Signature song of Peter Allen / SAT 11-6-10 / Dadaist Hausmann / Capital near Green Peter Lake / Old Chicago Outfit frontman / Rondo producer

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Constructor: Brad Wilber

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: RACEME (47D: Poinciana feature) —

An inflorescence having stalked flowers arranged singly along an elongated unbranched axis, as in the lily of the valley.

[Latin racēmus, a bunch of grapes.]
• • •

OH ... MIC! (11D: Like some resistance). And things were going so well. Couldn't believe how quickly I was taking this thing apart—was clearly on my way to setting ... well, not a Saturday record, but certainly a Brad Wilber record (I think his puzzles are, on average, the toughest around). So, I'm actually getting a little spooked at how quickly stuff is falling. Went through the SE very easily, and absolutely steam-rolled the NE—threw across OUT THERE (16A: Kooky) and SAD SONGS (7A: Music that may make you get down), and then knocked off each and every one of the Downs up there, in order, without hesitation. Eerie. So, I should've known that something was up—like in horror movies when there's some scary noise but then we see that no, it's just the cat swatting at a drawstring, whew, no danger OMG AXE MURDERER! Oh, the humanity.

Today's axe murderer was the NW. OK, I'm exaggerating, but it did take me almost as long as the rest of the puzzle combined. Only way I got in was slowly, creepingly, by building the corner from the ground up. TOE LOOP (37A: Axel alternative) and SIMIAN (33A: Macaque or marmoset) were easy, but to get AROAR (28A: Like monster trucks or their spectators) I had to infer the "O" in what turned out to be GLADSOME (3D: Delightful) and the "R" in what turned out to be "I GO TO RIO" (2D: Signature song of Peter Allen). Finally figured out that the "wear" in 1D: Wear after a serious spill must be something-CAST, but ... what? I couldn't think of a suitable 4-letter word. HAND? NECK? FOOT? Those all seemed pretty weak, and none of them were giving me any entree into the Acrosses up top. Finally stopped thinking of body parts and just thought BODY. Eureka! YTD (19A: Financial report abbr.) went right in from there and then HANDSOME ... but the B-H beginning to 1A: Baseball All-Star's nickname ... or a popular food product made me realize that "H" must be wrong. So I remembered / semi-invented GLADSOME (really wanted WINSOME!) and then (unfondly) remembered Mark McGwire (aka BIG MAC). OGLALA (15A: Crazy Horse, e.g.) materialized during this process, somehow. Kind of cool that the last thing revealed to me was also one of the coolest answers: DO A JIG (17A: Physically show elation). I didn't physically show elation when I was done, but I did feel a faint sense of pride at having beaten that corner into submission despite my Peter Allen ignorance (the only Peter Allen I know was my freshman-year French professor, for whom I worked one summer on an NEH research grant ... eventually quit his tenured position to go to Wharton and eventually, I assume, earn millions).

Got TEN TO and ALIT first thing. SETHS was also a gimme (25A: Actor Rogen and others). From plural at 31D: They may appear over icons, I put in a terminal "S" and from that got SALEM (51A: Capital near Green Peter Lake). From there, all the words just congealed there at the top of the SE corner, and I went down and around the bend no problem. TOTO IV = piece of cake (64A: Triple-platinum 1982 album with the #1 hit "Africa"). "Africa" is iconic song of my youth, and ... I mean, it ended -OIV, what else was it going to be? I once insisted that the lyric in "Africa" was "I quest the rains down in Aaaaaaaaafrica." Friends insisted it was "bless," not "quest." Me: "He's not a priest, he can't 'bless' anything!" Friends: "Uh, it's 'bless.'" They were right.

Getting into NE was easy because that same cluster of words that propelled me down into the SE also propelled me up. SOFT TOP = easy (7D: Feature of many a Jeep—I have a friend who drives just such a vehicle), and AUTO HARP ... well, the -OHARP was in place, so ... easy guess (8D: Producer of simple chords). Except for in the NW, everywhere there was tough stuff, the non-tough stuff took care of it. RACEME was scary, but with a few crosses, I remembered it. Still not sure I understand HALOS (31D: They may appear over icons), but I'll just assume that the icons in question are religious ones—saints and what not. Not up on my MILL POND trivia (40D: Wheel-powering reservoir), but with just -LL- in place, I knew it was MILL something. "Reservoir" in four letters = POND. So, everything fell my way, and then it didn't. And then, eventually, it did again.

Good clues:

59A: John's neighbor (BIDET)
53D: Doctors with spirits (LACES)
50D: Part of an English wizard's spell? (ZED)
38D: One with a notably hard bed (PAPA BEAR)
68A: Past paranoia producer (RED SCARE)

  • 63D: Rondo producer (KIA) — Always handy to have a general awareness of car models.
  • 34D: "___ of Her Own" (Clark Gable film) ("NO MAN") — Me: "Clark Gable starred in an adaptation of Virginia Woolf's feminist essay 'A ROOM of Her Own'!?" But it's "A Room of One's Own," and no.
  • 42D: Cover-up unlikely to fool anyone (COMBOVER) — favorite answer in the grid, I think.
  • 46D: G.M. system with a "Virtual Advisor" (ONSTAR) — The "G.M." part made it a cinch for me. Without the brand name, it might have been tougher, though probably not much.
  • 60D: Zodiaco animal (TORO) — the bull. One of those answers that just filled itself in accidentally.
  • 22A: Old Chicago Outfit frontman (NITTI) — pure xword memory. I have no experience with him outside the grid.
  • 29D: Dadaist Hausmann (RAOUL) — whoa ... no idea. Just inferred his name from the last three letters. Berlin Dada ... whoa, his photo is Krazy.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. Dear Diana, Isaiah (age 11), and *especially* Hana (age 13), I got your package today, and I don't really know what to say except — I'm incredibly touched, and incredibly grateful (see hand-stitched rendering of my Aug. 17, 2010 NYT xword debut, below). One of the nicest things anyone (who doesn't know me personally) has ever done for me. I mean ... I showed my wife and *she* teared up. The grid, along with your note with the (aDORable) pictures, will hang on my wall forever. Seriously awesome. As one of my Facebook friends said when I posted the pic to my FB wall: "That's up there with Van Gogh's ear as far as impressive presents go." Thank you thank you thank you. All of you.


chefwen 12:26 AM  

@Rex, that is the sweetest, most thoughtful gift I have seen in a long time.

Re. the puzzle, I would like to request a BODY CAST and a BIG MAC, in that order. Same problem as yesterday, got through the top half fairly well but fell apart in the southwest.

Loved the answer for 7A.

Be kind Sunday!

andrea non capisco michaels 2:34 AM  

omg, I got the whole NW corner, and then...then...hours passed. Started to Google:
Who is RAOUL Hausmann?
Oh, Crazy Horse isn't JUST an Indian, he's OGLALA.
So THAT's where Green Peter Lake is!
Are you telling me SUMAC is poisonous...and the PLO was part of the Oslo Accords?

and it went on and on!!!!!!
MACAQUE is a monkey? so MARMOSETS aren't lemurs? TOTOIV is a name of an album?
Rondo is the name of a car by KIA? Hmmm, I wonder if it comes with ONSTAR?
...and googling Poinciana helped me get leguME...lotta good that did me!
I think I had to google ten things to finish...hardest puzzle for me EVER.
I'm GLAD I got SOME clues on my own and then verified that GLADSOME is indeed a word, an ugly one, but a word.
No jig here, if anything the jig is up.
Add to that, not knowing if I'm more touched that Rex got such a beautiful, heartfelt gift or envious that he has Wade making Van Gogh jokes on his FB page!

jae 3:18 AM  

GLADSOME puzzle! My experience was pretty much the same as Rex's. 3/4s went quickly but NW was a lengthy stare. I had SUIT and COAT before CAST and did a reright (@ joho) on YTD and SUMAC at least three times. OGLALA is still one of those "if it doesn't make sense it's probably wrong" for me but the crosses made it so. Nice Sat. Brad!

Charming gift Rex.

Evgeny 5:26 AM  

Never heard of FTSUMTER or NITTI, didn't know this meaning of NETTLE, was too dumb to get SERIFS. So, dnf in the Northeast.

I think, the original meaning of "icon" is in the "religious portrait" sense, everything else was pretty much derived from there.

pauer 6:12 AM  

Thank goodness for IGOTORIO. Once you see Hugh Jackman shake it as Peter Allen, it's not something that's easily forgotten (jump to 2:30 to skip dance break).

Fun puzzle, Brad!

Ben 8:02 AM  

Very similar journey to Rex's through the grid. NE and SE no problem. (@Andrea, the record was TOTO IV, in which the band Toto grandiosely titled their album Zeppelin-style.) SW slowed me somewhat but wasn't too bad.

NW my minefield as well. Started with APACHE and NCO, even though I didn't like NCO in that spot (too lowly). Went from ONEIDA to wanting OSAGE to wanting OTOE to, eventually, remembering the OGLALA Sioux. Had ___TORIO and badly wanted ORATORIO. AROAR tough for me too. Waffled between NOMAN and WOMAN of Her Own, eventually decided NOMAN was too judgmental for a title. Had G__DSOME and wanted GOODSOME. DOAJIG also my last answer, Rex.

Was 3/4 done in about 15 minutes, but took 32 to get there. (shakes fist) Wilber! A very good Saturday puzzle.

p.s. Rex, little girls are making gifts for "me" too.

SethG 8:11 AM  

I heard Africa last night on my way to the bank, and I stayed in the car to listen to the end before I went to the ATM.

Agreed, easiest Wilber ever, which made it only kinda hard. SETHS and PRO/AM gave me the upper right, everything else was built from ORS, LA PAZ, and NATL. DO A JIG also my last answer, Ben.

Jon 8:26 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon 8:27 AM  

Wow, very rare that I feel on the fast side of the curve. Rewarding, smooth, and relatively breezy solve for me. Challenging in the right places, but a lot just sprung to mind. First time ever, I think, that 1A flowed in like 2 seconds. The 3-letter abbrevs. usually trip me up with their arbitrary letter combos, but I threw in YTD to see what would happen, then BODYCAST, and off to the races. A lot just happened to be in my wheelhouse: A friend researches Macaques, so I knew those. My sister just came back from LA PAZ. I eat TEA CAKES every day...well, that's not true, but this was one of those pleasant Saturdays where all the pop culture/proper nouns were very familiar to me (Liza's exes excepted).

And with 64A, I knew TOTO would be part of the 6-letter answer, so I could but in a TO in the middle, covering my bases. Whence TON & MILLPOND, and again, another corner fell.

glimmerglass 8:36 AM  

Great Saturday puzzle. About average (Saturday) time for me (less than an hour), but I loved the clues: all the ones Rex mentioned, plus NAPES, NATL, SERIFS, AMNESIAC, DOSIDO, CLEF, and others.

Ruth 8:38 AM  

Until this very day, I thought the lyric was "I MISS the rains down in Africa." I have had lots of glancing contact with pop music from years of standing in ORs (doing much stitching) listening to other people's music. (I'm too lazy to load up an ipod and nobody would want to listen to what I actually like, anyway). Learn something important every day. . .

Leslie 9:19 AM  

Ruth, that's EXACTLY what I thought, too! "I miss the rains down in Africa."

Had "idolized" instead of IDEALIZE, and "A mind" of her own instead of NO MAN, both of which slowed me down a good while. Hesitated to fill in the NW for a long time because I so wanted the aviary supply to be "seeds."

Rex, that is one unforgettable gift. What a sweet, thoughtful thing to do!!

foodie 9:35 AM  

Andrea, LOL. My sentiments exactly!
My Quick & Dirty Index says it's going to be Medium-Challenging. I say it was almost impossible without some hints- aka cheating (although I knew the Oslo-PLO bit).

I laughed when I got BIDET. I just discovered that one main reason my 3 year old grand daughter loves to stay with us is what she has dubbed "The Shower for the Bootie". She thinks it's hilarious-- and pure genius!

Rex, could you tell us a bit more what inspired that amazing present to you? Do these young people do the puzzle? Read your blog? Your wonderful note back to them might get embroidered next and sit on their wall!

mmorgan 9:35 AM  

I don't think I've ever had to cheat so much on a puzzle -- and I even had IGOTORIO!

retired_chemist 9:43 AM  

Terrific gift and a classy response from Rex. Hope the kids don't see the Van Gogh's ear quote though - not real breakfasty. But funny.

Medium-challenging here. APACHE @ 16A and MONKEY @ 33A slowed me up for a good while, as did PRINCESS @ 39D (OK, the pea inder 15 mattresses was only hard to her, but still....

OHMIC went right in with the thought it was too nerdy and was coming out apace. POLEMIC ditto, if you replace nerdy with pedantic. But both stayed. DO-SI-DO made me smile becasuse I couldn't figure out how I couldn't see it with 4 letters in.

Bore cluing STOOD was one of the trickiest clues I have seen. Took me a few minutes afterward, staring at it saying WTF. TOTO IV is a mystery still. So be it. Not interested enough to google, with a local craft show in the offing this morning.

DO A JIG, while perfectly legit, has a clumsy feel to me.

Thank you, Mr. Wilber.

mac 9:49 AM  

Tough one for me, had to come and peek to get unstuck. It didn't help that I had Princess (on the pea) for 38 down, and wanted 15A to be saloon. A slab of cheese? Bacon, maybe. Love "capisce" certainly hear that a lot in NY (also heard "Africa" in a store a few days ago).

Ate at a new Mediterranean (Syrian mostly) restaurant, where the spice sumac was mentioned in the menu several times. Very tasty.

Another pretty Indian summer day in CT!

mac 9:51 AM  

Have to admit I teared up as well after seeing the embroidered puzzle and reading Rex's note....

JayWalker 9:51 AM  

I can't remember EVER having to work so hard to solve a freakin' crossword puzzle!! BUT - I am so proud of myself that I finished it - CORRECTLY - without having to go to Google to do it. Everything was a fight to the finish, especially the NW. "Cost" and "Gladsome" was the last to fall, besides me of course. But I'm taking this as a sign - it's gonna be a good weekend!!

foodie 9:59 AM  

@Mac, I think the first time I commented on Rex's blog was to say that Sumac need not be poisonous and is in fact edible where I come from... so I'm glad you mentioned it. But I have to buy it in specialty stores even though I have Sumac bushes all around me. I wonder if it's a different variety in the Mediterranean area or if it's also poisonous. Sumac has a very interesting tart taste that can nicely counterbalance a nutty taste or sweet taste (e.g. sweet onions and toasted pine nuts).

John 10:10 AM  

Who is Peter Allen, and was he in Pablo Cruz???? That's where I know the song from.

Had ROADRASH for 1D at first.

No googles but it took awhile.

A fun saturday outing!

Anonymous 10:11 AM  

Green Peter Lake and Lake Titicaca in one puzzle? Got to get the head out of the gutter.

Anonymous 10:28 AM  

That was an incredibly sweet jesture those young ladies made. Along a similar line, I got so frustrated about not figuring out yesterdays meta puzzle that I just printed it out, taped it to a tree in front of my house and emptied nine shots from my glock into it, hoping those holes might inspire me to come up with the answer. You thing Nothnagel would like me to have it covered in plastic and sent to him? Should I frame it first? You have his address? Please don't tell him that I'm a crazy guy with a glock though.

quilter1 10:32 AM  

I have lurked in syndication land following this blog almost since its inception and now, because my husband gave me a subscription to the puzzle for my birthday (today!) I can join this intelligent, witty and diverse community. I caught the puzzle bug from my parents and have done the NYT puzzle in our local paper for about fifty years. Today's, some parts hard, some parts easy. Favorite answer: combover.

OldCarFudd 10:33 AM  

No googles and no writeovers, but Boy! this took a long time. I am almost totally ignorant of pop culture, so things like Toto IV and I Go To Rio have to come entirely from crosses. Fortunately, there weren't many like it in this puzzle. Good words (simian, polemic, Oglala red scare, amnesiac, capisce), and great cluing.

A marvelous, touching gift.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:35 AM  

Great example of what a Saturday puzzle should be!

Almost none of Rex's gimmes were gimmes for me (e.g., TOTO as a band is totally unknown to me!), but I worked my way through slowly to a successful completion.

Just one write-over, at 69 A, At that place, casually threw in IBIDEM, had to work a bit to change to YONDER!

PanamaRed 10:38 AM  

@Anonymous 10:28 - what a hoot - loved your post.

Wasn't going to post because I hated this one (I usually hate them when I can't finish), but had to comment on the lovely gift Rex received. That's really special.

ArtLvr 10:40 AM  

The NW gave me the most trouble too -- BIG MAC is something I mostly eschew! COMB-OVER really tickled me...


dk 10:45 AM  

@Anon, I like that idea. I finished Friday's puzzle this AM and was just wondering what would be the best thing to do with it. I think, no not a nine iron, but a Beretta Over/Under is just the ticket.

Man the TOTOIV era is lost on me and I guessed every tribe but the right one. Thankfully, I have a BIDET next to my john so I got that one. In short, I had to come here to get 15A.

*** (3 Stars) A Saturday stumper

Rex, What a gift! Use those girl's names in your next puzzle clued as creator of the best gift ever. Just think when you open your x-word store you can hang that over the cash register.

ArtLvr 10:47 AM  

p.s. Congrats to Rex on the GLADSOME stitchery.

@ quilter1 -- Welcome, and Happy Birthday!


glimmerglass 10:48 AM  

We have two trees here in NE called sumac. The harmless swamp sumac is the most common and is often found (for some odd reason) around old long-abandoned house sites in the country. It has berries in the fall, but I never heard of anyone easting them. Poison sumac looks similar, but it has bright red twigs. It's ten times worse than poison ivy -- I know from personal experience. I cut one down once, not knowing what it was, and got the sap on my belly. Do not try this at home.

chefbea 10:53 AM  

No time to finish the puzzle. Off to a Polish festival
Kilbasse yummm. Perogies yummm.

@Rex what a great gift!!! I too got teary.

JD 11:06 AM  

ROLLBAR at 7-Down was my very confident first answer. SETHS broke me of that pretty quickly, but... it seemed so right! ORATORIO being clearly correct at 2-Down also cost me several minutes.

JD 11:07 AM  

ORATORIO, I should note, then led to BOPPER and, out of desperation... BONBON? You know... like... when Bonds and Bonilla were teammates, maybe?

duaneu 11:08 AM  

Lived in SALEM for five years and never heard of Green Peter Lake.

Anonymous 11:17 AM  

There are times in life when one gets up on the wrong side of the bed and the entire day is off, making every step during the day a mountain to climb. After BIG MAC and FT SUMTER it was obvious that the obscurity of the clues required more help than usual. The puzzle made me feel like an AMNESIAC. Hence, Mr. Happy Pencil’s Letter Check and Mr. Google’s Fact Check carried the day....

mac 11:19 AM  

@quilter1: welcome and happy birthday *<:-)!

@Foodie: I will have to go back to Kalustyan's (Lex and 28th in NY) for the sumac. Great source for odd foodstuffs like rosewater, angelica and preserved lemons.

Nooooo! Caries!

Anonymous 11:20 AM  

I slogged through most of the puzzle -- slogging ain't necessarily a bad thing. But I did look up a couple items at the end because my interest span had long since been exhausted.

Guess I was at a disadvantage from the get go because I still don't have a clue what either a Peter Allen or a teacake is.

Martin 11:26 AM  

Poison sumac is a close relative of poison ivy and poison oak. I live in prime poison oak country. I have one vine on my property that's about 100 feet high, growing up into a madrone. All three are very pretty this time of year.

Any Boy Scout who suffered through a pitcher of staghorn sumac berry "lemonade" to earn the damn merit badge can tell you not all sumacs are poison. Iranian restaurants have a shaker of crushed sumac berries on every table. The Iranian word for it is "sumac." Guess where our word came from.

The same family (Anacardiaceae) includes the cashew. The nut forms as a "nipple" on a fruit called the cashew apple, which is highly poisonous. In Goa, the Portuguese learned to ferment and distill cashew apples to make a horrible liquor called fenny. I brought a bottle back from India once and it keeps corroding corks. It has a flavor reminiscent of a freshly opened Crayola box.

The Japanese lacquer tree is another close relative. Apprentice lacquer workers suffer with a case of poison ivy-type rash for two years until they either become immune or change jobs. The irritant in the poisonous sumac relatives is called urushiol and they say one molecule can cause an outbreak. The Japanese word for lacquer is urushi.

quilter1 11:30 AM  

Had crumpets before teacakes.

Anonymous 11:31 AM  

There's more than one Salem. Is yours a capital?

Rex Parker 11:52 AM  

Just saying "welcome" to quilter1.

Also, to be clear, which I wasn't, the note that accompanied the stitched puzzle was written by Diana, who is the mother of Isaiah and Hana.


Masked and Anonymous 12:07 PM  

@44: Super-great write-up. Detailed. Penetrating. Entertaining. Pulitzer.

Awesome gift; always encouraging to have young crossword puz fans coming up through the ranks. Surely there oughta be some "material" for a new puz theme there, somehow, @44.

Diff strokes for diff folks. Also started in the SETHS area. Tore up the NW pretty fast. No prob in NE. SW put up a small skirmish; didn't like that cross-reference to the unexplored SE. SE just killed us.

At TEN TO, Wife gave up and went to make a late breakfast. [] I soldiered on. Had 31=HAndS, and didn't want to give it up. Theorized that Rodin worked in a BeaNiE. Not sure what was last to fall. It just all blew up in one big AHA puz-orama.

Happy Daylight Savings Bailout Time, y'all.

David L 12:19 PM  

Hard side of medium for me -- that COMBOVER/TOTOIV cross was the last thing to fall. Must've gone through the alphabet at least once before seeing how V could be right. I am not of the right generation for TOTO to be anything but a saccharine band, faintly and unfondly remembered.

LACES ='doctors with spirits' made me smile after I (eventually) got it....

Tobias Duncan 12:32 PM  

@quilter1: Welcome, what a great arrival story.

@Andrea: to know that someone of your caliber had some difficulty with this puzzle assuages my pain considerably.

For the second Saturday in a row I have allowed myself to suckle at Mr Pencil's teat.In the words of our President "it feels bad". I don't mind googling when I just don't know something but MR Pencil... uggg.
It's like eating the whole pizza when you only meant to have two slices and now your crossword is covered with little flecks of marinara.

Unknown 12:35 PM  

ARRGH ! I'm nursing a huge hangover, and I ain't GLADSOME. Damn, I hate that word ! Just plain fugly !

Didn't think I'd ever get through the NW. Was stuck on BODYSUIT for way to long. I finally got it, but my headache is even worse now. Ahh, I see it's officially after noon. Perhaps some " hair of the dog " is in order? I'm thinking Irish Coffee.

@Anonymous 10:28
@PanamaRed 10:38
@dk 10:45 LMAO! You guys aren't gonna believe this, but I actually won over three thousand dollars in the New York Lotto about 25 years ago, using your method. I pasted a bunch of Lotto tickets on a 4x4 piece of plywood, backed off about 30 yards, and let fly with a load of 12 gauge No. 9's. I filled out some cards with the numbers that had the most hits and dead center hits. The next day, when I checked my tickets, damned if I didn't have 5 of 6 in the pick 6. Everybody in town knows that story. Lol.

@ Martin: Excellent post!
@ Rex: Probably one of the nicest gifts you'll ever receive. Very touching.

Clark 12:43 PM  

Hana, Isaiah and Diana, YOU ROCK.

@quilter1 -- nice to have you on board. You finally caught up to us (thanks to your thoughtful husband).

This puzzle was really hard, but it gradually gave in to my relentless solving attack. Strangely, the solving went clockwise from 12:00. OGLALA was my last entry. Tough, because I only know 'Ogallala' as in Ogallala, Nebraska, where back in the seventies a high school buddy and I got arrested for hitch-hiking on the interstate -- I-80, heading for Denver. There was no traffic on the on ramp. Zippo. How much the world has changed since then. We even had our parents' permission. (My friend's parents talked my parents into it. I think the rationale was Better to give them permission than to say no and have them defy us. The dangers of teaching your kids to be independent!) The cops were sure we'd be in big trouble with our parents, but we got my friend's lawyer dad on the phone, and he gave the cops what for.

(lucti: that combination of light and luck that got us through the seventies)

Two Ponies 1:00 PM  

Great Saturday puzzle chock full of clever clues and fun words.
Too bad I had an error.
I have no idea who Peter Allen is and parsed the answer incorrectly. I should have known Cast for Go For was wrong with Body Cast right next door but I thought this Peter had his own river "I Got a Rio"! What a dork I can be.
Thought of jesser and his Wild Hair at 7D.
Anon with the Glock, dk, and chaos1 all made me grin (if not gladsome) with your stories. I'll think of you later since I'm off to the shooting range. No puzzles for targets today.

Badir 1:20 PM  

I was also blazing to a great time and then slammed into the NW.

Yes, it's a beautiful present!

Nick 1:30 PM  

"Medium"? "MEDIUM"? Compared to what, a colonoscopy with a rusty pole?

joho 1:35 PM  

I think Peter Allen was Liza Minnelli's first husband. I remembered him because of Hugh Jackman's fairly recent portrayal of him on Broadway.

I loved this puzzle. COMBOVER was so fresh and funny! I was stopped cold in the NW for a very long time but eventually got it done. I really wanted hazmatsuit for BODYCAST but it didn't fit.

@Welcome @quilter1! @jae, nice to see "reright" used. I do it all the time. Sometimes 3 or more times!

@Rex, that gift is such a treasure. You are a very fortunate man indeed.

Thank you, Brad Wilbur ... this was a fantastic Saturday!

Mel Ott 2:08 PM  

Late to the site today - had to take boat to the yard for winter hauling. Depression setting in already.



A lot of real good stuff, however. Loved COMBOVER.

OHMIC? Oh my ...

Anonymous 2:42 PM  

@Chaos1: The Doctor of Spirits diagnoses you as dehydrated. Prescription: 3 Advils (absolutely no Tylenol) and 2 Bloody Marys. The Advil will ease the pain, the tomato juice will ease the dehydration and the vodka will make you feel like you don’t give a rat’s hole....

Anonymous 2:42 PM  

@Chaos1: The Doctor of Spirits diagnoses you as dehydrated. Prescription: 3 Advils (absolutely no Tylenol) and 2 Bloody Marys. The Advil will ease the pain, the tomato juice will ease the dehydration and the vodka will make you feel like you don’t give a rat’s hole....

chefbea 3:51 PM  

@quilter1 glad you finally joined us in Rexville. Abunch of beets to you

Unknown 4:34 PM  

Gladsome wasn't exactly my first thought, but finally fell with a not so sad song. Words from Christmas carol, "Angels We Have Heard on High":

"Shepherd why this jubilee,
Why your joyous strains prolong
What the gladsome tidings be,
Which inspire your heavenly song?"

archaeoprof 4:37 PM  

Glad to see that so many of us enjoyed this puzzle.

Not me.

I'm sure he's a nice guy, but Brad Wilber is my least favorite constructor. A sort of anti-ACME.

Wonderful gift, Rex. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Wade 5:00 PM  

I wanted THE BLUES instead of SAD SONGS--either Elton John song would have been equally unwelcome. (And that song, "I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues," never does explain why they call it the blues.)

I didn't finish in I guess what you'd call Nevada--the ending of GLAD_ _ _ _ eluded me, as did TOELOOP and TAILS (nice clue for that one.) Disappointing because I had the initial letters for most of those answers, including all of BODY CAST. I crank up "Africa" when it comes on, too. "Producer of simple chords" kind of felt off to me as a clue, though I guess it's true you don't see many jazz autoharpists.

quilter1 5:40 PM  

Thank you all for your warm welcome. I've been excited to be part of the community for a long time. After getting to "know" you and look forward to your comments it is good to be here. I have to say that a couple of years ago I was happy to see Andrea Carla Michaels on Dinner Impossible and see that she looks just as I had imagined. Time to get ready to go out to dinner for the b-day. This was my best gift. And I like beets.

chefwen 6:12 PM  

@quilter1 - Welcome to the club and Happy Birthday. Enjoy your special dinner.

Michael Hanko 6:14 PM  

Put me down for always mishearing it as "I guess the rain's down in Africa."

chefbea 6:28 PM  

@Quilter1 enjoy your b-day dinner. Maybe you will have a beet salad

sanfranman59 6:42 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 6:11, 6:56, 0.89, 11%, Easy
Tue 9:43, 8:57, 1.09, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 8:31, 11:42, 0.73, 3%, Easy
Thu 19:18, 18:57, 1.02, 62%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 28:44, 26:19, 1.09, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 32:41, 30:35, 1.07, 68%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:32, 3:42, 0.96, 32%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:34, 4:36, 0.99, 53%, Medium
Wed 4:35, 5:45, 0.80, 7%, Easy
Thu 10:10, 9:07, 1.12, 77%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 14:10, 12:50, 1.10, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 17:48, 17:29, 1.02, 61%, Medium-Challenging

OMG! I actually finished a Brad Wilber Saturday puzzle without cheating. As is often the case, my solving experience was very much as Rex describes in his write-up (albeit much slower, I can assure you). One of the things I find most attractive about solving crosswords is that the more I do, the better I get at solving them. And the great thing about NYT's weekly progression of difficulty is that solvers at all levels are assured of a real challenge at some during the week.

I echo what others have said about the amazing gift you received, Rex. Thanks for sharing it with your blog community.

Anonymous 6:54 PM  

I don't get it. Why is everyone talking abou t beets?

retired_chemist 7:03 PM  

@ ANON 6:54 - the beet is the official vegetable of this blog. Chefbea will explain further if/when asked. A lot of history there....

Rex Parker 7:04 PM  

UNofficial. :)

Stan 7:32 PM  

I have raised the white flag in the NW corner but now it all makes sense. When I changed APACHE to SALOON I thought I had this one, but no....

Earlier today, crashing through brush in our new backyard, I was breaking off branches and yelled "Oh no, I'm touching poison sumac!" My wife said "Most sumac is *not* poisonous." So I'm glad for the helpful discussion here. It must have been the good kind, since I'm apparently unharmed.

Quilter1: Välkommen and HBD.

chefbea 7:43 PM  

@Rex so what IS the official veggie of the blog?????

Moonchild 8:11 PM  

Earlier this week it was
BrusselS Sprouts!

Anonymous 8:19 PM  

Brussels sprouts were in the puzzle on Monday, so on Monday we discussed Brussels sprouts.

Isn't this a crossword puzzle blog? That's why I come here.

PlantieBea 9:00 PM  

Beautiful gift, Rex. Thanks for sharing.

Yay, I too finished a Saturday Brad Wilbur puzzle and learned a few things in the process. Add me to the "I miss the rains down in Africa" camp. In fact, I sang those lines out to my completely horrified almost 16 yo this morning. Got stuck up in the NW but finished it tonight, finally, once I got COST and abandoned the idea that there was a Native American tribe named OHLALA.

Unknown 10:11 PM  

REX! My husband's cousin IS "...the only Peter Allen I know was my freshman-year French professor, for whom I worked one summer on an NEH research grant ... eventually quit his tenured position to go to Wharton and eventually, I assume, earn millions."
I was, of course, thinking if him when I saw the clue about the famous Peter Allen.
Our Peter Allen left Google & now lives in Singapore. I'll make sure he gets your post. Wild.

Rex Parker 10:28 PM  

Maria: I haven't spoken to Peter since ca. 1993. I hope he is well. First time I ever saw my name in print was in the Acknowledgments to his book. He was very good to me. Between your post and talking to a young woman from Pomona earlier today about my 20th reunion (2011), I'm feeling oddly Back-To-The-Futurish. This blog continues to create such wonderful and strange connections for me. Thanks for commenting.


Unknown 10:28 PM  

This was an interesting puzzle for me. Usually, I am cautious and fill in a word only when I am sure of it or when I see that the crosses work. But in reading the comments by good solvers on this site, which I've only recently found, it seems that I've been overly-careful. So I started this puzzle determined to play the percentages more and try words that were likely but that I didn't know for sure were correct. So in went SALCHOW for the "axel alternative". I know my monkeys, so I put RHESUS in right above it. Oh, well. That area took a while.

mac 10:31 PM  

I've teared up again, but this time because of laughter! Those beets, and PlantieBea's Ohlala tribe!

mmorgan 11:31 PM  

I lived in Phila in the 70s and used to visit friends in DC. In DC, we would often go hear concerts of a trio named Gotham (who were highly explicitly gay at a time that that was a very brave thing to be). One of the best songs they used to do was "I Go To Rio" -- terrific, and the only way I know that song. I think I have their vinyl LP somewhere but, alas, nothing to play it on that works! Anyone else ever hear of them?

Just finished Sunday! Eager to post about it in the morning.

Great gift, Rex.

andrea ohmic haels 1:37 AM  

yes, welcome and happy birthday! Now the question is if YOU look exactly how I imagine!
At the moment I'm laughing at the idea of @plantieBea's horrified almost-16-yr-old!!!

@Rex 7:04pm
so now they are letting vegetables be UN officials???
Beetros Beetros Ghali?

Unknown 1:40 AM  

Like last Saturday, a massive nutbuster. I went through every single clue and got exactly ONE answer - SETHS - pathetic. (Come to think of it - what was a lay-up like that - "Actor Rogen and others" - doing in this elegantly impossible puzzle?).

A lot of staring and eventually ONSTAR came. Then painful guesses, erasures, more guesses...the Peter Allen clue was KILLING me, 'coz I could hear that awful song in my head "...when my baby smiles at me I feel like Tarzan, of the jungle..." but could not remember the dang title. Finally it popped, and then slowly the rest...

Having TOTOII instead of TOTOIV for hours did not a pop-knowledgable musician, that is embarrassing. Getting it right made COMBOVER easy, and that was all she wrote.

A great, difficult puzzle.


slog 11:11 AM  

Slogged here:

I too went well til the NW. Having quit analysis for lack of ability to sustain frustration levels, delay gratification, etc., I cheated on igotorio. That said: 2 bitches that cost me time: ARGUMENTATIVE=Polemical-no? AND being a sculptor, typically one works in clay,wax, plaster. One CASTS in bronze, or possibly works ON bronze, in the sense of "chasing" bronze- grinding off casting residue, or applying patinae.

These little nitpicks keep me staring at the damn puzzle for too long before the cross clues force me to relent

Laurence Slog

Aging is Weird 3:53 PM  

NW corner was a bitch, but fought my way through when I finally got big mac. Body cast came early, but toe loop eluded me til the end. I did a jig when I finished and now Im having some wine.

Aging is Weird 4:07 PM  

PS: IM new to this chat blog too. Ive been going to Rexes site for months, but now Im chiming in. I never Google unless I admit defeat first. Also, Im wondering who the hardest puzzle writers are. Some seem so easy. Are they all getting easier a time goes by? I never do Mon-Weds as I only buy the Times for the puzzle, and those are too easy. I look forward to Saturday's all week. Anyway, howdy. Wendy

Anonymous 4:22 PM  

If you only buy the paper for the puzzle, you should pay the $40 for the yearly on-line subscription to the puzzle. See here.

Turtlegraphics 11:43 PM  

Doing this w/one month delay in the local paper, but nobody else mentioned this:
Crazy Horse is also a gentlemen's club in Las Vegas.. hence, with all but one of the crosses in place:

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