Eliot's Vos Prec / SAT 10-10-15 / Highland lowland / Alternative to Ho Hos / Skylane maker / Japan's largest active volcano / Alberta city named after quadruped / 1950s runners inits / Hadean was earth's first / Oxymoronic lead-in to then /

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Constructor: Roland Huget

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: "ARA Vos Prec" (20A: Eliot's "___ Vos Prec") —
[it appears to be an early volume of poetry by T.S. Eliot, though it's virtually impossible to tell exactly what it is via google, as it doesn't have a wikipedia page, and where it is mentioned, it's not described; the wikipedia entry for "Gerotion" describes "ARA Vos Prec" as "a limited printed work that collected his early poems," so ... yeah ... wow.]
• • •

Painful at every turn. This is the weakest fill I've seen in a NYT themeless in what seems like a Long long time. Makes yesterday's semi-misogynist OSAMA/SAR dumpster fire look downright lovely. There is a mild playfulness to the center of the grid, a sing-songy quality to the central crossing of OKEYDOKEY RINGDINGS, a rhyming quality to WEENIES NANNIES, an alliterative assonance in SENECA GECKOS, and near-anagramitude to STING SIGNS. It's a little bananas, but none of it (except ARA, dear lord) is painful or annoying. But the corners, the little mini-puzzles, all sequestered off in their own private idahos—yikes. The NE has icky ILA, but otherwise seems reasonably sane. The others, however, don't fare so well. They're drowning in gunk. Just chock full of the stuff. First, there's just no marquee material. Nothing truly sparkly. Second, whatever good there is in those corners is held together with cut-rate spackle, and lots of it. In the NW, all Acrosses from REDDEER down to AES, inclusive are blah (we'll just ignore EEE hiding in the corner). In the SW, we have the never-welcome ALIENEE (wide shoe spec for E.T.?) crossing yucko TER, and then the atrocity that is the ASO (?) / ROSALIE (!?!?) crossing. ASO may be one of the biggest volcanoes in the world, but it's still terrible fill. And "Twilight" vampire Hale??? Is that this puzzle's concession to modernity? Sigh. Was a little worried I'd get Naticked there, but the "O" was the only thing that made sense. Phew. But just one "phew." Because, I mean, how many PHEWS can you have?

Yeah, so, that SE corner. I wrote in NOT LIVE and immediately threw down the pencil I wasn't holding and said "No. No way. Not a thing. I'm out." Then I picked up same pencil and finished. Luckily, that corner was the last thing to fall: the PHILE PHEWS PKWY. Truly, the end of the line.

Here's the grid progression: I opened in the NE with DASANI (gimme) and ILA (ditto). That corner was pretty tractable, and I went from there into the middle of the grid, where things were choppy, but eventually came together (note the DING DONGS mistake, as well as the wrong double-letter in 31-Across):

 Managed to get STRATEGY, and between that and HERE I AM, I brought the NW under control. Then I sent all possible tentacles into the remaining two corners and hoped for the best:

After that, a tale of two corners. Well, both corners were not great, but they played very differently. On the one hand, an ASO / ROSALIE disaster in the SW, on the other, a cakewalk to gunky town in the SE. He SED, she SED, we all SED. I do love NEW WAVE ODYSSEY juxtaposition. Gonna go put on Duran Duran's "Rio" and have me one of them odysseys myself.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. DING dupe (8A, 21D)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 12:07 AM  

I had SEN for Case(abbr) which give OkeyDokee. Couldn't figure out what was wrong.

jae 12:18 AM  

Medium for me too. My only real problem was @Rex dING DoNGS before RING DINGS.   IPODNANO fixed it.  Apparently there were some brand name issues between Hostess and Drake's Cakes.

IMHO one of Julia SWEENEY's best performances was a stand up monologue titled "God Said, Ha".   You can stream it on Netflix. 

I liked yesterday's a lot more than Rex did, but today I agree with him. The myriad of fill issues and the lack of anything "truly sparkly".... gunky town....

Anonymous 12:27 AM  

Yesterday's puzzle was trying too hard to be edgy and this one isn't trying hard enough. NOT LIVE for sure.

MDMA 1:28 AM  

"Deep" was not a good clue for OPEN SEA, unless there's some pun I missed.

There is a constellation named ARA which is an order of magnitude less obscure than... whatever that is. That was a fatal Natick for someone not familiar with snack foods ("Ding Dings? Wing Dings?"). Shades of yesterday's ZINGS which could have been "Pings" or "Dings" from the clue, except today's cross was utterly ungettable.

"Cut lightly" = "Cut with light". Finally dawned on me.

"Case" is a syn.onym for "Example". Finally dawned on me.

60A was begging for AwardEE, but easily recoverable.

dmw 6:41 AM  

I often have a similar solve experience to Rex, but not today: scanning through the puzzle the first thing I could easily get was Pete Rose, and then I finished the SE in about 30 seconds. That's where the fun ended. The rest was a slog.

Anonymous 7:24 AM  

I wish I did NOT LIVE through that puzzle.

NCA President 8:05 AM  

ALIENEE, RINGDINGS (?!), DINGBAT (duplicate "ding"), PARSEC/PALOMAR...all trouble spots.

In my experience with challenging puzzles (this was challenging for me, btw), i am happy to balance the work with some kind of redemption...some redeeming quality that makes it all worthwhile...a payoff, if you will.

Today there was none. Having read Rex's critique, I can kinda see why and he mentioned it directly: there was no marquee fill. Looking through the puzzle in retrospect I see nothing that stands out even as a "seed entry." MAHJONGG? Surely not RINGDINGS (I've been in many, many gas station markets and do not recall Ring Dings at all)? Surely not IPODNANO? The two NY indigenous peoples? MULLETS??

This gets a "did not like" from me just because, well, there wasn't much to like.

Oh well...Non sibi sed patriae, that's my motto.

Paul Rippey 8:06 AM  

I finished this easily, except for going to google about fifteen times. What is ALIENEE? I agree: crappy all around.

Anonymous 8:39 AM  

Never heard of "ringdings"---had "dingdongs" and thought the "o_o..." might be some Italian musical notation; after entering "ipodnano" filled in the rest, but had to get the first letter of "ringdings" by trial and error (only so many openings possible, but I was fixed on "dingdings" having mutated from my original cocksure entry). Ugh---but I am counting it as a solution!

GeezerJackYale48 8:39 AM  

I am never as upset by bad fill as Rex, maybe because I need it to solve the puzzle. Anyway, all went well except "Rwandan minority" in the NE corner. I was sure it was "Tutus", having never heard of "Tutsi" (well Tootsie, I suppose). Also having never seen or heard of "The Switch" (movie or TV show, evidently) I failed to get Aniston and somewhat dazedly allowed Tatsana to sit there looking at me.

Billy C. 9:04 AM  

@MDMA --

Agree "deep" as the clue foe "Open Sea" is less than optimal. "The Deep" would've been OK.

I've gotta brush up on my NY Native American tribes!

Karen Bruce 9:14 AM  

My first thought on seeing that puzzle was "What a pretty and striking grid!" My second thought was "Yikes, I bet the fill's going to have suffered to make that happen."

ARA VOS PREC is one of the worst clues I have seen, since it's an academic curiosity more than anything else. From what I could tell, it's an early edition of Poems. Eliot actually messed up the title, so it reads ARA VUS PREC in the editions. So, you know, it could have been a whole order more obscure if the compiler had wanted.

On the plus side, I discovered a Louisa May Alcott book I had never read, and was excited about that, so it was not wholly a terrible experience for me.

Z 9:17 AM  

Two, count them, Two Air Supply videos. Fortunately, half way through the first treacly "why did I hit play?" I was offered the opportunity to watch this now. Nice palate cleanser (if you like @Alias Z's links don't bother).

Let's see - three references to victims of genocide - Hoo Rah. Time for breakfast. Of course, two of the references will go right past most people and the third is 2 decades old and the victims were also perpetrators, so OKEY DOKEY.*

I didn't dislike this as much as Rex. Five mini-puzzles, each with at least a little fun cluing. No really great stand out answers, but enough to keep me interested. My solve went SE, NW, SW, Middle, NE. hUTus messed me up in the NE, and DINGBAT <-- Yo-yo is not a natural link for me. Add in that EON could easily have been age or era, and I had some significant sussing to do.

*I'm only half serious. All perfectly puzzle worthy. Still, white-washing history has some interesting consequences in our body politic.

Nancy 9:36 AM  

So far, hateful. Everything I most dislike in a crossword puzzle. Right now, it's much more important that I come here to try and make the first "cut", so that I can let you know how I feel about the puzzle, than that I try to solve it. I will try, of course, because I'm stubborn and determined, but I don't expect to enjoy it. I don't know just about any of the arcane bits of trivia I'm supposed to know, and I also don't care. And please don't tell me, all of you "should know these things" people that I SHOULD know and I SHOULD care. I'm telling you that I SHOULDN'T and I DON'T.

I'll be back to let you know if, with the help of a small handful of non-proper name answers, I actually do manage to solve this. But don't hold your collective breaths.

GILL I. 9:38 AM  

My unpleasant surprise from a worker was STINK and that gave me KRAKENS for the eyeball lickers. Twerps are WEENERS and so it went. What a mess that upper middle section was. OF COURSE IT'S DING DONGS and I never changed it because I didn't know ARA and RING DINGS just don't sound like a Ho Ho sort of thing.....
The only name I knew off the bat (out of god knows how many) was NIPSEY Ragamuffins of Rhythm.
I didn't find this as painful as @Rex claims but, by golly, I had to work hard to correct my mistakes. One Ringy dingy... TWO ringy DINGS!
MULLETS...(dear lord!)The other hairdo that can go away is the top-knot....

Loren Muse Smith 10:04 AM  

@jae – me, too, for "King Dongs" first.

Early goofs:

"galaxy" for PAR SEC (Was thinking 3.26 light years was how you defined the boundary of a galaxy)
"sweater" before BOOTIES. Of course.
"easy as pie" before OKEY DOKEY
"rinsers" before NANNIES, so with the G _ rS, then, ..
"gophers" before GECKOES. Now *there's* a funny mental image.
"_ _ _ piano" for IPOD NANO (as in not-loud music or some such)
"rat deer" before RED DEER. This was the low moment. Lower than "gophers."

Because of the "waver" clue for HERE I AM, I resisted NEW WAVE for a bit. I'm thinking that this "can't have a word in the grid if it's in a clue" RULE is just a myth. Fine by me.

I loved the clue for GLEN.

I agree on the clue for ROSALIE. I guess it was there to match the telescope, but I've seen all the Twilights and had no idea that was her last name.

REENTRY reminds me of a puzzle I stumbled across a few years ago. Yo, Manny - I revisited it for a sequel.


Have your people call my people. Talk to you soon. Right.

A hard solve of kind of five little mini puzzles. I was fine with it, but of course OPINIONS will vary.

Anonymous 10:15 AM  

Ring dings--dingbats Is that OK?

jberg 10:22 AM  

Drat! I had dING DoNGS, changed the O when I saw IPOD NANO, but never went back to that initial D -- I don't think I've seen a package of snack cakes for about 30 years, and "Ding Dings" was good enough for me. I don't think AdA is Latin, so there's something wrong there -- but then I don't think PREC is Latin either, so I had no idea. Plus, I figured I would have heard of an Eliot poem, so I was thinking of a misspelled Elliot Carter there.

@MDMA thanks for explaining SYN -- I was thinking it must be that 'case' was an element of SYNtax, which would have been truly horrible.

Well, enough of that. Have a nice long weekend, everyone!

Teedmn 10:26 AM  

I looked up ALIENEE in the dictionary: "a person to whom property is alienated". This puzzle ALIENated me from the start. Looking around at the _____ clues, all I saw were proper nouns and obscure Latin. Not good SIGNS.

There is a town in Anoka county, where I live, named NOWthen, but I wouldn't call the residents oxymoronic.

I easily filled in puzzles 2 (NE), 4 (SW) and 5 (SE) but puzzles 1 and 3 were going nowhere. I was mostly putting in esses for the many POCs, trying to get something going. I finally turned to AcrossLite, filled in everything I was sure of, then adding the things I was considering and hitting the check button. Every check came back with a "correct" so I pecked my way through this in that manner. Didn't care by then.

I was sure the four winds in the clue for MAH JONGG belonged in some orchestral piece that I was going to need all the crosses. Happy to see that NGG appear to break open the NW.

With the IES of WEENIES, I tried to decide if it might be WussIES instead. My STRATEGY worked! But RINGDINGS must be regional. I Googled them and see they are a thing but dINGDoNGS much better known, IMO.

Had the ANO of 40A and was sure it was going to be a musical notation answer, ____piANO, but SEEpS weren't likely to be upset though I'd be upset if my basement had SEEpS, so.....

I thought I hated this puzzle until I got here and realized my dislike was nowhere near @Rex's level of disgust. So thanks, Roland Huget, for an OKEYDOKEY experience. Gonna go shake my BOOTIES for the rest of the day.

David L. 10:42 AM  

I'm kind of a Twilight fan and I never knew Rosalie's last name was Hale - meh.

aaron 10:47 AM  

Anyone else have ERLKONIG instead of MAHJONGG? just me? Ok

AliasZ 10:48 AM  

DINGBAT. How Archie Bunker.
RED DEER. How green paint.
TUTSI. How cutesy.
Etc., etc.

Not much to like in this one, sorry to say. Any puzzle in which MAH JONGG is the best entry cannot be all that good and exciting. It seems the best puzzles do NOT LIVE at the NYT anymore.

One of the many HOMAGES by American composer Ron Nelson may make you feel a little better.

Can we have a PB Sunday, please?

Norm 11:01 AM  

Ugly, ugly, ugly. Obscure names galore. Geez, they couldn't use ISAO the effing golfer, for instance. This was a pile of something likely to be left behind by a RED DEER.

Geometricus 11:17 AM  

Just re-subscribed to the NYT xword last night after three years away. My mom has been giving me the puzzles from the Mpls paper in syndication, but I have not kept up. Nonetheless this blog has been a great companion even if I don't do puzzles on the day of release. Too bad my first puzzle back was so hard for me, took me over 90 minutes.

ARA vos prec is from canto 26 of Dante's Purgatorio, from the longest non-Italian section in the Divine Comedy. It comes from the mouth of the Provençal poet Daniel Arnaut ("Ieu sui Arnaut," is not Italian!). He is asking for prayers, purging his attachment to human love in the 7th level of Purgatory. Don't know why Eliot took the phrase for a collection of poems.

Longest palindrome I know: "T. Eliot, top bard, notes putrid tang emanating. Is sad. I'd assign it a name: Gnat Dirt Upset On Drab Pot Toilet?"

Ellen S 11:23 AM  

I wanted Roger Bannister for 27A (but it didn't fit and did he have another first name he didn't use, and ??) and I'm a Chicagoan by birth and upbringing (Go Cubs!) and of course I know Adlai Stevenson. I know he was noteworthy as a presidential candidate because he had been a popular governor. But he wasn't popular enough to beat Eisenhower, so how long are puzzles going to keep dredging up his candidacy? It's getting long enough ago for people to have to think a bit to remember who was President during the 50s, let alone who wasn't.

Molson 11:36 AM  

52A was a brutal killer for me - I know of CREST Pro Health so having CREST in that corner killed ANY hope of going anywhere, especially when ASARULE crossed it just fine.

Nancy 11:40 AM  

Okay. I solved it. Didn't like the puzzle, but I did solve it. That's because I'm stubborn and seldom give up.

I had two friends from ALTOONA, so that gave me an answer, early on. that I wouldn't have otherwise known. BOOTIES was an early gimme. Needed to correct trim to LASE at 49A (nice clue). Wanted something-MOM at 1D, but AES straightened me out. Some clues and answers I did actually like: MAD DASH, OKEY DOKEY, MAH JONGGH, OPINIONS. It would have helped if I ever remembered brands; I see people in the park with DASANI water all the time, but, even with the D, I couldn't bring it to mind. (I think bottled water is one of the greatest wastes of money there is, especially if you live in NYC, which still has superior tap water. I'm sure there are places I would have to gulp and spend it, though. When I was in Northampton, MA, the tap water tasted like soap.)

This was not a fun puzzle. It was a slog, though I am proud of myself for solving it.

Karen 11:42 AM  

RINGDINGS was practically the first thing I got! And I finished the SW corner before any others. Go figure....

Hartley70 11:42 AM  

I'm abashed to day I sort of liked it because it was an oxymoronic "easy Saturday" for me! Ooo I love that smarty pants feel!

Of course then I'm compelled to admit I've read those "Twilight" books (research!) There wasn't a HoHo or RingDing or SnoBall I haven't sampled back in the 50's (support for the dental community), love Pat (curly hair angst sympathy) and spent waaay too much time in upstate NY (not prison, but close). Oh and I've been a regular at a mahjong group. What's with that extra G?

My only stumble was TER. I ran the alphabet but nothing felt right in either direction. A job at a pharmacy should fix that gap in my knowledge. It was indeed my DAR of yesterday. My mother-in-law was a member and wielded it like a cudgel against the less historically advantaged. Thankfully, my other half avoided the SAR!

Ellen S 11:43 AM  

@Geometricus, thanks for the palindrome ... I think. Usually I check them, but I could barely read all the way through that one frontwards (short attention span these days).

@Gill -- not too many people have ever seen a Kraken. Maybe they can also lick their eyeballs, who's to say no? Oh -- I guess they're supposed to be more giant squid than giant GECKO like the Loch Ness Monster. As squid, maybe they don't even have proper tongues, let alone ones that could reach their eyeballs. If they have proper eyeballs. In which case, how could you have made such a mistake? For shame.

Malsdemare 11:47 AM  

I hated it. I got PETE and then just stared at the rest. I clicked reveal way too many times but even after finally filling in the remaining open squares, there was no joy in Mudville. I doubt I could have completed this thing on my own. Ugh!

Z 11:53 AM  

@LMS - Hmmmm, "galaxy" is a fascinating mistake.... In case anyone is interested: The nearest star is more than 3.26 light years away. A PARSEC isn't seen much in popular science writing because a light year is a simpler idea to explain. "One parsec is the distance at which one astronomical unit subtends an angle of one arcsecond," just invites glassed over stares while most of us can digest "the distance a photon of light travels in one year." The Milky Way is between ~100,000 and ~180,000 light years (or ~30,000-~55,000 PARSECs) in diameter. It's a big place out there.

joho 11:54 AM  

My solving experience ranges from, "Loved it!" to, "Hmmm, that was interesting," but never does "Hated it." enter my brain. I always appreciate the effort put into the creation of every puzzle I do.

"rat deer" before RED DEER. This was the low moment. Lower than "gophers." @Loren, you are too funny!

Da Bears 11:59 AM  

By now (actually, to the keener observer, long before now) it I obvious that Will Shortz does not share Rex’s view of fill and what makes an acceptable xwp for the NYT. I get the criticism about there being 5 little puzzles in one and some of the repetitive nature of the answers. I really don’t understand why the fill is so bad overall. The constructor is new, so I know Rex (imo) is harsher on newbies than established authors, but new constructors should be encouraged, not blasted away like soot off the Northern Trust building in Chicago. So, it would have been refreshing if Rex had at least highlighted some of the puzzle’s better aspects. As for the cluing, I never know whom to credit, the constructor or the editor, so, either you like it or you don’t. I thought this was appropriately tough for a Saturday. I’m with Loren on this one.

Old Flappy From Mississappy 12:13 PM  

A blithering mess.

Lewis 12:17 PM  

@rex -- Terrific writeup, with great humor and insight. Sometimes you especially sparkle, and today was one of those times.

On the plus side, it is a beautiful looking grid design, and there were some terrific clues (CASE, STING, SIGNS, LASE). There was also a mini-theme of double E's (7), PALOMAR appropriately Out West, and the sing-song NANNIES/WEENIES/BOOTIES.

On the minus side, no wow answers on the board, IMO, and there were 14 answers not in my knowledge bank, which eventually forced me to Google on some of them.

So, while there was an undercurrent of being discouraged, there were also some fine AHA moments, and thank you for that, Roland. My hat off to those of you that solved this unaided -- and you folks ought to be applying to be a contestant on Jeopardy.

Masked and Anonymous 12:33 PM  

Challenging. Challenging. Challenging to pick out just one fave weeject, here.

* EEE. When I saw this one baskin the openin corner, I knew there was gonna be trouble in RexWorld River City. Has Patrick Berry (PB1) Immunity, tho.
* ARA. I was utterly amazed, that this does **not** have PB1 Immunity. It has just about everybody else immunity. ARA is one on the edge part of what I thought was a really well-done, solid center section.
* ILA. OK, now we're startin to really stoke up the desperation level. Obviously, it was necessary collateral damage, in trying to save NTWT and TUTSI BOOTIE.
* ASO. Eruptions of Japanese ASOs may have led to serious SATSUMA crop damage, in which case M&A gives this ASO a pass.
* SED. Latin lives today. fave clue would be something along the lines of: {Brutus's but}.
* TER. I hear they might take the CC notation out of prescriptions, becuz they are so easily misread as 00. They should also take out TER, before someone misreads it as TAR.
* JOS. The rare apostropheed weeject. M&A is inclined to call "weener", here, and award JOS the coveted double-?? clue of: {Mexican shout outs to dudes??}

3 U's. More, if and when RUNGDUNGS ever catches on, as a snack.

NOT LIVE. har.

Lotsa good, bad, ugly, and alienee, in this here SatPuz. Hard one to rate. I solved it ok, so I guess it's OKEYDOKEY by me.


**Satsuma gruntz!**

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

Normally I enjoy a themeless. However, there was positively ZERO interesting about this puzzle whatsoever. I started with the SW, realized this puzzle was pointless, put my pen down, and proceeded to actually enjoy my Saturday morning. What a waste.

ANON B 12:48 PM  

What kind of people make up Saturday puzzles and what kind
can solve them? Even when I see the answers, I never
heard of many of them. Four winds in Mah Jongg?
And then, a commenter comes up with the longest
idiotic palindrome. Good bye. Try not to miss me.

Anonymous 12:51 PM  

@Nancy, thank you so much for coming here early to let us all know how you feel about the puzzle.

Amy Pearson 1:01 PM  

This is how I, and apparently many others here, feel about crosswords: If I don't know something, it is obviously too obscure and useless to put into a crossword puzzle. I know everything that is worth knowing, and anything beyond that is, by definition, not worth knowing. In fact, I am proud not to know anything beyond what I already know. Rather than learning something from an unknown answer in a puzzle, I would prefer to feel superior by looking down on those who think that such a clue could possibly be something worth knowing.

Jamie C 1:03 PM  

LAcE before LASE almost killed me. I thought this was fun and challenging.

Leapfinger 1:12 PM  

@aaron, I didn't think of ERLKONIG, but wondered about ODE_TO_JOY having 4 winds enough to enter it, see if anything developed. Also wanted Hiya_MoM from the handwaver in the crowd, and cryptically 'cut LIghtLY' down to LILY.

Thoroughly peeved by the isolationist grid, with only the SE not cracking a tooth or two. I don't pay for what I get for free on tap, so my NE had WINGNUT crossing WASANI (H20 with spicy pea flavour). That was itself a correction from PINHEAD crossing PERONI, till I remembered PERONI to be a beer. Peroni dates back to saving an empty bottle to decorate my cubby in the hospital, because Peyronie's disease (look it up). Today, that brought an extra giggle, what with BENT WEENIE in the grid. My apologies for an perception of generalized insensitivity.

I think we should tack AN -IST ON ALIENEEE, make it an ALIENIST, and take all of yesterday's pING dING ZING thing and flING it at a RING-a DING DING DONG for a NOT long singsong amingmong the HmingHmong. Would that be aLAO'ed? I think not.

In my view, this Satxwp was a SENECA Beach.

Arlene 1:27 PM  

I filled in MAH JONGG first - sort of telling about what I know. No one else seems to have started that way.

Jamie C 1:30 PM  

This was ASO hard puzzle. Perserverence ISAO I solved this one. Some of these Saturdays ARA bear to complete. Nobody SED it would be easy. PSI. ILA try harder next time.

nick 1:53 PM  

Zero on the fun scale. A joyless slog. Thanks, nyt!

Wm C. 2:07 PM  

I disagree with whomever called "REDDEER" "green paint." If the clue had been "a four-legged creature" I'd agree, but the clue was for a specific town name in a specific place. It would be akin to saying "White Plains, NY" would be a green paint answer to a clue about the town.

Steve J 2:13 PM  

Yeah, this was pretty grim. Heavily segmented grids like this are never my favorite, because rarely does each mini-puzzle work well. And they didn't here.

Fill ranges from questionable to awful throughout. There are terrible crosses throughout (ROSALIE crossing ASO and ALIENEE being the worst by far). There are questionable spellings (GECKOES). There are multiple forced-plurals. Ugh.

And then there's DING in the grid twice. That kept me from making an entry into the middle for the longest time, as I refused to believe that DING would be allowed to show up twice. Given the overall junkiness of the puzzle, I don't know why I resisted that that would occur. Given the overall low quality of this puzzle, in hindsight I'd actually be a little disappointed if something egregious like that didn't occur.

Numinous 2:26 PM  

I misread @Z's third ¶, thought how cute and agreed. So I'll just say it as I misread it: I didn't like this as much as Rex. This is the kind of puzzle that I have made in the past and feel suitably chagrinned about. ALIENEE? Thats worse than EDH. At least after I finished yesterday's puzzle and looked up EDH, I learned some stuff, ðere, see?

RINGDINGS? dINGdoNGS, yeah and they are both Hostess products. Ho Hos are chocolate rolls like jelly rolls with creme filling sandwiched within. RINGDINGS and Ding Dongs are both chocolate hockey pucks filled with creme and covered with fondant. Like someone above said, I've been in a lot of conveience stores and I can't recall ever seeing a display of Drake's Cakes. Hostess, TastyKakes, Entenmanns, Little Debby, yeah, Drakes? Nope.

Obscure Latin three-letter words, Just ugly. I've no idea why, but I knew ALTOONA, PA. I've ridden my motorcycle up and down Mt PALOMAR a few times. It's easy to go very fast and there is very little traffic if any. I had no idea they named their telescope. Is MAH JONGG Erica's mother? I thought surely TATIANA is spelled with a Y. Is it another of the BAD SIGNS for the NYTX tha Will allowed REENTRY of DING?

I'd like to pack TNT around this one and light the PHEWS. I'd leave a picture of a running stick figure captioned HERE I AM in a MAD DASH for the OPEN SEA.

Anonymous 2:42 PM  

But it's not even geckos Rex. It's the never -used "geckoes." I breed the little critters. I've never seen it spelled that way!

old timer 3:08 PM  

Geometricus, you just made my day.

This was super-hard, even though I did have to consult Dr. Google to find many answers.

The NE was pretty easy because ALTOONA was so guessable. So was the SE, because I know enough about New York to get PKWY and ONEIDAS . Sadly I did not get SYN (cleverest clue in the puzzle I think). So for a while, I had "Okey-dokie" where OKEY-DOKEY belongs. In the SW, I confidently wrote in "Crest" instead of ORALB. I'm guessing the same company owns both brands and calls some products "Pro Health". I use Crest mouthwash myself.

NIPSEY was a near-Natick. Never heard of her (him?). I had confidently put in CPI, for an inflation fig. But it had to be -SI, and I realized the clue had bamboozled me. Oh! *that* kind of inflation! I finished in the NW, which seemed easier than I first thought, and a good place to ENDIN. Though I think MAD DASH could have been better clued.

Favorite answer, and the one that broke that corner open: MAHJONGG

Drake Cake 3:56 PM  

JERRY: Gina, do you know what a Drake’s Coffee Cake is?

GINA: Of course, the plane cake with the sweet brown crumbs on the top.

JERRY: How much do they cost?

GINA: The junior?

GEORGE: No, no the full size.

JERRY: No, no the junior.

GEORGE: You didn’t say "junior".

GINA: I haven’t had one of those since I was a little girl.

Teedmn 4:07 PM  

@Numinous, great post!

@Z, thanks for the PARSEC discussion. That was a gimme for me due to a 1st Qtr college physics problem which asked us to determine a distance in parsecs. Even though it has been lo, these many decades since I took physics, I still remember my total "Wha?" regarding parsecs. Luckily, I think that one problem was the only time parsecs reared their ugly units.

RINGDINGS, this morning I had never heard of them. This afternoon I was watching Episode 10 of Season 1 of 'The Wire', trying to up my pop culture knowledge, only a decade behind. A cop on surveillance is stuffing himself with junk food. His replacement gets in the van, looks at all the wrappers and says, "Really dude, Cheez Puffs AND RINGDINGS?" That has to be the fastest turnaround I've ever had on that phenomenon where you see something once and then you see it everywhere. Except I'm guessing I won't be seeing RINGDINGS everywhere 'cause they aren't everywhere!

Anonymous 4:07 PM  

I gave up on this puzzle,
It's like a "Jeopardy" program where one has to guess the answer to a person, place or thing. No thanks, Mr. Huget.

Bill L. 4:16 PM  

"a cakewalk to gunky town" ha! Don't blow a phews, Rex.

Better clue for 36D: They're like assholes, in a way.

Nah, BEQ has probably already gone there. Might have helped wake up this snooze fest though.

Leapfinger 4:19 PM  

@GillEllen, youse guys are Kraken me up! Proper eyes and/or proper tongues, whether either or neither or both... Is it proper to be licking either with the other? OPINIONS squidiffer

Hand up for RED DEER being not green paint. Several kids on my first climbing trip in the Canadian Rockies came from Red Deer: it's about halfway between Calgary and Edmonton, where the David Thompson Hwy (not PKWY) heads west to the mountains. Thompson explored large swaths of the Northwest on horseback, supposedly with only a rifle and a bag of flour. One of the Red Deer kids wrote me after that trip; the letter had been opened and examined by the INS. One night in the tent we'd had a long discussion about the merits of different breakfast cereals; to clinch the argument, Lorne had mailed me a loose spoonful of contraband granola.

Of course I couldn't get past thinking of Moose Jaw for the longest time, and it isn't even in ALT(OON)A.

OISK 4:53 PM  

Ugh. Congratulations to @Nancy for solving this one. I slogged unhappily through it, getting ISAO, and OralB, and Alienee, But from the very beginning there was one cross I could not get. Never heard of Rosalie Hale. Surely there are better clues for Rosalie. Did not know the volcano. But I still would have had a shot; I still could have guessed it if not for the too-clever clue "Cut lightly"? Now that I see it, it was clever indeed, cut using light - I get it. But I had "Lace." And not changing that, I had no shot, why can't a vampire be called "Ricalie?" DNF. But it would not have been a pleasant solve for me even without the error.

Norm 6:38 PM  

Very nice, Amy Pearson, but I would qualify it a tad. It's not that I don't know the answer; it's when you cross it with other obscure crap that I don't know. Give me a fair chance to suss it. That's all I ask. Oh ... but trivia contest puzzles just plain suck regardless.

Joe Bleaux 11:16 PM  

Once again, I try to post for the first time. Will I be admitted?

Elephant's Child 9:19 AM  

Bienvenue, @Joe Bleaux. That's quite a mercy bleaux coup.

Joe Bleaux 7:39 PM  

As a newcomer, I am grateful to, and appreciative of, you folks and, of course, Rex. In my first real post, I had planned to say everything that, as it turned out, SteveJ and Trombone Tom said first. Maybe next time, I can proffer a fairly original and worthwhile contribution. Meanwhile, it's a joy to hang here. (@Z: Thanks; I didn't know the drill. My comment reflected my frustration with my ISP, not Rex, after much hoop-jumping to get in here.)

Joe Bleaux 7:41 PM  

Wups: Aside to Z meant for Elephant's Child. Please don't give up on me.

Z 9:36 PM  

@Joe Bleaux - No worries. Welcome.

Gregory Schmidt 10:53 PM  

Thank you for the vindication of the SW corner. I knew basically none of the proper nouns, so that left me Naticked and filling in random vowels. ROSALIE/ASO and ROSALIE/ALIENEE are the worst clump of crosses I've seen in quite a while.

rondo 10:30 AM  

OKEYDOKEY then, I liked this puz. A lot! I feel sorry for those folks who don’t know stuff or can’t figure it out – that’s why they call it a puzzle!! @Amy Pearson – nail on the head with the tongue in the cheek – perfect! Because it’s only their OPINIONS, I hesitate to call the complainers WEENIES, but if the frankfurter bun fits . . .

Sure I had my share of write-overs today. dINGDoNGS like everyone else, and at first ONEIDAS where the SENECAS took up residence, and hUTus for TUTSI not recalling who was who, too. But it all got fixed with some effort. Quit whining, please.

Most favorite Friend yeah baby Jennifer ANISTON makes a nice appearance next to TATIANA, name of one of the yeah baby women I dated in the former USSR.

Put in REDDEER right off since Moose Jaw wouldn’t fit and is probably in another province, like Saskatchewan.

Have flown a number of models of CESSNAs, but not that one.

Lots to like about this puz, no matter the naysayers. More like this, please.

spacecraft 11:31 AM  

Fatal error was not being able to see past dINGDoNGS--but it doesn't matter: either way DING is repeated in the grid. Do we have new rules now, or is this "no-rules Saturday?" At last NOW, after seeing it in place, I get (GROAN!) the SEEDS clue. Oh yeah, in a tournament. The damn SEEDS could get upset. Just didn't see that at the time. And no way could I parse IPODNANO; I was stuck with some kind of piANO, being the musical direction for "very light."

There are a few things I liked about this, most notably MAHJONGG and ODYSSEY, but I agree with OFL that some of that fill is straight out of DINGBAT. PKWY, NTWT, EEE, etc. and the unknowables TUTSI, ARA, ASO--and why clue ISAO as an even MORE obscure fellow than Mr. AOKI, who at least has the distinction of having both his names used as xword crutches? And what's with SYN? The clue obviously refers to SYNtax, but the word is NEVER abbreviated that way, so as not to confuse it with SYNONYM. Bah. More like this? God, I hope not.

Burma Shave 11:55 AM  


NANNIES ROSALIE and TATIANA were two cuties
whom I ASKEDIN and SAWTOIT they had duties.
My STRATEGY to shell out cash
will always ENDIN a MADDASH,



BS2 12:03 PM  


but when there’s SIGNS MULLETS run I change STRATEGY,


rain forest 2:24 PM  

Again, I'm among the minority who liked this, and unlike yesterday's DNF, I finished this one correctly. My last entry was the R for ARA, because I didn't think AdA was a Latin word. Never had a RING DING, if they are like Ding Dongs, I never will. Truly awful.

I went quite smoothly through this, but thinking the four winds' thing was Peer Gynt held me up for awhile. Sure maybe there was some 'weak' fill in here, but there always is, and I just don't mind it. Besides there were some excellent clues in here. Case as a SYN for example was brilliant, in my opinion. Anyway, happy.

leftcoastTAM 4:00 PM  

Challenging for me. I got DINGed in the SW where PARSEC was a WOE, which came out PAnSEC with a nAtALIE instead of a ROSALIE. Thus, a bit of a mess there and a DNF today as well as yesterday.

Hope to get at least one out of two next Fri-Sat.

leftcoastTAM 6:07 PM  

This is late, but I hope not totally lost.

It's apparent to me that, given the very wide range of comments from negative to positive, posters have quite different standards--not only about how good or bad a puzzle is, but also about how they define "finishing" or "solving" a puzzle.

Many apparently think that going outside the puzzle and its clues for help (googling, spell-checking, correcting, etc.) counts as having finished successfully. Others don't. I'm one of the latter.

My point is that reading the comments doesn't really give one a sense of the "objective" difficulty of a puzzle for the commenting group as a whole or of the crossword expertise of individual solvers. The comments and reports of success and failure, I believe, skew the ratings toward the "successful" end of the spectrum.

My preference would be that commenters own up to the outside assistance they may use and get when they tell us how difficult or easy a puzzle is and how well they've done in finishing or solving it.

Of course, each to his own.

rondo 9:18 PM  

@leftcoastTAM - whenever I use any outside source I consider it DNF. @Ron Diego gave me a pass recently when I used the refrigerator to check the initials H.J. before Heinz. Speaking of @Ron Diego, I haven't noticed a post from him since the day before his (79th?) birthday. I certainly hope we haven't lost him.

Anonymous 1:20 PM  

I have lived in the midwest, the mountain west, and the far west without ever having seen or even heard of RINGDINGS. Ditto DEVILDOG which appeared in another puzzle recently. So I guess it's an east coast thing.

RINGDINGS would not really be an "alternative" to Ho Hos except for those living where the two product lines overlapped, if there ever was such a place.

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