Chess situation in which any move is bad move / SAT 9-3-16 / Oversize hip-hop tops / Old letters in mail / Four-time all-star third baseman of 1960s-70s / Second largest body in asteroid belt / Goddesses guarding gates of Olympus / Political writer/blogger Klein / Dona pacem latin hymn / Singer with 1954 album Frontier Badlands

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Constructor: Damon Gulczynski

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: ZUGZWANG (32D: Chess situation in which any move is a bad move) —
Zugzwang (German for "compulsion to move", pronounced [ˈtsuːktsvaŋ]) is a situation found in chess and other games wherein one player is put at a disadvantage because they must make a move when they would prefer to pass and not move. The fact that the player is compelled to move means that their position will become significantly weaker. A player is said to be "in zugzwang" when any possible move will worsen their position. (wikipedia)
• • •

My 1-Across Theory of Speed-Solving is borne out once again. Here is my opening gambit (note the chess language, in honor of ZUGZWANG, whatever the hell that is):

I kept thinking I'd have occasion to post another screenshot, at some other consequential point in the solve, but instead I just zipped through this. I have never heard of TALL TEES (8D: Oversize hip-hop tops), so, weirdly, improbably, the NYT puzzle is teaching me something about hip-hop. World upside-down. Tall teas are actually small teas at Starbucks, just FYI.

EYESORE > BE SORE (take that, yesterday's puzzle!). Had to guess on one of the ZUGZWANG crosses—not shockingly, a proper noun cross (NEDS). Again, constructors ... careful! Yeesh. Every letter of ZUGZWANG is gonna be an uninferrable mystery for most solvers, so the crosses need to be managed thoughtfully and humanely. Most of the crosses seem appropriately fair, but NEDS is borderline. Don't see why there couldn't be a driver named Red Jarrett. Seems reasonable. Anyway, NEDS is probably the best guess there, and it was my guess, and the right one. So no foul, party or otherwise. Near foul, but no foul. My condolences to everyone who tuned in to the MOO CREW, though.

SOC SAC! Hurray for goofy symmetrical pairs: SOC SAC: It's like ZUGZWANG, but with more throwing dirty socks at a laundry bag. Speaking of dirty socks, the SE corner. NO BIS could INCENT me to like ESTO corner. And why can't this puzzle give the late, great GENE Wilder a little love? I understand if you couldn't quite make the DAHL clue work (maybe a long way from the author of the book to the actor who starred in the film adaptation) (19A: Charlie Bucket's creator), but the GENE clue? The GENE clue? Come on, NYT. Sigh. Anyway, R.I.P., GENE.

My almost-16-year-old has decided to take up crosswords. The results are both heartening and hilarious. Here are some Tweet-updates my wife sent me today on the girl's progress:

See you Sunday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Diego from ........... 12:05 AM  

Waste of time. Lucky I was watching a bad movie at the same time.

jae 12:14 AM  

NW easy, the rest was mediumish. Part of my problem was GET tiRED before BORED which only got erased after ETiN COLLEGE made no sense. And, of course ZUGZWANG was a WOE so it took a while to change awe to WOW.

Beaucoup bueno stuff here. Liked it a bunch.

D 12:27 AM  

60 day streak ruined... dont quite get arent, thought maybe a rest. knew some old lady gossip columnist was the answer, but blank on name.

Mike in Mountain View 12:36 AM  

@D Aren't = are not = do not live = lack life. Not good, I agree.

SW was pretty easy for me, because ZUGZWANG was a gimme for a chess player.

Anonymous 1:22 AM  

Learned HOME SLICE. It seems to me that TALL TEES AREN'T as hip as they once were. Had OuT of oRder for a while. Enjoyed it!

Martín Abresch 3:29 AM  

As a chess player, ZUGZWANG was my entry into the puzzle. I fully understand that this is an impossible answer for the vast majority of people. What's unfortunate is that it's an important and interesting chess concept, but it's hard to communicate what makes it important and interesting to non-chess players.

I'll give it a quick try anyway.

If you know even a little chess, you'll remember that a king can go one space in any direction. You'll note that the black and white king can never be on adjacent squares. (The white king cannot move next to the black king because then the white king would take the black king and win the game.) So imagine the two kings with a single empty square between them. There's a kind of invisible barrier there, as there are three squares that are adjacent to both kings. (Imagine a number pad, like on a phone dial or on the right side of a keyboard. Put the white king on 4 and the black king on 6: both kings are adjacent to numbers 8, 5, and 2.) Now here is the key. Imagine that each king wants to move forward and get by the other king. Well, the one that succeeds is the one that just moved. The king that moves next, must move to the side or move backwards. That will allow the other king to get by him. ZUGZWANG!

It's a simple thing, but learning the implications of the scenario that I just described is absolutely crucial to understanding chess endgames.

Enough about chess. I enjoyed most of this puzzle, and by most I mean most everything except the SE. ON THE FRITZ, SET THE SCENE, TALL TEES, YEAR ZERO, and SAL BANDO were fun entries. Looking over the NW ... wow, that's nice corner. I guess ERLE and HORAE are suboptimal, but everything else fits together so nicely. Love it.

HOME SLICE was my favorite answer, but even it (and BENEVOLENT) couldn't save that SE corner. That quarter of the grid contains most of the bad fill. NOBIS, ESTO, INCENT. In a different context, I might not mind HEDDA or VESTA (kind of like I didn't mind ERLE and HORAE at the top), but put them together with the boring EMEND, PAH, and AREN'T and you don't even have enough to get a stew going.

But most of the puzzle was very nice indeed, and HOME SLICE brought a smile to my face.

Loren Muse Smith 5:16 AM  

Jeez Louise. I was floored to see an easy-medium rating. This puzzle slayed me. Then I was even more surprised to see the first commenters agreeing. So I did something I rarely do before I post – I looked at Fiend, XwordInfo, and Wordplay only to see that most agree this was easy. Whaaa????

Never in a million years would I have changed my "party no-no" to PARTY FOUL. (So I kept wondering of "polo" tee was a thing.) CHAFF could've helped me emend that area, but I don't think I knew that word. Maybe barely in the darkest recesses of my brain. I've thought about it so much now, I can't decide if I knew it or not.

"Set the stage" before SET THE SCENE.

I think something I loathe even more than a bajillion commercials in a row is a pair of desperate people on the radio going for cute and entertaining. And yeah, I get the irony with this. Is that not what I try to do here? Why my cute and entertaining fine, but theirs is is not? Because I'm smart and cultured and oh-so hip, that's why. Anyway, when I see some kind of behavior that makes me want to scream , my very next thought is My gosh. I must do that to people, too. Same thing with clothes – if I have a snarky thought about someone's outfit, my next thought is that lots of people must be snarking away about what I'm wearing. Might not ultimately keep me quiet, but it sure keeps me all nervous and self-doubting.

Loved the clue for NEE.

INCENT was a woe. I was thinking it had to be a back-formation, and a quick sniff-around in google confirmed this.

HOME SLICE, ZUGSWANG (@Martin A and @Mike in Mountain View – I thought I was a chess player, but maybe I just rarely make it to the end game), PARTY FOUL, NOBIS, SAL BANDO, ZOO CREW, HORAE, VESTA, ESTO, TALL TEES… and (again) "bah" instead of PAH… This puzzle cleaned my clock.

George Barany 5:17 AM  

I'm often on @Damon Gulczynski's wavelength; even when he throws in words/phrases that I don't know, they're usually fun to learn. ZUGZWANG brought a big smile to my face, remembrances of fun times with BRUCC [Bulletin of the Rockefeller University Chess Club; rhymes with "rook"].

After parsing the clever REB clue, I confidently wrote KEN_BOYER for 13-Down, with no other letters showing in that corner (even abandoning the "oh-it-was-correct-after-all" TENN at 27-Across). Ken was an All-Star third baseman for the Saint Louis Cardinals through the mid-60's, and older brother to Yankees third baseman Clete Boyer. Kicking myself for having overthought this clue, and because I had forgotten a certain cross-country plane flight when I was in my late teens or early twenties. It seems that the woman sitting next to me had previously dated SAL_BANDO when they were both students at the University of Arizona, before he went on to play for the Oakland A's.

@Rex, thanks not only for your review of today's puzzle, but also the window into what it's like to have one's offspring discover and share one's interests and passions. Mazel tov to your family!

Anonymous 6:22 AM  

@George Barany
I also threw down Ken Boyer right away, then tried Bobby Cox. I remember Cox from playing with the Yankees, but apparently he was not of all star caliber in his very brief playing career. Finally got Sal Bando. Apparently it was a trend to have third baseman with eight letter names back then, well before anyone wore Tall Tees.

Trombone Tom 6:51 AM  

Nearly Naticked this one at the ZUGWANG/NEDS crossing. Years of HS German came to the rescue so I guessed NEDS. NED is even older than I am(!)and was active in NASCAR before I took notice. His son, Dale, I am aware of.

Played a moderate amount of chess over the years and am familiar with a forced move, but not the term ZUGWANG.

Nice to see OFL's daughter taking an interest in Xwords.

ON_THE_FRITZ almost jumped off the page at me. Oh, and hand up for awe before WOW.

Z 7:21 AM  

I finished wondering if I was right. Parsing AREN'T as some weird variation of arrant or errant did not help my confidence in my solution. Being a Midwesterner helped fix my PARTY no no. CHAFF always looks funny to me. I fully expected an @LMS riff on words not ending in -AFF much. My last fix was GoT BORED to GET BORED and I looked at the CHATS area and the HEDDA area and said, "OK, that's my best solution." I was mildly pleased and surprised that I was correct.

The concept of ZUGZWANG is hardly new, the term is, though. That was nifty. On the other hand, nothing can make the over used ETON interesting, not the full ETON COLLEGE nor the trivia clue. If crossword answers were categorized, ETON COLLEGE would be in the BEIGES. INCENT, ESTO, NOBIS. Not Mr. Gulczynski's finest corner. Still, I had fun solving this.

Martín Abresch 7:35 AM  

@George Barany - You tried KEN BOYER before SAL BANDO. My first try was RON SANTO. Santo went to nine All-Star games rather than Bando's four.

Incidentally, Santo attended Seattle's Franklin High School, which is about a mile up the road from my house.

gberg 7:53 AM  

This was a slog for me from start to finish. No joy, only frustration.

QuasiMojo 7:57 AM  

Got my wang caught in a zipper at Zugzwang. Naticked there since I had "cow" instead of "wow" and "Reds" instead of "Neds." Ned seems like an unlikely Nascar driver's name! Too nerdy. And like Loren, I had PoloTees first since that made some sense. With Party No-No. Was thinking Eton Collar before Eton College. Fun to see Pete Seeger in the grid. First DNF in a long time. But am dee-lighted about it since this was a puzzle that finally had some "teeth." I better leave the mixed metaphors there. :) Happy long weekend everyone!

mathgent 8:16 AM  

A lot of sweat and what did I get out of it? ZUGZWANG, PARTYFOUL, HOMESLICE, INCENT, TALLTEES. Not worth it.

Also, the cluing lacked zing overall and contained some clunkers like "Directive that has some teeth to it?" for OPENWIDE and "Lack life" for ARENT.

Today's grade: C.

PurpleCar 8:34 AM  

This puzzle 1. Makes me hate. 2. Gives me evidence that I'm a replicant with false memories and spotty general knowledge. 3. Reminds me I must have better things to do, right? Right? #ugh #addicted

NCA President 8:53 AM  

Color me weird, but I liked this puzzle. I didn't really like a lot of the cluing at first, but it grew on me. I could do more like this if only because it seemed different than many of the others. While I agree with Rex that GENE being clued as something to do with Gene WIlder, overall I liked the freshness of the clues/answers. ZUGZWANG notwithstanding, SETTHESCENE, PARTYFOUL, ONTHEFRITZ, SALBANDO (I got this from only the in the utter heck I was able to recall this guy's name is and will forever be a mystery to me), HEDDA (another name that popped into my head out of literally nowhere), HOMESLICE, ZOOCREW, and a bunch more. I really liked it. I don't remember the last time I could say that.

BTW and FWIW, MythBusters did a segment on double-dipping. Turns out, in order for you to taint that salsa with a double dip, you'd have to drink the salsa, swish it around in your mouth, and then spit it back out. Otherwise, your double dipping is no more of an issue than the run-o'-the-mill bacteria floating around in the air. So, double dip at your Labor Day festivities this weekend with impunity my friends!

Jamie C 8:55 AM  

Well this one really separated the wheat from the CHAFF, didn't it (never heard this expression,LMS?)? ZUGZWANG? Dang!

evil doug 9:20 AM  

A short tea is small. A tall tea is medium.

Dick Trickle was a NASCAR driver, too, but we'll probably see Hitler first.

Steve DAHL and Garry Meier were the Chicago deejays who orchestrated the Disco Demolition at Comiskey Park between games of a doubleheader. Game 2 was canceled due to the riot that ensued.

Dolgo 9:22 AM  

I sometimes have a hard time with Saturdays,but this one kept me up far past the time solving takes to help me get to sleep. As a matter of fact I, it kept me up because I did so poorly. But, of course, being "Dolgoruky the word czar"to all my friends, it's always great to learn a new word, even if it's one I'll probably never use again. You can certainly guess which word I mean when I tell you I'm not very good at chess. What a GREAT word!

George Barany 9:28 AM  

WOW, all those 8-letter third basemen, @Anonymous at 6:22 AM, @Martin Abresh -- we've got SAL_BANDO, KEN_BOYER, BOBBY_COX (a Hall-of-Fame manager), RON_SANTO (also enshrined in Cooperstown), and let's not forget JOE_TORRE (caught, played third base, and managed; Hall-of-Fame for the latter). A relevant puzzle some of you might enjoy.

As for GENE, nice sentiment, but I can almost guarantee that today's puzzle was finalized before the sad news Monday about the acting embodiment of angst (click here for a nice appreciation).

I'm not a big fan of "... and others" type clues, but here's my favorite NED -- we saw his work earlier this week and can expect to see it again quite soon.

Wm. C. 9:36 AM  

How is ARENT "Lack Life?"

How is HOME SLICE "Buddy from the Block?"


Dolgo 9:42 AM  

PS My German's pretty good, but I did have to look this one up!

Dolgo 9:43 AM  

Look up "home slice." That's why God invented Google!

Dolgo 9:47 AM  

PPS Think "don't exist.'

Leapfinger 9:50 AM  

Curiously satisfying to see my BENEVOLENT HOMESLICE, PETE SEEGER, overlying Hannah ARENT and GENE Wilder. Also appreciated the Hopper full of Gabblers. If I WERE HERE and now to change my screen-name, it would become FRITZ ZUGZWANG.

Things started off PART[L]Y Fair, PART[L]Y FOUL with relatively minor gooves like TEAcup and SETS THE StagE, then headed into murkier waters with trAsh/CHAFF. Recent dental visits led me to BITE_DOWN (and tap,tap,tap), although OPEN_WIDE comes firster and oftener, of course. The serious ARGUING with self came with the INdENT/INvENT/INCENT location, which I couldn't SLICE and dICE nohow to my satisfaction. The biggest FOUL tipped off in the NE above EZRA, however. I threw in FETA, and can't tell how many times I moved my cheese in and out. I had to SAY NO TO interNET, yet took for damm ever to think back as far as ETHERNET. That ETHER's H finally remembered me of Charlie Bucket's Chocolate Factory, so the rest of the 3x4 flew in, but I remain woefully slim on All-Star third basemen of the '60s-'70s. I thought I was digging for a surname only, so ran the consonants on SAL_ANDO. Finally settled on SALGANDO and a possible REG_LEE, since after several decades in the Southland, it never once occurred to me that General "REB" Lee was a Member of the Tribe.

Have to thank DG for pulling us onto the ZUGZWANG train, and await more WANGtails from @Tita.

Oh yes, thanks for the BY_A_NOSE/hair also.

VESTA la giubbi, y'all.

Ellen S 9:50 AM  

I'm with @PurpleCar. DNF thanks to ZUGZWANG - those were only fair crosses if you knew the answers. ZOOCREW might as well have been mOOCREW or tOOCREW or ...any letter of the alphabet as far as I was concerned, and how is ZONE an alternative to "Man to Man"? Is it "Z-one"? What does that mean? What does ZONE mean?

Over in the NE, I got SALBANDO (I knew his name somehow, I guess my father used to listen to baseball on the radio), but what's with TENN as Volunteer's place? Is Tennessee's nickname "The Volunteer State"? Is it another sports team? Are the Tennessee Volunteers like the Green Mountain Boys?

I'm embarrassed that it took ages for me to see ETHERNET and PETE SEEGER, both of which are familiar, but by the time I got to those clues, my brain had liquified.

Oh, @Evil, are you saying Starbucks names its sizes differently for TEaS than for coffee? A Tall coffee is definitely the small. At least out here on the left coast. Short may be medium in some other chain.

Tim Pierce 9:51 AM  

No puzzle with ZUGZWANG (?!??!?!) is an easy-medium puzzle. Not on a Saturday, not on any day.

Tim Pierce 9:53 AM  

@Ellen S: a ZONE defense is an alternative football defense strategy to a "man-to-man defense." I know almost nothing about football, but somehow I dredged up that distinction from the dark recesses of my brain very late in the puzzle so I could barely get the Z in there.

evil doug 9:56 AM  

You won't see "short" on the menu at Starbucks - - but it's their little secret to get you to buy something larger. Go on - - ask your barista.

Joseph Welling 9:57 AM  

ARENT made me think of this:

Mr. Praline: 'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!

evil doug 10:01 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ellen S 10:04 AM  

@Leapfinger, okay, your comment made it all okay. Hilarious. @LMS - you're among friends here, don't worry so much. And you *are* cute and entertaining. Don't stop.

So, I really came back here to report on HOME SLICE, from the Urban Dictionary:
synonomous to "homie".
def 1: means good friend or buddy
def 2: means someone who seems like a little slice of home, thus home slice

And then, to use it in a sentence, "Hey whassup home slice."

I don't think that was the kind of sentence my grade school teachers wanted in our spelling units, but, okay.

And Tennesseans apparently rush to enlist every time there's a war, or used to, hence "The Volunteer State." Is it the whiskey?

jbengould 10:05 AM  

I do play chess, but I am apparently not a "chess player" as I have never ever heard mention of ZUGZWANG. I'm not even sure how you might pronounce it (and yes, I realize the pronunciation is included in the definition above, but who has time to learn to parse that nonsense when you just spent way way too long solving an "easy-medium" Saturday puzzle?). My last letter was the first Z, which I placed ever so timidly after having decided that everything else looked right, and that a "ZOO CREW" would be the wackiest -OO CREW that I never knew. Needless to say, I was elated, relieved, and still a bit puzzled when the success splash popped up on my screen.

Easy-medium?? Not for this person that sometimes plays chess badly, but I did really like some of the long answers. I couldn't believe HOMESLICE was right; I thought my brain was ONTHEFRITZ. I absolutely loved PARTYFOUL. We had a guy we called that in college (not to his face, of course). He would always show up if you invited him, but it wasn't a great idea if you had a rug you liked or anything at all that might be breakable.

Laurence Katz 10:06 AM  

Not easy-medium. Challenging.
Incent? Tall tees? Aren't (as weirdly clued)? Homeslice?
I dug zugzwang, which I never heard of but was gettable and one helluva word. But homeslice, jeez, considered it but rejected it as ridiculous. I guess it's like Rex said, a day for NYT to school us in hiphop lingo. Although, really, tall tees are a size, not a hiphop thang as far as I can tell.

Nancy 10:06 AM  

Did not finish -- and not just because I had bUGZWANG crossing bOO CREW. (Well, they make no less sense to me than ZUGZWANG/ZOO CREW.) I object strenuously to "Bread and drink" as clues for RYES. The clue should be "Some bread and drink." Unfair! AREN'T for "Lack life"? Unfair! And because I've never heard of Charlie Bucket, much less his creator, and because I had interNET instead of ETHERNET and hour ZERO before YEAR ZERO, I DNF the NE corner. Some earlier mistakes did get straightened out: PARTY NONO before PARTY FOUL; and AWE before WOW.

I forgot to look at the answer to 51A before writing this. Is it HOMESLITE? I'll check after I post. If it's correct, I don't know what the hell it is. If it's wrong, I don't know what the hell it should be.

KI don't mind that this puzzle was very hard. But I do mind that it's not especially fair.

DJG 10:19 AM  

Thanks for the review, as always, Rex.

For extended constructor notes, please visit:

Phil Schifley 10:28 AM  

This one was Z's for me. No one has ever said homeslice outside of a movie. Pah isn't a real exclamation. And the rest of the cuteness just fell short. More weary slog than relaxing jog for me.

Carola 10:30 AM  

Easy....the top half, that is. SW: medium. SE: gave me fits.

Similar to @Rex, first in was ARCANA, but confirmed by ERLE before TABS. Complemented on the right by DAHL x ETHERNET. Criss-crossed along nicely until I hit the SOC-SAC axis, where my brain went ON THE FRITZ and I flailed around for ideas.

SW: Eventually, guesses at GLEN and GREW gave me 2 Gs in that chess term and reminded me of the word ZUGZWANG (it also helped to know German, of course). It was interesting to learn what the term actually means: I'd understoood it as being forced (ZWANG) to make a move (ZUG) that you really would rather not.

SE: I spent more time on HOMESLI?E x IN?EN? x ES?O than on the rest of the puzzle. Multiple alphabet runs. HOME'S LIfe? HOME SLIdE? Surely not "SLImE." Part of the problem was that I refused to entertain INCENT as a word. Until (ZUGZWANG!) I had to.

Teedmn 10:39 AM  

WOW, some great words today! ZUGZWANG sounds like something Wayne and Garth would say. A total WOE for me but the crosses were good.

I did a PARTY "no no" which kept CHAFF on the leeward side of my boat. I loved seeing "Free of faults" free itself from being an adjective to becoming a verb once I took "soliD" out of 48D.

45D was "threE-D" (and then two-dEe, ick) for a while which I think is a good answer to 45D's clue but STEREO works.

I thought the clue for 1D was A CUTE ANGLE to take to get TEA POT and it SET THE SCENE (or StagE, as some might have said) for the rest of the puzzle. I did not GET BORED and my brain was not totally ON THE FRITZ (blInk was considered there) from a post- 2 AM Scrabble game last night (this morning) so I'm feeling very BENVOLENT towards Damon Gulczynski today.

jbengould 10:43 AM  

I vividly remember my introduction to HOME SLICE. It was about 1993 or 1994, I was in ninth or tenth grade, and I was playing basketball in my suburban driveway with my cooler neighbor who got bad grades and smoked pot. He had just returned from a trip to California and he insisted that everyone was saying it out there. I thought it sounded so stupid that I was sure he was trying to pull one over on me.

AliasZ 10:45 AM  

Who is this FRITZ guy?
"SAY NOTO". "OK, here goes: NOTO. Now what?"
The TALLTEES Falcon -- great movie!
"WE'RE HERE because we're here because..." sung to Auld Lang Syne. Great fun!
Do BEIGES go with mauves or puces?

The concept of YEAR ZERO was introduced strictly for mathematical purposes to help calculate leap years before the common era. As we all know, leap years occur on even numbered years divisible by four, starting with year 4, then 8, 12, 2016 A.D. etc. The year 1 A.D. was preceded by 1 B.C., a leap year, then -5, -9, -13 B.C. etc., were all leap years -- a mathematical fallacy. The insertion of the extra YEAR ZERO solves the math problem.

However, YEAR ZERO is a logical oxymoron. A year has a duration of 12 months, zero has zero duration. Nobody was born, nobody died, no wars were fought, zero historic events took place, and the sun rose and set zero times in YEAR ZERO.

Fun puzzle though. Great to learn about ZUGZWANG, and that a HOME SLICE is not necessarily from DiGiorno, but INCENT was indecent. Best clue: TEAPOT, out of which you can get a spot of tea.

GILL I. 10:48 AM  

Had to work my fanny off. This was a hard (but interesting) puzzle.
I started off just like @Rex and thought well, maybe this won't be too bad. Like @Nancy, I thought a few answers didn't seem fair. Like ZUGZWANG for instance. You need all the across answers or you're screwed. Well I was screwed because I didn't know ZOO ZONE AKIN or NEDS. PAH....
Thanks @Martin for the chess tutorial. My dad tried to teach me chess. So did my brother, a boyfriend and some homeless man in San Francisco. I could never learn. Dad would constantly say "You can play Bridge and Backgammon, why can't you learn chess?" Do you need the same brain to play those games?
@Leapy....Vesta la giubbi....I can always count on you.
Even though I had lots of mistakes, I enjoyed learning something new. I'm also humming Dona Nobis Pacem....thank you Vaughn Williams.

Norm 10:51 AM  

Stupid puzzle. No need to repeat what has been said above. I liked parts of it, but the ugly stuff just killed any joy.

mac 10:55 AM  

Tough puzzle, I ran out of time and left some holes. But what a great word, Zugzwang! I had the end filled in and wondered for a while if it was named for a Chinese player! In the end I parsed it, which gave me the Zoo crew.

Trouble in the NE because I was too committed to HOUR ZERO. There are more Zs in this puzzle than is usual.

old timer 10:57 AM  

As is almost always the case with me, Saturday was way easier than Friday. It did help that I was Treasurer of the Chess Club in high school. Our dues (and a nice grant from the Principal's Discretionary Fund) paid for Reshevsky to come up and play 8 of us simultaneously. I think one of us (not me) managed to eke out a draw.

So: ZUGZWANG went right in, plus ARCANA and for some reason ON THE FRITZ. I did want PARTY "no no", and had never heard of TALL TEES so party FOUL was my final answer. Had "hour" ZERO before YEAR and it took a while to recall DAHL, but when I finally got RYES for "food and drink" I declared this to be as good a puzzle as I've seen in a long time.

I knew ETON COLLEGE had to be right, but did Google that Jubilee River to be sure. The Jubilee is actually a flood-control river. We have one in Northern California, the Yolo Bypass. Full of water in the winter, too.

Why is Tennessee known as the "Volunteer State"? Historians disagree, but must likely it's because of the large number of Tennesseeans who, like Sam Houston and Davy Crockett volunteered to go to Texas and fight the Mexicans, first in the War for Texas Independence (1836) and then in the Mexican War (1845). Also, most of those from Tennessee who fought on either side in the Civil War were volunteers.

NCA President 11:17 AM  

Man 2 man is a basketball defense where every player takes a player to guard. ZONE defense is where you cover an area near you and really only that area.

Mohair Sam 11:22 AM  

Played brutally challenging in this house, but we whupped it. We opened with the easy gimme ronsANtO at 13 down, we know our baseball. Confirmed right away with EZRA and TENN. Man, did that cost us a ton of time. Finally remembered the American League's SALBANDO and filled the NE while using GETtiRED and the obvious BENEficENT to block another whole section of the puzzle - I was on a roll.

PETE SEEGER. I ran through about six thousand Country and Western and Cowboy and Cowgirl type singers from back in the day and never gave a thought to folk until he damn near filled. Duh.

Hillary? Trump? Curses, ZUGZWANGed again!

Actually I'll bet most of us who learned that term today are storing it to describe most of life's decisions.

@Martin Abresch - About 25 years ago I had the HONOR of sharing a table at a business dinner with Ron Santo (he was to be our company's motivational speaker that night). He was beyond humble and nice and all the platitudes you so often hear. A gentleman in every respect. He had already lost both feet to diabetes at the time - and told us how he'd kept the illness a secret from the Cubs until 1971 (two players knew, they helped him with injections) for fear of being cut from the team. In a physical in '71 team doctors discovered the problem and he was shocked that the team was tremendously supportive - he realized then he would have gotten much better care in his early years if he'd been open from the start.

@LMS - Will you please stop worrying - if we had a rating service you'd surely be number one here. We're sure Rex will find agony in every puzzle, we count on you find the joy. Don't stop the anecdotes, and don't you dare start running advertisements.

jberg 11:39 AM  

I haven't read the constructor's comments yet (but thanks for telling us about them, @DJG). So I am theorizing that the population of the universe can be divided into two sets: those who know about chess, and those who know about NASCAR. So whichever one you don't know, you should get from the crosses.

Me too for PARTY nOno, @Loren (and by the way, that outfit looks great on you!) I spent way too much time trying to think of any word at all that ended in ANF, until I finally thought of CHATS, which gave me CHAFF. Then I picked up my staff and limped over to the refrigerator to quaff a little wine. That's about as far as I can get with that. That section was made harder in that I had a hearING going on in my courtroom.

So this one was tough for me -- I had to go off and solve both of the neighboring Ken Kens before coming back to work out that CHAFF section. But it was fun at the end.

Joseph Michael 11:50 AM  

ZUGZWANG pretty much sums up my experience with this puzzle.

Andrew Heinegg 11:58 AM  

One of the more difficult things to do is to evaluate a puzzle that kicked you in the rear end so hard you are afraid to stand with your back to a mirror for fear of seeing the dark blue spot(s) indicating internal bleeding.

Zugzwang is a chess term I never heard of despite having played it with some frequency in my youth and even having read some books on strategy. Never heard of tall tees and I think party foul is simply a wretched answer. Bad manners, impoliteness, unnsanitary or whatever but, party foul, no thanks; never heard of the zoo crew; ditto for the term home slice.

My kudos to those who found this easy. I never had a chance with it. I find Rex's review to be curiously lacking in either praise or criticism. My reaction is a negative one since I didn't have any 'gosh, I wish I knew that' or 'that's an interesting clue for that answer'. I just found it to be a slog that I just don't have the requisite knowledge to have solved.

No BS 12:19 PM  

Those complaining about the easy-medium rating, I think this is an objective scale based on Rex's actual time compared to his average for the day of the week. So it is not really an opinion, and no point challenging it. Just math. I thought it was damn hard, with lots of long stuff I never heard of: party foul, zugzwang, zoo crew, home slice and others. But Sat. Is supposed to be pretty hard, so fair enough. Once I googled zugzwang, and Jubilee River, the rest fell into place pretty easy. Glad to learn zugzwang, though.

r.alphbunker 12:42 PM  

Changed INVENT to INCENT at the last minute giving me a clean solve.

Whenever Rex does screenshots I always wish he would use a program like that one that I use. It creates an animation of the entire solve in the background which then can be played back once the solution is correct. For example here is my solution of today's puzzle. If you click Show Solvers you can compare how I and two friends did on the same puzzle.

I had THREED also and am glad I didn't think of NONO. And let's move ZUGZWANG over to crosswords and make a verb out of it as in I got ZUGWANGED by the Stumper.

Jamie C 12:45 PM  

Not to beat a dead FRISBEE, but in ultimate a team may play a man-to-man (usually just called "man" [yes, it's sexist, especially since ultimate is one of the few truly co-ed team sports out there]) defense or may play a ZONE. (I've heard the same is true of basketball, but basketball is such an obscure sport...) One of the many niche-specific gimmees in this fun Saturday puzzle.

Randolph Scott 12:48 PM  

Are TALL TEES still in style in the hip hop world?

Dan v. 12:49 PM  

I tried so hard to make 32D ZUGZMATE and I just couldn't let it go. I thought MOW (down) for 50A Blow Away kinda worked & TEDS was just as good as good as Neds....but EREW instead of GREW...oh PAH, I just knew it was wrong....

Steve M 12:50 PM  

SE did me in the rest was fine

Sir Hillary 12:50 PM  

Really hard for me, but what a hoot! ZUGZWANG (chess ARCANA), PARTYFOUL, ONTHEFRITZ, TALLTEES, HOMESLICE, WEREHERE, OPENWIDE, SETTHESCENE, ZOOCREW? I didn't GETBORED for a minute of my long solve.

Amazing that there are four "3,5" third basemen with similar credentials from the same era. Thankfully, I had FETA and DAHL already, so Mr. Bando was obvious. When did Tom Tresh play? :)

Haven't read, written, heard or said HOMESLICE in over 20 years -- hilarious.

@Joseph Welling -- If there's a better comedy rant than Cleese's in "The Dead Parrot", I've not heard it. Thank you so much for that! Add-on from the live concert version: "'Eeee's fuckin' snuffed it!"

Great Saturday puzzle.

Charles Flaster 1:19 PM  

What about ron sANtO ?

Bookin' the Cooks 1:26 PM  

I am so with you here. This was a difficult puzzle for me as sports related entries almost always trip me up, though oddly I knew NEDS. Where did *that* come from? I have never in my life watched NASCAR!

Slang can also be confounding. PARTYFOUL, HOMESLICE, and PAH are terms that are just foreign to me.

I must not go to many parties because while I kept thinking NONO instead of FOUL, my brain wanted SOCIAL or PUBLIC in front, but that didn't fit. I kept envisioning a restaurant or home dinner table setting. PARTY. Huh.

HOMEBOY, HOMIE or HOMEY, HOMES – all slang I've heard. HOMESLICE? That's a new one.

But since PETESEEGER was the answer to 1954 "Frontier Ballads" (Whew! Finally got one!) that revealed the first letter P for "Poppycock!" and I went with POO. Never heard nor read anyone say "PAH" before. :-/

ZOOCREW, TALLTEES... Head scratching, am beginning to wonder if I live in a cave? Had AWE before WOW.

In short, this puzzle was too full of ARCANA for me. :(

PurpleCar 1:48 PM  

No one actually said "home slice" - it was one of those TV tropes. I was pissed to see it in a puzzle because it reeks of white people failing to code switch. "Volunteer" is a town name, no? BTW ETHERNET was the first clue I got in this mess but I'm an IT person. Didn't save this mess of a puzzle though.

Masked and Anonymous 1:51 PM  

Oddly, the sound of "YOOCREW" sounded primo, to this chess-neophyte. YUGZWONG seemed "conceivable", if pronounced "yuge" zwong. I dunno.

Am impressed, that @RP can just jump into the NW corner of a SatPuz, and let er rip. M&A SatPuz solvequest approach: Scan entire grid, fillin in stuff that he's reasonably sure about.
This nets one the absolute cornucopia of starter spots, at:

* ZONE. [Thinkin it was "man-ON-man", tho]
* ERE. ERE-ball gimme.
* AWE. [Later to be corrected to WOW]
* HEDDA. gimme, with the 38-D past tense -eD potential]
* {Pollen ___}. This is like pullin a wing offa the flailin M&A fly, to have **very** few fillin-the-blankers, and it's this obscure.
* {"Dona ___ Pacem"}. Yeah, hey -- go ahead, pull the other wing off.
* GREW. Proud to have stuck the landing, on this puppy, off nothin.

Found the puz harder than snot, but did finish it. No thanx to the likes of HOMESLICk.

Staff weeject pick: SAC/SOC. (yo, @RP) Dishonrable mention to: PAH.

Masked & Anonymo3Us

Masked and Anonymous 2:52 PM  

@RP: Yo. If yer daughter wants an easy, beginner crossword puz, they don't come much more compact and easy than this puppy. No harsh language in it, neither. Rated G+.

M&A Help Desk


Ben M 2:53 PM  

"@Martin Abresch" (I don't think I'm doing this properly how do I tag a person with a space in their name): thank you for the chess explanation. I had read the constructor's blurb on the Wordplay blog where he explained compulsion is a critical element in the concept: you would rather pass but you have to move and I had a little trouble imagining a scenario where that would be the case but you explained it well.

Bookin' the Cooks 2:58 PM  

Same here.

Nebraska Doug 3:42 PM  

DNF. Humbled. Finished Friday's puzzle completely and relatively quickly, happy with myself. Then this puzzle stops me dead.

Hartley70 3:53 PM  

I'm with @Loren and @Nancy. I was slew/slayed/slain. My finger may be permanently stuck on the check word function with a big red Cheater blazoned across my forehead.

I had the general idea but my first and second iteration was usually off. PARTYNONO became PARTYDONT before PARTYFOUL. The ZUGZWANG/ZOOCREW cross was painful, but I was delighted to discover such a zany term. HOME was easy. SLICE was painful since boyz sounds better. I don't Ike the cluing for ARENT or CELEB. I got them but it felt meh. Much of this was just agonizing even if I finally found the answer.

Luckily it's late afternoon on a beautiful day so I'm over it.

Penna Resident 3:58 PM  

only reason i "finished" was the easy start at zugzwang, though a wrong letter at hedda defaulted me. zugzwang is a fair word, and not only because i used to use it in every day language (the natick bias). it is a real german word that has made it into english and therefore as fair as latin legal terms. and far more fair than a gossiping actress from 100 years aqo.
eton cottage is a real thing too, and in my world it existed for a few minutes on the river.
also showed apparent muslim bias by assuming that emeers were faultless. hedra sounds like a nice name for a yenta.

Z 4:54 PM  

@Everybody - You really ought to read @DJG's blog about his puzzle. Good stuff. Those trying their hand at construction might find it particularly interesting.

@Jamie C - Since most league games I play are on mixed teams I've been working hard to call it "person D." Not that I like person D. Give me a flat mark and a clammy junk D and we'll generate turnovers all game long.

Interesting drink size discussion. @Evil Doug is correct. Ask for a short and you'll get an actual cup (as in 8 ounces) of coffee. I'm still a little perplexed when I order a small drink at a fast food chain and get what would have been a large in the 70's.

Jared 4:56 PM  

Got about 95% of the way on this but stumbled on ARENT and it's still bothering me. If you're going to go the meta route, why make it specific to a life? What about existence or something more vague?


Mohair Sam 5:36 PM  

@Z - I am messing around trying to construct a puzzle - thanks for the tip - valuable input.

@DCG - Thanks for the tips. You've made my mountain a bit higher, but when and if I climb it, I'll climb it right.

Larry Gilstrap 5:39 PM  

I've taken a few runs at playing chess, but it never took hold in my brain. Hasn't ZUGZWANG appeared before in the puzzle? I was still clueless, but knew something like a line in an eye chart was impending. Morning drive time radio programming can be dreadful, because they forget the "cute and entertaining" elements, to paraphrase @LMS. The commenters on this blog often do the same. I agree with OFL's chastening constructors to be careful with problematic crosses of obscure long answers. Who pays the bills around here, anyway? BENEVOLENT is pleasant fill, for many reasons.

OISK 6:44 PM  

Knew Zugswang both from chess, and from German, and somehow finished correctly. But this was a real slog for me. Awful clue for "aren't," although I "get" it. But incent (a word my spell check keeps trying to change) crossing homeslice ? I guessed right, but homeslice? It looks like even some of the younger, "hipper" dudes have never heard of it. An alternate clue could have been "bloodsuckers preying on former British PM?" And that would be Home's Lice.

Add me to the Ron Santo before Sal Bando crowd. I also thought of "Robinson," as in Brooks, which also has the right number of letters. Sometimes the attempt to skew the clues for a Saturday produces more of an annoyance than a challenge. Party foul? Tall tees? Pah! (and my spellcheck doesn't like "Pah" either...)

Grant Edwards 8:43 PM  

This puzzle made my day. Because of ZUGZWANG. First thing I wanted to enter. It was like playing ZAX in Scrabble. Mind you I'm bilingual in German, so it was a gimme.

Grant Edwards 8:43 PM  

This puzzle made my day. Because of ZUGZWANG. First thing I wanted to enter. It was like playing ZAX in Scrabble. Mind you I'm bilingual in German, so it was a gimme.

puzzle hoarder 9:42 PM  

Incentive is a word. INCENT just ARENT. Late entry due to my phone losing what I typed up much earlier. Is there anyone who has example of INCENT actually being used. I suspect it exists only on computerized word lists.
@Z thanks for the response yesterday. Now I have to go back to the crib and chillax with my HOMESLICE.

Carola 10:25 PM  

@puzzle hoarder, when I looked up to see if INCENT was actually a word, I read that Carly Fiorina used it but there are also citations going back to the 19th c. Details here.

phil phil 7:01 AM  

@LMS i was in your position but managed to slug it out a little further. Allbeit with wrong answers.

Motivation was as close as I could come to the answer, INtENT. Figuring HOMESLItE was some other viral video I wasn't aware of.
But dREW for waxed. Closed out that corner

I always thought for a clue/answer to be valid you should be able to compose a phrase with them interchageable. I'd say there lack life any possible with ARENT?
'His still life paintings aren't'.
Man you start talking to me like that you won't be my HOMESLITE anymore. In fact if you do so too often you're gonna AREN'T real soon like ya know what I mean.


kitshef 5:36 PM  

ZUGZWANG was a gimme, and one of several really nice words (ARCANA, PETESEEGER, ETHERNET). But then you get complete crap like HOMESLICE, ZOOCREW, PARTYGOUL, ARENT. A real mixed bag, and not a whit of challenge, which I hope for on a Saturday.

Burma Shave 11:59 AM  


You’ll SEE from ACUTEANGLE that DAHL is no EYESORE as a hooker.
but she’ll GETBORED then UNPEELED for any TENN ONLOOKERs.
There ARENT any PARTYFOULs HONOR for where she CHATS or sits,
so she’ll OPENWIDE for ZUGZWANG and go down ONTHEFRITZ.


rondo 12:28 PM  

Nowhere near easy for me. Hand up for ronsANtO at first (I mean at third). But REB had to be correct, light bulb ensues. CELEB was “issue at first; awe for WOW; bAH for PAH; inkfest in the SE especially will/Gift/GENE. Just kept picking away and writing over. Soon need a new pen at that rate. Success in the end.

Still don’t buy the concept of YEARZERO. I SAYNOTO that.

I didn’t GETBORED with this puz even with no CELEB yeah baby in sight. There ARENT many puzzles I’ll stick with for an hour or so, but I liked the fight this one put up for me. No sense ARGUING easy or not, much of this ARCANA was out of my ZONE, but a good finish. WOW.

rain forest 1:58 PM  

DNF in the SE, but having seen the completed puzzle, I see that shouldn't have happened, even though I didn't know HOME SLICE (really?). Oh well, some good stuff here, regardless. @Rondo-Ron SANtO before SAL, cued by GET BORED.

INCENT being a word is new to me, and actually, that whole SE section had one-letter-at-a time quality to it, and I just couldn't get around a couple of them.

Nevertheless, I liked it. Btw, I knew the chess term right off. Seems that whenever I play chess I get into that situation. I should stop playing with Garry Kasparov.

spacecraft 3:24 PM  

Late to the PARTY (FOUL? No one says that. Can you imagine going to a party and seeing this big guy in a chest protector at the door? "He's just the ump," your host genially explains. "He calls fouls." In the political sense, the term is just as unused, but there's no humorous description for it), but WEREHERE. I had to take a break because of a blockage in the NE. Mind was stuck on the incomparable Brooks ROBINSON, though if I looked him up I'd probably find he was an All-star way more than four times. SALBANDO, really? Man, I don't remember his career even approaching all-star status. Also that "Bread and drink" business: what a gauntlet I went through on that one! MEAL? FOOD? EATS? GRUB? I was on the verge of a third straight DNF.

Back from breakfast, I looked at intERNET and wondered, could that be wrong? I ignored that third column and tried to fill the rest in. Then it hit me: it's the Charlie of the Chocolate Factory! Never knew his last name. So: DAHL, duh! And 11 was YEARZERO, and the obscure unknown was EZRA, and out, thankyouverymuch. FETA atop the pizza, good enough. Whew!

As a one-time woodpusher, I knew ZUGZWANG right off--couldn't believe such a rich gimme was handed to me on a Saturday. There was a moment of uncertainty with HOMESLICE--never heard that one--but basically fairly Staurday-easy except for that NE corner. So...easy-challenging? There are a couple of DODs: Catherine ZETA-Jones gets a curtain call, or we could use mid-century actress GENE Tierney, about whom Hawkeye Pierce once said, "I'm a sucker for an overbite." Yeah, me too. A toothy puzzle (nice segue!); very little to SAYNOTO. Touchdown!

leftcoastTAM 3:32 PM  

I'll join the unhappy others. Too much too far out of my reach today.

The North was gettable if slow-coming. The South wasn't. ZUGZWANG? ZOOCREW? HOMESLICE? INCENT? and a couple of others that would/should/could have been inferred.

Very challenging, so didn't get GETBORED, but have to SAYNOTO it.

Diana,LIW 4:00 PM  

Mr. W and I are working on wills, etc., so will was my first answer for inheritance vehicle. That pretty much set the pace for this puzzle.

Some great misdirection - oh, THAT Victoria. NEE. My potatoes were au gratin.

Nothing to write home about, or here about. I got ZUGZWANGed big time.

Must go pet a cat to assuage my pain. Maybe get some RYES.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for lunch - Nova?

Longbeachlee 8:28 PM  

Totally with Loren Muse here. Party no-no, yes. Party foul, dreck

wcutler 2:42 AM  

Well, I never do Saturdays, and there was really no point in my trying this one, except that I was seriously avoiding doing something else, and I'd completed the Friday one after missing a whole corner on Thursday's, so thought there might be some hope. I didn't get half the clues, and half the ones I "got" were wrong. But I gave myself 10 points for knowing Hedda Hopper.

I'm only writing this to say that I LOVED the blog today. The mom and daughter's tweets were way fun, and @Joseph Welling, that's the first I've got to see all the words to that Monty Python ex-parrot bit, so thanks for that.

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