego of Marvel's X-Man —
Nathaniel "Nate" Grey (X-Man) is a fictional comic book superhero appearing in books published by Marvel Comics, in particular those related to the X-Men franchise. Created by writerJeph Loeb and artist Steve Skroce, he first appeared in X-Man #1 (March 1995).
X-Man is an alternate version of the regular Marvel Universe hero Cable, hailing from the "Age of Apocalypse" (Earth-295) reality. He is the biological son of his dimension’s Scott Summers andJean Grey, born of genetic tampering by Mr. Sinister. His first name is derived from his creator; Mr Sinister's real name: Nathaniel Essex, and his last name from his genetic mother Jean Grey.[1] Due to not being infected by a techno-organic virus as Cable was, X-Man achieved vasttelepathic and telekinetic powers and was one of the most powerful mutants in existence during his lifetime.
X-Man was originally a four-issue mini-series replacing Cable during 1995’s “Age of Apocalypse”alternate reality storyline. However, Marvel transported Nate Grey to its regular shared universe after the storyline ended. Although derided by some for a concept perplexing to anyone not a diehard X-Men fan, the series ran until 2001, during which Nate struggled with being the most powerful person in a strange world. The series ended with his seemingly sacrificial death.
Despite his name, X-Man was only briefly a member of the X-Men, both in the Age of Apocalypse reality and in the regular reality. Initially, the character was referred to only by his real name, both in the Age of Apocalypse and the primary Marvel universe. Shortly before the Onslaught crossover event, Nate began to be sporadically referred to as X-Man, without explanation for the in-universe origin of the code name. (wikipedia)
• • •

Quad puzzle. Probably better than your average quad puzzle. But honestly, once you've seen (and written about) a million of them, there ends up not being much more to say about any one of them. This one seems to have been crafted somewhat more carefully than ones I've seen in the past. Despite HAWG, there's nothing really dire here (and even HAWG has its weird charm) (30D: Big bass, in fishing lingo). NCAAS is borderline, but it's definitely in-the-language for college basketball fans (47A: March Madness, with "the"). None of the long answers are terribly interesting, but three of the longer answers (up top, down below) are pretty nice. Especially liked LAST HURRAH and "LET IT BLEED" (18A: 1969 Rolling Stones album). Cluing seemed tougher than usual. Lots of ambiguity, trickiness, and "?"-ery. Is ZACH a character in "A Chorus Line"? (1A: Director in "A Chorus Line") That answer meant nothing to me. Ditto NATE, who appears to be a pretty damned obscure character from the Marvel universe. I have a fair familiarity with the major Marvel characters, and he might've been big in the late '90s, but I don't think NATE's so well known now (to non-fanboys).

Also obscure: "Ibis" (15A: Writer of the 644-line poem "Ibis"). I thought I could name virtually the entire Ovidian corpus. Apparently not! ZOEs Kazan and Kravitz? Couldn't pick 'em out of a line-up (but guessed ZOE off the easy Z). TERI Jon fashion label? Nope. No idea. The "O" in F.A.O. is OTTO? Whoops. Went with OTIS there for a bit. Why make all the short proper nouns so obscure? Besides simply to add difficulty? Had "Who IS IT?" instead of "Who ISN'T?" for a bit, so that created some weirdness in the SE. Otherwise, my biggest hang-up was probably the tail end of KITTEN CHOW, a phrase I never hear (though I'm sure it's quote-unquote real). With OTIS as my "O" and WHIR as my [Sound heard during a heat wave], the end of KITTEN CHOW remained invisible to me right up to the very end. Honestly stared at KITTEN CH- and then KITTEN CHO- wondering what was up. Briefly pondered what a "KITTEN CHOP" might be. It's a good clue (36D: Product for young string players?). Just not a familiar answer.

Off to brave my own heat wave. It's an oddly rainy heat wave, but also an oddly sweaty rain. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


George Barany 7:23 AM  

@Rex, I guess that given some of your earlier reviews of Martin Ashwood-Smith's New York Times-published quad stacks, this qualifies as a positive rave. A Chorus LIne was quite the singular sensation back in the day on old Broadway, with its ingenious framing concept directed by "ZACH" -- so that was a great way for me to get started. On the other hand, comic book characters seem to be more up the lines of your academic expertise than my own.

Earlier this week, I dropped an arcane hint to the effect that Friday's offering might be of interest to readers of this blog, and it is now my pleasure to deliver by sharing a second Martin Ashwood-Smith quad stack for this day: Open Wide, complete with Martin's "midrash." I hope you like it!

Glimmerglass 7:35 AM  

Challenging for me for sure. I thought this was Saturday-level difficulty. One error: I had who ISiT instead of who ISNT. That gave me SEiSE for "pick up" (perhaps an alternate spelling for seize?). Fun puzzle, with lots of difficult clueing.

Susierah 7:44 AM  

Finally finished but a dnf. Ran the alphabet but could not see the h in the ash/Xhosa crossing. Cigar ash? Challenging but rewarding solve. One hour of tough thinking.

Too late to post yesterday. But, I couldn't believe the "My Cousin Vinnie" clue popped up. I was in my hometown Monticello, Ga on Monday having lunch with my son and his band mates, telling them about the movie. It was filmed there, using the courthouse on the square and lots of locals.

My sons band, The Wild Feathers were traveling to nyc to perform on Late Night with Seth Myers. They appear this morning on vh1 morning buzz at 10 a.m. Check them out.

Susan McConnell 7:45 AM  

Haha, @George Barany, your opening line is exactly what I was thinking. When I saw who the constructor was, I knew Rex would be be gritting his teeth through it, but I was pleasantly surprised at his write up, compared to the skewering we have seen him deliver on quad stacks in the past.

I liked this one, but yes, some of those clues were over-the-atop hard, and Rex's criticism of the names is fair. But I do love those phrases in the stack...I think they are lovely.

Mohair Sam 7:56 AM  

Wow! Rex, the world's foremost stackophobic, liked a Martin Ashwood-Smith offering. We're certified stackoholics here so we absolutley loved the thing.

Agree with Rex's medium-challenging rating - we battled through several nouns but ultimately naticked, like @susierah, on the X in Mandela's language (thought LAw could be "like some oversight").

Aside from the stack thing we'd pretty much be quoting Rex here right down to the weather comment (except for OVID, which seemed fine).

Nice one MAS - always enjoy your work.

Z 8:08 AM  

I have entered the "Quad Stacks Aren't Scary" phase of my solving career. I didn't look at the clock when I started, but I'd guesstimate a solve time in the low 20's, or medium-easy here.

OVID/AVEO - nice touch on the AVEO clue. The only WOE here was SPEE, no idea who he is or why he was bombarding Tahiti in 1914. Seems rather rude. When I think of Tahiti I think of Gaugin, not bombshells.

XHOSA seems like Scrabble Twerking of the best sort. Combined with the two top row Z's, triple V's in the stack and double K's in the stack, an impressive Cyrusian display.

Beer Rating - He'Brew GENesis Dry-Hopped Session Ale

r.alphbunker 8:11 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
r.alphbunker 8:14 AM  

I loved this so much I made a movie out of my solution.

Sneak preview is here.

Guessed that the 1959 song ended in LOVE, then INLOVE and that broke open the stack.

Had ISiT for 58A {"Who ___?"} but that created SEiSE for 50D {Pick up}. The I saw that ISNT would work also and I was done.

Liked your LMS puzzle. It could be title "It just ain't rat", (pronounced with a deep Southern accent). I would like to negotiate for movie rights to your next puzzle.

Sir Hillary 8:15 AM  

Why not view quad stacks -- or triple stacks or any other type of 15 stacks, for that matter -- as just another themeless form? Then we can dispense with the nonsensical notion that they are somehow a different type of puzzle entirely.

This is a very good crossword puzzle -- period.
Four 15s + two 12s + two 10s + two 8s = you had me at ZACH.

I was thinking board games for 30A -- wanted it to be [game]TILEMAKEOVER.

Only brief writeover was Jason SEGal. Much like HUGHLAwRIE yesterday.

I'm sure some will grumble at GEN and GENERALINTEREST, but I say give that a REST.

Mas por favor, MAS!

PS - @Susierah: How great for your son and his bandmates! I am not a WF aficionado (yet!) but I am familiar with them, and your post will ensure that I am humming "The Ceiling" for the rest of the day.

AliasZ 8:23 AM  

I have a confession to make: I love 15-stacks. Threes, fours and fives. The more, the merrier. They serve as a marvelous testimony to the malleability of the English language.

There. I said it.

They are especially attractive when, like in today's excellent MAS creation, four intriguing grid-spanners are crossed by six long (8+) entries, and are complemented by other equally compelling 10s and 11s around the grid. None of them forced, arbitrary or clunky made-up-for-this-puzzle phrases. I had great fun with this one.

Is MULTIPOLAR an augmented version of bipolar disorder?

Gustav Mahler used the old French nursery song FRÈRE Jacques in the third movement of his Symphony No. 1, but transposed into the minor key.

Thank you Martin.


joho 8:25 AM  

I am always amazed at MAS's level of skill and, as usual, end up totally impressed with his ability to build a puzzle.




Andrew Morrison 8:31 AM  

Agree with RP 100%. Right around my avg finish time, so medium seems fair. Had the same hang-ups as RP. Love the XHOSA - it is a fun language to (try to) speak!

Casco Kid 9:05 AM  

MAS underscores how little progress I've made in a year of daily solving. That's not a lesson I need this week.

9 googles. 3 errors. 1:23. And it wasn't that close. I ended with
[58A. Who ____?] ISiT
[61A. Looking up] ROzY
[50D. Pick up] SEizE
which would be an alternate solution if ROzY were a word.

The 9 things I googled for and don't care to know:
Chorus Line character ZACH. Yay ZACH.
Nobel Laureate HESSE before Gide. Not how he should be remembered.
644-line Ibis poet OVID. Before the discovery of the brevity-wit relation, perhaps?
1969 Stones album LETITBLEED. Was it quoted from during Sir Mick's knighting? is what I want to know.
HST clued by his least significant/most forgettable quip.
sitcom actor Jason SEGEL. Yawn.
German admiral SPEE. Ja-wn.
ATEENAGERINLOVE clued by a random lyric. Gimme a break.
And the French word for Brother FRERE. Mon dieu.

I learned a couple of things: Germany bombed Tahiti in 1914. Add that to the weird history file. Also, a REEVE is a thing, and Mandela spoke Xhosa. That clicks.

ERUCT!!! Now that's worth knowing.

Lastly, a beef: March Madness is called The Dance. My alma mater wasn't invited to The Dance this year. Too bad, on many levels.

John Child 9:14 AM  

Thank goodness for the music clues today geared to the grey(ing) crowd, because without LET IT BLEED and A TEENAGER IN LOVE I would have been in serious trouble. Those two were just enough to get a toehold and finish.

Finished with an error, though I think SEiSE (legalese and var.) and [who] ISiT is a reasonable alternate solution.

The gorgeous long answers were worth NHRA, SNO, STYE and ÉPÉE As far as I'm concerned. A great puzzle MAS. Thanks.

Casco Kid 9:17 AM  

@Ralph great movie! It gives the impression that you didn't enter a single incorrect solution, but your posting says you did. I'd be interested in the full rabbit hole version, with annotations, as falling down rabbit holes and failing to climb out again is one of my biggest problems.

Anonymous 9:30 AM  


There's a story about a solver who once wrote to Margret Farrar (the first NYT crossword editor) complaining that there were too.many things he didn't know in the crosswords she edited. Apparently she replied: "Send me a list of all the things you don't know, and I'll try not to use them in my crosswords"

Thanks for the nice comments folks!

-Martin Ashwood-Smith

Arlene 9:35 AM  

I don't shy away from 15er stacks anymore - but I know my limitations - had to resort to Googling to get this done. That's fine with me - just a different sort of puzzle solving.
I liked the feel of the cluing - that the answers did make sense. I got caught with WHIR, though - and somehow thought of little kids using the Suzuki violin method for 36 down, before "KITTEN stopped that line of thinking.
So glad to see a positive review from this blog - a more pleasant way to start the day.

Charles Flaster 9:36 AM  

Loved it.Definitely not difficult with some great cluing. CIGAR ASH was my favorite as it recalled opening poker game scene in The Odd Couple and set tone for entire fav movie.
All proper names were known or gettable.Had trouble with ISNT vs ISIT. Thought is it isnt or is it isit? Thanks MAS.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:44 AM  

Great Friday puzz. Loved it.

Three write-overs: 25 D, RECEDE before REVOKE; 32 D, TRANCE before SEANCE (d'oh!); and WHIR/WHEW.

Biggest surprise in the grid was 29 A, SPEE, not that I knew it (I didn't; got it completely from crosses), but that I recognized the name when I saw it -- from the clue, I thought the answer would be some strange name I never heard of!

jberg 9:55 AM  

Drat! I didn't think of ISN'T, so I went with SEizE/ROzY, figuring the latter was a variant -- not clued as such, but it is Friday, after all.

I like stacks of 15s myself, and I've got to like any puzzle with XHOSA in it. (A gimme for me; that Mandela was a Xhosa was one of the sources for the refusal of Buthelezi, the Zulu's traditional leader, to accept him as President.)

I struggled in the upper Mideast and the South -- the former because I had striKE for REVOKE for a long time, the latter because I hadn't a clue (or rather, the clues were to proper names I just didn't know: OTTO, NATE, GARTH. Fortunately my non-puzzle wife got GARTH from the GA, and that unlocked that part.

I like clues with tricky meanings, such as KITTEN CHOW -- even though it gave me as much trouble as it did @Rex -- but am less fond of those that require obscure knowledge when they need not -- such as our old friend OTTO, or Admiral SPEE, far better known for the eponymous heavy cruiser, named for him I suppose.

I should have got A TEENAGER IN LOVE far sooner than I did; I was held back because a) I never think of the indefinite article as part of the title, and b) I remember these parody lyrics much better than I remember the actual ones.

Have a ROzY weekend, everyone!

ArtO 9:56 AM  

The clues for CIGAR ASH and KITTENCHOW were really exceptionally clever (and, needless to say, tough).

Love triple stacks. They represent constructing talent even if necessitating some crossword crud.

Carola 9:57 AM  

WHEW was my word of the day - challenging! A first pass got me only HESSE (guessed off the 5 letters and the time period), an islet of answers in the NE, FRERE, and then vast whiteness until the welcome appearance of STYE in the bottom corner. Chipped away from there, finishing with ZINC and ZACH - wished I could have remembered that PARADOX discussion from a bit ago to help me with I LIE.

Hesitantly wrote in SPEE off the S, knowing only of the ship GRAF SPEE which figures in WWII history.

Loved MOLTEN LAVA and KITTEN CHOW and the pairing of LAST HURRAH with LET IT BLEED. @joho - love your quadstack story!

@casco - Knowing HESSE might be a generational thing for Americans. When I was in college in the mid-60s he enjoyed quite a vogue as a counterculture author, especially because of his novel Siddartha, with its theme of seeking enlightenment in India.

Thank you, @MAS - for me this one was the perfect balance of struggle and delight.

Sir Hillary 9:57 AM  

@George Barany and @MAS: Brilliant "Open Wide" puzzle as well, although it played waaaaaaaaay harder for me than the NYT offering.

quilter1 10:02 AM  

Tough for me and DNF the center. I had to quit to do other things today. However I got all the top and bottom and felt good about that. I look forward to more by Martin.

OISK 10:09 AM  

Add me to the "Seise" crowd. "Is it" seemed so right after "Who" that I failed to reexamine it, so a one square DNF. Found this one very challenging, but enjoyable, and I got through it, the one small error notwithstanding. Of course, I never heard of "Let it bleed," and don't know the lyrics to "Teenager in love" …wait a minute…"Why must I ask, the stars up above…" It is all coming back now. Yechh. I didn't listen to rock and roll even then.
Have been to South Africa a few times, so Xhosa was easy, but there is a car called an "Aveo"? I was sure something must be wrong. To nitpick a little, I don't like "ADIOS," for "Peace out." Yeah, they both mean good-bye, but one is Spanish, and the other is - what - hippie speak?

Still, a very valid, crunchy, tough but fair Friday puzzle. Actually easier for me than yesterday's.

jae 10:11 AM  

Top medium, bottom easy, middle tough because of two erasure: sEan (turns out it's Sean John) before TERI and jaWs (the movie?) before HAWG.  So, medium over all I guess. 

Knew Jason, but needed the cross for the second E. 

A little bit of zippy stuff...the Stones answer to the Beatles' Let It Be,  LAST HURRAH,  GARTH,  MAMA (my first entry)....and a solid quad, liked it.   Nice Fri. MAS.

Benko 10:13 AM  

@casco and @carola:
I have several of Hesse's novels and a collection of fairy tales he wrote, also very good. Steppenwolf and Demian were also popular among the counterculture, as far as I know. Not so much his masterpiece, the more challenging Glass Bead Game.
I'm not sure why "this is not how he should be remembered." Are you confusing Hermann HESSE with Rudolf Hess??

Casco Kid 10:15 AM  

@Carola Yes, that's a good way to clue HESSE meaningfully. But laureate-before-Gide suggests that knowing the order of laureates is other-than-a-parlor-trick, which it isn't.

HST said that the power of the presidency is the power to get people to do things they should do anyway. HST did respect his office, although MAS's quip may lead you to believe otherwise.

I had COsY yesterday and ROzY today. :D Will is psyching me out.

sEan Jon is a fashion label, ISNT it? WASISOWRONG??? Ok, that one's coming soon to an 11-stack near you. I can feel it.

A South African friend of mine could speak a bit of XHOSA. A singular language. I think it is it's own linguistic branch. Any linguists here to fill us in?

Robso 10:18 AM  

I have never heard of someone going to an "epee," and most people who eat beef "have beef," they don't "have a beef." But I loved the "Product for young string players?" clue.
Xhosa is one of the African "click" languages--had no idea Mandela spoke this.
Thank you, MA-S

retired_chemist 10:20 AM  

Medium. Lots of proper names but again I knew enough of them, and the crosses were fair for the rest, that it wasn't an irritation.

What George and Susan said.

Loved KITTEN CHOW - we now have two cats in addition to the dogs. Long story short, on Feb. 27 we took in a calico who had been hanging around our house about to deliver kittens. She had them, and we kept one. She has now been spayed and hasn't given any signs she wants to move out.

Thought the quad stack was topnotch. I too think there was less compromising on the short fill than quad stacks sometimes engender. Perhaps M A-S has taken Rex's goading as a challenge. Good for both of them if so.

SE took some backing and filling. Has SEizE for 50D and thought ROzY was, well, an alternate spelling I was unfamiliar with. When Mr. Happy Pencil didn't appear, I scanned the acrosses for obvious typos and then honed in on the SE. Didn't take too long to see that IS iT and ISN’T were equally good for 58A and that SENSE was better than SEizE. Mr. HP appeared and everything was ROSY.

Thanks, Martin. I like your construction generally - this is among your best IMO.

lymank 10:23 AM  

Really enjoyed this one, but I'm still not getting the clue for 36D - product for young string players. I was also thinking about Suzuki violinists, but I don't get the connection between kittens and string players. Someone please explain. Thanks!
Loved the clue for CIGAR ASH!

Steve J 10:32 AM  

By far the most fun I've had with a MAS puzzle. Long fill was solid to very good - I especially liked LET IT BLEED, HOSTILE TAKEOVER, WHATEVER IT TAKES and LAST HURRAH. The quad stack didn't require the normal crud and obscurity such stacks usually end up with to hold them together. And the cluing was fantastic. In the past, I'd always felt like the wit MAS displays when commenting here doesn't come through in his puzzles, but it definitely did today. Very fun.

While a lot of people went for ISiT at 58A, I had ELSE trailing "who". Made the SE tough for a while until I realized it had to be AESOP and STYE down there. Also had WHir instead of WHEW. Given that we've just had a heat wave here in California - and that few residences in San Francisco have air conditioning - the whir of fans was heard much more than WHEW in recent days.

@Casco Kid: The brand you're thinking of is Sean John, with an H.

@Robso: EPEE is an Olympic event, so it works, just like you can say luge or track is an event. As far as "Had a beef?": In Chicago, one of the famous (and fantastic) local foods is a sandwich called an Italian beef. Most people just refer to it as "a beef", as in "I'll have a beef" to order one, or answering a question about what you had for lunch with "a beef". Very localized, but the phrase is actually in the language. (I think I've also heard the same usage in reference to roast beef sandwiches in some areas.)

Slow Motion 10:38 AM  

Kittens are known for playing gleefully with balls of string.

By the way, in addition to Kitten chow, Purina also makes several varieties of Monkey Chow, Rabbit Chow, Pig Chow, Horse Chow, and lots more.

Nice puzzle!

Masked and AnonymoUUs 10:45 AM  

themelessthUmbsUp. This MAS dude could make a kickass zero-black-squares runtpuz. And primo writeup, @63. CIGARASH clue was magnifico, btw.

@r.alph: har. OK. Movie rights charge is at least double the goin rate of the access fee for each runtpuz solve, tho. M&A has his pride.

@muse: Yer 66-66 yesterpuz 100% certified answers...
mucho aged
mercenary armies
math abroad
mildly abrasive
Moscow airport
Monica's Aston-Martin
Mornin', America
mopin around
model asteroids


Z 10:45 AM  

@Casco Kid - Aha! You read laureate before Gide and think "order of laureates, WTF?" I've learned to see the whole clue as distractors, wait for a letter or two and ask, "Ah, did Hermann Hesse win a Nobel?" then be pleasantly pleased when he fits. Hence the occasional observation that puzzle solvers' knowledge is 10 miles wide a 1 centimeter deep.

I read most of Hesse's works in high school. I doubt that I really understood Steppenwolf at the time. I do remember reading a great essay on Hesse written by Vonnegut in the early 60's. I will see if it has found its way onto the interwebs.

BTW - LET IT BLEED was released five months before Let It Be, so probably not a response to the Beatles.

tensace 10:45 AM  

I so wanted "he called the U.S. pres. 'a glorified PR man'" to be MR.T. Who you callin' fool? MR.T is nearly Shakespearean in quotability. Or should be ;)

Ludyjynn 11:01 AM  

What @Glimmerglass and @JohnChild said re SEISE. That makes two recent puzzles w/ arguably acceptable alternate answers.

Liked this one, medium-challenging for me, a lot. Got the North, got the South, got one of the quads (ATEEN...) and then did my walk-away trick. Have to say, the news today was mostly depressing to read, same shit, different day stuff, making me eager to resume the puzzle. Et voila, one look at the last three quads and the answers popped off the grid just like on Wheel of Fortune"! Love when that happens.

Thanks, MAS and WS.

Sidebar to @CascoKid, You're still over-thinking, IMO. Relax.

Two Ponies 11:07 AM  

I loved it. Great fun.
A DNF because I did not see my error at is it/isnt. I have trouble reading the down answers sometimes.
Thanks Martin.

Great response by Ms. Farrar.

FPW 11:09 AM  

Third Friday finish in a row, a record I think. Don't know whether I'm improving at 74 or the answers just happen to conform to my time.

Wendy 11:17 AM  

Had fun with this puzzle and the thought-provoking cluing. I was hoping the answer to 30D was going to be jAWs.

jdv 11:22 AM  

Medium. I liked the puzzle except for the quad stack. I feel like I've seen ATEENAGERINLOVE five or six times and HOSTILETAKEOVER, GENERALINTEREST at least once before. So I'm guessing WHATEVERITTAKES is the seed entry. Big thumbs up for LASTHURRAH. I'm with @CascoKid on March Madness being called the Dance. I want to thank the constructor for introducing me to Al Dexter; that's a great song.

lawprof 11:29 AM  

I thought this was the easiest Friday in a long time. I thought I'd completed it with no errors and no writeovers until I came here and discovered that I'd fallen into the ISiT/SEizE/ROzY trap.

But because I don't use the computer, unlike @retired_chemist, I had no absence-of-Mr. Happy Pencil to tell me to keep on plugging.

Still, I think those of us who believe that "Rozy" is an acceptable alternative spelling (e.g., @jberg) should be given an Honorable Mention. No?

Hartley70 11:40 AM  

Hard hard hard for me even tho I look forward to the stacks. I'm just pleased I got Kitten Chow right off the bat. The bottom half was doable, the top half did me in!

Kurt Vonnegut 11:47 AM  

Why they Read Hesse

Z was only off a decade.

Mohair Sam 11:56 AM  

@cascokid: Chin up - I read your postings nearly every day and you have come a long way. This one just missed your sweet spot by a mile.

Has anyone else mentioned that Adm. SPEE died early in WWI when his ship was sunk by the British early in the war? The German Navy named a heavy cruiser after him (the Graf Spee) which the British forced to be scuttled early in WWII. Both ships went down off the coast of South America. I'm guessing there are no more SPEE-named ships in the German Navy.

Dick Swart 12:17 PM  

I like quad stacks for that revealing moment when with some downs in place the answer just appears before your eyes.

JTHurst 12:17 PM  

@Casco kid Double your comments. I approach stacks with great trepidation and after going through most of the puzzle I had only a few answers: Mitch, arrow, Let it Bleed, and Plato who obviously was as didactic as Aesop. So I said its time to solve a USA Today puzzle. Anything to rebuild my confidence. I then naticked on 'leptox', a hundredth of a drachma, and naperies, table linens in that puzzle.

So back to INYT and googled until I naticked on 'is it' and 'seise' Portugese for 'pick up'. All in all, a humbling crossword day.

Stacks would be OK if the down clues would be somewhat reasonable. Big Bass, Jon (fashions), product for young string players, Jason of .... and etcetera.

Doris 12:18 PM  

One tiny preposition made all the difference with 1A. It was "director IN "A Chorus Line," Zach, not director OF "A Chorus Line," the late Michael Bennett.

mac 12:19 PM  

As usual MAS's puzzle looks daunting and then it falls into place, I enjoyed it My least favorite answer was, of course, NHRA, those abbr. get me every time.

I'll be flying coast to coast on Sunday, from Holland to NY, just when the weather is turning glorious.....

Karen Munson 12:25 PM  

A doable Friday for me. Only discovered my two boo-boos when I came here. I'm happy that I finished a Friday with (relative) ease for a change!

Karen Munson 12:30 PM  

Question: Do the top ten ACPT winners finish with zero mistakes?

bigsteve46 12:33 PM  

Like some others, I usually only post when I need to gripe about something. But I loved this puzzle! - even though it took me the better part of an hour and a half to finish. I'm one of those whose approach to an intractable stretch in a puzzle is to get up, walk around, make a drink, watch birds out my window - and then jump back in. It usually works. One of the last things I got was the "cigar ash" combo for the poker game clue - and I'm a poker player AND a cigar smoker! Great puzzle.

Notsofast 12:36 PM  

Though wrong, ISIT and SEISE are perfectly good answers. That's my story, and I'm stickin' with it.

wreck 12:44 PM  

CIGAR ASH was my favorite. I'm an avid cigar smoker, but this was still about the last to fall - can't believe I didn't see it right off!
I had to google a few names (SPEE, ZACH,OTTO) but, pretty enjoyable.
I too was surprised with Rex's review. While I don't think he actually "liked" it, it was totally fair!

r.alphbunker 12:56 PM  

@Casco Kid

First of all, it is nice to see your progress solving puzzles. You have got to be the most honest person posting on this blog :-)

A critic who will remain anonymous emailed me that he had nominated my movie for the dullest documentary award and suggested that I put in a narrative arc. My attempt to do this is here. You will probably have to refresh your browser to see the new version.

To satisfy your request for full disclosure I will add the feature that the background of erased squares will be shown with a gray background. The darker the gray, the more erasures that were required to get the letter correct.

Writing the script for this documentary made me appreciate the puzzle all the more. There is no junk in it.

OISK 1:19 PM  

The very large number of solvers who had "Is it" instead of "Isn't" after "Who___" is the result of poor cluing, IMHO. "Who_____" can suggest a great many possible answers, and "Isn't", while valid, did not pop into my mind, nor, apparently into a great many other, more flexible minds. I know, it IS Friday, but there are so many ways to clue "Isn't" ( ____it romantic would be my favorite, since it is a lovely old song, but probably too easy). It could have been clued "But who_____" which would have led more logically to the correct answer. Nonetheless, as I said earlier, very fine puzzle.

Susierah 1:29 PM  

Yes, hats off to @casco kid! I feel like he is where I was a year ago. No way could I ever finish a Friday or Saturday. Would just start googling, hoping to learn something. And I did! My 2 years of solving have been so much fun! I did not get brave enough to post until I was able to complete a Saturday with no errors or googles. Of course, it was the easiest Saturday ever for the rest of you!

The cigar ash clue has bothered me all day, but duh, now I get it. Refuse as in trash, not as in say no to. Head slap.

mathguy 1:48 PM  

I knew that ISIT and SEISE were wrong because Shortz is that good, but I gave up on correcting it after just a minute. In the old days I would have fought that corner like a bulldog even into the next day. Liked the puzzle very much. Especially liked the clues for CIGAR ASH, HOSTILETAKEOVER, and WHATEVERITTAKES.

jae 1:50 PM  

@Z - My bad on LET IT BLEED. I should really check stuff as my '60's memories can be hazy at times.

Moly Shu 1:54 PM  

Agree with @mac, daunting then do-able. First pass only yielded GARTH, NCAAS, and STU. Figured big trouble was in store, especially after I put in transpacific instead of COASTTOCOAST. Hey, transatlantic wouldn't fit so.... XHOSA/ASH was my finishing point, couldn't decide between LAX or LAb. I think OFL really, really liked this puzzle, but his quadstack/MAS bias prevents him from admitting it. Eh, maybe not.

Me? I loved it. I wish more puzzles were like this one. Thank you, thank you MAS. Keep em coming

Carola 2:02 PM  

Re: "Achilles undoing" - I forgot to ask above if anybody else thought "Anger" (from the opening lines of the Iliad.

Error Morris 2:13 PM  

MAS has long been my favorite NYT Xword constructor, so much so that after I finished Tabloid I actually started a documentary on his life and art. I had him and his family followed nearly 24/7 with four video crews.

It didn't turn out as well as I had hoped, and I abandoned the project within a few weeks. The highlights of what I did get, which I share with you here, will maybe give you an idea what the issues were:

Scene: MAS & Mrs MAS having an argument:

Mrs MAS - Martin, put down the razor!
MAS: PUTDOWNTHERAZOR is 15! Another puzzle!

Scene: MAS taking MASJR to town, MAS jay-walking.

MASJR Daddy, wait for the green!
MAS: WAITFORTHEGREEN is 15! Another puzzle!
MASJR What a douche!

Scene: Dinning room, sumptuous dinner.

Mrs MAS: For god's sake Martin, take human portions. I know what you're going for but just forget it. I won't say it.

MAS: C'mon, just say it honey. I haven't used in it months. C'mon, just one more time, please? That's ALOTONONESPLATE!

Mrs MAS: What a douche!

Now you see why I made The Unknown Known

retired_chemist 2:25 PM  

@ lawprof - you get my vote for honorable mention for SEizE/IS iT/ROZY.

Fred Romagnolo 2:27 PM  

@Casco: "j awn" and "that clicks" were priceless; you are one of my favorite bloggers on this circuit. @oisk: I couldn't agree more on "isn't"; even though I finished. CIGAR ASH & KITTEN CHOW were brilliant but hard to get to at first. Nobody's mentioned that "Graf" isn't a first name, but a title, it's German for "Count." MOLTENLAVA didn't appear at first, either.

Lewis 3:06 PM  

This was a lot of fun, with its clever cluing. Maybe because of Rex's carping, MAS has been upping his game, and maybe because so many people have been commenting how they like MAS's puzzles, Rex is looking at his puzzles with less prejudice.

I for one have liked MAS's puzzles for a long time, and find today's to be among the best of his oeuvre.

Anonymous 3:14 PM  

I had the same problem that others reported of accepting the erroneous cross of ISIT and SEISE because I simply couldn't think of ISNT. But what really did me in was holding out to the very end with 63-A being WHIR, which gave me two strange-looking down answers, NATI and KITTENCHOR, simply because I couldn't think of anything but WHIR. I still think the WHIR of fans is more likely to be heard during a heat wave than the expletive WHEW.

Benko 3:16 PM  

@KarenMunson: The vast majority of the time, yes, the top finishers at the ACPT make zero mistakes. However, there was a famous exception when Dan Feyer made two mistakes in one puzzle and still went on to win the tournament, because his times were so fast. They post a list of the people who make no mistakes--I think it was 40 something people this year.
@Carola: No, but it's better than what I briefly considered--"ankle", figuring it was close enough and it fit.

ErasuresInevitable 3:17 PM  

Very difficult one for me today. I stopped with the NW corner blank aside from COASTTOCOAST.

Had WHATEVERthecost for a while, so the eastern section filled in slowly.

As a college basketball fan, I've never heard the Dance referred to as the NCAAS.

Clever cluing for KITTENCHOW and TRAINERS.

Pathetic cluing for ZACH.

Needlessly difficult cluing for REEEVES, LAX, NATE, and TERI.

Dolgoruky 3:18 PM  

It's great when you have to come up with answers you know, but don't know you know. The famous 1930's zeppelin, the Graf Spee was the subject of some now very valuable German stamps. It's amazing how much trivia you learn from being a youthful stamp collector! I know from studying German that "Graf" means "Duke," so I knew Spee was a dude. I also knew that the Germans got some colonies in the South Seas during WWI from my collecting days. So the "ee" ending was a tip-off to put distantly remembered scraps of knowledge together.
Also, I don't know about you guys, but I really like learning things and often crossword puzzles are educational experiences. But sometimes the puns are almost too much. The "kittenchow" entry was almost too much!

Anonymous 3:19 PM  

@carola, your surmise about Achilles (ANGER) is interesting. WRATH might be even better. But I initially had HEELS, only to have to give it up because the crosses made it impossible to retain it. I still had a hard time coming up with ARROW.

geordiegirl 3:37 PM  

Did anyone else start off with CATSCRADLE for 36 Down? That, sitting right next to my version of 35 Down - AHAND instead of ARING - slowed me down for quite a while.

Clark 3:40 PM  

@Carola -- I had ANGER for a while for Achilles. Fun puzzle. I dnfed at the ISiT SEiSE crossing. Rats.

Carola 3:46 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carola 3:51 PM  

@Benko - a smile for "Ankle" :)
@Anonymous 3:19 - I actually did think "wrath" but already had the A in place. After finishing the puzzle, I checked online to make sure I'd remembered the opening of the Iliad correctly and was interested to see that more recent translations are going with "rage" instead of "wrath." ARROW was hard for me to see, as well.
@Clark - I'd glanced at that OTTO clue so didn't write Anger in - just was flummoxed that it didn't fit!

M and A, Agent to the Stars 4:10 PM  

@r.alph: OK, so this runtpuz is now gussied up for its movie debut. It was primpin quite a while backstage, wantin to put its best face forward...



AliasZ 4:38 PM  


Ur runtpuz put a grin on my face.

Bob Kerfuffle 4:59 PM  

@M&A - LOL, in 4:59.

loren muse smith 5:34 PM  

Looks like we have a "seise" crew and a "rozy" crew. I chose the "rozy" route.. Oh well. Another day, another dnf.

I like quad stacks, too, especially since I've come to understand that those 15s a lot of times are among the easiest to get. I had "no matter the cost" before WHATEVER IT TAKES.

XHOSA was about my second entry, off SNO. Hey, Gareth!

@Casco – I wanted "Sean" Jon, too.

@Clark, Carola – I stink at mythology and had "pride" first before ARROW.

M&A – Yeah on the Mad Libs! Did you want "Pewitt (sic) Chow" before KITTEN CHOW? Loved, loved, loved your puzzle today! Ah, the 1A! Hmm. I bet bouquets from Dubuque and Albuquerque are loverly.

Hey, Martin – I really enjoyed this one. Excellent. Like others have said – perfect crunch that made my solve slow and satisfying. Enkosi!!

joho 8:56 PM  

@M&A, did one of your runtpuzes for the first time and really liked it. My only nit is, it could have a few more U's :)

chefwen 8:57 PM  

Thinking I was being super smart I was going to enter "money is no object" at 39A with no other fill in place. Decided to wait a while, pretty happy I did.

MAS usually sends me cowering and whimpering off into a corner, but I was able to pull this one off and I loved it.

chefwen 8:58 PM  

Safe travels @mac.

Anonymous 9:15 PM  

What a great bunch of comments today folks... thanks again!

-Martin Ashwood-Smith

Z 10:11 PM  

@jae - I only caught it because the clue said 1969 and I was pretty sure Let It Be was 1970. Curious, I looked them up.

sanfranman59 10:13 PM  

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

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

Mon 6:44, 6:04, 1.11, 87%, Challenging
Tue 9:10, 8:46, 1.05, 63%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 9:08, 9:54, 0.92, 32%, Easy-Medium
Thu no data
Fri 22:15, 21:06, 1.05, 65%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:57, 3:57, 1.00, 45%, Medium
Tue 5:39, 5:22, 1.05, 63%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 5:50, 6:11, 0.94, 35%, Easy-Medium
Thu no data
Fri 14:42, 12:18, 1.20, 79%, Medium-Challenging

LaneB 8:04 AM  

Couldn't sleep so decided to try the Friday edition. Google help on half a dozen clues and two hours later: Voila! DNF avoided. No cure for insomnia however.

spacecraft 12:59 PM  

DNF. The misdirection today was so severe I couldn't overcome it.

March madness, with "the" is, of course, the DANCE. Every sportscaster says that; NO sportscaster says "the NCAAS." Ugh.

Not meant for specialists? GENERAL practice, naturally. We WERE talking about doctors. weren't we?

The sockdolager: "Who____?" As in a knock at the door, "Who IS IT?" Even after fixing the NCAAS problem, that left me with SEISE for "Pick up." Gee, that's not right--it must be SEIZE. Then we have ROZY. I didn't know, maybe we had a theme here, sort of a "S that sounds like Z one way, but is actually Z the other" kind of thing. The expression "Who ISNT?", while perfectly OK, just never occurred to me. Swing and a miss.

KITTENCHOW for "string players?" That one takes the misdirect prize. That's so far out it deserves a flag. Fifteen yarns--er, yards--for excessive stretching.

So DNF despite the old-timer's gimme of

Each night I ask the dtars up above

Hey, world's worst photographer, have you ever heard of using a flash? Then maybe I wouldn't have to cycle through four or five captchas of TOTAL DARKNESS till I found something I could even SEE.

spacecraft 1:03 PM  

And, if I ever bothered to proofread, I'd probably ask the Stars, too. Them daggone dtars, they don't tell you much.

DMG 3:42 PM  

Struggled with this one. Ended up with the top and bottom done, except for the ISIT thing, but just couldn't get enough downs to fill the top two acrosses of the middle stack. Thought of HAWG for the fish, but it seemed more cowboy than fisherman, so didn't fill it in. Didn't know REEVES has to do with churches, had "elders" there. On the other hand, would have needed nearly every letter for a song I don't know (that's how I got 18A), and probably every letter for what I thought was a clue referring to chess or monopoly or some such! Friday got me again!

I've also discovered that being able to see M&A's runtpuzes doesn't mean I can solve them. Interesting note, I just mistyped runtpuz, and the spellchecker geni fixed it. M&A has friends in strange places!

Solving in Seattle 5:05 PM  

As @Spacy already pointed out, the NCAA Division 1 annual basketball tournament is either referred to as March Madness or The Dance. Whistle on that clue.

Technically, DNF because I had ISiT/SEiSE.

Give that man a cigar for the CIGAR ASH clue.

Speaking of Wayne and GARTH, I saw Mike Myers on Seth Meyers and Dana Carvey on Letterman last night. Syndie synchronicity.


Dirigonzo 5:44 PM  

SEiSE, dammit!

LongBeachLee 11:01 PM  

@Geordie girl Me too on cat's cradle. Still this puzzle played easy Friday for me.

LongBeachLee 11:04 PM  

@lawprof Same for me right down the line. In my opinion though we get an A. Why a legitimate solution isn't just as good as what the author is looking for isn't on my radar.

rain forest 11:57 PM  

So late that nobody will see this, but I just want to, well, brag. I have a correct solution. Honestly, on the March Madness clue, I just entered NCAAS right off (Canadaian, eh?), and I got SENSE before I pondered the Who___?, so that wasn't a problem. I had spent the day trailering my son's motorcycle and sidecar on a 800km round trip--oh never mind, I'm digressing, but that's why I got to the puzzle late.

I thought this was a great puzzle, and not just because I got it. I thought the four-stack entries were beautiful, too (HAWG came on the crosses).

Motorcycle unscathed.

@Spacey. Too funny.

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