King of Tartary in Turandot / SAT 3-12-11 / Marquand title character / Tiger's successor computerwise / Nickname Mahattan jail / Bathing resort Lahn

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Constructor: Joon Pahk

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: APLEY (9D: Marquand title character) —

The Late George Apley is a 1937 novel by John Phillips Marquand. It is a satire of Boston's upper class. The title character is a Harvard-educated WASP living on Beacon Hill in downtown Boston. // The book was acclaimed as the first "serious" work by Marquand, who had previously been known for his Mr. Moto spy novels and other popular fiction. It was a bestseller and won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1938. An article in The New Yorker decades later called the book the "best-wrought fictional monument to the nation's Protestant elite that we know of." (wikipedia)

• • •

Very tough for me, possibly because I'm solving it at 2am after having fallen asleep around 9pm (?!), but possibly also because it was simply tough. I wish there had been somewhat fewer odd / obscure proper nouns, both because I wouldn't have floundered the way I did, and because I think odd/obscure proper nouns are icky and should be kept to a minimum. I was at a complete loss on RENI (5D: Painter of the "Crucifixion of St. Peter" in the Vatican), APLEY, BREA (11D: City next to Fullerton) and TIMUR (28A: King of Tartary in "Turandot")—the last one by far the most obscure, as well as the most unfortunate (crossing, as it does, another odd, albeit somewhat more familiar, proper noun in "ULALUME" (12D: Poem set "in the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir")—I have a Ph.D. in English and I'm only vaguely familiar with that poem title; there is precisely nothing inferrable about the name, making this cross a guaranteed knee-breaker for some people, since you can't really infer the "M" in TIMUR either). I took care of RENI from crosses, but APLEY's proximity to BREA and TIMUR, as well as my completely blanking on SAMISEN (even with -A-ISEN in place) (7D: Its three strings are plucked with a bachi) meant that the NE took a long time to come into focus. The upside of that particularly nightmare was that the big reveal, the "AHA" moment, was OSCAR BUZZ (6A: It's generated for high-quality pictures). Nice, bold, surprising way to finish off a puzzle. Once those "Z"s were in place, it was all over. Only way I overcame my DEAD STOP (38A: Brake-slamming result) in the NE was by running the alphabet at the first letter of SAMISEN—it worked; I hit the "S," remembered the "M," got I'M ALL EARS (after wanting only I CAN DIG IT) and OSCAR BUZZ, and that was that.

I still can't believe I threw down HARPER LEE effortlessly ... and it did virtually Nothing for me in the NE (16A: Lifelong friend of Truman Capote).

Beginning was more auspicious, with LASER (1A: Kind of beam), EXILE (15A: What many are forced to live in), and AXL ROSE (2D: Frontman on the 2008 rock album "Chinese Democracy") coming straight away. Couldn't work across the top and so went down the coast. After changing SONS to SEED (31D: Progeny) and GETS AT IT to GETS IT ON (30A: Begins brawling), the SW was fairly easy to get into—but then again I own a Mac (that runs Snow LEOPARD) (35D: Tiger's successor, computerwise) and I follow the N.F.L. reasonably closely (got DREW BREES off the "W"). Stalled out trying to exit the SW, so went over and rebooted in the SE with the quick 1-2-3 of TIER / TE AMO (later changed to TI AMO) / AMPLE. Barely heard of TRIMSPA (39D: Big name in weight-loss supplements), but crosses were easy to come by, so no sweat. Changed HARD STOP to DEAD STOP (38A: Brake-slamming result), and ended up in the mean NE. Ugh, BAD EMS (32A: Bathing resort on the Lahn River), why did you have to be right under TIMUR?? And why did you have to abandon my mind completely? I think that when I'm tired / disoriented (as I seem to be when I solve just after waking), my proper noun recall is horrrrrrrible. That's my theory, anyway. Frustration aside, I enjoyed the challenge, and thought the grid had some really nice fill.

Embarrassed how long it took me to get "SILENT T," considering I watch "The Colbert Report" every night (or, rather, every morning, thanks to TiFaux, aka the DVR) (3D: "The Colbert Report" ends with one).

  • 17A: Crazy, in rap slang (ILLIN') — uh ... wow. Yes. In precisely one song that can recall. From high school ("Today you won a ticket to see Dr. J!"):

  • 33A: Issachar's uncle (ESAU) — now there's an ESAU clue I've never seen before...
  • 42A: Exercise done while pedaling (ETUDE) — I had TRADE at first. See if you can figure out how I got there...
  • 43A: Nickname for a Manhattan jail, with "the" (TOMBS) — no idea. Guessed it from the "T" and "M" (seemed a suitably depressing moniker)
  • 1D: Battle of Nations site, 1813 (LEIPZIG) — again, no clue. Saw it only by entertaining the possibility of ZONE at 22A: Court area.
  • 8D: Accessory popularized by Louis XIV (CRAVAT) — you know that lyric from Carly Simon's song "You're So Vain" that goes "you had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte?" I always thought it was "... you watched your silk CRAVAT," which would make for a suspiciously odd fixation on neckwear considering the song has already observed at that point that "your scarf it was apricot" ... but I heard what I heard.

And then there's this...

  • 34D: Lands around mansions (DEMESNES) — DOMAINS... doesn't fit! I know this word, so I really should have gotten it sooner than I did.
  • 43D: Capital whose central plaza is Skanderbeg Square (TIRANE) — got it of the -ANE, though to be honest I wrote in TISANE, which I believe is some kind of tea drink. Never saw the clue at 54D: 43-Down's place: Abbr. (ALB.).
  • 36D: Lee who advised Reagan and Bush (ATWATER) — one of the first political operative names I ever remember learning. What I remember is that he died of a brain tumor, and that he played guitar.
  • 47D: One going off on somebody? (PAGER) — not in this century. I had LUGER!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. in case you missed it yesterday, Angela Halsted and I made yesterday's Guest Puzzle at BEQ's website—check it out. (It's a double-rejectee! Rejected once for not "tickling" the editor, and another time for having a theme answer that was simply deemed not famous enough)


Anonymous 3:52 AM  

Timur -- Big name in the history of Asia. You may have heard of Tamerlane, which is another form of Timur the Lame.

I skip M-W 4:15 AM  

I always thought the capital of Alb. was Tirana not Tirane, but somehow was sure Drew was not Braes, so finished eventually.

Like Rex, got Harper Lee right away, and Oscar buzz was big help. Knew Roald Hoffman, but was in doubt as never heard of knar. What's it mean? We had mesnes last week I think, so demesnes was on my mind, but more with a castle than a mansion. Louis XIV made me think of high-heeled shoes, but that didn't fit, neither did wig, mistress, or army. Got most of cravat from crosses. Tombs was a gimme for anyone who pays attention to NYC or has read Nero Wolfe mysteries.

Like Rex, feel sort of stupid that didn't see silent t for so long in Colbert Report, but guessed Guido Reni from the R. Had the e in Esau, and then saw full answer. Wanted Marquand title character to be mr. Moto, didn't fit. Eventually w/ crosses remembered Apley. Liked clue for dormice.

Overall, good puzzle.

armsakimbo cravat michaels 4:35 AM  

15 googles later, finished the puzzle and still had TSCAN BUZZ for OSCARBUZZ, and only a last second change of rAGER to PAGER saved me from further humiliation.


At least I have a new entry as my worst solve ever...AND I had even co-authored a WSJ puzzle with Joon that featured TIRANE.

ULALAME? More like I'm a lame me.
But what can I say? The guy's a genius. 3 Zs is nothing to sneezzze at.

jae 4:35 AM  

Tough puzzle over all for me except the top half which was on the easy side, except for the 12d poem crossing the opera king and river spa. I guessed right but I believe the word NATICK applies.

I really wanted WESTWOD to work for 35d as he replaced Tiger as #1 in the what I assumed are computer based rankings.

The bottom was brutal .... DEMENSES, SPIREA, I suspect Lee ATWATER is not on the tip of everyone's tongue. Excellent Sat. Joon, tough but doable, except for my NATICK / lucky guess beef.

Oh, and KNOT for KNAR didn't help.

jae 4:39 AM  

That's WESTWOOD, sorry.

Anonymous 4:58 AM  

If they are going to spell TIRANE in Albanian that is fine, but don't spell Square in English. Otherwise it implies TIRANA.

Don Byas 5:13 AM  

Lots of good stuff in this one.
Started the puzzle with SILENT T and AXL ROSE.
OSCAR BUZZ is great. Kept knot instead of KNAR for too long. ETUDE [Exercise done while pedaling] I should have seen that sooner.
ATWATER - Prior to his work for Reagan and Bush he spread racist bile for S.C. Senator Strom Thurmond.

Smitty 7:44 AM  

I suppose this was everything a Saturday stumper should be, but I'd never heard of 70% the correct answers and basically X-boxed my way through.

No Joy.

mmanuel 7:55 AM  

It simply crushed me.

On the upside, after seeing the completed grid I never had a shot. A poem:

Even knowing silent t
and harper lee
this puzzle f&*^&ed me

Anonymous 7:58 AM  

Your "trade" answer = peddling?

Matthew G. 8:21 AM  

Heck, I, too, threw down HARPER LEE with no crosses, and pleased myself by getting OSCAR BUZZ off nothing but the first Z, but even those two together didn't get me going too well in the NE, as I didn't know ZESTERS, BREA, APLEY, or SAMISEN, and I needed a lot of crosses to pull ULALUME out of the recesses of memory.

The SW, on the other hand, fell in a strangely easy, zen-like way. Got DEMESNES off one letter, then AT IT AGAIN jumped out at me, and it all came together from there. One of my best feelings ever on a Saturday was starting there, but the rest of the grid took me long enough that I finished with a worse-than-average Saturday time.

Took me forever to understand {It's solid yellow} for ONE BALL. I just stared at that corner for ages. Also had KNOT instead of KNAR for a long time.

Greene 9:01 AM  

This puzzle was brutal. First pass through the grid and all I had was HARPER LEE. If it wasn't for that, I'd probably still be staring at a blank grid. But it was enough to give me CRAVAT and APLEY and I was off to the races with I'M ALL EARS which gave me ZESTERS and then OSCAR BUZZ. I always thought SAMISEN was spelled ShAMISEN, so that answer took almost every cross.

Had SKIDMARK before DEAD STOP and RAGER before PAGER. Fun to see AT IT AGAIN since we always have AT IT by itself. Loved ARMS AKIMBO. Don't think I've ever seen that in the grid before. The clue for ETUDE totally threw me and I got a laugh when I finally figured it out.

The puzzle took me hours, but it was a great fight and I was kind of stunned when I got Mr. Happy Pencil. Last letter in the grid was that N in ILLIN. Complete and total guess on my part since I have zero knowledge of Rap except what I've learned from crosswords. Thanks Joon. Great job.

Orange 9:40 AM  

Thanks, Anon—I was thinking Tamerlane and needed all the crossings to get TIMUR. Now I know why I was thinking Tamerlane!

Rex, when I lunch with my cousin the nurse practitioner at the hospital cafeteria, her PAGER often goes off. I think doctors and their ilk are the main user base for pagers these days. Such a horrible screechy beep!

I guessed ULALUME off of nothing other than the "7-letter poem that may be found in Saturday puzzles" factor. Tough clue for sure.

jackj 9:54 AM  

If nothing else, joon proves he's the crossword constructing version of Ken Jennings, dazzling us with little known facts that don't mean diddly-squat, yet mixing in enough clever misdirections to redeem his reputation and give us a superb Saturday head-banger.

Of the "diddly-squat" group there are LEIPZIG, TIMUR, BADEMS, etc. and from the misdirects, to name just a few, AISLES, LEOPARD and SILENTT seem to qualify.

OSCARBUZZ was inspired, DREWBREES wanted to be Tom Brady, (which I briefly rationalized as PATSBRADY), and I'm impressed with all those solvers who, somehow, know that HARPERLEE was Tru's BFF.

Kudos to joon!

joho 9:57 AM  

I worked it all out but the NE. Finally just came here as there's much to do today. I couldn't get off something camera related for OSCARBUZZ so never saw that. Wanted soITSYOU. Considered OH but couldn't remember SAM even with ISEN in place, didn't know APLEY, guessed TIMoR and I've never heard the term ZEROSUM. Disaster corner!

Other errors I fixed were maRMets before DORMICE and slIMSPA before TRIM.

Loved ARMSAKIMBO and the clue for ETUDE.

Even with a DNF I really enjoyed it ... thanks, Joon!

Lindsay 10:04 AM  

Finished with an error at SPyREA/Tyrane. I'd actually written SPIREA in the margin, but it just didn't look right. Oh well.

Apparently I'm the only one that didn't know Truman Capote and Harper Lee were friends. I tip-toed into that corner with the self-defeating assumption that I would need all the crosses on that one because Truman Capote wouldn't be tight with anyone mass-market enough for me to have heard of.

ATWATER and TOMBS in without any crosses, and worked from there. The Tombs is (was, actually, it was torn down ages ago) well-known to architectural historians as an example of the Egyption Revival style. Designed by John Haviland in the 1830s.

Tobias Duncan 10:05 AM  

I was on fire, best ever first crack at a Saturday for me. I was on top of the world, proud as a peacock for getting arms akimbo with just the A.
Oh the hubris. Had to tell friends I was staying in to work on a crossword puzzle(will not live that down any time soon)and was up half the night for a big fat DNF!in fact a DNEFCCTF.


quilter1 10:05 AM  

DNF. Hand up for knot, peeler instead of ZESTER and lots of stuff I didn't know. I was proud to put in HARPER LEE and ARMS AKIMBO right away but it availed me nothing. I think this puzzle is challenging and also brilliant.

Quibble about the Colbert Report clue. The "t" in Report is not silent and it is the end of Colbert Report. Should have read "the end of Colbert of the Colbert Report" IMO.

Kurt 10:05 AM  

Joon, you brought me to my knees. DNF for the first time in a long time.


ONE BALL, (ARMS) AKIMBO and TRIM SPA escaped me. I just couldn't get any traction.

I thought that BAA BAA (Kid's repetitive plea?) was the best answer of the day.

Rex Parker 10:11 AM  

@quilter, no, "T" in "REPORT" is silent as well.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:31 AM  

I gave up on this puzzle twice.

The first time, the entire NW was empty except for ELIDE. The other four of five Downs seemed impossible, and the crosses weren't helping much either. Then, as often happens after looking aside a minute, the SILENT T came to me (and only a week 'til the ACPT!), and suddenly it all became possible.

The second time I gave up was with obvious problems in the far SE that I could not fix. The only Hoffmann I could imagine was Georg, which clearly didn't fit, and I never heard of ROALD. So I came to the blog to find that I also had the TIRANE/DREWBREES cross wrong (with an "A"), apparently because TIRANA can be spelled two ways, and Drew Brees could be the protagonist of ULALUME for all I know!

Greene 10:57 AM  

@jackj and @Lindsay:

The Truman Capote/HARPER LEE friendship got lots of cinema coverage a few years ago with the near back to back release of two Capote biopics, both dealing with the writing of "In Cold Blood": Capote in 2005 and Infamous in 2006. The former got quite a bit of coverage and is an excellent film. Philip Seymour Hoffman won the Oscar (and just about every other acting award) for his portrayal of Mr. Capote and Catherine Keener, who played Harper Lee, was nominated as well.

I think it's probably common knowledge too that Capote and Lee each based a literary character on the other: the character of Dill Harris in Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" is based on Capote while the character of Idabel in Capote's "Other Voices, Other Rooms" is based on Harper Lee. Not surprising in that each was drawing heavily on childhood remembrances for the novels (they were childhood neighbors for several years while growing up in Monroeville, Alabama).

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

I had "has at it" for begins brawling and thought it was amusing that "at it again" came later in the puzzle. With "tables" instead of "aisles"for runners as the cross, I was completely doomed in the northwest.

Bassetwrangler 10:59 AM  

Trimspa was as dead as its most famous spokesperson, Anna Nicole Smith, when parent company, Goen Technologies, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in May of 2008. I'm surprised both to see the brand revived and it used as clue in this puzzle.

foodie 10:59 AM  

Quick & Dirty Index, @9.7, agrees with Rex's rating as Medium-Challenging. Nowhere near the difficulty of a couple of Saturdays ago. It blows my mind that some people are able to do this in under 10 minutes.

Thank goodness for the "Colbair Reupore" for my one and only entry at first pass. Then LEOPARD. And then a steady march relying on a combination of risk taking, minor but recurrent cheating, and major leaps of faith.

I don't know why I think of ARMS AKIMBO as indicating relaxation not impatience. I guess it depends on the motion that you use to get them into that position and the expression on your face. Also, whether you're standing straight or leaning a bit... No?

Tough, but as ACME said, our friend Joon is a genius.

Lindsay 11:20 AM  

Thanks @Greene.

Mel Ott 11:24 AM  

Like many others HARPER LEE was a throwdown for me, but that corner still killed me, especially the ULALUME/TIMUR Natick.

All the time and A LOT seem like two differnt things to me, but I guess we use the former as an exageration for the latter. Fair enough.

Seems to me we get lots of OSCAR BUZZ for low-quality pictures too.

I believe LEE ATWATER was responsible for the infamous, racist Willie Horton ad in 1988.

No BS 11:34 AM  

Tough, tough puzzle. Had me illin. Able to dredge up Roald because had him for freshman chemistry (AP--way over my head--I soon became an English major.) Heard Phil Ochs singing "the Bells" on radio yesterday which I remembered had Poe for its lyricist and I think the word "Ulalume" floated through my consciousness, otherwise never in a million years would have gotten that. My son's B-day is coming up--Ides of March. I think "exercise while pedaling" is among the best clues I've ever seen. I'll have to make a liszt. Came up with Axl Rose on the strength of A. R, and E. Tell me that isn't magic, but wasn't he in an earlier one this week? Had TSE for Mao follower--my grid had that wrong answer and nothing else until Prof. Hoffman saved the day for me. Seems like I knew practically nothing in this puzzle, but worked it out almost perfectly. The combination of the acceptable but wrong Tirana with the obscure (to me) sportsman of the year (which sport, by the way?) left an errant vowel. My mechanical pencil does not display happiness under any circumstances, alas. What fun!

syndy 11:38 AM  

OH right- ZESTER- had to google that (as well as everything else!)You know its bad when even the answers you do get you don't GET!Had HARPER LEE but also had DEMENSES (crap)SONS and TABLES On a long list of hibernating creatures DORMICE were not there !!One for the Bear!!

Anonymous 11:43 AM  

This puzzle reminded me why I should not try to solve a Saturday puzzle (or a Friday's for that matter). Just so many obscure names that even with google I got only the West side of the puzzle (more or less). I suppose I could have gotten some more entries by googling but I gave up out of boredom. Looking at the completed grid I am glad I gave up. Not much pleasure on this one. And very difficult.

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

I'm sorry but ALL THE TIME is absolute.

A LOT is not.

Therefore it's a definition that is totally incorrect. The puzzle is difficult enough without making it stupidly so.

jae 11:56 AM  

@No BS -- That sport would be football. BREES led the Saints to the SuperBowl championship.

"I hear/get/see that all the time"
"I hear/get/see that a lot"

Anonymous 11:59 AM  

For Tombs, think of Melville and "I prefer not to." Bartleby. That and Ulalume, silent t, maybe a few more all I could get. Anonymous, because I'm computer unable.

Oldactor 12:22 PM  

I don't (can't) do Friday and Saturday but always look at them. Today I slapped in samisen then checked "all letters" and was shocked that it was correct and even spelled right. I have Japan on my mind.

I heard a samisen player at the Kabukiza in Tokyo who was named a "Living National Treasure", That even tops an "Oscar". No?

mmespeer 12:28 PM  

Ulalume, Timur, Badems had me stumped and I am embarrassed it took me so long to get the "silent t". I wonder if Mr. Colber' is a solver like his coleague Jon Stewart.

Lindsay 12:40 PM  

Dead tree solvers can find a photo of DREW BREES talking into his cell phone on page B10 of today's NYT. According to the caption, "Drew Brees could be among the players involved in an anti-trust lawsuit that is expected to be filed against the N.F.L.".

Three & out.

quilter1 12:51 PM  

@RP, well, well, I guess I need to turn up the hearing aid. Or watch from the beginning. Did not realize that t was silent.

Off to a baby shower. New quilt avatar coming soon.

skua76 1:01 PM  

Wow...@No BS...I'm amazed to find that I wasn't the first one here who had ROALD for freshman chemistry! A good gimme in a good hard puzzle. I too had trouble with TIRANA and ALOT since I didn't remember ULALUME...and in the SW I entered ODS early for 45A which kept me from seeing ATWATER.

santafefran 1:40 PM  

I just now figured out the ONE BALL relates to pool. Duh!

Saturdays are usually BGS (Barely get started), much less DNF, so I was thinking this one might work out since I got HARPER LEE, ZERO SUM, ARMS AKIMBO, PAROLED, AMPLE and LABELS right off. But then I also had KNOT, TSE and ATWOOD so my cheater grid is filled with red triangles. Oh well.

Anonymous 1:51 PM  

When I first saw Skanderbeg Square, I thought "this has to be Scandinavian" -- the k and the 'beg', you know. But Oslo and Helsinki and such didn't fit; Albanian came to mind fairly quickly later for some unfathomable reason.

On the good news front, I had to google to get Lee Atwater, although the name was well-known to me at one time. Maybe the world is getting better after all.

joubert 2:10 PM  

I'm surprised more people aren't complaining about TIRANE. That's not how TIRANA is spelled; can't find anywhere it's spelled with an E.

NW was a snap. Then plugged in good answers here and there. Felt so clever with WHIPLASH instead of DEADSTOP until it just didn't work. And then it all fell apart.
But I'm still confused about how they got away with TIRANE instead of TIRANA.

JenCT 2:16 PM  

Wanted HANDS ON HIPS instead of ARMS AKIMBO, but too many letters.

This was brutal, brutal, no fun at all.

At least the sun's out!

mac 2:16 PM  

Great but very challenging puzzle for me. Wonderful clues, in hindsight, some of them...

DNF, had a few holes in the NE. Thought Timur was Tibor, thought I was so clever with "fencers" for 14D and Ulalume wouldn't come. For 6D I had "I hear you" for a while.

I also put in Harper Lee without crosses, and Axl Rose on the s. Go figure, I don't even know his music. I think.

I had a hard time getting pas Carraveggio but Reni wouldn't be denied. Thought laser was too easy, so was afraid to put it in. Arms akimbo is great, although I had visions of toe tapping or some such expression. Also had "head snap" instead of dead stop.

As you can see, I wasted a lot of time today. But, Joon, this puzzle was worth it!

jackj 2:50 PM  

Greene@10:57- Thanks for the info.

archaeoprof 2:57 PM  

DNF. Hard, yes, but not unfairly so.

Joon is a Jenius!

jackj 3:00 PM  

joubert@2:10- re: Tirane/Tirana, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition in the "Geographical Names Section", lists both spellings and even has Tirane listed first. Who knew?

mitchs 3:50 PM  

I saw the constructor and then all the proper names and thought Damn you Joon!

Loved, loved it. OSCARBUZZ is way too cool.

TRIMSPA? Regional?

Stan 4:27 PM  

Joon's name on a Saturday is highly predictive of a DNF for me. But what an exceptional puzzle! The wow factor was greatest in the NE corner.

Two Ponies 4:31 PM  

Too tough for me in the NE. Even walking away and returning for another stab cannot give me answers I just do not know.
Arms akimbo reminded me of a long gone poster here who went by "darkman". Some old-timers here might remember him. Akimbo was in a puzzle and he wrote a poem using it.
You win Joon.

I skip M-W 4:48 PM  

In case people had forgotten the movies, the Harper Lee/Truman Capote link was spelled out in the essay in last Sunday'sTimes Book Review on authors who gave up on novels. They both did that.

I guess the lesson is that it pays to read/subscribe to the Times. Maybe if enough answers are enabled that way, the Times can get over its financial problems.....

Sparky 4:59 PM  

HARPER LEE, TOMBS, ARMSAKIMBO went right in. BADspa forever, tse, knOT. DNF. Managed about 1/4 and slamed on the brakes for DEADSTOP. Went to visit niece from Ft. Collins, came home and Googled. It is boring, whoa. Came to blog and happy for it. Happy for Joon, a real workout.

chefwen 5:34 PM  

What @Tobias said, the latter part.

Way too rich for my blood.

capcha - ungsh - how I felt after trying to complete this one.

r.alphbunker 5:37 PM  

Tough puzzle. Loved the OSCAR BUZZ at the end.

52D KNot-->KNAR
50D Snap-->STOW
43D beRlin-->TIRANa-->TIRANE
54D ger-->ALB
32D cAnimA-->BAABAA
38D maRMots-->DORMICE
38A skiDmark-->fullSTOP-->DEADSTOP
26A tSe-->ISm-->IST
22A apsE-->ZONE
11D eRie-->BREA
21A ever-->ALOT
32A cAnneS-->BADEMS
25A agE-->arm-->USE

Words googled

1 *******
2 *
3 ***
5 *******
6 *****************
7 *****
8 *******
9 *****
10 ****************

sanfranman59 6:08 PM  

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

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

Mon 6:55, 6:55, 1.00, 53%, Medium
Tue 7:15, 8:55, 0.81, 4%, Easy
Wed 10:48, 11:43, 0.92, 38%, Easy-Medium
Thu 18:13, 19:08, 0.96, 45%, Medium
Fri 24:55, 26:14, 0.95, 40%, Medium
Sat 35:30, 30:40, 1.16, 87%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:32, 3:41, 0.96, 34%, Easy-Medium
Tue 3:42, 4:34, 0.81, 2%, Easy
Wed 5:33, 5:47, 0.96, 42%, Medium
Thu 9:02, 9:12, 0.98, 58%, Medium
Fri 12:23, 12:52, 0.96, 49%, Medium
Sat 21:11, 17:28, 1.21, 88%, Challenging

For me, this was a tale of two puzzles: Lower half: Medium Saturday; Upper half: Out of my league. Too many "never heard of its" in the top part for me to finish without cheating (ILLIN, RENI, SAMISEN, APLEY, BREA, ULALUME, TIMUR). Actually, I think I've come across RENI, SAMISEN and BREA before, but with virtually no crosses, I had no chance. It's not surprising to me that this one came in as the 12th toughest of 82 Saturday puzzles in my spreadsheet.

Clark 8:08 PM  

I used to be able to complete NYT puzzles. On Saturday even. I saw SILENTT but didn't know that it was pronounced 'Repor'. I saw ELIDE but thought it couldn't be right because often nothing is dropped but the space between two words -- but that's something I guess, on Saturday. I was thinking native Americans not LEIPZIG. SAMISEN, APLEY, ULALUME, CESTAS, ILLIN, TIMUR, KNAR. Yikes!

GILL I. 8:48 PM  

Down-loaded Sunday's puzzle to try and keep me busy. Couldn't really start it. My heart aches for those in Japan.

SethG 9:03 PM  

Didn't know the painter, the instrument, the title character, the city, the poem, the king of the place or people I didn't know in the opera I've only heard of, the resort, the lands, or that IDES is the plural of IDES. I did know there are 12 Ideses and that TIRANE can be spelled either way.

SILENT T was my first answer. I don't have a television right now, but I used to see him all the time on The Daily Show. He was not on The Daily Show continuously.

CoffeeLvr 9:45 PM  

Well, since I had time today, I decided to slog my way through this with as few Googles as possible. I probably set a record, 18 to solve, plus 6 more to verify. But this is how I can learn.

This time, I remembered AXL ROSE, and added EXILE, LASER, and ELIDE very quickly. Then I entered nothing until the TOMBS (see, it is worthwhile to watch L&O reruns! In my defense, I didn't watch the early years the first time around.)

Off of the B in TOMBS I got BAA BAA early, but I was thinking of my very young son asking for a bottle.

ZEROSUM, PAROLED (more value to police procedurals!) and ARMS AKIMBO came easily, but I could get no traction in the SW. Kept saying Lee At..., At..., but he never came off the tip of my tongue. Had BadgamE for a reason for a coach for quite a while.

Joon 12:54 AM  

hi folks. thanks to everybody who had kind words about my puzzle! it warms my heart after what has frankly been a pretty awful week for me.

i'm sorry there was so much really difficult fill in this one, especially the ULALUME/TIMUR crossing. the opera clue on TIMUR was, i think, over the top; the historical conqueror is not even that famous (although uber-significant), but this opera character rings no bell for me even though i have some vague memories of turandot.

anyway, i knew it was going to be tough even for a saturday, but there have to be some tough saturdays, and hopefully the people who hacked through it found enough to savor. hearty congratulations to anybody who did solve it, with or without assistance. it contained several clues and even one answer that stumped me (TRIMSPA, which i've never heard of, was not in the grid i submitted; the entire SE corner was redone).

and special thanks to everybody who didn't finish it but had such gracious things to say anyway. i know after i've been beaten, i'm usually in no mood to offer much in the way of appreciation.

hope to see many of you next weekend in brooklyn.

Matt 1:14 AM  

Now I know why Saturdays are so difficult for me. Thought I was in a good place after having put AXLROSE, HARPERLEE, and DREWBREES in place after the first pass-through, but each of them got me nowhere. Somehow got the SW to go down (thanks to figuring out LEOPARD) and then the NW (once I got rid of "tse" for IST, which led to LEIPZIG), but the SE was a rough go and the NE was a nightmare. Having "whiplash" where DEADSTOP went didn't help.

Loved the clue for OSCARBUZZ, but never having heard of ULALUME, APLEY, or SAMISEN sealed my fate for a while until I was able to piece it together from the bottom. I generally try to avoid flat-out looking something up, but I had to WIkipedia "Turandot" to get TIMUR, and I had to look at the answer grid to get the D at the cross of DANE/DEMESNES. Working on a puzzle all day will do that to a brain. Definitely enjoyed it despite the struggles.

Tobias Duncan 1:43 AM  

@ Joon . Thanks for making an appearance here, it means a lot to many of us.I look forward to the day when I am able to complete a puzzle of this difficulty.Probably won't be soon thought...

william e emba 2:05 PM  

I had to overnight this one to finish the NE.

Off the -EA----- for "Brake-slamming result" I initially guessed nEArmiss.

I originally had toileT instead of CRAVAT.

I did not like REL for "Sects' appeal?" Expected something like SER to truly match the joke.

I had "I Know YOU", then "It's So YOU" then "So It's YOU" before I finally had OH IT'S YOU, after which OSCAR BUZZ and HARPER LEE fell out immediately and I could mercifully finish. (Annoyingly, I had the first Z from ZERO SUM, and I considered ?????BUZZ for A LOT, but I could only think of Internet BUZZ!)

It drove me nuts that I could not remember the Saints' QB--I mean, I knew it was him, but otherwise he was a blank that I had to fill in mostly from crosses.

The puzzle has had TIRANE before.

On the bright side, ROALD Hoffman was a surprise gimme, because I've been reading his monthly column in American Scientist for years now, and I've read two of his popular books.

I forgot that the "Battle of LEIPZIG" is also called the "Battle of Nations". I had to remember which Napoleonic battle was fought in 1813. That was an amusing way to get a first entry. (I did not believe LASER beam was Saturday level!)

A pleasant mixture of feeling brilliant and feeling idiotic, all mixed together in the best Saturday proportions!

dls 10:37 PM  

No problem inferring the M in TIMUR, but the crossing between ULALUME and BAD EMS seems just as rough. Never having hear of either of them, ULALUMA and BAD AMS seemed at least as plausible.

Anonymous 8:34 PM  

Shouldn't there be an "impossible" or "ridiculous" category?

cody.riggs 10:58 PM  

Is blogger gonna let me comment this time?

cody.riggs 11:05 PM  

Anyway, since blogger ate my last comment...

This puzzle pi**ed me off! That TI*UR/ULALU*E crossing was nothing but a Natick.

I even considered ANNABEL LEE (too long) for 12-d, which means I knew the poet and the poem to which the correct answer is often compared to. I eventually recalled ULALUnE, which was a DNF for me. I was a music major (who gets all opera clues normally) and am a professional musician, and Do Not Recall any TIMUR in "Turandot." BAH!

Speaking of which, professional blindness reared its ugly head for me twice in this puzzle (not that the Turandot clue had anything to do with music.) It took me FOREVER to get ETUDE at 42a. When I saw the pedals clue, I instantly thought of organ music, which never has pieces known as Etudes.

The discussion a couple weeks ago about professionals being hard-pressed to solve clues in their area of expertise....hand WAY up here. I always have a hard time with music clues, as do all professional musicians I speak with about the puzzle. We just Never use those words to describe musical terms. The clues in the puzzle are just "off" enough to make them opaque to those who know too much, I guess. What did Rex call it? "Professional blindness"...have to look it up now.

Cody over and out in Portland, OR

cody.riggs 11:09 PM  

Sorry, third comment.

TIRANE was also a BAH! I put "Tirana", of course, as did many of you. Never heard of DREW BREES. DREW BRaES looked wrong to me, but it's a Name. Could be anything!

I loved this puzzle at ARMS AKIMBO and Colbert's SILENT T. Hated it in the end for its unfair Naticks. Bah I say! Two unfair Saturdays in a row.

Old Al 12:30 PM  

My goodnes, "the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir" just screamed A.E. Poe. From there it was only a few crosses before Ulalume fell into place.

Jeff 5:02 PM  

In A Streetcar Named Desire Blanche describes Stella and Stanley's apartment/neighborhood with this Poe line too!

Fun to think about two works of lit about 100 years apart.

Marc 7:29 PM  

Good tough puzzle, although I agree about the overuse of obscure names.

Like several others, I was stuck at KNOT for a long time, and had never heard of TRIMSPA ...

It just now dawned on me why ONEBALL is the answer for "It's solid yellow." I should have been able to figure that one out. Dang me.

I've never owned a Mac, although I used to sell them ... but that was way before Tigers or Leopards, so I had no clue what they were talking about here.

I knew ULALUME thanks to the Stanley Kubrick version of Lolita. There's a memorable scene in which Humbert reads a selection from that poem to a disinterested Dolores. "I think it's kinda corny, if you ask me," she says.

Likewise, I knew HARPERLEE from the film Capote. Without that, I would have been stumped.


Got ATWATER right away --- not likely I'll forget that guy in a hurry. Unfortunately I took it down because I had FRAGRANCE for REDOLENCE ... but I got that corrected eventually.

Still not sure what SPIREA is...

Unknown 2:08 AM  

Any crossword that has "arms akimbo" as an answer gets a thumbs-up from me!

Of course, I can never solve most NYT puzzles without some resort to Google and other help, since I don't follow sports, I don't watch TV, and I'm Canadian (so American politicians and political advisors) are "foreign" to me. I don't beat myself up over resorting to research - I also use the OED, Britannica, Bartlett's Quotations, several atlases, and a lovely little Dictionary of Mythology that I happen to have on hand. I don't think I have to KNOW everything, as long as I can look it up somewhere.

joel, you didn't say why you are having a tough week, and in any case it is NOMDB - but I hope that whatever the trouble, you manage to persevere and come out stronger on the other side. Please accept my best wishes. Thank you very much for a tremendously challenging and fun puzzle, and I hope you will contribute many more!

Unknown 2:22 AM  

Sorry, joon, I typed "joel" instead. Must have had some obscure crossword reference in my head :)

People like you that create interesting crosswords AND invent confounding clues are my heroes! I tend to ignore the nitpickers in this column, since I would guess that most of them haven't tried to buld a puzzle themselves. I have, and it turned out to be MUCH harder than it seemed at first.

I write computer code for industrial control systems, and a big part of my work involves trying to anticipate the reactions of plant operators, and also all the myriad things that could possibly go wrong. I think that solving crossword puzzles helps me in my job, because it forces me to "think outside the box" and be more creative.

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