Italian actress Eleonora / FRI 11-1-13 / Pre-WWI in automotive history / Fiacre to taxi drivers / Croupier's stick material / Tourist attraction on Texas Pedernales River / Isaac Bashevis Singer settings / Champagne for one sleuth / Arcade game prize grabber / Classic kitschy wall hanging

Friday, November 1, 2013

Constructor: Brad Wilber

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Eleonora DUSE (49D: Italian actress Eleonora) —
Eleonora Duse (Italian: [eleoˈnɔːɾa ˈduːze]; (3 October 1858 – 21 April 1924) was an Italian actress, often known simply as Duse. // Duse was born in VigevanoLombardy, and began acting as a child. Both her father and her grandfather were actors, and she joined the troupe at age four. Due to poverty, she initially worked continually, traveling from city to city with whichever troupe her family was currently engaged. She came to fame in Italian versions of roles made famous by Sarah Bernhardt. She gained her first major success in Europe, then toured South America, Russia and the United States; beginning the tours as a virtual unknown but leaving in her wake a general recognition of her genius. While she made her career and fame performing in the theatrical "warhorses" of her day, she is today remembered more for her association with the plays of Gabriele d'Annunzio and Henrik Ibsen. (wikipedia)
• • •

Felt hard, but my time says 'average.' I enjoyed the solve, but this felt much shakier than the average Brad Wilber puzzle. There were phrases where I knew both words but either hadn't seen them arranged that way before or didn't feel the words made a very solid self-standing thing. Getting gas from SHALE (i.e. fracking) is a very hot topic in the area where I live (just on top of PA), but I honestly can't remember seeing the phrase OIL SHALE before. I see that claw game every time I walk into Wegmans, but have never heard it called anything, let alone a CLAW CRANE (22A: Arcade game prize grabber). I'm sure a FALLEN HEM is a thing, but it has a certain GREEN PAINT quality to it (GREEN PAINT = adj/noun pairing that is an imaginable thing but not a phrase that deserves to stand on its own). Never in my life heard of BRASS ERA (54A: Pre-W.W. I in automotive history). I was thinking HORSE ERA for a bit. Never heard of DUSE, but (very very) luckily I knew how to spell NIENTE. I can see that crossing possibly being lethal.

Found the NE very hard (even knowing the Oates novel "THEM"—[Novel in Joyce Carol Oates's Wonderland Quartet]) until I figured out the LBJ part of LBJ RANCH (9D: Tourist attraction on Texas' Pedernales river). Never a big fan of ENORME. Not a terribly big fan of NON-TITLE. So I'm in this strange position of having enjoyed the challenge while having winced or squinted at much of the fill. Perhaps it's because the cluing was good, as was some of the fill I haven't mentioned (TORT REFORM, PATRON SAINT, VELVET ELVIS, I'M RUINED, BLUE CRAB, E.L. DOCTOROW). I don't normally solve/write in the morning, so I might be a bit disoriented. Anyway, I'd say this is an above-average puzzle, but a below-average Brad Wilber puzzle.

And so to breakfast.

Happy November.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 6:14 AM  

I was done in by the ORSINO-DUSE-SMELTROE crossings (and LORI might have been a problem if I hadn't had the LO-I). I also had dashed hopes that IMRUINED would be IMSODEAD.

The Bard 6:20 AM  

Twelfth Night , Act I, scene I

[Enter DUKE ORSINO, CURIO, and other Lords;
Musicians attending]

DUKE ORSINO: If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour! Enough; no more:
'Tis not so sweet now as it was before.
O spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou,
That, notwithstanding thy capacity
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,
Of what validity and pitch soe'er,
But falls into abatement and low price,
Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy
That it alone is high fantastical.

jae 6:24 AM  

Easy-medium for me.  

Did not know FALLEN HEM was a thing but google says it is and has tips on how to fix it.  Duct tape anyone?

It's Friday, why not clue 27a with the botanist guy?

Had HALoO before HALLO.  Not sure that I was wrong the first time except for the cross. 

The DUSE/NIENTE cross could be rough.  I've seen DUSE once before but she a bit ancient having passed away in 1924 .

I keep mixing up the Marvel Comix Avengers with Steed and Peel.

JILTEE is not a fine word.

Pleasant smooth Fri.  A tad on the easy side, but liked it.

MetaRex 6:42 AM  

A v. smooth solve by MRian standards...way ahead of instead of way behind my online NYT pace car. Will always remember Miss Havisham sitting alone in her wedding dress...thank you, Mr. Foley.

So does the Eseometer corroborate OFL's intuition that there was more GREEN PAINT-like long fill in this one than there mighta been? The answer is here

Questinia 7:04 AM  

Not easy here. Mostly of my own doing like sticking with sodaCAN and yin for CHI. CLAW CRANE was "oh what's that shovel-bucket thingie?" for like 20 minutes. I seemed to like agitating myself with it. Getting LBJ RANCH was a lynchpin making the entire thing doable.

I always thought fiacre was a small carriage so my first answer was "competition" because in NYC they sort of are. Did not know he was a saint as well.

I love puzzles like this. Took me longer than usual for a Friday.

Anonymous 7:09 AM  

The alternative to "crude" is "shale oil", not "oil shale".

Danp 7:47 AM  

I knew Fiacre was the patron saint of gardens and hemorrhoids. Now I see he is also linked to taxi drivers and VD. I guess he really got around.

retired_chemist 7:57 AM  

Enjoyed this one very much. Good vocab workout, clever cluing, interesting words all over. What's not to like?

9D was THE ALAMO, probably the top tourist attraction you would think of as Texana. Din not know the river that makes up the SA River Walk. Turns out it is the San Antonio River (D'oh!) and the Pedernales is bit (about one Rhode Island) north.

Once I got 9D, the J gave me 18A as JILTEd - wondered what THDM was an acronym for. OH well - JILTEE is a pretty cool word and soon came to mind.

VELVET ELVIS went right in - that it stayed was a little surprising. My first guesses at long words usually don't. Loved TORT REFORM and its clue. Ditto PATRON SAINT. CLAW CRANE, not so much.

Thanks, Mr. Wilber.

Sir Hillary 8:29 AM  

Played pretty easy for me, certainly far more so than recent Fridays. The NW fell almost immediately, and off we went from there. Never knew JILTEE was a word, but that's fine. CLAWCRANE was also new to me, but inferable. The only one I really didn't like was FALLENHEM. But LBJRANCH, PATRONSAINT, VELVETELVIS, TORTREFORM, SMELTROE and SHTETLS more than compensated.

Nice start to the weekend.

Carola 8:31 AM  

A very enjoyable Friday. I was helped by knowing a few facts: BLUE CRAB, THEM, SHTETLS, ORSINO, and DUSE gave me a good start; needed the ELD to remind me of E.L. DOCTOROW. Loved seeing TORT REFORM, CLAW CRANE and VELVET ELVIS come into view.

Liked the hidden tribute to Mel TORME, "The VELVET FOG."

I was interested to learn that Fiacre is the PATRON SAINT of taxi drivers. Like @Questinia, I thought of carriages. From reading German literature, I knew that Fiaker are horse-drawn cabs or buggies but had no idea of the derivation: "named after the Hotel de St Fiacre, Paris, where these vehicles were first hired out," according to

joho 8:49 AM  

Wow, I was totally not on Brad Wilbur's wavelength with this one!

Last night I will blame it on the Reese's Peanut Butter cups and the broken, ringing doorbell (spooky!).

This morning I blame it on more Reese's Peanut Butter cups.

For whatever reason, DNF.

Did anybody else read the clue "Classic *kitchen* wall hanging?" Just one of the many misunderstandings for me.

Anonymous 8:57 AM  

Thank goodness for Far Niente Chardonnay or I would have been guessing on the last blank.

I finished this one between Forest Hills and State Street which is usually only achievable up to Wednesday, sometimes Thursday, so this was an easy Friday for me.


Z 8:59 AM  

In the NON TITLE Google Fight, we have a close decision for OIL SHALE.

No paper this morning so I had to solve in CRUX. Maybe my "paperboy" got here after 7:20 last night and was irked at not getting a chocolate eyeball.

The entire north played very tough for me. Aside from the Austin music scene, I can not think of a single reason I would visit Texas. It took finally coming up with BROOCH to see LBJ. Sort of amazing to realize that the state that gave us BUSH II, Cruz, and Perry also gave us the guy who pushed through the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

A fine, fun Friday.

Glimmerglass 9:00 AM  

For some reason dolce far NIENTE stuck in my attic, though I couldn't tell you what it means ("sweet nothings"?). That and ORSINO got me past the unknown Eleonora. I was so sure that BROOCH was spelled BROaCH (also a word, just not that word) that I was stuck with FaTO, which is dumb. Otherwise a very fun puzzle with some original cluing.

Z 9:02 AM  

BTW - Technical DNF - Played "Pick-a-Vowel" at the NIENTE/DUSE crossing. Since A precedes E it took two tries.

Anonymous 9:03 AM  


Natural gas from shale (i.e. fracking) is a hot topic in upstate New York. It is not the same as oil shale, which in the US is mostly found in Colorado and Utah. Shale Oil comes from Oil Shale. Thanks

Bob Kerfuffle 9:32 AM  

Fine puzzle which put up a bit of a fight; took longer than breakfast.

Hesitated at putting in 1 A, BLUE CRAB, thought it might be BLUE CLAW, and then CLAW showed up at 22 A!

So only two write-overs: 18 A, JILTED before JILTEE; and 59 A, NIENTO before NIENTE (as for @Glimmerglass, "dolce far niente" clinched that one for me.)

And, yes, until I read @joho's comment, I thought 43 A said "kitchen".

chefbea 9:47 AM  

too tough for me DNF

Is Bay really a tree????? Bay leaves come from the laurel tree.

chefbea 9:48 AM  

just googled it…the tree is a bay laurel

Dave 9:50 AM  

Always have to fasten my seatbelt for a Brad Wilbur themeless - its usually a bumpy ride. This wasn't bad though. Had BLUETUNA which stumped me for a while until I filled the correct BLUECRAB. Loved the VELVETELVIS entry. ELDOCTOROW was a gimme - thank you Brad.

Unknown 10:00 AM  

A pleasant challenge. FALLEN HEM is definitely a thing. The clue is quickly becoming passé, since we are now in the Spanx ERA and slips aren't worn as much anymore.

I didn't like JILTEE. :-/

Mr. Benson 10:11 AM  

A DNF because I had no chance at the DUSE/ORSINO/NIANTE crossing. Otherwise about average difficulty for me.

Like Rex, I stared at my (otherwise) completed grid and asked "are OILSHALE, NONTITLE and FALLENHEM really things?" I'll take everybody's word for it that they are.

Mark 10:15 AM  

Fun fact that I discovered recently: economics is NOT a Nobel category. It was shoe-horned in later by a bank, and even now officially the econ prize has a strange, longer designation that reveals its pretender status.

AliasZ 10:23 AM  

For me, this was one FOG-IN cruel themeless by Brad Wilber. My wavelength reader-generator needs recalibration, I think. But I loved every minute of it.

For the first few minutes I just looked at the grid with a VACANT stare, but little-by-little an entry here-and-there popped in. Some were harder to get than a stuffed animal with a CLAW CRANE. The LORI/DUSE pair was a bit unfair in the SW and the EBOOK clue was a terrific misdirection in the West Central, where I had blemISH for TARNISH at first. It was the last nook to fall.

The automotive BRASS ERA (1905-1914), not to be confused with the Bronze Age, was an early period of automotive manufacturing, named for the prominent brass fittings used during this time for such things as lights and radiators. It extended from the Veteran era (1888-1905) until about World War I. It was followed by what many collectors call the Vintage era (1919-1929). (from Wikipedia)

By no means a LOKI start to our month and the weekend, and if Saturday's is even tougher, I'M RUINED.

Thank you Messrs. Wilber/Shortz.

Milford 10:23 AM  

Tough Friday for me here, but amazingly the SW corner was filled in very quickly, with no problem remembering DUSE (I have no idea why I knew that one).

The rest was much harder! Not knowing TORTE REFORM or SHTETLS was a problem.

Husband and I shared a dishtub full of BLUE CRAB when we were in southern New Jersey a couple summers ago at a dockside take-out place (see profile photo). The amount of actual crab meat calories consumed was definitely burned off by the laborious process of extracting the meat. But delicious!

Ultimately a DNF by having TORTEREFORe/THEe and BEER CAp/pEC. I think "beer cap" is a better answer, personally.

Halloween was wet but mild here - didn't stop the kids from doing their thing.

Go Green! Go State!

jberg 10:27 AM  

I'm pretty sure that OIL SHALE was what the Teapot Dome Scandal was about.

I thought i'd solved this one until I got here -- and noticed that I had LOW cAl for LOW FAT and for some reason remembered Mr. DOCTOROW's initials as Ee. Bleedover from Cummings, I suppose. So new I'm feeling sad.

I (almost) solved this one on the subway, as I had an 8 AM event to go to; now I'm back home, time to start writing!

Two Ponies 10:58 AM  

I usually have trouble with Brad Wilber puzzles and he got me again today. I managed most of the tricky clues but there was just too much stuff I simply did not know crossing other stuff I didn't know either. I'm ruined!

Steve J 11:00 AM  

Played mostly easy-medium for me, except for the NE and, for a bit, the SW. I was hurt in the SW by my inexplicable habit of always wanting to add a syllable to ORSINO, making him ORSINiO, so I left that unfilled for quite a while until crosses made it clear. Like Rex, thankfully I knew the spelling of NIENTE (once I remembered the word), so I was able to get that brutal cross with NIENTE.

Could not get anything going in the NW, with only the letters from TORT REFORM in place. Couldn't remember THEM, misspelled BROaCH when I finally saw that, and I was still stuck. Eventual DNF and resort to Google.

Didn't realize "crude" referenced oil's source; I thought it just indicated unrefined oil.

Liked the clues for TORT REFORM and VELVET ELVIS a lot.

@Z: Barbecue. Only other reason for me to find it worth visiting Texas. The area between Austin and San Antonio is filled with great barbecue joints. Of course, if you're vegetarian, then that's not such a great motivation.

@Milford: I hate calling out a typo, but TORTE REFORM is making me chuckle at the image of congressmen and business interests making impassioned pleas to fix our nations' cakes before they bleed us dry.

Steve J 11:07 AM  

Er, cross with DUSE. A NIENTE/NIENTE cross would be problematic for many reasons.

Captcha: edgetsme. I don't know Ed, but it's nice to know someone understands.

Milford 11:13 AM  

Oh my, I'M RUINED! I made that typo twice, you may have noticed, so I'm not even going to blame autocorrect. Just my ignorance of TORT. But now I'm really liking the idea bakery legislation.

mac 11:14 AM  

Fun Friday! learned some words, terms and facts and pieced it all together.

I used to be fascinated by those claw cranes at the annual fair in my home village. Not enough to put a lot of money into them, though!

Vlad Dracul 11:29 AM  

Yesterday you had nothing in the bottom right, today you had nothing in the bottom left.

Who writes these puzzles, Jerry Seinfeld?

Mohair Sam 11:35 AM  

Fun Friday test - completed entirely by the distaff side here.

@anon 7:09: I'd argue that oil shale is to gasoline just what crude oil is to gasoline.

Anyhow - The OILSHALE Corporation was formed in 1955, so the term has been around in that sequence for at least 1/2 a century. The Oil Shale Corporation changed its name to TOSCO, then had up and down years due to volatile fuel prices and environmental concerns. The company was eventually eaten by Phillips Pete in 1999.

I bought a small amount of stock in the company in the '70's, ain't it amazing what you learn about a business when you have a little at risk.

Old Wall Street saw: Invest, then investigate.

Scarab 11:37 AM  

Well, I managed to fight my way through that one. It was a struggle, but I made it through without giving in and Googling. The SW was the last to go for me. I made a number of guesses including ORSINi and NIENTo, but the down of SMELTRio looked suspicious. Since I knew SMELT was a thing and ROE is a crossword staple, I managed to guess the corrections.

This was well over my typical Friday time, and a lot of it felt just a little off (CLAW CRANE, JILTEE), but I'm just happy to have gotten through. A couple of months ago I definitely would have resorted to Google.

GILL I. 12:06 PM  

This is my kinda puzzle...loved it but I did some struggling.
@Glimmerglass - hand up for BROaCH/FaTO and leaving it in. I figured FAT O was probably some slang for a big fat zero. My Metz massive was grosse instead of ENORME and without even checking any other crosses I inked in "It's no use" instead of the correct IM RUINED!!!
@Milford BLUE CRABS are delicious and I think you could probably lose weight eating them after all the pounding you have to do to just eat one little morsel...

joho 12:15 PM  

Interesting comments today. I'm happy to learn than others struggled, too. I'm still surprised at how terribly I did, though, and am changing my DNF to an EF. (Epic fail)

Nancy 12:21 PM  

A morning of filling in half answers. Knew it was some kind of CRAB. Knew it was either non- or low- FAT. Knew it was one ERA or another. Knew it was some kind of ROE. Eventually I finished, even though I have never heard of a VELVET ELVIS. (Yuck).

Sandy K 12:30 PM  

I had trouble with this one- and lots of write-overs.


Was THWARTed for some time by OIL SHALE, CLAW CRANE, BRASS ERA, SMELT ROE, NON-TITLE, HALLO? (kept thinking tally-ho) and even knowing Miss Havisham, JILTEE?? Nowadays, she'd be a COUGAR...

Greatly relieved when at long last, I got THEM to FALL in!

Sandy K 12:39 PM  

PS- and my 2nd Word of the Day would be Fiacre- had a heck of a time with That one- PATRON SAINT to taxi drivers? Do taxi driver's know that?

Notsofast 12:44 PM  

Kicked my ass. Not fun. Even seeing the fill, I'm like WTF.

Mark 12:58 PM  

I quickly and gleefully filled in PLAYON for 12th Night, and then mused, "Why did clue say 'speaker' instead of 'Orsino'?" Oh yeah!

ACME 1:23 PM  

Tough tough tough, thrilled to finish with so many misstarts... SomethingCLAW, BLUEfish, tALLy

Thanks for the ACME shout out or I'd never been able to get that area.
Love italiano but that DUSE was a doozy. Liked learning who she was, so thanks for the WOD, @rex.

Had to look up Fiacre, but that didn't help me get the answer. @Danp don't know if yu were kidding, but if he is the patron saint of hemarrhoids, that makes sense!

@chef bea, I think he means keep at bay, or corner in a tree as opposed to the bay tree... He and DougP used this same clue in an LA Times puzzle recently...
To Tree or a kind of tree = BAY.

Anyway big struggle, big mess, but doable and learned lots! Thanks, Brad!

Anoa Bob 1:36 PM  

Wow, sounds like that Eleonora DUSE was a real TROUPER!

DNF, yeah, in the SW. No matter, still a great workout. I had some moments of consternation but many more grin-inducing ones with an outright chuckle here and there. Too many outstanding entries and clues to pick a favorite, but Miss Havisham/JILTEE would be a front runner.

Sandy K 1:43 PM  


@ACME- Yep! ACME opened up that area for me too- and so I worked my way up to get that ST. Fiacre...

ACME 2:25 PM  

Bryan Cranston is following up his "Breaking Bad" gig with a one man show on LBJ...

And I'm taking VELVET Elvis as a sneak tribute to Lou Reed and the VELVET underground.

Ray J 2:36 PM  

Very enjoyable solve ending with a DNF in the SW.

If you spend some time in Colorado’s Grand Valley you will probably hear the story of a settler named Mike Callahan, who in 1882 built a cabin on Parachute Creek. Ignoring the warnings from the locals, he made his fireplace and chimney out of the locally abundant shale. Old Mike learned about OIL SHALE the hard way, for when he lit a fire the whole place burned to the ground.

chefbea 2:40 PM  

@acme thanks for the explanation…never thought of it that way

we now have numbers in the captcha?? and then the house sign?? mine is isite40 3

DJG 3:23 PM  

Question for Crossworld: Has anybody else tried and been unable to visit I'm getting a weird error message, and I'm wondering if the problem is on their end or mine. Thanks.

Anonymous 3:31 PM  

Tore through it. So many answers had personal connections it was reminiscent of "Slumdog Millionaire". Cousins live in Maryland, rave about blue crab. I used to teach English, so Oates & Dickens & Shakespeare, oh my. Oh, and I.B. Singer & Doctorow. Mom attended Washington State. Only a slight hesitation with brass era, I never played Ms. Pacman. Right in my wheelhouse as Rex would say.

sanfranman59 3:50 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 23:20, 18:38, 1.25, 89%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Fri 14:13, 10:42, 1.33, 88%, Challenging

Bob Kerfuffle 4:04 PM  

@DJG - Tried your link to and only got the message

"Table './smf-cruciverb/smf_sessions' is marked as crashed and should be repaired"

John V 4:11 PM  

Wanted VELVETJESUS, but, alas, 'twas ELVIS. Got the South, but that was the end of it. I usually do better on Brad's puzzles, but today was not to be. So it goes.

Z 4:22 PM  

@DJG - I just tried the link from Rex's site, got the same message.

@Steve J - I've been to Tulsa. Great barbecue there. Don't know if going farther south would matter.

Scarab 4:56 PM  

@Mark, me too for the PLAY ON clue misread. It was the LORI cross that fixed it for me. I've seen other people complain about that one, but for me it was one of the few gimmes in this puzzle.

DJG 5:00 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle and @Z


dk 5:06 PM  

Bounced around like a certain editor's ping pong ball on this one.

Rereading Time to Kill so oddly TORTREFORM was top of mind.

And as always loved seeing ACME in the fill.

🌟🌟 (2 Stars)

Genrally I was elated as the answer for yesterday's puzzle showed all blanks for the MIRROR DRACULA clue (65A). Life confirmations are so few and far between

Chip Hilton 5:07 PM  

A real slog for me. Took forever to get a foothold and continued to the bitter end when JILTEd was corrected and the NE fell. Some great answers, VELVETELVIS my favorite. SHTETLS presented quite the challenge - gHetTos looked mighty good. In all, the kind of challenge I love on a Friday.

AliasZ 5:21 PM  

Nero WOLFE, the private detective of Rex Stout novels, was a gourmand. Isn't it funny that a guy named Stout writes about a rather corpulent private eye?

I can imagine WOLFE sitting in a French BRASSERA, whose PATRONS AIN'T bad looking at all, dining on BLUE CRAB and SMELT ROE, and finishing it off with some Darjeeling tea (JILTEE for short), and red velvet cake in the shape of Elvis, advertised as the VELVET ELVIS cake. No LOWFAT diet for him. He was rather ENORME, and has always gotten the LION's share at dinner. He would also RAITT his fridge regularly. He never went camping as a kid because he hated to fold DETENTES. He was not very physically ACTIV, rarely left his brownstone in NYC (he never visited CHI), and he liked his food rather SALTI. He had a real BOND with his Hispanic-Russian physician whom he lovingly called EL DOCTOROW. Whenever the good doc BROOCHed the subject of weight loss, he'd pop open a BEERCAN in his face. Had he heeded the doc's advice, he could've lost some weight with a little TORT REFORM, that is, eating less torte.

Now I'm going to listen to my favorite CRONEr, the VELVET FOG, Mel TORMÉ, in A FOG-IN Day in London Town. Won't you join me?

gifcan 5:34 PM  

Stared blankly at first and then I got ASSTS, ACTIV and VELVETELVIS and I was in!

Burned in the NE. Even with TORTRE_OR_ I couldn't get it. Had nOnFAT on top and couldn't work through it. DNF.

So be it. Still enjoyed it.

ACME 6:51 PM  

wow, fabulous, @AliasZ!
(esp the TORTeREFORM!)
Love when a puzzle like this inspires folks like you or @Joho or @GillP to create a whole story...

I like how VELVETELVIS looks like a palindrome...

not to mention the LORI/LOKI is sort of cool!

(Still trying to get back down to LA...LAX finally reopened.
Nightmare. But the bar mitzvah must go on!)

Andy from bawstin 6:52 PM  

DNF. Got the bottom half, next to zippo on top. Me no likee, due to my lack of knowledge of Maryland seafood, arcade games, LBJ, boxing, obscure saints, Joyce Carol Oates's oeuvre, clues for ACME that don't involve Wile E. Coyote (OK should have gotten that one). Also slavish devotion to SHALE OIL (OIL SHALE is a source, not a product like crude), WITCH (I live in Salem MA) and JILTED.

Enjoyed the struggle though.

Davis 7:57 PM  

If you ignore the SW, this was a really good puzzle--VELVET ELVIS in particular brought up fond memories of Weird Al.

But the SW? Ugh. "Hmm, all that's left is OR?INO and NI?NTE. I don't read many plays and I don't know Italian, so the crossing will have to finish this puzzle off for me. Oh how convenient, the crossing is basically a combination of the two things I didn't know."

August West 8:03 PM  

This one was chock full of stuff I didn't know at all. Thankfully, it also had a lot of stuff I did, allowing me to finish about two minutes outside my usual Friday time. I like to think of myself as fairly well read, but every now and again a crossword puzzle reminds me that I'm only well read within thin veins of personal interest. I've heard of Doctorow but have never read anything he's written and couldn't name a one. Ditto, Singer, whose name just screamed out: "He writes about life in SHTETLS!" Never read Great Expectations, so the only Ms. Havisham I know is from Caddyshack. FIACRE? Pfffft! Secured exclusively from crosses. By the same token, WOLFE went in like buttah.

Dug guessing RATTAN correctly and knowing LBJRANCH off the clue. Mini music theme with the Beatles, TORME, RAITT, ELVIS and a tip o' the cap to Lou Reed?

Liked it. Challenging. Fun. Not a lot of gunk.'s the CRANE CLAW that picks up the prize. Sheesh!

balanchine 8:12 PM  

E.L. Doctorow: a wonderful novelist who gets the details right. Unlike a tome recently reviewed by S. King (NY Times Bk Review). Its Chapter One occurs at the Metropolitan Museum. The author refers to the Grand Staircase as the "Great Staircase," and has a firefighter near 79th leaning off the truck able to see the Temple of Dendur, only three blocks away, at the north side of the museum. But the first chapter has such other serious problems (did the author mention the young boy had a terrible headache?) these were minor mistakes. Cured me of trying fiction for another ten years...other than classic. Still so many of those, still to do..

@Acme: the LBJ play up on Brattle Street sold out in like, 5 minutes.
Can you say, in like five minutes here?

@ AliasZ Nero Wolfe a gourmand? Because he was huge? With Fritz in the kitchen, Nero Wolfe was a true gourmet.
Oh, and Mr. Stout produced the Nero Wolfe Cookbook with the authentic recipes of menus featured in the books, with comments by Archie Goodwin, whose appetite was hardy- Midwestern, as appropriate to one from Chillicothe. But Goodwin also became a gourmet, sitting 'at table' with Wolfe three times a day.

sanfranman59 11:56 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 7:13, 6:07, 1.18, 97%, Challenging (8th highest ratio of 201 Mondays)
Tue 7:16, 8:15, 0.88, 16%, Easy
Wed 11:06, 9:44, 1.14, 81%, Challenging
Thu 20:04, 16:44, 1.20, 81%, Challenging
Fri 23:02, 18:38, 1.24, 88%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:16, 3:46, 1.13, 91%, Challenging
Tue 4:36, 5:09, 0.89, 13%, Easy
Wed 6:15, 5:37, 1.11, 79%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 13:11, 9:30, 1.39, 89%, Challenging
Fri 12:57, 10:42, 1.21, 81%, Challenging

johnranta 6:58 AM  

The orange garnish on sushi is sea urchin roe. Bay laurel is a shrub, not a tree, only grows 3-4 feet high. Oil shale is a source for crude, not an alternative. The puzzle was easy, but several clues were off.

Anonymous 2:50 PM  

Never say die. Finally finished with no cheats. Very enjoyable and difficult puzzle from a master.

D and A

spacecraft 1:20 PM  

ENORME DNF for me; got the NW, SE and E, and that was it. Had VELVETELVIS and VACANT--and even MAO, a rare gimme--in place, but could go no further. The only fox hunt cry I know is "Tally ho!" and I didn't think you could just use "tally" by itself, without the "ho." Never heard of FOGIN. And so on. This thing was riddled with the twin woes of "that could be anything" and WTF??? DUSE, really? We have a serious challenger for Miss Obscurity 2013, folks!

Also, a big frown for "Culmination" as a clue for ACME. I see the connection, I guess, but it's really threadbare. I don't think I'd have gotten much--if ANY--farther with ACME, but that clue still gets the spacecraft flag.

rain forest 1:48 PM  

Challenging but gettable. I put in NONTITLE without a cross, and changed OILsands to OILSHALE when I parsed BEERCAN, and from there went in fits and starts. Lucky guess on SHTETLS and a wtf on BRASSERA (was brass the shiny metal of choice on cars back then?). Another guess on IMRUINED, and getting ELDOCTOROW, gave me the LORI, DUSE, ORSINO triumvirate.

Is that thing that picks up teddy bears really called a CLAWCRANE?

I don't think that @Spacecraft has reason to throw a flag here. Granted, FALLENHEM comes close.

Pretty solid puzzle, overall.

capcha: yearfar. Could be 2045

Cary in Boulder 4:38 PM  

Being a native Baltimoron, BLUECRAB went right in. Oh, for a reliable supply of it out West. Whenever I visit Maryland, my first stop is always G&M Restaurant in Linthicum, home of fabulous, softball-sized crab cakes.

Never heard of CLAW CRANE. When I was a kid going to Gwynn Oak Park we always just called them claw machines.

Would NIENTE have worked as the Dracula reflection?

There's another really great LOKI character in Daniel Suarez's Daemon, a sci-fi novel which, along with its sequel Freedom™, I highly recommend.

It took a while, but I teased everything out except for the NE, with a big hinder from the aforementioned CLAWCRA??. I figured mi esposa would know about Miss Havisham, and penned in JILTEd. Which gave me the mysterious THdM. Given how much I know about JC Oates, why not?

Loved seeing a really fine contemporary musician who is not some pop crapster/rapster: the wonderful Ms. Bonnie Raitt.

Solving in Seattle 5:18 PM  

This puz was TRying. BROaCH/FaTO here. witch before CRONy before CRONE. My croupier'stick was first made of bAmboo. Only learned CLAWCRANE last week while being show an arcade in Seattle. Was head faked by 9D, throwing in thealamo with no crosses. Took awhile to work through the @Diri country.
Of the many languages I do not know Yiddish is one of them, so SHTETLS was totally on crosses and I schtill didn't believe it.
OVERBID is what I did a lot of during my college bridge playing days.
Brad Wilber gave us a bunch of gimmees here, but also a bunch of tough meat to chew.

Have a good weekend, Syndies, and Go Hawks!

Capcha: shotom. A very tired yoga chant?

Waxy in Montreal 5:56 PM  

As with @spacecraft, MAO was a gimme but little else. Had to google FIACRE - even with SAINT in place - as it meant NIENTE to me and (shame) THEM, as I was certain 18A was jilteD.

Had BLUEFISH, TALLY, PESTO (before PETAL), OLIVIA (right play, wrong character) and IMPAINED, none of which helped.

Loved VELVETELVIS and the subtle reference to the VELVETFOG in the same grid. Not so much FALLENHEM and TORTREFORM which took a lot of slogging for minimal enjoyment.

Overall, a very fun Friday (as my grandkids say).

Dirigonzo 6:02 PM  

I didn't know either Loughlin or Petty of Hollywood, or the Italian actress; the crosses were no help. DNF but got a lot further than I expected to when after about an hour into it I was staring at a still mostly-empty grid.

Didn't we recently see the Bay TREE in a puzzle with the same concerns expressed in the comments as today?

Ginger 6:53 PM  

@rainy sez he went in 'fits and starts', well I went in 'fits and stops'.

The SW was easiest, knew DUSE, LORI and of course COUGAR; we have a fine WSU campus here in Vancouver. Also knew FALLENHEM, (it happens when a high heel gets caught). Most of the rest was WOE and WTF. Guessed right on TARNISH, after guessing right on PETAL, but there were many places where I had no guess at all.

After a Google or 2 or 3, and some other cheating, I got-er-done, and looking at the completed grid I think 'How could I not have gotten that?' My congrats to everyone who finished.

The Hawks figure to have a real test this Sunday, an away game, with a short week to get ready. GO HAWKS!

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