He starred as himself in Cuban Pete 1946 / SAT 1-23-10 / Grunting slimy-skinned swimmer / Fielding Menotti title heroines / Nagasaki noodle

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Constructor: Karen M. Tracey

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: TOADFISH (9D: Grunting, slimy-skinned swimmer)

The toadfish comprise the family Batrachoididae, the only family in the ray-finned fish order Batrachoidiformes. Both the English common name and scientific name refer to their toad-like appearance (batrakhos is Greek for frog). // Toadfish are benthic ambush predators that favor sandy or muddy substrates where their cryptic coloration helps them avoid detection by their prey. Toadfish are well known for their ability to "sing", males in particular using the swim bladder as a sound-production device used to attract mates.

• • •

Fast ... slow ... fast ... slow ... more slow ... and then a kind of swift shuffle at the end. And voilà! Nope, wait, POLITBIRO? SIVA? ... Hmmm. SIVA's a Hindu goddess, right? POLITBURO / SUVA (33A: Capital on the island of Viti Levu). Oh yeah, that's much better. OK, *now* ... voilà! I think this is how a Saturday is supposed to feel. You should struggle harder than on any other day. You should have at least a brief sensation of "Holy &$%! I'm not going to be able to do this." Ideally you have at least one moment of "Aha, I'm in! Woo hoo! Do a little dance!" Etc. Then more despair. It's like a good novel, just (if you're lucky) shorter. LEAPT out of the box with LEAPT (1A: Acted impulsively) and "L.A. LAW" (1D: "ER" replaced it on NBC's schedule), which has been clued exactly this way before. Then ... I just poked at things for a bit. That damned [Gyro sauce]! Now that I see it, and say it out loud, it seems familiar, but it sure didn't feel that way as I was Getting Every Letter From Crosses (TZATZIKI)! Got the WALTZES, but the OFFWITH came much, much later (23A: Wins easily). In fact, I followed WALTZES down into the middle and eventually western part of the grid, where ...

I (re-)started fast, again. After limping out of the NW and stalling somewhere in the middle, I (for no good reason) decided to test OZARK at 28A: ___ Plateau (U.S. region). Well, one good reason — Karen Tracey likes to Scrabble it up. And OZARK fit. So two reasons. Huge payoff: immediately got ZETA-JONES off OZARK's "Z" (29D: "Chicago" Oscar winner) *and* ANGLICAN off its "A" (30D: Book of Common Prayer readers). Two long Downs inside five seconds off of just two letters — that's a grand slam. I was able to ride that momentum around to the SE, where, once again, I sat a bit. No ... I moved, just, slowly. Took a while to get (the gorgeous) SNAKE PIT (38D: Scene of horror and confusion). Had Zero idea what Jill Eikenberry's character's name was (!?) on "L.A. LAW," so needed every cross for KELSEY (56A: 1-Down counselor). Made up the word ACCREDE for 45D: Block until crosses suggested that might not be right (OCCLUDE! Of course...).

Then I was left staring with a rather large, empty space in the NW. Couldn't remember the name of the POLITBURO (11D: Lenin's body) —which I thought was spelled POLITBUREAU, as well as, possibly, POLITBIRO :( — which was bugging me no end. Finally, once I changed TEN TO to TEN OF, I got WALTZES OFF WITH. Eventually tried PANATELLA (which I thought had just one "L") (18A: Smoke with straight sides) and that corner came together in an ugly, halting fashion. Whatever. I finished. Last letter was the "M" in AMELIAS (10D: Fielding and Menotti heroines).

  • 6A: Unofficial "Main Street" of New York's Chinatown (Mott) — here's how I know this street:
  • 14A: He starred as himself in "Cuban Pete," 1946 (Arnaz) — jeez, "Cuban" should have given me this straight off. It didn't.
  • 15A: Treat with a "Golden" variety (Oreo) — off the "E" in "TEN OF" — this "treat" sounds heinous. God made Oreos black and white. Any variations are abominations.
  • 26A: Archer of literature (Isabel) — uh ... she's a protagonist in ... something? Maybe ... a Henry James novel? HA, yes, "Portrait of a Lady"! Ah, my superficial education knows no bounds.
  • 50A: Old song with the lyric "When he would ride in the afternoon / I'd follow him with my hickory broom" ("Jimmy Crack Corn") — got it off the "JIM-" but couldn't tell you any lyrics beyond "I don't care" ...
  • 61A: River with historic flooding in 1966 (Arno) — don't know anything about any flooding, but ARNO is crossword gold, so that was easy.
  • 2D: "Traffic" actress Christenen (Erika) — third actress of the puzzle, and the second one (along with TESSA Allen — 32D: Actress Allen) that I couldn't pick out of a line-up.
  • 36D: Kid with no hometown, often (army brat) — solved this puzzle *just* after watching the New Hope For Haiti benefit, so the clue was just depressing. [Scene of horror and confusion] didn't help lighten the mood.
  • 41D: Instrument played with a spatula (samisen) — seen it before in crosswords (or crossword, singular, I should say), but still needed help with all the crosses.
  • 55D: Nagasaki noodle (soba) — might have thought "noodle" here meant "head," but I had the "-BA" in place already, so it was a cinch.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Scarlet-O 1:23 AM  

I thought it was the easiest Saturday I've done in a while... Just got lucky with some trivia I actually know... Though AMA member threw me for a while.. clever.. maybe. I don't know if it was clever or lame. And Tessa Allen??? Yeah, wouldn't know that one from a hole in the wall either, or KT of country even though I know I've seen it 10 million times.. stuck in "OLSEN" as a guess which OCCLUDED me from the SE corner for a bit...

Deborah 1:27 AM  

I just didn't like this puzzle. Wholly unsatisfying.

@rex: "Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care, my master's gone away." Ugh.

Any reason why this bit of racist lyric history needs to be revisited?

Bill from NJ 2:13 AM  

There are a lot of really smart constructors out there - Bob Klahn and Byron Waldren, to name a couple - but as far as Karen Tracey is concerned, she intimidates me. But I loves me some Karen M Tracey.

I knew Catherine ZETAJONES right away and it was my first entry. I built up from TKTS and ARNO, seeing ARMYBRAT in the process, getting the southern-most 14 pretty much in passing.

I moved at a slow but unsteady pace up the East Coast, looping into the NW, leaving plenty of open white space behind me.

I skipped to the West Coast and filled in some of it and went to work in the Brighton Beach neighborhood of this puzzle that was the NE. After about an hour, I slouched towards the finish line, shaky but proud.

I'm never sure I can finish a KMT and always heave a sigh of relief when I do.

Clark 2:19 AM  

This was a pretty smooth solve for me for a Saturday. Why do I always have a harder time on Friday than I do on Saturday?

The song Jimmy Crack Corn is part of our folk music heritage. I do not think that knowing or singing or liking it is any indication of racism. I will throw in my lot with Pete Seeger, Abe Lincoln and Bugs Bunny, all of whom were fans of this song.

Scarlet-O 2:25 AM  

LOL@Bill "Brighton Beach neighborhood"..

andrea zeta-michaels 2:33 AM  

7 K's, 3 Z's, 1 J

Once again, knowing who the constructrix was really made it SO much easier.
"W-----SOFFWITH...? Hmmm...oh! Must be WaltZes!
Plateau?? Well, it's Karen JXKZ Tracey, so I'm gonna guess OZARK...
Tahini doesn't fit? Oh, TZATZIKI!"
and on and on.

The only time the Scrabble thing could have gotten me in trouble as I still have no clue what SAMISEN is, I briefly considered ASSc/SAMISEc.

One freaKish moment...
Solving with TV on and AT THE MOMENT I was reading "62A Goober" there was a Netflix commercial where some guy was talking about his dog GOOBER!!!

Gosh, Goober is SUCH an ugly word, whether it's a peanut, Gomer's relative, an anagrammish booger, or, as in this puzzle: IDIOT...
yick. Makes TOADFISH sound sweet!

Bleedover from this week PANATELLA and I think last time it DID only have one L!!!!

re: actress named Allen. I tried Karen and then attempted to cram in Kirstie, despite the fact it's too long AND her name is Alley!

Isn't there some old joke where you say "Bolshevik" instead of "bullsh*t"? @CoolPapaD? @Stan?

IAM/SEEME crossing smack in the middle seems like a bit of Cartesian/Wittgensteinlike/Townshendesque philosophical contemplation. @Darkman?

Rube 2:38 AM  

Couldn't resist the opportunity to be an early blogger. Thought this was an easy (for me) Saturday. Used 4 Googles but really didn't need them. Also thought that TZATZIKI or SAMISEN would have been the word of the day, but then I don't expect to see either of them again.

I question IDIOT for 62A, Goober. Don't like HEN for 34A, wanted ore.

Catherine Zeta Jones came up here not so long ago in the blog. Us guys like to see her in the grid.

There were only 2 "pinks", (viz. Arts & Entertainment in Trivial Pursuit), Kelsey & Oslin and Oslin was in a xwd recently. I hate "pinks". Isabel and the Amelias go back far enough to not count as pinks.

Agree with Deborah re Jimmy Crack Corn!.

Enjoyable puzz.

Elaine 5:11 AM  

Ahem. ARMY BRAT? We prefer Army KID, thank you; and I do have a hometown, I just didn't live in it for very long. Sheesh.

Agree with Clark about "Jimmy Crack Corn," though that lyric is not one I'd ever heard.

I knew TSATZIKI right away, which gave me a much-needed burst of ill-founded confidence. I thought naming a character from a 1994 TV show was a bit much, and crossing with a country star was Naticky. ACK!

Agree with Andrea-Zeta about that durn PANATELLA, and that goes double for "Goober." Breakfast test!

I am recalling that the ARNO flood wrecked many treasures, including the Ghiberti doors on the Baptistry--tragic, really.

CoolPapaD 7:45 AM  

Loved this KMT puzzle! Brilliant side-by-side placement of two long, Soviet-themed answers.

@andrea zeta-zellweger-michaels This is the best I can do


I screwed up early by putting ZELLWEGER in at 29D - what are the odds that there are two actresses in the same movie whose 9-letter last names begin with Z? Apparently, quite high.

CUCUMBER sauce also commonly goes on gyros - what are the odds that two different gyro sauces have 8 letters? Apparently, quite high.

Quickly put LANGE in for 52D - wrong speling and wrong initials, but yet it stayed for way too long.

I went to bed with less than a quarter of the grid done, and awoke about an hour ago (had a nightmare where Ned Flanders turned into a werewolf)and WALTZED through the rest. Ended up with few errant boxes in the SW, however - had ESSO at 63A, assuming that AMA (here) stood for something like American Motorists Association...

Rex - if you like Oreos, I think you will love the Golden ones. I a not a huge cookie fan, but they are quite the tasty treat!

fikink 8:03 AM  

I like Karen Tracey puzzles. Always a good tug-o-war.
Grand-slammed just as you did, Rex, with ANGLICAN and ZETAJONES. and thought it was a go.
Not so fast, Sparky, said Karen Tracey.
"Smoke" cluing cigars seems to be a trend.
Aren't SAMISENs part of Geisha grooming?
Learned my Chicago neighborhoods from Second City routines, and my New York streets from jazz. But someone should light a fire under Blossom Dearie, Rex.

@clark, Pete Seeger, et. al., thank you. Right on!

Foodie 8:21 AM  

T'was hard to get rid of Zellweger... which blocked the SW

Had PEZ in lieu of MOP.

TZATZIKI was my favorite.

Anonymous 8:27 AM  

Deborah and Rube, you're kidding, right?

bookmark 8:31 AM  

I had a difficult time with this one, with 10% unfinished. Finally gave up and came here.

Robert Clark's Dark Water: Flood and Redemption in the City of Masterpieces is a fascinating account of the 1966 Arno flood. Especially interesting is the story of the "mud angels," the young people who rushed to Florence from all over the world to help rescue the art treasures. Some of them later became well known in the art world.

Smitty 8:55 AM  

I thought it was easy for Saturday - but then "Easy" for me translates into geological time for others.

Megan P 8:58 AM  

Since I actually remember the flood in Florence and many visits to Mott Street, this puzzle was another whip-thru for me.

And thanks also for tzatziki and samisen!

ArtLvr 9:27 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
dk 9:27 AM  

Shes on the rug, shes on the rug! (Scene from SNAKEPIT and a running joke from my childhood)

Weelll... had leaps for LEAPT thus 5D was wrong as well (BENE). Here in Minnesota we have Eel Pouts (also known as lawyer fish) and that is what I wanted for 9D.

All those zs have made me sleepy.

For the rest see Brighton Beach Bill's post above.

**** (4 Stars)

Leslie 9:31 AM  

Well, phooey. I had a little personal Natick moment because I had "Kelley" for 56A and "Ollin" for 52D since I didn't know either name.

Oh, okay, let me be completely honest. I had "Olrin" for 52D because I completely missed the obvious answer PULSE for "living proof." I put in "purse" because I figured your purse, your winnings, would show that you were making a living. Reaching, reaching . . .

I was relieved to finally see PANATELLA with the two Ls, because I've always seen it written like that. The hardest answer for me was 5D; I've only eaten gyros a couple of times and certainly don't know the name of the sauce!

Deborah and Rube on one side, and Clark on the other, bring up an interesting dynamic. When is a cultural artifact that would now be considered offensive old enough to be viewed dispassionately? Some would say "Never; let it disappear forever without a trace." I'm more in the artifact-collector frame of mind--if it happened, ever, it's a reflection of its time, and if you get rid of it, your understanding and knowledge of that time is distorted and incomplete.

ArtLvr 9:32 AM  

@ bookmark -- Thanks for the title of the tale I was trying to remember about the ARNO flood!

As to the children's song, might as well complain about Itsy-Bitsy Spider who keeps getting washed out by the rain! The theme is Life Goes On.

"The pony run, he jump, he pitch --
He throw my master in a ditch.
He died and the jury wondered why:
The verdict was the Blue-tail Fly."

My one error at the end was a wrong K -- I wrote AM INTO instead of AKIN TO for the "Like" clue, leaving a name ERIMA -- a bit like Erma? Too bad, after remembering LIVIA, plus correctly guessing ISABEL, AMELIAS, et al.

WALTZES OFF WITH seems to be from same era as THE CAT'S MEOW -- still way cool. SALAAM, Karen!


joho 9:40 AM  

I struggled and thought I had won only to come here to find my error at POLITBoRO/SoVA. Oh well.

My favorite new word is definitely TZATZIKI.

@CoolPapaD ... hilarious nightmare!

There is so much to love in this puzzle ... thank you, Karen Tracey!

dk 9:40 AM  

From yesterday: Tony Hillerman: Rent or get from library the adaptations (only 2) of his work that appeared on PBS Mystery.

My Andrea moment -- Met Tony H many years ago when his first book came out. He was a high school social studies teacher and friends with one of my sisters. Many AKINTO dk live in ABQ.

Have a cold sniff, sniff - no skiing today. Just quality time with my Neti Pot. If you have any recipes for Neti fluid that you like click on "rode hard and put up wet skipper picture and send them along.


JannieB 9:45 AM  

Last Saturday I was so proud of my 21 minute solving time. Today - !! minutes. And on a KMT puzzle. Double wow!

There were just no stumbling blocks for me today - every guess was right. Love when that happens.

And finally, the sun is shining - both metaphorically and physically!

Elaine 9:50 AM  

Um, TZATZIKI sauce IS cucumber/yogurt sauce. You thought you were eating...?

Several of us have also chimed in on the side of Clark and folk music. I am sure "Ol' Dan Tucker" would also fit that list, but remembering my Granny singing that to us kids...and then having to explain "combed his hair with a wagon wheel"... still makes me smile.

Thanks for the addition to the reading list. I read about the flood as it was happening...the same year I was taking art history.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:51 AM  

Add my vote to @Elaine and @Leslie -- The crossing of KELSEY and OSLIN, two people I have Never, Ever Heard Of, is a definite Natick (I had KELLEY/OLLIN, which seemed perfectly OK in my pen and paper solve.)

Otherwise, definitely Easy, finished the puzzle before I finished breakfast.

imsdave 9:53 AM  

JannieB - your making me feel really inadequate. Solid forty minutes here - enjoyable, but (and I can't explain why) this was just hard for me.

I seem to be collapsing as the ACPT draws nigh.

Hobbyist 9:57 AM  

Eggs are valuable deposits?

Meg 10:22 AM  

Well sure I knew TZATZEKI, but I had no idea how to spell it! It's one of the best sauces invented.

OK, I've looked up MOOT and am familiar with all 3 definitions.
a. open to question; debatable
b. made abstract or purely academic
c. concerned with a hypothetical situation (moot court)

How does it mean "doubtful"?

Great puzzle!! My favorite clue of wonderful misdirection was "AMA member?"

Meg 10:26 AM  

I just took a look at the 2nd Sunday puzzle. It's a crossword with a twist by Eric Berlin. Yummy!

HudsonHawk 10:33 AM  

I was excited to see Karen Tracey's name on this one. She can really bring it, although her last few have been right in my wheelhouse. Today's was definitely a fast Saturday for me.

My addiction to Sporcle geography quizzes served me well, as I was sure that 33A would be either APIA or SUVA. As a result, POLITBURO and BOLSHEVIK dropped in quickly.

@Elaine, we always said BRATS with pride (Air Force, in my case), and I don't claim a hometown.

Glitch 10:51 AM  


Uh, doesn't "doubtful" match your definition "a"???


retired_chemist 10:57 AM  

Hand up for not knowing PANATELA could be spelled with two L's. (Apostrophe police, fire away.) Grudgingly accepted the double L once the crosses made any alternative impossible.

This looks much easier this morning than it was last night. Took me an unexpectedly long time. Writeovers: 37A UMS, 55D SOBA, no faith in 17A LIVIA at first though I entered it, (K.T.) LAING @52D - Google finds that this blog had a discussion of the same error on April 9, 2009, and I probably participated.

Could not fit EPISCOPALIANS into 30D - tried CATHOLICS (note ZERO letter entries in common with ANGLICANS). Another D'oh moment. I don't know if Catholics even have a Book of Common Prayer.

Agree that MOOT does not really fit the clue and that HENs' deposits (presumably eggs) don't pass the valuable test (though they do pass the breakfast test, which is more than I can say for other possible HENs' deposits. ACK!)

Did not enjoy it as much as yesterday's but it was more my problem than the puzzle.

edith b 11:13 AM  

ERIKA Christensen was 43rd on the list of performers in the movie "Traffic" so she wasn't the star by any means. Since I didn't see the movie, I'm assuming she was part of a crowd scene and we were not supposed to recognize her which I think relegates her to an abstract we are only supposed to get via crosses.

Pretty much the same for Ann KELSEY, a character in a TV series that went off the air nearly 15 years ago. Either a "you know it or you don't" or an abstract designed to get via crosses.

I looked all this up after the fact. To my way of thinking, this is what late week puzzles are supposed to be like. You can either commit the names to memory for future referennce or approach them the same way you did before: as abstracts.

I always enjoy Ms Tracey's puzzles for this very reason. I recognized some the names and had to puzzle out the rest. I think you have to BUILD puzzles like this one. You have to go to them, so to speak, rather than have them come to you.

CoolPapaD 11:25 AM  

@Elaine (she of unbelievable memory) - I did not know that until I read your post - I've always just called the delicious white stuff cucumber sauce, and can't recall ever seeing "tzatziki." I am now, however, going to hold you personally responsible for my inability to stop thinking about gyros and cucumber sauce...

retired_chemist Eggs passing breakfast test, and other hens' droppings - hysterical!

Raul 11:25 AM  

Tzatziki (Garlic and Cucumber Yogurt Sauce)

1 – 32-ounce container plain yogurt
1 – large English, seedless cucumber, peeled
8 – cloves garlic, peeled and chopped (more or less garlic to taste; we use a whole bulb)
½ to 1 cup – extra virgin olive oil to taste
1 – tablespoon salt (kosher salt preferable but not necessary)
1 – teaspoon vinegar (cider vinegar preferable but any type can be used)
dash of pepper

In medium-sized bowl, grate the peeled cucumber and squeeze excess liquid out by hand. Add remainder of ingredients and stir well and vigorously. Refrigerate an hour or so before using if possible. Stir again before serving. Opa!

fikink 11:28 AM  

@edith b, yours is an excellent reading of this puzzle, IMO, and the erector-set approach is why I like Karen's puzzles so much. Her puzzles usually take me around the grid several times. For this reason, I find I am addicted to doing puzzles in Across Lite, given so much remodeling.

Norm 11:33 AM  

Fun puzzle. A lot of names I didn't know but persistence & crosses paid off. @elaine -- when people ask about my childhood, I freely identify myself as a Marine brat. We all did. (No editorial comments from the Army needed.) Can't remember what the Navy kids called themselves.

KDD 11:34 AM  

Another member of the KELLEY/OLLIN club here. Never even occurred to me to explore alternatives.

Otherwise, pretty easy.

duaneu 11:53 AM  

I just happened to be watching an old LA Law episode while I was doing the puzzle last night...so no problem with 1D and 56A.

ArtLvr 11:53 AM  

p.s. re children's songs, dealing lightly with death, not dwelling on racism or even ageism -- just tickling a child's fancy with rhymes and preposterous imges å la Pete Seger:

"There was an old lady who swallowed a fly,
I don't know why she swallowed a fly...
I guess she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a cow,
I don't know how she swallowed a cow." Etc.

Now some of these are stuck in my head!


HudsonHawk 11:54 AM  

@edithb, ERIKA Christensen played a critical role in Traffic. Steven Soderbergh, the director, typically runs acting credits in order of appearance in the film. In his remake of Ocean's Eleven, for example, Julia Roberts is the 39th person listed in the credits.

SethG 11:55 AM  

edith b, the cast of Traffic was listed in order of appearance. It was an ensemble cast, and she _was_ one of the stars. Catherine ZETA-JONES was listed 45th, and she was award-nominated and stuff. (As was ERIKA Christensen). Fine to not know her, but she wasn't just in some crowd scene. (If you saw the movie, she was Michael Douglas' daughter, the drug addict).

Anyone else have PANTANELA? That didn't help. Took me a while to get rid of SALUTE for SALAAM, too. I learned OSLIN from a NYT last year, SUVA from Sporcle, and SAMISEN from this puzzle right here.

SethG 11:57 AM  

Uh, what he said.

captcha: "rexters"

dls 12:12 PM  

Another vote for the natickness (natickitude?) of the S in KELSEY/OSLIN, where an L would also seem just as reasonable.

retired_chemist 12:20 PM  

@ ArtLvr - thanks for the Pete Seeger memory.

captcha manon - guess the geeks are not opera buffs....

Rex Parker 12:20 PM  

I knew K.T. OSLIN, who has a certain crossword cred, but I am very sympathetic to the cries of "Natick" over that one.

slypett 12:22 PM  

andrea z-j michaels: Descarte, Wittgenstein, Townshend (is that the musician?). Why not bring in Zsa Zsa (two Zs for your collection) Gabor and Paris Hilton? They are the exemplars of SEEME, IAM.

edith b 12:35 PM  


Thanks for the info. I was unaware that IMDB listed actors in order of appearance. I'm glad I qualified the fact that I did not see the movie or I would have been a bigger fool.

On the other hand, it doesn't alter my larger point that I was unfamiliar with her and had to develop the answer by way of crosses.

HudsonHawk 12:48 PM  

@edithb, IMDb just mimics the movie credits as they appeared in the film. That's why I mentioned Soderbergh specifically, since he uses order of appearance. Others will be based on star power, etc.

edith b 12:52 PM  


I should have included you in my response to SethG but I stopped reading when I saw Seth's comment. I sure am glad I said I hadn't seen the movie. It makes me look less stupid.

chefbea 1:00 PM  

First look at the puzzle - seemed rather difficult. Googled a few things then did my usual grocery shopping. When I came home the rest fell into place.

My two favorite clues = nest down, and one with a replaceable head.

never heard of samisen

kathy d. 1:21 PM  

I liked this puzzle a lot, just the right amount of puzzling for me, and did not have to google a thing.

I agree with Deborah on "Jimmy Crack Corn." Although I only remembered the title and not the lyrics, her comment refreshed my memory.

I grew up on Pete Seeger records, (my family sang the songs),my dad knew him, I've met him. I have great respect for him but on "Jimmy Crack Corn," I beg to

There are a lot of old folksongs I knew well but would leave out of my repetoire or any mention today due to the racism. There were and are so many good ones to keep alive, including Woody Guthrie's.
And so many that could be added.

OldCarFudd 1:24 PM  

I was convinced Alzheimer's had stolen my brain during the night. After an hour of staring at this thing, I had bolshevik, Suva, Anglicans, salaam, ohms, bene, and Nothing. Nada. Rien. Nichts. Zilch. I frittered away the rest of the morning, came in to lunch, and finished the puzzle in about 20 minutes. One error: I thought the instrument was a samiset, and wondered when the docs had let their ASSTs into the AMA.

@Rube - I hate those pink questions, too.

I'm OK with Jimmy Crack Corn. I remember it fondly from childhood. We used to sing it in our (admittedly all-white) school.

Good puzzle!

Doug 1:32 PM  

Was on the easy side for a Saturday (since I finished it) and actually thought Friday was harder. But it's all relative based on getting lucky. My wife bought Golden OREOS this week, for example.

NE was the hardest and took me about 15 minutes of head scratching to get it.

I love ANY Saturday puzzle I finish, so wasn't this one a beauty?

lit.doc 1:54 PM  

As usual, file this one under “Learning Opportunities”. Filled square 6 (needed an alphabet run there) at 69:48, after lots of googles. @Rex, thanks for your spot-on characterization of “how a Saturday is supposed to feel”.

On the bright side, I’m “living proof” that progress is possible, as I am getting more and more of the answers on my own. E.g. I got ANGLICAN just from the G (well-educated atheist), 58D from _OS and a quick alphabet run (stop laughing), and ISAAC Stern was a gimme (classical music geek). I’m also “seeing” words/phrases noticeably sooner from just a few letters.

On the other hand, I’m still getting caught by clinging too long to early good-fit guesses, like 16A IFFY and 22A SCHEDULE, which killed me in NE. Ditto 45D PREVENT and 53D GROOM which killed me in SE. And still too slow to second-guess seemingly obvious answers, e.g. DIC instead of the more specific OED, TIKS instead of TKTS, and K. [D.] LANGE, who does indeed have one country album, but…

A few cavils, nonetheless. I’m with @Meg on this one—how does MOOT = “Doubtful”? That a matter is open to debate doesn’t imply that one position is more or less in doubt than any other. And—someone help me out here—how does STAT = “saves”? And—again, any Latin geeks out there?—I’m quite a ways from Latin 101, but doesn’t even the present indicative of “amare” have six forms? How does that make it “one of a loving trio”?

The upside of inexperience is that I’m still very easily amused—laughed and laughed when I saw what a “source of valuable deposits” was. And, as usual a couple of “teehee” if-only-I-were-the-constructor moments: wanted 43D to be REDNECK (hey, I live in Tejas) and wanted 15A to be RAIN (oh, that this were a BEQ rather than a NYT).

Ben 2:02 PM  

The attorney in me isn't wild about "doubtful" as a definition of MOOT. Others have said as much.

Otherwise, a Saturday much as Rex described.

When on MOTT Street, be sure to visit the Peking Duck House and order their titular entree. It's excellent. In fact, that gives me an idea for an ACPT field trip.

Checking out from my Scottsdale vacation. I am off to find a tennis court.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Brenden 2:03 PM  

I agree with those saying Doubtful is not a fair clue for MOOT. Specifically because, although moot can mean doubtful in the sense that a suspect point would be debated, maybe, in moot court, these days and in the US, moot almost always takes the opposite meaning of inconsequential, or not worthy of debate.

Glitch 2:11 PM  


Think STATistic, as in a pitcher's record.


Stan 2:23 PM  

Less time for me than yesterday, but much harder to get started. Appropriate for a Saturday, yes.

@andrea: I've heard a similar joke using the word 'Bolshoi' but can't remember. Zeta-Michaels is a great name! I hope it's stopped raining there...

miguel 2:42 PM  

The language in Jimmy Crack Corn may be just as grating as Mark Twain writings to some, but that does not make it a racist tune, In the Antebellum South, it was stealth humor played against slavery and racism. Abraham Lincoln got it and asked for it to be played often. I suppose some argue he was a racist, but come on. To me, Francis Scott Key's poem and Julia Ward Howe's lyrics are more misguided than Jimmy Crack Corn.

I had an OSLIN error,as well, and see a few ways to rebuild the Natick cross. I wonder what was worth saving to keep it, RESOD? TENDS? I almost always love KMTs work, however.

CoolPapaD 2:45 PM  

@lit.doc Your 43D and 15A answers are the CATS MEOW! Hysterical!

Clark 2:58 PM  

@lit.doc -- While AMAT surely belongs to a set of six, it nevertheless does floats around in the sea-of-stuff-we're-all-kind-of-aware-of as a trio. Amo, amas, amat; sum, es, est. And that's not just some accident (as you know, of course). Conjugations are sextets, but they are sextets that are also clearly divided into trios. How did you get me thinking about this?!

lit.doc 3:22 PM  

@Glitch, gotcha. Thanks! My brain was stuck in the ER by that point.

jae 3:23 PM  

Pretty smooth solve for me and an enjoyable Sat. I was an LALAW fan so KELSEY came back to me with only the K and L. Hard to forget Ann and Stuart and the Venus Butterfly. On the other hand I needed all the crosses for TESSA and had to change "C" to "K" in 2d. Nice KMT puzzle!

Bill from NJ 3:25 PM  


My father was career Air Force and I, like you, didn't care for the appellation BRAT. Same same, I was from "someplace" but never lived there.

Air Force Kid was better than dependant, I guess, but I never was able to settle on what I wanted to be called but BRAT was not it.

lit.doc 3:25 PM  

@Clark, I see what you mean. "Trio" in the sense of commonly used Crosswordese 101 clues/answers. Useful.

chefbea 3:33 PM  

@Meg I started the second sunday puzzle. It's a winner. I recommend it to all

Stan 3:38 PM  

Prep-school fac-brat here. I believe though that growing up we preferred the term 'kid'.

thewertle 3:42 PM  

Is a samisen different from a shamisen? Shamisen being a Japanese guitar-like instrument strummed with a paddle (or I suppose spatula-like tool).

I went ahead and googled it just now and I suppose it's a variation. Never seen it spelled without an H. That one threw me for a bit of a loop.

Blanche 3:55 PM  

Curious about the samisen?


mac 4:24 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle alot, it was perfectly medium to me, and I had one mistake: 49D Ach/56A Helsey. Don't know that woman. Didn;t know Tessa either, but the crosses helped me out.

I thought the Politburo and Bolsjevik right next to each other was brilliant. Started out spelling it Bolsjewik, though, but I don't want to talk about Ws.

Before I figured out Ozark and got Zeta Jones, I though Etta Jones? Isn't it Etta James?

@Andrea: now I know why I disliked "goober" so much!

I'm on the "not quite accurate" side with moot. With ten of, I always want 2 ffs at the end.

Jeffrey 4:35 PM  

Just came from a family evemt where my brother asked if I knew Rex Parker. I found that very disturbing for some reason.

lit.doc 4:35 PM  

@chefbea (or anyone), never done the second Sunday puzzle before. Doesn't come up in Across Lite (and prints reeealy small). Any to print the answers too?

andrea the hoople michaels 4:40 PM  

This has been a good week womenwise (wise women-wise?).
Tuesday marking the first teen girl (Zoe Wheeler)puzzle ever in the NYT, followed by a sparkling Thursday dose of Elizabeth Gorski and ending the week with a Saturday Karen M. Tracy!

Even tho OSLIN/KELSEY proved Natick-y for some, I loved the fact that today there are lots and lots of ladies, even tho half are fictitious!

Catherine ZETAJONES, TESSA Allen, ERIKA Christensen, KT OSLIN, LIVIA, ANN KELSEY, AMELIA Fielding, AMELIA Menotti, and ISABEL Archer.

They would make quite the SOCIABLE HEN party!

(insert Groucho Marx singing "Livia oh Livia the encyclopivia...")

AND not one baseball player!
(Altho there is STAT and REFS thrown in to let us know the crossword world hasn't gone absolutely crazy!)

Meg 4:48 PM  

@lit.doc: Small? You should try printing the acrostics. The font must be 4 or something. I do the 2nd Sunday and then check the Wordplay blog if I need help.

It's a nice puzzle, but not all that hard.

It was nice to see the agreement on MOOT. I thought maybe I wasn't thinking clearly. If A is a synonym for B and B is a synonym for C, A is not necessarily a synonym for C.

Tzatziki on toasted pita. Exquisite and not unhealthy!

chefbea 4:56 PM  

@lit.doc I sent you an e-mail explaining how to print it from the NYT website. Fun easy puzzle

PlantieBea 5:31 PM  

Ach(k), I ended with lots of little errors with the spelling of names. I had to look up KELSEY and OSLIN to fix the SE corner. I blew the BENe/SAMISeN corner with an O; I neglected to change my ERs to EHS which left me with TOADFISR. Sloppy solving of a nice puzzle. Thanks Karen Tracey! I'll try to do better next time around.

babslesley 6:00 PM  

Love that I'm now getting recipes from this site. Maybe my tzatziki sauce will be a bigger success than my attempt at today's puzzle. Raul, besides gyros what else is this sauce good for?

michael 6:07 PM  

I was surprised to be able to do a Saturday Karen Tracey with no particular problems (though slower than some of you). My only wrong track was spending some time trying to thing of Renee Zellweger's last name. I don't know Tessa Allen, but Karen (Allen) was obviously wrong.

And I had to google samisen after finishing the puzzle.

SueRohr 6:11 PM  

I feel like everything lit.doc says goes double for me. I found this a struggle but am so proud to have done the whole thing correctly and with no googling, which I really oppose. What's the point? Anyway, I use the dead tree edition and had so many writeovers I could hardly see what I was writing, but I got it! The whole bottom half was actually pretty easy, but the north killed me. Anyway, I got it! I got it! And even though Rex got it probably 100 times faster than me I agree with him that it was just what a Saturday puzzle should be.

mac 6:19 PM  

@babslesley: this sauce is great with grilled lamb (kabobs for instance) or lamb burgers. Also good with spicy stews or curries, for the latter add a little ground cumin.

@Glitch, I agree with you, but this one is too appropriate: my whock

sanfranman59 6:36 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 6:47, 6:54, 0.98, 51%, Medium
Tue 8:56, 8:47, 1.02, 60%, Medium
Wed 10:54, 12:01, 0.91, 27%, Easy-Medium
Thu 22:53, 19:26, 1.18, 89%, Challenging
Fri 22:38, 25:51, 0.88, 21%, Easy-Medium
Sat 26:45, 29:53, 0.90, 24%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:39, 3:40, 1.00, 54%, Medium
Tue 4:28, 4:29, 0.99, 54%, Medium
Wed 5:45, 5:55, 0.97, 48%, Medium
Thu 10:45, 9:22, 1.15, 85%, Challenging
Fri 10:30, 12:24, 0.85, 14%, Easy
Sat 12:49, 17:12, 0.74, 7%, Easy

With the exception of the "Aha, I'm in! Woo hoo! Do a little dance!" Etc." part, Rex captured perfectly my usual Saturday solving experience (although the "Holy &$%! I'm not going to be able to do this." is usually more than a brief sensation) I don't get it. From Monday through Thursday, my solve times are usually anywhere from about average to a good bit better than average compared to all online solve times. But come Friday and Saturday, it's like I've never seen a crossword puzzle (or the English language) before. There must be some kind of psychological block going on, but it's hard for me to imagine a day when I'll be able to complete (without cheating) a puzzle with the likes of MOTT, LIVIA, ISABEL, SUVA, KELSEY, BENE, SOBA, ERIKA (as clued here), SAMISEN, TZATZIKI, TESSA (as clued here), TOADFISH and AMELIAS (as clued here). With all of these answers, I can't believe that this puzzle comes in at an Easy rating, but there it is. Color me humbled. I'm in awe of Rex's and Oranges of the world for being able to solve a puzzle like this in 5 minutes. Amazing.

fergus 6:37 PM  

Another Zellweger bungler. Obscure for OCCLUDE, Salute for SALAAM, and ANEAL was my verbal aid in Forging. Hence many problems, which gradually worked themselves out -- with requisite Saturday satisfaction. MOTT and ISABEL were the only toeholds.

antiorc 6:38 PM  

The clue for ESTS is kind of off. If I estimate that there are 5 million peanuts in the 2 lb tub of peanuts next to me, that's not exactly in the ballpark (although I wish it were! Imagine, 5 million peanuts!).

fergus 7:22 PM  

Quite a few other errors:

IGNUT for Goober
CARRIES OFF WITH (verb was the problem)

SECEEDED, oddly for Not withdrawn
PAPERER, ?, instead of PAINTER

I even wondered about IMPLANT for the Major pest of the South, but that was probably too much of a stretch.

Anonymous 7:31 PM  

The sub-text of "Jimmie Crack Corn" subverts the notion that slaves loved their benevolent masters as in "Gone With The Wind." The slave's (dead) master has "gone away" and the slave "don't care." Rex, I like the late Blosom Dearie too. The slow tempo & perfect enunciation are a hallmark of her style.

Ruth 8:51 PM  

@Andrea Zeta Hoople: Bolshoi joke, I believe from The Smothers Brothers:
Tom: They have a really good ballet in Russia!
Dick: Bolshoi. . .
Tom: No, really, I hear it's REALLY good.
Not sure how that got by the CBS censors, but I recall hearing it.

Alice in SF 9:06 PM  

OMG, no. The samisen is played with a large weighted plectrum called a bachi in Japanese. All those lovely geishas playing their samisen with a spatula? Boggles the mind.

Anonymous 9:32 PM  

Tried to put Dunnhills in for the smoke of 18 across.

fergus 9:36 PM  

Our constructor relishes our mistakes, I hope. To me, that's the mark of flirtatious artisty in this neighborhood -- to get you going somewhere you hadn't thought you'd go.

fergus 9:40 PM  

Artistry, of course. I have a sticky R on my keyboard, sort of the opposite of the uvular fricative in French.

Anonymous 11:06 PM  

Charming puzzle.

Posters a little off, though: Moot is a synonym for debatable, ie. doubtful (issue). That the more common usage is the polar opposite doesn't affect that. Similarly, sure, eggs are valuable: if this seems counterintuitive, try walking out of the store without paying for them.

Meanwhile, SF Alice and antiorc are right that 'spatula' and 'neighborhood' are lousy/lazy.

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