PC Key / FRI 9-22-17 / PC Key

Friday, September 22, 2017

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Medium-Difficult

THEME: No theme

Word of the Day: TAPIOCA (35D: Thickening agent) —
Tapioca (/ˌtæpɪˈkə/; Portuguese pronunciation: [tapiˈɔkɐ]) is a starch extracted from cassava root (Manihot esculenta). This species is native to the northeast region of Brazil, but its use spread throughout South America. The plant was carried by Portuguese and Spanish explorers to most of the West Indies and Africa and Asia. It is a tropical, perennial shrub that is less commonly cultivated in temperate climate zones. Cassava thrives better in poor soils than many other food plants.
Although tapioca is a staple food for millions of people in tropical countries, it is devoid of nutrition and low in food energy. In developed countries, it is used as a thickening agent in various manufactured foods. (Wikipedia)
• • •
TAPIOCA is great. It's the boba in BOBA TEA ((7) yet to appear in a NYT crossword puzzle) and it's in the pudding that you perhaps instinctively avoided as a child. I say let's bring it back, elevate TAPIOCA pudding, "Chef's Table" style. Hi, it's Lena filling in for Rex today.

Well I have to say it was weird having to jump out of the nest with barely any feathers into a tri-stack of 14s. I had to treat this like a downs only puzzle for a bit there and that put it on the challenging side for me. I hung around in the middle and then it was SARDINE (8D: Fish typically preserved in olive oil) that got me up to the North, followed by SEEN (5D: Not overlooked) and CERAMIC (3D: Kind of tile). Speaking of chefs and their tables, there is a nice restaurant here in Boston called haley.henry and they focus on tinned fish-- SARDINEs, anchovies, EEL-- and exceptional wines. And chips.

Anyway, are those would-be marquees ultimately worth not being able to get started in the across direction right away? Sure. ROMANTIC PERIOD (49A: Wordsworth, Coleridge and Byron wrote in it) is kinda boring but the rest, especially ICING ON THE CAKE (54A: An additional plus) and MI CASA ES SU CASA (1A: Welcoming words), are fun-- and all except THREE CAR GARAGE (16A: Roomy storage space) are debut entries.

I had ROUTS for ROMPS (44A: Humiliating defeats) because, well, of course that's what I'm going to put there-- I look up ROUT and get "disastrous defeat" whereas ROMP's main definitions have nothing to do with either humiliation or losing. We will, we will ROMP you <stomp stomp clap>

The short fill caused by the stacks isn't too bad but I was aware of the presence of both CTR (NFL Position: Abbr.) and CTRL (11D: PC Key). SIGURD (9D: Brynhild's beloved, in Norse legend) certainly did not spring out of the brain easily, and I hadn't heard of conductor ESA-Pekka Salonen-- so overall I would say the North gave me the most trouble. In the South, I enjoyed the tricky clue for DOCTOR (41D: One who's gotten the third degree?) but didn't feel similarly about the one for TIME INC (36D: Life preserver?). Then I started getting cranky about both of them. "What if you didn't get your Masters in between undergrad and grad school? Do you count your high school diploma?"

Overall though there are lots of clever clues in this puzzle (ONE (39D: Small square)!) and I liked INHERES (2D: Exists naturally) because now I have a deeper understanding of the word "inherent." Ta-da! So even though it was slow-going for me at times it was satisfying in the end, and an interesting grid with those 14s-- cheater marquees?

Signed, Lena Webb, Court Jester of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


kitshef 7:19 AM  

The Ransom of Red Chief is one of those stories we had to read in school. Some of those stories really made an impression on me: The Lottery and The Open Window come to mind. But Ransom, not so much.

On the other hand, I loved the movie Ruthless People, which has some similarities to the story.

Fun facts: O Henry invented the term ‘banana republic’ and created the Cisco Kid.

Puzzle was pleasant enough, but not one of Steinberg’s best. Played easy and has a weird echoey feel with PHI and THETA, CTR and CTRL, MIT and MIR, MACE and MAZE. And the cluing was bizarrely literal – where is the word play? Well, I loved the clue for ONE, but that’s really it for tickle-me frivolity.

Hungry Mother 7:24 AM  

Much faster than the usual Friday for me. I seemed to get the long acrosses without any difficulty.

Two Ponies 7:28 AM  

There's a restaurant that serves you fish from a can with potato chips? Must be some impressive marketing going on there.

Better than usual from Mr. Steinberg.
I'm surprised at the debut answers.

Forsythia 7:29 AM  

Top was challenging, especially since I had UDAhL and CTRL and AHA and thought that one across was maybe with "so glad yoU CAme." INHERES was last to fall, no idea on that. Much I didn't know but crosses fell into place. Still don't understand ONE for "small square"? I kept trying DE? something for what turned out to be ELI, but nice not to have a Yale clue on that. I was misdirected easily on "old ball and chain" and put in MAtE. Like @Lena, I had ROut before ROMP, and while waiting for the blog to be up, I did the Bonus Puzzle which clued the same with the answer ROUT so I felt vindicated, even if wrong!
Nice to finish a later week puzzle without resorting to "Check." So many have been far out of my ken.

Forsythia 7:31 AM  

Oh, and I have very fond memories of Ransom of Red Chief, as well as many other O'Henry stories. Maybe because I had a pesky younger brother??!! Or because I was a pesky younger sister to my older sibs?

Mark 7:34 AM  

I thought the puzzle was satisfactorily difficult and all the long across good. But one clue infuriated me. 43A, components in Ohm's Law, is wrong. The unit for current is an Ampere, not an amp. Amp is slang for it, or maybe, you could say, short for it. If the answer for Philadelphia University is "Penn" it always says something like "for short" in the clue, because the full answer is University is Pennsylvania. It's the same things thing here.

Mark 7:36 AM  

Sorry, University of Pennsylvania

Cliff Robinson 7:39 AM  

Should the clue for TIMEINC have had signified an abbreviation?
Also, how do Lena/Michael choose which clues to put in the title of each day's post?

Mark 7:39 AM  

Forsythia, one is the numerical square of one in the same way that four is the square of two. So that makes one a square, and it's a small compared to the squares of other integers. It's a hard clue. I figured out the clue after getting the answer from crosses.

BarbieBarbie 7:40 AM  

Now THIS is an example of a great puzzle. I now see why the themeless fans pine for puzzles that keep you interested without any meta gimmicks. Wow. David S was already my favorite name to see at the top of the page. This puzzle reinforces my fanhood.
Only one question: can someone explain the clue for ONE?
And one comment: the unit for current is Ampere, so AMPS should have been clued to indicate abbr, casual, or whatever. Minor, minor, minor. Thanks.

clk 7:42 AM  

After my first run though, I thought this would be one of those impossible puzzles but little by little it all fell. Very satisfying.

The only one I didn't like was DOCTOR. In my neck of the academic world (biomedical basic sciences), it's pretty uncommon to get a masters degree on the way to your doctorate. Maybe it's different in the liberal arts, but that clue fell flat for me. A high school diploma doesn't really seem to count as a degree.

ONE squared is ONE, making it a small square.

BarbieBarbie 7:43 AM  

Sorry twice to @Mark. My q crossed your a (thanks) and I didn't see the AMPS echo until too late.

Hartley70 7:44 AM  

Here we have another puzzle that I would rate easy (for a Friday) this week. So far Thursday gets my vote for POW. That's not to say that I don't really enjoy a David Steinberg puzzle and that I don't really appreciate a puzzle with stacks because I do.

I also noticed that the top half of the puzzle was much easier than the bottom for me. I had to use the crosses for the stacks below. TIMEINC was especially tricky. Yuck to TAPIOCA even today. All those little eyes would still bother me. Is Miami really called that? By who?Strange. I feel like winking at @Nancy.

This was sweet, but over way too fast.

Anonymous 7:44 AM  

Getting the degree which is third in order of degrees isn't the same thing as getting YOUR third degree.

RAD2626 7:45 AM  

Liked puzzle and cluing a lot. Needed almost all the crosses for MI CASA ES SU CASA even after I had the two other 14's in the stack. Third degree and one clues were terrific.

If a restaurant features sardines, anchovies and eel, it better have exceptional wines, and lots of them.

Rosebud 7:46 AM  

If 9D had been ATHENA, that would have sprung easily from your brain. Or at least from Zeus brain.

Frightened dog 7:49 AM  

DOTARD used in NYT crosswords 13 times."Senile sort" was the clue four times.

Mohair Sam 8:15 AM  

Would have been an easy Friday except we don't know how to spell in Spanish, nor do we know Pekka Salonen. But we guessed well. And please don't holler, but REI doesn't ring any bells to we non-campers either (that filled easily enough).

Always thought it was ScHTICK, but what do I know from Yiddish? Risked putting in INEVERSAIDTHAT without crosses and got away with it (Phew). I hate the taste/sight of SASRDINEs, I'll probably come back as a porpoise.

@Kitshef (7:19) - Did not know Cisco Kid was O Henry's creation. A fan of both separately. Fun fact for sure.

@Lena - ROMPS is cool as clued, this Philadelphia sports fan has had his teams humiliated often enough to know. Disagree on your TAPIOCA pudding take too, loved it as a kid. And love it when you're our Guest Fearless Leader, always good stuff.

Joe 8:19 AM  

Can someone please explain how REI is the answer to the clue about having a tent sale? I don't understand why a king would have a tent sale.

QuasiMojo 8:25 AM  

SIGURD was my first answer. Then ESA. (I guess Lena that we are not on the same wavelength, but I identified with your struggle nontheless. Nice writeup as always.)

Fun Friday even if it felt a bit creaky.

I do cry foul, however, at the omission of THE in "Romantic Period." Romantic Period by itself is meaningless.

Three car garage is absurd, although I think Gloria Swanson had one in Sunset Boulevard.

Didn't TIME INC. "kill" LIFE rather than preserve it? Or is it like a bad penny that keeps coming back? (Time Inc. is the corporate name, I believe, so I'm not sure it's being abbreviated needs to be indicated, to answer the fellow above...)

O. Henry wrote some cool stuff. I wonder if Rex teaches him in his "noir" class. :) I prefer the OH HENRY chocolate bar.

Peggy Lee sang a mean MAMBO.

kitshef 8:25 AM  

@Joe - REI stands for Recreational Equipment, Inc. - a cooperative that sells, among other things, camping gear.

sf27shirley 8:26 AM  

REI is a chain store that sells camping equipment, among other outdoor gear.

Arlene 8:26 AM  

REI = Recreational Equipment Inc
A chain of outdoor equipment stores

QuasiMojo 8:26 AM  

oops "its" above. Just a typo, @GrammarNazi

Sir Hillary 8:28 AM  

I love Steinberg's puzzles, and even though this one doesn't live up to his very best work, it's still really good.

For me this was a "Gosford Park" or "Downton Abbey" experience -- that is, a huge difference above and below the "stairs". Downstairs, I had no trouble -- MAZE and BAZOOKA were first in, and I flew from there. Upstairs was a totally different story (sorry) -- even with UDALL and SWIRL as gimmes, it took me a long time to see much of anything else. Finally, INEVERSAIDTHAT showed itself, and I methodically finished from there. INHERES / EARN was last in.

MICASAESSUCASA is a stunning opener -- fun (yes, even inviting) yet with letter strings that don't really suggest much, at least not in English (duh!). The other 14s are also great, and CAREERCRIMINAL comes via my favorite clue in the puzzle.

Fitting that ESA and SIGURD are way up north, while MIAMIAN is down south.

Never heard of IAN Somerhalder, so learned something. And it was nice to see ELI clued without reference to Yale or Manning.

My only beef is too many "?" clues. I know there are only six, but they're all in the bottom of the puzzle, so it felt like I was getting one every other clue or so. One who can't turn right? and Life preserver? are excellent, but the rest seemed forced. Today I liked the more straightforward misdirects like Small square and Nice thanks.

In sum, never a DULL moment, which is all I can ask for.

Nancy 8:37 AM  

A beauty. This falls perfectly into the themeless category that I told Lewis the other day would make a memorable puzzle: you think you won't find a single toehold, but you do, and you finish it, and it's completely fair, and you feel like the smartest person in the world for having solved it. I got in in the NE, the NW having been impossible, other than SEEN at 5D. I also wanted SARDINE, but was afraid to write it in too early. UDALL; AHA; ATELIER; INKY; CHEEK and CHIME were my toeholds in the NE. Plenty of chances to go wrong: I also had ROuts before ROMPS (44A), plus ShARp before STARK (22D); and MAtE before MACE at 47A (a deliberate and amusing misdirection, I'm fairly sure). MI CASA ES SU CASA was a huge AHA for me when it came in: I don't speak Spanish, but of course I've heard it. Another big AHA when CAREER CRIMINAL came in. And I loved ICING ON THE CAKE, which may have been the ICING ON THE CAKE of this crunchy and well-clued puzzle.

mmorgan 8:44 AM  

One of those puzzles that I just stared and stared at for a long time and then after getting a word here and there, it somehow filled itself in fairly quickly. Stuck for a long time with MAtE for 47A (Old ball and chain?).

Rob 8:45 AM  

I hope I'm not the only one who, with no other letters, immediately filled in 55A: One who can't turn right? with DEREK ZOOLANDER. It fit, although I realized shortly after that, if memory serves, it was turning left he had trouble with. I wish that had been the answer. I'd have loved the puzzle despite its other deficiencies.

I either didn't like or didn't understand TIME, INC. Is that the company that owns the magazine? If so, I think the clue is a stretch. If not, then I guess it just went over my head.

I too had ROUTS for ROMPS. Don't like THE MAMBO, I never really like THE in clues outside of specific cases like movie titles.

I tend to agree with Lena that the long acrosses didn't merit the gymnastics required. Half I thought were nice (MI CASA ES SU CASA, I NEVER SAID THAT, and ICING ON THE CAKE), and the rest were a bit bland.

Usually even if I struggle with a Steinberg puzzle I'm impressed with it after; this one left me a bit cold.

Stuart Showalter 8:48 AM  

What a pleasure not to read Rex’s whining today! 😄
For those of us in SoCal, Esa-Pekka came easily from his stint at the LA Philharmonic.

Lewis 8:50 AM  

A couple of days ago I asked what makes for a high quality puzzle, and now we've had two exemplars in a row, IMO. (Hi, @barbiebarbie and @nancy!)

There was hardly a gimme here, but persistence paid off and produced "Got it!" after "Got it!" Tentatively put in THE MAFIA while my inner voice kept saying "Not exactly!" SIGURD popped right out of my brain, I know not from where. Lovely clues for OPEDS, STAND, TIMEINC, and more. Nice pairing of "MI CASA ES SU CASA" with MIAMIANS. And a second day mini-theme of double EE's (5).

I plugged and plugged away at this but it never ever felt like a trudge. Best kind of puzzle for me. Gracias, David!

Anonymous 8:52 AM  

MACE is not a ball and chain.

Lewis 8:53 AM  

By the way, in his notes, David said he made this puzzle while in his senior year of high school.

mathgent 8:54 AM  

I think that I read every O. Henry short story when I was in high school. And then those of E.A. Poe. That made me believe that all short stories had surprise endings. I recently reread The Short Stories by Ernest Hemingway. The Snows of Kilimanjaro blew me away once again.

David Steinberg submitted this puzzle a couple of years ago, he writes on Jeff Chen's blog. Did he get paid then or now?

I liked some if it and I disliked some of it. Good crunch -- it made me work. Liked the clue for MACE, ROMANTICPERIOD, the clue for OPEDS, HOMERIC, the clue for MIR.

But didn't like the clue for CAREERCRIMINAL, THEMAMBO, the clue for ROMPS, the overly cute clue for DOCTOR ("the" third degree), the clue for PHI.

I've liked Steinberg's more recent puzzles a lot more.

Nancy 9:12 AM  

I find it even more interesting that O HENRY created the term "banana republic" than that he created The Cisco Kid. I would have thought it more likely that the term would have been coined by a more political writer or satirist -- say H.L Mencken or Will Rogers or Aldous Huxley or George Orwell. But it was a lot of fun to learn these "fun facts", and thanks to @kitshef for both of them.

@Mohair and @RAD2626. I'm no cook, but I bet I could make you a SARDINE pate that you'd actually love. I mix in red wine vinegar, mayo and Worcestershire sauce, and serve it on crackers. I adore SARDINES, btw, but when you're eating the ones that come out of a can, you do have to temper the saltiness and fishiness. However, one of the best dishes I've ever eaten were fresh SARDINES, grilled as an appetizer in a French restaurant. Fresh sardines aren't salty at all: they're simply a really tasty oily fish, sort of like mackerel, only better. I've always wondered why people who order fish seek out fish that isn't "too fishy" -- the really DULL, tasteless ones like flounder and cod. To me, it's like ordering beef that doesn't taste "too beefy" or, heaven forfend, chocolate that doesn't taste "too chocolate-y". I like fish with a deep reservoir of flavor, usually because of oil: salmon, tuna, mackerel, even the misunderstood and unloved bluefish. I also will order striped bass and red snapper, which do have some flavor -- but only when they have an interesting sauce to make them...interesting.

RickA 9:14 AM  

Small point, but while "CTR" is of course an abbreviation of "center," it would never appear as an abbreviation for a football center. That abbreviation is just "c".

hankster65 9:24 AM  

Tremendously enjoyed this one. Some beginning moments of "I'll never finish this sucker," followed by some pleasant aha moments, ending in victory. Yeah, I liked it.

Too Cool 9:31 AM  

Have you been to haley.henry?
Nobody and I mean Nobody uses a can opener like they do!
You really must try it.

Steve M 9:34 AM  

Wonderful Friday doable but mind expanding

evil doug 9:41 AM  

aroma-->SmelL-->icIng(but 54A)-->SWIRL

SARDINE (can) crossing roomy THREE CAR GARAGE.

Thought maybe racecar drivers were the constant left-turners....

johnny stocker 9:53 AM  

To me this felt like a Saturday. It's been a loooong time since I had to stare at a grid this long to get a foothold.

Biff Gnarly 10:10 AM  

47A is just wrong. If it has a chain it is a flail. A mace just has the ball attached to the end of a pole/handle. And even with that description you still have to differentiate between a mace and a morningstar. But a ball and chain is a flail.

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

The Pimienta Pancakes...
one of my favorites by O Henry.

Carola 10:17 AM  

Uh-oh, I thought, jet lag meets David Steinberg. But it turned into a sort of slow-motion ROMP, unexpectedly delightfully doable.
My way in was an incorrect guess at ArI x INKY x THIN, CHEEKY, OHENRY. That gave me the courage to go back and chip away at the upper tier, and it was square by AHA square from there.

The two AHAs I missed were failing to correct aLI to ELI, so that my grouse was a SAGa HEN (which nicely complements both SIGURD and HOMERIC, actually) and the overlooked blank "square," O?E (which I didn't understand until coming here).

Do-overs: SIfrid before SIGURD and HOME Run before HOMERIC - that one was such a delightful penny-drop moment. I'd thought maybe "grand" was a baseball term like "tater," which I learned here.

@kitshef, I add my thanks for the O'Henry lore.

Anonymous 10:23 AM  


I disagree. Crossword puzzles turn on small things. As you correctly point out, CTR is never, ever used for center in football. It's a big thing and mistake flat out ( no matter what Z digs up and charge's to the recuse with. LOL).
I suspect the gent or gents with knowledge of weaponry are right about the mace/flail distinction to.

Thanks for the nice puzzle D. Steinberg.

Maruchka 10:28 AM  

Whee! What a ride. I loved it. Thanks, DS. I'd surely like to see you here more often..

Cam recommend the '40s film "OHENRYs Full House". Five short stories narrated by John Steinbeck, including ''The Ransom of Red Chief" (Oscar Levant and Fred Allen are a hoot). Old timey feel to it, and it works.

Maruchka 10:29 AM  

That's CAN recommend..

ArtO 10:40 AM  

Same issues that most have expressed. Actually got a bit of help from spouse who usually gives up after Wednesday...but, persevered and eventually had the satisfaction of a completion. Not remembering Mo (UDALL) was annoying but fell finally after sussing out MICASAESSUCASA (a great clue/answer).

jberg 10:42 AM  

I really loved this one -- all those long acrosses, with five of them everyday expressions. (ROMANTIC PERIOD is weaker, I agree). It was actually fairly easy because the expressions are so common that I could guess them from a letter or two. Some times I guessed them wrong, as in I did not say THAT, but then the mistake was fixed easily.

It's always been my understanding (well, not ALWAYS -- someone pointed it out to me on this blog a few years back) that late-week puzzles do not have to be explicit about abbreviations and informal ways of putting things. That's one way the difficulty level is raised.

I agree that an MD is usually a second degree; even if the med school gives you a token MA somewhere along the line, no one pays any attention to that. But I'll chalk that up to the constructor's youth.

As for ROMPS, I put in ROutS, like everyone else -- it's only a romp for the victors, so it doesn't seem right as clued.

@Lena, thanks for the great write-up! I haven't been to that restaurant, but will certainly give it a try. By the way, your link seems to lead to a place called Hatley that sells children's pajamas; but I found the right one. They describe themselves as a "wine bar" with not only tinned fish but ceviche, crudo, charcuterie, and cheese. I can't wait!

Those griping about the definition of MACE, here's the Duck Duck Go image page. Good enough for me.

puzzlehoarder 10:49 AM  

I couldn't get the puzzle to download on my tablet at the firehouse last night hence the late comment. This was much easier than yesterday's. When puzzles feature long stacks like today's did they're what I like to think of as "Wheel of Fortune" puzzles. It's usually just a matter of how many downs you need to figure out the phrases. Maybe the Times could come up with an online "buy a vowel" option as a way to generate income. The other day someone complained about comments in big blocks of type. Mine are always like. The times I've tried to break them up the computer just converts them back to blocks. There's another thing I'll have to get my wife to teach me. As for the puzzle like I said it was an easy entertaining solve.

Brian 10:50 AM  

CTRL ALT DEL in grid. The alt is diagonal starting in UDALL. Puzzle allows for a reboot.

Aketi 10:53 AM  

This one was in my wheelhouse. I adore SARDINEs in cans and fresh. The Hudson Garden Grill at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx used to have a tin of SARDINEs included in their "Seafood Charcuterie Nosh" along with an octopus terrine to die for. Sad that the SARDINEs are no longer part of the nosh, but glad that the octopus terrine is still part of the mix. The best way to get a table without reservations is to have a late lucnch at the bar where you can watch the food prep. Love going to the gardens for the walks and the food.

JC66 11:07 AM  


To add to the confusion, here's Duck Duck Goose image page for flail


Frank LaPosta Visco 11:10 AM  

Probably shouldn't even admit this, but for the old "ball and chain" answer, i had "mate."

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

@JC66, @Jberg,

There's no gripe. There's no confusion. A mace has no chain.
You can't really expect adults to be swayed by the images on a website, can you? Would you accept that for anything that mattered to you? Or what you take a poke around and come to the conclusion that the web page you consulted is in error and the thousands of other sites which aver that a mace has no chaine are correct? Sheesh.

Sir Hillary 11:19 AM  

@Brian -- CTRL ALT DEL...Love it!

You inspired me to look again at the grid. Appropriately enough, if you start at the second C in CAREERCRIMINAL, move NW and then turn S, you get CONMAN.

Bob Mills 11:24 AM  

I had "ROUTS" for a long time, until the crosses gave me "ROMPS." I agree it's bad clueing. A romp is a pleasure ride, not something that embarrasses anyone. A rout is embarrassing. The clue for "MACE" is also very misleading. Otherwise, good.

semioticus (shelbyl) 11:34 AM  

cc: The constructor yesterday

See, your clues don't have to be super cryptic to be fun/smart. Just look at today's puzzle. Thanks.

Trombone Tom 11:46 AM  

Enjoyed this Steinberg puzzle with its interesting stacks. Usually David S. stumps me effectively but today we seemed to be on the same wavelength and I was able to throw down one entry after another with relative ease. Because of that strange simpatico, this ended up on the easy side for me today, but I can see where many would find it difficult.

Last entry was ONE and I think that clue was absolutely primo.

John 11:50 AM  

It's weird. Some Fridays, after staring at them, just seem to unfold, tapping the education, experience, and meaningless trivia I've accumulated over the years. Then I read that commenters find them hard, unfair, and aggravating. Then, other times it's the reverse, like today. Sigurd and The Mambo were unknown to me. I had Miamian and "mi casa," etc., but nothing, for 20 minutes, so I looked them up and the thing was done. And commenters today find it easy. Wired, like I said.

John 11:52 AM  

Typo on last weird

Lewis 11:53 AM  

@mathgent -- He got paid now.

old timer 11:59 AM  

When I was little, chocolate TAPIOCA pudding was my favorite dessert.

A satisfying and tough Friday for me. I got ESA, UDALL SAGEHEN and ATELIER right off the bat, and figured I NEVER SAID THAT would be right, but after that was stuck in the top section. Fortunately, CHEEK and CHIME led me to think about the dance crazes of my youth, and once I had THEMAMBO the entire bottom filled itself in. I loved ICING ON THE CAKE.

The top section became clear only when ESCAPADE came to mind, leading to ARMY and CERAMIC. Did anyone else wonder if "Scrabble" would fit there? A letter short I see, but when I think "tile" I always think "scrabble".

Thanks for filling in, Lena.

GILL I. 12:01 PM  

If you really want to be welcoming you'd say "TU" CASA. SU is so formal these days...
This was a stare fest for a while until I entered MERCI and saw the man I grew up with - Perez Prado - beckoning me to fill in THE MAMBO King. @mathgent - just curious - why didn't you like this clue. That is what he was and quite famous. Think "I Love Lucy."
Anyway, I worked from the south up. Got all three 14's off of MIR PHI BAZOOKA. Sounds like a law firm.
SARDINE and UDALL pried open the north a bit. @Mohair: Take the Mrs. with you on a trip to La Coruna, Spain. Start in San Sebastian and work your way across the Bay of Biscay and eat fresh SARDINES. @Nancy is right (but not a CAREER CRIMINAL I don't think). They are so delicious that my mouth is watering now just thinking about them. You'll get a huge platter of grilled little sardines that you eat like corn on the cob; you chomp around the spine. Order some fresh cider to wash those yummies down..
Strangely, my biggest hang-up was seeing SHTICK. I had the RIC and OCA in place down in the north; TAPIOCA next in then HOMERIC and empty spaces that were slowly filled in after a cup of coffee.
Loving DS these days and I always enjoy his cluing.
MIAMIANS do say they are the Capital of Latin America except most are Cubans and I'm sticking to it being the Caribbean....

Big Steve 46 12:26 PM  

I am always amused by the petty whiners in these comments: like exactly how the center on a football team is abbreviated or the actual components of a medieval mace. Did anyone not get the answer to those clues because of those quibbles? If so, better give up x word solving and try a new hobby. Its only a crossword and the creator has to get a hint across in a word or two - and being close is good enough. The rest is up to you.

Biff Gnarly 12:30 PM  

On the other hand, precision in language, knowledge, grammar, etc. is a real part of what crosswords are about to me. At least with respect to the better quality puzzles out there, assuming this one still meets that definition.

Davis 12:39 PM  

Corporate lawyer here. To respond to a discussion above, when a company incorporates it chooses some version of "Inc.", "Inc", "Ltd.", "Incorporated", etc. to include as part of its name. (Delaware, and probably all other states, require some kind of entity signifier attached at the end.) Whatever you choose, that is then part of the company's "official" name. It looks like Time incorporated as "Time Inc." So I would say that in context, "Inc." is not an abbreviation, because it would be incorrect to refer to the company as "Time Incorporated".

Kimberly 12:42 PM  

I know "tromp," not "romp" for a defeat. A romp is a run through a park, a dance in the dark, a riotous lark.

Pretty sure the times "romp" was used for "tromp" were tin-eared errors that made their way into the mainstream and thus, like irregardless, should be avoided by polite company. Language evolves but does not need to be bastardized.

Anonymous 12:52 PM  


I invite you to reconsider. As you correctly note, a romp is easy, pleasant, no effort at all, a pleasure. When kicking the crud out of an inferior opponent, similar feelings apply. It's fun, effortless as easy as a riotous traverse of the park. hence a romp. I can cite many usages of this purported bastardization. Can you provide me any uses of tromp for a big win?

Two Ponies 12:53 PM  

I think it is the sign of a good puzzle when the nits are so small that a microscope is required.
As @ Big Steve 12:26 said, it is a clue, a hint, not a carved-in-stone definition. The clue was enough to give me mace and the image in my mind was a stick with a ball attached by a chain. So my third degree is not in ancient weaponry, so what? I got it anyway.

Anonymous 12:54 PM  

Biff G,

Don't bother, man, Steve has one those tin ears Kimberly was complaining about.

Mohair Sam 12:54 PM  

@Gill I. (and @Nancy) - When Lady M and I are reincarnated as porpoises in the next life we'll be sure to swim the Bay of Biscay with our school pals and eat your hideous SARDINEs by the tens of thousands.

I think these tastes are instilled when we're kids. A few years back we visited our son and daughter-in-law-to-be in D.C. She recommended a sushi restaurant and I nixed the idea with my usual "you-forgot-to-cook-this" joke about raw sea food. Hate sushi. So we went to Legal Seafood where I promptly ordered a dozen raw clams for myself. Born and raised on the south shore of Long Island I saw no contradiction at all - why would you ruin clams by heating them? The young lady married our son anyhow (she just wisely avoids me).

@Everybody - My Phillies and Sixers are a combined 341 and 624 over the past 4 years. They have been routed out and ROMPed over. ROMP is fine, I've seen the headlines repeatedly.

I thought MACEs were chain free, but it filled (suggested "wife" but got hit). Then saw an anon argue MACE was wrong - so I googled MACE and didn't see a chain in any of several pix. Hmmmm. And yes, AMPS is an abbreviation, I hesitated there because we weren't told.

Anoa Bob 1:00 PM  

We would occasionally have TAPIOCA pudding on the table when I was a kid. I don't remember anyone actually eating the wretched stuff. It was one step below wallpaper glue on my ranking of foods-good-to-eat. I see in @Lena's blurb that it is "devoid of nutrition and low in food energy". I was right!

I went through a poetry phase during undergrad years. My favorite was the ROMANTIC PERIOD poet Wordsworth, so seeing that, even without the THE, was a treat. Dropped it in right away with only the R in 45D MERCI in place.

I went through a SPACY ACIDS phase during grad school years. It was never done for pleasure or entertainment. An ESCAPADE could become much, much too STARK for that.

How about "Wise fowl?" for 13D SAGEHEN?

Anonymous 1:28 PM  

I still don't get ALE for 21D.

Teedmn 1:34 PM  

A great Friday puzzle in the "classic" sense, as @Nancy describes it, with the difficult toeholds and the "whew" feeling when you successfully finish. My first in was ARMY (vs. Navy but CERAMIC confirmed which side was needed).

ALE coming in yards gave me ESCAPism. This held up the NW for ages (what fish in olive oil ends with M? None, apparently). I actually solved the NW negatively. CTRL next to oHo had me thinking, "Well, "WelCOme is in the 1A clue so it can't end with that, and "roomy" is in the clue for 16A so it can't end with ROom.." Somehow I made enough guesses on the small stuff to have the MI CASA ES SU CASA AHA and that let me finish.

A THREE CAR GARAGE is only roomy if you don't have stuff to put in it. Our 4 1/2 stalls were never empty, but after my Dad moved in, we gained two cars and tons of junk (I mean, beloved belongings which just couldn't be disposed of) to be stored along with everything we had in our basement, where Dad now resides. Actually only one of the cars made the cut - the other one sits in the drive, which we never had to do before. :(

I really liked the clue for STAR - Critic's assignment - such a great misdirection. Thanks, David, another great puzzle!

Masked and Anonymous 1:56 PM  

Toughie to get a toenail hold into. Finally tried ARMY/ALE. Then LEI. Then ESCAPADE usin the assumed S to end whatever the plural {Exists naturally} was. Then unusual two-day-streaker SPACY. Just kept fillin the stuff in, after that. A pleasant themeless solvequest.

weeject finalists: REI. ESA. DEL. CTR. REI had the hardest clue. Altho, had no idea on Mr. Pekka Salonen, either. Names aren't great ahar moments, tho. Sooo … REI gets staff weeject pick, and ESA gets staff weeject Pekka.

Luv the stacks of shade squares in the NE and SW corners. Opens the grid up for the fertile ground of unused 14-letter fillins. fave: ICINGONTHECAKE.

fave clue: {Cinnabon feature} = SWIRL. Mainly becuz of that there "cinnabon" word. [yummers]

Thanx, Mr. Steinberg. And Thanx, Lena darlin ... mi puz es tu puz.

Masked & Anonymo2Us


Cassieopia 2:15 PM  

A google and cheat-fest for me. Still can't hang with the big guys/gals on Fridays and Saturdays, anthough I finished the North half of the puzzle with only a few googles. Progress? On the flip side, this camping gal got REI right away. Small victories...

Agree with Mark at 7:34 on AMP especially since I googled it and only saw ampere and ohm as units - not an AMP in sight. That one did bug me.

John V 2:23 PM  

Pretty easy stuff, esp from Steinberg. Loved the odd looking 14 stacks, which were the ICING ON THE CAKE!

Joe Dipinto 2:36 PM  

@Anon 1:28 -- a yard is a kind of drinking vessel.

OISK 2:43 PM  

Sitting on my back porch enjoying a quarter-yard of (Bass) ale, smiling at having finished a Steinberg. I could join the complaints about "amps", and REI, ( have seen that one before) but what for? This was a fine Friday puzzle, and I agree with Nancy's comments, as well as many others. I didn't comment yesterday, so I will add that I really liked that one too. Such a gorgeous day in NY...

Joe Dipinto 3:01 PM  
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Anonymous 3:05 PM  

Thanks, Joe Dipinto.

Joe Dipinto 3:07 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle. As a lad I once received an O. Henry anthology as a present, and "The Ransom Of Red Chief was the first story I read -- I loved his stories ever since.

Re the mace issue, a perfunctory Google search seems to reveal that it is indeed *not* a ball and chain. I feel like lately there's this kind of "well, it's close enough" attitude about the cluing, and accuracy is often sacrificed just to be clever or to misdirect. I suspect this is more the doing of the editors than the constructors.

mathgent 3:12 PM  

@Lewis (11:53): Thanks for the information. While NYT was sitting on his puzzle, was Steinberg free to submit it elsewhere?

@Gill I (12:01): I didn't like THEMAMBO. I would have been fine with MAMBO.

Alex 3:20 PM  

Holy smokes. As @Lewis mentioned, David Steinberg built this puzzle when he was in high school. In and around his AP exams. Again, holy smokes.
I liked this puzzle. I didn't AHA on ONE until after I had filled it in. Then a looong pause. Then it clicked.
I will weigh in with the few who thought the clue for DOCTOR was fine. It is the terminal degree in many fields. Which have Bachelor, Master and PhD.

Lewis 3:32 PM  

@mathgent -- It's not in writing, but I believe the understanding is that once a puzzle is accepted, you do not shop it elsewhere.

Larry Gilstrap 3:49 PM  

When confronted with a puzzle featuring gigantic stacks, intimidation lurks in this solver's mind. We've all been there, I assume. But if you trust the NYT to be fair and use the conventions of construction, eventually the squares get filled. Fulfilling, no pun intended.

I haven't read O. HENRY since I taught 8th grade, but it seemed somewhat formulaic and dated, not in a good way. I could be wrong. Rather spend my time and effort on the writers of the ROMANTIC PERIOD, you know: Byron, Kelley, and Sheats. I heard that one in college.

My wife keeps a Top Five List of men she loves, one for the living and one for the dead. Hey, I'm on the list with ESA-Pekka. I'm afraid to ask about my enumeration. He is a world renowned and accomplished musician, composer, and conductor. Also, he is kinda dreamy, I'm told. And now the LA PHIL has that dynamic young Venezuelan, Gustavo Dudamel. If you ever have a chance to see a show at Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall, don't miss it. Heads up! The acoustics are intimidating. Bring an unwrapped cough drop and don't come hungry. It's that intimate.

Joe Bleaux 3:55 PM  

Big "aha" for me, too (hi, @Nancy) on 1A, followed by a steady solve of another solid David Steinberg puzzle. Me, too, on rout-to-ROMP, which I gave up only after I abandoned hope of any kind of life preserver starting with TIUIE. Thanks all, for 'splainin REI. Before I listen to Perez Prado's "Patricia" (Google if you don't remember it), a rare childhood anecdote, thanks to @kitshef: When I was little (hi, @old timer), I was in the car with my old man at my little hometown's only red light. In front of us was a car pulling a small green trailer with "Duncan Renaldo" written in lariat-style lettering on the back. Recognizing the name from the TV credits, I went effing *nuts.* "That's the Cisco Kid! The CISCO KID!" Long story short, my dad eased around the car and trailer and tooted the horn as I hung out the window and waved. And then, to my utter amazement, Mr. Renaldo pulled over and stopped! By the time I ran back to his car, the Cisco Kid himself was standing there, smiling broadly, and seemingly happy to shake hands, sign an autograph, and then ride away, leaving a little boy in Kentucky walking on air. Oh, Ceeeessco!

Mohair Sam 4:18 PM  

@Joe Bleaux - What a memory to have, I'll envy you forever - I flat out loved The Cisco Kid.

JC66 4:27 PM  
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JC66 4:32 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
JC66 4:33 PM  

@Joe Bleaux

Great story!

As Poncho would say, "lets went."

Joe Dipinto 5:00 PM  

@mathgent 3:12 - But Perez Prado's nickname was "King Of THE Mambo" -- and the clue did use quote marks.

@Joe B 3:55 -- now "Patricia" is an earworm in my head! (I guess "Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White" will be next on my cranial playlist.). And that is a great Cisco Kid story!

More puzz observations: I too almost put in ROUTS, but before I did I got the M in TIME INC, so I knew ROUTS would be wrong. But on reflection, I think this is another example of sloppy cluing. A ROMP is an easy win for the winning team; a ROUT is an easy win for the winning team *and* a humiliating defeat for the losing team. But you would never say of the losing team that "they lost in a romp," or "they got romped in last night's game.". To me, ROMP has only a positive connotation relating to victory; it is not a synonym for a "humiliating defeat."

Anyway, that's my $.02 that I'm "chiming in" with.

Lewis 5:17 PM  

@joebleaux -- Great story!

jae 5:29 PM  

Easy-medium for me. The 14s were not too tough which made up for some of the obscure downs.

Me too for RoutS before ROMPS plus anchovy before SARDINE

@jberg is right that late-week puzzles, to AMP up the difficulty level, do not have to be explicit about abbreviations. I remember reading this in some guidelines for puzzle construction put out by (I believe) the NYT. The Newsday Saturday Stumper also frequently does not cue abbrs.

Excellent stacks, liked it.

Hartley70 5:32 PM  

@Joe Bleaux, you bleaux me away with that anecdote. Great memory!

Questinia 6:29 PM  

This was Patrick Berry but more al dente.

MetroGnome 6:49 PM  

Okay, so who/what is is AVERY, and how is he/she/it a "label producer"?

And also -- although in general I loved the puzzle -- gotta call "foul" on REI -- obscure brand-name initials that I'm sure most people have never heard of.

BarbieBarbie 7:04 PM  

@questina, good one.
ROMP wasn't perfect but you could be the winner in a humiliating defeat, which would make it a romp from your point of view.

I was going to rejoice that DS is so young it means we can look forward many decades of his work. But I just watched today's news, and the Tiny Dancer in the White House is going to get us all killed before DS has the chance. Sorry to bring politics into the puzzle blog. But, it is no longer politics. It's life and death. We need to pay attention. Stop listening to those auto-tuned commercial narrators and start looking at facts. Get Tillerson to do his damn job. Put the cork back in Tweetie Bird. Stop posturing about a medical plan to replace another one we already have, and start fixing problems that aren't yet tackled. Get some work done. Don't blow us up.

Then we can look forward to decades of great puzzles from David.

MetroGnome 7:16 PM  

"Rocket Man!" "Dotard!" "Nyah, Nya-Nyah Nyah Nyah!"

Uh -- when did the entire world become transformed into a 6th-Grade locker room?

Joe Dipinto 7:40 PM  

@MetroGnome -- Avery is, in fact, a company that produces all different shapes and sizes of blank labels for business or personal use. Most offices will have a supply of Avery labels. I use them on my spice containers at home.

Anonymous 8:32 PM  

@Joe Dipinto
Your romp/rout differentiation is the very definition of a distinction without a difference.

Aketi 8:52 PM  

@Metrognome, I've been a member of REI since 1979. Not that obscure.

JC66 8:56 PM  

As a winner you can ROMP or rout. As a loser, you can only be routed, not romped.

Nancy 9:26 PM  

Very well said, and Amen, @BarbieBarbie and @MetroGnome. We older folks on the blog almost got blown up in 1962 (which we all knew about) and then again, it seems, in 1984 which we didn't know about.* Or at least I didn't. But what's happening now is 100 times more frightening because there are no grownups in the room anymore. The Doomsday Clock has been moved forward a minute or two, but probably not enough.

*See the 60 Minutes piece on "The Man who Saved The World". He was a Russian, btw.

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BS2 12:36 PM  




Diana, LIW 1:00 PM  

Finished, but not without a cheat or two. Starting out with MECASA... was fiendish. Good thing I jump all around the grid and don't get stuck in the NW.

Hand up with those who want a rout vs. a ROMP.

As ever, DS has a wide-ranging knowledge of "all kinds of stuff." (for lack of a better term

I looked in TJ's yesterday and found only pre-made pie crust. Of course, they did have Nova.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rondo 2:06 PM  

Well this one makes up for any lesser puzzles earlier this week. Spoiler alert if you do the Harper’s puzzle – ATELIER is in the current one, so, an unexpected gimme. And another SPACY for @spacey. I had to change omIT to SPIT and therefore OmEnS to OPEDS, otherwise clean.

I actually knew a fellow named SIGURD, but that’ll happen, or at least it used to, around these parts.

Classic “Nancy” comic strip –
Nancy: Oh, Sluggo . . . Please say something soft and sweet to me.
Sluggo: TAPIOCA!

I’ve notice that in most DS puzzles a yeah baby is hard to come by. Any stretch today would be awfully THIN.

DS EARNs his rep, this puz was not DULL.

spacecraft 2:07 PM  

Thanks, David, I needed that. I'll take an ESA and a REI (wha?) and even a CTRL/DEL (wonder what that does? I'm scared to find out) I'm stride, because at least I don't nave to deal with those stupid &wiches, or ueys or uies.

Way in was OHENRY; one of my all-time favorite films is OHENRUY's Full House, five short stories with the famous O'Henrian ironic twists. Ransom was one of those. It culminated in one of the most beloved stories ever: The Gift of the Magi.

This was one of those strange puzzles when you look at the clue list and think "I don't know any of this!"--yet after finding a toehold you discover that you DO know a lot of it. It takes talent to make a grid like that. Methinks it's time to retire the fresh-faced kid image and install Mr. Steinberg as an established STAR. Birdie.

Oh, no DOD today, unless we stretch it to the breaking point and call Gloria Estefan a MIAMIAN. Works for me.

rondo 2:11 PM  

I probably meant that in most DS puzzles a yeah baby is hard to find.

kitshef 2:24 PM  

Virginia WADE?

Anna Marie Iannitelli (aka AVERY)?

Anonymous 2:41 PM  

From Syndication Land:
When I do a David Steinberg puzzle, I always feel like I am back in high school and am taking a test I didn't study for! He probably was taking Spanish, studying the classics and physics! I did finish, but not without a struggle in the south. Had reach instead of RANGE for a long time which made the long crosses impossible to get. Finally saw the ICINGONTHECAKE and fixed my error. Fun Friday!

leftcoastTAM 2:56 PM  

"AHA!" I said on seeing David Steinberg's name on this one. "It'll be fun, clever, interesting and, best of all, fair and gettable."

And it was.

The last and most nettlesome entry was at the top: MICASAESSUCASA, particularly the MI, ES, and SU.

But I got 'em.

Thanks, David.

rainforest 2:59 PM  

One of those puzzles which took a lot of staring/searching/bemoaning before I (aha) hit on MAZE/MERCI. From there the entire South was relatively easy. I did hit a snag at ROMPS, entering ROutS, but TIME INC fixed that. I have no problem with ROMPS. If Clemson ROMPS, then Alabama feels humiliated, which is a good thing.

I found the North far more challenging, wondering if it was anchovy or SARDINE, and it took STAND to clear that up. Then I crawled through the downs before 1A came, helped by my remembrance of ESA Tikkanen, a good Finnish hockey player of yore.

I like TAPIOCA pudding; I don't like bubble tea.

Loved the Cisco Kid, and didn't know he was created by O HENRY, a favourite writer from my past.

I always like David Steinberg's creations.

thefogman 3:23 PM  

Late to the party again. I got shtuck on SHTICK for a while, but managed to finish anyways. I found this one challenging but it was not insurmountable. Clever and fun.

thefogman 5:32 PM  

@LeftyTAM: It's funny. My first big entry was MICASAESSUCASA. It was the game changer and everything flowed from that point onward.

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