Brother player of old TV film / SAT 12-19-15 / 18 title setting of 1961 novel / 1969 Alan Arkin comedy drama / Comedian Nick with self-titled Comedy Central show / Tour often featuring Black Sabbath

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Constructor: Damon Gulczynski

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: "POPI" (16A: 1969 Alan Arkin comedy/drama) —
Popi is a 1969 American comedy-drama film directed by Arthur Hiller. The screenplay by Tina Pine and Lester Pine focuses on a Puerto Rican widower struggling to raise his two young sons in the New York City neighborhood known as Spanish Harlem, and stars Alan Arkin and Rita Moreno. (wikipedia)
• • •
SPECIAL MESSAGE for SYNDICATED solvers for the week of January 17-January 24, 2016 

Hello, syndicated (i.e. 1-to-5-week-behind) solvers! Somehow, it is January again, which means it's time for my once-a-year pitch for financial contributions to the blog. The idea is very simple: if you read the blog regularly (or even semi-regularly), please consider what it's worth to you on an annual basis and give accordingly. In making this pitch, I'm pledging that the blog will continue to be here for you to read / enjoy / grimace at for at least another calendar year. This year is special, as it will mark the 10th anniversary of Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle, and despite my not-infrequent grumblings about less-than-stellar puzzles, I've actually never been so excited to be thinking and writing about crosswords. I have no way of knowing what's coming from the NYT, but the broader world of crosswords looks very bright, and that is sustaining. Whatever happens, this blog will remain an outpost of the Old Internet: no ads, no corporate sponsorship, no whistles and bells. Just the singular, personal voice of someone talking passionately about a topic he loves. As I have said in years past, I know that some people are opposed to paying for what they can get for free, and still others really don't have money to spare. Both kinds of people are welcome to continue reading my blog, with my compliments. It will always be free. I have no interest in cordoning it off, nor do I have any interest in taking advertising. I value my independence too much. Anyway, if you are so moved, there is a Paypal button in the sidebar, and a mailing address here:

Rex Parker
℅ Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton NY 13905

And here: I'll stick a PayPal button in here for the mobile users.

There. Hope that helps.

For people who send me actual, honest-to-god (i.e. "snail") mail (I love snail mail!), this year my thank-you cards are "Sibley Backyard Birding Postcards"—each card a different watercolor illustration by ornithologist David Sibley. You could get a Black PHOEBE. A California TOWHEE. Or maybe even a picture of some fabled SCARLET TANAGERS (15). Or give via PayPal and get a thank-you email. That's cool too. Please note: I don't keep a "mailing list" and don't share my contributor info with anyone. And if you give by snail mail and (for some reason) don't want a thank-you card, just say NO CARD.  As I say in every thank-you card (and email), I'm so grateful for your readership and support. So thanks, not A TAD, but A TON (partial fill! coming in useful!). Now on to the puzzle …

• • •

This puzzle was memorable only for its beginning, which involved a weird yo-yo-ing down then back up the west side of the grid. After that, things got ugly (not difficulty-wise, but just ... grid attractiveness-wise). I wanted ACCRA at 1A: Gulf of Guinea metropolis) because I have a store of instantly available 5-letter world capitals in my head (from a quarter century of solving crosswords) and that was the first one that popped up (fun fact: I learned ACCRA from crosswords, way back when this blog first started). But I had zero confidence in it, and couldn't make crosses work, so I abandoned it. Put in KROLL (17A: Comedian Nick with a self-titled Comedy Central show) but didn't feel good about it (getting a pop culture answer like that, first thing, always feels a bit like cheating). But that didn't lead me anywhere either. I guessed OBS and then guessed the UP part of what became CHOPS UP. "P" from UP got me DUPONTS (30A: Influential industrial family), which spilled into CONTRACT (24D: Something the ink has dried on), which ... was wrong. I figured this out quickly by checking crosses, noticing 42A: Rapper who publicly feuded with Dr. Dre, and *knowing* the answer was EAZY-E (not EAZY-A). So CONTRACT, out. By GOLLY, in. Then LEO and back up the grid to YOU GO GIRL and eventually the improbably spelled AYKROYD (1D: "Brother" player of old TV and film) (I had a "C" in the second position and stared at CAHO- at 14A: Email option for what felt like a Long time).

Once I worked my way to the lower bottom, though, the fill got a lot uglier. That whole block from REPOT east to the -INS part of MERLIN'S is pretty rough. Very Very rough. PEDI OREN TSOS is an abominable stack. A 70-word themeless should have no rough patches that bad, and this one has a few. See also LLANOS / ILS / INSTR and EVEL / EVILER / MILA. Also, "POPI," which ... no. There's some funnish stuff here and there, but overall there's too much on the low end. ICEE FOSS ENTS! Not really feeling it.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:10 AM  

Medium for me too except for the top of the NW corner.  I had the same problem spelling AYKROYD (C anyone?) as @Rex did so the YAHOO/AOL pair were the last to fall.

I also had the Eskimos playing hockey for a while.

If you've seen Straight Outta Compton,  EAZY-E should be a gimme, plus NWA has just been inducted into the R & R Hall of Fame

This had quite a bit of zip, but @Rex is right about the fill (he left out NABBERS).  That said, I liked it better than he did.

Anonymous 12:17 AM  

Is Alex Trebek sitting in for Will Shortz this weekend? Two puzzles that make a grid superfluous. Bad, bad, bad.

Anonymous 12:34 AM  

Last Saturday, we had the work of Byron Walden, a professor at the esteemed Santa CLARA University, this Saturday, a direct reference to the school itself. By GOLLY, it hasn't been so much fun to be a Bronco since Steve Nash was in the house.

August West 12:57 AM  

Word, Rex.

Anonymous 2:21 AM  

I am grateful that the cultural references were post-1950s.

Z 7:59 AM  

Went to sleep with the NW and NE unfinished - just completely stalled. Got up, made my coffee, and finished before my coffee was ready, 90 seconds or so. Of course, YAHOO clicked as I was pouring water into my French Press. That helped me realize that "old tv" could be more recent than 1959 now. The NE fell through the downs. Traffic jams and pipes CLOG while POPI is a WOE, so I was never getting those two without help.

I had fun solving, so poor fill and LFC ACCRA didn't bug me.

NCA President 8:21 AM  

I had a similar experience to Rex in that there were parts of this I loved and other parts I hated.

Parts I loved: WIFFLEBALL, MOPTOPS, and ARENAROCK (see also glam rock).
Parts I hated: ILS, EAZYE, and POPI.

I could go into detail why I loved/hated those things, but suffice to say, on balance, ILS pushed the meter to "disliked" over all for me. I'm guessing this is French. I've not studied French, most of the French I know is from music scores and crosswords. I don't believe I've ever seen ILS. Much less did I know that the S is silent and it's pronounce "eel."

What made my dander rise with that word was the crossing with INSTR and GIBE. For the longest time I had ILe in there...because THAT'S the French word I know that sounds like a fish. That left me with was probably that INSTR was an abbreviation that compounded the problem...not knowing what that abbreviation might be (read: it could be anything). So I ran all the vowels in that G-BES line and couldn't get the happy jingle. I saw INeTR, and after my second cup of coffee, my bowl of oatmeal, a trip to the loo, and much cursing...ILS. No, INSTR...and then ILS??

To quote the internets, "Dafuq?"

Tita 8:37 AM  

Ouch... 2 days in a row of utter DNF. Yesterday was NW, today SE.
I'm just too distracted. Yeah, that's it. Distracted.

Too much pileup of pop, even if I did know enough.
Was so positive about 43A being a roller queen that I refused to tear out ARENARinK.

I'm off to a marathon of baking, cleaning, painting, wrapping.
And getting the Presépio to the point where my friends can help complete it by doing some landscaping and farming.

George Barany 8:38 AM  

I mostly enjoyed, mostly finished this puzzle by the very talented @Damon J. Gulczynski (the link is to a wonderful baseball trivia book that he wrote), but find myself agreeing with much of what @Rex has written.

I do think that Lukas FOSS is eminently crossword-worthy, especially on a Saturday. And I distinctly recall seeing POPI in the theaters when it first came out. Knowing that a POP duplication was unlikely to be tolerated steered me away from my first impulses of POP_ICON and POP_TOPS, respectively at 35-Down and 38-Across -- which was a good thing too, because how can anyone my age be expected to know EAZYE or OZZFEST, which cross at a Z? [I have since learned the significance of the former, a rapper, and the correct parsing of his name--note that my students would prefer to get an "Easy A"].

To @Anonymous at 12:34 AM, it was reported on social media (I haven't personally confirmed) that yesterday's episode of "Jeopardy" had @Will Shortz making a guest appearance, reading clues from this week's New York Times puzzles. I would love to hear from anyone who saw this, and I sure hope that neither this week's clue for SERENA nor this week's clue for HEIL were among those chosen.

We learned the other day that @Rex seems to be OK with my mentioning puzzles from my website, so allow me to recommend Giving T.Hanks for the Holidays, constructed with @Christopher Adams who will be visiting Minneapolis later today as part of his school break. Be sure to read our "midrash." The regular nay-sayer is kindly invited to send me a private e-mail acknowledging his appreciation of a puzzle created a year ago expressly for him, i.e., Club Rex. And finally, I repeat my appreciation for the wonderful cybercommunity of people who care about crosswords that @Rex has created.

Lobster11 8:38 AM  

DNF because I had no idea about either EAZYE or FOSS (and wasn't completely confident in ICEE) and without those crosses couldn't see GAYICON. And maybe I've spent too much time under a rock, but I didn't realize that "gay icon" was a thing -- or at least that particular thing. Shouldn't "gay icon" refer to an icon who is gay?

Anyway, agreed that there was some good stuff in there, and I liked a lot of the cluing, but too an overabundance of dreck took some of the fun out of it.

Teedmn 9:02 AM  

LLANOS crossing the nasty INSTR, POPI (what?), KROLL (who?), lots and lots of proper nouns, not a fun solve. I had a few fun ahas, like PLOW and TSOS, OZZFEST and BIG TOE, but over all, not my favorite puzzle, not like yesterday's.

Ah well, it gave me 40 minutes of DNF due to the NE and the K of KROLL (didn't even think of Dan AYKROYD. Brother didn't bring to mind Blues Brothers and I'm of that era). I'm blaming it on too little sleep and pre-Christmas hosting nerves. My husband's family will be descending upon us in a few hours and lots to do yet. See you all tomorrow!

Mohair Sam 9:02 AM  

Very much agree with @Rex today.

Dead positive of CARIBOU and dead positive of Dan AcKROYD with no knowledge of KROLL leading to madness in the NW for us. Eventually we CHOPped things UP and got ACCRA to save the day. Then we lost a ton of time thinking EEGS for Vertigo, but the gimme XYZ and the clever WIFFLEBALL straightened things out down there.

Nice aha moment on ARENAROCK. Alan Arkin a favorite in this house, although we never cared for POPI. Every time I see "Mila 18" I say: "I gotta read that" - but I never do. Blasted rappers, had to fill every letter of EAZYE - but the crosses were fair (and rappers are still easier than Yiddish, imo). On second thought, the crosses weren't that fair. Learned today that OZZ FEST misspells itself.

kvilksen 9:06 AM  

This one felt fresh to me (being someone in the slightly younger demographic). Loved the YOU GO GIRL near the GAY ICON. Musical groups from many different eras (the Fab Four's MOP TOPS, Queen's ARENA ROCK, OZZFEST, and even the ugly current EAZY-E which I first missed as kAnYE). Though I must agree with @NCA President that the ILS answer was no BELLYLAUGH.

Anonymous 9:07 AM  

Madonna/Cher "gay icon"?

It worked out this way but don't get it...
are they gay and I just didn't know that?
...or do they just have lots of gay fans?

jberg 9:18 AM  

DNF for me, too -- embarrassingly because, although I could visualize COLUMBO, even imagine him talking, I couldn't remember his name. That, combined with 'heiGhts' instead of APOGEE, made that NE corner unsolvable for me. I finally decided that Pound signed his name "Ezra," that an "echo" would be a problem in a recording studio, that those trafficking in narcotics would find a 'raid' a problem -- and then I just gave up.

I spent my first year in college in a program called 'integrated liberal studies' and found the ILS newsletter in my inbox yesterday -- so I didn't mind that new way of getting an EEL into the puzzle. I didn't know Lukas FOSS conducted as well as composing, but that was easy enough to figure out. The MERLINS/OREN crossing was almost a guess, guided by the plausibility of MERLINS, though.

That's all for today -- I have to go do my memory exercises.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:20 AM  

Medium here, too. Liked it well enough; a lot of twisty clues and nothing so odd that it didn't fill in from crosses.

Strangely, the one entry that left me feeling off was POPI. Not as a crossword entry, but the memory, oh so vague now, that I just didn't like the film, when I saw it, first run, in 1969. Can't give any reason now, just remember not liking it!

DJG 9:26 AM  

I like this puzzle more than Rex (which is good, because I made it), but I am still of two-minds about it. You can read why this is the case here if you are so inclined.

One thing I've noticed is that when Rex and his readership don't like a puzzle, it is often the case that other groups of solvers (for example the Wordplay blog crowd) do like it, and vice-versa. It makes me appreciate Will Shortz job of trying to make a puzzle that appeals to the broadest possible audience.

gb 9:27 AM  

I apologize to my many, many fans here for not posting sooner. I have been busy with my busy, busy professional and important life. But fear not, here I am.

I got a foothold with @Lukas Foss. I knew Lukas Foss. In fact, I worked under Lukas Foss, you should pardon the expression. I could tell you many amusing stories about the days with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, but I won't condescend to do so.

I'm sorry I don't have a puzzle to link to today, but you'll have to wait until my next VIP (very important post).

Ludyjynn 9:38 AM  

There was a lot to like, IMO, esp.YOU GO GIRL, BIG TOE, GAY ICON, COLUMBO, ARENA ROCK, SPCA.

Only the EVEL/EVILER cross was standout ugly.

Writeovers: 'Kanye' before EAZY E because he fights/feuds w/ everyone and 'eio' before XYZ, plus hand up for 'c' before Y in AYKROYD.

We played WIFFLEBALL in the backyard growing up because we were less likely to break any windows with the holey, plastic ball than with a softball. Suburban, densely packed neighborhoods necessitated the game being so popular. Badminton was also a biggie. The shuttlecock could not inflict too much damage!

Don't get Rex feeling like he's cheating w/ pop. culture answers. For me, they are toeholds. In this case, MILA and TSOS opened the puzzle and speaking of toes, PEDI was next. Did I already mention I LOVED the Statue of Liberty clue?

My favorite Alan Arkin film of c. 1969 was "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming!", with a stellar ensemble cast including Carl Reiner. Many BELLY LAUGHS. Worth watching again. Only got "Popi" from the crosses.

Any Saturday that I solve error-free, with a minimum of fuss, that Rex rates 'medium' is a huge win for me. Thanks, DG and WS. I was not BORED. Once again, a me likey puzzle.

AliasZ 9:42 AM  

In days of yore EVILER, REPOT and NABBERS would have been enough to reject a Saturday themeless, plus TSOS, ILS, CFL, INSTR, MILA, OBS, POPI, which don't much look like Saturday-worthy either. But the recent trend to embrace the highly transitory over and above the timeless, makes sub-par, highly sectioned-off grids that appear to be carelessly tossed together, become quite common even on a Saturday.

GAYICON must have been the clincher that sold this one to Will Shortz with YOUGOGIRL as a close second. You still remember the Yugo? Followed by ARENA ROCK, OZZFEST, then some names nobody knows: EAZYE, KROLL, and OREN, who thankfully was not conductor Daniel OREN. I also wondered how many other parts of Lady Liberty are six feet long besides her BIGTOE.

Favorite entry: GOLLY.

Sorry Damon J. Gulczynski, this didn't come close to giving me a BELLYLAUGH.

Rex Parker 10:07 AM  

Hey, DJG, thanks for coming by.

There's a huge fallacy, though, in your statement about blog readership. Those "other" blogs—their audiences are a. a lot smaller and b. largely overlap with my own readership. Think Venn diagrams. WS like to perpetuate the idea that my readership is some separate enclave, some strange non-representative outpost. Not true.


The Rhino 10:16 AM  

I have played the game my whole life. My brothers and I spent every afternoon at the cabin having home run derbies. I am 41 years old and until this morning I was certain it was 'Whiffle Ball'. But now I see: my childhood was a lie.

Horace S. Patoot 10:19 AM  

Blues Brothers clued as "old TV and film". Ouch! I would have thought of the Lone Ranger, Sky King and Howdy Doody as old TV had to happen someday.

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

@Professor Barany -- maybe I missed it. Why do you say that "...Rex seems to be OK with my mentioning puzzles from my website?"

And even if this is OK with him, it doesn't necessarily "mentioning" (you mean "promoting" don't you?) your own puzzles.

Needless to say, there are many of us who don't like to see this space used for self-promotion of any kind. Let's use it for its intended purpose: discussing the NYTXWPux and directly related matters, please.

kitshef 10:26 AM  

Pretty tough, though not as hard as yesterday's. Sometimes when it's a real challenge to solve I don't notice the junky fill, and such was the case today. Looking at it now, I can see ICEE and OREN and POPI and think 'bleah'. But while solving my only major irritants were the clue and answer for EVILER.

upS before OBS, TabLoid before TELLALL, kAnYE before EAZYE, TailoRS before NABBERS (another bleah answer), hiNtS before LEADS.

ARBORED, HWY, INSTR! - the more you look the worse it gets. Still, I enjoyed the solve.

mac 10:27 AM  

Nice Saturday, enjoyable solve but for a couple of words I didn't know and couldn't get through crosses.

Arena rock got me again! I should have remembered that term.

Mohair Sam 10:37 AM  

Oh by the way - Can we say that Bette Midler was SERENAed by the clue for 35 down? Cher or Madonna indeed!

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

I felt very pleased with myself for filling in 7D with HIGH PH with no crosses and then disappointed when I had to change it. :(

Z 10:44 AM  

I read @DJG's post. Well worth reading. Thanks for sharing.

I don't remember what the issue was, but I remember looking up Rex's readership before (you can find superficial stats on the interwebs, the stats are intended for advertisers, though, so the richer info is behind a paywall). Considering that xwords are pretty much a niche activity Rex's readership is, indeed, large. I think it is large in India, as well, which surprised me at the time until I thought about it a little. Say whatever you want about OFL, he's created quite a little empire here.

@sanfranman59 - I see you posted a comment this week. I do miss your stats. Glad to see you're still reading even if you don't say "hi" much anymore.

GILL I. 10:45 AM  

Well, by GOLLY, I finished because I Googled the hell out of this puzzle and so I cheated and I don't care because I now know it wasn't Kanye who feuded with Dr. Dre and geez louise YAHOO and AOL were just not coming to me along with GAY ICON (huh???). I guess INSTR. is short for Instrument? Is INSTR also short for instructor or instrumentalism? Just asking.
I still loved the work-out and the head scratching. APOGEE WIFFLEBALL BELLYLAUGH were worth the ticket stub. Lots of fun female(ish) FILLings but I'm not sure I like YOU GO GIRL falling underneath DISEASE.
Rainy day (yay) here in Northern California. The tree is up and everything wrapped. Now, off to make my "annual" fudge and count the days till sweet spouse gets home.

Tita 10:48 AM  

WIFFLEBALL...still family-owned and still made here in Shelton, CT.

@Ludy...that's my favorite Alan Arkin movie too...followed closely by Wait Until Dark.

Joseph Welling 11:03 AM  

Why would anyone REPOT an annual?

Wednesday's Child 11:16 AM  

I had so much filled in, so many opportunities to complete this puzzle and yet I stalled out. I struggled in the west and eventually dnf'd.

Nancy 11:28 AM  

Finished the top half of the puzzle, including YOU GO GIRL, but not including --BES. (Should have seen that one, but didn't.) Below that, almost nothing besides DUPONTS, LEO, GOLDEN, and Down answers BIG TOE, DONE DEAL, NABBERS, and REPOT. Had duffleBALL instead of WIFFLEBALL and PACER instead of FILLY (the only girl horse I could think of was MARE. My bad.) Some really nice things here, but for me, the puzzle was completely ruined by the many, many, many pop culture names. First, the puzzle made me irritable; then I stopped caring; and then I stopped solving and came here to see if I would have finished if I hadn't given up. And the answer is: Not in a million years. I didn't see "Kill Bill" or "Harry Potter", don't know "Black Sabbath", nor the rapper, nor the product names; don't know what the answer to 43A means -- just one misery after another. It was bound to happen after two marvelous days in a row. OISK will hate it, too, I'm quite sure.

Andrew Heinegg 11:37 AM  

I found this to be a middling puzzle both in terms of difficulty and interest.The gay icon answer to Madonna and Cher is clued correctly if oddly.

It is a rotten pairing for me of Cher and Madonna. While I won't claim to admire all the songs Cher has done, she at least has a very good set of pipes. I have always considered Madonna as a singer who has made zillions by doing a great job of promoting herself, mostly through sexual stuff. It certainly wasn't her voice, which is somewhere in the mediocre at best zone. The thing that mystifies me is how someone who is not at all attractive physically or sexually, from my prospective, can generate the mass appeal that Madonna has. I just don't get it. But, then again, I also don't get another 'gay icon', Mick Jagger, who, like Madonna, just does not have a very good voice, IMHOP. No arguing or accounting with/for taste.

Nancy 12:08 PM  

@DJG (9:26 am) -- There were 21 comments on the blog, when I went to post, and most of them were positive, I thought. A lot more positive than I was, in a comment you haven't seen yet. But, when you say that it must be hard for WS to find puzzles that appeal to everyone, it really shouldn't be hard at all. If constructors avoided proper names entirely -- both the ones that "skew old" and the ones that "skew young" -- there wouldn't be much else to argue about. Proper names seem to be what most divides people on this blog. Yes, there are the people who complain about crosswordese like ONO and ENO and OTOE, et al, but most complaints have to do with either contemporary pop culture references or fusty references to names from long ago. And I say: the really good puzzles avoid both.

I admire greatly anyone who can create a crossword puzzle at all, since creating them must be 100 times harder than solving them. But that admiration only broadens to real appreciation when I have fun solving it. Possibly not fair -- and if I were a constructor like @Lewis, I might be less critical. But I really did want to throw the lower half of your puzzle against the wall, Mr. G.

Also, there's no meeting of the minds on this blog. I doubt a single person is here either because he/she usually agrees with Rex or usually DISagrees with Rex. The blog is extremely heterogeneous and that's what makes it fun. And even the people whose views you think you know can surprise you. Like @ludyjynn did today. I've never thought her to be a lover of puzzles containing modern pop culture, but today the very clues that made me want to throw the puzzle against the wall were the ones she says gave her "toeholds."

There were some lovely things in this puzzle, Mr. G. But next time, can we please have many fewer proper names.

DJG 12:14 PM  

Hey Rex,

I didn't mean to imply that your readers are an non-representative enclave of niche solvers. My main point is that people enjoy crossword puzzles for different reasons and there are a handful of blogs that (very) broadly represent this, and WS has the difficult job of trying to maximize enjoyment across the entire solver-ship.

As concrete examples, bad "glue" fill seems to be a much more focused topic of conversation on this blog than at Wordplay or Diary of a Crossword Fiend. I know that if I publish a puzzle with lots of gluey bits it is going to be criticized by you and your readers more harshly than at other blogs (not complaining, by the way, just stating). On the other hand, you will embrace pop culture references, whereas many commenters at Wordplay objected when I put Dirk Diggler in a puzzle.

Admittedly, this is a very general categorization and it is based on anecdotes and conjecture. Without seriously crunching the demographic data, it's basically impossible for anybody to speak to this type of thing conclusively.

Carola 12:15 PM  

Happy to finish this one. I found it challenging because of names I didn't know at all (POPI, KROLL, MOP TOPS, EAZY-E, OREN) or needed quite a few crosses to get (AYKROYD, COLUMBO, PC WORLD, DUPONTS). I did happen to know FOSS and MILA.

Like @Rex, I initally rejected ACCRA because I thought it would be a name that was assumed. I also thought that an email option would be some action like "send." That corner was the last to get MOPped up.

I liked NEMESIS next to EVILER (and the cute EVEL cross), and the parallel DONE DEAL and LEGAL PAD.

Help from previous crosswords: LLANOS, ARENA ROCK.

Lewis 12:19 PM  

@damon -- thanks for stopping in, and I loved the your comments (that you linked to)
@rex and @jae -- I had that puzzling CAHO_ for a while too.

Damon is in agreement with Rex that the fill could have been better, using some of the same examples, and says if it was a more recent puzzle, it would have been more polished, but that this puzzle was made, I think, three years ago. He says it was good enough for publication, but because he has upped his constructing game, the bad parts embarrass him.

But there is much good in this puzzle, in the cluing (REPOT, LIONEL, EXWIFE, LEGALPAD) and answers (DONEDEAL, BELLYLAUGH, TELLALL, WIFFLEBALL). For "Pound sign?" I put down EZRA, thinking "sign" was meaning "signature", and marked it as an especially good clue, but alas. There is a huge double-L mini theme (8!), and a CLOG up. On the clue for HWY I misread the upper case I (as in India) for a lower case l (as in love) and thought we were back at the Chicago subway. And while they're legal, has anyone here ever said EVILER or NABBERS in real life?

Overall, the solve brought me good brainwork and enough ahas to make it a most pleasurable start to the weekend.

ani 12:19 PM  

They werent

Anoa Bob 12:31 PM  

What do NET, OB, GIBE, DUPONT, LLANO, MOP TOP, ENT, TSO, LEAD, CHOP UP, NABBER, MERLIN, SLAY, APOGEE, TIGHT & SKYWAY from today's puzzle all have in common? They are all one letter shy of the number of squares in their respective slots in the grid. The panacea results in a bit of a POC-FEST, it seems to me.

Does noticing this sort of thing---non-nutritive grid filler---make me EVILER than the average solver, a member of some strange non-representative outpost? Anybody else FESS to being in that enclave?

old timer 12:34 PM  

Same experience as @Gill I. I finished, but not without a *lot* of Googling. So many things I did not know, like Lukas FOSS. Of course *in retrospect* I could have got him on crosses. Same is true of COLUMBO. Had I been more inspired and come up with APOGEES and TIGHTS I would have had SCAT without help, and would have gotten the unknown POPI on crosses.

ACCRA was my first entry. and when I got DUPONTS, CARIBOU was the only possible Canadian coin critter. So I got KROLL on crosses alone. Hands up if you never knew how to spell AYKROYD until today.

I don't see what's wrong with NABBERS, myself. And because NABBERS, I got a chuckle, at least, out of BELLYLAUGH.

Yeah, there is something unkosher about crossing EVEL with EVILER, but I'll call that a venial sin.

nick 12:42 PM  

Seems I'm an outlier in that I pretty much disliked this one. Trivia was too old, too random, and way too abundant. Stuff like 'eviler' was just plain ugly. The rest of the wordplay was meh. Loved the puzzle yesterday, happy to forget about today. And hats off to all who sailed through today and were able to enjoy.

Charles Flaster 12:53 PM  

Challenging yet excellent puzzle.
Write overs were numerous: GOLDEN for wastEd, PEDI for PEDs, and CHOPS UP for diceS UP.
These slowed me down as it was a DNF with Kanye never being erased.

News Flash--if Rex allows George Barany to post then there should be no controversy.
Maybe you should attempt some of his stuff and see what you think.
I have had many hours of enjoyment doing his puzzles! TRY IT--YOU'LL LIKE IT.
Thanks DG.

Ludyjynn 1:04 PM  

@Tita, your post yesterday about the CASS Gilbert fountain was simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking. Glad I could help w/ my "Jeopardy" post. BTW, I always enjoy reading your comments.

@JosephWelling, I try to save money by bringing plants inside to spend the Winter in my sunroom that would not survive in this climate zone outdoors and then REPOTting the usually scraggly survivors in the Spring, putting them back outside when the last frost has ended. Examples of mid-Atlantic 'annuals' for which this works very well are geraniums, fuschia, hibiscus, oleander, angel's trumpet, lantana, mandevilla and bay leaf. Also, soft succulents like echeveria, jade plants, etc. can be grown in this climate by playing what I call the musical pots game. When you're a plant nut like me, the cost savings are substantial and make the extra effort pay off handsomely. I don't bother with most herbs. The chives and rosemary may come back if left outside, but the rest of them probably won't and don't do well indoors either, w/ the bay leaf exception. I find that underwatering works better. Good luck!

Karl Bradley 1:14 PM  

I finished but found it to be on the difficult side. Part of my struggles had to do with fill like EVILER. EVILER? Ugh. Not up to the caliber of the previous two days.

Chuck McGregor 1:17 PM  

Hi (The usual answer to that in the 70s was, “Wish I were.”)

Finally, after some write-overs, but only two letter checks (one right, one wrong) and one letter reveal, it was a DONE DEAL. Not fast, just successful besides the cheats. Liked it because, in spite of some difficult stuff and things like Artery-cleaning aCid? (Oops), W[H]IFLEBALL (looked wrong to me, too), trying to make A[C]KROYD work, and [F]OP[M]OPS (Jeesh!), it was all gettable with some fun work (for me).

First pass with no crosses, I had MILA (on my bookshelf, great book!), COLUMBO (used to watch the first runs), ARBORED (just had to be correct), and FOSS (Music ‘R Us – me, myself, and I. Once worked a concert with him at the helm of the Brooklyn Philharmonic.) So there were good toeholds scattered around except the NW, where I scratched my head a lot, finishing that lastly.

Musings of wonderment:

What would an EVILER RODEO be?

Does AYKROYD have an EXWIFE?


Is it true that, shall we say, some “things” were sort of CHOPed UP on stage by Ozzie at OZZFESTs?

Did the Beatles ever dye their hair and take on the ROLE of GOLDEN MOP TOPS?

I would note that CARIBOU Barbie is not a GAY ICON, but rather an ICONic (and laconic) NEMESIS to gay people.

General TSO’S chicken always LEADS my choices for Chinese food.

We have one “I” (interstate) HWY in Maine (though split in two around Portland). It is pretty much ARBORED the entire distance. So YAHOO!, it is a pretty drive when I have to succumb to using it.

@NCA and @kvilksen: You’ve never seen or heard of RSVP where the “VSP” = s’ILS vous plâit??

Gotta SCAT. Places to see, things to go, and people to do….


Leapfinger 1:29 PM  

@Alias, your YOUGOGIRLs aren't doing their sacroiliacs any favours; they need to be leaning on something with more elevation. Unless there's a YOUGO* with monster wheels... (PS, are they still YOUGOs without a YOUGO-Slavia?)(PPS, I had no idea what a 'snap' is until I accidentally saw some part of a "Legally Blonde" film.)

@MohairS, have you read "The Haj"? That's the early LUris that I think gives a great sense of how which things happened, and what turning points made the difference. All POV, of course.

Liked the BELLYLAUGH and the ILS that NCAPrez abhorred; guess he also wouldn't think the FILLY mignon. Good clues for LEGALPAD and LIONEL, enough to forgive the set-up for KAnYE/ EAZYE (who?), but I still 'ARBOR some residual ILS wILS for the 'Pound sign' that was Not EZRA.

That EVAL/EVILER could be EVALuated as the EVILEst cross, but the agglomeration of aN EMESIS, BELLY and DISEASE is a real up-and-comer also. I'll be kind and table my thoughts about 'Etiologists' and DISEASE.

@Gill, glad to hear you're making the REPOTted fudge, and that the Sweet Spice will be together for the Holiday.

Tough to follow a puzzle as good as the Zhou-de-vivre of yesterday.

Leapfinger 1:32 PM  

Good Fences make good NABBERS. Or good NABBERS need good Fences... or something like that.

Keep your HWYs PLOWed.

Chuck McGregor 1:40 PM  

I need to CLARAfy my above post:

Oops. My bad! It is "s'il vous plait" - ICEE there no "s" on the "il."

How FILLY of me.


Anonymous 1:44 PM  

I saw w.s. on jeopardy and it wasn't memorable. One "answer" I recall was reaganomics.

Anonymous 1:51 PM  

The latter.

Chaos344 1:58 PM  


Tough puzzle Damon. I'm glad I read your write-up at Pancake Joe's before I started this post. First off, I now understand your mixed emotions about today's puzzle. As Rex and others have pointed out, some of the fill was pretty ugly. It's unfair to automatically blame the constructor, because a solver never knows how much of the original cluing and answers have been edited by Will and Joe. This puzzle took me about 15 minutes longer than my average Saturday time, but that was mostly because of all the pop culture content and so a segue into my next paragraph.

As to your observation about Wordplay and this blog, and aside from what Rex already told you, I'll add a few thoughts of my own. I used to be a regular poster on Wordplay. As Rex said, the community is much smaller than here, at least as it pertains to regular posters. You may see 100 comments on Wordplay, but most of them are all written by the same 10 or 15 regular posters. It's basically a big love fest over there, and job #1 is not to offend anyone's delicate sensibilities. Case in point? Go to Wordplay and see how many commenters are agonizing over the perceived inappropriate offensiveness of GAY ICON. On the other hand, people here at Rex's have hardly mentioned it up to this point. Those who have were only questioning if it was ambiguously clued. The regulars at Wordplay also tend to be much older. I believe that is why Deb Amlen devoted almost her entire column today, to defending pop culture in puzzles. Not that she need have. No one over there will complain much because the whole group is wedded to the "If You Can't Say Something Nice" school of thought. Deb never criticizes any constructor or anything in a puzzle except when she is afraid it might hint at being politically incorrect. On the other hand, Rex will brutalize a puzzle if he thinks it deserves that kind of criticism. I will too! At Rexs' we like that kind of honestly, and it generally shows in the comments posted here. Even though Rex moderates his forum, his censorship is nowhere near the level of Wordplay. Hell, Rex even allows people to post anonymously if they feel the need to.

So, IMHO, those are your main differences between the two sites. I really like several of the regular posters at Wordplay, and generally peruse their comments. As Rex stated, there is some overlap. If you read both blogs on a regular basis you soon recognize people who post on both sites, even though they might use different screen names. I think we're just a bit earthier here at Rexs. We don't take ourselves too seriously! More blue-collar perhaps.

@Leapy if you pass by. Congrats for the 18 Reco's and the top 2 posts yesterday!

@Loren Smith. Reco'ed all your posts today, mostly because I just howled that you slipped that Heart-On past the Emus! YOUGOGIRL!

Penna Resident 2:33 PM  

i thought i finished this correctly until i came here to check. gETS is just as valid as NETS and having no idea on 18A led me to believe perhaps that moby dick was the gEnESIS of ahabs obsession.

Hartley70 2:50 PM  

This puzzle took me to the APOGEEs and the gullies. I just adored BIGTOE and WIFFLEBALL, YOUGOGIRL, and MOPTOPS. I hated NABBERS and ICEE (because I know to fill it in but I've never heard of it outside the puzzle), and POPI which just might be worse than SERENA. I forgot to shout out DONEDEAL and EXWIFE as highs, so I give it a 6-3 score. That's a win in my book for Mr. Gulczynski! I thought it was do-able but mighty tough and it took 3 attempts through the morning to finish it off.

I'm a vertigo victim every few years and just seeing the clue gave me that oh-oh feeling. I once toppled right over in a parking lot when I was in the throes of an episode. Oddly I just met an acquaintance who told me she had sat down on a Park Avenue curb and could not get back to her office for love or money until a Good Samaritan led her there. It is a nasty business and not as rare as I would have thought.

@GeorgeBarany, I saw the Jeopardy episode on Friday and of course could shout out the questions before the answers were out of Alex's mouth. The M-F clues used were REAGANOMICS, CANDYLAND, LETTERHEAD, BODICERIPPERS, and SETHMEYERS.

Anonymous 3:15 PM  

this was tough but mostly a good work-out.

I also could not spell Aykroyd and had "Caho..." for a while. my main objection was the Ozzfest / EazyE cross. luckily, i guessed right on the 'z' but it was a total guess. Pedi seemed perfectly fine, and a nicely clued. SPCA one could also complain about, but the clue (and effort in deciphering it) made it fun.

Masked and Anonymous 4:10 PM  

"Hearty har har"? Well, there's yer ROADEO.

Thanx, @DJG, for droppin by. Somethin worth takin to the bank: the number of U's in a
puz is a constructioneer's most important consideration. Insider demographics info-wise, I would,
of course, hasten to point this out: all crossword solvers are pixilated, except for M&A.

fave weeject: XYZ.
Patrick Berry Usage Immunity: 14 of 70 (daring!)
M&A Usage Immunity: 11 of 70. (Havin more words with U woulda helped out.)

Thanx for a feisty SatPuz solve. Eazye as XYZ.

Note to all sovers: Don't forget to FOSS.

Masked & Anonymo3Us


Kevin Denelsbeck 4:23 PM  

I thought it was a very lively fill. It had a few clunkers, but not crossing each other, which is death. Well done!

GILL I. 4:25 PM  

@La Leapster....You ALWAYS give me a BELLY LAUGH...;-)
Sweet spice indeed....just like roasted cacao nibs!
Home on the 24th!

Mohair Sam 6:25 PM  

@Leapfinger - Chuckling here - "The Haj" is the other Uris book I always swear I'll read when I hear it mentioned - I've read most of his work. And I will read "The Haj" this time - just it ordered it, used of course, from Amazon. Thanks.

gpo 6:33 PM  

This should have been easy for me, but because the stupid hotel's stupid printer didn't work, I had to do the puzzle on the stupid computer, which completely disorients me.

Solving on screen, I feel completely entitled to type in whatever, because I can always change it, unlike in real life where I am careful to check crosses before filling in a square. Therefore, I didn't notice that I had KROoL until the third time I checked the completed grid. Which took me an extra 8 minutes, thanks again computer. Grr.

I found these clues to be a jarring mix of absolute gimmes, like AYKROYD and YOUGOGIRL, and really hard ones like POPI, OREN, and PLOW/PLIE. It didn't feel like a Saturday. Today is Saturday, right?

phil phil 8:00 PM  

DNF with a missed ROLE and unknown KROLL leaving the three letters blank in NW and misspelled AcKROYD.

In SW missed OZZFEST with a OZZie--. Leaving me a WhiFLEBALL and unbeknownst to me ENTS and FOSS to get me as far as
So knowing the spelling of WIFFLEBALL and AYKROYD would have gotten me to the DONEDEAL.

old timer 10:32 PM  

I watched the Jeopardt episode, But while we daily solvers knew every answer in the category, the TV contestants were taped long before the puzzles were in the paper.

Z 10:36 PM  

What - no one complained about GAY ICON? My wife and I were speculating tonight on the role of HGTV in changing American's views of homosexuals. On occasion one of the home shoppers or remodelers will fit the flitty, Streisand loving, stereotype. Most of the time, though, they are shown as average people with typical concerns. HGTV has long been, and still is, one of the few places in popular media where same sex couples are presented as just couples. Perhaps a little less ping pong and a little more time watching HGTV would have helped. Then maybe we'd have gotten Harvey Milk or Bayard Rustin or Judy Shepard or Del Martin or Ashok Row Kavi or James Obergefell - you know, actual GAY ICONs.

BTW - I just finished Sunday's puzzle. I think we now know the Grammar Nazi's real identity.

OISK 10:57 PM  

Nancy knows me. I have a nice story to tell about this puzzle, but I'll save it for tomorrow when more people will see it. This was simply awful. Eazye crossing Ozzfest? Are you kidding? What is Arena rock? (I don't know who Queen is anyway. I was looking for something pertaining to Elizabeth). The first name of a character from Kill Bill? Really?? What % of the solvers knew that it was Oren? Lucky guess that Roadeo is spelled "eo" and not "io" (figured same as Rodeo) so got that right. Llano is an English word now? What does a "snap" have to do with "You go girl."? Gay icon? Pedi is a word? Ooh la la for "Me likey"? Another Harry Potter clue? Nick Kroll?? Instr is a real abbreviation for instrument? Eviler? Is that a word? OK, nabbers is a barely acceptable stretch. When the police use dishonest sales people to catch thieves, do they say "Good fences make good nabbers?"

"Scat" as "nonsense in a recording studio"? That is a good clue? Rubbish! doobodyskaskadebopshiminy.
Or "specialty of Mel and Ella.

And worst of all, for a racing fan, "Rare Belmont winner." Well, long shot doesn't fit. The answer is "filly." Oh! You mean the Belmont Stakes! Belmont is a race track. Fillies win there all the time! The horse race seldom won by fillies is the Belmont STAKES!! Rare Belmont STAKES winner - OK.

Just a horrible collection of bad clues and bad "pop centered" fill. But I sort of finished. I'll tell you why tomorrow.

Tita 12:08 PM  

@Z...are you inferring what I think you're inferring? oh snap...YOUGOz...
And lol re: GN.

@OISK...your rant had me rolling, as in rotflmao.
I agree 99%...
PEDI is in fact a very common thing.
And while I include O-REN in the 99% that I agree with, I am, in this case, a 1%er. An outlier in this outpost...
It's fairly out of character for me, but I've watched all the Kill Bill movies a few times. Her first name was a gimme.

Mr Day Late 1:39 PM  

Just to be curious, why do you prefer this clue for OREN to the conductor Daniel Oren? Some months back, when the clue was for the conductor, Rex linked to a YouTube of him conducting Ravel's Bolero in Rome. This cultural philistine thought it was great. At 15 minutes long, it's the perfect length to turn my nightly dog-walking chore into a very pleasant experience.

Anonymous 7:28 PM  

Nabbers? Give me a fucking Break

isadora 2:42 AM  

OK, this is the first Saturday puzzle in about 10 years that I could not finish. I think it's the combination of US pop culture references (KROLL, EAZYE, ICEE, OREN, AYKROYD, GAYICON, OZZFEST, ROADEO, MERLINS, etc) and some pretty lame fill (DISEASE for etiologist's study, YOU GO GIRL (with a snap? what?) and INSTR). Sigh. Usually being a native English speaker makes up for not growing up in the US and not watching TV, but not here. My crossword puzzle self-esteem is in shards...

isadora 2:47 AM  

PS What does DNF stand for in your lingo? Did not finish? Deliciously nice fun? Damn nefarious frustration?

Joe Bleaux 12:55 PM  

Hu hu! My sediments exactly.

spacecraft 11:27 AM  

Nearly DNF (yes, @isadora, Did Not Finish) because of another *$^%$##@& rapper! And people are talking about a GIMME! Aaaaaaaugh!!! I swear, you guys are gonna LOSE me if you keep insisting on putting rappers into your grids! Out with them all!

Rant over, but you can see my predicament: with gimme DISEASE, DONEDEAL and GOLDEN in place, I had ___YE. Well, even I have heard of KanYE (West, I think), so in it went. Thought about the end of the k-run as XYZ but rejected that as too highly improbable for crosses (!). Could not get the Madonna-Cher clue for anything; when at the very last GAYICON fit in I was still puzzled. Those two gay icons?? Really??? Sorry, I just don't see that, and certainly never heard that reference before. Ashe and King, sure. DeGeneres, of course...but THOSE two????? Somebody please explain this. Horrible clue, for me. Thanks be, I finally remembered OZZFEST, and EXWIFE (headslap!) showed up.

There's no EVILER entry than 7-down, crossing EVEL to boot. FOSS and OREN a couple of obscurities, and I don't quite get the clue for HWY.

All these defects notwithstanding, there was much to like in this one. Some of the longer answers sang (BELLYLAUGH, YOUGOGIRL), and I appreciated shoutouts to the great Dan AYKROYD and Falk's COLUMBO. One for @rondo to ogle: MILA (Kunis, not -18). I second that. OOHLALA! As a finished-but-almost-not puzzle, I have to give it triumph points, but 7-down and 42-across are big problems. B-.

Burma Shave 12:08 PM  


With a BELLYLAUGH, by GOLLY, TELLALL the boys this,
when she’s EVILER than EVEL, and you’ve MET your NEMESIS,
it’s an EAZYE DONEDEAL which LEADS to a GOLDEN life,
just say, “SCAT, YOUGOGIRL!” Then she’s your EXWIFE!



CLARA and I went to the OZZFEST where he CHOPSUP a bat,
even the MOPTOPS at their best didn’t make an ARENAROCK like that!


rondo 12:31 PM  

I legitimately finished this puz and actually liked it a lot. Probably a record Sat-puz time for me – longest ever without throwing in the towel. Funny how far just COLUMBO and OZZFEST and some stray plural S entries can get you. And the incorrect yet helpful meAdOw.

I saw Queen in the 1970s just before they were big enough for ARENAROCK. Double bill with Kansas at the old St. Paul Auditorium, probably less than 2500 seats, if memory serves. I suppose he was a GAYICON, and Freddie Mercury was just fantastic. Took the SKYWAYS to/from the parking ramp. What a show!

By GOLLY, MILA just doesn’t seem right if it’s not yeah baby Kunis. OOHLALA!

Had trouble with PCWORLD and I used to subscribe. Go figger.

This puz was a real challenge turned into a DONEDEAL, and I wouldn’t mind more like it, even if some of the fill wasn’t stellar.

Anonymous 2:30 PM  

Let me say this: The puzzle today is meant for the hip-hoppers, pop culture addicts. and, I suppose, anyone under 30 without a good taste for quality music. And I don't mean just opera or classical. Way too many obfuscations and misdirects. Goodbye to Mr. Damon G. and his contemporaries. Most of the trivia learned today is not worth remembering. Easye, arenarock, moptops, gayicon, ozziefest??? All rubbish in my book. If a constructor's aim is to teach, amuse, or instruct, then this grid failed. My days left on this planet are numbered anyway, so May I say thanks for the creation of this blog and the many fine commenters.

Ron Diego, La Mesa, CA (Where fleeting pop culture and Celebrity adoration should be placed in a time capsule and never opened).

leftcoastTAM 3:13 PM  

Yesterday and today made for a tough weekend.

Foiled by three proper nouns:
ACCRA- tried Acaba
EAZYE- stuck on Kenye
ARENAROCK- never heard of it

Also stuck on LEGALese, which didn't help matters.

Otherwise, I liked the play.

Diana,LIW 7:39 PM  

"WOE is I." (Which, by the way, is the name of one of my favorite grammar guides.) I was certain that 22D would be some "lexi..." name for a grammar guide, but couldn't figure it our. Then when LEGALPAL emerged I was truly baffled. Some friendly guide to writing legal decisions? Hmm. Then came here, saw my misspelling(s) that didn't lead to LEGALPAD. That's only one of a million wrongs today. Too many proper names pour moi. As I said, WOE.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

PS - BS/BS2 - When is your poetic anniversary date - coming up in the next week or two? We Syndierellas should get in our pumpkins and have a celebratory ball! (No, not that kind Rondo. Simmer down.

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