Brewmaster's science / SAT 9-3-11 / German fantasy writer Michael / Photographer who once collaborated with Capote / Term for some morning deejays

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Constructor: Peter Wentz

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ERIC DANE (39D: "Grey's Anatomy" actor) —

Eric Dane (born November 9, 1972) is an American actor. After appearing in television roles throughout the 1990s and 2000s, he became known for playing Dr. Mark "McSteamy" Sloan on the series Grey's Anatomy, and has recently branched into film, co-starring in Marley & Me, Valentine's Day, and Burlesque. [...] Dane made headlines when he participated in a nude tape with his wife and Kari Ann Peniche. [???] // Eric Dane checked himself into rehab in June 2011 and will soon be finished with his 30 day therapy, "He reports back to work next week," said his rep. "Business as usual." Dane entered a California treatment center to rectify his problem with dependency on prescription drugs after suffering a sports injury. (wikipedia)

• • •

Very hard and also very annoying. Nothing worse than having majority of the difficulty in a puzzle come from the names of 3rd-rate celebrities. I had some very vague familiarity with J.C. CHASEZ (1D: Former 'N Sync vocalist and judge on "America's Best Dance Crew"), but ERIC DANE is brand new to me. "Grey's Anatomy" is ... nothing I would ever watch. Zero appeal. None. But I think Sandra Oh is or was in it. Also what's her name ... Katherine Heigl. Those people are actual well-known actors; hence, I know their names. I have no idea what an ERIC DANE is. But at least his crosses were fair, which is more than I can say for those of J.C. I'm sure I've seen the word ZYMURGY sometime in my life (35A: Brewmaster's science), but it's not exactly everyday (also, ZYZZYVA and SYZYGY are running interference). That "Z" will surely rough up at least a handful of people. Also, SKOPJE!?!? (27A: Birth city of Mother Teresa) Like ZYMURGY, I'm sure I've seen it, but I couldn't even tell you what country it's in. Poland? Nope. The Republic of Macedonia. The point isn't that any one of these shouldn't be in a puzzle—the point is that J.C. CHASEZ is kind of not that famous and his name is nuts and Crosses Of Nutso Proper Names (Esp. Those of Not Universally Famous People) Require Gettable Crosses. Also, if you've got Mr. CHASEZ in your puzzle, your minor celebrity quotient has been reached (sorry, ERIC DANE).

Most of the puzzle didn't trouble me that much. Well, let me rephrase that. I made headway everywhere, but only the NE went down without any trouble at all. Guessed VOLTA (23A: Inventor of the battery in 1800) and was able to spread N and E from there pretty effectively. Eventually worked down and dropped in KINFOLK and LANES (50D: They're added in some infrastructure upgrades) more on gut feeling than certainty. Was sure one or both were wrong because they gave me FAP- as start of answer for 55A: Ninnies. This is because I had the infinitely reasonable SOP for 47D: Sponge. Not the stupid slang-no-one-uses SOT (actually, I mean that no one uses "sponge" to mean SOT ... and also no one uses SOT unless one does a lot of crosswords and is being facetious). I don't mind misleading clues, but that one rankled because "sponge" is such a reach for SOT. Probably rankled more because it was another glitch in the damned ERIC DANE corner. Somehow managed to get MORITA (46D: Actor Pat), which instantly clued MR. MIYAGI (which took effort to spell). And then I just crawled toward the end, piecing together the west (CHASEZ and its environs) block by block. Once I went with my gut on some of those little answers in the SW (the ugly ENDE (57D: German fantasy writer Michael), the ugly ADENO), then I finished that corner. Noticed FAPHEADS wasn't a word. Changed it. Last letter into the grid was either the "E" or the "Z" in CHASEZ. It's a shame the celeb names sucked the joy right out of this puzzle, because it had its moments. Loved ZOO CREW, VITAMIN D, TIZZY, and "SEZ WHO?" in particular.

  • 6A: Broken thing in "Gimme a break" (KIT KAT BAR) — If that ad jingle weren't seared in my brain, this clue would make no sense. No reference to ads, or jingles. Looks like "Gimme a break" is a song or movie or something.
  • 3D: Bibliolater (BOOKWORM) — at least I knew what "biblio" meant ...
  • 26A: Extinct wingless bird (MOA) — Yay, N.Z. I know a little something about extinct birds from N.Z.
  • 21A: Nobel-winning economist James (MEADE) — nope, never heard of him. Also, HARUM? Never heard of him either, which is not surprising, as I've never (or almost never) heard of David Noyes Westcott (52A: "David ___," Edward Noyes Westcott novel). I assume that if I have heard of him, it was bec. of a crossword that thought NOYES would be a good entry. And then there's Azerbaijani president Heydar Aliyev. Thumbs down to overreliance on names.
  • 12D: Cleanser with the logo of a chick emerging from an egg (BON AMI) — gimme. Part of the reason the NE was so easy (comparatively).
  • 13D: Photographer who once collaborated with Capote (AVEDON) — with -ON in place, easy to get.

  • 34D: "The Tinker's Wedding" playwright (SYNGE) — yet another name I know *only* from crosswords.
  • 28D: Ninth successor of St. Peter (PIUS I) — of course I don't have my popes memorized, but what's weird is—this is the name I wanted from the get go. I didn't write it in, of course, because how would I know the 10th pope? Also, I didn't write it in because I was convinced for a time that Mother Teresa was born in SKOKIE.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


foodie 12:10 AM  

Rex, you're not kidding. Ultra Challenging, according to me and to my QDI.

I probably put a wrong letter in every square at some point. Except for VOLTA, which was my one and only certainty. My favorite guess gone widely awry: Fashion Strip: SUNSET Strip of course... you know, in Beverly Hills..

The whole thing was a ZYMURGical, SKUNKY ZOOCREW from SKOPJE

santafefran 12:46 AM  

What Rex said--too many improper names!

I felt so clever when I entered RUNWAY for Fashion Strip only to have it be totally wrong. Initially I had Kindred for KINFOLK so that made me consider DOTHEADS for FATHEADS. Oh and I had VADER where JABBA was supposed to go. I did get GUAM, MENLO and VOLTA right off but generally flunked this puzzle.

Noam D. Elkies 12:55 AM  

A rather boozy weekend puzzle with 35A:ZYMURGY, 41D:SKUNKY, 4D:BOCK, 47D:SOT, and (clue notwithstanding) 61A:ON_TAP. Other food items include VITAMIN_D, 29D:JERKY as clued, and 32D:MOCHA. Plus 14A:REREAD if you're a 3D:BOOKWORM. Preumably the clue's "bibliolater" was formed on analogy with "idolater".


(Captcha = turendes = Puccini opera set in the Yiddish-speaking neighborhood of Beijing?)

syndy 1:01 AM  

hands up for GUAM MENLO AND VOLTA-also for MRMIYAGI if only I could spell it.and for taking far to long to figure out KITKATBAR.could not name an N"SYNC to save my life;definitly not in THE GROOVE with this one but my real WEAKSPOT was the ne.just short of an hour and mr pencil caught me by surprize!Am I AGITATED,in a TIZZY or was this puzzle SKUNKY?

Mark Murphy 1:08 AM  

Very few gimmes in this puzzle (for me, at least), but HARUM was one of them; Edward Noyes Westcott (1846-1898) was a banker in my hometown of Syracuse (which has a major thoroughfare named Westcott Street, near Syracuse University).

I've never read the book and don't plan to, but it was published after Westcott's death, became a big seller and eventually was adapted into a movie starring Will Rogers.

Gill I. P. 1:28 AM  

ICK. The only thing I could get for what seemed like hours was the big fat green blob JABBA and the one airport quaranteed to lose your luggage - O HARE.
Anything that had a Z,Y or K in it got a Google visit. I also include every single proper name as well. JCCHASEZ??
ZYMURGY? waaat? I don't even know how to pronounce it.
How is 41A (Having been tainted, as a drink) SKUNKY? I thought that meant smelly? I think the least Mr. Wentz could have done was to throw in a Q and X and made this into a pangram....

Clark 2:03 AM  

This was super hard. I had to cheat about six million times. Well, I stayed on the horse for two days anyway.

Campesite 3:25 AM  

To me, three of the four quadrants of this puzzle were a little SKUNKY, and I"m quite forgiving, particularly in late-week puzzles.
ENDE annoyed me, as did the N'Sync dude.
Also, wouldn't a clue referencing PROCOL HARUM have been much more reasonable? I'm not suggesting that band is a household name, but they did record "A Whiter Shade of Pale." That track has been played to death over 40 years, and seems to be on countless soundtracks. Try Googling Harum and see how many pages come up before Westcott's novel (it is 7).
Maybe I'm just annoyed because I've got that damn Kit Kat jingle in my head and I'm trying to sleep.

CoffeeLvr 3:30 AM  

I guess cheating my way through this grid was worth it if I can remember ZYMURGY. Beer is SKUNKY if it is exposed to light. It is a particular odor/taste that is sort of like skunk.

razerx 3:31 AM  

I thought the west half was pretty easy but I couldn't get the east half at all.

jae 4:27 AM  

Big DNF for me too. Had an S in the Z spot for 1d and I failed on spelling MIYAGI. The rest I got but it took forever (over 2 hours), I mean the KITKATBAR clue was a WTF until the crosses forced it. Extremely tough and pretty irritating puzzle. Too many NATICK crosses.

And I'm with Campsite on the HARUM clue.

jae 4:29 AM  

Pardon me, that's Campesite.

andrea skopje michaels 4:33 AM  

Loved it, in a Scrabble sort of way!
Let's review: 11K (12 if you count my inevitable one square SYNkE/MRMIYAkI mistake!!!), 2J, 3Z, 4V, 5W, 6C, 3Y

First 3/4 took me an hour and a half. Bottom SW took another hour.

I've BEEN to SKOPJE and couldn't spell it! 1980 when one used to have to leave Greece for 3 days in order to be able to come back in for another 3 months.
I think I've told this story of going (it was then Yugoslavia) and there was a 2 story escalator in a department store and there were Albanians with their goats on it!
And an outdoor theater with folding chairs, yet an elaborate facade to enter thru...showing "Jaws 2" with the sound turned down and subtitles in Serbo-Croatian.
Wish I had known it was Mother Teresa's birthplace, I'd have gone to pay tribute.

Hardest part was turning Spiked into SKUNKY; pinHEADS into FATHEADS...and Aone into ATWO
(Lawrence Welk, where were you when I needed you?!)

ERICDANE was all over TMZ, Enquirer kind of news when some woman he had a 3-way with in a hot tub spilled the beans. Sometimes it pays to be a girl.

I skip M-W 5:21 AM  

I'm glad no jingle is going through my mind re Ki tKat Bar because I got it essentially from crosses and never heard the jingle. I imagine it's candy, but I don't even know what's in it. Bon Ami was a gimme, that and Volta and not much else. I knew Mother Teresa was Albanian so confidently put in Tirana at first, and slowly backtracked.If only ACME had told that Skopje story before, about the goats on the escalator. (I was once on a Croatian bus with some people with goats, but I always thought they were Serbs. Now I think they were also Albanians. The Croats didn't like the goats. That doesn't actually rhyme. )

Who's Mr. Miyagi? Don't know but guessed correctly. also Pat Morita? Who? got from crosses somehow.

Amazed I finished correctly without any cheating since so many clues were complete mysteries or could have had other answers. Had "So What" before "Sez Who". No idea how Avedon collaborated with Capote, so took awhile to guess him. They seem to have very diffeerent sensibilities. synge wasn't too hard, even though I've never read or seen anything by him other than Playboy of the Western World.

Zymurgy has same root as enzyme, somehow related to yeast I think. I started with idea the ending of the science was ogy, which helped a bit. Took awhile to guess that Aliyev, like Putin might have a KGB background.

From some dim recess of the mind, I guessed Harum from the um, but no idea who Wescott was.

@ACME, why does it pay to be a girl? Because you read gossip or because a girl in 3-way is allowed to tell?

The main pleasure of this was success after roaming around in the fog for so long.

Btw, buying a house this week. My first. Xword is relief from endless tension. Still need a soils engineer to determine if it's safe from earthquake -induced landslides. Went to see it tonight, expected heavy fog, found none, clear skies, could see so many stars. Fog here in puzzle instead. Better, really.

SethG 7:33 AM  

ZYMURGY was my first answer. I always thought that would be a great starting word in Scrabble. Guessed MR MIYAGI/MORITA with just a PIUS I guess in place. Got JC CHASEZ with only about half the crosses in place, because I remembered him being 1D in this puzzle.

Actually finished kinda quickly, but there was a lot of 1-letter-at-a-time pain here.

Anonymous 7:51 AM  

Beyond Rex's reasonalbe issues with abstruse crossing words, let's talk definitions:

* A tad is different (broadly, in its shape) from a sliver
* Skunked beer hasn't been tainted (transitive verb) - it's oxidized (intransitive)
* Fatheads and ninnies are distinctly different kinds of irksome personalities
* Aww, ick, and tha are simply not words

Irked in London

Nancy in PA 8:04 AM  

SO glad to see this rated challenging. I had to Google--first to reassure myself that MORITA and MRMIYAGI were correct, and then to find HARUM (would have preferred Procul clue). Finished with an error (FopHEADS, anyone?) But I did know ZYMURGY--married to a beermaker; I believe we had a magazine with that title in the house once upon a time. And ERICDANE was a gimme; GA is big with two teenage daughters.

Aleman 8:10 AM  

This SOT likes BOCK and SAPPORO ON TAP, products of ZYMURGY. I try to avoid the SKUNKY stuff.

Z 8:25 AM  

At least Mr. Wentz is a drinker.

After a big DNF and lots of annoyance with obscure people who were once or currently kinda famous, I was happy when I came here to see it wasn't just me.

Have seen that KITKATBAR campaign and am happy to report that the jingle hasn't stuck. Feel sorry for those of you suffering with the earworm.

@I Skip - Pat Morita was the original Arnold in Happy Days as well as the Co-Star with Ralph Macchio in the original Karate Kid. Both fairly huge parts of the pop universe in my teens, both of which I watched, none of which helped me answer the clues.

I have a nit to pick with 47A - Are any stadia actually domes? Many are domed, but the dome is the roof. Besides, The Astrodome, and Skydome, have been torn down. The Silverdome stands empty. I guess the Superdome and Metrodome are still in use, but even these places were actually domed stadiums, not domes themselves. I think the clue is wrong as written.

Stone Cold Stephen F. Austin 8:37 AM  

The Astrodome has most assuredly not been torn down. Nor has the Alamo.

Smitty 8:42 AM  

What's the level after challenging?

Maybe Mr. Wentz could come up with another obscure word like HOKKPJEVLAXYX

dk 8:48 AM  

Lived on Westcott Street - no help.
Friend in town is nick-named The Karate Kid - no help
Used to be a college DJ - no help

But I did get AVEDON, WATERHOLE, JABBA, OHARE and VITAMIND in that order. So I should feel good about that.

No idea who the b-list players and a-list economists were. And, wanted a thong as a fashion strip because sometimes it is good not to be a girl.

** (2 Stars) It annoyed me.

Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi 8:56 AM  

"Pat" Morita's real first name was the Crossword friendly NORIYUKI.

Z 9:03 AM  

@StoneCold - oops - I thought it had been one of those exploding buildings that local news likes to show so much. My bad.

Glimmerglass 9:09 AM  

Super hard. The NW defeated me entirely. Didn't know JC CHASEZ, ZYMURGY, HOKKAIDO, or SKOPJE. Got parts of all of them correctly, but guessed wrong where they crossed. I don't think an ARROW KEY is a pointer, so I made up a word "arrowcer" arrow + cursor. Well, I said this defeated me. Also, I had AVElON and MEAlE (should have known AVEDON). Not quite a DNF -- I had a letter in every square, but a lot of them were wrong.

Kurt 9:34 AM  


If this was supposed to be entertainment, I don't get it.


Campesite 9:36 AM  

@ACME, the Eric Danes three-way beans were actually spilt by way of a video, probably from a mobile phone. I can't recommend it: the acting, dialogue, story, lighting and direction are atrocious, but the cast is fairly attractive.

jackj 9:43 AM  

A puzzle which seems to have been devised mainly to test the mettle of those speed solvers who shine at the ACPT may be a reason to rejoice for some crossword elites but it is cruel and unusual punishment for most other solvers.

Mr. Wentz at least helps us devise the "Wentz/Shortz theorem":

"A solver is allowed to Google without penalty or guilt in direct proportion to the number of Googles thought to have been needed by the constructor while creating the puzzle."

evil doug 9:56 AM  

At first I feel good when I surrender, look at the solution, and realize I could have been spotted numerous letters or even complete answers and not finished.

Then I get pissed, because usually just hanging in there for one little enlightenment can unlock the whole cascading triumph.

If only I knew who to blame anymore. Is it Wentz? Shortz? Some unnamed secret backroom Shortz butt-boy whose name may or may not end in z?

Screw 'em all,

Anonymous 10:28 AM  

Bravo Rex for the writeup. This was difficulty wrapped in obscurity wrapped in absurdity.

@I Skip M-W -- Which girl is allowed to tell?

No BS 10:29 AM  

It was hard indeed and included a few Naticks because of the b-list names. I found only a few gimmes (the ones noted) but did know zymurgy (after a while) because in my childhood it was always the last word in the dictionary. I knew the word for many years before I bothered to look up its definition. And I have made some beer in my time.

I was proud of myself for coming up with correct natick-resolving letters almost everywhere, but unfortunately eww made as much sense as aww and chesez as much sense as chasez, so I ended with an error after an hour. No happy pencil on my newspaper, sadly.

Who is Mr. Miyagi? Familiar enough with the actor but not with this role.

There was some clever and fresh cluing" 56D, 32D, 44D, 18A for example.

I hope the evil post above will disappear, Rex.

while I had sop in place and before kinfolk I had great hopes for "dipshits" for 54A.

I hope

Roy 10:35 AM  

Too many proper names. The mark of a lazy crossword author. I don't mind obscure clues, but when they are used for even more obscure proper names.....give me a break!

Sez who? Sez me!,

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

yeah, what everybody else wrote. my addition is that the obscure clues led me to google even some clues i would normally have puzzled out fairly easily -- like avedon.

GenJoneser 10:42 AM  

And the great hits just keep on coming. Thanks, again, @rex for starting a Bryan Ferry day for me.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:43 AM  

Did Not Finish; Life's Too Short.

But I do have a minor complaint about 47 A, Many domes, STADIA.

We all know "data" and "media" are plural words. I am also someone who, when reading, auto-corrects "millenniums" to "millennia" and "curriculums" to "curricula". But in the case of "stadium," I believe the plural form "stadia" is reserved for the Greek unit of length, while the appropriate plural for those sports venues is "stadiums."

chefbea 10:46 AM  

Googled a lot and still DNF too many obscure words with scrabbly letters for me.

of course loved crock

Anonymous 10:47 AM  

Apropos of almost nothing, I've had the jingle for Klondike Bars running through my head all day instead of that for Kit Kats. I'm sure it's equally annoying

bko 10:57 AM  

Amen, evil doug! Sometimes I am not sure: was I crabby when I awakened this morning? Or was it the puzzle that made me crabby? The postings here make me think it is the latter.

M07S 10:59 AM  

196 letters in this puzz. 115 were part of a proper name. I googled to hell and back without one shred of shame. Actually, if you're willing to google, this sort of puzzle falls very quickly. Not my cuppa tea. +1 for @Evil's comments.

JC66 11:07 AM  

First DNF(HTG) in a long while because of the NE natick mashup and some of the other problems mentioned above. Also had INthezOnE at 16A for too long. Anyone else? Not a fun experience.

Two Ponies 11:20 AM  

DNF, DNC (Did not care)

I want my $2 back damn it.

With _ko__e in place I thought
"Mother Teresa was from Skokie, Ill.???"

Hey Wentz, Up yours.

Oldactor 11:20 AM  

Years ago, playing 'dictionary' in NY, the word zymurgy was selected for which everyone was to create a definition to be voted on by the group. Someone wrote zebra sh*t and won. Haven't seen the word since.

Nakitab 11:21 AM  

I agree with everybody else. Way too many proper names, and most of them unheard of. I really appreciate the Saturday puzzles for their difficulty, but in this case, if you didn't know the name you had no toe-hold to start from. Not the best.

Jim 11:22 AM  

I loved this puzzle. Started on paper, finished in AL after too many writeovers. Lots to love, even if there was a bit to hate. Three wrong letters, but that don't bother me none, since they were all (at least crossed with) proper names.

Above all, the fact that ERICidlE and ERICbANa seemed legitimate possibilities for me for several minutes is, in retrospect, both humorous and least three four-letter-surnamed ERICs in TV/movies.

Had backPACKS for some time, and I don't like WATERHOLE (sans -ing), but SW overall is really nice, esp. 44 down (anyone who doesn't know Mr Miyagi, and admits it, is just slathered in self-righteous pop-culture ignorance).

Is there a douche-baggier name than JCCHASEZ? How do you even pronounce that? Like chases? Like chase? Like chasse (can't put in the accent--pronounced like's a dance move)? Were these boy bands as ridiculous at the time as they now seem in retrospect? Didn't we learn our lesson from New Kids and Mark's Funky Bunch?

SKOPJE is a perfectly acceptable city (after Belgrade and possibly Sarajevo, it's I think the biggest and best-known city in Yugoslavia). Far more well-known than, say, LJUBLJANA, the grand-daddy of all obscure, Scrabbly cities.

And thanks Mr Wentz for the mixology tip--I never thought to put mocha in my mudslide, but I shall tonight! Great work!

Nakitab 11:24 AM  

P.S. I don't think AWW is a word.

aaron 11:40 AM  

MARS and VOLTA in the same puzzle? impossible coincidence.

Norm 11:40 AM  

Way to go, jackj (@ 9:43 AM). Comment of the week. I move for unanimous adoption of the "Wentz/Shortz theorem."

slypett 11:46 AM  

HARUM scarum. And I agree with everything London Anonymous said. I agree with anyone who had something bad to say about this puzzle and will someday dazzle them with rich gifts.

Banana Man 11:47 AM  

Include me in the roughed-up handful that didn't have a clue on that Z at square #35. Having seen "The Karate Kid" a few times, the rest of the puzzle was a tad (sliver?) easier.

First blood: VOLTA and IVE.
Last stand: that damn Z.
Observation: Someone involved (absorbed?) in this puzzle's construction sure likes K's.
Overall reaction: Cool and partly skunky.

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

This is reVOLTAing, you SKUNKED me, get a life!

syndy 11:58 AM  

I second that!

syndy 12:00 PM  


Lindsay 12:01 PM  

Obscure proper names crossing obscure proper names piled on OPNs.

@Two Ponies nailed it. DNF. DNC. Want my 2 bucks back.

Anonymous 12:06 PM  

I resist Google for about an hour and then to limit how much of my life I spend on the puzzle, I succumb. This puzzle required the most googling in recent memory: HARUM, MRMIYAGI, REAGAN, JCCHASEZ, AVEDON, KGB (just to confirm), HOKKAIDO, ARU, MEADE.

Love the @jackj comment about googling, but I think it must be restated to qualify as a theorem:

Let G(p, x) be amount of guilt experienced by p when doing x.
Let U(p, x) be how much p used x.
Then total guilt = G(solver, googling) - U(constructor, googling).

stephen 12:14 PM  

I actually enjoyed this. No googling. Just goes to show how different the experience can be for different people. I've done Saturdays that I thought were much harder than this, only to find other people thought they were easy. I guess I was lucky I somehow knew JCCHASEZ and I once worked in a store that sold ZYMURGY magazine.

Z 12:33 PM  

@Aaron - I'd have done better if the obscure names were prog rockers.

@ Norm - I vote "Aye."

@Banana Man - Why are you swearing at me?

It is Detroit Jazz Festival Time.

mac 12:37 PM  

DNF, am trying NTC. Disappointing, I look forward to the Saturday.

Anybody try "Vagina Diaries" at 45D?

ANON B 12:41 PM  

The worst puzzle ever. Didn't
understand it even when I saw
Rex's answers.
I thought xwords were supposed
to be fun. I guess the joke's on me.

David 12:51 PM  

Bam! A nice ol' DNF for me, and happy to see many, many kindred spirits in here as well as a Challenging rating from Rex.

I did actually get almost all of this, but had 2 errors. CHASEL for CHASEZ (had no idea, and certainly didn't think of Z - hell, in keeping with the pseudo-theme of the puzzle I should have input CHASEK/KYMURGY). Second error was the opposite - I DID put a K in for MR. MIYAKI, when it should have been a G. I've seen Karate Kid (more Ks!!!!), but oh well. There is always stuff on Fridays and Saturdays I just don't know, but through the smoothness of the cluing, etc. I can piece everything together. Not today.

The NE was brutal for me and fell last - I'm still not akkustomed to pirates and the video industry, so DVDBURNERS was hidden all day, and shame on me for not immediately getting the last 2 Ks in the puzzle in KITKATBAR.

Still, there was some satisfaction in nailing some of the other clues - I had seen SHOPKE somewhere before, I inferred VOLTA, WATERHOLE and KNAPSACKS, but overall this was a killer. And I even got off to a great start, nailing the extreme NW in seconds before CHASEL and HOKKAIDO ground me to a halt....

PuzzleNut 12:55 PM  

Humbling puzzle.
Started strong in the NW with everything but JCC?????. After that, I was sunk. Had a number of correct guesses here and there, but not enough traction anywhere to get a toehold. Everything was written in lightly as the crosses seemed impossible (ie, TIZZY). Finally resorted to Googling some of the names, and that still wasn't enough to crack this one. One google result took me to Rex's site and I threw in the towel.
PS The LAT by Barry Silk was much more enjoyable.

snegu 12:56 PM  

So painful. And now I feel even worse because everybody seemed to know Avedon but me.

Mr. Miyagi, on the other hand, I got pretty quickly.

Feeling very uncultured.

Mel Ott 1:03 PM  

I love crossWORD puzzles.

I hate crossNAME puzzles.

No joy here.

600 1:14 PM  

This was not fun. Not. Fun. At. All.

There was some consolation in finding Rex and most commenters
had many of the same complaints I did, but it still didn't make up for the fact this was NO FUN.

Half way through (after about 35 minutes), I started writing down all the things I didn't know. Quite a list. I know what a KIT KAT BAR is, but never heard that jingle. Didn't know BOCK. Never heard of David HARUM. Procol I'd have had a chance at. SKUNKY made no sense. Had sop before SOT. Loved Karate Kid but couldn't pull up Morita's character's name. And then HOKKAIDO? J C CHASEZ? SKOPJE?
A TWO? Please.

Hands up for "in the zone" before IN A GROOVE. Also felt pretty smart, initially, for getting VITAMIN D, WEAK SPOT, and BON AMI with no crosses (I know. Not worth feeling smart about, but hey . . .it was a tough morning.)

In the end DNF because I had to Google twice. Bah, humbug.

@snegu--I didn't know Avedon. Kept trying to make Diane Arbus or Ansel Adams fit. They and Leibovitz may be the only photographers Iknow.

@mac--I did try Vagina Diaries before I remembered it was Vagina Monologues.

I think I'll try the LAT. Thanks, PuzzleNut, for the heads up. But later. After I heal.

Anonymous 1:21 PM  

I can name all 5 members of 'Nsync, JC, Justin, Joey, Chris, & Lance. As well as most actors on Grey's as I retain pop culture more than most, But how can you not remember "wax on, wax off" from Mr. Myagi from Karate Kid?

Cheerio 1:30 PM  

I am an economist but I had never heard of Meade. I have heard of his co- winner Ohlin.

miriam b 1:52 PM  

Thought for a while that I would NF, but kept at it mainly to avoid the odious chores awaiting me. I had O'Brien where MORITA finally ended up after I had racked my brain tring to recall a Pat O'Brien rôle ending in an I. Knute Rockne and Father Flanagan were obviously wrong.

I'm not au courant with pop culture, so I found this really tough, and in a way worth the struggle, as the experience of solving this puzzle improved my attitude toward the aforementioned chores.

I remember from years ago the Bon Ami image with the words "Hasn't scratched yet", but I'm not sure what the current label looks like. Off to indulge my OCD and check my Bon Ami.

ancholl: a sort of fishy tapenade

Hollie 1:56 PM  

I also found this puzzling frustrating for many of the reasons already mentioned. In addition, I didn't like the cluing of "fashion strip?" for MOWAWK. To me, fashion typically refers to clothing, not hairstyles. And mohawks aren't even in fashion right now.

foodie 2:03 PM  

Absent SanFranMan, here are some stats on this puzzle up to this point.

Number of online solvers: 221
Median for the whole group= 35:27
Median for top 100= 22:06

In Nov. 2010, SanFranMan posted some averages and ranges:

An Average Saturday has a Median of 30:44 overall, and 17:34 for top 100 solvers. So today is a full 5 minutes longer for both groups.

The range he posted for CHALLENGING is 34:21-42:09

So this is clearly in the Challenging range, but not the toughest we've seen. There are occasional Fridays that have such scores.

I think the frustration expressed by many is because of the nature of the challenging-- not so much tricky cluing but straight up inaccessibility of the puzzle.

But I feel there might be other ways to express this frustration than some of the above comments. This is a linguistically gifted group that usually uses humor and irony very well to convey emotions. Today, not so much...

archaeoprof 2:08 PM  

Up too late and drank too much at a party at our house last night (most of the faculty was here). So when I struggled with this puzzle, I thought it was just the hangover.

Glad everyone else found it challenging too, although for different reasons...

jimdatt 2:19 PM  

There wasn't a theme as such, but there were a lot of Ks, so many that it must have been intentional. After I got Kit Kat Bar early on, I started to notice it and thinking of words with K got me through a lot of the obscure ones.

jackj 2:23 PM  

@Two Ponies said, in part, "Hey Wentz, Up yours."

A thorough and elegant critique, which says it all!

Evan K. 2:51 PM  

This was a challenging puzzle. Incidentally, it has an astoundingly high Scrabble average of 2.02 (tied with another Peter Wentz puzzle for 15th all-NYTimes), which is higher than the PsANDQs puzzle by Quigley and Livengood published a month and ago back.

Anonymous 3:06 PM  

Happy to have known zymurgy and to have heard of Skopje. But Synge/Miyagi and Arum/Meade was pure guessing. Not so horrible for me - I disliked tuesday's offering far more.

skua76 3:08 PM  

I was VERY afraid that I'd come here and find an EASY rating on this has happened with not a few other late week puzzles. Whew, glad I'm not alone. Way too much googling for my taste. At least I knew ZYMURGY (my first entry) and had an idea about SKOPJE.

Thanks @PuzzleNut for recommending the LAT paper carries it but doesn't credit the constructor.

captcha: bities -- well, either something to do with a Kit Kat bar or...

Tincup2 3:41 PM  

You said it Rex, all those names sucked the joy right out of this puzzle.

michael 5:01 PM  

Relieved to see that most of you found this hard. I had to google Eric Dane to get the SE and never did finish the NE. I could have worked on this all day and still wouldn't have gotten kitkatbar.

ksquare 5:23 PM  

@Mark Murphy 1:08 et alii.
If you read DAVID HARUM you will learn that he was a banker in Homeville which was Homer, a village in Cortland County some 30 miles south of Syracuse. Besides the Will Rogers movie, there was also a radio soap opera called David Harum in the 1930's. How do I know this, you ask? It's because I've lived on Westcott St. in Syracuse and in Cortland County where David Harum is a local celebrity. And I'm old!

I skip M-W 5:24 PM  

@Jim You forgot Zagreb, much bigger than Skopje, though I admit to being surprised at size of latter. To me, Ljubljana is much better known, unlike, say, J C Chasez, or Mr. Miyagi, even though my fiancee's friend played the mother in Karate Kid (I think, don't quote me.) But not having been of the right age when that was on, how am I supposed to know it? I mostly learn pop culture from crosswords, and this puzzle plus comments surely helepd.

ksquare 5:26 PM  

What is the significance of the garbage can in my comments above?

ksquare 5:28 PM  

Same question!

Jim 5:53 PM  


It means Blogger thinks your comments stink.

No, it means you can delete them if you want, since you are the author.

I Skip M-W:

That's cool that you have a familial (sorta) relationship with Mrs. LaRusso. I had a crush on her when I was a kid (although I could be thinking about the mother from Gremlins, now that I think about it).

Anyway, the way I see it, knowing Mr Miyagi is like knowing who Scarlett O'Hara is. Gone With The Wind is not exactly in my generation's wheelhouse, but I do pay attention somewhat. You might say Karate Kid is no Gone With The Wind, and in one way you'd be right...Karate Kid was a much more important movie. "Give 'em a bodybag!"

joho 6:22 PM  

@Smitty ... loved your comment!

@dk ... thong is so much funnier than my answer: T-Strap.

On this puzzle I Wentz/Shortz i.e. DNF.

I did most of it and part of that time while in a speeding car which raised the difficulty level ... IF that were possible: NOT!!!

Lewis 6:35 PM  

@jackj -- right on!

Dirigonzo 7:23 PM  

I was so emboldened by my success on yesterday's (in syndicated time) Paula Gamache's tour-de-force puzzle (you remember, the one with "edibled underwear" in the grid) that I decided I was ready to try my first Saturday puzzle. My local paper doesn't publish on the weekend so I spent two bucks for today's (in real time) NYT and gave it a shot - big, big mistake.

I still think I'm ready to tackle a normal Saturday puzzle though, so like MacArthur, "I shall return."

hazel 7:53 PM  

no joy in cruciville today. just a crappy town festival with a bunch of hasbeens in the parade, recognized by noone - but still managing to bump in to each other.

51A 51A 51A.

JaxInL.A. 8:08 PM  

For those of you who have been to the ACPT, Lollapuzoola and other contests, is this puzzle anything like what might turn up in competition? That prospect makes competition seem nearly superhuman. Rex does have that nifty comic book avatar, after all.

This puzzle was impossible without specific knowledge of a wide range of obscurities. I'm not even talking about stuff that's merely very hard (bibliolater, Skopje) or in the culture (Mr. Miyagi, Jabba the Hut, even Paul Anka who appears often enough in crosswords), but stuff that is far-rangingly abstruse. (Undoubtedly what is hidden from me will be obvious to someone else, and some have already said they know one or two of the odd things. )

To solve this puzzle successfully, however, you had to know ALL of:
1) 1990s boy bands and/or recent reality TV (JCCHASEZ) which crosses
2) an arcane word related to beer-making (ZYMURGY);
3) the non-inferable, proper name title of a 1899 novel by a one-shot author crossing
4) a not-well-known college acronym for a member of a southern football conference formed in 1995 (UTEP=Univ. of Texas, El Paso);
5) the Grey's Anatomy cast (ERIC DANE) crossing
6) AM radio slang (ZOO CREW);
7) a 1981 Nobel economist recognized for something technical (MEADE) crossing
8) (well, this was completely opaque to me, though others seemed to get this as clued) a candy ad jingle.

My point is, that's a whole lot of oddity to hold in one brain. Not mine, anyway.

dk 9:03 PM  

@2 ponies: let's get small and forget about... well everything

Two Ponies 9:09 PM  

Yes, you, me, and George Carlin!

andrea kitkat michaels 9:11 PM  

That's why I loved tugged on every single nook and corner of my brain!
I learned UTEP here on this blog and have friends always talking about Karate Kid which I've never seen.
By coincidence, I had on in the background some karaoke show hosted by another former boyband guy Joey Fatone (maybe even in the same group?), knew ARUM from Scrabble, so have seen ZYMURGY while looking up Z words at some point, have traveled to SKOPJE, etc etc etc.
The thing is, yes, way-heavy on names, but in order to do lots of words with Ks and Zs etc that haven't been done before, you almost have to go to names of people and cities, as we've seen a lot of the regular English words with weird letters already.
So it seems to me plus plus plus on freshness.
On the other hand ERICDANE has no crazy letters, but it paid off from accidentally having TMZ on or perusing Star Mag at the grocery store, etc.
So this was the type of puzzle that I spent way way way too much time on, but didn't google (as I said, I had one wrong letter in SYNkE/MRMIYAkI, so I sympathize with the two hard names crossing) and felt happy... in part bec it was so crazy!
I think there is room for this type of puzzle every once in a while, and it's a drag so many folks are so unhappy, but hopefully the $2 they spent can be gotten in the joy of reading the full paper not on line and stumbling upon articles they wouldn't have ordinarily that somehow may change their lives in ways they don't even know...yet!

That's also the beauty of synchronicity! Maybe while they are readin gthis, Procol Harum comes on in the background, and they will be able to talk to some teenaged girl at a bat mitzvah who is babbling about ERICDANE...who knows?!

I didn't know MEADE, HARUM, etc but they must have been inferrable by the crosses, bec I got them eventually, so others must have been able to too.
But then again, I like trivia and I love names!

Harry 10:06 PM  

I loved this puzzle, even though I do think it was a little TOO full of obscurities and unusual letters. I had the most trouble in the NE, since I did not know BONAMI or any of the proper names. I came here and saw KITKATBAR (I was convinced the answer would be something grammar-related) and was able to get everything else from there.

For me it is right on the edge of solvability, with enough inferable information to be reasonably confident filling in the crosses that aren't immediately apparent. I mean, I don't know that i've ever heard of ERICDANE, though I may have heard his name somewhere, but once I got a few letters in, I felt I could reasonably assume that was it.

Tom Q 10:13 PM  

Tried this early in a tired day and got as close to nothing as is humanly possible. After a nap, I went back; still found it ridiculously hard. Had to do a few Googles -- Skopje (which wasn't even the name of the place when she was born!), Volta, Mars --then I IMDB'd Grey's Anatomy just to finish the damn thing. (Except, of course, I guessed wrong on the "Z", opting for "NYMURGY") If I had come here and found Rex rating it anything less than challenging I'd have reached through cyberspace to strangle him.

Just not much fun. Too many "I still don't know what that is" when I was finished. I like difficult on Saturday, but this was beyond the pale.

foodie 10:49 PM  

@ Andrea, I appreciate your positive take on this, and I agree that such puzzles, if they show up once in a while, test the limits of even great solvers. And I loved your vivid depiction of SKOPJE --which I keep confusing with Skovde, Sweden. I've been to the latter and you wont believe how it's pronounced. It might show up someday in a scrabbly puzzle!

But while I like your take on this, especially as it breaks up the overall negative mood, I still feel that this was not gettable by mere mortals. Ergo, you must be a goddess... who also happens to like trivia and loves names!

jae 1:49 AM  

@foodie, If you read Andrea's first post she didn't get it either. She missed it by a square, which beat me missing it by two (the same K as Andrea and the Z in 1d.)

@Jax, the only gimie on your list for me was ERICDANE. The rest I was able to infer from the crosses, except for 1. & 2., of course.

Nancy 11:53 AM  

In 2 words: IM POSSIBLE. I doubt I could have done it even if I cheated, and I don't cheat. (Well, maybe once in a while on geographic clues.) Anyway, hated it because it was both undoable and loaded with boring and obscure names. Not my kind of puzzle.

ANON B 12:47 PM  


You say you quit mid-solve but
the grid is completed.
Please explain.

Doc John 4:24 PM  

I'm just curious, Rex. Since you were not really familiar with either of the two crosses, what led you to put a Z in instead of an S at ZYMURGY?

The Blasevicks 6:10 PM  

This was definitely on the tougher side for a Sunday, but we made it through relatively unscathed. My husband didn't like that the "ic" appeared in different places throughout the theme answers, but I didn't mind the phonetic incorporations. It wasn't the best Sunday puzzle -- but in our estimation it was far from being the worst one we've ever done.

cody.riggs 9:50 PM  

Rex, you made my day with your very first sentence.

I gladly solve difficult Saturdays, and usually complain they're too easy. You should have rated this: DIABOLICAL, not "challenging." This was my ONLY DNF this year, and unfairly so. This, after loving the puzzle's Western first

UNTIL "CHASEZ." WTF??! I was sure I had J.C.CHAVEZ/VKOPJE correct. SURE! Knowing what I know about M. Theresa, I was SURE I remembered the Armenian city..."VK" is not an implausible opening consonant pair.
CHAVEZ is a common Hispanic name. CHASEZ is nonsense.

The AVEDON/MEADE crossing is a classic Natick, and ARUM/MEADE isn't any better...I had ARUS. TORE could Easily have been TORN...another Natick!!!

I sang that damn Nell Carter "Gimme a Break Song" over and over again in my head without encountering anything 'breaking', but eventually did realize it was the stupid Kit Kat jimgle. I also got ZYMURGY immediately, as well as ZOOCREW, DVD BURNER, SEZ WHO, MR. MIYAGI, and every other tricky *possible* clue. So I'm Not a FATHEAD.

This puzzle could have been a good challenge. Instead it was simply unfair. Booo! Hisss!!! Now I'm going to read the commentary to see if Anyone actually solved it.

At least this Sat. was harder than Friday for once. Captcha: "therat" Yes, The Rat...good monicker for this rodent of a puzzle, which I Almost liked.

Sorry for the screed. Hoping for a good puzzle next week, perhaps by Michael Sharp. That, I'll like!

Portland, Ore.

cody.riggs 9:54 PM  

Oh, forgot to B!tc# about SOT. C'mon. That's just a horrid clue. Everyone wrote "SOP" there. Everyone. The clue was Designed to make you write it.

Result: FAPHEADS. Look up FAP in the urban dictionary, and you'll know why I'm laughing. But not in a good way.

eastsacgirl 3:46 PM  

ICK!!! DNF without help.Got most of NW but the rest was just too diabolical as someone else said. No fun for a Saturday. I'm rating this puzzle as a CROCK

Anonymous 7:44 PM  

Spacecraft here. Agree with Rex and others about the clue for SOT. Rex hit it on the head: you want to put in SOP. It seems obvious. The glitch helped block my entry into the puzzle's last defense, the SE. I had MO___ for "part of a mudslide," figured it had to be one of those odd geology words like moraine or loess. Had ZO_____ at 37a, but knew no such term. Tried OMAHA for the United hub, got nowhere. Finally broke down and Googled ERICDANE, the only name in that whole cast (Geez, like, 25 names? Talk about your ensemble!) that seemed to make sense. That erased OMAHA, but pointed to ICK. Eureka! I thought, as I wrote in WEAKLINK. (Remember "You ARE the weakest link; goodbye!"?) Well, eventually, with another Google for ENDE, I got it all straightened out, so two Googs and a lot of angst, but we got 'er done. Of course, after completion I had to check up on the outrageous set of letters at 1d, only left there because all the crosses worked. Who knew? What a name!
This puzzle is chock full of proper names; two I really like are MORITA crossing MRMIYAGI (wax on, wax off!). But the rest seem to be little more than gratuitous high-Scrabble count stuff. I wouldn't be surprised if the average for the whole grid should exceed 2.0, which would be very unusual. Knew ZYMURGY only because it's the last entry in my (Scrabble, of course!) dictionary.
Sooner or later, some wag will probably try to work ZYZZOGETON into a puzzle; to that person I say: please don't.

blimud: a mudslide (yes, Spacecraft, you dolt: not the geology kind, the MIXology kind!) that leaves you half-blind.

Marc 8:24 PM  

This one was a bear. I enjoyed the workout, but DNF due to the obscure names. I had to Google my way out of this one.

This is the toughest Saturday in a while, and while I could grouse about the plethora of proper names, I got a lot of satisfaction for working out 98% of it.

Anonymous 12:00 AM  

I just finished watching Andrew Luck and Stanford pummel the crap out of Colorado. This puzzle did the same to me.

Could not get FAT HEADS because "Ninnies" put Zappa's "Wet T-Shirt Nite" in my head and there was no turning back from there. It's a common reaction that makes an attraction whenever they're cold.

Enjoyed the mini beer theme, but in the end it was a SKUNKY drain pour.

Is this the Peter Wentz from Fallout Boy?

Anonymous 12:26 AM  

It DOES! Spacecraft again, with the final count: 196 letters counting 395 Scrabble points for an overall average of 2.002! Congratulations Peter!

Last Guy 1:08 PM  

Yup, hated it. There's a fine line (or maybe not so fine) between being challenging and just plain annoying.

Anonymous 10:27 PM  

Listen to alot of N'SYNC there Rex?

alba66 5:22 PM  

I thought of dark beers (as opposed to Lagers)altho' I don't drink 'em. Shandy--too long--Guinness, Stout, etc., etc. But I forgot "Bock" which I first read of in a de Maupassant "conte" entitled, "Waiter, another Bock". GARÇON, UN BOCK !..
GUY DE MAUPASSANT. It was a very sad story. I was a mere stripling when I read it just as the narrator was.

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