East of Eden girl / SAT 3-3-12 / Wheelset piece / Garment originally made from caribou sealskin / Symbiotic partners of clownfish / Monkey ladder vine / Guru follower / Ramadi resident

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Constructor: Byron Walden

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: LOUIS NYE (53A: Steve Allen sidekick with the catchphrase "Hi-ho, Steverino!") —
Louis Nye (May 1, 1913 – October 9, 2005) was an American comedy actor. [...]
He made numerous appearances on The Jack Benny Program and The Jimmy Durante Show. He also appeared on The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom. He found fame with Steve Allen. As a regular on The Steve Allen Show, he took part in the weekly "Man on the Street" sketches, performing with Allen, Don Knotts, Dayton Allen, Tom Poston and Bill Dana. // Nye was a popular sketch comedian who primarily played urbane, wealthy bon vivant types. His characterization of the delightfully pretentious country-club braggart Gordon Hathaway, his catchphrase, "Hi, ho, Steveorino," and Allen's inability to resist bursting into hysterical laughter at Nye's ad-libs during gags, made Nye one of the favorite performers on Allen's show. When production was moved to Los Angeles, Nye went along and became a character actor in Hollywood. (wikipedia)
• • •
I enjoyed this. I got a bit psyched out by the constructor's name—Byron on a Saturday can be an intimidating experience—but this one ended up being very doable. Thorny, but doable. There were enough sections of short fill that I was able to get toeholds in lots of different sections of the grid—ESSES and PAS MAL (16A: Not bad, in Nantes) in the NW; ADMS, OLEO, OKAY, and YAYS in the E; YSER, YELL, ENDE, and LENT in the SE; TET in the center; RYNE in the W (27D: Hall-of-Fame Cub Sandberg). The cluing is tricky and clever (and precise) throughout. I don't think I've ever heard of HAIR LACQUER or ARMY GROUPS, so that wasn't my favorite part of the grid, but otherwise I like most all the 8+-letter fill from the NW all the way down to the SE. Mostly worth the (largely inoffensive) crosswordese you see here and there. I'm also fairly impressed with the stacks of 6s in the NE and SW. I like 'em all. Great words and phrases, interesting and varied letter combinations ... a carefully constructed grid from stem to stern. I like when constructors treat sections of short fill like they matter, like they're as important a part of the puzzle as the flashy stuff.

Despite the fact that Aquarius is the water-bearer, I somehow "knew" that 1A: Gemini, Libra and Aquarius was AIR SIGNS. I mean, they're signs ... and AIR fit in the remaining squares. I confirmed that answer with RAKE (which was wrong; it's RACK, 3D: Pool accessory) and INC, but couldn't do much else, so moved on to the NE, which was the first section I completed. Then I sat and admired it, all neatly filled in and sequestered from the rest of the grid. Filled in what I could in the E, but that went nowhere, so I dropped down to the SE and from there worked my way up into the center. The rest of the solving process was just a matter of moving out from the center hub into the remaining four spokes and picking them off one by one.

I honestly don't know how I knew LOUIS NYE and Reverend IKE. I had NYE and just knew that the first name was LOUIS, though I couldn't tell you anything about him. I know IKE Turner, but the Reverend IKE is just a name I encountered somewhere, at some time. Just a name kicking around my head. And today, out it came. ABRA (1D: "East of Eden" girl) somehow never made it into my head. Neither did ALEXA (36A: Vega of "Spy Kids"), whom I had as ALANA (despite the fact that this exact ALEXA has been in grids before). SEAMUS, however, was a gimme; coincidentally, I am right in the middle of teaching his translation of Beowulf (40D: Nobel-winning poet Heaney).

  • 18A: Promotional description for a coming show ("IT'S BIG!") — Feels right, but I kind of want to see an example.
  • 21A: "Green Book" org., familiarly (THE I.R.A.) — my first instinct, with no crosses yet to guide me: THE E.P.A.
  • 22A: Home of the Dostoyevsky Literary Museum (OMSK) — off the "K" in STEAK QUESADILLA, no problem (8D: Taco Bell offering).
  • 34A: Monkey ladder vine (LIANA) — brain hiccuped and gave me RIATA the first go round. Monkey with a lasso ... that would be kinda funny.
  • 40A: Symbiotic partners of clownfish (SEA ANEMONES) — got this (finally) when I got the "AA" and knew that that was where the phrase had to break.
  • 41A: "She is more precious than ___": Proverbs 3:15 (RUBIES) — this may be one of the first biblical quote clues that I got instantly. I think there was a movie many years ago called "A Price Above Rubies." Starring RENEE Zellweger? Does that sound right? Maybe I know the phrase from elsewhere too.
  • 46A: Garment originally made from caribou or sealskin (ANORAK) — this one was a gimme for my wife. Not for me. Her logic: "Well, PARKA didn't fit ..."
  • 4D: Guru follower (SIKH) — My favorite "guru," as of just this past week, is "gary the guru":

  • 9D: Dogs that ought to be great swimmers? (SPITZES) — after Olympic multi-medalist Mark Spitz. I forget that the spitz was even a breed, so this one just came together from crosses (and quickly).
  • 13D: Old country name or its currency, both dropped in 1997 (ZAIRE) — knew it was no longer a country name, didn't know anything else referenced in the clue. Again, thankfully, I had many helpful crosses, so I didn't really struggle too long with this.
  • 32D: Wheelset piece (AXLE) — finished the puzzle with this as ANLE and its neighbor as KARN (because of my "Spy Kidz" error). Didn't know what a "wheelset" was.
  • 44D: Ramadi resident (IRAQI) — knew it started with "I," thus felt pretty sure that it ended in "I" ... just a matter of "Q" or "N" ... 
  • 47A: "___ Back" (2004 Kenny Chesney hit) ("I GO") — my first stab: "HE'S"; this gives you some sense of the depth of my knowledge about modern country (though I did just see Chesney cover Springsteen's "I'm On Fire" on Jimmy Fallon the other night—pretty good).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Glimmerglass 8:18 AM  

Very hard for me. I struggled with every section but the SE. The NE was as annoying for me as it was satisfying for Rex. I finally gave up and washed the breakfast dishes. While doing that, Mark Spitz popped into my head. "That CAN'T be right," I thought. It's an obscure clue, even for a Saturday, but ZESTER confirmed it. AMBIT was somewhere vaguely in my head, and ELGAR is at least a composer. IT'S BIG is really lame, and I am surprised Rex didn't object to the definite article in THE IRA. PAS MAL is just a translation -- I was hunting for a more idiomatic French word. ZAIRE was my final word.

imsdave 8:27 AM  

Started in the east, quickly wrapped my way through the puzzle, SE, center, NE and thought this was going to be a record Saturday.


I had only PEARLS and DESKSET in the SW, ESSES and HAYDN in the NE. As you can see, this is not helpful. After several minutes of nothing, I put it down and did the LAT.

Came back, put in RUBIES and got out of that corner quickly. Back to the NE and, again, nothing. Did the CS.

Came back, and realized the kitchen tool should end in ER, got ELGAR, finally remembered PASMAL, and finished. Solving time - 45 minutes - elapsed time - 1.5 hours.

Not a good sign for the ACPT.

imsdave 8:30 AM  

That was supposed to be, east, SE, center, NW.

George Barany 8:34 AM  

A 17x17 puzzle written with my friend Arthur Rothstein focuses on a different SEAMUS who has been getting quite a bit of attention recently. We hope you'll enjoy the puzzle and its variations, along with added commentary, all at http://www.mojo-working.com/GailCollins

Rick 8:42 AM  

Is that a picture of Bill Nye the Science Guy, not Louis Nye?

perfectlycromulent 8:50 AM  

Rick, no, that's Louis Nye, but you're right he does looks somewhat like Bill Nye--not a lot, but I can see the similarities.

Long-time visitor?

Nancy in PA 8:50 AM  

Got it all right, and with no Googles, but had to put it down at midnight and pick it up again at 8 to do so. As @imsdave said, doesn't augur well for ACPT. I guess BRAINROT being one of my last entries is a sign of...something. Loved all the X's, Q's, Z's...can hear Acme admiring its scrabbliness.

Anonymous 9:00 AM  

Nearly done in by 12D sphere of influence; I was sure it was aegis. But fixed. At end, messed up by Louis Nye/Lyon cross. Two bad squares for an ACPT walkup.

Anonymous 9:01 AM  

The photo for Louis Nye is actually that of BIll Nye The Science guy. Wrong photo!

jackj 9:10 AM  

We haven’t seen much of Byron Walden in the Times lately but one shouldn’t forget that he is one of the premier constructors of tough puzzles in the Will Shortz era. With this one, Byron has given us 53 puzzles in total but 43 of them have been Saturdays, a remarkable 81% over all.

With that record, a tussle is expected and Byron doesn’t disappoint! This one was a little bit like climbing a sheer rock face and moving up by inches, not by leaps and bounds.

NOVASCOTIA really got things going for the whole left side and, as the crosses around it began to fall, STEAKQUESADILLA was outed and that created an on-ramp into the lower right side with a tacit nod to “Finding Nemo”, Pixar’s star clownfish who, apparently, is the symbiotic partner of SEAANEMONES.

The final corner, in the upper right, had me playing “small ball” with only the ER of the “Kitchen tool” in the grid (as a reasonable guess that it would be part of the ultimate answer). AMBIT went in, then a wild stab at the composer got ELGAR and an equally risky chance got ZAIRE.

Picking away at the remainder, like a hungry vulture on road kill, the final bits of that section began to jell until the only remaining answer meant looking for those “Dogs that ought to be great swimmers”. It was well worth the struggle; SPITZES is one primo piece of cluing.

Wow, Byron, a special treat!

mac 9:13 AM  

Fantastic Saturday puzzle! Gave me a good fear for the ACPT...

After I got SP.... at 9D I wondered if there was a dog breed called Speedo. For 15A I started out with insomnia and violence. No crosses, clearly.


captcha: igheek.

Kate Slate 9:13 AM  

That's definitely not Louis Nye.

oren muse 9:13 AM  

I'm going to give this a shot because my daughter is telling me that this could be fun. Because of my age, I knew LOUISNYE and IKE right off. We had "army troops" for a while. I've been told what a Natick is, and for me, the OMSK/OLGA cross was just that, but probably not for anyone else. For 36D, we put "sens" (as in Robert). I knew SCRAMS, and my daughter didn't (so with IKE and LOUISNYE), I felt proud that I contributed to a tough, tough Saturday!

retired_chemist 9:18 AM  

Rex is messing with us again. The photo is NOT Louis Nye, whom I am old enough to remember. A gimme here.

HTG a lot in the N. The S was straightforward. HAD JEWELS for RUBIES, but easily fixed. Had IRANI @ 44D and thus had a momentary WTF @ 55A PLANUE. A few seconds to think and - AHA!

The N was a disaster. KIEV at 22A was the least of it. I echo the complaints about IT'S BIG, HAIR LACQUER, and ARMY GROUPS - not phrases but just words. Debated ORBIT and AMBIT for 12D. Looked them up, ORBIT seemed to fit better. Oh well.

ABRA - no way. ELGAR - should have got it but didn't. AIR SIGNS - never heard of that.

But, thanks, Mr. Walden. My problems, not yours.

retired_chemist 9:22 AM  

@ oren muse - welcome! We geezers need to stick together....

GaryG12345 9:23 AM  

here's the url for Louie Nye


oren muse 9:23 AM  

@retired_chemist -so we both know for certain that the picture is NOT LOUISNYE!

Gareth Bain 9:25 AM  

An amen to treating short fill like it matters. Also your easy ne was my nearly dnf section...

Rex Parker 9:38 AM  

Wow, way more people are taking the Nye bait than I thought.


MountainManZach 9:39 AM  

Yes, that is Bill Nye, not Louis Nye, that's the joke. If something doesn't make sense to Rex, he simply swaps in something that does. Never heard of Louis Nye? No problem, there's a Bill Nye (that was my first thought too). Two days ago, the first picture was Phoebe, the character from Friends, not phoebe the bird that the puzzle referenced. Did y'all really think that while cutting and pasting from Wikipedia he didn't notice that he put an entirely different person up?

But I do understand that the most important thing is to make sure the internet is accurate.

chefbea 9:45 AM  

I know that is not Louis Nye!!!

Pretty tough puzzle for me. Had to google quite a bit.

I use Borax (twenty mule team) quite often. Even Have a recipe using it for making Dish washer detergent. Much cheaper than cascade!!!!

KRMunson 9:48 AM  

I love Rex's photo misdirection! It makes me laugh almost as much as @evil doug's posts.

AnnieD 9:50 AM  

I'd rate this one challenging as it's the first time I've had to google in about a year...which really hurt.

I did really well on the rest of the puzz, but couldn't get an anchor into the NE corner at all. I wanted Burma for Zaire...I wanted masher for zester...I wanted conman for sleaze...I wanted lap dogs for spitzes except that dog was in the clue...I wanted S&H, but they made green stamps, not green book and it didn't fit...I wanted on edge or in fear for lather....I wanted all new instead of it's big...i wanted aegis or realm instead of ambit. I had to google Elgar. In other words it was a totally DISORDERLY mess.

But excellent puzzle for a Saturday.

Captcha=fordeork...great name for when you can't get a handle in a corner...a complete fordeork!

No BS 9:52 AM  

I've heard french folks saying "C'est normal" for "it's ok". that got me in trouble. First DNF in a long time, because of NE. Rex you are so funny. An obscure answer a gimme because you are teaching him in a college course. Though somehow Seamus was a gimme for me too. Anyway, I was kind of pleased to come up with all but the NE. I googled ELGAR and Green book. Could not accept that "the" would come before IRA. What's next "an apple?" Agree "it's big" is totally lame.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:57 AM  

Two write-overs, 57 A, SEXISM before SEXIST, and 40 D, SHAMUS before SEAMUS.

NE was the last to fall, as I know no French and PASMAL had to be filled cross by cross.

(31 D should have helped me along, but didn't.)

This took me a Challenging time, and put me in mind, too, of the ACPT. I will say for the record that I hope to put up a staunch defense of my 200-something place standing!

No BS 10:00 AM  

I just noticed Rex you finished with an error. Frankly I think you should think of a puzzle with an error as incomplete. your time to "finish" a puzzle with an error is not meaningful the real time is how long it took you to get it right. Own up and call it challenging or DNF like the rest of us. Certainly at your level in competition an error will put you out of the money. N'est pas?

Wood 10:01 AM  

Been on vacation all week in beautiful St. John, Virgin Islands. Extremely remote, but still able to do the puzzles via the magic of the Internet. Home now in dreary MN, but at least I had a good thorny puzzle to keep me entertained this morning. Nearly naticked twice, by LIANA/RYNE and ENDE/NYE...but lucky guesses (both N's!) got me through. I agree that some of the longer fill is questionable, but I suppose permissible on a Saturday. Puzzle put up a good fight but I was able to do it in a non-embarrassing time.

Kurt 10:05 AM  

Come on people! That is clearly Louis Nye before the surgery.

Sir Hillary 10:13 AM  

Great puzzle, great workout. The SW is about as nice a 5x6 corner as I can remember. For me, NOVASCOTIA, PASMAL and RYNE went in immediately, which gave me lots of options from there. Got the west first, but ended up with ARMYTROOPS (I thing ARMYGROUPS is the one nonsense term in here) which I knew was wrong but couldn't correct until I did the SE and the end of STEAKQUESADILLA came into view. From there, went to SW. You may be able to tell from my pseudonym, but I am a huge James Bond fan, and 007 paraphrases the 41A passage in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". That, plus IRAQI, set me on my way. East and NE were last and took me a while, even with PASMAL sitting there since the beginning.

Overall, a realy fun hour or so. Great stuff.

Shamik 10:19 AM  

So...3/4 of the puzzle fell in 12 minutes. The next 31 minutes was spent doing the hokey-pokey in the NE. Finally took a much needed 15 minute break and returned only to slam dunk the NE in 2 minutes.

Reminder to self: Next time there's a blanking out lasting 5 minutes....it's time to take a break.

ESSES seemed a gimme. ZAIRE, ELGAR and SLEAZE did the hokey pokey. Wanted SHARPES and SEA??ES. Then hokey pokeyed with DITHER and LATHER. Had a hard time dropping both ARENA and ORBIT.


evil doug 10:29 AM  

Finished with a perfectly blank six x five box in Maine.

When I looked at the solution, I was glad I bailed when I did. Too many potential kitchen tools. No knowledge of composers beyond Lennon and McCartney. In Spanish 'asi asi' means 'so-so', so [hey, 3 'so's in a row there! Cool!] I was trying to translate Spanish into French with great meaningless futility. Kelley has a blue book, but no idea on the green one. Prefer 'sleaze-bag' to 'sleaze' for the 'sort'---more nounish for a person perpetuating sleaze, no?

And "It's big" is a bs answer for that clue---can't believe Rex gave it a vague pass. Better clue: "That's what she said."

I'm a Libra, so air sign seems appropriate for me.

Anemone and anorak are cool words.

Ryne will be joined by his old Cubbie friend, the late, great Ron Santo, in the HOF. Barry Larkin, too---making it a great little class.

Oleo: Oreo's ugly cousin.

Oren: She's not too old to turn over your knee. Keep an eye on her....


Pete 10:50 AM  

I'm guessing it's not really LOUISNYE, but a rare photo of LOUIS Pasteur as a young man.

I gave up early as this puzzle just evoked constant arguments in my head. For 17A I had ___CAVE, then confindently wrote in FAKECAVE, because they're fake, right? Then I said that's just ridiculous, everything but the fish are fake, so the fake part of my answer was pointless. The crosses led to ROCKCAVE, but that was equally improbably, as all caves are rock caves, or simulate rock caves. I had a half hour argument in my head about that. Then, I had STEAK____ILLA for a Taco Bell Offering. Had to be STEAKSALMONILLA, spelling be damned, right? Since this was clearly wrong, but ever so right, I just refused to let this puzzle continue to ruin my image of the world.

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

No BRAINROT from this puzzle
I did the best I could,
The Science Guy, not LOUISNYE
Rex is again UPTONOGOOD!!

Liked it all!

Wade Nye 10:57 AM  

"Damn! Your drunk tests are hard!"--Steve Martin, The Man With Two Brains.

I couldn't finish this monster. I picked DITHER over LATHER, which, along with not knowing Saturday-crossword-level French (I'm fluent in Thursday-crossword-level French), ruled out me finishing that corner.

In the NW, I had the CAVE and the SIGN with no intuition of what came before. Several of the two-word phrases seemed on the periphery of what oughta be allowed. I though SIKH might be SUFI. Sure, why not, what the hell do I know. Knowing ABRA would have helped. I could have got it with a Steve Miller Band clue but not with that Steinbeck crap. Keep on rockin' me, baby.

AllTooContrary 11:03 AM  

Glad I wasn't the only one tetchy about ITSBIG, ARMYGROUPS, or THEIRA. Ran to this site thinking I would find a scathing take. Really, Rex. What were you thinking (drinking)?

Badir 11:05 AM  

I did everything but the NE corner in 13-14 minutes and was expecting a good time, but then I ran into a brick wall. I started off with "REACH" for 12D, which didn't seem that great. Then I got ESSES and put in "THE CIA" for 21A, which I seemed to remember (but that was the "World Factbook"). Then I sat and stared. And stared. And. Stared. I wanted "TEASER" for 18A, but it didn't go with anything. I guess I had "MESHER" or some garbage for 23A. I kept thinking of ZAIRE, but I felt confident in "THE CIA". But after HALF AN HOUR(!!), I finally got rid of "CIA" and put in ZAIRE to see what would happen. Then I saw SLEAZE, replaced "REACH" with AMBIT, and quickly got IT'S BIG and ZESTER. Then another stare for a minute or two before I got the last P. Oof!!

foodie 11:11 AM  

Those NE and SW corners are tough in part because they are their own mini puzzle. The interfaces with the rest of the puzzle are S, E or R, so basically useless. The SW was doable, the NE, not so without cheating.

I love that STEAK QUESADILLA bisects this puzzle. I had ILLA from finishing the SE, and kept wanting SopapILLA. I guess they don't offer these at Taco Bell? First time I tasted sopapillas was in a fun restaurant in New Orleans, and someone taught me to open them up while steaming hot and pour some honey into them. Amazing...But I digress.

Off to Amman today. I'll try to keep up with you all from afar. @archaeoprof-- anything you need from Mecca Mall?

Tita 11:21 AM  

@Oren Muse - welcome!!

@AnnieD - Just love your LAP DOGS answer!! I think about compiling a list of epic wrong answers...

DNF, HTG...but was a pretty good showing for me for a Saturday.

Doubted my early gimmes of PASMAL and ESSES because of that nasty NE... maShER was my kitchen gadget...

So sad, as I had everything from HAIRLAQUER on down, also had STEAKQUESADILLA, though wanted Bretagne to fit for Cape Breton locale.

@Rex...I like the geographical play-by-play of your solve.

Norm 11:29 AM  

What Rex said: "Thorny, but doable." And, jackj's image of climbing a rock face works for me too, since I had to solve this one from the bottom up. Only had AIRSIGNS (complete guess), TET, and ANORAK my first time through before checking the downs. Took a chance on LOCKEDON and gradually worked my way up to the NW (not without a lot of missteps) -- mainly using STEAKQUESADILLA (which came straight of the ILLA after I had the SE complete) for handholds. (ABRA would have been a gimme had I checked the downs earlier, since East of Eden is one of my favorite books ever.) Rappelled down to fill in the SW and then climbed back up to the NE. SPITZES was the last to fall. Great fun!

Two Ponies 11:34 AM  

So what's this Abra chick's last name?
It better be Kadabra.

Masked and Anonymous 11:37 AM  

Those 5x6 NE and SW corners were extra hard to get a foothold in. Saved 'em for last. Can't help thinking that those two areas were hard for the constructor to Build, too. But then what does this wild and crazy Walden dude do? -- plunks two Z's in the NE and KQX in the SW, just out of plain orneriness.

SW fill came out pretty much squeaky clean. NE is a little more of a crossword rummage sale, with such wobblers as ITSBIG and THEIRA and PASMAL. But, hey -- much better than I could have done. And this puz was sure a real fun solve.

I'd rate this fight as middle-heavyweight. Mostly because of the SW and NE. Sounds like NE outright decked some of our more Evil solvers.

Riddle award goes to: 9-Down's clue.

jae 11:46 AM  

Easy-medium for me except for NE which was tough!!  My only problem other than NE was (like oren and loren) SEN. Byrd before ADM. Byrd.  SONYA vice ALEXA Vega was collateral damage from that erasure. 

I agree ITSBIG is a tad hard to swallow.

The PASMAL/ELGAR/AMBIT area looks like an off ramp to Natick.

A fine Sat. challenge with SEXIST, BRAINROT, UPTONOGOOD,...providing some zip.  I liked it!

Sue McC 11:49 AM  

Ai Ai Ai! This was a challenge for me, though a fun one. I got LOUISNYE from crosses mostly, and if it weren't for reading the blog, I wouldn't know if it was LOUIS NYE or LOU ISNYE.

lawprof 11:59 AM  

I'm with @foodie. Had the ...ILLA and wrote in STUFFED SOPAIPILLA. That's how they spell it in New Mexico, which has hands down the best sopaipillas in the world. Have it as an entre stuffed with just about anything as long as it contains either red or green chile (that's also how they spell it in NM), or just bite a hole in the corner, pour in some honey and have it for dessert. My mouth's watering just thinking about it.

Cheerio 12:04 PM  

Wow - tough! But I had a great time looking up things like a Utube performance of Smoke gets in your eyes by Irene Dunne.

OMSK, ANKH, and SIKH. Pas mal.

For Phoebe, Rex also had a photo of Phoebe Cates. That took me straight back to middle school and 17 magazine. I had just revisited that era recently in the Whitney Houston media blast. Whitney H modeled with Phoebe Cates in some 17 magazine photo shoots when they were both teens.

Cyrano 12:04 PM  

Well as a rookie going to the ACPT this year, I am certainly not encouraged by the number of people who are correlating this puzzle with the tourney. Even for a Saturday, this was brutal and for me the NE was a DNF.

archaeoprof 12:07 PM  

ESSES was all I got in the NE. The rest was lots of fun.

@Foodie: have fun! Believe it or not, the last time I was there, they had a Cincinnati-style chili place in the food court at the Mecca Mall.

@Ulrich: ironic, isn't it, that Michael ENDE wrote "The Neverending Story."

David 12:14 PM  

Byron Walden had a puzzle this Wednesday which became a DNF when I couldn't successfully navigate the SE. My previous exposure to Mr. Walden was watching the creme de la creme at Lollapuzoola tackle his championship puzzle (awesome, brutal puzzle). So I was more than intimidated when I saw his name this AM.

And yes, this was a Medium-Challenging for me overall, but I am very happy to have finished. By far the 5-6 letter stacks in the NE and SW were the hardest, with the 3-8 letter stacks only slightly easier. The 10 and 11-letter stacks in the middle were pretty easy, though I tossed in ARMY TROOPS at first.

The Z in SPITZES/ZESTER was also the last square I filled in, after finally correctly reading the clue for 18A as an example of a promotional description rather than a synonym for one. Big turning point.

Magnificent cluing all over the puzzle, clever, nasty, misdirecting at times, a really fun experience.

Gary Press 12:40 PM  

That's not a picture of Louis Nye - it's a picture of Bill Nye!

Loren Muse Smith 12:45 PM  

We managed to finish without googling, but it was a (fun) struggle. I’ve never eaten at a Taco Bell (and I say that not in the spirit of that “I don’t watch much TV” conversation a while back; it just seems to me their portions are too small), but I really appreciated STEAKQUESADILLA. Didn’t see the STEAK part for a while and wondered briefly if there were such a thing as a salad quesadilla. Dumb. Confidently had “sleeze” for the longest time. Of course my favorite clue was “case study.”

Well, starting tomorrow, I’ll be solving solo; renegade Dad (and Mom), useful as they’ve been, are heading back to NC, Though he still eyes the NYT with skepticism, I think this has been a good week of puzzles for him.

@rube – YSER –yep, too easy, and we’re doing too many puzzles.

@jackj – I really enjoyed your post today. I had to go back and read it again.

@Evil – I agree two cool words. Because I love love love cold weather, I’ve worn an ANORAK or two in my time!

@Tita – Terrific idea of compiling a list of epic wrong answers! I’ll be a reliable contributor.

Anonymous 12:46 PM  

Okay, that picture has a connection to Louie Nye and here it is.

The picture is Bill Nye as in Bill Nye the Science Guy. He, unlike Louie, is still alive.

That program ran from 1993-1998.
When portraying "the Science Guy", Nye wore a light blue lab coat and a bow tie and took on the persona of an excited, jocular science educator. This popular image of Nye has been parodied by numerous sources, including the satirical news organization The Onion.

Bill Nye the Science Guy was created by Ross Shafer. In 1985, Shafer spearheaded an effort to have "Louie, Louie" replace "Washington, My Home" by Helen Davis as Washington's official state song.

So, there you have it. The creator of Bill Nye the Science Guy liked Louie Louie....


The Masked and Anonymous 12:46 PM  

@lawprof: Best sopiapillas in Santa Fe (IMO): at Tomasita's (near the train station). Gotta go with dumping honey in 'em. Can't say I've tried their STEAKQUESADILLAS. Can't say I can spell either of 'em worth a darn.

The more I admire this puz, the more I want to rate it thUmbsUptonogood. At the Fiend's site, that'd be 4.875 stars.

Old friend recently gave me a puz with the clue: "What an old fossil might be part of, briefly". Answer was TREX. Har. From one old fossil to another: Thanx for the primo silver bullets in yer blog, @31. Great to have @Oren on board, to help give you trouble.

joho 1:01 PM  

Just back from Las Vegas suffering BRAINROT due to red eye return.

Loved this puzzle except the NE where I, like @archaeoprof, had only ESSES. My first dog was a SPITZ but dog and Mark the swimmer just didn't connect. Also wanted maShER forever. And isn't there a lehAR?

Good to be back, I have past puzzles to do and posts to read!

Z 1:14 PM  

When we see the clue "Louis or Bill" we will all know that NYE is nigh.

SethG 1:16 PM  

Blank in the NE. Never heard of the dog, the French, didn't remember the composer. Had ROPES, HYPE AD, ARENA, other wrong stuff.

That is definitely not Ryne Sandberg.

Lewis 1:20 PM  

Finished in the NE, needed Google, but loved this solve. Worked my brain like I like it worked, earned my finish square by square. Great start to the weekend.

@evil -- hand up for being a Libra; perhaps that's why I identify with so much of your contributions.

OldCarFudd 1:30 PM  

Fun, tough puzzle. Finished with one error - I thought they were ErDE and LOIUSrYE. Wanter mukluk for ANORAK, having only the final K.

Z 1:39 PM  

PAS MAL was my first word in. It was still sitting there all by itself when I finally conceded defeat. The entire north was beyond me, while the south filled in Thursday time for me. Perhaps if I ate at Taco Bell more often I would have come up with STEAK, but Del Taco is a mile closer so gets all of my fast "mexican" food dollars.

ITS BIG and THE IRA are pretty bad, but looking at the crosses, I probably should have tried the "put it down and come back in an hour" strategy.

That isn't Edward ELGAR, either.

Fansince1939 2:18 PM  

Puzzle was hard for me this morning, but knowing the picture was not Louis Nye was easy - helps to be old enough to have laughed at Steve Allen and pals Louis Nye, Don Knotts et al.

Anonymous 2:34 PM  

Why do people deny something exists -- ARMY GROUPS -- without making any effort to back up their objections? At least Rex had the grace to acknowledge ignorance, not skepticism.


Here, I'll do even this for you who are too lazy to click forthemselves:

An army group is a military organization consisting of several field armies, which is self-sufficient for indefinite periods. It is usually responsible for a particular geographic area. An army group is the largest field organization handled by a single commander — usually a full General or Field Marshal — and it generally includes between 400,000 and 1,000,000 troops.




Clark 2:36 PM  

Thinking of Rex and the whole Nye Nye thing brings to mind my favorite character from Bleak House: Mr. Lawrence Boythorn. "[P]resently we heard him in his bedroom thundering 'Ha, ha, ha!' and again 'Ha, ha, ha!' until the flattest echo in the neighborhood seemed to catch the contagion, and to laugh as enjoyingly as he did, or as we did when we heard him laugh."

Anoa Bob 2:55 PM  

Down here in Tex-Mex land, we refer to Taco Bell as Toxic Bell.

LOUIS NYE was among several Steve Allen regulars who went on to have post-Allen careers. Tom Poston and Bill Dana were two others, but the most successful of all was Don Knotts.

LOUIS could crack up Steve and the audience with just his outlandish facial expressions and body language, as in this clip.

Sir Hillary 3:01 PM  

@ Larry lurker0, the dirty Golden Bear...

I stand corrected on ARMYGROUPS. I should not equate my own ignorance of something with an assumed lack of legitimacy.

But, honest, I am not a graceless, lazy guy. If you survive the jump down from your high horse, I recommend the decaf.

Enjoy your weekend!

Anonymous 3:20 PM  

Evil said: "Ryne will be joined by his old Cubbie friend, the late, great Ron Santo, in the HOF. Barry Larkin, too---making it a great little class."

Actually, while Ron Santo was voted into the HOF by the Old Timers, he won't be joinng Ryne because he was voted in after he was dead. Ron never played with Ryne but will be "joining" his teammates Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins into the HOF. Alas they all played on the Leo Durocher managed '69 team that broke my back as a Cubs fan. Ryne's team almost restored it but fell short when they lost the home field advantage to San Diego because Wrigley did not have lights then. Once again Da Cubs were robbed.

Born on September 24, making me a double Libra (the scales of justice) and more fair and balanced than Fox News....


Loren Muse Smith 3:34 PM  

This isn't a SPITZ, but with BITER yesterday, some of you may get a kick out of this.


Anonymous 4:05 PM  

@Sir Hillary,

The only ones here on high horses are those arrogant enough to pit their own "knowledge" against that of Will Shortz and his team of very capable test solvers -- without being very sure that the "nonsense" isn't theirs.

'Nuff said, I think.


Tita 5:11 PM  

Sanfranman gives us his Relative Difficulty Ratings...
Foodie her Quick & Dirty Index...
You the Hidden Word Game...

With your encouragement, I hereby inaugurate the
Epic Wrong Answer Walk of Fame

Rookie - Jan 7, 12
"aid in scaling down" EXtRasmallCHINa-->EXERCISEMACHINE

AnnieD - Mar 3, 12
"Dogs that ought to be great swimmers?"

r.alph bunker - Feb 21, 2011
3D One in a stag's litter

Note - it is a Walk of Fame, not Shame...
These actually illustrate the amazing paths that our brains take in getting to the "right" answer.

Anyone else like to nominate themselves or others?

Maybe we can do a segment at ACPT on this... ;)
(I'll put this on my blog and will add to it regularly...I'm waiting on you, Loren!!)

Loren Muse Smith 5:26 PM  

@Tita - this is great!! Two wince-inducing fills recently on my part were "pinkeye" for SOCKEYE (some kind of salmon) and "foam" (at the mouth? Jeez Louise) for BEAM (show you're excited or happy or something.

This'll be a lot of fun!

mchael 5:31 PM  

I was doing well enough until I got to the northeast, where brain rot set in. Actually, I even with my brain working at its finest, I don't think I ever would have gotten the northeast.

Norm 5:35 PM  

@ Two Ponies

Abra Bacon, not Kadabra: "Her hazel eyes were sharp and intelligent and completely fearless."

oren muse 5:38 PM  

Ok. I’ve subscribed to the Times but know nothing about computers. So my wife will have to first retrieve the puzzle and print it out for me. When I’m finished, she’ll have to get me to Rex’ site. Then she’ll have to type my response. We’re both hard of hearing. We may be in for a couple of knock-down-drag-outs.

Tita 5:53 PM  

@Loren - you are such a scream!!
I've actually just update my puzzle blog with this in the sidebar...
I've just updated my blog. (If you remember the exact clue, that would be awesome...)

My blog is here, or just click on my avatar (if that still works...

chefbea 6:06 PM  

@JohnV just watching the news and Charlotte was hit really bad with high winds. Know you are in Ct. now but hope your hotel is still there when you return

@Oren Muse - if you would like...I can send you the puzzle and you can print out 2 copies, for you and your wife. Welcome to Rexville

Loren Muse Smith 6:09 PM  

@Tita - I'm settling in for dinner and then the UNC-Duke game with my parents. I'm not working tomorrow, so I'll figure out which puzzles those were and go on to your blog tomorrow.

Thanks for doing this! I think it'll be a hit!

sanfranman59 6:15 PM  

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

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

Mon 6:32, 6:49, 0.96, 32%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:00, 8:51, 0.90, 23%, Easy-Medium
Wed 12:11, 11:50, 1.03, 61%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 18:42, 18:59, 0.99, 50%, Medium
Fri 19:48, 25:09, 0.79, 15%, Easy
Sat 29:31, 29:44, 0.99, 55%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:30, 3:40, 0.96, 31%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:01, 4:35, 0.88, 11%, Easy
Wed 6:12, 5:52, 1.06, 70%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 9:57, 9:18, 1.07, 68%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 9:14, 12:27, 0.74, 14%, Easy
Sat 16:49, 16:55, 0.99, 52%, Medium

My solving experience with this one was similar to that of others. I was clicking on all cylinders and completely in sync with the constructor from the NW to the SE to the SW. I was at about the 10 minute mark and was thinking that I might post a personal Saturday best time (13:01 ... my Saturday average is about 29 minutes ... when I finish without cheating, that is). I should know better by now than to allow such a thought into my head. I met a brick wall in the NE and that was even after somehow dredging ELGAR up from the recesses of my brain, correctly guessing that 23A was __S_ER and thinking "could 13D be ZAIRE?" I simply couldn't come up with SPITZES, IT'S BIG or THE IRA and PAS MAL was French to me. Upshot: a consultation with my Uncle Google and (alas) a Saturday DNF. C'est la vie (See? I know some French!).

Bird 6:15 PM  

Impossible for me to finish without Google. I usually do OK on Saturdays, but no today. My only qualms are 1A (as @Rex said Aquarius is a water sign), 24A (my father-in-law owns a salon and says this stuff has not been used in generations) and 29A (seems a very general term) I was looking for armytroops, squadrons or regiments. Oh, and 20A should really be BAA. IMHO.

I get the Sunday magazine with Sat. home delivery so of course I completed it over lunch. Looking forward to tomorrow's repeat discussion on . . .

Dirigonzo 7:28 PM  

East of Eden is one of my favorite books but I have no recollection of ABRA - I wanted ABby before the crosses threw her out.

It's puzzles like this that make me happy to shell out $2.50 to solve the Saturday puzzle in real time. Thank you, Mr. Walden, for a wonderful mental workout.

My Labs, excellent swimmers in their own right, were no help in seeing the dogs at 9d, which were may last, and favorite, answer.

sanfranman59 7:45 PM  

@Bird ... oddly enough, Aquarius, the water-carrier, is apparently an air sign. (And, fwiw, Rex doesn't say it's a water sign in his write up.)

Jane 9:24 PM  

This was a super puzzle! Thank you, Mr. Walden. I was so delighted with SEAMUS as my first answer in. Had to google on Green Book and Sandberg but bit by bit managed to get the rest of it.
@Tita: a la wrong answers, here's my write-over of the day: For 'cup alternative', I had the P, so I thought, "Yuck another bra clue," and wrote in Pushup for PLAQUE.

Dirigonzo 10:00 PM  

@Tita - I have added Crucimetrics to my "favorites" so I can check in from time to time to see what's new in the "epic wrong answer, some of which were better than the right answer," department. Thanks for sharing.

Tobias Duncan 11:27 PM  


Airsign Carla Maaaaaa 11:53 PM  

There have been dozens over the years, i wish my memory wasny such a sieve...
But the only ones that come to my mind Last week I thought a superhero was THETORaH...
And a couple of years ago, made the mistake of sTDODGE instead of FTDODGE and surmised that ST DODGE might be the patron saint of cars, Jesus Chrysler...
Ironic that it was a J-W short of a pangram...
My all time favorite puzzle of Byron's involves something like 10-Js! His JULES, JULIA, JULIE, puzzle.
Worth looking up.

Love Byron, love his puzzles. Thank god for the Qs, Xs and Zs or I'd never have guessed ZAIRE ( popular word in Scrabble for monetary unit)

but that SPITZES was a killer...
You really had to make 23 steps to connect to Mark Spitz from 30 years ago, and the swimming and there was a dog breed named SPITZ etc. Wow, that was far to go, i prefer the answer LAPDOG actually.
I tried thinking in terms of a LAPrador.

My big hang up was the Leopard /IMAC connection which I've never heard of. And my Weasel had to become a SLEAZE, so many right letters one letter off!

OH , I've JUST noticed PASMALand UPTONOGOOD! Did i miss comments about this parallel??!!! (sorry 80+ comments were hard to absorb)

Andohmygod, do @ed and I have the same birthday???!!!
I'd have pegged him for a Scorpio.

Anonymous 2:40 AM  

Acme, you are the sunshine of our lives...,


evil doug 4:28 AM  

I'm right on the cusp, Andrea, so probably got a little Scorpio nipping at my fringes. Plus, I got stung by a scorpion in Texas, so some Scorpio-esque superpowers must be attached to that....


Anonymous 5:14 AM  

Absolutely NOT a picture of Louis Nye!

davko 10:21 AM  

Terrific puzzle. Had to sleep on it to get to NE (and really behind on Sunday's!) But, wow, I had to stare at it too, it was all so precisely and smartly conceived. SPITZES was well worth the exasperation of trying to come up with a dog -- any dog -- that made sense. That made way for SLEAZE (I wanted ELUDER) at 9A, leading to the "aha" moment of finally getting ZAIRE (13D). Hats off to Mr. Walden for one of the year's best; they should name a pond after him.

Anonymous 5:41 PM  

I came back to this one repeatedly for two days before finally giving up. Really glad for this comment section, it's reassuring to see I'm not the only person who never DNF's but ran aground on this NE. The comments here, taken together, point to something being amiss up there.
I call foul on ITSBIG, a nothing phrase. Also, most of the French I know is from crosswords, and it's usually enough, but I've never encountered PASMAL, so it seems a bit unfair for crossword French.

Anonymous 6:02 PM  

Was sure 21 across would be "TheFed", exactly the familiar expression for the Federal Reserve Board, which produces a 'Green Book' containing economic forecasts of some kind.

If you've ever read about the Russian front in WWII you would know 'Army Group'.

Big T 8:18 AM  

I gave up on this long before I ever got to the NE. I had adherent, and had googled for Louisnye, and was sure that the Taco Bell clue ended in saLsA. And so that got me to siCcED ON instead of LOCKED ON and I was totally done. Oh well.

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

This is Louis Nye.....


Anonymous 12:31 PM  

It's quite rare when I DNF. The NE section "done me in." If Mr. Walden wishes to include French phrases, I suggest he submit them to La Monde. What's next, Hungarian? The expression "It's Big" is ridiculous and hardly ever heard or seen relative to an upcoming show. Pfft! As ED once said, "another ego craving constructor.

DMGrandma 1:39 PM  

Just did not connect with this puzzle! Got about half and faced a lot of blank spaces. Thought about Google, then decided by the time I looked up the Steinbeck character and the baseball guy and the French word and the Vega character (Spy Kids??), and the other stuff not in my wheelhouse, I might just as well come to Rexville and get them all at once. Sometimes I just connect to a constructor and sometimes there's no hope.

Solving in Seattle 2:32 PM  

First of all, it's Bill Nye, the science guy, from Seattle. Rex is famous for inserting the wrong photo for people.

Puzzle was great, but I suffered in the NE. Didn't like ITSBIG, THEIRA. Kind of cheap fill.

Got STEAK in the NW right away, and guessed QUESADILLA from easy crosses. The remainder of the puzzle came together quickly. Thank you Byron.

Personally, I am a Taco Time guy - 2 crisp beef tacos, please.

@mac, loved your capcha, igheek.

Spacecraft 2:37 PM  

DNF, even after Googling two lines in a row in the NE. That left me with ____ZE for 9a; I thought of SLEAZE, but "Untrustworthy sort" doesn't really fit that word. That is a damn poor clue. ZESTER??? What in the HEY is that? OH, this soup tastes flat, I think I'll just run it through the zester once or twice. That oughta make it good. I have not the foggiest idea what this is, but I will bet anyone any amount that if you looked in 1,000 kitchens, you will not find two "zesters."

Although I did complete the NW/SE corridor, I can't for the life of me figure out how Aquarius wound up as an AIRSIGN. Please, I'm far from an astrology expert, but it certainly goes against all common sense. Why it wouldn't be water beats me.

Here's to a great Sunday. Go Freddie!

DMGrandma 3:11 PM  

To @Spacecraft, a zester is a small, hand held tool, that works like a small grater. It is used to "grate" the outer peel or zest from lemons and such. It is often used in bars along with a similiar tool used for peeling off strips of peel. I have one of those,too, and have no idea what it's called.

Solving in Seattle 3:19 PM  

@spacecraft, I asked my wife and we are one in a thousand - got a zester!

Go Freddie!

connie in seattle 3:26 PM  

Hands up for Taco Time - I've been going to the one on 15th West for many, many years. Gotta love that crisp bean burrito.

My word for this puzzle - OUCH!

Lola505 5:31 PM  

I was bested by this puzzle. Again Rex and I disagreed: what Rex called "medium" I called DNF. The SW came easily, the SE was more difficult, and I just couldn't get anything much going on the upper half.
I'll admit, seeing the solution, it was a good puzzle. Congratulations to those of you who finished!

Anonymous 6:53 AM  

Thanks very much for your help with this puzzle. I got very little in the NE and NW. But the picture on this page is of Bill Nye ("The Science Guy" of educational TV), not Louis Nye (who was sad-faced most of the time, part of his comic persona).

LongBeachLee 2:32 AM  

According to Dr Google the Green Book is the training manual of the IRA - Irish Republic Army. I finished without his help, but everyone's assumption here, including mine, didn't ring true. I'm sure this is what he meant, but give us a break.

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