Larry of original West Side Story / SAT 1-11-14 / Grid great Greasy / Native of Caprica on Battlestar Galactica / Renaissance composer of Missa Papae Marcelli / Larry of original West Side Story / Fundacio Joan Miro designer / Does Ludacris impersonation

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Constructor: Martin Ashwood-Smith

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Larry KERT (47A: Larry of the original "West Side Story") —
Larry Kert (December 5, 1930 - June 5, 1991) was an American actor, singer, and dancer. He is best known for creating the role of Tony in the original Broadway version of West Side Story. (wikipedia)
• • •

THE SATURDAY PUZZLE: It's a quad stack. Two, actually. Two quad stacks. I knew that's what I'd be dealing with before I even opened the puzzle. OK, fine. And it's much like all the others I've encountered. Looks the same. Has the same combination of dull / forced long stuff and awkward short stuff—although today I will say the short stuff is better than usual, possibly because the long stuff is so full of RSTLNE. Phrases with super-common letters abound: DENTALASSISTANT, STEMLESSGLASSES. Lots and lots of easy-to-work-with letters.There are a few interesting answers—most notably OBSCENE GESTURES (great) (51A: They're usually pixelated on TV) and PALESTRINA (27D: Renaissance composer of "Missa Papae Marcelli"), which only dimly rings a bell, but is lovely, and was pretty fairly crossed (unless NEALE got you, I guess (34A: Grid great Greasy)). But this issue of fair crossings brings me to the puzzle's one truly terrible element—the WAUKESHA / KERT crossing. Here is the one thing in its favor: I guessed correctly, so that "K" must have some tenuous claim to inferability. I have no idea what/where WAUKESHA is, but that missing letter *felt* like it had to be a "K" (my friend Amy says this was probably the influence of "MilWAUKee"…). But I had zero confidence in the "K." Was considering "B." Never heard of KERT, which is one of the dumbest-looking names I've ever seen, no offense (47A: Larry of the original "West Side Story"). He's been in the puzzle (per the cruciverb database) … twice. WAUKESHA, once. All three instance of these words had very fair crosses. You just can't cross one oddly spelled and not fantastically familiar proper noun with another at a letter than can't readily be inferred. We have a name for that: NATICK. (For a definition of "the Natick Principle," go here and scroll down)

Now, the last thing I care about, the Last thing, is whether any individual knew one or both of these. That is not the issue. Of course there are people in the world who know both things. Saying you knew WAUKE$HA so the crossing must be fair is like saying your aunt smoked and lived to 93 so smoking must not be harmful to your health. From a construction standpoint, you never, ever, ever want to have a solver end with one square where it's a know-it-or-you-don't situation (which is almost always proper noun x/w proper noun). It's god-awful form. If I knew neither answer and had to guess, it's a good bet others will be in same boat. And taking a random stab is not "solving." It's not fun. It's a drag. And it's especially Not the way you want solvers concluding their experience with your puzzle.

And that's the thing—these are answers generated by a database. They are deemed OK because someone already deemed them OK for an earlier puzzle so they must be OK. Only a computer thinks this way. A human being has to be able to say "yes, they were in other puzzles, but they're kind of obscure and, look—when the *other* puzzles used them, the crosses were ordinary words. So maybe these two shouldn't cross." No, Computer Say, 'Work Fine Boss.' There is a difference between constructing and database management. Subtle, sometimes, but very real.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    jae 12:18 AM  

    Odd puzzle.  Easy (bottom), tough (top), and medium-tough (middle).

    @Rex:  me too for guessing: WAUKESHA/KERT.  I had WAUKEgan first having been there a few times so I assumed WAUK might be a Wisconsin kinda thing?

    DANIO and PALESTRINA were also WOEs.

    Thought EAGLES had beaks?


    Quite crunchy but not zippy...OBSCENE GESTURES was about it.  Watching Ferguson nightly is helpful.

    edge before RIMS.

    Not bad for two quad stacks, but the trade offs are a tad cringy...ROT GUTS...  I did like it though.  Nice workout!

    August West 12:22 AM  

    Loved the clue for NAVALENGAGEMENT.

    Anonymous 12:22 AM  

    (Warning: rant coming!)

    BS Rex, I put in Waukesha by hand, not computer management. As a Canadian, I sometimes find it difficult to judge the suitability of US cities, but I deemed it OK because I saw it and the rest of Wisconsin mentioned quite a lot in the news last year... due to that extremist governor.

    Please don't accuse me of relying on a computer to tell me what's OK and what's not. I make that choice... and if you don't like those choices, fine.

    Yeah maybe my tone is a bit strident, but the whole computer thing is too cheap a shot to ignore. I've been at this for over two decades... at least half of my published NYT puzzles were created on pencil and paper, including many triple-stacks. Do you think I gained zero experience over those years?

    (Rant mode off)

    -Martin Ashwood-Smith

    Anonymous 12:35 AM  

    Yeah, but did you know KERT? Or did the computer know KERT?

    wreck 12:36 AM  

    Waukesha is famous for winning the prestigious "Wisconsin Library of the Year" award in 2011.

    Questinia 12:36 AM  

    That "K" @ Rex was my last letter too before the "wahoo!". It was a nail-biter. I figured there are many k-containing names in that neck of the woods so, yes. inferable.

    I circled this puzzle several times before plunking down SIRI, STOA, and EDEN yielding POTASSIUM IODIDE which begat PALESTRINA etc...
    In the West I had DVD before CDR which made that region the last to fall.

    I found the tenor of this puzzle to be very serious and sober. Intellectual over the lightness of yesterday...but I like that. Not chiffon today but a fitted serge suit.

    Thank-you Mr Ashwood-Smith

    Anonymous 12:44 AM  

    I knew KERT. You get used to a lot unusual spellings of names when you've been doing this for a while. BTW, just "knowing" something is not always a good thing. If you look at the first draft 15x16 version of the puzzle, on the Xword info site, you'll see that I added KERT in a subsequent draft. The original had (the always stellar entry) KER.


    Carola 12:49 AM  
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    Carola 12:53 AM  

    I enjoyed the workout - as always, the quad stacks were challenging for me, and this time the side pockets were especially vexing, with the D in DANIO my last guessed-at letter. As a Wisconsinite, I knew WAUKESHA, but had no idea about GLEASONS, KERT, or that meaning of troglodyte.

    Overall the puzzle struck me as low on thrills, but there's GRASS, a RAID, DETOX, SEX, and OBSCENE GESTURES to provide some excitement.

    Plenty of do-overs: heMS before RIMS, tetra before DANIO, long (as is longitude) before CAPT, jOeS before DOMS, garcia before POSSUM, monteverdi before PALESTRINA.

    Garth 12:53 AM  

    Totally agree with @jae's assessment:
    Easy (bottom), tough (top), and medium-tough (middle). In fact I finished the bottom, most of the middle and very little of the top. (If I can get more than 50% of a Saturday, I consider it to be a success. Thus, it was a personal success. (Yeah, setting low bars can be a good thing).

    As soon as I opened up the puzzle, and saw the quad stacks, I knew what I'd be dealing with--in @Rex's review. Sure, the quality of the words may not be as beautiful as a P. Berry puzzle, or as nice as a non-quad stack non-themed puzzle. But there's an enjoyment to be had in trying to crack those stacked long phrases. When I see a quad stack, I look forward to the experience.

    I agree with @Rex's assessment of the Natick. Too bad I can't blame the rest of unfilled spaces on the same thing.

    retired_chemist 12:54 AM  

    There was a TV commercial ten or fifteen years ago, or maybe a series of them, in which Waukesha figured prominently. I think it was for insurance. Hand up for WAUKEgan first but recognizing WAUKESHA when it appeared. KERT - Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

    Enjoyed it a lot. Quad stacks seem to require a somewhat different set of solving skills and it has taken me some time to be comfortable with them. Now I look forward to them.

    Wonder how many put joeS for 31D and stuck with that for too long because they didn't know the lesser known, albeit not obscure, DOM DiMaggio? Good Saturday baseball answer which Rex would normally pick up on.

    I wonder what CANADA BLUEGRASS sounds like. Do they use banjos, eh?

    ADAMA, PALESTRINA, and DANIO (orig. tetra) were learning experiences. Always fun to have a few of those. Poor as A RAT - ditto. Never heard the phrase

    Thanks, Martin.

    Anonymous 1:02 AM  

    Rex is right about KERT/WAUKESHA being a natick but Will Shortz is to blame not Martin Ashwood-Smith.

    I found the puzzle a little heavy on "stuff" (as in having to know stuff) with some clever clues, and a bit of a chore. However, I don't do puzzles in 3-6 minutes or even close so is my opinion really worth anything? Um, no.

    wreck 1:09 AM  

    I don't think any of us are getting enough potassium iodide in our diets.

    Steve J 2:15 AM  

    I don't know if it's big jumbles of stacked 15s or if it's that Martin Ashwood Smith and I aren't on the same wavelengths, but yet again here's another MAS puzzle where I struggled and cursed and just didn't have a very fun time at all.

    I guess these types of puzzles just aren't my thing, even when they're in the hands of someone who clearly knows his way around this type of construction. This kind of puzzle comes off to me as too focused on the mechanics of grid construction and making difficult things fit at the expense of zippy, fun fill. There ends up being lots of kludgy stuff to make the long answers work. For example, the WAUKESHA/KERT Natick (even though I know WAUKESHA, having driven through Milwaukee and its burbs many times back when I lived in the Midwest, there's no question that's a brutal crossing). And it seems like there's a higher prevalence of stuff like clunky abbreviations and plurals that don't occur in real life. E.g., googling ROT GUTS gives you multiple dictionary entires, references to a Belgian punk band, someone's Twitter handle and zero uses of the word as it was clued - wonderfully clued, I might add - in the first 10 pages of my personal Google results (recognizing that everyone's results vary a bit).

    Of the 15s, OBSCENE GESTURES stood out. The others didn't sparkle for me. I really liked the clues for CRISP and POSSUM. And I'm happy that I didn't fall for the DiMaggio misdirection (DOMS - another awkward plural - was the second answer I filled in).

    Well-constructed, but just not my bag.

    Casimir 2:17 AM  

    I had the same experience as @jae -- tough, medium and easy thirds from top to bottom.

    Maybe Rex shouldn't have guessed about computers without knowing, but I agree the Waukesha/Kert crossing, which I got, does seem Naticky. I was lucky to have lived in neighboring Illinois, so I'd heard of Waukesha at least.

    Otoh, my judgment is suspect -- I thought the tons of clues related to the Simpsons that I endured for years also were Naticky, though I'm sure I'm in the minority on that here.

    Indeed, I would eliminate all cartoon references -- not published in the NYT -- and bring back opera -- heavily covered by the NYT. (I know the Simpsons is a tv show, this is a separate beef). I'm not saying anyone would/should agree, though, so no need to eviscerate me!

    AliasZ 2:41 AM  

    This was a great workout for me. The bottom 15's fell fairly quickly due partly to PALESTRINA. I thought the bottom stack was just a touch more intuitive, especially with a little pixilation thrown in, than the top one. Loved the clues for DENTAL ASSISTANT, AUDIT, POSSUM and ROTGUT. This last entry is the winning entry (not counting the 15s). And WAUKESHA. And LOG SHIP.

    The top stack was less easily inferable for me. Not remembering whether it was called conventional or TRADITIONAL IRA did not help. I thought NAVAL and NAVEL crossing at the V was cute.

    I didn't mind CTNS nearly as much as MAS, and the WAUKESHA / KERT crossing nearly as much as Rex. I got WAUKESHA easily from WAU and the A in DENTAL. I guess I was in a more positive frame of mind than either of these two fine gentlemen. But DANIO was a complete unknown.

    Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (c.1525-1594) was an Italian Renaissance composer of mostly sacred music, who had a lasting influence on the development of church music, and in fact, of all western music that followed. His work is considered the culmination of Renaissance polyphony. To this day, the study of counterpoint in music schools around the world begins with the study of polyphony in the music of PALESTRINA. Here is a small example: the Kyrie from Missa Papae Marcelli.

    "Labour is blossoming or dancing where
    The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.
    Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
    Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
    O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
    Are you the leaf, the blossom or the BOLE?
    O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
    How can we know the dancer from the dance?"
    -- from Among School Children by William Butler Yeats.

    I had great fun, a bit of frustration, but a satisfying solving experience. I am honestly baffled at the two-paragraph space dedicated to CAC (computer aided construction) in Rex' write-up. To me this one did not have the feel of a database-generated puzzle at all, and after reading the notes in xwordinfo my feelings were confirmed.

    Excellent puzzle Martin. Thank you.

    jae 3:05 AM  

    @Ret_C -- You maybe thinking of Wausau Insurance?  And, I should have included ADAMA on my WOE list.  And, me too for never having heard Poor as A RAT... Wanted Poor as DIRT.

    mforrest73 4:26 AM  

    DNF on the KERT/WAUKESHA cross. I guessed bERT. Rex is right on the money - it's an obscure actor crossed with an obscure town and that's not fair to the solver.

    Adama Canada Miodides 4:50 AM  

    Sounds like lots of folks got WAUKESHA, so perhaps it's not a Natick after all.
    Maybe you could rename the phenomena of two things that piss off @Rex a WAUKESHA.
    E.g. Crossing a Q that completes a pangram with, um, almost anything!

    Other than Madison, I can't even think of a Wiskonsin city without a K... KenoSHA (that I kept trying to fit in there), Milwaukee, OshKosh, Okonomowoc... Maybe it's a Minnesota thing!

    MY personal Natick/OWS (one wrong square) was CdR/ dANIO, tho I considered it, but settled on CcR, deciding you burned Clearance Clearwater Revival cds...s...t...r...e...t...c...h...

    Had the whole bottom, using the Byron Walden tip to start with the bottom because of possible Ss.
    And the Six SSSSSS in STEMLESSGLASSES helped, it was a DILLY!

    Loved the NAVEL/NAVEL cross.

    Ran thru the 50 states for another BLUEGRASS, finally settled on the 51st state... pAnAmA!

    Thought the phrase was "poor as a churchmouse", it's got to be related?

    Also funny to see SOSPAD, perhaps a sly shoutout to @Rex who had an SOS puzzle (that I loved and subblogged back in the day) that had the identical theme to one of MAS' s puzzles published three years earlier!

    Acme 4:56 AM  

    Also loved the image of an ELEPHANT sitting atop a DENTALASSISTANT.

    I skip M-W 4:57 AM  

    I enjoyed the puzzle, generally like stacked fifteens, I haven't been to Wisconsin in decades, but after briefly trying Kenosha, remembered Waukesha. Old enough also for Larry Kert to ring a bell. I think those of us who know these things are entitled to feel good about that on occasion. We're not freaks. So Rex's tired critique was annoying and belittling.

    Agree about top being hardest. To add to my problems, I put in pkgs instead of ctns for 1down, and immediately put in Keough in 2 across. Took a long time to correct, but finally finished, to my pleasure.
    Thanks, M A-S.

    Happy New Year to all!

    Danp 5:40 AM  

    If you know the names of any ten places in Wisconsin, the K in Waukesha is easily inferable. Never heard of the place, but never hesitated to put in a K.

    Anonymous 5:53 AM  

    A few places in this puzzle had me saying, "No MAS! No MAS!"

    Unknown 6:38 AM  

    The pain of KERT was exacerbated by my failure to see MENSAL for monthly. Given KURT (an entirely reasonable guess on an obscure clue), MUNSAL just sat there blocking me. I knew the rest of the grid was correct, so I attacked by brute force and iterated myself into KERT/MENSAL, got the WellDone musice, and scratched my head til I made the connection. Not a woman so it did not keap immediately to mind. Not a fun way to finish...

    Loren Muse Smith 8:03 AM  
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    Glimmerglass 8:24 AM  

    Trouble in the NW. Like Jae, I was confident with "poor as dirT," which slowed me down. I had the endings for all four quads in the top, but only STEMLESS (which I was pretty sure of) reached all the way to the left of A TEE. I get the joke in 3D, but I didn't know belly dancers had rings there (I wanted something that meant "finger cymbals"). Like Rex and a couple of others, I guessed the K in KERT correctly. Maybe WAUKESHA lives somewhere in our collective unconsciousness.

    Michael Hanko 8:34 AM  

    I propose a weighted assessment of crosswords, similar to the one used in olympic diving. In that sport, a participant gets her overall performance rating multiplied by a factor that increases as difficulty increases, so she'd get a higher final score for performing a perfect quadruple flip with a half twist of lime (this is not exactly my wheelhouse) than she would for a perfectly executed swan dive.

    So however impressed/excited/delighted you were by MAS's puzzle, you should multiply that score by a factor to account for the incredible difficulty of getting 4 15-letter entries to stack up. TWICE.

    I don't know what that multiplicand should be — but IT'S_A_LOT.

    (Initially found it odd, btw, that SEX was clued using "ed" when OP_ED was in the grid...till it dawned on me that education is not the same as editorial.)

    DeanR 8:41 AM  

    Oddly enough I remembered Waukesha because it was often referred to on Happy Days, which I watched religiously back in the day. Still a tough puzzle...

    MAS- I had a feeling you were up next after reading your post yesterday. Nice one!

    Loren Muse Smith 8:48 AM  
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    Loren Muse Smith 8:50 AM  

    I guessed wrong there. B. I didn't even make a note in the margin about that cross because I knew it would be today's topic. And here I was so excited to "finish" on of MAS' puzzles – a very rare thing - I can't even brag that I have a MENSAL finish with one of MAS' themelesses, let alone an hebdomadal success. More like a quinquennial success.

    @Steve J – "focused on the mechanics of grid construction. . ." I like that sometimes – Easy-peasy wordplay early week, intricate 15 stacks late week. Variety is the spice of life, and all that. I enjoy seeing how quad stacks will play out. Always have. No OBSCENE GESTURES here. It still fascinates me that 15's can line up and stack like that. Keep'em coming, Martin! And I smiled broadly at 1A. Before this blog, it would have been completely lost on me.

    @retired_chemist – Yep "Joe" went in immediately. I also put in "Bobby" for NEALE, thinking "Griese" and I always just thinking it was "Bob."

    @Acme, @retired_chemist, @glimmerglass – I thought it was "poor as dirt."

    @jae – I put in the ridiculous "egret" before EAGLE, mentally going over some bills to see which denomination it appeared on. Sheesh. When I was subbing once, we looked up the difference between "beak" and "bill," and at least in the Children's Dictionary –the two words were interchangeable. I picture a beak as something that could do some SIRI-ous damage, but a bill as a gentle, piece-of-bread accepting clamp. @Gareth?

    "How troglodytes live." I experience a silent MENSAL gratitude that my son opted out of living in the Sigma Chi frat house.

    @Ellen S – "eel" rears its head at us, all disguised and everything. @Questinia – lucky you to live in NYC! (So I can meet you in person at the tourney?) Think there's such a thing as UNAGIyaki?

    Any language has similar words(UNAGI eel/ USAGI rabbit) that can be quite problematic for a non-native speaker. Two confusing conversations I had, the first being just funny, the latter being extremely embarrassing.

    Me: (in a car with Kimi-san) Look! Did you see that eel that we almost hit?
    Kimi-san: Uso! ("Lie!") Really? An eel? In the road??
    Me: - Yes! A pretty big one, too. Ran right in front of us. I think they're so cute, don't you?
    Kimi-san: (after thinking about it) Did you mean a rabbit?
    Me: Oh, right. Oops.

    Me: (Lecturer of Japanese at UNC interviewing a potential TA with my colleague, Higuchi- sensei) I'm completely silent because I'm too afraid to try to speak Japanese in a formal interview. Hey – it was my first year as faculty.)
    Higuchi- sensei: (after asking all the questions and basically doing the entire interview ALONE, turns to me) "Smith-sensei, can you think of anything else we should discuss before we let Suzuki san go?" (Mentally screaming at me with teeth mentally bared to say *something* &^%%-it!!!! Anything!)
    Me: (Delivering my first and only contribution to the interview) "Well, we haven't told her about the cucumber yet."

    Kyuuri – cucumber. Kyuuryo – salary.

    retired_chemist 9:05 AM  

    @jae - right about Wausau. But, hey, whatever works....

    @lms - hand up for dirt @ 2D. Also hand up for confusing two (to me, surely not to the Japanese) similar-sounding words in Japan. Do Not ask for more geri at a sushi bar instead of gari.

    Also, are your tainted water problems getting better in Kanawha County? I grew up in Cabell County and I see it is affected too.

    Norm C. 9:20 AM  

    My series of cruise stops for 1A went like this: pANAmA...->bAhAmA...->CANADA!

    (Crossed with pkgs->bxes->CTNS)

    Twangster 9:22 AM  

    I navigated the KERT thing OK but was done in by not knowing ADAMA and assuming CDS was correct instead of CDR, which left me trying to figure out how 3-Down could end in SINGS. Contemplated but removed NAVELSINGS. Also never heard of "poor as a rat."

    Mohair Sam 9:25 AM  

    We got the erstwhile natick "K" as our last letter. But instead of being frustrated like @rex and many others here we enjoyed the solve. Rex kinda felt the "K". So did we.
    Wife: "bERT sounds like a real name to solve the natick."
    Me: "Nah, the local Indians up there used the "auk" sound, not "aub", go with K".
    Hmmm, an educated guess in a Saturday NYT Crossword. The K could be inferred - no problem here.

    btw, WAUKESHA has twice the population of Natick. Just sayin'.

    Even though we are big Eagles fans I always connect Greasy Neale with baseball. He starred for the Reds in the famous 1919 Black Sox World Series.

    Very nice medium/challenging Saturday from Ashwood-Smith; and with quite the rant thrown in here for good measure. Fun.

    Anonymous 9:35 AM  

    Larry KERK: IMDB Entries - 0
    Larry KERK: Wikipedia pages & Links: 0

    Anonymous 9:46 AM  

    Who's Larry KERK?

    Different Anon

    retired_chemist 9:48 AM  

    Is "poor as a rat" a regional expression?

    Hand up for PKGS for 1D and/or DIRT for 2D for a LONG time. Spent most of my time on the N part - the 21A and below rows were finished in short order.

    Anonymous 10:08 AM  

    i am never on this guy's wavelength, which makes his puzzles difficult.

    Never heard of WAUKESHA.

    Never heard of KERT.

    Never heard of PALESTRINA.

    Never heard of a DANIO.

    I wanted,so badly, for 1 Across to be CANADianwhiskey.

    And so forth. I regard finishing this one in under 45 minutes, with no crossouts and no googling, as a triumph of will over probability. Loved it!


    Anonymous 10:22 AM  

    Isn't a log ship some kind of nautical measuring device? It is clued as if it is some ship supplying lumber.

    AliasZ 10:24 AM  

    @Audit Crisp Mlessglasses - Napoleon met his Waterloo, Rex met his Waukesha.

    @Loren et al. - I know dirt-poor, poor as dirt not so much. However, searching poor as returns: a church mouse, Job's turkey, dirt, soil, a beggar, a pauper and hell, but not A RAT in sight anywhere, thank Google.

    Troglodyte from Latin trōglodyta ("cave dwelling people"), from Ancient Greek τρωγλοδύτης ("one who dwells in holes"), from τρώγλη (trōglē, "hole") + δύω (duō, "I get into"). The male Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) builds several nests, up to 6 or 7. These are called "cock nests" but are never lined until the female chooses one to use. Wrens are highly polygynous, that is to say a male can have, at any one time, more than one female with an active nest. A male has been recorded with four females breeding on his territory.

    When does he ever have time to be ALONE, a little me-time in his man cave for crying out loud?

    JFC 10:28 AM  

    Martin A-S, you had me until you labeled Scott Walker an extremist. The last connection I would make to Waukesha is the political peculiarities of Wisconsin, a state that historically has a split political personality, ranging from La Follette to McCarthy. Talk about cheap shots....


    joho 10:32 AM  

    I quickly wrote in poor as dirT. I think this expression is much better known than poor as a rat.

    @Acme, I also ended with one wrong square at CcR, same wrong letter, too!

    I'm in the camp that thinks many cities in Wisconsin just naturally have a "K." Why isn't it Wiskonsin?

    I'm going to try to remember that a DANIO is a freshwater aquarium favorite, my lesson for the day.

    Thank you, MAS, and also for stopping by to defend your decisions and your expertise!

    Anonymous 10:37 AM  

    Sorry, but to me Kert and Waukesha were not at all obscure. You are just showing how young you are.

    Mr. B 10:37 AM  

    Got an iPad about a year and a half ago and one of the first apps I purchased was the NYT's cw. Been doing these with varying degrees of success, but always enjoyable. Been reading the blog for about a year. Saw the Waukesha clue and had to think for about thirty seconds and then got it. First word I put in, actually. Checked with a few crosses and I was good. I had an unfair advantage since I live here. My first tho't was "hey, Waukesha made the NYT". My second was, "Rex isn't going to like this". And so he didn't, understandably so.

    mac 10:49 AM  

    Nice work out this morning. Biggest stumbling blocks the K, and I did not pick the right letter. In hindsight I should have guessed better.

    @acme: Panama here too, isn't that what they make the beautiful hats out of? Started with "rich" at 14D. Got the rat, but I call it a church mouse.

    Knowing the constructor is Canadian I wanted a loon bird. I'm immersed in Canadian history and couleur locale, marathon reading the Gamache series by Louise Penny.

    Beautiful clues, particularly for stoa, audit, possum and naval engagement.

    Z 10:52 AM  

    I can never decide if triple/quad/quint/quindecim stacks are awful pretty or pretty awful (hi @dirigonzo). If you solve one of the riddles the whole section opens up. If you don't it becomes a slog. Today I got ELEPHANTkeeper, quickly corrected by SIRI, and the south was easy. The north was UNAGI mess because I had to piece together the long answers.

    Garcia is a much better answer than POSSUM, DANIO was an aquatic WTF, and I was pretty young when KERT played Tony on stage (if -3 can be considered a young age). So, yeah, that was a struggle.

    Best "write your own story section" is the "ITS ALOT of RENO SEX O'ER ORZO on SAT" section. Please, no OBSCENE GESTURES.

    @MAS- thanks for stopping by. That hardly even qualifies as a rant.

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:56 AM  

    Lotsa LOG SHIPs.

    Z 11:00 AM  

    Always posts as anonymous
    Does he have a mask collection...?

    RnRGhost57 11:05 AM  

    @MAS, appreciate you weighing in. Seems to me Rex should respond.

    Steve J 11:07 AM  
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    Steve J 11:09 AM  

    @Acme: Hudson (directly east of St Paul), La Crosse, Superior - all on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border. For starters. And even not being a sports fan, I would think with growing up in Minneapolis that Green Bay (and their hated Packers) would have blipped on the radar screen. Tough not to pick up things related to the Vikings by osmosis in MSP.

    @Z: Where can one get these magic masks that change posting styles so dramatically?

    Like the "awful pretty" or "pretty awful" question. Very apt.

    Sandy K 11:16 AM  

    IN NO WAY could I finish this ALONE unless I were a member of MENSA.

    Hubby helped with NEALE Greasy and DOM DiMaggio. I heard of Larry KuRT but OBSCENE GESTURES ensued when I saw my goof there...and at CvR and ReID giving me the aquarium favorite- the beloved veNIO.

    Thenceforth I will somehow have to memorize 'em DANIO?

    Mohair Sam 11:22 AM  

    Fourth SIRI in the past couple of months. At what point does she become official crosswordese?

    Krampus 11:27 AM  

    @Rex's comments translated:

    "There's only one way to make puzzles! Martin didn't do it that one way! If it's not that one kind of puzzle, it's not fun or good! And if I don't know an answer, then the puzzle is crap! No one will enjoy it! This constructor's so stupid, and I'm not!"

    Campesite 11:32 AM  

    It didn't kill my solving buzz as I liked this puzzle, but I did indeed end on the K--I had Wert because I knew a Larry Wert, and Wauwesha felt as plausible as Wawona.

    Maybe somebody can design a puzzle where the black squares vaguely resemble a pixelated obscene gesture?

    Milford 11:33 AM  

    DNF due to being unable to shake loose the upper quad stack. Usually I can get enough of the shorter answers to get a skeletal amount of letters to work with. But not today.

    Garcia before POSSUM. Tetra before DANIO (unknown to me). Dirt before A RAT. Brillo before SOS PAD.

    When I finally changed pkgs to CTNS I could see that CANADA was the entry, but just kept trying to make whiskey or some other liquor fit there. I'm still not sure if the BLUEGRASS refers to vegetation or music.

    Tried to fit in Kenosha before WAUKESHA. I agree that the K was somewhat inferrable, being a Wisconsin city.

    After yesterday's puzzle I fully expected a more difficult time today, and indeed it was. Definitely a struggle here, but every tough one I muddle through helps my overall puzzle abilities. I guess I'm a STEMLESS GLASSES-half-full kind of person.

    Anonymous 11:51 AM  

    Kert was my only gimme.

    Filled in the entire middle and bottom 2/3 remarkably quickly for a Saturday -- but the top third was a complete mystery to me.

    Ellen S 11:53 AM  

    WAUKESHA was about the only answer I got. After trying WAUKEgan. The "K" at least was a gimme, as many have said.

    Usually I engage in mild cheating, like click "reveal errors for this word" but for that to be any use, you have to have put some letters in. Most of the clues were things I couldn't even Google... except the Shark Roll fish -- I laughed out loud when I discovered Mr. Ashwood-Smith had snuck in an EEL!

    Wanted single malt whiskey for 1A, but then, maybe I just wanted a single malt whiskey.

    I had to reveal the answers not even just the wrong letters, over and over, so I guess this was a DNS (Did Not Start), but I actually loved the answers when they were revealed.

    Thank you MAS.

    Garth 11:53 AM  

    I enjoyed @Michael Hanko's suggestion of borrowing the olympic diving system of rating. I can see several unsmiling judges huddled around a tiny crossword puzzle using the old system of holding up cards with numbers on them. In addition to the the humorous image, he and other commenters make a good point that @Rex can come off as being a bit myopic. There are so many ways to assess and enjoy a puzzle and the over-emphasis on his preferred type of fill and a scant few other criteria seems limited at times. The fact that when he is critical, he comes off as a little demeaning is also bothersome to me.

    On a different subject, how do the veterans on this site feel about the veracity of the comment by Martin Ashwood-Smith (and the supposed comment by Shortz several days ago). Something in my gut tells me that these aren't authentic. Any thoughts or first-hand knowledge about this?

    Jeff in Ann Arbor (but FL now) 11:58 AM  

    An awful lot of Wisconsin cities start with Wa and often Wau, so I started with that, and when I saw the sh near the end, I had Waukesha.

    Tough but enjoyed it with my wife, finishing up cooperatively on the top quad with friends we're vacationing with.

    Jeff in Ann Arbor (but FL now) 11:59 AM  

    An awful lot of Wisconsin cities start with Wa and often Wau, so I started with that, and when I saw the sh near the end, I had Waukesha.

    Tough but enjoyed it with my wife, finishing up cooperatively on the top quad with friends we're vacationing with.

    Steve J 12:03 PM  

    @Garth: MAS has posted here quite a bit over time, and usually not regarding his own puzzles. Over that time, it seems legit.

    I think the Shortz posts recently were authentic, too (the ones under an actual Google account). There have been other times people have posted under his name. There's usually a definite difference in style that makes my troll senses activate with the non-account posts that I don't get from the Google account posts.

    Nancy in PA 12:05 PM  

    Hand up for poor as dirt and WAUKEgan before WAUKESHA. Finished with an error because I was pretty sure Greasy had to be followed by NEAsi...went to school with a Bob Nesi and the teacher was always calling him Greasy Nesi. I did fix DETOX but failed to fix AsONE. ALONE, AsONE, whatever. I have nothing but admiration for quad stacks and find them pretty awesome (or awesome pretty).

    Garth 12:07 PM  

    Thanks @Steve J for your answer. That's helpful.

    Anonymous 12:09 PM  

    Garth, the Martin Ashwood-Smith is really me, Check my Facebook page.

    -Martin Ashwood- Smith

    OISK 12:12 PM  

    Knew Larry Kert, but forgot how to spell it! I still play the original cast recording of West Side Story. He also was featured in a wonderful Schaeffer beer commercial (OK, Rookie, sing the Schaeffer jingle…). I get a DNF though, because of thinking pop culture in a non-pop culture clue! Had P_SSU_. Surely I should have thought of Possum - which would have given me Mensal, and a quick, correct finish. But Noooo. I had spelled it Kurt, so I tried "Lunsal", figuring it was some obscure term related to lunar, and Passul, figuring it was the name of Garcia's drummer! (how would I know? AFAIK, deadheads are fans of Zombie movies…) Pretty inept on my part. No criticism from me of this puzzle, though, although I dislike product name clues (RAID) when there are so many better alternatives. Nice, crunchy, well constructed Saturday. Thanks, Martin.

    Z 12:15 PM  

    @Garth - What Steve J said. If you spend enough time around here you start to hear the regulars' "voice." Hence the humor of suggesting that Masked and Anonymous could be Martin Ashwood-Smith. Their posts are less alike than Clark Kent and Superman. (Which makes me wonder if MAS changes in phone booths. Har)

    Tita 12:19 PM  

    @jae - word-for-word my solve!

    Never heard: Poor as ARAT... I had dirT. (Hello again, @jae, et al)
    Done to ATEE. Put it in, but later erased it, since I knew it wasn't a Thing. Maybe a regional Thing?

    DNFd with WAUsESHA, thinking it was a neighbor of Wausau, so never questioned it further. sERT? sERT? Sure.
    Guess what - Wausesha EXISTS! and is a neighbor of WAUKESHA!

    @mac - also loved the STOA and POSSUM clues.

    And a blank at _ANIO/C_R. Was blind to the crosswordy CDR - doh! But I do agree with Rex that absolutely blind guesses are dull.

    Troglodytes live ALONE? I have visited the cave dwellings of the troglodytes along the Dordogne in France - contemplated AcavE.

    Thanks, MAS, you beat me fair and square(ish).

    Carole Shmurak 12:27 PM  

    Larry KERT was a gimme for me, though I had Waukegan before Waukesha. I think what constitutes a Natick obviously depends on your accumulated knowledge, which is not always age-related. For example, Rex seems to me quite unknowledgeable about Broadway and Hollywood (especially anything before 1970). I know a lot about these, but then so does my son-in-law in his early 40s (and neither of us are in the entertainment world). On the other hand, I've only seen two Simpson episodes - just didn't like them - and only know rappers by name, but couldn't tell you any titles of their songs.(OK, that's probably age-related.) I've lived on the East Coast all my life except for three years of grad school, yet Waukesha came to me as soon as I got "elephant trainer" and realized that Waukegan didn't work. But then I knew Natick in the original 2008 puzzle too!

    Tita 12:28 PM  

    @lms - love your eel/rabbit story!

    Yours brought this one to mind:

    Puzzle husband confidently walked into the deli/butcher down the street from us when we lived in Heidelburg, and asked (in his newly-learned German) for 4 puppy breasts. When the young girl stared at him wide-eyed, he (stereotypically), repeated, louder and slower. When she ran to get the butcher, he laughed and pronounced it correctly - "chicken" breasts, you mean...!
    (Hähnchen/Hundchen- Umlauts are tough for us, @Ulrich!)

    @Ellen S - did you watch the UNAGI documentary on Nature>?

    Garth 12:52 PM  

    @MA-S Thank you for your reply.

    I thought your first comment (reply to @Rex) was a very reasonable response.

    Loren Muse Smith 12:52 PM  

    @Tita – too funny about "puppy breasts!" Stories like this must abound. When visiting Austria, I had the following conversation with my boyfriend's grandmom:

    Grandmom: "What all did you have at Moni's house?"
    Me: : "Some kind of meat and lots of Knödel." (A Knödel is actually a baseball-sized, dense, very filling bread or potato dumpling – one for a side dish is almost too much).
    Grandmom: " You ate more than one Knödel??. How many?"
    Me: "Wow. More than I could count. How would anyone count? Thirty, forty, maybe?" (thinking how strange that the Austrians would actually want precise "noodle" count.)

    I insisted to the same poor woman that Friedl and I had ridden from Vienna to Graz on his bicycle (Fahrrad) when we in fact had ridden on his motorcycle (Motorrad). I assured her that I had held on tight and that we were careful and didn't go too fast.

    Unknown 1:21 PM  

    Unsolvable. First 8 down fills were wrong. Next seven down fills were not enough to save the day.

    Bottom 2/3 of puzzle was solvable in an hour.

    Any how. It was a loss, leaving me IN A PET. :-{

    But on the bright side, you guys figured it out. Hats off to the masters! :)

    MetaRex 1:32 PM  

    V. nice contrast between yesterday and today...for anyone curious about a measure of the sparkle-gruel content for today, and how today w/ its ELEPHANT TRAINERs and OBSCENE GESTURES stacked up against yesterday w/ its CRACK SHOTs and CHEAT SHEETS, the metrics are at CANADA BLUEGRASS-MAS.

    FearlessKim 2:06 PM  

    Have had the opportunity to learn a little Ojibway along the way. WAU is the root or prefix meaning "white" or "east", among other things, which explains all the place names in Ojibway country that incorporate that WAU. Including Milwaukee and Waukesha. Thought this group would like to know.

    Evan 2:10 PM  

    Got WAUKESHA, probably from somewhere during my childhood near Chicago. Missed on KERT/MENSAL -- never heard that word before, went with KURT/MUNSAL per my strategy to pick at least one word I've seen before (and maybe a few others did the same with BERT/WAUBESHA), and immediately thought after I stopped my clock, "It's KERT, isn't it?" Ugh.

    I should probably develop an anti-strategy to pick a crossing that gives me two words I've never seen before if the clues make it possible. I mean, there are plenty of people named KURT, but even in a tough Saturday puzzle, why go with a Broadway star from the 1950s-1960s when there are several other well-known KURTS to choose from? Has to be a name I haven't seen, and it looked like a last name, so I should have taken more time to consider KERT.

    Martin, I appreciate you checking in, and I think it's fair to critique Rex's point about database management vs. constructing by hand. Having said that, I'm with Rex in that the KERT/WAUKESHA crossing is pretty rough. OBSCENE GESTURES is awesome, though.

    Speaking of which....


    Check out this Joe Krozel puzzle from last June. I joked about just that in my guest post.

    Lewis 2:11 PM  

    @Q -- Fitted serge suit... perfect!
    @jae -- wanted poor as dirt also

    Martin, thanks for checking in. I thought that was presumptive of Rex to assume you got those answers via computer, and I'm glad you set it straight.

    I like quad stacks, figuring out the long answers with just a few letters filled in. It was fun and challenging -- thanks!

    Anonymous 2:30 PM  

    First off your puzzle wasn't that hard or that great. Secondly keep our intellectual snobbishness and your political opinions to yourself. Scott Walker is not an extremist you commie

    Anonymous 2:36 PM  

    Wow, I guess we have different experiences. Kert was one of the easiest parts of the puzzle to me, but I am a musical theater fan (and saw him in the production of Two Gentlemen of Verona when I was a kid in LA). Also famous for replacing Dean Jones in Company. As with some others I found the bottom easy, the middle medium-tough and the top really hard. My Natick was Neale and Gleasons. I had to totally guess and then google Neale. The sports ones are always tough for me.

    foxaroni 2:36 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Masked and Anonymo4Us 2:37 PM  

    Hey! They used my Har-O-ween puz's (O)POSSUM clue, verbatim. Not a good sign, for their mental "good balance".

    Wisconsin city thoughts: Had the WAU part, then saw the clue. Let out a good har, as half the burgs in them parts seem to start with stuff like WAU-. Immediately thought of Waukegan, Wausua, Wausaukee, Waukesha and Waunakee. (Not sure what happened, when they was namin milWaukee). Stayed at a real nice Marriot near the hiway in Waukesha, once. @quilter1: primo quilt shop in Waunakee, downtown near the railroad tracks. Also, I think the island in Joe vs the Volcano was called somethin like Wauponi Woo; musta been settled by migrant cheeseheads. But I digress...

    Started this puz in the middle, after parkin LTRS in 1-Across. PALESTRINA/NEALE put a stop to that, eventually. Tried to float upward. Early offerings were as Poor as ratpoop. M&A thought he was in solid, with:
    1-D. LTRS. Also had PKGS on standby.
    2-D. A-somethin, since DIRT wouldn't play nice, next to LTRS and other postal dealies.
    4-D. HEDDA. On a real short leash, tho.
    5-D. DOOZY.
    6-D. ATEE.
    7-D. 62.5% chance of endin with -S.
    12-D. EDGE.
    13. ARES. Figured him to get in lots of bar fights with guys with names like Dio-whatsis.
    14. EVEN.
    15. SSTS. Had to be somethin like this, at the end of a quad spanner stack. Either that or SSSS. or ERSE. or EEEE.
    From this, all the long Acrosses up top became obviously unsolvable. Celebrated with a coupla extra cinnamon rolls. Came here for consolation.


    M and Also 2:44 PM  

    Make that "tear-stained" cinnamon rolls, btw.


    Nancy 2:46 PM  

    Finished everything but the middle far left. Had Cal for CDR. (As in calorie.) Had NAVEL lINeS for NAVEL RINGS. (A belly dancer's six-pack?) Didn't know DANIO. Will someone please tell me what CDR is????? Thanks so much!

    foxaroni 2:48 PM  

    Like #OISK, I have spent many hours listening to the original cast recording of "West Side Story." When I was a theatre major at Pittsburg State University in 1964, we staged a production of it. So KERT was my first entry. I've wondered at times about whatever happened to him--leading role in one of the greatest American musicals, cast recording, et. Maybe he moved to Waukesha....

    Like #Carole Schmurak, I have been surprised at times about OFL's blind spot for Broadway. I still shake my head about his rant on Gwen Verdon.

    Part of me, though, must be guilty of generalization about that--that all New York City people are intimately acquainted with knowledge of Broadway, plus the Yankees, Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants (football and baseball), Mets, Rangers, mayors, NY politicians, etc., etc. My bad.

    I did better than usual with the lower quad stacks, got danio and Doms. Failed on possum--kept trying for Garcia, then somehow got it in my head that it was Ron "Pigpen" MARCUS on keyboards, rather than McKernan. Somewhat like #Acme and CcR.

    I tried "poor as MICE." Like most of you, I'd never heard "poor as A RAT."

    While I don't like quads in any form, I thought this was a good puzzle. Thanks, #MAS.

    Jim Finder 2:50 PM  

    Here are some more interlingual malaprops from real life:

    Italian: "Hey, I think I hear pasta out in the field!" (Fusilli=pasta, Fucilli=rifles)

    Japanese: My cousin, urgently trying to get medical care: "Please! Take us to the beauty parlor!!!" (Byoin=hospital, Byooin=beauty parlor)

    Anonymous 2:50 PM  

    Oh, one more thing. . .

    Regarding those above who had garcia instead of POSSUM.

    I got the P from CRISP pretty quickly - but I so, so wanted this one to be Pigpen. It took me a long time to admit that it just wasn't.

    So I consoled myself with a little "Lovelight."


    Nancy 2:51 PM  

    It's me again. Nancy. For those of you who objected to KERT, that was my first gimme. I saw him in the original production. There are some advantages to being old.

    Carola 2:52 PM  

    For those who thought of WAUkegan, just FYI it's across the border in Illinois.

    @acme - No "k" in Oconomowoc :)

    @Campesite - The "w" was a good guess - WAUKESHA is not far from Wauwatosa.

    @loren - Thanks for the reminder about Griese, not Greasy - now I know why Bob wouldn't fit!

    @loren, @Tita - An American friend of mine living in Germany told her boyfriend's mom that one step in a recipe she was sharing was to "throw the butter in the pond" - wirf die Butter in den Teig (dough) but prounounced Teich (pond).

    cacjac 2:54 PM  

    That upper stack gave me aDNF, but overall a good, tough puzzle. I held onto Angermanagement for 17a
    for a long time,but a great clue I couldn't get for
    NAVALENGAGEMENT. Maybe its me but never heard
    Poor as ARAT. Still, a true Saturday puzzle. Thank you

    foxaroni 2:56 PM  

    #Nancy--CDR = Compact Disk-Recordable.

    Meaning the CD is "burnable" once. There's a whole dictionary of TLAs (three-letter acronyms) for the CD and DVD world. CD-ROM (non-burnable), CD-RW (read-write, or burnable many times), DVD+R and DVD-R (two different forms of burnable DVDs, depending on your burner), and extending through DVD+/-R, DVD+/-RW, and on and on.

    Anonymous 3:01 PM  

    "Poor as a rat"? Give me a break. The expression does not exist. "As a church mouse," "as dirt," etc., OK, but not "as a rat." Never heard of Neale Greasy; this section was toughest for me until I got "SOS Pad," even though I got "Palestrina" pretty early.

    Wikipedia 3:03 PM  

    Larry KERT - No mention of WAUKESHA.

    Mark 3:03 PM  

    @Nancy: "compact disc-recordable" ( A compact disc on which you can record--or "burn"--music or other data.

    I guessed right at WAUKESHA-KERT crossing, but the CDR-DANIO crossing was my downfall. I was ready to call it a Natick, but once I saw CDR here I realized what it was and that it was "gettable," just a tough (for me) clue.

    As a student of architecture, was surprised to see Josep Luis SERT even in a Saturday puzzle. Is he more commonly known than I thought, or just easy to get from crosses at the end of that quad stack?

    Anonymous 3:03 PM  

    "Poor as a rat"? Give me a break. The expression does not exist. "As a church mouse," "as dirt," etc., OK, but not "as a rat." Never heard of Neale Greasy; this section was toughest for me until I got "SOS Pad," even though I got "Palestrina" pretty early.

    Knew Larry Kert b/c my parents had the original Broadway album of "WSS" way back in my '60s childhood, and I have it on CD today.

    IMDb 3:11 PM  

    Larry KERT - No mention of WAUKESHA here, either.

    mac 3:36 PM  

    I finally get it, Greatful Dead's Garcia…. That would be a little morbid.

    Unknown 3:42 PM  

    Graduated from Carroll College (now University) in wonderful Waukesha WI!

    Anonymous 3:43 PM  

    WAUKESHA was the least of my problems, although I did have WAUKEGAN at first. The real Natick was the CDR/DANIO crossing. Never in my long life have I heard "poor as a rat." Where is it said? Even when I got SOSPAD from the crosses I couldn't believe it was right. 45-A definition is about as vague as they come. I had EER until I realized RETGUTS made no sense.

    I think Canada bluegrass is slower than Kentucky bluegrass. It's hard to pick the banjo fast when your fingers are cold.

    retired_chemist 3:46 PM  

    Although I never heard of "poor as a rat," it Googles.

    Anonymous 3:51 PM  

    Anonymous2:30 PM
    First off your puzzle wasn't that hard or that great. Secondly keep our intellectual snobbishness and your political opinions to yourself. Scott Walker is not an extremist you commie

    That's PINKO to you bub.


    Nancy 3:54 PM  

    Thanks Foxeroni! (Foxeroni????) And thanks Mark. Now I know what a CDR is. Too bad I will probably have forgotten it by next Saturday's puzzle, if not sooner. But thanks for responding.
    BTW, I get Sunday's Times delivered on Saturday, so I already have tomorrow's puzzle and just finished it. You're all in for a treat; it's very clever and amazingly constructed.

    Unknown 4:22 PM  

    Dirt poor + you dirty rat = poor as a rat.
    pkgS is wrong; CTNS is right?
    Are these Canadian things?

    LOGSHIP = "Integral of an inverted vessel" Now there's a Saturday clue!

    acme 4:38 PM  

    Thanks for that WAU meaning!!!
    That's the exact reason I continue to come to this site...
    Well, that and a story like @lms eel/rabbit one!!!!

    It couldn't have been sERT, as that appears later in the puzzle. You malapopped!!!

    I guess we should learn, once again, if you slow down a speedsolver, you are going to get a lot of screaming that may have nothing to do with how wonderful a puzzle is.

    Test-drove the KERT answer with my friend Maria while explaining that this brilliant puzzle was being derailed by a discussion of one letter, missing the forest for the treE (which is what I had before BOLE.)

    I asked, "Do you know who Larry of the original "West Side Story" is?"
    Maria (without missing a beat): "Kert"
    Me: Aha! How did you know?
    Maria: Well, I'm a Broadway Baby!

    Wittily taking on everyone from Rex to horrible anonymice! You are my hero!
    (I also like how you got in personal touches like CANADA, not to mention that your dad was an ELEPHANTTRAINER!!!!)

    Brian L 4:42 PM  

    Duck have "bills". Birds have "beaks".

    triggerfinger 4:48 PM  

    Always thrilled to see an MAS puzzle...this one was no exception...loved it

    Numinous 4:58 PM  

    @LMS, cute stories. Did Suzuki-san blush or blanch? I used to own a yellow VW Unagi.

    I really liked the little bit of misdirection in the clue for RENO. California Zephyr. Hah!
    I would greatly preferred "I smell ____" for ARAT.
    My first traction came from the middle with SIZE which gave me ORZO.
    I had no clue about Kert in spite of Mr. Felker, my 8th grade English teacher spending two weeks reading the scrip and playing the original cast recording of "West Side Story" to us with a discussion of "Romeo and Juliette" to legitimize the exercise. A lot of the boys in the class aligned themselves as Jets or Sharks, one faction adopting wearing their gym shorts over their jeans to indicate their affiliation. I abstained.

    @Cascokid san: It's wonderful to watch your progress discovering the world of crosswords. I congratulate you for having the balls to express yourself so honestly. Keep up the good work!

    DNF for me, purists will say, as I had to google. But I did manage to fill it all in correctly with no typos.

    I didn't think it was a bad puzzle at all.

    Steve J 5:10 PM  

    @Mohair Sam:

    I'd totally forgotten that Greasy Neale was part of the 1919 Reds, and that he was a longtime pro baseball player. I know him primarily through football, specifically knowing of him as coach of the Eagles. (Well, "know" as in the historical sense, as he passed away when I was 3 years old.)

    Interesting that you think of him in terms of baseball and I think of him in terms of football. I wonder which he's ultimately known more for.

    Benko 5:12 PM  

    I guess this is as good a time as any to say that I hate the so-called "natick principle". NCWYETH, the original natick crossing, is perfectly acceptable fill in a difficult puzzle. And I don't believe there is such a thing as an "unfair" crossing in a difficult puzzle. A difficult crossing is not unfair. To call it unfair makes you a whiner and a poor loser.
    Rant over.

    retired_chemist 5:33 PM  

    @Benko - "Natick" has a definition: see FAQ on Rex's blog. It is not defined in terms of fairness. That is an interpretation extrinsic to the definition.

    Benko 5:47 PM  

    @rc-- I know the definition. And I don't agree with it. On an easier level of difficulty, earlier in the week, it works. But not for a difficult Saturday. And although it is not explicit about fairness, it certainly seems to define what Rex considers fair in a crossword. And I regularly hear people discussing "natick" crossings as "unfair".

    Carole Shmurak 6:01 PM  

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

    And how does one determine what fraction of the solving public knows Larry Kert? Or Waukesha? Or Natick?

    LaneB 6:01 PM  

    For me a good Saturday even though I take a DNF because of the bottom third where my ship foundered on the shoals of OPED [How does that relate to weigh-in section?], STOAS [I failed to see the Greek connection ], BOLE, STEN {I couldn't get MONE out of my head] the fact that I used IODInE excluding the second D, and finally a sqw, and still don't see the connection between "pixelated" and OBSCENEGESTURES..
    It took m e forever, of course, but I trjuly am pleased I got as far as I did and can only blame Ashwood-Smith for his excessibely recondite clues notwithstanding how ingenious and admirable the puzzle is.

    sanfranman59 6:05 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 6:54, 6:22, 1.08, 81%, Challenging
    Tue 8:02, 8:12, 0.98, 44%, Medium
    Wed 8:49, 10:26, 0.85, 13%, Easy
    Thu 23:04, 19:03, 1.21, 82%, Challenging
    Fri 16:01, 19:17, 0.83, 19%, Easy
    Sat 31:42, 28:53, 1.10, 78%, Medium-Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 4:02, 3:58, 1.02, 55%, Medium
    Tue 5:03, 5:09, 0.98, 41%, Medium
    Wed 5:20, 6:11, 0.86, 12%, Easy
    Thu 14:17, 10:45, 1.33, 85%, Challenging
    Fri 8:43, 11:12, 0.78, 14%, Easy
    Sat 18:55, 18:12, 1.04, 61%, Medium-Challenging

    @LaneB ... a newspaper's OPED section is where pundits weigh-in with their opinions ... OBSCENE GESTURES are pixelated by telecasters lest they incur the FCC's wrath

    LaneB 6:37 PM  

    @ tita,@lms

    Misuse of a foreign language stories are always fun, particularly when one has been the instigator of of such embarrassing gaffes.When I lived for a while in Florence I was often ordering a bunch of eggs [oeva] rather than grapes[uve] and on one occasion, seeking to impress several of my ever-present guests with my Italian [none spoke any] who had asked me to order 2 cappocini and 2 croissants, I asked our waiter to bring the drinks and "due cornici" He repeated my request rather quizically and I rather impatiently did. He got it: "Ah, due cornetti!", he exclaimed. Then I got it: I had ordered 2 coffees and 2 PICTURE FRAMES.

    It was hardly the last time I humiliated myself trying so hard to get along in the relatively new language.

    Dirigonzo 6:39 PM  

    Well I loved it, but I'm a fan of grid-spanning stacks - I think they're awful pretty. In fact I'd go so far as to say the puzzle was wicked good (but that's just my opinion, of course). (Hi back at ya, Z.) I, too, finished with the K at that infamous cross but I just "knew" it was right and so it was.

    Does a NAVAL ENGAGEMENT lead to a NAVEL RING, I wonder?

    Anonymous 6:44 PM  

    For those of us who had parents who loved Broadway musicals, Larry Kert was an easy one. Also starred in Sondheim's original cast of "Company."

    Z 6:47 PM  

    @Benko - So something that 75% of the people who solve Saturday puzzles don't know is crossed with something else that 75% of Saturday solvers don't know is okay by you? Let me buy you that 26-sided die. Granted, it is hard to determine what "reasonable" is, but it seems reasonable to me that a guy who is "known" for a stage performance 65 years ago, not even the more well-known movie performance, is not going to be known by more than 1/4th of the Saturday solving crowd. And then you cross it with a midwestern county seat (pop. <71,000). The midwesterners here seemed to have had less difficulty with the cross, but for others it appears to have been a roll of the die.

    Or maybe you didn't pick up on the proportionality inherent in the principle. I believe this is why (some) commenters differentiate between "naticks" and "personal naticks." Most things operatic risk "natickdom" for me, but I recognize this as a flaw in my own grey-matter-database, not the puzzle. I think the natick principle is a fair descriptor of a real thing that limits the quality of a puzzle. Like the balance between short fill and theme, scrabbliness and scrabblef*&^ing, and other judgements made here, it's not an absolute nor is it the only quality by which I judge a puzzle. But I do believe it is a fair concept that I hope that constructors and editors consider as they create and clue puzzles.

    On a less strident note, I nominate @anonymous3:43 for the anonymous comment of the week award for "I think Canada bluegrass is slower than Kentucky bluegrass. It's hard to pick the banjo fast when your fingers are cold."

    adicecream 9:55 PM  

    Once my daughter stopped by and filled in elephant trainer I rolled, kind of. If taking several hours to solve while talking to family, watching basketball, eating dinner, etc. is rolling. If I had remembered Neale Greasy instead of thinking Earle Greasy it would have been easier. But I finished. On a Saturday. Life is good.

    Massacred and Askinformo 11:34 PM  

    @casco kid san:
    U must be one of them math majors, who once heard the old calc joke:
    Integral (1/cabin dcabin) = houseboat*


    In a SatPuz solve, I invariably find myself facin a tough decision or two, as far as unknown (to me) crossin words. If I'm lucky, that's the worst that happens to me, and I walk away pretty proud of myself. The way I see this whole rodeo, it's nice to have one bronc a week that can still throw me pretty regular. Thanx, NYT SatPuz. And thanx U, Mr. MAS. Til we saddle up again, next week...
    p.s. pass the linament, pleaz.

    Mr. M&A

    * houseboat = logcabin + C

    Anonymous 12:03 AM  

    Larry Kert was also in the amazing Sondheim HBO special just a few weeks ago.

    Loved the MAS comments here, and unless I missed a response from ares, his silence speaks volumes.

    I also know the town of Natick quite well.

    On another note, Sunday is very easy and bizarre...

    Anonymous 12:13 AM  

    Autocorrect typo -- "ares" = "Rex".

    Ellen S 12:22 PM  

    Anon 12:13--What a great autocorrect!

    @Tita, Ditched "TV" a couple years ago, no cable, no satellite, only internet and Netflix. So didn't know about the Nature documentary on unagi. But just to be boring, I have nothing against eels, only their over-appearance in xwords.

    Anonymous 1:52 PM  

    Actually he replaced Dean Jones in the NY cast after just a short time. He is usually credited therefore with being in the Original Lindon cast. (I think the Tony Award committee bent the rules a bit though so he could be nominated...)

    dryen 11:19 PM  

    A plausible answer to 1-across might have been Preakness Stakes. One's background can easily throw a shoe into the grid.

    DMG 3:15 PM  

    Somehow I managed the four-stacks,after turning my pkgS into CTNS, but the rest was Natick cubed. Never been to Wisconsin, so no idea of the "k" thing, or of the D in CDR/fish crossing until it was explained here. But the worse was the unknown musician/sports figure cross. Thus the mid-east got nowhere, not helped by thinking the elbow grease thing was a "saying". And my Shakespearian lady unfortunately dIEd away. What can I say?

    Back to cards. A so-so full house 5's and 4's.

    Solving in Seattle 5:05 PM  

    Poor as ARAT. For those of you who had a problem with this, you just parsed it wrong. Mohammed Arat is well known in Islam as the poorest man in Medina. Check your Quran.

    My aquarium fish started out as a tetra, even though he expired quickly in the fresh water.

    MAS gave us two good sports deeks with DOM and NEALE instead of Joe and Bob (Griese).

    And for the Twilight Zone moment of the day, I took Mrs. SiS out for Valentine dinner to our fav sushi joint and I had... wait for it... UNAGI! Talk about synchronicity.

    Three sixes. Bah.

    Dirigonzo 6:31 PM  

    @SiS - should we make this our theme song?

    Four 9s - read 'em and weep.

    Solving in Seattle 8:00 PM  

    @Diri, what a classic sound.
    Maybe I should have started with UNAGI as my freshwater aquarium fish.

    Don 10:56 AM  

    I did not know Kert, but I got Waukesha with just a couple of letters. This is because I grew up in Wisconsin and visited my cousins in Waukesha every few years as a child. It was like "the other city in Wisconsin" for me :-)

    Joe in Montreal 9:19 AM  

    I do it in syndication in the local paper, and yeah the K was the only blank. Def. thought it was unfair. And yeah, as a fellow Canadian, let's leave the politics out of this. Canada has premiers much weirder than any American governor. and there is a 'name' option.

    Dirigonzo 10:06 AM  

    @Joe in Montreal - welcome to the syndi-conversation. Your neighbor @Waxy in Montreal also stops by quite often - maybe you know one another?

    Anonymous 7:42 PM  


    I'm solving this 16 months later in May 2015, slowly working my way backwards through the archive on the iPad app. No one will ever read this, indeed I don't know if Rex will ever get around to manually approving this comment, since old threads have comment moderation enabled.

    But I just wanted to say that I too first thought of PreAkness stakeS for 1 across. It crossed with the plausible "pkgS" for 1 down, and with ADAMA and SSTS, but nothing else that made sense, so it was easy to let go of it.

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