Floating island visited in Gulliver's Travels / SAT 10-17-15 / Region beyond Karman line / Lilliputian informally / Exotic Now Voyager setting / Irish equivalent of Jane / Old English county court sessions / French metropolis near Belgian border

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium, once you get the gimmick. No telling how long that will take you...


THEME: OUTER / SPACE (25A: With 39-Across, region beyond the Kármán line ... or a literal hint to what this puzzle has) — all the edge answers are BLANKS and are represented by just a series of blank squares. Oh, and four intersecting 13s all relate to OUTER / SPACE:

Theme answers:
  • LUNAR ECLIPSES (19A: Sun blocks?)
  • USS ENTERPRISE (11D: Setting for many sci-fi stories)
  • ALIEN INVASION (49A: Recurrent "Twilight Zone" plot device)
  • CONSTELLATION (4D: Hercules or Perseus)
Word of the Day: LAPUTA (16A: Floating island visited in "Gulliver's Travels") —
Laputa is a flying island described in the 1726 book Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. It is about 4.5 miles in diameter, with an adamantine base, which its inhabitants can maneuver in any direction using magnetic levitation. (wikipedia)
• • •

When I finished this, I thought the "New Idea" was just a 13x13 themeless of no great distinction stuffed inside a kind of April Fools shell. But then I noticed that the long answers all relate to the theme of OUTER / SPACE, and my appreciation for the puzzle went up a few notches. It's a pretty loose grouping of OUTER / SPACE-y things, but it's OK. Also explains why the rest of the grid wasn't more interesting. Themelesses should be sparkly, but this one had a bunch of themers (it turns out!) so the mere acceptableness of the rest of the fill makes sense (theme answers, depending theme on density, really really restrict what you're able to do w/ the rest of the grid). Interesting choice to make those outer answers [BLANKS]. Kind of goes away from the whole astronomical theme, but gives an interesting, new, literal dimension to the OUTER / SPACE theme.

["And so you're back..."]

I got very lucky in solving this puzzle. I did the usual initial flailing one does when one wades into a tricky grid. Had some tentative answers (none of them ultimately correct). And then I scanned the clues for the revealer. Found it! But had no idea at all what the "Kármán line" was supposed to be. Something Asian? NORTH / KOREA fit. So did SOUTH. But couldn't get crosses to work. Then, miracle of miracles, I saw the 26D: W.W. II poster girl, which I think I would've gotten immediately no matter what, but which was Particularly easy for me because I had just watched "The Life and Times of ROSIE the Riveter" earlier in the evening. It's an important and astonishing documentary made in 1980 about women who worked in factories and shipyards during W.W. II. It tells this important part of U.S. history through interviews with five women: three black, two white, all unbelievably charming and insightful about their own experiences. I DVR'd it from TCM, which is focusing on women in film all month ("Life and Times..." was directed by Connie Field). ANYway ... ROSIE went right in, and instantly I knew the revealer was OUTER / SPACE (just from having both of those words' last letters). Once I put in OREOS, I found myself in the very unlikely position of having the revealer worked out ... but nothing else:


I mean, look at the sad wrong answers I've got at this point. That central square of answers is (besides the sad, lone "S" in the 23 box) literally the only correctly solved part at this point. Weird. Just weird. From here, I quickly guess that something will be happening in the edge answers, and pretty quickly after that, I see that it's BLANKS, all around. Very anti-climactic. I mean, I guess I got a little feeling of "aha," but I honestly didn't even read the clues for the outer answers. So I thought it was cute but not thrilling ... and then I saw that the longers answers were space-related, and I was slightly more thrilled. Other things that gave me minor thrills—Three Fs!:

Minor thrills:
  • FAIN (37D: Willingly, once) — [from Sidney's "Astrophil & Stella" 1]: "Loving in truth, and FAIN in verse my love to show / That she, dear she, might take some pleasure of my pain; / Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know, / Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain." It goes on for 10 more lines. This is one of only three poems I have memorized cold. *And* I just taught it on Thursday. *So*, like ROSIE, FAIN was on my mind.
  • FLIER (37A: Take a ___) — I say this all the time. I don't know where I got it. I don't if other people I know say it. I just like the expression. A lot.
  • FALCO (36A: Singer with the 1986 #1 hit "Rock Me Amadeus") — I have been on something of a '70s/'80s Top 40 kick lately. Mildly obsessed, actually. I name-checked Bryan Adams in my Renaissance poetry class, that's how bad it's gotten. Seriously. I found myself saying, and then nearly singing, the phrase "Straight from the Heart" when I was discussing the aforementioned Sidney poem, which ends, semi-famously, "Fool, said my muse to me, look in thy heart and write." This is all to say that I have heard "Rock Me Amadeus" (probably several times) in the past few weeks, as Casey Kasem's American Top 40 (the '70s/'80s) is kind of my default work music at the moment. (Stream it here.)

Couple more things.
  1. Caleb Madison (ed. of the new BuzzFeed crossword, which debuted this past Monday) and I did a radio interview with the great Emily Jo Cureton yesterday about the state of contemporary crosswords. I really enjoyed it. You can listen here (roughly 20 min.).
  2. The BuzzFeed puzzles are very much worth checking out (Friday's themeless by 15-year-old phenom Paolo Pasco was particularly impressive) (get it here) (read about it here). Another puzzle debuted this week too—HIGH:low, a biweekly (free!) themeless puzzle by the super-talented K. Austin Collins (currently Ph.D.-ing at Princeton). The main idea is low word-count, high quality. Sign up to have the puzzle delivered right to your inbox on the 1st and 15th of every month. I solved (and wrote about) HIGH:low #1, and it was really entertaining.
    Good day.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

    80 comments:

    jae 12:12 AM  

    What @Rex said, relatively easy once I figured out the theme.   Started out with  s tiles for 1d and got exactly nowhere except for eensy for 21a - again, nowhere.   Also, nest before COTE didn't help.   Focused on the "theme" clues and got OUTER SPACE.  It was pretty smooth after that except for the LAPUTA/ASSIZES cross (it's been a long time since I've read Swift), where A seemed like the most reasonable guess. 

    I've had fun this week and this was no exception.  I knew something was going on when SETI and PIPS wouldn't work and enjoyed sussing out the trick. So, liked it a lot!

    wreck 12:12 AM  

    I got pretty lucky and had the middle of the puzzle filled quicky. When I saw "OUTER SPACE" I was off to the races. It ended up as a 13x13, so it went pretty fast overall.

    lit.doc 12:14 AM  

    Please stop. Please. There are, at times, excellent reasons for something never having been tried before. Just. Stop.

    meg 12:29 AM  

    Got the gimmick almost immediately and said, "no f-ing way am I entering BLANK as a rebus in every border square. I'm willing to break my streak to not do that." Imagine my delight when the delightful solve ditty played once I entered my final letter (the M of PAM/MONAD. I had really been sure the ever popular crossword "variation" of amoeba would be 43D). For once I didn't spent most of my solving time on a gimmicky puzzle figuring out what the app would accept & for that I am grateful.

    Pete 12:36 AM  

    My recap of this week:

    Saturday - Horribly confusing, until you realized you were served a 13x13 puzzle rather than a 15x15, then all you had was a relatively easy 13x13 puzzle. Total fail. Why not just make outer space more realistic, and give us a 5x5 puzzle?
    Friday: - Decent puzzle, the gimmick was next to nothing.
    Thursday: Horrible slog to fill in, the visual aspect was lost unless you got the paper. It could have been better had the NYTimes figured out how to tell you that you really should do it in PDF form for the several hundred thousand, or million, of us who pay for the puzzles electronically. It would take a decent programmer about an hour to alter the puzzle page to add space for a daily note, in the case there was a need for one. I mean, those 10s of millions should get you some service, no?
    Wednesday: A simple meta, with the meta as an unchecked entry in the puzzle. Nothing earth-shattering, but different.
    Tuesday: Thursday on a Tuesday. Bad scheduling, no more.
    Monday: I'm begging you, don't make me go back to Monday to see what that puzzle was.

    This week was a near total failure.

    Hays 12:42 AM  

    I find it kind of cool that "Astrophil & Stella" was what made you think of FAIN, given the theme, for hopefully obvious reasons.

    This one infuriated me for about 10 minutes, until I finally figured it out and then it was fun. I like all the space stuff (SETI, too, for instance).

    S sgibolon 1:17 AM  

    Good lord this was terrible. Sometimes I suspect there's something goofy going on and I just can't be bothered to figure it out. Tonight after about 15 minutes I gave up and came here to see what kind of stupid crap was wrecking the Saturday puzzle I had waited all week for. Boy am I glad I spent no more time on this. If we must have gimmicky novelty puzzles please put them on Thursdays where at least I'll know to avoid them. What a horrible waste of a Saturday. I hated hated hated this puzzle and seeing the revealer makes me hate it even more. F-

    Bob Dively 1:55 AM  

    FALCO was the key for me to realize that a gimmick was afoot, and then I quickly figured out all the edge blanks business. After that it was a bit of a slog, partly because I wrote in ITTY instead of ITSY and made myself confused by mistakenly putting ELISHA off by a row.

    Didn't know what the Karman Line was either but correctly guessed it was sciencey and probably spacey.

    Steve J 2:13 AM  

    One of the two best puzzles of the themed week (Patrick Berry's Tuesday puzzle being the other). Thought it was great that the correct answer to all of the clues for the perimeter of the grid was, indeed, blanks.

    Picked up the trick very early. "Rock Me Amadeus" played incessantly one of my high school years, so I knew FALCO had to be the answer. But it didn't fit. So I figured there had to be a blank square. Recognizing the cross at 33D was likely to be AFC EAST, I realized the outer ring was to be left blank. The result was a ridiculously fast Saturday solve time.

    The fill isn't terribly scintillating, and if that was all there was on a regular Saturday I would have been found it a bit bland, but the theme was definitely clever enough to make this an enjoyable puzzle.

    Gregory Schmidt 2:26 AM  

    LAPUTA/ASSIZES = utter Natick.

    AliasZ 2:35 AM  


    This crossword week ending with today's wonderful exclamation mark by Timothy Polin was tremendous fun for me.

    Too bad the NYT puzzle applet considered the perimeter squares left BLANK as incomplete, so I had to go through the trouble of typing in BLANK à la rebus 52 times before the happy tune sounded. How EERIE that during this whole time I was watching the Royals BLANK the Blue Jays -- call it a fortuitous happenstance.

    I discovered the trick at NOR, a little later reinforced by PIPS, and realized that all the answers around the edges were BLANKSes, turning this into a relatively easy 13x13. I enjoyed the four interlocking themers tied neatly together with OUTER SPACE, plus SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence), EERIE FLIER, OUTRE and SOL. Great stuff.

    I enjoyed the French touch as well: NEZ, LILLE, CÔTE d'Azur and LASALLE. "Gee, our old LASALLE ran great, those were the days..." But LAPUTA parsed as a Spanish feminine noun with a definite article made me do a double take. Some could perceive this as ASIN.

    The clues for ADLIB and SLOGAN were outstanding. Favorite fill entries: ALCOVES, ASSIZES and FAIN.

    ARCANA spelled backward is ANACRA, which brought to mind this overture by Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842), whom Beethoven himself considered the greatest composer of the time.

    Enjoy your weekend!

    Anonymous 5:35 AM  

    One thing I noticed was that in only two of the answers did the number of blank letters match the number of letters in the word "BLANKS." That did make the whole thing tough to grok. And themes? Too inside-jokey for my taste.

    Nothing nice to say about the fill, either. Fain, assizes, monad, Sega, ???

    Between the blank border and the reveal clue, I just kept thinking "He tried too hard."

    OK, move along folks. Nothing to see here.

    keleng 6:10 AM  

    kind of annoying to have to have put "blank" in every square. I put an X in the blanks, but of course across lite had to replace every one with "blank" before I could get the coveted Mr Happy Pencil.
    Not too hard once you get the idea....

    Jonathan Alexander 7:33 AM  

    Really clever theme...as I hunt and peck for answers I usually work around the outside first, and I started with 1D BLANKS. As I went on I got confused cause I saw I could put BLANKS in for all of the perimeter and got the theme. That being said I filled BLANKS for all of the clues and got stuck. It wasn't til I got to the center and got the OREOS/ROSIE gift to figure out OUTER SPACE that I got the gist of the theme as far as the rest of the fill. After that it was pretty straight forward. Again, not anything "new" but still a fun time.

    Anonymous 7:44 AM  

    Hey Rex thanks for the tip(s). The radio interview was great. I checked out the BuzzFeed puzzle. While I'm not in their prime demographic, it looks like fun and am going to give them a go. I also checked out the first HIGH:low puzzle. Your review was excellent, BTW, and I signed up for more puzzles.

    Good to see some fresh, younger faces coming onto the scene. The kids today don't want to hear riffs on the Oxford Comma, "at the dojo we..."; and I'm so cool I don't have a TV, drink American beer, I've never heard of Miley Cyrus, and European ________ is so much better. Who can blame them? It's like Grandma in a miniskirt around here sometimes.

    Rex Parker 7:56 AM  

    @Hays said: "I find it kind of cool that "Astrophil & Stella" was what made you think of FAIN, given the theme, for hopefully obvious reasons."

    Good point. I really should've noticed that. I just got through explaining (or getting students to explain to each other) what "Astrophil" and "Stella" mean. And this was certainly a star-loving puzzle. STELLA's even in the grid!

    RP

    Mohair Sam 8:44 AM  

    Got the gimmick quickly because all the "blanks" clues were very easy. Thought "well this is just a 13x13, big deal." Then caught the theme when "OUTER SPACE" eventually filled along with the 13's and we liked it a lot more. Nicely done.

    Like @Gregory Schmidt we naticked at the LAPUTA/ASSIZES cross. In my case paying the price for reading the the Classics Comics version of "Gulliver" in High School. If it wasn't for SINEAD O'Connor we would have naticked in the SE too, surprised it is as common as Jane over there. And yes, we're part Irish.

    Curious as to what Sunday will bring.

    Larissa 8:51 AM  

    I found I didn't have to rebus the word blank.. The app accepted the letter B as a replacement

    Z 8:51 AM  

    Reading the write up, I couldn't help but wonder how many people who have dissed Rex and others for not knowing some 19th century literary trivia have Astrophil & Stella memorized.

    I love Star Trek, but the USS ENTERPRISE clue irked me. "Many?" Really? Sure, if your knowledge of Science Fiction is limited to what has made it onto TV and movies. (Quickly - "irked" does not mean I think it is wrong)

    ASSIZES? A total flip of my five sided vowel die. Whac-a-Vowel has returned.

    I have three xword apps on my iPad. Both the NYT app and Puzzazz told me I was correct with nothing in the "blank" squares. Crux has decided it can't launch for some reason. BTW - I have awesome times today. ;)

    A fun, if not scintillating, week. If you didn't enjoy these puzzles at least a little I'm not sure I can relate to why you do puzzles. I've been doing the buzzfeed puzzles here and there. Enjoyable, too, but there were a few reminders of just how much current pop culture I could not care less about.

    Lobster11 8:59 AM  

    The multi-level theme was pretty darn clever, and I enjoyed sussing it out. Also loved some of the cluing, which is what I most enjoy about Fridays and Saturdays. Key for me was in the NW, where I felt sure from the very start that APESUIT, ARCANA, and DOOWOP just had to be right. A few bullets:

    1. Double Natick for me with ASSIZES crossing both LAPUTA and NEZ. I mean, really?

    2. I thought of ROSIE immediately, but resisted writing it in for a long time because it was clued with an abbreviation. Doesn't that mean the answer should be an abbreviation? Or does that convention not apply on Saturdays?

    3. FAIN? No. Just no.

    4. Did not like the spelling of NAN. If you try to search the interwebs for that, the Google Machine seems confident that you meant "naan."

    5. Before I sussed the theme I had AFCSOUTH for the Dolphins' group, which of course would have fit perfectly in a normal puzzle. Miami is more souther than easter, isn't it?

    Seth 9:07 AM  

    I gotta say, this week was kind of a disappointment. Granted, each puzzle was fun to do. But I was really expecting every puzzle this week to be fully, completely new, in a way I had never seen before. In my opinion, only Monday vaguely gave me something NEW (pictures). Tues/Thurs were two-letter rebuses (and rebuses have been done). The Wednesday HANGMAN thing was cool, but it didn't feel new. Friday I thought was a great puzzle, but again, if I had seen this in any other normal week on, say, Thursday (or even Friday!), I would have been pleased but not blown away with thoughts of, "Wow this is something I've NEVER SEEN!"

    I was hoping for new. Seriously new. Numbers. Grids of different sizes and shapes. Colors? Mazes? Weird stuff. Everything done this week could have happened in any other week and fit in, with the possible exception of Monday.

    That said, all the puzzles were really fun to do, and expertly crafted. So in that respect, it was a successful week.

    chefbea 9:25 AM  

    Had no idea what this puzzle was all about so came here. Now that Rex has explained it ..will try to do it and come back later

    ArtO 9:28 AM  

    Once I filled in BLTILES for one down and BLSPACES for one across and BLSTARES for 8 across I was finished. Add to that I rarely do Saturday's and I just gave up.

    NCA President 9:29 AM  

    I had kinda hoped, as I was sussing this thing out, that the "SPACE" the puzzle was getting at (and something that maybe hasn't been done before), was to actually include the space between the two word answers in the grid. For instance, LA [space] SALLE, or AFC [space] EAST. But no, that wasn't it. I think that would have been better.

    As for this being "new," haven't we seen something like this before, except the "OUTER SPACE" part is outside of the grid? Which, again, would have made more sense to me rather than just a perimeter of blank squares.

    LPT: When entering a rebus from the computer applet (and perhaps even the AcrossLite app), hit the escape key...it is a shortcut to the rebus entry tool. This is at least true on the Mac, I don't know about PC. You might have noticed the shoutout in the puzzle to the ESC key...meta maybe?

    Other than that, FAIN/FLIER messed me up for a long-ish while. I've never heard "Take a fl[y]er" before. Take a breather, take a break, take a dump, yes. Take A "Fl[y]er" no. Upon Googling, I noticed it's usually spelled with a Y. And FAIN, well, just no.

    Teedmn 9:40 AM  

    I'd say I cheated shamelessly to get this puzzle but actually I'm ashamed at how many BLANKS I have in my knowledge bank. I didn't know LAPUTA, LASALLE, ELIZHA, FALCO, or what the Kármán Line is (and I read a lot of fiction set in OUTER SPACE).

    I didn't see the revealer because I had CagE instead of COTE and tan for SOL. So having ROSIE and OREOS could have helped but didn't.

    I stared at this for 30 minutes before my first Google and was probably done 20 minutes after that. It wouldn't have taken that long except I chose to interpret OUTER SPACE as meaning there would be things hanging outside the grid.

    The only thing I did get today with no help is that the OUTER answers were all BLANKS. Yay, me (yes, that is meant sarcastically).

    And so it ends. I can't say that a week of never-seen-before gimmicks (never being a relative term) has given me additional pleasure while solving but I didn't hate it. My opinion TEETERS, one could say, between "so what?" and "now what?"

    Have a great weekend, all.

    Brian W. Ogilvie 9:41 AM  

    This one fell pretty easily. I couldn't get 1A, but 1D was obviously "blanks." Still, I wasn't entirely convinced, so I scanned the clues. I knew 16A had to be LAPUTA, but there was an extra space…. Then I saw 25A and figured it out. After that it was a cakewalk. I thought it was the most enjoyable of the week's oddities.

    GILL I. 10:03 AM  

    Oh good gravy...I just stared at this thing - sort of like looking at your navel. Nothing made sense so I did what any sane person would do and I cheated. Well, I was actually looking up barbershop relative ( I forget which site) and some of the answers had B's in them. B this, B that - what the hell. Then the B's finally smacked me hard which I'm glad for because all I did was draw a blank...!
    Because I like to draw and I was bored, I filled in B's around the outsides - yay, isn't this fun! Began to tackle the insides of this and finally finished. The OUTER SPACE was totally lost on me though..[sigh]
    This was my least favorite puzzle this week, and frankly, I'm disappointed we didn't have a couple of our great female constructors. Speaking of, doesn't LAPUTA look just all wrong?
    Do we get another one of these on Sunday. I'd love a Liz goodie.

    Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:09 AM  

    The problem with "blanks all around" was that only two of the spots were the right length for the word BLANKS. And if there really is somebody named Billy Blanks who does infomercials, I would hate to admit I knew about him. LAPUTA, on the other hand, that's culture. High culture. It's another theme answer, by the way. The Laputans spend their lives listening to the music of the spheres (which is very slow and undramatic), they are so intent on following astrological truths that they build their houses without right angles and they fall down all the time.

    Brett Chappell 10:09 AM  

    Best clue was 60s group, CSA, which I found very clever. It was also pleasant to have not to input a rebus of "blank" (or whatever) on every single emply square on the perimeter as often is the case on the iPad app.

    Many are griping on this forum today due to the relative easeof the puzzle. True, it wasnt a brain-crusher, but it did require thinking inside the box.

    Chuck McGregor 10:12 AM  

    After going through all the clues I had a solid ROSIE and "penciled" in 'scram' (5d) /and 'oleo' (41a). Looking very grim.

    Not too proud to cheat, I revealed square #1 to maybe get a start. Hmm...the reveal is not working? (I do keep the NYT online open to check/cheat if need e. So check my 'S' in "scram" and it's wrong. Hit reveal. It's a blank again? It slowly dawned that the perimeter answers were blanks - literally AND literally. Things then got a LOT easier :>)

    Love spacey things. To the themers list I'd add:

    APE SUIT (AS IN "Planet of the APEs")

    SOL (for obvious reasons)

    However, for some real stretches (noting Rex's anagram of ALLSET to STELLA):

    MONAD (43d), an anagram of NOMAD, a robot character in an episode of Star Trek ("The Changeling"), fitting for the 11d answer.

    SPACE MAP,PAM anagram, (39a/41a).

    A misspelled Carl Sagan (SeGAN) using 46d over to 50d or the "N" in the 56a non-answer answer.

    FLIER crossing USSENTERPRISE.

    PIPS (10d) are also radar echoes (think tracking UFOs).

    Though earthbound, so not really that spacey, we have FALCO FLIER (36a/37a) which is a thing (Sequoia Aircraft Co.).

    With obviously too much time on my hands to suss out such OUTRE ARCANA...

    Cheers,
    Chuck McGregor

    Loren Muse Smith 10:19 AM  

    This was really, really hard for me, but I got it done and felt supremely satisfied. As others have said, that LAPUTA/ASSIZES cross was tough; I had a lucky guess. First inkling of funny business afoot was that 4? -letter negative conjunction. Faint alarm bells. Then the Van Gogh; it had to be IRISES because Starry Night just seemed unfeasible. I, too, got the reveal off hardly any letters then saw that the four 15s were themers, and things got a lot easier.

    Also – doesn't it seem like EERIE and OUTRE are periphery themers, too? Cue Twilight Zone music.

    Rex – I dutifully went back to find STELLA and saw its anagram ALL SET.

    ASSIZES is a funny-looking word, huh? It could be a verb that means "make an ass of yourself." Nah. Let's not invite Ari. He tends to totally assize after two Tecates.

    Wanted Bob for the name that's another man's name in reverse. Always room for two Bobs in a group. Was going with Otto before I sniffed out the funny business.

    Pre-Trick Realization goofs:

    "spaces out" for _ _ _ _ _ _ _
    "but wait" for SLOGAN
    "pita" for NAN
    "Shalom" for ALOHA

    Post Trick goofs:

    "Pits" for PIPS
    "scram" for AWAY
    "chow" before EATS
    "beebop" (sic) for DOOWOP

    I've thoroughly enjoyed this week. Here's hoping for maybe a Blindauer or BEQ tomorrow…

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:27 AM  

    Utterly impossible for me.

    Strangely, my first entry, ala @Rex, was ROSIE, and working off that I actually filled the entire center of the grid, bounded by SOL, USE, RIO, and ESC, including COTE and FAIN, correctly. But somehow I got the idea that the 15-letter theme entries contained empty spaces, so I made such entries as 30 A, OU_TRE, 32 A, ALL_SET, and 35 A, ASS_ESS, leaving empty space in the 15s!

    I'm surprised that the early posts have no complaints about what I considered impossible clues like "French metropolis near the Belgian border" or "Explorer born Rene-Robert Cavelier" (although I guessed right on that one.)

    And if you want FALCO as an answer, there is always actress Edie, not some singer I have absolutely never heard of!

    And, yes, I drew a blank on the name of Billy BLANKS!!!

    Roo Monster 10:33 AM  

    Hey All !
    Kinda cool theme. Also with writing in BLANKS at 1D (had BALLOTS initially at 1A), then got to 44D, and said, "Hey, this is also BLANKS. Hmm." Then looked at 8A/14D, and saw they were also BLANKS, which explained why some of my initial acrosses didn't want to work. Once I figured out the BLANKS had nothing to do with the completion of answers, just left em empty. Also caught on to the "spacey" 13's. Didn't miss the second theme this time, unlike Thursday missed second theme. But I don't know infomercial guy Billy BLANKS. Billy Mays, sure, and the newer skinny younger dude (can't think of his name, but don't think it's Billy Blanks), but not Mr. BLANKS.

    Always thought it was NAAN bread, not NAN. A little disappointed to see OUTRE when the OUTER is already in and the theme! Seems that NE section could use a do-over. That would also get rid of the Natick ASSIZES/NEZ. Funnily (is that a word?) I had IRA first for 9D. Had to switch it around when the crosses didn't jive.

    Overall, ok, seems this might've been a good ThursPuz, if the awesome Rebus one wasn't made. Not the best for a SatPuz. Just sayin.

    ALOHA
    RooMonster
    DarrinV

    Deke 10:41 AM  

    What does 38A answer, CSA, stand for?

    Norm 10:44 AM  

    This was fun. Across Lite is perfectly happy with "B" in all the outer spaces so you don't have to risk carpal tunnel syndrome with all the extra keystrokes. I just left the outer row blank, which I think is another "correct" solution. I'm another one who thought it was "just" a 13x13 until I saw how all the clues for the perimeter worked. Not an "oh wow" puzzle, but certainly one that made me smile.

    jberg 11:04 AM  

    No idea who Karman was (an important physicist, it turns out), but "region beyond" a line sounded like some kind of SPACE, and I figured it had to be either hypER or OUTER. I'd already been noticing that ARCANA, ASSIZES, etc. didn't fit -- so that made the revealer clear enough. But my problem was that I interpreted the clues for the perimeter as meaning I should write in the words, which gave me things like BLANKSS at 57A (one S from 57A, a different one from 44D. The I noticed that every row and column started and ended with the same letter -- except that meant that 32D had to be 'no BLANKS' -- which made no sense. Talk about going down a rabbit-hole! (Hi, @Casco_kid). I was expecting to come here and find some neat explanation of how it all made sense -- but no, they're just BLANKS! OK.

    The other theme of this puzzle was ARCANA, what with the aforementioned Karman, LASALLE's birth name, Gulliver's island, and which prophet is in II Kings.

    I did like the trick apostrophe at 38A -- it took me a long time to get rid of SDS there.

    I think I'm with the 'let's get back to normal' crowd on this one.

    GeezerJackYale48 11:07 AM  

    Indeed laputa/assizes was not good. Otherwise, fun puzzle. Clever stuff.

    Nancy 11:33 AM  

    "Easy-medium"??? Aw, Rex, give me a break! This fiendish but splendid puzzle set me on the slippery slope to a cheatin' puzzle life -- a very slippery slope, as I've often maintained. But I was suffering, oh, was I ever suffering, and I was at the point of giving up. Then I remembered the words of our own beloved @Lewis (and I paraphrase): "I cheat just enough to make the puzzle doable and fun." So, Dear Reader. I...

    (!) Googled "the Karman line" to get OUTER SPACE. This told me that it wouldn't be just one blank per clue (as in blank TILES for 1D, for example) but 4 rows of complete blanks. WITHOUT KNOWING THIS, I COULD NOT HAVE SOLVED THIS PUZZLE. I suspected this might be the case from the get-go, but wasn't sure enough to enter answers with any degree of confidence. Once I knew it was right, every ungettable answer in the puzzle (just about all of them) became suddenly gettable. And, thanks to you @Lewis, this awful puzzle began to be fun.

    I also Googled the Saturn creator, I must confess, but hey, like I say, that slope is slippery as hell. Hope next week will restore me to the path of honesty and righteousness.

    Carola 11:33 AM  

    Liked it! It took me a long time to figure out why "must be" answers - IRISES, FALCO, ASSIZES (I read a lot of 19th c. novels), ASSESS, SETI - wouldn't fit. My first guess was doubled initial letters, then doubled final letters. Caught on in the SETI NEZ OUTRE area that the edge squares had to be empty. And that led me to OUTER SPACE (with some help from ROSIE). Then things got easier. Thanks, @Rex, for pointing out the long theme answers - I was so happy to have finished the puzzle with its BLANKS that I never considered how they fit together. And thanks, @AliasZ for the bonus theme answers; I'd noticed SOL but not the others. Lots to like!

    Anonymous 11:46 AM  

    @Mohair Sam: according to the note, the "new" puzzles were Mon-Sat, so Sunday should be back to normal...

    Nancy 11:59 AM  

    @Z (from late yesterday). I didn't know TECATE was made by Heineken. In fact, I never heard of TECATE at all. But many decades ago, one of my favorite treats after tennis was having Lowenbrau on draft at a local bar known for its imported draft beers. Lowenbrau on draft was simply the best, the most flavorful, the most thirst-quenching beer I'd ever had. And on draft, it was far less gassy than bottled beer. It was Germany's best. And then, one day, it was bought by Miller. Bye, bye, great German beer. It became a boring beer, with no character at all. I don't drink beer very often these days, but when I do, Lowenbrau is off my radar screen. I imagine Heineken has done the same thing to great foreign beers.

    Maruchka 11:59 AM  

    Ah, English lit! Knowing that ASSIZES and FAIN must be right (what else?) revealed the grid. Have to say, I'm appreciating the construction side more, due this week's theme. Thanks, Will.

    Sioban/SINEAD, AFL/AFC EAST only do-overs.

    @Rex - ROSIE came right AWAY, too. There's a Rosie the Riveter museum (more an exhibit) in my home town, where four shipyards and auto plants ran 24/7 during WWII. Richmond CA was then a major destination for people making the Great Northern migration. Most stayed, started families, and contributed to the melding of cultures all along the West Coast. Racism raised its ugly head but, somehow, integration went pretty well until the mid-60s. I certainly benefitted from friendships with all sorts of folk.

    Andrew Heinegg 12:06 PM  

    I generally don't care for Mr. Polin's puzzles and this was no exception. I dislike the clue for slogan, had never heard of Falco (I know, I know my bad with his no.1 hit?) and alternative spelling of naan annoyed me. You add that to this being what I consider a gimmick puzzle and it adds up to a disappointing solve. Unlike some others assessments to the contrary, this 'special' week for the NYT x-words has been a dud for me.

    Tim 12:19 PM  

    We enjoyed this one a lot, though we got Naticked at AFCEAST / CSA. The clue for CSA there is unnecessarily obscure. (is this really supposed to be 1860s??)

    Lewis 12:25 PM  

    I learned that the Karman Line, 100 km above sea level, is the boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and outer space. That one I think I'll remember.

    Ironically, I originally had "BLANKS" for 1D. I knew NOR and PIPS, then the gimmick became clear. I liked having the outer space themers. While I didn't go APES_IT over the puzzle, it was kind of fun doing a smaller puzzle than usual, especially on a Saturday. A little gift. It made me forgive the AFC EAST being in the West. I seem to remember we had ZEN yesterday, and we have its reverse today. Overall, I agree with @stevej's assessment in his last paragraph.

    It's been fun having a little vacation from the puzzle norm, but going back to the norm, which includes a Thursday gimmick puzzle, feels just right to me. Thanks, Will and constructors, for the efforts you've put into this!

    old timer 12:41 PM  

    I always thought "Seana" was the Irish equivalent of "Jane", which I always thought was the female version of "John". SINEAD? Learn something every day doing the puz.

    Of course I had no idea what to do as none of the likely answers fit. But I did notice that all the corner answers had something to do with BLANKS, so I obediently wrote in [blank] followed by "tiles" in 1D, and only figured out the gimmick because I was sure "BET" had to be the answer for "not check" I wondered if all the answere were simply "blank" or "blanks" in all the corners, and if in fact nothing should be written in any outside square. LAPUTA? Yes. ARCANA? Yes. and at that point it was a fairly easy puzzle.

    SINEAD was my last answer, gotten only on crosses. DOOWOP was my favorite answer. Very enjoyable puzzle.

    But one quibble. ASSIZES were not, strictly speaking, County courts. They were national courts presided over by national judges of the Kings (or Queens) Bench. The county courts were "quarter sessions", where all the JPs would meet to try cases too serious for the justices to handle on their own, but not serious enough to require trial before a judge clad in wig and gown, with a panoply of barristers and solicitors hanging on his every word, and laughing at his terrible jokes.

    For the ASSIZES, the judge, with his clerk, and the barristers would travel together on circuit, usually staying at the same inns on the way, and dining together. On the Northern Circuit, that would mean going from York to Durham to Newcastle to Carlisle, etc. In each assize town the judge would have a special lodging -- a custom that lasted at least to the age of Rumpole.

    Masked and Anonymous 12:42 PM  

    har! Primo! A space-invasion schlock puz! Better than M&A's (and bro-in-law's) FriNight Schlock Flickfest!

    Only thing, is that M&A woulda been tempted to go way more over-the-top on the perimeter answers' clues. As is, they all wanted BLANKS for an answer. M&A woulda branched out, a bit.
    Zamples:
    * {The final frontier?}
    * {K-PAX co-star Kevin??}
    * {Things returned for a modest deposit?}
    * {Like the Chernobyl Holiday Inn?}
    * {Like the KKK, infamously??}
    * {What a dude is shootin, after 4 hours on Viagra?}
    * {Invisible Man's nick-name??}

    Loved everything else about this puppy. Great Weird Puz Week entry. Winner, so far. Does the SunPuz figure into this observance? It wasn't last SunPuz, cuz there weren't no note. Rat fudge. Just re-read the note. Just Monday thru Saturday. But, hey -- that's ok, Shortzmeister. Weird enough, sir. Weird enough. Thanx for all the fun.

    And special thanx to Mr. Polin, who is fast becomin one of M&A fave spaced-out constructioneers.

    M&A


    **still weird gruntz thru the SunRunt**

    Hartley70 1:39 PM  

    Yada Yada Yada! It's OUTER SPACE guys!! It wasn't tough, as I asked for yesterday, WS (sigh). But I say again, OUTER SPACE! Trekkies, Whovians unite! Thanks a light year, Mr. Polin.

    Even my uncooperative NYT app didn't dull my enthusiasm for this little nugget of space material. It demanded the letter B in random outer corner squares, but not all. It's a capricious app!

    I liked learning about LaSalle (a high school in Providence) and Laputa (who knew) but they were easy guesses. Everything else was maybe Wed/Thu like the rest of the week, but then again, it was OUTER SPACE. Need I say more?

    Norm 2:20 PM  

    Anonymous who asked: CSA = Confederate States of America [clue did not specify WHICH 60's]

    LAPUTA/ASSIZES was a gimme, so no complaints from this quarter but they are 17th/18th century so I can understand some folks struggling. Helps to have read Bleak House and Oliver Twist -- along with Gulliver's Travels, of course.

    @Steve J: Are you my doppelganger? We often have exactly the same reaction to a puzzle. Cheers!

    GPO 2:42 PM  

    Come on.

    LILLE and LAPUTA was the Mother Of All Naticks (M.O.A.N.) for me. Specifically the first "L." I had to go throught the whole alphabet.

    Other than that I loved it.

    Mohair Sam 4:04 PM  

    @anon 11:46 - Thanks. Rats - I've enjoyed the change of pace.

    btw all - "The Life and Times of ROSIE the Riveter" @Rex mentioned is well worth the watching. I've seen it twice over the years on PBS, and it is an "important and astonishing documentary" just as Rex says. Probably available on one of the many streaming services.

    Evan Jordan 4:14 PM  

    Anyone else doing this on their iPhone? Really don't want to rebus all those blanks in, and "B" isn't working either. Phooey, I had a pretty good time on this one too.

    Alan 4:15 PM  

    Started by writing in BLANKS at 1D, because I love me some Scrabble, and then...

    ARCANA doesn't fit, or start with 'L', PIPS doesn't fit, worked into the middle with ROSIE, but then OUTRE doesn't fit, ASSESS doesn't fit, and 44D is...BLANKS again. I get it. This is a 13x13 with a Thursday theme. Best 13x13 I've ever done, but I want the last 25% of my Saturday puzzle back! Humbug.

    mathgent 4:55 PM  

    I just finished today's LAT puzzle. It was by David Steinberg. As usual, very tough but also very enjoyable. If it was rejected by Will, I wonder why.

    michael 5:04 PM  

    I was totally stuck for a while. I saw there were a lot of blanks as answers and even guess outer space. But what really messed me up was my "inspiration" that Siobhan might be an Irish version of Jane. After checking to see if this was right (it is), I stuck with Siobhan for far too long. But then I noticed that nothing seemed to fit and figured out the theme/gimmick.

    I am really bemused by the critics of this puzzle, especially with "outer space" and the space/sci-fi-related long answers. I think it is wonderful.

    Z 5:30 PM  

    @Nancy, Löwenbräu went back to being inmported from Germany instead of brewed in the Americas (by Miller then Labatt's) in 2002. Today it is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, who is currently trying to buy SABMiller. So, yeah, almost full circle. As for "honest and righteous," stop at "honest." Nobody likes a righteous woman (unless, of course, she is a righteous woman).

    @NAN-haters - In CrossWorld Indian bread is either NAAN or NAN depending on the number of A's needed in the grid. Just remember to say it in your head like NAAN, not like Nan Bobbsey.

    @Greater Fall River Committee for Peace and Justice - What do you make of Swift using the Spanish for "whore" for his island name? There is no truth to the rumor that Nan lived there after college.

    As fore LILLE, you have to like a city whose founding myth is based on murder and murderous revenge.

    Masked and Anonymous 6:18 PM  

    p.s.
    30 of 56 answers in this SatPuz have Patrick Berry Usage Immunity. Nice, high %.
    Included in that shield of immunity are the following old favorites:
    ARLO. CSA. ESC. FAIN. NAN. TEETERS.

    13 of 56 answers have M&A runtpuz immunity. Nice, low %.

    This SatPuz had 4 U's, all in the upper half-grid, above the Kar-man U-line. [And a literal hint to whatever it is I'm tryin to say.]

    Stats are cool, yes?

    It occurs to M&A that both the Weird Puz Week FriPuz and SatPuz themes were really pretty day-um edgy.

    Since the SunPuz was inexplicably unable to participate in Weird Puz Week, allow M&A to point out the obvious missed Weird SunPuz theme opportunity, to all those "some favorite NYTimes crossword contributors":
    Runtpuz Sudoku. 9 runtpuz 7x7 sub-grids arranged in a 3x3 super-grid structure.
    Challenge for the solver: how to resist staring at the result in horror, whenever passing by it, as U walk through the room.

    M&A
    "If U Build It, They Will Leave"

    Aketi 7:06 PM  

    After an extended period of not enough time to do puzzles, it was nice to come back to an outer space theme just after the release of a science fiction movie that is actually based on relatively solid science. Since I'm rusty, I didn't mind losing the OUTER SPACE to the BLANKS.

    old timer 7:54 PM  

    Interesting (if legendary) history of Lille. In 1993, I took my wife and children to London, after which we took what I call the Drunken Ferry to Hoek van Holland and on to Amsterdam by train. (The ferry was crowded with young male Brits off for a dirty weekend in Amsterdam, enjoying all the duty-free booze on the way over). We saw the more family-friendly parts of Amsterdam and headed to Bruges for three nights (a great city for adults and children). The rest of our trip required a car, and it was cheaper to rent and return in France, so I trained down to Lille to rent a car from Hertz. Didn't see much of it, but was glad to find they had streetcars. I love streetcars.

    So obviously I knew LILLE was the right answer, but, again, how to fit it in the grid?

    Leapfinger 8:37 PM  


    Old SOL near the center of OUTER SPACE? Aristarchus and Copernicus would be pleased.

    Saw: ESOTERICA (too long) vs ARCANA (too short)
    GO AWAY (too long) vs AWAY (too short)
    NOR (too short)

    You can BBET when enough of these mesh, a pattern emerges, and nothing BEATS it when everything else falls in line. I s'pose when Doctors Without Borders are in the news, it's only fitting to have a Puzzle Without Borders,

    One fun coincidence: it was just last night I made a really good PUTA NEZa sauce. Discovered atthe last minute therewere no capers onhand,but it stillturned out really really good. I was also pleased that noone tried to foist LILLEs on us.

    The accents in the Kármán line made me think of the Urals, but once OUTER appeared, the only thing I could think of was OUTER Mongolia, which seemed OUTER OUTRE. Obviously, I needed to educate myself. I later learned that the line is named after Theodore von Kármán, a Hungarian-American (surprise!) engineer and physicist with interests in aeronautics and astronautics, who was the first to calculate the altitude at which the atmosphere becomes too thin to support aeronautical flight. At an altitude of about 62 miles above sea level, a vehicle would have to travel faster than orbital velocity to have enough aerodynamic lift to support itself. This delineation between Earth's atmosphere and OUTER SPACE is accepted by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), so the international standards they set for aeronautics and astronautics could be described as FAIN.

    Thought this week was eminently enjoyable, with my only disappointment being reduced to a 13x13 today. Highlights were the Tuesday Berry rebus and the Friday Krozel pangram-the-hard-way. I also need to let @Pete know that the visual component of Thursday's spiral was NOT lost on everyone who solves electronically; it managed not only to push the envelope, but every one of my buttons.

    Thanks to all who catered this feast.

    Tita 9:13 PM  

    @old timer... Nice story! I forgot about the streetcars.

    My story...Semester at NYU Paris. Hot French culture professor said he was going to visit his family in LILLE for the weekend...he could bring 2 students...who wanted to go?
    Another girl and I shot up our hands...all the girls in the class were in varying degrees of crushes on the professeur...

    At his mom's house, he gave us each a rose from her garden.

    After our return, my friend and I walked out over the Pont Neuf at night, and threw those roses into the Seine. That gesture stays in my mind as one of the most romantic things I've done. Aah, young infatuation in Paris!

    TonySaratoga 9:37 PM  

    I completely agree. This thing was totally asinine.

    TonySaratoga 9:37 PM  

    Yes.

    Robso 10:20 PM  

    I never Google stuff . . . AND I MEAN NEVER. Usually I will settle for a dnf if I have to. But today I went ahead and looked up the singer of Amadeus and found FALCO, and that was the ONLY WAY I figured out the blanks went all the way around and were not just used in the beginning of the answers.
    So the moral of the story is: sometimes you should Google?
    : /

    Anonymous 11:25 PM  

    NYT Xword subscription dept: You owe me six puzzles.

    ZenMonkey 11:48 PM  

    I liked it. FALCO was my way in as well. And no love for the planetary grid?

    Man, I had a fun week with these puzzles but it's been grim grim grim around here.

    OISK 12:26 AM  

    Odd for a science person, but I did not know seti. I also didn't know Laputa or assizes, so getting this one right was pretty lucky. I found the "trick" pretty early on. At first I was expecting "outer space" to mean that the words extended BEYOND the boundary, instead of being bounded by blank spaces, but soon saw that was wrong. I liked this puzzle more than most others seemed to. Got thought this "tricky" week fine, except for my favorite constructor, Mr. Berry, throwing a curve ball past me on Tuesday. Speaking of which, just got home from a lovely but cold evening at Citi Field.

    Anonymous 6:35 AM  

    FITBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB?

    Dang.

    Anonymous 11:31 AM  

    Got the puzzle but couldn't figure out what rebus to enter in the empty squares. Tried "EMPTY," "OUTER," and "SPACE" before giving up. Was there a clue somewhere about this? If not, it's stupid.

    Anonymous 8:50 AM  

    I'm so glad this week of off-beat puzzles is over!

    spacecraft 11:19 AM  

    @Deke: Confederate States of America; yeah, the '60s in the clue are the (groan) 1860's. Well, it IS Saturday, named for Saturn, which I had no idea was created by SEGA. What, a game? I don't do video games. It did force itself in, though.

    Anyway, I began by figuring out that all the peripheral clues could be "blanks." Which fits nicely in 1- and 44-down but not the others. Looked up the revealer clue, attributed it to an astronomical area (my forte, though strangely I've never come across that particular "line"), and immediately inferred empty SPACE. Fits the idea; all the border squares are simply "empty." Couldn't make headway in the center. Then an aha! hit me: it was--of course (!)--BLANK SPACE!!

    Uh, no. I really wanted that R for ROSIE, but maybe there was a Katie or some such. No go. Finally it hit: I can make that an R if I use OUTER!!! YESSS!

    From there it was a pleasure solving. Fell into the SOLar vs. LUNAR trap, fixed when I belatedly arrived at CONSTELLATION, two of which were named in the clue (shoulda known that one sooner). And you wouldn't believe how long it took this diehard Trekkie to parse USSENTERPRISE, but we got 'er done.

    While the concept and execution are surely praiseworthy, I do have to note the plethora of Scrabble one-pointers: two of the gridspanners have 12, plus one 3-pointer, and a third has 12 and a 4-pointer. The fourth really pushes the envelope with only 11, along with TWO 3-pointers. Entries such as TEETERS, ASSESS and TENANT press the point home. Just had to, um, point that out.

    I would NOT call DOOWOP an "alternative to [fergodsake] barbershop." Only in the sense that they are two terms ending in "-OP." You might as well add Bebop and Pop. OK, I'll stop. B+.

    rondo 12:01 PM  

    Because none of my ultimately correct answers fit the first time around I had exactly EERIE and ROSIE, from which I deduced OUTER SPACE and OREOS and finally understood the blanks clues. Not too hard after that, though ASSIZES was crosses and guesses. Damn near put in AFCsouth before realizing the “fish” are in the EAST.

    Not a yeah baby in sight, but ROSIE sure had the pipes. SINEAD never really did anything for me, don’t like bald women.

    The puzzles this week were real PIPS. Hope tomorrow is as normal as a Sun-puz can be.

    Burma Shave 12:24 PM  

    blankety blanks

    ROSIE O’Donnell in an ALIEN APESUIT?
    Aboard the FLIER USSENTERPRISE?
    Her buttocks ARLO in that OUTRE COTE,
    I guess there’s OUTER SPACE for all ASSIZES!

    --- ARCANA LAPUTA

    Longbeachlee 4:34 PM  

    Could Swift have been gaming his readers with the island of the hooker, LaPuta?

    leftcoastTAM 5:56 PM  

    I saw the theme and its application fairly early, which I thought would make the rest fairly easy. But no.

    I stuck with solAR ECLIPSE, and nothing, not the worst of difficulties making it work in the crosses, could change my mind.

    After looking at Webb's puzzle to get LUNAR, everything else fell in to place (without further "cheating").

    Am I the only one who thinks that a solar eclipse happens when the sun is blocked by the moon, and a lunar eclipse happens when the moon's reflected sunlight is blocked by the earth?

    What am I missing here? Maybe the cryptic clue can be read both ways. If so, I call a foul.

    Anonymous 6:46 PM  

    I almost went bonkers on this one and I'm glad I didn't persevere. I got the outer space part but kept trying to add an extra letter instead of leaving the space bland. My aged mind was not up to par, And it was just as bad when I used to watch Parr.

    R. dela Diego, La Mesa, CA. (Where we lose some, win some and prefer not to do some).

    leftcoastTAM 8:33 PM  

    @Longbeachlee:

    Good question.

    leftcoastTAM 8:36 PM  

    @Burma Shave:

    You're really quite clever and almost always very amusing, but this one is a step a bit too far, I think.

    Bryan Lewis 12:35 AM  

    leftcoastTAM: The clue "sun blocks" for lunar eclipse is OK. A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth blocks the sun's light so that it can't hit the moon. That's why the moon is dark. So the sun has been blocked in a sense.

    david kulko 1:01 PM  

    I found this puzzle in an old pile on my desk, hence the late entry. The "sun blocks" cluing is unscientific, misleading, and stupid as all get out. Therefore I could not see "constellation," "route," or "ad lib." The puzzle editor missed this one. My mind refused to allow for this sort of mistake.

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