Round openings in domes / FRI 10-21-16 / Perfume named for Baryshnikov / Pre-buffet declaration / Gendered Spanish suffix / Occasion for dragon dances / Fictional title character who declares How puzzling all these changes are

Friday, October 21, 2016

Constructor: Martin Ashwood-Smith

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: SEIDEL (22D: Large beer mug) —
• • •

OK, so, the thing about these stack puzzles (triples, quads, whatever) is that they all feel the same. This is not to say that they are all of the same quality—MAS here does them as well if not better than anyone else (among constructors who bother to make stackers, he mostly has imitators, not equals). It's just that the experience of solving them is the same: hack away at the short Downs and then use pattern recognition (and, uh, your general knowledge base, I guess) to get the long Acrosses. Usually one Across tips things pretty hard your way (esp. in a triple-stack situation; quads might be a little peskier). The grid-spanners often come in dull or forced, or at any rate not scintillating. This is where good separates itself from not-good: the quality of the stack components. Getting a stack to work is one thing. Getting one to work and by majority-cool, that's tougher. Oh, the good also separates itself from the not-good in the tolerability of those short Downs. No one expects gold, but the less cringing, the better. I would put this puzzle on the higher end of stack-based puzzles. That center stack, in particular, is very solid, very nice. I might even be more impressed by the general smoothness of the short Downs. I doubt most solvers note this kind of stuff, but as someone who has a low tolerance for wincing and a huge appreciation for craftsmanship, the exactness of the little details pleases me. Still, solving this type of puzzle always feels like a by-the-numbers exercise. No real sparkle or surprises, and not much room for interesting answers anywhere *besides* the long Acrosses.

Didn't get 1A straight off ([Ones making the rules?]) but figured it had something to do with lines (like ruled paper?), so it wasn't too hard, after my first pass at the Downs, to pick up MEASURING STICKS. Having MESSINA at the back end of an entry had me thinking Loggins, but instead I get STRAIT OF MESSINA—new to me (17A: Passage between Sicily and the toe of Italy). Manage to get out of N without much trouble. Tried to make Shirley BASS(E)Y work at 2D: Shirley of "Goldfinger" (EATON). Didn't she sing one of the Bond theme songs. Yes! In fact, she sang "Goldfinger," just as I suspected. 10 points to Gryffindor!

Hardest part of puzzle for me was SEIDEL (what?) next to ALL UP (who?) two doors down from OCULI (really?) (30D: Round openings in domes). Otherwise, nothing too tough. That middle has a rather ugly east end (ISSET MERS), and also AHAIR, which would've been not so big a deal if it hadn't been followed shortly thereafter by AWIRE. Still, as I say, short fill stays pretty dang clean. Overall, a fine Friday outing.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 12:04 AM  

I kinda thought 15D: Stax could have been the theme.

John Child 12:19 AM  

POW from me. I love looking at an "impossible" grid and beating it. SEIDEL and ALL UP are both new to me. The latter sounds like the Queen's English. Leon URIS is back, and a shoutout for me at 13-D. ;-) Just A HAIR over 20 minutes, and so the perfect Friday.

Jason Claunch 12:21 AM  

I thought OCULI was cleverly clued.

Trombone Tom 12:32 AM  

I think @Rex's review is fair and accurate. I found no traction on the top line and was thinking more of the reign type of rule. Got my start in the middle when TOTALITARIANISM seemed to jump out with only four crosses in place. That section filled out with little problem.

Next was the bottom and INTERESTRATE*** started things off. I was delayed a bit by TESTEDTHEWATERS, as the singular form is more familiar to me.

Learned ICOSA and SEIDEL here today. Whether I still recall them tomorrow is another matter.

Kudos to MAS.

George Barany 12:48 AM  

Much good material in today's puzzle by my cyberfriend and occasional collaborator @Martin Ashwood-Smith, and interesting point of view in @Rex's review.

MAS has a personal milestone coming up in just a few days, as you can learn from A Lot of Birthday Cake on One's Plate.

ICYMI, we offer Debate and Switch for your further solving pleasure. Political theme, but we aim to be fair and balanced.

AskGina 1:01 AM  

Twenty minutes on a Thursday and 45 minutes on an Friday. Regina, Queen of the Experienced Plodders. From a deep ancestral cellular memory, I knew Strait of Messina. Or it was mentioned in some technicolor gladiator movie from the 1950s, probably starring Tony Curtis, and impressed itself on my brain with the rest of the worthless information that is my cross to bear and I was off to the races. I love this puzzle for the simple reason that I flew through it like a demented 90 year old on a motorized shopping cart. Come morning, I'm gonna celebrate. It's two bran muffins and second cup of tea.

jae 1:07 AM  

Easy for me, but that's the problem with stacks. As @Rex pointed out all you need is a few letters and a Wheel of Fortune mind set to guess the 15s.

ALL UP for hopeless was a WOE. The Google example made some sense though, ..."it was all up for the trapped miners"...

Liked the 15d reference to MAS's forte.

Pretty good effort given the constraints, liked it.

Cato Rosenbaum 1:09 AM  

Stack and stunt puzzles come across as nothing more than onanistic: the pleasure is primarily one sided (the constructor's). The solver is all "oh yes, I see what you did. How nice. Now we have a mess though."

Richard Rutherford 1:29 AM  

What is the record for fewest black squares in a 15x15? This must be close.

AliasZ 1:42 AM  

My very first entry into the empty grid STRAIT OF MESSINA went straight in. I can't even remember how I remembered it. All other 15s came only with the help of crosses.

The cluster of IS SET, I LET, I AM NOT, A HAIR and A WIRE seemed a bit much ALL UP-piled like that, but was a small price to pay for an otherwise excellent MAS STAX puzzle.

I have forgotten that OCULI (eyes in Latin) also meant round openings/windows in domes or walls, but then remembered standing inside the Pantheon in Rome in 1968, looking up into the blue sky through the oculus and admiring the amazing space and architecture. It is an experience one does not soon forget. Did you know that the French phrase for such a window is œil de boeuf (bull's-eye)?

ICOSA I did not know, but then I remembered "ICOSA es sucosa" and suddenly felt right at home.

I wondered how this a cappella motet would sound in the Pantheon: Caligaverunt OCULI mei (for Good Friday) from the Tenebrae Responsories by Tomás Luis de Victoria.

Have yourself a good Friday!

Anonymous 1:51 AM  

Dear Cato,

I wasn't aware that my ejaculatory powers were that powerful at my advanced age of almost 59.

But, rest assured, I'll strive to be more careful with my aim next time.

Cheers ;)


Hartley70 2:28 AM  

AAHS from me! I have been anticipating this MAS Friday and his wonderful stacks since someone earlier in the week let the cat out of the bag. Thank you Will. They are sadly few and far between lately, but a MAS Friday may be even more enjoyable than a rebus Thursday. There is something so neat and tidy in the solve.

I had MISHA right away and also wanted Bassey next to it. EATON came later. All those youngsters who had a moan about URIS yesterday, get to repeat the experience today. ICOSA looked so wrong and I just guessed on the X in STAX. The top third gave me more trouble today then the other two-thirds. Once I had that, I flew along without interruption.

This was a much faster solve than some of his stacks. It was gone too soon, but I'm awfully happy it stopped by.

Larry Gilstrap 2:28 AM  

Definitely daunting grid spanners are the feature of this sticky Friday offering. ICOSA is twenty? Help me here. I like the fact that the puzzle references beer almost on a daily basis, but I assume SEIDEL must be a thing. I don't care to PURSUE THE MATTER, and in some world somewhere folks are guzzling large beer mugs; I APPRECIATE THAT.

I'm no engineer, but in that world what could be a smaller gradation than A HAIR? Wink if you know the reference.

That whole Labor day cluing seemed a bit off. CHILD BIRTH is a result of labor, but I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the context. Happy Mother's day to laborers and not so much to weavers.

Finally, growing up I remember hearing figurative expressions and being smart enough to recognize that "I'm so hungry I COULD EAT A HORSE" was not literal. Particularly, an entire horse, snout to tail.

Martín Abresch 2:28 AM  

@Richard Rutherford - The record for fewest blocks is 17 by Joe Krozel. You can find a full list of the fewest and most block records on at XWordInfo. This puzzle is a 16x15 and has 32 blocks. Also according to XWordInfo, the average Friday 15x15 has 31.3 blocks, and Saturday averages 30.6.

puzzle hoarder 2:31 AM  

The top stack was the slowest for me . I had a SASHA/MISHA write over and I also initially took an S out of MESSINA and used it to pluralize STRAIT. After I fixed that the other stacks went in much more smoothly. I was a little unsure of SEIDEL and SAY so I was relieved to see I came away with what I thought to be a clean grid. However I'd left ITU in at 41A. I conflated the spelling of museum with the correct spelling for NAUSEAM. ITU is just so obviously wrong but it's late and I'm hurrying to get to bed. We stayed out to watch the Cubs thrash the Dodgers again!

chefwen 2:48 AM  

I usually don't care for grid spanner puzzles and I knew that MAS was going to be featured today. Was not looking forward to it, but found it to be quite easy and fun. Surprise! All the spanners filled in with just a few letters in place and I was finished before I wanted to be. Puzzle mate was disappointed that I didn't require his assistance. Maybe tomorrow.

Loren Muse Smith 4:30 AM  

Well heck. I had a dnf because of the KANE, STAX, LEX, MESSINA crosses. Maybe knowing MESSINA would've helped a little, but that X… I might not have guessed right.

Rex – you have pretty well described the process of stack-solving. But where I differ is the part where you say it feels like a by-the-numbers exercise for you. Fair enough, but even without the wordplay of a themed puzzle, I myself enjoy using my Wheel of Fortune (well-put, @jae) mind to suss out the spanners.

@Cato Rosenbaum – I had to look up onanistic. Hello. That'll wake you up. Anyway – if you're tossing me into a basket of solvers who derive no pleasure from stacks or stunts, I want out. I like them.

The SAY and its clue was tough. Liked it.

Anyone else go with "pas de" before ENTRE for 47D? Oh, and I was going "viola" before APRON for the 3D strings-attached thing.

Pre-buffet declaration – My, oh my! Look at all those tri-color pasta salads! And terrific! All seven of them have green olives and little pieces of ham!

@Larry Gilstrap – I know, right? "Labor day highlight." CHILD BIRTH. Hmm. That made me snicker a little bit. I've never thought about the word "highlight," but it seems to imply the presence of other, lesser "lights" to choose from. What. Having your face flatten in pain like a pancake (my husband's go-to simile when describing our son's birth)? Walking the halls like one of those movie zombies?. Pick the best part. Hah! Seriously, Mrs. Smith, what was the highlight for you? Think about it. Take your time.

I liked SLEEPLESS NIGHTS. That's all I have these days. How come I never manage to have a doctor who'll just write a prescription for some lovely little pill? I don't ask because I'd feel guilty. Like a sneaky little drug-seeker. Doctors out there - you listening? I need help, but I can't bring myself to ask for a pill. I need you to offer it and then I can act all surprised and stuff. Oh. Cool, I never thought of that. You think it'd be ok? I won't get addicted?

Martin, as always, a pleasure.

Dolgo 5:45 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 5:49 AM  

I opened this up and shuddered with trepidation. Somehow, remarkably, the long stacks just filled themselves in with unusual speed while I just sat there and watched or so it seemed). My only glitch was having riOTS at 18A.

Dolgo 5:55 AM  

I agree with your comments about the skill involved with stacks, Rex. They sometimes make the puzzle too easy, though. Alas, the most beautiful things in life are often the most boring!

Anonymous 6:21 AM  

I loved this one but had a DNF because I (am I the only one?) thought it was spelled "nauseUm".

Susierah 6:33 AM  

Me too, for misspelling nauseam. Also never heard of icosa or Seidel.

If you ever visit Memhis, go to the Stax Museum. It is fantastic, and we spent several hours there!

Steven M. O'Neill 7:28 AM  

Pattern recognition is fun.

Irene 7:30 AM  

Count me as one who loves long stacks. There's something so satisfying about the moment when you look at three widely spaced letters and realize they're part of a phrase you know. The best constructor of these was Manny Nosowsky.
IMHO of course.

Anonymous 7:42 AM  

I will third that I had NAUSEuM, my only error.

Sir Hillary 7:57 AM  

Haven't seen a MAStack in a while, so this was a nice surprise. Very funny that STAX is in the puzzle.

@Rex frames things exactly right -- it's all about how sparkly the spanners are, and how not-compromised the fill ends up being. I'd say this one is pretty solid on both counts. I can't find fault in any of the 15s, and while AWIRE is terrible and DONOTGO is super clunky, overall the short fill weaving it all together is decent, given the constraints.

Nice clue for CHILDBIRTH -- took me way too long to notice that "day" wasn't capitalized.

I had the same fleeting Shirley Bassey thought as @Rex, but it left me quickly. I also dropped homineM in quite confidently at 25D. Um, no, sorry.

Glimmerglass 8:00 AM  

Nice puzzle and a better review. Interesting to get a constructor's point of view. Good job, MAS and @Rex.

Sam 8:11 AM  

Nice puzzle today. Much better without the previous unfortunate collaboration,

Etoile 8:18 AM  

When "Misha" hit the market, there was some speculation that one of Misha's at-the-time counterparts at a rival ballet company, might want to also introduce a cologne. However, market research didn't look good for a cologne named "Peter."

kitshef 8:30 AM  

DNF at STAr/LEr. Never seriously considered an 'X' there. Thought about n, y or a.

First in was STEAL, confirmed by ICOSo, then STRAITOF. Then I hit Shirley, knew bassey, and began to question everything.

Moved down to the middle where SLEEPLESS NIGHTS went right in, and oddly led me into the bottom first via NAUSEuM/OMAN. Then worked bottom to top all the way to that fatal cross in the NE.

I enjoyed it a lot, and I think all the longs are faboo (?!?). SEIDEL rings a faint bell; faboo I have never heard.

Carola 8:30 AM  

An unusually quick Friday for me, especially considering the STAX, which always induce brain freeze in me. But a scan of the Acrosses brought me to LAID IT ON THE LINE, thanx to a previous puzzle. I nailed it down with the crossing ALIT, which got me TESTED THE WATERS, and I fairly scampered to top of the grid from there. I thought the grid-spanners were all good - no dreaded "one's," especially STRAIT OF MESSINA. Two missteps on the way: gnu before ASS and res before LEX.

Like @AliazZ, I got OCULI by thinking of the Pantheon. I happened to be there with my daughter in May on a morning when a brief rainshower came as a surprise out of a sunny sky. She snapped a wonderful photo of a shower of gold streaming aslant through the opening.

r.alphbunker 8:31 AM  

I probably rely more on crosses and pattern recognition more than general knowledge when I solve a late week puzzle. A MAS puzzle really highlights this and is one of the reasons I enjoy his work so much.

How the grid crosses went in:
{"1984" concern} TOTALITARIANISM from _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _SM
{Sheep counting times} SLEEPLESSNIGHTS from _ _ _ _ _ _ _SS_ _ _ _TS
{Pre-buffet declaration} ICOULDEATAHORSE from _ _O_ _ _EAT_HO_SE
{Take legal action} PURSUETHEMATTER from _UR_ _ _THEMATTER
{"Thanks"} IAPPRECIATETHAT from _ _PPRE_ _A_ _T_ _ _
{Passage between Italy and the toe of Italy} STRAITOFMESSINA From STRAITOFMESS_ _ _
{Ones making the rules} MEASURINGSTICKS from _ _ASUR_ _GSTI_K_
{Didn't mince words} LAIDITONTHELINE from LAI_ITONT_ _ _ _ _ _
{Showed caution in a way} TESTEDTHEWATERS from TES_EDTHE_ _ _ _ _ _
{It's of no concern to a usurer} INTERESTRATECAP from INTERESTRATECA_

Details are here.

Tita A 8:40 AM  

@AliasZ...I immediately thanked the Pantheon when I knew OCULI with no crosses. A remarkable building...for grace, for longevity, and for having a huge freaking hole int the middle of the ceiling through which any and all weather comes pouring right through!! have spoiled stacks for me forever with your very apt Wheel of Fortune putdown... You are absolutely right!! Problem is, I am a Jeopardy snob, and look down my nose at Wheel, though I secretly love to watch it when I'm at my mom's. She watches both back-to-back.

(Though I do have to grab that mute button quick before the crowd chants "Wheel! Of! Torture!!!")

I liked the puzzle, in spite of a careless DNF with ADNAUSEUM giving me the obviously wrong ITu. I use the Puzzazz handwriting feature, and it often misinterprets my letters, so I had LAIDITONTHELINg for forever, maybing that SE corner impossible.

Rex...thanks for a clear explanation of what you don't like about stacks, These are the kinds of posts that teach me crossword construction and appreciation, and whether I agree or not with your overall puzzle assessment, I learn useful things that make me able to actually finish late week puzzles.

And thanks @MAS. And today is the expected 13D for 1st grandkid...if it turns out to happen, then I thank you now for the tribute puzzle!

ZenMonkey 8:47 AM  

I don't mind my Fridays and Saturdays being a bit less bouncy in exchange for the more cerebral (and consistent) MAS quality. I understand what Rex means about imitators; from almost anyone else, a triple or quad stack doesn't fill me with optimism, but I don't have a constructor's perspective on exactly why. Other STAX puzzles may be easier, but rarely as elegant.

This was almost a DNF except for realizing they were LEX and not RES. Who says Latin's useless.

Tita A 8:56 AM  

Speaking of Jeopardy, URIS was the answer to the question Mila ____ in a Literary Numbers category yesterday. I still needed the __IS to get it.

Lights @lms...your riff on highlights of labor day...hilarious!!! @Larry...thanks for the observation...I was so happy to get the right answer that the oddness of the clue didn't hit me. Laugh of the Week for me. Thanks.

AskGina 9:02 AM  

The euphoria has passed. I realize now that the "medium" rating was off. It should have been easy. No German rivers, obscure actresses from the 90s, chemical suffixes, regional aphorisms, or fourth world country capitols. Low pop culture, practically zero. Kane, Stax, and Seidel fell with the crosses (the short downs, oddly enough, could have done me in). Again, a puzzle out of time. It should have been a Wednesday.

Charles Flaster 9:08 AM  

Always look forward to MAS stacks and this one really made me marvel at the construction.
My DNF occurred at OCULs.
Two write overs that slowed the process--
I APPRECIATE THAT for I APPRECIATE THis. LAID IT ON THE LINE for tolD IT like it was( Howard Costello).
Enjoyed cluing for STEAM, CHILD BIRTH, OBI, and TIPS.
I AM NOT brought a certain POTUS to mind.
For a political segue try George Barany's
" Debate and Switch" mentioned in his comment above.
Thanks MAS-always enjoy your stuff.

Anonymous 9:30 AM  

Sorry, Rex, but Shirley Eaton was the actress that played the woman who was painted in gold and died of skin asphyxiation in the Goldfinger movie. Shirley Bassey sung the tune

GILL I. 9:31 AM  

@AliasZ..."ICOSA es sucosa" - brilliant!
No secret here that i love me some STAX from the master himself MAS. Quiero MAS, I TU?
NIFTY EATON is all I needed to get me started in the upstairs.
NAUSEUM TETE A HAIR helped with the middle section. and PETA ALIT HAW
was what I needed to complete the downstairs.
LEX was the hardest for me; I took a guess and I was right.
@Tita: I watch Wheel because it comes after Jeopardy and I'm usually in the kitchen at that hour. Maybe you can ask your mom...does she know why the contestant YELL OUT....GIMME AN A damn it.?

mathgent 9:36 AM  

Loved it. My only complaint was that it was over too quickly.

It was quick because Mr. Ashwood-Smith gave me nine gimmes in the right places and I was able to see the grid-spanners on the basis of just two or three or four letters. The gimme on the bottom was INTEREST... from "usurer and AWIRE and ...RATECAP came later. Filling in the grid-scanners was great fun.

These stack puzzles always scare me and I steel myself for the inevitable junk necessary for the downs that cut across them. But very inoffensive junk here. It's a definite A minus, the only A this week.

jberg 9:41 AM  

Leon URIS is back for the second day running, let's see how long he can run the streak.

This puzzle was surprisingly easy for me, as most of the 15s went in with few or, for STRAIT OF MESSINA, no crosses. And, as @Rex noted, they were all good, idiomatic phrases or actual things. I had a foolish error -- somehow put the S of STEAM at the end of MEASURING rather than the start of the next word -- so I went from MEASURING S TapeS to TIleS. I had CHILDBIRTH, but it was a writeover so I didn't notice which letter it really was; and I didn't know KANE.

Remembering weird things from high school really helped here. The STRAIT OF MESSINA is where Odysseus had his run-in with Scylla and Charybdis; and the ICOSAhedron is one of the five regular solids (a fortunate thing for Dungeons & Dragons players the world over).

mathgent 9:42 AM  

Reading the comments above just led me to notice that MAS has STAX cutting across the stack. Very nice.

QuasiMojo 9:59 AM  

Zounds! No "nausea" today. Not a fan of "stax" in general but this puzzle had some chops. @Alias, I've been to the Pantheon too and was amazed to look up and see the sky even when it was raining. Made me feel a bit better about my own house and its leaky roof. I've been told the new World Trade Center has an amazing "oculus" although it is light years removed from the ancient kind. I'll gladly give MAS a thumbs-up on his colossal structure today especially for the amusing Goldfinger misdirect.

Mike Rees 10:01 AM  

Well, this one beat me, and it made me very sad. Mostly because I filled in three of the 15's as my first entries, and got them right!

What busted me was ITA crossing NAUSEAM. I really believed the that second word was spelled with two u's.

AskGina 10:01 AM  

And now it dawns on me that Strait of Messina could've very well come from reading Rick Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy on WW II, volume 2. Volume 1 'An Army at Dawn' won a Pulitzer.

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

I appreciate the feedback folks. But to the one solver who said something like "much better without the other guy". C'mon, seriously, if you have criticisms, I'd prefer you to level them at me rather than another constructor today.

I said "prefer" because, I certainly can't tell you what to say. But I can tell you that I winced at that comment.


Tita A 10:29 AM  

@MAS...I always appreciate when the constructor stops by to comment here.
But just as I don't like when a solver posts onnly to complain about the one terrible bit of fill in an otherwise good puzzle, I am puzzled that the only comment you are making is to call out the only one you didn't like.

Plus, I had totally skipped over that comment until you mentioned it, so I went back to read it.

Hartley70 10:31 AM  

After the agony or ecstacy of the Jeopardy Final question each weeknight, we Jeopardy snobs (Hi @Tita!) in the NYC viewing area, are left with the Wheel of Torture (love that) as the next option. It's an unsatisfactory pairing IMHO. Just yesterday, on a friend's suggestion, I tried HBO's Vice at 7:30pm. It's an edgier news show, and I offer this suggestion to those who hear fingernails on chalkboard when the Wheel comes on. We quite enjoyed the switch to Vice last night.

Z 10:32 AM  

DNF from not knowing my gendered Spanish suffixes. NAUSEuM should have alerted me, but it didn't. One demerit to @MAS for the foreign languages crossing.

Rex nails the issue/beauty of STAX; If you like hacking away and using your pattern recognition skills they are great and @MAS's are the best. But I can certainly understand those who don't like this kind of puzzle.

@AskGina - You're 90 year-old motorized shopping cart rider wins the comments.

@Anonymice - Free advice: Pause and re-read before you post.

A fine Friday. STAX records and foreign languages.

Sandy 10:44 AM  

It often is, and that's where I goofed today.

Mohair Sam 10:46 AM  

@Ask Gina (1:01) - I award you the Metaphor of the Week prize.

Yup, DNF'd on the "U" - didn't even know until I read about it at Anon (1:01), had never even looked at the clue for 41A - I'm so damned smart ya see. Might have missed the "X" too, but I'm on to this Smith character - aha'd that one.

I guess the only thing that Will Shortz and OFL agree on is stacks, they don't care for them - but both seem to make an exception for MAS. Lucky for us. Delightful Friday, terrific cluing, couple of new words (SEIDEL anyone?), and a nifty misdirect or two. With the constraints of stacks (STAX?) I don't know how he does it.

Disagree the "Wheel" argument. This "Jeopardy!" freak hates that show only because he cannot solve ahead of any of the contestants, much to my chagrin and Lady Mohair's amusement. Nah, in crosswords the fun is in trying to decipher the clue, whereas in "Wheel" your clue is usually "Thing."

@Rex said: "Still, solving this type of puzzle always feels like a by-the-numbers exercise. No real sparkle or surprises, and not much room for interesting answers anywhere *besides* the long Acrosses." Well Rex, that gives us 10 sparkles. And folks here are talking about the CHILDBIRTH clue, the EATON/Bassey misdirect, the clever clue for OCULI, learning SEIDEL, cleverness of STAX, spelling trap at NAUSEAM (it is Friday), and I'll add the up-to-dateyness of TESLA. Interesting and sparkly enough for one puzzle? I'd say.

Hey Will, more than one or two of these a year please.

Anonymous 10:52 AM  


Nancy 10:53 AM  

I had a SLEEPLESS NIGHT last night, so I woke up late and am posting late. I enjoyed the lower half of the puzzle, and found it fairly easy and pleasant going. I suffered through the name-riddled top half, and naticked at the KANE/STAX/LEX cross (2 unfilled squares). Somehow TESLA came in (another damn car, is there no end to them?). Since I'm not competing for the $100,000 first prize, and I'm proud of myself for not cheating on any names (which was tempting), I'll do what I always do in such natick situations and pronounce the puzzle "solved." I feel smart to have finished all that I did finish -- and that's always my MEASURING STICK.

No playfulness in the cluing, but I can hear MAS saying: Look, I gave you a quad stack and two triple stacks. Whaddya want -- beer in your SEIDEL? I do admire the construction. But next time, MAS, less PPP, OK? Do we have a deal?

Evan Jordan 10:56 AM  

I had Shirley BASEY entered for EATON right off the bat which slowed the top stack. Luckily, I knew STAX from my own record collection and STRAIT OF MESSINA from the film Patton so I turned it around in due time.

Anonymous 11:19 AM  

Hi Tita,

I didn't particularly like the comment because it disparaged another person. It wasn't really a negative comment about me or my puzzle. I simply felt it the right thing to do. I certainly didn't single it out for any other reason.

I didn't mean to give you (or others) the wrong impression my any means, and I apologize if I did.

FYI: Here's what I was going to post a bit later today:

Hi folks,

Thanks for the great feedback! I'm often not sure of the reactions quadstack puzzles are going to get, but I'm happy so many solvers enjoyed it, and perhaps found it too easy... a charge rarely leveled at quads! FYI, I went through a number of different versions of this quad, but decided to bell the proverbial cat and see if I could get stacks on the top and bottom as well. I knew that Will frowns on the lack of interconnectivity between 3/3/3 style triples, but as luck would have it CHILD BIRTH and TORE TO BITS made nice long connectors. Luckily, I was able to find triple stacks to fit. But it did require a few trade offs, such as ICOSA. But as luck would have it, it appears that the majority of solvers (so far) found the word interesting, rather than annoying. Again, it was a trade-off, becuase I wanted to use some newer 15s if I could. There were a couple of other options... mostly overused "ones" phrases that probably wouldn't please solvers too much.

But, ultimately I got lucky here, and I'm glad that many of you (so far) feel the trade-offs were worth it. [incidentally, this was why I wanted to post a bit later!]

Nancy 11:23 AM  

@Tita, @Hartley, @Mohair -- Put me squarely in the column of someone who's addicted to Jeopardy, but who wouldn't in a million years watch Wheel of Fortune. Sort of like going from a Saturday NYT puzzle to a supermarket tabloid Jumble. I'm delighted you have a new 7:30 TV show to watch on HBO, @Hartley, but you really didn't need one as an excuse to ditch the inane Wheel.

Forgot to say that I had NOW before SAY at 22A. And riOTS before HOOTS at 18A. Oh, and that I had ----DBIRTH at 13D and couldn't see it for the longest time. All I could think of was THIRD BIRTH (as in triplets) and was wondering why that would be a highlight for anyone. :)

mac 11:29 AM  

I enjoyed this one! Had heard about it earlier in the week and I always look forward to stacks.
How nifty to have Stax as an answer! Better than MAS.

I also stared the longest at S-eidel, and the sonar took a while. Very good friday.

PuzzleNut 11:43 AM  

Haven't commented for a long time and miss the camaraderie of this blog.
I share @rex's concern about A HAIR and A WIRE, but surprised you didn't point out A LICE and A LIT.
Keep the reviews coming. They are the best part of doing the puzzle.

Hungry Mother 11:43 AM  

Easy Friday, but no joy. The long acrosses were pretty dull.

triggerfinger 11:47 AM  

Helps to remember:
Dodecahedron is a polyhedron with 12 faces
Icosahedron is a polyhedron with 20 faces

Masked and Anonymous 12:03 PM  

MAS-ive amount of superb grid spanners. themelessthUmbsUp.

I, too, experience ad NAUSEAM, during the tv drug commercial-filled second half of the news.
Not familiar with ALLUP or SEIDEL. Figures, that only two things I didn't know in the puz were right next to each other. But, got em from crossin excellent grid-spanners. Sorta like a "reverse wheel of fortune" exercise.

fave row: OMAN TET ASS.
Staff weeject pick: HAW. It's what's left on the farm, if all the HEEs have died off.

Thanx, Mr. Ashwood-Smith. I am totally dependin on U, to come up with the first NYTPuz with 15 grid-spanners in it. [In a daily puz, of course.] Hey, just toss in the center seed entry, and let the crossword-fill software spin, for a coupla years; I can wait.

Masked & Anonymo4Us

kitshef 12:09 PM  

Interesting that on a 'medium' puzzle, so many of the elite posters are registering a DNF (Tita A, Loren, Mohair Sam, Z, Nancy). Makes me feel not so bad.

Lewis 12:20 PM  

Actually, Jeopardy strengthens one crossword puzzle solving skill (knowledge base) and Wheel strengthens another (pattern recognition). I watch Jeopardy more than Wheel, but when I dip into that show, I like trying to solve their puzzles.

I love MAS's puzzles, and they've continued to get more polished over time. I feel the joy at figuring out those grid spanners with as few letters as possible -- and it doesn't feel like a systematic or humdrum solve to me. There are a few constructors whose puzzles I come into with excitement, and MAS is one of them, and he didn't disappoint today. When I consider the difficulty of making one of these puzzles, and take a look at how this puzzle probably has less baddish fill than most, I am truly appreciative and impressed by what Martin did. But that would have all been negated if the solving experience was mezzo mezzo. It wasn't. It was primo primo. Thank you, sir!

Z 12:21 PM  

@kitshef - At least in my case you're mistaking "opinionated" for "elite."

Nancy 12:24 PM  

Love you, @kitshef! Thanks!

Chaos344 12:33 PM  

@ AskGina: LOL! My mom is 90 and she still operates motor vehicles quite well. Don't know how she'd do in a shopping cart though?

@Masked and Anonymous: Re: Staff weeject pick:

Nope! HAW is what's left on the farm, if all the GEEs have died off.

I don't mean to appear mule-headed about that nit, but Frances agrees with me. ;-) HEEHAWS are more commonly referred to as GIGOLOS in my neck off the woods.

phil phil 12:41 PM  

Had MD telethon for labor day event
Basse here too and Mikal for perfume but knew right off it was wrong as 'K' is not in italian alphabet, which i assumed the strait would be.

These stacks are fun as they are so scary and yet usually work out relatively easy. As long as they don't stick in too many personal name crosses.

Joseph Michael 12:55 PM  

When I first saw those stacks of 15s, I felt a sense of dread and then had trouble finding an entry point into the grid. But suddenly I was in and the answers were flowing. My favorite was I COULD EAT A HORSE.

Thanks, MAS, for the fine craftsmanship and new word SEIDEL,

Anonymous 1:01 PM  

Addicted to Jeopardy and now the NYTIMES puzzle blog (@Rex)! Glad I'm not alone! This was a challenging but fun Friday puzzle - have been mis-spelling nauseam forever - love to learn.

Teedmn 1:22 PM  

I'm so MADD at myself today - I DNF'd at LEr/STAr and I know the Latin word for law is LEX. Seeing that @Nancy missed in the same corner (she of the High School latin experience which I envy) made me feel A HAIR better.

On the other hand, I was very glad when I was able to cut through the mess I was making in the SE. Even without a ? at the end of the clue for 48A, I was certain the zebra's cousin was going to be an ump or ref. And I couldn't shake the association of a "sub" with sandwiches at 49D. So 17 minutes into it, I decided to go get my lunch of vanilla yogurt and Famous Amos cookies (yes, every day). Suddenly my brain waves turned into SONAR and ASS, ALICE and STEPS fell into place (INTEREST RATE ___ wasn't helping). So a SUB-20 minute Friday with my favorite MAS puzzle style - sweet!

(And it isn't just due to the Famous Amos cookies. Count me in as one who enjoys pattern solving, a la @r.alphbunker.)

Tita A 1:23 PM  

I love you too, @kitshef!! And to follow on @Z's coattails, you're confusing "logorrheic*" with

@Nancy (fellow elitist) - I was actually sheepishly admitting to secretly liking Wheel - the game part, at least - not the
spectacle. I think @Mohair was too...

@MAS - you make perfect sense - thanks for that. And btw, I totally agree with your observation.

noun log·or·rhea \ˌlȯ-gə-ˈrē-ə, ˌlä-\
: excessive and often incoherent talkativeness or wordiness

Teedmn 1:23 PM  

PS: I also enjoyed thinking that sleepful nights were SHEEPLESS.

Roo Monster 1:25 PM  

Hey All !
Every time I see stacks like this, the ole brain goes to the dark side and thinks, "Man, this is gonna be impossible." So then it seems like I need to solve faster than normal. Not sure why, but all that actually hampers the solving process. But putting it down for a bit and coming back to it seems to reset my brain, and for some reason the answers seem to pop. Todays puz was that exact scenario. So, agree with Rex medium rating.

Had my famous one letter DNF. Has an S for the X. LEs/STAs. Argh! Just a couple of writeovers, MERS-eauS-back to MERS, INTERESTRATings. I was flummoxed in the South, so had to Goog what usurer was. That got me that answer, and then finished puz ALL UP.

Nice stacker jacker, MAS. Didn't make me feel like an ASS, O MAN.


mathgent 1:26 PM  

As I sometimes do, I went to Friday mass this morning at our parish. As we came out, the priest who said mass greeted us. "I can hardly wait for the election to be over," I said to him. "Yes," he said, "I'm afraid that one of them is going to win."

Tom 1:38 PM  

Had a few too many SEIDELen in the Munich [prefer München] Hofbrauhaus last time I was there. Origin seems to be from Latin for "bucket" which is what seems to be the size of the glasses if you're a serious aficionado of German brews.

Started in the north, steadily progressed southward. Caught the same disease as the rest of the NAUSEuM perpetrators. Never read the clue for 41a. Dang!

JC66 1:49 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
JC66 1:52 PM  


Love your puzzles. Today is no exception.

Re: George's troll.

He's been around for a while. Don't feed him.

JC66 2:36 PM  

For all the Natick haters

OISK 3:03 PM  

A puzzle can be easy and fun, and still produce a DNF! I don't speak Spanish, and misspelled nauseum (spell check corrects "nauseam" ! ). But I might have realized that it is "senorita" and not "senoritu"!

Never heard of Stax,not surprising given my elitist musical tastes, but I guessed it, -next visit to the pub I will be sure to order a seidel of best bitter. I enjoy encountering new words ( that aren't hip-hop slang...)
A fine Friday puzzle! I appreciate that.

Crane Poole 3:08 PM  

I spent kid-dom playing Skee-ball at a boardwalk arcade called SEIDEL's, but that didn't help as I flopped around SAY/ICOSA/SEIDEL and OCULI/ITA/NAUSEAM (UM). And ALLUP does not ring for me. But the STAX were terrific. You can't have everything.

Clueing SLEEPLESSNIGHTS with a Gram Parsons reference would've been esoteric for many but I would've smiled much.

Agree enthusiastically @John Child's "I love looking at an "impossible" grid and beating it." A fine puzzle, very satisfying.

Erik 3:27 PM  

Being a fan of German and Austrian beer, I must take exception at the clue for SEIDEL "Large beer mug." A Seidel is only 0.3L, roughly 10 oz. Hardly large.

Z 3:50 PM  

@Erik - Someone is ripping you off. Here's a SEIDEL you can buy. Here's a lunar SEIDEL. And Merrimack-Webster says the word comes from the Latin for bucket. "Large" seems to be correct. It may be a regionalism, but what you are calling a SEIDEL sounds more like what I've heard called a "shell."

Z 3:52 PM  

And apparently auto-correct is more into frigates than dictionaries. Worst of all, I previewed my entry and missed the "correction."

Blue Stater 4:33 PM  

I thought this one was excellent (a judgment not unconnected, I confess, to the fact that I got it in 13:41 with no googling). But this gem shows that it's possible to have NYT puzzles with very few tricks and no linguistic or factual errors. A refreshing change!

Gregory Schmidt 4:54 PM  

Naticky bits for me - OCULI/ITA,NAUSEAM (Thought it was spelled nauseUm), and LEX/KANE/STAX. Didn't know ITA and didn't know LEX, so having them crossed with other proper words didn't help much.

Doc John 5:27 PM  

Not only did Shirley Bassett do Goldfinger but she also did Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker!

Mohair Sam 5:49 PM  

@kitshef - Well thanks, I was all full of my "elite" self for a few minutes - but @Z (opinionated) and @Tita (logorehic) returned me quickly to earth. Tita piling on with a word even my spell checker doesn't know, talk about humbling.

@Tita A - Don't watch "Wheel" a lot (it conflicts with baseball and hoops), but you got my post dead right.

Anonymous 9:20 PM  

Smaller than a hair was an RCH where I went to school

Anonymous 9:39 PM  

Can't believe no one is mildly offended by the MADD clue. I mean, I'm not. I thought others might be. I guess "opposed to running people over" isn't as funny as "weaving."

Anonymous 11:47 PM  

You have to admit when they're challenging Rex. They're not all easy and medium. The top stack of this was simply brutal. The only person who found it medium was the creator.

Leapfinger 7:31 AM  

@Etoile, I love your cologne.

Great descriptions from @several about the OCULI y'all have seen. Now I need to see the Pantheon.

Jim Goodnight heads up SAS, a local enterprise in Cary NC, and one of the best places ever to work -- on-site daycare, clinic with full-time nurse, relaxation rooms, and bowls of M&Ms constantly filled. When he was starting out, Jim was courting the best brains for his enterprise, and had an obvious predilection for Members of the Tribe. The catchword of those days was DO NOT GO Gentile in to that Goodnight


Leapfinger 7:43 AM  

PS: SEIDEL is the last face you'd find on a dodecahedron.

Sarah 10:49 AM  

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pauer 3:15 PM  

VELDT makes me think of one of the spookiest Ray Bradbury stories I’ve read. Ooh--looks like there was a TV version of it in 1989:

While I’m here, there are only 49 hours remaining to get my “Piece of Cake Crosswords” Kickstarter funded. It wants to be a 52-week series of easy puzzles, which you could always solve Downs-only if you want a stiffer challenge (hint, hint). Check it out here:

Z 10:50 AM  

@rainforest - I just checked both my biography and my resumé and couldn't find "Rex Parker apologist" anywhere. Kudos to you, though. I really can't stand it when people rag on Rex daily. If people don't like what he has to say they are free to skip him. I respect that you make that choice. I occasionally find Rex a little over the top, but I agree with his underlying assessment far more often than not. As for his bashing of Shortz, I can only address it through hear-say, but I think it is fair to say he is alone only in using a widely read public forum to bash. You can sometimes see it between the lines over at xwordinfo, more blatantly on occasion on Twitter, and directly in personal exchanges. I guess that can't be too surprising. Do anything for 20+ years like Shortz has and you're bound to tick some people off.

Burma Shave 12:03 PM  


The PILOT’s not MADD the TENTH time I SAY, “DONOTGO” to him,


spacecraft 12:42 PM  

About easy-medium for a Friday. Nice, mind-bending but not too wild clues, and the ability to fill in most of the 15s by inference; the hardest of these was parsing INTERESTRATECAP. I wouldn't say I TORE it TO BITS, but I've seen tougher.

One entry really had me scratching my head: ALL UP?? I've never heard those two words together...oh wait. I heard it on one day of the year growing up. Christmas morning. No one was allowed to go downstairs until we were ALL UP. "Hopeless?" I have no idea.

At first I thought I was in Rebus Country, so sure was I of Ms. BASSEY. I assumed (you know what that does) it was the singer of the theme. I totally overlooked the names of bit-part Bond girl actresses, but I'll un-paint the lovely Ms. EATON and cover her with the DOD sash. How's that, Shirley?

Grid-spanners do distort the normal solving experience somewhat; still, as OFL said, this one's better than most. A tap-in birdie.

rondo 1:07 PM  

By any MEASURINGSTICK’S reading this has got to be the fastest Friday ever for me. Even when I first looked at the grid and said aloud, “Holy s#!+!” The only hangup whatsoever was what “now” instead of SAY what? MOST days IAMNOT aware of how long the puz takes, but today had to be well under 20 minutes. Something just clicked today. Maybe IT’S that WOF thing mentioned above? Maybe IT’S all that nutrition consumed yesterday?

Knew it had to be STRAITOF something, that made a bunch of down answer fill in.

MISHA was a gimme, Sasha is short for Alexander, or Alexandra. Russian pet names have a kind of pattern, mostly.

As for today’s WOMEN, even being painted all gold, or not, Shirley EATON was a 24K yeah baby, and of course ANN Blyth turned heads back in her day. IAPPRECIATETHAT.

IT’S brunch time and perhaps because of yesterday’s feasting, today ICOULDEATAHORSE.

leftcoastTAM 2:10 PM  

Give me more Friday puzzles like this one, or more descriptively, three stacked puzzles in one.

Even if not exciting, it was relatively easy, smooth, fair, and satisfying. The shorter downs made most of the long acrosses transparent.

Three of those downs, though, required the longer ones to fill them in: the unknown SEIDEL, the obscure OCULI, and the very clever and misdirected DET.

Sums up as an easy-medium, and brightens up Black Friday here in syndiland. (Wouldn't even think of getting within 10 miles of a mall today.)

Diana, LIW 2:35 PM  

Hand up t join the STAX of folks who enjoy MAS stacks.

Had this baby by the toes, but then came here and my joy turned to NAUSea. You don't need to take legal action, I admit my dnf.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for correct spelling

rain forest 2:47 PM  

Holy cats, I found this easy. Let me restate that. I found a 3/4/3 stack puzzle easy. That never happens to me. Except for the top 3-stacker, I needed very few crosses to fill out the whole section. I actually got I COULD EAT A HORSE with no crosses. Can you say "wavelength".

I'm not bragging here. I am just so surprised. Even in the NOrth, I knew STRAIT OF MESSINA (I think from the movie Patton), and ICOSA from ICOSAhedron (chemistry background) and those were a big help with that section.

The spelling of NAUSEAM is accomplished by adding M to NAUSEA, no?

Nice to see Bird On A WIRE, another shout-out to Leonard Cohen.

Enjoyed this, for its tractability, and for the fleeting sense of achievement. I know tomorrow is Saturday, and I APPRECIATE THAT everything might change.

@Z - I think I've mentioned that I usually like your non Rex-related comments; the fact that you, like me, are a former Middle School principal; and am impressed that you continue to play Ultimate. My osteoarthritic ankle (from a motorcycle accident 42 years ago) prevents that, but I can ride a heck of a golf cart. Anyway, I'll continue to avoid reading @Rex, and also to avoid criticizing you for simply stating your opinion.

Also, may I say that your occasional visits to Syndiville are appreciated?

Z 2:59 PM  

@rainforest - I don't mind being criticized, especially by regulars. I tend to discount mean spirited anonymice, but I'm always willing to engage the regulars. I certainly didn't take offense at your comment yesterday - the tongue planted firmly in my cheek for the resumé comment may not have been obvious.

kathy of the tower 11:58 PM  

I like stacks. They used to scare the pants off me, but now I just chip away and usually solve them .

DNF on nauseum/itu, and hoot/Misha, had riot and couldn't finish.

I remembered OCULI from Angels and Demons and I made sure to see it when I visited my son in Rome. Beautiful structure. I also counted

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Picard 1:04 AM  

Just got this in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Can someone explain HAW? Got it with crosses but I don't understand.

And I also had NOW until SAY was forced by crosses. How can SAY precede or follow WHAT in proper English?

Hand up for NAUSEuM. Also missed STAg/LEg

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