Saturday, June 28, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Byron gave me a heads-up yesterday that today's puzzle was going to be one of his. I can't decide if knowing is a good thing or a bad thing. Usually, his puzzles are far more challenging (and far more entertaining) than your average puzzles, so I can easily psych myself out if I know a puzzle's by him (see also any puzzle by Bob Klahn). On the other hand, if I go into the puzzle prepared for serious war, and the puzzle is at all tractable, I get this great feeling of power, bordering on elation. Maybe this is how Genghis Khan felt. I don't know; I haven't seen the movie yet (largely because it hasn't been released). The point is, I made short work of this puzzle (well, shortish). I was prepared for far more resistance than I got, and yet ... it was still thorny enough to be a proper workout, and (mostly) as inventive and clever as I expect a Byron Walden puzzle to be.

First bit of traction was in the NE, where the disturbing PLEA (24A: Video from a kidnappee's family, e.g.) gave me the "A" that confirmed my improbably correct first guess of SASHAYS for 14D: Steps lively. Guessed AGO (11D: Long _____), which gave me the (always handy) AGORA (16A: Heart of ancient Athens), and then there was a brief pause, for which I'm grateful. Saturdays should not allow you to blow through a full quadrant of the puzzle with ease. PROTEAN went down first, though I forget why - I know about Proteus from my eternal grad school studying. I read about a lot of gods, and he was in there somewhere. Shape-shifter. Oh, maybe I guessed ATH (21A: Letter getter: Abbr.) off the "H" - my distaste for this Abbr. has been covered elsewhere. This allowed me to get the real gem of the NE, and possibly of the whole puzzle: 12D: The "I" of Elizabeth I? (Royal 'We'). Man, that's some good cluin'. Eventually, the identically clued HARPS and YOYOS fell into place (10A and 18A: They come with strings attached), and finally I was treated to a most ridiculous little word, which I claimed (aloud) was not a word at all, or at least shouldn't be: HAYS (10D: Makes bales, say).

I bounced around this puzzle a lot - much more than usual. I had pieces of the puzzle done in three different quadrants before I started knitting them together. Was helped enormously in the SW by OSSIE (60A: Malcolm X eulogist Davis), who was the plausible Davis that could have gone there (the fact that 37D: Storage rooms was a plural helped confirm one of the S's). Had a weird experience in the NW, where I wrote in MUMMIES for 1D: Corps of corpses, but then misread my own "U" as an "O," which allowed me to get ONION ROLL (15A: Piquant base for a sandwich), which then allowed me to backtrack and change MUMMIES to ZOMBIES. The best (i.e. worst) answer up there is MR. ROMANCE (17A: 2005 reality show hosted by Fabio), which raises/lowers the reality show bar in the puzzle to new highs/lows. And I thought we'd topped/bottomed out at "Date My Mom."

What was most nutso? (Besides HAYS, I mean) Well, there was ALCIDS (8D: Auks, puffins, and related birds), which I didn't know despite having just written a little chapter about crossword birds like the AUK. Ravens and bluejays are corvids. My bird taxonomy knowledge ends there. Let's see ... oh, I know so little about both weaving and mining that I had to run through half the alphabet to figure out the letter at the intersection of LOOM (4D: 1785 invention of England's Edmund Cartwright) and BEAM ENGINES (19A: Steam-driven devices that pump water from mines). Don't read historical novels (unless they are by Sir Walter Scott) and so EUGENIA whatsherface (41D: Southern historical novelist Price) was unknown to me. Guessed her off the initial EU-. Didn't know 51A: Item called a geyser in Britain (water heater), but it was easy to infer with a few crosses. After 9D: Owen _____, rebel in Shakespeare's "King Henry IV" (Glendower) and 34A: "Where's my serpent of old _____?": "Antony and Cleopatra" ("Nile"), I thought I was going to get the Shakespeare trifecta at 61A: Will work? - but sadly, the Will in question was George: 61A: Will work? (op-ed essay). I own his baseball book, "Men at Work." I heard him talk about his son recently and it was remarkably touching. I somehow doubt he would approve of the style in which I write this commentary, though he does strike me as someone who might enjoy a crossword puzzle now and again.


  • 1A: Holder of many a sandwich (Ziploc bag) - gorgeous! The spelling on ZIPLOC alone is pure deliciousness. Love how this sandwich-related answer sits atop the other sandwich-related answer, ONION ROLL.
  • 22A: "Lost" actor Somerhalder (Ian) - words can't explain how little I care about this show. To me, it's the "Seinfeld" of the 21st century, in that many of my friends love it, but the appeal is lost on me.
  • 25A: Coming right back at you? (echoic) - like HAYS, this has a high "WTF!?" factor.
  • 39A: Heart failures? (reneges) - had NO idea this could be a noun (just as I had no idea HAYS could be a verb)
  • 43A: Doesn't need more seasoning (tastes OK) - god I love this. Ridiculous, bordering on silly, yet admirably daring and undeniably entertaining.
  • 46A: Eponymous oilman Halliburton (Erle) - do we need "eponymous" here? And you thought the only ERLE in the world was Mr. Gardner...
  • 49A: Janissary commander (Aga) - Take that, BEY and DEY! I should keep a running tally of who's winning the AGA / BEY / DEY wars.
  • 55A: Change at the top? (new do) - almost as good as TASTES OK.
  • 3D: Ruthless type (piranha) - didn't see that coming.
  • 5D: "All Eyez _____" (1996 Tupac Shakur album). Here's a cut, featuring crossword stalwart Dr. DRE (if you want to skip the epic video silliness and get to the song, move forward to the 1:20 minute mark):

  • 6D: Start of some blended juice names (Cran) - I had this in a puzzle I was constructing once. It was booed out of the room by reviewers. I still have a certain fondness for it.
  • 57A: Ingredient in a mojito highball (spearmint) - I don't care how painfully hipster / touristy these drinks have become; they are Delicious.
  • 24D: Unit that's larger than 19 trillion miles (parsec) - damn ... that's big.
  • 27D: San Diego-to-Seattle rte. (I-Five) - I spent many a day on this "rte" every summer of my life from age 10 to 16. Lived in CA, had relatives in OR and WA. Our summer vacations were all about the I-FIVE.
  • 28D: "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" instrument (celesta) - how did I know this? I can't even picture a CELESTA at the moment.
  • 30D: 100 aurar (krona) - !?!? At least I knew KRONA was a unit of currency.
  • 38D: Anthony Hopkins role in "Shadowlands" (C.S. Lewis) - never saw it, but how many answers start with "CS?" (not many)
  • 48D: Beau-_____ (French in-law)(frère) - one of my first entries. What else could it be but SOEUR ... ?
  • 53D: Manx relative (Erse) - A contracted English version of "Irish"
  • 56D: Century starter in the papacy of Gregory I (DCI) - YOTP!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of Crossworld


Anonymous 8:41 AM  

Just when I thought I was almost smart enough to consider myself competent, along comes this puzzle that completely killed. And you thought it was medium-easy!!! Maybe the lesson here is coffee first, then puzzle. Have a great Saturday.

Anonymous 8:48 AM  

I got tripped over the papacy--I kept trying NEW CO or NEW XO for the change at the top. (er, YOTP means what...?)

Shadowlands was a great movie, romantic and depressing.

Stupid Ian Somerhalder was killed off of Lost a couple years ago. I had completely forgotten about him.

My favorite answer is CELESTA. But I was thinking more like a glass harmonica.

Anonymous 8:48 AM  

Easy-Medium? Not for me. I don't think even with coffee I had a chance. I think maybe I need to enjoy being outside, and give the xwords a short break. I'll be in Alaska shortly, and I'm sure this will give me the opportunity to recharge.

gull = TRICK?
new to me...

Anonymous 8:55 AM  

I did what I hate to do - googled that #%^$ Halliburton guy. But wasn't easy finding his first name; he seems downright shadowy.

And, because of EPIC instead of EPOS, I got "KRINA." And thought, I don't even know what a KRINA is, but I got it anyway! Woo-hoo!

JannieB 9:38 AM  

@karen - YOTP = Year of the Pope (doesn't matter which pope or what year)

Definitely more medium than easy for me - kept wanting Lunch box or brown bag at 1A. Once I figure out the correct answered I both cheered and swore!

A really solid Saturday puzzle - after much struggle I finished without a google. Can someone explain manx/erse? I thought a manx was a cat without a tail. The connection to erse escapes me.

Unknown 9:43 AM  

I'm with the gang above: this one bit into me and wouldn't let go. I had to start last night, then sleep on it -- and then go Googling.

It all started with being 100% sure that 1A was TOOTHPICK. Sure, that one fell away pretty quick, but the hits just kept coming. The whole EPIC/EPOS thing was a pain, as was ECHOES/ECHOIC. I started doubting everything and putting in weird guesses, like EUSTACE for EUGENIA.

This one just ATE INTO my confidence (an answer that I could barely see, even after all the letters were in.

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

Manx is the language spoken on the Isle of Man and was in a puzzle a few weeks ago. On French in-laws: it couldn't be beau soeur because beau is masculine, so it could be beau pere but sister-in-law (and mother-in-law) use the feminine "belle". I really enjoyed this puzzle - loved "tastes ok" and 59 acr. "turns tail" among others - but I'd call it an unmitigated medium.

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

Today's what-I-learned-from- doing-crossword-puzzles word is EPOS. Needless to say, I put EPIC for 35A, but the word-lover (pedant?) in me rejoices to learn EPOS. The second definition is given as "epic" but its first definition is "a number of poems, not formally united, that treat an epic theme." Paradise Lost or Pilgrim's Progress would be EPICS, but Gilgamesh, essentially a mash-up from varied sources, is an EPOS.

Rex Parker 9:57 AM  

EPOS is common - it's now been in at least three NYT puzzles in this year alone. It's not nearly as common as EPIC, true, but still, hardly new, and if you've been doing puzzles for any amount of time, you've definitely seen it. See Mar. 16 puzzle, Feb. 13 puzzle, etc.


SethG 9:58 AM  

Also harder than Easy-Medium for me.

The list of things I didn't know would be similar to a list of words in the puzzle.

My first answer was SOURDOUGH, and it fit so perfectly I was sure it was right. And since I knew _nothing_ else up there, it was kinda tough to get rid of.

What saved me was WATER partial on the geyser--that gave me Texas with ease, which opened up the SW, SE and Carolinas. Eventually got the NE by _finally_ getting SOCK AWAY from ESCAPES and PARSEC, and I finally took a stab at BONGO, which led to xxxxENGINES and eventually the rest.

I think I'd have saved half my time if I knew just GLENDOWER, even more if I knew BEAM ENGINES, SHAFFER, CELESTA, or I-FIVE.

For those who miss my vacation shots, here is the Stoa of Attalos in the ancient AGORA, and here is the outside of the Stoa.

Yeah, no clue on EPOS. Happy weekend!

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

Congrats to Rex for finding this easy-medium for a Saturday! Not so for me: I just was not in a frame of mind to count on too many guesses. Once I looked up MR ROMANCE, SHAFFER and GLENDOWER, those helped with the NW. Other sections needed google confirmations of CELESTA, EUGENIA, ERLE and OSSIE, because "corroded" could have been ATE away instead of ATE INTO, etc.

I had fewer problems with the whole right side of the puzzle, and should have worked on those areas first as it turned out! I liked the cluing of "Heart failures" referring to the playing-card suit for RENEGES, which goes nicely with "flush" HAND. I also enjoyed the other clever phrase answers mentioned by Rex...


Leon 10:24 AM  

ONION ROLL and TREF brought back memories of Ratner's Dairy Restaurant on Delancey Street. Ratner's was strict Kosher and a favorite of the gangster Meyer Lansky. Sadly, it is now closed.

Thanks @Sethg for the AGORA and STOA pictures.

Coop 10:25 AM  

I don't get the "Letter getter: abbr." and "ath" combination. Also, "tref" as an answer to "Not kosher"?

Unknown 10:32 AM  

With coop I don't get "ath"--abbrev. for what?

Do get "hays" as a verb--heard often here in Wisconsin.

Don't get the "I" for Royal we, unless the editorial "we" used by royals.


Rex Parker 10:36 AM  


Doris 10:37 AM  

A propos of nothing, the British pronounce "geyser" as "geezer," which never fails to amuse me. I don't think they use "geezer" as we use it; I'll have to ask.

Re "tref," or, as it's spelled in Leo Rosten's not-always-accurate "The Joys of Yiddish," "trayf," the word comes from the Hebrew "teref," meaning "torn to pieces." This refers to unclean methods of slaughtering animals, according to L.R. Came to mean any food not kosher and, slangily, anything faintly taboo. You really needed to know this.

dk 10:37 AM  

Hard for me today and I had espresso first. Loved CELESTA as I did not know it and same was true for ECHOIC.

I lived in Sweden for a few years and there I learned that KRONA is Swedish for love. :)

JannieB 10:39 AM  

ATH = athlete(s) who earn letters for excelling in their sports in high school

And thanks for the Manx explanation!

Rex Parker 10:39 AM  

re: ROYAL WE: it was common practice for monarchs to use first person plural in lieu of first person singular. Not sure if monarchs still do this. Great misdirection today on the Roman numeral "I"


Rex Parker 10:40 AM  

TREF nearly destroyed me at my first ACPT. Total guess (a correct one, it turns out). I've never forgotten it. Trauma (or near trauma) tends to stick in one's mind.


Margaret 10:44 AM  

Well, I think I'm getting a BEAM on Rex's evaluation process. An easy/medium for "Mr. 55" means that I *might* get the puzzle with fewer than 3 googles! In this case 2 googles and I still couldn't work out "Will Work." Fun puzzle, though.

I've taken to starting Sat. puzzles on Friday night then returning to them on Sat. am. As others have noted, sleeping on it certainly seems to help for me.

Shadowlands is one of my favorite movies. And Lewis's memoir "Surprised by Joy" is also wonderful.

Doris 10:44 AM  

Further research indicates that the British do use "geezer" to mean a strange or sometimes eccentric person or sometimes just a man, the way some of us (not me) use "dude." But they pronounce "geyser" the same way. Haven't happen to have heard their version of "geezer" when over there. (WHY am I spending TIME on this????)

Shamik 10:54 AM  

Have to call this one Medium-Splat. Filled in all the blanks, but just not correctly.

Loved ZIPLOCBAG 'cause I consider myself the queen of the usage of these items...much to the chagrin of my Tupperware Regional Manager sister-in-law.

Also loved CELESTA, TASTESOK and ONIONROLL. However, I detested OPEDESSAY, not knowing who Will was and kept thinking about some kind of estate planning as in work in making a will. But those weren't my problems.

Most times if it looks like it fits, I leave it without a google. So some cramped quarters really are GARRETS and maybe ol' Will S. did write about Owen GLENDOGER and the changeable set could be PROTEAT (but that did look just plain wrong).

The other error was about the NEWCO for the troops...but then stupid ol' ROYALWE Gregory I should have been pope in 201 A.D. Blyecch!

One time we were out playing Buzztime trivia and the little "funny" at the end of one of the questions said "Eskimos are known to be very smug." Now in our house if someone is being quite self-satisfied we say they're being an Eskimo. (No ethnic slur intended!!!!!)

Rex...you're being an Eskimo today calling this one Easy-Medium.

Off to go finish yesterday's puzzle since I spent two days camping into the wilderness on horseback and have catching up to do.

Orange 11:00 AM  

I bought some Ciao Bella fresh mint with chocolate chip gelato—they weren't kidding about fresh mint! The ice cream smells like fresh mint leaves, though I think it might be peppermint and not SPEARMINT. Which is the default fresh mint plant?

Once I overheard someone telling her dining party, "It has lime, and mint, and rum. It's called a MOE-juh-toe." Yeah, mojito takes a Spanish J, "mo-HEE-toe."

Anonymous 11:19 AM  

Even by Saturday standards, this was medium-hard, but very entertaining. No laughs, but a grudging "okay" each time I'd figure out one of the long acrosses.

janie 11:20 AM  

relative to byron's puzzles, this was an easier one for me (also completed this more smoothly than yesterday's...) -- but that "epos"/"parsec" cross (and having "saltaway" for "sockaway") nearly did me in. didn't know the latter and always forget the former. i'm hopin' this'll finally larn me! ;-)


46A: Eponymous oilman Halliburton (Erle) - do we need "eponymous" here? And you thought the only ERLE in the world was Mr. Gardner...

yeah. and there's also "erle of olay"...

happy saturday!



Unknown 11:24 AM  

I am so glad to read others found this one a challenge. I know Orange and Rex did not and that probably means that Saturday puzzles separate the pedestrians from the runners. Added to the difficulty (normal Saturday for me) I had an error. It was TREF. I entered tret and just knowing that word seemed a victory and it was marginally appropriate for an answer.

Thanks seth, you have a talent. Welcome to jo hawkins donavan and thanks to doris for sharing her internal dialouge ;) We were ammused.

Anonymous 11:31 AM  

Tried HOT DOG BUN for sandwich holder...Knew it was wrong but what the hay...

Good puzzle. No pre-Googling, just Retro-Googling, which doesn't count, right?

Bill from NJ 11:35 AM  

I really did well on this puzzle. Had BONGO GLENDOWER right out of the box which got me ******BAG and *****ROLL. My 17-year-old daughter loves Fabio hence MRROMANCE. I saw Eqqus in Phily so SHAFFER was a gimme. OSSIE was also a gimme so I was able to piece together everything west of the Mississippi.

I got EPOS from PARSEC KRONA ESCAPES as I moved Eastward. I was not fooled at 39A, guessed SMARTLY SASHAYS.

All of my guesses turned out right today so I found this puzzle to be "Easy" in that sense. I've had other times when my guesses didn't work out.

Finished this puzzle in 20 minutes, by far my best time for a Saturday. Better to be lucky than good

poc 12:07 PM  

ATH?!?!?! No no no no, just horrible.

Had SHAEFER instead of SHAFFER for a while till I googled him.

Celtic languages are either Goidelic or Brythonic. Manx is Goidelic, as are Irish and Scots Gaelic. Breton, Welsh and Cornish are Brythonic.

The Royal We, called the pluralis majestatis is described in detail at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_we. Great clue by the way.

Anonymous 12:45 PM  

Hey Rex,
The two words you seemed to challenge (HAY and ECHOIC) were quick wins for me. Anyone who's worked on a farm for the summer has probably done some hayin'. Often, two crops per year from the same fields. Chop it down, bale it up, hoist it onto the flatbed trailer (unless you have a good baler that tosses it into a big crib trailer.

And I didn't really know echoic, but I knew anechoic. If you've ever been in an anechoic chamber,
you'll probably never forget the experience. Designed to absorb virtually all sound and bounce none of it back, the room is so quiet you can hear the blood rushing through your ears and the "thunk" of your eyelids when you blink.


jae 12:53 PM  

This one ended my nearly two week run of error free puzzles. My errors were the same as shamik's. I had NEWCO and GARRETS. I did change GARRETS to WARRENS when my dictionary confirmed that PROTEAT wasn't a word but I think that counts as an error under my rules (still working out the details). I sussed the Will clue right but had OPEDPIECE at first. A very impressive puzzle. My only quibble is that HAYS as a verb seems a bit forced. Loved the ZIPLOC/ZOMBIE crossing!

For the record this was medium-challenging (emphasis on the challenging) for me.

SethG 12:56 PM  

Years ago there was a "Top Ten Fabio Pick-Up Lines...as read by Fabio" on David Letterman. The one I remember: "You look hungry. I will microwave you a burrito."

archaeoprof 1:21 PM  

Loved this puzzle, esp. TASTESOK and TURNSTAIL, but got tripped up on EPOS. My wife, a college biology professor, maintains that SACRUM is not a pelvic bone. The pelvis is made up of the ilium, ischium, and pubis. The sacrum is part of the axial skeleton, while the pelvis belongs to the appendicular skeleton. We've only been married for three weeks, so I'm not going to argue with her about it.

Unknown 1:22 PM  

Had the same experience on an overabundance of Sangria.
jae, I had the same editorial gaff.
Sethg another was, you wanna help me get a last name?
A lot of blue/orange participation today, but why was everyone up so early?

mac 1:35 PM  

Definitely a medium to challenging for me! The last area to fall was the NW, where I was fooling around with picnic bags and lunchboxes and didn't think of piranha or the end of echoic.
I got the trick for gull, I guess gullible is trickable.

In the SE, I was convinced there is a sugarcube in a mojito, I've always seen people mashing the mint and lime with a special tool into the sugar before the liquids go in. Oh, I just checked and the gadget is called a muddle or caipirinha pestle... Got my drinks confused, but I think they are both very good.

Waterheater for geyser was a gimme, we use the same system in the Netherlands, plus I have lived in England for a total of 4 years. Never heard them pronounce it geezer, though.

Somehow I realised that the heart failures were not heart related, and after rejects figured out reneges.

I wonder when Aga is going to be clued as the English giant stove that is becoming so popular in Manhattan appartments, probably because of the brilliant colors.

It's a gorgeous day in CT, so much better than the predictions! Bbq tonight.

Anonymous 2:00 PM  

I must be getting better. All done and it's still Saturday morning here in California. Took a moment to read "yellow" as cowardly instead of aging and a while longer to work out EPOS (OPUS? EPIC?) since I didn't know the word. AURAR made me think of AU, which made me think of gold, which led to Krugerrands, which distracted me with KRUGA/KRUGE for longer than it should have. I knew KRONER as a currency, but hadn't seen KRONA. Still, compared to my usual Saturday struggle, a bit of a breeze.

Ladel 2:20 PM  


you think a Saturday puzzle is hard, you should try Costco on a Saturday around noon, now that's the paradigm of hard. Good grazing tho, too bad all the stuff is tref.

Joon 3:01 PM  

i also found this easy-medium for a saturday. right on byron's wavelength for the most part. my first stumble was SCHAFER. i never remember how to spell that; there are three binary variables (C, E, second F), so i only have a 1/8 chance of getting it right a priori. knowing the length improves those odds, giving only SCHAFER, SHAEFFER, and SHAFFER; and SHAEFFER really doesn't look right. but SHAFFER doesn't look right either, despite actually being right. stop me if i'm making no sense.

ROYALWE was the highlight of the clues. simply brilliant. ZIPLOCBAG is awesome for the fill.

i liked this puzzle's YOTP. gregory I, unlike many popes in YOTP clues, is actually important and somewhat famous. he reformed the liturgy, giving rise to what we now call gregorian chant. it certainly sounds like it's from the early middle ages, and it is. hence it wasn't hard to figure out that DCI.

Anonymous 3:49 PM  

Ate me alive - just another example of me thinking I'm getting good at this and then getting smacked down. Oh well, a four googler and looking forward to a nice pleasant Sunday.


janie 3:50 PM  

oh -- on geyser/geezer -- in iceland, where there are geysers aplenty, they pronounce it "geezer" as well.



Anonymous 4:02 PM  

As Joon notes, all those close spellings, especially after the recent beer Clue for SHAEFFER, which I've probably misspelled.

Artlvr, wouldn't you refer to failing to follow suit (when you've got one) as REVOKE and not RENEGE, or are both used?

This puzzle went more smoothly for me than yesterday's though I thought today's was more clever. Pretty flashy, even. The doubled Clues at the top made things easier in that they were more closely related than is often the case when the Clues gull you into thinking along similar lines, but shouldn't.

Funny to see SACRUM, since I was trying to put that in my chest yesterday, even though I knew it was wrong. TASTES OK could have been Clued better, I thought, crossing with LARDERS.

The British geyser was one of those many, many words that have similar, yet distinctly different meanings on either side of the Atlantic. I understood the English geyser to be pretty much just any guy, a bloke, though maybe with not quite as much amiability attached. Not derogatory, and not referring to age. And no where near as versatile as Dude. And never heard the term used for a WATER HEATER -- just double-checked with English friend who had never heard the term either, though he did allow for an outside possibility for the Cockney rhyming slang, though thought that too much of a stretch.

Anonymous 4:19 PM  

How come Southern Californians add a "the" to all of their freeways. The I-5 in LA is just I-5 in Seattle.

Bill D 4:45 PM  

Shakespearean Also-Ran / Shape-Shifting Greek

Thought I nailed this one but it turned out to be a real mess. I had everyone else's misplays and then some! Forced "GARRETS" in with "OPUS" and "KRUNA" (just got back from Croatia where the monetary unit is the Kuna, so "Kruna" seemed likely as somebody's Kroner) and never noticed that "PROTEAT" didn't make sense. Though, to be frank, PROTEAN would not have made sense to me anyway. Since GLENanything would have worked for me in King Henry IV I didn't even flinch at the resulting "GLENDOGOR".

In a totally unrelated snafu I knocked 400 years off YOTP with "CCI" to get "NEW CO" (which I thought was great cluing; NEW DO not so much).

I tried for more damage but was forced to be correct. Left CELESTA but wanted "CELESTE", a more common keyboard. Tried to force "WALKING BEAM" into BEAM ENGINES early on, but even with it on the brain I took too long to reverse the BEAM. ZOMBIES fell without much of a fight, but the PIRANHA took a while to overcome.

A RENEGE (n.) is when you misplay a HAND in cards - in Hearts an example would be dropping a heart on a club trick while holding a club in your hand.

Great puzzle except for ATH. Nice long corner stacks. Ancient literature references eventually my undoing.

Anonymous 5:02 PM  


The extraneous 'the' is, I think, a vestige of what all the LA freeways used to be called, like the Harbor, the Pasadena, the Golden State, etc. Must have been about 20 years ago when people stopped using those names and just stuck with the numbers. In San Diego, nobody adds a 'the' either. "Take 5 south and then 8 east, if you want to get from UCSD to SDSU."

Joon 5:02 PM  

gnarbles, i was going to comment on that too. it drives me up the wall. to be fair, most socalites that i know would call it "the 5"; northern californians just call it "5" or "I-5." but it still bugs me. the whole point of giving something a uniquely identifying number is that you don't have to use "the" any more. (okay, not the whole point, but much of it.) it always strikes me as discordant, like if luke called him "the R2D2."

on a related note, what's with "the" ukraine (which is apparently now just ukraine) and "the" gambia? i can understand the USA and the UK, but not those.

Unknown 5:28 PM  

Things change. The Soviets referred to 'The Ukraine' as part of their empire or one of the Soviet Republics. Its use was seen as as assigning the people and the land of Ukraine to a subservient role in the larger context of the nation. When granted independence, the legislature immediately adopted the name Ukraine. They felt that it better reflected the condition of being an independent state.

A look at the map of Gambia hints at their issue. The nation was carved out as those people who lived along 'The Gambia River.' For most of its existence, The Gambia, as Ukraine above, referred to a region of a larger empire including Mali and later the British Empire. Always a sore subject among the natives, the legislature acted to assert their independence by calling themselves the nation of Gambia rather than an area or region. The world acceptance of this has been spotty. There is a similar story for 'The Senegal'/Senegal.

Rex Parker 5:43 PM  

But if you say "take five" or "take ten" ... things can get confusing. I didn't grow up in SoCal, but it feels quite natural to me to use "the" in reference to numbered highways. The R2D2 comparison is nonsensical for a number of reasons - If I say "r2d2" there is only one thing in the world to which I might be referring.

It is true, however, that putting "the" in front of "I" seems unnecessary. But I can't imagine anyone's caring.

Anonymous 5:49 PM  

Loved this puzzle - clever and lively all the way through ('cept ATH... ack!).
This was easy-medium for me, most likely because my wife was looking over my shoulder, and she knew GLENDOWER and SHAFFER right off the bat.
We both stared at OP_DESS_Y (that can't be right!) for way too long, though. Great clue.

Kudos to Byron for yet another beauty.

foodie 6:13 PM  

Re the discussion about freeway naming... I agree that it might be because of historical precedent (the Harbor, the San Diego, etc) but having lived in LA while in grad school in the 70's, I was struck by how Angelinos talked about their freeways. I feel that "the" reflects the importance of freeways in LA, not to mention their large numbers. Somehow, freeways are not just some major thoroughfare passing through town. Each has a personality, a set of unique features, and deserves a "the".

Puzzle bonked me on the head and put me back in my place... Required googling, but I smiled in many places. I hadn't even heard of Mr. Romance, and thought that was most amusing...So little time, so much culture to learn!

I heard George Will and his son testify in front of congress in favor of mental health parity. Very moving! Finally might be happening...

Anonymous 6:20 PM  

Ooh Rex, how can you be discounting the significance of a superfluous article? (Recall the thread about THE Ohio State University, and the distinction between a mere definite article, and the hyperdefinite one, with a long e.) I don't think Angelenos are trying to assert the supremacy of their part of Interstate 5, but you never know?

Joon 6:41 PM  

what about when LA people talk about "the 405"? that makes no sense. i mean, if you say "405," what else can you be talking about?

i wasn't making a serious comparison with R2D2. i'm just saying that's how jarring it felt to me.

green mantis 7:32 PM  

I'm glad someone brought up the sacrum thing. I am not a doctor, but I had to go through a pretty intensive anatomy course when I was in massage therapy school 85 thousand years ago, and I call foul.

The pelvic bones attach to the sacrum, but the sacrum is not an official member of the pelvic party. I was therefore stuck trying to stretch ilium into the space. Because I trust the accuracy of the Times' puzzles so much, I never went to that "oh well, close enough" place and threw sacrum in.

So I tanked the puzzle, but I feel like it wasn't a fair fight, and I think I'm entitled to some sort of discount next time I come in. Or a free dessert.

Anonymous 7:37 PM  

... and then English people go to hospital and wait in reception, but take the tube and use the loo. The Russians have figured it out, and appear to have done away with articles altogether.

green mantis 7:38 PM  

Mac, sorry I didn't see your note last night. I haven't signed up yet. I feel ambivalent about it, but I do want to hang out with Fergus and make him translate things into French for me. I only know how to say "I love you more than all the mornings of the world," and I'm looking to expand on that incredibly useful sentence.

Fergus, perhaps we could start with the much more practical, "All the best frogs are taken."

foodie 8:44 PM  

@ green mantis, it's nice to finally see your face! Very charming! That chain link fence did not hurt it a bit...

Who taught you that sentence? I don't think they use it in France, not to rain on your parade or anything...Fergus to the rescue! (Does Fergus speak French?)

I agree that sacrum seemed off. I guess it technically sits at the back of the pelvis, so it is a bone and it is pelvic... But I got hung up on it as well, then shrugged it off as I work on the other end of the body... We need to hear from Doc John about this.

chefbea 9:09 PM  

hi everyone -never got to see today's puzzle. Sorry to say my mom passed away last night. Will be in St. louis for a while. Thanks foodie for taking over for me.

mac 9:38 PM  

@chefbea, so sorry to hear about your mom passing away, and so happy that you were there. My father died during my visit in December 2006, and I never, ever before went home in December. He asked me to. We got a lot of things discussed and settled.

@green mantis: you're such a pretty little thing, too bad I can't tell if you are wearing a tutu. Instead of dessert or discounts, ask for miles! I could help you with some much more helpful French lines (Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?)! Go to the Western contest, you are lucky to have the chance to have a practice run.

Now I feel we have to do a little food talking to pick up the slack for chefbea. We had a wonderful dinner this evening of a scrubbed, olive oil rubbed and high temperature baked Idaho potato (we shared a big one) with unsalted French butter which I only use for flavouring, not cooking, steamed asparagus and a barbecued NY strip steak, also a big one, thinly sliced and served with horseradish sauce. Of course I let the steak rest for at least 5 minutes before carving it to let the juices redistribute.......
We don't do dessert except for fruit and dark chocolate. Like to bake, but nobody wants to eat it.

JannieB 9:44 PM  

@chefbea - so very sorry for your loss.

@foodie - next time, invite me! That's our absolutely favorite menu (except for the potatoes!)

JannieB 9:45 PM  

@foodie - sorry, that last bit was meant for @mac!

chefbea 9:48 PM  

@mac thank you. and thank you for continuing the food talk. Last night my brother made lamb chops on the grill and I roasted some asparagus. Everyone is bringing food here to my brothers house, I think all we will do for the next few days is eat. I will try to look at the blog tomorrow but will probably miss the puzzle

alanrichard 11:56 PM  

I got the paper late today and decided to work on the puzzle at the concert at the planting fields. Odetta and Madeleine Peyroux were the artists and my goal was to finish while it was still light, or at least while I could still see. Bongo & odds were gimmies and I knew 1 across was some kind of bag. Good thing I played Resident evil way back when - because I got Zombies which opened up ziploc and onion roll. The NE was quick with harps and yoyos and that opened up that whole area. I got Ossie Davis because 37D & 38D were plurals and Angela and Miles didn't fit the bill. I thought will work related to some kind of legal last testament initially but I got opedessay contexturally. Now I'm thankful for all those Shakespeare courses and the Monarch notes and remembering what was once useless info like Owen Glendower!!! Anyway challenging puzzle and i finished before the lights went down.

Bill from NJ 12:58 AM  


Sorry for your loss

Anonymous 1:32 AM  

Life ends and starts anew. Sorry to hear about a death, made more poignant by having recently come back from dinner with a wriggling newborn, placated in a swing, while we delighted adults put together quite a feast. (I did a medley of dark leafy greens, by the way.)

The mantis picked up on my restraint in over-analyzing the precision of French grammar. I do know the language well, and yet I cannot claim to speak it effectively. On pourrait dire que "tous les meilleurs grenouilles sont pris," but that wouldn't capture what I think she meant, nor pass any idiom test, except by chance.

green mantis 4:39 AM  

chefbea: so sorry.

Ladel 8:20 AM  


may your mother's memory be a blessing to you.

Doc John 2:50 PM  

This puzzle was very hard for me. Just finished it this morning with the only mistake being opus instead of EPOS (and was happy to have escaped with just that). Even though I was familiar with KRONA, I figured that maybe it was kruna in some other country. Had no idea about Owen's last name so it looked just fine with the O instead of the E.

@ chefbea- my deepest condolences for your loss.

As for the pelvic bones, they are indeed the ilium, ischium and pubis. That said, I wrote SACRUM right in with no hesitation!

My San Diegan view of freeway nomenclature: I use "the" for 5 or 805 but not for 163 or 94. Strange, huh? And, I had US 101 in that space for the longest time. When that wasn't working, I tried to figure out how to make "interstate" a 4-letter abbreviation and maybe use the 5 as an S. Finally, I FIVE came to me. Whew.

Lots of good clues and answers in this one, to be sure. Last thing to fill in was RENEGES and that was very hesitantly, at best.

Anonymous 12:43 PM  

Put me in the medium-hard camp. I've completed just about every NYT Saturday puzzle since I moved to NYC 14 years ago, and this one was a complete booger for me. Had to put it down and come back at least four times.


Anonymous 12:42 PM  

Come to Texas where in Dallas, we get the puzzles six weeks later. Hays and/or haying are common verbs in farming or ranching country. And I had a hard time with the puzzle because I kept wanting to stick to my guesses - such as Eugenie instead of Eugenia or everybody's nemesis - epic for epos.

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

I am from near Dallas too. Here we have heard of Halliburton for a long time, long before it became the poster conglomerate for the military industrial complex. (Ike was right! And can you IMAGINE any politician saying today what Ike did in 1960?)

But I agree with the lack of eponymity in Erle. I mean, COME ON! Even I as an inveterate punster find that one off the wall.

Anonymous 2:36 PM  

Got this puzzle except I stuck with picnic bag and therefore missed a bunch of the downs-tho some fell because the cross spots were the same . Would never ever have thought of zombies so glad to come here.
A native Californian (San Francisco) I long predate freeways-lived in Pasadena at one time, and used all those named LA freeways. Now, I can see the 5 from my home in Del Mar and take it either south to the 8 or noth to the Santa Ana. Never, ever say I 5. Go figure.
From six weeks out I send belated condolences to Chefbea even tho I'm sure she'll never see them. The regulars who post on this site have become a community of unseen friends, and I share with them their joys and sorrows while benefitting from the vast pool of knowledge they share with us less able solvers.

Julie 3:56 PM  

Well said, CA Lady - Sundays become completely discombobulating because we are only one week out, and it's a bit like seeing into the future - I remember seeing a few condolences to Chefbea and alos congratulations straggling in to DocJohn and wondering when I'd find out...but feeling glad and sad just the same when the time finally came.

I have just seen the movie "Premonition", which is NOT good movie, but a very interesting premise that a premonition is just getting your days or information out of the normal order of things, and that's what Sundays on this blog are like for me. For instance, I know, soon, Rex is going to leave on a big holiday, yet he is already gone....:D

From another of your unseen friends..


Anonymous 4:55 PM  

For a change, I knew geyser straightaway - brings back horrific childhood memories of visits to Grandma, who had one of these dreaded appliances over the kitchen sink. It's a cylinder about 2 feet high, and, when you turn a knob, steaming water comes out, stinking of gas, and making a shrieking noise. I was terrified of this monster. I don't know if they even exist anymore. However, they are pronounced "geezer" and, for some reason, referring to an old gent as an "old geezer" doesn't seem to cause confusion. BTW,one would never call an elderly man a geezer to his face; it is pejorative. I still have to force myself to say "guyser"; the imprint of childhood is very power
ful, esp. with an English prof. as a father. Anyone else get punished for mispronunciation or misuse of a word, or was my Dad just weird?
Thanks for the info on my ungettables, e.g. "Mr.Romance", also "ath"

embien 12:49 AM  

You know you live in the West when absolutely everyone you know uses "hay" as a verb and no one you know has ever heard the term TREF. (I guess there may be a synagogue within 50 miles of me, but let's just say we're not overrun with Jewish folks around here--my loss, I know, especially when it comes to NYT puzzles which have Yiddish, etc. in them at least a couple times a week.)

I stand in awe of those who consider this puzzle as "Easy-Medium" as it totally destroyed me (though I did get most of it done with no Googles and before I came here).

I think it's time to go hay my south field now.

Unknown 1:38 PM  

I find myself really irritated by your comment that "hays" isn't really a word. Perhaps if you set aside your elitist, urban snobbery for a second you'd realize that in the rural world of America (I know, we don't matter) you do the haying, you hay it, she/he hays it, we are haying it, and so on. It might surprise you that despite the colloquialisms there are individuals who grow things (7 letters = farmers) who can read, write and do the NY Times Saturday crossword puzzles.

indycolt 8:42 AM  

yeah it's funny the regionalism (is that a word?) of the puzzles sometimes, although it is the new york times. jack nicholson used the term "the I- something" in reference to a highway in "About Schmidt" even though he was supposed to be from nebraska.

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