Fiddlehead sources / SAT 1-21-12 / Dodgem feature / Oberhausen opera highlight / Golden Pavilion setting / 1976 Rodgers Harnick musical about Henry VIII / Supporter of Yoda / Opera's Obraztsova

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Constructor: Martin Ashwood-Smith

Relative difficulty: Medium 

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: LENOS (63A: Soft, meshed fabrics) —
n. pl. le·nos
1. Weaving in which the warp yarns are paired and twisted.
2. A fabric having such a weave. (
• • •
[It's pledge week here at the Rex Parker site (thru Sat.) —read my pitch for donations in the opening paragraphs of Sunday's write-up, here ... and thanks for your faithful readership (and the many kind messages I've received so far)]

• • •
I did this puzzle in pencil, untimed, so I'm not exactly sure of how tough it was. Felt suitably Saturdayish. Why do people continue to pursue the 4x15 stack? It just doesn't yield very good answers. SEEDLESS RAISINS is essentially an excuse to cram a lot of RLTNE letters in there (40A: Sultanas, say), and PRIME is about the only interesting part of PRIME REAL ESTATE (though I do like the clue—38A: Great parking spot, slangily) (note the doubling of STATE near bottom of the grid). Unsurprisingly, the non-central areas of the grid are more interesting, particularly the spooky pairing of "ARE YOU ALONE?" and "COME INTO THE OPEN" (no thanks, I'm gonna stay hidden til you go away, k? K) (14A: Phone query before a private conversation + 17A: Emerge). When I first saw the clue at 5D: Somme silk, I said, out loud, "ugh, fabrics," an exclamation I was to repeat. Twice. Fabrics tend to have short, foreign, terrible, and (to me) unmemorable names. SOIE I got just because it's a French word and I had some French. CIRÉ I managed to remember because of some prior experience, and some sense that it's etymologically related to the (again) French word for "wax" (31D: Highly glazed fabric). LENOS, on the other (other) hand, I had noooo shot at. So strange was that word to me that I really felt like the "N" was a total guess (later, I ran the alphabet and realized "N" was the only viable option)—which brings me to the A PLAN clue (47D: "But not without ___": Pope). What the hell? It's *Alexander* Pope, in case you were wondering, and the quotation is from "An Essay on Man." That's a major literary work, but ... well, it's hardly "Othello" or "Moby-Dick" or some other quotable literary classic. Feels like a very "screw you" kind of clue.

PAL UP is not an expression I know (6A: Get chummy). PAL AROUND (with), sure. But I PAIR UP. PAL AROUND, PAIR UP. I also don't remember Yoda using a CANE (20A: Supporter of Yoda). My little Yoda figurine must have lost his CANE somewhere along the way. George TAKEI's name looks like a "free offer" only if the offerer is prone to using Roman numerals. He's well known, and a major gay activist, so surely there's a reasonable way to clue him.  I thought for sure that [Match game?] was ARSON (nope, LOTTO), so it was interesting to see fire-language misdirection later on in the grid with the clue for PYROMANIA (54A: Lighting problem?), which I would've clued as a Def Leppard album, but that's just me.

Really loved the clues on SEX (21A: Masters focus) and ZONED (13D: Like a lot, maybe). Both of them stumped me, especially the latter.

  • 1A: Fiddlehead sources (FERNS) — one of the symbols of NZ, so I should know this. A "fiddlehead" is the "furled frond of a young fern" (wiki).
  • 25A: Dodgem feature (CAR) — I learned "dodgem" from a crossword puzzle long ago. I think it was a Word of the Day. So some things actually do stick.
  • 53A: "Mickey" singer Basil (TONI) — huge gimme. On heavy rotation I was an MTV-addicted youngster.

  • 60A: Roquefort source (EWE) — took me longer than it should have. Went looking for a French word (EAU? No). 
  • 62A: 1976 Rodgers and Harnick musical about Henry VIII ("REX") — saw the clue and thought "Damn, I know this. I wrote about it a few months back ... it's something short and weird ..."
  • 12D: Opera's Obraztsova (ELENA) — suitably Saturday. Better than the already-tired [Justice Kagan].
  • 25D: Roosevelt established it as Shangri-La (CAMP DAVID) — nice bit of trivia. Guessed it off the -VID.
  • 30D: Oberhausen opera highlight (ARIE) — German word for "ARIA?" Pretty terrible, though I gotta give some credit for trying to invent a new clue for this answer. OK, not *new* new, but certainly not common, i.e. not R&B singer India.___, not Racer Luyendyk.
  • 48D: Golden Pavilion setting (KYOTO) — My first thought was "isn't that a supermarket chain in southern California?" (it's just "Pavilions"). On geographical ignorance, see also [Seti river setting] = NEPAL.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:41 AM  

Med.-tough for me.  Top and bottom Med., middle tough.  Many write overs but the ones that held me up in the middle were SOTS for WETS, FIRSTSTRING for 23d, and YANK for Joltin Joe.  This was a good Sat. challenge but, like yesterday's, a tad low on the zippy scale.  I mean, PYROMANIA and AREYOUALONE were about it.   My surprise gimmie of the day was TONI Basil.  I have no idea how I knew her as I was not an MTV addict.

Are there raisins with seeds?

r.alphbunker 12:53 AM  

I polished off the puzzle in a decent time with few writeovers, no googles and no mistakes at the end.

I thought the 4 stack was decent. Complaining about SEEDLESS RAISINS sounds like sour grapes to me.

One writeover was
Oberhausen opera highlight [ARIa-->ARIE]
Interesting. I have always thought that aria was already a foreign word.

Larry I in L.A. 2:12 AM  

I was helped immensely by correctly guessing 25 letters right off the bat: AREYOUALONE and SACAGAWEADOLLAR. jedi instead of CANE at 20A, however, led to Niger and NEgev before I erased most of the NE and started fresh.

Like REX, I wasn't thrilled with three textile-related answers, and I've never heard anybody use the word WETS as clued, but hey, it's Saturday...

jae 2:59 AM  

@Larry -- check out the Ken Burns PBS series on Prohibition.

Deb 3:12 AM  

Brutal. Just brutal.

Annex Car Msecs 5:01 AM  

"Oh Martin you 're so fine you,re so fine you blow my mind, hey Martin!"
Ahhhh, memories of senior year and the first video I think i ever saw on MTV.
TONI "Basil", amazing choreographer original Spice Girl?

That TAKEI clue freaky, but I like it.

Could have sworn SACAGEWEA had a J...and a Q! Then my life ( and this puzzle) would be complete.
Actually, I'm sure it was transliterated, so i will imagine SAQAJEWEA.

If Noam D. Elkes or some equally erudite reader is out there, might you discuss whether or not Kaballah = OCCULTISM in a way I can understand?

Nice one, Martin. I had to read the ZONED clue 18 times before I got it. And hand up with soTS before WETS.
Without NEZ and COMAS i had no footholds, so I'm proud to have solved this...
and i love four stacks...couldn't make one if I lived to 100.

Sarah @ Baby Bilingual 7:00 AM  

For me, doing a Saturday puzzle is like watching my almost-four-year-old eat vegetables: he does it grudgingly, already having decided that he is not going to like them, although knowing that they're good for him, and then sometimes he realizes that one particular preparation actually tastes good and he wants more (but is reluctant to admit this fact to his parents in case we decide to make him eat more veggies as a result).

That's how this puzzle felt to me.

I almost always avoid Saturdays because I'm a fairly new to the NYT puzzle and I find them so tough that I get too frustrated to finish--just not enjoyable for me, given the general obscurity of the references. But I googled my way through this one and actually finished it without getting too annoyed with the clues (and myself).

Still, though, while I so admire the work of the constructors of all the NYT puzzles, I tend to think of the Saturday authors (and Will) as a bunch of sadistic show-offs!

Anyway, to return to my original analogy, doing a Saturday puzzle to completion without checking the answers for every other clue is satisfying, and I know it's good for me in that it will improve my ability to solve future puzzles, but I still would just rather not see them on my plate to begin with!

(Why did I bother to do this one tonight, then, you might ask? We're "sleep training" our six-month-old and I've been spending more time awake than asleep in the wee hours. I love my iPad!)

Rexites--Did you (do you) dread Fridays and Saturdays when you started solving? How long did it take before you gor comfortable with them?

johnranta 7:20 AM  

I have to disagree with Rex on liking the clue for "zoned". Which I still don't get, even though I filled it in by getting "clad", etc. If you are "zoned out", or "in the zone" it's because you like something a lot? "zoned out" you're bored (or high). "in the zone" you're intent, highly focused, competing well.

An ill-fitting clue bothers me. Oh well...jr

Anonymous 7:41 AM  

Someone please explain 56 down! I got all the crosses, but just don't understand 'atno'.

Leslie 7:43 AM  

It made me a little sad that when I got to SACAGAWEA, I honestly couldn't remember the coin denomination. Had to be DOLLAR because of the number of spaces, but in my head it could just as plausibly been a quarter. Man, when you memorialize somebody on a coin, you've got to be hoping it'll make more of a splash than that!

I was absolutely determined that 57A needed to be TENDERLOIN SLICE, which made the SE go unnecessarily slowly.

Agree with Rex on all the obscure fabric names. Bleah.

Leslie 7:44 AM  

Sorry, anonymous 7:41--didn't see your comment. Atomic number of helium.

Anonymous 7:52 AM  


optionsgeek 7:57 AM  

@john - instead of "I like her a lot", think "like the lot across the street, ours is zoned R-2"

Unknown 8:06 AM  

The Golden Palace setting is of course Kyoto. REx mis-remembered his clues: Nepal is the answer for Seti River setting.

Laura 8:35 AM  

Could someone explain "Masters focus" to me? Thanks.

Donkos 8:38 AM  

The only thing that would have made this puzzle enjoyable at all was if the clue for 62a was " one who uses a 38a".

imsdave 8:40 AM  

@Laura - Masters and Johnson, the sex researchers.

Glimmerglass 8:46 AM  

@ Laura: Masters and Johnson researched and wrote about human sexual response. Also struck out with LENOS -- never heard of it. Unlike Rex, I figured PLAN was too obvious for a Saturday and went with PLAy (I was thinking of The Rape of the Lock.

jberg 8:53 AM  

I had to leave this one with some gaps in the South and go solve the kenken before I was able to see that 58D was ESL - just back from Paris, I was thinking of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, which kept me from seeing that. Once I had that the rest fell into place.

I had the J in 29A too -- apparently, according to, the different spellings correspond to disputes about her tribal affiliation (Shoshone, the way she was born, or Hidatsa, as she lived most of her life); the hard G fits the sound of the way Clark had it in his journal of the expedition, "Sah-cah' gah-we-ah." Learning from puzzles!

burgundy 9:17 AM  

Wasn't Camp David named after Ike's kid and if so, how was it Roosevelt's Shangri-La because Ike hadn't been President yet unless it was called Shangri-La before and Ike changed the name????


Jp 9:17 AM  

There is much to like about this puzzle not the least one being able to essentially complete the puzzle. I needed google at the outset to get started with some short down clues ELENA, NEPAL, PATON, LOEWE, KYOTO, A PLAN.. Then the long answers started to take shape. First came TENDERLOIN STEAK, ARE YOU ALONE and COME INTO THE OPEN. Then every thing fell into place.
I had ARIA and GIRD so I did not see SEEDLESS RAISINS. Instead I had SadLErS RAISINS.

Wood 9:24 AM  

This puzzle was like shoveling your driveway. Started out great, felt easy, could do this all night. Top third went in record time and I actually thought it felt like a Tuesday. Then I started to get a little winded on the middle stack, shoulders complaining a little, toes a bit chilled. Still, doable, we'll get through this. Got it done in Fridayish fashion. Bottom third though, OMG. Back screaming, hating the world, can't believe THERE'S STILL SO MUCH WHITE! LENOS and ATNO did me in, finally got em but hardly enjoyed it and flopped into bed like a dead man.

Nakitab 9:34 AM  

ATNO is atomic number. Zoned refers to a real estate lot. (answers to previous posts).

I found this puzzle challenging not medium which means I really liked it. LENO is often used as a curtain fabric. Don't know why I know that.

jackj 9:35 AM  

The king of the triple stack, Martin Ashwood-Smith, takes a busman’s holiday of sorts in order to treat us to a head-banging quad stack, with some vexing stand-alone entries which might have you asking, “What did I do to deserve this?”

There aren’t many 15 letter answers which are more fun than SACAGAWEADOLLAR, (once you’ve lucked into the answer and then conquered the spelling), unless you just like the memory of those golden SEEDLESSRAISINS which, when dried, go into those little boxes of raisins you once snacked on in third grade.

There seem to be only three legitimate bits of esoterica in this puzzle which deserve some gentle grunting and groaning, namely, CIRE, LENOS and, arguably, TCM, ( I don’t think SOIE and NEZ deserve that Scarlet E).

We’ve seen SOIE enough times that it is gettable for anyone confident enough to tackle a Saturday themeless puzzle. Then, how about NEZ you ask? No way! NEZ is a wonderful, fun product of a delightful clue, “Odeur detector” and is head and shoulders above “pince-___ “ or “___ Perce” and we should be thankful.

Martin is a BMOF, a Big Man On Fridays, (which rely heavily on his trademark knotty but nice, solver friendly triple stacks), and he shows he can more than hold his own on this toughest of puzzle days.

Nice job, MAS!

retired_chemist 9:47 AM  

Loved the cluing today, for the same reason it seemed to irritate some of you. Misdirection was IMO often brilliant, and thinking outside the box (you put yourself in) was de rigeur.

Also enjoyed all the 15s. I need practice on long answers and got it today. Tried some partials etc. which were wrong but thought provoking, viz: 40A *GRAPES; 61A THE US SENATE;57A ???SIRLOIN STEAK. All fixed. Wanted a J in SACAjAWEA.

A delightful romp, albeit not a fast one here. Thank you, Martin.

JenCT 9:57 AM  

@Andrea: "Original Spice Girl" - good one!

@Rex: LOL "the spooky pairing of "ARE YOU ALONE?" and "COME INTO THE OPEN" (no thanks, I'm gonna stay hidden til you go away, k? K"

I also don't understand OCCULTISM as clued.

@Sarah: I'm STILL not comfortable with Fridays and Saturdays!

Anonymous 10:02 AM  

Re:Camp David

First known as Hi-Catoctin, Camp David was originally built as a camp for federal government agents and their families, by the WPA, starting in 1935, opening in 1938.[4] In 1942 it was converted to a presidential retreat by Franklin D. Roosevelt and renamed "Shangri-La" (for the fictional Himalayan paradise). Camp David received its present name from Dwight D. Eisenhower, in honor of his father and grandson, both named David.[5]

joho 10:03 AM  

The middle section killed me! I finally got it but, phew, what a workout. I had soTS for too long plus I wouldn't change ARIa till I got CIRE and saw it had to be SEEDLESS. SACAGAWEADOLLAR was fun and the quad stack very impressive.

Thank you Martin Ashwood-Smith!

@Sarah @ Baby Bilingual, I can't speak for others here, but I've never become comfortable with Saturdays. The only thing that's gotten easier is that now I know I can solve them so I keep at it until I do. Today's puzzle was definitely challenging in the middle section, it just took perseverance.

r.alphbunker 10:05 AM  

Good point about raisins with seeds. A friend of mine owns a TV remote that is connected to the TV with a wire. When technology got rid of the wire the remotes were called wireless remotes until there were no more remotes with wires and then the "wireless" was dropped. I think there is a term for this phenomenon in linguistics. However, this probably does not apply here because I find it hard to believe that raisins ever had seeds. Maybe one of the chefs on the blog can enlighten us.

Great analogy. Now I know what its like to have kids :-) Your reaction to Friday and Saturday puzzles was mine when I started doing them. I remember the first Saturday that I did. It was on an all day plane trip and I solved on paper. It took me all day but I remember the sense of accomplishment when I finished it in the Denver airport. I now look forward to Friday and Saturday puzzles and even subscribe to Peter Gordon's Fireball puzzles.

To continue the kid analogy, I no longer panic when I know nothing on the first pass through the puzzle. I remain calm and am confident that the answers will come in time. This must be what it is like to remain calm with a screaming baby like the woman in back of me on a recent flight. She knows the kid will eventually stop screaming. I did not and wanted to suggest an Alec Baldwin maneuver to the flight crew!

Z 10:05 AM  

Liked lots of the misdirecting cluing. Did not like lots of the trivia clues.

Count Dooku has just dispatched Obi Wan and Anakin when Master Yoda enters the scene, walking with the assistance of a cane. Cue the over the top light saber battle. So I knew immediately that my choices were Jedi or CANE.

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

@Sarah - One of the all-time great descriptions of doing F&S. Give it about a year or start using the check (not the reveal) button with abandon and it will be like ice cream to your 4 y.o.

Rex guessed it off of VID and I guessed it off of CAM. Yesterday we learned there are 30,000 islands in Lake Huron and today we learn that Roosevelt (Franklin) named it Shangri-La. There is no end to what we learn doing these puzzles. PS. Eisenhower re-named it to Camp David after his father and grandson....


evil doug 10:36 AM  

April, 1942: An improbable top-secret mission to launch 16 twin-engine B-25 bombers off of an aircraft carrier to hit Japan is executed. The plan is to get the carrier close enough to allow the aircraft to bomb Japan and fly on to China for landing. Just getting airborne in the 500' available is incredible; the rest of the story, even more so.

The Raiders, led by Jimmy Doolittle, dropped their relatively small bomb loads on various targets---while actual damage was minimal, it raised American morale, caused doubt in a smug Japanese populace, and led the Japanese fleet to be kept in a more defensive posture. Ultimately, this paid off in the critical U.S. victory at Midway that turned the tide of the war in the Pacific.

Reporters asked FDR where the bombers had originated. Desiring to keep the enemy in confused fear, he replied, "They came from our secret base at Shangri-La". In 1944, a new aircraft carrier was christened: "USS Shangri-La".

"Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" is shown regularly on TCM.

'Tenderloin steak' sounds repetitively redundant to me. I call it a tenderloin.


Anonymous 10:36 AM  

What's a GAWEA? Why would one want a sack of it?

quilter1 10:52 AM  

@Rex, Well, of course, I loved three fabric clues. There are lots of fabrics with neat names. Take a tour of a good fabric shop for ideas. Just this week we had MADRAS.

Got AREYOUALONE right away and thought it would be a romp, but made a couple of errors, like UNDERduress, that slowe me down a little, but eventually got everything.

Ken Burns reference #2, his Lewis and Clark documentary gave the real pronunciation of SACAGAWEA and it sounds nothing like it is spelled. This was a big deal in 2000 and I liked this woman being honored, as her life was full of suffering, but I have never seen them anywhere ever. I don't think people like carrying heavy coins and of course with debit cards one hardly needs cash.

Rudy Shankar 10:59 AM  

Folks its a hard rain fallin'
here in the South and it reflects my dour mood as I struggled through this puz. Finally, I gave up with lots of white spaces. As much as I like the 4-stacks, never could guess that DOLLAR and SEEDLESSRAISINS. Heck aren't Sultanas GOLDEN RAISINS but that did not fit as I desperately searched for extra two letters. There were some nice cluing oldies: 21a Masters ; 62a 1976 Henry VIII Musical, 25d Roosevelt's Shangri-La, et. al.

Another piece of 1970s trivia on Camp David. Nixon in a press conference announcing his daughter's marriage to DDE's grandson David after whom CAMPDAVID is named proudly announced that he was headed off to Camp David as he gave that ever so sinister, sly grin. David was embarassed mightily maybe thinking he has the President's retreat named after him as well as his daughter's hand.

AnnieD 11:14 AM  

First sat puzz I had to google in a long time. Of course it was my fault for failing to check the idiocy my mistake produced when I had "come into ones own" instead of "the open". And my assumption that that was correct made the NE corner impossible.

I have to admit that despite sewing all my life, I'd not heard of lenos, though peau de soie is lovely to touch.

Solid enjoyable puzzle. Thanks M A-S!

Lindsay 11:15 AM  

Got held up in the middle with "yank" for Joltin' Joe (as @jae mentioned in the very first post). Unlike most of you, I right-off-the-bat wanted 32D to be WETS (opposite of dries) but thinking it would be wrong didn't fill it in.

Overall, liked the long acrosses OK, but found the short downs exasperating. Guess that's the usual complaint about stacked 15s.

Have a good weekend Rexonians.

Shamik 11:16 AM  

Yikes. I'm in a smug feeling minority because I found this easy for a Saturday at under 15 minutes. Lest you start believing that I think I'm upper echelon...I found yesterday's puzzle excruciatingly medium-challenging where others found it a breezier Friday.

Really? A good parking spot is joked as PRIMEREALESTATE? And I have never PAL'ed UP to anyone or vice versa. It sounds creepy. I got my eyes crossed and put in ZZTOP for ZONED having read the 16 Across clue for 13 Down. If that makes sense to you, congratulations!

Has anyone felt OTTER fur? Just checking. And the entire north fell easily and then a vast desert until the COMAS gimme.

skerable: A game show host's pronunciation of a well known word game

mac 11:25 AM  

Easy for me until the Sacagawea dollar. Just never heard of it, so I guessed wrong for 34D, ALer.

I also had Arson at 8D, and liked seeing pyromania at 54A. Had lawns for lenos. Don't know that fabric, but Kyoto and A Plan put it in place.

Still snowing in CT, pretty close to 4 inches now.

archaeoprof 11:29 AM  

OCCULTISM is not a term which is used in the academic study of religion. Kabbalah is an example of mysticism. Bad clue, imo.

Otherwise, good Saturday, pretty challenging but not impossible.

LENOS was new to me.

dk 11:31 AM  

@sarah, there was a time when I was thrilled to get 3 right on a Saturday. Now after 30+ years I am happy to get 4.

PALUP made me want to throw up. After 20 minutes of WTP (what the poop) to fill in PALUP was like kissing my sister eeeeeeeooooooowwww.

Ok I feel better now.

I liked the stacks and the puzzle with one exception. Have I mentioned PALUP?

*** (3 stars)

Anonymous 11:38 AM  

But shouldn't there be an abbr?
I too thought it didn't make sense.

Rookie 11:54 AM  

@dk, loved your comment to Sarah. It made me laugh out loud. Its incredible that people can do Saturdays in just a few minutes. I hope I either get better or that I can develop your sense of humor rather than continuing to have the sense of inferiority that taunts me every Saturday!
Thanks for the laugh!

Anonymous 12:07 PM  

Not so much a puzzle as a trivia quiz. Ugly and annoying.

Jp 12:09 PM  

Many of the comments on this blog come from long time puzzle solvers with instant recall who can solve a Saturday puzzle in under 10 minutes or so and of course without any help or write-overs. Their brains are simply wired differently. After more than 30 years of solving the NYT puzzles, I still cannot solve the Mondays or Tuesdays in much less than 15 minutes although I finish them without help. So I do not time myself at all. I also have no problem googling to get answers on pop culture, movies, baseball, literature and what not that I never knew or do not care to remember.
For me running a 12 minute mile is no less fun than someone else doing it at a 6 minute pace.

Anonymous 12:20 PM  

You're right, Will and the Fri/Sat constructors ARE a bunch of sadistics show offs! That's why we enjoy the battle, mano a mano, to the finish!
Often when I start a Saturday, I don't see more than one or two possible answers on my first go around, but little by little it starts to pull together. It's a really good feeling to finish a Saturday, all correct, no google.
Stick with it.

Anonymous 12:20 PM  

@Evil - Fell in love with the girl-next-door Phyllis Thaxter the first time I saw the movie. She turned 90 last November.

Shangri-La/Camp David is a Naval/Marine base so FDR had a sense of humor. A half century later the B-2 Bombers flew from my old Air Base, Whiteman AFB (named after the first AAC pilot who died in WWII) in western central Missouri to bomb Baghdad, so that gives an idea how far and fast air power developed after that Doolittle raid.

JaxInL.A. 12:25 PM  

Weather seems rather wet across the country. It rained all night here in L.A. and, though it was not a hard rain, we lost the transformer in my neighborhood. I had never before seen the green flashes that accompany such an event. I was in the middle of composing my post here when we lost all power, and it didn't come back for nearly four hours. (Nothing like the days and days that @JenCT and @mac had to go without power early in the winter, of course.) I hope that the rain in the south and snow in the north and northeast don't cause any such inconveniences for other Rexites.

I finished this without help, something I would not have been able to do a year ago. In the south I had to struggle for each letter, but I did it. Hooray! Happy Saturday.

Anonymous 12:29 PM  

Sacagawea dollars very common in Ecuador when I was there in 2008. You can use US currency there.

Two Ponies 12:36 PM  

Wicked but I got it.
If I never see another fabric in my grid I'll be happy.
I hope that otter is wearing his sleek fur.

@ Leslie, You will never see an answer repeated from the clue so it had to be steak not slice.

Re: Sat. puzzles. I always look forward to a real challenge but don't beat myself up too badly if I can't finish.

ruth 12:48 PM  

A new clue for OLAV! Seems worth celebrating. . .

Anonymous 12:51 PM  

Donkos, I cannot figure out what you meant by "'if the clue for 62a was " one who uses a 38a' ".

Please explain.

Z 12:51 PM  

@Evil - thanks for history lesson. Read of the heroics of Doolittle as well as the Flying Tigers quite a bit in my Junior High years.

@Quilter - I believe the Mint would like to eliminate the one dollar bill and replace it with coins. However, the president and most of congress would probably be voted out of office if the one dollar bill were eliminated. As long as the bill exists the common wisdom is a dollar coin will never gain wide acceptance. Canada manages, but it seems that the US of A cannot.

RogerinNYC 12:57 PM  

Been lurking here for months, enjoying Rex's take and everyone's comments. Just threw in my $10. Keep it going!

Chemist still working 1:21 PM  

2 is the atomic number (atno) for Helium (He).

Mano a Mano means hand to hand, right?

johnranta 1:27 PM  

Ah, I was the one who zoned out. I usually figure out the misdirections, just missed this one completely. I have "lots" to atone for, I guess.

As long as it's confession time, The top section went fast for me (but "palup" ??? - please...). the bottom took a bit longer (I confidently entered "sable" instead of "otter" and stuck with it for far too long). The middle took a bit longer. I must have counted the spaces 5 times trying to fit "campobello". I had sbanthonydollar, then I stuck with sacajawea (where's my Shoshone dictionary?) for the longest time, even though "j" does not work as a second letter for the down word. I had "yank" as well (i'll guarantee you Joe Dimaggio never bragged about being an "aler") and "sots" instead of "wets" (which i then changed to "wino" for a little while when i got the "w"). This was a good Saturday, and I apologize to Martin for thinking his clue for zoned was misleading. :)

Tita 1:41 PM  

My question was AMIONSPEAKER (just cause you're paranoid doesn't mean they're to out to get you...)

North was sooo easy for me - then I got slammed through the rest of it...

@Wood - what an apt and timely metaphor...we've got about 6 inches here! And it's not over yet...

I sew, my mother was in the business for decades...enough with obscure fabrics already!

Loved 'fiddlehead sources'.
Loved the HElium clue - when I FINALLY got it! Epic misdirect...

It took me about 3 months of this blog to be able to solve Fri&Sats "regularly"
I can now get about half of Saturdays with no googling.

What helped me early on was to print , then solve on and off - never in one sitting - sometimes it took all week.

It floors me when, after a week of occasionally hitting my head against the puzzle, thinking "I'll NEVER know THAT"...suddenly, I get it!

I use google as a total last resort...I do use it often post-solve to learn.

Liked your analogy too, btw!

Rhea58 2:01 PM  

Thought this was going to be easy when I immed. popped in ferns for fiddleheads which are delicious when cooked properly.
Not so stuck on the
sacagawe dollar.
I, too don't like Pal up; pal
around is more appropriate.
But a good Saturday all in all.

Anonymous 2:07 PM  


The phrase PAL UP is in the dictionary. Nobody is making anything up here.

Noam D. Elkies 2:07 PM  

The only SETI that I'd heard of was the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. 11D:NEPAL may be the roof of the world, but it's not out of this world...

Apropos Nepal, the reason "people continue to pursue the 4x15 stack" is the same as the reason they climb Mount Everest. You don't expect entries like SESQUIOXIDIZING in such a stack any more than you would pack a suitcase full of fancy evening wear to go up Everest. And here it's actually done quite well. There's really nothing wrong with any of the 15-letter entries; they're all legitimate phrases, none of which has appeared more than once before in the NYTimes so they're not crossword clichés — not even 40A:SEEDLESS_RAISINS, which indeed has a bunch of useful S's but has not been used before. Indeed most of the weak fill is not involved in that marquee stack but the supporting caset of 9+15+11 stacks (with several good 9- and 11-letter entries linking the lot).


P.S. again, central 4x15 plus symmetry forces an extra-wide grid with 16 rows. Have we seen stacked 16's yet (outside of Sunday)?

Lewis 2:12 PM  

@r.alph -- loved the raisin comment

I loved the misdirect clues, they are often my favorite part of puzzles, and today they brought me some happy ahas.

Why are ads zapped?

I think I've heard pal up, I may have even used it, but it ain't common.

In the beginning of my crossword habit, I thought nobody really got the Saturday crosswords, that people maybe claimed to, to show off. Then I began to think that maybe a few people actually did solve it, but they were far and few between, maybe autistic. Now I realize that people do solve these puzzles, including myself. These puzzles are great teachers of humility and persistence.

Evan 2:18 PM  

@ Sarah:

If it's any help to know, a few years ago I would never have bothered touching a Friday or Saturday NYT puzzle because I thought they were too tough. Nowadays, I can do them completely without having to cheat. My times have dropped considerably too. The first time I ever completed a Saturday puzzle start to finish all on my own with no mistakes (in late 2009), it took me about five hours over the course of three days. Now, I can finish Saturday puzzles in 30-45 minutes. The same rule has been true for me on every day of the week for the NYT puzzle, with different average times.

What has been my secret? Two things, one obvious, the other one not. The first one is practice. I know you'll probably hear that a lot, but it's true. You can't get better at the tougher puzzles later in the week unless you do them all the time. Constant solving breeds familiarity and thus easier recall of information that you might otherwise have forgotten.

The second tip is crossword construction. I've been building puzzles for a little less than three years now, and while I'm still awaiting to be published by a major outlet, I can say for certain that constructing puzzles has made me a far better solver. That's because when I look at a grid as a constructor, I actively seek out letter combinations that I know can and cannot work in a particular space given specific constraints. The NYT database at and the dictionary have both been valuable resources for helping to build grids and to remember obscure words and trivia. The xwordinfo site is especially great because you get not only the answers but the clues, which means that if I see a clue resembling something I've seen in the database, that makes for easier recall.

Anyway, keep at it and you'll get better at Fridays and Saturdays in due time. There are some NYT crossword books filled with nothing but Friday and Saturday puzzles, which is another good practice resource. I'd recommend that if you want a good trial by fire.

r.alphbunker 2:31 PM  


I think that ads can be zapped when using a technology like TIVO so that you don't have to look at them.

And thanks for giving me another reason I can use when I try to explain my crossword jones. Humility and persistence seem to be what many of life's endeavors teach us. They must be important.

davko 2:34 PM  

Everything a Saturday should be; I really loved it, a few flaws notwithstanding. The fun of doing a puzzle like this is that even when it looks like a non-starter, and even when the clues are so obscure they border on snobbery (yes, the Pope quote is one such example), the fact that you may have to do a little extra work, heaven forbid, to solve the darn thing is what makes it so satisfying! Smith deftly gives you alternate ways to reach a seemingly impossible goal, even if you're not, say, a trivia maven, music scholar, professor of literature, or botanist.

There were a few misgivings, notably the two obscure fabrics. In fact, I missed one letter (the 31-square) because I didn't know CIRE (31D) and couldn't remember that SACAGAWEA was spelled with a 'C' rather than 'K.' (This only one week after some clue of her doing cartwheels in the nude -- was that a NYT puzzle or "Jeopardy?")

Chris 3:05 PM  

The burning of the Temple of the Golden Pavillion was the subject of a famous novel by Yukio Mishima. I had read the book years ago but couldn't remember the exact location, and so had to hesitate between OSAKA, KYOTO, TOKYO, and JAPAN until I got a cross.

quilter1 3:09 PM  

@Z: when we traveled in Great Britain I got weary of the build-up of pounds coins, pence, ha'pence, tenpence, fivepence and for all I know shillings and guineas. So I'm a fan of folding money. But, as I said, the lovely debit card....

And for raisin lovers I recommend Trader Joe's Thompson Seedless Grape Raisins. Now there's a SULTANA.

chefbea 4:09 PM  

Lots of good food in this puzzle. Too busy to finish it and read all the posts. Unexpected guests coming for dinner tonight so have been busy cooking all day. I'll chime in more tomorrow

Why won't google let me sign in??? Keeps telling me the letters don'''t match the word verification. Will try for the third time

jackj 4:29 PM  

@Sarah- When solving Friday and Saturday puzzles (or any day for that matter), don't be proud and give up on an answer if you can't put in all the letters at first.

If you see a clue which clearly indicates a plural answer, put the "s" in the grid; if there is a clue looking for, say, "less something" or "more something" you can be reasonably sure it is looking for an answer that ends in "er" and you should put the er in your grid; same deal for a clue which uses "most", it means the answer will end in "est" and you should write that in your grid.

I'm sure there are other such hints but wanted you to get the idea. You'll often be surprised how many boxes are filled with these partials and even if it doesn't immediately open up the grid, you'll also be adding answers that you are comfortable with and, eventually, you will have solved a late week themeless.

The thrill of your first successful Fri./Sat. solve will give you goose bumps!

Go for it!

Tita 4:53 PM  

@quilter1 - that's why MANBAGS are carried in Europe - multiply that by an neighboring country if you live on the continent...!

Linving in Germany at the Euro cutover, I wanted my little nieces to get an idea of what a big deal it was...
Showed them what they would have to deal with if Connecticut currency was the dollar, but Massachussets used the Clam, and NY, well, the Rudy! Is 40 Clams for this Tonka truck a good deal? How many Rudy's to the dollar...
They got it immediately!

GILL I. 5:59 PM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle and had such a good laugh reading @Rex today...
Everything has pretty much been said; good advice from our bloggers to @Sarah-YOU ARE (not) ALONE.
@quilter 1 - hand up for TJ sultana's - and they're cheap.
@Tita: Girl, you lost me at the 40 clams.
Favorite word today, OCCULTIST, but still don't understand it's relation to Kabbalah.
Go 49ers...Guacamole in the making.

sanfranman59 6:07 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 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 6:24, 6:50, 0.94, 25%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:56, 8:52, 1.01, 59%, Medium
Wed 12:07, 11:50, 1.02, 61%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 12:12, 18:57, 0.64, 3%, Easy (4th lowest median solve time of 134 Thursdays)
Fri 18:50, 25:17, 0.74, 11%, Easy
Sat 29:06, 29:54, 0.97, 48%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:34, 3:40, 0.97, 42%, Medium
Tue 4:47, 4:35, 1.05, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 6:13, 5:52, 1.06, 70%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 6:30, 9:16, 0.70, 7%, Easy (9th lowest median solve time of 134 Thursdays)
Fri 8:36, 12:32, 0.69, 8%, Easy
Sat 15:17, 17:02, 0.90, 34%, Easy-Medium

Clay C 6:38 PM  

Other than the fabrics, I thought the clever cluing here made this a winner. (ZONED, SEX, ATNO, etc.) I came here to check on A PLAY vs. A PLAN (I'd also guessed the latter, but both seem possible, in ignorance of the cloth.)

Showing my age, I think I have Toni Basil's Mickey on LP.

My one gripe, which I haven't seen mentioned in a quick scan here, is that I don't think of an ORB as inherently either big or revolving.


Bob Kerfuffle 6:46 PM  

@r.alphbunker - I believe the word you are looking for is "retronym". To add to you examples, a baseball team might play a "day game."

this may be one of the most difficult puzzles I have actually completed!

we can be sure that Waxy in Montreal will have no problem with 31D.

Dirigonzo 7:44 PM  

I'm really glad I shelled out the $2.50 (the price just went up) to buy the NYT and solve today's puzzle in "real time". I thought the stacked 15s were pure gold (except SACAGAWEADOLLAR which is a gold-colored alloy). For some reason AREYOUALONE reminded me of the old Jim Reeves classic, "He'll have to go". Great song.

@Clay C - ORB, at least in xword context, usually refers to a celestial body, most of which revolve around something.

Stan 8:38 PM  

An aside: When Rex was an MTV-addicted youngster, I was an MTV-addicted thirtysomething, which is why I can often predict the blog videos on any given day. Rex really does have good taste in music, by the way. But the crap quality of early MTV videos on the Web makes me sad. These things were generally shot in 35(!) millimeter, then edited down to NTSC format, then broadcast in non-HD and recorded by someone on VHS tape. And that's the version that gets uploaded to YouTube. It's like a third generation Xerox. They looked much better in 1982.

Re: retronyms. There used to be guitars and 'electric guitars' -- now there are guitars and 'acoustic guitars'.

Sparky 8:44 PM  

Finished yesterday. Yay. Today took most of the day and I still have empty space. Missed ES- completely; don't remember hearing of LENO. @Sarah. If a clue mentions a person who does something, that often ends in ER too.

Like @chefbea Google has been throwing back my comment with "letters don't match." Today, it is saying I will be asked to sign in, which is okay except when I sign in it wants me to creat a blog. I already have a blog. Anyone have any solutions to either of these things? With both I can just go to Name/URL and comment without Blue name and Avatar. And with the second I can fiddle around by going in, out, to desktop and generally messing around but I would much prefer just to be able to hit Preview, make my corrections and then hit Publish. Thanks for any help.

JenCT 9:14 PM  

@Sparky: have you tried deleting your cache/browsing history? Sometimes that works for me.

GILL I. 9:22 PM  

@Sparky: I go to Google and write in "my blog account." It opens to my blog and then I just sign in *again*.
When I go to comments I make sure the follow-up comments has a space to click on, if not, I keep signing in. I know nada about computers but this works for me.

I skip M-W 9:43 PM  


A tenderloin is the entire muscle. A tenderloin steak is a slice of it.
I did this in under the average time, but it would have been much faster if I had known the difference between ELO and EMO.
Never heard of Basil either. ewe was a gimme though.
Not sure I see why annex is proposal for business expansion, but that's what it had to be.

JenCT 10:24 PM  

@I skip M-W: ANNEX as in building addition.

Clay C 12:26 AM  

@Dirigonzo - Really? I guess I think of Jupiter as just a bigger ORB than a marble. If it's planet-sized and orbiting, it's a planet! (or moon, or maybe asteroid or planetoid) I'd agree that ORB is often clued as a planet/star/etc., but I think of it this way - All planets are ORBs, but not nearly all ORBs are celestial, big or revolving. (E.g., ORB in ebay, there are plenty at pocket sizes.)

Maybe there's an undertone of immensity in ORB I simply hadn't caught ...


Cheerio 9:00 AM  

I don't believe I have ever seen a raisin with a seed.

Anonymous 10:42 AM  

I thought that "at no" for "He's 2" referred to the notorious "no" stage that many toddlers go through!

Anonymous 11:54 AM  

I'm not certain the place you're getting your information, however good topic. I needs to spend some time finding out much more or understanding more. Thanks for great information I used to be on the lookout for this information for my mission.
!#: Sorel Women's Helen Of Tundra Boot... The Cheapest

Anonymous 10:21 AM  

The symbol for helium is He. It's atomic number (atno) is 2

Spacecraft 11:12 AM  

Maybe I could've slogged through the rest of this, but I got so mad I just couldn't wait. Here is a set of clues designed to thwart the solver. To him, we are the enemy. Well, you killed me, dude. Where shall I start?
Of all the ways you might have clued Frederick LOEWE, you chose one SO OBSCURE that in the entire Wikipedia content of "Little Prince" info, his work DID NOT APPEAR! I had to infer it from crosses, then looked him up, and there it is, near the bottom. Proud of yourself? I hope so.
Then there's PALUP. In all my 71+ years, I have NEVER heard that expression! SOIE?? What, are we calling hogs now? And of course, we ALL know the fabulous ELENA Obraz--whatever.
This isn't medium, or even challenging. This is IMPOSSIBLE! "He's 2, say." ATNO. Yeah, I get it, after making more mental turns than a Tasmanian devil in a labyrinth. Okay, you won. You beat me. Congratulations.

Anonymous 12:24 PM  

Think of a plot of land that's zoned for a particular use.

Red Valerian 12:37 PM  

Really enjoyed this, even though I guessed wrong with SACAGArENDOLLAR. I know I've seen the right answer in a crossword puzzle, but I just couldn't pull it up. rETS sort of kind of works.

Loonies and toonies are just fine. The metric system is okay, too.

Just got back from Cuba (yes, our government lets us go there--Varadero is crawling with drunken sunburned Canadians, but Havana is nice :-). They have one peso bills and one peso coins. I couldn't discern any preference on the part of locals. They also have two and three peso bills (and fives, tens, twenties...)

@Spacecraft--do you take red lights and snowstorms personally, too ;-}?

Anonymous 1:33 PM  

Seattle Times is behind the curve - we just got this one on 2/24. I actually cruised through the top 2/3 and got stuck on the bottom. Usually it takes all day and I put it down and keep coming back. Quite enjoyable, and I actually finished by 10 AM. "ATNO" drove me mad until I read the comments here. What is "TCM"?

Anonymous 1:42 PM  

I've been reading, laughing, giggling and enjoying this blog for over a year now. Allow me to state something profound: Profound.

GILL I. 2:38 PM  

@Anonymous 1:33 TCM=Turner Classic Movies.
@Red Valerian: But did you see the Old Havana that isn't shown to the tourists? That, my friend, is what Cuba really looks like. Castro and his minions don't like people who bring in moolah to see what that once beautiful island truly looks like now.

Solving in Seattle 4:10 PM  

I just have an MSEC (really), so this will be brief. Seeing Rex's comment about fabric clues ("ugh, fabrics,") made me think of my reaction about any arcane poetic contraction clue I see - just a lazy way to provide fill. Otherwise an ok Saturday puzzle.

Waxy in Montreal 5:04 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Waxy in Montreal 5:06 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle: thanks for your 31D confidence in me but truth told I had no idea ciré is a highly glazed finish for fabrics - this even despite the fact the answer is my real prénom (as we say in Québec) spelled backwards.

Fun puzzle. However, got locked into IHT (International Herald-Tribune) at 58D for "an expat may take it") which sunk the deep south for far too long and erroneously yielded Camp Davis and Tip Sirloin Steak, whatever they might be...

Eastsacgirl 9:13 PM  

Wow - almost finished a Saturday except for "msec", I had "asec" which twisted me for a long time. Finally came here and took a peek and saw the "m" and was able to finish. Not a bad week for me. Did Sunday through Saturday with very little trouble. Feeling very frisky now!

Spacecraft 1:15 AM  

@red valerian: (1) I now live in Las Vegas, so, no snowstorms; (2) We gave our cars to the kids when we moved out here, relying on public transportation plus feet to get around, so, no red lights. But before, when those things were part of my life, no, I did not take them personally. In fact, I don't even take your comment personally.
Unless, of course, you meant it to be personal.


Red Valerian 2:58 PM  

@Gill I.P. We did not go with a tour group, so we weren't "shown" Havana. We took a Viazul bus from Varadero to Havana, which just dropped us off in the street. As far as I know, we had no restrictions on our travels. We walked, we took buses, we took coco-taxis, and, once, a 1956 Chevy taxi. We went wherever we wanted. (There are some fabulous museums in Havana.)

We stayed in casas particulares (Cuban B&Bs) in Centro Havana, right next to Old Havana (one of nine Cuban UNESCO World heritage sites). These are private homes that are licensed to rent out rooms. Capitalism in action. Although my Spanish is not at all good, we got to visit with people and their children (who, in the morning, were usually rushing off to school).

For the non-Americans who might read this, I highly recommend the Casa Colonial de Yadilis y Joel ( Trip Advisor Site

I'd never been to Cuba before, but my partner had been there fifteen years ago. He was impressed at the improvements in Havana, especially along the Malecon and at Plaza de Armas.

Yes, there are a lot of run-down areas, there's too much garbage, and we saw, on rare occasion, a beggar. And I'm sure there were worse areas that we didn't see, and I have very little sense of rural life. (We did not go to Guantanamo, though I hear the town itself is quite lovely.) My week in Cuba does not make me an expert!

Plus, I don't mean to imply a defence of everything the Cuban government has done or does. But if I restricted myself to countries whose leaders had never done anything morally reprehensible, I wouldn't even be able to stay home!

@Spacecraft--I was just worried that it is really hard to be you :-)

Red Valerian 4:30 PM  

@Gill I.P. I just remembered that you grew up partly in Cuba. I'm sure you have stories to tell. Perhaps this is not the venue for them, but I am interested, and I'm sorry if my earlier post sounded, well, presumptuous. But I did enjoy our short visit there and would like to go back.

GILL I. 4:40 PM  

@Red Valerian. I loved your post...I do tend to get personal when referring to my beloved Cuba. My friends send me pics of the NOW Cuba; some are just horrible, some show how many parts are still beautiful. My sister who was born in Havana was there 3 years ago - long stories. I won't go back till the Castros' rot in hell.
Do you have COHIBA cigars in your neck of the woods?
If you want, I can send recent pictures. Just send me an Email..
Hasta luegito.

Red Valerian 5:41 PM  

Email message v. soon, @Gill I.P. I'm glad of your reaction. And I look forward to hearing more.

I'm sure we have Cohibas here in Vancouver--I'm not a cigar person, but we must. In Cuba, we bought a couple of Romeo y Juliets for friends. Not my choice, but not not my choice-- what do I know?

@Rex: thank you so much for the venue. I've learned a lot here (and been entertained). I could use Paypal, but I don't like it. Do you take Canadian cheques?

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