Erato played one / FRI 12-11-15 / Junk removal service / Internet based Homeland Security program used by employers / What carries shield typically / It featured parody soap Days of Week / Cumulative series of bets /

Friday, December 11, 2015

Constructor: Barry C. Silk

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: FOOD WEB (28A: System of what eats what) —
A food web (or food cycle) is the natural interconnection of food chains and generally a graphical representation (usually an image) of what-eats-what in an ecological community. Another name for food web is a consumer-resource system. Ecologists can broadly lump all life forms into one of two categories called trophic levels: 1) the autotrophs, and 2) the heterotrophs. To maintain their bodies, grow, develop, and to reproduce, autotrophs produce organic matter from inorganic substances, including both minerals and gases such as carbon dioxide. These chemical reactions require energy, which mainly comes from the sun and largely by photosynthesis, although a very small amount comes from hydrothermal vents and hot springs. A gradient exists between trophic levels running from complete autotrophs that obtain their sole source of carbon from the atmosphere, to mixotrophs (such as carnivorous plants) that are autotrophic organisms that partially obtain organic matter from sources other than the atmosphere, and complete heterotrophs that must feed to obtain organic matter. The linkages in a food web illustrate the feeding pathways, such as where heterotrophs obtain organic matter by feeding on autotrophs and other heterotrophs. The food web is a simplified illustration of the various methods of feeding that links an ecosystem into a unified system of exchange. There are different kinds of feeding relations that can be roughly divided into herbivory, carnivory, scavenging and parasitism. Some of the organic matter eaten by heterotrophs, such as sugars, provides energy. Autotrophs and heterotrophs come in all sizes, from microscopic to many tonnes - from cyanobacteria to giant redwoods, and from viruses and bdellovibrio to blue whales. (wikipedia)
• • •

Typically thorny Silk puzzle. Only two "?" clues in the whole thing, but they were right on top of each other, right up front, so their effect was outsized. [Store in the Middle East?] kept me stymied for a while, even after I got OIL R-. Same for [Round numbers?] even after I got GREEN-.  Main problem up there was writing in SPAM FOLDER at 1A: Junk removal service (SPAM FILTER). I sort of knew that a "FOLDER" wasn't a service, but I thought maybe by some stretch it could be. And it sure fit. It was the answer I managed to cobble together from very few answers I had after my first pass at the NW: MRES, FEN, and REST were all I could put in with certainty. From that: SPAM FOLDER! Sometimes, 80% accuracy is sufficient to get things going. Once I got out of the NW, it wasn't too tough to get through the middle and into the SE, where, with the exception of the toughish SEEK ASYLUM (56A: Try to escape a tyrant), things were a little easier-going. That left the NE and SW corners, both of which looked like potential disasters. Something about their shape and sequesteredness suggested they could easily become dead ends.

I was half right. The SW turned out to be remarkably easy, as TURN INTO and TRIAL RUN fell right into place. And the NE also looked like it was going to come together, but once I got in close, things got tough. FOOD . . . FOOD . . . I got nothin'. Just nothin'. FOOD CHAIN ... and then I'm out of FOOD phrases. This is my first time seeing FOOD WEB. Without that WEB, traction in the NE was that much harder to come by. I had IBAR and LYRE in there, but LYRE seemed like it could be LUTE, and even with SLICED in place, none of the rest of the ACRosses were coming, which meant also that none, None of the Downs would fall. [Large-scale spread of viruses, say] was never ever going to lead me to CYBER WAR, for instance. The only way I toppled that section was by brainstorming four-letter shows that started with "S" (11A: It featured the parody soap "The Days of the Week"). At first, the only show I could think of was ... "Soap." But somehow "SCTV" (which I've never actually seen, I don't think) came to me out of the blue, and then everything gelled. But before that ... that clue on CENT? (21A: 1850s Flying Eagle, e.g.) No way. Same with the clue on the icky ACR (32A: From one end to the other; Abbr.). IN ALL, this seemed a decent offering—somewhat outside my cultural wheelhouse, as Silk puzzles usually are, but sufficiently feisty for a Friday, and mostly clean (despite some assorted regressive junk, e.g. ISS MRES ACR STLO INRI CIERA OTT AMATI IBAR AOL). Is it weird to have TRIPLE A and AAA CELL in the same grid? A little. Crossing each other? A little more. 5-yard penalty. Repeat first down.

I'm off to the deep northeast today, so my next write-up will come to you from a cabin in the woods. Literally. Gonna write and read and drink coffee and sleep and not much else. Leaving very very early, and so ... to bed.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


JB Puzzler 12:14 AM  

The perfect Friday. Silk puzzles are a perfect mix of challenging, head-scratching and moments of revelation and clarity. The minimal fill crud is more than outweighed by the contemporary and creative cluing. Wish Silk puzzles were daily events. But I'd never get any work done. Awesome.

jae 12:19 AM  

SE - Easy, SW and NE - Easy-medium, NW - very tough.   I guess that equals medium-tough for me too. Had a hard time seeing PIRATE, ISS, DESPAIR, and ALERTS.   Partly because LEFT ARM was kinda odd and I had Int (for intro) before ISS. 

I suspect I'm not the only one who put SPARTA in the wrong place. 

As a former coin collector CENT was a gimme.

This one seemed on the bland side to me and @Rex already listed the iffy fill, but it makes it INTO the liked it column for putting up some resistance. 

Trombone Tom 12:24 AM  

A nice crunchy BCS puzzle to end the week. I figured a Flying Eagle had to be some kind of car and tried to fit in Cord until I finally arrived at CENT. Then I plugged in AdonAIs for the Shelly clue and it took forever to straighten out the Northwest. Nearly gave up in DESPAIR. I agree with @Rex's rating. Medium challenge, but rewarding.

kozmikvoid 12:25 AM  

Extra tough for me, but stuck to it to keep my current streak alive. Well worth it despite doubling my average Friday time, which made me want to SEEKASYLUM of a different sort. I got SPAMFILTER right off the bat and thought I'd be in for a speedy Friday. Not so much...It took a while to see LEFT ARM despite LE--AR- which made going South difficult. SW went down quickly after accepting ACTIVISM over "uprising" and giving up on "Athen(s/a)" at 33A. East was an absolute bear for me. The SLICED gimme helped, but after YUP I couldn't get away from what I thought would've been a brilliant "unplugs" at 25D. Luckily my stubbornness for Athen(s/a) led me to a symmetrical SPARTA, and once I saw VERTEBRA I was on my way. Original entry of "Alero" at 50D made the SE impossible to get to from the left, but crosses for the long Acrosses made backfilling easy. STARRYEYED to see the magic pencil on this one. Thought the cluing and fill was very enjoyable throughout. Only real PLAINT would be the weak clue for 53D.

Randall Clark 1:03 AM  

I actually finished this one in just under 35 minutes! Which surprised me, because after going through all the across clues in the beginning, the only one I got was TERSE. It seemed quite daunting, but turned out to be just challenging enough to make it fun.

madchickenlittle 2:03 AM  

This one dropped 3.5 minutes faster than my average. I got SPAMFILTER right away and just cruised through. I never do that. I didn't have to Google anything. I am amazed, and happy. Loved it since I usually feel like a twit after reading the blog. 😊

chefwen 2:31 AM  

After grousing for about three minutes - Ugh! Barry Silk, Friday, impossible, never finish, Blah, Blah, Blah! I finally wiggled my foot around enough to get a toe hold, after that (and a tad bit of cheating) things went fairly smooth and I was able to finish in a not too ridiculous amount of time.
It almost took me longer to read Rex's blurb about the FOOD WEB than it took to do the puzzle. Of course I had to read it three times to retain any of it.

Loved the clue and answer for GREENS FEES 17A. 42A keeps catching my eye and I have to do a double take. I keep seeing TRIP LEA.

I'll quit grousing now, not as tough as I thought it would be. I'm sure the cheating had nothing to do with that. (Clears throat)

Anonymous 2:47 AM  

Silk's a genius.

phil phil 5:13 AM  

Loved it, thanks.
Got EVER IFY from crosses but had to show my wife this strange answer when she immediately said E VERIFY, duh.

SPAMFILTER was my first fill-in, AOL second.
Loved the quirky second city but lost the title name in my memory for awhile. DEScAIR AND cHI yielded to simple reasoning and
Some arcane turkish market or unbeknownst to me arabic or mideastern language name for a market was easily crossed.

Decent crosses make a fun puzzle. Thanks again BS

Anonymous 5:24 AM  

Very difficult but doable. Cyber War and Seek Asylum and Greens Fees were fiendishly delightful. If tomorrow is as good as today and yesterday, we can say Let's PARLAY! et voila.


GILL I. 7:10 AM  

I'm going to agree with @jae...this felt blah; didn't AROUSE any aha nor ooh and I like those for my Friday fare.
VERTEBRA looks so wrong without its plural friend E. I have no friggin idea what ACR (from one end to the other) means. All I got from Google was "American College of Rheumatology."
Same SPAM FoLdER as @Rex. PYRE and LYRE - ugh..OTT ought to take a vacation.
I always say that if you're going to use INRI as an answer, give it a better clue than just any old "religious inscription..." How about what is Latin for Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews...
Grumpiness over and out.

Lobster11 8:14 AM  

I am often amazed at how much variability there is in people's difficulty ratings of a given puzzle. When I came here I fully expected to see a long list of complaints about this being much too easy for a Friday. I solve on paper and never time myself, but I'm sure this was my fastest Friday ever, and by a considerable amount. Just one of those on-the-same-wavelength things, I suppose.

dmw 8:23 AM  

Good puzzle (which I say about any Friday or Saturday I can do AOL (37 Down) helped me get away from trying to fit "Trash" or "Garbage" somehow into 1 Across, and then the NW was easy. SE and SW were easy, NE hard. Thanks Mr. Silk!

Jonathan Alexander 8:33 AM  

I'll go w medium easy for me. The NE was by far the most difficult having LUTE stuck there for a while with the virus clue leaving me CUB---- which drew complete blanks til I threw in lyre and the the CYBER part of it jumped out...also had ITHICA instead of ATTICA in the SW until the rest of the SW proved me wrong.

Btw can anyone tell me what the heck ACR is supposed to be an abbr. for?

All in all a satisfying Friday

kitshef 8:39 AM  

A puzzle that exhibits high highs and low lows. Wonderful long answers: SPAMFILTER, GREENSFEES, STARRYEYED, CYBERWAR, VERTEBRA, ACTIVISM, OILRESERVE, TRANSECT, PARAPHRASE, SEEKASYLUM, TRIALRUN are all great. TURNINTO not so much, but certainly acceptable.

But the short stuff has a lot of crud: IBAR, OTT, AMATI, YUP (terrible), ACR (terrible), STLO, SOGOOD (so bad), ISS (better than yet another ASS, I suppose), AAACELL, TSPS, ARI, PHI, APR.

So on balance, an okay puzzle. Easy for a Friday with no significant slowdowns.

DIMMEr before DIMMED, SHANana before SHANKAR (I knew the former played at Woodstock so Monterey seemed reasonable), iThaCA before ATTICA, YeP before YUP, and of course I Schroedingered LYRE/LutE until CYBERWAR collapsed the wave function.

Hartley70 8:44 AM  

Typical Barry Silk. It was very difficult but very fair. I always want to quit because I'm not initially on his wave length, but in the end I'm amazed at the accuracy of his cluing. I think he's a master at constructing.

Z 8:50 AM  

That NE made me struggle. Even with SCTV/LYRE/IBAR/SPARTA/SLICED in place I stalled. LYRE could be LutE, SCTV could be wrong, SPARTA was wrong once before so why couldn't it be wrong again. What got me to the end was deciding that cut=SECT, which gave me WEB then WAR. That let me spay LutE (or unspay LYRE if you prefer) and see CYBERWAR ("Oh, that kind of virus. D'Oh") and VERTEBRA. Don't know TRANSECT, so that appeared from the crosses. This wasn't as much of cluster for me as some corners have been, but I easily spent a quarter of my solve there after I already had five correct answers in place.

I liked the stacked tens and the doubled Greek City//States that aren't Athens. Our favorite Giant, violin, and WWII battle site not so much. Still, a fine Friday solve.

AliasZ 8:53 AM  

TRIPLE-A cell crossing AAA credit rating was one of the major blemishes in this otherwise spotlessly clean and silky puzzle.

The other was LEFT ARM. It doesn't have a recognizable specificity. LEFT WING yes, LEFT ARM no. As clued, it could also be a bent arm, a stiff arm, the weak arm, etc. Besides, left-handed fighters carry their shield on the right arm. Yes, the clue says "typically" but that doesn't wipe the green paint from it. LONG ARM, STRONG ARM, SIDE ARM, TONE ARM, etc. are all in-the-language phrases with specific meanings, thus legitimate, colorful entries. LEFT ARM is not.

Thank goodness for the shorts giving me the first toe holds in this grid. Funny how grateful I feel to see some junk fill as I first stare at the pristine white grid of a tough puzzle. I always say to myself: "Self, finally something you know!" Today it was OTT, INRI, MRES, FEN, STLO and SCARS. Yet these are the entries I first complain about after I am finished. Why is that? Because I am an ungrateful, elitist, nitpicking lowlife, the lowest inVERTEBRAte in the FOOD WEB, that's why.

I loved LYRE and PYRE, PLAINT, PARLAY, MIRAGE, AMATI, ATTICA and SPARTA, but wasn't crazy about CIERA after yesterday's CIARA. I also enjoyed the internet mini-theme, as well as the political one, what with the OUSTER of tyrants from power by sustained ACTIVISM that eventually TOPPLES them, or in total DESPAIR, SEEK ASYLUM from them.

EVER IF Y is used as a vowel, I remember to attach it to "An EthnIc grOUpY".

IN ALL, a pleasant solving experience without significant stumbling blocks today. Thank you, Mr. Silk.

blinker474 9:01 AM  

Sort of tough, but I finished. Had "golfscores" at 17A (round numbers) for a while. Filling in Ott, Amati and terse at 22, 23 and 25 across helped quite a bit. Then it was just the usual struggle of plugging away until it was done. Thank you Silk and Shortz.

The Rhino 9:03 AM  

A tough, but Friday-ish Friday. I enjoyed it for the most part except for ACR, which seems like the laziest, ugliest fill. Not just 'icky' as Rex named it, but hateful. A crime against the solver.

Karen Bruce 9:17 AM  

It's always interesting when your knowledge works against you in a puzzle. When I saw two Greek states with 6 letters that were opposing each other across a block, my immediate thought was "Athens and Sparta!" They were rivals that hated each other in that historical period. So, when I worked out MIRAGE, I threw in SPARTA as the option with an A at the end, and it just messed me up horribly. I was so certain it was right, and went through contortions to make it work.

But, no, yet again, Barry Silk and I think differently. As I've said before, he's the crossword constructor who is on an entirely different wavelength from me (not bad, but different), and I always groan when I see his name.

So, DNF for me.

Maruchka 9:19 AM  

Oh boy. The NW made me cheat. After that, all in went quite smooth.

Fav of the day - SCTV. In keeping with the season, here's Dusty Towne's Sexy Christmas Special:

Tita 9:24 AM  

I thought Rex would demolish the entire puzzle just by virtue of ACR. which, I think might be the worst piece of crud fill/clue I've ever encountered. And I normally don't get very piqued by crud fill.
Next time, how about "Track up north, for short", because Arctic Circle Raceway is a thing in Norway.
My vast 30 seconds of post-googling turned up 0 instances of ACR as abbreviation for across.

Anyhow, I finished with only moderate struggle, which surprised me, because I got off to a very shaky (and empty) start.

Like lots of us, I had TRIPLEA in the wrong place, but only for an instant, as EGG Is the only Challah possibility.

Funny... I got OILRESERVE with only RE, which made me realize the error of my Orr, and allowed me to dispatch the NE.

Thanks, Mr. Silk!

quilter1 9:34 AM  

Got all of the SW first then moved through the rest. Since I had ATTICA, SPARTA went in quickly. Always like Silk puzzles. Same experience as @Rex in the NE and NW.

wreck 9:36 AM  

I had the same experience as many (apparently). It started very slowly, then gradually picked up steam. The NW was also the last to fall for me - I finished several minutes faster than my average Friday time, so I have to rate it easy-medium on a personal scale.

jberg 9:48 AM  

Four nice little puzzles, barely connected. I worked my way right down the E side but struggled in the W. Finally saw that it was SPAM FoLdER, not some Waste Ngt competitor, and it all came together. Nice Friday AM workout.

Nancy 10:00 AM  

A 2nd puzzle in a row I loved, though it couldn't be more different than yesterday's. I could find no way into the NW, even when I had (I was pretty sure) SO GOOD at 1D. I guessed DESPAIR from the D, put ISM at the bottom of the long 33D, then got INRI, STUN and MONT. Thus my toehold. Or was it my HEELPAD?

When I belatedly saw what 1A might be about (I initially thought it was some sort of large van!), I couldn't get SPAM FoLdER out of my mind, which really loused up 6D. OSS????

Thought OIL RESERVE and GREENS FEES were wonderfully clued and they took me forever to get. I was quick to get LEFT ARM (I already had ARM) and slow to get PIRATE (I was looking for a fish or a berg or a riptide). And I had FOOD blank for a while: I've heard of a FOOD CHAIN, but never of a FOOD WEB.

My first reaction to VERTEBRA was: don't tell me there's a bra that you wear on your back?!

It all came slowly at first, then faster and faster, until I couldn't write fast enough. I lovely challenge, extremely zippy, and a lot of fun.

OISK 10:02 AM  

Silk is wonderful. For me, MUCH easier than yesterday's, and very enjoyable. Only WTF is Vila, TV handyman. Don't understand that one at all.

Especially loved the SE, oh yeah, starry eyed.

And a Friday success always means more to me after a Thursday failure. (my failure, not the constructor's)

Robso 10:13 AM  

This was fun. All the same, I winced a little when I put in OTT, and STLO, and INRI, and IBAR. All this was almost offset by seeing SCTV again.

Laurence Katz 10:14 AM  

Tough but fair. And now I can proceed into the day with a sense of accomplishment.

oldbizmark 10:20 AM  

Northwest was tough for me but got it done in the second pass after figuring out PIRATE and OARS. The rest was easy-medium for me. Very enjoyable solve. Perfect way to start the weekend (at least in spirit).

Bob Kerfuffle 10:21 AM  

Agree, Medium-Challenging, which means a good Friday.

One write-over, ghost of recent crossword past, SHA NA NA >> SHANKAR (everything I know about popular music comes from crosswords?)

Had to smile when I realized the resemblance of my very first entry to almost my last: 16 A, LYRE -- 54 D, PYRE.

Carola 10:30 AM  

Loved it. My toehold was Erato's LYRE followed by (with thanks to previous crosswords) SCTV, which gave me enough for CYBERWAR and a trip to SPARTA. Where I stalled out. Had to pick my way around from there, looking for the rare soft spot. I thought the SE might sink me, but I finally managed to see SEEK ASYLUM and finished.

Missteps: Int for ISS (hi, @jae), SHANana, iThaCA, DEStiny.

Like @Rex, I'm heading off for the weekend, not to a cabin in the woods but to the Big City (CHI on scoreboards) to see "Bel Canto" at the Lyric Opera. Interestingly, yesterday I got an email from the Lyric, essentially a trigger warning about the potentially traumatic content along with a defense of presenting artisitic works that may be troubling. These times.

old timer 10:34 AM  

A delightful puzzle by Mr. Silk, though it took a full hour to complete -- but Fridays are usually the hardest days of the week for me. Speaking of The Days of The Week, SCTV was my first entry. I don't think I ever liked a TV show more.

But there it sat. No traction in the NE, no traction anywhere until I guessed MONT, and the rest of the SE became clear. Hands up for "Athens" before ATTICA. In the SW, I was shocked to see STLO, which I thought was on the constructors no-fly list these days. Had wanted Caen. For a while, too, I wanted (Carlos) Santana -- I think he was at Monterey Pop. SHANKAR certainly was. But also, wasn't Sha Na Na there? I gave that some thought.

I had "coin" before CENT, which slowed me some in the NW. Thanks to STLO, which made AOL obvious, which in turn made SPAMFILTER obvious, the NE turned out to be Easy. Once you have that filter, all the Downs in that section practically fill themselves in.

Safe trip, @Rex. I'll understand if it takes a while for comments to be posted.

floatingboy 10:34 AM  

NE is what killed me. The rest was pretty straightforward. Had "lyre/lute" (kept changing them back and forth) and "terse", and had "ibar" in my pocket, but "food___"?! Finally "vertebra is what tilted me in the right direction. But I STILL don't know what "acr." is.

Nancy 10:39 AM  

Just letting you all know, now, when my computer is up and running, that, if I ever disappear completely from this blog and (for those of you who have it) my email, I may actually not be dead. Last night I got what I find out this morning is called the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) -- no icons, no cursor, no anything. I couldn't turn the damn thing off any more than I could use it for anything. I turned off the modem, I closed the damn thing up, the light went off. I opened it up again and there was the BSOD. (All four lights on the front of the laptop remained on the whole time.) I pulled out some plugs, hoping I wouldn't electrocute myself, since the damn thing was still on. Which plugs? I don't know, there are so many plugs. The ones that go into my computer, the ones that go into the wall. The damn screen was still blue, whichever one I pulled out. I pushed them back in again. The screen was still blue. I closed the laptop and waited a half hour. The screen was still blue. I was in a state of such panic, I can't even tell you. Which makes no sense at all since I DIDN'T EVEN OWN A COMPUTER UNTIL LATE DECEMBER OF 2008 AND NOW I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT IT? I had to somehow let everyone know my situation. I moved to the chair next to my (landline, corded) phone and looked up @Hartley 70's number. I was going to ask her to alert everyone this a.m. on the blog that they might not hear from me ever again but not to think that I had croaked. As my finger pressed on the first button, I saw MOVEMENT on my computer across the room. It was still a blue screen, but it had gone from "Shutting Down" with a small revolving circle, to "Welcome" with a small revolving circle. Was it coming back to life? I went back to my desk to stare at it and pray. And yes, Windows had shut off completely because of some terrible problem that they now identified to me in what seemed like Greek (000111000***^^^00100* or some such)and they had done what they had to do AND NOW THEY WERE BACK! Oh happy day, but what a nightmare!

Charles Flaster 10:47 AM  

DNF as NW did not compute.
Me and Mr. Silk usually do not end this way.
Had LEFT ARM three times and erased each one.SPAM FILTER not in my wheelhouse and had MesS for MRES?
Remainder of puz was very easy.
Write over: SHANKAR for SHA Na Na.
Thanks BCS.

Mohair Sam 10:56 AM  

Agree with ofl today, right down to the rating. Lots of aha moments - especially at OILRESERVE and GREENSFEES. Always enjoy a Barry Silk puzzle.

Hoorah for crosswordese today (OTT and STLO) or we would have had no toehold on this one. My PHIllies caused HARM today, first time in 5 years. Thought SPARTA was paired with AThens by law, guess not.

SHANana before SHANKAR cost us tons of time in SE, wrong coast, wrong year - SHANANA was Woodstock '68. Had ---DEMIC for a while at 12d wondering if it was "epi" or "pan."

Remember CIARA from yesterday? She was the subject of a clever skit on ESPN last night where weeping Seattle Seahawks fans apologized to CIARA for blaming her for the poor performance of their quarterback (and her fancy man) Russell Wilson earlier this season (Wilson has been dynamite lately). And how many of you blamed her for a natick yesterday?

Chuck McGregor 10:58 AM  

@chefwen 2:31 AM

Not as easy (by far!) as I thought it would be, but I finished. I'm sure the cheating had nothing to do with that. (Clears throat)

That I might finish cleanly was a MIRAGE. IN ALL, I was too STARRYEVED and DESPAIRed when I saw some SCARS ARIse on my ink-on-paper grid. I’d be a LYRE if I didn’t say so. Among them:

1a spamblocks? Nope
5d bog? Nope
8d remit? Nope
9d idenify (weird, I know, but who's to say what marketing thinks works for product names)
14d derriere? Nope
41d Sha Na Na? Nope
44a knee pad? Nope (well, it fit, but not much sense to it)

IN RE “fun” things hidden in this grid, the pickings I are THIN. I’ve got nothing worthy of mention. (@ROO?)

Barry Silk puzzles always seem to TURN INTO interesting solves. SO, it takes some GOOD ACTIVISM to AROUSE those AAA CELLS in the brain to TRANSECT and TOPPLE his TREATs. One can likely E-VERIFY this.

YUP. EGGactly...


Fred Romagnolo 11:22 AM  

I knew FOOD chain, but it didn't fit, and I'd never heard of WEB. In other words, plant life and animal life methods of taking in nutrition. The AOL clue alerted me that 1 across was computer related, but it still didn't help much. Hands up for the PHI cHI mixup, but logic cleared that up. I really wanted SHANKAR to be SHANana, but the clue was in the singular. I lucked out on being one of the people to preview SCTV before it hit the airwaves; I was particularly partial to the then unknown John Candy.

Teedmn 11:27 AM  

Super Friday today. A little over 17 minutes but it felt like 25 due to the density. My grid has extra ink in all four quadrants, so equal opportunities for errors!

Best(?) writeover was SHA Na na before SHANKAR. SEEK refuge helped create more mess in the SE and I considered bYRE before PYRE because I was thinking of bier but "cowshed" not exactly what I was looking for (Anyone else now thinking of where the moon is shining in K-K-K-Katy?)

SCTV aired on our local PBS station in the 80’S, one of my favorites ever, so that gimme made the NE easy as SLICED bread. Alpe at 61A before MONT. At 19A I considered "lake" - are OARS required for a regatta? I thought any old boat could participate. I liked the "aha" I got when I realized that "Equal" in the clue for 53D referred to the artificial sweetener.

Thanks, Barry Silk, for the puzzle.

Casco Kid 11:57 AM  

Easy-medium here. 45 min is better than my Friday average by about 10 minutes.

I anchored at SLICED/LYRE. I had spartA/bAttEry on the left side and gave up on it quickly enough. I put in _ _ GOOD for 1D and IN_ _ for 55A. and D_ _ _ ED (dimmed or dulled) for 47D. Those partials helped a lot. There was just enough traction everywhere, and the cluing was fair, so that I could walk this one home. I give all of the credit to the clues.

Does anyone else sense that Fridays are the best, most-consistently clued puzzles of the week? I seem to be better at Fridays than any other day of the week. Huh. . . . Compare to yesterday when I did not get the buried ER trick and spent 90 minutes inventing an unrelated double-rebus trick, to no avail.

Roo Monster 12:32 PM  

Hey All !
Seemed to me not as Silk-y as most Silk puzs. Just a touch too much dreck for Barry. Although I do like the long Acrosses and Downs.

Managed to zip through the SW first, but the rest came slowly. Got NW next, then SE. Wanted (some two letter word)RePHRASE at first, and having DIMMEr in, slowed down that section. Also SHANKAR iffy for me, though have heard the name. NE was a bear for me. Had outbreAk in for 12D, but when none of the crosses wanted to jibe, (and having LutE didn't help) relooked (word?) at the clue, and saw it ended with "say", so figured it wasn't a straightforward answer. Had TERSE in, but wondering if it was actually TEaSE, as that would've worked also. Finally went with my gut on IBAR, then the ole brain clicked on CENT, and having written in the margin possible letters for 12D, got me to see CYBER/LYRE. Whew!(Phew?)

So, a good thinking FriPuz. Interesting grid. Some very nice clues. CIERA today for the CIARA yesterday.

20th letter painting? T ART
Always unsure? EVER IFY
New push up undergarment? VERTE BRA
15 years, for a space station? MIR AGE
Stupid doctor? DIM MED

All week, folks... :-P


Anonymous 12:32 PM  

I'm not real happy with the computer clues; I do the puzzle from the actual newspaper with a fountain pen, so spam filter, aol, everify kind of bugged me, because food web implied some kind of internet theme and I thought I wasn't getting the joke. SCTV and Cent, on the other hand went fast, and I love those greek city states. I don't know what a heel pad is, but "yup" and "acr" didn't leave any warm and fuzzy feeling. Still, under five minutes, which is ok for friday.

Lewis 12:36 PM  

For "Junk removal service", I really really wanted something like SEX CHANGE CENTER.

After yesterday's fail, I was motivated to stick with this one until it fell, and I did, and it did. It was my typical Silk experience, starting with fragments here and there, then an aha and more filled in, then another aha, and even more, forging on until the end. Some terrific cluing: OILRESERVE, GREENSFEES, OARS, ALERTS, VERTEBRA, and trickiness in addition. The clue for EGG seemed random -- challah is typically made with eggs, but it can be made without eggs, and of course there are other ingredients that go in as well. When I think "challah" I don't think "egg", but maybe someone can set me straight here.

This was a lovely Friday. Thank you Barry!

nick 12:37 PM  

Cranky yesterday, very happy today. Got 'spam filter' right off, which helped a lot. Loved 'cyber war' and seeing words like 'cur' and a clue from Shelley. No despair here, just delight. Thank you, Mr. Silk.

Mariaseig 1:09 PM  

I loved the 53D clue when I thought of it as the artificial sweetener Equal amounts.

Anonymous 1:14 PM  

I had to google... Olds CIERA (I had CIENA), SHANKAR (I had HENDRIX, 1967 Monterey), DESPAIR (shade of a starless night), OTT (drew a blank, and MAYS is too long), AMATI (violinist's prize), and the ancient greeks (ITHACA, ATTICA, and SPARTA, took a while to sort out).

Had no idea who VILA was.

Numinous 1:23 PM  

YEOWCH! This took me 10 minutes longer than my average. Yeah, I'd call it challenging. I thought SPAM FILTER pretty early on but didn't put it in straight away. I put in the M and F for MRES and FEN and moved along to SCTV for which I filled in the S. What starts with a T? What starts with a V tht is in the back? Hmmm! Then I got LYRE. I put in IBAR thinking it couldn't really be that lame but I had SLICED figured out so what else could it be? I cruised around the rest of the puzzle putting in this or that even though they were probably wrong and some of them were but in taking erroneous stuff out the real answer might materialize.

I managed to get most of the NE done first then the NW. Working in the SW, I put SPARTA in as the western Greek state but moved it east a little later. I replaced it with ithICA, which is, indeed, west of SPARTA and was the only state I could think of that ended in ICA. I was kind of disappointed when it turned out to be ATTICA which is east of SPARTA. Can't have everything, I suppose. The SE was the last to fall and had me scratching my head for the longest time.

I really didn't like THIN. I think of attenuation as loss but I can't think of a soul who attenuated by going on a diet. Yeah I get that "equal amounts" can be any pair of measures but I didn't want to put TSPS in until the last and that P made the fat lady sing.

Maybe my.slowness this morning had something to do with the margaritas I drank last night. Ok, ok, it way my roommate who was drinking the margies, I was drinking them without the ice or the mix. Isn't Thursday night "Party Night" on college campuses? Not that I'm within thirty miles of a college or anything but . . . . Sounds like a good excuse to me.

MetroGnome 1:26 PM  

Anyone else who has no idea what "MRES" means?

Got everything except SCTV -- once I cheated (by coming here) and filled that in, everything else fell into place.

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

Am I the only one who thought that: "From one end to the other: abbr." is an erroneous clue for ACR? Across means from one side to the other not one end to the other. E.g. Consider "Across the street" or "Across the river" or even "Across the bus"


Paul Johnson 2:00 PM  

TSPS for "Equal amts."? No way. Sure if you have 2 teaspoons each is equal to the other. But by that definition GALS and every other unit of measurement qualifies.

dick swart 2:07 PM  

This Barry Silk puzzle on a Friday is what the crosswords are all about!

Looking at those looming blanks and muttering "i'll never get this". Finding some traction and a couple of crosses to be able to say "At least I got this far". Settling down to a corner by corner think-through, writing out the downs and across with the blanks dashed, and sure enough, soon the puzzle is three quarters of the way there.

Then its all filled in. Wow! "That Barry Silk is one smart guy!", comes the appreciative recognition. Hard, challenging but not impossible!

And I got it! Octogenarians Rule!

Alby 3:22 PM  

Some good misdirection in this one. Had SPAMFILTER as SPAMFOLDER for a while; I like LYRE and PYRE in the same puzzle. Like the number of Vs and how spread apart they are. Funny to see CIARA one day and CIERA the next.

Thomas 3:25 PM  

I actually got this one considerably quicker than most Fridays! (A shade under 12.)

"Equal amts." for TSPS is really nice. I hadn't seen that cluing play before. (If you don't see it, consider that "equal amts." would not work.)

Got AMATI and SHANKAR purely through crosses, although with a moderate amount of a-ha afterwards for the latter.

ACR's cluing was whatever word for not-good you wish to use.

ARI and PHI in the same grid, in which that /isn't/ part of a theme? A little weak.

Alby 3:30 PM  

More misdirection I forgot to mention: 25D and 29D took me long enough to get on their own (I had UNSEATS for 25D for the longest time), but they did the extra added task of making me think 54A could be COUP.

TonySaratoga 5:37 PM  

Great puzzle! PANDEMIC where CYBERWAR should've been absolutely killed me.

Wednesday's Child 5:40 PM  

I am laughing! Thank you wife of phil phil. I couldn't make sense of EVER IFY until I saw it here.

Wednesday's Child 5:58 PM  

Really struggled in the NW. Had SPAM BUFFER and BOG and FOREARM. I sputtered and DNF'd.

Still, I enjoyed it very much.

@Casco Kid - Friday is my favorite puzzle day, tough but do-able for me.

Now I get Equal amts. Clever.

Elephant's Child 6:15 PM  

Isn't a groupy some kind of a fish?

Anonymous 6:15 PM  

@Paul Johnson - Equal the sugar substitute.

GILL I. 6:49 PM  

@Nancy... You probably won't ever see this because
A.@Rex is in a cabin with no AOL service and probably having a hot toddy or two...
B. Your computer is blue...
If you do, I haven't giggled that much in a loooong time.

Z 6:55 PM  

@OISK and others - Bob VILA of This Old House and other Home Improvement Shows.

@Anon/Gerry - ACRoss the universe? ACRoss town? ACRoss the state?

@Paul Johnson - @Thomas is being all sly about it. Equal is the brand name of a sugar substitute.

OFL=Our Fearless Leader, AKA Rex.

WOE=What/Who On Earth
WTF=What/Who The F...

Aketi 8:39 PM  

Enjoyed yesterday's and today's puzzles

MRE=Meals Ready to Eat

@Nancy, you must know how much I empathize with your blue screen episode after you listened my comPLAINTs about my suspected CYBERWAR attack on my computer.

@Lewis, once again you slayed me, this time with your version of junk removal service. I actually retain two email accounts as my SPAM FILTERs. One account for ads from stores that want my email and another for Facebook notifications, My daily delete all is a thoroughly enjoyable cleansing experience.

@Fred R, you would think that having a PhD in Nutrtional Sciences would have helped me get FOODWEB right away, but I too wanted it to be FOOD chain,

mac 8:41 PM  

Enjoy your retreat, Rex!

mac 8:47 PM  

@Elephant's Child: it's a roughie or a grouper.

old timer 12:10 AM  

This old timer bought an apple II in 1978, for work, and moved on at home to an Apple II GS, then to the original Mac, then (at work) to various now elderly Macs, now to a relatively modern version. I would update if the newer Macs ran Appleworks, but I think my wife will, which is good enough for me. When we had the II GS, my children and I fell in love with a text computer game, "Tass Times in Tonetown" which I still think is the best game of its type ever created.

Jonathan Alexander 8:40 AM  

Meal Ready to Eat

Jonathan Alexander 8:41 AM  

I think it's referring to a packet of Equal (sugar substitute)

Rob 5:21 AM  

I've never understood the love for Barry Silk puzzles and I don't think I ever will. I absolutely hated this puzzle. Iffy fill married to cluing that's merely obtuse, not tricky.

Anonymous 7:28 PM  

Congrats, one of the best puzzles of the year. No pop culture or specialized knowledge, no really objectionable stretches of definitions. No Googling required. Just lots of clues that revealed very little, in the best Patrick Berry tradition. I had to keep going back at it day after day with fresh eyes to see areas where I'd gotten stumped. Very satisfying complete solve, and I'm please that Rex found it "challenging" too. Well done Mr. Silk.

spacecraft 10:00 AM  

Okay, so right away I'm thinking ATHENS and SPARTA ACR. (?) the middle. Turns out I was 58 1/3% right. I'm just glad I came at the former from the middle, so had -ICA first.

The Monterey act, however, did fool me, coming from the top with SHAN- I naturally thought SHANANA. Bowser is my hero. For some reason I held off writing it, thus saving a mess--which is what I wrote for the G.I. fare, failing to note the abbr. in the clue. My only other inkblot was in the SE corner; I had DIMMEr instead of DIMMED.

Yeah, that FOODWEB really threw me for a loop. Never heard that term. Like most, I'm familiar with the chain. Was about 90% convinced we were dealing with another rebus. And that cross: CYBERWAR? The spread of viruses would doubtless START a war, but isn't the war itself. Very confusing clue. Taking the crossings into account, this was the only possible solution, but those two plus ACR left me scratching my head.

For the REST of it, I have to take something off for the AAA/TRIPLEA thing, and of course for ACR, but it was still a satisfying solve, hard-ish but not out of reach. I'd call it medium with a couple of TSPS. of challenging. I am pleased to note OFL's adoption of my referee's role. Nice to know I'm not the only zebra with a yellow hankie. I'll stop short of throwing mine; let's say if Berry can enjoy some immunity, so can Barry. He's entitled. B+.

rondo 10:39 AM  

I had 4 write-overs that all seemed plausible to me: MesS, cHI, alERo, and iThICA. But they did TURNINTO correct answers in short order. Overall a rather quick solve.

OILRESERVE verges on green-paintish, but does no HARM. HEELPAD? That’s green paint for sure.

Like @teedMN said, loved SCTV when it was aired all those years ago. Guy Caballero, Count Floyd and the others. Priceless.

Nary a yeah baby in sight to AROUSE me, but YUP, this puz was a TREAT.

centralscrewtinizer 12:30 PM  

Funny, the NE was the part I completed. Did have jug for growler and thought I was pretty smart to get that, heh.
Silk is burlap for me.

Burma Shave 1:39 PM  


The not so SHY butcher ALERTS you of HARM,
“I stole Mr. GREENSFEES and SLICED off his LEFTARM,
wearing only my VERTEBRA and HEELPADs all INALL,
and in DESPAIR, I may TURNIN,TO TRANSECT you all!”


Anonymous 6:58 PM  

Can anyone explain ISS to me?

Diana,LIW 7:00 PM  

True confession. Third day in a row for a DNF. But I won't DESPAIR, and it was worth the price of admission to be reminded of SCTV. So I'll just SEEKASYLUM in Saturday's offering. At least I'm not a LYRE.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Diana,LIW 8:10 PM  

Anon at 6:58
Here's a tip. If you don't understand an answer/clue and googling probably won't help, Bill Butler also has a NYT blog, and he explains many (most) of the answers. He doesn't comment like Rex, but he is informative.

Diana, LIW

spacecraft 8:21 PM  

#anon 6:58: ISS is an abbr. for "issue;" the clue's "vol.1, no.1" points to an abbr.

leftcoastTAM 8:53 PM  

Pretty smooth, as (forgive me) Silk usually is.

SE was a little sticky, though, with CIERA (Alero anybody?) the last entry needed to SEEKASYLUM.

Last and least.

leftcoastTAM 8:55 PM  

@Anonymous 6:58: ISS=Issue.

Diana,LIW 10:45 PM  

Oops - Anon 6:58

ISS, according to Bill B., is Issue - as in Vol X No. X is an issue of a periodical.


rondo 12:40 AM  

@Anon 6:58 - abbr. for ISSue

Nightowl 4:39 AM  

Bob Vila, "This Old House"PBS, former host.

Nightowl 4:58 AM  

Issue !!

Nightowl 5:00 AM  

Issue !!

Nightowl 5:03 AM  

So it's about 18 mo later,and I.just did this puzzle!! Syndi+paper-saver. Final fyi- Ithaca --aca--wpuld not fit as any NYer would know.

Nightowl 5:05 AM  


Nightowl 5:05 AM  


Nightowl 5:07 AM  

So it's about 18 mo later,and I.just did this puzzle!! Syndi+paper-saver. Final fyi- Ithaca --aca--wpuld not fit as any NYer would know.

Nightowl 5:07 AM  

Bob Vila, "This Old House"PBS, former host.

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