Not strictly adhering to tempo / SAT 2-16-13 / Consul composer / Year Tosca premiered / Zulu's counterpart / Orange children's character / Triple platinum Gloria Estefan album with Rhythm Is Gonna Get You / Creature whose English name genus name are same

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Constructor: Michael Ashley

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: RUBATO (53A: Not strictly adhering to tempo) —

n. pl. ru·ba·tos
Rhythmic flexibility within a phrase or measure; a relaxation of strict time.
Containing or characterized by rubato. (

• • •

Not up to yesterday's standards, but OK. Main issue here was what seemed to me like a tin ear. XTREME GAMES sounds like several things that are things, but does not itself sound like a thing (7D: They might include BMX and wakeboarding, informally). You venture an opinion much more than you hazard one; you hazard a guess much more than you do an opinion. You do HAZARD AN OPINION, but it's just ... eh (38A: Dare to put in ONE'S two cents). There are some nice answers here in there, but mostly this is a bit workmanlike and plodding. STOOD IN LINE kind of sums it up—this puzzle is about that exciting. FOZZIE BEAR is the one true bright spot (27D: Orange children's character). I also somewhat like the preponderance of multi-word answers, like GO ALL IN and IN ON IT. But now I'm noticing SENT IN and AS IN (crossing!), which makes five INs in the grid, which is now sapping what little enthusiasm I had for this thing. Bah.

I started slow on this one, with only INXS, 'NEATH, and HOP sitting solidly in the grid for what felt like ever. Tried EXCITER (yipes) and ERIE early on (4D: ___ Railroad, 1832-1960), but pulled them when I couldn't get anything going. Eventually hopped to NE corner, where a lone "S" (at the end of what would becomes ORES) gave me SENT IN, then AS IN, and from that terminal "I" and a limited number of first letter possibilities (thank you, Roman numerals!), I got MENOTTI (18A: "The Consul" composer). After much hacking about, I got to MOZILLA and thus back to FIREFOX. This is part of that "tin ear" issue I mentioned earlier. If you really want to do this corporate name thing at the top of your grid, at least put the names in the right order (MOZILLA comes first: it's "MOZILLA FIREFOX"). FIREFOX opened that NW right up, and then I tore through this grid until the SW, where I slowed right down again. Well, actually, I didn't slow down so much as botch one answer badly. Off the -UB- I wrote in SUBITO for 53A: Not strictly adhering to tempo (RUBATO). Now ... I'm not sure why I know this "word." I feel like it means "quickly" in Latin. Or something in Latin. Actually, turns out SUBITO is *also* a musical direction—meaning "suddenly or abruptly." So, right universe, wrong answer. Ended up with SMILLA (which is something), but also SAGU (which is nothing). Didn't notice until the applet rejected my grid. Remember folks: Always Check Your Crosses. Ugh. Anyhoo, fixed the errors and still finished under 10.

[Zulu's counterpart] might have frustrated me quite a lot if I hadn't had AGHAS (25D: Eastern generals) and FOZZIE to help me out. AGHAS and FOZZIE also got me the HAZARD part of HAZARD AN OPINION. Everyone knows the Gloria Estefan song "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You," but I doubt even people who bought the album remember its name ("LET IT LOOSE"). Thus, not my favorite answer. This Butterfield person is someone I'll have to add to my ASA stockpile (28D: Actor Butterfield of "Hugo"). I assume he's the kid in that movie ... yes. Oh, looks like he'll play Ender Wiggin in the upcoming adaptation of Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game." Card's having a bit of a P.R. problem at the moment. He's on the board of the National Organization for Marriage (probably the best known and most vocal opponents of gay marriage in the country). He's also slated to write an upcoming "Adventures of Superman" story, and many Superman fans (and comic book stores) are, let's say, less than happy.

For those who missed my Thursday announcement: "American Red Crosswords"—a collection of 24 original puzzles that I put together to benefit the Red Cross's Disaster Relief Fund—is available for download now from Puzzles were edited by Patrick Blindauer. Will Shortz wrote the introduction. And many, many big-time constructors donated their talents. So go donate to the Red Cross, download some puzzles, and enjoy the weekend.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:08 AM  
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jae 12:10 AM  

Liked this a lot, i.e. more than Rex.  Plenty of zip...FOZZIE BEAR, LET IT LOOSE, LITTLE BIRD, X GAMES, GOOSE, HAZARD AN, SKEETER... and just the right amount of crunch.  A little on the tough side of medium for me.  It would have been easier if I'd remembered FIRE FOX right off the bat. Instead, I had to work 8a to come up with MOZILLA. 

Erasure that I was really sure of: geNES for LANES. 

For some reason RUBATO has me thinking of Freddie Mercury.

No Naticks that I can see and, although there are a few clunkers...SSS, EXCITER..., ALL IN all fine Sat. from Mr. Ashley. 

Name withheld for obvious reasons 12:18 AM  

I am tempted to conduct a survey as to whether ADZes are kept in a shed or in a workshop by your average ADZ owner. I'm betting on workshop.

I say tempted, because the survey would be impossible, because there are no longer any people out there who actually own ADZes.

Beyond that, this puzzle reminds me of a comment made to me by my first sexual partner post coitus. Said she, "you got more clunk than junk". I wasn't very skilled.

Anonymous 12:22 AM  

Lowered my record Saturday time from 39:07 to 32:00. Wow! For me, the previous best was breakable, and I've missed a few chances with one or two incorrect letters, but 32 minutes flat will probably stand a long long time.

One gamble - on the Random Roman Numeral. I really wanted lENOTTI for the cross, but the date was impossible.

I could have gone really low. It took a couple of minutes to get in the grid, and a couple more minutes each for NW, the SW block, and going with MCM.

Unless I'm missing something, XTREME GAMES is completely contrived. "They might include . . ." Seriously? Referencing a fictional sport thing that was made up for just this crossword?


Anonymous 12:36 AM  

Is Part of a Plot/INONIT one of the worst clue/answers of all time or is it me? Really, I'd like to know, cause to me it's not only ridiculous it's pitiful.


Anonymous 12:45 AM  

Someone who's part of a plot is IN ON IT ... in the know, etc.

Anonymous 1:38 AM  

Yeah, I realized what Part of a Plot meant just now. Thanks and a big oops on my part. LOL Oh well.....

Anonymous 1:45 AM  

Yesterday, I finished the NW corner in under a minute and ended up not finishing. I didn't care for it for that reason. Today's puzzle was much more even. I didn't like XTREMEGAMES because even the X Games is EXtreme Sports. I got a bit hung up on HAZARDANOPINION, but it makes sense. The rest fell pretty smoothly.

syndy 1:53 AM  

Dear name withheld,It is none of your business where I keep my ADZ.It moves around frequently. I liked SLEDDOG and LITTLE BIRD and FOSSIE BEAR. Did not like X(TREME)GAMES FOE?? Goliath was a whole lotta things but ,what? ON A RANT?? ONE TON? FATED? a whole lotta crap going on here.

Adz Cronies Mozilla 4:12 AM  

NO ONE is gonna discuss NOONERS?
Hey! NO ONE is 5/8 of NOONERS.

That SSS is a bit suspect...3 plurals in the bottom like that seems like the whole line was added.

I liked this, what with all the Zs... But for every nice thing there was something wrong constructively, as @rex pointed out FIVE INs is not right.

Well, i'll HAZARDTHEOPINION that if @LMS likes things like HARDG, my least favorite kind of entry, she'll prob love SMALLA!
(We'll discuss at ACPT, my dear!)

Under pays- to -be- a- boy, I tried pOP and even oOP before HOP. I guess "NEATo Arizona Skies" is not even good enough for @Tita's Hall of Fame.

Undertone of poker with TELL, GOALLIN .

I will now sit back and let the New Yorkers insist it's STOODoNLINE.

Acme 4:18 AM  

Ps also had the same thought as @rex that it would've been more elegant as MOZILLA FIREFOX since they are both 7.

Goose Gossage 4:31 AM  

A Saturday puzzle appearance
By GOOSE will have its adherents.
The best PART OF the PLOT
Is that there's no MEL OTT
But ED wouldn't give ADZ his clearance!

loren muse smith 7:19 AM  

Usually Fridays and Saturdays remind me that I’m not an XTREME solver yet, and today’s was no exception. This was hard for me – so much that was out of my wheelhouse: INXS, FIREFOX, MOZILLA, NEATH, RUBATO, ASA, SENTA. . .


I agree with @Rex – liked all the multi-word answers. (And I appreciated your deft pointing out “dare to put ONE’S two cents in.”) ONES, zONES, noONErs, ONE ton, iphONES.

Anyone notice all the critters? BOA, FOX, BEAR, DOG, APE, GOOSE, BIRD, and SKEETER.

@jae – eERIE how we’re so alike. I always have the same erasures as you, and always struggle with the crosses you predict will be troublesome. I, too, had “gene” and felt so smart, smug, and satisfied that I got it.

@Andrea – you sure have my number! SMALL A was, sadly, a bit of a thrill for me. I’m so &^%& literal and am powerless to move beyond that. I'm really looking forward to meeting you in person next month!

APELIKE looks funny over GO ALL IN, which in periphery vision looks like “gorilla.” I read *way* too much into these things. ERG! Jeesh! AGHAS!

The clues for SLED DOG and FATED were really, really good. I also appreciated NEATH right under DOME.

I’m, of course, with @jae –I liked this a lot more than Rex. Michael – I won’t give you a SMALL A – this ONE deserves a big A, if I am to HAZARD AN OPINION.

webwinger 7:27 AM  

Not much to say about this one, which I found moderately difficult for a Saturday (finished in a bit under an hour—maximum time I’m willing to devote to a non-Sunday grid) and moderately enjoyable to solve. Was pleased to see GERE clued with a reference to “Days of Heaven”, one of the most beautiful movies ever released—if you haven’t seen it, you must, but only the Bluray version from Criterion does it justice in home video. As with a majority of late-week puzzles, I would not have been able to finish without some googling, so thought I’d use this opportunity to meditate a bit on that part of the experience.

Based on comments I’ve read here over the year or so I’ve been visiting planet Rex, it seems that almost everyone (maybe even @Rex?) turns to Google (still capitalize when using the noun) for help at times, yet almost everyone feels at least a little guilty about it. (Kind of like masturbation?) I’m going to say flat out that we (one?) should not (feel guilty, that is). The greatest joy of crosswording for me (and I suspect for most of you) comes from getting the cleverly clued answers that are familiar items (like REALNAMES and SLEDDOG today)—which typically can’t be googled anyhow. A secondary pleasure is dredging from memory more obscure terms or names (SENTA Berger today was one of those for me). But often it’s obvious from the clue (today, for example, with LETITLOOSE) that (1) I will not find this one in my memory bank, and (2) I will find it quickly and easily using Google, sometimes just from the search page listing. If I google, I will be able to proceed with the puzzle, get to experience more of the fun stuff, and probably finish in the time I can justify devoting to a somewhat frivolous pursuit (sorry to say, but that’s true for the majority of us who are not constructors or serious competitors…) I also find Google indispensable for confirming spelling or meaning of an answer I’ve filled in from crosses but am not sure about (RUBATO today), so I don’t waste time struggling against a situation made hopeless by simple error. I do, though, draw the line at checking crossword sites—I’ll come here with hat in hand before before resorting to that. There, now I feel better.

Glimmerglass 8:11 AM  

@webwinger. Less is more. I use FIREFOX almost every day, and yet I looked at xxxxxOX for what seemed like hours. Never knew RUBATO (the mechanical Mr. Rubato?), and SMALL A took a long time to emerge from the fog (I was looking for a fancy term for the circle). I think I'm not on my game this morning, but I muddled through.

Robso 8:28 AM  

Dear Gloria Estafan: Consider naming your next album "Latina Rose."
Sincerely Yours,
Mr. Saturday DNF

chefbea 8:32 AM  

Too tough for me, as was yesterday.

I make pasta Bolognese often and it does not come out of a Ragu jar.

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

I thought the cluing was generally awkward on this one. People talk about "generations" of iPhones. not "series". I am onviously on a different wavelength than tha constructor, meh and happy shredding to the paper I printed it on.

Elle54 8:52 AM  

Joy! I think I M finally getting over my FRIDAY/ SATURDAY avoidance syndrome. After 2 1/2 hours, the pieces all came together like a jigsaw puzzle.... You keep trying pieces until they finally all fit.
As for googling, it is fun for me to see if I can deduce answers as letters fall in, rather than look them up.
At this point I don't care about time, I just want to see if I can " get it."
Today I got it. Fun!

Tita 9:11 AM  
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Joe The Juggler 9:12 AM  

A lot I didn't like about this one too. Most of my complaints have already been hazarded , so I'll limit mine to this minor one:

I presume SKEETER is a slang variant of MOSQUITO, but shouldn't the clue indicate that it's not the real word somehow?

Tita 9:13 AM  

CEREBRAL twice in a row? Referring to me, not the grid...I finished Friday and Saturday?? W/o google?
Was sure Rex would rate this easy.

It was easy to infer the RRN, as no other 3 letter year could possibly work.

Liked the sparkly words @jae liked - add SLEDDOG to chase the FIREFOX. And who doesn't GOALLIN for NOONERS?

XgamessportS fits 7D, btw.

@acme - I almost left in NEATp Arizona Skies, but the H finally pOPped to mind... I prefer your version on both answers...and sure - it's Hall-worthy - will update later...

@webwinger - thanks for the insight into your puzzle mind...
For some of us (me, anyway), it ain't guilt - it's simply pride. And an indicator of level-of-difficulty/wheelhouse proximity. A finish without google is illuminating. Googling things is illuminating too, as a chance to learn things- sometimes ARCANa that I don't care about, sometimes cool trivia, sometimes actually important stuff.

@acme, @lms - I am stil on the fence about ACPT. Have a great rate booked at the Marriott, but still unwilling to commit! (Talk about frivolities...)

Oh - full disclosure, had one unwittingly wrong square both yesterday and today... Yesterday, the same as everyone, today, finished with AnA/GOOnE. Today's much less forgivable.

Still happy with my almost finish and the puzzle. Thanks Mr. Ashley.

jackj 9:26 AM  

XWordInfo tells us that having given us 5 NY Times puzzles previously, (all Sundays), Michael Ashley gives us his first puzzle in 3 ½ years; his first Saturday.

Further, it was particularly noteworthy to learn that fifteen of the answers in this puzzle are “unique” words, that is making their NY Times debut. Not surprisingly FOZZIEBEAR and MOZILLA are first-timers but among the others it is interesting that such as IPHONES, NOONERS and LITTLEBIRD are new to crosswordland. (Oops, a closer look reveals that IPHONES and NOONERS are “new” only because they are plurals of words used multiple times previously in a singular fashion).

The puzzle contained some wonderful, imaginative entries, the likes of CRONIES, STOODINLINE (New Yorkers will no doubt be grumbling that it should be ON LINE), SKEETER, GLOOM and HAZARDANOPINION, (that was going to be a gimme at first crack as HAZARDEDAGUESS but being one letter shy it then became a demi-gimme with the right answer).

Other favorites included two entries spawned by the popularity of televised Texas hold-‘em poker games, GOALLIN and TELL; the “Mouth filler” clue that gave us SILT; the inclusion of INONIT that looks for all the world like someone three sheets to the wind slurred their pronunciation of INUIT and finally, what seems to be this weekend’s obligatory titillator, GOOSE.

Much as I enjoyed the puzzle, except for MOZILLA, FIREFOX (for far too long wanted “parking lot” and PAVED rather than FATED) and RUBATO, this was a pretty easy solve and the spate of “unique” words don’t necessarily make for head bangers, so truth be told, this was a rather gentle end to the week.

Drawing an analogy from the sportsman’s world of striped bass fishing, say, this might not be one for the record books but it surely would be considered a “keeper”.

Thanks to Michael Ashley; may he keep them coming.

Carola 9:31 AM  

Slow but steady won the race. First in: MENOTTI, thanks to having seen "The Consul.* Last in: the second N in INONIT - the clue totally faked me out (was looking for a noun that is part of a plot in a book or of land), as did "Like a lot?" - the T in FATED was my second-to-last letter. So those were my favorite clues.

Was definitely helped by previous solves. The recent SCARER and SCOOPERS made me believe EXCITER would be right. Also helped by the recent appearances of AGHAS and TELL, while an earlier puzzle's CODE NAME made writing in REAL NAMES easy.

@Tita - So does XgamesfinalS. I really liked the cross of SEMIS with finalS!

@chefbea - ragu means °meat sauce° in Italian.

Sir Hillary 9:43 AM  

Stupid Sir Hillary foul-up du jour was 58D. First Terri GARR, then Will GEER before (finally!) Richard GERE. My apologies to Terence Malick.

Nice trivia at 36D.

Seemed like too many answers ended in prepositions.

Loved INONIT though. Stared at that one for a looooooong time.

Overall, not really an EXCITER for me, but that's fine -- not all Saturday's need be XTREMEGAMES.

chefbea 9:46 AM  

@Carola of course i know that!!!! Just meant my comment to be funny!!!

My captcha...cakely!!

wordie 9:49 AM  

Please explain how FATED is the answer to "Like a lot?". TIA

Tita 10:07 AM  

@wordie - think if one's lot in life...

@Rex - just donated and downloaded - I also added a link to the Donate page on my bolg.

Also updated the Epic Wrong Answer Hall of Fame with Acme's latest.

Tita 10:08 AM  

...think *of* one's lot in life...

Carola 10:14 AM  

@chefbea - Sorry! The combination of having a totally literal mind and being an ex-teacher gets me into more trouble than you'd imagine!

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

Second the request of wordie-- still don't see how FATED is "Like a lot." At this point I'm assuming an editing error. (Sorry Will!)

This puzzle is the answer to "thing disliked a lot."

@Joe the juggler-- agreed! I've never heard of a Skeeter Screen, so the clue should indicate slang.

There's no such thing as Xtreme Games. There are the X Games, and there are Extreme Sports. There are no Xtreme Games, not even informally. (And why, exactly, would "Xtreme Games" be an informal version of the much more common "X Games?")

Speaking of sports, a "wideout in football" is not an END. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the ends are on the end of the offensive line in the middle of the field. Then the wideouts are... wide out to the side.

Id love any Oklahomans to comment as to whether an OKIE is a "Sooner alternative" or just a "Sooner." I was thinking things like HUSKER or AGGIE for that clue.

Too many flat out inaccuracies in the cluing for me. Not even INONIT saved it-- which to be fair, was a clue I loved.

Yes I Am an Enhanced Robot You Can't Catch Me 10:20 AM  

Wordie, lot in "like a lot" is the lot one casts -- it is fate, or destiny. Casting lots. Anyone who dares try to pun on this, casting lines, don't bother.

ChefBea, a ragu is a sauce, and the brand name riffs on sauce.
Not a fun puzzle. I am not even going to Google Fozzie Bear to find out who the bear is. Children's book? Cartoon? If it ain't Winnie the Pooh or even a Berenstain bear, never mind.

Hazard an opinion is not the usual locution, but if anyone figured out the answer, it's okay.

Firefox and Mozilla had me stumped. Great clues and answers. Should have been an obvious "Well sure, of course", but it wasn't. And now we'll all be ready for these words in a puzzle again.

Liked sled dogs, unrated, rubato, iPhones, Dems, for the clues and answers. Didn't like the Goliath-foe pair. Too generic.

Anyway, not enjoyable, but interesting nonetheless. Whatever's in the wheelhouse is what makes a puzzle enjoyable. So, rubato is in my wheelhouse, but INXS and Gloria Estefan aren't. Well, at least I heard of Gloria Estefan, even if I don't know the names of her songs or albums and probably never heard her music. And I learned that boa is both a genus name and an English name for something I hope I don't accidentally run into! But if I do, at least I know something esoteric about it!

And, dear anonymous, anyone who criticizes your amorous debut performance is just plain mean!
I hope you persevered with someone much more appreciative!

Cruxlogger 10:22 AM  

Sequential as well as symmetrical?

joho 10:34 AM  

I never did come up with HAZARD because I did not know FOZZIE ... it seems I've missed something in my childhood. Got all the rest, though, and enjoyed it. I surprised myself with FIREFOX and MOZILLA.

SKEETER tickled me.

Fine Saturday if I may HAZARDANOPINION.

Rob C 10:34 AM  

ok Saturday puzzle. About average all around for me.

SCARER, SCOOPER, EXCITER - lots of gratuitous -ER words this week.

Couldn't help but wonder about 51A (SENTA) and 28D (ASA) clued as obscure (to me anyway) names. I wonder if they were originally submitted as partials. I'd rather see an "in the language" partial than an obscure name, but I guess the names help crank up the difficulty level.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:35 AM  

Felt challenging, but at 42 minutes, an average Saturday for me.

And ACME called it: My one write-over was in 23 D: ONLINE before INLINE.

Sandy K 10:40 AM  

Well, I am XTREMELY OKIE-dokey with this one! I finally finished after getting naticked earlier in the week!


Favorite clue: Bush whackers?!

jberg 10:45 AM  

I think I've seen "The Consul" performed, but had no memory of it other than the name, and certainly had no memory of its composer - nor of the precise date of "Tosca." So I took went ALL IN with X in that operatic crossing, giving me Xenakis. Fortunately, a LITTLE BIRD told me that I was wrong, and I eventually saw it - as I saw that the SLEDDer was really a DOG, and that AhgAS were really AGHAS.

Unfortunately, however, I didn't think to move that X over to the West, where it was needed to give me EXCITER rather than EntIcER - so I ended up with a bunch of errors at those wrong crosses, and missed SKEETER without noticing it.

Which brings us to NOONER. A nice idea, and I guess you do sort of make an appointment - but would you call it that? A date, maybe, but not an appointment. Or does NOONER mean something more generic in NYC?

orangeblossomspecial 11:08 AM  

Bob Marley had the ultimate 12D: 'Three LITTLE BIRDs'.

Merle Haggard did 54D 'OKIE from Muskogee'.

joho 11:26 AM  

Oh, jeez, THAT FOZZIE. I didn't even notice that @Rex put a great big picture of the orange bear right there in front of me! More coffee, please!

My foggy mind was thinking of a childrens' book series written by Orange which I had never heard of. Of course, I know Sesame Street's characters!

Nick 11:33 AM  

When pop culture references include Gloria Estefan and some bad movie from 1978, no matter how OK the rest of the puzzle may be, it's just depressing.

Stephen 12:40 PM  
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treedweller 12:40 PM  

Shit. Just found out I'm color blind. Always thought FOZZIE looked brown. Still do, looking at the pic Rex posted. I thought maybe a Care Bear was named Lizzie or something.

Gill I. P. 12:46 PM  

Lets see....GLOOM, FATED, GO MAD, GO ALL IN, ON A RANT, LET IT LOOSE...hmmm I wonder where this is going? FOZZIE BEAR - my first entry!!! says a lot about me.
I *have* Gloria E's album and couldn't get LET IT LOOSE..(sigh).
My one BIG nit: I've seen Every. Single. John Wayne movie including the one here and it's NEATH THE Arizona Skies. How come "The" took a powder? Aaack, John is turning in his grave..
@Name Withheld. LOL but I'm still trying to figure out if maybe that was a compliment?
Hard work out and enjoyed same words as other mentioned here. EXCITER and SKEETER my favorites.
Thanks for the work-out Michael.

Stephen 12:54 PM  

Distressed to see the clue "__ Arizona Skies", because the __ always refers to the missing word. In this case, what is missing is "NEATH the".
Is this an editor's booboo? or someone expanding the license of cluers? I prefer the former.

Becka 1:10 PM  

@Stephen good catch! I'm confused though - I google 'neath Arizona skies, and all the text results are "'neath the Arizona skies," but all the movie art is "'neath Arizona skies." Very odd.

Anyway, I'm gonna have to call this one an Easy, 'cause my husband and I finished it, on the first try, in under 22 minutes. That's a first.

Anoa Bob 1:45 PM  

I always think of a gratuitous plural in xwords, where the pluralization adds nothing of substance and exists only to boost the letter count so the word/phrase will fit in the grid, as falling into three categories.

The first, and the least objectionable, is where a pluralization applies only to one entry and the "s" at the end is the start of or is in the middle of another word. Falling in this category today are CRONIES, DOMES, SEMIS, DEMS, AGHAS, REAL NAMES, ORES, AND ZONES.

A second, and more egregious methinks, is where two words intersect at the last letter and it's an "s". This is the equivalent of a cheater square. You could just as well make that square black w/o the puzzle losing anything meaningful. Today we get LANES & ODES.

A third category, and one that I'll HAZARD AN OPINION is a major infraction, is when the letter-boosting pluralization involves a theme entry or two. Themeless here, so nothing to see.

A fourth category makes its appearance today. It's gratuitous pluralization on steroids. It's so conspicuous that even those who normally overlook the first three categories notice it and call it out, as Andrea did in her post. It's where an entire line, 62 Down here, consists of plurals. Maybe this flies in the local paper's 13X13 daily syndicated, but in the NYT? I think that's reason to tear down that entire corner and redo.

That's it from the word-nerd, dictionary egghead, grammar nazi corner for today.

Susan McConnell 2:30 PM  

Liked it...some fun answers in there today. About average in terms of Saturday difficulty for me. Waka waka!!!

Susan McConnell 2:32 PM  

Oh yeah...I've started working my way through the Red Crosswords book. Thanks so much to Rex and the contributors. It was a great idea and I'm glad you saw it through.

acme 2:33 PM  

@Enhanced robot....
THank you for the FATED explanation...I didn't get that at all and forgot to ask earlier.

May I also point out that we had a sort of name bleedover from ASTLEY and today the constructor's name is ASHLEY!

(still looking for stuff to make up for the other stuff!) ;)

Evan 2:34 PM  

I actually broke my Saturday record today -- 15:49! My Saturday solving times are way too erratic to put me in the top solvers category most of the time, so I hope y'all will forgive my momentary boast, chest-beating with fists and all. Maybe this was just in my wheelhouse.

It certainly helped when my first answer in the grid, no crosses, was XTREME GAMES. Didn't think that was problematic at all, although now that I've seen others' comments, I understand the objection -- it looks like it's really called X-GAMES or EXTREME SPORTS, so I wonder where that one came from.

In retrospect, there are some other problems -- Rex mentioned the five INs. Well, there are also two GOs (GO ALL IN and GO MAD), four ONs (ON A RANT, LOADED UP ON, STEP ON, IN ON IT), two ITs (IN ON IT and LET IT LOOSE), and two ONES (ONE TON and ONE'S). Repetitions galore. Plus, I think the NYT missed an opportunity for some colorful clues on SKEETER -- could have been the "Muppet Babies" female equivalent to Scooter (and a good complement to FOZZIE BEAR), or the sensationalist reporter in the "Harry Potter" universe, Rita SKEETER. I can't say I've ever heard anyone refer to mosquitoes as SKEETERs, though. And while I don't agree with all of @Anoa Bob's points about plurals acting like cheater squares, I will agree that SSS is never a great entry.

Still, I enjoyed working this one out. The good entries have been covered pretty well by others here. I hope my opinion isn't biased simply because I had a personal speed record.

One other point: CRONIES/MCM conceivably could have been re-written as IRONIES/MIM. The latter would refer to Mad Madam MIM, the witch in "The Sword In The Stone." I wonder why MIM hasn't become a three-letter staple in crosswords? Maybe I just think it should be since it's one of my favorite movies.

Evan 2:41 PM  

Possible correction, Rex -- there may actually be six INs, depending on whether you count INXS, since it's pronounced "in excess."

nanpilla 3:15 PM  

@loren muse smith - so glad to hear you will be at the ACPT. I always enjoy your comments, and look forward to meeting you.

Had GOape for GOMAD, and then put in primate,figuring it couldn't be APELIKE. the rest of the fill eventually ironed it out.

Joseph B 4:07 PM  

I rarely disagree with Rex, but I loved this puzzle.

Relatively little crosswordese (ASA, ADZ, SSS, AGHA), obscurities (DONA, SENTA), or no-one-says-this fill (EXCITER).

Plus, a keener attention to misdirection and ambiguities than the lackluster cluing of this week. Highlights for me: "Like a lot?" "Part of a plot," "Sooner alternative," "Clipped," "Giveaway," "Shadows."

I love multi-word answers, and this had some long ones that were not contrived phrases. (LITTLEBIRD, LOADEDUPON, STOODINLINE, REALNAMES.)

Nits: I wouldn't call Fozzie Bear orange, really. He's more of a brown. Now Animal and Ernie - they're orange. Also, seems like their should have been a slang indication in the clue for SKEETER.

I agree with Medium difficulty, as this took me an hour, which is two levels below DNF for me. (10 minutes! Screw you, Rex!)

bigsteve46 4:15 PM  

Can someone please explain: "Zulu's counterpart = alfa? Many thanks.

Sparky 4:18 PM  

Well, managed about two thirds today, which is fine. I got MCM and MENOTTI without any trouble, natch. Good point re SKEETER. Had SEMIS before the downs so no New Yorkese problem. The NE almost a complete blank.

Jason Keller on Jeopardy! won $25 at ACPT last year. @treedweller. I think of FOZZIE as brown, too. Sort of that Steiff toy shade.

And now for something completely different: I, too, am hesitating before comitting to ACPT. Couple of weeks ago someone was looking to share. Any takers? I wouldn't mind sharing with another woman as that train ride at night to Manhattan a bit tough. Plus I could hang out longer and play banangrams. I am trying to toggle together air miles and $ to get my plane tix. Let me hear if anyone interested.

I'll get to the Red Cross puzzles when in NYC and I have a printer. I hope they stay up for a while. Please, Rex.

Stephen 4:44 PM  

I believe the ALFA comes from the NATO spelling alphabet. The last letter is pronounced "ZULU", and the first is "ALFA". Why it's misspelled, I don't know.

Joseph B 5:46 PM  

@Stephen:It's Alfa and not Alpha because this alphabet needed to be used internationally, i.e., among allied forces. This from Wikipedia, which on the whole is a great read:

"In the official version of the alphabet, the non-English spellings Alfa and Juliett are used. Alfa is spelled with an f as it is in most European languages because the English and French spelling alpha would not be pronounced properly by native speakers of some other languages – who may not know that ph should be pronounced as f. Juliett is spelled with a tt for French speakers, because they may otherwise treat a single final t as silent."

AZPETE 5:52 PM  

Neath the AZ Skies ... Damn it!

Anonymous 6:05 PM  

Little Bear in the Minarik/Sendak I Can Read series is also lightly tinted orange.

JohnV 6:18 PM  

Greetings from San Miguel de Allende.

First solve on the NYTimes iPad app whichnI rather liked.

I like any Saturday I finish, interspersed with walks around this ancient, hilly town. I liked the puzzle just fine. Wanted TEXTBOX for FIREFOX for the longest time but got the thumbs up at the end.

@Rex That dude CAN write!

sanfranman59 6:38 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. 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 6:43, 6:08, 1.10, 86%, Challenging
Tue 7:07, 8:28, 0.84, 8%, Easy
Wed 13:03, 11:52, 1.10, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 15:15, 17:02, 0.90, 27%, Easy-Medium
Fri 22:21, 21:27, 1.04, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 25:03, 24:55, 1.01, 61%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:59, 3:40, 1.09, 84%, Challenging
Tue 4:25, 4:54, 0.90, 13%, Easy
Wed 7:27, 6:34, 1.13, 83%, Challenging
Thu 8:05, 9:43, 0.83, 17%, Easy
Fri 13:25, 12:23, 1.08, 64%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 15:57, 14:39, 1.09, 74%, Medium-Challenging

Dirigonzo 7:54 PM  

PP and I ahd this done in under 2 hours so I was expecting a "too easy for a Saturday" rating. Unfortunately we finished with OWS because, despite what @Tita said, MCv works just fine as an RRN - it's wrong and it doesn't make any sense but we didn't let that stop us from sticking with it.

NOONERS are about all I can stay awake for these days.

mac 8:03 PM  

Back from Aruba and waiting for Chinese food in NY!

I liked the puzzle, which I didn't do until around 7 pm. It was easy-medium for a Saturday for me. Exciter and sss were the dogs, but there were plenty of nice answers here. Learned rubato and Fozzie Bear, I had no idea....

Good Saturday, and happy to be back in the cold.

Ellen S 8:54 PM  

I loved the cluing for SLEDDOG, IPHONES (but the stuff crossing those two, horrid, horrid); GOOSE and DEMS. Shocked, simply shocked, at NOONERS. @ACME, @Tita: I don't think one should discuss one's NOONERS. A lady never TELLs.

I don't understand how "Like a lot" is FATED. Sounds like a stalker's reasoning. Oh... is it like "casting lots"? (Ah, I see @Tita, like one's "lot" in life.) Oh, okay, then thank you for the nice puzzle, Mr. Ashley. Much better than if you're a stalker.

I thought it was impossibly difficult until I didn't. When I started, the only thing I could put in was SENTA Berger, and I think that was it for about an hour, except for some incorrect Os I think I accidentally put in. Not even attached to any words. After I removed them (thanks to the "check" function; I figured if I had Os that should have been something else, those were probably the culprit) I began the maddening journey to finally put, as my last answer, 60D END. Minimum of googling -- only to check whether RUBATO was a real word. From somewhere INXS came to me; believe me I have no idea what they are. And no, @Rex, not "everybody" knows that Gloria Estefan song, but somehow I got the album name. (@Elle54, at 2 1/2 hours, you beat me!)

Last thing: According to IMDb there are two movies! 'NEATH Arizona Skies, 1934, and 'NEATH the Arizona Skies, 1962. Both starring John Wayne.

Last last: @Dirigonzo, MCV for the premiere of Tosca would be 1105. Even if you don't know anything about Verdi, you probably suspect he wasn't composing a thousand years ago.

Dirigonzo 10:22 PM  

@Ellen S - As you surmised, I don't know anything about Verdi but you made my point perfectly - MCV is a perfectly good RRN, it's just wrong. "Tosca" could have premiered in 1105 as easily as 1900for all I know, and the composer of "The Consul" was no help at all. But the fault lies in my ignorance, not the puzzle - thanks for pointing that out.

OISK 12:42 AM  

At this hour no one will notice, but next Sunday is Purim, which is Hebrew for "Lots." The Lots in this context refer to a deadly lottery.

I enjoyed this Saturday's puzzle, except for INXS, which could have been any combination of four letters as far as I am concerned.

SharonNYC 1:21 AM  

Before reading these comments, had no idea that standing ON line was a NY thing. Indeed, "stood on line" was one of my first fills, amended only when I got to "semis." Had the M and A of Mozilla and just the X of xtreme games.Although it was clearly web related, it was once I got the Ox that I solved them. As clues go, it was fine--though I'm a little allergic to company or product names in crosswords (I try to avoid visible labels on clothes, too). By the way, agree that X Games is the right terminology, but got it immediately anyway. Rubato stumped me. Grr.

Overall, this needed enough thought to make it interesting. And, while I did definitely notice the many "ins" and the many plurals, and some of the clunkers, still found it enjoyable.

SharonNYC 1:26 AM  

Before reading these comments, had no idea that standing ON line was a NY thing. Indeed, "stood on line" was one of my first fills, amended only when I got to "semis." Had the M and A of Mozilla and just the X of xtreme games.Although it was clearly web related, it was once I got the Ox that I solved them. As clues go, it was fine--though I'm a little allergic to company or product names in crosswords (I try to avoid visible labels on clothes, too). By the way, agree that X Games is the right terminology, but got it immediately anyway. My one problem: didn't know what Okie and Sooner had to do with each other, so while I technically got Rubato through crosses, I had no idea if was correct.

Overall, this needed enough thought to make it interesting and enjoyable. And, while I did definitely notice the overuse of "in" and plurals (was wondering if the former was a theme), and some of the clunkers, there were enough good clues/answers to make up for them.

Bhunesh Kumar 7:09 AM  

i made very excited in this blog i like it so much i read it in my free time when i was getting bore but this as read this i feel entertainment by my self Mobile

Casey 5:33 PM  

Oh so many wheelhouses.

Geordiegirl 8:57 PM  

@ adz cronies mozilla - As a longtime New Yorker. I did nearly what you expected for 23D. I left the square blank for on/in line!

Acme 2:08 AM  

Hey there, Geordie Girl, yes, I thinkii learned the in/on thing from this blog myself! I grew up in Minnesota, but both parents were New Yorkers, so I never know which verbal ticis from where!

Anonymous 7:38 AM  

The clue for 29A said "________ Arizona Skies" looking for 'NEATH but the movie title is actually "'Neath the Arizona Skies."

jim-bob 4:16 PM  

@7:38 Anon - See the comment above from Ellen S. John Wayne starred in two movies with very similar titles, but only one of them was released in 1934.

DMGrandma 1:53 PM  

Too many unknowns for me! First pass through resulted in a bunch of s's scattered around with SENTA hanging off one of them. Finally got a toehold and did everything south of 19A, but just couldn't hack the top. FIREFOX MOZILLA or MOZILLA FIREFOX means nothing to me, though I have heard the words. Add to that some band, a variation on a sports name, and the horrible, not cracked by me, SKEETERS and you have a 2/3 solve that I am happy to accept. Think I need a cup of tea.

Solving in Seattle 3:21 PM  

There was something just a bit off with this puzzle for me. The first to fall was the NE and, ironically, the last to fall was the NW, given that I was staring at MOZILLA. I already had ----MEGAMES for 7D. Finally, FIREFOX came to the front, then XTREMEGAMES, and then the rest fell.

Maybe it was the iffy cluing of "What a screen may block." Also, didn't Tosca premiere in 1899?

@Strayling, let me add to @Dirigonzo's (our syndie "Chairman") welcome, especially to a fellow Seattleite. Go Hawks!

Anonymous 4:38 PM  


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