FRIDAY, Oct. 5, 2007 - Lynn Lempel

Friday, October 5, 2007

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

Haven't hated a puzzle in a while, but I sure didn't not hate this one. Answers that are either blah or baffling or bizarre, clues that are too cute for their own good, question marks where they don't belong, and an overall leaden, austere, Maleska-on-a-bad-day feel. OK, that last assertion is not exactly true. Maleska on a bad day was absolutely punishing. But this was close. Thought I'd fly through this happily when I got 1D and 2D, and then SPRATS (32A: Famously fussy pair of diners) and LITES (24D: The Chi-_____ (1970s R & B group)) almost instantly. Alas. I did not fly, and I was not happy. One bright spot: Yankees got crushed last night, so my pain today is ever-so-slightly mitigated.

I have a personal aversion to using the same clue twice in the same puzzle. Seems lazy, not clever. And I especially hated today's nautical version of this technique, both because I know squat about sailing and because the answers were ugh-ish. DENSE FOG (1A: Navigation hazard) is certainly a phrase, but the DENSE part feels arbitrary. Could have been THICK. As for SHOAL (32D: Navigation hazard) ... I just don't like the word. Also don't like that it intersects another boring SAT word related to seafaring, DORIES (38A: Fishing boats).

Is a PEA SHELLER (27D: Seed-separating gizmo) even a real thing? Blech. Two of the crosses annoyed me too: 37A: In the style of: Suffix (-ese) - this is a language suffix to me - and 40A: _____ phenomenon (optical illusion) (phi) - no idea what the @#$! that means. While we're down in the SW, ILLER (46A: Not having as favorable a prognosis)? One rapper might be ILLER than another, but I completely challenge the idea that you would use that comparative adjective to refer to sick people. 56A: Bunny backer? (Hefner) is cute. But everything else down here is humdrum to bad. 58A: Risers meet them (treads) is a good example. "Risers," "treads"... these words are just fine, in their way, but they are not common or colorful and are generally part of a semi-specialized vocabulary, and when they pile up (DORIES, TREADS, STRUT, BRAD, EIRE, etc.), my eyes glaze over. Had STRIP for SPLIT (26A: Take off) and ELS for RRS (54D: Commuters' choices: Abbr.) down here.

Some of my problem was just ignorance. 17A: Married man who had long been a bachelor (Benedict) means absolutely nothing to me. I knew DEBS (1D: Five-time U.S. presidential candidate in the early 1900s) right off the bat, but the rest of the NW killed me. SCORELESS is a Terrible answer for 19A: Missing the point? It's not missing THE point, it's missing ANY POINTS! How many times do I have to groan audibly today!?

As for the people in the puzzle - they're OK. Loved Y.A. TITTLE (59A: QB who was the 1963 N.F.L. M.V.P.), who has one of the greatest names in sports history. KARZAI was pretty cool as well (42D: Post-Taliban Afghan president) - and it has a gorgeous and appropriate "Z"-cross: WAR ZONES (55A: Dangerous places for correspondents). The Kwote from KAFKA was especially awesome, in that it tapped into the feelings of soul-crushing despair I had as I was solving this puzzle (42A: He wrote "A first sign of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die"). Did HARTE actually tell stories about the Gold Rush, or was he just active during the Gold Rush (35A: Gold rush storyteller)? Haven't read him since high school, so I forget. Never heard of the song "Sadie, Sadie" (29A: When repeated, a "Funny Girl" song), but that may be because I like musicals about as much as I like seafaring. Hence my "...?" response to 47D: Mrs. Turnblad in "Hairspray" (Edna). I'll take OMAR SHARIF (12D: "Che!" title role player, 1969) any day of the week. He looks good in the grid.


  • TENT for LENT (11D: Carnival follower)
  • HEAD for LEAD (31A: Chief)
  • AT IT for IN IT (50D: Competing)
  • ANTHILLS for APIARIES (57A: Where workers gather) - that was good-cruel; could have used more of that
  • FALLS for FAILS (6D: Goes under)

Speaking of "goes under," why is there a "?" on 20D: Put under? when the answer is SEDATED? That's pretty close to literal, isn't it. I mean, it's an idiomatic expression, but still ... doesn't seem to merit the "?" PREMIE (16A: Special delivery?) felt a little ... unbreakfast-table-ish. Maybe that's not fair. No, certainly that's not fair. But there it is. Never heard of the SPARROW (29D: U.S. air-to-air missile), and barely know OSS (22A: W.W. II agcy.), though it seems very familiar, like it's been in the puzzle many a time. Hate TAPA as a singular (49D: Spanish hors d'oeuvre). I know many of you don't like it when Rex Parker GETS CARRIED AWAY (8D: Overdoes it) trashing a puzzle, thus failing to BE A SPORT (36D: "C'mon, do me this favor") and just say pleasant things. But I've been pretty nice lately, and I think the bile just backed up and had to come out eventually (now that's unbreakfast-table-ish).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Alex S. 9:43 AM  

I started out not liking it, but in the end did enjoy the puzzle a fair bit.

It was pretty Google resistant but when I just stared at a clue for a bit the sideways way of reading it eventually popped into my head allowing me to recover for a fair number of wrong entries.

I filled in BETTER IDEA almost perfectly from the last letter to the first, which unfortunately locked in the the assumption that it was something something A (like Option A, Option B, etc.). Even when I was staring at B-TTERIDEA I was unable to see IDE A as a single word and wondering if maybe BUTTE RIDE A was a colloquialism of the Southwest or something.

I, too, could fathom no meaning connecting BENEDICT to a longtime bachelor recently married. But gives exactly that definition for it. Apparently Benedick was just such a character in Much Ado About Nothing and it came into the language. Though I am certain I've never heard it. So it was probably in the language from 1600 to 1723 or something.

Orange 9:44 AM  

Dude, PREMIE has absolutely no unsavory connotations. My son was born two months early, and there's nothing gross about that.

Rex Parker 9:58 AM  

First, I said it was unfair. Second, it's the word, more than the concept (much more) that makes me squeamish.


barrywep 10:28 AM  

I liked the kinder gentler criticism. Hard hitting at times but not vituperative or personal. While Lynn Lempel is a veteran constructor I believe she is new to themeless puzzles. Hopefully she will improve.
I also found the puzzle hard but somewhat unfulfilling.I miss Byron.

Anonymous 10:30 AM  

I thought this puzzle was devilish. I got the SE quickly and the NW came next but was not easy. I too am in the ranks of having no idea who BENEDICT is or was.

SW took forever. A "me too" on PHI and kept trying to find a breakfast-table-friendly form of vomit for 34A (ejest - on online joke)

I had the bottom fill fairly early but decided that the last word in 26D had to me NIGHT which made 43 across NIL. Finally realized it was SLEEPTIGHT and the rest of that corner came quickly.

The NE and ME killed me. I misspelled CARZAI which gave me a CA for 42A which of course had to be CAMUS - who else?

Had STE, HER, AMI and BOLT in a stack, BOLT was my rock-solid lock of an answer. The dangling U on 13D bothered me but I figured it was some arcane swiss watchmakers jargon.

At the top of that corner I had seen the clue to 10D many times so the answer had to be IMPOSES, another lock.

That's when I put the puzzle down and backed away slowly.

A few hours later I blanked out the entire region (including BOLT) and realized there a lot K words and not C words in Afgahniatan.

Now I had KA and it had to be KAFKA. Filled in the stack as it was before and SHARIF popped right out, changing BOLT to BRAD, and the rest went fast.

I spent more time on this one corner than I have spent on entire Saturday puzzles.

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

Why hasn't one of you commented on the steroids clue as being demeaning to athletes? Nary a peep have I heard...

Anonymous 10:45 AM  

Completely with you on the question mark on "Put under?"...I balked at SEDATED for a while, since that seemed the surface meaning of the clue, not a punny one.

I'd say my overall impression was that this was a pretty good outing for someone who normally constructs themed puzzles...who knows where this may lead?

Anonymous 10:59 AM  

More on the word benedict's meaning:

Don Pedro: Well, as time shall try: ‘In time the savage bull
doth bear the yoke.’

Benedick: “The savage bull may; but if ever the sensible
Benedick bear it, pluck off the bull’s horns and set
them in my forehead: and let me be vilely painted,
and in such great letters as they write ‘Here is
good horse to hire,’ let them signify under my sign
‘Here you may see Benedick the married man.’

Much Ado About Nothing, I. i 260-68

benedict\ Ben"e*dict\, Benedick\ Ben"e*dict \, n [From Benedick, one of the characters in Shakespeare’s play of “Much Ado about Nothing”] A married man, or a man newly married.

Never heard of that word either.

PS. I hated this puzzle.

Like most mammals? Eared?


Spencer 10:59 AM  

I, too, had no clue about BENEDICT, but my daughter got it right away. She's an actor and took Shakespeare last year. She wasn't sure of the spelling, thought it might end in a K. Well, it does, in the play, but not in common usage. Go figure.

This puzzle hated me. Didn't help that I was fighting my circadian rhythm, and dozed a couple of times. With the help of Mr. Google, I did manage to finish it, but I'm not at all proud of my time.

Spencer 11:01 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Spencer 11:03 AM  

(Had typos, can't edit, so delete & repost.)

Oh, yeah. I had blocked out that word EARED. Worst clue ever. Well, maybe there have been worse. First I had HAIRY, then FURRY, then blanked. My daughter clearly was ready for sleep, but had to know what was going to go into that blank. When I finally got it, all from crosses, we both said "huh?"

Anonymous 11:22 AM  

I thought the clue for EARED was a fine alternative to the regular sea lion variety. "Eared" usually means "having a visible sound gathering organ." More properly called the "pinna" or "auricle," it distinguishes most mammals from other vertebrates, all of which can hear.

The few non-mammalian vertebrates (long-eared owl, eared grebe) and mammals (seals other than otaries) that are exceptions prove the rule that only mammals have visible ears.

Somtimes a WTF is just something you didn't know. Those are my favorite entries.

Anonymous 11:34 AM  

Scoreless really bothered me as well. I've noticed a few clues recently that try to be clever but end up sounding wrong and ridiculous (one was about tennis, and things being in or on lines, or something). Ugh.

Add me to the list of people who really didn't like this puzzle. Hard puzzles that rely on clever ways of cluing common(ish) words and phrases are good. This one had a lot of obscurities, specialized knowledge (almost all of the seafaring variety, which was strange), and seemingly arbitrary or wrong clues for me to actually plod through it completely. One of the few puzzles in a long time that I didn't even bother Googling when I got stuck.

Anonymous 11:36 AM  

Had same reaction to ? in put under, to the point that I went ahead and pencilled in SEDATED but remained convinced that I'd have to erase it.
Was familiar with eared vs. earless seals because French has two separate words for these two classes of beast(otarie and phoque, excuse my French...). It is admittedly unusual to see this as a characteristic of mammals, but strikes me as a fair and clever Friday clue.
I enjoyed the puzzle because I never got seriously bogged down for long, but agree that there are not very many tickle-me-pink answers.
How about this for a clue for 48A: Hookah.
Ah, put a lid on it YA TITTLE...

Anonymous 11:43 AM  

My friends call me Y.A. I remember well that tragic moment when the Niners, in a fit of Brodie-hubris, traded Tittle to the Giants where he went on to glory. Didn't he show up in the SE another time in the last 6 months or so? Sure seemed familiar.

Like Rick, I had bolt for BRAD. KARZAI wasn't working well, and I actually thought of changing it to "Carzai" so I could have "Camus". Like I really wanted a long answer ending in "u".

"Psi" in PHI's spot meant some nastiness in the SW, as did ILLER. The latter got me thinkning of Iler, Robert, and the final five minutes of the Sopranos. (A.J. - "Onion rings. Hhmmmm!" Tony, emphatically -- "Best in the state!")

Somehow I got "Degreed" instead of DECREED, thinking that maybe an ordained priest means a degreee has been attained, rendering me a GLOD (chump).

Unlike Isabella, I liked "Like most mammals" for EARED, mainly becase we see the uneared seal often. If you do not fold down the corner of a page, is it Eared (as opposed to dog-eared)? Just wondering.

CELS was good as I was thinking "Till" for drawer, so took some machinations to get out of the box.

After getting SHOAL, and seeing 1a ended in "og", I figured a Log was in play, sunken or some such, and actually went far enough astray to try "lulls" for "goes under".

My first thought on the picky diners were the ZAGATS. Gave me nothing (except a free guide for critiquing restaurant online).

I nominate SPARROW as our most euphemistically named weapon. We should be ferreting out PSMDs (Peaceful Symbols of Mass Destruction) vigilantly.

I also wanted carnival tENT. Even conidered RIDE, but was pretty comfy with TENANT (no, not Victoria), so to finish the NE I had to put on a full-court Importune, end, eventually, stuck in my thumb and pulled out APLOMB.

I'm obviously in the minority here, but I enjoyed all the tricky, if inelegant, bits to this puzzle.

Anonymous 11:45 AM  

I usually enjoy it when you get carried away and trash a puzzle, but I think this was a pretty decent Friday. No need for trashing. I started in the NE and went clockwise around the puzzle in pretty much normal Friday time.

Hated ILLER. Didn't know PHI. SCORELESS was weird. Thought EARED was emminently fair. And I thought a lot of the multi-word fills were pretty cool...SLEEPTIGHT, OMARSHARIF, YATITTLE, BETTERIDEA...

Nice puzzle.

Anonymous 11:47 AM  

Spencer: I enjoyed your "This puzzle hated me", great twist...

Anonymous 12:26 PM  

For 10D, I first jotted down BOTHERS, but thought "too easy, probably not it." When APLOMB emerged (I liked seeing this word here a lot, for some reason), I thought, "aha! PESTERS!" I held onto that one for a bit longer--just didn't want to let it go. PRESSES was a bit of a let-down. :)

Anonymous 12:40 PM  

DENSE FOG has a technical meaning. The National Weather Service defines is as "fog in which the visibility is <¼ mile." When it happens, they issue a Dense Fog Advisory, the only type of fog advisory I can find. So I don't think it's right to say that DENSE is arbitrary here.

And a pea-sheller certainly is a real thing. My grandfather had one, and it's kinda fun to use one. Certainly way more fun than shelling by hand.

Overall, I really enjoyed the puzzle.


Anonymous 12:41 PM  

Phi phenomenon refers to an optical illusion studied by Max Wertheimer in the early 1900's. Max was the founder of Gestalt psychology and is considered one of the papas of modern psychology. The illusion has to do with creating a perception of motion around two static pictures (lines, I think) that are flashed in sequence... the Gestalt idea that the brain fills in the spaces around an item to create a whole.

I've done the NYT puzzles on and off for years, but just returned to doing them every day after a long hiatus. I started printing them out and doing them as I used to, but just got into doing them on the computer and am enjoying that format. Found this blog and have to say thanks to Rex and everyone for making the experience of puzzling so much richer and more fun. I look forward every day to coming here and reading the comments. Also being in California I don't have too many people I can say, "GO SOX!" to. :-)

Anonymous 12:45 PM  

yelbeton abraham:

In reference to nominating SPARROW as our most euphemistically named weapon. We should be ferreting out PSMDs (Peaceful Symbols of Mass Destruction) vigilantly. Sparrows, (and Starlings), often take over Purple Martin houses and nest boxes placed for other native birds. It is impossible to keep House Sparrows out of nest boxes built for many of these birds, including Bluebirds and Purple Martins, as they are smaller than the less aggressive native birds. This invasion has led to Bluebird trails, nestbox monitoring, the trapping and shooting of adult House Sparrows (and Starlings), and the removal of their eggs in order to allow native species to reproduce.


Anonymous 12:53 PM  

Put me in the "hate it" column. Not quite as bad as Wednesday, but not a good end to the work week puzzles.

I made a good start in the SE, working off TAPA, which gave me WARZONE and then KARZAI (which I spelled karzOi, in a wonderful blending of an Afghan leader and an Afghan hound - Borzoi) I then decided that the "K" author was KEATS, which sent me off into the woods. It was downhill from there.

fergus 1:10 PM  

Well, I'm part of the minority that liked this puzzle. Maybe my irrascibility meter was set lower today? Or maybe there's a twinge of delight at sailing through without encountering any nautical hazards. (OK, I was briefly a Renter before I became a TENANT.) SCORELESS was fine with its clued question mark, but I agree that SEDATED could give the ? a bad name. ONCE for If ever didn't work, but I'll bet someone can swiftly find a sentence where they can be used interchangeably ... .

The STEROIDS thing was out of bounds, I thought -- so I was reluctant about completing the answer until it became inevitable. I can only conclude that the sports page goes unread chez Lempel, thus coloring the take on athletes with only front page news.

The BUTTE RIDE gave me a good chuckle -- even after reading that conjecture correctly. Up in the Sierra, along highway 49 lies a town called Twain Harte, along by where Mark and Bret both hung out, though I think neither did a whole lot of panning -- for gold, anyway. Concur with Rex that the Kafka quote was perfect. Would have gone straight there even without the starting K. I'm glad I don't hear Kafkaesque used very often anymore -- it was used far too broadly, and simply as a synonym for weirdness, whereas K. had a special form of oddity all his own.

Anonymous 1:19 PM  

I thought the puzzle was tough but I liked it overall.

I have seen the "Like most mammals/EARED" pairing in puzzles before. I did put in HAIRY at first though.

fergus 1:19 PM  

r. kane,

Your Sparrow story reminded me of the Bald Eagle exhibit at the San Diego Zoo. First the sign says it's the symbol of America, and then goes off on describing all sorts of dishonorable, thieving traits the bird often demonstrates. Made me think there was some seditious mole slipping subliminal messages through to the crowds. I'm sure the sign by the aviary has been changed by now, but its appearance was rather stunning, for whatever the reason.

Anonymous 1:22 PM  


I thought I was the only one who would not fill in an answer if they found it unsavory.

There are many time I knew an answer but would not put it in until I had to, as if that would change the puzzle.

Anonymous 1:28 PM  

I didn't hate this one as much as some but I had the same problems with SCORELESS, SEDATED, ESE, and ILLER as many of you. I got all of SE in about 90 seconds which gave me GETSCARR..., KARAZAI, KAFKA, and BEASPORT. Considered BOLT briefly but then SHARIF popped up. I also got SLEEPTIGHT without any crossess. What brought me to a halt was NW. Did not remeber DEBS until I had the DE which took a while. SCORELESS also came hard and, of course, BENEDICT was uninferable. I resisted STEROIDS for pretty much what hobbyist said. I also had a problem with CLOD for Chump. I don't think they are quite synonomous? For me a CLOD is more of an oaf while a chump is a sap.
In all a difficult but doable and somewhat flawed puzzle.

Anonymous 1:30 PM  

The puzzle was fine. I am always happy to see the OSS, almost as much as Agee.

I am new to the world of Rex and am begining to enjoy his commentary as much as the puzzle.

Plus anyone who enjoys pulp fiction cover art can't be....

Anonymous 1:34 PM  

r. kane --

Yikes! Sparrow invasion. I had no idea. Thanks.

It's great how either Rex or a commentator (commenter?) can fill in the holes in the knowledge base (at least mine). That is, for everything except that Tuesday when the theme was " plate is full" and so many of us tried to nudge it into elegance, and couldn't.

Campesite 1:49 PM  

I didn't mind this puzzle either. For one thing, I like seeing names in the grid, and this one had about a half a dozen, as well as several multiple word answers.

MMPO, I liked your clue for 48A, but I wonder if 'Bong' would have made it past Wil's desk.

Rex Parker 2:53 PM  

Just as the 17-yr-old got a bit of a pass from people for being 17, Lynn Lempel is clearly getting a lot of leeway granted to her here based on her name/fame in the xword community.

She is indeed a great constructor, in most instances. But if you compare this puzzle to other Fridays this year, I don't think it holds up.

Now I find myself wondering if Lynn is indeed a woman. I hope so. If not ... well, someone will correct me.


Anonymous 3:17 PM  

She is, in fact, a she.

fergus 3:24 PM  

Rex, Compared to other Fridays, yes this is lacking. But as a continuation of a pedestrian, dare I say shiftless, several days of NYT puzzles, it's not bad. There must be some quantifiable criterion for rating the quality of puzzles, but I reckon the cohesiveness factor (which is definitely a part of whether I like it or not) is largely subjective. This applies as much, or more, to themeless puzzles, and today's seemed to work for me.

Where are those perplexing empty-square stacks of cleverly diverting possibilities, though? That, to me, is the hallmark of a truly good puzzle.

Anonymous 3:39 PM  

I, like fergus, am waiting for the ONCE for "if ever" example.

Fergus -- nice to see you also had an issue with STEROIDS.

Alex S. 3:58 PM  

Apparently unlike other daily solvers, I never even note the name of the puzzle constructor.

I do the puzzle, I finish or don't, and I move on.

So I have no idea who she is, what puzzles she's done before and how this one compares to them.

But I still, in the end, liked this puzzle.

Howard B 3:58 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Howard B 3:58 PM  

That puzzle smacked me around enough to make me feel like a used ping-pong ball abandoned at a yard sale.

Learned a new term in BENEDICT, groaned at HEFNER, and liked the APIARIES clue. The rest of it, well, it was a challenge, but by the end I felt like someone was hitting me in the head with a sackful of quarters.
That was some serious difficulty there! Wonder what's in store for Saturday...

Anonymous 3:59 PM  

"if ever something happens..."
"Once something happens..."

Once seems to imply something will happen, if ever has a maybe quality.

Orange 5:20 PM  

On a day when athlete Marion Jones was in the news for steroid use, I don't see why the clue mentioning "some athletes" posed any trouble.

I still don't get Rex's squeamishness over the word PREMIE. Rex, if you think a cavil is unfair, why include it in your post? It's not as if you were searching for something negative to say about this puzzle!

JC66 5:30 PM  

Re: STEROIDS. I find it interesting that many of you take exception to this answer when Maion Jones appears on the front page of today's Times starring as this month's athlete to admit using steroids.

JC66 5:33 PM  


Sorry, I type very slowly. (-:

fergus 6:02 PM  

Regarding STEROIDS, for me it was more about the clue: Some athletes shoot them. And what, the rest use the 'cream' or the 'clear'? I am hardly politically correct, and nor do athletes need any defense from me, but substitute some other 'tribe' for athletes and there are grounds for complaint, at least from some quarters. It's no big deal -- more a surprising deviation from the usual avoidance of politics or being offensive in any way.

Alex S. 6:14 PM  

How about "some asthma sufferers inhale them" for steroids.

JC66 6:16 PM  


But some athletes do shoot steroids, and some (most) don't.

fergus 6:25 PM  

Pedantic grammar alert:

My complaint about If ever/ONCE remains in place since as Rick pointed out there's a different Tense implied. I would go so far as to say that If ever is Conditional, whereas ONCE is Future Anterior, and this mismatch is somwhat abrasive.

I am referring to the verb tense implied by ONCE as an adverb. If ONCE is used as a conjunction then maybe this quibble dwindles, though the meanings still don't hook up with much satisfaction.

Anonymous 6:47 PM  


Both seem to converge in the subjunctive mood:

"[If ever / Once] I were to win the lottery, I would tell my boss where to go."

Perhaps "once" is a tad more anticipatory, but the subjunctive "I were" sounds natural in both cases.

Anonymous 6:53 PM  


"Anterior future" blew me away, it's right up there with pluperfect, neither of which I know the meaning.

The following may or may not be conjunctions (I do know that one):

"we'll go to the store if ever your room is cleaned up"

"we'll go to the store once your room is cleaned up"

These seem to fit the clue and answer.

fergus 7:40 PM  

If I felt like continuing the pettifogging, as earlier I had done (past perfect example -- don't think English actually has the pluperfect tense), and follow it up by another post, then I will have written (Fut. Ant.) quite enough.

The if ever still seems like a maybe proposition, but the once is a direct and determined consequence. They work just fine in your example and I know that this sort of match is sufficient for the puzzle. Nothing was really wrong with any of this; it perhaps could have been a tiny bit more right. Time to desist, as the factory whistle blows on Friday.

fergus 7:43 PM  

Good point, Martin. Your comment only recently appeared on my scree.

Anonymous 8:21 PM  

I enjoyed this one. It was a beast, but that alone never intereferes with the pleasure of solving. I'm not so sure that the "hated it" contingent is a majority at this point.

I thought that the SE corner in particular was brilliant and sparkling.

Got the NE first, thanks to OMAR SHARIF, and went clockwise from there. But the section NW killed me. I'd made a very bad guess on 1d with TAFT, giving me THORNLESS for 19a, which was at least as good an answer as SCORELESS, so it stayed there and befuddled me for way too long. Oh, and add me to the crowd that learned a new meaning for BENEDICT today.

The only thing I hated was ILLER, although I got it with no crosses. So the word is ugly, but the clue is okay.

Did Harte actually tell stories about the Gold Rush? Uhm, yes.
He wrote, "The Luck of Roaring Camp" which, if I'm not mistaken, is one of the best known Gold Rush stories ever. In fact, Roaring Camp is a tourist attraction to this day. Do you think that maybe Harte's story about it has had anything to do with that?

Interesting discussion above about not filling in answers that you don't want to be right. I do that constantly. Did that today with HEFNER, but I don't know why.


Anonymous 8:26 PM  

Thanks Rick, your second example was more compelling.

Re: STEROIDS, my problem had nothing to do with the truth of the answer, it was a subjective feeling that it just seemed out of place for the NYT puzzle, hence I was reluctant to fill it in.

BTW Rick, my initial answer for 34a was ERPS.

Anonymous 8:41 PM  

At the risk of seeming insufficiently kind and gentle, I will say that this was one of the worst NYT puzzles I've seen in recent months, for all the reasons so amply adduced in the foregoing. Worst of all: SCORELESS and ONCE. And isn't it "preemie," asks this father of one and grandfather of another?

Anonymous 8:44 PM  

Forgot to add... nautical clues are fine by me.

DENSE FOG was one of the last bits I got (with a self-administered dope-slap), even though I've been in it on a sailing ship whilst standing watch.

In DENSE FOG, you can't tell what direction a sound is coming from for some reason. Peering into the fog watching for things-you-do-not-want-to-crash-into causes hallucinations after about 10 minutes It's very trippy.

Anonymous 9:29 PM  

Agree with the consensus above.

"Iller" is not a word; and as somebody once said, "I don't care what the dictionary says."

The Indians have a player named "Hafner" which probably gave me a subliminal edge in the SW this evening.

Anonymous 9:33 PM  

In the past, after finishing a crossword, often my first inclination was to think this or that clue or answer was arbitrary, baffling, boring, annoying, blah, humdrum, bizarre, ignorant, or just plain wrong.

But, over time, I have discovered, from reading the Comments here and at Orange, that the fault lies in me and not the crossword.

Crosswords are more informative than a 4-year liberal arts education.


Anonymous 9:55 PM  


"Premature" = "premie"

Anonymous 9:58 PM  

Steroids were a good one -- shooting made me think of basketball or something like that, and there was an aha moment when I got it. But I hated the puzzle. It's been said before, but iller, premie, phi, eared, clod, benedict... This week has been really screwy. I got stuck on Wednesday, and breezed through Thursday with nary a pause. And today was horrid.

wendy 10:10 PM  

jim in nyc said, "the indians have a player named hafner" ...

YES THEY DO! He just won the game for them ... woo hoo!

Anonymous 10:20 PM  

Add me to the list of people who liked this puzzle.

I had to work and sweat and groan and cross out (and cross out again)
but I finished with only one error- where Karzai and YA Tittle intersect.

One error on a Friday is light years ahead of where I was beore I started reading this blog!

Thanks all

Michael Chibnik 10:50 PM  

I didn't think this puzzle was particularly hard for a Friday and found only one clue (phi) totally beyond my knowledge. I didn't know that "premie" was an alternate spelling for "preemie" so got stuck in the nw for a while.

They only clue/answer I really objected to was if ever/once and am pleased to see that I am not alone.

Maybe "missing a point" would have been better than "missing the point" though I see why the latter was chosen.

Anonymous 1:20 AM  

My childhood Cabbage Patch doll (flinch) was a preemie, and spelled that way. It's definitely the more intuitive spelling, in my opinion.

I would like, also, to be the 567th person to agree that the question mark on "put under" was really problematic. It made me range all over the admittedly meager acreage of my brain seeking strange and surprising meanings of the phrase, and that's just not cool.

fergus 1:57 AM  

Anonymous Jake, you're missing the point; it's a small gesture to argue with the puzzle, which has been through so many filters, making the petition process almost Kafkaesque. Everyone knows there's an arbitrary authority out there who controls what's legitimate, with the added backing of a definition somewhere in a dictionary, yet there's still a curious personal declamation that requires a bit more refinement in the upper primate region of communication.

Anonymous 4:35 AM  

Okay, I've been on an island off the coast of Africa and then on the Central Coast of California recovering from spinal fusion surgery and found this blog when I began doing the times puzzle in ernest and I have to say that although this puzzle seems to have been hated by more than it was loved by, I have to say that this is the liveliest conversation, from grammar to Kafka, that I've been privy to in a long time. What fun! And what a seemingly odd week of puzzles. But how about those Sox!!!! Mannie Mannie bo Bannie Fanana Fana Fo Fannie, Me Mi Mo Mannie... Mannie. Cha cha cha!

On to Saturday!

Orange 8:45 AM  

As it happens, the American Heritage Dictionary lists "preemie (also premie)." Yes, preemie is the more common spelling in this country. But I've seen the other, too. And given that its etymology is "shortening and alteration of premature," the one-E spelling makes sense. It sort of looks like it'd be pronounced "premmy," but then again, premature is pronounced with the long E sound with a single E.

Anonymous 12:21 PM  

You'll probably miss this but ...
My point was that there isn't "an arbitrary authority out there who controls what's legitimate, with the added backing of a definition somewhere in a dictionary."

For instance, "premie" vs. "preemie". See above for AHD's definition, while M-W has "premie" first with "preemie" as the variant, and the OED goes with "preemie" and doesn't even give "premie" as a variant.

If you look back through all the comments for this puzzle, you will see at least one comment reflecting one of the above dictionaries.

I initially thought "preemie" was correct, but now ...

Also, I wasn't criticizing "arguing" with the puzzle. Thinking "arbitrary, baffling, boring, annoying, blah, humdrum, bizarre, ignorant, or just plain wrong" isn't arguing. Quite the opposite.


Anonymous 3:09 PM  

RE: This puzzle


Anonymous 2:21 PM  

I think I'm getting too old for these hip, edgy new crossword puzzles.

For example: 17A "Married man . . . ". The very first thing I thought of was George Gobel (he of "Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?", fame). I could swear he said, "I've been a bachelor all my married life" on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

And 15A ??? Exit "lane"??? Shouldn't it be Exit "ramp"?

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