Title priestess of opera / FRI 10-25-13 / Gershwin biographer David / Allure alternative / Tempest to Theodor / 1931 Best Picture / Old French epics / Painter della Francesca

Friday, October 25, 2013

Constructor: Martin Ashwood-Smith

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: "LAKMÉ" (39A: Title priestess of opera)
Lakmé is an opera in three acts by Léo Delibes to a French libretto by Edmond Gondinet and Philippe Gille. The score, written in 1881–1882, was first performed on 14 April 1883 by the Opéra Comique at the Salle Favart in Paris. Set in British India in the mid-19th century, Lakmé is based on Theodore Pavie's novel (including "les babouches du Brahamane") and novel Le Mariage de Loti by Pierre Loti. (wikipedia)
• • •

Quad stacks. Saw the grid and knew who made it without even looking.  It's officially a shtick.

As quad stack grids go, it's pretty clean, which means there is of course a bunch of gunk (most of it in the quad crossers), but most of the 15s appear to be real things, with nary a ONE'S in sight (e.g. A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE, etc.). I thought the puzzle was going to play quite hard, as my first pass across the top, through all the Downs, yielded almost nothing. I had WKRP instead of MEL'S at 1D: 1970s-'80s sitcom setting, and then Nothing except CCLI and a tentative ERTES and a so-tentative-I-didn't-write-it-in ORES. Went to work on the little pockets in the middle. Failed in the east, but then finally struck oil with FFF at 22A: Blasting, musically, followed quickly by FEDEX, FEES, and BEEFS. Still, that was not enough to blast me out of there. Had to restart in the west, with OJS, TOJO, URSA and the rest, which finally gave me the center 15 (weakest 15 of the bunch), MORSE CODE SIGNAL, and from there I got going in earnest.

MASTIFFS took me up. Gave in to AFIRST and then got -WARFARE, then all its crosses, and then backed into all those 15s up top. The one nice thing about stacks of 15s is that once you make a little headway with the Downs, esp. adjacent Downs, you can do some real damage very quickly. It's getting in that's the tough part. Bottom half proved much much easier than the top. The crosses were just so much more gettable. Only hiccup down there was PUTS rather than SETS ON A PEDESTAL. Oh, and I somehow thought SILVER ERA instead of SILVER AGE (32D: Second-greatest period in the history of something). The comic book fan in me was so proud to have thrown that one down off just the SI-, but ... ERA? Dumb mistake.

Back to baseball.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


GILL I. 12:11 AM  

I hate being first but I'd like my money back, please. No questions asked

Anonymous 12:11 AM  

I got bogged down entering GEMS rather than ORES. I liked the critical mass of 'F's in the middle. No one have EVER said "SETS on a pedestal", so I'lll gladly call BS on that one.

Steve J 12:12 AM  

Nice-looking grid, but not a nice solve for me. Everything felt clunky throughout, and a lot of the short fill was torturous. Especially bothersome is haveing MEAT show up twice in the grid, along with ODE and ODIST.

The 15s were mostly fine - aside from MORSE CODE SIGNAL, which is barely a thing, if it is a thing at all - but none was particularly noteworthy.

Really, the only thing this one has going for it is the twin four-stacks and overall elegance of the grid geometry. It strikes me as a feat to impress other constructors, not something engineered to make for an entertaining solving experience. I'd rather constructors focus on that than on impressing each other.

mathguy 12:14 AM  

Can't believe that I was able to solve it. It seemed so impenetrable. But I guessed LOSANGELESTIMES and my wife saw MASTIFFS and the top stack fell in place. There were four four-letter down gimmes intersecting the bottom stack which did the trick. Only four gimmes and nine entries I didn't know. I'd say it was challenging all the way.

Anonymous 12:24 AM  

Anon said:
" No one have EVER said "SETS on a pedestal", so I'lll gladly call BS on that one."

... and I'll gladly call BS on your BS, try looking the phrase up.


chefwen 12:32 AM  

What Gill I. P. said - Nothing more, nothing less.

chefwen 12:34 AM  

P.S. - Love your new avatar Gill!

jae 12:40 AM  

Medium-tough for me too. Pretty much the same take as Rex, except I made a dumb error and DNF. I must have been channeling Austin Powers because I had MONIED MEs for 5d which left me with sILES Ohio. I'm from Ohio and know NILES so no excuse, just got stuck on the S.

Also, say ah for DOSES, GAS usage for RATES, and handS for STEM.

Liked it. Pretty impressive construction. Nice one MAS!

Questinia 12:42 AM  

I had put sILas for McKinley's hometown on a whim and kept it through the corrections till I got sILES. Before correction that made for a rock and roll Hamilton calling the wealthy: MONIED MEs. How modern! Alexander Hamilton presaging Freud and the cult of self.

I really liked this puzzle. It was arduous and thuddy like a bass drum being played FFF.

Anonymous 12:45 AM  

Kudos to those who finished without cheating. I suck.

Davis 12:48 AM  

This was like two different puzzles. I burned through the bottom quad stack in record time, and thought I was on my way to a near-personal-best Friday. Made my way through the middle without too much struggle. And then the top quad stack was a brick wall.

I spent about two-thirds of my total solve time trying to break into that stack. I had MASTIFFS, CCL?, and kept vacillating between ORES and gemS, and I just couldn't get anything else. There were too many tough names: the roughly clued NIELS, EWEN (who?), ERTES. I put in A FIRST and then deleted it because it seemed too clunky. Had WHY NOT before IM GAME. By the time it all came together, I was just glad to have it over with.

Questinia 1:01 AM  

@ jae... GMTA!

wreck 1:10 AM  

Has there ever been a legitimate puzzle published with no black squares -- or is this as close as it comes?? It gave me a headache -- google was not much help.

Carola 3:42 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carola 3:44 AM  

Yesterday's ARTS saved me today, as LAKME, PIERO, HE TO, PAS DE, ODIST, CHANSONS DE GESTE, and CIMARRON got me into the bottom tier. It was a slow climb up to the top, made slower by my guessing "something-ed WARFARE" and having MpLS as the sitcom setting. Finally realized that Friday was from TV, not Defoe. Enjoyable solve, always feels good to finish an MAS puzzle.

Axl Cana Morsecodes 3:48 AM  

Happy Birthday, Martin!!!
Quite a feat to be published on your bday...and these quad stacks were like a quadruple layered birthday cake!!!

VERY cheeky to have LOSANGELESTIMES running across the middle, loved it!

Have to disagree! Why can't beautiful construction be something that adds to the enjoyment of the solver? Don't assume he's trying to impress other constructors as opposed to impressing the world at large!
Count me impressed as solver, constructor (who could never do what MAS does regualrly, not in one hundred years), and person on the planet!

test instead of EXAM held me up for a long time! Shoulda gone witt my love of Scrabbly letters!

And I thought Friday as in Man Friday, so ACOP took a while to surface.

MAS, i put/SET you ONAPEDESTAL, no bs!

Acme 3:57 AM  

How funny! Even as a Minneapolitan, I didn't consider MpLS!
Last time I used that abbrev that I grew up with, someone wrote to me to say "I didn't know you were from Milpitas!"

Hope to see everyone at Crosswords L A Saturday!
Merl, Tyler and I are sharing finals duty!

I skip M-w 4:23 AM  

Dnf because I was sure of bolo instead of bola, so never saw max instead of mox. But liked puzzle, and it mostly went speedily. Put in la times right away, then chipped away at top stack. knew Friday meant Joe for some reason. Liked piero as answer, since spent lots of time recently studying work of P d F, interesting transitional figure in hist of painting
Agree w/ @acme, construction is v impressive, and most fill was fine.

Anonymous 5:11 AM  

Interesting that SanFranciscoBee also has 15 letters; and Tora (for those who remember Tora! Tora! Tora!) is too close for comfort at 29d

The Bard 5:53 AM  

Hamlet , Act II, scene II

HAMLET: Ay, so, God be wi' ye;


Now I am alone.
O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That from her working all his visage wann'd,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? and all for nothing!
For Hecuba!
What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her?
What would he do,
Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech,
Make mad the guilty and appal the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears. Yet I,
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak,
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
And can say nothing; no, not for a king,
Upon whose property and most dear life
A damn'd defeat was made. Am I a coward?
Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across?
Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face?
Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i' the throat,
As deep as to the lungs? who does me this?
'Swounds, I should take it: for it cannot be
But I am pigeon-liver'd and lack gall
To make oppression bitter, or ere this
I should have fatted all the region kites
With this slave's offal: bloody, bawdy villain!
Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!
O, vengeance!
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murder'd,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,
And fall a-cursing, like a very drab,
A scullion!
Fie upon't! foh! About, my brain! I have heard
That guilty creatures sitting at a play
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaim'd their malefactions;
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ. I'll have these players
Play something like the murder of my father
Before mine uncle: I'll observe his looks;
I'll tent him to the quick: if he but blench,
I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil: and the devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me: I'll have grounds
More relative than this: the play 's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.


Hecuba 6:50 AM  

“Hector, dearest by far of all my children,
loved by the gods, as well, when you were living.
Now, at your death, they still take care of you.
When swift Achilles took my other sons,
he’d ship them off across the boundless seas,
to Samos, or Imbros, or foggy Lemnos.
When his long-edged bronze took away your life,
he dragged you many times around the mound
for his comrade Patroclus, whom you killed.
Yet even so, he could not revive him.
Now you lie here in our house, fresh as dew,
like someone whom Apollo of the silver bow
has just come to and killed with gentle arrows.”

Danp 7:20 AM  

What kind of person first thinks of ores for "sought-after rock group?" Gems, yes. But ores? No more than ELO's or REM's, and then only if your mind has been corrupted by crossword derangement syndrome.

Airymom 7:26 AM  

Could someone explain 20A? Thank you.

Glimmerglass 7:59 AM  

Like Airymom, I need a parse on ISS. International Space Station? It's an edition of one, but that's just too silly.

Scarab 8:04 AM  

My best guess is that ISSue = edition, and then it's "limited" by being abbreviated...?

jberg 8:18 AM  

Darn! I was feeling good about this one until I read @I skip M-W, and realized that I'd made the same error. BOLOs are the ties, right? I knew MoX looked funny, but let it go.

I did like it, though - it was fun figuring out all those long answers. CHANSONS DE GESTE was especially satisfying (I wanted roland, but it wouldn't fit) - though I guess it's a better known term than I'd thought, since no one is complaining about it.

Aside from that, my only writeover was 'room' for the end of 18A - thinking it was some kind of anteroom, until I saw TAME.

I'm with those who like this sort of puzzle, as long as they are ultimately solvable.

AliasZ 8:26 AM  

Contrary to Rex, when I looked at the grid I knew it was Joe Krozel. But then I saw MAS' byline and I thought, yes, he's the other one.

If MAS was trying to impress other constructors as @SteveJ suggested, he was way off the mark. He impressed this solver instead. Tremendously so. The quad-stacks and the center 15 were all superb. SET ON A PEDESTAL is definitely in the language, as is MORSE CODE SIGNAL. If there are nits to pick, this is not where you'll find them. They are in the short fill. MAS and Will themselves make mention of the ME AT/MEAT and ODE/ODIST ugliness at xwordinfo, but for all the excellent features of this beautiful puzzle it was well worth it. I needed my sunglasses for the glare of all that white in the grid.

Favorite: CHANSONS DE GESTE, the Old French for "songs of heroic deeds" (from gesta: Latin: "deeds, actions accomplished"). They are medieval narratives, types of epic poems that appear at the dawn of French literature. Composed in verse, these narrative poems of moderate length (averaging 4000 lines) were originally sung, or (later) recited, by minstrels or jongleurs. More than one hundred CHANSONS DE GESTE have survived in around three hundred manuscripts that date from the 12th to the 15th century. In later literature, Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533), Torquato Tasso (1544-1595) and many others based their epic poems on these chansons. (wikipedia)

Of these Ariosto's Orlando furioso (1516) has become quite popular, set to music by Handel, Lully, Rameau, Haydn and many others.

Here is a chaconne from Roland by Jean-Baptiste Lully.

Enjoy your "I'm ACOP" Friday!

Z 8:29 AM  

What @Scarab said.

Got into this off the POC at 37A. That yielded URSA then GOAL then LUMENS then CHANSON de roland. From there the south fell like Sherman marching to the sea.

I had a couple of tentacles into the north, but finally turning the lightbulb on in MELS got me moving since the M clued me in to 1A. Unfortunately, I never went back to where I began to fix TOrO/OrS. Duh. I knew it was wrong, I just didn't take the time to go back and suss it out. I left it to solve the north wondering how to get TOra to work.

Except for the RRN top center (and right above King FEDE X), good clean fill. Enjoyable Friday.

Beer Rating: Another quality IPA like yesterday.

Anonymous 8:39 AM  

Hard. Only moral victory is that I did it without google. The 15s are hard without a linking theme. MASH instead of MELS, TORA instead of TOJO, OPAL instead of ORES really slowed me down. And the French epic thing? I just guessed chansons, since I know that means songs. The rest of it came from fill. Yep. This one played hard for me.

Sir Hillary 8:52 AM  

A toughie for me, but I liked it and was finally able to finish. The 15s are all good, and garbage partials like ORHE and ACOP (even with its superb clue) are the price we pay for quad stacks. In this case, I am quite willing to pay.

Very impressive that ENACTORS, MONIEDMEN, SILVERAGE and GASRATES each cross five of the 15s.

I never noticed the MEAT dupe until coming here, although I wondered why that clunky clue at 50D was written that way. The ODE/ODIST issue (ISS?) did catch my attention, because the clue at 21A is as bad as it gets.

Capcha: arpreva. Seems familiar, as in "Consult your doctor to see if Arpreva is right for you."

Airymom 8:57 AM  

Thanks, "scarab", that makes sense. I wasn't thinking that "limited" meant abbreviated in the sense of abbreviation. I guess I needed more coffee this morning!

MetaRex 9:00 AM  

MASTIFFS (wanted BASSETS at first) and FFF helped this one flow fine by MRian standards...was happy to remember NILES from -ese or maybe from an Ohio sign. Had BEST OF MEN for the Hamiltonian clue at first.

Nice communication implicit theme w/ LOS ANGELES TIMES, MORSE CODE SIGNAL, COMMERCIAL RADIO, and FEDEX...also, briefly had PONY EXPRESS xxxx for "Western daily" off the S of MASTIFFS.

Sure, there are trade-offs w/ stacks...kinda liked the funky getting around the "no repetitions" rule cluing of -ODE and ME AT...sorta like HOS the other day.

FearkessKim 9:13 AM  

One wrong square here at 42A. With M_X in place, saw "Setting of 10, maybe", thought "movie" and popped in the E for MEX. BOLe looked just as right as anything else to me, so I never noticed that the clue was missing an abbrev. and quotation marks around the 10. Anyone else?

Notwithstanding the DNF, the grid looked so, so fine with all those letters in all that white space, and it sure was a satisfying solve. Thanks to the constructor!

Sir Hillary 9:33 AM  

Alternate clue for 21A: "An ending?"

joho 10:04 AM  

With BEEFS smack dab in the middle along with two MEATs I sensed a puzzle that carnivores would love.

I DNF but totally admire this one! Seriously, how many people can pull this off?! You did MAS, with flying colors! And, Happy Birthday to you!

Uncle John C 10:07 AM  

Forgive my obtuseness - but can someone explain the clue / answer for 24A ? I would appreciate it.

Questinia 10:15 AM  

Bay is both a noun-type of tree (i.e. bay leaves)
and a verb- to corner someone.

Uncle John C 10:46 AM  

Thank you questinia - I just couldn't see it. (followed by a "V8" head slap).

Steve J 10:47 AM  

@ Anon 5:11: There is no paper called the San Francisco Bee. There's a Sacramento Bee (and a Fresno Bee, too). San Francisco's papers are the Chronicle and the Examiner.

@Acme: I do think that unique or clever construction can enhance the solving experience at times. It can just as often detract. My take is that if a feat of impressive construction doesn't also enable good fill, requires an excess of bad fill, and doesn't have an excess of other issues, falls into the latter camp. My experience with today's puzzle is that it didn't have fill that wowed me, it had more than its fair share of subpar fill, and it had problems that were a consequence of the construction. To me, that means the construction took precedence over the solving experience.

Clearly, from the general flow of most people's comments today, my view is a minority one. And that's fine. There's never 100% agreement on these things. I happened not to particularly enjoy this, and it was directly a result of construction. While I'm impressed by the ability to make something work with two quad stacks of 15s, I'm more impressed by a puzzle that I enjoy solving and gives me some good surprises.

David 10:49 AM  

Got a little lucky today - just yesterday I solved a Frank Longo Saturday beauty from November '08, where SETSONAPEDESTAL was also the bottom entry. That gave me a 15 letter gimme right off the bat, and must've been good karma, as I cranked this out in less than half the time it usally takes me to complete a MAS themeless.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:49 AM  

To my taste, every Friday should be like this!

Was slowed the most by my one write-over:

My first entries were in the Virginia section, with EXAM, AXL, and (to use lms's name for it) my faux hold of 39 A, NORMA. Darn it, wrong title operatic priestess, and the "M" was in the right place too!

Nancy 10:58 AM  

Expected this to be a nightmare to solve as, at first, I didn't see anything in the top section I knew. But when ORES and FEST came in and I had OF at the end of the top row, MADE MINCEMEAT OF came to me in a flash of light. After that, it wasn't too hard -- just challenging enough. I enjoyed it a lot.

Milford 10:59 AM  

Not sure why, but I was able to solve the top and middle with a Friday-ease, but the south stacks were my undoing. Sounds like everyone else had the opposite experience! Not being familiar with CHANSONS DE GESTE, OR HE, CANA, or PAS DE didn't help.

I remember LAKME as an opera from this blog, months ago there was a reference to the lovely Flower Duet.


I FWG (Finished with Google), but that's hardly A FIRST. still a nice puzzle. How lovely to have a puzzle published on your birthday, MAS!

Two Ponies 11:13 AM  

The stacks are impressive to be sure but the phrases are rather blah except for the top one.
Too much French in the deep south so a DNF for me.

Z 11:18 AM  

@Steve J - I generally agree that an excess of bad fill can wreck a puzzle. Other than the RRN the fill didn't really bother me. Some of the worst (EWEN, ME AT, ISS, OJS, ONE L) were barely noticed during the solve by me. In fact, I had to go searching for it to come up with that list. Sometimes I think the visceral effect of fill comes from the flow of the solve. Despite some unknowns to me (EWEN, LAKME, thinking it had to be PIEtRO, PAS DE trois) nothing was crossed unfairly for me so the fill was not excessively bad in my book, more just the glue that holds the stacks together.

Anonymous 11:23 AM  

Sets on a pedestal may be legit but it's lame and it must be the rare day when its used.

Had trouble on the bottom with the French stuff. Piero, pasde, chansondegeste, cross blows chunks.

Four stacks, five stacks six stacks, may be a constructive feat, but who cares if the solve isn't fun.

RSVP <----- French hahahahah

Sandy K 11:35 AM  

One look at the grid and the constructor's name put me in a "I'll never finish this" mind-set...

But surprisingly, it was TAMEr than I FIRST suspected. The cluing was pretty straight-forward, except for
2D- "I'm___" tired? pooped? naticked?
Aha! Joe Friday- A COP!

Happy Friday!

AliasZ 11:35 AM  

PIERO della Francesca (c. 1415 – 1492) was a painter of the Early Renaissance. His painting was characterized by its serene humanism, its use of geometric forms and perspective. His most famous work is the cycle of frescoes "The History (Legend) of the True Cross" in the church of San Francesco in the Tuscan town of Arezzo.

His fresco Resurrection is located in the town of Sansepolcro (Holy Sepulchre), Tuscany, which owes its being spared during World War II to this famous painting.

British artillery officer Tony Clarke defied orders and held back from using his troop's guns to shell the town. Although Clarke had never seen the fresco, his diary records his shock at the destruction in Monte Cassino and, apparently remembering where he had read of Sansepolcro, ordered his men to hold fire just as methodical shelling had begun. Clarke, an art-lover, had read Aldous Huxley's 1925 essay describing "The Resurrection" as the world's "best picture": "It stands there before us in entire and actual splendour, the greatest picture in the world." It was later ascertained that the Germans had already retreated from the area — the bombardment hadn't been necessary. The town, along with its famous painting, survived. When the events of the episode eventually became clear, Clarke was lauded as a local hero and to this day a street in Sansepolcro bears his name. (from Wikipedia)

Notice the second reclining figure from the left. It is a self-portrait of PIERO della Francesca.

Gene 11:49 AM  

Glad to have my one ISSue solved here (didn't understand why it worked). Found the bottom easy, the middle easy except for the middle of the middle, and the top the very opposite of a TAME FEST.

Cheerio 12:16 PM  

I love this! I look forward to Ashwood-Smith puzzles because of the refined word selections. I was not disappointed. Thanks!

Steve J 12:23 PM  

@Z: I think you're exactly right with this: "Sometimes I think the visceral effect of fill comes from the flow of the solve."

I never could get any traction with this one, with scattered islands of unconnected fill staring me in the face. So everything felt very clunky to me. I've had clunky solves that I've nevertheless come to enjoy because I perceived a nice payoff in the end (clever theme, sparkling long fill), but that didn't happen for me this time.

Had I been able to gain an early and consolidated foothold somewhere, spreading out into the rest of the puzzle from there, I may have had a very different impression.

Long story short: sometimes a problem puzzle is really an issue with a solver's problem(s). Could definitely be the case here.

And I've blathered on about this one enough. See y'all tomorrow.

Unknown 12:23 PM  

I typically find quad stacks impressive, and I did think this one was as well, but...

I found the clues for ISS, MEAT, ODE, BEEFS more annoying than clever, and that subtracted from my enjoyment significantly.

Anonymous 12:43 PM  

@airymom FYI...Bill Butler's NYT crossword puzzle blog is another good source for finding out what the heck some of the clues/answers are referring to. It's worth checking out!

Anonymous 12:49 PM  

@airymom oops...this might help http://www.nytcrossword.com/ for Bill Butler's blog.

Acme 12:56 PM  

I appreciate that you always think long and hard and are willing to reconsider where the problem may have come from!
(I just bridled at the remark that this marvellous creation was somehow to impress other constructors and not to bring joy to the world!!!
On his birthday, no less!)

Btw, haven't seen others mention but I originally had MADEquickworkOF which was cool, but wrong...and why I shied from the X later.

John V 1:28 PM  

Nope. Got bits here and there, LA Tiimes, Pedistal, but not much more. I admire Martin's fine work but mostly don't have a lot of success in the stacks. Just the way it goes, the way I'm wired/not wired.

Happy birthday, man!

mac 1:28 PM  

Tough puzzle for me. The bottom was easy, the top a struggle and the F-pile-up and Lakme beat me.

Ores was one option for me, Alps a second. Norma was in place for a very long time.

Impressive grid with a scary lack of black!

Lewis 1:49 PM  

Absolutely loved the clue for 2D -- gave me a good laugh. Also liked the clue for FEES. Rex said that the hard part was getting in, and that is true for me. Once I got a small foothold, the puzzle went quickly (for a Friday). I needed a couple of Googles, however.

Martin, I bet you worked a long time on this, and thank you for the effort!

Chip Hilton 2:38 PM  

I absolutely loved this puzzle. The way the 15s were revealed by vertical answers here and there was a blast. All nine of the 15s were, to me, sensible and in common usage. Some of the short crosses were weak but, if that was needed to create this wonderful challenge, I can live with them.

2-D thoughts before the answer appeared: "I'm done, gone, over, thru, ... Much prefer the misdirect.

@AliasZ - Thanks for the fascinating tale concerning Sansepolcro. Awful to reflect on so many episodes in which similar restraint was not shown.

Thanks, MA-S, for a great Friday (which follows an equally terrific Thursday). Bring on the weekend!

gifcan 2:38 PM  

I'm always amazed, when at first glance, I get very little and then slowly piece it together and complete it.

As @Jberg said I like these kinds of puzzles if they are ultimately solveable.

46S had me aguessing at PablO, PedRO, PaulO and finally, PIERO.

My DNF was the cross ODInT and GEnTE.

Loved the comment by @Danp as we all suffer from crossword derangement syndrome at some time or other.

Enjoyed the challenge.

Chip Hilton 2:38 PM  

I absolutely loved this puzzle. The way the 15s were revealed by vertical answers here and there was a blast. All nine of the 15s were, to me, sensible and in common usage. Some of the short crosses were weak but, if that was needed to create this wonderful challenge, I can live with them.

2-D thoughts before the answer appeared: "I'm done, gone, over, thru, ... Much prefer the misdirect.

@AliasZ - Thanks for the fascinating tale concerning Sansepolcro. Awful to reflect on so many episodes in which similar restraint was not shown.

Thanks, MA-S, for a great Friday (which follows an equally terrific Thursday). Bring on the weekend!

Anonymous 3:31 PM  

Bard, love it when you do that.

Bill C 3:44 PM  

If I could be king for the day (and by king I obviously mean Will Shortz), my first rule might be to ban French/French crossings.

OISK 3:56 PM  

Loved seeing this one rated "medium Challenging." I don't time myself on Fridays, but I took The Times on the subway with me, began the puzzle at Avenue J, and finished at Prospect Park. That is a 12 minute run, which must be my fastest Friday. Yesterday's "medium" Thrursday was far more difficult for me!

Very fine puzzle, even the inevitable Rock icon I've never heard of "Axl" was a gimmee based on prior puzzles. Sometimes a puzzle is just on your wave length, and it fills itself in magically, as if there was a mind merge between you and the author. That is how this one was for me. Beautiful grid, wonderful puzzle.

Z 4:29 PM  

@Bill C - "French/French crossing" sounds like gussied up porn to me, so it must be high art.

triggerfinger 5:24 PM  

A fantastic puzzle...I am always excited when I see Mr. Ashwood-Smith's byline. This one was a typical work of genius. Clever clues were difficult but doable.
I am always so impressed.
Enough gushing.

beatrice 5:39 PM  

Thank you to AliasZ for calling attention (and linking) to a striking work of art and some of its history. Thanks also for the info on CHANSONS DE GESTE and their cultural influence. I especially loved that he or she mentioned the poem's musical heritage (and provided a link there, too). I would like to add that madrigalists throughout the 16th century set various of the poem's stanzas -- according to WebMusic, some 700 of these have survived(!). In fact, there is a fairly recent CD which is devoted entirely to this repertoire. Although still on my to-buy list, it receives a rave review on Arkiv. I found only one madrigal setting on YouTube, and though I'm not adept at imbedding, if anyone out there is interested (and I hope some of you are!), it is 'Non rumor di tamburi' by Alessandro Striggio. Finally, Vivaldi wrote an opera based on the poem, from which there are a number of arias on YouTube, some featuring the astonishingly wonderful male soprano Philippe Jaroussky.

Me, You, or Ellie 5:49 PM  

May I brag? I got "made mince meat of" with the single C from 8D.


It still took me ages. I have moments, but not very many of them.


J Dipinto 5:55 PM  

How about "Record label that released Carole King's 'Tapestry'"?

okanaganer 6:51 PM  

I'm very late to comment simply because it took me this long to solve it. But I did, with no Google and no errors. But I paused the timer and came back to it several times. Still proud of myself and enjoyed the challenge...just like last Friday...remember? So is Friday the new Saturday?

Anonymous 8:23 PM  

OMG, this was the hardest puzzle I have seen for weeks. It took me a solid hour, and completely guessed on ISS and BOLA. What the hell is ISS? I still don't get it. I wasn't getting up until I solved it though, except to refill my wine glass of course.


Anonymous 8:31 PM  

"Limited edition?" does not make sense to me. How is a periodical "limited"?

And it seems Will Shortz has been avoiding the International Space Station (ISS). The last 14 times it's been clued as "magazine no." and variations. The space station angle is far preferable to the other definition, which would fail to amuse even one snotty person

daveyhead 8:33 PM  

Blasting, musically? FFF (as Moe Syzlak: WHAAAAA?)

Can someone explain? The worst part of not getting it is that everyone from Rex on down mentioned it in passing, if at all, with a ho-hum..


Z 8:54 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Z 8:55 PM  

FFF Is forte fortissimo. Basically, in a musical score, the more F's the louder, the more P's the quieter.

8:54 PM

Noam D. Elkies 1:05 AM  

Surprised nobody has mentioned the old joke:

A: The slimmest volume of the dictionary.
Q: What's Hecuba to him, OR HE to Hecuba?

Neat to see MONIED/SILVER in the symmetrically placed 6+3 5D/32D.

NDE (1966-, not NP 1932-1999 nor (A)NC 1928-)

Acme 3:13 AM  

Wow, @Noam D. elkies
If that is an old joke inyour crowd, you run in quite the erudite circle!
Esp with ones who have many volumed dictionaries!

Noam D. Elkies 10:42 AM  

(I've seen/heard the joke referring not to the dictionary but the encyclopedia, which makes the volume count seem more plausible, but requires HE or HIM to be an encyclopedia entry which feels implausible. Though I suppose He could be included as the Hebrew letter, or as a pointer to helium.)

Anonymous 10:12 PM  

I still don't get fff or isa

spacecraft 12:24 PM  

Wow, I went through the clue list and thought, I'm never gonna get this--I don't know ANYthing. But then I saw old URSA, and began worming my way in.

The bottom caused some problems when I mistook my CFCS for pcbS. In any event, the clue points to a plural, so there was never the puTS/SETS dilemma for me, PEDESTAL-wise. So strange to have MEAT clued as two words! (An aside: tha flag fluttered a bit when I noticed that the clue contained a homonym of the entry: "meet.") On Friday, though, that's OK. Anything to obfuscate.

Upstairs, my doctor ran some teStS before ordering DOSES, but when I finally got enough crosses to see MADEMINCEMEATOF, I had to change it. Hmm, still more MEAT. This will not be the vegans' favorite grid, I'm thinking.

Anyhoo, those blockades notwithstanding, I pulled a Larry: I "got 'er done." With that many 15s, there's bound to be a few nose-wrinklers, viz. CCLI, ONEL, and that famous (???) operatic damsel LAKME. She has to be Miss Obscurity 2013, no contest. Still, that's not a lot for two sets of quads plus one in the middle. You could almost call it a tour de force, certainly better than most 15-stackers that lumber through here. A fun-FEST.

Anybody see the near-pair NIELS/NILES?

Solving in Seattle 1:23 PM  

The "Western daily" clue was my starting point - figured it could only be the Portland Tribune or the LOSANGELESTIMES based on length. 8D gave me the --L- in CCLI, ergo sum, LATIMES.
I actually had less of a struggle with the 15's than with some of the middle fill, although MORSECODE----- appeared pretty quickly off SMOG/TOra/URSA.
Had to get 56A totally on crosses, and agree that French crossing French should not be allowed. (Though Spanish is OK.)
Didn't know FFF, and had BOLo, so 42A was stuck at Mo-. Tech DNF with MoX.
Plunked down ONEL from the recent discussion we all had.
Have a good weekend, Syndies. I'm off to watch the Apple Cup. Go Huskies!

Capcha: esputri. Latin for "a stinker?"

rain forest 2:43 PM  

This looked like a very daunting puzzle, but I've learned to get a few shorter crosses and to take a few risks. So, ACOP, and FEST were my first entries, and then I threw down LOSANGELESTIMES, and the North was mopped up relatively quickly, for me. The same strategy worked well in the South and CFCS allowed me to put SETSONAPEDESTAL in early. The middle section was clearly the toughest. LAKME, TREE (Bay tree, really?), and NILES came very slowly.

This was a "serious" sounding puzzle, with very little levity in the cluing. It is meant to be hard. Not critisizing, just describing.

I did yesterday's too late to post, but I liked it a lot, much more so than today's. After yesterday's posts, I really missed M&A today.

Is there a magazine called First? Otherwise, I don't understand ISS.

Solving in Seattle 3:36 PM  

@Rainy, as for 20A, your question was asked a couple of times and someone conjectured that ISS is an abrev of ISSue. Like a magazine edition, or issue. Works for me.

Dirigonzo 6:48 PM  

This was the second part of a twin-bill on Friday afternoon, and this one definitely put up more resistance than the Thursday puz. The top third of the grid took the longest, with only the LA TIMES as an early entry. Ultimately had OWS but that's par for the course for me.

@spacecraft - hand up here for the pcbS/CFCS and teStS/DOSES write-overs. Great minds think alike!

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