Sonatas have four of them / FRI 8-15-14 / Seed in Mexican cuisine / Wuornos Monster role / Location of William Tell legend / Lover of Orion in Greek Myth / Suffix with opal

Friday, August 15, 2014

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: PANAMA CANAL — circles spell this phrase out. Circles also (like the canal) connect the CARIBBEAN SEA (20A: One end of the [circled letters], which opened on 8/15/1914) and the PACIFIC OCEAN (50A: The other end of the [circled letters])

Word of the Day: BLEB (7D: Air bubble) —
  1. A small blister or pustule.
  2. An air bubble.
[Probably alteration of BLOB.]
blebby bleb'by adj.

Read more:
• • •

A nice visual representation of the thing it's supposed to represent, and published on the right day. So it was fitting, and well executed. But one big drawback: the theme was *super* easy to uncover, and once you grok it, you just fill in all the relevant squares and … done! Only not done, because there's a themeless puzzle kind of superimposed on top of the whole thing. So it's a bit Frankenstein's monstery (no, spellcheck, not "monastery"), only less scary. Theme part is elegant in conception, ho-hum to solve. Themeless part is slightly below average (probably because it's Not Actually Themeless, and thus compromises had to be made with the fill that never have to be made in themlesseses (even if they sometimes are)).

Some tough cluing in here, as well as some stuff I didn't know. In the latter category, ZAZU (still haven't even seen "The Lion King") (1A: "The Lion King" bird), and BABKA, which I wanted to be be BABA … BHABA? … BABBA? … (9A: Easter cake). NOURI might've been slightly hard for me to come up with, say, six months ago, but he's in the news, like, today. He just stepped aside for the new guy, whose name would Truly be hard, as I can't remember it (looks like it's Haider al-Abadi). Anyway, point is, NOURI was a gimme. Toughest part for me, by far, was the very far SW, where I finished the puzzle. I had everything but two squares. I had -I- for 53D: Peculiarity. This left -IRES for 53A: Sonatas have four of them and -LAPS for 60A: Gives it up, so to speak. None of this was computing. Had the wrong "Sonatas" in mind (an intentional trick, I'm imagining) and had no grasp of the idiom involved with the "it" was supposed to be giving up. You might've heard a host or emcee say, on introducing a musical act, "Give it up, for … Bread!" (actually, I think that's anachronistic, but you get the idea). "Giving it up," in that context, means clapping. But again, I couldn't see that at first. So I checked all my answers, and they all looked right, and then the Sonata/Hyundai connection kicked in, and boom TIRES bam TIC and (simultaneously) bam CLAPS. And the puzzle was solved.

Love the clues on THE PILL (36D: Medical product with no conceivable use?) and CHESS (29A: What a check might be delivered in). I did not know HAJJI (40A: One with a once-in-a-lifetime experience?) could be spelled like that, but if HADJ can be HAJJ (which I have seen), then why not? Would've been nice if the fill weren't so rough around the edges (especially in that little northern patch, but in other peripheral places as well). But the theme gives it a nice visual element, and the tough cluing made it relatively fun to solve.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. A word about Lollapuzzoola, the greatest crossword tournament in the country, which took place just this past weekend. If, like me this year, you couldn't make it to NYC this year but really want to see what the LPZ puzzles are all about, good news: you can get them for yourself via the Play At Home option. And it's cheap! Here are all the deets, from tourney cohost Patrick Blindauer:

Hope you're all having a great summer! I just got back from NYC where I cohosted the xword tourney known as "Lollapuzzoola 7: It Ain't Over 'til It's Over." If you missed it, don't worry: the puzzles are still available at (until August 16th), and you can still compete in the At-Home Division, if you like. For $10, you can get a PDF which includes instructions, the 6 tournament puzzles, a tiebreaker puzzle, and a 6-puzzle mini-extravaganza that I wrote especially for the occasion. The other constructors this year were Cathy Allis, Mike Nothnagel, Tony Orbach, Doug Peterson, Brian Cimmet, and Patrick Berry, so you know you're in for a real treat.

Visit to order a copy for yourself and/or a friend, and hopefully we'll see you at Lollapuzzoola 8, which is already scheduled for 8/8 in NYC next year! 

Puzzle on,


Zeke 12:16 AM  

I would have liked the puzzle more if I hadn't, immediately prior to downloading the puzzle, read this article:

"Agreeing to Cede Power, Maliki Won’t Challenge Nominee


Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said Thursday he had agreed to step down, conceding to pressure from within Iraq and the United States and Iran."

That made filling in 19A an adventure.

Also, when I read that they were updating the PANAMACANAL for larger ships I assumed they were widening it. This puzzle has me think they may be extending it miles past the shorelines, well into the Caribbean and the Pacific. What's the point of that?

Finally, I dutifully looked up BLEB. Right now, I feel like a flaccid vescicle. I may change my name.

Steve J 12:18 AM  

I liked this, even with a few rough patches. Theme is nice executed, but I agree that once you pick it up, a huge amount of the puzzle fills in very quickly.

Some nice, tough cluing (like for TIRES and THE PILL) did help create a little more resistance, but it was still very quick for a Friday. Only major slowdown for me was the NE. I had no idea Easter had any cake associated with it (and the only thing I know about BABKA comes from "Seinfeld"), and I misspelled NOURI. And had SUIS instead of ÊTES.

Whirred Whacks 12:39 AM  

Nice centennial puzzle. Took a fair amount of work (to be expected on a Friday).

Overcoming 37 down: MALARIA was very important to the successful completion of the Panama Canal.

And of course, one of everybody's top five palindromes:

"A man, a plan, a canal, Panama."

Panama Canal was a big issue in 1976 Republican presidential primaries. Reagan said (over and over): "We bought it, we built it, and we're not giving it back."

jae 12:53 AM  

Medium-tough for me and I'm still blaming vacation mode.  The PANAMA part was Monday easy but the  rest took more than some effort.  BLEB was a WOE and I couldn't remember if the pollutant was PCP or PCB.  Finally remembered that PCP is a drug that makes users nuts that and PCBS cause cancer (again, solving on alcohol impedes the retrieval process and is not recommended). 

TIC was my first entry in SW which gave me CaveS for "Gives it up..." which led to vertical problems as opposed to the horizontal ones that Rex had. 

The HAJJI/AILEEN/ JEAN LUC area could be a problem.  I had a D in HAJJI for a while. 

Also URI and EOS in SE are gimmes only if you've done a bunch of crosswords.   I mean ask any non-crossword friend about the William Tell locale.......I'm betting you won't ask because who wants to have that conversation?

Liked it because it started out too easy but wasn't. 

mathguy 1:41 AM  

An absolutely great puzzle! Rex's problem is that he's too good. Like him, I got PANAMACANAL, CARIBBEANSEA, and PACIFICOCEAN early. But I needed those letters to complete it. BABKE, BLEB, NOURI (I read the articles but don't remember the names), HAIRLIKE, THEPILL, SHINER. All winners.

So cool that the canal and the two bodies of water are where they should be. And PANAMACANAL goes from northwest to southeast.

Spell checker 2:09 AM  

@mathguy - did you mean BABKA cause ENI is not young Darth?

AC 2:41 AM  

When the first part of the theme I filled in was the southeast, I chuckled. Then, after I stopped being 12 years old, I got the whole theme. Fun puzzle, but I, too, needed the theme for some of the crosses.

chefwen 3:08 AM  

Soooo close, but the ceegar remained out of reach. My puzzle partner would not let me Google (the purist) so I did end up with a couple of white spaces in the NE. I knew of BABKA, but did not know the Easter connection. My Food Lovers Companion says "A run-scented, Polish sweet yeast bread studded with almonds, raisins and orange peel." No mention of Easter. Did not know NOURI. HAJJI/AILEEN crossing was also a problem. RED TEA, never heard of it.

Other than those few little problem areas, loved this Jeff Chen puzzle. I always smile when I see his name up top.

chefwen 3:58 AM  

@Spell checker guy - I meant RUM not run, no need to correct my typo.

mac 4:58 AM  

Medium Friday, nice theme, but my trouble was with probably the ugliest answer: 47D AAcell. It didn't help that I had KAAT on the brain thanks to a puzzle last week.

I liked 4D, Umlaut and rhapsody.

Good Friday.

mac 4:58 AM  

Medium Friday, nice theme, but my trouble was with probably the ugliest answer: 47D AAcell. It didn't help that I had KAAT on the brain thanks to a puzzle last week.

I liked 4D, Umlaut and rhapsody.

Good Friday.

mac 5:02 AM  

Sorry, I can't delete the extra post.

mathguy 5:32 AM  

@Spell checker. Thanks, it should be BABKA.

John Child 5:37 AM  

A very fun puzzle, I thought. I struggled for a while and then decided to attack the circled letters because they were obvious. PANAMA CANAL fell pretty easily and then, as for everyone else, the other two theme answers were fill-ins.

But the clueing that was difficult at the beginning continued to slow me down. The SW and NW were hardest, with ZIPCODE the last to fall. A bit longer than Friday average - just over 30 minutes. A good workout, especially the west. Thanks Mr Chen!

neoclassicist 6:15 AM  

BLEB and
SESE crossing
ERLE were Naticks to me

As was
ISAc and

Otherwise, finished this puzzle much quicker than a usual Friday.

Gill I. P. 6:32 AM  

Good puzzle, easy puzzle, sneaky puzzle...just the way I like em.
I wonder how many people plunked down CUBA without any crosses. I was raised on the cocodrilo island and even I had some trouble remembering that piece of trivia.
I guess HAJJI can join amoeba in the spelling category.
I remember watching "Monster" with our daughter and she asked me if I knew who the AILEEN character was. I said I had no idea. When she told me Theron, I almost choked on my PEPITA.
Only two MEHs: MOCS and SCIS made my HAIR LIKE stand on end. Otherwise, Mr. Jeff Chen, a delightful Friday puzzle....

Arlene 7:34 AM  

This puzzle had several Google-able clues, so I took that route and solved from there. That was my solving strategy today - and, hey, it worked for me. Cute theme - and I started my day off with a (crocodile) smile.

Mohair Sam 7:36 AM  

So I read recently that this month is the 100 year anniversary of the opening of the PANAMACANAL, and already knew that it was cut "backward", head east to go west. Looked at the circled squares, counted them up, and filled it in along with 20a and 50a. Easy Friday for sure, right? But Nooooo . . . .

Tough cluing and lotsa nouns we didn't know. Barely avoided three naticks by good sussing. Didn't know the bird in 1a, nor the spelling of UMLAUTS - but figured Miss Gabor was already covered so went with Miss Pitts. HAJJI made more sense that HAJJe, and the I in ANI just felt right.

Can always count on great clues from a Jeff Chen puzzle and this one was no exception - THEPILL a classic.

One man's meat department: SW, which challenged Rex, was the only corner that fell quickly for us. Probably because TIRES was our first guess, leading quickly to TIC, ILIUM, CLAPS.

Susierah 8:01 AM  

Rex called this puzzle "ho hum"!!!??? Lots of clever clues and misdirected kept it very fun and lively for me. Also, some new tough vocabulary builders. Sadly, a dnf because I had hairline, and could not get the k in babka, so I could not get karaoke. But, I still like it a lot.

AliasZ 8:07 AM  

Oh, look, a themeless Friday puzzle with a theme!

As I often read Jeff Chen at xwordinfo that he doesn't approve of segmented puzzles in which isolated corners impede the flow of solving, and I am in complete agreement with him, I was surprised to see it happen in his own construction, with five isolated runt-puzzles. If you get stuck in one of these culs-de-sac, you get a DNF. Tsk, tsk, Jeff!

Otherwise I liked this definitely not MEH puzzle, although I wish the circles weren't there to give it away so easily. I would have preferred that little extra kick to find the Easter cake myself.

BLEB? It sounds like a word a one-year-old just learning how to speak made up. It can mean bread, bath, break, play, ball, burp, and a blebora of other common concepts in kiddie world.
NOURI is almost as memorable as Nauru.
Wasn't ZAZU Pitts a 1920-30's screen actress?
Those who give it up too often may eventually end up with a case of the CLAPS. Or a BLUETIT.
If I never see another Nouvelle-Vague film by JEAN-LUC Godard, it won't be soon enough.
Who can forget Norman Fell as Mr. ROPER in Three's Company? Or Suzanne Somers? She still looks great, and she is my age!

PEPITA Jiménez is an opera by Spanish composer ISAK Albéniz (1860-1909) and this is a brief intermezzo from it.

RHAPSODY on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 43, is one of the most popular works by Russian composer Sergei RachmanIMOFF (1873-1943). In this recording he shows the world how it should be played.

And with this Rachman, I'M OFF. Happy 100th, PANAMA CANAL!

Casco Kid 8:09 AM  

Clean solve in 90 minutes as BAB_A/_ARAO__/ET__//HAIRLI__ took many forms: HAIRLIcE, HAIRLEss, ETre, BABrA. Combinatorically challenging.

55 minutes before CANAL emerges, then about 5 seconds to guess which, then 5 more seconds to set the two bodies of water in. I was surprised /delighted that MRED survived and that the Hail Mary MOCS also turned out to be right.

Lots new here: REDTEA, BABKA, ETES, capillicious, ZAZU, SESE, PEPITA, URI, EOS..

Nice to see SEISMS again.

It sure is a lot more fun when sussing pays off. Kudos to the constructor for leaving just enough bread crumbs so I could find my way home.

Susan McConnell 8:24 AM  

Gosh, I love me some BABKA....always bring some home after a visit to Zabars. But like Rex, I tried all kinds of ways to get "baba" in there. This seemed too easy for a Friday, and the theme was a gimme. So, kind of a yawner.

Glimmerglass 8:46 AM  

Mathguy is correct: the Pacific end of the canal is slightly to the east of the Caribbean end. Great trivia question. They are not widening the canal; the plan is to construct a second, wider canal parallel to the 1914 canal. It won't open anytime soon; the French company that was the low bidder has run out of money with the work only about half done. It will default, and somebody else will have take over, if and when Panama finds the money.

Anonymous 8:49 AM  

On the front page of today's Times: Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
I considered Nuri K, which sounded a bit like a rapper.
Bad copy editing somewhere at the Grey Lady.

ArtO 8:49 AM  

"Medical product with no conceivable use?" Has to be one of the all time great clues.

Carola 8:52 AM  

Interesting to have two engineering-feat-related puzzles on successive days. I have to say, I had more fun with yesterday's underpasses. It was just too easy to put in the CANAL and cut through the swaths of surrounding crossword undergrowth. I did appreciate the inclusion of the palindrome segment A PLAN (hi, @Whirred Whacks).

I also thought RHAPSODY was lovely, and liked UMLAUTS, PEPITA and BABKA. But over all, ZiP and SPICE? Not so much.

@Alias Z - I also smiled at ZAZU Pitts crossing ZSA Zsa.

joho 8:52 AM  

I didn't know the word capillaceous so loved slowing revealing its meaning although HAIRLIKE doesn't sound half as elegant.

Wonderful clue for UMLAUTS. RHAPSODY is beautiful (hi, mac!)

It's fun to find a theme on Friday, especially one so well executed: thanks, Jeff!

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

This was a great puzzle. Relatively easy theme balanced by challenging and creative fill. Rex is an ass.

Generic Solver 9:21 AM  

What is this world coming to when my first inclination was to enter "Applebees" instead of "apple pies" for "Staples of Americana"?

allan 9:30 AM  

I once had a bleb. They're no fun, very painful. I thought I was having a heart attack. I went to the doctor (a cousin), who decided to do a chest X-ray (back then, doctors had all that stuff right in their offices). The act of lifting my arms over my head during the X-ray "popped" the bleb and I was fine. When that happened, my cousin said that it must have been a bleb. I thought he was kidding, but he insisted it was a real medical thing. Still not convinced, I went home and looked it up. True story.

Loved the puzzle, and like @Carola was happy to see the palindromic reference.

Andrew Gordon 9:39 AM  

I think of BABKA as a Jewish/Seinfeld thing. Easter cake? New to me.

John Child 9:54 AM  

@Casco Kid: Big progress in the last few months for you. Fridays are no longer impossible. Yahoo!

Maruchka 9:59 AM  

Too many NE/SE do-overs. First impulses were best, but doubted HAIRLIKE (a google) and RAN LATE (Stewart hung around too long in 42D). Kamal instead of NOURI was a big no-no.

Upson Downs today. Agree with @Rex that BLEB wins TWOTD award. Related to MEH, FEH and URP?

@ Alias Z and @ Carola - I like the ZAZU/ZSA, too. Alas, one Z only in ZAsU Pitts, an amazing dramatic actor in silents. When talkies took over, she was relegated to comic sidekick roles, at which she also excelled. Check out 'Ruggles of Red Gap' and 'Greed' to compare..

Thanks, Mr. Chen.

Casco Kid 10:06 AM  

@JohnChild, Yes. Maybe. I dunno. This one could have gone either way. Like @Susierah, I was staring at HAIRLInE for quite a while, not seeing how _ARAOn_ could become anything, and wondering how to find an adjective form of HAIRLInE to match the adjectival clue. (HAIRLInEar requires a rebus. So. Probably not.)

If I'm going to get any better at this, I'd better go take French 101. Etre . . . . ? Etroy Etras Etra Etramos Etran. Not really, huh?

But thanks for your encouragement. You and the other kind souls in Rexworld have made all the difference. :D

Leapfinger 10:09 AM  

@MoHAIR Sam, we had an UMLAUT on Citroën just yesterday!

Hand up, @Gilly, for plunking in CUBA. Ditto AILEEN: I knew it was Theron, yet still stayed in PEPITA-choking mode throughout. Actually, in my lexicon, PEPITA is a small houndstooth check. So many languages floated through my early childhood, I'm still not sure, but am guessing the word is Hungarian rather than German.

Fully agree that the premature elucidation of the theme was more than balanced by the wordplay in clueing and satisfying fill. [MERCy,I need to hold back, here.]

Liked UMLAUT and RHAPSODY, the Sonata clue that got me good, and the HOARY HAIRLIKE middle. Had problems in the NE, where I started out wanting BUNDT cake. My currant neighbour used to own the local Guglhupf Bakery; at Easter, they make a special Rabbit Bread which seems to qualify as a BABKA.

We got APLAN, a CANAL, PANAMA, so I've been looking around for A MAN... but no luck. Perhaps the letters that spell DE LESSEPS can be connected to form an interesting picture.

Despite the fact that my cartographer is not @mathguy's cartographer, I liked this Friday very much.

Time to get some TIRES, make a little TIRADE.

John V 10:27 AM  

Got snagged in NE, wanting BUNNY cake, as my grandmother would make for us. Otherwise, fun, okay. Did note the segmentation as was commented.

AliasZ 10:27 AM  


"Premature elucidation" -- Best Line Of the Week (BLOW for short).

Nancy 10:28 AM  

To Zeke and Anon 8:49. Same thing happened to me. I'd just read NURI headline in NYTimes and since I couldn't believe my beloved paper could possibly be wrong, I struggled with finding NOURI for the longest time. I never heard of BLEB and instead had PLEB, giving me PCPs.
Will someone explain CRIBS to me, please? Are "homies" another word for infants? Or is CRIBS another word for neighborhood homes? Don't get it.

Z 10:29 AM  

WTF is PEPITA? I don't have any on my spice shelf, as far as I know.

Interesting on the transliteration of NOURI/NURI. I've met a fair number of NOURIs and the spelling has always been with the O. Given that we are latinizing a different alphabet and that alphabet is used for dialects that are as different from each other as Midwestern/Southern/British/Australian are from each other, I guess either spelling is defensible. I'm just glad that I don't start my day with the front page. Two words from Arabic in one puzzle is the limit, though.

I caused myself major issues in the SE by putting in stewart where JEAN-LUC belonged. Add in that I plunked down eriK for the "weirdly spelled author's first name" clue and the SE was a little trouble. That K gave me KARL which made 52D "four letter island ending in A" so CUBA plopped in and the clean-up began.

@jae - I had that exact thought as I wrote URI and EOS.

@AliasZ - I'm not sure I see five runtpuzzles. I guess the NW and SE qualify with just two squares to access the middle, but they are good sized sections one of the connectors is a part of the theme in each case. No foul in my opinion.

Lots of fun cluing for THE PILL, TIRES, ABEL, UMLAUTS, KARAOKE, and SUPER GLUE, a little change up with a themed Friday and BLUE TITs. What's not to like?

jberg 10:30 AM  

Gotta run, so I'll just say that I never heard of BABKA, and wanted RED ale. So it was a nice struggle. I also wanted checks to be delivered to the CHESt, as in hockey, but got over that quickly.

Clue for Maliki should have been adjusted, since he resigned yesterday!

Mohair Sam 10:38 AM  

@Nancy - I've heard CRIB used slangily for a small place to live all my life. Apparently it is now popular with the "homie" crowd (and may have a different meaning). But I got the constructor's drift.

Zed the Answer Man 10:39 AM  

@Nancy - (almost stereotypical these days) urban slang terms. "Homies" are your friends from back "in the 'hood", the neighborhood you grew up in. CRIBS is slang for where you live.

Z 10:45 AM  

PEPITA. AKA pumpkin seeds. Not discernibly "Mexican" here in the mitten, at least not in my experience. Another one to file away for future reference.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:46 AM  

If I can remember BLEB I shall have learned a new word.

And if I could remember "capillaceous," . . . . . but, no, I know I won't.

Steve J 10:48 AM  

Thing that may only interest me:

At first I resisted RED TEA, because what we call red tea is not tea (it's rooibos, which is steeped like a tea but is not related to the actual tea plant).

Black tea is made, in part, through oxidation (if you let a cup of green tea sit for a while, you'll see it turns the same color as a cup of black tea). But obviously black tea wouldn't fit the space.

Lo and behold, as I was looking it up, it turns out the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans refer to what we call black tea as RED TEA.

Interesting thing I learned today. And reason No. 19,485 of why reactions of "the NYT got an answer wrong!" are almost universally wrong.

Gill I. P. 10:52 AM  

@Z...I think PEPITAs will overtake sunflower seeds and chewy tobacky in the world of baseball. Hard to eat only one and you don't have to spit them out.

quilter1 11:04 AM  

Ten days without internet and phone! I am disappointed in myself that I found it hard to live without. So, the puzzle was medium, cute and doable. I finished with KARAOKE and felt proud. I see that the captchas are back to unreadable addresses.

JTHurst 11:17 AM  

ma ma hu hu

'puer' is a tea that is dried and fermented and is black in color but is called hong cha or 'red tea' because when brewed in a clay pot the color of the first pour is red and as it steeps, becomes darker with successive pours.

Z 11:22 AM  

@Gill I.P. - The only flaw in your theory is that baseball players like to spit, so a spitless snack will never overtake sunflower seeds or chewy tobacky. I'm pretty sure this is one of the unwritten rules of baseball - "Thou shalt spit and adjust your cup at least once a game when on national TV."

AliasZ 11:29 AM  


Not to belabor the point, but there are five: two 9x7's in the NW and SE, two 5x7's in the NE and SW, and the tiny oval hole in the middle, with minimal access.

I started with the center doughnut and got stuck there for a while because HAIR____ didn't do much to elucidate capillaceous any more than the word already suggested, neither did IM___ for "Ta-ta". In what language does "Adios" start with IM___? The ZAZU/ZSA in the NW, the HAJJI/JEANLUC and ISAK/KARL in the SE, the BABKA/BLUETIT and NOURI/ANI in the NE were all potential culs-de-sac that could spell d-o-o-m instead of R-E-L-I-E-F. There was no way you could solve these isolated areas by getting into them from a different direction.

Thank goodness the relatively easy-to-guess CARIBBEAN SEA and PACIFIC OCEAN provided a solid center for the four corner areas.

As a bonus, let me offer this beautiful Poème, Op. 25 by ERNEST Chausson (1855-1899), in an amazing performance by French violinist Christian Ferras (1933-1982). Ferras was another supremely talented artist who struggled with lifelong depression. Sadly, he committed suicide at age 49.

RooMonster 11:41 AM  

Hey All!
This puz was on the challenging side for me. The problem was too many names. And alot of those names crossing each other. 15A, 8D is one example. Unfortuneatly, had to Google alot of them. (Did have eILEEN, looked up to make sure, not...)

@Generic Solver, I had APPLEtIni first!! Maybe too much "Scrubs" watching! For the Sonata clue, wanted doors at first (do they make 2-dr Sonatas?). Good cluing on THEPILL, CRIBS, and SUPERGLUE. Agree with most on AACELL, if I tried to get that in a puz of mine, WS wouldn't accept it! Worked in a grocery store bakery, so I have heard of BABKA, took a second to figure out though, as I haven't seen it in years.

Think that "They'll rock your world" clue would work also for ACDC! Writeovers...
Put in cutsOff for Bars on a bar? at first, but already had IMOFF, so knew it wasn't right. aUtO before EURO (get it Autozone?), waIst before ILIUM, ANa before ANI.

SLIM RELIEF in this puz. The AMOUNTS of names caused me BLUETIT! Needed APLAN to be ABEL to SESE them. Some of the long fills did SPICEUP th puz. No feeling of ELATION, however, not a BANNER puz, but was ALLAGES, with no TIRADE, and I didn't catch MALARIA.


Z 12:04 PM  

@AliasZ - Okay, I see what you're saying. Generally liking the puzzle and having seen corners with only a single square of access in the past, that each of these runtz has two squares of access meant it bothered me less. As for belaboring a point - Har.

Leapfinger 12:11 PM  


You know what they say: "Come early, come often!"

I'm almost certain that you don't need a minutely detailed description of each action that happens sequentially or in series during an event.

PS (to @Carola, also) NObody crosses ZSA ZSA Gabor, and gets away with it for long. As the determinedly immortal ZSA ZSA herself put it, she was an excellent housekeeper: in each divorce, she got to keep the house.

Carola 12:12 PM  

@Maruchka - Thank you for the ZAsU spelling correction and lore. I knew her only in the comic roles.

Carola 12:43 PM  

@Leapfinger - Just missed your x 2!

Mohair Sam 12:58 PM  

@leapfinger - Thanks! Never knew that sidewinding colon had a name. (Loved the Zsa Zsa quote, btw, thanks for that too)

@steve j - Same problem as you on REDTEA. I, however, just assumed the NYT was right and did no research. Last mistake I remember was when they mixed up the lead singer on a "Heart" song about a decade ago.

Anonymous 1:00 PM  

In toady's Times page one Nouri is spelled Nuri--and I guess that Babe D Zaharias was only on the back cover of a Wheaties Box

Lewis 1:01 PM  

I loved the clues for TIRES, UMLAUTS, ZIPCODE, CHESS, and ARC, and medium sounds right to me. If there was a canal overpass over the Panama Canal, Jeff could have made this extra interesting.

I love the flavor of pepitas (pumpkin seeds), and as a bonus, they are iron and protein rich. This puzzle has five words in which the first and last letters are alphabetical neighbors, which is a lot.

Masked and Anonym007Us 1:24 PM  

@Lewis: har. I count six.

First of all, I love Jeff Chen puzs. He is my fave grid-giver, bar-none. This one sure tried for a lot: only 72-words, a theme, and lotsa diagonal stuff. Diagonal stuff is hard. I once had a runtpuz called "Bingo!", where the diagonal was all U's. Hard to build. Got desperate.

JC gets a wee desperate here, today, too. That BLEB/SESE area is quite nice. Also, that rightmost column has a primo set of weejects. But, hey -- I don't mean to gripe. This puz was real different, a lot of fun, had 007 U's, and was historically educational. Panama Canal is 110 ft. by 48 mi. It was built during 1881 to 1914, at a cost of a bajillion dollars and a snoot-load of coupons. Construction workers braved the constant scourge of both MALARIA and BLUETIT... etc. An underpass, the Lewis Bypass, is scheduled to be completed in 2019. har2.


mathguy 1:29 PM  

It was good to think of Zsa Zsa again. Whether or not she came up with the housekeeper line, she was a bright woman. She lit up late night on the Jack Paar show. He once asked her what he would find in her refrigerator. She said a bottle of Champagne, a salami, and an orchid.

allan 1:47 PM  

@ Steve J That's very interesting. I learned something.

@ Lewis & M&A M&A is correct, unless we consider the alphabet as a loop. Then there 7. Har

Freddy Murcks 1:53 PM  

Much easier than yesterday. I am guessing that yesterday's might have been conceived as a Friday-level puzzle and today's was conceived as a Thursday-level puzzle, but they got switched around due to the anniversary date. However, since I successfully solved both, what do I care. They were both enjoyable.

Freddy Murcks 1:58 PM  

Z @10:29 said "WTF is PEPITA?" My Spanish isn't perfect, but I am pretty sure that a pepita is a pumpkin seed. Pumpkin seeds are widely used in delicious moles, especially pipian mole.

M and Also 2:06 PM  

p.s. puz solution is really worth checkin out, for the comments. Both JC and the Shortzmeister had extensive commentary on this NYT one.

See also:

Kind comments should be left at Thanx.

Fred Romagnolo 2:08 PM  

Being half Russian-American, I wanted pAsKA for Easter cake. Front page Nuri( not NOURI) also a hold-up. Biggest blunder of all: I wanted the cities at each end of the canal, took a while to get at the bodies of water. As with Nuri-NOURI I guess we gotta go along with HAJJI-Hadji. But, it's a (something) of convenience, isn't it.(?)

Anonymous 2:24 PM  

I guess the editorial staff of the Times follows a different style guide, because on the front page Maliki's name is spelled Nuri.

A quibble: I quickly caught on to the theme, so I filled in the diagonal with PANAMACANAL and 50-A with PACIFICOCEAN. I got momentarily stumped at 20-A, though, because ATLANTICOCEAN wouldn't work. It didn't take long to realize that it was CARIBBEANSEA. But, by symmetry, shouldn't 50-A be PANAMABAY or GULFOFPANAMA? Except, of course, neither would fit.

michael 2:25 PM  

Easy for me except the northeast. Just couldn't get babka (kept thinking of baba) and couldn't remember al-Miliki first name (kept thinking it was "Nurit" which apparently is only one letter off with some spellings). After I googled nouri and babka, got the rest.

Lewis 2:27 PM  

@m&a and @allan -- I stand corrected, and thank you! I did consider that A/Z possibility, Allan. M&A, loved those coupons...

nemo paradise 2:40 PM  

Legend of Zelda platform = "nes?"

jae 2:41 PM  

My copy of the Canadian newspaper National Post has it spelled NOURI on page Aj7.

jae 2:45 PM  

@nemo - NES = Nintendo Entertainment System - Another chunk of trivia acquired by doing a bunch of crosswords.

allan 2:45 PM  

@M$A I finally have gained some respect for WS after reading Jeff's comments. I think the puzzle would have been a DNF for me if Mr. Chen had his way. His original PLAN for the CANAL would have made him an evil MAN (IMO). PANAMA!!

As to the Nuri - Nouri "controversy", I think we just need to expect alternate spellings. Until Mr. Maliki chimes I with his preferred spelling, it's going to be at the constructor's discretion.

allan 2:49 PM  

That should have been M&A.

Leapfinger 3:11 PM  

Ha @Lewis! Interestingly, there were 5 among the Acrosses alone, then got a lone outlier among the Downs. Had that sidewinding UMLAUTS not been a POC, we'd have had another.

Note to self (and any other interested parties): There's more than one way to skin a BLEB.

sanfranman59 3:53 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 17:15, 20:16, 0.85, 23%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Fri 10:50, 13:00, 0.83, 23%, Easy-Medium

Anoa Bob 4:39 PM  

@Fred Romagnolo, that something would be an SOC (Spelling of Convenience), right?

But a SOC here or a POC there, hey, no problemo.

And, yes, I did notice that this grid leaned pretty heavily on the latter to get 'er filled. Do CLAPS cause SEISMS? Here's hoping that all your APPLE PIES are free of PCBS. I'll stop. Don't want to provoke any TIRADES

Sometimes a single entry can make up for perceived short-comings, and tip an otherwise iffy overall impression into the "Liked It" column for me. Today RHAPSODY (45A) did the trick.

Nancy 6:04 PM  

Came back late to check in and was rewarded by leapfinger's great Zsa Zsa quote. Never heard it before. Plan to steal it if the opportunity ever arises.

Anonymous 2:26 AM  

NE corner ridiculous. These are not words: NES ETES ANI N(O)URI. And BLUE TIT and BABKA barely qualify. Make the clues difficult, but ease up on the gibberish answers.

Trombone Tom 10:55 AM  

@Rex, for "Yo-heave-ho" check out Song of the Volga Boatmen.

Anonymous 11:02 AM  

True, the theme was super-easy to get, but the cluing was very Berry-esque. It felt like a Patrick Berry, and was actually better than Berry's last few. Especially to be praised are 45A, 58A, 60A, 4D, 46D. I'm amazed Rex found this too easy, because it took me a whole evening. Very enjoyable, as long as you treat it as a themeless puzzle. I don't understand the complaints about the NE corner --- you've never eaten a butter babka??? You've never seen a tit (bird, that is)? You don't know that etes is a word you learn in your first French class? Maybe it's because you folks are listening to too many rappers.

spacecraft 11:02 AM  

Wedensday called; he wants his puzzle back.

This is a nice tribute to the P.C., but as OFL said the theme was all gimme, so even with toughened cluing this one RANLATE. It's not a Friday grid, for sure. Oh, we're coinciding with the anniversary--that's why.

Some WOEs, gettable from crosses: PEPITA, SESE, NOURI, REDTEA, ABEL (as clued; I don't understand second issue) and EURO (as clued; EUROzone???)

Yet there were gimmes aplenty outside the theme, too: THEPILL, RETTON, and my favorite captain JEANLUC.

Not quite a RHAPSODY, but still pretty enjoyable. B+.

715: MEH. IMOFF.

eastsacgirl 12:44 PM  

Pretty easy for a Friday. Got ZAZU right off the bat (love the Lion King) and theme quickly appeared. Fun puzzle.

DMG 1:38 PM  

Found all sorts of trouble spots in this one. My friend used to make sunTEA, temporarily forgot the h in RHAPSODY, knew the "capilla..." thing had to do with HAIR, but not the rest of the word. In our house Easter means strawberry shortcake, or, when the girls were little, a cake frosted and decorated to resemble an Easter basket with candy and stuff on top. Finally remembered that as a new bride trying out my wedding gift Gourmet cookbooks, I had baked some kind of a special cake in a coffee can ( remember those?) and dredged up that it started with a B which gave me BANNER and I was off and running. Then seeing CANAL helped finish things. All but one letter, don't know much French and have no idea about Zelda, so blanked at the "s". Still a good morning solve!

Captcha is a hard to see, total loser: 145!

Solving in Seattle 2:15 PM  

I am a fan of Jeff Chen puzzles. After reading McCullough's The Path Between the Seas a few years back, the theme fell quickly. Great book about a very fascinating subject.

The rest of the puzzle was Friday tough.

Q: What do you get if you have a wardrobe malfunction at a Superbowl halftime show?
A: 11D

2336 - MEH.

Waxy in Montreal 2:30 PM  

Watching the PBS series this week on The Roosevelts helped with the identification of today's theme as much was made of Teddy Roosevelt's involvement in getting the Panama Canal built. Don't imagine the world's attention on 8/15/1914 was really focused on the opening of the canal with the competition from the "guns of August" in Europe.

Had BOX before ARC for too long at 22D which slowed things down as well as SUIS before ETES at 31A. Always have problems remembering BABKA when an Easter cake is clued and today was no exception.

Still, a relatively-simple, fun Friday

4304 = 2. ISAK at this...

Anonymous 2:46 PM  

Enjoyable Friday puzzle. Much better for me than yesterday. Technical DNF because of NE_. Always enjoy Jeff Chen & Company. Often see his works in the LA Times.
Also remembered when Zsa Zsa replied to an audience about returning a ring if the engagement was broken. "Yes, darling, return the ring....but keep the stone."

Ron Diego 9/19

rondo 2:47 PM  

Not much to write home about here. Maybe it's me, but this week's puzzles have seemed a big MEH.
3365 - also MEH, eveen with too many cards.

Must not have been able to read the firsr one 327 second hand loser.

Dirigonzo 4:04 PM  

Done in by PCpS/pLEB. My first thought was actually right but then I decided the p looked better.

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day - seriously it's a real thing.


Joe in Montreal 12:12 AM  

Syndication here. The wrongness of APOSTLE for Evangelist is so glaring that I querulously wonder if the author ever heard of the palindrome before.

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