Cup-shaped forest fungus / SAT 3-7-15 / Toadstool that exudes latex when cut / Follower of Salyut 7 / Concubine's chamber / Southern river to Winyah Bay / CJ's boss on West Wing / Boston area known for brownstones / European Union anthem / deck gym machine

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Constructor: David C. Duncan Dekker

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: maybe PANGRAMS … not sure

Word of the Day: PEZIZA (43D: Cup-shaped forest fungus) —
Peziza is a large genus of saprophytic cup fungi that grow on the ground, rotting wood, or dung. Most members of this genus are of unknown edibility and are difficult to identify as separate species without use of microscopy. The polyphyletic genus has been estimated to contain over 100 species.
Peziza may come from the term for foot in Romance languages, perhaps in reference to their general lack of a stalk. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is pretty bad. I mean, as a themeless, it's adequate, but it's kind of inexcusable that anyone thinks making a themeless puzzle into a PANGRAM is an accomplishment. It's a non-issue. It's like bragging that your Sunday-sized puzzle is a PANGRAM? Not hard, no one cares. The problem with PANGRAMS (61A: They use every letter FROM A TO Z) comes when you force them on a puzzle that already has a theme. Themes exert pressure on grids. PANGRAMS add extra, unnecessary, stupid pressure. But in a themeless—do whatever the hell you want, who cares? Why would you highlight a non-accomplishment like this. If anything, once again, we see how perverse fascination with high-value Scrabble tiles (for their own SAKES) leads to junk fill that, in another iteration of the grid, would be non-existent. ODA ACED IT DERATE LOM ITASCA PEEDEE (ugh) LLD MIL INASEC MIR ANON. An excellent themeless has a suboptimal list about half that long. As I said, the puzzle's adequate—I've seen worse. But honestly, it's on the low end for themelesses. There are constructors out there who combine artistry and database management to produce some pretty great work. This doesn't compare.

Once again, I had very good luck with a wrong answer, right off the bat:

Actually, I'm not sure if that was good or bad luck, since MIL did nothing for me except convince me that ANEMIC was right for a while. The only way I broke that NW corner open was by getting MOB and ANON correct and then somehow, after several passes, figuring out that the "quaint" in 17A: Quaint raid targets must refer to ICEBOXES. NW was not hard after that breakthrough. Managed to get up into and around the NE pretty easily, but couldn't bring the puzzle down the west coast. Here's why:

See that. I fell into the trap I probably was supposed to fall into, imagining that 8D: Spiced up, say required a past-tense, -ED ending. So though I was deeply unhappy with ZESTIED (!?), it seemed like a "word" that this particular puzzle would have, so I stuck with it. Luckily, I was able to get into that SW corner from the back end of most southern Acrosses—not always doable, but, thankfully, doable today. DANTE and ACED IT were gimmes, and I went from there up the west and finished with the "P" in VAPOR / PEC.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    jae 12:09 AM  

    Mostly easy-medium except for NW where, like Rex,  I held on to aneMic for way too long because of MIL.   Getting PANGRAM at 61a forced me to erase it and NW fell pretty quickly after that.  oNeSEC before INASEC also made SW a tad tougher.  Also pOoLS before SOILS. 

    I'm pretty sure PEZIZA is a candidate for the top ten WOEs of all time.

    A reasonably solid Sat., but like yesterday's not much ZIP...Slim Shady was about it unless you count the PANGRAM "theme" which, of course Rex didn't.  That said, I liked it more than Rex it.  Nice debut David. 

    wreck 12:36 AM  

    What's the opposite of a puzzle in your wheelhouse? Friday clicked with me, this did not. Take away the intrigue of figuring out a theme, if the puzzle doesn't grab me - I'm out. I had a hard time getting any traction except for a single answer scattered here and there. I just wasn't interested enough to keep at it. I DNF'd pretty early.

    John Child 3:12 AM  

    Difficult clues that eventually came to small-a aha moments kept me in the game despite long periods of staring at white space. According to the constructor notes the original clues were also intended to be a pangram and included lots of acronyms. Many of these sadistic clues were WS's then rather than Mr Dekker's.

    Very high ratio of new or rarely-used words compared to tired (>100 instances) ones, a big plus in my book, even if some of those were pretty strange. (PEZIZA and MILKCAP, I'm looking at you!)

    Many of the words OFL complains about are neither obscure nor tired: PEEDEE 7 previous uses in the Shortz era and another 20 before that. IN A SEC and LLD 19 Shortz uses each. Etc.

    It's always nice to welcome a debut puzzle. Congratulations Mr. Dekker. More please.

    GILL I. 5:49 AM  

    I don't like MILK CAPS on my PEZIZA but, by golly, I enjoyed this one.
    Had MUCHO write-overs. The first one was having Clinton awarded lots of LLBs. I kept thinking of the pounds he gained before going on his vegan diet. oNeSEC before INA SEC. yada yada...
    Little sucker was my favorite clue for VAC and saying PEC deck is kinda fun.
    I'm not sure DYSLEXIA is really a character flaw...?
    Come on...this was fun...QUE es the problema? Oh...the dreaded PANGRAMS. I say BRINGEMON!
    I enjoyed your puzzle DCDD. Conrats to you!

    jberg 7:09 AM  

    Tough, but I liked it. Thought the theme was fungi.

    Now off to Florida!

    Anonymous 7:16 AM  

    Shouldn't 47 across clue "Claire.." be "Clair..?"

    Susierah 7:20 AM  

    Boy, Rex really ripped this one. I liked it a lot!!! So what it is a pangram, some of us like them. First pass got me type b, eminem, calamine, then pangram. Back to one across with from A to Z, and things slowly fell into place.

    Unsure of Peedee and Itasca, but what else could it be. Last area to figure out was hit squad and Que.
    Pezizia is my word of the day!

    Loren Muse Smith 7:24 AM  

    Well, heck, @jae – I never fixed "one" SEC and hence ended up with this guy, "Mex" Weber, and a "hot" SQUAD. (Hey, I figured it was an apt descriptor of 911 dispatchers.)

    For some reason, I saw how the ER ending would work for "spiced up" but put in "zippier" and kept it there for a while. Also – I didn't see MIL, so "feeble" was an early anemic entry.

    @John Child – I'm with you on 9A. I've canoed on the PEEDEE River, so that went right in, off the P in "plods." :( I also agree about a lot of the clues, especially the ones for LARYNX, SEMI, ZIP, and LEMONADE.

    CALAMINE over AGONIZED. Been there, done that, poison ivy TOXINs and all that.

    Dad still calls it the ICEBOX. Always.

    I had to keep telling myself that it absolutely could not be "O Denmark."

    Agreed, @jae – PEZIZA is a big woe. I couldn't stop revisiting the word, picturing a ridiculous stack listing in a sauce in some fancy schmancy restaurant – a leaning tower of, uh, PEZIZA. Right next to the freeze range chicken from the Siberian tundra. Both artfully nested in a beautiful bezel paese. Ok. I'll stop.

    Look, I'm sure most of us would acknowledge that Patrick Berry is da man, and he is not even in the top 100 of the scrabbliest constructors, so Rex's point is very well taken. But I'm with @Gil I. – I like seeing words with Z's, X's, Q's, and J's. In my solving world, there is room for puzzles with extremely smooth fill and for puzzles with high Scrabble count.

    LLD gets over 16 million hits on Google. LLW gets almost 7 million. Rex – he could have gone with LLW/JEW to end up with a PANGRAM that uses every letter except Q at least twice.

    So this is your debut, David? A themeless? Congrats! Bask in your glory today. I enjoyed the challenge and derate it not bit because of the PANGRAM. Liked it. (Hi again, @jae)

    pfb 7:37 AM  

    Not too bad except the NE corner which really slowed me down. MN counties and southern rivers--not my area of expertise. Slow start, then a lot of aha moments and then that dreaded NE corner.

    Bodhisattva12345 8:19 AM  

    Congratulations on your first NYT puzzles.
    Thanks for the challenge.

    Elle54 8:22 AM  

    Liked it and proud to say I finished! (one error--ACEDAT). NE was tough. And I thought Clinton put on LBS too! Haha!
    "character flaw---maybe difficulty reading about characters=dyslexia?"

    Anonymous 8:24 AM  

    Liked it a lot. Made same errors as others, including Rex. (ANEMIC and MIL, HOTSQUAD and MEXWEBER). Came to my senses and corrected. Google-mapped PEEDEE. Somehow this doesn't seem as egregious as Googling to find an answer. With that I finished Saturday in Thursday time. Easy. PANGRAM was fun because (1) it was and (2) fixed ANEMIC.

    chefbea 8:25 AM  

    What a great puzzle with the theme being FOOD terms

    cheese omelet
    two tablespoons

    I could make a meal out of this puzzle

    chefbea 8:26 AM  

    And on another note (speaking of food)..went out to dinner last night. I ordered Chicken Parm...The server said to me "would you like a side salad with that?"

    AnnieD 8:33 AM  

    Very Saturday puzzle for me. I, for one, don't mind pangrams. I mean, why not? Esp if you've got nothing else going on. It certainly led to a lot of unfamiliar answers.

    Did wonder about passing something on 49 across, esp if that semi was for semiCOLON....esp after toadSTOOLS and PEEdee and ZIPing that fly. But I should leave that talk to Evil Doug.

    One nit....when I learned typing, the home keys were where your index fingers were...F and J. In fact, on my mac keyboard, there are little raised dashes so even in the dark, you can feel if your hands are on the home keys.

    Hartley70 8:38 AM  

    With 3 personally obscure geographic names, two mushrooms, and a sociologist to confound me, I did not find this easy. But I loved LARYNX, ICEBOX, CALAMINE, and HITSQUAD. This was a really good Saturday and the pangram for those who care, not me, is a bonus. Well done, Mr. Decker,

    Hartley70 8:43 AM  

    @ChefBea, Noooo! Not the salad again! Can't we move onto RUTABAGAS?

    Susierah 8:57 AM  

    @annied, I am a former typing teacher, and the home keys were asdfjkl; using all 8 fingers. Once your fingers memorized that with the thumb controlling the space bar, you could type " by touch". No peeking at the keyboard. Typists could achieve speeds of upwards of 80 to 100 words per minute.

    It still bothers me to see people "hunt and peck" all over the keyboard. However, touch typing and shorthand no longer exist for this generation.

    Joseph Welling 9:05 AM  

    GILL I said: "I'm not sure DYSLEXIA is really a character flaw...?"

    "Character" refers to letters and numerals.

    Since I had the "Y" in early, I had "TYP-----" for the longest time.

    Nancy Klein 9:12 AM  

    @anonymous 8:24:

    Confirming is not cheating. You have an unqualified solve, at least in my book.

    Aketi 9:15 AM  

    @ Harley 70 and ChefBes
    This puzzle made my head hurt and my stomach growl.

    I don't cook often, but the RUTABAGA reminded me of a savory soup of root vegetables and chickpeas that is perfect for this endlessly cold winter.

    Not being much of a cook, I googled recipes and discovered I found I actually could accompany the root soup with a SIDESALAD of NETTLEs, but sprinkling PEZIZA on top might not be a good idea.

    Carola 9:15 AM  

    I forgot rule #1 (depending on the day) of crossword solving: run the alphabet all the way to the end. I didn't and wrote in PEtIZA x tIP (a fly ball?). This was after I'd AGONIZED over dIP, nIP, rIP, and sIP.

    But ODE TO JOY otherwise - loved it all from RUTABAGAS to RAGBAGS. Thanks to previous puzzles for PEEDEE and to summer camp trips to Minnesota for ITASCA. Loved LEMONADE over ICEBOXES and RECIPE over ONE OUNCE.

    @loren - You might need CALAMINE lotion for stinging NETTLES, too.

    NCA President 9:16 AM  

    @chefbea: you need to call into "The Splendid Table" with Lynne Rossetto Kasper. She has that segment where you call in with random stuff in your refrigerator (or ICEBOX, if you will) and she works it all into a meal likely served in a French bistro.

    Puzzles for me are contingent on the clues. I abide a certain amount of puns and double entendre, but sometimes they just piss me off. Today there were too many that did just that.

    I'll just briefly mention can look them up if you wish: 49A (passing thoughts), 53A (motion on a fly), 10D (works on a course), 11D (follower of Johnson...), 39A (Beaucoup), and others. Looking at the completed puzzle, I can see the thoughts behind the clues, but when I was doing the puzzle, I hated it.

    There really should be a psychological study done on why xword puzzle solvers continue to solve these things even when it is such an unpleasant experience. Maybe it's the abiding hope that there will be a big reveal/payoff at the end. I don't know. But this puzzle only managed to fluster me to the point of aggravation.

    I could have swore this was a DS was that unpleasant. Oblique, obtuse, and over thought.

    Ludyjynn 9:18 AM  

    Wish I could say that I ACEDIT, but the NE corner caused a DNF. Had deCODING, which stymied me big-time.

    @GillI, think 'character flaw' as a letter of the alphabet being mistakenly reversed, not as a critique of one's personality.

    @ChefBea, your side salad quote
    cracked me up, thanks!

    @AnnieD, think large truck for SEMI; whenever I see one near me on the road, all I want to do is pass the sucker to avoid an accident.

    All ready for several days of snow meltdown to begin here as temps. are rising steadily. Songbirds are happily chirping in the yard today and another fat robin showed up in the snow yesterday. And its Daylight Savings Time, all, so we are this close to Spring!

    Thanks, DCDD and WS. I liked it more than Rex.

    Teedmn 9:23 AM  

    I love pangrams, not sure why. But I knew there'd be (@Rex) trouble when I got 61A :-) .

    I had problems with the entire top part. JO'S BOYS was my biggest gimme and I eventually had IN A SEC and TOXIN and everything below. But I had acIds in at 25A (somehow I had guessed correctly that 8D would end in IER but tangIER, lusTIER?) which clogged the NW and upper center for some time. PLods at 9D helped open the NE, an aha at DIVESTS helped me back up through the NW and a final aha at SOILS meant that my last letter in was the D in LLD/JED.

    So this was a great Saturday puzzle, where I felt like quitting at one point and one last glance gave me RECIPE off the PE to give me the finish.

    @Anon 7:16, the sheet music on my piano has "Clair".

    I still don't get the second half of the clue for MIL. "a lot of bucks", sure, but "Bucks"?

    A great debut, DCDD, keep'em coming.

    David Block 9:26 AM  

    Some great clues and just a Q and W away from a double pangram. Loved The clues for RECIPE, VAC, DYSLEXIA among others. Also had trouble in NE and felt there was a tad too much obscurity in fills there but overall enjoyed a Saturday challenge. Nice debut!

    Sir Hillary 9:29 AM  

    Way outside my wheelhouse, so a real slog. I tend to disagree with @Rex's reflexive dismissal of pangrams, but when presented with a badly forced one like this, I can see his point.

    Wasn't C.J.'s boss actually Leo?

    Aketi 9:33 AM  

    As an unrepentant cheater I thought confirming was cheating. But then again, on abysmal days like today when I can't get started, I tend to confirm every word until I get something right. I had abandoned that approach since the puzzles seemed easier, but after a week of trudging through the snow to see clients and fending off episodes of subway rage, I relapsed into maximum cheating mode.

    Charles Flaster 9:33 AM  

    Big time DNF but a well-constructed puzzle.
    Too many obscure items--PEEDEE, PEZIZA , VISINE,
    Mistakes-- orator for LARYNX, tic for VAC, Luke then Jaba for JEDI. Northeast was my downfall.
    Liked cluing for ICEBOXES , LEMONADE, and AGONIZED.
    PANGRAMS do not help the solve so basically irrelevant and I usually forget to check anyhow.
    Thanks DCDD for a challenging and worthwhile debut.

    mathguy 9:56 AM  

    Like @LMS, I like high-value Scrabble words in a puzzle. One reason is the delightful moment I had last night. I had no letters for 7D (European Union anthem). And I had no idea that EU had an anthem. But I was pretty sure that 29A was JED, giving me a J. I looked at 7D space again. ?????J??. Out of nowhere, ODETOJOY popped into my head. Where had it been? I can't remember ever hearing about the song or the poem.

    joho 9:57 AM  

    DCDD I give you an A!

    I loved the nod and a wink to the ever loved and hated PANGRAMS where we judge how great or terrible the grid is FROMATOZ.

    Even with my DNF at oNESEC (hi, Loren!)I thoroughly enjoyed this one, especially the clues for DYSLEXIA, ZIP and LEMONADE.

    I had Futile before I got FLISMY which is a fun word.

    And, of course, I had to love JOSBOYS having four stepsons.

    MUCHO congrats, David, on your debut! Do not listen to the PANGRAM hater of life (you know who!)

    chefbea 10:04 AM  

    @NCApresident - I do listen to the splendid table!! Great program. I really don't need her help though because I make clean-out-the -refrigerator soup, stir fry etc.

    Carola 10:06 AM  

    @Teedmn - Maybe MILwaukee Bucks?

    pfb 10:08 AM  

    @Teedmn: BUUCKS is Milwaukee Bucks.

    Z 10:14 AM  

    @wreck - I believe the opposite of a puzzle in your wheelhouse is a puzzle in your outhouse.

    All the clues @NCA Prez hated I loved. Damn you, DCDD, why couldn't you please everyone?

    I got off to a flying start, plopping in FROM A TO Z and PANGRAMS and having them be right. Having hOeS for SOWS and virus for TOXIN, on the other hand were more outhouse answers. Learned from crosswords ITASCA and PEEDEE were not coming, so the NE took me 35 minutes of my 75 minute solve time. I'm generally pangramnostic, and in this puzzle it is more the excess of obscurish places more than the scrabbliness that slowed me down. Counties that seem fair for crosswords are pretty limited, Orange, Cook, Dade, maybe one or two more on a Saturday. That's about it for me.

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:42 AM  

    Fun puzzle, Medium-Challenging for me, but left me with a smile because today, unlike yesterday, I stuck with it to a good finish.

    One write-over no one else seems to have mentioned: 22 A, had DON Herbert before Herbert LOM.

    MDMA 10:44 AM  

    Anyone else try "Malc" for 5D "Like Mr. X, briefly" ?

    RnRGhost57 10:57 AM  

    @Z: "pangramnostic" Love it

    Pretty bumpy puzzle but look forward to David C Duncan Dekker (what a moniker!) hitting his stride.

    AnnieD 11:02 AM  

    susierah, you're probably right. I learned touch typing when I was 12, and I only remember F and J as the home keys....once you get those right, the rest fall into place. I held my school record at 106 wpm, no errors...and took shorthand at 140 wpm. When I was in college, people would ask to borrow my notes and I said sure, if you can read them. When they saw they were in shorthand, they'd shrug and walk away.

    old timer 11:06 AM  

    Oh, I'm not ashamed to Google on a Saturday (is there a word for "use Wikipedia"?) I'll make one up. I'm not ashamed to Wikipede on a Saturday -- I stay away from Google lest one of those crossword answer sites comes up.

    So, I Wikipeded that Southern bay and that Northern county seat. And then realized the constructor was being Entirely Fair. I already *wanted* PEEDEE for that river, and ITASCA is one of the five or ten place names I know in Minnesota.

    Like many of you, I had read JOSBOYS as a child. Put that sucker in immediately. Unlike some of you, I immediately knew the answer to 39A was MUCHO. And of course that PANGRAMS use every letter.

    The SW was Writeover City for me. I finally finished the puzzle with HITSQUAD. But I really wanted "sows" or "mows" for "makes ones bed". I tend to use boughten plants for my flowerbeds, not seeds.

    Teedmn 11:09 AM  

    Thanks, @Carola and @pfb. Once again my total indifference to anything NBA related has cost me precious nano-seconds, as M&A would say.

    @NCA President, what @Z said (except for ERA, didn't like that one myself). So what kind of clues do you prefer, if not puns and misdirects? Just curious.

    ITASCA is likely a WOE for most non-Minnesotans (or 'Sconi-ites @Carola :-) ) but it's probably the best known out of the 87 counties due to it being the source of the Mississippi. But I needed the crosses to confirm!

    old timer 11:09 AM  

    Oh. I really wanted to ask you all. Why is "Claire de Lune" in D flat, rather than the far more common C sharp? They are exactly the same key, on a piano.

    Steve J 11:26 AM  

    I was not in sync with this at all. On my first pass, I had exactly three things filled in, with one of them wrong: MIL, KFC and Luke instead of JEDI. Finally cobbled the SE together, but then got stuck and started having to look things up to get footholds elsewhere.

    I wasn't fond of a lot of the fill, but I didn't find it nearly as egregious as Rex did. And while some of the cluing seemed to try too hard (which may very well also mean that I just didn't get it), I wasn't as bothered by it as @NCA Pres. Still, this was far from my favorite Saturday puzzle.

    (On the subject of pangrams: I'm kind of like @Z in my overall thoughts. That said, scrabbly letters for their own sake add nothing to puzzles for me. If they result in cool words that amp up the fill, without leaving too much gunk in their wake, great. But it's really easy to tip the balance to the gunk side, and my completely anecdotal impression is that more often than not they tilt toward the gunky side. This one settled in the middle on that front.)

    Oh, @Susierah: Touch typing is far from a lost art with the younger generations. I work with dozens of twentysomethings, and in my observation nearly all of them touch-type. Since the 80s and the proliferation of computers, most kids seem to take typing classes now.

    Z 11:37 AM  

    @Steve J is correct. Elementary typing classes are not all that uncommon. Cursive, on the other hand, is a difficult thing to justify in an age where the quality of your school is often judged on students' ability to correctly bubble in answer sheets. Michigan is moving towards having all of its standardized tests done online, meaning even bubbling in answer sheets may be going the way of the dodo - and shorthand. Of the six secretaries I had, only the first (who retired in 1997) knew shorthand.

    Jlb 11:37 AM  

    It's called keyboarding class now.


    Maruchka 11:39 AM  

    It's like algebra - if you don't get the formulae, you're up the PEEDEE without a Virgil. Hard clueing met soft solving (excepting the fungi and geographi) and led me down the what-the-#@?# path. Googles aplenty, do-overs too many. As @JohnChild wrote - sadistic!

    Seems I'm more a TYPE B kinda solver. Tho I do love seeing lots of alphabet variety, there was no PANGRAM JOY in my Mudville.

    Fav of the day - VAC. Lone LOL (Hi @Gill).

    Do love the constructor's last names. Clue: Layered Scottish doughnut?

    On to Sunday and 40 degrees!

    Norm 11:41 AM  

    @Z: wheelhouse/outhouse -- excellent!

    @Susierah: what Steve J just said. My daughter used a computer program to learn touch typing when she was about 8, and she's a speedster. This boomer is a modified hunt & peck, however.

    DCDD: Great puzzle. Challenging, cryptic clues, but not unfair. Hope to see your again soon.

    Nancy 11:47 AM  

    @Carola -- I made the exact same mistake as you, and for the exact same reason. I disobeyed what you call "the cardinal rule of puzzle-solving" and failed to run the alphabet to the very end. Like you, I was torn among DIP, NIP and RIP, taking a wild (wrong) guess at DIP, with a resigned-to-my-fate sigh. If I got to the Z at all, I would have thought of ZIP as "speed", and wouldn't thought of a zipper at all. (Could it be my gender?) At any rate, that D (giving me PEDIZA, another wrong guess) was my only wrong letter in this extremely challenging puzzle.

    I liked the misleading clues for HIT SQUAD, DYSLEXIA and LARYNX; loved ICEBOXES as an answer to 17A. Enjoyed this one a lot.

    Styx 11:51 AM  

    Domo arigato, Mr. FROMATOZ!

    Benko 11:57 AM  

    @oldtimer: Debussy's "Claire de Lune" was transcribed in the key of Db (how to do a flat symbol on the iPad?) rather than C sharp. As a pianist I believe this is easier to read because F and C natural, for instance, are commonly used notes in the composition. If there is another overriding reason why it was conceived this way perhaps someone with more advanced composition knowledge should chime in.

    Ha! My Robot Test today was to identify pictures of beer as opposed to coffee. Think I can handle that one.

    Numinous 12:10 PM  


    I enjoyed this one. Finished with no help other than an "Almost" from the iPad app which led me to a chuckle when I converted nIP to ZIP. I thought the cluing was awesome, especially LEMONADE, LARYNX, DYSLEXIA, HIT SQUAD, and AGONIZED. I had oTASCA along with PLodS for a while but seemed to recall from my times in MN that there was a lake called ITASCA. I like seeing the high value letters in puzzles but could care less about PANGRAMS. They seem more of a challenge for the constructor than the solver. The proximity of JED TO JEDI snagged my attention and made me wonder but I suppose it's no worse than having END as a suffix two or three or four times.

    One nit: Clair or Claire de Lune is French. The answer should probably be in the same language as the clue: ré bémol. No biggie but there are a lot of other tunes where the key has to be inferred from crosses in English.

    In the early ‘70s, in Australia, I worked on a show where a young boy was having serious difficulties reading. The clue to the problem came when the boy told the investigator that the word on the side of the tank car was 71O. The diagnosis was DYSLEXIA which the investigator had as well though he had learned to compensateI

    Great debut, DCDD!

    GILL I. 12:13 PM  

    Thank you MUCHO amigos for the DYSLEXIA clarification. I'm now convinced I have an English language one...
    Now I remember why I liked this so much. It had me thinking of KFC and Pizza Hut. I went to KFC just once and then my evil brother showed me pictures of dead mice in the mashed potatoes. That was during the tarantulas in your rat nested hair days.....
    I need some coffee

    Anonymous 12:30 PM  

    Tastes and skills differ. I didnt "get" Friday's puzzle at all. Today's must have been easy because I finished it without Googling, but I found it challenging and rewarding. So what if it's a themeless pangram? Must every puzzle be absolutely new and unique?

    Mr. Benson 12:33 PM  

    No thanks. Obscure proper nouns like PEEDEE and ITASCA; non-words like DERATE; vague clues for NETTLES; both JED and JEDI in the same puzzle; the gratuitous self-congratulation for the PANGRAM. I won't criticize the puzzle for having things I simply hadn't heard of, like PEZIZA and MILKCAP, but I lost interest in this one pretty fast.

    NCA President 12:36 PM  

    @old timer: Probably the simplest answer to why the Debussy is in D-flat is because of simple math: D-flat as 5 flats, C# has 7 sharps...5 < 7. For a practical example, in this piece Debussy flirts with Eb throughout the piece...which, in D-flat involves adding only making the G natural and leaving you with a very easy to read Eb chord...very common, and stays very easily within the harmonic "look" of the piece. OTOH, if this were in C#, that G would have to be spelled as an F-double sharp...which is not bad in and of itself, but creating a D# major chord is a little unwieldy. Plus, D# major does not exist in nature.

    I don't know if the chromaticism was a reason Debussy did not write the thing in C# major, but we pianists are thankful that he did.

    All of that said, it is a mystery why some composers choose one key over another. I've seen Sondheim pieces in Cb before. Ugh. As a composer myself, I consider the performer first...and any metaphysical reasons to choose a crazy key is secondary to the performer. It all sounds the same to the audience, so why make it hard from the get go?

    Nancy 12:46 PM  

    @Z -- Love your very limited choice of counties that are fair to include in a non-Saturday crossword. It was a funny comment and one I also happen to agree with.

    Karen Munson 12:53 PM  

    Rag bags? That one was new to me.

    Fred Romagnolo 12:56 PM  

    @Marushka: "up the PEEDEE without a Virgil" was incredible! and it ties in to DANTE - congrats. Of course we Bay-Areans appreciate "Mudville." Write-over: feeble for FLIMSY, decoding for ENCODING, one sec for IN A SEC, didn't know MAX DEBER. I was held up on ONE OUNCE, because of oNe SEC, knew there could be no crossing of one and one. Lotsa ahas for me, hard, but good. @oldtimer: me too on the boughten plants (good word), my garden is mostly tiered windowboxes. Also wikipede is another good word.

    wreck 12:58 PM  

    Perfect! I'll start using "outhouse!"

    old timer 1:01 PM  

    Thanks for the explanation, @NCA President. I was wrong in thinking C# is a common key. I got misled by the fact that C# is a very common *note*

    Mary LS 1:07 PM  

    @GILL I.Dyslexia is a character flaw because it reverses the shapes of the characters, the letters of the alphabet.
    to the constructor: this was a great puzzle!

    Nancy 1:08 PM  

    @NCA President: Your thorough knowledge of music always seems impressive, you've mentioned on various posts that you're a composer, and I was suddenly seized by curiosity about your identity. And I think perhaps I've figured it out (through skills the CIA might want to utilize sometime). I won't blow your cover on this very public website, but do your full initials happen to be GLK? (I can't contact you directly, because I'm not on Facebook, nor do I want to be.)

    Mette 1:29 PM  

    Congratulations DCDD. This had its fun moments. JOS BOYS was a treat. Dredging up CALOMINE made me think of summer and the clues for ICEBOXES and ZIP were quite something.

    @Numinous - thanks for the clarification on cat food. As for the other, nice of you to explain it without being offensive.

    Carola 1:54 PM  

    @oldtimer, @Benko, @NCA President - WFMT in Chicago is running a "Signature Series" that attempts to capture the character of given key signatures. I can do without the hokey personality descriptions, but it's interesting to hear the medley of familiar melodies written in the same kay. Here's the page for D FLAT, with Clair de lune as the opening piece. At the bottom of the page there's a link to a Ravel piece written in C sharp.

    Masked and Anonymo3Us 1:58 PM  

    PEZIZA on Earth, good will toward PJNGRXMZ.

    Impressive debut. Not a PB1-style SatPuz, it's true, but -- hey ... not every movie is Terry Gilliam-style, either. And, not every dance is Gangnam-style. Not every depot entrance is turn-style. Not every magazine is Life-style. Not every musical is Hair-style. Not every giveaway is free-style. One solver's RAGBAGS is another solver's HOGCALLS. day-um. Where was I ...

    Oh, yeah... like yer style, David C. Duncan Dekker dude. Keep it up. Reeeeeally like yer name. C. = Crossword, perhaps?

    fave weeject: PEC deck. M&A's fave gym apparatus: INASEC deck.


    ** gruntz **

    NCA President 2:07 PM  

    no... I predate GK tho.

    Lewis 2:11 PM  

    Patrick Berry has said that what makes a puzzle is the cluing, and I resonate with that. I'm with @Z and @Numinous that the cluing on this puzzle was awesome. For me, it was actually fun to solve. When I was on my last word, I was sad for this puzzle to be over.


    Rex puts up with all kinds of bad fill if the puzzle has won him over overall. I don't believe the fill is particularly bad on this one, and whatever was ugly was worth it for me, because of the joy I had sussing the answers.

    Because of the cluing, I took this one like a glass of wine, and the sips were delicious. Great debut, David!

    Casco Kid 2:16 PM  

    Medium-challenging here, but doable, so I'm happy. I needed several googles and finished with a misspelling of RUTABeGA/CeLAMINE, but my overall solving experience was quite positive.

    Googles to learn PEEDEE, ITASCA,
    Googles to confirm CALAMINE, PEZIIZA, MILKCAP

    Requisite wrongness:
    [Johnson and Kennedy follower?] sfc for ERA (sfc is much better)
    DIsbarS before DIVESTS
    [CJ's boss] lEo, because he was her boss
    waitup, holdon for INASEC
    [Force user]luke for JEDI
    DEmoTE for DERATE
    [Hit 90] agED for SPED
    scald for VAPOR



    Benko 2:16 PM  

    @Carola- Great Ravel piece but I'm still not sure why (or if) sounds different from Db major. It doesn't seem as if there's a difference in the harmonic structure and modulation of chords in the two keys. So why not use Db as @ncapresident explains (and I felt) simply for the easier sight reading? Now I'm more confused.
    I like thinking about all this great impressionist music though. One of my favorite eras in piano music, especially.

    michael 2:18 PM  

    I thought this was a fine Saturday. I got it in the end but it took quite a while. Liked many of the clues.

    Not exactly a surprise that Rex doesn't like a pangram.

    okanaganer 2:20 PM  

    I had RAG TAGS which made the Alcott sequel JO'S TOYS. Seemed perfect to me.

    Re HOME KEY... for some reason I took typing in Grade 9, which I've never regretted. However, on my current keyboard the little bumps on the F and J keys-- which are supposed to let me know my fingers are in the right places-- are too tiny to notice. Maybe I've worn them down? Anyway, I was transcribing my Aunt's handwritten memoir and of course typed about a page and a half of gibberish. I spent a few minutes searching online for some web page where you could paste the gibberish and it would correct it. But no luck. Surely someone has done this??

    Lewis 2:26 PM  
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    Lewis 2:28 PM  

    Factoid: The best known sentence PANGRAM is "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog", but one with fewer letters is "Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs". (These sound fairly normal; generally, the fewer letters, the more awkward the pangram sounds.)

    Quotoid: "A RECIPE is a story that ends with a good meal." -- Pat Conroy

    Benko 2:32 PM  

    Ok I've looked into it a bit and apparently in some instrumentation there is a small difference in intonation between the two keys of Db and C sharp. This does not apply to the modern piano, which is where I learned most of my theory, and what both the Debussy and Ravel pieces are written for. So it still doesn't explain why you would choose to write a piano piece specifically for C sharp instead of the easier-to-read D flat (not that many people do). Three and out for me, but I would be interested to know what's behind the idea.

    Tita 2:58 PM  

    @Gill - LOL reL LLB...I started off with PHD.

    Rats - just as I promise to swear off the anonymice, one comes in worth reading...
    S/He is soo right, thatgoogle doesn't even bother saying "Did you mean 'au clair de la lune' when you type in 'claire'.

    Learned fun stuff - ODETOJOY is the EU anthem, PEZIZAs can grow on your waterbed, and latex can come from a toadstool.

    @Elle - BRaT pop - love it!! Is that music for spoiled kids, or what gets piped in to German restaurants to set the right mood?

    Level 2 dnf - TOnIc (when you are sickineing, you take one, see?) and yoDa held me up.

    Seeing the in-your-face 1A/61A, got a touch of schadenfreude in anticipation of OFL's apoplectic review. Wasn't disappointed.

    @chefbea - we regularly make "cream of leftover" soup.

    @Z & old timer - lol for todays coinages.

    I echo @Gill & lms's reviews.
    Congrats, Mr. DCDD.

    Anonymous 3:07 PM  

    So am I the only one who confidently put in whOlehOg for 1A? Confirmed by OMELET and ODETOJOY?

    Anybody else? Anybody? Boy, did that ever slow me down.

    Loved the puzzle! Congrats on the debut, DDCD!

    AliasZ 3:52 PM  

    This puzzle FROMATOZ left me comatoz. PANGRAMS, shmangrams. They are neat if they happen naturally, but a pain if they feel forced. This was half-way between the two extremes.

    CALAMINE was no pal o'mine, because I had MILKsAP instead of MILK CAP for the longest time, while the other fungus among us, PEZIZA really doomed me. I was sure DCDD was really hungry for pizza, but he seems to be a fun guy with fungi.

    It took me two short nap breaks to crack it. The result? A few aha moments speckled with obscurities that I had no joy in sussing out, because even after doing so, it gave me no moments of admiration for either my or the constructor's cleverness. The clues for LARYNX, LEMONADE and DYSLEXIA were a pleasure, for SEMI less so.

    Composers and musicians have a heightened sensitivity to attach emotions and colors to all keys. Berlioz considered DFLAT major majestic, but had quite a different opinion of its enharmonic C-sharp equivalent. Rachmaninoff considered DFLAT the most romantically flavored key. You be the judge: Étude de concert No. 3 "Un sospiro" and Consolation No. 3, both in DFLAT, by Franz Liszt. Is it majestic, romantic, or is it Memorex?

    A very respectable NYT debut by a constructor with one of the most colorful names in the crossword biz. Congrats David, I can't wait for the double Dekker.

    Norm 4:20 PM  
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    Norm 4:21 PM  

    A few more things I really liked about this puzzle. I could see where a lot of the clues were heading, like 16A (first thought was TONGUE but not sure enough to enter it), and it was fun to see the right answer appear. JO'S BOYS is one of my favorite Alcott novels, although it made me a bit sad since 17-year-old Louisa May Alcatt (aka Dweezer) is on her last legs. And, I spent enough time coated in CALAMINE lotion as a 6-year-old in Virginia that it should have been a gimme, but I had to wait for a few crosses, since I turned out not to be as allergic to poison oak when we moved to California as I had been to poison ivy.

    Tita 4:24 PM  

    @all musicians today - your posts read to me as if @okanageer typed them...
    To my chagrin, the extent of my musical knowledge is merely enough to plop in _M__OR, and wait for the A-G, AJ/INs from crosses.

    MUCHO jealousy.

    LindaPRmaven 5:01 PM  

    When CJ became Chief of Staff replacing Leo, the President became her boss.

    NCA President 5:17 PM  
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    NCA President 5:28 PM  

    I'll say just one thing more about the C-sharp v. D-flat conversation.

    First, let's be clear: C-sharp MAJOR is very different than C-sharp MINOR. There are a lot of things written in the minor version which only has 4 sharps...So when you are thinking of pieces in C-sharp, much more often than not, they are in the minor...which is relative to E major. OTOH, D-flat minor is relative to the ridiculous F-flat major...which does not occur in nature any more than D-sharp major does.

    After thinking about this, I looked in my library and throughout the interwebs and found very, very few pieces written in C-sharp Major.

    There are lots of reasons for composers (like Ravel) to write in C-sharp major. One is that it certainly looks more exotic what with all the double sharps, naturals, and by necessity, key changes. Second reason might be, as in the case of Bach, composers make need to conform to a preset pattern (e.g. the Well-Tempered Clavier) and they just have to write in that key. Third might be because, well I don't know. but I'm sure there are other reasons.

    On the whole, and for the vast majority of at least piano works, C-sharp major is very rare and probably for the reason I mentioned earlier today: if you get jiggy with the harmonies, D-flat will make the music look much better by escaping the inevitability of having entire sections centered around weird tonal centers like A-sharp minor or a D-sharp major. In other words, moving from one tonal center to another tends to be more seamless in D flat than in C sharp major.

    Finally, Orchestral literature relatively rarely has anything written in D-flat much less C-sharp. Most orchestral works are in "guitar" keys: D, E, A, C, G and a few in E flat, A flat, and B flat. Much of those considerations are for the open strings of the violins, violas, cellos and bassi. The "flat" keys are more brass and WW friendly, however. And often concertos for piano are written in keys with lots of black notes because they're actually easier to play.

    Anyway, probably way too much information, but that's your music lesson for today.

    OISK 6:31 PM  

    Aced it. Or at least, solved perfectly without help. (For me, any kind of help = DNF). That makes my first errorless week in a while. I like this one much better than yesterday's , although I found it more difficult. It took a long time for me to change "one" sec. to "in a", but once I did, I smiled at "Hit squad." Only one product name (Visine), one rap-hip-hop clue, (Shady records???) and most of the more obscure clues were geographical, which I like. Some really great, clever cluing, and loved that in a pangram the first answer is "From A to Z." So this first effort gets an A+ from me.

    steveo 10:47 PM  

    Thought I was going to get lucky when I turned the R from RUTABAGA into RAGouts, which was enough to keep me going for a while. Got Eminem from the Mrs., who is younger than me, but she finally gave in and looked up PEEDEE.

    Loved the Beaucoup, MUCHO clue. Who needs English?

    Pangrams are just alright with me.

    Anonymous 12:17 AM  

    9-Down could be FLIES and FEEDEE means as much to PEEDEE. Annoying.

    Tita 11:41 AM  
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    Anonymous 4:05 PM  

    Very wide ranges of reactions and solvability. I'd describe as high ceiling and low floor -- some really excellent cluing, but way too much cluing that was at best a stretch if not objectionable and ridiculously obscure information. I deeply objected to 18A 31A 34A 37A 53A 60A 8D 11D 12D 26D 32D 33D 34D 36D 39D 43D. If this is his first it's a promising start, but the obscure info and dubious clues gotta go!

    rondo 10:23 AM  

    Shame on Rex for calling ITASCA “junk fill”. My colleagues in Grand Rapids should be up in arms. Probably not clued as the Mississippi headwaters county due to that other river stuff going on in this puz. If you go to ITASCA State Park you can actually tiptoe across the Mississippi at a spot before it becomes “mighty”. Been there, done that. You should, too.

    NW fell fairly promptly, then worked down to the SE before my favorite xword solving pen ran out of ink. So the SW and the NE are in different colors.

    RUTABAGAS are sometimes called Swedish turnips, a reference to translation of that word from my peoples’ language. Tasty if prepared right, not everyone’s cuppa.

    @Spacey – a RK for you today, and a rapper, and TYPEB, all wrapped up in a PANGRAM”S coat. I’ll bet you AGONIZED??

    I wouldn’t say this one was great, but certainly doesn’t deserve the hate OFL had for it.

    Burma Shave 10:50 AM  


    The RECIPE for the OMELET called for ONEOUNCE of NETTLES,
    and PEZIZA and RUTABAGA straight from their kettles.
    It was ZESTIER than most and gave off such a VAPOR,
    YETIS turned into a TOXIN, INASEC, said the paper.


    spacecraft 11:44 AM  

    Hand up for oNeSEC and deCODING, both quickly fixed. Got started, as I often do, down south with [something]FLAT and KFC. That means I disliked it right off, with its RMK. TYPRB didn't help my attitude any, especially crossing with EMINEM and PEZIZA, a "yougottabekiddingme" entry. Then I come upon the last across, which gives away not only itself but the first across! All I had up there was MIL; couldn't find anything else, which drove me south. That seemed to take the challenge out of solving, as the NW now flowed easily.

    Obviously, this is NOT a "themeless." You may call the 1a/61a theme FLIMSY, even though the grid IS one, but it's still there. The fill suffers, but not necessarily at the high-count points, viz: ACEDIT, DERATE, PEEDEE. ACED is hackneyed enough, without adding a gratuitous "IT." DERATE is another one of those WTNEAU. PEEDEE is YAOR (yet another obscure river). The X intersections, in fact, are the best features of the puzzle, IMO.

    I'd love to hand out a D for all those D's in the name, but this isn't that bad. Give it a C (after all, I DID complete it...from a to z).

    spacecraft 11:48 AM  

    Note to self: proofread, proofread, proofread! I meant, of course, TYPEB. For those not yet knowing my shorthand, RMK=random musical key, and WTNEAU (or "what now?")=word(s) that nobody ever actually uses.

    Anonymous 10:46 PM  

    Hey, I liked it. Thanks, Mr. D.C.D.D. More of them please. When I can wholly finish a Sat. I pat myself on the back, instead of the backside when I don't.

    Ron Diego, Speaking to myself at this late hour.

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