Volga tributary / FRI 1-6-12 / 2010 Ke$ha chart-topper with creatively spelled five-word title / 2005 horror sequel / 1990s series originally set in year 2193

Friday, January 6, 2012

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

 Word of the Day: OKA (61D: Volga tributary) —
Oka (Russian: Ока́, IPA: [ɐˈka]) is a river in central Russia, the largest right tributary of the Volga. It flows through the regions of Oryol, Tula, Kaluga, Moscow, Ryazan, Vladimir, and Nizhny Novgorod and is navigable over a large part of its total length, as far upstream as to the town of Kaluga. Its length exceeds 1,500 kilometres (930 mi). The Russian capital Moscow sits on one of the Oka's tributaries—the Moskva River. (wikipedia)
• • •

There is much that I love about this puzzle: it has a contemporary feel but is well balanced with answers from many different realms of knowledge and many different eras; it's full of unexpected, interesting answers; it has lots of Xs; etc. But there are two things that were disappointing. First, the difficulty level was wildly uneven—it was supremely easy for long stretches, and then there'd be some obscurity like "TIME TRAX" (?) or some oddity like WIGWAG (?) and things would grind to a strange, temporary halt. Puzzle seemed to over-rely on pop culture titles to provide difficulty ("FOXY LADY," "TIME TRAX," "WE R WHO WE R"). Never a great puzzle feature. The bigger problem, however, was that there are two completely terrible crosses in this puzzle—one I got, one I didn't. 

In both cases, the crosses are both proper nouns of dubious fame, that cross at a not-completely-inferrable letter. This is the definition of a "Natick" (for a definition of the "Natick Principle," go here and scroll down to the glossary). And this puzzle has two. Firstly: yes, MARIO KART is a major video game franchise, but most adults (not all—MOST) are going to be familiar with MARIO but have No Clue about the strange, un-video-game-sounding KART (and its spelling). And only hard-core crossworders know what the hell the OKA is. The only reason I got this one was that I knew OCA was a South American tuber, so the spelling was probably something else. Now that I look at this corner, I know it's going to be a total disaster for many, esp. many older solvers. Ke$ha song with a title from outer space crossing "SAW II" and L.A. GEAR. That's a whole lot of commercial names in one little place. And WIGWAG is down there too, so, yikes (I had WIGWAG as WAFFLE and then WIGGLE...). 

The other Natick (the one that got me) was SONO / ULANOVA. Again, two proper nouns of dubious fame, but this time, both from the Same General Sphere of Knowledge (the sphere of classical music, broadly defined). That's a huge no-no. It's fine to have all manner of answers in your puzzle, including all manner of oddities and obscurities, but you do not cross unfamous proper nouns at an uninferrable letter and you Especially do not do so when both answers are from the same cultural world. It doesn't give the solver a chance. Every solver is ignorant of something, and the beauty of Crosswords is that he/she can save herself from having that ignorance completely derailing the solving experience. This is all to say that I had SOLO / ULALOVA. Obviously ULANOVA sounds more correct now that I see it, but it's not like "L" is an absurd guess, and SOLO seems sooooo much more plausible than SONO (20A: "Dove ___" (Mozart aria)). I mean, it's a *&^%ing aria, and SOLO is a *&^%ing Italian word. Dear lord, if you're going to have a terrible answer like SONO, and your cross is from *&^%ing ballet, at least clue it as a prefix or something. Ugh. This is what happens when you don't take care to avoid this kind of crap—it's what people remember. Actually, a whole lot of people are going to have errors and Never Know. If I'd done it on paper, I would've been blissfully unaware that SOLO / ULALOVA was wrong.

Please note: I gave you two examples of Naticks today. One got me. One didn't. The point isn't what I, personally, do and don't know. I knew the Ke$ha song and the video game and the tributary, but I can still see that it's going to (unfairly) screw other people up. Objectively, the crosses I have discussed are bad. Cluing on SONO- could've saved the one cross. I might have indicated that MARIO KART had a misspelled word—it would've gone nicely with the "WE R WHO WE R" clue, which did the same.

  • 17A: 1958 Buddy Holly hit ("MAYBE BABY") — nice answer, and one that was a joy to uncover, mainly because it had me combing through and humming the Buddy Holly catalog.

  • 18A: "Guaranteed relief every time" sloganeer (EX-LAX) — not my favorite way to get two Xs, but daring nonetheless.
  • 29A: Letters signifying quality brandy (VSOP) — I know this only from crosswords. See also OKA and ARIE
  • 51A: Rappers' covers (DO-RAGS)Some rappers' covers, sure. Many non-rappers' covers too.
  • 42A: The so-called Island of the Gods (BALI) — weird: whenever the Judeo-Christian God or anything biblical is in the puzzle, you never see any of this "so-called" nonsense. You could just put the phrase "Island of the Gods" in quotation marks. "So-called" sounds snarky.
  • 3D: Chickens for dinner (FRYERS) — I wanted POLLOS ... because ... of arroz con pollo? I don't know.
  • 9D: Eponym of a frozen food (EDY) — don't normally think of ice cream as a "frozen food" (I think more of frozen vegetables or Stouffer's dinners and the like). But, of course, ice cream is indeed a frozen food. And this eponym was very easy to come up with.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:22 AM  

So, say you know something about ballet, and "Russian ballerina Galina" gives you her last name. Then you've got to figure out how to spell ULANOVA, of which you only vaugely know the pronunciation. Sucks. It sucks as badly as figuring out WERWHOWER. WERWHWER is what I type in when I'm testing software to validate my handling of key-strokes, where I just pick a hand and randomly strike a bunch of keys.

There was a lot to love here, also a lot to despise.

jae 12:27 AM  

Zippy grid with a pop music orientation.  Lots to like except for ...... I too had SOLO.   I could swear BEQ  had the ballerina in a recent puzzle. Shoulda paid more attention.  I also needed my granddaughter (see picture) for the other Natick MARIOKART as I knew neither the game series nor the tributary.  So, technically, a two square DNF.   Still,  a fine medium-tough Fri.

Tobias Duncan 12:40 AM  

Rex nails it again.This was one of those write ups that just about covered every thing I wanted to say.There were more tricky crossings for me(whole lotta stuff I have not heard of in this puzzle)than Rex mentions but they were fair.

I was a bartender years ago so VSOP was a gimme for me. I loved that job, I studied all the time, I read every book about cocktails I could get my hands on.I learned all about distillation(did I ever tell you guys I built a still for science fair and made vodka in the 9th grade?)filtration and aging.I made simple syrups and sour mixes from scratch on my own time, and was just disgustingly enthusiastic about the whole thing.
ALMOST NO ONE EVER ORDERED A COCKTAIL!Sure since it was New Mexico people ordered Margaritas, but unless I ran a drink special it was like pulling teeth to get customers to drink anything else.In the early 90s people just didn't drink cocktails.
I have always felt I was born too soon.

chefwen 1:17 AM  

Did pretty well in the top 2/3rd, failed miserably on the bottom. Major ??? on 60A, and 63A, had minis for the skirt type and not knowing TIME TRAX, TIME TRAn looked fine to me. Like Rex had waffle at 47D. Lets just say a big DNF for this chicklet, but I was pleased at the amount I was able pull off. Medium to difficult for moi.

Deb 1:17 AM  

I was stodgily Naticked in the SW having entered "minis" instead of MAXIS; ATATALANTi and TIMETRAn seemed plausible. And I was again stymied in the SE with the OcA error. I've heard of Mario Kart, but wasn't aware of the spelling. I finally fixed it after going back to check every word in the grid twice. Ugh.

@Tobias - I spent a few years tending bar in the late 70s at a trendy local disco that served an incredibly diverse crowd, so I mixed dozens of different cocktails every night. Now I'm hard-pressed to remember what goes in a Manhattan.

Whatarit: Un-spell-checked text sent after a Lewis Black show.

retired_chemist 1:25 AM  

HTG a lot. Too much outside my sphere of knowledge. The proper names in the NW were especially killers.

Wanted SOLECISM @ 36D, but knew PATINA was right @ 36A. Also wanted ATITTER @ 40A. That gave me __IT for "Sibling, at times?" (27D) in early going and thought, "NO, the Gray Lady is NOT ready for THAT."

VIOLA for CELLO (16A), WAGGLE @ 47D, at one point TORTOISE for 27D - lots to write over.

Congratulations to those who found this one anything but challenging.

I skip M-W 1:42 AM  

Definitely challenging for me. I don't think @Rex is quite right about the cross of soon and Ulanova, since knowledge of a little Italian and knowledge of ballet ( I once saw Ulanova dance and it was wonderful) rare different realms. " Dove sono" I would guess means "where am I? " worth memorizing for when in Rome.

I put in star trek for 38 D with little doubt so that section took a long time to sort out. Eventually remembered Atalanta as runner, which required maxi and not mini.

also had "Peer" before "Pain" as a sibling at times. Once I noticed WMD, We R who we R, which I had never heard of fell into place. And the Oka river somehow rang a bell, so Mario Kart seemed the kind of misspelling that pop things like Nintendo might well engage in. but before that, I had wiggle before wigwag, ad rem before in rem, and thought green color had to be verdigris, which didn't fit. Tried pleonasm before Palinism, which was great, I thought.

I skip M-W 1:43 AM  

Whoops, that's not "soon" but "sono"; the spelling corrector is overactive to night. Sorry.

I skip M-W 1:46 AM  

I also meant "are different realms" , not "rare..."
very sorry

treedweller 1:51 AM  

If I start typing "go cart" in a google search, my browser automatically suggests "go kart" so that spelling shouldn't be all that crazy.

But hand up for SOlO. That whole corner was almost blank when I googled LEBON to discover a mistake at "pH test" strip. Finding NOPEST finally allowed me to see the rest, except for the natick.

syndy 2:07 AM  

I must add LEBON to the natick fest up top. Now to the bottom-IN HERE > belonging;I don't get. THON oh you mean ATHON.WIGWAG is what the dirty old man does in the matinee;< there was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead and when she was good she was very very good and when she was bad she was HORRID-as in WERWHOWER horrid.

Deb 2:40 AM  

@syndy - That's INHERE, as in the verb form of inherent.

YEEEESH! The spell checker on this iPad is getting on my last nerve. It keeps revising the captchas so I have to re-enter, and it just changed INHERE to inherent! Twice! The verb form of the word is apparently more obscure than I thought.

Don Byas 4:03 AM  

Challenging Saturday time.

Took 20 minutes to straighten out the SE corner.
A perfect storm of my ignorance and my overconfidence with wrong entries such as:
wiggle for WIG WAG,
IED for WMD,
begorah for BEGORRA. Breakthrough came with MARIO.

Like the symmetry of JIFFY LUBE and DRAINAGES

Now some BEBOP: Don Byas 1945 "I Got Rhythm"
Don Byas 1945 "I Got Rhythm"

Atingle Cello Mariokart 4:52 AM  

Anyone for MARIO'sART?
I didn't get the entire NW corner :(
LEBON, BEBOPS EDY yes, and something BABY.
That's it!

Normally i wouldn't panic not to finish...but a whole corner???!!
And yesterday was the day I found myself wrapped in a towel with wet hair and no memory of having taken a shower...
If i had been with an Italian boy, at least I could have asked DOVE SONO?
But I was SOLACED by the fact I could still finish the puzzle, and told myself I'll worry the day i can't do the puzzle.
Damn, and that day came the next day??!!!??

David is the 15 yr old I'm gonna do a workshop with at the Morgan Hill tourny end of this month...how am I gonna explain I couldn't even finish his puzzle???!!!!
Oh well WERWHOWER ( thank god we were told it was 5 words)

Doris 7:26 AM  

Ulanova was in the puzzle on June 5, 2010. May have been in at other times as well:


The above contains a photo of her Moscow cemetery tomb

"Dove sono" are the first two words of the Countess's opening aria in Le nozze di Figaro. The words, at the start, mean "Where are (dove sono) the beautiful moments of sweetness and pleasure." She is lamenting the loss of her husband's love.

MaryRoseG 7:50 AM  

My dear grandfather, who would be over 100 if he were still alive, mourned the ending of the Maleska era because the new editor allowed too many modern names and references that he just didn't know. Whew! I felt the same way today when I had to ask my 12 and 14 year old daughters to help me with ke$ha and Nintendo titles.

MaryRoseG 7:52 AM  

And...at least Simon LeBon is from my era. Spent many a night in college playing Rio and Hungry like the wolf. Great times

SethG 7:58 AM  

I guessed the N (because NOVA sounded more Russian after the ULA, and because SONO clearly meant sound). Missed the K.

Filled in EDY, then erased the ED to wait to see if it was AMY 'cause they do that sometimes.

Some excellent cluing, and I love the touches of modernity.

David L 8:04 AM  

And today I agree entirely with the boss. I got SONO, because I'd vaguely heard of the ballerina and know enough Italian to figure out SONO (not a proper noun, btw). But I couldn't figure out the K in MARIOKART, and went back and forth on O and Y for the letter above it, either of which seem plausible to me.

The rest of this puzzle (NE and SW) went very fast for me. Very uneven.

Glimmerglass 8:34 AM  

Good write-up, Rex. Definitely "medium" for me. Parts were really hard. I'm not upset by Naticks -- it's just stuff that happens. I think it says more about me (moronic convergence) than about the constructor. Today, I guessed one right (SONO might be a verb) and one wrong (OKA -- never considered KART as the final part of the name -- I had the alliterative mART).

Leslie 8:38 AM  

I'm apparently channeling Seth G because I got right and wrong what he got right and wrong and for exactly the same reasons.


I often think Rex is being too harsh, but I couldn't agree more with his criticism of those two crossing areas.

evil doug 8:51 AM  

I thought maybe Mario ran an Apu-ish little Italian grocery: Mario Mart. Oma is as good as Oka, which sounds more like a tribal river name in Kansas or somewhere. Cliched to add that I went with 'solo'. I was prepared to fall in love with somebody named 'Ulalova'; Ulanova, not so much. Nice rule-tending, Will....

Jerry Lee, Jimi and Buddy helped make up for all the rap crap, but these young turk puzzle-mongers need to cool it with some of these artists/albums that I gotta believe even fans of gangsta "music" would find somewhat less significant.

Speaking of Buddy: My first cross-country solo was from Des Moines to Mason City. I made it. He didn't. Wish it had been N.W.A. instead....

Interesting use of 'Axis' to clue Allies-esque 'alliance'.

Atalanta took me back to our mythology unit my freshman year of high school. Barbara Ann Murphy---we called her "BAM", and she was a hammer---tried to tell us that the city in Georgia was named after her. I pointed out that the spelling didn't match, so she reconsidered.


joho 8:53 AM  

@Rex, great writeup, @Atingle Cello Mariokart, same here in the NW. I don't remember the last time that happened ... see, I'm not remembering, too!

I was happy that I got as much as I did, but there were too many spots totally off my radar. MARIOwhat? WIGwhat? (WIGWAG, really?) WhatBABY?

I did love seeing FOXYLADY. Not so much WERWHOWER.

Also, I got WOMEN and MAXIS but scratched my head at the clue "women" and answer: DAMES.

I don't know, I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. I'd say, for the reasons @Rex mentioned, it didn't seem like a fair fight.

mskl99 8:59 AM  

Lower right hand corner got me. Wigwag? How is "in here" a synonym for belong. I just wildly guessed Mario Kart. I never saw that "werwhorer" was rap-ese for "we are who we are" until I checked to see if my guesses were right.
Ah, to have a few more IQ points.

Rudy 9:00 AM  

Sure did not feel like a Friday puzzle. It is one thing to be perplexed by an answer that is "elegant" (examples cited by @Loren Muse yesterday for "everning planes", etc.) .. but WERWHOWER??

Are we soon to have a puzz that is texting-centric? OMG! ROTFLMAO!!

dk 9:03 AM  

Yesterday I learned the late bird here gets his worms stolen.

IED instead of WMD really got my GOAT. And a fruitless 20 minutes trying to remember the chemical reaction that created the green PATINA made me wish I was in a towel and forgetting about this puzzle.

As Rex noted a fair amount of popular culture in this one and the difficulty was uneven but outside of being cheesed off that NOPEST was not phtest.

Sigh tried to find Prince on Ellen doing an amazing Hendrix cover but no cigar.

*** (3 Stars) David in the fullness of time your puzzles wii even out. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

DNF-- I drowned in the OCA river. Glad to see how many others struggled. Low niumber of online submissions too.
Definitely medium-difficult for me

Jp 9:14 AM  

This was a supremely ugly puzzle for me. With my level of competence I expect to need some googling on Fridays and Saturdays to get started. But here google literally solved the puzzle for me. Consider the NW corner. I needed ULANOVA, LEBON And YVES before I could unravel UNRAVELED.
As Rex said the SE corner is no better. WE R WHO WE R, MARIO KART stacked together. To get them you need SAW II, OKA, LA GEAR and WIG WAG all obscurities to me. The puzzle is filled with pop culture clues.
In the end I sort of finished the puzzle but there was no joy.

r.alphbunker 9:17 AM  

This puzzle was a blind date with three women I had never heard of, Atalanta, Ulanova and Ke$ha. We went to listen to Duran Duran and Ke$ha left with Simon Le Bon (who?). Afterwards we went to a show of Yves Tanguy (who?). Atalanta was wearing LA Gear track shoes. Ulanova loved horses and was surprised that I couldn't remember what a farrier was.

jackj 9:30 AM  

An odd combination of things which are either treasures or troubling.

Those to be treasured include JIFFYLUBE, WIGWAG, EXLAX, DORAGS and FLATFEET and, some of those which, perhaps, never should have seen the light of day, included WERWHOWER, SONO, LEBON, NOPEST and OKA, (but, admittedly, this criticism comes from one who smiled at YVES Tanguy as a gimme).

But, not to be denied, Mister Steinberg, (Master Steinberg?), with lots of competition among his various entries, brilliantly clued “Refudiate”, (the product of an unlikely wordsmith), as a PALINISM and all my gripes were instantly muted.

Whether young David Steinberg is a “Mister” or “Master” as an honorific, now seems of little concern; since he most certainly is in the running to be considered a “Master” of crossword construction!

Thank you, David.

ArtO 9:33 AM  

Friday is always difficult for non-experts like myself but I usually have some chance of doing reasonably well. But, this one played really difficult as I could only finish the NE without help.

As a member of the senior age group the entire SE was out of my realm.

Got a laugh from Jeopardy the other night when none of the young players had heard of Artie Shaw (he of the eight wives!. A gimmie for me!!

Tita 9:34 AM  

Rex - quite agree!!

TIMETRAv bolluxed up the SW for me, forgetting ATALANTA from my Classics minor, and forgetting PALIN by sheer willpower... (liked the clueing for that one)

NW was inferrable for me - once I got JIFFYLUBE, made the rest gettable. a Russian name ending ion -NOVA sounded right.

Don't get 1D - 18 footer might be the jump, but the jump-er? I'm guessing this is track&field-related? Did not like.

I was an mauI before heading to BALI, copper briefly before immediately realizing had to be PATINA. And apropos to our language discussion yesterday, glad to know a little latin - pes plana was an inferrable gimme. Esposa too, though I was looking for eau in the Seine.

I cry foul at INAREA, DRAINAGES (drainage areas, maybe, but who calls them drainages? UHG-lee...

Oh - and Rex - you need to do some serious research on VSOP...Porto is more my thing, but I'm sure our ex-bartenders here can point you to some xcellent VSOPs to get you started...

This was a challenging DNFWOG for me. David - I preferred your debut puzzle...

Loren Muse Smith 9:36 AM  

At the onset this morning, I felt like I wasn't going to get anything but the pathetic "s" or "d" here and there. (I did have a deadly "d" to end 2D.) I was so afraid that I would just have to skulk around the periphery of this blog and admire all of you who were able to solve it. But, after realizing I had fallen for little misdirections like PEST at 27D, it fell very nicely. In your spot-on critique, Rex, you nailed the two Naticks; I thought I had it correct with SOLO and ULALOVA, but was flummoxed with a DNF at MARIO*ART and O*A.

@Don Byas - thanks for pointing out those fun symmetrical entries! I never would have picked up on them.

@Syndy - agreed, it should always be ATHON.

@Tobias Duncan - I was a cocktail waitress in the late 70s and prided myself in knowing obscure garnishes. (Pimm's Cup, Brandy Sidecar. . .?) The good-ole days of Rusty Nails, Rob Roys, Gimlets, and Gibsons! Question - I liked Bombay on the rocks and always asked for a hint olive juice instead of Vermouth. Was it called a Dirty Martini in the 70s?

PuzzleNut 9:38 AM  

Everything Rex said today. Pleased to get OKA correct (maybe a few too many crosswords for me), but crashed on the SOlO.
My only disagreement with the boss is the difficulty rating. Seems like I had to work my tail off to get this one, especially the NW.
Regarding WERWHOWER and all those contorted rapper names, I would prefer they clued those answers as "Random string of letters". That would be as helpful to me as anything. Much more honest, IMO.

r.alphbunker 9:42 AM  


In Game 4 of the 1969 NBA Finals, Sam Jones hit an off-balance 18-foot jumper as time expired to lift his Celtics to a series-tying 89-88 win over the Lakers.

More at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buzzer_beater

retired_chemist 9:46 AM  

@ dk et al. - the green PATINA on the Statue of Liberty results from air oxidation of copper. Probably mostly copper (II) carbonate.

@ mskl99 - it is one word: INHERE.

I know I will say 'D/oh!" but will someone please explain now an 18 footer is a JUMPER?

retired_chemist 9:48 AM  

@ r.alph - D'oh!

Loren Muse Smith 9:53 AM  


Think basketball.

(Was Michael Jordan's 1982 Shot Heard 'Round the World against Georgetown a JUMPER? Go Heels)

Puzzle Sister 9:55 AM  

I saw a Facebook reference last night to two Naticks, so I was keeping my eye out for them this morning as I did the puzzle. Sure enough, I was stuck on both, and got one. the N in SONO was a complete guess, but ---NOVA seemed more probable that ---lova. Never did get the K in OKA. (Like ACM, I contemplated Mario'sArt).

That said, I agree with Rex that this was a particularly well balanced puzzle -- it was also particularly satisfying. I love puzzles where I can look back and marvel at that things I actually know. I enjoyed it.


donkos 9:57 AM  

Rex's critique is spot on - I also fell for "SOLO". I was able to get mariokart just because it was my son's favorite game growing up. But even my daughter, who actually knew who Ke$ha was, couldn't help me with WeRWhoWeR. This puzzle did have a theme: "Natick"

Tita 10:00 AM  

@Ralph thank you!! Serves me right for mostly agreeing with Tobias!

@Don...Did love the symmetry of PALINISM with FOXYLADY - thanks

@Puzzlenut - lol for clueing as "Random string of letters"!!

@Mr. Steinberg...forgive my familiarity earlier. I believe I may come to fear your name in the future, so maybe I better be nioer to you now!

David 10:07 AM  

Always great to start with one of my favorite Jimi songs as an 8 letter gimme. And I really enjoyed the slight misdirect of JUMPER - when I see ____-footer in an xword I usually think of golf and gimmes or tapins.

Agree with the OKA/OCA discussion, only reason I got it was my sons own it and I have played some Mario Kart with them back in the day.

Had no problem with the NOVA part of ULANOVA, I simply guessed correctly based on the commonality of those last 4 letters in last names. Rather, I struggled with the L in ULA. I wrote in URANOVA at first, hoping briefly that 15A was UNCOVERED vs UNRAVELED.

For those in the Fairfield County, CT area, SONO may be familiar to you as the trendy part of South Norwalk, lots of upscale restaurants and a few shops.

I actually liked NOPEST, as well as both 8 letter Down stacks in the NE and SW. Also liked SOLACED over the almost-written in SOOTHED. And BEGORRA was nice and tricky for me - thought about BLARNEY (channeling BLIMEY for some reason), then BEJESUS.

Lindsay 10:19 AM  

Ridiculously easy Friday ---- except for the squares I screwed up. Specifically, MARIO mART crossing OmA and LEBaN crossing the Dove SaNO. I mean who doesn't love a compos mentis bird? Or a healthy bird. Or something like that.

On the other hand, I enjoyed figuring out WE R WHO WE R. It's certainly parsable, though more in the fashion of a variety puzzle than a crossword.

John V 10:20 AM  

Still working on it, so I've not read the write-up and comments yet. Just checking in, as I may be spotty in showing up in the next few weeks, as I sort out the routine in Charlotte. But I'll be back.

Pete 10:24 AM  

I solved this watching the 3 OTs of Heat/Hawks, and still couldn't get JUMPER. Well, I didn't solve this, I'll put that down to laughing too hard at Charles Barkley. He should be the announcer for everything, he can make pain amusing.

I would dearly love to see INAREA used in a sentence as clued. Yes, I know that measuring in two dimensions gives you area, but I'd still love to see 'in area' a sentence someone would actually use. I measured the piece of paper and got 143 in area?

YVES/LEBON/ULANOVA all crossing SONO (as clued) was way too much. Two French, one Russian names crossing an Italian word? Seriously?

Will should have bypassed the 5 letter partial rule for INHERE, as in I'm ___ Mom. Or clued it as "a bad answer for where are you?"

How is DRAINAGES remotely equivelant to WATERSHEDS? They're called drain fields. The Loire valley is the watershed/drain field for the Loire river. It's not the drainage for the Loire river.

Way too much of this seemed to me to be stuff that fit, not stuff that made sense.

Anonymous 10:31 AM  

I don't think Will has any rule about Naticks, a Rex term to explain a DNF. So I never use that as an excuse for my shortcomings. On the other hand I have no shortcomings. (Yes, it's nice). Anyone who follows tennis with all those Russian women players knows that NOVA is a common ending for a Russian name. And what else could it be but ULA if it's a Russian woman?

Before I did this puzzle last night I was out shopping with my wife when my car battery died. Called our son who was closer and faster than AAA. He showed up with his wife and son, gave me a JUMPER (I realize the puzzle term refers to basketball but it is also appropriate in this context) and drove my wife to their apartment while I went to JIFFY LUBE for a new battery. Then I went to my son's apartment for some pizza and watched my grandson play MARIO Galaxy. After we returned to our apartment I did this puzzle. There are some coincidences in life that cannot be explained.

BTW, my favorite movie ending for a comedy is from Some Like It Hot.


AnnieD 10:34 AM  

Funny how Rex doesn't seem so cranky when I agree with everything he says! :) I however would rate this puzzle as more challenging than he did because of the crossed references to pop culture.

I knew VSOP from years ago when my not yet FIL was a big brandy drinker...he used to say, old as he was, that VSOP stood for Very Special Old People's brandy!

Favorite clue/answer was Palinism.

@tobias and @loren, I used to always order a Scarlett O'Hara, but was never sure what I was going to get...many bars lacking the cranberry juice. Now I struggle to get a plain daiquiri...every one wants to give me a slushy with strawberries!

@I Skip M-W, you reminded me of my trip to Italy...I had an Italian buddy and I wouldn't go until he taught me how to say where is the bathroom. So I practiced and practiced "Dov'e il bagno" until I had it down pat. Worked great until I realized I couldn't understand the answer! And of course they answered in Italian as that's how I asked...if I had asked in English they would've given me an answer I could understand. Is that an auto-natick???

JenCT 10:34 AM  

@Tobias: former bartender here also; VSOP a gimme for me too.

VSOP: abbreviation for very special (or superior) old pale: used to indicate that a brandy, port, etc., is between 20 and 25 years old

@Deb: I've disabled the spell checker on my iPad; too many mistakes.

Hard for me: DORAGS, WIGWAG, others already mentioned.

Laughed at PALINISM.

Kept putting in MARIOCART; took a while to put in the K.

blinker474 10:40 AM  

Found it very tough. Had 'pest' for the sib, sometimes clue. And several other bad fills - like 'wiggle'.

Jeffrey 10:48 AM  

Hey my mothers' family (or maybe it was my father's) had roots in Nizhny Novgorod. Despite that, the only OKA I know is in Quebec. So I put MARIO MART/OMA.

I got ULANOVA right because it sounds like a hockey play/ice skater's name. NOVA I mean?

If only there was a way to clue GO AT as one word.

John V 10:51 AM  

@Anonymous 10:31. I cant' get to Will's style sheet from this site (blocked), but IIRC, he has a rule about not having two hard/obscure works crossing, e.g. Natick.

DNF, all of what @Rex said, save for DOVE SONO which I knew. (Hand up for opera junkie.) SE was a particular mess. Particularly agree that the difficulty felt uneven, sort of Tuesday through Saturday ++ The rap thingy at 60A was way, way off the charts, IMHO. Reminded me of an autograph I got in a grammer school yearbook circa 1858: 2YSUR2YSUBICUR2YS4ME; new bait for a Sunday.

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

VSOP isn't a quality rating, it's a specification for the youngest brandy in the mix, 4 years to be exact. Brandy tends to improve as it is cask aged, but there's plenty of sub-par VSOPs out there. They're better than their 2 year old bottled siblings, the VS's, but they're still sub-par.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:56 AM  

Guessed right on SONO, where the question was at LEBON (who?), not ULANOVA. Guessed wrong on MARIO'S ART.

Heads up, re young constructors: Caleb Madison has a guest puzzle at BEQ's site today, along with a clip (R-rated, I would say) of a stand-up comedy routine by Caleb. (My advice: "Keep your day job.")

quilter1 10:59 AM  

Had a seXY LADY before a FOXY one, and capons for dinner before FRYERS, eventually sussed out the above mentioned Naticks. Medium for me.

Two Ponies 11:07 AM  

Having a dollar sign in your name and titling a song in text-speak is a slap in the face to literacy.
How about impossible.

retired_chemist 11:21 AM  

@ Pete - Sir Charles is one of my favorites. Opinionated but more often right than not. He dissed my Mavericks for years as too soft - but they deserved it. Then last year he saw them tougher (they were), and picked the Mavs to beat the Lakers. Also right.

He gives the lie to the cliche "dumb jock" IMO.

Still D'oh-ing over JUMPER.

Matthew G. 11:24 AM  

Heh. Before solving this puzzle, I saw Rex mention on Facebook that there were two Naticks. So I was on guard, and sure enough, I hit one -- but it wasn't either of the two Rex spotted.

What the &@&%! is a NO PEST strip? I have no idea who the individuals members of Duran Duran are, so the N in the LE BON/NO PEST crossing left me totally stumped. Googling "no pest strip" now, I see that it's some kind of bug repellent product, but not one I've ever heard of. I ran the alphabet on _OPEST and got nowhere. Couldn't even see that PEST was a word by itself -- I figured the EST was an -EST suffix and I was trying to make a single word.

Never heard of Dove SONO either, but -NOVA is a very common ending for female Russian names, so I I figured that had to be an N. I suppose it's also fair to say that I should have guessed the N in LE BON, but other endings are easily imaginable in both cases -- and like Rex, one I inferred, the other I didn't.

Slowed myself down a lot in the SE with MARIO BROS before MARIO KART, but not for too long. The MARIO KART games (as opposed to the MARIO BROS games) came out after my video playing days were through, but my youngest brother had them, I think.

I absolutely loved the SW corner of this puzzle: PALINISM, ATALANTA, TIME TRAX, IN REM, ATINGLE ... so lively. Didn't know TIME TRAX but the cross made it easy.

I think I only knew WE R WHO WE R from another crossword puzzle. Probably either a BEQ or a MGWCC?

r.alphbunker 11:26 AM  


The roots of text message shorthand can be found in the autograph books of the 50s!

Googling 2YSUR2YSUBICUR2YS4ME resulted in 89 hits!

I wonder if anybody has ever texted this.

Z 11:27 AM  

This puzzle is enough to scare one off from trying construction. Mr. Steinberg has shown himself to be a talent, and yet he generates this. Ugh. That SE is just ugly in my book. LA GEAR? How is an old, bankrupt, shoe company that was marginally popular twenty years ago puzzle worthy? I'll grant that Ke$sha is puzzle worthy right now, but WERWHOWER is a one answer ooxteplernon. Yuck.

As for my "solving" experience, I thought refudiate was a Bushism, so went with malaprop. I have played MARIO KART, but MARIO bros is the franchise, of which MARIO KART is one of many many spin offs. Ke$ha is one of those artists my sons guffaw at when mentioned, so no help for me there. Hand up for PhTEST. My 18 footer was a twoPut. I was just listening to Rave On Buddy Holly, but that was no help.

Anondc 11:29 AM  

I ended up thinking this was a fun and well-balanced puzzle, but it was done in two sittings. After putting in what I knew for sure and what flowed very easily from that I was only halfway and not on his clever wavelength. Had my lotsa protein breakfast while just reading the paper and returned to find I saw the light with only a little work. I live in DC and do the a.m.paper version usually with just coffee. Makes you wonder about brain efficiency and time of day, nourishment, etc.
If I do have to google something, I just welcome the opportunity to learn something or check something. Loved, loved the Palinism and other nifty clues. Merci.

Anonymous 11:38 AM  

Finished but with a number of wrong letters.

Found it interesting that ITSSOEASY also fits, has 2 of the same letters, and also came out in 1958.

John V 11:40 AM  

@Z re: construction. It seems to me that is it easy to make a hard puzzle, hard to make an easy puzzle. Look at the endless challenge to make good Mondays, say nothing of Tuesday. To take nothing away from today's puzzle, I believe it illustrates this point, channeling some updated Maleska-ese, if you will. At least the fill databases will be the richer for this one.

Anonymous 11:45 AM  

I agree with Rex totally!!!

But had to love "PALINISM" LOL

JaxInL.A. 11:54 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stan 11:57 AM  

Weighing in: guessed C for CART but N for SONO. Rex is right about the Naticks.

Much of the fill was just great: JIFFYLUBE/JUMPER, the clues for TEXT and FLAT FEET, the continuation of Hendrix week, SOLACE with 007, PALINISM/PATINA... nothing STALE here.

I think AIDA, the musical, has had its five minutes of fame and should be retired. The opera will have a longer shelf life.

Managing difficulty is probably something that comes with experience.

OverONE, a good ALL.

JaxInL.A. 11:59 AM  

Google and a 14-year-old daughter got me through much of the puzzle, but it was obscure in many spots. I actually watched and liked TIME TRAX when it aired originally but could not have pulled that one out of the brain for anything. Had to come here to find out the Mario game/Russian river. I'm going to try to remember the Volga to Oka to Moskva river progression. It does come up.

Whenever I see Ke$ha's name I get a giggle from the way that Figgins, the clueless principal on Glee, said it: "key-dollar sign-ha."

@Deb, to turn off spell check on an iPad, tap on the Settings icon, tap on General, scroll down to tap on Keyboard, and then turn off Check Spelling.

Anonymous 12:02 PM  

John V @ 10:31

The Rules can be found here (apparently):


"Difficult words are fine -- especially for the harder daily puzzles that get printed late in the week -- if the words are interesting bits of knowledge or useful additions to the vocabulary. However, never let two obscure words cross."

Never is a long time or Will disagrees. I encounter my own personal Naticks all the time....


M07S 12:02 PM  

@Pete said "I would dearly love to see INAREA used in a sentence as clued. Yes, I know that measuring in two dimensions gives you area, but I'd still love to see 'in area' a sentence someone would actually use. I measured the piece of paper and got 143 in area?" How about, "Which is larger in area, New Hampshire or Vermont"?

@ Matthew G. "The Shell No Pest Strip (killed house flies), which was first introduced in 1963, was discontinued in 1979 after one person allegedly died from exposure and others became sick. The chemical was later found to have a carcinogenic property and could possibly cause human birth defects." Seems really obscure to me.

JaxInL.A. 12:07 PM  

Anyone else having problems with getting the Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle? The link at Cruciverb doesn't work, it won't load through the iPad Crux app... Advice?

M07S 12:07 PM  

One other comment... I believe the use of semaphore flags to send messages was called wig-wag and used to be a scouting merit badge.

Maxwell 12:12 PM  

Circa 1950, wigwag was a RR stop sign. At least in the Midwest. A red light that swung back and forth.

Masked and Anonymous 12:26 PM  

Har. Congrats to young master David for stirring up more Friday stink than I've seen in quite a while here at 31-ville. thUmbsUp on the fur-flying index.

Mt. Everest: JIFFYLUBE and MAYBEBABY. (I was soooo darn sure it was ITSSOEASY for such a looong time.)

Mariana Trench: LEBON and ULANOVA, both trying to mate with Mozart. Not a pretty sight.

Any guesses on the seed entries for this puz. I give JIFFYLUBE about a 88% probability. Young David wanted to score a U early.

Anonymous 12:29 PM  

zig zag


Z 12:32 PM  

@John V - I agree. My point was more that when one so clearly talented produces something this uneven it demonstrates just how hard quality construction really is.

@M and A - my guess is PALINISM/FOXY LADY were the seeds

fuggene - Ke$shaism for sex?

Lewis 12:36 PM  

Hand up for WIGGLE and IED, smiled at PALINISM, heard of BEGORRA but didn't know what it meant, found the NE easy and the rest less so, liked the misdirect on 9D, tried so hard not to Google but eventually had to (three times).

Glad to hear that Rex misses something every now and then and isn't afraid to admit it.

@Don Byas -- excellent observation about the symmetries.

@stan -- agree about AIDA, liked your last sentence.

Being that the constructor was 15, it seemed to me that some of the answers were not in his wheelhouse but he thought they would be in ours, and I welcome the answers that do come from the young point of view, like MARIOKART and WERWHOWER. We can all learn new things. But for the puzzle's sake, make them gettable by crosses.

@crosscan -- very funny GO AT quip

Anonymous 12:58 PM  

Evil Doug - Using up my last post to suggest you go to the Mason City official website at:


They have some beautiful snow scenes, including one de-icing a plane at the municipal airport....

"First Solo" Is that like the Wright Brothers' First Flight?

Captcha: in able x?


Nancy 1:03 PM  

Awful, awful, unfair puzzle. All of it pop culture proper names and titles of well-deserved obscurity. I'm one of the older solvers that Rex predicted would have a lot of trouble, and I did--not that I blame myself at all. Many things are not worth knowing and this puzzle was chock-full of them. Ugh! C'mon, Will -- this was unworthy of you.

Bird 1:33 PM  

DNF because of everytyhing Rex said about Naticks. Ugh. Well, at least it's Friday and Happy Hour is just around the bend.

I got the pop culture stuff, except WERWHOWER (not my taste of music).
I love Cognac so I got VSOP.
I grinned at the PALINISM.
My kids play MARIOKART and I still didn't get KART because of OKA, WIGWAG and INHERE.

Masked and Anonymous II 1:34 PM  

@David the Younger: ChinsUp, kiddo. I had fun sparring with U. And as far as the Nat-tick complaints, guess who fathered the Nat-Tick? None other than the great BEQ(uigley). Badge of honor, dude.

Pete 1:38 PM  

@M07S - I guess I have to concede your sentence, even though 99% of the population would simply say "New Hampshire is larger than Vermont", as they would say a 11x14 sheet of paper is larger than a 9x11 sheet of paper.

retired_chemist 1:46 PM  

@ Pete - a simple "larger" might leave it ambiguous whether population or area was under discussion.

TimJim 1:55 PM  

Agree with Will and @Nancy. Too many Naticks, too little time. I crashed in the southeast.

Van55 2:02 PM  

What happened to yesterday's rule against partials of more than five letters "in length?"

Wood 2:06 PM  

Very tough. Had all but the NW in about 40 minutes (with the exception of cART/OcA), but NW was extremely slow in coming. Had guessed BEBOPS correctly, but had AMY instead of EDY for a while. Did not know Tanguy or Simon or the Buddy Holly song. Also had byAREA for a good long while which did not help. To me a jumper is a person or thing that jumps, or a sweater, and I am basketball-ignorant, so there was no way that was coming. I was looking for a boat or a truck of some kind for 18-footer. Also, NO PEST is a kind of strip? Like fly paper or something? Without Simon, the ballerina, or Helios' sister I was just at a loss. Had to infer it by which vowels could possibly appear in which position, still didn't believe it could be right. I did guess SONO rather than SOLO, because I happen to have sung opera and and while I don't know the aria, I know that Dove Sono would mean "Where am I?" And Dove Solo would mean "Where Only?" So SONO made more sense as a title.

So I was just f#*$&d up there for a long time. Imagine my elation when JIFFY LUBE and UNRAVELED (at first UNtAnglED) finally came. I filled in the whole corner... and still no happy pencil (or the equivalent on my iPhone app). Scoured the grid for possible errors and just changed CART to KART on a guess (KART like go-kart, I guess). Argh -- That was the toughest Friday for me in a while. But so happy to have done it with no help, when there were SO MANY goo clues!!

jesser 2:21 PM  

Former bartender here, tam bien, although I never approached it with near the zeal of my Taos hero, Tobias. Very Sweet Odd People, we all are! :-)

I've been away. December was arduos. That's all I have to say about that. I'm back.

The puzzle got me at both the Natick spots, and I was unable to finish the NE because I Could Not Let Go of UNeArthED at 15A, and it did me in.

Never heard (or heard of) the song, but I liked the title WE R WHO WE R. Very Prince-ish.

DRAINAGES and EX-LAX were a tad graphic.

See y'all tomorrow (maybe, depending on how much fun I have tonight and, as a result, how early or late I actually get to the puzzle) and Monday for sure. :-)

Deb 2:47 PM  

@JaxinL.A. - Spell-check disabled. Thank you! My son somehow managed to talk the guy at the Apple store into selling him a One to One session for me to use to familiarize myself with my iPad (they're supposed to be reserved for new Mac purchases only), but I may have tossed this thing through a window in frustration before I get around to using it.

@loren muse smith - You're aging Tobias by asking him that question. Yes, they were called dirty martinis in the 70s. :)

@MO7S - Interesting info about the No-Pest strip, but it leaves me wondering if the one person who died mistook it for an all-day sucker.

Two Ponies 3:15 PM  

@ jesser, Glad you're back.
Well, I sure had my cranky pants cinched too tight earlier but I still question the fairness of some brutal crosses.
Crossing a French name with an Italian word with a Russian name is just too much.
That song title looks like gibberish or random letters. Plus, I've never played a video game in my life. So both places got me.
If jumper had been clued as a sleeveless dress it would have had nice symmetry with skirts.
Foxy Lady was nice. There, I found something nice to say.

retired_chemist 3:27 PM  

Me too, Jesser. Welcome back.

fergus 3:29 PM  

I wonder if SF Man will estimate the DNF factor today? Leaving 3 squares blank, and not really caring (SE, my Naticks), and finding so many others leaving things empty or wrong would indicate an unusually low completion rate. What are the stats, Stat-man?

JenCT 3:30 PM  

Me three, jesser.

foodie 3:54 PM  

I am predicting at least Medium Challenging from SanFranMan.

For me, it was impossible... Especially the SE corner.

I went with MALAPROP in lieu of PALINISM. Interesting, they share the AL part, so that kept the wrong answer in place for a while.

sanfranman59 4:10 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 28:08, 25:25, 1.11, 73%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Fri 13:58, 12:36, 1.11, 73%, Medium-Challenging

Right you are, @Foodie ... slightly toward the Challenging end of the Medium-Challenging spectrum.

@Fergus ... I keep track of the number of online solvers, but not DNFs, so I can't say how this one stacks up to other Fridays in that regard. The number of solvers appears to be about average for a Friday (end-of-day average = 435, current number of solvers today = 395).

chefwen 4:55 PM  

@jesser - We've missed you, welcome home.

David Steinberg 7:52 PM  

Thanks again, everyone, for all the comments and suggestions.

fergus 7:58 PM  

Maybe there is a proxy for DNFs? I'm quite unfamiliar with the workings of AL (though I have met Mr. Happy Pencil a couple of times), but I wonder whether a solver can register as finished by correcting errors in frustration -- like at maybe twice the median solve time, or at AL's time limit, if there is one? And those would effectively be DNFs? Maybe I'm thinking of teasing the data too much?

Chip Hilton 8:17 PM  

I know it's late, but had to add my two cents.

Brutally Challenging! The SW took me forever but I finally finished the puzzle with one error - the predictable Universal Natick. I went with MARIO'SART and thought it had a reasonable shot. Disappointed? Not at all. To survive this baby, Google-free (as is my wont), counts as a win.

SeattleSunset 8:41 PM  

Double FFs double LLs, WWWWs and XXXs, MAYBE BABY, paTINa over aTINgle, BeBops, FlatFeet, tall TALE, TimeTrax: very alliterative, assonant, fun. Most fun = Palinism!
Like many others, had SOLO; like ACM, had MARIOsART. Other errors were fun to sort out (Waffle, WIGgle,...), UNRAVELED and JUMPER took a while (had caMPER). Also had Pest for PAIN. Speaking of pests, have seen plenty of NO-PEST strips in the past, but where? gas station restrooms in the southeastern US? the elementary school cafeteria?

Rube 8:47 PM  

DNF as is my wont with puzzles heavy in pop culture. High point was PALINISM which I got off the L. It was downhill from there.

Still can't believe INHERE is correct as wanted MARIObros and certainly didn't know who Ke$ha is, let alone any of her "works". Actually, it is probably noteworthy that 60A is clued "chart topper" and not "song".

FWIW, learned WIGWAG as a Boy Scout. It's basically morse code where swinging a flag to your right side is a dot, and to the left side is a dash. Not sure about the merit badge, 'tho.

Could only think of "Naughty Lady of Shady Lane", so NE was hard to come until I gave up vioLa for CELLO.

BEGORRAh is (almost) always spelled with an H at the end, otherwise, it's a var. As pointed out by @R_C, the PATINA in question is caused by oxidation of copper, thus the green PATINA is the result, not the cause.

Like others had "It's so Easy" at first... NOT.

Tita 8:51 PM  

@fergus...not teasing the data too much, IMHO...
I think that the data, or rather, what can be inferred from it, sheds some pretty fascinating light on many facets of this particular style of fun/entertainment/mental exercise...

There is definitely more to difficulty levels than sheer solve time - as you point out, how many DNF? that's pretty telling...How many DNFWOG? What corners were the hardest? Which words are gimmes, which had tons of writeovers...

Rex has a gut instinct about it - his 6th sense is generally pretty accurate. There is a great deal that is quantifiable.
A few of us are close to being obsessed by it!

What other elements do you think factor in?

OISK 8:52 PM  

Agree with Nancy. Awful puzzle. SOME pop culture is OK - but not loaded like in this horror. Never heard of Foxy Lady, Lebon, don't know who Duran Duran is, never heard of Mariokart, WERWHOWEARE?? I had just about given up on the NW after struggling though the rest, and joylessly completing it. Then, "FAB" suddenly jumped into my head, and I got Jiffylube, (despite bad clue, IMHO) Maybe baby sounds like the name of a song Buddy Holly might have sung - and I was finished.
Then I looked at the answer, and saw I had two wrong letters. I had WERTHEWER with THE instead of WHO. Makes sense since I never heard of SAW I or II. I had SATII - a horror film about college admissions? And the EKA river seems just as likely to flow into the Volga as the OKA.

Loved yesterday's puzzle, but this one had just too many bad crosses.

michael 9:17 PM  

Definitely challenging for me. Had to google the SE (should have got it, no excuse though timetrax is news to me) and had problems with the Naticks others mentioned. Pleased to have figured out werwhower. Looked at mario-art and o-a for a bit and just gave up. Ditto leb-n and s-no.

davko 11:42 PM  

"Every solver is ignorant of something." You said it, Rex. I really got smacked by this one, especially in the SE, which had the audacity to summon multiple answers in two of my weakest, most detested crossword subjects -- rap music and video games. I rarely cry foul as Naticks go, but this was flagrant.

I skip M-W 12:48 AM  

I guess I should be proud that at 69 I completed the puzzle correctly, despite never having heard of Ke$ha or Simon Lebon and not being a basketball fan,but this is how I learn what pop culture I know

@ Annie D,
Yes, I've had that experience of proudly asking the question in Italian and then hearing a long incomprehensible answer, but sometimes Italians don't know any English. Just keep asking and using gestures until you learn. Usually they are very willing to help you figure it out.

captcha = nutperpy — the insanity defense?

Andrea 2:32 AM  

I skip m-w
Well, dove sono is both where am i and where are they...so even if you speak italiano it's context context context...and lots of pretty boys.
And yes Andrea is a man's name there...lots of fun confusion!
Bravo to young David for taking the criticism like a man!

sanfranman59 3:10 AM  

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 6:49, 6:50, 1.00, 52%, Medium
Tue 8:51, 8:52, 1.00, 56%, Medium
Wed 15:04, 11:50, 1.27, 94%, Challenging (9th highest Wednesday median solve time)
Thu 17:30, 19:00, 0.92, 40%, Easy-Medium
Fri 28:08, 25:25, 1.11, 73%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:49, 3:40, 1.04, 70%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:38, 4:34, 1.01, 62%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 7:35, 5:52, 1.29, 95%, Challenging (8th highest Wednesday median solve time)
Thu 9:06, 9:17, 0.98, 55%, Medium
Fri 13:39, 12:36, 1.08, 67%, Medium-Challenging

rain forest 3:14 PM  

I almost naticked at SONO/LEBON (I just guessed), not at SONO/ULANOVA, because I knew ULANOVA, but not LEBON. Their were so many neat features of this puzzle, yet so many "tricky" areas, and I died in OKA which for me was the OBA. I can say that overall, I'm a fan of the seemingly fresh approach, but not of this particular final product.

Connie in Seattle 4:50 PM  

A question for all of you bartenders out there: Can you have a Happy Hour in a Blues Bar?

Spacecraft 6:02 PM  

Not a chance this one's gettable without Googles, so no way can it be rated "easy-medium-" by a guy who didn't even solve it correctly!! I'm not even going to list all the uber-weird entries. I had trouble right off when I couldn't reconcile MALAPROP with COPPER: two answers I thought obvious but, unfortunately didn't start with the same letter at 36 d&a, respectively. So I wondered which one (!) was wrong.
TIMETRAX must have been the biggest egg ever laid on TV, because I'm a sci-fi enthusiast--and I NEVER HEARD OF IT! But when the SW eventually started to fill in and PALINISM began to emerge, I thought, wow, did he really just do that?
The NE was the only area I filled with no help; even though I had inroads to the SE with the gimmes LEWIS and BEGORRA, I had no hope for what comes after MARIO (there's somethi8ng besides BROS?) or that ridiculous song title that, along with DORAGS, should just be run out of town on a rail. Add to that those everyday (?????) words like WIGWAG and INHERE, and you have a fahgeddaboudit corner.
Saving grace: a shoutout to the brilliant NATHAN Lane.

Mighty Nisden 6:29 PM  

@spacecraft - agree about the Lane shoutout

A horrendous Friday. Could only get half the grid without my Google buddy. I was so happy to get the MARIOcART until I came here. NW and SW were both a mystery to me.

Even with Google, I couldn't finish. Ick.

Dirigonzo 8:15 PM  

Misery loves company and today I have a lot of company (well, 5 weeks ago and today). Loved seeing "Do a driver's no-no" to clue TEXT - really people, you cannot do both at the samw time!

Still wondering why I have to put my captcha in twice to get published - anybody?

Anonymous 8:43 PM  

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jadag88 9:00 PM  

So glad to know that you had the same problems we did, Rex. While we did get it correct in the puzzle, I still do not understand how GOAT means attack. Can any of you explain that?

Dirigonzo 9:20 PM  

@jadag88 - GO AT = "Attack".

(What's up with all the spamsters, e.g. @Russell R. Gross, here lately?)

Anonymous 6:24 AM  

I have no problem with "WeRWhoWeR" as a clue. I had never heard of the song, but still managed to work it out from the crosses once I figured out the gimmick. No less fair than "When 2 ___ Love" as a clue for RIN.

The demographics for crosswords may skew a little old, but MarioKart is pretty common knowledge if you ask me. Funny how no one complains about obscure Dickens characters, but a video game that is advertised regularly on TV is off limits?

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