Cicero's longtime servant scribe / SAT 11-5-16 / Nonprofit Broadway production grp / Archenemy of Optimus Prime in Transformers movies / Blade holder / Pollen repositories

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Constructor: David Phillips

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: COHERER (36D: Device used to detect radio waves) —
The coherer is a primitive form of radio signal detector used in the first radio receivers during the wireless telegraphy era at the beginning of the 20th century. Its use in radio was based on the 1890 findings of French physicist Edouard Branly and adapted by other physicists and inventors over the next ten years. The device consists of a tube or capsule containing two electrodes spaced a small distance apart with loose metal filings in the space between. When a radio frequency signal is applied to the device, the metal particles would cling together or "cohere", reducing the initial high resistance of the device, thereby allowing a much greater direct current to flow through it. In a receiver, the current would activate a bell, or a Morse paper tape recorder to make a record of the received signal. The metal filings in the coherer remained conductive after the signal (pulse) ended so that the coherer had to be "decohered" by tapping it with a clapper, such as a doorbell ringer, each time a signal was received, thereby restoring the coherer to its original state. Coherers remained in widespread use until about 1907, when they were replaced by more sensitive electrolytic and crystal detectors. (wikipedia)
• • •

With the exception of COHERER (!?) and TIRO (??) and ANTA (%&*!) I thought this was pretty good. It was on the easy side, but giant corners provided enough toehold difficulty that I felt sufficiently challenged. Would I like more challenge on a Saturday? Sure. But this was fine. A good Saturday solve, for me—the one that feels best—is the one where I can make pretty steady progress, but am routinely taking wrong turns, or having to work hard to get crosses on pesky longer answers. Clever traps, always welcome. Anyway, this puzzle had enough bite to satisfy, despite providing (now that I look the grid over) a decent number of gimmes. Went to short answer first at 8D: Northumberland river. Four-Letter River Power—activate! Form of ... AVON! No, that gives me a terminal "V", probably wrong. Shape of ... TYRE! (yes, really, I confused the English river, TYNE, with the ancient Phoenician city and birthplace of Dido, TYRE. It happens!). Luckily CASSETTE was a gimme (18A: Walkman insert), so I didn't get bogged down too bad. I was actually tricked by 14A: By hand (MANUALLY) because of how deathly straightforward it is. Who thinks "straightforward" on a Saturday!? Devious.


I got FLAT RATE but took a while to come up with BOX so I decided to swing over and attack the NE before moving down the grid. SMITE, MENAGE, and OMENS were all easy. Then I inferred the STEP part of STEPSONS, which gave me SPINET (15A: Small parlor piece) and that was pretty much that up there, despite the best efforts of TIRO (25A: Cicero's longtime servant and scribe) to mess me up. Finally got the BOX part at the end of the USPS clue, and that "X" made BRER FOX a cinch. Guessed SMUSH up top in that SW corner, (28A: Flatten) and again, no real problems, despite ANTA's best efforts (37A: Nonprofit Broadway production grp.). ANTA and TIRO—not the greatest offensive line (side note: O LINE is a definite thing in football-speak and I'm surprised I don't see it at least occasionally). Or are they the defensive line? Is the puzzle the end zone, or the quarterback? I'm going with quarterback. Solve = sack, not TD. Somehow, more satisfying.


Had the STREET but couldn't come up with the SMART (telling!). Then I misread the clue at 45A: Comment often preceding "Let's" (SHALL WE) to mean "Let's" was the preceding word, so my brain raced through "Let's ___" possibilities. DANCE! SEE! NOT! Ugh. But this corner ended up being pretty easy too because of ANISE (46D: Black jellybean flavorer) and especially MARINERS (50A: Other than the Nationals, only current Major League Baseball team never to have played in a World Series), which I got off the "M" in AMPS, though I wouldn't even have needed that. Baseball fandom made that clue a flat-out gimme. And so I finished on one of those "S"s in STRESSED. The end.

Other screw-ups:
  • 1A: Take stock? (SHOPLIFT) — Had the "-FT" and wanted ... COWTHEFT (?)
  • 35A: Slow-burning firewood (BEECH) — Had first "E" and wanted ... CEDAR
  • 27A: English county whose seat is Exeter (DEVON) — Had "D", wanted DOVER
  • 27D: "Why did I do that?!" ("D'OH!") — Had "H", wanted "HUH?" Why did I do that?
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

113 comments:

Loren Muse Smith 7:15 AM  

Rex – I like your "cow theft" thinking.

"Settee" for SPINET and "galas" for FETES held me up forever. Actually, putting "galas" in made me erase BORDEN. Dontcha hate it when that happens?

I take issue with the clue for LAPEL 5D – "big flap." Not all lapels are created bigly.

Also – I was just a casual Star Trek watcher, so I first had the ridiculous "warp time" and then "star time" before STAR DATE.

COHERER has BEQ immunity. He's one of my heros.

Considered "Fonzi" before TONTO. Sheesh.

I feel ashamed that I sort of thought MONROVIA was a fictional place in some Plain-Jane-Come-Princess Who Marries Her Prince movie. So it's the capital of Liberia. I think Liberia and Myanmar either have switched or are switching to the metric system, leaving the US as the only country on the planet using the imperial system. Hey – we very well may also be the only country boasting:

**Food portions the size of brief cases
**Tailgating
**Squirt cheese
**Men in swim trunks and not Speedos at the beach
**Said men heading out at 6:30am to set up the encampment, schlepping chairs, huge towels, coolers, bikes, cabanas, radios, umbrellas, boogie boards, sand toys, Frisbees, volleyball/net, Adolph meat tenderizer, walkie-talkies, binoculars, sunscreen, and squirt cheese.

These are all pluses for me, but I guess we're also the only country boasting a bajillion questionable things.

I've never stopped and really considered the word ULTERIOR. I guess I've always just seen it as an iteration of ultimate. So cool that, yes, it really does mean "hidden." I think this is my favorite take-away this morning.

Best cross – STRESSED/TENSED.

Nice puzzle, David.

Dolgo 7:16 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dolgo 7:37 AM  

Yeah. "Coherer" almost made me whine, and you all know how I hate whining! Had to Google it just to make sure it was right. I had a hard time with the NE. I had difficulty abandoning "step kids." But no Caribbean islands end in "k." Once I accepted "stepSONS," St. Kitts popped right out. Geography is one of my big strengths because I collected stamps as a kid. I should have known Devon, but I kept misplacing Exeter on the map in my brain.Also.i hung onto "duh" for far too long, despite my love of "The Simpsons." Such dogged persistence keeps me from being a better and faster crossword puzzle solver.

John Child 8:12 AM  

Pretty much anything is fair on Saturday, but I am amazed at MEGATRON (WTF?) passing without comment while TIRO is a ???. Total gimme here. Googling MEGATRON with site:nytimes.com does come up with a few comics references, but mostly other, derived usages. I don't want to live in a world where comic books are part of cultural literacy. Sorry @Rex.

Apart from puzzling out said comic book hero / plastic toy this went down easily and pleasantly. Had to leave square 30 blank for a while: SM(a/u)SH, but ULTERIOR was a plus when it showed up. Thanks Mr Phillips.

r.alphbunker 8:23 AM  

Googled for MEGATRON which showed me that {27A English county whose seat is Exeter} was not DOVER and I replaced it with DEVON. It also showed that {15A Small parlor piece} was SPINET rather than SETTEE. MEGATRON also killed the grid worm COMMON for {17A Household}

Details are here.

George Barany 8:31 AM  

Quick hello from one whose knowledge sweet spots does not seem to overlap much with either today's constructor, @David Phillips, nor OFL reviewer, aka @Rex.

Still, it's always a delight to catch up with the early comments, particularly from @Loren Muse Smith who must have had her sly laughfest all lined up for release this morning. Also, @John Child and I are clearly on the same page (of the comic books).

Left-over business from yesterday: one of the answer words (and the way it was clued) reminded me of this puzzle from nearly four years ago

Anonymous 8:41 AM  

Apparently, I made up the word aLTERIOR, which worked with SMaSh. But I guess I'm not the only one. http://www.dailywritingtips.com/ulterior-and-alterior/

Carola 8:48 AM  

A fast Saturday for me, a matter of getting a first crucial entry in each quadrant and then going to town on the crosses. First, STEPSON-->ICE CAP, ST KITTS, DEVON, OMENS got me as far as BEECH, where I stalled out. A mis-guess at coroNA at least got me KNEELER and that was enough to unlock the NW. MONROVIA did the same in the SW. The SE gave me pause until I came up with SHALL WE.

Other do-overs: SMaSH, in a SEC.
Needed all crosses for TIRO and COHERER - fun to learn about that one.

I liked the instructive SHOP LIFT MANUALLY.

mathgent 8:48 AM  

Very satisfying. Enough crunch to leave me staring at the NW for quite a while. A nice variety of longish entries (only 3 Terrible Threes!). Four neat clues. Only a lack of sparkle drops the mark a notch. A minus.

Aketi 8:48 AM  

@John Child, hahaha, I didn't know the Transformers might actually be in print form. I knew it from the toys, the TV series and the movie. One of the joys of having a child grow up is that you start to enjoy their choices in movies more.

I clearly have rented too many in the last year on the college tour extravaganza because I got stuck on the car rental agency and put in FOUR DOOR, thnking they might not rent two door cars. They do rent hybrids without a key for the ignition. The first time I rented one I didn't pay enough attention to how you start the car without a key. I managed to start it at the rental agency when we left but after the college tour I had totally forgotten how to start it. After trying everything I could think of to turn the car on that I briefly considered MANUALLY hot wiring the car. Once I recognized the Star Trek connection, STAR DATE was as much of a relief as when my teen finally smirked at me and told me to press the pedal and push the on button. He found the whole start the car drama quite amusing,

In the other hand I was proud of myself for getting FLAT RATE BOX with no other letters filled in, I love those BOXes.

TENSED and STRESSED describes this last month. I will be so glad when the election is over and the college financial aid firms are done, Nothing worse than being self employed and having your income go down and attempt to squeeze that into firms that assume everyone gets a paycheck that doesn't vary year to year.

mathgent 8:50 AM  

I meant to write that I stared at the NE for quite a while, not the NW.

Mr. Cheese 8:52 AM  

Fastest Saturday ever! Favorite clue: Threat from a rat ... "I'll tell"

Hungry Mother 8:55 AM  

Lots of cruising gave me STKITTS. Vaguely remembered MEGATRON from watching movies with grandsons, not STEPSONS. Seemed a difficult as a usual Saturday. Always happy to complete a week of puzzles. Hoping for a rebus tomorrow.

kitshef 9:18 AM  

I guess I think straightforward on a Saturday – MANUALLY was my entry.

DNF at the intersection of SPECK/SPINET/MENAGE. Misread ‘Jot’ as ‘Jolt’, and wound up with ShoCK/ShINET/MoNAGE. SPINET is a WoE, and didn’t check the cross on MoNAGE (no guarantees I would have come up with MENAGE if I had - MaNAGE would be tempting).

Two really good puzzles in a row (though both too easy – in fact today would have been a record for a Saturday if I had actually finished). All is forgiven for the disappointing Thursday. AMENAMEN bites, and ANTA … no. Small flaws, easily ignored.

@John Child and @George Barany – is Superman fair game? Batman? Spiderman? Two of the sixteen highest grossing movies ever are transformers movies, so they are certainly culturally relevant (which does not speak well of the state of culture).

Mr. Benson 9:19 AM  

Rough week for us Mariners fans. First the Cubs beat us to a World Series title, then the crossword rubs it in.

GILL I. 9:22 AM  

I was just so sure 1A was RUSTLING. Screwed me badly. But then I knew the premium cigar was HAVANA - though I wanted to do an H Upmann. So the SMOCKS SHOPLIFT went in and I finished that little mini puzzle. On to the next in the NE section. Diets and dreck looked pretty good... WRONG! [ sigh] I had to Google COHERER only because that was the only way I was going to finish the other mini puzzle in the SE.
Finally got her done after much erasure and head scratching, but I'm proud because just a year ago I was hardly able to finish a Sat. Now I do pretty well. Andale andale!
@Rex. Thanks for the morning laugh - Adele Raps Nicki Minaj...! Adele has such a pure voice and Nicki seriously needs to have her adenoids removed.
@Loren...Hah! except I don't think we can boast about being the only tailgating country. I'm pretty sure Germany or Italy take the prize. Try driving the autobahn in a teensy compact, and passing an old gas spewing lorry. You better do it in 5 seconds or some big fat BMW will eat your fender in no time.
Today I learned about BORDEN and ELMERS. Yay

NCA President 9:35 AM  

I registered my best Saturday time on this bugger. I was really surprised to see that since the puzzle did seem to put up a fight. But evidently not much of one.

There were a lot of entries I got right out of the box...they were guesses to be sure...but they were right. The entire NW was like that. I did have settEe at first, but because of so many gimmes (for me) in the NE, I quickly changed it to SPINET and voila. I saw MENAGE (which I am not familiar with) and wondered about it, but felt good and kept going. I don't know how I got STKITTS. It was a guess and if it were wrong, I would have been in the weeds there.

Everything in the south was just a typical Wednesday "put my metal lunch pail aside and just go to work" kinda process. I picked off 'em all off one by one. No snags or groans.

I liked the puzzle...mostly because I breezed through it will little resistance...but enough resistance to make give me that smug feeling you get when you conquer a Saturday puzzle with no cheating.

I did like the very timely STRESSED/TENSED crossing, because I am STRESSED and my sphincter is TENSED about this damn election. With all due respect to you Trump supporters, I hope you lose. It will be better for you in the long run, trust me.

Anonymous 9:44 AM  


@NCA Prez --

Never been involved in a "Ménage a Trois?" ;-)

Georgia 9:44 AM  

Is "aviate" the answer for " start a bank" in terms of a flight maneuver?

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 9:47 AM  

liked the clue for BORDEN. Started out thinking Who cares who invented condensed milk -- but as I wne along it turned out I actually knew the answer! Although as a Fallriverite I suppose I should have preferred a Lizzie-related coue.

Rob 9:49 AM  

Enjoyed this but thought it was a bit easy for its placement in the week. Saturday times for me often run in the 45-75 minute range, and I finished this one in around 15.

I think MEGATRON was more than fair. It's not just comics, it's a line that has included a TV show, multiple movies both modern and '80s, and action figures. But then I'm a child of the '80s.

jberg 9:53 AM  

The first three mini=puzzles were way too easy for a Saturday, but I got stuck in the SE for a few minutes -- not only because of COHERER but because PEST and STRESSED were such generic answers for more specific clues. I wanted ants for the former, couldn't think of anything for the latter. I've never heard of a COHERER, but at least it made sense, so I could get it from crosses.

But the TIRO/MEGATRON crossing was almost a guess. Megatron seemed better than MEGATtON, but TItO sounded better than TIRO. Four years of HS Latin didn't get to the latter. And to be a little more emphatic about what has already been said, Transformers is not a comic book -- it's a line of toys, pretty neat ones actually, since you get to fold and unfold them from one shape to another. The movies followed from the toys' popularity. But not having been 12 for six decades, I had no idea of the names of particular ones.

@Aketi, I had the same experience. I sat in the car for about 5 minutes, and finally went back to the Avis counter to ask them how to start it.

Did early Walkmen really play cassettes? The first one I saw played CDs -- but they had been around a while by the time I got one, so maybe I missed version 1.0.

Delayed malapop at 9A -- I had SLIM instead of SWIM yesterday for what one does at the y.

@Gill I., I think @Loren meant the kind of tailgating people do in the parking lot before a football game.

Happy weekend, everyone! I think I'd better go rake up some leaves.

Rex Parker 9:55 AM  

I'm genuinely stunned by a comment like this: "I don't want to live in a world where comic books are part of cultural literacy." It's a fantastically ignorant comment, in that you must be fantastically ignorant of comic books or you couldn't possibly feel that way. My guess is that, given that you associate MEGATRON with "comic books," you are, in fact, ignorant. Why not just admit that? There's no shame in it. Why try to turn your ignorance into a virtue? It's such a sad and, frankly, old-person move. You people with your "Why should I know about rap / comics / stuff I don't already know about?"—you should be embarrassed. I am ignorant about a Lot of things, but I'm not dismissing Entire Categories of Knowledge just because of that ignorance. And "comic books," dear lord. Do you have any idea how vast a category that is, across historical periods, countries, genres? I'm guessing not. Is BATMAN OK as an answer? Can we expect you know BATMAN? Yeesh.

I don't know much about "Transformers," but I sure as hell know MEGATRON. Here's the wikipedia page on him. Like MEGATRON, it is enormous.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megatron

RP

Wm. C. 9:57 AM  


@Georgia --

"Aviate" as fill for "Start a Bank" does refer to a flight maneuver. But there's a mismatch in detail here. "Start a Bank" is a detailed element of Aviation, a more general term. I'd've preferred a more general clue, like "Take to the Sky."

Z 9:59 AM  

I resisted MANUALLY for exactly the same reason as Rex. Devilish putting a Monday clue in a Saturday puzzle.

People who struggle will likely have issue with the segmented nature of the grid. Four mini puzzles loosely connected. The NE was hardest for me. DEVON let me complete STEP???S (sibs? moms? dads?) and LINE ITEM, giving me enough letters to finish off the corner.

@John Child - There are comics and then there are comics. If Ta-Nehisi Coates can write Black Panther comics after winning his "genius award" I guess we could cut the genre some slack.

@Aketi - LOL. I haven't had a car key in at least a decade. Heck, I can remote start one car from my phone (still have to depress the brake and press the "start" button once I get in). Agree, though, on the greatness of those FLAT RATE BOXes. We can cram a lot of stuff in one of those things.

seanm 9:59 AM  

so this was just shy of my best time ever for a saturday, a couple seconds slower than yesterday (which was itself a fast friday for me) at 23 min. did 3 complete corners in less than 10 minutes and then had a lot of trouble getting into the NE. had STEPKIDS right away, which gave me a lot of trouble. spent too much time thinking about whether the K end could mean a native name for an island. when i realized SONS could fit the rest of that corner fell quickly, despite TIRO being a complete woe and SPINNET and DEVON being partial woes. COHERER was another mystery but the crosses all worked out for me

one false start that thankfully only gave me a little trouble was FROCK instead of SMOCK

Nancy 10:06 AM  

SETTEE before SPINET (15A) and SMASHED before SMUSHED. And, like Rex, I was at first thinking of some sort of steer rustling at 1A -- but nothing worked. Other than that, I thought this was one of the easier Saturdays I've ever encountered -- with what little difficulty I had all in the SE. Plenty of things I didn't know, but the crosses were helpful and gettable everywhere. I have only two small nits:
1) I think STREET SMART is weirdly and inaccurately clued (21D)...and
2) Is ILL TELL really a Thing? (6D) I mean you can rat on someone, you can squeal, you can sing like a canary, but can you really ILL TELL? If you can, it's certainly news to me.

A perfectly nice puzzle, but it didn't make me "suffer" enough.

Teedmn 10:08 AM  

Easy Saturday here - mostly due to luck because I didn't think of SettEe, or @r.alph's "common" for household. I was actually thinking MaNAGE because if "husband" can be a verb, perhaps "household" could be? So I wanted the verb, @r.alph wanted the adjective but it was actually the usual noun, which SPECK made clear.

Like @Rex, I guessed the STEP part of 13D. I had the D at 27A and started guessing STEP SibS, STEP mOmS, STEP dadS. None of these suggested any English counties but STEPSONS gave me DEVON. And ST____S at 21A had me going through all of the Caribbean islands I knew - ST johnS, ST neviS (don't be silly), but I finally thought of ST KITTS. So the NE was really my only hang up today.

Hah, it wasn't until I got here that ILL TELL (huh?) became I'LL TELL. Funny how those little marks can make such a difference in meaning.

SHALL WE request more puzzles from David Phillips? AMEN AMEN, I say.

Steve M 10:11 AM  

Super Saturday need more from this guy

Anonymous 10:12 AM  


@Rex -- Aren't you being a bit over-the-top in his response to @JC's dismissal of the cultural value of comic books, especially when he ended his comment with an apology to you for his disagreement. OK, I think you're right on the issue, but not the tone. Sheesh! (Good thing he wasn't dismissive about the cultural value of paperback detective novels!)



Mohair Sam 10:28 AM  

Very easy Saturday for us, must have hit our sweet spot. MEGATRON had to fill here, but once it did we recognized it. Sure it's fair game, especially on a Saturday - famous cartoony thing. What's your problem?

Opened thinking FLATRATEBOX might work, tested Uncle Remus thinking "BRER" somethin' three letters ending in "X", hmmmm. And off we went. MARINERS a gimme for this baseball fan (ala Rex), then AMPS, ANISE, AMENAMEN - corner finished. They all went down like that - rare for us.

Only hesitation was in NE because we didn't know MEGATRON, I refused to put in SPINET (to me calling a SPINET a small parlor piece is like calling a shetland pony a small pet), and "household" a nice Saturdayish clue for MENAGE. That corner might have whupped us but STKITTS was a gimme for us and I'd spent a long weekend in DEVONshire (in Torquay, not far from Exeter) a few decades back - we filled.

Speaking of TONTO, I saw a Lone Ranger movie the other day on TCM. Forget The Ranger and TONTO, that friggin' Silver horse was one smart animal. Lone Ranger gets shot and tumbles down hill. A visibly upset Silver gallops down, rolls nearly dead Ranger over. Ranger gasps "Water", Silver bends down offering stirrup, Ranger hooks weak arm through stirrup, Silver drags him couple of hundred yards to nearby stream. Pretty sure the movie is based on fact. Beat that all you dog lovers.

Solid Saturday David Phillips. Thanks.

George Barany 10:28 AM  

Having digested much of this morning's discussion, but without providing any further spoilers, can I recommend that many of you would be very pleased with my friend @C.C. Burnikel's Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle for today (Saturday, November 5, 2016). Easily found on the internet, and reviewed at several other blogs if you want to short-circuit to its marquee answer.

I absolutely don't mind expanding my horizons through crossword puzzles, and enjoy many of the interesting riffs that are inspired specific answer words. Today, I did find myself relying more on pattern recognition than on clues that did little to direct me to the correct grid entries.

I do recall controversial appearances of RLESS, clued as "Like non-oyster months" -- had MEGATRON been RLESS, it would be MEGATON, which I could certainly appreciate. Respectful question: how many of you would know an 8-letter answer word clued as "Nietzsche's ideal"?

Nancy 10:29 AM  

I've just been reading today's comments. And what I'd love to do, what I wish it were possible to do, is line up Shakespeare, Milton, Twain, Poe, Dickens, Austen, Steinbeck, Updike, Cheever, Hemingway. Bellow and Roth, along with Tennyson, Blake, Keats and Kipling and pose them each a question: "Do you want to live in a world where comic books are part of cultural literacy?" And if any, some, or most of them said "No", Rex, would you respect their views, as you don't seem to respect the views of some very bright and educated people on this blog? People who have read widely enough and who are "culturally literate" enough to have earned the right to their opinions on this matter?

Daryl 10:36 AM  

Set my Saturday record (10 minutes) on this. Between CASSETTE, MEGATRON, and SCABBARD (which I learned from D&D) this was in the sweet spot for someone growing up in the late 80s.

1820 Stone Colonial House 10:38 AM  

I dnfed at the SMUSH/ULTERIOR cross because I guessed SMaSHED/aLTERIOR. Couple of points,on this:
Is SMUSH a word? Mush, mash, smash, yes, but SMUSH not so much, in my personal lexicon. Plus, according to the Urban Dictonary, SMUSH has a very vulgar definition that I am surprised has not outraged OFL and others on this blog. Also, Alterior is rapidly gaining traction in usage as an alternative, if you will, for ULTERIOR. A misconstruction of the great unwashed, but exactly the kind of word Donald Trump would use: "Corrupt Hillary has an alterior motive."
He didn't actually say this, but he could have.

JC66 10:43 AM  

@Nancy

Think I'LL TELL

Frank Occhiogrosso 10:44 AM  

smush?????

Churlish Nabob 10:46 AM  

@Nancy, I doubt that Rex/Michael Sharp, _lecturer_, has read most of the authors you list.

A nasty, cheap jack, phony intellectual who needs to insult others in order to feel good about himself. And his bile directed at one of the most gracious regulars on this blog!

Rex, if Trump wins you'll thrive in the poisonous public sphere that's sure to ensue.

Nancy 10:46 AM  

Thanks, @JC66! Actually, I'd just seen @Teedmn's earlier comment, saw my mistake, and was headed back here to say "Oops."

Glimmerglass 10:53 AM  

This puzzle ruined my Saturday ritual. I finished it before breakfast (when there were only three comments). I came back just now to see if I was unusual in finding the puzzle so easy (I wasn't). Good review from @Rex.

Blackbird 10:57 AM  

Nice puzzle, but much too easy for a Saturday. Sped through. Yes, had settee instead of spinet, and gala instead of fete, and smash instead of smush, but the crosses corrected that immediately. Two surprises, words I didn't know: coherer, and kneeler. Coherer came totally by crosses, and I had the kneel part of kneeler, and the last two letters came through crosses. No mysteries. Monrovia, St. Kitts, Brer Fox, Devon, Tonto, beech, smocks, star date, all in my wheelhouse, all gimmes, all part of my cultural frame of reference. Don't know or care about professional sports, so I didn't know Mariners, but didn't need to -- with a few crosses, the word just popped up, in a what else could it be way. Pleasant variety of clues and answers.

John Child 11:00 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jae 11:01 AM  

Easy for me. No erasures and COHERER was the only WOE. I actually resisted filling in some of the answers because they seemed too obvious.

Solid, but a tad ho hum, a mild liked it.

QuasiMojo 11:06 AM  

First of all a properly made latte has "microfoam" not "foam," so to speak. Too many bad ones are made with excess froth.

Hyperbole is always a bad idea. I agree with the concept behind @John Child's comment today but not the way in which he stated it. And I think Rex overstated his resentment of it.

My personal view is that I don't want the NYT crossword puzzle to become almost exclusively the realm of comic books and sci/fi and pop culture (not to mention product placement.) And judging by what I've seen happening over the last few years, it is headed in that direction. There are far too many references nowadays to Top 40 pop stars who were famous last week but have little else to recommend them. Or movies that have achieved cult status for reasons that may not have to do with their quality but rather their ticket sales.

Nor am I particularly excited about the insistence lately on trying to be trendy by skewing clues toward controversial subjects just to make them timely or politically correct.

There used to be standards at the Times. "All the news that's fit to print," etc, but that clearly is no longer the case. As the unexpurgated release of Trump tapes has made clear.

So too the puzzle which has become increasingly dumbed-down to accommodate a (perceived) millennial customer base. Perhaps it's working, judging by the stats Rex posted the other day regarding the rising number of digital crossword subscribers. And that I suppose is good news, that the puzzle will survive. But I can't go along with people who think it should lower its standards to do so.

Anyone with a subscription can go into the archive and try a puzzle from 15 years ago and you will see the striking difference in tone and content. The reliance on pop trivia was far less back then and if it existed was more likely relegated to pop classics, such as Winnie The Pooh or Melville's Omoo. You would most likely not find references to top 40 hits from the month or year before. Or to types of cars currently on the market, or products bought in supermarkets such as Edy's Ice Cream etc.

There is a difference between Cicero and Stan Lee. Do you honestly think that a 1000 years from now people will be teaching Batman in colleges? I doubt it. No doubt there won't be any colleges, and probably no more comic books. But I do think people will still know who Cicero was.

"Amen Amen" to @Nancy for her remarks today (and usually as always.)

I wonder if this comment too will end up being deleted.

John Child 11:09 AM  

>> Here's the wikipedia page on him. Like MEGATRON, it is enormous.

Ginormous. And a bit less than half the Google hits of Rabindranath Tagore who has real literary merit and was dissed here a week ago.

relicofthe60s 11:11 AM  

I thought this was beyond easy. I did it 9 and a half minutes, which is a Tuesday-Wednesday time for me. No resistance at all.

AZPETE 11:11 AM  

Had to ask my kid for help.

Blackbird 11:12 AM  

I just read Rex Parker's incredibly rude comment about a post in which JC said that comic books shouldn't be considered culture. The rudest part was the "frankly old-person" phrase. Although "ignorant" isn't exactly polite either!!! "Old-person"???? I'm the old person, 74 years old and rocking it, who just posted, mentioning what was in my wheelhouse and what wasn't. Am I an ignorant old person because I don't know or care about sports?

The other day you complained about "serin" as an answer. I don't remember the wording of the clue, but the clue had the word "bird". Serin is a European finch. I'm not an ornithologist nor a bird watcher, but I knew the answer anyway, I knew the word serin from literature. If you didn't know the word, that doesn't make you ignorant, nor jejune. I don't consider your age a factor in evaluating your level of knowledge or ignorance. You learned what interests you, I learned what interests me, same for JC and all the other puzzlers.

Thanks, Nancy, and Churlish Nabob, for calling out Rex for his rudeness.

The question of the day is, Rex, where did you learn your manners?

AZPETE 11:12 AM  

Me too

Oscar Madison 11:13 AM  

We should all know Tiro. He invented the ampersand, as well as the abbreviations "etc.," "e.g," and "i.e." These were part of the shorthand system with which he transcribed Cicero's speeches.

He's the Nick Carraway-esque narrator of Robert Harris's historical novel trilogy about Cicero. First book: Imperium.

Token Millennial 11:14 AM  

Weird solve for me. Flew through the NW, FLATRATEBOX busted open the SW for me, MARINERS made the SE fall quickly... And then I hit the wall hard in the NE. I just could not get a toehold anywhere. I held onto DIETS instead of SLIMS for way too long, until I finally dredged MEGATRON up from that one time I got dragged to the Transformers movie by my boyfriend. Still couldn't reall break it open, though. Too many words outside my wheelhouse, and my patience ran out before SPINET or TIRO or MÉNAGE could materialize.

My contribution to this cultural literacy debate: comics are such a false premise for this argument. I've never seen a clue for a comic book character in a crossword where that comic book hadn't been turned into a TV show or movie, and TV shows and movies are obviously fair game and very much a part of our cultural literacy. Even if you never go to the movie, if you watch TV at all you know who Iron Man and Superman and Captain America and the Joker and Ant Man are because ads for these movies run all the time. MEGATRON may be a little more obscure but is definitely famous enough to appear in a crossword.

Also, it bothers me that this choice is being set up between the classics and comic books, as if the only things we're supposed to know and incorporate into our culture are high-brow subjects and esteemed authors. It also demeans the talent, creativity, and hard work of comic book authors and artists, and implies the people who enjoy comics are not educated or well-read... Which, given that some college English courses incorporate graphic novels, is ironic.

NCA President 11:16 AM  

BTW, and apropos of nothing since I know that Rex never reviews the mini-puzzle...but it was particularly knotty for me today. It took me as long to do it as some Mondays. Just not in my "wheelhouse."

That is all.

Anonymous 11:27 AM  

Nancy - Was there a white man you missed in your list of "culturally literate" benchmarks?

G.Harris 11:27 AM  

Didn't know anything about Star Trek, transformers,arts and crafts, English rivers or counties,radio waves or non profit broadway yet worked them all out once I changed all in one box to flat rate. I find Rex's nastiness to a commentator uncalled for and quite off putting.

Georgia 11:36 AM  

Thanks!

GILL I. 11:38 AM  

Hey...comic books fire up the imagination. Thank you Marvel for The Age of Apocalypse and Old Man Logan. And to Robert Kirkman for The Walking Dead. Give me all you gore, your weak and your ugly....I'll take it all.
@jberg. Ah sheesh. I'm so easily fooled....

old timer 11:39 AM  

I don't mind puzzles with comic book people from the Fifties --Batman, Superman, Huey, Louie, Dewey. When I see a more current character, it's Dr. Google to the rescue. And I do think having MEGATRON cross TIRO was a fault in today's puzzle, indeed the only fault I could find.

But so often OFL finds tough I find Easy. TYNE and DEVON went right in, along with MONROVIA. Which made BORDEN easy. Changing "smash" to SMUSH gave ULTERIOR, a word I only see before "motive" and in that context, "hidden" is a perfect descriptor.

Wry smile at the hapless MARINERS. A son-in-law's fave team since he grew up in Seattle. Wait until next year, I guess. Great and surprising clue for STKITTS. Big smile as I wrote in BRERFOX. I never tired of reading those Uncle Remus stories.

Aketi 11:52 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chaos344 11:59 AM  

Great puzzle, but as many others have pointed out, way too easy for a Saturday. I needed most of the crosses to get COHERER and MEGATRON, but everything else was a walk in the park. Thank God we still have the Saturday Stumper at a different venue.

@LMS: I was going to give Rex a hearty ROTFLMAO for his COWTHEFT, but you beat me to it. Kudos for admitting your shame, vis-a-vis your lack of knowledge about Monrovia and it's history. Especially since you are an educator. I wonder if it was a coincidence that we also had ST.KITTS in today's puzzle?

1820 Stone Colonial House: PU-LEZZE! If the Urban dictionary offends you that much, don't go there!

Mohair Sam : You visited Torquay! Did you stay at Fawlty Towers?

@foxaroni: I left a late reply to your post on yesterday's blog.

Aketi 12:00 PM  

@Z, I haven't owned a car in 23 years ever since I sold my beloved little blue green Honda Civic when I was offered a job in NYC city and realized that the insurance rates in NYC were triple the rates in Atlanta. Plus I felt the challenges of dealing with alternate side parking were way beyond my capacity for dealing with frustration. It was sad to sell the first (and probably last) car I ever bought brand new. I have many fond memories of that little car.

@Churlish Nabob, sorry if you read the post I hastily deleted when I realized I completely misread your comment about Trump.

there are only two Facebook Grouos that I have encountered that remain free of mean trolling comments. One was Black Women Do Breastfeed. I have never ever seen a single mean comment in that group. It is the best of supportive comments for mothers I have ever seen.

The other Facebook Griup is a secret group that started a few weeks ago. Between the time I went to bed and the time I got up this morning that group expanded by almost 100,000 members. No, the five zeros are not typos. The group is closing in on 1 million members very quickly. The comments are nice, supportive, completely free of negative attack ads, full of pictures of people with smiling faces after they cast their early votes, Full of stories about how they took the high road when bullied by neighbors or had windows broken or lawn signs smashed. The only labeling is self labeling. That Facebook group has restored my faith that there are many good kind welcoming thoughtful people in this still great nation, In that secret site free of Trump supporters where they could taken the low road and trash talk Trump supporters safely among their own, they are doing the opposite. They really have gone high.

Lewis 12:08 PM  

My daughter (who just turned 40) turned me on to terrific comics of the past two decades and graphic novels, many of which I have found as engaging and intelligently satisfying as classics and current literature that I also love. If a puzzle can introduce solvers to some good comics and graphic novels -- if the crosses are fair -- I'm all for it.

I liked SMUSH, SCABBARD, and ULTERIOR, though I hope for more words that turn my ear on a Saturday. I loved the clues for PURSES and SHOPLIFT, but also hope for more clever clues like that on Saturday. Nonetheless, this puzzle not only provided a great solving experience, it did wake up my imagination. I saw that confessor on the KNEELER, crossing ILL_TELL. I found it funny to picture another cross -- MENAGE and INACTIVE. I liked the rhyming cross of SWERVE and PRESERVE, and, as others have mentioned, the anxious cross of STRESS and TENSE. I liked that there were AMENS and OMENS, and I liked that religious undertone with KNEELER, ALTER, and AMENAMEN.

Still trying very hard to manifest the Wednesday morning headline under a picture of a smiling Hillary: WON NO TRUMP.

Aketi 12:12 PM  

@Nancy, you know I adore you. I have read all but two of the authors on your list but can't claim that retain all that I previously
read in my head. I also read most of Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, and Asimov. Hope you'll forgive me for loving a Marvel movies and video games too. One can appreciate both.

Anonymous 12:15 PM  

Amen, Amen;

Fat Freddy's Cat 12:16 PM  

A comic book slap fight! Yes! Rex, you are at your most entertaining when you get your underwear all twisted up over something. This is why I read this blog. I owe you money come pledge week!

Allow me to settle this comic book dust-up. @JohnChilds, you were wrong to infer that all comic books are childish. That's incorrect. MOST comic books are childish is the correct answer, and this includes all those stupid DC and Marvel superheroes. Here's a complete list of the only good comic books:

1) "The Freak Brothers"
2) "Spy Vs Spy"
3) "Batman" starring Adam West (a TV show I guess, but it brilliantly pointed out what a ridiculous character Batman is)

And @Rex, you were wrong to use an ugly word like "ignorance," particularly since you often show a gleeful ignorance about areas such as basic engineering, basic physics, basic science, basic American history prior to 1972, etc etc. Plus, as a teacher, your faith in Wikipedia as a definitive reference source is, um, troubling.

Now you two boys shake hands.

Karlo Kitanovski 12:23 PM  

I would call this one easy, sort of. My solve time was half of my cumulative average. Much to my chagrin, I did blunder on one letter. I had to change the vowel "a" to "u" to correctly finish this puzzle. I made the change from SMASH/ALTERIOR to SMUSH/ULTERIOR. This took away my satisfaction of breezing through this one. That was a silly mistake. I was thinking "alternate." That was easily corrrected though. I started with ILL TELL and FLAT RATE BOX to quickly get ahead. COHERER sounded right but I did not know that word. Aside from my vowel mistake in the SW, the NE corner slowed me down a bit: TIRO and MÉNAGE came to me slowly. Decent puzzle but more like a Friday. That's two easy ones in a row (Friday and Saturday).

Mohair Sam 12:23 PM  

Those of you faulting @Rex for his strident post might want to reread @John Childs' post and consider this statement: "I don't want to live in a world where comic books are part of cultural literacy" - I think Rex showed restraint in his reply. Someone slaps me in the face like that and, well, . . .

@Token Millenial has it right - the entire "comic books" argument here is a false premise. Not one of you complained about the cultural relevance of TONTO. I will bet that to the under 50 crowd MEGATRON is just as well known, and surely more popular.

@Nancy - I have never been a reader of comics, and you'd be proud of me for how deeply I've delved into your required reading list (including every Steinbeck and Hemingway novel). BUT - The times they are a-changin', as your hero Bob Dylan would say. Some of the folks on your list understood that and might surprise you and have no problem with graphic novels (Twain?).

@Rex - Hey kid! Will you puhleeeze stop using "old person" as a pejorative.

Anonymous 12:30 PM  

It is now @9:30 a.m. est. It is still not too late for Rex to apologize for at least the tone and probably the content of his ranting and inappropriate post. Ironically, if someone else had posted such an inappropriate and unabashedly personal shot at another blogger, wouldn't everyone be surprised if Rex didn't remove it?

Jackie 12:35 PM  

I knew MEGATRON right away, but it took me quite a few crosses to get TONTO. I don't want to live in a world where outdated, patronizing cultural stereotypes from ancient pop culture are still part of cultural literacy.

Carola 12:46 PM  

@Churlish Nabob, your emphasis on _lecturer_ in your comment to @Nancy brought back a memory of a departmental meeting years ago at which a colleague announced the unexpected death of a member of another department, concluding with, "He was only a lecturer, but...." I don't know what came after the "but" because my brain had frozen. At that time, I, too, was a lecturer, and I found myself envisioning the epitaph on my tombstone: "She was only a lecturer...and a woman...but...." Anyway. In my experience, decisions about academic job titles are made based on administrative budgetary considerations (tenure-track professors cost more than lecturers) and departmental needs, with the same level of qualifications expected for both title lines.

old timer 12:52 PM  

I wondered when someone would criticize TONTO. He was of course portrayed as clever, wise, and heroic, and played by a genuine (if Canadian) Indian, Jay Silverheels, who was so important to the show he was literally irreplaceable. But the writers made him talk like a stage Indian, whose command of English was very limited. Not that I mind him in a puzzle, but if the series were to be revived TONTO would speak better English.

Glad to hear from @Fat Freddy's Cat, too. Yeah, the Fabulous Furry Freak Bros. were classic, though the best single comic ever penned was "Binky Brown Meets the Blessed Virgin Mary." But may I put in a word for my favorite comic series, "Uncle Scrooge"? Only came out four times a year and I bought every one, back in the day. The plots were amazingly clever, and the image of Scrooge swimming in his money bin will always be remembered by those of us of a certain age.

Mohair Sam 12:53 PM  

@Chaos344 - Fawlty Towers! If only. Actually stayed in one of those small British hotels that the show was modeled on. But alas, no Basil, no Sybil.

Cassieopia 12:54 PM  

@fat Freddy's cat: I would add Avatar: The Last Airbender to that list although they are probably considered graphic novels rather than comic books.

@aketi: how can I find that "secret Facebook site"? After this election season, I need a bath in kindness and goodness.

@rex: I agree with the sentiment but the tone could be much kinder. I come to this blog for education and the virtual company of very smart people, and a civil and respectful view of others' views and opinions goes a long way toward making this a haven on the internet. I've learned a ton from your crossword analyses and while snark and sarcasm can be funny, a steady diet tends to turn the stomach sour.

And @ John child: I can appreciate your comment from the perspective of Mr Sherlock Holmes, who compared the mind to a room that has only so many square feet, thus we must choose our furniture carefully. There is a distinction between classic literature and comic books, just as there is one between a gourmet meal and KFC. That is how I understood your comment, and did not think it "ignorant" at any level. I hope you continue to post.

Ah, and The Puzzle! I too had a very fast time, with my favorite answer being STARDATE. There were other fun solutions: FLATBOXRATE, SMOCK (haven't seen that in a very long time), and the delightful SCABBARD. Nicely done, Mr Phillips, and thank you for a delightful Saturday morning!

Jamie C 12:56 PM  

My (unasked for) 2 cents: It's all fair game. It's a crossword puzzle. Where else are they all in one place?Silent movie stars, obscure bible characters, esoteric math terms, rare fish species, any music genre, Hebrew months, comic books, etc., etc. It's the whole point. One person's "too obscure" is another's wheelhouse. Knowledge is king. Proud ignorance of anything in this world is never the answer.

Masked and Anonymous 12:56 PM  

mystery theme, again!

@RP: yep. CALFLIFT, here, for a split second. It was like 1-AGcross deja vu all over again.

@RP again: Primo write-up + very nice bullets. "Easy-medium" for a SatPuz sounds about right, in M&Ao. TIRO and ANTA was staff mega-desperation picks.

@RP one more time: I want to live. Especially in a world. Toss in a TONTO entry now and then, and us masked dudes ain't likely to mega too much of a stink. Kemo Sabe.

M&A's heart sunk slightly, when he saw them mega-open corners. That never bodes well, for yer U-count. It's another one of them desperation factors. Fewer desperation words, traded-off at the expense of less Scrabble-twerkin and mega-meager U-respect. But, on the other hand … M&A would still like to live, mind U -- altho not necessarily pay high rent in a world without desperation. (yo, @JC) Kinda like @Nancy likes to suffer, now and then.

fave weeject: AHS. Only 3 to choose from, due to them there megacorners.

fave entry: BRERFOX.

Noteworthy items picked up on the M&A U-COHERER device: MANUALLY. PURSES. SMUSH. ULTERIOR. SMUSH is extra mega-primo; lil darlin vowel has the whole word to itself.

Thanx, Mr. Phillips. Fun solvequest. I actually came up [eventually] with MEGATRON manually, somehow; probably due to a transformative FriNite schlock flickfest viewin of yore.

Masked & Anonymo2Us

Anonymous 12:59 PM  

While a SPINET may be a small piano, it is hardly a "small parlor piece" unless you have a really big parlor if you have one at all (and I'm betting you don't).

DESievers 1:00 PM  

A notably acrimonious comments section today, initiated by Rex's hasty and ill-considered reply on comics. I'm happy when I have/make the time to complete the Saturday puzzle (an easy one today - yay!), much less devote the kind of time some have today to vent their spleens over offensive comments. But I guess we all choose how best to fill our time. Brevity is the soul of wit (some white guy said), and maybe the happiest feature of crossword commentary.

Cassieopia 1:04 PM  

I did the mini on your recommendation - it was excellent! Thanks for the tip!

Leapfinger 1:07 PM  

Hunh. Two Davids inarow.

SMUSH, SMITE, SMOCKS and STRESSED pretty well describes me in this solve, where 4 out of 5 sections (even the tiny middle) SCABBAR'D me pretty well, and had me thinking I'd left my STREETSMARTs on Avenue Dumb.

NW: A plague on it, but I thought a rat's biggest threat was ILLness [see 'bubonic'; as an aside, the word 'bubo' tickles me, esp after finding a beer by that name]. Came closer with thinking there's a new thing rats do online called ILLTEXT. That fed into my midline misconception that 26A had somehow to do with 'ATTA_ boy', where ATTAS boy would be the clumsiest POC ever. Also thought of KNEEpad and agree with @lms that the SLIM LAPELs tux the day.
(Yes @Gill, you had me pondering HAbANA)

NE: Had to overcome [downsizes x jot] = FIRES x FLECKS. Not easy to do, crawling up from the bottom. All I remember about Transformers is the wish list the Grandboy wrote up for me about 14 birthdays ago. Every LINEITEM was over $50, and Optimus Prime was well-named.

SE: Lots of white after AMPS cuz couldn't shrink LICORICE down to 5. Some promise with SWIVEL and BRACED, but since I usually use Raid on WASPS, I knew something was wrong. [Note: When spraying wasps, use nothing but the 10-foot spray. Do I hear an AMENAMEN?] Anyway,  I think it was deciding PLANES were a likely sequel to Cars broke the logjam. It's a bit of a blur, but suddenly it was all a FETES accompli.

Liked: Scrambling TIRO to get MENAGE a TROI.
Disappointed: no Trinidadian singer, to give us NICKI MENAGE a TROI
Memory: In the schoolyard, if someone said "Let's...", you'd say "Let's not, and say we did". Remember? Nobody ever said SHALL WE.
Resolution for 2017: To be COHERER than this year

Thanks, David. I was much TAKEN with these Phillips to my Saturday.
..............

PS: There's a real hazard in writing a comment blissfully unaware of ULTERIOR goings-on. I'm seeing enough of the borderline appalling around to have me hoping for better. Maybe I've been living in the 'genteel' South too long, but let's shoot for A NISE way to express our innermost thoughts.

puzzle hoarder 1:09 PM  

Kudos to @John Child for getting @Rex to put down his comic book and pay attention. Let me quote "you people", "ignorant" for a self proclaimed PC advocate you adopt the hater vocabulary pretty quickly. That little rant got me to reread your review of the Thursday Mel Rosen puzzle. This is someone who had his first NYT puzzle published when you were barely born. The snark was downright disrespectful. It was the work of constructors like that and the generations of solvers who enjoyed their puzzles that give this puzzle it's significance and you'd do well to remember that.
One more thing. Is a MEGATRON bigger than a JUMBOTRON? Someone check their comic book and get back to me.

Gregory Schmidt 1:17 PM  

Other than the fact that the entries into NE involved proper names, this played awfully easy for me for a Saturday. I know it's all relative, but I look forward to Saturday for a little consternation. This felt more like decent Friday. Left me wanting more.

Z 1:33 PM  

@Aketi - Oh, to live somewhere where not owning a car were a viable option. #Jealous

@Quasimojo and others - Nothing ever becomes a classic without first being a part of popular culture. That's not the same as saying all pop culture becomes classic, but if Sophocles hadn't been popular no one would have saved Oedipus or Antigone. Or perhaps we should ponder the headline from page C1 of today's NYT, "Shakespeare's Take on the Game of Thrones"? Personally, I doubt that Transformers is destined to become a classic. But Maus? Persepolis? Both are already practically required reading if you want to be part of the 21st century literati.

As for Pop Culture in puzzles, keep it around 25% of the answers please, whether it is TIRO, TONTO, or MEGATRON.

JC66 1:37 PM  

Surprised @RP and any of the commentariat didn't slam BRERFOX for its racist source.

Bumblebee 1:43 PM  

@John Child - They're called CROSSwords for a reason. You use the crossers (like the lol-oh-so-easy-for-you TIRO) and piece the entry together. You're not going to know everything in the grid, and that's part of the fun. So you've never heard of MEGATRON, but it sure as hell sounds like the name of a giant robot, so why not smile and move on. Shouldn't puzzles have a little of everything? MEGATRON crossing TAGORE crossing KANYE crossing KAFKA crossing KILLER CROC?

Malsdemare 1:48 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
QuasiMojo 2:05 PM  

@Z, thank you for your comments. Maus first appeared in the 20th century, I believe. And I remember being very glad that it did. But that's a graphic novel. I'm not saying comic books have no value. Nor did I ever. What I am saying is that there is too much of it in the NYT puzzle of late for my taste. That is all.

I agree with you about Sophocles. What's that old story that the only reason we have those particular Greek tragedies is that someone grabbed them out of the Alexandria Library when it was burning? They could have grabbed something even better but perhaps didn't have time.

I'm reminded of a comment Tom Wolfe made on an old episode of Firing Line. I don't recall his exact words but he said there were probably dozens of Rembrandts working away in attics but they had not been discovered or had not been popular with the people who decide what is or isn't popular. No doubt that is true for all of these emerging art forms and for neglected authors from the past.

There are countless non-Western authors who deserve more credit as well, many of whom make our own old masters (I hesitate to use that word since it has been banned from Yale's dorms recently) look like comic book writers by comparison. It's all relative. And unfair. But let's let history unfold without having to succumb to a complete homogenization of the NYT crossword puzzle just yet.

Chaos344 2:18 PM  

So, @John Child "beards the lion in his den" and gives rise to a great Saturday "culture war" blog that will probably elicit an unusually high number of comments before it ends.

Full disclosure. I'm in the Child/Nancy/etc. camp but understand where Rex is coming from. We are attacking the core of his occupation and avocation. I can't call him a liberal lecturer/professor because that appellation would be an oxymoron. Anyone with a modicum of awareness and intelligence knows that almost 90% of all college faculties are self professed liberals and proud of it. That figure will likely continue to skew upward.

Having said all that, I'm not trying to denigrate or defend liberalism today. I'm posting to say that Rex is likely to be as proud of his knowledge base as I am of mine. His collection of comic books and pulp fiction novels are probably equal and worthy to my library of classic literature and Playboy Magazines!

That's right folks! I bought my first edition of Playboy in January of 1964 and have every magazine printed since then. Over 1000 issues, since many are duplicates. I often bought one to read and one to collect. The collection issues are all in Mylar sleeves and library cases, virtually untouched by human hands. The collection has substantial value, but not nearly what it would be worth if I owned the first ten years of publication.

Enjoy your comic books and paperbacks Rex. My collection is just as iconic as yours. Interviews with JFK, MLK, Cassius Clay, John Lennon,etc; just to name a few!

Numinous 2:37 PM  

I had to google to get MEGATRON. I worked on a cartoon series that involved cars that turned into robots but it wasn't Transformers. It was GoBots, competition with Transformers for children's allowances.

I imagine that I'm one of the very few for whom TIRO was in the wheelhouse. I've read Steven Saylor's book Imperium, but I knew of him from some other sources too. He did indeed "invent" shorthand for taking down Cicero's speeches. If you've ever looked at documents in Latin, you would have some inkling of what a big deal that was. Ancient Latin had none of the modern conveniences like periods, comas, and even spaces between words. He had to scratch it all onto wax tablets with what was essentially a pointed stick.

I failed at SMUSH/ULTERIOR. Had an A instead of U. So DNQuiteF. Seems like both the Davids are doing really good work these days.

I remember comic books. I especially remember a Beetle Bailey comic where the platoon was on bivouac. Mort Walker had dreamed up some amazing improvisations like jars of fire flies for lamps pipe lines made from artillary shell casings such that the soldiers were living in comparative luxury. I was never particularly fond of the super heros though. They made no sense to me. Like, what happened to Clark Kent's clothes when he left them in a phone booth? Did he lose his wallet and keys, his Lucky Strikes and Zippo every time some bum snuck of with a brand new suit of clothes he'd found in a phone booth along with enough scratch to buy a whole fifth of Four Roses?

Since it's come up, I'm proud to say that on Thursday I negated a vote for the fascist. Georgia has early voting and as I was downtown, I took advantage.

Anoa Bob 2:37 PM  

Used to work in electronics many moons ago during the age of vacuum tubes and relays, but even I never heard of a COHERER. (Neither has spellcheck.) But always nice to learn sumpin' new.

One of the vacuum tubes I worked with was a massive, 440 volt, water-cooled, giant welding machine one that produced metal-melting streams of current. It was called an IGNITRON. I guess a MEGATRON would be its bigger cousin.

For those keeping score, and I know you are legion, we have two cheater/helper (chealper?) squares, before 9A & after 53A, along with several two-for-one, chealper square equivalent POCs. The first is at the end of 4D PURSE & 22A SAC. If you can find the other three, please have a Labatt Blue, or two, on me.

Anonymous 2:54 PM  

@Fat Freddy's Cat

Don't forget "Milk and Cheese" (a comic book of a cardboard quart of milk and a wedge of Swiss cheese who are both violent alcoholics)

Icon O. Clast 2:55 PM  

Wow! Any criticism, even by @Rex, of one of the members of the sacred cows here and the clique circles the wagons.

BTW, @George Barany, glad to know that C.C. Burnikel is your friend. Pat yourself on the back and give yourself a gold star. You're a good boy.

OISK 3:02 PM  

I never heard of megatron (although skeletor rings a bell...) nor Tiro, but it's Saturday, and "R" just seemed right there. I don't mind comic references, as long as the puzzle isn't laced with them. I don't like product clues, hip-hop, and obscure movie characters either, but I complain only when they are OVERused. Or when the name of the rap star or group could be any three letters in the alphabet.

Yes, I would rather see high culture than low culture ( high and low used to differentiate, not to evaluate). I can sing Vissi D'arte, but still have no idea what NWA is. ( a Seattle based airline?) I love geography clues, and have been to St. Kitts AND Exeter. (Saw the Queen whilst I was visiting Devon). But it is different for me to express my own dislikes, than to complain about their occasional inclusion.

The word "spinet" always reminds me of the Sondheim lyric "I'll keep the grand sugar, you take the spinet, and all of your friends and just wait a goddam minute..."

The complaint that Nancy's ( really like Nancy) reading list consisted mainly of white males is PC run amok. She included Austen, but her list went back to times where the ONLY authors read today were white males. My list might have added George Eliot, or perhaps the Brontes, but it certainly would have been overwhelmingly white males. That's a factor of history, not sexism.

Numinous 3:11 PM  

And just for good measure:

When Cilia was Learning on the SPINET to play,
her Tutor stood by her to show her,
to show her the way:

She shook not the' Note, which angred him much,
and made him, and made him cry:
"Zounds 'tis a long prick,
a long prick'd
Note you touch!"

Surprised was the lady
To hear him complain
And said, "I will shake it,
I will shake it
When I come to't again."

A somewhat bawdy standard for Renaissance Pleasure Faire acapella groups by John Isum, 15th-16th centuries.

Larry Gilstrap 3:23 PM  

I was just telling a friend about the level of civility exhibited in this forum, and then today happened. We all have followed online comment sections down the road to ugly name calling. I expect more here. I quickly learned that my dad had little patience with my petulance. Whenever I got cranky, he would say, "Go wash your face!" Works for me.

Speaking of being cranky, I took ILLTELL as some obscure form of something like: misspeak. That's some gnarly Saturday fill, right there. D'OH!

I tutor adults learning English and they, like TONTO, sometimes forget that the third person singular form of a regular verb ends in "s." I still value their wisdom and their friendship.

Aketi 4:34 PM  

Cassiopeia, if you're willing to friend me on Facebook I'd be happy to link you in. It has grown by 100,000 since 8 am this morning. I'm not sure it will be up after the election.

Tita A 5:07 PM  

@Gill...it's likely a diesel-spewing Larry, and yes, woe betide you if you linger in the left when I come up behind you in my Beemer or Audi A8! But as long as you're passing, and then move over, no one will hassle you. God, I love driving there.

@Aketi...I once called Enterprise from the road because I couldn't figure out how to lower the windows... To my monumental embarrassment, the agent told me to look for the hand crank on the door.

Unknown DNF at SMaSH/aLTERIOR.

As a little kid, whenever I was home from school sick, my mom would take such good care of me, feeding me homemade soups, biringing the tiny portable b&w tv into my room, and, most of all, bringing me a few new comic books. Usually Archie.
I don't remember making a conscious decision to stop reading them, but I did. My Nancy Drew books too. Even Mad Magazine fell by the wayside.
Do I (personally) dismiss that genre? I guess by inaction I do. But lordie...

Beyond that, what@Fat Freddy's Cat and @Mohair said.

@M&A...you win the comments war today starting at "I want to live. ... "




Tita A 5:11 PM  

Now, for some much needed "comic" relief, did I ever tell y'all that as an ALTAR boy, my brother and a cohort once sprinkled in some white NECCO wafers in with the regular hosts? They carefully watched each face, to see if they could tell which parishioner got the candy.

Hartley70 5:16 PM  

Hi @Aketi! Are we members of PN together? Shhhh.

Martín Abresch 5:20 PM  

@John Child's comment made me cringe. There are few things more horrifying than an educated person without curiosity.

@Nancy's list of writers—invoked to defend standards of cultural literacy—is hilarious. Many of those (Shakespeare, Twain, Poe, Dickens, Kipling) were incredibly popular: their work makes the case for expanding the canon of great literature to include "low" works. Heck, most of that list is novelists, and the novel is a rather recent entry in the history of literature (not really getting going until the 18th century): it's a popular form of narrative that subsequent writers adopted and used to construct works of "high" literature. (Reminds me of, I don't know, Art Spiegelman and Maus or Marjane Satrapi and Persepolis. Even further, I'd say that that list is a list of writers whose images you might find on Barnes & Nobles tote bags. If you're going to be a cultural snob, you have to aim higher.

@Token Millennial correctly points out that that "comic book" clues nearly always refer to comics that have been adapted into a TV show or movie. It's not like we're getting references to Sandman, 100 Bullets, Chew, or any of the many other great comic books out there, sadly.

Oh yeah, the Transformer movies are terrible.

Mike Rees 5:21 PM  

Set my personal speed record for a Saturday, at well under half my usual time. That's despite not knowing a number of these things, and no google helps. So yeah, I liked this one :)

Hartley70 5:24 PM  

Dear Rex, I just read your lambast to my sister who's a Brown educated, Brown Academic Manager, an English major, and proud comic book collector. She laughed and cheered you on throughout! Go Rex Go!

Hartley70 5:33 PM  

@Carola @12:46, Priceless! We had a good howl at your post.

Mohair Sam 6:05 PM  

@Martin Abresch - Your reply to @John is perfect. Once again, brevity is indeed the soul of wit.

@Hartley70 (5.24) - You too.

@Tita A - Too funny, I expect your brother and his friend will get extended time in Purgatory.

GILL I. 6:28 PM  

@Hartley....HAPPY BIRTHDAY. You go girl!
@Tita....Oh Lordy. I was the Seat 600 in front of you. Damn it, I gunned that son of a gun and you still ate my rear.....

Michael 6:31 PM  

I like the puzzle, but it was one of the easiest Saturdays I've done.

Mixed feelings on the controversy of the day:

(1) I like that crossword puzzles involve all sorts of knowledge. I completely agree with Rex that comic books are an appropriate part of the puzzle (as is Shakespeare, classical music, etc.). My sympathy for his view is lessened, however, because of his frequent comments about his dislike of clues from science and math. Surely science and math are as appropriate in crossword puzzles as comic books. Not more appropriate or less appropriate.

(2) Rex is very sensitive (often appropriately in my opinion) to anything that might be construed as derogratory with respect to "race"/ethnicity, gender, and sexual preference. Too bad he doesn't seem to extend his sensitivity to ageism. The remark about "old persons" was for me the single most offensive part of his less-than-polite comment.

(3) It is Rex's blog...

Anonymous 6:55 PM  

Well, I did go with "cow theft" for 1A at first, Rex, which gave me "collar" for Lab wear for 1D, as in Labrador retriever. So I was stuck up there for a VERY long time!!

Malsdemare 7:43 PM  

Um @aketi, I would love to become a part of a kind, positive Fb group. How do I friend you?

I liked the puzzle, think the argument about the relative value of dead white males and graphic novels is a sign this election needs to be over, and deeply wish I could start my car with my phone.

Signed, another "old person"

Cassieopia 8:41 PM  

Me too, I tried clicking blog link - no luck - also tried searching "aketi" on Facebook and results were very interesting but didn't appear to be germane. Ideas on how to get the friend info?

Chronic dnfer 9:29 PM  

Collar was an issue.

Anonymous 9:44 PM  

I have to echo comments above about this being easy for a Saturday. I made the SETTEE/SPINET mistake others did, but realized it and fixed it quick enough. What took me some a bit to figure was that SMASH should be SMUSH. Somehow I thought ALTERIOR must be a real word. Otherwise I finished in record time. - robin

Leapfinger 10:31 PM  

@Martin Abs, your cringing and horrification over John Child's comment made me go back and look. I agree that a reasonable assessment can be made about level of education, but it seems a leap to judgment to consider his statements reveal a lack of curiosity. If someone were to give me a Jackson Pollock or a Warhol, I'd keep them for the investment value, but likely wouldn't hang them on my walls. A Rothko or Roy Lichtenstein, I probably would. [In anticipation of the diversity clique, I'll add Basquiat (maybe) and Kollwitz (definitely.] So basically, we're talking about neither value nor curiosity, but about taste, in which we're allowed (even encouraged) to differ, right?

Interesting thought about the cultural lowering that comes from being on a Barnes and Ignoble tote. Wonder whether the effect holds for the Alberts, Schweitzer and Einstein, relatively speaking. [Reminder to self to check kitchen mugs.]

@Numinous, you made me want to take spinet lessons.

Aketi 10:53 PM  

@cassieopia and malsdemare, I turned on my email address for the "Aketi" blogger ID. Just click onto that and email me.
@hartley70, Happy Birthday!
@Tita, I've done that too,

Jay Silverheels 1:40 AM  

TONTO had to be a fool to say 'Help always come...'

CONVICT 466786 5:11 AM  

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