First bishop of Crete / SAT 11-17-12 / Zouave headgear / Hamas rival / Feature of pasta basta / Born Blonde maker / Ancient double-deckers / Adventurer Casanova / 2012 honor for 4000 miles / He supplied Lex Luthor with red kryptonite / Pioneer of slapstick cinema

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Constructor: Tim Croce

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: MISTER MXYZPTLK (7D: He supplied Lex Luthor with kryptonite) —

Mr. Mxyzptlk (play /mɪksˈjɛzpɪtlɪk/ US dict: mĭks·yĕz′·pĭt·lĭk or /mɪksˈjɛzpɪtəlɪk/ US dict: mĭks·yĕz′·pĭt·l·ĭk), sometimes called Mxy, is an impishsupervillain who appears in DC ComicsSuperman comic books. // He was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and first appeared in Superman #30 (September 1944). He is usually presented as atrickster, in the classical mythological sense, in that he enjoys tormenting Superman. In most of his appearances in DC Comics, he can be stopped only by tricking him into saying or spelling his own name backwards (Kltpzyxm - "kel-tip-zix-um"), which will return him to his home in the 5th dimension and keep him there for a minimum of 90 days. However, this specific limitation of the character has been eliminated since the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot, upon which the character leaves only when he willingly agrees to do so after meeting some conditions he sets, such as having Superman succeed in getting Mxy to paint his own face blue.  // In 2009, Mr. Mxyzptlk was ranked as IGN's 76th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time. (wikipedia)
• • •

Hard but not very enjoyable. Here's the thing about MISTER MXYZPTLK—I'm sure to some constructors it seems fresh and clever and edgy, what with all those Scrabbly letters and the wacky spelling and what not, but a. it's been done, and b. it's mostly just annoying because it's a long and totally uninferrable. And I'm saying this as someone who knows something about comic books and knew the character in question immediately. But even I couldn't spell it (I could remember only that the last name had no AEIOU vowels, started with "M," and had an "X" and "P" in it somewhere). In the end, I got it down to MXYZP-LK, but just couldn't figure out what to do with the cross, 50: Send a different way? (REFRACT). Why is there a "?" in that clue? That clue is a literal definition of REFRACT. Between the spelling of MXYZPTLK and the stupid "?" on the REFRACT clue (50A: Send a different way?) and the never-heard-it-before-ness of OUTFALL (?!) (35: Mouth of a river), I just died in the SW. Had to leave it and then come back to it at the very end. RETRACE and RETRACT both seemed to make sense—more sense, in fact, as "?" clues. Anyway, I had to run the alphabet at that "F" in OUTFALL. Joyless slog. Rest of the grid is OK, but not exactly exciting. IRRATIONAL FEAR is semi-decent, but everything else is mostly names and ordinary words, and also ROISTER and ASPERSE. Workmanlike. Solid, but somewhat tedious.

I got LONG ARM right away (1A: Extension of the law?), and getting 1A right away is usually a very good sign. But then there was the ho-hum trivia of APOLLO I and ST TITUS (?) (16A: First bishop of Crete, traditionally), and then I had SELLERS for the (much older) SENNETT (18A: Pioneer of slapstick cinema), and I had to rack my brain a bit to dislodge LASSER, and "NOT NICE" felt pretty forced (first thing I thought of, but I couldn't believe it was right so didn't write it in for a while), and GLINTED ... is a word, I guess (4D: Was fleeting brilliant). Misspelled GIACOMO ("O" for that "A") (22D: Adventurer Casanova), which kept me from seeing the not-scintillatin MAIN GATE for a while. Ooh, I liked FAKE TAN—that was nice. NW was easy, though I still don't get MASHED (unless the idea is that the word is somehow diner slang / abbreviation for the side dish's actual name, "masshed potatoes"). MLII (8D: Birth year of King Philip I) and ASO (33D: Largest active volcano in Japan) are free to go somewhere and die.

  • 19A: Old means of crowd control (RIOT ACT) — Act of Parliament in force from 1715 to 1967 (!). Acc. to wikipedia, the Act's long title was "An Act for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies, and for the more speedy and effectual punishing the rioters."
  • 37A: 2012 honor for "4000 Miles" (OBIE) — no idea, but an "honor" in four letters (esp. one starting w/ "O") is not that hard to guess.
  • 43A: "Tepper ___ Going Out" (Calvin Trillin novel) ("ISN'T") — No idea, but it's the only four-letter word that made any sense at all there.
  • 45A: Like the army that "eagle warriors" fought in (AZTEC) — off the -EC, I decided to go with OLMEC. Brilliant.
  • 49A: Feature of "pasta" and "basta" (RIMA) — as in "they are Italian and they rhyme so please provide the Italian word for 'rhyme'." If I didn't talk about Dante's terza RIMA every year, I think I'd find this answer annoying. 
  • 54A: Born Blonde maker (CLAIROL) — answer seems obvious now, but I didn't know if Born Blonde was a cookie or a car or what...
  • 10D: "The Bartered Bride" composer (SMETANA) — just knowing this guy's name existed helped a lot. Got it off the -NA.
  • 38D: Ancient double-deckers (BIREMES) — the trireme has a much longer wikipedia entry. I think they are the more commonly mentioned warship in ancient Greek literature.
  • 39D: Query upon witnessing a hanging? ("IS IT ART?") — one of the only truly transparent clues in the whole puzzle. Here, I get the "?"—signals the misdirect (i.e. not a hanging by the neck, as the phrasing of the clue suggests, but a hanging of painting).
  • 53D: Zouave headgear (KEPI) — no idea what Zouave is, but I nailed this no problem. KEPI is high-end crosswordese. I've never seen the word anywhere but in the grid.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Joe 12:24 AM  

Wasn't ISITART in a puzzle JUST the other day??

Anonymous 12:27 AM  

Let's see - I don't think I've ever read a comic book in my life, wouldn't know SMETANA from SENNETT from STTITUS. Depending on one's path through the puzzle, either GEO or SEGA clued cutsily as the product of their manufacturer was one too many.

ASPERSE sitting atop ROISTER felt like a bad vocabulary test.

Clif 12:45 AM  

Blech. Is there anyone who actually reads comic books and does crossword puzzles? Other than an extremely precocious nine year old in Berkeley?

jae 12:54 AM  

Medium-tough for me, or what a Sat. should be.  That said, the NW was on the easy side only because LASSER was a gimme for me.  NE was tough, SW medium-tough (mostly because I had EMERITI --wrong plural--for too long), and SE was medium.  

I also had no idea about MXYZPTLK.  The last time I read a Superman comic book I was 12.  That compounded the difficulty.  If I'd known that, this might have been easier.

Pretty zippy  crunchy Sat. challenge.  I liked it better than Rex.  Thanks Tim Croce.

Anonymous 12:58 AM  

When I finally went with OUTFALL, I went with REFRAme for "Send a different way?" I did think about COLE, but isn't there a MOLE king? At any rate, MXYZPTLK was never going to happen. It was DNF before I started.

This grid is one of those 'four crosswords posing as one' that I loathe. Every corner was a slog. It didn't help that I had a higher than average number of great answers that fit the clue but were wrong.

Aztec Carat Maingates 1:06 AM  

One and a half hours and still many mistakes:

But I perversely liked it because I've never worked so hard.
My only gimmes were LASSER (Woody Allen's long time love) DEPTHS and ISITART? And NITS.

It gave me lots to think about...are professors ErudITe?
Tenured? ElEcted??!!
What is this Genesis referring to? The Old Testament? The Band?
(Shoulda known it was videogames... Boy stuff crossing the ultimate boystuff. But whatever. Got it...except one letter in MISTERMXYZP?LK...)
(at least that was crossing girl stuff like CLAIROL and Scrabbly stuf like TAXCODE and OZMA.)

Like a David Quarfoot, the Xs Zs saved me!

Fingers crossed today's discussion won't devolve into rants about Hamas, FATAH and Israel.

SMETANA. I only remember due to my favorite sourcream I used to put on my BAKED.

Faves included FAKETAN, EYEMASK and ALL TALK.

Clark 1:29 AM  

I just got totally beat up by this one. I guessed RICE crossing _ _ _ _ _ ED. I knew it was the MX whatever guy, but as Rex pointed out, that doesn't help at all. I knew FATAH. And I guessed that it was BAUM crossing GAZELLE. OK, I got the SE corner, but that was it. I will now go off and hang my head in shame.

(at least the prove-you're-not-a-robot thing was easy)

Tobias Duncan 1:38 AM  

Wow this was way too tough for me. Did not know any of these names. I have heard SMETANA on Performance Today but I have never seen it spelled out.
DNEFCCTF once again.

chefwen 1:56 AM  

Part time puzzle partner and I got about three quarters finished when I finally said a couple of bad words and said "I'll wait for Sundays puzzle, this sucks" he agreed and that was the end of this one. Not a Superman follower 7D was just NUTS!

Side of a diner, MASHED? Maybe, side at a diner. Don't want to eat at a mashed diner.

Evan 3:46 AM  

Good gravy. MISTER MXYZPTLK? I don't care how high IGN ranked him in the comic villain list. That's a Superman character I've never heard of -- not in comics, not on TV, not in movies, not in crosswords, not anywhere. When DC Comics was trying to think of a good super-villain name, what did they do for that guy? Hit random typewriter keys while blindfolded? Throw darts at a letter-board?

That entry alone accounted for four of my five mistakes. I had MxShEsrXYZPTLK in the end. Well, why not? Everything else in the name was a bunch of random nonsense, so how was I supposed to know the first part of the answer was an actual word? I had:

1. APOLLO X instead of APOLLO I -- never knew the Roman numeral of that spaceflight. And in any event, does NASA even use Roman numerals to commemorate these things? I thought they just used Arabic numerals.
2. kENNETh instead of SENNETT (because I've never heard of either Louise LASSER or Mack SENNETT)
3. sITE instead of RITE -- I actually had RITE at first but then changed it, thinking the clue referred to dedicating a special site to some person or people.
4. rAIN GATE instead of MAIN GATE -- dumb mistake; I really should have done an alphabet run since I had doubts on that wrong letter.

On reflection, if I hadn't screwed up with rITE and rAIN GATE, I might have seen that MISTER was part of 7-Down. But there's no way I would have gotten the SENNETT/LASSER cross. That's Natick city for me.

Frustrations aside, here are my four big pleasures from this puzzle:

1. My first answer in the grid was SEGA. A child of the 80s and 90s does not forget. Here is a video of 100 SEGA games in 10 minutes -- I can confidently report that I've played at least 45 of them.
2. The clue for LONG ARM is spectacular.
3. ALL TALK is a great entry.
4. HAD A TIT. That is all.

George Barany 4:37 AM  

1-Down put me into a good mood immediately, because Louise Lasser, a one-time Mrs. Woody Allen, played his love interest in "Bananas" -- one of the early funny ones. The film, released after she and Woody divorced, ends with Howard Cosell doing a live play-by-play of the consummation of their marriage.

Technical question: "Louise" and "Lasser" are both 6 letters, both starting with "L". What is there about a clue involving "Mary Hartman" that signals for the solver to use last name instead of first name?

Anonymous 6:36 AM  

Thank you, thank you, thank you for explaining RIMA! I don't know Italian and thought I was going insane when that ended up being the correct answer.

pauer 6:42 AM  

That was hard; I think I wore out my Check Letter button.

@George B - using the last name is the default if there's no signal to use the first name like [John's "Pulp Fiction" costar] for UMA.

Oh, and I just announced the theme/title of my latest project (a set of interconnected xwords with a final answer and prizes). It's my Las Vegas Puzzlefest: "Strip Teaser!" You can preorder here (puzzles will be ready in early Dec.):

MaryRoseG 6:44 AM  

Hard. That is all.. Made me feel not so smart. Hoping the other puzzle in the NYTimes for Sunday is a Diagramless or Acrostic.

Must get some sleep. brain is fried.

Gareth Bain 6:55 AM  

My exact experience as far as MISTERM*X*P*K/OUTFALL/REFRACT!

I get the feeling a lot of people know kepis outside of crosswords, but not the name. That tall hat De Gaulle wore? That's the one!

Tyler Clark 7:41 AM  

Ugh. Never ever heard of this comic dude and finally had to google it once I had the MXY sequence. Then I just got angry after reading the answer

Smitty 7:41 AM  

Faster time than the usual Saturday. Answers weren't in my wheelhouse but gettable enough just by sounding vaguely familiar (except for 7D, who I wouldn't have known even without the weird spelling)
As @Jae said, it felt about what a Saturday should be.

GILL I. 7:43 AM  

I wanted to just give up as well but I HAD A TIT?, Googled some and finally finished.
I knew that MISTER MX.....but like the rest couldn't spell it. It was in a past crossword and caused people to ASPERSE. I thought there was something about him spelling his name backwards that would make the world right but that didn't help.
I plunked in CHAPLAIN in 18A and wouldn't let go so that screwed me royal;y,
Yes, someone please explain MASHED and while you're at it POLS (47A)
My big ??? were SENNETT, BAUM,
and OUTFALL. Come to think of it, about 80% was one big?

gberg 7:53 AM  

This 58 year old has been doing both for over 40 years... (Closer to 50 for the comics!)

Loren Muse Smith 8:02 AM  

“Not pummel” was such a terrific clue that GO EASY ON was one of my earliest entries.

I sped like a GAZELLE in the SW (except for “retrace,” insisting on a vowel before LK) and then. Not. Much. Else.

I’m with @Evan on the LASSER/SENNETT cross, but all those double consonants in the northwest – LL, TT, SS, NN, TT– cool.


I keep looking back at SMETANA and thinking it could be Edyta’s last name on Dancing with the Stars.

Had “waded in” for HAD AT IT, wondering if we were in for an argument.

@Chefwen and @Gill I.P. - I was expecting a noun for “side of a diner?” “You know what? Scratch that. Instead of the slaw, I’ll have the MASHED.” ?

Loved CLAIROL! “Does she or doesn’t she?” Boy, you bet I do!!

This is a “finished” grid I would shamelessly leave on my desk for all to see how very smart I am, even though I admit here among friends that I TANKEd big time.

Fair enough NYT Saturday in my opinion. A good ROUT every now and then keeps me honest. Now that I’m all RILED UP, I’m going to have AT IT with the Stumper.

Thanks, Joe. You didn’t GO EASY ON us!

Z 8:20 AM  

I don't talk about Dante's terza rima every year. I'm also annoyed at @Evan and @Gill I.P. for getting to mention HAD A TIT before me, the singular joy of this puzzle.

How many brands are too many for one Saturday? Today we get CLAIROL, SEGA, and GEO. How many dead men are too many for one Saturday? Today we get ST TITUS, SENNETT, SMETANA, GIACOMO, BAUM, and Old King COLE. How many SAT vocabulary words are too many for one Saturday? Today we get REFRACT, ASPERSE, ROISTER, BIREME, and EMERITA. How many four digit RRNs are too many for one Saturday. Today we get MLII and I. Add in an obscure villian/imp from the comics and that makes 18 of the 64 answers trivial. Too many for my taste.

dk 8:21 AM  

Ha! As a one time lake association president OUTFALL was a gimme. Note to lake dwellers live elsewhere on the lake.

Same reaction as Rex. But I enjoyed it more. Read many a Superman comic as a lad. Neighbors brought us versions with the covers removed as the men that delivered their news papers (Portland Press Herald) also picked up outdated periodicals.

Had fun trying to remember the names. Glad to find out RIMA is a word as I thought it was rim a for the ending letter a - and I found that dumb. Jokes on me, back to the fifth dimension.

*** (3 Stars) greetings from Hot Springs SD

BookDeb 8:26 AM  

This felt old. Could have printed before turn of century or even in 70's-80's with very few clue adjustments.

Anonymous 8:31 AM  

Had IS AN ASS for 1A and liked it so much I failed to notice that 7D couldn't be SISTER... with the clue starting "He..." Otherwise, nothing too troublesome.

Glimmerglass 8:37 AM  

Great Saturday puzzle.Just the right amount of difficulty -- which is to say, a lot. Of course I couldn't spell MISTER MXYZPTLK -- that's the point! I was probably nine years old when he first appeared in DC Comics, which I read faithfully. I also read all the Oz books at about the same time, so BAUM/OZMA were the first things I thought of. Nice misdirection in the clues for TANKER, REFRACT, and others. The RIOT ACT survives in the phrase "read someone the riot act," which was once literally true on the street.

jackj 9:00 AM  

The kinder gentler Tim Croce is staying in the shadows for this one as his hard hearted alter ego brings us a puzzle with a cruciverbalist’s tsunami of an entry, 14 letters with only 2 vowels. (The mirror entry, thankfully, has 7 vowels and was pleasantly gettable).

Lots of clever cluing, starting at 1 across with “Extension of the law?” for LONG ARM and continuing all the way down to the bottom right quadrant where we are forced to remember that hordes advance ENMASSE and next door we must then deal with the gruesome question of “Query upon witnessing a hanging?” that turns out to be not so jarring after all when we learn it’s a normal reaction to a puzzling abstract painting, ISITART.

Frustrations included trying to make the Casanova answer into a two “L” GIGOLLO, knowing full well it was incorrect until some friendly crosses brought forth GIACOMO, (you old rascal!) and there was also some serious head-scratching as to “Make a connection” being RELITE until it dawned on me that a female with emeritus status might be EMERITA rather than EMERITI..

Dealing again with the 14 letter entries, the “good one”, beginning with IRRATIONAL, appeared easily, though its tag end of FEAR took a bit of finessing until FAKE TAN filled in.

Conversely, the Polish nightmare of a name for the comic character had me first wrongly thinking of Al Capp’s poor soul of a character, JOE BTFSPLK, he with the perpetual rain cloud over his head but, of course, he is 4 letters short of filling the bill and it took the equivalent of pulling hen’s teeth to finally pin down the dastardly MISTERMXYZPTLK and gentle the tsunami to a friendly ripple.

Thanks, Tim.

jberg 9:07 AM  

Total memory failure here - I saw that that villain could start with MISTER, but I couldn't believe that it was the first APOLLO that blew up - so I finally guessed X, and finished with an error.

The only way to make that answer good is as part of a theme with Al Capp's unpronounceable hard luck guy, Joe BTSFPLK, or whatever it is. That's only two answers, though - are there others out there?

I did like the crossing of IRRATIONAL FEAR and FAKE TAN, for some reason.

@GBERG, are we related? You're too young to be my brother (and he doesn't do either), but a long-lost cousin, maybe? Any roots in Phillips WI?

You could clue 19A as "Not staring at topless women."

Tita 9:08 AM  

Had REFlecT, changed to REFRACT eventually, but DNF. No clue about hte comics guy...the fact that, like @Evan, it started with MxS_______ was as incomprehensible as the rest of that mess going down.
Naticks abounded crossing 7D - didn't know SENNET, OZMA - finally re-directed myself to POLS...
(@Gill - as in POLiticos...think Capitol Hill.

Looking back over the grid, I was wondering where the RIO TACT flows...

A fair fight for a Saturday...Thanks Mr. C.

orangeblossomspecial 9:39 AM  

Never heard of a Zouave? Here's a photo.

Anonymous 9:39 AM  

What happened to Evil Doug?

Lindsay 9:42 AM  

Slogged through this OK, but what's the point? That I can get SMETANA and SENNETT and even MXYZPTLK from crosses? Bleh.

I'm not sure how one can navigate life without knowing OUTFALL, but as @dk suggests the river clue is euphemistic. An OUTFALL is usually construed as the opposite of non-point-source pollution.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:11 AM  

Somehow, totally in my wheelhouse, medium at most.

And only two three-letter words!

But to keep me down to earth, one silly write-over: 46 D, CARET before CARAT.

Norm 10:16 AM  

This was an abomination. Even after I managed to infer that stupid string of random letters, I was totally ticked off. Horrible. Just horrible.

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

Where is evil Doug? GBM

chefbea 10:27 AM  

Too tough for me. googled then came here. DNF

Nick 10:27 AM  

Another (tedious) trivia quiz pretending to be a crossword. Not even a tiny bit of fun.

mac 10:34 AM  

Tough! I usually have an easier time with Jim Croce puzzles!

Too many things that were unknown to me, and than some words I had a hard time accepting. Mash is Britspeak for mashed potatoes, but isn't it mashed potatoes here?

Still, a good workout, what I hope for on Saturday.

Shamik 10:39 AM  

I knew when I got MISTERMXYZPTLK that I wouldn't even care if I got any letters wrong. Just never remember that MISTER was spelled out in the comics. This was a slog and seeing the little impish villain there made my day.

Had a couple of areas where I wasn't sure: REFRACT vs RETRACT. BIREMES vs (anything)IMA. But my downfall wasn't checking my across and the last entrance was a MAINRATE which had morphed from MAINRAMP as I solved the downs in the northeast.

Delightful slog at an easy-medium 16:34.

lawprof 10:45 AM  

Years ago I had a roommate who had a friend from Latvia. This friend happened to be a chess Grand Master, and he agreed to play me "just for fun." It was like being in the ring with Ali. I surrendered after maybe six moves. That's how I felt with this puzzle.

Carola 10:51 AM  

I don't exactly have an IRRATIONAL FEAR of Tim Croce's puzzles, but I know he's never going to GO EASY ON me. I found this one extra hard - felt good to finish.

The NW almost did me in. No idea about the kryptonite supplier or LASSER. Guessed wrong with ST. peTer and acTED IN. Finally decided to erase and put in NOT NICE - that brought SENNETT up from the DEPTHS of memory and things gradually fell into place. Also found the REFRACT/OUTFALL area in the SW to be a bear.

Quite a contentious NE corner, with NITS getting picked, and folks all RILED UP and getting read the RIOT ACT after they HAD AT IT, perhaps over some ILL-MADE item.

Now off to ROISTER with some pancakes.

Ellen S 10:55 AM  

Back when I used paper, I often DNF Saturdays. ESP before Google. Have a crossword dictionary that has the genealogy of all the gods but not good for much else. Finished this one -- miraculously, even got the Superman villain on crosses -- but only by letting AcrossLite give me a razzberry for every wrong answer, and there were plenty.

I take a pitiful pleasure that I resisted the temptation to type in the alphabet runs and see which were accepted.

OZMA and BAUM were gimmes, I tried Louise instead of LASSER and when that was rejected slunk off and did other parts of the puz, but came back and filled it in finally.

The number of wrong answers that would fit makes me wonder how many puzzles I've done in the past, all proud of myself and wrong. (hah! story of my life!)

joho 11:00 AM  

The NW did me in. I got ERMXYZPTLK and vaguely remembered this to be a crazy name, but I did not know he was "MISTER." I figured it would just be more random letters.

I also couldn't remember LASSER.

Very challenging for me but I liked it because it was. You can't win 'em all, right?

Sandy K 11:15 AM  

This was a tough one for me. Put in my best guesses- never heard of MISTER whatchamacallit- expected that to be wrong.

To my surprise, that was right but MASHED was my downFALL. Had fun anyway...felt good knowing SMETANA, RIOT ACT, CLAIROL, GIACOMO, GAZELLE, IRRATIONAL FEAR, etc.

@MaryRoseG- Last Sunday had the Diagramless, which means this Sunday should be an acrostic.

Anonymous 11:29 AM  

You know, rating the difficulty of crossword is idiosyncratic, and sometimes knowing some otherwise obscure piece of knowledge can make all the difference between quick work and a long slog. But if this isn't "challenging," I'm not sure what is.

Merle 11:39 AM  

Killer Saturday puzzle. Pretty groovy construct, but ugh, yuck, really really hard. Hey, Cliff, I don't read comix, but some pretty brilliant people do. Michael Chabon, the amazing contemporary American novelist, word-drunk, deep, funny, wrote "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay", about -- what? -- you guessed it, comix! I don't know if he does crossword puzzles, but he sure could ace them. All the fussing about Apollo I or Apollo X -- why -- would Mx lead to anything? Once the M was in on the cursed comix clue, Mi would lead to something recognizable, right? To Mister, for instance. And then Mister leads to what? Oh. Mister Mx and on. So why not Mx at the beginning, hence Apollo X. Maybe. Re rima -- I don't know Italian -- but you don't need to know Italian to realize basta and pasta rhyme, and if you have a cross letter or two, rima becomes the obvious Italian cognate with rhyme. Loved loved loved emerita -- shout out to Tim Croce for the feminist-friendly professor emerita recognition. First answer I got today was Cole, all the way down in the southwest corner. Tough puzzle. Now on to discover whether or not I am a robot....

GILL I. 12:04 PM  

@Loren and @Tita: My two go to gals - grazie tanto.
@orangeblossomspecial: That Zouave looks like he's wearing a DO RAG...

syndy 12:33 PM  

I found the top half easy the SE medium and then died the death of a thousand small torments in the SW Started with REroute,I knew OZMA but choked on BAUM-flipped a coin and went with Loreale...Cole finally help me start digging upwards but MXYZPTLK? Shoot me now!It felt like Tim was flipping us the bird!

Two Ponies 12:39 PM  

Considering that the only thing I know about Superman is that all the women have the initials L.L. I can't believe I got through this.
I think you see kepis in Casablanca.
I think Giacomo is Jack in Italian, yes?
Timely entry of Hamas as we seem frighteningly close to WW III.

Carola 12:40 PM  

@Ellen S -
On "proud but wrong" - I hear you! After finding Rex's blog with the correct completed grids, I wondered the same thing. I blush at how smug I was about being such an ace with Saturday puzzles.

OISK 12:51 PM  

Only 35 minutes, which is not bad for me for a Saturday, but had two wrong squares since I never heard of Ozma, and had ASA for the volcano instead of ASO. But I don't think an answer like Mr. Mxylptlk should be in the puzzle, even on a Saturday. If one doesn't know it, then any combination of letters seems equally likely, and one needs to know all of the across clues cold, which I did not. I had "Alma" instead of Ozma, which is a lovely name for a princess, since it was my mother's name. The comic book clue ruined what was otherwise a very well constructed and cleverly clued puzzle. Phooey. ( similar objection, but not as strongly, to the MrMiyagi of a few weeks ago)

Masked and Anonymo3Us 1:26 PM  

Most of the gimmes for m&e in this puz were the ones clued with "?'s". Beginnin' to think like them. Concerns the M&A.

MISTERWTF was clearly a seed entry. Had the comic book that introduced him, when I was a kid. Never commited how to spell his name to memory. Didn't figure it would come up that much. But--No big deal, imo. I just put in the part I knew, did Wiki-research to get the rest, and moved on. Now, I suppose that if this came up in one of them there ACPT contests, there would be carnage. A lot of 31-wannabes would become instant members of the 300+ Spartans. har.

@31-very very out-standing bullet section. The Friday-off did you some good, even tho you still got a little pro-fuss-oral edge left. Wouldn't have it any other way.

Hidden puz theme dept: LST's and bowties. Ah. Feel better. "They" probably didn't think like That.

Moment of irrational fear dept:
BI?EMES/?IMA. Croce's Last Stand, for me vs. the puz. But started thinkin' like them again, and came up with RIMA. Hard puz, but have fond memories of it.

Sure wish those captcha dudes would clean off their house numbers, every so often. Gettin' kinda muddy.

Matthew G. 1:26 PM  

Totally Naticked in the NW -- never heard of either SENNETT or LASSER (or "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," for that matter, which I now see is a soap-opera "parody" that ran for little more than one season the year I was born -- really?!??). Not a chance there. Guessed an H for that square, since LASHER and HENNETT seemed as plausible as anything else.

The whole north half of the puzzle was brutal, and the only thing I got in my first pass was OPTED IN and SEGA. Eventually solved from the bottom up. Ultimately I agree with Rex that this was hard in a bad way (obscure words) rather than a fun way (e.g., tough clues). Not my cup of tea.

Anonymous 1:40 PM  

90 minutes of hell. In other words pure joy for a Saturday. Would have been easier if I hadn't been sold on PINETAR, which weightlifters use instead of FAKETAN more suitable to body builders. But what would Saturday be without a major writeover. Thanks for an awesome puzzle

Acme 1:47 PM  

@matthew G
MARYHARTMAN MARYHARTMAN might be worth finding on the was a huge cutting edge breakthru at the time and even had Billy Crystal playing an openly gay character.
Took me forever to shake loose Louise LASSER 's name and I'm a huge Woody Allen fan (or was, in those days!)
(@two ponies, as an LL she could be a Superman heroine!) but I'm shocked to hear it only ran one season...and yes that would be super hard if you're that young.

Altho most folks including me totally stumbled on the MISTERMXYZ guy, you have to assume that was the entire Genesis of the puzzle and Croce is known for trying to make these impossible and not caring if people can't solve him! (?!?!)
( I think he's said as much publicly but I can't recall where...maybe it was even on this blog.)

quilter1 2:01 PM  

Had to go away and do stuff and come back so I finished over lunch--but I finished! I agree it was hard in a bad way because I like a challenge but darn it, there was so much that was too obscure to suss out. I liked lots of the answers, once I got them. ROISTER made me chuckle, as did FAKE TAN. I kind of knew ST TITUS but waited to put him in until I had a couple of crosses. Resisted MASHED almost to the bitter end as I kept questioning the meaning of the clue.

IS IT ART was in a BEQ earlier this week.

Anonymous 2:14 PM  

Lol ( i'd never seen that b4)


2nd c = close, right?

Matthew G. 2:25 PM  


I think you're thinking of "Soap," which ran for four seasons and which I have seen.

David 2:54 PM  

Tough puzzle. Mr. Google helped several times. I had RIMe instead of RIMA and couldn't figure out what a tenker was. Rime is a good English word.

acme 3:32 PM  

you are right!!!! totally confused those two. I loved the name MARYHARTMAN MARYHARTMAN tho, long before I was a namer or a constructor! Seems natural for a theme or a trivia answer.
But whoever said this was more trivia than crossword today, I sorta agree.

Also, odd Otis Redding clip with all these white random folks behind him, one directly behind him looks bored and unhappy... and while the gogo girl next to her grooves out, she is either unenthusiastically (sp?) clapping or has her arms folded! Where is he? Who are those children?

Anonymous 4:22 PM  

Once I realized they were going for Mr. Mxyzptlk, I knew instantly how to spell it, because way back in my youth -- early 60s -- someone had written in to Metropolis Mailbag (Superman Comics version of Letters to the Editor) and asked the pronunciation. It was kindly explained that it was "mix-yez-pit-lick". My 12 year old brain had prior to that been eliding in into "Mr. Mickpick", but filed this info away. Oh, and, yes to whoever said it up earlier: the "Mister" was never spelled out in the comic.

And to answer another question from above: there may not be that many people do crosswords and read comics, but I imagine there are many who do crosswords who once read comics and haven't forgotten them.

Anonymous 5:12 PM  

Remembered about "Mister Mxyzptlk" but didn't remember the exact spelling- and was afraid I would confuse it with the similarly ridiculously spelled Joe Btfsplk, the hard-luck character with a perpetual rain cloud over his head in the late Al Capp's comic strip "Li'l Abner"; guessed on "Ozma" and got it right; INFERRED that "rima" referred to "pasta" and "basta," but it is not a feature of either, it is a feature of BOTH in RELATION to each other- terrible clue; got the rest pretty much OK with no cheating or Googling and solved the puzzle and immediately went to Rex to see what he had to say about it.

Where's Evil Doug You Ask? 5:12 PM  

Since no one else answered the question "Where is Evil Doug" I will. Some time ago Evil Doug and The Person Who Used to Sign As ACME (see Aztec Great Maingates above) had a huge spat. I don't remember exactly how but the outcome of the spat resulted in a self-imposed exile of Evil Doug. If you are more than half-heartedly interested in the reason, you will have to search through the past blog where you will find there spat documented for posterity.

Anonymous 5:15 PM  

Scanning quickly through the comments, I saw a number mentioning Mister Mxy... but no one mentioned Al Capp's Joe Btsfplk. Am I the only one to know about that?

jae 5:15 PM  

@Matthew G. It actually ran longer if you count the spin off "Fernwood Tonight" with Fred Willard and Martin Mull. That show really is worth tracking down on Netflix or ... ? It is off the wall funny.

It might help to remember that SENNETT created The Keystone Kops.

Sparky 5:37 PM  

Similar to @Carola and EllenS but DNF. Managed to fill in about half, then, alas, some of my half were wrong. REtRACe, STpeTer, EMERITi, turNlAne--sheesh. Questioned use of of and diner since lots of restaurant use side for side dish. Put in MASHED anyhow. Can't believe I got ENMASSE.

Guzzled a fair amount of Zoave back in the '70s. Oh, we thought we were so sophisticated. The Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived.

sanfranman59 6:22 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 6:17, 6:46, 0.93, 23%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:44, 8:58, 0.97, 50%, Medium
Wed 12:49, 11:49, 1.08, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 13:29, 18:47, 0.72, 7%, Easy
Fri 18:03, 24:22, 0.74, 11%, Easy
Sat 27:10, 29:03, 0.94, 36%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:43, 3:41, 1.01, 62%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 5:06, 4:41, 1.09, 77%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 7:01, 5:57, 1.18, 89%, Challenging
Thu 7:12, 9:23, 0.77, 17%, Medium
Fri 9:43, 12:10, 0.80, 18%, Easy
Sat 18:51, 16:31, 1.14, 81%, Challenging

Another day this week with the fewest online solvers in the 3-1/2 years I've been recording data. It sure seems like the new "Play for fun" option is affecting things. I think the "Top 100" Challenging rating is probably more credible than the "All solvers" Easy-Medium.

Dirigonzo 7:15 PM  

I would have finished (in only 90 minutes, too!) if only I had known MISTERnovowel guy and the princess at 42a, but I didn't, so I didn't. I'm still holding my head high, though, and I had enough Aha! moments to make the effort a satisfying experience.

Anne 7:53 PM  

I thought the idea of playing Mr. Pitiful was hysterical (in response to Mr. Mxwhatever). I'm still laughing. I don't know how Rex came up with that. And I loved Otis Retting back in the day. Also Mary Hartman. All this loving and laughing helped me get over the fact that I am not very good with Saturdays yet.

JaxInL.A. 8:36 PM  

Does anyone remember the highly amusing diagnosis for having a different solving experience than Rex, Invented by, I think, @retired_chemist?

Most of Rexworld today seems to be suffering from a case of negative arexia, which happens when he finds something medium or even easy and it leaves everyone else panting on the floor. The delightful (and less common) positive arexia happens when he struggles through a puzzle that you find a breezy stroll right up your alley.

I'm amazed to say that I was synchronously rexic today, which does not seem the general mood here, I it helped that I still read comic books at the advanced age of 53. Most of the puzzle put up a fight but yielded without too much blood.

MISTER UNPRONOUNCEABLE, however, is an irritating villain and those IGN folks have no idea what they are talking about.

Thanks to@Merle for recommending reading ANYTHING by Michael Chabon. This word-oriented crowd would love his skillful plots, deeply rewarding characters, and above all his amazing use of language. I loved his Gentleman of the Road.

I have had a policy that I should read all of the posts on this blog before writing one myself. I also hope that, if I post, I will add something to the conversation. That takes thought, though, and sometimes coding a link. With the growth and prolificity (can that be a word?) of Rexworld denizens, that can mean taking an hour a day to read, compose and post. So I ran out of time.

Thanks so very much, @Z, @Gill and @quilter1, for the lovely greetings. It's nice to stop in again. Glad most folks are doing well.

jae 8:53 PM  

@Jax -- I helps if you don't work for a living.

Jim Finder 11:35 PM  

@anonymous 4:22

I remember that "Metropolis Mailbag" entry very well. I remember it particularly because I disagreed with their proffered pronunciation: I thought it should have been Mix-iz-pit-lick, and that's still my opinion.

Shame you didn't give your name.

connie a 8:12 AM  

39D "IS IT ART?" There was an actual quote, by Randall Jarrell: "It's ugly, but is it art?"
funny, when you consider when he said this...

Notsofast 12:02 PM  

"KEPIS" were worn by regular troops on both sides. Zouaves mostly wore some sort of middle-eastern headgear. Irritating puzzle.

John V 2:44 PM  

A day late, but what the heck.

Every @Rex said re: Superman dude and the SW generally, OZMA, SEGA. Pretty tough but fair Saturday, otherwise.

dls 10:53 PM  

I think this one set a personal record for the complete and correct solve (without hints) that took me the longest, at 78 minutes. After a half-hour, fully expected to DNF, and still surprised that I didn't.

Spacecraft 1:53 PM  

Got the NW, no prob after the twin gimmes at #1. This gave me a MISTER start for the long down, but I had no idea what followed that. The SE went next, when I finally got the "crude" clue. After a time I at last "plumbed" the DEPTHS of the NE.

Ah, but the center. TA_CODE just had to be TAX, no? But then I had MISTERMX__. SO, "that can't be right." Right.

To the SW. My first thought for 36d was EMERITUS--but too long. I have never heard the term EMERITA, though I guess it's inferrable by Latin pluralization rules--but this naver came to me. I then put in TENURED, and the epic fail was sealed. DNF.

Why in the world one would write out the word MISTER and follow it with a bunch of uncommon letters is beyond me. This is the same argument I advance for the banning of entries like AANDE. It's A&E, or ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT. Take your pick. This villain, even if known to me (he wasn't), was virtually unspellable unless you had a classic comic open to the right page, or Google.

I read that Mr. Croce does not care if people can't solve his puzzles.

I believe him.

DMGrandma 2:17 PM  

Found this puzzle no fun, gave up and came here. But, here isn't where it used to be! Has Rex totally remade his posts or what? I can no longer find his posts that had not only the Syndi puzzle, but all the other things, lists of past puzzles, connections to other puzzles, etc. Fortunately this bare bones site does show comments, but otherwise it's stark and in amazingly small print that I cannot enlarge. If anyone still gets the "original" yellow page with all the goodies, could you please post the address! I'll check back later today.
Thanks, DMG

Bob Kerfuffle 3:14 PM  

@DMG - Does this help?

Dirigonzo 6:56 PM  

@DMG - This address works for me:

Waxy in Montreal 11:00 PM  

Would like to have seen Mr. MXYZPTLK cross Al Capp's Joe Btsfplk to toughen this baby up a notch or two (just kiddin'). What a slog after a very promising LONGARM/LASSER/SENNETT start. My eventual Waterloo was the SE where I had TWISTER before ROISTER as the party hearty for too long as well as PUEBLOS for BIREMES.

Think I would close the MAINENTRANCE first if NOTNICE AZTEC hordes were advancing ENMASSE. Unless, of course, they were ALLTALK and would GOEASYON me.

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