Professor who tries to kill Harry Potter / SAT 9-20-14 / Red juice hybrid / Word with deux nous / Nobelist Frederick pioneer in radiochemistry / Home of Unesco World Heritage Site Fatehpur Sikri

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Constructor: Erik Agard

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging



THEME: none … whoops, sorry, I mean CTR (56D: Abbr. found a the 56-Down of this puzzle's four longest answers)

Word of the Day: Frederick SODDY (32A: Nobelist Frederick ___, pioneer in radiochemistry) —
Frederick Soddy FRS (2 September 1877 – 22 September 1956) was an English radiochemist who explained, with Ernest Rutherford, that radioactivity is due to the transmutation of elements, now known to involve nuclear reactions. He also proved the existence of isotopes of certain radioactive elements. (wikipedia)
• • •

[Note: I did this entire write-up without realizing that there was a theme… see bracketed note following the original write-up, below]

Solid, aggressively contemporary offering from Mr. Agard. It has all the hallmarks of an Agard puzzle—hard, modern, trickily clued. I found this one less awe-inspiring and slightly more laborious than I typically find his independent puzzles (which you can experience on a mostly weekly basis at his website, "Glutton for Pun"). But it's nonetheless an above-average themeless. I think my slightly diminished enthusiasm comes from the Harry Potter answer, QUIRRELL (14A: Professor who tries to kill Harry Potter) —a name I don't really remember, and I've read them all (looks like he's from the first book … OK then). Kind of a deep cut. It's original, but it'll be meaningless to lots of people. All the crosses are fair, though, and in fact the fact that the final letter seemed to have to be an "L" really helped me see LG ELECTRONICS more quickly than I would've otherwise—["Life's Good" sloganeer] is a terrible clue; or, rather, "Life's Good" is a terrible slogan. Banal and meaningless. I see that "Life's Good" is a phrase with the initials "L.G." but I doubt that helps anyone remember the connection between slogan and company.


"PROJECT RUNWAY" was a gimme, but with another dull clue (33A: Fashion series since 2004). I was grateful for the easy answer, though. Helped me change SANTA to CLAUS (37A: Asner's "Elf" role)—bit of a cheap trick, that. After that, the bottom part of the grid got a whole lot easier. Got HTTPS right away and closed in on the SW corner from both sides, then ran through the SE corner in a flash (having just come back from ASANA practice earlier in the evening). It was the NE corner that really held me up. Speaking of held up, 8D: Holds up (LASTS) really held me up, largely because I read it as having the sense in which I am using it in this sentence (i.e. "delays"), one of at least two possible (wrong) clue interpretations I can think of there. I had ASPECT RATIO and AGRA and ENTRE, but couldn't get much more to fly up there for a little while. And besides the "S" in SNL (32D: TV inits. since 10/11/75), I had nothing at the bottom part of that NE corner either. Eventually figured out DIET SODA, then SEP., and then got all the big stuff up there, including the lovely and (for a nice change of pace) old-fashioned / quaint-sounding UNWIELDY and PANOPLY.


All that was left was the obscure D&D clue (29D: Dungeons & Dragons attributes) (no idea how "attributes" was being used there; had -WERS, considered only TOWERS) and the even more obscure (to my mind) radiochemistry clue (32A: Nobelist Frederick ___, pioneer in radiochemistry) (had S-DDY). Oh, and 29A: Viewfinder? (I had -OLL). Only by running the alphabet and finally getting POLL did I finally settle on POWERS / SODDY. SODDY seems pretty shoddy to me—he's the QUIRRELL of Nobel laureates—but again, crosses ended up fair, so … I think I'm supposed to be "excited" to "learn new things," or something like that. Anyway, this is all very good, very suitably Saturday. Nothing to geek out over, unless you geek out over Harry Potter (as some do), but with a clean grid, fresh fill, and fiendishly riddlish clues (now Tom RIDDLE, I know), this shows great promise.

***

[So, there was a theme—CTR at "center" of each longer answer … that explains why the fill wasn't as banging as I expected from an Agard "themeless." This is what happens when you a. aren't looking for a theme because it's Saturday, and b. blow through a corner so easily you don't actually see all the clues. Anyway, the theme is impressive (dead center!)—it didn't add any fun to the solving experience (CTR not being the funnest of answers), but the puzzle architecture is an interesting thing to remark upon, post-solve]

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

101 comments:

jae 12:05 AM  

Another mixed bag for me.  

NW was easy-medium with KEDS, ARRAS (known only from crosswords), and ERE as gimmes and all the crosses required for QUIRRELL (I haven't read the books and have only seen one movie...so much for my pop culture cred). 

SW was easy.  PROJECT RUNWAY was a gimme (my bride loves it) as was CLAUS and CLAMATO (my Dad used to drink it with beer...probably an acquired taste).

SE was also easy-medium.  No idea about KCUP but the reveal was an unexpected plus.

NE was medium-tough for me too @Rex.  PANOPLY and UNWIELDY took a while and SODDY was a WOE.  So, maybe medium over all?

While yesterday's was a bit more fun this one was just fine or pretty much what Rex said. Liked it!  

It's worth checking out Erik's photo at xwordinfo


George Barany 12:08 AM  

On a Saturday, I would think the name of any Nobel laureate would be fair game. As a chemist, SODDY was an answer that I filled in on my first pass, not requiring any crosses, and I have to commend Erik for a fresh clue, not a soddy clue like, say, "like some ..." (fill in your favorite outdoor sod-filled venue).

Plus, the CTR mini-theme, with CTR across and CTR down CTR-ed in the puzzle's CTR ... fabulous, Erik!

wreck 12:10 AM  

If I'm ever to get to the point where I never have to Google, I guess I'm going to have to read Harry Potter! I was getting worried that It had been more than day without SNL.
Very easy South, but was slowed way down in the North.
Overall - nice puzzle.

Whirred Whacks 12:15 AM  

I, for one, like the LG logo (for the big Korean conglomerate), and its subsequent slogan "Life's Good." It's not the greatest logo (or the catchiest slogan), but it is memorable and playful. It is certainly better than the previous name which was "Lucky Goldstar."

I saw the clue, smiled (just like the logo), and had the center of the puzzle filled in!

SenorLynn 12:16 AM  

I was just giddy with appreciation, until I got down to OARERS. What a zit on an otherwise pretty face.
Didn't know QUIRRELL, SODDY, or ASTIN, but got 'em all from crosses.
TWOOUT is a perfectly fine description of a baseball tableau--"bases loaded and two out for Beltre", e.g.

Virginia 1:17 AM  

I finished this in just over 20 minutes, probably my fastest time ever for a Saturday. Disagree that there's anything obscure about QUIRRELL; he's the villain of the first book and movie. This puzzle played to my pop culture strengths: I wore KEDS as a child, read "Atlas Shrugged as a teen, saw "Elf" with my children. It seems like just a few years ago that we were watching TV in a 3:4 ASPECT RATIO, and most of the men in my life (including my brother, spouse, son, and numerous ex-boyfriends) have been D&D players at some point in their lives. Had to Google SODDY (not so great with the Nobelists), ASTIN (the '80s were my TV-free decade), and Grandparents' Day month (no excuse). Also PROJECT RUNWAY, but I got it by searching on "Tim Gunn," so I feel like I should get some credit for that. Really appreciated that the baseball clue involved the rules of the game, rather than some long-retired player I'd never heard of. The theme was aesthetically pleasing, even though there was no special trick involved in figuring it out.

In sum: More puzzles that appeal to middle-aged parents of teens, please!

Virginia 1:31 AM  

Also, @Jae, thank you for the Xwordinfo link! The picture of Erik Agard should convert all but the most rabid anti-QUIRRELL-ites.

Adam C 1:35 AM  

I finished this puzzle in a shade under 14 minutes. I’ve never come close to that on a Saturday, so seeing a tag other than Easy caught me by surprise. I note that QUIRRELL and RIDDLE cross, and it makes me smile.

Kris in ABCA 3:01 AM  

I blew through this one in record time. No problem with QUIRREL and laid down LGELECTRONICS early, so that helped. Liked it.

chefwen 3:25 AM  

Like @senorlynn didn't know QUIRRELL(no Harry Potter books or movies consumed by me) SODDY or ASTIN, with my puzzle partner MIA didn't have the patience to hold off with crosses like the good senor did and went straight off to Uncle Google. Also had to look up what a Legerdemain was, that was a new word for me. Other than those obvious cheats had a great time with this puzzle. PROJECT RUNWAY was a given, even if I have never seen it. Just hearing Tim Gunns voice can send me running into the next room.

Mark 3:52 AM  

Easy for a Saturday. Funnily, and distractingly, the original name of LGELECTRONICS was LUCKYGOLDSTAR, which also fits into 13 letters! That was a worse mislead than CLAUS for SANTA. Strangely, "Life's Good" does not appear in first few pages of Bing search, because the company eschewed the slogan (and changed its name) because things weren't going so well.

John Child 4:07 AM  

I'm in the easy-medium crowd. Many long answers were gimmes or partials: ASPECT RATIO, LG ELECTRONICS, COCA COLA, MAGIC(something), DIET(something), etc. Loved the clues for ENFANT, RIFLE, AND DELTS. I expected to hear "too easy for Saturday" from OFL.

Questinia 5:25 AM  

Paraphrasing Michael Kors of PROJECT RUNWAY, Erik "KiKi" Agard basically took a checklist of everything that can turn tacky and combined it into one puzzle.

Honey, that silver lamé of ANGINA crossing DIET SODA in the side-boob area combined with the slutty CLAMATO in the PLAY AREA makes the puzzle an 80's Knots Landing Joan Crawford meets transvestite POLL dancer performing MAGIC TRICKS at a RAVE in a SLOP TUNNEL.
And darling who mixes QUIRREL with ASPECT RATIO and KEDS?!

OldCarFudd 5:27 AM  

This was an easy Saturday for me except for the L at QUIRRELL?LGELECTRONICS - I'd never heard of either one of them.

I presume the constructor's picture on xwordinfo is some sort of joke. Will says the constructor is a youngster, but the picture is one of a young geezer. (Geezerhood is relative - I'm an old geezer.)

Loren Muse Smith 7:12 AM  

Rex – sometimes I'm struck and impressed with the near perfect recall you have on your solving path. I could never, ever back track and remember how I filled in a grid. Also – I keep meaning to thank you for this site for another reason: Breaking Bad. Because you and so many others were talking about it, I am now taping a marathon and am almost up to speed. Excellent show.

If I can "finish" a Saturday, then it must be fairly easy. I had to guess on the ASTIN/ASANA cross and the SODDY/PANOPLY cross, though in retrospect, those letters were quite inferable. My wrong letter was "towers/toll." I just never went back and questioned it.

Some great clues – PJS, STREAKS, and LASTS. . .

"Smuggling aid" really threw me because for some reason the word "aid" makes me feel like it's something I can hold in my hand or schlepp in my handy-dandy smuggler's knapsack. But as I sit and chew on it, I guess I'll buy that a tunnel or an obscure dirt road could be a smuggler's aid.

"Snub" before SHUN, which for me fits the clue better. Presented with a cold shoulder of mutton, I might feel slighted and mildly disappointed, but not shunned.

Funny that Erik's picture is getting attention now. I swear that picture was there when his last NYT puzzle ran. No?

Erik Agard is one swell guy. When I was teaching in the prison, one of my students pushed aside his NYT Monday (that I passed out at the end of class) and declared he wanted more puzzles with rap clues. I went onto FB's Puzzle People and asked to be directed to some such puzzles. Erik – within about 12 hours – constructed one with a rap theme specifically for my class, and they ate it up. They then commissioned an NBA one and a baseball one. Erik delivered, and they were thrilled!

Enjoyed this, EA!

mathguy 7:39 AM  

It's ironic that Rex's skill almost caused him to miss the cleverest part of the puzzle. That 56D refers both to the letters CTR and their meaning.

I was stuck in the SE because I had STRAWMAN instead of STUNTMAN. My wife, whom I call The Closer, came in from the bullpen and fixed it up, correctly guessing KCUP and ASANA. Like Rex, having filled in all the squares, she didn't care about the clue for 56D.

Liked it. Nice variety of words, some clever cluing, very few clunkers.

Glimmerglass 7:56 AM  

The architecture of this puzzle is fantastic. It almost doesn't matter that it's also a "theme." The clue "viewfinder," was clever and tripped me up. (I had towers/toll like lms -- I never played D&D.) POLL is one of those headslapper answers. The A in ASTIN was a guess, but I had some idea that ASANA might be right. This just the kind of puzzle I hope for every Saturday.

Robso 7:58 AM  

I liked this puzzle. Seemed like I had to have made a mistake about four times when I hadn't. Erik Agard, you tricky bastard!

CFXK 8:02 AM  

SNL is clued incorrectly. In its initial years (beginning on 10/11/75), what we now know as "Saturday Night Live" was "NBC's Saturday Night." Debuting that same year on ABC was "Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell". Following the cancellation (after one season) of the soon-to-be-forgotten ABC show (which was never known as SNL), the name "Saturday Night Live" began to be applied incorrectly in popular usage to the NBC show. But it was not until 1977, after purchasing the rights to the name from ABC, that NBC changed the name of its show to "Saturday Night Live." And it was not until several years later that NBC began using the term "SNL."

Though "NBC's Saturday Night" did indeed debut on 10/11/75, it is incorrect to trace the initials SNL to that date. The clue is anachronistic.

jberg 8:40 AM  

Tough for me, really tough, because of the NE. I thought that architectural heritage site must be in IRA_, and that holds up would be PROPS. ASPECT RATIO finally fixed that, so I changed IRA_ to G_ZA (Gaza or Giza). It was really hard to give that up, and I was also focused on the wrong two meanings of holds up. At one point I even had 'begats' for 8A, thinking of those long begat-chains in the Bible. I finally saw the DIET SODA possibility, which gave me the rest, but the top row in that section was so inky I had to write LEAD UP above the grid just to see it.

Like @Rex, I got 56D from the crosses, so never read the clue or saw the theme.

The first LG product I ever saw was a washer/dryer combo in my flat when I spent a sabbatical at Oxford; so I have trouble thinking of the company as LG ELECTRONICS. For me, it's just LG. I knew that was their slogan, but figured we were looking for the name of their ad agency.

Ditto on OARERS. There really ought to be a ban.

Nice subtheme of health-destroying beverages, though.

evil doug 8:46 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
evil doug 9:00 AM  

I prefer my coffee from a d-cup. Okay, okay, a b-cup. My wife better not see this....

Never read/saw Harry, Quirrell and the gang. I did read Hamlet circa 1966, but arras escaped me. So I tried to go with the ridiculous plural, auras, hoping there was some apparition dealie going on there. Quiruell? Why not...

Sucked in by Santa, since nobody says just 'Claus'. I would have gone with Stephanie for "Powers". 'Oarers' is unwieldy; reminds me of the 'Rural Jurors' bit on 30 Rock. Panoply is a nice word.

Tunnels, given all the Gaza stuff, was a timely term with smuggling.

Evil

NCA President 9:03 AM  

Reason #5271 that English is a silly language: OARERS. I'm 54+ years old. It is a safe bet that I have never used this word, much less ever heard it...yet I know what it means. In my very limited lake/river/sea experiences, I might have used "rower" or maybe "oarsman"...but never OARER. Why would anyone use this word when there are perfectly good other words that say the same thing but are far more common? If a person can get by just taking a noun and adding -ER to it and creating a "word," then I'm going to permanently add "worser" to my vocabulary with no apologies. Isn't the beauty of the English language that there are already so many words for things that you don't have to add to the vocabulary by frankensteining (<--heh...I made that up) two components (a noun and suffix) to create a word that can be best said (and understood) with existing ones? OARER?? Really?

/rant

Judging by the amount of googling** I had to do, this was really pretty tame today. Once I found out about SODDY that worser NE corner fell into place.

**And for anyone who might compare "googling" to "oarer," yes it is nice that we can create words easily in our language...but there existed no other alternative word for typing "Frederick Nobel Prize" into a browser field and finding the answer in under a second. Oarer, on the other hand, does have alternatives.

TL;DR: 15 yard penalty for the use of OARER.

AliasZ 9:21 AM  


There is something to be said for age and experience, with which also comes polish and finesse. As much as I appreciate promoting the excellent efforts of under-30 constructors, I miss the refinement of constructors who have a few decades' worth of puzzles under their belts.

Perhaps spacing out the up-and-comers over a few more days rather than having them three days in a row would have been wiser.

Perhaps I am saying this because for the third day in a row this puzzle was alien to me.

PANOPLY was the best entry today, the low points were DIET SODA and COCA COLA, sQUIRRELL and OARERS. I could have done without the minitheme, as clever as it was with CTR smack dab in the CTR of the grid. I would have instead preferred a lower block and word count, and a more open grid overall for a Saturday. But that's just me.

There was still plenty to enjoy in it though, ASANA, ARENOT and CLAMATO (say what?) notwithstanding. RAINGEAR, the two "bow" clues, the conflation of two unrelated concepts in the clue for DELTS were a few of the high points.

Brother, SPAREST thou a dime for me, please?
What does KCUP YEKCOH spell backwards?
I have a joke about acute ANGINA pectoris, but it is unfit for polite company.

@Loren, I had the identical feeling about the TUNNEL clue. I would have preferred "smuggling route" or some such, an aid being more like a hollowed-out object, a money belt, a baby carriage, a first aid kit or a stolen news helicopter. I find it difficult to consider a dirt road, a tunnel or an inaccessible mountain pass an "aid" even in the widest sense of the word.

Here is SEP in the Rain as performed by Nelson RIDDLE and his orchestra. How appropriate!

But for those who crave something with a little more charm and substance, let me offer the orchestrated version of the lovely Jeux d'ENFANTs by Georges Bizet, originally composed for piano duet, and inspired by a PLAY AREA, I am sure.

PS. Judges 14:14 for the RIDDLE is accurate.

Anonymous 9:22 AM  

Lots of people using Google... any other purists out there solving it the hard way? Took me 1:10 today, NE corner was hardest.

Davidph 9:23 AM  

I scratched my head for a minute over the CTR theme, but otherwise this puzzle seemed too easy for a Saturday. I was surprised to see Rex rate it medium-challenging. Maybe I was just in the zone.

The one exception was the far southwest square, the 'San Diego' square if you will. I never heard of CLAMATO, which sounds just TERRIBLE. And it crosses OARERS, which I was never going to get. It's hard to find a dictionary that even acknowledges that as a word.

My first thought for the fashion show was What Not To Wear, which fit. But TWOOUT quickly nixed that.

joho 9:25 AM  

Loved "Goes quickly after takeoff" for STREAKS! Thought the clue for POLL was tricky. I entered the incorrect"t" convincing myself that you have to take a tOLL road to get to the view.

@Rex, laughed at your PIC of the sQUIRRELl!

Thanks, Erik, for this wonderful puzzle, a PANOPLY of a constructor's MAGICTRICKS!

Mohair Sam 9:28 AM  

Very nice medium/challenging Saturday. Wonderful cluing throughout. Never heard of PROJECTRUNWAY and it's been around 10 years - talk about blanking on Pop Culture. However, I read two of the Potter's just to whip the NYT puzzle and it paid off today - QUIRRELL indeed!

See several CLAUS complaints here. We had a gimme there because we noticed that only Mr. Asner's last name was used. I think the clue is a nice piece of misdirection and totally valid.

dirECTRATIO for ASP . . for a while, cost us a ton of time. As did lemonade for DIETSODA.

@CFXK - interesting piece of history on SNL, another reason to ban it from crosswords.

RAD2626 9:30 AM  

Interesting everyone pretty much had same experience. When I started I thought I had no chance. NW and NE yielded nada. Ended up being a quick Saturday. SE fell like a midweek. DIETSODA and ANGINA got NE going.

Like others liked all the clever cluing. Like lms had Snub as well at first and had to erase rowERS for the never uttered OARERS.

Really fun puzzle. Glad I did not quit at first pass.

Anonymous 9:30 AM  

I enjoyed (what I finished of) the puzzle with the exception of OARERS, a minor blemish. Lots of great answers, plus a rare 'theme' for a Saturday.

Sad to say, I didn't get the Harry Potter answer despite having read the entire series (including #1 about 4 times) and seen all the movies (including #1 about 10 times). The name that actually came to mind was LOCKHART, which, unfortunately, fit.

Hartley70 9:35 AM  

I started with PANOPLY, QUIRRELL, MAGIC TRICKS, PROJECT RUNWAY and COCACOLA right off the bat so that gave me a head start on what became an unusually do-able Saturday. I also got the most pushback from the NE corner and the SODDY/POWER/POLL crossing. This whole week felt like a gift to build our confidence before we get another smack down! Love the prisoner/crossword story @Loren!

Nancy 9:35 AM  

Agree with everything Glimmerglass said. A fun, enjoyable challenge. Except, of course, for the QUIRRELL/LG ELECTRONICS crossing. I could have naticked on the final L, but did manage to guess it.
@LMS -- I was also torn between SHUN and SNUB. What I always do in those situations is lightly write in both letters and see which answer works with the crossings. I don't commit until I'm sure.
Loved the clues for POLL, STUNTMAN, PJS and ENFANT.

quilter1 9:40 AM  

Filled in the NW right away then slowed some to root out names I didn't know, like ASTIN and SODDY. I liked CLAMATO, ARRAS, STUNTMAN and PANOPLY, what a wonderful word that is. It was my first thought, then I hesitated, not remembering seeing it in a puzzle before. But my first thought was rewarded. Lovely puzzle, just right.

Sally 9:47 AM  

Re: 21D COXswains sit in the stern, they never take the bow. One of their primary purposes is to steer, and as the rudder is in the stern, that's where they sit. I think that's part of the reason my Mamma always told me never to date a COXswain - they always think the COX goes in the rear.

Anonymous 9:55 AM  

@Sally

Then it was a missed opportunity for a contrasted pairing as in the Friday puzzle's "level" / "not level".

Hartley70 10:10 AM  

See bowloader where the cox sits in the bow.

Horace S. Patoot 10:11 AM  

@CFXK Thanks for doing the background on SNL. I appreciate it.

Anonymous 10:11 AM  

LG: In the 1980s there was an office for a Korean company with the unlikely name of LUCKY GOLDSTAR on Route 9W on the Palisades in New Jersey, just across the George Washington Bridge from NYC. The company was formed in 1968, and has grown since then. They now want to build a much larger HQ, which is being protested by those who want to preserve the pristine treeline established by the Rockefellers across from the Cloisters in upper Manhattan.
Well, Lucky Goldstar isn't exactly a great corporate name, so they had to think of some sort of slogan that used the letters LG!

Carola 10:25 AM  

"From PEIGNOIR to PJs" was my first thought, somewhat let down after yesterday's sparkling effort. But after 56D, the humdrum ASPECT RATIO and LG ELECTRONICS suddenly got a lot more interesting. Loved the central CTR x CTR - MAGIC TRICKS indeed - first you don't see it, then you do (nice that OPTIC is involved at the cross, too).

@Rex, thanks for pointing out that two of Voldemort's incarnations cross at QUIRRELL/ RIDDLE. Fantastic.

@Erik Agard - The puzzle turned out to be much more of a PLAY AREA than I'd seen - thanks for the fun.

Kretch 10:32 AM  

Clamato was a gimmee for sure. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesar_(cocktail)
Growing up in CowTown it was a staple

Sally 10:34 AM  

@Hartley70 - Thank you for the correction. I must apologize for my lengthy screed about the glaring "factual error" about COX. Further, I apologize for pointing out this "error" without having any other point to my post.

Z 10:34 AM  

The NE held me up for the same reasons it held up Rex. Otherwise a fine Saturday.

@CFXK - If asked when SNL debuted do you answer "1977?" Is the opening still, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night?" I would say you're overthinking it on two levels. The show has always been "Saturday Night." The unofficial initialism "SNL" has been used by fans from vey close to the beginning. Whatever NBC may have done for marketing and trademark purposes is irrelevant for crossword cluing.

What I'm really looking forward to is an SNL EEL skit that becomes really popular and inspires a movie series that has at least a few sequels. SNL EELS III would be crossword gold.

Charles Flaster 11:02 AM  

Totally agree!!!
No Google.
Thanks. I stopped blogging about no Google at least a year ago.
Cf

Charles Flaster 11:16 AM  

Hard. DNF upper left as ASPECT RATIO is not known by me.
Have taught the GOLDEN RATIO---1.6:1 in both my geometry and trig classes.
One write over was Nike for KEDS.
I think VIEWFINDER should be VIEW FINDER.
Liked clues for DELTS,SCOUR, COX and STUNTMAN
Theme of CTR was great especially its placement.
Thanks EA( your usual worthwhile puzzle).

Maruchka 11:21 AM  

Daughter turned me on to Project Runway's first season and it's been my mind-candy ever since. So, that was the CTR gimme. All went fairly well until the Southland. Little big mistakes - cad for CUR, BHF for HOF. 4 googles, 3 do-overs.

Love the clue/answer TRICKery.

Fav of the day - PANOPLY. From The Song of Earendil (Tolkien):

"..In panoply of ancient kings,
in chainéd rings he armoured him;
his shining shield was scored with runes
to ward all wounds and harm from him;
his bow was made of dragon-horn,
his arrows shorn of ebony;
of silver was his habergeon,
his scabbard of chalcedony;
his sword of steel was valiant,
of adamant his helmet tall,
an eagle-plume upon his crest,
upon his breast an emerald..."

At least 6 great Xwords here.

@ Loren - Thanks for the sweet story and kudos for your outreach.

@ Alias Z - Haha! for the KCUP reversal. SHAKEspearean, too.

@ Carola - Ha! Fine sleep and/or sexy wear trope.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:49 AM  

All my life, I have only spoken (and at least thought I read and heard) the word "unwieldly." When I had to fill in UNWIELDY in today's grid, I double-checked to see if I had any wiggle room in the crosses or any remote possibility of a rebus.

But now every online reference and my paper dictionary show "unwieldy" is a word and "unwieldly" an alternate at best.

Oh, well, live and learn.

I enjoyed the puzzle very much otherwise.

CFXK 11:53 AM  

@Z I might agree except that the clue did not ask when the show debuted. It asked when the initials debuted, and those initials, referring to that show, were simply not in the lexicon in 1975.

Analogously, if my future spouse were born with the initials APM in 1960, and then married me and took on my surname in 1985 resulting in her initials changing to APMK, we would not clue her current initials as "Spouse's Inits. since 1960." Rather the correct clue would be "Spouse's Inits. since 1985."

SenorLynn 12:10 PM  

Is it just me, or an inside joke for longtime bloggers, but that picture of labelled Erik Agard is of Dick "Darth" Cheney.

OISK 12:22 PM  

Ah, Phooey. Broke a long winning streak due to a (bad) cross of a Product clue (LG) with pop culture, ( Harry Potter). I didn't know "ARRAS" either, which left me with a two square DNF. Nice puzzle otherwise, suitable for a Saturday, but the placement of a Harry Potter clue where it was made completion extremely difficult for those of us who eschew that genre. I actually DID read one of the books, but remember only Snape, among the "professors," so I quarrel with Quirrell. (I THOUGHT it was LG, but missed it due to bad penmanship. My "e" in "Keds" looked like a "c", so I thought I had Quir_cl_. Had I had Quir_ell, I might have guessed the "r". Nevertheless, I would be happy not to see any more Harry Potter clues…)

RnRGhost57 12:34 PM  

@SenorLynn: yes it's Cheney. Party on Darth!

Leapfinger 12:43 PM  

SQUIRRELLy in spots, definitely, and OARERS a habsolute 'orror, but still a fine PANOPLY of MAGIC TRICKS for redemption.

Overall, a good balance: sometimes I got Mr. Agard, sometimes he got me. DELTS came in a heartbeat, but ANGINA only after running all the pectoralis muscles. The Browning RIFLE was an easy shot, but the Terrible Twos gave me INFANT, till I realized I probably wouldn't spend an all-nighter with RAVI Shankar.

Friday's boosters:
POLLSTER - POLL
LAIT yesterday, LAITer today, LAITest tomorrow?
Peeked under the PEIGNOIR to find the KCUP. (That took a bit of light-fingered legerdemain)

The whole UNWIELDY PANOPLY SLEW me, but best-beloved was the clue-pair for STREAKS.

My only real concern was for 3D. First of all, Samson, all covered with blood and honey, doesn't exactly cover himself with glory in how he behaves. But mainly, is that the 'only' RIDDLE in the Bible? Certainly, Judges 14 is the only place that makes a Megillah out of one, but there are other mentions, and surely Joseph's interpretation of the lean cows/ fat cows dream counts as a RIDDLE!
/rant

@GeorgeB, I would have got Rutherford or Otto Hahn; veddy soddy about SODDY.
@Alias, nothing could be worse than ANGINA in Regina, Saska to chew on.

No dis CTR here.

anonymous 12:51 PM  

Off by one letter with "Quirrem" and "MGElectronics," neither of which I knew (although I suppose "life's good" was a give away for "LG." ) More exasperating was "arras" as the Hamlet clue. I've read the play and seen numerous versions and although I guessed the answer I was clueless on this (and I don't think the way to correct my ignorance is to do more crosswords). Good puzzle but always exasperating when a perfect score requires nailing two esoteric proper names.

Anonymous 12:54 PM  

Pretty easy, for a Saturday. I didn't have the same problem as some solvers with the "Santa" vs. "Claus" answer because Ed's last name was given in the answer, which is normally a tipoff that the answer is the last name too.

Arlene 12:56 PM  

Nice to see I'm your "average" solver today - didn't know QUIRRELL or SODDY, but did know (or at least figured out) the rest. And, yes, I got the CTR theme.

As for PROJECT RUNWAY - am I the only one to see this week's episode designing children's clothes inspired by American Girl Dolls? There is a life beyond crossword puzzles!

anonymous 12:58 PM  

In response to another "anonymous" no I never google. To me googling is for people who don't have a memory. Sure it's harder to rely on your own ability but to me that's the entire point of doing crosswords. If I'd googled "Quirrell" I probably could have finished in 20 minutes or so but so what?

Anonymous 1:04 PM  

How do you "memorize" something you've never seen or heard before?

John V 1:19 PM  

Here's and interesting thing. LUCKY GOLDSTAR, which is how LG was originally known, fits nicely for 15D. Imagine. Recovered from that and, for the most part, thought this easier than most Saturdays.

Dirigonzo 1:29 PM  

I have no idea why I was able to pop PROJECTRUNWAY in with only a few crosses but I knew it was right, and when I discovered the CTR gimmick the puzzle went from impossible to doable with only a few write-overs. I still needed a lucky guess at the QUIRRELL/ARRAS cross to bring it home. I love pretty much any Saturday puzzle that I actually finish.

Anonymous 1:52 PM  

@Anonym 1:04

You don't memorize something you've never seen before. You use your memory to think of related things, to recognize likely letter patterns, to think of words you know under a different guise that might fit the given clue, to re-examine the clue in light of previous clues you've seen. In essence, you come at the answer from as many different directions as you can think of, even to doing the lowly alphabet run, and seeing if a different parsing makes sense of nonsense.

Legerdemain, legerdebrain.

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

Cognitive skills and memory are two different creatures.

Anonymous 2:09 PM  

Oh look, another cocky, smug, condescending, bragging, whiny, arrogant write-up by the rexhole. What a dick. Great puzzle, thank you.

Lewis 2:22 PM  

@aliasz -- what's wrong with ASANA? Okay, I teach yoga, but is it obscure or ugly or what?

Couple of HUMBLEBRAGS in the comments.

I had Path instead of POLL (a path can lead to a scenic view, was my reasoning) and that slowed down my NE. This was a good quality puzzle. I loved the clues for RAINGEAR, AND, RIDDLE, and ATE, and seeing in the grid PANOPLY, and in the clues "legerdemain".

Leapfinger 2:23 PM  

@Anonym 1:52 - Legerdebrain, pretty funny! How about Legerdemain, legeraujourd'hui?

@OISK - It isn't just bad penmanship, bad readership will get you, too. On the screen, what I had at 17A looked like -ROO, was trying to think of 'not favored ones' ending in -ROOD/L/M/N/T: Cameroon? Macaroon?

Will Google only after finishing. Everyone has their own gout.

Lewis 2:41 PM  

Factoid: STUNTMAN Hal Needham died in 2013 at the age of 82, but during his long career of 300 movies and 4,500 television shows, he broke 56 bones, including his back twice, and dislocated a shoulder, punctured a lung and knocked out several teeth.

Quotoid: "A writer is someone who can make a RIDDLE out of an answer". -- Karl Kraus

RooMonster 3:05 PM  

Hey All!
(Part 2,as my last one didn't get in:-()
Puz was challenging, interesting with the mimi-theme happenin.
Hands up for santa! NE hardest part, DNF, came here to get the rest. Actually had to look up some names, they always get me. An Anonymeece earlier said he doesn't Google. I do when I've stared too long at one ot two areas that won't fill. I do puzzles for fun, not having any stinks. But that's just me...

Nice clues: PBJ filling, Fallguy
Kept thinking Phillips for Mackenzie cpue, but she was on (that show I can't remember right now) with Valerie Bertinelli :-)

Anyway, nice Sat, on to Sunday!

RooMonster
DarrinV

Anonymous 3:21 PM  

@Roo
Yes -- we all do the puzzle for different reasons and different goals. Whatever "floats your boat" should be everyone's ultimate goal.

wreck 3:32 PM  

@lewis
LOL - this whole blog and comment section is a living breathing HUMBLEBRAG!

Z 4:03 PM  

I always wonder how someone who "doesn't google" finds this blog. I now consider a google a DNF for me (I don't always bother to mention my DNFs here). However, I'm not that far removed from needing Google to have any hope of finishing a Saturday.

@CFXK - I beg to differ. SNL was "in the lexicon" from the beginning. Maybe not by NBC, but certainly by fans. I don't care enough to go find a media reference from 1975, if one has even made it to googlable form, but the initialism has always been better known than the show's actual name.

Anonymous 4:15 PM  

I don't think it's "all" HUMBLBRAG b a long shot, but wonder if it's an inverse HUMBLEBRAG to never mention your solve times, because they're sooo long.

@Lewis' link yesterday was good, but even better was the HUMBLEBRAG HOF you could access from there. The #1 Tote guy was pretty amazing, but my vote for the subtle HUMBLEBRAG went to Oprah: legs crossed and photographed from below, you could see the red soles of her shoes ---Ah, so! Christian Louboutins!

Elephant's Child 4:27 PM  

Hey, RooMonster!

I thought of the same Mackenzie, but couldn't even dredge up the Phillips. Just now looked up the show -- One Day at a Time. I remember liking Bonnie Franklin in that, and Pat Harrington as the super with the tool belt

Fred Romagnolo 4:40 PM  

I'm overwhelmed by the people who thought this a breeze. To show my own ignorance (the opposite of a HUMBLEBRAG), here's what I had to google: QUIRRELL, ANGINA, SEP, SODDY, PROJECT RUNWAY, ASTIN, COCACOLA, KCUP, LGELECTRONICS; and the exclamation point after "some nerve" was unfair.

RooMonster 5:24 PM  

Ah, Thanks Elephant's Child, that was killing me! Know a guy who had (still has, I believe) a huge crush on Vakerie B!

RooMonster

RooMonster 5:25 PM  

Valerie, that is :-)

jae 5:32 PM  

@Z - I don't google now, but when I was on the steep part of crossword learning curve I googled quite a bit which is how I ran across this blog in early 2007. Something to do with Silas DEANE if I remember correctly.

Bob Kerfuffle 5:43 PM  

@jae - Now that you mention it, I'm pretty sure it was Silas DEANE that got me to the blog also! Although I may have come by way of Jim Horne (That is his name? Now retired.)

Anonymous 5:53 PM  

I didn't have much trouble at all with Sat's puzzle, but would someone please tell me what PJS stands for? Obviously no one else was puzzled by it--sorry, I was/am. Thanks.

wreck 5:56 PM  

It was PBJ - Peanut Butter AND Jelly

Anonymous 6:01 PM  

No, I meant 31 down: PJS.

wreck 6:09 PM  

Ok - PJ's = Pajamas

Joseph Welling 6:09 PM  

STUNTMAN for "Fall guy" was easy because of the Lee Majors TV show called "The Fall Guy" whose protagonist was a stunt man.

Nancy 6:51 PM  

HOW I FOUND THIS BLOG:
No you don't have to Google (which I never have and never will.) A few years ago, I loved, loved, loved one of the trick puzzles in the Times. I called the Times, asked for Will Shortz's extension, got his voice mail, and left a message telling him how brilliant I thought the puzzle was. To my astonishment, he called me back!!!! We chatted; he was utterly charming and completely unpretentious; and he told me that I might enjoy certain online blogs, mentioning this one, Wordplay Blog and Crossword Fiend. Since this is the only one that has commentary from solvers, this is the one I gravitated to. But I had solved for decades, before I knew this blog existed.

wreck 6:58 PM  

@Nancy
Just curious, do you also eschew Bing and Yahoo?

Anonymous 7:17 PM  

@Nancy,

This is the only blog that has commentary from solvers?? As far as I know, both the other blogs have supported solvers' comments for years.

Z 8:11 PM  

@Nancy - I suspect you're fairly unique. And there are other ways, of course. But I think Lord Google is the most common path to Rex. As for me, I'm pretty sure that it was Natick, MA that brought me here. I still google, but only if I've admitted defeat. I was surprised today when SODDY was correct, but I got it from the crosses not L.G.

@Fred R. - Agreed on the exclamation point. When I finally got OPTIC I muttered "unfair."

@Roo - I wonder if Valkerie Bertinelli will star in the Niebelungenlied mini-series.

Natick 12:00 AM  

NE did me in. Not a surprise as I've just started to gain traction on Fri/Sat, and even finish a few(!). T'was not the case today.

Had no idea on Nobel dude, so guessed Sonar, even knowing that's some kind of acronym. Fail.

Rest of the puzzle went smoothly as LG ELECTRONICS, PROJECT RUNWAY & ASPECT RATIO were gimmes.

Got the theme, but didn't think much of it.

Not sure about ! For OPTIC clue and didn't get the the STREAKer reference until after solving.

Was a fun challenge. Hopefully, I'll keep making headway on the harder weekend puzzles.

Enjoyed the comments. Y'all are a clever bunch.

sanfranman59 12:32 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 6:03, 6:03, 1.00, 49%, Medium
Tue 7:06, 7:50, 0.91, 22%, Easy-Medium
Wed 8:54, 9:30, 0.94, 35%, Easy-Medium
Thu 14:54, 16:57, 0.88, 26%, Easy-Medium
Fri 17:00, 19:38, 0.87, 26%, Easy-Medium
Sat 19:03, 25:49, 0.74, 6%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:48, 3:57, 0.96, 24%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:50, 5:21, 0.90, 15%, Easy
Wed 6:01, 6:08, 0.98, 43%, Medium
Thu 9:31, 10:29, 0.92, 31%, Easy-Medium
Fri 10:49, 12:34, 0.86, 26%, Easy-Medium
Sat 12:55, 17:17, 0.75, 7%, Easy

Anonymous 2:07 PM  

This isn't nearly the ageist insult and cultural egotism that Friday's puzzle was, but it's still far from acceptable. What the hell is "LG Electronics", why would I know that???? Why would I know Project Runway, whatever that is, or some obscure antagonist who appeared in one Harry Potter book? Oh, "aspect ratio" -- I'm supposed to be into photography too just because the author of the puzzle is? This is just ego, when a puzzle-maker thinks everybody shares his interests.

Fred Romagnolo 5:38 PM  

Go! anon2:07 pm

LHS 888 5:49 PM  

@Z - Har! "SNL EELS III" would indeed be xword gold.

Official DNF for me as I had to google for SODDY, AGRA, ASTIN and SEP. Hand up for tOLL/tOWER before POLL/POWER, but I got that sorted out by re-reading the clue for 29A. Also had Cad before CUR, but SHUN fixed that.


ASPECTRATIO, ARRAS, LGELECTRONICS, QUIRRELL, PROJECTRUNWAY all went right in as gimmes. My slow spot was in the NE where I had winDUP for the longest time making it hard to see LASTS.

Include me in the "OARERS should be banned for life" group.

I also agree that "!" in the OPTIC clue was rather unfair, but I managed to get it even so.

I like the elegance of the CTR theme. Thanks, EA!

Anonymous 7:37 PM  

The post-hoc discussion/argument was more fun than solving the puzzle. Thank you.

D and A

Anonymous 8:04 PM  

Hey, Questinia,
We all totally agree!!!
However, CLAMATO is a terrible waste of vodka.
Get a "LI_E."
Don't knock drinking CLAMATO out of KEDS until you've tried it.

D and A

spacecraft 10:55 AM  

I must be getting used to tricky endweek cluing; I breezed through this in (for me) nothing flat.

ARENOT kicked me off; that and the entry two below it, OARERS, are the two worst in the grid.

Really the only sticking point was the NW, where so often it seems I wind up finishing last. Did not know Prof. QUIRRELL; obviously Ms. Rowling just lopped off the squirrel's head and added an extra taiL to get the name; nor did I--and I suspect 99.9% of solvers--know SODDY. Soddy about that, chief.

I liked it, especially when I can out-grade OFL! I put it at easy-medium. And now the "UNDERDOG" theme has earwormed its way into my brain. Help! A-.

18867: UNWIELDY.

Torb 12:06 PM  

Finished it. No help. Yay!

AJ 12:34 PM  

Am I the only one taking issue with "two out"? A double play is not even necessary if there are two outs already. Two on base, or one out, yes.

DMG 2:45 PM  

This one was a real puzzler at first, but I stuck with it, an ARRAS here, an AYN there, some, extrapolating, and I was pretty much done. However, there were many answers that had to come from crosses; the professor, the D&D reference, Mr/ Ms? Mackenzie's name, but, somehow, they came. Didn't understand COX until after I wrote it in, had been looking for someone reacting to applause! Smiled when I got CTR and realized how it centered this opus! My final letter was that L everyone's mentioned, and I have read all the Potter books! But that was awhile ago, and Y looked equally inviting. But maybe not for an unknown company name? At any rate I picked the right one for a rare Saturday DF. And, yes, OARERS should be consigned to the trash heap.

Hey! 441 A good Saturday overall.

rondo 2:49 PM  

Troubles up NE for a while, but clear sailng elsewhwere. Thanks to @spacecraft Ill be thinking of Polly Purebread all day.

Anonymous 4:46 PM  

Well, after going back and forth with other daily necessities I finally finished with one empty space. No "P" for powers and poll. Just didn't get it. And thank you World Almanac for a list of the Nobel Chemists.

I can now take an afternoon nap, knowing the world is complete except for a recalcitrant P.

Ron Diego, La Mesa, CA

leftcoastTAM 5:54 PM  

I often DNF on a Saturday, but not this time. I wonder how many solvers google their way through the puzzle at one of more points yet don't report a DNF?

Z 7:39 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Two on Two out 4:22 PM  

@AJ - the clue was "Situation that makes a double play impossible", and TWOOUT makes a DP both unnecessary and impossible so it seems to fit perfectly.

Leo Anderson 2:34 PM  

Very well-crafted puzzle. I found it a bit easy for a Saturday, but the hint was well-placed at 56D in the SE. Those of us who were not having trouble with the puzzle (and were expecting a themeless) had all the long answers already filled in before we got to 56D, while those who were struggling were more likely to see the last clue and concentrate on the SE in order to benefit from it. Well done, Erik!

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