Trombonist Winding / SAT 4-28-12 / Hall of Fame jockey Earle / Poem comprised of quotations / Old-time actresses Allgood Haden / Common language of Niger / Round dance officials

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Constructor: Gary J. Whitehead

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Earle SANDE (48D: Hall-of-Fame jockey Earle) —

Earl H. Sande (November 13, 1898 – August 19, 1968) was an American Hall of Fame jockey andthoroughbred horse trainer.
Born in Groton, South Dakota, Earl Sande started out as a bronco buster in the early 1900s but then became a successful American quarter horse rider before switching to thoroughbred horse racing in 1918. Sande joinedCal Shilling and Johnny Loftus as a contract rider for Commander J. K. L. Ross. In 1919, he tied an American record with six wins on a single racecard at Havre de Grace Racetrack. He went on to ride for noted owners such as Harry F. Sinclair, and Samuel D. Riddle and was the leading money-winning jockey in the United States in 1921, 1923, and again in 1927. He won both the Belmont Stakes five times and the Jockey Club Gold Cup on four occasions, the Kentucky Derby three times and the Preakness Stakes once. In 1923 he won 39 stakes races for Harry F. Sinclair's Rancocas Stable, ten of which were on ultimate Horse of the Year winnerZev, including the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, and a match race against England's Epsom Derby winnerPapyrus. Sande's most famous wins came aboard Gallant Fox in 1930 when he won the U.S. Triple Crown.
Sande's fame was such that he was immortalized in a number of poems by Damon Runyon. Following his retirement in 1932, Earl Sande remained in the industry as a trainer. In 1938 he was the United States leading trainer and by the mid 1940s owned and operated his own racing stable. (wikipedia)
• • •

An usual triple-stack-laden puzzle, in that it played harder-, not easier-than-average for me. Usually, I can put a few Downs through those stacks and make them roll over pretty readily, but those Downs were a bit of a mess today (up top and below), and so I had issues. You can add triple-stacks (and quad stacks) to the list of alleged construction accomplishments I don't care for (see also pangrams). The problem is two-fold. A: the 15s are often hit-and-miss, at best, because phrases with friendly letters don't necessarily make for interesting phrases. Today, the lower stack was the only one I really cared for. The others are pretty dull. And this is a problem because in a stack-heavy puzzle, your stacks are virtually all you've got. Because B: the Downs you will need to make the stacks stick together are too often junky. Lots of short, awkward stuff. CENTO & HAUSA (our opening 1D and 2D punch) are about as ugly a pair of side-by-side answers as I've seen in any NYT puzzle, ever (1D: Poem comprised of quotations + 2D: Common language of Niger). Those are the kind of answers that would've reigned in the Maleska era, the kind that give crosswords a bad name ("I don't like crosswords because you have to know bygone Italian sausages and the Sasquatchian word for 'raccoon,' etc."). Mostly, though, it's the ordinary short stuff that clogs the bulk of the grid—that's what wears you down. This puzzle is by no means bad, as an example of its type. Its fairly typical. But it's a stale type. Most of my favorite themeless constructors will focus on making an exciting grid filled with new and/or vivid phrases and names and words. That's what I love. This was certainly a decent challenge, but the excitement just wasn't there.

I absolutely guessed NURSE CLINICIANS (17A: They may perform minor surgeries)— well, the NURSE part — since A: I don't really know what NURSE CLINICIANS are (are they like NURSE PRACTITIONERS, which is a thing I've heard of?), and B: CENTO and HAUSA were Martian as far as I was concerned. Had a slightly worse time in the CUERS (47D: Round dance officials) & SANDE portion of the grid. Looking at C-ERS, S-NDE, and --E (for 55A: Trucial States, today: Abbr.), I honestly thought I was dead. Started reconsidering EPICS (since I'd wanted TIKKA and not TIKKI to begin with (37D: McAloo ___ (burger at McDonald's in India)) ... but then EPICS was the only thing that made sense at 46A: Big pictures, so I left it). Eventually ran the alphabet at C-ERS and hit my mark, then stared at U-E ... and finally got it. Rest of the grid just wasn't that tough. Slow, steady progress took care of it.

  • 26A: Old-time actresses Allgood and Haden (SARAS) — another thing about this grid that made it unappealing—it was Ruthlessly "old-time." From SARAS to SANDE to KAI (62D: Trombonist Winding), there is nothing in this grid that you couldn't have found in a grid 40 years ago. Maybe the ALE (a clue I really liked; 57A: Buzzsaw Brown, e.g.). "Old-time" stuff is fine, but it's nice when puzzles bear at least some small mark indicating that they were constructed in this millennium.
  • 51A: Sycosis source, informally (STAPH) — not to be confused with the southern musicians' disease "zydecosis."
  • 7D: Literary lion (ASLAN) — took me a while, which is especially ironic given that my wife fell asleep in bed next to me, not five minutes before I started this puzzle, reading (that is, rerererererererererere-reading) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
  • 8D: 1955 sci-fi-film that was one of the first to use Technicolor ("THIS ISLAND EARTH") — the very best thing about this puzzle, both because it amazingly cuts through *all* the stacks and, at the same time, is better than every single one of the answers it crosses. I know this film mainly from the background of the comic Watchmen.
  • 11D: Killers that may go through hoops (ORCAS) — those must be big hoops. I tend to avoid animal parks of all kinds, so I wouldn't know.
  • 12D: City near Oneida Lake (UTICA) — I was bracing for something much more obscure. I've never been there, but know it well from a. "The Simpsons" (a single joke about hamburgers and Albany and Utica that I have never forgotten) and b. the fact that a friend of mine used to commute there to teach.
  • 25D: Luis in the Red Sox Hall of Fame (TIANT) — I always get him confused with Dock Ellis (they pitched in the same era). Ellis was most famous, probably, for pitching a no-hitter while high on LSD.

  • 33D: Ticket, informally (DUCAT) — I ... don't know what this means. Is it old-timey? I know DUCAT as a very old-timey coin.
  • 35D: Color-streaked playing marble (IMMIE) — another triple-stack fill casualty. Not great.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:26 AM  

Very solid Sat. given the triple stacks.  Medium for me.  Much tougher than yesterday's.  6d is enough zip for the whole thing, but we also get a great clue for ONE plus the bottom stack which are all fun.

ANENT twice in one week.

Liked it!

Scott 12:40 AM  

Got very close, but had a few letters wrong.

Biggest issue was AD REM / MNEME

I had AD REP / PNEME. I have never heard of AD REM.

I know DUCAT from Scrabble, but only defined as a gold coin of Europe. I don't understand the 33D clue for it.

I completely guessed on UAE/SANDE. Seemed like a Natick.

Anyway, way above average for me on a Saturday.

r.alphbunker 12:46 AM  

A real workout with no Googling. Was On E by the time I finished! Typed 412 characters, 228 correct and 184 wrong! Corrected 183 of the wrong characters but missed one. Had ICh/TIKhI.

foodie 12:57 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
foodie 1:02 AM  


GILL I. 1:21 AM  

I wish I could agree with you because you make perfect sense in your explanation of the short awkward stuff. But that's what I liked the most. @foodie's list of words I didn't know mirror mine (except ESOS) and I looked them up and I didn't care because CHOCOLATE MOUSSE was the first thing I entered and I smiled.
THIS ISLAND EARTH right down the middle was fantastic. The other 15s were farly easy for me to get so I really didn't mind chasing Google down for some of the other stuff.
Just right for a Sat. for moi...

chefwen 2:48 AM  

Unlike Friday's puzzle, I cannot claim a Google free solve on this puppy.

I had so many write-overs that I was ready to print out a new copy and start fresh, that's how ugly it was.

Got the top and bottom third but threw the towel in with a lot a white showing in the middle. Lack of patience rearing his ugly head again. Wait til morning, finish it then. I can't, I must know NOW!!!

Looking forward to Sunday where I hope I don't act like a spoiled brat.

What is Sasquatchian for Racoon?

jae 3:23 AM  

@Scott -- My last entry was to change REP to REM. Mostly because MN seemed more Greeky than PN (hey, if CARTOONY is OK ...). Also REM was vaguely familiar. I had this cross as a potential NATICK in my margin notes.

mac 4:08 AM  

Medium and finished without errors and no outside help, which is a miracle considering the number of names and words I didn't know!

Somehow I was on the right wavelength for tougher clues this morning. Good time, and I have a stack of puzzles to do this rainy day.

Glimmerglass 7:35 AM  

DUCAT as slang for ticket belongs in the same era as the old-timey names, 1930-1950.

Leslie 8:26 AM  

@mac: You said everything I was going to say, except for having a stack of puzzles to do!

To each his own--I'm always very impressed at the constructing skills involved in making puzzles with stacks of 15s. And a big "Yes!" to the wonderful feat of throwing THIS ISLAND EARTH down through all the horizontal 15s. Very cool.

Loren Muse Smith 8:26 AM  

Tough, tough, tough! No “medium” about this one for me. Parsed the movie as THIS IS LAND EARTH and wondered, “Huh?”

Loved the cluing for ONE and TEE.

Clever misdirect with the U in HUSKS; I had “muffs” forever. And then pretty much what @foodie said minus the ESOS.

Smitty 8:31 AM  

doable but not enjoyable

Aside from @Rex's Nurse Clinician (Practitioner) I wondered about
A hard (tough?) nut to crack
For Ruthless, wouldn't it be Take (ing?) no prisoners
Wouldn't little Parisian be petite? Peu is an adverb
Is October a time of year?

And i've never heard anyone at sea or even in a lake use the word APEAK

stumped 8:39 AM  

I feel like an idiot, but would somebody please explain 5 down to me?

Loren Muse Smith 8:45 AM  

@stumped - ON Empty

Z 8:47 AM  

@stumped - ON E(mpty)

Big fat DNF for me. Broke down and googled. What @foodie said.

Anonymous 8:48 AM  

AD REM crossing MNEME?!? Really?

Im-frickin'-possible for us mere mortals. Having every single one of the crosses in both words would not reveal the M for me. Poorly done, I think.

jackj 8:49 AM  

No complaints about it being too easy for this beauty of a puzzle from Gary Whitehead.

Ten 15’s, (with many crossings, but providing little or no help), made for memorable entries in this group, none vague and only a couple of which were unexciting.

The best one is difficult to identify but, forced to do so, I’d say, AHARDNUTTOCRACK gets the gold, largely due to its originality as a debut entry, with EATONESHEARTOUT taking the silver medal.

Least favorite bit of fill was the “Hall-of –Fame jockey Earl” for SANDE (not many 2012 jockeys come quickly to mind let alone a 1930’s rider), but then there is a world class, Hall-of-Fame, can you believe it, three letter answer which tops everything else in Gary’s puzzle (even though it has previously been used in 324 instances in Times puzzles).

What am I going gaga about? Well it’s ONE, at 5 down, but, no, not that ONE, the ON E one, (on empty), which is one brilliant, clever, fun piece of wordplay!

Nice puzzle, Gary. Thank you.

Anonymous 8:50 AM  

5 Down: on E (for Empty)

hazel 8:53 AM  

I didnt get ON E either - thks @loren muse smith...

Something about this puzzle bugged me - 6 of @Foodies words for starters. I give DUCAT a pass since the guy I used to buy my Jets tix from called them that - he was old school. And DELOS I also like since I spent a wonderful day there . It was a positively fascinating place - accessible only by small (relatively unreliable) boat service. The statues of the Lions were particularly memorable.

Pleasant memories aside, a bit too much trivia to make it fun for me. if I say gimme a break more than a few times, the puzz has to take the heat.

Anonymous 8:55 AM  

I finished almost all in good time for me, but couldn't get the M either. Wanted a vowel. A quick Google search shows nurse clinician to be a synonym for nurse practitioner. But I've never heard it used, and my spouse is a nurse practitioner.

foodie 8:57 AM  

@Smitty, I totally agree re the cluing of TAKE NO PRISONERS. It should have been " Be Ruthless".

I thought the PEU was one of those misdirections that are legit-- on top of being in another language. You can say, in Parisian, "un PEU" to mean a little bit.

To me, the three "sentences" that I wrote last night look like something you'd find engraved on a stone in the wilderness, and your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to discover their meaning.

Or, when the "please prove you're not a robot" escalates, we will have to type longer strings that look like lCK CENTO HAUSA TIKKI.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:04 AM  

One write-over, 64 D, AUT before OCT, where I would have a slight objection to the clue, "Time of year . . . "

I also thought 60 A was improperly clued, as others have mentioned, but if you substitute "attitude" for "person", it works perfectly, i.e., a ruthless attitude is a take-no-prisoners attitude.

Good puzzle, made me work a bit!

JHC 9:11 AM  

I normally don't pile on when other people have already said what I want to say, but AD REM / MNEME was so bad that I need to join @Scott, @jae and Anonymous at 8:48 in trashing it. Wound up running the alphabet until Across Lite gave me the smiling the pencil for an M. Boo.

Rex Parker 9:14 AM  


WIth hyphens, as a compound adjective, it works.


Anonymous 9:22 AM  

Husband able to finish quickly with nary a google. Grrr. I found it "something baffling" as I knew only the easiest factual things. With my husband providing the answers to things I needed to google, I was then able to get on the Whitehead wavelength. He likely never thought while constructing this deliciously intricate peu puzzle that he would be improving anyone's marriage! Mon mari is walking around today with a smile and a huge ego. Merci beaucoup Monsieur Blanctete.

Tita 9:23 AM  

I liked this puzzle. I finally googled to get the M for MNEME (last entry for me), and learned my Fact o' the Week...
It has a retrograde orbit! and... "A name ending in "e" was chosen in accordance with the International Astronomical Union's policy for designating outer moons with retrograde orbits."
Who knew that there were conventions for naming outer moons with retrograde orbits????

To NITpick, EATONESHEARTOUT means to be jealous, not to brood.

@Rex - yes, a very RETRO puzzle, with the exception of MNEME, which was discovered in 2003.

Tons of great clues/answers, including fun clues for tired xwordese:
Contracted time period? - EEN
Killers/hoops - ORCAS
Grp. with a piece plan - NRA
And of course, the winner - ON E!
Thank you Mr. Whitehead.

SethG 9:27 AM  

Top was easiest for me. Middle was hardest--I didn't love filling in IMMIE, MNEME, TIANT, DELOS, or SAREE, but that was more than made up for by the joy I felt when they revealed INTERNAL AUDITOR.

John V 9:30 AM  

Easier than yesterday, I thought, easiest Saturday since PB's week-long ender.

Re: old-timey fill, etc: Back in the Maleska days, I for one never objected to this sort of stuff. I just found knowing things like, "Ale drunk by raccoons in Utica in October", as part of the challenge. I'm quite happy to have the crossword-ese make the 10 (!) 15s pretty easy. I'm not wanting a steady diet of HAUSA, and @foodie's word list, to be sure, but it's okay by me as part of the mix, particularly on a Saturday. Kinda fun to troll back into the MENTALNOTES taken from the past three editors, an unfair advantage for old-timey solvers, if you will.

Some worried this past week that Will was easing up, particularly on the Fridays. Well, here we are!

Anonymous 9:33 AM  

Too many questionable clues?? Flowerlady9

evil doug 9:34 AM  

Had to be 'ad hoc', right? If only. Which leads me to....

What moron astronomer decided to name the frickin' moon 'Mneme'? How do you even pronounce 'Mneme'? Buy a damn vowel, Copernicus....

My theory on the superiority of the bottom stacK: All three have 'k' in them. K is a cool letter. Also, it's the only stacK with at least three words in each answer (3, 5, 3).

Heard of 'canto', never of 'cento'. Agreed: Great way to clue 'one' and 'Orcas'. Now that one of the supposedly docile creatures at Sea World has mauled a trainer, I'd go back for the mayhem---kind of like watching car races....

No nurse clinician is performing surgery on me---"minor surgeries" is an oxymoron (or is it contradiction of terms?).


Bob Kerfuffle 9:42 AM  

@Tita - Thanks for reminding me - At 34 A, "Org. with lead concerns", I had considered . . . NRA!

Tita 9:43 AM  

Don't blame Copernicus...or even I mentioned, it was found in 2003...and they used up that vowel by putting it at the end, as per "policy"
See 'How Mneme got its name'

Aleman 9:47 AM  

57 across was easy as an answer. The product is not easy to get.

Note: it is no longer brewed (discontinued) by the Deschutes Brewery and they do not distribute their products to the East Coast

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

From the OED:

b.2.b (Also ducket.) A ticket, esp. a railway-ticket or ticket of admission. Cf. docket n.1 7. slang.

   1871 J. H. Banka State Prison Life 493 Railroad ticket,‥ducket.    1874 Hotten Slang Dict. 152 Ducket, a ticket of any kind. Generally applied to pawnbroker's duplicates and raffle cards.    1879 Macm. Mag. Oct. 501/2 So I took a ducat (ticket) for Sutton in Surrey.    1935 Sat. Even. Post 26 Oct. 9/2 I'll slip you a workin'-press ducat.    Ibid. 9 Nov. 76/3 It'll sell plenty ducats. Big publicity.    1970 Guardian 30 Nov. 8/2 My wife and I had a couple of ducketts to see the Marxes' Broadway musical, ‘Animal Crackers’.

evil doug 9:58 AM  

"Internal audit?" would be a good clue for 'colonoscopy'.


Wood 9:59 AM  

Wow, toughie. Amazed that some found it easier than yesterday -- took me more than twice as long. Just got stuck all over... especially TIANT next to DUCAT crossing SID, and CUERS next to SANDE crossing UAE. And yes, AD REM/MNEME is brutal. Finished with AD REs/sNEME.

The long acrosses provided nice aha moments though, and it's amazing that THIS ISLAND EARTH crosses all 9 of them. 10 15-letter answers in one puzzle! That is worth some crappy fill in my book.

Anonymous 10:20 AM  


Anonymous 10:24 AM  

Thought it was Ad REP and PNEME- I got naticked!

Lindsay 10:25 AM  

I didn't know the moon either. Guessed aMENE.

Didn't understand CUERS until coming here. By the transitive property of crossword clues, I just figured that since "round dance" is usually "hora" and horas are Jewish, that CUERS are something Jewish and/or Hebrew too. Now that I know it's supposed to be English I am in pain.

Tried Edit at "56D "Time to evolve?".

Have a good weekend everyone.

***one of my captchas is ALOPE, which is obviously a Maleska-era gait: The horse is alope.

Sue McC 10:25 AM  

Fun, appropriately challenging Saturday. Maybe I'm just naive, but I do get a charge out of seeing - and completing- the 15 stacks. And the thrill is worth the short word fill that I have to muddle through.

BigSteve46 10:48 AM  

How would you confuse Louis Tiant with Doc Ellis? I can't think of 2 more different players.

chefbea 11:08 AM  

Too tough for me..DNF but of course I loved chocolate mousse!!!

Sarah 11:18 AM  

Yeah, there's a lot of ICK in here. I managed to finish it in ok time, about half an hour or so, but some writeovers. The only place I got stuck was 57A; I'd never heard of Buzzsaw Brown, and assumed it was part of my immense lack of knowledge of WWI flying AcEs -- it's a beer? Really?

I understand that triple-stacks have a kind of macho thrill for many constructors and solvers, but there's a lot of nasty fill here that seems to be solely in service of stretching the long clues across the grid. This puzzle felt more like work than fun -- I expect my Saturday crossword to be a workout, but not a hassle, which this sort of felt like.

Anonymous 11:22 AM  

Wanted SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) for 34A. "Finished" with start of 31D missing the letter, but a couple pen marks made me think I had written something in. Oops.

David 12:02 PM  

Tougher than the last few Saturdays, but pretty enjoyable. I like the top triple stack as well as the bottom one - CHOCOLATE MOUSSE gave me the foothold I needed after slogging around for the first 5 minutes.

Lots of writeovers, too - CENTO for CANTO, EEN for EON, SERTA for SEALY, and I had Ad REM first, then REP, then changed it back to REM, if for no other reason than mnemonic is a word, and PNEME made even less sense than MNEME. All kinds of problems down below - wanted TOUGH NUT TO CRACK, and also wanted to a plural on the TAKE for TAKE NO PRISONERS.

Wood 12:02 PM  

Hey, does anyone know of a crossword solving app that scores you ACPT-tournament style -- points for both time and correctness, within a time limit? I did the home-solving thing this year and liked the system (haven't gotten my scores back yet though!).

R. McGeddon 12:07 PM  

ANENT Maleska - bad name.

On a plane wife was doing a puzzle from an ancient book of the Maleska era. The guy next to her noticed and commented about how those were good puzzles compared to today's pop culture-laden junk.

I'm agnostic on this, since I didn't get into puzzles until the mid-90s. Is there really a Brahms-Wagner-type partisanship going on over this?

Lewis 12:10 PM  

I liked the 15s, didn't feel like there was a clunker in the bunch. Needed Google several times, but still a satisfying solve. With Google it was a medium for me, without it would have been very challenging.

Tita 12:10 PM  

Yes!! r.alph.bunker and I have been collaborating on an app that does ACPT scoring, among lots of other things...

You can see Total time, Solve time (you can configure it to automatically pause if there is no activity so you don't get dinged for dogs needing walking, etc.), and ACPT Effective time, Correct Words, Wrong letters, and Score.
(Mine was 840 today!!)

I am updating my blog with an example of my solve compared with my 2 friends...
Check the Crucimetrics blog under my profile.
(Scroll down to today's entry...)

LR 12:12 PM  

Square 31 isn't (or shouldn't be) a Natick.

For anyone familiar with logic, debating or law, "AD REM" is trivial:

Opposite of "ad hominem"
Latin translation: "ad rem"

Also,this puzzle is lacking a MNEMonic like "VIBGYOR" or "ROYGBIV."

Masked and Anonymous 12:30 PM  

The McAloo Tikki is a veggie burger. Missed opportunity clue for 20-A: "Maharaja ___ (burger at McDonald's in India)".

The uppermost 15-pile is far superior; each entry contains a U. This puz was missing a lot of letters, but always nice to have 7 U's filling in the gaps.

Spent my 25 cents, as a termite-sized humanoid, and went to "This Island Earth" down at the local bijou. Up til then had always assumed that They didn't allow schlock movies to be made in color. Remember that I rooted for the aliens.

Better clue for SANDE: "Name two directions". Better clue for HAUSA: "National laughing squad's name". PER CE probably has possibilities, too...

joho 1:02 PM  

I had so many things written in wrong it was laughable. I thought it was ONo for "on zero" and thought, what an original clue for Yoko! I was sure it was aggIE. Oh, BTW, it you kept in ONo, you end up with toRSoCLINICIANS, don't you know. I also wanted THISISLANDEARTH to be THISISntthEARTH even though it didn't fit. Sort of along the lines of "We're not in Kansas anymore." We're on a completely other planet!

I can't remember when I've been so at sea!!!

Wood 1:07 PM  

@Tita: Hey, cool! Is your app available for general consumption, or is it just "in development?"

Shamik 2:15 PM  

Medium with one error at REP/PNEME which made a hell of a lot more sense than the actual answer....not knowing "Ad rem" or "Mneme." Pfft.

Tita 2:18 PM  

For special friends of Rick's - uh - Rex, we have special deal ... the "fee" is your feedback and suggestions. That goes for anyone here.
It is in its "soft-launch" stage, with the option to donate.

Right now it is Mac & PC only. It will run on any device in its next iteration.
It's rock-solid, but not fully documented yet.

More detail at Crucimetrics
I'll be adding some additional demos to the site soon - hopefully this weekend.

John V 2:27 PM  

@R.McGedddon: Great handle, man! Re: Maleska, etc. My perspective is having been a daily solver since grad school, 1971. Will Weng was editor then, Maleska followed, then Will Shortz.

The puzzle under Will Shortz is more fun and more welcoming to newcomers than before he came aboard. The issue I had with the Maleska era was not the odd words per se, but the really high barrier to entry if you didn't know them. Thus, the puzzle felt elite and off-putting to many. I had the luxury, if that's the word, of an hour-long rail commute where I could sort out all the odd words, [lus I found it challenging and fun. That plainly puts me in the minority.

I was one of those affected by the change-over to Will's approach, as a) I was good at the Maleska approach and b) I remain mostly a pop-culture nitwit. That said, I would not want to go back the Maleska style puzzle and don't know any activer solver who would. The modern puzzle is more fun, in just so many ways. Under Maleska, I would never attempt a Saturday, as that was just nuts.

So, references to Will's predecessor are meant, I believe, to just set context, to compare, to contrast, nothing more. The Maleska/Shortz debate is long time settled.

Stanley Newman has written at length -- fit that's the word -- on this, if you care to explore further.

Hope this helps. One man's view/opinion.

John V 2:28 PM  

Last paragraph --"IF" that's the word, of course.

jazzmanchgo 3:09 PM  

I've known one or two Hausa speakers in my life, so I got that one; Kai Winding is pretty familiar to jazz lovers, even modern-day ones, so he's not really any more "old"-obscure than, say, Tris Speaker might be to a baseball buff. But until I saw what's here, I STILL thought that the marble was an "imtie" (?!), because when I'm trying to think about something I usually TAKE, rather than MAKE, a mental note.

Didn't know "Mneme," "UAE" [couldn't get "cuers"] or "Sande" -- but missing just three or four letters in a puzzle that King Rex ("Rex King"?) called "medium to challenging" is still a pretty good ego rush.

Scott 3:41 PM  

CUER isn't even in the dictionary. I only knew THIS ISLAND EARTH because of the MST3K movie. I totally guessed that ___TO was CENTO (again, Scrabble player), which got me CHOCOLATE and set me on my way.

R. McGeddon 4:15 PM  

@John V: Thanks! Interesting. I'll see if I can find some. The NYT archive only goes back to 1996, but Amazon has some books. (Including used for $0.01. USED crossword puzzle books???)

Sparky 4:58 PM  

I think @JohnV describes the progress of NYT puzzles well. I started in 1952 or so. Dropped out for a long time and went back in the late '70s. They were difficult, but I hung in there. Thought Mr. Maleska a fine old gent. People became used to the esoteric vocabulary. After Will Shortz took over I could ovbserve my brother-in-law sitting at the kitchen table, knuckles white, grasping his pen (yes, pen) mumbling "Tricky, too tricky." To each his own. I'm pleased with the steady Monday to Saturday climb. At least it gives me a chance to grow.

So here I am now, 500 plus at ACPT. Thought of ganache before MOUSSE. 66A fell thinking of Mark Morris's The Hard Nut. Filled all the top, holes in the middle and did 2/3 of the bottom. Ear mUFFs far too long, Liked clue for OASIS. Shout out, hi @Mac. Zydecosis very funny @Rex. Ducat is old timey. You might see it in Runyon or even Chandler. Have a good weekend.

Matt G 6:34 PM  

I like triple stack themeless much more than Rex so I enjoyed this this one quit a lot, but found it easier than normal for a Saturday.

Now things *I'm* not fond of in a puzzle:

proper names
cross referenced clues
foreign words [geographic or historical is fine]
pop culture
short fill
extreme crosswordese
obscure crosses
... and rarely taken by themes...


sanfranman59 6:38 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Delfeayo M 6:48 PM  

The first trombonist ever to be mentioned in the NYTimes puzzle and it's friggin KAI Winding?

I give up.

sanfranman59 6:59 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 8:17, 6:50, 1.21, 98%, Challenging (4th highest median solve time of 148 Mondays)
Tue 10:12, 8:53, 1.15, 87%, Challenging
Wed 13:58, 11:49, 1.18, 88%, Challenging
Thu 18:02, 18:56, 0.95, 45%, Medium
Fri 16:19, 24:54, 0.66, 3%, Easy (5th lowest median solve time of 149 Fridays)
Sat 26:18, 29:26, 0.89, 26%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:31, 3:40, 1.23, 99%, Challenging (2nd highest median solve time of 148 Mondays)
Tue 5:09, 4:35, 1.12, 85%, Challenging
Wed 7:21, 5:53, 1.25, 92%, Challenging
Thu 9:50, 9:19, 1.06, 66%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 8:14, 12:19, 0.67, 5%, Easy (7th lowest median solve time of 148 Fridays)
Sat 15:22, 16:43, 0.92, 38%, Easy-Medium

Dirigonzo 7:46 PM  

Well I finished in under two hours (but with the REa/REM problem), although I didn't so much solve the puzzle as do battle with it, gaining territory one word, and sometimes one letter, at a time until the theme answers came into view. Ultimately the 15s were all familiar enough to enable me to conquer all of the teritories and win the war. So a hard fought victory (with the aforementioned casualty) for me with lots of AHA moments as the battle wore on.

Did not expect to see the medium-challenging rating, though.

ANON B 10:23 PM  

The StarLedger of NJ reported today that a crossword puzzle
bird escaped from a farm in
Oh, my mistake. They said an emu

Lois 11:50 PM  

I guess people didn't complain about "comprised of" here because they were more annoyed with "cento." In my year and a half of looking at the NYT puzzles, though, I've never been more surprised by a clue.

Spacecraft 11:34 AM  

DNF. My fatal, unrecoverable-from error: the OTHER 1955 sci-fi film--the classic FORBIDDENPLANET--and ALSO (why, of course!!) 15 letters long. I put that in without the vestige of a worry that it might be wrong. Tried starting up elsewhere, with AGGIE--yeah, right. IMMIE? IMMIE??? Are you kidding me? What in the hey is that short for? IM-possible to get? Yep, that must be it.

Total, EPIC fail. One of the few times in my solving life that I've been utterly unable to fill in at least some small section of a grid (except for NIT, whose I hit the center at forbI/THISI by accident).

Anonymous 12:23 PM  

Note to Evil Doug: Wouldn't you like to have the benefit of a female's nimble fingers for suturing a small cut, instead of the male doctor's fat fingers? Think about it. Nurse Practioners don't do the heavy stuff.
Clara Barton

eastsacgirl 2:13 PM  

Came very close. Had a few letters couldn't just wouldn't fall into place. Like Rex said, the bottom stack was the easiest. Couldn't put together CENTO/HAUSA therefore didn't get NURSE.

Oh well, enjoyed this one for just being able to figure out 95% of the puzzle with no help. Been a very good week for me

DMGrandma 3:03 PM  

After a fun week, I found this a real grind. Too many obscure words and terms for me, many clearly called out above. Suffered and succeeded through most of it, but ended up DNF. CUERS, SANDE, CENTO, HAUSA and ONE were no-shows on my grid.
I, too, started all this in the Maleska days, and recall being surprised when the "new guy" allowed names like Oreo and all the pop stuff. Not sure if I've ever really made the switch. Is it worse not to know the name of a Greek deity or a rap singer?

DMGrandma 3:15 PM  

After a fun week, found this a real grind. As pointed out above, too many obscure words and people.
Suffered and suceeded through most of it, but ended up with blanks where CENTO, HAUSA, SANDE and CUERS belonged.
I, too, started all this in the Maleska days, and recall being surprised when the "new guy" allowed brand names and pop culture to appear. Still not sure is I like the change. Is it worse not to know the name of a Greek deity or that of some guy who rode a horse 50 years ago? I seem to miss about the same on both categories.

Anonymous 3:31 PM  

DNF. Mainly because A HARD NUT TO CRACK was a tough nut to crack.

Also never heard of Buzzsaw Brown. And I've probably heard of (and tasted) more beers than most of you, including a good many from Deschutes. Mirror Pond, eg. = ALE. Inversion, eg. = ALE Hop Henge, eg. = ALE. Buzzsaw Brown, eg. = aviator or halfback or wrestler or something, for all I know. This is a beer Deschutes doesn't even make any more. (If they did I bet I'd enjoy it though.)

Come to think of it, Buzzsaw Brown sounds like a good name for a logger. So they should have saved the name for a lager.

Red Valerian 6:41 PM  

I thought it was great, though I suppose that's partly because I finished it. I didn't even think of forbIddenplanet, @Spacecraft. Thank heavens!

Only write-over was ON E for Out. Nice clue. Had to guess at SID/TIANT/DUCAT, but at least DUCAT sounded probable.

For anybody curious about the resident osprey, I've posted a grainy clip at my blog (click my avatar, then look at today's posting--it's the second of a grand total of two). I can't see any young 'uns, but I think they might be there.

Also, I have no idea how to embed a video the way Rex does (so that one just clicks on play instead of following a link). But I haven't tried very hard. If it's something you know and can tell me by wasting only about 15 seconds of your time, please do.

Captchas are getting weirder, and preview still doesn't work...

Dirigonzo 8:17 PM  

@Red Valerian - nice to see you back! I missed the link to the osprey video when I visited your blog earlier but checked it out after I saw your comment here - wonderful! Apparently you know how to "embed" with the best of them, no instruction necessary.

The lack of "preview" adds an element of excitement, n'est pas?

Lola505 8:57 PM  

I give today's puzzle a big UGH!! It took me way too long with two breaks and lots of corrections to not finish -- 2 blank squares at 55A. I did like the 15's, and got most of them in one piece. At least Rex gave it a medium-challenging. I hate when I have this much trouble and Rex deems it easy.

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