South American carrier founded in 1927 / FRI 12-20-13 / Mexican revolutionary of 1910 / Transport for Miss Gulch / Controversial 1715 measure of Parliament / Clueless protagonist / TV game show on the Discovery Channel, 2005-12

Friday, December 20, 2013

Constructor: Ian Livengood

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: RIOT ACT (61A: Controversial 1715 measure of Parliament) —
The Riot Act (1714) (1 Geo.1 St.2 c.5) was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain that authorised local authorities to declare any group of twelve or more people to be unlawfully assembled, and thus have to disperse or face punitive action. The Act, whose long title was "An Act for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies, and for the more speedy and effectual punishing the rioters", came into force on 1 August 1715. It was repealed for England and Wales by section 10(2) of, and Part III of Schedule 3 to, the Criminal Law Act 1967. (wikipedia)
• • •

This puzzle is expertly made, but left me a little cold. There aren't many longer entries, so the exciting seed answers I expect from a Friday (and especially a Friday Livengood) just weren't there. "CASH CAB" was pretty fresh. "IT WORKS" works. But most of the rest of it, while perfectly solid, felt somewhat ordinary. I also just had a hard time with this one. Well, not Hard hard. But it was slippery for me. Some "?" clues I didn't quite get (Warm up? Draft pick?). Some dull/vague clues like [Kind of figure] for CARTOON and [Jacket option] for LEATHER. Some phrases I'm not that familiar with or virtually never see (TAR OIL, CROPLAND). Again, none of these answers are bad. I just had my hopes up because of the constructor, and ultimately found this one didn't have as much kick as I'd anticipated.

Took a while to get traction, as initial entries in both NW and NE went nowhere. Gave up and went down to the east and all of a sudden got three short answers in a row (ANTE, MOHR, STET). That led me over to BICYCLE (52A: Transport for Miss Gulch, in "The Wizard of Oz"), which was the first answer to really open up the grid. SEAT BACKS was terribly easy, and helped me get into that SW corner, and my answers just percolated up from there, ending with the "D" In MUD (8D: Joe). Not many wrong answers holding me back today. Forgot how to spell VARIG (49D: South American carrier founded in 1927), so had VAREG or something like that. Had SEAL for OPAH (25D: Great white shark prey). INNIE for OUTIE (shocker!) (13D: Certain belly button). Had no idea what kind of DUCK was going to be "Chinese" (21D: Chinese restaurant staple). ROAST is undoubtedly accurate, but even with R-A-T in place, I didn't get it. I thought of the end of "A Christmas Story," when they're at the Chinese restaurant and the dad complains to the waiter that the duck is smiling at him, and then the waiter quickly beheads it, much to everyone's horror/delight. Anyway, the smiling duck in the Chinese restaurant made me think, "Is RIANT DUCK a thing?" I honestly thought this. I *might* have tried to write it in. It's all a bit hazy now.

[Warning: the opening of this scene is pretty racist]

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


retired_chemist 12:13 AM  

This was the easiest Friday I can recall. I am NOT an 8 minute Friday solver.

Pretty much agree with Rex about the quality of the fill. Solid but overall ordinary, albeit with some nice exceptions.

I suspect the CASH CAB/PHOBOS cross will be a Natick for some. TAR OIL, while accurately clued, is an unfamiliar expression.


JFC 12:15 AM  

Rex, this is one of your comments I'm going to have to chew over. I suspect there is a lot there but I'm not now in a position to appreciate it. But I agree with your conclusion. It's a solid puzzle....


Evan 12:17 AM  

Easy and smooth, way easier than the late-week puzzles from last week which seriously kicked my ass while I got caught up on all crosswords I missed during my finals period. Interesting reading from Ian that he started this puzzle from the short entries -- probably helps explain why there's so little dreck in it, though perhaps also why none of the longer entries are super-scintillating (though ROAST DUCK and CASH CAB and ED HELMS stand out pretty well).

I'm curious to see which constructor is going to get the honor of having his/her puzzle run on the 100th anniversary of the crossword tomorrow. Anybody taking bets? I'll go with Patrick Berry.

jae 12:17 AM  

Easy but solid Fri. with a bit of zip.   VARIG was my only WOE and take for ROPE was my only erasure.  Put in MAN CAVE and just kept going. Liked the "Unreal" pair. 

Just saw ED HELMS in "We'reThe Millers" which is worth seeing for Jennifer Aniston alone.

Liked it but it went about four times faster than yesterday's (which, after getting over my irritation about the screwed up printout, I really liked).

Canal u 12:21 AM  

I guess it's all relative. This was my fastest Friday ever so I was surprised to see Rex rate it as medium difficulty. Maybe because it wasn't full of american references that I don't get?

Canajun, eh? 12:24 AM  

I guess it's all relative. This was my fastest Friday ever so I was surprised to see Rex rate it as medium difficulty. Maybe because it wasn't full of american references that I don't get?

Anonymous 12:30 AM  

The difficulty needed more cowbell.

August West 12:32 AM  

I always perk up when I see Ian's byline atop a puzzle, because he consistently presents generally clean fill, some challenging, sparkly long seeds, and fun clueing throughout. This is certainly clean, said the bad fill curmudgeon, but, like Rex, I also felt it lacked the usual Livengood POW! I so look forward to. Perfectly workmanlike, uninterrupted solve, not a WOE in the grid. Clueing rather pedestrian, I thought, particularly for a Friday. A big, fat hanging curveball that I did in a Friday personal best time of 3:03. Fridays usually range between 8-13 minutes or so here, so this puzzle is a definite outlier. While I appreciated its cleanliness (and the craftsmanship necessary to pull that off), it was no challenge at all, and left me wanting for more.

Questinia 1:22 AM  

Not all puzzles should be challenging nor filled with wow-factor. There is something about the aesthetic experience of "ordinary" words tumbling down like elegantly placed dominoes.

Questinia 1:22 AM  
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chefwen 1:24 AM  

I have never met a Ian Livengood puzzle that I didn't like. How can you not like MANCAVE, MUGSHOT, SAM ADAMS fits in nicely with those, then you can slip into the HOT TUB to SOOTHE your soul. YES MAAM, IT WORKS.

Loved it IAN!

wreck 1:27 AM  

Probably my favorite Friday overall. I normally have to google on Friday and Saturday -- not today. It was challenging, but one of those puzzles that was fair. It was not easy, but I enjoyed it start to finish. I didn't have any "WTF" moments.

MetaRex 2:55 AM  

Loved it...I get how the fairly low difficulty level left @August West cool about this one after he zipped through it in had just the right level of resistance for this non-speed solver as I non-zipped through it in a v. pleasant 12+ middle of the night, "still can't sleep right after Singapore" minutes.

Also loved Ian Livengood's comments at xword info about starting with good short fill...we are heard!:) Believe that OFL and this blog are real forces for good in the all-important, world-historical evolution of the CWP...yep the haters have a point or three about our occasional descents into hating, but sometimes ya gotta raise yer voice...

So let's see...after all that, does this one get a good PIEDMONTESE number? (Bill) Jamesian take is here.

Apollo Cared Mancaves 4:38 AM  

BYEBYE nice end of week callback to Monday's puzzle!

I struggled much more than others as I had chopstiCK down the middle.

SEATBACK tickles me as it's so evocative and specific.

My other prob was nErd to gEek to TECH as my Tinker to Evers to Chance moment.

Somebody PLEASE embed Tony Orbach's star turn on CASHCAB. Priceless.

Danp 6:21 AM  

REELIN (ropein) got me DOLLY (honey). And PHOBOS, ROLOS and CHER didn't come. But is was definitely a good Friday puzzle for me.

George Barany 7:09 AM  

Nice puzzle, @Ian. There sure were many airlines in this puzzle (cue in old joke about a Hungarian aristocrat counts: One, two, many). As is common, one rarely walks away from a NYT puzzle without learning something. The idiom "read the riot act" is so commonly embedded into the English language that few people are aware of its origins. @Rex picked up on that too, with the "Word of the Day" designation. New to me was TAR_OIL [I'm much more familiar with pine tar]; it could have come in useful yesterday but that's all water under the bridge.

For those of you who did yesterday's puzzle but missed the note that Mike Shteyman and I posted yesterday evening, we at least want to share this graphical depiction of the solution. Looking forward to tomorrow's 100th birthday, this puzzle by Finn Vigeland (coincidentally the constructor of another water-laden puzzle) was a lot of FUN to solve, a real "yes-WYNNE situation."

jburgs 7:56 AM  

I agree with those who found this puzzle relatively easy. I solved it in a little more than an hour. That time is pretty good for me on a Friday.

OPAH was new to me and it took a while to finally interpret the Draft Pick answer

Thanks for the seasonal clip from one of my favorite Christmas movies.

Glimmerglass 8:08 AM  

Rex's comment made sense and all, but there was something disappointing about it. Sure, all the words were spelled correctly, and there were no obvious grammatical errors. But it just didn't live up to my expectations for a Friday blog -- nothing wonderful at all, just correct but dull observations.

Bushwah 8:25 AM  

I for one loved this puzzle, not sure why it left some cold. Lots of interesting entries, a mix of proper names, fresh phrases, and a little scrabbliness but not at the expense of clean fill.

The best part of this puzzle to me is that it was clear the clueing was done with way more attention to detail and cleverness than is often the case with the NYT these days. Especially loved the clues for SAMADAMS, USOTOUR, GASMASK, MUGSHOT, and HOTTUB.

Fun to see VARIG, EDHELMS, ZAPATA, MANCAVE, and PHOBOS in the grid!

no one 8:33 AM  

CT Dave

I always enjoy your puzzle write-up. Today was a rare Friday, that I actually completed it w/o Google. Enjoyable, fun effort.

I have a suggestion, for your blog. George Barany is a NYT puzzle author, ala Thursday (and above comments)

I suspect many of your readers would enjoy the puzzles that are posted on Geroge's site. Might you also add a hot link to his site, on your daily write up page. His puzzles are on a par with the other, noted puzzle sites.

Dorothy Biggs 8:37 AM  

First, who is in the picture with Henry Winkler (aka the Fonz) in Rex's article? Anyone?

Second, according to Ian's comments in xword, he started with small fill and moved to the longer stuff. It makes sense as an organizational rule, because (according to him), when constructing conventionally, you tend to fall in love with the longer stuff and so the fill suffers as a result. This way, you start small and work out from there, ostensibly assuring good puzzle DNA when creating your baby from scratch.

Again, from the world of music, I would say that a rule like this is theoretically good...but not so much in practice if you decide to live and die by it. It would be like Brahms creating a symphony based entirely on motifs (which he kinda did), but ignoring the larger scope of the work (which he did not). The delight in a Brahms symphony is the fractal nature of his work...the smaller motivic nuances are just as strong as the larger ones. All great composers can do this. You can come up with cool motivic material all you want, but eventually you have to construct a theme.

To wit, IMO this puzzle has no heart. It's the stellar longs by which a puzzle is ultimately judged, like it or not. And while critics (um...Rex, e.g.) may look closely at the "fill," your puzzle still has to have some kind of bigger reason to live...something you can hang your hat on and say, "Yeah! Now THAT'S a puzzle!"

I don't construct puzzles for this very's really hard to do. From my experience with composing though, Ian's "rule" will serve him well when it becomes a principle or guideline. This puzzle was more like an etude...a study in what happens when you focus on the minutiae. The result is a puzzle that's really good in the minutiae department and "meh" in the larger, more sexy, department.

AliasZ 8:39 AM  

I have one complaint today: there is nothing to complain about. I get grouchy if I have nothing to criticize. I must therefore express my frustration: since there is nothing to criticize, this puzzle must be ordinary, bordering on boring. Where's the sparkle and the fireworks?

Yet if I take a closer look, I find plenty of interesting entries worthy of further investigation.

- Emilio ZAPATA was named after a shoe.
- PHOBOS was the Greek god of fear, named after all those phobias. By contrast, APOLLO knew no fear. These two were like water and TAROIL, yet here they mix.
- The father of the great American composer Anglicized his name from Kaplan to CROPLAND, inspired by the Plains States. Aaron later dropped the R.
- RIOTACT describes the refined diplomatic behavior of Brazilians residing around Ipanema beach.
- MUGSHOT is a warning a polite waiter may say as he places the steaming coffee on your table.
- SAMADAMS was named after the refined ladies of Argentina, Peru or Uruguay.
- ITWORKS is the name used for the entire information infrastructure of a corporation.
- ROAST, DUCK! is the warning yell from a clumsy waiter tripping over his own feet while carrying a heavy tray, causing the large piece of meat fresh out of the oven to fly over the heads of guests.

I could go on, but why bother. Let me just say that I am ANTI ANTE. Got that, auntie?


Unknown 8:41 AM  

Agree with @Bushwah, it did have "interesting entries, a mix of proper names, fresh phrases, and a little scrabbliness but not at the expense of clean fill." But for some reason I can't quite explain, I didn't love it. Once I finished, I looked it over and thought, "Gee, I bet Rex will like this one," mostly because there isn't much crosswordese (the only real groaner was EEL). But for me, it was missing the special sauce/mojo/zip that would make this not only a technically good puzzle but an entertaining one, too.

cacjac 8:43 AM  

As one who can sometimes struggle on Fri, this was about right. Fairly quick south half,then tough enough to make me feel good when rest started to fall. I liked the clueing better than some others did.
MUGSHOT might have come quicker if I had been arrested more often. USOTOUR -nice.Didn't remember PHOBOS, or know "Clueless", to get CHER making that midwest section last to fall.(esp. because I had Hershey KISS leading to WASPLAND,
(Ian making a demographic comment?) until SCRAP finally got me to scrap the kiss to Rolo, and try Cher.

joho 8:44 AM  

Yes, this was an easy Friday, but I think not so much that the words are easy or uninteresting, but because the grid is so incredibly smooth. This is so well put together and thought out no words jarringly jump out at you.

I only had two minor blips at tOo before NOTBAD and AGInA before AGITA.

I wanted pekingDUCK. Anybody remember the New Yorker CARTOON with the duck peeking out from under a silver serving dish?

@Anon 12:30 A.M., you should name yourself More Cowbell and pull up a chair. I'll smile every time you post.

Thank you, Ian!

dk 8:50 AM  

Pinky Tuscadaro NCA Prez. Female Fonz.

I want to be able to write posts like Questinas. Instead I think of things like the relationship between AGITA and GASMASK which leads me to bubbles in a HOTTUB and a need for a RIOTACT

What Retired Chemist said.

Rex, great Christmas Story clip.

🌟🌟🌟 (3 Stars) A charming puzzle: ITWORKS

Zwhatever 8:51 AM  

My jacket option was a pEA coat, so no record setting time for me. This made seeing ROAST DUCK and SAM ADAMS very difficult to see. I also went wrong at first with the moon/candy crossing since a Hershey Kiss would work with Deimos. I had some cleaning up to do there, as well.

Miss Gulch and her EEL in a HOT TUB with ZAPATA and APOLLO is an eyepit inducing image. I'm grabbing a SAM ADAMS and heading to the MAN CAVE. BYE BYE.

Beer Rating: SAM ADAMS Boston Lager - a perfectly respectable beer that was innovative and fun, but now is just one among a host of great beers. Our expectations have been raised.

PapaLeroux 8:52 AM  

Pretty easy for a Friday. Some stuff I've never heard of ... opah, varig, agita. I can't imagine David Copperfield saying, "I'd like you to meet my stepdad."

jberg 8:53 AM  

Darn, I was going to make that RIO TACT joke, but @aliasz beat me to it.

I found it harder than most -- most of the cluing was so tricky that it was hard to get started, or I went to the wrong answer, as with no lapel before LEATHER, emma before CHER, flatland before CROP, bAR before EAR. NWreally stuck until I finally say MAN CAVE.

What kind of game show is CASH CAB? Do they get money for identifying wines from the taste?

And, while I'm asking questions, what does WOE stand for? I've been trying to guess for a couple months, but I'm giving up.

Zwhatever 8:57 AM  
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Dorothy Biggs 9:00 AM  

@jberg... maybe "What On Earth?"

Zwhatever 9:00 AM  

@Joho - I was wondering how Will Ferrell managed to find time to post here with his "I'm everywhere in the universe promoting Anchorman 2" AGENDA. Will Ferrell in a HOT TUB with Cowbell - more eyepit inducement.

Sir Hillary 9:03 AM  

Easiest Friday in ages. Everything that didn't click for Rex clicked perfectly for me. Go figure.

Not the flashiest puzzle, but there's real quality here. This one is Berry-esque in its smoothness. Very well done.

Sarah 9:04 AM  

Sadly, ROASTDUCK has the same number of letters as "fried rice," so it took me a little while to climb out of that one. Started with YEOWS, then thought "no, that can't be it," switched to "yells," and then realized that ITlORKS really isn't a thing. The OUTIE/innie dilemma is always annoying -- I just wrote IE for the ending and hoped for fill, which eventually came with USOTOUR. ZAPATA (Mexican revolutionary) stacked on top of SAMADAMS (US revolutionary) was fun, though.

Unknown 9:06 AM  

I was excited at the prospect of a zero google Friday and worked steadily through the puzzle (a record time of 45 min) until SE and SW. masseur was my touch-type for a long time, which blocked the entire area. I needed a google for EDHELMS, after all. TECH was trapped behind nerd or geek. HEMS was a leap of faith. BRAILLE finally appeared and the SE was done. 30 minutes later.

Then the SW broke my back. Had to remove ITWORKS because it didn't cross DAnA TORRES. VAYA and pAnam were both accurate so I started working with pAsA con Dios. I did google to verify pAnam was correct.

100 minute DNF. Such promise. Such agony.

Pinky T 9:06 AM  

@DK - I prefer Leather Tuscadaro

Sarah 9:08 AM  

Yes, it's Leather Tuscadero, played by the immortal Suzi Quatro, who had a few hits in the mid-70s (I highly recommend "Devil Gate Drive," if you want to get your groove on).

oldbizmark 9:10 AM  

easy, enjoyable friday for me. of course, i DNF because of the [V]AYA [V]ARIG but i still counted it as a win for a friday.

Jake 9:13 AM  

I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle and thought it was solid all-around with a few spots that shined. I do have to quibble about the cluing on AGENDA. Chairs don't really "need" an agenda. They have an agenda as a consequence of their station. There are probably even disorganized chairs who don't even bother with agendas. A little misleading. GASMASK's clue was tough, too. That coupled with my not knowing DARA and VARIG made the southwest brutal for me. But, as I said, really enjoyed the puzzle overall. Cheers, Mr. Livengood!

Unknown 9:15 AM  

A little faster than average, but I agree with RP - NE and NW were challenging. I just couldn't make anything click. Bottom half was pretty straightforward. Some iffy cluing but nothing outrageous or unfair.

Unknown 9:25 AM  

@glimmerglass A rare LOL from me! Very dry wit. I'm glad I wasn't sipping coffee when I read your comment.

dk 9:31 AM  

God! I mixed up the Tuscadaros. Forgive me. I know not what I do.

Happy Holidays. What will the 100 year puzzle be????

Smitty 9:36 AM  

@Sarah - so did WHITE RICE...we must have both had the C from BICYCLE and went from there.
I really wanted RETSINA for distilled pine product. Nasty stuff. Story goes the greeks put pine pitch in their wine to both preserve it and to deter invaders from wanting to steal it...

chefbea 9:42 AM  

Usually I don't finish a Friday puzzle - sometimes I don't even do them. This was solo easy, I finished in 40 minutes. Did google a bit. So proud of myself!!!

quilter1 9:52 AM  

Icy rain last night so the paper is going to be late. I printed the puzzle and got most of it but DNF because the NW was a total mystery. Did not like ROASTDUCK. Could only think of Peking. Did not know CASHCAB. Tomorrow is another day.

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

For those interested, the Newsday crossword has an interesting theme today. By the title alone, you'll probably be able to figure out what it is :)

GILL I. 10:16 AM  

This puzzle reminds me of the black cocktail dress hanging in your closet. Simple and yet you can make it as elegant as you want. Ian just has a way with his puzzles. Never complicated but always inspiring....
I really liked writing in MAN CAVE and ending with ED HELMS.
Nothing gave me trouble other than waiting to see if it was an innie or OUTIE.
@cascokid...Laughing at your PASA con Dios [raisin with God!]
VARIG was/maybe still is a wonderful Brazilian airline. I used to fly them a lot. They had very friendly in-flight crew and the food was always good. So many airlines going belly-up....
@Acme...I tried to embed T. Orbach's CASH CAB video but youtube says it's no longer valid???
I'm no beer drinker but I did try SAM ADAMS once. I put it in the Tecate range...YEOWS.
Thanks Mr. Livengood and vaya con Dios...

Loren Muse Smith 10:25 AM  

I dispatched ¾ of this in no time. But a fatal error –" _ _ _rice" off that C in Miss Gulch's BICYCLE had me convinced that ROAST DUCK was either "sticky rice" or "fried rice." (Morning, @Sarah) That gave me the mysterious "eea" for Hawaiian "white, " but on late-week puzzles there is still so much that I don't know (VARIG, AGITA, PHOBOS, ZAPATA, DARA) that I didn't question it and just smiled at how M&A would call it desperate. I should have given Ian more credit and known he'd never have such a weak three-letter word.

Hand up for "reel" before ROPE.

Also I had "Ebay" before ELAL. GGGG. Probably because I just bid on a GAS MASK, some TAR OIL, and a HONEY-colored ERSATZ LEATHER jacket.

INERT – Neon walks into a bar, and the bartender says, "Sorry, but we don't serve noble gases." He didn't react.

Started right off with a confident "rec room."

Love the infomercial TREND here recently with HERE'S HOW TO ORDER and today's IT WORKS. My son and I are total suckers for gimmicks and have fallen for many a gizmo that wowed us on TV.

@AliasZ – I enjoyed all your retakes! Just yesterday, we had to move out picnic blanket because the first spot, the ground was too anty.

@George – yep – two airlines and SEATBACKS. And I agree – y'all should check out the sight @no one gave: Barany

@Questinia – your posts make me want to samba. As a species, we sure have a lot of free time nowadays.

Nice one, Ian. No complaints here.

Cheerio 10:39 AM  

I loved this. The answers were more interesting than average, and it was a crunchy but doable challenge to puzzle through. I felt chagrined at not recognizing Ed Helms or Jay Mohr, both a generation behind me. But are people younger than me really cross-word puzzle worthy? It's a question to be pondered as I approach my 50th birthday this year end.

i am not a robot 10:42 AM  

A pretty tame article, but RP is mentioned toward the end, as if he needs any more publicity....

Two Ponies 10:48 AM  

I thought this was a fun solid Friday. Great vocabulary and tricky clues such as the one for equator.
Thanks Ian!

Happy Solstice everyone.

chefbea 10:53 AM  

Just printed out the news day puzzle. Know exactly what it's about

Sandy K 11:00 AM  

You had me at CASH CAB!

A very enjoyable and SOOTHing puz, as everything just fell in so SmOOTHly.

Always wondered where the term RIOT ACT originated.

For those who love Lucy- there's an "I Love Lucy Christmas Special" tonight on CBS.

Steve J 11:08 AM  
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Carola 11:10 AM  

I enjoyed a leisurely TOUR of this satisfying grid. Agree entirely with @Questinia and @chefwen about the puzzle's quality and the fun of solving it.

I got a kick out of the central cross of ROAST DUCK and LEATHER. I wonder if there's an interesting fact about SUNSETS just below the EQUATOR.

Roger von Oech 11:11 AM  
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Carola 11:13 AM  

@Steve J - "Warm-up" has a hyphen in my newspaper copy.

Anonymous 11:15 AM  

Ditto Chef!

Steve J 11:18 AM  

I have no gauge of difficulty of this one, as I started it last night after I got home from our office holiday party (always a smart move to try a Friday with plenty of drink in you, even if you're not your favorite crosswordese for "drunk"). Finished it off this morning. Some things wouldn't come to me, but it takes me better than an hour to really wake up on the best of days.

I can gauge enjoyment, however, and I did enjoy this one. No, no long entires, but the medium entries are all solid. I especially liked MUG SHOT (and its clue), RIOT ACT (did not know it was a real thing), CASH CAB. And, while I hate the term itself, MAN CAVE was really good fill.

Great clues for USO TOUR and SAM ADAMS, too.

(@Carola: Thanks for that. I decided to remove the comment as a result, since it's there for most people.)

Bob Kerfuffle 11:37 AM  

Found this a bit on the challenging side, probably because of three write-overs: 21 D, ROAST PORK before ROAST DUCK; 45 D, OLD TIME before ONE TIME; and, 51 D, YELPS before YEOWS.

If anyone has skipped over the comments quickly, I recommend a close look at @NCA President's 8:37 AM comment. I think it goes a long way to explaining why this puzzle, although "smooth", lacks zip, and it is a counter to the endless, tiresome whining about three letter words that is so common every day here.

Now that I've alienated 90% of the group, I'll note that yesterday I signed up for the Westport Library Crossword Tournament on 2/1/14. Anyone else?

Steve J 12:16 PM  

In case people haven't seen it today, the Google doodle is a full-blown, solvable crossword puzzle in celebration of the 100th anniversary.

I haven't attempted it yet, so I don't know if it's any good.

George Barany 12:44 PM  

Google Doodle was a lot of fun! Click on it one way gets you to a search on Arthur Wynne. Click on the play button, and it gets you to a 15x15 crossword (without a byline). I'm not a particularly fast solver and it took me under 10 minutes. Perfect lunch break, and highly recommended.

Questinia 12:45 PM  

@NCA President, extending the music metaphor, perhaps this puzzle is more contrapuntally Baroque than Romantic?
@lms interesting metaphor: "enjoy your life" and the Guinness World Record of tinkling dominoes.
@ Alias Z, fantastic Copland factoid. Anything Copland is becoming more interesting to me since he evidently spent time in my house and I've found orchestral composition paper in the attic. Unfortunately blank, but blank is always good for romantic projection...who knows?
Copland letter

Brookboy 12:54 PM  

I found it enjoyable, perhaps a tad on the easy side, a rarity for me.

No problems with the northwest corner, as I used to enjoy watching Cash Cab, and MANCAVE (1A) came right to mind. The northeast, though, was tougher. Took a while to finally get SAMADAMS (34A), then everything started to fall into place.

Also initially went with friedrice (21D), and it took another while to get that out of my head.

All in all, I enjoyed the puzzle, and I thank Mr. Livengood.

Anoa Bob 12:54 PM  

From time to time I see EEL decried on this board as objectionable fill. At first I thought these comments were tongue-in-cheek, but now I'm not so sure. Susan @8:41, for example, says of today's puzzle "there isn't much crosswordese (the only real groaner was EEL)".

How can a member of "an order of fish which consists of four suborders, 20 families, 111 genera and approximately 800 species" (wiki) be crosswordese?.

Here's a sculpture of an eel picker:

Peter Aal Maasholm

That looks like an eel trap off to his left with a couple of pigeons sitting on the handle of his trident waiting for some eel offal. (Constructor challenge: can you work "EEL OFFAL" into a grid?)

Mohair Sam 12:58 PM  

Miss Gulch's transportation was a gimme here. So we were to learn that the eighth letters in fried rice, chopstick, and ROASTDUCK are all C. Cost us time until we reached ZAPATA, another gimme. ROASTDUCK could have been clued "lunch at GQ magazine today."

Nice, clean puzzle that dnf'd us in the SW. Mostly because we forgot VARIG, a sight seen in a zillion Brazilian travelogues, and thought YEOWS were exclamations of surprise, not pain.

Well, at least we learned that the RIOTACT was something real.

Michael Hanko 1:09 PM  

The Google doodle puzzle will be a bit on the easy side for this crowd, but try it out anyhow to see how elegantly the online solving experience unfolds. Perhaps our friends at the NYT could take note.....

By the way, there's also a meta involved, even if it is a word search, and the puzzle seems to pay homage to many familiar bits of crosswordese.

Anyone privy to the identity of the constructor?

Tom 1:18 PM  

Merl Reagle was the constructor. We credit him on the blog:

And as the lead developer, your comment about the elegance made my day. :)

Anoa Bob 1:22 PM  

In the Google 100th anniversary tribute puzzle, which was a lot of fun, check out 71 Across.

mac 1:40 PM  

Loved the puzzle, although a little easy for a Friday. Not flashy, but quite a few neat words and clues. Really enjoyed the solve!

Stepdad is really funny in combination with David Copperfield!

@Anoa Bob: The sculptor must be Dutch and the first part of his last name, Aal, means eel.

LaneB 1:40 PM  

Enjoyed a Friday puzzle, the only trouble coming in the SW where I insisted on YElpS instead of YEOWS and thus fOuled up ITWORKS and RIOTACTS. YHe rest went surprisingly SMOOTHly. Given the cluing. Particularly liked MANCAVE, MUGSHOT and SAMADAMS, but was not familiar withTAROIL (which could have appeared yesterday.)

Lewis 2:47 PM  

I loved this puzzle. Polished, some great clues and answers that many have pointed out, and I love the concept of constructing a puzzle beginning with the small fill.

SAMADAMS totally flummoxed me -- even with just two letters missing I didn't see it because my brain was insisting that it was a single word.

Norm 3:21 PM  

Google Doodle is cute (although Rex would probably pooh-pooh the word search part). I like this Friday puzzle. Played more challenging than medium for me, but no Naticks, no weird words, no completely obscure rapsters -- I got nothing to complain about.

AliasZ 3:41 PM  

@Questinia, just in case you believed every word of my post, don't. It's true, Aaron Copland's father changed the family name from Kaplan to Copland, but I made up the rest of the story. CROPLAND made me do it. I apologize for my goofy play on words.

Anonymous 3:51 PM  

Yeah 15 minutes for me on fridat rates EASY, but it waa lot of fun and really interesting at the same time. LA times was actually harder today and that's really unusual.

Epee Ogee 4:01 PM  

I was actually a contestant on Cash Cab. This was by far the easiest Friday EVER. Not one snag, which is highly unusal for me.

August West 4:52 PM  

I'm apparently Google-challenged. How do you get to this puzzle? I read George's 12:44P, but the only "play" button on my homepage leads to the apps store.

Also, I sometimes see folks mentioning how many Google entries this or that widget has as compared to another variation of said widget. Where is that information stored/accessed?



Numinous 4:58 PM  

An average Friday for me with an average (for me) time.

Then I solved the very first; "Fun's Word-Cross Puzzle". I saw it first through an @George Barany link then had to go to to find a clean copy, made my own grid and had at it. Nearly DNF as I couldn't believe some of the answers but managed in spite of that. It seems that there are words our great grandparents were familiar with that we no longer are. They can all be verified in one way or another via Google though.

Too bad the iPad doesn't have the 'play' button so I can't do that puzzle. Oh well, I've still had a satisfying solving Friday.

Mohair Sam 5:04 PM  

@August West - There is an overlaid arrow ala what you see on YouTube right on the word "Google" in the inset. Click on it and the puzzle will expand.

August West 5:11 PM  

Thanks Sam. Not on my office PC. We must be running an obsolete version. I'll nab it when I get home.

Mohair Sam 5:12 PM  

Sorry @August, missed part II of your question. The amount of "hits" or entries appears in lighter print just above the first item in a Google search.

Andrew 6:22 PM  

With ya'

Z 6:56 PM  

@august west - make sure you type in and nothing is after the com.

Dorothy Biggs 8:18 PM  

@Questinia: Even baroque composers had to keep an eye to the larger picture as they worked within their self-imposed parameters of form, harmony, counterpoint, and etc.

I think the music analogy is apt because any creative endeavor will use rules/parameters to keep things reined in, but as important as those rules/parameters are, they get broken quite often.

Ian made a rookie mistake in staying within strict observance of his rule. eventually he will find the nuance of it and will construct even more amazing puzzles.

Unknown 8:58 PM  

@Tom. Congrats on the great effort regarding the Google doodle. As I was solving it this morning I wondered if someone had to write a full crossword puzzle code just to put up the doodle. I found it very smooth and easy - well done!

Regarding Ian's lovely Friday puzzle, for me it was a dominos falling into place one after the other experience. I really enjoyed it. Had a DNF with the VAYA VARIG cross. Can't wait for tomorrow's puzzle!

sanfranman59 10:08 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 7:08, 6:13, 1.15, 93%, Challenging
Tue 7:27, 8:12, 0.91, 21%, Easy-Medium
Wed 10:28, 9:56, 1.05, 66%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 24:56, 17:56, 1.39, 93%, Challenging
Fri 16:51, 19:47, 0.85, 25%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:30, 3:49, 1.18, 95%, Challenging (11th highest ratio of 208 Mondays)
Tue 4:56, 5:09, 0.96, 35%, Easy-Medium
Wed 6:29, 5:58, 1.09, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 16:33, 10:24, 1.59, 95%, Challenging (11th highest ratio of 208 Thursdays)
Fri 9:50, 11:32, 0.85, 25%, Easy-Medium

Tita 2:26 AM  

@joho... when my stepson was little, his favorite dish at the local Chinese restaurant was"Romantic Honey Duck"... It took a little while to figure out he was asking for "Aromatic Honey Duck".
Well, I like all those clever clues. in the context of Fridays, this was on the easy side. Have flown Varig, but the food was terrible, @gill...

As an astronomy major, and classics minor, was delighted when I learned that Mars'chariot was pulled by Fear and Terror...Phobos and Deimos, so that's what we named the two moons.

Thanks, Ian.

joho 9:32 AM  

I wonder if the very first crossword puzzlers thought the very first puzzle was easy?

When I started out I thought they were all very difficult.

Today I was a little disappointed that this was easier than I expected, but I would rather jump wholeheartedly on the band wagon honoring and remembering ARTHURWYNNE and his most amazing contribution to the world!

And thanks also to Todd Gross, David Steinberg, Will Shortz and all who so devotedly nurture and grow the world of crosswords!

Anonymous 1:02 AM  

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. See the link below for more info.


spacecraft 11:43 AM  

@NCA President: Would that be the lovely and deliciously-named Pinky Tuscadero (Roz Kelly)?

Sometimes I just don't understand the weekly lineup. Thursday was a complete mystery and a DNF by a long way; today's I would have called straight-easy but for having Pretend instead of PHANTOM, which gave some slight pause in the SW. Easy-medium then.

I too had a short delay in getting ROAST to go along with DUCK. BTW, shouldn't they rename their most famous dish Beijing duck? Just askin.'

Solving in Seattle 3:03 PM  

@August West finished this puzzle in 3:03. I hadn't finished folding my paper and clicking my ball point that fast. Wow.

The SiS LOL comment award of the day goes to @Alias Z 8:39. Before you defined RIOTACT, I thought it was another Amazon feeder. Those S.A. MADAMS in their LEATHER ZAPATAs would know.

@Z, I thought you were giving a Clue answer: "Will Ferrell in a HOT TUB with Cowbell."

And wasn't AGITA one of the Von Trapp kids. Guess she caused a lot of heartburn.

Great clues for 8A & 15A, Ian.

@Rex, DETENTE is the warming of relations with another. But I'll bet you really knew that.

My boat is a small one 222/88.

Have a good weekend, Syndies.

DMG 3:38 PM  

Not good on space moons and Vatican sculptures, so ended up looking up APOLLO which made everything fall. Short comment as I'm watching last night Aus.Open match. Could look up the results iT it's not so much fun when you know the outcome.

Four 5's this time"

Dirigonzo 5:35 PM  

The puzzle was (simply beautiful/beautifully simple), and (briefly elegant/elegantly brief). Mix and match in any combination - IT WORKS for me. Fun clues and a grid devoid of drek provides plenty of "WOW" factor for me. Thank you, Mr. Livengood.

Nines over fours - not good enough to beat @DMG.

Anonymous 6:12 PM  

And Christopher Walken!

Waxy in Montreal 7:04 PM  

Local Chinese restaurant serves the world's best PEKIN (spelled that way) DUCK which is why ROAST at 21D was a longtime cookin'. Otherwise pretty straight forward other than 1A where RECROOM prevented MANCAVE's emergence for too long.

Wondering if a German grandfather catches one of the great white's fav snacks, can we then say OPA caught an OPAH?

strayling 8:00 PM  

Good puzzle. I had it all finished apart from OPAH/SAMADAMS and kicked myself when I came here and saw the answer. Serves me right for drinking the cheap stuff.

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