Star in Virgo / SAT 11-23-13 / Spinal cord surrounders / Title name written on door of this legended tomb in poetry / Its main island is Unguja / Grammy-nominated Ford / Sound in comic BC / Sitcom pal of Barbarino Horshack / Great Caruso title role player

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Constructor: Frederick J. Healy

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none

Word of the Day: PIAS (49D: Spinal cord surrounders) —
Pia mater (/ˈp.ə ˈmtər/ or /ˈp.ə ˈmɑːtər/) often referred to as simply the pia, is the delicate innermost layer of themeninges, the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Pia mater is medieval Latin meaning "tender mother." The other two meningeal membranes are the dura mater and the arachnoid mater. Pia mater is a thin fibrous tissue that is impermeable to fluid. This allows the pia mater to enclose cerebrospinal fluid. By containing this fluid the pia mater works with the other meningeal layers to protect and cushion the brain. The pia mater allows blood vessels to pass through and nourish the brain. The perivascular space created between blood vessels and pia mater functions as alymphatic system for the brain. When the pia mater becomes irritated and inflamed the result is meningitis. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is an OK grid, though I've seen most if not all of these answers before. This overfamiliar feel may be part of the reason that I Absolutely Crushed this puzzle. I've only been tracking my daily times for a bit over two months, but my time on this one—5:38—is nearly three minutes under any of my other recorded Saturday times. Bananas. I think the thrilling speed might have clouded my initial judgment, though. When I was done, the only crap I really noticed was the abysmal PIAS (49D: Spinal cord surrounders), which set up a near-Natick for me at 49D/49A: Board game with black and white stones (PENTE). Some vague memory of owning a game of PENTE as a child allowed me to guess the "P" correctly, but that crossing feels awfully rough. Anyway I thought the bad fill was minimal because I blew through this thing. But a constructor-friend of mine points out that this shape of grid is among the easiest themeless grids to fill, and thus the wealth of sub-optimal fill is probably not justified. He took me on a tour: TIAS, SOI, ZOT (!?!?!), SPICA, ANIL, PIAS, SAIS *and* AUSSI, TABUS … and he's right. They're all kind of yucky, and that much yucky has no place in a 72-word themeless like this, especially when there is nothing particularly original in the longer fill. This is a lesson in relativity—relative ease/difficulty can massively warp one's sense of whether a puzzle is good/bad. We will tend to love the stuff we ace and dislike (if not hate) the stuff that makes us huff and puff. Just because a puzzle has a bunch of Zs and Js does not mean that it's particularly good.

Why was this so easy for me?:
  • JETS FAN (1D: One feeling 15-Across after Super Bowl III) — I knew who played in Super Bowl III. Thus, this answer went straight in the grid, and the whole NW corner came together quickly after that.
  • "ULALUME" (2D: Title name written "on the door of this legended tomb," in poetry)— this is possibly the longest piece of crosswordese in existence. I also saw it recently, which helped me recall it with just a cross or two.
  • PASEOS (42D: Leisurely strolls) — why do I know this word (as anything but a bygone Toyota model)? I just do. Crosswords. Sometimes stuff like this just sticks. 
Everything else was just easy on its surface.

Nothing else here is really worth mentioning. Good night. And thanks to treedweller for covering for me yesterday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:07 AM  

Two easy puzzles in a row, except of course for the @Rex  PIAS/PENTE cross, which I guessed wrong on, so, DNF.  Using Evan's strategy I went with rIAS.  My second guess was right but too late.  The other possibly tough cross is LITA/SPICA, but I knew LITA from The Runaways. 

This had a bit more zip than yesterday's...JETS FAN, BELCH, EPSTEIN, BART, ZOT, LITA, HANG TIME, FIBBER...but, again, nothing that elicited a wow.  And I'm with Rex on the fill,  especially the Natick.  So, a qualified liked it. 

Anonymous 12:39 AM  

Didn't like seeing SLAMS in the grid, and [Slam dunk stat] in the clues ... or similarly, I CAN TOO in the grid, and [Too, to Therese] in the clues.

Surely someone at the NYT knows about this sort of tabu... :(

wreck 12:50 AM  

PENTE was a gimmee, but only in the most obscure way. The game was developed around 1977 by a guy from Oklahoma. My Marketing professor and the developer of the game used our class to help develop a marketing strategy to help promote this new game to the public. The game caught on in the early to mid-eighties in clubs in Dallas, and quickly faded after that. I can't believe ANYONE (other than me) filled that answer quickly!! ; )

Anonymous 1:12 AM  

I felt some of the cluing was off.

"Rescue vessel?" feels off, not really worth a ?. And "parking meeter?" to me doesn't make any sense at all.

I do appreciate PENTE in the grid, would be nice if LUDO could come back from its 18-year absence.

Steve J 2:22 AM  

Oh my God! The NYT finally clued something as a variant!

Thus marks the beginning and ending of my actual excitement with this puzzle.

It was fine. It was easy for a Saturday (although I was unable to finish the SE thanks in part to PIA/PENTE - I so wanted to fit Othello in there). But nothing really sparkled for me. I did like TAKE AIM, RANKLED and the misdirection in the clue for FAST CAR.

The rest was kind of just there. When the only thing that jumps out - aside from an actual acknowledgement of a variant (which probably should have also been there for BOOTEES) - was "Wow, that's a ton of Z's", there's some zip missing somewhere.

Ahora Carla Mortises 2:51 AM  

@Steve J
Yes, how come BOOTEES didn't get a var. but TABUS did?!
My One Wrong Square (OWS) could have been easily avoided PENTa/EXTaNTS :(
But PENTE should not have been impossible because it means five, just like GO is Chinese for five...

Loved all the ZZs, super helpful in solving.

Even as a nonsports gal, I loved HANGTIME.
CEZANNE was lovely and JUJITSU/JAZZAGE was a cool way to start up top.

I think of Nicolas as French, as in Petit Nicolas, not Spanish, so That threw me, AUSSI.

Wow, six years in, or whatever it is, @rex is first realizing that he has loved the ones he's aced and called puzzles bad that gave him some resistance?
YAY self-awareness!

George Barany 5:09 AM  

One of the fun things about crossword puzzles is how certain answer words will evoke distant memories. In my case, that magical year in New York sports that started when the Jets, led by Broadway Joe Namath, upset the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. We lived in a building on First Avenue called "Newport East" that spanned a full city block and had a swimming pool on the roof. We were in the A wing, on the 3rd floor, just above a bar called "Jet Set," while the famous quarterback had a penthouse suite in the B wing.

On an unrelated topic, today is the 50th anniversary of something that is very special to nerds. My cyberfriend Tom Williams drove the creation of Guess Who? and wrote a fascinating midrash about it. Hope you like it!

John Child 5:29 AM  

Two Naticks -- LITA / SPICA and PIAS / PENTE. I guessed right on one but not the other. Meh. Not a PB puzzle...

GILL I. 5:57 AM  

Had JETScAN/cURS and just left it. Opie sat in the BART seat for a long time until BELCH reared its head.
So many GUESSes i.e. LUNGE PENTE but the rest seemed a bit on the easy side.
There were lots of answers I really liked especially FIBBER. And that left corner with a worldly flair of IPANEMA/CEZANNE/AMERIGO/PASEOS/AUSSI.
I give this an APLUS for all the JAZZy words.

MetaRex 6:49 AM  

ESE count = 52. I trust ZOT will not appear again until a certain much-missed Celebes ox does...if ZOT is getting its day in the sun, why not you?!

Glimmerglass 7:38 AM  

If I'm remembering BC correctly, ZOT was the sound of an anteater slurping up an ant. Looking at the completed puzzle, I think there were a lot of hard clues, but like Rex, I finished this relatively quickly. Like Rex, I guessed the P in PENTE/PIAS correctly. (I dimly remembered "pia matter," but had no idea what it was. PENTE (five) is a reasonable name for a game, and Othello didn't fit.

Z 8:32 AM  

theatre to onstAGE to JAZZ AGE along with iranI before FARSI made the NE a bit of a struggle, probably 40% of my solve time. Did JS BACH really leave off the possessive S on "St. John Passion?" My mind said that absence made it a modern work. D'Oh.

Double D'Oh on Pissarro - I was thinking "Mannerist" so CÉZANNE was a surprise when he appeared. This is especially bad since I spent six months in CÉZANNE's home town and had Mont Saint-Victoire as a desktop image for years.

Otherwise an easy Saturday. Nice scrabbliness without scrabblef$%#^ing. Nothing in the ESE department that screams at you. I like that that the fictional ULALUME is next to the almost equally fictional JETS FAN.

Beer Rating - Five Z's boost the rating to Atwater's Detroit Pale Ale.

jberg 8:32 AM  

I vaguely remembered PENTE, and after I wrote it in I remembered the PIA mater -- until then I sort of wanted lIA there, for some reason. And I read so much science fiction in my youth that I can recognize the named stars (there aren't that many) when I see said names, so SPICA was OK. That made this one Really Easy. (Also, I know French). Two writeovers: mOOn before ZOOM, and BLITZEr before BLITZEN--figuring the pole star might be a play on some TV person's name.

Also, I saw the accent on Nicolas as a circonflex somehow, so like @acme I thought he was French.

@Steve J, yeah, especially weird that they chose Saturday to add the "var."

AliasZ 8:36 AM  

As much as I liked Patrick Berry's puzzle yesterday is as much as I disliked Frederick J. Healy's today.

At first look I noticed we were getting three semi-autonomous puzzles for the price of one: the NW and SE corners, and the diagonal swatch in the center. Only two across and two down entries tie all of them together, although these four were the best entries in the whole puzzle: NEAT IDEA, HANG TIME, UNMAPPED and ZANZIBAR. Maybe I liked them because they were the only ones longer than 7 letters.

I have a feeling Will Shortz knew there were going to be two Naticks in the grid: SPICA / LITA and PENTE / PIAS, but left them in to make this one Saturday-worthy. The latter could've been DIAS / DENTE just as easily. The grid already contains TIAS in the NE, which made PIAS (or DIAS) unacceptable in my mind. I would have worked hard to redo the SE corner.

BOOTEES? ZOT? Let's make it BOOZEES [Drinkers, slang, var.] and ZOZ [French denial, at 90°].

What I liked: J. S. BACH, CEZANNE, IPANEMA, AMERIGO Vespucci (1454-1512) and a few others, but ICANTOO seemed arbitrary. For a while I had I___TOO, waiting for the crosses to tell me if it should be WAS, CAN, HAD or anything else that fit the clue, but not knowing PENTE except as five in Greek, or never having seen a coxswain called COX (as in Courteney or Communications) did not help at all. So I guessed ICANTOO correctly. And COX is in fact short for coxswain.

It took way longer to write this than it did to solve the puzzle. So a very quick, unexciting solve for me despite all that JAZZ. But at least I learned about the SALTON Sea, and that a LUNGE is often parried.

Loren Muse Smith 8:54 AM  
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jburgs 8:59 AM  

DNF due to naticks SPeCs crossing LeTA and AHORs. I don't mind foreign language clues as long as you can make an educated guess after filling in some of the letters with crosses. For example, SAIS and AUSSI were gettable as I am Canadian and hear more french so could feel a little confidence in finishing to fill in these words. The clue for AHORA was hard for me as I felt that Nicolas could possibly be French, Italian or Spanish. I didn't have enough knowledge to know that it would be Spanish. If you put in foreign words it should not require an intimate knowledge of the language. AUSSI and SAIS would have been impossible without lots of crosses to those of us who are uncultured.

Otherwise, liked the puzzle and it was a good challenge for my level and felt good to get everything but the above. I did not have the trouble some people mentioned with the PENTE/PIA cross due to vague memories of Anatomy class and of the game.

Loren Muse Smith 9:02 AM  

Rex – PIAS/PENTE "near-Natick" – well for me, it was a full-blown Natick.

@Steve J and @Glimmerglass – me, too, for wanting "Othello" for PENTE. And (@acme, too) I kept erasing BOOTEES because it's really "booties" in my world.

Seems I'm among a lot of solvers who naticked at the PIAS/PENTE and SPICA/LITA crosses. I guessed wrong on both.

@Gill I.P. – "Opie" was one of my earliest entries, and he stayed there until I saw EXTENTS.

I've never heard of Mario LANZA or "The Great Caruso," so I had the ridiculous "Danza" there until my enviable fencing experience kicked in.

38D's are always troublesome. "We do, too." "I was, too." "I did, too." "I am also. . ."

I immediately thought "woodwork" with the joint clue, so at least I have that to gloat about.

For the BELCH clue, rather than "impolite interruption," could we have, simply, "impolite eruption?"

Things that will never be in my wheelhouse – SPICA (stars), ZOT (comics), SALTON (body of waters (hey, again, @Steve J)).

JUJITSU, JAZZ AGE, ZANZIBAR. Wow. @M & A – you have to love the JUJITSU/ULALUME cross.

42A – "rears" before PANTS.

Ones who a farrier RESHOES are BOOTEES maybe? (I refuse to use "whom" and I don't know why.)

Looking back at the filled grid – lots of foreign words: AUSSI, AHORA, PLUS, SOI, TIAS.

Acme – GUESS SO – remember when we were kicking around an SSS theme, and you uncovered this beaut?

Patrick Berry SSS

This wasn't as easy for me as everyone else. If I'm two wrong squares away from finishing a Saturday, I'm resigned to expect everyone talking about how easy it was. That always RANKLES a bit.

FURS – yesterday our neighbor caught an honest-to-gosh mink in a trap he had put at one of our ponds.

I'm off to brave the coyotes and falling tree limbs (and minks) and have my daily PASEO.

Rex Parker 9:04 AM  

Deliberately putting Naticks in your puzzle does not make it Saturday-worthy. It makes it terrible. Great HARD puzzles don't have true Naticks. No one would put one in her puzzle deliberately unless she was very bad at her job. Drives me crazy when people think that Have-to-guess crosses are just part of "difficulty." No. No. No. Any solver who can get a puzzle down to one empty square should have a reasonable shot at the square from the Across OR the Down.


dk 9:11 AM  

BART, COX and BELCH who could ask for more.

Otherwise standard Saturday fare.

** (2 Stars) wanted more

Moab is snowbound this AM. Looks like we will four wheel it to the Muff. Then off to some ruins and petroglyphs as I need a new little picture.

Michael Hanko 9:29 AM  

Hey, @Z: In the original German, it's "Johannespassion" all mushed together to form a single compound word. It's not a true genitive, as it's Bach's passion (or actually Jesus'!) , not St. John's. Here the saint's name is being used as an adjective, to indicate that the version of the crucifixion story has been taken from the Gospel According to St. John.

You probably know that Bach also set St. Matthew's version of the story, which is of course referred to as Matthäuspassion.

Davidph 9:32 AM  

Crosswordese is often in the eye of the beholder. As an avid amateur astronomer, I loved seeing Spica in the puzzle. Eeler, iter, aler are crosswordese. Spica is a shout-out to us science geeks.

Mohair Sam 9:46 AM  

We kinda liked this one. Yeah, like @SteveJ we got naticked at the P in PIAS/PENTE and had to hit the crossword dictionary (we will never Google a puzzle clue, never). So we're a dnf on this one, but we enjoyed. Who can get mad at a puzzle with a Wile E. Coyote clue?

Got held up a long time in the NE because JSBACH made me sure it was JAilrow for the Chicago setting (remember Roxie in the slammer?), and I spelled SALTON with an E. That threw the whole area into chaos until I corrected my SALTeN error, then all filled quickly.

Mohair Sam 9:47 AM  
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Carola 10:02 AM  

Guessed right on the two problem squares. Agree with Gill I.P. on the many NEAT words.

@Z - JS BACH titled the work in Latin: Passio Secundum Johannem, but in German it's now known as the Johannes-Passion. Not sure why the English leaves off the possessive.

Sir Hillary 10:04 AM  

Hmmm. No Naticks for me, because I know of LITA Ford and have a game of PENTE down in the basement. Not my favorite though. Too many variants and short junk. And sorry, but HANGTIME is not a stat for a slam dunk --it's a stat for a punt.

mac 10:07 AM  

Easy mostly, problems in the SE. Hand up for the pias/pente problem. I don't guess, I just leave it open I like that cox in the top, and Bart is cute.

@Z: Michael Hanco took the words right out of my mouth, but he certainly made them sound better.

At 10D I started with "wood" instead of zoom. The accent on Nicolas gave the Spanishness away.

lawprof 10:27 AM  

Hand up for the pENTE/pIAS natick. (Incidentally, I no longer capitalize "natick" because I think its now so ingrained into the lexicon that it's lost its connection to the Massachusetts town). I went through the alphabet and counted 17 plausible entries for that crossing, so I couldn't even lower the odds of guessing right to anything reasonable. Unfair? Nah. Just a shortcoming on my part. Any literate person should be up on his/her board games and anatomical structures.

Otherwise, five writeovers: chasm/DEPTH; iranI/FARSI; tANZania/ZANZIBAR; opie/BART; EXTENdS/EXTENTS.

It's a Saturday; I almost got it; can't feel all that bad.

Debby Weinstein 10:31 AM  

I'm new to this blog. What's a Natick? Thanks

Carola 10:35 AM  

@Debby - "Natick" is explained in Rex's FAQ, at the top of his page (scroll down to the bullets).

Debby Weinstein 10:37 AM  

"they" or "them" might have worked for "you're not the only one," except of course that either one was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:39 AM  

The P at PIAS/PENTE was my last entry. Somewhere from the depths of biology I remembered pia mater, and my limited knowledge of Latin screamed, "The Mother of all Pias!" If my Latin were better, and I knew "pia" meant "tender", I might have dismissed that.

But, LOL!, Acme says, "But PENTE should not have been impossible because it means five, just like GO is Chinese for five..." Sorry, I have not added Chinese to my crosswordy French, Spanish, and German! :>))

Z 10:41 AM  
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r.alphbunker 10:44 AM  

@Debby Weinstein
Click the FAQ link at the top of the blog page, scroll down to "some helpful vocabulary."

Finished with dIAS/dENTE; somehow the p was written in upside down, Can I plead a case of temporary vertical dyslexia here?

Interesting tidbit about go. Does this mean a gogo girl is a ten?

Evan 10:52 AM  

So, so with Rex on the idea of Naticks just being part of what makes a Friday or Saturday naturally difficult. You don't need Naticks in *any* puzzle.

I like the same stuff that Will said he liked at Xwordinfo, though after checking the colorized grid, it's a bit of a letdown that there are so few words making their debut (and one of them is RESHOES). This was one of my easiest Saturday solves, except for that PENTE/PIAS cross. I knew the game Pente from playing it as a kid and so I got it right, otherwise I would have done what @jae did and gone with RENTE/RIAS. That would be a viable though not great crossing in a vacuum -- RENTE being the French word for income -- but considering that AUSSI would be right next to it and SAIS is already in the puzzle, I'm guessing they would rather not have over-Frenched things.

I'm tempted to say that they should have clued PIAS as [Actress Zadora and others] or [Zadora and Lindstrom] even though that would be much easier than a typical Saturday clue, but it at least would have reduced the chance for a Natick. Of course, I hate using plural first or last names, so is that really better? I agree with @AliasZ -- the best option might have been to refill that corner, especially because RESHOES isn't so hot either (except for words like "shoehorn," how often do people use SHOE as a verb?).


This isn't the first time Rex has made that point.

@Anonymous 1:12:

True story: I asked Will Shortz in person about LUDO. I wanted to clue as [Gentle beast in the film "Labyrinth"], or something like that. He said that would probably be too obscure, which I figured he'd say. Still, glad I tried.

Norm 10:55 AM  

PIAS/PENTA = total Natick. Sheesh, why not a simple DIAS/DENTE?

I believe the chant for the U.C. Irvine Anteaters was (maybe still is) "Give 'em the tongue/Right in the ear/ZOT!"

Sandy K 10:56 AM  

I was having an enjoyable solve esp with scrabbly JU JITSU, JAZZ AGE, JAKARTA, CEZANNE, ZANZIBAR, Mario LANZA, Billy ZANE, BLITZEN and COX?

But I didn't GUESS SO great at the _ENTE/_IAS crossing. So Natick for me!

Z 10:57 AM  

@lms - "38D's are always troublesome." Flipped past the opening of Barb Wire, described as "Post-Apocalyptic remake of 'Casablanca' set in a strip club," the other day. It is a movie that serves as proof about your supposition.

@Michael Hanko - "You probably know that Bach also set St. Matthew's version of the story, which is of course referred to as Matthäuspassion." - Thank you for thinking so highly of me, but the only reason LITA Ford wasn't a gimme for me is that I didn't realize she had won a Grammy. Thanks (@Carola and @mac - thank you, too).

@Sir Hillary - I have to agree, it's not a "stat" in this case. You will hear it used as a descriptor on broadcasts, but you won't find it on a stat sheet anywhere.

I don't know how one could judge an "intentional natick." PIAS from anatomy crossing PENTE from a dated, but still somewhat popular at the time, game seems fair enough for a Saturday. LITA from 80's pop culture crossing SPICA from astronomy, likewise. These are far fairer than, say, a Simpsons clue crossing a Nirvana clue or an early 20th century dancer crossing a 19th century opera. At least today's examples come from broadly different areas of knowledge.

Questinia 11:00 AM  

Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea

Americana dreamin' and bustin' at its finest.

joho 11:03 AM  

I thought PIAS needed to be with maters but put it in anyway as the only answer that made any sense to me.

Another cross that might be named Natick was SAIS/IPANEMA. I choose the "A" correctly but not knowing how to spell IPANEMA or French that was a toss up.

I did end up with the stupidest mistake with LaNcE/AaSSI. You parry with a LaNCe, right? AaSSI is just another foreign word I've never heard of. And I remembered his name as AMERIcO. Drat.

Loved all the ZZZZZ's and opening JJJ's. ZOT brought a smile.

Great clue at "Parking meeter?"

DNF but liked it just the same.
Thanks, Frederick!

dls 11:07 AM  

Surely SCARLETTANAGERS is the longest piece of crosswordese in existence, perhaps followed by MRMXYZPTLK and AOXOMOXOA.

Time Traveler 11:11 AM  

@Evan - You might have specified that Rex made the point in his 9:55 comment.

joho 11:15 AM  

@Questinia, fascinating clip, thanks! One of my co-workers visited there last summer to either kayak or camp ... now I have to ask him all about it.

Evan 11:18 AM  
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quilter1 11:20 AM  

DNF by not knowing either PIAS or PENTE, so lost by one P. Otherwise got it all, but it wasn't especially fun.

Evan 11:22 AM  

@Time Traveler:

He said it in the June 1, 2012 blog post as well as that comment. You're right that the comment is a closer match to what he said today. I was just citing the general point that solvers tend to cut really easy puzzles a lot of slack, hence, today's not the first time he's made that point.

quilter1 11:25 AM  

I didn't get an ad today.

David G 11:33 AM  

I know JUJITSU is how the word appears in English, but it's an error for Japanese "jujutsu"—with all "u"s.

This bugs me much more than "ah so", which everyone gets the vapors about, but which is real Japanese, and means just what all those "racist" English speakers who use it think it does.

David G 11:41 AM  

@wreck 12:50 a.m.: That's really funny. Glad to know there is an audience for that clue somewhere.

@Rex 9:04 a.m.: Thanks for pre-answering my question, which was: "Is it still an easy puzzle if it has an impossible cross like this one does (which is also how I found it)?"

Time Traveler 11:48 AM  

@Evan - you're right. Rex was just more concise about it in the comments than the actual post. Considering how infrequently he posts comments when he does the blog, I thought the comment was what you were pointing to.

retired_chemist 12:17 PM  

Easy - among my fastest Saturday times.

Hand up for vIAS/vENTE. Until the end, when Mr. Happy pencil failed to appear, I didn't think of PENTE, but it was somewhere in my subconscious.

PASEO - no problem. The Paseo del Rio, AKA the San Antonio River Walk, is an experience not to be missed if you visit. It alone is worth the trip,though the Alamo is also good.

SPICA - also out of my subconscious, but I actually knew it was a star. A few crosses and I knew it wasn't Deneb or Rigel, my two go-to 5 letter stars. Actually SEDER alone ruled those two out but I needed J. S. BACH and AHORA to remember SPICA.

IMO enough good to outweigh the nonstellar fill. Of course, the fast time (it was almost exactly twice Rex's, and that is fast for me) may have led me to the same bias Rex reported.

Thanks, Mr. Healy.

Unknown 12:28 PM  

Pente is ancient. I think you mean Othello.

John V 12:55 PM  

Hand up for PIAS Natick. Otherwise, easy, too.

Z 12:57 PM  

@perry weiss - Wikipedia puts PENTE at 36 years-old.

Chris 1:07 PM  

The SPICA / LETA cross is ridiculous.

Masked and Anonym0007Us 1:41 PM  

Really steamed thru the NW, to open things up. Ultra-familiarity with U-words helped a lot, thereabouts.
Then: trouble brewin. Overall, had a pretty lackluster puz HANGTIME.

Notable accomplishments:
* Got SANTA off the S.
* Got PENTE off the NTE.
* Kilt a fly in the kitchen.
* Got ZANZIBAR off Zed #1.
* Got IPANEMA off the I.
* Got French stumper SAIS off the SAIS.
* Got RESHOES but didn't want it.
* Got AUSSI except had AUSKI. Figured on Hank Geiger.
* Thought real fondly of Santa Fe, after confrontin both SANTA and PASEOS. Fave city on this particular planet.

weejects, weejects: faves were SOI and ZOT. Got the ZOT off thin air, btw. Betcha SOI is French for somethin, but Sir Shortz bit the bullet and avoided that choice in favor of a partial. Made SOI my first entry into the puz. Thanx, S.S.

Agent 007-U will return, in "From Reshoes with Love"...

que sais-je, dude

Lewis 1:47 PM  

Workmanlike Saturday puzzle for me. Neither boring nor exciting. Of course yesterday's puzzle was a tough act to follow. Learned SPICA and ZANE. And I agree, there is no excuse for a Natick. Better to jettison the puzzle.

Have a good weekend, all!

Anoa Bob 2:12 PM  

Metarex @ 6:49, interesting observation re relative xword frequencies of ZOT and a certain Celebes ox. I can identify with both!

First, my namesake, the ANOA, used to appear now and again in puzzles, clued as "Celebes ox". BTW, it's a buffalo, not an ox, and it's the smallest of all the buffaloes. Here's one


Second, tho I've never put ANOA in a puzzle---figured it would get rejected---I have used ZOT (LA Times 9/26/2011)! ANTEATER was also in the grid, so I was able to cross-clue it as the sound, ZOT, made by a "B.C." comic strip character, the ANTEATER.

Hmmm, how does ZotBob sound fer a new moniker? Has a certain ring to it but I think I'll stick with my beloved Anoa.

okanaganer 2:13 PM  

@acme and @Bob Kerfuffle...I know GO is Japanese for five, are you sure it is the same in Chinese? Ichi, ni, san, shi, GO, roku...

Written Japanese uses Chinese characters as its main alphabet (the Kanji), and the number characters are identical. However, common words are almost always pronounced differently since spoken Japanese predated the use of the alphabets. (Japanese uses 3 different alphabets!!)

GILL I. 2:29 PM  

@Masked 0007US
Chacun pour soi...Yes! SOI means self in French. I would have preferred that to the SO I partial...;-)
@Anoa: Please, stick to you beloved ANOA.....!

Mike Rees 2:32 PM  

My understanding is that a Natick is two words that cross each other that the average solver cannot deduce by way of crosses. Meaning that you have to have specific knowledge of the subjects to get the answers.

FAQ 4:04 PM  

From the FAQ page on "natick" - "If you include a proper noun in your grid that you cannot reasonably expect more than 1/4 of the solving public to have heard of, you must cross that noun with reasonably common words and phrases or very common names."

M and Also 4:17 PM  

p.s. Still wonderin who all 4-Oh's construction friends are. Do they build condos? With A/C only in the center room? Well, in that case, U about gotta go with their calls...
but I sure liked ZOT and SPICA a lot. ZotBob, not so much; AnoaBob is primo.

@Gill I.P. ... Hurt me bad. ;-)))
[sorry-- slight double chin]

We are from France. We get our gas soi-soivice. Must remember, just in case...

sanfranman59 6:08 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 6:36, 6:06, 1.08, 82%, Challenging
Tue 7:49, 8:12, 0.95, 34%, Easy-Medium
Wed 10:26, 9:52, 1.06, 68%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 19:16, 17:14, 1.12, 71%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 14:14, 19:17, 0.74, 11%, Easy
Sat 20:55, 26:51, 0.78, 8%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:59, 3:46, 1.06, 78%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:50, 5:01, 0.96, 36%, Easy-Medium
Wed 6:23, 5:49, 1.10, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 11:29, 10:07, 1.13, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 8:21, 11:12, 0.75, 10%, Easy
Sat 11:52, 17:01, 0.70, 4%, Easy (8th lowest ratio of 193 Saturdays)

Will is taking it easy on us this weekend.

Dirigonzo 7:07 PM  

Easy except for the two for the two crosses cited by @John Child early this morning, which I just left blank. Upon reading the comments I feel I should have known PIA even though I never heard of PENTE. Still, much easier than the David Steinberg (syndicated) Friday puzzle that crushed me yesterday.

LaneB 8:52 PM  

Another late start, but this tiime, despite lots of Google help, still couldn't complete SE corner and took an infuriating DNF. Particularly pissed re clue for HANGTIME (a stat?) and the inclusion of PENTE (when all I could think of was GO) If this was "easy", I'm dumber than I thought. Had a good Saturday going but....

Acme 10:40 PM  

Yes, I meant Japanese GO is five.

Here is how to remember 1-10 in japanese:
Ichi nee san shi go 1-5
I think itchy knee, (1-2,) nis-san (3-4) she go (4-5) she go in the nssan... Each word leads to next...
Roku ( she go in nissan but row ku back. (6)
Shichi (shes chi chi) hachi (chi, chi hot shit 7-8)
Ku ju
9-10 i think of stephen king's CUJO , but it rhymes, ku ju. Or cool jew.
Then 11 is just ju-ichi, and onward, ju-ni.
32would be san ju ni (three tens two)
See! Already you can now count to 99 in Japanese.
Let's try it together...
But whenshe comes back...

One day when I write my book "how to remember shit" this will be in the chapter about Japanese...

Acme 11:03 PM  

Mistake san is 2-3

Fwiw chinese for five is Wu!

rain forest 1:01 AM  

I'm frequently lost in the discussion hereabouts. Do we post in order to evaluate a puzzle, to talk about our solving experience, to remind people of what we did in some puzzle we created, or to discuss grammar rules which we regularly ignore?

Or all of the above?

I love Ravel's Bolero, btw, whether performed by the Barcelona Philharmonic, or the Dave Clark Five.

Today's was basically an easy puzzle, and only because I remembered PIA MATER did I avoid the possible natick (a small town in Maine). SPICA is one of the 5 or 6 stars whose (which?) naame I remember. @Diri - you know them all...

@M&A, or anyone who wants to capture fruit flies: In a small bowl, place about 3 oz of Oloroso Sherry, and 1 drop of dishwashing liquid. Cover the bowl with Saran wrap and poke about 8 holes in the wrap. I strongly suggest using a cheap variety of Sherry, because in my experience, fruit flies are not oenophiles.

If you wonder whom it is that knocks, it is I!

spacecraft 11:13 AM  

I liked it. Each entry by itself would have given me fits, but when you have to account for the crosses it all seems to coalesce. This to me is the mark of a good puzzle. So, yes, Saturday-easy, by comparison, yet satisfying.

Had to change EXTENdS to EXTENTS; "reaches" is most commonly thought of as a verb, but it IS Saturday, after all.

The PENTE/PIAS cross didn't trouble me, thanks to a sound medical background provided by, would you believe, the USAF. However, the only game using black and white stones worth mentioning is the game of go. I'll wager that there's a go player or two among this community of bright souls--and that you agree with my opinion. PENTE indeed. Hmph!

Altogether smooth and crunchy at the same time. Is Mr. Healy CEZANNE to Berry's Pissaro? Or is it the other way around?

Ginger 3:10 PM  

@Anoa Bob Thanks for the Anoa clip. She sure enjoyed messing with that box. I swear she was winking at the camera. BTW Please don't change your blog-name.

Interesting puzzle, but sooooo tough to follow a PB. Fine entry not mentioned, EAT DIRT, which Fiiday and Saturday puzzles usually make me do. Thought JiUJITZU was the spelling, so held out putting it in. Mario LANZA as Caruso was fantastic back in the day, so that was a gimmie.

Go HAWKS tomorrow. Does that mean '5' Hawks? And here I thought there were 12 of them on the field.

Waxy in Montreal 4:38 PM  

Count me in with those who naticked at the PIAS/PENTE cross. Even worse, wanted SPOCK (as in Mr.) rather than SPICA for the star which, combined with WOOD before ZOOM, messed up the NE plenty.

Otherwise an APLUS Saturday.

Dirigonzo 7:27 PM  

@rainy - thanks for the vote of (over)confidence but in fact I usually need all the crosses when star names - celestial or Hollywood - are needed. And btw, Natick is a small town not in Maine but in Massachusetts, from which Maine wisely separated and became a state on its own in 1820.

alex 12:02 AM  

Two of the clues rankled me. Hang time is not a slam dunk stat. Punt stat would have been more appropriate. Aren't all laptop cameras built in? So the clue for 52a shouldn't be - like many laptop cameras. Like a laptop camera or like many desktop cameras.
Loved clue for fibbers and zoom

Solving in Seattle 2:53 PM  

Couple of days late to the party due to weddings and football. Yeah, @Ginger, Hawks rule!

I had pinZA before LANZA; EXTENdS before EXTENTS; iranI before FARSI. My IDEA was good before it was NEAT.

PENTE/PIA totally on crosses.

I still remember B.C.'s anteater, "ZOT". Lol. And I'll never forget Astrid Gilberto's "Girl from IPANEMA."

Liked your puz, Frederick. CW JUJITSU.

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