Lamp-Lighter painter / FRI 10-15-10 / English composer/pianist Lord / It has more seats than Astrodome / Cousin of blackfish / Humana offering

Friday, October 15, 2010

Constructor: Peter Wentz

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Atahualpa (7D: He had Atahualpa executed=> PIZARRO) —

Atahualpa, Atahuallpa, Atabalipa, or Atawallpa (March 20, 1497 Caranqui, Ecuador – Cajamarca, July 26, 1533), was the last Sapa Inca or sovereign emperor of the Tahuantinsuyu, or the Inca Empire. Born in what is now Caranqui, Ecuador, Atahualpa was the offspring of Inca Huayna Capac and Pacha Duchicela, a Quiteña princess and first-born of Cacha Duchicela. The union was a politically expedient one, as the southern Ecuadorian Andies had been conquered by Inca Huayna Capac's father, Inca Tupac-Yupanqui some years earlier, and there being still elements of revolt among the people. As an adult, Atahualpa became emperor upon defeating his older half-brother Huáscar in a civil war sparked by the death of their father, Inca Huayna Capac, from an infectious disease which may have been smallpox. During the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, the Spaniard Francisco Pizarro crossed his path, captured Atahualpa, and used him to control the Inca empire. Eventually, the Spanish executed Atahualpa by garrote, ending the Inca Empire (although several successors claimed the title of Sapa Inca ("unique Inca") and led a resistance against the invading Spaniards). After Atahualpa died, the Incan Empire began to fall apart. (wikipedia)
• • •

I think I liked this more than I didn't, though it felt like someone trying a Little too hard to create a pangram. I strangely resent pangrams—at some point about 2/3 of the way through the solve, I get distracted by this "oh, he's going to try to get them all, I guess" feeling. Scrabbly letters are fun, but I wish this grid had Any answers longer than 8 letters. Oh, and I wish THE OPERA weren't an answer (32A: Part of some cultural nights out). THE. Well, at least THE is right over RAG—that's kind of funny. I resented the cluing in the NW at first—"I swear!" is something an ordinary person might say, but "BY JOVE" is not, unless said ordinary person is wearing a monocle and presiding over some far-flung section of the British Empire circa 1920. I, of course, had "NO JOKE!" which is a far better answer. This screwed me up royally. Other things that screwed me up royally: putting in SALSA DIP right away (1A: Party bowlful with zing); putting in LAS right away (5D: Noel syllables); crossing MIATA with ALTERED (23A: Sporty ride + 25D: Let out, in a way); choosing the wrong 4-letter crosswordese O-fish at 30D: Cousin of a blackfish; and so forth. Would've written in DOC for DR. K at 63D: Nickname of Dwight Gooden if I hadn't had SNOOKERS already in place (67A: Flimflams).

Proper nouns were jamming me badly today. Don't even know what the "Home Counties" are, let alone their individual names, so ESSEX was tough (28A: One of the Home Counties). Crossing JAVIER (59A: Pitcher Lopez or Vazquez) and ODENSE (64A: Port named for a Norse god) with EWING (52D: 1992 Dream Team member) and FRED (56D: Ebenezer Scrooge's nephew) in the SW was pretty mean-spirited; I generally like a better balance of names and non-names. No idea who this EGAN guy is (33D: Eddie who inspired "The French Connection"). Know POE and ENSOR, but not (at all) from the works in their clues (10D: "Hop-Frog" writer + "46A: "The Lam-Lighter" painter). JON Lord is news to me (58A: English composer/pianist Lord). The whole thing was just Way out of my wheelhouse, name-wise. And yet ... JOE ISUZU, I could get (17A: Pitchman who said "It has more seats than the Astrodome!"). SPLIFF, yup (9A: Joint). FACE TIME, bam (13D: Camera hog's concern). And my biggest savior of the day: WHACK JOB (35D: Nut). I was having Real trouble down there (had JUNIOR for JAVIER, for instance) until WHACK JOB popped into my mind, first thing, off just the "A" and "K." Outside of the names, the puzzle had a nice, contemporary, colloquial feel. And the ugly little stuff here and there, I can just imagine away. For instance, instead of looking at two cruddy 3-letter answers in the east, I just imagine someone is shouting enthusiastically about a coin he's just found: "DIIIME!"

  • 26A: Its final production was released in 1959 (RKO) — went with REO. As in the car maker. Yeah, it's a crappy answer. Sorry.
  • 40A: Humana offering, briefly (HMO) — "Humana" being just one in a long line of "huh?" words for me today.
  • 65A: Setting for half of Chopin's 24 preludes (MINOR KEY) — I'd have been a lot more irked by the horrid "setting" misdirection if I hadn't had MINOR in place before ever seeing the clue.

  • 3D: Parts of many role-playing games (QUESTS) — this is a good answer ... and the only way I *finally* got BBQ CHIPS, ugh.
  • 42D: Childish rejoinder ("IS SO!") — yeah, that's pretty childish.
See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. I'm speaking at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY next week, Friday, October 22, 2010, as part of their library's 75th Anniversary Symposium: "Kapow! From Pulp Fiction to Google Books." My talk is about post-war American paperback cover art (my other great love — and other great blog). I'm assured the conference is free and open to the public. See full details (including my misspelled name) here. Looks like I'm the warm-up act (morning speaker), probably because they know the visuals I'm likely to bring are both hot and hilarious. Vintage paperback covers should wake folks up even if I'm a gigantic bore as a speaker. And now you know.


nanpilla 12:16 AM  

After trying so hard to keep NO JOKE in the NW, I find it lurking as IN JOKE in the SE. If I had started at the bottom, I would have saved myself a lot of grief up there. Oh, and putting in VISION where DEVICE ended up slowed me down in the NE as well.

Seeing STE and SANTO right next to each other looked wrong until I remembered that STE is suite in this case.

And you all know that when I grab the reins, I frequently grab a little mane. Just got back from seeing Secretariat - loved it, of course.

The Corgi of Mystery 12:31 AM  

Anyone else start with CRACKPOT for WHACKJOB?

foodie 12:31 AM  

NO JIVE for me... Which got "confirmed" with VETTE, ESSEX and even JOE ISUZU (which I figured out from the ----SUZU and impressed the hell out of myself!).

But could not finish the SW corner with JAVIER sitting on ODENSE and bumping into FRED. I needed to reveal a couple of letters before they emerged... a new means of cheating was thusly introduced.

I liked WHACK JOB and WET RAG best!

PurpleGuy 1:31 AM  

I surprised myself by finishing this puzzle. It didn't seem that hard for me. Would agree with the medium rating.
I enjoy going to THE OPERA. Hold season tickets for the Arizona Opera. When we lived in NY, I had a full season at the Met.Very fond memories of Joan Sutherland.

OKEYDOKE made me chortle. I like LAIDBACK in the center. Had no writeovers.

Good lob Peter Wentz !
Nice writeup Rex.

Happy Friday all !!

Shanti -


fikink 1:35 AM  

This one ripped me up...I was rode hard and put away wet!

That Ricki Wakeman thing made me feel like I was watching Sunday Hour of Power or such...

some great words in here: SNOOKER, FRENZIES, SPLIFF - but I can't say I enjoyed it much. Kinda like a bunch of morose professors trying to resurrect their inspiration to teach - blechhh!

Fritz 2:03 AM  

Really liked this one.
SW made me work.
Had no idea about FRED.

South-of-the-border snack
Thrust oneself heedlessly.....

Laura 2:24 AM  

Hey Michael,
Thanks for posting the vid about Joel Burns. I shared it on my FB page. It was so moving.


andrea if only I COULD do it! michaels 3:40 AM  

You resent pangrams? :( Wow...
For me, this was SO much more than that!
I mean, sure 1 X, 1 Q...but 3 Zs,
3 Js, 7 Ks!!!
5 Fs!!! 3 Vs, 2 W's...
I loved this!
Thxz, Peter Wentz!!!!!!

Ruth 6:00 AM  

SPLIFF = new to me. Shoulda known this since 1970, apparently.

The Hag 7:35 AM  

This was actually a lot easier for me than yesterday or even Wednesday. Only the SW slowed me down. Though I agree that there was a lot of good stuff in the fill, I strongly disliked "IFIDIDIT". Everything to do with that sorry incident was ugly. I'd rather not be reminded of it in my morning entertainment. I'm trying to decide if that ruined an otherwise good puzzle for me. As it is the main thing that sticks in my head, I'm going to have to say that it did. ):

glimmerglass 8:05 AM  

I agree with Rex about BY JOVE. I liked this puzzle, especially the tricky parts (except "I Swear"). My time was about an hour, a little slow for me for a Friday. Oddly, the part I had the most trouble with was the NE, which should have been the easiest. Many of the clues could have many answers. I was thrown off by writing Felix instead of FRITZ, and nothing worked above 27A. It was the longest time before I thought of Fritz. (Didn't remember the Beatles song or OJ book until I had several letters.)

edith b 8:25 AM  

I have this quirky memory for remembering facts - it is what got me interested in crossword puzzles in the first place - so PIZARRO was a neon for me and anchored the NW for me. I read Pauline Kael's movie criticism so I recognized Eddie EGAN from his part in the "French Connection" case which helped me out in the Missouri section of the puzzle.

I may be one of the few people who admit to reading OJ's pseudo-mea culpa IFIDIDIT but the truth will out and it anchored the NE for me and I was able to move southward relentlessly.

I enjoyed the odd feeling I got from this puzzle thru OKEYDOKE and WHACKJOB. Thank God for crosses today.

David L 8:35 AM  

I struggled with the extreme NW and SE -- took a long time to get past NOJOKE, and had OKEYDOKY until I put MINORKEY under it. But the last fill for me: HONEYS = "uses cajolery on." Really? Are you honeying me? I feel as if I've been honeyed. Ick. Not a word in my vocabulary, and it's not going to be....

Tinbeni 8:42 AM  

When you're LAIDBACK you need those
BBQ CHIPS after that SPLIFF FRENZIES (according to that RUMOR). lol

EXHALED? I thought the question was "Did you inhale?"
IF I DID IT that answer was ... "Everytime!"

BOOZES next to QUESTS. I like it.

FUN puzzle.

Leslie 9:03 AM  

Yes, I liked this one more than I disliked it, although I made each and every one of Rex's initial missteps.

Revealed my age by having to get several downs for SPLIFF. Not that I didn't get the general idea, but I was thinking, "Hmm . . . it's, like, SPIFF or SPRIFF or SPLIFF or something like that . . ." Hipness long since disappeared in my rearview mirror.

Loved WHACK JOB, JOE ISUZU, VETTE, WET RAG, and many others.

Agree that I was kind of shocked to see IF I DID IT in the puzzle, but it's not that it doesn't merit being puzzle material, it's just that it's so weird to be reminded of how horribly low Simpson sank. Wow.

Smitty 9:14 AM  

I loved this puzzle - tough but gettable without googling.
Lots of AHA moments and no HUH? moments (except obscure references which were only gettable through crosses)
I did have a major hang-up when the -LED ending gave me PAROLED instead of EXHALED for "Let out, in a way"

Ulrich 9:14 AM  

As much as NO JOKE held me, too, up in the NW, CRACK POT held me up in the SW--until I finally remembered certain comments coming from the McCain campaign during the recent election.

Humana is known to architects because Michael Graves designed their headquarters in Louisville, an iconic building of Postmodernism (which I basically detest, but the Human building looked good when I drove by it once on the Interstate).

Since I could finish this one, it must have been one of the easier Fridays I've encountered--knowing Pizarro gave me a headstart immediately that carried me all the way down into the SE corner--swinging back to the west gave me trouble as soon as I encountered the Pacific...

jesser 9:35 AM  

Stupid, stupid error at 56A, which I filled in as lOCAL and never checked the down. I want to think I'd have done an alphabet run to correct that one if I'd seen it. Poot.

Otherwise, this was a lot of fun, with SPLIFF and WHACK JOB being my favorites. Totally fell into the no JOke trap, but the VETTE whisked me out of there after a while.

In a column about federal funding for the arts, Dave Barry pretty much summed up my feelings about THE OPERA.

"The taxpayers cannot be relied upon to support performing arts such as opera. As a taxpayer, I would rather undergo a vasectomy via weed whacker than attend an opera. The one time I did sit through one, it lasted approximately as long as fourth grade and featured large men singing for 45 minutes in a foreign language merely to observe that the sun had risen."


As it is Friday, there will be pocket billiards played at Casa Jess this evening, but alas no SNOOKER, because I have no room for a table that gigantic. As is usual for a Friday night, there will be a contingent that BOOZES IT UP to ring in the weekend, but worry not; they all live within staggering distance. We're a LAID BACK group who welcomes visitors, so if any of the Rexites is ever in Las Cruces on a Friday night, drop on by. We're open from 6-10:30 p.m., and we are a funny crew. RUMOR has it that you even get to sign the wall in my kitchen if you're a first-timer! Who can pass *that* up?

I'll stop now lest I go TOO FAR. Happy weekend, everyone!

Fraddic! (No way.) -- jesser

PuzzleNut 9:45 AM  

I liked this one a lot. It must be close to a record for Scrabble-ness. Hand up for crACKpOt and Doc. Almost entered ORkA, trying to get one more K in the puzzle (and subliminally affected by the nearby OKRA). Did not know SPLIFF and was trying to make SPLIce work, but got it correct in the end. Probably not the only one that tried THEatERs. Had to move past bIZARRO. Had ??J?VE and found the answer quite acceptable.
The areas that I found a little off were INJOKE, ISSO and OKEYDOKE (where's the final Y).

dk 9:48 AM  

Puzzle theme: Contact High!

What with CAKED, STOKER, SPLIFF, OZS, LAIDBACK, FRITZ the cat and all those Js I felt like rolling up a CNOTE.... wait let us not go TOOFAR.

Although I do think Atahualpa is wearing a certain leaf and some massive headphones.

I think I'll get some Oreos and watch Night at THEOPERA.

*** (3 Stars) Fun Friday

d (Otis B. Driftwood) k

Movie Preview:

Mrs. Claypool: Mr. Driftwood, three months ago you promised to put me into society. In all that time, you've done nothing but draw a very handsome salary.

Driftwood (retaliating): You think that's nothing, huh? How many men do you suppose are drawing a handsome salary nowadays? Why, you can count them on the fingers of one hand, my good woman.

Mrs. Claypool (horrified): I'm not your good woman!

Driftwood: Don't say that, Mrs. Claypool. I don't care what your past has been. To me, you'll always be my good woman.

mitchs 10:00 AM  

Loved it! It's been a while since I've had this many "wtf" starts followed by "aha".

THEOPERA smells and so does HONEYS but all is forgiven in this return to Friday form.

DNF, though, I just couldn't let go of DOC despite knowing full well that the C couldn't be right.

mmorgan 10:01 AM  

Bad puzzle. Bad, bad puzzle. Evil puzzle. Slog, slog, slog. But I really enjoyed the workout, and found the longer I slogged, the less white space was left... until I had to throw my hands up in despair and come here to see to error of my ways.

Major downfall was having TAPANADA for 36D: EMPANADA, which never looked right, and this screwed up the whole midwest, as I was trying to make INS or HMO work for 40A, but the damn TAPANADA (which made no sense) got in the way.

My other problem was having BOO for 62D: YOO. And not knowing 63D: DRK (I had _RK) didn't help. This left me staring blindly at OKEBLAKE and other nonsense; I wanted some variation on OKIEDOKIE but never thought to change BOO to YOO (BOO HOO!).

Also first had LAS for 5D: (Noel syllables), but was able to get rid of it. And both THEOPERA and BYJOVE didn't seem to be great answers for those clues. (And never heard of JON Lord.) I would have liked WHACK JOB and WET RAG ... if I'd gotten them.

If I'm counting right, I left 12 squares blank of our 194, which means I got 94% of it. So I don't feel TOO badly...

"SPLIFF"??? When/where was that in use?? (Got it but had no idea what it meant.)

Thanks for the challenge, Mr. Wentz!

Diana Holquist 10:04 AM  

Was sort of OK w/ Boozes It Up. Then Spliffs and BBQ Chips got me thinking something odd was up (and by up I mean high...). But then when got STDs as normal...sexually transmitted diseases might be normal for you stoners and boozers....



Not a good day for me.

jesser 10:06 AM  

For the record, this is one of my least favorite Buffett songs, owing to the Really Forced rhyme, but it does put SPLIFF into context.

Jamaica Mistaica
By: Jimmy Buffett
Some folks say that I've got the perfect life.
Three swell kids, lots of toys and a lovely wife.
I fly. I sail. I throw caution to the wind.
Drift like a stratus cloud above the caribbean.

But every now and then
The dragons come to call.
Just when you least expect it you'll be dodging cannon balls.
I've seen to much not to stay in touch with a world full of love and luck.
I've got a big suspicion 'bout ammunition.
I never forget to duck.

Come back
Come back
Back to Jamaica
Don't you know we made a big mistaica
We'd be so sad if you told us goodbye
And we promise not to shoot you out of the sky

It was a beautiful day
The kind you want to toast
We were treetop flyin'
Movin' west along the coast
Then we landed in the water
Just about my favorite thrill
When some asshole started firin'
When we taxied to Negril

Just about to lose my temper
As I endeavored to explain
We had only come for chicken
We were not a ganja plane
Well you should have seen their faces
When they finally realized
We were not some coked up cowboys
Sportin' guns and alibies


They shot from the lighthouse
They shot from the highway
They shot from the top of the cliff
They'd all gone haywire
We're catchin' fire
And there wasn't even a SPLIFF

Well the word got out
All over the island
Friends, strangers, they were all apologizin'
Some thought me crazy for bein' way to nice
But it's just another shitty day in paradise

(Chorus x2)

Van55 10:14 AM  

Ugh. DNF.

Completely out of my wheelhouse.

Random Roman numeral. 24 proper nouns (by my count). ISSO, HMO, APO, ESE, THEOPERA, ITUP...

Bob Kerfuffle 10:21 AM  

Good puzzle, an appropriate Friday workout, 40 minutes for me, with breakfast. But I finished with one wrong letter after several write-overs: With lots of company, had NOJOKE before BYJOVE. PIZZARO (well known as inventor of America's favorite pie) before PIZARRO. SANTA before SANTE. OKEYDOKY before OKEYDOKE. And finally, for "What only a select few might get," had INVITE (slangy, but seemed to fit the general feel of the puzzle), then when I saw MINORKEY and OKEY . . . that changed to INVOKE, but I had stopped looking at the clue and just saw a perfectly good English word, and at 58 A, VON made just as good an unknown name as JON, so I finished with the V instead of J.

Re: 32 A: In the past, I have tried to stay out of discussions of whether "THE" belongs in or out of an answer, but in this instance I am against it. I had ___OPERA, and puzzled over it greatly, especially since two of the crosses were TETR, for which I really wanted to put QUAD, and EGAN, which, although it looks familiar once it is in, was by no means certain. And casting the opera as "Part of some cultural nights out" led me to consider outdoor operas at Lincoln Center, Baroque operas in Vienna, gamelan "operas" in Bali, among others I have seen. "The" did not seem worthy.

Boo, Yoo, Woo 10:26 AM  

Fa, La, Ho!

No Jive, by Jove.


Jim 10:34 AM  

Great puzzle. Should have done better.

Made an educated guess for ESSEX on the terminal S alone (as a reader of The Economist, I read a lot about the Home Secretary). Despite that, however, couldn't get EXHALED (wanted EXHumED for the longest time). Had LAIDBACK but there was a looming disaster below that (had bOO and therefore _KEbDO__). Disaster! Didn't reject YOO so much as not consider it. I feel it should have EITHER been in quotes ("-hoo") OR capitalized the H (as in the drink). For whatever reason, I don't think boo-hoo needs either. Its a legitimate, stand-alone phrase, whereas yoo-hoo is not IMO.

Ahh, David Leisure. Do we have an equivalent today? Always, always a somehow-lovable smarm, in everything he did.

Between this and the OJ reference, took me back to my childhood today. I like the idea of referencing things (both pleasant and not) we will have otherwise forgotten. Xwords are an excellent way to remind us of both near and distant history.

Good times!

hazel 10:48 AM  

A POX on the Northwest Corner!!! I found you to be both ARBITRARY and CAPRICIOUS and you totally harshed the rest of the puzzle. And I hate BBQCHIPS to boot!! They taste like Red Dye #5!

@DK's comment **** (4 stars)

Two Ponies 10:49 AM  

I adored this puzzle and felt like it written just for me. So many quirky words and phrases.
Spliff and Fritz the Cat in the same puzzle! I loved it.
Throw in some Poe and Dickens for good measure and you have a winner.
I already had in joke so my hold-up in the NW was No Jive. To me,
by jove is like a British "indeed" or aha but that was my only complaint. Getting Joe Isuzu and Irish Spring makes me think I've watched too much TV.
No trouble with The opera. Isn't that what people always say? It's never *an* opera, it's *The*.
Thanks Peter W. for a nice "trip"!

SethG 10:51 AM  

I had BY JOVE and THE OPERA early. Fred and Jon? Not so much.

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

Why isn’t No Problem a theme? Because there are only two?
@ Ulrich, edith b, Why are u here, et al, I’m back....

Matthew G. 11:15 AM  

DNF. Could not get through the NW because of BY JOVE -- to me, this is an expression connoting surprise or amazement, not one meaning "I swear." Was sure YOU GOT IT was right but I couldn't, no matter how much I banged my head against it, come up with BY JOVE, and couldn't make myself let go of the K in no JOkE. Oh well. It didn't help matters that "Party bowlful with zing" contained no abbreviations, even though the answer did.

Got slowed down a lot in the SE by having put Doc instead of DRK for Dwight Gooden, but eventually got through it. Completely agree that the "THE" in THE OPERA is a big weak spot in the heart of the puzzle. It wasn't hard to get, but I sighed a bit.

Got the rest of the puzzle, although I was very unsure about SPLIFF. I thought I knew all the slang terms for a joint, but that's a new one on me. POE seemed probably correct, though, so I penciled it in.

Martin 11:37 AM  

"By Jove" is an end run around the third Commandment (name in vain). Instead of blaspheming, this oath violates the second (no other gods). Very clever.

BTW, if you're Catholic or Lutheran, the Commandments in question are 2 and 1 respectively. If you're Protestant, it's 3 and 1. 3 and 2 works for Jews. It's great that everyone agrees there are 10 Commandments, just not what they are.

Martin 11:39 AM  

BTW, I know Lutherans are Protestant. They just don't count Commandments like the others.

Bob Marley 11:57 AM  

Don't know spliff, mon?

Ulrich 12:07 PM  

@Martin: That reminds me: I used to advise a PhD student who came from that segment of the population that considers Catholics devil worshippers. He showed me a picture of a statue from a Cathedral in France holding the famous tablets where somehow the no. IV, i.e. the 4th commandment, was missing. He said "typical for Catholics--they don't honor the sabbath", to which I gladly replied "to us, the 4th commandment deals with honoring your father and mother". He: "Oh, I have to go back to the bible" and I: "Good luck! The commandments are not numbered in the bible; it's up to you to draw the lines." The upshot: For Catholics and Lutherans, coveting one's neighbor's wife is a different kettle of fish from coveting other stuff, while for the others, the wife goes with everything thing else a man may possess.

joho 12:20 PM  

I was WOWED by this amazing puzzle. Absolutely loved it! Quite a feat, Peter Wentz!

I had writeovers all over the place. gtO before RKO @Rex, a little more age appropriate but wrong just the same. Even so I plodded on becoming more and more impressed with the X, Y and Z's and every other letter in the alphabet.

Too much fun!

Mel Ott 12:29 PM  

Finally solved it but it was a tough slog for me, especially in the NW and SE, for a lot of the reasons cited by others.

After VETTE finally got me off NO JOKE and into BY JOVE, I still had LAS instead of HOS and wondered if BBQD LIPS might be a snack food I would never try but others might enjoy!

I realized that random (to me) initials like 4D are even more annoying than random Roman numerals, because each square now has 26 possibilities.

Lindsay 12:35 PM  

I'm out of step here, as I found this the most challenging puzzle in weeks .... if not months. First word into the grid was 63D the much discussed "doc" which I then crossed with 67A "seducers" to answer "flimflams."

Couldn't get any traction in that corner (surprise!) so I filled in 25D "paroled" as already discussed, and crossed it with 32A "premiere" where "the opera" should have gone.

And so on. Eventually sorted everything out, and ended up, to my surprise, with a correct grid, but it was square-by-square combat the whole way.

Spliff? Spliff? Spliff? Okey doke, I guess.

Mel Ott 12:45 PM  

Oh, I almost forgot. If ORCA is a mammal, how is it a cousin of any fish, black or otherwise. The blackfish of northeastern waters (also known as a tautog) isn't even close.

Anonymous 1:23 PM  

Even though I think of joints are bars or knees, managed to get SPLIFF (a new word for me, having never done pot or any other illegal drug). The NW corner was my bane after slogging through the rest (was watching Leno when LENO dawned on me). PIZARRO and STUCKUP were easy, but the rest came agonizingly slowly. I CAN DO IT tripped me for YOU GOT IT for a long time. Eventually after cleaning the slate something other than rum punch came to mind for 1A – chips (because of the PS) – but what kind? Of course, my favorite – BBQ CHIPS! With the first B came BY JOVE by Jove and with the second B came BOOZES (my drug of choice). Fluid OZS – seems so obvious now but not when I was still thing about joints and motion. Finally, after changing the (wrong second) A to E in JAVIER Mr. Happy Pencil popped up and I came here to join my friends....

Van55 1:52 PM  

@Rex Parker -- if a puzzle deserves to be condemned for NIGHTRIDERS as an answer and another puzzle deserves the same for reckless driving answers, why isn't this one worthy of the same kind of contempt for IFIDIDIT? I guess it's more forgivable to butcher two people in cold blood than it is to think about running a stop sign or speeding?

Martin 2:49 PM  

@Mel Ott,

Blackish is another name for pilot whale. Other cetaceans, including the orca, are also called blackfish. They do this to protest mahi-mahi being called "dolphin" in Florida.

mitchs 2:50 PM  

Just a quick heads-up for BEQ fans. There's a bonus puzzle on his site that is fantastic. It's by a guest constructor, David Quarfoot.

Mel Ott 3:08 PM  


Thanks for the clarification and for the humorous allusion to the dolphin. I still call that fish a dolphin except when ordering it in a restaurant. It is the most beautiful fish in the ocean - wonderful bright shades of yellow, blue, and green. The colors fade quickly after the fish is caught so most people never see them. No relationship to the mammal that is also called a dolphin.

Regional names for sea critters can get very confusing.

jae 3:25 PM  

Back from a vacation in Northern CA. where the marijuana harvest was in progress (see SPLIFF). Really liked this one. Started off with HOTWINGS/HONEST so the NW needed a few iterations. That said NE and SW were pretty easy for me with SE being medium.

Fun puzzle, thanks Mr. Wentz!

sanfranman59 3:48 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 29:34, 26:18, 1.12, 75%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Fri 16:14, 12:50, 1.27, 89%, Challenging

Shamik 3:50 PM  

A delightful, medium-challenging Friday puzzle! (21:05 for me on a new computer--fingers keep ending up in the wrong places...yeah, right, sure.)

BBQCHIPS never comes to mind because I don't care for them. SPLIFF is terribly regional. Loved LAIDBACK and WHACKJOB since I resemble those remarks. I'm ok with IFIDIDIT and other questionable answers. It's a crossword puzzle, not an op-ed piece.

If anyone has an Excel file that I can enter my daily times and get percentage solve rate for the puzzle, day of week and constructor, I'd be much obliged. New to Excel (yes, i've been living under a rock) and getting a headache with the online tutorial.

Shamik 3:54 PM  

my e-mail:


chefwen 4:05 PM  

Made all the mistakes noted above and then some. Had three of us banging on this one last night and still DNF. The boys would not let me get rid of Doc at 63D, absolutely knew the no joke was right and I spelled pizarro with 2 Z's and one R, so yeah, had a real mess on my hands. Had to come here to calm my aching head. Ouch!

Van55 4:30 PM  


"It's a crossword puzzle, not an op-ed piece."

Give the man a kewpie doll! He got it right!

archaeoprof 4:48 PM  

@Jim: if David Leisure came back today, he'd be running for office, and he would be taken seriously.

@Hazel: is 59A correct? Is JAVIER Lopez a pitcher? I remember him as a catcher...

dk 4:53 PM  

The make you cry video from the other day was covered by NPR today.

fikink 4:59 PM  

They interviewed him on MSNBC today. Getting a lot of teens calling him. Glad he is getting so much of the spotlight.

mac 5:10 PM  

Very good puzzle, but difficult to rate for me, having done it on the train. Not a straightforward solve, I was hopping all over the grid, and the NW was the hardest. It didn't help that I think Sam Isuzu sounds a lot better.

I started out with many of the wrong answers you mentioned before, but pieced it all together. Very slowly.

I got an "Onion" on the subway last night; nice puzzle!

hazel 5:10 PM  

@archaeoprof - Javy (aka Javier) Lopez was a really good catcher for the Braves for several years - he famously "rarely" caught Greg Maddux. (Eddie Perez was Maddux' personal catcher during those years). People would always make a big stink about it during any sort of crunch time as Lopez had a MUCH bigger bat than Perez. I think he signed with the Orioles? after the Braves, but sort of flamed out. He's still a fan favorite around here, though. He gets swooned over alot.

But Javier Lopez is also a pitcher (for the Giants now, I think).

Thanks for giving me a chance to talk about the Braves again. Still in withdrawal.

Martin 5:10 PM  

Not that (Javy) Lopez. Javier Lopez is a reliever that SF acquired from the Pittsburg in July.

Rube 5:22 PM  

After a pretty easy week, met my match here. Had 3 Googles, so DNF. Had _ISUZU, but had to Google for JOE, which broke open the NW. BYJOVE immediately went in.

Needed JAVIER & EWING in the SW to open up that section.

Couldn't believe SPLIFF was a real word. Like others, misspelled PIZARRO at first.

Since Garfield wouldn't fit, immediately thought of FRITZ. Problem was that I was thinking of the x-rated movie, Fritz the Cat, not the cartoon. Great flick.

Normally don't mind RRNs, but the one at 31A was too far out for my taste.

In addition to my Googles, didn't know ODENSE, JON, ENSOR, Humana, and IME. Just looked up I, ME, Mine. It looks like my education has another obvious, very big hole.

I was going to second @Fikink and say "Blechh", but the I, ME, Mine issue makes me have to just admit ignorance.

Anonymous 5:32 PM  

"Paradigm of piety" bothered me -- I could tell it was SANTO from the other context, but I think "Paragon of piety" would have been a more apt clue.

OISK 5:47 PM  

missed one square, which I consider "finishing." Just don't like "honeys" as a verb, when there were plenty of other clues possible that lead to that answer and are less contrived. ("heather products" for example)

Otherwise, difficult but fun.

suburban_guy 9:17 PM  

Thought 23a should have included a reference to slang or an abrev. 'vette isn't a proper noun. 33d I always think of Popeye Doyle in reference to French Connection. 63d. DrK??? He was known as Doc Gooden again should have used variation. 9a Spliff? I have heard of spiff and doobie but never spliff.

Rough start to the week but got better. Liked this one a lot for a Friday.

Michael 9:44 PM  

This is my idea of a good Friday puzzle, challenging, but gettable. Like everyone else, I held on to no joke and doc for way to long. I was even considering "snoocers" as an alternate spelling, but this just didn't fit with my feeling for how English works. Thought a long time about ---opera before finally writing in "the" out of desperation.

sanfranman59 10:02 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 6:01, 6:56, 0.87, 7%, Easy
Tue 11:25, 8:57, 1.28, 97%, Challenging
Wed 12:25, 11:38, 1.07, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 17:18, 19:04, 0.91, 40%, Medium
Fri 29:50, 26:18, 1.13, 76%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:25, 3:42, 0.92, 19%, Easy
Tue 5:34, 4:37, 1.21, 96%, Challenging
Wed 6:10, 5:44, 1.08, 78%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 8:44, 9:09, 0.95, 50%, Medium
Fri 15:17, 12:49, 1.19, 86%, Challenging

Jim 10:08 PM  


DRK is perfectly legitimate. He was referred to as Doc, but DRK was his nickname. Seems a silly thing to complain about; it is, quite simply, perfectly correct.

Also SPLIFF. Wasn't sure I wasn't acting in haste when I had the two Fs and immediately put it in, but I turned out to be correct (thought it was spelled SPLeeF). No pot smoker me, but it's hardly regional. I've heard it on television countless times.

I'm all for picking nits, but these two seem curious.

andrea whackjob michaels 6:32 AM  

by the way, Peter Wentz also had the syndicated puzzle today (at least in SF)...Bravo! That's no mean feat!

Still loving the words in this puzzle 24 hours later!

NotalwaysrightBill 6:35 PM  

Syndicated paper puzzler.

My mind went to SPLIFF right away, but I couldn't accept for awhile that the paper of record would let it be that simple. When it turned out that that's what it had to be, I kept trying to make "Party bowlful with zing" be something that had selzer in the bongwater. BOOZESITUP had me trying to think of the name for one of those party animal headgear gadgets with the beer cans on them as the answer to "High-hat."

By that time, it didn't matter that I was sober as a judge: I was still all ready to get way LAIDBACK, scarf down some EMPANADAS and watch "FRITZ the Cat."

Plenty of cold water after that though, with bubbles bursting (DOTCOMS), PIZARRO and IFIDIDIT.

Knew the start of the Liang Dynasty off the top of my head (as if . . .). Slog for me too.

Dirigonzo 6:51 PM  

This one left me all washed up and hung out to dry - not only DNF, I barely got started. First run-through produced about a dozen guesses,most of them wrong, and I just never found a toehold to get myself into the puzzle. For some reason I knew Eddie EGAN and Humana's HMOs, but that's not much consolation. What I learned from this: humility.

MikeinSTL 1:09 PM  

Hey Rex, I'm surprised you didn't reference Bob Marley's "Easy Skanking" -- that's how I know the word SPLIFF:

Anonymous 5:43 PM  


I've always heard it "spleef" myself.

Never saw "spliff" that I remember.

Adi Mulia 10:22 AM  

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