Bygone Brazilian airline / THU 12-26-13 / Dubai-based airline / Golfer Baker-Finch winner of 1991 British Open / Old iPod Nano capacity / 1929's Street Girl was its first official production / Poet in my heart per Fleetwood Mac song / Sports anchor Berman / Flower cluster on single stem / Language of Pandora

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Constructor: Tim Croce

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: GENERAL DISARRAY (58A: Chaos … or a hint to the contents of 17-, 28-, 34- and 43-Across) — letters in word "GENERAL" are in "DISARRAY" (i.e. reordered) in the middle of four theme answers:

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: RACEME (43D: Flower cluster on a single stem, as in the honey locust) —
raceme (/rˈsim/ or /rəˈsim/) is a type of inflorescence that is unbranched and indeterminate and bears pedicellate flowers — flowers having short floral stalks called pedicels — along the axis. In botanyaxis means a shoot, in this case one bearing the flowers. In araceme, the oldest flowers are borne towards the base and new flowers are produced as the shoot grows. A plant that flowers on a showy raceme may have this reflected in its scientific name, e.g. Cimicifuga racemosa. A compound raceme is called a panicle. (wikipedia)
• • •

Cute theme with solid answers. If only the word GENERAL had more interesting letters. The grid is very errrrrrrr-ish. Well, generrrrrrral-ish, esp. if you ignore the obvious Scrabble-f***king in the E and W. Actually, in corners that tiny, you can get away with Scrafu™—none of the results are that dodgy. IERI, on the other hand, redefines "dodgy." Luckily, it's an outlier(i). I finished with a typo that it took me forever to track down because, as I said earlier(i) in the week, I Misspell VARIG (33A: Bygone Brazilian airline). I had VAREG. Again. Perhaps it's because I quite literally have never seen this airline. Today I learn that it's because it's "bygone." Perhaps we can stop using it, then? Please? Anyway, I scanned all the Acrosses and found no typo and then scanned the Downs and noticed two LENs. That can't be, said I. No. It's Maya LIN / LEN Berman (whom I confused with KEN Berman, who is not KEN Berman at all, but rather Chris Berman, it turns out).

[Warning: Profanity]

I had DOPE instead of DRUG (2D: Sedate, say) but later had DOPE where DOPE belonged (42A: Skinny). Never ever "got" DRAT (53D: Alternative to hell?) (i.e. needed every cross—it's not a bad clue AFTER ALL). Don't get how "good for" works with SATE (54D: Be plenty good for). "Plenty good" as in "more than enough, quantity-wise"? Stretch. ECARDS, and all E-answers, were among the most hated crossword answers in my Facebook survey of Most Hated Crossword Answers (52A: Animated greetings). Just FYI. Also FYI: not sure it's the best kind of subliminal advertising to include STALER, TIRED *and* IN A RUT in your grid.

Got to get to bed. Hope your Christmas was lovely, however you spent it.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Steve J 12:19 AM  
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    Steve J 12:21 AM  
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    Steve J 12:30 AM  

    One of the easiest Thursdays I've ever encountered. Got NUCLEAR ENGINEER straight out of the gate with no crosses and POTENTIAL ENERGY with one cross, so everything fell together extremely quickly. Theme was executed well, but it felt really plain for a Thursday.

    Liked RAN RAGGED a lot. I disliked LIENEE a hell (a DRAT?) of a lot.

    And am I alone in thinking that 12D is a bit off? By a few millimeters or centimeters, depending?

    (Apologies for the multiple reports. Combo of iPad keyboard shenanigans and rethinking how I wanted to state something.)

    jae 12:36 AM  

    Merry Christmas everyone!  

    This was medium for me.  Had to stare at the STALER/ ARRANT cross for a while to convince myself it was OK.  Plus triple checked the crosses for IERI.  

    This time VARIG was not a WOE.

    Rate before SATE. 

    SE corner could be tough with NAVI, GRASSO, SARA, YAW...

    Very smooth grid (except for IERI) and a clever theme.  It didn't help the solve (no way I would have noticed it) but it was a nice check on the finished puzzle.

    Liked it.  Nice Thurs. Jim,

    Garth 1:00 AM  

    This was a strong critique by Rex. It contained a nice balance of appropriate compliments, constructive criticism, and educational tips.

    George Barany 1:29 AM  

    Nice feat for @Tim to find 5 theme entries and insert them into a 70-word grid. I had the same experience with wanting DOPE for 2-Down, only to find it at 42-Across, and in GENERAL, agree with @Garth on his kudos to @Rex. Over at, @Will Shortz comments on the use of ANAL in the grid (23-Down). As a chemist, I would have no problem plunking down a FITB-type clue: "___ Chem." (which even has a misdirect for PHYS). As one who has suffered quite a bit with the local football team (the Vikings), I was sorely tempted to provide other answers for 32-Down, but then went with the entirely obvious SEAFARERS.

    Benko 1:45 AM  

    Thought that BEGEM/RACEME adjacent to each other was a bit tough, but inferable if you know BARA. If you don't, good luck.
    Strange to have VARIG again so soon, but easy for us who do the puzzle every day.
    IERI didn't look right at all until I realized its similarity to the French "hier".
    SATE means to satisfy an appetite, so the clue works.
    Liked the science vibe, but GENERALDISARRAY makes me think of Professor Chaos' sidekick in South Park. expected to see a YouTube clip of that here.

    Unknown 1:55 AM  

    Tough puzzle. An hour 15 minute DNF with 5 errors. That's a lot for even me.

    BEGEM is such an awkward solution that it took me a minute not to see BEG 'EM and wonder what that has to do with embellishment.

    rATE is a much better solution to "be plenty good for" than SATE, so much better that I reject the correct answer for that clue.

    DRAT was permanently hidden, as was ECARDS , which actually makes sense as clued. LeN Berman being plausible, I got bitten by VARIG, again.

    On top of these, there were plenty of other obscure clues that I could sort out, with extra patience and a constant willingness to be wrong. All together, this was a difficult Thursday. Saturdayesque.

    And no recognition of Boxing Day , either. :(

    Evan 1:57 AM  
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    Evan 1:59 AM  

    I had GENERAL DISORDER at first, and that took a little while to untangle. Otherwise I'd rate this a medium. The biggest question mark for me was whether 15-Across was going to be ARRANT or ERRANT. I figured the name at 1-Down couldn't be IEN, but I've rarely encountered ARRANT even in crosswords, and the golfer seemed obscure enough that I really wondered if he had a bizarre first name. Fortunately, I settled on the right answer -- I just couldn't imagine a universe where ERRANT meant "unqualified," although this site notes that ARRANT used to be a variant of ERRANT before developing a definition of its own.

    I'm so-so on this puzzle overall. I'll grant that it must have been tricky to come up with viable seven-letter anagrams, so the fact that Tim came up with four good phrases is pretty neat. But I wouldn't consider IERI an outlier. Other stuff I wasn't crazy about includes BEGEM, RACEME, BARA (which I wouldn't mind by itself were it not a tough proper noun crossing RACEME and in a clump of less-than-stellar words including E-CARDS), LIENEE next to AREOL- (an A or an E? always a fun adventure trying to figure that out), and ARRANT. It's not the biggest list of "offenders" considering the theme density, but most of the ones I didn't like....I really didn't like.

    I will say this: that clue for HALOS is spectacular. One of my favorites for 2013.

    retired_chemist 2:33 AM  

    Nice. enjoyable puzzle which, thankfully, Rex didn't dis. But where is my tormentor, the Thursday rebus? Nowhere to be found....

    Didn't like the clue for 17A - nuclear engineering I believe came AFTER, and consequential to, the Manhattan Project. Nuclear engineering societies seem to have started in the fifties, consistent IMO with nuclear engineering as a discipline having started in the late forties. Anyone who has actual history to support or refute this, please chime in.

    GENERAL DISORDER for 58A slowed me down in the SE. Only other writeover was 16A DEMERARA. Turns out Demerara rum is Guyanan, not Jamaican, anyway.

    Thanks, Mr. Croce.

    Areola eCards Messtents 3:17 AM  

    @George Barany
    That DOPE thing is a classic malapop.

    AREOLA and ANAL seemed much more risque than our rather tame BREASTS, SPERMWHALE, COQ au vin and TOKE on Monday.

    Now I'll chime in as a nonsports, non science gal.
    I had essENTIALENERGY. :(
    IKES yes, but didn't know DRJ (or IAN vs IeN)( but went with common sense on the latter.)

    Wish I HAD thought about Scrabble letters, might have helped me get DRJ...and realize my essENTIAL error.

    Wish everyone would realize Scrabble letter addition is a conscious, positive choice by many constructors and can help with the solve. in point.

    Wish folks would lighten up on E+ whatever. Esp as I received more ECARDS this Xmas than real ones.
    So they are real things that are puzzleworthy.

    End of my "general" Christmas Wish list.

    Merry Gridmas

    George Barany 5:28 AM  

    @ACME's question about DR_J sent me on a merry GOOGLE search, and if you can spare 2 minutes, watch this. Not to be confused with Dr. K, from baseball (another minute). Thanks too for a reminder of the self-defining "malapop", a term that the internet credits @ACME with coining on this very blog.

    chefbea 7:19 AM  

    Had to google a bit but finally finished. Had46 down been clued "Lady governor of Connecticut" I would have known the answer.

    Papal Om 7:26 AM  

    I think MALAPOP was coined in this post.

    The comments section from five years ago is a hoot !

    Glimmerglass 7:28 AM  

    Not so easy for me (which is good). Still don't see how STALER is more rough around the edges, unless maybe it's bread. Quite a stretch. The revealer was fine, but no help top me in solving. I agree with @Steve J about AREOLA. I also agree with Garth, Good blog, Rex.

    AliasZ 7:54 AM  

    The triumvirate of Tim Croce, Joe Krozel and Patrick Berry rules Crossworld. Today's puzzle is a sparkling proof of that.

    I noticed that the top two long entries shared the adjacent letters AEEGLNR and said to myself: "Self, there's gotta be an anagram theme here." 31A confirmed my suspicion as I entered POTENTIALENERGY without any crosses. I spent the next two minutes trying to find what anagrams this seemingly meaningless letter chain may produce: Al Green, enlarge,* gleaner, re-angle, Ang Leer, angeler, large EN... GENERAL, of course. GENERAL DISARRAY. In final ANAL., a terrific theme and even better execution.

    There is so much good stuff here, I don't even know where to start. I loved IERI, partner of oggi and domani. I wondered why anyone, even Jeff Chen, would dislike it. [If they won't give it to you at first asking,] BEGEM is another matter. IERI is in the same class as Hulot, in my opinion. [Want to] RACEME [?] was a total unknown to me, but Theda BARA helped me out there. VARIG makes an unvariegated appearance after a few days' absence to the displeasure of some. I flew to Rio on Varig in the 1990's. Best clue: "Sedate, say" for DRUG and "Purity rings?" for AREAOLAe. I mean HALOS. Loved seeing the renegade RANRAGGED right above TIRED.

    Haydn Wood (1882-1955) was an English composer, represented in today's puzzle by his nautical rhapsody, The SEAFARER, composed on 1940. Quite charming, I'd say.

    I wonder if GENERAL DISARRAY is a four-star general like Idea and Public, just above Assembly and Practitioner, or does he wear five stars like Election and Anesthesia?

    *Stan Newman clued AL GREEN as "Singer whose name is an anagram of enlarge in Newsday last Sunday.

    The partridge in a pear tree flew off, but I see two turtle doves replacing him.

    Michael Hanko 8:01 AM  

    This was — despite the (ouch) misaimed piercing — just the kind of brain-exercising fun I crave in my crosswords. Thanks, Mr. Croce!

    I remarked to non-puzzle partner that ANAL not clued as an abbrev was making what I thought to be its debut in the NYT...sure enough, there was Will defending its inclusion over on Jeff's writeup page. I think the "fastidious" sense has drifted sufficiently far from its association with nether regions to pass the breakfast test. Does anyone actually think about ANI when this usage comes up?

    Most e-words irk the hell out of me because they seem like awful, trumped-up constructions forced onto us by e-retailers and e-service providers. However, E-CARDS are an actual thing that I have talked and written about with friends...and sent and received many times. I appreciate them in that they spare forests and save postage, but feel that there is little charm left in the custom of greeting cards once they become an online FITB exercise: "Click here to see an animated expression of my ardor/sympathy/holiday spirit."

    I will admit to having begemmed a couple of prized tank tops in my day. That was my favorite word in the puzzle. (I have a great weakness for Swarovski crystals. A former boyfriend who raised poultry as a hobby said I was like a chicken in my attraction to sparkly things. I think that was a compliment....)

    Hands up for GENERALDISorder at first.

    Unknown 8:41 AM  

    An AREOLA piercing certainly does sound painful.

    And there was no Christmas hangover in this puzzle.

    My New Years Resolution is to ignore talk of Scrabbly letters. ALL LETTERS are valid, this kind of talk is nonsense.

    Blue Stater 8:56 AM  

    I was going along fine (for a Thursday, anyway) when I got Naticked in San Diego County. BEGEM indeed. To say nothing of RACEME. I hung on far too long to "in total disarray." Oh well.

    OISK 9:18 AM  

    A bit of a struggle, but I got through. Actually sailed through until the SE, where (like others here) I had "disorder" instead of "disarray," and got temporarily stumped. Also had mess hall before mess tent, which made a mess of my SW. I remember VARIG airlines, but not Fleetwood Mac. Sara??

    CBCD 9:34 AM  

    Nitpick about 53 down: Alternative to hell?, where DRAT is the answer.

    DRAT is a euphamism for DAMN.

    HECK is a euphamism for HELL.

    retired_chemist 9:35 AM  

    I think the chemists/physicists mostly will/would have put GENERAL DISoRder for 58A because of the entropy <=>chaos <=> disorder connections. OISK and I went that way, George Barany didn't mention it, and I don't know if the others who mentioned it are chemists or not.

    Dorothy Biggs 9:37 AM  

    Going to Spotify Tim Croce today. I haven't listened to his music in ages.

    I really like that this puzzle had no circles to tip off the "GENERAL" DISARRAY. I like having had to figure it out myself.

    Just one nit to pick: IDAHOS. Does anyone out there call their potatoes "IDAHOS?" They are potatoes from Idaho, or they are Idaho potatoes, but anyone who calls them IDAHOS probably wears a trilby and skinny jeans. Maybe, in a parallel universe, there is an East and West Idaho and that area of the US is called "The IDAHOS." Or maybe not.

    Also, shouldn't the plural of Idaho be IdahoEs?

    Pluralizing proper nouns has been criticized a few times here...surprised Rex missed it.

    joho 9:56 AM  

    I did this late last night after everyone left and whipped through it and wrote "easy" in the margin. The fun payoff this morning was finding the anagrams.

    The only slight slow ups were MESShall before MESSTENT and Trite before TIRED.

    My favorite answer was RANRAGGED -- so appropriate for how I felt yesterday. But in a good way.

    Thank you, Tim Croce!

    jberg 9:57 AM  

    Big DNF in the NW, as somehow neither HALOS nor IDAHOS occurred to me. When "yams" wouldn't fit at 1A, I tried to think of some kind of surfer term.

    The theme did help. I noticed right off that "atomic physicist" would fit nicely at 17A. I didn't put it in, but the thought had me looking for some kind of 'scientist' instead of ENGINEER. Seeing those other generals fixed that right up.

    I had other troubles, too -- giant before LARGE, hoary before TIRED, confirmed by its crossing 'saying' at the Y. Also, briefly, bArbel lbefore RACEME. I fixed them all but the NW, Maybe I would have got it if reALER had not seemed to fit "more rough around the edges." I don't see how STALER fits at all -- if it's still rough around the edges, it's fresh, not stale!

    But that's sour grapes.

    Oh yeah, I got it, but 'toward safety'? If you're in a boat and blown ALEE, you're likely to end up on the rocks, not safe at all.

    Ah well, it was a nice struggle.

    PapaLeroux 10:03 AM  

    I liked the puzzle, but the SE was tough.

    General Disarray. That describes this house on the day after Christmas.

    dk 10:17 AM  

    Dr. K? That is I.

    Same solving experience as Our Dear Leader.

    I was wishing for more partical theroy, fractils and other Chaos related fill. You know a nerd puzzle.

    Had Duck Weed in my head instead of GREENAlGAE which i managed to missspell

    As always I missed the trick till I got here.

    Resting up after a day of brass bands, mulled wine and sedation by SATE.

    *** (3 protons) nice one Tim

    Steve J 10:23 AM  
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    Steve J 10:30 AM  

    @Benko: I can't believe I totally forgot about Butters' sidekick last night as I was solving this. One of that show's best verbal gags.

    @ACME: Agreed that E-CARDS are a real thing. I don't much like the term, but it's acceptable. That and email are the only e- terms in actual common use. The other e- terms that show up in puzzles rightly deserve the derision they receive, as they're not in common use and severely dated. Of course, I'm of the opinion that crosswords should reflect language as it's actually used at the time of the puzzle's creation ("actually used") meaning that it's commonly and broadly used, not that one can find a stray example here and there). I know that's a philosophical debate that others disagree on.

    @ACME and @Susan McConnell: Agreed that talk of scrabbliness can get tedious in either direction (directly related to the tedium potential of pangram discussions), but I do think it's a relevant point when the inclusion of rarer letters leads to awkward fill and seems too self-conscious. I think today (and earlier in the week, when the comment also came up), the fill was not compromised by the inclusion of some rarer letters (in fact, the shakiest fill - LIENEE, IERI, BEGEM - all features common letters). But there are days when it definitely gets in the way and leaves behind bad fill.

    And I'd disagree that letters on their own add spice to a puzzle. Good words and good clues do that. Good words can be full of common letters, and bad words can include less-common letters (and vice versa, of course). The letters are just tools. It's like trying to make a house look nice by focusing on the quality of the nails and screws.

    Tita 10:33 AM  

    Got POTENTIALENERGY with no crosses - was a physics major - glad my hard-earned tuition money paid off...

    Like many, had GENERALDISoRder for a long time. (Mail hit on head, @ret_chem)

    When I first learned about Chaos, and Entropy, I would recite the 3rd law of thermodynamics to my mother as the scientific proof that it is pointless for me to clean my room.

    I've flown VARIG many times, but didn't know they were Bygone. (Did I say that last time?)

    @jberg - yes, there are many ways to use ALEE, but a very common one is certainly the one used today. As a sailor, I try to avoid going ALEE of the abrupt hills around my lake, unless the wind is blowing too hard for me, then I seek it out.

    Liked OLDSAW crossing TIRED chestnut.

    Thanks for a fun puzzle, Mr. Croce!

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:36 AM  

    Fine puzzle, about as good as a Thursday can get without a rebus. My impression is that the seven-letter GENERAL is on the high end of words being scrambled for this type of puzzle.

    Finished in easy-medium time, but I did have reservations about STALER, as two others have noted above. Also, until I went to the link posted by @Evan above, I had the wrong idea about the clue for ARRANT. I was reading "Unqualified" to mean "Lacking the necessary ability" instead of the intended (and, yes, now that I have head-slapped myself, perfectly valid) meaning of "utter, entirely."Finally, as I filled in 37 D, IERI entirely from crosses, I was thinking, "There's a bit of Italian I've never seen before," but then realized I have, and Should Have Known It from the Latin "Heri, Hodie, Cras," meaning "Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow."

    david 10:38 AM  

    HOw is 15A Unqualified = arrant? not in my dictionary... also, I hate when they make up words- 49D = BEGEM????

    Danp 10:40 AM  

    "Unqualified" seems an odd clue for ARRANT. While both mean without exception, the first is, as far as I know, unqualified always used in a positive light - (eg. unqualified genius), while arrant is negative (arrant fool).

    r.alphbunker 11:00 AM  

    @Masked and Anonymous

    I did your 12 Days of Christmas puzzle. If today's puzzle were a formal state banquet yours was more of a potluck dinner among old friends. Some of the entries were less appetizing than other but the main dish (the 12 days) was delicious and the puzzle had a nice quirkiness to it that you manage to get into your posts also.

    I have created a heat map of my solution here. For comparison, I have shown the heat map of my solution of Acme's first NYT puzzle of 6/12/2000.

    Please let us know of any future puzzles!

    just wondering 11:07 AM  

    Just wondering....

    is anyone having problems with version 2.0?

    John V 11:13 AM  

    All down to 49 was easy. Got snagged then and DNF. But that's okay. Tim's puzzles are usually very hard for me, this was better.

    Carola 11:15 AM  

    Impressive to have 4 GENERAL anagrams. The theme definitely helped me: while I had DISARRAY in place, the SW was giving me trouble. So I looked back at the other themers and saw the GENERAL, which got me BEGEM and then the rest.

    Easy for me through POTENTIAL ENERGY, then moving through Medium to Challenging on the way to the bottom - had to parse out those bottom chunks letter by letter.

    Nice to learn RACEME - I have lupines growing in my perennial garden and now I know what to call their beautiful flower stalks. Interesting discussion of ARRANT - that one had left me with ?? over my head.

    @NCA President - My grocery lists often say "2 IDAHOS, 3 Yukon Golds."

    mac 11:20 AM  

    Loved the puzzle, although for a little while I thought I wouldn't be able to finish. Then it fell together.

    Handup for disorder, and dirt for dope at 42A. I have to look up Navi/Pandora, new to me.

    Idahos and staler got some extra stare time, but I begem on a regular basis.

    barbara 11:24 AM  

    Can someone explain TIRED for "like chestnuts"? 11:28 AM  

    old chestnut
    Idioms & Phrases

    old chestnut

    A stale joke, story, or saying, as in Dad keeps on telling that old chestnut about how many psychiatrists it takes to change a light bulb . This expression comes from William Dimond's play, The Broken Sword (1816), in which one character keeps repeating the same stories, one of them about a cork tree, and is interrupted each time by another character who says "Chestnut, you mean . . . I have heard you tell the joke twenty-seven times and I am sure it was a chestnut."

    In Case Anyone is Wondering 11:30 AM  

    How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?

    Just one, but the bulb has to want to be changed.

    Zwhatever 11:56 AM  

    I got distracted by history, so I'll have to catch up on the posts after 11 later.

    Knights Arrant? No? Seems as reasonable as Knights Errant.

    Since Junior's Junior could be 'third' and Berman could be 'Chris,' I spent a lot of time over complicating this puzzle looking for a rebus. EURAIL finally gave me a ride into the south and I mostly finished. Forgetting BARA made R-CEME and -EGEM impossible to fill.

    GILL I. 12:13 PM  

    Well, this was like two puzzle for me. Had only the eastern section i.e. ENGINEER ALGAE ENERGY and RANGE and tried for way too long to find the "trick" for the west side.
    The DRJ/IKES held me up and RACEME had to be a GOOGLE. Otherwise, a good Thur. puzzle.

    Ok. Here's my TIRED Chestnut story:

    A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to leave. "But why?" they asked as they moved off. "Because," he said, "I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open fire."

    Happy Boxing day....!

    barbara 12:16 PM  

    Thanks for the informative explanation about chestnuts. Oddly enough after I posted that question I went back to reading the latest Stephen King book, Dr Sleep, and the word chestnut was used in that context!

    Anonymous 1:09 PM  

    @CBCD, I agree with you, but I can see how DRAT could be a synonym for HELL, as in the expression of disgust OH, HELL! You could say OH, DRAT! as a milder expression.

    Benko 1:20 PM  

    @gill I.p. I think you meant "in an open foyer".
    @retired chemist: You're completely right, I think, that people working on the manhattan project would have had no concept of being "nuclear engineers", as the term seems to have arisen a few years later as referring to a profession. But in a broader sense, as a nuclear engineer is "someone who works on the practical applications of fission and/or fusion", many of them were what we today would call nuclear engineers.
    Boxing time! Not "bossing", which is my captcha.

    Masked and AnonymoUUs 1:34 PM  

    @Gill I.P... har. Think that last punchline word oughta be "foyer". Remind me to tell U my monkey joke, sometime...

    @r.alph... dude. Really cool heat map. U shoulda seen the heat map of old m&a strugglin mightily to fill in that 12 Days puz grid. 12 Days, indeed. Colour it deep brown. If ever another potluck puz outburst, U will be the first to know. thanx.

    My heat map on today's Croce puz could only be described as off-color. Lotsa puce-ins.. Not no easy-medium, at my place. Even the dern black squares had a red tinge. fave plural weejecta: IKES. @4-Oh: Mighty nice mopup on IERI, btw.


    GILL I. 1:35 PM  

    @Benko...DRAT! Foiled by a foyer...

    Questinia 1:39 PM  

    Any puzzle that alludes to entropy and honey locust blossoms is OK by me.

    Anonymous 1:45 PM  

    To answer those who questioned the validity of "arrant"="unqualified", it's an alternate meaning of "unqualified" -- essential meaning without limitation, unmitigated, utter -- a very common expression centuries ago was "arrant knave" -- basically meaning an unmitigated cad. OK, with that out of the way, it was easy except for the bottom. I was badly obstructed but my refusal to watch crappy Hollywood movies like Avatar, so I didn't know "Navi". But the biggest problem was my own fault, I was locked into the "alternative" to "hell" being some expression involving "hell or", and my lateral thinking never kicked in. "drat", sure a euphemism for the stronger curse. And I completely agree with you that "sate" is NOT NOT NOT NOT an answer for "be plenty good for". Does the author even know what "sate" means"?

    JenCT 2:05 PM  

    Hah! Funny Chris Berman rant.

    Purple Loosestrife, Black Cohosh, Lily of the Valley and Wisteria flowers are some common examples of RACEMEs.

    Captchas are all numbers now??

    Anoa Bob 2:11 PM  

    Cluing ANAL as relating to one of Freud's psychosexual stages of development is way beyond being an old CHESTNUT. It's hopelessly antiquated and on top of that, it's incomplete.

    It's antiquated because it's from the 19th century and mainstream psychology & psychiatry jettisoned most things Freudian, other than as historical footnotes, by the mid-20th century.

    It's incomplete because Freud dreamed up two phases for the ANAL stage, only one of which was purportedly related to being fastidious to a fault, and that's the ANAL Retentive phase. (The other phase was ANAL Expulsive.)

    Apparently the NYT and some of its readers have not yet reached the ADULT stage where all parts of the human anatomy, including AREOLA, can be calmly and rationally discussed without worrying about being thought of as risque or offensive.

    When I hear or see someone refer to a personality trait as being ANAL, I wonder if they still think that female emotionality is related to a "wandering womb" (hysteria) or that being sluggish or apathetic is caused by an excess of phlegm in the body. Etc.

    LaneB 2:11 PM  

    SW corner difficult for me, but the remainder went smoothly. Even having RIFLERANGE, BARA, ECARDS, and EMIRATES, along with SEAFARERS, SATE and LEN should have quickly finished the section, But no. The brain went dead and BEGEM (terrible word) and RACEME (never heard of it) left me with totalDISSARRAY and a consequent DNF. DRAT as an alternative to hell? WTF. Doubly bad when you use IRAqIS instead of IRANIS. No way to mark the day after Christmas.

    M and Also 2:33 PM  

    since y'all is fellow wordies, will share a dab of this...

    Every Christmas evenin', the M&a family gathers round the fireplace after their feast. Mostly to add extra methane to the fire and watch the flames leap, but also to play their traditional, did-it-even-before-electricity game: FICTIONARY.

    Basic rules: moderator looks up words, and everyone comes up with a secret definition for each word. Then moderator reads off all the definitions, and players get points if they guess the right definition. Also, points for folks guessin yer madeup definition. More fun than fartin into the foyer.

    Anyhoo, since y'all is like family, here's some highlights...
    CERASIN. Is it:
    a. a dark pigment.
    b. a nerve agent.
    c. drug that makes insurance agents act semi-normal.
    d. gum that exudes cherry and plum.

    BLINKARD. Is it:
    a. a stupid person.
    b. one who gets sleepy while drinking.
    c. citizen of a town that hangs around the square blinking.
    d. person addicted to bling-bling.

    Other primo words we learnt (whats yer fave faux defs?)...


    GILL I. 4:01 PM  

    @M&'s my TAIL CORN joke:
    Two bumpkins meet on a dusty country road. One of them is carrying a big bag labeled "CHICKENS." "Chickens, eh?" says one guy. "Hey, if I guess how many chickens you got, will you give me one?" "Heck" says the guy with the bag. "'iffin you guess right, I'll give you both of 'em."

    @Tita...VARIG ido de barriga para cima. I might have screwed that up as well....


    Anonymous 4:06 PM  

    Not real happy with BEGEM but seen worse.

    ECARDs about the same as ETAIL, which appears frequently,

    BARA I got right away, and RACEME was quite familiar.

    POTENTIALENERGY was an easy uncrossed fill, as were VARIG, EMIRATES, SIERRA and TIAMARIA (which Mom used to make with vodka and other ingredients. I remember seeing glass jugs of it sitting and seeping in the back of the foyer closet).

    Also, I used to have a pierced right AREOLA...

    ACME 4:15 PM  

    Not sure I understodd that whole heat map thing, but it looks very cool...and thank you for including one of my puzzles.
    The funny thing that wouldn't show about that first puzzle is that it was about Earthquakes
    (themes were

    Back when three theme entries was ok and the middle one spanned the grid.
    But I had asked Will to put in a tear of some sort down the middle so it would look like an earthquake had happened.
    He raised the middle columns up a quarter square in some cases and down a quarter in others so it looked all raggedy.
    But what happened was folks thought something was wrong with the puzzle (you would only get the joke/effect AFTER completing the puzzle) so many people didn't even solve it.
    On the online version, it's a normal grid (as well as the printed versions in books) so the whole raison d'etre of the puzzle was lost!!!!
    See! even in 2000, before I even knew how to use a computer, the NYT couldn't reproduce the effect the constructor wanted online!!!!!

    @Papal Om 7:25am
    Wow, those were the days, my friend, I thought they'd never end...
    That seems like 300 yrs ago at this point!

    Last Silver Bullet 4:26 PM  

    @Gill I.P... har. primo material. And here's my monkey joke:

    Guy and a monkey walk into a bar. Guy orders a draft. Monkey works on a coupla beer nuts. Later on it also gobbles up a lime wedge and a coupla marischino cherries. Suddenly the monkey hops over to the nearby pool table and swallows the cue ball whole, with a happy belch. Embarassed, the guy leaves a really really big tip, and they skeedaddle.

    Month goes by.

    Monkey and same dude return to the bar. Guy orders up a draft. Monkey enjoys a beer nut, a lemon wedge, and a cherry once again. But each time the monkey grabs somethin, he sticks the food item up his rear end, pulls it back out, then gobbles it down.

    "Ewwww... that's disgustin... get that monkey outa here!" complains the barkeep.
    "Day-um, whattid he do this time," groans the owner. Barkeep describes what happened.
    "Yeh," admits the monkey owner, "ever since we was in here last time, now he measures everything for size, before he eats it."


    r.alphbunker 4:35 PM  

    One thing that I liked about the earthquake puzzle was that you smuggled your first name into it. I remember when David Steinberg did that with one of his puzzles it sent shock waves through this community.

    Interesting Google indicates that Blinkard is also a person with bad eyes. Aren't nerds supposed to wear glasses?

    Anonymous 4:50 PM  

    Rex, I love your blog, but you seem cranky of late! I enjoyed this puzzle. In fact, I enjoy most of the Times' puzzles. I had a moment of my own crankiness with that erasing of the Rs recently, but when all was said and done, a good challenge.

    Thanks for blogging and happy holidays!

    GILL I. 5:26 PM  

    @M&A: Hee Hee. I think I know people like that monkey and they are fastidious to a fault....!!!
    Tres y afuera!

    fvigeland 6:28 PM  

    This is the fourth time the Times has clued ANAL in this way; Rex himself did so in his NYT puzzle of July 2012.

    The RACEME/BEGEM/BARA pile-up was a lot to deal with in this otherwise great solve. I woulda liked to see the clue on RACEME as ["I'll beat you to the corner"] or ["Let's run this marathon together!"]. ;)

    Tita 10:58 PM  

    @Gill - almost right - *foi* instead of *ido*.
    Though I'm not sure if that expression exists in Portuguese...

    @acme - look at the heatmaps as - yellow shows the first words answered...deepest orange are the last words entered. It shows Ralph's journey through your puzzle - as he said - his solve started in NW, headed due east, through the middle...the last answers were those in the SW.

    I just solved your puzzle too, and my heat map shows that I went clear around the edges, finishing right in the center.

    M&A's - well, that one has dark sections all over the place, just like @r.alph's...
    Indeed, it shows that I bounced back and forth all over that bear, desperate for a toehold, which I never got.

    Both are great puzzles, btw!

    Unknown 7:31 AM  

    This blog is very nice Coupon Code at

    spacecraft 11:42 AM  

    Some WOEs slowed me down and took this one entirely out of the "easy" category.

    I tried physicist and scientist for my NUCLEAR guy; neither fit. I actually never heard the term NUCLEARENGINEER. Makes sense, though; somebody has to apply all those equations to the real world. You can theorize what e=mc2will do, now you need the guy who can make it do it. Why is that term new to me?

    Other stickers: not sure how "Anyway" squares with AFTERALL. If GREENALGAE isn't a perfect example of green paint, nothing is. Almost left RuNRAGGED in till I thought the A looked better crosswise. I'm not used to seeing "tuckered out" as transitive. And my GENERAL was a DISAster before he became merely DISARRAYed.

    But my biggest objection is to BEGEM. That one gets the flag for being a non-word.

    With all this, I still enjoyed the solve. AFTER ALL, it has me, the NEVADAN, at center! I once had, and used extensively, a EURAILpass. That bad boy is quite the ticket: 30 days' unlimited FIRST CLASS (and believe me, in Europe that means a lot) train travel. Now to try and wash the SARA earworm out.

    There they go again, printing legible captchas. Somebody out there trying to break up our poker game?

    Anonymous 12:18 PM  

    Good puzzle and I agree to "Easy/Medium." Thanks, Mr. Croce. If you all would send one bucket of water to California, it would certainly help. We're parched and thirsty.

    Ron Diego 9:15 PST 1/30/14

    Torb 12:20 PM  

    fun puzzle. took a while to get the theme. then i knocked it out.

    Dirigonzo 3:30 PM  

    Well, my entire grid was in GENERAL DISARRAY for quite a while but I finally managed to finish with only OWS (or what @Rex calls a "typo".) As always I was glad to finally get ALEE of the bluff headland that shelters the tranquil harbor of Syndi-land.

    @Torb - If you've commented here before I missed it, so welcome to our little corner of Rexville!

    (2 pair - 9s and 4s)

    Solving in Seattle 3:38 PM  

    And after further review by the officials in the booth, the call on the field by @Spacy stands - 15 yards for use of the non-word, BEGEM.

    Didn't get the theme until Rex pointed it out to me. Forehead slap.

    Did get the 17A with zero crosses after I determined scientist and physicist didn't fit. Also, 34A with --NERGY.

    My ipod Nano was upgraded from ONEmeG to ONEGIG with no charge from Apple. Liked the cross with sorta-competitor GOOGLE.

    Love the rap music of DRJ.

    Isn't the third called TREy?

    Overall, super non-rebus Thupuz. Thanks, Tim Croce.

    @M&A, no scatological humor, please, @Spacy might flag you.

    A pair of twos, if you can believe it.

    Go Hawks!

    Waxy in Montreal 4:20 PM  


    DMG 4:57 PM  

    Got stuck in the SE with GENERALDISorder, and couldn't finish that section until I peeked here and found my error.
    This after I had worried through changing deadtirED to RANRAGGED! Had to accept ARRANT, IERI and TRE, only Third I knew was called Trip. All-in-all a pretty good Thursday for me.

    Two pair 9's and 3's, so @Diri gets the pot!

    rain forest 6:04 PM  

    Not so fast! 9s full of 5s. I'm only posting to record the win.

    Well, since I'm here... I liked this puzzle as I do all Croce's, but agree that BEGEM is not a word. Chemist here, but DISARRAY came to me first. MESShall before MESSTENT. Didn't know GRASSO, but the crosses filled it in.

    Thought alternative to hell would be high water, but it didn't fit.

    Go Hawks.

    GILL I. 6:59 PM  

    Well, I'm posting here because I'm bored to tears with the future's comments....
    Hey! I have two 3's and two 9's...Do I win?

    Dirigonzo 7:31 PM  

    @Gill I.P - Nice to see you back here (and I'm sure there's an interesting story behind that avatar)! But sorry, your two pair isn't good enough to win the pot. But as you can see, the "star-gazing, bird-watching" crowd is still hanging out here and you're welcome to join us any time. You'll need a much better hand to win the pot, though - I just drew five 2s.

    GILL I. 8:02 PM  

    @Diri...and all you fun non hornswoggled banjaxed folks..@chefwen told me about the Bored Panda site. It's cuter n hell...Hey I got 4 eights or is it four 8's? I'd bet on that one.

    Dirigonzo 8:14 PM  

    @Gill I.P.- would this be it?

    TAM 8:36 PM  

    I might have missed it, but would someone please run BEGEM by me once again?

    GILL I. 8:45 PM  

    @Diri...Yes, yes. Did you check out "The Bonnie Days?"
    My captcha is now charities....???? I want to win some big bucks....!!!
    Probably 20 and out but I miss you guys....

    Ginger 9:36 PM  

    Late to the party. @Gill I.P., nice to see you here in syndiland. Sorry about your Niners. That game was a real nailbiter.

    Had trouble today. I couldn't believe that IERI was right, same for NARI, so came here to correct my mistakes. Result DNF.

    Heading out of town for the weekend. Going to play with my Great Grand Triplets (age 5). But will be rooting for the HAWKS. Will try to check in with y'all.

    GILL I. 10:12 PM  

    @Ginger....I am so not rootin for the HAWKS....I hope they OD on Starbucks.!

    Dirigonzo 5:06 AM  

    @TAM - from the "Be`gem´
    v. t.


    To adorn with gems, or as with gems.
    [imp. & p. p. Begemmed ( ); p. pr. & vb. n. Begemming.]

    Begemmed with dewdrops.
    - Sir W. Scott.

    Those lonely realms bright garden isles begem.
    - Shelley."

    Seems fair enough for a late-week puzzle, I think.

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