Baroque artist Guido / SAT 5-13-17 / Tree-tapping spigot / Ignorant middle class per HL Mencken / Yantra sacred hindu diagram formed by nine interlocking triangles

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: SPILE (31D: Tree-tapping spigot) —


a peg or plug of wood, especially one used as a spigot.
a spout for conducting sap from the sugar maple.
a heavy wooden stake or pile.
Mining. forepole.

verb (used with object), spiled, spiling.

to stop up (a hole) with a spile or peg.
to furnish with a spigot or spout, as for drawing off a liquid.
to tap by means of a spile.
to furnish, strengthen, or support with spiles or piles. (
• • •

Very tough. Lots of vaguely clued answers, many of them niche slang (NOOB) or proper nouns (RITZ BITS). Luckily, there were gimmes scattered all over the place, but even then, this was rough going. You'd think that when you get ZZTOP handed to you as a gimme, very early, you'd be in business. But strangely, neither "Z" did anything for me. I kept thinking of CHEEZ-ITS at 1A: Tiny Cheese sandwiches, of a sort, and ZYZZYVA at 14A: Nest-raiding insect. I honestly don't know what RITZ BITS are or that they come in ... flavors? ... so, yeah, rough. So strange to be handed ZZTOP and have the only letter that really opens anything up for you be ... the "P"—got POI / TARO right away, but then got nothing in the NW. Moved over and dropped SPOOL at 9A: A thread winds around it (as I was supposed to—that is as intentionally-designed a trap as you're ever going to see), but then corrected to RITE / ANTED and finally got moving for real in the NE. But then I could not move into the center easily at all. Even the CAND- at 10D: Christmas decoration wasn't telling me much. Me: "CANDLE ... something?"

Rebooted with EAVES / ASTERS. Then nothing. Then ISLES (only one letter wrong!) ISTO TACH OSHA and I was in business in the SE. Briefly. Died there too. Problems all over with moving from section to section, because I didn't know most of the long connective answers. BOOBO- was never ever gonna give me BOOBOISIE (5D: Ignorant middle class, per H. L. Mencken). Only word I could think of was BOOBOCRACY (or BOOBOCRATS?). Didn't fit. And ELDERWAND? Forget it. I mean, no, wait, don't forget it, because after ELDER-, I actually guessed WAND pretty easily, but still, niche niche niche answers, everywhere. But in the end the most dangerous answers were the vague ones. I had to bring the whole puzzle down around 36A: One likely to have a large collection of albums to find the STAMP in RARE STAMP DEALER. I laughed out loud as I wrote it in. "SPILE!? LOL, OK, whatever you say, puzzle." And worst of all was the LEAD in LEAD GLASS (58A: High-quality window composition). Had L--- GLASS, and every single cross was bad / iffy. DEE? (59D: River that forms part of the England/Wales border) TANG? (53D: Strong, sharp smell) RENI!?!?! (52D: Baroque artist Guido) That "E" in RENI was a guess. Could easily have been a Natick for me, as LOAD GLASS seemed like something and RONI seemed like *Much* more or a real name than RENI. But in the end LOAD just felt (and was!) wrong. Lasting image of this puzzle for me will be some guy named RENI out checking his SPILEs for sap.

Here's someone else who got screwed by SPILE (and LEAD)

  • "I BELIEVE I CAN FLY" (39A: Grammy-winning R. Kelly hit of 1996) — thank god for this one. Having the "V" from EAVES gave me some help, but honestly there's only one "hit" of his that comes to mind and it's this song. Wait, was "Trapped in the Closet" a hit?
  • SELMA (34D: "The Simpsons" aunt) — still useful to have a vast knowledge of the "Simpsons" universe.
  • TRI (25A: Ironman race, briefly) — tiny word, but opened up RABIN and then TRICK / KNEE, bam bam.
  • LARA (49D: Boris Pasternak heroine) — just when the SW was looking like a dark empty disaster, along comes LARA... 
  • IRENE (27D: Woman's name meaning "peace") IRENE is the most common five-letter woman's name in crossword history, and this bit of etymological trivia really comes in handy, trust me.
THE INDIE 500 crossword tournament is happening SATURDAY, JUNE 3, 2017 (i.e. *in three weeks*), in Washington, D.C., and registration is open open open. This is one of two tournaments I try never to miss (the other is Lollapuzzoola, in NYC, in August). Indie is such a welcoming, fun place to be, and the puzzle constructor slate for the tournament this year looks amazing (talented *and* diverse!—check it out!). This a great tournament for veterans and rookies alike. Don't be afraid of your own nerddom. Register now. You'll be happy you did.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 7:05 AM  

I thought this was a wonderful puzzle. Aren't Saturdays supposed to be hard?

Moly Shu 7:08 AM  

@Rex, some of us RITZBITS eating, Harry Potter reading, LEADGLASS using, maple syrup loving NOOBs have never watched an episode of The Simpsons. I know that seems impossible to you, but it's true. Stick that in your niche.
I liked the triple stack, thought they were all good answers. INESSE, not so much. ANNEHECHE in and out 3 times while working that section. Knew she was in the movie, just couldn't get anything to go with her until I tried LEADGLASS.

Marty Van B 7:21 AM  

Kinda like Bill Clinton in the film Wordplay (rather than yesterday's puzzle) said, "sometimes I'll go through more than half the clues before I know an answer", and that was again my experience today. You've gotta start with what ya know and work from there. It so happens I know Simpsons characters and lame R Kelly songs from the 90s. This Saturday, that's what I needed to get a crack at today's puzzle.

Anonymous 7:26 AM  

That was a mean crossword Whew!!!

Anonymous 7:46 AM  

I liked the puzzle, and I will counter your "niche" criticism a bit by saying that two of the "niche" answers you highlight (Elder Wand and spile) may actually be more in the wheelhouse of the younger generation. You do often criticize the puzzle for skewing old (and I agree), but a spile actually played a central role in the first Hunger Games book and of course...Harry Potter. I'm not sure anything from Harry Potter could be considered a niche answer. Love the blog - thanks for doing it!

Loren Muse Smith 7:46 AM  

Pretty easy for me until I got really stuck in the northwest. Like Rex, I was going “Cheezits, trying to remember if they had a little sandwich version and making a mental note to buy some. (EATS RIGHT schmeetz right.) This was after I erased “mako” shark as an ingredient in some kind of dish. Then I had “mayo” there. Dumb. That ZZ TOP clue was not a gimme for me.

Oh, and I had about four different misspelled iterations of “bourgeoisie.”

I ended up with a dnf because of the NOOB/BOOBOISIE cross.

57A – five-letter word for “teachers of karma” – teens. Seriously.

Best, most elegant part of the grid – TRICK/KNEE. Cool. It bends backwards and just hurts to look at.

ELDER WAND was a woe, but it was fairly crossed.

15D and 64A could’ve had the same clue:

So then the dermatologist got these little tweezers, and man, you’re not gonna believe what he pulled out…


BarbieBarbie 7:56 AM  

Hard slog for me, round and round with nothing in the NW. Then IMIN (anybody want to reconsider the claim of zero dreck for this zzle? But it helps sometimes!) and finally remembered the BITS half of the cracker, filled that in, chastized myself for not getting ZZTOP right away, and managed to fiiiinnnniiiissshhh... Slowly.
Liked Cinderella team, but nothing else really tickled me except maybe Selma. So, sloggy and no reward. But then I like rebus puzzles.

Glimmerglass 7:58 AM  

As I undrstand @Rex's term Natck, there cannot be an unfair Natick on a Saturday. A Natick is the crossing of two obscure words not commonly known by most people. On a Monday, that's unfair. On a Saturday, hey, it's supposed to be really hard. For myself, a Natick dosn't get my panties in a bunch. I don't feel bad that I don't know everything. But it's a rush if I know or can intellgently guess a whole Saturday puzzle. RITZ BITS are two tiny Ritz crackers (about the size of a nickel) with something like Cheese Whiz in between. Not a wonderful snack, IMO.

Conrad 8:18 AM  

DNF on the DEE/IGETTHAT cross. I don't know from British rivers and I GOT THAT looked perfectly fine to me.

Loren Muse Smith 8:28 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loren Muse Smith 8:31 AM  

@Conrad- your comment showed me I had a double dnf. I had I GOT THAT/DEO. Oh well.

Marty 8:38 AM  

Merriam Webster says the primary definition of ESSAY is a transitive verb, with the noun definition secondary. Who knew?

furpurrson 8:48 AM  

Two outright errors in the clues. "I Believe I Can Fly" won a Grammy in 1998, not 1996. And to try something is to "assay," not "essay."

puzzlehoarder 8:49 AM  

For me this was on the easy side especially the top two thirds. That bottom tier probably counted for 2/3 of my time. The biggest stumbling block of the whole puzzle was having the ECHE at the end of 62A and putting in DONAMECHE which probably is a misspelling besides from being completely wrong. I supported this with AND at 51D to further confuse myself. I had to fill in the SW corner to get SLOWSTART {ironically a "slow finish"} and then fix the SE. This was a fun solve there were gimmies galore so I was always able to correct my own mistakes. I'm still waiting for Mr. Chen to give us a puzzle with the likes of SIRENIA and VIRTU in it but this was not bad.

Anne Meilof 8:50 AM  

One square left, and I went with K. NOOK and BOOKOISIE.

QuasiMojo 9:13 AM  

Yes, Saturdays are meant to be hard. I had a SLOW START, but gathered steam with BOOBOISIE, one of my favorite Menckenisms. If you haven't read his book THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE, I highly recommend it, despite what some may think of his character or personality.

I enjoyed this one although some of it was out of my wheelhouse. I loved seeing OPIUM DENS, especially in the context of Dorian Gray. That is one clue that skews both old and young.

I'm not versed in the panoply of tools used in Harry Potter, so I had trouble with "Elder Wand." I wanted CHOP for cut of meat and that made SLOWSTART hard to suss out. I don't think of a stumble as a slow start. It's a ruinous start, isn't it? Usually? So I had CRAP START for a while. lol. I also wanted HARIS instead of LAMAS because I thought Lamas had a lot more to do than teach karma. OMEN was too up in the clouds for me to figure out easily. Had EATS CLEAN before EATS RIGHT. (I wonder if those trolls who love this blog so much EAT FAR RIGHT?)

Much prefer my answer ANN ARCHER to ANNE HECHE (even if I spelled her name wrong.) Anyway, I figured it all out, or so I thought. I had INLET instead of ISLET and did not get the carillon clang at the end.

R. Kelly 9:18 AM  

If it weren't fior the pesky facts that I recorded the song in August of 1996 and released it in November of 1996 and that someone named Merriam Webster defines "essay" as :
1. to put to a test
2. to make an often tentative or experimental effort to perform : try
I would agree with you.

Rob 9:25 AM  

Tough but good. INESSE/SPILE was pretty nasty.

BarbieBarbie 9:27 AM  

Unanswered question from an Anon yesterday: what's an ILSA? My question too.
Of course my googling led to lots of Casablanca stuff. Nice, but not right. Can anyone enlighten me and my good friend Anon?

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 9:31 AM  

I had no idea that was cheese in RITZBITS. And I was going to complain about USED CARS being old and tired because lots of people trade 'em in when they are quite young and energetic, but then I realized the pun on tired and decided it was too cute to grumble about.

Two Ponies 9:57 AM  

@LMS already covered most of the high points. Agree.
Spile reminds me of the many specialized types of fabrics we encounter in puzzles. Cool words but rarely encountered outside of their niche.
Trick knee was the highlight for me.

Roo Monster 10:04 AM  

Hey All !
This was a tough/easy puz, if that makes any sense. ZZTOP/RITZBITS gave me NW easily. Fell for the Spool-SCREW misdirect in NE. But after getting TARO, somehow saw OPIUMDENS and NE fell. Troubles in central stack and SE. SW went kinda quick with Startlate-Startslow-to realizing TANG (which I wanted but didn't write in)-to SLOWSTART. Then got SLAB, BANDY (great word, BTW). For me, the TRICK KNEE was TRICK-Y. Had the RARE____DEALER, but couldn't get vinyl records out of the ole brain. CINDERELLA TEAMS was tough to see also. Originally having egEst for SMELT and SeIvE for SPILE didn't help the cause. Oh, and spelling RABaN wrong confounded things a bit more. But managed to suss everything out (with the help of Check Puz feature [although didn't hit Reveal button, so technically not a DNF!]), with that K of TRICK KNEE being last letter in.

So, an enjoyable SatPuz. Still have some thinking capacity left, so there's that. Nice one, Jeff, SRI as about only dreck. Of course, LEAD GLASS git the side eye!


John V 10:05 AM  

Brutal. Didn't feel like a Jeff Chen puzzle. Not fun.

mathgent 10:08 AM  

After I finish the puzzle every day (but Sunday), I count the red plus signs I've put in the margins. These are moments of delight I've enjoyed along the way, like a clever clue, a new word, an unusual word dredged up, a bit of fresh information. Today there were twenty-six of them, the most since I started keeping track about four months ago. Jeff Chen is truly a marvel.

A number of us commented that there were a lot of gimmes today but not for me. I read every clue to begin and all I got was LARA. I thought that it was very hard and I feel fortunate to have been able to solve it without help.

Nancy 10:23 AM  

In two words: Im. Possible. Even with two cheats, both pop music answers, Grrr. Not that I'm self-justifying: Cheating, in my book, is never OK. But when I went for my first Google, I thought to myself (and at that point almost nothing in the puzzle was filled in): How do I get by with only one cheat? That would be a little more honorable, a little less deplorable, wouldn't it? So I chose the answer that was both the longest and smack dab in the middle of the grid: I BELIEVE I CAN FLY. And, bingo, suddenly all the other answers started filling in. My one cheat was working! Until it wasn't. BOOBOISIE and TMI, both filled in early before the first cheat, was all I had in the wretched NW. So, reluctantly, I looked up ZZ TOP (what a ridiculous band name!). But I still couldn't finish. NOOB???? And how in the world is "Take a shot" SNAP? I had SLAP, as in a hockey slapshot. One of the hardest puzzles I have ever Suffered through. And this was Suffering, not the mere suffering that I always enjoy so much.

Forsythia 10:33 AM in photo snapshot.

I agree, superhard so I was glad to have my 30+ daughter to help with things like ELDERWAND. But we neither know rap or Simpsons so often get stuck. But managed to suss it out. Very surprising that many of our tough spots or write-overs were also Rex's. Jeff Chen knows how to misdirect!

Anonymous 10:34 AM  


Norm 10:35 AM  

Hard puzzle, but very fair. Had -ISTS at the end of the Mencken word and changing that when I abandoned [something] BASEMENT TEAMS for CINDERELLA brought out Mr. Happy Pencil. The border river clue was tricky, because you expect a weird combination of letters and ANNA/ANNE & GET/GOT were hard choices, but DEE was the most logical choice, so I don't think there's much room to criticize this puzzle. I don't tend to like Jeff Chen puzzles a lot, but this one was a treat.

Token Millennial 10:36 AM  

Man, I thought I was going to fly through this puzzle. First pass got me OPIUMDENS and POI/TARO and ELDERWAND and EAVES and EATSRIGHT. Didn't take much to get IBELIEVEICANFLY to drop in. With such a framework in place, I was sure this would be a record time for me. Not so much.

ADDS before WEDS tripped me up in the NE for a moment, but that was quickly resolved. The SW was next to fill itself in. The middle grid-spanners took some effort, but got those as well. Went to work on the NW next, and man, that was brutal. I had NOOB, but even with ___OP it took me way too long to remember the Tres Hombres record in my husband's vinyl collection. You would think getting ZZTOP would sort out the top two acrosses, but no. I had EIG instead of ING and RIP instead of RAP which made for a very funky type of ant. Eventually sorted that, no thanks to BOOBOISIE.

Huge DNF in the SE, though. I'm too young to have seen Wag the Dog (despite the many recent references to that movie) and had no idea who ANNE HECHE was. Had TANG, and eventually got ALA, but still had to cheat my way to the finish line.

My gripe with this puzzle is how very, very segmented it felt - lots of mini-puzzles, lots of places where I went "got that!!!" only to realize it didn't help me progress into any other areas at all. Such is Saturday, I suppose.

ultramet 10:38 AM  

I thought this was a very fair, at times, clever puzzle. It seems as if any puzzle that Rex can't automatically fill in these days is deemed bad. It's a Saturday for crying out loud. Tough puzzle yes, but unfair? Certainly not.

Nancy 10:43 AM  

@Greater Fall River (9:31) -- I never saw the pun on "tired" in 21D and had initially thought the clue was weird. Inanimate machines don't get tired, I was grumbling. So thank you for that.

And thank you, @Forsythia and @Anon 10:34. Now I GET THAT!

Anonymous 10:45 AM  

I had to google three times before getting a solution. Strangely enough, I had Selma for a woman's name meaning peace since it is similar to salaam. Booboisie was totally off the radar.

Frieda 10:56 AM  

Kept thinking, with each little success (OPIUMDENS!after bordellos, and the NE corner mini-puzzle fooled me into believing this will open up ...but no, beyond a sliver down the east, or westward beyond BITS ANT GRAM... I GET THAT went in early, but not much getting got here really. No magic WAND, just a SLOW START that was all stumble. I BELIEVE I CAN FLY...till, well, it wasn't to be. Not at all sorry to have tried!

Vincent Lima 11:03 AM  

I'm with @Conrad (and the tweet by @haahr posted by OFL) on the DEE/IGETTHAT cross.

ELDERWAND was such a gimme I doubted myself. "Pensieve" was too short. "Deluminator" too long. So elder wand it had to be.

POI > TARO was a lucky early guess. LEAD GLASS was obvious, as were EATS RIGHT, ALFAS, TRYST, RABIN, LARA, EAVES. But the rest was bloody hard! I enjoyed the tired pun.

Lewis 11:03 AM  

@token -- It may have felt segmented but the grid itself isn't, IMO. Every area has sufficient words coming into it from outside that area.

A good ol' Saturday tussle. The cluing was tricky and there were a fair number of words out of my wheelhouse -- and I like that because it makes me try to intelligently guess, and when I guess right, it's a great feeling. That happened with RITZBITS, which I've never heard of (after "Cheezits" didn't work). I liked the answers CINDERELLA_TEAMS and BANDY, plus the SCREW up, CAST out, and SET out.

This puzzle brought me to a wonderfull and rare place: Solving Nirvana, where there is a mind-elating machine-gun succession of ahas, which takes me to this ethereal floating feeling where, almost, I BELIEVE I CAN FLY.

GHarris 11:08 AM  

Fail to understand how Rex can have all that difficulty and not rate this puzzle plain challenging. For me it was impossible. Even with what amounted to a few gimmes for me, the balance was ungettable except when I engaged in wholesale cheating, especially when I was taught that Langerhans found isles and to try was assay. When confronted with these conditions I find solace in working through the balance of the puzzle after resort to a few cheats.

mac 11:08 AM  

An enjoyable slog for me, but I had to get some help with Ritzbits, but I love Booboisie.

Odd, I got poi/taro without crosses.

Charles Flaster 11:09 AM  

Liked the toughness and the challenge.
NOOB was a Natick.
Lower left was my undoing.
Never changed oRbit to ARENA and chop to SLAB which I think is poorly clued.
Liked clue for KNEE and thought the stack was fairly clued.
Thanks JC

jae 11:13 AM  

Medium-tough for me too and a DNF as I, like @lms, Conrad, et. al., went with I GOT THAT. Never thought I'd miss the Pee Dee River.

BANDY is a fine word.

Plenty of crunch with an excellent 3 stack liked it a lot!

Tita A 11:19 AM  

@Quasi...great Dorian Grey comment.

@Two Ponies...(again, welcome back)...SPILE is indeed specialized. Even though I have one in my garage, from an ESSAY about 15 years ago to tap our maple, I had no idea of that word.
Fabric, however...we wear it/sit on it/lay on it 24/7. While that doesnt mean that moire and toile and tulle and muslin are household words, the former is truly obscure.

This was really hard, but I finally finished with no cheats! I'm one of the 3 people who have neither read Harry Potter nor watched the Simpsons.
Part of what made it hard was my insect was a wAsp and I was a NewB.
My only objection was LEADGLASS. is it like iced tea? Should it not be LEADedGLASS?

Also liked TRICK KNEE.

Thanks Jeff!

Jeter 11:19 AM  

Rex is always ready to stamp his feet and sling mud at constructors of puzzles he doesn't like, but he can't manage a tiny compliment for this outstanding piece of work. Wonder why.

MetroGnome 11:23 AM  

I always thought it was "ISLES of Langerhans." And also -- how on earth is a TRYST a "meeting on the DL"? Isn't "DL" the [baseball, football, etc.] "Disabled List"?

Roo Monster 11:36 AM  

Just wanted to let those who don't know NOOB. Short for newbie, which is short for new person, as at a job. Not sure if wd can lazily shorten it again, NB? No, cause that's more than one syllable! #Lazy Speak :-)

And RITZ BITS are really good. Bite size RITZ crackers filled with either cheese or peanut butter, like a sandwich. Yum!

Sorry, Rex, but not a huge Simpsons fan. Sputh Park funnier, IMO. Hope I don't get banned for that comment!

I do like Sci-Fi, though. :-)

George 11:40 AM  

'Candy' by Iggy pop--I had forgotten that song even existed! Thanks Rex! Also, the only song I know by R. Kelly was 'Trapped in the Closet,' courtesy of the Dave Chappelle Show.

GILL I. 11:41 AM  

Oof oof and more oof. Stare. Look for ANYTHING that will fit. Hey I know LARA. Drink another Pinot. Hey, I bet those pesky wasps live under the EAVES. SCREW this, I'm going to bed.
Ah. Hot cuppa Peet's. Take a sip and get the neurons all fired up.
Well, I got SCREWed some more. Why didn't Charo or Cugat or some other famous band like maybe the Gitanos sing "Tres Hombres" and "El Loco"???? Oh had to be ZZTOP thank you very much Google. RITZ BITS are CRACKERS not sandwiches. I tried fitting in anything that started with finger or tea or maybe even a slider. Dang, another Google.
I actually got I BELIEVE I CAN FLY off of RABIN. I know R Kelly because my sister-in-law played that beyond stupid song all the time. I will admit to liking his voice but his lyrics drive me to insanity.
I'm glad @Rex guessed that Dumbledore carries a WAND because I made his a cane. Another SCREW me. ISLET of Langerhands is part of the pancreas? Sounds like some kind of Firth. Symptoms of Pancreatitis include the Langerhands turning yellow.
I had to take several breaks and that helped me finish up with minimal help. Googling SPILE opened up the other fifteens for me and then everything began to open up. Like @Nancy, I SOB when I have to use Google so much. Today it was four times too many.
Sitting back and looking at the puzzle, I can appreciate how clever it is but then Jeff Chen is clever. Loved BOOBOISIE/NOOB. Loved being reminded of Dorian Gray and the film with the handsome Hurd Hatfield and Angela Landsbury. Quinceanera is more than a RITE. Ask any Latina parent and they will tell you they start saving up for that gala the minute a girl is born. I've been to a few and some put Princess Diana's wedding to shame.
ISTO is what? It looks like a little face that's saying "Oh."

CDilly52 11:43 AM  

When I saw the grid with the isolated corners and Chen's name, I knew I was in for a struggle. The only reason I got ZZTOP was the ZZ, not the song title. Never watched a single episode of Simpson's, but, it is so prevalent in pop culture and crosswords that I knew SELMA. Overall thought, the corners were tough.

Learned a new word, SPILE. Wondered whether my Gran would have known that one and thought she probably would, since part of our German family members lived on a big farm in upstate NY and produced divine maple syrup. She was such an anchor and a guide throughout my life. I adore days when the puzzle really connects me to her.

Oddly, the triple stack just fell right in and the mid-section solved so much easier than the corners for me. Perhaps I am getting better at this after all.

Fine Saturday workout, Chen-worthy misdirection and cleverness and an overall great efdort.

Stanley Hudson 11:48 AM  

A second Bloody Mary followed by a spliff sharpened my wits and eased my passage through this tough, fine Saturday puzzle.

@Paul Haahr (see Rex's tweet quote), put on your big boy pants snowflake, you sound like one of Trump' tantrums re: "the oh so unfair press."

Forsythia 11:58 AM  

@MetroGnome....I didn't know but daughter did...DL is down in keeping it quiet. Maybe textspeak?

Anonymous 12:05 PM  


Nancy 12:08 PM  

@Tita (11:19) -- Another hand up for someone who's never either read Harry Potter or watched The Simpsons. That makes two of us already -- your estimate of only three people is way too modest. And thanks for giving a shout-out to Quasi on his Dorian Gray comment; I'd completely missed the joke -- which is great, btw.

@GILL (11:41) -- I chuckled mightily at your ISLET of Langerhans sounding like "some kind of Firth" comment. And also at your colorful insider's description of the quinceanera. As for 54A and the meaning of ":". I originally had EYES, as in :) for smile, but changed to IS TO. It's an analogy symbol, used in SAT tests. An example: Goose:Flock = Minnow:School.

jberg 12:14 PM  

My father was an amateur maple syrup maker, and my brother-in-law owns a commercial sugarbush, so SPILE was a gimme for me; I can see that it wouldn't be for most people. Overall, this was a real challenge, overcome only by putting in a lot of partial answers ---ANT (confirmed by TMI), RARE, then RARE STAMP and wondering why collecotr wouldn't fit, I BELIEVE..., etc. Slowed down by yield before WAIVE, giving me feTE for RITE; guruS before LAMAS, and (I blush to admit) rareBITS before RITZ (figuring you dip your bit of something into a cheese, making it sort of a sandwich, right?) Also, very ingeniously, I went with the brand name Saf-T-GLASS before ALA gave me lead.

Tips for future solving: learn the English rivers and the Renaissance painters. You don't have to know where they are or their first names, just how many letters they have. Don't try to learn the names of all the ants, though, there are too many of them -- just go with plausibility.

Trombone Tom 12:19 PM  

What a great puzzle! That ought to quiet the NYT naysayers for a moment.

Wandered around looking for an entry and finally got into the SE with RENI, TANG, TACH, and OSHA. Slowed down by entering Sadat instead of BEGIN, but eventually got all except the NW. I looked at that area for a long time and was nearly to the point of giving up and going to Google.

Then I finally got ZZTOP from the P, which led to AMAZON ANT. I was still held up by thinking of Cheez-its, until I remembered the existence of RITZ BITS.

Somehow SPILE came to me out of my years of reading novels.

So much to like here. TRICK/KNEE one of my favorites.

Thank you Jeff Chen and Will for a challenging and enjoyable Saturday.

Evan Jordan 12:19 PM  

Yes, loved it too. And I guess I know my "niche" now: common objects. Fun, challenging but fluid.

Evan Jordan 12:22 PM  

I so hope this is really R. Kelly. What's good man?!

old timer 12:28 PM  

I cheated over and over and still had a dnf. Had "assay" crossing "RAC". Hey, aren't there blinking lights next to every branch of the Royal Automobile Club? And what does REC have to do with blinking lights? Oh, I see, sometimes if you record something there is a blinking light.

I got my start with "Isles" of Langerhans, or as the Firesign Theatre once put it, the "Far-flung Isles of Langerhans." ISLET was the replacement, thanks to IGETTHAT. The only other gimme was ASTER. The only easy long answer": RARESTAMPDEALER because of the crosses.

I should have got OPIUMDEN right away. I've read the poem. Got it soon enough, leaving me with SNAP, which I still don't understand.

Unofficial Blog Cop 12:30 PM  

That's 3 @Nancy, you're done for the day

Dolgo 12:35 PM  

Honestly, I thought this was pretty easy. But if I hadn't Googled R. Kelly, I never would have finished. I guess that makes me a geezer for sure. For some reason, though I was s great fan before, I stopped listening to pop music in the late 70's. The last album I bought was by Fleetwood Mac. This probably means, the way things are going, that doing crosswords will become less and less of a pleasure.
I promise I'll stop complaining if I don't hear the rest of you whining about opera or poetry so much.

trebor in the NW 12:40 PM  

Great Sat. puz workout. Took me the normal better part of an hour for a Sat. Happy to see something by H.L. Mencken, who would have had a field day in today's political climate. A couple of quotes relating to our political process:
1) The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
2) On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

QuasiMojo 12:52 PM  

Thanks @Nancy and @Tita. I'm tickled pink.

GILL I. 12:56 PM  

@Unofficial Blog Cop. SCREW you. You're a BOOB.
@Nancy....AH. I GET THAT now.

Anonymous 12:56 PM  

Thought ING advertised they were now VOYA - or is that only an offshoot.

Hard puzzle. Liked it.

Anonymous 1:08 PM  

DL or "down low" originally was used in American Blackspeak to refer to gay or bisexual men who are closeted, often in long-term relationships with women, and actively seeking trysts with other men. Unfortunately this represents high risk behavior for STD's carried home to an unknowing partner.

r.alphbunker 1:09 PM  

I heard the word SPILE yesterday for the first time at but couldn't remember it. However, it looked familiar when it got filled in by crossing letters.

60D. {Collected works} ANA-->SET
9D. {Inundate} SWARM-->SWAMP
15D. {"Eww, stop!"} ICK-->TMI
37D. {Powerful tool for Dumbledore} ELDERWINE-->ELDERWAND
19A. {Pro's opposite, in slang} NEWB-->NOOB
1D. {Strike} RAM-->RAP

Details are here.

Aketi 1:35 PM  

@Quasi, just finished the puzzle. Count me in as another thumbs up!
I liked the I BELIEVE I CAN FLY in the puzzle with the OPIUM DENS. I often dream of flying and wake up to the reality that I can't.
Do LAMAs dream or BELIEVE they CAN FLY?

I liked the other magical thinking in the puzzle with a WAND that could CAST a spell for CINDERELLA so she could have her premidnight TRYST.

I smiled at the River DEE. My first college roommate did a year abroad at the University of Edinburgh. I happened to spot a really cheap deal for airline tickets to Glasgow and in a phase of yourthful irresponsibility hopped on the plane with about $150 in my pocket. Fortunately that was back in the day of youth hostels and cheap train tickets because my friend was in the middle of her final exams and had no time to hang out. So off I went roaming Scotland visiting castles and lochs. The guidebook said you could rent bikes near Balmoral Castle so I hopped on a bike and pedaled my way along the River Dee and up a hill headed to some potential destination in som national park that I can no longer remember. A car came by with two little old ladies (who probably were younger than I am now) who were so astonished to see a girl alone on a bike wearing a pair of overalls that they stopped to ask what I was doing. Apparently my destination was far too distant to pedal to in a day. They then invited me to join them in the picnic tea they had planned in the park. So they piled my bike in the boot of their car and off I went to the best picnic tea of my life in the midst of blooming heather.

Anoa Bob 1:37 PM  

So SELMA, IRENE, LARA & ANNE HECHE get together for a foursome TRYST at one of the many local OPIUM DENS. After a SMELT or two, they emerge singing I BELIEVE I CAN FLY.

Count me among the BOOBOISE. I've seen most of the Simpsons episodes. I'll put on my dunce hat and go stand in the corner.

Is the pronunciation of AMAZONANT dissonant or consonant?

Cheerio 1:41 PM  

Trick Knee shaped like an L is elegant. Thanks Jeff Chen!

Trudy Morgan-Cole 1:47 PM  

My wheelhouse must be the exact opposite of most people's because I needed RITZBITS (a gimme) to get ZZTOP.

Mmmm, Ritz Bits.

Aketi 1:48 PM  

@GILL I, I started today's puzzle well after my morning coffee so coffee fortunately couldn't go up my nose as a result of your first post. As for your second, you took the words right out of my mouth.

In high school, a SCREW was my salvation in my drafting class. I was the only girl so I was teased unmercifully by the (TMI alert: ACNE covered) boys. The teacher made us draw the threads of the screw at an angle which required computing the angles for the curves of the thread. This was prior to calculators. I have completely forgotten the math that I had mastered to pull off the needed calculations, but I definitely had my SCREW you smirk on my face when none of the boys could figure it out,

nick 1:50 PM  

Mostly liked this one. Flamed out in the NW for some reason. Didn't realize until searching Mencken quotes that he was such a racist and kind of a dick.

Masked and Anonymous 1:54 PM  

@Nancy: har. M&A prefers three words, to describe *his* solvequest experience:
* Harder. Than. Snot.
or, to show he at least learnt somethin, en rout ...
* Spiled. And. Drained.

Rough fight to get in: Finally doubled down, and tried the POI/TARO pair. Continued to stumble outta the gate, but ANTED/EVEN got me the NE corner, which led m&e straight into the OPIUMDEN.

Rough fight to get out of: NOOB/BIOBOISIE/INESSE/SPILE is some serious raised-by-wolves wiry string of fillins. Clue for ARENA smelt, but is nothin that a friendly slap to the chen wouldn't fix right up. RENI/ANNEHECHE ganged up on poor M&A and swamp-drained all his remainin nanosecond reserves.

Sure liked AMAZIN ANT, tho. Also thought this mini-structure was primo:

staff weeject pick has gotta be: POI. Was an OMEN to the pastin that M&A was about to get. Sorta like this structure vaguely also was:

Is RARESTAMPDEALER unrare enough to qualify as a grid spanner? Had a cool clue, but sounds kinda up there in eau de desperation with DISCOUNT POT DEALER.

Thanx, Mr. Chen. But … day-um, dude. Made old M&A get by just on Used/opiUm, today?

Masked & AnonymoUs


Unofficial Blog Cop 1:54 PM  

@Gill I. That's 2 for you, I'm watching and counting. Though it seems you wasted a post.

Hungry Mother 2:01 PM  

Needed the red letters after filling in the puzzle. I had 4 letters wrong, which quickly got righted. DNF.

Joseph Welling 2:16 PM  

This puzzle was decidedly not on my wavelength.

I still have a difficult time thinking of INTERACT as a synonym for "work together." I was stuck thinking the wrong way on very nearly every ambiguous clue.

old timer 2:18 PM  

@Aketi, the River Dee you saw in Scotland is very different from the obscure river that marks part of the Welsh border. And the scenery you saw "amang the blooming heather" was I think much lovelier.

bg 2:46 PM  

As a baby-boom codger with zero ken of Harry Potter, Star Wars or Trek and no minutes logged Simpson-watching (tho both Groenig & Shearer are neighbors), I manage to interpolate or reverse engineer most of the contemporary NYT stuff. This one nearly nailed me but for our pals in ZZTOP and a stab at the Menckenism. A nod to TRICK KNEE for help on the center stack. A toughie today!

Aketi 2:46 PM  

@oldtimer, I was wondering about that because I found two River DEE references but I just though maybe they connected up somehow. I guess my lack of geographical knowlege of Wales and the U.K. actually helped my solving today,

Aketi 2:47 PM  

@Unofficial Blog Cop: 4

Leapfinger 2:51 PM  

Say Hey, Anoa Bob! I think that was supposed to be AMAZIN' ANT.

I thought of you with that pan-creatic entry, decided you must have GOTTEN through to the S-teamed constructor, cuz I've never seen writ or spoke the singular version of the ISLETs OF LANGERHANS.

Object lessons being that the steadfast will prevail. Congrats🎖

Malsdemare 3:03 PM  

Holy NOOB! I got thrashed everywhere on this one. I think the surgeon removed part of my brain when he pulled out the cervical disk. Don't know the rapper or the Simpsons, my knees don't do tricks (and let's not give them any ideas), have not read anything by Mencken so I kept trying to butcher my mother's French family name (Bourgeois) into something that would fit. My daughters do Ironmen all the time, to the extent that they look for those that have some sort of TRICK to them and still didn't see TRI. Everywhere I went I met with absolutely unpassable roadblocks. Even after cheating two times (for TRICK and AMAZONANTS), googling for ANNEHECHE (terrific movie but disagree she was a costart) and IBELIEVEICANFLY, and filling in the last square (P at PICTOGRAM), I didn't get the happy music. Turned out, after All my backing and forthing, I'd turned ASTERS into ASTRdS, and left aSSAYS, alone; that blinking sign could just as easily been for RaC. I still don't get what REC has to do with a blinking sign.

I'm not complaining; getting eaten alive makes those Saturdays when I finish with nary an error all the more sublime.

Daryl 3:13 PM  

Weirdly enough this might be the easiest Saturday I've done all year… started with I BELIEVE I CAN FLY after TRAPPED IN THE CLOSET didn't work and zoomed through it. Finished in 10:48 which is much faster than my average. But I only kind of knew SPILE and didn't know INESSE and agree that's a horribly unfair cross.

Anonymous 3:18 PM  

I would guess that, for once, this puzzle was easier for most young people (20s/30s). RITZBITS, IBELIEVEICANFLY, ELDERWAND all gimmes, which is rare for me on a Saturday."Elder Wand" is not "niche" for anyone under 30. It's a nice change.

It's a little funny to me that you gripe about how old/fusty NYT puzzles are, and then usually when there's a clue that's well-known for millennials like ELDERWAND, you complain about how niche it is. You do realize that *most* culture related clues (70s TV shows, 60s albums, etc) are "niche" for young solvers, right?

Anonymous 3:19 PM  

Oh, and SPILE was also a gimme for lots of younger solvers because it figures heavily in the Hunger Games. This was the easiest Saturday for me in months.

Bill Feeney 3:21 PM  

Wow. I 48ed for the whole puzzle as I never 64ed at all. BTW, when a 14 A does what the clue suggests, has it 18ed?

Hartley70 4:01 PM  

@Malsdemare, I think it's "record", but I could be wrong as I were for most of this puzzle on my first try.

Anonymous 4:01 PM  

No need to wonder. He, like I, has just never cared for Mr. Chen's style. While respecting him as a constructor (and I think his review is worded accordingly), he doesn't comment on the puzzle itself. All in all, an appropriate review under the circumstances, IMHO.

GILL I. 4:01 PM  

@Unofficial Blog Cop...3 and this for you: I am ombibulous. Per Mencken I've made it a rule never to drink by daylight and never to refuse a drink after dark. I'm counting the comments and can't wait till the damn sun goes down.

Mr. B 4:04 PM  

Alouette, gentille alouette,
Alouette, je te plumerai...sorry, the song has been on my mind lately...

Took awhile for me to chip away at too sleepy and frustrated to finish in one sitting.
Had to get some much needed Zzzz's before resuming.

Did not know Mencken's BOOBOISIE...which had me scraping my head but the crosses fit.
Didn't get ESSAY at first - so I had BANDp (B and P) thinking is was just another way to say "BP" or "batting practice". Nope.
Hmmm...I always get a steady red light when I RECord something. Mmmmm...RITZBITS - but i much prefer the peanut butter kind to the cheese kind.

Eventually found my error because I did not know the river was DEE. I had DEo and IGoTTHAT.
Tough, tough saturday...but VINI, VIDI, VICI................. (heh, I spelled it VeNI at first, in that other puzzle recently)

Thanks Jeff
Have a wonderfull weekend all !!!

Alouette, gentille alouette,
Alouette, je te plumerai...

U B C 4:10 PM  

@Aketi, I know, I'm counting. However, you're not annoying.

Kim Scudera 4:18 PM  

I've got my 27-year-old son to thank for my failure to DNF today: NOOB was a gimme for this 58-year-old, as my (then teenage) son used that word (too) frequently to describe his video game opponents. ELDERWAND also easy, due to his obsession with Harry Potter as a tween. Thanks, Ben!

Hartley70 4:43 PM  

Wow, this was tough but a lot of fun. On my first pass I had LARA. That's it. I suffered through many of the same sticking points as everyone else, except as a Harry Potter fan, I got ELDERWAND, remembered SELMA, and wanted autoGLASS because I couldn't remember saf-t-glass which was wrong anyway. I couldn't remember the plot of Dorian Grey past the picture in the attic, so I got OPIUMDENS from the crosses. It was pouring so I had all the time in the world to play around with this and I took it.

BOOBOISIE flummoxed me. How have I missed that amazing word all my life? I knew the song when I saw FLY, but didn't know R. Kelly was the artist.

TRICK and KNEE in an el were beyond. My knees are not my friends, but thank God they haven't learned any TRICKs yet.

Hartley70 4:52 PM  

Here's the problem with RITZBITS. I do not want cheese or peanut butter in my teeny cracker sandwich. I want cheese "and" peanut butter. Long live those Keebler packets of scary orange crackers with peanut butter in the vending machines of America.

Hartley70 5:02 PM  

#3 ...and speaking of SPILEs, this reminded me. I have a teeny weeny bottle of maple syrup in my fridge that my son gave me several weeks ago. He and a friend tapped some trees near the Hudson with SPILEs and boiled the sap about 6 weeks ago. I expect next year there will be buckets all over our place. I haven't had the guts to try it yet. Where's the dog?

Chip Hilton 5:05 PM  

I'd have bet my house on the river Wye instead of DEE. And BOOBOISIE is news to me. Overall, great fun and a true challenge.

Leapfinger 5:25 PM  

Monsieur B, I'm just wondering where you got your info on the religious affiliation of the aforesaid Alouettes? Gentile, I suppose, isn't too unlikely, since the Alouettes, being of French extraction, are likely to be RC.

It'd be a surprise if no one Jewish dove in

ChE Dave 6:37 PM  

Luckily, the answers I didn't know crossed with those I did. So for once, I can say I rated the puzzle easier than Rex!

dm3000 7:34 PM  

Whole thing was a slog for me, as a Saturday should be. Wonderful!

Mohair Sam 8:17 PM  

Thank you Jeff Chen. We got home from a family trip settled in and decided to tackle this thing over dinner. What a freaking blast! Challenging as all hell. Had to battle letter by letter, word by word - for us the perfect puzzling experience. And thankful we solve as a team, btw.

ANTED (her) and LARA (me) our only gimmes. Then we built bit by bit. Got OPIUMDENS off two letters, "Dorian Gray" being a favorite read here. Lady M nailed CANDYCANE off two letters, she of the sweet tooth. Should I be bothered that she got TRYST off one letter? Hmmmm.

Wonder if anyone else did MAYO and BLT before TARO/POI? Didn't know the Mencken word, but knew his style, so BOOBOISIE wasn't that tough to fill. Spelling HECHE with and "S" cost lots of time in SE.

Loved the TRICKNEE clue. Loved lots of clues. This was an exceptional puzzle. Challenging and fun, plenty of aha moments, and learned a few things. What more can we ask?

Anonymous 8:55 PM  

@Roo Monster 11:36, Kim Scudera 4:18 points in the correct direction. Noob is gamer speak / chatroom speak for the newcomer who ruins the game / forum for the people who know what's what. The new person on the job / team is a newbie; the inexperienced person everyone else wishes would curl up and go away is a noob.

Tim Pierce 9:42 PM  

For my money, IGETTHAT/DEE is a worse Natick than LEADGLASS/RENI. While "lead glass" may not be a *well* known term, there is at least one unambiguously correct answer; whereas I GET THAT and I GOT THAT are semantically equivalent and both fit the given clue.

Both of us at home DNF in the NW corner. I had to google Mencken to find BOOBOISIE, and was at least able to get RITZ BITS from that and fill in most of the rest, but was still stuck on PICTOGRAM (which I was convinced was some kind of -I PROGRAM) and ZZTOP.

No one else got stuck on MAGIC WAND for ELDER WAND? No? Just me? Hmph.

Great, tough puzzle. More!

OISK 9:48 PM  

This was a miserable slog for me. I don't know who R. Kelly is, nor whether he can fly. ZZTOP I know only from crosswords, but Amazon ant was a gimme. Harry Potter clues are wasted on me, and so the SW was a real problem. It was nearly empty but for Lara and Arena, but I kept on, while watching the Met game. And then, the unexpected.... Gary Cohen, the erudite announcer for the Mets,, mentioned as the Brewers' player Jeff Bandy came to bat, that the word "Bandy " was the answer to 63 across in the Times puzzle!! Once that was filled in, I was able to complete the grid. Whether I would have been able to without Gary's help I will never know. Was it a DNF? Fortunately, when I came here I discovered that I had assay instead of essay, so DNF in spite of Gary Cohen.

That's two consecutive DNF Saturdays, (misspelled Houlihan last week) after three perfect weeks. The errors seem to come in waves...

This puzzle was frustrating and generally unenjoyable, but it was joy unbounded compared with watching the Mets...

Mohair Sam 10:06 PM  

@OISK - Great story. There is reason to watch the Mets after all!

Punctuated equilibrium 10:36 PM  

Brutal. Had NewB before fixing it eventually. Had to Google R. Kelly song. Still ended up with DNF due to DEo/IGoTTHAT. TRICK/KNEE was pure genius.

Space Is Deep 2:24 PM  

It took me a day and a half, but I finally got it. No googling, of course, a no no in my book. Very satisfying.

Oldflappyfrommississappy 4:37 PM  

@Space is Deep, yes yes we're all very proud of you.

kitshef 10:44 PM  

Yes, very challenging. But nothing felt like a guess. Even in the darkest corners, either the across or the down looked solid, once filled in. So ... slow, but fair.

Burma Shave 11:44 AM  


IGETTHAT when IMIN a TRYST we usually INTERACT as two,
but if ANNEHECHE joins the TRICK, is it RITE to TRI SCREW?


spacecraft 12:56 PM  

Talk about your SLOWSTART! I know IMIN for it when I see a Chen byline on a Saturday: yep. But for a change, it wasn't the NW: ZZTOP laid waste to that. There was a problem at 44-across; I had VAC (for the blinking motel sign) but that messed up Voldemort's WAND. Middle letter could be either A or E for ASSAY or ESSAY; both mean try. WHY do you torture us like that, Jeff? RaC or REC...finally it hit. REC-ord, of course. Whew!

But the main cause of my headache was the SE. Neither I nor 99% of the solving audience is going to know Guido What's-his-name, and the clue "After" for ALA is just brutal. My medical background made ISLEs a gimme; seldom do we refer to just one of them. Usually, they're either all doing their job...or not. They INTERACT well. But indeed, just one of them is an ISLET. Finally, as soon as IGETTHAT, I am done.

There were some moments of lucidity, as when I "took a shot" (BTW, how is that "SNAP"???) at IBELIEVEICANFLY off only the ...CAN_LY, or when I plunked down EATSRIGHT. Come on, you don't really think I "know" any R. Kelly songs, do you?

As some parts did flow rather nicely, I guess medium-challenging is a fair rating. The tough parts just made it feel tougher, INESSE.

I could use a little poetic license and make ecdysiast KANDY KANE my DOD; ANNEHECHE isn't my type, so I'll opt for Julie Christie as Dr. Zhivago's love LARA. Birdie.

Anonymous 1:01 PM  

Pisser infested stinker. Rejected with extreme prejudice.

rondo 1:17 PM  

Hand up for a SLOWSTART, except for gimme ZZTOP, who I've seen live a buncha times. Got the TRICK KNEE and the TRYST right off and almost bit on RecordcollectoR, good thing I held off. Took too long to figure out SNAP shot. Mini inkfest with a thread winding on a Spool for SCREW.

I can hear the announcer at the ARENA, "Now batting for both teams, number 13, yeah baby ANNEHECHE." I actually liked that Men in Trees show of hers. Journalist and yeah baby LARA Logan woulda been nice.

Appropriately difficult for a SAT-puz.

Diana,LIW 2:26 PM  

Great fun here. I was so proud to get the clues for SPY, SNAP(shot), USEDCARS, ALA. And the thread clue didn't SCREW me up for a second. I felt, like, smart.

But a true dnf as I did a "fact check" on a couple of wrong answers. My blinking light told me to go SLO, which I did. Then I discovered REC - oh, ok. And Nubi wasn't helping me either - not a pro. Were they LAMAS or Hindi? Wanted Chop for a meat cut - a hunk of meat is a SLAB. But fair, on Saturday.

Back to the puzzle from the check I got 'r done. Laughed like Rex at the RARESTAMP guy - of course I was thinking of vinyl albums. I could have CAST about for CAST all day long.

Like a good day at the gym for my brain - I'll go to the real one soon.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords and cross training

centralscrewtinizer 4:36 PM  

The Dee is a lovely and charming river that flows through Llangollen and Chester and by the wonderful castle at Conway, entering the Irish Sea by the Giant's Footsteps. I retain many wonderful images from visiting.

leftcoastTAM 5:14 PM  

Very SLOWSTART, then very slow going. Had to take a couple of extended breaks.

Thought I finished in good style, then saw, too late, that I had ended up with Menken's BOOgOISIE and somebody's NOOg instead of BOOB and NOOB. First time seeing the newbie slang.

Even with that, it was worth the struggle.

rain forest 6:15 PM  

SLOW START here as well. Actually, fits and starts as I looked at the puzzle intermittently while watching the US Open. Quite the shootout there.

I started with TMI, ZZTOP, TARO, POI, TRYST, ANTED, EAVES, and TARO. Then LARA (good call on the DOD, @Spacey) was a foothold that I slowly but surely got the entire South.

The remainder of my solve was spent gradually working out the various sections of the puzzle. USED CARS was the key to the centre section, and then I just took a flyer on BOOBOISIE because I had zero idea about NOOB (thought it could be NOOg).

@Spacey, the clue for 8d is "take a shot", ie a photo.

Really good, tough puzzle.

strayling 8:06 PM  

Somehow this one clicked for me and I had a fun time breezing through it. Every half-guessed answer turned out to be right for a rare change. I GET THAT having friends who live on the banks of the DEE gave me an advantage.

I like Saturday tough 2:16 AM  

I liked this. I'm no crossword constructer, but I think the triple-stack intersects with plenty of quality fill - no garbage. I hope future Saturdays are even more difficult. I stuck with MAGICWAND for too long. After that it went pretty smoothly.

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