Debut Olympian of 2008 / SAT 3-13-10 / Personification purity literature / Entertainer first man married Caesars Palace / Tea originally wrapped foil

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Constructor: Tyler Hinman and Byron Walden

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: LOMÉ (53D: Capital on the Gulf of Guinea) —

Lomé, with an estimated population of 737,751, is the capital and largest city of Togo. Located on the Gulf of Guinea, Lomé is the country's administrative and industrial center and its chief port. The city exports coffee, cocoa, copra, and palm kernels. It also has an oil refinery. (wikipedia)
• • •

This one ate me alive, and there is really only one reason: I couldn't remember the damned first name of that damned CUGAT guy who married Charo!!! (3D: Entertainer who was the first man to be married at Caesars Palace) "That damned CUGAT guy who married Charo" was a phrase that must have floated around my head for the better part of 5-10 minutes as I tried to make sense of the NW. Had I remembered that his name was XAVIER, I would have had an "X" and a "V" in that section and would have taken it down pronto. As it was ... it was a mud bog, and my purchased UTE was going nowhere (this is because I should have purchased an ATV13D: Mud bogger's purchase, briefly; and yes, I did make that error). Smaller, but still serious problem was that for a very long time, I had STREW where RESOW was supposed to go (5D: Make seedier?). This had caused me to give up LIANA at 15A: Tropical vine, which I "knew" was right. Eventually, when I went from something-ED to SLID ON for 19A: Had trouble with, as icy roads, I just threw caution to the wind and decided LIANE must be an OK spelling. This let me confirm BLESS (despite the "BM-" word it left me with at 1A) (1D: Smile on) and then get ELVIS (where only soup cans and Marilyn had wanted to be earlier — 17A: Andy Warhol subject), and then, finally, get the "X" in XAVIER / BMXER (1A: Debut Olympian of 2008). After that, I still had the SW to finish — it was toughish, but after the NW, it was really just an afterthought. Figuring out TRA LA (50A: Refrain from singing when you're happy?) allowed me to change ALIEN LIFE to ALIEN RACE (36D: Vulcans, e.g.), and the rest took care of itself.

Weirdly, I only just now "got" the meaning of "Refrain" in the TRA LA clue. I think I was thinking that *rather than* singing, you TRA LA (la)'d (which is kind of like humming, in that you might do it if you didn't know / didn't want to sing the words). But clearly "Refrain" here means simply a repeated part of a song.

This puzzle was really two puzzles for me: the eastern half was done at a pretty good clip, at probably a faster-than-normal Saturday time, but the west, dear lord. I managed to throw SOCIAL LUBRICANT across (35A: Alcohol, it's said), but that just sat precariously on top of ROMANCE and LAVENDER — had no idea what words were supposed to precede them. Thankfully, I had figured out STEPS (35D: Salsa ingredients?), which gave me the first letters to all the long Acrosses. This was after having ESSES as the answer at first. I loosened my grip slightly on RIALS, which allowed me to figure out the TRUE LIFE part of TRUE LIFE ROMANCE (38A: Hepburn and Tracy shared one), and also to figure out that RIALS was supposed to be RIELS (30D: Cambodian cash). From there, the ENGLISH part of ENGLISH LAVENDER (39A: Aromatic plant native to the Pyrenees) became evident, and when I threw MILLE BORNES (2D: Game with hazards, safeties and remedies) up into the NW, I was sure I was rounding third and headed for home ... but we all know that didn't happen.

Puzzle started with the gimme WES (23A: Film director Anderson), but went nowhere from there. Rebooted at ATE (25A: Fell hard, with "it"), and somehow got BY LOT off that "T" (9D: One way to break ties). Everything up there fell easily after that, even though I couldn't tell you anything about a COBB SALAD except maybe there's ham involved (6A: Dish served with Roquefort cheese). ORO Y PLATA was a nice long gimme (16A: Treasure State's motto, aptly). If you memorize only one state motto, memorize that one. Oh, and California's, because it's easy — just one word: Eureka! (not a word I was saying often enough today).

• • •

[Interlude — as I'm typing this, Will Shortz is blowing UP on Twitter because Neil Patrick Harris just tweeted a picture of himself and Will together, presumably on the set of the sitcom "How I Met Your Mother." Will is going to be making a cameo on the show in the near future, which I *also* learned about via Twitter — one of the show's creators follows me (and vice versa). OK, back to the puzzle. Oh, wait, you wanna see the pic? OK:

[Part of the accompanying message: "I'm a fan. I geeked out."]

... and now, really, back to the puzzle]

• • •

Completely guessed STAND IN A ROW (26D: Line up) from just the second "T" in TITAN (33A: "The Sirens of ___," Kurt Vonnegut novel). Couldn't believe it when it worked. Only part of the SE that rattled me was LOMÉ, which I knew had to be right but looked terribly wrong. I thank former crosswords for teaching me SALADA (52A: Tea originally wrapped in foil), which is not a brand I would know of otherwise.

Thought SELF-HEALING (24D: Holistic medicine topic) was SELF-HELPsomething for a while. The rest ... well, see below.

  • 29A: Shaker's cry ("BRR!")— And I thought the Shakers just made furniture.
  • 20D: Air Force base near Las Vegas (NELLIS) – Whoa, NELLIS. Looked sooo wrong. Was not at all sure about that first "L" — LEDS are kinds of screens, I guess (31A: They're often seen on scoreboards, for short), but I ran the alphabet at least once to see if any other letter could go in the "L" spot.
  • 43A: Flier with delta wings (SST) — not sure what's cuing the abbrev. here.
  • 44A: Arm supporters, for short (NRA) — uh ... shoulders? "Arms" would have been too obvious. Well played, Hinwald.
  • 58A: Ulexite is rich in it (BORON) — and not, as you suspected, wackiness.
  • 59A: Pope when the Visigoths seized Rome (INNOCENT I) — sure, why not. That sounds like a plausible pope.
  • 4D: Personification of purity, in literature (ENID) — Total guess, after I got the "N" and "D" — there's really nothing else *to* guess at that point, is there?
  • 11D: Garments covered by amices (ALBS) — ALB = oldskool crosswordese. I found a way to turn it into ALF in a crossword I recently made. It's ... unlovely.
  • 12D: Language written with no spaces between words (LAO) — I had no idea. I was considering ASL, but that's not "written" at all.
  • 47D: Albert with a National Medal of Science (SABIN) — I'm guessing he's the SABIN of "that other guy who invented a polio vaccine" fame.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


nanpilla 12:52 AM  

Brutal! Took me almost an hour, and my experience in the NW was exactly the same as Rex. Put in LIANE, took it out to put in strew, filled in an ed at the end of 19a, then had to take everything out and start all over again when I remembered XAVIER's first name. Had the hardest time parsing "easily past". Had guide for the michelin clue before RATER, which made that corner take forever. I had almost nothing for 20 minutes, then just chipped away at it, writing things in very lightly, figuring everything was wrong, but a few correct guesses opened it up one little corner at a time.

This is the kind of puzzle that I'm happy to pay for. Thanks, hinwald!

captcha - throddle - what I felt like doing to the constructors 20 minutes in.

Lon 1:10 AM  

I liked this puzzle, but it was another one of those that I depended on the "s" at the end of plurals to crack: the S in STEPS got me SST, the S in SRS got me SABIN, ODORS s got me ALBS (too short a word for any other garment), and also SIP.

I still had to re-write about half the letters at one point or another to finally get the right answer. I probably made all the errors that RP did, without most of the gimmes.

I usually don't open Saturday's puzzle so early. Wish now that I had waited until tomorrow to start it. Part of my Saturday ritual is gone.

ArtLvr 1:18 AM  

Aha, COBB SALAD, not Bibb. Oh well. A close one but not quite perfect, okay for a late night stab! Funny that there was SALADA tea as well.

I was glad MILLE BORNES was in a puzzle just yesterday, otherwise that 1A would have been more difficult. Thinking of Vulcan, a Roman god who may have been one of the Titans confused me too, until ALIEN RACE came through crosses and TITAN showed up elsewhere...

I wanted Hollis for the Air Force Base, and there is one in New Hampshire, not Nevada, so I gave it up for the unfamiliar NELLIS.

Not bad for Saturday, all in all.


andrea brr michaels 2:46 AM  

Hinwald! hilarious!

I eat one COBBSALAD a week and never with Rochefort. I get Bleu cheese and Thousand Island on the side.

@Art Lvr
Good catch on that SALAD/SALADA thing, I wonder if the boys noticed that.

Bleedover: TITAN from TITANS earlier this week...sounds like you almost malapopped!

Like @Rex I had second halves without being able to get first halves...sure, LAVENDER but was it African? (I confused it with Lilacs) Spanish? (I mean Pyrenees are between France and Spain, no?)
and ROMANCE...
(could they make a double pun like that?) I mean, their romance was a lot of things...Hollywood, extramarital, On set...illicit?
WHat makes things TRUELIFE?

Loved the NEWTS clue.

NELLIS? Whoa. Only after much internal debate over whether or not SLIDED was a word!

My last word was SIP. I love Hinwald but SIP seems to involve just my mouth and no spoon at all, no?

Two days in a row, I needed one hour and one google to unlock an entire was Daniel DAE Kim.
I am not only not ashamed, I plan to use him in a puzzle next chance I get! Move over RAE Dawn Chong!

addie loggins 2:51 AM  

This puzzle kicked. My. Ass.

I got COBBSALAD right away, which gave me... absolutely nothing, for many, many minutes. I also got NELLIS Air Force Base quickly and, surprisingly, got RATER with no crosses (starting to think like a puzzler, I take this as a good sign).

I've decided that there are too many five-letter declarations a poker player can make (in addition to IMOUT, there are "all in," "I fold," and "raise"). Unfair.

I was looking for something completely different for BYLOT -- I was thinking of "breaking ties" in terms of family-feud type breaks.

Is "hasty pudding" a thing? Hang on...(googling)...ah, yes it is. I feel like less of an idiot now.

I usually do the puzzle when I wake up in the morning, and thought I'd try the night before. Wondered if being more awake would make a difference. Impossible to tell on a Saturday, but I may try early next week to see if it affects my times. (I must say I do prefer the copy I print myself over the newspaper -- nice for a lefty to be able to put the puzzle in the lower left-hand corner.)

@ACM Is there a difference between bleu cheese and Roquefort? If so, I'm glad I didn't know it, or I probably wouldn't have gotten COBBSALAD to quickly. (also, I SIP my soup with a spoon)


jae 4:29 AM  

Really liked this one. Early on it had me doubting I could finish. Very tough with the NW and central 15s being the real sticking points. I stuck with LIANA too long (which made me resist RESOW) and it took forever to get XAVIERCUGAT but once he appeared the NW fell. Trying to make 19A end in ED obscured NELLIS for a while also.

Just when you think you've seen all possible clues for OREO ....

@addie -- I think Roquefort is a type of bleu cheese made from sheep's milk. I know someone will call me on it if I'm wrong.

andrea double stuf michaels 4:39 AM  

@addie loggins
oh, oops! Rochefort is a bleu cheese? Then never mind! But seriously, you SIP your soup with a spoon? I will check that out in person ;)

just occurred to me I was actually solving this puzzle while eating double-stuf oreos (yes, they spell it with ONE F!?! wtff?!!)...and it was STILL one of the last clues I got.
(My excuse, Cala was out of chocolate covered graham crackers, so I was in withdrawal.)

I've asked Hinwald directly about the COBBSALAD/SALADA intentionality (?) and await a response with bated/oreo-ed breath

Unknown 8:27 AM  

Is there a classification beyond challenging??

I'd never heard of Xavier Cugat, BMXer, or mille bornes - the cross in the NE just killed me. I've never run across them in xwds before. Even after swiping the ansers from Rex and googling them, they all seem obscure and ungettable from the crosses. "Elvis" is not the first thing that pops to mind for Warhol.

/Off to sulk.

Denise Ann 8:41 AM  

In Milan once, I saw these words on the door of a cafe: Sala da tea --

The same means tea room!

Unknown 9:09 AM  

I too found the puzzle to be a real challenge. One answer I can help with -- the LED's that are often seen on scoreboards are Light Emitting Diodes, "solid state" replacements for conventional filament bulbs.

Lemonade714 9:17 AM  

I believe ENID comes from the King Arthur legend, but I have no idea why ACTA is the answer to "They're found withing minutes." please help.

foodie 9:43 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
foodie 9:44 AM  

let's see... I knew XAVIER CUGAT... For all the good that it did...

Had "Education" in lieu of GENDER GAP, "Shod" in lieu of TROD, "Lipton" in lieu of SALADA, and it went downhill from there.

In other words, after working on it for 20 minutes, I was in way worse shape than when I started, because of the hole I had fallen into.

What's beyond Challenging? Despair.

9:43 AM

Unknown 10:00 AM  

Well, I thought I had done well last night finishing in under an hour. I now have to admit an error. I had RESOd and dES, and thought it was a clever answer. When you go through the alphabet for an answer you should keep going after you find a reasonable solution. I'd like to think I would have chosen the W over the D.

foodie 10:02 AM  

Re the Roquefort/Rochefort vs. Blue Cheese question. Blue Cheese is a broad category, like Sparkling Wine. Roquefort is a particular kind, made in a particular place in France (Roquefort-sur-Soulzon) and no blue cheese made elsewhere can be called Roquefort, or some French person might stuff it up the nose of the offender. Same idea for Champagne, which can only be so-called if it is produced in the Champagne region of France. I was once on a wine tour in Napa Valley with some French people, and when we got to the sparkling wine, the French couple asked: "And how do you call zis please?", clearly waiting to pounce. When they received the correct answer, they nodded with reluctant approval but murmured in French that they did not quite trust those people to use the right terminology when a French person was not around...

Bob Kerfuffle 10:03 AM  

Another member of the one hour club here. Great crossword, really put me to work, but ultimately gettable. Thanks to Tyler and Byron.

Had MILLEBORNES and ALB as gimmes; didn't help much.

Lots of write-overs:

SNOW before ENID - the "N" is the same, came from LIANA before LIANE. Also RIALS before RIELS. RACER before RATER, HRS before SRS (hey, they ring bells on the hour, right?), and for 48 A, Brand follower?, had ISH before NEW.

Speaking of SALAD and SALADA, how about the crosses of 35 A and 34 D, . . . LUBRICANT and ICANT, and 27 D and 60 A, CANCELEDOUT and IMOUT?

And my absolutely final fill was the "E" in OREO, as noted above, what a clue for our old friend! Now I'll have to buy some and count the flowers!

@Lemonade714 - Someone will probably post before I do, but ACTA is often in the title of the journals of learned societies, including the minutes of their meetings.

jesser 10:04 AM  

I failed, but in a way I can smile about. Like Rex, I plowed through the east without too many pauses, but the intersection of SA_ADA and _OME was Natickal, so I sailed on, reasoning I'd come back when my brain was rested.

The west did not want to rest my brain, but NRA and TRALA gave me just enough (insert seagoing term to continue the brutalized metaphor here; I live in the desert) to slowly pull it together from bottom to top. The last letter to go in was the (tragically confident) O in BoXER at 1A, and I figured that oILLEBORNES was some freakish game played by Omanis, because they're forever showing up in my puzzles and they have all that oil, so why not?

Note that I forgot completely to go back to SA_ADA, so I came here, saw the Word of the Day and said a bad word that rhymes not with rum, but with luck.

Now I shall clean this house. Still grinning about Omanis.

Bulats! (what one does when one witnesses one's favorite Omani team losing at OILLEBORNES) -- jesser

Smitty 10:13 AM  

Yesterday's puzzle was fun to slog through. Today - no joy.
Lots of clunky "Well I guess - If you say so" answers
True Life Romance, Cow, By Lot, Stand in Row, NRA, srs, trod
I did love the oreo clue. The cobb salad -not so much.

The Bard 10:18 AM  

Macbeth > Act IV, scene I

ALL: Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch: Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

ALL: Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

hazel 10:25 AM  

This puzzle broke a very long streak of solves. A big fat DNF although of course I really DF, but had to google - which the puzzle lent itself to, given the number of obscure facts it asked for. Something about the puzzle - hard to identify exactly what - crossed the line from clever misdirection - to tortu(r)ous misdirection.

Maybe I'm just bitter about my streak - not self-righteous, mind you, just a little bitter.

Tut tut.

Meg 10:29 AM  

Once I spelled MILLE BORNES correctly, things finally started to fall.

What's with the NEWTS? Oh, just got it. Eye of newt.

This was a great Saturday puzzle-- hard, slow, but eventually gettable.

Now I have to go find out what PEASE pudding is. I know the rhyme, though I think that's pease porridge.

OldCarFudd 10:42 AM  

WOW! This one was a doozy. I had forgotten MILLE BORNES (which I had only ever heard of from this blog anyway), didn't know about BMXERs, and also couldn't get away from Shakers as a sect. So hand up for oILLE_ORNES. Which was, in the end, my only error. But this puzzle was serious brain strain. Loved it!

@Rex - Albert SABIN and "that other guy who invented the polio vaccine", Jonas Salk, are among my few genuine heroes. I had a relatively mild case of polio, in the decade before the vaccines appeared, and you just can't imagine what joy those vaccines produced. Polio was (much) scarier then than AIDS is now, because it mostly affected children, and no one knew where it came from. You'd send a healthy kid out to play after breakfast and he or she would be deathly ill before supper and crippled for life by the end of the week. It has always disappointed me that two people who did so much for the world were unwilling to share the credit, and feuded 'til their dying day.

John 10:48 AM  

Just thought I'd throw this in. Spoonful references the AMOUNT of liquid not the way its taken. A sip of juice could be a teaspoon worth.

Parshutr 10:56 AM  

My only goof was filling in SPACETIME without looking at the clue, and then not noticing that ODOCS is meaningless. Put in ODORS, got SPARETIME...dammit, I really wanted an Einsteinian reference in this puzzle. Got NEWTS from crosses & guessing, no idea of the relevance of the clue.

Parshutr 11:02 AM, according to ze Franch, even when we are right, we are wrong!
Quel dommage!
It's an alcohol delivery system, OK?

Van55 11:02 AM  

Shredded and humiliated! Good puzzle. Too good for my skillz.

DERIDERS is my captcha -- appropriate.

Two Ponies 11:07 AM  

Today was so much more fun for me than yesterday's slaughter.
I still had to work for it but it was very satisfying.
Nellis was a gimme as it is right up the highway from me. Then Elvis and Cugat gave it a nice Vegas mini-theme.
Today the clever misdirections were more up my alley.
Thanks Tyler and Byron.

joho 11:08 AM  

This took me forever but I never gave up and finally finished with no errors! I can't believe it. Forget Hinwald, I almost ended up in a disaster like the Hindenburg!
I think I'm the most proud I've ever been upon solving this puzzle.

Anybody else start with Edelweiss before getting ENGLISHLAVENDER?

I had many of the errors others had before staring them into submission.

Loved the OREO clue!

@foodie ... thanks for your Roquefort explanation, very interesting.

Tyler and Byron ... thanks for a worthy Saturday workout!

Clark 11:16 AM  

Finished (~) with a couple of nonsense spots WELLAfter instead of WELLABOVE and rEfS instead of LEDS. It's obvious enough in retrospect. It took me quite a bit of work to get beyond giant swaths of white space so I'm ok with my success/failure. I haven't googled a puzzle for months. I'm sticking with that.

Off to run errands, if I can find my way in the (Chicago) fog.

ArtLvr 11:29 AM  

Just a note to recommend today's Saturday Stumper -- it's by Barry Silk. 'Nuff said?


salo 11:32 AM  

Great clue for "oreo" especially since initially I had convinced myself that "orle" would work.

fikink 11:38 AM  

Had a devil of a time and @Hazel, my hand's up for my first DNF in a long time. I'd like to think that if I could take more time (like Clark, errands to run this morning), I'd eventually accomplish this feat - but then you'd all be discussing next Wednesday's puzzle.

@John's right about SIP being a quantity of liquid in cooking.
@Foodie, don't forget Stilton and Gorgonzola, representing the English and Italians, respectively.
@addie, I started out with I FOLD, too, for the poker player's expression.

A wonderfully complex puzzle, Messieurs!

Badir 11:49 AM  

I didn't have so much trouble with this puzzle, except that I had no idea on the SALADA/LOME crossing. I tried SArADA/rOME for a bit, and then SAtADA/tOME, thinking of Sao Tome & Principe. Anyway, I was complaining afterwards to my wife that I'd never heard of either SALADA or LOME, and she pointed out that we have some Salada tea sitting in plain sight in our pantry! D'oh!

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

First time in a while I couldn't finish. Most of the south fell easily for me; I couldn't get past SPANISH Lavender for 39A, which killed all of the long downs in the west. Nor could I get past FRY for 6D, which destroyed any chance at NE for me.

But I enjoyed being beaten, if for no other reason than the satisfaction from getting the answers I did get.

Moonchild 12:22 PM  

The only usage of "pease" that I know
is in the children's verse "Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold" so the pudding clue threw me off.
Tough puzzle today but I did manage to finish. 45 minutes well spent.
Happy Equinox everyone.

chefbea 12:34 PM  

Tough puzzle. Had to google a lot. Never heard of BMXer. Love Cobb salad - had one the other day with blue cheese. I agree - great clue for oreo

Gotta go help Mr. Bea hang pictures!!

Joel 12:44 PM  

Funny, I usually can't finish the NYT Saturday but finished this one without too much trouble (and by that I mean it took me 35 minutes). I guess some days your lucky guesses work, in my case SOCIAL LUBRICANT, OROYPLATA, GENDER GAP. Thought the SW was the hardest, espcially the SALADA/LOME crossing. All in all, great saturday puzzle.

Nancy in PA 12:48 PM  

Killer puzzle. Again well over an hour, but no Googling. Jumped right over salsa as food and went for "horns" and "saxes," thinking music, not dance. "Spanish"lavendar messed me up there, as did "late" life romance. And I was convinced given the constructors that 2D was some Dungeons and Dragons type game I would have no clue about, so it served me right to figure out ultimately it was that old standby Mille Bornes--created in 1954, so just about my vintage.

Thanks, Hinwald.

Anonymous 12:48 PM  

What does it say about me, that my first entry in the grid--without any crosses to guide me--was 35A, identifying alcohol as a SOCIAL LUBRICANT!

Rating a puzzle for difficulty is clearly a very individual thing. Yesterday was DNF, and today took only 45 minutes, a pretty good Saturday time for me. Loved the OREO clue!

lit.doc 12:50 PM  

Much as I wish I were good enough to actually solve a puzzle this hard, it’s just the sort of exercise I really want on a Saturday. And I was able to get through today’s interactive Crosswords 101 tutorial successfully—“interactive” as in interacting with google a lot, though even then it was well north of challenging for me. Today’s question: Does time cease to exist once the timer turns red?

I think we should come together as a community and create some sort of prize for constructors and/or editors (inquiring minds would like to know which, today) who come up with astonishingly original and/or profoundly oblique clues for OREO.

Worked slowly W to E, leaving a trail of mangled answers behind me, and finished in SE. 3D WAYNE NEWTON (hey, if not Mr. Las Vegas, who? EVEL KNIEVEL?). 4D LAMB (hard to argue with “agnus dei, qui tollis peccata mundi…”). “Knew” what 15A wanted, but had an attack of CFS syndrome—LANAI? LANAE? LAENE? 50D SHOD for TROD (gotta start heeding the “?”s). ACUPUNCTURE was reeally hard to get past—felt sooo right. Same with 31A LCDS (can anyone explain LCD vs. LED?). 37D PROBES/ROVERS (shoulda googled that one). 58A BORAX/BORON (I blame google for that one). And my personal favorite: 48A BrandEIS University.

boobtron 1:06 PM  

Got everything except the right upper quadrant. I quickly realized I had no chance at answering just about any of those clues and had no compunctions about googling the hell out of it. Rest of it was doable with a good struggle.

SethG 1:26 PM  

This is a good example of what we were talking about yesterday. Yesterday I had missteps all over the place where Rex just filled in the answer, and he found it relatively easy and I did not. Today, the opposite.

With the W in place, I entered RESOW. I guessed LAO from the A, and with the O in place I initially guessed ATV instead of UTE. Both the TRA LA refrain and the Salsa STEPS went in with no crosses. SIG and ONE in the SW led to me finishing off that corner fairly quickly, and working up I had the RACE in place before the ALIEN and then the ENGLISH/TRUE LIFE in place before the LAVENDER/ROMANCE.

I'd never heard of Cugat, but still finished in (a bit) under 20, less than average Saturday time for me (for when I finish it at all). So I think there's a lot to be said about being on the same page as the constructors, and a lot to be said for luck in the way one works through the grid and the way that path informs your solve.

fikink 2:41 PM  

@seth, I agree with you that serendipity plays a large part in the completion of late-week puzzles, especially. Also, just the awareness that it is a late-week puzzle affects my approach to these things.
I am looser and more cryptically inclined when I know I am tackling a Friday or Saturday puzzle, but then I reconsider my wanton abandon and go back and remove what turns out to be the correct fill. Today it was STEPS for salsa ingredient.
Congratulations on sticking to your guns with that one!

Anonymous 2:54 PM  

The puzzle whooped me. I loved the clue for English Lavender, because I sure tried to make is Spanish, Iberian or anything but English. I'll remember that lesson for a long time.

Glitch 2:55 PM  

Just because it's a slow aftrnoon:

Cugat was married four times. His first marriage was to Carmen Castillo (1929–1944); his second to Lorraine Allen (1947-52); his third to singer Abbe Lane (1952-64); and his fourth to Spanish guitarist and comic actress Charo (1966-78). His last marriage was the first in Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip.


Cugat did not lose sleep over artistic compromises:

"I would rather play Chiquita Banana and have my swimming pool than play Bach and starve."


Rube 2:59 PM  

Maybe in another 10 yrs I'll be able to get NEWTS from that clue. Even knowing full well the lines from Macbeth, I had to get it all from crosses. Rather, the sultry Miss Google and I got it. Finished the SW, but then needed lots of help to get past things like 8D BOLDASalion and 19A Skided, although NELLIS was a gimme as we go past there several times a year on the way to Lake Powell.

OREO! Mind boggling clue! I think it made everyone here smile and put a good attitude on this puzzle -- no one's grousing today.

edith b 3:16 PM  

WES allowed me to accurately suss out RESOW which saved me from the LIANA trap. BLESS seemed a good guess as this gave me the E at the beginning and S at the end of the Warhol clue which cleared up the Marilyn and soupcan mess with ELVIS.

All this paved the way for XAVIERCUGAT. This puzzle was tailor-made for an information based solver like me. I have no idea why Cugie and Charo are part of my memory bank but they are. Since I have been part of this blog, I have developed wordplay skills but not at the expense of my knowledge base. I got SOCIALLUBRICANT with a minimum of crosses and like many others approached the triple stack in the middle from the East.

ENGLISHLAVENDER swam up from the depths of my memory after a sudden glance revealed it. I'm familiar with the Hepburn-Tracy story - being a fan of Old Hollywood - so it was only a matter of time before I got that answer.

This was less a slog than a steady progression of answers revealing themselves as crosses developed and I had the uncanny finish before I know I was through which happens infrequently but it is always welcome.

Ben 3:17 PM  

Like a steak left on the BBQ too long... tough.

mac 3:57 PM  

DNF! I had to google 3 times to be able to go on, and that hardly every happens...

I liked it a lot, though, this is what Saturdays are for!

After reading through the clues I had just Wes, steps and a lot of esses in the grid. At 6A I expected something a lot more sophisticated than Cobb salad, and I'm pretty sure the restaurants around here put on a generic blue cheese. Just bought some Roquefort Papillon, it is a treat.

For 45D I had racer for a while, I seemed to remember they raced cars and were the first to use air-filled tires. Also was thinking illicit for Hepburn and Tracey, Spanish lavender and figgy/hasty pudding.

I don't really have a problem with salada and salad or lubricant/I can't, but I was very surprised at the two "outs" crossing at 60A/canceled out. I ran into another problem in that spot, always want to spell it "cancelled"....

Great time with the puzzle on this wet and stormy day in Connecticut. Now I'm printing out the latest Fireball!

Captcha: toxick. Not!

Elaine 4:04 PM  

Wow. Like SethG, I had the opposite experience from Rex's-- and to the same degree I missed yesterday, today I was able to get on the constructor/clue wavelength and sail along. I was able to ask myself, "What are other possible meanings for___?" (as with the [minutes] clue.) I will add that I was doing this while sitting in my mother-in-law's hospital room, with a couple of lengthy interruptions. Maybe my brain liked the break.

However, it is possible to delve a little too deeply into the business of herbs: I wanted to put in HIDCOTE (because Munstead would not fit)--both are handsome varieties of ENGLISH LAVENDER. I enjoy perennials because one need not RESOW each year.

Loved the puzzle!

Spelling tip: if the stress is on the first syllable (as in CANcel) then you do not need to double the final consonant when adding ED. (The consonant is doubled only to preserve the short vowel sound: propelled.)

Mary Candace 4:07 PM  

An amice is always covered by an alb in my experience, not the alb by the amice. Am I just thinking too narrowly? Where is my mistake? Anyone?

chefbea 4:31 PM  

@Elaine thanks for the spelling lesson!!

mac 4:36 PM  

@Elaine: thanks for that explanation. I just found out, though, that cancelled is the proper British spelling. Since I learned to speak English in Holland, it's likely I was taught to spell it that way.

Elaine 4:51 PM  

Spelling behaviour does vary from country to country, sometimes in quite colourful ways. I think it's acceptable either way, but I find the rule helpful quite often myself. (Since I taught 'challenged learners,' I am a real mine of little algorithms and such.... and now, no one to teach! What to do, what to do....)

This weekend IS the time change (alas) but not til the 20th do we reach the Equinox. So, no dancing in the moonlight til NEXT Saturday!

Rube 5:33 PM  

@Mary Candace, you are absolutely correct. This one got by Shortz.

fikink 5:54 PM  

@Mary Candace,@Rube - my thinking exactly! Thought I was just being picky.

foodie 6:05 PM  

@Elaine, please keep it coming! Given that English is my third language, I find it extremely helpful. It's also very helpful when editing the writing of other non-native speakers. For example, my Chinese postdocs find some of the nuances of English quite challenging and love it when I'm able to give them a rule of thumb. So, from all of us challenged folks, thank you!

michael 6:13 PM  

This took my forever and I still had to google to get the nw. First I looked up Daniel ___ Kim. And then I looked up the motto and found"gold and silver" and then remembered oro y plata and was able to finish the rest on my own.

Putting in well after and late life romance (though I kept thinking that was the case for Tracy but not for Hepburn) didn't help. And Spanish lavender of course...

I don't like arm supporter = NRA. Even after I got it, I kept thinking that it shoud be "arms."

sanfranman59 6:26 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 6:35, 6:55, 0.95, 40%, Easy-Medium
Tue 11:47, 8:53, 1.33, 97%, Challenging
Wed 9:57, 11:47, 0.84, 13%, Easy
Thu 13:35, 19:21, 0.70, 4%, Easy
Fri 30:00, 26:13, 1.14, 84%, Challenging
Sat 40:00, 30:37, 1.31, 97%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:36, 3:40, 0.98, 50%, Medium
Tue 5:24, 4:31, 1.19, 88%, Challenging
Wed 4:43, 5:46, 0.82, 12%, Easy
Thu 7:06, 9:16, 0.77, 8%, Easy
Fri 13:54, 12:36, 1.10, 80%, Challenging
Sat 21:43, 17:29, 1.24, 93%, Challenging

My captcha is pretty apropos for today's puzzle: dread. I had no chance at solving it without lots of help. But I'm apparently in good company since it ranks as the 8th most challenging puzzle relative to the day of the week for the "All solvers" group (of 227 puzzles I've tracked to date) and 16th most challenging (of 225) for the top 100 solvers. So ends a feast or famine week during which every puzzle after Monday's fell in either the Easy or the Challenging category.

Pistol Packer 6:35 PM  


How do you feel about "arm supporterS", like the clue?

friend in puzzles

Clark 6:45 PM  

@(Sr.) Mary Candace, @Rube, @fikink -- In the middle ages the amice was first put on the head draping down over the shoulders. Then the alb was put on and then the chasuble. Upon entering the sanctuary, the amice was then folded back over the chasuble (protecting the silk from touching the sweaty skin). Thus, the amice was both under and over the alb. JICYWTK.

Stan 7:12 PM  

Can't really say I finished this because of my massive cheating at every stage (including thumbing through the "Lost" cover story of TV Guide in the supermarket line. But I did really enjoy figuring out: INNOCENT, GENDERGAP, NEWTS, BRR, COBBSALAD, and especially BMXER.

Marion (my wife): "Who posted about Cala? It was my favorite grocery store."

Stan: "Andrea."

Marion: "Of course! There's one still open on Nob Hill."

Elaine 7:45 PM  

I would reply off-blog if your address was on... Our daughter had a Jordanian house-mate and assisted with her MS (Physics) just on the English issues. The same things that make English wonderful for scientists also make it harder for non-native speakers. Just remind your students that even those who ARE native speakers (and very verbally adept) learn new words, or new nuances, every day.

Feel free to use e-mail if there is anything I can help with. Algorithms always look easy AFTER someone articulates them.

fixomodd-- the new term for 'remodel'?

Moonchild 7:47 PM  

@ Elaine, Of course you are right (as always) but clock changing and true holidays are like late-in-life birthdays. We can stretch the holidays to suit us as we like.
If I choose to celebrate for a week then it's my choice. I always stretch out my birthday as long as I can. It;s the only holiday I don't have to share with Jesus, the easter bunny, a leprechan, etc. You get the gist.
So happy equinox week! :0

michael 7:48 PM  

@pistol packer

I still don't like arm supporters. Maybe I'm missing something. I guess you can talk about a firearm, but it seems odd to me.

DJG 8:17 PM  

I really liked this puzzle. One of the best constructions in a while.

I do wish that IMOUT would have been ABOUT, though. SABAN (as in Nick) is fine fill, and it would have gotten rid of the not-so-great OUT/OUT crossing and the semi-obscure LOME and SABIN.

Elaine 8:20 PM  

Come to think of it, I am having a lot of late-in-life birthdays these past few years! Good point.

Dance on!


If you look to the right of the Print command on AcrossLite, there is a drop-down arrow; click Customize...and at the bottom of that screen is a 'print on two pages' command that is a big relief on a Sunday puzzle. Not as compact, but a heck of a lot easier on the eyes.

Unknown 9:00 PM  

I agree with michael that "arm supporters" is a bum clue for NRA (though it fell into place from crosses). The NRA does not support the right to bear "arm". I've never heard the word arm in the singular used to express weapon.

@Elaine - interesting that you would explain the spelling of cancelled vs. canceled by using an American rule, then in the next post say that spelling can be coloUrful.

I was raised on ingles de inglaterra for my first twenty years, but have totally adapted to US spelling since I moved to the States 30 years ago. I learned to drop my "U"s, but there are some words - canceled being one - that just look wrong to me.

After today's disaster (to me), I am happy to report in advance that the Sunday puzzle is EASY. In fact, it's the first Sunday NYT puzzle in my entire life that I have filled in a la a LA Times or USA Today one - from top to bottom, in one go (obviously, looking at the down clues for guidance).

Shortz taketh, but then he giveth away!

fikink 9:35 PM  

@Clark, thanks for that.
It all reminds me of Vermeer, and I don't know why!

chefbea 9:38 PM  

Hope everyone in the northeast is OK. Just spoke with my daughter and she is in the dark as are many in the fairfield county area - many trees down - 70mph winds. Sounds awful!!!

Unknown 10:17 PM  

@Elaine - Just reread my comment. I wasn't being critical in any way, in case it came across as such. I just thought your rule of thumb was useful but then I was confused by your (deliberate?) use of U in coloUrful.

So no snub intended from this newb.

BTW, I did the Sunday puzzle while using a SOCIAL LUBRICANT. Perhaps this is the answer??

Elaine 11:28 PM  

I'll go one over, seeing as it's so late, just to say, um, Yes, I was making a joke with both 'behaviour' and 'colourful.' No offense taken, just sorry you didn't get it. In one way it little matters if we use one or the other, except that the NYT is probably going to use the American spelling.

Be on the lookout for little jokes with this bunch; it adds to the fun.

Unknown 11:50 PM  

@chefbea: I missed your comment about your daughter but just saw the news. I hope she's okay.

Is it my imagination, or is this the worst winter ever? From Miami, my only survival skills in power outages are how not to die from the heat, so I have little advice. Just best wishes.

@elaine: Looks like I was wise to post that apology preemptively!

andrea i'mout michaels 1:35 AM  

@Two Ponies
Until your post, I never realized that you had an S to laughter and it becomes SLAUGHTER!!!!!!!!!
Gotta make a puzzle around that, I think. Boy does that transform that word!

tell Marion they keep threatening to close this Cala, it's, like, the last one :( WHERE will I buy my ice cream sandwiches and kitty litter, which is 50% of my shopping!

Officially from Tyler when I questioned the COBBSALAD/SALADA:
"It's all part of our grand plan to get America to eat more salad."

bob mills 12:30 PM  

This was the nastiest puzzle the Times ever published. I normally finish the Saturday puzzle within two hours, but I couldn't even do this one after cheating.

What is a "BMXER?"
Why are salsa ingredients "STEPS?"
Is "CANCELED OUT" a good clue for "simplified, in a way?"
"SHOD," not "TROD," is a preferred clue for "put shoes on?"

Bob Mills

The Answer Guy - Not!!!! 2:31 PM  

@ Bob Mills -

BMXER - One participating in a Bicycle Moto Cross (BMX)

The salsa is a form of dance, therefore it is composed of steps

To simplify the equation 38x/19xy = z, we can cancel out the x and get 38/19y = z, then divide and find 2/y = z, or yz= 2. (Mathematician, Not!!!)

When you have TROD on someone, you have walked all over him, or put your shoes on him. But if you have put shoes on a horse, you have SHOD him, assuming they are horseshoes.

Frebberf 4:29 PM  

I was thrown by BMXER: isn't there usually an abbreviation inthe clue when there's one in the answer? That M was the last letter I was unsure about, and I googled OILLEBORNES to check--that's how I found this lovely blog!

Stan 6:12 PM  

@Fred -- Well, first, the event is called "Olympic BMX" so it isn't as if the term is used any other way. Like NASCAR, but not like Apr., which no-one says.

Also, it's Saturday, the hardest day of the week for the NYT. Cluing the abbreviation would have sacrificed the misdirection that had us both stumped. (I was looking for OIL-something too.)

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