Niece's counterpart in French / TUE 6-28-16 / Mathematician whose name sounds like ship / Antarctic volcano named for place in underworld / Moniker for GErman chancellor Konrad Adenauer / Spider's web-producing organ / Decidedly non-feminist woman's group

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Constructor: Alex Vratsanos

Relative difficulty: Challenging (not even close to Tuesday)

THEME: spider — some spider answers and then eight LEGs

Theme answers:
  • ARACHNIDA (29A: Spider's class)
  • BITE MARKS (48A: Things spiders leave)
  • CHARLOTTE (22D: Spider of children's literature)
  • SPINNERET (23D: Spider's web-producing organ) 
Word of the Day: SPINNERET 
noun: spinneret; plural noun: spinnerets
  1. any of a number of different organs through which the silk, gossamer, or thread of spiders, silkworms, and certain other insects is produced.
    • (in the production of man-made fibers) a cap or plate with a number of small holes through which a fiber-forming solution is forced. (google)
• • •

An inspired idea that came out just dreadful. I mean ... it's like the concept took over and no one involved with making this puzzled cared about the solver's experience any more. All technique, no joy. Fill is a disaster—an out and out, tone deaf, ridiculous vocab/proper-noun-laden Dis As Ter. That SE corner alone, jeez louise. HEHHEH?? NEVEU? Honestly, this is abusive. What could've been clever and cute if done properly on a Tuesday just gets destroyed by careless execution. Try to do too much (the legs AND the four themers AND the fact that the themers intersect) and the whole thing falls apart. I mean, SPINNERET? Come on. BITE MARKS? Arbitrary. Why does the technical fact of making four themers intersect mean ... anything? Why subject solvers to arbitrary nonsense just for some technical "feat." And KRESGE (!?) crossing EREBUS and DER ALTE and SOLTI and GALEN? ADLER crossing EDA and NEVEU (!?!!)? Some name-part (!) called GELL crossing EPICENE? ICE ... LESS????? (humans would say "ICE-FREE"). No. It's Tuesday, for ****'s sake. I guarantee you that the multiple concatenations of proper nouns and foreignisms are going to send myriad solvers crashing to the ground. Why distract from your adorable eight-legged creation with a short-fill horror show. It makes no sense.

P.S. I fell asleep before solving last night and woke up to more confused and angry puzzle-related messages / email than I've had in a good long while. OMOO OLEG ... was there some contest to cram as many short crosswordese names into a grid as possible? Because we have a winner.

P.P.S. that clue on HAREM is ridiculous (31D: Decidedly non-feminist women's group). Why is it that every time the NYT crossword touches the word "feminism," it feels like the editor both doesn't understand it and doesn't respect it?

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 7:29 AM  

KRESGE. USTEN. The SE corner was constructed by a Michigander.

First Gen 7:31 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loren Muse Smith 7:32 AM  

Hey, Rex - I didn't even notice that the themers intersect here. I agree that this was a toughie.

I like spiders. I see one tooling around on the bathroom floor and just do a Vulcan mind meld thing with him, telling him to go off an eat all the truly icky bugs. I once had a pet tarantula, Petunia. Spiders are clean, dignified, haughty little bugs. Too cool for school.

EPICENE. I studied linguistics and cannot remember ever having seen this word, maybe because it's more semanticsome, and I was worshiping at the syntax altar of Chomsky. What a great word – a word that can refer to a guy or a gal. Cousin, professor, doctor… The singular pronoun they. Yay. And names, like the one center stage here, LOREN, which can be either a man or a woman.

21A – ICELESS. Hmm. Looks like a victim of a PRexit. (Sorry, @Mac, and credit to BEQ for the thought.)

BEING is a word I think about often, still trying to sneak up on it in the wild to see if I "drop that g" there the way I do with most other ING final words. Jury's still out.

For 48A, I actually filled in "tire mark" because of the spider bike I had in Lilburn, Ga.

I feel ashamed that I had a dnf on a Tuesday. Rex called it -the whole mash-up of KRESGE/SOLTI/GALEN and the ADLER/EDA cross did me in. I did guess BELLI thanks to the prefix, but I couldn't get EREBUS. I guess SOLTI and GALEN are two words I usually rely on crosses for. And I had L, M D, or N for ADLER/EDA but just didn't commit. Ah me.

It can't have been a coincidence that 1D and 57D are GNASH and STING. Who knows if spiders gnash their teeth or ever sting, but the words add to the creepy crawly vibe here.

After someone showed me the poster that's my avatar today, I looked into the lives of jumping spiders, and at some point read something, maybe a satire, that said they actually placed these droplets on their heads so they won't look so scary. And I believed it, wondering how they got the droplets in place. Did they stand precisely under a drop that was about to fall? Did they have a buddy help? How cool is that? They really do look a lot less scary, right? It'd be like seeing a snake with Grouch Marx glasses perched on his scaly little head. Sheesh. I should've printed out the article and tried to copy it with our voice-controlled copy machine.

Thanks for the puz, AV – the eight legs totally look like a spider from above.

Anonymous 7:33 AM  

Rex got it exactly right. This puzzle takes the fun out of Tuesday.

Lewis 7:38 AM  

@loren -- Front and center!

This kept my brain busy, and that is a good thing. I learned six words and had to dig for eight more. And yet it all fell with hardly a stumble. I liked GNASH and HAD_DIBS, the clue for LIMO, and was left wondering if EKING could be a nickname for Amazon.

I am afraid of spiders and I know they will always be with us. I know this because I learned it as a child -- that spiders will always return, no matter what -- from the following lyrics:

The Eensie Weensie Spider climbed up the water spout
Down came the rain and washed the spider out
Up came the sun and dried up all the rain
And the eensie weensie spider climbed up the spout again

Maybe it's true that we learn everything we need to know by kindergarten! I am going on a trip to the European Union while it still exists (Venice). Will see you in about two weeks.

Craig Percy 7:40 AM  

I must have done a different puzzle: Seemed fine to me.

GeezerJackYale48 7:41 AM  

Well, Rex, and Commenters #1 and #2, now you know how I feel about puzzles where every other question relates to some obscure musical group, online game, or rapper. This puzzle was just right, from my point of view. Well, maybe 27-across Epicene had me wondering why I expected "neuter" to fit! Anyway, I enjoyed it.

Hance Huston 7:41 AM  

Sorry, Rex. I liked this one. Partly because I knew some of the answers (GELL, EREBUS, etc.) and partly because it was easy to get the theme (LEG in the circles) and then work from there to the spiders.

Hungry Mother 7:51 AM  

Just simply gave up with all of the proper names.

smalltowndoc 7:52 AM  

A lot of Naticks, especially for a Tuesday. ADLER crossing both NEVEU and EDA. USTEN crossing GALEN (which was a gimme foe me as a neuroradiologist, as in vein of GALEN, but undoubtedly tough for many. GELL crossing ICELESS (which one could guess at, but, still, is that really a word?)

ArtO 8:03 AM  

Couldn't wait to come here for the hate properly directed at this TUESDAY??? Effort. Ridiculous!

Z 8:03 AM  

Finished in double my typical Tuesday time. I did a quick count and found 28/78 Pop culture, Product names, and other Proper noun answers. So, yeah, what Rex said. One would think that a puzzle with this many three letter words starting with E (ELL, EVE, EDA, EST, EGO, ERE ELK, EVA) would have been an easier solve.

Anonymous 8:04 AM  

Having BEDroom for 9D left me an utter mess.

seanm 8:05 AM  

seems like rex and others makings same points i came here to make. after finishing 90% in a typical tuesday time, then just died. the KRESGE/EREBUS/GALEN was the worst for me, but DERALTE didn't help, and the ADLER/EDA crossing was also too obscure for a tuesday.

i do love when i come on here and find the one or two people who insist that because they knew all the obscure things then it must have been just fine. i'm sure they think because now that they have to know things like DRDRE, all us non-geezers should get screwed periodically. glad most disagree with that sentiment

Peggie 8:05 AM  

Gee, I liked it. Challenging for a Tuesday but a doable challenge. Kresge was sad, yes, and neveu was mean but otherwise fill was familiar enough to keep me feeling good.

Alicia Stetson 8:07 AM  

Saying women in a HAREM are "nonfeminist" is like saying political prisoners are "anti-freedom." What a stupid, embarrassing clue.

Arna D 8:11 AM  

Give me words -- even in foreign languages -- rather than idiotic pop-culture any day. This puzzle seemed perfectly fine to me. My only problem was a typing mistake ('n' rather than 'm' in omoo) that it took me a while to find.

George Barany 8:11 AM  

Full disclosure: @Alex Vratsanos is a friend; we've co-constructed numerous puzzles, and additional solo puzzles of his are on my crossword website. He is a serious young man, quite liberal in his political views, and quite ambitious in the scope of his crossword gridwork and cluing. Just yesterday, we had a long phone conversation which ranged from his very positive response to the Supreme Court overturning the Texas law restricting access to abortion to a discussion about clue difficulty.

After reading @Rex's review, I went back to the computer and found two earlier drafts by @Alex for this puzzle, as well as the version that @Alex submitted. The dates were respectively December 17, 2013, February 3, 2014, and July 25, 2014. Some of the fill that is being called out in today's review was locked in by the complicated concept, including all those triple-checked squares and interlocking spider-related answers, but in some sections, @Alex conscientiously tried to improve the content. Note that all three versions used "Seraglio" to clue HAREM, as in the title of this famous Mozart opera (link is to a complete version, translated to English, and updated to a sci-fi environment).

I encourage @Rex-ites who would like to sample @Alex's work to search for his name on my website (links already given in first paragraph). I would also note an important anniversary that has had far-reaching consequences in the fabric of American society, as celebrated by Progress Since Stonewall.

Generic Solver 8:16 AM  

This one seemed only slightly more difficult than a typical Tuesday. The more obscure answers such as EPICENE and SPINNERET were either logical, lurking around somewhere in the back of my brain, or relatively easy to infer from the crossing answers. This puzzle was devoid of the typical pop culture, such as Internet-related phraseology or genres of music that I've never listened to, which might have thrown Rex out of his wheelhouse, but suited me just fine.

E.J. Copperman 8:24 AM  

I'm glad you explained this because I kept wondering why this puzzle with its spider theme kept insisting on including the word GEL in circles.

chefbea 8:29 AM  

Too tough for me!! Agree with everyone else!!! Hate spiders and don't know anything about them..DNF..too many proper names...Of course knew Ft. Bragg!!!

Anonymous 8:30 AM  

Craig Percy was spot on.

jberg 8:31 AM  

I'm with you on ICELESS, and EPICENE is a little obscure -- I doubted the C until I saw CABOOSE -- but I still liked it. I think the theme answers intersect because they are forming a web.

SOLTI is pretty famous -- more so than Murray GELL-Mann, but less than GALEN -- only his name is not pronounced to fit the clue. It works visually, though, maybe that's enough.

Even without the circled legs (and it took me too long to realize that they weren't eight GELs), you can see the eight black bars as legs, and maybe the collection of black squares in the center are framing a SPINNERET. But that may be overinterpretation.

Aside from ICE free, my main problem wasthat I wanted US Two -- which actually runs officially through those three states. To take US TEN all the way you have to get on a ferry.

kitshef 8:36 AM  

I noticed fairly early that all the circled areas had GEL in them, and wondered how that would be revealed. It did not twig until after I was done.

No problem with the SE. Some tough downs but all the acrosses were familiar. But the SW took almost as long as the rest of the puzzle combined. BASSETT, EDA, NEVEU, ADLER were all woes, and as I tried BArnETT and BArrETT before BASSETT, I could not see SALVE from r_L_E.

I was once bitten above the eye by a spider. Over the course of the next week, it became more and more swollen, to the point where my vision was partially obscured by the puffiness of the flesh - like a boxer. We were in rural Madagascar, so seeing a doctor was not really option. Fortunately, after about ten days it came back down on its own. Despite this, I love spiders, and, like @Loren Muse Smith, let them know that our house is all you can eat.

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

As I went into virtual every corner, I thought "Rex is gonna pan this corner." Only to go on to a bigger mess in the next. Rinse and repeat.

Jlb 8:41 AM  

No, I liked it. I liked the spider, I knew Murray Gell-Mann and Erebus, and I remember when the "dime stores" were Kresge's and Woolworth's. Finished in 5 minutes under my Tuesday average. Sometimes being old is an advantage.

Wm. C. 8:43 AM  

No way was this a Tuesday.

Also, SPINNERET should NEVER be in a puzzle. I doubt that 1 percent of solvers have ever heard of this word. Just. Not. Right.

Once again, Mr. Shortz shames himself.

chefbea 8:44 AM  

Just went into my bed room and guess what was right beside my night stand...a I killed it!!!

seanm 8:47 AM  

to the several people claiming this was totally fine for a tuesday, are you really unable to distinguish between this and "normal" early week puzzles? or is it just, "as long as i know the answer it must be a fair question"?

NCA President 8:48 AM  

I found this really challenging too...but I was more intrigued by the theme. Does it appear this time of year because of (@Lewis) spring rains and spider getting washed out of downspouts? If so, okey doke, whatever. I would expect this more in October because Spider! and with BITEMARKS (seriously), it's downright creepy. I'm not sure how big your spiders are, but if they leave bite marks, they're too big and you need to just burn down your house and do us all a favor.

I had trouble with all of the crossings everyone's mentioned so far. NEVEU (Tuesday??), BELLI (which I only guess at because of houses that are antebellum), KELL, BALEEN, EPICENE, and SPINNERET. I could go on.

One of the big positives from the theme was that it helped me solve the SW corner. I had Biome at 51D and I was pretty solid on that. iDA looked right, so it seemed to be confirmed. But when I saw that the E in LEG was out of place, I filled it in and the rest fell quickly.

I know KRESGE because that was my dad's first job when he got back from Japan. Later my mom took a part time job at K-Mart (back when K-Mart was a good thing) and so I knew the connection from them. Otherwise, probably not well enough known to be in a Tuesday puzzle.

ALEG and OLEG in the same puzzle. I get that these are themers, but now you're not even trying.

Too many proper nouns and other assorted non-Tuesday words for me to like it as a Tuesday. If this were Friday, I'd be happy. It wasn't bad overall...I was just expecting something else.

And, spiders. Ugh.

Hartley70 8:49 AM  

So it's not Tuesday appropriate, but it sure was a lot of fun. KRESGE's! So that's where you've gone? And I thought you were dead and buried decades ago.

Oh that SE quadrant was a bear of a guessing game, but lots to learn. There isn't much that can go after SPINNER but ET. GALEN gets the G off the KRESGE surprise. And that gives you the ER for EREBUS.

I couldn't fathom how EULER could sound like a ship, so after I completed I checked the pronunciation....oy-ler, not you-ler, was an outlier for sure.

The little legs are adorable, but remind me of my freshman dorm room that was below grade and infested with spiders. I don't know what went on in the dark of night, but there would always be at least one on the bedspread as I opened my eyes in the morning. It was a single, but I was never alone.

I hear all the grousing but I really loved this puzzle. I don't care what day it should have run. I'm just glad it did!

schmuzz 8:50 AM  

i'm with the GEL camp - once i couldn't answer all the proper names i went thru and added the GELS-

helped considerably toward the happy pencil (which was a complete shock)))))

BEING a former michigander helped

Nancy no longer in PA 8:53 AM  

Haven't been commenting lately but had to try to counteract all the hating going on. I liked the puzzle. I'm old enough to remember Kresge's and didn't know that was the K in KMart so I learned something. Filled in the LEGs after a couple appeared, didn't have trouble with the proper names. Yes, it's hard for a Tuesday. I liked that too.

QuasiMojo 8:54 AM  

At first this puzzle felt like it was difficult but I solved it without any cheating in standard time and enjoyed it. Epicene is a commonly used word to denote androgyny, at least in literature, so it fell right in.

Donkos 8:55 AM  

@Rex... You got this one right. I found it tough for a Thursday, let alone a Tuesday. I found the southwest to be the toughest part of the puzzle

crabsofsteel 8:56 AM  

I like puzzles where there are words I did not know, like EPICENE. So this was OK with me (because I finished)

Maineiac 8:56 AM  

73A EKING for Scraping (by) freaked me out. Don't think EKING BY is legit--only EKING OUT.

Alexander 8:56 AM  

I was in the exact same boat, unfortunately.

That SE corner was brutal and was at a loss on the ADLER/EDA crossing

Lobster11 9:11 AM  

I'm with OFL 100% today, in both detail and general summary: "It's like the concept took over and no one involved with making this puzzled cared about the solver's experience any more." The tortured fill is much, much too high a price to pay for all the theme stuff. I often feel a sense of disappointment when I have to give up on a too-tough-for-me puzzle, but I rage-quit this one. I don't know which ticked me off more: The crapload of AERIE, LEA, ELL, ALI, etc. -- what, no Ott or Orr?? -- or the crapload of USTEN, EREBUS, DERALTE, NEVEU, etc. Zero joy for me.

GeezerJackYale48 9:11 AM  

As I read the comments, it appears that we have a big generation gap today. Arna D, I loved your "idiotic pop culture", but that is probably because it echoes my sentiments so precisely - but, er-uh, maybe suggests that you are not - um - a youngster? Craig Percy, where do you fit age-wise? Anonymous, how 'about you? Not a Gen-Xer, I suspect?

Z 9:14 AM  

@Arna D - LOL funny. Your comment is a perfect example of the effect of wheelhouse versus outhouse. This puzzle is high in PPP, but since it is pop culture you know, "This puzzle seemed perfectly fine to me." To be fair, it was a similar response by me on a high PPP puzzle that got me started counting the stuff.

@George Barany - I always wince a little when OFL suggests the constructor or editor didn't care. Thanks for illuminating for us that Mr. Vratsanos put in quite a bit of care. I'd also point out that Rex was very specific about his criticism of the HAREM clue, pointing to a pattern, not the constructor.

@Martin Abresch - Ouch. If I'm the Argentine Federation I would do everything in our power to have Messi around for the next World Cup. Fire the coach, put a gag order on Maradona, change the colors to red and blue, anything. Or maybe Argentinians would prefer not making any finals...?

Mohair Sam 9:22 AM  

Our personal crash and burn spot was the SE with the crosses of EREBUS/BELLI/GALEN. Thought we might fight through with KRESGE and SOLTI being gimmes here, but that corner was just brutal. We feel lucky to have guessed right on several other PPP traps in this one. A real toughie for us.

Ooops. Just noticed we had ePICENE at 27A. Wouldn't you think the lack of something would demand an "A" for a first letter? If only I'd read "Moby Dick" more carefully, the problem would have been moot.

12d, GETON the plane? I'm reminded of George Carlin's old line - "You can get ON the f--king thing, I'm getting IN it." Wonder if anyone under 60 ever even heard the name KRESGE.

@Nancy - I saw the ad - posted that as a joke, thought you hated them - so I never jotted down the number. I'll look for the ad again when I watch the Phillies. I'm thinking it was cell phone only - because they offered to buy up your current contract (up to a certain amount), and required you stay with their service for a certain period of time. Hope it's not Philly area only. I'll be vigilant!

OxfordBleu 9:22 AM  

Sourpuss strikes again. I thought it was a beautiful puzzle. "CHARLOTTE's Web" might have been appropriate as the theme. It has great rotational symmetry and open circles reminiscent of a web. I could imagine a spider plopped in the center with LEGs radiating. So yes, maybe more challenging for a Tuesday, but if a crossword just uses all of the same tired old words then how are you doing anything to expand your vocabulary? Maybe more people would know what a spinneret is if they took advantage of such educational opportunities.

AskGina 9:28 AM  

My dear ex husband used to say that I wasn't as smart as people thought I was. Today's puzzle is conclusive evidence he was right. I plodded along thru the thing, dnf the SE corner, then sat back and thought 'wow, a lot of stupid crosswordese, spider things and dumb clues. And what's with the gel?'

orangeblossomspecial 9:29 AM  

Kresge was right up the alley for people that remember the old 5&10 cent stores: Woolworth's, S.H. Kress, McCrory's, W.T. Grant, S.S. Kresge.

I was hoping to find a spider torso in the center but couldn't make one out.

oldbizmark 9:29 AM  

DNF because of the SE corner. Got the "LEG" early and knew EST, EKING, STING, and guessed BELLI. No idea about KESGE, SOLTI, GALEN, USTEN or EREBUS. That whole area was a big FU to the average solver. And, the rest of the puzzle stunk, to boot. On to Wednesday.

Norm 9:32 AM  

What GeezerJackYale48 said @7:41 goes for me as well.

Roo Monster 9:39 AM  

Hey All !
SPIDERS! Was itching as I solved...

Agree with OFL about the fill. Yikes. Twixt the fill and the Spidery theme, had me EKING the whole way. Did online, so Check and Reveal came into play. Puz actually started kinda easy, but then the bad fill stopped me cold in my tracks. SE corner, yowza. Plus, BEDroom, ICEfree, EULER(?), GELL, BALEEN, NEVEU, EDA. All Ughs. Did enjoy seeing OMOO again, though. Keep that book in mind, everyone, it likes to show up every now and then.

Overall, tough, spidery, creepy, busy, too many threes.


Steve M 9:40 AM  


Andrew M 9:43 AM  

Man, apparently I'm the only person who hasn't heard of Kresge. Let me tell you: when you're staring at KRES_E, G is not the first thing that comes to mind. Tried first: KRESTE, KRESSE, KRESKE, KRESPE. That crossing would be bad on a Thursday, but on Tuesday? Well, I guess all the young folks are off doing the (often superior) AVCX and Buzzfeed crosswords, so no need to accommodate them here. Might as well throw a bone to the 60+ crowd.

L 9:45 AM  

D N F... on a Tuesday, no less!! Terrible feeling.

Nancy 9:46 AM  

Like everyone else, I found this hard but I enjoyed the challenge. Some blind guesses that turned out right -- the E of the SPINNARET/EREBUS cross; the R of the KRESGE/EREBUS cross -- enabled me to finish with no errors. ICEfree before ICELESS slowed me down, but BEDSIDE straightened me out. It was a nice workout.

An RCN tech called me at 8:45 this morning to say that he saw a "discrepancy" in my phone connection, that he'd fix it from there, and that he'd call me back in five minutes to confirm. The call went through. But of course I've been having a dial tone that sometimes comes back briefly, and then just as mysteriously disappears again, for a week now, so I don't want to get too excited just yet. But could it be that all my trials are finally over???? When I asked him what the "discrepancy" was, the tech said that the coding was wrong -- in the wrong order or something like that. COULD IT BE THAT HE'S NAILED THE PROBLEM AND FIXED IT????? Oh, please, please, PLEASE! It would mean that I will not have to replace my beloved AT&T 100 phones. (The AT&T 100 was the first phone made after the rotary phone was discontinued. It took all my ingenuity and research ability and resourcefulness to track down a large supply of them, so long after they were first made. The phone is a tremendous piece of engineering that has perfect sound and absolutely no features whatsoever. I hate features. I'm having enough trouble mastering the features on my new cell phone. I can't send you a link, but you might want to Google the AT&T 100 and take a look at its handsome self.)

Blue Stater 9:50 AM  

All technique, no joy. That's the WS era in a nutshell. Isn't it time (isn't it long past time) for WS to retire?

RAD2626 9:54 AM  

Like @Hartley70 learned that S. S. KRESGE became K-Mart which I did not know. Always thought stores were not as good as Woolworth, but never would have imagined as a kid that someday KRESGE would acquire Sears and all of them would be dominated by a store from Bentonville, Arkansas.

Also like @Hartley70, thought eight LEGs, all going in the right direction was very cool. Very neat construction.

Failed like many in SW and SE. Crosses just could not get me there on all the WOE proper names. So be it. Not worth getting all venomous about.

Anonymous 9:56 AM  

Within Tuesday range for me, but science is my wheelhouse. I find the usual literary/pop culture themes much harder.

JC66 9:58 AM  

@chefbea 8:29 AM

Best post of the day

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

I was sorry that the "adorable eight-legged creation" (as Rex put it) had a BITEMARKS revealer. Spiders deserve better!

cwf 10:00 AM  

I found it enjoyable and rather easy. Agree that the theme constrained the fill, but come on, you get six free LEGs after the first two. Also SPINNERET is a perfectly cromulent word.

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

Harder than expected for a Tuesday puzzle and some of the clues were pretty bad. But it was certainly doable with just a bit of extra effort.

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

This was a perfectly legitimate Tuesday 1952.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:06 AM  

I thought you Called DIBS, I did not know you HAD 'em.

GILL I. 10:07 AM  

Well, since there was no revealer, I drew my little leg sticks in and wadayaknow...ARACHNIDA, all fat and happy, peeks out. Cute.
Spiders don't scare me much unless it's the beautiful black widow or the brown recluse. They pretty much leave you alone unless you start poking them with a stick or two. I loved watching a daddy long legs spin the most fascinating web, right beside my BEDSIDE. I named it Igor (not as cute as Petunia) and he/she was a master fly catcher. I spent hours watching that little critter work it's legs off. I remember being very upset when it just up and disappeared. Years later, when I'd read CHARLOTTE's web to my kids, I'd start to bawl when it came to her demise. I still choke up.
Paul KLEE was Swiss born. That's what he was... although he lived and worked in Germany.
Am I the only one who always confuses the ERE with the EEN?
Yes, lots of names; too many really, and I agree with @Rex and others that this was not really a Tuesday. I finished just fine and thought the idea was clever, but that BELLI/GALEN was a bit much.
I wonder how many of the original clues submitted by Alex were changed by WS and whether this was originally intended for a Tuesday.....

David 10:22 AM  

Totally joyless puzzle. It was the first time in years that I didn't bother finishing it.

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

Annoying and effing stupid. EREBUS?

the redanman 10:26 AM  

Filled in, was hard for a Tuesday, but I guessed four letters wrong at (near?)-Naticks.

Some dreadful stuff there. Did the NYT before the WSJ today becasue it's usually a crip, not today and not terribly good/satisfying/_ _ _ _ _ ...



Ellen S 10:29 AM  

@Maineiac -- "Eking out" (the complete phrase) used to mean "supplementing," as in, "she eked out her meager income by taking in laundry." Didn't the family in "Little Women" eke out their income by doing cut-paper cards? The kind of cottage industry that was suitable for a genteel family in desperate need of supplemental income. Or was that in a Jane Austen novel? I think those meager incomes that needed supplementing were the payments from investments. Some ancestor had stock in an early imperialist venture, like the Hudson Bay Company, but by the time the shares had been divided up over a few generations, there wasn't enough to live on. Eventually maybe the bonds matured or the stock got sold, or the company went out of business, and the needy gentry fell fully into the proletariat, forcing them to survive entirely on the laundry work: about 15 years ago the crossword clues started to read "Making do (with 'out')", and now, we apparently don't even need the full phrase. I don't even complain about it any more. It's a developing language. They tell me. I would like to see someone use "eking" in a sentence. By itself.

As for the puzzle as a whole, I thought it was the easiest one I've done in a long time. No need to check answers, let alone Google. I did originally have ICEfree instead of ICELESS but that got corrected quickly. I saw EPICENE used once, in an Anthony Burgess novel. I used to read his books with a dictionary close at hand, but that never did any good because he used lots of words that only appear in the unabridged dictionaries, if at all.

DER ALTE, SOLTI, EULER, KRESGE, OMOO -- all names I was familiar with. My only problem was I couldn't figure out why those GELs were radiating out from the center. I'm glad I wasn't the only one.

Nancy 10:40 AM  

I spoke too soon. The bleeping dial tone has disappeared again. It lasted from 8:45 to sometime prior to 10:30.

Malsdemare 10:42 AM  

It sure wasn't a Tuesday puzzle, but I nailed it in good time and heaved a sigh of relief. Some days I struggle with puzzles that others find creampuffs and I wonder what brain cells were killed by the previous eve's wine. Apparently some pretty wierd ones survived last night. I knew a lot of this stuff (GALEN, BELLI, SOLTI), and EPICENE, SPINNERET, NEVEU fell after about half filled. So I feel good, da dada dada dada da! I will agree, though, that seraglio is a much better clue for HAREM. My own guess is that many residents of a harem would have been feminists, given any kind of a chance.

jae 10:43 AM  

I agree with @Rex et. al. that this was too tough for a Tues. EREBUS, NEVEU, EPICENE, GELL, and BELLI were all WOEs, plus ULM, DER ALTE, EULER, SOLTI, EDA, EST, and GALEN I only know from doing crosswords. Not suitable for beginners.

That said, I'm not that fond of spiders, but I did like the puzzle more than Rex did.

And, I want to second what @lms said yesterday about BEQ puzzles. They are tough, contemporary, and fun and I too send a tip his way every year.

Joseph Michael 10:44 AM  

I have to agree with Rex on this one. Clever idea, but lousy fill and no fun to solve. Please pass the Raid.

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

It was easy!!!! Kresge, Solti, Galen, Adler -- all famous! Doesn't anyone in this space know anything about classical music or medicine?

Joseph Welling 10:52 AM  

Anonymous Alicia Stetson said...
"Saying women in a HAREM are 'nonfeminist' is like saying political prisoners are "anti-freedom." What a stupid, embarrassing clue."

I think you're misreading the clue. It's the grouping that is nonfeminist. To use your analogy, a prison is indeed anti-freedom.

Da Bears 10:54 AM  

Sometimes, I would like Rex to just tell us what he really thinks about the puzzle.

Heh heh.

da kine 10:54 AM  

"KRESGE (!?) crossing EREBUS and DER ALTE and SOLTI and GALEN?" Hell, I DNFed and I got EREBUS and GALEN pretty easily. That was just silly.

wordplanet 11:07 AM  

Agree it was tough for a Tuesday and I finally googled three words - Gell, Der Alte and Erebus though I had most of the letters to finish up - 14 minutes and not finishing without googling was long and unusual for a Tuesday but I really liked the theme and learned some new words on the crosses. It felt like an old-fashioned crossword to me, the kind I did when I was probably Rex's age, so despite the toughness I enjoyed it.

old timer 11:10 AM  

I'm in the GEL camp myself. Never occurred to me they might be 8 LEGs. My dictionary says EPICENE means a word that is the same whether it refers to a man or a woman. But then in English most nouns have no gender -- niece and nephew (NEVEU) are exceptions. I have normally seen EPICENE as a coy way to describe a man we now would call "gay". Agatha Christie and other mystery writers used it pretty often.

That said, my time was 16 minutes, which is Wednesdayish for me. But I knew SPINNERET and DERALTE and NEVEU and GELL-Mann. What I did not know was how to spell BALEEN, so it was easy to put in "ice free" instead of ICELESS. I think ICELESS is fine, BTW.

I have never heard of EREBUS, in connection with the underworld. So USTEN came to the rescue there. All the same, don't y'all think USTEN ought to be a verb?

Glimmerglass 11:16 AM  

Well, I happened to like this puzzle very much, but I agree it shouldn't have run on a Tuesday. I'd love it even more as a Saturday puzzle, which is supposed to be challenging and therefore makes me feel good to get it right. Isn't it odd that @Rex also grumbles when a Tuesday puzzle is too easy? I usually say, "Lighten up. Rex, it's Tuesday." I had a few gripes about this one, but KRESGE wasn't one of them. KRESGE is what the chain of 5-and-10s used to be called. It's the K in Kmart. NEVEU, on the other hand means nephew in French, not niece. I also had neuter instead of EPICENE, because the clue suggsts grammar. Both the latter two require an extra solving step, a late-week characteristic. The theme was Tuesday easy, which produced a bunch of free squares. I filled in the lower five legs after the first three, just from the cluesfor 22D and 23D.

nick 11:26 AM  

Whut?? In addition to the annoyance of ancient junk pop culture like 'Kate and ALLIE', I had an epic eight-way Natick in that absurd SE corner.

What a cathartic pleasure to read Rex's review. Thank you -- feeling better now.

John V 11:50 AM  

SW last to fall, NEVEU was 100% crossings. GREET was oddly hard. Agree not Tuesday difficult.

What @Rex said about ICELESS, which is total green paint.

Gerry Kahle 11:51 AM  

I've been doing the NYT Xword for over 30 years and I cannot remember a worse puzzle or a less enjoyable solving experience. I want 1/365 of my money back.

Eddie Bee 11:52 AM  

YES. All the yes. Thank you for articulating precisely everything that I found irritating about this insane puzzle! And especially for speaking up about the feminism thing. When I figured out the answer for that clue my stomach turned.

Anoa Bob 11:58 AM  

Spiders are amazing creatures. After a forest fire, they are the first animals to re-appear, coming out and using their SPINNERETs even before things cool down and the smoke clears away.

The Black Widow Spider is improbably beautiful. They like dark, secretive places. It's the nick name of one of our regular poker players. After she rakes in yet another pile of chips, someone will say "The Black Widow strikes again. She's beautiful, but she's deadly at the poker table." She just gives us a "Get used to it---It's gonna happen again" smile.

Spiders pretty much leave us alone unless we mess with them. But if you should, say, roll over on one while sleeping, it will definitely leave BITE MARKS along with some real nasty flesh-eating [NECROTIZING] poison.

I'm surprised some aren't familiar with Causus BELLI. Already forgotten "Weapons of Mass Destruction" as a prelude to the Invasion of Iraq? For those of my generation, it was the alleged Gulf of Tonkin Incident that kicked off the Vietnam War.

Sir Hillary 12:06 PM  

Worst fill of just about any puzzle I can remember, but my dissatisfaction has been more than overcome by the hilarious overreactions to said puzzle, the Shortz era and the HAREM clue. Thanks to all for snapping me out of my funk!

Jerome P. 12:11 PM  

First Tuesday DNF for me in many years; all these obscure proper nouns crossing each other led to my complete derailment. EDA crossing ADLER? Wow, brutal. But the absolute "????" for me was the SOLTI/GALEN/KRESGE/BELLI - that's where the pen went down and my hands went up.

Anonymous 12:14 PM  

Has Wil Shortz actually driven a car? ICELESS (even ICEFREE which I had originally) doesn't mean it isn't SNOW free, which is decidedly slippery (though not as much). GRACE is a prayer, though in a larger sense it is a blessing. Still when said before a meal, it is decidedly a prayer. As a Michigander, got KRESGE right away but had to think about USTEN. Turns out it runs through the middle of the lower peninsula - meaning most of the state never sees it, except crossing it on the way north - and you'd have to paddle Lake Michigan to pick it back up in Wisconsin.

Tita A 12:18 PM  

Ha ha - love Rex's writeup today. Even though I was able to shake DERALTE from the cobwebs of the European History side of my brain.

@EJ Copperman - I was getting worried that I was the only one!!
I just thought that GEL referred to the sticky substance that forms the stronger anchor filaments that radiate out...

@LOREN - I learned to admire spiders for those same reason - they go after the other bugs.
I've matured a great deal from my teenage days of very girlie, ear-splitting shrieks whenever seeing a bug indoors. Now I emit said shriek only when a bug is actually crawling on me.

One bug that I will never get over is the dreaded centipede. Just typing its name is making my skin crawl.
Once, I was sitting in my room, contented cat at the foot of the bed, reading. (Me - not the cat.)
Cat suddenly jerked its head, looking up at the corner of the room. I hate when cats do that - it can only mean they've spotted some tempting critter.

It did - a centipede! My heart stopped - then leapt when I saw a huge-a$$ spider a few feet away.
Spider - ran at centipede.
Tussle ensued.
Spider dropped in a crumpled heap to the floor.
Yours truly got the Electrolux and summoned enough courage to suck it up.


Oh - there was a puzzle. It's only Tuesday.
How many Naticks can one puzzle have???!!
Got KRES-G-E because my husband's doctor is GALEN.

I do like the word SPINNERET, and was actually relieved that it wasn't some Greek or Latin arachnological term.

I must agree that this was overfull with awful fill. But how can you not like a spiderweb puzzle?

(At this moment, there is a web condominium stretching from the deck steps to the lilac. 4 perfect orbs, each with a golden/green spider waiting for lunch.)

Thanks Mr. V.

John Child 12:19 PM  

@Nancy: "I hate features" made me laugh. The older I get the more I agree.

@Loren: LOREN dead centre. Yahoo! Thanks for the NEPALI note yesterday. I'm in the USSA for a bit now.

Almost 15 minutes today, so way out of line for a Tuesday, but harder rather than easier is always OK with me. What a clever theme idea.

Anonymous 12:30 PM  

I was going to suggest Kresge Auditorium (at MIT) as an alternative clue, only to google the name and learn that it was named after the same person.

Mike Rees 12:49 PM  

This was a flat-out train wreck. Holy crap. I had to Google (on a Tuesday?!) and still DNF at ADLER/EDA on the D. Tried L, nope. V, nope. Gave up there.

Teedmn 1:30 PM  

I totally lucked out guessing correctly in the SE. Cursing myself for not having memorized DER ALTE from the last time it flummoxed me, I was leery of that crossing KRESGE, which just looked completely wrong. But GALEN was sending me vague signals from some far away NEBULA in my brain so I left it. When I came to see how bad the DNF was, I said OMG really loudly in the middle of my office and got some odd looks because the train wreck I expected never materialized..

ADLER on the other hand was a gimme because a friend got her Masters degree from ADLER Graduate School and I learned a few things about his theories from her.

If I had run into EPICENE in the wild, I would have guessed it was a geological era or perhaps an early Christian sect, certainly not an etymological term. Let's see how long the new knowledge sticks (go ahead and hold your breath, it won't be a long time).

Thanks, Alex, for a Tuesday challenge (easy to say since I was successful).

Have a great trip, @Lewis.

And @Nancy, best of luck with the phone issues. Even when one resigns oneself to another failure, it is so disheartening when 'the fix' doesn't work yet again.

BarbaraB 1:40 PM  

Haha same problem here. Finished OK but had to read Rex to appreciate the LEGs!

Jennifer H 1:58 PM  

A cool conceit, but it got away from the author. I had to guess all over this puzzle because of the preponderance of "obscure proper noun" x "obscure proper noun" squares. I really hate that in a puzzle. At least give your players a shot at back-figuring unfamiliar names from crosses! This puzzle also had some extremely obscure words for a Tuesday. I have a ridiculously large vocabulary, and yet have never once met an EPICENE LEA.

The disastrous crosses for me:

ULM x OMOO x OLEG (never did get that M)
KLEE x LEA (never got the L)

chefwen 2:12 PM  

I ended up guessing at a few letters, especially down in the SE corner. All of my guesses were spot on, so yeah me.
I also fit it with the GEL people, it's a lot cuter with LEGS. Jon ended up crumpling up his copy and flinging it. Poor guy has not been a big spider fan since he was bitten by a Brown Recluse when we lived in California, a pretty painful experience. We have lived here for about 14 years and I have seen only one Cane Spider, I believe I could go another 14 years without seeing another. Scariest looking spider I ever laid eyes on.

Gotta go with Thursday tough.

laura R 2:13 PM  

Oh, my gosh, this was the worst! I usually comment on here if I'm so incensed that I have to share my thoughts, and today was one of them. Not saying anything new besides what Rex and all the other commenters said, but just "UGH." EULER GETON OMOO NEVEU EREBUS BELLI USTEN GALEN SOLTI. I must be "Der Alte" today because I just hated it all!
Also, ARACHNIDA? Never heard of it- only arachnid. Yeesh.

Oh, and the clue for "HAREM" was also stupid. I kept thinking it was going to be an acronym.

Casimir 2:28 PM  

GeezerJack and I are in the same wavelength. This was slightly tougher than a normal Tuesday, but not much. Honestly thought Rex would hate it, but think it was easy. No obscure rap songs or boy bands or cartoon figures. Hallelujah !

TonySaratoga 2:38 PM  

Exactly. Perfect analogy. How did that seem like an OK clue?

puzzle hoarder 2:44 PM  

Today's "challenging" puzzle only required two more minutes than yesterday's "easy" one. Go figure. I guess I've been doing them so long the ese doesn't phase me. It actually helped me do what I always do on early week puzzles and that's ignore any sign of theme and pretend I'm doing a themeless late week puzzle. I didn't realize the nature of this theme until I'd finished.
I'm really surprised at the grousing today. My assumption has always been that the regular commentors are experienced solvers and this kind of puzzle should be a slam dunk for them. The problem may be a lack of range. I can remember the five and dimes but I also enjoy modern rock music. The other day someone couldn't believe there was a band called THE Smashing Pumpkins. There sure is and I've enjoyed their music for about twenty years. If spiders didn't have spinnerets where would the web come from?
At least this puzzle didn't pick on my bad spelling so much. I gave it my best shot though. I learned BALEEN has no I and you can't put an O between the R and the L of CHARLOTTE. Also now I know how to pronounce EULER.

Felicia Gervais 2:57 PM  

Thanks Rex for your comments to the Tuesday 6/28/16 puzzle. Although I am relatively new to the NY Times Crossword puzzles (let's just say I am now usually able to get through Wednesdays, get 5-15 words in Thursdays and don't even TRY on Friday for Saturday yet), I love looking up the answers each night on your page and, moreover, seeing your smart and clever comments to each. I agree that the puzzle today was unusually challenging and was relieved to see you confirm same. But most of all, I LOVED your insertion of the Stylistics performing, "It's a Shame" in your posting. A. I LOVE them!! B. Watching them do this song today brought a sense of happiness to my otherwise mundane day and C. It was a perfect selection! Thank you on all fronts, Felicia Gervais,

Z 3:18 PM  

Came back to wonder if EREBUS is what online solvers are hoping to find in a Thursday NYTX.

More Whit 3:27 PM  

Sitting with my mom who loves crosswords and turns 100 in August. She remembered the Ancient Greek physician Galen (she's not THAT old) and baled me out of the SE morass. Never characterized any road as "iceless" but liked the references to quarks and Euler. Any puzzle with Angela Bassett and Sophia Loren can't be all bad!! Not a standard Tuesday for sure; enjoying all the comments. Time for tea and cribbage.

Steve Reed 3:32 PM  

I would say this was Wednesday tough generally, but with ridiculous Saturday proper noun crosses. And I hate when "you just have to know things" even on a Saturday puzzle. For this to get through on a Tuesday you have to think that someone who was a classics major and often shopped in Kresge's was in charge of letting this one through. But other than those dumb crosses I actually had a lot of fun with the puzzle.

Chronic dnfer 3:57 PM  

Got the southeast bit spin nerve did me in. What Rex said re southwest.

BC 4:16 PM  

Because I guessed SPINNERVE (seemed reasonable at the time) I got off course! I learned two new words, DER ALTE and EREBUS, so that's always good. My dad told me when I was a kid the K in K-Mart stood for Kresge, but I grew up in WI and couldn't get the US part in USTEN. Doubt it would have helped anyway! Agreed, too hard for a Tuesday

Aketi 4:49 PM  

This morning I dashed through the ouzzle and saw the first GEL and knew what to do with the circles. Didn't quire finish before I dashed off to my morning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class. The lesson today day was attacks from Spider Guard which I made me go HEHHEH because of the ARACHNIDA, SPINNERET, and BITE MARKS in the puzzle. I was also thinking spiders might actually have an easier timing getting rid of Gregor who always is there to GREET me every time I enter the woman's locker room and then scurries before I can get near enough to cause him to DIE OFF.

GAMER, NEBULA, AIKIDO and BALEEN were fun. Thanks to my French, NEVEU was in my web. I knew BRAGG because my father grew up near another not nearly as well known Fort Bragg in California.

After work and a celebratory lunch for two of my now board certified trainees, I came back to the puzzle and saw all eight LEGS. In fact, when I rotated the iPad I saw another set of black legs and a fat spider.

Sorry all of you who hated this puzzle and found no joy. I fell in love with this puzzle,

kitshef 5:00 PM  

@Nancy, @John Child. The thing about features is they throw a bunch of stuff out there, and while some will turn out to be useful (TV remote control, car air conditioning), the majority will be forgotten in five years, and I don't want to waste the time to learn which is which. It's similar to 'current' PPP in a crossword, as opposed to 'classic' PPP. One may or may not be worth knowing. The other already is.

Sheryl 5:19 PM  

I was able to get the southwest because I knew ADLER (I studied psychology), but the southeast?? Hahaha. Forget it. The rest of the puzzle was fine, but DNF because of the southeast - esoteric crossing esoteric. Yeesh.

Tim Pierce 5:30 PM  

My earlier comment didn't get approved and I'm not sure why (maybe the IMG tag I tried to include was a bridge too far) but in response to Rex's claim that having the themers intersect is a pointless technical feat:

I think it's worth noting that the four crossing theme answers form an octothorpe in the middle of the grid. A box with eight surrounding fields, in other words.

It's a very subtle effect, and I'm sure it's not enough for many solvers here to forgive the problematic fill, but I liked this extra eight-fold touch.

Ellen 6:04 PM  

And as you mentioned to me, @Tim Pierce, someone named Michael SHARP ought to appreciate an octothorpe :-)

Anonymous 7:11 PM  

@Sir H - har. For anyone (m or f) interested in unwadding their panties: "woman's group" is a phrase with often feminist overtones. a harem is a group of women, of course. group of women is very roughly synonymous with woman's group. nothing else is being said. perfectly harmless. just a play on words. unless your offended by certain, non-white cultures.

Warren Howie Hughes 7:22 PM  

I Love to BRAGG,and as such,this Tuesday Xword by Alex Vratsanos, was simply GREET, as well as pure GELD. It gave me much KLEE and BELLI laughs galore! HEH HEH

Anonymous 7:23 PM  

"This is abusive."

That made me laugh.

Suzy 7:34 PM  

Wow-- no problems except for I'll Go, wanted I can. And somGee seemed a little forced. Otherwise a pleasant diversion!
What's wrong with spiders??
A nice way to end a trying day!

Carola 8:03 PM  

Busy day. Debated: should I even do the puzzle? I'm so glad I did - I thought it was delightful. After reading @Rex and the comments, I can see that it definitely helped that I'm old (KRESGE, DER ALTE), read nature books to my kids (BALEEN, SPINNERET), love classical music (SOLTI), spent my career in the humanities (EPICENE, EREBUS), and do crossword puzzles (EULER) + some "just know it" luck of the draw (GALEN, BELLI). My only "Wha'?" moment came with NEVEU. I loved the web of the 4 interior themers and the LEGs.

Z 8:12 PM  

@Tim Pierce - I have learned the hard way to always "copy" my text before hitting publish whenever I use any tags and then read any messages Blogger gives me. My guess is you missed the message from Blogger that it doesn't recognize "img" tags or you didn't close the tag or Blogger is fed up with crossword solvers acting so superior. Losing a long, carefully edited comment because one has tried to be fancy is especially frustrating.

Nancy 8:54 PM  

I'm GOBSMACKED that so many people here actually like spiders: lms; Anoa Bob; kitshef; GILL; et al. Which seems somehow to have led to 107 posts so far -- a recent record. How long has it been since any puzzle has gotten such a large number of comments? Even rap stars don't get such a turnout on this blog. Yes, GILL, I too loved Charlotte's Web as a child, but although the teacher must have told us that Charlotte was a spider, I'm sure I blocked that fact out almost immediately. The most amazing reaction is that of kitshef -- who was badly bitten by one of the little buggers and STILL professes affection for the creepy ARACHNIDA. Yuck.

michael 10:36 PM  

I finished this without much difficulty. I guess I vaguely thought it was hard for a Tuesday -- maybe Thursday level for me -- but that isn't much of a consideration for me whether or not I like a puzzle.

And I am in the (sizable) minority who liked this puzzle.

weingolb 11:12 PM  

Felt like a Doomsday to me. Among the very worst puzzles in the NYT in years

Gregory Schmidt 12:42 AM  

A total proper-name, Naticky s***-storm. 'Nuff said.

Virginia 12:54 AM  

@Wm. C, everyone who has read the children's novel "CHARLOTTE's Web" (which I imagine includes a significant proportion of NYT puzzle solvers, given that the book was already considered a classic eons ago when I was a kid and is still read in public elementary schools) has seen or heard the word SPINNERET at least once. It took me a minute to remember it, but once I got a few crossing letters it came back to me. You could legitimately argue that it's not a Tuesday word, but I think banning it altogether would be a bit excessive.

I'm another who loved this puzzle, because (a) I like spiders, a result of having read the aforementioned novel at an impressionable age, and (b) I found the theme both clever and cleverly executed. It helped that I knew many of the proper nouns (BRAGG, DELTA, GELL [although I initially wrote "GELB"], LOREN, OLEG, BASSETT, GALEN, and the wonderfully prolific EDA LeShan), so I didn't have too much trouble filling in the answers that were more obscure to me (NEVEU, SOLTI, EULER, and DER ALTE). EREBUS popped up in my brain from I know not where -- I wasn't sure it was right, but it fit so I went with it. EPICENE was the last to fall -- I've seen the word used to mean pallid, weak, or overly refined, but had no idea that it had anything to do with gender or linguistics. In any case, it was incredibly refreshing to do a whole puzzle without a single reference to an obscure sports figure. (Nothing obscure about ALI.) I could have done without the BITE MARKS, but you can't have everything.

I agree that the clue for HAREM was ugly, and am glad to learn from @George Barany that it was not the puzzle creator's doing. The clue I'd argue with on technical grounds is "Scraping (by)" for EKING; I've never seen or heard that word used with "by" -- it's always EKING out.

Mark 6:53 AM  

I liked the puzzle and didn't think it was especially hard. But honestly, I thought the eight "gels" we're thread emitted by the spinnerets.

Jonathan 9:39 AM  

I genuinely don't understand the problem with the HAREM clue. It seems like a factually accurate bit of wordplay.

Isn't a harem an inherently oppressive social structure based on gender inequality? Isn't that pretty much the antithesis of feminism, thus making "decidedly non-feminist" a more or less apt description of such a structure?

Is the issue that it could be interpreted as applying the label to the individual women IN the harem, and thus insulting or blaming the victims of that system? Or is it that it it seems to be referencing such a serious subject in such a casual, offhand way?

I'm clearly missing something here; please help out.

NYER 10:50 AM  

I liked it too. One of my easier Tuesday solves.

OISK 10:57 AM  

Hard for a Tuesday, sure! I guess I don't mind proper nouns so much when they are mainly familiar to me - Solti, Euler, Der Alte, these are all fine! Frontman for Smashing Pumpkins? ( not that I have ever seen that...) Not so much. I finished it in slower than usual time, but for me, there were no Naticks!

Nice puzzle! Wrong day of the week...

(as to the "harem" never crossed my mind that anyone with even a hint of a sense of humor would object to it. I'm just an insensitive old geezer, I guess)

Larry Gilstrap 2:43 PM  

BALEEN clued as being synonynous with whalebone? That's enough to make this Moby Dick scholar bristle.

HAREM Abdul Jabbar 9:55 PM  

@Gerry Kahle, sorry, you're only entitled to ask for 1/366th of your money back.

As @Anony-7:11pm suggests, seems too many are running about with wadded-up panties. If y'all can't un-wad 'em, then (just for comfort's sake) try going commando.

@Larry Gilstrap, I know, I know., baleen is keratin plates with sieving bristles (har), but the baleen that was used in corsets was called 'whalebone'.

Loved having a sciency, classics-riddled puzzle, and sure liked seeing Sofia Sciccolone front and center, but given the ARACHNIDA theme, Sonia Braga should've had star billing. Kiss of the Spider Woman, right?

Great construction, Alex V; wouldn't change a thing, and loved your WEBinar.

PS: I agree with GEL>LEG, if only because the pattern fits a spider web more than it does a spider body. Arachnids have 4 legs on each side, not 8 legs radially arranged. Foo.

Anonymous 3:46 PM  

The clue doesn't mention the individual women in the group, it references the group. Clue is fine - folks are looking for reasons to be offended and feel righteous. Usually you don't have to look any farther than your own backyard.

spacecraft 11:18 AM  

I agree with @anon. 3:46. There are loads of offenses out there to take, if one is so inclined. Not that any of them were GIVEN. We get the point of the clue; let's move on.

Today's theme was uber-ambitious. The intersecting 9's would have been fine, but trying to include all those LEGs made for eight pretty rough cubicles. At least I learned something new: I had mistakenly thought that the class was "arachnidae," and was all ready to throw the flag. Just to make sure, I checked--and it seems it IS just ARACHNIDA, sans the E, after all. Strange, though. Clearly, most of those go by the Latin plural, -AE.

Had _ITE_A_KS and still couldn't see BITEMARKS. With all but the B, I wondered what HADDI_S was. That B was truly an aha! moment, in both directions. Let's see, "Don't come near this gold mine: I've got DIBS!" Very weird.

I must give the DOD nod to an EVA; though Ms. Longoria seems an obvious choice (certainly beating the clued one), I'm going with the heroine of my very favorite movie: North by Northwest. EVA Marie Saint is enough to "lure men to their doom on the 20th-Century Limited."

Great drive, but the approach shot was overclubbed and our guy had to settle for EKING out (very disappointing resurgence of this old clunker lately) a bogey.

centralscrewtinizer 12:28 PM  

The EREBUS is what picked you up in days of yore.

Burma Shave 1:36 PM  


CHARLOTTE HADDIDBS on a nice CABOOSE, GEE, her BELLI didn’t sag,
I gave her BEDSIDE AERIE ERE a goose, ILLGO GETON and will not BRAGG.


rondo 2:00 PM  

GEE, the only thing I agree on with OFL is ICEfree (my one w/o) as clued. For ICELESS to be more correct the clue coulda been “neat, as a drink”. ADLER is a gimme for anyone who took Psych 101 and paid attention, and he actually made some sense as compared to Freud and Jung and some of the other kooks spouting their nonsense as “science”. Especially his stuff about choices and consequences. Mostly though, all those guys spewed a boatload of BS, IMHO. DERALTE also a gimme and no prob with GALEN nor KRESGE. OK, maybe I also agree that it’s tougher than what we usually see on Tuesday. But I liked it more than a usual Tues-puz which is too-staid. So there.

As a youth I had a book on the martial art of AIKIDO. Hard to learn on your own.

Sophia LOREN is smack dab in the middle, she could lure me into a web. So could Angel BASSETT for that matter. Yeah babies.

I drive a part of U.S.TEN every day. U.S. Eight, which I also drive every day, also goes through parts of MN, WI, and MI.

Gotta be at least 18 three letter answers in there, which should really reduce the “challenging” factor. Too much HAREM talk, and agree with @anon346 and @spacey re: that. I didn’t mind this puz too much except for all those 3s.

Sailor 2:31 PM  

Wowser. Lotsa people reacted to this puzzle just the way I did to this past Saturday’s. 8-)

I really liked this one, in spite of the high PPP. I think KLEE, EULER, GELL, SOLTI, GALEN are historically prominent representatives of their respective disciplines, and therefore absolutely fair game.

I’ll agree that this might have been better suited to a Wednesday. But I still liked it, and was glad to have a Tuesday puzzle that was a little crunchier than usual.

leftcoastTAM 2:40 PM  

Easy-Very Challenging. The symmetrical LEGs and GELs were the small, easy part. The spider left a lot of BITEMARKS.

It spun a big resilient web across a substantial area of the puzzle, which was especially resistant to breaking through at the intersections of BALEEN/EPICENE/ARACHNIDA/SPINNERET/EREBUS.

The latter, EREBUS required what I would consider a misnaming of a major Interstate Highway, which is almost always, if not exclusively, called I-Ten, not USTEN.

IS- (Interstate) TEN, may be as rarely used as USTEN, but I stuck with it. AIKIDO and NEVEU weren't easy either, but they could be sussed out.

May be the most misplaced Tuesday puzzle ever, but I liked the challenge and wouldn't object to seeing one like this again, but maybe on a Wednesday instead.

leftcoastTAM 2:50 PM  

Never mind.

Now see that US TEN and I-Ten are distinct routes.

Diana,LIW 2:54 PM  

Pretty easy for me until the giant Natick in the SE. I remember KRESGE's and Woolworth's - who knew that K-Mart was KRESGE's SweePea child? Not I. EREGUS, DERALTE, GALEN, and BELLI did me in as well.

And ha, ha, ha on me (HEHHEH). Yes, I too was wondering what all the GELs were doing - no revealer to explain them.

@Kathy from yesterday. Thanks. I'm glad to finally have a day without another Medicare Part X letter coming my way. Mr. W has excellent gov't health ins, so we didn't need to wade thru that alphabet soup.

Good puzzle. Learned new stuff. Hot summer, but at least it's ICELESS.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rain forest 4:05 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle so much I didn't notice that there were a lot of 3's. The theme is cute, and the spider references and the way they interlaced, was ICE(LESS)ing on the cake. How's that for a mixed metaphor?

Clearly, the clue for HAREM was misinterpreted by the knee-jerk POC mavens. No problem here. Furthermore, and I know that some of the solve depended on age/personal experience, I am somewhat mystified that so many found GALEN to be a WOE. He is a giant in medical history. I didn't know the Latin phrase "Casus BELLI", BUT I do know the word "BELLIcose", an adjective applied to the USA and Russia frequently, and that's how I got that one.

More to the point though, I recognize that some solvers may have found this challenging, but so what? There have been complaints lately that the puzzles have been too "easy", so if a puzzle has crunch, why the complaint? Not every puzzle is a Goldilocks, you know. Sometimes I just don't understand the perspective of the blog.

This was a very good puzzle in every sense.

NM Robin 4:53 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
NM Robin 4:55 PM  

I am not a great puzzle solver. I usually am only able to complete M - W. I found this puzzle to be rather easy. I knew most of the scientific guys. I prefer them to the pop-culture we had yesterday.

I agree that BITEMARKS is arbitrary and had to get that from all the crosses.

I don't care for ICELESS and agree it should be ICEfree.

I have not been to MN, WI or MI much but I knew USTEN.

I thought it was a fine Tuesday puzzle.

wcutler 7:14 PM  

I don't know if anyone mentioned this - the themes cross to form the spider's body. That was totally cool. I did find the legs at the head and bottom a bit funny though, had to allow artistic licence for that.

DNF for me too, on the naticks others mentioned, and just now understood the limo clue. That was cute, wish I'd got that. Not living in the US, can never remember which parties are red and blue. It's not like we don't get US news in our paper every day in Canada.

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