Major media event of '95 / FRI 12-19-14 / Almost any character in Jon Stewart's Rosewater / Never-seen neighbor on Mary Tyler Moore / Novel subtitled Parish Boy's Progress / Scimitar-horned creature / Fictional school bully with henchmen named Crabbe Goyle / Dr. Watson portrayer on CBS's elementary

Friday, December 19, 2014

Constructor: Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium



THEME: none

Word of the Day: LINE CUT (41D: Black-and-white engraving) —

NOUN

An engraving from a drawing consisting of solid blacks and whites, without gradations of color. (oxforddictionaries.com)

• • •

A MESSAGE TO MY BELOVED READERS IN SYNDICATION (JAN. 23, 2015)

Hi all. It's time for my week-long, just-once-a-year-I-swear pitch for financial contributions to the blog. If you enjoy (or some other verb) this blog on a regular or fairly regular basis, please consider what the blog is worth to you on an annual basis and give accordingly. In making this pitch, I'm pledging that the blog will continue to be here for your enjoyment (or some other noun) for at least another calendar year, with a new post up by 9:00am (usually by 12:01am) every day, as usual. I'm in my ninth (!) year of writing about the puzzle every single day, and while there are occasions when the daily grind gets a little wearisome, for the most part I've been surprised by how resilient my passion for solving and talking about crosswords has been. It's energizing to be part of such an enthusiastic and diverse community of solvers, and I'm excited about the coming year (I have reason to be hopeful … mysterious reasons …). Anyway, I appreciate your generosity more than I can say. This year, said generosity allowed me to hire a regular guest blogger, Annabel Thompson, who now brings a fresh, youthful voice to my blog on the first Monday of every month. So thanks for that. As I said last year, I know that some people are opposed to paying for what they can get for free, and still others really don't have money to spare. Both kinds of people are welcome to continue reading my blog, with my compliments. It will always be free. I have no interest in cordoning it off, nor do I have any interest in taking advertising. I value my independence too much. Anyway, if you are so moved, there is a Paypal button in the sidebar, and a mailing address here:

Rex Parker
℅ Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton NY 13905

And here: I'll stick a PayPal button in here for the mobile users.

I assume that worked.

For people who send me actual, honest-to-god (i.e. "snail") mail (I love snail mail!), this year my thank-you cards are "Postcards from Penguin"—each card a different vintage Penguin paperback book cover. Who will be the lucky person who gets … let's see … "Kiss, Kiss" by Roald DAHL? Or "The Case of the Careless Kitten" by ERLE Stanley Gardner? Or the Selected Verse of Heinrich HEINE? It could be you. Or give via PayPal and get a thank-you email. That's cool too. Please note: I don't keep a "mailing list" and don't share my contributor info with anyone. And if you give by snail mail and (for some reason) don't want a thank-you card, just say so. No problem. Anyway, whatever you choose to do, I remain most grateful for your readership. Now on to the puzzle …

• • •

This is stunning work. This is what the "best crossword in the world" should look like All The Time—or at least most of the time. Fresh fill, vibrant phrases, clever cluing. There's a host of suboptimal fill—NEC SST ANI AMO ETD ENE DIR—but it's largely innocuous and it's holding together these gorgeous banks of longer answers. Looping, cascading, dancing—the lovely, crafted quality of this grid stands as a sharp visual rebuke to most recent NYT puzzles. Now, it's not really fair, as today we have not one but two of the very best constructors working today. No exaggeration. Can't remember the last time I did a puzzle by either of these guys where I was like "[frowny face]." At worst, good; mostly, great. Haven't seen a lot of their work in the NYT of late. They have been working other venues, for a variety of what I'm sure are very good reasons. But it's great to see them here. OJ TRIAL! Even their dated stuff sounds fresh!

Fast start on this as SPA TON and ELK went in 1 2 3, and those long Downs were not far behind. Had trouble rounding the corner up into the NE, as LITERS was not an intuitive answer for me to 5D: Some bottled water purchases (I was looking brand name). But I got STANDS ALONE from just the S-A- and things came together from there. TULLES is not a word I know. I confuse it with TUILES and TOILES and other things that are all jumbled together in my mind in a closet marked "Fabrics." Looks like each successive quadrant got a bit harder for me in this one. Easy NW, Pretty Easy NE, Mediumish SE, and Medium-Challenging SW, where not (exactly) knowing LINE CUT and not getting how SAGA is a good answer for 53D: Novel format and not being completely certain of SPIREA (45A: Flowering shrub whose name comes from the Greek for "coil") had me struggling a little. Also, I thought the "T" in SALT was "treaty" :( It's TALKS (49D: Part of SALT).


Best little surprise of the day was OPEN MRIS (23A: Tests that accommodate claustrophobes) Plural doesn't thrill me, but the term is very current, very common, and yet nothing I've ever seen in puzzles before. I also liked SENIORITIS, as it is timely (you'd know what I mean if you could see some of the student work on my desk right now…). My biggest hiccup of the day was 43A: Find a spot for, say. I had ADOPT. Later, I had ADMIT. Neither of those was right.

Gonna go watch the last "Colbert" now and then be sad.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    88 comments:

    jae 12:11 AM  

    Easy-medium for me too, leaning a bit more towards easy.  My main problems were in SW where I had PicS before PDFS for too long and had misspelled OFFAL (don't ask).  Also Apart before ALONE in NE and @Rex ADopt.

    I was in the Ed Sullivan Theater when Lucy LIU was on talking about her role as Joan Watson on the then new series "Elementary."

    The clue for LARS is pretty obscure unless you're well over 50 or watched a lot of Nick at Nite in the '90s.

    Completely agree with Rex on this one.  Fun puzzle with lotsa zippy stuff.  Fine work guys!

    Steve J 12:13 AM  

    Didn't really get traction on this one, and didn't really build any enthusiasm for it. The two may be related.

    Anonymous 12:17 AM  


    Drudgery even without the SW cluster @#$% of trivia.

    Zeke 12:30 AM  

    Excellent puzzle - had to work hard but everything fell with only one (I barely knew DRACO, had no idea what the last name was) whaaa?

    Anonymous 12:31 AM  


    Wanted to add that if Rex thinks this puzzle is a "stunning work" given all its trivia he's either on the take or stoned. At the very least, such a assessment supports my practice of rarely reading his reviews.

    Whirred Whacks 12:37 AM  

    Agree with Rex about the many snappy answers. My faves included: PIRATE RADIO, OJ TRIAL, & SEATTLE SLEW.

    This is the third time this week that I've had a correct answer, but I didn't really understand what it meant until several minutes later when I broke it apart and then said, "oh, I see it now." I'm referring to OPEN MRIS. Earlier this week, the same thing happened with DO OK and FIVE W'S. It's fun when that happens!

    I think the Shortzmeister should give REST AREA a rest (second time in three days).

    Enjoy your Friday!



    Benko 1:18 AM  

    I'll never understand why so many professed crossword solvers profess to hate trivia. Trivia of one kind or another has always been part of the puzzle, in every era.

    Casco Kid 1:27 AM  

    Medium tough, here. 72 min, and I couldn't enter the NE without a google for OLIVERTWIST. Psy-cho, then Psy-che, then the google gave me Psy-OnS, which should be spelled psions, but I granted lattitude, as we usually have to do. PIRATERADIO was my last entry, and with it, psy-OPS at last. TRAUMA center was basically unclued. [Gate approx,] meant nothing to me -- maybe a concert revenue estimate? SINE was embarrassingly slow to appear. Good guesses IDOL TOES LITER IRANI did little to help. RESTAREA was clever, but I spent a lot of time trying to make parkAREA work.

    Lots of lucky guesses/susses DRACOMALFOY LINECUT LARS OJTRIAL. This was not an easy puzzle.

    Moly Shu 3:08 AM  

    Not easy, not much fun. In the @SteveJ camp. RINSEDOff before OUT, ToiLES before TULLES. LINECUT, OFFAL and ASE crossing some Harry Potter character, not my idea of zippy fill. I'll take sports and rappers over the Simpson and Mr. Potter any day.

    Moly Shu 3:09 AM  

    Simpson's that is

    Thomas808 4:05 AM  

    I had SPA, TON, and ELK, with ANTSY below, and assumed S from the plural. With a wrong entry for 19 across, heLp, this resulted in 2 down looking like:

    POLe_ _N_ _S,

    which left me scratching my head as to whether the NYT was really saying that pole dances were "ones involved with horseplay"!

    I thought SINE was only for acute angles in a right triangle, which is not 180, but looked it up later to find I was wrong.

    Did not know that TRIX was ever not round. I guess that's the cereal world version of Coke Classic.

    I enjoyed the puzzle. A Friday in less than an hour means easy-medium for me. I thought all the long answers were fresh and I especially liked SENIORITIS, JOECAMEL, and PIRATERADIO. I only got LARS after a couple of crosses, but it brought a grin as I remembered Cloris Leachman's perfect delivery of that never-seen character's monosyllabic name.

    Anonymous 4:43 AM  

    I found this tougher than average, especially the NE which took forever to find traction. Finally guessed OLIVER TWIST from just the crosswordese ETA-or-ETD and IDOL.

    Not sure why Rex is giving it a rave review. After completing a puzzle I can rarely guess correctly whether he will give it a thumbs up or thumbs down.

    GILL I. 5:48 AM  

    I needed help to get started and so my first Google was ELK - that gave me ANKLE STRAP and the West was won. On to the middle now...had to look up IRANI because although I know and have listened to Jon Stewart, I wasn't familiar with his "Rosewater." I do know that the Irani's called him a Zionist CIA spy which I think is a bit DRACO MALFOYish..
    That awful OFFAL was another Google because, although I've been tempted, I've never had haggis. And so, the East was won as well.
    Cluing was really great. Loved the SENIORITIS and PIRATE RADIO answers.
    I'd rather die than go through anything other than an OPEN MRIs!
    BRAVOS BW and DP. LIU did WALLOWS in some good puzzling.

    Sir Hillary 7:33 AM  

    For me, hardest Friday in forever, but no complaints at all. Great long answers, tough culling -- everything a Saturday should be! :)

    Only objection is JOECAMEL, but it's a moral objection, not a crossword objection. I just find him vile beyond words.

    The usual good stuff from BW and DP. Thanks guys!

    Leapfinger 7:59 AM  

    This puzzle was far from OFFAL, but unqualified BRAVOS are being withheld on account of TULLES. I now expect that @Martin will pop up and come up with something like: "Could you move all those TULLES over to the Bridal Section?". That may be the first time I really balked at a POC.

    The remainder was pure delight, a combination of gimmees, WAGs and absolute brainTWISTers. The latter led me to consider OSTRICH for OJTRIAL, and DOE CAMEL for JOE CAMEL. My last correction was changing the #4 square from C-> O, because I was certain that 4A was something like CLIVEDENTON, ie, some book I'd never heard of. Go FIGURE.

    Would love to have a SLEW of Peterber Wilson puzzles come down the pike in LIU of tamer fare,

    Tip for today: Showing an old ORYX new TRIX will make it cross.
    So FIGURES KATE.

    A good Friday to one and all.

    rorosen 8:10 AM  

    This is how Rex spirit was back in the day when this blog began. If you haven't yet done so I recommend going back and reading from the beginning, including the comments, and you will have your very own Christmas Carol variation. I don't believe he is disappointed in life, just the quality of the puzzles. He is critical of a medium he loves. But in those days, he was also fun funny and generous. Take a look and those who always snipe at him might gain some insight into the progression of this apparent change.

    Kathy 8:16 AM  

    @leapfinger

    What what do you mean by POC? I thought it meant People of Color, which doesn't make sense in your context. Thanks

    Casco Kid 8:18 AM  

    Anybody want SEbastianCoe for SEATTLESLEW? Doesn't fit for length, anyway.

    Leapfinger 8:29 AM  

    @Kathy/Kate, around here, POC means Plural(s) Of Convenience, and usually surface as one of @Anoa Bob's chief bugbears.

    Don't all people have colour? In first grade, we all had our own box of about 10 crayons; one of our first assignments was to colour in some children at play. Clothing was easy: you could pick any colour, but tougher for body parts. I bypassed the pink and orange in favour of shading faces, etc lightly in brown. Mrss. Barnes said no, orange was the "right" colour.

    Again, go figure.

    Mohair Sam 8:39 AM  

    Four triple stacks and clever cluing, we were gonna love this one - and we did. Naticked on the second "E" in PESETA however, guessed "O".

    Played medium/challenging here, had a lot of trouble in NE where REST stood alone forever just above the incorrect TiaraS - what a mess. Then OLIVERTWIST popped to mind, then quickly OPS and PIRATERADIO and the puzzle was done (natick excepted).

    JOECAMEL was our first tentative entry, quickly confirmed by OJTRIAL and SEATTLESLEW (I'm a racing fan) so we thought this was gonna be a breeze. But no . . .

    Lived in England during the pirate radio days, should have been a gimme.

    Anyhow, we've had good luck lately guessing at personal naticks - can't complain about a bad guess today, especially with a puzzle this entertaining.

    AliasZ 8:51 AM  


    Let me join the choir of enthusiastic BRAVOS for this snappy, crunchy, Friday-hard but not unfair puzzle by LARS G. Doubleday (anagram of Bradley & Douglas, the alias under which Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson publish their work elsewhere).

    It was great fun to decipher the clever cluing while enjoying multiple moments of discovery as I worked my way through the grid. Starting in the center (ORYX was my first entry), the first such moment was JOE CAMEL. That also gave me the OJ TRIAL. Another one came from trying to guess what coil is in Greek. Oh, spiral! It must be SPIREA, which I did not know. The best one: the claustrophobic-friendly OPEN MRIS, with TOY STORE not far behind it. And so it went throughout the puzzle.

    I must confess, I suffer from a mild version of SENIORITIS. Things at my age don't always work as they used to, or as I wish they did, like my memory. For instance, there is another haggis ingredient, an internal organ turned into the shape of a spring or coil like a lemon peel, but I can't think of what it's called. Wait, wait, what is it? O, LIVER TWIST!

    A Greek gent from the Peloponnese
    Once owned a string of POLOPONIES.
    He awarded stars for them to reach,
    But then proceeded to RE-STAR EA.
    He ate some haggis made from OFFAL
    As for the taste, he found it awful.

    For once, I will go with the obvious music choice: Ella giammai m'AMÒ from the opera Don Carlos by Giuseppe Verdi. Well worth ten minutes of your Friday.

    Enjoy!

    Josh 9:04 AM  

    Harder than the typical Friday, but when you see those two names in the byline, you kinda expect that.

    The right side of the puzzle took half the time that the left side did. Couldn't get myself to see ANKLESTRAPS or POLOPONIES or even the gimme STENOPADS.

    Longest was the SW. I had a hard time with the crossing of SPIREA/NEC/LINECUT/PESETA/ERIE/SEATTLESLEW. In hindsight, none of it is unfair. Before I typed in the first E in SEATTLE (the last letter to drop for me), I want to grouse about the unfairness of a "track star" crossing a county name, but then I remembered that I live in one of those ERIEs.

    I hate horse-racing-related clues and fill. I rank it along with clues like "Silent film star of the 1920s Helga ________ Herpygerpsy" and (with @Moly Shu up there) "Simpsons character that had a funny line in that one episode that one time". But that's just personal taste and not a commentary on the quality of this puzzle.

    Because Rex is right: lovely grid, great clues, gorgeous fill. This is the kind of puzzle you see more often these days in the Post Puzzler (where, if I'm not mistaken, a lot of Mr. Peterson's work appears).

    I like seeing SENIORITIS in the grid. My seniors right now are already at the point where any suggestion that they do actual schoolwork is met with disbelief and/or hostility. And it's only December.

    @Casco Kid: I just wanted any first name that fit the pattern S_A_T_E. SHARTIE? SKARTTE? SLAPTOE?

    still an ass 9:10 AM  

    Would love to have Rex blinded to the constructors before he completes/reviews a puzzle. Other days, the dreck fill he points to would lead him to rant and rave about the terrible quality of the NYT xword, but today, since he clearly is in bed with the constructors, it is "largely innocuous." Rex is too much of an ass to see how biased he is by the names above the grid.

    Casco Kid 9:25 AM  

    @Annabel. SENIORITIS? What's your Rx?

    In my case lo these many years, it really hit hard in early April. I had an internship at the Washington Star, and editors thought I had potential to be a good reporter, although I was just a copy boy. "Don't worry, kid," they said, "it's a stepping stone to greatness." "Oh?" I asked. "And how great is my immediate predecessor today?" "Maureen?" my editor replied. "She's on the local DC beat now. But just you wait. One day the entire world will know the name 'Maureen Dowd.'"

    And then SENIORITIS hit. End greatness.

    Charles Flaster 9:33 AM  

    DNF. Never heard of LARS, MALFOY or OPS.
    That put me in harm's way. Originally had schoolitis instead of the subset SENIORITIS.
    Also open gres for OPEN MRIS.
    Is it PC to pluralize abbreviations.
    Why is the ? necessary in 49A even if play is a verb??
    Maybe there was a typo for 48A.
    Only crossword EASE was ATRA.
    Loved cluing for SPA, A TO and JOE CAMEL.
    As an aside Puns and Anagrams just came out for this Sunday in NYT premium. It is really good puzzle stuff with many "aha" moments.I guess many of you try it.
    Thanks BW and DP.


    Z 9:39 AM  

    Psycho caused the NE to be wicked hard. I had to work backwards from the IDOL/SINE/TOES downs to finally see PIRATE RADIO which let me see WALLOWS/TRAUMA/the REST half of REST AREA and finally finish.

    IRANI kept me from OPEN MicS and wondering how the answer fit the clue. I was also surprised that my flag has ELK on it, not deer. Si Quæris Peninsulam Amœnam Circumspice.

    Trivia? Let's see, Dickens and J.K. Rowling, two widely read authors. A Triple Crown winner. The most recent "Trial of the Century." As far as I can see the only two answers that even come close to trivial trivia are SPIREA and "Ella giammai m'AMO." "Coil" in the clue for the first should help and aria --> AMO is something even the classically illiterate can love.

    A fine Friday in my opinion

    Andrew Morrison 9:39 AM  

    Gack! Challenging. Average Sunday time for me, on a Friday. Just couldn't get on a roll. Tough but fair.

    @CascoKid - put me down for Seb Coe too! I can't believe Seattle Slew was '77 - hard to believe time flies like that.

    Anoa Bob 9:50 AM  

    Kathy@8:16 POC doc. Be advised, this is pretty nerdy stuff, tho not sure it reaches chief bugbear level. If it does, is that a bad thing? Is an OPEN MRIS anything like an OPEN BRIS?

    wreck 9:55 AM  

    Yes, I think tough, but fair sums it up pretty well! Once again, I keep telling myself that I better read (or at least watch the movies)Harry Potter if I want to finish crosswords.

    Carola 10:10 AM  

    Challenging! At least to get a start: I thought I had a toehold with SEER x RINSED OUT, but after ANI it was a dead end. I had to descend further, to DRACO MALFOY, to get solid footing and then clamber back up the grid from there. Loved OLIVER TWIST as a complement to DRACO and all the long Downs. Missteps: ibex before ORYX, utz before NEC, and my "Rosewater" characters were IRate and InANe before they were IRANI.

    Kathy 10:15 AM  

    @leapfinger @Anoa Bob: Thank you both for your explanations and comments. I hate not "getting" something!

    Maruchka 10:17 AM  

    Sweetly intuitive! Knocked out the NW and NE in record time. Hung up a bit in the SW, but then my SENIORITIS kicked in, in a good way. Two do-overs (REST STOP for AREA, ANE for ASE).

    Fav of the day - PIRATE RADIO (Hi, @Mohair Sam). A fun movie re; same with Bill NIghy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rhys Ifans, et.al., about this Boat that Rocked!

    Thanks, Messrs. Wilber and Peterson

    Anonymous 10:19 AM  

    How is OPEN MRIS not "contrived"? OJ TRIAL... Really? The very best in puzzle construction? TULLES? LINE CUT? The sparkling RINSED OUT and STENO PADS?

    I'm with @still an ass: I'd like to see Rex evaluate these blind, not based on whether the constructor is a friend on not.

    Maruchka 10:19 AM  

    Oh, and @Carola - I was thinking Utz, too. Best potato CHIPS ever...

    Hartley70 10:41 AM  

    I'll echo the comments of fair, fun Friday! OPENMRIS went in first. It just came to me because I've only had the closed ones. The trick is to close your eyes shut really tight and do not open under pain of death. I have SPIREA in the yard so that was easy. I'd never heard of PIRATERADIO, but OLIVERTWIST gave it away. I had MALFOY but I couldn't remember DRACO, just his Dad Lucius. I just had a lot of fun with this beauty.

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:44 AM  

    Good puzzle.

    OLIVER TWIST was a gimme/first entry, opened up a lot of territory immediately.

    One write-over: 41 D, LINE ART before LINE CUT.

    drag this wave 10:50 AM  

    RINSEDoff instead of RINSEDOUT, which led to trouble. Then, even after I sussed RINSEDOUT, I wondesed if EST therapy had a problem with "wave drag (perhaps on some cosmic level?").
    Good Friday (puzzle, not holiday), Rex's kissing of ass notwithstanding.

    jberg 11:01 AM  

    Really hard for me. Reluctant to give up OPEN book, ToiLES, and TRolLS, even though only the middle term fits the clue. Also tEa before YEW, but that didn't last long. And I wanted LINoCUT, even though those can be colored. Never hear of a LINE CUT, but that's why we do crosswords, right? And for some reason, OLIVER TWIST was slow to come, even though I was thinking Dickens all along.

    But the biggest difficulty was really wanting something like "Yoyo meet" for 9D.

    SPIREA trivia? Go look outside your house -- if you don't have one, I bet your neighbor does. Unless you're down there around Tulsa and Oklahoma City, that is.

    All the people who want @Rex to blog without knowing who the constructor is should read all the NYT puzzle blogs (except Hayley Gold's that would be too easy) without knowing who wrote them.

    Fred smith 11:04 AM  

    Tough one"

    RooMonster 11:09 AM  

    Hey All !
    Was med-challenging for moi. Steadily went through, started with the center, also not knowing Trix at one point wasn't round! Got the NW, then on to the NE, where I had to Goog the Rosewater clue. After that, figured out 4A & 16A. Not happy with VANES clue.

    SE next, had washEDOff first, then RINSEDOff, and never changed it to OUT, so DNF on those two squares. SW was the hardest area, couldn't for the life of me think of Malfoy's first name! Had to Goog it. And here's a Slap-The-Head, D'oh moment, actually had to Goog for SEATTLESLEW, even after having SLEW in! I was thinking track (human runners)! Yes, yes, throw your jabs my way! :-)

    Also wanted utz for NEC. Had rollerSKATE first, further confusing thatvSW.

    Overall, nice puz. Fridayish, good fill. Give it a BRAVOS rating!

    ANTSY ONES
    RooMonster
    DarrinV

    Steve J 11:11 AM  

    @Benko: I've long interpreted complaints about "too much trivia" in puzzles as really meaning "too much stuff I didn't know or don't find important". Outside of wordplay clues, it's all trivia in that you're identifying things based on facts you happen to know.

    That said, I have encountered some puzzles that start to feel more like a pub trivia quiz than a crossword. That's usually when they're full of arcane "capital most people don't know on river even fewer people know" clues, and too many clues that are too straightforward rather than playfully misdirective.

    @Anonymous 10:19 am.: OPEN MRI is not contrived because it's a real thing. You can see them advertised on billboards and such around most metro areas, particularly when you're near a hospital or medical center.

    AnnieD 11:11 AM  

    I'm in the "love it" camp. It fell in a nice medium time for me for a Friday. Stuff I didn't know, I was able to get, lots of fresh clues and answers that led to ahs and ohs and ahas. Final bit for me was the SE corner as I kept thinking it was beer that lost its suds. Once I let that go, it went pretty quickly. Well done!

    mathguy 11:29 AM  

    It took me a long time. I printed it up at 7:30 and didn't finish until I went to bed at 11. I wasn't giving it full attention during the Warrior basketball game from 7:30 until 10 and The Closer was working on Christmas cards and wouldn't help.

    Eight entries covering 46 squares either were unknown to me or had completely unhelpful clues. That was countered by only four gimmes covering 14 squares. That's an MGI of 32. Early-week puzzles have negative MGIs.

    I missed two letters, the A and L in DRACOMALFOY. I also thought that the T in SALT stood for treaty and that it might cover TANKS.

    I wasn't blown away. Some lively entries and five clever clues. But I think the clue for RESTAREA ("Where you might see someone walk the dog") was horrid.

    Casco Kid: I worked as a copy boy part time at the SF Chronicle for a couple of years when I was in college. It was an education in itself. I was in awe of the many cool characters who worked there.

    retired_chemist 11:38 AM  

    Medium here, and an excellent puzzle. Zingy stuff generally. I see why Rex likes this one better than most NYT puzzles.

    OPEN MRI - I have them. SPIREA - easy if you think of "spiral" when presented with coil. These went in with no crosses. PESETA, ditto. All else was a matter of getting a few crosses and then saying "aha!"

    ADmit before ADD IN, lST before SST, asSume before POSE AS, etc.

    Thanks, Messrs. Wilber and Peterson.

    old timer 11:38 AM  

    DRACOMALFOY was a gimme. OLIVERTWIST ought to have been, except my mind was in the wrong century. Most of the puzzle was tough, but fair.

    However, a DNF for me. Wanted TOILES which did not cross, and never came up with TULLES -- hence also could not get TRAUMA.

    Ludyjynn 11:55 AM  

    LIU, SPIREA and OFFAL gave me a toehold in the South of this med.-chall. puzz. adventure. NE corner went in last because I refused to let go of PSYcho for an eternity til the crosses made me come to my senses.

    I will spare you my lecture re JOECAMEL, which I already gave here once several months ago during the logo's last puzz. appearance. Suffice it to say: UGH! Good clue, though.

    Hand up, @MohairSam, for LINoCUT, which caused me a technical DNF after all that hard work! But I will not WALLOW or CRY about it.

    Agree w/ Rex that the horizontal and vertical stacks were just beautiful and gettable, too.

    Thanks, BW, DP and WS, for a feisty Friday solve.



    Ludyjynn 12:02 PM  

    One more thing. Unfortunately, OPENMRIS are not effective if you need a breast MRI done. You will have to do the closed, very unpleasant test to get proper results. I sing "A Hundred Bottles of Beer in a Wall" to drown out the noise and distract myself when I have this test done. Tech. told me that some people take pre-meds. to sedate themselves and stay calm during the procedure. Not fun, but vital.

    Joseph Michael 12:09 PM  

    Tough puzzle. Loved OPEN MRIS and JOE CAMEL and SENIORITIS. Hated SEATTLE SLEW and DRACO MALFOY and OFFAL, the latter of which caused a DNF. Guess I need to make some haggis and read Harry Potter.

    RooMonster 12:26 PM  

    I, for one, can't understand why people get all claustrophobic and nervous abour regular MRIs. Sure, you're surrounded by a tube, but both ends are open. It's not like they put you in a tube with a closed end, then lock a door at the other. I find them quite relaxing. Last time I needed one, I fell asleep! Just sayin.......

    I know it bothers a lot of people, but it seems to be a crowd mentality about it. I mean, you can lift your head or tilt it back and see the open areas...

    Feel free to berate me on this!!

    RooMonster

    Lewis 12:36 PM  

    @annied -- I was thinking beer too

    The top half of the puzzle revealed itself first and I was smiling all the way through it, with it's spark-filled answers and fun cluing -- I didn't want the puzzle to end. But the bottom half was tough and felt like it was never going to end (LEADsinger held me up for a while and I didn't know DRACOMALFOY). Oh, I loved the puzzle with answers that had zing, like PIRATERADIO, POLOPONIES and SENIORITIS, and clues with wit, like for MAYO, ANKLESTRAP, and SPA.

    Did anyone want "aye" as the answer to 1A?

    Cheerio 12:43 PM  

    For me this was hard for a Friday. Echo those who didn't love it for that reason. I didn't think it was fresh and snappy though either. Clue for TOY STORE seemed pushing things. Some stores refer to themselves as "House of ___", but it's a gimmick and most don't do that. Lars, Seattle Slew, OJ, Steno pads, all go pretty far back.

    Masked and Anonymo3Us 12:43 PM  

    56-A bully started out, from a few crosses, as CHICOMALLOY. M&A is pretty ignorant of the whole fictional school bully genre.
    AFR, an admirably wobust weeject, would get a runtpuz clue of:
    {Butt-dialed bark??}

    Luv it, when I can get a ?-clue off just a small % of the answer's letters. Conquests, today (despite bein ganged-up on by two primo sneaky constructioneers)...

    * JOECAMEL. From the JO.
    * PIRATERADIO. Offal the DIO.
    * POLOPONIES. Guessed it with POL.

    Puz's Last Stand: the NE corner, with it's steaming pile of 11's. My psy- ending was CHO. Eternally. Stubbornly. Wackoly. Until I picked up the PIRATERADIO signals on my crystal set brain.

    Really professional writeup of a really professionally written FriPuz. Thanx, to y'all.

    M&A

    Karl 1:22 PM  

    Fun puzzle! I would rate it a little more difficult than Rex did. If I ever had a thought of trying haggis (which I really never did)this puzzle eliminated any chance of a taste test...

    LaneB 1:30 PM  

    Way out of my league here and much admire those of you who found this one "easy" to "medium". Don't know why I even try the Friday and Saturday editions since I usually end up feeling dumb [and old with diminishing abilities.]. {Most} Sundays and Monday and Tuesdays are my speed, but somehow I can't resist trying the latter-week days--a form of masochism, I guess.

    Anonymous 1:30 PM  


    Benko: "I'll never understand why so many professed crossword solvers profess to hate trivia. Trivia of one kind or another has always been part of the puzzle, in every era."

    It's the amount of trivia and its placement, not trivia itself. For instance, with the exception of "retort" the SW swath is a virtual quiz. And, yes, Rex must have ulterior motives to write that this puzzle is what the best crosswords should look like. It's transparent and laughable.

    Steve J 1:37 PM  

    @RooMonster: There's a reason conditions like claustrophobia, acrophobia, agoraphobia, etc. are often called irrational fears. They're not rational in that they are reflexive, and no amount of reasoning is going to eliminate that primal reaction that's triggered in people who have those fears. Some people can respond to long courses of exposure or cognitive behavioral therapy, but you're not simply going to talk to someone out of a fear. In fact, most people possessing such fears are well aware they're not a rational reaction, but that does nothing to diminish their impact. For example, I have a very pronounced fear of heights. I can start feeling extremely anxious just a few rungs up a ladder, for example. No amount of telling myself that I'm safe and that, even if I did fall, I'm not going to be in any serious trouble from 4-6 feet up, is going to diminish the reaction. I may be able to push through it, but it's going to be an unpleasant experience nevertheless.

    I suspect people with claustrophobia have the same reaction in tight spaces, like MRIs. As they go through panic, they're probably telling themselves the whole time that it's ok and there's no reason to worry, all while the panic continues.

    Arlene 1:38 PM  

    This was an excellent Friday challenge. The angst of wondering whether I'd fill in all those squares - definitely a Friday experience!
    I needed to Google to get some traction - but the long answers made sense and were not contrived. And what I didn't know, I really thought was interesting to know. I'm thinking the Harry Potter references and Oliver Twist.
    And I like the CAPTCHA asking me to declare that I'm not a robot. Well - technically I'm a cyborg with my bionic hearing, but I guess I'll just check the "I'm not a robot" box.

    Fred Romagnolo 1:39 PM  

    @Lewis: here's another for "aye." Do masseurs/masseures actually rub? I, too, thought of beer for SUDSY, what does that say about me? I've had MRI'S, didn't know any were OPEN. TULLES unknown to me, ditto LINE CUT. I learned VANES for turbine blades, and wanted SINE qua non(e) for STANDS ALONE. I got hung up on POLO PlayEr til I realized it was plural. And psyOPS was new. Whatever you think about @Rex's contacts with constructors, there's no need to be rude; much too much of that in this blog.

    Steve M 1:47 PM  

    Tops

    Benko 1:51 PM  

    @SteveJ: Fair and balanced assessment of trivia in puzzles. Personally, though, I don't mind a good pub quiz now and again. I wouldn't want it in every puzzle though.
    I can relate to claustrophobics in that I have a variation of it--demophobia, the fear of crowds. When I get stuck I in a big crowd of people it's all I can do not to freak out and push people out of my way.

    Lewis 2:02 PM  

    Factoid: When TRIX was introduced it was 46% sugar; it has now gone all the way down to 38%, and during the spherical break (1991-2007), they were puffed fruit shapes.

    Quotoid: "It seemed the world was divided into good and bad people. The good ONES slept better while the bad ones seemed to enjoy the waking hours much more." -- Woody Allen

    MrI and A 2:09 PM  

    p.s.
    Cool MRI stories. I've not had the pleasure.

    Top ways to make closed MRI's more tolerable:
    * Mirror, in front of patient's eyepits(IFOPE), pointed at the outside world.
    * TV set, IFOPE, showin a nice, calmin show. Like Judge Judy.
    * Disguise machine as a tanning bed.
    * Free cinnamon rolls.
    * Computer screen displayin runtpuzs.
    * Music earphones, playin nice, calmin tunes. Like "I Fink U Freaky" (Yo! That Die Antwoord gal who sings it is starrin in a new movie about robots! But I digress.)

    M&A
    "Mr. I"

    retired_chemist 2:39 PM  

    @ roomonster - I myself simply do not fit inside the standard MRI. Not so claustrophobic I couldn't take it, but claustrophobic enough I can see that some people wold have a problem with the standard MRI. The resolution is only slightly better for the regular anyway.

    Carole Shmurak 3:07 PM  

    Ha! LARS was the first answer I put in - I guess that dates me. LIU was the second, but then the rest of the SE eluded me till the end. OLIVERTWIST and the Rosewater clue, along with knowing SINE, gave me the NE, and DRACOMALFOY and PESETA led me through the SW easily enough. Swizzles and twizzles are ice dancing to me though, not figure skating, but it was pretty clear that figureskate was what was wanted. Got OPENMRIS immediately - I've had a few that weren't open and didn't mind too much, but happy when they were over.
    Don't see what's so great about this puzzle...As someone else said, it seems that if it's the trivia you know, the puzzle is fun, if it's the trivia you don't know (for me, that's rappers and the Simpsons - though OJTRIAL was a gimme), not so much fun.

    OISK 3:31 PM  

    For some reason, I thought of Sven, or Olaf, not Lars. But evenually, finished correctly. Almost missed by writing "Drago" instead of Draco Malvoy, but caught the error; I am really tired of Harry Potter clues, and would love to see them retired, but can't complain when the trivia also contains an opera aria, a great race horse, Oliver Twist, and Lucy Liu, all personal favorites. (and just to be ornery, I thought Joe Camel was cute.)

    Mohair Sam 3:55 PM  

    @steve J. Nice response on phobias. Thanks on behalf of the (claustro)phobic community.

    @RooMonster - No berating, I felt exactly as you do about phobias until I took a coal mine tour in Scranton, PA a few years back. Now I can't take the tunnels into Manhattan without trembling. Hello GW Bridge. Strange stuff.

    Martel Moopsbane 4:16 PM  

    Another vote for "aye" at 1A, though I also considered "eye" as something to be rubbed.

    Big DNF for me today. Just couldn't get much in the top half to fall.

    Are the TULLES the rest of Ian Anderson's bandmates?

    mac 5:40 PM  

    Beautiful puzzle by crossword royalty. I suspect these two guys have a lot of fun working together.

    I found it tough in places, but especially enjoyed the clues. Couldn't get Octomom out of my head in the place of OJtrial.

    I have an old English cookbook that has a chapter called "Awful Offal".

    RooMonster 5:49 PM  

    @Mohair Sam, I'm originally from the Scranton area!! I also took that tour. It goes down quite far.

    I didn't mean to minimialize phobias (even though that's what it sounded like), heck, I have a few myself. So sorry about that everyone.

    Roo

    tuiletoiletulle 6:03 PM  

    TUILE is a thin cheese or dough wafer

    TOILE is a thin linen or cotton fabric that can be printed or pained.

    TULLE is a lightweight fine netting usually of silk or rayon, as in a wedding veil.

    Maybe by typing this, I will learn it. But I doubt it.

    John Child 6:21 PM  

    AFR AMO ANI ASE ATO CRY DIR ELK ENE ETD LIU NEC OPS SPA SST TON YEW ACID ACRE ATRA DATA ERIE IDOL LARS MAYO NOLO ONES ORYX PDFS SAGA SEAL SEER SINE TOES TRIX

    That's half of the puzzle, 35 words out of 70 -- a lot of tired stuff to slog through for the nice long answers.

    Whirred Whacks 6:55 PM  

    @mohair Sam @Steve J

    In 2006 my son and I visited the Vietnamese countryside including a tour of the Cu Chi tunnels. This network of tunnels was constructed by the Viet Cong to move materiel and stage attacks.

    I've never considered myself claustrophobic, but after about 30 minutes of squeezing into and crawling through these dark, narrow passageways, I was never more greatful to see daylight and breathe fresh air than the moment I exited them.

    Cu Chi Tunnels Wikipedia article

    Questinia 7:10 PM  

    This was my solving experience:

    {I'm doing good! I'm doing good! I'm doing good! I'm doing good! I'm gonna.... finish... in really good time... yeah baby, pay the lady!!}

    ****"Almost There! You have one or a few wrong blah, blah, blah ...."*******

    What did I do wrong?!!

    1A- SPA- check
    4A- OLIVER TWIST-check
    15A-TON- check
    16A-PIRATE RADII- (Underground waves?) check

    etc... x 10

    Fifteen minutes go by.
    I take a screen shot so I can stop the clock. Still can't find anything wrong. Defeatedly press "check puzzle".

    PIRATE RADI*O*

    I thought PIRATE RADII were underwater diffraction patterns emanating from an underground source.

    Yeah, I tell myself things. Many times over.

    Mohair Sam 8:24 PM  

    @Quesinia. PIRATE freaking RADII? Too funny. Thanks for the confession.

    @Whirred - Now you know.

    joho 8:52 PM  

    I nominate this puzzle for an ORYX!

    Brad and Doug many BRAVOS!!!

    Anonymous 9:01 PM  

    Thought of Coe right away but knew 77 was too early. Just Wiki'd him and was surprised he became an MP from 92-97. Thats LORD Sebastian Coe to you Sir!

    TedinDenver

    Anonymous 9:42 PM  

    I got stuck on Scimitar-horned" animal. Ibex fits that description better than oryx. Anyway got through it in 17 min. And I agree, good puzzle.

    Z 10:42 PM  

    Not an ibex. Who knew?

    Webb 11:22 PM  

    Found the puzzle to be tough, a bit of a slog, sort of like Rex these days, but I do enjoy the comments of fellow puzzlers!

    mac 11:58 PM  

    @John Child: The clues for some of these ordinary words were new and interesting; the rest I consider footholds.

    Stacy Donald 3:53 PM  

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    spacecraft 11:23 AM  

    Not easy-medium for me, for sure. My biggest hangup was the "Big name in chips." Three letters? Why, LAY, of course! What else? I had that "gimme" in the bank and had the tax paid. Came within a whisker of DNFing on account of that one. What the hell is NEC, the three nonsense letters I finally was forced into putting there? BIG name? Can't be. Not food, not golf, not gaming, not anything.

    When I hit on OJTRIAL, 37d almost had to be JOECAMEL; this began LAY's unraveling. But that SW was a bear. Racked my brain for a human track star of '77; nothing. Finally worked a few downs, enough to aha! SEATTLESLEW. Still, though, there was that unknown bully. I wound up taking a total flyer on 41d. LINECUT meant nothing to me, but at least it was two real words. The N and C were both natick guesses. Whew!

    And by the way, Mr. Kramden, just what IS a string of POLOPONIES?

    Challenging. Enjoyable because (1) I solved it and (2) the symmetrical gems at 2 and 29d: that hilarious Nortonian misread and that affliction which has now begun to overtake me--though a different "senior-" than he's talking about here. Trust me, EVERYBODY gets this kind, if they live long enough.

    rondo 1:56 PM  

    This one almost killed me. Had almost nothing but OFFAL AFR and YEW and SPIREA. (And yeah baby Lucy LIU.) So this puz worked itself out from bottom to top for me. Especially after remembering the MALFOY kid and got it from only the F-Y.

    Challenging all the way, rather see this than the M-W stuff.

    So the OJTRIAL is already 20 years past?? Seems like yesterday the glove didn't fit.

    Reason for knowing OFFAL - I had haggis in Scotland and rather liked it, even knowing what's in it.

    Captchs sez:
    I'm not a robot

    A. Retentive 2:14 PM  

    SPIREA = the drizzles with twizzles

    DMG 3:01 PM  

    This one was not "easy-medium" for me! It seemed like I earned just about every square. And I would never have gotten to the end if my old friends OLIVER and DRACO hadn't appeared. It also helped that Mr. Coe's name was one letter too long! Finished with two questionable, but correct squares, The N in NEC, is as much a mystery to me as it is to @spacecraft. And, even tho I've been there and done that, I just couldn't parse OPENMRI. I guess I was thinking school exams. At any rate no more MRIS for me. Pacemaker rules them out, and, from the horror stories above, I guess that's a good thing??

    check

    rondo 3:13 PM  

    The company was known as the Nippon Electric Company, Limited, before rebranding in 1983 as just NEC. Its NEC Semiconductors business unit was one of the worldwide top 20 semiconductor sales leaders before merging it with Renesas Electronics.

    I knew NEC more for their monitors than chips.

    ecanarensis 6:51 PM  

    @Leapfinger 8:29
    Orange?! Where was that vile teacher from, the Land Of 70s Fake Tan in a Tube?? I used to be very annoyed by the "Flesh" colored crayon, having never seen anyone that insipid pinky-beige color (not even the "white" people) & many people a nice, rich brown color. But orange??? Might as well color everyone grey (& read or see "The Lathe of Heaven" some time).
    Bizarre.
    I personally flailed unsuccessfully at this one, came over here to feel stupid, & was a bit surprised to find Rex waxing lyrical. Not his typical reaction these days.

    leftcoastTAM 7:37 PM  

    Challenging and interesting DNF puzzle for me. Stuck too long with TOYabOdE instead of TOYSTORE and (Jude) Law instead of (Lucy) LIU in SE. OFFAL was another problem. Now for Saturday's....

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