Limnological study — FRIDAY, Oct. 16 2009 — Chateaubriand accompaniment / Floppy headgear / 1997 Bell Atlantic acquisition

Friday, October 16, 2009

Constructor: Karen M. Tracey

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: LIMNOLOGY (from 26A: Limnological study => LAKE) — n.

The scientific study of the life and phenomena of fresh water, especially lakes and ponds.

[Greek limnē, lake + -LOGY.]


I got wrecked by this puzzle. How bad? How bad was it? Well, I've decided that this is the symbol for my performance on this puzzle:

That, my friends, is the finished, showroom quality version of the birthday cake I made my wife. Yes, I love her that much. Started out great, but getting the cakes out of the pans proved almost comically impossible, and then what did get out, and then eventually stacked, kept falling apart — chunks of cake falling down the sides, like icebergs breaking away from glaciers. Frosting it was like ... well, imagine trying to frost a zombie. Or a leper. Most every time I touched the cake, it seemed I pulled more cake away than I left icing behind. And yet I managed to make an almost cake-like shape out of the whole mess. One major upside: It tastes @#$!ing awesome. My grandma's cake is something I would happily eat even if it were just a large pile of crumbs.

Now ... where were we? Oh right, puzzle. FAIL. You could have given me the softest of softball clues on much of this fill and I still would have struggled. TUXEDO JUNCTION (23A: "Where people go to dance the night away," in song) is a vaguely familiar phrase now that I look at it, but it means nothing to me as a song, esp. as a song with lyrics, and since NYNEX (4D: 1997 Bell Atlantic acquisition) also means nothing to me ... completely hidden "X." I still can't believe BEARNAISE SAUCE (47A: Chateaubriand accompaniment, often) is spelled like something the BE(A)Renstain BEARs would eat, but there it is. Yikes. And that's an answer I *didn't* have much trouble with. "Limnological study??" Needed every single cross to get LAKE. NEISSE (30A: Lusatian_____ (German/Polish border river))? It's been in some puzzle somewhere before, but no. Not in my Top 20 Euro Rivers (yes, such a list exists). SETHE (15A: "Beloved" heroine) was forgotten by me — 20 years since I read "Beloved," which I never liked as much as many others. If I have to read a Toni Morrison novel, I'll take "Song of Solomon," thanks. ADELIE (11D: Emperor's relative)? No. I mean, looking at it now, I can see it's some type of penguin the name of which has likely been before my eyes at some time in my life, but even the easiest clue wouldn't have helped much here. HANA? HANA (39D: Easternmost town on Maui, on one end of 52 miles of twisty highway)? You could have made your gigantic clue infinitely more gigantic and it never would have contained enough information for me to get HANA, a place I've never heard of. HANA is an 80s tennis player to me.

Let's keep going — I didn't know jewelry was made out of RED CORAL (35D: Its skeleton may be used to make jewelry), and couldn't make sense of the answer anyway for a long time because LESSORS was about seventeen different, related words before it was LESSORS. I got the gimmick in the clue Right Away (51A: Recipients of dollars for quarters?). I put in LEASERS. Later, LETTERS. LETTORS? LESSEES? Ugh. Also had CLASH for SLASH at some point (40D: Fractional bit?), and thus CANOE (?) for SKEET (40A: Summer Olympics event). Final square was a NATICK for me, though not a true one, as TENERIFE (36D: Largest of the Canary Islands) had a ring of rightness that allowed me to plunk down the "F." RAFE? (58A: Male protagonist in William Inge's "Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff") — Some guy from an Inge play? This puzzle has Zero that is contemporary about it, and not a lot of Scrabble letters, which leaves only viciousness as a Karen Tracey trademark feature. Usually her grids are fun and playful and modern. This one (solid as it is) was just groin-kicking for me.

Oh, and I had an error. After all that. An error. BUD / DTEN for BUB (25D: Sonny) / BTEN (32A: 1930s bomber). The Down was obviously ambiguous, and I guess I don't really know my 1930s bombers as well as I should. As I said, FAIL.


  • 10A: Floppy headgear (tams) — oh, it's a disguised plural. Thanks. Puzzle wasn't hard enough already. Me: "KEPI? Is that floppy?"
  • 14A: Writer of the history "Ab Urbe Condita" (Livy) — a gimme. Who takes LIVY as a gimme and then falls on his ass over LAKE?!
  • 38A: What you probably have a head for (shower) — ugh, man, hard. And good. I mean, in addition to answers I just would never have gotten no matter what the clue (w/o serious help from crosses), there was stuff like this, which is just good, solid, late-week brutality.
  • 50A: Kids in funny shorts (Our Gang) — got this quickly, back when I thought the clue meant "funny shorts" in a sartorial sense. I'm pretty sure "shorts" here refers to "short films," but the clue works either way.
  • 53A: Reader's digest founder of 1984 (Utne) — the lowercase "d" on "digest" was the tip-off here.
  • 6D: More than merely meet (get to know) — had the GET T... part and then most of what was below that was a mysterious disaster for much of my solve. Things got so bad that eventually, when I knew the last two letters were "OW," I considered scrapping the top and going with " .... something POW WOW?"
  • 8D: Popular aquatic performer (Shamu) — proof that frustration can lead to idiocy / blindness: this answer took me a while to come up with. This very familiar, common answer kept eluding me. Initial answer was OTTER ... later, I had AGAPE at 5A: Stunned (agasp) and so answer appeared to start "PH..." PHISH? Seriously, how I finished this puzzle given all the incompetent stumbling is beyond me.
  • 9D: Toy developed in China (Pekinese) — dang, she's not giving Anything away today. Have always hated the G-lessness of this (toy) dog breed.
  • 31D: Old covenant keeper (Israelite) — wanted ABRAHAM. Or NOAH. Finally saved by the -ITE.
  • 13D: Typical taxis (sedans) — how bad was my brain fried? I thought "taxis" was a Greek word. Singular. Like praxis. Or ... I don't know, parataxis. I'm not kidding.
  • 43D: Setting for C.S. Lewis's "The Last Battle" (Narnia) — another glorious gimme. Entire west coast of puzzle was actually quite easy. Once I got to the Rockies, however ... well, by now you know.
  • 45D: Early online discussion setting (usenet) — easy, but should USENET and USERS (49D: Detox population) be in puzzle together? USENET is, acc. to Wikipedia, portmanteau of "USER" and "NETWORK."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


matt 8:14 AM  

I actually found this to be a rather doable Friday for the most part... even though I finished with about 4 mistakes. I had AGAST instead of AGASP, and so not only couldn't I get PEKINESE, but I couldn't use those crosses to get SETHE and NEISSE. And then, TENERIFE and RAFE was a complete Natick for me -- had no idea what that could have possibly been.

Other than those, though, I actually had more success than my usual Friday.

matt 8:19 AM  

Oh, and my favorite was clearly Alf Clausen, whose name I know from watching way to many Simpsons episodes.

joho 8:33 AM  

@Rex ... I have to disagree with you about TENERIFE/RAFE not being a Natick. I guessed a "B" for the "F" thinking Caribe is something so why not a "B" here? RAbE could be a name of a character I've NEVER heard of. Definitely a Natick, yep.

That being said, that mistake was my only, thus making me feel pretty good about how I did on this puzzle.

I guess HANA was the carry over from yesterday being in Hawaii. I've visited HANA so that was easy.

Oh, @Rex ... what a labor of love is your cake. I think it's beautiful!

I also think I'll whip up some BEARNAISESAUCE tonight to drizzle over my FLANKSTEAK before I break out the TAROTDECK.

Brutal Friday, Karen: thank you!

mac 8:35 AM  

This one was a medium most of the way, and very challenging in the NE. I just couldn't see that tam as floppy, was married to "glom" for 19A, and wanted "desk" as the end of 10D. The mentor saved me in the end, but it was a battle.

In the NW it was the silent t that cleared the way, and the J of Junction cleaner that up. What it is I don't know, but it rang a tiny little bell, just as "Neisse", probably from the Oder-Neisse line in history.

I thought this was one of the funniest write-ups Rex has ever produced, I laughed and laughed! And he's right about the cake, it is the taste that counts, plus the intention.

mac 8:37 AM  

P.S. the delicious beaurnaise sauce made me stop for a second: I always say "sauce Bearnaise".

imsdave 8:41 AM  

Nice challenge today. Not a personal Natick for me as I know TENERIFE. Glenn Miller's TUXEDOJUNCTION is a classic.

Thanks Ms. Tracey.

Orange 8:45 AM  

The Berenstain bears are a terrible mnemonic for anything except the weird way their creators' surname is spelled. Berenaise sauce, anyone?

Rex, I wonder if your grandma's yummy cake recipe would benefit from one more egg to hold it together. Is it less eggy than the usual cake recipe? (Look at me, talking as if I understand the chemistry of baking and have actually made cake from scratch.)

I thought the puzzle was on the easy side, but assorted ACPT finalists (well, Dan and Howard) had more trouble than I did so I was just on the right wavelength.

BFKAHT 8:53 AM  

Doing this, I knew it was brutal but managed a better solve than is usual for me on a Friday. NYNEX was a gimme from 15 years working in TelCom, and at least a half a dozen entries were serendipitously in the forefront of my mind. SKEET was an answer in another puzzle I did yesterday, yesterday my wife wife used a COLANDER as a stand for a photo she had taken, then removed the subject, and left the COLADER sitting by itself in front of the camera, so I teased her about taking photos for a COLANDER CALENDER (cue old "Soap" scene), TAROTDECK was there from looking up Major Arcana from a day or two ago, ...

On the other hand, I can't tell you how long I tried to force CHAMPAIGNEBRUT for BEARNAISESAUCE off the AI. I refuse to pay attention to tense in clues, so stuck with GOTTOKNOW, and I was convinced that RABE was REBA's twin brother, about whom Inge wrote the play. Oh, and there are only two types of penguins - the black and white ones walking towards you, and the black ones walking away from you, so ADELIE is just a series of letters to me.

Elaine 8:56 AM  

Hand up for BUD instead of BUB. In fact, it's still there. D-10, B-10, who knew?

I think TAMS are UNfloppy.

My biggest problem was that I confidently put my "reading" in a BOOKSTORE, so removing all of that letter by letter, clue by clue, was tiresome.

Alerted by the sly "summer" clue the other day, I thought of Emperor penguins and ADELIE popped up, but since CORAL of any color is made up of myriad skeletons, I think the cluing on 35D is more than misleading (aside from the fact that it is called PINK, not RED.)

Weren't we just snarling about all of the a- and e- fill? AGASP? Really? and EVITE Even though I got them-- tiresome.

Oddly, hubby used to consult with NYNEX, and my landlord's daughter was a stewardess who often flew Frankfurt-to-TENERIFE, making those gimmes.

Totally agree with Rex: this thing seemed to take forever, (partly because apparently I know four or five sauces that begin with B but which I knew were NOT the one...I could see it, smell it, taste it....Finally BEAR emerged and the nickel dropped.

My last entry was CRTS....which I then Googled. Oh, yeah, I totally refer to my old TVs as CRTs.

Give us a kick, if you please, Ms. Tracy! OH! That was good, Your Majesty!

Dough 8:56 AM  

It was very hard for me, but I loved it. I was stuck a long time because I had "SILENT H" for the Christmas clue and nothing was happening there. The top half solved quickly, but then I was just frozen in the bottom until I came up with "JEEPERS" and then the ice began to melt. I had "RASCALS" from early on and once I abandoned that for "OUR GANG" it all fell into place. Bravo to Karen for a fine Friday challenge.

Karen from the Cape 9:09 AM  

I sort of wish Rex would FAIL more often because this is one of his funnier writeups. Just under an average time for me (which on Fridays and Saturdays doesn't mean that much, I'm all over the clock those days). I thought HANA was easy with Hawaii on the brain yesterday (but I've driven on the Road to Hana). SHOWER got my biggest aha moment. PEKINESE was the last one I filled in, it still looks wrong. My worst mistake was putting in GEEWHIZ for JEEPERS.

I'm glad Mrs Parker enjoyed her cake.

retired_chemist 9:20 AM  

Several answers just popped into my head with little reason. EIDERS (27A), TENERIFE (36D), SILENT T (20A), SHAMU (8D), RAFE (58A), and SETHE (15A). The last mentioned was actually an answer on Jeopardy recently, clued nearly identically. Misspelled NEISSE as NIESSE, which made JEEPERS and ISRAELITE mysteries until I got the J from the cross. Then the center fell like dominos.

@ Rex – PEKINESE is the less common spelling. AKC uses the G, as do all the breed clubs. We didn’t even get the courtesy of an indication of an alternate spelling. We should have.

HANA – I had HILO first but when one of the A’s emerged I knew it. A friend (actually the breeder of my foundation bitch) lived there with family once her Alzheimer’s got bad. It’s also Japanese for flower.

BÉARNAISE SAUCE - yummmmmmm. Love tarragon. Good with FLANK STEAK (17A).

@ Elaine – bomber names always start with the B.

Enjoyable. Not easy - a solid medium. Thank you, Karen Tracey.

Bad Baker Myself 9:22 AM  

@Rex - I don't understand, but do admire, your willingness to document and share the cake fiasco.

PlantieBea 9:23 AM  

I finished this fun but fair Friday challenge, although I ended with a few errors. TENERILE sounded right, hand up for BUD, and my big Natick area with NCNC (don't even know what JAG was/is about much less a spinoff), NEISCE, and ENDERS.

More Hawaii today. My husband and I drove the beautiful drive to HANA to see the beautiful seven sacred pools on our honeymoom. Gorgeous! The steak with sauce was my favorite pair of answers. I'm salivating at 9AM over this non -breakfast item.

Rex, loved your write-up and your cake story. It's the taste and thought that counts, right?!

Thanks Karen Tracey and Rex for this fun Friday morning start to my birthday. My DH is not baking me a cake, but is taking me to Cat Cora's new restaurant for dinner. Opa!

mac 9:37 AM  

@PlantieBea: happy birthday!

@Rex: try putting in buttered circles of parchment paper in the bottom of the cakepans next time. Maybe you can thin out the icing a little so you can pour it on the cake and just spread it a little for an artistic, home-made look.

Tenerife and the Canary Islands (named after dogs) are very popular vacation destinies for Europeans, but I realise I know it best for one of the worst air disasters ever.

NurseryWorker 9:38 AM  

COPSE? I think of a small grove of trees. Not "brush."

Van55 9:38 AM  

Simply brutal!

twangster 9:43 AM  

The whole right side killed me, from top to bottom, and even googling didn't help much. One of my many problems was that I had POKENOSE for PEKINESE. I figured that was a new version of POKEMON. Also had BLAST for SLASH, since blasting generates fractional bits.

HudsonHawk 9:45 AM  

I opened the paper and saw Karen Tracey's name, and thought "ohhh, we had this coming after yesterday's breeze." But it actually was a pretty smooth Friday for me. Based on Rex's write-up and some early comments, I'm guessing solvers will be all over the map on this puzzle.

@Elaine and PlantieBea, most military aircraft designations are pretty straightforward. For example:

B for bomber
C for cargo transport
F for fighter
T for trainer

@BFKAHT, I still remember belly-laughing at the COLANDER/Calendar mix-up in that Soap episode. Katherine Helmond was hysterical.

Ulrich 9:52 AM  

Relatively speaking, this was an easier Friday for me, not the least b/c I guessed Tuxedo Junction based on a tuxedo rental by that name in our town--now I know where it got that name from. NEISSE was a gimme b/c Oder didn't fit--the two rivers form the border with Poland since WWII. Couldn't resolve the NCIS/EIDER crossing, tho--need to pay more attention to TV shows. Still, enjoyed the puzzle

Kudos to everyone: Nobody seems to have problems with Bundesrat--you guys know more about the German bicameral system than I would've guessed.

Here's question to the usage experts out there: "in" is a preposition and requires the object case ("we have it in us", not " we"). Now, what do you do when you use a foreign term after a preposition, where the subject case (der Bundesrat) differs from the object case (dem Bundesrat)? The issue comes up not only in xword puzzle clues...

nanpilla 9:57 AM  

@Rex : I AM a baker, and I still sometimes have trouble frosting a cake. Your description of trying to frost a zombie or leper brought tears to my eyes - what a perfect way to describe that incredibly frustrating process!

This puzzle destroyed me - 4 errors! Let's hope Saturday isn't so bad. But a great workout, Karen!

Norm 10:02 AM  

Hard. Fun. Good Friday puzzle.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:06 AM  

Enticed by yesterday's puzzle, Olaf comes to Hawaii at 39 D!

Definitely medium to challenging, but finished correctly eventually, despite being slowed by one write-over: At 3 D, had ESTIMATE before EVALUATE.

Good, solid Friday puzzle.

edith b 10:07 AM  

Toni Morrison is one of my favorite authors and her memorable SETHE crossing SHAMU were just two of the neons in the North which helped me produce what I think was one of the seed entries TUXEDOJUNCTION which anchored this section of the puzzle and carried me into the Midlands at a full gallop.

I was able to cherry pick in the Midlands to get enough crosses in what I consider to be the second seed entry BEARNAISESAUCE to develop the South. The word relentless comes to mind to describe the way I solved the Southern part of this puzzle, all based on the information I gleaned from the second anchor of this one.

This one was a solid Medium to me as I enjoy Karen Tracey to no end. I was able to move from SETHE thru EVITE in one smooth pass through the puzzle.

Frances SC 10:15 AM  

Check out Weds. NYT for the article "Cakes Gone Wrong - Buttercream-Frosted Disasters" for other cake celebrations.

Also, line your pans with a cut-to-size piece of WAX PAPER (that's what Cut-Rite calls it, so no need to revisit the add-an-"ed"-ending debate). My daughter is a professional caterer and recently had a result such as Rex describes in hilarious detail. My daughter, however, was in tears, as she had a client, not a loving wife, to please.

Manhattan Transfer also did a rendition of Tuxedo Junction, an oldie, but still deliciously mellow.

Overall puzzle was a major YIKES! for me as well, started last night and just finished up. (Yes, I did sleep in between! It wasn't *that* hard.)

retired_chemist 10:19 AM  

@ Ulrich re dem Bundesrat - I think either the entire clue should be in correct German or the clue should have said "the Bundesrat."

retired_chemist 10:21 AM  

Have been meaning to compliment Rex on a hilarious writeup.

If I were a leper and someone tried to spread icing on me I would most certainly be frosted....

mccoll 10:25 AM  

Medium for me or even medium rare to go with FLANKSTEAK and BEARNAISE SAUCE. Gimmes were TUXEDO JUNCTION LESSORS and PEKINESE. One Google needed for TENERIFE and the same error as Rex and others DTEN. How very silly. Thanks KT and RP.

SoWalBeach Bum 10:34 AM  

This is tangential to your cake issues, I suppose, but everybody oughta be reading this here blog:

Ulrich 10:42 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ulrich 10:45 AM  

@ret.-ch.: Yes, "the" would solve the problem in this particular case b/c the noun itself does not change its ending. But what do you do when it does?

My general advice would be: Select a less tricky way of cluing German words--and avoid under all circumstances clues in which a German term is not in the nominative: If you get the flexion right, the English-speaking audience will be confused; if you get it wrong, people who speak German cringe. There are certainly possibilities to clue German "nein" w/o referring to the Bundesrat.

Stan 10:50 AM  

D'oh, came close to finishing but cheated in the SE corner -- I actually looked up SLER in the dictionary (hoping it would say 'multitude') before going back to the drawing board and coming up with the W.

No beefs with the puzzle. Thanks to Karen Tracey for the workout.

Rex's write-up was very, very funny.

Re: Clash photo -- I was there! (New York Palladium 21.9.79)

Happy Birthday, PlantieBea

PC 11:09 AM  

Very difficult but fair. Knew Pekinese, Nardia, Rafe, Bub (Uncle on "My 3 Sons"). Had the answer but struggled with the spelling of Lessors. Had no clue for many even when they filled in. Usenet? Utne?

@Rex--Funny cake, lovely thought, lucky wife! Have baked many from scratch. Something else to add to others giving advice - always let the cake layers cool before removing them from the pans or they will fall apart. Learned this the hard way!

A tam is floppy if you're holding it but not when you are wearing it.

slypett 11:15 AM  

At least Rex rated this "Challenging." Even after tugging at Auntie Google's skirt for about four answers, I still came up with a (plausibly, unfortunately) wrecked South.


slypett 11:16 AM  

Nerts! (I forgot to check the crucial box!)

Smitty 11:17 AM  

@ Rex - "I thought Taxis was a greek word" ROTFL

Now I don't feel so bad about looking at C.S. Lewis for almost the whole puzzle and imagining he wrote Alice in Wonderland

Boy was that a "doh" moment.

retired_chemist 11:23 AM  

@ Ulrich - point taken. I like your solution.

On almost the same line, my limited knowledge of German and ???SSE gave me initially FLUSSE (no umlaut - let's not go THERE again), the plural and thus an incorrect answer anyway, instead of NIESSE.

Denise 11:26 AM  

Google saved me on this one. I started out on the timed puzzle, and gave it up == had the southwest -- so, changed to across lite --

It still took another thirty minutes!!!

Brendan Emmett Quigley 11:31 AM  

Had to work hard for nearly every quadrant. Not a bad thing, just a thing. A typical weekend puzzle has a few amazing things, a few terrible things, and a whole lot of okay things. This puzzle had no amazing or terrible things, so that means it's okay, right?

hazel 11:32 AM  

That cake looks ALOT like the one I made my husband last month - the one that was described as looking so "homemade". Alas, it did NOT taste *#%" awesome - it tasted just OK - kind of dry, and the icing was a bit crusty to boot. Good thing there was champagne to wash it all down....

The puzzle was completely impossible for me. The range of knowledge required to complete this puzzle without outside assistance is just out of bounds! Congratulations to all who were able to do so. I stand agape.

Two Ponies 11:41 AM  

What a f#*%ing train wreck!
I'm not supposed to pronouce the T in Christmas? Since when?
My London broil is a lot thicker than a flank steak but I figured it out. Unlike so much else here.
Driving the Hana Highway is not to be missed and never to be forgotten.
The only Rafe I know is the bad guy in Oklahoma. Right Greene?
The only Raul that comes to my mind is Fidel's brother.
@ Ulrich That whole Bundesrat thing was lost on me. It appeared to be a German word and it was a vote so nein was the only thing it could be.
Just yesterday I was moaning about a- words and e- words so today we get e-vite. Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine believes they got an "unvitation."
@ Rex, funniest write up ever.
I'm sure Sandy was touched by your effort. Thanks for sharing the fun. When I first saw the cake I thought perhaps one of your canines was the culprit!

joho 11:46 AM  

@PlantieBea ... I hope you enjoy a wonderful birthday!

Hobbyist 12:08 PM  

Couldn't finish the puzzle.NE corner a blank but I love that cake. A friend from youth's mother used to say that she hated presents that looked gift wrapped. An excuse for messy wrapping job but one I use to this day.
Now who would want a store made- cake that looked perfect, anyway? Worse than gift wrapped present any day.

dk 12:11 PM  

Another A(fill in the blank) word, cool.

Like many of you I was off to a fast start, but then.... Lets just say a typical taxi is yellow and RAcE is better name for a protagonist than RAFE. I also share @twoponies love of the SILENTT.

The Penguin theme more than made up for my troubles and the fact that I have used a Secchi disk gave me 26a.

Great Friday puzzle. Thank/curse you Karen

ps. I think a certain early week puzzle constructor has a birthday coming up this weekend.

pps. @rex, may I suggest Bota Box Old Vine Zin to go with your zombie cake.

imsdave 12:12 PM  

@two ponies

As Greene appears to be working today, I'll field the question. The bad guy in "Oklahoma" is Jud. And I agree with you that there is a soft sounding "T" in Christmas.

Dan 12:19 PM  

Two Ponies and Elaine: There's nothing wrong with EVITE. It's a popular party-planning website, not a "roll-your-own" e-word like ENOTE.

Joon made an excellent point on Ryan and Brian's blog about the TENERIFE/RAFE crossing... Editors don't particularly like crossing obscure/bizarre proper names, so RA-E was unlikely to be something that could be clued as an English word (RACE, RALE, RAKE, RAVE...). Unfortunately, this time there were enough other possible consonants to approach Natick territory -- but it's a good advanced solving tip.

ArtLvr 12:26 PM  

Happy B-day, PlantieBea, and to Rex -- many happy returns of the Cake! Good salvage job on this one... Next time put the wax paper on the bottom of the buttered pan, cool at least ten minutes after baking, then run a knife around the side of the pan. Place the wire cooling rack or serving dish upside down over the pan and hold tight as you invert them. Great tale anyway.

The puzzle wasn't really tough for me, but it still took a while... LIVY was on my mind because I just passed up a copy of something of his at a book sale: too much scribbled in by the prior owner.

I was going to have champagne with my nice châteaubriand, mais non. Nein reminded me of Nynex, and Eiders reminded me of the Oder-Neisse line. Tuxedo Junction's an old favorite.

DNA's four bases -- that was a stitch. And Adelie is always my second choice after Amalie though from now on I'll tell myself D for Down Under. Moo and Mac gave way to Baa and Bub as the B-10 bomber came into view. Skeet shoot was neat too.

Sethe and Rafe I didn't know, but were gettable with crosses. I liked the rarer fill like Tenerife, Red Coral and Minolta, as well as Militant Insurgents!

All the little tricks were fair, like the Shower head, even if one might have preferred the Chick chaser to be a Roué. I did agree with NurseryWorker that a Copse indicates small trees, less emphasis on any undergrowth. And I chuckled at Ulrich's dander over the den/der question!

Much fun, many thanks to Karen and Rex and all fellow commenters.

Two Ponies 12:29 PM  

@ imsdave, Thanks. In my mind I was seeing a big guy in overalls. Turns out I was thinking of Rafe Hollister from the Andy Griffith Show. He dressed like a farmer but sang like an angel.
@ Dan, OK if you say so but I still don't like it. If I get an e-vite do I ESVP?

IGotWhipped 12:31 PM  

During my "solve" my psyche felt much as your cake must have felt like yesterday - big chunks crumbling off, falling to the floor, presumeably eaten by the dogs. Loved the write up, but am left with one question: Why would anyone post that video on YouTube? What point could there possibly be?

CoolPapaD 12:43 PM  

Loved this puzzle. My first pass was horrendous, and then the ink started a-flowing, slowly. I finally had to Google RAFE to finish, and it took a long time, but I am always happy when I can get this far - a year ago I didn't even bother with Fri or Sat.

I so wanted to drive the road to Hana on my visit to Maui, but it was raining hard that day, and I missed the chance. I've heard nothing but amazing things about it.

I always thought London broil and flank steak were two different cuts of meat. Anyone?

PC 12:43 PM  

@Hobbyist - Husband disliked fancy, schmansy gift wrapping and always used newspaper, preferred the funnies, noteably Dagwood. The kids always looked forward to those packages.

Jeffrey 12:50 PM  

[Editing out was already said]


[Wait, that was said already]


Elaine 1:09 PM  

hmmmm...the clue indicates this was just some plain ole word: evite. I'd believe you if the clue read, "Modern party planner."

But what I really want to ask is about your tip: if editors DON'T like such crossings, why is it likely this IS one? I'm confused, though since I got TENERIFE, STEW, and USERS it was a non-issue.

@Two Ponies
Someone has already tipped you off about JUD, the villain in "Oklahoma." It was played by none other than Rod Steiger, and he displayed a surprisingly good voice singing, "Poor Jud is dead." I can't think of any well-known Rafe characters (and did not know this Inge play.)

The time I got a crumbly outcome, I later found the eggs for the recipe sitting on the counter in a "safe" location. Also, if the eggs are just "large," you might need to include another one to get the correct proportion. (This happens to me in pasta-making.)

@Hudson Hawk and Ret-chemist
Thanks for the aircraft labeling tip. I see I misnamed my home-made jet fighter...

Unknown 1:26 PM  

I am a somewhat new reader of this blog -- which I really like.

What is a NATICK, beside a town on Rte 9 20 miles west of Boston?

Thank you.

Unknown 1:26 PM  

I am a somewhat new reader of this blog -- which I really like.

What is a NATICK, beside a town on Rte 9 20 miles west of Boston?

Thank you.

Babs 1:28 PM  

Now, I've got a question ... what do you guys mean by Natick?

Anonymous 1:29 PM  

@Gerard - Under "Important Posts", just to the right of the picture of the Our Gang kids today, there is a link to the Natick Principle.

Dan 1:30 PM  

Elaine, nothing in the EVITE clue indicates it's not a proper name. [Modern way to request information] could clue GOOGLE, no?

Not sure I understand your question exactly... obscure crossings are fair game on Friday. The tip is that if you're guessing on two names you don't know, the answer is not likely to be a common word. If it were, an editor would probably use a wordplay clue rather than a character from an unknown play.

I like ESVP!

sanfranman59 1:39 PM  

I don't know why, but this turned out to be one of those rare (as in nearly non-existent) Fridays where I needed no Googles. I fully expected that Rex would have this one rated as Easy and that the blog would be replete with complaints about a second late-week puzzle in a row that wasn't up to snuff. For a change, I guess I was just on KMT's wavelength and/or my brain was firing on all cylinders last evening. Looking back on the grid this morning, I have no idea how I came up with some of the answers, but I'm not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

TENERIFE/RAFE was a Natick for me. That F was the last square I filled and when I clicked the DONE! button, I fully expected my solution to be rejected. Another problem for me was the SETHE/PEKINESE cross. I had no clue on the "Beloved" heroine and it seems to me that PEKINESE should have been clued as a variant spelling (and agrees with me ... speaking of Webster, happy 251st birthday to Noah). Other "news to me" answers: INSURGENT (29D. Young Turk, e.g.), NEISSE (30A. Lusatain ______ (German/Polish border river)), ADELIE (11D. Emperor's relative) (I was thinking moth, not penguin).

For those who haven't done it, the road to HANA and sunrise atop Haleakalā are musts on any trip to Maui (I've had the privilege of doing both twice). Spectacular! I suggest taking a tour to Hana rather than driving since the driver cannot (must not!) take their eyes off the road. (@retired_chemist: Hilo is on the Big Island.)

retired_chemist 2:18 PM  

@ Sanfranman59 re HILO: thought so, but but was unsure enough to put it in anyway.

Anonymous 2:25 PM  

For a while I was afraid this was going to be the first-ever grid in which I couldn't place EVEN ONE answer. Eventually, NARNIA drifted into consciousness, and thereafter it was slow (very slow) but steady all the way to the end. On reading the blog, I was sad--but not devastated-- to see that the CORAL was supposed to be RED and not SEA.

chefbea 3:30 PM  

Tough puzzle!! but enjoyable.

Always made London broil with flank steak in St. Louis. Never heard of the cut of meat called London broil til I moved to Connecticut.

Love Bearnaise sauce!!

I Have a necklace made out of red and black coral.

The cake wrecks site is pretty funny.

And lastly @Rex I won't give you any more tips on cake making. I'm sure it was delish!!

sanfranman59 3:31 PM  

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)

Fri 29:50, 25:42, 1.16, 84%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Fri 15:20, 12:04, 1.27, 93%, Challenging

Now I feel real good about my Google-less solve time today. I anticipate a truly humbling experience with Saturday's puzzle.

chefwen 3:40 PM  

Rex, in addition to Macs suggestion, put a dusting of cocoa powder over the buttered parchment paper wich makes it easier to remove after baked and adds a nice layer of flavor.

Re: puzzle, totally started off on the wrong foot by putting in Medium rare for 17 across. Wrong!
When I couldn't get any downs off of that had to take it out and start over. Had low in for BAA and lad in for BUB. Plumber boy got SHOWER head. Finally finished up this morning after sleeping on it. Won't lie, a smattering of Uncle Google assisted also.

I don't know if they still do, but they used to sell T-shirts in HANA that said "I survived the road to Hana"

Happy Birthday, Plantie Bea!


chefbea 3:51 PM  

Forgot to say happy b-day to Plantie bea. I'll make you a cake and drizzle Bearnaise sauce over it. Yummmm

Smitty 4:14 PM  

PS Did anyone else want TOUQ instead of TAMS?

Babs 4:22 PM  

Thanks for pointing me to the Natick Principle. Now I get it.

Meg 5:21 PM  

@ two ponies:

I figured out the Rafe/Jud Fry connection, at least in my brain. Jud was played by Rod Steiger, who looks a bit like a character on the Andy Griffith Show called Rafe Hollister. Rafe was not a bad guy, just scraggly looking, but he could sing!

andrea jeepers michaels 5:40 PM  

Here's what you do about the cake...


Well, at least you didn't have a chef fake-yelling at you the whole time!
I am chocolate with envy for your lucky wife!!!
And I had a double pathetic moment yesterday...ordering my OWN bday cake
(At least my mom has offered to pay for it) and then trying to design a crossword for it...

I needed an 11-letter parallel word/phrase for SAVOY-TIVOLI (the dive bar where I'm holding a little gathering) so I just went with WHATTHEF*CK, which neatly sums up my ambivalence!

@Plantie Bea
Happy BDay (Bomber? Day)!!!!!!!!!!
There must be something to all of us being Libras...
maybe the indecision? Is it SEA or RED CORAL? Is it AGASP or AGAST
(silent, ok...missing H)

I swear you can hear a slight T in Christmas... and I had quite a nice chat with myself last night if the H was/were silent.

Had to Google NEISSE and RAFE and SETHE (Kept trying to put Shug or Sug or whoever that was from "The Color Purple") Puzzle made me SE(E)THE.
(Actually not really, but FAIL here too.)

Thought JEEPERS went nicely with OURGANG.
Went thru misspelled versions of MENNONITE and MARONITE, and EREMITE, without ISRAELITE dawning on me for a while. Oy.

Also, I had USANET, thinking it was like AOL or an early Well thing. Not an early adopter here...

also, isn't TAXI from Greek in some way? I mean, "Bon Voyage" in Greek is something like Kalo Taxidis!
(I've just looked up the etymology and it's from a London cab's "taximeter" which is from old French and German which was from a Latin word based on a Greek word. So nevermind nde/joon/whoever...)

For those who need an extra Friday fix, Tony O and Patrick B puzzle in the WSJ today...

slypett 6:13 PM  

chefwen: What a coincidence! I have an Auntie Google! Wonder if they're somehow related?

Two Ponies 6:17 PM  

@ meg, Thanks, I can't explain how my brain is wired but I'm glad someone else could envision the neural pathway. Rod Steiger was perfect for the role but he can't sing like Rafe.
3 & out

Stan 6:56 PM  



with a triple-letter, triple-word combo!

treedweller 8:17 PM  

This killed me. Almost as soon as I started, I realized I would never finish. So I googled a bit, then Rexed. I read the writeup and then worked the puzzle. And still had problems. But that's what I expect from KT (I won't re-link to my guest blog, but it was a KT, and it killed me). Yes, I should stick it out and learn to do better on the hard ones. I did not.

@The Cake
I am formerly a (semi)professional cook, and still I struggle to ice a cake properly. There's a reason pros rely so heavily on fondant. In the end, if it tastes good, it is a success (IMHO). My favorite frosting is closer to a chocolate sauce; you pour/ladle it on and then refrigerate to set. My favorite chocolate cake is so good I rarely even try to frost it. I bet Sandy did not complain (Happy belated B-day, BTW, Sandy).

foodie 8:35 PM  

Thank goodness this was rated challenging by Rex and most of the solvers! The South worked for me, thanks to the BEARNAISE SAUCE, my first entry (once in a while, foodiness pays off). The North was like the great Sahara desert, a place to get lost.

Between yesterday and today, I'm ready to fly to Hawaii, where I can travel to HANA, and find RED CORAL jewelry...

jae in Santa Fe 8:36 PM  

A solid Fri. and a medium for me but thats only because I knew some of the harder stuff e.g. TUXJUNC, TENERIFE, ADELIE.

@sanfranman -- The tour we took to HANA was one of the best I've been on. It's a great place to visit.

My bride says Pam is helpful in keeping cakes from sticking.

Robert of San Francisco 8:42 PM  

This was an relatively easy Friday for me. I'm storing it in my ego locker, against the next 20 times that a puzzle slays me and Rex airily announces that he polished it off in three minutes. That's pretty much my ratio of smart to stupid. So baby, I am dining out on this one.

Clark 12:46 AM  

Could not finish. I spent the day cooking for a dinner party, but even if I had spent the whole day puzzling I would have been unable to do it.

@Ulrich, et al -- I did a quick scan of a couple of style manuals and didn't find any discussion of the issue you raised, which surprises me. I try to avoid the problem in my own writing, along the lines you suggested. Maybe there are style manuals that say it is acceptable to take the foreign word in its nominative form no matter where it shows up in an English sentence. I will keep my eyes peeled on this one going forward (I mean in the world of style manuals and academic writing).

slypett 1:09 AM  

andrea diva michaels:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

sanfranman59 1:35 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 8:10, 7:03, 1.16, 82%, Challenging
Tue 9:49, 8:38, 1.14, 79%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 12:30, 11:49, 1.06, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 13:05, 18:51, 0.69, 3%, Easy
Fri 29:58, 25:42, 1.17, 85%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:30, 3:45, 1.20, 87%, Challenging
Tue 4:45, 4:25, 1.07, 75%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 5:50, 5:48, 1.01, 57%, Medium
Thu 6:22, 9:08, 0.70, 2%, Easy
Fri 15:00, 12:03, 1.25, 93%, Challenging

Singer 1:59 PM  

From syndication land:

I solved the puzzle mostly while sitting in my doctor's waiting room. I had a hard time getting traction at first because the entire topside wouldn't reveal itself to me. From Tuxedo Junction on down, it wasn't too awfully hard. BEARNAISE SAUCE came pretty quickly, OUR GANG was a gimme, and I guessed right at RAUL, just becaus3e it is a fairly common Spanish name and fit the crosses of USENET and SLASH. TENERIFE was a gimme - the site of one of the world's worst airline accidents. I wasn't sure how to spell it, but knew what it was right away. Amazingly I had trouble with SHAMU because for some reason I thought it was four letters long - don't ask me why. I suspected FLANK STEAK, but started with Ovid instead of LIVY. When that got fixed, things got a little better. BTW I did start with moo instead of BAA, but that corrected itself quickly. Last answer was PEKINESE. Don't know about alternate spellings of the dog's name, but had alternate spelling for aghast (agast), but tekinese made to sense at all. I would rank it as medium-challenging to challenging for me, primarily because of the top.

Singer 2:03 PM  

Oh, one last thing. HANA was a gimme for me. On our honeymoon trip to Maui my wife and I drove the Hana highway. She wanted to get back to the condo in time to see ER, of all things, so we were pushing the limits coming back, and all the twisting and turning at speed turned her green. She decided that not throwing up all over the rental car was a better choice than seeing the season opener of ER. Good choice since we decided very quickly that season that the show had jumped the shark. Amazingly it went on for another 10 seasons after that.

Anonymous 10:01 PM  

I want to thank you all....this puzzle was very difficult for me today. I had 5 hours of chemotherapy today and attempted the puzzle after...should have done it before.

lovewindytown 10:44 PM  

I want to thank you all....this puzzle was very difficult for me today. I had 5 hours of chemotherapy today and attempted the puzzle after...should have done it before.

slypett 12:01 AM  

lovewindytown: God bless and keep you. May your therapy be successful!

Unknown 8:12 AM  

Two fun Friday puzzles in a row. Can't wait till next week... Finishing this one while trying not to nod off in bed last night was a pleasant surprise.

Dreamed about the Hana Highway... (which I've never traveled, except from above in Google Maps...)

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