Onetime Taliban stronghold / FRI 1-13-12 / Eaters of halal food / Natural Affection playwright / Nine Stories title girl / Rachel McAdams's Sherlock Holmes role

Friday, January 13, 2012

Constructor: Todd Gross and Doug Peterson

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: TORA BORA (33A: Onetime Taliban stronghold) —
Tora Bora [...] , is a cave complex situated in the White Mountains (Safed Koh) (Safed Koh is the Dari form for Spin Ghar) of eastern Afghanistan, in the Pachir Wa Agam District of Nangarhar province, approximately 50 km (31 mi) west of the Khyber Pass and 10 km (6.2 mi) north of the border of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan. Tora Bora was known to be an important area for the Taliban and insurgency against the Soviet Union in the 80's. Tora Bora and the surrounding White Mountain range had natural caverns formed by streams eating into the limestone. (wikipedia)
• • •
36 black squares? In a themeless? Not sure I've seen that before. 33 last week, for instance, and that was in a 72-worder (the maximum). There's only 66 words in this thing.

This puzzle was over almost before it began. Started off with a dead-obvious 1A: Eaters of halal food (MUSLIMS) and from there the top section was done in about a minute. The middle section, however, proved somewhat more challenging. STRIPLINGS was by far the hardest word for me to come up with (3D: Youth). In fact, the very last letter I put in this damned thing was the "L" in STRIPLINGS / PALISH (?) (21A: Unhealthily light). I half-resent the clue on PALISH. I'm flat-out PALE and don't think I'm unhealthy. TAN is unhealthy. But I'll leave my ghostly gripings aside for now. More problems in the middle: I couldn't find TORA BORA on a map, sadly, so I certainly had no idea it had anything to do with the Taliban, and I (like half of humanity, I'm guessing) I fell for the AVATAR fake-out (38A: Hit film directed by James Cameron (ALIENS)), despite having FAULT (and thus the "L") in place to begin with (28D: Geologist's big break?). Then the bottom was super-easy again. Got MANIFOLD off the "D" (48A: Car exhaust part), and then dropped a bunch of the short stuff down off of that. Doubt the bottom took me any longer than the top. So, wicked easy in parts, but only Easy-Medium overall. As for the puzzle as a whole: I like the fill, but don't enjoy the grid shape. Well, I like looking at it, and it made the puzzle easy to solve, but it feels slightly ... cheap; I need a better word that sounds less derogatory. None of the fill is very exciting. Doug Peterson usually has a handful of winners in his grids. Not sure what happened here.

  • 11D: Partridge family setting (NEST) — I really should've noticed that lowercase "f" ...
  • 30D: Rachel McAdams's "Sherlock Holmes" role (IRENE ADLER) — never saw it, but woman + Sherlock Holmes = only one (very crosswordy) thing. Another super-easy clue.
  • 22D: "Natural Affection" playwright (INGE) — could've been "Any Title" playwright and I'd have handled it the same way—wait for at least one cross and then dip into my trusty arsenal of 4-letter playwrights.
  • 14D: "Nine Stories" title girl (ESME) — yet another common crossword name. Do crosswords long enough, and you know ESME (also a name from the "Twilight" universe, FYI).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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jae 12:06 AM  

This was easier than yesterday's for me but I spent a lot of time writing province abbreviations in the margins.   So, easy-medium works for me also.  It would have been even easier if I hadn't parsed Nav. as navigation and put in ENE for 9d.   Still, a solid enjoyable Fri. 

Oh, I, like half of humanity, took the AVATAR bait and also started with MOSLEMS.

I'm not sure I get BED for flat bottom?

ANTONIO's sister Chloe is worth staying up for when she's on Ferguson.  Unfortunately you never know in advance.

GILL I. 12:14 AM  

Any crossword with ANTONIO BANDERAS floating above DOMESTIC ANIMALS is fine by me. Also liked ORCAS slicing down through TORA BORA.
I loved this puzzle. Yes, it was easy for a Friday and the grid may look like it needs more black squares or something but the words were damn fun.
I can see @joho or @foodie creating a novella here.

Deb 12:17 AM  

Thank god you posted before I went to bed, because I was dying to see what letter in my "completed" puzzle was keeping me from getting the "well done!" jingle. It was the T in TORA BORA, and I feel somewhat vindicated by the fact that you couldn't find it on a map.

Except for that and the California/Nevada area, This one fell a bit easier than Friday puzzles usually do for me. I, too, was held up by stripling, and even though I was thinking of both types of web, I kept trying to fit some sort of spider's prey in there rather than the spider himself.

Anonymous 12:21 AM  

This puzzle seems to be too easy for some, but it's really more of a fun puzzle than a typical Friday puzzle. I think it important to have an expansive sense of humor to enjoy this puzzle, so I expect Acme to love it and Evil Doug to have an orgasm. Personally, I think it was okay. Anyone who has never heard of Tora Bora, well, must have been living in a cave since 9-1-1, and not a cave in Tora Bora.

PALISH: If it's caused by a low hemoglobin count, that's not healthy....


Anonymous 12:27 AM  

Tora Bora was all over the news for most of the last decade. It was the alleged hiding place (area) of Bin Laden.

pk 12:28 AM  

Really wanted "potential pets" to be "shelter animals."

retired_chemist 12:35 AM  

Medium here.

IMPENDING CURVES @ 35A slowed me down in the middle. Got there by having AGEE as the 22D playwright. Wanted MANX for 13D. Tried ORCA @ 40A, gave it up when 27D appeared. TAILPIPE @ 49A slowed the South down. Don't know movies, so 38A ALIENS came completely from crosses and ANTONIO BANDERAS was a guess from about half the crosses.

Does BRIE really come in big wheels? About 6 in. across is all I know...

Thanks, Messrs. Gross and Peterson.

Tita 12:40 AM  

This was a record Friday for me!

Maybe because it was uncannily relevant...
In my Youth, not long after being TEENAGE, I used to love taking ATURN at high speeds through some DANGEROUSCURVES with my FIAT 850 SPIDER, STEREO turned up loud enough to drown out the noisy MANIFOLD.

Giving up that car nearly broke my heart INTWO. (Recalled for rust - really - I WEPT.)

And, DOMESTICANIMALS reminds me tangentially of the Portuguese term for pets - "animais de estimação", or "esteemed animals".

So maybe it was only a Wed or Thu, but I loved it. Got tricked enough to make me happy - 43D went from name > IcED > IDED, 8D dAte > cArE > TARS
First my Muffler was falling off.

Take a look at all the cool crossings...
PASSON the right crossing those deadly curves, ATURN right in the middle, WEPT with the broken heart, and of course, LOVERSLANE.

Nothing UNPLEASANT here.

Evan 12:44 AM  
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Evan 12:48 AM  

Like Tita, this was a new Friday record for me. In fact, on one of the 15-letter answers (ELEPHANTTRAINER), I just started writing out the answer before fully understanding the clue. I'm not sure why this is the case for me, but I tend to think that a preponderance of 15-letter entries in a puzzle lend themselves to a quicker solving experience, simply because they force to you to think of longer terms that likely have fewer possible answers that could work compared with shorter entries when given the clue. Maybe that's because if the 15-letter entry has more than one word, that gives me more than one possible way to attack the answer -- you figure out one word of a multi-word answer, you might figure out the rest of it, but you can't necessarily do that with a shorter entry.

I had lots of initial mistakes in the middle of the grid, most of which occurred because I threw down some answers with few or no letters crossing them. And man, some of them seemed so right. A hand up for:

* DEATH at 25-Down. Never heard the phrase used in the real answer.
* OPT OUT at 31-Down.
* EDAM at 34-Down. Four letters, knew it had to be a cheese, I figured this was a slam dunk.
* PALLID at 21-Across. The first three letters absolutely convinced me that this was correct until the N of IS INTO disabused me of that.
* EGO at 29-Across. If you win the fight, that is.
* And like Rex and probably many others, AVATAR at 38-Across. I didn't even know ALIENS was a James Cameron flick, but I can't say I'm surprised.

Anonymous 12:48 AM  

Rex said "36 black squares? In a themeless? Not sure I've seen that before."

Lots of themeless puzzles have that many or higher black square counts. Probably more than one a month. Last year there was a Friday with 44. (Aug 12.)

The Friday May 8, 2009 puzzle had 45 black squares.

foodie 12:56 AM  

I knew it was going to be rated on the easy side, but not for me... Yes, the Halal part was easy. The rest-- DON'T ASK... It was in fits and starts. Many false starts... e.g. Fjord in lieu of FAULT, though I lived in LA during an earthquake so I should remember (you know what St. Andreas said? It's not my FAULT!). Done to "death" not to A TURN, and "opt out" instead of PASS ON, "lamb" not LOIN. I wanted "light" to indicate light weight as in Anorectic, which does not fit, so went to PALlid rather than PALISH

Oh well...I really liked the clue for SPIDER and HORDE. And the design was unusual.

PS. Wow, wrote this and then took a look and I am impressed by overlap with Evan!

lit.doc 1:05 AM  


Me too on AVATAR v. ALIENS (there's gotta be a movie there, ala AvP,no?), though I love both.

Otherwise, only the PALISH thing. The more I struggle to learn how to construct, the more I understand why we see fill like that, and the less I want to resort to it.

Anonymous 1:05 AM  

Original grid design devoid
of crap fill. Five Stars!

Tita 1:08 AM  
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davko 1:13 AM  

@ Tita - I too must've smashed my best time for a Friday with this one, though it never really felt like a cakewalk.

Nice turn on TERN (40A) -- the marathoner of migrants, Sterna paradisea, does indeed draw nourishment from within both the Arctic and Antarctic Circles, depending on the time of year.

I too fell for the "Avatar" bait, though should have seen it coming, given the day of week.

Tita 1:13 AM  

Actually, I didn't even notice the arachnid type of SPIDER...
Brilliant clue, as a spider is a program that crawls web sites.

I am loving this puzzle even more. Time for BED...

Which reminds me:
@jae - as in sea bed or lake bed would be a flat bottom.

jae 1:17 AM  

@Tita -- Thanks. Makes sense.

And, Amy has a possible explanation for the grid shape on her blog.

Anonymous 1:32 AM  

@Tita: "Brilliant clue, as a spider is a program that crawls web sites."

I don't know that it's that brilliant, when you consider that the internet type of "spider" presumably derives its name from the fact that it crawls the web.

Greg Charles 1:35 AM  

An easy Friday, makes up for a pretty tough Thursday. I don't see the easy-medium here. Usually, Fridays take me an hour if I can even finish. This one was 21 minutes. That's a medium Wednesday time for me.

davko 1:54 AM  

@ retired_chemist - Good point, making me curious. Biggest hunk of brie I could find online weighs 1 kg. Guess we'd need to know the density of the stuff to calculate circumference, then decide for ourselves whether it qualifies. Still no contest versus those hard-cheese wheels used by trattorias and big enough to fit a Monster Truck.

chefwen 1:55 AM  

Agree with the easy/medium rating, leaning more toward medium for me. Don't think I could ever rate a Friday or Saturday easy unless it was mixed up with a different day.

ANTONIA BANDERAS was my first fill, giving me a huge toe hold right off the git go. Have a friend who's German mother owned a German restaurant outside of Milwaukee called Karl & Gretchen's. She had a cat that she called Puss in Der Boots. She also had a plethora of sayings that we referred to as Trudyisms. One of my favorites was hearing her placing an ad over the phone and spell out the name of the restaurant as K.A.R.L. & G.R.E.T.C.H.E.N catastrophe S. But my all time favorite was "It's a doggy dog world out there".

Fun puzzle Todd and Doug, Thanks.

r.alphbunker 1:57 AM  

Did not Google. But finished with bORABORA instead of TORABORA. Done to A TURN evidently means perfectly cooked. What I ended up with was done to A bURN which I guess is just the opposite. Other write overs were
41A remote-->STEREO
34D edam-->BRIE
38A Avatar-->ALIENS
21A PetIte-->PALISH
39A ReS-->RTS
5D beeS-->INNS
10D Eggo-->EDYS
14D EmMa-->ESME

Jakarta Dan 2:13 AM  

Probably the quickest Friday I've ever done.

It fell into place so quickly with so many gimmes (MUSLIMS, ANTONIO BANDERAS, UNPLEASANT, IRENE ADLER, etc.) that I kept thinking something that I was missing some sort of twist.

I guess you could call it a themed puzzle with the theme being the "dangerous curves" of the grid.

Not to say it wasn't a nice puzzle, with almost no crummy stuff in the fill, just that it was weirdly easy for a Friday.

B-andera-s carlas michaels 2:26 AM  

Can i count BANDERAS as a shout out to me as an anagram of ANDREA B.S.??!
Spent too long trying to figure out how to spell his last name...AS, ES, IS, OS...only to realize that I had the AR wrong.
How does he stand being married to the "eerily teenaged voiced" (as my friend Christopher called her) Melanie?

For the record, Avatar never occured to this woman over 50.
Speaking of which, how come everyone knows what a MANIFOLD is but me? Is it my Manifold Destiny?

My only writeover was Digs = aSIdes.
And i had to say TARS = Holds hands? Fifteen times before i got it.
Still don't get how people can make grids like this...

TORABORABORA seems like a potential theme, punchline, film parody waiting to happen.

Rudy Shankar 2:38 AM  

@Jakarta Dan (great handle!)
"weirdly easy". My feelings exactly!

The top half was weirdly easy, with MUSLIMS (clue was a lollipop) ANTONIOBANDERAS and SPRINKLERSYSTEM came in soon.
Fridays with 15 letter answers do have the power of concentrating your mind as a blogger above reported.

Some answers have made twice-weekly+ appearance and I am not referring to the PALISH kind: ORCAS and ELEPHANT.

Surprised TORABORA tripped a few. The last famous cave dweller there was OBL! trapped but dismissively ignored by Rumsfeld. Tragic mistake.

Good puzzle!

syndy 3:26 AM  

16:36 A record friday.Went with PALLID ,wavered at TORABORA by Borabora didn't seem right and A TURN was in first-I guess I was in the cave. ENGINEER/ENGENDER an easy fix.I thought a flat of bedding plants?easy peasy not too cheesy.

Gareth Bain 6:17 AM  

I believe Americans should at least be familiar with the geography countries they invade (or are planning to, in the case of Canada).

36 is on the high side, but not extreme. The long entries were all fun, so it didn't rankle in the slightest! This puzzle: - now that's extreme when it comes to black squares in an ordinary themeless...

Loren Muse Smith 6:55 AM  
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Loren Muse Smith 6:56 AM  

Yep - fairly easy as Fridays go. I plopped in ANTONIOBANDERAS, MAS, and then, unfortunately, PALLID, which held me up a while.

@Evan - I've never heard of "done to ABURN" either.

@Tita - thanks for pointing out those clever crosses! I always miss such subtleties and am so glad I stumbled upon this blog - my solving experience is a lot richer thanks to others' insights.

I wonder if constructors purposely use Monday level clues (20D) knowing that solvers will be loathe to fill in something so obvious since it's a Friday?

I haven't seen Avatar but have seen Aliens several times, so no problem there.

SethG 7:51 AM  

Andrea, I know what a MANIFOLD is from My Cousin Vinny. I assume everyone else is the same.

Anonymous 7:54 AM  

Either this is the easiest Friday I've seen or I'm getting better. This was a quick (for me), smooth solve.

AnnieD 7:55 AM  

Enjoyable puzzle though it felt like it should have been earlier in the week and it definitely took me less time than yesterday's. No write overs for me as I plunged along, getting the SE corner first and following the not so dangerous curves up to the top where I finished with the NE corner. Wasn't sure of done to a turn as I only vaguely remembered such a phrase.

From a web site contrasting Brie and Camembert, "Brie is made in wheels that are one to 1.5 inches thick, 9 to 15 inch diameter and about 500 grams to three-kilogram weight." So that qualifies as a big wheel....

Captcha available only by e-tail: elobster!

John V 8:12 AM  

By far my easiest Friday ever. Only write-overs were 5D, initially had BEES, 48A initially had TAILPIPE. Last to fall was the top; as soon as I erased BEES, it all fell into place. I filled this one from South to North.

As a non-film pro, 38A was no issue for me, just fell into place with the crosses.

I looked at the grid, saw the weak connectivity and thought, this is going to be easy to make up for that.

Thanks, Todd and Doug, for a nice wrap-up to the work week. And thanks for the shout-out to my son's alma-mater at 42A!

jesser 8:36 AM  

What the hell is 'Done to A TURN?' This flummoxes me.

I am unable to grasp how anyone was unable to parse TORA BORA.

In fact, I zipped through the top, then zipped through the bottom, then zipped through the east side of the middle, and was slowed w-a-y- down from there. At 35A, I wanted DeadmanSCURVES. No go. (For that matter, at 57A, I wanted pimps, but could not find a variation with 15 letters).

At 24D, I wanted either nonet or octet.

I finally went with my gut (or some artery) and put in STENT at 23D, which gave me the traction I needed to give up on the deadman and go with the vanilla DANGEROUS. And after that, boom.

And while I was confident about TORA BORA, I would have liked for that to have been Jalalabad. Because it's fun to say. Try it. I often use it as a replacement for Really Bad curse words. Jalalabad!

Ah. Potential pets. Shelter critters. DOMESTIC ANIMALS. In Dona Ana County, we put down 8,000+ animals a year because of irresponsible pet owners. I hear Sarah sing in my soul. All those sad eyes. So much love in those innocent eyes...

On a lighter (much) note, I have a 1976 Ford Elite with a working 8-track player (currently playing: The Spinners), so I grinned pretty big at 41A.

Friday. Such a happy day. Enjoy the weekend Rexvillians!

Donkos 8:52 AM  

@retired chemist I took "big wheel" to mean popular which was the best part of this puzzle - the misdirection in the cluing was clever without being cryptic -big band ( who wasn't thinking octet?), hold hands - I had to stare at this for a while before it came to me - that hands referred to people in the hold of a ship - tars. Even digs where I wanted abodes or some such.

Jp 8:52 AM  

Super easy. This is the experience from someone who struggles on Fridays to get any traction without Googling. My first entry was TORA BORA and then came DANGEROUS CURVES and LOVER'S LANE. Before I knew it I was done with the South. I did not even have to Google for IRENE ADLER (who is she anyway?).
I needed to google for ANTONIO BANDERA but was slowed down by putting MOSLEMS instead of MUSLIMS.
Needed also ESME and MAS before getting SPRINKLER SYSTEM. My downfall was in writing WEST for 11D. So I could not see TEEN AGE.

I don't time myself on puzzles (unnecessary stress) by I was done well before 11 pm last night.
My first impression when looking at the grid was UGH!
But I can attest first impressions can be deceiving. Lovely lovely fill and very enjoyable.
Can someone explain to me why is TARS an answer for "Hold hand?". I don't get it.

oldbizmark 8:58 AM  

easy peasy mac and cheesy. really enjoyed this puzzle, probably because i finished it so fast. STRIPLINGS and TEENAGE (for some reason) were my last fills. Middle was the most difficult to get a handle on but the top and bottom came fast. A good start to the weekend.

jackj 9:03 AM  

Good themeless puzzles need to have cleverness galore to make them a fun tussle; they need nuance in discreet doses or, maybe even in indiscreet doses. This puzzle is largely lacking any such qualities and almost seems that it might have been slated for a Saturday appearance which was then simplified to allow it to appear as a Friday.

What should be the key entries, the five 15’s, are disappointing; they should be grudgingly ferreted out with the help of crossing 3’s and 4’s, not vice versa as in the upper part of the puzzle. And the defect in the lower 15’s is exactly the reverse when you come to realize that every 3 or 4 letter clue at the puzzle’s bottom is a gimme.

There were three entries which make up a trifecta of “good”, “better” and “best”, UNPLEASANT, ENGENDER, and STRIPLINGS; oh, that there were more.

I repeat my thought, this could have been a wonderful battle of wits and it is a shame that this interesting mosaic of words became one of the easiest Friday themeless puzzles in memory.

joho 9:04 AM  

Well, from one pale face to another I have to agree with @Rex that PALISH isn't unhealthy.

I was expecting much more of a challenge on Friday the 13th but was PLEASANTLY surprised at how fast it went down. Hopefully this bodes well for our last day in the warmth. Back to freezing temperatures and snow tomorrow morning :(

Thanks Todd and Doug!

quilter1 9:29 AM  

A similar solving experience as others, except I knew TORABORA and MANIFOLD. As a poor young couple we did most of our own car repairs, when cars were made so you could do your own repairs. We even rebuilt the engine on our VW van. Looking back I think we did it because we really didn't know what we were doing, we just did it out of necessity.

I liked seeing STRIPLINGS and IRENE ADLER (the only person ever to flummox Sherlock Holmes), and I had a malapop at 40A, putting in ORCA, then seeing that 27D was ORCAS. So read the clue again and TERN popped up.

TGIF and see you tomorrow.

chefbea 9:48 AM  

Found the bottom very easy. Had to google a bit for the top. I too had Bees at first for 5D...of course

Love Brie cheese!!

archaeoprof 9:53 AM  

This easy puzzle sure was fun to solve.

Nice to see MUSLIMS. "Moslems" is obsolete, almost barbaric.

Re: 29D. Non-puzzle wife and I recently built a new house on a dead-end street that used to be a lovers lane, until we ruined it.

dk 9:55 AM  

So I gets here and what do I see a Colbert clip. I think that Rex is just trying to get my goat (one of some possible DOMESTICANIMALS). I watch said clip and what a hoot.

This is a **** (4 star) Friday with a bonus twinkle. The puzzle is great. Fun, fill hangs together, cool looking grid, etc. The bonus twinkle is a function of the Colbert clip.

Other observations:

@Tita it seems is the new "it." girrrrl. If I see her tag one more time my complexion will move from PALISH to greenish with... envy.

As I penned in DANGEROUSCURVES I thought of Andrea and got so hot the SPRINKLERSYSTEM went off.

I remembered 15A and his role in Shrek when he is caught licking.... never mind see the movie.

For those of you of a certain age -- does not the grid remind you off the first version of DND when you piloted yourself through levels defined by green screen grids that looked like -- this puzzle. Beware you will soon be teleported into solid rock.

Long weekend ahead: woo woo

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

Maybe"done to a turn" refers to cooking on a spit, which has to be turned for even cooking.

quilter1 10:05 AM  

I need a consultation. Yesterday and today I printed the LAT puzzle from the Chicago Tribune site (the LAT site will only print the top part on a 8.5x11 page) and both today and yesterday only the left half of the page printed. I rebooted, etc, with same results. Any ideas?

Pete 10:06 AM  

My only hesitation in putting down IRENE ADLER was, having seen only the trailers for the latest Sherlock Holmes movies, I couldn't believe that retained even the mininum of relevance to the actual stories. Never have movie trailers so made me not want to see the movies. PBS's Sherlock perfectly presents Holmes in a contemporary manner.

11-12PM is Comedy Central hour here, and I am left with one question and one observation.

Question: Can't a brother get a job? Seriously? You make fun of Newt for 5 minutes because he thinks the NAACP needs him to come and give a lecture on the virtue of jobs, then a half hour later you've got some white guy from some boy band of the '80s being your expert on the etymology of "illin"? No wonder Snoop Dog is on food-stamps.

Observation: Why does it take only 2 minutes for Colbert/Stewart to totally expose the hypocrisy of campaign funding and we still can't do a damned thing about it?

Thanks for the Nina Simone.

KRMunson 10:15 AM  

@Rex - LOVE the Colbert clip!!! I missed it on Comedy Central. Thanks for posting it.

Pete 10:18 AM  

Oh, PALLID is "unheathily light". PALISH is "kind of light". I base this on, you know, what words mean.

JC66 10:31 AM  

I realize people may have different areas of expertise (I'm more into sports than some other Rexites), but it blows my mind that TORA BORA would be the WOTD and that @Rex would use a definition that didn't include 9/11 and Osama Bin Laden.

I guess some people live in their own caves.

Ulrich 10:37 AM  

For an architect like me, the grid is endlessly intriguing. Looks like a floorplan of something, like for an exhibition pavilion with open areas in front and back, perhaps to display sculptures, and then a more enclosed middle section you can meander through (although the curves would not be dangerous!), with lots of wall space to hang 2D art.

Remembered Tora Bora as Bora Bora where they almost caught Osama Bin laden at the beginning of the Afghan war. Thought "done to a burn" must be a phrase to characterize a way to grill a steak and went happily to bed, only to find out now that I had a mistake...ah well.

Tobias Duncan 10:45 AM  

Loved the Colbert clip.In the early 90s I was a waiter at a very hip restaurant in Silverlake near the B-Boys rocording studio. They would come in and hang out for hours in the afternoons when it was slow.Really nice guys.The owner(after smoking a fat one in the parking lot) once took their order by asking "Whatcha whatcha whatcha want?".Awkward silence ensued.

foodie 10:50 AM  

Busy day but I want to pop in and say that I am so glad that @Ulrich is back to commenting! Really missed your take on design and all things German, not to mention food and so much other good stuff. I hope you stick around.

Back to work...

baja 10:52 AM  

Finished my first friday without google - yippee! - especially liked - hold hands? - took me a long while to understand.

Larry I in L.A. 10:57 AM  

The Beastie Boys are not my cuppa (I only care for the sprightly "Girls"), but @Pete sells them way short by essentially calling them an 80s boy band. They will be part of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2012, and they won a Grammy (their third, I believe) as recently as 2008. With previous CDs entitled "License To Ill" and "Ill Communication", Mike D seems like a reasonable choice to weigh in on this "controversy".

Easy Friday save for the slowdown caused by PALLID being wrong...

evil doug 10:59 AM  

Back in my model car building days---when the Little Red Wagon and Melrose Missile and Don 'The Snake' Prudhomme and the Stone-Woods-Cook '40 Willys ruled the dragstrip---gluing the engine together often included a cool, chrome, custom exhaust manifold. And that's what the puzzle design reminds me of: Pipes and ports eventually sweeping together into a flame-spouting, smoke-shooting, ear-reaming exhaust roar-hole.


ArtO 11:02 AM  

Finished a Friday so it had to be easy or easy-medium. Surprised at Rex's comment on TORABORA. Perhaps the clue would have been more accurately defined as Al Qaeda related rather than Taliban as that's where Bush should have pursued him rather than invading Iraq in 2003!!

retired_chemist 11:02 AM  

Google has "done to a turn" as mostly British - meaning the item cooked (grilled) has been turned exactly the right number of times. I have heard the expression, but not often.

dk 11:02 AM  

@Ulrich, did the same for TORABORA and ATURN did not notice my error until I read your post.


OldCarFudd 11:03 AM  

Acme - In the auto world, manifold - from many - is a tube that connects many openings to a single pipe. The intake manifold takes air (and gas from the carburetor, in the old days) ands sends it to each cylinder. One inlet, many outlets. The exhaust manifold, at the other end, collects spent gases from the various cylinders and sends it to a single exhaust pipe. Many inlets, one outlet.

Which begged the question, when my son and I were tinkering with my single-cylinder Cadillac, what do you call the inlet pipe and outlet pipe when there's no branching to or from multiple cylinders? Our response was to call them monofolds.

dk 11:05 AM  

@evil d -- remember when the only Big Daddy was Roth -- time to find some baby moons for my BMW.

PuzzleNut 11:07 AM  

Super easy, but only because my first guesses were uncannily correct. I'm a pen and paper solver, so I'm usually pretty careful about entering answers, but today I just let it rip. In hindsight, there were tons of places I could have gone wrong, but the gods were with me today. Only write-overs were STRaPLING and Only (for OMIT). Strapling is NOT a word, but I made it up in my years ago to denote a strapping young boy and it seems to have cluttered up my brain.
The only James Cameron movie I can name is Titanic. After that movie, I've managed to completely tune him out.
Off to see if BEQ has a guest puzzle. I liked this one fine, but it didn't provide my fix for the day.

Two Ponies 11:07 AM  

After yesterday's boring postal puzzle this was a breath of fresh air. @ jackj may be technically right but it did not stop me from having fun. Odd to see elephant again (not Asiatic) so soon.
@ jesser, Sarah M's commercial always makes me cry.
Proud to be palish.
What chaos will ensue with Colbert in the race? Great fun ahead.

Campesite 11:10 AM  

For Unhealthily Light I was trying to force in Palinism.

Good puzzle.

David 11:14 AM  

From the "You've Been Doing Too Many Crossword Puzzles" dep't:

In the middle of the night, unable to sleep, I turned on TV and saw a couple of scenes from the Banderas/Selma Hayek movie Desperado. First thought that came to mind was that the name ANTONIO BANDERAS has 15 letters and would make a good grid-spanning answer. Pathetic.

Easy Friday - went very smoothly, once I got a toehold in each of the 3 sections all of the short-medium flowed easily. SPRINKLER SYSTEM was my favorite from the long answers.

Matthew G. 11:23 AM  

This was five-sixths easy, but the west central was pretty tough and left me with a near-average time.

PALISH does not mean "unhealthily light." Sorry, no. PALLID, sure, but PALISH is barely a word, let alone one that means something so severe. I had ENGINEER instead of ENGENDER and never questioned it till I'd lost a lot of time, though that was obviously my own fault. Had a malapop today: ORCA instead of TERN, with the real ORCAS were swimming a bit east of there.

But most of all, I second Jesser: I've never heard the expression "done to A TURN" before, and that really stymied me. I wanted either "done to A TEE," which was too short, or "done to DEATH," which didn't work with the crosses, and I was baffled.

Everything else was cake in this puzzle, which made my inability to set a record today so maddening. Oh well. On to Saturday!

chefbea 11:54 AM  

@quilter1 I was able to print the LA times puzzle from the chicago tribune site. Don't know why you could not. Maybe someone who is more tech savy than I can help

Ulrich 12:34 PM  

@foodie: Thank you so much!

@dk: I have no excuse cause I've been to Bora Bora in French Polynesia, which Michener called the most beautiful island in the world. Goes to show what half a bottle of Shiraz/Grenache for dinner does to your brain...

Anonymous 12:42 PM  

Since I rarely solve a Friday puzzle, I would like to thank each of you for killing any joy I might have felt today. Puzzle snobs! You don't like the shape? Kidding, right? Isn't this supposed to be fun? Someone out there knows how many black squares were in a puzzle last week? Get a grip!

Masked and Anonymous 12:45 PM  

@quilter1: Just guessin', but did you print the LA puz off using the default setting (I think it's something like "Any Printer")? In that case, you might try selecting your printer's name instead, in the drop-down box.

While I'm here. FriPuz was smooth sailing. Some pretty cute clues. Cool grid layout: kinda looks like the rooms in a "Clue" game, with my closet down the middle, or some such.

@Andrea Darlin': Stay away from checking out yer exhaust manifold too close. Those suckers can heat up to a few thousand degrees. Buggers to replace.

Peace on Earth, good will to Mensa.

Anoa Bob 12:56 PM  

I've heard "Done to a turn" before, usually in one of those pretentious menu-speak phrases, such as "Grilled to perfection", where a notch-above-fast-food restaurant is trying to appear to be a notch or two above what it really is.

@Jp "TARS" is an old slang for sailors. In the days of cotton sails, manila hemp ropes, and wooden ships, tar was used extensively aboard ship as a sealant, fixative, and preservative and sailors tended to be covered with it. The "hold" was a storage area, usually deep in the ship's hull.

Fun puzzle. I needed this after yesterday's butt kicking.

Lewis 1:11 PM  

A relatively easy Friday is a nice follow to a relatively hard Thursday. I rarely find myself punching in letters in bunches on Friday; it made me feel like Superman today.

Wood 1:29 PM  

Very fast for me too... But ended up with the bORABORA mistake (fully aware of the region's role on the WOT!). Still don't get TARS for hold hands though...

Ask Masked and Anonymous 1:32 PM  

@Wood: I had oARS there for too dumb long. I read it as ship's hands that might be working down in the hold area of a ship.

archaeoprof 1:34 PM  

@Ulrich: I second @Foodie's appreciation for your delightful observation about today's grid.

Mario Andretti 1:38 PM  

@Ulrich - No, it looks like a switch-back coming down one of the Alps. Hence the DANGEROUSCURVES. Why they omitted the FALLINGROCKZONE represented by the single/vertical black squares is beyond me.

Anonymous 1:42 PM  

hand up for pallid. otherwise easy fri considering my inablilty to get a toe hold thurs.

captcha: clist least desirable invitees (c-list).

John V 1:47 PM  

How come I'm seeing blogger time stamps today of PSA?

John V 1:56 PM  

Should be PST.

Rube 2:03 PM  

Hand up for starting with MoSLeMS, not knowing who starred in "Puss in Boots" and not being fooled by "Avatar", (cause I didn't know who directed it -- or "ALIENS" either for that matter). Found the central East and bottom super easy, but HTG to get the North.

Real hang-up was uv rays for "Unhealthy light". Had to look closely to see that it was really "UnhealthILy". Also put in Quik for the Nestlé clue... didn't know they bought EDYS.

Didn't like the answers to either of the "Flat bottom" clues.

FYI, the Marin County, (CA), SPCA is known for finding homes for ALL the cats that are brought in... even from other surrounding counties. (Not sure about dogs 'tho.)

Wood 2:06 PM  

So TAR = ship hand? Never heard of that... The joy of learning through crosswords.

JenCT 2:39 PM  

Anyone else have PEAR first for Partridge family setting (as in, partridge in a pear tree?)

Almost fell for the AVATAR and SPIDER tricks.

Never heard of STRIPLINGS.

Incredibly, my last answer was 8a TEENAGE - just couldn't see it.

Wanted SPRINKLER HEAD for 17a.

syndy 2:41 PM  

The merry cat-o'nine-tails,the merry cat-o'nine-tails ,the merry cat-o'nine-tails and the TAR!

Sparky 2:45 PM  

Moving backwards: I thought illin means ailing and wack means kill so the whole issue mysterious to me. So much for being alble to infer slang from context.

Liked today's offer. I did well. ANTONIO the cat sprang right in. Tripped on the TORA but have heard done to a turn somewhere or other. Malapop on ORCA at 40A but shifted it to 27D when I got CURVES. Was thinking of ess curves ahead or the like.

@pk, hand up for shelter ANIMALS. IRENE a gimmee so did not fall into Atavar trap. Missed on PALIS- because the ish means sort of. Just too mushy a clue. And I am not unhealthy because I am so fair.

I think the grid kind of cute, looks like skeleton keys. Anyway, happy weekend.

Anoa Bob 2:54 PM  

"Attention! Attention! This is your Captain speaking. All hands on deck, double time! Lay below to the hold you scurvy tars and prepare to take on supplies. Liberty is cancelled until morale improves. That is all."

mac 4:04 PM  

Yes, I'm fashionably palish as well.

Fun puzzle, and I needed fun today! Finished the bottom first then started to chip away. Thought tree or garage for the Partridges, and I had a malapop at 8d, put in "pass" without crosses. You hold your hand, you pass, right?

The arctic tern is very memorable to me: on our honeymoon in New Hampshire and Vermont at the end of December (don't ask, I've never been so cold in my life) a school friend of my husbands happened to be there, with his wife and two babies, because one of those birds had been sighted! They flew in from California.

Irene Adler was a gimme. Jeremy Brett is my favorite Sherlock Holmes, although I like the contemporary version too.

The campaign funding situation seems downright undemocratic to me.

sanfranman59 4:13 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

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

Fri 14:52, 25:20, 0.59, 1%, (Very) Easy

Top 100 solvers

Fri 7:59, 12:34, 0.64, 4%, (Very) Easy

Ulrich 4:47 PM  

@archaeprof: Thank you, too!

@Super-Mario (as in Super-G): See, in my scheme, those dots are the columns that help support the roof slab covering the square plan.

Super Mario 4:55 PM  

@Ulrich - Damn, I thought I could get you to agree with me simply by referencing the Alps. Oh well.

quilter1 6:45 PM  

@Masked&Annonymous, thanks for the tip. I'll check and see if they have that option.

michael 8:32 PM  

Easiest Friday I've ever done. I don't think any other Friday comes close. I did it at Tuesday speed, I can see that I am not alone.

Nonetheless, enjoyable...

pk 1:04 AM  

@Rex: Thanx so much for the Colbert clip. Made my day. And now that he's in the race for Prez...well, no telling what will happen. You and Will may end up in the cabinet as Secretaries of Vocabulary or some such. I'd be happy to be on your committee..or panel...or whatever one calls these sorts of things..

*podits* opposite of pundits?

Acme 4:21 AM  

I had TREE. First, as in Pear tree if that makes you feel any better

@oldcarfudd, @ Masked and anon
Thank you! To me MANIFOLD was a wallet...
Now to watch Colbert

Is my age showing?!? 10:50 AM  

So psyched to have a Friday where the top half dropped in! Bottom was trickier (for me).

Was I the only one stuck on "Lisa Loeb and the..." for the "Nine Stories" clue? Or it this specific to the 'Reality Bites' generation?

Stan 6:33 PM  

Coming in late, but wanted to express how much I enjoyed this admittedly easy, but also stylish and well-constructed puzzle. I went through the maze backwards, by the way, from SW to NE.

The high point, DANGEROUS CURVES, would look at home on the pulp-fiction paperback covers of Rex's other blog.

Tita 1:25 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tita 1:28 PM  

oops...moved this comment to the correct day...

Anonymous 12:51 PM  

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boardbtr 1:56 PM  

From syndication - I must be the only one to go for SLIPPERYWHENWET for 35A and OPTOUT for 31D. Those held me up a while.

ozmosis 3:35 PM  

Hey Rex, Hey Rex fans,
It's my first comment here. I've been doing the NYT puzzle for about 38 years now(since my Dad would leave it unfinished when I was 16) and I'm a long-time lurker here at the Rex site.
I just wanted to say that this was the fastest Friday time for me in history. I started with Antonio Banderas and never looked back.

Waxy in Montreal 6:04 PM  

Agree with @SANfranman59's rating of this Friday puzzle as (very) Easy as it was at best perhaps Wednesday-worthy. Wondering if any puzzles have been accorded a (very) Challenging designation as yet?

Anonymous 6:30 PM  

I too charged ahead with AVATAR, which led me at one point to LOST ISLAND at 29d and a bunch of roadblocks on the resulting crosses. But once I got that all straightened out the rest was a breeze.

Really? No such country as BORA BORI? Because it worked so well with 31d.

Dirigonzo 8:19 PM  

@Gareth Bain (who constructed yesterday's puzzle) said, "I believe Americans should at least be familiar with the geography countries they invade (or are planning to, in the case of Canada)." I agree.

Needed all the crosses for ANTONIOBANDERAS, so that slowed things down a little for me.

(I've noticed the captchas are getting tougher - do you s'pose Rex is trying to foil the spammers who have been showing up here lately?

Spacecraft 4:43 AM  

See if this one goes through.
I'm having a terrible time just getting a comment to show up here. Those captchas are MURDER to try to read! I don't know what was wrong with the way it was. This is one more case of something that wasn't broke, yet some idiot decided to fix it.
Anyway, on the off-chance that this gets printed, I liked Friday's puzzle. Bit of a rough start, but once those fifteens get rolling it's all over. Greeted by this grid, I wanted to get the old Lionel out and run it on those tracks. Short fill on these babies is likely to suffer, but not here. With the exception of IDED, which is uglier than sin, this is pretty high-class. Well, "PALISH" is questionable--but at least it's fresh-ish.
With L in, and a "chop" clue, I went with LAMB (sorry, Shari, not this time), my only writeover. Nothing UNPLEASANT about this one, save 43d.

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