SATURDAY, Jan. 31, 2009- K. Bessette (Ad pitcher who's really a pitcher / Dish with cornhusks / Pita source / "Thrilla in Manila" airer)

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ASCUS - A membranous, often club-shaped structure in which typically eight ascospores are formed through sexual reproduction of ascomycetes [the largest of the major groups of fungi]

As with last Saturday's puzzle, I finished this one more quickly than I did Friday's. When you have a big, (literally) fat gimme like 17A: Ad pitcher who's really a pitcher (Kool-Aid Man) right off the bat, the puzzle opens up very quickly. Once you get one Across in a stack like that, most of your work is done. You can hack at the quadrant with the Downs until everything else comes into view, and none of those Downs were any trouble. Oh, except AGAVE (9D: Pita source). I had no idea. I thought that the only noteworthy thing to come from AGAVE was tequila. Weird that pita and tequila have the same source. I do not think I'd drink them together. OK, now I see the problem. We're dealing with a secondary definition of pita that I've never heard of:

  1. Any of several plants of the genus Agave that yield strong leaf fibers. Also called istle.
  2. The fiber of any of these plants, used in making cordage and paper.
I thought the crossing of AGAVE and IVA was pretty rough. IVA is not a common name - I've taught The Maltese Falcon probably half a dozen times, and even I was like "IDA? I....RA? IMA?! Dang, what the hell is her name!?" Everything else in the puzzle was pretty easy. Slight hesitation around ASCI (57A: Fungal spores), but all the crosses were right, so I figured it must be something valid. Comparatively sluggish movement in the SE, where the western part of that quadrant needed some coaxing to come into view. Needed to figure out that the answer to 48A: Badger was two words (NAG AT) and not one, and needed to whittle down the possible answer to 50D: They're shown at horse shows from seemingly infinite to GAITS. The Acrosses down there are nice, long, basic words and phrases made slightly toughish by vague Saturday cluing - ERECTOR SET was the easiest to get (63A: Toy with blueprints), though I don't think ERECTOR SETs exist anymore, do they? Maybe there are super hi-tech plastic manga Harry Potter ones I don't know about. Daughter plays with Wedgits and Colorku.

Here are my gimmes for today:


  • 23A: Weapons once produced extensively by the Royal Small Arms Factory (stens) - yes, a gimme. Weapon + British + four letters (five in a plural) = STEN! Except when it doesn't, I guess, but in this case it does.
  • 26A: Satyajit Ray's ("The _____ Trilogy") ("Apu") - this clue has been de-"Simpson"ized for your protection.
  • 27A: Dish with cornhusks (tamale) - getting this instantly = the benefit of knowing only one dish with cornhusks
  • 2D: Have _____ (not be trapped) (an out) - that's a Monday/Tuesday clue
  • 26D: Yellowfin, on Hawaiian menus (ahi) - this word is here to stay, so remember it. It's Very convenient, from a constructor's point of view ("How can I avoid yet another ALI or ARI or ANI?"), and its frequency appears to be increasing as everyone begins to agree that it is indeed a reasonably common term.
  • 28D: Last name of father-and-son N.F.L. coaches (Mora) - first thing that occurred to me. Not the most famous coaches, but they have a name custom-made for the grid.
  • 25A: Chicago Fire's sports org. (MLS) - Major League Soccer
  • 51D: Whac-_____ (carnival game) (a-Mole) - another Monday/Tuesday-level clue. I've seen this game in TV shows and movies ... and at carnivals, I guess, though I can't remember the last time I went to one of those.


  • 11A: Southern appellation (br'er) - a contraction of "brother?" I had MA'AM at first.
  • 15A: Between wings (on the stage) - a complement to yesterday's APRON clue
  • 37A: Player of the first Bond girl (Andress) - nearly a gimme. A cross or two jarred my memory. It was not unpleasant to have it jarred in this manner

  • 44A: "Thrilla in Manila" airer (HBO) - I've seen this clue before, and yet I was again surprised that HBO existed that long ago.
  • 1D: Dawdling sorts (pokes) - so the expression "slow POKE" ... is redudant? What about "cow POKE?"
  • 5D: Trees of the verbena family (teak) - as with AGAVE and ASCI, my knowledge of the technical terms of flora and fauna is weak. That's why god invented crosses. I don't know what TEAK is, but I know that TEAK is.
  • 12D: Indian tribe V.I.P. (rainmaker) - also a Coppola film and this song by Yanni - an encore presentation!

  • 13D: Spammer's resource (e-mail list) - my blog has been getting spammed less often lately. O man, did I just jinx it?
  • 24D: Market yardstick, for short (S and P) - Standard & Poors index. Got it off the SA-. Parsing!
  • 33D: Bygone stickers (snees) - an old crossword friend, the SNEE.
  • 34D: Automotive debuts of 1949 (Saabs) - again, as with HBO, I'm surprised at how old this answer is.
  • 38D: _____ Dinh Diem (first president of South Vietnam) (Ngo) - again with the Vietnamese stuff I don't know. Two days in a row. First BAO. Now NGO.
  • 47D: Travel writer Eugene (Fodor) - the clue seemed absurd. I figured FODOR was like HOOTIE from HOOTIE and the Blowfish - just a name, not an actual person.

["Sesame Street" Remix]

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 8:39 AM  

I am Southern to the core and have never, ever heard anyone called Br'er outside of Walt Disney. Bubba is a sometime nickname for brother...but even that's not all that common.

Unknown 8:39 AM  

This was not easy for me, maybe because I was expecting a baseball pitcher, not the other kind. That held me up in the northwest. The other parts were relatively easy, except the southwest where things just would not fall into place even though I got hardships early on.

Unknown 8:43 AM  

Far from easy for me but a good exercise and several clever clues. I keep hearing people talk about their 'rent car" the 'AL' part is disappearing. HONEST ABE looks reasonable now, but not so much earlier. Eyes or ears? Which are nearer the temple? My trivia contribution is that Ursula played Honey Ryder.

Kurt 8:47 AM  

I'm with @bossche. I spent awhile trying to think of a baseball pitcher whose name started with KOO.

Also got a little delayed when I confidently wrote in ONE PINT for the blood drive quantity. But the unlikely DPC start to the Italian leader got me back on track.

Easy ... but fun ... Saturday puzzle.

evil doug 8:54 AM  

I thought it was Kool-Aid Kid rather than Man---the concept of that creature busting in on children kind of creeps me out if he's a grown-up.

Hastings, Nebraska---though I know not where it lies, it was my home according to my first set of fake ID's when I was in college in Iowa---is the home of Kool-Aid Days. That's where the stuff was invented.

Speaking of Iowa: February 3 marks the 50th anniversary of Buddy Holly's death (along with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper) taking off from Mason City after performing in Clear Lake. RIP, Buddy.


Megan P 9:02 AM  

Yes, easy. Like everyone but Rex (apparently), I thought "baseball" and felt doomed by own ignorance, but eventually got Kool-aid man. It would help if I would ever watch a TV show.

JannieB 9:18 AM  

Not very easy for me, but ultimately solvable. I was thinking baseball too, so the NW corner was the last to fall. Got traction in the NE, then SE, then SW and finally back to square 1A. I liked that the cluing was mix of Saturday tough with a few Mon-Tues bones thrown in. Helped me get some traction in almost every quadrant. Also appreciated the fresh cluing for some old standards (snee, sten) and the nice pairing of S&P and Dow.

Jeffrey 9:23 AM  

The NW was a complete disaster for me. Did not know KOOL AID MAN and I was sure that College of the Redwoods locale was EUGENE. I didn't notice until just now that Eugene was in a clue. A Mala-mess. Result was KOOLREAMAN and TERNS for TEAKS. Also had ETA for ETD as the captain usually announces landing time, not takeoff. Its going to be a long flight if he has to update the takeoff time.

HudsonHawk 9:35 AM  

I would rate today as a Medium. I also was thinking along the lines of Nolan Ryan for 17A (didn't fit, obviously). Strangely enough, I also was thinking Ryan for 28D, since the new coach of the Jets is Rex Ryan, son of Buddy Ryan. STAG PARTY got me to MORA quickly, though.

I also struggled with ONE PINT, knowing that it couldn't be right, but I didn't see UNIT until the very end.

@evil, it's hard to believe it's been 50 years since the Day the Music Died.

Anonymous 9:42 AM  

I agree with many of the previous comments.

Overall I'd rate it "Easy-Medium."

The NE and SE came quickly. Especially if you are old enough to have had an ERECTORSET as a kid. No longer exists, my grandson has me building with Legos instead which is easier than dealing with the tiny bolts and nuts of the original.

The NW was a struggle since like others I thought baseball at 17A and Tom Seaver was the only name that I could dredge up -- which was one letter short. Eventually got it via the crosses.

The SW also took longer than it should have after confidently putting ONEPINT in early at 36A!

HONESTABE took awhile because I had ETA as the timetable listing. For a while I thought it was a nice companion to ETD at 7D -- which I also think has an objectionable clue.

Like Rex I found yesterday's puzzle more difficult than today's.

Which probably means that next Saturday's will be a killer.

I hope so!

Anonymous 9:47 AM  


Another father-son coaching pair in the NFL is Wade Phillips of the Cowboys and Bum Phillips of the Oilers.

Anonymous 9:53 AM  

First Saturday in a long time that I couldn't finish (when I started visiting here 2 years ago I couldn't even attempt a Saturday).

I got stymied because I had ETA (agree with above comment- ETD is listed on the computer screen in the terminal - ETA is given by the pilot) and I assumed a Natick intersection of a Chinese dynasty and an obscure baseball player.

Oh well. Can't win em all.

Have a nice weekend.


Jon 9:57 AM  

Sadness: Going to bed confident that I finished a challenging Saturday puzzle (at least for me), then waking up, reading the blog, and learning that pita has some cockamamie cactus-related definition. !!!!!!!!!. Maybe, on second thought, that's a recipe for frustration and anger that leads to very, very forceful typing (my spacebar just got stuck in my keyboard for a second). Correct me, as a newbie, if I'm using this expression wrong, but in my opinion, that IVA/AGAVE cross is some extreme NATICK action. I had I_A for Ms Archer's name (though, funny aside, initially put LEW, figuring, hey, that's a three-letter crime novel Archer I know; maybe the clue's a fan-fiction reference or something). And then, of course, I had AGA_E Running down. Thinking that there is noooooo way something called pita comes from AGAVE, I simply chose what seemed to me the most logical choice for the woman's name. And then, before I went to bed, I googled AGADE, because it's always fun to learn new words. And I found that it's a medieval Iraqi city. I thought that was a pretty obscure answer but it made some sort of sense: An Iraqi city would produce pita bread, I supposed. Anyway, I've already written too much, but when I discovered the answer this morning....grrrrrrrr.... Even for a Saturday, that seems waaaaaaaaaaaay too obscure for me. Am I wrong? Anyone else feel the same way?

Two other brief thoughts: Baseball knowledge is a point of pride for me, but in this puzzle, my pride was my undoing for a time. Even though Rex, who I'm told is quite the hardball enthusiast, had no trouble with KOOLAIDMAN, I was banging my head against that one up until the last moment, getting more and more worked up that I just couldn't see the pitcher in question. It didn't help that I had ETA as [Capt.s announcement]. For a funny take on the Kool Aid Man (@evil doug, btw: I LOVE your take on the guy; very creepy indeed when you thinking about that way)

And is anyone else bothered/captivated by a team named the Chicago Fire? In a town near where I grew up (and, actually, not far from NATICK), there is a school named St. Sebastian's. Their team name? The Arrows. Chicago Fire, St. Sebastian's Arrows....Anyone else know any morbidly named teams?

jubjub 9:57 AM  

I had NAME for "Showy wear" (I guess I was thinking like a name label), ENTS for "Short orders" (as in short for entrees), and ERERS for "Southern appelation" (I don't know...). Seemed reasonable to me :). Otherwise, it seemed pretty easy for a Saturday, which is nice for me, as I normally can't finish Saturday puzzles :).

jubjub 10:04 AM  

@Jon, didn't think about the name Chicago Fire ... that is rather disturbing. I guess it has been long enough to poke fun? Also in the MLS is the San Jose Earthquakes. Not quite as morbid, but San Jose is just outside of San Francisco.

nanpilla 10:15 AM  

On my page (yes, I always print out and do the puzzle on paper) I have a list of possible names:
even IRA (!)
but absolutely no IVA. Never even heard of that name, and I was completely sure that pita bread could not possibly come from an agave plant - just tequila! So I filled in some random letter( I can't even remember which one I chose) and googled agave and found out I was wrong. Arrgg. But happiness is a horse clue, and the rest of the puzzle was fun and doable with a little work.

Anonymous 10:30 AM  

I thought it was pretty hard, especially in the SW, where I has Jack BLACK for a long time. I also wound up with a mistake, when I guessed INA instead of IVA--I couldn't see how AGAVE had anything to do with PITA.

I got MORA right away, because PHILLIPS didn't fit. I knew them, unfortunately, because Bum Phillips and Jim Mora both coached my team, the Saints. Bum was a disaster. Jim coached us to our first playoff appearance, but was otherwise mediocre. He was famous for his post-game tirades. Here is one from 1996, after a loss to the Carlina Panthers:

"Well, what happened was, that second game, we got our ass kicked. In the second half, we just got our ass totally kicked. We couldn’t do diddly poo offensively, we couldn’t make a first down, we couldn’t run the ball, we didn’t try to run the ball, we couldn’t complete a pass - we sucked. The second half, we sucked. We couldn't stop the run. Every time they got the ball, they went down and got points. We got our ass totally kicked in the second half - that's what it boiled down to. It was a horseshit performance in the second half. Horseshit. I’m totally embarrassed and totally ashamed. Coaching did a horrible job. The players did a horrible job. We got our ass kicked in that second half. It sucked. It stunk."

Unknown 10:47 AM  

Add me to the long list of people assuming baseball for pitcher. I eventually finished, after many hardships in that section. I was erasing and rewriting so much the NW is a big smudgy mess.

Agree with crosscan wholeheartedly about ETD and resisted SHLEP for a long time because I thought it should be 'schlep'. The former still looks odd to me.

My only snag outside of the NW was 'epees' for SNEES, and I don't know how HONEST ABE relates to its clue, 'copper head?'. Is he some famous chief of police? Help, please!

evil doug 10:51 AM  

Lincoln's on the penny.


fikink 10:58 AM  

Yes, Rex, this puzzle was a breeze if you thought of KOOL AID MAN. Unfortunately, I was wed to PAY CASH FOR as a seeker of change and the ad man became KOBI BRYANT (you can "pitch" a basketball, right?). The NW was abandoned until I finished the rest of the fill. When I returned to it, I still hadn't heeded Foodie's words about learning to be fickle and had to give up ('though by that time, I had thrown Kobi out of the game).

mac 11:01 AM  

For me this was an easy puzzle with a mortally challenging NW. Never heard of or saw a Koolaid man, it's a good thing Rex had a picture up or I still would be in the dark. Had Merced for Eureka, and Saberhagen (and I was so proud of remembering that name...) for the KAM, and I have a real problem with teaks. The trees are called teak trees, the wood is called teak, and if you are talking about different teaks (colors or grains or whatever) the clue is wrong.

I had a pint as well, and for the Italian leader I wanted a Doge, although Mussolini did cross my mind, couldn't think of his nickname right away and didn't persue it.

I like "rests easy", "rainmaker", "adaptation" and some of the clueing, but all in all I'm disappointed that I had to give up and check the blog for some answers. Maybe I should have gone out for a while and gone back to it later.....

@Jon, I like your pita reasoning, that's the way I do it on Fridays and Saturdays, waaaaay overthinking it.

For a moment I thought the Chicago Fire was and NHL team, and wasn't it funny to have the Fire and Icehocky!

Unknown 11:04 AM  

@evil doug

Aha. My penny has the queen and a leaf.
Thank you. Makes so much cents now.

Along the same lines as you, I tried 'pay in bills' for 1A.

PuzzleGirl 11:07 AM  

Not easy for me. KOOL-AID MAN came pretty early for some reason, so no trouble there but oh! the SW! I had ROUND TRIP for way too long. I finally Googled the Bergman title role -- the whole time thinking "I should know this, I should know this" -- and ARGH! I should have known that.

I hesitated for a minute with ETD, but I don't think it's a bad clue. I've been on airplanes several times where we've taxied away from the terminal and then been told by the captain that we can't take off yet, but "should be on our way here in about ten minutes," or whatever.

I had the exact same reaction as Rex about HBO. I remember watching a Mike Tyson fight on HBO once and that seems like a hundred years ago.

Jeffrey 11:09 AM  

@mac - fire and ice hockey? That would be the Calgary Flames.

evil doug 11:34 AM  


Yesterday we had the French "pas", today the American penny. Kind of like playing both national anthems when the Blackhawks play the Maple Leafs.

God save the Queen,


xyz 11:37 AM  

Of course it had to be easy! I got fully half the clues and I usually am happy to get half Thursday, still learning how to do crossword think.

However, "gimmes" are different for everyone (My first thought for "pitcher was NOLANRYAN (1 short!) and then I got stuck thinking of knuckleballers ....) :-))

My gimmies included (Got the most of SE):
ERECTORSET, ANDRESS, EUREKA, TAMALE, SAFES, AMOLE, EARS, TENET, ANOUT - and that's not the half of it. Agree very easy for Saturday, usually I'm completely stumped and then going cr*p, S***, good god, etc when I see the answers. This blog is really fun, thanks "Rex".

Glitch 11:38 AM  


as you wrote: "Even for a Saturday, that seems waaaaaaaaaaaay too obscure for me. Am I wrong? Anyone else feel the same way?"

I totally agree, no you are not wrong, it WAS too obscure for you.



archaeoprof 11:39 AM  

Coming off my 3-week layoff, this one was hard. The SW killed me.

I seem to remember a team called the Chicago Fire in the old and very short-lived WFL (World Football League).

Leon 11:42 AM  

Great puzzle Mr. Bessette.

IVA has a greater role in the book.

IVA Archer from The Maltese Falcon :
"Her facial prettiness was perhaps five years past its best moment."

The book's ending at Sam Spade's office:
"Iva is here."
"Yes," he said, and shivered. "Well, send her in."

Anonymous 11:52 AM  

As a "Southern to the core," I believe Brer refers to Br'er Rabbit in Joel Chandler Harris's TALES OF UNCLE REMUS, an old Southern story from the 1800s.

Anonymous 11:56 AM  

Br'er is an old southernism, particularly used by Joel Chandler Harris who wrote the Br'er Rabbit stories, very much pre-Disney. Couldn't think of Kool-Aid for ages.

hazel 12:11 PM  

@hereinfranklin - I'm with you on BRER.

@bookmark and anonymous - I've lived in the South all my life, and have never ever heard that expression used. Joel Chandler Harris IS from Atlanta, and his Uncle Remus stories are set in the South, using a deep south slave dialect - but it still seems that's a bit of a stretch to get to Southern appellation?

Like a lot of others, KOOLAIDMAN was the last big clue to fall for me so that I could finish that section. As a Braves fan, a clue for pitchers means just one thing - hurlers not ewers.

I thought this puzzle was very fun - lots of clever cluing/expressions.

hazel 12:32 PM  

One more thing...

@evil - are you joking? i can never tell with you...

If not, do Ronald McDonald and Mayor McCheese also creep you out? And that purple dinosaur isn't a kid is it? he was WAY past my childhood - so I really don't know. Tinky Winky must have given you the real heebie jeebies....


Anonymous 12:37 PM  

I was recently on a couple cross-country flights, and each time, after the plane was loaded and safety instructions given, the captain chatted away as the plane sat still or taxied over to the runway. Included in his mostly inane patter he told us ETD, #hours flying time and ETA.

Anonymous 12:51 PM  

The puzzle seemed as hard as a Saturday puzzle ought to be and that seems to be the consensus. None of the speed solvers have zipped through it in record time I see.
jon, I know ACM is into naming, but wonder if she could top this ballot listing for best real names for teams by category?
High school teams:
1. Cornjerkers: Hoopeston High School; Illinois
2. Nimrods: Watersmeet Township, Michigan
3. Mad Frogs: Menno, South Dakota
College Nicknames
1. Banana Slugs:U of California-Santa Cruz
2. Chokers:Grays Harbor College; Washington
3. Fighting Artichokes:Scottsdale Community College
Professional Sport Nicknames
1. Beef:Omaha Arena Football
2. Lugnuts:Lansing, Michigan (Minor League Baseball)
3. Sand Gnats:Savannah (Minor League Baseball)
/Mee Hsai

joho 1:02 PM  

@rex: did not think this puzzle easy, but it was doable.

My first answer for 1A Seek change was PANHANDLE although it didn't fit. I kind of liked it that the real answer was PASS THE HAT, not so far off. For 8D I wrote in HANG TEN, which I like better than HAM IT UP.

I agree with Cheryl that SHLEP needs a "C."

I learned what MLS means.

I had the "V" at AGAVE and changed it to a "T" thinking AGATE a more plausible answer: not! I declare a Natick at that cross!

edith b 1:12 PM  

I spun outward from Flyover Country, getting APU HBO NGO MORA NOKIA to start - neons all. My first long answer was ANDRESS as I swirled into the NE, picking up RAINMAKER as the first brick in the wall to complete that section.

This one was very intuitive to me as Hot-dog and Hotrods led me in two different directions for reasons that are not clear to me. I think I shifted into late-week mode and tried not to overthink this one as STEPS and DOW were essentially the same clue and, as you can probably tell, I was all over the place, getting a foothold in every section and, more importantly, gaining confidence in what were essentially guesses.

It amazed me that I had so few changes from my initial entries and I think it was sheer force of will. I overpowered this puzzle as the STAGPARTY/THE WAVE crossing came to me all at once.

I hardly ever try this with these late week puzzles and I truly think it is lack of confidence that turns these things into hours-long struggles.

I think I am the opposite of Rex who is able to break these puzzles through wordplay rather than what I like to call Received Knowledge - places and names and idiomatic expressions of all sorts. I remember things. That has always been my strong suit when it comes to solving crossword puzzles but a good memory is of little use on a Saturday puzzle, IMHO.

I realized I am rambling but I am trying to sort out what is happening here.

ERECTORSET broke open the the SE and I was able to slash thru the SW on the strength of ESTEEM and NANCE that produced HONESTABE and ANASTASIA, leaving only the NW left to solve.

I knew EUREKA and IVA Archer from memory and pecked pecked away at this section. I had seen HSIA just recently and guessed TEAKS and SHLEP.

The KOOLAIDMAN/POKES crossing was my last answer and I certainly hope I am able to keep up this pace next Friday and Saturday.

Forgive me for getting carried away.

SethG 1:33 PM  

ascomycetes, you don't say...

Moved pretty quickly except for that blank letter near the top and the entire SW. Then I was on the ROUND TRIP with mom for a long. Was pretty sure of it, but I finally gave it up and tried out my instincts with NANCE and TALK and figured out with those how to fit in Lincoln.

For the blank letter, I went with none-of-the-above. My choice: ITA. Which is a name, too, and like TEAK I know that AGATE exists, even if I can't figure out why it would be in Middle Eastern bread. I submitted, it didn't work, then switched to the V. That is one tough cross.

T-1 day. Speaking of kids, did I mention The Pop Rocks are awesome?

Jon 1:36 PM  

@Anonymous, 12:51. That list is FANTASTIC. Thanks! The Fighting Artichokes reminded me that there's a team out there called the Fighting Quakers. I think. Ah, indeed, wikipedia tells me that Earlham used to have the Fightin' Quakers, which (tragically) were renamed the Hustlin' Quakers and now are just the Quakers. There is, however, this lovely chant that apparently remains there:

Fight, Fight, Inner Light!
Kill, Quakers, Kill!
Knock 'em Down, Beat 'em Senseless!
Do It 'til We Reach Consensus!


George NYC 2:04 PM  

I think the temples in question (EYES) refer to the eyeglass part that runs from the lens to the ear...

Anonymous 2:05 PM  

I blogged for the first time on January 1 and resolved to blog every day in January. So congratulations to me, I did it. And it wasn't easy, this is a tough crowd. Especially since I had never done a Friday or Saturday before this month, but I think I'm getting better already. I did about three-fourths of today's puzzle in about an hour which is my cutoff time. I resorted to getting help from Rex for the NW section. Unlike him, I have never heard of Koolaidman or Redswoods College and I thought shlep had a c and worst of all I did not Iva at all even though I know I have read all of Sam Spade, more than once probably. But still, I think I'm doing fine and I will no longer refer to myself as a newbie.

fergus 2:05 PM  

Rex did say that last Saturday's was Super Easy, so today's offered more of a challenge. For me quite a bit more, but still a single sitting.

I also went for Advil pitchman K. Nolan Ryan, like maybe his proper first name is Keith? Plus the all-time strikeout leader ought to have a K in his name somewhere.

So many people employ the phrase "Drink the Kool-Aid" but its origins are too grisly for the levity with which it's often used. (see Jonestown 1978)

That ONE UNIT was sort of lame, but PASS THE HAT and HAM IT UP more than made up for that. Ursula Andress put an end to whatever latency period I may have had as a young lad.

jae 2:09 PM  

The east side of this one was easy for me, the SW medium, and the NW challenging. I had ETA, resisted SHLEP for the lack of a "C" and, like many others, spent way too much time trying to conjure up a baseball player. I'm with everyone who thinks the AGAVE/IVA cross is borderline NATICK. I had a "V" in that square but didn't believe it until I checked my Amer. Heritage Dict. which, oddly, does not give the bread as a def., only the agave and some sort of pineapple. The same dict. does not list SHLEP, only SCHLEP. I probably need an upgrade.

Doc John 2:16 PM  

I made all the missteps that everyone else did.

Not much else to add except for the fact that I saw The Maltese Falcon for the first time last week and I still couldn't come up with IVA. Finally had to get it by running the alphabet with AGAVE and thinking to myself that hmmm, IVA sounded vaguely familiar.

RAINMAKER- also a John Grisham book. Geez, you'd think I was his publicist the way I keep mentioning his name. In reality, I've read two of his book, both of which had endings that I hated, and two or three of his movies.

Fave clue/answer: [Swell] = NEATO

Bob Kerfuffle 2:21 PM  

Medium for me, mostly because of two Wrong Answers That Wouldn't Go Away.

Like Crosscan, I had EUGENE instead of EUREKA. And for 30D, Bergman title role, I had ALEXANDRA (as in Nicholas and Alexandra) instead of ANASTASIA, confusing (I think) director Ingmar for actress Ingrid.

And I agree with Cheryl and joho, expect SCHLEP.

Greene 2:23 PM  

Man, I've been behind this week, but I've finally caught up with the pack. Today's puzzle was surprisingly easy for me. I must have been on Mr. Bessette's wavelength. Started with 48A NAG AT and the entire southeast fell immediately. Worked north and initially had CALMS DOWN for 14D, but quickly threw that out after the lovely Ursula ANDRESS came on the scene. Love that she is sitting atop a STAG PARTY. She is one hot TAMALE.

Oddly, I didn't fall into the baseball trap for 17A. It's probably just complete ignorance of sports on my part, but the story I'm telling here is that I now know to look for alternative meanings when a pitcher is mentioned in a clue on Saturday! :)

Please forgive me for making a reference to yesterday's puzzle at this late date, but I have to share a little bit about the night club XENON. This building actually started life as Henry Miller's Theatre in 1918. For many years this lovely theatre, with its gorgeous Georgian facade, was considered one of the most beautiful playhouses in NYC.

As Times Square deteriorated in the 1970s, so did the fare on West 43rd Street and despite the outrage of the theatrical community, pornographic films became standard at the newly christened Avon-on-the-Hudson for over 5 years. In 1978, following a 2 million dollar "restoration," the theatre reopened in 1978 as XENON, a discotheque intended to give Studio 54 (also a transformed former playhouse) a run for its money.

Following the close of XENON, the house fell into decripitude and sat idle, until it returned to legitimate use as The Kit Kat Club in 1998, borrowing its new moniker from the grimy production of Cabaret which settled in for what should have been a long run. Eight months later the collapse of a construction hoist on West 43rd Street blocked access to the theatre; with no other venue readily available, Cabaret was moved to (of all places) that other former playhouse turned discotheque, Studio 54, where it did great business until 2004.

Poor Henry Miller's Theatre sat dark once more until the even grimier Urinetown transferred in from Off-Broadway in September 2001. Unfortunately, that popular show had to be evicted in January 2004 because of pre-existing arrangements to destroy the theatre and erect a 54-story Bank of America Tower. Interestingly, the Georgian facade was protected by landmark status and though the insides have indeed been gutted, the developer was bound by state regulations to keep the space a working theatre. So hopefully, later this year, construction will be complete, Henry Miller's Theatre will reopen (under the auspices of The Roundabout Theatre Company) and Broadway will have one more legitimate theatre on its roster. To see the construction work in progress, go here.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:26 PM  

Oops! The Ingmar Bergman film was Fanny and Alexander.

PlantieBea 2:31 PM  

I had some common false starts today. I tried AGARE and IRA, thinking that maybe AGARE was a Middle-Eastern market where one might buy Pita. AGAVE/pita is new for me. I also thought that Pan Handle would fit, until it didn't. PASS the HAT eventually fit, along with Kool Aid man. Fun commercial clips, Rex! Does anybody still drink this stuff?

A doable medium puzzle for me--except for the AGAVE...

Orange 3:07 PM  

@assorted people: Watching a TV show now and then won't do you a lick of good in knowing KOOL-AID MAN—that's more a '70s TV commercial thing. Kobe Bryant has an E, not an I (like the Japanese beef)—and he'll probably show up in a puzzle some day so you'll want to remember the spelling. Erector Sets are still available; do a search for "erector set" at Amazon and you'll find a ton. You can always rule out a phrase like PAY IN BILLS because it's not really a stand-alone unit of meaning in the language. If a puzzle uses a clunker like that, you can rightfully criticize it; luckily, we don't get too many of those tortured phrases in the NYT crossword. Also, there's a Croatian tennis player named IVA Majoli.

Parshutr 3:20 PM  

My bads were STAGARMY and ONEPINT (which I still think is Preferable). Oh, and ADJUSTMENT was my first guess on the evolutionary scale.
Being a near-70yo, I had no trouble with BAO yesterday or NGO today.
Definitely an easy puzzle for a Saturday.
Andress and Bergman in the same puzzle? Couldn't ask for more eyecandy.

HudsonHawk 3:26 PM  

For subscribers that already have the Sunday magazine, you may want to get a head start (It's 23x23).

Doug 3:30 PM  

French couple can be "sel et POIVRE" so after being extremely pleased for my cunning POIVRE fill it became a SNEE in the south.

Had a brief moment of joy with PANHANDLE for PASSTHEHAT. And MARATHONS tripped me up where HARDSHIPS should have been.

Nice puzzle all around, lots of clever stuff in addition to the regular arcane Saturday knowledge.

Anonymous 3:49 PM  

I guess this must have been easy, as I got at least half the puzzle done on my own, without help.

Ingrid Bergman was also in "A Woman Called Golda," and Golda Meir fit perfectly into the spaces! Aaarrgh! As if I don't have enough trouble with Saturday puzzles!

But loved Pass the Hat, Erector Set, On The Stage. Had Boas for Lame - felt lame when I saw my mistake.

miguel 4:01 PM  
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Anonymous 4:02 PM  

I finished it with no errors, but hardly would consider this one easy. I had stalls at NANCE (what was he in?), ASCI (huh?) and IVA (who?). Don't think KOOL-AID MAN is really in the language; to most, he's just that anthropomorphic pitcher, not some entity with a name. And yes, most of us probably were looking for a real man who played baseball. The AGAVE clue was a misdirection, of course, but a good misdirection should have you chuckling when you finally get it, not scratching your head, saying, "Whatever." TAMALES are actually TAMAL in the singular, but I guess the misspelling is considered normal in English. And S(C)HLEP should have a C.

jae 4:02 PM  

@doug -- I had POIVRE for a while too.

miguel 4:02 PM  

ok you guys...Google says they crashed this morning and were down for an hour worldwide. The problem was too many clicks on some obscure name...IVA. It wasn't you was it?

Anonymous 4:45 PM  

Geez, I should have read this hours ago. Maybe now I can stop trying to find what obscure minor league Hawaiian team Koo Laiaman pitched for.

Doc John 5:06 PM  
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Anonymous 5:12 PM  

I would not call this "easy" -- seemed like a typical Saturday. Perhaps this is because "koolaid man" was not in any way a gimme for me.

My favorite answer -- honest abe

And I had no idea pitas came from agave plants -- nice to learn something.

Doc John 5:36 PM  

58 comments and not one mention of ASCII code- are there no digerati amongst us?

As for Kool-aid Man (who I always thought of as Mr. Kool-aid): wonder if they threw this up today?

Doc John 5:36 PM  
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Unknown 8:01 PM  

I did not like this crossword at all. The NW was far too full of references to things that I had never heard of, and I couldn't complete it even after giving up and trawling the internet.
e.g. Koolaid Man?? Shlep? Hsia? Hot-dog meaning 'Ham it up'? Agave? Iva? 'College of the Redwoods'? The rest were ok, but too vague for me to get without any crosses. The only one I could do was 'an out'
So, maybe just an unlucky concentration of stuff that was alien to me - but coming here and seeing 'relative difficulty: easy' was hard to take.
Managed the rest though :-)

allan 8:45 PM  

I hate when I struggle, and then Rex says it was easy. Don't I feel foolish!

My gimmes were (believe it or not) onthestage, erectorset, andress for the acrosses and madame and saabs for the downs.

Had to google 5 answers to finish though.

I agree that agave and iva were the hardest answers. I never heard the name iva, and like most others thought pita referred to a bread.

Desperately wanted JimPalmer for the pitcher and went as far as to try alternate spellings just to get him there (you know, things like jimm or palhmer).

But my favorite of all was the cross with copper head and they're near temples. After all, everyone shoud know by now that honest abe was jewish because he got shot in the temple. GROUP MOOOAAANNN!

Bye for now.

Anonymous 9:04 PM  

I think this was a typical Saturday puzzle, one where I have to resort to googling. A number of the answers were too obscure for me.

Friday's puzzle, on the other hand, got in one sitting, with no googling.

Friday and Saturday's puzzles use puns and other word play; often, the obvious clue is not obvious, but more obscure or a less popular use of the answer. So think triple meanings.


Anonymous 9:23 PM  

After leaving HALF of yesterday's BEQ grid blank, this one was relatively easy for me, but for all the wrong reasons...

Got KOOLAIDMAN, but till I came to the blog, I just thought that WAS some nickname for a baseball Papa "Cool" Bell
(or is it Cool Papa Bell? Still don't know!) whom I "learned" from one of my OWN NY SUN crosswords where I had B*LL names
(BALL, BELL, BILL, BOLL, BULL) and Peter Gordon changed Alexander Graham Bell to Papa Cool Bell. He's always sportsin' up my puzzles to the point where there is always one reference in my OWN puzzle that I don't get!
In my Beach Boys puzzle it was Todd Sands! SO what the heck, I just figured there was some pitcher with that nickname.

SO, even tho I grew up with those commercials, and live in Jim Jones world (Most of the members of his church who died were from right here in SF) I still didn't realize that it WASn't a baseball pitcher!
Even after solving.
Lately with all the baseball references (refs? no wait, it would be umps!) I feel like I've been hit over the head with a bat!

Gotta say I love the name Bum Phillips tho!

@anonymous 12:51/ MEE HSAI

What a phenomenal list!!!!!!!!!!!!
LOVE it!!!!!!!!! Where did it come from?
And your name was almost in the puzzle today!

I got HSIA right away bec I had a friend in college named Lisa HSIA.

That's what I mean about getting everything today but for odd reasons not related to what was actually going on.

(I'm sure there is a word for THAT!)

Big Bopper et al died on the way to a gig in Minnesota, I believe.
Always felt a bit guilty that the day the music died was on account of how horrible the weather was where I grew up. Maybe it was where Dylan was born to make up for that.

I'm with you! At risk of starting a Yiddish discussion YET AGAIN, I would like to add in Scrabble you can spell SCHLEP: SHLEP, SHLEPP, SCHLEPP. oy! They all look wrong to me! But SHLEP has to be the worst...

Bill from NJ 10:16 PM  

@Anonymous 12:51- (or is it /Mee Hsai)-

I went to Arizona State University in the late 60s and I remember what happened at Scottsdale Community College. The school was looking for a nickname for its brand-new football team in addition to colors for the uniforms so, in the interest of solidarity with the student body, the administration allowed them to vote on the issues at hand.

The results?

Thw Fighting Artichokes for the for the team name and pink and white for the colors. The Good Deans tried to rescind the vote (unsuccessfully) but were able to make the colors a very dark shade of pink - almost red, don't you know - to achieve at least a partial victory.

It was during these days that men were elected Homecoming Queens so voting was kind of headed off at the pass.

It was a minor bruhaha at the time and I got a big kick out of it.

Anonymous 10:21 PM  

(fourth entry)
are compilations. The ballot was from a journalism class.

fikink 10:47 PM  

@Orange, thanks for the correction on Kobe.
(And it is a real coincidence because I have a Japanese hood over my stove made by a company called Kobe and I remember that spelling because of the beef.)

Anonymous 10:53 PM  

Thank you!!!

Everything about Kobe makes me sick to my stomach, and I ain't even talking about the meat!

Rex and Orange have given out their yearly awards! Please go read them to see shout outs to fabulous 2008 puzzles and their constructors!

I'm worried it might get lost in the shuffle as the Sunday blog is already posted and it's not even 8pm Sat on the West Coast! VERY Election day!

green mantis 12:48 AM  

@acme: I think maybe you Are talking about the meat.

@adrian: Do you usually handle Saturday puzzles fine? Seems like most will have a fair smattering of alien cultural references that have to be coaxed/forced out. I don't think this is an unfair Saturday at all in that respect.

Anonymous 2:24 AM  

Jack Nance appeared in "Eraserhead"; if you have not seen this one, I strongly recommend it, especially if you're a David Lynch fan. This film is deeply disturbing; you'll love it!
As a Southerner, I smile at all the brouhaha regarding "br'er"; only time I've ever heard it used was when my first grade teacher read "Uncle Remus" to us. We use "bro" and "bubba"; I think "Br'er" appelliates woodland creatures (critters). Good week, y'all.

liquid el lay 1:09 PM  

It is a very unfortunate fact that Ingrid Bergman played Golda Meir in a TV movie.

This left the southwest a desert wasteland.

Meanwhile the eastern seaboard populated and spread west to the mississippi.

That area filled, some activity began in the pacific northwest. PANHANDLE(S) was looking for a way to fit on the canadian border..
so I wasn't impossibly far from PASSTHEHAT to HAMITUP to HARDSHIPS to refuting GOLDAMEIR.... but I had given up in the interests of time.

wanted DIRKS for SNEES because I like that word.

sadly, ABE is now made of ZINC. that's not so HONEST.

edith b 2:17 PM  

Who is Jack Nance?

She's dead, wrapped in plastic

This was the first line in David Lynch's Twin Peaks when Jack Nance discovered the body of Laura Palmer - a minor masterpiece of TV in the 80s - particularly the first season when Lynch was actively involved.

Lynch reminds me of John Ford who used actors over and over in his movies and Jack Nance was in Lynch's Eraserhead, as mentioned in a previous comment above, but I did want to mention Twin Peaks.

Unknown 7:48 PM  

@green mantis
I usually manage a Saturday with a couple of guessed letters (that are invariably wrong).
The problem with this puzzle *for me* was that the entire NW corner was chock full of stuff so alien to me that I couldn't get any sort of start at all. I didn't get close to being able to think about coaxing anything out!
So, I wasn't complaining the puzzle was 'unfair', just no fun for me. Seeing the answers just confirmed that I would never have been able to do that corner - and where's the fun in that?

Spencer 2:48 PM  

I borrowed Vietnam by Larry Burrows from the library on Thursday, so NGO was particularly easy for me.

Larry Burrows was a photographer. He worked for Life documenting the conflict from the early US involvement in 1962 through his death over Laos in 1971. Quoting from the description of the book, "The photographs Larry Burrows took in Vietnam, magnificently reproduced in this volume, are brutal, poignant, and utterly truthful, a stunning example of photojournalism that recorded history and achieved the level of great art."

Anonymous 9:38 PM  

Started on Saturday, returned to it today. Had Anastasia off the bat, but KOOLAIDMAN tricked me, too.

Orange - you must not have kids, or you don't let them watch TV on Saturday mornings. Kool-Aid Man is still around.

I had the same inkling as Steve above that "Kool-Aid Man" is not his name. After all, the kids don't yell "Hey, Kool-Aid Man!" (In fact it's creepy to think of him as a man, crashing into your kids' parties and giving them drinks.) But that's how they talk about him on the corporate web site.

Anonymous 9:45 AM  

In Syndiland: Hmm. No comments about "DUCE" as a stand-alone. I'm pretty sure it's always "IL DUCE" if you mean Mussolini, and probably even if it's not. You know how those Romance language folks are about their definite articles!

Anonymous 2:02 PM  

Five weeks and a day later - Certainly not easy for me, but then I am not what you would call a pro at this. I finally resorted to Google and friends and still had a great deal of difficulty. I never did find "Hsia" in the list of Chinese dynasties in Wikipedia. I first guessed Ava for Iva, but that didn't help much because I just couldn't but into agave for pita and the "a" didn't help with "ham it up". And there were many other totally obscure clues/answers for me. Oh well, maybe on another Saturday I will fare better.

Anonymous 9:52 PM  

Did no one think "Agora" for pita source? I thought what a clever clue that was, and how clever I was to get it.

I know it's Sunday. I do these at my leisure, and certainly not as fast as you guys!

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