Moses novelist / FRI 11-19-10 / Nixon pal Rebozo / 2009 Grammy winner Relapse / Win offset by losses / Colonial stinger / Crab Key villain book film

Friday, November 19, 2010

Constructor: Victor Fleming

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: BEBE Rebozo (15A: Nixon pal Rebozo) —

Charles Gregory "Bebe" Rebozo (November 17, 1912 Tampa, Florida –May 8, 1998) was a Florida banker who gained fame for being a close friend and confidant of President Richard Nixon. [...] Rebozo first met then U.S. Representative Nixon in 1950 through Florida Representative George Smathers. Smathers had recommended Key Biscayne as a vacation destination to Nixon, who eventually set up the Florida White House in the area. While Nixon was vacationing in Key Biscayne, Smathers had Rebozo take Nixon deep sea fishing. Rebozo and Nixon then started a friendship that lasted 44 years. // In 1976, Rebozo was the subject of a bank fraud investigation. The loan application filed with Hudson Valley National Bank (Yonkers, New York), stated that the loan was for real estate when it was actually used as a business loan. Rebozo repaid the loan with interest, and the bank declined to file a complaint. (wikipedia) (That's why he's famous: because he was Nixon's friend—HE MADE THE COVER OF LIFE BECAUSE OF THIS?)
• • •

For reasons that aren't entirely explicable, this was perhaps my worst puzzle performance of the year. Embarrassing. Started out great (NW, SW), then things got a little rocky (far N, far S), then a bit rockier (SE), then so rocky that I just stopped (NE). Never heard of NOL. (the worst thing I've seen in a grid in a while) (10A: ___ pros. (court record abbr.)). Never heard of BEBE. Just ... never (I suspect this is generational blindness on my part; I was born during the Nixon administration, and didn't start paying attention to current events til the Reagan administration. Side note: it's kind of cute that this puzzle contains a friend of a president, as the constructor himself counts at least one former president among his friends). Oddly enough, the only reason I was able to solve this corner, in the end, was by guessing the name BEBE from B--E and seeing what would happen if I just wrote it in. I had LOST, AÑOS, SCALP (24A: Massage locale), *and* TOOK TEA and *still* couldn't see either NEONATAL (10D: Kind of ward) or OBSOLETE (11D: Superseded) (went looking for a past tense construction on the latter). But the real, horrible, stupid reason I failed so miserably was my own fault: I just couldn't see OUSTER (28D: Dispossession), and I even ran the alphabet at the second letter position (OA-TER, OB-TER, etc.) and went Right Past "U" without picking up on anything viable. Thus I couldn't see OUTEATS (which I thought was going to be some kind of noun, i.e. "tops" = article of clothing?) (30A: Tops at the dinner table?). SOTTED is ridiculous (BESOTTED, maybe) (24D: In one's cups). With SO--ED in place, I of course wanted the more reasonable SOUSED. [Barbers]=STYLES? "Let me barber your hair for you"? Wow. Half of my annoyance is directed at crappy fill, but the bigger half is directed at the complete breakdown of my crosswording skills.

This puzzle started out strong, with great answers like PYRRHIC VICTORY (4D: Win offset by losses) and GET IT ON (25A: Start a scrap), but then sort of degenerated into a combination of crosswordese (ITER, DR.NO (47A: Crab Key villain of book and film), ORES) and semi-marginal names (TANYA, ASCH (22A: "Moses" novelist), CHET (29A: Lemon on a baseball field), RON ELY (42D: Miss America host after Bert Parks), BEBE). Stuff like NOL and SOTTED and OBOLI (7D: Old Greek coins) make this puzzle hard to love, but most of the rest of it seems adequate, with (as I said) patches of niceness.

  • 19A: 1980s-'90s women's magazine (LEAR'S) — neeeever heard of this. Thankfully, I never saw the clue until just now.
  • 20A: Rockies rangers (ELKS) — hate ELKS as plural (prefer ELK), but love the basebally clue.
  • 38A: Did as suggested in a Gershwin musical? (ATE CAKE) — it is clear that Judge Fleming (the constructor) lives in a parallel universe from mine, as we apparently share almost no frames of reference. I just don't know anything in this puzzle. With "K" in place I could infer this answer, but I can't name a Gershwin musical besides "Porgy & Bess," I don't think (I'm being told "Porgy & Bess" is an opera; sorry). Musical in question here: "Let 'Em Eat Cake" (1933)

  • 48A: Ciliary body setting (UVEA) — didn't know what a "ciliary body" was (eye anatomy = yet another knowledge fail today)
  • 6D: Colonial stinger (FIRE ANT) — tricky use of "colonial"
  • 32D: Deep-fried mouthful (TATER TOT) — (unintentionally) timely, as this crispy treat was a major part of the storyline of this week's episode of "Glee" (tots are taken away from school cafeteria, sparking "Norma Rae"-esque protest)
  • 41D: 2009 Grammy winner for "Relapse" (EMINEM) — Hey! The puzzle finally speaks my language! Thank god, because even with EMINEM and EUROPE (40D: Grand tour setting) in place, I had trouble with the SE.
  • 48D: Aptly named hybrid (UGLI) — don't think of it as particularly "UGLI."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


DocRoss 12:50 AM  

Holy crap that was wholly crap!

I'm with Rex. I couldn't get any of that. I did remember Bebe Rebozo from my childhood. I always thought it was a funny name.

The rest was a horrible slog for me.

Nighthawk 12:58 AM  

Missed the puzzles the past few days, so only now catching up.

Yesterday, wow! Hat's off to amazing feat for Mr. Wentz. Very hard, but well worth the struggle.

On Wednesday's puz, my solving experience was much the same as most commenter, so will only add that on 32A (Beehive State Indians) I originally had otoS. When I corrected it, I chuckled because now, I will forever remember the Beehive State Indians by thinking of these UTES and the unforgettable Oscar winning Marisa Tomei.

an obese human 1:40 AM  

I didn't like this puzzle's grid shape at all. Too much short crap. 24 4-letter entries + 2 3-letter entries = 26 crappy, boring entries. I usually view those shorties as unfortunate necessities to make an otherwise interesting grid workable, but whole regions of this puzzle that are strictly short fill. And I'm somewhat arbitrarily cutting off the shorties at 4 letters when they easily could be extended to 5, since the 5-letter entries are pretty boring in this case as well. Overall a blah solving experience, although it was nice to get Pyrrhic victory off no crosses.

jae 1:59 AM  

I actually found this on the easy side. BEBE was a gimmie as I was on campus campaigning against Nixon during the late 60's and early 70's. Minor missteps were SNAP for FOTO, SOUSED like Rex, and SALON for SCALP. However, this one was not as much fun as yesterday's for the reasons covered by Rex.

chefwen 2:42 AM  

Got BEBE no problem, I am of that age. Finished it all but the southwest, at which point I tossed in the towel.

All I can say is OUCH, that hurt!

capcha MEMES, as in screaming.

andrea bebe michaels 3:42 AM  

BEBE Rebozo would be pretty familiar with the over-50 crowd; by coincidence, that was my clown/stripper stage name!

Speaking of over-50, LEAR'S was a feminist magazine I think started by Norman Lear's ex- after they split up... Frances? She was super-political and put the divorce settlement money to good work! Meant for older chicks, so you wrong demographic, bubby.

Damn! One mistake: UtLI
Basis = Term, no? Better than Germ imho
Thought UGLI for a moment, but thought that would then be an opinion not a definition...right?
Oh! Is an ugli fruit a hybrid?
Finished, but with one mistake made the whole thing a PYRRHIC VICTORY...
(super cool fresh entry and VIC sneaks his name in! All for that!)

Tho not one X, J, Z, Q...but that's ok, still kvelling over Wentz.
RON ELY used to Tarzan, so I count that as a bleedover.

Like the TURIN clue lots (even tho I started off with China!)

OBOLI OBOLa life goes on...bra,
Lala how the life goes on

Evgeny 4:13 AM  

Now, could someone tell me, how this whole "editing" works that Mr. Shortz does? I mean here we have OBOLI at the prominent 7d, while the plural of obolus is OBOLOI. Oboli would be a Latin plural, and even the friggin clue says Greek! I can work around a mistake on a Monday, but on a Friday it's pretty crucial to have any damned word that one is able to get written correctly!

Did not like, and, unrelatedly, did not finish.

fikink 4:40 AM  

Victor Fleming's puzzle's always strike me as idiosyncratic; I know that I will be unexpectedly delighted somewhere in his puzzle. Today it was the Colonial stinger that "sent" [ELATED] me. Glad you noted it, too, @Rex.

And PYRRHIC VICTORY got me into the puzzle in a big way, despite the fact that I, at first, transposed the Y and the I in PYRRHIC -d'oh!

BEBE was a nightly news item for a long while, if I recall. Thought it was a name you could dance to when I was a kid - BEBEREBOZO,
"Shave and a haircut, two bits..."
Perfect clown name, @ACME!

Similar to @jae, I had SHOT before FOTO.

I was leery of LEAR'S.

@Evgeny, nice point about OBOLI - I will be interested to see the conversation on that today.

imsdave 5:03 AM  

Not sure why, but I found this one to be extremely easy. Slow start across the top and then just screamed through the whole puzzle clockwise from the NE. A little trouble spelling PYRRHIC, but that was about it.

Personally, I prefer my CHET clue to be about Baker or Huntley.

fikink 5:24 AM  

Yo, @Dave - Let's see, baseball's got CHET Lemon and Darryl Strawberry. When does Sally Bananas take the field?

Dough 8:05 AM  

Rex is probably right about living in a parallel universe. Sometimes I struggle through a puzzle only to find that Rex deemed it his best solving time of the decade. This one was in my wheelhouse, probably because Mr. Fleming and I are about the same age. It does matter. I used to do better at local Quizzo events until the quizmasters started getting younger.

To Evgeny, rest assured that Will doesn't make up plurals. He needs to find references. In this case, OBOLI has been a standard in puzzles for years, supported by dictionaries (See here). On the other hand, dictionaries might be completely wrong for all I know!

I like the two long verticals as anchors spanning the sections of the puzzle (for a Friday puzzle).

Anyway, against some of the criticism of today's puzzle, I want to say I enjoyed this perfectly delightful Friday puzzle!

Ben 8:17 AM  

Tough but fair, like a judge should be. I liked it.

BLACKEYEDSUSAN opened up the entire eastern seaboard, which was tough anyway.

Trivia note: the Undergraduate Library at the University of Michigan is known as the UGLI for short, and is in fact ugly.

Smitty 8:31 AM  

The right half was OK. THe left half was UGLI

Leslie 8:36 AM  

I'm with Dough, and for the same reason. I must be the same age as he and Mr. Fleming.

Sometimes I struggle through a puzzle only to find that Rex deemed it his best solving time of the decade.


Anyway, did fine on this one. Especially liked the clues and answers for STALAG, CAPITOL, and TURIN.

joho 8:37 AM  

I finished with no errors so I enjoyed it. But let's face it, yesterday's puzzle was a tough act to follow. I think anything would pale in comparison.

@andrea bebe michaels ... "clown/stripper stage name" LOL

Van55 9:03 AM  

I wonder if "marginal" is acceptable by Ulrich where "arcane" and "obscure" are not.

If so, I found much of this puzzle to be marginal (i.e. Outside my personal sphere of knowledge). And the cluing was often needlessly obtuse (e.g. "setting for a roaster" without a ?).

17 proper names.

Anonymous 9:09 AM  

This one was on the easy side for me and figured Rex would have sailed through it. Started slow in the NW, but moved east and just wailed through that whole side. Only hesitation was RONELY as I was thinking of Bert Conely (which I'm sure is not how you spell his last name). Finally saw the RON ELY parse and felt better.
Finished with one error as I wasn't sure how to spell PYRRHIC and never heard of LEARS. I had R as a possibility, but thought that a women's magazine that sounded like LEERS wouldn't do well. My last two possibilities I considered were I and H, both obviously wrong.
I agree that ELKS seems very wrong, but NOL is fine in my book. Have seen in often as the Cambodian leader LON NOL.
My favorite misdirects were the clues for FIREANT and STALAG. Spent a while trying to divine a chemical compound used during the war.

PuzzleNut 9:10 AM  

I'll take the credit or blame for the previous comments. Must have clicked the wrong button.

Anonymous 9:16 AM  

I knew that living in D.C. as a student at Georgetown while Nixon was a mile away hunkered down at the White House would come in handy...eventually. Knew BEBE.

ArtLvr 9:29 AM  

Like many in the senior cohort, I found this Friday fun and relatively easy... Something for everyone, from OUTEATS a TATER TOT to TAKE TEA and ATE CAKE! OBOLI didn't bother me, but I needed all the crosses for THETAS...

Amusing to have the GERMs reappear as Basis. as opposed to "Bugs" which was my sticking point yesterday. Also, the "Locale shrouded in mystery?" for TURIN was hilarious. Good job, Judge Fleming!


Joon 9:30 AM  

bebe rebozo is a man? huh. i've been filling that into crosswords for years (okay, a year) and i always assumed she was a woman. like bebe neuwirth.

Matthew G. 9:31 AM  

This one destroyed me, and I'm glad I'm in good company. On a less-busy day in a less-busy week I might have stuck with it, but for the first time in ages I just threw in the towel, and made a conscious decision to look up some of the answers (read: cheat) so I could stop pondering it and concentrate on my day.

What was weird about it was the things that jumped right out at me compared with the things I couldn't get. PYRRHIC VICTORY, TOOK TEA, and ATE CAKE all jumped out at me with no crosses. Also got weird stuff like FIRE ANT and LETS PASS. But like Rex I couldn't see NEONATAL or OBSOLETE, and I also struggled with dumb things like CAPITOL (I was looking for a more clever pun that it turned out to be, I think), RED DEER (I have no doubt this is a specific species of deer, but it wasn't on my radar), SCALP, ENEMY, and even AS ONE. I had "ring" in the space where "SUMO" ultimately went, so that didn't help.

I actually don't think the fill on this puzzle was as bad as Rex and some others do, and I really love the long answers here. It was a very good puzzle, and I just wasn't bright enough to solve it, at least not in the time I was willing to commit today. All on me. My relief was enormous when I read the first line of Rex's review, though.

Okay, back to work.

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

I'm with those who found this on the easier side for a Friday. Besides guessing UPDIKE for 2D I had very few writeovers. The top middle part was the last to fall, but I got that once I changed YAKS to ELKS, which gave me FIREANT. I did go to bed wondering why I had never heard of anyone named RONELY.

Kurt 9:32 AM  

I guess that it's a geezer thing. This one was right in my wheelhouse, too. PYRRHIC VICTORY, BLACK EYED SUSANS, BEBE, EUROPE, EMINEM, ITER and OPENNESS all fell early. Those answers opened up the whole puzzle.

The past two days have been a real treat.

Thanks to Victor Fleming and Peter Wentz. And of course, to Will and Rex

Enjoy the weekend.

jesser 9:39 AM  

Man, we all had weird experiences with this one. BEBE was my first entry into the grid, and the NE fell no problem. With ATEE and RED DEER in place, I figured I was dealing with some Black toED critter in Maryland, and it took a while to sort that out.

I meandered down to the SW, where STOVES seemed too easy, and SteamING going down looked OK, until the TATERTOTS and OPENNESS emerged, at which time SCALDING did its writeover magic and let me parse my way out of that sector.

With the LE in place at 36D, I plopped down LEAVE be, which gave me APER and PERMS, which instantly told me that blah blah blah. Figured it out.

Went to the SE and got EMINEM after writing SUMO over rink. That quadrant fell.

Hopped up to the top center and put in FOTO, which gave me TALKS TO and ORES, and the acrosses spilled from there. Never had to read the clue for OBOLI, which is a good thing, as I had No Idea.

Finally, the NW. Nothing, except my soup-kitchen pal juliA, leading me totally astray. Googled TALESE, which meant that start ON at 25A was wrong. Got ALERT. Stared. Cursed. Came here. Cursed some more.

Good workout, but the puzzle ended up kicking my ASCH.

Now, for the weekend! Have at it, friends!

Bolin! (the sport where the waitress brings me drinks on Sunday evenings and I have a 163 average) -- jesser

mmorgan 9:40 AM  

Got a bunch of this but most of it killed me (and I guess I'm a "geezer" or close to it).

Knew Bebe right off (one of my favorite villains), along with PYRRHIC VICTORY (but I wasn't sure of the spelling). Several mistakes deep-fried me -- ABSORBED for OBSOLETE, LETS IT BE for LETS PASS, either RING or BOUT for SUMO, and GET INTO for GET IT ON, among others (though I had NEONATAL). Got very excited when I got ATE CAKE and lots was getting filled in but then I ground to a screeching halt in the east and west.

UVEA, ITER, OBOLI ... aauggh! But there are some very nice answers here. I don't feel so bad knowing Rex had trouble, too!

@ACME: Still waiting to hear your take on a QUADRUPLE MANGRAM.

auttr - I auttr done better on this puzzle.

Anonymous 10:00 AM  

First time I've ever had a solid block of 16 errors. Not one of the letters I used for the north-central square was correct, but with some tortured reasoning, I could defend most of my entries. Problem was deciding on ARMY ANT, which was "validated" by YAKS as the rockies rangers, and MILE as part of a stage. Some pretty creative lexicological reasoning let me fill in the other blanks; with pencil-and-paper solving, there was no need to try convincing Mr. Happy Pencil.

dk 10:08 AM  

Talk! No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.

By now we have all figured out that Victor is Ian's evil twin and the basis (GERM) for DRNO.

PartialVICTORY was my Waterloo and for 1D I wanted a gas. Otherwise not so bad. A flirtation with Tsetses and span in the upper midwest, and mcnuggets for TATERTOTS.

*** (3 Stars) Victor sorry MGM is bankrupt another Bond film would be great about now.

For all of you who are wondering what life will be like now that we TOOKTEA (e.g., Republican's block extension for the long term unemployed) watch the first half of the new Potter film. Or... just eat cake.

Who knew NPR was short for Nazi? Thanks Fox gnus.

Hmm I am rambling but the song "Where have all the flowers gone?"...........

Sy Snootles 10:17 AM  

When I see Bebe Rebozo, I think of Max Rebo.

Then again, I have "Lapti Nek" on my iPod.

Tinbeni 10:20 AM  

@andrea bebe michaels
I agree it must be an over 50 thingy.

I almost checked to see if today was Wednesday again.

Not UGLI (yum!) but beautiful !!!

Hell, it even had a shout out to me with SOTTED !!!
(Though this is more of a persona than reality).

TGIF ... it is FRIDAY, time to GET IT ON ...

Toasts to all at Sunset.

Christogan 10:21 AM  

This one killed me, too. I got further than I deserved to get but didn't finish--those short words in the Dakotas (IBAR/ORES/ROLE)wouldn't disclose themselves to me.

I knew BEBE REBOZO but I don't know how. I don't know any ex-presidents but a friend of mine saw George Bush senior in Walgreen's over near Sage/Woodway picking out a birthday card not long ago. He got the ex-pres to pose for a photo with him. Mr. Bush also sometimes winds up in people's backyards when he's out parachuting. He's always very gracious and polite and apologetic about the whole thing. Can't say the same for Barb, though. She likes to ride around in the presidential helicopter with a .386 equipped with sniper sights and pick off hobos down near the ship channel. It's on of those everybody-knows-but-looks-the-other-way deals.

Ulrich 10:23 AM  

I, too, started with BEBE, and I'm glad about the company that puts me in. Found the puzzle, overall, easier for me than a typical Friday--but what do you expect from a constructor who (almost) shares your name?

@Doug: Evgeny didn't complain about the plural; he complained about it being labelled "Greek", and I'm with him there--in fact, groaned when I got there!

@mmorgan (as per late last night): flawless logic!

quilter1 10:26 AM  

Geezerdom rules, BEBE was a gimme. Had to check sp. on PYRRHIC. Overall a medium for me today. On to Saturday.

Rex Parker 10:33 AM  

The coins are, in fact, Greek, so there is precisely nothing wrong with the clue. Many words have gone from Greek into Latin into English. Dictionaries will show you this. Dictionaries will also show you that the other accepted plural is actually OBOLS, not OBOLOI. And the Gr. singular is OBOLOS, not OBOLUS. OBOLUS is the Latin form (whence we get "our" version), and, of course, the proper plural of -US is -I.

Shamik 10:43 AM  

Lovin' being an oldster today. This puzzle had the oddest feel. In working through all across and down clues, I had maybe six words filled in (one of which was the gimme, BEBE). Then all of a sudden, it became a landslide as it fell NW, SW, N, S, NE, SE in a whoosh (11:36). Which makes this easy-medium today. Agree with the dislike of ELKS. No one says ELKS unless you're talking about the Elks' Club. Still, an enjoyable puzzle.

I don't hate a little crosswordese because it's what helps me get the obscure answers. Have some days I missed and yesterday worked Caleb Madison's 5/29/10 Saturday NYT puzzle and had 4 wrong letters.....ALL of them Natick's. Pffft.

Two Ponies 10:59 AM  

Coming in on the heels of yesterdays dazzler this was pretty ho-hum. Some clever clues but I'll forget the whole thing by tomorrow.
Can't spell pyrrhic and don't know the magazine or the author so that corner was a wash.
On the other hand you guys are very entertaining today.
@ Andrea, I want to hear about the clown/stripper.
@ Van55 still mad from yesterday and wants to "get it on".
@ dk and Christogan are cracking me up with the political humor.
I bake my Tater Tots.

Ulrich 11:09 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ulrich 11:11 AM  

@Rex: OK--point accepted!

@Van55: "Marginal" is almost as bad as "arcane"--there is nothing "marginal" about Aalto. The word I use is "specialized"--knowing about Aalto is specialized knowledge, that of architects, designers and design collectors.

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

BEBE Rebozo was at the center of a second tier scandal in the Nixon administration, $100K illegal donation from Howard Hughes to Nixon. The real issue was the, presumeably racist, notion that a Cuban with money at that time had to be suspect, and he had the ear of the President.

The Wiki entry for BEBE exemplifies why Wiki shouldn't be trusted for much of anything.

Evgeny 11:13 AM  

I hereby dial down my critique of OBOLI, without taking it back completely. Whenever there's a reference to a particular place/origin/nationality in a clue, it usually implies a foreign word of this origin as the answer. As Ulrich backed me up here, I'm gonna use his favorite site's city as an example: for the clue "large city on the Rhine river", "Cologne" is a perfectly legit answer. When clued "large city on Rhein" or "large German city on the Rhine river", i'd expect "Koln" as answer. So, "ancient coins" might have been a better clue for OBOLI.

fikink 11:32 AM  

@Christogan, love your Texas Tall Tales. Where is Babe, the Blue Ox? Out frolicking with the ELKS, I imagine. Just as long as a SOTTED W doesn't get back into that helicopter.
Speaking of Texas, where's Wade these days?

@Ulrich, indeed "marginalizing" someone is even worse than hermetically sealing them with the word, "arcane."

Mel Ott 11:34 AM  

I like the puzzle, which was easy-medium for a Friday for me, possibly because of some geezer stuff like BEBE. Liked the 2 long downs, which were gettable from a few crosses.

Got PYRRHIC VICTORY because of Latin 1 or 2 over 55 years ago. Thank you again Mrs. Ierardi.

The winner of the Preakness gets a garland(?) of BLACK EYED SUSANs laid across its withers (whatever they are). Since that horse race is run in the Spring before that state flower is in bloom, the story goes that they used to have a little old lady paint a bunch of daisys yellow. Hope they've figgered out how to grow them indoors by now.

CHET is at least 3rd on my list of baseball Lemons. Bob was a great pitcher for the 40's-50's Indians. A few years later Jim was a pretty good-hitting outfielder for the Senators/Twins. Know CHET only because of his last name.

SethG 11:38 AM  

Finished SE before I had anything else, anywhere. Good guesses on SUMO and TURIN led to the rest, including BLACK-EYED SUSAN.

Assumed Moses was a URIS, that slowed me down. I'm not old, so I guess that's what slowed me down more. This was definitely a Medium-Challenging Friday for me.

Finally, I'm wondering if there's a limit to how many times I can read 23A wrong--apparently not. I probably spent 8 minutes trying to figure out how a roadster setting could be a DASS...

Van55 11:39 AM  

@TwoPonies: "@ Van55 still mad from yesterday and wants to 'get it on'."

Please! Anger and madness do not befit crossword puzzles or participating in a blog about same. :)

Now I see that Ulrich prefers the word "specialized" to denote those crossword answers that are within the spheres of knowledge of relatively few of us. I take the point, but to some extent virtually all knowledge/crossword answers are "specialized." Today BEBE was a gimme for me, but he seems to be a bit "specialized" among those who particpate here. Is there an acceptable word that denotes the "obscurity" or "specialization" of an answer such as NOVATO or NATICK or today's ASCH and the novel he wrote?

Arthur 11:53 AM  

@Van55 - Yes, there is a phase for the AALTOs/BEBEs etc - "Late week difficulty". Complaining about them on Monday/Tuesday would be valid, Thurs/Fri/Sat, not so much. Tedious even.

foodie 12:07 PM  

Geezerhood notwithstanding, this was really hard for me. Yet I knew that others would not think so, as my QDI said it was Medium or Easy/Medium.

I can't even claim it's "specialized knowledge" (I like that designation), as I recognized the proper nouns either before or after the fact. For me, the cluing simply did not evoke the loose associations that would lead to a reasonable stab at an answer. There was this parallel universe feature that Rex described, e.g for the ATE CAKE clue. Marie Antoinette would have been a gimme (but too easy for Friday) but not the Gershwin clue...

I've been gone to my meeting for a week and missed you guys. Took a glance here and there and saw some food discussions and even mention of a Ford Fairlane convertible that made my heart flutter-- I owned a badly used one when I was young and lived in Southern California, and loved it with the single mindedness that a mother has towards an adorable yet deeply flawed child.

Throughout the hectic week, Rexville and its inhabitants remained on my mind.

CASEY 12:45 PM  

Am I the only one who cannot access the puzzle online. NYTimes told me yesterday there was a "bug" which would be fixed, but still can't access from LA am I alone?

deerfencer 12:47 PM  

Had to google a few obscure references to get a toehold here but was proud for bagging PYRRHICVICTORY on my own and came a couple squares from finishing in the south center, where I got stymied by UGLI, GERM and INSP.

Overall I enjoyed the challenge but agree it was a bitchy go in parts with some occasionally fugly fill.

Memo to Will Shortz: Dem deers have been chasing my elks across the sods! Could we please cease and desist with these perverse plurals? They just sound illiterate even if they are technically legal.

The Big E 1:08 PM  

Count me amongst those who wasn't thrilled with this puzzle based on the fill...
Had to google "Moses" novelist, but loved that not only did Sholem Asch write "Moses," but he also had a poineering son in the music business names Moses Asch, who founded Folkway Records, so could have had an Asch clue with Moses in a couple of ways.
Just thought I would share! :-)
Have a great weekend, and happy puzzling!

Samuel L Jackson 1:09 PM  

@Rex - Of course snakes get through security. How else does on get Snakes on the Mother F$#@#$ Plane"?

old school solver 1:26 PM  

I found this to be the easiest Friday I can remember in some time. Breezed through it no time standing up next to my laptop! On the other hand, some puzzles Rex finds easy I find very challenging. Just goes to show you, if you happen to get answers in your wheelhouse, such as Black-Eyed Susan, being a former Maryland resident, things can become a snap. The only great equalizer for crosswords is to make them incredibly obscure, I suppose.

Anonymous 1:30 PM  

Casey - When the regular link doesn't work I've had success by going to the NYT puzzle blog, where there's a link under where it says PREMIUM CROSSWORD.

Isabella di Pesto 1:32 PM  

Crikey! I performed in a original musical based on songs by Gershwin. Never heard of "Let 'em Eat Cake.

Oh well. I agree with the commenter who said this was ugli.

r.alphbunker 1:34 PM  

Me too. Since I am in the middle of Iowa and really need the puzzle, I bought a month's subscription using another account. I suspect the problem has something to do with the expiration of the credit card I used to renew in October. My account says it renewed okay even though the credit card is now no longer valid.

This was a solid puzzle. Knew Bebe. Was black-eyed susan in Pyhrrus's army?

nate 1:42 PM  

Am I the only one who doesn't know

what 23D "Does a K" means?

The Big E 1:44 PM  

@nate - It is spelled "CAPITOL" with an "O," which means the answer is "DOES OK"
I used to always get confused between CAPITAL and CAPITOL. But then I memorized Washington DC's license plates which said "Washington - A Capitol City."

Pythia 1:48 PM  

An enjoyable puzzle, with some especially nice, tricky cluing. As one of the over-50 crowd, I enjoy reading about younger solvers being willing to look-up-and-learn something about the past rather than dismissing it as irrelevant and uninteresting. Solving a crossword is a bit like participating in a trivia contest -- the more you know about anything and everything, the better you'll do. Older folk are constantly absorbing new data as our culture evolves ... let me assure the youth that there's lots o' unused capacity in the brain to save historical nuggets there as well.

Re the comments on ELKS, chacun a son gout, I suppose. The B.P.O.E. are "Elks" (older people know this), and seeing that word in the grid is never jarring for me. DEERS would be (I see it hasn't been used in the Times since 2002, so maybe it's been retired), and I find LENTS to be an awkward plural.

Must add, as a gross generalization, that "crappy" isn't a word I find descriptive of any NYT crossword. I agree, some of the short fill in this one isn't so scintillating, but to call it crappy is to demean the work, and that's not deserved.

OISK 1:57 PM  

Pretty easy one for me. I enjoyed the comments from those unfamiliar with Gershwin's "Let them eat cake," since I never heard of "relapse," and know eminem's "work" only from crosswords! Yesterday's (Thursday) actually took me considerably longer.

My familiarity with the Preakness made "Black eyed Susan a "gimmee."

Anonymous 2:32 PM  

I finished this one - correctly - and that is a benchmark for EASY.

It took 15(hours):09, including an 8 hour meditation.

I don't mind not being very good at Friday and Saturday crosswords, but have my usual objections to beyond-marginal-cluing to make an otherwise good puzzle harder just to be harder.

Last entry down was I-BAR, crossing OBOLI / ORES. I mind the obscure entry (last seen 15 years ago) less than the two tortured clues.

PlantieBea 3:38 PM  

It's great to see the common and native (to most of the US) blackeyed susan, rudbeckia hirta, in the puzzle. Overall, this solve was on the difficult side for me. Although I was able to figure out most of the answers, the NW proved fatal in the end. Even after letting go of the too obvious JULIA Roberts, I clung to the ERRATIC VICTORY. No TANYA, no LEARS, no ASCH...

Unknown 3:41 PM  

@evgeny, and the plural of elk is elk. No s.

sanfranman59 3:49 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 25:18, 26:17, 0.96, 42%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Fri 12:13, 12:50, 0.95, 47%, Medium

I had one of those rare, almost eerie solving experiences with this one where I was coming up with answers I had no idea I knew. It helped that I almost immediately filled in the long downs ... PYRRHIC VICTORY popped right into my head and I guessed BLACK-EYED SUSAN off of just a few crosses because I somehow recalled Preakness winners being draped in a blanket of them. I finished with my 5th fastest time of the 65 Friday puzzles I've recorded and when I was done, I had no idea how I'd managed to do it. It was just one of those unusual late-week puzzles where I was apparently simpatico with the constructor. I still can't quite believe that CHET Lemon made it into a 2010 crossword, but since 70s/80s baseball is right up my alley, I was grateful for the gimme.

John V 3:52 PM  

Geezer check-in time. Bebe was the easiest fill in the entire puzzle. That's the good news. This was a slog for me, but finished with no errors. SE was hardest for me. Slow to pick up Blackeyed Susan and (oddly) 58A enemy. Initially had 46A as ring, which probably cost me, oh, say and HOUR! Also had troble with 6A, Foto. So, lottsa work, but worth it, enjoyed it.

Kendall 4:34 PM  

As I've pointed out, I'm probably the youngest frequenter of this blog, and thus I found this puzzle impossible to solve. To be honest, I only was able to complete 2/3 of it. Thank you Rex for allowing me to get the rest. I didn't like it, but that's not the fault of the author. I'm just too young for some of these...

william e emba 4:34 PM  

Well, I started out breezing the NW, and then could not get any entry into the SW whatsoever. Switched to the NE, (ha, I remember BEBE!) and then ground to a halt. Eventually--way too long, of course--I noticed I had filled in PYRRHIC but left out the VICTORY. Sheesh, a new way to fail, all mine! Once again, the puzzle was laughing at my incompetence. So I finished the clue I already knew from the beginning, and the SW then the SE practically filled themselves out for me.

Amy 4:37 PM  

An easy one for me as well. Also over 50, so that seems to be the key here. But I still don't get why a fire ant is a COLONIAL stinger---something to do with living in a colony? I guess, but wow, that's nasty.

Ulrich 5:48 PM  

@Arthur: "late-week-difficulty" is workable, but to me at least, it doesn't have the snap of mmorgan's 3-assholes-out-of-4 classification from yesterday!

Arthur 5:55 PM  

@Ulrich - You're right of course, but what would have had similar snap?

Victor 6:17 PM  

Rex-Your worst experience of the year? Embarrassing? Glad to be of service!
Obese human: Crappie is a fish, but you misspelled it.
Chefwen: If you hadn’t said “of that age,” geezer might not have become the word of the day!
Andrea: I don’t recall your clown/stripper stage—and now, can’t stop pondering the possibilities!
Evgeny: Here is how the editing thing works: I send the puzzle to Will in Jan. ’09, he publishes it in Nov. 2010 with over half the clues changed, for the better. (My clue for NOL was “Cambodia’s Lon.”)
fikink: So glad something sent you. Just call me “Idio.”
imsdave: My CHET clue was “Huntley or Atkins.”
Dough: As Sarah Palin can see Russia from her house, I can see Rex’s universe from mine.
Van55: Is being marginal similar to living on the edge?
ArtLvr: Thanks. Glad you enjoyed the food mini-theme. ATECAKE & TOOKTEA were symmetrically placed for a reason.
Matthew: I didn’t mean to destroy you. Unlike Humpty Dumpty, though, you can be put back together again. And for the compliments - “I don’t think the fill was as bad as Rex and others do” and “the puzzle was very good,” I thank you. My wife Susan (no, the VICTOR/SUSAN mini-theme was not intentional) thought it was good, and she's always right!
Frances: I’m sorry about those 16 errors, but I’d loved to have seen your grid!
The Big E: “Amongst those who wasn’t thrilled
With this puzzle based on the fill,”
ye shall be counted! Are you kin to “The Big C” that I’ve watched on TV?
old school solver: That it was the easiest Friday you can remember in some time pleases me greatly, but so many have confessed to being “of a certain age,” that I needs must inquire as to your memory span.
Pythia: I take it from your comment that obese human did not mean the fish. Thanks for clarifying that. Glad you found the puzzle enjoyable.
Again, thanks to Rex and all present for continuing this fantastic blog!


Anonymous 6:33 PM  

BEBE followed by BLACKEYED SUSAN (which is to The Preakness what roses are to the Kentucky Derby – the run for the roses) were easy to this Nixon follower who lived in Maryland (BTW Nixon’s slogan in his 1968 campaign was “He’s The One” which came back to haunt him with Watergate). But the rest is another story. There were so many answers that were traps for the unwary. There was TANYA when it should have been that pretty woman JULIA (just imagine how much fun I had writing in _JUICE for 1D) and ALERT for what should have been a red LIGHT and I remember when I would EAT SOME before I left some scraps for my dog but obviously Mr. Fleming likes bar fights and wants to GET IT ON. FOTO for FLIK and OVEN for DAIS (I mean this is getting near Thanksgiving) and CAPITOL for CAMERAL (and I couldn’t figure out how to stretch BOB into 4 squares for Lemon – that’s for you other geezers– or how to squeeze DRANK unto 4 squares in front of TEA). The SE was not bad but the SW was schizophrenic with LENTS and TATOR TOTS and CAKE. Finally, I realized how much easier life would be if only I knew how to spell PYRRHIC....

Anonymous 7:20 PM  

I now see I posted my prior comment after Mr. Fleming psoted his, so I guess I can blame WS and not Mr. Fleming for all those traps, except I refuse to....

joho 8:17 PM  

@Vic ... thank you for stopping by. Your comments were so well thought out just like your puzzle.
It's nice to hear the back story, too.

And I love that you think your wife Susan is always right!

andrea bebe michaels 8:45 PM  

Wow!!!!!!! Your wife's name is SUSAN and the VICTOR/SUSAN in the puzzle was UNintentional????!!!!!
Paging Dr. Freud!!!!!!!!!!!!

That is very funny about LEARS/LEERS being a terrible name for a women's magazine!!!!!!!
Must add it to bad naming list I keep at my "other" job!

(In other bad naming news, how about those TSA Scanners being produced by a company called RAPISCAN!!!)

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 8:19, 6:57, 1.20, 99%, Challenging
Tue 8:37, 8:57, 0.96, 45%, Medium
Wed 10:41, 11:39, 0.92, 32%, Easy-Medium
Thu 24:53, 19:03, 1.31, 93%, Challenging
Fri 25:22, 26:17, 0.97, 43%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:18, 3:42, 1.16, 95%, Challenging
Tue 4:22, 4:36, 0.95, 41%, Medium
Wed 5:41, 5:44, 0.99, 54%, Medium
Thu 13:14, 9:11, 1.44, 96%, Challenging
Fri 11:52, 12:49, 0.93, 40%, Medium

foodie 11:54 PM  

Wow! Loved hearing from Judge Fleming! Next time, I'll try to remember that he has a sense of humor. It might have helped me with the TOOK TEA/ATE CAKE combo.

I wonder whether Mrs. Fleming noticed the coupling of names in the puzzle. It figure it's even more of a compliment if it's unconsciously done.

Victor 11:08 PM  

A little off-topic, but this is the only blog where I've seen a geezer-thread lately ... Please join me in protesting Brent Musberger's repeated references to college football athletes as "youngsters." Calling adults "youngsters" is, imho, the essence of geezerishness. I heard Vern Lundquist do it today, so it could be spreading.


Anonymous 12:22 AM  

I'm only 65 yet some announcers have taken to refering to my generation as "seniors" so I'll dangwell call anyone under 35 a youngster.

spacecraft 6:46 AM  

When I saw "actress Roberts" I rejected Julia out of hand: this is the NYT puzzle, not some daily paper spacefill. A challenge for lack of theme, but only two writeovers: had THINNESS for 33d before the aha! of TATERTOTS made it impossible, and like others I tried to force TERM in there, wondering if perhaps a hybrid spelling of the great Chase UTLI might be a play on utility--though his role is hardly that. Didn't care for the bastardized spelling of FOTO, or LENTS (good grief, isn't one 40-day Lent enough?), or the clumsy GTS and INSP, but overall a good 'un. Just wish my comments didn't have to be five weeks old; today's puzzle appears in my paper Dec. 24!

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