Reeve's charge — SATURDAY, Oct. 10 2009 — Willy Wonka's work force / Basting aids / Noel Coward title woman from Argentina

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Constructor: Natan Last

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Basting (35D: Basting aids => PINS)
— BASTE, tr.v., bast·ed, bast·ing, bastes.

To sew loosely with large running stitches so as to hold together temporarily.

[Middle English basten, from Old French bastir, of Germanic origin.]

(this is Definition 1; Definition 2 was the only one I knew — the one about moistening meat. My first answer at 35D was thus PANS)


I did this puzzle in record Saturday time. Just destroyed it. Thus, my difficulty rating could be way off today, because it's highly possible that Natan Last and I share all or part of a brain, and that that brain is just not on your wavelength. Then again, it might just be an easy puzzle. First answer in the grid: OLDIRONSIDES (21D: What the Constitution is called). No crosses. Just dropped it in. Confirmed it immediately with DELTAS off the first "D" (28A: Some mouths), and I was off to the races. And I don't even "race" on Fridays and Saturdays. I meander. Still, under 8:30 for a finishing time. As some catchphrase-wielding guy on ESPN might say, Ridonkulous.

With OLD IRONSIDES in there, the middle opened right up with very little trouble, and since so many Acrosses run through that middle, I was able to pick them off one by one, like sitting, fat ducks. The grid shape also helped increase solvability today — Lots of black squares for a late-week puzzle, and lots of ways in and out of any particular section. Not a lot of opportunity to get bogged down with no hope of relief. At least two ways to come at ever nook and cranny (when did "nook and cranny" start seeming like natural partners? was it the Thomas's English muffin ads of the '70s-'80s?).

[I was roughly this kid's age when this ad was on TV, though to my deep regret credit, I never wore a space helmet to breakfast]

I was just thinking of OOMPALOOMPAS (7D: Will Wonka's work force) the other day as I searched for a way to clue the "word" OOM in any way other than as the first part of a conventional tuba sound, i.e. OOM-Pah. Turns out the OOMPA in OOMPALOOMPAS is one word. Good day to be a medievalist — 12D: Reeve's charge (manor) was a gimme, as any of the professions of the Canterbury pilgrims would have been. Paused briefly at 27A: Bust of Pallas, to Poe's raven as I tried to remember the exact lines of the poem. Thought the answer would be the adjectival phrase describing the bust, but couldn't remember what that was: "Old and dusty?" That doesn't sound very Poesque. Actual lines read "Perched upon a bust of Pallas, just above my chamber door" and then later "On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door." PALLID's a little spot-on, isn't it? Nevermind (!), I still love the poem. It's oddly mesmerizing.


  • 14A: Redness remover (Visine) — got it off the "V" in AVID (1D: Keen), no problem.
  • 19A: Slangy pronoun (dat) — very slangy. DAT coulda been a contender as a music medium (Digital Audio Tape), but now such a DAT clue would require "bygone," for sure.
  • 30A: "_____ the Viking," 1989 film starring Tim Robbins ("Erik") — one of those films you've never heard of but you see in the video store (back when you actually went to video stores) and you think "Tim Robbins, I liked him in that thing he was in" and then you rent it and watch it and quickly wish you hadn't.
  • 34A: Actor Efron of "High School Musical" (Zac) — with a "C"! Figured it had to be "K" so ended up with ESOTERIKA at (3D: Dark matter?), which looks cool but I knew must be wrong. Yesterday JCCHASEZ, today ZAC Efron. Why is all this pop culture in my puzzle?! In my day, there were just words, and we liked it that way ... you kids with your Walkmans and your Macarenas ... WHIPPER ... SNAPPERS! (6D: Ones who are too big for their britches).
  • 46A: Tony winner between "Avenue Q" and "Jersey Boys" ("Spamalot") — never seen it, but the movie it's based on is, of course, classic.
  • 2D: Like Japan's national diet (bicameral) — OK, so you *know* this has nothing to do with food — really, a "national diet?" That would be a Seriously totalitarian country. So other meaning of "diet" ... governmental ... wait for crosses. No sweat. Got it with just "M" and "L" in place.
  • 15D: Shade for shades (ecru) — uh ... what kind of shades are ECRU? Not sunglasses, right?
  • 33D: Officer who was still hunting in the 1920s-'30s (Eliot Ness) — OMG, I Just Got the "still" part. I was going to ask "why 'still?'" and as the question formed in my head, bam (you can make bootleg liquor with a "still").
  • 37D: With 40-Down, friend you may have never met (pen / pal) — all I could think of wa a line in the fictional musical "Streetcar!" (from "The Simpsons," an adaptation of "Streetcar Named Desire"): "A stranger's just a friend you haven't met!"
  • 49D: Noel Coward title woman from Argentina (Nina) — even the ones I didn't know at all were easy to get today. Why else is "Argentina" in this clue if not to tell me the answer is NINA?
  • 54D: Many a metrosexual (fop) — Awesome — I just wrote a "metrosexual" clue for FOP, so I'm glad to see the connection is catching on.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Anonymous 8:44 AM  

Rex, you're right: this is the easiest Saturday puzzle I've ever done. Not that that's a bad thing: I felt like a genius when I finished in under fifteen.

imsdave 8:46 AM  

I don't think it's just you Rex. I tore through this one too. Two minor delays - I was with you on PANS and, with -ON----- in place, confidently entered CONCRETE where BONAFIDE belonged. Quickly sorted out by MOBIL.

Nice puzzle, if a tad soft for a Saturday.

Elaine 8:48 AM  

"Nook and cranny" is an old, old, old expression, nefariously stolen by the Thomas' English Muffin admen. Not knowing that would make one a....Whippersnapper!

IRE is clued "really ruffle," which would mean a verb form. IRE IS A NOUN!!!

Well, EASY it was not, for me. Although I put in OLDIRONSIDES at once, and steadily worked my way along, this puzzle took me the best part of an hour.

It did not help to have HALLPASS.. and then I took the whole thing out...and had to put some of it back...
I had ABETS at once but put ABLE going down, also misguided.

I thought "Revolutionary dance move" referred to the Revolutionary War period (crossing the USS Constitution) and felt clever about getting PIROUETTE..but then PLIE (which I also knew) is a ballet move. Really? are these revolutionary??
Can someone explain?

I really enjoyed this puzzle and the clues for the most part. DAT was lame, especially with the PC clue. And PARSONS don't go around saying how they "aced" their service last Sunday... and I am still annoyed with IRE's clue.

We won't blame the redoubtable Natan Last. Thanks, Mr. Last!

Meg 8:58 AM  

@Elaine: I understood "revolutionary" to mean revolving, or spinning, which is what you do when you pirouette. Very nice distraction.
I'm not sure whether an easier Saturday is also a more enjoyable Saturday. Perhaps getting the tough ones after a lot of frustration is more satisfying.

joho 9:07 AM  

Any puzzle with OOMPALOOMPAS in it is just fine with me. Yes, easy for a Saturday but so rich with wonderful words, I loved it!

@Elaine ... I actually know the woman who wrote the copy "nooks and crannies" for Thomas' English Muffins. She and her husband are of Scottish descent, I believe, which might be why she came up with the line. Anyway, I want to give Jane Taylor credit where credit is due. By the way, I just finished watching season one of "Mad Men." It's amazing in it's accuracy ... I nearly fell out of my chair when one of the admen mentioned Jim Jordan. Jim Jordan was the creative director at BBDO who promoted me from copy secretary to junior copywriter ... another theme explored in the series. I can't wait to start season two tonight!

Thank you Natan Last for a most enjoyable Saturday morning. You are a BONAFIDE contructor who I alway look forward to solving.

joho 9:08 AM  

Whoops, didn't preview, that's "always."

Morgan 9:22 AM  

Agreed, quite easy. I rarely finish Saturdays at all, and this one fell in about 20 minutes, which is more like a decent Friday time. It must be the fastest I've solved a Saturday. One odd thing about this puzzle--there are almost NO rare letters. I spy a V, W, 2Ks and a throwaway Z. That's surprising, for a Saturday puzzle.

Elaine 9:25 AM  

OOOO-- should have "gotten" the "revolutionary" aspect of PIROUETTE. Sometimes can't see the forest for the trees.

You will find "nook and cranny" in common use over a long period-- for instance, when the inglenook was the warmest place in the house, when rocks were building materials, and so forth. Think of the poet writing "Flower in the crannied wall.." (Browning?) I can certainly believe that an ad-writer USED this phrase, but absolutely will not credit any modern person with creating it!

And I am not sure what this says about me-- but I had never seen Willy Wonka (Roald Dahl has always seemed "meh")...I got OOMPALOOMPAS from an episode of Top Chef. LOL

PlantieBea 9:37 AM  

Any Saturday puzzle I can solve with no errors is a good Saturday puzzle. And this one had Oompas and Whippers to boot. My favorites were HOOLIGAN, BONAFIDE, and PIROUETTE.

One misstep that gave me pause was having IT IS OVER for I'm A GONER which left me with the possibility of ASS for the "it" checked at the door. Not nice. I changed my IONIC to RAN AT and the problem went away.

Funny links today Rex, especially those helmeted kiddos. Thanks Natan Last for this fun Saturday.

Anonymous 9:38 AM  

This was a Wednesday puzzle..

Hopefully the rest of the day will go this well...

(.. these were the last words of ole' anonymous..)

Greene 9:43 AM  

I too felt this was an "easy" Saturday puzzle, but only in the sense that I was able to actually complete it and make very steady progress through the grid. Still took me about 45 minutes, but it was very satisfying. Favorite entries were HOOLIGAN, MEA CULPA, LAY IT ON ME, WHIPPER SNAPPERS, PIROUETTE, OOMPALOOMPAS and, of course, SPAMALOT. That's a lot of crunchy goodness for one puzzle.

As I've said in the past, SPAMALOT was a bewildering show for those audience members unfamiliar with the source material. Many of the sketches were lifted verbatim from the Holy Grail film, and while said sketches were hilarious in their own right, the Grail fans at SPAMALOT (and they were legion) would begin to howl with laughter at the earliest sign of recognition (long before anything actually funny had even occurred). It is extremely irritating to sit through a show while people around you are wetting themselves with laughter and you have NO IDEA why (as I learned while sitting through 8 hours of The Norman Conquests this past summer).

Anyway, here's David Hyde Pierce as Sir Robin with the rather extraneous "You Won't Succeed on Broadway" number which routinely stopped the show during Act II of SPAMALOT (with apologies to my Jewish friends, most of whom thought this lampoon quite the funniest thing they had ever seen).

icouldabeenacontender 10:13 AM  

Soooooooo easy, particularly when compared to yesterday's puzzle, with which I strugged.

slypett 10:16 AM  

What is happening to me? Have I changed in some bizarre way? Have I gone from bad to worse? Is it what I had for lunch, or should have had for lunch? I HAD A TOTAL MELTDOWN!!!!!!!!!

Sorry for borrowing your !!!!, Andrea, but sometimes there's no other way!

Elaine: "Flower in a Crannied Wall" is Tennyson. Ire is, acc. to Webster's II, also a verb.

Smitty 10:26 AM  

@Rex and @Joho Is that Peter Scolari in the first Thomas's ad? He joined Tom Hanks in Bosom Buddies 2 years later, so the timing's right. One's career rocketed while the other fizzled. (he was great on Newhart, though)

@Rex thanks for the "still" on Eliot Ness. I didn't even think of it.

Unknown 10:31 AM  

I loved 25's around a yard around Buckingham Palace--so pleasing! I also quite enjoyed BONAFIDE. Definitely not the hardest puzzle--I did it in one sitting (almost unheard of on a Saturday!) But very enjoyable company for my coffee!

retired_chemist 10:33 AM  

Took a stab last night when I was apparently non compos mentis. I constructed HUGE SWATHS of crap I could not dig out of. It had been a long day and I was falling asleep at the keyboard. For your amusement:

7D CHOCOLATIERS for OOMPALOOMPAS. I never had seen the movie.

With several crosses in for 6D I could not shake CHIPPENDALE ???? as ones too big for their britches. The N made 31A "Revolutionary dance moves: into something starting with MIN...., thus suggesting a MINUET variant.

With the SE complete (my only success) I thought of ELLIOTT NESS @ 33D but could not fit it into the space allotted. I couldn't get myself to spell it ELIOT.

Come morning it took about 10 minutes to convert a half-filled grid with the abovementioned errors (plus the WTF ZOE [sic] EPHRON) into a correctly solved puzzle. So I can go along with easy, but it was not so last night.

HudsonHawk 10:43 AM  

Yep, rocked through this easy, yet enjoyable puzzle. Lots of fun medium to long answers, Natan.

I really wanted the yard clue to be about beer. Mmm, beer.

There's a little Monty Python reunion here, with ERIK the Viking and SPAMALOT. Erik the Viking was directed by Terry Jones and both he and John Cleese appeared in the movie.

Greene, I was lucky enough to see Spamalot in its first month on Broadway, with Tim Curry, Hank Azaria and David Hyde Pierce in the cast. Pierce was beyond perfect for the role. Thanks for the clip.

SpelunkerGuy 10:53 AM  

Thought the word of the day was going to be GEICO.

duaneu 10:55 AM  

About the fastest I ever finished a Saturday puzzle, and no Googling required.

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

Shade for shades is referring to window shades which are often ecru.

Opus2 11:12 AM  

No record time for me.

I never read or saw Willy Wonka, so even with a couple of crosses I struggled to complete OOMPALOOMPAS. I really had NOIDEA.

I thought one should check one's EGO at the door; BONEFIDE looked reasonable, but I knew LATOPASS had to be wrong.

And I neither follow the NFL nor speak Italian so Tony ROMA (Isn't that an Italian restaurant chain?) crossing TROPPA looked plenty right to me, and was my downfall.

As a sidebar, Cranny is a not-uncommon surname in Ireland. When my Irish music buddy, Alan Cranny, and I created a little duo in the 80s to play in some of our local bars and clubs, we were billed as "Nook and Cranny". My Dad still smirks and calls me Nook from time to time.

chefbea 11:27 AM  

I thought the puzzle was fairly difficult. Had to google a bit. Thanks Rex for explaining still.

Spices use to come in tins.Not any more - maybe ground black pepper. I have an old tin of Durkee's cayenne pepper that I found at a yard sale. The top and bottom are very rusty but it looks great on a shelf in my kitchen

hazel 11:28 AM  

There sure was ALOT to like in this puzzle aside from the obvious WHIPPERSNAPPERS and the OOMPALOOMPAS. I thought LAYITONME and IMAGONER were perfectly clued e.g..

I didn't really get the ESOTERICA clue though and I guess I've never really heard of a LATEPASS - always thought of it as a hallpass. It has been quite a while since i've been in need of such an excuse so the terminology has likely just passed me by....

Good balance of ESOTERICA and wordplay, with a couple of retro phrases thrown in to boot. Fine puzzle.

Stan 11:31 AM  

A bonafide great puzzle, IMO, with snappy all-over-the-map vocabulary. More please, from whip-smart young constructors like Natan Last and Caleb Madison.

still_learnin 11:39 AM  

I just missed breaking 30 minutes on this one... which put it in record time for me, too. I'm still amazed when speed solvers report their times.

Loved OOMPALOOMPAS! Didn't "get" the PIROUETTE or ELIOTNESS wordplay til I came here, tho I had the right fill. Never heard of Ghost, but got WORDGAME with crosses.

This puzzle was a great start to a beautiful fall day here in the Pacific Northwest. Thank you, Mr. Last.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 11:41 AM  

Utterly loved it. Natan certainly writes what he knows as evidenced from the high-youth culture entries. Pretty much every single one of them was a brand new entry. A+. More please.

joho 11:55 AM  

@Smitty ... I think that IS Peter Scolari! Many great actors did commercials before they found fame. In the first big commercial I shot I picked Christopher Guest to "star." He has come a long way since!

@Elaine, I guess I didn't make my point very well. When I said Jane knew of Scottish things I meant that's probably where she heard the phrase "nooks and crannies." What she did is use it to describe English muffins in an entirely original, unique way which caught on then and has continued to this day. That's quite a feat.

Nick 11:55 AM  

I too was thinking "Streetcar" with the penpal clue. Maybe you and I share a brain as well. (Agreed that this was wicked easy for a Saturday. I barely needed my usual espresso-based IQ boost.)

Susan 11:59 AM  

Totally SHREDDED this puzzle. I've only ever finished a couple of Saturdays without any help and I did this one in under 12 minutes, way better than my Friday this week (which, come to think of it was a FAIL because I googled). So, I agree on the easy rating. Still really liked it, though. Lots of funny, fresh things.

Maybe it's a regionalism, but I have never heard the expression "late pass" either.

I don't think that is Peter Scolari in the ad with the insufferable child. I always liked P.S. Thought he was the funnier one in Bosom Buddies and I stand by it, despite their later careers. I'd rather have root canal than watch a movie with Tom Hanks.

Two Ponies 12:08 PM  

I loved this puzzle not only because I found it easy (for a Sat.) but because it sparkled with fun words and clever clues.
@retired_chemist, Chippendales! So funny.
Side note : remember Thorium from Thursday? Last night on Jeopardy the answer was "This element Th was named for a Norse god." The question : "What is Thorium?" Ha! Before Thursday I might have gotten it from the clue but last night I was certain.

Jeffrey 12:17 PM  

Yes, an easy Saturday but still awesome.

Van55 12:22 PM  

I wouldn't say I breezed through this one, but I did finish it without artificial assistance. I enjoyed the misdirectional, punny cluing.

Totally enjoyable!

ArtLvr 12:50 PM  

Lots to love! Thanks, Natan. I had no trouble with the puzzle, including the ESOTERICA, but the notion of ECRU windowshades eluded me for a bit afterward, as did Ness still-hunting! LOL...

I especially enjoyed Poe's Raven perched atop the bust of Pallas Athena, goddess of wisdom, with his TERSE refrain of "Nevermore" -- I learned all 26 stanzas by heart In high school, fascinated with the eerie rhyming!


Clark 1:00 PM  

@retired_chemist -- Chippendales. Brilliant.

Not knowing the OOM in OOMPALOOMPAS or the ROM in ROMA held me up in the NE last night. Had WHODUNIT for Ghost and HENCHMAN for tough, but couldn't figure out how DC_ could be in the sixth century. But this morning semi-puzzle partner, a Willy Wonka fan from way back, set me straight.

I vote yes for the occasional doable (by the likes of me) Saturday.

Babs 1:26 PM  

It's a little disappointing to sit down and look forward to at least an hour or two (usual time for me on a Friday or Saturday) of brain-wracking, only to find such an easy puzzle. Enjoyable though. But what to do with the rest of my morning?

andrea yuk michaels 1:32 PM  

fast easy fresh, just how i like my young boys...
Bravo, Natan!

(I take partial credit for having called young Natan a WHIPPERSNAPPER in all my comments about him)

May I say, tho, that such wonderful wonderful fill deserved much harder cluing for a Saturday.
(But I too didn't get the "still" till Rex.)

Toughest part for me was misreading the numbers so I mixed up
16A Tough with 19A Close and put in PROXIMAL (where HOOLIGAN belonged) so that took some sorting out...

My favorite answer was LAYITONME(Bro) very BEQ-esque.

Saw an Obama PREZ candy dispenser and thought it the cleverest thing I've seen...if not so noble (Nobel?) to have your leader of the free world's neck opening up!

!!!!!!!!! are for everyone!!!!!!!
Life is short!

Off to LA!

edith b 1:34 PM  

I made steady progress north to south until I hit the clue for 54A: Many a Metrosexual and entered FEY which prevented me from finishing the Southwestern corner for the longest time as all I saw at 57A was the word IMAGE followed by three random letters N, E and R and something definitely wrong at 59A.

Two days in a row that I had to sleep on the puzzle. It wasn't the puzzles so much as the "nut behind the wheel."

bluebell 1:37 PM  

Crossword puzzles are a means of learning/relearning; for this one I reread the Raven and admired the use of language all over again. When I read it as a youngster I didn't understand the longing sorrow.

For the crossword I first wanted "roost" but of course that didn't fit.

This puzzle was a great word game.

Two Ponies 2:12 PM  

@ Rex, How are the stray dogs? Any luck connecting with the owners?

Anonymous 2:15 PM  

Japan's national diet- I had the M E and A towards the end of the word and was trying to fit in something about Omega 3's-- sad but true.

fergus 2:39 PM  

Unfortunate that such a beautiful grid was marred by largely obvious Clues. Kinda misses the point of Saturday when you don't need to mull over them, or as was the case today, even look at them.

treedweller 2:44 PM  

+1 on not getting "still."
+1 on "easy" (I finished faster than Friday).
+1 on fun.

I don't know how I came up with ZAC, but it popped right up after Nora was wrong, and gave me both PEZ and ESOTERICA. It was that kind of day for me.

I was a little disappointed, though, in OOMPALOOMPAS. I suppose, like everything, if you don't know it you don't know it. But for the rest of us, it seemed an automatic entry, giving away half the puzzle in a second. Maybe that's just me.

Glitch 3:04 PM  

Back in my high school days, when you showed up after "homeroom", you reported to the office where they issued a "Late Pass" (and depending on your excuse, possibly booked you into dentention) which allowed you to join up with your class.

Once in class, the teacher could issue a "Hall Pass" if you had to leave the room.


So true. Not knowing OOMPALOOMPAS, trying to fit in some form of CHOCOLATIERS (notice the "L" fits)extend my solve by at least another cup of coffee.

No complaint here about the puzzle being too short/easy ;-)


Elaine 3:12 PM  

For those too far removed from school days: a hall pass allows you to be in the hall during class, going about business (trip to office/locker/lav); a late pass would allow you to enter the classroom despite being tardy. A hall pass would usually be granted by the teacher, a late pass by the school office/attendance office. (I once subbed for the attendance officer at the local HS. Interesting to watch young con artists at work, honing their nascent skills.... "I was helping a little pterodactyl that had fallen out of its nest! Honest!")

@ bluebell
I reread the poem, too! Had to Google to find an online site with it, then enjoyed the read. I had been trying to put in "pallid"...
so PERCH was an extra benefit.

I liked this puzzle, just did not find it such a walk in the park!

Shamik 3:32 PM  

Zip! Zip! Zip! Why does such enjoyable fill have to fall so quickly? 9:43 for me, my fastest correctly solved Saturday.

@Greene: Alas, did not see SPAMALOT with original cast. As Broadway musicals go, it was meh. As pure, unadulterated, yes, "wetting" was a blast. Count me as one of those laughing before each joke. My poor aunt, of course, was clucless.

OOMPALOOMPAS are very strongly a part of pop culture. "Willy Wonka" is one of those movies that is truly divisive. You either love it or think it sinister and creepy. Count me in the sinister and creepy category. And I believe that AFI ranked it about #75 in its 100 top scary movies. My husband, of course, thinks it's a great kids' movie.

Enjoyed much of the cluing even if it wasn't that challenging.

ankanator 3:35 PM  

loved the Eliot Ness clue. best one today in my opinion. Also how could you not love oompaloompas!! First time in a puzzle for me. A slow start but then moved through at a good pace for Sat. Very fun!

joho 3:43 PM  

I too, re-read The Raven after doing this puzzle and also reading this morning that there will be a funeral in Baltimore tomorrow for Mr. Poe. As he never had a proper funeral when he died at age 40, he's finally going to get one now, complete with re-created body and pals who will eulogize him. The church has been sold out for two services of 350 each. Sounds fascinating.

Anybody here attending?

Anonymous 3:56 PM  

20A TROPPO is very much like the recent MOSSO in that it never appears alone in a tempo direction. Why no complaints yet?

MOSSO's buddies are più and meno. Non TROPPO == "not too much" is a common tempo qualifier.

What a wonderful resource Wikipedia is. It's hard to imagine a world without it (or cellphones or microwave ovens, or the Internet, for that matter :-).

Larry the Musician (of sorts)

Elaine 4:34 PM  

Okay, Larry the Lurking Musician, here is why no protest:

TROPPO (as in, Allegro ma non troppo) is a term frequently seen in scores for solo instruments and for ensembles. MOSSO....not so mucho; that was obscure to almost everyone, with the exception of a music professor (!)...and the clue did not offer a toe-hold. Despite a lot of years of music instruction/ performance, I've never seen it on a score.

Interesting comments about Willy Wonka! The ads by themselves were off-putting I thank TOP CHEF for the Oompaloompa tip-off. (Hmm, come to think of it, one of the cheftestants was kinda wonka-creepy...)

Ben 4:53 PM  

Agreed, it was easy for a Saturday. Yesterday's puzzle was tougher than this.

Still, I smiled as I too thought of the Simpsons version of the Raven (see also Matt Gaffney's contest last week). "Quoth the Raven: eat my shorts."

Along with Homer and Ned yesterday, a lot of yellow people with bug eyes lately.

On a personal note, I have two friends who are making careers in Broadway world. One won a Tony for co-writing Avenue Q, the other won one for producing Spamalot. Me, I just wrote up Jersey Boys for an arts website. So I like this clue and answer.

See you in Feb., Rex.

miriam b 5:24 PM  

FOP is one of my all-time favorite words.

Puzzle was fun. I do wish Roald Dahl had stuck to creepy adult stories. Just thinking about the Wonka movie made me a bit dyspeptic.

Aside to andrea: My daughter Barbara will not be there tonight; she has other plans and will pop in at a later date. Connie's on the fence because she's still trying to find a friend to accompany her on the 45 min drive from Moorpark. Young teen daughter has a birthday party tonight and so hapless husband is dragooned into babysitting 4 & 6-y/o boys. Life gets teedjus, don't it? I'd email all this to you and spare the rest of the bloggers, but you are apparently incommunicada email-wise. If you do go I don't want you to go crazy looking for 2 more blondes.

Unknown 6:10 PM  

Any Saturday I can finish without help I guess is easy- although I am always a bit miffed to see Rex call it that, but I finished yesterday's as well and that was rated medium-challenging- so there.

Elaine: Ire is both a noun and a verb.

Clark 7:58 PM  

@Lurker0 -- My complaint with MOSSO was that it just means 'in motion' rather than 'rapidly (in motion)'. With the qualifier 'piu' it gets close to the sense of the clue ('rapidly') but not without it. TROPPO, on the the other hand, just means 'too much', so no problem.

Susan 9:04 PM  

@Shamik -- One can love Willy Wonka AND find it sinister and creepy! I know I do.

Elaine 9:29 PM  

(I am violating the 3 Rule just for YOU)

Yeah, yeah. I've already been told that re IRE. Constant misuse and defection by Webster's is not convincing me to accept
that IRE is other than a noun.

I can be irked, but not ired; tired, but not ired; mired by ire, but not ired by mire. IREst my case.

My question: why are no OTHER word-lovers out on the hustings, helping fight the good fight???

To the barricades!

mac 9:51 PM  

I have no idea if this puzzle was tough or not - I had to spread it around my Saturday because I had to be on a boat.

I liked it a lot, though! I wonder if knowing that Natan is this young skews your criticism. The words I loved were bonafine, esoterica, I'm a goner and bicameral, which I made up realizing what the diet was about, and I had never seen it before as far as I remember!

Love the clue/answer "perch, and thought there was more subtle clueing. The one clue that confused me was the "late pass" one; I thought the teacher somehow needed an excuse.

Have to admit I got "Roma" because the AOL welcome page had a very negative headline about him just a few days ago, and isn't he dating Jessica Simpson?

@Retired-chemist: I had to tell your chippendale story to my husband because I was making a lot of noise laughing, and even he thought it was funny (which means he got it)!!

Well, I had a great time on the sailboat race in NY harbor (around the Statue of Liberty) this afternoon. We came in second after America II skippered by DENNIS CONNER! The yacht we were on was the Black Watch, a more than 70 year old boat, beautiful and made for racing. I've been on nice sailboats before, but never in a race. There were at least three occasions where the sudden wind gusts were so hard that on one side the edge of the deck was under water and we were practically standing up straight on the other side. They call this "puffs"...... Every time we changed course we all had to crawl to the other side of the boat and hold on to anything we could find. It was a blast! When we finally came back to the marina we attacked a couple of huge platters of sandwiches and went home to have hot showers and baths.

dk 10:15 PM  

Willy Wonka (original) was the most requested film by the individuals who had undergone a severe psychotic break (locked ward, secure facility, prognosis-not so good) when I was a resident... errr intern. These folks had little or no contact with reality until it came to making the Friday movie night request. Eyes would focus, veils would lift and Willy Wonka would be requested. There would be no outbursts, seizures, etc. Just a pleasant movie night. Well, there was some cheering when the kid exploded.

How do you treat swine flu? With Oinkment,
What do you do with Avian flu? Tweet it.

@Andrea Cougar M. Tsk, tsk ;)

Anonymous 10:44 PM  

I usually only do the Sunday puzzle. Today, as I waited for my 7 year old daughter to finish her Nutcracker rehearsal, I decided to pick up the NYTimes to take a stab at the Saturday puzzle.

So I was amused by the coincidence of plie and pirouette finding their way into this puzzle as my daughter was executing her plies and pirouettes.

I knew, by virtue of the fact that I was able to finish this puzzle, that it would be rated easy. But at least I can now say that I have finished a Saturday puzzle.

fikink 11:31 PM  

Iowa still undefeated - YES!

fergus 11:34 PM  

Tres amusant, Elaine.

The Canterbury Tales and the Raven haven proven to be useful knowledge this week. As I pointed out to my classes, these were both as popular as any current rap. My students actually got what I was saying about why these were good, when we recognized 150 or over 600 years of being worthwhile entertainment, wasn't just academic bullshit.

One last plug for the Wife of Bath tale ... for any 2009 Cougar, especially. She's the original -- in middle English anyway.

fergus 11:57 PM  


Glad that some fans can celebrate, unlike Larry the Lurker and me. When in Berkeley last weekend after a shabby loss to USC, some ardent bloke told us how he was still so devoted to the team. My interest was already lost, as I guess it always was through association with football team and University.

Nonetheless, I hope the Hawkeyes prevail -- and that the University of California doesn't suffer too much from the fiscal and sociological abstemiousness that is currently threatening by the hand of a despairing state government.

Presque le temps pour sortie

slypett 11:58 PM  

Paul: With regard to Elaine's opinion: Ignore at your peril! I entirely agree with her that the use of ire as a verb is irksome. It don't sound keerect. Even though it is, according to Webster's, in the language, it's by a hangnail. If I were to say, "You have ired me, sir!" you would find it comical. As I am in no mood to be funny, I do not say this, for indeed you've given me the occasion to outwit you.

liquid el lay 3:45 AM  

There are a lot of write-overs on my puzzle- I thought it to be kind of difficult.


When I finally saw ORBIT "Shell alternative" (as in electron shells, orbits) Off the B and I, I was very pleased and I knew this was a hard puzzle. MARKS brought me back to earth and to a MOBIL gas station. Oh well.

It was a hard puzzle for me, much harder than yesterday's, but the eventual resolution was not fantastically exiting. PIROUETTE, though, very nice. That turning thing again.

Oh, and SPAMALOT. That name's got to make you smile.

And ALP. I liked that thing piercing the clouds when it finally did show.

Unknown 1:40 PM  

re: IRE- I know what you mean Elaine. As the great Douglas Adams said, 'Verbing weirdens language.'

Nebraska Doug 9:45 AM  

I came here expecting to find more comments on "GHOST" and the clue Word Game. I've never heard of it. I thought my wife would have heard of it, being a career elementary school teacher, but she had never heard of it either. I learned something, one of the reasons I love xwords, always learning something new.

mrbinkey04 8:11 PM  

It's funny to read that people had trouble with ZAC Efron, which was a huge gimme for me, while I have never heard of OLD IRONSIDES and needed almost every cross in order to solve that clue. Overall, though, it was still just as easy as I thought yesterday's was. I have to say, though, that if a 24 year-old solver (such as moi) is expected to know movie actors from the '30s, I think it's perfectly fair to include JC CHASEZ and ZAC Efron in puzzles, because I like a gimme or two just as much as anyone else. Show us WHIPPER SNAPPERS some love!

Singer 10:59 PM  

Again with the crap about mosso. Troppo, like mosso is always used with other words in a musical instruction, but I have seen mosso far more frequently than troppo. Troppo was well clued, and is a perfectly good word for use in a puzzle, not being any more obscure to someone with a musical background than the uniform number of a bygone NY Yankee is to a Yankee fan, or even to a serious baseball fan.

The puzzle was easy for a Saturday, yes, but there were lots of great clues. The only issue I had with the fill was DAT which was exceedingly lame. I got ZAC by getting esoterica (had ZAK at first).

Not bad for a Saturday when you are confined to bed with an awful headcold.

boardbtr 11:13 PM  

Strange -- didn't see any comments about the two "snaps" in the grid.
Far from easy for me.

Christina Chambreau 8:19 AM  

Rex - I STRONGLY suggest you see Spamalot. Greene, I had never seen (or did not remember) the HOly Grail and I laughed constantly from the moment I opened the program and read about the Finns throughout the first half and most of the second half.

Were I in NYC, that is the one play I would see again. I loved it.

Ghost in the puzzle was a stumper for me and still don't get the clue, though I have the letters.

WilsonCPU 11:40 AM  

From SyndicationLand: By far the easiest Saturday we (puzzle-wife and I) have encountered, in fact disappointingly so. We kept waiting for it to get harder (no jokes, please)... at least there were some clever clues.

Anonymous 3:27 PM  

I still don't understand the PARSONS thing.

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