Hyperrealist sculptor Hanson / SAT 3-28-15 / composer of opera fiesque / He worked with illustrator phiz / Jeweler of kings king of jewelers / Spring-blooming bush / Musandam Peninsula populace / Modern lead-in to cat

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: SNAPCHAT (34D: Disappearing communication system?) —
Snapchat is a photo messaging application developed by Evan SpiegelBobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown, then Stanford University students. Using the application, users can take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients. These sent photographs and videos are known as "Snaps". Users set a time limit for how long recipients can view their Snaps (as of April 2014, the range is from 1 to 10 seconds), after which they will be hidden from the recipient's device and deleted from Snapchat's servers.
According to Snapchat in May 2014, the app's users were sending 700 million photos and videos per day, while Snapchat Stories content was being viewed 500 million times per day. The company has a valuation of $10–$20 billion depending on various sources. (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow, this is just ridiculously good. I think Steinberg is quickly turning himself into one of the great themeless constructors. Heir apparent to Patrick Berry. This puzzle doesn't have many weak spots at all, and its strong spots are everywhere. All over. All the stacks. All the columns. They are chock full of life and wit and (LEMON) ZEST. Let's see ... SCARUM—that, I don't like. But holy moly you'd need like six more SCARUMs (scara?) to make this thing less than good. I want to scream to all themeless constructs and would-be themeless constructors: aim for This. It's not just good in places; it's good Everywhere. The NYT has become somewhat schizophrenic of late, serving up mediocre fare better than half the time, but then dropping GEMs here and there by the great constructors who still regularly submit to them. I've said it before, and I'm saying it again now: Steinberg is one of a handful of constructors keeping the NYT's overall quality passable. A lot of talent has been syphoned off to other places. Speaking of, you should really check out David Steinberg's *other* current puzzle—the latest American Values Club Crossword. It's called "Inside Dope," which, as I told editor Ben Tausig, is the Same Title as a crossword puzzle I once made, and with a very similar theme. But, as I also told him, David's is better. Get it here for a $1, or just become a AVCX subscriber already: they're thick with constructing talent over there.

I knew I was in for a fun ride pretty quickly when NOH IMSET WITSEND and XER gave me BIKINI WAX. That was the first answer in a killer 3-stack: BIKINI WAX / ECONOMIZE / DEATH STAR. Conjures images of Vader having some personal grooming done, because, well, he had a coupon, so why not? Calling a BIKINI WAX "hair-raising" seems a bit tenuous, but it allows for a clever misdirection, so I'll allow it.

[Kid who had an original Rubik's cube, e.g.] => REXPARKER

The cluing was pretty tough throughout, with lots of initially annoying but ultimately mostly pretty good "?" clues. Also, some clues were vague enough to throw me off, at least for a bit. NE was pretty tough, with two not-terribly-famous names one over the other (DUANE Hanson / ERICA Hill). Luckily, after getting ODEON, I pulled the trigger on both names, with just their first letters in place. I figured that starting "E" in five letters, that name was gonna be ERICA (or ERIKA). Also, I know the name DIANE Hanson, so I just went with that. Fortuitous! Turns out Dian Hanson spells her name without an "E." She's a porn editor and historian. She's done a lot of Taschen books on pin-up / girly mag art. She was interviewed in the (great) film "Crumb." So of course her name was in my head. Anyway, DIANE to DUANE, not a big leap. As you can see here, I got into that corner and down YEAR ZERO, with just a little error there are the top (later fixed, obviously):

As someone with a vendetta against the Charmin Bears (they're the only animal I want hunted to extinction), I wasn't exactly excited about 57A: They're taken to go (LAXATIVES), but it's nice to see the NYT … I'm gonna say "loosen up" a little. Yes, I'm gonna say it, alright. The exclamation point on this thing, for me, was SNAPCHAT. Gives the grid a nice, youthful glow. Nobody who uses SNAPCHAT would say "CRIPES!" but that's what I love about crosswords—words that normally wouldn't have anything to do with each other get to hang out, mix it up. Diversity! It's a legitimate value.

OK then, see you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:07 AM  

Pretty easy Sat. for me too.   Only two erasures:  OH bOY before JOY and REdye before ACT.  

This may be the most zip dense (zip packed, zippiest, zipful, zip rich...??) puzzle I've ever done.  No theme, no stacks, no WOEs, no forced pangram, just zip.  Loved it!

Z 12:14 AM  

The whole point of a BIKINI WAX is to raise those hairs right out. Guessing OFL has never had one.

DEATH STARs and Star Wars are more preposition than science fiction, but that"s my only quibble. How can you argue with LEMON ZEST BIKINI WAXes and DEATH STAR LAXATIVES.

I agree with OFL on Steinberg's ACVX. Fun puz. It seems like not that long ago that Steinberg's byline made everyone assume a DNF was on the way.

wreck 12:59 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
wreck 1:02 AM  

Somehow, I'm not taking Z's or Rex's tutorial on BIKINI WAXing for gospel.(Okay, maybe!) ;-)
I have to agree that DS is getting better and better. Both he and Berry (along with Will) take trickery in cluing to a whole new level.

Carola 2:11 AM  

I understand @Rex's enthusiasm, and it's always nice to finish a David Steinberg puzzle. However - and this will make me sound as if I only like puzzles with puppies and KOALAS - I was put off by the clue for HAZED, and my intial smile at BIKINI WAX faded a bit when I got to JAIL BAIT and SIRENS, which made ONCE-OVER seem suspect as well. Which LED TO a slight pall being cast over SNAPCHAT as I recalled this recent article about a trend in its PICs. I think it's time for me to go have a glass of milk and some cookies.

John Child 3:24 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Child 3:42 AM  

I'm with @Carola here. This was an excellent puzzle and the most fun I've had with Mr Steinberg I think. But BIKINI WAX to LAXITIVES is a little icky cumulatively. Perhaps it's good for the Gray Lady to lace her corsets less tightly, but let's not get too "moist" too quickly.

And while I agree with @Rex overall, it's interesting that he opted not to call out YEAR ZERO, a centerpiece of the brutally murderous Khmer Rouges regime, or the difficult proper nouns in the north (LALO I'm looking at you), or LIT CRIT. Today XERS, NOH, and I'M SET were part of the "fun ride" rather than being bad fill. If this puzzle was by Jane Doh [sic] would it have still been "ridiculously" good and worthy of an heir to PB1?

I think too that this was quite easy *for a Saturday* which will make it popular. Mr Steinberg is indeed developing, and despite my critique I look forward to more from him. A year ago I couldn't have said that.

GILL I. 5:12 AM  

@Rex...you want to kill the Charmin Bears???? At least they use tp that's biodegradable.
I too loved this puzzzzzle. It felt fresh....although I would have clued that BIKINI WAX as "Good God, what just happened down there."
Wasn't Harum SCARUM a Charles Manson thing?
LITCRIT took me the longest to get because I don't understand DAT and damn it, you RE dye when you change colors....
Small nits for a really good Saturday romp....
Oh....my AZALEAS bloom in the fall!
Have fun at the ACPT.....

Loren Muse Smith 5:45 AM  

Look. I'm no expert, but I would guess you wouldn't want to economize on any bikini wax. Cripes. Hey – great name for a depilatory shop – Hairum Scare'em.

@jae – me, too, for "boy" first. @Carola – agree that the clue for HAZED could cause some winces.

LAXATIVES and its clue didn't bother me at all. I love this meaning of "go." "I'M A GO now. Where's my O MAGAZINE?" (BTW, It took herculean effort the other day not to make some kind of SLUICE juice joke, given that Dad had just had another colonoscopy.)

Speaking of Dad – ECONOMIZE and its clue took me immediately back the Cherry Grove Beach and shopping for the initial provisions while Mom stayed back to make all the beds. This one time a year, with Dad at the helm, our cart was replete with brand names: Heinz mustard, Oreos, real Coke, real Pop Tarts… not a store brand in the pile. I was drunk with extravagance.

I guess you could argue that ONCE OVER and BAR EXAM could be synonymous.

@gn, @english teacher, @Z – I added my two cents in at the end of The Great Particle Debate on last night's post.

Terrific puzzle, David. You probably won't see this because you'll be busy being congratulated all over the Marriott. Have fun, everyone!!

Jim Walker 7:06 AM  

Lots of fun. Like Rex I believe that David Steinberg is becoming a stellar constructor. He is somehow able to sprinkle just the right number of gimmes throughout a cleverly clued word set to give the appearance of difficulty.

Half hour. No mistakes. No cheats. Not my typical Saturday experience by any means. No complaints.

George Barany 7:26 AM  

Quick hello from Stamford. I'm pretty sure that those of us who are here, including the multi-talented @David Steinberg himself, will continue to follow the blog this weekend. Numerous hard copies of this--and other--puzzle(s) are stacked in the Marriott hotel lobby.

Last night, @David did a quick change from his litzing T-shirt outfit to wearing an elegant shirt and tie, and addressed the assemblage about his latest project. As many of you know, constructor by-lines for weekday puzzles weren't added until @Will Shortz took over as New York Times crossword editor. @David with the help of numerous volunteers has set the goal to identify as many of these earlier pioneer constructors as possible. While some of this can be done by reviewing archived records, a sophisticated aspect of the process uses some sort of artificial intelligence pattern recognition computer program. The hypothesis is that the computer can be "trained" to differentiate among constructors by analyzing the wording and lengths of their clues (apologies if this summary garbles many of the nuances). In thanking @David for his remarks, @Will added that he wasn't so sure the plan would work for modern-day puzzles, because of the extensive editing that goes on between a puzzle's acceptance and its appearance in print.

RAD2626 8:24 AM  

Same blockage points as @jae. Agree with the positive comments about the puzzle but found it harder than the commenters so far. Clues and I did not agree but in fairness lots of "aha" moments when the answers finally came.

Rex Porker 8:29 AM  

Ahh, Sternberg reminds me of a young Rex Porker. When I was about 10 years younger than he is now, I won my first national crossword title. I tried to give the other competitors a chance by doing it left-handed and with my eyes closed, but I was just too smart. But because Sternberg reminds me of me with his brilliance, prowess, and wit, I can forgive the prurience and juvenility of answers like BIKINIWAX, JAILBAIT, SNAPCHAT, LAXATIVES, LOLcats, etc. When other constructors use such words, I pan them regardless of the beauty of the grid or the cleverness of their cluing. But when Sternberg, the strapping youth whose farts smell like LEMONZEST, does it, I must call it what it is: genius, nothing less.

NCA President 8:45 AM  

@Today's Rex...who are you and what have to done to the real Rex Parker? While today's puzzle was good, it wasn't exactly orgasmically good. There is some stuff in there that has, in the past, caused our usual Rex to completely write off the puzzle entirely. But today, all is well...PEPS, XER, NOH, IMSET, AGA, ESL, MIR...why are these okay in this puzzle but not okay in other puzzles?

It's entries like today that bother me only because they are such a huge swing from the regular, dour, grumpy entries we've come to know and love. Not that I wish for the grumpy Rex on a daily basis, but I would like to know if there is an objective standard to why XER is good in one puzzle and not another.

My personal experience with the puzzle was that it was pretty much an easy solve, some tough (if not a wee bit gratuitous) cluing, and not a lot of frustration. But in the long haul, I call it good because it didn't piss me off. Not particularly objective, but then I don't pretend to be a qualified critic. I'm interested in truly learning what makes one puzzle good, one puzzle bad, or one puzzle extraordinarily supercallifragilistically good.

Anonymous 8:53 AM  

@NCA President: I trust that your question in paragraph 1 above was rhetorical. If not, read Rex Porker above and the answer will become clear. If Rex says a constructor reminds him of Patrick Berry, ever, then forevermore that constructor's puzzles can do no wrong. Dreck fill, bad construction, inaccurate clues? All will be forgiven.

Molly Boxer 9:01 AM  

just don't like your use of the word schizophrenic as an adjective. schizophrenia is a serious disease, much more complex than the black/white image of public perception.

a little backed up 9:13 AM  

Look at that! My dictionary says "schizophrenic" can mean "having contradictory or antagonistic qualities or attitudes." But rex, you really should have a trigger warning on your write-ups. Oh and Loren, please don't use the word "go" so casually. Some of us have real trouble on the potty, and it is no laughing matter.

Tita 9:18 AM  

&$@#, €#*%%#, and %£££#!!!!
Got this 99% done last night, feeling oh so very smug and superior, but overwhelmingly sleepy, so reluctantly put it down.

This morning, came straight here, only to realize that I hadn't finished!!!
And I know that i coulda... So grrr, I say...

Musta been due to my great annoyance at not being down the road at acpt, to uphold my title of 383rd, and to see all my friends.

@NCAPres...my take when seeing Rex speaking in superlatives (on either end of the spectrum) is that he is baiting us. Yes, I've gotten that blasé.

@Carola, I agree that some clues are more creepy than edgy.

Anyhow, thanks, David, for a Saturday that I could almost finish on a Friday.
(Actually, I must add that I prefer being beaten up a lot more on Fri/Sat, but still welcome the rare chance to feel superior.)

Happy acpt!

often wrong but never in doubt 9:35 AM  

Me: "Why would anyone nead an eAREXAM to practice?"
Me: "ohhhh."
Me: "I know this one! Change color--tinCT!
Me: "Ohhh."

joho 10:01 AM  

When "shark attack" didn't fit I was expecting to be disappointed with the correct answer, but, no! BIKINIWAX was brilliant although more than "Hair-raising" let's call it what it is: hair ripped out at the root! OUCH!(Sorry if TMI.)

Loved the clue for NOTEPAD and so many more.

With such an amazingly lively grid I didn't miss the Q a bit.

To sum up: OHJOY! This is not a mock cry but a rousing bravo, David!

picking nit 10:02 AM  

NCA president: There seem to be WAY too many "l"'s in your "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" bastardization. Just sayin'.

joho 10:03 AM  

And good luck to everybody at the ACPT! Hopefully somebody will post PICs.

Z 10:08 AM  

@NCA Prez - The question is one of balance. If a puzzle's big talking point is, "Is 'at' a preposition?" the crappy fill is going to annoy. But when 1A grabs you by the short hairs and doesn't let go until you take your LEMON ZEST LAXATIVE you barely notice that an AGA is taking ESL with the BOZ. As to others perception that Rex plays favorites, he does. Tight, original themes, higher quality fill than is really practicable, lively long answers, and clueing that makes one go "oh, I get it." If you don't believe me, go read the write-ups on previous Steinbergs.

quilter1 10:09 AM  

Not bad but this puzzle lost me at LITCRIT. Never heard of it and it sounds made up. Otherwise enjoyable.

Teedmn 10:10 AM  

Easy-medium? I found this one down-right challenging. I didn't know any of the proper nouns as gimmes. Had Public before PRESET for a really long time. Only CRISP, ESL and SCAR_M (wasn't sure if it was "e" or U) in the beginning. Finally got the SW and took a break. After the break, saw NAPA which led to LAXATIVES and the SE fell.

curLER for a long time held up the NW but an aha at ONCEOVER and ODEON gave me that corner.

I was at my WITSEND when I finally got that answer. BIKINI WAX then made sense but I still made a brief mistake with KangAS before KOALAS. But a triumphant finish all on my lonesome. OHJOY!

CRIPES, David Steinberg, good puzzle!

Tita 10:11 AM  

Also love "Modern leadin to cat", seeing as I have one as my avatar. CRIPES! I haven't been called Modern since my last BIKINIWAX!

Nancy 10:17 AM  

A wonderfully challenging themeless that leaves me shaking my head at all the people who are calling it easy. Yes, I did race through the whole West side, but then moved East and began to suffer. LicEnse instead of BAR EXAM and curLER instead of ROLLER
really screwed me up. Later came high fIVES instead of LAXATIVES (do you give high fives when you leave as well as when you come in?)
I loved much of the long fill:
LAXATIVES, LIT CRIT. Ordinary words were clued in such a way as to make them interesting; for "opposite of flatness", I was looking for Two-D instead of FIZZ,
though I didn't write it in.
Thanks to Billy C, I saw FORE immediately, once I had --RE.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY (the day being the start of the ACPT):
As I'm reveling in the difficulty of the puzzle and the amount of time it's taking me to do it, I'm thinking: If you were at the tournament doing this puzzle, you wouldn't be enjoying the deliciousness of the slowness of your solving experience. You would be flogging and berating yourself, saying things to yourself such as: why do you continue to re-read and re-re-read 10, 16, 18, 21 and 32 Across and 10, 11 and 12 Down and COMPLETELY FORGET TO EVEN LOOK AT 13 and 14 Down, which would have helped you, you stupid moron. And: everyone handed in their puzzles 20 minutes ago, you cretinous snail. A perfectly swell solving experience would have been turned into an orgy of self-recrimination amid feelings of abject failure. Which is why I'm not at ACPT.

Steve M 10:19 AM  

Top notch

RnRGhost57 10:27 AM  

Steinberg continues to develop. Well done.

@Rex Porker: the shtick is getting old. And I'm not a Rex lapdog; have been plenty critical of him in the past.

AliasZ 10:31 AM  

Sorry to say, I still cannot warm to David Steinberg's puzzles. He is clearly very talented, but his style and choices cause me to be slightly amused (his last one I did enjoy), but more often leave me completely cold, or make me downright grouchy. I decided that I was going to like this one when I saw David'e byline, but instead I found myself half way between cold and grouchy. One LALO did not do much to raise this one to the level I was hoping for this Saturday.

As much as I enjoy to HURL, to be HAZED and take LAXATIVES, or to do a ONCE-OVER of a JAIL BAIT with a Brazilian BIKINI WAX, or to watch a MALE NUDE having PHONE SEX on SNAPCHAT, they would be more appropriate for readers of FHM Magazine or on an indy puzzle site. It strikes me odd that the Gray Lady is trying to cater to that same audience. Surrounded by such entries even an innocent entry like LITCRIT acquires a hue inappropriate for the Newspaper of Record. And JAIL BAIT? Wow. It reminds me of a news snippet I came across a few days ago: "Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul & Mary) pleads guilty to 'taking immoral liberties' with a 14-year-old girl" on March 26, 1970.

I find this tendency inelegant at best and tawdry at worst. It does nothing to engage its erudite readers at a higher level, or increase their intellectual and cultural enjoyment. Mind you, I am the furthest thing from a prude you can imagine, but I didn't feel these last few puzzles fit the aura of the NYT as I learned to expect it for the past four decades or so, or to improve its image it is so rigorously trying to maintain and polish.

Masked and AnonymoUUs 10:36 AM  

Well, certainly the grid layout was a "+".

Amazin how easy a themeless SatPuz can be, if there's only 5.5 people names, and you've got a fightin chance, goin both directions, for almost every letter.

Only slight hiccup, for m&e, was L?L/?MAGAZINE. Havin no idea what LOL has to do with kitties, and not at all sure about yer current pop magazine names, I was torn 50-50 between ?= I or O. Guessed I/O.

The weeject cafe was pretty much closed for repairs, today. Just for PB1 comparison purposes, since somebody brought that up, here are the Patrick Berry Immunity usage stats, for the pick of the litter:
* NOH - yesh.
* AGA - noh.
* ESL - noh.
* LOL - yesh.
* XER - noh.
* DAT - yesh.
I should hasten to point out that there are a lotta perfectly good 3-letter words that don't have PB1 Immunity, just because they didn't happen to get used by him, yet. Examples:
* JUG - nah.
* BUG - nah.
* HUG - nah.
* YUP - nope.
* PUN - nuh uh.

Anyhoo: Primo puz, Steinberg dude:
FUN - yep.
thUmbsUp - yep.
Righteous vowel diversity: trace amounts.


sacre bleu! 10:40 AM  

@AliasZ, I hope that rant was a joke, but I fear it was just another whine from an old fogie. Yes, the NY Times should never change. Like Fox News, it should cater only to the old and stodgy. Maybe with a touch of the erudite, the wealthy, the intellectual, and the cultured. And then it can shut its doors in the next five years due to poor circulation. But it least it will die with dignity!

Nancy Klein 10:51 AM  

Amen. Not what I want or expect from the NY Times and all too typical of Steinberg's puzzles.

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

Was pretty certain that an au pair would take CPR, and that the opposite of flatness would be "bodacious" or something similarly fitting with this puzzle's lewdness.
I am with the younger crowd on this board--let the old folks do their puzzles in pencil in their dusty libraries while they smoke their pipes and wear their elbow-patched jackets while lamenting the passage of the "good old days," cursing at the immaturity of "those kids these days," and wallowing in their own obsolescence.

Anonymous 11:00 AM  

It's been weeks since NYT worked in an Obama clue, thank freaking God. Still I'm shocked the FLOTUS found her way on the cover of the very narcissistic Oprah Magazine. Rumors are they detest each other and only put up a show for some sort of racial unity. So a big ugh to today's puzzle for making me ponder anything Obama or Oprah.

Steve J 11:01 AM  

Any Saturday I finish without once having to resort to Google is, at least, a medium for me. As it was, this was easy. Up among my fastest Saturdays.

This just hit my wheelhouse, and I had the good fortune of having many first guesses get confirmed as correct. As others have said, this is really full of strong, lively and interesting fill, with a lot of good clues.

As good as this is, it's not without its flaws, and the flaws weren't insignificant for me. For example: XER is rarely used without a preceding "Gen" or "Generation". As others have pointed out, hair waxing does not raise hair - it rips it out - so the clue for 1A was off. If clues can be crosswordese, 61A counts, as that particular misdirection seems to be used so frequently its no longer misdirective.

One thing that appeared today that bugged me also happened a few days ago. Today, it was the clue for HAZED. A few days ago, it was the clue for HOSTAGE. I have zero issues with either word showing up in a puzzle (there's pretty much no word I would object to in a puzzle based on propriety), but I don't like using cutesy or flip cluing for terms that have inherently bad meanings. Hostage-taking cannot be made cute. Hazing in the sense it was used today is not fun and games.


@quilter1: LIT CRIT is definitely not made up. Most English or lit majors have to take at least a couple units on literary criticism. Those classes are very frequently referred to as LIT CRIT.

@NCA President from yesterday (spoiler alert - vague references to yesterday's puzzle follow): I had misread your South Park comment as saying that because you watched a lot of it, you got a lot of exposure to yesterday's featured location. I saw later you were referencing yesterday's featured group, which indeed is a very frequent target of the show's mockery.

pmdm 11:03 AM  

A response of "it's only a crossword puzzle" might apply to a few of today's comments, but there is more than a little truth in the complaints. Anyway, here's a bit of Lalo in an unusual arrangement. The singing is pretty bad, but the arrangement is quite inventive. Ignore the picture. It's based on the last movement of the Symphonie Espagnole.


mathguy 11:04 AM  

@Nancy: Not easy for me either.

SCARUM was my only gimme and I wasn't completely sure of the U. Put that together with 54 squares filled with words I didn't know and I have an MGI of 48, way above average even for a Saturday. I needed The Closer to come in three times to help me squeeze through.

"Having to go," or a variation, is used commonly on network commercials. While not elegant, it's certainly polite. Jeff Chen disagrees on his blog.

If I can, I'm going to try to get to the next tournament. Are they always in Stamford at this time of year?

pmdm 11:06 AM  

And I forgot to mention that Jeff Chen agrees with you, AliasZ.

Leapfinger 11:11 AM  

This puzzle put FIZZ in my PEPSi and CRISP in my Coffee CRISP.

I got so little of it done after watching the ACC rack up another win that there was no way I'd think it was done this morning.

I wouldn't go so far as to call it schizophrenic, but I sure thought the East and West were quite different. I particularly had trouble in the NE due to OH wow!, thinking of Faberge/egg, and not being on a first-name basis with Hanson & Hill. For the longest time, the theater district (OPEON to TEATRe/O) was empty save the crossing ROLLER.
For sure, the West side is quite the tightwad, with its MIZERS (ECONO- and ATOM-), while the East is ona spending SPREE with its various expensive entertainments. Can't SAVE with CARTIER GEMs!

I think the plural is Harum SCARa. Or maybe Hara SCARUM, if it pluralizes like 'brothers-in-law'.

Several big-ticket entries up for discussion: I can't say too much against BIKINI WAX, after commenting about Brazilian whacks a few days ago.
LAXATIVES? MESSY and maybe not over breakfast, but @Loren's I'MA GO and @Z's LEMON ZESTy flavour went a long way toward redemption.
JAILBAIT was a late Aha for me, concurrent with OH JOY. Things have changed a lot since Nabokov fist came out with his literary take on the ERotICA of LOLita. By this YEAR, ZERO tolerance is how many folks RELATE and REACT to this. This is meant neither as LITCRIT, nor as its spoonerism.

Which reminds me: I really liked the KOALAS (BEAR), it's a cute LITtle CRITter.

Thought for the day: Sometimes, when you can't get LEMONZEST, you just have to make do with LEMONZer.

Will someone tell me where DAT O MAN IS?

Best of luck to all y'all at ACPT, and have a great time. Copy DAT

David S, you NAILed it, and did yourself PROD.

old timer 11:16 AM  

I love it when the Times puzzle is in the moment, or at least in the last couple of decades, LOL! BIKINIWAX is definitely a modern thing. Though come to think of it, JAILBAIT takes me back to the 1950's.

My first answer was BOZ. Many Dickens novels had "sketches by Boz" and I grew up with a Dickens set on our bookshelves. I briefly had "oh boy" for the more accurate OHJOY, and "curler" for ROLLER, but that was it for the NE. I actually finished in the SE, but the clever and sparkling fill made it pretty easy. In the SW, I wrote down SCARUM at once -- about the only gimme in the puzzle. I've never heard of the Canyon of the Ancients, but COLORADO seemed like a good fit.

Unlike Rex, I was stumped in the NW. I guessed MESSY, but wanted a rowdydow to be some sort of drum (you may know that Arthur McBride and his cousin made a football of an army drummers "rowdydow". I googled for LALO, which gave me the rest. DEATHSTAR was easy for us Boomers, and for any XER too.

"Lit Crit" is a term I've heard since I was in college so no problem there. I wanted "redye" but once I had CRISP (the only other gimme) it had to be REACT.

Excellent puzzle, deserving of Rex's praise. Let me point out that bad, crosswordy three-letter words become Good when the clue suggests some rival answer. That bygone military commander? How many thought of the ubiquitous General Tso? The au pair's study? Wasn't "Eng(lish) the first thing that came to mind? I think MIR was the only overused word that had a straightforward clue.

r.alphbunker 11:19 AM  

One test of a superb puzzle is to visit each clue and see if it inspires a comment. Every clue in this puzzle did this for me! See puzzle appreciation for details.

This puzzle definitely had a FIZZ in it!

IMAGO can also mean "an unconscious, idealized mental image of someone, especially a parent, that influences a person's behavior." Very timely for me because I am reading Pico Iyer's "The Man Within My Head" about the influence that Graham Greene has had on him.

Superb clue for SNAPCHAT. Wanted some kind of modem. There is an ATM machine near me that still uses a modem to communicate. Check out modem sound

I think that CRIPES is a polite substitute for Christ and {Jeepers} a substitute for Jesus.

{Computer command} Not edit, view, help, undo, open, redo, copy, find or zoom. More possibilities here than four letter concerns of a dermatologist.

I would love to get Patrick Berry's first published puzzle put my name on it and have Rex review it.

dk 11:37 AM  

🌕🌕🌕🌕 (4 mOOOOns)


Just worked my through this puzzle. STEEPEN was my only: "you have got to be kidding moment!"

I also winced at LITCRIT and 60a but said winces were unrelated to the puzzle.

As r.alphbunker noted - there was a chuckle/chortle for most every item. JAILBAIT being one of my favorites.

Agree with Rex's ode to Steinberg. Thank you David.

Anonymous 11:51 AM  

Not to mention: "economize" and "atomizer". Rex has boiled in his own bile for so long he can't see straight.

Anonymous 11:58 AM  

What a beautiful puzzle! Elegant, clever, modern, creative, well-clued, satisfying. What more could one ask? I suppose every puzzle will have something to offend/annoy/perturb some people if they choose to be so affected, but this was a GEM.

Leapfinger 12:06 PM  

@Nancy, Two-D is still flat; you have to GO to 3-D to get non-flatness.

@sacrebleu et cie
I think you just need a modicum of exposure to see that JAILBAIT has certain associations to such things as kiddie porn, child prostitution and child sexual abuse. That some version that has become a trend and fashion statement in the wider society is apparent if you notice what shows up in kiddie beauty pageants these days, and the healthy sales of fishnet tights and other 'little hooker'styles for 2-8 year olds. If you want to call the word edgy or modern, you're certainly entitled. However, if someone else [someone who did not crawl out of the La Brea Pits] rather wants to HURL, you have absolutely no basis for criticizing that perspective.

And here I was determined not to rant...

Lewis 12:13 PM  

So, if a bikini wax is done with someone lying on her back (and I believe it is), yes, the hair is ripped out, but it is also ripped upward, that is, lifted. Thus, a hair raising experience. I'm good with the clue.

I loved the clues to BIKINIWAX, NAIL, PROD, NOTEPAD, and LEMONZEST. The puzzle was tricky and scrabbly, rife with ahas for me. Plenty of bite, plenty of smiles -- a primo solving experience.

Nancy 12:25 PM  

I'm always interested in the solvers who notice -- and comment on -- clues or answers that they find objectionable in one way or other. I try not to judge these puzzles on any kind of moral basis; I just try to solve 'em. And what I'm looking for are answers that are lively and surprising. Therefore, although I think any woman who chooses to have a BIKINI WAX has lost her bleeping mind, and that men who prey on JAILBAIT are creepy indeed, and that any mention of LAXATIVES should be removed from the airwaves at mealtime, I didn't object to any of these in the puzzle. I guiltlessly enjoyed them all.

But I do agree with @Carola and @John Child (and a few other people I forget) about the clue for HAZED. It's not cute; it's chilling -- and it could have so easily been avoided.

Lewis 12:28 PM  

Factoid: KOALAS are not bears. They are marsupials, which means that their young are born immature & they develop further in the safety of a pouch. It’s incorrect to call them ‘Koala bears' - their correct name is simply 'Koalas'.

Quotoid: "Bureaucrats: they are dead at 30 and buried at 60. They are like custard pies; you can't NAIL them to a wall." -- Frank Lloyd Wright

I'm a go 12:28 PM  

@sacre blew!,

I am sure tens of thousands of casual NYT puzzle solvers rushed to get subscriptions when they saw JAIL BAIT, BIKINI WAX and LAXATIVES in today's puzzle, thus saving the NYT from imminent bankruptcy.

wreck 12:41 PM  

My 2 cents on "HAZED" -- I took "broken" as to be the equivalent of "breaking" a wild horse, not physically injuring them.

Charles Flaster 12:47 PM  

Absolutely FABULOUS , medium puzzle.
Just what a puzzle should be. Maybe WS should have run it on a Friday but still great.
Good crosswordEASE--LALO and ESL.Thank you DS for a wonderful experience.

AliasZ 12:50 PM  

The following essay on logic may be terribly long and boring for most of you, so you are welcome to click "said..." and ignore it.

As much as I dislike pop culture references, I would have preferred the clue "Nine Inch Nails album" for YEAR ZERO today, or one that I dislike even more: the horrific "Start of the Khmer Rouge era" in 1975 that caused 2 million deaths in Cambodia.

ZERO, the abstract mathematical concept as well as the word itself comes from Arabic mathematicians by way of Fibonacci (1170-1250). It does not apply well to physical things with size and duration. The beginning of time started on day one of year one. There was no day zero or YEAR ZERO before then, because there was no time before time began. As soon as the clock started ticking, zero was no more.

The concepts of YEAR and ZERO are incompatible. YEAR by definition has a duration of 12 months. ZERO by definition has a duration of ZERO. Thus YEAR ZERO cannot exist because something cannot have both a duration of 12 months and no duration at all. Logically and historically ZERO is the borderline (without any duration) between two calendar years, say 1 BC and 1 AD. Neither the Julian nor the Gregorian calendar has a YEAR ZERO. A man born in 20 BC will be 40 years old in 20 AD. If we add a YEAR ZERO, he would become 41 years old even though he only lived 480 months.

In astronomical calculation the abstract concept of YEAR ZERO was mathematically necessary in order to calculate leap years (hi, @leapy) and other astronomical events retroactively. It was invented by French astronomer Jacques Cassini (1677–1756). Therefore, relabeling 1 BC to 0 (YEAR ZERO) to accommodate for leap years occurring in years divisible by 4, turned the leap years of 1 BC, 5 BC, 9 BC, 13 BC etc. correctly into 0, -4, -8, -12 etc. Our man in such scenario would have been born in -19 instead of 20BC which would account for his age of 40 in 20AD. But then all historical dates before 1 AD have to be adjusted by one year. What a mess!

However, logically YEAR ZERO still cannot exist. Likewise, "patient zero" is no patient, the same way as Coke Zero contains no calories. The first ever patient diagnosed with a newly-discovered disease is the first patient. There was no "zeroeth" patient before him.

YEAR ZERO, patient zero etc.: sounds dramatic, but it's a logical fallacy. This has been true from day one. What would you do if your IKEA assembly instructions began with "Step zero"? You would never get to even begin assembling your bed. Appropriately, the French Revolutionary Calendar established the year 1792 as YEAR ONE of the Republic.

Ludyjynn 12:55 PM  

Cannot believe I missed BAREXAM! Duh, doh, CRIPES!

@Whirred, is that you masquerading as @Anon. 11:00 am? LOL, if so. BTW, are those "rumors" based on Fox News reports? OHJOY.

Favorite clue and answer was 32A for CARTIER. Also liked the many Xes and Zs appearing helter-skelter (HARUM-SCARUM?) in the grid.

Even though this one was a BEAR, I did not mind being at my WITSEND during the solve.

Thanks, DS and WS.

Anonymous 1:08 PM  

I frequently read the comments and rarely comment on this blog. Most of the time I get the impression that most of the commenters are geniuses.
For me this puzzle was impossible. I had just two entries after 15 minutes. No joy at all with this puzzle.

Nancy 1:19 PM  

@Alias Z -- far from finding your explanation of Zero boring, I found it cogent and interesting. You, dear sir, are obviously a Mathematician. I have to say that I knew while solving that YEAR ZERO was a totally illogical concept of time. But I was just so happy when the answer came in, enabling me to solve the @#$%$#! East Side of the puzzle. I could never have explained WHY it was illogical in such an elegant and sophisticated way as you did. There's always a lot to be learned at this site -- a wonderful mixture of smart people from assorted disciplines.

@Leapfinger. I was wondering about the 3-D thing as I contemplated writing in TWO-D. But THREE-D wouldn't have fit. Mea maxima culpa!

Anonymous 1:20 PM  

@Leapfinger did you use the word "exposure" in your first sentence above on purpose? Because if so, that's creepy.

Anonymous 1:23 PM  

What a sensitive group of geeks. Today alone, people were offended by "schizophrenic," BIKINIWAX, HAZED, JAILBAIT, LAXATIVES, OMAGAZINE. It's a rare day when rex has thicker skin than his minions.

Anonymous 1:36 PM  

Let's ban JAILBAIT, the word! And we should censor Lolita from readers and crossword solvers alike. Maybe behead anyone who thinks such words have any place in christian society. That will solve the problem!

Z 1:39 PM  

@Steve J - When is it Pork Belly and when is it Bacon? It's all in how you slice it.

If a sixteen year-old girl wants to sleep with her 15 year-old boyfriend he is JAIL BAIT (all too literally with some prosecutors). If your mind went to kiddie porn I would suggest less time watching TV news and more time watching the Charmin Bears.

@Alias Z - and yet "zero" exists (and YEAR ZERO and patient zero). How can nothing exist? It ain't logical. When logic conflicts with reality do are we to believe logic or reality? Zero is newer than logic, but when you have a hole that needs to be filled, filling it with nothing seems like a reasonable solution to me.

evil doug 1:41 PM  

@Z your mama has a hole that needs to be filled.


Z 1:42 PM  

Feel free to mentally remove the extraneous do. Partial auto-correct fixes are so annoying.

Anonymous 1:46 PM  

LITCRIT is as common as syphilis in a whorehouse. Don't be like rex. Remember: just because you haven't heard of it, that doesn't make it obscure.

Mette 2:17 PM  

DNF because of the @M&A quandry. Thought the magazine cover was shared between a print and on-line version. Was temporarily hung up on STARR. Good, better, best, ?
@Rex is crrect. The ACVX puzzle is fun.
Thanks David.

Leapfinger 2:20 PM  

Hi, Anonny nonny 1:20!
I grew up mostly in Montreal so Expo, sure, but that was way back in 1967.

Anonny 1:36 (in case you're a different Anonny)
I haven't gone back to confirm all cases, but as I remember, people indicated their REACTions, without recommending removal, a ban,or censorship. I may be wrong on this.

'... christian society', hmm?

We can now return to more erudite discussions about nothing.

Anonymous 2:30 PM  

Shoudn;t the opposite of flatness be fizziness?

Anonymous 2:35 PM  

Shouldn't the opposite of flatness be voluptuousness?

Anonymous 2:53 PM  

The opposite of flatness is roundness in my very narrow book.

Rug Crazy 3:15 PM  

I thought all the Zs was the theme.
It won me when I got Starr for my start.
Dat was bad.
Always happy to finish Saturday without help

Fred Romagnolo 3:23 PM  

@Leapfinger in his/her reply to @Anon 1:36 might have added that Christian society hasn't done a lot of beheading lately. @Alias Z is, as always, right on. Apparently @Sacre Bleu 10:40, is contemptuous of erudition, intellectuals, and being cultured. I'm so glad he/she isn't in my camp. I didn't know SNAPCHAT, and looking it up disgusted me. I wanted COrtez CO for Colorado; still don't get LOL as a lead-in to cat (unless it's a reference to cute cat videos?); wanted license for BAREXAM; don't use Apple so didn't know IMOVIE. Can someone tell me why STARR is "Best successor?" I associate giving food a bite more with peppers that the piquancy of LEMON ZEST. Obviously, DNF.

Fred Romagnolo 3:25 PM  

than for that - sorry

okanaganer 3:30 PM  

For "Under-age temptation", my immediate thought was JAIL BAIT, but surely not... FAKED ID maybe? I was gobsmacked when it turned out correct. The boundaries are expanding!... soon we will start seeing URINE.

Re @AliasZ and the topic of ZERO... zero is problematic in many places. In computer programming, an array is typically a list of values accessed by number, almost always zero-based. I'm sure there's a very good reason for this, but it's a bit perverse: the last item in an array containing 8 values is therefore number 7. Pretty much the opposite of the calendar.

Hartley70 3:35 PM  

Okay, we've descended into silliness now....@Nancy, @SteveJ and @AliasZ excluded, so they must be getting paid to babysit while the kids run wild. (I'm abashed to say I loved "Anonny Nonny" @Leapy.)

Great Saturday puzzle DS! I got stuck at the very end on the LOL cat. I should have seen O but I wanted WMAGAZINE as my last entry. I thought Grumpy Cat was the latest cat obsession, but then again I'm more of a dog person.

As far as putting a morality code on vocabulary, I'm in favor of as little censorship as possible. Let's skip porno lingo, but BIKINIWAX hardly qualifies. If a word isn't wildly inflammatory to a wide spectrum of the population, let's give it a pass. I don't look forward to a First Amendment brouhaha in Rexworld!

Rug Crazy 3:37 PM  

Fred Rodrigo. Peter Best was the Beatles first Drummer.
Ringo Starr was the second

mathguy 3:41 PM  

@Fred Romagnolo: Pete Best was the original drummer of the Beatles. He was replaced by Ringo STARR.

Hartley70 3:52 PM  

Oh Boy, I'm in a different world on the STARR clue. I got it from the crosses but figured Best preceded Ken Starr as US Solicitor General. I have to lighten up with a DS puzzle!

Apropos of nothing, the current Solicitor General grew up in our little town. His mother was First Selectwoman when we moved here so everyone knew the family. It's always nice to see a local succeed.

r.alphbunker 3:53 PM  


Think of 0 as the offset from the beginning of the array of the first element. In general, to get the nth (1-based) element of an array you need to skip over the preceding n-1 elements.

wreck 4:02 PM  

Any word from our ACPT friends?
Once again, it is not what a clue "actually" means, it is what it "can" mean. It's a crossword puzzle!

Whirred Whacks 4:15 PM  

@Ludyjynn Nope, it wasn't me. I always sign my own work! But thanks for the thought. Enjoy your weekend.

Anonymous 4:20 PM  

Used to hate Steinberg puzzles because they were filled with obscure trivia, but his most recent puzzles have been excellent and very enjoyable.

If you want to follow the ACPT standings you can go here http://www.crosswordtournament.com/2015/index.htm

I'm a Robot

GPO 5:27 PM  

Pretty hard for me. But extremely enjoyable. Beat half hour I wasted all day.

I am glad others liked it. I was afraid I would read that it was a "slog and an insult" but it seems to have pleased most readers and our host.

Leapfinger 8:03 PM  

@Hartley70, I'm nothing if not Hartiley pleased if you enjoyed in some small way. I also thought Ken Starr rather than Ringo, but I don't guess there's marks off for being right for the wrong reasons.

@Fred Rom, I can understand not wanting to draw unwarranted conclusions, but I promise not to call you Fred Rodrigo if you try to remember @Leap is a lady finger.

Over and out.

Anonymous 8:28 PM  

@Fred you're right. Good Christians just shoot people who don't agree with them.

OISK 11:22 PM  

Too much computereze. Finished it when I guessed that it is "LOL" cat. (What does that mean??) And O magazine instead of E magazine. A lucky guess. Didn't like the clue for "Xer" either. Never heard of Snapchat, Duane, or Erica. Nevertheless, mostly good stuff. Thanks for the workout, David.

Laura 4:37 AM  

re LOLcat

paulsfo 12:06 AM  

@AliasZ: "YEAR by definition has a duration of 12 months. ZERO by definition has a duration of ZERO. Thus YEAR ZERO cannot exist because something cannot have both a duration of 12 months and no duration at all. "

Applying this same convoluted logic to a random year. "YEAR by definition has a duration of 12 months. 1975 by definition has a duration of 1975. Thus the year 1975 cannot exist because..."

In this case ZERO is the designator of a specific year. It has nothing to do with the *duration* of that, or any, year. Sorry but I think that your argument is obviously fallacious. (I don't know if someone was kidding when they said that you were a mathematician. I just hope that you are not a professional logician).

Thought that the puzzle was easy for a Saturday (since I could finish it!) and was enjoyable, though not orgasmic. I had two clues marked as very clever, which is not great but not horrible.

lee woo 2:35 AM  

We're still in the first minutes of the first day of the Internet revolution. See the link below for more info.


Burma Shave 10:36 AM  


Many SIRENS are JAILBAIT, that’s just the facts,
ONCEOVER cocktails I gave one a BIKINIWAX.
I’ll RELATE it to a DEATHSTAR, NOH, perhaps even more so.
It LEDTO my WITSEND as she sighed out my name,
CRIPES, put this in your NOTEPAD – It’s no PCGAME!


spacecraft 12:01 PM  

Well, we certainly know how to push OFL's buttons: just cram your grid full of techspeak and rappers. None of the latter today, but more than enough of the former to put me off. SNAPCHAT (me? I kept trying to stuff SNAilmail into one too few spaces, convinced there was a rebus), IMOVIE, LOLcat (???) were all WOEs for me. In fact, so was that single-letter MAGAZINE, but I went with O, thinking, maybe Oprah. I was hopin.' OHJOY, it was!

The cluing was super-tough; RELATE would be about the 100th thing I think of when I see "Apply." Yet this one had enough gimmes to get the job done: DEATHSTAR, JAILBAIT and the 100%er, SCARUM to name a few. This is an entry that can be clued ONLY one way, and that gives you the entry on a silver platter. That had to be painful for our wunderkind to include.

Overall much more FIZZ than flatness, with SCrabblicious letters aplenty. But oh, that tech stuff puts me at my WITSEND! Completed, thanks to the lucky guess at #60, with only curLER written over to ROLLER. So, A.

rondo 12:39 PM  

@Spacey and I once again have the same write-over at curLER. Thank god for JAILBAIT, SCARUM and LAXATIVES or I may never have gotten a start. (LAXATIVES got me going?) And I didn’t think easy-med like OFL, quite the challenge for me, but maybe kinda easy “for a Steinberg.”

I think I’ve heard of SNAPCHAT, but certainly have not used it, so that must make me seem old in OFL’s eyes. Maybe you can sext someone and the PIC doesn’t stay on the Interlinks or Worldwidewebs forever? Oh so handy ;-)

Never got as far as the BAREXAM since I’m a law school dropout, but that pesky LSAT is one damn tough test, weeds out a lot of wannabees. Barely got into law school at the 65% percentile.

Well now I’ll ECONOMIZE on words and say I enjoyed today’s challenge.

rain forest 2:22 PM  

Great puzzle. Lotsa fun, which I made funner by throwing down "patient" for "need to practice?" That caused a traffic jam of vowels and consonants which took some time to unscramble.

Also tried YEARone which was too short--so in went the shorter(lol) correct answer. Speaking of LOL, what is a lolcat?

The four corner sections were wonderful, as was a lot of the cluing and the virtually dreckless fill.

Overall, medium-challenging for me, made challenging because of that #^%#

Anonymous 4:21 PM  

Well, if it wasn't the help of
Wikipedia, Duane and Lalo would be blank. And I'm a little familiar with operas.

This was a tough puzzle but I'll place this as a FWH - Finished with help.

Limcrit was a guess along with Snapchat and LOLcat.

I promise to do better starting next Wednesday.

Anonymous 4:43 PM  

P.S. I'm starting to warm up to the young genius, Mr. Steinberg, so thanks for a Saturday workout.

Ron Diego Over & Out

leftcoastTAM 12:10 AM  



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