Ladder's counterpart / SAT 7-30-2016 / Writer Sedaris / Pet name meaning "faithful"

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Constructor: Lily Silverstein

Relative difficulty: 11:36, slightly tough for Saturday (not a humblebrag, just telling you my time)




THEME: None

Word of the Day: ALSTON (29A: Charles who created murals for Harlem Hospital and the American Museum of Natural History)
Charles Henry Alston (November 28, 1907 – April 27, 1977) was an African-American painter, sculptor, illustrator, muralist and teacher who lived and worked in the New York City neighborhood of Harlem. Alston was active in the Harlem Renaissance; Alston was the first African-American supervisor for the Works Progress Administration's Federal Art Project. Alston designed and painted murals at the Harlem Hospital and the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building. In 1990 Alston's bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. became the first image of an African American displayed at the White House. --                   Wikipedia
• • •
Eerily similar to yesterday's puzzle: competently written, very clean, perfectly pleasant to solve...but lacking much punch, noticeably un-Scrabbly, and highly compartmentalized. The clues were more interesting than yesterday's, though, so this is safely a B instead of on the line between B and B-.



The three showcase answers are fine but not more: CHANCE MEETING (32A: Start of many a romantic comedy), A HUNGER ARTIST (34A: 1922 Kafka short story), and PLATELET COUNT (35A: Hematologist's measure).

That 34-A is a nasty trap; raise your hand if you plunked METAMORPHOSIS down there like I aaaaalmost did until I hesitated since my hazy memory was that that's a novella or novel. I vaguely recalled the right answer, but even at ?HUN?ERARTIST I wasn't sure. THUNDER ARTIST? Finally the A fell into place. But not a story I recall reading and 11 of 13 letters are Scrabble 1-pointers, so kinda meh. 11 for 13 also on PLATELET COUNT.

Once you had the center nailed down it was a matter of knocking out the four peripheral sections one by one. As with yesterday, not good grid flow since it plays like a series of mini-puzzles.  All four are pretty snappy, though, and feature pleasantly wicked cluing, especially the SW corner, where FISTS was (Sparring partners?), AMOEBAS are (Slide presentations?) and BIT PART is (It doesn't have much to say). Nice.

To illustrate the cleanliness of the grid let's apply a five-worst-entries test: ITAL, ENG, ALBA, SIM, ABA. So that's good. Best fill was CHALK UP TO (32D: Attribute as the cause of), amusing TINA FEY (18A: "Mean Girls" screenwriter), AEROSOL CAN, RIGHT ANGLE, and PAPER THIN. Which are all good, but as a best-of list in a themeless, a little underwhelming; none is really a marquee answer.



Letter grade of B



Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent of CrossWorld for 1 more day and then Rex is coming back and we're all gonna be in trouble! Let's clean the house really fast and nobody tell him about the lawn parties.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

112 comments:

Da Bears 12:31 AM  

@Matt, you have done a great job this week. You've been cogent, instructive and civil. But, alas, the people on this blog come here for the same reason people go watch the Indy 500. It's not enough to race around the track competently. We need some car crashes.

PS. Rex is usually a tad harsher on first timers.

Matt Gaffney 12:35 AM  

@Da Bears

There's only one Rex Parker. I won't even try.

jae 1:07 AM  

Easy-medium for me. Did not fall for the "to be" or Metamorphosis" misdirects so no erasures.

Really wanted pessimist for 12d but the crosses wouldn't come close.

Again, what @Matt said, solid Sat., nice debut, liked it, but light on zip. FWIW Matt's Weekly Crossword Contest puzzle this week is much tougher...there are some Natick issues however...

David Krost 1:14 AM  
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Da Bears 1:28 AM  

@Matt, you had a moment with that "F" and Es-tay. So, there is potential. Don't be a DEFEATIST. Same time next year....

AliasZ 1:43 AM  


I found this a surprisingly easy puzzle despite some unknown proper names at critical junctures, and despite the two mini-puzzles in the NW/SE corners. Why such segregated grid is allowed on the day that is supposed to showcase the best puzzle of the week, baffles me.

-- I enjoyed the triple play on "spray" culminating in LET US pray.
-- I wonder if that LET US is romaine or iceberg.
-- How is DOC an abbreviation for 'propaganda'?
-- A HUNGER ARTIST is a DEFEATIST psycho ANALYST.
-- Many abbr. languages today: ENG, ITAL, MACED(onian), ALBA(nian), KALI(mantanese) and ASL.

ABA reminds me of a small Hungarian village ABAújvár near the Slovakian border. Here is a roadside cross with the name of the village carved on it in Old Székely-Magyar rovásírás (notched/scored/etched writing) or Old Hungarian script, also called 'runic/runiform' due to its superficial similarity to the Germanic runic alphabet. Read from right to left, it was the official written language of Magyars until the year 1000 when Stephen was crowned King of Hungary, converted to Christianity and to the Latin alphabet. It has survived and was actively used, primarily in Transylvania, through the 17-18th centuries. Today there is a renewed interest in the old alphabet.

Forgive me, but my mind tends to WEND at times.

A lukewarm puzzle in my view, albeit a terrific first effort by Lily Silverstein, for which congratulations are clearly in order.

LAMOUR est un oiseau rebelle...

Have a great weekend.

Anonymous 4:02 AM  

I liked it, but got a bit bogged down in the NW. Finally saw MOCKERY and it fell.

I've really enjoyed Matt's analysis. Somtimes it's nice to take a break from snark. ;-)

Cheers,
Brennan

Dolgo 4:12 AM  

Yeah. Traps easily avoided ("Metamorphosis,"pessimist,") if you remember it's a Saturday puzzle, just like everyone probably assumed "To be" was not the Hamlet soliloquy start. I highly recommend the Kafka story, BTW. One of my all-time faves!

Dolgo 4:23 AM  

Of course, the Yorick speech isn't a soliloquy (my bad!). Is it a monologue, though? Isn't it a conversation with Horatio?

George Barany 4:44 AM  

This is @Lily Silverstein's debut New York Times puzzle, and a Saturday, no less. Thanks @Matt Gaffney for your temperate review and for the non-humblebrag report of your solving time. I've enjoyed your Regency.

The ALSTON chosen in the clue was unfamiliar to me; I would have gone with long-time Los Angeles Dodgers manager Walt. Gay TALESE has been in the news recently (click here for a representative article) and was on my mind recently when I needed a clue for NAN ("Gay's wife"). Of course, I fell into the "to be" trap, and would appreciate if someone would be kind enough to provide the "ALAS" soliloquy.

TINA_FEY not only wrote "Mean Girls" but also played a schoolteacher in the film. The last letter of her last name crosses the last letter of the first name of another well-known crossword blogger, as well as one of my favorite people in the puzzle world, and the honoree of this @Mark Diehl puzzle.

Me2U 5:28 AM  

My fastest Saturday of all time (finished in 6:05). "Slide presentations?" for AMOEBAS and "It doesn't have much to say" for BITPART above it were very cute. Very smooth clueing overall; excellent work by Lily Silverstein.

Susierah 6:32 AM  

This was one of those puzzles where after the first pass, I thought I knew nothing! And then, bam, 26 minutes later I finished with no errors or googles! Yes, I will brag about my time! I surprised myself when I finished!

Sasha Nove 6:35 AM  

Was actually super disappointed by how easy it was. I enjoy having to spend time and effort on Saturday puzzles and this one took me under 10 minutes and felt more like a Tuesday or Wednesday.

Loren Muse Smith 6:39 AM  
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Loren Muse Smith 6:41 AM  

@George says this is Lily's debut. Ok, Lily (say this like "Newman"). So I'll be nice to you because that's my shtick here, but deep down I hate you. Your debut is a themeless?? I can't even fill an early week 15x. Many times, I've sat down with a pilfered grid from a master (Hi, Doug) entered my brilliant EIGHTEEN WHEELER/GREAT WHITE SHARK and then bam. Face plant. I don't know how y'all do it. Writing a themeless is a bajillion times harder than a themed. I'm very impressed and actually don't hate you. I just envy you. I gave up a long time ago certain that any pathetic thing I could cobble together would be rejected anyway. Color me defeatist.

So… congrats and bask in your kudos today. You deserve them all. This is a good puzzle.

Humblebrag seems to be the word today. Hmm. I never even considered The Metamorphosis because I had no idea it was just a novella. The brag part comes in here because I've read it only in German, and it was such a *&^% challenge it felt like it was 1000 pages long.

HESSE – read Siddhartha in German, too. Just as hard.

I put in "cb" radio before AM RADIO. Bet I'm not alone. That Waze girl gives traffic reports, too. How the heck does all that technology work?

First thought for the Fox news deal 3D was "brawl." Revisited clue and saw CNN. Then mysteriously thought "drawl." Sheesh.

@Da Bears – "But, alas, the people on this blog come here for the same reason people go watch the Indy 500. It's not enough to race around the track competently. We need some car crashes." Speak for yourself. Seeing Rex rip into Will or a constructor is not why I come here. It's something I tolerate so I can enjoy all the other aspects here – Rex's sense of humor, his clever turns-of-phrases, the user-friendly comments system (delays notwithstanding), all the friends I've made here and whose comments I look forward to…

Matt – gonna miss you!

Lily – very nice job here.

RAD2626 6:55 AM  

Unlike other early posters, did not find this that easy. Thought NW was very hard and had trouble getting a foothold. A couple of the proper names (ALSTON and STINE, and in the same section) lwere new to me. I would have known Walter for the first. And had a DNF that I first thought was totally legitimate but now have second thoughts about. DOPEY could just as well be mOPEY given the clue and Michael Moore make mocumentaries imo, so the M fit both ways, but with 1A already in place, it had to be DOC, so my bad.

Thanks @Matt, I learned a lot this week.

Anonymous 7:13 AM  

Sorry, couldn't disagree more..,.boring, easy for a Saturday...nothing clever, just straightforward unmemorable answers...flew thru the long answers...just wanted it over...and it was in 10 minutes.

Sasha Nove 7:23 AM  

My thoughts exactly, including the time it took. Thought I just wasn't seeing the interest somehow, so I'm glad to see someone felt the same!

gberg 7:25 AM  

My experience as well

Jim Crotteau 7:32 AM  

"Alas poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio." I think.

- Jim C in Maine

Alicia Stetson 7:34 AM  

Easiest Saturday in a long while.
How nice to see a blogger whose times are comparable to my own, rather than a "this was a little tough, I finished in 3:42 which is 12 seconds longer than my usual Saturday, but of course I made coffee and made love to my wife (twice) while I was solving so that slowed me down..." from Rex. Really enjoyed your commentary this week, MG.

More Whit 7:36 AM  

Worked the puzzle from NE diagonally down to SW then knocked out the corners. This was a very quick Saturday solve but (and?) I liked it a lot!

Mike D 7:44 AM  

Hey these seem like real time comments! Just like the good old days. I wonder if the Porker, Evil Doug, and the Grammar Nazi are still lurking--Maybe LMS left that dangling preposition as bait?

Science Seven 7:53 AM  

Really enjoyed this puzzle.

Anonymous 7:58 AM  

@Alicia Stetson - Touché. But I believe your scenario would have only cost Rex 6 seconds, considering he made love to his wife twice. Perhaps you're implying that he ran out of coffee and had to go out and by more.

Loren Muse Smith 8:00 AM  

I keep forgetting to respond real time now. This week has felt so different. I'll keep my fingers crossed that it'll continue.

@Mike D - I've never met a preposition I won't end a sentence with! Consider paragraphs 9 and 10 here (though the whole thing is worth a read.)

I hope Grammar Nazi has moved on and is still pointing out people's panty lines as they cross Times Square or announcing to dining companions that someone has used the wrong bread plate.

As to others who've left – As I said above, I've made some friends here (a big reason to have a blue name with an email address. Seriously.), and the off-blog word from some of them is that the new moderation system just made the site a lot less fun. And they're gone. A couple of once stalwart commenters have decided to move on because the vitriol was just too much to stomach.

I'm hoping that if this return to the old way sticks, some people will start to come back.

Chaos344 8:16 AM  

My solve was very similar to yesterday. The puzzle looked daunting at first blush, but turned out to be Thursday easy. There were quite a few things I was either unsure of or flat out didn't know, but the crosses helped me get them all.

Really nice job on your debut Lily!

Matt. What can I say? Thanks for a great week of analysis and commentary. I've always liked you as a constructor, but I'll think of you in a different light now. It's been fantastic having you here. I love Rex, but it was so nice to go through a whole week sans a bunch of PC and SJW crap. Go build a monster Saturday offering. We need one! ;>)

NCA President 8:22 AM  

Isn't there a relatively famous Hamlet monologue that starts, "To be...?" Hmmm...I seem to recall that one from the back of my mind...so yeah, I had that one wrong at first.

Can we please get the spelling of AM[O]EBAS/e straight? Is that really so difficult to do?

There is something about the clues/answers to 8D (F and G, but not H...NOTES) and 16A (Something John Adams and John Quincy Adams each had...ONETERM) that is wonky. Maybe it's the gratuitous way those clues include or leave out random parts of the whole...I dunno...but maybe one clue like this is fine, but two is too much, and having them intersect is even more too much. I'm not going to say it's wrong to do, it's just inelegant.

I also had pessimIST early on, which I think is the actual kind of person that is opposite an optimist (i.e., a person who sees the glass as half full). So my question is, just because you are a pessimist...does that make you a defeatist? Are those two really synonyms/equivalent? I can be pessimistic or even cynical...but I don't think that means I'm resigned to defeat. A defeatist would be someone who would drink the rest of the water in the glass knowing there wasn't any more water to be had. Pessimism = view of reality. Defeatism = how you deal with that reality.

And seriously, who listens to AMRADIO any more? Traffic report sources have their own apps now (e.g., WAZE, Google Maps, etc).

Well, I didn't think I had much to say about this puzzle, but evidently I did. I didn't think it was awful, and I'll agree with the above average B that MG gave it, I just think it was wonky here and there...er, YON.

Glimmerglass 8:33 AM  

Alas, ALAS is not the start of a Hamlet soliloquy. Jim Crotteau is correct that the Yorrick speech is probably what the constructor had in mind, but that speech lacks one of the requirements for a SOLIloquy: Hamlet is not alone ("I knew him, Horatio"). There are five famous soliloquies in Hamlet, and none begins with ALAS.

Suzy 8:35 AM  

@lms-- what you said, exactly!!

Mohair Sam 8:51 AM  

Congrats Lily Silverstein. I will echo @LMS in spades - debuting with a themeless is incredible, and on a Saturday no less! More than impressive.

Hand up with the group who found it smooth but easy for a Saturday. PAPERTHIN a quick gimme that opened things up. CLAMP and HESSE off that, then a few downs off them: LETUS, CHUTE, STINE, and LANES. And before I knew it the middle was filled and the long downs opened each corner - then done in what was probably Saturday record time. Glanced at the clock when finished (paper solver here), saw it was less than twenty minutes, figured I was ready for a crossword championship of some sort, came here, read some posts, and am again humbled. I can't even write that fast.

Can't believe how many of you klutzi fell for the Metamorphosis trap. Short story folks, short. That required novella seemed as long "War and Peace" to me. Odd, because "The Trial" is a personal favorite. Go figure.

@George Barany - L.A. Dodger Manager Walter Alston should always be footnoted with a mention that he started as manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. We were at a Mets game in Montreal in the early 1990's when an Expo named O'Malley came to bat. The sparse crowd of about 4,000 had been quiet all day. When O'Malley entered the batters box a voice with a New York accent yelled "Hey O'Malley, bring the Dodgers back to Brooklyn!" - the crowd roared its approval. This born Brooklyn Dodgers fan is still waiting.

Let me chime in with the group thanking @Matt Gaffney for a great week.

Terrific debut Lily Silverstein. A themeless Saturday no less - congrats again.

Jamie C 9:10 AM  

I wonder if Lily is related to Shel? There is clearly a light in the attic.

Aketi 9:12 AM  
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JC66 9:14 AM  

It's been a terrific week. Hopefully, Rex will continue with the old format.

Thanks Matt.

Aketi 9:25 AM  

@Matt Gaffney, thank you for an enjoyable week without car crashes (even though you did mow down one constructor with an F it didn't involve pyrotechnics).

With the KNEE yesterday and the FISTS today I was thinking of a different type of ARTIST, but the RIGHT ANGLE REALIGNED my thinking back to the author's perspective.

The URCHIN (which might be tasty with CRAB) forced me to finally accept that IT wasn't CHALKED UP. IT was OUSTed from the phrase or maybe the ARTIST stole IT.

If the metaphor of the day is the Indy 500, my solving speed was a CRAWL because I started before I had my second cup of coffee and fell asleep on the IPad multiple times before my dh brought me the second cup. When it comes to solving time I definitely am a DEFEATIST who merely ASPIRES to solving without consulting Google too often.

@lms, it is entirely possible to nourish yourself very well in New York City without ever using plates at all, let alone special plates for bread. The solution s to order in. The biodegradable containers that many restaurants provide are also relatively spill probably should you decide to instant stream your mealtime entertainment while watching the computer of iPad in bed, thereby dispensing with the table as well

Mohair Sam 9:30 AM  

@NCA President 8:22 - "who listens to AM radio any more?"

I do. I frequently travel by car to New York City (home of the NYT puzzle) and have my AM dial set to 880, 660, and 1010. About 50 miles out on Interstate 78 I turn on the radio. The result is pretty much constant traffic reports mixed with sports talk by flicking the little button on my steering wheel, life is good. When choosing between the George, the Lincoln, the Verrazano, the Holland, or even a water taxi on or in which to risk my time (and life), the old AM radio is invaluable.

Trey 9:48 AM  

Agree with the Natick - had eLBA LeMOUR, as I had heard of neither before. Really liked the puzzle though. Relatively easy for me except NW corner until I had RIGHTANGLE, then had a foot hold. Loved PLATELET COUNT and the clues for BITPART and AMOEBAS

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 9:49 AM  

The person who thought there was something wrong with 8 down is correct. 'F and G but not H' for NOTES? H is a note. Any other higher letter would have worked. H is what they cal B in Germany, B meaning what Americans call B flat.American classical musicians often adopt this terminology.

ITAL as an abbrvtn for Italics? Aren't abbreviations supposed to be less than half as long as the word?

And what's with 'Grade sch. class being ENG? English (it was called 'reading' in my day)? Engineering, grade school being twisted into something that teaches you how to grade roads or something? Sometimes they try too hard to make the clues cute.

AskGina 9:54 AM  

I loved this puzzle and hope to see more of the same. Didn't fall for the obvious Kafka or Hamlet answers (a novella and too easy for a saturday). Solved from right to left and was stuck in the NW at the finish. Finally Googled Hindu clue and it all fell into place.This has been a great week for the blog (I give it an A). Been reading for years and never commented, don't know why I started. Understand why Rex screens; there were some particularly nasty commentators a few years back and I was relieved when he started to. But I forgot how much fun it was to watch you all have a conversation. The week evoked the feeling that happens when parents go on vacation and you're left with Grandma. You love mom and dad, you feel guilty for not missing them, you want them to come back, but you wish it were a little less disciplined when they do

Steve M 9:55 AM  
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QuasiMojo 9:59 AM  

Somewhere online is a clip of Patrick Stewart as Hamlet and Ian McKellan as Horatio. It was in some BBC show. Fascinating, since both were barely out of their kneepants. Personally, I don't come here to watch car crashes or people getting mauled by others. I come to find out what I did wrong or how I can do better. Thanks Matt for taking charge this week. It's been a refreshing change. Too bad the puzzles were not quite as interesting. Finished this one in near-record Saturday time. I have no idea what a Sim card is. I would have preferred a clue for the brilliant Alistair Sim. Would love to have heard him as Hamlet.

da kine 10:01 AM  

If Rex were here, the inclusion of TALESE would make the puzzle immediately considered a D at best. Isn't he on the hate list for some reason? The inclusion of ANALYST for 'hedge fund employee' without any negative associations in the clue would have driven it down to F-.

I thought it was an excellent puzzle. It played a bit quick for a Saturday for me but I think that was due to some lucky guesses on my part rather than any failing of the constructor.

Matt Gaffney, I learned something from today's MGDX. "FLAVOR TEXT" looked all wrong but I googled it and it's a thing. I will likely never use it in real life, but it's good to know for the future.

QuasiMojo 10:01 AM  

Oops. Meant to say "Alastair Sim." My bad, as the young'uns say, much to my chagrin.

cwf 10:09 AM  

Thanks, Lily, for a lovely debut and thanks in advance, @Matt, for an entertaining week of reviews. I must say, though, if you don't remember reading AHUNGERATRIST, then you probably didn't read it; that's a hard one to forget. I think I'll re-read it right now - it's been a couple decades. (ok, I'll admit it: I'm just looking for an excuse to avoid re-opening this week's humblingly difficult MGWCC puzzle, which sits still partially solved in my queue).

Nancy 10:10 AM  

Boy, there are a lot of comments already! Better write first and read later, or this won't go up until afternoon. Once again, the NW was the hardest for me and the last in. MARIA was absolutely the last Santa I thought of; should have seen YON, but didn't; never thought of CRAWL; even -- finally -- after I had the ERY, I still didn't see MOCKERY. It was the NE (NOTES, leading to ONE TERM), that gave me my toehold.

Is there a single person here, even one, who didn't write in TO BE at 34D? What a trap! I would have seen both PLATELET COUNT (I already had COUNT) and TALESE much sooner if I hadn't written it in. And in dark ink, too! The other mistake was RTE before ETA at 52D, which also caused problems. I completely avoided the PESSIMIST instead of DEFEATIST trap at 12D, however. I already had the DEF.

Loved the answers PAPER THIN 20D(how true, how true!) and CHANCE MEETING. (I was thinking CUTESY MEETING at first, as in the phrase "Meet cute." But didn't write it in, so no harm done.) Found this puzzle a real challenge and a real pleasure.

Gaurawalla 10:13 AM  

Takes the skull

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims at
it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know
not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your
gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment,
that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one
now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen?
Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let
her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must
come; make her laugh at that. Prithee, Horatio, tell
me one thing.

Z 10:21 AM  

First - Oxford does not require that the character be alone when delivering a soliloquy.

Loved this puzzle. I get the observation about the lack of scrabbliness, but I hardly see this as a demerit. I find forced scrabbliness much more of an issue much more of the time. I also appreciated going with Moses instead of Apple with the TABLETS clue.


Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims at
it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know
not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your
gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment,
that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one
now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen?
Now get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, let
her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must
come; make her laugh at that.

Hartley70 10:24 AM  

@Teedman, I bet you do too know a FROZEN song, even if just by osmosis. Think Idina Menzel and "Let It Go". Over and over and even at the Oscars. Think every little girl in the world screeching it at one time...or do you live deep in the forest, alone, and untouched by modern life except for the puzzle, you lucky girl?

Yes, this was faster than the usual Saturday and congratulations are due Lily for her debut. This is the second Saturday in a row that we've had a female constructor and hopefully a plethora of girls will tire of channeling Elsa in "Let it Go" and reach for the top tier of crossword construction. Lily made it. Go Patty Berry!

Lily did a nice job on today's puzzle. I had no idea that themeless are more difficult to create. Thanks for the info, @Loren. I would have imagined the opposite. I will give this a B+ only because I like a little humor in the cluing and this was a little straight forward for me, but I believe that's on Will,

David Fink 10:25 AM  

Bingo. My experience also.

GILL I. 10:29 AM  

I knew I would love this puzzle because of the Ridiculous imitation clue. OK so I loved the clue, but gadzooks, what a mess up in that little corner. I had WINDS for whatever might be ill and I could have sworn DEVI was married to Shiva. Hah...! @Nancy.. ALAS for moi all because I remembered A HUNGER ARTIST and TALESE.
Hand up for lightly inking in pessimist. Wanted CHALK it up so URCHIN was hard to SEA. Does anybody name their little pooch FIDO?
Lily Silverstein...I thought this was LA MOUR. Congratulations to you!
Matt. Thank you lots. I'll miss you. I give this one a grade A

mathgent 10:40 AM  

As usual, I agree with my crosswordsister @Nancy. I sweated over the NW over three sittings before I saw REALIGN. And, like Miss Central Park, I am full of admiration for this work. Clean, intelligent cluing, nice variety of words.

Adios, Matt Gaffney. It was great. I look forward to seeing your excellent work in WSJ.

Nancy 10:40 AM  

I had the same reaction to @lms's comment that you did, @Hartley (10:24). I also had no idea that a themeless was harder to construct than a themed puzzle. Unlike you, I don't necessarily buy that all constructors would feel that way-- although I certainly take at face value that it's proven true for Loren. I would think that it depends on how complex and devious the theme is. There have been themed puzzles that have left me GOBSMACKED with how difficult they must have been to create. Perhaps the quad-stack puzzle might be as hard to pull off as the fiendishly clever theme -- I don't know. But different constructors seem to be good at different things. At any rate, I didn't know that this was a debut puzzle for Lily S., but I think it's a very, very good one -- one she should be extremely proud of.

pmdm 10:44 AM  

NCA President: You are very correct: the clue to 8D is wonky, but as a musician I'm surprised you didn't point out that there are more than one way of assigning names to notes. One system assigns the the B to what another system calls B-FLAT and assigns H to the note otherwise called B. In other words, if you play B A C H on the piano, you would play the notes that is the system we usually use as B-Flat A C B. To demonstrate this point, there are a number of pieces with titles such as Variations on BACH. Bach's great mass is often called the Mass in H moll.

Would have been a great day hor AliasZ to link to one of the pieces using the BACH motive.

Anonymous 11:05 AM  

Not a humblebrag??? Are you kidding me? Is Rex really saying he rarely takes more than 11 minutes for a Saturday puzzle and that that means it was relatively difficult? I must, therefore, be a complete moron. I did it in just under 15 minutes and thought it was one of the easiest Saturdays of all time.

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

Never time myself, just do this to relax - and yes - finished.
Really pleasant to see objective,cleverly written reviews this week, absent the mean-spirited negativity. Ditto the forced, collegiate PC rants.

Leapfinger 11:12 AM  

@jae, you knew it wasn't Metamorphosis 'so no erasures'??!? Sheesh.
Santa Clara/Anita/MARIA
Ill winds/wills/OMENS
CHALKitup/UPTO
hopesto/ASPIRES
Celestial throne sitter was Mary and Lord before HERA
Wanted SCALP[el] in place of CLAMP. First things first.
47A bethought me of films, not film stars

For 'slide presentations', I wanted something like TUSHIES, since that's the part most URCHINs present to the slide, though some CHUTE it head-first belly-down. That usually ended up in a RIGH' TANGLE with a MOCKERY of dental ALIGNment.

Always happy to see HESSE. Quite by chance, when I started reading him back in college, I read his works in the order written (Demian, Narcissus and Goldmund, Siddhartha etc) which nicely showed his devlopment from Romanticism to the intellectual in The Glass Bead Game.

So the puzzle dished out some REAL IGNominy in the NW and SW, but had me lURCHIN' along nicely in other segments. Overall, the grid had a good enough Sprightly Qupotient for my simple taste, and is Dang Impressive as a debut.

@Aketi, I understand that sea URCHINs taste sour or salty (I think) according to whether they're male or female. Apparently their innards are predominantly gonad sacs, and there's a varietal taste difference.

@AliasZ, interesting about the right-->left CK Magyar runes, and thanks for the Callasthenics.

@MattG, I'll get the beer cans and you stack the cups. Thanks for a week of good blogatorio.

@Lily, don't be a stranger.

Alysia 11:14 AM  

Me, too. :) I thought it was perhaps because I started in the PM instead of upon first waking, but I absolutely breezed through this one (time was pretty much on par with most Wednesdays). Got a little bogged down in the SE, which added a couple of minutes. Otherwise, almost more like a Tuesday.

I never thought I'd complain about that sort of thing, especially when some Saturdays are nigh impossible for me to solve (even WITH Google and IMDb). And I don't want to COMPLAIN, per se, but...well...that got done way too quickly.

old timer 11:24 AM  

I confidently wrote in "pessimist" and was stuck badly. Only a search for "Mean Girls" on IMDB saved me. Hands up for "To be" before ALAS. Which gave me PLATELET COUNT and removed any thought of a "thunder" ARTIST. I vaguely had heard of the real Kafka story but never read it. I thought he wrote in Czech though, not German.

My AHA moment was, of course, ASL. Excellent clue there, as was the clue for TABLETS. And FISTS. But the errors on the clues for NOTES and ALAS lowered my grade to a B, as well.

Exceot for the tangle in the NE, I thought this played Easy for a Saturday. Though my time must have been well over a half hour. Always is at the end of the week.

Anonymous 11:27 AM  

Very easy for me. Finished it before my cup of coffee. Usually Saturdays are 2+ cups. Only hangup for me was guessi g the "A" at the cross between "LAMOUR" and "ALBA".

AZPETE 11:27 AM  

LOL, especially the 2X part!

Mohair Sam 11:31 AM  

@Z - Hear! Hear! Regarding your comment on "scrabbliness" - I think the search for same has ruined more than a few puzzles.

@Nancy - On the first page of his Constructor's Handbook Patrick Berry states that "Themed puzzles are generally easier to create anyway" - does that answer your question? I'm fooling around trying to construct some puzzles of my own and I can tell you that for a beginner that statement is 100% true. I can also tell you that I am in awe of the work of Ms. Silverstein today.

Leapfinger 11:40 AM  

Almost forgot.

Drive carefully. Dwarf X-ing in SE corner.

Lewis 11:54 AM  

I love the intersection of TINA_FEY and AMY Sedaris, two funny and smart ladies. I thought there were plenty of pizzazzy answers, like PAPER_THIN, DEFEATIST, CHALK_UP_TO, BIT_PART, and ECLIPSE (as clued). The solve felt challenging enough yet smooth; I kind of glided right through it.

As your resident alphadoppeltotter (I track double letters), I should note that there is a very low double letter count, five. Under five is rare and wonderful.

More, Lily, please! Terrific debut.

And Matt, it's been a joy. Thank you for stepping in. The blog experience continued without losing a beat, and that too is rare and wonderful.

Teedmn 12:16 PM  

While I didn't solve this swiftly, it did go along quite smoothly, so easy for a Saturday. Congrats to Lily Silverstein on a Saturday debut. And as @Hartley70 pointed out, two female constructors in a row for Saturday, good job Will Shortz!

With the L from ALAS (yes, after I erased TO BE) and the U from LET US, I was considering 35A would be bLood pressUre but that would mean PAPER THIN would be wrong. Getting CHUTE gave me a step up the ladder to PLATELET COUNT, whew!

My biggest hitch today was having an atM card in the SW. _tT_ART certainly wasn't saying anything to me for 53A but a switch in my brain gave me ASPIRES and that was the end.

Regarding "Let It Go", @Hartley70, I pulled it up on YouTube to listen to it. While I think I've heard it before, if I heard it in the wild without any context, I wouldn't know it was from 'Frozen'. So count me in as living in the (frozen) woods!

I think I can see how constructing a great themeless would be harder than a themed puzzle. The hard part of the themed puzzle seems to be in coming up with a really cool theme but once that is acquired (sounds so easy, doesn't it?), you have something to build on, a la @LMS' bra puzzle collaboration from a while back. Themeless, you're just pulling words out of the aether and how do you make that snappy? Of course, I've done neither themed nor themeless so I bow to all who have.

AliasZ 12:29 PM  


@pmdm, I'm glad you brought it up. H is in fact a musical note in the German naming convention used in the Central- and Northern-European countries. In those languages B natural is called H, B-flat is called simply B. The Mass in B Minor by J.S. Bach is called "Messe in H-Moll" in German. But since this is an English language crossword, I let it slide.

Bach himself used the letters of his name B-A-C-H (B♭, A, C, B♮) as a theme in Contrapunctus 14, the unfinished last movement of his Art of the Fugue (at 5:47 of the linked clip).

One of the most famous compositions on the B-A-C-H motif is the Fantasy and Fugue (Prelude and Fugue) on B-A-C-H for organ by Franz Liszt. The linked recording was made in my hometown Kolozsvár, in the church seen in my avatar as the backdrop to the statue of St. George slaying the dragon.

As you were.

Chuck McGregor 12:59 PM  

ALAS, too many traps that kept me scratching my head for the crosses, like 34d to be, 1a mimicry, 8d clefs, 45d ares. 34a metamorphosis/ then youngerartist, 1d clara/anita /cruze (I know: sp,) / lucia, 10d roam, 45d ares, 46d odin/zeus/juno /mars/eros/ares again), and 12d pessimist. As well, the PPPs and Dickenson’s quotation in YON NE made things tough there.

After correcting various of these entries with a few letter checks and finally figuring out some of the crosses, it all fell into place. That it had several possibilities for the above clues as noted, I think it was a fine puzzle. This made it was sort of like a maze with many dead ends for me until I could back up and try again when my erroneous fills were just not working.

I’ll bet when I read the comments (typing this off line), I’ll find many thought it too easy for a Saturday. However, I’m not enough of an editorial critic to critique difficulty according to the day. I’m just happy to be able to solve any day with a minimum of or no cheating.

I hear the traffic reports on a Boston AM RADIO news station I listen to while driving around my part of Maine. It makes me so glad to not be stuck in the daily messes they report. The worst here is a half-dozen or so vehicles waiting for either of the two local traffic lights and that’s just because it’s summer with the infusion of the PFAs (people from away).

The oppressively high, sauna-like humidity here of this past week has finally broken today so going back to my interior painting now that it will dry far more quickly. Some years back I was in Atlanta, GA in mid-summer. In comparison to this past week here I would have been more comfortable there IN a sauna!!

Cheers

Masked and Anonymous 1:01 PM  

I'll give Mr. Gaffney an A- for his fine Regency period here at CrossWorld. Woulda been a dash higher, but still feel bad about the dreaded Day of the Haight Fate. I am too tenderhearted, maybe.

Wow, awesome debut for Lily Silverstein. And I thought she really lit up the grid with feisty, fun stuff. Was a hoot, matchin wits with her word choices. In her xwordinfo comment, she says she has trouble cluin up the grids. She sure can fill em, tho. And she doesn't use the commercial grid-fillin softwares. Hear, hear. M&A also goes commando, avoidin all commercial software aids. But M&A has more trouble fillin the grids, and less in writin the clues. M&A's 15x15 grid fills end up lookin scruffier than any collection you've seen since that there Apprentice tv show lineup. Or in the Republican convention speaker schedule, of course. But, I digress.

Solve-quest recap:
* ASL/CRAWL. First entries entered. Unfortunately, also thought of "ill" WINDS, instead of OMENS. Then MARIA. Then (C or K)ALI. Then YON. Then began to unadmire my pending IDWI?? entry at 19-Across.
* At this point, M&A began to think in terms of "This here constructioneer Lily is smarter than I am".
* AHUNGERARTIST. Yo! The lost ART! Never heard of this story, tho. But how does this parse, anyway? A HUNGER ARTIST? AH, UNGER ARTIST? A HUNG E.R. ARTIST? day-um. Lily is sooo smarter than m&e.
* DOPEY. Now, this entry I can relate to. And … crosses DOC, undrifted Snow White fans.
* CHUTE. Primo word. Looks like a good themer-builder. CHUTETHEWORKS, or somesuch.
* ENG. Weeject of the Day. This has recent runtpuz usage dispensation immunity. (RUDI)

Thanx again, Lily and Mr. Gaffney. Both of y'all come on back, any old time.

Masked & Anonymo4Us

nick 1:13 PM  

Liked this a lot -- a little tough and really clean. 5 D (one working on a lead) was last because in journalism it's (mis)spelled lede so yeah, got skunked there.

Carola 1:15 PM  

I guess it's nice to be a little DOPEY sometimes, as I found the puzzle to be pleasurably difficult - just right for a Saturday and a real treat to solve. A first pass through the Acrosses resulted in a rather THIN yield: AM RADIO, ASL, AWE, ASK, FIDO, DOC. But the Downs came to my rescue: ERE and AMY gave me enough to get the NE, and from there I WENDEd my way down to the ANALYST, making a RIGHT ANGLE turn at TEAS to finish the NW. I was a little vexed with myself that I couldn't fill in the Kafka short story right off: I could only think of "In the Penal Colony" and "The Judgment," the latter of which I highly recommend if you haven't read it - it's a crusher.

@Lily Silverstein, I thought this was a stellar puzzle, and I look forward to your next one.

Aketi 1:21 PM  

@leapfinger, so far only tasted the salty.

Li'l Saucer 1:24 PM  

Wasn't that Kafka romance originally spelt A HUNG ERA TRYST?

@Nancy, not sure that I qualify as a 'single person' (am long-time divorced), but (despite the iffiness of 'monologue') I am one who didn't try TO_BE before ALAS. You see, I had some fill in the stagger-stack, and that was one way to make my PLATELET COUNT.


Squire of Darrtown 1:35 PM  

Matt Gaffney is a class act.

Masked and Anonymous 2:10 PM  

p.s.
@Barany dude - yo! Y'all lit up yer comment with the weblinx, today, and lived to tell about it! Envy & Congratz. How'd U do that? U are smarter, than m&e, that's probably how. [A shame. Today's "Stumpy Stumper" was a sorta good one, too…]
:(
0
0
0

M&A

Amelia 2:10 PM  

This puzzle, while certainly professional, was a nice debut for a WEDNESDAY. It was not a Saturday puzzle by any stretch of the imagination. Nor was yesterday's a Friday. Or maybe there's been a paradigm shift in the way they present puzzles? This puzzle was easier than the WSJ's Tuesday puzzle. I'm ready to stop doing these. I demand more crunch. Does anyone from the Times read this blog?

jberg 2:11 PM  

Did I read this wrong? I thought Matt said he'll be here one more day. Either way, thanks!

I fell for everything--Metamorphosis, pessimist to be. (didn't write that one in). I had ill winds, then when that one didn't work, tried winds for meanders. Worst of all, I actually wrote in Santa CLAUS. I'm blushing red right now.

On the other hand, although I've never seen a "Road"" movie, I'm old enough to know they were a Hope-Crosby-Lamour collaboration, so when "Asta" wouldn't fit that went right in.

Pessimist was so obviously right that when it wouldn't work I guessed it might be a play title and wrote in "dramatist." Since I solve in ink, I ended up not noticing the F in TINA FEY, even though I had it--so this is almost a DNF, but I guess I'll count it as solved.

Nancy 2:11 PM  

@Mohair (11:31) -- So I'm not arguing with either you, Loren, or PB1 -- but I AM thoroughly confused about themeless puzzles being harder to construct than themed puzzles. As a lyricist, I can tell you that the more constraints you place on yourself, the harder the task. So that...

*Triple rhyme schemes are harder to pull off than double rhyme schemes.

*An ABAB rhyme scheme in which the A lines have to rhyme as well as the B lines is much, MUCH harder to pull off smoothly than an ABAB rhyme scheme where only the B lines have to rhyme.

*Polysyllabic rhymes are far more challenging than one-syllable rhymes -- although polysyllabic lines are where the real fun lies.

So it's not that I don't believe you above-mentioned people. It's simply that I don't understand the reason for your conclusions. Any sort of theme involves MORE constraints, not fewer, than a themeless, right? How can NO constraints be harder than constraints -- whatever they are??? Please explain -- @lms, @Mohair and PB1 (if you're reading this, which you're probably not.) Thanks so much!

Masked and Anonymous 2:29 PM  

p.p.s.s
@Amelia: WedPuz has to have a theme, tho. And man, U must be one tougher than snot puz solver. I agree that this was a slightly eazy-Eier than usual SatPuz, but it still kept me off the streets, for a good long spell. Admire yer smarts.

One thing that could really amp up the SatPuz difficulty, just sparingly here and there, would be some nice double-?? clues. [Today's Stanley Newman stumper puz has a great example of one, altho he just used the single-? punctuation.]

A few example clues that one might apply to this NYTPuz …
* 26-D: {Gen. neg. relative??}
* 9-D: {Dine, coming back up??}
* 46-D: {Goddess of the rat??}
* 34-A: {One well-endowed hospital room painter??}
etc.

M&A Help Desk

svl 2:47 PM  

Easy one for me, done in 7:09 without trying for speed. "A Hunger Artist" is a very memorable short story for me, so that came after just a couple of early crosses. All in all, a very nice constructing debut! And an excellent week of commentary from @Matt.

Chip Hilton 3:03 PM  

Fine debut, Lily. And loved the week's commentary, Matt.

I had a pleasant, appropriately challenging time working through most of this (@Amelia - you're in another league) but got held up in the SW thanks to CHALK it up, instead of -UP TO. When URCHIN appeared, it all came together. The Kafka curve lasted only until DEFEATIST was a sure thing.

Hope all the Olympians and NBC personnel have as much fun on the road to Rio as Ms. LAMOUR and her pals did. Fingers crossed for a safe games.

Martín Abresch 3:17 PM  

@Nancy - One of the dangers in composing a themed crossword is trying to do too much. How many times has Rex said that a puzzle would be strengthened by paring down the number of theme answers? Dense theme usually makes for poor fill. In this respect, more constraints are more difficult than fewer.

In making choices, a beginning constructor (like me) has precious little experience upon which to fall back. Am I being too ambitious? Should I even attempt to use this word with the Scrabbly letters? Is this quality word worth including if it means also including some crosswordese? A themeless puzzle, with its near-absence of constraints, vastly increases the number of choices and quickly overwhelms. A themed puzzle restricts the range of choices to a more manageable level. It provides a clear focus.

Joe Bleaux 3:45 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chuck McGregor 3:59 PM  

@Nancy 2:11 PM

Totally agree. Constraints would seem to make it harder. I write poetry and often impose my own constraints (meter, stanza length, etc.). Free form is much easier. That said, for some odd reason I seem to be pretty good at crafting the very constrained limerick with their stressed beats of 3/3/2/2/3 and A/A/B/B/A rhymes.

To wit: I'll now write a few.
They will all be brand spanking new.
When I start to write
Nary a thought is in sight
How I do it I've never a clue.

Nancy's a mighty fine lyricist
Who likely takes a lot of risks.
She'll pen a phrase
That will often amaze
Herself and even her publicist.

I really enjoy writing limericks
It's way for me to get my kicks.
They flow from my brain
Like a summertime rain
And always five lines, never six.

I confess that many are salty,
Something in my mind must be faulty.
Don't know why it would seem
Sex is often a theme
I guess one could say I'm just naughty.

Cheers

Dolgo 4:08 PM  

As I said above, it's not s soliloquy. The retired Shakespeare pro thought you'd like to know.

Dolgo 4:13 PM  

The retired Shakespeare prof again, reminding you that when two people are talking onstage, it's known as a dialogue!!!

Dolgo 4:16 PM  

Nice. Try counting your syllables and paying a bit more attention to meter, though.

Chronic dnfer 4:28 PM  

Much easier than yesterday. First Saturday I ever solved without cheating. Not sure why.

Roger von Oech 4:40 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Whirred Whacks 4:44 PM  


@Nancy @Chuck McGregor @Martin Arbresch and others

Interesting discussion about the value of constraints.

I agree with what architect Frank Lloyd Wright who said about them: "Limits are an artists best friend."

Composer Stephen Sondheim has similar thoughts about the value of constraints: “If you ask me to write a song about the ocean, I’m stumped. But if you tell me to write a ballad about a woman in a red dress falling off her bar stool at three in the morning, I’m inspired.”

In a like vein (as several of you have mentioned), a poet may be more moved by the challenge of writing a sonnet, which must follow a standard pattern of rhyme and meter, than by writing free verse. Indeed, some poets enjoy adding constraints to their problems as a way of spurring their thinking.

I have a friend who loves writing sonnets, sestinas, and other rhymed verse. One of his favorite games is to randomly pick six words, and then to take sixty seconds to write a poem that includes these words. He finds this exercise quite stimulating.

Adding time limits can also be a goad to people’s creativity. This is something I’ve discovered in my seminars. When I assign specific open-ended problems to groups, I’ve found that those groups that have less time to generate ideas (for example, 15 minutes versus 25 minutes on the same problem) often have better and more creative solutions than the groups with more time. That’s because they get right to the point, have less self-censorship, and are less concerned with proper protocol.


@Matt Gaffney Best wishes and thanks for your work this week!

Nancy 5:13 PM  

@Whirred Whacks (4:44) -- If you weren't on the opposite coast, I'd love to sit in on one of your seminars. They sound interesting and provocative. What do you teach, btw?

I'm extremely familiar with the Sondheim quote and it's just as true for me as it is for him. And probably it's true for 90 percent of lyricists and poets. But Sondheim is talking about putting constraints on subject matter, not on form. He's talking specifically about specificity -- which inspires ideas about what to write, rather than limiting you. Form is a different matter. Leaving aside his composing of the music, I'm am sure that writing the lyrics to "The Miller's Son" was far more demanding and took much longer than writing the lyrics to "Losing My Mind." I'm not saying that one lyric is better than the other -- I love "Losing My Mind" which succeeds in both being extremely simple and extremely fresh at the same time. But the dazzling pyrotechnics of "The Miller's Son" wasn't accomplished in an afternoon. All those interior rhymes take a lot of effort. Even for Sondheim, I'm sure.

old timer 5:14 PM  

When my thinking is all in a bind
A limerick oft comes to mind
The rhythm is fixed
But often admixed
With words filthy crass and unkind

I can make up limericks on demand. Or silly songs -- just give me a good old folk tune and I'm off to the races. But I do need the constraint imposed by the form, or the tune. I really admire poets who -- though they do submit to form -- also create their own rules. Not easy to be a great poet. Gary Snyder once told some admirers that he can take weeks and weeks to pick just the right word, especially if the poem is short and every word will count.

phil phil 6:53 PM  

Fast for me but medium to hard, I just caught a few breaks.

Nevertheless I still got naicked in my view. With a lost vowel.
Had eSL as form of communication with santa MARIe cross

Mohair Sam 6:55 PM  

@Nancy - Wow! You've got folks talking.
I always thought like you about themed puzzles until I got Berry's book. Think of a theme as giving the puzzle structure, not constraint. You're framing your house. Without a theme a beginner is like an apprentice carpenter looking at a pile of lumber and nails and trying to figure out where to start.

You ought to buy the PB book. You're so into the puzzle world you'll enjoy the theories of construction even if you have no intention of building a puzzle of your own. Plus you get 70 free Patrick Berry puzzles to solve. Just google Patrick Berry "Crossword Constructor's Handbook"

Evan Jordan 7:08 PM  

Before I realized what was afoot I thought, "Wow, what a pleasant and balanced write up from Rex today. Did someone make him muffins or something?"

Evan Jordan 7:12 PM  

EL OH EL!!!

Alex 7:29 PM  

Go figure. Yesterday gave me fits and I breezed through today. I am NOT good enough at these that I can reliably complete a Saturday puzzle without resorting to google (i.e. cheating). But today didn't give me any difficulty, despite being Kafka-illiterate.

Diana,LIW 8:18 PM  

@Nancy - Just flew in in the deLorean from Syndieland to say I've been commiserating with your technology woes of 5 weeks ago. I, too, just got my first cell phone 5 years ago, when both my in-laws were in the hospital and we needed a way for the MDs to reach us. I've used said phone a couple dozen times in the ensuing years, so I do believe what you said about not becoming a "changed person" who is attached to a screen. I believe in you.

Also - the phone I got is a TRAC phone. You just pay for days/minutes. For less than $100 I get a year of service. My phone is always with me, but always off unless I've pre-arranged with someone who might need to get in touch. Waaaaaay cheaper than monthly service charges. The saved $470 could get you many days of libations at Tavern on the Green.

Cheers!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Z 8:56 PM  

@Dolgo - First, please indicate who you are replying to. I'm guessing you're using the reply option available on phones. On the phone your reply appears under the initial comment. Everywhere else your replys appears in time order, making them look one half of a dialogue. Second, exactly to whom is Hamlet speaking? Sure, he begins by speaking to Horatio, but by he is quickly lost in his own brooding, speaking to dead Yorick who is quite pointedly not answering. In short, I beg to differ. It is a soliloquy.

Michael 9:01 PM  

A very enjoyable and fair puzzle. But as others have mentioned, very easy for a Saturday.

I had entered a few words before putting some water on to boil for pasta. But the time the water was boiling, I was done. And I don't try to speed solve and even if I tried, I ordinarily would be much slower than some of the commenters here.

Chuck McGregor 9:44 PM  

@Diana,LIW 8:18 PM (& @Nancy)

Exactly what you said about the TRAC Phone (except for the hospital reason). It's always with me away from home, but is seldom used. Though not at all a problem, when I have to occasionally buy more minutes they also come with lots of time to use them up. The result is that right now I have 99.78 minutes with 458 days(!) to use them up. As such I, too, am happily not attached to a screen as a "changed person." Only 5 people have its number and I don't send or receive texts.

Oddly, the last 4 digits of its number, assigned to me by TRAC Phone some 8 years ago, are 0804. The last four for my home phone number, assigned only 2 years ago by my local telco, are 8040. My SSN, assigned to me over 60 years ago, ends in x8x4, (where the "x"s equal the same non-zero digit, omitted here for obvious reasons).

Cue "Twilight Zone" theme.

Cheers

Nancy 9:45 PM  

@Diana (8:18)-- Boy I wish you'd been around before I went to buy my cell phone and set up a plan. The problem was: I had no way to research what to do before I did it. I had no computer with which to Google buying a cell phone and I had no phone or email with which to contact friends and ask them for suggestions. Unlike you, I don't even carry this phone with me, unless I know someone will need to reach me before I get home that day. I figure every call I make or receive on it for the next two years will end up costing me at least $50. I've paid two months' bills of $47.99 so far and have almost passed out both times I signed the check. But thanks for letting me know I could have bought a phone for $100/year. Is there anyway to get out of my Sprint contract? What if I just stop paying the bills? I own the phone, btw. They wouldn't let me lease it; they said my credit wasn't good enough. This to a person who has never taken out a loan or a mortgage or paid for anything in installments -- EVER. This to a person who pays all my bills in full and on time. (Well, maybe I've been late once in a while, but never on apartment maintenance or credit card bills.) This to a person who has only one credit card and rarely uses it, because I mostly pay cash in restaurants and grocery stores. Sprint called Equifax and said it would take 60 days to check my credit and I said let me just buy the freaking phone, I need it right now, I can't wait, this is an emergency. One of the problems was I didn't have a photo ID with me. WHO THINKS THAT YOU'LL NEED A PHOTO ID TO BUY A STUPID CELL PHONE???????? In the midst of my 3-week nightmare with no landline and no Internet, my 3 1/2 hour ordeal at Sprint was a nightmare, too. You heard me right. Three and a half hours. So now I have a phone I figure I'll use six times in a year. As I say, I wish you'd been around, Diane. Right next door, because I wouldn't have been able to contact you any other way.

Diana,LIW 10:22 PM  

Oh Nancy. Such a sad saga. I was here, but in the past.

When I bought TRAC phone, I consulted a younger (20's) co-worker. Always go to the young, when it comes to tech.

Don't know if you can cancel Sprint - suggest you consult a 20-something. ;-)

RE: credit - you need to get a bit more. I know, that sounds crazy, but credit checkers want you to have a history. So get a few more cards and pay them off. Paying cash gets you a bad credit score. Stupid? Yes. But true. Take out some loans, mortages, etc. Pay off debts, and your score will go up.

I used to live next door (upper west side) but now simply live on west side of US. Still, I have your back.

BTW, I am a Friend (Quaker) and seldom curse. And then there's technology - out comes Ralphie's father mastery of colorful language. ( think A Christmas Story)

Your pal, Diana,LIW

The Clerk 5:06 PM  

NYT: Is 5D (Work on a lead, maybe) fair cluing, or is that really a "lede"?

kitshef 8:41 AM  

Well, I did think it was fairly easy for a Saturday, but my time is way over the ones everyone else is posting.

Avoided the tobe trap as PLATELET COUNT was one of my early entries. But ALAS was my last word in, as I didn't want to commit to ALAS or ALAk, and ASK did not become clear until I got CHALKUPTO.

I do find constraints can be liberating. I'll make the analogy of being given paint and canvas and being told to paint a tree, versus being told to paint something. That big blank canvas can be mighty intimidating if you don't have a seed.

spacecraft 10:47 AM  

What exactly constitutes an "interesting" or "zippy" entry? Do we HAVE to be slaves to the Great God Scrabble? I think it's interesting if the clue isn't a gimme, but after it's in you go "Oh, of course!" One-pointers be damned. If I'm going to criticize this puzzle it will be on the basis of high PPP count and fill defects such as partials. Yes, CHALKUPTO is a great, pithy entry...but it's still a partial. Here's a test. Write your clue. If it reads awkward, you've got an awkward partial. "Attribute as the cause of" is a case in point.

Interesting to read of others' solving times: more realistic than those of either of OFLs--but still faster than mine: 1:03. But more than half of that time was spent trying to crack the (oh, no! Here we go again!) NW. INWITH??? Yikes! That's colloquial, all right, but nowhere near anyplace I've been! I knew I was in trouble when my go-to answers for the top acrosses were both three letters too long (CARICATURE, HELICOPTER). I knew what they were getting at with the CNN or Fox News feature: that line running along the bottom of the screen that prints other news stories. But what's that called? Well, now I know. It's one reason I do these: you LEARN stuff.

Other missteps include pessimIST and AEROSOLgun. Plus my only writeover, rTe instead of ETA. Still, easyish except for that *$^%@# NW. Very clean fill, for a newbie.

By all accounts this is a debut; as such I find it remarkable. The lady obviously has a huge future in crossword construction, and I look forward eagerly for Page Two. DOD is TINAFEY; I think she's as hot as she is funny. I'd give a solid birdie to an old pro for this one. But for a debut? Gotta encourage these kids: eagle!

rondo 10:58 AM  

Easy, easy, easy for me. About 18 minutes while wasting about 3 to 5 of ‘em pondering CHALK and ALAS. And since when is Scrabbliness a requirement for a good puz? I did Matt G.’s WSJ puz yesterday and there’s nothing Scrabbly about it, not to mention the triple triples, one of which was a RRN. Also easy and maybe I’ll win the mug.

Haven’t read the comments, but someone must have mentioned the youngest Dwarf DOPEY crossing DOC (the oldest?).

Had to dig out the John Hiatt CD and listen to PAPERTHIN. Fine song, playing now. Find it on youtube, no disappointment. Also was great when I saw him live.

Too late in the week to clue ALBA as Jessica, the other yeah baby crossing Dorothy LAMOUR. And up top there’s a completely spelled out TINAFEY, yeah baby. And let’s not forget AMY Sedaris, I heard that she can be a TEAS.

@D,LIW re: the humor book. Har. Gotta like the title. Maybe I’ll look for it used somewhere online.

So Moses was high-tech before the rest of us with those TABLETS?

Not going to waste today indoors. CHALKitUPTO a nice long holiday weekend. Hope the rest of the syndies are INWITH me on that.

Longbeachlee 11:59 AM  

I came here assuming someone had already asked for an explanation of crawl. Am I the only witless sheep in the herd? Tell me it doesn't refer to the urban crawl environment that one might be in while listenig to CNN or Fox News. . Help!

rondo 12:14 PM  

@longbeachlee - when the talking head is talking and the other news stories are CRAWLing along in text, slow enough to read, on the bottom of your screen, that is your CRAWL.

I was typing as @spacey was posting. Nice to see some similar thoughts.

Burma Shave 12:46 PM  

ONETERM ANALYST

CHALKUPTO a CHANCEMEETING with MARIA
(who ASPIRES to more than BITPARTs someday)
her DEFEATIST MOCKERY of my NEWIDEA -
from the RIGHTANGLE she looks like TINAFEY.

--- DOC AMY ALSTON

rain forest 2:28 PM  

Yes, yes, and yes. Easy, enjoyable, impressive for a debut.

For 34A, first thought, of course was "Metamorphosis", but I knew it had the article "the", and never having read the actual short story, that was my only slowdown in this puzzle.

So, H is a note in German musicology? So what?

Whenever I've played the game, it was always a snake that was the counterpart of ladder. Much more satisfying than a CHUTE.

I'm IN WITH @Rondo and @Spacey - I don't care if we get scrabbly letters or one-pointers. Just give me letters, preferably as parts of answers to clever clues. Today's puzzle had some good ones, all part of a very professional grid. Kudos.

leftcoastTAM 3:51 PM  

From easy to mostly tough for me, and isolation of the corners didn't help matters.

AHUNGERARTIST was hardest to suss out, though my downfall was wanting CHArtUPTO instead of CHALKUPTO, in turn making TALESE hard to see. The ALSTON/STINE proper names cross was a slow-down too.

So I'll have to CHALKUP my DNF to CHALK.

Diana,LIW 6:07 PM  

I agree that it's good to have letters in a crossword. And I had one in each and every blank square, after a both hard and easy solve. Solve? Make that a completion. You see, some of those letters I filled in were not the ones the constructor had in mind.

Because...a glass half full person is a pessimist! A DEFEATEST just totally gives up. I was not a DEFEATEST when I filled in every square in this puzzle. Even tho my NE corner had some odd entries. (I thought DessiMIST was a word I'd never heard.) Love TINAFEY but didn't know her relationship with Mean Girls - my lack of TV knowledge and the fact that I'm not a teenager didn't help there. That would have cleared me up, altho I would still argue that the clue does not define a DEFEATEST. See how I'm not one? I'm not giving up my argument.

And I'm optimistic that tomorrow will be a better day. Here at Tara.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Rhett to give a d***

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