Youth with Skull painter / FRI 2-17-12 / Lady Baltimore novelist 1906 / Graceful fairy / Postapocalyptic best seller of 1978 / Aquila's brightest star

Friday, February 17, 2012

Constructor: Ian Livengood

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: OWEN WISTER (49A: "Lady Baltimore" novelist, 1906) —
Owen Wister (July 14, 1860 – July 21, 1938) was an American writer and "father" of western fiction. [...] He began his literary work in 1891. Wister had spent several summers out in the American West, making his first trip to Wyoming in 1885. Like his friend Teddy Roosevelt, Wister was fascinated with the culture, lore and terrain of the region. On an 1893 visit to Yellowstone, Wister met the western artist Frederic Remington; who remained a lifelong friend. When he started writing, he naturally inclined towards fiction set on the western frontier. Wister's most famous work remains the 1902 novel The Virginian, the loosely constructed story of a cowboy who is a natural aristocrat, set against a highly mythologized version of the Johnson County War and taking the side of the large land owners. This is widely regarded as being the first cowboy novel and was reprinted fourteen times in eight months. The book is dedicated to Theodore Roosevelt. (wikipedia)
• • •

My only complaint about this puzzle was that I blew through it like it was barely there. Also, not a lot in the way of really interesting fill—with the exception of "THERE, THERE" over "EASY DOES IT" (53A: "It'll be O.K." lead-in + 55A: "Whoa, not so fast!"), which makes for a somewhat interesting half of an imagined dialogue, and BABE MAGNET, which is great 1-Across material (1A: Stud, say). The fill is pretty smooth, just not very spicy. It's also very ANTLERS™ — ultracommon letters abound, and there's just the lone "X" to represent your minority letters. I enjoyed the trivia in the clues, which kept some very familiar answers hidden from me for a little bit, but there was a bit of a nagging blandness. But you can't fault clean fill + interesting fill too much.

I started a bit haltingly by putting in GAPE for 1D: Appear thrilled (BEAM). But I figured ALFA had to be right at 2D: Two before Charlie, and then, without even looking at 37-Down (37D: South-of-the-border bad guy), I knew 19A: More, to a 37-Down would have to be MAS. I don't think I ever saw "Godfather Part III," so that clue was a mystery to me, and stayed that way even after I got -LIW-... that is a letter combination so odd that my first instinct was "Error." But I kept it in and eventually uncovered ELI WALLACH (15A: He played Don Altobello in "The Godfather Part III"). Moved from there down to the SW, where CHADS, HALS (32A: "Youth With a Skull" painter), and ODS came very easily, and FALSE START then gave me all the traction I needed (27D: Reason for a track delay). I think I then went up to the NE and then down to finish in the SE, with only RAO (31A: 1990s Indian P.M.) and an initial "S" for "F"error at 44A: Grain, e.g. (FEED) holding me up at all. Not a record time, but still pretty fast. Mid 6s.

  • 18A: Hillbilly's plug (CHAW) — that has to be one of the most disturbing clues I've come across in a while. 
  • 20A: Eric of "Funny People," 2009 (BANA) — no idea what movie that is, but a four-letter Eric in the past decade or so is surely BANA. He's the Crossword Hollywood It Boy. I picked him up the same way I picked up DADO and BETEL—reflexively.
  • 6D: Aquila's brightest star (ALTAIR) — I'm no good at astronomical junk, but I had enough crosses to get ALTAIR, which I'd seen in other puzzles. 
  • 10D: Postapocalyptic best seller of 1978 ("THE STAND") — if you discuss postapocalyptic literature with anyone for very long, this title inevitably comes up. A massively popular example of the genre.
  • 22D: League division (EAST) — this wasn't hard, but it felt a little ... cryptically unspecific. Seems like it needs a qualifier, if only an appended "at times." Or maybe "Common league division." Phrasing makes it sound like the word will, absolutely, mean "league division."
  • 28D: "Faded Love" singer, 1963 (CLINE) — I'm gonna assume this is Patsy, even though I don't recall ever having heard this tune ... 

  • 30D: Film with the tagline "Borat was SO 2006" ("BRUNO") — I haven't seen either, but know both titles well. "BRUNO" doesn't seem to have had the cultural impact that its predecessor did.
  • 46D: Graceful fairy (PERI) — falls in the BANA / DADO / BETEL category of Instinctive Fill. Short Stuff You Just Know.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:09 AM  

When your single entry in your first pass through the puzzle is FOOT for League Division you know you're in for either a very long, or very short, solve.

I don't know what kind of whimpy half-assed apocolypse every one expects, but to my way of thinking there really can't be a post-apocolyptic novel.

Tobias Duncan 12:13 AM  

Needed this one after yesterdays fiasco. Didnt know the actors or writer but this think was so smooth it didnt matter. The long ones were easier than the short fill for me.

Who punches a stapler? Never heard that one.

jae 12:17 AM  

Easy-medium for me. West mid week easy, east Fri. medium.  Although, once I got rid of ICECAP, PECAN and SEED (44a)  things went pretty smoothly. A HINT of zip with BABEMAGNET, CLASSACT, BANDITO, BRUNO, SPACECADET, ...  So a solid but easy Fri.  

I would have preferred "Roz on Frasier" for 46d.

And,  51a/d was a coin flip for me "S" or "T.".  Went with T so a DNF on an otherwise easy puzzle. Rats!

retired_chemist 12:35 AM  

Pretty easy here.

My Eric was IDLE.

Thought the fill was mostly fresh and smile-producing. Favorites: BABE MAGNET, SPACE CADET, ADAR for surprise value (after figuring out MATE was the end of 25D), THERE THERE, and more.

33A was BURNT, 21A was ICE CAP, but not a lot of writeovers.

Thanks, Mr. Livengood.

Evan 2:28 AM  

Quite a solid puzzle with lots of fresh and interesting phrases. Two mistakes held me up for quite a while: ICECAP at 21-Across and BACK HOME at 33-Down. You can theoretically get back home following a star (or more accurately, stars), if you're lost at sea and have no compass or map.

I don't put BABE MAGNET quite at the same level as MID-ASS TOUCH from last week, but it's one hell of an answer. RACEHORSE was the first thing that came to mind at 1-Across, but it just wouldn't fit, and the real answer was far better anyway.

I'm also going to proclaim the brilliance for the clue at 7-Down, the answer to which I didn't even understand until after I solved the puzzle. I kept trying to imagine which five-letter body part was the human body's biggest secret: The brain (because it's a still poorly understood organ and no one can read your mind)? The heart (because know one....can truly know what's in a person's heart)? Some five-letter word that rhymes with Venus (because....well, I'll let you figure out why that's kept a secret). Even after I wrote in GLAND, I still didn't get it. Okay, so it's is that a secret? Is it because I don't know which GLAND the puzzle is referring to? Or because you can't see a GLAND on someone's exterior when you're looking at him or her in front of you, but it works inside that person anyway? Then I got hit by the "Ohhhhh, it means secretion!" train. It's always cool to have an a-ha moment even if said a-ha moment is long delayed.

chefwen 2:49 AM  

So much more fun than yesterday. My renter is a BABE MAGNET and he also is known to use 18A CHAW or smokeless tobacco, which is a really disgusting, I have been cutting out every article on Tony Gwynn that I come across and scotch tape them to his door. He is also a singer, hope he gets my sledge hammer hints.

Got SCHOOL MATE and I HAD NO IDEA right away, which gave me a huge boost.

Hand up for ice cap.

My second capcha is ASLESS a close relative to MID ASS.

Anonymous 2:52 AM  

A So so Friday
Favorite answer was THE STAND. Good book and decent 1994 mini-series
I also liked the BABE MAGNET
I have never heard of OWEN WISTER
however, the other puzzle names, I do know of : Eric BANA, Patsy CLINE, BRUNO, and ELI WALLACH

Anoa Bob 3:01 AM  

Easy? Rex, you are truly King of Crosswords. Meanwhile, wallowing around down here among the hoi polloi, I found out that I don't know how to spell EXHILARATE (still doesn't look right), and that I need to brush up on postapocalyptic literature (THE STAND).

Like others, I had a FALSE START at 21A with "ice cap" rather than SEA ICE.

I cry foul for the clue for 33D FOOTNOTE, "Where following a star might lead you". An asterisk is star-shaped, but, it's Latin roots notwithstanding, it is not a star. ALTAIR is a star. And you don't follow it anywhere. It just prompts you to look at the bottom of the page. Hrmmph!

Evan 3:07 AM  

Correction on my last comment:

"because NO one....can truly know what's in a person's heart"

dk 7:14 AM  

Sigh, this is the week that was not for me.

My daily chortle was remembering when we would sing: "Here I stand GLAND in hand, turn my head..." (see You've got to hide your love away for the real...)

My SCHOOLMATES and I had the worst band in upstate NY. Our moment in the sun was playing for one of the side parties for Yoko Ono's opening at the Everson. We had a female lead singer and 3 14 year old lads as backup singers for whom we had to beg their mothers to let them perform Sat. nights as they all sang in the church choir. Alas Yoko and John did not make it and we all got home early. Our best cover was Town Without Pity followed by House of the Rising Sun. Both sounded (on the sunny slope of memory) great with Sue singing lead backed up by the 3 wrens. Happily they all tolerated my obscure selection of covers. While we were not so great we had fun.

** (2 Stars) To be BLUNT -- no traction on this one.

BETEL Nut is a great SF restaurant. Take Andrea there when you are town. Just keep your MITTENs to yourself.

Rex can you fix this robot test, I keep expecting "Prepare to be assimilated. Resistance is futile! We are the Borg." It scares me.

jberg 8:04 AM  

My brain just wasn't working today--couldn't think of BEAM, thought 2d should be ALphA, and so looked for some other meaning; finally had to look up BANA. I'm pop-culture deficient, but usually the crosses save me - but not here. Thought the Mariners were the Seattle variety, etc.

Writeovers: overT before BLUNT, DOA before ODS. Also almost put in dALi for HALS (gotta remember there are two four-letter painters), but held off. Now must go lick my wounds.

evil doug 8:19 AM  

I rarely motor through a Friday or Saturday puzzle. I generally have to put the paper down, distract myself with Imus, reconsider answers that I've fallen in love with, and reengage. Today I motored.

I'm rarely happy when I motor through a Friday or Saturday puzzle. But today's was smooth and well-lubricated, not mindless.

Wanted beech for betel. My dad chewed Beechnut peppermint gum---only a half stick at a time, since he was frugality personified.

Sounds like we all wanted ice cap.

Good to see "cockpit" as a clue; in recent years, it's fallen out of favor and often replaced with "flight deck". But I'm not getting into the 'offensive' discussion today....


joho 8:27 AM  


I thought this was smooth and pretty easy for a Friday but I suffered from @Andrea's one square wrong syndrome with, like @Jae, tHE instead of SHE.

Thanks, Ian!

delsner 8:30 AM  

I think "Two before Charlie" is Able as in Able, Baker, Charlie. Not Alfa

AnnieD 8:30 AM  

Easy to med for me. Enjoyed a lot of the clues and answers including space cadet, gland, footnote, babe magnet and false start. Hand up for ice cap and seed before feed.

Struggled with two before charlie, thinking two words in four spaces, all I could come up with was "Et tu, Charlie?" which was a phrase in the fade out of the Kingston Trio's "M.T.A." but I figured that was too obscure. And alfa just seems to me should be alpha.

AnnieD 8:38 AM  

Re 2-word captcha, it may be we are helping in digitizing archives of old books and manuscripts.


David 9:03 AM  

After yesterday's brutality, it was fun to solve an excellent puzzle this morning. I had the Friday satisfaction I always get from a late-week Patrick Berry puzzle.

Got lucky with ELI WALLACH - I've watched the 1st 2 Godfather movies multiple times, but III only once. I concentrated on characters who were in III but not in I or II. Although Andy Garcia fit, it was immediately clear that supporting crosses weren't coming, and then I remembered the strange Wallach character, and threw that in with no crosses (EWE quickly confirmed it to be the right move).

Also got lucky and nailed OWEN WISTER with no crosses, and THERE THERE has made its presence known of late in puzzles, so that wrapped up the SE pretty fast.
Some wonderful cluing and misdirects with GLAND (Secretive body part), ADAR as the month (Pisces is in February, dangit!), as well as MARBLES for Sense.

Only tough part was the NE - I love the difficulty of the Send clue in giving us EXHILARATE, which I now also know how to spell correctly.

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

I very briefly has ICONS for 36A but otherwise I found this MUCH easier than Thursday's puzzle. Nice one Mr. Livengood

David 9:09 AM  

I just read Amy Reynaldo's blog, in which she has a link to the e.e. cummings poem "she being Brand". Awesome.....

Jp 9:11 AM  

I loved this puzzle for its construction and elegant cluing. I knew BANA, but I had to google for ELI WALLACH, OWEN WISTER, BRUNO, CLINE and ALTAIR (I just don't know or don't care to remember pop culture or trivia kind of answers). And then everything magically opened up. Plenty of aha moments on all four corners. Just the right kind of puzzle for a Friday for someone like me. Impossible at first but with a few google and voila!
This puzzle erases the AFTER TASTE of yesterday's FALSE START of a puzzle. I HAD NO IDEA how EXHILARATing the experience would be. Thank you Mr. Livengood.

Sir Hillary 9:19 AM  

Can't remember a Friday this easy. I did this with a pen in the newspaper in 20 minutes, absolutely unheard of for me.

-- About the easiest set of tens I could ever hope for; NW and SW were all gimmes.
-- I actually liked the FOOTNOTE clue. Made me chuckle.
-- Never heard of OWENWISTER nor the Cummings poem, but S seemed the only cross that worked. By the way, wouldn't the clue have been better with a lowercase "c"?
-- Thank goodness I am decent with the performing arts trivia. ELIWALLACH, BRUNO, CLINE and BANA were all no-brainers and hugely helpful.
-- On the other hand, I got lucky that I could fill in DADO, ADAR, PERI and HALS with the long crosses. IHADNOIDEA about any of those.
-- My only hiccup was the NE, where I had SOSO at 16A before realizing my mistake. Constructors must love it when two unrelated terms ending in the same letter can be clued identically.

All in all, I am really impressed that Mr. Livengood could create four stacks of three tens each, have OWENWISTER be the only one that is remotely obscure, and manage to have decent crosses. Very well done.

foodie 9:21 AM  

ALTAIR is, for me, parsed AL TAIR, THE FLYER, which means the bird in Arabic. I believe the original name was AL NASR AL TAIR (the flying eagle), but TAIR can be either a noun or an adjective so the abbreviation works.

Along with RIGEL meaning foot or appendage, this can be added to the factoids at the intersection of astronomy, Arabic and crosswordese.

I liked the puzzle although the center with BRUNO next to CLINE gave me pause. Some tricky cluing. Nice solid Friday.

jackj 9:22 AM  

The AFTERTASTE of this puzzle is sweetly satisfying; Ian has given us a superb Friday themeless and now needs only a Saturday to complete his constructing cycle.

This is an impressive showing by one of the best constructors in Will’s stable of young puzzle impresarios.

It’s natural that entries like BABEMAGNET, IHADNOIDEA, THERETHERE and EASYDOESIT will get most of the ink from reviewers but, thinking back on the flow of the puzzle, answers like RESP(ondent) and EXPO, (which wanted to be SOSO based on the cluing of “FAIR”), are unexpected answers in the first case and clever misdirects in the second instance.

And then, for an even gnarlier misdirection, how about the fiendishly clever “Where following a star might lead you”, which immediately has one thinking biblical or, maybe, Hollywood, but in Ian’s able hands our thinking is forced to do a panicky uey to get the delightful answer of FOOTNOTE.

Those three little bits are the glitter and glue which give a puzzle panache and make a good puzzle great.

Good show, Ian!

Wood 9:47 AM  

Fast Friday for me (25 minutes). Solved counterclockwise starting in the SW, with BABE MAGNET one of the last (and best) answers. Finished with one error, sEED instead of FEED. And technically naticked on the OWEN WI_TER/_HE cross... With cummings' loose adherence to syntax, tHE/WItTER was perfectly plausible, never having heard of the poem or the author. But I happened to guess correctly.

I also thought it was Abel Baker Charlie... but Abel didn't fit with MAS which had to be correct. Made me second guess MAS for too long. Can one of you military types clarify?

I find it hilarious somehow that @Rex can do this in 6 minutes. Or frighenting, or both.

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

BABE MAGNET - I have this image of one of those magnets that go on your refrigerator to hold notes, etc. looking like that babe who's on the cover of SI....


AnnieD 10:12 AM  

Not a militarybtype but married a veteran and always learned it as alpha bravo charlie... See link below

GILL I. 10:19 AM  

A male(ish) oriented crossword with interesting cluing. I wanted to fit earring in for 1A or even some sort of stallion. I guess a BABEMAGNET could be a horse.
In Persian mythology a PERI is a fallen angel not allowed into heaven until penance is performed. Along came Mohammed who tried to convert them to Islam but it didn't go over too well with those in the know. That's the story and I'm sticking to it.
I really like the word EXHILARATE especially when I spell it right.

Anonymous 10:34 AM  

Always happy when my beloved dog Peri makes her way into the puzzle(graceful fairy dog that she is)
Peri's mom

Two Ponies 10:58 AM  

Another good one from Ian. Always nice to see his name before I get started.
I sure wish I had known the author.
His bio is interesting. Thx Rex.

The Stand is available on Netflix and is a faithful rendition of an awesome book. Stephen King also plays a minor roll.

I hate proving I'm not a robot. I wonder if the posts recently that looked real but were actually ads are the cause of this hassle.

Loren Muse Smith 11:01 AM  

I was dismayed to see that most of you flew through this! With three disastrous faux-holds, "frank" for BLUNT, "burnt" for FRIED, and, mysteriously, "foam" for BEAM, (c'mon - doesn't anyone foam at the mouth when excited??), I struggled mightily for almost everything.

@Evan -“I'm also going to proclaim the brilliance for the clue at 7-Down”
Here here! What an EXHILARATing clue. Bravo!

DADO I knew not from crosswordese but from the fact that I made a bookcase once and did one of the dados using only a skil saw. IHADNOIDEA how hard that would be and patiently waited my turn at the panel router for the rest.

In a very rural part of the state we have a farm, and there's a guy who lives nearby who is always dressed in camo and always has a CHAW (with the requisite Mountain Dew can spittoon). He's probably never been outside the state. One of the smartest people I've ever known. Really.

BigSteve46 11:05 AM  

Had a tough time with this one: never heard of Owen Wister or Eric Bana or The Stand. Its always good to remember that one person's "gimmee" as another's WTF. The final nail in my coffin for a speedy finish to this one was my absolutely firm association of Ted Wills with "Faded Love." Wills fit in the block and I stubbornly, actually pigheadedly would be more accurate, refused to remove it - I was touched that a new-age puzzle constructor would remember and honor Ted Wills. Unfortunately, only the "S" at the end was right and it gummed things up right in the middle. Anyhoo, for anyone who cares - see the following:

No disrespect to Patsy but that's the "Faded Love" story!

Matthew G. 11:07 AM  

Never heard of OWEN WISTER and just flat-out overlooked the E.E. Cummings* clue -- so I finished with the erroneous OWEN WITTER (it doesn't help that I have a friend with the surname Witters but have never met a Wister). The little voice in my head that should have said "the word THE is almost never used in the puzzle" just didn't go off as it should have. My eyes saw a real word in the cross and I moved on.

Other than that brainless fumble, this came in at Very Easy for me too. I was halfway through solving (on paper) before I glanced at the constructor's name, and then I knew why it was so easy. Ian Livengood is one of those constructors I just "get." His tricky clues are often easier for me than "straight" clues, I guess because my brain works like his. To the point of overconfidence: my only real slowdown today was when, after getting the A, O and second S in EASY DOES IT, I popped in HANG ON A SEC and was sure I had it. Didn't take long to fix, though.

*(Yes, Cummings capitalized his own name when he wrote it, despite the mistaken popular belief that his name should be rendered in lowercase.)

acmeofepitome 11:10 AM  

What is the explanation of ADAR as the month whose zodiac sign is a fish? I don't get it.

wyonative 11:21 AM  

I was astonished to see Lady Baltimore in the clues. I once read everything Owen Wister wrote. The Virginian is moderately interesting (although plenty of people dislike it). He wrote a few pretty good short stories. Lady Baltimore is awful. His biography is more interesting than his writing, all in all. Here in Wyoming, the Johnson County War is legendary. The archives at the University of Wyoming has some of the Wister papers and, of all things, his desk: "Wister wrote here."

I filled the puzzled from the bottom up, with the northeast the last to fall when I finally got expo.

Orange 11:24 AM  

@David mentioned that I linked to the Cummings poem. It's a must-read! The hottest poem of automotive terminology you have ever read. Never before have line breaks, spaces, and punctuation echoed the clumsiness of sex so adeptly.

Tita 11:40 AM  

This was more than crunchy for me - NW remained hidden for a long time. After my first pass left the grid only slightly less blank, I started making guesses, many of which were wrong...some of which helped.
A solid Medium in my book - BUT - I FWOG and no mistakes!

@Anon - good point re: apocolypsi

@Evan - in Portuguese, if you are "desnorteado", you are without a north, which if you are a seafarer, can be a very bad thing. Worse than just being lost - you are lost with no hope of finding your direction...

@delsner - I refused to let go of Able too, even when it turned MAS into MeS...

@acme.o.e - Hebrew months...

And thanks for the eec link.

@AnnieD - yes - I've read about that capcha project...brilliant, though annoying as hell!

HumorlessTwit 11:55 AM  

@Orange - "Clumsiness of Sex"? Who taught you? Who've you been doing it with? Nothing clumsy about it, if done well. May I offer...?

Robo-Mask 12:47 PM  

Not enough U's for my taste, but they were symmetrically placed, so, OK.

Fave word: CINNAMONROLL. Nothin' to do with this puz, but it is my fave word(s). Also like SLUES.

Fave clue: The CLINE one. Nearly drove me BETELs, trying to remember that song and who did it.

Fave number: 31. Wonder if he'll be cashing it in for a different one, next month? Good luck if you are, dude.

Fave id request, ever: "Please prove you're not a robot". Yikes--never had to do that before. Better save my text, just in case...

jae 1:59 PM  

Be sure to check out Tim Croce's tough Friday themeless on BEQ's site.

Bird 2:24 PM  

Too difficult for me – DNF. I am not criticizing the puzzle I just didn’t know enough to get a foothold. I did have some FALSESTARTs (EVEN for 16A, ICECAP for 21A, DONOTWORRY for 53A) so that didn’t help either.

Favorite clue was 7D. Favorite Stephen King novel is 10D.

Least favorite was 48A. I don’t know the zodiac months (except for my family’s) so I put in JU figuring a 4 letter month is JUNE or JULY. I thought of putting IHADNOIDEA for 26D, but could not make myself get rid of the U.

Never know that ALFA is the word for A. ALFA is a car. I thought it was spelled ALPHA. I knew ABLE was WWII and Korea, so that was out. Here is WIKI link to NATO’s phonetic ALPHAbet:

Well, TGIF.

I am not a robot damn it! Reminds me of a scene from Big Bang Theory when the gang is sitting in Sheldon's living room discussing the possibility that Sheldon is a robot by questioning his history of following Asimov's laws of robotics. Holy Sh*t! As I am adding to this post the captha words changed. And to something I cannot decifer. WTF!

Anonymous 2:25 PM  

A few mistakes along the way:



and I held off on writing in G SPOT; it turned out to be GLAND, which I guess is more in keeping with the Times' standards.

Anonymous 2:32 PM  

> What is the explanation of ADAR as the month whose zodiac sign

Well, Pisces is the fish in the zodiac, and Adar is the Hebrew month corresponding to that time (starting next week). Seems a stretch to mix Greek and Hebrew calendars. ADAR can be clued more directly.

Lewis 2:49 PM  

Unlike Tita, I finally had to Google, three times, and then everything fell. Perhaps if I had more patience, I wouldn't have needed to. My hardest quadrant was the NE, but I can't fault the cluing. I'm looking forward to more from you, Ian.

John V 2:54 PM  

From the tarmac. DNF. Got stuck at 10d/21a cross. Fridays = tired.

Anonymous 3:37 PM  

I am not a robot:

26:26 Fromnov

How do this help digitizing books?

Lawprof 3:42 PM  

After last week's Mid-ass touch, I wrote to suggest that we might find (inter alia) "gonad" in the Times puzzle. Today, at 7D, I found myself staring at G _ _ _D clued "secretive body part.

Anonymous 3:52 PM  

@lawprof - tee-hee. you said, "gonad". Snicker, snort, snicker.

sanfranman59 3:54 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 23:40, 25:13, 0.94, 40%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Fri 13:32, 12:29, 1.08, 67%, Medium-Challenging

Anonymous 3:56 PM  

@Loren MS - I found this puzzle somewhat hard but I'm only good Monday and Tuesday. That's why I come here, to learn how to be a good solver. Sadly, however, more often than not, I come here only to learn how easy the puzzle was for Rex. That throws me into a depression and then I drink 101 proof bourbon, which is not a good thing. But by the time I sober up I forgot Rex what Rex said....


long suffering mets fan 4:14 PM  

Rex, please allow me to go off topic

Gray Carter passed away yesterday at the way too young age of 57 from brain cancer. He was co-captain of the 86 World Champion Mets and made it in to Cooperstown

Back in the 80s, I was fortunate enough to procure some special seats for a Mets game through work.
The special part included a pre-game kids clinic with Gary Carter and Mookie Wilson, another popular Met. I brought my then 10 year old son and my 9 year old nephew -- there we were actually on the field, about 100 kids and parents with Gary Carter and Mookie Wilson instructing the boys on baseball for about an hour. The two of them couldn't have been nicer -- taking the time with each kid, answering all of their questions, and a genuine concern expressed by both of them. To this day my son and my nephew still talk about that special day at Shea.

A far cry from the pompous, self-serving prima-donnas that we hear too much about on Sportscenter or ET

RIP Gary Carter

thanks, Rex

Anonymous 4:52 PM  

BANDITO is questionable as the clueing calls for a Spanish word, which would be BANDIDO. Given that another answer (MAS) is also Spanish and refers to what a BANDIDO would say, this held me up for ages.

Anonymous 5:03 PM  

@Rex - I believe that's the first reference to Al Kooper I've seen in over thirty years.

OISK 5:16 PM  

I feel the same way as my fellow long suffering Met fan. Gary Carter was a favorite. I renewed my season tickets despite the apparent hopelessness...

An average Friday for me, but very enjoyable. Like many here, I began with "burnt" and "icecap", and never heard of Wister or Bana. Got a kick out of the clue for "Spacecadet" and for "Marbles." Didn't like the clue for Adar - "It begins Thursday at sunset" would have been better, I think. Somehow, mixing zodiac references with Jewish months doesn't work for me. I got "Peri" from Gilbert and Sullivan (the peer and the peri) and Betel nuts from "South Pacific.." Thanks, Mr. Livengood.

Z 5:18 PM  

I compounded icecap with conf for my league division. Did I doubt these answers? No - I doubted EXPO and CHAW instead. Put the puzzle down, went to work, and picked it up afterwards. STAPLER looked possible, guessed at THE STAND, and the NE finally fell. tHE BEING BRAND seemed plausible to me, though, so finished with an error.

So I'd rate this easy medium for 3/4ths and medium hard in the NW.

The new Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart are similar to the CAPTCHAs used by Ticketmaster. Given the rash of automated posts that hit my inbox last week, I assume Blogger had to upgrade its protocols because someone figured out a way to defeat the previous protocol.

Doc John 5:22 PM  

I knew Rex would rate this one as Easy because I was able to do it in one sitting! Very atypical for a Friday or a Saturday.

Least favorite clue: "Is routed by." LOSES TO seems so weak compared to the clue.

Another four-letter Eric: Roth. Great actor with a noteworthy filmography.

Finally, THE STAND. One of my favorite Stephen King books, made even better when he released the uncut version a few years later. The scene in which they are escaping NYC via the tunnel is probably the scariest thing I've ever read.

P.S. I hate captcha.

Mighty Nisden 5:36 PM  

I know I am a long way from getting good at this when most of you rate this as easy. Except for the SE I had loads of trouble and DNF.

Gotta learn more people and postapocalyptic books so I'll have less IHADNOIDEAs

johnranta 6:14 PM  

Yes, an easy one (except I missed that "Mariner's" was singular, and have never heard of Eric Bana, so that cross was a guessing game (NASL - maybe there's a North American Soccer League team called the Mariners).

But I don't buy "ect" - it's missing an "o" in my mind. There's no "ectplasm" it's "ectoplasm", isn't it? jr

Chip Hilton 6:27 PM  

@long suffering mets fan - Well said. Everything I've heard about Gary Carter today supports your experience with him. A terrific man, gone too soon.

I cruised through 3/4's of this one but was utterly beaten by the NE corner. I never got the breakthrough I needed.

JenCT 7:39 PM  

Too tough for me, too.

Tried MIS (myocardial infarctions) before ODS, ODOR before HINT, FOOD before FEED; too many others to mention.

Knew DADO from watching This Old House.

The CAPTCHAS are annoying, but not as annoying as getting all those spam emails.


Jesse 8:23 PM  

Just watched Godfather III last week and it was decent, but Funny People is a truly excellent film. You should check it out, Rex.

fergus 9:03 PM  

Part of a long neck, with four letters starting with F, and I was thinking along Cummings' lines.

Whole top of the grid was a disastrously fun solve for me -- more fun than acing the bottom two thirds. Fair being SOSO; COW EWE, SOY etc., EXO. I guess it really wasn't that hard, but for a sharp-witted Friday morning solve I was pretty slow on the uptake.

fergus 9:20 PM  

PS -- That the top 100 Solvers had more difficulty than the more general poplulation (in SFman's reckoning) is somehow illustrative of 'the long tail' in considering multiple answers.

sanfranman59 10:20 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 5:49, 6:49, 0.85, 4%, Easy (5th lowest median solve time of 138 Mondays)
Tue 8:50, 8:52, 1.00, 55%, Medium
Wed 10:52, 11:49, 0.92, 36%, Easy-Medium
Thu 23:27, 18:59, 1.24, 88%, Challenging
Fri 24:16, 25:13, 0.96, 43%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:18, 3:40, 0.90, 9%, Easy
Tue 4:53, 4:35, 1.07, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 5:30, 5:52, 0.94, 37%, Easy-Medium
Thu 11:46, 9:17, 1.27, 87%, Challenging
Fri 12:57, 12:29, 1.04, 62%, Medium-Challenging

Anonymous 11:31 AM  


The plural of CHAD is CHAD


Like deer, etc.

I am taken aback!

Dave 1:44 PM  

Not knowing Owen Wister and She being Brand only serves to verify the lack of literary depth in my engineering education.

Otherwise, this was very easy. Friday? Really?

Anonymous 10:30 AM  

Do I believe it when a person says they finished a "medium" puzzle in 5 or 6 or 10 minutes?? A big NO! Most of the time it takes longer to just print the letters. C'mon folks, it's not about time, it's about the pleasure and fun. I refer back to one of Aesop's fables.

Celestajean 12:30 PM  

I am new to the NYTimes puzzle. I found today's puzzle very difficult. How does a person become adept at these puzzles?

Z 1:03 PM  

@Celestajean - Practice and learning your crosswordese and practice.

Solving in Seattle 3:16 PM  

@Anonymous 11:31, so if you have two friends named CHAD...

I liked the 33D clue, otherwise not much to get excited about.

Lola505 6:59 PM  

MUCH better puzzle than yesterday, IMHO.

Found the clues to be challenging, but fair.

My trip-ups were 20A, I had Eric Idle before BANA; 21A, ice cap before SEA ICE; and, 38A, one on one before one TO one.

@Celestajean, just like getting to Carnegie Hall, practice, practice, practice.
Seriously, look up words you don't know (or check the answers -- not as much fun nor as enlightening) and learn from your mistakes. Have fun!

Spacecraft 7:22 PM  

This was sort of two-tiered for me in difficulty; when I first saw it I stared and despaired. The first scan of the clues gave me one lone gimme: HENRY, with all those roman numerals and "parts." I was in one of those once, in college. I was an extra; my lone line was "An't be not four by the day I'll be 'anged!" To which my friend and co-extra answered "The turkeys in me pannier are quite starved." And there you have, folks, the only two lines from ANY of the HENRY plays that I know.

Then as I cast about, flailing, I saw a couple more, one of them being, unfortunately ICECAP. That seriously retarded my development of the NE, as well as delaying the reveal of one of my all-time favorite stories by my all-time favorite author: Stephen King. I just didn't realize that THESTAND was quite so early; I first got hold of it in 1991. That put the crusher on my icecap and brought SEAICE to light (well, I was half right!). That was my only writeover, though, and the rest seemed to just fall in there. I guess I'd have to rate it challenging-easy. Just one quibble: isn't 2d supposed to be spelled ALPHA? What's there is the first name of one of those myriad Italian car companies. Especially since it's right next to 3d, and we could have a kids' cereal.

Dirigonzo 8:08 PM  

I made all the same mistakes everyone else did plus a couple of my own that are just too painful to talk about, so DNF with a couple of blank spaces in the NW and a couple of wrong letters in the NE. Not a pretty grid to look at. But I still had fun and I learned a lot, and as I said in a post a very long time ago that defines a good puzzle for me.

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