Violin virtuoso Leopold / SAT 2-23-13 / Board game found in Egyptian tombs / Yeomen of Guard officer / Dublin-born singer with 1990 #1 hit / Mil branch disbanded in 1978 / Roots family surname / Cerebral canals

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Constructor: Todd Gross

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: balls — actually, none (there are symmetrical numbered balls clues, but that's not a theme ... unless the whole puzzle is ball-shaped, and thus ... who knows/cares?

Word of the Day: EXON (35A: Yeomen of the Guard officer) —
A sequence of DNA that codes information for protein synthesis that is transcribed to messenger RNA.

[ex(pressed) + -ON1.]

Read more:
[Actually, probably this ...]

An exon is one of the officers rank in the Yeomen of the Guard.
The first mention of Exon is in the ceremony of All Nights, which is fully described in the chapter relating to Charles II. They were added to the staff of officers in 1668 just about the time when Marsham’s account of All Night was written. The derivation and meaning of the word Exon has been and is a puzzle to many, but it is undoubtedly the French pronunciation of the word exempt. An exempt was an officer in the old French Garde Du Corps. “Exempts des Guedes du Corps” are described in a military dictionary as “Exons belonging to the Body Guards,” There was in France an officer of police called “Un Exempt (exon) de Police.” When Charles II formed his Horse Guards he created a commissioned officer who was styled indiscriminately the exempt or the Exon, and in each of the two troops this officer ranked with the Captain. There is further confusion connected with the title of Exon, for in his commission he is styled corporal. But it appears that in Elizabeth’s reign “corporal” was a commissioned officer, and the term was synonymous with Captain. Down to the time of the Coronation of George III, which took place on 22 September 1761, corporal was only another word for Exon, as may be seen on referring to the official programme of the Coronation, wherein mention is made of “the Corporals or Exons of the Yeomen of the Guard.” The exempt in the French Garde du corps always had charge of the Night Watch, and the Exon is the English Body Guard was especially appointed for that service. Curiously enough the word Exempt is also used in the orders of the Yeomen of the Guard with its English meaning. (wikipedia)

• • •

This is why only the best of the best should go to such a low word count. Why oh why would you make a *mostly* good themeless when the parts that are *not* good are *so* not good. You're close! Work on it 'til it's right. EXON is terrible, but I'll give you that. And I'll give you EDAS, I guess, though that's pushing it (7D: Writer LeShan and others). IEST ... ugh, OK, we're reaching my limit, but still—the long answers around the whole circle really are nice, so ... fine. Now all you have to do is finish up in the center and bam, done. So go ahead. Do it. Always Be Closing! But this—what is this? CER? (28D: Battle of ___ (first Allied victory of W.W. I)) Uh, OK, we're limping toward the finish line now, but it's in sight, it's in sight, IT'S NOT FAR. It's ... uh ... oh come on. Really? This is the whimper with which this world ends? SE-ET / A-ILINE? (Board game found in Egyptian tombs + Chemical used in dyes). I realize now, in retrospect, that if ANIL is a dye (the crosswordesiest of dyes, but a dye nonetheless), then ANILINE perhaps should be inferrable. To some. But I guarantee you that that one square is going to derail scads of folks today. And not in a "oh, too clever for me, wish I coulda figured it out" kind of way. No, in a "what? [run the alphabet] ugh, I give up" kind of way. That. Crossing. Is. Objectively. Terrible. This puzzle should've been accepted conditionally—the condition being "fix that damned center." Long answers, good. Short answers, and esp. middle, unacceptable. As a constructor-friend said just now: "The longer entries are nice but can't make up for the short fill. This puzzle is like eating a pint of Ben & Jerry's and then getting tased."

    But for that one square, the puzzle wasn't that hard for me. Many of those longer answers were gimmes or near-gimmes. I put in METROSEXUAL (12D: GQ sort of guy) off the "M." SINEAD O'CONNOR (10D: Dublin-born singer with a 1990 #1 hit) off the "SI-." STAPLES CENTER with just a smattering of letters in place. Once I got the top set up, the rest of the big circle seemed to fall like a series of dominoes—inexorably. But the creamy center, the dreaded creamy center, accessible by only two roads—the dominoes did not have any effect there. I actually knew both words leading into that center, but I still struggled somewhat. And then I was staring at just SE-ET / A-ILINE. The end. I guessed "M"—wrong! I guess "N." Right. The end.

    Thought 1A: Dragging vehicles were DOG SLEDS or some kind of SLEDS. Wrong kind of drag (ROADSTERS). I did not know SAMUEL ADAMS was 10A: Massachusetts governor after John Hancock, but he wasn't too hard to piece together. I had OMNIA for OMNES at first, but ITERA looked wrong as the plural [Cerebral canals]. And it was (ITERS). So I fixed OMNIA. Young adult series about vampires somehow fall outside the entire reading Venn diagram of my household, which is surprising, as young adult stuff gets consumed by the bucketload here (not by me, but by wife and daughter). Sorry, TOD (26A: "The Chronicles of Vladimir ___" (hit young adult book series about a vampire). Leopold AUER was a gimme! AUER will be with me forever, as he derailed me very early on in my blogging career, and I have never forgotten. I might have sworn eternal vengeance, I'm not sure. Wasn't sure of the spelling on KINTE, but guessed right (41D: "Roots" family surname). Sumac by any other preceding adjective is still YMA (47D: Soprano Sumac). 1978 did nothing to lead me to WAC, but crosses were all easy, so, no sweat (48D: Mil. branch disbanded in 1978).

    Nothing else to say, so goodnight.
      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


      jae 12:10 AM  

      Definitely easier than yesterday's for me.  As a LAT subscriber STAPLES CENTER was a gimme.  So was SINEAD OCONNOR so the sides went pretty smoothly.  


      Erasures: eye for TAT, WIne for WISH, LoanER for LENDER

      Problem crosses: ANILINE/SENET, OMNES/ITERS (anyone try an A or an I?). 

      Some zippy stuff...MINNESOTA FATS, RECONNOITER, METROSEXUAL...and, as Rex so eloquently pointed out,  some not so zippy stuff... ( see list of WOEs), IEST, EEL LIKE...

      Liked it over all.  The grid shape makes up for some of the dreck.

      Pete 12:17 AM  

      Man, I'm finally famous. I can't tell you how often I've heard things along the lines of "10 minutes with you and my head aches", or "Pete, just looking at you & I get crotch pain like when I watch videos of someone taking one in the nuts". The list goes on and on.

      Now, I'm immoralized in a xword puzzle as PETE ACHER. Persistent annoyance resulting in physical pain brought to you, one and all, in the NYTIMES!

      Mom will be so proud!

      JFC 12:18 AM  

      An interesting analysis, Rex. This is such an odd puzzle that I cannot disagree. It is odd because of the grid and because it is never clear why the grid shape. But, putting that aside, I am becoming concerned over your recent desire to rely on others to confirm your own thinking. I suspect others feel more strongly than I, but I trust your comments. I really don't care if your puzzle friends agree with you or not. I come here for your thoughts. Sometimes I agree and sometimes I don't. But quoting anonymous friends does not sway me. What sways me is your thinking, your reasoning, your analysis.

      I also think this is easier than yesterday's puzzle....


      jackj 12:36 AM  

      With such an interesting looking grid my initial thought was there must be tomfoolery in the offing but after EDAS and STAPLESCENTER (a three goal hat trick of a gimme for this hockey fan) filled in uneventfully, it was a straight shot to the final act of correcting SENSEI to SANSEI to accommodate Mr. Urban Fancy Pants, the GQ’s METROSEXUAL.

      For me it was one of the easier Saturdays in memory and the long entries fell like dominoes with MINNESOTAFATS, SINEADOCONNOR, STAKEHOLDER, LOTTERYWINNER, RECONNOITER and SPLITSCREEN effortlessly larding the grid and pointing the way to a quick and clean resolution.

      There were many fun things to contend with along the way like “Luster, e.g.” that had nothing to do with radiance but instead clued “one who lusts”, a SINNER and then there was also the clever cluing that gave us “Number one, to some” for SELF.

      We had another bit of trickery involving a sitting U.S. Senator, similar to the Roger Wicker clue of recent days and this time the puzzle sought “Sessions in D.C., say” that produced the abbreviation of SEN, representing Alabama GOP Senator Jeff Sessions.

      Finally, any self respecting Massachusetts citizen should unhesitatingly write in SAMUELADAMS as the gubernatorial successor to John Hancock, giving the rabble rousing Founding Father the respect he deserves as one of the leaders of the movement that brought us our independence. (He’s much more than just a favorite beer!).

      Todd Gross gave us a first-rate basketful of elegant vocabulary, so good that even the leisurely difficulty level and the smattering of crosswordy entries didn’t rankle this solver.

      Thanks, Todd!

      Aniline Connor Metrosexuals 12:50 AM  

      What a pretty Grid!!!

      Ten times easier for me than yesterday in that I did it in like, ten minutes...yet, TWO wrong squares:

      aSKED for TSKED...and a Natick for me at SEzEa/AzILINE.
      I quessed maybe Z bec AZO is a dye, so AZILINE.
      (Well, at least it's N on its side!)

      MINNESOTAFATS was my anchor answer in the puzzle I made for the Minnesota tournament earlier this month, so that led the way...

      Only writeovers was ShArEHOLDER and RANout.
      Once I "DRY-ed" that off, everything was fine.

      I will count LITTERED as a KINDA bleedover for my UNLiTerate of yesterday!

      I loved SPLITSCREEN, MINNESOTAFATS and had much much fun parsing P.E. TEACHER from
      PETE ACHER (are you for real 12:17???! If yes, FUNNY!)

      @Todd Gross requested my SINEADOCONNOR story and, as it's Oscar weekend, I will oblige!

      About 20+ years ago, I had tickets to the Oscars and crashed the Governor's ball afterward.

      I did a beeline for Daniel DayLewis standing shyly by himself
      (actually with SINEADOCONNOR, who, hypocritically had been running around boycotting the Grammys, saying artists should compete with each other, awards were bogus, blah blah blah, and then shows up the next week at the Oscars!!!!)

      Anyway, somehow she was Daniel Day-Lewis's date!!!
      I say something inane like "Looks like this is the Irish contingent" (Forgetting he was British) and joking about how Bob Hope had mangled her name
      (Sin-ee-id) only to be met with blank stares.

      Trying to extricate myself, I turned to him and blurted out, " "My Left Foot" is my favorite movie of the past ten years! "
      He smiled and thanked me, but where could the conversation possibly go from there???!

      So, to my horror, I said the second most cliche thing, desperate to make conversation with the sexIEST man alive.
      "What are you working on now?"

      He said he'd just gotten back from North Carolina, where he had been filming "The Last of the Mohicans".

      "Ah! Thus the hair!!!"
      (His hair was down past his shoulders)
      At which point, little Miss Baldie took him by the arm and led him off!

      (Love her voice tho...and the fabulous video you've posted was written by Prince, donchaknow!
      Scratch anything and there is a MINNESOTA connection lurking about!!!)

      acme 12:59 AM  

      my inevitable p.s.
      just googled, it must have been 1991, so 22 years funny that Daniel Day-Lewis is still up for best actor!!!
      And of course I left out the word "NOT" when trying to quote Sinead about artists NOT competing.

      From the NYT: "The Irish singer Sinead O'Connor, who has been nominated in four categories, said on Feb. 1 that she would stay away because the Grammys honored commercial success rather than artistic merit. She said she would not accept a Grammy if awarded one."
      (I think this was before she ripped up the picture of the pope on SNL.)

      My how times changed, this year I won't even be watching the Oscars! I used to live for them!

      Anonymous 1:09 AM  

      SENET house was a gimme. Much more so than the ST. IDA - Mrs ARRIS natick yesterday.


      C. Ross Word 2:21 AM  

      I had the same AmILINE problem as Rex. I strongly considered N before settling on m. AmILINE is apparently an antidepressant: Depressing cross.

      Like Andrea, I also had aSKED rather than TSKED.

      I wonder if SEN Sessions plays board games in the SENET.

      South went down with little trouble but tOwtruckS slowed me down in the North until giving way to ROADSTERS. The heartland was toughest to fall thanks to the aforementioned SENET errors.

      All things considered, much easier and more fun to solve than yesterday's puzzle.

      syndy 2:37 AM  

      Much much easier and much more enjoyable than yesterday!I had no trouble with ANILINE I could picture the egyptian game but not name it was no problem. IEST is not optimal but one partial on a saturday is surely not a deal breaker.some lovely longs-hey its all good both thumbs up!

      Evan 3:55 AM  

      Similar reaction here -- easier than yesterday's, so many great long entries, so many crappy short ones. Someone on the Cruciverb-L mailing list recently made the point that if you have a five-letter word with nothing but one-point Scrabble letters in it and it's still never been used in crosswords, that's a pretty good sign that you should probably scrap it. SENET....ouch. But who knows, maybe it's just a matter of time before the "Game of Thrones" character SANSA makes her debut one of these days.

      I'm a little confused by MINNESOTA FATS. Is the clue referring to the fictional pool player in "The Hustler," or the real-life pool player Rudolf Wanderone who adopted MINNESOTA FATS as his nickname only after the movie came out? I suppose it could be either one -- the answer is a pool player no matter what -- but since the clue makes it sound like a historical fact ("this person was successful"), I'm guessing they're referring to the real man.

      As for the SENET/ANILINE crossing....I got it right, but only because I remembered what an ANILINE molecule looks like (it has a benzene ring with one of the hydrogen atoms replaced with a nitrogen atom). Yup, there are actually some things from my organic chemistry days that I never forgot. Still, I agree that it was a bad cross. In theory, they could have done SAR/SENAT/RATITES -- all words that I've seen before -- but I don't think that's necessarily better, and you'd still have CER in there.


      Good story. I haven't had many opportunities to interact with an A-list celebrity, and in the few chances I've had, I was too starstruck to say anything at all. About eight years ago I passed Helena Bonham Carter on a stairway in London and she smiled at me. She was well out of earshot when I finally mustered up the courage to say, "I loved you in 'Fight Club.'"

      jae 3:55 AM  

      ...and, speaking of syncronicity, LUKE WILSON was on Letterman tonight.

      Elle54 4:58 AM  

      Really liked! The creamy center was the last to go and I got my guess right.
      What is a crook's mark?
      When done I had PSTEACHER, that was wrong, so guess I got one square wrong.

      Danp 6:50 AM  

      I'm still focused on the possible Ball theme. I get it with Minnesota Fats, Lottery winner and Staples Center. But Sinead O'Connor? What am I missing? Screwball? Bald? And I agree the core was too dense. I'm guessing Todd Gross intended a ball theme, but couldn't quite bring it together. That said, I enjoyed most of it.

      Also, it seems to me that after doing a million Xword puzzles, all three letter words are cliches or inherently icky. I rely on them for footholds, not poetry.

      Gill I. P. 7:13 AM  

      @Aniline Connor - your story has me cracking up!!! I'm watching the Oscars only to listen to Adele and Barbra sing...
      The puzzle - I enjoyed it and yes, it was a lot easier than yesterday's. What helped was that there were so many old faithfuls in this here puzzle i.e. AUER, EDAS, SANSEI, SETAE and ughy IEST. If it weren't for those (and several more) This would have taken forever.
      Come to think of it, METROSEXUAL seems to be the only up-to date answer. Everything else has an old timey feel to it.
      There're SHO lots of S's too. At one point I thought this might be an "S" type theme with every answer having one. Anyway, I'm happy with myself for finishing with only one Google to check up on EXON...

      Evan 7:56 AM  

      @Gill I. P.:

      Well, the STAPLES CENTER is relatively new, opening in 1999 as the successor to the Great Western Forum. But yeah, there is a fair amount of old-timeyness in the grid, and 14 years is probably enough time for a crossword answer to lose its modernity.

      dj1969 8:10 AM  

      Isn't it just a billiard ball? I actually liked it.

      webwinger 8:12 AM  

      Aah! Totally enjoyed this one—have never disagreed more strongly with Rex. Loved that the grid looked so much like a billiard/lottery ball. Loved the balanced billiard/lottery answers and their cluing. (Thanks, @Evan, for the history lesson—I always thought Jackie Gleason’s immortal film character was based on a real person who already used that sobriquet. And thanks for the great Oscar story, @Acme!) Really liked all of the long answers, in fact. Had NO trouble with ANILINE—surprised to find so few seem to know it; was in fact my first fill in the center, with just one cross in place. Had to google for SENET near the end, but at least that’s clearly “a thing”. Thought cluing for the short answers was generally quite good (especially liked the ones for COT and SAP—a con artist’s victim). Would have got (gotten?) EXON much earlier and without Google’s help if DNA sense had been clued. Even KINDA liked IEST, and happily forgave EELLIKE, though too bad it occupied the central place of honor. Two thumbs way up!

      loren muse smith 8:16 AM  

      @Rex – you called it! “…that one square is going to derail scads of folks today.” Yep. Color me derailed.

      I was in the omnei/iteri camp. @jae – me, too, for “wine” before WISH. Early on, I kicked around “to do.” @Acme – I had RAN “out” first, too.

      @Rex-I was actually KINDA relieved with IT’S NOT FAR because I was considering the ickIEST “it’s so near.”

      This was a typical Saturday experience for me. Once I RECONNOITERed every section, I had a pathetic S and ER( lots of ERs, right?) here and there. And nothing else. Then as I’m considering giving up because everyone is just SMARTER than I am, I get KINTE, WINTER, KINDA, and “wine,” and I’m off and running.


      Funny how EEL is such a STAPLE in crossworld. And ELK iS NOT FAR behind!

      @Evan and Acme- great stories! I’m one who is deeply impressed by anyone famous, and if I see someone in person, I get all nervous and, er, well, silly. (Warning to BEQ and Patrick Berry – if you’re at the ACPT and I see you, I just may ask for your autograph.) Once I was watching the Tar Heels play at a bar in Chapel Hill, and the local weatherman was there. You would have thought he was Tom Hanks the way I was so excited. @Evan – I SHO WISH I had been out of earshot when I walked past him and delivered the incredibly clever,zippy zinger, “How’s the weather?”

      @Rex – I was once dragged behind a dogsled after I fell off and grabbed the “OH S^%$T! rope. Note to SELF – just let them run away next time.

      Cool grid and “theme.” @Danp - I think you could stretch it to include a basketball and a bald head. . .

      Tita 8:17 AM  

      When I finally gave up chess for SENET, I put in ANILINE. I didn't do it earlier because I thought that was far too obvious crosswordese for a Saturday, so was shocked to see that give Rex et OMNES trouble.

      For some reason, was trying to shoehorn LOTToanouNcER in, thinking of the guy who handles the balls to announce the WINNing numbers.

      Finished with the perfectly acceptable ITERa/OMNEa crossing.
      Much easier than yesterday.

      orangeblossomspecial 8:25 AM  

      The unknowns in this puzzle weren't different from the unknowns in any other puzzle, so I don't understand the criticism.

      I got off to a bad start because Willie Mosconi fit the same squares as MINNESOTA FATS, and the cross with SINEAD OCONNOR worked. But I eventually found the error.

      Red Nichols recorded 34A 'Make my COT where the cot cot cotton grows'.

      As always, 47D YMA Sumac is an acquired taste.

      orangeblossomspecial 8:26 AM  

      The unknowns in this puzzle weren't different from the unknowns in any other puzzle, so I don't understand the criticism.

      I got off to a bad start because Willie Mosconi fit the same squares as MINNESOTA FATS, and the cross with SINEAD OCONNOR worked. But I eventually found the error.

      Red Nichols recorded 34A 'Make my COT where the cot cot cotton grows'.

      As always, 47D YMA Sumac is an acquired taste.

      chefbea 8:28 AM  

      I agree much easier than yesterday. Didn't even come here to see the finished grid.

      Googled a bit. Loved the shape. Agree with rex that the theme is balls!

      Bill from FL 8:48 AM  

      I had just complained to my wife, who is not a xword person, about the extreme NATICK-ness of that central cross. I was lucky to guess the N (from among consonants I could remember being used in Egyptian transliterated words), but I still enjoined Rex's rant on the subject.

      Anonymous 9:15 AM  

      Was sure that dragging vehicles were TOWTRUCKS

      DBlock 9:19 AM  

      SAP is a Crook's Mark as in a target of the illegal activity of a criminal

      I liked noting the end of the WAC--Women's Army Corp in 1978--in light of current integration of women into combat units--a modern issue to be sure and we forget how recently it was that women were even a distinct unit who served as secretaries and other distinctly not combat roles far from the front lines. Right up there with WAF

      As for the rest of the puzzle--agree that the long answers were gimmes--Minnesota Fats, Sinead Oconnor, Staples Center, Metrosexual, PETeacher, Split Screen so made the fill quite easy but the center was brutal.

      Glimmerglass 9:26 AM  

      My Natick guess was a K: SEkET and AkIINE. Maddening, because when we were planning to go to Egypt two years ago, I read about the game and almost bought one online; then decided it would be cooler to buy one in Egypt but never ran across one. I ran the alphabet several times, but couldn't come up with the N.

      Mohair Sam 9:29 AM  

      Nice call Rex, add us to the group who never heard of senet and couldn't figure that anil would lead to aniline.

      Fun and easy Saturday until we hit the senet wall. STAPLES and SINEAD were gimmes that led to SAMUELADAMS and the gimme YMA certified that we were good with LOTTERYWINNER. Got RECONNOITER off the c in oconnor and the puzzle fell in a flash. Fastest Saturday ever I told my wife, she pointed out that we had one open letter in 23A.

      45 minutes later we did the aa, ab, ac thing in the dictionary to get ANILINE. So this puzzle went from time record breaker to "another unfinished Saturday" for us. Sad sad.

      btw - SENET doesn't even make the Webster's New World.

      Carola 9:45 AM  

      I was delighted when I saw the unusual grid shape, then got concerned when I saw that access to the center island was limited to those two draw bridges. But I agree - it turned out to be on the easy side. Fun to write in all the long words. My first answer was also MINNESOTA FATS. Do-overs: IT'S NEARBY, sinuous for EEL-LIKE.

      I learned about ANILINE before crosswords taught me ANIL (which I hesitated to believe the first time - too short), so my reaction today was, "Finally! Gets its -INE!" I didn't see SENET until I was finished and wondered what I'd done wrong in the crosses - totally unfamiliar to me.

      @Elle54 - Think of a scam artist's patsy.

      @Pete - (If she's not shaking her head :) )

      Rudolf Wanderone Jr. 9:47 AM  


      The realism of the film came in large measure from technical adviser Willie Mosconi, an established pool champ who became Paul Newman's pool coach and who has a brief cameo as a stakeholder in an early scene.

      Newman had never picked up a pool cue before taking the role in 'The Hustler,' but his Method approach paid off. From Willie Mosconi, he learned how not just to shoot pool but also how to walk, talk, and circle the table like a shark. He practiced for hours at a table at a New York girls' high school and at a table he installed in his own house. Still, for the trickiest pool shots Fast Eddie had to make, it's Mosconi's hands you see in close-up.

      The role of the confident, graceful, streetwise Minnesota Fats seemed tailor-made for Gleason, who was an accomplished pool player and is seen in the film making his own pool shots.

      Howard B 9:53 AM  

      A few years back, there was an Egyptian exhibit in Philadelphia based around King Tut, with cultural ephemera on display reflecting a snapshot of the king's daily life (I assume, since they did not actually have the king himself). This included a very well-preserved SENET board. It's funny how these things come to mind unexpectedly during solving - this answer actually broke me into the chewy center.

      Sir Hillary 9:56 AM  

      Wow, only 60 words. That was the first thing I noticed, and I was prepared to be disappointed with the fill. However, other than IEST which is junk of the lowest order, this is a remarkably clean grid given the limitations. I had the same challenges that many others did with the ITERS/OMNES and SENET/ANILINE crosses, but eventually got them.

      The long entries are all wonderful, with the symmetrical "numbered ball" clues a nice bit of icing on the doughnut.

      Brief mistake of SeNSEI meant that METROSEXUAL took longer than it should have, but other than that the trip was pretty smooth.

      Was it the most fun puzzle to solve? No. But it is an astounding feat of construction that manages not to feel stunt-ish. Thanks, Todd!

      joho 10:01 AM  

      One wrong square with aSKED.

      Nothing to add to the insightful and amusing comments today. Except one thing: @Acme, I too, saw SINEADOCONNOR probably around the time you did but at the MTV Music Awards. I wasn't close enough to say anything, but I was struck by how tiny she was. And what's really odd, she was talking to Telly Savalas, the bald opposite of her date at the Oscars!

      I like the idea of the "balls" theme and love the shape of the grid. Well done, TODd!

      joho 10:04 AM  

      Oh, I wonder if anybody else had ITisnTFAR before ITSNOTFAR? That section really held me up.

      mac 10:22 AM  

      Derailed at senet. Much easier than yesterday, though.

      Reconnoiter without crosses, and metrosexual, Sinead O'Connor and Samuel Adams made things easier. Sorta for kinda for a moment. I liked the Period of slow growth at 44A.

      Nice that it didn't take too long, lots to do before w may have another snow storm...

      Bob Kerfuffle 10:33 AM  

      At half an hour, definitely an easy Saturday for me.

      Add me to the crowd whose WISH list started as a WINE list, but that was my only write-over.

      jackj 10:34 AM  

      Arcane entries in Times’ puzzles often show that one person’s obscurity is another person’s vivid memory and such is ANILINE for this solver.

      General ANILINE and Film was an American chemicals company that was taken over by the U. S. government at the beginning of WWII under the Trading with the Enemy Act when it was determined that the huge German company I. G. Farben, (a notorious collaborator with Hitler’s Nazi regime), was the hidden controlling force behind the American company.

      After operating the company for some 20 plus years, in 1965 the US sold the company, (as GAF), to the public in one of the largest stock offerings ever and as one of those who acquired a stake in GAF that ultimately turned out to be a significant losing investment, the word ANILINE was forever seared in my gray matter.

      Thus, an unusual gimme for me today.

      Sandy K 10:35 AM  

      I guessed the N and held my breath til I got here- and saw that it was right! Thinking of ANIL- the blue dye, helped.

      All the long answers went in pretty swiftly for a Saturday. Only write-over was KINDA after sortA.

      Shouldn't the clue for PE TEACHER indicate an abbreviation?


      KINDA different visually and content-wise for a Sat. whether the subplot was bald or balls.

      Joma 10:55 AM  

      Same here, couldn't figure out SEnET. I should have gone through the alphabet to guess N but got lazy and went to this blog.

      Norm 10:57 AM  

      Very fair Saturday. Had no issue with ANILINE or SENET (considered ARILINE first before I realized I was confusing my seed coats [? something like that] with my dyes). Actually had a harder time accepting EXON, but was forced to do so by the crosses.

      Nigel 10:59 AM  

      I I think ANILINE is clued incorrectly, at least in common usage. The word is most often used in the simple phrase "aniline dyes". Rather than being described as a "chemical" noun, it is perhaps better thought of in as an adjective.

      I'm impressed at those who thought this was an easy puzzle. I got MINNESOTA FATS and SINEAD OCONNOR early, but LOTTERY WINNER took some time. Otherwise I was mostly stymied. And I now see that two of those clues give us the theme - that ball shape in the middle, although it is the flimisIEST of connections. Also, I have never thought of St. Patrick as an apostle, even if the abbreviation Ire. is a gimme. Oh well, Google tells me he was known as The Apostle of Ireland. And who knew an EXON was a yeoman? Not me.

      Rob C 11:13 AM  

      Liked the puzzle and definitely easier than yesterday's for me. Cool looking grid. Agree on the crappy short fill, but, this shows why sometimes the low word count puzzles aren't as daunting as they appear to be. Some of the longer answers were gettable on their own and I backed into the short stuff. Once you plunk down a few of the longer answers, the puzzles's half done. If I had to rely on the short fill, I don't know if I would have gotten there.

      @Sandy K - funny you mentioned the -ERs. I completed the East and South sections first and saw all the -ERs down there and thought there might be a related theme.

      @Evan - funny you mentioned the "was" in the 12A clue. I questioned the use of "is" in the 45A clue. You can't be a LOTTERY WINNER if you haven't won already, so wouldn't that mean the past tense "was" should be used there too? And don't tell me to get a life!

      captcha is "raging sq" - have to figure out what an "sq" is - it sounds it's mocking me.

      quilter1 11:15 AM  

      Looked at the grid and word count and thought No Way! But then it went down fairly quickly for Sat. I liked the long answers and the whole NW/SW was the last to be filled in. I'm enjoying the comments and stories today. My own close encounters with fame are not story worthy.

      The Sinatra Group 11:21 AM  


      Well, it's a stretch - but in my mind the connection between Sinead O'Connor and cueball is an SNL sketch, with Jan Hooks as O'Connor. Sinatra to O'Connor: Next issue: The bald chick. What's with her head? What gives, cueball? I'm lookin' at you and thinkin' "fourteen in the side pocket."

      loren muse smith 11:39 AM  

      @Rob C – I considered some shenanigans with those stairstepping ERS in the southeast and the stairstepping S’s in the northeast.

      My sister had a great encounter with Gregory Hines, who was in Charlotte one year for the Final Four. He was at the uptown Y for a workout the same time she was, and she said everyone was all excited to have a celebrity there. She said that as she made her way to the water fountain, they passed each other and made eye contact.

      Sister: (rolling her eyes and sighing) “PLEASE don’t bother me. I just want to get in my work out and get out of here.”

      He laughs and actually follows her to the water fountain. When she notices him, she acts all annoyed and says, “What?”

      He said, “You have nice legs.”

      She said, “Well, I do a lot of dancing.” (totally a lie) And then walked off as he just stood there and laughed at her.

      Anonymous 11:56 AM  

      @Sinatra beat me to it but I assumed Sinead O'Connor as cueball was intentional too. Doesn't really help unless there's a theme answer on the right side that I'm missing.

      Nancy in PA 12:04 PM  

      Finished with a better time than yesterday, but had the OMNEa/ITERa error. Oh, well. As a fabric/textile lover, I knew ANILINE dyes but agree with @Nigel that it's an adjective. Anyone into dyes should read Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World. Also SENET was lurking somewhere in the recesses of the mind, perhaps as a result of the same Philadelphia exhibit @HowardB went to!

      k square 12:24 PM  

      @Nigel 10:59 ANILINE is not an adjective. It's the name of a chemical molecule. Hence a noun! Aniline dyes are made by starting with aniline and reacting it with other chemicals for different colors.

      Masked and Anilineono3Us 12:25 PM  

      All the Across entries seemed pretty reasonable, here. Got SENET lookin' at -E-E-. Brain knew it, even tho I didn't know I knew. Only unfamiliar Acrossers: EXON, TES, and the A in SANSEI. Much easier puz than yesterday.

      Really like the pool ball and the two related entries. Just a nice, extra sparkle. Not quite a full-exon thUmbsUp, but ITSNOTFAR. Having an eight traced out by U's in the center, that woulda done it. We don't ask for much here, huh, Todd?


      Lewis 12:26 PM  

      I Naticked where Rex predicted, but otherwise the easiest Saturday I've ever had, and enjoyable. I felt like the ANILINE/SENET Natick was unfair, but the dreck fill was gettable by crosses.

      Lots of good stories in here today...

      Sandy K 12:53 PM  

      @Anon 11:56-
      This might Reeally be a stretch, but I googled the STAPLES CENTER and the image that came up was...KINDA like the grid??

      @ Rob C- Since you're a raging sq-constructor, what about the PE TEACHER clue? Shouldn't it indicate an abbrev.?

      Also -ER...AUER.

      Z 12:54 PM  


      Anyhow - Hand up for pondering tow trucks, and even tug boats, before finally getting enough crosses to see ROADSTERS. Hand up for ShArEHOLDER before STAKEHOLDER as well. In my world a stakeholder is anyone with an interest in an organization or endeavor, ownership doesn't enter the picture. That made fixing it harder than necessary. My advance man was a sENioR for awhile, and I had WIne on my WISH list. All fairly typical for a Friday/Saturday for me.

      John Hancock AND SAMUEL ADAMS were governors? This goes to show that the link between the criminal class and the political class has deep historical roots in America. Kwame Kilpatrick certainly has great company.

      Anyone up for a rousing game of SENET?

      Dwight Howard 12:54 PM  

      Kobe, he with the naked head of a cue-ball, is a staple at The Staples Center.

      God, I hate that dude!

      Sparky 12:59 PM  

      Easier for me than yesterday when Mrs. 'arris goes to Paris was one of the few things I knew. There is a very sweet TV Movie with Angela Lansberry and Diana Rigg.

      Crook's mark was ewe for a time. Shepherd, ya know. Guessed right on ANILINE because anile whispering in memory. A few blank spots on top and west. Six longs across went in okay. But missed oMNes, dES and tAT. ROADSTERS drag race? What a waste. Hung on to Sibhon mixing my McKennas with my O'Connors. In my day girls were named Mary or Patricia, none of that Gaelic folderol for us.

      Wanted mess makers to have to do with Army so holes there too. Since, as a Sagittarius I suffer from major hoof in mouth disease, I won't tell how I insulted Mel Torme. But he was a really gracious guy.

      All in all today was fun. Thanks Todd Gross.

      Rob C 1:27 PM  

      @Sandy K - I take the convention to be that if an abbrev is so common (maybe more common than the full word(s)), it doesn't need to be clued as an abbrev. Whether PE TEACHER falls into that category is debatable.

      Gill I. P. 1:46 PM  

      @Evan..The things you learn here. I actually wanted to fit in "Sleep Train" but our beloved Kings will p[robably be shuffled off to Seattle. I hope they enjoy their Starbucks!
      @Loren SANSEI !!!!Are you game? SHO would be fun...
      Oh, and did anybody else have TAG for 18 A? I thought a crook might leave his moniker somewhere.

      Joseph B 1:51 PM  

      The ITERS/OMNES cross is yet more evidence that I need to study Latin. Googling it, both OMNIA and OMNES are vocative, which is the right form for a directive, but A is the neuter ending, which I'm guessing you don't use when referring to people(?). Anyhow, I guessed A.

      The middle was a big DNF for me, mainly because I convinced myself that there was a congressman or senator named Ben or Ken Sessions. ("Sessions in DC., say"), which made me reject SPENT, which would have made SAP, SPLITSCREEN, and TUNED gettable.

      Two DNFs in a row. Well, better luck tomorrow.

      MetaRex 1:52 PM  

      For any of us who dream of more non-verbal, spatial elements in CWPs, this puzzle w/ its "ball in the middle" grid and its related mini-theme is really great...hurrah!!!

      Got the incorrect signal and had a number of highly un-fun minutes...decided CER should be CYR for WWI battle and screwed around in the middle for a while...finally realized OMNEA/ITERA should be OMNES/ITERS.

      I'm not too grumpy about my woes, though...I don't see a straightforward way the crossing could have been clued to make the chance of an icky feeling at the end for solvers less...the OMNES and ITERS clues were about as straight-up as you can ask for...

      Yesterday and Today

      Sandy K 2:17 PM  

      @Rob C- Thanks- but you know, I never really heard of PE TEACHER. But I did hear of Phys. Ed. TEACHER.

      Z 2:37 PM  

      @Joseph B - I thought "Ron" but never wrote it down. We aren't completely crazy -‬

      Kryten 3:03 PM  

      Odd grid shape = easier clues,
      but now I add to that;
      odd grip shape & long answers = nasty short fills

      4D French prepositions DES was totally uncalled for. DES is an article in French, until I realized that it's an ugly marriage of proper French preposition de and English plural s.


      Ellen S 3:22 PM  

      @Gill I.P. -- hey, I didn't know you are also in Sactomato! I thought it was about "our" Kings also, but lost track of the name of the arena after the third change in, what, 5 years? -- so I just let it grow. When I saw "STAPLESCENTER" I thought, wait, another name change???? Was relieved to see it was a different sport, different city, fine, whatever. As for "beloved", that is reserved for the Cubbies, who are still in Chicago, still at Wrigley Field. Apparently nobody wants to buy them or naming rights on the ballpark. When I was young, sports teams and their stadia, baseball anyway, were owned by gazillionaires, and the arenas were named for the team or the gazillionaire. I hate this business of moving teams to cities that offer the best "incentives" and new shiny arenas paid for by the taxpayers regardless of whether they're fans, sucking the city dry and moving on to the next city that promises to go into debt for what will inevitably be a short-term relationship. And selling naming rights every couple of minutes just makes me dizzy. And makes a mess of the signage.

      But I liked the puzzle! I don't know anything about constructing, but I thought the grid was beautiful, and as long as there were two entrances to the central island I wasn't too scared. I had no idea what is a SENET, TOD, CER, EXON and I thought ITERS were Roman roads, but got them eventually, by hook or by CROOK. I don't feel it's right to complain about new words andold words, so I'll learn the new words and save my griping for EELLIKE. That is the ickIEST thing in the puzzle. That and "--IEST", but that leaves a lot of good in the rest of the puzzl.e

      Oh - ROADSTER bothered me. I thought that refers to a body style, a two-seater convertible type. "Sporty" but not necessarily fit for drag racing, which is what I thought the clue referred to.

      So... I have bionic eyes... let's see if that makes me a robot.

      Anonymous 3:23 PM  

      Good day for Sumac- also made an appearance in today's LA Times XWords.

      Masked and Anonymous-iest 3:29 PM  

      Is this how it works for you constructors? You're filling in the grid with non-themer/seed words, and KaWhammie -- neat long words just happen to slide into place from nowhere, here and there, like little surprise, bonus Christmas presents.

      Like they're somehow magically meant to be? All it takes is a stray, crossin' IERS here and there (which you brazenly clue like everyone for sure knows what the International Earth Rotation Service is). Yeah, so @31 gets all snarky on your bony ass. Not like you're the first. It's pretty much worth it, for that killer manna-from-crossword-gods 13-letter gem.

      So it maya/shoulda been here, with the likes of:
      SAMUELADAMS -- Known for his gubernatorial beer blasts.
      SPLITSCREEN -- Like the coverage in most Senet tournaments. No one's quite sure what the original rules were, btw. My theory: whatever Pharaoh said they were, on any given day.
      RECONNOITER -- Meatier clue: [Go looking for trouble]. Wild-lookin' word. French. Figures.
      PETEACHER -- Has a faint smell of desperation, but I love it. Faint smells are no sweat. Except in PE.
      METROSEXUAL -- Just looks so weird, growing straight out of MINNESOTA FATS. [shudder]

      Feel better now. Snuck in some bullets, which were, no doubt, accidentally omitted from the official @31 text.

      Susan McConnell 3:53 PM  

      Great story, acme...sums up my life....Ifeel like I life from awkward moment to awkward moment.

      Anyhow,I hate when I finish a puzzle that I would rate Challenging only to come here and see Rex rate it Easy-Medium, but, that's what we've got today. I so loved the look of the grid and all the longies. But so much short nastiness to contend with, all,I can say is I'm glad it's over without having to resort to the Googlator.

      Anonymous 4:29 PM  

      Ha -- the same thing happened to me - finished everything else, then guessed "M: instead of "N" for SE-ET.

      Of course it took me almost an hour . . .

      Elle54 5:32 PM  

      Thanks everyone re: crook's mark. I was thinking of a shepherd's crook or something in a hook shape.
      @Ellen the Cubs are now owned by the Rickets family and they love the nostalgia, so I doubt they would change the name of Wrigley Field.

      michael 6:35 PM  

      Much easier than yesterday, Aniline easy for me for research-related reasons. Oddly I got messed up by roastmaster. I wrote in Sinead O'Connor, but then saw what I thought was "toastmaster" and erased Sinead before much later deciding that "roastmaster" must be a word.

      Anonymous 6:38 PM  

      I got off track by putting "lotharios" instead of "litterers"
      for Mess Makers.

      Otherwise ok and interesting.

      Gill I. P. 7:03 PM  

      @Ellen S. Goodie, another Sacratomatoan. We're in North Natomas - five minutes to downtown and five to both the rivers. And you? We have another - @Mighty Nisden but he hasn't chimed in in a while.
      I say "beloved" Kings with a heavy heart since I'm still pining for the Peja/Vladi days. Just maybe the gazillionairs will find us a new arena and an improved team..There's always hope....:-)

      retired_chemist 7:32 PM  

      Easiest Saturday in a while: 12:23. I do not recall a puzzle in which I got the long answers so easily, without much recourse to short crosses.

      MINNESOTA FATS was a gimme but I erased it after trying (and here I hang my head in shame) Exeunt ALLES. Mixed languages. I know better. Boo, me. But, it came back after some downs in the E and W reinserted MI__E___A FATS. LOTTERY WINNER, its southern counterpart, was obvious since the two clues involving numbered balls were almost surely used the balls in different ways.

      Hand up for CHESS before SENET (of which I have never heard - must look it up as soon as I am finished here).

      ANILINE is not exactly a chemical used in DYES per se; it is a chemical used in the synthesis of certain azo dyes, a different matter. But I knew where that answer was going, so that and PETITES axed CHESS.

      Anyway, thanks to Mr. Gross. I enjoyed it.

      LaneB 8:22 PM  

      I thought yesterday's was easier because I got hung up on the western side today. . Couldn't get ITERS [still can't find a definition of it anywhere], didn't know what an EXON was, and wasn't clever enough to figure out METROSEXUAL even though I had lots of the other letters. Read 37d luster in the shining sense and didn't connect with SINNER until the last. Fortunately most of the long words came fairly easily but I am slow to fill in the other blanks. I spend too much time doing the puzzles; however I am OCD enough not to be able to stop looking forward to them.

      Ulrich 8:24 PM  
      This comment has been removed by the author.
      Ulrich 8:26 PM  

      I thought I had nothing to add until I came to Joseph B--thx @Joseph! (although it may be too late for you to see this)

      Since "exeunt" is not an imperative, but the third person plural present indicative, "omnes" can't be a vocative--it's a nominative. The whole phrase simply means "all exit".

      Dirigonzo 8:32 PM  

      Two hours, two wrong squares - ITERa and the one Rex predicted. A good part of my time was spent fixing bIllardchAmp where MINNESOTAFATS belonged. The west coast opened up when PP spotted LENDER for Advance man, which had eluded me for a long time. I more than KINDA liked it.

      jberg 9:58 PM  

      I worked so hard getting the tough spots that I missed an easy one - I had KINTi crossing PETE ACHiR, the famous drill sergeant. Alas!

      On the other hand, ANILINE was a gimme for me, from aniline dyes (even though I had thought aniline was a family of chemicals, rather than a single one, until just now). The real hangup for me was the West, where I cleverly deduced that an advance man must be a paNDER, which blocked METROSEXUAL as I looked for some sort of Man as the GQ reader. I had to go away and come back 6 hours later to get it.

      I think the theme was EELs -- EEL-LIKE right in the center, and a couple of them, in black, swimming circles in the white ocean.

      Stephen 5:12 PM  

      SLO going for me. Bah! Why do I have to put up with 3-letter abbreviations for 4-letter words?

      Dave 5:10 PM  

      Ended up with itera/omnea. Wasn't confident, but didn't know without checking the answer.

      Aniline dyes are a well known class of dyes, to those of us with experience in textile dyeing. Hey, I have to put up with obscure literary references, so you guys can handle the occasional zebra from the technical world!

      Overall, hardly worth a Saturday.

      syndicate bob 12:25 PM  

      Todd Gross was not given credit in the by line for the syndicated puzzle. Friday's author, Smith, was not changed for this Saturday puzzle.

      Odd, that.

      Spacecraft 2:07 PM  

      DNF, but I cry foul. I know what a ROADSTER is--and it is most definitely NOT a dragging vehicle! It is anything BUT. This was the absolute WORST clue EVER! Sure, I had --STERS, and the given word fits--but it could NOT be! No one in their right mind would EVER clue ROADSTERS as "Dragging vehicles!" Bah!

      Besides that, those acrosses along the west were murder. ITERS as cerebral canals? Congrats, doctors, you got a gimme. The rest of us...not. The Chronicles of Vladimir WHO??? Well, this whole vampire thing just mystifies me, how it can be so popular. They're fictional characters who, if they WERE real, should be avoided at all costs. Go figure. Then there's the one-X EXON. Yeah, he must be somewhere between Lieutenant and Major. Ri...ight. All five of us on the planet know that one. Oh, and SANSEI, not sensei???

      The rest of this was actually pleasantly difficult but gettable, but that north and west: horrible.

      rain forest 2:48 PM  

      ANILINE was a gimme, luckily, even though it technically isn't a dye. I know ROADSTERS aren't really 'dragging vehicles', but any vehicle can participate in a drag race if the drivers are so motivated. I used to drag race with VW beetles in my Vauxhall Viva, races you'd time with a calendar... Anyway, the puzzle was pretty easy once I forced myself to put in CER, and SANSEI, and as a bonus, it was a fun solve.

      Waxy in Montreal 9:33 AM  

      Got to this very late due to family Easter get-together on Saturday but then found it a fun, breezy puzzle. Writeovers included TOWTRUCKS at 1A, CYR at 28D and TAPED (my hockey bias) at 36A. Love it when obscurities are readily solvable from their crosses and there were lots in this grid: TOD, ESO, EXON, SENET (wha?), EDAS, OMNES,...

      Recalled ANILINE only because a folk-singer friend (and fellow science student) of mine back in university parodied the song ABILENE using it as the title.

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