Moorish castle / FRI 5-19-17 / Bratty girl on Little House on Prairie / Savory Indian appetizer / French filmdom / Port whistler / Classic arcade game with a glass backboard that shatters / Large WW II area / Ponytail's hipster cousin per GQ / Commander during John Brown's capture in 1859 / Half spoken half sung

Friday, May 19, 2017

Constructor: Matthew Sewell

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: ALCÁZAR (1D: Moorish castle) —
An alcázar (pronunciation: /ˈæl kəˌzɑːr/) is a type of Moorish castle or palace in Spain and Portugal built during Muslim rule, although some were founded by Christians and others were built on earlier Roman or Visigothic fortifications. Most of the alcázars were built between the 8th and 15th centuries. Many cities in Spain have an alcázar. The term is sometimes used as a synonym for "castillo" or castle; palaces or forts built by Christian rulers were also often called alcázars. (wikipedia)
• • •

Fridays are my best chance to catch an enjoyable puzzle in any given week, and this one worked just fine. About where an average Friday should be. Varied, semi-tough, and armed with at least a few original- / fresh-seeming answers (today, e.g., KISSCAM and CRUSHING IT). This will do. It's a kind of palate cleanser. Light, refreshing. It's not totally filling, but (along with yesterday's decent offering), but it goes a long way toward getting the taste of the Sun-Wed junk out of my mouth. The most notable feature of this puzzle, from my perspective, was the uneven difficulty—specifically, the whole thing seemed phenomenally easy *except* the NW, which definitely made me work. And since I always start in the NW, I struggled early, and so the whole thing felt somewhat harder than it probably actually was. I couldn't do anything with 1A: Walk all over (ABUSE), or any of its crosses until finally I alighted on ECHO (after wondering, possibly aloud, why ALEXA wouldn't fit) (5D: Voice-activated Amazon device). From there it was ON BASE, MAN BUN, and off to the races. Once ENGAGEMENT PARTY dropped, I went down into the SE and up the east coast, no problem. Had some problems getting into the SW, but SAMOSA / CINE / SLEW ended up sliding in fairly easily, which left me, finally, with just that damn, pesky NW corner. Here is a red-line map of my trouble spots.

 [Had IN A SECOND at first—did you?]

So, yeah, the NW. If I've heard of ALCÁZARs before, I definitely forgot about them. Had the -GE at the end of 2D: Heavy rain and wanted only DELU(U?)GE. And then [Wrongly assumed] is just a brutal clue for USURPED. Not the meaning of "assumed" I was expecting. I ended up having to back into that area after getting the back ends of the long Acrosses. Not having any idea who Abby Sciuto is definitely hurt me at 8D: Org. for forensic specialist Abby Sciuto. I tend to think of NCIS as fictional (for obvious reasons) (see also JAG), and Abby Sciuto sounds like a name with wordplay involved. I keep saying it to myself expecting to find it's some kind of pun. Like "Abby Normal" or something. Anyway, NCIS is common enough in crosswords that I guessed it and then finally worked my way back to those first, vicious Downs. The end.

[Last Dance ... LAST CHANCE for love ...]

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Looking at my wife's puzzle now, I realize that I forgot what made getting USURPED especially hard to see—like my wife (right now, mid-solve), I spent a good part of my solve with ABASE at 1A: Walk all over. That is a perfectly reasonable answer. *BUT* ...  then for 3D: Wrongly assumed you get a word starting ASU- ... and your brain starts to catch and whirr and stutter and overheat trying to find an ASU- word ... *any* ASU word. The only ASU- word I could think of was ASU (as in Arizona State University). Maddening. So something must be wrong. But everything looks so right ...

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:06 AM  

Easy-medium for me too. Speaking of the NW, I put in AGENT and SNEAK and took them out for BARRels of rain and in a SECOND. Could have saved some time if I'd stuck with my first instincts.

Solid Fri. with a bit of zip, liked it.

Moly Shu 12:16 AM  

A lot of gimmies for a Friday. At least for me. NBAJAM AGENT OLDS IMO TEXTS ONBASE NELLIE CINE, all in without crosses. Only WOE was ALCAZAR. Had INTERcEdES first which gave me LEONIdE which seemed fine and DMcS which didn't (because DMC should always have a RUN clue). Fixed it and finished. Nice one.

TomAz 12:45 AM  

I had inaSECOND and then oneSECOND which held me up from getting SNEAK which held up the whole NW. ALCAZAR I knew somehow (in fact the Z made me think ZAPS which eventually made me think SNEAK which finally got me ANYSECOND) but BARRAGE and USURPED were the last things to go.

OMEGA and KICKEDIN I managed to get with just a cross or two. NBAJAM was much harder for me, needed almost all the crosses.

All in all this was fun. Time was well under yesterday's, and enjoyment greater.

BBPDX 1:07 AM  

Wrongly assumed provided the best aha moment. After I first filled in usurped I took it out because my brain wasn't flexible enough to make it make sense.

Robin 1:07 AM  

Finished in average time. Ending up starting with MANBUN and working around the puzzle back to the NW. So at that point my time was relatively good despite a few mistries and corrections. Then it seemingly took forever to figure out USURPED despite having everything but the S and R. I am still not sure what STS is an abbreviation for. Seats?

Anonymous 1:18 AM  

Saints, as in patron saints.

Alcazar Comenow Manbuns 2:43 AM  

I had smaSHINGIT, feeling very hip, till it was wrong.
ANYminute, rEEdY/TEENY, eLsinoR/ALCAZAR, email painfully becoming TEXTS.

Really enjoyed this.

Weird to think KISSCAM was baSehit, only to have that appear as ONBASE later on top, sort of a malapop. Can't escape baseball. And my retirEMENTPARTY had to become wrong!

So I struggled, but really enjoyed.

Something for the few old timers left when this was a more congenial space:
I ran into FERGUS FERRIER today in San Fran (whom I had met thru this blog then at the Alameda tourney around 2010!) 'Member him and greenmantis or whatever her name was?!!!

Fun! His pal Jodie recognized me from having met once 7 years ago. We were both in Caffe Trieste and went and sat outside while my pals played mandolin and guitar. The perfect SF North Beach afternoon, re-reminding me why I used to love this city so so so much.

Loren Muse Smith 4:21 AM  

As usual, I found this a lot harder than some of you.

I think my first entry was DETENTION because my usual fill-in-the-blank toe-holds were just not there.

Three biggish mistakes that mucked things up for a bit:

“strews” for SPREES
“corset” for BONNET
“digress” for DEVIATE

I agree with @BBPDX – the aha moment with that clue for USURPS was terrific. So was the one for ENGAGEMENT PARTY.

I tell you, ANY SECOND really, really threw me. I was seeing “momentarily” as for a short time (not in a short time):
My gaze shifted momentarily from the bonnet he had just taken off to the man bun it had been concealing. And thus was born a newfound appreciation of man-bonnets.

With “digress” there and knowing 13D was STEP _, I vaguely thought “burp” for the weightlifter’s concern. So I knew it was wrong, but I sat there momentarily with ridiculous little vignettes playing out in my mind. Let’s go and knock out our abs ‘cause Sven is over there on the free weights, and, well, his burps are off-putting.

Liked seeing OWENS in the grid. My dog OWEN’S single purpose in life is to establish and maintain meaningful eye contact with me. (Molly’s purpose is to receive constant reassurance that she’s still loved. Hank and Tucker? – they just don’t give a damn.)

Good Friday.

Charles Flaster 4:36 AM  

Again in agreement with Rex. NW broke open with BARRAGE . Changed endS to ZAPS and very easy after that .
I know some younger solvers will have trouble with the numbered clues for OLDS and AGENT.
DEVIATE for Digress

Lots of thought provoking clues:
KISSCAM( really creative)

Thanks MS

three of clubs 6:22 AM  

MONSOON for BARRAGE. Not really up on my sheet music abbreviations, some of which seem pretty arbitrary. Liked seeing the secret agents come into view --- had no idea really what was going on

puzzlehoarder 6:44 AM  

This was a pleasant average Friday. MEND was the start so I back filled the NW before moving on . ALCAZAR was the tough part of that section. I tried ALHAMBRA first and ran out of letters. Then I tried ALCALDA it fit but didn't work. Luckily the other entries fixed it. Some parts of the puzzle were very easy like that SE corner. NBAJAM was hard. It really looked like NINJAS when I only had the N and the J. Overall a fun solve.

Dolgo 6:45 AM  

Yeah. That's one clue that I couldn't quite figure out.

Abby Friedman 6:46 AM  

My biggest quibble was that the honoree of an engagement party hopes to become an engagED party, not an engageMENT party, which threw me off for a bit.

Dolgo 6:56 AM  

Sometimes the clues don't quite ring true. I suppose you could call any steady, violent assault a BARRAGE. But would you necessarily? Am I whining? I finished, but the NW was the tough spot, as it seemed for others. Similarly, CRUSHING IT made sense, but I've never really heard it.
Okay,okay! It was a good puzzle and the perfect cure for my insomnia, because I . . . zzzzz.

BarbieBarbie 7:02 AM  

Average time but felt hard, because of the NW. I had both MINARET and TORRENT. Hey, they fit. But it kept everything around there blank until the very end. Good puzzle! I think I'm just a Thursday fan, so this puzzle didn't make me fall in love the way yesterday's did. But still a good stretchy feeling.

Forsythia 7:06 AM  

@Abby F...those participating in an ENGAGEMENT PARTY hope to become "one," as in wedded bliss unity. Gave me an aha but took awhile.

This was tough tough for me but IM ALIVE! Was sure of torrent and sneak and then pulled that whole corner. Skipped around trying to find a toe hold, not any idea of ---JAM even when I had the last 3 letters.

Wanted lInKED_IN for KICKEDIN so messing up the SW, but had first thrown in tooKajob. Made sense to me for "started to work!"

So many misdirections for me, but that's what I love...not CRUSHING IT but getting it at my LAST CHANCE!

AW 7:27 AM  

Please put me out of my misery: 37D It shares a key with a caret: SIX. What does that mean? What key, what caret, why SIX?

QuasiMojo 7:36 AM  

I thought I was pretty clever putting in ALCAZAR right off the bat, CRUSHING IT in fact, when I messed up by putting AMBLE instead of ABUSE. That held me up for a while. But otherwise I did okay today. My usual Friday speed. Some pretty dull fill (to my way of thinking): ANY SECOND; KICKED IN; COME NOW; MAIN ITEM. I'M ALIVE seemed a bit forced as clued. Is it really the first thing a survivor says? Plus I did not like coming across the dread CINé which stills seems like crosswordese nonsense to me. In France they say CINEMA. A Ciné is a movie theatre, not the art of making movies. Or it could be an abbreviation of cinéma, but it should be indicated as such, n'est-ce pas? If I'm wrong, I'd like someone to give me an example of its use as "filmdom."

The clue for ENGAGEMENT PARTY mystified me. And still does. But it was easily gettable. (And forgettable.)

I did enjoy "seeing" EYELESS in the puzzle and being reminded of Aldous Huxley's novel "Eyeless in Gaza."

TGIF. Happy weekend everyone.

Mr. B 7:37 AM  

@AW - look on your keyboard...that symbol ^ above the number 6 is a caret

TheMonkeysEyebrows 7:40 AM  
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Conrad 7:44 AM  

I loved that people (including me) wrongly assumed the sense of "wrongly assumed".

Hungry Mother 7:48 AM  

My wife and I have been binge watching NCIS, so Abby was familar. The only thing that kept me from the "tada" was that I thought "intuned" was correct. Easy Friday for me, otherwise.

r.alphbunker 7:50 AM  

At the end, I stared at 22A {Obliterates} _APS/1D {Moorish castle} ALCA_AR. Fortunately I ran the alphabet all the way to the end and ZAPS appeared.

Details are here.

Two Ponies 8:07 AM  

Do young women find a man bun attractive?

@ ACM, I remember those old-timers. What has become of @dk?

I found this a pleasant struggle worthy of a Friday puzzle.

Mr. B 8:11 AM  

My solving experience was similar to Rex's. Finished in the NW with USURPED and ARR (had to look that one up post solve). Wanted ALHAMBRA for the castle but finally saw ALCAZAR. Both names familiar to me because they were both names of theaters in San Francisco - both with moorish exteriors.

This also had a baseball vibe to me with ONBASE, KISSCAM, CRUSHINGIT, SAMmysOSA (heh), and the RAYS were there too. This one was in my wheelhouse and so i finished faster than my average Fri time.

Thanks Mr. Sewell
TGIF all

Anonymous 8:18 AM  

I wasn't sure about 99, but having the ___NT, I wanted to put in SPENT (86 = cashed out, no longer available). Took about 20 of my 35 minutes in NW. Oof.

jason 8:23 AM  

The thing that kept me from being able to decide on AB(a/U)SED and see USURPED was the music clue. I'm a trained musician--what Italian term is getting shortened to ARR? Never did see it and finished on crosses.

Two seconds of googling gets me to "Arranged [by]." Well, of course. Part of my brain says, chalk that one up to the early hour. The other part wants to get technical and ask "is it in the sheet music if it's part of the header info?" I mean Arr. isn't really a musical abbreviation...Which is weak tea. I missed that one.

In other news, I didn't really have any problem with the NE or SW. I'll always remember that Omega is a luxury brand after Daniel Craig and Eva Green have their first interaction in "Casino Royale," possibly the most well-written few minutes in all the Bond films.

mathgent 8:39 AM  

Great clue for ENGAGEMENTPARTY. I guessed it from the crosses but didn't understand it until I read Jeff Chen post-solve.

So many wonderful entries and clues. Eighteen red plusses in the margin, almost a record for a Friday.

Happy to have some old friends drop in. USURP (with a lovely clue) and INTONE (which used to come around a lot).

Good crunch, excellent cluing, lively fill, only ten Terrible Threes. What more can you ask for?

Anonymous 8:44 AM  

Computer keyboard

evil doug 8:53 AM  

Yeah, I had--and went down with--ABaSE, and here's how I justified it:

'Wrongly assumed': aSURrED--wrongly, because it would be misspelled.

'Moorish castle' [and I believe that was supposed to be Moopish--typo, apparently]: ALCAtAR--like maybe a Qatar thing going on.

'Obliterates': tArS.

Voila! And wrong! I'M dead....

Nancy 9:09 AM  

Oh, COME NOW, it wasn't that easy. A fun-filled, lively puzzle -- crunchy enough to be consistently interesting and with more than a TEENY amount of clever cluing. I never felt as though I was CRUSHING IT, but it didn't ZAP me, either.

My favorite clues were for USURPING; MY DEAR SIR and ENGAGEMENT PARTY.

I have some nits. Would that everyone who INTERVENES might be a peacemaker (63A). There are plenty of people who INTERVENE quite unpleasantly and gratuitously. And I might describe a heavy rain as a downpour or a torrent, but hardly as a BARRAGE (2D). Everything about 44D -- clue and answer --seems hardhearted to me. Also, can someone explain to me the answer AGENT (27A) for 86 or 99?

A MAN BUN is hip??? I don't think I've ever seen one, but if I ever did, I imagine I'd run in the opposite direction. That's by way of replying not only to @Two Ponies at 8:07, but to any of y'all guys out there who might be thinking of sporting one.

Rebecda Thomas 9:13 AM  

What's happened to our good friend, Professor Barany? I haven't seen any of his gracious postings recently.

oldbizmark 9:17 AM  

enjoyed the puzzle. lot of traps and ended with a DNF but an fun solve overall. I too had ABaSE for ABUSE and did not know ALCAzAR so went with MARS which is apparently correct (archaic for destroys). Didn't (still don't) know what PPP was (is) but got it with the crosses. Had REtain instead of REDEEM, but otherwise, smooth sailing. two in a row. way to go NYT!

oldbizmark 9:23 AM  

Can someone explain "PPP" for "Marking for a very soft passage?" Acronyms are difficult to find when you have no frame of reference. I assume it is something to do with "parcel" but am not sure.

Anonymous 9:27 AM  

@oldbizmark - PPP is a music reference. PPP (or PPPP, PPPPP) stands for Pianississimo, which means very softly.

jberg 9:30 AM  

@Nancy -- not hip, but worn by hipsters, who are seldom hip, but rather wannabees, I think.

Visited Italy for the first time this spring, so now I know a little geography -- but only a little. My friends in Catania were gazing at ElbA before they realized it was ETNA. And, of course, NEW at and torrent further confused things for me.

I also really wanted Minutes for the top of the agenda, but fortunately it was too short. MAIN ITEM was a bit lame, but everything else was better.

Ditto here for wanting George Barany to come back!

Z 9:35 AM  

75% Wednesdayish, 25% spawn of the devil. CRUSHING IT followed by crushed by it. All the NW mistakes mentioned I made.

Lots of cluing to love: the sly use of "one," the high school use of "first base" after getting put in a baseball frame of mind by ON BASE, parallel but different use of numbers, I even like the clue for AVON. A fine tussle IMO. Unlike @AW, I've done enough puzzles so I saw right through the "shares a key" clue.

Mohair Sam 9:38 AM  

So on Fridays and Saturdays I scan the puzzle for an entry point. Today it was LEE, which quickly gave us STREAMLINE - hence we worked bottom up. I tell you this so you can laugh at the time we spent trying to think of tooth and fingernail terms that ended with ARSIR for 33D "Old fashioned letter opener". One of several wonderful misdirects in this puzzle.

Yes, ENGAGEMENTPARTY clue a classic - what a great aha moment. And how can you not love KISSCAM? And AVON. We might have died a terrible death in the NW had Lady M not pulled ABUSE out of the air and that led to "Oh, that meaning of USURPED!" and off we went. Last letter was the last letter of the alphabet run on ZAPS, which triggered the finding of the memory bubble slated for discard on ALCAZAR.

It would have been a good day to remember your music notations, we didn't. Hand up with those who were dead sure it would be "one" or "ina" SECOND at 36a, lost time there. The car I learned to drive as a kid was an Olds 88, man that thing was big and powerful.

Great Friday Matthew Sewell, thank you.

KFC 9:40 AM  

Hey @Z I've been trying to remember whether you had the over or the under on the 18 month deal. A little help?

Eat more chicken, almost hormone free!

Z 9:46 AM  

@oldbizmark - to expand a little on @anon9:27's answer, P represents the direction "Piano," "softly." Each added P - PP, PPP, PPPP - is directing the performer to be softer. Conversely, F represents "Forte," "loudly," with each added F - FF, FFF, FFFF - directing the performer to be louder. Anything beyond PPP and FFF is rare.

Z 9:47 AM  

@KFC - I can almost taste the Two James.

Steve M 9:50 AM  

NW was trouble but test ez

AW 9:59 AM  

Thank you, @Mr. B. It was driving me nuts (37D It shares a key with a caret: SIX)

SouthsideJohnny 10:05 AM  

Thanks to the previous posters for clearing up the ENGAGEMENT PARTY and SIX clues. One more left - how are SEEDS favorites ?

Mohair Sam 10:21 AM  

@Southside - Think seeding in Tennis (and other) tournaments.

capesunset105 10:21 AM  

Your first paragraph sums up my exact experience! I would also like know how seeds are favorites.

newspaperguy 10:21 AM  

Great, very satisfying puzzle. I also had abased before abused but I think the clue for usurped is brilliant, not brutal.

Carola 10:22 AM  

My crossword weather system developed around OLDS x OMEGA and quickly expanded into a front along the Eastern seaboard, then swept westward across the Grid Plains until it stalled at the Rockies. Eventually slipped through Samosas Pass but had lost power, limped into the NW and ended not with a BARRAGE but a gentle sprinkle of answers.

I usually have one favorite fake-out clue, but it's hard to decide today: probably the letter opener, as I spent ages trying to make an implement out of the crosses I had. But heavy rain and wrongly assumed...had me wrongly assuming things for a long time.

@Nancy, for BARRAGE, I thought of a "heavy rain" of bullets in a battle.

Ken R 10:34 AM  

Loved the clue for USURPED and,going to many a METS Game (sadly) loved the KISSCAM !! Only glitch was INASECOND (ANYSECOND) otherwise it all fell into place rather tidily. All in all a pleasant Friday puzzle !

newspaperguy 10:35 AM  

@Nancy: Agents 86 and 99 were the main characters in the 1960s sitcom Get Smart.

semioticus (shelbyl) 10:37 AM  

Great clues today. Just the right amount of trickiness.

My NW corner was a mess. I had ABASE instead of ABUSE, which led me to put in ASUNDER (wrongly assumed "to be whole" made sense somehow), and boy oh boy it went awry after that.

KISSCAM, ENGAGEMENTPARTY, MYDEARSIR were all very enjoyable reveals.

Nancy 10:44 AM  

@newspaperman (10:35)-- Thank you, thank you! I thought no one was ever going to tell me!

I guess 86 and 99 were parodies of 007? Yes? No? I remember that there was such a show starring Don Knotts, but I never watched it. I don't know why I didn't. Maybe I watched it once and didn't like it? Maybe it conflicted with another show I liked more? Who can remember?

GILL I. 10:49 AM  

I loved this puzzle. Maybe because my first entry point was ALCAZAR. @Rex, if you ever visit Sevilla in Spain, you'd probably spend two days staring at the Mudejar architecture. You would also fall in love with the gardens. It's truly exquisite. Then get yourself over to Granada and spend another two days in amazement as you tour the Alhambra. I miss Spain....
@Nancy: MANBUN....When I see one I want to go up and ask the dude if he'd consider putting chop sticks in it - you know, to hold it together. Then he could easily eat his chop suey.
Didn't want the puzzle to end but it did and it was one of my fastest Fridays in a while. The only thing that gave me some trouble was that same NW as the rest of you. Getting CRUSHING IT made it a whole lot easier.
@ACME...I remember @green mantis...!! I was a lurker back then but I loved the way she wrote. She reminds me of our AWOL friend @Questinia. I think she ran off to South America as a missionary or something. Speaking of AWOL where is @Alias ? @George must be busy with exams but I miss him as well. I also miss @NCA Pres and @Steve J...[sigh] but at least we have @ACME back to entertain us....;-)
Thank you Mr. Sewell for a delightful Friday.

Lewis 10:57 AM  

Before this puzzle, Matthew had published four Wednesdays and a Sunday (remember that one about laughing in the aisles, with all the HA's in places that have aisles?), and I think today's puzzle shows great promise regarding his talent for themelesses. There is a nice mix of subject areas, and, as many have alluded to, some lovely clues: MY_DEAR_SIR, AVON, ENGAGEMENT_PARTY, USURPED, KISSCAM. And a very clean grid.

This was solid and solidly enjoyable, far more than a palate cleanser, IMO. Thank you bigly, Matthew!

Lewis 10:58 AM  

@gill -- Don't forget JackJ and Casco Kid!

Aketi 11:00 AM  
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Lawrie 11:03 AM  

I had the same problem as Rex --- the NW. My specific problem was tha I quickly put in "torrent" at 2D and was pretty sure it was right. When I got the two Rs in "crushing it" and "arr" at 17A and 19A, I was then positive I was correct. That stymied me for quite a while, until I finally figured out "last chance" and then got the rest. This was a fabulous Friday. Thank you MS.

GHarris 11:10 AM  

Yes, @nancy it's like 007 but the show Get Smart starred Don Adams not Knotts. Very funny for awhile but got a bit tired. I got into this one knowing RE Lee was in charge at Harper's Ferry. Needed my wife to supply the b for bonnet which gave me nba jam, a game I never heard of. Overall challenging and fun.

Moly Shu 11:11 AM  

Keep dreaming. Counting chickens before they're hatched and all.

Aketi 11:11 AM  
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Aketi 11:13 AM  

@Nancy, if you saw one of my favorite rolling partner's in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you'd change your mind about the MAN BUN. He doesn't look like a hipster; he looks like a serious old school Martial Artist and he is great. He's TEENY, only 15 pounds heavier than I am. While I am a size zero, I prefer to think of myself as LEONINE for my size. When I'm being honest will myself, however, that really applies to my rolling partner, not me.

Of course there are other types of MANBUNS that can be appreciated.

A little undertone of Crime and Punishment
(hopefully) REDEEM

Victim rescued from ABUSE, "I'M ALIVE."

Z 11:17 AM  

@Moly Shu - "almost."

Andrew Heinegg 11:18 AM  

You missed the import of the clue. The honorees of an engagement party are brides and grooms to be. They are already engaged. They plan to become one in the sense that two are said to become one when they are actually married. It was a pretty clever clue and answer IMHO.

Roo Monster 11:21 AM  

Hey All !
Into cars, so first answer in was OLDS, feeling all smug that I got that right off the bat! But then after reading y'all, no one has asked about it, so the smugness has abated. :-P Funny how that OLDS crosses OMEGA. Good car. My father had a 1975 OMEGA, had old style front end, and new style rear end. Best year, IMO.

Remembered ALCAZAR from previous puzs, but still spelled it wrong. ALCoZAR. That, and INTuNED/NuL being my two letter DNF. Also had ABaSE til very end, till I finally noticed USURPED from aSU_PED, the ole brain not wrapping around the, "Hey, change the A to a U and ABUSE still fits the clue." Last letter in.

Three writeovers, Bikini off the B-BONNET, IMadeit-IMALIVE, ABaSE-ABUSE. Found rest of puz easy-medium. Never am a speed demon on FriPuzs, they usually kick my MAN BUNs more than this one.

So, enjoyable. Good for NEW TO puzzles people. @Z's PPP in puz. Nice. Puz not too WAC.

Don't ZAP me, bro!

GILL I. 11:34 AM  

@Lewis....I know!...and @Numi and @Foodie and @joho and @Bob Kerfuffle and....[sigh]

old timer 11:38 AM  

When I see an easy clue on a Friday, I am afraid to write in the answer I would immediately put in on a Monday. One of Mr. Sewell's fiendish tricks is to have a few answers like MEET and MEND that are *un*deceptively Easy. (Add to that list, MAIN ITEM).

As soon as I got TUG, though, I got ENGAGEMENT PARTY and grinned. I had wanted USURPED from the get-go, and I knew ARR was right because it was printed above so many songs in my mother's treasury of songs, always on the piano. Years later, I learned that if you ARRange a song that is in the public domain, such as the many Stephen Foster songs in that treasury, you can claim copyright on the arrangement.

Of course, I had "I made it" before IMALIVE. But the first I gave me KICKED IN and therefore the delightful KISSCAM, which forced me to rethink that "I made it" and put in the other undeceptively Easy MEWS.

Hands up for putting in "Elba" before I remembered that Catania is at the southern end of Italy, therefore Elba, which is off the northern coast, had to be wrong.

Favorite answer: MY DEAR SIR.

P.S. I miss our old friend the Professor, too.

Trombone Tom 11:46 AM  

Unlike @Rex my bete noir was the SW not the NW. Until I got there I was CRUSHING IT. So this was my last chance to finish in the roses.

But all was delayed when I dropped in KISSing and IMAde it and left myself confused for a SLEW of minutes. I knew it had to be CINE but nothing was making sense until fortune INTERVENED and I realized it was I'M ALIVE and KISSCAM. Bingo!

A lively and very enjoyable Friday from Mr. Sewell.

Trombone Tom 11:58 AM  
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Nate 12:00 PM  

Some really good clues and answers meant I didn't even mind the DNF - KISS CAM, NBA JAM, ENGAGEMENT PARTY being the highlights.

I'm so, so, so bad at the musical questions. It's an auto-DNF for me. PPP? Not a clue. I know that's a song by Beach House, so I guess I just learned why. ARR? Again, didn't have the faintest idea.

Also I had DOTS for DMVS, which got me all kinds of screwed up.

Trombone Tom 12:07 PM  

I bought a '80 Olds Omega because I thought the design concept was excellent. It WAS a nice car, but the execution wasn't up to the design standard. After a couple of years fasteners started falling off and numerous rattles surfaced. The final straw was when I tried to buy a replacement dome light cover in the early '80's and discovered that the dealers were no longer stocking parts.

ArtO 12:18 PM  

I never used to even try Friday puzzles but have found some traction lately. The NW was brutal and had to come here for the responses. Nevertheless, doing 80% of a Friday is a victory for me.

QuasiMojo 12:50 PM  

@Lewis, who can forget CascoKid? He would have liked my answer "amble" for "walk all over." I must have been thinking of "ramble!"

In case anyone is curious, I've been to Catania and yes you can see ETNA very easily on clear days. It's magnificent. One of the main boulevards was designed to lead toward it, so that it looms larger and larger as you move up. At night you can see lava spilling from it.

CDilly52 12:50 PM  

Been too busy to comment but have been reading and enjoying the content from all you regulars, as usual. Late, I know, but giant shout out to @LMS for her astute comment on "no child left behind." If we do not devote adequate resources to our most precious and unique natural resource-our children - then the American Dream will die.

Oh, the puzzle. NW kicked mine, too. And I succumbed to puzzle hubris because I was CRUSHING IT once I moved beyond that pesky corner and was a good 30% under my normal Friday time...until I had to go finish the NW. If it weren't for the ALCAZAR, I wouldn't have finished. Even though the great castles made me fall into the ABASE VS ABUSE trap, it still gave me enough to work with and a wonderful trip down memory lane as well.

During the years that I worked regularly in Europe, I spent many a weekend touring Portugal and Spain. I fell in love with the centuries of history reflected in the diverse art and architecture, sacred and secular that combines the Moorish influence in intricate carvings and tile work with so many other genres and styles and makes these sites historic gems. I particularly adore the Alcazars of Segovia (used to depict Joyous Gard in the movie version of Camelot), Sevilla and Córdoba. Also the beautiful Winter Palace in Sinatra, Portugal. The centuries of war and strife have given the folks of the Iberian Peninsula such strength. I met such tenacious, resilient and generous people there and value my time in both Spain and Portugal enormously.

One of the biggest learning experiences, though came from my European colleagues who belittled the American "work ethic" that to them seems to be a "work at the expense of everything else" ethic. We all worked very hard in Europe, but when the regular work day ended, we quit for the day, and had time to have dinner, relax and be well rested when at the next bell

In fact, my European friends preferred not to come to the US, because they felt compelled to work the long, punishing hours that we did. In retrospect, I cannot honestly say that we accomplished more while working on the same cases with the same diverse team but physically in the US than we did in Europe. And we had a much better time in Europe! Studies are now being published that demonstrate the importance of sleep and "down time." Maybe we can lean what Western Europe has always known and create generations of Americans with a strong work ethic yet a well-balanced lifestyle and happier families. I know mine suffered while I was busy crashing the proverbial glass ceiling.

Travel educates in so many wonderful ways. I'd love to learn Portuguese and retire in Sintra.

Georgia 12:54 PM  

In sports, the #1 Seed is the one deemed most likely to win. The higher your Seed, the less you are favored to win the tournament.

Nancy 1:02 PM  

GHarris (11:10) Right! Adams, not Knotts.

@Aketi (11:13) -- Your avatar with the MAN BUN is your "rolling partner"? (Or is he, rather, a movie star?) At any rate, you're right. I may have to rethink my feelings about the MAN BUN. He's pretty hot, whoever he is. Sort of like no-hair Yul Brynner -- the only man in the world who ever looked sexy like that, in my opinion. And yes, I do think you're quite LEONINE for your tiny, tiny size. But size 0?????? Sorry, 21st-Century Fashion Industry, but there is no such thing, whatever you may choose to write on your labels! Someone who's a size 0 would have no dimensions at all! No height. No width. No depth. She would be a ... dot. I believe that what's now called a size 0 was called a size 6 back in the day. A size 6 was a really, really tiny woman. Trust me.

Unofficial Blog Cop 1:14 PM  

That's it @Nancy. You've had your 3 for the day. Please stop.

Teedmn 1:33 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Teedmn 1:36 PM  

This was a Goldilocks Friday for me. Never too hard, never too easy. MANBUN was my first in, then NEW TO/WAC, then STEP MOM (I considered "son" but checked out the clue for 34A and MAIN ITEM seemed pretty agenda-topping, which confirmed MOM).

My only writeover was "leak" for EAVE. I had a total "aha" moment getting USURPED off the S of LAST CHANCE. (ABaSE was considered at 1A but not entered). I was sure that ANY SECOND I would be stymied, but the flow continued. My circled "great clues" today are similar to @Nancy's favorites, mine being 3D USURPED, 7D ENGAGEMENT PARTY, 33D MY DEAR SIR, 38D KISS CAM and 62A AVON.

I had to studiously avoid looking at my keypad for the caret in order to prevent a DNF but it was TUGging at me. And I wasn't completely familiar with the meaning of IDLED as "dogged it". I have now looked up "dogged" and it is in the dictionary as 2. act lazily; fail to try one's hardest. along with 3. grip (something) with a mechanical device. "she has dogged the door shut" so look for #3 coming soon to a puzzle near you.

Thanks, Matthew Sewell, keep them coming!

Malsdemare 2:38 PM  

Oh don't stop, Nancy. I'm with you on sizes. I just bought a pair of size 4 jeans, and when I last wore a 4, I was 18 and 30 lbs lighter. I'm small but, @aketi, you must be Twiggy!

Ya'll can take what everyone else wrote and, yup, that was my experience. I thought it brutally hard and wonderfully fun.

Reading the list of the Missing made me sad. Maybe they are all here and we could ask for a show of hands? Did the recent spell of acrimony, thankfully in remission, chase them off?

Is the MANBUN sort of like the man purse, kind of metrosexual? I'm such a country bumpkin, I'm rather clueless about these things. While dining at a very new eatery, an export from Chicago, we noticed a handsome man with a MANBUN holding forth to his very lovely svelte blonde date, both rather out of place in Champaign, Illinois. Turned out he was the chef at our very upscale, very delicious restaurant. So we forgave him.

TGIF, all.

GILL I. 2:42 PM  

@Malsdemare...Was he eating chop suey?
@UBC. Go suck on a lemon or something.

Nancy 3:10 PM  

@UBC -- If you have absolutely nothing better to do with your life than to -- every single day, it would appear -- count the blog posts (!) of someone you don't know and will never meet, then your life must be unbearably empty and purposeless and friendless, and I feel truly sorry for you. But not sorry enough that I haven't made sure to come back for a 4th time to assert in no uncertain terms: UBC, you are not the boss of me! And maybe I'll return today for a 5th and 6th and 7th time -- who knows how the mood will strike me? I actually hadn't planned to come back at all at this juncture, but we diminutive women can be pretty darn feisty when anyone attempts to bully us. (Hi, @Aketi.) And as long as I'm here -- a warm shutout to the always wonderfully supportive @Maldesmare and @GILL for their always wonderful support.

Gareth Bain 3:12 PM  

That PS note describes my NW solving experience to a tee!

Aketi 3:12 PM  

@Nancy, I'll have to disABUSE you of the notion that the avatar is my rolling partner. It was the closest photo I could find of someone that looks like him. I actually think my rolling partner looks better than the Avatar. Many of the guys I roll with are bald. Only a few wear MAN BUNS. Bald is the more popular option because no one can GRIP you hair and TUG on it.. Some shave their heads but let their beards and mustaches grow. Reminds me I need a hair cut.

PS. There is now a size 00. The garment industry would like me to believe that I am shrinking or even disappearing but I'm not.

I got OLDS merely because my favorite car was an OLD rusted out Delta 88 OLDS that I bought in grad school. It was so heavy that it hugged the road well during the snowstorms in upstate NY. It was spacious enough to squeeze in SIX prople and for moving furniture in the annual shuffle of grad students looking for better deals on rentals or more comparable roommates.

GILL I. 3:32 PM  

Yay @Nancy. By the way, I'm 5'7 1/2 and wear a 10 when I can squeeze into it on a good day. When I feast on french fries smothered with mayo, I'm probably a 12. I'd post more but I'm off to a memorial service.

Aketi 3:40 PM  

@Nancy, hahaha, I see your inner warrior just KICKED IN.

@Malsdemere, some of the chefs at the Hudson Garden Grille at the NY Botanical Gardens wear MANBUNS. I confess that I enjoy eating at the bar because they have an open kitchen where I can watch them preparing the food. It's fascinating to watch the fluidity of their work during lunch rush hour.

I'm no twiggy, I'm just vertically challenged.

Aketi 3:41 PM  

@UBC, four

Aketi 3:41 PM  

@UBC, five

Aketi 3:41 PM  

@UBC, SIX and out.

Charley 3:44 PM  

There is no definition for the word barrage that means a heavy rain.

Anonymous 4:04 PM  

A heavy rain of artillery shells is a barrage.

Naryana Gora 4:14 PM  

@jae - I'm always amazed at how accurate first instincts are. I guess it's like multiple choice exams, stick with it, don't over think it.

Mohair Sam 4:29 PM  

@Nancy - I knew it! I soon as I saw that post I said "She'll be back." The bastards never get you down. Way to go.

And how old is this crowd? Several references to the '60s show "Get Smart" and not one word about the 2008 movie of the same name featuring Agents 86 and 99 played by two of Hollywood's biggest names - Steve Carell and Times crossword fiend Anne Hathaway (she a Rex follower, btw).

Get hip.

Three and twenty-three skiddoo.

Naryana Gora 4:36 PM  

I only allow myself so much time to complete a puzzle. Today I looked up ALCAZAR. I then finished the NW corner. Yeah, a dnf but not without some satisfaction. Lovely puzzle.

Two Ponies 4:47 PM  

@ Nancy,
No need to get your panties (whatever size)in a twist at UBS. I have been on this blog long enough to remember that there once was a custom of limiting ourselves to 3 posts a day. Do not take it too personally. UBC may be referring to that etiquette.

Z 4:53 PM  

@Aketi, @Nancy, @Gill I - The actual Blog Cop, aka Rex Parker, did once or twice declare a rule of three comments max. It's actually a useful rule, if I ever get to a third comment on a topic I stop. It really does help me from getting sucked in, turning pedantic, and other ugliness. That said, LOL. Also, I think it was on @Ellen S's blog that I discovered the phrase ubi non accusator ibi non iudex (loosely translated as, "where there are no police there are no speed limits").

Robert A. Simon 4:56 PM  

So I had the RR in 2D ("Heavy Rain") and I put in--what else?--toRRent. There is no such thing as a BARRAGE of rain. Bullets or any other mean-spirited projectiles, sure. But not rain. So yeah, like Rex, the NW fell last, but only because ALCAZAR gave me ABUSE. So there I am, staring at BARR??? for heavy rain and AHA! BARRELS! Well, that didn't work. When I finally remembered "Get Smart" and filled in AGENT, that led to BARRAGE--finally.

Z 5:00 PM  

@Charley - See verb definition 1.2 here, with the first example sentence being particularly on point. On Monday "rain" will mean precipitation, later it the week it won't unless, of course, the constructor wants you to think it doesn't mean precipitation.

3+ and out.

"What radar gun" Z

Aketi 5:05 PM  

@z, I try to comply with that rule and I think it is a good rule, but @UBC has been picking on Nancy and it brings out my INNER bad CHILD. @Rex can put me in DETENTION for my misbehavior and he'd be justified.

chefwen 5:14 PM  

@Nancy - Feel free to borrow my unused comments. There are three left over from yesterday.

@Gill I - Add @Glitch, Ulrich and Rube to your list.

Jim 6:00 PM  

Nice meta quality to this one. "My trouble was that I wrongly assumed the meaning of 'wrongly assumed.'"

Roo Monster 6:07 PM  

Har. BARRAGEs of SPREES comments (TEXTS?) today. Y'all are CRUSHING IT! Wonder if UBC is NEW TO here, or was REARED on the MAIN ITEM 3 rule and then ZAPs. Whoa NELLIE! It seems he/she doesn't want to DEVIATE from the STREAMLINE TENETS of 3. Doesn't like the ABUSE of the SLEW of SIX TEENY posts. COME NOW, UBC, become EYELESS, no need for DETENTION or to (NBA)JAM us up, MY DEAR SIR. Or do we need to REDEEM you for your INTERVENES? SNEAK a TUG on your BONNET, HINT HINT. :-P


Anonymous 6:18 PM  

@z don't worry about turning pedantic, instead try not being a know it all. And while you're at it, admit that your post last fall about what the Republican party would have to do after losing the prez election to regain relevance was all wrong.

Not UBC 7:02 PM  

@ Nancy reminds me of @ Nate

Unofficial Blog Cop 8:30 PM  

@Nancy, I am not bullying you, rather just asking you nicely to shut the eff up. Your posts are self indulgent, smug and dare I say, boring. But alas, I read them all. I really like the posts where you state " this "clue" does not mean this "answer" because I know everything". And then 4 or 5 other posters point out to you, politely, that indeed, the clue does mean the answer. Yet somehow you never come back and say " oops my bad" because of course you know everything and are never wrong. I wish I was half as smart and erudite as you think you are.

Anonymous 9:09 PM  

didn't see Z's suggestion, but it could not possibly have gone far enough now that the Party of Lincoln has morphed into the Party of Faust. What a shame.
Namcy's comments are usually interesting and always full of personality.

Anonymous 9:28 PM  

Say what you will about the GOP but the question at hand was z's wildly innacurate assessment of the political world. Far from losing big, RepublicanS -won the Senate, kept the House easily, occupy 16000 PA. Ave,-AND 38 governor's mansions etc. Zs predicted the opposite and doubled down on his error by providing inane advice putatively to aid Republicans. you know, pick up the pieces after their certain November losses.
In other words he was wrong guy on all counts, and still fancies himself the sage of the board. It's tiresome.and I'm a registered Democrat.

Anonymous 10:45 PM  

@Z et al

If even Alan Dershowitz says of the Special Counsel, "He's going to find no crime", all I can tell you is, "squirrel"!!!

Anonymous 11:23 PM  

I can't wait for President Pence. Jesus Saves. Pence will relplace Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Breyer with conservative, youthful judges. All will be well. Adios Donald.

Anonymous 11:25 PM  

replace not relplace all you typographical toughies

Malsdemare 11:28 PM  

@ubc, many,if not most, of us enjoy the wide variety of comments here. We're very capable of skipping posts we don't like. If you don't want to be a bully, then don't tell someone to quit posting.

And I thought the acrimony had wandered off to another blog. Dang!


Anonymous 12:44 AM  

I think Z is Rex Parker. It is mathematically impossible to have two, different , smug, sanctimonious tools on the same blog.

Anonymous 2:14 AM  

@Anon 11:23
You're right. God is great and Jesus saves, much to the leftist media's, and some blogs, disdain. We were founded on our rights coming from our Creator. My God sent his Son to die for us and our sins. The other side sends their children to kill anyone who disagrees with them. Who is on the better side? Also, I remember posting that if Hillary won I would retire to Mexico and to Texas if Trump won and was given a "via con Dios" WHEN Hillary won by some dolt. I'm sort of sad as I like Baja, but Corpus Christi is fine. For those here in CA who will be paying more in gas taxes and vehicle registration fees, y'all can "via con Diablo's".
2 and out. GWood

Frieda 2:25 AM  

Hand up for trouble in the NW. Loved this puzzle! Very late to the party due to snowstorm delaying paper delivery (till about noon?) All I could do not to check in on Rex's blog and the comments-- I happily have a Friday dnf, enjoyed every minute.

Anonymous 6:51 AM  

Ummm... "My God" and "the other side???"

Anonymous 11:11 PM  

I came to this blog site for the first time in many months to say, "Wow! Best Friday puzzle in recent memory! Hope to see more from you, Matt, MYDEARSIR!"

I also enjoyed the walk down memory lane. I too miss dk, also retiredchemist (?), but most of all, Masked and Anonymous. S/he always made me LOL. There was a puzzle with a lot of "U' fill not long ago and I thought of M&A.

Good night. Anon, formerly known as IMTZAR (though rarely posted comments).

kitshef 11:27 PM  

Easy, but crummy. One of those puzzles where the constructor slaps some random words together and pretends it's a phrase. I'M ALIVE. COME NOW. MY DEAR SIR.

Top half was actually fairly entertaining, though.

Claire 10:45 AM  

Ask the thousands who have watched this on auto-repeat:

spacecraft 11:12 AM  

Not know who Abby Sciuto is????????? Are you kidding me? What ROCK have you been living under? Though not in the grid, she's in the clue--and that's good enough for DOD Pauley Perrette. Honorable mention to AGENT 99 Barbara Feldon.

How OFL called this easy-medium without the dead gimme NCIS is beyond me. I call it medium-challenging, and though the NW was tough enough, it was the SW that gave me fits. My survivor cried "IMADEIT!" Didn't yours? Then, the whole clue/answer for 38-down made absolutely no sense to me. Don't know Indian cuisine...honestly, I don't even know how I did that corner. Somehow it's done right, albeit with considerable blotting. I guess it must have been "Abundance." _D__ wasn't working, so I ripped out IMADEIT and tried IMALIVE: gLut! Well, eventually it all worked out. Apparently there's such a thing as a "KISSCAM." What, they take pictures of fans kissing?? Eww. How in the WORLD did such a thing get started? God, there's ZERO privacy anymore.

Anyway, more inkfests: NEW at before NEWTO, and yes, Fearless One, I DID have iNaSECOND. Hand up on that one, MYDEARSIR.

I was never CRUSHINGIT, but I did get 'er done. Not much crap; even PPP is at least not overused (yet). Birdie.

Burma Shave 11:45 AM  




rondo 12:50 PM  

Even with several inkfested areas this puz was fun. STEPsOn and iNaSECOND weren’t too messy, but not looking closely enough at __ANCE I tried to put in the too short LetsdANCE; at least the L was right and that area filled last. Don’t think ZAPS is really described well by obliterates, unless it’s a skeeter.

There’s a coupla guys in this building that sport the MANBUN. I don’t care what GQ says, that’s a bad look.

Do AVON ladies still exist? Going door-to-door selling it? AVON stuff that is.

Loved the clues for OLDS and then AGENT. RAYS coulda been clued “Longoria’s mates”. That’s Evan, not yeah baby Eva. That’s about as far as I can stretch.

I’ll make a motion that this was a nice Fri-puz. ANYSECOND?

Diana,LIW 1:38 PM  

Uffdah! Heave ho! There goes the rock I've been under, @Spacey. OTOH, SAMOSA and KISSCAM were two of my "oh that's what's going on" clues." So hope the rock didn't hit you in the head. I mean, I don't watch sports or TV (often, tho Mr. W can be counted on for that) but the KISSCAM has made it's way into movies and such. With the occasional proposal attached. Awww.

Had only or best for my chances. Doomed me to a NW dnf. I also wanted DELU(D?)GE - creative spelling being a forte of mine. The rest was a fun suss. Especially KICKEDIN.

Do you really have an ENGAGEMENTPARTY prior to getting engaged? Hey, guess what we're gonna do - we're gonna pop the question. On the KISSCAM, I guess. And I'm guessing AVON uses social media nowadays. Ahh, modern times...

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Anonymous 6:23 PM  

Mr Parker,it appears we had the very same problem areas in this puzzle. Nice to know you are in good company. I finally caved in to looking up answers. I looked up Music Abbrv and found ARR. From there I finished the last few from the upper left counter. Also had to look up 88 or 98 for OLDS. After that it only took a bit of time to guess OMEGA and GRIP. That finished the puzzle. Since I already had the s in OLDS it was 6 letters away. Are there 189 letters in the puzzle? Then it is 183 out of 189. Any thoughts?


leftcoastTAM 6:49 PM  

After CRUSHING the East and getting to the far West, hit a wall.

Took a long break (in part non-puzzle related), and the wall was still there after coming back.

Northwest was the toughest. Southwest, tough enough. Didn't crack either of them.


rain forest 1:35 AM  

Hey! I was out salmon fishing today, and I wish I had taken the paper because we were skunked! I mean it was the Sahara Desert out there, and we didn't even bring beer! Agh. On the other hand, it was a great day, not too hot, maybe a little rough at times, but when four guys get together for 8 hours, bullshitting and having "good" conversation, it's a good day.

So I came to the puzzle at 9 PM, and finished it. Oddly enough the NW was the easiest for me once I saw that Alhambra didn't fit. After that, it was tough sledding, but fun sledding. I think it is a great puzzle, but I'm too tired right now to tell you the story of my solve, as riveting as it might be.

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