Pitt athlete / FRI 8-12-11 / Coins for Cicero / Varmints in classic cartoon line / Language with no word for hello / British dish American Hot Brown

Friday, August 12, 2011

Constructor: Julian Lim

Relative difficulty: Easy-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: FLEERED (14A: Derided) —

intr.v., fleered, fleer·ing, fleers.
To smirk or laugh in contempt or derision.

A taunting, scoffing, or derisive look or gibe.

[Middle English flerien, of Scandinavian origin.]

• • •

Wow, this was two, two, two puzzles in one. Ate up the NW and then hit the middle and went nowhere. Got ITCHIER (26A: Having more bites, say) and thus tried to get into the NE — no luck. Plugged FROWN into the SE and quickly knocked that corner out, then went back to the middle ... and again went nowhere (you can see now that ST. JOE (23D: Missouri metro) and ENJOY were trouble—I had 3/4 of the puzzle done before I finally got them). Thanked god for PANTHER (39A: Pitt athlete) (because before that I had ADESTE where FALALA should be and SOPS where RETS [wince] should be: 40D: Softens in water, in a way) and easily took care of the SW. Mopped up the middle and headed for the NE. And went nowhere. Fast. In retrospect, this is not surprising. There's no way I would've gotten DENARII (new to me: 6D: Coins for Cicero) from the "I" or REGRADE from the "E" — at least in part because I have trouble imagining the request: "Uh, yeah, I wasn't really happy with this grade, so ... REGRADE?" I guess if the professor or T.A. missed something or made an out-and-out mistake, maybe. Anyway, let's talk about LOVE-SHY (15D: Having a hard time connecting?). Why have I never heard this phrase before? I see that there is a pop song with the name, and the phrase is in dictionaries, but me, I got SHY, and GUN SHY, and then I got Nothing. Run LOVE-SHY and DENARII through FLEERED (another new-to-me word) and you have the recipe for a hard-Saturday-slow corner. If you look at all the other corners—chock full of familiar words and phrases and reasonably in-the-language stuff—and then look at the NE, I *hope* you can see how inferior that corner is.

I know it often looks like "oh, he doesn't like it when he has to struggle." This just isn't true. I don't like it when I'm struggling because of a chunk of obscurish fill. DENARII is easily the most obscure answer in the puzzle. I'm gonna say FLEERED is the second-most obscure (although RETS is up there; RETS at least has some crossword currency). LOVE-SHY is probably in the top ten obscure answers in this grid. These words should not all be running through one another. I think this is a gorgeous puzzle in the parts that aren't the NE. Also, I think LONG BED (17A: Kind of pickup) should've been FLAT BED, if only because of the Eagles song:

Also, the clue for MEECES should NOT have a comma in it (9D: Varmints, in a classic cartoon line). Mice (MEECES) are a subset of "Varmints." You would not clue BEARS as [Animals]. The comma in the clue implies the word will be a synonym for "Varmints," where the lack of a comma would imply that the latter part of the clue [in a classic cartoon line] was restrictive, i.e. specifying a *kind* of varmint (which it is). [Cat prey, in a classic cartoon line] works. This clue doesn't.

  • 19A: Tenth Commandment subject (AVARICE) — damn tough clue. I don't have the numbers of my Commandments memorized, so I had to scroll: "NEIGHBOR'S WIFE? KILL? GODS BEFORE ME? Come on!"
  • 24A: Beans and others (SIDES) — you almost never see a plural followed by "and others"—would seem to be redundant. Found this clue, like most things in the NE, tough.
  • 13D: Creator of "The Simpsons" (GROENING) — this is the kind of answer where it's either a flat-out gimme (as it was for me) or a total "WTF."
  • 30D: It's typed with the left pinkie (LETTER A) — Looked at my left pinkie and thought "well, it's LETTER-something." "T" from PANTHER helped confirm this suspicion.
  • 4D: "My" girl in a 1979 hit (SHARONA) — I have spent the past few days lost in Spotify (which is amazing; google it if you don't know what it is—and look for it to appear in your crossword puzzle in the next 3-6 months. I guarantee you that all the top constructors have put it in their databases by now). For reasons I'll tell you about some day, I have been wanting to create a playlist of every song that charted on the Billboard Top 40 between 1978 and 1980. With the help of my "Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits" and Spotify, I am just about halfway done. Haven't quite made it to the "M"s yet—I should hit "My SHARONA" today. I hit this other hit from The Knack a couple days ago:

  • 12D: Big name in wafers (NECCO) — not NILLA.
  • 45A: British dish with an American version called a Hot Brown (RAREBIT) — dear lord, who named "Hot Brown??" Was able to get this one off just [British dish]. "Dream of the RAREBIT FIEND" is a class comic by Winsor McKay. I wonder if they were linked in the original clues for this puzzle. Weirdly coincidental to have RAREBIT and FIEND (35A: Enthusiast) in the same quadrant.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Doris 7:58 AM  

Shakespeare came to the rescue, as he usually does:


This, by his voice, should be a Montague.
Fetch me my rapier, boy. What dares the slave
Come hither, cover'd with an antic face,
To FLEER and scorn at our solemnity?
Now, by the stock and honor of my kin,
To strike him dead, I hold it not a sin.

imsdave 7:58 AM  

I'm rating it brutal. 30 minutes dedicated to NILLA and OFFLINE (for LOVESHY), then 5 to clean up the rest of the mess.

Alternate clue for FLEERED - Covered one in baseball cards.

Wade 8:08 AM  

Add "pee-shy" to your list of shys (the defensive, unspoken "you first" thing that goes on when two strangers are standing side by side staring at the wall and can't get the stream to start).

NE did me in and I didn't finish. I thought once I got ARBITER, DRAMA and ADD_ _ that would be plenty to finish it off. But having DRACHMI and FLATbed was more than the circuits and my patience could handle. I even tried cheating by googling the ten commandments and couldn't get avarice out of what I saw there.

Glimmerglass 8:13 AM  

Tough one for me. The SE fell quite quickly into place, but after that, things went really slowly. My experience was the opposite of Rex's. I had DRAMA and the DENARII (just from the D) and ADDED (from the A), but it took ages to remember FLEERED and ARBITER. I only dimly remembered MEECES (which cartoon was that? Yosemite Sam?) SW was next, but I had a lot of trouble with NW. Started with "recap" instead of BRIEF and/or "time out" instead of INHALER; never heard of SHARONA or GROENING (never could stand the Simpsons -- a weakness, I know). Finally tried BRASS, and things went better.

Glimmerglass 8:15 AM  

PS: LONGBED, when I finally got FLAB, was easy. I flatbed is a trailer or a big truck, not a pickup.

Chris 8:32 AM  

The Hot Brown is a dish invented here in Louisville at the Brown Hotel. It's an open-faced turkey, bacon, and tomato sandwich covered with Mornay sauce and then broiled. It's very good.

Matthew G. 8:36 AM  

The four winds of this puzzle:

Southeast: Extremely Easy
Northwest: Very Easy
Southwest: Moderate
Northeast: Impossible (unless you've either seen FLEERED before or were willing to believe it was a word, neither of which was true for me, and I bet a lot of others)

I'm sure I had every letter in this grid filled in correctly at some point. But I wore down my eraser to a nub in the NE trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. Was {Blubber} perhaps BLAB, and not FLAB? Was MEECES, which I'd dragged out of the recesses of cartoon memory, not right? Was I right that REGRADE looked made up? Did I misremember my Latin and was it DINARII rather than DENARII? All of these possibilities ran through my head. The only one that didn't occur to me: that FLEERED was a word. Usually I'd trust my instincts on the crosses, but I never seriously entertained FLEERED. I eventually gave up, checked the answers, and was gobsmacked. I think it was the most surprised by a correct answer that I've ever been.

That NE corner ruins this puzzle, frankly. FLEERED is an absurd word to cross with anything but rock-solid unambiguous crosses. Everywhere else in the grid that I initially guessed wrong -- NILLA for NECCO, PRIESTS for CLERICS, etc. -- I quickly was able to correct via the crosses. But that? You either know the verb "to fleer" or you're toast.

Also, I'm pretty sure I type my As with my left ring finger, but I guess I'm weird.
@imsdave: Your alternate clue is probably the only way I'd have accepted FLEERED as real.

SethG 8:44 AM  

I expected, you know, words up there.

Smitty 8:57 AM  

@imsdave - I like your definition of FLEERED better...
NILLA/NECCO was 50/50 - I guessed wrong.
I got LONGBED but then Flubbed it by guessing BLAB instead of FLAB for blubber
KLINGON was brill!

M07S 9:04 AM  

Big, fat DNF thanks to the northeast. Beans and others: SIDES? Could someone help me with that, please?

@Glimmerglass: I remembered the line "I hate you meeses to pieces". Google revealed that it was from The Huckleberry Hound Show and uttered by Mr. Jinks the cat.

retired_chemist 9:08 AM  

Too tough. HTG. DENARII was easy - the reason English pence were abbreviated d. after a couple of googles things fell into place.

Missed my final correction: ASH GREY => ASH GRAY.

Good puzzle though.

jackj 9:18 AM  

Constructors probably have a word to describe the shrinking of a 15x15 puzzle to what seems to be a 10x10 puzzle but I'll just call it "The Reader's Digest Condensed Version of the New York Times Crossword Puzzle". (A title longer than Mr. Lim's complete offering).

Nevertheless, despite it's "efficiency" and except for the upper right portion, this was one excellent puzzle!

Though almost FLEERED by the MEECES, the save came from the obvious FLAB and the horrible (but correct) guess for REGRADE.

CONFETTI and Valentine's Day's ubiquitous NECCO wafers, (telling you to "Love", "Kiss" or "e-mail me"), gave the crossword a celebratory air and trumped the shrinking violet, LOVESHY.

Thanks, Julian.

nanpilla 9:21 AM  

3/4 easy, 1/4 brutal. Still came out with a medium time for this. Laughed when I saw Rex's rating - that is much more accurate than just averaging it out to a medium.

Just had to accept that FLEERED was a word, since the crosses seemed reasonable. KLINGON was great. Surprised to see that this is its first appearance in a regular NYT puzzle. Liked the symmetrical YAK and PIG.

And of course you all know what my favorite word was, although I haven't been much of an equestrian lately - horse is almost fully recovered from laminitis - hope to get back in the saddle soon!

Eric in NC 9:26 AM  

@Chris. agree the "hot brown" is fantastic.
Good puzzle except I fell for Steelers instead of Panthers and had to re-route.
Agree with Rex about the obscurity of a half dozen answers made it challenging with too many "run through the alphabet" moments for me.

hazel 9:40 AM  

the jury is still arbiting, but I don't think i liked this one. Don't really like the 4 puzzles in a puzzle concept, particularly when one of the puzzles is so outrageous. i just like more checks and balances in my puzzle, i suppose.

plus i had goalpost for CONFETTI for freaking ever and that was a non starter for the whole eastside for freaking ever. Plus Nilla - what else could it be????. it was an allaround toughie to me.

although it WAS a timely reminder for keeping an open mind!! good things happen when you do that. so maybe a love-hate rating on the puzzle.

@Imsdave - excellent re-clue

chefbea 9:48 AM  

Tough puzzle - though not as bad as yesterday. I too had nilla.

Of course knew rarebit but never heard of hot brown. Sounds good though. Thanks @ Chris for explaining.

@Eric in NC where in NC are you? or e-mail me and we can discuss.

M07S 9:49 AM  

D'oh...Beans are SIDE(S) dishes. Dummkopf.

foodie 9:51 AM  

EFFACER seems French to me (to erase). I mean I know "self-effacing" but had not realized that the wiping out meaning was used in English... Learned something. Along with FLEERED, LONGBED (not FlatBED) and GROENING which I had to google. Had the puzzle completed last night except 2.5 words at the tippy top of the NE. This morning, I took what seemed like random stabs at putting in letters and got Mr. Happy.

@M07S- BEANS is a SIDE dish. So,you can imagine on a menu: SIDES: Mashed Potatoes, BEANS, etc...

@Wade: LOL, I've wondered whether men ever felt that kind of SHY... Very informative to those of us who don't have that particular opportunity.

evil doug 9:59 AM  

"I know it often looks like 'oh, he doesn't like it when he has to struggle.' This just isn't true."

This sort of addresses the regular debate here of the slow, methodical puzzler vs. the racer.

If a solver is in a timed competition dash (with himself, or against others at a Lollapuzzoola-type meet), it would seem logical that less "struggle" would be optimal. Those of us who prefer a marathon battle---for hours if necessary---tend to appreciate a puzzle requiring more of a long grind with the satisfaction found in endurance instead of speed.


Glitch 10:02 AM  

My "reminder":
grAy = American
grEy = English

As to the puzzle, NE wasn't a big problem, knew most of the words @Rex called obscure, except FLEERED which I accepted from the crosses and moved on.

Count me among GROENING = WTF - or at least MY idea of obscure.

SE my undoing, the CONFETTI never fell.

There is no MHP in DeadTree land, thus no hints when a letter is substituted by trial and error.


jesser 10:11 AM  

So Many Writeovers and a DNF because of FLEERED. Eff that.

ADDon before ADDED; SILENce before SILENT K; One TIME before OLD TIME; Nilla before NECCO; MEEsES before MEECES.

snEERED before WTF?

I agree with MatthewG and Rex. This was three beautiful puzzles and one horrific place of utter ugliness, NOT because it challenged me but because it was ugliness crossing ugliness lying next to ugliness. I'm pretty sure there's a prohibition in Leviticus about corners like that once.

But it's Friday, so I'm still happy! Off to the weekend!

Anonymous 10:12 AM  

Had to look a couple things up. El Greco is just a name to me; art ain't my strong suit. But it's Friday. No complaints here.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:15 AM  

First entry: KLINGON.

Last letter and only write-over: Making the change from GRUENING to GROENING.

Tough but fun.

retired_chemist 10:16 AM  

Hand up for GOAL POST @ 27D.

God gray/grey mnemonic - are there exceptions?

Lindsay 10:25 AM  

All around easy to me. Last spring I replaced a LONG BED pickup with a shorter bed pickup, which necessitated reworking my rowing shell/kayak carrying arrangement. So truck lengths have been on my mind lately.

FLEERED rings a faint bell, though my brain wanted to write in FLEnsED, which was probably a crossed wire from the intersecting "Blubber" clue.

Writeover at 43A One TIME >>> OLD TIME.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Roger 10:31 AM  

The Tenth Commandment I learned was that I wasn't to covet my neighbor's wife. I failed to see what AVARICE had to do with that. Still do.

While there are flatBED pickups, my age makes LONGBED pickups wrong - there are pickups and shortbed pickups, or at least were until these damned yuppies decided that they needed cutsy little pickups with back seats, so the standard for pickups became a shortbed with an extended cab, and standard beds became uncommon, so they picked up the modifier that shortbeds once used to have.

@Rex - Why do you bother giving clear, rational, explainations as to why you find things an unpleasant struggle as opposed to simply a struggle, when you know we're just going to accuse you of being petulant that you were slowed down? Do you think it matters that FLEERED hasn't been used in a sentence in any published work in the past century? That students ask for a correct grade rather than a regrade or simply a better grade so that they don't fail the course?

JC66 10:38 AM  


FYI, BEQ (I think) used SPOTIFY in a puzzle within the last ten days.

joho 10:43 AM  

I'm late in getting here today because I refused to give up in the NE until I got it. Finally I succeeded but agree with all who found this corner strangely put together.

The grid looked like a pattern in a kaleidoscope to me and I think the pieces in the NE corner had a hard time fitting into the rest of the beautiful puzzle.

I really did enjoy the challenge today, though, and thank Julian Lim for it.

Noam D. Elkies 10:49 AM  

6D:DENARII (or the singular DENARIUS) is in (some translations of) some of the Gospels, so it's at least in the language one might hear in church. I did know it, though my Bible stops after 2 Chronicles. 14A:FLEERED, on the other hand, was a mystery to me. But I loved "9D:MEECES" to pieces.

I was going to comment on the 30D:LETTER_A clue but I see that despite my idiosyncratic typing style (my first keyboard was a piano, not a QWERTY) I do in fact use my left pinkie to type it, at least in lower case (capital A might be left-pinkie-shift, left-ring-A though usually I do use right-pinkie-shift and left-pinkie-A). Hm, I guess I commented on it anyway...


Two Ponies 11:10 AM  

Parts of this were lots of fun but those bits that sucked did it big time.
Wantons as a noun sounds wrong to me.
Fleered, well 'nuf said.
Not a big fan of both Letter A and Silent K together in one grid.
I seem to remember Rets as old time crosswordese pertaining only to Flax.
I thought is interesting that the scale for tornadoes has an Asian name. My first impulse was volcano.
It sure helped today to be a Simpsons fiend.

edwords 11:18 AM  

A comment on one of Rex's YouTube links -- it's amazing how they cleaned up that Knack song, compared to what is actually on the record!

AnnieD 11:19 AM  

Wow...this was a head scratcher. While bottom half went quickly, the top not so much.
Struggled with the NE corner as
I was sure it was meeSes not meeCes so avarice wasn't happening. Then I had my king cab confused with a long bed and came up with king bed!?!

And i struggled in the NW as I came up silence instead of silent k...thinking knee capping might be a way of shutting someone up....perhaps I need less Law & Order and more sleep!

Still happy to have a tough one on a Friday.

Sqeek the Anonymeece 11:28 AM  

Lots of ambiguity today in the clues. The truck coulda been a club cab too.
What did strippers dance to before My Sharona?

Tobias Duncan 11:29 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jae 11:32 AM  

Yes for NILLA and FLATBED. LITTLEA and RUNS (for RET) in SW and ADDON in NE made those even tougher. Plus the middle did not come easily. Easy-challenging captures this one. I finished but NE was, as Rex explained, just unfair.

Tobias Duncan 11:35 AM  

Language with no word for hello could have been English before the telephone.The telephone was why the word was invented.For a while when they first came out, people would say "Ahoy" or ahoy-hoy.Groening made use of that tidbit by having Mr. Burns answer the telephone that way. The Simpsons was once so funny and smart, the last few times I have tried to watch it I did not laugh at all.

Anonymous 11:36 AM  

@evil doug 9:59. I agree. I dislike fill that comes faster than I can write. Enjoy puzzling so much I'm a little disappointed when I'm finished no matter how long it took. I like being puzzled!

David 11:39 AM  

I need to brush up on my painters. Not knowing El Greco's paintings almost killed me on a very recent puzzle, and there he was again, though at least this time I got it after several crosses. But the name of that painting should be familiar to me...

Like others, struggled with the NE but somehow got it. Took a chance on AVARICE (fairly low risk), took a bigger chance with LOVESHY (nothing else seemed to fit), and then just flat-out guessed on FLEERED/DENARII. That NE really was a whopper.

Breezed first thru the SW, though it had my 1st of two writeovers (ONETIME before OLDTIME, which is a neat answer). 2nd writeover was EFFACER over DEFACER, which gave me another fun answer in CONFETTI.

Not a fan of ICANSEE for "That makes sense", feel like another word should follow SEE, but a minor quibble in an interesting puzzle. When I think of "I can see" I think of Eddie Murphy in Trading Places, or some faith healer doing his/her job "successfully".

Joe 11:46 AM  

RE: The Knack

Another interesting Knack item is their April 1979 Carnegie Hall concert, which was three months before "Get The Knack" came out.
It was released on videodisc in the 80s but, for some reason, has never been released on DVD.

Fortunately, someone has just--and I mean just--uploaded all the video of the sixteen individual tracks on YouTube.
Good stuff.
The band is really hot and the audience is dressed in prime 70s gear.

syndy 11:50 AM  

Let's see I had NILLA and HALFTON DEFACER SESTARII ONETIME TEARFUL... but finished SE first then NW then NE and ended up in the SW! not knowing my college footballing dint help ! KLINGON was my final answer and my rwsponse was "JULIAN YOU BRUTAL SOB! SUCH FUN!!I"D rather have a word from shakespear than a rap artiste anyday

hazel 11:52 AM  

@david - im with you on ICANSEE - i had IDAGREE for a while. ICANSEE does just seem incomplete. another thing that got my goat. arbiting over - didn't like. and not because i race through puzzles, you puzzle philosophers! rather, it was just XWORDASQAATSI.....

Cheerio 11:54 AM  

Yet another puzzle with deeply refreshing clueing. I guess we won't long forget FLEERED. A commenter on the Miriam Webster website claims that FLEER also appears in Much Ado About Nothing.

dk 11:54 AM  

In chaos theory the fractals all come together to form patterns... Not so today.

LOVESHY was so bad I had to do the clue check twice on my x-word app.

** (2 stars) off to 2 harbors for some buffalo milk

jberg 12:02 PM  

KLINGON indeed - I know it's a gimme for some of you, but give me TSWANA any day! Fair enough, though.

I came here with two interesting things to say, about Winsor McKay and bubble gum, and both have been said already - so I'll just add my agreement with Easy (NW-SE) / Challenging (SW-NE). Even though "voicemail" didn't fit at 39D, it took me a really long time to see PORCH.

Anonymous 12:12 PM  

@ED / Anon 11:36 - You're creating a false dicotomy here. The point isn't speed vs endurance, easy vs difficult. The point is a good result vs a bad result. No one complains about having to dig down 10 feet to find buried treasure unless it turns out that there was no treasure, or that the contents of the treasure chest was a fetid pile of FLEERED.

Oh, since KLINGON is a fake language, I'll just make GHUIYWRE the word for Hello. A KLINGON neologism. There, 29A is officially wrong.

Evan K. 12:13 PM  

DENARII is a Scrabble-lover's common-letter dream. Only way I was able to get that one. Got NECCO because my dad taught me what that stood for when I was a wee lad, and it was also mentioned in the online cartoon Homestar Runner.

Agreed that two corners were tougher than the others. Is it a bit odd to have "SILENT K" and "LETTER A" in the same puzzle?

I'm relatively new to the solving experience, so a half-solved and -correct Friday is still pretty good for me. I liked the stretch running from the NW to the SE, including the center.

BigSteve46 12:16 PM  

Perfectly acceptable Friday: they're supposed to be tough. Also, nothing wrong with "fleered" - reasonably solvable from the crosses. For me, this was a classic tough puzzle that I had to put down a few times, do something else for a while then come back to and eventually finish. I have no sympathy/empathy with the people obsessed with their solving "times." If you want competition, enter a triathlon.

retired_chemist 12:18 PM  

The only thing we we have to FLEER is FLEER itself.

no fulin' - that's my captcha.

Julian 12:32 PM  

Thanks for the comments, everyone; always good to hear what people like and loathe. I think the set of clues that I turned in to Will was even tougher than these, so clearly I should not be left unsupervised when cluing a late-week puzzle ;)

Was a little surprised that REGRADE is unfamiliar to so many people -- back when I was in grad school it was common for students to ask for one, sometimes for no clear reason at all. Perhaps I just went to a strange, permissive college.

Evan K. 12:41 PM  

^ Hey Julian! So the constructors DO read Rex's commentary on their own puzzles -- cool.

I think a REGRADE is common enough, and I wouldn't worry about that.

What's an example of a tough clue that gets rejected for a Friday? Would it be suitable for a Saturday? If not for then, then when?

Anonymous 12:43 PM  

Re. denarii: see Matthew 22:19, or Mark 12:15, or Luke 20:24.

John 12:47 PM  

@Anon 12:43 - They all post here?

John V 12:48 PM  

Got the SE and that was it. Worst DNF in a very long time. Just got nowhere. Gave up early as this just didn't seem to hold any promise. Rated Saturday Challenging/Ridiculous for me.

Julian 12:52 PM  

@Evan K: I had a few entries clued with specific pop culture references (e.g. PANTHER as ["Friday Night Lights" football player]) which I guess Will (rightly) judged was too obscure. To be honest, I still find pitching clues at the right level of difficulty while keeping them accurate one of the hardest parts of construction.

miriam b 12:56 PM  

@imsdave: Good definition of FLEERED. Better to be covered in baseball cards than in bubblegum, though.

I had toyed with the idea of setting the biga for some semolina bread before starting the puzzle, but discarded the notion. Two easy KenKens and one challenging-easy-challenging-easy crossword later, I'm regretting my decision. Considering the elapsed time, that bread could have been on its first rise by now.

Thanks for a Google-less workout, Julian (also the
name of one of my grandsons).

orysti = more than one orystus

evil doug 1:02 PM  

"The point isn't speed vs endurance, easy vs difficult...The point is a good result vs a bad result."

Precisely. You state the obvious when you say both types of puzzlers want to complete the crossword fully and correctly---to find the "treasure".

But a clock-watcher has the additional burden of doing it quickly before he can enjoy a "good result". If the objective includes a fast time, it seems intuitive that "struggling" would not be desirable. If I'm trying to win Lapuzzoola, I doubt I'd be sitting there saying, "Gee, I wish this was more challenging...."

For me---without the timing pressure---I much prefer a difficult Friday or Saturday over a wimpy gimme---especially when I have to pay $2 to play.


lit.doc 1:13 PM  

@John V, I feel your pain.

Epic dnf here. Worked on it last night, got SE worked out easily (hah!) enough, then clawed my way through as much of the rest as I could and went to bed.

Got up a while ago, hit Check All, and I've never seen so many Xs on a grid in my life. Sheesh.

"And miles to go before I solve."

leighroi 1:24 PM  


--Mr. Jinks (in re: Pixie and Dixie)


Epic DNF. Thanks to @Two Ponies for explaining "rets," and "wantons."

For @Sqeek the Anonymeece...I think probably Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way" and Sammy Hagar's "Rock Candy."

andrea klingon michaels 1:42 PM  

@EvanK 12:13
Right on...got DENARII immediately bec of Scrabble...

but snEERED at FLEERED and it didn't help that I hated MEEsES to pieces!

(Must be leftover feeling from the Reagan era)

Also, faced with A-ARIsE, kept running the commandments thru my head and realized I knew only about 7, at best...

GROENING rhymes with RAINING and he's from Portland, so that might be a helpful mnemonic case you ever meet him.

Sympathize with adeste...oddly I had ohcome! Is that the English version?

The RAREBIT FIEND connection would be something that would have made me kvell had I understood either clue!

This was one of those puzzles that I finished without fully understanding it. I mean, I spent an inordinate amount of time in the SW trying to see if I could make a connection in my head between Polka and TWiSTEr!

And to do a grid shift to make tearful into INTEARS left me pracitcally lachrymose :(
(Good Hangman word!)

In the end, loved it, Julian Lim.
Esp the trivia about KLINGON.

Anonymous 1:44 PM  

Top right=garbage.

puzzled himself into a bad corner.

Matthew G. 1:57 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew G. 2:07 PM  

@BigSteve46: It's no defense of the puzzle that a Friday is "supposed to be tough." The NE corner of this puzzle just stinks, and as Rex points out, that's not because it's hard. It's because it's hard for the wrong reasons. I respectfully disagree with the assessment that the words crossing FLEERED are solid enough to prop up such an obscurity.

On an unrelated note, I've been watching my hands today as type, and I find that I do not type any letters with my pinkie fingers. I hit all of the left-most letters -- Q, A, and Z -- with my left ring finger. The only keys that I strike with my left pinkie are SHIFT and CTRL.

Anonymous 2:12 PM  

@Sqeek the Anonymeece… before My Sharona - it was "Money (that's what i want)" and "Slow ride" - by Foghat.
Finally a topic in my wheelhouse.

Anonymous 2:19 PM  

Since we're all fleering the NE corner, let's take a moment to resent cluing "enjoy" as a word from a waiter. Maybe a bad waiter....

Sparky 2:26 PM  

Finished 1/4, the NW and a few words in the SE. I kind of object to KLINGON but then, I had ELGRECO and GROENING. Different strokes for different folks.

@Roger 10:31. Often the tenth commandment is thy neighbors goods, in any event, coveting is avarice.

I hope for a doable (for me) weekend.

Anonymous 2:27 PM  

"I hate you meeces to pieces" Snagglepuss

shrub5 2:33 PM  

So much to say about this puzzle but most of it has been done eloquently by Rex and several posters above.

What @MatthewG said, only capitalized and bold.

@AnnieD: Still chuckling at kingbed truck and knee-capping to silence someone!

I had to google once (KLINGON) because I was stuck and impatient. Had to use the dictionary once (FLEERED) because I refused to believe it was a real word. However, I loved this puzzle -- I did it last night and stayed up way too late because I was having fun and was bound and determined to finish the beast. I had such an encouraging start (NW) but soon hit all the rough patches.

@Rex: Re Matt GROENING, for me it wasn't a matter of knowing it or WTF. I was sure it was Groener which was one letter too short so I thought it must have 2 Ns. That screwed up the central area until I googled for KLINGON.

I would add "hackneyed" to the clue for 28A.

SE corner got real messy when I came up with two "close but no cigar" answers: NOW I SEE before I CAN SEE and TEARFUL before IN TEARS. The latter error provided a terminal T for 'it may come down after a win'. I wanted it to be (something) NET, as when they cut down the basketball net after a championship win. Corner got so ugly that I had to use Wite-Out.

Aren't WANTONS those little dumplings in soup? ;-)

Masked and Anonymous 2:52 PM  

Only 58 words! Most of 'em might as wella been Klingon. Heck of a fresh vocab in this feisty little puz. Put up more fight than a Klingon bird of prey warship. Klingon lingo must not have many U's in it, BTW. They like black squares, tho; 44 of 'em.

Spelling nightmare: GROENING. Wanted some aberration, like "Groeonig", "Groenigg", or some such.

OK, so I'll ask it. What (for the sake of argument) **does** a Klingon say, when a dear old chum from way back when approaches him/her? I suppose Letterman's top ten might go somethin' like this...

10. "Live little and languish." (Slight var. of the Vulcan greeting)
9. "How 'bout those Red Sox?"
8. "Your fly is open." [Followed by a knee to the forehead spine, when they look down.]
7. "Absolutely no new taxes."
6. "Necco Denarii, Bro!"
5. "May Star Fleet be fleered."
4. "May your father land a lucrative Star Trek II gig."
3. "Kling on this, iguana face."
2. "Turn around... Good to see your back!"
1. [Just give 'em the "bird of prey" sign.]

Anonymous 2:57 PM  

@M and A - GHUIYWRE. See, it's even got a U.

LR 3:02 PM  

@Masked and Anonymous said...

Only 58 words! ... [So many] black squares, tho; 44 of 'em.


Maybe these extremes are related to the twenty (20!) cheater squares. Is this some kind of a record for a 15x15?

efrex 3:04 PM  

DNF. Just couldn't get a foothold in the NE, even though I guessed REGRADE off of the terminal E. Tried WEEP for 14D, but everything else there was a mess.

Hand up for NILLA and GOALPOST before NECCO and CONFETTI. Everything else was really nice and meaty, but that NE... *shakes head*

Roger 3:05 PM  

@Sparky - I'm avaricious towards one of my neighbor's toys, and covetous towards my other neighbor's wife. Trust me, the urges are in no way comparable.

Masked and Klingon-Challenged 3:34 PM  

@Anonymous 2:57--Dang... Klingons give each other cheese orders, when they meet?!? You can't make this stuff up, I guess... oh, wait...

archaeoprof 3:41 PM  

Like @Joho, I'm late because this one took a long time.

Agree with @Rex about the clue for AVARICE.

sanfranman59 3:55 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 30:02, 25:54, 1.16, 84%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Fri 16:36, 12:50, 1.29, 89%, Challenging

A DNF for me. I was on my way to one of my faster Friday solve times until I hit that brick wall in the NE. Even with that section surrounded, I just couldn't come up with FLEERED, LONGBED, DENARII and REGRADE. And I wasn't at all confident in AVARICE. I know it as one of the 7 Deadly Sins, but didn't associate it with the 10 Commandments.

I skip M-W 4:19 PM  

I liked it, though it took awhile, was happy to end with happy pencil as my last letter went in. Began with silent K, then got el Greco, which gave me Necco, never heard of Nilla. Tried Amharic for language without hello. With @shrub5 for groen(N)er before Groening, have seen Simpsons, but remember Matt from old alt newspaper strip "Life in Hell." Was funny at first. I knew tenth command (on some versions, I believe order varies) was approximately "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor thy neighbor's ox, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's." but still kept wanting adultery to fit. tried sesterces, etc., before seeing must be long bed not flat bed and then got denarii, fleered just fell in. A good word to know, I think.
great sense of accomplishment on finishing. Then looked for Rex's remarks and found ...Thursday!!

I skip M-W 4:23 PM  

PS. the name of a college student's request is not necessarily a quote of the student, so regrade seems right to me, and in fact, quite common. Though no one has ever asked to be regraded down, in my memory.

Lewis 5:04 PM  

@jesser -- your Leviticus line made me laugh out loud!

Jim 5:50 PM  

I wish I had had the chance to comment earlier but...

Anyway, I could smell this NE corner 'theme' in the comments a mile away, especially when Rex lingered on it. Certainly not the most approachable and I, like most, ended up doing it last. But, let's get real:

ADDED is quite easy, especially when one could infer three past tense -EDs in the crosses. After that, well, DRAMA is a piece of piss. So we've got seminal and terminal letters in 4 down answers. Of those, ARBITER can only be described as reasonable. Even if that still doesn't give us LONGBED or even AVARICE (let alone FLEERED), is BERATED really so difficult? No. Then, FLAB, LONGBED and AVARICE fall in quick succession or, if not, the downs are really not THAT tough. What other choice do you have, then, pray tell, beside FLEERED? Not SNEERED, certainly, which requires (at) in the clue. And for the bLABbers out there...well, bLAB is just...not right. That's all.

So, unfortunately the mob has taken a reasonable gripe about the inclusion of FLEERED and turned it into the corner from hell. It certainly was not.

Too bad this bogged down the discussion today, since there was so much other fun and interesting stuff in this puzzle.

Jim 5:55 PM  

Oh...and the only flatBED I'm aware of is on a tow truck. To differentiate those that can 'carry' cars from those that have to'tow' them. All pickup trucks are flatBEDs, to my knowledge, so it doesn't constitute a variety.

william e emba 6:18 PM  

DENARII was a gimme, whether from Latin, coin collecting, Talmudic usage, or Asterix comics.

The only KLINGON I know is ghotI, meaning you-know-what, and the proverb bortaS nIvqu' 'oH bortaS'e, meaning "revenge is the best revenge".

Matt GROENING was a gimme, but not from the Simpsons, which I have never seen, but from his Life in Hell comics, which were found in alternative free newspapers back in the 80s. At least in California. I had one on my office door as a grad student. Coincidently, I knew Al Jean back in math camp way back when.

Before AVARICE, I had "covetry". I mean, maybe there is such a word, maybe there isn't. And while trying to suss out what kind of award show we would get on a Friday, I considered "breed" as a possible answer.

jp 7:05 PM  

As Rex said this is the tale of two puzzles. Had SE corner filled quickly. Filled NW corner also quickly but with some Google help.
With the exception of a few words here and there the two other corners remained impenetrable to me even with Google. I achieved more than I normally do for a Friday but some of the obscurities in the NE corners took away from the fun.

Evan K. 7:33 PM  

@ Julian, it's always interesting to see where the line for names is drawn, and how that changes based on a person's experiences and perhaps personal biases.

Rex Parker 7:47 PM  

@Jim is right: the NE was easy and you all are a bunch of sheep. Come on. Get real, you guys.

JenCT 8:15 PM  

GROENING was a gimme; got KLINGON off the GON.

Tough puzzle, but I enjoyed the challenge.

I'm a slow solver who likes a puzzle I can actually finish, no matter how long it takes.

@mac: if you read this, I see exactly what you mean regarding the invasive grasses on the High Line.

Trapped in NE 8:24 PM  


Glitch 8:59 PM  


I had a different post composed, but in preview-before-post mode saw your responce to @Jim.

@Jim IS right, for some of us, and that makes you, for some of us, wrong.

I bombed in the SE, so that makes you equally wrong there, IMHO.

I lurked for a while, missed those that moved on (pushed or jumped), admire those that remain (Foodie, dk, Evil Doug, chefbea, acme, and others).

Yor writeups are your opinion, not gospels, the blog offers a place to post comments on the same. Sarcastic putdowns on differing opinions really don't belong, this should also apply to you:

"Commenters snarking at other commenters is always the stupidest form of commentary."

Rex Parker 4/03/09


Sydney 9:46 PM  

The Roman coins I knew right away from reading a lot of historical novels as a teen....It took some time to finish the puzzle...and when I was done I googled fleered because althogh it fit, I had never seen it before in all my long life! The puzzle was good...but not as exciting as the math one yesterday...that one was a real tour de force....

avarice clerics meeces 10:35 PM  

Nothing to FLEER but FLEER itself still has me laughing hours later...

as well as @John 12:47 responding to Anon 12:43!!!!

@Glitch 8:49
As someone who is lately feeling somewhere between pushed and jumping, I say, thanks!

Pete 11:09 PM  

Does anyone actually read what Rex writes? He complained about FLEERED crossing REGRADE, DENALII and LOVESHY, not any one of them specifically, but the block.

Which other quadrant has two similarly obscure crossings, much less three or four? I would count EFFACER, GROENING and KLINGON as the only entrys in the whole rest of the puzzle on a par with obscurities in the NE, and they don't cross anything else like them.

I found the SE more difficult than the NE, because that's where I had more trouble, not that PARROTS is on a par with REGRADE. See, parrots is a word people use, regrade, not so much.

cody.riggs 1:02 AM  

Yes, people should again realize one person's gimme is another's impossibility. DENARII was an instantaneous gimme to me.

That having been said, I found this puzzle was far too hard for Friday, and I love a challenging puzzle. Found the SW Very easy, the rest frustrating, past the point of fun.

AVARICE is Horribly clued. I am well familiar with the word and have Never heard it used in the context of the 10th Commandment. And I have worked my entire lifetime in the Church. Terrible, terrible clue!

Thought most of the clues were far too vague. The one for MEECES is just plain incorrect--ergo unfairly deceptive.

Give me more like yesterday's any time.

sanfranman59 1:05 AM  

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 6:12, 6:51, 0.91, 16%, Easy
Tue 8:27, 8:55, 0.95, 39%, Easy-Medium
Wed 10:07, 11:51, 0.85, 21%, Easy-Medium
Thu 19:38, 19:10, 1.02, 61%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 30:07, 25:54, 1.16, 84%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:33, 3:40, 0.97, 41%, Medium
Tue 4:27, 4:35, 0.97, 46%, Medium
Wed 5:15, 5:51, 0.90, 28%, Easy-Medium
Thu 9:29, 9:19, 1.02, 61%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 15:09, 12:49, 1.18, 82%, Challenging

Emil J. 11:52 AM  

I got ate up by the NW corner as well--glad I'm in good company! Nice video reference with "Good Girls Don't," btw...I hate to cave in and go to your website for "inspiration" on the tougher puzzles, but I'm always thoroughly entertained when I do. Thanks for doing what you do!

Tincup2 7:46 PM  

Late post: NW only problem - really wanted DEADAIR for 'chance to capture ones breath', which gave me NILLA wafers, which guaranteed I didn't finish the puzzle over lunch break! But fun up to that point..

Shamik 9:57 PM  

NILLA here. Easy-medium though in 13:17.

Anonymous 5:22 AM  

It's a Jackson Browne song, not really and Eagles song. And come on, Rex, a flat bed probably doesn't qualify as a pickup truck. A kind of truck, yes, but not a pickup. And you came from Fresno.

Brian 7:41 AM  

Thanks to anonymous for mentioning that "Take it Easy" was written by Jackson Browne, not the Eagles.

geraldrm@earthlink.net 4:29 PM  

"Denarii" was easy for a Bible-reading Christian, one of the first I got.

Never heard the word "fleered" or "rets" before and I've got a M.A. in English.

Feel really stupid that I went through the whole alphabet blank-IDES and never figured out that beans are sides.

Totally disagree with Rex's opinion that there should be no comma after "varmints". The comma indicates that the answer indicates a subset of varmints ONLY in the cartoon, not elsewhere; Rex, you missed the whole point! "I hate those meeces to pieces!" No, Rex, the comma is necessary.

Anonymous 1:13 PM  

Saying a "hot brown" is an English "rarebit" is like saying a "plowman's lunch" is an American "Whopper with fries".

Anonymous 1:28 PM  

W. S. Gilbert gives us this bit from Patience:
"They're actually sneering at us / FLEERING at us / jeering at us (&c.)"
... so I'll buy FLEERED. RETS, on the other hand? It may be a crossword standard, but still. Trying, as a non-American, to come up with "Pitt athlete" was murderous, especially with a 'w' on the last letter.
And in strong contrast to Rex, the NE corner was the first I finished. AVARICE and DENARII came pretty easily. REGRADE was one of those "all right, fine, we'll cut you some slack since you built us a crossword puzzle and all." (I'd have suggested something about fixing a slope, but there you are) It was ugly, but it was the easiest of a rough bunch for me.

Anonymous 2:40 PM  

NW = Breeze.
SW = tougher
SE = tougher still; needed CONFETTI to bring it together. Ruled out goalpost early but thought of Crossbar off the C in ITCHIER. Also toyed with Cynicism. TWO-STEP finally brought it into focus.
NE: fuggedaboutit. None of it looked right...but as it turned out I had all but the A in DENiRII/AViRICE. Had no idea I was making real words/phrases.

I only know FLEER as a brand of baseball cards, famous for stunt cards like Duane Kuiper posing with a broken bat and Billy Ripken posing with an obscenity. (will trade my Ripken for your Kuiper if you've got it.)

Way too many cheater squares, way too few words. But a helluva good workout for the brain.

captcha=downestr (MAINER, of course).

Waxy in Montreal 3:23 PM  

From syncity:

As per many kindred spirits five weeks back, found the Northeast here much as it was after Hurricane Irene blew through - a disaster area. Early commitments to ONETIME for OLDTIME and FRANTIC for ERRATIC also didn't help.

Still, won't get lachrymose or blubber for once as I can see that berating this puzzle on a beautiful Friday will only bring on a frown instead of the confetti it should enjoy.

BTW, at the college I worked at for many years, the students requested the brass for a grade review. Never heard regrade.

Anonymous 5:51 PM  

Yep, the Spacecraft, like so many others, got to the NE and said "WHA...??" Once the week gets to Friday, I usually need Google help. Today was no exception, save for the SW, where the PANTHER (my favorite bartender is a Pitt alum) plug-in got me going. Tried ONETIME but soon corrected to OLDTIME, because "fanana" sounds more like something Bowser would come up with, and not all that Christmasy. Googling ELGRECO helped in the NW, but let me say again how much I HATE HATE HATE entries like SILENTK. If any one thing should actually be outlawed in crossword construction, that should be it. WANTONS? A plural noun, really? Yecch, talk about archaic!
The SE was tougher still; anyone who thinks that the TWOSTEP is a "polka relative" has never done either. Nor have they even a tangential ethnic relationship. I just plain don't understand that clue. Well, both are dances, I guess. Worked out the NE laboriously after hitting on the fact that the 10th Commandment, while not actually mentioning AVARICE, does describe it well.
Our guy today must lean toward fantasy: the KLINGON FIEND HAD AT those MEECES (whom I hates to pieces)--and the whole scene was drawn by Matt GROENING.

priceless captcha today. biligh: Who knew the Cap'n went both ways, Mr. Christian?

Anonymous 6:38 PM  

The NW corner was a cinch, filled it in under 10 minutes. The center was also not too difficult (I thought ENJOY was easy; got that one right away with only one letter showing.)

The rest, though, was a real b*tch. "ST JOE"? Really?

Deb @ RoomscapesDecor.com 8:32 PM  

@Julian - Thanks for the inside info. I think Will was dead wrong in changing the PANTHER clue. Friday Night Lights was perhaps not a top-rated show, but it was seen nationwide by millions of people nonetheless. Pitt is, I assume, a college football team and would be familiar only to folks who follow college football. I can't imagine they number higher than fans of FNL. (I LOVED that show and was really sorry to see it go.)

As to the rest of the puzzle: I could swear I've seen "fleer" in a NYT puzzle before today, so that wasn't my biggest beef with the NE. I had a helluva time even breaking into it because I'd written in "bawl" instead of FLAB. What I hated most was LOVESHY. I'm sorry, but unless I've been living under a rock, that just is not an in-the-language phrase. If you're going to use such an obscure hyphenation, clue it a little more straight-forwardly. Please.

Of course, being a Friday, it wasn't just the NE that decided to toy with me today. I had lightly penned in "handicap" for CONFETTI, not even noticing that left ITCHIER spelled ITHCIER. Hand up here as well for nilla, and I also had add for YAK. Bottom line, big fat FBF (finished by flipping the paper over) for me.

@Masked & Anonymous - Ha! I can see it now! Dave will have Rex on his show to read it off! (Seriously - somebody should make that happen)

@ Roger - Unless perhaps the neighbor's wife has a big fat trust fund. ;)

@Anonymous 12:12 - Thanks for the biggest laugh of the day! (..."the contents of the treasure chest was a fetid pile of FLEERED.")

Mr. Fitz 9:53 PM  

I luvs them meeces to pieces. :)

Anonymous 2:28 PM  

"Avarice" and "covetousness" are not the same thing. You covet something someone else has, because they have it, and you don't. Avarice is greed, the desire for more, more, more. A greedy person may want more money. He doesn't care where the money comes from, as long as there's more of it. A covetous person wants his neighbor's money. It's just bad clueing. Blame Will Shortz; he's the editor, he should have caught this.

"Fleered" may be the most obscure clue I've ever seen in a NYT puzzle.

I've heard "girlshy," but never "loveshy."

I agree with Rex. It's not that the NE was hard that was the problem; it's that it was a mess.

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