Match Makeup / FRI 7-29-2016 / Doughnutlike / Catacomb component

Friday, July 29, 2016

Constructor: John Guzzetta

Relative difficulty: Took me 8:46, so good for a Friday


Word of the Day: SPY KIDS (20A: 2001 fantasy/adventure film with three sequels )
Gregorio and Ingrid are the two greatest secret agents the world has ever known: masters of disguise, mavens of invention, able to stop wars before they even start. Working for separate countries, they are sent to eliminate their most dangerous enemy...each other. But in an exotic corner of the world when they finally come face to face, they fall in love instead and embark on the most dangerous mission they have ever faced: raising a family. Now nine years later, after their retirement, having exchanged the adventure of espionage for parenthood, Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez are called back in to action. When their former colleagues, the world's most formidable spies, start disappearing one by one, the Cortez's are forced to take on techno-wizard Fegan Floop and his evil, egg-headed sidekick, Minion. But when the unthinkable happens and they too disappear, unfortunately there are only two people in the world who can rescue them...their kids. -- IMDb
• • •

Not today's constructor's fault, but I've been binge-solving a bunch of old New York Sun themelesses by Byron Walden this week and those things pack a punch. Crazy letter combinations everywhere, unexpected Z's and K's and J's all over, wicked cluing. Just kills it. So while this is a competently written themeless, I didn't get the same kick from it.

The two long 15s are good, TEACHABLE MOMENT (17A: Teen's fender bender, maybe) and BIOLOGICAL CLOCK (54A: Concern in family planning). But then there are a lot of dullish longs like INTERSECTS, ANGLOPHONE, COGITATING, STRENGTHS, and ONE PERCENT. Even the better ones seem a little old-fashioned (GRAY MATTER, CHEST HAIR, THE BEE GEES).

The grid itself is rather compartmentalized, so it felt a bit like solving three different crosswords. If not for the T's in THOUGH and NICEST it would've felt extremely compartmentalized. So not great grid flow. Not very Scrabbly, either -- the Q feels cheap because of QAID (52D: Muslim judge of North Africa) and the only other rare letter is an X tucked away in a corner. Buncha K's and H's, though, at least.

Some good stuff among the middle-length entries: QUICHES, INK BLOT, BAUBLES, CHURCHY, SPY KIDS. But overall this didn't amuse me like the best themelesses do. The only time I had one of those "How can this possibly be right? Do I have an error somewhere?" moment was briefly with SP?KI??. Thought "Nothing fits there, I must have an error," but then the penny dropped (see our Word of the Day). 

Grid was very clean, too, as the three worst entries test shows: TORIC, QAID, and maybe BRASI? So not much there to object to.

Wavering between B and B-; let's go with a letter grade of B since it's not the constructor's fault that I stumbled upon this book earlier in the week in a box in my house (we're moving, so lots of boxes around). 


Before I sign off for the evening, here's a note from puzzle friend Mike Selinker about a charity puzzle project he's created. Very successful so far -- over 4,000 puzzle bundles sold!:

This week, my team at Lone Shark Games and Humble Bundle launched a major feel-good puzzle project: the Humble Puzzle Bundle. It’s a collection of puzzle books by Patrick Berry, Francis Heaney, Brendan Emmett Quigley, Patrick Merrell, and many other legendary puzzle makers—and you can get them for whatever you want to pay, even a dollar. My book The Maze of Games (electronic and hardback) is in there too, with an all-new hint book called The Theseus Guide to the Final Maze. A lot of the books are brand new, never seen before. Best of all, a big chunk of your contribution goes to charities like Worldbuilders, the It Gets Better Project, and Child’s Play. We wanted to do something fun and positive for the puzzle community, which has been through a lot this year. So if you’d like to get about a zillion puzzles and contribute money to cool charities, head on over to the Humble Puzzle Bundle. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent of CrossWorld for 2 more days

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:14 AM  

Easy for me. My only erasure was elsA before ANNA.

Did not know ODAY (as clued) or QAID.

What @Matt said, solid Fri., liked it.

AliasZ 1:06 AM  

I had mixed feelings about this puzzle. I found nothing outstanding about it, but nothing ugly either. Super easy in places, but pretty tough in others, especially when I hit snags with proper names or pop culture trivia that I didn't know and were for the most part uninferrable: QAID (Said, Caid, Raid, what do I know?), SPYKIDS (SPYKIsS was my first instinct), O'DAY (not Anita), ANNA (ANNe?), BRASI or BRASo, etc.

First entry: CERN. COGITATING was rumInATING at first, then medITATING. I did like GRAY MATTER, HANGDOG, ANGLOPHONE, as well as the two 15s -- not exceptional, but quite pleasant and agreeable. I also liked BASK, BAUBLES, INKBLOT, MOXIE, and loved the IGLOO built right atop the SHACK.

Loved the clue for STRENGTHS with a minimum possible number of vowels, while THEBEEGEES negated all that with five E's. One could argue that THEBEEGEES is three words, two of which are phonetic letter names, but the contrast was still striking. I liked it.

CHURCHY? I heard preachy, churchy not so much. Would synagoguey or templey or mosquey also work? I don't think so.

Let me finish with The Entry of the GODS into Valhalla from "Das Rheingold", the first of the RING CYCLE of two days ago. The music is quite BRASI, especially towards the end.

TGIF and TCAO! [the conventions are over]

Marty Van B 2:16 AM  

My two pain points were ODAY crossing HANGDOG and QAID crossing NEIL. Theater is not my thing (to quote Shirley McClaine's character in Steel Magnolias, "I don't go the theater because I can sleep at home for free." I once fell asleep on the first row of Chicago on Broadway and that had beautiful women parading around in fish net stalkings) but I had heard of Neil Simon, but I spell him as NEaL thinking QAaT looks like a perfectly probable North African title. As for the other three entries there, though, they were new to me.

I did start out very quick and thought I might have a chance for a personal best time, but that proved to be counting unhatched chickens. I stalled out but was able to find another beachhead to finish it out. And while it might not have been the crunchiest and most whimsical of puzzles, it was still a solid effort that I enjoyed.

Dolgo 3:32 AM  

Boo! Hiss!

Anonymous 4:24 AM  

I thought it was too easy for a Friday. Threw down 1A FOGS and 1D FITS and was off to the races. A very fair puzzle in that anything
unknown was crossed by something reasonable. Case in point was QAID, which I did not know, but QUICHES quickly emerged from
crosses, so I didn't need to know it. But there wasn't the feeling of accomplishment for solving a Friday.


Loren Muse Smith 5:23 AM  

Pretty hard for me, but that's what I want on a themeless. Actually, that's all I ever get on themelesses. Matt – I've been solving Fridays and Saturdays from 2004, and whenever Byron's name is at the top, I brace myself. He usually cleans my cruciverbial clock.

I agree with Matt that this is kinda segmented. I entered at that IGLOO (over SHACK!), finished most of that corner, and then hit a wall.

A couple of biggish problems...

– ridiculous thought of "thick" HAIR for the sign of virility. CHEST HAIR. Hmm. Wonder if this'll change, since lots of guys get rid of it now. And what does back hair represent? Uncoolness, I guess. Hi, hubby.

- for 5D, I immediately went to "spook" for the figure in a dark suit. Then I also squinted to remember if Spock wore dark suits. Don't think so.

I didn't really believe this, but for 2D my first thought was "rich banker" – it fits. "Disgusting pigs" is too long but fits, too.

Liked being shown that "catacomb" and TOMB are eye rhymes. Cool. I could make a joke about this being the bomb, but, well, paralipsis, and all that.

@AliasZ – you speaka my language, man! With STRENGTHS in the grid, THE BEE GEES just screams "look at me, too!" We have stunt puzzles, right? I guess these are stunt words and phrases. How 'bout a stunt sentence…Ellen meets the Bee Gees whenever she's between events.

Thanks, JG. A fine job. I'm off to shave my back now.

Jim Crotteau 6:52 AM  

Or "...between strength events." Ellen is a weight lifter, you see.

- Jim C in Maine

George Barany 6:54 AM  

OMG, I continue to be in awe of those, like our Regent @Matt Gaffney and our vacationing @Rex who can breeze through puzzles such as this one. Granted @John Guzzetta's offering was competing with the Philadelphia stories for my attention, but much of my appreciation was predicated on judicious applications of the "check" and "reveal" functions. TEACHABLE_MOMENT (ending with the same letters that end ... ACCIDENT) and BIOLOGICAL_CLOCK were certainly worth it, though.

The fascinating factoid used to clue 42-Across was particularly timely, since I was also in the midst of listing the STRENGTHS (and weaknesses) of NIH grant proposals that I was asked to review. As a chemist, I was embarrassed at my inability to sniff out the ODORS clue ... au contraire, some of the sulfur-containing compounds of interest to my research laboratory reek so much that we can literally follow our noses to discover their reactions and properties.

I appreciate @AliasZ sharing music from Wagner's "Das Rheingold" to mark not just the diabolically clever GODS clue at 60-Across, but also to harken back to puzzles from earlier this week. Speaking of Wagner, I've finally gotten used to the fact that Lohengrin's bride is no longer the "go to" clue for ELSA, having been pre-empted by the heroine of Disney's "Frozen"--so what a curve it was to find that today's puzzle was looking for ANNA at 33-Across. Also, THE_BEatlES shares numerous letters with the actual answer to 8-Down.

Off-topic, a friend of mine is about to undergo surgery, but first celebrated an important life event which inspired us to remind him what a Lucky Guy he is. Solve the linked-to puzzle, and then join me in wishing him all the best.

Trombone Tom 7:28 AM  

My own feelings about this puzzle mirror those of @GeorgeBarany more than those of @MG. How could I not like and respect those long downs. I won't spell them out, as others have already noted them. I really liked TEACHABLEMOMENT and BIOLOGICALCLOCK, too. Wasn't sure about QAID, but we have all heard of Al Qaida. Got a chuckle from the cluing of GODS.

As a Godfather fan it was nice to see Brasi there, even if it conjured up images of a knife through the hand. Although CERN is often in the science news, I don't recall seeing it in Xwords that much.

Like I said, I found this a little tougher than did @MG and I'd give it a higher rating, at least an A- or B+. Thank you John Guzzetta and Will Shortz.

GeezerJackYale48 7:52 AM  

I'm with George Barany and Trombone Tom: tough enough to be good fun, but didn't take me forever to finish. Maybe a little embarrassed that I only got CERN through the crosses.

NCA President 7:57 AM  

"Took me 8:46, so good for a Friday" <--- Humble Brag Alert

Well, this took me 22:56. But while I was doing it I was scribbling out the final bars to my 4th symphony (a 9 voice fugue), making lasagna, and finding a cure for cancer...hey! (Lasagna takes a while to make, amiright?)

Anyway, that was actually my only nit to the puzzle...MG's humble brag. But I kid...MG, I do like your reviews.

I'm still BASKing in the glow of the DNC's final moments last night. Inspiring stuff.

Hungry Mother 8:03 AM  

Easy Friday, but not easy.

Chaos344 8:05 AM  

Matt nailed it. Good puzzle with a clean grid, but too easy for a Friday. The one or two possible Naticks were easily avoided by the crosses.

Glimmerglass 8:17 AM  

I found the top inscrutable at first, except for the NE 4x4, and ENT was no help in the long cross that might have unlocked the rest of the top. The SE was easier, and the rest of the puzzled solved itself from there. My last entry was MARSHES, as I had been railroaded by the misdirection.

NormC 8:23 AM  

Anyone else here think of CHURCHY LaFemme after filling in 23D? He was a character in the Pogo comic strip by genius Walt Kelly.

Robso 8:26 AM  

I thought this was great, though on the easy side for a Friday. The only clanger for me was QAID.

Sheik Yerbouti 9:18 AM  

9:28 for me -- easy for a Friday. Thought it was surprisingly clean. Long answers weren't super sparkly, but I enjoyed it.

Nancy 9:19 AM  

This started out hard for me, but got easier and easier as I went along. Turns out that the NW was the last section I did. I thought the long answers were colorful and fresh: TEACHABLE MOMENT; BIOLOGICAL CLOCK; GRAY MATTER; CHEST HAIR; ONE PERCENT. Happily I didn't write down WALL STREET instead at 2D -- it would have really loused me up. What did louse me up for a bit was writing ELSA instead of ANNA for the "Frozen" princess. I would have bet every nickel I have that her name was ELSA. So much for my knowledge of Disney princesses.

I'm proud of myself for getting HANGDOG (32D) off just the final G. My two favorite clues were 60A and 45D. Because I am not in the least bit CHURCHY, I always write in IN RE instead of INRI for the letters on a crucifix. So I couldn't for the life of me figure out what SeCKOS were (4D). That was the last answer in. I enjoyed this puzzle and found it perfectly hard enough, thank you.

AskGina 9:36 AM  

@Nancy, opposite for me. The mommy stuff in the NW were gimmes,but I struggled in the SE. And btw how are marshes rail hubs?

QuasiMojo 9:38 AM  

Felt flat. Capable, easy to fill out, albeit methodically, but ultimately no payoff. Or else I'm in a bad mood. Who knows? Did not like "roughhouse?" Shouldn't that be "rough house"? Thanks @alias for the glorious music to start off this Freitag. (you're it!)

Nancy 9:41 AM  

@Matt Gaffney -- All the years I played tennis, I never wore a watch on the court. First of all, it itched in the heat. But mostly, I didn't want to know when my precious time on the court was running out. And I got very cross with anyone on the court with me who would say something like: "Let's go, let's go! We've only got four minutes left." I would say: DON'T TELL ME THAT! I DON'T WANT TO KNOW! TIME STOPS FOR ME WHEN I'M PLAYING TENNIS! And thusly, I say to you, Matt: Don't tell me that you will only be doing the blog for another two days. Leave me to my happy delusion that your time with us will go on forever. Otherwise, I might start weeping two days ahead of time.

Charles Flaster 9:47 AM  

Liked this one. One of my easier Fridays.
No write overs.
Try George's Lucky Guy puzzle. It will not disappoint.
Thanks JG

jberg 9:56 AM  

DNF -- I was sure that the Muslim judge was a QAdi (which, when looked up, turns out to mean just that), rather than a QAID (which, when looked up, is an alternate spelling of CAID, meaning governor.) I actually convinced myself that NEIL Simon was a misdirect, and that there was a Ned L. Simon known to everyone but me.

Of course, if I had figured out the Eponyms clue, my problem would have been solved. Boo-hoo.

I really wanted my miniature hors d'oeuvres to be finCHES.

Z 10:25 AM  

@AskGina - Rail - Always good to know your crossbirds, THOUGH rails don't appear nearly as often as erns, terns, and orioles.

PPP comes in at a low 14/70 for 20%. This is about as little pop culture as we ever see in a NYTX.

I liked the doubled 10s going down, I thought they were plenty interesting. Given yesterday's misdirection was surprised that SCAT didn't get an Ella Fitzgerald clue.

@LMS - I'd need to confirm with the offspring, but I think shaved chests are a bro thing and bros are by definition not virile. Broism is all about not leaving late adolescence.


Mohair Sam 10:26 AM  

Found this one tougher than most, and enjoyed it a darn sight more than Matt Gaffney. It's more fun to pick nits with critics than constructors - what's your problem with COGITATING, Mr. G.? One of the finest words in the language, and an unusual and spritely long down to boot.

I'm weak for any puzzle with a dearth of threes, so there was that. And this one had lots of clever clues and some fine misdirection (loved MARSHES). New word for the day (QAID) was fairly crossed with the delightfully clued GODS. Judging by the ads for that old Steve Carell movie I thought CHEST HAIR was out - it's hard to keep up. Learned STRENGTHS trivia in about the fifth grade, has paid off more than once in crosswords.

Entered HauGhty before HANGDOG because of a competiitve old friend who won most sporting contests he entered and who would remain haughty even in defeat. He would usually proclaim that he was "off" that day, or didn't bring his "A' game. One day after being stomped 6-2, 6-1 in tennis he told his opponent he had not brought his "A" game, to which the winner replied "Nor did I" - the perfect squelch.

oconomowoc 10:28 AM  

Fellow Scrabble players: What would we do without QAID, qadi, qanat, qi and qat to dump the utterly useless u-less Q?

Check out the fifth edition of the Official Scrabble Players' Dictionary for new Q-words (and other gems). QIBLA? QAJAQ??

relicofthe60s 10:33 AM  

I thought it was very easy. Played like a Wednesday. I was only a minute slower than Mr. Gaffney, and my average time for Fridays is almost half an hour. Lots of straightforward clues. I kept putting in answers and expecting them to wrong because of some trickery. Not complaining. It was fun to sail through a Friday for a change.

Wm. C. 10:38 AM  

Rail hub?.

Never heard of a rail bird. Hub meaning place ?!?!!!!

Got marshes through the crosses, all of which I was sure of. But even then, didn't get it 'til I came here.

Also ... Churchy? Ugh!

oldbizmark 10:42 AM  

HANG DOG?! HuhWhat? CERN and QAID are all garbage fill. Otherwise, easy puzzle.

Andrew Heinegg 10:52 AM  

Because rails are marsh birds. The male has quite beautiful blue/green coloring.

Trey 10:55 AM  

Can someone explain how GODS are eponyns of the week? I got the answer but cane here to find out why. Alas, all the mentions are only about what great cluing it is

Andrew Heinegg 10:59 AM  

I liked it. While much of it was easy, I never heard of Qaid, CERN or Audrey Oday and got held up in those areas until the crosses took care of them. A good puzzle should ideally have a word that makes you want to look it up. I never heard of CERN and it's nuclear physics particle 'factory'. Interesting stuff;

GILL I. 11:04 AM  

Damn that ANNA that should have been Elsa and the ONE PERCENT that was actually Wall Street. HAH. Got me good, but at least I put those two in very lightly with my Bic.
I loved this puzzle. Just like yesterday's. After I cleaned up my mess I was pretty much dancing along. I don't do Byron Walden so this was just about right crunchy Friday for me.
COGITATING. My grandmother always threw a new, fun word at me so that I'd learn to not be a heathen buffoon. This was one of those words. She said I needed to do it more often. She also taught me oxymoron.
QAID/QUICHES last to fall. I don't think of QUICHES as miniature because when I make them, they are pretty big.
Good puzzle John Guzzetta.

Hartley70 11:05 AM  

I found this fun and tough. I got my toehold in the SE but I spent a good bit of time before that filling in S wherever possible, always a sign of desperation. Strangely I knew ODAY from the very early days of reality tv singing competitions. I think she succeeded in joining a girl group that was being formed as a prize. Why don't I remember something really useful, like all the elements in the periodic table? It's a mystery to me.

@jberg, if you find a recipe for the little finches as mini appetizers let me know. My daughter had two that became five, and now are nine little treasures in a one bedroom apartment in NYC. They close on a house this week and I hate to think who will fill it. A yummy treat at a housewarming party might be just the ticket. LOL!

I'd hate to see us go all Massachusetts Bay Colony, @Nancy, and prefer John Alden to Myles Standish. I doubt those two were friends after Priscilla made her choice. It would be super to have Matt as a frequent locum when Rex is on the road. Remember, you have an Annabel Monday to look forward to and smooth the transition. Who doesn't like that?!

I'm giving this Friday an A. I thought the long entries were current and conversationally accurate, like chatting with a friend. Okay, maybe I don't use ANGLOPHONE on a regular basis with my besties. I loved that I had to stop and figure out STRENGTHS, like a single nesting doll, and I'm particularly happy that Elsa was ANNA. Let's hear it for the second banana!

Anoa Bob 11:08 AM  

There was some nice stuff in today's offering. BIOLOGICAL CLOCK hit the bowling-in-my-lanes spot as a topic in psychology. A major one is the circadian clock that controls our sleep-wake cycle. It needs constant resetting from sunlight and gets out of whack when we travel east or west by plane and leads to jet lag. Some folks suffer chronic jet lag like problems known as Circadian Rhythm Disorders.

One topic that isn't part of contemporary psychology, other than as a historical footnote, is the Rorschach INK BLOT (54A) test. That and other projective tests never received any empirical validation and fell out of favor by the 1940s. Still fun as a parlor game though.

One thing that hit me right away at FOGS, FITS & SICKOS was all the large number of POCs (plural of convenience), at least 16, in the grid. All those Ss along with the double Es (I AGREE THE BEEGEES & LEE are not the bee's KNEE) give the grid a very low scrabble score feel. Not a rich lode for GRAY MATTER COGITATING.

Hartley70 11:13 AM  

Oh and CERN was a favorite too. I have a physicist friend who spent time there and it has to be one of the most interesting places on earth. Supercollider heaven with bicycle transportation. I believe we have something similar outside Chicago.

KandRFenton 11:13 AM  

Thank you for this. I fought with that clue until the bitter end.

Warren Howie Hughes 11:15 AM  

It seems we're back to SCAT, so LETS ACT and AGREE to HITIT, Maestro!

KandRFenton 11:17 AM  

I'm surprised at those lamenting CERN. Some truly remarkable science being done there. Like science that could turn what we know about the very nature of the world on its head.

Lewis 11:35 AM  

The STRENGTHS of this puzzle were the answers that appealed to me. In addition to the two grid spanners, there's BASKS, ONEPERCENT, BAUBLES, HANGDOG, NOLOOK, COGITATING, and HITIT (two of these on Matt's ugly list, and that's what makes the world go round). The weakness, to me, was just a bit in the cluing -- I would like to see more cleverness in the clues on Friday (though I did like the clue for CEO). I'm also glad FITS wasn't clued as "Honda offerings".

I like INKBLOT crossing NO_LOOK, which describes me, as I've never had to take one of those tests. There are six double E's, a FOGS up, and a WEST east. Overall, it felt quick for Friday, and those appealing answers gave it spark. Thank you John!

Mohair Sam 11:40 AM  

@Trey - Surprised nobody has answered you yet on the GODS question.

Days of the week are named after (eponyms of) Gods, i.e.

Saturday - Saturn
Sunday - Sol - God of the Sun
Monday - Mani (Moon God)

And so on.

Andrew Heinegg 11:45 AM  

I liked it. While much of it was easy, I never heard of Qaid, CERN or Audrey Oday and got held up in those areas until the crosses took care of them. A good puzzle should ideally have a word that makes you want to look it up. I never heard of CERN and it's nuclear physics particle 'factory'. Interesting stuff;

Anonymous 12:02 PM  

@ Wm.C: I'm with you on this one. A hub is a place frequented by a bird? I don't think so. Worst clue of the week so far.

Jim Finder 12:04 PM  

I saw the first SPY KIDS movie 4 times. Needless to say, my family loved it. Enjoyed the sequels too. Catch 'em all!

old timer 12:15 PM  

An impossible unsolvable puzzle or so it seemed to me at first. Wrote in INRI BRASI and IGLOO at once and that was about it (for some reason I thought SETI would be the lab; CERN came later). And had "hets" instead of FOGS. GRAYMATTER was my breakthrough moment. It led to that wonderful TEACHABLE MOMENT that is represented by any kid's first fender-bender. So I'll relate mine: In Westwood (L.A.) I was coming home from my friend's house, and at a nearby intersection, a car was approaching with its right turn signal flashing, I proceeded forward and so did the other car, which had the right of way. Crash! A cop responded to the accident scene, and as he handed me my ticket, told me, "Never trust a turn signal". A story I told each of my kids in turn, and am proud to share with you all.

The rest of the puzzle was easy enough for a Friday, thanks to INTERSECTS and the wonderful DECLAW and the surprising but accurate ANGLOPHONE. I had wanted something like "ex-British" there. I think the only answer that I disliked was BAUBLES. Don't you more often have food on an etagere?

Gotta say CHESTHAIR brought back the unpleasant memory of being a young teenager at the beach, I had tons of hair from shoulders to ankles and felt embarrassed by it. I probably would have been more comfortable in those 1920's style two piece bathing outfits.

I would give this puzzle an A- myself.

Joseph Michael 12:20 PM  

I would give this puzzle an A. It had a lot of MOXIE, great fill -- from TEACHABLE MOMENT to BIOLOGICAL CLOCK -- and clever cluing, such as that for 42A, 19D, 45D, and 55D.

I could have done without CHURCHY, QAID, and CERN, but no one's perfect. Was glad that the losers' looks turned out to be HANGDOG and not "hateful."

Anonymous 12:32 PM  

@anon 12:02 et al

All's fair in late week ? clues. After I got all except the M in MARSHES, I thought it made perfect sense - a hub is any place there might be a gathering anything, and marsh birds = rails.

Tough nut for this non-speed solver. Actually DNF because I forgot to fill in the D in GO_S. Running the alphabet I was pretty sure only the D made a valid word, but I admit I had to come here for the light to go on as to how it fit the clue. Late week cluing again, even without the ?, so how can I carp about that.


GILL I. 12:39 PM  

Wm.C. The way I see it:
Rail = beautiful bird -> stopping at a major hub -> lands in the MARSHES. Or is that too simplistic?

Anonymous 12:55 PM  

And speaking of teachable moments, thanks 'old timer'. Your story is perfectly timed for me.

My oldest will be taking her road test in about 2 weeks, and I am always looking for ways to help her benefit from an experienced driver, so perhaps she can avoid becoming just another teen-driving statistic.

I have told her several times that the key is to keep anticipating what is the worst thing other drivers can possibly do in any situation, and always try to keep your own car under control so you can react quickly to avoid a collision if they do the unexpected.

'Never trust a turn signal' is a practical real world example of the same principal.


kozmikvoid 12:57 PM  

Matt: When does Rex come back? I want to know how much longer we get nice reviews on puzzles that don't necessarily agree with the blogger.

Also, I clicked on your blogger link. You're still at the ICC? I jumped ship from them a while back because of the changes they made to the site. I'm at now (same user name there). It's not as robust as the old World Chess Network, but it's not bad. And the free membership provides enough to keep it interesting.

Teedmn 1:26 PM  

I am still having FITS over yesterday's Honda answer - wondering if the buyers of said vehicles get FITbits as accessories?

While this wasn't my fastest Friday, it was pretty fast, much faster than yesterday's fender-bender. I had fun disCERNing COBS at 6D (tacos came to mind there. Of course, if I didn't assemble mine with three times the filling that they hold, it might not require holding both ends and still getting salsa running down to my elbows). I was proud of getting 32D from just the H, the other end of the HANGDOG from @Nancy. THE BEEGEES earworm I could do without but it could be worse; I might have been cursed with some song from "Frozen" except I don't know any of them.

I laughed when I saw DECLAW at 45D. For some reason, I was imagining someone trying to make their apartment safe from the furniture and when CLAW was revealed, I began to worry that CLAW-foot bathtubs and dining room tables had been found to be dangerous.

Not even ONE PERCENT of this puzzle was SICKOS, thanks, JG.

Anonymous 1:31 PM  

I'm shocked that people think rails are beautiful. They're amazing ( able to compress their body laterally, hence thin as a rail). They're incredible at remaining unseen even within a very few feet of even the best searcher. But I've never heard them described as pretty. In fact, they're actually very drab.
If you want a challenge, skip the Saturday puzzle and come out to a marsh before dawn and try to identify the rail species by voice.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 1:55 PM  

I was away all week, yesterday I had a nice hike on the blue ridge in Virginia and drove 600 miles home -- and I had enough brain left this morning to finish a Friday puzzle. So I'm guessing it must have been a pretty easy Friday puzzle. I have the rest of the week's to do, don't know what order to do them in.

Oh, I did make one mistake. I thought eponyms of the week were maybe GOps. I guess that was last week.Time stands still when your normal schedule is suspended.

Numinous 2:02 PM  

I had to Barney to verify AXEL and Goo-Goo-Googly eye QAID. Other than that, I thought it was fairly good. Jeff Chen gave it a virtual A+, making it the POW. I'm going to assume tomorrow's puzzle will be more pedestrian.

I've never taken a Rorsach test but I have taken other psych tests. One was maybe thirty word definitions; the tester would read a word and I had to define it. For about half the words I'd give a stupid answer that I thought would be a popular misconception then would give the real definition. We laughed together a bit. At the end of that test she told me she'd never known anyone to get them all correct before I had done that. My mother, when I was growing up, had a fascination for words. I guess a bit off that rubbed off on me. My very favorite book ever was the magnifying-glass version of the Oxford English Dictionary (sadly, I lost it in a divorce). I once was looking for the slang meaning of huckleberry. I looked in every slang dictionary in the L.A. Public Library to no avail. I then asked the reference floor librarian for the H volume of the "Real Dictionary" and found several quotations from the 19th century that gave me the definition for the word Brad Pitt used several times playing Doc Holiday in that Wyatt Earp movie.

I got INRI straight off and CERN from the first two letters. I was thinking TEACHABLE lesson before MOMENT became clear. I taught my step kids how to drive and the blinker warning was one that I stressed. Now, my stepdaughter RAILs at anyone who doesn't use their blinker, hating anyone who untrustably turns or changes lanes without one.

Anonymous 2:29 PM  

I think it was Val Kilmer......
I know I was wrong about the etymology of thin as a rail. Sorry. I stand by the rest, if it matters.

Masked and Anonymous 3:21 PM  

Well, shoot -- I didn't see much wrong with it. But, themeless puzs aint't prexactly my speciality.

Actually, I saw them long, pretty, single grid-spanners goin Across, and got major excited … themers on a FriPuz?!
Like the poets are sometimes sayin … hope springs eternal, in the M&A boob. But, alas, poor U-hick … no dice.

I mean, prithee think about it … what would U think, if U had just read thru a newspaper article, and it had no theme at all to it: just random babblin, albeit with some fancy big words occasionally. Oh, wait -- sounds kinda like an M&A Comment Gallery postin ...

fave weeject of the moment: HAH. (har var.)
fave bullet-worthy stuffins:

* QAID. Charity concert for the dude who used to furnish James Bond with fancy spy gear and loaded Aston-Martinmobiles and such.
* SCAT POOH. Well, there's yer rOdeO ring, A- puzfans.
* HANGDOG. Just visited one of them out in the country this mornin, whose master had left her to take a longer-than-expected road trip. Kept comin up to me, whinin and assumin the belly rub position. She got bacon and a belly rub, and was pretty doggone grateful, in the tailwag dept. Ergo ... better clue for HANGDOG = {Opposite of tailwag??}. [See also: CHESTHAIRDOG.]
* SPYKIDS. This is actually a movie with four installments? Mucho confusin. 'CERNS the M&A.
* BRA SI. Falsies aqui.
* HGTV. Channel that shows "The Time Machine" and "War of the Worlds" over and over and …

High-ish themeless grade of the day reaction: THEBEEGEEZ.
… and a thanx-U to Mr. Guzzetta.

Masked & Anonymo3Us

Aketi 3:40 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aketi 3:45 PM  

Haha, the FOGS floating around in my GRAY MATTER sometimes make COGITATING a challenge.

My son has not yet had a TEACHABLE MOMENT when it comes to driving, but I made sure that even if it happens, I am not the one providing the education. He is taking driving lessons from a professional so that he is spared the experiences my sister and I had when our Mom taught us to drive with a wine glass in one hand with the other hand gripping the dashboard braced for the impact of the crash she was sure we were going to cause. My son is better off learning from others because I might morph into my Mom.

Of course my favorite clue was for KNEE. I just had my own TEACHABLE moment when I tried the block an axe kick with my KNEE.

Looks like I am the only one that found BIOLOGICAL CLOCK dated. With reprioductive technology it no longer seems like agr is nearly as much of a barrier to family planning, I have worked with more than a few mothers over the age of fifty and one who was just a birthday away from 60.

Sigh, autocorrect just got way too crazy with the word "block" to the point that I'm sure my pot would have been censored had I not deleted it myself.

Aketi 3:53 PM  

Oh dear, I fixed one auto correct only to have the iPad turn post into pot. I promise I did not smoke any today.

Nancy 3:57 PM  

@old timer (12:15) and others -- My father told me, when he was trying to get me ready for my Driver's License road test: "Don't look at the turn signal, Nancy. Look at the other car's wheels." With a father like that -- patient, caring, smart -- you'd think I would have become a terrific driver. Or at least become a driver. You'd be wrong. I was terrible. I knew I was terrible. So imagine my surprise when Dad said to me: "Set up a road test when you're back from college on spring break. I think you're ready." I couldn't imagine why he thought so. Then the DMV messed up and scheduled me for a test after I returned to college. My Learner's Permit (my third) expired soon after. My father got sick and died the summer I turned 25. My mother sold the car which Dad had used for work. And I lived in NYC -- where I didn't have to drive and frankly was extremely relieved that I didn't have to.

Maybe as much as 15 years later, my mother and I drove (she drove; she was a very good driver; Dad had taught her) to visit my brother, who was living either in Bethesda, MD or Simsbury CT, I forget which. On the drive home, Mom said: "Your father would be so pleased. Jimmy has become such a good driver. Your father always said he would be, once he stopped thinking he knew everything." She continued: "And then he said: 'Nancy, however, is hopeless.'"

I was actually touched by this discovery. Dad had been SO encouraging, SO supportive. There was nothing in his tone or demeanor that gave the slightest indication that he didn't think I was destined to become one of the best drivers on the road. He went to his grave without letting me know what he really thought. I sometimes wonder whether, had he lived, I would have become a good driver. Or at least a driver. And then I look at my former timidity in trying to get on a busy highway; my less-than-excellent peripheral vision; the tendency for my neck to seize up because I was hunched so tensely over the wheel; and I think not bloody likely.

But the watch-the-wheels advice was great, and I offer it gratis to all young people with a Driver's License in their future.

Masked and Anonymous 4:22 PM  

@Aketi: har. Doncha just hate it, when yer pot gets censored? M&A is absolutely convinced, that the software for The Blorg and for auto-correct are written by the same guy that brought us digital TV reception. And I didn't even think Donald Trump *knew* enough to tell Russian hackers how to build that kinda nonsense …
… But, I digrouse …

Almost forgot to praise that 225th non-S SE-corner grid letter (T). (yo, @Anoa dude) So … themelessthUmbsUp.

And … Wednesday = Wendy (goddess of the snoutburger) (yo, @Mohair Sam)

"Republicans Are Just Pollin' Our Leg, Right?"

Aketi 4:46 PM  

@ Nancy, if your Dad had taught me to drive perhaps I might have been capable of teaching my own son to drive. Sounds like your Dad and my Mom were on opposite ends of the spectrum. Her vision of the fate of our car with me behind the steering wheel was darker than Trump's vision of the fate of America with Hillary at the helm.

@ Hartley70, haha, between the DECLAWIng in the puzzle and your fiNCH-eating fantasies I'm surprised PETA hasn't staged a protest. I now have an ear worm of "four and twenty blackbirds baked in a PIE" infiltrating my GRAY MATTER only its finches baked into mini QUICHEs.

OISK 4:48 PM  

I actually took my first photograph of a clapper rail just last week! (Marine Park, Brooklyn). Thought this was a suitable Friday, that happily avoided product and hip=hop clues. ( The latter seem to come and go in waves. The current pop-rock ebb tide has been pleasant for me) I really got stuck on QAI_ and GO_S.

I almost wrote "GOPS" for eponyms of the week. But that was LAST week. And that is an acronym, not an eponym. And QAIP just did not look possible. So I went though all the letters, Gods, how does that fit...forehead smack!

I think this just about right for a Friday. B+

Tim Pierce 6:51 PM  

This one was very odd for me -- it felt like overall on the easier side of a Friday, except for two wrong answers that locked me up hard: "Elsa" for ANNA, and "crunchy" for CHURCHY. I had to look up the other "Frozen" princess to unblock myself, and then the rest of the puzzle fell into place.

old timer 7:12 PM  

My second daughter was the first to drive, pretty much on her 16th birthday. Her older sister learned under circumstances that have never been revealed, but definitely waited until the summer after her first year in college to get a license. So my fondest Dad memory is with daughter #2. All those hours in the empty parking lot of our local government center, teaching her how to park exactly between the lines, and, later, showing her how to merge onto the freeway. Anyone born in Southern California knows how to do that: speed to 55 mph on the onramp and merge like you have a right to do that.

My other piece of advice: Never assume that a car is going to actually stop at a stoplight. San Francisco drivers are famous for running red lights, but our suburbs aren't a whole lot better. When the light changes to green for you, count "One Potato, Two Potato" before going.

Nancy 8:02 PM  

As an NYC pedestrian, I always wait a second or two to cross after the light changes to green. It's not the cars I'm so worried about -- though it certainly pays to be extra careful. It's the $%#$@#*# bikes that ignore lights completely. Or come up behind you on the sidewalk. Or go in the wrong direction, against traffic. (There's even a word for this horror: they call it "salmoning"). New York City car drivers aren't too bad a lot when they're going straight. It's when they're making a turn that the pedestrian may be in danger. But the bikes. Oh, God the bikes. I've been known to yell out at some of the worst offenders: "Jail's too good for you." Even worse, I've meant it.

GILL I. 9:41 PM  

@Nancy....Don't go to San Francisco unless you're there for the "In-The-Buff-Bicyclists" convention. A nice arse looking convention. They also have the "Fatalist" that will aim for you as you cross the street to go shopping on Union Square...;-)

Rob 10:17 PM  

All right puzzle, but I am real skeptical about some of the cluing, particularly for SPY KIDS. Since when is that "fantasy"? To me fantasy means orcs or elves or magic or dragons or some such. This stretches the definition so far as to be nearly meaningless.

Incidentally, I wrote this on a phone and then had to come upstairs to post it from a computer. I used to think this was a function of comment moderation, or at least hard to test for the same reason, but now that moderation is turned off, it appears that phone comments, at least on iOS Safari and with Name/URL selected, do not attempt to post at all.

Z 10:52 PM  

@Rob - @George Barany and @M&A have had issues as well. I wonder if the Name/URL function has gone wonky.

Leapfinger 1:43 AM  

So does the payee BASK in a ONE PERCENT RoR? That would be a ritzy AMOUNT for some, bien sur.

Had a good time wrestling this one to the ground, with so much goodness to dig up, as noted by MG and many others throughout the day. I think it was the Wagner that steered me toward music, and what I ended up liking best was being reminded of childhood songs: Von LuCERN BIS Weggis zu (as I knew it). I can still approximate a pretty fair Swiss yodel -- Hol dee ree dee ah dee ho, hol dee ree ah dee ho(really!) -- but you won't catch me milking no goats no more.

From another time, another song: TOMB BAUBLE Laika

Liked it a lot, John Guzzetta, gentil John Guzzetta. Thought it had a lot of MOXIE.

Trey 9:31 AM  

Thanks. All I knew of was Saturday

Anonymous 1:13 PM  

If the Occupy Movement settles into a corner of your neighborhood is that a RAIL HUB ? Do they participate in MARcHES? My DNF says so and pairs quite nicely with CHEcK HAIR. Ugh.

kitshef 11:20 PM  

With the system the Times has in place, there is no place for a puzzle like this -- a super-easy themeless.

Which is a shame, because I loved it. Tuesday-ish for difficulty, but with some great words (BAUBLES, STRENGTHS, ANGLOPHONE, GRAYMATTER) and great clues (for MARSHES, DECLAW, STRENGTHS again).

kitshef 11:23 PM  

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are named for Norse gods (Tyr, Woden, Thor, Frigg).

spacecraft 11:24 AM  

@Wm.C.: You've already been enlightened that rails are birds, but the expression "never heard of a rail bird" calls to mind one of my favorite pastimes: the hold'em poker tournament. When one is "felted," i.e. busted out (as in, there's nothing on the table in front of him except the felt cloth), he is "sent to the rail," a barrier marking the border of the playing area against which spectators lean to watch the action, and becomes a "railbird."

Now then. Today's offering played on the easy side for me; call it easy-medium for a Friday. How hard can a puzzle be when you're handed all these gimmes: THEBEEGEES, ONEPERCENT, CERN, STRENGTHS, IGLOO. Most of the other longer entries showed themselves after only a few crossed letters: "Deep in thought" with the _OGI... start can only be COGITATING, and like that. A couple needed nearly every cross; I never had QUICHES as hors d'ouuvres, but QAID came to my rescue--as it does numerous times in my Scrabble games.

I don't quite get the connection between "Eponyms of the week?" and GODS. Doesn't really matter; crosses filled it. Still, someone called it a clever clue...just over my head, I guess. Oh wait...? The days of the week are named after--wow, HAH! Clever it is!

My immediate reaction is to delete the previous paragraph, but I think it's fun to actually SEE the light go on. I hope so. For the DOD, I didn't know Aubrey O'DAY, so I Googled her (after finishing the puzz, natch). Hubba hubba! She wins, no contest!

Some good cluing; the NICEST is "Driver of a bus." including the period to make it fair. To make the clue for 59-across fair, there really ought to be a space between "Rough" and "house." The clue for WEST is cute; on any other day Miss Mae might be the damsel. Hardly anything at all to detract; even the consonant string HGTV is a real thing. So, pounding my CHESTHAIR (both of them!), I declare an eagle.

spacecraft 11:26 AM  

Note: I submitted this before @Kitschef's last entry.

Burma Shave 11:55 AM  


ATALL about how SICKOS chatter
re: the hue of ONEPERCENT of my CHESTHAIR?


BS2 1:01 PM  


THOUGH ANNA RAVES about it, you SEE,
it’s one of my STRENGTHS, LETS all AGREE,
ANNA EMOTEs and BASKS in the fact
if I HITIT when ANNA SETS on my KNEE.


rain forest 2:52 PM  

Easy-medium here, as well, but an entertaining one. It doesn't bother me whether a Friday/Saturday is easy or challenging, as long as it is fun to solve, as this one was.

I liked the grid-spanners (I didn't find them meh, at all) and the longer downs. For a moment, re ANGLOPHONE, I was wondering if there was a word which referred to places starting with 'B'. But I learned something there. Also I was really hoping that the etagere display would be 'bibelots', but of course it didn't fit.

To me, 'railbird' is a horse track reference, as in the guys who hang around the rail to watch their horse lose. Maybe it is a poker tournament term, @Spacey, but I didn't know it that way.

One wonders why we even have turn signals if everyone is taught to disbelieve them. Others have mentioned the misuse of these devices, but my biggest peeve is with drivers who approach an intersection in the left lane, stop, and only then signal a left turn, leaving a line of incensed motorists behind them to consider road rage a reasonable action. Gaah!

I've enjoyed Matt's stint as the Regent, except for the F grade earlier this week, but even there he explained clearly, if incorrectly, why the puzzle merited the F. So, we get Annabel on Monday, and then it's back to the relentless doom and gloom. In the meantime, everyone have a great weekend.

rondo 3:07 PM  

I worked this puz from all around the outside to the middle, in large part from trying again for a little speed and didn’t read the full clue for the musical group, and having enough letters to fill in THEBanGlES, and THOUGHt about yeah baby Susannah Hoff. If I’d’ve read the entire clue, no way to miss THEBEEGEES. That’s what I get for a NOLOOK fill. I’ll consider that a self-TEACHABLEMOMENT.

@spacey has it right, I AGREE yeah baby Aubrey ODAY is the NICEST in this puz. Like to do some COGITATING with her, especially if it could lead to AMOUNT.

Can you find Pokemonsters with an ANGLOPHONE?

Only M & A mentioned SCAT and POOH together.

In the SE is it Taylor Swift that is ANTI WEST? Dwelling in the SW is an IGLOO SHACK.

Made a couple of BAUBLES that gave me FITS, but had the MOXIE to finish THOUGH.

Diana,LIW 7:25 PM  

Had to Google a couple of PPP woes to get a real foothold, but then the solve was smooth. DECLAW made me sad. We have a cat who, when he was a kitten, ate a sofa. Discovered a hole in a pillow and started pulling out the stuffing. Then discovered he could do the same with the sofa. Came downstairs to "clouds" on the floor every morning. Eventually, it was all over. They were old anyway.

Enjoyed the driving stories. I learned to drive in my mom's 1963 Chevy Impala. Practice parked over and over. Then, day of my test, I had to parallel park between cones. Cones. Whenever do you park between cones? I don't, and I didn't that day. So had a dnf. Mom created a cone-like device, and I learned to park between things instead of cars. When I lived in NYC, I could park in an envelope.

Yeah - I just loved the guy with his turn signal on and cell to his ear who drove past me without turning yesterday. And, yes, I wanted to mow down the bicyclist who blew through a red light at probably 20 mph - "same road, same rules!"

Exciting news for those of you who follow my culinary life. I finally saw a casaba melon in the wild.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting to try new melons

rondo 8:12 PM  

@D,LIW - Me too,casabas or not.

Diana,LIW 10:00 PM  


There is a book of humor, post Second City TV but pre SNL, of humor by women. It's called "Titters." It would appreciate your comment.


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