Modern brain-scanning procedure for short / SAT 9-10-16 / Crazy in 2010 Shakira hit / Capital where hell is pronounced johm riab sua / Animal whose name is derived from Latin for ghosts

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Constructor: Peter Wentz

Relative difficulty: Medium (or Easy, or who knows)

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: DOGCART (38D: Light carriage) —
noun: dog cart; plural noun: dog carts; noun: dogcart; plural noun: dogcarts; noun: dog-cart; plural noun: dog-carts
  1. a two-wheeled horse-drawn cart, with cross seats back to back, originally incorporating a box under the seat for sportsmen's dogs. (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow, if I don't get 1-Across right off the bat, I am in trouble. Today, no hope there, or at PHNOM PENH (15A: Capital where "hello" is pronounced "johm riab sua") (that's ... Khmer?) or ALEX ROCCO (17A: He played Moe Greene in "The Godfather") (seen movie many times, never knew actor's name) or FMRI (?), so NW was a waste. Sadly, my first answer was ICE IN (20A: Block at an airport, perhaps). I almost feel guilty about that, since no human would ever guess that naturally. That's pure crossword instinct. Then EPOCH and HIVE and then there was a moment of whoooosh and I GLIDEd right down into the SE, picking up the very easy NE along the way. PALMOLIVE (60A: Brand once pitched with the slogan "You're soaking in it") was the absolute gimme I *wish* I'd had at 1-Across. Anyway, I backed my way back into the NW and took it down and then circled around and brought my solving to a point—the grid all filled in except the SE. Narrow access point, but I figure, I got this. I figured very, very wrong. Here's what my grid looked like before the freefall.

Can you see the wrong answer, the wrong square, that strangled me? It's the "M" in (wrong) MOHLER. Faucet names? Ugh. I apparently conflated KOHLER and MOEN. And let me tell you, "M" looks just fine there, until you can't make any answer work in the across (47A: Batting a thousand, say). I tried ON A SCREAM once, desperately. I also could not remember SKEE-LO (48D: Rapper with the 1995 hit "I Wish") despite being able to picture him and the music video and being able to sing the chorus of the song (roughly). I had COOLIO in my head, and I knew that was way wrong, but ... just stuck. Also, the GECKO is a mascot, not a "symbol" (argh). I managed to get DIM and RIALS (which Of Course ended up being RIELS). But otherwise I was in freefall for minutes. DOG CART??? TAROT from *that* clue (64A: The Devil, e.g.). I finally finally finally figured out that "Y's" were NEXT .... TO LAST. And that did it. Well, until I got DOG CART / ON A STREAM and wondered WTF. Both seemed off. But just one. Just one. Puzzle seems fine. I usually groove on Wentz puzzles a lot more than I did on this one, but I have no complaints. People seem to be finding this one relatively easy. I just had a slow start and a very, very bad ending.

It's weird, though, now that I think of it. My time was only a little north of my normal Saturday time. I think because so much of it was easy, the hard parts felt devastating. Also, I'm used to being right in step with Wentz puzzles, and today ... it's like you don't even know me, Pete!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:09 AM  

My experience was similar to Rex's (except I had KOHLER), mostly easy except for the SW which took a fair amount of staring. Wanted IN A something for "Trouble getting started" which made me erase CRUEL after I got AT SEA and obscured GECKO. Plus SKEE LO (CeeLo I know but I don't think he was around in '95) was a total WOE, so there was no help there. Finally seeing TAROT got me to the finish.

The West side was definitely tougher than the East side for me.

Liked the clueing, liked the zip, liked the challenging West, liked it.

Seth 12:19 AM  

I feel like there's a part-of-speed mismatch at 55A. "Twisting the knife" is a noun (or a verb), and CRUEL is an adjective. I just can't see how "Twisting the knife" could possible be an adjective. The blue should be "Like twisting the knife, say."

I know both could replace each other in the sentence "He is twisting the knife" and "He is cruel." But still, those are two different parts of speech. Right?

chefwen 12:25 AM  

Easier than yesterday's puzzle for me, but not by much. ALEX ROCCO was a look up and I needed help spelling PHNOM PENH.

KOHLER was a gimme, I grew up about 25 miles south of KOHLER, WI, so no problem with ON A STREAK.

Of course I put in irons before WOODS, ONE LEG put a change to that. TOE JAM, really? I'm glad I do these at night and not before breakfast. YUCK!

Thanks Mr. Wentz, liked it!

Whirred Whacks 12:26 AM  

A bit off-topic.

Earlier in the week, ALT-right was part of a clue and answer in Kary Haddad's Wednesday puzzle. @Rex, @Z, @RavTom, @George Barany, and others weighed in on the appropriateness of this term -- especially in a NYT puzzle.

As for me, I'm still trying to figure out what "Alt-Right" means. Today, I stumbled on this video featuring the Brit provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. I'm not sure if I'm any closer to understanding "Alt-right," but I found Milo to be entertaining.

Here is a 5' CNBC video featuring Milo discussing his take on the Alt-right movement.

Pete 12:27 AM  

I read an article about fMRIs recently, basically trashing them. Seems very few people doing fMRI (they purport to show what portion of your brain is active when you're subjected to stimulus) bother to account for known flaws in the procedure, nor do they use the established procedures to assure reliable results. The classic example of the problem with fMRIs is where a scientist was able to show specific brain activity when speaking to a dead salmon. Yes, a salmon. A dead one. It seems <10% of fMRI studies published in psych journals can be verified by others. Lest you think 10% is an awfully low number, <40% of studies in psych journals can be independently verified. That being said, fMRI was my one and only entry in the first 5 minutes. Next in was ICEIN because in xwords Airport blah blah (5 letters) = ICEIN.

puzzle hoarder 1:07 AM  

I can't believe I spelled PHNOMPENH correctly off just the last two letters. I'd started in the NE which was the one truly easy section. Once I got into it the SW was a close runner up. What I found difficult was rounding the SE and especially the NW corners. It never quite made it to the challenging level but a very solid medium made from great material. I really enjoyed solving it. My wife on the other hand wishes I would get a life.

Vincent Lima 1:13 AM  

1A was a gimme with wisenEDUP. 17A was a gimme with Al Letieri (it's actually Al Lettieri) for Moe Green. Turns out my guy was indeed in The Godfather, but played Sollozzo, the Turk. Then I put in UNCouth for UNCIVIL.

Sure, I was wrong on all counts, but I had --EDUP, AL--, and UNC--, which was a foothold of sorts! EPOCH was a true gimme, and got things in shape.

All in all, not too bad.

Anonymous 1:19 AM  

Got it, finally, but still stumped by 30A. How does "It's a natural" connect to ELEVEN?

r.alphbunker 1:49 AM  

@Anonymous 1:19AM
Seven and ELEVEN are called naturals in the dice game craps. I wanted it to be some kind of sharp in music. I finally got it off of _ _ _VEN.

Here are the crap answers that I had to let go of:

18A. {"Capeesh?"} GETME from GET_E

46D. {She famously said "I'm single because I was born that way"} MAEWEST from MA_ _ _ _ _

58A. {Fracas} ROW from _OW

57D. {Crazy, in a 2010 Shakira hit} LOCA from LOCA

47A. {Batting a thousand, say} ONASTREAK from [H][O][T]STREAK

38D. {Light carriage} DOGCART from DOGCAR_

22A. {Very dark} EVIL from _ _ _L

26A. {Breakfast offering} MELON from M_ _ON

The whole solution is played out here.

Anonymous 3:09 AM  

Rex, you missed a classic Simpson's picture-post opportunity!

Alex Rocco not only played Moe Greene in "The Godfather," but he was also the voice of Roger Meyers, Jr., the producer of Itchy & Scratchy!

Mike in Mountain View 3:17 AM  

Wow. @RalphBunker, I also had Ebon before EVIL, LOCo before LOCA, ado before ROW, MAdonna before MAE WEST.

@Rex: I also had mOHLER before KOHLER.

Did anybody else have TAco before TART?

This turned out to be the most challenging puzzle in months, took me almost three times as long as my normal Saturday time. Finished in the SW, where the SKEELO/RIELS cross was a Natick but I guessed correctly.

Anonymous 3:28 AM  

The two best lines delivered by Alex Rocco:

"Do you know who I am? I'm Moe Greene! I made my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders! "

"I have to go now. My planet needs me."

Larry Gilstrap 3:40 AM  

Once again, wheelhouse or outhouse? No indoor plumbing for this solver on this sticky Saturday puzzle. KOHLER is great for sinks and toilets, but they make faucets? Really? I do the puzzle in the late pm, but still, TOEJAM just might put me off my breakfast, which might include some bacON on my MELON. Why not? For many years I drove to work in Olde Towne Orange through the intersection of PALM and OLIVE. There's a joke there somewhere using yesterday's Popeye reference. You bet your Life Bouy!, or some such. It is September, so might I recommend Buster Olney's baseball podcast featuring Tim Kurjian, whose segment always begins with, "NERD ALERT!". What is nerdier than this blog? Perhaps, collecting wrappers from DUMDUMS? Usually we complain about rappers like SKEELO.

Dr. Bunger 3:51 AM  

I prefer Toto and Moen.

George Barany 4:08 AM  

At the close of a very rough first week of instruction at the University of Minnesota, I had neither the stamina nor the knowledge to complete @Peter Wentz's Saturday puzzle ... and so very much appreciate reading @Rex's take on it (has anybody else mentioned the shoutout to OFL at 19-Across?).

I could not conjure up the name of ALEX_ROCCO, despite having been mightily entertained a little over a year ago by his New York Times obituary. While able to work out WIGGLE_ROOM, JOY_RIDE,MOOLA, and MAE_WEST, among others, and figuring out TITLE_GAME after FINAL_FOUR (same length) didn't mesh with the crossings, I was nonetheless stymied by the rapper (do appreciate @Rex's thoughtfulness in linking to it, though), the "ghost"-y animal, the Southeast Asian capital and its cross-referenced currency (some classic crosswordese), etc., etc. Cue in the "check" and "reveal" functions of the solving app.

I suppose that I should have been thrilled by science clues like pH_LEVEL and fMRI, especially due to some family history on the latter (my father; my daughter). Franky, I would have preferred the Nobel Prize-winning co-inventor of monoclonal antibodies to some faucet brand name. "Batting a thousand, say" strikes me as taking liberties with my own understanding of what it is to be ON_A_STREAK.

Thanks, @Whirred Whacks, for the added insights about the Alt-right movement ... we can continue that conversation off-Rex.

Martín Abresch 4:29 AM  

My experience was similar to that of Rex. (Albeit in slow motion, since this solve took me an hour.) My entry points were PH LEVEL and FOX, and after that I had a very orderly fill. Solved the NW. Moved to the NE. Solved the NE. Moved to the SE. Solved the SE. Ended up with a picture very similar to the one that Rex had. Then I spent a half an hour cracking the SW, but got it I did!

That SW did seem a bit off in terms of cluing, and I'd say that the answers there make it the least exciting corner in the puzzle (INERTIA, MAC USER). But I still loved the puzzle.

It's a gorgeous grid. Only four 3-letter answers. When Matt Gaffney subbed for Rex lately, he sometimes listed the three (or was it five?) worst answers in a grid. What would be the five worst ones here? I'd say FMRI, RIELS, KOHLER, and ... ? Everything else looks fine to me.

Loved the trivia clues for PHNOM PENH (Capital where "hello" is pronounced "johm riab sua") and LEMUR (Animal whose name is derived from the Latin for "ghosts"). The clue for NEXT TO LAST (Like Y's) kept me thinking: I wanted the answer to be about gyms. Enjoyed "SPARE ME!" and "NERD ALERT!" Enjoyed WIGGLE ROOM and SPIFFED UP.

PHONE TAG isn't an issue these days, thanks to cells. In my graduate student days, I had an answering machine message that riffed on PHONE TAG. I still remember it. "Ah, phone tag, emblematic of the symbolic structure of language in which the message is continually deferred. You have reached Martín 'the deconstructionist' Abresch. At the aural index, please leave some enunciated signifiers." As you can see, I was a blast to hang out with back then.

Jim Crotteau 7:09 AM  

One of my Dad's favorite jokes. . .

"Give me your palm, Olive."

"Not on your life, boy."

Not the most stellar joke out there, but I didn't love him for his sense of humor.

- Jim C in Maine

Loren Muse Smith 7:22 AM  

@Mike in Mountain View – I like your "taco" idea. 'Cept if you think about it, most of those innards do end up outside the shell, on the plate, in your lap… I mean, how the heck do you eat one without all the good stuff sliding out? Also – I agree with you that the SKEELO/RIELS cross was tough.

Massive dnf but I can explain. Saw the clue for 3D "banished" and it immediately became "exiled" in my head. Never revisited the clue, never could consider IN EXILE for the answer. So with "ebon" for EVIL and "esharp" for ELEVEN, my goose was cooked.

I way overthought 27D "Y" clue and was going for some fancy linguistic phonetic descriptor word. Especially since GLIDE was in the grid. "Approximant" was too long, so I was seriously considering something ridiculous like arrettolant. Sheesh.

Needless to say, SPAREME looks linguisticsome, too. On the Theta Role of Sparemes in Pingelapese Alveo-palatal Arrettolants

Almost wrote in "number one" for TITLE GAME. And almost wrote in "O please" for SPARE ME.

I liked the TART/TART cross. I'm picturing a TART TARTARE.

Yeah – kinda off-putting to have two brunch clues and then TOE JAM in the grid. Hah!

JOY RIDE – on a school bus in oppressive heat. Enroute back to high school from anachronistic (really, really cool) homecoming parade downtown Grantsville, WV. I found myself sitting next to a tiny girl whose name was Vision. Mysterious "9" next to her name on the nametag. She took each piece of candy, one-by-one, out of her princess backpack to show me. And here is a purple one. And this one is green laffy taffy. And this one looks like an eyeball but it's bubble gum! Then she said I'm a cheerleader. Wanna hear a cheer? Sure, I said. Clapping out each letter, she chanted, Q R STE! Now she had my full attention. What does that spell? She looked at me for a minute and then turned to stare out the window. Great. I was just trying to be nice. Later I asked her what grade she was in. She told me she was in first grade. The little girl across the aisle poked me and whispered She was in first grade last year, too.

Hartley70 7:29 AM  

I got my start with the SE stack and moved quickly up the grid. PALMOLIVE, my mother's choice of soap, was a big help. I got stuck at ICEIN because I wanted "chock" for the airplane wheel. I still do. ICEIN is a lackluster answer for that clue. I saw PHNOMPENH from the NH, a miracle because the clue was useless. I didn't know ALEXROCCO or the F in FMRI. The NW corner moved my rating from easy peasy to a bit tougher. And then... I got to the SW. I stared at it so long I self-hypnotized and nodded off. Before I left for the Land of Nod, I changed my rating to tough as an old shoe.

Now that I've awakened, I took another look. Bada bing it all fell into place, including SKEELO last of all. Who came first, Cee or SKEE? I'm rooting for Soulja Boy to be NEXTINLINE.

In the light of day, barely, I'm calling this an easier Saturday. It beat Friday's time by a few minutes and the cluing wasn't as tricky. Thanks for that SW corner, Peter. It was better than Sominex.

tb 7:57 AM  

@George Barany: Are you a professor at the University of Minnesota?????!!!!!

We did not know that! How fascinating! Thank you for posting that information.

Carola 8:41 AM  

A perfect Saturday puzzle for me: one where I looked into the maw of despair but then managed to find a way to safety. After I'd established a few potential TOEholds - REX x IN EXILE, HIVE x EPOCH, EXEC x CREPE PAN - without being able to do anything further with them, the outlook was bleak. I was rescued by the goose on ONE LEG, which allowed me to see WOODS and then WIGGLE ROOM and then the rest.

@chefwen, with regard to that faucet: instead of a foam cheesehead, I'm wearing a dunce cap, as with only the H in place I could only think of Grohe - never mind that the number of letters is wrong and the h in the wrong place. The K was my last letter in. DUMDUM!

DLK 8:49 AM  

It's okay about the DOG-CART thing. You just haven't read enough Jane Austen.

mathgent 8:51 AM  

Mixed feelings. Some very imaginative cluing but also some clunkers (the clues for TART, TAROT, NEXTTOLAST). I got an ego boost out of getting it without Googling because there were ten mysteries in either the clues or the entries -- my limit. Also liked that there were only six three-letter entries.

I've seen the Moe Greene scene from Godfather so many times that I'm surprised that I didn't know ALEXROCCO. It seems that Coppola even cast Italians to play Jewish characters.

Can't bring myself to give it an A, so A minus it is.

Ken R 8:52 AM  

Easy to medium....leaning toward easy for a Saturday...eminently doable clockwise from the NE...nice puzzle..."toejam" reminded me of toejam football from Come myself...oh's hoping Sunday isn't a BLAH !!

Aketi 8:53 AM  

I pretty much felt like the whole puzzled was ICEDIN and impermeable until I found a little WIGGLE ROOM to crack the ICE at PALMOLIVE. It was such a bottle that I drank a whole cup of coffee while contemplating that I had never noticed that brand name was actually two words. I had no PROB with KOHLER and the GECKO.

The RIELS should have been a great clue for me since I actually have a few in my foreign money stash. I swear between 1993 and 1999 I must have used them on at least a trip a year. So I hang my head in shame that It tooK the DECEIT of using Google to add the PH to the LEVEL to get PHNOM PEHN. It is a beautiful city whose buildings were untouched during the war, The juxtaposition of the city and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum can be quite jarring, I know mot tourist visit Angkor Wat, but i.e. very time I went there was some incident that made it risky to travel there. Instead I visited much older ruins in some of our project areas where there were no tourists at all.,

So how I felt about much of the puzzle = CRUEL, EViL, OUT TO GET ME
How, I felt about myself = AT SEA, DIM, DUMDUM

No, I did not GLIDE through this puzzle and I am not ON A STREAK,
This was not mere TOE JAM; it was like trying to hop on ONE LEG.

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

I don't know from craps, but in mathematics the "natural" numbers are the ones you count with, the positive integers.

Loren Muse Smith 9:01 AM  

@George Barany – You're one of my favorite commenters here. Often I learn something, and AND your posts come across as carefully-thought out, diplomatic, earnest, and lots of times, humorous.

On busy days when I don't have the time read everyone's comments thoroughly, I always try to read yours.

NCA President 9:16 AM  

Usual Saturday struggles, which is, I guess, why they call it a Saturday puzzle.

The silent H in PHNOM kept moving around for me: PHNOM or PNHOM or well...anywhere. I also had SoberEDUP which made PHLEVEL pretty much invisible. Saturday!

I had "The Devil" as "enemy" until somehow I saw that Ys are NEXTTOLAST. And so I stumbled to the finish by remembering my international currencies and "The Devil" is a TAROT card. I agree with Rex, the GECKO is not a symbol and yes, that did mess me up. You have your cupped hands (All-State), your mountain (Prudential), your militiaman (can't remember), and a few others. I don't even think Geico uses the GECKO in its official logo. Looking it up on the internet, it looks like it goes both ways...but even so, it looks a lot more mascotty to me than symbolly.

I wanted "non-PC user" to be controversial and to be offended by it. Color me disappointed.

Otherwise, Saturday!

George Barany 9:21 AM  

Aw @Loren Muse Smith @9:01 AM, that works both ways! (except your humor trumps mine by a factor of a gazillion; still having a "common palindromic text" on your JOYRIDE @7:22 AM).

Anonymous 9:29 AM  

Based on comments about this puzzle, Moen and Kohler have a brand-name recognition problem. Clearly, they should merge and become Mohler.

Jocasta Guyon 9:33 AM  

I'm almost embarrassed that I got TAROT for "the devil" so quickly with no helps. I don't believe in that silliness, but for some reason I know the major arcana very well.

Anonymous 9:34 AM  

Ha! I come to this blog to read you, Loren Muse Smith. And today's story about Vision did not disappoint. Thanks!

Teedmn 9:38 AM  

WYLE I have never watched ER, I did know Noah Wyle, mostly from his role in Donnie Darko. This was my starting point of the puzzle. Thus I went down from there and filled in the SE as PALMOLIVE off the IVE was definitely a gimme.

But my "hot" STREAK ended there and I had to go back up to the top for the NE. Stalled at PHNOM PENH and _MRI. Like @Pete, I had read about the MRI readings of dead salmon but couldn't conjure up the "f".

DIMly seeing "hot" wasn't going to work at 47A, I took that out and added ON A; with DIM, I got DOG CART and the rest of the SW. Back in the NW, REX IN EXILE was not helping me but I suddenly had an EVIL inspiration and finished up with one wrong square (really, the object of controversial hunts was a FOe? Where does this stuff come from?)

So 26+ minutes of Saturday solving fun. Thanks, PW.

Anonymous 9:42 AM  

The Palmolive clue reminded me of the time I got to sit next to Jan Miner, who played Madge in those ads, at a theater fundraiser lunch in Connecticut in the early 80s. She wasn't nearly as polished as she was in the ads, but she was fun! Brassy voice, big grin, hair a hot mess: fun time. Rumor had it that fellow guest Carrie Fisher was in the restroom throwing up. This was during her druggie years. Loved Madge, but I use Joy liquid. Sorry, Madge.

Mohair Sam 9:44 AM  

Medium/challenging Saturday and just the fun you want out of a NYT puzzle.

Opened with WOODS and WIGGLEROOM and built from there. Had hard time in NW like most of the gang here, had to work backward from PHONETAG - guessing PHNOMPENH off the last H and the PHLEVEL cross (worried over too many lawns in my life). Then FOX, and things opened up. Great misdirect on SPIFFEDUP, btw.

Our grid looked nearly identical to OFL's at one point (although we had the "K" where it belonged) with the SW open for the longest time. Finally tried CRUEL and everything opened up. How could we not think of GECKO at 51A? - that thing is ALLOVER the TV screen.

TOEcAM before TOEJAM (don't laugh, they may exist), shot enough craps as a GI that ELEVEN was a natural off the first E, Lady Mohair threw in mohler just as did @Rex. I've installed a couple of KOHLER faucets so was quick to correct. Speaking of which @Larry Gilstrap, the KOHLER faucets I installed looked terrific and worked just fine. I'll bet most people who know who SKEELO is don't know the term PHONETAG.

Great Saturday Peter Wentz, thank you.

Music Album 9:49 AM  

try hard , hum This Adorable Dog Thinks He’s A Meerkat

Coz Gal 9:53 AM  

One of my best Saturdays ever. Serving in the Army in Vietnam probably helped get me started. And, as happens sometimes, most everything else seemed to fall into place. I fully expect to revert to my normal level next Saturday, so that gives me a full week to feel smart!

Daryl 9:54 AM  

One of the easiest Saturdays in a long time for me. And just a beautiful PHNOMenal grid. Nothing to me came across as filler - though I did just install a KOHLER in-shower Bluetooth speaker, so I knew that one, and coming from South-East Asia made PHNOM PENH pretty easy (though I still had to figure out which of the Mekong country capitals it was - Vientiane and Nay Pyi Daw both also fit).

The grid reads great across too: ALEX ROCCO GET ME, EVIL HIVE LEMUR, MELON TITLE GAME, ON A STREAK MOOLA, and TAROT NERD ALERT are all very evocative.

A disagreement with Pete Wentz is called a fallout, boy.

Numinous 10:07 AM  

I have absolutely no idea why it is that I can get a Saturday puzzle straight off with no googles and so often in a lower than average time (which averages continue to decrease) and I have to google several to a lot of times on a Friday. In some puzzles, nothing looks right unless all the letters are correct.

What sticks in my mind here? ON A roll came to mind then I figured out ON A STREAK. I couldn't think of KOHLER right off but thought to myself I'll know that when I get closer. I got MAE WEST off of MA, but that just sounded like her anyway. "I'm a bit tired tonight, boys, Three of you will have to go home!"

Sitting in the local hospital at sparrow fart after being woken to take breathing treatments, Blood pressure goes up and there's not going back to sleep, so, @Leapy, here I am for a few days getting steroids having fun. The have a news paper here that has puzzles in it. Been so long since I've done a "dead tree' puzzle of any sort, I'm not sure I should solve in pencil, pen, or with a pocket knife.

@Hartley 70, when I was a teen I used to build a lot of plastic models and got pretty good at them. One year, my mother bought some plastic chess sets with realistic figures and bought some model paints, painted them up in interesting color schemes and gave them for Christmas presents. That just progressed to PELISSEd Hussars, Roman legionaries, and Confederate soldiers along with more interesting painting techniques.

I thoroughly enjoyed this POW. Odd little cross: TART and TART ARE "Rarer than rare" I keep forgetting that Romulus was a REX as the later Romans despised kings so much. Maybe I can get a nap now.

Finished that three hours ago and got distracted.

Random afterthoughts
Last night, while watching a TV show, a wounded character said, "In another day or two I'll be UP AND AT IT."
This morning on The weather Channel, someone discussing rain said, ". . . And then we'll be in THE GREEN PAINT."

bookmark 10:09 AM  

Aldous Huxley once said, “It’s rather embarrassing to have given one’s entire life to pondering the human predicament and to find that in the end one has little more to say than, ‘Try to be a little kinder.'”

jberg 10:14 AM  

This was almost a pure guess at the end -- that SKEELO/RIELS crossing. The impurity of the guess was that so many countries have rials, or some variant, so that seemed a little more plausible than a B, even though SKEE-bO might be a great rapper name. So I finished, but by luck.

Me too for TAco at first, along with 'boorish' at 8D. But PHONE TAG gives you the final H, and I can't think of another country ending that way; I would have said PNOM PENH, but it wasn't long enough, and about all you can do is stick the H in there.

MOney before MOOLA (which I would spell with that last H from Cambodia), GET it before ME and, stupidly, aha before LOL.

I grew up about 70 miles north of Sheboygan (Hi, @chefwen), at a time when the workers at the KOHLER plant had been on strike for about a decade, so you heard a lot about them -- so no PROB with that one.

@George Barany, me too with ON A STREAK -- you are on a streak when you get one hit per game. But maybe it's synecdoche, or something. (By the way, my sympathies as to the fall semester start-up! I retired as of June 30, and am very glad I'll never have to go through that again.)

QuasiMojo 10:17 AM  

Get a room, guys! Speaking of lovefests, I loved this one, although "toe jam" was unneeded. But then, I heard that guy Shields on PBS Newshour last night actually say "Kiss my ass," albeit quoting the Donald. Times and "The Times" -- have changed. I'm one of those weight-conscious folks who prefer "Wriggle Room" to "Wiggle Room" in case I am in a changing room at a department store. Was thrilled to see Phnom Penh in the grid, but you'd have to be a real "phenom" to know what the currency of Cambodia is. Last, but not least, Nerd Alert: I am proud to say that I once appeared in a Palmolive ad.

Elle54 10:23 AM  

Yep, for those of us from Illinois/Wisconsin. Kohler is the go-to.

Sir Hillary 10:28 AM  

From best to worst:

-- Clue for MACUSER. Simply brilliant.
-- Symmetrical WIGGLEROOM and NEXTTOLAST. Both look great.
-- SPAREME. Like @LMS, my first thought was oPleasE
-- Clue for JOYRIDE. Clever, although the noun/verb thing seems off to me.
-- LOCA next to LOL.
-- My UNCouth and GETit errors.
-- BEMAD. No, sorry.
-- RIELS/SKEELO cross. No no no no no.

One of my fraternity brothers (still a very good friend) worked for a money management firm right out of college. After a few years, he was handling a portfolio of private banking accounts, when his firm was bought by a large Swiss bank. He soldiered on for a while, but soon became disenchanted with the new way of doing things and decided to leave for a different job, which he still has 20+ years later. On his last day, he gave his Swiss bosses a rundown of each client in his portfolio, so they could transition his accounts seamlessly. After a long day in a conference room, he was punchy and tired when he came to his final client, one Morrell Green. He decided to have a little fun with the Swiss, so he looked down at Mr. Green's file and said something along the lines of, "OK, so Mo Green is a Vegas guy, used to run a hotel but he's out of the Tropicana now and the Corleones took over and they took care of all family business and they shot him in the eye when the also hit Barzini and Tattaglia and Cuneo. Any questions?" He looked up to find everyone staring at him wide-eyed. One Swiss gentleman finally said, "Zey shot heem een zee eye??"

Nancy 10:36 AM  

Two enjoyable, challenging puzzles in a row, so I'm a happy camper. I didn't know -- or else wasn't sure enough of -- anything in the NW, so I had to start in the NE and work backwards.

PHLEVEL was my DOUP of today: I read it and re-read it and still could make no sense of it. I was pronouncing it FLEVEL. Blind spots can be so...blind. I had S'POSE SO before SPARE ME at 1D; MADONNA before MAE WEST at 46D; and the mistake that caused me the most PROBs was ADO instead of ROW at 58A. I wracked my brains for PALMOLIVE -- that ad was light-years before the invention of the mute button (or even the remote) and I must have seen it like a thousand times. It was also one of the best ads on television of its era.

Not as much of a struggle as yesterday, but plenty of challenge nonetheless. I liked it a lot.

Nancy 10:51 AM  

As I was solving, I had no clue what an fMRI was and only got it from the crosses. But thanks to @Pete's detailed and sober warning at 12:27 a.m., I'll make sure never to have one! That's probably the most important info I got on the blog today. Thanks, Pete.

Interesting to see that @chefwen, @lms and @Larry Gilstrap were all put off their feed by TOE JAM. Because I don't have the foggiest idea what it is, it didn't bother me at all.

@lms: Your Vision the cheerleader story is hysterical.

For me, the SKEELO/RIELS could have been a Natick, too, but I guessed right. Probably because I was already thinking of RIaLS.

mac 11:09 AM  

Nice puzzle! A little embarrassed to say my first word in was Wyle. Had to start building from there. The one across was one of the last ones to fall, I had studied up for too long.

@loren: sweet anecdote. And I agree with you, I enjoy George's comments very much, plus his pride and happiness in his children!

Looking back at the finished puzzle, there are many great words and terms. Great job, Peter Wentz, a worthy Saturday.

Hobbyist 11:09 AM  

Easy today but am I the only one disgusted by " toe jam?" Worse than ear wax or...

Mohair Sam 11:17 AM  

@everybody - I missed the definition of TOEJAM, and judging by your reactions I do not intend to inform myself.

Tim Pierce 11:42 AM  

I wish that Rex's review had included some comment on the grid and the fill, which for my money was outstanding: only FMRI felt clunky to me, and maybe RIELS too. Really lovely vocabulary and great clues.

QuasiMojo 11:57 AM  

@Nancy, you made me LOL at your initial Madonna mishap. But I can't imagine her coming up with quite so funny a bon mot. @teedmn, Noah Wyle was also outstanding as Steve Jobs in that TV movie about his unhappy relations with Bill Gates.

AliasZ 12:30 PM  

This was quite a SPIFFED-UP puzzle, some of whose clues were downright EVIL. Like "It's a natural" for ELEVEN -- a crap shoot, likewise "Like Y's" for NEXT TO LAST. Some CRUEL DECEIT there and in a few other places -- terrific stuff!

I liked the open grid with some WIGGLE ROOM, except for the SW/NE culs-de-sac which sadly missed the natural flow of the rest of the puzzle, save one narrow inlet each.

I was glad to see REX the sly FOX, and I can never have too much of MAE WEST, that LILT TART. Or the Geico GECKO. But TOEJAM, SKEELO (who?) and a few other DUMDUMS stand out as less than OPTIMAL -- not overly appetizing fare pour moi. There were also too many INs: INPUT, IN EXILE, ICE IN. Although as a habitual sinner ICE IN a lot. God forgive me as I forgive Peter Wentz.

I never use TOE JAM in my CREPE PAN.

(With only ONE LEG)
By DECEIT of her pants --
Is utterly EVIL
As is the bow weevil.
Then in comes REX
Who makes nervous wrecks
Of all uncles and aunts

Enjoy your weekend with the Rondo from Horn Concerto No. 4 by W.A. Mozart played here by Al UNCIVIL.

Frank V. 12:48 PM  

The gecko is actually a spokesreptile.

old timer 12:50 PM  

I love all the comments today. And I am amazed that most of you did not have to look anything up. I looked up SKEE LO, and for some reason hat "ginko" instead of GECKO. Which I knew. Somehow I failed to change the "n" though so I had "Man USER instead of MACUSER. Which I have always been. OTOH I had CRUEL and TAROT right away and when I got PHNOM PENH at last, knew the Cambodians use RIELS.

PALMOLIVE surprised me -- don't remember that slogan, but it had to be right. As did TOEJAM. The Donald would rightly say, "That's disgusting."

I'd still be trying to solve this baby if I had not Googled the cast of the Godfather movie. Even so, I mixed up Blackjack and craps, and had confidently written in "ace ten" before PHLEVEL made ELEVEN obvious.

Masked and Anonymous 12:53 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
old timer 12:56 PM  

Thanks for the Mozart, @AliasZ!

Masked and Anonymous 1:00 PM  

I like everybody's comments. Never know, where U might find a golden acorn. @muse and @George are pretty consistently great reads, tho. And @Z is a magnificent beast.

@RP: MEDIUM?!? yep. Sounds about right. Got into the NE immediately, with the WIGGLEROOM/WOODS combo punch. Then rocketed thru the NE and SE, before encounterin the deep, precious nanosecond well also known as the SW. Was a victim of dogcart inertia and EEL-y rappers, in those parts. Things didn't get much better, when M&A desperately switched his attentions to the NW. Never had the pleasure, on either ALEXROCCO or FMRI. Do admire the desperation of the FMRI, however. KOHLER was a gimm&e, btw.

HIVE eventually helped m&e limp into the NW, and then things got a bit better. fave fweeject: FMRI.

PHONETAG just called, and wants its TELE back.

{Like Y's} was a primo clue. 12-A = {Like U's} woulda been a cool, logical extension.

Thanx, Mr. Wentz. Fun SatPuz.

Masked & Anonymo4Us

Pete 1:05 PM  

@Teedmn - To be fair, the article mainly focused on social scientists trying to make a point, i.e. what part of your brain responds to puppies, what part to god, etc. I don't know that the conclusions apply to medical people performing medically indicated tests.

Masked and Anonymous 1:19 PM  

TOEJAM. har. Got er off the TO????, but had figured it to be just somethin I could brag on later bein wrong about, here. MAEWEST quickly set my TOEJAM in cement, howsomever.

Cool JOYRIDE clue needs pointin out, also. Plumb Wentz over my head, at first, but thoroughly enjoyed it.

M&A iterations of WYLE recap:
1. WILY.
2. WEIL.
3. WILE.
4. WYLE.
Dude is doin "TV doctors recommend this …" ads lately, during the tennis matches.



Lewis 1:32 PM  

Two favorite clues: HIVE and TARTARE. Two favorite answers: SPARE_ME and TARTARE. I like the backward LIVE meeting with LOVE, and have kept my equilibrium even though MAE is on the east. It is a gorgeous looking grid, and the answers are clean. This was just what a Saturday should be, a mix of answers from different fields, and toughness yielding to ahas.

Joe Bleaux 1:51 PM  

Same yo-yo, different string: Clever clue for JOYRIDE (44D) is "Going out with a hot model."' If goING, then joyridING, no?

David in CA 2:05 PM  

@Nancy: Making medical decisions based on what you read on a crossword blog? Hmmm...

Volunteered for an fMRI some 15 or 20 years ago - very early days. Conclusive result in my case was that my brain did not function - I could have told them that!

Really balked at putting in JOYRIDE because of the noun/verb thing, and having never heard of a TOEJAM. Why not clue it "Go out with a hot model"? Wouldn't even need to add the "?" for Saturday.

30A=Esharp threw me off for some time for the "natural", though I suppose for serious musicians that isn't really equivalent to F natural. New the craps "natural", but only via the 4077 MASH being referred to as the "double natural", so that didn't help much.

1st Saturday I've finished without my "closer" in quite a while, so on the easy side for me. Definitely easier than yesterday's!

Seth 2:36 PM  

I don't think so, because "Going out with a hot model" can be a noun phrase. "Going" can be a gerund.

OISK 2:50 PM  

Saturday tough, but I got it. I had trouble recalling "Mae, or May, West." Noah Wyle or Wyly was little help, but I was pretty sure (correctly) that the name is almost always Mae. I got that one immediately from the clue, odd that I was foggy on the spelling. Then there was Riels with Skeelo. Skeelo? Really? The problem with that and many other "Rap" names is that nearly every letter could be anything. Skeezo? Skeebo? Why not? But like my friend @ Nancy, Riels just seemed right for a currency, because we have heard of Rials. I don't like that particular crossing!

I had "final four" before "title game," thought that dum dumb were soft bullets, never heard LSD referred to as "TABS,", don't know what a toejam is, and have no idea what, if anything, was sung by Shakira. But I am one of those science majors who often set off a "nerd alert..."

JC66 3:02 PM  


Classy defense of @George Barany (who really doesn't need it).

I look forward to reading both your & @George Barany's posts daily.

MetroGnome 4:00 PM  

What the hell is a TARTARE?

pnf408 4:35 PM  

Was definitely easier than yesterday's puzzle. Significantly so.

I started with PHLEVEL and FRMI (both obvious), then had enough crosses to get PHNOM PENH, then the rest of NW fell, despite never having heard of Alex Rocco.

I considered "PHONE SEX" before deciding that "PHONE TAG" was more likely...

Funny how PALM OLIVE was a gimme for Rex, but completely mystified me.

The clue "Suit" at 34A had me stumped for a while, as there are so many other meanings than EXEC. I was thinking legal action, or clothing.

TARTARE is a dish of uncooked beef, I believe. There may be alternate spellings.

Diego 5:07 PM  

Hey Dr. Bungle, I prefer Toto, also. But, only with Dorothy.

QuasiMojo 5:28 PM  

@MetroGnome, a "tartare" is "steak tartare" or sometimes "tuna tartare" -- served chopped and raw, usually with an egg and some capers dropped into it. A dash of tartar sauce on the side. I used to make them at a fancy, black-tie restaurant, and serve them to the hungry customers. Hard work, mixing it properly, but well rewarded.

Malsdemare 9:08 PM  

@Martin Abresch. Long ago when we got our first answering machine, I composed and recited a little ditty, ala "Twinkle, twinkle, little star."

"Jingle, jingle, little phone.
Don't you know that no one's home?
All the little Klauses gay
Had other things to do today.

But if you leave a message and your name
Someone will return your call again.

But if you don't, then you shall see
How angry little stars can be.

Hey, folks, if you want John Donne, ya gotta call St. Paul's."

After the first day, we had to change it to something generic, so many hangups, the machine almost fried itself. That whole "return your call again" probably had something to do with it.

Oh, the puzzle . . . I got about 90% without help, but oh the last 10%! Mama Mia! I loved it when NERDALERT and GIGGLEROOM fell, less excited about FMRI and TOEJAM (I had TOEbox; that works, right?).

On to Sunday!

Nancy 9:59 PM  

@Martin Abresch and @Malsdemare -- I'm having a lot of trouble deciding which of your respective former answering machine messages is the more hilarious. Whether I would have found them so if I had actually been calling you is another matter entirely. You say you had a lot of hangups, @Malsdemare? I can't imagine why.

Malsdemare 10:48 PM  

@Nancy. Oh, my, nerdy vs. totally juvenile? That I'm in the running at all is more compliment than I can handle. I may have to unearth some of the other beauties we tried; there was one Christmas one, with an obvious play on the rest of the family's last name. "Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a (wait for it) Klaus." Blessedly, the rest of this gem is sleeping with the fishes, as they say.

Leapfinger 12:06 AM  


Worked my way through toast and bacON to get to my breakfast MELON. My favourite perk is to see it as an abbrev for Musk, ELON. Went on to have problems in all quadrants except the PALMOLIVE section, which I frond curiously easy, perhaps since TARTs ARE there. Toughest were the NE and SW, due to nondisjunction problems traversing the Straits of E&T. Was interested to learn some people have a ROOM devoted entirely to WIGGLing, and am pleased to discover there're other PHeNOMenal solvers who see how I remember how to spell PHNOM PENH.

TOEJAM was at least marginally unappealing, but even ruder was its basis for a JOYRIDE ALL OVER MAE WEST.

Speaking of ICEIN...(and someone was)... It's pretty well known some people LOVE TO LAST; I spose if you can't be NEAR the one you LOVE TO LAST with, you LOVE the NEAR one NEXT TO LAST. There was this artist fellow in Marseille, they called him LE MURAL LOVER... Zut alors!

No idea from Wentz that came...

Y'all have a LILTing Sunday.

Leapfinger 12:09 AM  

@Numi, sorry to learn I picked up on that correctly. Give 'em Hell.

[Sparrow fart, snort!]

Leapfinger 12:27 AM  

And @Alias, thanks for one of my longest-standing favourites of Wolfgang's oeuvre. Horns, indubitably, but most CIVIL.

Z 7:18 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Z 7:19 AM  

Big Fat DNF in the SW. Rap is right there with 19th century Opera in my knowledge base, a big black hole that tends to suck the fun right out of puzzles for me, never to see the light of day again. If you'd care I can make other comparisons between the two genres, Far more alike than lovers of either would care to admit.

@Whirred Whacks - Nope, that's it. When someone says, "Oh no, not white supremacy, western values" you know you have a hateful bigot in the room, trying to disguise their KKK values with some nice reframing. You want some "Western values?" Here you go:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Malsdemare 10:33 AM  

@z. Perfect.

Gregory Schmidt 1:02 PM  

Kohler a gimme since I'm from Wisconsin. (Wow, that's two days in a row I knew something Mr P. didn't!) SKEELO/RIELS a total Natick for me.

kitshef 11:49 PM  

First in was ncaatitle at 28A. Took quite a while to unwrap that mess. Not helped by GETit before GETME.

But the bottom half was easy. So much so that I probably finished about average - just with 75% of the time spent on the top half.

Like it a lot. Tough, but never CRUEL. Left me ATSEA sometimes but never in such a JAM that I couldn't escape.

Syndyland Solver 11:26 AM  

I'm sure your Fallout Boy went over the heads of many in this crowd. :)

Burma Shave 12:10 PM  


The TART with ONELEG would GETME to bed
and GLOM on to me ALLOVER until NEAR doom.
She’d BEMAD and UNCIVIL until I INPUT ahead


spacecraft 12:42 PM  

A tough one, but I'd rank it for this week's ease of solving NEXTTOLAST. I ran right to the gimme PALMOLIVE and spread out from there. Another rapper had to go in 100% on crosses (a pox on all of them!), but the ever-present Geico GECKO helped--since the Aflac duck has only four letters. After I had the unknown RIELS filled in on a natick guess for the L, I still didn't know who uses that money.

A ginormous misdirect appeared for breakfast: you can have your MELON, you health nuts; me, I like to enjoy eating. Pass the bacON, please. Eventually I got it straightened out, with the help of aha! moment INEXILE/REX. Hi there, Fearless One. Then, if I'm to believe PHLEVEL, we have _HN______--enough for PHNOMPENH, and done a minute later.

I have no idea if SKEELO is even a female or not, so I fall back on the classics: MAEWEST for DOD. She has to beat out Madge the manicurist! Amusing golf clue for WOODS without referencing Tiger. A small writeover at GETit before GETME. Triumph factor large; interesting fill--but please no more 43-across. First down.

rondo 12:54 PM  

NW inkfest as, like someone above, I had wisenEDUP and also Evil and bacon. So I filled in the rest and came back in an EPOCH and played PHONETAG which sent me to PHNOMPENH and the rest of the w/os corrected. What a mess I made. That
NW needs to be SPIFFEDUP.

KOHLER is a gimme in the Midwest and probably further. I’m familiar with NEARly their entire product line having completely redone my bathroom a coupla years ago. By myself I might add.

Aren’t DUMDUMS still a popular Halloween treat?

No-brainer on yeah baby MAEWEST, the FOX or TART of her time. Need I mention MELONs?

@Martin A – PHONETAG is still a “thing”, especially calling from office to office. I’d say most public employees aren’t issued cell phones for work, and I’m not transferring calls to my private phone.

Except for the NW easier than yesterday. Liked it, and for today that’s my INPUT.

Anonymous 2:00 PM  

An infuriating, unfair puzzle. Rejected with extreme prejudice.

Longbeachlee 2:09 PM  

From a WWII song,My Sister and I.
"And the dog-cart we drove in days before
But we don't talk about that."

Diana,LIW 2:33 PM  

Like @Spacey, I had GETit, but never let "it" go. So dnf'd in the NE.

The rest seemed MUCH easier, for me, than yesterday's WOE fest. Bit by bit it all fell. Except...(see above)

Mr. W has been bath and kitchen remodel shopping, so KOHLER jumped into place. And who could ever forget Madge?

My lollipop wrapper knowledge is one step below my rapper knowledge. So DUMDUMS were not in my ken to help me out. I did have WOODS, but then took the last two letters out as I couldn't make any sense there.

Surprised to see GLOM and TOEJAM in the NYTP.

Har at the clue "Like Ys." And "Look who's being catty!" I mentioned the latter to Lambo. He fell asleep. I did not. Enjoyed my "almost."

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoastTAM 3:58 PM  

Lots to like here. In the NW, ALEXROCCO and PHLEVEL helpfully opened it up, and LEMUR and DUMDUMS(?) in the NE. SE overall was easy, although LOCo required the LOCA writeover, and TARTARE made little sense to me.

Yesterday it was the NE, today the SW. Slowed to less than a crawl, was ATSEA, needed guidance. Was stuck with winSTREAK and NEXTTOexes and wouldn't know a SKEELO from a GECKO. Making it tougher, mindset on recent PC, non-PC dustup obscured the otherwise obvious answer, MACUSER.

Cheated to a DNF. DIM-DIM, DUM-DUM.

rain forest 4:38 PM  

Tough puzzle. Did it in two shifts, spaced a couple hours apart. Despite how long it took, only two w/o's - GET it before GET ME, and MOney before MOOLA.

As an excuse, I offer that I have a bad cold and cough, so I'm not UP TO GRADE, and after I got pretty well the entire centre and S, flummoxed was I in the SW, NE and NW. But I knew Kohler even though I'm not from Wisconsin, and ON A STREAK and DIM provided most of what I needed in the SW, and the last four squares of 1A gave me TITLE GAME, which I needed in the NE. I balked at PH LEVEL, because a scientist would say "I measured the pH", period. Finally, ELEVEN came to me and that was that.

Lots of great cluing and a wide range of subject matter kept the interest up. I do want to say though, that when commenters state "the grid is gorgeous", I don't know if they are talking about the pattern of square blocks, or the actual words in the puzzle. Yesterday's puzzle looked very similar, but I don't recall anyone using the "gorgeous" appellation. Regardless, both puzzles were excellent.

Unknown 9:42 PM  

Easiest Saturday of all time. No zugzwang in sight.

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