Wagnerian heroine — SATURDAY, Oct. 31 2009 — Escapee who fell to his death in sea / Brilliantly dressed cavalrymen / Pneumatic power producer

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Constructor: Robert H. Wolfe

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: er, none

Word of the Day: GANTRIES (15A: Spanning frameworks) n., pl., -tries.
  1. A mount for a traveling crane consisting of a large archlike or bridgelike frame designed to move along a set of tracks.
  2. A similar spanning frame supporting a group of railway signals over several tracks.
  3. Aerospace. A massive vertical frame structure used in assembling or servicing a rocket, especially at a launch site.
  4. A support for a barrel lying on its side.

[Middle English ganter, gauntre, wooden stand for barrels, from Old North French gantier, wooden frame, from Latincanthērius, from Greek kanthēlios, pack ass, from kanthēlia, panniers at the side of a pack-saddle.]


I appreciated the workout, I did. And I learned something about myself today, which is that TERRENE is a gimme (50A: Earthly). Scary. But all in all there was just too much -ER action for me to enjoy this much. Actually, the problem was bigger than the SERENER MARRER (21A: Less agitated + 38D: Graffitist, e.g.) and the SNEERERS with their ESTERS (48A: Disdainful bunch + 34D: Ingredients in essences). The problem was the DEARTH (26A: Opposite of a surplus) of letters with a Scrabble value higher than one. It's all -ER, -ERS, -IER, -TES, -EST, over and over and over. The NW is my favorite corner by a mile, if only because nothing up there feels made-up, and there are Cs and Ps and even a V! God bless the V! CARAPACE is a lovely word (3D: Shell). But once you get out of the NW, eek.

Started in the NW with the -ER in what turned out to be FISHIER (
1D: Comparatively shady), and then the ET ALIA off of that (22A: Plus other things). The -TED ending of what turned out to be ACCENTED (2D: Spotlit, say) helped me get RECTO (24A: One side of a leaf) and DEARTH, and I built up from there via TRAVOLTA (4D: He played a governor in "Primary Colors"). Never heard of SENTA (14D: Wagnerian heroine), which means I probably have heard of it, in some puzzle, somewhere. Wagner heroines are very big in puzzles. SW came next, and that quadrant took me longer by far than any other, even with SNEERERS and TERRENE going across really early. Wanted POST for MAST (44D: Yard supporter), and wouldn't have gotten MARRER in a trillion years without considerable crosses. Had PERMEATE where MARINATE belonged (44A: Imbue with flavor, in a way). Couldn't think of anything related to "enamel" except teeth, so PRIMER took a while (39D: It may be under enamel). Should be grateful to the Es and Rs down here, since I had most of them. It's the As and Ms that kept hiding.

["Just Like HEAVEN" (18A: Good resting place?)]

Hurray for French class and odd bouts of art appreciation — DANSEUSES (6D: Frequent Degas subjects) let me into the NE, which might have been impenetrable otherwise. ENDICOTT!!? I was stunned to see this in the grid. It's as close as I'll ever come to seeing my place of residence in the puzzle (probably). ENDICOTT (17A: Upstate New York town whre I.B.M. was founded) is literally down the street. Wife and daughter take karate there. David Sedaris lived there for a while as a child. So I lucked out there as well. That corner went down in about a minute, despite my not really knowing HUSSARS (23A: Brilliantly dressed cavalrymen).The SE was my last stand, and like the SW, it took a while. "ED WOOD" was easy (28A: Johnny Depp title role), but I couldn't drop a damn thing down off of it. Tried WISTERIA where WATER OAK (!? 29D: Tree of Southeastern swamplands) was supposed to go. Was eventually saved by the unlikeliest of heroes: "ERES TU" (45A: 1974 pop hit with Spanish lyrics)! That, and OPERETTA (30D: Johann Strauss), a form I didn't know J. Strauss ever wrote. I just ran through the alphabet for that second letter (OA, OB, OC...) and when I hit "P" I knew OPERETTA was right. Wanted SAENS (41D: Saint-_____ (Fauré contemporary)) and SATIRE (49A: Biting writing) pretty early on, but took a while to get good confirmation. Last letter was the "R" at STERNA (41A: Axial skeleton parts) / ORRISOIL (31D: Perfume ingredient) — which I parsed ORRI SOIL. Done and done. Googled ORRI SOIL to see what it is. Got nothing. Wondered how it could possibly be wrong. Then moved the "S" onto the first word, giving me ORRIS OIL. Googled that — bingo!

  • 13A: Escapee who fell to his death in the sea (Icarus) — first thing I thought of, despite not remembering what in the world he "escaped" from (turns out he was trying to escape Crete, where he was imprisoned, along with his father, by King Minos).
  • 46A: Pneumatic power producer (air motor) — one big key to solving SW was figuring that -TOR could be the ending of MOTOR. Before that, I was assuming the answer would be one word.

That's it.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


ChemVA 1:38 AM  

Any chance you can reduce the text size back to its previous level? Big characters are soooooo 1998.

Rex Parker 1:54 AM  

Yeah, OK. I'll tinker. Or just install Firefox on my new computer (currently using Safari) and maybe that will right the ship.


Elaine 2:08 AM  

wow. Note to self: do not get up in night and try to solve Saturday's puzzle! Despite getting all of the NW and the SE...and even knowing HUSSARS, I came to a screeching halt.

Had VANDAL for MARRER; removed ORCHESTRA and BRASSBAND and was *never* going to think of SHOEHORN even after I went ahead with DEARTH.
There was almost nothing to Google! though that is how I got ENDICOTT.

Worst of all, even though I suspected a female "unrequited lover," the Lily Maid did not come to mind. D'oh.
This puzzle totally whacked me!

andREa denatuRE michaels 3:33 AM  

Can think of a better more Sn Francisco-y clue for NOT OUT.

NOT OUT tonight bec just finished Day One of 3-day Scrabble tournament where we play 9-5 and my brain is bleeding.
Gonna do the whole thing again tomorrow, dressed as a devil.

Scrabble tip: SATIRE + almost any letter will give you a bingo.

Gist was that Trip Payne is in town, one of the few overlappers in the SCRABBLE/CROSSWORD Venn Diagram...

So, Crossword. I agree WAY too many ERs!!!!!! ALmost evERy word in the puzzle had an ER...
Some had TWO sets: SNEERERS and SERENER which are almost anagrams.

AND every word that didn't have ER had RE:
SHOESTORE (Do they still use shoehorns?!), RECTO, APRES, EMPIRES, SATIRE, IGNORE, DENATURE (Now THERE's an ugly word!)
so I think it's just the natuRE of words...
TERRENE (LAST word for me) has both ER and RE!)

I mean even HUSSARS has an ER if you forget to change ARCANE to ARCANA like I did/n't.

I too had PERMEATE which led to PASS for me as a Yard support...
(I can't believe I thought it was a football clue!)

So who is this unrequited ELAINE??!
I'm assuming it's not a Seinfeld reference.

Nullifidian 3:51 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nullifidian 3:53 AM  

Senta is the soprano role in Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman).

Senta is something of an obsessive fangirl when it comes to the Flying Dutchman, a captain cursed to sail the seas in spectral form for seven years, after which he gets one day of respite to find a wife who will be true to him. This is the only way he can break the curse.

He bargains with Daland to marry his daughter, Senta, in the first act. Then in the second act, Senta moons over the Flying Dutchman and is stalked by her former boyfriend, Erik the huntsman.

The third act sees Senta running to meet her beloved, but Erik appears and accuses her of breaking her pledge to remain true to him. The Dutchman overhears this and, certain that he is lost forever, departs on another seven year voyage. But Senta leaps off a cliff into the sea, vowing to be faithful unto death—which will be in about ten seconds—and saves the Dutchman. His ghostly ship dissipates and he is seen rising to heaven together with the spirit of Senta. Curtain.

It surprises me that you haven't heard of her, because The Flying Dutchman is, aside from Lohengrin (with its famous Bridal Chorus), probably the most widely performed Wagner opera.

matt 9:03 AM  

Funny that this grid is almost the opposite of yesterday's: no long answers and no 3-letter answers. I was able to get the entire West and not much else -- definitely difficult.

Besides the -er's, it also seemed like almost every word had an S at the end, either as a pural noun or present tense verb (which was actually what allowed me to get SSTS).

Bill from NJ 9:49 AM  

Hi Andrea Happy 50th-

Elaine fell in love with Lancelot to no avail - part of the King Arthur legend

dk 9:50 AM  

Back to the bad old days for me. Got off to a quick start---did not finish.

Thought the IBM city was one that ended in a k, could not move from compressor to AIRMOTOR and the french spelling of dancers eluded me.

Thus, I fell off a cliff into the sea. Not enough wax in my wings i guess.

@null(ETALIA), Thank you the synopsis I had forgotten the Flying Dutchman. Once had a book of Opera "stories" that I used to read to my son when he was 3 or so. Great bedtime reading.

Denise 10:02 AM  

I was an IBM kid in Poughkeepsie, and when I was ten, all the daddies were transferred to various cities across the US. My BFF moved to Endicott. I took a small commuter plane to visit her! WOW -- what a treat. IBM was so much fun for kids -- country club, fireworks, trips. And, who knew, a big help in doing today's puzzle -- ENDICOTT was my first entry.

I really struggled with this, and had a few errors and two blanks in the end. Didn't get GEISHA -- cannot believe it -- I knew what it should be, a foreign word for companion -- and I have even been in Kyoto. There it sat: -EIS-

Meg 10:05 AM  

I got the NW and the SE and died on the vine. Thought "slight" was an adjective and "tears" were related to onion PEELERS. I wanted to scream for missing GEISHA!! And for awhile I wondered if Johnny Depp had played SINBAD (having only the D).

This was a meaty puzzle and a very good Saturday challenge.

Ulrich 10:06 AM  

The opposite grid from yesterday's: Four practically independent mini-puzzles with no black squares inside, as opposed to one that is chopped into a myriad of 3-word answers. It scared me, especially as my first scanning of the clues revealed no gimmes. But I was able to solve it in three sessions during the night w/o help. My biggest complaint is exactly this: Not much connection between the quarters so that solving one gives you almost no head-start in the others. Ah, and yes, all those ERs...

Since we have covered The Flying Dutchman extensively, I will only add that during one year, I was known to the students in design studio as "The Flying Deutschman"

On to "Die Fledermaus" (known in English by that turn-off of a name, "The Bat") by Strauss: In my opinion, the best German operetta ever written--it describes the escapades of several Viennese during a New Year's Eve Celebration. Most famous number:

"Glücklich ist,
wer vergisst,
was nicht mehr zu ändern ist."

Happy he
who forgets
what cannot be changed.

bookmark 10:07 AM  

I love the new text size, Rex. Much easier on the eyes. After all, we're not Twittering.

submariner_ss 10:07 AM  

A bit hard to get started, but then they all fell quickly like toy soldiers.

The Strauss clue was diabolical, as there were three composers of that name (I, II, III)and several others of notable talent in that Austrian family.

While Endicott was a gimme (well,I have been around a long time and have absorbed a lot of trivia), but it ranks with Natick (which is a few miles down the road from my house) as obscure.

Today is October 31. Where is the Halloween puzzle? November 1???

Leslie 10:15 AM  

Hmm. I really don't care about there being lots of "re" and "er" in answers; to me it's more about the nature/difficulty/non-ubiquity of the clue and answer than their actual letter construction. So I liked this one a lot, with the exception of "sneerers" and "serener."

SO wanted "gantries" to be "trestles, and "marrer" to be "tagger." Didn't know about "Elaine," and have not heard of "water oaks," so those took me a while.

Lovedlovedloved some clue/answer sets like "heaven" for "good resting place" and "primer" for "may be under enamel." And thought, "Ah, it's good to be old," when I threw in "Eres Tu" immediately.

Otherwise, NOTHING in this was immediate for me--great workout!!

The Corgi of Mystery 10:31 AM  

Rex, I think I filled in the NW in the exact same order that you did. Flew through the SW, and did the SE in OK time thanks to a blind guess of OPERETTA off ED WOOD, and SATIRE from that. The NE, however, was my Waterloo...I must have stared at blank space for a good 10-15 minutes before GEISHA off SASE finally came to the rescue.

As far as sub 60-word puzzles go, I thought the fill was as good as it gets. Not my favorite kind of themeless to solve though. Grids like these tend to suffer from an all-or-nothing problem; either you get a good foothold in a quadrant and everything falls very rapidly, or else you get completely stuck (almost my experience today).

Badir 10:37 AM  

As a mathematician, I'll just say it: No, we never use SUPERIOR for superscripts! That's just weird!

The NW was pretty easy, so I thought the puzzle wouldn't be such a challange. But every other quadrant made me work. The third thing I put in the SE, after ERES TU and KALES, was MANGROVE for 29D, which made me take out KALES. Aren't they there? And that caused lots of pain down there. In the NE I had SSTS and METERS and nothing for ages; I think half my time was up there.

Van55 10:37 AM  

To repeat myself from earlier this week, SSTS is just lazy. It was more cleverly clued this time however.

Agree that this was a challenge.

joho 10:39 AM  

When I saw Wolfe at the top I thought, yay, Halloween puzzle! Not.

I completed in order from NW, SW, SE to NE. Had mundane before TERRENE, Edward (as in Scissorhands) before ED WOOD. Wisteria, white oak before WATER OAK.

NE was harderer than the other quandrants because I didn't want to write in SERENER. I also balked at INDORSED, even though I knew it was a Var.

I did get it done between last night and this morning and feel good about the fact that Rex rated this Challenging.

I thank Mr. Wolfe but would have liked a wolfier puzzle for Halloween. AHH-WOOOOO!

@Ulrich ... thank you for "Happy he who forgets what cannot be changed."

Understatementjones 10:39 AM  

Dear God, I wanted HUSSARS to be ZOUAVES so badly. I knew early on it was not to be, but still... ZOUAVES!

Before I die I will see that word in a puzzle, and it will be a glorious day.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:55 AM  

UnderstatementJones beat me to the mention of them -- I also really wanted them to be the answer to "Brilliantly dressed cavalrymen" -- but here is a picture of Zouaves. Unfortunately for both of us, they are infantry, not cavalry.

Quite a puzzle despite the low Scrabble value. I was happy just to finish it!

Two write-overs: 6 A, Makes less offensive, went from DEFANGS to DEBARBS before landing at DISARMS. And, stupid, stupid, stupid, for 29 D, Tree of Southeastern swamplands, I at first put in SWAMPOAK (yes, I know, I know) before WATEROAK.

ArtLvr 11:23 AM  

As repetitive as some of the common letters are, those quadruple and triple 8-stacks look quite impressive! Like Ulrich, I did half last night, NW and SE, then finished this morning...

The SW took me longest even though I had THREATEN, ESTERS and SHOESTORE for entrées. Too many lovers of legend whose ardor was unrequited. Too many possibilites that "rise and fall periodically": from tides to closer Futures (stock market). Mundane for Earthly slowed me up also, but then I saw EMPIRES, IGNORE, MARINATE, and MAST so that corner finally fell.

Elsewhere, I wanted Live Oak, never heard WATER OAK. I'm familiar with ORRIS root, not the OIL. No DEARTH of difficult spots, but I still must salute Mr. Wolfe. A satisfying challenge!

slypett 11:23 AM  


Noam D. Elkies 11:30 AM  

The NYTimes xword blog suggests that reactions such as Ulrich's "it scared me" are to be expected in a Halloween puzzle :-)

@Van55: fill like SSTS that might be a copout early in the week must be fair game for a task construction such as this one — we shouldn't complain about 13D:SSTS and 25A:SASE when they're two of only four letters shorter than five letters! Ditto the -ER words and low Scrabble scores (though yes, there's a sprinkling of higher-scoring letters, including both W and K in 29D:WATEROAK).


Anonymous 11:31 AM  

Props to Mr. Wolfe for a fine feat of construction. Yesterday there were lots of admiring comments about the architecture of David Wilkes' grid, along with complaints about the two-bits fill. As a non-constructor, I want to register awe and admiration for a grid that has 4 blocks of 7 x 5, each with not a single black square in its interior. Not to mention the complete absence of 3-letter words from the entire puzzle and tons of lively and unfamiliar entires, like CARAPACE, ORRIS OIL, and MARINATE. I'm a lot happier with the -ERS and -RES than with the encyclopedia of crosswordese that we encountered yesterday.

retired_chemist 11:41 AM  

Any Saturday in under 20 minutes, even with non-puzzle wife giving me the D for E_WOOD, can't be challenging. And yet it felt harder than that. Each quadrant provided a tough start, but once a couple of crosses were in place stuff was not all that hard. Hand up for PERMEATE.

Solving order SE SW NE NW. A gimme or three in all quadrants except the NW. ENDICOTT, HUSSARS, ARCANA, ERES TU, SALUTES, SAENS, TERRENE (Née TERRINE). Still took thought all over.

Enjoyable Saturday. Thanks, Mr. Wolfe.

Absence last week due to Golden Retriever National Specialty (I am Western Director). Pepper,now now a grandmother with three (soon to be four) litters of grandpups, received a Judge's Award of Merit, of which I am very proud. Puppy photo updates soon.

PlantieBea 11:46 AM  

Crashed in the NE and had to look up ENDICOTT. Should have known GANTRIES since the ship building town where I grew up in has a very prominent one. Did not know HUSSERS. The SE was the easiest corner for me, and the rest fell gradually before the big halt in the NE.

There are plenty of water oaks down here in wetter areas. Their leaves are shaped like a large (2 to 4 inches), rounded spatulas. I started this puzzle last night, and noticed WATER OAKS mentioned in the Alice Munro story (set in Canada) I was reading. They must grow in the north, as well.

ArtLvr 11:49 AM  

p.s. re 1D FISHIER and its clue "Shady" -- I must note that I just got a pre-publication copy of "Dark Life", an underwater sci-fi tale for young adults: first work in print by my daughter, Kat Falls. Very exciting! Please wish us luck with sales starting in a few months?


Smitty 11:53 AM  

@Ulrich I agree - the worst part was struggling through an isolated quadrant only to realize none of that success would spill into hints for another part of the puzzle.
Laughable guesses
TRUSSES for GANTRIES (didn't fit)

It's amazing I eventually got them all but I did
(with one exception - I had ARCANE for ARCANA wrong)

edith b 11:54 AM  

Like @Ulrich, this one presented in 4 discreet segments with limited entiries among segments.

I solved the 4 puzzles like this: NW SE NE then finally SW.

The DEARTH EDWOOD line got me started to a close. This is a very disjointed post but then so was the puzzle. The SERENER/INDORSED cross was as hideous as it gets. I didn't think SERENER was Saturday-worthy and resisted it and I define var as normal word misspelled and could be anything.

SNEERERS finaly got me going in the SW but I had so many errors there. I wanted some form of aerator for 46A and stayed married to PERCOLATE until ELAINE finally appeared and it was all downhill from there.

Far too many oddjobs and this was as unsatisfying a puzzle as I remember.

I finally solved it with no errors but, boy, it was a struggle that I don't wish to repeat

retired_chemist 11:55 AM  

@ Smitty - wanted (D.B.) COOPER too but fortunately could not remember his name until you posted....

mccoll 12:15 PM  

Got it! This was a bit of a challenge but there were some ugly nearly non-words/poor usage. SERENER, MARRER, INDORSED. What's that about? Also, TERRENE is a word except no one ever uses it. I liked ICARUS above HEAVEN GEISHA beside DANSEUSES and ESTERS with ORRISOIL.
Badir a Zouave is a foot soldier, but he is brilliantly dressed.
ED WOOD must be the only Johnny Depp film I haven't seen.
Good job RHW, but way too many ER?RE words for me.

Two Ponies 12:16 PM  

I was surprised by the things I did and did not know.
Four mini-puzzles that beat me up pretty badly.
Air motor seems both too obvious and possibly a made up word.
Largest for "lion's share" is not really correct. The lion's share is the entire share. He gets it all and you get nothing.
@ r_c, Wondered where you had been. Glad it was for a fun reason. On the other end of the spectrum I wonder how foodie is doing.

retired_chemist 12:30 PM  

ENID OK is where the Golden National was. Eminently crossworthy......

Stan 12:47 PM  

Pleased enough with myself for getting three of the four corners before giving up on SE, where one of my few correct guesses (DENATURE) seemed to prove the totally wrong PREPUB, which seemed to prove WISTERIA. Such tangled webs we weave...

Orange 1:05 PM  

Badir, thank you for saying you mathy types don't use SUPERIOR for superscript. (Just as I suspected.) I asked about that at my blog but I don't think anyone answered me over there.

Anonymous 1:06 PM  

Although people often get confused about the early days of IBM, this puzzle got it right. The company was, in fact, incorporated in Endicott.

A little IBM trivia:

--Although Tom Watson is referred to as the founder of IBM, he didn't join the company until three years after a financier combined three companies in a merger and formed what later became known as IBM.

--The company's name, at birth, was the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company.

--Its big money-maker was industrial clocks.

--One of its main lines of business was meat slicers.

--The tabulating business, which, of course, became the core of IBM, was based on a mechanical device that originated as a loom.

--The company didn't become known as IBM until 13 years after its founding, when Watson decided the company needed a name grand enough to match his aspirations.

--Although Watson and IBM became known for strict standards of morality, Watson was a convicted felon at the time he joined IBM, because of some funny business that went on at NCR when he was there. In a later retrial, charges were dropped.

Leslie 1:07 PM  

@Retired Chemist: What a lovely golden girl you've got there! Our male golden would be laughed out of the show ring because of his freakishly large frame.

@ArtLvr: Fingers crossed that your daughter's sales go through the roof! Congratulations to her for getting published!!

mac 2:04 PM  

I had a perfect Saturday workout. I needed three sessions, but got the whole thing without help.

I had doubters for "sneerers", tried to put in -ennes or -ettes for 35A and, like Elaine, a vandal and a brass band, but I had an unusual number of good first impulses, such as "not out", Eres Tu, heaven and serener. I like "terrene", figured it out but I'm not sure if I've heard or seen it before. I find the clue for 10D Rioter iffy, and had to choose between an I and an E for disarms and indorsed. Either way one of them looked funny.

Great work, Mr. Wolfe.

bluebell 2:08 PM  

Word usage is fascinating. I realized that if I said someone is "going abroad," in my mind it means Europe. Someone traveling to Japan is traveling to Japan, or to the Far East. Well, maybe if I said someone was "living abroad" I could have a more general meaning in mind. Anyway I was looking for a French or German companion, until the rest of the NE block set me straight.

I, too, got Icarus immediately, but didn't remember that he was escaping. In my memory he was disobeying his father.

William Carlos Williams 2:18 PM  

According to Brueghel
When Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling

the edge of the sea
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings' wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

Leslie 2:43 PM  

@William Carlos Williams--Thank you! I saw this poem on a blog a year or two ago; it's unsettling, as is Brueghel's landscape. Imagine his mindset, in his day and age, painting this busy but peaceful scene with poor Icarus just a pair of splayed legs disappearing into the water . . .

So intensely modern in its (to me, at least) nihilism. Maybe Brueghel himself would have a completely different explanation?

Anyway, three and out. Happy Halloween, all.

Clark 2:44 PM  

Like @Joho, I had 'Edward' instead of EDWOOD. That killed me cause I knew the EDW__D was right, and took that for confirmation. So I had some nonsense where OPERETTA and ORRISOIL crossed APRES and ERESTU. I'm happy to have gotten the rest of it. The NE was tough. Giving up 'Stares' for STILES in order to fit in ISOLATES is what broke it open for me.

'Like the 2 in "x squared"' read to me like a comment on the symbol string referred to by the quoted expression. There was no reason to think that what was being clued had to do with the way mathematicians think about it.

@retired_chemist: Pepper is a beauty!

(No type size problems here. It just take two fingers to the touch pad on my MacBook to size text as I like it.)

HudsonHawk 3:37 PM  

This one started as Medium in the NW and SE, but by the time I finished in the NE, it was a solid Challenging. SCORNERS before SNEERERS held me up in the SW, and ESPOSA for GEISHA made it really tough to get a foothold in the NE.

Had heard of ENDICOTT, but wasn't sure if it was an I or an A in the middle. Great Saturday challenge, in spite of the ERs. Agree with Rex, the NW was my fave quadrant.

Greene 3:42 PM  

Ouch to the 4th power! One Saturday puzzle is generally hard enough without having to work through 4 mini-Saturday puzzles! I got the SE completed first and actually found it to be the easiest of the 4 puzzles, likely because I got ED WOOD, OPERETTA, and SATIRE pretty quickly. I worked counterclockwise from there. MARINATE was a complete guess, but provided entry into the SW which had more ERs per square inch than I have ever seen in a puzzle.

NW was a stumper for me for a long time until I suddenly just wrote in DEARTH off the TH leftover from the SW. Then remembered TRAVOLTA was in Primary Colors. The V gave me HEAVEN and things finally got rolling there.

Then there was the NE. That was tough. Got SSTS because of the plurals and METERS wasn't too hard. Then...nothing. Wife helped me spell DANSEUSES and then the HUSSARS appeared. ENDICOTT was a total guess assisted by some fortuitous fill and I've never heard of GANTRIES. Thank God for GEISHAs or I'd still be working on that corner. (Taking that sentence out of context could really get me in trouble).

Glad to have finally finished. Whew. All those blocks of black letters look like hammers which have been pounding me for the last hour. Might not be a bad idea to go get hammered right now. Where's IMSDave when you need him?

joho 4:20 PM  

@ArtLvr ... Kat Falls is such a cool name, I wish her much success with her book!

@Retired_Chemist ... Pepper is such a pretty girl!

I've got to go figure out my costume. Usually I'm a cat, but this year I'm wearing all brown and am taping oak leaves to the cat ears headband and tying a yellow ribbon around my neck. A few oak leaves stuck on me hear and there and I'm the old oak tree.

Happy Halloween everybody!

chefwen 4:28 PM  

@ArtLvr - Congrats to your daughter for getting published, that is quite an accomplishment.

@Ret_Chem - Pepper is one fine looking dog, fell in love with her Happy Face.

Re. the puzzle - Can't say, did not finish, felt like Greene with the pounding hammers. OUCH!

archaeoprof 4:42 PM  

Thanks, Rex, for rating this one "challenging." My toughest Saturday in a long time.

Thanks, Ulrich, for helping me understand why. Four tough little puzzles, and solving one was no help at all with the others.

It didn't help that when I asked biology-prof-non-puzzle wife if "axial skeletal parts" could be STERNA, and she replied, "Not really."

chefbea 5:07 PM  

Tough puzzle today. Couldn't finish - had to come here.

Several years ago I worked for Olive Watson - Tom Watson's wife. What a lovely lady. What a beautuful home right on the water in Greenwich. She has also passed away and part of Greenwich hospital is "The Watson Pavillion"

Jeffrey 5:22 PM  

ALAN ALDA has three letters in common with TRAVOLTA. That led me to a NW corner so wrong, it may qualify as my first constructed puzzle.

Clark 5:37 PM  

@Crosscan -- congratulations on the construction. We probably couldn't make sense of things at all if we didn't have the tendency to find sense even where there isn't any. (Kantian thought for the day.)

Unknown 5:39 PM  

Oh, CrossCan, that is very funny. I think I would prefer yours and that is sight unseen.

Just did the Sunday puzzle (home delivery) and it restored my benevolent spirit.

arlvr, WOW.

fergus 5:57 PM  

Auden's ICARUS from Breugel is good, too.

Got stuck with EDWARD as in Scissorhands for a bit and AMIES being the friendly followers, like one's lady twitter troupe?

Also,TAGGER was an obvious entry that stuck around until it MARRED that SW corner.

Still don't like the exponent Clue, but otherwise a fine puzzle that served its distraction purposes perfectly. (There were a couple of annoying issues I was avoiding this morning -- and an Xword, especially a workout such as this, provides a thorough escape.)

Elaine 6:02 PM  


I will expand on Bill from NJ's response.

ELAINE the fair, Elaine the beautiful, Elaine the Lily Maid of Astolat (sp?)....was indeed smitten by hunky old Launcelot (who had eyes only for Guinevere.) Elaine couldn't get so much as a wink, I take it, and pined away. She floated away on a bier down a river, and Launcelot, looking idly down from a bridge, comments briefly (something like "She hath a pretty face,") and forgets her. I mean, the poor woman could NOT get a break!

@ All the other Non-completers:
I am glad I'm not alone. That puzzle mashed me up like a boiled rutabaga...

sanfranman59 6:06 PM  

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)

Thu 23:02, 18:31, 1.24, 95%, Challenging
Fri 23:20, 25:59, 0.90, 24%, Easy-Medium
Sat 31:43, 28:36, 1.11, 76%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 10:34, 8:56, 1.18, 87%, Challenging
Fri 12:12, 12:22, 0.99, 50%, Medium
Sat 18:19, 16:33, 1.11, 80%, Medium-Challenging

W. H. Auden 6:16 PM  

@Fergus - for an extra five cents you could provide a direct link to my poem about Icarus.

Hobbyist 6:20 PM  

Even more than I want to be featured in a puzzle, I desire a puzzle with the theme of root vegetables a la rutabaga, turnip, squash...Any of those will suffice.
Maybe a vegan theme?

chefwen 6:32 PM  

@Hobbyist - Don't forget the much adored beet!

retired_chemist 7:13 PM  

@ chefwen -

I read "...much adored beer."

That too.....

fergus 7:21 PM  

Sorry to be so lazy W.H. Your poem up very recently so I thought it was fairly fresh in some minds -- yet the reference was extra-Rex, so I ought to have included the link and not been so stingy with my nickel. Now I've have to check whether WCW's take preceded yours.

chefbea 7:28 PM  

I second that... gotta have beets

Hobbyist 7:48 PM  

And handkase mit musik as a tribute to the omnipresent Ulrich. A perfect accompaniment to beets and other root veg.

Sexton, Field, Rukeyser, Hemp and Shaffer 7:59 PM  

Hey, we all wrote poems about Icarus too. (Fair warning - turn down the sound on your computer before clicking on this link!)

Stephen Dedalus 8:00 PM  

Auden - 1938

Williams - 1962

mac 8:05 PM  

@ret-chem: that would have to be rootbeer!

chefbea 8:17 PM  

@mac very good lol

Elaine 8:29 PM  

You guys have gone too deep for me.

Root, root, root for the home team....

retired_chemist 8:29 PM  

@ mac, chefbea - LOL!

mac 8:33 PM  

Home team? Go Yankees! If only the rain would stop..... The guys in this house are falling asleep: too much good food, wine and replays of Thursday's game.

If you want a real Halloween puzzle go to Crossynergy today.

fergus 8:42 PM  

Portrait Guy,

I had a sense that the Williams poem followed on from Auden's take on the relative importance of the image, so thank you for doing the research.


Critic 9:24 PM  

Shaffer wins

fergus 9:51 PM  

Do you mean the occasional crossword beer, or is Shaffer too obscure a referential lure for Icarian offspring?

I'm dodging trick or treaters before joining the obscure falling to the depths.

jae 9:59 PM  

West side medium-challenging for me but the East side very very tough. Had EDWARD and TRESTLES which meant the East took forever. Thanks for the Challenging rating Rex, makes me feel better.

Sfingi 10:37 PM  

@Anon 1:06 - Where does Armonk fit in to IBM history?

@Ulrich - beautiful German almost-Haiku. Reminds me of the AA serenity prayer, but more succinct. My mother, who doesn't remember my father, remembers music, including a few German Lieder! So strange.

Today, the crossword was way beyond me. In such a dense puzzle, if you go for Freia instead of SENTA, or fries instead of APRES,or Donnie or Brasco instead of EDWOOD, you're lost. I decided to read this to learn something. Indeed, I did. But I'll step back to Wed. for a while.

Ulrich 1:24 AM  

@Hobbyist: Forget about the beets--beer is the accompaniment you need with Handkäse:-)

@Sfingi: ah yes, the things that float up, when one lets memory roam...

Robin 1:31 AM  

Hand-up for Donnie/Brasco...we really shoulda known better since the clue has the actor's first and last names...I even knew Johnny Depp was in Ed Wood, but it must not have been his most memorable performance, b/c I was pretty sure he didn't play Ed Wood. Edward Scissorhands didn't fit. Sigh.


Had sheepfarm for 25d for the same reason you questioned the actual answer


Beautiful Golden Girl. Congrats on the JAM! Bring on puppy pix!


Thanks for brutally honest and funny write-up as usual. Don't forget to set your clocks back, all.

fergus 1:06 AM  

... and to the depths I've fallen.

Yet by circumstance I am uplifted.

andrea boo! (who?) michaels 2:22 AM  

Thanks for the explanation of your namessake (or are you her namessake? Is namesake one s or two?)
How come no one had marKer instead of MARRER?
SO sad, came home to go to bed early before last day of tournament tomorrow (not doing well, someone played a 149 point word against me OVERNEAR which I challenged and it was good! I came overnear to punching her!)
but the 20somethings next door that share the echo-y space between our buildings are having a Halloween party...this does not bode well, esp with the time change. Will they be extra loud and drunk for an extra hour???!!!!

Mad Man 6:49 AM  

@fergus, 9:51 PM - "Schaefer is the one beer to have when you're having more than one."

william e emba 10:00 AM  

Fairly medium-difficult, except for the NE. I had SSTS and SASE, and nothing else. I was thinking of CENSORS, DECLAWS, DEFANGS as possible ways to remove offense, not DISARMS (despite this style of cluing having been used before). After way way too long, HUSSARS popped into my head, and then everything fell into place rather quickly.

I'm surprised no one has criticized the Latin list ender. The usual phrase used in English, if unabbreviated, is "ET ALII", not "ET ALIA", as in the puzzle. The Latin adjective used as a noun alius (masculine, nominative singular) means "other", and is alia in the feminine, and alium in the neuter. The respective nominative plurals are alii, aliae, and alia. In English, we pretty much use the masculine nominative plural, regardless of context. Certainly for a list of authors (which seems to be the official defined us of "et al.") the neuter plural is nonsense.

Yes, dictionaries list "ET ALIA". As far as I'm concerned, they are wrong. (Just like there are dictionaries that list "supercede" and "miniscule" as variants, or "infer" as a synonym for "imply". See REX STOUT Gambit chapter one for a great word connoisseur's reaction. Ugh.)

And yes, I did not know SENTA vs SENTI. SENTA was far more likely, but the NYT has consistently, to the best of my memory, always gone with ALII, never ALIA, over the past ten years.

Waxy in Montreal 4:06 PM  

From SyndiLand:
Wonder if while marinating for 5 weeks a puzzle can be denatured for, other than the NW, I found this one rather easy. Having taught IT history at one time, ENDICOTT was a gimme as were HUSSARS and DANSEUSES. Had TAGGER and then MARKER before MARRER as well as ORCHESTRA and BRASSBAND before SHOESTORE but otherwise must have been on the same wavelength as the Wolfeman. Oh, yeah, for the second time in just over a week, my local paper printed the formula in the 5D clue simply as x2 - well, fool me once...
Didn't think SENTA could possibly be right until from one of the more arcane reaches of my memory came the name of the onetime Austrian actress, SENTA BERGER.

BassManPDX 7:29 PM  

First puzzle (I do the syndicated) in a couple of weeks that I could not finish, so I do agree with "Challenging."

I managed to get all the fill in the SE with the help of some lucky guesses, plus a few solid answers elsewhere, such as the lovely CARAPACE, but then I stalled out. For 6d (Frequent Degas subjects), I tried DANCERS, BALLERINAS, and even ACTRESSES, but never got close to DANSEUSES. Shouldn't the clue have tipped the French answer somehow, like "Le sujet pour Degas"? (I'm sure that's not proper French).

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