Flier to Rio / FRI 3-22-13 / Swamp birds / Actress Landi of Count of Monte Cristo 1934 / Topiary figures / Every in an Rx / / Not in eine Million Jahre / Future alumnae quaintly

Friday, March 22, 2013

Constructor: Tim Croce

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: VARIG (22D: Flier to Rio) —
VARIG (acronym for Viação Aérea RIo-Grandense) was the first airline founded in Brazil, in 1927. From 1965 until 1990 it was Brazil's leading and almost only international airline. In 2005, Varig went into judicial reorganisation, and in 2006 it was split into two companies informally known as "old" Varig - heir to the original airline and now defunct, and "new" Varig - a new company presently fully integrated into Gol Airlines. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is the kind of puzzle that makes me wonder why anyone bothers making 15-stack puzzles any more. What's the point? What are you doing? This minor stunt has been done *so* many times now, that unless you can really bring something stunning to the table, I really don't see the point. Maybe you get a good 15 or two in there (ROCKET TO THE MOON isn't bad, and EMAIL DOMAIN NAME, while not swoon-inducing, is at least modern), but you will inevitably end up with some teetery, barely-a-solid-phrase, boring stuff, at least one answer (today, two) with ONE'S in it, and then a bunch of fill in your grid that nobody but nobody can really enjoy. Let's see: not one but two olde-timey actresses (VERNA, ELISSA??? ... actually, ELISSA is so olde-timey that I should apologize to VERNA for even mentioning them in the same breath) (18A: Bloom who played Mary in "The Last Temptation of Christ" + 38A: Actress Landi of "The Count of Monte Cristo," 1934); some stuff that looks like random letters strung together (i.e. SORAS [Swamp birds], VARIG [Flier to Rio], GLARY), multiple THORS disguised as a possessive (42A: ___ hammer (Mjolnir)), passable but icky stuff like OMN [Every, in an Rx] MOIRE ORIG and NOID, and then the stuff that *looks* fancy but is really just a crossword-constructing program screaming "Uncle!," i.e. OTOMIS (7D: Mexican Indians) and ETAMESON (9D: Electrically neutral subatomic particle).

    This was pretty hard, I think, especially for a puzzle that gave away so many easy answers (my gimmes included NIE, FONZ, CIN, SELA, ELGIN, and SØREN). I even guessed CHOOSE ONE'S WORDS immediately (though I waited a while before committing to it). But not knowing OTOMIS or VARIG or ETAMESON, I had real trouble piecing together that upper middle section. Then once I polished off the top half, I had Real trouble getting started in the bottom portion. For a while it was just SØREN, COLOR, ELGIN, and (incorrect) ELLA (51D: "___, Red-Hot & Live" (1982 blues album)). Interestingly, the cruddy tendency of 15 stacks to have answers with ONE'S in them helped me a bunch, as the "N" from SØREN and the terminal "S" from the plural at 37D: Distinctive parts of some hummingbirds had me thinking of ONE'S phrases fairly quickly. Ruled out "something something ON ONE'S KNEES" and eventually hit on my first real breakthrough down there: SAID ONE'S PRAYERS. After that, it was steady, if not smooth or fast, sailing all the way home.
      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


      jae 12:05 AM  

      Medium tough for me too.  Lotsa WOEs...OTOMIS, ETA MESON, ELISSA, VARIG, VERNA, ONM, SORAS... Managed to guess my way through them and finish.  Fortunately, I'd seen SOIGNEE in crosswords before or the ELISSA cross could have Naticked me (not to mention the GILT cross which seems a bit obscure-- statues, books?)

      Like Rex pointed out, not much zip with the 15 stacks, but a good and mostly fair challenge.  Liked it.

      Brendan McNamara 12:09 AM  

      The biggest surprise of this puzzle for me was the fact that after I decided to accept ETAMESON and guessed SOIGNEES, that the app accepted it as correct.

      I did like the STEREOS/PHAEDRA/ROSSINI stack, which got me all three 15s down there.

      Jim Walker 12:18 AM  

      Beg to differ. Can't see how this gets a Friday slot. Not a single "aha" moment. Only entry I had never seen was ELISSA. Had Aztecs and Oltecs at first but the crosses were obvious. Would have been happier if this had appeared on a Tuesday. Really hate enamor as a transitive verb. Lived in LA when D'world first opened. ROCKET TO THE MOON blew me away. Neatest part was the conveyor belt that took you to the "capsule". Unbelievable how easy it was to thrill kids back in the dark ages!

      Varig 12:32 AM  

      Well, I know it's kind of late. I hope I didn't wake you. But there's something that I just gotta say.

      Garth 1:04 AM  

      In response to Rex's comments:

      "This is the kind of puzzle that makes me wonder why anyone bothers making 15-stack puzzles any more. What's the point?"

      One of the points is that there are many solvers such as myself that find them to be an enjoyable challenge; that there's interest and beauty in the crossings of large phrases with shorter words.

      "What are you doing?"

      They are making lovely and enjoyable diversions for thousands of puzzle enthusiasts.

      "This minor stunt has been done *so* many times now, that unless you can really bring something stunning to the table, I really don't see the point."

      That's kind of sad. I've been solving (or at least trying to solve) NYT crossword puzzles for at least 35 years and still get great enjoyment out of most of them. For me, that's the point. I don't view the 15-stacks as a stunt. I just see them as one of many frameworks on which to build a puzzle.

      r.alphbunker 1:42 AM  

      VARIG looked a lot more like varargs, a programming term, than the name of an airline. It did not help that the V came from VINES which also crossed OTOMIS and ETAMASON

      Evan 2:04 AM  

      Medium-challenging sounds about right. I had a lot of write-overs, a couple of which were the exact opposite of what I needed:

      * I SEE before I DIG.
      * IMIT. before ORIG. (opposite answer #1).
      * STRIKE AT before SPRING AT, crossing CORKS before CORNS.
      * ELISHA before ELISSA.
      * ETA before ETD (opposite answer #2 -- and that mistake made it real hard to understand EMAIL A----N NAME; changing it to a D gave me the right answer instantly).
      * PRADA before FENDI.
      * SOPHS before COEDS.
      * ENYA, before ELLA, before ETTA (I didn't pay that much attention to the 1982 bit, which might have made my first guess a non-starter....or perhaps not, since Enya apparently started her solo career in '82).
      * CAM before SLR.

      So I was off my game, but oh well. I still managed to find my way and get it all right. If there's one thing that I know for sure I've gotten better at in themeless puzzles over the last two years, it's that I can now recognize mistakes much more quickly than I used to.

      I'm feeling a little nostalgic -- I liked OCARINA because it reminded me of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, only one of the best video games ever made. And I really, really wish NO ID had instead been clued as the NOID, the weird villanous mascot for DOMINO's Pizza back in the 80s. A real missed opportunity for a funny cross-reference, that -- I wonder if Tim originally clued it that way?

      Brendan McNamara 2:09 AM  

      @Evan I'm shuddering at the fact that I played Yo Noid! as a child. Thankfully I'm not brainwashed into eating Domino's Pizza.

      chefwen 2:45 AM  

      My first entry was 29A LOCH NESS,I have been to Urquhart Castle and have a photograph that I took hanging in our living room. One of my favorite photos and one of my favorite castles. This is where my fun ended. Got about 7/8ths done and pulled the plug. Really thought I could put this one to bed, but it was not to be.

      I am so proud of our (not so little) community in helping out JenCT that it brings tears to my eyes. Thank you @REX for initiating this outpouring of giving. I am grateful to be a part of it.

      Ellen S 2:49 AM  
      This comment has been removed by the author.
      syndy 3:04 AM  

      My hummingbirds had THoraxs.Ella over ETTA.ETa ELIShA! but I got SOIGNEE off S****EE and that made me feel a little better.The bottom half took 3x as long as the top.

      Aptness Color Moires 3:12 AM  

      Did you know UKELELE and OCARINA have the same amount of letters? As do CLARE and VERNA Bloom!

      Otherwise slowgoing, challenging but gettable... Not my fave, but totally agree with @Garth 1:04am.
      Since when does an accepted form have to be one of a kind stunning to be considered ok to create?
      Seems like that criticism has been launched against vowel progressions, anagrams, stacks, three-only themes, pangrams, circles, not having circles, subtle reveals, too obvious reveals, adding a word before or after, repeated theme with different entries...
      You name a convention and it's been poohpoohed here unless it's one of six contructors.

      I mostly had fun staring at my wild boy Blackjack, and thinking of all the ways he's attacked me, before I finally settled on SPRINGAT.

      Ellen S 3:15 AM  

      By the standards I suggested yesterday (late today, actually, only a couple of hours ago), or any other standards, this was a DNF. First I had to Google to get ROANOKE and ELISSA -- I could have gotten them on crosses but I couldn't get the crosses.... but worse than that, I had to look up PHAEDRA. I knew ARIADNE was King Minos's daughter, and same number of letters, so I was stuck. Obviously I don't know their story.

      But the final worstest thing was I literally did not finish as I could not imagine what went in the cross at 21 IDI_ and 4D OKIN_. Dumb, easy answers, just my brain isn't doing colloquialisms today, I guess. (or spelling. My first attempt to post this had nothing but typos.) Can you DIG it daddy-o? I've heard people say, "I dig" in the movies, but they sound like they're pretending to be hippies or beatniks. Nobody I know ever said that. And even after I knew the letter was a G, I wondered what kind of clearing an OKING was. Ouch.

      So, maybe "finishing" is a spectrum, where @Jim Walker is at one end, understanding all of it, and I'm waaay at the other.

      Ah, well, there are ones I never get a toehold in, and no amount of Googling gets me through them, so this was okay. I mean OK. And even though I cried when I had to replace fieRY with GLARY, I was happy not to stumble across any eels.

      And delighted to be part of this generous community of science and grammar nazis.

      Ellen S 3:18 AM  

      P.S. @ACME -- me too about 34A -- what's an 8-letter word for "Jump off the shower door track onto my shoulder, claws extended"?

      Carola 5:28 AM  

      An on-the-easy-side Friday for me, thanks to random knowledge (VARIG), help from previous puzzles (OCARINA, I DIG, EARLAP) and good guesses from a letter or two. Like @Rex, I benefitted from the phrases with ONES: I guessed that 1A ended with ONE'S WORDS, and that gave me my start.

      Sailed right along until I ran aground in the area bounded by ELI_ _ A and the incorrect EllA. Adopted the take-a-break tactic and went and foraged in the kitchen. It worked - I saw it had to be ETTA., and finished from there. Last in was SOIGNEE - nice to finish with such a lovely word.

      webwinger 5:47 AM  

      I guess I’m OKING this one, but didn’t really enjoy the experience. Have to agree with Rex that 15 stacks with less than scintillating material are hard to justify, at least in terms of solving time and effort for this slowpoke. “Finished” today in about average Friday time, with quite a few googles and WTF/WOEs. Experience similar to @Ellen S, with Ariadne before PHAEDRA (Minos had a lot of kids, it turns out), much head scratching before realizing IDIG. (Probably true that no one ever said this at the University of Chicago, “where fun comes to die”.) Among the Downs (which seem like the only place to have a good time given the domination of Across by the stacks) some welcome words (OCARINA, NOMINAL, SOIGNEE) and clever cluing (SNEEZES, STEREOS, GASOLINE). Thanks @Evan, for pointing out the DOMINOS/NOID connection.

      MetaRex 7:27 AM  

      This grid is really pretty...that counts for a whole lot w/ me. Ratings w/ mini-reflections on stacks, ONE'S, CrossWorlders, and real people (sorry, Evan) here...

      Anonymous 7:30 AM  

      Found it exceedingly easy for a Friday. My puzzle day is over. Don't know what I'll do at work. I guess work.

      Loren Muse Smith 7:43 AM  

      Well heck – I sure didn’t WEND my way through this one with EASE. A deceptively easy one-two punch of CHOOSE ONE’S WORDS and SNEEZES gave me FONZ and FENDI, and that’s about all she wrote. I did go back and fill in NIE, NO ID, CASAS, guessed ROSSINI, got a smattering of others, and then just threw in the towel.

      My confident “vents” for SHEDS completely messed me up, and I never even questioned it. I also had ORNAtE_ _ _. . . at the bottom, which, again, I never questioned.

      Surely I’m not the only one who decided “crevasse” had too many letters and moved on, never considering CREVICE?

      WOEs were legion: OTOMIS, VERNA, GLARY, ETAMESON, OMN, PHAEDREA, ELISSA, VARIG, SLR, OCARINA, SORAS. . . I’ve met EARLAP here before but forgot it. I know the word SOIGNEE but I sure had forgotten that it was an adjective.

      Really liked the clues for STEREOS and DOMINO’S! And somehow I like the word SPLICER. Can’t ‘splain why, though.

      This wasn’t a puzzle I wanted to THRO AT Some unsuspecting by-stander, but it certainly HOMED IN on my weaknesses and defeated me handily.

      jackj 7:51 AM  

      Welcome back to Tim Croce who delivers us a wonderfully gnarly tussle that had me starting it by going through its back door by guessing that the last words in One Across, (the first of the puzzles six triple-stack 15’s) were ONESWORDS.

      From there, two of the best entries in the grid became clear, WEND and SHIES and the rest of that Maine corner filled in quite nicely. This was a puzzle where partially filled answers allowed intelligent guesses to be made as with such as LOCHNESS and ROANOKE, ROSSINI and THROATS.

      That “K” in ROANOKE led one to PEKOE and a rather big Huh? ensued—“Alternative to gunpowder”, and had not a clue, but a post solve look-up says “gunpowder” is a potent form of Chinese tea that just happens to look like gunpowder when processed.

      Unknowns were really unknown but were achieved through the crosses and included OTOMIS, ETAMESON and SORAS but there were also oddities that were quickly known, CORNS, VARIG, FENDI, COEDS and NOID, (Brooklyn’s version of NERD), for example.

      The triple stack 15’s weren’t lay downs, but by getting but a few letters from the crosses they filled rather easily, except for the southeast quadrant where a WildAssGuess for the actress Landi produced ELINOR and the blues album seemed to be seeking ELLA until some serious head-scratching finally said “try GILT, GLARY and ETTA” and that led to a pleasant way to end by filling in SOIGNEE, no thanks to ELISSA.

      Top drawer all the way from Tim Croce!

      GILL I. 8:08 AM  

      I honestly can't think of any crossword form that I don't enjoy. I used to dislike pun types but now I like them because they usually elicit funny comments.
      Congrads to anyone who sailed through this. Me too for Clare before VERNA and damn, I finally learned how to spell Ariadne and PHAEDRA just sneaks in.
      VARIG easy for me; I used to fly them all the time. I thought though, that they had gone belly up.
      I actually didn't have too many problems with the stacks. My usual bugaboos were the proper names as well as words like GILT IDIG and OKING!!!!
      That gunpowder clue got me again. I've got to remember it's tea...
      I'm so glad for JenCT. I echo all the sentiments from this here blog.
      And ED too - wow, a grampy!

      joho 8:20 AM  

      When I was done my first thought was, "Boy, @Rex is going to pounce on those ONES!" And I was not disappointed. At first I thought CHOOSEONESWORDS was going to be MINDONESPSANDQS with QUIZNOS where DOMINOS is. ROANOKE and SNEEZES sorted that out pretty quickly.

      @Rex, "Let's see: not one but two olde-timey actresses (VERNA, ELISSA??? ... actually, ELISSA is so olde-timey that I should apologize to VERNA for even mentioning them in the same breath)." LOL

      SOIGNEE was one of my mom's favorite words, mine, too.

      @evan, interesting to learn that NOID is a thing!

      When I finish a Friday with no errors I am happy. Thank you, Tim

      JenCT 8:28 AM  

      Still reeling from the outpouring of support I've received....

      Liked seeing the FONZ and hummingbird THROATS, otherwise a DNF for me.

      I'm eagerly awaiting the Spring arrival of the Ruby-Throated hummingbird; for those on the Eastern seaboard, here's a site that I use to track the migration north:

      Ruby-Throated Migration

      Glimmerglass 8:28 AM  

      @Garth speaks my mind. Amen. There is a hummingbird called a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. It's the only one we get regularly in Massachusetts, but there are dozens of kinds of hummingbirds whose THROATS are not particularly distinctive. Really hard puzzle for me today. I made a lot of guesses I wasn't at all sure about (SOIGNEE? LOCH NESS?) that turned out to be right. I still don't know why PEKOE (tea?) is an alternative to gunpowder, but how many words end in **KOE? and PHILS makes sense. (Never heard of the handbag, but that's no surprise.

      Unknown 8:46 AM  

      I am naive enough to still get a thrill from the 15 stacks, but this one was not my favorite. Some of the fill was just icky (when's the last time you used the word GLARY?). I did consider ukulele before OCARINA. I literally had a sneezing fit while entering SNEEZES, so that was special.

      Sir Hillary 9:05 AM  

      Really wanted to like this one, but found it a bit boring. Finished without help, but just didn't get any sizzle. However, that had nothing to do with the 15s, which were fine. Not sure how @Rex calls this a "stunt".

      Like @Evan, many writeovers which slowed me down:
      -- isee/IDIG
      -- eta/ETD (bad miss; the clue says "wheels-up")
      -- freezes/SNEEZES
      -- springon/SPRINGAT
      -- ella/ETTA

      Stared a long time at _I_ED for 19A, because I had no idea about OTOMIS or ETAMESON. I was literally going through the alphabet, which is a real pain when there are two unknown letters.

      And all this time I've been calling them earFlaps, which Google tells me is also acceptable. EARLAP -- who knew? Not me, before today.

      Anonymous 9:39 AM  

      @Glimmerglass: Gunpowder is indeed a type of tea. Green, as opposed to black (Pekoe).

      chefbea 9:42 AM  

      Too tough for me. DNF. Didn't understand pekoe til I read the comments.

      Brr - very cold here in the south. Had to bring all the herbs inside last night. was in the 20's this morning.

      dk 9:42 AM  

      Dad to son: "I am building and putting up a humming bird feeder." Son to dad: "Lame." Dad to son: "I think I will use the Skull bottle from that Gin or Vodka you got." Son to dad: "Give it up that is double lame."

      Within the fullness of time.

      Son to dad: " You gotta see this. These humming birds are amazing! They have cool colors on their THROATS and they dive bomb one another as they fight for the feeder. The skull is like the temple of doom and it glows red in the sun. This is better than a video game."

      Dad to son in sotto voice:"ahh grasshopper."

      🐱🐱🐱 (3 cats waiting for you to sit on the toilet so they can jump on your lap claws extended as soon as you start to…)

      jberg 9:52 AM  

      What can I say, I liked it. I enjoyed the struggle, made more difficult by the many plausible wrong choices: EllA before ETTA, AriaDne before PHAEDRA, railS before SORAS, and in 1A convinced to shift from ONE'S to your by the plausibility of yaquIS at 7D. Also SPRING on at first. And I guess book spines can be GILT, but it's much more common to gild the edges of the pages. I'd have been totally lost without a few gimmes like ELGIN and SOREN, and eventually FONZ.

      @Glimmerglass, there is a gunpowder tea; I'm not really sure how it's defined.

      But EMAIL DOMAIN NAME? Would anyone say that? It's just a domain name, and probably shared by email servers and web pages. I had a hard time accepting that one.

      On the other hand, I'm kicking myself for not getting OCARINA right away - I was stuck on the Latin name, something with ans- in it, even though I used to eat in a great restaurant called OCA NERA.

      I like long grinds that are gettable, but can see why some might not - but I did enjoy this puzzle.

      PMDM 10:06 AM  

      @Garth, as seconded by Glimmerglass, said it well about today's write-up, but I'd like to add my two cents worth.

      It's not difficult to reason out why one's tastes differs from others. For example, I like classical music and hate rap, but I can easily understand why others have the opposite taste. So while I can appreciate a person writing about his reaction to a crossword, but I cringe when the person can't see the point in creating something that others are fond of.

      As far as bad fill, there are enough complaints about bad fill in non-stack puzzles that I don't see the correlation between a stack puzzle and bad fill. Bad fill just seems to happen. But one person's bad fill is another person's delight, so I guess you just have to lump it.

      Garth nicely listed some points why someone would construct a puzzle such as today's. Here's one more. Shortz seems to like stack puzzles, especially for the Friday slot. So why would you create a stack puzzle? So that Shortz will accept it, gaining you the $200 fee. Seems like a reasonable incentive to me.

      So while it fine that some of you dislike stacks, I hope at least you can appreciate why constructors will continue to create these types of puzzles.

      Pete 10:11 AM  

      In case you haven't noticed, Rex almost always starts his posts with a description of his experience in solving the puzzle. An informed experience, but nonetheless his solving experience. We each have different experiences, but there is no arguing with his, or my, experience.

      My experience with stacked fifteens over the years went from abject fear to enthusiasm when I learned that getting just one 15 opened up the whole puzzle to ennui, knowing that stacked 15s invariably give me VARIG/ELISSA/EMAILDOMAINNAME.

      By the way, my email id (pete@myserver.com) does not contain my emaildomainname (mail23.myserver.com). Feel free to send me angry emails at that address. Please, send thousands.

      Ulrich 10:14 AM  

      Let's see: "a million" is "eine Million" in German; and "years" is "Jahre". So, "in a million years" is "in eine Million Jahre", right? WRONG! It's completely ungrammatical German.

      "In" is a preposition and requires, in this part. context, the dative (indirect object case), which is "Jahren". In "in a million years", "years" is an object, too, but since English lost its noun inflections a long time ago, it looks like a nominative (subject case). But German has NOT lost its noun inflections, and if you put a German phrase in a context that needs an inflection, you need to use the inflected form. Nothing else makes sense to me.

      I've said it so often: If you do not understand a highly-inflected language, don't get cute with it! There are other ways to clue NIE--my favorite still is "when German pigs fly".

      Aside form that: I could solve the puzzle w/o googling, and that means something to me.

      quilter1 10:29 AM  

      I did the top half rather handily, then enjoyably struggled with the bottom half. Even though ETTA is on the IPod she did not appear quickly. I like SOIGNEE.
      What is an 8 letter word for "sit on the edge of the bed and get a quick grab and love bite on the ankle?"

      @ED, congrats. It just gets better and better.

      Jeffrey 10:34 AM  

      What Garth said.

      Matthew G. 10:36 AM  

      These days, when I open the paper to look at the Friday or Saturday grid, I usually have a pretty good idea whether I will like the puzzle based on the grid itself. I knew I was not going to like this one, and I didn't. The NYT seems to be the only place relying heavily on stacked 15s for its themelesses -- you don't often see that in the Fireball, or in BEQs, or from any of the other independent sources I solve regularly. And I'd rather have a nice open grid with mid-length fill than all of these 15s with their strained Down crossings.

      Longwinded way of saying Rex is right.

      Twangster 10:50 AM  

      I'm sure I'm being dense here, but can someone please explain why ETD is "wheels-up announcement"? Don't the plane's wheels go up once its in the air, by which point you'd already know your ETD and there would be no point in announcing it?

      This puzzle took me forever but I finally got it. My favorite wrong answer was BONO for COMO.

      Masked and U-Less 10:50 AM  

      What Jeffrey said.

      And I like a little of everything in crosswords. Not everything at once, tho.


      Sandy K 10:56 AM  

      Was not sure of the APTNESS of the WORDS that I CHOSE til coming here.

      Had PEKOE, but didn't know why. Guessed at SOIGNEE/OPP...still not sure why OPP is long, for short.

      Got OTOMIS and ETAMESON from crosses.
      Never heard of old-timey actresses. Had Ella before ETTA.

      So I guess I only finished cuz I must've SAID my PRAYERS.

      Thoracic 11:04 AM  

      No real sense of triumph with the finish. Had to Google some and just felt generally unhappy with my progress. Some of the fill was truly awful. Liked rocket to the moon but the remaining long answers just didn't excite. I think this was punching above my weight today ( and I'm fairly weighty!!). Well, every day can't be golden!

      Matthew G. 11:07 AM  

      Twangster: I had something of the same reaction. But I'm pretty sure I've heard a pilot say something along the lines of "We're hoping for a wheels-up time of 9:37 ..." or the like, so I justified it that way.

      tonydica 11:26 AM  

      What is "opp" short for, as the answer to 45 Across clue Long, for short: abbr?

      Anonymous 11:30 AM  

      @Twangster - Think of it as an announcement of the expected "wheels up" time, rather than an announcement made after the fact.

      Anonymous 11:35 AM  

      @tonydica - long is the opposite (abbreviated OPP) of short

      Two Ponies 11:46 AM  

      I liked this better than Rex but sadly that little mash-up of Elissa/opp/soignee gave me a DNF.
      But I enjoyed the fight.
      I liked learning what ocarina means.
      @ chefwen, I had the same teary eyed feeling yesterday when I proudly told Puzzlemate about this amazing community. @ JenCT, Anxious to hear more about your new companion.
      @ dk, Great bird and son story.
      Here in Vegas we have hummers year round.

      Mel Ott 11:50 AM  

      Well, I guess I just like 15 stacks more than @Rex.

      But I wonder if Will established a requirement for this week's constructions that each puzzle contain a cross of proper names, at least one of which has unusual spelling.

      Today FENDI/ELISSA or FENDY/ELYSSA. Yesterday ISAAK/KELSO or ISAAC/CELSO. One or two similar crossings earlier in the week if memory serves. Even if I have heard these names it's not likely I've seen them in print. Natick time.

      evil doug 11:56 AM  

      Two Ponies,

      "Here in Vegas we have hummers year round."

      I've heard that about Vegas---but they're pretty expensive....

      Missed the 's' in Soren/soras---and if it shows up again, it's one of those words I'll miss again....

      About the time I was filling in 'said one's prayers', my son called and said they're taking a closer look at his little guy's heart for a possible murmur. Not that unusual, and we're thankful for the attention to detail. One of my Starbucks pals happens to be a nurse in the pediatric ICU there, so it's nice to have her on the case. Everybody's prayerful and optimistic, and I know you all are rooting for him.


      Magenta Crayola 12:13 PM  

      Not only did I not finish this puzzle, I didn't care enough to even try. When a constructor includes words that he has to scare up from some other source besides his own lexicon, how is that supposed to be a fair and balanced challenge to me. I could have plugged away to get some answers from the crosses, but I want my time to be spent

      Two Ponies 12:18 PM  

      @ ED, I guess I asked for that.

      Best of luck with your little guy. Always great to have someone on the inside looking out for you.

      No comment on the "wheels up" clue?

      Unknown 12:18 PM  

      DNF for me. Got about half way done and threw in the towel. Lots of stuff outside my zone. Words I refuse to believe are words (I know they are I just don't want to admit it): MOIRE, SORAS, GLARY, SOIGNEE, OCARINA

      Add this to my mistakes:
      -Had ARIADNE for 35D
      -MAYANS for OTOMIS
      -Spelled CREVICE as CREVaCE

      Liked the clue for STREOS-"Rock collections..."

      Oh well, there's always tomorrow.

      @ED - good luck with the little one, hope everything turns out well

      lawprof 12:27 PM  

      I feel a little like Steeler quarterback Terry Brandshaw, who Cowboy linebacker Hollywood Henderson described as "so dumb, he couldn't spell cat if you spotted him the c and the a." I had ??C??TTOTHEMOON and still couldn't come up with ROCKET. Now THAT'S embarrassing.

      Part of the problem for me was that I had CornICE at 1D and was so wedded to it that the rest of the Pacific Northwest became a total trainwreck. I tend to think of a crevice as a mountain climbing hazard, but a helpful element in ice climbing. Still, no excuse. And I've got no Jerry Rice to bail me out.

      Sandy K 12:33 PM  

      Thanks @anonymous 11:35 for explanation of OPP!

      @Evil Doug- Prayers go out to your new grandson.

      Davis 12:40 PM  

      Hrm. Fill was all over the map on this one. ROCKET TO THE MOON was nice. EDITORIAL STANCE was solid. I liked PHAEDRA (even though I was confused when crosses eliminated Ariadne). OCARINA had a nice clue. EMAIL DOMAIN NAME... I knew it, but that's not really something that I even hear much from tech people, so I thought that was actually weak. VARIG was kicking around somewhere in my brain pan, but I can see why that was a WTF for people (though at least it had easy crosses).

      Then there was ETA MESON—even as a former physics student, I didn't like this one; it's kind of bottom-of-the-barrel to start using random particles that are only really associated with high-energy collisions. SOIGNEE was a total guess; I didn't know ELGIN, wasn't seeing OPP, and had guessed ELISSA. OTOMIS was a complete head-scratcher (I had earlier put in Mayans, then Olmecs), but the crosses made it fine.

      Hard to say how I feel about this puzzle. I enjoyed parts and was annoyed at parts, so I'll call this middling. I don't feel that the 15s had enough sparkle to justify the ugly fill that the triple-stacks create, though.

      evil doug 12:41 PM  

      Yeah, "wheels up announcement" is a tricky little Friday-level clue. Not an announcement after airborne, but rather a PA about getting airborne---the crew letting antsy passengers know when they might expect to get their takeoff clearance from the tower. I started out with ETA, too....


      JFe 12:42 PM  


      Prayers for your little one...

      Pete 12:43 PM  

      @ED - Keep the faith - they'll test the little guy to within an inch of his life, and if there's something wrong they'll fix it. No matter what, you'll love him just the same. That is, unless the problem with his heart is that he's a liberal. :)

      Notsofast 1:17 PM  

      Ok, look; a "crevice" is in rock. A "crevasse" is in ice. "Pekoe" is a grade of tea, not an alternative to "gunpowder"; that would be "black" or fermented tea. And "oking" is just barely acceptable. This kind of inattention to detail should not be found in a published NYT puzzle. IMHO.

      Sir Hillary 1:23 PM  

      @Evil - If I read your post right, sounds like it's your grandson that I am praying for. Having just gone through discovery of my own atrial arrythmia (precise nature and severity still TBD) I can empathize. Hang in there.

      Evan 1:29 PM  
      This comment has been removed by the author.
      quilter1 1:36 PM  

      I visited Disneyland at age 11. My cousin Terry, a California kid, got to go with us for the first time. I simply do not remember the Rocket to the Moon ride. Maybe my grandma wouldn't let me go on that one. Knowing Grandma she probably thought actual space travel was involved. There were no long lines then. I remember the Teacups and Terry buying fuzzy dice for his bike after saving for months.

      Evan 1:53 PM  

      @Brendan McNamara:

      Some childhood friends of mine owned that "Yo! Noid" game. When I was in college, I used one of its intro screens for my desktop, where it shows a picture of the Noid pitted against some mysterious lookalike with text that says, "The mayer [sic] knows that only the Noid has the power to stop them." A Nintendo game with a typo at the very beginning -- just spectacular. You can watch a short video of that game here.

      @Evil Doug:

      Congrats, the little guy will come through.

      Lewis 1:53 PM  

      I too loved the clue for STEREOS.

      I don't believe that all the stack entries have to be wows, just as neither do all a puzzle's answers. Generally a good puzzle has a smattering of wow words, while most are there to tide the puzzle over. So if in the stacks there are one or two answers with a lot of pop, that's good enough for me! In general I liked the cluing to this puzzle. As far as I'm concerned, even if a puzzle has no answers with verve, if the cluing has verve, that easily makes up for it.

      chefbea 1:56 PM  

      Got an e-mail from Fikink today and she say to tell everyone in Rexville "hi". She hasn't been keeping up with the blog.

      sanfranman59 3:44 PM  

      Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

      Fri 28:59, 22:30, 1.29, 92%, Challenging

      Top 100 solvers

      Fri 15:52, 13:21, 1.19, 78%, Medium-Challenging

      Milford 3:52 PM  

      Another challenging Friday for me. I got a bit of a toe-hold with FONZ and FENDI up top and THROATS and STEREO (great clue!) on the bottom.

      Had to google to finish, but not too surprising since I have never laid eyes on the words OTOMIS, ETA MESON, or VARIG. But that's just part of crosswords for me. I'm just glad @Jim Walker doesn't determine the day a puzzle is assigned (Tues?).

      @E.D. I remember from my own that newborns often have minor heart problems that correct themselves soon after birth. Hope all turns out well with your new grandbaby.

      Eric 4:10 PM  

      DSQ on account of having to google. Annoyed at myself. I fear I'll never encounter VARIG and the OTOMIS again, which is a shame, because they're now securely emblazoned in my brain.

      Also, OMN? I got it from crosses, but I still can't figure out the acronym.

      Shouldn't it be hoNed in....and not HOMED IN? Whatever.

      I remember when the NYT switched to COLOR. Was that really 16 years ago? Time flies.

      And VERNA and ELISSA were waaayyy out of my wheelhouse. Perhaps I need to watch more old timey movies.

      Meh --- that's how I felt after I was done.

      LaneB 4:53 PM  

      Even afterGettingTheLong a52,55, 56, still never figured out OPP and SOIGNEE. SORAS and EARLAP also stumped me. With plenty of googles I cheated my way to the finish line, but in fact this one goes down as a DNF. no shame given the ridiculous (in some cases) cluing. Always comforting to see the trouble many others had--especially the clever and amusing L. Muse Smith.

      Bob Kerfuffle 5:20 PM  

      Crazy day today, very late.

      Harking back to @ Aptness Color Moires at 3:12 AM: Not only do OCARINA and UKULELE have the same number of letters, but, as the clue says, OCARINA means "small goose" while UKULELE means "jumping flea." Must be something there.

      Thanks to whomever for explaining OPP.

      Bob Kerfuffle 5:31 PM  

      @Eric - When OMN appeared in a NYT Xwd on 7/1/12, several people asked for the derivation, but no one seems to have answered. When OMN appeared in an LAT Xwd on 8/10/11, @Lemonade714 posted the following:

      "Like all medical prescription terminology which comes from a Latin base, OMN is the abbreviation for OMNIA, which means ALL in Latin and is the root of OMNIPOTENT, OMNIVORE and many more words."

      Not very satisfying.

      To HONE is to sharpen. To HOME IN on is to target precisely.

      mac 5:58 PM  

      Challenging and partly impossible for me. Many of the detours Evan describes, plus I had Furla instead of Fendi. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

      I never got 16 and 17 A, could not get away from a "honeymoon".

      Elgin, Verna, Elissa, soras and etamesons are strangers to me.

      Hope all will be well with the little guy, ED.

      retired_chemist 6:20 PM  

      Thanks for the OPP explanation. With ELISSA being another WTF I missed FOUR squares in an inglorious DNF.

      Same gimmes as @Rex.

      What Garth said.

      GLARY is ugly. So is OTOMIS (MIAMIS first). Other than those, the crosses of the 15-stack were very good.

      Nice Job, Mr. Croce. Thanks.

      Melodious funk 6:36 PM  

      Never mind the puzzle, have a look at this, from the international space station. You can kvetch about Rex later.


      I'm also from academia and I recognize Rex's attitude, it's common among professors of various stripes. As long as one isn't at the effect of the point of view, one can take it as its worth.

      Carrion, but be sure to watch that amazing video, the woman, Suni Williams, you can google to beget her bio. She's a terrific docent. And scientist.

      Melodious funk 6:40 PM  

      The bio of Suni Williams:


      Nice legs, too.

      Anonymous 8:25 PM  

      Also got 1 across first thing, but took a while to confirm it (with SELA and WEND). Started with POUNCE ON for 34A, but THROATS changed that. Have to admit that SOIGNEE is not something I'd seen before.
      Finished...but guessed the O in OPP.
      GLARY is a glaring absurdity.

      luisa massim 8:51 PM  

      i got elissa right away. i have been telling people for years that when my parents needed to name me with an "e" for grandpa edward they remembered elissa landi. i get blank looks with this reference, so thanks, tim croce!

      Z 9:54 PM  

      @ED - It's probably not serious, but I'm sure you'll all feel better when you are more certain that it is not serious.

      Puzzle - meh. Not quite as strong a reaction as OFL, but closer to him than @Garth et al. OTOMIS is a definite WTF. An ethnic group of 300,000 according to Wikipedia. Aztecs, Mayans, Olmecs, even Toltecs I've heard of (though I wouldn't have come up with them), but the OTOMIS are new to me. OMN and OKING are sufferable, but not OTOMIS (and a POC to boot).

      VERNA, ELISSA, ELGIN Baylor (it's been 42 years since he played), Perry COMO, the FONZ. Yeah, old.

      Communicated without saying anything - I was really hoping for "WROTE." Not to be.

      Sparky 9:54 PM  

      I wish I would remember Kierkegaard's first name. Tried lOREN/lOonS for a while. Missed SOIGNEE and left 8 holes in NW. I am not crazy about phrases with ONES in them. Took me on and off all day.

      Wishing you and the grandchild all the best @ED.

      sanfranman59 10:02 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 5:51, 6:10, 0.95, 25%, Easy-Medium
      Tue 8:20, 8:20, 1.00, 52%, Medium
      Wed 10:16, 10:37, 0.97, 43%, Medium
      Thu 13:38, 16:58, 0.80, 16%, Easy
      Fri 28:53, 22:30, 1.28, 91%, Challenging

      Top 100 solvers

      Mon 3:35, 3:41, 0.97, 29%, Easy-Medium
      Tue 5:06, 4:57, 1.03, 60%, Medium-Challenging
      Wed 6:11, 6:16, 0.99, 44%, Medium
      Thu 7:39, 9:56, 0.77, 11%, Easy
      Fri 14:32, 13:21, 1.09, 65%, Medium-Challenging

      Anonymous 10:12 PM  

      Gunpowder tea. Huh. Now I know.

      michael 10:19 PM  

      My time in Latin American sometimes helps with these puzzles. Got Otomis and Varig without problems.

      Bungerting Baloner 10:22 PM  

      email domain name is pretty pathetic, a phrase that no one has ever heard of because no one ever uses it.

      evil doug 4:39 AM  

      Don't mean to usurp the discussion, but wanted to say thanks for the positive vibes. The little guy got out of ICU, got to return to his mom's room to sleep with his folks, and except for a couple little deals that will bear an occasional follow-up the news was all great.


      Ele54 9:25 AM  

      Well even though I am at Disney World, I had no clue about ROCKET TO THE MOON. Couldn't finish without using the check function on the IPAD repeatedly.

      Tita 11:51 AM  

      DNF - friends over for fondue that Swiss friends smuggled in last week.
      Had an animated conversation that sprung from the ACPT final puzzle - he was fascinated by the different clues for the 3 levels of difficulty.

      @Jen - thanks for that link. They are always such a wonder!

      @Twang - yes...I thought once the wheels are up, the EDT was a thing of the past, and the pilot would announce ETa... I don't buy the weak explanations to the contrary-not even from ED, though I am happy to hear all is well with the new wain...

      cycling events in cork 7:31 AM  

      Thanks for another wonderful article. Where else could anybody get that type of info in such a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such info.

      Spacecraft 11:33 AM  

      Nearly 100% congruent with OFL this time. I, too, mis-filled EllA--and that, along with trying "ant" ("Long, for short: Abbr."), figuring "antonym," instead of OPP, made for a hideously knotty SE. I did, eventually, get it all straightened out, my last letter being the assumed S at sq. 39. 'Cause SOIGNEE is a term I've never heard of.

      To soften the negativity somewhat, there IS some good fill. The FONZ SNEEZES. Now there's an image.

      Oh, wait! There's SELA! How could I forget? Never mind the above: I LOVED it!! As I would any grid containing her name.

      rain forest 3:05 PM  

      I think that the challenge to the constructor, as well as the enjoyment of taking on the challenge, of stacked 15's is reason enough to have them. OFL asks, "what's the point"? You could ask that of any puzzle. People on this blog like talking about puzzles, both good and not-so-good ones (and of course those ratings are never agreed on), and that's a point, too. Anyhoo, I knew enough, and guessed well enough, to do this one pretty quickly, and if the long answers didn't "sparkle", they glinted a bit.

      Solving in Seattle 4:22 PM  

      Had the same issue as @Spacecraft re 45A OPP crossing with a word I'd not known either - SOIGNEE. Must be French and I don't know French.

      Can anyone explain ORIG as "One often duped: Abbr."?

      Yesterday we had SHIN, today SHIES. What will tomorrow bring?

      Can anyone dance the OCARINA? Goochi, goochi!

      DMGrandma 4:55 PM  

      I am so impressed that anyone could create a puzzle like this, that it would never occur to me to critize the effort. It's certainly something I couldn't begin to do! That said, I did struggle with some of it, and was surprised when semi-forgotten things, like VARIG and SOINGNEE emerged from somewhere. Had a hard time naming the LOCH, which is strange because when I was there I sent a picture of the castle to my Aunt Urquhart! Thanks to whoever explained OPP. I got it, but had no idea it was correct. Struggle as I did, I did finally, and unexpectedly finish this collection of old names and delightfully misleading clues. Now to see what tomorrow brings....

      DMG 4:58 PM  

      @SIS. Originals are often duplicated.

      Bob Kerfuffle 4:58 PM  

      @SiS - An ORIGinal is often DUPlicatED.

      Solving in Seattle 5:03 PM  

      @DMG & @BobK, thanks. Forehead slap.

      capcha: oertaid hedes - another of King Minos' daughters.

      Dirigonzo 6:52 PM  

      The top half fell fairly quickly, but the bottom half took seemingly forever and needed a couple of good guesses to bring it home. I had ORNAMENTALlawns for too long because I was so sure of EllA.

      sdcheezhd 7:40 PM  

      I was surprised to see medium-challenging here; this was my quickest Friday in weeks. Maybe since I was all over VARIG for professional reasons.

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