Fans sporting footwear logo / FRI 3-12-10 / Heroine of Exmoor / Verenigde America in Amsterdam / Country singer Akins / Fighter in old strips

Friday, March 12, 2010

Constructor: Tim Croce

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: JOE PALOOKA (3D: Fighter in old strips) —

Joe Palooka was an American comic strip about a heavyweight boxing champion, created by cartoonist Ham Fisher. With various assistants and successors, the strip lasted for over half a century with spin-offs to radio, movies, television and merchandising. // Found in print as early as 1923, the word "palooka" was widely used to mean a lout or an inept fighter. The word is heard in early Popeye cartoons, and in the film Pulp Fiction, Vincent Vega sarcastically refers to Butch the boxer as "Palooka". Of uncertain origins, the word may originally have derived from the expletive "Polack". Fisher's use of "Palooka" for his gentle hero lifted the word from the muck, while accentuating its boxing connection. In the 1954 film classic On the Waterfront, during the famous taxicab scene, Terry Malloy, the boxer played by Marlon Brando, tells his brother Charlie (Rod Steiger) accusingly that because Steiger arranged for Brando to "take a dive" and lose the fight on purpose, the other boxer became a heavyweight champion, and Brando received " a one-way ticket to Palookaville" (i.e., ended up a failure). (wikipedia)
• • •

More Easy than Medium, with almost no arcane, strange, or otherwise weird words. I'm not sure I HAD A BLAST (6A: Partied hearty), but I did find much of the puzzle ENJOYable (1A: Eat up). 72 words today, which is the maximum for a themeless, and which explains why the grid has almost no forced fill. Stacked 9s are the flashiest thing about the grid, and they don't constrain the crosses or surrounding fill much at all. If anything, the fill was almost *too* smooth today, in the sense that it was overfamiliar. EPEES and DOONE and ALDER and PESO and TSAR ... a lot of commonly seen stuff. But the long stuff was mostly good. Really liked JOE PALOOKA and SCAREDYCAT (37A: One starting easily?) and ICESCRAPER (32D: Tool often used while wearing gloves), and, unsurprisingly, REDSOXNATION (20D: Fans sporting a footwear logo). ALPHABETSOUP isn't that interesting to me as fill, but man, that clue is good: [9D: Its letters may be bolted down]. Did not like TAKESXRAYS (42A: Gets under someone's skin?), mainly because of the verb "TAKES." I can't explain my distaste very well — it's a perfectly good phrase; it's just that the verb makes me conscious of the other forms it might have taken in a different context, i.e. TOOK X-RAYS, TAKE X-RAYS. And, in general, it doesn't snap, crackle or pop as a phrase. It's like seeing DRIVES A CAR in the grid. Yes, it's a phrase, but ...

NW and W were the toughest spots for me, and the last to go down, but only because I wrote in LORNA instead of DOONE (15A: Heroine of Exmoor) — stupid mistake. I blame O'NEAL (4D: Magic center, once) for giving me the "N" and the other crosses for giving me Nothing. Then I blame myself for stupidly thinking the answer could be a first name. Anyway, that mistake alone gummed things up, and I had to move over to the NE, where HUH? (6D: Word from one who isn't following) led immediately to URALRIVER (16A: Course in Russian geography?), and I was off and running. Don't like URALRIVER as an answer, but I do like the clue, and the cluing was by far the strongest part of the puzzle today. In addition to the aforementioned clues on ALPHABETSOUP and URALRIVER, there were 58A: One suspended for a game (PIÑATA!) and 46A: Metropolitan hangover? (SMOG).

Being a constant solver helped a lot today, because some old stand-bys went straight into the grid and really helped me get traction. Always feels a bit ... cheap when I get total gimmes on a Friday, especially when they are just namesIhappentoknow'causeIdoxwords, such as:

  • EULER51A: He introduced the symbol "e" for natural logs
  • ARON7D: "East of Eden" son
  • DR. T63D: 2000 Richard Gere title role
  • DOONE15A: Heroine of Exmoor ... yeah, I know I botched it, but I botched it because I knew the answer too well and just picked the wrong name part.

Names that failed me were AVAS (12D: Roles on "Evening Shade" and "Nip/Tuck" — I've watched maybe one episode of the former and none of the latter); and RHETT (36D: Country singer Akins — wanted only CHET, but that's "Atkins"; there's also a Trace Adkins and a Claude Akins, though only one of those is a country singer — the other was Sheriff Elroy P. Lobo).

  • 18A: Something passed without hesitation (HOT POTATO) — Good clue. I was thinking it had something to do with legislation.
  • 23A: Material for many electric guitar bodies (ALDER) — up there with BALSA and TEAK for crossword puzzle's Wood of Choice. Still took me a while to get it.
  • 25A: Peak's counterpart (DALE) — wanted some kind of familiar phrase, like "Peak and ... something." But no; the words are just opposites. [Hill's opposite] might have made more sense.

  • 40A: Moral obligation (OUGHT) — a noun? Really? Why would you make a perfectly good verb into something icky and untoward?
  • 44A: Old imperator (TSAR) — "Imperator" means "absolute ruler." It's a former Roman title.
  • 45A: Verenigde ___ (America, in Amsterdam) (STATEN) — Screw you, STATEN Island. Even the New York Times refuses to acknowledge you.
  • 64A: First name in rap (TUPAC) — a revered figure in rap, even, what is it, 15 years after his shooting death? (closer to 14, actually)

  • 1D: Schwalm-___ (German district) (EDER) — noooo idea. I recognize EDER, but I think it's someone's name. A singer? Actress? Is Linda EDER someone? Yes she is.
  • 14D: Its ruins are a Unesco World Heritage Site (TROY) — hmmm. I don't think there are "ruins" in the sense of "visible buildings, statuary, etc." TROY today is an archaeological site.
  • 50D: Do intaglio, e.g. (CARVE) — The closest word to "intaglio" that I know is "imbroglio," so this answer came mostly from crosses.
Hey Syndication Land!! 4/16/10 ANNOUNCEMENT!!!: The Crosswords L.A. Tournament is coming up in just over 2 weeks (May 1, 2010, at Loyola-Marymount University). If you live in the general vicinity of Southern California, you should strongly consider coming. I'll be there, but that's probably not the biggest selling point. You should go to enjoy the company and competition in a *very* low-stress setting. You can even solve in a team with a partner if you like. Many constructors you know and love (or hate) will be there — Tyler Hinman, Doug Peterson, Andrea Carla Michaels, Alex Boisvert, etc. My fellow xword blogger PuzzleGirl will be there. It's inexpensive, it's for a children's charity, it's very professionally run by the lovely Elissa Grossman. Seriously, it's all good. You should go. More info here. If you do decide to go, let me know. Thanks.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


andrea huh? michaels 1:19 AM  

struggle struggle struggle and the SW corner remained blank
(Not helpful that I had waspsNEST. MARESNEST is new to me)

One google "The Vengeance of ---"
Once I had SHE, everything else fell into place.

(Oh, and I looked up what "intaglio" was. I thought it might be a dance!)

Shout outs to Mac with the whole STATEN thing and GLITCH!

Also had JOEbAzOOKA, but there was enough accidentally right to finally straighten it out.
Unlike putting in SNOOP for TUPAC, and OOZED for CREPT (you know, oozing snails!)

With you on AKINS, I went from TRACE to CLAUDE to GRETA!
ATRA had to become TRAC.

Even EGYPT was Syria and Yemen (!?!) first. Um. I shoulda known better. Thank god my Israeli who risked his life IN the Yom Kippur War will likely not be reading Rex.

I'm exhausted reliving all my mistakes...but every answer was a struggle which, in the end, made me feel I've warded off Alzheimer's for the extra hour it took me to do this!

Elaine 6:37 AM  

I really thought I was breaking this puzzle open when I got ALPHABET SOUP! and I knew EULER --and JOE PALOOKA!--pow! Take that, Tim Croce!

This took me over an hour, and I finally had only the SW area left. Broke down and Googled 53A for SHE, which unlocked the corner. That still left what I would have called a MARES NEST-- (I always thought that meant "a tangled mess.") I had to give up ATRA and AFGHANS, but STAATE refused to allow NATION to emerge. Conferred? Concurred?

I should have just Googled for the Gere role and singer Akins, as I have little faith that I could have recovered from my fatal errors any other way. DNF for me.

The cluing of this puzzle was SO tough (though fun) that I can't believe the Easy-Medium rating won't be met with howls of anguish. UNHAT was the only really awful fill, I thought.

BTW, this was Tim Croce's debut. Won't soon forget him!

Elaine 8:06 AM  


The first recorded instance of “mare's nest” occurred in 1576, and it referenced a false discovery. Because mares notably do not nest, the discovery of a “mare's nest” would have been viewed with some skepticism and perhaps criticism. In this sense, the slang term also referred to any sort of hoax or fraud, made with intent to mislead people. People could also use the phrase to refer dismissively to illusory discoveries, as in “Mr. Jones thinks he's made a breakthrough, but really he's found a mare's nest.”

By the 1800s, the term had shifted slightly, coming to be used to refer to confusion or misconception. In this sense, a mare's nest wouldn't necessarily be intentionally deceptive, but rather a confused or unclear circumstance. A mare's nest could be a form of false reality, created through a lack of complete understanding and awareness.

In the mid-1900s, the meaning of a mare's nest realigned, coming to be used to describe a chaotic situation. People could use the term both literally, in the sense of a physically messy environment, and figuratively, to refer to a confusing situation. This modern sense of a mare's nest is certainly a far cry from the original meaning, and for anyone who stops to ponder the literal phrase, it can seem a bit confusing or mysterious. Some etymologists have suggested that the modern meaning of a “mare's nest” may be closely linked with the common slang term “rat's nest,” with people drawing a connection between the two because both include the world “nest.”

Jim H 8:06 AM  

As a native and resident of STATEN Island, I can attest that the place is rather forgettable, this I can forgive the NYT for the slight. Harold, Ford, on the other hand... well, never mind.

I have no idea how to get CARVE from Intaglio, as Google only tells me about printing... but it WAS inferable from crosses, so no problem there.

Totally blanked, for some reason, on SETH Meyers. Wanted MIKE (yeah, baby).

[Captcha word: SUBGONS -- like a polygon, but with fewer sides?]

Tim C. 8:10 AM  

Rex, I swear. I tried! I clued STATEN as _____ Island. I guess it's also "the forgotten borough" in crossword puzzles too. Also, it's funny you mentioned Linda Eder, because that's what I sent in, too... "Singer Linda". Funny, Elaine, that you should express your distaste for UNHAT, as I didn't like it at all either. It got me out of a little jam in that section, and I thus included it with reluctance -- only because I have seen it in the NYT puzzle before. Otherwise, it would have been "ixnay" on that entry.

VaBeach puzzler 8:14 AM  

Easy? You gotta be kidding. Practically every other clue coulda ended on a question mark. This puzzle was evil. But fun-evil. In the end, I loved the alphabet soup of crazy clues. A real brain bender.

Zeke 8:22 AM  

@Elaine - I have to disagree that mares don't nest. Years ago, I had a mare who hadad her first foal living outside in a herd of four other mares with their foals. I was informed that she was due that night or the next day, as she had started to nest. She found a small opening within copse of trees in the field, went there, kept the others away, had her foal and stayed there in her "nest" for about a week until the foal was strong enough to join the herd. So at least some nest, in the loose sense of the word.

joho 8:23 AM  

This was anything but easy for me so I was very happy to finish it. Loved the clever cluing and interesting answers especially ALPHABETSOUP, JOEPALOOKA, ICESCRAPER,SCAREDYCAT and REDSOXNATION. But it was really the cluing that made this so much fun for me.

Thank you, Tim Croce, for a fantastic first NYT puzzle!

nanpilla 8:26 AM  

Thanks, Tim, for coming to visit and enlightening us! We always love to hear something about the process.

I finished this in 24 minutes,fast for me, so I have to agree with Rex's assessment. Steady going throughout, with the NE the last to go for me. Lots of fun clues.

My gelding often makes what looks like a huge nest out of his hay, as he looks for just the right pieces to munch on. I'd never heard MARES NEST before, though. I'll have to use that!

fikink 8:51 AM  

Agree with you, Rex, the clueing was this puzzle's strength.

@Tim, I HADABLAST - thanks!

Anonymous 8:52 AM  

This was on the medium-challenging for me, but after an hour or so I finally had it, with a couple of wrong letters. I thought there might be some lawyers on those shows, so I put ADAS instead of AVAS, and guessed AMON instead of ARON, so I had an UMALRIDER going through Russia.

Dough 8:59 AM  

I thoroughly enjoyed the puzzle. The clues were terrific. The words are beautiful. But, for me this was no Easy-Medium. It took me much longer than usual. I suspect that a few key places dropped for Rex that just didn't for me. The only pathetic few I got on my first pass were ARON, and ONOR, and lightly-written SETH, CLE, and ENGR. I was on my own from there. Anyway, Bravo Tim! Keep 'em coming.

Smitty 9:00 AM  

Not easy, but very clever and an enjoyable struggle (except I had UH OH which gave me FOUT for the last word - at which point I gave up and came here)

Rex Parker 9:16 AM  

Yes, thanks for dropping by, Tim. Love hearing about the secret life of clues — I gotta give Will some credit for mixing it up. His foreignization of your clues certainly made the puzzle tougher. Assuming the crosses are fair (and they were), I appreciate newness.

Anyway, nice work.


Tim C. 9:34 AM  

Smitty --
Funny, that's what I had too! I was waffling between the O and the U in that square, but I submitted it with a U to make "uh-oh" and "Fouts", as in the 15-year Hall-of-Fame quarterback Dan of the San Diego Chargers. I laughed when I read your comment, for that reason. (As an inexperienced cluer, though, I loved what Will did with the clues he changed!)

The Corgi of Mystery 9:35 AM  

Congrats Tim! Would have been in easy territory for me except that I threw down OPUS for ODES and TAKESBLOOD for TAKESXRAYS, and had to waste a few minutes untangling that mess.

Ironically, I think [___ Island] would have been harder than the actual clue for me.

ArtLvr 9:36 AM  

Me too, I did ENJOY Tim's puzzle debut very much, and note that he must be a natural to this pastime with the Croce meaning "cross"!

INTAGLIO is a great word, literally "cut into", and is familiar from signet rings with the carving below the surface of a gem, so that it gives an image in relief when pressed into sealing wax...

Like @ Andrea, I thought first of ATRA before TRAC, and had to assume RHETT was right. I also was quite pleased with my answer FISHY for "Rum, to some" -- until RHYME straightened out the midsection.

@ Elaine, thanks for untangling the history of MARE'S NEST... Loved that phrase, and SCAREDY CAT. Of all the super clues, I think the one for the PINATA was my favorite...

I had to laugh at the unlovely UNHAT, as we did see it recently. That OUGHT was another story, though I suppose if an action can be called a "must" or a "no-no", an obligation can be an OUGHT. For me, that one was the biggest stretch! Not exactly in the language?

Congrats again to Tim, and do give us more soon.


Elaine 9:37 AM  

@Zeke, (Nanpilla)
You'll have to take it up with '' since I just cut and pasted that article. I agree that it's fair to call the behavior you describe as nesting, and thanks for the little stories, guys.
I never did get MARES NEST from [hoax], as my understanding of the term was, as I said earlier, 'a tangled mess.' I had MARE_ES_ and just could not come up with anything.
But it was such a fun puzzle that I can't be too crotchety about it. Croce-ty?

Bob Kerfuffle 9:39 AM  

Thank you, Tim.

Glad I wasn't being timed on this one, but finished OK with just two write-overs: 5 D, had YESIAM before YESIDO, and 37 A, had SCAIRDYCAT before SCAREDYCAT.

As ACME noted, nice shout-out to GLITCH.

Unknown 9:48 AM  

Greetings! I'm fairly new at solving the puzzle, so thanks everyone, especially Rex, for sharing not only answers but your experiences with the process. Today being Friday, I set my expectations low -- "do what you can and see how far you get, then go look at Rex's blog." But today I find I still don't understand 57D: Wedding couple? with the answer DEES. I'm a gay man, so weddings are fairly new to my community and so I have no point of reference. Can anyone help me here? Thanks, and happy weekend to you all.

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

@Paul - There are two Ds ("DEES") in the word wedding.

Glitch 10:01 AM  

@Paul Matthew

You will find variations of the misleading type of clues represented by 57D --- take it literally, the word WEDDING has a pair of DEES (the letter) in it.

..../47D :)

PS: I see Anon beat me to it, but posting anyway so I can sign as above.

Rex Parker 10:09 AM  

I think UH-OH / FOUTS beats OH OH / FOOTS, though FOOTS does give WS a better opportunity for clever cluing (probably) than FOUTS does.

jesser 10:16 AM  

I'm late to the party today, because I was up at the hospital getting bloodwork and XRAYS for my upcoming physical. Ergo, 42A fell right in and I had to chuckle. Right up until they took all my blood and made me pee in a cup. That will stop chuckling cold.

I thought ALPHABET SOUP was fantastic. The SW was my biggest trouble spot because I initially wrote in CONSultED for 61A. What a GLITCH! It took SERAPES to straighten me out. I love that SERAPES dove into the southwest!

No ICE SCRAPERs needed today in sunny Las Cruces!

And Tim, if you're still lurking: 1) Congratulations and thank you!; and 2) Any relation to the late, great Jim? His song "Operator' played this morning on my satellite radio as I drove from the hospital to my office, and I just wondered...

Hedxvsal! (those weasels that infest the heads of, um, people who live in weasel country) -- jesser

mitchs 10:18 AM  

Loved it and agree with all of the above - especially those who rated this much tougher than easy-medium.

I'll take great cluing over show- offy construction any day. Thanks Tim.

Rex Parker 10:29 AM  

I mean the following question in all sincerity: how was this "tough?" I see that it was, in fact, tough for many, but I'm trying to find the *place* it was tough. If you look at the grid, it's mostly cake — familiar answers. So clearly the problem was understanding clues — but where? Are people biting it in the same place, or just biting it all over the place?

If you could keep your answers brief, that would be awesome-o.

Thank you

mitchs 10:37 AM  

Why tough? First, didn't get the "gimmees" you listed. First pass yielded about three clues. That's probably the biggest difference in our solving. Then, after several aha's throughout I stared at the mid and southwest. Had REDSOX. Finally guessed SCAM and ENGR and stumbled over MARESNEST (didn't know definition). NATION was the bestest aha of them all.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:54 AM  

@Rex -

Few things that slowed me down:

ALDER for electric guitars? Thought it would be some kind of plastic.

NEHI became Royal Crown? Didn't know that.

Moral obligation = OUGHT?

25 A - DALE or Vale?

44 A, Ending in AR - TSAR or Czar?

53 A, "The Vengeance of ____'? Lao?, Mao?, whatever: Never heard of it.

49 A: Is that TRAC or Trak?

38 D, Rum, to some - Demon?

All gettable, eventually, of course.

dk 11:07 AM  

@zeke, way to use copse in a sentence.

Tim C., Great puzzle. I will niggle over CARVE as most would use etch when referencing intaglio. CARVE is what you do on parabolic skis or Thanksgiving.

My early mistakes atra for TRAC,misspelling TUPAC as Tupec, yesbut for YESIDO and rehabs instead of REPAIR.

@oldcar.. the little picture is an UNHAT to you. Email me via a click on the little picture for more photos of the RECUR of Long Beach bumper cars.

*** (3 Stars) HADABLAST

secret word: hypesing - urinating atop a cliff

Two Ponies 11:13 AM  

I was the palooka today.
Even after getting some great clue/answers like alphabet soup parts of the midsection stymied me such as thinking of shoes not sox as footwear. Maybe Nehi had me in the era of Keds and Red Ball Jets.
Ought just never occured to me.
Rhyme? Hate to admit that I don't get it.
Unhat? Ugh. I tried knelt at first.
Have no idea about the Gere film although I eventually got it.
Great debut Tim C. and thanks for chiming in.

jesser 11:26 AM  

Two ponies, COME get your RUM! (They rhyme). wink!

Two Ponies 11:34 AM  

Thanks jesser.
Somehow not getting that without being led by the reins just doesn't make me feel so awful.
That's a new stretch of misdirection to me.

OldCarFudd 11:39 AM  

This was a DEBUT??? Fantastic! Great cluing.

Hand up for staate; that was my only writeover. I prefer ohoh to uhoh; OH! OH! is a cry of delighted anticipation; uhoh anticipates something unpleasant. Not being into team sports, I didn't know RedSoxNation, but it was easily inferred. Loved hot potato, alphabet soup, scaredy cat, and hora. Agree ought as a noun looks odd. Hand up for confusing mare's nest with rat's nest. Didn't like unhat.

@dk - What is that thing? It looks like a bumper car body grafted onto some sort of hot rod chassis. I wonder how they got it licensed, since it wouldn't comply with any of the Nader stuff. Kinda cute, though!

Anonymous 11:42 AM  

I struggled with this one a good bit --mostly because I wasn't sure of the 9 over 9's. I also misspelled Staten -- took German in school and figured Dutch would likely spell states the same way. wrong.

But after I relented and looked up the Gere and country singer clues, I had no problems and I don't mind at all not knowing those.

Stan 12:02 PM  

For me it was tough all over. Ironically this may have been due to the uniform high quality of the clues/answers. Without any out-and-out gimmes or familiar crap, I just couldn't get started.

Bryan 12:13 PM  

Yeah, I'm with the "this was tough" crowd.

Vega 12:21 PM  

For me, it was the SW. I didn't know "nation" or "she" or what "intaglio: meant, and I completely blanked on the "Dr T" crosswordese, so that corner just wouldn't happen for me. I had an AC "huh" M day today, almost exactly. Googled twice, grr.

Despite this, super-fun and I agree that the cluing was all-around fabulous.


Martin 12:26 PM  

Today's is the ninth appearance of MARESNEST in the Shortz Era and the fourth in four years. And that doesn't count a few "Kind of nest" clues for MARES. The clues are divided between the hoax, rat's nest and imbroglio (a sense I don't think anyone's mentioned today) meanings.

Anonymous 12:34 PM  

@RP- Why tough? For me, the cluing threw me off- I was way to literal in my reading of them. Picked up 3D and 9D off the bat (after getting rid of tiedoneon for 6A.) And some of the answers, e.g., UNHAT, simply weren't in my vision today.

NW fell quickly but after that, I was toast.

stedi-not my solving today

Ulrich 12:43 PM  

Since the puzzle had no gimmies for me (well, STATEN was as soon as I understood that Dutch was asked for--but that was of little help), it was NOT easy for me. This is what happened: I had Red Sox, but couldn't finish the down and that was the state of my puzzle as I was waiting in an exam room for a doctor to see me. He walks in, sees me doing the puzzle, and asks "can I help?". I present him with the Red Sox situation (I had the N of Nation by then), he looks at the puzzle a second and says "Nation"--saved the puzzle and the day for me--I mean, when do you see a doctor who really takes time with you?

Even Schwalm-Eder was no gimme--the "district" in question (a Kreis) is the equivalent of a county in the US--the adm. level right above individual municipalities. Does Shortz expect us to know all the counties in Germany? Tim, you are absolved, though!

fikink 12:43 PM  

@Rex, I think this puzzle was, overall, more cryptically clued - which is why I liked it so much. But the toughness might be a wavelength thing. E.g., I looked at "partied hearty" and immediately wrote in HADABLAST. Perhaps in my experience the people who say, "Partied hearty," also say, "had a blast." of the spheres.

@dk, UI is known for its printmaking department; I, too, immediately think of etching when I see the word "intaglio."

("whobbi" - Whobbi me if I don't get away from this computer today!)

Unknown 12:48 PM  

I got totally hung up on the SE corner - didn't get glitch, and thus none of the crosses. I had to sneak over here and see what Rex had. Also, the clue for Eder was cruel. As noted above, we can't be expected to know the name of German districts.

I certainly didn't find this easy. I loved the clue for alphabet soup - once I figured out the answer!

Sandy 12:50 PM  

not easy for me because so many answers could have been anything. (which is different from being very specific but obscure). For example: HAD A BLAST. Not getting that meant I had few first letters of downs and couldn't go anywhere up there.

You know that Seth Meyers is *not* a gimme for me.

So, it doesn't look that hard in retrospect, but I founf it difficult to get traction.

SethG 12:57 PM  

For me, because of me. ENJOY right away, but then JOE BAZOOKA and YES SIR. REPLY instead of RECUR. (I even tried TAKES XYLEM for a bit...) COLA for NEHI, SADAT for Egypt, more. I even erased SHY early on because the only SNLer I could think of was Mike, which isn't even spelt the same. (Sorry Seth!) Finally, couldn't find the Ñ in xxNATA at all, even.

All "reasonable" errors, all confirmed with some crosses, but the end result was a difficult disentanglement. (Finally I did more intaglio and recarved it out.)

lit.doc 12:57 PM  

Came out of the gate fast this morning, keying URAL RIVER almost instantly. In 6A. SETH brought it to my attention soon enough, but it was a harbinger of things to come.

By the time I was stuck enough to google, I’d slogged through NW, E/NE as far as the NW/SE diagonal, and SE, but with lots of conflicting fill in W/SW. It seems worth mentioning how very little in this puzzle was actually googlable (yes, it’s a word, deal with it) which speaks well of Tim Croce’s construction, inconvenient though it be.

Googled to get 36D RHETT (who?), which corrected ATRA to TRAC, got rid of my 42A IRKS… problem, and made me key in the earlier-rejected 39A OOOH. Googled 63D to settle the 65A ARGUMENTS/63D DR T conflict, and the good doctor won. And that’s all the further I could get with google.

From Rex’s write-up, I see I was done in by some terrific cluing, especially 37A “One starting easily?” (had ____EDYCAT, to no avail), 38A “Rum, to some” (love self-referential clues, hate when they get me), 20A “Fans sporting a footwear logo” (what, the fans are wearing the Nike swoosh now?), and 57A “Wedding couple?” (started with I DO’S—when oh when will I stop getting caught by letter-ref clues).

MARES NEST was new to me, I was looking for something like PRINT or ETCH_ for “intaglio”, and I still do not get 27A “Attachment used with care?” = FUL. Oh, wait, crap, I just figured it out. Geez.

Terrific Friday puzzle, despite my fail.

George NYC 12:59 PM  

Agree with others that the clever cluing was the key to this puzzle's difficulty. And that is, as they say, a "wavelength" thing. My coffee cup sits on a Red Sox coaster, which helped.

Lots of high blood pressure over on STATIN Island.

Nice job, Tim!

jae 1:06 PM  

I'm with Rex on this one. Easy-medium seems about right. I didn't have any major hangups or long periods of staring. The slowest part for me was accepting UNHAT (thanks Tim for the apology for that one) which caused me to reright ONOR a couple of times. A solid Fri. with some fine cluing and fun answers. (Being from San Diego I too would have preferred FOUTS at 27d.)

ArtLvr 1:06 PM  

Rex -- it was the cluing that made it tough... Look at @ twangster's "I had UMALRIDER going through Russia", LOL. I had URALRIDER before a RIVER's coursing hit me, and the names could have been anything from ADA, ASA or AVA or ? In the NW:

"Bolting letters" as in eating SOUP hastily?
Slang "Fried" for slang LIT
"Something passed" as in enacted or excreted? -- no, just HOT POTATO tossed, not merely passed.
"In no way new" might be trite or stale or retro before DATED.

Maybe you grabbed HAD A BLAST off a possible HUH at one end and a possible TROY at the other end, yet the names ARON and AVAS and SETH might not be obvious, never mind the slang LIT.

That's just one corner! Throw in a film title with SHE and names like RHETT, CLE or RED SOX NATION, and you have some reefs to navigate even if you know DOONE, EULER, TUPAC and PALOOKA! Snails haven't really CREPT with only one foot. FOOTS only works for "Pays" if you assume an object like "bill". And "Debate" can get you ARGUEMENT or ARGUE OVER.

It was doable, but took more than A TAD of extra thought!


PlantieBea 1:11 PM  

Tough for me in the S, SW. I had to look up the meaning of Intaglio, and I still couldn't get CARVE. Didn't know either of the films in that corner, and I stuck with CONSORTED instead of CONSPIRED. Oh, and my wool coverup was a PEA COAT.

So, in spite of being unable to work my way through the SW, I enjoyed and was able to solve the other 3/4. Thanks Tim C.

Tim C. 1:16 PM  

Jesser -- I think I actually am, but haven't done the genealogical research to confirm this. I was born 10 years after he died, but am yet a fan of his music.

dk -- I don't have a beef with intaglio <--> CARVE; this was Will's cluing and not mine. All the dictionaries I looked in define 'intaglio' as a carving made my hollowing out a material like stone. You mentioned skis -- my original clue for it was "Turn on a skateboard". But "intaglio" was more appropriate Friday-wise.

Parshutr 1:16 PM's Friday. Not supposed to be straightforward.
I did a lot of headscratching over HERES trouble, OHOH, AVAS, and of course HUH.
Could not finish. Tant pis.

Nancy from PA 1:22 PM  

Finished with no errors (and I never Google anymore) but Fridays don't usually take over an hour! Extremely tough cluing. Had Res and then Rez for Indians' home...never got why it was CLE until coming here. Had 'a bit' for 'opposite of very' (my least favorite clue) and other erasures all over the place. But ultimately satisfying and hope to see more from Mr. Croce.

Van55 1:59 PM  

Rex, it was tough for me for several reasons. Plenty of the answers were pretty arcane for me (at least as clued): STATEN, SHE, SETH, EULER, AVAS, ARON, RHETT for example. For three entries the clues were just off for me: UNHAT is awful, snails don't creep and OUGHT isn't a noun for a moral imperative.

dk 2:00 PM  

@oldcarfudd, They are bumper cars on platforms powered by motorcycle (Honda) engines. They are street legal. For more pictures: email

@Tim C, not that I would ever suggest a clue for a Saturday but... Parabolic turn - CARVE. Thank you for your comments. And great debut.

Secret word 2: munsoda - what they call Minnesota in the Bronx.

Clark 2:21 PM  

@ArtLvr, et al -- ‘ought’ as a noun is certainly in the language of philosophers.
Here’s an example of talk about oughts :

“Hume famously argued that it is impossible to derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is.’ Statements of fact tell us what is the case. Statements of value tell us what we ought to do, say, or approve. According to Hume, ‘facts’ and ‘values’ are related in the same way as apples and architects. No matter how long people study apples, they will never learn anything about architects. Thus, ‘fact is fact and value is value and never the twain shall meet.’ ” (Ric Machuga, Book Review)

Here is Hume (A Treatise of Human Nature): "In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remark'd, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surpriz'd to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it shou'd be observ'd and explain'd; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it." [These famous sentences were conveniently copiable from "Is-ought problem" at Wiki.]

This puzzle was tough all over for me, but I HAD A BLAST. Either I just did not know (EDER, DOONE, ARON, NEHI, ALDER, PESO, SHE, MARES NEST, ONEAL, DR T, AVAS, SETH) or my response to the clue was "too many possibilities, I need a cross or two to narrow that down." As I picked away the crosses came and the darn thing filled itself in. Yeah! That's how I like my Fridays and Saturdays: tough but no google.

Rube 2:22 PM  

It was the cluing that got me. Take ONEAL for example. I've heard of Shaquille O'Neal but you have to know that he played for the Orlando Magic. All I could think of, other than a sports arena, was Magic Johnson!

Then there was "Chain link". After multiple Googles and lucky guesses, I stared at store for quite some time before finally "getting it".

There were very few gimmes for me: SETH, HUH, DALE(vALE?), EGYPT, TSAR, EULER, and a few more. Had to google Exmoor. Always wondered where the name Lorna DOONE came from. Knew of the RaiderNATION but not the REDSOXNATION, (hey, Oakland's right across the bay). Did get PALOOKA off JOEP_, an age thing I guess. Did anyone else have "tps" for "Indians' home, briefly"? Shoulda known better.

Anyway, DNF. Let's see if @SanFranMan will prove Rex wrong, and the rest of us mortals right.

Congratulations, @Glitch.

Constant Gardener 2:40 PM  

Hand up for finding the tricky cluing the thing that upped the difficulty. Yes, I expect tough clues on Fridays, but this time each one was tough in a different way. I couldn't get into the groove of reading TCroce's 'take' on things. (You know how you might know what Gary Larsen would say about some funny situation, or predict a Seinfeld line? Sometimes you're just on the wavelength.) That refused to happen with this puzzle.

It was a long solve, even though EULER, JOE PALOOKA, ARON, CLE, EGYPT, and even CARVE were gimmes--things that tripped up other people.

screen word: 'bumshav'...better not go there

edmcan 2:55 PM  

@parshuter-tant pis -vraiment! I guess the cluing is way too clever for stupid ole me.

lit.doc 3:06 PM  

@Rex, running late today (students!), so hadn't read down to your "how was this 'tough?'" query before I posted. Gotta agree with you, despite my own solving experience being north of Challenging. Can't fault the puzzle for anything relative to typical day-of-the-week difficulty other than its being a good deal more clever than I on this particular Friday.

lrosler 3:28 PM  

re @ArtLvr 1:06 PM


Slang "Fried" for slang LIT


From Google:


The book contains no fewer than 2964 synonyms for "drunk." ... A word or two thousand on 'Drunk: The Definitive Drinkers Dictionary'. ...


I.e., "almost any phrase 1" synonym "almost any phrase 2" for "drunk." I'd call fried/LIT a cheap shot.



Basketball PS: Cal wins its conference title for the first time since 1960!!!; plays today in semifinals of Pac-10 tournament; next week in NCAA Tournament ("March Madness"); and I will be there (San Jose, first round). Whew!

Back to my lair ...

Glitch 4:01 PM  


I'll drink to that, especially if they're a "cheap shot".

Speaking of cheap shot, why does this bring up a different mental image of a @lit.doc? ;-)


sanfranman59 4:26 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Fri 28:45, 26:11, 0.95, 76%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Fri 14:28, 12:36, 0.94, 83%, Challenging

The relative difficulty of this one is definitely toward the Challenging end of the scale. The All Solvers group (aka mere mortals) will probably wind up at around the 80th percentile (my arbitrary cut-off for a Challenging rating) and the Top 100 (aka crossword gods) will probably wind in the upper end of the Medium-Challenging category.

hazel 4:36 PM  

I definitely didn't think this was easy, but it did take a few minutes longer than the avg. Friday - so I would consider it med-challenging (for me).
Re: difficulty, I think @Sandy summed it up best w/ respect to my own experience - a lot of general cluing so that I couldn't be certain of much at first, and it was just hard to get traction and build on anything. Once I got what seemed like a critical mass, though, the puzzle seemed to fall pretty steadily. The last corner to go was the SW. Never heard of a MARESNEST or those 2 movies either.

I enjoyed the solve - liked the humor in the cluing, and the words SCAREDYCAT and HOTPOTATO.

Adam Prince 4:43 PM  

Loved this puzzle, obvious highlight being the clues. RHYME, PINATA, the slight trickery in both of the "Wedding" clues...

I like ALPHABETSOUP as fill, but everyone is praising the clue, so clearly, I'm missing something?

Anyone care to explain?

Also, amazing debut. How someone can debut with a themeless is beyond me, as I would just be happy to get in a simple 3x15 theme answers Monday...

edith b 4:48 PM  


This was one of the most difficult puzzles as clued that I have seen. One of the things that keeps me from being a speed solver and able to solve late-week puzzles as a matter of course is my methodical nature, an abilty of see clues from as many different perspectives as necessary and if that fails, I "go abstract" and turn what letters I have into small word puzzles. Not conducive to speed, perhaps, but it does get the job done in most cases.

In todays puzzle, I got JOEPALOOKA at once and built down the West coast and got the entire NW in the bargain. This got me REDSOXNATION, being an East coast native and a baseball fan to boot.

Today's puzzle was constructed rather than solved and I had to pull out all the stops to do it. I take a certain amount of pride in being to see all sides of an issue to get the job done.

Anonymous 4:53 PM  

i got almost all the clues and having them explained, they all make sense, but what is "chain link?" Am I the only person who doesn't get this clue??

SueRohr 4:55 PM  

I love this kind of Friday puzzle. Great cluing. Took me an hour but got it all with no googling. Why hard? The misdirection of the clues. For 37A I thought some kind of car. For 42A I agonized. Same with 18A and 9D. It seems easy in retrospect but not at the time. Did get Red Sox nation right away as I am part of that group in a big way!

Adam Prince 4:58 PM  

@Anonymous, a "chain" in this sense is something like McDonalds or Starbucks, with the links being the stores that comprise the full-on "chain"

chefbea 5:03 PM  

Started the puzzle early this morning. couldn't finnish. Have been out all day doing stuff and buying stuff for our new abode. Just now had a chance to look at the puzzle again and....voila. finnished it

Speaking of hot potatoes...In todays Wilmington newspaper is a recipe for a potato pie using the skins because that's where all the nutrients are. I will try it!!

fikink 5:04 PM  

"Fried" is more frazzled/burnt out in my neck of the woods. LIT is definitely linked to liquor.

@clark, nice point on OUGHT; I had a similar thot re: philosophy, but couldn't have pulled out a Hume citation. Way to be! as Heidegger might say! :)

gordon winkler 5:41 PM  

Math trivia tip: If you're searching blindly for a five-letter mathematician, first guess should be Gauss and second should be Euler. Those guys discovered everything!

jae 6:00 PM  

@Adam -- bolted down in as "he was so hungry he bolted down his alphabet soup."

Going over this I think this was more easy-medium for me because (a) like Rex, I knew a lot of stuff from crosswords (e.g.ARON, DRT, EULER) and (b) I seem to do well with tricky clues.

Martin 6:11 PM  

@gordon winkler,

For crosswords you'd better reverse those guesses. You can discover the meaning of life, but four vowels trump it.

As NYT crossword entries, EULER beats GAUSS 29 to 4.

Martin 6:12 PM  

Or even three vowels.

Doug 7:35 PM  

Glad to finish correctly and with no Google. But it took 3 lay downs.

- Filled in all the plurals
- Then it was a slog, one by one.
- Was absolutely stuck with about half done, and found I skipped EGYPT and then based on that single answer was able to fight my way into the 4 corners.
- EGYPT got me PESO and TSAR, that got me the CAT, then SCAREDYCAT, and that's what led me out.

My difficulty was from: (1)Cluing, (2) Number of multi-word answers; and (3) Proper noun/specific knowledge answers: DOONE, URALRIVER, ALDER, TSAR, STATEN, SHE, EULER,TUPAC, MARESNEST, EDER, AVAS, TROY, RHETT, REDSOXNATION, ENURE, HORA, CARVE.

I would say it was Medium-Hard for a Friday because about 1:4 I don't finish Friday and I almost didn't finish this.

michael 7:56 PM  

I found this fairly easy for a Friday, especially after I got alphabet soup. I didn't notice the cluing at all, which may mean that I've done too many NYT crosswords...

sanfranman59 10:01 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

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

mac 10:34 PM  

I loved this puzzle; it was a medium for me because it was a steady solve. Have to admit that when the whole thing was done, I was amazed I did it all without agony! I also have to own up to one word in my own language (Staten) and one mistake: Joe Pelooka sounded sort of acceptable, and I know elder trees....

I also had yes Sir before Yes I do, and cola before nehi.
Fried = lit is new to me, too.

Fantastic debut, Tim.

Anonymous 1:24 PM  

How is a list of WANTS a part of a wish list? Aren't wants and wishes the same??

Stephen 6:53 PM  

I loved several of these clues.
Course in Russian geography?
One suspended for a game.
Metropolitan hangover? (how memorable!)
One starting easily?
Its letters may be bolted down. (way clever!)
I got carried along and enjoyed myself.

However, I had to wait for IRosler to explain slang "Fried" for slang LIT. Gad. Even after the explanation, I'd call it worse than lame; it's a constructor's lapse of judgement. Just because it works in one brain doesn't mean it carries to any other brains. If I had found that in a lesser puzzle I would not have forgiven it. I *still* want to rub it out as an error.

Tim C. 7:24 PM  

I have to back up Will here (he made the clue change; I had something like "Bright, say", I don't remember the exact wording outside of 'bright'). 'Fried' is a pretty standard slang word for "drunk" -- I've heard it many times in real life in that context, as have I heard 'lit' -- and, as a clue in a Friday, is thus more than excusable given the expected difficulty -- JMO.

RK 10:54 AM  

easy? I have a "moral obligation" to object to that description. Or maybe I "ought" to reconsider.

fergus 9:29 PM  

Way late -- this one was really tough for me. In retrospect, there were so many possiblities for most Clues, which is the what makes a tough puzzle. Still a bit amazed that anyone could blow through this so breezily.

WilsonCPU 12:31 PM  

I found it tough, but finished in 25 minutes with no errors, so I'm happy with that! Had MAKES instead of TAKES X-RAYS, and MIKE instead of SETH Meyers - nice mis-direction, TC! And "shota" for my captcha - Last night, I SHOTA moose in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I'll never know! (Thx, Groucho Mrx)

Chixulub 3:17 PM  

I guess I should have realized FENCE was too obvious for 'chain link' given how tricky the clues generally were. And, probably because of my age, I knew Mike Meyers from Saturday Night Live but hadn't heard of Seth. Having those two wrong just ruined that whole side for me because I came up with other things that fit with those answers, but of course didn't fit with anything else. That, and I was stumped at what four letter abbreviation there could be for Santo Domingo that would end in 'N' (from having FENCE in 34 Down).

Anonymous 11:38 AM  

I'm amazed nobody mentioned that ARGUEMENT is not a word! The only dictionary it's even listed in is Encarta, where it says "incorrect spelling of argument." It is not a valid variant spelling anywhere.

paula in columbus 7:55 PM  


I am very late to the party, because I did this puzzle in a local magazine published Friday, April 16. (Today is April 20.) I want you to know how fun it is to be able to check out others' opinions about the puzzle quality and level of difficulty. This puzzle in particular was quite difficult and also very satisfying, for all the reasons everyone else gave.

Since I live in Ohio, "CLE" for "Indians' home" was my gimme. :)

I doubt I'll comment often, since I'm always going to be a month behind, but I wanted to say thank-you for this enjoyable and informative blog. -Paula

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