Epithet meaning great soul / SAT 6-10-17 / Victor at Brandywine / Bob who narrated how I met your mother / Begin at beginning / Launch of April 1968 / National bird of Trinidad Tobago

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Constructor: Mark Diehl

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: ACHENE (19A: Seed of a strawberry or sunflower) —
An achene (Greek ἀ, a, privative + χαίνειν, chainein, to gape;[1] also sometimes called akene and occasionally achenium or achenocarp) is a type of simple dry fruit produced by many species of flowering plants. Achenes are monocarpellate (formed from one carpel) and indehiscent (they do not open at maturity). Achenes contain a single seed that nearly fills the pericarp, but does not adhere to it. In many species, what is called the "seed" is an achene, a fruit containing the seed. The seed-like appearance is owed to the hardening of the wall of the seed-vessel, which encloses the solitary seed so closely as to seem like an outer coat. (wikipedia)
• • •

This grid is really quite impressive for how smooth it is, given the low word count / massive amounts of white space (esp. in the middle). Clues were hard as heck (mostly), and so overall this was satisfying: a clean, genuinely thorny, proper Saturday puzzle. I want to talk briefly about my strong ambivalence re: the clue on MENACHEM (1A: Begin at the beginning?). On the one hand, that is a brilliant burying of a proper noun. That trick is ancient (i.e. the trick of putting a name-that-is-also-a-word at the beginning of a clue to camoflauge the name-ness), but with *that* name, in *that* phrase, with the "?" clue ... brutal. I had MENA-HE- and still had no idea. So I admire the trick. But as a clue ... it's just not fair. Hard is not the problem. It's just that "in the beginning" is a thing that makes sense only after you've solved it, and then only if you really think about it hard (I assume that the clue means the "beginning ... of Israel"). I don't associate him w/ "beginnings," and I think a no-context "beginning" there really violates the spirit of fair play. You got enamored of your wordplay and just went for it, even though it really wasn't a very good / accurate / specific enough clue. Cheap. You can see the ambivalent, right? Love the idea, but I think if I'm a ref, I call a foul.

[UPDATE: I totally misunderstood the clue. "... at the beginning" simply refers to MENACHEM's being his *first* name. I knew it was his first name ... but ... wow ... yeah, just whiffed on that one. Thanks to my Twitter-friend Helen for helping me out]

Other brutal (but fair) clues include 24A: Two stars, perhaps for ITEM (I thought SO-SO); and 30D: Runner's place for BASE (I thought LANE, which ... as you can see ... half works). The very hardest part, though, was the last square I filled in, because once again the cluing was nasty. In the SW corner, I had BARKAT and OGEEARCH thrown across the empty space, and then put "WHAT THE"!? up the side (36D: "Are you kidding me?!"). That "W" made the answer to the cross easy: 34A: It's got teeth = SAW. And the "A" worked. And then I filled in the rest of that corner and ended up with S-NK ART for 34D: Refuse work? Now I knew "refuse" was gonna be a noun (trash) not a verb, but ... SINK ART? SUNK ART? The cross at the vowel was 38A: Drivel and I had M-SH and thought there was some PISH or BOSH or other kind of word that might go there. Then MUSH seemed right. But SUNK ART? Yeah, that was wrong. So the JAW clue is sadistic. It's obviously intentional in its attempt to redirect you *specifically* to SAW. And it worked. I'm not so much a fan of that particular brand of "difficult," but to each his own. The puzzle's wavelength wasn't exactly my own, but it's very good as hard, low word-count themelesses go.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. oh and 22A: Jules or Jim, in "Jules et Jim" ... I had NOM :(

P.P.S. and oh yes more iffy clue shenanigans...

 [27A: Mom and pop business?] (DNA TESTING)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Brian B 12:11 AM  

This just shows to go you, everything's head makes associations differently and it's kind of random which ones are easy or hard. I saw 1A and threw MENACHEM across there without a second thought, and same with 34A and JAW; it didn't even occur to me that SAW might also be possible. Entirely random bit of constructor and solver on those specific clues.

Of course the rest of the puzzle was the sort of struggle I expect from a Saturday. I needed OGEE ARCH from the crosses, and so on. This is what makes it fun.

Brian B 12:12 AM  

^^bit = fit

Anonymous 12:17 AM  

brutal. hardest saturday in a long time. should take everyone down a peg.

jae 12:19 AM  

Medium for me. West side easy-medium. East side medium-tough. ACHENE was the only WOE and no erasures.

I liked the tricky clues. Reminds me of the puzzles I'm slowing doing from the mid '90s.

The middle section was excellent, liked it a lot.

Adam M 12:31 AM  

I started with EGGDROP crossed with INGE and *raced* in personal record time from SW to NE. Got caught a bit in SE with MAW (& MUNKART?). Then struggled mightily with NW, mostly cuz of ACHENE and MENACHEM.
Unlike OFL, I am not at all ambivalent about 1-A -- I *despise* "?" clues in the 1-A spot! Even after I got the -CH- and knew *what* i was looking for, I still had no idea what Begin's first name was. Maybe a specific lacuna for a younger solver...

Johnny Vagabond 12:31 AM  

Easiest Saturday in awhile. Solved while I watched the Warriors collapse under the offensive will of the Cavs. Weird how Rex's challenging are easy to me and vise versa. Still over an hour but I don't care about time as much as just finishing and enjoying the solve.
Solving is like golf for me in that I don't want it to end to soon.

George Barany 12:32 AM  

Today's @Mark Diehl puzzle was challenging as I anticipated from the byline and the imposing grid design, and I didn't quite get it all -- still very enjoyable. @Rex's review has already pointed out some of the highlights. The @Barney Rubble tweet reminds me of the old joke about a promiscuous woman who became pregnant, but was not sure who the baby's mother was.

Some interesting combinations in this puzzle: NOT HERE // THERE. DINE yet DIETED. No ACNE today, but we do get a ZIT. Yesterday's ME TARZAN was followed up today by just TARZAN. "Very old school" was a fresh way to clue crossword standard ETON, and the SANKA clue was very funny. We often see OGEE, but the full OGEE ARCH is rare indeed.

More left over from yesterday, one can be familiar with a film franchise (paging @Austin Powers) from reading reviews or seeing previews in "coming attractions" or TV advertisements, and have seen enough to conclude that exposure to the full-length product in the theater might not be the best way to invest one's entertainment budget.

Mike in Mountain View 12:35 AM  

I never thought about sAW. I had mAW. But mUNKART didn't work, so no real worries there.

Despite ACHENE, the NW played easiest.

AfLAmE before ABLAZE.

This puzzle had a lot of clues that gave me part of the answer easily: APOLLO__, MILITARY_______, ____ARCH, _____APART.

Fun solve, and only slightly longer than usual.

Thanks, Mark!

Anonymous 12:48 AM  

This is a first-class example of a great wide-open themeless. Great fill, great clues.

Even though we don't see as much of Diehl's work as we used to (I believe he constructed the playoff puzzle at the 2016 ACPT), his skill never ceases to amaze me.

OGEE ARCH is a great example of seeing the largley crosswordese word "OGEE" in context. And if some solvers are curious, the phrase OGEE ARCH is not really a tautology, since OGEE refers to a specific kind of (double) curve, that's probably the most prominent feature of "Perpendicular" (church) architecture. The development of OGEE ARCH, after the simpler "gothic arch", gave architects at time, the opportunity to use much wider arches, allowing greater light into the building (since the arches had to be load-bearing).

Oh, and if any readers weren't interested in want I was rambling on about: there's 30 seconds of your life you'll never get back. Your welcome ;)

However, lecturing people about ogee arches comes in pretty handy for being disinvited to those annoying social occasions, such as weddings, birthdays, funerals, family reunions, etc. ;)


mathgent 1:13 AM  

After going through all the clues, the only gimme I found was MARS. Four lousy letters. But the M suggested MAHATMA and I soon had the NW corner and my prospects brightened. Very pleased that I was able to do it after such a dismal start.

Excellent puzzle with quite a bit of sparkle. ASKANCE is a nice word and it opened up the SE corner for me. Mr. Diehl provided a generous clue there.

puzzlehoarder 1:18 AM  

Mark Diehl is my favorite constructor and this puzzle was a perfect example of why. It wasn't one of his more difficult ones but its one of the best looking and a real construction feat. I was a little slow to start but once EVE and MILITARY gave me MENACHEM the NW corner went down in early week time. This gave me the confidence to just start throwing in random entries with little support. I went from HAPPYMEALS to DEPENDENTS then HAKE and DOGKENNELS. Generally I'm much more cautious in order to avoid costly mistakes but after the NW fell so easily I got that blood in the water feeling and started nailing answers. ITAL/ETAL and NINEHOLE/NINTHTEE were the only two write overs I had to deal with. @JAE if this reminds you of those 90s puzzles it's probably because Mr. Diehl constructed his share of them.

Larry Gilstrap 1:39 AM  

It's a small town, but solving after a night on the town was like swimming up stream. Lots of misdirect cluing in this puzzle, so I took my time. All those long crosses are terrific, in retrospect. 1A could become the poster child for strained/genius clue. Saturday hard enough for me.

I have never eaten a HAPPY MEAL. Come to think of it, that might help my current mood. We ate at McDonalds when Ronald was working the grill. Almost! TARZAN was also big back in the 50s. Hey, Johnny Weismuller went to USC, a huge deal to lots of people in my town. The puzzle's cluing slowed me down. Thanks!

Today's big revelation: I'm a BETA MALE!!! I never realized that that was an acceptable thing, admirable perhaps? Years of aspiration swirling down the drain of fate. Good riddance! Is that ok with everybody?

Trombone Tom 1:58 AM  

Hi, @Brian B. That MENACHEM just fell right into place for me, too. So did ASKANCE. Mike Diehl is a favorite constructor and today we seemed to be on the same page (literally and figuratively) all the way through. Which made this a tad easier than many Saturdays.

Interesting that Tarzan keeps popping up.

Favorite clue was "Bright camp ware."

Anoa Bob 1:58 AM  

When I saw the constructor's name, I knew I was in for a fun ride.

NOT HERE crossing THERE was nice.

TARZAN again. Coincidence?

Thanks @mas for the OGEE ARCH exegesis. I was surprised to see "architecture" in the clue.

As regards DNA TESTING, in human mating and child rearing strategy, one rule is paramount: Mama's baby, Papa's maybe.

Outstanding puzzle.

Kris in ABCA 2:15 AM  

Just participated in a performance of Holst's "The Planets" tonight so my first answer to "Uranus or Neptune" was "Movement". Mars was in the puzzle, too!

Anonymous 2:47 AM  

As an adoptive parent of a child born outside the US, DNA testing proved that the woman who was relinquishing the child was, in fact, the mother. PSA: Adoption is the happiest of events that always follows the saddest of events.

anotherbadhairday 3:23 AM  

Is LOOSED really a word?

jae 3:31 AM  

@puzzlehoarder - The latest '90s puzzle that got me (missed it by one square which was a true Natick ((2 obscure proper nouns crossing))) was the Dec. 21, 1996 puzzle by Fred Piscop, another constructor who has been around for a while. The NE and SW corners are tough. My DNF was somewhere in the NE.

travis 4:07 AM  

I got MENACHEM entirely from crosses. Looked at it and decided it was clearly gibberish that must be wrong, but I may as well move on. And then I ended with SAGET misspelled as SAGaT. lol

Loren Muse Smith 4:54 AM  

Big fat dnf for me. I have another one to throw out there for JAW – “cog.” Never erased it and never recovered. To make matters worse, I misspelled MARIAH as “Moriah.” And like @puzzlehoarder, I had “nine hole.” Talk about yer hot mess down there. Sheesh.

Other missteps:

“antman” for TARZAN
“pivotal” for EPOCHAL (how the heck do you pronounce EPOCHAL?)
“aflame” for ABLAZE (hi, @Mike in MV)
“berate” for BARK AT (never fixed that one)

Funniest mistake was “rear attack” for the hiker’s danger. ‘Cause I erased “lane” for the runner’s place but put in “race” instead of “base” for a while. I’ve talked myself into believing that a pack of coyotes will attack me when I walk in our woods, and I’m constantly looking back as I walk. Nervous.

I got a kick out of IN A PANIC crossing BEAR ATTACK. Well, yeah. Just be sure you’re hiking with someone slower than you are. Maybe a beta male.

Would calling a guy a BETA MALE be condescending? I’ve never heard that expression but was checking in to see if I’m supposed to get all upset and stuff. (@Larry G – you’ve embraced your beta male status. You go, guy.)

HAPPY MEAL – any meal that has a lot of salt and grease.

Sad meal – anything currently all the rage ‘cause it’s healthy and hard to pronounce. I’ll have the quinoa and amaranth salad with jicama and a skyr/kefir smoothie. And some rooibos tea. To go.Thanks

Gotta work now on an analysis of the poem “Noon of the Sunbather” by Marge Piercy for a summer lit class. I have no idea what’s going on there and am reminded why poetry scares the bejeezus out of me. I feel so dumb.

Mark Diehl – lovely puzzle. Put me in the camp of those who loved the BEGIN clue.

evil doug 5:56 AM  

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath LOOSED the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
~The Battle Hymn of the Republic

Jason Webster 6:49 AM  

Also never thought of SAW - had MAW at first. But yes, MUNK ART is not a thing.

Dolgo 7:17 AM  

SINK ART. made just enough sense for me to go with it, alas, even though MIDH didn't quite do it for me. I take it from other comments that I wasn't alone in that regard.
I agree with all the comments about MENACHEM, though I got it early. I certainly consider it ripe for whining!
Those two cases were the only blots on a pretty fun and reasonably challenging puzzle.

More Whit 7:53 AM  

Started in the SW with egg drop and sizzled diagonally to the NE...then began leaking oil badly. Had the same saw/jaw snag in the SE corner and although I got Menachem had no idea what it meant until reading this blog! That first word in a clue always being capitalized is perennially tricky to decode. Above average Saturday time and thoroughly enjoyable!

Glimmerglass 7:55 AM  

Best NYT puzzle in a long time. Only the Patrick Berrys come close. This took me a very long time (something like an hour and a half). EVE escaped me for most of that time because I misspelled MENACHiM (the APOLLO had to be II, VI, or XI). In the end, I shrigged and left sUNK ART. Never thought of JAW. Great fun top,to bottom!

Frayed Knot 8:04 AM  

Saw MENACHEM immediately, a move which would have worked out much better had I not spelled it MENACHiM.

One of the easier Saturdays for me.
Some tough clues but nothing I hadn't heard of except for ACHENE
and even with the compound words that aren't all that common -- NINTHTEE, BETAMALE, TEASEAPART -- I felt like I had a reasonable chance to piece them together.

QuasiMojo 8:09 AM  

Super Saturday. For some reason (two cups of battery acid this morning?) I sailed through this in near-record time for a Saturday. Menachem waltzed in, the rest fell as easily. My only stumble was SAW for JAW but finally relented. In the town where I live, sadly, not everyone with a JAW has teeth. They dunk their "sinkers" in Sanka.

r.alphbunker 8:19 AM  

Is a BETA MALE between an ALPHA MALE and a PHI MALE?

A couple of cascos:
24A. {Two stars, perhaps} SOSO-->ITEM
34A. {It's got teeth} MAW-->JAW

Details are here

Z 8:20 AM  

That single little square connecting the corners to the central diagonal always ups the difficulty. I tend to view this type of grid at least mildly unfair because it takes so much of the crossing out of the crossword. Otherwise, I agree with OFL about the strengths of the puzzle.

@anotherbadhairday - As I fixed LOOSEn/EnGING I wondered the same thing. Thanks @Evil Doug for the fine usage example. Now I'm wondering how @MAS will work The Battle Hymn of the Republic into his next musical work. BTW - @MAS - I am waiting with bated breath on your explication on flying buttresses, their impact on choral music, and the oft unrecognized influence of said music on techno.

@LMS - Hand up for cog. I did manage to fix it.

Isn't "alpha male" just a slightly more tactful way of saying "clueless arrogant asshole?" Personally, I'm happy being an "omega male."*

*not a clue what that might mean. It's just a joke because I go by "Z."

Anonymous 8:32 AM  

In Lake Woebegone all the men are Alphas.

QuasiMojo 8:33 AM  

@Loren Muse Smith, very funny "sad meal" comment. So true. And thanks for mentioning that searing Marge Piercy poem. Reminded me of my summers in NY sunbathing on rooftops. I suspect she wouldn't have cottoned to "co-ed" either. No Beta Male there! And yet, she seems to have the last laugh.

AW 8:33 AM  

Why does "24A Two stars, perhaps" = ITEM?
How does "41A Fitting coffee order on a submarine" = SANKA?
I don't get it.

44D Lived = BEEN? That's not even a stretch; it's just wrong. "I've been there," for example, does not mean "I lived there."

40A Take some courses = DINE? Another stretch to the point of absurdity. When has anyone ever asked, "So how many courses did you take at dinner?" NEVER, is when.

I don't mind clues being clever (1A Begin at the beginning), but these are just absurd.

Mary Perry 8:38 AM  

Clever clue: mom and pop business?
many adopted individuals benefit from DNA testing and sometimes with testing and research these individuals are connected to their birth families.

Tom4 8:45 AM  

Maybe editor/constructors have been taking Rex's critiques to heart and aiming for hard puzzles. This was fun and rounded out a good week.

DNA Testing can apply to mom too...

Too much baseball!

three of clubs 8:46 AM  

Pleasant way to wake up. About 15 leisurely minutes solving and then a similar amount of time reading the comments. Measuring out my life with coffee spoons.

kitshef 8:49 AM  

Tough one. I really thought the SE would do me in, but eventually it all fell into place.
Fell right into capitalb at 1A, then AfLAmE at 8A, so LOX was my first correct entry.
Then in that SE, cog before JAW (never considered sAW), Noreturn before NINTHTEE, toSH before MUSH.

Bear attacks are well down on the list of hiker dangers, below falling, flash floods, exposure, heat stroke, dehydration, lightning strikes, wasps, car accidents, avalanches, suicide, and dogs.

Pete 8:59 AM  

@Z - In the main, yes. I've seen a few exceptions to your hypothesis, but in the main yes.

Two Ponies 9:00 AM  

Great puzzle all around.
I was hoping for a Gothic gargoyle.

If beta male bothers you try thinking about animal social ranking.
Now we can relax and enjoy our Saturday.

Thanks Rex for the WOTD.
Nice to see ibis clued without mentioning the Nile.
I love fresh clues for familiar fill.

Betseeee 9:16 AM  

I had COG for a verrrry long time! And I got the clue for 1A but spelled it MENACHIM (hey, it's all transliterated anyway, right?) and figured IVE was just some word I haven't learned yet. Also AFLAME until crosses nixed that.

Wm. C. 9:28 AM  

@AW --

"Two Stars" in Hollywood gossip rags are referred to as "an Item."

Re: "fitting coffee order on a submarine". => Sanka:
Yeah, a bit of a stretch. "The submarine SANK beneath the waves after leaving port." SANKA is an instant coffee brand. Gar-r-gh!

Teedmn 9:33 AM  

OGEE, this puzzle was so easy - right up until the SW.

My grid for the longest time except for layer upon layer of black ink as I messed around with the rest of the SW:


Yup, that NINehole thing got me because I was never going to put ARCH above "holE" and expect anything to work. No freaking clue on Bob Saget. My brain just coughed up MUSH. I finally Googled SAGET and it all fell in and my last black splotch was writing the J over the S in "sAW".

Okay, who goes around ordering SANKA? With the A of MARIAH, I ran the alphabet but lAtte was so ensconced in my brain, there was no chance the S was going to bring forth SANKA.

So Mark Diehl, you made my Saturday, thanks.

And @r.alphbunker, wow, great solve. I look ASKANCE at your just plopping that in off nothing!

Teedmn 9:34 AM  

Ack, I figured my little homemade grid wouldn't survive the Blogger rules. Oh well.

Frieda 9:38 AM  

Very fun Saturday fare. Some changes: haSH to MUSH, sEabed to DEPTHS, snapAT to BARK AT, sEEN to BEEN. Dnf, since the APOLLO mission timewarped to XI, and my refuse work remained sUNK. Still, enjoyed the whole thing. Thanks @Mark Diehl!

Teedmn 9:41 AM  

And yes, I am also spatially challenged today since my SE was SW today - double ack.

Sir Hillary 9:46 AM  

This is just what a Saturday should be. Brilliant puzzle.

I fell for sAW / siNKART for a looooong time. Also had NOwHERE for a bit, but caught that error quickly. The NW was actually quite easy for me. The rest? Um, no.

By far my worst mistake was assuming rye instead of LOX. That killed me.

What a great workout. I can't praise this one enough.

Forsythia 9:53 AM  

Flew through 3/4th and then it beat me up and spit me out in the SW.

Hands up for cog which gave me "get real" instead of WHATTHE. NINeholE messed me up. Like others tried berate instead of BARKAT. Even thought of ASKANCE but it wasn't fitting with anything else. Tried "gag" thinking somehow "It's got teeth(mouth" covered??? which gave me garbage for the "refuse work." What a mess I made.

Clicked on the Check Puzzle and pulled out the errors and then it all came clear. But a big DNF for a beautiful Saturday puzzle.

Also don't understand ITEM for "two stars?"

I agree with @kitschef re hiking dangers and the rarity of bear attacks. Being reminded of all the other dangers was disconcerting since my husband is hiking miles every day in Pisgah Nat Forest here in western NC to prep for the Maine AT in early July. Our neighbors see more bears in their back yards after birdfeeders than he sees on the trail but other dangers are real.

Lots of clever cluing.

Nancy 9:53 AM  

Tough and cleverly clued all the way through, and I was feeling oh-so-smart...until I stumbled into the Southeast. But my start was propitious. From somewhere out of my foggy memory I remembered MAHATMA, and once I had ALE, leading to EPOCHAL and NOT HERE, MENACHEM -- which I'd suspected from the Begin-ning, but hadn't written in until I was able to confirm it, was now a gimme. Everything was falling into place. And then the SE...

I, too, had sAW, instead of JAW. But even when I corrected I never saw JUNK ART. I've never heard of JUNK ART. I had JUNKeRs. Not knowing MARIAH was a big problem, and I finally gritted my JAW teeth and looked her up. "Drivel" at 38A, where I had the SH, could have been TOSH or BOSH or PISH -- I had no idea. I had wEre instead of BEEN for "lived" at 44D, then corrected to a B when I thought of BARK AT. BEEN is the one clue/answer that I strenuously object to. I don't think it's fair or accurate. And I never thought of ICE GIANT, though I had ICE. JUNKeRs gave me an incorrect S, and so I had N----SEE at 52A and never saw NINTH TEE. So, not being able to TEASE APART the SE, I finally threw in the HOT TOWEL, decided it was all much too TAXING, realized I wouldn't have an EPOCHAL solve, and came here -- dying of curiosity. A very good puzzle -- with one very bad clue/answer.

Forsythia 9:57 AM  

Oops, SE not SW.

bucktail 10:08 AM  

I'm a real puzzle amateur so, even though it took me just under an hour, I finished...... No Cheating!!!!!! Glad to hear even one comment that rated it "challenging".

RooMonster 10:13 AM  

Hey All !
Only one small square to get you into NW and SE corners. But the middle openness was a nice counterbalance. Pretty light (if any) dreck considering the grid design. BETAMALE was odd, to me.

Only a F and Q from a pangram. F's get no respect. :-)

TARZAN twice in a row, and ZIT instead of ACNE. Improvement?


Lars 10:15 AM  

Got stumped by the cluing in the north. Was on the right track on many but couldn't get it together without help. Center and south except CGI crossing OGEE worked out, but wrote in BEEN and LOOSED under protest. As Nancy don't think been and lived is quite the same and thought loose in its various forms implies some affinity or relaxed contact but not completely free.

But, quite happy with as far as I got and Saturday puzzles should be hard. Wasn't too long ago that I would get less than half done and then see Rex say it was easy.

Lewis 10:17 AM  

@forsythia -- Where do you live in WNC? I'm in Asheville.

Be still my heart, Rex called a NYT puzzle "very good"!

"I've been in Asheville for six years." -- There's a use of BEEN as "lived", I believe.

A delicious puzzle, what with the clean grid, despite all the whiteness, and especially the clever and tricky cluing: ITEM MENACHEM, EVE, ETON, DINE, BOAS, SAW, STAT, JUNKART, DNA_TESTING. I like the EDGING on the puzzle's edging, and I love the JAW/SAW misdirect. I wanted "sue me!" for "So _____".

I feel so good after doing this puzzle, not so much because I solved it, but because it is simply so lovely. This is a work of art as well as skill.

mathgent 10:21 AM  

BEEN for "Lived." It is a little off but it's sort of a crossword convention. Some form of the verb to be clued by live or a synonym like exist. "They've been in that house for years."

Lars 10:34 AM  

@mathgent. Agree if the clue was "Lived (in)" that I would have no problem with BEEN as answer per your example. But stand alone seems iffier. But maybe that is just fine for Saturday while on easier days a preposition might have been used but not required.

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

Apologies if this is duplication, but in response to @Forsythia, a celebrity couple, both partners to which are "stars," may be written up in a gossip column (or the modern equivalent) as being an ITEM.

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

I do not get 22A

Maxine Nerdström 10:44 AM  

i really wanted 50A to be gargoyle rather than OGEEARCH. that answer is well out of my wheelhouse.

although i knew it was utterly unlikely for anything to end in J, i spent some time trying to make "whoPperjr" work for 31A, HAPPYMEAL.

i'm new to crosswords and generally find fridays and saturdays quite daunting, but i could tell this puzzle had been carefully made and i enjoyed it.

the part that very nearly ruined it for me was the Men's Rights Movement cluing for 21D, subservient sort = BETAMALE. ugh. kinda surprised Rex didn't mention it as he's often more attuned to racist/sexist content than i am. if you're not familiar with the language of Alphas, Betas, Cucks, Feminazis, etc employed by MRA types, let me just say it's a rabbit hole that will make you feel sad about the world. unless you believe feminism is a poison and men are systemically oppressed by women.

Anonymous 10:48 AM  

Loved the refuse work clue. I was so focused on refuse and not refuse.

Maruchka 10:53 AM  

So relieved that OGEE ARCH wasn't the dreaded 'apse'. Lovely puzzle, indeed. Tough and fair (which was first 24A stab). TEASE APART isn't what I want to do to my hair, though. Don't split those ends! Wish my JAW had more teeth..

There's a lot of strength in BETA MALEs. Subservience seems an odd clue, meant zoologically perhaps?

Aflame/ABLAZE, loosen/LOOSED, lane/BASE, as one/CLONE. Googled to get ACHENE and cheated on 27A. Wanted 'D'iaper somethin'.

What is the sound of one hand clapping? Two hands for you, Mr. Diehl.

Mohair Sam 10:53 AM  

My Heavens! This was beauty. I did a total Rex at MENACHEM. We had five of the eight letters in place and puzzle partner said "Hey, what was Bay-Gins first name?" - To which I replied, "MENACHEM, what's that got to do with anything?" Blank stare from her, then sh*t-eatin' grin, then she took the puzzle and wrote in the missing M,C, and E. Time passed. . . . . and eventually the exact "Oh sh*t" reaction we got from Rex. Great clue.

Medium/Challenging for us. Whatever crunchy means - this was it. Hand up for hoSE before BASE. Lady M had INAPANIC off the "C" then lost faith and whited it out, ten minutes later it won back its place. This golfer needed his golf widow for NINTHTEE. Aflame before ABLAZE had me wondering what mENMONK were. I actually use the word LOOSED from time to time, it's great when you're playing with hyperbole.

SANKA - Navy pilot Donald Francis Mason sent the famous message "Sighted Sub SANK Same" upon destroying the first U-Boat sunk by US forces in World War II. Sometimes subs sink too far, maybe they shoulda drank High Point.

@Loren - Sad MEAL - Great stuff. But antMAN as somebody the third? What were you thinking?

Terrific Saturday Mark Diehl. Thank you.

Jim Finder 10:55 AM  

Could someone please explain Runner's place = Base? Thanks.

Nancy 11:04 AM  

@Jim Finder -- a base runner is on BASE.

@Loren -- I also loved your description of a sad MEAL. I agree with you heartily. And you picked such wonderful examples!

Anonymous 11:19 AM  

These days "Junk Art" is redundant.

JJ_Rural_MO 11:19 AM  

I ran through this in record time - throwing down answers with surety (assuming that word can still be used without riling folks on both ends of the spectrum; I guess I could have added ",bigly" for emphasis).
"1A - not sure; 1D - has to be Mahatma!" and I was off, streaking down the puzzle. Only stumble, like many others, was NINehole for NINTHTEE, but even that didn't slow me down much.
Anyway, I was certain I'd come here to read Rex excoriate NYT for running a middling-Wednesday puzzle on a Saturday and was stunned, just stunned, that it rated a medium-challenging from him and several others. While I was solving I was thinking to myself "This must be how Rex solves a Saturday. No going through 3/4 of the puzzle with nothing but blank squares, hoping for something, anything, to provide purchase.
I will bask in my fleeting alpha maleness for the moment, until the world intrudes again.

Anonymous 11:28 AM  

The other way to say clueless arrogant asshole is Z.

Former coed who isn't crazy about his mansplaining

Geometricus 11:30 AM  

Got MENACHEM right away, then later doubted it and took it out, only to plunk it right back in.

Also fell for sAW.

@LMS, your hilarious "sad meal" comments made me think of this clip from Pinky and the Brain. https://youtu.be/Yae8llOq3QU?t=3m1s

Calsolver 11:39 AM  

More of a Wednesday solver, but liked it. I didn't have to Google as many as I usually do on a Saturday, was able to get most of it from noodling

Rob 11:39 AM  

A baserunner (batter) in baseball, I think.

Rob 11:40 AM  

Hard! Good puzzle, but man, I worked for that one.

jberg 11:46 AM  

I filled in the entire SASH across the middle of this Boy Scout uniform, but with the left shoulder and the right hip totally blank. But I'd been working the crosses, and had never got to MARS, so when I went back that gave me a foothold, as did sAW in the SE. Unfortunately, I never fixed the latter -- just figured sUN KART was some kind of brand name trash collection gizmo -- we've got solar powered trash compactors spotted around the city, so why not a solar powered cart? So boohoo to that DNF.

I didn't know ACHENE at all, but more important I thought strawberry seeds were just little pips stuck in the fruit (which is apparently 'supportive tissue,' not real fruit at all), so I couldn't see what they could have in common with sunflower seeds. Fortunately, the crosses gave me everything there.

DNA testing isn't just to determine the parents, is it? Don't they also do it to detect possible genetic diseases?

It took me too long to think of HOT TOWEL, but Sweet Adeline wouldn't fit, so I eventually thought it through.

Hartley70 11:48 AM  

I filled in the NW in a blink and then I started to struggle. My way in was TARZAN, not because I knew the answer, but because for some reason answers seem to repeat themselves on subsequent days. I gave it a try, successfully. I would give this a medium difficulty Saturday rating, but it was above average in enjoyability. KOAN was a mystery so I admit to giggling for its meaning to finish.

Hartley70 11:49 AM  

Giggle, giggle, I meant "googling".

Miss Misery 11:50 AM  

Ooh look. The word "male."
Quick, let me pull out my microscope
so I can find something to be angry
and self-righteously indignant about.
Surely I can find something to trigger
me so I can rant and find trouble
where there is none.
All I want is to draw attention to myself
and spoil this puzzle for everyone. Is that
asking too much?
It's all about me anyways right?

Maxine Nerdström 12:13 PM  

I mean, we can attribute much of the current political climate to the Men's Rights movement, which overlaps a great deal with White Nationalism and the Alt-Right. But sure, anyone objecting to that is just manufacturing outrage. Anyone who cares about the way that language matters is just making everything about themself. It's not like young men are out there committing terrorist acts because they've been radicalized into thinking any women they are "nice" to must sleep with them. Eliot Rodger literally had an MRA manifesto and posted his plans on MRA message boards.


Richard 12:16 PM  

I tried WITHFRIES in the middle, then HAMBURGER. Hungry now.

Adam Frank 12:16 PM  

I enjoyed this. Really wanted 30A to be "HEART ATTACK" when I had _E_R_T_ACK, but alas, not enough letters. So BEAR ATTACK went in smoothly, which opened up the middle and SW.

I loved the cluing - tough but fair (esp. MENACHEM, although my cryptic solving let me see that it was his first name - but my aha! moment came after I had MENA_HEM and it still took me a while!), and very few proper names or specialized knowledge required (O'Neill contemporary was the closest the puzzle came, and INGE went in pretty easily with a couple crosses).

I also had mAW for jAW, but realized mUNKART wasn't going to cut it. :)

Great puzzle - more like this, please!

Masked and Anonymous 12:24 PM  

My brain cells are all currently cowerin in a back corner of the den. Talk about yer trip to the dentist (Dr. Diehl's novocaine mom-ent and pop business, btw).

Like most feisty SatPuzs, the M&A entry point was chosen mostly and desperately at random: MARS and LOX. Food items; sorta figures. LOX fanned out into LOOSED/ASAIATIC/AMI/ETON, and off we limped, the precious nanoseconds gushin out behind us, like swollen waterfalls of bewilderment dotted with small paddleless rafts of ahar moments. But, I wax po-ed-ic …

ZENMONK taxed m&e. Had the ZEN part, once AFLAME and I parted ways (yo, @muse). When in doubt, go with "U", sooo … ended up tryin out ZENMUNK. Probably only a title bestowed on buck-toothed Kola nut contemplators.

BEARATTACK. har. Talk about yer worse case scenario hiker dangers. M&A was tryin to come up with some likelier answer -- more in the INGROWNTOENAIL/LOSTBACKPACK realm of maladies. But … The Yosemite park ranger gal gave us a neat lecture on bears. She did mention that their fave finds in bear autopsies are air horns and bear repellent spray cans. Don't even get me started, on her Mazda Bear story… But, I digress.

Like magnifico beast @Z pointed out, hard to blast out of them NW and SE corners. M&A was lucky to start out in the long NE/SW corridor, and then work my way into them more closed-off sections, (much) later on after passin all my DNA tests. Overall, this SatPuz was good for me, becuz I suffered.

fave clue: {Begin at the beginning?}. fave word: JUNKART. fave Eau de Speration moment: TEASEAPART. staff weeject pick: AMI -- nice collateral BetaFrench.

Thanx, Dr. Diehl. Well, shut mah mouth -- only one U? Re-rinse, please.

Masked & AnonymoUs


Daryl 12:30 PM  

Great puzzle, including great cluing. Got a fast time for me (14:49) perhaps because MARIAH ASKANCE and APOLLO were in my wheel house and dropped in without crosses. BOAS for bright camp wear was my favourite.

GILL I. 12:43 PM  

@Rex...My *VERY* first entry was MENACHEM followed by MAHATMA. I was on fire for about 2 seconds. Had to work Reeeeealy hard but I kept thinking WHAT a beaut. MILITARY next in and from the Y I got the HAPPY MEAL. I try and stay away from McDonald's as much as I can because of my tawdry affair with Big Mac. My DEPENDENTS loved it though because of those cheap little gimmicky toys they got.
The DNA TESTING gave me the hardest time. Thanks @Anony 2:47 for an explanation. I kept thinking we sure as hell better know who the mom is...!
All the "?" clues were just plain cruel but fun. Like people who love to whip themselves and feel better after they bleed.
Like the rest, I came to a standstill in the SE. I had MARIAH and that was it. Managed to get ARCH but OGEE was OPEN for a while. Gothic architecture =OGEE oh, gee, of course. My favorite Gothic structure is the Florence Cathedral - treasure of the Italian Renaissance. Cologne Cathedral is pretty impressive as well. My sister would always say "You've seen one, you've seen them all" Then she'd whine and want to eat ice cream.
A DNF because I didn't know SAGET, couldn't come up with BARK AT and SUNK ART sounds AOK for this has-been artiste...
Grand puzzle Mark Diehl.

hankster65 12:57 PM  

Just shy of two hours of enjoyable head bashing to beat it into submission. Having a toothache last week immediately gave me JAW. Desperately wanted Milky Way maker to be STAR and that coupled with the super tricky Mr. Begin made the NW downright pesky. Great puzzle.

Masked and Anonymous 12:59 PM  

Almost forgot [since braincells were still off in the corner somewhere] … really admired the superb constructioneer craftiness that went into this puz's grid and cluin. This sucker really cleaned my solveteeth, STAT, tho. Got gummed up a lot. Rooted around without my thinkin caps. Couldn't quite bridge the gaps. Etc.

Anyhoo. Good job, doc.


Malsdemare 1:01 PM  

Not. A. Chance. This chewed me up and spit me out.

My dog got the zooms three days ago, raced into the bedroom where I was just waking up, and as I started to curl into a ball because I KNEW she was going to leap onto the bed as she made her mad circuit, she rammed my left knee, which rammed into my right. Said dog weighs 75 lbs., and was moving at a mad clip. Impact was dramatic.

Now why is this relevant? Because this puzzle was just the thing to hold my attention as I sit here with ice packs on my knees.

phil phil 1:14 PM  

Glad to see Rex have it tough on a saturday I finished
A few good/bad guesses.
(45a: john Clayton...) batmAN
(27a: Mom and Pop business) ptAmEeTING
MILITARYsomething helped get a toe hold. Knew it wasn't budgets but like the L got me HOTTOWEL.

so it was doable and enjoyable to suss out and finish.
And no rap stars or other celebrities. Except Mariah Carey.

SANKA love it...the clue that is

phil phil 1:25 PM  

@LMS thanks for make me smile post.
After checking the post can't believe Only I thought of GAR for it has teeth.

Stanley Hudson 1:38 PM  

A great Saturday puzzle. Thank you, Mr. Diehl.


Prancing Fop 1:50 PM  

Does anyone remember mirth?

Joe Dipinto 2:15 PM  

@AW 8:33 - re first question: think Brangelina.

Anonymous 2:19 PM  

Put in DNAESTORE had a hard time with that one

Thomaso808 2:20 PM  

Rex's long discussion about "beginning" being so unfair reminded me of a Rosanne Rosannadana piece. "Oh, beginning means first name? (pause) Nevermind."

I also got sucked in with the sAW / sUNKART cross. I had to go to Xwordinfo to find my mistake. And the first thing I saw there was that photo of Dr. Diehl sitting under some giant teeth, grinning away and holding his tools up ready to go to work. Amazing that there are at least four three-letter words (cog, maw, jaw, saw) for something that has teeth.

Great puzzle, Doc!

foxaroni 2:32 PM  

"It's got teeth?" My first try was GUM.

Thanks, @Miss Misery. You nailed it.

Mr. Fitch 2:49 PM  

This was an excellent puzzle. I actually put in Menachem right off the bat, thinking it was likely wrong. On Saturdays I come into it thinking, "what's the most obscure misdirect this could be?" If something comes to mind, I try it.

I came in well below my normal time, but was a little lucky in getting there. The rest I though was hard but smooth, just as Saturday should be.

Malsdemare 2:59 PM  

@Hankster65. Honest to god, my brain cells are huddled with M&A; I didn't get the MENACHEM clue until you linked to Mr. begin. And this is after reading rex and all the comments. M&A, we must NOT let our brain cells mix their DNA.

Feminist and Proud SJW 3:12 PM  

@Two Ponies, Miss Misery, Ken R, evil doug, martyvanb, and mansplaining, sexist Anonymice,

Yer jigs are just about up, snowflakes and cupcakes.

Anonymous 3:21 PM  

Regarding Rex' last comment about mom and pop DNA. There is at least one case in history where a mother had a very difficult time proving she was indeed the mother, even after a DNA test!

Here's a link to the story: http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/shes-twin/story?id=2315693

It was a nightmare for the mom-- it turns out she had *two* sets of DNA. She was a chimera, a person formed from two individual, fraternal twins who merged in the womb. The DNA that produced the eggs that gave rise to her children represented one of the merged twins, while the DNA taken from a cheek swab and blood test was provided by the other.

Two Ponies 3:40 PM  

Angry feminists remind me of an Irish Setter living in an apartment.
They have all of this energy but no natural outlet. They bark constantly and tear stuff up.

Men do not dare open a door for a lady anymore. Simple respect and good manners are spit on.
Girls dress like sluts and accuse the boys who look at them of objectifying them.
The men who say they are feminists might just being looking for some way to please these unpleasable women and get laid.

Real women don't need feminism.

Anonymous 3:54 PM  

@two ponies

so much anger. up your meds. they arent working. we're concerned.

Two Ponies 4:09 PM  

Spare me your patronizing attitude.
I'm not the one smashing people in the head with a bike lock.

Three and out.

Bella 4:27 PM  

Took me about 20 minutes. I laughed when I figured out Menachem at about MEN_C__M; thank you "We Didn't Start The Fire" because I would otherwise be too young to have heard of him.

JIM Murphy 4:28 PM  

Thanks, I'm glad someone made this point.

Crane Poole 4:41 PM  

Thrilled to have completed this challenging puzzle. Best advice ever was "walk away, come back later, look at it again". If ever that was appropriate, that was today. Had to be ten minutes finding that last nib though... sAW for JAW. Was worried about the two barely connected corners but those two filled first. I'm not so keen on (trim) = EDGING. Back to back TARZANs and just a little late for Johnny Weismuller's birthday. As Jughead used to say, O GEE ARCH, we did it.

Lurker Librarian 4:44 PM  

Plunked in MAHATMA/MENACHiM right off the bat, then ended at the same place when iiE made no sense and I finally saw EVE.

When I was a kid in the 70s, my father had a standing joke about the "begin freeway" signs you see after a stretch with cross traffic: "Why is it always the Begin Freeway? Why not Sadat?"

Aketi 5:02 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frieda 5:10 PM  

They are each a friend (AMI) of the other, clued French with "et".

Mohair Sam 5:29 PM  

So I read "Brave New World" ages ago, great book. And I've seen a bunch of nature shows about wolf packs. But my head is spinning with the discussions of, and spats about, the true meaning of alpha and BETA MALES and females here. I usually celebrate the fact that I always learn something new in the Times puzzle, but today I honestly wish I hadn't learned a damned thing.

CDilly52 5:55 PM  

Learning interesting (if not immediately relevant or useful) things from the neighborhood here is why I read. I consider my 30 seconds well spent.

CDilly52 6:03 PM  

Hand up for cog!

Anonymous 6:10 PM  

Biggest surprise on the blog today? @Two Ponies is a woman, or so her profile says. Doesn't she sound like a rage-blinded, woman-hating male of the most odious self-pitying sort? A man who feels himself to be a victim? Is it even worse that such hate-filled venom is coming from a woman? What could be the cause of such anger? Hey, lady, lead whatever kind of non-feminist life you choose to lead, and let other women lead the sorts of lives THEY choose to lead. And don't you DARE to decree who's the "real woman". What incredible, obnoxious arrogance.

Aketi 6:10 PM  

@Malsdemare, sorry about your knees.

@Larry Gilstrap and @Z, I feel the same way about BETA Moms, which is what I briefly considered as an entry before plunking down the ALE instead. A while ago in the perpetual media obsession with needlessly fueling the mommy wars there was an article in some magazine about alpha moms. Most of us decided BETAs were better. Just like the episodes in lemur kingdom, the alpha moms were only allowed to be alphas for as long the BETAs tolerated them. They were constantly being deposed. Way too much work and far too precarious to be an alpha.

Norm 6:49 PM  

@Anonymous 3:21 -- Thank you for that link. I will definitely remember it if a tricky DNA issue comes through our court. Whoa.

Carola 6:53 PM  

WHAT a HAPPY MEAL of a puzzle - so many tasty morsels to savor. However, I ran into pockets gristle in the SE, with my first guess at "Refuse work" being "cartAge," (crossing "cog," with its teeth), but then I rejected it for OGEE Apse (hi, @Maruchka!); also went wrong with a stab at Berate for the reprimand. Eraser city. Anyway, finally got it, and after reading @Rex, I'm glad I never thought of sAW (although the cross of SANK and sUNK would have been cute).

Anonymous 6:55 PM  

Two Ponies sounds pretty damned reasonable to me.
Sorry you're a cowardly lesboz.
Give me a call when you build something. Hell, even fix something.
I'm so tired of women carping.
Anyone else?

CDilly52 9:57 PM  

Oh my, what y'all said about the good, the bad and the very very little ugly. Longest Saturday solve ever. Chalk it up to crossword hubris- again, dang it! Minutes before I was planning to "begin" I had just been chatting with my daughter about the monument to the nonviolent peace movement in the city park in Sebastapol, CA. It features a Ghandi quote at the top (yes, right under the oh-so-hippie peace sign) and we were discussing how we both tend to misspell Ghandi and thanking the spelling gods that MAHATMA is phonetic. Then the Begin clue immediately reminded me of "Begin the Beguine" which, for some crazy reason reminded me that it might be Begin, not begin. The M was all I needed and I blasted through the NW, thinking how I was going to crush this puzzle. And was stopped dead in my tracks.

You have all summed it up. Superb effort, wonderful misdirects (COG for me before Maw, then Saw and finally JAW! OGEE ARCH I knew thanks to crosswords and my architect-brother-in-law. But mostly mistake after mistake after mistake.

Took me all day; longest Saturday solve time ever (ruined my graph for sure), but what an absolute gem.

EdTech@mjbha 10:52 PM  

I'm pretty sure "at the beginning " meant that it was Begin's first name.

pwoodfin 7:05 PM  

Martin, utmost respect but "your" welcome?! Less so: "interested in [want] I was... (just a typo) but wordsmiths such as you should really know better than your vs you're. But thanks for the ogee info!

william levine 7:31 PM  

"To be or not to be..."(to live or to not(suicide)). So to be can be to live. Like in 'being'. So BEEN is not only acceptable for Lived but quite nice.

Anonymous 2:03 PM  

"it's got teeth" = it is got teeth.
Grammar gone fishin'?

fakt chekker 11:39 AM  

@anon 2:03 - It's got teeth = It has got teeth. Brain gone fishin'?

Burma Shave 11:53 AM  


EVE had an EPOCHAL EGGDROP and thence
THERE in Eden, INAPANIC, wanted SECS.
She begat no CLONEs as DEPENDENTS,
and no DNATESTING ALTERS the effects.


spacecraft 12:21 PM  

MARS and ALE gave me MAHATMA, soon followed by MENACHEM. Had I not been doing these for a while now, I'd never have gotten that, but I'm starting to compile a rudimentary "Misdirection Lexicon" of clue trickery. Surprised that OFL, with his vastly superior experience, didn't grok that sooner. So the NW, for a welcome change, laid itself down--albeit that ACHENE seed thingy had to be totally crossed in.

With MI- to start the long down and "general" in the clue, I immediately thought MILITARY something. But that would put Y in the middle of that ultra-common fast food order (quick aside: I love the oxymoron FAST FOOD!), and I couldn't come up with anything right away.

On to the SE gimme, head, shoulders and you-know-whats over the DOD competition MARIAH. One of many hands up for sAW, my only writeover. My predilection for golf gave a lucky assist to getting NINTHTEE, and the SE was done.

Still, I needed another start, and found it in TARZAN/ZIT. Wow, old Lord Greystoke would be surprised to be a bleedover subject. Makes me think--not for the first time--that constructors see something they like in a published puzzle and immediately churn out a grid using same. At last, things spilled over into the center, and with just the H I saw HAPPYMEAL, and was done.

I am doubly surprised at the m-c rating; for me it was medium or maybe even easy-medium--for a Saturday. I love @Barney Rubble's tweet: yeah, kinda hard to miss the mom end of it! Impressive wide-open grid, though with single-square access to the NW and SE. Very clean fill. A solid birdie from that NINTHTEE.

rondo 12:24 PM  

Maybe not EPOCHAL, but a really fine puz. Thought all the clues were fair, even the tough ones. Like so many others I fell for soso as the ITEM and sAW for JAW. Held off with A_LA_E for a bit in case it was AfLAmE. Good thing.

@Diana,LIW gets to DINE on her LOX again.

Saw yeah baby MARIAH Carey in Chicago on Valentine's Day c. 2010. When lifting her to a riser those poor little BETAMALE dancers had all they could do to get her THERE. Let's just say she's not as slim as when her 9x platinum album was released. TONNAGE comes to mind.

Too nice a puz to look ASKANCE or BARKAT.

Diana,LIW 1:38 PM  

This puzzle had me as soon as it Begin. Thought Mr. B. spelled his last name closer to Bagal. Speaking of LOX, I had rye. Me. Knowing that Nova is awaiting in your deli.

Soso, ape (EVE), lane, ETS, ibid. Hamburger. MUSH! Wouldn't let me TEASEAPART the solve. So I SANKA dnf.

So close, and yet so far. Proud to finally get NINTHTEE and CGI. TONNAGE fell in place.

I've been wondering. Ever start to fill in a puzzle with the wrong words and then confirm them with the wrong crosses? Even wonder if you could fill in an entire puzzle with the wrong answers? Has anyone ever constructed such a puzzle on purpose? Do tell!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Alternative Answers

leftcoastTAM 4:39 PM  

Thought I was a goner before getting footholds in the NW and SE, but the big, wide NE to SW swath was tougher to deal with.

BOAS, TEASE, and PENSION were the problems. I'll have to take the blame for them, which made for some ramifications elsewhere, but I sussed most of that out.

New, obscure word: ACHENE.

Cluing was fair and often clever. Coulda, shoulda, woulda done better, buy no way to excuse a plain DNF.

Diana,LIW 5:06 PM  

Today's derma problem - ACHENE - HE has ACNE


Lady Di

leftcoastTAM 5:12 PM  

@Lady Di:
One thing I've learned after many years of doing these things is to avoid following up one doubtful entry with another, especially a cross.

Maybe a puzzle could be constructed with all "wrong" answers if the cluing and revealer were well chosen. That could be fun. Interesting idea.

rain forest 6:24 PM  

Definitely challenging pour moi. When I saw the narrow openings in the NW and the SE, I focused my attention there to see if I could get out. I actually found those areas the least difficult. Slapped JAW right off, MARIAH a gimme, as well as CGI. MARS ALE THERE MAHATMA(coat), etc.

The NE and SW were the hardest for me. Took forever to get LOX (d'oh), thinking of a plural, ZEN MONK took a long time.

The middle was a combination of WHAT THE? and straightforward.

Devilish cluing throughout brought much joy to the challenge. Great puzzle.

centralscrewtinizer 7:17 PM  

Put down HALL for runner's place and went downhill from there, but eventually climbed out of that hole and many others and finished clean.
They don't MENACHEM like this one very often.

strayling 7:36 PM  

It's been a while since I've found a puzzle so satisfying to solve. So many obvious-but-wrong traps (GAS/ICE GIANT/WORLD was very nice).

Nu Male 1:53 AM  

I loved this puzzle! Rex, I think you were reaching for David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first PM. (A fine 15-letter, grid-spanning name.) MARS and ALE gave me the -MA and I filled in MAHATMA right away. 8d MILITARY PENSION clue was brilliant. Had (SAW) and (MAW) instead of JAW. (GAS) GIANT instead of ICE GIANT. JUNK ART was the last thing in.Ended up with an average Saturday time. Satisfaction above average :)

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