Simba sobriquet / SAT 7-16-16 / Trendy pseudocereal / Zipcar alternative / 2005-07 sitcom about Gold family / Ninth-century pope who was married with daughter / 1983 hit for Rufus Chaka Khan / Ingredient in Baltimore bracer / Auto option patented by 3M / Wake up on bright side sloganeer / School for Rory Gilmore / Slavering toon

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Constructor: Byron Walden

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: ADRIAN II (2D: Ninth-century pope who was married with a daughter) —
Pope Adrian II (Latin: Adrianus PP. II, Italian: Adriano II; 792 – 14 December 872) was Pope from 14 December 867 to his death in 872. He was a member of a noble Roman family who became pope at an advanced age. [...] Like his predecessor Nicholas I, Adrian was forced to submit in temporal affairs to the interference of the emperor Louis II, who placed him under the surveillance of Arsenius, bishop of Orte, his confidential adviser, and Arsenius' nephew Anastasius, the librarian. // Adrian had in his youth married a woman named Stephania, by whom he had a daughter, and both were still living at his election, following which they lived with him in the Lateran Palace. They were carried off and assassinated by Anastasius' brother Eleutherius in 868.  // Adrian died in 872 after exactly five years as pope. (wikipedia)
• • •

Oh my goodness I love this puzzle so much. So much. Yes, ADRIAN II is about as random as Pope + Roman numerals get, and a "Swan Lake" heroine crossing a French pronoun is both non-scintillating and potentially lethal, but but But ... everything else. I enjoyed the heck out of this, and even stopped at about the 1/4 point to tweet about how much I loved it. The great clue on YOGA MATS (1D: Balance sheets?), the hard-to-parse but ultimately satisfying EEG TESTS (4D: A migraine sufferer might have one), and then the ultimate quadrant closer—I got to ride off on a wave of Chaka Khan and Rufus. It was as if, as I left that section behind, I flipped a light in the roller rink, and the soundtrack to my own personal roller-skating movie started, and off I went.


And the hits just kept coming. So fun to struggle with and then figure out stuff like U.S. PASSPORT (5A: Item that became trilingual in the late '90s) and TV WIFE (28A: Cast mate?). Even the short stuff was made interesting by sly or toughish clues. Even though the puzzle played on the easy side fore me, there was at least some resistance and some entertainment value virtually everywhere I turned. And, with a few exceptions, all the fill familiar, reasonable, and not forced / arcane / stupid. I don't really know what "The WAR AT HOME" is, but the name is at least familiar (29D: 2005-07 sitcom about the Gold family, with "The"). I definitely don't know SATURNISM (45A: Medical term for lead poisoning)—that second "S" was my last letter in, and without the cross I'd probably have guessed SATURNIUM—but its parts were inferrable or gettable from crosses. ART SALON is the one answer that *does* seem archaic, but those were definitely things back in the day (RENOIR's day, for instance), so I have no problem there (34D: Exhibition locale). A smooth, cheery experience, all around. Which I needed, as the news this week has been a &%$* show.


I had a couple of weird missteps. I wanted ACE before AXE (24D: Kill), and, improbably but oddly confidently, TIVO before TINT (27A: Auto option patented by 3M). I justified that last one by reading "Auto" as meaning "automatic," as in "you can set TIVO to automatically record your favorite programs." I was looking for some kind of brand name at 39D: Zipcar alternative (RENTAL), so that wasn't easy, but the surrounding material sure was. With a little more bite, this would've been an ideal themeless puzzle for me. As it is, it's pretty darned close.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. please note the YO next to ADRIAN


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

66 comments:

jae 12:05 AM  

Easy- medium for me too. Zipped through the West side with Episode before EEGTEST as my only erasure. The East side was a tad tougher, I had tImE before LIFE, did not know @Rex WAR AT HOME or SATURNISM, and it took a while to sort out US PASSPORT and TEAM LEADER. I did know ODETTE from previous Xwords, which helped.

Solid Sat. Liked it a lot....or what Rex said.

GILL I. 12:22 AM  

Well....I'm happy for you @Rex and all the other Dan Feyer's of puzzle world, because I thought (as of (9:06 p.m.) this was just plain evil. I like a fighting chance; I expect a Saturday to be difficult and the cluing to be fiendish, but damn if I'm supposed to put on new gloves after six rounds and figure out who Rufus and Chaka Khan were a hit of, or a kid who says the nicest thing about rain stopping, or a trendy pseudocereal, and who the hell RICO enforcers are. I wanted BLOW to fit in somehow at 33D but that might have been too easy.
I'm exceedingly proud that I got ODETTE and maybe tomorrow I'll "Wake Up on the Bright Side" and figure out what the hell HC(O)NH2 is. Maybe, just maybe, I'll get a few more.

George Barany 12:35 AM  

@Byron Walden is one of the best themeless constructors plying the cruciverbal arts these days [although did you see his brilliantly crazy themed AVCX puzzle about a week ago?!], and @Rex gushes about how enjoyable and easy today's offering was. Well, I appreciate links to two songs I had never heard of, but beg to differ on the "easy" part.

This puzzle seems to have a medical slant with SLEEP_APNEA, EEG_TEST, and SATURNISM (might have thought it would be related to stannum?). MARIO_CUOMO became a three-term Governor after I had already left the great state of New York; he passed away a year and a half ago, on the eve of his son Andrew's inauguration to a second term in that office. The Julie Taymor "LION_KING" debuted in Minneapolis, when my kids were still in grade school, ahead of its Broadway premiere.

Still on a high from yesterday's CHEMIST extravaganza, so how nice to see AMIDE today with a structurally correct clue (so there could be no confusion vs. IMIDE, say). Early in my teaching career, I told my class "I'm going to throw up a structure [on the chalkboard]" but they were laughing so hard after the word "up" that they never heard "structure." Also, I had these very large demo molecular models and showed the students how to convert between chair and boat conformations of cyclohexane. I continued, "... would like to show you more, but I don't have enough balls."

Finally, today's FITB at 33-Across, "No ___!" was a personal gimme, telegraphing my crossword friend/collaborator @Martin Ashwood-Smith.

Larry Gilstrap 2:02 AM  

I have been doing two puzzles per day to become a refugee from Syndiland, finish the current puzzle the night before, and get a comment into Rexland early so someone might read it. TGIF is not the best preparation for solving a Saturday. My previous M.O. was hit the library. copy the puzzle from the San Diego U-T, and have a leisurely solve over afternoon ice tea. So now as an evening solver, hand up for having finished this puzzle in a state of impairment. It was an experiment. Like running a 10k with a brick in your pants. Living much of the time near the Coachella Valley, LA QUINTA is a town not a motel. I am a birder and have actually seen a NENE. Desert people love the Say's PHOEBE from a recent puzzle, recent to me, remember my schedule. Bird, four letters, we are usually off to Hawaii.

Dr. Bunger 2:08 AM  

A nasty squall tore our main mast to shreds, so we had to lay in for repairs at sleePAPNEA a lovely tropical clime with generous and willing Polynesians. Ill wind, indeed...

bg 2:15 AM  

Not as enamored with this Sat as Mr. P. Got the S Hemisphere thru sheer persistence, the Northern half purely out of stubbornness.
Zipcar is a rental too, if we're getting picky. I know neither Rufus nor Chaka but I can detect a good lyric. It WAS cleverly clued. I know not Saturnism but I do have sleep apnea. No migraines, thank god.

Max 3:31 AM  

First clue I got was the Chaka but I put Sweet Thing and then had to fix!

Martín Abresch 4:20 AM  

Yes! Did it!

Sometimes a puzzle seems impossible, yet you make some educated guesses, play around with the words, and slowly make your way through the grid. I nearly gave up at several points, so it was extra satisfying to complete the grid. Only took me 78 minutes.

The proper names in this grid completely missed me, and the scientific terms were complete ciphers. That left me with a great many words to piece together, bit by bit.

But piece them together I did, and what kept me going were all the marvelous clues. I puzzled over US_PASSPORT (Item that became trilingual in the late '90s) and TINT (Auto option patented by 3M). I wanted ASPIRIN for EEG_TEST (A migraine sufferer might have one), and STRIKE_OUT for MAKE_A_SALE (Pitch successfully). I loved the wordplay in YOGA_MATS (Balance sheets?), FOLIAGE (Leaves out in the open?), and METEOR (Shower component). The clue for NENE is my favorite clue yet for that crosswordese staple (Bird with a resonant "ha-wah" call). The EEYORE quotation was perfect ("The nicest thing about the rain is that it always stops. Eventually"), and RENOIR's clue had such a nice misdirection ("Claude Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil," e.g.).

Last thing, now that I'm done and looking over the grid, all I can say is that I am mightily impressed. So many long words yet hardly any fat. PAROLE_VIOLATION crosses eight 10-letter words. The NW and SE stacks are crossed by other stacks. Beautiful work.

Jennifer Freeman 5:08 AM  

Like @Rex, I enjoyed this puzzle but can't believe he liked eegtest. No one says I'm scheduling you for an eeg test or I just had an eeg test, do they?

Felt like @Gil until I guessed on Boca and the flood gates opened in the lower forty eight. That part was fun. Wanted moving violations which stalled my move into the North. Should have noticed the lack of a "?".

Trombone Tom 7:06 AM  

This one from Byron Walden was more difficult for me, what with an unknown Rufus/Chaka Khan hit and a never-heard-of word for lead poisoning. I kept on slogging my way along and the crosses saved me in the end.

I, too, noted the YO ADRIAN(II) up there in the corner. Among all the Srtas and Srs, I haven't seen that many SIG's. Liked the clue for FOLIAGE very much. And pool cover was a clever misdirection.

Anonymous 7:29 AM  

When Rex started with "Oh my goodness I love this puzzle so much. So much." I was thinking, either this is a substitute blogger, or Rex will eventually say "Just kidding!" So out of character!

tb 8:42 AM  

Wow. I really disagree with Rex about this one. Yes, there were some lovely aspects, but c'mon. EEGTEST? Isn't it just an EEG? I've never heard of an ARTSALON. I forgot NENE. SE corner was a disaster for me. I originally had NYQUILPM for LAQUINTA.

Oh well.

NCA President 8:50 AM  

I actually keep coming to Rex's blog hoping that one day I'll understand what makes one puzzle terrible and another puzzle lovable. I'm quite sure, that if string theory holds true, there is an alternate universe where Rex hates this puzzle but loves all the others. Sometimes I think I know what he'll say and I'm close (usually it's when I think he'll hate it, which is a good bet anyway), but almost 99% of the time, when he praises a puzzle, I have no real idea why. One day, maybe I'll really understand the difference.

My solving experience today was just the typical Saturday stuff. I had to Google twice (Lead poisoning seems to be more commonly called "Plumbism," come to find out) and I finished under my "average time."

I didn't like FIXERS or SATURNISM. The former because the clue was gratuitously oblique, and I've already mentioned the latter.

There are puzzles I like. This was not one of them. It's nothing personal, I don't like Sondheim...that doesn't mean his work isn't any good. It just isn't my cuppa. And maybe that's the deal with Rex's blog...I suspect...that he doesn't necessarily try to present an objective standard for puzzles as much as he tries to objectively defend the reasons for his subjective opinions about the puzzles. I could go on and on about Sondheim's Into The Woods...lots of people like it...and I'm sure my reasoning for hating it (with a deep and utter passion) would seem just as randomly defended as why I like Mahler. Why do I like Mahler and hate Sondheim? Personal preferences that really can't be adequately captured in words. I'm glad Rex tries...one day maybe I'll understand.

This puzzle would compare to how I feel about Bartok. On a different day I might like it...but, like Bartok, I only like puzzles like this in very small doses.

Anonymous 9:28 AM  

Rex, I don't know how you rail against puzzles that alienate newcomers and don't call this one out for the same. Terrible, just terrible.

Carola 9:38 AM  

My rating is "challenging-medium," as it was very hard for me to get a start. In the top tier, GROG, ODETTE, and RENOIR, didn't give me enough to work with, but lucky lower-tier guesses at QUINOA, BOCA, and MOP opened the SE, from which METEOR took me to FOLIAGE, from which I was able to branch out into the other quadrants.

I smiled at ODIE as an almost-echo of ODETTE's nemesis Odile.

Do-over: "sou" before FIG. Agree with @Jennifer Freeman about EEG TEST.

Nancy 10:00 AM  

Easy-Medium????? Oh, c'mon, Rex! I'm with @GILL and @Martin A. I struggled. I suffered. And I allowed myself one dead wood cheat. Without it, I wouldn't have finished. I had the misspelled CLEMaNT I at 2D, giving me UCLA at 1A, and I had to cheat to find ADRIAN II. I was sure it wouldn't help, as I was stymied everywhere else, also. I know the exact moment that I broke the puzzle enough that I thought I might solve it. It was with WINGMAN at 37D, which I got off the belatedly seen WART.

Why did it take me half the morning to remember MARIO CUOMO? I live in NY, for heaven's sake. Let's name it for what it is: Senioritis. There were temptations to cheat everywhere: on AIN'T NOBODY; on MARIA ELENA; on WAR AT HOME; on what in hell a zipcar is -- none of which were remotely in my wheelhouse. But I didn't...and was rewarded with a finish anyway.

Some wonderful cluing: TV WIFE; FOLIAGE; BATHING CAP; MANICURE. A very tough, very rewarding puzzle.

Anonymous 10:08 AM  

Sorry, but if you haven't watched Gilmore Girls, and you aren't familiar with Chaka Khan's body of work, and you rightly don't think "EEG test" is a thing (you get an EEG, not an EEG test), then this is a bit of a nightmare. I haven't heard of "amide" so I put in "amino" and that made "make a sale" nigh impossible to get, as I thought that phrase would end in "to."

AskGina 10:12 AM  

He's happy! Wow. That's what it looks like. Cool.

Teedmn 10:16 AM  

The classic difficult Saturday that I love - except I caved in the NW and Googled the Rufus/Chaka Khan song. I had _ _N_NOBOnY due to AMInE at 8D and I was going nowhere. Even with GROG in at 17A, I couldn't see YOGA; but that Google was the right one to do since that unblocked that area like dynamite to a logjam and I finished.

29D provided a bit of comic relief - I had _ _ RATHOME. Having never heard of the sitcom, and with a family name of Gold, I thought it might be The kARAT HOME.

Nice puzzle, BW.

Mary Perry 10:31 AM  

Glad you like this one @Rex!!!! I liked it too. I had STOPACTION until I knew I needed BOCA. I could not solve for FIG but thought FIXERS TVWIFE and FOLIAGE looked good. Still can't "fig"ure out FIG though. Enjoyable!

Mohair Sam 10:41 AM  

What @Martin Abresch said, nearly point for point.

That wonderful puzzle experience when you go through, never really have a toe hold, take a guess or two, try a cross, and then suddenly get something that works - and bit by bit . . . . . .

We got in guessing FEDS for RICO enforcers then "aha"ing FOLIAGE when we didn't give a FIG. And built slowly from there. Guessed PAROLEVIOLATION off the IO (I know you're impressed). Then it was "Hmmmm, ten letter song lady from before my time with lots of vowels, who could that be?" Really opened things up.

Lost a ton of time with Time for LIFE at 23D, I mean a ton of time - we were asking questions like "What does TATIN mean in Spanish?". Wanted Ferrous something for SATURNISM too.

Any body else think about how many politicos are handing down their titles while they went through the father/son gov litany? Royalty lives in the USA. Why the hell did we bother with the Revolution?

Terrific Saturday challenge Byron Walden, thank you. And clever move on your part to find out Rex's favorite childhood tune and build a puzzle around it.

John V 11:01 AM  

Not easy, save for the SW.

Mr. Benson 11:06 AM  

I finished in the Easy-Medium time range, but I needed a lot of lucky guesses to get there, at least in the top half. Bottom half filled in much more smoothly (the SW, in particular, went down with hardly any thought). Part of my problem up top, I think, was LIONKING, which seemed so obvious I didn't really trust it, so I didn't rely on it for crosses right away.

mac 11:06 AM  

I took my time with this one, to savor every delicious clue and wordplay. What a delight!
One of the best this year.

The one and only Dutch pope was also called Adrian(us). He did not last long.

Sheryl 11:07 AM  

I've only finished a Saturday puzzle once (and afterwards, came here to a chorus of "too easy"). Most of the time, I'm too intimidated to even try, and just look at the answers.

I'd very much appreciate some solving tips for Friday and Saturday puzzles from the experienced solvers here. How do you get started on these puzzles? Do you have an approach that works for you?

I'm able to finish the puzzle most of the time on every other day, but Friday and Saturday feels impossible. Any tips would be much appreciated.

lg 11:20 AM  

Difficult. I don't see the difference sometimes between a really great puzzle and a terrible puzzle, as per the eyes of Mr. Rex. I can't figure out what made him love this one and hate yesterday's.

MARIAELENA, ADRIANII, AINTNOBODY, ingredients in a Baltimore Bracer, SATURNISM...all irrelevant, non-current tripe that normally Rex would loathe. So why today the change of heart? I just want to find out the markings of a great puzzle versus a piece of junk.

The bottom half was easy-medium, the top half was difficult.

Thor 11:42 AM  

This puzzle was not fun for me. Never watched Gilmore Girls. Never listened to Chaka Khan. Was born three decades after MARIA ELENA. An EEG is a test -- EEGTEST is a tautology.

Just a slog for me, top to bottom.

Laurence Katz 11:43 AM  

Know how you feel. Keep trying and eventually you'll make progress until one day you'll finish a Friday or Saturday and you'll be amazed with yourself. This can take several years, so keep plugging.

Chaos344 11:48 AM  

Absolutely marvelous puzzle. To my mind, this has to be one of the top three Saturdays of the YTD. After making an initial quick perusal, I almost opted out of attempting the solve. There just seemed to be so much I didn't know! It took me over 5 minutes to fill in a half dozen words, and I wasn't even close to sure about them! Finally got a toe hold in the NE at MARIAELENA off SLAY and PAL.

After that, I wandered around aimlessly for another five minutes, reading clues randomly and shaking my head. Then I realized that the clue for 54A read Polysomnogram rather than Polysonogram. With the S off CHASMS, I threw in SLEEP, followed quickly by APNEA off the P in SATUP.

The rest of the puzzle followed a similar pattern. Although I was always in the outhouse as opposed to the wheelhouse, I got extremely lucky with my WAGS. When I finally managed to break into a quadrant, it fell fairly easily. I knew ODIE but guessed at GROG. Guessed at ADRIAN off the DR, then saw YOGAMATS off the OG. That gave me YALE, and so on.

The clock was starting to look like I might be able to finish with an average Saturday time? That's when I came to, what for me, was the mother of all Naticks. Memories of the KIDORY/KABUL/BADU debacle raced through my mind. Was I about to experience my fourth true DNF of the year?

There they were, staring me right in the face! Four contiguous blank squares at 42D, 43D, 41A, and 45A. I had no idea about the answer to any one of those clues! WTF is 42D? I don't eat "trendy" cereal. My breakfast consists of 6 eggs over easy, 4 pieces of heavily buttered toast, and 6 strips of bacon! Earlier, I had guessed MUESLI, but that obviously didn't work. Cinerary item? Did that have something to do with the movies? And who wants me to "get up on the bright side?" I don't know lead poisoning from tetanus, but SAT--NISM seemed doable. I started a mental vowel run and twitched at U. Could the letter above be Q? YES! One good Q deserves another U. URN? Of course! Ashes come from incineration! Hello MHP!

Just goes to show that sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. A Wild Ass Guess here and there can pull you through a puzzle that you never thought you could solve. It will also help you remember things you'll never forget, like QUINOA and SATURNISM.

Z 11:49 AM  

Seriously? People have been reading Rex and can't tell when he'd like a puzzle? Huh‽ TINT me in 90% agreement with OFL.

SW fell first for me, followed by the SE. QUINOA was automatic for me because downtown/midtown Detroit is Hipsterville, so all things vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free are just a part of day-to-day life even if one is carb-loving carnivore.

Wrote in MULE and was wishing it had been clued as a Motown MULE. (scroll down for a recipe) A MULE is one of those universally adaptable drinks, so there is probably a local variation where you live.

The north was a different storey altogether. The Smithereens I know, Jimmy Dorsey not so much. As for Rufus and Chaka - in 1983 I was listening to R.E.M., the Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, the Dead Kennedys. Hence, AIN'T NOBODY was a mystery. Having ----SSPORT in place was very little help, while shipLEADER was giving me issues. "Persians" in no way evoke the SEA to me, and AmarETTo is something I am aware of whereas ANISETTE is not (ANISE is, but why would we need a diminutive form of ANISE?). YOGA MATS and aTMOST finally gave me enough to crack open the section (and knowing MARIA ELENA from the Smithereens made that a reasonable guess). Took me awhile, but a good finish.

Now, about that 10%...

PPP Analysis
Pop Culture, Product Names, and Proper Nouns as a percentage of puzzle answers

22 of 66 for 33% - the "this will give certain subsets of solvers problems" line.
The PPP is diverse across time and disciplines so you might not even notice it. Until you fall into a pile-up of your answers in your personal outhouse, that is. This is the issue with PPP, if you know it it is Easy. If you don't know it you are stuck in a piecemeal solving mode, looking for phrases and letter combinations that might work. I liked the puzzle, but I understand the complaints.

Z 12:12 PM  

@Sheryl - 1. Don't be intimidated. It's a skill that will develop.
2. Be satisfied with anything, a plural S, a past tense ED, partials like "ANY word?" to get started.
3. Pay attention to crosswordese in early week puzzles (I'm guessing very few of us new what bird has a resonant "ha-wah" call, but NENE, ERNE, or TERN was going to be the answer - and since it is Saturday I tried NENE first).
4. Don't be afraid to guess wrong or erase. For example, I guessed aTMOST off the S and thinking MOST = best in some ways. It turned out to be mostly right.
5. Remember that words have multiple means (I saw right away from the "?" that "leaves" was never going to be a verb, although it took me awhile to shake fortune-telling tea leaves and see FOLIAGE). You'll see people here sometimes comment that they didn't write in an answer because it was too obvious for a Saturday. Recognizing those clues is a learned skill.
6. Put the puzzle down and walk away for a minute, hour, meal, nap. The most opaque clue will sometimes become obvious after a break.
7. Cheat as an absolute last resort. Ask Uncle Google before coming to Rex, but there is nothing worse than seeing an answer and realizing that you could have gotten it. Besides, it seems like the brain has a natural mechanism that makes learning from cheating harder than learning from solving.

Lewis 12:27 PM  

This was as out of my wheelhouse as yesterday's puzzle was in -- there were eight answers that simply don't exist in my brain, which made this a trial of persistence. I'm not complaining, mind you, as I learned what a golden goal is and learned that quinoa is a pseudo cereal, and beamed at the clues for FOLIAGE, METEOR, BATHING_CAP, YOGA_MATS, and PIE. There was a double-E mini theme (6), and if you're curious, the WAR_AT_HOME TVWIFE is Vicki.

This one made me stand up, take notice, sweat and smile -- a lovely, lovely start to the weekend. Thank you Byron!

Graham 12:33 PM  

A Zipcar is a RENTAL, so that clue rang false. And EEGTEST is, to use Rex's favorite phrase, "not a thing."

Otherwise, I agree -- it's a fun one.

jberg 1:13 PM  

Really, really hard for me. In fact I gave up, went to the farmers' market, then came home for lunch and thought I might as well take another look, and it finally worked. Some clues so obscure (to me) that they were hopeless without most of the crosses, others I just got wrong-- Ruth before AROD, lEG rEST or Eye rEST before EEG TEST, Saf-T glass before TINT (the former is really LOF's I think), t-men, then ATFs before FEDS. Finally METEOR and FOLIAGE sorted that one out and opened up the middle, and the rest was easy.

Also, my wife, a scientist who is focusing on lead poisoning, insisted that it was plumbISM, fortunately one letter short of what was needed.

I'm just glad I never thought of clay MaTION, or I'd never have finished.

I always thought Hawaiian birds were named for what they said, i.e. that a NENE went "nee, nee." I guess I was wrong.

Tim Pierce 1:38 PM  

Liked a lot of this one, but I got three squares wrong by reason of having VICARS for FIXERS. A vicar seems like someone whose job is, in part, to help resolve disputes in his parish, so that seemed reasonable, as did ACE for"kill", and... well, I didn't like VIG for "insignificant amount," as the point of a vig in illegal gambling is to keep the amount owed high enough that the debtor can never practically pay off the debt. But doesn't it seem plausible, at least?

For that matter, I wasn't too happy the cluing on FIXERS -- a the job of a "fixer" is usually not to "settle a dispute" so much as to cover up or resolve a potentially harmful situation. But I'll own up to some sour grapes on this.

I'm sure I've never heard of SATURNISM or LA QUINTA. Some real tough going in that corner. Loved the cluing on 47A: Pool cover but putting in BATHING TOP there didn't help me out any.

Is MARIA ELENA the GREEN PAINT of song titles?

Really really wanted 13D: "Claude Monet Painting in His Garden At Argenteuil," e.g. to be SELFIE. Oh well. Maybe I can use that trick in a puzzle some time.

Other great clues: 36A: Shower component, 17A: Salty drink? 31A: Leaves out in the open?

Anonymous 1:39 PM  

@Sheryl, my only tip is to keep plugging away.I couldn't do Fridays or Saturdays either just a few years ago. Now I can nearly always do them in a reasonable amount of time and no Googles. Following this blog has been a big help!

JerzeeJazz 1:46 PM  

Easy/medium? Seriously? Admittedly I finished off the bottom half fairly quickly, but after that I was mired for a while, since I was not familiar with "The War At Home" and couldn't get "Tell Me Something Good" out of my head for Chaka Khan, even though I knew it wouldn't fit. But it was a good puzzle - I felt a sense of accomplishment when I finally got the fish into the boat!

Carola 1:49 PM  

@Sheryl, when I started attempting Friday and Saturday puzzles, maybe 15 years ago or so, I felt as you do. It happens that last night I was recalling those "impossible" days and thinking about what a change it's been, now that I exoect to finish puzzles on those days. Mostly it's due to experience, I think - just doing the puzzle every day. There's a certain sort of intuition that develops, along with a repertoire of grid standards and letter patterns. As far as an approach goes: 1) I try to find any "node" from which I can build - today that was MOP + BOCA, with QUINOA nearby. Then I rely on pattern recognition - today that got me STOPMOTION and MARIOCUOMO, leading to CHASMS, etc. 2) If stuck, I turn to the go-away-and-come-back strategy, as answers will jump out to greet new eyes. 3) I never Google - I think brain-racking has helped me improve. Keep at it - it will get easier.

BarbaraB 1:53 PM  

Been doing the puzzle for decades, and I thought one of the rules was if there's an abbreviation in the answer, there has to be an abbreviation of some sort in the clue. So how is "a migraine sufferer might have one" an acceptable clue for EEGTEST? Not only does no one ever say EEG "test," but isn't EEG an abbreviation for electroencephalogram, thereby requiring an abbreviation in the clue?

Anonymous 2:08 PM  

@Sheryl: The only way you'll improve is to slug the tough ones out. if you can't figure it out, keep trying. Don't use Google, don't look up answers. Spend an hour or so spinning your wheels. Looking at the solution won't help you unless you've spent a significant amount of time trying to solve it yourself. Then when you're ready to jump off a roof, look up some answers. But don't just look them up, make sure you understand why they make sense. Eventually you'll be able to do it on your own. But never, ever say you finished a puzzle if you had to look stuff up.

Joe Bleaux 2:29 PM  

(I think FIG is most often heard in this context as a polite sub for the F word in "I don't give a ... ")

Wm. C. 2:53 PM  


I had a Google 3-4 times on this one, starting with Chaka (wHO???). Hi, @Teedmn!

@Prof Barany and @Anon7:29 --I agree on "gushing" -- very un-Rex-like like in tone. I wonder if he has some silent partners doing the writing occasionally.

@Carola -- Me too on SOU before FIG. I'll betcha that the majority of solvers are with us on this, though maybe some of them held off for a cross before committing.

David Fink 3:06 PM  

Struggled mightily. Crushed by the easy medium rating. After walking away, twice!, I finally found my way. Upside = spending the rest of the day with the Chaka Khan soundtrack of my misspent youth. Fun challenge.

mark shuper 3:09 PM  

I say it's broccoli and I say to Hell with it.

No BS 3:10 PM  

Cheryl,

I'm what they call a patient slogger. A puzzle like today's seems impossible for a few minutes, but, following Mohair Sam's approach, I can usually get them in an hour or two. I think for solvers like Rex, easy-medium for Sat. Is under 10 min.

When I was starting out, say ten years ago, I would work til stuck, then Google the obscure pop stars, TV actors and such one at a time and rework based on what they revealed. (Today I would have started with the TV show about the Golds which I never heard of.) One thing is that very often the clues are a lot harder than the answers, like Aeschylus play vs. sea battle today, so that's how things reveal themselves from crosses.

The other thing to rely on is your subconscious mind. It'll surprise you with suggestions based on little or nothing. Today I saw Mario Cuomo out of io and uo. And the word passport came into my mind long before I had any way to recognize it (with several wrong downs in place). Many have commented that if you come back to an impossible puzzle after a few hours you will have several answers in mind as if by magic.

Don't worry about the speed solvers, many of them do several puzzles every day and go to tournaments, and many are crossword writers as well as solvers.

To me that's all part of the fun.

Hope this helps.

This was one of the best puzzles of the year so far, IMHO.

AskGina 3:25 PM  

I agree with your feelings on this puzzle. It started well, the entire nw quadrant was fun, and then it turned into a slog. Sometimes (rarely) almost everyone is enthusiastic about the same puzzle, even Rex, and those seem to be cleverly clued, with a level of difficulty that makes you feel like you flexed your smarts, and no directions from one city to another, eyepits, adman, fro, pope,early first century year, obscure specialty jargon, popular songs from before the mid 20th century, rappers from the 90s, or cutesy clues for boring common words. Although if some did one with all of those it could be really fun. Theme: Bad Puzzle.

Teedmn 3:27 PM  

@Larry Gilstrap, welcome to real time. You're getting that lovely 5 week double dose of NYTimes crosswords that I enjoyed nearly two years ago when I made the leap from Syndiland. But Syndiland has its own rewards (the commenters on this blog) and they tolerate me joining their exclusive group on occasion, so don't forget to go visit them!

@Sheryl, my solving technique on a Saturday is to run through the clues and note things I think might work without entering anything unless it's a complete gimme (the only ones today were NAE and maybe ANY at 46A). My point of entry was in the SW. I thought CHASMS would fit in 38D. Looking at the acrosses, I saw 48A might start with STOP. If it was STOP, then 49D would start with P, hey PIE fits the clue for 49D... So I put in CHASMS, STOP and PIE and then MOP at 50D. This made MARIO CUOMO visible (sorry @Nancy :-) and I got everything below METEOR and MAS filled in.

The top was harder. Totally stymied, I finally said OLATION out loud several times and PAROLE VIOLATION popped out. But if you read my earlier comment, I cheated finally to get AINT NOBODY (I'm quite sure I would have gotten that if I hadn't had AMInE, yeah, sure!)

Joe Bleaux 3:30 PM  

Hi, Sheryl -- On the old 1 to 10 scale, most of the regular posters here are are 8's or higher compared to my 4, maybe a 6 on a good day. But as a solver who usually finishes on Fridays and Saturdays nonetheless, I recommend first scanning ALL the clues for gimmes (you can almost always find one or two), and filling them in for toe-holds, then branching out as best you can. Perhaps the best advice I could offer is that you CAREFULLY study the later-weekday clues. A clever and artful constructor such as Byron Walden will enable even solvers at my level to suss out answers if we have a couple of letters to work with. Consider, for example, 22A ("Pitch successfully" = MAKE A SALE, or 31A ("Leaves out in the open" = FOLIAGE). As you know, many words work as different parts of speech, and in multiple contexts. Read carefully, think hard, and, of course, practice. You'll get there!

Nancy 3:51 PM  

Hi, @Sheryl (11:07 a.m.) -- What I've learned from this blog is that there are as many ways to solve as there are solvers. There are the people who jump around, looking for the Things They Know -- often proper names. If memory serves, @Loren is one of them, and I know for a fact that @Hartley 70 is. Someone like me, on the other hand, starts at 1A and tries to do whatever I can in that section first. Only when I'm starting to tear my hair out do I move to another section -- preferably one that intertwines in some way with the NW that is torturing me. (Either method is perfectly fine.)

The biggest piece of advice I can give you is that you'll never solve a Friday or Saturday if you give up at the first sign of resistance. You have to soldier on -- even when you think you can't possibly be successful. Many times, perhaps MOST times, you won't succeed. Until the wonderful and amazing time that you DO succeed. I came very, very close to giving up today. It was a real bear for me -- with just about nothing in my wheelhouse. But I stubbornly kept going. And (one small cheat notwithstanding, but let's not focus too much on that), I finished.

The second biggest piece of advice I can give you. Unless you're 110% sure of an answer, DON'T write it in until you've checked at least one crossing letter. Just about any letter will give you confidence that you're right. An unusual letter is even better. Writing down an incorrect answer is much, much worse than writing down nothing at all. And the fiendish constructors who ply their trade at the end of the week often set traps of "obvious" answers that are wrong.

If you persevere, you're going to get better. Everyone of us on this blog are better today than we were when we started. Mostly a LOT better! Good luck, Sheryl.

Stanley Hudson 5:07 PM  

Thought it much tougher than did OFL, but agree that this was beautifully constructed.

Hartley70 6:29 PM  

Loved this puzzle and it cut 1/3 off my usual Saturday time. Could this explain my devoted affection? Not entirely, but perhaps a smidge. There were just so many terrific surprises. USPASSPORT, PAROLEVIOLATION, BATHINGCAP were all so well clued. The answers were not at all obscure. except for MARIAELENA, but tickled me none the less. Thanks for a fun Saturday, Byron!

Austin 6:33 PM  

saturdays are not for newcomers

Z 8:17 PM  

@lg - I suggest you re-read yesterday's post and try to figure out why you think Rex "hated" it. "... cute little bit." "...it's fine." "And that is also fine." "This grid is fairly smooth...." "The SW corner is nice." Yep, a review just dripping with hate is not what we got yesterday. Now look at what Rex called out today and maybe you (and others) can start to see the difference between a competent puzzle that lacks ambition and a good puzzle that sparkles in cluing while not forcing the issue. At time it feels like people think there are only two reactions to a puzzle, Adoration or Hate, while most puzzles are somewhere in between.

Amazing! Popped EEG TEST into a search engine and got pages of hits. Here's a neurologist with a page header of EEG TEST for example. If I were really pedantic I might argue that the EEG doesn't exist until after the EEG TEST occurs, but I'm not so I won't.

@Wm. C. - I was on Twitter last night keeping caught up on Turkey and saw Rex's tweet about lovinng the puzzle. It's him unless it's announced that it is someone else. Also, no sou issue here, mostly because I had the F before I really thought about the clue.

@Sheryl - And most importantly, when you get contradictory advice do both.

Robso 10:15 PM  

Count me in with the "This was great?" crowd. Not that it was't good . . . but any puzzle that has both NENE and clues a 1941 hit is hard for me to grade an A+.

OISK 11:31 PM  

This was a perfect Saturday for me. I sat down with it and saw almost nothing. Never watched Gilmore Girls, nor heard of Rufus Khan. I CAN sing Maria Elena though. I slowly broke through, though, and happily solved it, and felt I had accomplished something. Disappointed that Rex considered it Easy-Medium.
Enjoyed the amide, as I did yesterday's unionized.

Brian 1:21 AM  

33A "No ___!" Should be "¡No ___!" Since it is in Spanish. Error in puzzle?

Sheryl 11:38 AM  

Thank you so much to @Z, @Carola, @No BS, @Teedmn, @Joe Bleaux, @Nancy, and two Anonymous posters for your extremely generous and very helpful advice and encouragement. I read it all and saved it all.

@Z, your last comment was funny.

You all gave me many helpful tips, but the most important is to not get discouraged and give up too soon. I think that's why I haven't been improving. I get psyched out and intimidated, and don't stay with it. The puzzle looks so impossible that I give up immediately and look at the answers, but then the answers don't stick in my mind like they would if I'd struggled with the clues. My brain doesn't get trained.

It's encouraging to me that many of you say you couldn't do Friday and Saturday puzzles at one point, and then over time you could. Somehow I imagined that you were all born being able to do them.

Thanks again so much. What a wonderful community this is! <3

I'm posting this on Sunday morning because I only check the blog once a day. I hope you all see my thanks - I'm so very grateful. I haven't finished the Sunday puzzle yet so I haven't commented there yet and don't want to look at the post.

SharonAK 6:59 PM  

Jumping i here to suggest to last weeks commenters who have loved Hiaasen's books that they try his young adult book "Hoot". It's just as funny, but much lighter than his adult books (that I've read). He did some more kids books with similar themes/plots, but they were Not as good as HOOT>

kitshef 7:13 PM  

Fully expected @Rex to hate it, and to focus his ire very specifically on EEGTEST, which is terrible. No one calls it that, ever. It's like saying aspirin pill.

Extremely challenging, but ultimately a win, and very enjoyable. What I like is when you can look at a clue - "Item that became trilingual..." and have NO CLUE what it could be. Then a half hour later, after a few crosses make their way in, you can get it. I had that experience a dozen times or more working on this.

Got nothing going at all until I skipped to the bottom right (which I do when desperate), and AROD and MULE got me started. USPASSPORT wasn't last in but wasn't too far off. The FI_ERS/A_E cross was last.

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

EEG Test sounded terrible to me as well. Sounds like you're testing the patient for EEG... redundant a little methinks

spacecraft 11:53 AM  

I agree with @kitshef and @anon 9:54. No, no, no. The EEG IS the test. This is the greenest paint ever, and nearly caused a DNF.

Of course, I was within a whisker of DNF after the first half hour of staring at a blank grid and a clueless clue bank. And then to come here and see "easy-medium." Aaaaaugh! The urge to SLAY--or AXE! Why does he DO that? Every row, every column, was a challenge. There came a point, I'm sure, where so much was filled in that the rest felt sort of easyish, but that's like a tough Sudoku. Once you get so many squares, the rest just falls in. But that does NOT make it "easy!"

Eventually got under way with LATIN, and waiting to see if the mag was going to be LIFE or Look. Many clues were tough, but a few were really off-putting. "Confessed statements" to me is a LONG way from CREEDS. The true obscurity is AMIDE. When's the last time YOU even thought about AMIDE? Hand up for questioning ARTSALON.

But despite these glitches and the Pope+RRN, this is good stuff. Mr. Walden did MAKEASALE here--the triumph factor alone is off the charts. There are some DOD candidates lurking about: Chaka Kahn, Talia Shire as "YO ADRIAN!" But I'll opt for half of an entry: MARIA from West Side Story, the way too soon late Natalie Wood. Eagle.

Burma Shave 12:11 PM  

URN AROD (STOPMOTION)

MEL TRAINS to SEABATTLE with his TVWIFE,
then for ANY WARATHOME, he’ll give schisms no FIG.
There AINTNOBODY to be FIXERS in his LIFE,
you SEE, PAL, he’ll die of .38 SATURNISM by SIG.

--- ODIE QUINOA

rondo 2:15 PM  

Having never seen Gilmore Girls I put in ucLa instead of YALE and that was today’s only w/o, but in such a critical spot. So the NW came last, as well as the rest of the N. The bottom 3 answers in the SE were my building blocks, without them I had very little going.

Learned the popularity of MARIAELENA in an American Studies class at the U of M. Since @spacey has used the first half, I’ll go with ELENA Delle Donne from the Olympic basketball team, and also from the ESPN Body issue, yeah baby.

Most any TVWIFE, especially The Good one, could also be a yeah baby. Roseanne not so much.

Working from the bottom up, I had __VIOLATION and actually counted out the squares to see if Mann Act would fit; crossing state borders with a woman, you know. Living in a border town, I technically could have been in VIOLATION of that federal law, before they changed it in the ‘70s. AINTNOBODY getting into trouble for consensual interstate hanky-panky anymore. I suppose being on PAROLE is another story.

@lefty – the past 17 years working and, for 10 of those years half-time living in the midst of an urban, high-crime location has worn off some of the “MN nice”. I SEE LIFE differently now.

Is a small ode an ODETTE?

This puz took about an hour, and that’s OK since it’s a gloomy day here. I bought both Twin City papers, so more puzzles to SLAY.

leftcoastTAM 2:46 PM  

Couldn't get close to a toehold, let alone a foothold, after a first and second pass through. It continued like that until I threw in the towel pretty early and decided to cheat my way to a finish to see what and why I missed. Lots to contend with here. Glad that Rex was so pleased.

@rondo: Thanks for the background. It's been many years since living in the state, but I visit family there from time to time. Garrison Keillor (sp?) has done a lot to keep the Minnesota "nice" mystique alive, and it's likely always been much more myth than reality in any case.

rain forest 3:59 PM  

Oh yeah, challenging here, but easified by a flat out guess of ADRIAN (had that a few days ago), and getting LION KING of the bat. EEG came and I had to leave that for later. The SW was not too bad, and the bottom three entries in the SE (thought Ruth for awhile, but MULE meant it had to be AROD, but a number of areas were tough. Excellent clues abounded and, hard as I found it, it was fun to finish.

Good puzzle, if not quite gushable.

Tom Morehouse 6:26 PM  

@Chaos, way above, real time, gives one of the best, if not THE best, blow-by-blow accounts of solving a tough puzzle that I have read. They can be tedious and boring, but not this one. Give it a look if you haven't.

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