FRIDAY, Jan. 2, 2009 - Martin Ashwood-Smith (Ban succeeded him in 2007 / 1980s NBA guard Matthews / Fictional wirehair / Ouija option)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Last blog entry from vacationland. I have a two-stop red-eye tomorrow night (yes, ugh), and so PuzzleGirl will be taking over the Saturday write-up (much to my dismay - I love the late-week themelesseseseses). I'll be back for the Sunday write-up, and then Monday starts the real blogging new year. I have some plans, and some announcements, and ... oh, just lots of blog-related stuff going on. Plus, there's the small matter of the Best of 2008 Crossword Awards. More on that, and much more, starting the week of the 5th.

[fearless nephew]

Otters are cute. You probably knew that. We got right up close to four of them yesterday at the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. They are astonishingly graceful underwater - like beautiful, sleek, adorable, giant GREASED terrier-rats (52A: Like some cookie sheets). For some reason my family is sitting / standing around the kitchen table right now discussing the relative height of men and women in the U.S. I think that signals that we are nearing the end of what we have to talk about this year. Down to the LEES (3D: Refuse). We'll have many more opportunities at family discussion in April, when we head ... abroad. More on that when it happens.

I have never been a big fan of grids with lots of 15-letter answers. I've long since ceased being amazed by numerous grid-spanning answers (though it definitely takes some skill to get such a grid to work out). Inevitably you get lots of short Downs of mediocre quality and limited interest. See the ERST ASTA STET run in the south, for example (53D: Formerly archaic? + 54D: Fictional wirehair + 55D: Decide to leave; that last one threw me, as I never think of STET as a verb). Lots of RLSTNE ("Wheel of Fortune," or WOF letters). SALES RESISTANCE (1A: Problem in closing?) and REAL ESTATE AGENT (63A: One who'd like to put you in your place) don't do much for me, but THE ELEVENTH HOUR (16A: Just before it's too late) and AVERSION THERAPY (34A: One way to kick a bad habit) are kind of cool. I have a certain affection for ADLAI E. STEVENSON (as an answer, not necessarily as a person). AES is a common crossword monogram, so it's nice to see him expanded to his nearly full size today (62A: Who said "A hungry man is not a free man").

Never, ever heard of "AMERICAN DREAMER" (17A: 1984 JoBeth Williams comedy/adventure film). What I love about that clue is that a whole host of people are going to be thinking "... JoBeth who?" Has she worked since the 80s? I remember liking her, vaguely, but I can't remember why? Oh, now I remember - "Poltergeist!"

My favorite part of the puzzle is the creamy middle - GOUDA ANNAN (28D: Ban succeeded him in 2007) STRUT looks just delicious, and crossing it all with MUNRO is quite inspired. Very elegant and international, with a dash of sassiness in STRUT (29D: Supporting piece). Here is a "STRUT" may be a shade past "sassy" ... verging on slutty:

My dad, just this evening, was discussing how the GOUDA (27D: City NE of Rotterdam) in GOUDA tastes nothing like what goes by that name here in the States. Creamy goodness. MUNRO (38A: Alice who wrote the short-story collection "Open Secrets") is a favorite of many women and many writers and many women writers I know. I have read exactly one short story by her, and it was really well written ... OK, one of my New Year's resolutions was not to oppress myself with reading expectations. Just read. Don't worry about what you haven't read, what order you should read stuff in, etc. I am one of the worst readers on the planet. Doesn't come naturally to me at all. I like it, but I overthink it, and that leads to bad feelings. Basically, academia has ruined me for reading, and I'm (constantly) trying to get over it. I wish I could explain this phenomenon better.


  • 18A: Ouija option (yes) - I can practically smell the 80s here (the 80s being when I was a tween/teen, and thus of perfect age to get excited about this "game")
  • 20A: Seventeen people, briefly (eds.) - an oldie but a goody, this Seventeen trick.
  • 43A: "... ye shall _____ more vanity": Ezekiel 13:23 ("see no") - what about "SEE NO evil"? Is this biblical quotation famous? The phrase feels like it's been pried violently out of the quotation. I don't know who this kid is, but his moves are oddly mesmerizing:

  • 48A: 1980s N.B.A. guard Matthews (Wes) - came to me instantly, but couldn't pick him out of a line-up. Weird how often that stuff happens to me as a solver.
  • 49A: They look better when they're ripped (abs) - I'm not sure this is always true
  • 56A: I have, in Le Havre (J'ai) - better clue than [_____ Alai]
  • 7D: _____ and Jaron (identical-twins pop duo) (Evan) - man, I am old. WhoTF are these people!?!?! AHA (12D: Word associated with a light bulb) - behold the generic handsomeness and non-threatening melodiousness!

  • 11D: First film in CinemaScope, 1953 ("The Robe") - never seen it. Is that bad? This preview is giving me a very "Star Wars" vibe, strangely:

  • 23D: Rodeo trio (barrels) - Do I even want to know? I think clowns get in these when in danger of being gored. Three Barrels is a kind of brandy. VSOP - now there's a crossword answer.
  • 24D: Stone, to Caesar (lapis) - wanted STELA (!?). That's what crosswords do to your brain - who actually wants STELA?
  • 33D: _____ per centimeter (surface tension measure) (dynes) - news to me (the clue, not the answer, which is one of those physicsish things like ERG that you just have to know)
  • 36D: V-shaped carrier (hod) - not to be confused with HUD, played by the late great Paul Newman. I read this clue, had no idea, and then never saw it again til just now. HODs carry bricks and/or mortar.
  • 50D: Eliot hero (Bede) - neither SILAS nor MARNER would fit, so ... here we are.
  • 60D: Jazz guitarist Farlow (Tal) - totally and completely new to me. TAL Bachman had a hit in 2000 with "She's So High." Dear lord above, why do you curse me with permanent knowledge of that fact, while allowing me to forget so much potentially useful and meaningful stuff?!
Goodbye, Carmel

["Don't make us leave..."]

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 3:11 AM  

That's all I've got.
(New year's resolution and all)
Sorry didn't get to see you this trip! Guess I'll have to go East, Young man.

Anonymous 4:26 AM  

Almost gave up just looking at all those 15-letter monsters, but got a few downs and "the eleventh hour" suddenly jumped out. Filled in the first five rows along with slicers and therobe, then came to a crashing halt. Finally googled AdlaiEStevenson and Tal and got the bottom third with those. The middle was the worst, but got through with only one more google.
Time to sleep.

Charming picture of the kids!

Daryl 4:33 AM  

Finished this one quickly, but I liked this one a lot - I didn't feel like there was too much crosswordese, barring the ERST/ASTA/STET trio. Can't believe my first answer on this one was ADLAI E. STEVENSON - a total guess. Almost had IN THE NICK OF TIME for THE ELEVENTH HOUR - what are the chances two 15-letter phrases would fit the clue? "Problem in closing" made me immediately think of Glengarry Glen Ross, which helped a lot in getting SALES RESISTANCE.

As for Alice MUNRO, not sure what people have read, but The Bear Came Over the Mountain is a great story, and is available online at the New Yorker's site. Away From Her, the film based on the story, is equally luminescent.

Greene 7:05 AM  

@Daryl: Like you, I thought of Glengarry Glen Ross and got 1A pretty quickly. Then had real estate on the brain, so 63A went in quickly. Man, it was strange to have the top and bottom 15 letter answers in place with nothing else in the grid. After those two fell, the rest was a slow but steady solve. Frankly, I was glad to have some oldtime crosswordese on hand to help me along. I still tend to get both excited and intimidated by stacks of 15 letter answers, so this was a challenging and fun puzzle for me. Great Friday solving experience.

RodeoToad 7:41 AM  

Damn, I'd forgotten how much poltergeists suck!

Barrels as in barrel-racing, which is the bone thrown to women so rodeo can claim to be a coed "sport." There's a ludicrously sad country song by Dan Seals called "All That Glitters is not Gold," which is about a calf roper making the rodeo circuit with his young daughter after the wife/mother has abandoned them to be a world famous celebrity barrel-racer. I love that song because it's so crazily compelling despite being silly as hell. And when he gets to the part about Ol' Red, his horse, getting older ("but you know I just can't bear to see him go"), I just about lose it.

Alice Munro is in a class by herself. I've read a lot of her, and I've yet to read a story that wasn't absolutely transportive. It's like they're not even written--they just . . . happen. There's no formula, and there's no predicting where they're going to end up. I started reading her only in the last couple of years after years of assuming she was a stodgy old-lady writer. I'd recommend getting her "Collected Stories" and just starting anywhere. "Miles City, Montana" is one of the most anthologized, but you can't go wrong with anything she's done.

I thought I was clever in filling in IN THE NICK OF TIME and GOING COLD TURKEY for 16A and 34A. I like the long-answer puzzles and can forgive the short, boring answers if the cluing is good, which I thought this puzzle had.

evil doug 7:59 AM  

Way too easy for Friday. When I can work north to south without much stuttering it's a waste of money.

Somebody mentioned the other day---maybe tongue in cheek, but now I'm serious---that Rex, or somebody, anybody, ought to take over Will's duties. He's been at it a long time. Maybe his attention to detail is waning, fatigue is setting in, he (like me) is tiring of the same old clues numbing his brain.

Look, if Will wants to let down his guard on Monday through Thursday, great; lob the novices some softballs. But on Friday and Saturday, doggone it, let's see some nasty knucklers. And if Will's not up to it anymore, let him bow out gracefully and turn things over to someone fresh, and mean, and crafty.


Kurt 8:07 AM  

STAY, AHME, EER, RECON, AHA, NOME & CUED all fell pretty quickly in the North.

Similarly, OVINE, PEEVE, IME, GOUDA, SAUNA, EPICS & DYNES in the Central.


All of the rest followed pretty quickly.

And the whole time I'm thinking that this is really easy for a Saturday puzzle. So then I log onto Rex and see the Friday write-up. Damn, I thought, he hasn't posted today's yet. Then, and only then did finally dawn on me. It's Friday, stupid!

It's hell to get old.

Happy New Year to All!

Anonymous 8:46 AM  

evil doug

the times is not producing crossword puzzles for just you or a handfull of closed-clique self-appointed haughty bloggers

there is a general public

joe the solver

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

Yes, there is a general public. I despise it, but it does exist. There's also a General Tso, who makes tasty chicken, and a General Lee, whose doors are welded shut to keep Bo and Luke from falling out and messing up their hair.

JannieB 9:10 AM  

My husband is a big JoBeth Williams fan - I've seen pieces of American Dreamer many many times - it's a fun movie. She was also in The Big Chill, a movie classic to us of the boomer generation.

I liked this puzzle. The stacks of 15's always intimidate at first, then, with a few downs, fall neatly into place. I found this to be more easy than medium, but it was fun to solve all the same. And even if the fill was familiar, I'd give props for some new cluing for Asta, Jai, etc.

joho 9:24 AM  

After my initial fear of failure at seeing all the white squares, I was stunned when I finished this Friday with no help. ADLAIESTEVENSON came first in the long crosses and the rest followed little bit by bit. I had a re-write at YES. The last square to fall was the "J" at JAI/JOSE. It was a guess, but not that difficult of a guess.

I think Rex's Medium is right on for this puzzle. I also don't agree with @evil doug that Friday & Saturday puzzles have to backbreakingly hard to be worthy of their day. Saturday maybe, but definitely not Friday.

@rex: beautiful photo.

joho 9:27 AM  

This is a test

JannieB 9:41 AM  

@joho - you did it! Very cute pup.

PuzzleGirl 9:41 AM  

I think it's fascinating that there are so many 15-letter possibilities for 16A. I had AT THE LAST MINUTE. I was also heavily committed to tide instead of PIER which made Northern California rough. Never heard of Evan and Jaron, which reminds me of that disturbing feeling I get when I open up a People magazine in the waiting room at the dentist office. Who ARE these people? I actually picked out a hairstyle from a magazine the last time I got my haircut. After chatting with the stylist about it for 10 minutes of so, I was all, "I don't even know who this person is!" She looked at me like I was from Mars. Then I told her I had actually seen the name in a puzzle recently and had no idea who she was then either. Then she gave me that "You are such a dork! I feel so sorry for you!" look.

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

I agree with the comment that 15-worders are intimidating at first glance. I also agree with the "medium" rating.

The bottom two-thirds came quickly but the North proved to be a slog.

I knew THEROBE and STRUM came quickly but I almost succombed to Google on JoBeth Williams (who I never heard of) before an epiphany on some of the Downs made ELEVENTHHOUR and SALESRESISTANCE gimmes.

And while I also like toughies on Fri and Sat (my wife does Mon-Thurs) I disagree with the knock on Will as being too tired to remain the editor. The Times tries to have a mix of puzzles to appeal to a broad audience. What's wrong with trying to get some new solvers interested by having some puzzles that they can actually do before "graduating" to the real toughies.


JoefromMtVernon 9:53 AM  

This was a 2 "longer than normal" days in a row. I resisted the temptaion to google at the 30:00 minute mark, and, in the end, got everything correctly in about 53 minutes.

Lots of stuff I didn't know, probably lots of "typical crossword stuff." Wanted "stumper" for toughie (which would have been cool next to "trees").

I think "eleventh hour" was my first long answer, with the bottom being last to crack.

When I think JoBeth Williams, I think Teachers with Nick Nolte, Judd Hirsch, Ralph Macchio, and others. Thought her storyline was the weakest of the movie; as a teacher, Mr. Ditto seemed most like people I worked with, and the woman who played Macchio's mom (she in many Goya Beans ads in the '80's) hit the nail on the head as an overbearing mom.

Preparing for a rougher Saturday (if this week's trend holds).


treedweller 10:12 AM  

@evil doug
I was xmas shopping a year or two ago and thought it would be nice to give my dad a subscription to Games Magazine. As long as I was at it, I got myself one, wondering why I had ever stopped it. When it started arriving, I remembered. Since WS left, it ain't the same.

Let's not forget there were some amazing puzzles this year. Yes, we've all seen WS's stock clues for the standard fill many, many times. No matter how inventive, I doubt RP or anyone else could do much to freshen the really tired fill. Maybe there's a novel clue here and there to be discovered (though many would probably be so obscure you'd be crying about them here), but that would last for one or two puzzles, and we'd be back in the same place. I'm sure WS won't last forever, but I vote against replacing him any time soon (as if anyone cares).

OBpuzzle: I liked it okay. Nothing to add to what's already been said.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:16 AM  

@ bigredanalyst and JoefromMtVernon - Glad some others were willing to admit that this was a bit of a 41D, TOUGHIE! I was able to complete it with no outside help, but it took a bit more than usual time.

My first long fill was ADLAIESTEVENSON, and the rest of the Southern tier fell slowly into place. The snow belt went next, with one write-over at 15 D, Goes off - had ENDS before correcting to ERRS. As with some other solvers, found the middle the last to fall, really wanted GOINGCOLDTURKEY as Wade did, couldn't remember my Latin for "Stone".

We know Rex is not a statistics person, but I had to check with Jim Horne: AES has been a Times crossword answer 41 times since 11/212/93 [fewer than I expected], and ADLAIESTEVENSON has shown up 3 times [more than I expected!]

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

I liked this puzzle because I was able to get it until the very end when I got tripped up with LEES and STAY.

Jo Beth Williams was recently good in the second season of Dexter as the bitchy mother of Dex' girlfriend. AT the time she looked familiar but I couldn't quite place her without looking it up. Looks like she's had an active career for three decades.

Chorister 10:41 AM  

I'm with all

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

LOPER?? Ugh. Also had GOING COLD TURKEY and was damn proud of it! For a while.

Ulrich 10:46 AM  

I also tend to get intimidated by 15-letter answers and then cherish the surprise when they turn out to be doable--like this one.

Since I have an inexplicable fondness for jazz guitar, Tal (Farlow) was the first answer I put down, after which the south fell after a while. The north took me longer--is "sales resistance" really in the language? Is it realtor's jargon--"sales" being code for "sellers"? And I don't get the 17 clue for eds--since it appears obvious to everybody else, I must be missing something important.

My new word of the day: lees.

Chorister 10:47 AM  

well, apparently I'm without a clue, 'cause I don't know how THAT happened.

I'm with all the almost Googlers but glad I didn'ts. It would have gone faster if I had put in my first impressions in the middle instead of waiting to see if it was really supposed to be harder.

I liked it. Whenever I am tempted to not appreciate a WS I go work an old Maleska. That usually cures me.

archaeoprof 10:48 AM  

Get rid of Will? No way.

Chorister 10:51 AM  

@ulrich - Seventeen is a magazine aimed at tween/teen girls. It's been around for eons.

and sales resistance is what salesmen get when a person just won't commit to buy something.

Ulrich 10:58 AM  

@chorister: Thx--when I was a teenage girl, 17 wasn't around--goes to show I'm older than eons.

Forgot to mention another plus, to me, of the puzzle: The grid itself with its multiple symmetries.

Anonymous 10:59 AM  

I had PETRA for Caesar's stone. I figured St Peter is in Rome, right? Sorry, Greek. Unfortunately, it also led me to TIDE.
I also wanted to stretch out ENIGMA for one more square for the stumper.
And I was sure that Jaron's brother would be named ARON. Cuz I've known too many parents like that. I do like their song.
I can't wait to see what you've dreamed up for us this year, Rex.

Two Ponies 11:00 AM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle. If it were not for a few bits of standard fare I'm not sure I would have had a place to start. As it was, at least there were some clever clues.
@ evil doug - you crack me up when you are so....evil.
I had a strange thing happen yesterday. For no apparent reason the word "bateux" came into my head. A few minutes later I sat down to do a puzzle and there was that exact word as a clue! Husband was not impressed by the coincidence but I was. Was that a malapop?
@ wade - I'm such a sucker for corny songs esp. if there is an animal involved. I'm going to youTube to see if I can find it.

edith b 11:04 AM  

I like these kinds of puzzles with stacks of 15s for much the same reasons as JannieB - I find them relatively easy to approach through the short downs.

I remember "American Dreamer" as it came out shortly after "The Big Chill" which women of my circle had a love-have relationship with in the mide 80s.

It was one particular short down that broke the Northern section of this puzzle wide open. EVAN. My grand son used to tease one his friends about Evan and Jaron unmercifully and the V got me the second long across THEELVENTHHOUR.

In the South several short downs allowed me to guess REALESTATEGENT and the back end of WEATHERSTATIONS and slide up the East Coast picking up AVERSIONTHERAPY as I went through Flyover Country and doubled back into the South through ABS and GREASED and ADLAIESTEVENSON left me with just pieces of the West Coast remaining.

PIER finally allowed me to get me the INVITED/PEEVE cross and the L in LOPER/LAPIS to finish.

This was a smooth solve for me and I made steady progess through the puzzle. I didn't care much for the cluing Preview crowd, though, as it produced a pretty awkward construction that I didn't think was "in the language."

Chorister 11:04 AM  

@ulrich re: 17 well, it was when I was, which I thought proved conclusively the eon thing.

BTW, did anybody else put in MLB for 22A for awhile?

I just looked back, and had a mistake, or typo, as I prefer to think of it: ADLAISSTEVENSON. TRESS works doesn't it? RINGlets? No? Dang.

Rex Parker 11:11 AM  

If you want to see a very good puzzle that the Times simply couldn't ever run, go to BEQ's site today.


Jeffrey 11:14 AM  

I'm with PuzzleGirl. My first answer was IN THE NICK OF TIME. Great answer. Wrong answer.

Never seen AMERICAN DREAMER or THE ROBE, never read Alice MUNRO, never heard of WES Matthews, or TAL Farlow or JOSE Marti, or EVAN and Jason.

No trouble finishing the puzzle. Go figure.

Recognized the Watchman page immediately. Remember the Sheena Easton song.

ArtLvr 11:32 AM  

Like Joho, I was a but surprised when I finished the whole thing without help. The first long answer to appear was THE ELEVENTH HOUR, OVINE's V gave me AVERSION THERAPY, and my initial "Enigmas" misstep at TOUGHIE nevertheless handed me a G for GREASED, so I was able to rethink, no problem! My last fill was the W for WEAVE and WES.

Loved the Beetle's need, GAS, Instinctive GUT, and Really get to = PEEVE. I'd thought of Caste where CLASS belonged, and wasn't familiar with Three BARRELS but again it all had to fit. I found it very smooth -- don't knowc what Evil Doug's peeve is?

I had to chuckle at PuzzleGirl's haircut experience since that could have been me -- My daughter treated me to a cut the day before Christmas, and I felt only okay about it, but her best friend found it "glamorous" the next day -- very amusing!

Mighty cute pictures of the kids, Rex... will be looking forward to your news of Abroad.


RodeoToad 11:44 AM  

Two Ponies, the song is actually called "Everything [not All] That Glitters." I listened to it again this morning and got all verklempt about ol' Red.

Dan Seals is the former "England Dan" of the John Ford Coley partnership. Not sure why, as he's from McCamey, Texas. His brother is Jim Seals of Seals & Crofts, which I used to get confused with the Sid and Marty Kroft puppet thing. Who knew that only one family, other than the Osmonds, could wreak so much havoc on a decade?

bookmark 11:47 AM  

It was good to see Alice Munro in a crossword. She and William Trevor are my favorite short story writers.

@Wade - I loved your saying her writing seems to just happen. I'm going to reread "Miles City, Montana" this afternoon.

poc 11:49 AM  

@chorister: nope, sorry, I still don't get it. What's the connection between Seventeen and EDS?

Bob Kerfuffle 11:54 AM  

@ poc -- Seventeen is a magazine, so 20 A, Seventeen people, briefly, are editors, or EDS, briefly

Margaret 11:54 AM  

LIke many, I got IN THE NICK OF TIME. Only it wasn't.

@Chorister: Put me in the MLB camp. Kept me from getting THE ROBE for far too long.

@ Karen: I also went for PETRA and, for a brief moment, for ARON. (Trivia: ARON was Elvis's middle name. )

Took several Googles and too much time to get this. It was a TOUGHIE for me.

Happy New Year, all!

Chorister 12:00 PM  

@poc: Seventeen is a magazine. EDS are the EDitorS who edit it. EDS is plain ol' crosswordese.

Anonymous 12:05 PM  

@ evil Doug

re: your rant about Will -- I was sure you were really talking about Brett Favre!

Spencer 12:10 PM  

Oh, my. My first 15 was good, old AES. I first saw the STEVENSON from crosses, and figured it had to be Adlai. Wasn't sure what to do with the extra letter for about 2 seconds. :-)

I got the middle and bottom and finally broke open the top by Googling JoBeth to get AMERICANDREAMER.

GOUDA can be wonderful, if you get the good stuff. We are blessed in Ann Arbor with several cheesemongers (now there's a word) who import "artisan" cheeses. I'm particularly fond of aged GOUDA, anywhere from 18 months to 5 years, at which point it's an entirely different cheese -- Parmesan-like, but with rich buttery/caramel notes and a ton of flavor.

jae 12:11 PM  

This was medium for me only because the bottom and middle were fairly easy but the top was a TOUGHIE. I had a bunch of missteps in the north, ENDS for ERRS, TRAY, WEINERS for SLICERS, re-rights on STRUM and AHME, SENTENCE for a while at the end of 1a and, (@chorister) MLB. Plus I wasn't sure AHME and AHA together was really kosher.

Thought this was a pretty good Fri., not real flashy but solid.

Anonymous 12:29 PM  

There is a famous photo of Wes Matthews from his Laker days where Seattle's Xavier McDaniel is choking him. Wes' tongue is hanging out like a cartoon. One of my all time favorite spots pics- see for yourself

Two Ponies 12:36 PM  

@ wade (sniff) Yep, that's a real tear-jerker. She's pretty cold to leave ol' Red and little Casey behind.

fikink 12:51 PM  

Ditto Ulrich's first paragraph.

evil doug 1:09 PM  


I remain in awe of Quigley. Clever, devious, novel---and prolific. How does he manage to come up with three of those a week?

BEQ:nates product


RodeoToad 1:15 PM  

Barrel-racing is a harsh mistress.

Bob Kerfuffle 1:19 PM  

@ Rex -


[Had CEDE for CAVE at 10D, had to google BEQ's 11D and 12D to finish. Had GETSMARRIED instead of correct 34A, {will not enter in deference to your family-friendly site}. After making correction, finally got the theme!]

Anonymous 1:23 PM  

@Wade and bookmark, I agree re: Munro. I read all her work straight through about 10 years ago. So cool to see her right in the center of the puzzle!

Anonymous 2:01 PM  

Naturally I didn't recognize Tal Farlow. 60D:TAL used to be standard crosswordese, always clued via the chessplayer Mikhail Tal (1936-1992), who in 1960 became the youngest World Champion in history until Kasparov broke the record 25 years later (thanks, Wikipedia).

Has the NYTimes crossword ever included Richard RÉTI? Not a world champion, but famous enough that Wikipedia has three chess pages on him: one on Réti himself, one on an opening named after him, and one on an influential endgame study he composed. At any rate RETI looks like a very useful letter combination but I don't remember ever seeing it in a crossword -- until last week in a Spanish crossword that, believe it or not, clued one of its longest entries AERONAVIGACIÓN [which means just what you think it does] as "Navigación aérea" [ditto]!


Anonymous 2:03 PM  

@Rex and Gouda cheese

I remember a 60 Minutes segment some years ago with lovable, grumpy old Andy Rooney in which Andy orders a "fresh fruit salad" from the menu in some restaurant. When the dish comes, it is canned fruit cocktail. Andy complains to the waitress that it isn't "fresh," and she says, "Oh, honey, that's just what they call it."

How many products we get here in America we could say that about!

Rex, your kids are beautiful. See the movie "Bella" if you haven't already. I watched it a couple of nights ago and have had dreams about my daughters (now 26 and 21) every night since. That almost never happens to me.

Puzzle...fairly easy for a Friday, although I had to google the JoBeth Williams movie; never heard of her.

Had litho for Caesar's stone, but that's Greek to me, and Caesar, too. Thought LOPER (24A) was lame, but ya got a puzzle with eight 15-letter answers, maybe a little lame fill is to be expected.

I saw major words in the 15s after only a few crossings, ELEVENTH, RESISTANCE, STEVENSON, AGENT, AUDIENCE, THERAPY, which made getting the whole 15 much easier. I even saw DREAMER (17A), but still didn't know the movie (or the actress).

I like "I have, in Le Havre" as a clue for JAI, more than the usual gimme, "____ alai," but all the French words in puzzles must be hard for someone who knows no French. I know very little Spanish and always struggle with words in that language, though CASA, SALA and some other obvious ones (AMIGO, ADIOS) are gimmes.

Can't agree with those who want to replace WS. Do agree with those who point out that he must publish puzzles for a wider audience than present company.

joho 2:32 PM  

@treedweller: I care! And it's obvious that others do, too, about Will being our editor. For Heaven's Sake! Aren't we a bunch of complainers. I don't remember who wants to put Rex in the editor's chair, but wouldn't it be prudent to check with Rex to see if that's what he wants before we storm the gates? We want the king to be pleased.

I think it's funny that I misspelled "re-right" in my first comment today as I coined it. I must sharpen up in the new year starting next Monday. I'm in vacation mode now and that = lazy.

imsdave 2:43 PM  

I'm with joho on the lazy part - four day weekends are a treat!

Super puzzle today with the north and south falling easily, and the middle a challenge. Loved the real estate symmetry.

SethG 3:07 PM  

All the French words in puzzles are hard for someone who knows no French. Oh, well, according to the DoE only 92% of US high school students don't study French, so I guess I'm just unlucky enough to be one of them. No es bueno!

Actually, the crosses were easy this time; I have no complaint...

Solved this pretty much from the bottom up, from the right to the left. Not the easiest way. All I know about JoBeth is that she's Texan, which I find to be about as inscrutable as French. I knew Bede from the jacket of The Mill on the Floss, though I can't remember the names of anyone in that book. I am taller than the average US female.

PG, should be home later if you get stuck; Rex, fly and fly and fly well!

JoefromMtVernon 3:21 PM  

@SethG: I thought I was the only person in the crossword universe who didn't know any French! I always seem to have those Nattick moments (hope I got that right) with a French term.


Anonymous 3:41 PM  

Why the French Resistance?

You should still check out Patrick B's and my puzzle today in the WSJ, (Orange has a link), but avoid 117D

A bientot!

mac 3:45 PM  

I liked this puzzle, managed to do it without help, but from the bottom up, which almost never happens. I also started out with petr.. something for the Latin stone, caste instead of class (funny about the ant next to it), and tied instead of pier. Several titles and names I didn't know, and some of them pretty good: sales resistance and aversion therapy are great expressions!

I didn't fill in Gouda right away, though it might be Delft! About the cheese: as long as you buy the IMPORTED Gouda, it's the real thing. The difference is that in the Netherlands you can buy different Gouda cheeses of many different ages. The really young ones are mild and creamy (although never semi-soft or semi-hard) and they get progressively sharper as they age. I've been able to find quite a few different ones in CT, but lately most of them are super-aged. With regard to Cheddar, the English product is much better than most Wisconsin ones, but some of the artisanal Vermont Cheddars are fantastic.

Now I'm going to do this BEQ puzzle first, and after that OUR Andrea's and Patrick Blindauer's one in the Wall Street Journal. I haven't checked the clues yet, but the grid looks like a Keith Haring painting!

chefbea 4:12 PM  

Got the bottom half of the puzzle with no problems. The top was another story. Had to come here to finish it.

I don't grease cookie sheets - I use silpat sheets. much better and easier clean up.

Thought I was in the puzzle for a minute - had bee instead of ant.

fergus 4:16 PM  

Cold and rainy on the Monterey Bay ... so I was pleased to have a puzzle that took awhile. Wow, a full hour had elapsed. Top row took the longest, possibly because I wrote in TEUT for that Germanic prefix, and didn't come back to read the Clue properly until messing up nearly everything in that area. RECON and STRUM were pretty good anchors for a ponderous series of wild guesses. The Bucket seat CONTOUR wasn't very convincing.

Considered HYPNOSIS THERAPY for my bad habits, which kinda led me to a SEDATED AUDIENCE. That didn't last long however. I had a PEEVE in that it seemed to be Clued too strongly, and would have preferred Former Archaically for 53Down. Is that what the question mark is all about?

Thinking TS not George led me astray for a bit in the bottom tier, maybe through the Norton Sound Clue, which is close by in the printed version.

Overall, an excellent solving experience, but not ultimately a thing of beauty.

Bob Kerfuffle 4:17 PM  

I would like to try the WSJ puzzle, but I suffer from ignorance. What do I need to open a .puz file on a an iMac running OS X, Version 10.4.11?

Any help would be appreciated.

ordinaryperson 4:20 PM  

It doesn't make you old that you've never heard of Evan and Jaron. It is not exactly a trendy reference. I would argue that 99% of 12-17 year olds do not remember or care to remember Evan and Jaron. I'm 22, so I guess that puts me just on the edge of the sweet spot when it come to recalling non-threatening 90s pop. (Although a little research reveals that their noteworthy album was an eponymous effort from 2000, something seems horrendously 90s about them.)

Am I the only one who hated that Western middle chunk of the puzzle? LOPER? LAPIS? Really?

And I cannot fathom that "whitebait" is a word to describe anything, let alone something as yicky as HERRING.

Anonymous 4:34 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle

Go to and open it there in AcrossLite.

mac 4:36 PM  

@Wade: I thought the same about this puzzle: some of the fill was crosswordese, but the clueing was good.

@ordinaryperson: I was wondering about whitebait as well, I only know it as tiny little crisply fried fishes served in England. Delicious, actually. Oops, I wasn't going to think about food as much as I have the last week....

Mike the Wino 4:44 PM  

@chorister, count me in the MLB crowd...

@ulrich, you were a 17 YO girl?? The things we learn here.......

My puzzle experience included wanting ATM at 21A until I realized the clue wasn't abbrv'd. Also thought of LEES fairly quickly as I recently finished cleaning out some cooperage after a late season bottling. Since we don't filter our wines, we'll sometimes have a little LEES on the bottom of the BARRELS.

poc 5:00 PM  

@chorister (and others): thanks. Somehow I knew I'd regret asking :-)

@Bob Kerfuffle: AcrossLite is available for the Mac. See the link from the NYT puzzle page.

Chip Hilton 5:29 PM  

Your husband, my wife - she, too, loved AMERICANDREAMER so that was the fill that got me going up north.

WES Matthews played his high school ball at Harding in Bridgeport, CT. A great player at a tradition-rich school. John Bagley and Charles Smith, ex NBA-ers also attended.

LEES? No idea.

It seemed to me that this one was lacking in clever, well-written clues.

mac 6:05 PM  

That BEQ puzzle is a riot! I have to admit that I had to go back to the finished one to figure out the theme, then it just jumped out at me (not literally).

Andrea Carla's and Patrick Blindauer's is a good one, too, a little more ladylike but tougher than we are used to from her. Funny how this one word gets dredged up again.

Anonymous 6:06 PM  

To those who are mystery buffs, we lost Donald E Westlake today. He was a prolific writer, probably best known for his Dortmunder novels and, under the name Richard Stark, his Parker series.

Anonymous 6:08 PM  

This is for newbies like me. I can do Sunday through Thursday without help most of the time. So I spent a lot of time on today's puzzle, determined to get it done. I only googled twice for the north section after deciding I had spent enough time on it but I enjoyed the whole thing. I love this blog.

foodie 6:15 PM  

Beyond falling for "In the nick of time" which was too perfect to give up for a long time, and for many others mentioned above, I had CABAL for social group... I know it's weird, but the C worked and I could think of nothing else until forced by the downs...

Rex, it's interesting that academia ruined reading for you. For a while, when I started doing more biochemical and molecular research, it ruined cooking for me-- they seemed too similar. And the discipline of science would spill over, so I would measure and label everything meticulously-- it was no longer as spontaneous and fun (may be just like you overthink what you read?). I had to back off for a while before I learned to do the two processes differently...

foodie 6:23 PM  

@mac, just read the tail end of yesterday's comments. Thanks for your welcome back. I missed everyone but was totally in over my head taking care of a toddler. Wow, we parents all deserve medals. I'd forgotten what a workout it is. I wonder how many of Rex's readers have babies or toddlers, and yet can find the time to do the puzzle.

jae 6:39 PM  

The BEQ puzzle is a real treat.

Rex Parker 6:44 PM  


Thank you for explaining the twin pop duo thing. Once I heard the song, I thought "this is *kind* of old, right?" and then I saw that they had had a song featured on "Dawson's Creek," so... yes, very 20th century.


Unknown 6:56 PM  

I felt fabulous for about 1 minute congratulating myself for "in the nick of time". Without any crosses!

Then I tried to work with it and grew exponentially despondent with each successive down answer that wouldn't come from it. STRUM/MOB finally made me swallow my hubris and erase my first tragically mistaken triumphant answer.

I'm super happy I had OVINE to get AVERSION THERAPY before thinking of 'going cold turkey'. I might not have recovered from that. ;)

It's still an achievement to complete a Friday or Saturday without help, so I was happy and had a good solve. And I find the 15 letter stacks scintillating.

I will have to revisit Alice Munro based on the comments here. I was made to read it in high school and obviously didn't give it a fair shake or wasn't ready for it or something. I think I still have "Dance of the Happy Shades" around here somewhere.

Rex Parker 6:59 PM  

Yes, Donald Westlake died. My wife just passed me the obituary page as we were having lunch. His death makes me very sad, as he was one of my writing heroes. More on him later (Sunday, probably).

On a brighter note, if you liked today's BEQ puzzle, you will probably like last Friday's (Dec. 26) Village Voice puzzle, available here


chefbea 8:36 PM  

@foodie glad you are back. as can be seen on my avatar.... my baby grew up

Ulrich 9:13 PM  

@Mike the Wino: As Wade knows only too well: On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog:-)

joho 9:27 PM  

@rex: so sorry for your loss of one of your writing heros, Donald Westlake. I wonder, when he wrote under the pseudonym Richard Stark one of his characters was a "professional thief Parker." Is that why your pseudonym is Parker?

I just returned from a dinner celebrating our 7th anniversary. Our tip about the restaurant didn't turn out so good. I said to my husband, "If we've ever been here before we'd never come back."
He said I sounded like Yogi Berra.
And with that we just laughed and called it a day and a year.

Doc John 10:04 PM  

I thought it was a pretty fun Friday puzzle, definitely easier than most, though, even with all the 15-letter blocks. I did like the cluing and thought it was inventive. LOPER was really the only clunker of the bunch.

As for JAI, let's not forget Jai Rodriguez, one of the Fab Five from Queer Eye (he was the "culture" guy). Yes, I know all their names- scary, isn't it?

And as long as I'm coming clean, the only reason I know BEDE is that I saw it listed in the available titles on the back of a Cliff's Notes.

P.S. Congrats, Joho, on getting your blue/orange back!

brandsinger 10:36 PM  

I only missed that center thingy with gas and gouda and annan. But I'll never forget THE ROBE -- which I saw as a kid in Texas amongst the biggest Bible believers in the biggest state (back then).


fergus 10:47 PM  

Even if you don't get around to solving Acme's WSJ puzzle, you'll be struck by the pattern of the grid. (The puzzle's content ain't bad either, but you would have already made that assumption.)

Anonymous 12:24 AM  

I don't get 61D "ING" for "Like Mahler's Symphony No.4"

PuzzleGirl 12:46 AM  

Anon 12:24: That symphony is IN the key of G.

Anonymous 1:14 AM  

@anonymous 12:24AM
IN the key of's a cheat clue when someone has INE or INA in the grid. It makes a bad fill look VERY classy! I can't wait to use it myself!

Thanks for the end of the day shout out! Patrick and I are so proud of that puzzle and worried it got a little lost in the New Year's hubbub...

To my horror, however, it was pointed out to me today that the world does not revolve around me! (??!!)

How than do I explain all the little moons orbiting around my head (with circles around them for emphasis)?!

green mantis 1:27 AM  

Sorry if I missed this, but is the clue for the U.N. Secretary not parallel? Bar (first name, I thought) in clue and Annan (last name, I know) as answer?

Also, I thought we covered the quiet genius of Alice Munro last time she showed up in the puzzle. Sooo my hero. Get on the bus. Also not lame: she plugged away at her stories everyday despite the distraction of (I think) about six kids. Take that, excuses.

Oh and, Happy New Year.

Anonymous 7:21 AM  

Chess player Tal, Guitarist Tal. If you haven't heard bassist Tal Wilkenfeld- do yourself a favor. She came to my attention when playing with Jeff Beck.
The puzzle was good today. Had to stare for a while til some of the long answers came.Then it fell together.

mac 9:45 AM  

@green mantis: Happy New Year!
I think in Korea the last name is mentioned first, so Ki-Moon is his given name.

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

I liked the puzzle. It WAS a tad easier than most Friday's, but it was fun. Had trouble with the center. Had Deb for "Social group member" and it threw the whole thing off. Dang. I should have easily known that. Thanks Rex. Cute kiddos!

Anonymous 3:06 PM  

@Rex - yeah, sea otters may appear cute to you, but they are the reason I can't get my precious abalone anymore. They are more pests than cute animals... sea rats!

BTW great pic of your kids!

Also, I claim Natick on the ANNAN/MUNRO cross. I knew Kofi, but not Ban, so didn't make connection. Never read Munro. It was irksome to have the last blank square staring at me from right dead center in the grid. Doh!

Sheena Easton video verged on slutty???? I think by today's standard that performance would be regarded as ho-hum bordering on prudish. :)

Keep up the good work.

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