Pseudopod formers — SATURDAY, Dec. 19 2003 — McCarthy cohort / Intraclub competition rankings / Casting device / Melliferous perhaps

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Constructors: Tyler Hinman and Byron Walden

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: QUI VIVE (15A: Alert) — n. A sentinel's challenge.

Idiom: on the qui vive — On the alert; vigilant: "a loathsome Dublin politico who is on the qui vive for . . . terrorists" (Julian Moynahan).

[French, (long) live who? (a sentry's challenge to determine a person's political sympathies) : qui, who + vive, third person sing. present subjunctive of vivre, to live.]


Found this very tough but not very entertaining. Love the (astonishingly timely) central crossing answers — ORAL ROBERTS (17D: "The Call" autobiographer) just died this past week and the CRIMSON TIDE (33A: Tigers' rival in the Southeastern Conference) will play for a National Championship in January (RB Mark Ingram just became the first player from that school — Alabama — to win the Heisman Trophy). The rest of the grid was mostly a chore, with all of the attempted entertainment in the clues, which were often too cute by half. I like a tough puzzle, but when the answers are mostly dull and the clues are so consciously forced into the realm of trickery and obscurity, then I start to lose the will to solve. Take little stuff like 21A: Cal ___ and 15D: Chili con ___ (Tex-Mex dish). My first guesses were TECH and CARNE, and there's no way I'm alone on that. I don't mind traps in general, but many of these clues were just screaming "trap!" But then when I would get the answers, there'd be no "AHA" or "WOW" moment. Just ... "huh, OK." None of the interlocking 15s did anything for me (though, again, some of the cluing is mighty imaginative, esp. on 10D: Thread used in briefs). The entire west coast was a slow, painful slog, mainly because I could not see the (seemingly redundant) FINAL in FINAL RESOLUTION (51A: Very end of a conflict) so the lower left section was a gaping hole. I mean ... I needed OCARINA (35D: Light wind) just to get into the SW, and I didn't even *know* OCARINA until I learned it (the hard way) at the 2008 Tournament.

[HORRIBLE TECHNICAL ERROR — I somehow deleted a chunk of text in here and cannot retrieve it .... attempting reconstruction. #$@#$!@!!!!! me.]

My failure to connect with today's puzzle is especially surprising, given that I can't remember ever not liking a puzzle by either of today's constructors. But after I crossed ORAL ROBERTS and CRIMSON TIDE, there just wasn't a lot of fun to be had. I wanted ECSTASY (23D: Transcendent state), but all I got was ... a TRIM DIE (22D: Casting device). Thanks, Santa.

Admittedly, some of my problem was my own damned ignorance, or pseudo(pod?!) ignorance — you know, not utter ignorance, but near-complete ignorance supplemented by a hazy ability to remember prior crosswords and make educated guesses. Take the NW. I couldn't do anything with
13A: Pseudopod formers, but then later, I guessed AMOEBAS, because it *felt* right. And it was. Same thing with 5D: Host of PBS's "Heritage: Civilization and the Jews" (Eban). Nothing, and then later ... "Hey, isn't there some famous Jewish guy named EBAN?" Yes, sure, try that. That's called "stumbling your way to victory." Yikes. Most maddening thing about the puzzle as having seen "Roger & Me" several times and having No Bleeping Idea what 18A / 4D could be (18A: With 4-Down, "Roger & Me" subject => URBAN DECAY). It's a very valid answer, but man I was racking my brain, recounting the plot, trying to think of "figures" (i.e. people, dead rabbits, something) from that movie. FLINT, MICH ... no. ROGER ... no, that can't be right. MICHAEL ... MIKE ... man. That NW was just ... like being in a painful ARMLOCK (26A: Hold in a ring). I still can't quite wrap my head around the clue at 1A: Intraclub competition rankings (ladder). So in ... some kind of club ... there is a competition ... is this tennis? I think so. How are LAY-UPS "standard" (1D: Standard buckets)? They are (comparatively) easy, but "standard" seems a (very) wrong adjective to apply to them. They aren't the most common type of "bucket" made in an "standard" NBA game, so this cluing is irksome — tries to be tricky (let's see how many definitions of "Standard" and "buckets" we can make them think of!) and ends up being just clunky.

Other stuff I just *didn't* know:

  • SOTO (24A: All-Star Cubs catcher Geovany) — and I follow baseball!! Embarrassing (for me).
  • NEILSON (34D: Roger who coached eight different N.H.L. teams) — not a great day for the sports-phobic. I feel like I've seen this name before (it's here only 'cause it's So grid-friendly), but that didn't help today.
  • RED NOSE (37D: Item sported to support Britain's Comic Relief) — there's no part of that I understand. Thankfully, I knew this was REDNOSE before I ever looked at the clue (had only one letter missing at that point).
  • OLEO (48D: Muffin stuffin?) — ... what? "Stuffin'?" I had EFFS at first. A much better answer than stupid OLEO. OLEO "stuffs" a muffin how? Or is it supposed to be the "stuff" on a muffin? Dear lord.
  • APIAN (26D: Melliferous, perhaps) — eventually got this because I know APIAN means "related to bees" and I know "melliFLUOUS" means sweet (like honey). But "FER" means, what (aside from a "word" that may precede "sher!") — that the bees *carry* honey? Yeah, sort of — normally used of plants that contain substances that bees can turn into honey.
  • SOAPIER (29A: More melodramatic) — ah, a word no one actually uses. OK. I see the connection only through the phrase "Soap Opera" (side note: they canceled "As The World Turns"! Oh, the humanity!)

Also thought "flibbertigibbets" were like "doodads" or "widgets," i.e. they are made, they don't do the making, so NO SENSE (55A: What flibbertigibbets make) was an educated guess at some point. I barely remember the eastern half of this puzzle, since So Much of my time was spent trying to bring down the west.


  • 19A: Its leader's flag featured a black eagle: Abbr. (HRE) — Holy Roman Empire. So much of my (eventual) success today was just being a constant solver. Certain answers come to the forefront of my mind easily, certain letter combinations. Entered UAR here at first (!), but then got it sorted out quickly thereafter.
  • 31A: McCarthy cohort (Snerd) — as in Mortimer, Edgar Bergen's dummy of yore.

  • 46A: Italian site of a 1796 Napoleon victory (Lodi) — eerie. Just had a conversation on Facebook with my friend Wade yesterday that involved Boz Scaggs and his song "The LODI Shuffle." Oh, wait ... I mean LIDO. Never mind.

  • 47A: Figure in Greek myth whose name means "desired" (Erato) — stumped me until I got a few crosses, and then ... "D'oh!" Seems so obvious in retrospect.
  • 50A: They call themselves Suomalaiset (Finns) — had the FI-, so no sweat.
  • 57A: Sandy who was national security adviser for Bill Clinton (Berger) — one that I "knew" ... only I couldn't retrieve it. Needed several crosses. That whole corner still took only about a quarter of the time it took me to get either of the corners in the W.
  • 42D: "The Spirit" creator (Eisner) — my favoritest answer in the grid. So happy to see comics creators (especially legends like EISNER) get some recognition. "The Spirit" is a fantastic, funny crime strip from the 40s (originally), and I teach it in my "Comics" *and* "Crime Fiction" classes from time to time.
  • 46D: About 33.8 fluid ounces (liter) — I'm off to drink about a LITER of coffee. Busy day ahead.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Elaine in Arkansas 8:42 AM  

What, not even Challenging Plus? Needless to say, this was a huge FAIL for me. Starting with GALLON for 1A's "Standard buckets" and moving on to areas where I had not a single letter, this puzzle done whupped the stuffin outa me.

Actually, I did have the SE--knew FINNS flat out (Suomi IS Finland), knew what a "flibbertigibbet" was, got the SOLUTION part of 51A (but FINAL, which felt tasteless, did not fit.) What good did that do me?

Like IAGO, Tyler and Byron have SCHEMEd to win "toughest puzzle" honors. What profiteth it yon Hinman/Walden should they stump the chumps but lose their souls?

JannieB 8:49 AM  

When I saw the by-line I was anticipating a great puzzle. This was a lump of coal in my stocking. Couldn't agree with Rex more - same traps, no joy in the long answers. Just a slog. Got it done but wonder why I bothered. We're snowed in with nothingi better to do.

retired_chemist 8:54 AM  

Tough. Very tough. Slept on the center and finished this morning.

Hand up for CAL TECH for CAL POLY, AMOEBAE, SWEET for APIAN, OCTET for OCTAD, not seeing URBAN DECAY, and chili con CARNE before QUESO.

Add to these the flat-out obscure stuff like RED NOSE, Roger NEILSON, TRIM DIE, and FINNS for Suomalaiset (OK, not so obscure if you collect stamps since Finnish stamps) and the plot thickens.

Finally, I agree with Rex on the just plain bad clues for OLEO and LAY-UPS.

Conclusion: A real bear, with the felicitous timeliness (as Rex said) of ORAL ROBERTS and CRIMSON TIDE insufficient to make up for it all. Treedweller will no doubt join me in reminding Rex that there is another team besides Alabama playing for the National Championship. Hook 'em Horns....

A CAL POLY LODI would bring a smile to my face because of the symmetry of the answers. Alas, there is not one AFAIK.

retired_chemist 8:57 AM  

Oops - should read "OK, not so obscure if you collect stamps since Finnish stamps give the name Suomi." What Elaine said.

Smitty 9:13 AM  

Satisfying in a "mission accomplished" sort of way.
- although I got some wrong, since I couldn't give up AMOEBAE either.
Finally gave up PADDOCK and put in OARLOCK (both wrong)
I wanted TEA COSY for RED NOSE because of Wallace and Grommet.
This puzzle had it's moments . No aha's but some satisfaction from breaking through glacial ice after going at it with a toothpick for what seemed like hours.

Smitty 9:18 AM  

Did anyone else try CAL NEVA?

nanpilla 9:33 AM  

This one took me almost an hour, but I did finish with no errors. Have to agree, there were few smiles along the way - just hard work. Did not like LAY LOW for past tense stayed in. Also, seemed wrong with LAY UPS in there too. legLOCK for ARMLOCK held me up in the middle. That M released SCHEMES, which helped immensely.
@Elaine : I felt the same way about FINAL (RE)SOLUTION.
YOU CAN COUNT ON me, instead of IT, kept me from AVIATES for a while. I had nags, then rags, then finally RAPS, and DMZ for ICU. Of course, I also had the requisite carne and tech, but they both seemed too obvious after a while. I agree that this one was clued purely to deceive, not delight.
But hey, on a snowy morning, it kept me busy for a while!

Paul 9:36 AM  

Coming here, learning, paying attention to this artform has helped me immensly as a solver. I can now copy two answers from Rex's posted solution and the guess one of my own on a Saturday. Hurray for me!

Wade 9:55 AM  

Yeah, CARNE and TECH here too. I didn't find this one particularly challenging--I mean, it was hard, took me 40 minutes, and I had a couple of wrong letters because of that baseball player and wanting LINEAR or LINEAL reasoning, never seeing LINE OF--but that's not terribly unusual for me on Saturday. I'm still of the mindset that if I can finish it, or get within a couple of squares of finishing it, it's not challenging.

I have three degrees from UT and am loathe to root for them this year, so heartily do I despise Colt McCoy and his lyin' dad, who concocted some story a couple of years ago about Colt saving some guy's life on a "lake" by swimming 500 yards and running a half mile, or something like that. Colt's dad is the football coach in my hometown (who are playing for the state 3A championship tonight. Go Steers! Colt's little brother is the quarterback. I hope he's not like the other two.) That "lake" is a little subdivision stock tank (re: "pond"). I see Colt doing all his Jesus videos and all the aw shucks crap, but I never see him fess up to letting a phony story go down as fact.

Wade 9:56 AM  

But yeah, I'll root for UT. (Glad he didn't get the Heisman though.)

joho 10:06 AM  

My muffin was filled with Oats.

My head was filled with answers by Google.

This was beyond challenging to me and, like others have said, not a happy experience.

At seeing Tyler and Byron at the top I was anticipating that the FINAL RESOLUTION would be fulfilling and fun. I think they outwitted themselves with this one.

I'm going to go play my OCARINA now.

Two Ponies 10:06 AM  

Complete and utter failure.
I must have left my brain on my pillow this morning.

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

Not any fun at all!! Flowerlady9

Jeffrey 10:11 AM  

Medium Saturday here. Slow and steady progress and hardly any erasures. Yay me.

Deborah 10:17 AM  

In the "I DEF KNOW THIS IS WRONG" category, your obvious "Finns" was my head-scratching "Finrs," since I put in "red Rose" instead of...well, anyway, happy snowday.

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

FINAL RESOLUTION bugged me, too. What other kind of resolution is there?

Meg 10:17 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 10:19 AM  

Agree with most of the above comments. Too cute for its own good. 28A fer shur maybe but not fer sher. Also shouldn't there be a hint at 15A that its French. Finally 56A should be laid low. Tough but dull puzzle no sparkle. Try again Tyler and Byron. Golfballman

Meg 10:19 AM  

After 30 minutes I had to sneak a peek at the grid here just to get started! This puzzle made me want to go xerox my butt.

I thought an OCARINA was a musical instrument.

My only triumph was not falling for CARNE and TECH.

A dose of humility is a good thing now and then. Maybe.

Elaine 10:24 AM  

I just know that my stuffin is still falling out from multiple slash wounds. I wonder if the Young Whippersnappers did better than we Old Codger types today...though it would not seem so, given Iago's SCHEME, ERATO the Muse, and FINNS from Suomi!

Congratulations to those of you who got this puzzle. With no snow to excuse me from Saturday's chores, I threw in the towel after the 1:30 AM Club became the 2:30 AM DETENTION CELL....

I did learn a new word: "Melliferous" was new to me despite some years as a beekeeper. I notice this SpellCheck does not recognize it, either, though.

Hoping Sunday's puzzle is FUN!

retired_chemist 10:25 AM  

Nice to see you here, Wade!

Elaine 10:27 AM  

Think winds, strings, percussion.
You would not ordinarily find an ocarina in anything but a joke "band" made up of kazoos and so on.
Ocarina fans--please, don't mob me. At least to play an ocarina you do need to know how to finger the notes.

Meg 10:41 AM  


Thanks for your explanation. I'm trying very hard not to feel totally duped by a clue.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:57 AM  

Agree 100 % with Rex and most commenters. An hour and a half, almost gave up, looked into my soul, realized crosswords are more important than life, finally finished with all correct (pencil on paper.)

Too many write-overs already mentioned, will only specify one: Kept reading 28 A as "_____ s h e r i ! " put in MON and stuck with it for the longest time until I took off my glasses and took a really close look, which revealed " _____ s h e r ! "

Did I just see a snowflake outside ?

Anonymous 10:59 AM  

Same as everybody else ... to hard.

My one original comment is that I thought I was pretty clever in solving 53D as DOB (for date of birth). Wrong of course.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:59 AM  

Forgot to mention: I don't speak French. That would have been "cheri", right?

HudsonHawk 11:06 AM  

The Eastern two thirds went down pretty reasonably, but the West Coast was gruesome. I finished without errors, but did resort to the dictionary on my bookshelf. Unfortunately, it wasn't any help, because "melliferous" isn't in there. Ugh.

Rex nailed my NITS, so I'll move on to Sunday (after I make a run to the wine store and stock up for the snowstorm).

Wade 11:08 AM  

Ret Chem, nice to see you, too.

Meg, that's the funniest thing I've ever read on this board.

Ruth 11:11 AM  

@Bob K, yer a ryut fer shur! Always love your comments.
@Hudson Hawk, now THERE's a good idea for a snowstorm! Enough with buying up all the batteries and white bread!! So odd to be sitting here in Rochester, NY, one of our great nation's snowfall heavyweights, and not a flake in the air at present.

ArtLvr 11:14 AM  

I was lucky in that I completed the LAT puzzle (very pleasing) before returning to my nearly blank NYT this morning... The two xwords have one word in common, which helped a bit here! I solved this one finally, but agreed with Rex and the many disappointed commenters above! Too cutesy, etc.

I had almost all the missteps mentioned above plus a wrong NIRVANA for ECSTASY, even question mark RODGERS until ORAL ROBERTS came to mind.

Funniest was trying to remember the first name of Commie Hunter Sen. Joe McCarthy, saying no as I paused over Charlie -- then getting SNERD when scheming cohort Nixon who smeared his California opponent as "Pinko" didn't work out.

I'm UNCLEAR as to whether to try shopping today, as the next few days won't be NICEISH. Ugh.


@ Bob K -- in French, it would be "Mon Cher"...
and @ nanpilla -- you're right about the duplication of the LAYs.

Jim H 11:16 AM  

Puzzle makes me IREFUL. Is that a real word?

Norm 11:17 AM  

No traction at first and then the bottom half fell pretty easy since 50A FINNS was a personal gimme. Could not get into the upper half for the longest time -- because I was reading 14D in sans serif font as EMULATES LAGO rather than IAGO and I could not figure out how to emulate water in Italian .... Once SCHEMES was in place, everything else came together courtesy of EBAN (and, yes, I had CARNE and TECH, etc., for the longest time).

Greene 11:17 AM  

Dear God, what a struggle! In addition to the SWEAT, there was some blood and tears shed on my part over this, this, this...thing! I feel like this puzzle was an enormous TEASE with UNCLEAR clues which made NO SENSE. A fine example of RAW SCHEMES which are IREFUL and not NICEISH at all. Please...IREFUL and NICEISH? WTFish!!

First time through the grid all I had was AMOEBAS, AVERS, TECH, CARNE, SNERD, ICU and OCTET. As you can see, half of that was wrong, although after catching on to the nature of the beastly cluing I had the good sense to pull out CARNE and TECH and just start over.

Oh most foul constructors, couldst thou not even toss me the crumb of cluing BERGER by way of Hair? Take you me for a sponge? Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold. Thou art like the toad, ugly and venomous...thou dissembling rump-fed miscreants!!!

"Overreact to an accident" indeed. So SUE me. :)

imsdave 11:19 AM  

Total failure - this one brought my mind back to the "Wrath of Klahn". Finished in an hour and a half, but only after googling NEILSON and EISNER.

DMZ for ICU, ASH for DUN (DUN?).

Oh well, I guess it's good to get beaten up sometimes.

Getting ready for a little snow here in CT - I think I'll enjoy the shoveling more than this puzzle.

David 11:27 AM  

Hats off to those who were successful with this one - my mind is definately snowbound today. We are in the midst of the Shopper Stopper Snowstorm of 2009, according to the local media....

Ulrich 11:29 AM  

Such a pretty grid, and then the unspeakable Oral Roberts soils it with his not-to-be-overlooked presence smack in the center--as the great Chandler said: "As inconspicuous as a tarantula on a piece of angel food cake'--undigestible, for me.

Ulrich 11:33 AM  

Oh, Oral Roberts did have one thing going for himself: He was the cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis...

Bob Kerfuffle 11:39 AM  

@ ArtLvr -

Thanks for the French. This is what confused me:

(from Wikipedia) - Mon Chéri is an internationally known brand name of the Italian Ferrero company for a chocolate confectionery.

The Mon Chéri is a single-wrapped combination, consisting of a "heart" of cherry, floating in a special liqueur and contained in a plain chocolate housing. There is no disclaimer on the packaging denoting the liqueur center, and unsuspecting tasters expecting a sweet treat may be in for an unfavorable surprise.

Mon Chéri actually comes from French and means "My Dear".

Now awaiting a ride to movie-theater presentation of Les contes d'Hoffmann.

wade 11:42 AM  

Ulrich, you're thinking of Jimmy Swaggart, who is somewhat less vile than Oral Roberts, but we'll leave that to the angels dancing on the head of a pin. Swaggart, Lewis and Mickey Gilley were all cousins. Hell, everybody in Louisiana is cousins.

Joe 11:42 AM  

I am absolutely thrilled that I completed a puzzle that all of you experts found so difficult! (One error, though, dammit: an L instead of a D at the 22D/35A cross. I've been doing the NYT puzzle for years, but always just sort of passed Friday and Saturday by. For the last six months or so I've been reading your blog daily, Rex, and you've really helped me enjoy and appreciate the puzzle in a new way. So thank you.

Squeek 11:43 AM  

What the f#@$ ???
Am I supposed to be a mind reader?
I mean really
a French phrase with no hint it is foreign (that no one knows anyway.)
A bee answer that Spellcheck and dictionaries don't list? Looked like it might have something to do with iron (-ferous.)
A baseball answer that even Rex doesn't know?
And haven't we had enough of ire in all of it's dreadful forms?
If you are going to quote a hillbilly then learn to spell like one. Fer shur. 'Nuf sayed.
Stuff this one in your muffin.

Rex Parker 11:48 AM  

Thanks, @Joe, and you're welcome. I'm glad to hear it.


Rex Parker 11:48 AM  

FER SHER is ValSpeak, isn't it?

Ruth 11:54 AM  

I always assumed that a key factor in being dubbed a great ventriloquist is not moving your lips. Looking at that Edgar Bergen clip, that seems to have been overlooked in his case! (no offense to the late Mr. Bergen) Paul Winchell, on the other hand, seems to have had that down.

mccoll 12:00 PM  

Crashed and burnt! Rats! What else?

I googled the Hell out this thing and still couldn't finish. I think there is a reason and it's not just misdirection. Some of these amswers are so forced. IREFUL? SOAPIER? NICEISH? Really! If "one stayed" in they LAID LOW. IMHO
I liked AMOEBAS, FINNS, OCARINA, and LODI, but I got them. I knew Roger Neilson, too because he coached Vancouver.
Otherwise, this was a dreadful struggle.
Thanks for the comments, people.

babslesley 12:01 PM  

Living in Texas, I got queso right away but that was about the only piece of luck. Trim die, layups (buckets? I thought they were baskets), bettor, fer sher. No wonder I didn't get nits; I read it as pickled.

Disappointing Saturday puzzle for me. I like a challenge but I like at least a glimmer of hope that I can finish it.

dls 12:05 PM  

Another hand up for CARNE, but TECH is just plain incorrect. It's always Caltech, never Cal Tech.

@RP: In a club ladder, the participants are ranked linearly, and you can challenge the player above you (win and you get to swap places, moving up the ladder) or be challenged by the player below you. Yes, racquet sports.

JC66 12:09 PM  

Today's puzzle was a bear for me. Took over an hour (with a couple of googles) and not very enjoyable.

Hand up for TECH & CARNE.

Also questioned FINAL (RE)SOLUTION (too close to being in bad taste).

Expected better from the constructors.

Found Rex's write up right on (as usual).

But the comments win the day (Is it because @Wade is back?).

Doug 12:10 PM  

Cunningly dropped in FLINT PLANT for the Michael Moore clues. Too damned bad it wasn't right because it went downhill from there.....

Amy 12:27 PM  

I hated this puzzle. The only answer I had correct was Will Eisner, and I knew that mostly because he bought the house I once lived in when my parents sold it in 1965.

I refuse to use Google to look up answers, so I just gave up. At least I now know it wasn't just me.

I also had CARNE and TECH. And got nothing from them (since obviously they were wrong).

What is the point of constructing a puzzle that no one can enjoy?

edith b 12:37 PM  

When my husband and I retired to the Philadelphia area, his company, which is based in New York, gave him an 8 game package of tickets to the Phillies. The irony was that the Phillies went to the Series against the Yankees. One of the games we attended was the Cubs. I enjoy scoring the games and remembered their catchers name as SOTO because of his odd first name. One of the few neons I got on this puzzle. I walked into both traps on what should have been neons - POLY and QUESO. In what should have been an easy answer, I rejected AMOEBAS as too simple for Saturday and that held me up in the NW.

On the other hand, I wasn't fooled on AVIATED and got the NE in short order and LINEOFREASONING jumpstarted me on this one. I picked up CRIMSONTIDE from the back end as I proceeded down the East Coast, cut through the Midlands back to the NW and pieced it together when URBAN/DECAY occurred to me and I was able to build the NW a piece at a time through that pair.

I ended up in the SE and made a good guess on FINALRESOLUTION and this one fell, LAYLOW being the last piece I needed for this one.

Van55 12:41 PM  

Layups are "standard" two pointers, versus three point buckets. At least that's the only rationale I can come up with for the clue/answer.

I agree with most that this was just too "clever".

chefbea 12:50 PM  

Did not like this puzzle. Knew Mortimer snerd and Chili con queso. Googled a bit then gave up and came here.

can someone explain casting device=trim die?
and also lob? I had dob.

now to wait for the snow!!! Stamford has already been declared a snow emergency and not one flake so far. Suppose to get up to 18 inches!!!

SueRohr 12:51 PM  

Totally agree with Amy - way too difficult for me and I actually googled. Snowed in, I was hoping to really enjoy a nice Saturday puzzle, but could barely get anywhere. Oh well, tomorrow is another day.

Manoj 12:53 PM  

This puzzle was no fun at all and the answers were extremely forced. Even after a lot of Googling I could not finish it and gave up (i.e., looked up Rex's answers). Can we somehow make sure that such tasteless puzzles are not repeated? If they continue, i might give up on Saturday puzzles!!

Anonymous 1:06 PM  

Really far fetched clues. Hard is okay, but this was weird. No thanks. and No pleasure.

mee 1:07 PM  

I've been away helping with a human disaster in Asia. I came back to a winter storm warning, no health care bill and this decidedly un-fun puzzle. Now, the fact that I haven't even tried a crossword in over a month may have been a factor, but I prefer a hard Saturday puzzle to be hard because the things you know are hidden by your incorrect assumptions on the clues. Hiding stuff you are unlikely to know with clues that misdirect isn't a reflection of talent. I could go to a French or German phrase dictionary, pull out something unusual and clue it in obscure English and yet would not expect to be called brilliant.
It is difficult to know one's pop cultural reference point and I have read many discussions here, but today's puzzle went out of the way to take familiar names and places and attach them to obscurities.

I can't solve puzzles like some, but I do not expect other people to converse in the arcane field of surgical nomenclature. Since it is in my field, I would say DNA Lab is not a common term and would not be used by scientist in either research or genetics. Is it common use somewhere else?

chefbea 1:15 PM  

@ everyone.. be sure you see the Arts and Leisure section of the sunday Times (I get mine on Saturday)
Very cleaver!!!!!!

Martin 1:50 PM  


When a metal part is cast in a mold, there is always some "flash," or extra material on the casting that leaked from the mold seams. This can be ground off to finish the casting. A quicker way, if you're making a lot of copies, is to make a tight-fitting cookie cutter kind of a tool that will remove the flash with sharp edges. That's a trim die.

chefbea 2:05 PM  

@martin thanks. and I've been using cookie cutters for weeks - who knew they had other uses :-)

miriam b 2:06 PM  

@Ruth: Yep, Bergen had a great technique - for radio.

This was the kind of puzzle at which I glance in dismay and initially decide that it can't be done; then some small gimme pops up (in this case, FINNS) and starts the ball rolling. QUESO was another gimme, as I think of chile con carne as a Mexican dish borrowed by us Anglos rather than a Tex-Mex dish.

Still there were many misdirections and thorny places. I figured out QUIVIVE with the aid of QUESO but there were still some serious problems. Standard bucket? This sounded like a liquid measure, and oddly I learned very recently that the standard Russian measure for a bucket (ca. 3.25 gallons) is a vedro. Honest to Pete, I tried procrusteanly to fit vedro into the space for LAYUP, and afterward it took me a while to understand the sports reference. I did finish without help, but I had to keep my coffee warm for quite a time on one of those little heating gizmos.

@Ulrich: You're in excellent form today.

Cousin, Indeed! 2:29 PM  

No, that was Jimmy Swaggert, mein Freund, not Oral Roberts. As much of a throwback as Roberts was, I don't think he was scandal-ridden; rara avis!

fergus 2:33 PM  

Cursed DMZ flummoxed me for quite a while until the DOUBLE OCCUPANCY filled in.

Liked the proper grammar for LAY LOW -- just when I've tried to avoid being tedious about the transitive and intranstive verbs.

I'm impressed that TH and BW can make it work together ...

Martin 2:37 PM  

BTW, Rex and others: "-ferous" means "making." English words "coniferous" and "odoriferous" are common enough with this root. "Making honey" made this kind of a gimme.

Human Resources Explained... 2:37 PM  

Since a LOB constitutes an easy tennis return, a simple interview question would be easy to "field"--a LOB.

I see someone already explained the trim die. (I didn't know the name of this...and had all kinds of guesses with INGOT, PIG, etc., none of which fit.)


Miss Manners 2:41 PM  

No, _ferous did NOT make "Melliferous" a gimme.

If a beekeeper didn't know it, if SpellCheck underlined it, and if a dictionary didn't list it, it's obscure. And knowing "-ferous" doesn't help with "Melli-."
If you solved the puzzle, bravo, but that doesn't make other people dense.

Be nice.

jae 2:46 PM  

Yes, tough! I got it but it was a slog, although I didn't find it as unpleasant as many of you. Briefly tried LEGALFOUNDATION, wanted ROY COHN to fit for SNERD, did the RAGS/RIPS/RAPS dance, tried IREDUP(?), but got QUESO and POLY with no crosses. The fun part of this one for me was stopping about 3/4 of the way through to watch the movie Sweet November. About half way through the movie I commented to my bride that this was over the top soapy and immediately filled in 29a.

@chefbea -- a "LOB" is a softball type question in an interview. Lobs are easy to hit in softball and easy to answer in interviews.

alice in SF 3:08 PM  

Oh, thank you Rex and all the bloggers who found this puzzle an absolute bear to solve. Oftentimes I seem to be among the few who find the Friday and Saturday ones hard. On the first go around I could only fill in two answers: Berger for Clinton's adviser and Snerd for 31A although Roy Cohn would be better described as a cohort. Did anyone else find it a bit queasy with the answer to 51A? Hitler's end of a conflict was a "final solution."

slypett 3:12 PM  

Failed. Failed. Failed. Failed.
Failed. Failed. Failed. Failed. Failed. Failed. Failed. Failed.

--in about as interesting a way as this puzzle was fun to work on.

Failed. Failed. I will not obsess. I will not obsess. I will not obsess.

Meg 3:21 PM  

@Wade: Thanks for your kind comment about my comment. Of course I had buttxeroxing on my brain after the Simpsons puzzle.

Personally, I find amazing some of the gimmees mentioned in the comments. Y'all are smart fer sher.

All I can say is thank God Rex did not rate this one a medium. Then I'd have to fax my butt to him.

Anonymous 3:24 PM  

Sorry, @anon 10:19 and @McColl. LAY LOW is correct for 56A ("Stayed in, say"), as @Fergus said while I was putting this together.

lie low idiom
Also lay low. Keep oneself or one's plans hidden; bide one's time to act. For example, The children lay low, hoping their prank would soon be forgotten..."

"Laid low" means "put out of action (by sickness)."

Lay, lie, laid, lain. What a mess.

But LAY LOW and LAYUPS is less than elegant, as others have noted.


Wednesday night, Cal vs Utah in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. The longer the name, the humbler the game. Sigh...

GO BEARS anyhow.

Lurking Larry

foodie 3:32 PM  

Three good things happened because of this puzzle:

1- Rex surprised me by rating it challenging. I was expecting him to say Easy/Medium and make me feel like a total idiot.

2- Wade is back and he knows how everyone from Louisiana is related

3- Meg wanted to Xerox her butt.

Jim in Chicago 3:40 PM  

Challenging? I vote for Impossible. Sandy Berger saved the se for me, but nothing else ever worked. Even after I started to Google, that would give me one word but no crosses. To top it off, it wasn't even fun! Still no clue about Oleo except maybe they're made with shortening which is sort of like oleo?

Meg 3:48 PM  

@Jim: Maybe it's an English muffin. Marmalade and oleo. Yummy.

Clark 3:51 PM  

Serenity now. Serenity now.

Tough puzzle. Had to put it down before (spending another 8 hours?) finishing it. Too much to do today.

@Tyler and @Byron -- Don't be discouraged. On another day the commenting crowd might have said the same sort of things but done so in a more NICEISH way. Who knows why everybody seems just a tad cranky today. I bet everyone drank too much of @Elaine's eggnog last night.

imsdave 4:08 PM  

@Meg - oleo and yummy do not belong on the same line of text. Ever. Period. I mean it. Never ever.

Rex Parker 4:10 PM  

@Martin, -ferous means, as I said, "carrying" or "bearing" — and thus (by extension) "making." ferro, ferre tuli, latum. To bring, bear or carry. Latin!


Ulrich 4:11 PM  

@miriam B: Thx

@wade and cousin: To think that I have given Roberts credit for somethin he didn't deserve is more than I can bear.

...and speaking about xeroxing one's butt--I need instructions! I got this idea after doing the tribute puzzle in question, and almost broke our copier--it's not a Xerox, though--is that it?

Rex Parker 4:16 PM  

@Meg, I look forward to the day when I actually get that fax. I'll put it on the wall next to my autographed pictures of Christina Applegate and "Cliff" from the IHOP ads.


mac 4:16 PM  

This puzzle did not sparkle, but after a lot of work and some rewriting I got the whole thing, no mistakes, no googles.

Qui vive came to me immediately - because it is used the same way, but much more regularly, in Dutch.

The red nose day is an odd one in England. You'll see a lot of well-known people, including news readers and anchormen, doing what they are supposed to do, but with a bright red plastic nose on their face. There's also the Veterans' Day action with fake poppies. You'd better wear one in your buttonhole or you'll be asked for money all over town.

I'm surprised there isn't more of an uproar about niceish.

Stan 4:22 PM  

Puzzle: Who am I to judge? Out of my depth.

Rex write-up: Spot on.

Blog comments: Priceless.

treedweller 4:30 PM  

Another surreal visit to the blog for me. I struggled through this one, which is normal, but finished, which is not. I didn't have the same dismal view of things as others, but, as I've said, I'm always happy to get through the hard ones. This one definitely felt like I earned it, given the eight or so squares I had filled in after the first pass. I printed it out and don't know my time (no doubt quite slow), but I'm feeling pretty smug over here right now.

Hand up for "carne" before QUESO. If it had been right, we Texans would probably be arguing over whether chili can contain beans (as a vegetarian, I insist on it, but most of us would say no beans or it's not chili).

I thought "stuffin'" referred to the muffin being stuffed with OLEO after baking but before eating. I found it a bit of a stretch, since that implies to me a helluva lot of OLEO, which would make a muffin pretty gross, IMO. Butter might be a different story.

I think Rex is right about FER sher. Anyway, when I saw the clue/answer, I heard Moon Unit Zappa in my head.

@r_c I probably wasn't going to bring up the other team in the Rose Bowl, but since you did, I can't help but point out that The University has another team playing for a National Championship tonight. Hook 'em!

Martin 4:55 PM  


Although they share a root, in English -fer is usually "bearing" and "-ferous" is usually "making." A crucifer carries a cross in a procession but a cruciferous plant produces cross-shaped flowers.
An aquifer carries water. A somniferous post makes people sleepy.

Rex Parker 4:59 PM  


I looked it up before commenting. "Bearing" beat (or at least tied) "making" for "-ferous."

"bearing : producing : yielding" (Webster's 3rd)

I know better than to play fast and loose w/ facts with you. :)

Anyway, you said it was "making" as if that were its obvious / only meaning. My only point was that the meaning of "-ferous" wasn't as straightforward as you made it out to be.


PlantieBea 5:21 PM  

Hated the puzzle. Loved the comments. Still laughing over Meg's.

Miss Manners, again 5:27 PM  

Boys, boys!
Let us try to use more a more mellifluous tone in our posts. Remember, you are Young Gentlemen!

Or so your mothers would hope.

chefwen 5:40 PM  

After staring at this for about half an hour last night, filling in a couple of answers (incorrectly, I may add) I decided to give my brain the evening off. After coming here and reading the write up and all of the comments, I'm was very happy with my decision to just LAY LOW and drink wine.

Anonymous 5:42 PM  

Got NW, most of the SW, a trickle of standed answers like FUSE, SEE and LITER, then (the) CRIMSON TIDE fell, as did NIELSON, after which nothing but mounting wrong fill destined to deny a close. I generally enjoy the hard ones even if I can't finish them, but this time there were so many borderline clues that I didn't feel any regret - just a bit puzzled..

Love this blog.

Bill from NJ 5:48 PM  

This was the most difficult puzzle I've run across this year and, for all its faults, I liked it a lot.

I cherish the time I spend with these Friday and Saturday puzzles. Since I didn't hear from @Elaine about the fees involved in joining her 1:30AM solving club and since I'm up then anyway, I went ahead and joined myself up sans fee. I was up til 3 working on this one, went to bed and finished it up over coffee this morning.

And for all its faults and there were many, I enjoyed this one quite a bit, spending alot ot time in Baja California and wrestled it to a standstill in Flyover Country, particularly at BEASTSAR where it crossed NEILSON (spelling error) and NICEISH (Ugh!)

Steven Tyler 5:49 PM  

You ain't seen nothin'
'til you're down on a muffin
and you're sure to be achangin' your ways.

OldCarFudd 5:59 PM  

I thought this was fairly tough, but did it in ink on paper with no Googles and no writeovers. This must be my good day, since so many of you had real problems.

I thought FINAL (RE)SOLUTION crossing RECTAL ROBERTS (sorry, couldn't resist, and it's OK since it's long past breakfast) kept 51A from sounding totally tasteless. About 3 weeks ago I finally got to the Holocaust Memorial, and a shoutout to the Third Reich is something I Would. Not. Like. At. All. Either before or after breakfast.

Since I had QUI VIVE, QUESO was easy. I could see TECH wouldn't give me anything, but I'd never heard CAL POLY until the crossings gave it to me. Enjoyed OCARINA for light wind and AVIATED for managed banks (I used to do a lot of flying, mostly in gliders, but this still wasn't a gimme).

@ Martin, many thanks for TRIM DIE. I got it from crosses, but couldn't imagine what it meant in either theater or fishing!

NICEISH isn't!

mac 6:07 PM  

Years ago a friend wondered what Oral Roberts' wife's name was. His wife said: "Anal".

Anonymous 6:12 PM  

How many ways to go wrong? Site of many tests=atolls, which "proves" the grayish shade=ash, swears=oaths and boiling over=in a pet, which crosses so well with peace resolution.

Ben 6:58 PM  

Liked it. A tough test. It was work, all right, but the slog didn't irritate me in the way it did Rex. I like a grind every now and then. Bob Klahn's recent murderous Saturday puzzle was excellent, and although this one wasn't as good as that, I still enjoyed the challenge. Proud to say I finished it in 28 minutes.

@Alice in SF, there's no shame in finding Friday and Saturday puzzles hard. They are! They're the two toughest days of the week, of course, but more broadly, the many elite solvers who comment here do not necessarily represent the world at large. Don't be discouraged. Everyone started somewhere and we're all gradually improving, no matter our level.

@Rex, a few thoughts on your writeup:

1. Don't feel bad about not knowing Geovany SOTO. He had a huge rookie year and made the All-Star team, but he's barely been around baseball yet and outside of Chicago far from a household name even among baseball fans. Ten more years like that, though, and he'll be the next Mike Piazza. BTW, I am writing this a mile from Wrigley Field.

2. Maybe they mean OLEO was a stuffin as in stuff-in, or something stuffed into a muffin? Weak either way, I grant you.

3. The casual Disney/Pixar fan in me saw Cal ____ and thought ARTS.

4. I buy standard buckets for LAYUPS. At least on the junior high and high school levels, and often college, they are routine ways to score a basket.

5. Agreed that CARNE became QUESO, etc., but it's a Saturday - a little misdirection is par for the course.

6. You're on the right track with the tennis thought about LADDER. My mom's longtime tennis team has a "ladder," i.e. a numbered ranking of all the women on the squad determined by intra-team challenge matches. Ladies #1-10 play on the A team, 11-20 are on the B team, etc.

See you next Fri-Sat.

sanfranman59 7:02 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)

Mon 6:38, 6:56, 0.96, 40%, Easy-Medium
Tue 9:39, 8:39, 1.12, 79%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 13:21, 11:53, 1.12, 80%, Challenging
Thu 18:59, 19:01, 1.00, 53%, Medium
Fri 29:37, 26:00, 1.14, 86%, Challenging
Sat 38:00, 30:07, 1.26, 95%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:28, 3:41, 0.94, 39%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:51, 4:26, 1.09, 80%, Challenging
Wed 6:01, 5:50, 1.03, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 9:33, 9:08, 1.05, 71%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 13:39, 12:23, 1.10, 81%, Challenging
Sat 24:18, 17:29, 1.39, 97%, Challenging

This one comes in as the 6th most challenging puzzle for the top 100 (relative to the day of the week) and the 9th most challenging for all solvers in the 28 weeks I've been tracking solve times. I feel pretty good about this since I managed to solve it with only minimal cheating and even at that, I only needed to Google to confirm a few answers. A very good Saturday for me, but I have to agree with much of Rex's write-up. There were too many head scrathers for my taste (FER, SOAPIER, NICEISH, APIAN, TRIMDIE, NEILSON). Then there's KNISH ... are they really offered by "many a NYC street vendor"?

michael 7:25 PM  

I didn't find this as hard as many of you. An average Saturday for me which meant that it took a while and I had the same mistake octal/trim lie as another commenter. Didn't much like ireful and niceish, but all in all enjoyed the puzzle and was struck by Oral Roberts showing up and thinking (only for a minute) that this puzzle was intentionally timely.

dk 7:55 PM  

Gotta name for the winners in the world,
I want a name when I lose,
They call Alabama the CRIMSONTIDE,


Several false starts and a lot of clues that are... a little esoteric IMHO (see above)..

And, not to quibble but I thought paramecium had, or could have, a false foot (pseudopod) not AMOEBAS.

Sorry this one made NOSENSE.

That said, I love to see LODI in the fill as it reminds me of CCR.

** (2 Stars)

dk 8:10 PM  

@wade, when next in the Sportsman's Paradise look up my son and sister in NOLA. This sister knows Napoleonic Code. I will arrange (as in its on me) for you to have a mint julep at the library bar in the Ritz-Carlton. Listen while Chris (bartender) spins his tale while he mixes the elixir of life.

Go Saints!

Elaine 8:18 PM  

Don't quibble.
I mentally tried EUGLENA before going--full of doubt--to AMOEBAS. The one I kept wanting to change, was, of course, the right one.


@Bill from NJ
SO, so sorry if I missed your application for the 1:30 AM Club. OF COURSE, you are IN. Just being awake occasionally at that hour, printing up the puzzle, and finding a pen that has ink-- those are the criteria for membership. We may not be pretty, but we know how to fight!

Congrats on doing this killer-diller. Even now as I peruse the battlefield strewn with corpses (discarded answers, erased and re-entered letters, notes in the margin) I am reminded that 'War is hell.' And so are some puzzles.

Tyler; Byron: hope you're proud of yourselves. I intend to tell your mothers about this.

I'm four and out, but I think after 8 EST, it's legal. Or is that legalish?

Alice in SF 8:25 PM  

@Ben--thank you for your words of encouragement that I will improve in time. Alas, I've been doing the Times puzzles for 50 years now and I have gotten better but my solving skills are like my tennis skills--modest but with occasional flashes of being really good.

JannieB 8:56 PM  

Forgot to mention this morning that with Carne in place (both on the grid and in my mind) it too three forevers to persuade myself that 15A wasn't CODE RED. That and "quarts" for standard buckets gave me an awful time in the northern hemisphere.

12 hours later I still can't' find much to love about this puzzle except for the spirited conversation it engendered on the blog today. On to Sunday!

andrea niceish michaels 9:02 PM  

It was weird...I didn't hate it, and it took me over an hour tho with three mistakes...

After trying QUIVERY, I thought alert might be a form of it, like QUIVIRE or maybe QUIVILE as in one who is AQUIVER...!

The whole experience was like
"50A Suomalaiset? Hmmm that sounds Finnish, so I'll put in LAPPS"

10D "Thread used in briefs"? Ok, sounds like a law pun, like LINEOFREASONING but that can't be right (bec of QUIVERY and LAPPS) so I'll just leave that whole thing blank...

It was like I read their minds, talked myself out of stuff, found myself softly saying OCTAL, OCTAD, OCTET like I was conjugating a Latin verb.

And it took ORALROBERTS dying by coincidence this week to give me traction.

If someone has to DIE in order for me to solve a puzzle, that can't be a good sign.

I agree LAYUPS and LAYLOW should have been discussed and rewritten.

Surely credit must be given for having REDNOSE in this season!
(Rudolph didn't die this week, did he?)

Also, they sell KNISHes in the street??? what the?

foodie 9:57 PM  

@andrea, yeah, I wondered about the selling of Knishes on the streets. I can't recall seeing that, but may be I should be looking closer. What I love about NY is how easy it is to buy fruits and flowers everywhere. It's not what one would expect...

mac 10:38 PM  

@Andrea and @Foodie: with the clue at 27A I thought shawls, bags, umbrellas, watches.... Asked NY son, and his immediate answer was "knish". I've never eaten tried one of 'em.

@Andrea: the Lapps crossed my mind, too, although the Suomi/Finlandconnection was a given.

Just put some turkey chili into the freezer.

It's a winter wonderland in CT; came back early from a party and cars were slipping and sliding all over the roads.

slypett 12:26 AM  

andrea "knish" michaels: You didn't know!? Every kind of food is sold on the street in NYC. Hot dogs with onion sauce, gyoza, coffee and danish, Indian, Mexican, Thai, Chinese--and more, more, more. If you like to eat, NYC is, if not Eden, some kind of parallelish paradise.
And it has the best pizza. I can't even eat Boston-area pizza anymore--it's like sensory deprivation.

andrea tease michaels 1:34 AM  

I think I thought a Knish was a potato pancake...but maybe that's a latke...I don't know from food.

Last time I was in NY, my best friend (italiana) was giving me $^*! for not knowing what ruggeleh was.
I'm a bad jewess.

Plus, the combo of Will, Byron and Tyler don't get less Jewish
than that, except maybe at a Klan rally.

I count TEASE as a bleed over from TEASEL

Applesauce 3:03 AM  

A knish is like a latke, only worse.

mac 9:20 AM  

I had a latke last night, delicious! But then I like potato
(almost pulled a Quaile) in almost any shape or form.

Joanne from New York 10:28 AM  

I also question the accuracy of the clue for knish. To the best of my knowledge, most street vendors in New York stopped selling knishes many years ago when the city started enforcing Health Department regulations more strictly. Most carts aren't equipped to cook knishes at the legal temperature so vendors stopped carrying them. I stopped trying to buy knishes from street vendors years ago. I suppose they may have resurged lately, but I doubt it.

JC66 10:45 AM  

When I was a student at NYU about 50 years ago, I bought my first KNISH in Washington Sq. Park. I took one bite (it was hot on the outside, but cold on the inside) and spit it out. That was the last time I ate a KNISH.

JC66 10:50 AM  

So I couldn't tell you if/when they stopped selling them on the street, but @Joanne's explanation makes sense to me.

Ben 10:56 AM  

The only knish I ever had, I bought in Yankee Stadium in around 1994. I didn't like it.

It thus became the second New York KNI__ sports thing the Chicagoan in me doesn't like.

Joanne from New York 11:46 AM  

@JC66 and @Ben,
The round, baked knishes that delis sell are better than the square, fried knishes that street vendors used to sell. You might like them if you try them.

Anonymous 9:03 PM  

Finished the puzzle without any errors, but there wasn't much satisfaction afterwards. Not a lot of zip to it unfortunately.

Anonymous 10:03 PM  

From syndication land: I don't take the Widget Dictionary in my Mac laptop to be a supreme resource, but it did have melliferous (I think it scans some larger web database).

centralscrewtinizer 10:32 PM  

This crossword is an artform like the chaingang is an artform.

Mike in STL 2:12 PM  

Pretty much agree with the above -- challenging for me. I got through about 60% (the entire east and a little west) and figured "eh, this is boring, I've got better things to do..." Nothing seemed particularly clever, except perhaps SNERD, which I know from being an OTR fan.

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