Glorified gatekeeper in Goias / SAT 3-20-10 / Compounds that smell rotting fish / White item in 1944 Matisse painting / 1995 Literature Nobelist

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Constructor: Joe Krozel

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging


Word of the Day: UNCIAL (18A: Writing style of old Latin manuscripts) —

Uncial is a majuscule script (written entirely in capital letters) commonly used from the 3rd to 8th centuries AD by Latin and Greek scribes. Uncial letters are written in either Greek, Latin, or Gothic. // Early uncial script is likely to have developed from late Old Roman cursive. Early forms are characterized by broad single stroke letters using simple round forms taking advantage of the new parchment and vellum surfaces, as opposed to the angular, multiple stroke letters which are more suited for rougher surfaces, such as papyrus. In the oldest examples of uncial, such as the De bellis macedonicis manuscript in the British Library, all of the letters are disconnected from one another, and word separation is typically not used. Word separation, however, is characteristic of later uncial usage. (wikipedia)
• • •

This puzzle has 56 words. Going under 60 words is almost always a bad idea (unless your name is Patrick Berry). There's just no point. The best you're going to get is a pyrrhic victory — the grid gets filled, but at a huge cost (mostly to my patience and good will). Today's is one of those typical low word-count grids, with four quadrants connected only at the center, creating what feels like four separate puzzle experiences. And, as usual, there is a bunch of "S"s and "R"s, and some "-ED" suffixes "to boot" (see RESTLESS, STRESSED, RESEEDED, ASSES, and a host of others). And, as usual, there are many words with zero excitement value, like ACETONES (21A: Options for thinning) and ANILINES (10D: Compounds that smell of rotting fish) (at least the clue on the latter is interesting). A couple of the quadrants are halfway decent in parts. I like the SE the best, first because it has the least forced fill, and second because there's a liveliness and surprising quality to the answers — had to change SAO PAOLO to SAO PEDRO, had a genuine aha moment with UPPER ARM (35A: Place for many a shot), and enjoyed the colloquial zing of "I'D LOVE TO" (45A: "Sure thing!"). But the NE makes me want to SHRIKE (22A: Harsh-sounding bird that immobilizes its prey by impalement). Something about UNCIAL crossing ANILINES seems so lifeless, so pointless, so soul-crushing, that even the fantastically clued PUNCHERS next to the pugilist-related LACERATE (9D: Tear) can't redeem it. I've seen worse puzzles of this type (with word counts this low, with grids this shape). But I've seen better; and the *average* Saturday puzzle with a word count, say, in the 60s (still pretty low), is miles better than this.

Started easily enough in the NW with ONE ACT (2D: Like Edward Albee's first five plays). I somehow knew LAUPER (3D: 1984 Best New Artist Grammy winner). From there, I just followed the NINJAS (1D: Stealthy fighters) / JAPANESE (19A: Like 1-Down) connection right on out of the quadrant — by far the easiest of the four. Threw DESOLATE down at 25A: Lonely (DESERTED), but that went away as soon as I read the clue at 8D: Pugilists ... or stationery store items (PUNCHERS). Had a lot of hesitation in this quadrant, which ended up being the toughest of them all for me. Never heard of ANILINES. Heard of UNCIAL, somewhere, but couldn't remember the exact order of the letters. Honestly did not know HALSEY at all (12D: Vice admiral on the U.S.S. Enterprise). Thought he was a character on "Star Trek" I'd somehow never heard of. Wasn't sure what 15A: Photons, e.g. was getting at, even after "QUA-" ("QUARKS can't be right ..." — it's QUANTA). Not familiar with the term A CELLS (20A: Rare battery varieties), though I guessed it easily enough. Well, I guessed the CELLS part, and the "A" came later. Anyway, slowly and unpleasantly, that section eventually came together. Rebooted in SW with LOSERS (50A: Ties don't have them), and then ÉLÈVES right on top of it (48A: People taking les examens). This quadrant was pretty easy, except I couldn't make any sense of TRACED TO (32A: Had a prior link with), and still am having trouble making sense of it now. The "O" from TO finally allowed me to see what the hell 26D: Glorified gatekeeper, in Goiás was all about (SAO PEDRO). Well, it gave me SAO, at any rate. PEDRO came later. Drew blanks on most of the SE, but then ran into the gimme ADESTE (39D: Noel opener), which revealed another near-gimme, OPIATES (49A: Heroin and the like). Easy enough to hammer home from there.

For those of you who still struggle mightily to complete a Saturday, I want to review my toe-holds — the answers I got from No crosses — just so you can see how I got going. The quadrants, in the order in which I solved them:

  1. NW: The clue about Albee's plays literally (that is, figuratively) shouted ONE ACT at me. Clue tells you it's adjectival ("Like ..."), and while plays might be many things, in crossworld they are very often ONE ACT.
  2. NE: If it hadn't been for PUNCHERS, I don't know what I'd have done with this section. With that word in place, I got SPLASH (7A: Big impression) and the "CELL" part of ACELLS. This gave me enough info to take the section down, eventually.
  3. SW: Started with LOSERS — the word "Ties" in the clue is flaunting its ambiguity, i.e. "Ties" can mean a ton of things, so I started scrolling through meanings in my head. The clue makes sense only for the definition meaning "even scores." WINNERS wouldn't fit. LOSERS fit, and had that "-SERS" string that I know a puzzle like this (very low word count) needs to survive. This is also how I put the -LESS on the end of 30D: Always moving (RESTLESS), which then got me the pretty easy ÉLÈVES.
  4. SE: As I said earlier, the key was ADESTE (first word of the carol, or "Noel," "ADESTE Fideles"). ADESTE is super duper common crossword fill, so commit it to memory if it's not already there.

"Oh Come, all ye PUNCHERS and ONE-ACT LOSERS!"

  • 27A: Limerick neighbor (CLARE) — a few days late, we get a double dose of Irishness in CLARE and HEANEY (24A: 1995 Literature Nobelist)
  • 51A: Eye muscles attach to it (SCLERA) — no idea. I do know that SCLERA is an anatomical term, though, so I was able to piece it together with a few crosses.
  • 5D: Attendees at some biz meetings (STENOS) — dated and weird, as "biz" is usu. used for an industry (e.g. show biz), not as an abbrev. for "business" in the simple everyday phrase "business meetings."
  • 32D: Mandolin effect (TREMOLO) — had VIBRATO at first (?).

  • 33D: White item in a 1944 Matisse painting (TULIP) — No idea. First thought was "TABLE."
  • 36D: He was served to the Olympians as food (PELOPS) — man, Greek mythology is so full of people feeding people to other people (or gods) that I couldn't for the life of me remember who was involved here. Familiarity with the extensive cast of characters, however, gave me PELOPS with just a little help (thanks, Great Books Program at University of Michigan!). Oh, and don't worry about poor PELOPS. He was reassembled (!?) by the gods, exc. for his shoulder, which is the only part that actually got eaten (by Persephone). Gods gave him an ivory shoulder, which, if I remember correctly, he outfitted with lasers and used to blow up the Kraken. PELOPS = eponym of PELOPONNESIAN Peninsula.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. The round of 64 is over, and we have a three-way tie for first in the "All Hail OOXTEPLERNON" bracket of ESPN's NCAA Basketball Challenge — R. Rappold, C. Rork, and D. Gulczynski all picked 27 of the 32 games correctly. Rappold has slightly more points left on the board, but not enough to matter significantly. As for my own picks — I did well, but lost my craziest Final Four pick (Louisville) in the first round, so that pretty much does it for me. It's probably best that I not win my own contest.


Lorne 1:53 AM  

Does anyone EVER look for a puncher at a stationery store? It's always been a punch to me. Most every answer (and clue) seemed forced in this one.

Jesse 2:15 AM  

@Lorne: Agreed - paper punch, 3-hole punch, never puncher. And w/o puncher, the NE was a dead loss for me. I got lacerate, and that was it.

It's bad enough not to be able to finish a puzzle, but it annoys me when I see the answers and say "huh" instead of "d'uh." Way too many answers in this puzzle were just obscure terms that I will forget immediately.

I'd like that hour of my life back.

JF 2:16 AM  

Thought this was going to be a manageable Saturday, despite some of the uncomfortable fill. The (thankfully) easy LOSERS and ELEVES sparked a run that had me thinking I was going to kill this thing. But then I had JOYEUX for Noel opener in the SE, which gave me IVDRUGS for Heroin and RIGHTJAW for the many a shot clue, and couldn't bring myself to start erasing. I've sung ADESTE a million times, and seen it in puzzles. I guess I was misdirected by the other French clue.

Oh well. One month in and still having fun!

Elaine 5:59 AM  

This was slow, slow, slow. Among my wrong entries:
IN A RAGE before STIR--really? does anyone 'get in a a stir' when he is [all worked up?]

The NE finally just sat there, since METHANE and GOTHIC were fatally wrong.
Agree about PUNCHERS--never.
And LACERATE for [Tear]? Cut, slash, slice, knife--but not tear. (No doubt someone will find it listed in a dictionary, and I don't care. It's poor.)

This puzzle was definitely Challenging for me, and I even had a hard time trying to Google. Finally 'Latin font' got me UNCIAL, and HEANEY was my other look-up. These allowed the finish. No joy.

A lot of these clues seemed forced--someone sitting there thinking, "How can I make this fiendish, and to heck with real life." I used aniline dyes in my Batik period; the smell was acetic, but hardly as bad as [rotting fish].)
I *did* learn something new: the SHRIKE impales his victims. So, the butcher-bird gets all the bad press, but he's not alone? Actually, from what I read, at least the shrike's prey is already dead, and the impalement is just a clever food-storage idea. Breakfast test!

VaBeach puzzler 8:39 AM  

Thought this would be a hair-puller when I saw the dreaded pinwheel grid but it wasn't all that tough. (OK, I did Google the Grammy and Nobel winners.) I agree with comments -- too many obscure or outdated words. But on the plus side are the T-Rexes crossing laxative, not to mention the neutered/ninjas! For 13A I had IN A SNIT, which didn't help. Reseeding greens -- huh??

dk 8:58 AM  

@JF, welcome and keep on filling. The puzzle blog experience is like watching stock car races. We are here for the crash.

My opinion is not as SHRIKE-like as Rex's. I merrily go through adding in the s and ed endings and then move in for the kill. While not NINJA-like it works... sorta.

I am still talking about Thursday's construction so my puzzle bar is artificially high. To that end this one was fine in that beer by the side of the pool way.

I saw this as four puzzles on one grid. I got early fills in each quadrant, unfortunately some were wrong. Early mistakes -- poolhall:UPPERARM, inasnit:INASTIR and the usual misspellings.

For your 80's moment I give you:


*** (3 Stars)

Bob Kerfuffle 9:12 AM  

When I first looked at the grid, I noted the time, since I thought it might come to hours. But no, just 40 minutes, and no write-overs. Thanks to the gimmes in the NW (NINJAS/JAPANESE) and SW (TREXES/LAXATIVE) got good starts in both of those quadrants. Clawed my way through the NE; finished in the SE with the last fill being PELOPS (not part of my knowledge base.)

All in all, my kind of puzzle; I liked it.

joho 10:15 AM  

@Rex ... interesting that you admitted that without PUNCHERS you would never have cracked the NE. Well, there was no way in the world I would ever get PUNCHERS so I failed that quadrant. Got the rest, but have to say the NE left a bad taste in my mouth or rather the smell of rotting fish. We all know what a Natick is. What do you call a whole section with, if not impossible, cruel clues and answers? The Bermuda Triangle?

Denise Ann 10:18 AM  

Thanks for going through your puzzle-solving experience step by step.

Glitch 10:24 AM  


Geometrically, that would be [a personal] Natick Town Square.


Elaine 10:25 AM  

Believe it or not, I actually did have 'punchers' written up in the margin, but didn't put it in because I thought, "Nah, too lame,' aside from the fact that it would not work with my (incorrect) Gothic. And THEN I fell victim to my sloppy overwriting where the T from METHANE should have been an i...I kept working with __TLINES for the 'rotting fish' compound. D'oh! Only Googling allowed me to finish.

JayWalker 10:29 AM  

I too agree with the schizophrenic quality of the puzzle. For me to be able to complete 3/4ths of the puzzle unaided and then to completely FLOP in the final fourth (the NE quadrant - where enigmatic words and overly complex clues go to die) was very soul-crushing. Lousy way for me to start a Saturday.

nanpilla 10:30 AM  

Reading rotten fish as rotten eggs, I immediately put in sulfides, which really made a mess of the NE. One letter at a time, I had to take it out, kicking and screaming, not even bothering to REREAD THE CLUE! How many times do I have to remind myself of that!?! I used to work with thiols back in the day, and my husband could always tell as soon as he kissed me. In a DMSO kind of way they would just work their way into my system. So I guess I just had sulfur on the brain, and couldn't shake it.

This one took me the better part of an hour, so definitely challenging for me, but ultimately finishable.

Chuck Wepner 10:31 AM  

I certainly look for a PUNCHER in a stationary store, you never know when someone is trying to left-hook you.

chefbea 10:40 AM  

I agree - very difficult, even with googling. Loved upper arm.

Beautiful day here in NC. Will spend most of it outside

Two Ponies 10:44 AM  

Not a sparkling puzzle but a quick Saturday that had some satisfaction.
@ Rex, your quadrant-by-quadrant run down was interesting and similar to mine except shrike was my first entry.
Halsey gave me a Paul McCartney ear worm From the Ram album.
Busy day ahead involving a pickup truck and Home Depot. Nothing tests your relationship like home improvement projects.

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

Loved the toe-holds section. As one of the solvers who can usually finish a thursday and sunday, struggle big time with fridays and NEVER finish saturdays, any help at all is greatly appreciated. We don't care about solving times, but LOVE the tips that will make our puzzle solving experience more fun!

jesser 10:50 AM  

The NE killed me, with SQUiSHES, HEAdEY and ANoLidES, all of which looked like reasonable answers. Looks can be deceiving, you say? Shut up, I explain.

I was spot on everywhere else, except 36D and 51A where the intersection of PELOPo and oCLERA punched me in the eye. I should have stared longer at that one, because I know SCLERA somewhere now that I look at it, but I was seduced by that leading o.

Favorite clue/answer was 37D EROTIC, followed closely by 34A T-REXES.

Today is bathe the dogs day at Casa Jess. Soon there will be a clean Chihuahua, a clean Yorkie, a clean Min-Pin and a clean 80-pound lab/chow cross. There will also be a sodden and grinny jessman. And there's your visual.

Houtsit! (what I plan to do later in the day with a cold beer in one hand a BEQ puzzle on the clipboard) -- jesser

opustwotoo 10:53 AM  

I also had problems with SCLERA, which I didn't know, and couldn't get because I also didn't know PELOPS or MTOSSA. I had OCLERO crossing PELOPO and MTOSSO.

Rex, you should listen to Amdiral Halsey by Paul McCartney and RAM; I'm sure you've heard it before:

hazel the friendly tutter 10:56 AM  

Crashing bore. Started off OK, but the NE just wouldn't budge. Stared at it for 10 minutes, (could the clues have been any less inspired?) - decided life's too short. Game Over.

Frances 11:01 AM  

Definitely 4-puzzles-in-one, but finished with a fine sense of overcoming many obstacles. First to fall was SE, where EROTIC, ADESTE and OPIATES sparked a moderately brisk completion. NE was much slower, even after throwing down SHRIKE. SW was slower still, and NW took a very long time indeed. I put in and took out any number of promising ideas (including an attempt, on "stealthy fighters," to pluralize VIRUS as VIRIDA) before throwing in the towel and Googling for the 1984 Grammy winner--who was listed under the 1985 awards.

Captcha was "dente" as in "gnashing of..."

Peter 11:22 AM  

Man, I sure hate puzzles with a few scattered pieces of compromised three and four letter fill.

Now with this puzzle, I can move directly on to hating the six and seven letter words!

Norm 11:29 AM  



Stan 11:38 AM  

Despite a promising start (I knew SHRIKE from West's "Miss Lonelyhearts" and figured out STALKED), this one beat me up in all four corners. But hey it's a Saturday so I don't mind.

I appreciate Rex sharing his list of toeholds. Very helpful for less-advanced solvers like myself.

Zeke 11:56 AM  

Even Google was against me today. Searched for Matisse 1944 blanc. Got thousands of links to Matisse's 1944 work, "Blanc Torse". Five letters, starts with T, gotta be right, no? Turns out not so right.

Anonymous 11:57 AM  


The 1985 Grammy Award ceremonies recognize achievements from the year 1984.

Zeke 12:08 PM  

@Chuck Wepner - Thanks for showing up. Your presence reminded me of the main problem I had in the NW, because I thought her name was LAUPNER, and it was either you or Judge Wapner which caused my confusion. Now can you please put a bandaid on that cut or something, you're bleeding all over the blog here.

Clark 12:22 PM  

I just had no idea about the UNC_AL / AN_LI_ES / HEA_EY double cross. I went with ANYLILES. (I know it looks really stupid with 20/20 hindsight.) But I got the rest, which is a whole lot better than I used to do on a Saturday.

NE was the tough quadrant alright. Don’t know my HEANEY from my hiney.

mccoll 12:24 PM  

40 minutes for a Saturday isn't bad for me but I had to Google HEANEY to get the NE. The NW and SE were gimmes so all the time was spent in the East. No that bad but not memorable either.
Thanks for the tips on solving, Rex.

George NYC 12:27 PM  

@ Stan I also always associate SHRIKE with Miss Lonelyhearts, even though I read that book a lonnnnng time ago. A very powerful image.

As for PUNCHERS/punches, does anyone ever actually shop for these? Aren't they only used at the office? And, for that matter, back before we had computers?

Martin 12:38 PM  

Be on the lookout for holing pincer.

addie loggins 12:45 PM  

Cracked the SE first (Thanks, LEEREDAT), then the NW, then the SE, and but could not finish the NE: too many words I simply did not know.

I would now like to enter the following sentence into the permanent record:

"At this point in the competition, I am ahead of Tyler Hinmann in the standings"

Ok, so it's the March Madness competition, but given that this is likely the only time in my LIFE I will be able to write such a sentence, I couldn't let the oppounity pass.

mac 1:13 PM  

Congratulations, Addie!

I have to love a Saturday puzzle I finished without googles and with only one wrong letter: UnciaN/HaNsey. Never heard of either, or quanta, A-cells or shrikes. It's a miracle I finished it. I'm giving the two hour errand/exercise run the credit, when I came back I suddenly "saw" squashes and punchers and dared to guess here and there.

I agree, one-act came automatically, but I was worried it might be two-act.

Almost got caught by the mtossa syndrome!

Wish me luck, I have to call the Dell tech support to help me fix my laptop. Let's see if that $ 366.79 warrenty extension was worth it.


edith b 1:18 PM  

Three neons in the NW NINJAS/JAPANESE/ONEACT got me out of that quadrent and having read this blog for a while I knew all about the Vicissitudes of Low-Word-Count Puzzles and was prepared for an avalanche of prefixes and suffixes and plurals.

It certainly came as no surprise to me that people referenced Nathanial West and I built the NE on the backs of SHRIKE/UNCIAL crossing LACERATE and good guesses at STALKED and SPLASH that allowed me to squeek by here. Rex's instruction helped me see PUNCHERS where I would not have otherwise seen it.

It was pretty much more of the same in the South as I was able to use what random neons I uncovered as building blocks. All of this is, of course, the antithesis of speed which I have abandoned for the ability to finish. It's why I will never be a tournament solver.

HudsonHawk 1:21 PM  

Similar experience here. The West quadrants fell pretty easily. The SE was a bit tougher, and the NE was my "Natick Town Square", as Glitch suggested. QUANTA, UNCIAL, ANILINES? Ugh.

Anonymous 1:26 PM  

An interesting puzzle, but not one of the best. My last entries were filled in by googling the rotting fish thing. It took perusing several entries before finding the answer. Didn't know uncial or Heaney. Thought of upper arm first but then thought "shoulder" so it screwed me up for a time. Losers and aces over came easy (poker player)as did remast (I work in sailboat repair). My solving order was NW, SE, SW NE.

I give it a 6 out of 10.

Anonymous 1:29 PM  

Oh, and as an aside, punchers are what your ex-wife calls it. "One of those puncher thingies".

SethG 1:35 PM  

I entered the basketball pool by having my computer randomly pick a bracket. (Though I'm still kinda annoyed that I'm way, way down in the standings.)

Speaking of randomly filling in with a computer, this puzzle might as well have been. I admired it, but I definitely didn't enjoy it.

Anonymous 1:40 PM  


Elaine 1:41 PM  

@George in NYC
If you go to an art supply shop, you'll be amazed at all of the decorative punches that are available. Yep, people buy them all the time. But they never call them PUNCHERS.
@anony--did 'puncher thingie' have anything to do with the divorce?

I had the same problem trying to Google for the [Latin manuscript style]...after various phrasings, I used 'Latin font' and found UNCIAL, in the process discovering my write-o (T instead of i), which helped with the 10Down.
And for the painter-- don't ask me how, but I read [Matisse] and thought Chagall--and I had, 'talit' (Var.) Well, it was 4 a.m.

Three and out

addie loggins 1:41 PM  

Oh, and maybe it's a regional thing, but here in Reno I don't think I've ever heard anyone use the term "aces over" for a full house. "Aces full," yes (as shorthand for, e.g., "aces full of eights"); "aces up," yes (that would be two pair, with the pair of aces being the higher of the two). I know "aces over" is a legitimate term, because I've heard it (in movies and such), but at the tables in northern Nevada, "aces full" is the better phrase.

@Glitch: "Natick town square" -- love it!

foodie 1:49 PM  

The fill in this puzzle was like watching an action packed ONE ACT play, with a great deal of violence: The characters where certainly IN A STIR. Some were stealthy like JAPANESE NINJAS, STALKED their victims before diving down like a SHRIKE to leave them NEUTERED, NO LESS. Meanwhile, the PUNCHERS, using their superior UPPER ARM strength, proceeded to SQUASH and LACERATE the opposition in spite of vehement PROTESTS. By the time it was over, and the ASSES had left, the stage was DESERTED except for the severely STRESSED LOSERS begging for OPIATES

treedweller 2:00 PM  

Another all-but-the-NE here. I stared at PUNCHERS (agree with the complaints here) crossing SHRIKE and ASSES for too long, finally googled HEANEY and HALSEY, and stalled again. Couldn't even imagine getting another answer with google (congrats to Elaine for getting UNCIAL that way) and decided to steal "just one" answer from Rex. And so it went until I had stolen them all. Of course, I might have done better if I had stuck to my guns and tried longer to add to my stolen letters, but by then I was pretty fed up. So it goes.

ArtLvr 2:12 PM  

@ glitch -- thanks for the Natick Town Square! Me too, I got LACERATEd in the NE. My 7A ECLATS across the top had the right two letters in the middle, and CLIPPERS looked good for both a tool and for boxers who clip an opponent's jaw? Then the T gave me Tracked, and the K from that led to SHRIKE. Oops, big trouble!

SHRIKE went nicely with LACERATE, and by then I was on board with HEANEY but HALSEY was still AWOL. In pain, I finally took a peek at Rex's grid and grabbed SPLASH to finish at last.

I should set a time limit, so as not to waste too much of a beautiful day -- but I get stubborn when an end is so nearly in sight! Drat...


fornablu -- swearing a blue streak?

ArtLvr 2:14 PM  

@ foodie -- Wonderful scenario! Thank you.


fikink 2:19 PM  

Excellent critique to my ear, Rex, for my experience was similar to yours. This puzzle was much like figuring vectors, tedious...joyless...

Altho, I did learn a lot.

Now that my homework is done, Mom says I can go out and play.

joho 2:30 PM  

@Glitch ... Natick Town Square = perfect. I'm not looking forward to hanging out there again real soon, but when I do I'll remember your phrase.

@Foodie ... love your synopsis of the violent ONE ACT play!

fergus 3:40 PM  

Would Matisse paint an OXLIP? Well, he did for me. I was BEREAVED and then DESERTED, IN A SNIT then ... .

But there weren't that many head-scratching sets of alternatives, linear or crossing. If I have a most important criterion for a Saturday puzzle, it would rest on the number of plausible entries one coud make for a Clue. So, for another or similar reason, not much delight today.

hazel the friendly tutter 4:12 PM  

Forgot to give the puzzle a rating.

3/4 tut.

Glitch 4:54 PM  

@George in NYC wrote:

"As for PUNCHERS/punches, does anyone ever actually shop for these? Aren't they only used at the office? And, for that matter, back before we had computers?"

At home, I still use a *puncher* when I file papers in a 3 ring binder. It makes cleaner holes than my computer.


Shannon 4:55 PM  

Wikipedia says Cyndi Lauper was the 1985 winner, and Culture Club won for 1984. ???

jae 4:57 PM  

NW-Easy, SW-Easy-Medium, SE-Medium, NE-WTF. I finished with a little help from my bride on HEANEY, but made the OCLERA error. Not a pleasant slog for me either. Natick Town Square nicely describes NE which was just evil.

terses 4:58 PM  

@Shannon - Lauper was given the award in 1985 for being the best new artist of 1984. She won the award in 1984, she was presented it in 1985. Awards are almost always handed out in the year following the actual work.

Jesse 5:21 PM  

@foodie - ha! That was almost worth trying this puzzle for.

Count me among the stressed losers.

PlantieBea 5:45 PM  

This one fell in the challenging but fair column. Gimmes, though few and far between, included SHRIKE, ACETONE, VOTIVE, and ADESTE. Once in a while we see Loggerhead Shrikes which reputedly impale their insect prey on barbed wire fences. They look like mockingbirds. (

Although it took me several sessions to solve this, I got it all with no cheating and a few lucky guesses like the A in SCLERA/MT OSSA. I liked it because of the fun misdirection in some of the clues (that for UPPER ARM), the chemical and other sciency answers (ACETONE, ANILINE, QUANTA!, etc.) and the Catholic churchy feel of SAO PEDRO, ADESTE, and VOTIVES.

Thanks Joe Krozel

Ah, my secret word is shines, as this puzzle did for me.

Stan 6:04 PM  

@foodie: Great narrative summary! Worthy of @joho.

@glitch: I'm urging adoption of 'Natick Town Square' as an official term. It's quite distinct from a one-character Natick.

sanfranman59 6:05 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 6:55, 6:55, 1.00, 55%, Medium
Tue 9:25, 8:54, 1.06, 68%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 13:58, 11:50, 1.18, 88%, Challenging
Thu 23:59, 19:28, 1.23, 91%, Challenging
Fri 21:16, 26:06, 0.81, 10%, Easy
Sat 35:13, 30:45, 1.15, 82%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:30, 3:40, 0.95, 43%, Medium
Tue 4:30, 4:31, 1.00, 54%, Medium
Wed 6:39, 5:48, 1.15, 82%, Challenging
Thu 12:25, 9:21, 1.33, 95%, Challenging
Fri 10:33, 12:33, 0.84, 15%, Easy
Sat 19:23, 17:32, 1.11, 79%, Medium-Challenging

Gray 6:37 PM  

If "Natick Town Square" goes official, will we be able to alter the original meaning as much as we do with "Natick"?

michael 6:38 PM  

I'm in the all but the northeast club. I couldn't even get it after googling Heaney and Halsey.

Glitch 7:10 PM  

RE: "Natick Town Square"

"Official" is probably too strong a word, "adopted" may be closer, but in any case, nothing here is immune from debate or being subjected to alternate *realities* ;-)


foodie 8:08 PM  

@Stan, I'm honored to be worthy of Joho's narratives! She created an art form. BTW, I believe that the associations that lead to such stories are at least subliminally shared between the constructor and the solver, and may be the cause of "malapops" (andrea's aptly named phenomenon).

In my research, I sometimes study how socials stress can lead to drug abuse, so the ending felt preordained : )

I have to say that I am grateful for such Saturday puzzles, because I'm able to deduce them much more easily than the ones that are filled with proper nouns. So, I'm on the side of those who felt good about this one. Thank you Joe Krozel!

joho 8:12 PM  

@Stan ...I'm blushing ... and totally agree with you, Foodie's narrative was fabulous.

Also, I know others have commented, but I haven't yet said, your avatar is one great-looking cat. Very special face.

And @Glitch ... like it or not, Natick Town Square exists.

Stan 9:07 PM  

@joho and @foodie: Awwww, thanks for both comments. And agree with @foodie's suggestion that these responses (while creative) are not just made up but implied in the puzzle, on some level. I would love to get input from constructors on this -- but then again you don't usually get far asking an artist "What did you mean by that?"

My kitty/avatar is doing great, and unbothered by the other cats. Still has her own room but wants the doors opened now.

Glitch 9:10 PM  


Never doubted *Natick Town Square* exist, in fact, been there several times.


Craig Ganzer 10:47 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig 10:48 PM  

Took me about 35 min. Plus another ten looking for the error; I had "stresses" and since I didn't know "desde" anyway I didn't realize that was where to look for the mistake. Finally went thru clue by clue and discovered that.

Got the "one act" gimme right away, which gave me the "ina" part of "inastir," and from that "ninjas" and "japanese" made it easy. Same with "trexes"/"votive" which gave me "laxative," wrapping that section up. "Opiates," "erotic" and "adeste" led to "sclera" and then all I had to do was stare at the NE for 20 minutes. Putting in "ring----" for "punchers" seriously caused trouble until I finally got "splash" which led to "halsey" and "stalked" which led to the rest of it.

I play poker pretty seriously and I don't think anyone has said "aces over" in at least 50 years. Terrible. And a pretty weak grid.

Jim Sweeney and Peta Poole 9:46 AM  

Thanks for the puzzle solving tips. The link to Bruce Hornsby was a bit tight though. Horrible ear worm for me! Check out David Grisman, Chris Thile, Sam Bush, etc. As exemplars of mandolin mastery. Even that Rod Stewart tune would have been better.

Couldn't get away from some form of lachrymose for "tear" and it cost me five wrong squares. I look forward to finishing every week to check out your blog. Thanks!

william e emba 3:56 PM  

Wow. I found this to be perhaps the third easiest Saturday I've ever done, right on the heels of the third easiest Friday I've ever done.

Normally one or two quadrants of this shape grid give me extreme difficulty, but not this time. I started wrong with BOSONS for "photons", realized that was going nowhere, and then put in QUANTA and pretty much everything fell into place after that.

As for my knowing about SHRIKE easting habits, that is mostly due to Dan Simmons Hyperion series. His mysterious meanie is The Shrike. You do not want it to show up. Painful death usually follows.

retired_chemist 4:38 PM  

A month late the chemist chimes in. March was a very busy month.

Did NOT like 10D. Having worked with aniline more than occasionally over the years, I did not find that it smelled like rotting fish. Further, ANILINES will have a variety of odors depending on structural and substituent variations.

The compounds that primarily give rotting flesh (whether piscine or otherwise) its odor are putrescine and cadaverine. These are DIAMINES, which word fits the answer space in length and has four letters in common with the putatively correct answer. Pooh.

Googling "aniline rotting fish" indeed reveals that a wealth of web references make the same claim as the clue. IMO this is in large measure a case of parroting whoever put it up first. So then a constructor comes along, has a cool word, Googles to get an interesting clue, and the cycle continues. No particular blame to Mr. Krozel, a constructor I almost always like to see. Just a cautionary note about believing stuff from the internet - we shouldn't always.

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