Dutch branch of Rhine / SAT 9-12-15 / Knoxville hockey squad / Taxonomic designation like rattus rattus / singer/songwriter Sands

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Constructor: Damon Gulczynski

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Knoxville ICE BEARS (37D: Knoxville hockey squad) —
The Knoxville Ice Bears are a professional ice hockey team. The team competes in the Southern Professional Hockey League. They play their home games at Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Ice Bears are coached by Mike Craigen, a former Ice Bears fan favorite.[peacock term] He is in his 5th season as head coach. The Ice Bears have made the playoffs in all 13 years of their existence. In 2006 the Ice Bears defeated the Florida Seals to take their first President's Cup. The Ice Bears won back to back Presidents Cup Championships in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. On April 18, 2015, the Ice Bears defeated the Mississippi RiverKings 4-2 to sweep the 2015 SPHL Finals and win their 4th Presidents Cup. (wikipedia)
• • •

The majority of this puzzle was amazing. The end ... well, we'll get to that, but, excluding the SE, everything about this puzzle stands head and shoulders and sternum above most of the tame, dull, old-fashioned, safe, arcane fare we've seen too often in 2015 NYT puzzles. Answer after answer made me stop and go "wow." Scads of stuff that is current or fun or both. Even the clue on the three-letter GIL made me happy (I was staring at his name on my bookshelf the other day thinking, "really gotta get him into a puzzle..."). How often do three-letter answers do anything but either just sit there or make you miserable. So, from FAUX FUR (great clue) to BI-CURIOUS to CHRISTIAN MINGLE (hurray!), I was enjoying myself plenty. Funniest moment early on was (mis-)reading the clue for CHRISTIAN MINGLE (34A: Forum for seekers for faithful partners?) and immediately thinking ASHLEY MADISON! "So timely!" I thought. I also wanted EGG for 7D: Part of many a sci-fi film (CGI). In my defense, when presented with -G- and that clue, EGG is a totally valid answer.


Started in the NW, which is pretty typical, and after dropping the gimme LARUE (3D: Lash in old westerns) and then entering and pulling GAFFS a few times, I saw LUIS (though I needed the presumed terminal "S" from 6D to remember his name) (24A: ___ Suárez, player suspended during the 2014 World Cup for biting another player), then got UNI, and with the two "U"s in place, managed figure out FAUX FUR (19A: Vegan wrap?).


Wasn't long after this I got BLAXPLOITATION (which would've been a 14-letter gimme if I'd just looked at the clue earlier) and then moved across the top and got BICURIOUS LILLIAN HELLMAN! I'm teaching Hammett and reading a Hammett biography right now, so she's been somewhat on my mind. Gonna be hard to find better pillars to hold up your puzzle than BLAXPLOITATION (4D: Genre of the 1970s movies "Foxy Brown" and "Three the Hard Way") and LILLIAN HELLMAN (15D: "Toys in the Attic" playwright, 1960).


Thank god for the relatively easy stuff I knew, because there are some obscure, back-of-the-dictionary curiosities ladled in here (perhaps to satisfy the needs of the solver who just wants his/her vocabulary / knowledge tested). GALBA! And TAUTONYM, yikes! I wrote in TAUTOLOGY (a relatively obscure word I actually *did* know ... but it didn't fit). Throw in OTALGIA (which I pieced together from root words, but which I wanted to be OTITIS), and yeah, things get a little dicey in an old-school kind of way. But the surrounding material pulled me up and out. Moved down the grid to my very favorite wrong answer of the day—staring at C--- (42D: Vint ___, one of the so-called "fathers of the Internet"), I was like "I know that guy!" and dropped in ... CINQ. Vint CINQ! Whaddya mean, "Who?" You know, the guy ... has that Benjamin Button-type disease where he's eternally 25 ... Vint CINQ! (It's CERF, of course).


But now we get to the SE, where I finally, actually struggled, which would be just fine on a Saturday, except the struggle resulted from insane proper nouns, so that when you finally got them, the feeling was "WTF?" and not "Oh!," the way you want breakthroughs to feel. If it weren't for Tony OLIVA (gimme), I might still be lost down there. Here's where I finally crawled to:


That [Dutch branch of the Rhine] at 43D could've had *any* letter, as far as I knew. I see know that "Dutch" kind of tells you "look out for Js," but ... no. And then there's ICE BEARS, which is so obscure it's kind of hilarious. I don't think it even has a pretense to crossworthiness. I imagine that answer going "Heyyy guys, sorry, but they really really really needed me so I'm standing in for where a real answer would normally be. Please don't be too mad." The "Southern Professional Hockey League" is a thing? I love that it contains a team named the Florida Seals, because ICE SEALS was my first guess here. And as you can see, I did the DUH-for-DOH thing, a completely predictable mistake that made JOB LOSS just impossible to see. I ran the alphabet at -AVER and missed RAVER somehow (probably because they were RAVE KIDS in my 1990s). Ugh. So, geographical obscurity meets massive sports obscurity across the DUH/DOH bridge, and I am screwed. I have to say, though, that it was ICE BEARS that eventually pulled me out, in that I just kept inserting things that felt like they could be team names. First SEALS. Then BEARS. And there it was.


So, the lesson: more puzzles like this, please. Except the SE. I mean, we get it. You're into hockey (see also SABRES at 6D). But indulge your hobbies more sparingly.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. one of today's commenters asks the very valid question, "Why not change RAVER / SCORE into RAVEN / SCONE?" I have to agree that the "N" option seems in every way superior. Also, fun fact: RAVENSCONE was my Sorting Hat designation! RSCONES4LIFE!

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

67 comments:

r.alphbunker 8:28 AM  

Puzzle report
I agree that there is lots of good stuff in this puzzle!
To finish I had to highlight the letters that were wrong and there were quite a few as indicated by the graphic.
1A {Emperor after Nero} GALEN-->GALBA
60A {House measure: Abbr.} RMS-->RES (residents?)
45A {Beginning to flop?} MEGA-->TERA (floating point operations per second. A megaflop is slow nowadays)
38A {Satisfy} SATE-->MEET
29D {Ultimate point GIST}-->ACME
32A {Man's name that means "king"} REX -->ROY (wonder why I thought that?)
18D {Bust} RUIN-->RAID (not tits which would be clued as birds)

Z 8:29 AM  

IJSSEL? Wow.

Otherwise, what Rex said.

Pete 8:51 AM  

Is there some new fad, perhaps a pub game or college initiation rite that I've missed out on? The one where you make up a new ____ONYM term. As all the useful, meaningful ones are taken, there seems to new ____ONYM too bad to be acceptable. I propose craponymonym - a example of a crappy new _ONYM.

elitza 9:00 AM  

BICURIOUS! CHRISTIAN MINGLE! BLAXPLOITATION!

Excellent showing but oh my god, ICEBEARS just about did me in.

George Barany 9:03 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle by @ Damon Gulczynski, at least until I had exceeded my self-imposed time limit for devoting to just about any puzzle. The review by @Rex was very instructive and informative, and yeah, I agree that professional sports leagues in puzzles should be limited to the major sports and major leagues (though A_BALL was fun, and accurately clued).

BICURIOUS, I would not expect to see in a New York Times puzzle, but it brought to mind the famous quip from @Woody Allen, viz. "Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night." @LILLIAN_HELLMAN was famously dissed by @Mary McCarthy: "Every word [Hellman] writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'." [this came up in a column that @George Will wrote yesterday about the Trump phenomenon].

My biggest problem was due to the clue for 32-across: Man's name that means "king" -- everyone "knows" the correct answer is @REX, eh? @ROY Leban might disagree, though.

I should close by noting that a few months ago, I read @Damon's delightful sports trivia book -- and recommend it to those who enjoy that sort of stuff.

Questinia 9:04 AM  

Grievous errors that cost:

Entered at TAUTONYM, crossed immediately with OTALGIA then clusterfked that quadrant with A TOI.

JOBLESS instead of JOB LOSS.

OYEZ instead of AYES.

Truly a well-constructed Saturday puzzle.

Imfromjersey 9:09 AM  

@Rex my SE looked EXACTLY like yours for a looong time. Total guess on Ice Bears, went back and forth on DOH and DUH a couple of times and finally got Jobloss after running the alphabet to get to the J. Was a bit surprised to see Bicurious in the puzzle, I expect that in an AVCX puzz but nice to see it in the NYT.

Sheik Yerbouti 9:12 AM  

Why not RAVEN/SCONE instead of RAVER/SCORE? RAVER is pretty bad.

Steve O. 9:12 AM  

For the "faithful partners" my first thought was "what's the opposite of Ashley Madison" and came up with Dolley Madison. Fortunately that didn't fit.

Robso 9:16 AM  

Nonmatter how many good answers there are, if you have to throw in Ijssel to make things work, I'm going to hate your puzzle.

AliasZ 9:16 AM  


This was the worst piece of crap trying to pass itself off as a Saturday NYT puzzle I have ever seen. How are A BALL crossing A BEAT, then A LUI, A GHA, A OUT, SAGER crossing RAVER, and RAS, RES, HTS, STES, CERF, CBER etc. fit to print? IJSSEL is easily inferrable, right? OH, COME ON now! Exactly half of all entries are shortz (3 and 4 letters). The boatload of obscure proper-name trivia plus BLAXPLOITATION and BICURIOUS did nothing to improve things, instead they pulled the puzzle further down into the gutter, which even LILLIAN HELLMAN couldn't prevent. A new low in NYT crosswords in my 45-year solving experience.

For a good workout, try Stan Newman's Saturday Stumper instead.

Enjoy your weekend.

jberg 9:24 AM  

@R.alphbunker, that's a RESolution passed by the House of Representatives.

I got that, but DNF because I was stuck on thinking Hogmanay was some kind of Harry Potter thing, and never having hear BI-CURIOUS.

I thought for awhile that this puzzle was bringing ACME and REX back together, but no.

I guess I liked it, despite teh DNF.

Brian W. Ogilvie 9:53 AM  

For this European historian, GALBA was a gimme, and with IDEE and BAY OF PIGS, IJSSEL came pretty quickly (thinking backwards from the IJsselmeer). I wanted OTITIS, too, but MOOG made the right answer clear. Lots of fun!

Brian W. Ogilvie 9:53 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mohair Sam 10:07 AM  

Nice review @Rex on this awesome Saturday puzzle but . . . no excuse for not sussing ICEBEARS. Knoxville is in Tennessee where bears are plentiful and seals are not to be found, there has to be some logic in sports team naming, doesn't there?

DNF'd in this house because we didn't know CGI and assumed BeCURIOUS at 17A, and we don't know our ear maladies and "onyms" well enough so had an "R" instead of a "T" at the OTALGIA crossing. Mrs. Mohair said that if we were on-line solvers we could have "Mr. Happy Penciled" our way through it. Maybe - but a fail is a fail.

"Toys in the Attic" was the first play I was dragged to and actually enjoyed, so the cross with much advertised CHRISTIANMINGLE (loved @Rex's mistake there) gave me two quick gimmes and too much confidence on what was to be a real challenge. Awesome misdirect on the New York pro team name. Mumbled here about the JSS letter combo in another blasted European river name - but then saw the seven consonant string in the constructor's name and figured "jss" was nothing to him. Guessed LOLA off the first L because "Damn Yankees" was so big in the '50's and every sexy female was tagged LOLA for about a decade.

A RAVER's review for this BEAR of a Saturday puzzle from this corner. Disagree with Rex only on his feeling in the SE. Saturday puzzles don't get much better than this. Thank you Damon Gulczynski.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:16 AM  

Good puzzle; would have been better for me without the sports.

Wrote over ROY after REX (didn't everyone?), but finished at 46 A with JOBLESS (which I was prepared to complain about loudly) instead of JOB LOSS (yeah, that makes sense, but 47 D was absolutely no help to me.)

DJG 10:28 AM  

I like Rex's review, but I do have one quibble: I'm not a big hockey fan. I used SABRES and ICEBEARS because they fit. That's it.

Anyway, you can get my (the constructor's) thoughts on the puzzle here, if you are interested.

Nathan 10:29 AM  

First time correctly finishing a Saturday puzzle without any help - so obviously I love this one. Blaxploitation and Lillian Hellman crossed with Christian Mingle got me off to a quick start. I was thankful for the two hockey clues because I knew Ice Bears and that quickly let me get Sabres. Other than that agree with @Rex. Thanks to @George Barany for the tip on @Damon's book - I will be buying that to celebrate!

Norm 10:31 AM  

I can only pray that Rex never becomes the NYT puzzle editor if this is the sort of puzzle he wants to see. Not I.

Tita 10:45 AM  

OHCOMEON, Rex...there was so much old-timey stuff that i swore you would dislike this.

I dnf'd...first had to eliminate wrong letters, and then still needed to reveal one or two.

I thought myself clever in guessing ICEtEAmS...get it? They drink lots of ICEtEA in Tennessee...?

Finally guessing pubtOURS also made me smile...until the "reveal wrong letters" for that word made me frown, then smile again.

Didn't even try at 6 and 10A, since I was convicted Hogmany had something to do with Hogwarts, a subject I know nothing about. Abashed now that I know, since I have Scottish in-laws.

Thanks Mr. G for a toug Saturday.

Leapfinger 10:45 AM  

Considering all the forking, exiting and dissociating, I'm suggesting the neONYM of Daemon "Jo-Bless" Gulczynski. At least he didn't pull a COLLINS on us...

Can't ask for anything more inventive than linking LILLIAN HELLMAN and BLAXPLOITATION via CHRISTIAN MINGLE. (Love that quote about Hellman) Outstanding fill and 98% killer clues.

For one fine moment, thought we had ACME and REX cogridding, but no. We do have GIL SCOT but no gullible Heron to tern to, much to my egret.

btw, I'm always up for dome taxonomic humour, and thought Rattus rattus was Bos bos!

An outstanding finish to the week! Enjoy yer Saturday, y'all.

pmdm 10:48 AM  

I assume I was one of the comments accidently wiped out yesterday. Apology (king of) accepted.

Since I am leaving on a cross-country driving trip tomorrow (NYC to Evil Doug Land, aka Paradise), my time is limited. I usually struggle with the puzzle a while and then start researching the proper nouns. Did that right away, and an awful lot of the grid wound of filled. Not a good thing. See the comment by AliasZ for my feelings. No need to be repetitious.

jae 10:52 AM  

Mostly medium and pretty much what @Rex said.   SWeasy-medium, NE medium-tough (I had barbS instead of GAFFS for way too long), center strip easy, NE tough (did not know ALUI or LOLA and was iffy on spelling OTALGIA), and SE easy-tough only because of the IJSSEL/JOB LOSS cross.  I'm never sure whether it's going to be @Rex DOH or DUH and the J was not especially amenable to running the alphabet. 

Matt Gaffney had a GALBA meta a while back which I promptly forgot about, hence sticking with barbS ...

Hey, lots tougher than yesterday's with quite a bit of zip.  Just about right for a Sat.   Liked it a bunch. 

Loren Muse Smith 10:54 AM  

Man oh man oh man. After being shellacked last Saturday, I'm dismayed that I think I fared even worse today. I'm not familiar with the terms BLAXPLOITATION or BICURIOUS. Didn't know LILLIAN HELLMAN, IJSSEL, OLIVA, or OTALGIA. Had CHRISTIAN Single until a commercial for the site came on. Cheat number one. At that point I was desperate.

"Roil" and "innings" (three errors lickety split, and maybe you give away the inning?) were never going to allow me to finish the northeast. Ever. Even after changing "Rex" to ROY. (Hi, @Leapfinger)

Like Rex, I had, "duh" but didn’t consider DOH. So another death blow. I could have sat with this until next août and not finished. And even if I had, I would've been certain IJSSEL was wrong. How do you pronounce that string of consonants, Mr. Gulczynski? Actually, your name looks righter than that river.

Loved the clue for AYES. I had "alee" for a bit – ya know – safe passage of that ship.

"Horror movie cry" – NO! DON'T GO DOWN THE BASEMENT STAIRS IN ONLY YOUR UNDERWEAR WITH NO FLASHLIGHT AND NO ONE KNOWS WHERE YOU'RE GOING AND IT'S STORMING OUTSIDE AND YOU'RE PRETTY CERTAIN THE BEAST IS DOWN THERE WAITING! Honestly, horror flicks could use some sager heroines.

I thought CHOPS was just singing expertise. Can you have Quick Step chops? Arm wrestling chops? Karate chops?

Off to lick my wounds. Or maybe practice my knife-throwing CHOPS for about A BEAT before I'm on ALL FOURS in the hay field looking for the &%$%# knives.

mac 11:02 AM  

Tough one for me, too many things I had not heard of. And jobless.

Oh, of course I did get IJssel.And Christian Mingle, of all things!

Casco Kid 11:06 AM  

I don't have @GeorgeBarany's time limit (although perhaps I should), so after 1:41 I placed my last bets and went down one

blind guesses that miraculously crossed well: GIL ICEBEARS GABLA LOLA EVIE TREF CERF MOIL

blind guesses that evidently did not: ALUe OTALGeA

Pleasant solving experience. But to the question "Do you speak French?" I'd like to quote Marcel Marceau who, playing himself in Mel Brooks's Silent Movie, said clearly and unequivocally, "No."

Malsdemare 11:08 AM  

Oh dear lord, this was, as my dear Da would say, butt ugly. Just read @Alias if you want my thoughts. I'm going to go make peach jelly.

Laurence Katz 11:10 AM  

Challenging for me. But Rex seems absurdly inconsistent to rant against "orgeats" last week, but pretty much gives a pass to "tautonym," "otalgia" and "ijssel" this week. "Orgeats" (even with the dubious pluralization) is a much much better, funner word than those three, IMHO.

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

Agree with AliasZ and Robso. Hated this puzzle.

Teedmn 11:19 AM  

Much harder than medium here. With 3/4 of the grid filled, I just stopped. I had CHRISTIAN blank. _ _ EBEARS. blank ELLMAN. SABRES was missing the SAB. I knew Hogmanay was celebrated by someone in the British Isles, but could only come up with celT, picT, briT, gael. Wanted OHCOMEON but the O didn't fit any of my guesses. My big breakthrough was an aha at 40A. I finally saw CHOPS, making LILLIAN finally a DOH. Still wrestled a bit because I wanted MilL at 23A, and folD for 'Bust' but BICURIOUS cleared it up at last. I certainly never expected the NYTimes to be that experimental!

Great clues for FAUXFUR, ALL FOURS and EDEN. Thank goodness OLIVA was a gimme and I got SHELLAC from just the H so the SE wasn't as hard as it could have been. I was really close to getting on AcrossLite and using the Check button but resisted and after two hours with many breaks, I finished. Whew!

Thanks for the workout, Mr. Gulcynski.

Martin 11:19 AM  

This started out really easy for a Saturday until I got stranded in the NE corner. I got Naticked at the LOLA/LILLIANHELLMAN crossing (gILLIAN? jILLIAN?), and having viOl instead of MOOG didn't help. I couldn't piece together OTALGIA from the the two foreign answers at 11D and 12D.

Otherwise this was a pretty good puzzle with above average fill and 2/3 excellent long answers. It's a touch heavy on foreign words for my taste (AOUT, IDEE, CASA, ALUI, STES, TREF, IJSSEL(!)).

GeezerJackYale48 11:21 AM  

Tell me how a puzzle with "ijssel", "bicurious", "tautonym" - "aout" and "tera" for that matter - passes any standard for reasonable. Yes, Rex, it was medium for you. It was medium for me too until these weirdos came along to spoil the whole thing.

Leapfinger 11:22 AM  

All right, RESolution passed by the House of Representatives, but I still don't get AYES being [Side for...]
Oh, now I do.

Kind of a cute correlation, in a politically twisted kind of way.

Mohair Sam 11:37 AM  

Thanks for the link @DJG. Apparently I liked your puzzle even more than you. Hmmm. I guess we truly are our own toughest critic.

GILL I. 11:38 AM  

I just knew the answer to 4D was BLAck exPLOITATION but could not, for the life of me, remember how to morph the word.
I dated a very funny, bright chap back in the 70's who knew when to stir up some very lively conversations at dinner time. The movie was Mandingo. Since then, I've not heard the word.
BAY OF PIGS was my second entry and then went about filling in all the other foreign words. Did anyone else have CARO for the one found on una calle?
I could not finish but just seeing LILLIAN HELLMAN and sussing out BICURIOUS, made me feel pretty good.
I'm with @Rex on this. The little stuff was nada compared with Damon's great entries. He could have left out IJSSEL though....

Indypuzzler 11:48 AM  

I was totally amazed at this puzzle! It was the kind I truly love...first I feel...gah...stupid. Then I feel...YAY...brilliant for figuring out certain things. Not all things and I fully admit I was totally fubarred with BICURIOUS because I just kept thinking that some how VICARIOUS must be adventurous (in a way). Thank you @DJG for a very challenging and fun puzzle.
@AliasZ, you are kidding, right?

Andrew Heinegg 12:00 PM  

Amen.

old timer 12:07 PM  

Gosh! Why all the hate? This was a lovely, perfect Saturday puzzle for me. I immediately wrote in GALBA, asking myself, "Why do I know that?" For unlike the well-tutored girls in "Mansfield Park" I have never known my Roman emperors from Caesar down to Septimus Severus. There I stopped, and tackled the NE instead. SCOT MOOG AGHA MAC -- all easy including Ms HELLMAN. The SW was a gimme, more or less, though I did have "mega" instead of TERA at first. And it took me having OITA-ION to remember BLAXPLOITATION. That got me back to the NE where A BALL gave me ALL FOURS and finally the brilliant FAUX FUR.

Like OFL, I had a hard time in the SE because wasn't quite sure how to spell IJSSEL. But I had already guessed ICEBEARS though my assumption was they played for the University of Tennessee. JOB LOSS was an obvious answer. I had wanted SHELLAC from the get-go. But I had confidently written in "saner" where SAGER belonged, and was wondering why three "aminos" were the subject of a comedy. I finished by guessing AMIGOS and sat back to admire Mr. Gulczynski's work.

It seems to me that everything in the SE was entirely legit and in the language, including RAVER. The only nit to pick might be SCORE, because you seldom see a *final* score of 50-50 in any game I can think of.

Johnbro 12:19 PM  

Usually I find your reviews spot on, Rex, but calling this POS today a great puzzle makes me scratch my head and wonder if I have any idea what a puzzle is supposed to be. Too many obscure clues with zero chance anyone "normal" would be able to figure them out without Google. If you did, great...my hat is off to you. But I'm a mere mortal and I have to say GALBA (one of four emperors in a single year??), CHRISTIANMINGLE, FAUXFUR (hey veganism is about food, not garments), an unheard-of Lillian Hellman work, and some minor league hockey team in Knoxvile?? This is crap, pure and simple.

It took a truly awful puzzle for me to finally post a comment. Hope I don't have to again.

Lewis 12:25 PM  

Can we call the clue for SCORE a "green paint clue"?

There were ten answers that are just not in my knowledge bank and that was too much for me to overcome without using some research. That said, there was some great cluing (FAUXFUR, CHRISTIANMINGLE, SELL, THERAPIES, AYES, ALLFOURS, FERAL) and answers (SHELLAC, OHCOMEON, THERAPIES, FAUXFUR). Did not like SAGER -- has anyone used this in real life? At first I didn't like ABEAT, but now it's growing on me. I guess I'm a NOGO when it comes to CHRISTIANMINGLE. With the research, this was a fun workout, and I need to work on my Xword knowledge base.

@rex -- Excellent writeup. When you are happy, you write in a way that makes the reader happy.

And... congratulations to everyone who got LADE today.

Jon88 12:33 PM  

Dear friends, If you're ever inclined to give me a present, please don't write "To Him" on the tag. Merci.

Masked and Anonymous 1:00 PM  

thUmbsUp for BLAXPLOITATION. Watched "Cleopatra Jones" on DVD not too many FriNight Schlockfests ago. Like @009, I am willing to overlook a mountain of hoohah, in order to let that and LILLIANHELLMAN run free. Your IJ-what hurts?

Some memorable A-BEAT's for today:
1. I got in. This was no easy job. Crosswordese finally got me in, at AGHA. Then CGI. Then Guessed SCOT off the C. Then worried how NHL spells SAB(E/R)S. Etc. Thanx, U, Crosswordese.
2. 6 UUUUUU's. Above average, especially with all the A-BALL's this constructioneer was tryin to keep in the air.
3. BICURIOUS. Somebody wonderin what the best bike for them is.
4. River IJSSEL. Debut word. Butt kicker, but like.

Some memorable Z-BEAT's for today:
1. Only 9 weejects. Weeject drought conditions occur a lot in Fri or SatPuzs. fave: ROY, cuz it weren't REX.
2. OTALGIA crossin TAUTONYM and a snootload of foreign stuff at 11- and 12-Down. Not to mention MOIL. Or that I had SECRETS and then ANSWERS for ENDINGS. Tref.
3. ICEBEARS. har. OHCOMEON, Obi-wan. Give us a fightin chance. How'bout this, instead…?
-------
ACROSS
56. Rattus rattus in "Ratatouille"
59. Poe blaxploitation bird
62. Hogwarts potions professor Severus

DOWN
37. Frosty quaffs
48. Cooking thickener made from orchids that sorta pales by comparison with leaps??
49. Part of the act?
-------
4. @009 taught m&e to judge a grid mainly from it's openers in the NW. Here we start out with GALBA, ABEAT, ABALL, LARUE and (onless)ALLFOURS. FAUXFUR is mighty lUxUrioUs, tho. UNI/LUIS, I feel strongly both ways.

Miraculous SatPuz, that I had big gulp trouble with.
Thanx, Mr. Gulczynski. Now always known to M&A as: Gulpczynski.

Masked & Anonymo6Us

**gruntz**

R. McGeddon 1:13 PM  

Someone tweeted about registering at the Dolley Madison website. For people who want to cheat on their diet.

mathgent 1:19 PM  

Loved it even though it took me and The Closer forever to do it. We started last night and just finished at 9:30 am here on the left coast, watching a movie last night and reading the paper this morning concurrently.

What I liked. 13 learnings notably Hogmanay (Scotland New Year celebration), BICURIOUS, OTALGIA (like Rex, I pieced together a likely prefix and a likely suffix), CHRISTIANMINGLE, TAUTONYM. Clever cluing. Only nine Terrible Threes.

What I didn't like. LOLA Bunny (apparently she only appeared in Space Jam in the 90s, not the classic cartoons), IJSSEL, the clue for MOIL.

It's not clear from the comments so far but I would think that this was a challenge for most, especially us old folks. Bill Butler writes on his blog that it took him 53 minutes with a couple of errors. He usually does a Saturday in about 30. He's also not a youngster.

The NW was the hardest for us. Not a single gimme there.

Good feeling to subdue this bull without having to look up any of the clues, although we were sorely tempted by Hogmanay.

dm3000 1:26 PM  

I got stuck in the NE - have not peeked for a VERY long time on one of these. Peeking on Scot-Mac finished it for me.

burgundy 1:27 PM  

Totally disagree with Rex on this. The puzzle reeks of Maleska-itis. Obscure minituae. Nero's successor? Knoxville hockey? 50-50 = score = dumb. How things work = The Ropes huh? Beginning to flop = tera? Moil before Roil or Boil? And the creme de la creme famous Dutch brand of the Rhine "Georgie" Ijssel. Who is Lash Larue? Be curious is wprkable but bi-curious? Crucervibal-egoism. Ain't I smart? Leave your thesaurus on the shelf next time.Many too many Maleskisms. Bad.

joho 1:40 PM  

@Lewis, "And... congratulations to everyone who got LADE today." One of your best!

I was surprised @Rex rated this medium. Really? Challenging to Non-doable in my book.

Too many mistakes in the NW, Hi to everybody who had BeCURIOUS, rOIL, iNnings and didn't know that a SCOT celebrates Hogmanay with a big MAC.

I actually did complete the SE corner so I'm happy about that but not at all happy about IJSSEL. I wanted to get @mac on the phone at that point.

It's funny that SHELLAC clued the way it is shows up in the grid ... perhaps the constructor's hopeful wish?

Well, you got your wish from me today, AMIGO, but next time go easier on the TAUTONYMs, IJSSELs and OTALGIAs!

GPO 1:48 PM  

Medium for most of the way, but I had exactly the same finishing-up difficulty thanks to DuH.

"NuTLOSS"? Seems like more a cause of depression than a result.

Luckily, I had RAVER. Since the ICEtEARS didn't sound like a very good name for a hockey team, I eventually got there. I was almost left up the IJSSEL with a NuTLOSS, not my favorite way to start the weekend.

Ellen 2:10 PM  

Medium difficulty? Really? This was a rare DNF for me, between the SE -- IJSSEL, DOH/duh confusion, thinking 50-50 was a "share" -- and a real cluster of shame in the NE:

ALUI (I'm with the previous comment: "to him" on a gift tag?), LOLA (introduced after my time with Loony Tunes), thinking Switched-On Bach involved a tuba (?), MOIL/roil, ROY/Rex, TAUTONYM ... and never, ever expecting the Old Gray Lady to appear BICURIOUS.

I can't decide if I love this one for the terrific long fill and clever cluing, or hate it for the shorter obscurities. I may never know.

Mohair Sam 3:27 PM  

@Lewis - Finally, a truly groan-worthy pun.

Erin Milligan-Milburn 3:55 PM  

I think I'll post positive things here to counteract the nasty bellyaching you have to read. Unless it's too much effort to read through and decline the comment. Then I'll stop. But for now, you are awesome. Penelope is awesome. I usually agree with your assessments of the puzzles, and I think that haters are gonna hate, and I feel bad for them for not knowing how nice you are in person. Sucks to be them.

Kevin Denelsbeck 5:16 PM  

For the first time in a long time, a DNF for me, because the app was saying I had mistakes and I couldn't tell where they were. What sunk me? Having TAUTOISM (instead of TAUTONYM, but seemingly as likely a word) and TIDINGS (instead of ENDINGS). I ended up with OHCOTTON instead of OHCOMEON, and the rout was on, because all of these seemed "reasonable" given previous puzzles, even though TAUTOISM and OHCOTTON were not familiar. (And -OIL needs to be clued very very carefully because of all the near synonyms.)

Bah.

OISK 5:27 PM  

DNF for me, first puzzle to really defeat me (more than one wrong square) in months. Even the parts I got I didn't like. @Aliasz summed it up well. I got the NW despite disliking blaxploitation, got the NE despite being sure Alui was wrong, never having seen bicurious or tautonym, correctly changed roil to Moil, don't know what cgi is, never heard of Evie Sands, or Gil Scott-heron. Got beaten at IJsselmeer, ice bears, and jobloss. I had icetears, since Tenn. teams are Volunteers...cut loss, which makes some sense, and duh, instead of doh. Also never heard of teraflop or Vint Cerf, so missed a square there as well.

Maleska Saturdays were better than this. Just an unpleasant hour plus. Horrible collection of obscurities.

Elephant's Child 6:17 PM  

For [Writing on a French gift tag], my first answer was A_QUI -- "To/For (whom)", since most gift tags I've seen say "To/For ____" and "From ____". When it turned out to be A_LUI, I thought that would be more likely an overhead sign seen in a gift shop, which would likely have sections "For Her" and "For Him". Same would be found in greeting card sections.

Other GAFFeS:
HAVE_ME_ON --> OH_COME_ON
CELT --> SCOT
Bad TIDINGS --> ENDINGS
IM_SCARED/ ITS_SCARY --> ITS_ALIVE
SHARE --> SCORE
SANER, SAFER --> SAGER
CAVER --> RAVER (cf Neanderthalers and clubbing)
and of course REX --> ROY, because ACME

@Lewis, I had TARE first but it didn't get me LADE; that would have been CLAIROL and 'Natural Instincts', fwiw.

The three long'uns came quickly; much of the intermediate fill had me on THE ROPES, took alot of staring, head-scratching,and more than one alef-bet run. FERAL that, it finally got done.

Did you hear about the MOIL who saved his ENDINGS? CURIOUSly enough, he worked for tips.

Nice to be reminded of STEPONE Zweig, author of The Royal Game, and to see the FACES of MAC, GIL and one of the CHEFs; hard to tell if it's Wen or Bea.

I'd say this was about as tough as a doable Saturday can get.

Anonymous 8:22 PM  

What is TERAflop? 45 Across.

Annnnonymous 9:56 PM  

TERAflop

Anonymous 10:31 PM  

Terrible puzzle. Long arcane items like ICEBEARS, BLAXPLOIITATION, and TAUTONOMY can't be solved from crosses. BICURIOUS indeed. Pop culture words like that seldom percolate up to those of us working on our bucket lists. I don't mind getting into trouble because I misinterpreted the clue, but... You get the idea.

Nettie 11:12 PM  

I experienced a minor crosswording miracle tonight!

I sat down to this as soon as I got home from work today, and.... could not get anywhere. Barely a start. Eventually set it aside, to try again later. Fast forward a few hours: I'm watching a Jeopardy re-run and there's a clue about the Scottish holiday Hogmanay!!!

Still found it an incredibly difficult puzzle, but filling in SCOT and MAC got the ball rolling, and I did eventually finish.

casual observer 12:10 AM  

There seems to be a correlation between hating the puzzle and DNFing.

I took Statistics 101 10:40 AM  

@casual observer

This sample is small, self-selected, probably skewed, and gives incomplete information on that subject, so you probably can't say much definitive about correlation.

Besides which, I can cite a study that showed a very high correlation between annual production of pig-iron in the UK and the incidence of fatal heart attacks in US males. Take-home: You really can't coMINGLE correlation and causality.

Evan Jordan 3:15 PM  

I only hated select things about this puzzle. Knew most off the long answers. BICURIOUS rattled around in my head the entire time as I looked at __CURIOUS, but for some reason I just kept thinking "no way..." Good for NYT, I guess! There a lot of stretching it here which is where the enjoyment started to taper off. But the thing that really bugged me was after my first bad DNF in a while, Rex has "Medium" above it! Oh, come on!

Burma Shave 10:34 AM  

JOBLESS ENDINGS

For STEPONE to find EDEN and have it all
on CHRISTIANMINGLE she said, “Let’s have ABALL.”
But BICURIOUS LOLA was caight in a RAID,
saying on ALLFOURS, “OHCOMEON, let’s MEET and get LADE.”

--- CHEF IJESSEL OTALGIA

spacecraft 10:55 AM  

Nope, DNF again. Not the SE (though I finished it wrong!) but the SW. Fatal error was AlEe instead of AYES. I did want BAYOFPIGS but rejected that because nothing starts CB__. Yeah. CBER belongs with a host of other -ERs--mostly sport-related (NLER, etc.) in the trashcan, IMO. And words in the clues really threw me: OK, a CBER uses "breakers," but NAVIGATE?? How do you NAVIGATE breakers? Makes no sense. Neither does "How things work" for THEROPES. "How to do the job," maybe, but not "How things work."

That Dutch river is nothing short of ridiculous. No one is EVER going to get IJSSEL...unless he's a native. This was way above my head...BICURIOUS?? Really? It's not enough to be curious, now you gotta be BICURIOUS?? Maybe that's what Alice was: "curiouser and curiouser." Bugs Bunny had a girlfriend? Who knew? As a kid I saw, must've been, hundreds of BB toons, and never once knew about LOLA. Maybe he met her at the Copa.

So, medium?? How about IMPOSSIBLE! INC.

rondo 5:58 PM  

Gray cells matter! And medium, my butt. Much of the north was a struggle, almost a NOGO. Lotsa stuff only by crosses, especially the NE. And trying to spell BLAXPLOITATION over there in the west. Not sure I’ve seen it spelled quite that way.


MN Twin saved me in the SE. Loved Tony O as a youngster. If they had arthroscopy for his knees back then, his career would have really been something.



Toys in the Attic is Aerosmith to me. Didn’t know the play but knew the name of the wright.


EVIE Sands is a musical yeah baby so under appreciated and known. She had the CHOPS but a great deal of unfortunate luck. You’ve likely heard her songs covered by others.

This puz made my brain hurt. I think the aforementioned gray cells were near their ENDINGS. More like this please!

leftcoastTAM 6:18 PM  

DNF'd in the NE: CGI/BICURIOUS and MOOG/OTALGIA crosses.

Found it a slog most of the way through, especially entries like RAVER (I'm too old) and of course IJSSEL. But the crosses made me get them.

bOIL for MOIL didn't help, and CBER took a while to see.

In Scotland, I think if you called out "MAC" a whole lot of people might look up.

Anonymous 6:47 PM  

HATED THIS ONE FROM THE START. Damon, the Demon just took too many liberties, IMHO. The Dutch river is downright malicious. Are we supposed to have medical backgrounds with Mr. Otalgia as an answer? And to me Sager means Wiser, not necessarily Prudent. CGI is obviously meant for the film industry and Tref is nowhere to be seen in my dictionaries. CHOPS has never been in my or my friends vocabulary. Oh yes, we should all be fluent in French so that it's common to know all the twelve months in that language. I did know it from previous Xwords, though.

Anyway, I'll just remember the Damon name for future exclusion.

Ron Diego, La Mesa, CA

Gregory Schmidt 7:14 PM  

SAGER does not mean prudent. The root comes from "sapere", which means "to know". Sage (adj) implies wisdom, not necessarily prudence. Just plain a cluing error.

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