Mujer of mixed race / TUE 7-29-14 / Rapper who hosted MTV's Pimp My Ride / Away from a chat program say / Noted filmmaker with dog named Indiana

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Challenging (*for a Tuesday*)

THEME: Plants with animal names — First theme clue begins "Nursery worker's suggestion …" and then each clue simply follows the pattern "… for a ___"; nothing in the clues about animals, so that's just an added thing you have to figure out (after you figure out which kind of "nursery" the clue is on about, and after you figure out where the "first" theme clue is so you know what the first part of the theme clue phrase is, because w/o it, you've just got these ellipsis clues staring at you, which can be maddening …)

Theme answers:
  • SNAKEPLANT (18A: Nursery worker's suggest for a backstabber?)
  • CRABGRASS (3D: … for a grouch?)
  • DOGWOOD (36A: … for a scoundrel?)
  • WOLFSBANE (32D: … for a lothario?)
  • GOATSBEARD (57A: … for a fall guy?)

Word of the Day: MESTIZA (49D: Illusions) —
noun: mestiza; plural noun: mestizas
  1. (in Latin America) a woman of mixed race, especially the offspring of a Spaniard and an American Indian. (google)
• • •
At a minimum, it was interesting. And it was certainly way harder than the typical Tuesday, what with the rather complicated / double-unstated theme (unstated first because there's no clue tip to the animal angle, and unstated second because unless you know which theme answer is the so-called "first" one, all your theme clues are just partial clues). Seems like 3D should've been "first," in that it is closest to the upper left, where most people start, but there certainly is convention on the side of making the "first" theme clue be the first theme clue that appears in an Across position. Anyway, my first theme answer was SNAKE PLANT, a thing I've never heard of, so I just … had no idea what was going on. Eventually, after figuring out a bunch of themers via crosses, I could see that we were dealing w/ animal plants, and things got a tad easier. But then there was the whole XZIBIT (!) MESTIZA area, which is right hard for any day. I actually know both the rapper and the "mixed race" term, but the latter never dawned on me (til late) and the former … is he still somebody people know? Seems like he is solidly and completely bound in amber from circa 2003.

I fell into a horribly stupid self-made pit when, faced with --KEN at 64A: Wheelbarrow or thimble, in Monopoly, my eye took in only the first word and I wrote in (with what, in retrospect, was a weird amount of confidence) OAKEN. This did two things. First, it gave me a perfectly acceptable word at 58D: Spanish "that" (ESO—I had ESA); second, it gave me -IO as the last two letters of the rapper, and wham bam thank you COOLIO! Then things got ugly. Because just as I'd never heard of SNAKE PLANT, I'd never heard of GOAT'S BEARD, and the leap from "fall guy" to GOAT (given all the imaginative thematic nursery leaps I was already having to make) was pretty far. When I see "fall guy" I just see Lee Majors doing stunts and … what, solving crimes? Did he do that? I never actually watched the show.

So theme was … let's be generous and say "layered" in an "interesting" way. Felt a bit wonky as set up, clue-wise, and as I said, at least two of the plants meant nothing to me, so I didn't Love the theme, but the core concept holds up, and I rather like most of the fill. Except ICE FOG. I'm not fully convinced that's real. ICE stuff is like E-stuff, in that the puzzle keeps trying to sell me new products, and I just get increasingly skeptical. ICE TEA ICE RUN ICE AXE. I think I draw the line at ICEAX(E). OK, that's all.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:05 AM  

Tough for me too.  More like a medium- tough Wed.   Blocked on AGNUS, had spelling problems with BATED, tried diTto before ME TOO, skat before VAMP...yeah, kind of a mess.

I'm with Rex XZIBIT/ MESTIZA.  I also knew both, but it looks like a Sat. cross to me. 

Really liked the puzzle!  Lotsa zip, clever theme, not much dreck...just the wrong day. 

Steve J 12:24 AM  

This was ok. Theme was unique, but it also didn't always work. If you're a fall guy, shouldn't there be some scape in front of that GOAT?

A few bits of nice fill - JOWLS, OPIUM DEN, JERKS, SOBERS UP - and definitely challenging for a Tuesday, which is welcome. But this never really grabbed me.

That MESTIZA/XZIBIT clue is brutal on any day of the week, let alone Tuesday. I'm not familiar with the first, and I couldn't remember how to spell XZIBIT (or even remember him at all until I had __IBIT). People have a legit complaint on the random spelling front today. I'm not sure I'd call that a fair cross this early in the week.

Casco Kid 12:37 AM  

DNF. VAMP was the show stopper. I wanted a word meaning musical improvization, as that was the clue -- like riff or cadenza (cdza?) rather than a word meaning unscripted acting improvization. The dictionary tells me that vamping is also the musical equivalent of treading water, playing soft background music during a voice over/introduction before the real tune starts. In that sense, vamping is an innocuous circular chord progression and is the exact opposite of inventive improvization. Oh well. You got me, Mr. Constructor! Good for you.

As for the theme, well, I read Rex's explanation, but it seems contrived. If we are contriving a theme, let's do it right: grouch spelled backwards is hcuorg, which could be Hungarian for CRABGRASS, so in fact the theme is Hungarian-words-which-when-spelled-backwards-are-recognizable-as-English-words-or-phrases-and-which-translate-into-English-as-wacky-unrelated-things. Yes, that'll do as a theme explanation.

Seriously, this was a themeless puzzle with a particularly tough crossing of a former (2009) WTA-#1-for-a-week proper name (ANA), a geographical abbreviation clued for maximum obscurity(MTS) the oddly clued VAMP, in addition to a bit of Spanish VIRAGO, or at least I think that that word is Spanish.

The rest was pretty much decent Tuesday level quality construction and cluing.

wreck 12:47 AM  

This is shaping up for "Tough for a" week. This took about twice as long as a normal Tuesday for me. Hand up for not knowing MESTIZA and XZIBIT was a blast from the past that I couldn't recall until I had most of the letters from crosses. I've never heard of GOATSWEED or SNAKEPLANT as well.

Anonymous 12:53 AM  

There are Thursday themes that are simpler than this. Incredibly difficult to understand what was going on.

Wednesday+, obviously. Doesn't belong on Tuesday.

John Child 1:02 AM  

I too DNF at the X. For me a more Tuesday clue for the cross like "Hot replies?" would have helped. I couldn't see "hotly" equaling "sexily," so never considered the X when running the alphabet for the unknown rapper's name.

Tried MulattA first for MESTIZA, but found that error easily. Both words make me a little uncomfortable, but I wouldn't want to ban them, nor most other words.

wreck 1:02 AM  


Martin Luther Billygoat 1:21 AM  

I have a dream.
I have a dream one day, that gay goats can be as they are, proudly and unashamed. That goats can take their partners to public events, family gatherings and even religious services. I have a dream that no longer will gay goats have to take their ugly second cousins as dates, pretending they're a couple, when nothing can be further from the truth. I have a dream that one day there will no longer be anything even remotely like a GOAT'S BEARD.

Jisvan 2:05 AM  

Reminds me of the story of the hiking tour in (jungle country of your choice) where they hear drumming in the forest day and night. The tourists are concerned and ask what it means, but the guide tells them "don't worry, everything is okay as long as you can hear the drums" so they continue deeper into the jungle. On the third day suddenly the drumming stopped, and the frightened tourists turned to the guide for direction. He looked pale and shaken, and clasping his hands over his ears, he yelled "run away, run run!" "But what is it, what's happening?" cried the terrified hikers. "5D" answered the guide.

Lee Coller 2:17 AM  

Never heard of Snake Plant, Goat's Beard, Wolf's Bane. Xzibit, Mestiza, Vamp, Virago. Made this impossible. I kept thinking "it's a Tuesday, it can't be that hard."

JTHurst 2:28 AM  

What a wonky puzzle. From the obscure to the sublime. From the standard crosswordese (anew) to 'ice fog'. Glass is the last piece I would associate with 'place setting'. Rex's commentary was right on. I did not even notice the animal tie in until reading his write-up.

I forgot virago equals shrew so my 'vamp' was misplaced for most of the puzzle. I learned it is bated breath not 'baited' as us hillbillies in the midwest use. It didn't help that I misread my clue numbers and put Kunta Kinte in 21d instead of 12d. And placing ditto into 24d surely made denaces out menaces.

But I managed to blunder along until the Rapper clue, text abbreviation, and mixed race spanish word usage which caused a DNF. Is it really called sexting someone when you text luridly? I could not remember the spelling of mestiza, whether with a 'x' or 'z'. I do know but from my limited ventures to Mexico, that to call someone a mestiza could earn you a beating. Indian mix blooded people are discriminated against. And as Rex said XZI Bit is surely encased in amber in that obscure rapper wall of fame.

Which brings us to "Lash" LaRue. A true American hero for us pre-teens in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Lash could really use his 18 foot bullwhip. He came to my small, midwest, podunk town to our one movie theater where he performed extraordinary feats with his bullwhip. All dressed in black, a silver gaucho outfit, with no guns but cracking that bullwhip, taking a cigarette out of a helpers mouth. He filled the theater with more people than they got on china ware night. He endangered more eyes than BB guns did. It was easy to make your own whip. Find a two foot long dowel about 3/8 inch in diameter, staple one end of a four foot section of clothesline on the end of the dowel and attach a small weight (or knot it) to the other end of the line. You had the perfect little brother or sister tormenting tool. And remember to hide it outside so it would not be confiscated. Also when in a tin can lid fight it was good to have it in your belt for close up encounters. Thank you "Lash".

Lash meets David Letterman

James Dean 5:44 AM  

BALLAST, MESTIZA, XZI IT, VIRAGO and ICEFOG aredefinitely not Tuesday answers. Liked MAMASBOY but other than that this puzzle was a shrine to the arcane.

Lewis 6:31 AM  
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Lewis 6:43 AM  

@rex -- excellent writeup with insight and a couple of very funny lines and descriptions, though I disagree with you on the difficulty. This one was easier for me than yesterday's puzzle, just my wheelhouse, I guess. Except for that Z, which was my final letter, and a total guess.

Can someone explain the clue/answer for 49A? Thanks!

I liked OPIUMDEN and whether it's real or not, just the image that ICEFOG evokes in my imagination.

POST PUZZLE PUZZLE (PPP): There are more than 20 answers in this puzzle where if you remove the first letter, you end up with a different word. Can you find three animals (they can be singular or plural), a golfer, and a president among these new words?

If you wish to post an answer, either just write the new words' second letters, or use

tthax 6:47 AM  

Mestizo is a Spanish term for mixed race, mujer (Spanish for woman) clues that answer is in Spanish and carries the feminine ending--hence, mestiza.

Gill I. P. 7:11 AM  

A lot of MESTIZAs are drop-dead gorgeous. Try not staring at someone with olive skin, blue eyes and jet-black hair....
I rather enjoyed today's puzzle. It felt fresh. I'm a plant of any kind lover - especially those that will attract bees and butterflies. Unfortunately, we are a nation that loves to kill off pesky weeds and then guess what happens?
SEXTS (of all things) gave me a head-scratch so I didn't get that well know, famous, everyone knows his name, XZIBIT. A DNF that I nevertheless really enjoyed.
Thank you Timothy Polin (such an apt name)

Anonymous 7:12 AM  

@ tthax, and that's why I found that clue to be easy. Since I'm a neophyte, I am always shocked when I find a puzzle easy that most others find hard.

Anonymous 7:22 AM  

ICE FOG is real, although it is referred to as "Freezing fog," in weather reports and forecasts. Happens all the time in Wisconsin, well in the winter at least.

RAD2626 7:39 AM  

Bad run. At least for me, this is four challenges in a row. Had to google XZIBIT which is the first time I have googled on a Tuesday in a long time. Perhaps I am in an ICEFOG or perhaps Will was in a bad mood when he laid all of these out.

r.alphbunker 7:51 AM  

Animation of my solution

A heuristic for guessing rap names is that the name is a phonetic misspelling of a common word.

Using this I came real close on XZIBIT guessing XhIBIT.

Googling "rapper names" brings up some interesting stuff. Several sites help you choose your own rapper name. One site suggest "Rapmaster R Ralph" for me.

John V 7:56 AM  

DNF. SW breaks Will's rule of never letting two (or more) hard words cross. SEXTS/EZIBIT/MESTIZA is scandalously bad constructions. I do not believe for a minute that this was the only was to fit the crosses for GOATSBEARD. There simply is no fair way to get that XZ cross. Come on, this not supposed to be Themeless Tuesday.

Too bad, as I thought the theme was fun.

There will be more DNFs today, for sure.

Susan McConnell 8:15 AM  

Strange theme. I understood what they were going for, but it just felt weird.

@Lewis Easiest PPP thus far :-)

chefbea 8:19 AM  

DNF never heard of virago, xzibit or mestiza. Didn't realize they were all plants with animal names until I came here. I worked at a plant shop for awhile but never heard of a goats beard.

And we also got another plant at 14 across

AliasZ 8:19 AM  

Not much to dislike about this puzzle, well except the much-discussed MESTIZA/XZIBIT crossing. Can you find another word that starts with XZ? I had to run the alphabet for the rap "artist" (most of the time I do): XBIBIT, XCIBIT (third most likely) XDIBIT, XFIBIT, XGIBIT, XHIBIT (most likely), XJIBIT, XKIBIT, XLIBIT, XMIBIT, XNIBIT (dagnabit), XPIBIT, XRIBIT, XSIBIT (second most likely), XTIBIT, XVIBIT, XWIBIT, XYIBIT, XZIBIT (is this any more likely than all the others?). Arrgh.

Didn't you think VAMP was a synonym for VIRAGO? ME TOO.

I loved the theme though. It was the cat's whiskers. Not quite as pretty as a tiger lily, a lion's tail, bear grass or butterfly weed, nor as toxic as foxglove, but at least as tasty as chick peas and less sour than a gooseberry.

@Casco Kid, for your information the Hungarian word for CRABGRASS is "félkegyelmű".

Great to see ELIOT Spitzer committed to a NYT puzzle. What a great guy! Right up there with Carlos Danger.

Speaking of BASS SOLO, you must hear Serge Koussevitzky (1874-1951), the double-bassist and long-time music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1924-1949), play the Andante movement of his own Concerto for Double Bass, Op. 3. Quite a shock to hear his playing style, but it was the accepted norm in 1929.

See you all later in the OPIUM DEN.

NCA President 8:19 AM  

FWIW and nothing really to add but just for the record, the SW was the stopper for me. All was going swimmingly, albeit a tad slower than usual, but I speak restaurant spanish mostly, and "Mujer" is hardly ever on the menu at my local Mexican spot, so I thought it was someone's name. I had CELS okay, but the cross (Illusions) seemed to imply a plural, so I couldn't get that out of my head. Plus, XZIBIT. Yeah, no.

I would like to add to @Rex's criticism of ICE+ words, by adding that from now on rapper's names be excluded from puzzles forever. I maintain that they are not words, but just a random collection of letters that approximate a word and are completely and utterly un-inferable. Never mind roman numerals, never mind foreign language (I'm looking at you, MESTIZA), never mind arcane fictional characters from late 19th century English literature...unless you know of the rapper, there is no way you'll know how to spell it. It is a nearly automatic natick and unless the name is crossed by ridiculously easy words so that the name is difficult to NOT get, rapper names should not be used at all.

Cea 8:20 AM  

I never google on a Tuesday. I googled on a Tuesday. That XZIBIT area just killed me, along with plants I had never heard of, themes I didn't get. Thursday puzzle. JERKS.

jberg 8:28 AM  

Kind of easy for me, but I don't time - I solve on the front porch, sipping coffee and watching the birds and occasional squirrel on the feeder, so I'm never going to get under 10 minutes. Also, I knew MESTIZA (what's with this recent obsession with race mixing?) I was thinking of 'hot' as 'angry,' so I had to run the alphabet to get SEXTS -- but come on, folks, the phenomenon is in the news all the time! There's some kid in Massachusetts right now being prosecuted as a sex offender because he and his girlfriend took nude selfies and send them to each other, only she was underaged.

But I guess that's in the same category as rap singers, viz., recent phenomena, so maybe not the greatest choice of crosses. When I saw that XZ I was sure he was going for a pangram, but no.

I did have a hard time getting started, because I put in CRAB apple right away -- I challenge you to go to a nursery and ask if they have any CRABGRASS. Finally got it, and the rest was fairly easy. I have to admit that I didn't notice the animal thing until I got here.

@Rex, ICE AXE is the realest thing on your list -- go to any outdoor store and you'll find a whole rack of them. I don't climb in winter, but if you do you have to have one, as it's the only way to stop yourself from sliding down the mountain if you slip and fall on the ice.

Craig 8:32 AM  

I'm trying to figure out what kind of person the nursery worker is. A person comes into the nursery and says "I want to buy a plant, what would you suggest? So, the nursery worker, knowing that the customer is a grouch, says "How about some crab grass?" That's a bit awkward. Of course the nursery doesn't sell crabgrass, so it's not a real suggestion. But it's possible the nursery worker might get the point across, it it's done in a sullen manner.

But then a scoundrel comes in and walks out with a nice Dogwood, probably not getting the point at all.

Kris in ABCA 8:36 AM  

OK - I was seriously overthinking the theme at first. For 18A, the backstabber one, I wanted SNAKErepeLLANT. If you look at the intersection with DEEPER, the REPE "snakes" up and can be competed with the LANT. Of course I had to add an L as the first letter for "rosy" so I was hung up for a while. Then I was expecting the other animal plant answers to "snake" or do something interesting too. Like I said, I totally overthought it. Liked it though.

ArtO 8:37 AM  

@Rex, word of the day is for 49A not 49D.

Agree with all critiques.

Susierah 8:46 AM  

"Me too" for a dnf on a Tuesday! Xzibit and mestiza did me in. I also ran the alphabet for "answers hotly" and never got the x. Some answers that I got correct but were woe: virago, ballast, and angus.

Casco Kid 8:46 AM  

Well, the more obscure the rapper, the cleverer the name, so while I've never heard of Mr (or Ms) XZIBIT, I knew it was right. Indeed, MESTIZA could have been spelled with a second S, but that would have meant XsIBIT, which doesn't work. XsIpId, maybe. So there are rules to glean and follow. RUNDMC and DRDRE are famous, so you are just supposed to know those.

For a pastiche of rap geared to the puzzle solving set, look no further than Mr. B the Gentlemen Rhymer. Yes, this is safe for work.

Chap-hop history

@AliasZ did I say Hungarian? Of course I meant Polish, as that seems to be my phantom bugaboo of the week. As you are a musician (I imagine) I wonder if you've ever VAMPed. Consciously? In a performance situation? Or did you call it something else? Is that word in this context in your language?

MULATTO a few days ago gave us MESTIZA today. VAMP today will give us VAPE tomorrow. Light(en) up!

Casco Kid 8:48 AM  

HTML not working today? Here's the Mr. B link.

Anonymous 8:48 AM  

this was speedy for me, except the Z. [I guessed 'mestina' 'xnibit'] Maybe Rex and others would recognize snake plant by its other name, 'mother-in-law's tongue'?

wa 8:54 AM  

Xzibit Is this Superman's new rapper arch enemy?

Sexts, what are these break off groups of Anglicans who...never mind.

Rex was complaining about the gezzer puzzle last week, while this a teener puzzle.

bswein99 8:57 AM  

I hope the cross of sexts and xzibit made up for the trauma of that horribly retrograde Sunday crossword with its musty smell of days gone by...

Z 9:06 AM  

@Steve J - Care to recant fully from your contention of the other day?

Let's just compare XZIBIT to, say, Koussevitzky. I'm going to declare these two names equally obscure to crossword solvers and they both have a Z. Let's imagine that the Z is crossed by some odd foreign word, MESTIZA maybe. Looking at Koussevit-ky most solvers can reasonably infer that t-ky is going to get an S or a Z. I'd go with an S, but it is a 50-50 coin flip. Looking at X-IBIT, even using @r.alph's heuristic gets you all five vowels, C, H, and S. The Z means you have a 1 in 9 chance, at best, of parsing the answer. And, really, how can anyone definitively eliminate any letter? Worse, we don't even have the excuse of going for a pangram for imposing XZIBIT on us. As for the odds of his fame lasting beyond his initial 15 minutes, I read the clue to my 17 year-old. His instant response: "Exhibition, but don't ask me how it's spelled, it's weird." My guess, some 2023 retrospective of turn of the century rap will devote 45 seconds to him and people will be saying, "Oh yeah, I remember him." Bah.

joho 9:07 AM  

@r.alphbunker, I too, went with XhIBIT as the logical answer: not!
I knew MESTIhA couldn't be right, but the only other letter I considered was an "N" not a "Z."

I think that cross is the Natick of all Naticks!

I found the theme to be strange but interesting. I loved the added layer of the animal connection, WOLFSBANE being my favorite.

@jberg, I thought the same about CRABGRASS. A nursery would have CRABGRASS killer, but not CRABGRASS! It's a fun answer, though.

In the end I liked this one for it's originally and fresh take on a theme.

dk 9:15 AM  

OO (2 Moons)

After an ICEFOG coated winter I am now fighting fauna to save flora. In that vane I was not familiar with some of the plant names. Musically VAMP and the rapper were new to me.

The puzzle just did not grab me -- as an earlier Anon posted. Mr. Polin did a fine job and thank you for it.

loren muse smith 9:21 AM  
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loren muse smith 9:23 AM  

Even early week, I almost always tackle the fill-in-the blank clues first. And since I never eat my dessert first, I usually avoid even looking at theme clues early, esp. on a Mon or Tues, because those guys are my last course to be savored. So. . .when I finally considered the themers, I thought 18A wasn't among them, thought, "no way," and then promptly figured out what the ellipses stood for. This cluing technique didn't bother me overmuch; I appreciated the attempt to make the other four clues more streamlined.

Me, too, for not even trying to guess that Z in the MESTIZA/XZIBIT cross.

@chefbea – I noticed FERN, too, and also YEWS. In addition to obscure birds, we solvers are good at knowing what thing is made with which wood.

@Lewis – I found all three animals, the pres, and the golfer! A banner day for this PPP-challenged person.

And as others have talked about, that whole VAMP/VIRAGO/ANA area was really tough. I did not know VAMP had a musical meaning and kept wondering if it was actually a "jamb" session and then what four-letter word beginning with B could replace POSE. Sheesh.

My other brilliant turn was putting in "dogweed," changing it to "dogroot," and then hitting my head when I saw DOGWOOD. Those first two could work just fine because I just am not interested in plants. At all. Period.

I especially liked the clue for JERKS – spot on. I had that R in place, but, honestly, that could have been my first entry. JERKS are *exactly* what line-breakers are. (Or if I'm having a multi-syllabic day, I think of them as "jerko-schmerkos" and hate them all the more.)

I paused at the clue for BALLAST; that it's a mass noun like tapenade or joint compound had escaped me. Before today, if someone had used the word, I would have pictured weird yew structures hanging off either side of a teak boat.

All in all, I liked the puzzle, the theme, and I could come to get used to the new(?) cluing convention. (But then I very well may have a dog in this fight. Hi, Will. . .)

Thanks, Timothy. (You may just be the Father of the Mother of All Crosses – not necessarily a bad thing. Heck, I'd take it. ) Anyway, I like your puzzles and look forward to more!

Steve J 9:37 AM  
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Steve J 9:43 AM  

@Z: Nope, not recanting. No need to. You've simply provided one example that's more uninferrable than another. Meanwhile, in addition to the Z in Koussevitzky, the Y could be an I, the V could be a W. You've got a whole string of coin flips together there (not to mention, he seems to be spelled Kusevitsky as well). Actually, the lack of uninferability seems pretty equal across both.

My point never was that rapper names aren't difficult because of their non-standard spellings. They are. Same applies to other names that don't fall within the typical American roster of common, known names. The issue, as I stated the other day, is fairness of crossing. As I said in my earlier post on this puzzle, people have a legit gripe today because it was not fairly crossed.

r.alphbunker 10:08 AM  
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r.alphbunker 10:09 AM  


I wanted a word that sounded like exhibit and went with XhIBIT.

But XZIBIT also sounds like exhibit because of internal sandhi between the X and the Z. When the mouth finishes pronouncing the X the tongue is approximately in position to start pronouncing the Z. The H is a wimp (re: AITCH a couple of days ago) and does little to stop the Z sound.

Perhaps Loren can comment further on this.

mac 10:28 AM  

Although Mestiza and Xzibit were not known to me, I'll take a crunchy, chewy puzzle even on a Tuesday.

Obviously easier for gardeners, but even then the snake plant is pretty uncommon. Beautiful foxgloves, @Rex. I love them, but they never stay where I plant them, they decide for themselves where they want to come back.

Plenty of beautiful words: Virago, opium den, menaces.

Arlene 10:33 AM  

I'm on the same page with most of the commenters here - although I am very familiar with snake plants. My grandmother always had several of them growing in pots in her apartment in Brooklyn. They seem to be quite a hardy variety.
I'm proud to say that I was savvy enough to have gotten SEXT. But I have no aptitude when it comes to rapper names, so I guessed wrong when it came to XZIBIT - with MESTI_A being no help at all.

fuzzle 10:44 AM  

A challenging Tuesday, but that's what makes these things fun, isn't it?

dick swart 10:48 AM  

The animal plants were fun and came quickly, but this octogenarian had truble with the rapper name and the spelling of what I had assumed to be a mildly perforative descriptor.

Generic Solver 10:55 AM  

I was really liking this puzzle until I got Naticked where everyone else did. Between the amusing punny plant names and the props to Entwistle and JPJ (two of my favorite all-time bass players) this was a pretty good puzzle overall. The solving times on the applet don't look all that bad, but that board obviously doesn't account for Googling, which I suspect some people did, or people solving with Across Lite and then retyping in the timed applet (boo, hiss).

Leapfinger 11:12 AM  

Hoo boy, the room is properly stimulated today!

@ArtO, I agree with MAGIC.
@JTHartley, nice LARUE bit
@Martin Luther BGG, Rock on!
@jberg, good on the ICEAX. My first climbing trip, I checked in at the airline, my backpack with the ICEAX strapped securely outside, no problem. Fat chance of that happening nowadays!
@Gilly, 'plain yer Tim Polin connexion, pls?
@CascoK, You said Hungarian, you gotta admi. Just be prepared to deal with the Paprikash Pests in the room,
@Alias, One place in that alphabet run must have caught you up short
@loren, another way to see BALLAST is 'Steatopygia'. Not gonna link to that one, it's a DIYer!

Me, I liked the start with ORCA OFFS. Yes it does, and MENACES as well. Read the 3D clue well before the 19A, so approached all the themers with only the partial clue in mind; it worked pretty well, just took longer to grasp the plant part.

Saw that @Rex was able to 'dig a talisman', and I saw s'more too.
...for a hot chick - FOXGLOVE
...for the horse breeder - COLT'S FOOT
...for the poultryman - HENS AND CHICKENS
...for the runaways - cantELOPE

If you're willing to drop the animal part of the theme, we can plant s'more:
...for the bridegroom - Bachelor's button
...for King David - Solomon's seal
...for the angels - Jacob's ladder
...for the colleen - Blue Iris
...for Rasputin - Russian sage
...for HRH, the Duchess Cate - Sweet William
...for Rapunzel - Maidenhair FERN
...for the acerbic wordsmith - Lemon Verbena
...for the geezer - Forget-me-not

As a kid, I read about mestizos in a book about the history of rubber, so cannot believe that didn't translate into a gender change today, but I held on to my blind spot. Can't believe there's enough amber to encase Mr. I.BIT.

Thank to @everyone who said what I was thinking. Love bate vs bait vs beight, and always, ALWAYS, a Shrine to the Arcane.

I now aspire to being a VIRAGO, albeit a senescent one, and to do a little koussevitskiing in the MTS this Winotur.

Sanseveria to all y'all!

Mike 11:30 AM  

Naticked on a Tuesday. Next.

jdv 11:32 AM  

Challenging. @GenericSolver this applet solver doesn't google, ever. Spent 8 minutes trying to fill in two squares. Had SE_TS and couldn't see it for the longest time. Finally got the 'X', but now had X_IBIT staring back at me. Went slowly through the alphabet again and 'Z' made the most sense. Painful. Would have been more painful if the clue for ICEFOG was 'Pogonip'

RooMonster 11:53 AM  

Hey All!
I actually caosted through the puzzle rather easily. There were some slower spots, however, I knew XZIBIT from watching the "Pimp My Ride" show on MTV! I believe he's still around. He was in the XXX:State of the Union movie (2005). (Just don't try to search XXX Movie!) The animals where gettable, but some of the endings to get plants were a mystery. Had EINe first for EINS, sussed out JOWLS (like that word), and sillily had ICYFOG, which made 48D YASYAS! (I think I was thinking YAYAS!!)

Ws going to do a little schtick with the answers, but can't seem to come up with something not sexual... if you look at a bunch of answers, one can make the leap. Sorry if I offended anyone!


Leapfinger 12:03 PM  

Good grief, sandhi? A totally new word to me. So I'm sitting here, focusing on my tongue-teeth placement, making slow faces at the screen. Buzzzing X-Zzzz, exhhaling X-Hhhh...

Is there an external sandhi as well? Seems that 'sandhi' is in pretty good position to give the workhorse SCHWA some serious competish.

For the present, I think I'll stick with the good old-fashioned fricatives. Roll them ARS.


[ONCE UPON a frog...I TOAD you so.]

wreck 12:11 PM  

-- turning red after looking up my error from last night! Seems "Goat Weed" is actually a real nickname for a plant extract!

Anonymous 12:13 PM  

I drove through an icefog in Gallup, NM, once: not something to enjoy--indeed, truly scary.

Masked and Anonymo4Us 12:16 PM  


These NYTPuzs are startin to really put up a fight. Has the Shortzmeister gone rogue? Gettin scrappy? Kinda like this newfound junkyard dog style... altho the SatPuz might now be mean enough to chew all the chrome off a trailer hitch...

Well, shoot... MESTI?A/X?IBIT. ?AMP/?IRAGO. There's yer TuesPuz atmospheric phenomena.

Wanted SKUNKCABBAGE. Plant that in yer pot and smoke it, NYT. snort.

Maybe if theyda mixed their veggies, animals, And minerals all together in that theme, I'da had a fightin chance. Plants alone ain't my specialty. Anyhoo, always fun to get all these unexpected little challenges, early on in the workweek. Can't complain much about that. Thanx, Mr. Polin.

That was sure a hard Z, tho.

"Eager to prove he ain't a Photo Sphere"

Anonymous 12:25 PM  

For some reason, very easy despite my lack of plant knowledge. Even MESTIZA came quite easily. But in the end DNF due to inability to come up with the X for 44A/46D. Go figure.

r.alphbunker 12:30 PM  

Pronouncing "Lambs eat oats" and "Lambsidoats" is an example of external sandhi.

Anonymous 12:38 PM  

Hated it. Never heard of Xzibit- very obscure. And "mestiza"??? Isn't that like "mulatto," which was (wrongly) used in a recent puzzle? What other obsolescent ethnic and racial terms are we going to dredge up? Ick to the whole thing.

Mz.D 12:48 PM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle.Yes,difficult for a Tues, but also not the usual mindless fill-in that Mon and Tues can frequently be.I had "mestiza" but kept trying to put an ess into it;knew it was wrong etc and ultimately dnf over something I actually knew!Grrr!...@Loren Muse Smith,eventually I got "jerk" but first had to discard "asshole"...

Mz.D 1:03 PM  

P.S.I suspect the sudden increase in difficulty in the NYT puzzles is Will's response to Rex continually kvetching about how poor they have become.I totally blame Rex for this Sunday's debacle ala,"oh,the older puzzles were more cerebral and challenging? Try this!"

Eddie 1:07 PM  

Ice fog is a real thing. (I know that because I watch Ice Road Truckers).

OISK 1:50 PM  

Amusing to see mestiza after the fuss over mulatto the other day. I expect to see "QUATROON" on Friday! A song from Kiss Me Kate has the line
"The wild virago…it's lucky I missed her gangster sister from Chicago…" While I am completely unacquainted with the work of XZIBIT, I doubt that his rhymes are quite as elegant as Cole Porter's. I finished this in about 12 minutes, which is twice my normal Tuesday time, but that's fine. A bit more challenging is usually a bit more fun. I agree with most here about the "Z" cross in Xzibit, although I knew Mestiza immediately, so not a problem for me. The SW was inappropriate for a Tuesday, IMHO, but the puzzle overall was fine. It helped that I knew all of the plant names in the theme clues. (More plants, fewer rappers!)

Gill I. P. 2:13 PM  

@Leapy: As in Polinate...! No? Bad? Groan?

Anonymous 2:41 PM  

@wreck 12:11
Interesting about goatweed, does it come in a little blue pill?

Known variously as barrenwort, bishop's hat, fairy wings, horny goat weed, rowdy lamb herb, randy beef grass or yin yang huo, it is a genus of flowering plants in the family Berberidaceae.[wiki]

The generic name is Epimedium, on the way from Epismall to Epilarge.


allan 2:51 PM  

@ Rex Wonderful write up today. AIYCWIT

@ Lewis Put me in the I finally got a PPP list.

@ Anonomous 7:22 Isn't that pretty much all the time in Wisconsin?

Anonymous 3:01 PM  

Annoying. Especially for a Tuesday.

Woefully annoying.

foxaroni 3:23 PM  

To me, the theme is not "plants with an animal as the first part of the name," but rather "plants with an animal in the first part of the name that equals a slang term for the last word(s) in the clues."

Fall guy=goat

My apologies if this was explained and I mis-read or overlooked it. Or if it was understood by everyone.

From Lash Larue to Xzibit, with Kunta Kinte in the middle--and Sinatra and Crosby thrown in for good measure (musically speaking)--good job, Mr. Polin.

AnonyLiFe 3:26 PM  

@r.alph, I think I have it.

Does eat oats vs DozyDotes
Lambs eat ivy vs LamzyDivey

How did you get into this?? My sister is a speech therapist, and we've talked about SCHWA, but in 40 years, sandhi never came up.

@RooMunster: 'If you look at a bunch of answers, you can make the leap.'
Implying EASY, A?
[Ahem, BuddyRoo!]

Oh, Xcellent, @Gilly! Wiki has made me a fan of the -8 suffix, with its disambigu8 pages. I'm just losing peripheral vision as I senesce.

Gillyflowers for Aquaman


foxaroni 3:31 PM  

P.S. The theme clues were italicised in the print version, which made it pretty easy to figure out that "nursery worker's selection" was meant to replace the ellipses. I agree that "nursery worker" is a bit ambiguous at first. But why would a day care worker be suggesting plants to someone?

r.alphbunker 3:54 PM  


I am currently working with a Sanskrit professor converting the 4000 sutras of a 2500 year old Sanskrit grammar (Panini's Ashthadhyayi) into a machine readable form. Sandhi is a big deal in Sanskrit because Sanskrit sentences are written exactly as they are spoken. This is not like English where in "the orange" and "the book", "the" is spelled the same even though it has a different pronunciation in each sentence. In Sanskrit the second sentence would be written "tha book"

This makes Sanskrit texts hard to search and we are hoping that computerizing the grammar will help us remove sandhi.

Lewis 3:54 PM  


Animals: ERN, GNUS, OWLS
Golfer: ELS
President: IKE

WTG LMS and Allan!

sanfranman59 3:58 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)

Tue 10:10, 8:14, 1.23, 92%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Tue 7:17, 5:21, 1.36, 98%, Challenging

michael 4:07 PM  

For me, unlike most of you, "mestiza" was a gimme. But then I once wrote an encyclopedia entry about "mestizos"...

Thought the sexts/xzibit cross was wonderful (if not Tuesdayis) even though I'm the wrong generation.

retired_chemist 4:43 PM  

Challenging for a Tuesday here as well. Still don't get the theme. Don't care. Had CRAnkcASe for 3D because if it. Fixed it though, and finished.

Some strange plants. Not real Tuesday fare, but fun to have a tough Tuesday.

Knew MESTIZA, which is good since XZIBIT was a complete WTF. EINe in that corner also a slowdown.


Fred Smith 7:58 PM  

Puz was OK except for the mestiza/xzibit nonsense.

For this I blame Shortz, not Polin (the constructor). It's Shortz's job to keep the puzzles clear this trash. And on a Tuesday, yet ...

Carola 8:26 PM  

I liked the original theme, the plant names, VIRAGO, OPIUM DEN, MAMA'S BOY, BALLAST, MENACES. A very fine Tuesday, I thought.

AnonyLiFe 8:26 PM  

@r.alphbunker, I'm not sure just where ordinately impressed turns into inordinately impressed, but I'm there. Your work means that one day I might read about Ayurvedic medicine in the original Sanskrit.

To think that all this emerged from a puzzle constructed by Timothy "Grass" Polin...Love this blog.

anonymous 9:21 PM  

I agree with the comments re some brutal crosses for any day bur particularly a Tuesday. Is there any way to ban all references to rappears except DrDre and IceT until Saturday if ever?

Sfingi 9:27 PM  

Knew MESTIZA, but never heard of XZBIT or GOATS BEARD. Also, EINe before EINS.

It gets pretty cold in Upstate NY, but I've only seen ICE FOG once. It's really beautiful, ice crystals hanging in the air.

Sfingi 9:27 PM  

Knew MESTIZA, but never heard of XZBIT or GOATS BEARD. Also, EINe before EINS.

It gets pretty cold in Upstate NY, but I've only seen ICE FOG once. It's really beautiful, ice crystals hanging in the air.

Sfingi 9:32 PM  

I give up. What am I supposed to do with this Photo Sphere thing?

Charles Flaster 10:10 PM  

Difficult even for a Friday. Crosses were not gettable.
Dislike rapper clues but people who like them probably dislike 50's rock and roll or Sinatra stuff.
Theme was well thought out.
Thanks TP.

sanfranman59 2:07 AM  

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 8:01, 6:01, 1.33, 100%, Challenging (highest ratio of 238 Mondays)
Tue 10:15, 8:14, 1.24, 92%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 5:11, 3:55, 1.32, 100%, Challenging (highest ratio of 238 Mondays ... by far)
Tue 6:59, 5:21, 1.31, 98%, Challenging (6th highest ratio of 241 Tuesdays)

Bob Kerfuffle 8:42 PM  


qtbluemoon 9:10 AM  

Did not Finish - SE*TS/MESTI*A/**IBIT was only one of my problem areas. I also didn't know ANGELo/VIRoGO. And the most embarassing - I couldn't decide between ICyFOG and ICEFOG, because I couldn't parse (in my head) EASYAS. I had *ALE, and kept wanting to fill it with K. With all the plants in this puzzle, Connecticut ivy never brought to mind the school.

Oh, and can someone explain "crunchy" and "chewy", when it comes to crosswords? I mean, I kind of get it, but...

spacecraft 11:02 AM  

Well, you know me and rappers. But to cross it with "Mujer?" You have got to be kidding me. This takes first priZe in the naticks brutality sweepstakes. I never had a chance; I went with H. That one single square is enough to give this puzzle a (DN)F.

Too bad, too, because there's some nice fill here. Fairly clean--though not Berryan; SEGS would not make it, nor would the AP (awkward partial) IGETA.

@qtblemoon: I'll try. Think of food; a slice of white bread vs. say, a granola bar. Words like ERODE are the former. SOBERSUP, MAMASBOY, JOWLS: they're the latter. You can almost feel the "crunchiness."

4524; my mini-run is over.

ctdwag 12:31 PM  

Mares eat oats
Little lambs eat ivy

DMG 1:45 PM  

Never latched onto the theme, and decided the "themers" were plant related in a negative way. This left me with no explanation for DOGWOOD, but there it was. Alas, my lady was a MESATInA, thinking "little". However, it was of no matter, as I would never have gotten thhe modern SEXT and the, apparently obscure, rapper. I don't even know the non-obscure ones! At any rate a two square Narick finish for today.

330 leaves me in a tie with @spacecraft.

10:44 PDT

tom gillespie 3:54 PM  

Icefog is also known as hoarfrost... I've seen it once...looks surreal

Dirigonzo 4:22 PM  

The VIRAGO/VAMP and MESTIZA/XZIBIT crosses did me in. But I had fun doing the Monday puzzle which was also in today's paper, so there's that.

5223 = DNF

rain forest 5:49 PM  

I join the crowd on Natick Island at the "Z", but I don't care. I really liked this puzzle, despite the fact that you just had to know stuff like VAMP and VIRAGO, which I did, and XZIBIT and MESTIZA, which I didn't.

The theme was pretty easy to suss out, even if you don't use the term "ellipsis", and there was a variety of fresh, crunchy entries.

Is there something wrong with me that I just left that "Z" square blank, possibly afraid to make an error (overlooking the fact that leaving it blank IS an error)? Wuss, that's me.

But, looky here! 37161 that's 9 the hard way.

Solving in Seattle 6:00 PM  

This was kind of a tough Tuesday. I tried, unsuccessfully, to pair up different themes, e.g., SNAKE in the GRASS, but it didn't work. Just plant names where you throw away the second half. Yawn.

So we have MESTIZO a few days after MULLATO. What's next?

143. Could be a winner?

leftcoastTAM 7:50 PM  

There are many days when I gripe about the puzzle (to myself or to my mate), too. But not today. This was a welcome challenge for a Tuesday, when I usually expect to sail through--but am dissatisfied because I'm so much slower than sanfranman59's reported times. I'm not satisfied with my time, but I really liked this one.

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