Little auk — SATURDAY, Aug. 8 2009— Folklorist/musicologist Alan / Title girl of 1906 L. Frank Baum novel / 1989 Broadway monodrama

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Constructor: Karen M. Tracey

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: DOVEKIE (25A: Little auk) — A small black-and-white sea bird (Alle alle) of the Arctic and northern Atlantic oceans, having a short bill and a stout body. Also called little auk.

More than almost any other constructor, Karen Tracey speaks my puzzle language. For whatever reasons, even when a puzzle is reasonably tough (as today's was), I feel like I'm on her wavelength. Despite a few nutso words, this puzzle was expertly filled. Wildly inventive and a joy to solve. Easily the best puzzle of the week (admittedly, the competition hasn't been too tough). Speaking of PUZZLES (49A: Stumps) — Z Square! That's hot. That corner was the last to fall, and part of the reason it didn't fall quickly was that I couldn't believe there'd be Even More Scrabbly letters. Just seemed like piling on. So instead of NUZZLES (my first thought for 36D: Is an affectionate pooch) I went with NESTLES. Lesson: committing to wrong answers is about the most confounding thing you can do as a solver. Paradox: on tough puzzles, you often have to commit to answers you aren't sure about if you want anything to budge. Just be careful about how *hard* you commit. Since NESTLES didn't do much for me, I had no real trouble getting rid of it. Really, really wish I could have understood the chronological (not geographical) meaning of "setting" in 46A: "The Great Gatsby" setting (Jazz Age) much earlier than I did.

Two answers that were so crazy-looking I had to look them up when I was done to confirm that they were real. First, DOVEKIE. If all the crosses hadn't been unimpeachable, I'd have been worried here. I wondered briefly if I'd spelled MAZURKA right (5D: One of 58 Chopin compositions). Then across the pond we've got ULAN-UDE, which looks like a random collection of letters to me. I've heard of ULAN BATOR, but this one was very, very new to me (24A: Capital of the Buryat Republic). Didn't recognize and couldn't place "Buryat," so I was pretty much a dead man on this answer. Bring in the crosses! Luckily, all gettable (hallmark of a well-constructed puzzle — crazy-ass words have rock solid, reasonably easily identifiable crosses). LOMAX (41D: Folklorist/musicologist Alan) and KLEIN (18D: German mathematician who lent his name to a "bottle") round out my "???" answers for the day.

Bunch of gimmes helped me get traction. Among them, FRAG is my favorite (10A: Wound, in a way, as a fellow G.I.). BRET Easton Ellis wrote "American Psycho," among other things. Super easy. EL DUQUE (21A: Pitcher Orlando Hernandez's nickname) looks great in the grid, but there's hardly any way to clue it that diminishes its gimmeness, and it's a fat, fat gimme, i.e. it gives you a "Q" (which made QUARTET easy ... the RAJ part came later, 11D: "The Jewel in the Crown" begins it, with "The"). The weirdest, most mysterious gimme of the puzzle has to be PREJEAN (40D: Real-life death penalty opponent played by Sarandon in "Dead Man Walking"). I pulled that one out of Thin Air, with no crosses. As I was saying to myself, "oh, that's Sister somebody," PREJEAN leapt to mind. "No ... is that it?" Tested it and immediately confirmed the "J" off of JARHEAD (50A: 2003 Anthony Swofford Gulf war memoir made into a 2005 film). Amazing luck that allowed me to tear down the SE corner lickety-split.


  • 14A: Patterson who played the title role on TV's "Private Benjamin" (Lorna) — OK, that seems too obscure pop culturey even for me.
  • 16A: Four-time Grammy winner Schifrin (Lalo) — I think I read somewhere that "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening was a fan. For whatever reason, LALO makes me think of Groening. The more I think on this connection, the thinner it seems. Whatever. I got the answer easily enough, so whatever my brain was thinking, it seems to have worked.
  • 17A: He said "You are free and that is why you are lost" (Franz Kafka)paradoxically depressing!
  • 19A: Spanish seers? (ojos) — "?" made it a gimme.
  • 28A: Cousin of an Omaha (Ponca) — learned it from crosswords. One of my favorite tribe names. Fun to say / shout.
  • 29A: Home of the Knockmealdown Mountains (Ireland) — would be soooo much better if they were called the Knockmedown Mountains, and esp. if people who lived near there were known for getting fall-down drunk a lot.
  • 34A: 1989 Broadway monodrama (Tru) — "monodrama" is a new to me. Is that a play with only one actor? Must be. Is.
  • 57A: With 44-Across, Champion rider (Gene / Autry) — finally giving in to NUZZLES made this answer, finally, come into view.
  • 58A: Old royal residence in 29-Across (Tara) — helped me change ICELAND to IRELAND at 29A.
  • 59A: Pianist with 15 Grammys (Corea) — Chick COREA, a not uncommon name in xwords.
  • 60A: Cramped urban dwellings, briefly (SROs) — Single-Room Occupancy. A def. of "SRO" I learned from crosswords and have seen nowhere else.
  • 4D: Title girl of a 1906 L. Frank Baum novel (Annabel) — didn't know this, though "ANNABEL" was easy to guess from just a few crosses.
  • 22D: Zealand resident (Dane) — wife is from New Zealand, but I completely blanked on where old Zealand was. Stared at D-N- for a bit before exclaiming, "oh, duh."
  • 27D: Explorer of North America's eastern coast in 1524 (Verrazzano) — eponymous NYC bridge guy.
  • 31D: Player of Det. Eames on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (Erbe) — one of my most disliked names in CrossWorld. 3rd rate crosswordese. [to be clear, I don't dislike Ms. ERBE personally. I don't know her. I do know that she appears in xwords all out of proportion to her fame. It's just hard for constructors to resist the sweet, weird letter combo her last name provides.]
  • 53D: Cannon shot on a set? (Dyan) — honestly, when was the last time DYAN Cannon was shot anywhere but at a Lakers game? 1982?

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Aviatrix 2:43 AM  

This one was my punishment for finding Friday easy, so I should have guessed you'd have no trouble. As usual your gimmes are my ???s and in several cases vice versa. But you must have seen a representation of a Klein bottle, the bottle that has no inside? It's an extension on the concept of the mobius strip.

I had ENRIQUE for Hernandez for quite a while. Seemed a strange nickname for a guy named Orlando, but it kinda fit. I wouldn't have finished this one without Google. Nothing wrong with it: I just didn't know the stuff.

Lots of SROs in my hometown, unfortunately, and that term is in the press a lot.

Leon 7:17 AM  

Thank you Ms. Tracey.

Had FLAUNTS for FLOUNCE at first but PONCA saved me.

RP : Your 11/15/08 comments stuck with me. That puzzle was also by Ms. Tracey.

PONCAS was used on 05/31/09 and on that day the puzzle had clues for an explorer and a Baum character.

PONCA City News.

John 7:29 AM  

Was not on my wavelength, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Anonymous 7:36 AM  

i remember Dyan Cannon was in that cinematic masterpiece, Caddyshack 2(1988) - getting busy with Jackie Mason oh the visual...and don't forget that other academy snub for her work in Kangaroo Jack in 2003

JannieB 7:39 AM  

One of my slower Saturdays - I found this one difficult. Were it not for some gimme names (Lorna, Gene Autry, Lalo & Corea) I'd still be slugging away. Thought the cluing was first-rate loved all the Scrabbly letters.

NW was the last to fall for me - because I committed to NARCS at 1A and just kept trying to make it a reright. I also wanted Dorothy at 4D - so my commitments were at war in my brain.

What is the AEF? I had SYMS at 6A, thinking it was some chain of Gyms - never saw the error.

David 7:48 AM  

AEF = Allied Expeditionary Force.

nanpilla 7:53 AM  

Loved this one. Had all the wordplay one expects from a Saturday - and a pangram, too. Took me about my normal Saturday time, so a medium for me. One of my first fills was : BUT NO CIGAR (close...) Was really disappointed when I had to erase it. Also had ICET for the SVU character, since I don't watch it and that was the first crosswordese name that came to mind, and EXTRACT (draw) instead of ATTRACT. Other than that, pretty smooth sailing.
Thanks, Karen!

Natalie 7:57 AM  

SRO is a common term in Vancouver, Canada.

chefbea 8:18 AM  

Great puzzle and a lot of aha moments. Did have to google a bit.

Puzzle husband is a jarhead and that book sits on our coffee table

JannieB 8:49 AM  

@David - thanks!

VaBeach puzzler 8:51 AM  

Despite being a comp lit major of yore, Franz Kafka didn't occur to me. I tried ANABBEL for 4-Down and STEIN for 18-Down. That gave me ASSBUTT for 20-Across! Figured that NYT wasn't quite ready for that yet...

Bob Kerfuffle 8:55 AM  

Even with all the proper names, I had only one write-over: Very early, put 8 D as RETESTS instead of MAKEUPS -- looking at the grid now, I see that every crossing of 8 D except the final "s" is a proper name!

Still, agree with Rex on the Medium rating.

retired_chemist 9:08 AM  

Medium works. Had RETESTS also like Bob K, but if didn't stay long, thanks to key crosses, mostly KAFKA.

Like Rex (I think), was focused on geography @ 46A: liked EAST EGG from ?A???G?, which I started doubting once I started believing ET AL.

Seemed like a large number of proper names. I found it enjoyable to get them because the crosses were well selected.

Thank you, Ms. Tracey.

Crosscan 9:10 AM  

Medium? NOT EXACTLY. Complete and utter wipeout.

Lots of stuff I don't know crossing other stuff I don't know. Karen Tracey always uses cool words, but I frequently find her PUZZLEs unsolvable.

Never heard the terms SROS.

Anonymous 9:14 AM  

Don't know why you're being so tough in your comments about actresses this morning, Catherine Erbe and Dyan Cannon are both quite good. Gene Autry didn't come in for any nastiness, maybe singing cowboys who dabbled in sports teams suit you better.Your remarks came across as very snide about both actresses.
Other than that I agreed with you on all points and found today's puzzle a good balance of tough and gettable.

dk 9:21 AM  

Man, I had East Egg for Gatsby, thought ALFA is a nick name for a car not the start of a code (alpha), PONCA is that not a character from Happy Days, whine, whine, whine.

On the plus side FRAG (in the Vietnam days this was an attack on an officer), GENE AUTRY, FRANZKAFKA, CORNEAL and TWEEN came easy.

DOVEKIE is a new word for my x-word vocab.

NOTEXACTLY a medium puzzle for me but it will prepare me for my AM task, assembling something from IKEA.

Thank you Ms. Tracy for a great number of PUZZLES this AM (almost, but not quite, made me wish I worked in pencil)

(I can't wait until tomorrow ;))

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

This was like two puzzles for me -- the right side, which I was able to get (except I had REDQUARTET), and the left side, which I hardly got at all until I googled half a dozen answers.

Anonymous 9:35 AM  

medium my ass.

bookmark 9:44 AM  

The cluing in this puzzle was more creative than yesterday's. I had a harder time with it, but enjoyed it more.

I, too, had EAST EGG for Gatsby, and also pulled PREJEAN out of thin air.

Yesterday we got the date for my husband's CORNEAL transplant. EERIE.

Meg 9:45 AM  

This was hard! And that made it more fun. I always thought SRO was STANDING ROOM ONLY, which I figured didn't apply to a dwelling. New one for me.

Never heard of the PONCA tribe or ULAN UDE. Ulan must mean something like city or mountain. Got TARA and IRELAND from "Gone With The Wind".

Wanted NARCS for Crack squad.

I think there is something wrong with the clue "moves in a tired way". I get the joke, but grammatically the clue seems off. Perhaps that's allowed in puns.

Overall a good workout!!

mac 9:47 AM  

Sounds like I missed a good puzzle! The Herald Tribune doesn't do Saturdays, but I've already done a fine Sunday one!

I've been eating my way through my first week in Holland; no Edam but plenty of Gouda-type cheeses. I'm going to pick some up on Schiphol, they have 500-gram packages of sliced very aged cheese, the kind that crumbles when you attempt to cut it.

Another glorious summer day in The Netherlands. This evening there will be a light festival on the beach, and the very noisy Carnival is in town.

Frances 10:02 AM  

After instantly putting BRET into 23A, I felt pretty smart parlaying the R to give SCHERZO for 5D. This caused severe delays in completing the NW segment. When 17A became -----KAFKA, relocating the "Z" easily transformed the scherzo into a MAZURKA. The winner of today's pangram is clearly Z. Great PUZZLE, Karen!!

nanpilla 10:18 AM  

@mac : YUM! My favorite cheese in the world is aged gouda. Enjoy some for me!

Anonymous 10:20 AM  

Agree with Anon at 9:35 A.M. Flowerlady9

foodie 10:20 AM  

I'm with @Crosscan... Mostly because the proper nouns get me.

I made everyone's mistakes, BUT NO CIGARS, NARCS, RETESTS and NESTLES. I see it as a good sign : ) And I was amazed that I figured out RAJ QUARTET, which in turn gave me EL DUQUE...

So, NOT EXACTLY medium for me, but a lot to admire about the PUZZLE...

Most embarrassing moment: How long it took me to get PLACEBO! I mean not only do I run that test control in my studies, but I'm very interested in why some people respond to PLACEBO and others don't. I think it's about hope!

@mac, how lovely to hear from you! Makes me want to go to Northern Europe. I love the very long days there this time of year.

Glitch 10:26 AM  

Made most of the same false starts, plus STUDIES for STEERS (Do any Tutu's reside in Zealand?).

Eventually all worked out at a medium level for me.

Found the "Z quad" early on, kept looking for other "quads". Nope.

So, the Z's kinda just sit there, and for some reason that bothers me, but have no idea why.


joho 10:28 AM  

PONCA! Used as a shout of glee and triumph.

Such a beautiful, perfect Saturday pangram! It was slow but steady going for me with many of the same first missteps as others have stated. My word of the day is FRAG which I was only able to get from RAJQUARTET. Knowing that an auk is a bird made the "V" in DOVEKIE the only plausible answer to me and also got me VERRANZZANO.

Fabulous puzzle, Karen Tracy... thank you for the Saturday morning solving experience I was hoping for.

edith b 10:30 AM  

There were so many neons in this puzzle! I'm almost ashamed to admit I had LORNA and ERBE right away as it pretty much confirms my husband's belief that I watch "too much television."

I pretty much had to agree with Rex on most of his points about his one as Karen Tracey is not only one of my favorites but I am consistently on her wavelength. As Rex said, committing early and for too long to an answer is a bugaboo to solving - and discarding a possible answer arbitrarily is just as bad. When they cross - disaster! JAZZAGE/NUZZLES kept me from completing this puzzle for far too long.

Ironically, when I taught, I centered my lesson plan once around the fauna of the Arctic so DOVEKIE was a neon and I found this puzzle to be a great blend of wordplay skills and received knowledge.

Anonymous 10:50 AM  

One tough puzzle today!

XMAN 10:50 AM  

Have stuff to today, so I've skipped all your wonderful comments.

Went from horror--almost no answers--to outrage--couldn't get a cross--to mild amazement--over 50% done--to satisfaction--finished with one mistake EuBE/TuU (wasn't there a play by that name).

The hardest thing I did was holdine on to GENE and AUTRY (even with near 100% certainty!) when I couldn't get a cross.

Norm 11:02 AM  

Wanted PROCTOR for TEST CONTROL; had the same "BUT NO CIGAR" immediate reaction as Nanpilla to "Close..."; and confidently entered WILLY WONKA for 17A "You are free and that is why you are lost" -- hey, all I had was the KA and it fit and .... So, this was, for me, a prime example of Rex's advice that you sometimes have to give up on an answer. And, sometimes you give up and realize that it was right after all.

Dough 11:04 AM  

A perfect Saturday puzzle! Great letters, great entries, great clues. SW was also my last. I wouldn't give up on WEST EGG, especially with the ARGENT? being rock solid. It was only with AUGER that I started wondering if it was EAST EGG, but I was certain that was wrong, and then with VERRAZZANO (which I wasn't sure how to spell) being inevitable I abandoned the EGG and everything worked out great. My only other brief blunder was having PROCTOR for "Test control" instead of PLACEBO. Alan Lomax saved the area for me. Bravo, bravo, Karen Tracey!

Anonymous 11:05 AM  

According to IMDB, Ms. Cannon was in a tv movie just last year.

a couple words were completely new to me and flounce is just so completely alien to me that i gave up and googled Buryat Republic. For the next half hour at least I'll know where that is.

JC66 11:21 AM  

Small nit, but I think AEF stands for American Expeditionary Force.

jae in ipswich 11:24 AM  

Great puzzle! Medium for me too. My only problems were spelling VERRAZZNO with an N in place of the first Z (see joho's comment)and finishing ARGENT with an A at first. Got it sorted out but it took some staring. Thanks Karen.

mccoll 11:30 AM  

Good Grief!(Secretly filled with overweening pride.) All those proper names crossing proper names. But.... I must be on KMT's wavelength because I managed to get through it with a single google for ULANUBE. I had a good time for Sat. too. However, I didn't check all the crosses and blew SAMS club. I had EEF for European expeditionary force, but that's WWII, i think.
The Knockmedown Mts. must be in Australia. They do that sort of beer thing over there.
IMO the clues are terrific. Good mix. Good puzzle KMT.
Thanks everybody.

Anonymous 11:32 AM  

Great puzzle, my first 'real-time' Saturday! Made all the above mistakes, including my fave 55A: BUTNOCIGAR. 43D: CASHCOW erased my fave immediately, so I had no chance to cling. I just now figured out 45A: tired way? as in car tires?
Thanks to Karen Tracey for this workout.

Denise 11:34 AM  

VEry interesting puzzle -- I love learning new things, and thinking about words in a new way. There were several "??" for me, and I used Google a couple of times.

For an interesting book about SROs in NYC -- "Flophouse" -- great pictures. I had an uncle who lived in them for a while.

I fell into EAST EGG.

Catherine Erbe is a great actress on a terrific show.

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

John Lomax is responsible, pretty much single-handedly, for defining the folk music canon. All those songs you sang as a kid and still sing are remembered because he transcribed them, annotated them, studied their sources and published them. "Streets of Laredo," "Erie Canal," "I've Been Working on the Railroad," etc. John was kind of professorial. His son Alan got his hands a big dirtier and spearheaded the field recordings early in the century, brought to light many bluesmen who would otherwise have been forgotten. John Lomax III (not sure if he's the third or fourth generation) is a music critic for the Houston Press and other publications.

HudsonHawk 11:46 AM  

I'm in the Challenging camp. Like Norm, I had PROCTOR before PLACEBO.

I wanted the Champion rider to be a famous jockey. VERRAZZANO is only spelled with one Z around here.

Frank Baum wrote "ANNABEL, a Novel for Young Folk" under the pseudonym of Suzanne Metcalf (that would have been Olaf cluing if it had been included, BTW).

MAZURKA crossing DOVEKIE was brutally close to the N word.

I rocked through KMT's last late week PUZZLE. This one absolutely kicked my ass.

On to the Sunday ACME/Blindauer creation...

Two Ponies 11:49 AM  

Too many proper names for me.
Esp. when so many of them cross.
Not a medium in this camp.
Part of being a horse nut when I was a kid meant knowing all of the cowboy's horses.

x-t 12:07 PM  

Meh. I never really like Tracey puzzles. Too many proper nouns, many of them people of no consequence. This'n was no exception.

Let me also just say that a JPEG isn't high tech. Sure, it's higher tech than, say, a watercolor, but it's pretty much standard these days and has been for years. There was a clue a while back about HDTVs being cutting edge. Again, HDTVs aren't cutting edge at all. They've been around for a good 10 years, and it's now harder to find a new SDTV than a new HDTV. It's incredibly annoying to have clues about electronics and computers clued from my grandmother's perspective.

DontPickOnBums 12:16 PM  

@All - SRO stands for Single Room Occupancy, basically hotels for the down and out.

hazel 12:17 PM  

Except for Glitch's "z quad" (which I liked), my view of this puzzle can be summed up by Rex's view of yesterday's puzzle.

"In fact, the cluing seems particularly dry and lazy today. Lots of single-word clues. Facts. Lots of facts. Clued as facts. Trivia. It's not a terrible puzzle by a longshot — extremely competent."

Maybe I am just the sine to KMT's cosine.

Greene 12:30 PM  

I found this one challenging, but I absolutely loved it, especially the shape of the grid. Any puzzle that references "The Great Gatsby" is going to be ok by me, but I also fell into the EAST EGG trap early on and the SW corner was the last to fall. ARGENTO and AUGER had me hanging on to EAST EGG for a long time until I had my Aha moment with JPEGS.

Surprisingly, many of the proper names in this puzzle were gimmies including: LORNA Patterson, Laban's daughter LEAH (Thank you, Fiddler on the Roof), LALO Schifrin, FRANZ KAFKA, TRU, and Sister PREJEAN. I had traction all over the place which was a big help.

Although Rex hasn't shouted PONCA in the comments for a long time, I still remembered the word. I even got EL DUQUE having seen it in several other crosswords.

My dumbest error was CASH BAR instead of CASH COW. OK, so now everyone knows where my mind is really at.

retired_chemist 1:06 PM  

@ Latin buffs and foodie - PLACEBO is the first-person singular future active indicative of placeō, I please or I satisfy. Presumably that is the etymology.

Would we say that those who got VERRAZZANO from the bridge are narrows-minded? :-)

still_learnin 1:14 PM  

Challenging for me. I made the same mistakes as everyone else: BUT NO CIGAR, EXTRACT, RETESTS, etc. But, I eventually got it figured out. Didn't know RAJQUARTET, DOVEKIE, ULAN UDE, ANNABEL or PONCA, so I was presently surprised that I finished without a mistake. Took me forever, though.

poc 1:23 PM  

Knockmealdown is (as with many Irish placenames) an English transliteration of the Irish name. The hint is Knock (cnoc) meaning a hill. Wikipedia offers two alternatives for the original:

sanfranman59 1:23 PM  

Saturday midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Sat 24:33, 27:40, 0.89, 20%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Sat 14:21, 15:46, 0.91, 26%, Easy-Medium

Much to my consternation, this one seems to fall toward the relatively easy end of the scale. At this point in my crossword-solving career, my abilities simply aren't at the Friday/Saturday NYT level. I manage to stay ahead of the curve Monday through Thursday, but am almost always a laggard on Friday and Saturday (and usually need to consult Dr.Google/Wikipedia at least once or twice). Alas.

sanfranman59 1:36 PM  

I had AUNTBEE for 4D: Title girl of a 1906 L. Frank Baum novel. I guess the "girl" part of the clue should have steered me elsewhere, but it actually fit with 4 of the 7 crosses. I thought maybe it was about Bee's childhood.

FWIW (courtesy of Wikipedia), Baum wrote ANNABEL: A Novel for Young Folk under the pseudonym Suzanne Metcalf. That was the only time he used that particular pseudonym, but he also used Edith Van Dyne, Floyd Akers, Schuyler Staunton, John Estes Cooke and Laura Bancroft. Apparently, Frank didn't care much for his name.

Joe 2:10 PM  

I'm just glad to see NUZZLES in a puzzle

Stan 2:41 PM  

Weird for me that I don't usually make the same mistakes as everyone else. Except, in this case, East Egg (and because I suspected it could also be West Egg, I left the first two letters blank -- pretty clever, huh?).

Anyway, I was very thrilled to finally think of Jazz Age and figure out the Southwest. Messed up on the Masurka / Dovekie cross, but that's only because my Classical Music knowledge stops at "Eroica."

Fun puzzle, KMT!

edmcan 2:46 PM  

@Crosscan- I agree with you completely. Do you think it's a
Canadian thing?

treedweller 2:54 PM  

My google was for the V in VERRAZZANO. I was guessing it would be T or F. I don't think I would have ever guessed V unless I just put all the letters in systematically. Well, I probably never would have gotten to W, X, Y, or Z. Otherwise, I worked it all out, if very slowly, so I feel like I did pretty well (for me).

Go, Crosschix, go!

fikink 3:01 PM  

Karen Tracey always gives me fits and it is why I love her puzzles. She is another constructor I watch for.
This one was a bear for me.

I learned that "slobbers" could NOT be spelled with one 'B' as hard as I tried; so NUZZLES was a long time in coming, but once it did, the SW fell easily.

FLOUNCE is a great word - Ms. Tracey must be exposed to teen-aged girls.

@nanpilla, I shared your disappointment in having to remove BUTNOCIGAR.

@Rex, your blogging gave me PONCA.

@bookmark, re: cluing and fun, yesterday vs. today, my sentiments EXACTLY.

@SeniorStan, love your avatar! Did you take the photo?

@Anon at 11:39, thanks for the info. Wade, is that you?

The DOVEKIE-VERRAZZANO cross was my Waterloo and I ended the puzzle with a blank square.

Many thanks, Karen Tracey. It was a fine dogfight which you won!

ArtLvr 3:10 PM  

Lots to love here, but NOT EXACTLY easy for me! I STEERED clear of some false starts noted above and never resorted to a google, but ended up with one wrong letter... I had Warhead for JARHEAD.

VERRAZZANO was fun, but even upstate New Yorkers would have trouble with the real name of the double span on the Northway commonly called the Twin Bridges. It's actually named for Thaddeus Kosciuszko, the most talented engineer of the Continental Army and foremost champion in the Revolutionary period for the rights of slaves, women, Native Americans, serfs and Jews. He devised the winning plan of the Battle of Saratoga, the plans for West Point (those stolen by Benedict Arnold), and later ran a ring of African-American spies for the Southern Army!

After helping to win our war, he returned to Poland to fight the invasion of the Russians and was imprisoned by Catherine the Great, but on her death was set free by her son Tsar Paul I. Do not miss the new biography of this extraordinary hero: "The Peasant Prince" by Alex Storozynski.


Glitch 3:13 PM  

@David & @jc66

WWI (clued) = AEF = American Expeditionary Force

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson initially planned to give command of the AEF to General Frederick Funston, but after Funston's sudden death, Wilson appointed Major General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing in May 1917;

WWII = AEF = Allied Expeditionary Force(s)

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, SHAFE (Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force)...


PS: Despite the Z's (I'm over it), I did like this "well made puzzle".

Anonymous 3:27 PM  

Each of the abbreviations is properly clued except 48A: Figures at a pileup. "EMTs" is easy to get without the hint, but "emts" isn't a word AFAIK.

(Emergency Medical Technicians; but I'm sure everyone here knows that, as well as "efts" and "ents," also good -- unabbreviated -- crosswordese.)

Grrr from my lair.

Lurking Larry, the (Cal) bear

chefwen 4:31 PM  

Too many unknowns = too much Googling = not too much fun.
Ended up with a bunch of holes.
C'mon Sunday, make me smile.
Did anyone else have refs instead of EMTS at first? Football season must be lurking in the depths.

PlantieBea 4:46 PM  

This one was a challenge for me. I got caught in the East or West Egg trap for a long while. I also was convinced Baum's girl had to be DOROTHY. Had to look up the Knockmealdown and Kafka for a kickstart. Ulan Ude, Dovekie, Raj Quartet are all new for me. Nice but fair Saturday challenge Karen Tracy!

Doc John 4:53 PM  

See? Rex got a little R&R and his view of the puzzle improved!
I also give the puzzle a medium (or maybe even easy-medium) because it's still Saturday morning and I'm finished with it! Had to pick my way through with a lot of trial and error but finally finished it. My greatest triumph was getting the K in the DOVEKIE/MAZURKA cross correct. Ran the ALFAbet and that seemed to be the best fit.
I also had to wait to get PLACEBO through crosses.
Last corner to fall was the SE. Took a guess on PREJEAN, thankful that there's another one besides that ditzy Miss California.

PuzzleGirl 5:17 PM  

I always love Karen Tracey's puzzles and this was no exception. Quite a bit faster than my average Saturday time but I, too, often feel I'm right on Karen's wavelength.

So this whole EAST EGG thing is completely hysterical. EAST EGG?? And so many of you!! That would have been my favorite commenter mistake if not for Norm's WILLY WONKA / FRANZ KAFKA confusion.

sanfranman59 6:27 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation.

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 7:26, 7:02, 1.06, 68%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 7:44, 8:29, 0.91, 26%, Easy-Medium
Wed 10:47, 12:32, 0.86, 18%, Easy
Thu 20:09, 18:47, 1.07, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 19:50, 26:34, 0.75, 6%, Easy
Sat 25:25, 27:45, 0.92, 28%, Medium-Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:53, 3:44, 1.04, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:06, 4:22, 0.94, 37%, Easy-Medium
Wed 5:16, 6:07, 0.86, 17%, Easy
Thu 9:37, 8:58, 1.07, 74%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 8:34, 12:33, 0.68, 4%, Easy
Sat 13:21, 15:39, 0.85, 15%, Easy

fergus 6:39 PM  

Not one to give up but after many returns on a scattered Saturday, I was well and truly stuck, with hardly any squares to go. Trouble was that I had EXTRACT for Draw, which gave me FIXATES, which certainly seemed within Saturday style for Moves in a tired way? I was moving in a tired way at that point because I was so fixated on keeping those answers. So there. Nap time.

Glitch 6:53 PM  

Approaching thunderstorms have driven us inside, so have some time to opine on a subject inspired by @Lurker0.

Larry: "Each of the abbreviations is properly clued except 48A: Figures at a pileup. "EMTs" is easy to get without the hint, but "emts" isn't a word AFAIK"

[Actually, per the fallible wiki, EMTs, IS a word to them]

Combining a couple of sources:

-The act of removing one or more components of a word or phrase by clipping, acronymy, initializing, or blending.
-The designation formed by omitting words or letters from a longer designation.

lab = laboratory
stagflation = stagnation +inflation
web, www. = World Wide Web
BASIC = Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code
TASER = Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle [named for a fictional weapon]

I believe all of these have appeared without an abbr qualifier, mostly without complaint, as they fairly commonly appear in print without additional explaination.

I'm putting EMT (and OSHA, EKG, NASA, COBAL, ENIAC, AFAIK LOL and WTF) in the same catagory.


"We especially encourage the use of phrases from everyday writing and speech, whether or not they're in the dictionary".

and continues

"Do not use ..., uninteresting obscurity (a Bulgarian village, a water bug genus, etc.) or uncommon abbreviations or foreign words".

Yet today we get ULANUDE?

In conclusion, you need to know the rules in order to break them. That's what it makes it fun.


PS: 10 bonus points for those that made it to the end of this post. I probably wouldn't have. ;-)

mellocat 8:43 PM  

@ArtLvr, I put KOSCIUSZKO in a puzzle a couple of years ago (June 22, 2007), in the NY Sun. The Sun encouraged NYC-centric entries. That bridge is often mentioned in traffic reports so I knew locals would know it, even if it might be a bit of a challenge to spell.

I grew up near NYC so I too questioned the double-Z in VERRAZZANO, since I was pretty sure the bridge signs had only one Z. I found enough double-Z mentions though that I got the impression it was a legit variant (actually the one Z might be more of the variant).

Glad most seemed to like this! I had not even glanced at this grid in ages so fell into a couple of traps (RETESTS, e.g) that others have mentioned. That wasn't intentional but seems to have been effective in increasing the difficulty level for some. Tripped me up for a bit.

Thanks for all the comments!

chefbea 9:09 PM  

I know the verazzano narrows bridge and i hear the Kosciusko bridge mentioned in the traffic reports... didn't know they wee the same bridge

JC66 9:59 PM  


re: AEF, I thought that's what I said.

Hope it stopped raining.


Anonymous 10:01 PM  

Perhaps interest in the Saturday puzzle/blog dies around 9 PM EDT, but here in sunny CA there are still many hours before the Sunday puzzle. So here goes:


The Verrazano Narrows Bridge joins Brooklyn and Staten Island; the Kosciuszko Bridge, Brooklyn and Queens.

About the spelling, I present the following schizoid gem from Google Maps:

Triborough Bridge & Tunnel Authority: Verrazano Narrows

1 Verrazzano Bridge Plz
Staten Island, NY 10305-3768
(718) 390-8623

As a former New Yorker, I went with at first with one Z and doubled the N to make it fit. Oops...


About abbreviations, there is evidently much dispute, as an long but excellent Wikipedia article demonstrates. I think your examples provide some insight, at least to me:

My thought: An abbreviation becomes a word when it is pronounceable without spelling-out and has independent semantics without invoking its origin. All the examples from your first list do (except "web, www." which I don't understand): lab, stagflation, BASIC, TASER. In your second list, OSHA, NASA, COBOL, ENIAC. But not EMT, EKG, AFAIK, LOL and WTF, because AFAIK each of them has to be spelled out.

Some recent puzzle words should be considered abbreviations but may not have been: IDed, ODed, OKed, because of spelling-out required. There is a clear distinction between IDs (abbr.) and ids (per Freud) which wouldn't be clear in a puzzle, but which spelling-out would disambiguate.

IMNAAHO, of course. YMMV!


michael 10:08 PM  

I started out quickly on the east side of the puzzle, but came to a dead halt for a while in the west. I finally got the whole thing, irritated about how long it took to get Verrazano and Franz Kakfa (my very last fill) I was messed up, like others, by having East Egg for too long.

Ulanude? Dovkie? I am with Rex on these.

But overall I liked the puzzle a lot.

Stan 11:41 PM  

As a former Hudson County resident, I would have to cast my vote for neither the Kosciuszko nor the Verrazzano Bridge, but the stunningly bleak Pulaski Skyway (connecting Jersey City and Newark). It's that scary dark thing you see out the car window in the opening sequence of The Sopranos, which at one time was considered a Modern Marvel of engineering.

ArtLvr 7:43 AM  

@ mellocat, chefbea, lurker -- re location of "the Kosciuszko Bridge" (quote: "The Verrazano Narrows Bridge joins Brooklyn and Staten Island; the Kosciuszko Bridge, Brooklyn and Queens")...

Aha! I was referring to the Other one carrying I-87 over the Mohawk River just north of Albany, also just west of the falls where the Mohawk flows into the Hudson River. Traffic reports invariably dub it Twin Bridges.

Karen, neat that you had Kosciuszko in a puzzle! Life-long friend of Jefferson, recipient of the Order of Cincinnatus Medal from George Washington, Commander of Polish freedom-fighters, he shouldn't be so lost to our history.


TimeTraveller 1:50 PM  

@twangster -- you have the other half of my brain. The left side went down sweetly--eacept for my Klien bottle--but I had problems on the right. OJOS and ELDUQUE above ULAN UDE and PONCA = WTF for me.

@natalie -- yea, we've got lots of SROs on the Downtown Eastside, but the term isnt used much. Lot more of a NYC flavour in my mind.

Annabel Erbe 4:40 PM  

Unfortunately I'm 5 weeks behind - doing the syndicated puzzle (which the Oregoninan stuffs in the depths of the classifieds and you never know if it's going to be in the Sports or Business section...ugh). Does anyone read this/comment after doing the syndicated???

Anywoo, I enjoyed this puzzle. Am new to puzzles so I wasn't sure what a pangram was. Wikipedia helped me out while also serving up some perfect pangram gems:

Squdgy fez, blank jimp crwth vox! (A short brimless felt hat barely blocks out the sound of a Celtic violin.) Clearly.

Junky qoph-flags vext crwd zimb. (An Abyssinian fly playing a Celtic violin was annoyed by trashy flags on which were the Hebrew letter qoph.) This makes so much sense.

Anonymous 5:19 PM  

SW was quite easy, but I had to work at NE. Had never heard of dovekie, but will know it now.

XMAN 6:07 PM  

Anabel Erbe: Of course, there are peole reading your comments! Not least of whom is Rex himself, who says (and I am not gainsaying this) he reads all the posts.

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