Caribbean capital, to locals / FRI 1-31-14 / Tribe of Chief Shaumonekusse / Source of the word "admiral"

Friday, January 31, 2014

Constructor: Chris McGlothlin

Relative difficulty: Medium-difficult

THEME: None 
Word of the Day: HUTUS  [Many Rwandans]
The Hutu /ˈht/, also known as the Abahutu, is an ethnic group in Central Africa. They mainly live in Rwanda, Burundi, and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo where they form one of the principal population divisions alongside the Tutsi and the Twa.
• • •

In a freestyle (a.k.a. a "themless" but freestyle sounds cooler) with six grid-spanning entries the first thing I notice is the quality of those entries. Let's look:

1-a [ "No more wasting time!"] = LET'S DO THIS THING. Excellent.
16-a [Pixar, e.g.] = ANIMATION STUDIO. Very good.
17-a [Was just getting started] = HAD A LONG WAY TO GO. Very good.
56-a [Numbats] = BANDED ANTEATERS. If you say so.
59-a [Washington report starter] = I CANNOT TELL A LIE. Very good.
60-a [Charm] = CAST ONE'S SPELL ON. These "one's" idioms are ubiquitous in triple and quad-stacks. I don't have time to do it now but I'd wager that if you looked at all the trips and quads ever printed in the NYT close to 50% of them would have one of these ONE'S in the mix. They're an object of some ridicule among constructors since they often require stilted language to use outside of a dictionary listing, such as A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE or ANTS IN ONE'S PANTS. ("Having ants in one's pants is a most dreadful situation in which to find oneself.") They're culled from databases as a general rule; for example, of the 8 (!) Google hits received by "casts one's spell on," zero are from use in natural language (the others are translations to foreign languages and other database listings). So this one we'll call "pretty bad." But 4.5 out of 6 is pretty good for double trips.

Lively 8's going gown, too: LA HABANA (a.k.a. Havana, Cuba), TIDIES UP, TACO BELL, I GO TO RIO and IN WANT OF all stand out. In the seven range we have BAR EXAM, GET EVEN and SILENTS, and in the 6 range we get ARABIC, I DO NOT, and VOYAGE. That's a lot of good fill.

The usual rap against very wide-open grids is that you get a lot of lousy short fill. Let's list the, say, five worst pieces and see the damage: ANANAS [Pineapples: Sp.], SSA, OTO, LEU and BEEK. Not all that bad, but there are going to be a lot of solvers who don't know that "Havana" takes a B in Spanish and think that Van der Veek sounds like a plausible Dutch name.

Better than your usual double-triple.


Contest Results:

Wednesday's puzzle had an almost-awesome theme: constructor Michael Black found Elgin Baylor concealing NBA and Woodrow Wilson concealing WWI, but spread the acronyms out among the names for the other two entries. Could Rexheads balance those with an 11 and 13 that kept their acronyms intact to maximize this lovely idea?

Our two winning entries are:

Rob. C for ZSA ZSA GABOR, clued as [Actress and an organization she belonged to]. Which is the SAG.

And..well, me for [Pitching great and his statistic] for MARIANO RIVERA. And his ERA.

Career ERA: 2.21!

So that would even up the two entries and keep all the trigrams intact. Though these aren't as good as the first two, since the ERA doesn't span both words and because, although Zsa Zsa was a member of SAG, she isn't especially strongly identified with it.

Since I didn't specify that they had to be 11 and 13, let's give the other prize out to the best entry of any length. That goes to Evan for longtime NFL player London Fletcher.

Rob C. and Evan, please e-mail me at so I can send you your loot.

Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent for three more days of CrossWorld


okanaganer 12:13 AM  

Matt, you said it; a really solid, enjoyable puzzle. I hate abbrev's, and there are so few here...AMA and STA are about it. Obscure clue for ALS! (could so easily have been clued as an abbrev/acronym..."Hawking's disease", eg.) Some really enjoyable clues: the oh so humdrum seeming "Washington report starter" is very coy.

33A "Sports Illustrated Swimsuit..has a lot of": BIKINIS fit so nicely.

Garth 12:13 AM  

I really enjoyed doing this puzzle. The quality of the words for such a spacious grid was admirable. My only Natick was the intersection of DELON and SAMISEN. But filling out a grid on a Friday with one hiccup feels good. Molto Dolce!

wreck 12:15 AM  


Ananas Cot Maracas 12:18 AM  

Love the look of this grid...
Would make MAS proud, perhaps.

I would say this was easy, judging from no writeovers other than ELo and SSn

Started with Thin as ARAIL and ICANNOTTELLALIE and everything went bing bang boom.

Thought the writeup was great and right on and gave the puzzle its due... AND the contest winners seemed deserving, except the self-award for RIVERA...bec really it should have crossed two entries and the creator should recuse himself, but what the heck, maybe @Matt needs the stationery!

No SMACK talk, how refreshing. And a corner of a little NIGGLE and GOOSED! Very energetic!

XAXIS in the middle of the grid was cool.
And ANANAS is fun to say.

Anonymous 12:38 AM  

Could someone please explain the clue for 42A? I get that "healthy", professional org points to AMA, but shouldn't the clue at least make a modicum of sense?

Anonymous 12:48 AM  

A better clue for 59-A would be:
Famous Washington misquote

Questinia 1:11 AM  

Lovely write-ups by @ Matt. Really enjoy them.

I found this puzzle had a Berry flavor in that there was a smooth link between the clue and the answer. I guessed right at LA HABANA but didn't check to see that I wrote SIMiLATE instead of SIMULATE so DNF in a big-dummy way.

Found the puzzle on the easy side and really, really loved LETS DO THIS THING and the clue for X AXIS.

ANANAS is so great sounding. It's also the word for pineapple in Swedish.

Steve J 1:17 AM  

When I first saw the grid, I groaned. I so rarely like stacked 15s, because in my experience, more often than not they result in a couple really strong 15s, a couple meh 15s, a couple really questionable (if I'm being charitable) or crappy (if I'm not) 15s, and a lot of bad short fill.

So happy that wasn't the case here. Agreed with Matt's ranking across the board. LET'S DO THIS THING was indeed excellent, fresh and zippy. BANDED ANTEATERS was indeed a "whatever" (@wreck: I also read it as "Numbnuts" at first, then remembered I wasn't doing the AV Crossword).

But what made this was so many strong crosses, which often suck with stacked 15s. I really liked TIDIES UP, SMACK, HOGTIED, NIGGLE and TACO BELL. And there was very little groaner fill (and what was there was easily forgivable).

Biggest stumble was repeatedly misreading 35A's clue as "Maker's Mark maker", which at first prompted me to put in JIM BEAM (who does own Maker's Mark). TACO BELL fixed that quickly.

DNF because I can never remember SAMISEN and I don't know Alain DELON, but I still found this quite fun. Certainly the most fun I can recall having with triple-stacked 15s.

retired_chemist 1:45 AM  

Fun challenge. Loved all the 15s, Numbats is a great word to learn even if I will never have a chance to use it conversationally. Knew SAMISEN, HUTUS, LEU, STY, AMICI, and DELON without crosses, which made the puzzle play rather easy. One silly typo I could not find gave me a DNF.

Thanks, Mr. McGlothlin.

Unknown 2:06 AM  

I read over the clues and filled in DOTES and STY. And that was that for a straight solve.

16 googles and 50 minutes later, I submitted and was astounded to see my submission accepted. GOOSED was the last to fall, as I corrected SOLo to SOLE and TTiS to TTYL.


These *were* the crosses I needed to have a chance at the longer clues. So, do you guys really know all of this off the tops of your heads? Wow. Just wow.

Mike Rees 2:19 AM  

I may be making an idiot out of myself here, but I'm pretty sure the Spanish word for pineapples in "piñas." ANANAS is French.

Aside from that, enjoyed it a lot, medium-challenging for me. Had to Google some stuff in the SW, but the rest fell in nicely.

Unknown 2:31 AM  

@ Mike

Piñas is Spanish for pineapple. So is ananas. Piñas is listed first in translation, and irpt is what I vaguely remember from high school Spanish class

Anonymous 2:52 AM  

Just read the entries for today and yesterday. Woulda suggested "Electronic music duo and their label" [The ChEMIcal Brothers], but it's just too dern long. This why day jobs.

jae 3:39 AM  

Nice!  A crunchy zippy Fri.  Can't ask for much more.  Of course I misread the clue for 35a @Steve J and was looking for a bourbon distiller.  Also LUllS before LUNGS, @Andra ELO before ELP,  and I GO crazy before TO RIO.  Medium-tough for me too and fun.  Excellent Chris!

@casco -- Just keep at it and do as many puzzles as you can. LEU and OTO I knew from crosswords, PETERSEN I knew from watching CSI, SAMISEN I knew from reading Memoirs of a Geshia, ELP I actually knew but briefly forgot, BEEK DELON LENO MULAN TACO BELL I attribute to an over attention to pop culture, ALS ANANAS came from the crosses, and DALI was an educated guess
(four letter artist/odd painting name = DALI).

Jisvan 3:43 AM  

First thing I put down was ANIMATION STUDIO, and I was so proud of myself, but 50 minutes later I was still struggling because, well, it turns out I still HAD A LONG WAY TO GO! Did a bicycle tour out of Padova a couple of years ago with AMICI Della Bicicletta, great group of people, so that was easy. Loved SMACK, NEUTER, XAXIS and FELTTIP, but I CANNOT TELL A LIE, I googled many times! Still, this puzzles CAST ONES SPELL ON me, and I was quite charmed by it! Way to go Mr. McGlothlin!

Danp 5:52 AM  

I suspected numbats was a portmanteau crossing numbnuts and dingbats. It's even gender neutral, so you don't offend anyone. I might start using it. What could go wrong?

Rex Parker 6:33 AM  

Out-stacks the Stackers.

Bottom *much* harder than top.

Really enjoyed it despite demerits for a. ONE'S entry and b. LEU, which is officially my least favorite piece of crosswordese. I saw it twice yesterday (?!).

Basically what Matt said on this one. Best NYT puzzle of the week for me.


A Nonni Nonny 7:27 AM  

True Confessions: I had P in place for 33A and thought NIPPLES. Knew that BEQ would go there, but never The Gray Lady, but I did have a laugh, sitting all alone in the kitchen but for the cat. I changed it to DD PAGES.

van der MEES and OLD Toy Barn finished me off, so it's a Fail

However, @Casco....yes, I did know most of the remaining clue/answers, sometimes with a boost from crosses (BANDED ANTEATERS). Working a lot of puzzles helps, but so does being old (apparently) and reading broadly. Friday and Saturday puzzles are the most challenging, and depending on the constructor, one can wind up with a Natick (see sidebar explanation on this site for the entertaining rant....and yes, I got both of those stumper clues.)

A Nonni Nonny Part 2 7:36 AM  

HS Spanish way back when: ANANAS = pineapple. That was one of my first entries in the grid.
I speak some Spanish and German, even some French, but apparently retain mostly food-related vocabulary cough cough.

Loren Muse Smith 7:55 AM  

I agree this was lovely and easy, especially after I lost "model Ts" and put in SILENTS (which I would have preferred to be clued as "part of Arkansas' make-up" or "Island characteristic").

@Questinia, @cascokid san, and @A Nonni Nonny - I'm pretty sure ANANAS is French for "pineapples," too. In fact, I bet you'd be hard put to find an Indo-European language with a different word – even the Cyrillic and Greek alphabet languages seem to use it. It's not a big leap to start wondering about bANANAS, huh?

Alas! Barbara's Madagascar ANANAS and bananas are all black. Damn.

Look, I do a mean rumba and immediately wanted "partner." (Believe me – ONE looks incredibly silly doing a rumba by ONE'S self – tequila and all that. . .sheesh) but I never knew MARACAs were involved. (What's with all the A's today – event he specter of an aardvark lurking around??)

And back when I was a geisha in Chattanooga, my go-to instrument was a shakuhachi, so with "model Ts" and "rinses" (mushroom prep) firmly in place, that area took a bit to sort out.

ONES – Matt - thanks for the write up. This site really advances ONE'S xword knowledge, and I smiled all wisely and smugly when CAST ONE'S SPELL ON fell, having already suspected that with two triple stacks, we were bound for at least one ONE.

I just never know if it's STA or stn.

Didn't we recently visit the American/British pronunciation of words like VALETED?

If it's on the menu, I order the SOLE Amandine. Period. End of story. (It's often, uh, filleted tableside.)

The clue for GET EVEN was excellent.

NIGGLE – this word underwent a transformation both in pronunciation and meaning on my high school chess team. It started out with clued meaning but evolved into a meaning of "pester," and after a few months, it was "nerdle" describing the action of pushing pawns or moving other pieces just to annoy the opponent because you had no other plan of action. I was a World-Class Nerdler.

Excellent puzzle, Chris. Happy week-end Crossworld. May your BANDED ANTEATERS all be NEUTERed.

AliasZ 7:56 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
AliasZ 7:58 AM  

I guess there is no escaping a ONE'S phrase in any trip-stack puzzle. Otherwise, exemplary 15s today, and very little gunk to gum up the works. My favorite: BANDED ANTEATERS.

Besides the 15s, I liked much of the long fill, especially IN WANT OF, HOGTIED, FELT TIP and TIDIES UP, but LA HABANA, not so much. It was surprising that so many entries came to me at first read without any crosses: AMICI, LUNGS, BEEK, SILENTS, VEGAS, DELON, which then gave me SAMISEN and VALETED easily, although I don't remember ever using "valet" as a verb. It gave me a feeling of too easy for a Friday, but I'm not complaining. LEU and ELP were gimmes.

After SAG member Zsa-Zsa GÁBOR was suggested by @RobC yesterday, we have her sister today, who I am sure was also a member.

If I may return to yesterday's puzzle for a minute, @JFC redesigned part of it to change BALLYARD to BALLPARK. You can see it here. It is excellent, but my problem with it was that it introduced RETEAR at 4D, which IMHO was worse than BALLYARD. So I decided to try improving it further, and came up with this alternative. @JFC, I hope you don't mind.

Anyway, I enjoyed Chris McGlothlin's creation a great deal, almost as much as some fresh ANANAS and cool water sipped through a straw from a freshly-sliced-open coconut on Ipanema beach every time I GO TO RIO. Some twenty-odd years ago I was walking on the streets in the Copacabana area of RIO when I asked my Brazilian friend what the Portuguese word was for pineapple, because in Hungarian it's called ananász. She said, ANANAS. Who would've thought!


Unknown 8:01 AM  

Wonderful puzzle, and a great write up. ONES was a groaner...glad to see Matt's comments on it.

NYer 8:03 AM  

I had to hum a few bars before sussing out IGOTORIO from the recesses of my brain, but then remembered with fondness the great Peter Allen and Hugh Jackman, who played him on Broadway.

Fun puzzle!

r.alphbunker 8:17 AM  


Here is another link for ELP. This was my first exposure to that answer and it stuck. Reading these blogs helps you remember this stuff.

I remember once I was wandering the stacks of a library trying to avoid what I was supposed to be doing (this is was an option before Google) and I came around an ancient book titled "A Diatribe Against Puns" misfiled in the math section. The author went on and on about how bad puns were but the book was really just an excuse to make some great puns. Somebody ought to do the something similar with crosswordese showcasing creative objections to the genre.

joho 8:21 AM  

I got all messed up with SMear for SMACK and dIvIESUP. I thought his name was James Van Der mEEr. And the worst part is I ran out of time (and patience) and came here to see what's what. Absolutely love LETSDOTHISTHING ... too bad I DIDN'T!

Great puzzle Mr. McGlothlin!

@Matt, excellent write ups all week!

Sir Hillary 8:31 AM  

Ripped through this one for some reason. Fastest Friday in a while, and fastest triple-stack solve ever for me, by a mile.

Agree with @Matt, @Rex and everyone else who thinks this was excellent down fill given the constraints of triple stacks. I solved top to bottom (easy to hard, as @Rex points out) so CASTONESSPELLON was the last one in. I was a little disappointed because I was thinking we might be ONES-less, but I certainly didn't groan -- the rest of the puzzle made up for it.

Fair point from @Matt on the potential Natick at LAHABANA/BEEK. I never watched "Dawson's Creek" but I have seen "Varsity Blues" a couple of times, and that's how I know James Van Der Beek. More recently, he has also become known for numerous videos in which he pokes fun at himself.

@LMS - My biggest laugh of the day so far came from your "VALETED/filleted" comparison...well done! I wonder if there are any others like that.

Z 9:08 AM  

I just don't feel the love for this puzzle that others do. It starts right at the beloved 1A - "LET'S DO THIS" is sufficient. The added THING rings vaguely from some bad action movie somewhere. I was also noting all the POCs. Is it any better that we have present tense instead plurals? Or possessives? The 3D/25A cross is a POC double in my book.

VanDerBEEK - Granted it was huge with the HS crowd back at the turn of the century, but Dawson's Creek has been off the air for a decade and is fading quickly into well-deserved obscurity. Meh. VALETED. Meh. ELP is better than ELO or ENO only in the fact that they appear less frequently in puzzles. LEU - yewhhh. DELON crossing SAMISEN is natick city. I avoided the sadness of a OWS finish when the geisha forced me to change DELOr to DELON. ZsaZsa GABOR clued by her co-star of 40 years ago. Meh. TextSpeak. Meh. Pick an adjective ANTEATERS. Meh.

Finished it all. I can appreciate the reasons other like this puzzle. But the spark just wasn't there for me.

@cascokid san - I got this google free, but I had to work out quite a bit - BEEK, the type of ANTEATER, SAMISEN, DELON, LEU, all of the 15s took several crossings before they popped into view, MULAN, LA HABANA, I GO TO RIO. X-AXIS really caused me problems (VEGAS kept me from Xacto off the X), AL'S. The only answers I put in immediately were VEGAS and TACOBELL. I even paused at AMA because it seemed too obvious. The album title and year did not sound ELO-like, but that didn't stop me from putting it in (lightly). Parsing CAST ONE'S took me awhile. Mostly, I knew I could solve it so I could solve it, but it was a nice challenge.

Mohair Sam 9:22 AM  

We love trip and quad stacks here, so naturally we were thrilled with this one. Felt tough, but it finished fast - so I guess an easy/medium here. Thought the crosses were unusually strong for stacks. Great work and thanks Chris McGlothlin.

Hands up for modelTS ahead of SILENTS. And a special thanks to my old friend Elva who pronounces her name with a B (she's Chilean) for helping me avoid the "v"EEK natick wannabe.

@AliasZ - Disagreement here: Changing BALLYARD to ballpark does not "improve" yesterday's puzzle, IMHO. It was a Thursday, not a Tuesday - changes only make it easier, not necessarily better.

Anonymous 9:34 AM  

All week long I have been enjoying the blog. The write ups are spot on, tough and revealing minus some of Rex's condescension.
Thanks and come again.

MetaRex 9:35 AM  

Hand up for Van der VEEK/LA HAVANA...

Gave five sparkle bonuses in a row on the r.alph/MR piedmonteseometer for AD PAGES, BAR EXAM, FELT TIP, GET EVEN, and HOGTIED, mostly for v. nice clues...

Tracy Bennett 9:39 AM  

What, no love for my


Mkay boys, whatevs.

I thought today's stacked 15s were better than usual too, with hardly any junky or ungettable fill.

Unknown 10:05 AM  

For the Donny Osmond clue -- without google -- I would have guessed Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Or "jatdc" Not MULAN.
MASH unit would have been "hsp" not COT.
Albert ( Brooks) sitcom costar would have been Debra (Winger) not GABOR. Network News was a "sitcom" in movie feature format, was it not?
Dali I may have gotten.
OTO could have been uTe. 50-50. Just familiar crosswordese.

@Z Oceans 11 settings were 3 casinos with names and nicknames and abbreviations. Also Vault fits. How did you keep from going down any of those rabbit holes?

@Ralph -- ELP's "Pictures" was popular with the smart kids in my junior high school, I now recall. I would have worked with getting Mussorgsky into 3 letters. Or maybe Jethro Tull, as Aqualung was popular in the same crowd. Would not have gotten to ELP on my own without hypnotherapy, maybe.

@nonni nonny - I can tolerate a Natick or two or 16 in a puzzle. I can't tolerate VIchys: being betrayed by French crossing French. Fortunately, we haven't had a Vichy in a while.

@jae what's impressive is how you and the others stay away from wrong fill while not giving up on the right fill. Indtinct? Experience? Some sixth sense?

I come here for my daily dose of shock and awe. You guys aer the best.

Mo 10:11 AM  

@Tracy - She was ok, but her career ERA was over 7 and she was too easy to steal on.

AliasZ 10:19 AM  

@Mohair Sam,

You may have misread my comment. @JFC did not state that BALLPARK is an improvement over BALLYARD, and neither did I. However, there was enough arguing yesterday about BALLYARD not being a "thing" that @JFC was inspired to redesign that part of the puzzle, replacing it with BALLPARK, only to show how easy it would have been to avoid a questionable entry. I then took it upon myself to "improve" on @JFC's rewrite in order to eliminate RETEAR. No value judgement was made, except as it relates to BAT EAR replacing RETEAR -- which is a marked improvement in my opinion.

Milford 10:23 AM  

Funny, I had the opposite experience as @Rex et al. with the bottom filling in much easier than the top - even with model TS before SILENTS (like others). I think it was because the SE corner was quite easy for me - I ate TACO BELL like it was going out of style with one of my pregnancies.

I had I Didn'T before I DO NOT and NeedLE before NIGGLE, slowing that corner up, and I was sure the Caribbean capital was money-related (plus I don't really think of Cuba with other Carribean locales).

I am less scared of 15-stacks than I used to be, but honestly it is in part because I am expecting phrases like CAST ONE'S SPELL ON.

Loved the clue for FELT TIP - I actually had to say it out loud to make sense of it.

I only remember that ANANA(S) is pineapple because it looks like it would be "banana", which is plátano (I think). Also had to remember that "embarazada" does not mean embarrassed, but pregnant.

Unknown 10:26 AM  

@tracy - JEANNETT(ERA) NKIN is excellent. Nice deep pull. Prize worthy, IMHO. And there is no Natick, Montana. So there.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:28 AM  

Wonderful puzzle!

Two write-overs: 39 A, "Bottom line?" had BASIS before XAXIS, and (could I be the only one?), 10 D, "Grp. that's got your number?" had NSA before SSA!

This is the weekend of the big game: the Westport (CT) Library Crossword Contest!

OISK 10:40 AM  

Broke my long winning streak with a careless DNF on the right. Puzzle had too much pop culture for me, with Dawson's Creak (never watched) Toy Barn, (never saw) Petersen, (OK, I SHOULD have known ) I go to Rio, (never heard of it) But that's just me; it was solvable and fair. I had felt pen instead of felt tip. That gave me Pacobell, which I thought was the name of a company, (Duh…) Egotorio - song I never heard of, and Neterson - actor I thought I never heard of. A product name, pop song, and actor in the same part of the grid - bad for me - but I really should have gotten it! I have been to Romania so Leu (the singular) was easy. Good puzzle.

Z 10:50 AM  

@cascokid san - I avoided the Vault rabbit hole by having it never occur to me. Nothing is worse than going down one of those rabbit holes, rasslin with the damn thing for an hour, then coming to Rex and finding everyone else rating it, "Easy." Not that any of us have ever done that. Har.

@Milford - Hand up for having to sound it out. Almost went the Whiskey route.

Two Ponies 10:59 AM  

Top half way harder for me.
In the SE early on I had for 37D
I Got O_io. I couldn't parse it out.
I Got Ohio? That's a song?
It all worked out via the anteaters.
Is this a debut? I don't recognize the constructor.

Anonymous 11:00 AM  

claire here. happy dance NO SPORTS clues! I don't watch CSI but have had a crush on William Petersen since the real first Hannibal Lecter film "Manhunter" & then "To Live and Die in L.A:" so knew that one, total guess on Mulan because Disney often puts outliers into singing roles. bottom much tougher than top due to errors aplenty.

oldbizmark 11:16 AM  

did not find this one to be all that difficult (disclaimer: i didn't finish because of the X-AXIS - i had an M for MAXIS? and NATAL/NOTE cross - had T for tOTE and tATAL - figured a tatal star was possible). really enjoyed the puzzle. toughest part for me was the bottom middle where I had MODEL Ts instead of SILENTS initially and couldn't come up with BANDED ANTEATERS for the longest time. My puzzle, done in ink, is a mess. Other writeovers included RESTS, then LULLS until LUNGS finally (breathers), LATR for TTYL (texting ta-ta), and HOBBLED for HOGTIED (immobilized). Loved the Pixar clue and song reference. Got "LETSDOTHISTHING" early which helped move the thing along. Had no idea what LAHABANA meant until I read the explanation and feel pretty dumb about that (but knew BEEK). Anyway, a fun puzzle for a Friday and fun. Thought this week was the best week in a long time.

Matt Gaffney 11:20 AM  

@Tracy Bennett: I couldn't give it to Jeannette Rankin for the first prize since it had to be an 11 or a 13. For the second prize I was deciding between her and London Fletcher, but I didn't see Rankin as being especially connected to the ERA. Her Wiki page never mentions it, for example. So close call but that's why I gave it to Evan.

Steve J 11:24 AM  

@Caskokid: I know I plop in wrong fill all the time. The key thing is being willing to readily give up anything you drop in. I had both MODEL TS (as did a lot of people) and JIM BEAM (thanks to misreading "marker's mark" as "Maker's Mark"). The TACO BELL crossing quickly took care of the last one; the first one stuck around for a while until I realized I was getting nothing to cross. That usually triggers a sense in me that I should try something else.

Another thing that helps if you don't do it already: When you enter something you're not sure about, check all the crosses right away. JIM BEAM lasted only a few seconds, because I saw from the clue that 36A had to be TACO BELL. Sometimes checking the crosses won't confirm or deny anything. The first thing I put into the puzzle was AMICI - AMIS/AMIES and AMIGOS didn't fit, nor did FREUNDE; it's rare that the NYT moves outside Spanish/French/Italian/German when using unspecific foreign-language cues in clues - but I didn't confirm that for a while.

Several of the words you asked about are ones that you end up learning by repetition after seeing them many times in crosswords. And, yes, you do sort of develop a sixth sense. My success rate on just dropping things in has improved considerably in the last year. It's not truly a sixth sense, of course, but the result of experience and getting an intuitive sense of where the puzzle may be going, especially in terms of recognizing when a less-obvious answer is being sought.

@Z: I didn't even notice all the plurals/S's you called out. Then again, I've never bought into the concept of POC (plurals of convenience, for those who don't recognize; they're a particular bugaboo for one semi-regular poster). I only notice them when they're awkward or forced plurals (i.e., making things plural that usually aren't). Just another example of how the mechanical bits of a puzzle jump out more when you're not clicking with the larger bits. I have the same thing happen all the time with bad short fill.

Anonymous 11:56 AM  

Mohair Sam,

Thanks for getting back to me yesterday about the ballyard. I can'tsay it a rings a bell for me, but I've been wrong before. Anyway, only a couple of days now, and that equipment truck will be headed down to Clearwater.
See you at the ballpark, er yard.
Go Phils.

Parson Weems 12:00 PM  

Actually, that was a bit of a fib.

Lewis 12:21 PM  

I'm with Rex -- bottom was much hard for me. The top fell right away. This was a fun stacko puzzle, with lots of life. Loved the clue for BAREXAM.

Tracy Bennett 1:13 PM  

@Matt, I can dig your reasoning. I was kind of being mock miffed anyway (-:

Milford 1:26 PM  

@Lewis - I agree, the BAR EXAM clue was excellent! I love those clues that make you go to the next (or more often third) meaning of the clue, as we had to with "practice" here.

FWIW, I did look up the last year of when the Model T was produced, and it was 1927, so it wasn't so far off from the 1929 date for the SILENTS.

Numinous 1:26 PM  

DNF by 5%. Hey, I got 95%. Two googles and one Spanish dictionary look up. Of course we all are familiar with marsupial BANDEDANTEATERS from Western Australia. And I had never heard of Mr. BEEK. I just couldn't dredge up ANANAS in spite of buying my kids that flavor Jaritos soft drinks for the longest time (and they sat on the shelf right next to the Mexican Cokes still made with sugar).

@Cascikid San, usually when I think I have a solution, I keep it in mind and start checking crossing clues to see if an answer with a letter in the guess position might make sense. Some solutions really are gimmes once ONE becomes used to cluing. LUNGS was a gimme. So were NOTE, TINSEL, AMICI and ENAMELED ( the é was the give away for me). But usually I cross-check before filling in.

I hated the clue for SILENTS, I thought it was a bit misleading. 1977, the year I moved to "Hollywood" was the 50th anniversary of the talkies. There were signs everywhere. The clue is, of course, correct, but it is rather arbitrary since 1929 has nothing in particular to do with the inception of talkies.

My wife has been and ardent Braves fan since 1991, their "Worst to First" season. She finally managed to get me interested in baseball about five years ago. Anyway, last night I asked her, "Ever hear the term, BALLYARD?" She looked at me like I"m an idiot (something still open to question) and said, "Yeah, all the time." So, apparently, ardent baseball fans, who are more likely to pay attention to every nuance, are familiar with the term, Admittedly, my wife, even when added to the rest of the pro commentators here, is a very small cross-section.

ELo kept me from falling under ONESSPELL for the longest time until crosses made ELP inevitable. I've heard that album bunches of times but couldn't remember who did it. I didn't really think it was ELo but it seemed to fit and Berlin Philharmonic didn't.

Long ago, I saw Plein Soliel and Borsalino, among others, so I'm familiar with Alain DELON. He's always a gimme for me. He and Belmondo did some great French gangster movies together. But he was a wonderful, evilly Talented Mr. Ripley all by himself, possibly even better than Matt Damon who could easily swap places as a solution.

Looking up the page, my inner 14 year old is a bit titillated by the potential suggested by BARE XAM.

It was a pleasure even if I did only manage to solve 95% by myself.

Mohair Sam 1:56 PM  

@AliasZ - I stand corrected, yes, I did misread, and yes, BATEAR is improvement over RETEAR. I've just got this soft spot for BALLYARD I guess.

@Anonymous 11:56 - I could be wrong too (ask AliasZ). If not Harry maybe Larry Anderson? They both have the resounding bass and a fondness for colloquialisms. See you at the Park.

OISK 3:02 PM  

Speaking of ball yards, (from yesterday), would a manager who fields a team entirely composed of rookies be a tyromaniac?

One minor quibble today. When a show is still on the air, and the clue reads "CSI star William," I assume it is someone STILL in the show. Never thought of Petersen at all, even though he is one of the few TV actors I can name. ( watch Big Bang Theory all the time, and other than Bernadette (Rauch) and Penny (Cuoco, I think) I couldn't name any of the actors.) Had the clue said "Former CSI star…" I might have gotten it, and fixed my other error.

Notsofast 4:44 PM  

What a great puzzle. A good Friday. Just enough crunch to stretch the head. Never heard of Numbats, but thought "numbnuts" as well. Getting ANIMATIONSTUDIO right off the numbat helped a lot. Fun was had. Thanks, C.A.M.!

sanfranman59 4:51 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

Fri 25:07, 20:15, 1.24, 89%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Fri 17:11, 11:32, 1.49, 97%, Challenging

Noam D. Elkies 5:25 PM  

1D:LA_HABANA is the source of the habanera. (And the spelling "Havana" doesn't sound much different from "Habana" en español.)


R. Duke 5:32 PM  

Given the current environment, I first went with NSA instead of SSA for 10 down.

MetaRex 5:35 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle: Westport w/ Will is bigger than the Super Bowl, yep. It was great fun last year...would love to do it again but the sched for tomorrow is looking complex...represent for all us Rexians:)!

Unknown 5:50 PM  

Med-Challenging Fri for me. Lots of fun. The 15 stacks usually have some clunkers. I thought they were all fine, although BANDED ANTEATER has an ANOA-ish feel to it.

I also had bikinis for AD PAGES, but it's a Fri so deep down I knew it couldn't be that easy.

Love seeing GABOR in the puzz today after my sweet victory in the contest. There are so many people I have to thank...

Carola 6:06 PM  

Late to the party, but I wanted to make sure @Chris McGlothlin (if reading here) knows how much I loved this puzzle.

Thought I'd finished, but no: had LA HAvANA; thanks, @Noam D. Elkies for the "habanera" connection.

Almost went wrong right beneath it, too, when the previous Caribbean clue, I guess, had me thinking that the origin of "admiral" could be ARAwak. About as likely as when I had a Tuareg outpost in Bali instead of Mali.

I love seeing Alain DELON in anything, so it was a treat to encounter him here.

Questinia 6:20 PM  

@ casco kid ~ MASH unit would have been "hsp" not COT.

A rule of thumb is to consider while solving- that if there is no abbreviation in the clue then there is no abbreviation in the answer. Also, "hsp" would not necessarily be considered a standard abbreviation for hospital whereas "hosp" would.

PETERSEN was great in Manhunter and the original Hannibal Lecter was amazing in that movie. The villain was *super* spooky and I would have nightmarish thoughts about him. Years after I saw the movie, I noticed that the actor who played the scary guy lived in my neighborhood. He is about 6'7". I'd see him smiling at me whenever we'd pass on the street. It freaked me out a little.

Joseph B 6:38 PM  

Van Der Veek sounded slightly less preposterous than Van Der Beek, so I went with the former.

Also messed up at the obscure actor/obscure instrument crossing, though given its vowel/consonant alternating pattern, I'm guessing SAMISEN is a bit of crosswordese I should store somewhere in my brain.

Liked all of the 15s except the last one, which is awkward due to the preposterous use of the possessive ("one's"). As if the identity of the spell owner needs to be clarified. No one has ever spoken that phrase.

Anyhow, tiny nitpick on a fantastic puzzle.

Tita 6:45 PM  

Haven't done the puzzle yet - just popping in and squinting past all the comments to plug Westport tomorrow...

Will be great to see everyone there.

GILL I. 8:13 PM  

Way late - I should be fired.
Terrific puzzle and especially because I love anything that is stacked.
LA HABANA.. Yay and spelled the way god intended.
Gracias Cristobal.
@Diri...I have 3 sixes!!!

LaneB 8:23 PM  

This was a fabulous puzzle, much to be admired by us who are relatively new to the xword game. However, many of the answers were obscure to say the least, notwithstanding that the clues allowed for some productive Googling.. No way many of us could get by without some Google assistance, e.g., a21, a45, a48 a50 [anybody see MULAN and know it was Donny's voice?],a56 [thank goodness the computer told me a numbat was an ANTEATER], d6 [I thought OTO was spelled with an 'e'], d43, d51 and d58.

Some of the clues were terrific for: BEING, ICANNOTTELLALIE, ADPAGES, XAXIS.

Some other stuff was weak: TTYL, SSA, VALETED, LEU [tho I had studied some Romanian way back and remembered the currency.]

Anyway, it took me a long time but I didn't have to take a DNF and left the field fatigued but satisfied.

Z 8:54 PM  

@Steve J - 16 Esses in 26 different answers, 11 are added to at least one of the crosses, 2 of them are added on to both crosses (e.g in SAUTÉS the first S is part of the base word, the second S is added to pluralize the word). This means that one half of the answers with an S have an S to make it fit the puzzle. Is this atypical? No idea. But it did irk me today.

I think you are right that my subjective reaction influenced my noting of this objective observation regarding POCs (which is really just about plurals - so I've expanded the criteria). Recognizing that most everyone is correct on the plusses of this puzzle and they are using objective criteria that I agree are legitimate, it is obvious that my subjective reaction has played a role.

Ergo - Beer Rating - Arbor Brewing Espresso Love Breakfast Stout - Made of everything I love and yet I don't love it.

an(dream)ichaels 9:14 PM  

@Tracy Bennett

I TOTALLY would have given you the prize!!!
That 15 JEANETTERANKIN could be an extra entry going right across the middle of the puzzle and it splits across both names!!!

sanfranman59 10:05 PM  

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

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

Mon 6:46, 6:26, 1.05, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 9:32, 8:15, 1.16, 85%, Challenging
Wed 10:08, 10:26, 0.97, 44%, Medium
Thu 15:01, 19:03, 0.79, 14%, Easy
Fri 25:10, 20:15, 1.24, 89%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:24, 4:00, 1.10, 85%, Challenging
Tue 5:44, 5:12, 1.10, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 6:19, 6:15, 1.01, 54%, Medium
Thu 8:56, 10:36, 0.84, 19%, Easy
Fri 15:53, 11:32, 1.38, 93%, Challenging

Tita 11:09 PM  

Finally DNFd.
ANANAS is also Portuguese. Great word in any language.
@lms - I've been heard to pronounce bANANAS to rhyme with ANANAS.

@AliasZ - that has got to be the ONLY word in Hungarian that is similar to any other word on this planet! The only things I could understand the times I've been there were dates and prices.

My puzzle-chef-spouse always flUTES his mushrooms.

Ha ha @BobK - Just cause you're paranoid doesn't mean the NSA is not out to get you...

@MetaRex - you should try and make it! We need to put our heads together re the eseometer!

Thanks, Mr. McGlothlin. An enjoyable defeat.

Anonymous 1:40 PM  

Beek and Habana is a Natick! Actor not famous enough to use crossing a foreign word.

spacecraft 2:09 PM  

Late today; time is short; didn't read blogs. This puzzle has been brought to you by the letter "A"--13 of them in just the first three columns.

Typical tough Friday made a little easier by sussing out the fifteens. Writeover at 13d when I guessed the wrong tense: didNOT before IDONOT. Got started with VEGAS and many of its employees who VALETED. It helps to live here.

Dirigonzo 4:10 PM  

The top 3/5 of the grid seemed easy but the bottom 2/5 resisted greatly. When the dust finally settled my OWS was, surprise, up top because, "...there are going to be a lot of solvers who don't know that "Havana" takes a B in Spanish and think that Van der Veek sounds like a plausible Dutch name."
@Gil I.P. - Your 3 sixes are looking pretty good; I drew two very low pairs. Don't spend your winnings yet though because @DMG and @Ginger are both pretty lucky at the table.

DMG 6:33 PM  

Well, my ANTEATER was "winged" because BATs fly. That led to the improbable mIghT instead of DIDNT, and that corner never recovered. Probably not helped by thinking of DC, not George W. Still, it was a fun puzzle, and I actually got the bottom 15 because my errors fit. Thus a pretty good Friday for me!

The cited GABOR was the talented Eva, who played opposite Eddie Albert in TV's Green Acres. No idea why everyone in "real time land' thought it was ZsaZsa.

You were wrong @Diri. Only two pair, 8's and 6's. Maybe @Ginger will hold up the West Coast, but. I suspect she may be watching the Indian Wells tennis.

Ginger 8:55 PM  

@DMG You're right, watching tennis (did you catch the Fed/Wawrinka doubles match?), and nursing a bad cold. Either one of which may be why this puzzle put up such a struggle. That said, I liked it. Monstrous DNF, but my problem, not the puz's.

Clueing was particularly good. At XWord Info C A. McGlothlin mentions that a third of the clues are Will's, but that the Marker's Mark one is his. Think I'll try some of that other stuff on my cold.

Had better luck at the table, 888/55 with an extra 5 thrown in.

Solving in Seattle 12:03 AM  

Just thought I'd check in with Syndyland. 5th day in Hawaii - 3rd day of golf. Ahhh, swinging in warm weather... Late lunch at Hamuras Saimin shack in Lihue. A bucket list treat if you've never had it. Aloha to all.

trips. Ginger wins.

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