Strong ale in British lingo / SAT 10-18-14 / Kvass component / Gomer's biblical husband / Annie old Scottish love song / Former Zairian leader Mobutu / Brand once plugged by John Madden / Subject of Word on first episode of Colbert Report

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Constructor: Evan Birnholz

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Kvass (43D: Kvass component => RYE) —
Kvass is a fermented beverage made from black or regular rye bread. The colour of the bread used contributes to the colour of the resulting drink. It is classified as a non-alcoholic drink by Russian and Ukrainian standards, as the alcohol content from fermentation is typically less than 1.2%. Generally, the alcohol content is low (0.05% - 1.0%). It is often flavoured with fruits such as strawberries and raisins, or with herbs such as mint. Kvass is also used for preparing a cold summertime soup called okroshka.
It is especially popular in Russia and Ukraine, but also well-known throughout BelarusEstoniaSerbiaPolandLatvia and Lithuania, as well as in other former Soviet states such as GeorgiaKazakhstan and Armenia where many kvass vendors sell the drink in the streets. Kvass is also popular in Harbin and XinjiangChina, where Russian culture is a strong influence. (wikipedia)
• • •

The girders on this one are sturdy—those longer answers that run between grid sections all hold up nicely. The bulk of the rest of it, though, was just middling. Attempted cleverness sometimes missed, and toughness in the clues too often came from obscure info ("Annie LAURIE" is an "old Scottish love song"? ERIC BANA was in "Funny People"? Wait, what's "Funny People"? Etc.). I can recognize that the puzzle is basically well put together, but for some reason I was never able to work up much affection for this one. Maybe it was the general dullness of perfectly reasonable fill like MESSKITS and RAREBIRD, or the bits of gunk like SESE and SEE over SEA and AMIN clued as if it's not a dictator, via an expression no one says ever ever. People call their dad "pap"? Papa, pop, pops, poppa, pappa, pappy—all of these I'd buy before "pap." Even KICKSTARTER and TRUTHINESS felt … late. Like great answers …  from 2010. Mostly, the puzzle just wasn't meshing with *me*. WILCO as a radio word and not the band; HUSTLE as a generic verb meaning "move" rather than a word related to Pete Rose or a dance or a con; ARNE as a chair designer and not Duncan or that composer guy—clues kept seeming either dull or baffling. I needed every cross to get STINGO (?) and every cross to get COOPERS (I've only ever heard of *Mini* COOPERS, and since I thought the company name was "Mini," LOOPERS was the only guess I had even when I got to the -OOPERS stage). So it's a solid puzzle that just wasn't for me. Evan's puzzles usually are for me. You should do the puzzle at his independent puzzle site, Devil Cross.

There weren't gimmes for me today. I think AVAST and RAFA and CALC and POE were about it. Oh, and RAS—that felt like cheating. I'm a bit of a Batman fan, so RAS was my first answer in the grid. I made a rectangle from RAS using ASTUTE then CITE then CROTCH, and proceeded from there. The NW was a wasteland until about midway through my solve, when the -STARTER prefix suddenly dawned on me. KICK gave that section the KICK it needed and I took it down easily from there. Had the hardest time getting into and finishing off the SE. The STINGO + COOPERS debacle kept me from being able to work from the top down, and with no idea what letter preceded TEST at 46D: Statistical method for comparing the means of two groups (T-TEST), I had only DIR- for the start of 45A: Scorpio hunter of film and, embarrassingly, couldn't do anything with it until I had a belated epiphany. If DIRTY HARRY hadn't suddenly come to me, MAN that SE could've been tough. Couldn't see AUTOCORRECT for-EV-er. Have to admit it's a good clue. I finished up somewhere down there, probably w/ the final "A" in ERIC BANA.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:28 AM  

Easy-medium for me with only minor erasures (RAFi to RAFA  and grASP to CLASP e.g.).   One bit of luck was putting in ST for 8d thinking it was going to Saint Somebody and it worked out anyway.

Lots to like about this one.  Nice job Evan!

Evan 12:29 AM  

Honestly, in the weeks leading up to publication, I had doubts about this one myself. I submitted it several months before I started Devil Cross, but as I've made more and more themeless puzzles there, I've gotten a lot tougher on myself about avoiding short fill answers like SESE and SOLER. As for A MIN.... I originally had that as the dictator AMIN. Much as I respect Will as an editor, I wasn't crazy about the choice there.

So if this wasn't everyone's cup of tea, no problem. My next themeless NYT puzzle is a better one, in my opinion, though who knows when it will come out. And hey, there's always a free Devil Cross puzzle every two weeks. You can do the most recent one here, and if you want a chance to do a 21x21 themeless, see here for more details.

Appreciate the review, Rex.

Anonymous 12:46 AM  


Huck Finn???

Evan 1:04 AM  

Here's the info on the original submission:

* Will changed two of my letters, producing three new answers (4.2% of all answers – I originally had STEPHON/TUTOR/POR instead of STEPHEN/TUTEE/POE).
* Will left 30 of my clues (42.9% of all clues) basically intact.
* He made minor revisions to 9 clues (12.9%), meaning he kept the intended meaning of the clue as well as most of the same words but changed their order or added/deleted others.
* He made major revisions to the remaining 28 clues (40%), meaning he changed most or all of the words and basically went for a completely different angle on the clue.

My favorite original clues which the NYT changed:

* Combo of the top row, MESS KITS / CROTCH = Privates' gear / Privates' section
* AUTOCORRECT = Modern tool for turning a couch into a 9-Across
(I know, that along with the CROTCH clue probably never had a chance. But a guy can dream.)
* TINACTIN = Merck's brand for treating jock itch
(A guy can really dream. Though I also submitted an alternate clue which was close to what you saw here.)
* PSYCHOPATH = Joker, e.g.
(This one is very similar to the published clue, but what I like about leaving out the definite article “the” is that it makes it tougher to figure out that it’s a proper noun – the hidden capital letter, basically. Putting “the” in there leaves little doubt about what the clue is getting at.)
* WILCO = Band with the album “A Ghost Is Born”
(I agree, the band would be more current.)
* RUSE = Fumblerooski, in football, e.g.

Evan 1:05 AM  

Continued from the last comment....

My favorite original clues which they did not change (or didn't change much) are for the following answers:


My favorite revised clues from the NYT are for the following:


My least favorite answers:

* A MIN – It wouldn’t surprise me if many people get tripped up on this and put down A SEC.
* SOLER – My original clue for this was a toughie (Baroque composer Padre Antonio ___), but that’s because I wanted to avoid one of those strange –ER answers.
* T-TEST – And I say that as someone who used to do this kind of test a lot when I did epidemiology and statistics in my first grad school program.

Thanks for your feedback, all.

Questinia 1:17 AM  

Nice puzzle, Evan!

Lee Coller 1:21 AM  

Evan -- I almost wrote in a sec for a min, and that was after I had the Yumas answer for the down, which I figured had to be wrong because no one ever says "a min".

Anonymous 1:25 AM  

Loved it. Tough for me. Felt impossible at first but I plugged away and finished.

LAURIE was my first entry. And I would have gotten SOLER way faster as the composer!

Hand up for ASEC.

Yes, PAP reminded me of Huck immediately!

Loved LASERDISCS. Got the misdirection but wanted floppies or floppy discs but they didn't fit. Enjoyed learning that calamari means ink pot. I would have thought the "mar" part referred to the SEA.

Thanks, Evan, for a great puzzle! And thanks also for the very illuminating explanations.

wreck 1:47 AM  

Evan, I liked your submission much better than Will's changes! I think Rex had a pretty fair critique today as for the final offering. As it stood, I found it pretty hard for me, even for a Saturday. That is on me -- I think I have made tremendous strides in the last year and a half since I got back into crosswords, but Saturdays are still hit and miss. I will say that my Googling is down to a bare minimum and this puzzle kept my interest. Some puzzles hit your wheel house - some don't!

John Child 2:04 AM  

I so, so much wanted gRumpy for Pants part, and grASP going down "confirmed" it. Wanted it so bad I abandoned the corner and came back when the rest of the puzzle was done.

I would have struggled with STEPHoN, so I appreciated that edit, but Evan's clues were better IMO. A fun puzzle that I failed to finish at RAFe / eRNE.

Danp 6:05 AM  

@Evan - A couple of your original clues had me scratching my head, but not the way you dream. :) I'm grateful Will changed them.

mathguy 6:53 AM  

Thanks to Evan for the fascinating background.

Very difficult for me. Five entries I didn't know which is actually a little below average for a Saturday but I count 24 extremely oblique clues.

Went to sleep with the NW not done. All I had were TINACTIN and STEPHEN coming down. I woke up at 2:30 to finish. I needed Google to remind me that Atlantis was a space shuttle. I put in SLEEP immediately but then crossed it out when I couldn't get anything off it. I think the clues for MAN and EGOS are a bit too general.

It's now 3:50 and I'm going back to bed feeling good.

Moly Shu 7:12 AM  

2 sessions, 66 minutes. Challenging. Last square was the NAS/LAURIE cross. Had no idea on either, so saved it until the end and spun the wheel of vowels. Instinctively started 8d with ST, hi @Jae, and that helped. Scan before SEEK, goawol before DESERT and toro before CRIP (i know, bulls are colorblind, I was really grasping). I kind of liked SEE over SEA. Only 2 gimmes, RAFA and RIC (thank you mis-spent youth watching wrestling), and that got me FIAT and a lot of staring ensued. Guessed at ERICBANA and it was slow but successful from there.

Thanks for the insight @EB, enjoyed it.

LHS 888 7:21 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
LHS 888 7:23 AM  

This one whupped me. Like @Rex RAS was my first entry, and that gave me CROTCH. Then I dropped in POE, ALSORAN, ONTIPTOE, CALC and YABBA which were correct and 8 other words which were incorrect. The result was a lot of white space and no where to gain traction. After 50 minutes I gave up and googled ERICBANA. That helped the SE, but I still couldn't make sense elsewhere. I did the last resort "check all". 27 Errors! Yikes!! That's got to be some sort of a record!?! After wiping out my errors I was able to plug away and get Mr. Happy Pencil in another 25 min. Whew! Lotsa work for a DNF.

lawS > EGOS
opium > SLEEP
enl > LTR
ops > IMO
Asec > AMIN
briM > TEEM
jab > tWo > AWL
Scan > SEEK
rESign > DEfEcT > DESERT
archvillan > PSYCHOPATH (yes, I misspelled villain)
STpetEr > STEPHEN (APPS cleared peter up quickly, but I left ST in just in case it was ST somebody - Hi @jae)

Favorite clue: CHAD

A challenging Saturday workout. Thanks EB / WS.

Anonymous 7:57 AM  

Evan, your clue for COUCH made me laugh out loud. Great! I immediately sussed the clue on POE as a Shortizism.

Anonymous 8:10 AM  

For me it was hard, not medium, but still I liked it.

AliasZ 8:16 AM  

Why a clunky -ER word is preferred to a known and respected Baroque composer whose works are on the standard repertoire of harpsichord players, organists and pianists to this day, is hard for me to comprehend. I can understand the desire for a different clue for AMIN, and to a lesser degree ARNE, but not SOLER. Will's note at xwordinfo: "...Evan's clue for SOLER was 'Baroque composer Padre Antonio __,' who, I have to admit, I'm not familiar with. So I changed this to something more inferable, even if it's rare..." sounds like a lousy excuse to me. Mr. Shortz, not that you give a damn, but my respect for you just took a nosedive. This is the NYT for Pete's sake, give us a little more credit.

As a little worthwhile exercise, I would like to offer this page titled "The Life and Times of SOLER" to Mr. Shortz and anyone else interested. A contemporary of Thomas Augustine ARNE (1710-1778), Padre Antonio SOLER (1729-1783) was a TUTEE of Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757).

Following the logic of the SOLER clue, a cobbler (another bakery purchase, my preference is peach) at times must also be a heeler, you know, the blue Australian cattle dog.

Alternate clues for SOLER:
- Feature of Saturn [sole "R"];
- Sounds like a renewable energy source;
- Corrida cheer surrounded by soon-to-be alumnus;
- "O ____ mio" with a Long Island accent;
- Suffix with con- (a friend in time of grief).

Here is one of over 200 sonatas for harpsichord, this one in F-sharp major by Antonio Francisco Javier José SOLER Ramos.

Anonymous 8:28 AM  

Am I the only one who got a (slightly grossed-out) chuckle out of the pairing of "crotches" and "tinactin" in a puzzle?

Some pants don't have one... 8:30 AM  

Fun Puzzle. EB, your original top row and AMIN clues are far superior to Will's.
Time to go put on my crotchless chaps and take a ride...

Sir Hillary 9:19 AM  

Excellent grid -- no clue where @Rex is coming from.

@Evan -- Thanks so much for all the background. Sometimes it is really fun to learn how the sausage is made. I like your original STEPHON/TUTOR/POR combo better. I am curious as to how you clued STEPHON -- the only one I can think of is Marbury, which is pretty obscure sports trivia.

I cannot for the life of me understand how WS could clue AMIN as he did. Absolutely absurd, IMO.

Watched ERICBANA in Munich for about the 99th time earlier this week. Love that film.

Whirred Whacks 9:28 AM  

Challenging for me (but my typical 40+ minutes for a Saturday).

Thanks for your comments Evan! I really liked your original clues for CROTCH and MESS KITS. (I smiled when I got CROTCH. I guess that if SHTUP is okay with Cap'n Will, the Crotch is tame.)

I was saved in the near south by DIRTY HARRY and by a PSYCHOPATH in the near north.

I've never heard anyone say "Wait A MIN." When I wrote it, I thought an "Idi" or "Uganda" glue would've been preferable (as was Evan's original intent).

Two days in a row for APPS (yesterday was MOBILE APP). On the personal side, I have developed two apps myself, but they run on iOS devices (iPhone and iPad) rather than the clued Android devices.

Thanks for the workout, Evan!

joho 9:38 AM  

I liked this a lot more after I was done than I did while doing it.

Great write-up, Rex. So glad you mentioned AMIN. I appreciate the attempt to get rid of Idi but nobody says, "Give me AMIN."

You know what else jumped out at me? CROTCH!

The clue, "Letters with a view" took me forever to get and I loved it!

All in all there's an awful lot to love here. Did I mention CROTCH?

Thank you, Evan! Also for stopping by ... your input is fascinating!

Carola 9:54 AM  

Pure pleasure for me - totally in the "just right" zone for a Saturday (and easier for me than yesterday's, which I DNF).

I got my start with the pants "inseam" crossing the Batman villain nAS al Ghul, which was confirmed by LAURIE...until nothing worked after that, and I realized I was thinking of the Lord of the Rings and the Nazgul. AVAST! Did my version of AUTOCORRECT - erased all but LAURIE, which allowed me to see CLASP and really get started.

I appreciated the help from crossword stalwarts URIAH HEEP, TORTE, SESE, EGOS, TUTEE and from previous puzzles: TRUTHINESS, ROLEO, MESS KITS. Liked DIRTY HARRY mirroring PSYCHOPATH.

Favorite clues were for SLEEP, CRIP, VIA, CALAMARI (I had no idea).

Congratulations on the Saturday, Evan. I really enjoyed it.

quilter1 9:56 AM  

Tough for me but doable. Appropriately hard for a Saturday.

Gill I. P. 10:09 AM  

I was in a HEEP of trouble from the get go. Had to put it down about 4 times before I got a bit of traction.
SESE was my only gimme but little by little I found PSYCHOPATH STINGO CALAMARI and then a few Googles to confirm my iffy answers. I missed the [mini] COOPERS and never heard of RAS, LAURIE and CALC looks like something my cat would spit up.
When I wanted to get a scowl out of my dad, I would call him PAPs. Pappy made him even madder.
Why in the world didn't Will leave Padre Antonio SOLER? A cobbler at times? makes me cringe when I could be humming instead.
Your cluing was hard Evan but this was a good Saturday puzzle that made me think. I usually get bored when that happens but this puzzle made me want to finish it....Good job!

Casco Kid 10:11 AM  

2 hours before I started googling. Too tough. I got hung up on PSeudonym_ for The Joker and was blind to PSYCHOPATH. Indeed, I had PSeudoP__H for 90 minutes and couldn't see the obvious rotation. I think we can call that a PSYCHONYM.

The martyred one had to be ST. Somebody. STpeter fit, and I still find it hard do believe that anyone was martyred before St. Peter, but my expert solver buddy/priest confirms that STEPHEN is right. (Odd that the partial spelling of the correct answer is its own misdirect.)

I looked up ink pot in Latin. It isn't CALAMARI. ROLEO is a new one. Oof.

Googles for ERICBANA, ARNE Jacobsen (I was going with AnNE, which gave me suREhanD for RAREBIRD.) and RYE, knocking out lYE.

I was delighted that MAN, CHAD, ALSORAN, WILCO, URIAH, HEEP, AVAST held up as these were all Hail Marys. Cheats for TINACTIN YUMA which were hidden too far beneath the surface of the wrongness. I sussed HUSTLE ASCOT in the postmortem, finally going with LTR over clR. 2:23 before the googles and cheats added up to a complete puzzle.

Evan, how interested are you in patterns of wrongness? @R.alph Bunker is developing a piece of software that keeps track of the mental gymnastics involved in solves, both correct and incorrect. As you might imagine, filling a grid with one or more errors takes a huge effort (as I prove daily) and Ralph's software tracks the rabbit holes. I'm sure he's open to showing his results to constructors. Your misdirects may not be where you think they are.

jberg 10:12 AM  

No idea about BANA or RAFA, wanted Pap to be Dug, so DNF down there in the SE corner.

Otherwise enjoyable -- like many, I would have got the other SOLER clue right away, rather than straining my head over baked goods. And kind of surprised that Annie LAURIE is unfamiliar to anyone; the song was part of the grade school music curriculum in my time.

Double writeovers: jab to Ade to AWL for 'punch.' And TEEM to brim and back to TEEM.

I don't even want to know what a ROLEO is.

Mohair Sam 10:15 AM  

Very challenging Saturday for us. Loved all the long downs, and thought most of the fill was clean. Exception for Pap/DAD, yuck.

@Evan - We actually had TUTor as our last entry, giving us the STEPHON/TUTOR/POR you had originally planned. But held out because it's "The Bells of St. Stephen", and then realized POE fit the bill.

Personal natick on the "A" in ARNE. Thought Nadal was called RAFe (long E). Had two near naticks on which we sussed right, yet defeated by what we thought was a gimme. Woe is us.

Always interesting when a constructor chimes in. Must say I liked a lot of Will's changes, but disagreed with a couple. And yes, just as anon 8:28, we chuckled at the closeness of CROTCH and TINACTIN. Agree that the SOLER clue was terrible (as was AMIN)- we would have had to fill a couple of letters before I recognized the composer, but still, this is the Times crossword after all. I would have preferred @Alias Z's suggestion of "O___ Mio with a Long Island accent".

GPO 10:17 AM  

Holy cow, you guys. This was a tough, tough one for me. It took me 40 minutes, and for a while I thought I was never going to finish. I so, so wanted KICKSTARTER to be haCK something. Also, my hatred for Adam Sandler made me think that the SE would be tough.

Hey, what about Pap Finn? Surely he continues to bob along the river ofthe American literary subconscious in that uprooted house?


Leapfinger 10:19 AM  

@EvanB, some clues I like better are yours, some are Will's, but I absolutely agree with your 'Just A MIN' nit.

IMO, Birnholz puzzles solve smoothly if you think twice, enter once, SEE, SEA!
Certain punch: ADE? Think again: AWL
Car radio button: SCAN? No, SEEK
Pants part: CREASE? Think again, this is EvanB.
Inkpots? Looks like CALAbash, but unlikely. Not sure how to spell SCUNGIL[L]I. Oh, yeah, CALAMARI!
Cobbler: SHOER? No, SOLER (!!!)
And there's still no I in TEEM.

Did we awl COHERED the same things?
I never heerd of anyone named RAS, other than maybe RAS Putin.
Today's Gomer is no longer Goober's cousin; oddly, Gomer sounds masculine, but married HOSEA who sounds feminine.
It's a RAREBIRD that knows its own PAP to hand in the bush, and blows no good.
'Cosi fan TUTEE' is all the rage on campus.
Shall we dance gangnam-style with Margaret down the PSY-CHO PATH?
AVAST TORTE, yum! Chocolate, I hope.
And of course: They Call the Wind Uriah...

Overall (or dungarees), it wasn't a jawbreaker, except for maybe the NW. Despite SESE, SLEEP and IMO, I managed to DUH [and then MEH] 1D, and thought TRIACTIN for joint pain would concern a jock as much as would itch. So it took a while to abandon thoughts of the disappeared Atlantis and DESSERTS at 1A [I assume the military get to have desserts?]. In the end, the old brain KICKSTARTEd and it fell like the rest. My persistent error was in thinking RAFe Nadal perfectly fine, but at least I have@John Child for company.

EB admits to a masculine axis with the symmetrical MAN-DAD placement, but I would add more to that: there's a quintessentially masculine balance between a CROTCH CLASP (whether with in- or OUTSTRIP) and ASCOTS ONTIPTOE (especially if it's a 2-tailed T-TEST). So that's my two SCENTS worth, but no problem with it; I'm always in favour of extending symmetry.

Done with the PAP; back to YU, MA!!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:20 AM  

Excellent puzzle, IMO.

Medium-Challenging for me, but finished on paper with a clean and complete grid. East side was relatively easier, West side tough.

Crossword synchronicity of a sort: In desperation, I put STINGO in my string of guesses in this morning's Guess My Word(it was not the final answer) even though I didn't know what it meant and looked it up post-play!

Maybe it has been used before, but I throw out to future constructors an alternate clue for LAURIE, "House player, formerly." (Can't decide if that is too easy or too hard.)

Z 10:28 AM  

I have no idea who SOLER is and still think it's a better clue, especially on a Saturday where we expect to have a WOE or two.

Hand up for grASP before CLASP - a real pain in ASP IMO. I do have to cry Clue Foul, though. "Letter" in the clue at 6D and LTR for an answer. Naughty naughty. Made me want an abbreviation for "enlarge" in the SW, giving me HaSTen. Ra-E, enl, and indecision on DISkS or DISCS made that section more of a struggle than it needed to be. DESERT and ASCOTS finally cleared it all up for me (DESERT clued to be a homophone of "dessert" - English is such a consistent language).

Other writeover was RAFe before RAFA - decided the designer probably wasn't named after a coastal raptor.

@Evan - looking forward to your next themeless.

RnRGhost57 10:30 AM  

Evan, nice work. Looking forward to your next themeless.

Eric Bana is an underappreciated actor so good to see props to him.

Jim Quinlan 10:35 AM  

Really appreciated the detailed insight, Evan. That stuff usually remains a mystery.

For those who don't visit you're missing out.

Also, the two puzzles you get with a $10 donation are AWESOME- I'm a big fan of "Something Different" puzzles (which is one of the ones you get) and there's very little not to love in that one.

evil doug 10:38 AM  

"Lite Beer" crossing "a sec". On point comments from Michael and posters today. I usually eat it when I don't finish, but this was a team effort epic fail---by solver, constructor and editor.


Andrew Morrison 10:44 AM  

Played hard for me.

I couldn't fit PRESENT for 'Waste of a vote' so that slowed me down. ;)

Casco Kid 10:56 AM  

Biggest smile of the day right here-> "It's a RAREBIRD that knows its own PAP to hand in the bush, and blows no good." Sonorous. Insolent. I've figured out your Halloween costume: you're going as Dylan Thomas.

mac 11:01 AM  

Good Saturday, but challenging for me. I had a hard time getting started, but then it fell into place NW-NE-SE-SW.

Hand up for tutor and a sec. Very masculine puzzle, starting with man and ending with dad.

Leapfinger 11:05 AM  

Old Clumsythumbs who makes use of AUTOCORRECT freely here.

How much LAURIE canst thou goest?
I do love a good morning rant that really clears the sinuses!

Surprised how many apparently hadn't heard of Annie LAURIE, either though the song itself or via Robt. Burns.

@Sir Hillary, I agree on Munich, but saying that softly. Because EvilD.

@Whirred Whacks, am bemused by the idea of the 'tame CROTCH', did not know one had to break them. Wild! CROTCHless pants having been raised, can Victoria's Secret be far behind? Um, no, that's Frederick's. Of Hollywood.

Does this pass the Breakfast T-TEST?

NCA President 11:07 AM  

I feel vindicated!

As I was doing the puzzle (which was really hard for me), and as answers slowly began to emerge, I started to see the overall tone of the cluing. And I didn't like it. The clues definitely seemed deliberately vague, for example: Sheesh! (MAN) and Exceed (OUTSTRIP)...of the things those could be, the answers were pretty far down on the list. The entire NW was wonky for me, as was the SW as in: Waste of a vote (CHAD) and Noted avoider of the color red (CRIP).

Yeah, yeah, I's Saturday and you know, Saturday. But, I guess my point is that on the whole, the cluing seemed wonky. I tried to point to specifics and I you that none of them were utterly unfair, but on balance, they felt well...unfair.

And while I'm on the "didn't care for this puzzle" take, I didn't care for TUTEE, STINGO, ERICBANA, or AMIN.

As for AMIN, I may say "wait a sec," or even "wait a tic(k)," but never do I abbreviate the word minute nor do I recall anyone ever saying that...and if anyone would have said it, I would have had to ask for clarification. What? Wait a what? Oh...a minute. Yeah, no.

I love "chewy" puzzles that challenge me, don't get me wrong. The thing that is bothersome is when I am challenged by the puzzle itself. The clues should be clever and not give things away (I'm looking at you, "opposite of ENE..."), but when you can see the constructor's mind deliberately trying to be misleading because the fill is not that hard on a consistent basis throughout a puzzle, then it isn't fun. Now you not only have to figure out the answer, but you've lost faith in the constructor playing fairly with you. Trust. Your audience has to trust you in order to enjoy what you're presenting.

Leapfinger 11:20 AM  

@CascoK [smile] Only under milk would I do that.

Glad it connected. That thing went off in so many directions simultaneously, it was a job how to fit them all together

Nancy 11:30 AM  

Sweat. Struggle. Suffer. Guess. Solve! Never hearing of AUDOCORRECT (thought it was AUDIOsomethingorother), ERIC BANA, KICK STARTER, COOPERS, ROLEO or DIRTY HARRY (well, I've heard of him, just didn't know he "hunted Scorpio"), made guessing an absolute necessity. Finished, but this didn't make me feel particularly smart. Didn't much enjoy.

RooMonster 11:30 AM  

Hey All !
Put me in the Not In My Wheelhouse group. Couldn't tweak the ole brain to thinking around the clues. I believe my brain was set to straight solve today. Only had a smattering of answers, then just cried out, "no more!"

Agree about Will changing too many clues. Heard it from other constructioneers.

Oh well, chalk up another major DNF, and continue about my day! On to Sunday...


Carola 11:31 AM  

@Z - I also ventured down that SW dead end of HaSTen x enl; I almost talked myself into believing that Navy dress blues included some sort of ceremonial AprOns. However, I didn't think even a statistical method could consist only of consonants (TTNS?). Erasing let me see RUSE and unlocked my last corner.

Teedmn 11:32 AM  

Nice puzzle, Mr Birnholz. I wandered the grid for a good hour. Luckily my guess of URIAH HEEP was good, gotten off only the A. Or else AUTOCORRECT would never have fallen, even with the SE filled in.

SW tiptoeing was working well since that gave toro for 48A. But COHERED finally gave me the DIRTY HARRY aha and I had to rethink the SW. Hands up for Asec. NW was only possible due to the SESE SEEK cross so KICKSTARTER finally fell.

Are TUTEEs apprentice ballerinas?

RooMonster 11:35 AM  

Oh, and I wish LMS was here for the clue "Sheesh!"
Everytime she says that (or types it, as it were) it gets a huge grin from me!


Fred Romagnolo 11:36 AM  

New to me: tinactin, wilco, stingo, roleo. I'm assuming crips are a NY gang who hate another NY gang who wear red. I appreciated the comments by the author; good insight. Kvass is definitely an acquired taste, this half Russian-American can't stand it.

old timer 11:36 AM  

Definitely needed to consult Papa Google on this one, for Eric Bana, crossed with Ric. I think it's a Natick for many like me.

OTOH, "Laurie" was my first answer. "Autocorrect" came quickly, too, though I think Evan's original clue was may more amusing. But Rex was right to change the clue for AMIN. That dictator has been way overused, and "Wait a min" is something I've heard in real life, though "wait a sec" is more common.

Great clue for "Calamari" I thought, and it really helped because I had first put down "rodeo" -- "roleo" was a Thing I knew existed, but did not remember what it was.

I like it when the constructor chimes in on this blog, especially with some Inside Xword stuff.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:37 AM  

The rather numerous complaints about "Wait A MIN" finally brought to my mind that Will may have been playing to the New York City audience with a sly nod to this show that played on Broadway for a year: Wait a Minim!

Nancy 11:39 AM  

Whoops! I see that AUDOCORRECT should have been AUTOCORRECT and SDINGO should have been STINGO. So I didn't solve after all! Wanting a D there because of the original AUDIO bias (if your thumbs are clumsy, don't type, just TALK into your gadget, whatever it is!)took over my thoughts entirely. I think that's what's known as an idee fixe.

Dora the Explorer 11:48 AM  

Please explain WILCO for "consider it done."

r.alphbunker 11:53 AM  

@Casco Kid
My experience with the puzzle was completely different from yours. I finished in half the time it normally takes me to do a Saturday and I am not sure why. However, reading your analysis has given me an idea. Maybe this is an example of the butterfly effect

When I play back my solution I see that the first four words that I entered were
1D {Sheesh!} MAN
3D {Former Zairian leader Mobutu ___ Seko}
1A {Some military settings} MESSKITS
17A {Atlantis setting} NOSECONE

MAN was entered 7 seconds into the puzzle and was a boon from the crossword gods enabled perhaps by a fresh mind.

SESE was crosswordese that I know because of my experience doing crosswords

I got MESSKITS from the M_S_____. Perhaps my time in the Army made me see MESS which then gave me the necessary interpretation of "settings"

And now here is the butterfly effect.

I chose to consider N_S_____ next rather than the first Christian martyr (S______).

Had I considered the martyr first I would have seen that it started with S and it is entirely likely that I would have entered Stpeter like you did. But I looked at the Atlantis section instead and thought "shuttle" rather than "island" which made NOSECONE easy. This gave me S_E for the martyr which ruled out Stpeter and I was spared the idee fixe and was able to maintain my momentum in the NW which seems to have maintained throughout the puzzle.

I think with enough crowd source data it should be possible to detect these butterfly effects. In this case solvers that entered NOSECONE first would have better times on the average than those who entered Stpeter.

NCA President 12:02 PM  

@Dora the Explorer: WILCO is military speak, short for "will cooperate" that means, basically, "gotcha...I'm on it." Or, "Consider it done."

BTW, and someone correct me if I'm wrong, but the phrase, "Roger, wilco, over and out" actually is not ever used except by non-military types who think that's what military types say.

quilter1 12:09 PM  

My fifth grade music teacher, Miss Longnecker, taught us Annie Laurie which was my first entry and will likely be the ear worm of the day. "She gave her promise true, which ne'er forgot will be, and for bonny Annie Laurie I'd lay me doon and dee." I believe Burns was the poet.

quilter1 12:11 PM  

Wrong. William Douglas wrote it. three and out.

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

Amusing juxta of ERICBANA over DICTATED: BANAnas over 'TATErs, Dick or otherwise... just as unappetizing as Kvass, I say.

Andrew Heinegg 12:41 PM  

Big fat dnf for me because of crossword schizophrenia. Some clues were a piece of cake and others were references to people or things that I either do not know or have no interest in. E.g., I have never cared for the comedy of Stephen Colbert ( cultural heresy! ). So, I had no idea about that clue. Ditto for the earlier films of Clint sooo, Scorpio hunter was another non-starter. I never heard of Roleo or Wilco. Finally, Adam Sandler may be my least favorite comic film star. I do not find him funny and I don't think he can act a lick and the vehicles of the movies he is in I find myself unable to watch for more than a few minutes. In spite of the above, I did think this was a decent and appropriate puzzle for a Saturday and Mr. Birnholz's comments were interesting.

Steve H 1:10 PM  

Enjoyed it, but are there any other Navy types out there who got stuck on the "ascots" answer? (I wanted "swords", which officers can wear with dress blues.) We definitely don't wear ascots with any uniform. The enlisted mens' "crackerjack" uniform has a neckerchief, which must be what he means, but it doesn't look anything like an ascot.

Dirigonzo 1:23 PM  

A stellar Saturday offering wherein the answers had to be teased out a little at a time but eventually yielded to persistence. Except the SE corner, that is, where I flamed out at RAFe/eRlE/ERICBAlA because none of the 3 proper names was familiar to me. Still, a good time was had and I enjoyed the challenge despite my DNF.

Anonymous 1:24 PM  

WILCO is usually understood as "will comply" rather than "will cooperate."

Z 1:33 PM  

@Steve H - ASCOTS is, of course, correct as clued.

Mohair Sam 1:41 PM  

@NCA President. Have a son who is career Air Force, he happened to call shortly after I read your WILCO post. Asked him if he ever used that phrase, or ever heard it. He laughed and said, "Only in movies."

Anonymous 2:13 PM  

Crotchless chaps. Heh.

Hartley70 2:31 PM  

One letter off at the end. I got CHAD and loved it, but I didn't have the R in CRIP. I don't get the "red" connection. Anyone? It was a toughie but very rewarding because the clues were great and felt topical, TINACTIN. It was an extra to get the background from the constructor and much appreciated.

AliasZ 2:43 PM  


Your RAS Putin was villainously priceless. Just for that, here is a little gift:

The Overture to King STEPHEN, Op. 117 by Beethoven, a commemorative work commissioned for the opening of a large theater in Budapest in 1811, to texts written by August von Kotzebue, conducted here by the father of Colonel Klink.

Andrew Heinegg 2:55 PM  

Red is the color for the rival gang of the crips, the bloods. To wear red around the crips is an 'invitation' to be assaulted.

Whirred Whacks 3:01 PM  

Off-topic: For what it's worth, I've (finally) created an official "Whirred Whacks" Blogger account.

I hope that separates me from the anonymous posters (and also prevents others from posting using this name).

My avatar picture is the ambiguous "Question Mark-Bird." Look at it one way, it's a question mark; another way, it's a bird. Upside down, it's a seal bouncing a ball on its nose. Many X-word puzzle clues have the same playful ambiguity.


Dirty Harry 3:07 PM  

Harry: No, this stuff isn't gettin' to me. The knifings, the beatings, old ladies being bashed in the head for their Social Security checks, teachers being thrown out of a fourth-floor window because they don't give As, that doesn't bother me a bit.

Detective: Come on, Harry. Take it easy.

Harry: Or this job, either. Having to wade through the scum of this city, being swept away by bigger and bigger waves of corruption, apathy and red tape. Nah, that doesn't bother me. But you know what does bother me?

Detective: What?

Harry: You know what makes me really sick to my stomach?

Detective: What?

Harry: Is watching you stuff your face with those hot dogs. Nobody, I mean NOBODY puts ketchup on a hot dog.

Mette 3:07 PM  

Had to Google, because I wated RYE, but never heard of ROLEO (great word and clue). Then DNF because of RAFi/iRNE. This was a fun challenge. Who knew CALAMARI? Thanks, Evan.

ANON B 3:10 PM  

Anonymous @12:46AM asked
Huck Finn???

Then at 1:25AM Anonymous(same one?)said:PAP reminded me
immediately of Huck Finn.
What is he talking about?

Zed the Answer Man 3:44 PM  

PAP is Huckleberry Finn's father.

RooMonster 3:54 PM  

Hey @NCA Prez,
Back when I was a young military man, we almost always said Roger ovet the radioes. Like 99% of the time. Very rarely did you ever use Wilco. And never Over and Out, it was always Copy (that). That was tha Army. Any other branches?

@Whirred, like the question mark thingmabob.

To whoever asked about the "red" thing, the two major gangs in LA are the Crips and Bloods. Crips wear blue, Bloods wear red. There is no way that eithet one would even fathom wearing the others color.


ANON B 4:16 PM  

Anonymous@12:46AM said

Huck Finn???

Anonymous@1:25AM said

PAP reminded me immediately
of Huck Finn

Can someone please explain?

ANON B 4:17 PM  

Anonymous@12:46AM said

Huck Finn???

Anonymous@1:25AM said

PAP reminded me immediately
of Huck Finn

Can someone please explain?

evil doug 4:22 PM  

Pilots don't use wilco when given a controller instruction. We repeat our call sign (to ensure we're the aircraft the controller called), and then repeat the instructions themselves to make sure we got them right. If we just answered "wilco", the controller couldn't confirm we got the right altitude, heading, so forth.


Anonymous 4:43 PM  

@AliasZ, for me, RAS Putin is a mind-sticker, since he, as with so much that is evil, was notoriously difficult to kill.

Thanks for the fine and fitting present. King STEPHAN, when fighting evil, as in the person of Koppány, gave no quarter, shall we say. I understand STEPHAN still lies in estate, not in Budapest, but in a white cathedral town.,_who_we_reckon_was_responsible_for_Christianity_in_eastern_Europe.jpg

[apparently LF cant copy an image in this format...]

Moly Shu 5:06 PM  

@Evil, going to disagree with you slightly. As a controller for over 25 years, I've heard WILCO plenty of times, and it is a legitimate readback if the call sign is used. If I say " United 14 cross miami at flight level two four zero" and the captain responds "United 14 WILCO" it's perfectly acceptable. I will grant you that 98% of readbacks are of the kind you refer to, verbatim repeats of the instructions. There is no "over and out" however, I will agree to that.

evil doug 5:38 PM  

Not acceptable. That's how altitude busts and near-misses happen.


Z 5:46 PM  

Having given lots of instructions to all kinds of very smart people in all kinds of different situations and seen the results, I'm with @evil doug - I want that pilot repeating back what s/he heard, not just saying "WILCO." That some pilots might not is worrisome.

phil phil 6:04 PM  

PAP and AMIN are grumblers but ONTIPTOE seems incorrect. I replace clue with answer and can't get there.
Tiptoeing as clued. Reclue as: (Walking) quietly.

Also dnf on one letter RAFe eRNE

sanfranman59 6:08 PM  

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

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

Mon 5:56, 6:03, 0.98, 41%, Medium
Tue 7:23, 7:50, 0.94, 32%, Easy-Medium
Wed 8:26, 9:30, 0.89, 25%, Medium-Easy
Thu 15:27, 17:01, 0.91, 34%, Easy-Medium
Fri 20:19, 19:31, 1.04, 63%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 24:08, 25:21, 0.95, 39%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:13, 4:04, 1.04, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 5:04, 5:21, 0.95, 28%, Easy-Medium
Wed 5:18, 6:12, 0.85, 10%, Easy
Thu 9:44, 10:29, 0.93, 33%, Easy-Medium
Fri 12:55, 12:34, 1.03, 56%, Medium
Sat 18:49, 18:06, 1.04, 62%, Medium-Challenging

Moly Shu 6:10 PM  

From the 7710.65, Air Traffic Control.
Paragraph 2-4-3

a. When issuing clearances or instructions, ensure acknowledgment by the pilot. If no acknowledgment is received, attempt to re−establish contact. If attempts are unsuccessful, advise the FLM/CIC.
Pilots may acknowledge clearances, instructions, or other information by using “Wilco,” “Roger,” “Affirmative,” or other words or remarks.
AIM, Para 4−2−3, Contact Procedures.
b. If altitude,heading,or other items are readback by the pilot, ensure the read back is correct. If incorrect or incomplete, make corrections as appropriate.

Seems clear to me. Yes, complete exact read backs are done 98% of the time, but that doesnt make WILCO any less valid. As to its safety, The FAA thinks it's acceptable. I'll always take a verbatim read back over WILCO, but WILCO is still acceptable.

evil doug 6:36 PM  

Still not acceptable. Interesting: Your book tells you that, if read back, you must ensure it's correct, and, if incorrect, make corrections. But if "wilco, roger, affirmative" are acceptable, how could you know s/he got it wrong?

I guarantee you that, if the FAA or Delta evaluator is on the jump seat, failing to read back instructions would require corrective commentary in the debrief....

Pilots get complacent, fatigued, lazy--so I don't doubt you've heard it. But a defense of "But we always cross that fix at two four oh" won't protect a pilot's license if on one unlucky day s/he's assigned two five oh and creates a near miss--or worse. And you might have some explaining to do, too....

If your book allows it, oh well. But you better keep an especially close eye on that guy who didn't read back. S/he's unprofessional, and that low standard may present itself at the worst possible moment.


Hartley70 6:38 PM  

Aha! I'm from the safer greaser versus preppy era, although oddly we called it mondo versus preppy in my high school. Thanks Andrew.

Charles Flaster 12:35 AM  

Just got to this one and it is a big DNF.Only struggle was upper left.
Terrible clues for MESS KITS( why do we need the ?),EGOS , MAN.
Great cluing for RARE BIRD,CRIP,DICTATED and AUTOCORRECT has to be one of my favorite NYT clues of all time.
A MIN was only writeover.
Thanks EB. Always enjoy your puzzles.

Cynthia Garcia 8:23 AM  

Wow this one was hard for me. I live across the pond in London so normally only get the International NYT on Fridays and Saturdays, as it's not published here on Sunday. The Saturday edition always had the Sunday puzzle, but today lo and behold there were 2 puzzles since the chess column has been discontinued. "Yay!" I said until I started on it. Rafa was about all I had to go on for sure and it pretty much went downhill from there. "Ooh Classic British cars" I thought. "Ooh Strong ale in British lingo" I thought. Yet despite owning a Mini Cooper I tried every other car but, and though I realised pretty quickly that 'bitter' was wrong for the ale, I had never heard of 'stingo' nor had anyone who was in close proximity. But that might just be me, since I usually reach for the wine. So I limped (ok Googled) along until I threw in the towel and thought "Sod it - Let's see what Rex has to say about this". I must say it's a bonus to see what the constructor has to say about it as well. So thank you Evan for giving me such a rough ride and I am looking forward to more Saturday puzzles that hopefully will be a lot less deflating for me than this one. Cheers!

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Jim Finder 12:08 AM  

CRIPS = "avoiders of red" sets a new low for the Times puzzle. I've learned that the puzzle has to appeal to a wide world, so I've mostly stopped complaining about Drivel That No One Should Be Required to Know. But CRIPS has set a new low.

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spacecraft 11:46 AM  

DNF by a country mile. I knew almost nothing in this. Managed a small section around PSYCHOPATH and TINACTIN, but very little else. I was hardly ASTUTE today, failing to come up with that word, or with CROTCH. After seeing them I go "Duh!" but at the time...they just wouldn't come. Mama said there'd be days like this. Hey, if the Chiefs can lose to the Raiders (?!) ANYBODY can have a bad day.

7178, and it ain't gettin' any better.

rondo 12:41 PM  

Far tougher than medium for me, it took a looong time for me. If not for tough actin' TINACTIN and DIRTYHARRY I might have thrown in the towel. URIAH HEEP will always be the early 70s hard rock band for me - "Easy Livin'". Have had kvass on several tris to the former USSR and found it quite refreshing, but no STINGO (never heard that one).

No play today, but several 9s earlier this week make up for that.

Anonymous 2:06 PM  

Most heartily agree with the other Syndies that this one was very hard. And, without Wikipedia I too would be in DNFland. Yes, yes, yes, I use Wiki & reference books, so put that in your pipe. My reasoning is this. If the constructors can use reference material to produce arcane and enigmatic clues, well, so can I use other sources. Of course, it's only as a last resort.

That said, I still got one/two wrong: Rafe/Erne

Ron Diego (No nos.) Sunny Cal

Red Valerian 2:19 PM  

I loved it! I stared for a LONG time getting nothing until RIC (Flair), which seems an odd thing to get first. I was sure I was going to have to google, but, nope! Only write-over was sHAD to CHAD, which gave me the CRIP (I could not figure out sRIP). I thought it was bouncy, with several "Aha!" moments. And, well, I love a Saturday puzzle I can finish, especially when I'm fairly sure that's not going to happen. (I admit I guessed the "A" is RAFA/ARNE, but the latter sounded more Swedish.)
Interesting remarks from the constructor--thanks, Evan!

rain forest 2:24 PM  

DNF because there is no actor named ERIC BANu, and pap doesn't mean Dud. However, I guessed correctly with ARNE, yay.

Had 5 gimmes which gave a toehold in various places, but balked at ST. EPHEN. Ephen? Who's he? Then I saw it. Pretty smooth sailing after I got both the NW and NE until I got to the SE. Oh, well, close but no cheroot.

2506 Not even close.

Anonymous 2:32 PM  

Anyone who has ever worn Dress Blues in the USN or USCG would know that if you showed up wearing an ascot you'd be considered badly out of uniform. Wise up, Will.

DMG 2:59 PM  

Count me in the DNF column. Struggled with this one more than I'd like to admit, and finally hit the dictionary to find out what Kvas is. Ah, not some Hebrew word but a drink made with RYE. That single word gave me almost the entire puzzle. Ended with a Natick in the SE where two names cross, and again in the NW where an unknown product crossed something Droids have. No idea what a Droid is, but apparently it's something to do with computers. Suppose I ought to look it up!

185 Still in the game, but not a winner.

DMG 3:08 PM  

Well, I consulted One Look, and found Droid is almost a non-word. Besf I could gather is that it is short for either Android, or some kind of parachute! Why would either of this involve an App????

105 A little better, but not enough.

eastsacgirl 5:32 PM  

Absolutely loved this puzzle! Took me quite a while but I finished. Actually got APPS right away for anDROID. NE was last to fall although I should be ashamed of myself for not getting LAURIE sooner since my Dad used to play it all the time. And DAD for pap (py) hung me up too for a while. Was thinking baby food for the longest time. All in all a very good week personally.

leftcoastTAM 5:37 PM  

I plugged away at this one, finally thinking that I had done it, but found that I had Naticked in the far southeast at RAFe/eRNE.

I generally don't trust sanfranman's "All solver's" difficulty ratings (not due directly to him, but to the solver's reports), especially today's "Easy-Medium" rating. The "Top 100's" ratings seem to me much more reliable, and today's "Medium-Challenging" makes a lot more sense.

James Ingersoll 2:13 AM  

Hi, all, first time here...I happened upon Rex's site looking for an answer to "exceed," believe it or not. And I found it! Thanks be to you. I have been obsessed with Sudoku lately, and have neglected the cross-world...This puzzle was fairly difficult, but that's the way I likes 'em! I'll have to visit here again, it was enjoyable reading Rex's and all of the others' comments.

Red Valerian 10:50 AM  

Welcome @James Ingersoll! Come back soon. Some of the people here are a little nuts, but that's half the fun. (And note that I am not naming names--also part of the fun is figuring out which ones are crazy and in which ways :-)

Admin 4:56 AM  

Evan, nice job. Looking forward to your next themeless.

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