Labors of Hercules painter / FRI 8-20-10 / Objet d'art auction Octopussy / Rosaceous ornamental / Simple trattoria dressing

Friday, August 20, 2010

Constructor: Brad Wilber

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Guido RENI (52A: "The Labors of Hercules" painter) —

(born Nov. 4, 1575, Bologna, Papal States — died Aug. 18, 1642, Bologna) Italian painter. Apprenticed to the Flemish painter Denis Calvaert at 10, he was later influenced by the novel naturalism of the Carracci family of his native Bologna, the frescoes of Raphael, and ancient Greco-Roman sculpture. He executed many important commissions in Rome, including the celebrated ceiling fresco Aurora (1613 – 14). In his religious and mythological works, he tempered Baroque exuberance and complexity with Classical restraint, tender emotion, and delicate colouring. Until John Ruskin scorned him in the 19th century, he was highly regarded; his status as one of the great painters of the 17th century has since been reestablished. (
• • •

Pretty typical Brad Wilber fare. Very hard. Out of my wheelhouse. This one was just a slog, with little joy along the way. I mean, seeing "Octopussy" in the clues is always amusing (1A: Objet d'art at auction in "Octopussy"=>FABERGÉ EGG), so that's a nice way to start, but after that, there's not much to love. I will say that the workout was fierce (for me), and that's always worth something. There's a reliance here on trick cluing that gets a Little old—the reveal is too often not worth it. More "oh" than "oh!" Stuff like 34D: Hospital administration, briefly (MEDS) — where the word "administration" is used accurately but awkwardly and out-of-the-language-ly — dominate the clues. See, for instance:

  • 14D: What cribs might be used for (ESSAY TESTS)
  • 29A: Shake, as a tail (ELUDE) — here both "shake" and "tail" mean things that the phrasing of the clue does not suggest
  • 43A: Strands on a branch, perhaps (TINSEL)
  • 31A: Bit of bread (ONE) — ?!?!? ouch
  • Etc.

Obviously whether trickery is clever or forced is a judgment call. I think my judgment develops from my happiness with the grid as a whole. If there is sizzle, or if the trickery is undeniably clever, then I'm OK (OK) (47D: Assent to relent) (??). But I only really liked two entries today: HATE MONGER (13D: Prejudicial propagandist) and WIDOW'S PEAK (55A: Common feature of a Dracula mask), the latter being especially good because its clue was original as well. Hard to get excited about barely-a-words like SEMI-MATURE (25D: Still developing), odd phrases like SCORCH MARK (49A: Lampshade blemish), and obscure name crossings like RENI / JESSIE (39D: Daughter in "'night, Mother"). I'm betting most people couldn't even tell you what "'night, Mother" is, let alone the names of the characters in it. Yeesh. I'm sure FLOPSHOT (28A: Phil Mickelson specialty) is exciting to avid golf fans, but I've never heard the term, and it's not like I haven't heard tons of golf coverage on TV in my day. FLIP SHOT felt like it made more sense. And that cross—again with the oddly phrased ambiguity: 10D: Pilot's setting (GAS STOVE). Again, technically accurate, in that the pilot is "set" in my STOVE, but [cough] [cough] ugh.

Started in the NW and didn't have much trouble. Then I had trouble. Lots of it, mainly because just about the only gimme left in the grid for me was FLAGG (28D: Fannie who wrote "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe"). Oh, and ASHE (11A: Queens's ___ Stadium), which could have been SHEA, so not really a gimme gimme. Lucky enough to get MAH JONGG off of just the final "G" in FLAGG (38A: It's played with 144 pieces), but *not* lucky enough to be able to spell MAH JONGG correctly. I had, let's see, MAH JOHNG and MAH JONNG in there before, at the very very end, SERGE (30D: It has a diagonal rib) (which I don't know from a hole in the ground) forced my hand. CGI and MOP and MAO and something-SAW helped me get started again in the SE, but ... having GAS-blank up top and blank-SAW down below was killing any hopes I had of getting into the middle, and the NE just wouldn't behave at first. Still not sure how I got the SW. Just guessed JESSIE off the J and last E. Just guessed UZIS (there's more than one Rambo???) (48A: Rambos might wield them). Knowing ALIENEE as primo crosswordese helped me get that one (41A: Heir, legally), and then I finally worked my way back up to the utterly unknown ERDE (23D: Himmel und ___ (apple-and-potato dish)). Last letter was at SERGE / BARGE (36A: Origination point for many fireworks), both words I had to Force myself to accept (wanted STAGE for the latter; wanted it a lot). I hope you enjoyed this one more than I. I do appreciate the workout, but I just couldn't work up much affection for this one.

  • 21A: Rosaceous ornamental (SPIREA) — Technical flora stuff is just beyond me. I had seen SPIREA before, and just pieced it together.
  • 40A: Reading-and-feeding occasions (SEDERS) — Reading-and-eating I get. "Feeding" = weird. Are you "feeding" Elijah? I know you set a place for him, but ... do you put food on his plate? And does he eat it? I'm basically asking if he's like Santa Claus. You know, eating the cookies we put out for him on Christmas Eve? No offense.
  • 53A: Simple trattoria dressing (AGLIO E OLIO) — i.e. a bunch of damn vowels.
  • 5D: "Touché" elicitor (RIPOSTE) — "Elicitor" is a great example of the strange vocabulary of crossword cluing. See also "denizen," "sloganeer," etc.
  • 40D: Creature with a paddlelike tail (SEA COW) — also known as a manatee, I think. Yes.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Zeke 12:10 AM  

I shall restrict my comments to those answers I got in my alloted time, 45 minutes.

Captcha: proop

The Big E 12:33 AM  

just over 40 for me. ouch.
Go Ashe immediately, but only because I also immediately got Aprils. Just seemed logical.
Mah Jongg seems to be cropping up more often in some form, or perhaps that it is because it is my latest subway "droid-phone game to play" and is just on my mind.
Only got Reni/Jessie cross because it seemed logical.

The center for me was the last to fall, and certainly the most difficult. I wanted beach, not barge. And unlike Rex, I don't know who Flagg is! :-(

All in all, a decent way to avoid going to bed.
Headed there now, though.
Happy commenting all!

Robin 1:01 AM  

This was unbelievably hard for me -Rex, sweetie, I don't know how you do it. I knew "Riposte" but didn't know how to spell it.

I actually know Phil Mickelson, but had No Idea what the answer was, or, even now knowing the answer, what a flopshot is.

Rex, good for you for knowing "Alienee" - I'm a lawyer and confidently threw down "Devisee" - it fits. Ugh!

Not fun for me. I'm just not "Friday Smart."

syndy 1:14 AM  

Had beaver and leechee in southeast so that was the last to fall ,anyway Brad W on a thursday you look for misdirection.Had fore shot for a long time and Pope doesn"t quite seem fair although Magi didn't fit.Overall i liked it alot except for the yodeling on my house saLad.vinegrette good enough for me.Rex, your students Never use cribs?really?

sanfranman59 1:22 AM  

I'll let my Uncle Wikipedia address the flop shot question ... "A flop shot is another specific type of stroke, in which the player uses a lofted club, such as a sand wedge or a lob wedge, rotates the club head to an open position, and strikes down on the ball, causing it to be launched at a very high angle, which allows the ball to land softly with little roll. Players use the flop shot when hitting short distances, perhaps over a hazard, and it is necessary to stop the ball quickly, because the flag stick is positioned close to the edge of the green, often termed "not having much green to work with". The shot has been popularized by professional golfer Phil Mickelson."

This shot takes a great deal of nerve and touch to execute well because the player takes a full swing. If you don't do it just right, you either end up 50 yards past the hole or you barely move the ball at all. Phil is definitely a master with this shot. Here's Phil showing you how he does it.

Tinbeni 1:22 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jae 1:36 AM  

Medium-Challenging for me. NW was slow because I held on to ENGARDE (which worked with ATIT) for too long. I also started with CHIPSHOT and tried LEECHES. I got JONGG OK because I think I saw it that way in a fairly recent puzzle?

I had the same general feeling about this one as Rex. Nothing really sparkled.

andrea curio michaels 3:54 AM  

I think this took over 2 hours off and on, but I really liked it. Well, I like finishing it.

AGLIOEOLIO was fabulous...a constructor's dream. Ten letter word with SEVEN vowels!!! Also the only thing I like on pasta.

There was a cool double gg thingg ggoingg on. Faberge eGG, Fanny FlaGG, Mah jonGG.

Part of me wants me to list ALL my mis-starts. MinnOW into SEACOW, blah blah blah. I'll spare you the details.

Some fun notes (for me)SHEA and ASHE are anagrams.

Ulrich taught us about ERDE a few weeks ago. And years ago I babbled on how much i had love "Kathy Bates" in "night, Mother", during a blizzard in Boston 30 years ago...but that didn't help me get her character's name. The I in RENI was my last letter.

The MAO/MAHJONGG ref was helpful.
But the double Soprano stuff seemed weak, but it's prob my prob.

Clark 4:50 AM  

That was hard hard hard. I had mostly white space in the whole East side. Semi-puzzle partner chipped in and we got it done. PTOLEMY sure helped get things moving, and WIDOWSPEAK did too. I'm not sure what the connection is between POPEs and visiting, but OKOK. Saturday better not be any harder than this!

Anonymous 6:02 AM  

Had it been a Saturday, we might have gotten the traditional Rhineland spelling of "Himmel und Erde", which is "Himmel und Ääd" or "Himmel und Aeaed" for crossword purposes. And what a dream of an answer, vowel-wise!


submariner 6:23 AM  

Definitely challenging, especially NE. Trouble spelling mah jongg. At the end of the day, still don't know what CGI stands for.

Ruth 7:30 AM  

@submariner: computer generated image (or imagery or something)--ie what it's hard not to find in a movie these days.
Wow. This was a relatively easy Friday for me--a few writeovers but basically kept moving. There's no end to the strangeness.
Elegant looking grid, no?

Brendan Emmett Quigley 7:32 AM  

Quality stuff, as usual. Had STRATEGO for MAH JONGG at first, be revamped it when I got to the clue at MAO.

r.alphbunker 8:18 AM  

OK OK reminded me of a story about the philosopher Sidney Morgenbesser. Here is Wikipedia's version of it:
"During a lecture the Oxford linguistic philosopher J. L. Austin made the claim that although a double negative in English implies a positive meaning, there is no language in which a double positive implies a negative. To which Morgenbesser responded in a dismissive tone, "Yeah, yeah."

My comment on this puzzle is "Yes, yes!"

joho 8:27 AM  

Wow, I liked this a whole lot better than @Rex.

I'm mad at myself because I know what CGI is, but couldn't get the G. Because of that I added yet another vowel to AoLIOEOLIO! Which, like @andrea curio, I absolutely loved. Along with WIDOWSPEAK, MAHJONGG, HATEMONGER, SCORCHMARK, FLOPSHOT and FABERGEEGG.

I saw the sparkle in this puzzle with OUTSHINING, GLINTS and TINSEL.

I finished with one mistake, not bad for a Friday. I'm happy, thank you, Brad Wilber!

David L 8:45 AM  

One stupid mistake -- I had TONE for what a boxer works on, which gave me the mysterious TARGE for where fireworks originate. But I don't associate fireworks with barges -- where I live people tend to set them off from -- what's the phrase now? -- oh yes, the ground.

Some good long answers -- WIDOWSPEAK, HATEMONGER, FABERGEEGG - but some of the short stuff was weak. Didn't like MALE soprano or, even worse, soprano ARIA in the SE. Are either of those phrases 'in the language'?

Also, is one INADILEMMA? In olden times, the standard expression was that one was on the horns of one. I don't think a dilemma is really something you can be IN.

And yes, SEMIMATURE is dodgy to me.

Well, enough said. Some good bits, some not so good bits. A curate's egg, as the saying goes (for those who know that saying, anyway).

The Big E 9:01 AM  

@David L - I agree, I always remember someone saying that they "have a dilemma" or are "faced with a dilemma," but from what I can see in the dictionary, a dilemma is defined as "a situation..." So if you can be in a situation, I guess you can be in a dilemma!

@Andrea Curio Michaels - I agree - the two "soprano" clues were annoying.

Is anyone else tired of seeing "uzis" or "uzi" as an answer?

mitchs 9:19 AM  

I had a strange beginning with lots of isolated single crosses scattered around - but not yielding any solid blocks.

Eventually it turned out to be a little harder than the usual Friday, but not much. I really enjoyed it.

I like misdirection and love golf, so there you have it.

David L 9:32 AM  

PS from my vague memory of learning a few words of Italian, I recall that when 'e' (and) is followed by a vowel, it adds a 'd' -- so one would say 'aglio ed olio.' Google gets about equal numbers of hits for that and for 'aglio e olio.'

Can any Italian speakers say whether one form is preferred to the other? Is it a question of formal vs informal usage?

jesser 9:36 AM  

I always heard that the double positive that equals a negative was "Yeah, right."

I went through this without too many snags, but ended up failing because I spelled MAH JONGh thusly, and Fanny FLAGh looked just fine to me. At least not any more objectionable than the idea of fried SEMI-MATURE tomatoes. Blech.

At 28A, I had chiP SHOT for a long time before the GAS STOVE exploded into view and left a SCORCH MARK on my neural network.

I am taking the rest of the day off to play golf with a friend from outta town. I am decidedly not IN A DILEMMA about this choice, and I wish all of Rexville a happy weekend!

Whisar! (After five or six stiff bourbons, he's the wonnerful guy I'm off to see) -- jesser

Anonymous 9:44 AM  

Too many directly misleading clues.
scorch mark over aglio e olio?
The fill seems a bit pretentious.

SethG 9:47 AM  

Wow, hard. Brad Wilber has an amazing ability to completely befuddle me when I have all but one letter of a word filled in. Repeatedly.

Really wanted the SEACOW to be a hippo. Really wanted HOLD to be Otis. Really wanted FLOP SHOT to be something I'd heard of.

The Big E 9:49 AM  

Was I the only one who wanted seacow to be "beaver?"
Got "cees" and "huac" and the ea combo made "beaver" seem perfect to me! Am I confused about what makes a tail "paddle-like?" Seems like a beaver to me!

RJeff 9:51 AM  

Agree with you assessment of the puzzle.
Regarding your SEDER question - the middle part of the Passover seder (and the main part for the less observant) is a huge holiday meal. So "feeding" is quite accurate.

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

usually i *face* a dilemma or i am *in* a quandary.

male sopranos ≥ counter tenors?

soprano aria? could someone give me an example when this might be used in a sentence? i would guess it to use the possessive...*soprano's* aria. "soprano" as an adjective, in this case with aria, seems silly.

aglioeolio is just fun to say.

PLURALIZED was a stretch. those words are *made* plural. my dictionary does not have the word plural used as a verb.

and CEES (cosmetic extremes) i originally had DYES. BOTOXes didn't fit.


many forum postings guy,

joho 10:04 AM  

@SethG ... I, too, wanted Otis for the place you hear Muzak. Nice to know I wasn't the only one.

The Big E 10:06 AM  

@Anon 9:54 - Countertenors are typically equivalent to altos or mezzo-soprano ranges. I thought Male Sopranos were equivalent to castrati, and as such, don't really exist anymore, though I suppose some countertenors might have ranges as high as that of a soprano, and as such could be considered "male sopranos."

Bob Kerfuffle 10:13 AM  

Failed again! Had JESSEE crossing RENE, instead of JESSIE/RENI, never heard of either one of them, and no hint that they were wrong.

It's been a long time since I was in school, but I do wonder why the clue associates "cribs" (cribsheets) with ESSAYTESTS. I would think that an essay test is where a cribsheet would be the least useful, in that I think of a cribsheet as holding a small amount of specific information, while good performance on an essay test requires mastery of grammar, logic, organization, etc.

OldCarFudd 10:19 AM  

Rex and I are on separate planets today. I enjoyed this, reveled in some of the misdirection, and was on my way to thinking this was the easiest Friday I could remember. Then I hit the center-right, and stalled. Eventually everything worked, but I'd never heard of Fannie Flagg, and flop shot was just a guess, so that F was the last to fall. Nice one, Mr. Wilber!

Glitch 10:20 AM  

A little research seems to indicate there is only one Rambo, the one in the movie.

OTOH, The Rambos were a southern Gospel music group that was formed in the 1960's. They were one of the most successful southern Gospel trios of the twentieth century.

Probably gave some killer performances with those UZIS.


Zeke 10:22 AM  

Ok, I lied, I did get some, though not much. I just way overcommitted to wrong answers, and decided that I just didn't know some things, so precluded myself from ever getting them.

Somehow I forced BLOODYFANGS into 55A, and refused to give it up or to even reconsider it enough so that I could see my typo, so there goes the SE. I decided that I did not know 1A, so couldn't see the answer even after I had ___EEGG, and I just assumed that EEGG was wrong somewhere.

FLAGG was a gimme, as she's permanently etched in my mind, due to my not being able to reconcile the personage I saw on those day time game shows of my youth with a legitimate author.

Technology must be really helpful in cheating these days, because in my day ESSAYTESTS were designed to preclude the utility of crib sheets. I'm sure there's an app for smart phones so that kids can mutter under their breath, "Oh shit, an essay on ___" and up pops the choice of a dozen.

Wade 10:29 AM  

I read somewhere (and have never been able to find reference to it again) that a writer asked Mark Twain what he (the writer) should title the novel he'd just written. Mark Twain asked, "Does it have drums?" The writer said no. "Does it have trumpets?" The writer said no. "Then call it 'Without Drums or Trumpets'!"

That kind of reminds me of BW's cluing. He puts a puzzle together, sees he has the word "BARGE," and his mind starts working on how to clue the word. "I know, sometimes they set fireworks off from barges!" Yes, Brad they do. But damn.

I almost gave up several times before I did give up. I managed to get about 3/4 of it done, but SHEA did me in for the NE. I just didn't have any other foothold there and wasn't going to entertain any other option.

I look at the grid and see those awesome entries and am impressed--like Seth said, I could have 14 of 15 letters of a Wilbur answer and still question myself as to whether I really did speak English (I had all but two letters of SEMI-MATURE and it stayed like that for a half hour.) Also, BED/BUGS made as much sense to me as MED/MUGS. Still does.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

Hand up for beaver, and i thought the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) had run it's course before Abbie Hoffman came on the scene. I also had Fiveiron, for Phil's specialty, from the F, because i thought maybe the 'fool' clue for 11D could be APRILi, with the last i indicating April 1st.

Couple of answers were the other kind of misdirection, where my first thought seemed too easy, but turned out to be right. I guessed that 'bit of bread' would relate to money, and 'ONE" was my first thought, but had nothing else in the area to confirm. SPORTS was the other that came to mind initially and was later borne out.

Tough puzzle, but very pleased to see the challenging rating for one that i completely without benefit of uncle google.


Anonymous 10:33 AM  

What does CGI stand for in "Hollywood Techie's field, briefly"?

The Big E 10:40 AM  

@Anon 10:33 - CGI=Computer Generated Imagery

I had a professor in college who, for some of his advanced classes with fewer people, had a testing methodology on his midterms and finals that prevented the possible use of cribs.
He gave the 6 questions to the tests in advance, and all the students had to make appts. in advance to have their test in the professor's office, one on one.
At their test time, the students would roll a die three times (or until they had three distinct numbers), the results of which would correspond to 3 of the 6 questions he had given. The student and teacher would then have a dialogue on each question, to determine the degree to which the student had absorbed an understanding of the material he/she had studied and prepared for.
I thought this to be a very unique approach to testing, and certainly a dedicated one.

Ulrich 10:43 AM  

@Anonymous Evgeny: A man of my (Rhinelander's) heart. But in crosswordland, were all diacritical marks are simply dropped (to my great chagrin, as people here know), it would be AD or AAD, not AED or AEAED!

..and @Andrea: Do you remember, years ago, a comment on that dish was one of the first ones I posted here? An exchange of recipes followed...

BTW the proper translation would not be "Heaven and Earth" but "Sky and Earth": Apple tress grow into the sky, not heaven. Since German has fewer words than English (it's missing the whole part imported from the Normans after the conquest), many German words have to do double duty. Thus, "Himmel" can mean "heaven" or "sky", or "Freiheit" "freedom" or "liberty".

Howard B 10:48 AM  

@Robin: "Friday Smart" is not something you necessarily have or don't. Although you may not have necessarily solved this one, if you're this close, you can do it. It takes a lot of practice and persistence in solving late-week puzzles, by looking up stuff that you didn't understand, slowly learning them, and just gradually solving a lot of these similar difficulty puzzles. Go through the recent Times archives and solve some, or pick up a book of them. Learn from your missteps, and you'll be fine :).

If you were just referring to this particular puzzle, then disregard all that, but anyone else who doesn't think they are "Friday smart" can take this with them.

I know I couldn't solve anything past Thursday either, until I had a whole bunch of puzzling under my belt.

Two Ponies 10:49 AM  

This one alternated from flat to fabulous depending on where I was in the grid.
Someone said they were tired of Uzis but I was glad to see them today because that got me going.
My DNF was due to one square in the middle. Barge/serge or badge/sedge. I have heard of sedge and thought the fireworks might have something to do with the cops shooting at you. Oh well.
Parts of this felt like the final round of a spelling bee.
1A Faber v Fabre
38A Lots of ways to spell Jongg that all look wrong
53A Vowel soup!
Oh yes, beds/bugs (bug-eyed?) but that one got corrected.
The cross of Este/erde was cruel.
Does the German dish mean heaven and earth? Lofty name for a simple recipe.
All-in-all I liked the mental workout.

Not Martin 11:14 AM  

We'll have to remember that this is the New York Times crossword, and I believe that because of the Macy's Fourth of July displays, most New Yorkers immediately associate fireworks with barges, on the East River or on the Hudson.

[@Two Ponies: did you mean to write, "Lots of ways to spell Jongg that all look wrongg"?]

JayWalker 11:16 AM  

This one about killed me! I gave up more than once - but for some reason kept going (37A-Dogged, I guess). Wound up with only one mistake - which amazes me!! 37D - was the last to fall. Finally got "beset" which frankly, doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, but couldn't get "beeches" or "cees" which I only JUST figured out!! It wasn't fun tho - just an horrendous slog.

Ulrich 11:19 AM  

@Two Ponies: Our comments must have been posted in parallel. The name refers to the two ingredients: Potatoes, which grow in the earth, and apples, which grow in the sky. It was indeed a poor-man's dish, similar to the Italian polenta. The German dish comes into its own if eaten with blood and/or liver sausage!

Zack 11:21 AM  

I'm a New Yorker, a Rex fan and a confessed crossword addict. Most people didn't know that the Times was actually one of the last of the big newspapers to even include crosswords. Most major papers started adding them in the late 1800s but the Times use to say it was just a waste of ink until 1940 or so when the finally changed their minds.

Two Ponies 11:22 AM  

@ Not Martin, Oui oui!

@ Ulrich, Thanks, I hoped you would clarify. Simultaneous posts.
Adding sausage sounds great. I'll try it.

Anonymous 12:00 PM  

The first crossword was published in 1913.

CoffeeLvr 12:12 PM  

All I will say is that this was certainly a learning experience, ala Howard B's compassionate instruction.
I am not a "whizi" on Friday. (my CAPTCHA)

@Rex, thanks for the Armatrading clip. It was the best thing about my puzzling experience today.

Noam D. Elkies 12:28 PM  

The SW suggested this was going to be way easier than it turned out to be. (evidently Tinbeni had a similar experience; "a little pink" = not fully done?...)

@BEQ — Stratego (curiously called TAKTIKO in Hebrew when I lived there in the 70's) is played on a 10x10 board, so fewer than 144 pieces. 80, in fact. I don't know from 38A:MAHJONGG but the first few letters left no choice.

@anon 9:54 — a 45D:MALE soprano is usually a boy whose voice hasn't changed yet. "Soprano 46D:ARIA" is fine: I expected to see more examples among the 248 definitions in xwordinfo, but I see a bunch of tenor arias, one alto/mezzo aria ("Habanera"), and finally the soprano aria "Mi chiamano Mimi" (plus a number whose voice part I don't recall). So yes, no apostrophe-s needed.

12D:STOREHOUSE is the meaning of Arabic(!) word that gave rise to "magazine"; I recognize the Hebrew cognate MACHSAN (מחסן).

Anybody else try "-ians" for 42A:CEES?


Moonchild 12:35 PM  

Wow, some wicked clues today.
That top line of my grid looks so weird with faberGEEGG.
Flop shot? That sounds more like throwing wet towels into the laundry hamper.
I made a good guess at Seders. We see that answer often enough but besides being a meal what do I know about it? Nada.
I so wanted platypus to fit but settled for the homely sea cow.
Brazil nuts are triangular but I can't recall what a beech nut looks like.
Shouldn't 13D be hate mongerer to fit gramatically with the clue.
My favorite Aha was widow's peak.

CaseAce 12:43 PM  

Oh, yes! I can picture them now, SEACOW'S e.g. and the one thing that's springs to my unwell mind is "Oh,the Huge-Manatee!"

foodie 1:22 PM  

This puzzle reminds me of how my husband and I felt when we were in grad school-- we had so many debts we felt rich. What's a few more dollars to owe? With this puzzle, I was so far from finishing that I did not even feel bad about it- it was relaxing. Usually on a Friday, if I DNF, I feel foolish when I see the missed answer. But FLOPSHOT? Not in a million years...

@Ulrich, that was on Thursday, March 13, 2008 that you told us about Himmel Und Erde. I forget many things, but when it's food and it has an evocative name, it stays with me. ERDE was one of my few gimmes today, along with SHEA and AGLIO E OLIO-

@Andrea, I agree it's the best way thing to put on pasta. And re your happiness with the vowel ratio of the Italian dressing, the French equivalent is not quite as good but is still impressive, vowelwise.

D_Blackwell 1:39 PM  

"The first crossword was published in 1913."

The first American crossword. Clued double word squares appear in Italy c. 1850-90.

I also think that a distinction has to be made between word puzzles that are presented 'complete' as with the palindromic Sator Square, and word puzzles that require solving.

Tinbeni 1:55 PM  

Maybe they do have a face only a Mom can love, but homely?
Around here, in the Tampa Bay area, we see the Manatees (SEA COWs) all the time. Most of us down here think they're kinda cute gentle giants.

Since where I live is in Pinellas County (that small peninsula across from Tampa) fireworks are set off out in the water from BARGEs.

What dog (boxer) doesn't like to chew (work on) a BONE?

LOW SPIRITS got a laugh. Villa Incognito is never low on Avatar.

I sometimes refer to the NYT in the feminine gender (like sailor's with their boats).
(Q) "Hey, Tin how's the solve going?"
(Ans) "She's Kicking my Ass!"

After 5 minutes (NW and a few other's filled in) I concentrated on the 'DOWN CLUES.'

NDE, that's what put me "in the pink" ... finishing.
Rex, your four bullet clues were all gimmies.

V. 1:58 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
V. 2:01 PM  

Tricky clueing that lets you in on the joke feels collegial and convivial. This stuff had all the charm of a sneer.

ArtLvr 2:18 PM  

Darn -- I was okay until I reached the Phil person, and thought Slap shot would work, but no.

Then I really got bogged down in the SE with a Beaver, a Mess in the cosmetics, and a Mural on Antiques Roadshow. I agree with Noam that a Boy soprano is more acceptable than MALE ditto, since the adults I know prefer to be called countertenors however high their range!

Ah well, let's see what Saturday brings...


The Big E 2:25 PM  

Interesting tidbit on Male Sopranos:

Michael Maniaci:


Doris 2:36 PM  

@David L—aglio e olio (garlic and oil) and aglio ed olio are fairly interchangeable. If you're saying it aloud, it's easier to say "aglio ed olio." It's a bit like "Orfeo e Euridice" vs. "Orfeo ed Euridice." I've seen this opera title written both ways.

Kerry 2:38 PM  

Enjoyed this more than Rex, though I finished with three mistakes, ASTE/ARDE, "SLOPSHOT", and RENE/JESSEE...

Similar experience, though. Easy NW, then stopped for a long time. NE and the middle were the toughest.

Gotta say, though, I loved the clue "Shake, as a tail".

retired_chemist 2:42 PM  

Hand up for falling, clearly not uniquely, into a TON of traps: BEAVER then SEA EEL, SHEA, GOLF SHOT, BRAZILS (37D), the RENI/JESSIE crossing (guessed right), FORTE (24D), LIGHTS (43A), then GAS LIGHT @ 10D. So it took a while but I ended up OK.

Agree this was marred somewhat by cluing that was a bit too cutesy. However, liked APRILS, ERDE, BONE, WIDOW'S PEAK, and ESSAY TESTS. The latter put SHEA to rest and broke the NE open.

All in all, tough.

miriam b 3:00 PM  


I remember the recipe exchange; in fact I printed out and prepared a version of Himmel und Erde from a German-language website and have kept the clipping in a binder full of recipes which I have tried and liked. When I'm dubious about the merits of an unfamiliar dish, I make a half recipe.

Speaking of food, I'm probab;y unique in associating a crib with
EARSOFCORN. Who knows whence these cockamamie thoughts arise?

This puzzle provided a fine workout.

sanfranman59 3:34 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 32:28, 26:38, 1.22, 87%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Fri 17:57, 13:00, 1.38, 92%, Challenging

mac 3:50 PM  

A workout it was, but I did finally finish, although with one mistake: beds/bugs at 34.

Had the slame problems a lot of you had, with the beaver, riparte(var.);-), and the stadium could, where I was concerned, be Ashe, Shea or Citi.

@TwoPonies: it's even better with some sauteed chopped onion in it.

Noam: Stratego and Taktiko don't sound so far apart to me: strategy and tactics.

My biggest problem is: when I hear dressing, I think salad, so I had aceto e olio at 53A. I like spaghetti aglio e olio very much, but I wouldn't call the sauce a dressing. BTW, add a little chopped anchovies to the oil and garlic and let melt, then toss with pasta, black pepper and chopped parsley.

I've been packing, we're leaving for Europe (London, Marseille, Nice, Amsterdam) tomorrow morning, returning on Sept. 11. Not bringing the laptop, so I will miss you!

archaeoprof 3:55 PM  

What @V said, and more. Charmless, boring slog of a puzzle. Not one clue/answer combination brought a smile.

Let's hope for better tomorrow.

Ulrich 4:03 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ulrich 4:04 PM  

@foodie, miriamB, twoponies: I remember the consensus then was that a dash of nutmeg was called for.

@mac: Yes, sauteed onions, of the crispy kind, are an absolute must! They should be put on together with the fat left in the pan.

Bon voyage!

Cathyat40 4:06 PM  

Enjoyed this one more than Rex. I do appreciate the workout.

Filled in 2 letters incorrectly:


captcha: crest (hey that's a real word!)

Cathyat40 4:08 PM  

@Kerry: gotta love SLOPSHOT!

FWIW 4:12 PM  

[The William A.] Shea Municipal Stadium was demolished in 2009 to furnish additional parking for the adjacent Citi Field [which replaced it], the current home of the Mets.


You're not alone, the long used nickname for The NYT is "The Gray Lady".


miriam b 4:17 PM  

@Ulrich: Yes, the German recipe suggested adding Muskat, with which I concur.

Jenny 4:33 PM  

Man. Speaking of "Oh, the huge manatee"...

I thought I had finished this quickly and easily (for me) but came here to find I had royally eff-ed up the center. My tour de force of errors included 28A chOPSHOT (hitting out of deep rough?); 24D PhAsE (iffy, I admit); 28D cLeGG (any name would sound as sweet); 33A gEesE (V, check); and 33D gANELSAW (OK, so I shouldn't have believed in that G - but woodworking I know from nothing). Here's to better luck next time.

Fireworks on a BARGE, though, I get, here on Lake Michigan.

Noam D. Elkies 4:36 PM  

@mac: I understand the Stratego/TAKTIKO connection, but (coming from chess) I usually think of strategy and tactics as complementary: short-range tactics, long-range strategy. A memorable description of the difference (alas the author's name is not as memorable) says that tactics is what you do when you know what to do, whereas strategy is what you do when you don't know what to do.

Now if I could only figure out whether the meaning of "is" is "is"...


mac 4:45 PM  

@Noam: very good :-)! Tactics sounds like actually doing something, while strategy is just thinking about it.

Am I imagining it, or are the captchas a lot more complicated?

Dick Swart 4:56 PM  

More of a reminiscence than a criticism, but does "essay" test really fit with "crib'?

As a long-ago graduate of a small New England college, I signed the honor statement at the bottom of each exam. So it is not that I would have ever used a crib. But under the rubric of 'just sayin ...':

Essay questions generally ended "Compare and Contrast" or (and even more terrifying) "Comment - use as many blue books as you need". A 'crib' wasn't going to be much help on those suckers!

But cases and endings in Greek and Latin, a botanical field guide, or some formulae on a cuff might have come in handy.

andrea cees michaels 5:12 PM  

If I could do it, you could do it!
(at least in a million years! So agree with look at the video @sanfranman posted)

I refused to google, put it down and came back to it an hour later (thus one hour of my two-hour solve). The key (for me) was realizing that SHEA was ASHE...and getting those goddamned CEES, PLURALIZED-type misdirections!

wow! I always learn so much from you! Thanks!

and @glitch UZIS = ha!

I don't remember the 2008 posting, I think we had the discussion again much more recently...maybe when Ann ERDE was a finalist at the ACPT.

Really knowing Fannie Flagg from gameshows was really what started it off for me today. I agree it's hard to reconcile the fact that she was a real writer...
(Wasn't she also on "Mama's Place" or am I conflating her with Carol Lawrence?)
Felt the same way when I saw Kitty Carlisle Hart sing in a film...
or saw Yvonne deCarlo not as Lily Munster. Mind-blowing!

AND I also agree about CRIB sheets seeming more for mathmatical equations or some such quick peek technique. Maybe we should ask Sarah Palin?

The Big E 5:14 PM  

@andrea cees michaels - love the Palin reference!

As someone mentioned, Shea Stadium was torn down... So wouldn't that make:
"Queen's ____ stadium" HAVE to be "Ashe?"
Citi is referred to as Citi Field, not Citi Stadium.

Would the clue be required to state "former" in order to be Shea?


Anonymous 5:17 PM  

having PTAS under the stadium is what made it ASHE for me.

Doc John 5:27 PM  

Natick (def): RENI/JESSIE
I had a Y in that spot because RENI just didn't look right and both clues just seemed so obscure that Jessye could be correct.

Ben 5:40 PM  

Enjoyed this one but you know me, I like it hard.

joho 5:56 PM  

I wish I spoke Italian. I did end up having AGLIOEOLIO for lunch today and it was delicious.

@Mac ... I wish you a wonderful safe trip! Also, I agree with you in thinking the dressing was oil and vinegar for a salad, not the oil and garlic for pasta. Just another misleading clue which seems to have angered a bunch here today. Very polarizing puzzle.

fergus 6:04 PM  

My errands included lots of waiting around today, so this puzzle provided ample companionship. Most other days with a puzzle this demanding I would have thrown in the towel with only about two thirds of the squares filled in.

Stuck for a while with OBEY for Assent to relent as well a being another BEAVER victim. And my boxer hung on the ROPE for way too long.

JenCT 6:25 PM  

DNF for me - lots of mistakes: METS instead of ASHE, MOSSES for TINSEL (thinking of Spanish Moss), REDDROPLET for WIDOWSPEAK, etc.

I'll keep practicing...

chefwen 6:35 PM  

That FLOP SHOT sound you heard last night was me throwing in the towel after about 1-1/2 hrs. Hopeful for a not so tricky one tonight.

@mac - Have a wonderful and safe trip.

Anonymous 8:16 PM  

Here in Maine, we shoot fireworks off a barge. Unless we shoot them off a beach, which unfortunately also has 5 letters and starts with "b".

donkos 8:23 PM  

This posting is a perfect example of why Rex's blog is so addicting. Rex isn't afraid to share his emotional reaction to a puzzle yet always manages to do it in a way that's respectful of the constructor.

I found today's puzzle excoriating but was exhilirated to see that Rex also found it exasperating.

Sparky 9:04 PM  

DNF. More like didn't start. Had FLAGG, misspelled MAHJOhnG (I play it at night.) Was thinking of Fiorello LaGuardia for 45A. Brain freeze. Macy's fireworks on a BARGE. Gave up and went for German food with a good friend. @r.alphbunker. Just last night I read that "yeah, yeah" anecdote in a mystery book by Michael Bowen. @Howard B. Good advice, I'll keep it in mind. @mac Hae a nice trip. Maybe tomorrrow will puzzle better.

JC66 9:34 PM  

@ Wade

Hand up for MUGS/MEDS

@ Moonchild


Moonchild 9:43 PM  

@ JC66,
I rescind my objection.
Fishmonger is familiar.
The imp in me wonders about the "mong" roots relaying to a seller or promoter. What a crazy and wonderful language English is!

sanfranman59 10:16 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 6:38, 6:58, 0.95, 28%, Easy-Medium
Tue 11:09, 8:52, 1.26, 97%, Challenging
Wed 11:34, 11:44, 0.99, 54%, Medium
Thu 18:19, 19:17, 0.95, 44%, Medium
Fri 33:25, 26:39, 1.25, 90%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:33, 3:43, 0.96, 33%, Easy-Medium
Tue 5:38, 4:34, 1.23, 97%, Challenging
Wed 5:35, 5:46, 0.97, 44%, Medium
Thu 8:22, 9:14, 0.91, 40%, Medium
Fri 17:25, 13:00, 1.34, 90%, Challenging

foodie 10:43 PM  

@Andrea, thanks for your confidence. Sure, in a million years, I could have gotten it : )

I followed your advice (I'm good at that) and (re)read @ Howard B --Thank you HB for the encouragement to all those who struggle towards the end of the week , you are a gentleman and a scholar. I also watched @Sanfranman's link to the FLOP SHOT. Actually that was pretty amazing, the amount of deliberateness, and physics, that goes into something with such a sloppy, floppy name. I was very impressed. And I will not forget it.

So, as per usual, I have been educated and enlightened by my blogfriends. Thank you!

GR Zempel 2:17 AM  

My love and I had the G that would eventually belong in "BARGE" early on, but (like the puzzler who mentioned "TARGE") the false T of "TONE" where the B should have been, and got desperate enough to "research" (a.k.a. to cheat w/ Wikipedia) and learn easily that great quantities of fireworks are manufactured in TIOGA, Penn. Once we were forced to give that up, we eventually had "SARGE" and were loath to give that up. At length, the utter nonsense of "SONE" suggested BONE as slightly less absurd for a prize-fighter to work on. (Eventually she corrected my misconstruing of "boxer".)

I was convinced that the three reasonable answers "TIOGA", "SARGE" and "BARGE" were an intentionally elaborate evil trap by the composer -- so I'm disappointed to see that no one else complains about either of those two false lights!

Dirigonzo 8:10 PM  

A hand up, 5 weeks later, for every single mistake that is mentioned above, plus a few of my own (spOtSHOT sounded pretty good to me)but my ultimate demise resulted from my absolute refusal to give up on SHEA (like @WADE 10:29am)at the top of the northeast. This despite my certainty that aSSAYTESTS could not possibly be right, and desperately wanting PTAS, which just didn't work the way I had things. Never heard of ASHE stadium so everything below it remained blank, except ONE which I did manage to get by figuring that "bread" in this instance referres to money. All in all, not much joy for me in this one, but I take pride in "almost" finishing a puzzle that a few months ago would have left me completely demoralized. Captcha is fiestiz - how I don't feel after a puzzle like this one.

Waxy in Montreal 9:41 PM  

Guess I've spent too much time reading the SPORTS section lately cuz ASHE & FLOPSHOT were gimmes. However, not much else other than PTOLEMY, MAO & MAHJONGG. DNF'ed due to the southeast. Also, my BOXER worked on his TONE, BOBS, JABS and WIND but never a BONE!

Unknown 3:39 PM  

Fine puzzle, lots of smiles and head slaps. What's everyone's problem with this? My only speed bump was the G shared by Simple Trattroria Dressing and Hollywood techie's field.

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