Magnum opus of Spinoza / SAT 4-16-16 / subtilior music style / Place to get brew in more than 11000 US locations / Edible Asian sprout / Quack stopper for short / Only actor to appear in all eight American Pie films

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Constructor: Andrew Zhou

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (more Easy)

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Bob RAE, leader of Canada's Liberal party before Justin Trudeau (26A) —
Robert Keith "Bob" Rae, PC CC OOnt QC (born August 2, 1948) is a lawyer, negotiator, public speaker and former Canadian politician. He was the Member of Parliament for Toronto Centre and was the interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada from 2011 to 2013. He was previously leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party and the 21st Premier of Ontario, from 1990-1995. (wikipedia)
• • •

Easy, and mostly delightful. The stacks are sparkly and worth the occasional bump and bruise in the shorter crosses. I MEAN, REALLY, that is a nice NW stack, even if you do have to go through BARIC (?) and HAHAS (ugh) and the weird crosswordese twins OLAN and OLIN to get it.  Oh, and OR LESS ... I guess that is a lot of damage for one stack to cause, but it *is* a nice stack. "Nice stack" is now making me laugh because it sounds like an objectifying, sexist remark, but isn't. I don't know what a BARREL CHAIR is, but then again I don't know who Sir JONY Ive is, either, and I'm being mocked on social media for it right now, so maybe BARREL CHAIRs are as ubiquitous as iPhones and I've just been blind. ANOTCH and ORLESS are really too long to be partials, but I did a (mainstream!) puzzle yesterday that had ONAANDE and MYDUST in it, so it's hard for anything to faze me much right now.

I threw BIB down immediately, though I wasn't certain. Then I posited BORIC (so close ... I actually knew Boron was a lower at. no. than 56, but plowed forward anyway) and that mostly-right answer got me RIME, which made it easy to see MERRIEST, which made for an easy hop from B-M... to BAMBOO... and the NW was pretty much done in a couple minutes.

[can you find the dumb typo?]

From here, the obvious move is to check out the F and B crosses in FBI CASES, so I did that. Why "obvious"? Because a. I've got the first letters, so there's a higher probability I'll get them than any other answer in the grid, at least at first glance; and b. if/when I get them, they'll have given me the front end of that central grid-spanner. Always great to have the top letters in place in any bank of answers—drastically increases the likelihood you'll be able to drop the Downs and finish off a section expeditiously. And that's what happened, though I wrote in FRAK for 22D: Assault, as a commanding officer, and had No Idea who that Canadian Bob guy was. (Dictionaries are telling me that FRAG actually means "kill a commanding officer, usu. w/ a grenade"; distinction between "assault" and "kill" seems at least moderately important). From FRAG, I ran across grid via GET THE WRONG IDEA and then up to NE, where I briefly struggled with MCCAFE (I don't ... go ... to there). Had --CAFE and had to really think about it. And so, half done:

[found the stupid typo yet? ugh. stupid fat fingers...]

WIG crossing is weird, but not bad, imho. PERIWIG is probably the most arcane thing in this grid, but the word must live somewhere in my brain, because I somehow wanted PERI-. But I didn't trust it, so moved over to the SE, which is really the most lovely part of the grid. EUGENE LEVY running down into a beautiful triple stack, and not a bad answer in sight. Much, much cleaner than its symmetrical counterpart in the NW. So kudos to this one. It had some rough moments, but I thought it more good than bad.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:11 AM  

Easy-medium for me too but it felt tougher than that. Getting @Rex GET THE WRONG IDEA off the G in FRAG helped a bunch.

I've seen a lot of EUGENE LEVY films and really like his work with Christopher Guest...Best In Show is excellent.

OLIN recently came up in a discussion of possible colleges for my granddaughter. Apparently, they have generous financial incentives.

Did not know: @Rex JONY, ZICAM, and @Rex RAE as clued...Carly would have been a different story.

Solid Sat. with an excellent SW stack, liked it!

puzzle hoarder 1:50 AM  

I probably shouldn't solve at night. This took over an hour. I'd say it's longest solve I've had since coming here. I wasn't picking up on the clues and there were a few unknowns like ZICAM,JONY, the Christmas Carol adaptation or _ subtilior. Maybe I need to eat at more seafood shacks. BIB was the key to that NW and I found it very hard to get. We had BARRELCHAIRS when I was a kid. I don't know where @Rex found the "mainstream" puzzle but I did it in the Friday chicago Tribune. Today's puzzle was tough but I did manage a clean grid. I'm curious to see how others found it.

AliasZ 2:12 AM  

Which is worse, ORLESS or SOEVER?

The 11-stacks were great if I could've ignored the downs running through them: HAHAS, OLAN and OLIN, TYRO, JONY, EKE, ZICAM etc.

I get depressed when I see this much junk fill in Fri-Sat themelesses that are supposed to be the best of the week [please note: the previous two sentences were ORLESS]. I'd rather see the quality of Berry, Wilber, Silk, et al. or even a Krozelesque stunt puzzle than some of these not-quite-ready-for-prime-time efforts [this one contained an OR]. Promoting youth and new blood is one thing, providing a consistently superior product is quite another [ORLESS again].

I enjoyed this one about as much as yesterday's: parts of it sang, parts of it croaked.

It gives me more satisfaction to present four prime examples of ARS subtilior from the late-14th century. Why four? Because five would have been too many.

Johannes Ciconia (c.1370-1412)
Johannes Symonis Hasprois (fl.1380-1428)
Baude Cordier (c.1380-c.1440)
and last, but by no means least:
Solage (fl.1370-90).

Enjoy your weekend.

Martín Abresch 2:26 AM  

I'm surprised by this positive review. In particular, I do not understand your praise for that "nice stack" in the NW. The words going across are fine, but I wouldn't consider them especially fresh or exciting, and their clues were generic. The downs are, on the whole, rather ugly. On the plus side, BIB, MERRIEST, and ONE MAN SHOW. On the meh-to-ugly side we have a six-letter partial (OR LESS), an abbreviation (AMA), two minor proper names (OLAN and OLIN), two rarely used words (BARIC and TYRO), and a nonsensical plural (HAHAS).

I quite literally do not understand your praise. This blog is what made me first consider crossword puzzles as creations worthy of criticism. Your assessments of themes and fill are what caused me to begin to evaluate crosswords puzzles aesthetically. What's good in this puzzle? What's bad? What made me smile? There are certainly times where I disagree with your evaluations, but I have always been able to understand where you were coming from. This time, I just don't get it.

What am I missing that makes BAMBOO SHOOTS, I MEAN, REALLY?, and BARREL CHAIR so nice that it justifies all that ugly fill?

Anonymous 6:00 AM  

Oh, but Rex, "nice stack" *is* an objectifying, sexist remark. So you're a sexist now. Stupid sexist,

Loren Muse Smith 6:44 AM  

Ok. So focusing on some kind of "root" for 1A – and I mean tunnel vision focusing here – killed me. I crossed it with "rotes" for the routine responses. Ouch. And I kept writing in and erasing "etc, etc" for OR LESS. And "temp" for the non-vet guy. I was a goner.

I knew 15A had to be I MEAN _ _, but I was looking for something more youngishsome. I can hear some affronted old battle axe in an ugly dress and sensible lace-up shoes sniffing, "She actually served Cheezits to Sir Jony? I mean reeaalllyyy. The very idea." Shudder.

Had "this is 'she'" crossing "heater" briefly.

HOLIST is such a weird word. Where the heck did the initial W go? A HOLIST feels more like a golfer. And it crosses ARS. ARS HOLIST. (Cue proctologist/INTAKE VALVE joke here.)

Loved the clue for GLASS JAR. I briefly considered "doughnut" there. Then with AMTS in place, considered "mason" JAR.

And that clue for LIE. So many possibilities. HOMO ERECTUS assuring you it's just a cucumber.

Boy, I tell you – the thought of an EARWIG, with the little pincers on his tummy, spelunking his way toward you eardrum will flat leave you cold, won't it? I've just sniffed around google, and apparently people get the wrong idea about these bugs; it's just a myth that they crawl into your ear. Change the name then. Pinceretis paunchata. Better.

Very nice grid, Andrew. But that northwest slayed me.

Muscato 7:20 AM  

The most appalling thing about this generally lovely Saturday is the thought that there have been eight American Pie movies, and poor Eugene Levy (once so hilarious on SCTV) has had to be in all of them. I guess a guy's gotta eat...

Evan Jordan 7:24 AM  

I had the same vague sense about PERIWIG as @Rex! No idea why..., just sounded right. Love those moments. Also recoiled a bit at McCafe; not for the fault of the great cluing, but because, just ugh. I know there are thousands of small communities where that's the only option. No knock on the patrons. It's just a shame in some ways that it's a fact at all.

George Barany 7:38 AM  

Very timely of @Andrew Zhou to leave us with a TAXTIP in today's puzzle, and to remind us that MSG is also found naturally. Tricky clue for CAN, and non-routine one for ASSES (elicited some HAHAS, more OR_LESS).

Much admiration for @Rex (and others) who found this easy. I_MEAN_REALLY. Even though I pulled the name of EUGENE_LEVY out of some dark recess of memory, and that helped me deduce the MYSTERY_MEAT, HOMO_ERECTUS, and the INTAKE_VALVE, the crossing of ZICAM and CHEEZITS was just too hard (maybe a good sign concerning health and snacking habits) and I just RAN_OUT of time and patience to work through most of the rest.

Now, don't GET_THE_WRONG_IDEA. I know my Periodic Table as well as anyone, and BARIC is not a commonly used adjective (notwithstanding what a common dictionary might say). What do you do with chemists who are GONERS? You BARIUM!

Incidentally, OLIN College in Massachusetts is quite new (founded in 1997), and was named after the founder of the Olin Corporation which manufactures chlorine and sodium hydroxide, among others. Quite a few campus buildings around the country are named after Olin, e.g., Olin Hall at the Sanford Weill-Cornell University Medical College, and a different Olin Hall at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. OLIN is not related to the Pearl Buck heroine OLAN, an old crossword standby answer.

Glimmerglass 7:56 AM  

Medium for me, not easy. I liked EARWIG butting up against PERIWIG. One of those nasty little things in your hair on its way to your...well...ear.

Anonymous 8:32 AM  

FRAG is, if not exactly widespread, in use somewhat. The colloquial usage has def. broadenend to include various forms of assault on a colleague or superior. Think of it as a power-inverted version of throwing someone under the bus.

Science Seven 8:35 AM  

Got stuck until the end with clown car instead of glass jar.

Lobster11 8:54 AM  

I'm 100% behind @Martín Abresch on this one. I was utterly mystified by OFL's first paragraph, in which he heaps praise on the "sparkly" NW stack while in the same breath listing the five ugly downs created by it. "I guess that is a lot of damage for one stack to cause, but it *is* a nice stack." I MEAN, REALLY?

Hobbyist 9:03 AM  

Martin Abresch speaks for me re this easy dull puzzle.

Pete 9:11 AM  

Recently, I saw an interview Charlie Rose did with JONY Ive (not that it helped me with JONY). Even though Charlie Rose is the biggest fanboy that Apple/Steve Jobs ever had and thus lobbed a ton of softball questions, Jony was singularly impressive. I've never seen anyone being interviewed anywhere listen to the questions asked of them with such attention, nor respond with such self-reflection and more directly to the question actually asked of them.

RAD2626 9:30 AM  

So this week has been the worst overall for the NYT puzzles in some time. Pretty joyless. When Jeff Chen gave the Thursday mediocre running water effort his POW I assumed the last two days would be not scintillating. I like David Steinberg's puzzles but probably a reason this sat on the shelf for two years. Like buying day old bakery.

EUGENE LEVY made this puzzle worthwhile. Would be a great Joe Paterno in a biopic. All his movies are great. Agree Best in Show is best of breed.

FRAG is to me a jarring and unacceptable word. Does not pass the breakfast table test. Happened way too often in Vietnam and I assume still an issue.

Maybe the week had an ACPT hangover effect and we can move on from here.

evil doug 9:36 AM  

Eugene Levy is at his understated best in the CBC series (seen here on some odd channel called Pop) "Schitt's Creek". His son Daniel is also quite brilliant.

jberg 9:37 AM  

Enjoyable but tough for me, even though I knew PERIWIG right off from binge-reading Rumpole novels. I also saw OLIN right away -- used to bicycle past their campus -- but figured it was too obscure for the NYT. Wrong there.

Mostly, it was just fun to puzzle out the tougher clues.

That's about all from me -- after reading @Loren, I just can't go on. ROFL.

Nancy 9:39 AM  

For me, this was hard and delightful. I solved from the bottom up, because I immediately knew the wonderful answer MYSTERY MEAT just from the S. Whereas BAMBOO SHOOT, which I ultimately got off just the final T, puzzled me until the end. Only then did I get BIB at 1D; I'd been looking for some sort of seafood with only 3 letters, and all I could come up with was COD, which didn't work.

I had FBI ----S for the longest time. Was it FILES? Was it LISTS? No, it wasn't. CODES would have fit, because I wanted THIRDS as the answer to "More after more" (6D). I think it would have been a much better and much fairer answer than OR LESS. That threw me completely off. I MEAN REALLY!

Rex may call this easy-ish, but it sure wasn't for me. I was so tempted to cheat in the North section. I didn't and I solved and I am really proud of myself. Enjoyed this immensely.

Teedmn 10:11 AM  

I considered BAMBOO SHOOT for 1A right off the bat but didn't put it in. Flitting around the grid, I was getting very little. SEC, the superlative EST, NOM, and not much else. I never went back to 1A, being in the middle of an existential crisis ("I'm just too stupid to do the Saturday puzzle today" boo hoo me!)

I even Googled Dr. Zhivago (auto-correct really, I MEAN, REALLY, doesn't like that name) to see if he could fit in 37D, too short. I finally got an on-line solving program going and made use, early and often, of the "check" function. Most of what I had in already was right except for San Chappelle instead of STE. So I didn't even have any interesting write overs because I didn't write anything in without checking it.

I thought GLASS JAR had a whiff of green paint. I actually liked OR LESS as clued. And I was kicking myself for my inability to remember the names of people I've merely read about. I read a whole profile about Sir JONY Ive in the New Yorker last year but couldn't bring the name to mind.

Thanks, @LMS for the HOMO ERECTUS vs. cucumber, and @George Barany for the Chem humor.

Carola 10:14 AM  

A "just right" Saturday challenge for me, with an unpromising first pass (CEO, HOLIST, RIME, NOM, STE) giving me enough crucial letters to see some of the longer Downs (MERRIEST, SEATTLE) and the openings to broader grid vistas. A guess at FRAG gave me the G for GET THE WRONG IDEA - apt, as I'd though that verb was limited to the Vietnam era.

@Chefwen, how about cluing 8D as Packer Clinton-Dix and others?

Chuck McGregor 10:19 AM  

This was one of those puzzles where even extensive cheating (reveals and checks) got me nowhere…and I mean nowhere. First pass got me only five answers and a couple of “S” endings and those answers were isolated. So I did some first letter checks on them to find out my stellar (I thought) jellyJAR and goldfish were both wrong.

After some time with no real progress I decided this was just not a puzzle that I had any hope of doing well. So, from there I had a nice time reading clues and revealing their answers and filling in what I could from there and that was not much. Too much that was all a MYSTERY to me.

After the grid was filled, I could see I did the right thing. There was too much I could never have put together without help such as the PERIWIG, ELLIOT, ALEC cluster. Clues such as “They clear spots” would never have led me to ADEXECS nor “Level” to SHIM nor EKE equating to stretch nor FRAG from its clue (still didn’t know it) nor ONE MAN SHOW (though I watched it and have it on my DVR). And so it went.

Then there were things like this: There are lots of seafood shacks around here. I guess sometimes BIBs are used, but depends on what you’re eating. Fish and chips, fried clams/oysters/scallops/shrimp, fish (only haddock for me) sandwich, steamers, various stews/chowders (fish, lobster, clam, oyster), etc. are all what I’d call BIB-less and the bulk of most seafood shack fare. While others may find the need, I don’t use one even for lobster, ‘cause I know how to eat one without a mess AND I get meat out that most people don’t even know is in there. I’ve seen many throw away about half the meat as to what they could have picked out. MYSTERY MEAT indeed - for them! Unawares, this effectively doubles the price they paid.

There are over 11,000 MCCAFEs in the U.S.? I’ve never seen one nor even recall hearing the name. And, AYE, I’ve been all over the country.

There were 8 “American Pie” films? Shows you how much I know, let alone the actor.

Though legit, INTAKE VALVEs are found in many, many other engines, not just those in cars. As well, there are car engines without them. I liken the clue to “TV component”: Knob, found on many, many other electronic things other than TVs. As well there are TVs without them.

Wow! There’s a college in Massachusetts? Who knew? Cf. the line in This is Spinal Tap: “Boston’s not a big college town.” Though legit, of all the states to pick then to pick OLIN out of the bazillion colleges/universities there (114 by one count), with only some 350 undergrads? There were only 75 in the first class in 2002 (Wiki). Though it is a new, interesting, and fairly unique college, I liken the clue to a “Fish found in the ocean.”

Hope others fared better with this. Don’t’ GET THE WRONG IDEA. Once I decided to more OR LESS bag the solving, I morphed the solve into enjoying revealing and sometimes marveling at how it was all put together. So, the above nits aside, no real complaints about it overall. There was just way too much out of my wheelhouse with relatively few “I coulda/shoulda gotten that” answers that I had to reveal.

Feeling like a complete cruciverbalist TYRO....and humbled and chagrinned to find @Rex said “More Easy.” My admiration (hi @George Barany) to others who found it so or nearly so.


cwf 10:23 AM  

Can I complain about Across Lite here? It truncates the damn clues in the top text field so, for example, in this puzzle, the "e.g." was elided from the clue for 5D, so I thought I was looking for a title. Yes, I missed the comma. On quirky indie puzzles with verbose clues it even truncates the clues in the right panes. I'd do these on my iPad but then I have to pay twice (my NYT subscription + the fee the app charges). My kingdom for some decent crossword solving software!

I liked the puzzle a lot though.

cwf 10:24 AM  

@Science Steven - hilarious. Once "clown car" was in there I imagine you were loath to remove it. It's just too perfect!

Laurence Katz 10:28 AM  

Olin College? Hell, I live not more than 15 miles from its home in Needham, Mass., and I never heard of this school, which its website informs was founded in 1997. Filled that one in near the end after putting in "mysterymeat" first and literally working my way from the bottom up.

Maineiac 10:31 AM  

Took me forever to crack the NW. I was so sure that 6D (More after more?) was THIRDS.

Nancy 10:36 AM  

@jae (from yesterday evening) -- Thanks for calling my attention to DeLillio's prologue to Underworld, which I wasn't familiar with. I downloaded it, planning to read it in its entirety, but it told me more about Game 3 of the '51 Giants-Dodgers playoff series than I actually wanted to know. I'm not crazy about this author; I find him self-consciously literary and awash in metaphor, and I can hear the wheels spinning in his head as he constructs each sentence. And all this verbiage about a kid's game. Though I do understand his intention to present a more cosmic look at how everything changed in this period -- all of it for the worse, as he sees it.

I think I can give you a livelier picture of what the feelings were at the bottom of the ninth, by referencing my mother. She was someone who Suffered while watching games. My father teased her that she could only enjoy a game when the Giants were up 11-0. "You don't like baseball," he would say. "You only like the Giants." So that when I got home from school at the bottom of the 8th, with the Giants down 4-1, my mother was Suffering. And when Bobby Thompson came up in the bottom of the 9th with two men on base, my mother pointed out his low batting average. (The DeLillo piece reminds me it was only 291). Thompson took a called first strike, right over the center of the plate. And these were my mother's immortal words: "He's going to strike out. He's such a bum. He can't hit in the clutch." So help me God. I remember her words as through it were yesterday. And when she, like every other Giants fan in the city, went crazy over Thompson's homer on the following pitch, I decided I would never remind her of her lack of faith in the Giants ever again. And I never did. Nor did I mention it to anyone else. Until now.

Sir Hillary 10:38 AM  

Found this to be a very difficult workout, but enjoyed it nonetheless. I hurt myself by immediately dropping in BAbybOkchOy, which had enough correct letters to fool me into thinking it was right. Confusion ensued for a very long time. Was all worth it, though.

Maruchka 10:39 AM  

Pot pourri, n'est pas? Catch-all and then some.

Surprised to see FRAG invoked so lightly. Has the meaning widened since Vietnam? It literally meant what it abbreviates, then. A soldier friend explained why officers were fragged (dangerous incompetence). Still, a sad, bad chapter all around..

Fav of the day - @Science Seven's solve for 51A.

INTAKE VALVE reminds me that it's now impossible for kids to actually see car engine parts. Learning to change fan belts and spark plugs and oil filters were rites of passage.

OK, Ms. Grumpy-pants, signing off.. a beautiful day to all.

Kimberly 10:41 AM  

I should have a whole bunch of comments, but it's early, I'm exhausted from moving this week, and all I can think of is MCCAFE is not a place, it's a menu grouping. Calling it a place is like calling "entrees" a restaurant. Then again, using a restaurant in an analogy for anything McDonalds related feels like heresy.

Ludyjynn 10:45 AM  

What @Martin Abresch said.

Not a total time suck thanks to learning something new about MSG.

The garden is calling. Tulips popping and azaleas on the verge. Pond is open and fish are voracious, awaiting their daily pellets. Over the winter, they ate one of my two hardy water lilies which were submerged, as usual, on the bottom. First time ever; I think the crazy weather pattern of hot and cold, hot and cold made them hungrier than normal. On the plus side, there are three more fish now than last fall, when I closed the pond. It all evens out!

kitshef 10:52 AM  

Disagree on the NW stack. IMEANREALLY is weak, and BARRELCHAIR just a little too obscure.

Completely agree on the SE stack. Gorgeous.

After a very difficult week, finally a wheelhouse puzzle for me. BAMBOOSHOOT went in first. GETTHEWRONGIDEA off the first 't'. MYSTERYMEAT off the final 'e'. Only slowdown was masonJAR before GLASSJAR. SHIM had to be right, though, so not a major setback.

Here's an update on tonight's dinner. It was veal. The winner of tonight's mystery meat contest guessed "some kind of beef." - paraphrasing Meatballs.

@Muscato - hear! hear!
@George Barany I laughed.

Alysia 10:57 AM  

For those with 30 minutes to spare (along with a stomach for pretty dark horror), I humbly present this 1972 Night Gallery gem about an earwig. Enjoy.

Blackbird 11:05 AM  

53D: Sir Ive is Jonathan Paul Ive, so what don't I understand?
Barrel chair is a kind of chair with a curved back, just like the clue says. In a sense, they are shaped like a barrel -- rounded, embracing the sitter. I found this puzzle difficult, frustrating, outside of my frame of reference. How many solvers knew that MSG naturally occurs in potatoes and tomatoes? I know that potatoes and tomatoes are nightshade family plants, and now I know they contain MSG. Go know. I never even heard of the "American Pie" movies. But I do live on Planet Earth anyway. Cheezits? What on earth are they? Oh, some kind of junk food, I guess. I guess I am stuck in some time warp, another century, "periwig" was a gimme for me. I know periwig, but not cheezits. "Rime" was a gimme also. Yes, I heard of fragging, but the word never occurred to me as I was solving. Same with "mystery meat". Heard of it, but never in an actual context. Read about it. I was grateful the food in the Brooklyn College cafeteria, commuter college, not dormitory college, in the 1950's and 1960's, wss affordable. "I mean really", this is not my kind of puzzle.

jae 11:09 AM  

@puzzle hoarder - The mainstream puzzle Rex refers to is the LATimes puzzle which is syndicated in several papers. Gareth reviewed it for Amy's blog (Crossword Fiend) and was not particularly fond of it.

mac 11:14 AM  

Medium with some hard parts for me, but a real Saturday, so all is right.

Frag was new to me, too, have to look up the root. Fraternicide? The edible sprout gave me a lot of trouble, bamboo shoot is quite big, and doesn't look at all like bean- or other sprouts.

Beautiful day in NY!

Anonymous 11:23 AM  

Found it tough but satisfying in the end....

lg 11:28 AM  

Difficult for me. Rarely fails that easy for Rex is hard for me and vice versa. Did not enjoy this one...groan.

old timer 11:29 AM  

Well, I got the bottom, though only after looking up "Ive" and finding he is Sir Jonathan, and doing a double-take and learning he is called "Sir Jony" by his friends or, more likely, sycophants.

I remember EUGENE LEVY from his SCTV days. Never saw an American Pie movie, though I saw enough previews. LEVY's most frequent character on SCTV was the hapless newsman Earl Camembert.

I could not get MCAFE to save my soul, so even when I replaced "Juneau" with the more accurate SEATAC I was stuck there. And I think McCafe is just wrong. There may be 11,000 U.S. restaurants where you can get terrible coffee to go with your Big Mac, but a McCafe is a separate thing, a place designed to compete with Starbucks, and there probably are only a few hundred in the USA. I was looking for "Dunkin" but it didn't seem to fit.

In the NW, I did *not* write in BIB at once, like OFL. In fact, I did not write it in at all, because I just gave up. Wrote in "Excess" for more after more, and ORLESS did not come to mind, even though the clue had a question mark indicating some sort of trick. So I gave up and came here, and realized that you folks in the Northeast eat Lobster all the time. And with hot, butter-laden lobster, yes, they give you a BIB. I hated lobster as a kid in Southern California and the closest I've come to eating it (except as bisque) was a quick trip to Maine where I tried and enjoyed lobster rolls at roadside stands. No BIB required.

Anonymous 11:35 AM  

Ten years or more from now no one will get these clues that are so obscure even in their own time.

Z 11:37 AM  

"Nice stack?" Big fat DNF in the NW here. I am not familiar with the term BARREL CHAIR, I MEAN REALLY does not equate easily to "Like, are you serious?", and OLAN/OLIN/TYRO is a clusterf^(> of badness. "Seafood shack" conjured up deep fried cod with tater tots, so BIB was opaque. AMA seemed likely but I don't know that they are actually in the business of stopping quacks, since licensure is more of a governmental function. As for OR LESS, that clue was too cute by half. In short, "nice stack" was about as far away as possible from my opinion of the NW.

MCCAFÉ makes a decent cup of coffee. Consumers' Reports taste testers rated it higher than Starbucks at one time. Much like craft beer, you can usually find a local shop that will make you an excellent cup (the place I buy my coffee does its own roasting, focuses on buying from farmers who use organic methods, and uses fair trade practices), but when a local shop isn't handy MCCAFÉ will do fine.

PPP Analysis
Pop Culture, Product Names, and Proper Nouns as a percentage of Answers. When PPP exceeds 33% the puzzle is likely to play unfairly for some group of solvers

21/70, 30%. What is unusual today is the across/down split. Just 5 across answers are PPP, but 16 of 39 down answers are. I use downs as toe-holds and as confirmation for long across guesses, so something like the OLIN/OLAN double up hurt. I don't know that this is generalizable, but we'll see what others solves are like.


ONE MAN SHOW (as clued)
ARS subtilior
ELI Young Band

kitshef 11:43 AM  

@Kimerly. Yeah, there's something off about the clue. I have seen stand-alone outlets called McCafe, I think in Canada. But never in the US. Hmmm... quick Wikipedia hit confirms this. 'Unlike in other countries, "McCafé" is just a line of special drinks, not a full coffee shop'.

@Blackbird - not sure if this is your question or not, but he usually goes by Jony. It's like cluing 'frontiersman Carson' for 'KIT', though his name was Christopher Houston Carson.

Andrew Heinegg 11:55 AM  

I thought this was a mostly easy, mostly well constructed puzzle but, I got knocked out in the NW. I never heard of the term barrel chair nor Olin College and even with the crosses would not have recognized them as existing things. That aside, I thought many of the clues and answers were first rate, e.g., passing need-ayes,your table will be ready in 5 minutes-lie, designer of all the Is first name Jony. I had no clue they were all designed by a single person. So, even tho a dnf without the cheat for me, I liked it a lot.

Z 11:59 AM  

Catching up on the 22 comments that cleared after I started writing my first comment, it seems as if I might be in the majority regarding the NW.

Anyone else wondering if periwinkle PERIWIGs are a thing? No? Maybe I've been looking at this grid to long.

Sonia S 12:04 PM  

I had weird gimmes (PERIWIG, IMEANREALLY, CEO) and then stared at BIB / BAMBOOSHOOTS forever without seeing them.

Had EARWIG on the first pass, then thought Nah and erased it for BEETLE. Because reason, I guess.

Had VOLS for AMTS.

A slog for me because there wasn't much I felt I could count on. Other than JONY, which is a gimme if you have enough apple cult members in your acquaintance.

Saturdays are hard.

Louise Aucott 12:04 PM  

Went off on a totally erroneous tangent after incorrectly diagnosing this puzzle as using a glyph for "star", making 12 across "*CH" for starch and 12 down "*BUCKS". And 16 across " bra". Sheesh. Thought I was so cool. Then jumped ship on that notion when I realized there were no other incidences of the same, and with another cup of coffee I took a deep breath and resolved to re-solve. Fun puzzle in the end.

Mohair Sam 12:06 PM  

Agree with OFL that this was a fun Saturday, but it played medium/challenging in this house - and would have been a disastrous dnf without Lady Mohair. Also surprised that stack-hating Rex loved this one, some of the crosses in the NW weren't the best - but we love all stacks in this house.

Wish Will would indicate abbreviation on things like MSG and CEO and SEATAC, especially SEATAC - only airline professionals use the term.

MasonJAR before GLASSJAR. Have seen two fascinating interviews with JONY Ives and still forgot his first name. Forgot Billy ELLIOT too, jeez. Great clue for LIE. PERIWIG a gimme that opened the SW (thank you Rumpole). Hardy the best writer in all your required lit courses, imo.

Remember a TV Hitchcock Hour in which Laurence Harvey had an EARWIG ear its way through his brain.

Let's leave FRAG out of crosswords.

@Nancy & @OISK - For fifty years whenever my brother-in-law Carl wanted to rattle me (usually when I was over a money putt) he'd chant quietly "The Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant, . . . . ".

@Blackbird - Liked your post.

Wm. C. 12:07 PM  

Whoa! Evil Doug is back! Where have you been, Man?

Re: Olin -- this is an a Engineering-oriented college. It is co-located with Babson College, which provides much of its physical infrastructure, and also has access to nearby Wellesley College facilities and academic resources. Maybe MIT also, not sure on that. Anyway, these connections enable a rich offering of resources for a "start-up."

Sonia S 12:08 PM  

Also, I really think HOLIST and earlier HOLISM are back formations from HOLISTIC and Seriously Are Not Words.

Lewis 12:15 PM  

Loved the clues for CEO and RIME and the answers ONEMANSHOW, TAXTIP, AND MYSTERYMEAT. Didn't we have HOLIST this week? Some areas revealed themselves quickly, others were a battle. I don't think I say it enough -- I greatly appreciate the effort put into the making of this puzzle, and the beautilicous process it put my brain through!

Joe Bleaux 12:19 PM  

Except for the SW, NE, SE, and SW, this was an "easy-medium" for me, too. When one doesn't know JONY and guesses TONY, one fishes for four letters to precede STAR because of the "jam" tease. And then when one ... oh, never mind. Not your fault, Mr. Zhou -- and I dang near finished anyway, so my Saturday morning was enhanced.

GILL I. 12:24 PM  

Oooof. @Chuck Mc said a lot of what I went through but I kept at this puzzle and finally finished. I really liked this one. I liked that it started with BAMBOO SHOOT and ended with MYSTERY MEAT. I liked that BIB was my first entry and that only O LAN stared at me for a very long and lonely time. I wonder if she was ever fed BAMBOO SHOOTs.
I liked that most every thing I didn't know was gettable. I admit to Google though since MCCAFE wasn't in my brew brain. I wanted JUNEAU for the Alaska Airlines hub and when I got it, I laughed a little. I practically lived at SEATAC. AS probably owns it.
Billy ELLIOT made me want to dance after I finally finished the puzzle with the god-awful CHEEZITS. Your fingernails stay orange for about a week...

Masked and Anonymous 12:53 PM  

Pretty medium. Very nice weeject stacks in the NE and SW. Luv-ed MYSTERYMEAT. Speakin of which …

There were some areas of mystery meat in this SatPuz, that ate up precious nanoseconds. Going from minor to major m-meats, we have:

* OL(A/I)N twins. Gotem from crosses, so … ok.

* EUGENELEVY. No idea who that is; have only seen the first A-Pie flick, in the theater long ago before cell phones. Again, every sweetie crossin answer was good, so … no problemo.

* ELI band/HO-LIST/Spinoza opus/ARS subtilior/EARWIG region. HO-LIST. har. Better HO-LIST clue: {Ho ho ho??}. M&A fought his way, solo (wife is in Florida for a week), thru this. Some furniture in the room was not upright, after the battle to take this region, tho.

* The whole day-um runty biter SW corner. Could not get into there. Had TONY instead of JONY (sp?), so ... GLASSJAR recognition was jammed up, tight. The only other way into the dreaded SW was thus under guard of the merciless Spinoza and PERI-WIG. Desperation ensued. Had to try to get something in the luvly weeject stack, therein. Info after a bunch of French gibberish … ? … nope. Bolster … ? … clue neglected to warn m&e that there would be one degree of logical separation between it and its answer, so … nope. "-Chapelle" … ? … comedian, ain't he? What's his first name … ? … nope. Tess's lover … ? … Et tu, 48-Across?

Yet finally, I finished, thanx to a random, semi-mysterious PERI-WIG comment left by @Teedmn about last night's runt puzzle. Thanx U.

And thanx Zhou, too.

Masked & Anonymo2Us


jae 12:56 PM  

errata: "excellent SE stack"

Angela 1:23 PM  

I used to work for the American Medical Association. They are a lobbying body. They don't give medical licenses. That would be the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), or the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB). You could even say the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME)... But the AMA has nothing to do with stopping quacks. Terrible, inaccurate clue.

Martín Abresch 1:23 PM  

@Nancy - Your Bobby Thomson story made my morning! You told that tale well. (I enjoyed the capital-S Suffering.) I laughed and cried. Thank you for breaking your silence.

Nancy Klein 1:25 PM  

As a co-worker who was a Vietnam vet explained to me decades ago, "frag(ging) means throwing a fragmentation grenade into the tent of an officer you hated.

Both of my kids got solicitation letters from Olin College. Plus, many major universities have a building named after Frederick Olin, including my alma mater.

Angela 1:27 PM  

Also, did anyone else have ELGINS instead of PAGANS for Ancient Greeks? Just me?

Anonymous 1:27 PM  

@Martin Abresch (2:26 am): In case you haven't noticed, there is a direct correlation between Rex's criticism and his personal relationship with the puzzle's constructor. If you want unbiased critiques of a puzzle, this is not the place for you.

Wig crossing wig and that OLIN/OLAN duo would be enough to warrant a solid bashing for other constructors, but not a buddy...that's why I've switched blogs.

Bob Kerfuffle 1:37 PM  

Nice puzzle; solid Medium for me.

Hand up for BORIC >> BARIC. Also, gained entrance to the NE via ANNOTATE, and started to enter SEATTLE at 13 D. Fortunately stopped at the T when I saw I was running out of space, but let the SEAT sit until I grokked SEA-TAC.

Joke's on me department: Only long after I finished and was halfway into reading the blog did I realize that the "brew" in 12D was coffee, not beer! FWIW, I don't drink either!

OISK 2:59 PM  

I finished it correctly. But three commercial names I never heard of, MCCAFE, CHEEZITS, and ZICAM are three too many for me, especially when two of them cross each other. I correctly guessed that it was a "Z" in the Cheezits Zicam cross, but, I mean, really! I knew that the atomic number referred to barium - I am a chemist, but I don't think I have ever used the name "Baric". Otherwise, though pretty good, and easier for me than yesterday's.

Anonymous 3:01 PM  

Olin college must be near Natick!

gpo 3:01 PM  

This one started out as impossible. I had a couple of hunches only, and had to start with the NE and work over. By the time I was halfway done it was proceeding along an "easy" track. So I guess medium.

Note: if you were flummoxed by OLIN College, you can take heart that it is like one town over from good old Natick Mass.

Two things: I am struck by how closely my solving patterns resemble those of our host. Sure, it probably takes me ten times as long, but I still feel like I must be doing something right.

Second, I keep reading this blog and all of these comments, hopeful that someday it will all click, and I will understand the difference between a good clue and a bad one, and likewise a good and bad puzzle. But so far, for the life of me I cannot tell the differenc, for example, between today's SE and NW. Why is ZICAM good and BARIC bad? And what's so great about EUGENELEVY as compared to, say, MERRIEST?

Sigh. Someday I will get it.

Penna Resident 4:17 PM  

i think @Z hit the nail on the head with the short down PPP comment. i loved almost every across in this and hated almost every down. ended up solving from the bottom, starting with CHEEtohS. I found the entire top half difficult and almost gave up even with OLI and OLA. took a minute break to do the kenken on the back then flipped back over and luckily ANNOTATE finally came and i was done. after way more than an hour.
i dont read literature, know operas, listen to classical music, or watch tv, so PPP leaves me working with only 70% of the clues. today it was 1 minute from being deadly. thankfully the stacks were easy for a saturday. ended up liking it overall.

Rex Parker 4:53 PM  

I want to thank Anonymous 1:27 for my favorite comment of the year, esp that last part.

FYI, I have never met Andrew Zhou and couldn't pick him out of a line-up.

As you were,

Dolgo 4:57 PM  

I found the NW to be hard. I had to cheat with the periodic table before it all became clear. It's always humiliating to have to Google!

Z 5:03 PM  

@Angela - I briefly had aeGANS.

@anon1:27 - I'm not sure there is a correlation, but if there is I suspect you have cause and effect reversed.

Martín Abresch 5:05 PM  

@Anonymous 1:27 PM - I have noticed a correlation between the quality of a comment and whether a person is willing to back it up with their name. And if you've switched blogs, then why are you commenting here. GO AWAY.

Norm 5:16 PM  

I mostly liked the puzzle but did not like the ONEMANSHOW/EUGENELEVY downs that were almost required in order to get access to the different quadrants. I just hate stuff like that. Look, I can infer ETHICS and ARS. But EUGENELEVY? Never heard of him; don't care. There are EIGHT stupid movies I've never watched? Imagine my surprise. Did not like the EARWIG/PERIWIG duplicative cross. Don't care if they have different etymological roots. And, the across is only half accurate, since the judges in England no longer wear wigs except in criminal cases. Bah, humbug. End of rant. :)

kitshef 6:18 PM  

@gpo - don't knock yourself out looking for logic. Crossword puzzles are like movies, music, cars, men/women, and probably one or two other things in life. There is plenty of personal taste involved.

I loved seeing EUGENELEVY because of past associations - SCTV, Splash, A Mighty Wind, etc. We have a comment earlier from someone on the blog who has never heard of him, so that clue/answer won't give the same delectation. My personal pet peeves include 'made up phrases' (e.g. such as IMEANREALLY) and stupid modern lingo (e.g. BROMANCE), but other people really enjoy those.

So, even within what might seem like a tiny, self-selecting group of people, there is such diversity of opinion that to search for unifying principles is impossible.

... except that we all love the 1991 Rik Mayall vehicle Drop Dead Fred.

Dick Swart 6:50 PM  

Got up late, did puzzle in pjs, didn't care.

Yeah, on the easier side for a Sat,

The nicest part for me was the ref to the wonderful Eugene Levy! SCTV and the Christopher Guest mockumentaries. Another gift from Canada. A quote from IBDB ... "At the end of the day, even if my part is a bit goofy, the key thing is that I'm doing what I love to do, and that's to make people laugh."

Nice and I'll bet he's polite. Canadian, eh?

Nancy 9:46 PM  

@Martin Abresch -- I just got home from many hours in the park and then a free Stephen Schwartz concert to read your lovely comment. Thank you so much!

Leapfinger 12:36 AM  

From another rime and another place:

NW was a bear for finding a footing. What with looking for a very long Bbbbeean sprout, 4A osmIC/BoRIC, 6D utmost, 7D tick=bug, right? and thinking gangsters were devoted to Uzi CASES, I was hitting about 70% for GETting THE WRONG IDEA. I was BAMBOOzled until the OLAN/TYRO duo suggested what to SHOOT for.

Seemed to me that each section had some blockers -- it took me a while to think of anything more quintessentially orange than CHEEtos -- but in each area there was also an entry or two that broke everything open, NE corner was the last one in, because it was such ABE_ART_OP_ARSE.

Bonus Points:
*The BASEless FRAGment of yesterday's BIeBer-fest
*The IDEA of a PERIWIG EARWIG -- that tickled me!
*ANNO_TATE: The year of the Little Man (for Jodie Foster fans)
*ANOTCH, abbrev for ANOTCHka, precursor to NiNOTCHka, precursor to Silk Stockings, precursor to Silk Stalkings
*Timely also to have EUGENE LEVY a TAX_TIP, though it might best to DO LITTLE, say less.

Not the toughest Saturday, Mr. Zhou, but for me, it SHIMmered.

Never mind the proctologist; for a cardiologist, the INTAKE VALVE is (first) the tricuspid then (second) the mitral.

Eats, BAM! BOO!! SHOOTS, and Leaves

Leapfinger 7:47 AM  

@Evil D, Eugene and Dan Levy both create and produce the show. Catherine O'Hara also showcases her modulated nails-on-chalkboard act, and Chris Elliott turns disgusting into an art form. I stumbled across Schitt's Creek by chance,and dang if it doesn't pull you in.

Hadn't thought of it myself, but the chemical cognoscenti seem to agree that BARIC is an awkward form of BARIum to swallow, so perhaps clueing to a hyperBARIC chamber would've gone down better. The local one was used at one time to develop dive tables for D.A.N. (Divers Alert Network), with a group of fresh-faced junior Navy SEALs on loan to act as subjects. Talk about working under pressure...

paulsfo 12:28 AM  

Can someone explain 44D? A link on a web page might say "README" but I can't conceive of a text saying "read me."

Diana,LIW 10:03 PM  

Synders, and others.

Do you often post, with comments and/or questions/ only to be "ignored" with no responses because of moderation?


Can't tell you how many times I, or another poster, write with a question or comment and get no reply. :-(

Any suggestions, y'all? Please? Sometimes I wonder, "why bother...

Diana, Waiting-for-comments-in-a-black-hole-in-space

Burma Shave 8:42 AM  




rondo 9:49 AM  

My only disagreement with OFL today is the rating. Not particularly easy for me even with the only write-over deES before AYES. Might never have gotten the NE if I hadn’t been through SEATAC in the recent past. I pay no attention to McDonalds (though I CAN see a pair of arches from my office window) which apparently has MCCAFEs. I CAN also see a White Castle, to which I also pay no attention. And a bunch of churches . . .

@D,LIW – yeah, it ain’t like it used to was. Someone could README and post a response right away. It was more conversational. The spellcasters have been cast out along with the trolls. It might be interesting if OFL would experiment with non-moderation for a short time to see if they come back or not. Maybe he’s still capturing them and cutting them out. Wish he’d say. And lately it seems as though the moderation gap times have gotten longer. I’d pony up ANOTCH if that would help.

The MA college is usually clued as yeah baby Lena OLIN, sometimes her brother.

♫ ♬ ♪ “ELI’s comin’ hide your heart girl, ELI’s comin’ . . . ♫ ♬ ♪

@paulsfo – it’s not A text, it’s THE text on the page when you open up a software’s README file.

Probably woulda filled in CHEEtohS if I hadn’t gotten doc DOLITTLE from the T in ALIT. A lot of that happened throughout the grid, which is why I wouldn’t rate this puz easy. Really good puz, more ORLESS.

spacecraft 10:46 AM  

Grrr! Fearless one, take back that "easy" right now! No way, shape, or form can ANYBODY call this easy, or easy-medium, or easy-anythimg! You LIE!

I put in DOLITTLE, with ALIT and LIE, then DON and NOM. And there I sat, staring. I did not know a single thing else in that grid. (That's right, I didn't know MCCAFE despite 11k locations!) Out of sheer desperation I counted out GETTHEWRONGIDEA, noting that the N and D fit, and wrote it in--hoping that I hadn't 35-across.

From there, incredibly--and I still don't quite know how--I actually managed to finish correctly. There were aha! moments all over the place. But call this easy? Not when it gets the ultimate triumph factor! 11-stacks are horrendously difficult to pull off, but--to paraphrase a song from "My Fair Lady"--Zhouuuuuu....did it! Eagle.

Patrick Reynolds 12:24 PM  

I agree about McDonald's

Diana,LIW 2:22 PM  

Rex said "easy," so of course I found it harrrrrd. Had about 14 answers scattered about and was able to GETTHEWRONGIDEA on about 3 letters. I then thought, I shall conquer. Bit by bit.

But I didn't. (Finish) Too many unknowns or my brain wasn't focusing. Had a lobster recently where they brought me a BIB. Uh oh, I thought. Correctly. They left the entire shell on the crustacean, and gave up on that too, getting the server to de-shell the beast.

OTOH, I was happy to get as much as I did. FBIsomethingS (files?), ADpeepS?, have I ever eaten a BAMBOOSHOOT? Panda's do. Got MCCAFE, but wondered if that was real, esp. with 11K of them that I've managed not to notice. I love me some EUGENELEVY movies but didn't know his name!!! Argh!! IMEANREALLLY - he is so funny! Did not know MSG is in some of my favorite vegetables (or veg and fruit). Didn't know JONY, ZICAM, Citizenfour, or TYRO.

It's obvious I don't pay much attention to TV. Only watch HGTV at the gym, and I love either classic movies or adolescent humor. Hey, it's Ferris Bueller's 30th anniversary weekend in Chicago.

So @R&S - you deserve your props for finishing.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoastTAM 4:06 PM  

Ran out of time and patience with this one. Too many oh-so-clever clues and obscure answers for me. Didn't do too badly, though, until blanking out in the NW

This makes both Friday and Saturday DNFs for me, but yesterday's was fun and fair.

rain forest 4:13 PM  


Definitely medium-challenging, mainly because of things out of my ken: OLIN, ZICAM, JONY, FRAG. Others were just hard to get. The NW stack was helped by BIB, OLAN, BARIC (ex-chem teacher here), and TYRO.

Liked the Canadian content here with Bob RAE, EUGENE LEVY, and what I thought was CHEEZIes, for a while. For those not in the know, Cheezies is the trademarked name of Hawkins' Cheezies, the absolute best cheezy snack in the world, made in Belleville, Ontario, and totally undermarketed. Also, as others have said, Schitt's Creek is a great CBC sitcom with the Levys.

@Diana, LIW, you encapsulated the reason why I came close to bailing on this blog. You'd think something could be done. If @Rex looks at this and thinks it is just fine--wrongo. However, I'll continue commenting in the syndi-wilderness, blithely unencumbered by evil retorts. Nice ones, too.

leftcoastTAM 5:21 PM  

Wrong to imply that today's wasn't "fair." It was simply out of my wheelhouse.

eastsacgirl 6:43 PM  

Was ok until the NW. Had a devil of a time and I own a barrel chair! Googled element #56 then the rest fell. Need to trust my instincts because I guessed ONEMANSHOW but didn't log it.

rondo 8:14 PM  

My wheelhouse Friday night was apparently the left side of the diamond. First two at-bats line-drive at the thirdbaseman's head. Third time burned the left fielder, over his head. Wheelhouse has always been a ball term for me.

@D,LIW - chk ur eml. Dog sounds indeed!

rondo 8:16 PM  

@rainy - keep bringin' it. I always appreciate.

Anonymous 11:33 PM  

I liked the horizontal parts of the stacks in the NW and SE, and so I can live with the weak vertical fill that made those stacks possible.

There were lots of weak or questionable clues and fill for a Saturday, though, I thought. In particular, I call foul on these entries:

MCCAFE - as already noted above, this is a product line in the USA, not a "place."
ZICAM - from Wikipedia: "this product is not a drug, nor is it a food and therefore cannot be regulated..." I.e., it is a not a "medicine" as that term is generally understood, any more than grandma's hot toddies were.
HOLIST - apparently a made-up back-formation from holistic, but not a real word in any dictionary I can find, and certainly NOT a medical specialty.

Three strikes, you're out.

--Left Coast Late Nighter

Bananafish 7:47 PM  

Hard to believe anyone thought this one was easy. One of maybe five Saturdays in the last five years that was a DNF for me. Even after extensive Googling, it took forever to make headway.

E.g., Olin College? A wikipedia entry for Massachusetts colleges listed around 100 colleges ... and that was not among them.


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