Scandinavian goddess of fate / SAT 12-14-13 / Husband of Otrera / Ottoman ruler nicknamed Lion / Quattro relatives / Protagonist in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest / Forrest Tucker's F Troop role / Cagney classic of 1935

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Constructor: Martin Ashwood-Smith

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: NORN (27D: Scandinavian goddess of fate) —

(Myth & Legend / Norse Myth & Legend) Norse myth any of the three virgin goddesses of fate, who predestine the lives of the gods and men
[Old Norse] (
• • •

[DEAR SYNDICATED SOLVERS. Please listen to the following pitch. Also, feel free to write me with any comments or concerns. You're well over half my total audience, and yet I hardly ever hear from you. Thanks!]

THE PITCH — [You can scroll down if you've already read it]

So … it's January, the time when I make my annual week-long pitch for financial contributions to this blog. Actually, I didn't make the pitch last year. I used last January to raise money for other causes instead (and it was my pleasure to do so). But this year I once again ask you (especially you regular readers) to consider what the blog is worth to you on an annual basis and give accordingly. As I've said before, as much as I love writing this blog, I treat it like a job— answers and commentary go up every day, without fail, usually at 12:01 am, but certainly by 9am at the very latest. This has been true for seven straight years. I know that some people are opposed to paying for what they can get for free, and still others really don't have money to spare. Both kinds of people are welcome to continue reading my blog, with my compliments. It will always be free. I have no interest in cordoning it off, nor do I have any interest in taking advertising. I value my independence too much. Anyway, if you are so moved, there is a Paypal button in the sidebar, and a mailing address here:

Rex Parker
℅ Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton NY 13905

Maybe I'll stick a PayPal button in here for the mobile users. Let's see...

I think that worked. Cool.

For people who send me actual honest-to-god (i.e. "snail") mail, I have this great new set of thank-you postcards that I'm hoping to burn through: "the iconic Pantone color chip design in 100 brilliant colors." Who will be the lucky person who gets … let's see … Pantone 19-2025: Red Plum? Ooooh, elegant. It could be you. Or give via PayPal and get a thank-you email. That's cool too. Anyway, whatever you choose to do, I remain most grateful for your readership. Now on to the puzzle …

Update: I got my first snail-mail donation —look at the cuteness:

• • •

Martin Ashwood-Smith appears to do only quad stacks. That's it. I can't remember the last time I saw his byline and the puzzle wasn't a quad stack. I guess if you have a shtick and it's working for you, then … keep going? This one feels pretty average, quad-stack wise. Don't like any of those grid-spanners particularly. First two are boring, don't know the reference for the third (Jumbo?), and recoil at the fourth because it's one of the dreaded, cliché ONE'S answer (the locus classicus being A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE). Also, this puzzle seems astonishingly reliant on proper nouns. Both the top 15 and the bottom 15 feel not-that-famous, and while I knew TERENCE MCNALLY, being under 60 I have never seen a single episode of "F-Troop," so SERGEANT O'ROURKE (52A: Forrest Tucker's "F Troop" role) was a big "?". Also a big "?"—four (4!) adjacent Downs that were also proper nouns: ALI PASHA (17D: Ottoman ruler nicknamed "The Lion"), FILIPPO (23D: ___ Brunelleschi, Italian Renaissance architect who developed linear perspective), VANESSA (25D: 1958 OPERA by Samuel Barber), and EILEEN FORD (31D: Big name in modeling agencies). At least the puzzle was well constructed enough that I could work them out via crosses and inference. Still, generally a good puzzle is going to balance things out a bit, proper noun-wise.

I know they have nothing to do with each other, etymologically, but I do not like SARGENT and SERGEANT in the same grid. Pronounced the same, so … the same. Fair, yes, but distracting and inelegant (unlike SARGENT's work, which is phenomenally elegant). The puzzle has some genuine ugliness because, well, it's a quad-stack puzzle, and so we see the usual rat's nest of short crosses: AFTA NORN CRAT! Actually, it could've been, and has been, much worse. Things get a little morbid at the bottom there, but I don't mind that. Had EAP before ERB (Edgar Rice Burroughs). ERAT before AMAT. "GMAN" before "GMEN." None of these errors are that interesting. My movement through the puzzle was pretty much guided by my familiarity with the major proper nouns involved. Knew MCNALLY, so top was pretty easy. Didn't know that chunk of Downs in the middle, so that was a bit slower, and then the front half of the bottom grid-spanner (SERGEANT, inferable from a few crosses) was easy, where the latter (O'ROURKE, being much less inferable) was not.

Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:14 AM  

Rex said:

"Martin Ashwood-Smith appears to do only quad stacks. That's it. I can't remember the last time I saw his byline and the puzzle wasn't a quad stack."

Yeah, for the NYT recently, that's true. However it ignores the other 500 or so, medium themed puzzles I've done for CrosSynergy over the past decade.

FYI my original submitted grid had fewer names. You can see it over at Xword info,


-Martin Ashwood-Smith

Clark 12:25 AM  

I got skunked. But I did get VANESSA with no crosses.

Steve J 12:29 AM  
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Steve J 12:30 AM  

Very much in agreement with Rex. I also felt there were too many proper nouns, none of whom are particularly well-known (and I'm not opposed to proper nouns in and of themselves, like I know some solvers are). I also didn't like SERGEANT and SARGENT in the same puzzle. And I also didn't find the 15s particularly zippy. FOREIGN MINISTER was probably the best, and that's not exactly an exciting phrase. Certainly not as good as GO COMMANDO, which is the best entry in the puzzle, or the bottom two autopsy answers.

I did also like GO BIG and the clue for CALVE.

I guess I'm just not on the same wavelength as MAS. Rightly or wrongly, my impression of his NYT puzzles is that they're primarily about grid geometry and intricacy - I know quad stacks are not easy to pull off, and six 15s in one puzzle is no small feat. They're impressive in that regard, but that doesn't really do anything for me on its own (I'd rather have snappier fill and a simpler grid). This was a lot like Thursday's David Steinberg puzzle for me, in that I recognize the technical achievement but wasn't really engaged.

August West 12:47 AM  
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August West 12:50 AM  

First, belated and big ups to Gary Cee for yesterday's snappy themeless. Served up fat and right over my plate, I crushed it, finishing only three seconds off my Friday best. Easy doesn't equate to great any more than difficult does, but it was definitely smack dab in the middle of my wheelhouse and a very enjoyable solve.

How's this for eerie serendipity: As I finished yesterday's puzzle and reflected on it relative to David Steinberg's Thursday, an old sitcom tagline arose from the deep dark recesses of my '60's childhood. "F Troop back to normal, Sir!"

Which brings us to today. Liked it. I enjoy quad stacks, which always kind of surprises me, considering my usual disdain for crappy short fill. This, I thought, was pulled off admirably, although I too fought mightily with the sheer volume of unfamiliar proper names. Not terribly exciting or sparkly (again, as often happens, I totally agree with Steve J, and his preference for "snappier fill and a simpler grid"), but there's some really good stuff in there. Thanks, MAS!

George Barany 1:05 AM  

I liked this a lot, starting with the coupling of OPERA to VANESSA, and continuing with TERRENCE_MCNALLY, a witty and learned long-time regular panelist on the Metropolitan Opera Saturday broadcast quizzes, and author of the play "Master Class" about Maria Callas.

A tremendous amount of craftsmanship goes into constructing a puzzle such as this, and there are very few people who can pull it off even once, let alone on a consistent basis. Congratulations to MAS!

If you still want to try another puzzle, Michael Hanko, Martin Herbach, and Tom Williams offer for your consideration a timely tribute called Elba Was He ... and hope you like it.

Benko 1:11 AM  

I liked ANCHORAGEALASKA because I found the bit of trivia in the clue interesting.
Jacksonville here in Florida is also very large in area because they incorporated the whole county into the city limits. So you drive through "Jacksonville" for a while and it's nothing but trees.
Agree with @SteveJ that GOCOMMANDO was the zippiest entry.
I was taken aback at first by S(E)ARGENT, then reflected that it was obviously intended for us to reflect upon.

Mike in DC 1:47 AM  

@benko: I filled in Jacksonville Fla; it fit, and the use of U.S. In the clue seemed to open the possibility of a state abbreviation. A wrong 15-letter answer can adversely impact the speed of one's puzzle solving.

But it was fun and fair, even with those proper nouns.

Questinia 2:03 AM  

From ANTS IN ONES PANTS to RIGOR MORTIS, PHLOX to BLOOD STAIN, this puzzle had range and intricacy.

Drama: ran the alphabet for the "W" in WORF and WAIL and got it right.

A shpilkes harder than medium.

Anonymous 2:32 AM  

No one complaining about the panagram?

Anonymous 2:56 AM  

Whoops my bad. Its nota panagram. I'll shut up now.

jae 3:24 AM  

Tough one for me.  Unlike Rex I did not know MCNALLY but did know (being over 60) O'ROURKE.   Also did not know FILIPPO, ALI PASHA, NORN, VANESSA, DTEN and ESO.  I had an assist on ESO from my language major bride so this was a DNF for me.  I wanted ESE (I swear I've heard that term used by Hispanic characters in movies and FILIPPe looked right), but I asked her to confirm it and she said ESO.  Now if the clue had been " ______ beso" I'd of been fine. 

Me too for EAP before ERB.

There was a fair amount of zip in this one, but what Rex said about the nouns plus HEISTING and JOINING  juxtaposed was not great.  I mean HEISTING....c'mon!

Still liked it overall.  Crunchy Sat.  Trying not to have sour grapes.

wreck 4:30 AM  

From my skill set, Saturdays are Saturdays - I have to Google when I get completely stuck. It seems I had to Google more than usual for a Saturday. That said; I liked several answers like GOCOMMANDO.

Anonymous 5:11 AM  

Poor Jumbo. Had I not once stopped in St. Thomas, Ontario, I wouldn't have known that he died there after being hit by a train--making this answer sickeningly clever.

Ted Cole 5:17 AM  

CALVE was the last thing I got, and it was worth the wait. I was pretty tickled with it.

Loren Muse Smith 5:25 AM  
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Loren Muse Smith 5:27 AM  

I'm with @Clark - I didn't even get out of the gate on this one. Sheesh. I usually do better on MAS' puzzles. I saw his name, and thought, "OK – lots of 15's." Many of his 15's I can get with only a couple of crosses, but not today. I didn't have a prayer on any one of them.

When I was in Cordova, ALASKA one summer, natives joked that ANCHORAGE was only thirty minutes from ALASKA. I guess ANCHORAGE just doesn't feel that ALASKA-ish?

Loved the clue for CALVE, and that was one of the very few that I got!

PHLOX? Shpilkes? Talk about a buzzkill AFTA nailing CALVE. Speaking of which – do you apply AFTA afta using your ATRA? Then get in your ACURA to go visit ALI PASHA in ANCHORAGE ALASKA?

49A – UP ON – never even entertained that. "In on," "on to. . ." Also "Nana" before SMEE.

FILIPPO - with this name in all its manifestations, can I just assume it's always two P's and one L? I *never* know how to spell that name.

Went right to ELEPHANT for 36A but reread the clue, saw it was "jumbo" and not "Dumbo," and dismissed the thought. (Today and yesterday, both my JUMBO eggs were double-yolkers – always such an unexpected delight.)

I never remember what "artful" means. (Or "artless," for that matter.) I mean I guess I can think of the "Artful Dodger" and kind of remember.

"Flue problem" – SOOT is the least of our worries; so many times, we forget to open the flue before lighting the fire.

If you turn right at the bottom of 46D – MARTIN gives himself a shout-out.

TERRENCE MCNALLY, "Shpilkes," WORF, CANA, SERGEANT O'ROURKE, ESO, D TEN, PEETE, NERTS, ARES, SEN, PHLOX, NORN, VANESSA, STAN KENT, ERB, MARTI, ARKIN., FILIPPO, ALI PASHTA. . . I could have wrestled with this for days and still failed.

Gotta drive to Pittsburgh to retrieve my daughter from college. Maybe I'll stop and get her a bouquet of PHLOXes. They're her phavorite.

Hey, Martin – loved RIGOR MORTIS right over BLOOD STAIN. Also – I kind of got a kick out of SARGENT and SERGEANT sharing the grid (especially after my Steinberg SARGE faceplant Thursday.)

Danp 5:42 AM  

ERB was a total faceplant answer. Can we all agree that all authors have initials, but that doesn't make "Literary Inits" a get-out-of-jail card.

Acura Cana Mortis 6:00 AM  

Me, too... Couldn't figure out CALVE..super wonderful AHA moment...or should I say "mooment"?!

(Messy NE, As I thought Jacob's ladder was a heLiX, so Office staples was HQS)

In the end, like @jae, OWS: ESe/FILIPPe.

SARGENT/SERGEANT was interesting and probably intentional.

At first I was a bit taken aback by RIGORMORTIS over BLOODSTAIN, but then it seemed sort of amusing.

Bummed at build up of a Star Trek guy, crossing a Star Wars guy after a "SouthPark" guy,but all eventually gettable, and I resign myself to this reality.
Plus I new EILEENFORD so I guess it all balances out.

I'm still starstruck by quad stacks.

TERRENCE MCNALLY 's play won best play on Bdway this year. I thought it was dated, fake, over-the-top... But liked seeing him in a puzzle. That play "Vanya, Sonya, Spike?." or whatever it was called would have made a fresher clue, but perhaps to easy for Saturday?

Fave answer was GOBIG... As I'd already seen GOCOMMANDO in Tom Pepper's fun GO GO GO
puzzle last year. Just noticing now two GO answers.

Overall, being awed by the construction made me really enjoy this, tho I don't know a DTEN from a sTEN.
plus nice J, X and a few Ks.

Acme 6:14 AM  

Yikes, typos galore, I'll just FIXer two...
Make that i Knew EILEENFORD...and "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" clue toO easy, tho the play, as I said, was as contrived and as nonmemorable as its awful name!

Overall tho, super male vibe on this one @Martin, betweem PEETE, ARES, GMEN, SARGENT, SERGEANTOROURKE, ERB, STAN, ARTOO, ARKIN, MARTI, FILLIPPO, ALIPASHA,
(plus male grooming aids AGTA and ATRAS)
With only poor MAMIE, NORN, VANESSA and EILEENFORD holding down the distaff side (only two of whom are even real!)

@lms, boy, you are up way too early and I'm up way too late! G'morning/G'night!

GILL I. 7:18 AM  

Knowing PEETE Calvin gave me PAN AM GAMES and GO COMMANDO and then I just sat there. I knew MAMIE had to be right but I spelled her name Maime.
I like Suleiman better than ALI PASHA.
Shpilkes...another yinglish word I must commit to memory.
Mas o menos? I'll take MAS. I enjoy his crosswords and maybe someday I'll be able to finish one without a ton of Google.
Oh, loved seeing Jose MARTI. I had to memorize one of his poems "Cultivo una rosa blanca..."

JenCT 7:32 AM  

I actually used to watch F Troop; hard to believe that only 2 seasons were produced, from 1965-1967.

Kristi 7:50 AM  

Jumbo was the name of of the mean and nasty TRAINEDELEPHANT in the movie Dumbo! I got that one easy.

Glimmerglass 7:59 AM  

Excellent Saturday puzzle. Elegant 15s. Interesting trivia entirely inferable from crosses (ANCHORAGE, e.g.). Considering it's quad stacks, the fill is remarkably clean ("clean fill wanted"), many long ones crossing four 15s. Impressive construction! Jumbo was an enormous B&B circus elephant whose name (Swahili, I think, for elephant) became an English word so long ago almost no one knows it was an eponym.

Anonymous 8:23 AM  

Like some cheese with that whine? Certainly, it seems that the quad stacks are something the NYT picks of Mr. Ashwood-Smith's puzzle oeuvre. I do not think you can fault him for that.

Also, it is a bit off-track that your comment about F-Troop, as I am under sixty-- and I knew it. Easy to find fault with pop culture references that you don't know when many of us suffer daily with past baseball greats that died before many of us were born. But it's hip to know about those, but even hipper to not remember TV classics.

AliasZ 8:31 AM  

A quad stack and two additional 15s = a tough-as-nails, frustrating (I had to walk away a couple of times to collect myself) and utterly enjoyable puzzle. Even with the additional row this one maintains a low word count. I loved it.

I had an eyebrow raised at John Singer SARGENT and SERGEANT O'ROURKE, but then thought: isn't this neat? We have two different ways to spell the same word. Although would Will accept astronaut Alan Shepard, one-time Yankee Stadium announcer Bob Sheppard and shepherd's pie in one puzzle? Probably. Not. The ATRA and AFTA pair were fun (I never know which is which) as was the GO-GO duo.

Less fun: ERB, ETCS, CRAT, DTEN (could be a battleship coordinate) and tons of names. How many proper names are too many? Six? Fourteen? I counted 19 (not including Eliot NESS, Clark KENT, Adolphe SAX and ARTOO Detoo), two of them mythical deities. And six of them cross the center stack right alongside each other, but they did help out. I didn't know PHLOX, Calvin PEETE, NORN, José MARTI, WORF and HAL. Thank goodness for all the names I knew.

Favorite entries: the GO-GO duo and the BLOOD STAIN right underneath the body in RIGOR MORTIS. Least favorite: HEISTING right next to JOINING. HEISTING was the low point of the puzzle, I think. But it is entirely forgivable because I found no ugliness at all in any of the grid-spanners.

On balance, a wonderful brain teaser from sadistic Mr. MAS, the MASter MASon of quad stacks stacked full of freshness, culture and creativity.

Carola 8:43 AM  

This one was on the easy side for me, thanks to luck of the draw on the proper nouns - just happened to know TERRENCE MCNALLY, VANESSA, SARGENT, EILEEN FORD, WORF, and FILIPPO, having recently spent some time in Florence living in the shadow of the dome he engineered for the cathedral.

The only place I got into a JAM was the NE, where "LOdE" for "treasure" kept me from seeing CALVE for a long time.

@Benko and @Mike in DC - My first thought was also JaCksonvilLe fla.

joho 8:45 AM  

One wrong letter as I spelled it TERRENCEMCNeLLY which gave me eLIPASHA.

I knew @Rex wouldn't like it because he doesn't like stacked 15's plus throwing in "ONES" sealed the deal. I was happy to see MAS defend himself right off the bat. I also found it interesting to see the original submission. Thanks, for that, MAS and for the puzzle, too! I enjoyed it.

Unknown 8:47 AM  

I do enjoy quad puzzles quite a bit and this was no exception. I just think it is so cool to be able to have all those big words and phrases fit together. Anyhoo...I loved "make a little lower" - super cute. And anything with F Troop is gonna win big points from me. I'm shocked, shocked I say, that Rex didn't know Jumbo, one of the all-time Disney meanies.

@lms, it's hard to have a bad day when you start out with a double yolker. I grew up on an egg farm and when we would grade and candle the eggs we always saved the double yolkers for ourselves.

jberg 8:59 AM  

DNF. Thought the golfer must be PEElE, held onto sTEN for too long, never heard of this D-TEN thing.

Nevertheless, I liked the puzzle. Guess I like quad stacks, once I get them. Also, I turned 70 last month but I knew MCNALLY but not O'ROURKE.

SERGEANT & SARGEMT were fine with me; JOINING clued as 'coupling' less so.

What I learned: Ottoman emperors were not all named Suleiman.

What I didn't learn, and don't really want to: who or what WORF is. Might as well be clued "Star Trekkie something."

I suppose a lot of TRAINED ELEPHANTs have been named JUMBO. The one killed in Toronto was then donated to Tufts University by P.T. Barnum, and stood there, stuffed, until destroyed by a fire in 1975. Here's the story.

Mohair Sam 9:06 AM  

I hate Terrance Mann. His name totally blocked playwright MCNALLY in our brains and left us a dnf in the NE.

Liked this one a lot (I'm partial to quad stacks, or any stacks for that matter). Learned something about Anchorage, nice chuckles at OTIS and GOCOMMANDO, and really liked the SARGENT, SERGEANT inclusion. Since the painter is also the common spelling error for the NCO I found it particularly clever.

Fun Saturday.

@rex: 26-year-old son visiting just smelled bacon and came downstairs. We immediately asked him "What's JUMBO?" "Big", he replied. "Try again" we said. "An elephant?"

Just sayin'

Imfromjersey 9:25 AM  

Found it relatively easy for a Saturday. I watched many episodes of F Troop in reruns as a kid (I'm under age 60), eventually remember Sgt O'Rourke, after remembering Corporal Agarn. Had BLOOD TRAIL then BLOOD DROPS before Blood Stain. Overall I liked it! Before I started following the blog and started doing Mon-Wed again, I don't think I would have finished this puzzle.

Anonymous 9:32 AM  

holy cow, i found this challenging. Took me forever to get CALVES -- ha ha ! i kept thinking hALVES but that would making much lower and besides what are PhS?


Dorothy Biggs 9:41 AM  

Am I missing something? How is WAIL equivalent to keen? I've looked up keen in several places and it means what I thought it did, but I can't make sense of how the two are related.

Agree with Rex that there were too many proper nouns. VANESSA is probably well known in opera circles, but when I think "Barber" I think many pieces before that one.

I guess I'm okay as far as the quad-stacks represents, for me, a different way of solving. I rely on the downs more, and in this case, if the downs don't come easily, I have to infer. a lot.

Definitely challenging because of all the names.

retired_chemist 9:46 AM  
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retired_chemist 9:48 AM  

@ NCA Pres - look up KEEN,second def. "Wail in grief for a dead person."

retired_chemist 9:50 AM  

Liked the puzzle a lot. Quad stacks present a special mental challenge to me and having my brain stretched is fun. If a lot of crosses were unfair I would feel differently, but I find that Martin's are fair even when I don't have a clue about them. (NORN? WORF? I'm talkin' to you....)

MUCH nice fill: all the 15s plus GO COMMANDO (which I learned from a crosswords a year or so ago), the SE two-answer CSI TV show, GO BIG, misdirection on OTIS, and more.

Thought it was one-r TERENCE so that took a bit of fixing. Did not connect him to the play, which also hurt. Shpilkes - new to me. Nice....

Tried GBS at random, then EAP before ERB. ARNAZ, ARLEN, ARDEN in order before ARKIN.

Thanks, Martin. More anytime please.

Zwhatever 9:56 AM  

Lincoln Nebraska fits, too.

Lots of trivia and none of it tickled my fancy. Hey, want to annoy people? Ask which states are the farthest east and west. Lots of people will go with Maine when the easternmost state is actually Alaska. The westernmost Aleutian Islands are in the eastern hemisphere. Who cares? Exactly.

My cable network has added an oldies station that airs lots of 60's comedies, including Hogan's Heroes and F-Troop, both of which I remember enjoying when I was young. Looking at them today is interesting. Nothing says "comedy" like white guys in red-face.

There are some good pieces to this puzzle, but for me they are overwhelmed by the trivia and the short fill. Even though I had a DNF (thank you, Nebraska), I don't think it is sour grapes this time.

AliasZ 9:59 AM  

FILIPPO Brunelleschi (1377–1446) was one of the foremost architects and engineers of the Italian Renaissance. He is perhaps most famous for his development of linear perspective and for engineering the dome of the Florence Cathedral, but his accomplishments also include other architectural works, sculpture, mathematics, engineering and even ship design. His principal surviving works are to be found in Florence, Italy.

The name also reminds me of Fra FILIPPO Lippi (1406-1469), the Italian painter of the Quattrocento. The close of Lippi's life was spent at Spoleto, where he had been commissioned to paint, for the apse of the cathedral, scenes from the life of the Virgin. In the semidome of the apse is the Christ Crowning the Madonna, with angels, sibyls, prophets, and the sef-portrait of the artist. This series was completed by one of his assistants, his fellow Carmelite, Fra Diamante, after Lippi's death. The mode of his death is a matter of dispute; it has been said that Lippi had been poisoned. -Wikipedia.

For some music inspired by this puzzle, here are the Roman counterparts of ARES and Hermes: Mars and Mercury, from the orchestral suite The Planets by Gustav Holst conducted by Sir Malcolm SARGENT. Mars is quite MARTIal in character, wouldn't you agree?

@Martin A-S, there is absolutely no reason for you to be defensive. This is a great puzzle any way you look at it -- and it did not have EYEING or EYEPIT in it. I know you need no confidence-boosting, but keep doing what you are doing. I absolutely love your puzzles. They are challenging and deeply satisfying, and I for one, always look forward to your byline with great anticipation. More, please. Here's a challenge: next time you could venture into Krozel territory and try a quint-stack. How about it?

Enjoy your weekend!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:42 AM  

Good one. Enjoyed it.

Now if 1 A, PAN AM GAMES, had a participant known as a PAN AM GAMER, it would be possible to use (most of) those letters to make ANAGRAM or PANGRAM.

mac 10:45 AM  

I found this one so much easier than yesterday's! I liked it a lot, and even though I didn't know some of the names, I could get them through crosses.

One huge write-over: Wilhelmina instead of Eileen Ford.

Is Go big and Go commando allowed?

Learned Jacob's Ladder is in the phlox family. Also Shpilkes, that is one weird word.

Norm 10:46 AM  

Did not know hardly any of the proper names. Thought this puzzle stunk. My opinion. 50A & 31D = Natick. Same with 39A & 23D, although the O was a more logical option than an A. I guess 14D had to be a tank gun rather than a Battleship square, but really. Now I have to know my obscure Soviet weaponry? I persevered and could finally solve by inference, but this was not an enjoyable puzzle.

Nancy 10:48 AM  

Cheated on TERRENCE MACNALLY to break it open. (Would only allow myself one cheat and hoped it would be enough. It was.) And anyway I thought I should have known McNally and was just having a Senior Moment. One can always justify one's cheating, I suppose. :)

Small mistakes killed me. Toner instead of FIXER at 23A. In on, instead of UP ON at 49A. Leading to Fists instead of GUSTS at 40D. Leaving me with f--IG??? at 40A. A real toughie, not all that much fun and with many too many proper names.

Lewis 10:51 AM  

Dropped CALVE in right away -- right in line with how my brain thinks. I did have to Google. Found it to be an enjoyable solve. I too was thinking of Jacksonville for 26A. Loved the clue for RIGOR MORTIS.

Sir Hillary 11:04 AM  

A real toughie for me. Took about 2 hours across 3 sittings.

Impressive feat of construction, but the solve wasn't that fun. Too many abbreviations and proper nouns for my liking. The SARGENT/SERGEANT thing didn't bother me, but AFTA and ATRAS did -- how much short shaving-related junk fill do we need? And ERB is a real downer.

But some good stuff too:
-- Stunning clue for CALVE. Very good one for OTIS as well.
-- Laughed out loud at GOCOMMANDO.
-- ERB notwithstanding, that's a sweet SE area.

My real name is Norm, and my little sister couldn't say that when we were young, so she christened me NORN. Never seen it in a puzzle until today. She calls me that still. She's 46.

dls 11:16 AM  

DNF -- no problems with the lower half, but lots of empty squares in lines 2,3,4 of the grid before I started googling.

But what's up with the use of lower-case in the clue "Former first lady" (MAMIE)? I have to say, I suspect that this completely screwed me -- it had me thinking just about anything there *except* the name of a former First Lady. If I'd placed that middle M, the word break "...CE / MCN ..." would've been clear and I might have had a shot at seeing TERRENCE MCNALLY (I've seen a few of his plays but hadn't heard of that one).

dls 11:22 AM  

OK, I see that various newsmedia (including the NY Times) have style guides that insist 'first lady' should be lowercase. Others (e.g. the Chicago manual) say aways capitalized. In short, lots of disagreement. Oh well.

Tita 11:30 AM  

@MAS - constructing ignorance is bliss...things like a constructor always doing quadstacks, whether true or not, are things I am unaware of and thus care not a lick about.
Doesn't change my enjoyment or distress.

Even though I DNF - puzzle spouse and I needed to collaborate, and even then, couldn't grock PHLOX or CALVE (love the latter!) I had heLiX (hi, @Acme!), which didn't help me get that NE corner.

Did you have to pay royalties to Mr. Pepper for GOCOMMANDO? His debut use is still the best, IMO.

Liked all the fun/clever fill, incl. OTIS. ALl those names, notsomuch, esp. because 32D gave puzspouse even more fuel - "Are you going to let me watch SouthPark now that my answer there opened up those quadstacks!?"

@Susan - you candled the eggs? One by one? Cool.

Hi @jen!! How are y'all?

Thanks for the sad insight into TRAINEDELEPHANT, @jberg & anon. Ties right into the 2 last answers in the SW.

On a cheerier note, watching the woods fill up with snow will be our major accomplishment for today.

Anonymous 11:54 AM  

@Acura Cana Mortis: cluing Terrence McNally as the author
of "Vanya, Sonia, Masha, and Spike" might have been
fresher clue than the one that was actually used, but it would
have been an inaccurate one, since that play (which well
deserved its Tony Award, in my opinion) was written by
Christopher Durang, not McNally.

Master Melvin 12:30 PM  

Aren't the Tufts U. athletic teams called the Jumbos because of the presence of the stuffed remains of PT Barnum's Jumbo on the campus?

Benko 12:58 PM  

@aliasz--Fra FILIPPO Lippi was the main reason I was sure an O was supposed to go there. I saw tons of his work in European art museums, obviously mostly in Italy. Awesome artist.

Mohair Sam 1:04 PM  

Posted earlier that I liked this one, but reading the posts here I've discovered that McNally has ties to the opera (source of two clues), learned about a train killing Jumbo, and noticed that RIGORMORTIS is atop BLOODSTAIN. And "Make a little lower" has to be clue of the week.

Wow. This was one heck of a puzzle - thanks MAS.

Anonymous 1:23 PM  

Liked the puzzle, found it challenging, but I did not like the clue for GOCOMMANDO. When you go commando you aren't wearing underwear but you are wearing clothes, fgs. Your butt is covered.

Anonymous 1:58 PM  

Why Ness?

Anonymous 2:02 PM  

Help! What means NERTS?

M and A Help Desk 2:15 PM  

At anon inquisitive dude: as in looseNESS. NESS's clue woulda worked pretty good for ARREST, my wanderin mind reasons.

At other anon inquisitive dude: NERTS is (rather U-less) quaint-ese for "nuts!", I reckon.

Jimminy Christ, MAS! Good theme + (theme end?).


Anonymous 2:48 PM  

ERB for 53-D? I thought it was one of the firm rules of crosswordese that literary initials or monograms were always either TSE or RLS. Foul!

Even after getting it right I couldn't understand 6-D. I was reading it as GO COMMA NDO and wondering what on earth that could be.

Puzzle was much too heavy on proper nouns and obscure clues.

Atras Crat McNalley 2:51 PM  

Omg, right you are!!!
Funny no one else picked that up...there are some on this blog that live to correct/denounce me!
I definitely got them confused.
But of course "Vanya, Sonia, ETCS" is Durang!!!

Did MCNALLEY write "Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de la Lune"? Or "Love, Valor, Compassion"? Loved those two plays.

(I would love to actually discuss with you why you thought "Vanya..." deserved the Tony!!!??!
Feel free to write to me offblog...(realfullnameatgmail)
And thank you for the correction!!!)

Ironic that I only went back to correct some bad typos, added two more cents...and then preceeded to make more, but the Durang/MCNALLEY mix up was not a typo but a flat out mistake! I lie corrected, BLOODSTAINed waiting for RIGORMORTIS to set in, as Blackjack keens over me. (After all, who will feed him after he eats half my face off?)

Anonymous 2:53 PM  

@anonymous, I suppose NESS is what can be added to LOOSE to end it.

okanaganer 2:57 PM  

FILIPPe, the lesser known brother of FILIPPO, kept me from seeing Mr. Happy Pencil today. And I have even been to the top of his great dome in Florence! Grrr.

Numinous 3:13 PM  

Whats up with French FOREIGN MINISTER? Why not Indian Nepali Estonian Peruvian Tongan FOREIGN MINISTER? Shouldn't the answer to 35A, as read, be "ministre des Affaires étrangères".

Too many proper nouns for my taste.

I love the idea that Jumbo "is perhaps from slang jumbo "clumsy, unwieldy fellow" (1823), which itself is possibly from a word for "elephant" in a West African language (cf. Kongo nzamba)."

Still, a good challenging (for me) puzzle.

Sandy K 3:14 PM  

To quote Mike Meyers "Coffee Talk" schtick on SNL, this puzzle gave me
"shpilkes in my genektagazoyk!"

Went thru the alphabet a gazillion times to get PHLOX, ATRAS, D-TEN, WAIL/WORF, ETC.

Took me a loooooong time and RIGORMORTIS was starting to set in. I was SCAREd to come here and look UPON Rex's answers- but somehow I had guessed right. Whew!

jburgs 3:18 PM  

Off to a good start with PANAMGAMES being a gimme as controversy about costs, relevance have been in Ontario media recently. Unfortunately things DETERIORATED from there. After hours could only make any headway in the South. Had to start googling from there. Overall, well above my level of knowledge.

A tough week for a lot of us solvers. Very much enjoyed all the comments through the week, especially yesterday's about the chemist. I just can't fathom tho how water pressure could blow up a urinal. Could someone explain the mechanics of this?

mrfugu 3:37 PM  

DNF in NE. So much trivia I did not know. Not a quad-stack fill fan, but I love GOCOMMANDO, RIGORMORTIS over BLOODSTAIN, and ARTOO crossing WORF.

dm3000 3:43 PM  

I took a shot at Wilhelmina for the name in modeling. Would have been so proud of myself. Soon realized I was very wrong.

Anonymous 3:46 PM  

TY Help Desk!

Unknown 3:53 PM  

@Tita, Yes, we candled them. We lived on my grandparents farm, and the seven of us kids provided plenty of cheap labor :-). In the afternoons I would go on the egg route with my grandmother delivering to homes and stores. My position as oldest afforded me this choice job -- I got tips! The others were wild with envy.

retired_chemist 4:02 PM  

@jburgs - it amazed us too. I think all it takes is a water pressure > about 200 psi and a minor crack one would not normally notice.

Acme 4:03 PM  

@jburgs 3:18
Do you think the mayor of Toronto will oversee the drug testing at the PANAMGAMES?

Anonymous 4:26 PM  

Thanks for "ness" explanation ... what a dumb clue!

Norm 5:08 PM  

Anon @ 2:02 NERTS = nuts (I think) dumb 50s (?) slang

sanfranman59 6:04 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 7:35, 6:07, 1.24, 98%, Challenging (5th highest ratio of 207 Mondays)
Tue 9:34, 8:12, 1.17, 87%, Challenging
Wed 11:19, 9:55, 1.14, 82%, Challenging
Thu 26:07, 17:47, 1.47, 95%, Challenging (11th highest ratio of 207 Thursdays)
Fri 25:24, 19:47, 1.30, 92%, Challenging
Sat 29:36, 27:01, 1.10, 78%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:41, 3:46, 1.24, 99%, Challenging (3rd highest ratio of 207 Mondays)
Tue 5:24, 5:09, 1.05, 63%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 6:45, 5:55, 1.14, 85%, Challenging
Thu 18:38, 10:07, 1.84, 100%, Challenging (2nd highest ratio of 207 Thursdays)
Fri 13:06, 11:32, 1.14, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 17:37, 17:34, 1.00, 52%, Medium

LaneB 6:24 PM  

Lots to hate here what with NERTS, PHLOX,DTEN, HEISTING and GOCOMMANDO (an expression I'd never heard of.) ERB hardly famous literary inits either. Seemed like the puzzle was straining too hard. Knew the Tucker role, but delayed by the spelling of SERGEANT.Google to the rescue with stuff like ARKIN, WORF and NORNS. For many any use of Google taints the process, but for me on a Friday, Saturday and some Sundays, I'm very cool with it ( but then I do call a few 2-foot putts gimmes, too.)

Sandy M 6:27 PM  

For me, very tough but I ultimately persevered making it quite enjoyable. Anytime I can finish a puzzle that stumps folks like jae and lms, I feel triumphant. Interestingly, at mid-solve I opened our flue for our first fire of the season and got (my hand) covered with soot. That helped.

Cheerio 6:52 PM  

I like Martin Ashwood-Smith's puzzles because of the literary references. I hadn't heard of "Infinite Jest" (embarrassing I guess) and was glad to learn of it. And it's a Shakespeare reference! Where's the excerpt???? I enjoyed some of the related crossing answers. Perhaps if one has ANTSINONESPANTS, it would help to GOCOMMANDO.

Toronto the Good 7:19 PM  

Acme, first-time poster and long-time lurker here. I liked your comment about our esteemed mayor, but I feel compelled to point out that unless we Torontonians lose our collective minds a second time, Mr. Ford will mercifully no longer be mayor by 2015. And perhaps much sooner than that, if the police chief finally comes calling.

Dirigonzo 8:35 PM  

I completed the bottom one-third with no help, googled "shpilkes" to finish the central third, but failed at the top where I did not know the playwright and was too tired to look him up. MAS puzzles continue to be a "stretch objective" for me, and I enjoy the challenge presented by his grids. GOBIG, indeed!

Unknown 10:03 PM  

I think of a band member as a person, not an instrument, so happily filled in Max(Weinberg) in 57A. Soon realized that was wrong. Hand up for Lincoln Nebraska at first and McNelly.

MetaRex 6:07 AM  

Couldn't get AGARN out of my head on the F-Troop one...deny being over 60...liked the mix of pop and higher cult in this one.

The PIEDMONTESE count of good stuff minus less good stuff came in at +99.5 unadjusted, or +93.2 if ya adjust for the big grid...that's close to but a little below TH and FR and way above TU and WE.

Jeff C 9:34 AM  

I am under 60 (by a few years) and got SERGEANTOROURKE first thing. You should watch F TROOP sometime, Rex. It's actually pretty funny.

OISK 11:06 AM  

I don't like clues that lead to abbreviations but don't CONTAIN abbreviations. So Office staples= PCs took me forever. Otherwise, nice, difficult Saturday, ending (for me) a perfect week of completed difficult puzzles. Looking back at Steinberg's Thursday, I think I was too harsh about it. Unlike his previous Saturday effort, the cluing was fair, and the answers were well distributed in terms of topic and age group.

I kept thinking of Agarn as well! And Wrangler Jane...

luisa massim 12:44 PM  

Old memories. Dumbo's real name is Jumbo,Jr. His mother is Mrs. Jumbo.

Anonymous 10:11 AM  

First time commenting. I hate when I get the right answer but don't know why. I got ERB but until I read this discussion I had no idea to whom it referred.

Dirigonzo 5:11 PM  

@anony 10:11 AM - In a bit of syndication synchronicity the same initials(clued as "Tarzan creator's monogram")appeared in today's syndicated puzzle which originally ran on 11-13. It's probably something you should commit to memory.

spacecraft 12:12 PM  

If you're handing out SERGEANT stripes I'll take Schultz's. I saw nothing; I kaew no-thing. My completed grid looks like this:



That's it. I got nothin' else. Maybe if I wasn't fighting a seasonal allergy--which doesn't leave much fight room for anything else--I might've got more. But I 've never seen such a collection of totally unknowns (to me). I wasn't even sure I was right about PEETE, since the only thing I could think of for 1a was World's Fair. This was a total UN-wheelhouse experience.

4's full of 6's.

Ginger 5:03 PM  

Not much time, and I confess to have not as yet read the real time comments, but I liked this tough puz. Did not finish, but was able to make a pretty good stab at it, for a Saturday. Puzzle wise, it's been a rough week. David's R-less Thursday was particularly diabolic.

Got a kick out of the SE, which MAS said (on XWInfo) was constructed with CSI fans in mind. I'd call it the Coroner's Corner. Interesting fact about Anchorage, which was dredged out of a hidden part of my mind.

Three little pairs, 2's, 3's, & 5's. Wont get too far with that holding.


DMG 5:17 PM  

Didn't even try to finish! Did get a bit, including CALVES and the two Sgts., but, with all that trivia, it was either go Googling or home, and I chose home.

Can't even compete in the poker game, my hand has two 8's, two 3's and garbage. So it goes!

Waxy in Montreal 6:22 PM  

Given the level of difficulty earlier this week, today's puzzle comes as a bit of a relief. Made easier perhaps for Canadians who get a jump start from Toronto's PANAMGAMES and for golf fans for whom Calvin PEETE is a gimme.

Even though I'm not familiar with the word schpilkes, found the first 3 entries in the quad stack quick straightforward, taking most of the itch out of 37A.

Only major problem came in the SE where I too had EAP rather than ERB for the literary inits delaying my CSI moment (thanks for the insight @Ginger) for far too long.

Yeah, I'm on the bandwagon - GO HAWKS!

Solving in Seattle 8:33 PM  

MAS, thanks for a spiffy Satpuz. I was in a hurry today to make a noon tee time so my googleator was smokin' to finish it. Still, DNF cuz I got out of bounds in the SW. BORAX was my only down. Not a Springsteen fan so I don't know the band members.

@Waxy, you rock! Welcome aboard the Hawks bandwagon. @Diri, I'm also rooting for your New England dudes.

Two pair today so I lose at capcha poker. But I swear that Shpilkes was a past capcha. I thought it was German for pewit.

Go Hawks!

Dirigonzo 8:39 PM  

@SiS - I'm looking forward to the Patriots meeting the 'Hawks in the Superbowl, so yes GO HAWKS!

rain foresrt 1:07 AM  

@SIS and @ Diri, I am also among the Go 'Hawks, and Go Pats group. If they meet in the SB, though, it's Go 'Hawks.

Really good puzzle. Despite not knowing so many names, I came within a Dirigonzo OWS of a correct finish. ESa/FILIPPa did me in. NERTS.

Anonymous 2:07 PM  

It took me a while to give up on JACKSONVILLE, FLA in place of ANCHORAGE, ALASKA, especially because it fit in with the first two words I filled in in the middle third, CRAT and ARTS... I should have gotten NORN quicker. SHPILKES isn't a commonly used word in the midwest, so I needed a few crosses for that one. Unlike others, I thought JUMBO was an easy clue, at least to get the ELEPHANT part (and not just because my niece is a student at Tufts).

DNF, though. The top third did me in. I liked the clue for OTIS, though I didn't get it until I had all the crosses.

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