Old fast food chain whose mascot's head was orange / FRI 9-28-12 / Tank named after French WW II general / Pou basis of operations / Otto goes after it / Musical with song Bui Doi / Moma's Two heads Birds in Aquarium / Eclipse alternative / English boys school founded 948

Friday, September 28, 2012

Constructor: Ed Sessa

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: LECLERC (36D: Tank named after a French W.W. II general) —

The AMX-56 Leclerc, commonly known as the Leclerc, is a main battle tank (MBT) built by Nexter of France. It was named in honour of General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque who led the French element of the drive towards Paris while in command of the Free French 2nd Armoured Division (2ème DB) in World War II.
The Leclerc is in service with the French Army and the army of the United Arab Emirates. In production since 1991, the Leclerc entered French service in 1992, replacing the venerable AMX 30 as the country's main armoured platform. With production now complete, the French Army has a total of 406 Leclercs and theUnited Arab Emirates Army has 388. The current price in 2011 is €9.3 million. (wikipedia)
• • •

Yuck. Not my cuppa. NW done in five seconds, while NE alone took well over five minutes, most of it just sitting there staring at not much. Grid is full of old, random, and pretty obscure stuff that I just don't care about. LECLERC? Is that famous as a general, a tank, or neither? CIARDI?! (43D: John who wrote the textbook "How Does a Poem Mean?") I knew that, because I was a medievalist and I know him as a translator of Dante, but that guy is just Not common knowledge. NEDICK'S!?! (14D: Old fast-food chain whose mascot's head was an orange)?! If you lived in NYC before 1980, no doubt a total gimme. Otherwise, massive WTF? I've seen it once before, and it stumped me then, so this time ... still stumped me, but somehow that initial "N" eventually floated into my mind. If it hadn't, the NE still wouldn't be done. That "N" let me see "MISS SAIGON," which I had no hope of getting otherwise (never saw it, don't recognize the song in the clue) (5A: Musical with the song "Bui Doi").

Still don't really understand 13D: Draw for an inside straight, say (ONE CARD). So ... I draw ... ONE CARD ... when I draw ... for an inside straight. Because I have a three, four, six, and seven in my hand? But I could draw ONE CARD ... in many situations ... card wise. An outside straight situation, for instance. I just don't see the firm connection between clue and answer. Couldn't tell if clue was verb or noun or what. ONE CARD is just bad fill to begin with. Like TWO DOGS or THREE PENNIES or something. Thought ILA was ILO (both bad, both labor-related) (11D: Pier grp.). GOT IT ON doesn't say [Began brawling] to me. It says [Brawled]. What's this "began" stuff? I see the wants-to-be-cute river-relatedness of the AARE clue now, but not while solving (10D: Swiss banks may be affiliated with it). Had SETTE as SIETE because foreign numbers, whatever (9D: Otto goes after it). Never heard of [Hyperhidrotic] and so no hope for SWEATY. DOTE doesn't mean [Be feeble-minded] to me, except in some retrospective, dictionary-esque way, as it slowly dawns on me that it's probably connected to "dotage." IRE was ADO (6D: Madness). MAPS could've been anything (5D: Hikers' helpers). That corner was a bleeping disaster. And not a rewarding one.

VUVUZELA feels like a clue that would've been timely back when that ... instrument? ... was in the news, during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa (38A: Stadium ear piercer). Now it just seems dated. I know the VUVUZELA still exists, but the puzzle reeks of 2010 because of that clue. Most (non-soccer-fan) people, if they've heard of that word, heard it in the summer of 2010 and then never again. I assume it was a seed word for this puzzle, and that this puzzle was in fact made in the summer of 2010 or shortly thereafter. I can't really imagine what the other seed answers were, except perhaps SENSORY OVERLOAD (which is a nice grid-spanner) (7D: Potential downside of the information age). I don't see much here that I'd deliberately put into my grid, and in a themeless I expect at least half a dozen nice medium-to-long answers. Don't see many that would qualify here.

A "rib" clue on CORDUROY could've been cute, but this one is just awkward, and not playing on any phrase I know (30A: What shows its ribs?). St. ALBAN'S? Hmmm, rang enough of a bell that I got it, but blah (35A: St. ___ (English boys' school founded in 948)). I guess the Mitsubishi (had to look that up) Eclipse is a sporty car ... and a MIATA is also sporty? So that's the rationale there (47A: Eclipse alternative). Thought [Atlantic follower, in Monopoly] was VERMONT. It wasn't (VENTNOR). The only thing I liked about ARPS was that I got it easily (28D: MoMA's "Two Heads" and "Birds in an Aquarium"). And ugh, STO is the Worst (well, it's not as bad as POU, which I have also seen in puzzles, but it's pretty damned bad–"Pou STO" is really the bottom of the crosswordese barrel; avoid at all costs).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:24 AM  

After a tough few days another easy Fri. for me.  Very smooth (except maybe STAC and STO)  and zippy ...VUVUZELA, AREWEALONE, INPROTEST, GOTITON, NEDICKS (a classic-- didn't know they are no more)...  I liked it more than Rex did. 

No erasures, and LECLERC and CIARDI,  the only WTFs for me,  both had gettable crosses.  

To bad stupid wouldn't fit for 13d.

And speaking of 7d, keeping track of text abbrvs. is getting to be a pain (I kinda sympathize with ANON B).  BEQ Naticked me on Mon. with one that crossed one hit wonder singer/group (?) that was a major WTF.  Even Evan's heuristic couldn't resolve it.  That said, the "Call Me Maybe" girl was a gimme.  Having grandchildren has more than a few benefits.

retired_chemist 12:29 AM  

This was surprisingly in my wheelhouse. Any sub-10 minute Friday is cause for celebration and this one is on my birthday. So I will consider it a present.

Stuff that went right in: ALVA; SETTE; ARE WE ALONE; VUVUZELA; CENSE; TENON; RENNET (né RENNIN); STUTZ (made model cars as a kid); CIARDI (had one class with him in 20th Cent. Am. Lit.); EMANUEL; LATERAL; AVATAR; and more. Still more were easy with several crosses.

Laughed to see ESTRUS, as poor Jerry Lee is NOT being allowed to get to Tater who is in full blown ESTRUS right now. Liked CORDUROY and DIAL M. Didn't like UNFUNNY. Had JACKO for 27A FAIRY.

Thanks, Mr. Sessa.

thursdaysd 12:32 AM  

It's always a pleasure to finish a Friday without help, and even more so to have Rex rate it Medium-Challenging, but it was certainly more guesswork than knowledge.

Still, not knowing NEDICKS because I never lived in NYC, or MAV because I don't follow sports, was balanced by getting ALBANS because I grew up near St. Albans - although I never heard of the school - and CENSE because I remembered the humongous botafumeiro in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral at the end of the Camino Real. But without ALBANS I would have been defeated by the SW. And as for CIARDI...

On 7D, I was a bit puzzled. SENSORYOVERLOAD long predates the information age, which is instead responsible for informationOVERLOAD.

Richard 1:06 AM  

I found both the NW and SE to be smooth sailing. The NE should have been easier because MISS SAIGON should have come to me more quickly than it did.

I thought the SW was difficult. Don't know where it came from but the key was getting CIARDI off the CIxxxx. I was lucky to get this based on some vague prior exposure.

My favorite clue was "directive for murder." I thought this was cute and challenging and I patted myself on the back for getting it without any crosses. I also liked SO SUE ME. I did not like UNFUNNY and was surprised that Rex did not say something negative about this answer.

Anonymous 1:22 AM  

a bit too many proper nouns for me to finish the NW and bottom middle. Should've got screen idol but without reel, sto or ciardi the clue was a litle too vague. Oh well.

Tobias Duncan 1:47 AM  

I could not stop thinking that Orange Julius should fit somehow.Orange juice , milk and an egg? Genius! NEDICKS? Yuck.

The clue did make me think of Karl Pilkington though, and that is awlays a good thing.

chefwen 3:23 AM  

Part time Puzzle Partner helped me with LE CLERC, BLADDER and EMANUEL, huge help.

I kept reading 16A as cosmetologists, so that was a big hang up, I kept thinking how is ARE WE ALONE part of cosmetology?
DOH! PTPP also fixed my VErmont to VENTNOR, don't remember that one, it's been years.

Difficult puzzle, but a lot more fun than yesterdays.

Happy Birthday Ret_chem!

chefwen 3:25 AM  

P.S. I really, really, really wanted Wendy @27A. Stupid FAIRY!

Ascetic Corduroy Miatas 3:29 AM  

Many puzzles are rejected over "shelflife" of an answer, they want it to still be current 6 years from now (which I think is unfair because we don't get anything years down the line and it's for a daily paper and five weeks later... Should not be the constructors responsibility to be psychic as what will still be in the news)

The downside is something like today. VUVUZELA is a fabulous entry, but it was an ethereal concept of a certain time and place (@rex says summer of 2010) so since it was published late, it loses both ways:
Ed Sessa doesn't get credit for using fresh fun crazy word in a timely fashion (no fault of his own) and it seems post-expiration date and passE now and even more so when it gets republished years from now.
What to do?
Unless you have your own site, you have no say over when things are accepted or published, yet you still want to have fun fresh timely seed entries.

(It's even worse for early week because there's insistence entries be something in everyone's wheel house. When is the tipping point?)

A friend sent a text to me yesterday suggesting I put REPLACEMENTREF in a puzzle.
Funny, fresh now, but two years from now? Six years from now?
So constructors are between a rock and a hard place.

I made the same VErmont/VENTNOR error, but worse I thought my idol Gandhi was an Atheist!!! SOSUEME.

BREAKApArt held me back as CIARDI was a big??? As was pou STO (never seen nor heard and I've been making solving puzzles 30-40 years) plus I spent way to long trying to figure out what a StREEt IDOL was.

Happy ending, but sloooow. At least I didn't have SENSORYOVERLOrD which I think is mildly amusing.

Having lived that life for a decade, i can attest "Bombing = UNFUNNY" but there was something awkward about that clue I can't put my finger on.

Proud that I looked at "Bui Doi" and thought that looks Vietnamese, but then couldn't think of the name of the play that I've never seen. I like the three SSS on top, as MISSSAIGON is an easy bottomline entry.

Deb 4:53 AM  

Maleka is grinning in his grave.

Jim Walker 5:55 AM  

Liked the puzzle more than our leader. I saw vuvuzelas at Football games on TV this year, so they have not gone away. Loved following otto and Swiss banks.

@rex. Why are the international labor organization and the longshoremen's union "bad"?

GILL I. 6:25 AM  

I did a lot of staring after plunking in ALVA. Could just not see VENTNOR (hand up for Vermont), LECLERC was Sherman (I know, wrong side of the pond) My cab was a GYPSY, AARP sounded about right for a Swiss bank affiliate - DIOR was Pour Homme and so my night started out UNFUNNY.
Picked it up after a Zin and it came together little by very little.
I remember someone on this blog had said they couldn't wait to see VUVUZELA in a crossword. This after the World Cup buzz about that god-awful sound.zzzzzzzzzzzzz
I think they're banned now in Europe. The Brits, instead, sing AD NAUSEUM - and I mean it- "Oh When The Saints Go Marching In."
Shouldn't ESTRUS be *in* ESTRUS?
@ret_chem? Oh, and Happy Birthday to you. We have lots of September celebrants...
Ok puzzle in the end but I'm with @chefwen - screw the damn FAIRY

Milford 7:07 AM  

Happy Birthday, @retired chemist!

@chefwen - also misread 16A as cosmetologists and LOLed when I finally read it correctly. Also in that corner, had N _ _ICKS, and for awhile was considering NatICKS? I think someone should open a place called Naticks.

Another challenging puzzle this week! Had to google a couple to get dislodged. Didn't really mind VUVUZELA, but I get the point that it dates the puzzle to the last World Cup. Relieved that they were absent from the Olympic games this year.

I feel like SCREEN IDOL is way more dated as a phrase, especially with People magazine as the clue. People is usually filled with reality TV nonsense. Or so I've heard. Not like I read it at the grocery stone line or anything.

Thank you, Rex, for sharing your struggles with the puzzles this week. Makes me feel less stupid, even if you still finish them in a fraction of the time that I do.

I think my last square filled was the U in ESTRUS/UNFUNNY. Hmm, so true.

Anonymous 7:24 AM  

Rex seemed kind of grouchy to me today. I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle. One of my favorites for sure.

Zed 7:45 AM  

Not in my wheelhouse, heck, not even on the same boat as I am. Big Fat DNF. The opening of Rex's commentary is an exact description of my experience and sentiment.

I have read exactly one book by John Ciardi, co written by Isaac Asimov.

Read y'all next week - I'm gone for the weekend.

Loren Muse Smith 7:56 AM  

This puzzle kicked my AVATAR all the way to the neighboring town, ST ALBANS (@thursdaysd), VUVUZELAs blaring IN PROTEST. How discouraging that most found it on the easy side! Sooo much stuff I didn’t know coupled with soooo many faux-holds made for the perfect storm of a big ole ugly dnf by a mile.

I can’t believe TENON was my third entry. SO SUE ME – perfectly clued. ESTRUS – fiendishly clued.

Sicem – DIAL M
Mare – SIRE
Break it off – BREAK A DATE
Soaked – SWEATY
Rinse – CENSE (huh??)
Got in to – GOT IT ON (@Rex, I agree)
Corset_ _ - CORDUROY
Wendy - FAIRY

@retirec_chemist – I was thinking “Jacko,” too, for FAIRY. @Gill I.P and @Chefwen – hand up for filling in“Wendy.”

@Andrea – I saw those words, CENSED they were Vietnamese, too, and thought, ridiculously, “Miss Hanoi.” Sheesh. At least I immediately laughed at myself.

@Deb – funny!

@Milford – Thanks for pointing out the People magazine clarification; I didn’t catch that. Yeah, I never read it in the grocery line, either. Teresa Guidice is considering suing Melissa Gorga, by the way.

I feel like a SWEATY STUTZ and am now going to skulk off and lick my wounds. No fault of yours, Ed. Fair enough Friday. I’m just IN AWE of those who breezed through this one.

jncody 8:11 AM  

This puzzle made me sad. So many words I've never, ever heard. ESTRUS, TENON, Pou STO, the clue hyperhidrotic. Then there's CENSE and its clue "Swing a thurible around." I'm used to not knowing random WWII generals and Swiss rivers but "thurible" is when I wailed to the husband "I just don't know what any of these words mean!!"

Unknown 8:17 AM  

Liked it. I see how if you didn't get MISSSAIGON right away it would be rough. Another hand up for Orange Julius...never heard of NEDICKS. Also really like AREWEALONE (lots of fun cluing opportunities...they chose a conservative one), and REDREDROSE.

Loren Muse Smith 8:23 AM  

Oh - forgot to add - as @Andrea points out, MISS SAIGON - three S's in a row. Yesterday's BASS SOLO - same!

Glimmerglass 8:25 AM  

Terrific Friday puzzle! Great clues (e.g ESTRUS) and some unusual but fair words (e.g. VEVUZELA). Anyone who taught English in the '60s (or read Ciardi's weekly column in the NYT) would find 43D a gimme. I also found the NE difficult, but how much more satisfying to eventually sort it out (I'd vaguely heard of NEDICKS, enough to guess at the N, which gave me MISS SAIGON, which I'd never seen but heard of, which gave me SWEATY off the S and Y . . . and the rest fell into place). I'm sorry that Rex just finds this annoying. This is the reason I love Friday and Saturday NYT puzzles!

diane 8:26 AM  

thanks for your thumbs down on much of this one..most of which was WTF for me.

retired_chemist 8:35 AM  

@ Gill I. P. - ESTRUS is OK. in heat <=> in ESTRUS. And thanks for the b'day wishes.

joho 8:44 AM  

I liked this better than @Rex, too, and was happy to finish. It was odd that I got SENSORYOVERLOAD and AREWEALONE immediately upon reading the clue. Those answers just popped into my head.

Not so for VENTNOR which still looked wrong even when I knew it was right.

I did end up with one error at LEpLERC. Had I gone back I think I would have changed SpAM to SCAM, not sure. SpAM works, too.

I agree with @Andrea that Ed did put a fresh word, VUVUZELA, in the puzzle but had no control over when it will be published. It's still a pretty cool word, dated or not.

@retired_chemist: happy birthday!

wordie 8:47 AM  

Help! I don't get ottosette. . . .

Evan 8:50 AM  


SETTE is seven, OTTO is eight in a European language (I think Italian).

wordie 9:18 AM  

Thanks, @Evan!

jackj 9:30 AM  

Ed Sessa hasn’t given us a Times puzzle for a while but, thankfully, he chimed in today with a sprightly Friday level test. No SENSORYOVERLOAD from this puzzle, in fact it was a great entry and once a few letters began to fill in from the crosses it was an easy piece to complete.

I must be the crossword equivalent of a cheap date since I found my favorite clue early on and it had already appeared in 268 other Times crosswords of the Shortz era but, still, IRE for “Madness” was clever and fun and the only other time it was clued as that single word was 1998 when old friend Henry Hook had it (though with a question mark).

Other highlights included “Directive for murder?” for DIALM, the-oh-so clever AARE clue and, of course, CORDUROY nicely reminded us that wales are ribs and never the twain shall be barbecued.

ESTRUS, trickily clued as “Heat”, had enough related entries to make one think Ed was writing a racy short story as the fertile lady became SWEATY, asked AREWEALONE and, well you can plot out the rest of it with some of the other answers that are spotted around the puzzle.

LECLERC and CIARDI were less than desirable, but they didn’t much diminish the puzzle’s overall attractiveness.

Nice job! Thanks Ed.

Milford 9:31 AM  

@loren - you crack me up! And I totally know who those two women are. I think CENSE is referring to the swinging lamp thingies (aka thurible, who knew) in a church that burn incense.

@joho - I, too, had SpAM at first, and reluctantly changed it.

Some idiots brought VUVUZELAs to my daughter's last dance competition. I wanted to snap them in half.

Jim 9:32 AM  

Sorry- as a woodworker, there are two parts to a dovetail joint, the pins and the tails. A tenon is what fits into a mortise.

Norm 9:43 AM  

@joho - same error. I actually think SpAM was a better answer for the clue. Phishing IS a scam; the lure is email spam. But Mr. Pencil wanted ScAM.

@Jim - I think the same point was made earlier this year. Will obviously wasn't paying attention.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:43 AM  

Oh, darn! I was ready to proclaim this puzzle super-easy, finished in about 15 minutes while eating breakfast, mainly because almost all of Rex's WTFs were gimmes for me (not bragging, just lucky.)

I'll admit it was only after finishing and walking to the computer that the relationship of "DOTE" to "dotage" occurred to me.

But then Rex informs me that 45 A is SCAM, not SPAM (already noted by @joho and @Milford). Never would know the name of that French general, so I would never have corrected it on my own.

Smitty 9:54 AM  

Guess I'm the only one who grew up in NYC before 1980.
NEDICKS was one of those lunch counter-type eateries - like Chock full o' Nuts... not as bueno as Horn & Hardart's automat and Schrafft's, who made a killer coffee cake ring.

John V 9:58 AM  

A tale of two puzzles here. Everything but SW, and the SW -- which I did not get. Until that point, I was thinking this was coming in pretty easy. The entire On North was easy for me; go figure. VUVUZELA? I stared at that puppy and had no effing idea. Likewise what @Rex said circa his Yuck paragraph.

I was around NY when NEDICks was around so NEDICK did not make for a NATICK, although there's a nugget there for sure.

Wow, is it raining in CT this morning. Hope it's not raining on your B-Day, Ret-Chem!

jberg 10:20 AM  

Finished with an error - even though I knew John CIARDI (not personally), and actually thought of him, I was so sure that that Arabian's parent was a maRE that I ruled him out - so I ended up thinking there must have been another John named saARDI, and that some cabs were, somehow, mEDANs (didn't really check that one).

Like others, I got the NW and SE right away, and really struggled to get into the rest of the grid. I had tried ot do so with the short downs rather than the 10-stack of acrosses, but finally saw PENETRATED at 18A, thought it was too easy but then confirmed it with 5D, MAP.

Anyone else have Santa before STORK making those special delivery flights?

A couple of quibbles, though - the overload of the information age is not mostly SENSORY (unless you mean attending my class with your iPod in your ear, I guess that would count), and cosmologists are more concerned with the Big Bang, dark matter, and the expansion of the universe than with life elsewhere.

I liked the clue for AARE more than Rex, even though "affiliated" is stretching it; and VUVUZELAs are still timely, just foreign - pretty sure they're still widely used in SA. On the other hand, I thought 1A was too cute - little point in using such an indirect clue if the answer is still obvious, as everyone is reporting it was.

Deborah 10:23 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. Benson 10:24 AM  

Very disappointing to start off so strong and then wind up with a big fat DNF. Took down the NW instantaneously and even got MISSSAIGON and AREWEALONE on educated guesses, but there was simply no way I was going to get CIARDI crossed with a "thurible" clue, or NEDICKS crossed with a clue that translates one foreign word into another foreign word.

Lindsay 10:31 AM  

We have a Cape Neddick here in town, but Nedick's? Never heard of it.

Spam, yes, scam, no.

Chef Bo-ar-di did po-et-ry?

Carola 10:31 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carola 10:33 AM  

I enjoyed this one a lot. Fun to write in vuvuzela, corduroy, Emanuel, lateral. Knew Ciardi from old Saturday Review days.

@jberg -
On the "racy" theme, I liked the contrast of the romantic (Red Red Rose, dote, Are we alone?, screen idol) with the physical (estrus, got it on, penetrated, sire, sate, sensory overload, belly, stork).

A lot easier for me than yesterday or Wednesday. Got Alva/ascetic and maps/ Miss Saigon right away at the top and things went quickly from there.

Thanks, Ed Sessa, for a terrific Friday.

Lindsay 10:36 AM  

To clarify, 2 errors. The "p" in SpAM, then I went with "t" in square #43. In retropsect, I should have gotten CENSE, but I was picturing a hammer thrower, and they look pretty tENSE to me.

Imfromjersey 10:54 AM  

I'm sure my 75 year old mom who grew up in the Bronx smiled when she saw NEDICKS in the puzzle today but that is very provincial.

Matthew G. 10:57 AM  

Three-fourths Easy, but Challenging-Impossible in the SW. I completely agree with those who say SpAM fits the clue {Phishing lure?} much better than SCAM, since phishing is itself a SCAM, and a SpAM e-mail lures you into it. So clue, wrong. And since I've never heard of LECLERC (either the tank or the general), I was toast.

My biggest problem, though, was with the stack of three 10s in the SW corner. Had BREAK ApArt instead of BREAK A DATE and still like mine better, since the clue might refer to breaking off a planned wedding but only much less colloquially a single date. Never heard of CIARDI, needless to say. Only clue that could ever give me STO is {___ Lat}. SCREEN IDOL feels made-up.

And for the longest time I had maRE, not SIRE, at 46-Across. At least I emerge from this puzzle knowing I'm not a sexist.

Two Ponies 11:01 AM  

Way too many things/people I've never heard of so big DNF.
@ jberg, I tried Santa first as well.
I got the gist of 8D but tried watery and got nowhere fast.
First thought on Swiis banks was Rmoney's taxes.

quilter1 11:08 AM  

Nope, DNF again. Too much I just didn't know. See you tomorrow.

mac 11:12 AM  

Very little came immediately to me, but I enjoy a Friday struggle.

Stork was a correct guess, until I changed it to Santa, then back to stork. Had Flynt (Larry) for fairy for a while, but I also considered Jacko. On the spot for "in protest", and @Loren, I seriously considered corselet....

@Ret_chem: happy birthday, and a belated one to @Evan!
By the way, is the correct term "in estris"?

garycee 11:13 AM  

@rex. If you draw for an inside straight you'd be looking for one card to tack on either end of the four your holding. e.g. I'm holding a 4,5,6,7. I draw one card looking for a 3 or an 8

notsofast 11:18 AM  

Puzzle was a BITCH! I almost gave up several times. Loved it for obscurity more than charm or cleverness. Very satisfying to finish. Aaaaaaaaah.

Chief Inspector Hubbard 11:27 AM  

Reading/skimming the Times first helped today - articles on Hanoi traffic (helped me see MISS SAIGON answer) and clash between MTA chief and a board member, with one saying "Bring it on" to the other. Not the same as GOT IT ON, but helped in coming up with the correct answer.

For those in NYC area, another local clue/reminder- "Dial M for Murder" is playing in a digital restoration in 3-D at Film Forum. Only connection I have is that I plan to see it.

Davis 11:51 AM  

This puzzle was a disaster for me. Way, way too many WTFs. NEDICKS was a no-go; had SPAM instead of SCAM, and the cross didn't help correct that one; VUVUZELA took me forever to figure out, since the 2010 World Cup is far out of my mind now; had no hope of getting CIARDI, as I was not a humanities student; and for MIATA I kept trying to come up with some other Mitsubishi car (I could be wrong, but I don't think the MIATA was a competitor for the Eclipse).

I would also agree with jberg above, but more stridently, about AREWEALONE: if you know even a little bit about what cosmologists actually do, this answer won't come to you (because it's wrong). As a natural sciences guy, I get frustrated when constructors play fast-and-loose with science terms, while simultaneously including fill like CIARDI. I end up getting stumped by things that are both in and out of my wheelhouse.

Sandy K 11:55 AM  

Came sooo close to scoring a TEN ON this puzzle, but have to admit I had VUpUZELA due to REpS, not REVS.

I must've been in Neverland- cuz I never heard of this- shh, ARE WE ALONE??

Got ESTRUS thanks to UNFUNNY, altho that's in my never-heard of file too.

Had SpAM til LEpLERC did not sound REEL good..


You GOT me, ED!

Happy Birthday @Retired_Chemist!

Happy weekend to all.

Rob C 12:01 PM  

@ garycee
Not exactly as I understand it. An example of an inside straight chance would occur if you're holding a 4, 5, 7, and 8 and are drawing for a 6, the only card that will help you (ONE CARD). What you described is an open-ended straight chance, where two cards would complete the straight (3 or 8 in your scenario).

Played a little cards in my day and I've always understood it as Rex describes. Rex's complaint seems to be that the clue is a verb and the answer is a noun (and not very precise). If you use the word 'draw' in the clue as a noun...maybe??

lawprof 12:10 PM  

I didn't grow up in NYC (@Smitty, 9:54), but in the late 60's I was a wide-eyed first year law student at NYU. (Having grown up in the American Southwest, I thought I could use a giant dose of culture shock).

One morning I wandered into a Nedick's on 6th Ave. and ordered a cup of coffee at the counter. A man next to me did the same; he added a little milk and then, to my astonishment, poured -- for what seemed like an eternity -- sugar into the steaming cup. He then lifted it to his lips and slurped contentdly. Curious, I asked him why he didn't stir his coffee. His reply, "I don't like it too sweet." The culture shock was just beginning for me.

KRMunson 12:15 PM  

Everything Rex said, and more. This puzzle was SO not in my wheelhouse. Even getting a few of the long answers didn't help. Nedicks? Really? Rennet - you gotta be kidding. Albans, Le Clerc? Come on. No chance on those. Takes the sport outta the game when you have no way to deduce the right answer.

syndy 12:23 PM  

@garycee,that would be an outside straight draw! An inside straight draw is when you need one (and only onw)middle card. So many things I,ve never heard of! VUVUzulla sounded like something deep in my throat! The clue for CIARDI made me say in PROTEST" OH sure big fat Gimmee for a PHD in English lit"NEDICKS may be my new Natick. but isn't that the fun of fridays? figuring out what HYPERHIDROTICS Must mean? The Vietnamese sounding musical selection? OH! That Major Daley?(doh!)Handsup for Vermont;Spam Wendy It was aall good.And howcome "Dictionariesque kinda way" didn't apply to "peckish?" just sayin'##

Mel Ott 12:35 PM  

Well, Fridays are supposed to be tough and this one did not disappoint. But it was doable even tho ESTRUS, RAE & STO were new to me - gettable from crosses.

I think the fact that @Rex et al are complaining that VEVUZELAs are dated because they're two years old says something about our culture.

Now NEDICKS is dated but I love it! Reminds me of the great Marty Glickman calling a Knicks game: "The shot is up and it's goooooood....like NEDICKS." NEDICKS hot dogs were indeed good and their orange soda was the best ever. Even better than Nehi.

Liked the SIRE/maRE and SCAM/SpAM traps. Good puzzle.

Sparky 12:37 PM  

Like Manuel in Fawlty Towers, "I know nothing." DNF and then some.

Happy Birthday @retired_chemist.

Have a nice weekend.

Anonymous 1:06 PM  

In 'Draw Poker', with respect to an inside or outside straight, in either case you would be asking for 1 card. If you think of the formal name of the game, I think the clue is fairly worded.

Filling the inside straight is of course half as likely as getting a card on either end of a 4-card run.

Tough Friday, but who doesn't expect a challenge? My hang-up was Semis for 'Many a cab', thinking of truck cabs, fouling the SW for ages.

ESTRUS was vaguely recalled, but RENNET was a complete WTF.


Masked and Anonymo6Us 1:15 PM  

VUVUZELA rocks. It was one of those "oh, yeah. What the heck was that soccer crowd-related thing called??..."
Really cleans out the old sludgy brain pipes.

Someone really spent a lotta extra quality time coming up with these clues, too. Great stuff. themelessthUmbSUp.

Back to Vuvu-whatsit. Not many VU-words out there. Got yer Saturn car, yer turkey relative, yer mind-meld dudes. 'Bout it. Oh, and VULGAR. Always room for vulgar. So give constructors a break, will ya? Embrace the double vuvu.

Puz was hard. Except for the NW, which was soft. One time had to ask PuzEatingSpouse for a 5-letter word for "Many a cab, might start with an M or an S?" SEDAN came back like a shot. All I needed to finish.

obertb 1:18 PM  

What @Jim 9:32 say. A tenon goes in a mortise. Tails and pins are the parts of a dovetail. I've seen this mistake a number of times in crosswords.

miriam b 1:36 PM  

@retiredchemist: Happ;y brthday! My #2 daughter is celebrating today as well.

There's a Nedick's in Penn Station where #1 daughter sometimes stops on her way home for a hot dog and an orange drink. You can do a lot worse in Penn Station, believe me.

Blow Up The Candles 1:41 PM  

P.S. Happy birthday to all retired chemist dudes. How much did U say it was, in titration years?


gww 1:47 PM  

Interesting how our background knowledge determine s whether a puzzle is hard or easy. At 65, and retired librarian, I fInIshed In about 5 minutes. Vuvuzela was a .mystery to me..but the down answers put it in. Then I checked in with the rexblog to confirm. Happy weekend.

Nancy in PA 1:52 PM  

Was I the only one who confidently plunked in MBUTTERFLY at 5A? Oops..not a musical. Messed me up for a long time, but still finished (with only 1 error) and liked it. Having recently been in South Africa and seen thousands of leftover references to the World Cup, I didn't find VUVUZELA dated at all. Seriously, it's as if 2010 were yesterday over (down) there.

Wiki 2:17 PM  

Types of mortise and tenonA mortise is a cavity cut into a timber to receive a tenon. There are several kinds of mortise:[2]

Open mortise – a mortise that has only three sides. (See bridle joint).
Stub mortise – a shallow mortise, in which depth depends on the size of the timber; also a mortise that does not go through the workpiece (as opposed to a "through mortise").
Through mortise – a mortise that passes entirely through a piece.
Wedged half-dovetail, – a mortise in which the back is wider, or taller, than the front, or opening. The space for the wedge initially allows room for the tenon to be inserted; the presence of the wedge, after the tenon has been engaged, prevents its withdrawal. It is sometimes called a "suicide" joint, since it is a "one-way trip".
Through wedged half-dovetail – a wedged half-dovetail mortise that passes entirely through the piece.

Yeah, it still sucks though.

Ack! The inkspot captchas are back!

Bird 2:18 PM  

This was not my cup of tea. The rating on this puzzle should be “impossible without Google”. I quote Rex, “Grid is full of old, random, and pretty obscure stuff that I just don't care about.” And too much that I didn’t know and couldn’t possibly guess left me staring at lots of blank squares. I know it’s Friday, but give somebody a chance.

Burns poem – yeah right. Not me.
DOTE = be feeble minded?? I thought it meant show excessive affection on, like grandmothers doting on their grandchildren.
Oh, those Swiss banks?!
Pou STO? WTF!!
I thought VUVUZELAs were just annoying horns and not that loud. Amplifiers (too long) are ear piercing.
Some old English boy’s school that nobody on this side of the pond heard of.
SPAM goes with Phish

I did like ARE WE ALONE.
DIAL M is a great movie.

Happy Birthday @retired_chemist!


C. Ross Word 2:19 PM  

Nice puzzle after yesterday's disaster (for me): 12 incorrect spaces. Only 2 errors today: Fell for SpAM instead of SCAM but should have realized that LECLERC was preferable to LEpLERC. Also had tENSE instead of CENSE; never heard of CIARDI though that should't disqualify him from entry to SWEATY NEDICK'S. Fun solve.

DigitalDan 2:28 PM  

I knew all those weeks buried in the pit blowing my brains out through a brass tube would pay off some day when I was able to confidently enter MISSSAIGON. Great song; great show. Could VUVUZELA (pitched in low Bb, much lower than traditional stadium horns) be far behind? What with ALVA and TENON and a few others, this one seemed very un-Friday-like to me. Differnt strokes.

Chip Hilton 2:53 PM  

SpAM for SCAM and DOTy for DOTE. Otherwise correct thanks to handy crosses. In a moment of absurd wine snobbery, I wanted mEDoc for 'Many a cab', since I had maRE in place of SIRE. Tough Friday, as it should be.

Merle 2:57 PM  

After a walk in the park Thursday -- Google-free, and entertaining, with some challenges, but everything falling into place, this looked like it would be a walk in the park Friday, until I got snagged in the southeast corner. Unlike Rex, I immediately knew John Ciardi, because he was the Saturday Review poetry editor, and, to my everlasting shock and dismay, rejected a poem I sent him in 1958 or 1959 when I was 16. Such a name I will never forget! And of course I knew his Dante translation, and his poetry. But vuvuzela is a WTF moment for me. Rex and I have somewhat different ideas as to what comprises common knowledge. Miata? Oh, it's a type of Mazda. So I guess Eclipse is a type of Mazda too. Maybe both names are common knowledge, but neither was in my knowledge bank. The only St. Albans I knew was a neighborhood in Long Island, NY, but the answer fell into place and ah, I see, there was another St. Albans, in England, go know. I thought I knew my Robert Burns, but I knew "A Red Red Rose" as "My Love is Like Some Red Red Rose," and it took awhile for the funny letter jam to resolve into another ah, I see, it's that song. Pou sto is a mystery, derived from crosses. Nedicks -- On his classic radio show, Jean Shepherd used to summon his listeners to turn up at a Greenwich Village Nedicks at a particular time, chanting, "Nedicks shmedicks double bedicks pipkins all agree...." I wanted Wendy, but waited, and fairy eventually materialized -- ah well. I am not Catholic, but I sure knew thurible was a censer, and therefore along came cense and it fit right in. Best clue: 42A, chicken's yellow part -- aha, belly! Thinking outside the box feels exhilirating. A pleasant puzzle.

dk 3:00 PM  

Happy Birthday RC, remember life is the making and breaking of chemical bonds.

Drawing to an inside straight is a fool's errand according to Doc Holiday.

Had to do this one in parts. Work, the curse of the puzzle class. Much to like here.

*** (3 Stars)

sanfranman59 3:27 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 24:39, 24:29, 1.01, 50%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Fri 13:59, 12:11, 1.15, 76%, Medium-Challenging

Loren Muse Smith 3:33 PM  

@Milford - “Some idiots brought VUVUZELAs to my daughter's last dance competition. I wanted to snap them in half.” The idiots or the VUVUZELAs?”

@Carola - “On the "racy" theme, I liked the contrast of the romantic (Red Red Rose, dote, Are we alone?, screen idol) with the physical (estrus, got it on, penetrated, sire, sate, sensory overload, belly, stork).” You notice the coolest connections.

@lawprof – funny NEDICK’S story!

JFC 3:59 PM  

There are only two excuses for drawing to an inside straight. The first is you have more money than you know what to do with it. The second is you're broke....


Anonymous 4:06 PM  

@JFC - There's a third - Everyone in front of you just called, so it costs you nothing to try.

Anonymous 4:17 PM  

I actually thought the VUVUZELAs were an interesting phenomenon at the '10 World Cup. If only a handful of people had them, they could have been used to great effect. Of course, since a handful of the people had them, everyone had to have them, and it created a din making it miserable for one and all to watch the game. All context was lost in the indiscriminate din.

The Olympics Soccer matches were quite different - very little noise at all. I just recently discovered I get EPL soccer, and it was wonderful to have contextual noise coming from the fans.

CENSE crossing CIARDI was just plain rude. Inferable, but rude.

miriam b 4:23 PM  

I'd have gotten STO sooner had the clue mentioned Archimedes.

Archimedes used to say: “Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.”

POU STO = A place to stand.

Monty Python 4:36 PM  

Man: You sit here, dear.

Wife: All right.

Man: Morning!

Waitress: Morning!

Man: Well, what've you got?

Waitress: Well, there's egg and bacon; egg sausage and bacon; egg and spam; egg bacon and spam; egg bacon sausage and spam; spam bacon sausage and spam; spam egg spam spam bacon and spam; spam sausage spam spam bacon spam tomato and spam;

Vikings: Spam spam spam spam...

Waitress: ...spam spam spam egg and spam; spam spam spam spam spam spam baked beans spam spam spam...

Vikings: Spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam!

Waitress: ...or Lobster Thermidor a Crevette with a mornay sauce served in a Provencale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle pate, brandy and with a fried egg on top and spam.

Anoa Bob 4:38 PM  

4th reason to draw to an inside straight: As part of a bluff.

Here you raise the pot knowing you have the worst hand, hoping to get your opponent/s to fold, but knowing if you get called, at least you have a shot, albeit a long one, at making the best hand.

This is called a semi-bluff, whereas a total, stone-cold bluff is when you know you have the worst hand and no card will improve it and yet you make a big raise hoping to get your opponent/s to fold. Most exciting play in poker when it works. Buzz kill when it doesn't.

Doc Holiday 4:50 PM  

@anon 4:06 -- Did you mean "Everyone in front of you just checked,..." If they called an initial bet you would have to call also inorder to draw.

Stevlb1 4:55 PM  

"SPAM", "LEPLERC", "ICE", "NEDECKS"........I'm. Failure!

Stevlb1 4:56 PM  

I'm a failure!

acme 5:39 PM  

@anoa bob
My grandpa used to take his elbow and slide thecard in when it was the perfect one he needed to complete a run, but it must have been gin. I'm pretty sure we never played poker!

I'm in...let's do it...maybe we could work it in as a revamp of our SNAKESINTHEGRASS idea. SSS!

Natick is getting tired...I'm going to start using the word NEDICK...even tho I got the clue. have never lived in NY myself but third generation from my grandparents and parents, I think I learned about NEDICKS thru osmosis.

Enjoy! And yay Libras!

Bob Snead 5:58 PM  

First time in a long time that I just had to give up. Even google couldn't save me.

@Merle: the Eclipse is a Mitsubishi.

Robert Burns 6:58 PM  

A Red, Red Rose

O MY Luve 's like a red, red rose
That 's newly sprung in June:
O my Luve 's like the melodie
That's sweetly play'd in tune!

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry:

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only Luve,
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile.

Kathy 8:25 PM  

Great points, ACME, about what is timely now and being able to foretell whether it will be timely 10 minutes from now, never mind six years from now. Especially in this information age that causes things to go viral for two weeks, then vanish....who was that Olympics gymnast who was not impressed?!

The vuvu things were huge, and even though I finished the puzzle less than an hour ago, I can't remember what they are called....


michael 9:31 PM  

well, I thought Leplerc was an unusual name...

Sir Hillary 10:15 PM  

Didn't get to this until the evening, and then it took me about 4 hours over a bottle of wine while listening to music and engaging my wife in some much-needed meaningful conversation (both of us too busy at work)...thus I haven't read anyone else's previous comments, so please forgive me if I'm covering old ground.

I dislike this puzzle. A lot. Not because it was so hard (usually I welcome that) but because the payoff at the end didn't make the slog worth it. Gotta say, I am with Rex 100% today.

Hmm, where to start? How about CENSE crossing CIARDI? WTF?? Talk about a NEDICK...er, Natick. We could start *and* end there. But let's continue. How is MAV not clued as an abbreviation, when it is short for Maverick? How is a LATERAL a "pass", when it is no such thing in the mind of any football fan?

The whole thing was a grind.

sanfranman59 2:07 AM  

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

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

Mon 6:12, 6:48, 0.91, 15%, Easy
Tue 9:18, 8:56, 1.04, 66%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 13:59, 11:50, 1.18, 89%, Challenging
Thu 23:31, 18:50, 1.25, 88%, Challenging
Fri 24:14, 24:29, 0.99, 49%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:37, 3:41, 0.98, 44%, Medium
Tue 5:28, 4:39, 1.17, 91%, Challenging
Wed 7:12, 5:57, 1.21, 90%, Challenging
Thu 12:54, 9:22, 1.38, 92%, Challenging
Fri 13:22, 12:11, 1.10, 69%, Medium-Challenging

Stephen 3:34 AM  

Great stuff. On Fridays I always google. (I'm not a retired librarian or classics teacher, just old and ignorant.) What amazed me about this puz is the lack of old 3-letter dreck. Lots of great misdirection; the Swiss banks was the last word in.

Like Rex, my NW was enticingly quick but the rest was persistent puzzling. Good thing for a sleepless night. Don't tell me about your 15 minute solves.

Liked learning about Bui Doi, CENSE, SETTE, LECLERC. Never like having to learn stuff like MAV (gack). NEDICKS is also pretty useless knowledge. But Rex should have appreciated how well assembled this whole thing was. Only 24 black squares!

dls 3:01 PM  

My feeling is that the clue "Maker of a special-delivery flight" should have had a question mark because, you know, STORKs don't actually deliver babies.

I finished with CIAnDI / REDREDnOSE. (Those Scots and their whiskey, you know....) Okay, REDREDROSE is clearly better, I admit. (-:

rottweiler puppies Miami 9:41 AM  


Spacecraft 1:15 PM  

@Doc Holiday: even if "everyone just called" a supposedly minimum bet, the inside straight has pot odds to call. Part of this is the possibility for a bluff after the draw, if it looks like nobody improved. Still, though, a poor percentage play unless you're in with a bunch of donkeys. (You could hit your straight while Slim over there is hitting his flush: oops!)

Hand up for officially replacing Natick with NEDICKS. Had everything but the C on crosses; finally decided that STAC might be short for STACCATO, so guessed right there. Also hand up for SpAM, but LECLERC looked so much better than LEpLERC I had to change it.

Had a huge problem with BREAKApArt, trying to fit in something besides the natural SCREENIDOL below it. No clue for John's name, or the POU-whatever. What was the jig relative? RETL?? Could not come up with BREAKADATE (now that I see it: headslap!) so sadly, a DNF right there in the bayou. I could have Bing-ed it; only way I'd ever have gotten such a SUPER-OBSCURE entry as CIARDI.

Medical training helped me with hidrosis; lucky there. This guy Sessa is a real fan of off-the-grid words. "Thurible?" The only reason I put CENSE in there is my visualiation of "swinging around," which isn't generally done with anything by sane persons, but I went with that incense image, and figured that the word was just "incense" with the "in" lopped off. Another piece of luck.

Any puzzle that needs three lucky BREAKs is too tough for me. Im not THAT lucky.

rain forest 1:52 PM  

Square 43 didn't make cense to me--at all. However I now know what a thurible is, and what censing is, so I have that going for me. Aside from that one square, I got this fairly quickly. I guess I have to say that "Pousto" also means nothing to me but at least the crosses helped there. Some of Rex's criticism was unworthy of him,eg. vuvusela, onecard, as they were quite clear, at least to me. I had a malapop, of sorts, when I entered "fairy" for maker of a special-delivery flight (thinking of the tooth fairy) at 27A (misread the clue number) only to find that my answer worked there. I guess that's serendipity. Having been the Musee de Blindes in Saumur this summer, I knew Leclerc right off. Of course, that's what these puzzles are about, ie drawing on your personal knowledge and relative skill with words. Damn "c".

DMGrandma 3:21 PM  

Though it took some guesses and having to sacrifice Wendy, I got this thing except for the SW. Some of it was straight serendipity. 5A came from thinking the words looked "Asian" and having the "g". But that SW! Knew it had to be CIARDI, but it's been so long since I've heard that name I simply couldn't fill ion the middle part even with the CI---I in place. DIALM eluded me, possibly because my chicken had a yellow liver. Also thought the given poem started "My luv...", so had no idea what was wanted, tho figured it wasn't the one about the mouse. However, I did enjoy working out the parts I got. It's good to have a challenge now and then.

Thanks to @miram b for explaining POUSTO, which, obviously, was one of my unknowns.

Hey, like the puzzle word, my Captcha has three s's, I think.

Ginger 7:43 PM  

With some help from Google, I finished, but still had a couple of goofs. SpAM, and STAs/NEDIsKS. As an old violin player I should have gotten staccato, but it eluded me. On the plus side, knew CENSE and RENNET and ESTRUS. In fact, the NW was easy. Wanted the noisy thingys to be VUzUZELAs.

I just feel good to come this close on a Friday, and to have Rex rate it as Med-Challenging.

Have a great week-end, Syndilanders

Anonymous 9:25 AM  

Gene Maleska never would have published a puzzle with so many obscurities. Cense? Sette? Yuck!

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