SATURDAY, Dec. 22, 2007 - Harvey Estes

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

I have to remember not to attempt late-week puzzles first thing in the morning. I at least need breakfast and tea or coffee. Tried to do this puzzle at my computer this morning and found it nearly impossible. Floundered around in the NW, floundered around in the NE - with a little more success, but not enough to complete it - polished off the SW quickly, then waded slowly into the SE, knowing that it was my last chance for any real forward momentum. Then just when I thought I had it rolling, I hit a wall and just stopped - right about in the ALAMOSA (33D: Colorado city on the Rio Grande) / RUNABOUTS (24D: Roadsters) region of the puzzle (neither of those answers would give, no matter how much pressure I applied). At various points I thought this was the hardest puzzle I'd done all year. Then I think I walked away and came back, and then answers started to fall into place. Once I figured out the SE, despite the puzzle's having a construction style that made success in one quadrant virtually useless as a gateway into another, the NW finally started to fall - getting the EASY at the end of RESTS EASY (7D: Is relaxed) was the key there. Threw the craptacular AEROMETER (23A: Gizmo that measures gas properties) across the grid, and whaddya know? It worked. NE was not too hard after that. I think the last letter in the grid was the initial "P" in PRIMOS (16D: Upper parts of piano duets) and PRESTO (16A: Really moving, musically).

I have an appointment shortly, so here are your puzzle highlights, in short order:

  • 9A: Where one can retire young? (crib) - me: "... slaughterhouse?"
  • 14A: Singles player (phono) - could not not not get tennis out of my head.
  • 17A: "The Treachery of Images" painter (Magritte) - a gimme ... that I second-guessed and removed because of the (wrong) crossing, TOPEKA - 5D: Kansas city (Salina).
  • 18A: Whipps candy bar maker (Reese's) - never heard of that alleged "bar," but when it's candy, when in doubt: RESSE'S.
  • 19A: Some Tuscans (Sienese) - had GENOESE for about three seconds.
  • 20A: Caret indication (insert) - obvious, and yet some Wrong answer in one of the crosses prevented me from seeing it. Oh, I remember: I had ROSSINNI (!?!?!) instead of ROSSETTI (10D: Artist who was a founder of the Pre-Raphaelites).
  • 22A: French teacher (maitre) - my French absolutely vacated my head on this one. Luckily, it returned for the merciful gimme DOS-A-DOS (25A: Back to back: Fr.).
  • 31A: Online registration creations (user ids) - my first answer in the grid that I knew was right.
  • 32A: Tony-nominated "Pippin" actress (Irene Ryan) - despite spending some time yesterday looking at all the ways IRENE had been clued in the past decade, this woman's last name would Not come - and, of course, the last name was virtually the ONLY thing connecting the SW with the rest of the grid. Ugh.
  • 27D: Que follower (sera sera) - my first entry: RSTUVWXY.
  • 34A: Watergate judge (Sirica) - Allllllll from crosses.
  • 35A: San Diego suburb (La Mesa) - no no no. And crossing another unknown place name (ALAMOSA) - that's just cruel. Throw in SALINA and you've got a subtheme of "Places in America I've Never Been ... or Heard Of" (actually, I may have heard of Salina).
  • 41A: Puts down (abashes) - I couldn't decide: was it SMASHES or QUASHES? Hmmm, I wonder ....
  • 44A: Big herbicide producer (Monsanto) - got this off the -ANTO but didn't fully trust it because of the nasty confusion in that region of the grid.
  • 46A: Mushroom producers (A-tests) - could have been H-TESTS or even N-TESTS.
  • 47A: Natural wave catcher (outer ear) - great clue. I had INNER EAR for a little bit, sadly.
  • 49A: Comparison basis (standard) - why was this hard?
  • 1D: Perhaps a little too neat (prim) - really thought this would be about alcohol.
  • 2D: "His eyes are _____ fire with weeping": Shak. ("red as") - didn't know this, which is ironic because it's from Julius Caesar, which is the one Shakespeare play I'm teaching next term.
  • 3D: Creditor's writ (elegit) - ouuuuch. Yipes and yikes. WTF? Etc.
  • 8D: Dick Thornburgh's predecessor in the cabinet (Ed Meese) - I was So disappointed when this insane-sounding clue ended up having the most common cabinet name as its answer - usually you just see MEESE.
  • 9D: Worse in quality, slangily (cheesier) - had CRUMMIER for a while. Seriously considered CRAPPIER.
  • 12D: Stages of space exploration (boosters) - flat-out guess that I still can't believe is right.
  • 29D: Transfers to another vessel, maybe (decants) - another blessed gimme in the SW.
  • 30D: Long-armed redheads (orangs) - good one. I had OCTOPI.
  • 36D: Targets of those catching some rays? (mantas) - phrasing on this clue is painful.
  • 37D: Early Palestinian (Essene) - Astonishingly, this was a gimme. I swear. First thing that went in, with no crosses for help. You know you are a crossword addict when @#$#-ing ESSENE is one of your go-to words.
  • 39D: Son of Aphrodite (Aeneas) - gimme, but it threw me a bit because in the Aeneid, Aeneas's mother is "Venus."
  • 45D: Traffic regs., e.g. (ords.) - because there is not more than one Fort.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[drawing by Emily Cureton]


Anonymous 9:50 AM  

Well I started off with a bang, writing ANAL for
"too neat" and it didn't get much better from there.

The hardest one for me was the SW, because I had N TESTS instead of A TESTS. LARKS instead of DARES.

Couldn't figure out what DISSUNLES or ANIMUSKS meant.

Rex Parker 9:52 AM  

I just laughed so hard at that first comment that I'm really happy I didn't have coffee in my mouth when I read it.



southernfriedjordan 9:54 AM  

This one kicked me down, then jumped on me and slapped me in the face, then got up and kicked me again. My only saving grace was that I was doing laundry, too, so I could walk away for a few minutes and come back...

The NE refused to fall (I abandoned it), and each respective quadrant was painful.

Frustrating, yes; but kind of what I want/expect from Saturday.

I wanted T-REXES for 38D, CRAPPIER for 9D, and ANAL for 1D...

Here's looking forward to Sunday...

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

Yes, a "monitor warning" was needed for the anal entries... just in case we're having our coffee on reading!

I too was sure that crappier was wrong but tried it anyways.

Having grown up in the era when apparati used to hear singles (45's) progressed from record player to hi-fi to stereo, I have never in this life heard those devices referred to as "phono"s. Phonograph player MAYBE once in a blue moon, never ever a phono. That was almost the last to drop in this gruelling, fun puzzle.

I was unaware of the Essenes until visiting Masada a few years ago, and one of these days I'll learn to spell it without a c after the first s. Maybe. I think I'm trying to make them ascetics.

I was so proud when crib just came on the first run thru, but it was empty grid beyond that for a long time.

Good Saturday fare, for me.

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

took me over an hour and finally resorted to your giveaway. Got prim and crib right off, but was stymied for most of the rest.
Great Saturday puzzle! KYRAKLNRS

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

So after a week of good times for me, I sat down to the puzzle brimming with confidence, expecting to continue my run of good times. And then, Harvey and Will just issued a beat down on me. The only good news was that over an hour later I was able to crawl away, my ego a little battered but otherwise none the worse for wear.

Had a couple "gimmes" off the bat that kept me tied up for a while: TOPEKA for 5D and SPORES for 46A. So that did in the NW and SW. Nothing doing in the NE. I finally made a breakthrough in the SE with AENEAS, STARE, ESSENE, ORDS, ASSESSES, and MONSANTO, and from there I was off and stumbling.

Favorite fill of the day: ORANGS. (Just because of all the images that clue brought to mind.)

All said, a really nice puzzle that gave me great satisfaction to finish, even though it was served up with a big slice of humble pie.

wendy 10:35 AM  

What a mess 'o wackiness. I didn't love it; I didn't hate it. It had a lot of problems but some good stuff too.

Because Watergate was a defining moment in my life as a politically aware human, SIRICA was pretty much the first thing I filled in. Thank God for the good judge! May he rest in peace; he was a true patriot. I know this is insane, but I'd love to see a whole puzzle themed on Watergate ...

Just as REESES is the go-to candy company, I'm learning that MEESE or ED MEESE is the go-to attorney general, and ATEST(s) is the go-to answer for a mushroom reference that won't seem to budge. These kind of annoy me because there's no real payoff.

In the NW, I object to SOARER intersecting with RELOANED. C'mon. That's sloppy and depressing. I don't want to have to work for answers like that.

Words I did feel endorphins flowing over were DISSUADE, SERA SERA, UNSUNG, CRIB, MAGRITTE. I can't decide whether I like or loathe PRENAME for Tom, Dick or Harry.

In the "this will NEVER come in handy" department, an ELEGIT is "a writ of execution by which a plaintiff is given possession of the defendant's goods until the plaintiff's claim is satisfied." According to wikipedia, they were abolished decades ago. Thanks for sharing, Harvey!

MANTA rays - officially overexposed. And I'm with Marcie: PHONO ... uh, no. Never uttered that in all my years of spinning singles.

Howard B 10:44 AM  

Bottom-right of this one beat me down as well. Am I the only person that's never heard of MONSANTO? Loved the look of the "pinwheel" grid, though.

Rex, started reading your Pop Sensation blog, and I'm sorry I didn't start sooner - I'm hooked. I'll never look through a vintage bookstore in quite the same way.

Picking myself up, dusting myself off, and ready for Sunday's heaping helping of puzzly goodness.

Anonymous 11:21 AM  

I cmae through this one bloodied but unbowed.

SW fell first. SIRICA (Maximum John) was the first entry I filled in with any degree of confidence, immediately followed by IRENERYAN. (Ah, Granny Clampett. Bless her heart, she died onstage just as she was singing the number from PIPPIN about living life to the fullest.) Even my ignorance of Portuguese couldn't keep my from filling this part in quickly.

NE came next, thanks in large part to BOOSTERS (My 4th grade students just completed a moon mission simulation.) and the by-now-familiar USERIDS.

Then I hit the dual wall of the NW and SE. Oh, man! I almost thought the herbicide producer was RONSANTO, not MONSANTO. Finally thinking of RUNABOUTS was the key here.

But the NW! I had the EASY part, but couldn't let go of HASITEASY, just as I was loathe to let go of TOPEKA. Even assuming MAGRITTE ("Treachery of Images" for some reason reminded me of "Empire of Lights," the title of the painting that Jackson Browne used as the model for the cover of his LATE FOR THE SKY album.) and even using TRADES (rather than my initial SCORES). Finally, I left TOPEKA, came up with IDEALISM and the rest grudgingly fell into place.

YOW! Normally I start right in on the Sunday puzzle, but I think I need a break...

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

Got SW, dead after that.
SIRICA was the first in, IRENERYAN was the last.
I guess I'm old enough to remember them well, a la Maurice Chevalier, but too old to mess with the rest.
As Ms. O'hara would say,
" another day!"

Anonymous 11:29 AM  

Paul in mn -- love your "off and stumbling"! That often describes my progress on grids which don't have a lot of connections between sectors--certainly this one.


Anonymous 11:31 AM  

I got stuck dead when I misread the plural in "targets of some ray catchers" and dropped in SUNTAN with absolute certainty. Never caught my error.

The problem was, of course, that the xxNTAx all fit the crosses perfectly.

Gave up.

Anonymous 11:33 AM  

Rex, I'm surprised that Rene Magritte came to mind for you but -DANTE Gabrielle Rossetti took a while.

Btw, what translation of The Inferno did you use? Why did the prisoners choose this book?

I find that the Divine Comedy gets less and less interesting as it goes on, making the Paradiso almost unreadable.

It's so ineffable it's a bore.

Judgesully 11:57 AM  

Didnt't Irene CARA also do "Pippin?" That faux pas threw me off on "orangs" for a long time. Also thought manta and outer ear were marvelously clued. My 30+ years in the legal business did not help with "elegit." Can you imagine seizing a debtor's property before you obtain the judgment? How Dickensian can you get!

Anonymous 12:14 PM  

I'm not at all sure why, but the first things that popped into my head (without any crosses) for the Kansas and San Diego places were SALINA and LA MESA. Maybe just because both have shown up in crosswords before.

Anonymous 12:35 PM  

Hardest this year for me.

Anonymous 12:40 PM  

I cannot buy into the cluing for prim. Anal is a much more accurate answer. Also I took offense at Alamosa and La Mesa being so similar and so interlocked. Phono is absurd too but a good challenging puzzle despite my complaints.

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

I too had Irene Cara, it fit. Now that I know it was Granny, I love it.

Four little puzzles in one, each harder than the other. I kept saying - This is not a Puzzle - after the Magritte clue.

I also kept saying "I hate Meeses to Pieces" ,ala Mr. Jinks, after 8 down and 18 across.

Anonymous 12:55 PM  

Elegit is Dickensian because its an old English writ. Learned it in History of Law in 1st yr law school many decades ago but all I knew for sure without crosses was it ended in "it".

Alas, ALAMOSA required my only visit to a reference, my trusty Times Atlas, because I didn't recall that the Rio Grande started in Colorado, no less had cities on it in CO.

ROSSETTI was worked bottom to top, one letter at a time, which produced the entire corner.

Lots of variants of SOAR these days, clued as going up.

Loved que SERA SERA and will be hearing Doris Day all day.

Haven't seen RUNABOUTS since Gatsby.

Anonymous 12:58 PM  

Maybe it's an age thing, but I certainly referred to a record player as a phono. Anyone else who is collecting social security remember that?

Anonymous 1:07 PM  

Anonymous 12:58:

*I'm" collecting Social Security (and have been for years), and never remember a record player or a hi-fi, the preferred locutions of my youth, being referred to as a PHONO.

Somewhat to my surprise, I got this in about 20 minutes with no lookups. Maybe because although it was very obscure at points, it wasn't particularly tricky and didn't rely much on popcult (well, it relied on MY popcult, e.g. 17A and 39D).

erp 1:25 PM  

Like blue stater, I've been collecting ss for a long time and never remembered a record player being called a phono. Also a typo of Meese threw me off aerometer and caused bafflement. I need to be more careful.

It was a fun puzzle as they all are, except stepquotes.

Anonymous 1:50 PM  

Finished hours ago at my grand daughter's gym class, but had to run many errands before writing. I found this one hard. I read maybe 20 clues before I found Watergate. Like Wendy, that was one I knew immediately..Blind Ambition thwarter!

I found each quadrant a challenge and Rex says caret was a gimme, but I haven't had a chance to look it up...a map? My mom was born in Salina and I worked near La Mesa on an assignment ten years ago, but Alamosa! (in the style of an fruity alcoholic drink?)

I wish I had found the MEESE part first cause "edme" was going nowhere. Interred was the last thing I figured out...need to start looking at those question marks but found that one "cryptic?"

PS...I did this one in pencil and a good thing, too.

Anonymous 1:53 PM  

Ouch, I never would have got "cheesier" for "worse in quality." First, I alternated among "crummier," "crappier" and "cruddier" -- all of which fit with C____IER but were wrong. Second, I don't think it really fits ... in my experience "cheesy" has a slightly different meaning, kind of campy, bubblegummy, if you know what I mean. For example, the Monkees were pretty cheesy but they weren't low quality. --Steve

JC66 2:16 PM  


Based on your write up, I'm left wondering what it would take for you to rate a puzzle simply "challenging?"

In the 50's, we had multi-media devices with buttons labeled RADIO and PHONO that you pushed to select which one you wished to listen to.

Anonymous 2:31 PM  

I thought "the treachery of images" fitted Mondrian like a glove. With 'prim' at the corner,'monist' for 6D and 'red of' at 2D, I was really cooking...'til everything went up in smoke. The crossing essential for two obscure western-state cities was a low blow for us east-coast types and 'Salina' (is that located east or west of the geographical center of the US?) was really the tipping point. A fun puzzle, however, especially since everything finally came together without need for Google.

Anonymous 2:43 PM  

Challenging-plus for me. I remember commenting re. the last Estes -- same wavelength, sailed through, etc. This time was a sputtering struggle. I loved the 90 180 270 360 symmetry of the grid.

Each symmetrical quad presented problems, though, starting right off with a Painful mistake: being pretty sure of PRIM (1d), I followed the M to MCESCHER instead of MAGRITTE. Oh, treacherous images.

Had to try various vowels in the middle of DOSADOS.

When finished, everything seemed right except "prename" which still seems odd: named before naming.

Count me in the PHONO camp, heard/used it often back when. Of course all that old technology has been replaced by turntable / outboard power supply / tone arm / moving-coil cartridge / phono pre-amp.

Orange 2:54 PM  

Even if LA MESA isn't familiar, that L shouldn't be so hard to get. So many California towns start with the Spanish San, Santa, Los, La, or El, and the MESA part is recognizable.

Anonymous 3:02 PM  

Caret was no gim for me, had WEIGHT.

PURE for PRIM, no ice, no mixer.


I got the SE first (knew all the downs for some reason) then came to a complete halt. Had to come back later to finish.

Rex Parker 3:07 PM  

I've rated plenty of puzzles "Challenging." To rate "Challenging" on a Saturday, the puzzle's gotta be pretty close to uncompletable. Closer than this one was, anyway.


Anonymous 3:10 PM  

Rex has a well defined (and well understood by regular readers) 5 point rating scale starting with EASY and ending with CHALLENGING. Once, a while ago, he envoked a sixth point "YIKES!" which is what this one was for me. I managed to get through SW (I'm from San Diego so LA MESA was a gimme) and SE with out much trouble. (The puzzle addict in me got ESSENE off just the E in LAMESA, a year ago this would have been a random bunch of letters.) In the NE CRAPPIEST and INTOMBED slowed me way down and ANAL and ARGUEFOR in NW brought me to an overnight halt. Once I abandon the NW errors it went pretty quickly but I held out way too long. I did need my brides help with SIENESE.

I think a couple of the crossing were borderline unfair and while there was some great clueing there were also a few clunkers. Overall painful but satisfying.

Rex Parker 3:11 PM  

Well of course that's how I ultimately *got* LA MESA, Orange. It just never felt very sturdy, as everything around it was shaky for a very long time.


wendy 3:12 PM  

phillysolver - a caret is this mark ^ which means 'insert' in proofreading

Anonymous 3:30 PM  

Oinky is not the only one who had
anal!!! An dI thought it fit
perfectly w/Asked for for the
lobby clue.

But prim...geeze.
COuldn't get Irene Cara out of head
cause the cross ended in easy.

tuff tuff day

Anonymous 3:51 PM  

36D Had me stumped - thinking along the lines of sun rays and tan lines. 'Mantas' was a big surprise when it got it through crosses. It took awhile to see how it fit the clue.

Michael Chibnik 4:32 PM  

I got the SW right away and the NW also came fairly quickly. Then I really slowed down and thought that I would have to resort to google. I finally finished after about an hour. The NE was really obscure for me -- primos? prename? (surname sure, but this was new to me). And I had crummier a long time and then briefly considered crappier. Once I got cheesier, I was essentially done.

I wrote maitre in early, but was unsure of it. I know maestro from Spanish (also Italian?), but I don't know any French and kept thinking of a maitre d which doesn't seem related to a teacher.

Anonymous 5:07 PM  

Up before crack of dawn, made it to Albany airport on time, NYT in hand, only to be advised to settle in the lounge & rest easy -- no take-off for several more hours. The puzzle was a metaphor for the day: get a bit of a start, then get no further. Finally, at O'Hare, all was done except a few in NW -- it didn't help that the newspaper had major ink smears. Tried to figure out 3D, reading clue as "creditor's limit" (the sky?), which was a no go especially next to my Ariser for 4D. Pfui!!!

Mike 5:41 PM  

Based on what exactly what Orange wrote I immediately wrote LA_ _ _ A in 35A and the rest filled in with the downs. It was too long for a plural or San/Santa and the feminine La more than likely means the noun ends in A.

That and Monsanto were the first answers I had down.

Anonymous 5:48 PM  

I got stuck in the SE (I was trying TYMPANUM for wave catcher and BREADBOX for comparison) and had to look up the Rio Grande city on Wikipedia. Down at the bottom of the page, they mentioned that one of the Star Trek RUNABOUTS was called the USS Rio Grande. Which I found very helpful.

Dan 5:54 PM  

I'm just proud of myself for finishing without any errors or any googling. Can't always do that on Saturday.

My favorite "aha" was on EDMEESE... had no idea what Cabinet position Mr. Thornburgh held, but thought, "wait, why the heck are they calling him 'Dick'?"

But yeah, three obscure American cities in the same grid? Come on!
(What's that you say? I should try constructing a 56-word puzzle? No, thank you!)

Unknown 5:57 PM  

I wish they were all like todays puzzle.

Anonymous 6:05 PM  

Put me in the "crash and burn" column for this one. The NW fell fairly quickly and I made a good stab at the NE, but the entire south was my downfall. I wasn't helped any by two bad quesses "American" shorthair, and Cargille instead on Monsanto.

I finished the NE with a bit of googling, but threw in the towel in the south.

Anonymous 6:23 PM  

This one was a struggle-took me nearly all day (with frequent breaks for meals, laundry and a yoga class).
I flew through one diagonal (NE to SW), which gave me the false impression that the puzzle was going to be easy. Then I floundered on the other diagonal for a long time. I had Santee for the San Diego suburb. I used to live in San Diego, but sometimes you can know too much geography...

Fun fact to know: the square dancing term do-si-do comes from dos-a-dos.

Anonymous 6:30 PM  

Being from San Diego, I was initially pleased to know that all you Easterners, especially New Yorkers, would experience the pain I go through far too often. I am not usually a fan of geographic place names that a solver would only know if they actually lived in the obscure community being mentioned. Unfortunately, today was no exception. I filled in the wrong San Diego suburb; this mistake caused me incredible agony trying to solve the SE corner. I suppose it was my punishment for finding pleasure in someone else's suffering. Nevertheless, finishing this puzzle in only a couple of hours feels like one of my greatest crossword accomplishments to date.

Anonymous 7:39 PM  

Excellent, really good puzzle. We could quibble with "animuses" (not really a word--animus exists, but plural or different kinds of animus?), and "soarers" (English but not really used), but that only underlines the fact that the constructor's struggles putting this together were minor indeed.

Anonymous 8:00 PM  

I wanted the mushroom producer to be spores. Got hung up on outrigger (I know it does not fit) as a wave catcher.

Thus in the fullness of time so to was this puzzle completed.

Wait! I did get Aerometer as I fell out of the gate! I knew that premed minor would payoff someday.

Anonymous 8:00 PM  

I wanted the mushroom producer to be spores. Got hung up on outrigger (I know it does not fit) as a wave catcher.

Thus in the fullness of time so to was this puzzle completed.

Wait! I did get Aerometer as I fell out of the gate! I knew that premed minor would payoff someday.

Anonymous 8:02 PM  

I wanted the mushroom producer to be spores. Got hung up on outrigger (I know it does not fit) as a wave catcher.

Thus, in the fullness of time this puzzle was completed.

Wait! I did get Aerometer as I fell out of the gate! I knew that premed minor would payoff someday.

fergus 9:43 PM  

That was a great image of RON SANTO in the herbicide trade -- keeping the hot corner at Wrigley free of any unwanted growth.

Didn't get around to the puzzle till late today since I got caught up in roto-tilling. Staring for quite a while with no entries, just hoping to unearth something in the grid. Got ROSSETTI, but was thinking of a different painter for the MAGRITTE. The French Back to back had me thinking sequentially, but that Clue probably would have had hyphens. I, too, figured SANTEE since that seemed more Crossword-ey, and fortunately remembered stopping at SALINA on a nice train trip. ALAMOSA unknown, as was that way of using ABASHES.

And I agree that CHEESIER was worse in quality than any of the other possibilities. Given some other 'risque' entries recently, I thought the time had come for CRAPPIER.

Anonymous 9:52 PM  

you foundered, rex, not floundered.

Anonymous 10:07 PM  

I have to admit to also thinking of anal and crappier in the first runthrough. Jerry 20020, it is Dante Gabriel, it's a boy. Didn't like, as so many of you, prename, animuses and soarers. It was a decent Saturday puzzle but not as elegant as yesterday's.

Anonymous 10:11 PM  

Hard, harder, hardest. But in a good way. I kept coming and going from this which I think is the only way I was able to finally finish. My hardest Saturday in forever. I managed a couple answers per quadrant (Magritte, Ed Meese, Sirica, unsung, seaman, presto, crib, primo, insert, monsanto, mantas) but the rest came ever so slowly. I made up lovely crosses that I had to eventually abandon and I cannot believe I was fooled by mushroom. I was also looking for some sort of seal for the wave catcher. Just moved to San Diego so I got La Mesa.

Got a big laugh when I was going over the fill with my husband afterward and I went to call him my unsung hero and by mistake called him my unhung zero. Major belly laughs.

Nits: animuses (bleck), prename??? (are you kidding me?)

Re: Monsanto. If you are not aware of this company, you might want to check them out. They are a huge producer of genetically modified seeds and have bought out most of the smaller seed companies in the country. There is little regulation by the FDA with regard to either long-term effects or public awareness via labeling of genetically modified foods. Do you know what you are eating? Good thing to google when you aren't busy with a puzzle.

Anonymous 11:23 PM  

Finally finished the puzzle without googling or even checking but I did miss 2 letters: N in SALINA (had a D) and D in DOS A DOS (had an R for the second to make RECANTS). Surprised to have guessed right on ELEGIT.

Got the NE and SW in reasonable time. BTW, Jill CLAYBURGH (9 letters) also did "Pippin" but SERA SERA straightened me out on that one pretty quickly. Finally remembered SIRICA and I was on my way.

In the SE, RUNABOUT got me off to a good start but being a San Diego resident didn't help me any. Of course I thought of LA MESA and considered it the best answer but couldn't write it in because there's RAMONA nearby which is also technically a suburb of SD. And both cities are -AM--A. Yes, an archeological museum would have some SHARDS on display but there are other things that come to mind, too. Also, thought of MONSANTO right away (they sponsored a ride at Disneyland for years) but it seemed like too much of a gimme to write in immediately. And, like Rikki, I think Monsanto is one of the worst examples of evil, greedy corporations.

The NE absolutely killed me! For one, add me to the ANAL list (for more than one reason). Got ED MEESE and RESTS EASY but came to a screeching halt, not helped by SCORES and ALTRUISM. Finally got RED AS and that gave me the traction to finish up. SIENESE eluded me and so I ended up missing one there.

Oh well, I finally finished! At least I didn't look anything up this time.


Orange 12:39 AM  

Ooh! Ooh ooh! Mr. Kotter! Can I say something to anonymous 9:52?

According to the Columbia Guide to Standard English:

Flounder means “to fumble, blunder, and stumble about, especially in deep mud or water,” and it is said to be a blend of founder and blunder. Founder means “to break down,” “to stumble or bog down in mud,” and (of a ship or boat) “to fill with water.” The words are often confused, particularly in the inadvertent substitution of flounder for founder in the seagoing cliché to founder and sink, which is often used figuratively as well, meaning “to break down and collapse or die,” said especially of institutions and enterprises. (Founder can also be used alone to describe a sinking or a company’s failure.)


I would say that Rex's usage falls firmly in the "fumble, blunder, and stumble about" category, and thus floundering is absolutely kosher.

The American Heritage Dictionary usage note concurs.

Dr. Rick 1:14 AM  

Strange puzzle. I got the SW corner thanks to Judge Sirica and the NW thanks to Magritte in a matter of minutes. 30 minutes later, I was lost and slow to fill anything in the other two areas. Finally resorted to checking a map and found Alamosa and that whole corner collapsed. Off that rush, the NE came tumbling down with the decision that maitre was indeed teacher. My memory for high school French was battling my stomach for control of the word.
I had to google to check that Rossetti was correct because phono just seemed wrong and prename seemed forced.

Anonymous 4:06 AM  

Tough, but satisfying puzzle.

In response to one poster's comment about Dante: Ciaran Carson, an Irish poet, has done a marvelous translation of "The Inferno" for New York Review Books. Fresh, witty, and modern without being overly colloquial, and he keeps to Dante's terza rima rhyme scheme. Really worth checking out.

Anonymous 2:58 PM  

Flounder/Founder? Can one bog down in a blog or blog in a bog? I found I am not fond of founder, so I let it 'flo under' my radar. Sorry.

Anonymous 4:04 AM  

Doc John, We are SO in sync...I too had ANAL/ALTRUISM and literally would not let go of ANAL till the last word...Hmmm, I guess that's sort of fitting.

I finally googled MAGRITTE to check my hunch and then everything fell into place, but even tho SIENA is my favorite city in the world, I was thinking it had two NN's...maybe bec of Vienna? Or the name SIENNA, isn't that Jude Law's gal?
I went thru MORELS and MORAYS before I got to MANTAS.
California girl now so I got LAMESA right away but second-thoughts led me to think I was thinking of COSTA MESA up here and I too hated that it crossed with ALAMOSA which I've never heard of, nor SALINA (again, here we have SALINAS)
I was proud that I guessed that that gas gauge would be an AEROMETER, having no letters, I think it was the first word I put in, tho lightly....
I thought IRENE RYAN sounded familiar! Thanks, Rex, for pointing out it was Granny!

Anonymous 2:00 PM  

I read the comments on Saturdy the 24th December's puzzle and was surprized to find no nit pickers comment on 46 A "mushroom producers" to be "atest" Unless there is a new botanical phenomenon, a tests do not produce mushrooms; they produce mushroom clouds

Anonymous 8:09 PM  

Three time Oscar winner is No One not Peter Noone!
Thursday, December 27

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

Agree that more than two cups of coffee and breakfast are required for this puzzle. Creditors writ ridiculous.

Anonymous 12:41 PM  

This one was tough -- got user ids, crib and atests first also que sera sera. Absolutely stalled on Irene Ryan, Alamosa, and runabouts. Knew La Mesa as I grew up in San Diego. Couldn't get it but loved cheesier!

Anonymous 7:41 PM  

This one kicked my ass for more than an hour. Great puzzle!

When growing up in Cocoa Beach, the yearly class trip to Disneyworld included the MONSANTO Magic Carpet rode, or something along those lines, tryng to convince you that chemicals are our priends.

Anonymous 1:32 AM  

If anyone cares/hears...


Weaker - solvers either too young or so unaware they don't know of SIRICA, MONSANTO, or the meaning of PRIM & "caret."

Weakest - solvers who actually thought ANAL or CRAPPIER would ever appear in Shortz/NYT puzzle.

There were some clever parts of the puzzle & it was indeed a challenge; I'm no genius, just an an experienced solver who still completed it in 1+ hours w/out Googling. I swear, Rex, if you have the troubles you do & you're the 166th greatest solver, then I must be King of the World. Then again, I don't time myself & do puzzles for PLEASURE - isn't that the real point?!?!

Rex Parker 7:19 AM  


Well, we agree on one thing: you are no genius.

Further, you are the King of Nothing. I haven't taken more than an hour to solve a puzzle in I don't know how long. Pull your head out before you go around lecturing people in your inimitable self-righteous, pedantic manner.

Enjoy your "PLEASURE."


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