Alloy of tin lead / FRI 3-11-16 / Tamarack trees / Quaint means of manipulation / Major tributary of Missouri / Grammy nominated blues artist in Louisiana Music Hall of Fame / City northeast of Kiev

Friday, March 11, 2016

Constructor: Martin Ashwood-Smith

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Gabriel FAURÉ (31D: Debussy contemporary) —
Gabriel Urbain Fauré (French: [ɡabʁiɛl yʁbɛ̃ fɔʁe]; 12 May 1845 – 4 November 1924) was a French composer, organist, pianist and teacher. He was one of the foremost French composers of his generation, and his musical style influenced many 20th-century composers. Among his best-known works are his Pavane, Requiem, nocturnes for piano and the songs "Après un rêve" and "Clair de lune". Although his best-known and most accessible compositions are generally his earlier ones, Fauré composed many of his most highly regarded works in his later years, in a more harmonically and melodically complex style. (wikipedia)
• • •

Solved this one on paper, and was stunned at how quickly it fell, especially considering how much white space there is in the middle. I think having a massive, huge, neon, flashing gimme at 1A: Phylicia of stage and screen (RASHAD) can make a huge difference for a puzzle's overall difficulty. With RASHAD in place, most of those short Downs were a cinch, which then meant that I had the front ends of the two 15s. So I was forced to linger up there for something close to zero amount of time. The only issue was what the hell came after EZ PASS .... the only thing I could think of was LANES, but obviously I needed more letters. So I just followed HEAVY CASUALTIES over to the NE, worked the short Downs over there, and then eventually worked my way into the center of the top section, revealing *TOLL* to be the missing crucial ingredient in the EZ PASS stew. I don't love that answer. EZ PASS TOLL LANES doesn't hang together that neatly. Doesn't pop. Doesn't feel coherent. It's hard to argue against the actual existence of such lanes, but I'd just call them EZ PASS LANES, the whole "toll" business being implied.

So, Much too easy up top. But then a little resistance: Who (the &&$^%!@#!...) is TAB BENOIT (16D: Grammy-nominated blues guitarist in the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame)? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that neither being "Grammy-nominated" nor being in the "Louisiana Music Hall of Fame" makes you crossworthy. In fact, being both those things might actually work against you. Wow. He seems very talented, but in this puzzle, he's the outlyinglest thing by far, familiarity-wise. Well, luckily, every cross was solid and gettable, so no harm done there. LOSS OF INNOCENCE went easily down the center and then PLAY FOR A FOOL went in at 25A: Deem to be dumb. I immediately thought "Hmm, that could be TAKE FOR A FOOL," then saw the clue at 21D: Husky cousins, and knew it was, indeed, TAKE (and AKITAS). And so, though the center was harder than the top, it wasn't that hard at all. I've seen that "Fine" misdirection at 34A: Fine source of humor, with "the"? (THREE STOOGES) a lot, including once recently, so the trick missed me. I didn't know AL'S Toy Barn or TERNE, but it didn't matter—all the other answers just washed right over the little things I didn't know.

About FEMININE WILES (31A: Quaint means of manipulation): is the term itself quaint? Are the wiles quaint? Is the notion that women use such wiles quaint? I'm not quite sure what's quaint here. It literally says "quaint means," but … so … women DO use them to manipulate? … and it's quaint? When you use your wiles, are you being quaint? And does the etymology of the word "quaint" play any role in this answer (just google [quaint Middle English] and see what comes up). Let's just say I'm making all kinds of uncertain, skeptical faces at this answer. The phrase is certainly valid—I'm just not sure about the clue. I used to call my cat WILES. His name was Wiley. It made a kind of sense.

["I'm suspicious and keeping notes..."]

ONE BOTTLE also has me looking skeptically at it, but for different reasons (27D: Order to a sommelier, maybe). I would look similarly at ONE WALL or THREE CANS or EIGHT VOLVOS. 47D: Kid's cry (MAA) is pretty cute, in that at first I thought it was a human kid crying, protractedly, for his MAA (MAA). But of course a kid is a baby goat. And MAA is the goat cry, just as surely as BAA is the sheep cry. I thought that as stack-oriented themelesses go, this one held up OK. Lots of long answers, and nary a "ONE'S" in sight. Unless you count BARIT ONE'S AXES, which you probably shouldn't, as BARIT is not a word. That I know of.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:05 AM  

Easy-medium for me. My solve was very similar to @Rex's, especially the top half.

Erasures: Omsk to OREL, TAb to TAG


The stair step center stack was worth the price of admission, liked it a lot.

Trombone Tom 12:19 AM  

Got most of the top and bottom in place, but the center part was much slower to reveal itself.

pkg before CTN, Omsk before OREL and pSa before ASL (I know, psa's usually are not in the corner). I think FEMININE WILES is not only
quaint, but somewhat sexist.

As a onetime metallurgist I can note that TERNE frequently appears as "terne plate". It is (was?) used to form gas tanks for cars.

I completely missed the reference to Larry Fine in 34A, but the crosses saved me.

All in all a good workout from MAS. Thank you Will and Martin.

Brett 12:21 AM  

I get such a kick out of reading these reviews out loud to my girlfriend and laughing at old curmudgeony Rex. Or sometimes, like today, overly dismissive Rex.

Doing the puzzles is so rewarding, and reading these reviews is so entertaining, though probably unintentionally so.

Hays 12:27 AM  

I found this one exceptionally difficult. I kept going down the wrong paths, but then I'd doubt an answer, always the one that would actually be right, erasing that one and leaving the mistake. So frustrating. I didn't like a lot about this puzzle (aside from admiring its construction), but that is certainly clouded by my trouble solving it! I don't know how this was easy to Rex, but I guess that's what years of experience can do. My time was 50% higher than my average Friday. Yesterday also took me a while, but I enjoyed it much more. None of these long answers make me tingle at all. Tingle rating: No tingle. Still, impressed by the construction, but, sorry, bring on Saturday.

George Barany 12:28 AM  

Glad to see this puzzle by my friend @Martin Ashwood-Smith, knowing how hard he worked to come up with a quintuple staircase arrangement in the center of the grid.

@Rex's BARIT_ONE_SAXES joke reminds me of my own experience solving, when (with a few crossing letters locked in) I took a stab at BASS_TROMBONES which shares several letters in the exact same places.

It's also my privilege to help @Rex-ites learn of MAS's First Steps leading up to today's puzzle. How do you think it stacks up to what was published?

Charles Flaster 12:36 AM  

Agreed with Rex especially with Quaint. Any husband will tell you "Inevitable" might be a better clue or fill in your own adjective.
Loved this one although it was a DNF at FAURE crossing FEMININE WILES and misspelling AKITA as AKeTA.
The fifteens were extremely brilliant and sussable from the crosses.
THREE STOOGES is brilliantly clued and I hope MAS realizes that FINE in the clue is Larry Fine--one of the stooges.
I think there were six stooges but not totally sure.
Liked cluing for PGA and B SIDES.
Thanks MAS--brilliant.

Carola 1:08 AM  

Not so easy for me, but an enjoyable workout. I liked the nexus of LOSS OF INNOCENCE x TAKE FOR A FOOL and FEMININE WILES - reminiscent of some noirish movie plot.

@Chefwen, aloha from a couple of islands down. It's great to be back!

Loren Muse Smith 4:21 AM  

Cool grid with that center 12-13-13-13-12 stagger step going on. That had to have been tough to do, especially with the terrific LOSS OF INNOCENCE running down through them all.

I finally finished when I- head slap- saw ARE for "art." So then I googled the THREE STOOGES to see that one of the guys was named "Fine." I'm lacking the chip in my brain to appreciate the THREE STOOGES, and somehow I understand that the joke's on me.

Point taken on ONE BOTTLE, but I don’t think it's as greenpaintish as "three cans" or "eight Volvos."

Best clue was the one for MICK. And I loved, loved, loved A MITE. I think if I had been trying to write this in a sentence, I would've hesitated at the spelling.

I figured that FEMININE WILES would set off some alarms (right under TAKE FOR A FOOL) 'cause it feels like the implied victim of these wiles is a guy. Maybe the "quaint" modifier lessens the blow, a recognition that women don't play these games anymore?

Mom and I put down the deposit for my wedding for the chapel for October 24. I went to my then fiancé …

Me: Mom and I are thinking October 17th for the wedding.
Him: That's too early. No way.
Me: But the leaves'll still be pretty, and it won't be too cold.
Him: Too early. I want the 31st
***argument continues for a bit…*
Me: Look. Let's just compromise on the 24th
Him: Fine

So did I play him like a baritone sax? I guess. Dishonest? You bet. Over the years I've tried to be more assertive and honest, but, heck. I do this kind of thing instinctively, this sneaky, dishonest manipulation. I've no doubt that it's people like me who undermine feminist efforts, and over the years I've tried to be more straightforward. I'm relieved to watch my daughter come into her own and not show such tendencies. O, SAGE, please stand up for yourself and meet challenges honestly and head on. Don't be a weenie like me.

MAS – always a treat to see your name at the top of the grid as ye art one of my fave themeless designers. And what an unusual one today. Nicely done.

Martín Abresch 6:39 AM  

Loved the stack in the middle of the grid! TAKE FOR A FOOL, FEMININE WILES, BARITONE SAXES, MOUNTAIN BIKER, and THREE STOOGES are five long, interesting entries. That the 15-letter LOSS OF INNOCENCE runs down their center is even more impressive. Bravo!

I do question the clue suggesting that a bari sax is "common" in jazz combos. I wish that it were more common. The bari sax has a huge range, and I love listening to someone who can honk and squeal on one. The same, by the way, goes for the bass clarinet.

One of my favorite tracks featuring a bari sax may be found here. Recorded in Milan, Italy in 1974, the track features saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and Argentine tango composer and bandoneon player Astor Piazzolla.

I was less keen on the top and bottom sections. The four 15-letter entries were rather dull when compared to the 12- and 13-letter words in the center.

Oh, yeah. I did not finish. In the SE, I had TAb for TAG (It may come with a price to pay). The cross didn't help me as I have never heard of GESSO.

The NW was an even bigger problem. I just ran into a wall. I had


I should have known Phylicia RASHAD—I really should have—but I could not pull that name. (My brain wouldn't let me think of anyone besides Felicia Day. Argh!) I did not know AZERA or DSC, and I wasn't able to come up with HAVE (Billionaire, for one) or EZ-PASS. (My brain badly wanted EXPRESS.) Ugh. Anyway, this DNF was definitely on me, not the constructor.

Martín Abresch 7:03 AM  

Oh, my two cents on FEMININE WILES, and I do mean two cents. I could easily be wrong.

To my ear, the phrase is obviously old-fashioned sexist, and so among my friends the only way that it gets used is with deliberate irony. It's like talking about a ghost or voodoo magic. "Ooh! You've been caught by my FEMININE WILES!" It's a rather fun-sounding phrase, and it does at least ascribe to women agency and cleverness. I think that the clue (Quaint means of manipulation) awkwardly tries to project this kind of reading, so it didn't bother me.

But I'm a man, and I have zero idea of the number of women who have this phrase deployed at them sincerely by misogynists who do think that women are heartless manipulators who are out to get them.

RAD2626 7:16 AM  

SAtiE instead of FAURE which slowed things down. Agree TAB BENOIT was a reach, but a wonderful grid with great design, clues and answers. Top/stop clue very cute as was clue for LACERATES. Do not think of URL for EDU as a "final". But terrific puzzle overall.

Anonymous 7:29 AM  

Indeed, BARIT isn't a word.
It's two words!

NCA President 8:29 AM  

LIke @Trombone Tom, I got the top and bottom, then stalled out in the middle.

I originally had "upRIght bassES" as a common jazz combo instrument. Because, they are common in jazz combos. I don't play jazz for a living though I've played in a number of jazz combos. A jazz combo is usually a small group, three or four...maybe 5 tops...of essential instruments. It is almost always a drummer, the aforementioned upright bassist, a pianist/guitarist, and some kind of solo instrument...a sax, violin, etc. While bari saxes are common jazz instruments, and I have seen jazz combos where the sax player might pull out his bari to play on a special number, in no way is a baritone sax a "common" jazz combo instrument...any more than a cello or bassoon is.

I had rAvel and then sAtiE until I finally saw MOUNTAINBIKER...that -AU--E was enough to get yet another French five-lettered composer name. Dukas is another one from that time period.

And FWIW, my most common order for a sommelier is "I'll have another, please." Which clearly didn't fit.

And LARCHES...I like trees. I'm no expert, but I wonder how I've made it this far in life without knowing about or hearing about a larch. That's not the kind of word you forget. And knowing that there must be larches all over the world for there to be a specifically American Larch. Just when you think you know most of what there is to know...

jberg 8:36 AM  

I didn't much like EZ PASS TOLL LANES, or the ABO 'blood letters' (just noticed the pun there, that makes it a little better), or a couple of other things -- but that's the price of having all those downs in the puzzle, which was, I'd agree, a little easier than the normal Friday, or at least the normal MAS Friday. Somehow, somewhere, my brain told me it could be OREL -- otherwise I'd have held onto OMSK much longer, and the whole thing would have been harder.

Kinny Landrum 8:38 AM  

It's BARITONE SAXES. You know, baritone, as in soprano, alto, tenor and baritone. And although baritone saxes are jazz instruments, they are hardly "common" in combos. Usally you would have to have at least an eight or nine piece combos, such as the Birth of the Cool nonet, to have a bari sax. But then ther's always Gerry Mulligan...

kitshef 8:41 AM  

Overall easy, but back-to-back DNFs. Today the issues were TAb/bESSO - a cross of a reasonable answer for 'It may come with a price to pay' and a WoE, and ARs/FAURs - a cross of a reasonable answer for 'This was once "art"' and a WoE. MTA was also a WoE that could have caused trouble, but ARs and ART have same letter there.

Other WoEs, all crossed fairly, were TERNE, AZERA, OREL (I, too, went with Omsk first), TABBENOIT, LANE. Never heard of BARITONESAXES but inferable.

Agree the EZPASSTOLLLANES and ONEBOTTLE are, if not green paint, at least greenish crayon.

I've heard womanlyWILES much more than FEMININEWILES, but Google says that is not the norm.

POLER is weak, and MAA is just making stuff up. On the other hand, AMERICANLARCHES may be the greatest answer I've ever seen in a crossword.

GILL I. 8:44 AM  

Another goodie by MAS. He used to scare the pants off of me but now I use all the WILES I've got while I can and, by gum, I get her done. Well, I did need help with TABBENOIT and FAURE (I wanted Ravel)... Then I remembered Fine from the THREE STOOGES. Anything Stoogie makes me happy because I have a Curly and a Moe that sleep with me every night.
PAUL KLEE (love his work) gave me that whole downstairs portion and it made me look up the AMERICAN LARCH. Why it looks just like a Christmas tree...!
Now I'm going to download his other one - thank you George!
This weekend we go on daylight savings time. I hate changing the clocks; the dogs hate going out later; I hate eating dinner when there is so much light and I really hate going to bed when the birds are still singing. I'm going to start a petition.
Oh...I really don't understand why HAVE has anything to do with the answer for Billionaire, for one. HAVE?? as in HAVE your cake and eat it too?

Lobster11 8:52 AM  

I really struggled with this for a long time before the dam broke. Lots of clever clues and misdirections made for some good chuckles (eventually).

Unlike OFL, I really struggled in the NW, so much so that it was the last section to fall. Got RASHAD, REHAB, SPAMS, and BAS straight away, but then I was utterly stumped by "Some highway conveniences," for which I had E_P..., with the next letter clearly needing to be a vowel. I just couldn't for the life of me see how that was going to happen. Eventually I learned this important lesson: When you run the alphabet, it is important to remember that there are 26 letters, not 25, and the last one is Z. I've heard the names of lots of Hyundai models, but never AZERA, and it just never occurred to me to try "Z" where I needed it.

Once I got it, though, I enjoyed seeing that answer because I think E-ZPass is one of the great inventions of all time. Sliced bread pales by comparison. During my lifetime I've traveled up and down I-95 between Virginia and NJ more times than I care to remember, and until recently the long lines at all those toll booths were a huge nuisance. These days I get a warm fuzzy feeling every time I cruise through those EZPASSTOLLLANES.

Z 9:06 AM  

I did look up the etymology of "quaint." Who knew? Not me. I wonder when the shift in meaning happened. "Quaint means of manipulation" bothers me less, though, than Hillary Shushing. One is anachronistic, the other is full blown sexist behavior played out on the national stage.

Easy north and south, a little tussle through the middle, but still a very doable Friday. Our old dog is still often mistaken for an AKITA puppy, so it was nice to see his cousins in the puzzle.

PPP Analysis

19/64, 30%. But this doesn't really play like that since 14 of the PPP answers are in the 41 down answers. Look at the west side of the middle, MTA, BOHR, FAURE, and TAB BENOIT. Typically one might expect all of these to be toe holds to the long acrosses. Instead you might need the long acrosses to get the short fill. 33% of the downs are PPP and I think the puzzle will feel that way to many.

PPP explanation
PPP are clue/answer pairs involving Pop Culture, Product Names, or other Proper nouns. The math is the number of these types of answers divided by the answer count of the puzzle. Anything in the 25% range is not going to generate much hate. At 33%+ there is a high likelihood that some subset of solvers are going to dislike the puzzle. Which subset will depend on lots of other factors. Early week (easier) puzzles seem less likely to generate hard feelings.

Sir Hillary 9:07 AM  

Superb grid -- how constructors can make these things, I will never know. I gotta say, while the price for fat stacks is usually some really cruddy short fill, this puzzle doesn't have much of that. Well done, MAS!

-- Agree that the intimidating grid was made easier by straightforward cluing.
-- Seven of the ten longs are plurals, but four of those (HEAVY CASUALTIES, FEMININEWILES, THREESTOOGES, MADECONCESSIONS) can't help but be, so no issue.
-- Did I love the "Fine" clue? SOITENLY!
-- Anyone but me think "Back tracks" might be spInES?
-- Hand up for Omsk.
-- Last two letters in were the start of FEMININEWILES. I couldn't parse it at first, and had no idea on either FAURE or TERNE.
-- The ALS / ASL combo is the only thing that made me wrinkle my nose.
-- "Explorer alternative" had me thinking web browsers.
-- Like how TEE is sticking up out of the ground over PGA.
-- Are the quotes necessary in the ARE clue?
-- Not crazy about the EDU clue. No issues getting the answer, but it's a little too inaccurate without some reference to addresses or domains or something.
-- Is there a more Louisianan name than BENOIT?
-- EZPASSTOLLLANES are only inconvenient if you don't have an EZPASS.
-- To me, "Keef" will always be head Stone, but the clue still gave me did the whole puzzle.

Whitey 9:20 AM  

I wouldn't know of larches were it not for Monty Python.

Steve M 9:31 AM  

Now that's what I call classy

Nancy 9:35 AM  

A nice, lively challenge that I loved. The fill was colorful and fresh, and I was sorry when it was over. And some great cluing for REHAB; SPAMS; RATS; B SIDES; EDU; MOUNTAIN BIKER.

I had OMSK instead of OREL too, for about 10 seconds -- until I remembered that KLEE's first name was PAUL. I also had FAUvE before FAURE. But everything was extremely fairly crossed and therefore this puzzle was both challenging and completely gettable. I know FEMININE WILES will draw some boos, but I, for one, will pay no attention. It was one of the fresh, colorful answers I alluded to.

Maruchka 9:35 AM  

Liked it Fine With @LMS re: the STOOGES chip. My husband and his pals have it - argh. Guess I'm too FEMININE to get the nyuk-nyuk.

A Monty Python bell led to LARCHES. Did not know TERNE. I've worked with solder - helas, no help today.

Thanks for the gas tank info, @TromboneT. Confidently wrote bass too soon to see the BARITONE.

Fav of the day - FAURE (hi @Rex). Can't wait to hear what treat @AliasZ has in store. I wonder if Niels BOHR listened to those lovely French composers.

Merci, M. MAS.

Robso 9:54 AM  

I had EZPASSONLYLANES at first, because I have at least seen that on a sign. Only just got the "Head Stone" clue.
When I think of FEMININE WILES, I think of a mindset from the 50s, like a Doris Day movie. I think that's why it's quaint. To me it kind of predates feminism, when a woman had to be more manipulative in order to get what she wanted. Just my take.

Tim Parker 9:56 AM  

@Sir Hillary: Making grids like this is easy. Just copy them from the New York Times and publish them as your own.

Nancy 9:58 AM  

@lms (4:21) -- Your very own FEMININE WILES story was most amusing. And I thought to myself: now there's a woman who just HAS to be Southern! Which, of course, you are. I believe, even at the risk of coming across as politically incorrect, that Southern women have FEMININE WILES encoded in their DNA, and in the rare event that it's not, they will learn it at their mother's knee. And, no, I'm not only thinking of Scarlet O'Hara. I've known some Southern women in my time, and every single one of them had this talent. As a Northern woman who lacks this ability in the extreme, I think I could probably learn something from any one of them:)

@GILL (8:44) -- All the years I worked full-time in a Midtown office, I couldn't wait until the beginning of Daylight Savings Time. The long, long months of getting out of work when it was pitch-black outside were depressing as hell. And back then, DST came around a full month later than it does now. While it's less critical to my happiness and mental outlook than it was back then, I still feel absolute glee when it comes around and great sadness when it's taken away. My closest friend hates it as much as you do, and for much the same reasons. It's so interesting how differently people react to the same stimulus.

Nancy 10:02 AM  

Oh, and GILL, re HAVE: It's HAVE as in the haves and the have-nots.

Hartley70 10:05 AM  

I love love love me a MAS stack and this does not disappoint. I think I whined for one here just last week. A sincere thanks to MAS and WS. And Rex, it was definitely not easy. I had a Saturday time and a thrill of accomplishment when I nailed that final SE corner.

There was more than AMITE of obscure entries for me. I have never heard of a TAB except Hunter. TERNE is a bird with an E. Amundsen is a POLER in my world. BARITONE took forever because I only knew tenor. Who is AL? I thought ANDY was the star but I wasn't paying much attention because I was over 10 when that movie came out. LARCHES was buried so deep that I needed a steam shovel to find it even though Tamarack Street is just down the road. I never was properly introduced to the STOOGES, so never got their last name. A perfect Friday struggle!!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:11 AM  

Very impressive puzzle, but an Easy-Medium solve. My only dis-like was HEAVY CASUALTIES, coming after earlier-this-week's DOLCE ET DECORUM EST.

Not my particular area, but I thought FEMININE WILES would elicit some outrage from Amy at Crossword Fiend. Instead, she seems to have ignored it.

Z 10:17 AM  

If you had Omsk before OREL you might need crossword puzzle REHAB.

@Gill I - Are you a HAVE or a HAVE not?

Hartley70 10:17 AM  

@Lobster11, you are so right! Why, oh why, did I wait 30 years to get an EZPASS? It's changed the Triboro from the "Bridge to Nowhere Fast" to a thing of beauty.

Julie Z. Rosenberg 10:20 AM  

Can someone (Loren Muse Smith?) explain the "art" "are" answer in 35 across? I got it fine in the grid but am blanking on what it means. I'm ready for my "duh" head-slap. Please enlighten me. Thanks in advance. Julie Z.

Roo Monster 10:54 AM  

Hey All !
DNF! FEMININE WILES indeed. Couldn't suss it out. Also only ONCESSION, the beginning wouldn't enter the ole brain. PAUL K LEE a WOE, only had LEE.
U.P.S. unit- pkg-Crt-CTN
(Voiceover) The Larch. Of course know about LARCHES from Monty Python! Leaping from tree to tree, as they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia! The giant Redwood, the LARCH, the Fir, the mighty Scots Pine! The smell of fresh cut timber, the crash of might trees, with my best girlie by my side! We'd sing, sing, sing...
RASHAD, got that right away! Known to me only from The Cosby Show...
TAb/bESSO. TAG/GESSO. To-may-to, to-mah-to.
ARs for ARE. Doesn't the Logo of I believe MGM says ARs Gratis or some such?
BAS-relief? BAhS! Really wanted gAS!
THREE STOOGES- Not my cuppa either. A MITE too off kilter for me, with too many slaps and pokes and baps and punches, ad nauseum. Give me MPFC, where the gags were much funnier.
ONE BOTTLE- unless you're an imbiber...
Some great clues. Alot, so not gonna list'em!
MAA- Aahh! As in Argh! Bad... But good for M&A&A! Masked & Anonymous & AMERICAN?
TAB BENOIT- Had BElOIT, named after the Diet Cola?

The FIXES is in

Mohair Sam 11:04 AM  

Stack 'em up MAS, never stop. Another beauty.

After about 20 minutes all we had was MOUNTAIN BIKER (off gimme MTA) and AKITAS crossing that. I swore I'd get the Phylicia off one letter (eventually did), but then we were stymied. Finally tried walKs (thinking baseball) at 29d (Not out . . . .) which stirred AWAKE for some reason and were done within 10 minutes. Always amazes me how one little get can open an entire puzzle.

Thought @Rex might get bent out of shape on FEMININE WILES, but he was cool. Until we discover male wiles they're a thing. I think @LMS's THREE STOOGES chip is a male thing which I missed. I'm Pretty normal otherwise, love football and "The Godfather" - hate ballet and kale, just don't get The Stooges.

AZERA is one of those things I've seen advertised on TV that has never registered. I used to post on the Phillies blog (until they won the World Series in '08, I figured my work was done) as "BASe relief." Get it? Get it? Nobody else did either.

Speaking of feminine wiles. The best selling edition ever of ELLE magazine featured 37-year-old actress Emmanuelle Beart on its cover, nude. Guys bought it for journalism. Actually, you might enjoy watching her in "Manon of the Spring" made 16 years earlier - one of the best revenge movies ever.

Karl Bradley 11:08 AM  

Tab Benoit is worth a listen. I have seen him live a few times and he puts on a great show!

Chuck McGregor 11:19 AM  

Yesterday: Tough going working at it on and off UNTIL late last night.

What was with the “Rolls for dogs: BUNS” conundrum? Just seemed too many were scratching their head over it. Or is “hot dog bun” some kind of unique “thing” that I didn’t know was unique?

Today: Tough going for me with lots of cheats (relatively), especially in the SW. However, I was happy to get several of the long answers with only a couple two/three letters from crosses.

Many concerts do not have AMPs and many AMPs are not in concerts. Kitchen piece: TABLE; Building piece: BRICK.

In spite of my woes, I liked it a lot and was duly impressed with those stacks of long answers, None, of them seemed forced / made up, except for one. Though legit, it is somewhat “off” compared to my reality: BARITONE SAXES. However, its nickname, “BARI” did appear yesterday, so there’s that.

(Hi @Martín Abresch 6:39 AM, NCA President 8:29 AM et al) In my experience, soprano, tenor and alto saxes have been far, far more common in the many jazz ‘combos” I’ve played bass in (e.g. duo, trios, quartets).

With the BOHR cross I was SURE (no surprise) that the “B” would be for Bass(es). Given a piano, the most ubiquitous jazz combo instrument, the second instrument added to it to make it a “combo,” is usually a bass.

Here’s why -- One jazz pianist always introduced me to his friends thusly, “Bob, I’d like you to meet my left hand.”

For non-musicians, my job for such gigs is to maintain the rhythm/tempo and to play low notes that help define the chord pattern and/or complement the melody upon which the pianist’s improvisations are based. As such, this largely frees up both of their hands to create improvisations without being encumbered, as it were with those two, important elements of music.

More generally, harmony and rhythm describe my two primary jobs as a bassist for any music I play, whether from a score or improvised, old or new. I do mostly one or the other or do some combination of the two. This can vary literally from in between the beats to being the same for an entire piece of music. The question for each note is am I making a melodic statement or a rhythmic statement? If it is a combination of both, which one, if either, should the emphasized? And, of course, just how should I do that to communicate what the music is trying to say and where it is going?

As to going, I’m going to get going on other stuff I am going to do.

Have a great TGIF day!


Lobster11 11:20 AM  

Thanks to @NCA_President and @Kinny_Landrum for confirming a gripe I had that I forgot to mention in my previous post: i.e., that BARITONESAXES are not at all "common" in jazz combos. I had "upright basses," "standup basses," and "soprano saxes," in that order, before "baritone" ever crossed my mind. Bad clue.

Thanks also to @Z for pointing out the ridiculously high number of PPPs among the downs. This has always been one of my pet peeves, and this was definitely one reason I struggled for so long trying to find a toehold in this thing. (And thanks for introducing me to the term "PPP" -- love it!)

old timer 11:30 AM  

I'd still be working on it if I had not looked up RASHAD and TAB (got the BENOIT easily). We don't have EZ PASS lanes here in California. We have Fastrak. For the most part Fastrak lanes are toll lanes but in some places they are not -- they allow solo drivers to drive in HOV lanes, which are free to cars with three or more people, and therefore aren't really toll lanes at all.

art? Like it says in "The Miller and his three sons", "Thou art a fool, the old man said, thou hast not well learn-ed thy trade. This mill to thee I ne'er will give, for by such toll no man can live." (The youngest of the miller's three sons, a chip off the old man's block, promises: "Before I will a good living lack, I'll take it all and forswear the sack." He gets the mill, and the old miller dies a happy man. (In other words, "thou art" is the second-person singular of "to be", which in modern usage is replaced by "you are".

It was a fine puzzle. Getting no traction at the top, I easily filled in the SE corner, and MICK ECOL LANE gave me the rest. In the middle, BOHR and MTA, AWAKE RESIGN and FIXES went right in, and LOSS OF INNOCENCE gave me the rest. I know MAS to be an honorable man -- tough, but fair. So when he asked for a "Debussy contemporary" I was positive it would be a *French* composer, and I've heard of FAURE. My only snag was, I had written in "new" BOTTLE instead of ONE. ONE BOTTLE has a slight odor of green paint, methinks.

Lewis 11:32 AM  

@rex -- Fair and entertaining writeup. My experience was much the same except RASHAD was no gimme for me.
@George -- Hand up for "bass trombones"

As someone earlier mentioned, puzzles with this much white often have more than the usual amount of abysmal fill. But not this one. I'm guessing Martin started out with LOSS OF INNOCENCE and built his stagger stacks around that. In any case, it is SO HARD to construct a puzzle like this; Martin must have a terrific work ethic to go with his talented brain.

Clever clues for LACERATE, TAG, MAA, and MICK, among others. To me, what a puzzle with a ton of white space comes down to, bottom line, is not how impressive the construction is, but how enjoyable the solve is. This one was much fun, trying to figure out the long answers with just a few letters filled in. Excellent one, Martin!

Alex 11:37 AM  

Not easy for me. But then, Fridays never are easy for me.

JanetM 11:37 AM  

Thou art, you are...can someone 'splain POLER, punt propeller to me?

Molson 11:52 AM  

I'd never heard of GESSO. BESSO seemed like an equally valid answer there, and TAB seems like a perfectly valid answer where TAG was so... one error that took forever to hunt down before the happy pencil came up.

Z 11:54 AM  

@JanetM - ART thou not familiar with these kinds of boats?

Princeton Mom 12:03 PM  

What is an ASL?

Chuck McGregor 12:22 PM  

Regarding my tempo/rhythm job as a jazz bassist. Playing with drummers, that job largely fails to them with me as an “assistant.” However, I have had more than a few jazz drummers taking solos who, near the end of those have turned to me and asked in a panic, “Where’s the “one?” i.e. the first beat to play through the tune again. So, I usually have to dutifully ignore the often wacked out rhythms/tempos in their jazz solos and try to keep track of the beat for them....and for the rest of the group.


Masked and Anonymous 12:40 PM  


Weeject stacks in the NE and SW. (MAA. haar.) Lots of funny clues. Only 64 words. Of which 21 have Patrick Berry Usage Immunity(PBUI), and 18 have M&A Usage Immunity(MAUI). Dangerously close to lettin the POLES cross.

@009: Also wanted PLAYFORAFOOL. For way tooooo long. Also, flamed out at the last, on: AR?/FAUR?. Wanted FAURT, but figured ART just couldn't be right. Guesso-ed ARS. **Buzzzzz**.

Thanx, Mr. M & A-S. This was ART, now.

Masked & Anonymo3Us

Sam Lynch 12:43 PM  

@JanetM a punt is a type of boat (used on the Thames, e.g.) that is propelled with a pole, like a gondola.

Lobster11 12:59 PM  

@JanetM: A punt is a kind of boat that is "propelled" using a long pole. Pretty fiendish misdirect, huh?

Penna Resident 1:07 PM  

i only use EZPASSonLyLANES, so this was such a gimme that it took a very long time to erase it. these are real things that are distinct from simply ezpass lanes which may also accept a quaint form of toll payment. faulting the inclusion of TOLL is being a bit too literal about common usage. this form of the noun is not incorrect. i always love MAS puzzles and this one was no exception.

puzzle hoarder 1:12 PM  

@Julie Z. Rosenberg, yours was the last entry so I'll start by saying 35A was ART as in "thou art". Not that I got it right. It was one of my three mistakes. I went with ARS. Obviously FAURE is new to me.
The southern third was the only mistake free section. Up top I had IS YE for 5D. We just saw a local production of "Richard III" so I was thinking it was part of a Shakespearean insult. I ought to know the spelling of RASHAD but I conflated it with Rasheed. I still had Shakespearean English on the brain when I used MAKE instead of TAKE for 25A. That was the worst of the three. With the T in there it's a very common phrase and I should have spotted it. Interestingly I know I've seen TERNE before. It's underlined in my Webster's but only because it's right below "ternate" which was in a 2010 puzzle. I probably saw TERNE just below it and gave it the red underline hoping I'd remember it when the time came.
I forgot to mention 5D is the precursor of "so ye shall reap". It has nothing to do with pigs. Unlike the last two days I have nothing to quibble today's mistakes. The rest of the solving went fine and it was a great puzzle.

Fred Romagnolo 1:16 PM  

@JanetM: Punts are boats propelled by men or boys with long poles, therefore polers. Grumpy the Disney dwarf cautions the others against Snow White because of FEMININE WILES. Being a Bayarean, I didn't know EZPASSTOLLLANES, and the ppp RASHAD and AZERO didn't help. One minor nit, I don't think people order ONE BOTTLE; a bottle,yes, or another bottle, but not ONE BOTTLE. Otherwise, a pretty impressive (not at all easy) puzzle.

GILL I. 1:20 PM  

@Z: Thanks. I'm now duly outed. Yes, I'm of the HAVE group and if you'll excuse me, I have hotels to bankrupt and hair to blow dry.
@old timer: Ah...I forgot to mention that I didn't understand that ARE either.

ArtO 1:23 PM  

A rare Friday finish with much the same experience as @Rex. Just once I'd like to come here and learn that my Friday completion rated more than EASY. Did enjoy this, though. Hope my afternoon golf goes as well!

Tita 1:24 PM  

@NCA Pres...I grew up one town over from LARCHmont, NY. It took me about 50 years to learn that a LARCH is a thing.

This was easy and hard. A DNF due to my inability to see the H in HAVE... Had to alphabetrun till I got the green light, then had to concentrate real hard, but off that light bulb did go!
Oh..and love the clue for GOES.

Yes, the TOLL part of that answer is made up, and took me way long. slopassingLANES?

Great stories from everyone today.

Thanks, MAS.

Oh...what's 49d...ASL?

Teedmn 1:30 PM  

Phylicia RASHAD was a gimme for even this non-sports fan because she was married to Ahmad Rashad, a MN Vikings player. This unfortunately didn't help me as much as it did @Rex. And I had a laughable DNF due to 31A. Having "oaRER" in at 22D to start, this was changed to POrER E eventually so 31A ended with WIrES. Thinking "Quaint" in 31A referred to pre-CGI days, I figured the manipulation was done with sEMI-fINE WIrES. FAURE was a WOE so sAURE looked no worse. I'll admit that BEfOIT looked weird but one shrugs off the minor details when in the midst of a solve. MTA is another WOE for me so ARE = "art" never connected for me either.

I loved HAVing to change Mom to MAA and sussing that "____ sow" had nothing to do with swine. But EZ PASS TOLL LANES is a pretty pedestrian phrase. HEAVY CASUALTIES over ARMEE is interesting but depressing. So not my favorite MAS puzzle though I can applaud the feat of the middle section construction.

RATS, I have to RESIGN myself to a poor Friday showing.

Anonymous 1:36 PM  


in Cambridge and Oxford, the small flat-bottomed boats in and around the colleges are called "punts". They are propeled by somone standing up with a long pole, to move the punt through the shallow waterways. I can't imagine anyone seeing pictures of these universities (in pics and movies) without seeing them... except they may not have known their names.


Teedmn 1:37 PM  

I do have to give a shout-out for the AMERICAN LARCHES answer. The Monty Python skit where they show pictures of a LARCH tree while repeating "the LARCH" got stuck in my head many years ago so when we planted several dozen LARCHES on our property, I always imagined hearing that phrase. To this day, if we pass a stand of LARCHES, my husband and I are likely to say it in unison. And they make me a literal tree-hugger; their needles are so soft, I can't stop myself from running their branches through my hands or against my face. (And you thought I was just weird, not a crazy tree lady)!

Ellen 1:42 PM  

This took me considerably longer than an average Friday, because I confidently wrote in no fewer than four wrong answers: spInES for BSIDES, ASwE for ASYE, rTe for CTN, and REtIre for RESIGN.

I thought vaguely that Hyundai's luxury brand might be AcuRA, but didn't fill it in because of HEAVYCASUALTIES; even so I had to stare at E_P_SS for a while before it dawned on me that that wasn't "EXPRESS..."!

old timer 1:46 PM  

(raises hand), @JanetM, a punt is a boat used on the Isis or Thames at Oxford, and on the River Cam at Cambridge. Instead of an oar, the boatsman (or woman) stands in the boat and puts a long pole into the water until the pole touches bottom, and gracefully pushes the punt in the direction he wants it to go.

(Well, it *can* be graceful, but when a young tourist rents a punt, he very often falls in the river instead.) My wife and I spent an amusing half-hour in Cambridge some years ago, watching the punters fall into the drink.

Mohair Sam 2:06 PM  

@Z and @JanetM - 50 years ago this very Spring I was indeed a POLER of a punt along the Cam. One of life's finest memories, thank you very much.

Z 2:21 PM  

or maybe
The Lumberjack Song (giving a whole different meaning to FEMININE WILES).

ASL = American Sign Language I presume.

MetroGnome 2:29 PM  

Not only are "Grammy nominated" and "Louisiana Hall of Fame" arguably insufficient as clues, but "blues guitarist" is a pretty extreme stretch for a mediocre "blooze"-rocker like Benoit. Plenty of legitimate, first-rate blues fretmen have hailed from Louisiana; no need to have to bottom-feed just to come up with an answer.

Ellen 3:10 PM  

To the folks who asked about ASL: American Sign Language interpretation is sometimes provided in the corner of a TV screen. But not often enough, apparently, that some folks have seen it!

UncleJohnC 3:14 PM  

I recently seen a picture of Phylicia Rashad's wedding ceremony which was innocent at the time - but now has more then some notoriety.
She was being given away by her co-star Bill Cosby, and her husband's best man was none other than O.J. Simpson.

Click here and scroll to bottom of NYT article to see

Alby 3:16 PM  

Maybe the term FEMININEWILES is quaint, but the practice is alive and well under a different or unspoken name. (Both men and women use their sex to their advantage? Horrors!)

Karen Munson 3:16 PM  

Not at all easy for me. Never heard of Tab Benoit so that made the middle tough. I held on to "American Birches" wayyyyy tooooo long. Plus "are" was "art" had me stumped too. This puz did not give up without a fight. More Saturday-ish than Friday for me.

Norm 3:35 PM  

@Princeton Mom : ASL = American Sign Language. Politician's broadcast speeches often have a small screen with someone signing the speech. I think closed captioning is more common otherwise.

Norm 3:36 PM  

I guess I'm definitely in the minority, but I didn't enjoy this one that much. It was eminently solvable, but it was more work than pleasure.

Gregory Schmidt 3:37 PM  

As a saxophone player, I will weigh in and say that BARITONESAXES are definitely NOT "common" instruments in a jazz combo. Even in a full-sized jazz band you might not have a Bari. In a combo it would be a tenor or an alto, maybe a soprano. Very unlikely to see a bari in a combo.

Martel Moopsbane 4:16 PM  

@ Tita - ASL = American Sign Language, which implies the person who sometimes (not often) appears in the corner of the TV screen to translate the soundtrack into sign language for the hearing impaired. Of course, all I can envision is the old SNL skit where Garret Morris appears in the corner of the screen, shouting out rather than signing the newscaster's words.

Chronic dnfer 4:25 PM  

American larches. Good grief. Congrats to LMS!!

ani 4:50 PM  

Thou art
You are

David in CA 6:09 PM  

"Penultimate quantity of beer on a very long road trip" would, IMHO, been a far better clue for ONEBOTTLE. As has been pointed out "One bottle" is not a phrase that would ever actually be used as an order to a sommelier.

geordieirl 9:29 PM  

Can someone please clue me in on why "rats" is the answer to "bad singers" (11D). Thank you!

TomAz 9:44 PM  

I am surprised no one has complained about the LANE dupe.. both the Ez pass and Anthony kind.

Anonymous 10:45 PM  

Did not finish, so my streak ends at two Fridays.

Several wrong squares, totaling them up...10 wrong.

I just plugged in "empire" instead of "ezpass" and that led to a lot of problems in the top half of the puzzle.

In the bottom half, I just didn't get "american larches," maybe because when I was asked for a type of biology, I wanted "evol," for evolutionary.

But, overall, I was pleased with my effort. Oh, yeah, this puzzle was extraordinarily difficult for me, and I spent just under three hours on it. It took me a loooong time to see "loss of innocence," but once I got that the other bits more or less fell into place (exceptions noted above). Sometimes I feel bad with a DNF, but not particularly today, for whatever reason.

Z 12:05 AM  

@geordieirl - Think mafia. Singing to the cops. Dirty RATS.

puzzle hoarder 12:23 AM  

@Geordieirl The term singing refers to informing. As in a stool bird singing like a canary. Another term for informant is of course rating.

geordiegirl 10:53 AM  

Thank you, Z and puzzle hoarder. All is now explained!

Amelia 11:14 AM  

Again, loved this puzzle. Therefore, loved the week of puzzles. Yeah, Will.

Would love an explanation for why an answer is uncrossword-worthy if one doesn't know it. Isn't that the whole point of doing crosswords? If we knew all the answers, where would the fun be? I, too, had never heard of the blues player, but loved scrambling for it and was particularly pleased when I got it.

I think quaint implies it used to be cool, and now it isn't, so I think the clue is perfect. And believe me, having never used feminine wiles, and not succeeding in corporate life, as a result, I appreciated it.

Fred Romagnolo 1:00 PM  

From the Victor Book of the Opera on Don Pasquale (today's Met broadcast): "Norina abandons her affected timidity and turns instantaneously into a vicious TERMAGANT.,"

spacecraft 11:21 AM  

Yep, long answers generally play easier, and today is no exception. See, this is really the Thursday puzzle. This whole week is just scrambled, like an OMELET. Okay, so there are some WOEs, but thankfully no naticks. Well, FAURE/ARE almost was, till I caught that "art" is the biblical ARE. As in, thou hast eaten of the fruit and thereby experienced LOSSOFINNOCENCE; therefore thou art screwed.

25-across puts me in mind of a line from "Why Can't the English," a song in "My Fair Lady."

"Whaddya tyke me for, a fool?"
"Pity they didn't teach you 'take' instead of 'tyke.'"

Great fun. Didn't know TERNE or LARCHES either, but the crosses were there to bail me out. Knew MICK right off; this "Stone head" got the "head Stone." For the yeah baby we need look no farther than 1-across. She has enough 31-across for me. B.

Burma Shav. 11:48 AM  


and BSIDES HEAVYCASUALTIES to your senses,
you HAVE to RESIGN yourself to LOSETO her guile,


rondo 12:23 PM  

Two write-overs caused some consternation for a while – went too far east and north to Omsk instead of OREL (many times as Hersheiser) and I wanted to REtIre instead of RESIGN, but it came around. A pretty solid workout otherwise.

Any blues fan worth his/her salt knows TABBENOIT, a gimme for me. Saw him live at the Cabooze in Mpls about twenty years ago, ORSO. Have several of his CDs.

As @teedMN mentioned, Phylicia RASHAD a gimme for any Vikings fan and was famously proposed to on live TV by former Vikes WR Ahmad RASHAD. Also the same thought about LARCH and Monty Python. They kill me. More than the THREESTOOGES.

I was a MOUNTAINBIKER last year on every Wednesday from June into November, not on actual mountains, but on some fairly tough trails attached to the Gandy Dancer Trail, which itself is on an easily pedaled old RR grade.

I really could do without French words so often. Loved the MICK clue. This puz was no BOHR.

rain forest 2:50 PM  

Always a romp through the vocabulary with MAS. Today's expanse of white space was easy in parts, medium in parts, and challenging in others. But it was all gettable, and I gettabled it.

Primary hold-ups were with names: TAB BENOIT, OREL, FAURE, TERNE, which I cleverly used crosses and guesses to eventually get.

Some people up there have said that BARITONE SAXES are not really common as a jazz instrument, but for me, it just went right in, because FIXES. Whether or not stacked puzzles like this are ho-hum for experts, to me they are incredibly impressive, and it is fun to get as many of the short downs as possible in order to "see" the long answers.

I don't think Hyundai makes the AZERA any more, but my sister has one, and it is indeed a luxury car with myriad buttons on the dash that control everything in the car. Poor gas mileage, though.

The clues for MICK, ESS, BSIDES, and ARE were top-notch. Because I missed the Larry Fine reference, I was left wondering how MAS could possibly use the term 'fine sense of humour' in reference to the THREE STOOGES.

Good one.

leftcoastTAM 2:53 PM  

Top and bottom sections, easy. Middle, not so easy; in fact, something of a WOE, but finally fell in a process of elimination of errors.

FEMININEWILES? Okay, but maybe a little too quaint. TERNE? Can't remember ever hearing of that alloy. Wanted brass of course. TABBENOIT? Never heard of him, but perhaps I should have.

Still, solvable but slow going.

Diana,LIW 4:01 PM  

No Horse Shoes today - a big DNF. Had a dozen plus answers in place, some of them wrong guesses, when the WOEs caught up with me. Forgot that Klee's painting was called Fish Magic - had a TV artist show in mind. Sigh, Then AZERA, DSC, ANI, MTA, BOHR, FAURE, TERNE, TAB BENOIT, ALS, LANE, were all in my outhouse. So I started it, and finished it, but didn't middle it. More like muddled it.

If someone handed me this at a tournament, I'd be reduced to tears, LACERATEd.

Once I had a few down WOES in place, I did catch on to the clever clues. That's what counts in my book. Word play forever!

Diana, Trying to be a Lady

VCarlson 10:39 PM  

I had real trouble with this one, though I did manage to finish it. Do you know that if you put "tamarack" in Wikipedia, it takes you direct to the page, but if you put in "tamarack tree," you get a "pick something" page? Yeah, I cheated on that one, and on AZERA, which I've never heard of - I just looked for a Hyundai with five letters beginning with A and ending in RA. I thought it might be AlERA. My main trouble was in the South, though. I had "pkg" for CTN, and "cod" for TAG, in addition to "pip" for ASL. Also. "Omsk" for OREL. I got most of the long answers in the middle, no trouble, though I am interested to learn BARITONESAXES are *not* common in jazz combos - I wanted to put some form of Bass in (I got Nils BOHR).

Thanks to Z for the PPP info. Yes, I think that was part of what made it frustrating for me. I do wonder if I'm sickening for something, too.

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