Saturday, June 14, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

As BEQ puzzles go, this one was both easy and unScrabbly. No Q's, no X's, no Z's, only a few stray K's and a lone V to give this puzzle any superficial kookiness. There were still a number of wacky entries - TRUTHINESS (1A: Modern coinage meaning intuition without regard to facts) being the most notable, and the overall quality of the puzzle was high: tough but entertaining. Still, something about that SE corner, with its gallons of E's and S's and N's, just seems ... uncharacteristic. Off. Odd. There were more gimmes than I expected as well - those these were all badly needed today, as the cluing on some of today's fill was remarkably tough. I went through all the Downs in the NW consecutively, and knew nothing until I got to NORI (7D: Seaweed wrapped around sushi). That single "N" allowed me to confirm my suspicions about TRUTHINESS (I was thinking something having to do with the GUT - GUTLINESS or something - Colbert talks about his GUT a lot). TRUTHINESS revealed IHOP (6D: Co. that bought Applebee's in 2007), where I will be headed in an hour or so for early Father's Day festivities. Had to fight and slash my way through the rest of the NW, as four of those short Downs were names I didn't know:

  • THAD (1D: "A Child Is Born" trumpeter Jones)
  • RAMA (2D: Arthur C. Clarke's "Rendezvous With _____")
  • HSIA (5D: Dynasty before Shang)
  • SATAN (9D: Character in Mark Twain's "The Mysterious Stranger") - OK, technically I know SATAN, but I didn't know he was the answer here

After I got over being stunned that I knew the answer to 10D: _____ Maris (title of the Virgin Mary) (Stella), I moved into the NE. I threw three answers across that part of the grid almost instantly, and then hit a brick wall. Why wouldn't any of the Downs work? I had INLANDER (21A: Kansan or Coloradan), ACTORS (28A: Movie set?), and AUGIE (31A: Saul Bellow's March) in place, and though that would break things wide open. No. Much hacking ensued. The latter part of 12D: Attacked with fierceness and anger appeared to be -DOGGED, but the only expression I know that ends that way is BIRD-DOGGED (used frequently in the article on competitive arcade gaming I read yesterday in Harper's). Worse - 11A: Pop group that inspired a 2001 Broadway musical (ABBA) gave me the initially "B" that "confirmed" BIRD-DOGGED, even though bird dogs do not (or are not supposed to) attack with fierceness and anger. I then figured BULL-DOGGED must be a word. Correct. Apparently ASPERSED is also a word (14D: Smeared). Who knew?

There are different kinds of DESOTOS (37D: Diplomat and Adventurer)?? News to me. I had the "D" and said to myself, "What about DESOTOS? .... hahahahaha, good one, me. You are funny." And then DESOTOS was right. SE was the easiest part of the puzzle - I charged through the Downs, with many many wrong answers

  • SPUN for WENT (45D: Took a turn)
  • SIMM (?) for SNEE (48D: N.F.L. offensive guard Chris)
  • DENS for INNS (49D: Cozy retreats)
  • SATS for GRES (51D: Hurdles for some srs.)

But here's the reason why spraying bullets at a tough part of the puzzle can be helpful - even one right answer can make things come into focus. That's what happened with NEST (50D: Cozy retreat). DENS - NEST - SATS gave me a 44A that ended DNS, which is impossible, but I immediately noticed that GRES could work in SATS's stead, giving me an -NG word, meaning the [Cozy retreats] clue must start with I, which led to INNS, which led immediately to KITE RUNNER (53A: Best-selling Khaled Hosseini novel, with "The"), and the SE was as good as done. Sometimes, when there's empty space, you just have to fill it and see what happens. Sometimes - good things.

In the SW, where I finished, I threw AVIONICS across the empty space (41A: Flight field), which helped me not at all with the long Downs. Went to the wee Acrosses and lucked into two gimmes: ALII (52A: Others, to Octavian) and RUNE (54A: Old character). Maybe RUNE is more apt to be a gimme if you trained as a medievalist ... maybe not. This was enough help me get CAR ALARM (32D: Thing that'll deter someone from taking a ride), but only after some cogitation. I thought maybe the answer had something to do with one's ARM. Broken ARM? Is the person hitch-hiking? Oh ... ALARM. I see now. I had the VALUE part of FACE VALUE for a while before I figured out what preceded it (29D: It might not indicate true worth). Further, in addition to learning the word ACARID (22D: Tick, e.g.), I learned that MARLON and KEENEN (25D: One of the Wayans brothers) have the same number of letters in their names.


  • 19A: 1867 book subtitled "Kritik der politischen Okonomie" ("Das Kapital") - despite all appearances, this clue was a gimme for me (though I had several crosses in place before I ever saw it)
  • 20A: River forming the eastern border of Charlemagne's empire (Elbe) - ah, no self-respecting puzzle is complete without a four-letter European river.
  • 23A: Cautious gamblers (pikers) - maybe the best word in the puzzle
  • 46D: Micmac relative (Cree) - once I realized that this was not a breathmint, it got a lot easier.
  • 43A: "The King and I" film director (Lang) - Fritz LANG!?!? Oh, no, Walter. That makes more sense.
  • 4D: Cheap commodity? (talk) - just a fabulous clue ... one that totally had me flummoxed for a good long while.
  • 8D: Proponent of strong governmental control (etatist) - a good day to know French. See also EGAL (30D: It's the same in Paris) and AMI (34D: "_____ right?").

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


alanrichard 7:27 AM  

Like you, I got a little here & there and then everything opened up. Usually I dont get the paper till 6:30 but today i got it early. There were no Marx Bother Distractions in TCM so I focused on this one - ha ha! Fritz Lang opeded a few doors. Now for the difficult stuff - today's Newsday!

Unknown 8:06 AM  

Man, I'm pretty new to the crossword game, but I've rarely had a puzzle where the four quadrant were so discrete. It was like doing four difficult mini-puzzles. Is this common for this creator?

One quibble: the BULL-DOGGED clue seems a bit off. Never really thought of that word as describing a form of "attack" -- much less an attack characterized by the anger of the attacker. Spinning off the rodeo meaning, isn't it more like "tripped up," "pulled down," or "entrammelled," or even (from detective fiction) "kept a tail on/stuck close to"?

My first unfortunate guess for SATAN was (Philip) TRAUM -- the last name of the the Mysterious Stranger, if I recall correctly. Luckily, DAS KAPITAL saved me.

Anonymous 8:36 AM  

This puzzle was completely out of my realm of knowledge. It was extremely challenging for me, and I didn't come close to finishing even with help from the Google. Have a great day

RodeoToad 9:10 AM  

Weird,I was up at 1:30 this morning (I no longer sleep) reading that same Harper's article, right after doing the Harper's puzzle, which I did right after doing this puzzle and thinking I'd finished it successfully, though I wondered how CLUTZINESS could mean "intuition without regard to facts," which of course it can't and doesn't, but Billy Mitchell rocks, no?

Anonymous 9:22 AM  

Truthiness? Who knew? I got it only because of the crosses and couldn't believe it was a word. My favorite clue was 4 down "cheap commodity" for "talk". Now that I know what truthiness is - thanks to Wikipedia - I guess you could say that it's an apt illustration of 4 down.

poc 9:58 AM  

REALER? Really? Just awful. I had to hold my nose for that one. Otherwise a tough but pretty good puzzle, though I had to google for TRUTHINESS.

Unknown 10:22 AM  

This brought me back to my familiar weekend persona. How about Marlon (KEENEN), no, how about alia (ALII), no, crow (CREE) no, seperate (FEDERATE) no, mede (EGAL) etc. etc. So many wrong guesses even though I knew some of the long crosses. No complaints for a really challenging puzzle. I guess it was Medium because it was a typically difficult Saturday solve for me.

I had truthinsss for a bit guessing statist and someone will have to teach me Chinese history all over since I learned before the language reform and had to hack out an answer even though I knew the Xia Dynasty.

janie 10:45 AM  

needed some artificial intelligence for the sw quadrant only and/but still enjoyed this one a *lot*. also fell into some of the same traps others have cited -- went first with "meme" for "egal" -- and "gutfeeling" for "truthiness."

"old character" kept me guessing for a long time -- not because i wasn't familiar with "rune," but because i ran with the misdirection of looking for a character from literature (like "ogre"...).

was amused to see less-than-urban "acton" clued as a "city near boston":

o, little town of acton, mass...



Leon 10:52 AM  

Happy Flag Day to all !

STELLA MARIS is a Catholic High School for women in Rockaway Park, NY, Appropriately , it is near the Ocean.

The Schwab 10:57 AM  

Long time reader, first time commenter. Love what you do, Rex, read you every day. Anyway, the reason you likely put in SIMM for SNEE for 48A (NFL offensive guard Chris) is you may have been thinking of Chris Simms. Simms is a QB for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the son of Hall of Fame QB Phil Simms. Chris Snee is an offensive guard for the Superbowl winning Giants.

jubjub 11:04 AM  

Here's a very cool claymation version of "The Mysterious Stranger":

Got TRUTHINESS right away, as I am a loyal Colbert Report watcher (pat myself on the back). I'm sure we will hear about this next week on the show.

Mostly, this puzzle was gettable for me, which is always a plus on a Saturday. I had trouble in the middle east with ADAMITES, ACARID, ELIDED, RASA, and EGAL. I think I start with EdItED for ELIDED (didn't not know that one), which gave me EGAd for EGAL, to which I though, why would the French say Egad? Is that something to do with Jerry Lewis? I also had RASe for RASA, and eventually decided it must be eDoMITES (oh I get it now, ADAMites) ... anyways, much confusion, and didn't get it right til I checked this blog.

I agree with patrick above that there were a lot of extra letters tacked on to the end of words, e.g. REALER, INLANDER, ETATIST (really?), all the plurals and past tenses.

In any case, I liked a lot of the long answers, particularly the lower east.

I think AUST was a little rough, since it is hard enough to get random place names when they aren't abbreviated. However, Wienerwald is a great place name. Here's a picture of the German fast food chain of the same name from Wikipedia:

Heh heh, he said wiener. (Forgive me, I was watching old clips of Beavis & Butthead on Youtube yesterday.)

Belvoir 11:09 AM  

"Adamist" was a new one for me.

Wanted "modern storage units" to be GIGs not MEGs-
makes me think of the 90's- Syquest cartridges that cost a lot and held a whopping 44 MEGs. Just got a backup drive that's a terabyte- about 1000 GIGs.
MEGs seemed a lil old-fashioned..just sayin.

Pythia 11:42 AM  

Impressive puzzle at 62 words. TRUTHINESS -- the b*e*s*t answer. Colbert rules. Northwest was the most fun. No so dazzling anywhere else, no doubt the result of having such a low word count and four large chunks of white space. BRIBERIES -- ugh. REALER -- ick.

Great clue for CAR ALARM, and nice to see SNEE clued in a new way. Learned a new meaning for PIKER.

A pleasant enough solving experience overall.

ArtLvr 12:53 PM  

I'd made a reasonable start this morning with DAS KAPITAL and KITE RUNNER, STELLA and a few stabs elsewhere, but after completing the NW and SE I dozed off again.

Woke up later in the morning and got the FACE VALUE and PIKERS and the whole SW. Nodded off again.... Finally just past noon I came to and finished the NE, after recalling the Spoonerism -- "Don't cast dispersions on me!"

I agree with Peter Sattler that BULLDOGGED means persistently pursued by someone, not viciously attacked... at least the way we used it in college. I haven't heard it for years!

Anyway, I'm glad to have done this without a google, but it took a looong time and I had no idea why MEGS until coming here!


Anonymous 1:14 PM  

If you "cast aspersions at [----]", you're probably smearing his/her reputation. For that entry, I really wanted "libeled" (too short) or "slandered" (too long). I entered ASPERSED as an 8-letter gamble, and it paid off (glad I wasn't a PIKER!).

David 1:27 PM  

I thought it was great to see TRUTHINESS in the puzzle, and I'm embarrassed that it took me so long to figure it out---having seen the Colbert Report episode which coined it, and also having read about its Word of the Year accolades.

BULLDOGGED took me a while, but in the end I get the clue. Branching out from the pursuit-based meaning, I've also heard it used in a sense of "refused to stop badgering." I'd guess both meanings come from the way a bulldog stubbornly won't give up a bone, and both make sense. The clue is probably still be reaching or over-selling, but it's not _far_ off, at least.

Never heard any form of the term PIKERS, which combined with not coming up with ACTON led to some bad attempts at PERTAINING. Anyone know where it comes from? (Beyond just the verb "pike," that is.)

The answer that annoyed me, though, was KEENEN. Isn't he normally referred to by his full name, Keenen Ivory Wayans? That's why I also put Marlon in the grid at first; even after I took out Marlon I still resisted it for a long time.

Good puzzle overall, with some clever cluing, and novel answers I was very happy with.

Anonymous 1:46 PM  

Good Saturday puzzle.

Thanks for mentioning Tim Russert yesterday. It is the only program I watch on TV and well worth standing on the chair at 6 am like a frozen rabbit with the "rabbit ears" pointed just so ....

....Just so I can listen to Tim's take on things.

Tomorrow ...and all the Sundays after won't be the same...

chefbea 2:13 PM  

a really tough puzzle for me today with lots of googling. Why doesn't google have flags today??? Not very patriotic.
Had sushi last night. yummm

jae 2:31 PM  

As I was clicking on the NYT site last night I was thinking we are due for a Quigley after a pretty easy week and low and behold...

TRUTHINESS was practically a gimmie as I almost never miss The Daily Show or Colbert. NW and SE went quickly although I made a couple of the same missteps as Rex in SE (SATS, DENS) which KITERUNNER fixed. My problem was in SW where I had ROMS which gave me the very plausible PORTFOLIO for 29d. I also had TOYOTAS and OMITED in the center. Seeing that 41a could only be AVIONICS fixed everything but it took a while. Oh, and add me to the MARLON for a while group and I also think BULLDOGGED seems a bit off.

Speaking of Colbert Newsweek recently described his fans as "media saturated, post ironic." I get the media saturated part but WTF is post-ironic???

fergus 2:40 PM  

Thought that BOOK VALUE was a better fit than FACE, insofar as the potential deviation seems to be wider. While half of the puzzle dropped in nicely the SE was bedeviled by NOOK instead of NEST. Then the SW was such a long slog despite some anchors. Even my cheating didn't pay off as I could barely find any five-letter cities on the Boston page of my atlas. Looked again. Still no ACTON. Station on the Piccadilly line? ACTON TOWN. IDEOLOGIES was my toughest, though with Marx right above, I ought to have ventured off campus or away from the shoals.

What about female nudists? Would they be ADAMITES, too? My Movie set? were EXTRAS for a while, until they became ACTORS.

Joon 2:45 PM  

RASA! that makes much more sense. i was thinking RASÉ, and then i was thinking, "why is this random french word in the puzzle?" ADAMITES is a new one on me. i guess it makes sense, adam having been notably nude and all.

i think it was quarfoot who noticed a while back that for themelesses, the lower a puzzle's word count is, the less interesting the words in it will be. this is an example. i mean, all those long words are nice and it's impressive that it can all work out, but it results in stuff like half the words ending with ING or ER or ED.

still, i liked this puzzle, though i can't stand colbert so i was not impressed with TRUTHINESS. somebody will have to explain to me why they find him funny. he's no JONSTEWART.

HSIA aka XIA was in the recent (okay, not that recent) byron puzzle where the X crossed HAPAX legomenon. i don't think i'd seen it spelled HSIA before, but i know how to pronounce it so that was okay with me.

INONESENSE and TASTETESTS look absolutely crazy down there. one of them ends with NESENSE and the other STETESTS. i wonder what's the smallest number of distinct letters from which it is possible to construct a 15x15 puzzle? i see that 10 has been done twice.

Doug 2:54 PM  

Prior to the current "pinyin" transliteration method used by mainland China, the common method was "Wade-Giles." XIA uses pinyin and HSIA uses Wade-Giles. X/HS i pronounced like an aspirated "SH" and HSIA is pronounced like shee-AH.

Very legit, as Taiwan still uses W-G. I have a good friend named HSIA Pi Lei (obvisouly from Taiwan) who gave our kids all their Chinese names.

Now that I sound quite educated--Forget it. I got about 25%, googled a bit, and just read the blog....!

Anonymous 2:55 PM  

I did not like etatist in such close proximity to egal. Had three out of four of the top stacked 10s, and still could not piece together truthiness, since I do not watch Stephen Colbert or know who Thad Jones is. Know XIA but do not recall HSIA. It's all phonetic anyway.


Anonymous 3:10 PM  

Oh, and of course SHAD (roe) Jones, the well-known "Renezvous with MAMA" and the TSIA Dynasty (sure, why not?) led me to SMUTTINESS.


mac 3:42 PM  

This is a bad day in Toscana - got the Herald Tribune but it has the Sunday puzzle, not the Saturday one which I like the best....
Twas a good day otherwise, with visits to three lovely Tuscan towns, with coffee stops and lunch and gelato and a little shopping (how am I going to replicate the fantastic macchiato?), and a pretty decent homecooked meal back at the house.
I'm saving the Sunday puzzle for tomorrow, when I'm planning to do nothing else (except for a little ironing and preparing of lunch.....).
Envy you all for the MR. Q puzzle you enjoyed!

chefbea 3:59 PM  

@mac glad you are having such a good time in Toscano.
Yummm macchiato - that is the right spelling.
Nothing better than Italian gelato.

alanrichard 4:02 PM  

Athol Mass and Marlon Wayons cost me a few to start. Especially when I got Car alarm and avionics. The funny thing is with those miscues or illcues to paprphrase yesterdays puzzle it still took me less than 1/2 hour. Good thing I wasn't watching The Third Man at the time. Too bad I still haven't finished Newsday's Saturday Stumper.

Anonymous 4:30 PM  

i liked this saturday. the top and bottom were complete polar opposites in difficulty though - the bottom was super easy for me and the top super hard. ALII was a gimme, and FACE VALUE had a pretty easy clue. RUNE, REALER, and AVIONICS were easy to get from those crosses (though AVIATION initially fits). I knew KITE RUNNER, and RISK IT was also super easily clued. WENT, CREE, and AUST were gimmes once the cross was there, and that was the bottom.

But I could not get anywhere with the top! Guessed IHOP and CLIP, but that was all. I think the problem was the influx of names and facts in the clues. THAD, RAMA, HSIA, RAMA, SATAN, and STELLA were all really narrowly clued there, and I'd never heard of DAS KAPITAL. Put STATIST for ETATIST. Never heard of ACARID.

Also, the PIKERS / KEENAN crossing was tough.

Favorite clue: "Subjective side-by-side comparisons"

archaeoprof 4:48 PM  

I gotta turn off the "Law & Order" reruns and watch more Colbert.

Michael Chibnik 5:21 PM  

My doing this demonstrated the extent to which I've become a puzzle addict. I spent the morning sandbagging as the river continues to rise in Iowa City. Because the interstate connecting Iowa City and the airport near Cedar Rapids is flooded, the NYT didn't make it to town. This led me for the first time to try across lite which require (1) finding out the home account # for my Sunday Times home delivery; (2) installing across lite; (3) having a half-hour consultation with someone from the NYT trying to figure out why I couldn't access the puzzle; (4) finding out that I could access it on Internet Explorer but not on Firefox (is this common?).

Then I saw that the puzzle was from BEQ, a constructor that gives me great trouble. Wonderful -- trying to figure out a BEQ Saturday and also Across Lite.

But with only two googles, I got the puzzle right and felt better about things, even as it looks like it is about to rain yet again.

chefbea 5:31 PM  

@ michael Subscribe to the times digest. It's delivered to your inbox every morning and you can print out the puzzle. It's very easy to do.
Hope the water starts receding in Iowa!!! Must be awful. Our grandson's marine unit is in Indiana helping them with their flood damage. Hopefully you will get help too

foodie 5:41 PM  

If there were a prize for weird answer of the day, I might be in the running... For "thing that will deter someone from taking a ride" and having -AR--A--, I came up with "BAREBACK"! I first thought of it in terms of horses, then wondered about its sexual connotations... Regardless, it took me forever to part with this crazy guess.

Otherwise, I did remarkably well for me on a Saturday, taking other wild guesses that turned out to be true... So, I am still nursing this minor high from excellent performances all week.

As to "TRUTHINESS", whether or not one loves Colbert, the term is genius. It simply needed to be coined... As a scientist, I know we strive for the truth, but we often fall prey to truthiness... I now use it and warn my students about wanting to be believe an interpretation of a result not based on the weight of the evidence, but because of its "truthiness".

Mac, a friend of mine was in Europe last year and e-mailed me about the Sunday puzzle on Friday my time in the US, as it appeared in the Herald Tribune on their Saturday weekend edition. I was surprised and we became interested in when was the earliest time, on earth, that one could get a hold of the print version of the Sunday puzzle. For example, is there a Herald Tribune in Japan, and do they get the puzzle first? We found out that they do have the Tribune but something else replaces the puzzle on the weekend... I think we wound up deciding that someone in London would be the first to see the puzzle. But I don't know the real answer. Anyone know?

dk 6:33 PM  

I erred. Had talc as the cheap commodity and DasCapital as the 1867 book.

Started this puzzle in the morning, drained water from my basement, fixed a closet shelf that fell.... why does everything go wrong when you are trying to sell your house.

I had so many mistakes that I made early on this one took forever. Separate for FEDERATE was one, risked for RISKIT was another. I could go on and on... but I am reading First Among Sequels (Fforde) so it is back to Thursday Next.

Good luck in Iowa and Italy.

We had Tapas last night (my son the chef) is in town for the week so I am INONESENSE becoming a bigger person (insert belly rubbing about here)

Anonymous 8:29 PM  

This one took me forever. I never would have gotten the SW had I not guessed LEAN on 43A, which was wrong, but by pure luck had the right first letter. That gave me CAR ALARM and (eventually) the rest.

foodie 8:55 PM  

Wow, dk! A son who can make Tapas. Sounds like heaven!

PuzzleGirl 9:25 PM  

On November 1, 2005, the New York Times ran the following correction:

The TV Watch column last Tuesday, about "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central, misstated the "word of the day" invented for the show's feature "The Word." It was "truthiness," not "trustiness."

Of course, Colbert mentioned the correction on his show. He was all "Trustiness?? That's not even a word!"

Loved this puzzle. Finished it in 85 minutes with no Googles. Thank God for The Kite-Runner. It was the only thing that gave me hope during my first pass.

I was going to tell you all what I've eaten today but then I decided you probably don't care.

Shamik 9:27 PM  

Dang. Elba is an island, not a river. Otherwise got the rest of this challenging puzzle. Do NOT like truthiness. Does anyone really use this word?

foodie 9:59 PM  

@ Shamik

901,000 hits on Google for Truthiness, voted word of the year in 2005, is in Wikipedia, which says: "Colbert later ascribed truthiness to other institutions and organizations, such as Wikipedia." You gotta love it!

Anonymous 10:22 PM  

I care, Puzzlegirl. I care.

David 10:59 PM  

foodie, that is easily one of the best wrong answers I've ever heard of. It's brilliant. I especially like how it would have crossed with BANG and KEGS. Yikes!

Unknown 2:07 AM  

As a crossword constructor myself, I can forgive a few clumsy entries for the brilliance of being able to fill that 62 word grid at all. It may not be record-breaking -- I think Nosowsky still has the record for fewest words and fewest black squares, but that's the nastiest grid to fill that I've encountered in a while. And for all of that, it *didn't* fall into massive obscurity for the most part. I give this puzzle very high marks indeed, even if "car alarm" and "ideologies" gave me fits.

Anonymous 12:55 PM  

It was the construction of the thing that impressed me, that wide open pinwheel of nothing. Couldn't quite believe I could fill anything in but DAS KAPITAL came first, and the SE corner filled pretty easily. I let the rest go. Not enough to hang onto, and when I filled in REALER I knew there would be a bumpy ride anywhere I chose to try some nutty something Just In Case I could make something of it. Happy to sit this one out.

Anonymous 5:11 PM  

(I thought CHAD and LAMA made more sense than THAD and RAMA) and
thought it was some insider joke about making puzzles!!!!!!!
Seemed to fit: intuition without regard to facts!
(Gotta get cable)

NORI was first thing I got and then KITERUNNER and DAS KAPITAL

(@Kevin it always gives me pause when you mention something you didn't know and I always wonder if it's just generational...but if a Stanford grad has never heard of DAS KAPITAL, just what is going on down there!?! ;)

Rebel 4:39 AM  

I was just watching the Daily Show & Steven Colbert was bragging about getting 'truthiness' on the NYT crossword - it was cute!

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