Zigzag ribbon / SAT 7-26-14 / Resort town near Piz Bernina / Airline relaunched in 2009 / Material also known as cat-gold glimmer / Dutch queen until 1980 / Cousin of goldeneye

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Constructor: Julian Lim

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none, or maybe "JERSEY SHORE," since there's a lot of Italian stuff in the grid like JOE PESCI and LAZIO and AL ITALIA, and WOW FACTOR kind of recalls the name of one of the characters (people?) on the show, JWoww, though as you can see she spells her name differently; I don't think it's a stretch to call the cast SEA CREATUREs … but no, I think I'm reading too much into the grid; I'm sticking with "none"; no theme; NIL.  

Word of the Day: RICRAC (46A: Zigzag ribbon) —
rickrack or ricrac  (ˈrɪkˌræk)
— n
a zigzag braid used for trimming (dictionary.reference.com)
• • •

Since I haven't slept properly in about a jillion hours (read: 48+) and am roughly 8 hours jet lagged at the moment, I figured I would struggle mightily with this one, but instead I tore it up, viciously, if not joyfully. I'd heard rumors that the puzzles had improved notably during my absence. Looking at some of the bylines, I wouldn't be surprised, but I'd hold off on the declarations that "It's Alive!" Ten days or so is not a noteworthy or statistically significant amount of time. It's easy to fall into the recency delusion. I mean, I've written this blog for going on eight years, and if I have a serious negative (or positive) reaction to a cluster of puzzles, I get mail about how I must be in a better mood these days, or "why do you blog if you hate puzzles so much?," when really there is no larger trend. Sometimes you flip "heads" five times in a row. Not likely, but it will happen if you flip long enough. This is all to say today's puzzle was decidedly average—a handful of decent, original answers and a pretty good StaggerStack™ there in the middle, and then either forgettable or below-average stuff most everywhere else. What's super-weird about this puzzle is it has a pretty low word count (64), but with all its short junk, it feels like the word count is much higher. Usually low word-count grids don't feel this choppy, and whatever their potential flaws, I don't have to endure stuff like ERL and ELIS and ADIN and OOO and partial names like NOVO and PIBB. WOW FACTOR (15D: Provider of "!!!") speaks for itself, and LOVE BITE adds some zing, but otherwise, pretty tepid.

Whole SW corner feels off. RATED A is a bond thing, then? You'd never use it to mean "Tops" in any situation I can think of. RICRAC is a new one on me; can't say it's bad, but can't imagine it was a "hoo boy can't wait to get this one in the grid" kind of answer. I spent many years studying the Middle Ages, where monks abounded, and I always new them as ASCETIC. The -AL sounds quaint and odd, like when people say "IRONICAL"—it's a word, but not the word one would, you know, use. EARING sounds like something Eliza (the notorious AITCH-dropper) would say. "Am I 'EARING you right, 'Enry?" she'd ask. I've never spelled DOOZIE like that. I'm a "Y" man, myself.

I've been doing mainly cryptic crosswords for the past two weeks while in NZ. Usually with family, usually over tea. Much more social than this US crossword business. Highly enjoyable, if (much) more time-consuming. Anyway, I'm back in US crossword mode now. I'm here blogging for another week, then I leave again (for less distant lands and for less time). I might blog at least a few puzzles during next week's trip, since I'll at least be in the country, and will be able to access the puzzle at a humane, west coast hour. Anyway, I'm hugely grateful to the people who filled in for me when I'm away. It's a considerable privilege to have so many people I can just hand the keys, without having to worry about, well, anything. So thanks to Erik Agard, The Klein sisters, Doug Peterson, Andrew Ries, Finn Vigeland, and especially Matt Gaffney.

Back with more hot blog action tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. way way Way too jet lagged to get into the potential problems with 36A: Eliza in "Uncle Tom's Cabin," e.g. (MULATTO). Not sure why you'd even have that in your word list, but … nope, nope. Too tired. Bed.


jae 12:17 AM  

Thought this was going to be easy when I zipped through NW in a minute or so, but no...  Took a while to parse AITCH (H) followed by staring.  Had Oteri (common crosswordese @Evan) before OPRAH, misspelled ASCETICAL  (wanted an H @lms), UHURU was a WOE...Remembering JULIANA gave me JERSEY SHORE and broke it open.  So, medium overall.    Oh, and I went through boNO and LENO before Janet RENO.  I haven 't watched SNL since the '70s.

Balked at putting in MULATTO, isn't it very non-PC?

Liked this much more than Rex did.  The zippy stuff...GETS REAL, JERSEY SHORE, DOOZIE, WASABI, RUNDMC...more than offset the smattering of dreck.   Very nice Julian!

E Maleska 12:27 AM  

Re: UHURU - As I've always said, if you can't be interesting, be arcane.

Anonymous 12:40 AM  

To JAE: regarding words that are non-PC.
I've seen a few of them in the NYT puzzle recently: "shtup" last month, and "head cheese" just this past week!

Whirred Whacks 1:06 AM  

Rex: Gaffney was an informative sub. I especially liked his use of color in diagramming and highlighting the puzzles.

r.alphbunker 1:11 AM  

Sheer perseverance got me through the puzzle with only one mistake: lENO for RENO. Was feeling pretty good about the puzzle and came here ready to party but the review killed that.

wreck 1:31 AM  

I hesitate to comment tonight as I was in a poor frame of mind when I started it. My mood did not improve. I found the answers obscure and the cluing questionable in many instances. I will chalk it up as my fault - but, I bet I'm not alone.

George Barany 3:36 AM  

Welcome back, Rex!

I got a chuckle from your comment about ELIZA, given that Ms. Doolittle was the beneficiary of a "My Fair Lady" clue in the Friday puzzle, and today we see an "Uncle Tom's Cabin" Eliza in a clue.

Full disclosure, I made a rather strong guess on the second letter (U), what with the second letter (N) of ONE-NIL pretty much still on everyone's mind from the recent World Cup, so JULIANA sounded about right and ... drumroll ... perhaps the Stowe character was a RUNAWAY. Fits, doesn't it?

For those regular visitors to this blog who might yet like to try a themed puzzle, please allow me to share Steve Bachman's Escalation. We hope you like it!

John Child 3:46 AM  

The second excellent puzzle in a row, IMO, but relatively easy for me. I was delighted to complete yesterday's offering because I feared I wouldn't. Today things just progressed along from quadrant to quadrant. And then finally the staggerstack. ASCETICAL was the only groaner for us. Good fun Mr Lim!

JTHurst 3:47 AM  

Embedder you told me how to embed and I wanted to revisit yesterday's Jimmy Cliff riff. This is my attempt pursuant to your instructions. Where did I screw up?

less than sign, a, space, href="URL", greater than sign, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrtdoB25ikk, less than sign, a, greater than sign. I get the response tag is not closed.

Sorry saturday puzzlers, please indulge me.

jae 4:15 AM  

@JTHurst -- There are a number of errors in the sequence you posted.  

Take a look at this It might help.

GILL I. 6:54 AM  

LOVE BITE? yikes..! Oh, but I did love ALITALIA and STMORITZ because that's about all I had for an hour or so. Put this puppy down for a while then got my DOOZIE ASCETICAL and MULATTO. Wasn't sure about the latter. @jae: In Cuba - at least in my days - it was derogative to use that word. It was a big-time slap in the face. Maybe things have changed though!
Poor Janet RENO...Will she only be remembered as the person ordering the raid to seize Elian Gonzalez? Can we ever forget that Swat team officer pointing his Uzi[?] at that child?
RUNDMC and RICRAC aside, I'm not sure how I feel about this JULIAN[A] puzzle. Maybe after some sleep I shall see the WOW FACTOR.

Twangster 7:15 AM  

I thought this was the hardest puzzle in about 7 years ... but it all fell into place after I googled half a dozen clues and then looked at the answers for half a dozen more.

Susierah 7:23 AM  

I liked this puzzle, even though it took me an hour, and I had to google to get Jersey Shore to help me finish up the center. But I am doing better on Saturdays.

Someone please explain "common aspiration" for me. I got the aitch, but didn't understand the clue. Aspiration? And actually, I had rappers on the brain and was thinking of Common, the singer/rapper.

Moly Shu 7:45 AM  

Beyond challenging for me. 1 hour 20 minutes spread over 3 attempts. WINONA (guess), RUNDMC, and MICA were my only entries for a long time. Tried Mr. P-nut first which at least got me TENSPOTS, then changed to PIBB. The SE fell, then nothing. 2nd attempt got MIRROR and RADON, the SW and middle fell. Another pause before JOE PESCI's GASJET ended it.

Tons of errors.... Elf before ERL, boNO before RENO (hi @Jae), MOped before MOVIE, nenE before RARE, arsoN before SIREN. Frustrating, but in a good way.

I liked the mental workout(s), and my sense of accomplishment after finishing. Yep, @r.alph, he's back. Killing buzzes again. Welcome back @Rex. I, for one, missed you.

Loren Muse Smith 7:49 AM  

Hey, Rex! Glad you're home safe and sound. Loved your EARING, AITCH, Eliza comment, your Jersey Shore/SEA CREATURE theory, and especially your "I'm a Y man, myself." I wrestled with that last one, too, except it was that I kept considering "sissie" for COSSET and trying to decide if that was a possible spelling.

And, yeah, I raised my eyebrows at ASCETICAL, wondering about the rules for tacking on affixes. Would a poli-sci major say asceticalistic? My mother-in-law say asceticalesque? Can you atomizate perfume? Kinda reminds me of the whole orient/orientate, wrap/enwrap question.

I never learned the new chess-move notation system, so I was sure that OOO involved a Q, R, or a K somewhere.

Loved the clue for TOAST and AITCH, though it's always jarring to see the letter h spelled out. (@Susierah – many people blow out a little air – aspirate – when saying words like help, hairy.)

Once I changed "tnpk" to INST and "ens" to EES, I managed to finish all but the southeast.

I was fairly certain it was "Mr. Hyde," (I simply cannot abide Dr. Pepper or Mr. PIBB) and COSSET and MOTETS were just never going to show up - no way, no how. So with the mysterious RUN DMC leading the charge and the embarrassing fact that SMEW is still not on my radar screen, well, heck. I had a dnf.

I really hesitated with RIC RAC because I kept thinking "bric-a-brac." Then I stared out the window wondering why the /ɪ/ sound seems to always come first in reduplicated (quasi-rhyming) phrases like mish mash, wishy washy, flim flam, zig zag, knick knack, dilly dally, spic (and) span, Tic Tac, jibber jabber, pitter patter, snip snap, chit chat, fiddle faddle. . . (Then you have another list like ping pong, ding dong, flip flop, criss cross. . .)For the life of me, I cannot come up with such a phrase where the /ɪ/ sound comes second.

@bomaka from yesterday – so glad you posted! The people here really are friends, right?

@r.alph from yesterday. Loved your metaphor! You're an elastic thinker!

So, Julian, when I saw your name, I knew I was in for a fight. One of these days, I'll finish one of yours, but in the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy the struggle!

Glimmerglass 8:30 AM  

It ain't fair. I sweat over a puzzle about an hour, thinking about how many proper names for which I need every cross, how ambiguous some clues are, and how much misdirection there is -- in short, how very Saturday it is -- and then rex comes home and on no sleep blows it away! It ain't fair.

allan 8:39 AM  

I rarely finish Saturday puzzles, so I rarely even start them. This was such a great week though, I decided to give it a shot, and I breezed through most of it.

I won't bore everyone with my trip through Limdom, except to say the SE was a killer. That sort of quadrant is what keeps me away from Saturdays.

@glimmerglass get used to it.

Off to breakfast and tomorrow's puzzle.

Anonymous 8:41 AM  

This is not the first time you've used these blog comments to plug your site. Not cool at all.

Anonymous 8:42 AM  

I liked this puzzle. thought it to be like what the reviewer said. I would like to add that I did the runtpuz thing from that Roomonster person. Wow. I suggest you go to runtpuz.org and check it out. Its a pangram!

Carola 8:59 AM  

My experience was similar to @jae's - a quick NW and then molasses. SE almost did me in: only a hesitant MOTETS crowbar-ed that corner open for me.

I realliy liked the Italian-German "Z" cross of ST MORITZ and LAZIO and the SEA CREATURE literally (hi, @Glimmerglass and @Z) on the JERSEY SHORE.

Do-overs: restING before PAUSING, TwentieS before TENSPOTS, LOVEpaTs before LOVEBITE, rue before ILE, and, embarrassingly, TOYdog before TOYOTA.

@loren - Your /i/ comment reminded immediately of me of German Kind und Kegel (the whole family).

Welcome back, Rex!

silasxl 9:20 AM  

"Mulatto" is Spanish/Portuguese for "mule." "Un-PC"? Give me a break. I believe "offensive" is the word you're looking for.

AliasZ 9:26 AM  

Hey peeps, WASABI?

Welcome home Rex. How's NZ this time of year?

@Rex, ASCETICAL must be more ascetic than ascetic. How ironical.

- I thought EARING was spelled with two Rs because we have two ears. No?
- I never know if it's supposed to be B-side or side-B, X-rated or RATED-A. Are there I-rated MOVIEs or bonds?
- Speaking of being un-PC, I confidently entered POSTER CHICK at 31A. I am sure OPRAH, queen JULIANA, Janet RENO and WINONA Ryder would approve. However I find honoring a kleptomaniac entirely inappropriate for the NYT, right up there with MULATTO and godliness. Also the shameless commercialism of TOYOTA. What's next, I-Pad, Atra and Mr. PIBB?
- GAS JET reminds me of yesterday's discussion of old coots/goats, if you catch my drift.
- UHURU is a common, well-known word that no self-respecting NYT xword solver can ever admit to not knowing. Like RICRAC (same as nic-nac). And COSSET (gotta go cuddle my pet lamb now).
- Did you hear? EL-AL and ALITALIA are merging to form a new direct-flight airline between Tel Aviv and LAZIO. It will be called WELL, A'LL TELL YA.
- Did you see Tom TRYON in The Cardinal? It was for the birds, I mean about birds: orioles, pewits, titmice, et al. And yes, a cardinal.
- AITCH, A, double-R, I, G, A, N spells... what does it spell?
- Der ERLkönig is a maudlin legend of a dying boy who hallucinates about the elf king taking him away, while his father carries him home on horseback through the woods on a cold and stormy night, only to find him dead by the time they reach their destination. What a tragic, wretched, sadistic, inappropriate story! What in AITCH-E-double-L possessed Goethe, Schubert et al. to write poems and music about this perfectly horrid tale?

Enjoy your weekend.

Leapfinger 9:28 AM  

@JTHurst, I thought Jerry Fodor was the fellow who wrote the travel books. Am now LOaTH to have a single thought more on the Language Of Thought Hypothesis, unless you can link me to the pidgin version. WOW, people make a living at this!?

Almost wrote 'A godd start', but it was a good start with STOP, ELIS and a 3-year-old's visual memories of the '46 Winter Olympics at ST MORITZ. Slow but steady progress from quadrant to quadrant, UHURah!!

Until the bearish SE, where the ST of INST and RUN??? yielded no point of entry. Thought I cracked it with TEAL crossing WELLREAD, but No and No. I'm fine with SMEW, but still think WELLREAD fits the clue better than KNOWBEST. Suspecting a DOG or a DEF finally gave me DOOZIES, and that's all she wrote. Shall quietly admit to thinking RUNDMZ.

Avert eyes here if squeamish, but my first thought for [Common aspiration] was VOMIT. All I can say is, a little Anaesthsiol background dies hard.

Enjoyed all parts of the solve, though I suspect the constructor and Will Shortz are holding their collective breath over both the clue and entry of EARING. Seems they kind of went out on a Lim there.

Always nice to sign your own work, and I grade JULIAN A on this. Better than the original Beatrix.

Enjoy the start of the weekend; am looking forward to catching up tonight.

dk 9:34 AM  

OO (2 Moons)

The end of a lackluster puzzle week for me. This one was not my cuppa. Looking at the fill I am tempted to "moon up" but this is about my experience.

WOWFACTOR, JERSEYSHORE and RATEDA are 3 reasons why my solve was strained. Wow and rated seemed strained and Jersey was a show I never (mercifully) saw.

Doing battle with GFs new landlord who seems to think mold and odor are benefits. When in Austin rent from Ironrock Properties at your peril. Perhaps the aformentioned have degraded my solving experience.... A lawsuit? Perhaps @wade will take the case

Norm 9:49 AM  

Agree with wreck that this puzzle had too many obscure answers and debatable cluing. An example is the answer to susierah's question. An aspirated h is the silent h at the beginning of a word, so AITCH is a common (frequent) aspiration, but that meaning does not appear to a common dictionary definition of the word. Didn't hate this puzzle; didn't like it very much either.

jberg 9:54 AM  

CBIF--Can't believe I finished, I almost gave up when I got the bottom half, mostly, but blanked in the top except for ERL. Rental before WINONA, gas before TAN, on break before PAUSING, Macaulay before JOE PESCI, toreRO before EL TORO, and on and on.

Saw the clue for RIC RAC, thought 'at last, something for the women solvers,' but then stupidly wrote in RIp RAp, something else entirely. And, like many, I couldn't believe MULATTO -- went with 'heroine' at first, but MIRROR wiped that out. But I finally remembered Queen JULIANA, and that brought in the rest.

@Loren, O-O-O for a queenside castle IS the old notation. Since you are moving two pieces at once, the abbreviations for the pieces don't work.

Calling Scylla a "SEA CREATURE" is like calling George Washington a 'land creature.' A little unspecific.

Things I learned: Mr. PIBB (or I will learn it after I look him up) and that UHURU is the name of a movement as well as the word for 'freedom.'

@susierah, don't think anyone answered you yet -- to aspirate is to drop an initial H when pronouncing a word. Has something to do with the way the airstream moves through the mouth.

Dorothy Biggs 9:58 AM  

ALITALIA: affectionately known by some as "Always Late In Takeoff, Always Late In Arrival."

This one was a bugger for me. Not for any particular reason but that it was just hard. RATEDA was just weird...should be RATEDAAA, in my opinion.

Scylla is a SEAmonster by most accounts. so the "creature" part was baffling. I did not watch JERSEYSHORE and I don't know the song "Get Crazy." Just one thing after another like that. Nothing major, just nothing would fall for me. Had to Google a few times and it finally, begrudgingly fell into place.

I just have to say how much I love the ERLKING. In my opinion it is one of the best art songs ever written. From the incredible demands on the performers (the singer has to create 4 very distinct characters that all get progressively creepier as the song goes on, and the pianist, if played incorrectly, will have arms of rubber at the end), to the incredible image painting of the urgency, the storminess, and the eerie tempting of the Erl King himself.

Unknown 10:01 AM  

"Dancing makes Waco go away!"

The fact that I found this so difficult and Rex breezed through it both sleep-deprived and jet-lagged makes me feel very bad about myself. But it's nothing that a Tulmeadow Farms red raspberry chocolate chip ice cream cone later today won't fix.

I knew RICRAC would be the word of the day, so I guess that counts for something. Mom occasionally made use cute little dresses trimmed with it back in the day.

Nancy 10:02 AM  

@Susierah: To make an aitch sound, you have to aspirate (not aspire!). What a tough clue THAT was!
@Carola: Unlike you I had my greatest trouble in the NW, even worse than the very tough SE.
Re SE: I had LOVE sIgn for the longest time. And before that I wanted (but didn't put in) LIPSTICK. (Mark of affection. Get it?)
Favorite answer: POSTER CHILD. Least favorite answer: ASCETICAL. Sorry, but ASCETIC is the adjective!
A very tough puzzle that I only solved out of sheer stubbornness. I just refused to give up. Eventually, GETS REAL finally came to me and unlocked the NW.

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

I think it's totally fine that he point people towards more puzzles. Thanks to George for the tip, and that's a great way to spread more interest in crosswords.

mathguy 10:46 AM  

Happy to see that most of us didn't find it easy. Nine entries I didn't know and only five gimmes guaranteed a sweaty time for me.

Liked "Cruise vehicle" for MOVIE. Didn't like (at all) "Provider of '!!!' " for WOWFACTOR.

If PIBB didn't somehow pop into my head I don't know if I would have ever gotten the SE.

Anonymous 10:50 AM  

Oh, great. Rex is back. We can look forward to another week of whining and complaining.

Horace S. Patoot 10:54 AM  

@jberg: your George Washington comment made me spit coffee.

@george: I too appreciate your referrals. It's not as if they waste precious space.

r.alphbunker 10:55 AM  

If I had been given the test below before solving the puzzle I would have got a zero on it. Or if I were one of @JTHurst's empiricists I would have left the answers blank.

The beauty of this puzzle was that I came one letter from getting it correct with no outside assistance.

The RIC[R]AC/[R]ENO crossing was like an optical illusion. I wanted RICRAC and LENO and it kept flipping back and forth. Speaking of flipping, if I had thought of Flip Wilson's Geraldine during the solve I would probably have let go of lENO. As I gain experience as a solver these sorts of illusions will be less dangerous.

Here is the test. Even after solving the puzzle I could get still get a zero on a version of this test that expected that I had actual experience of the material and not just grid-learning.

1. Comment on Schubert's 'The ERL King'
2. What is ILE de la Réunion known for.
3. How do you indicate a queenside castle in chess (OOO)
4. When does ADIN occur in tennis
5. What is the name of Yale's a cappella choir. (the WHIFFENPOOFs)
6. What is Philadelphia's Franklin Institute known for.
7. What is Material known as cat-gold or glimmer} (MICA)
8. How big is Porto NOVO, Benin
9. What does the legal term ONUS probandi mean?
10. Who did a famous impersonation of Janet RENO
11. Is a goldeneye a bird, plant or expensive ocular prothesis? (SMEW)
12. What region of Italy is Rome in? (LAZIO)
13. Who was the voice actress in Disney's 'The Princess and the Frog'. (OPRAH)
14. What language did the Sioux indians speak? (TETON)
15. Briefly describe the goals of the UHURU political movement in Africa.
16. What does COSSET mean?
17. What is it called when corn brings forth fruit. (EARING)
18. Who is the main participant in the sport Las Ventas known for. (ELTORO)
19. Hum a MOTET for me.
20. What is a RICRAC?
21. Look at these 10 pictures of rap groups. Which one is RUNDMC.
22. Which auto maker made a car named the Highlander? (TOYOTA)
23. Who was the queen of the Netherlands in 1979. (JULIANA)
24. Did Eliza live in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'? (MULATTO)
25. Which airline was relaunched in 2009 (ALITALIA)
26. Name a resort town near Piz Bernina (STMORITZ)
27. What is the premise that JERSEYSHORE is basd on?
28. Who was the six headed sea monster in the Odyssey? (SCYLLA)

joho 11:00 AM  

Welcome back, @Rex!

It's amazing how I can rationalize my wrong answers. I had ADIN right away but changed it to lawn. I got RENO confused with Hans & Franz and came up with ottO. That's right, ottO doesn't even exist. RICRAC is not a word in my world. It's Rickrack. The only RIC I know is named Ocasek. Oh, and (hi, @George Barany! yes, rUnAway. MULATTO???? Ugh.

So I DNF but I'm not bitter or anything. This was a DOOZy!

Loved the clue for STALK.

Thanks, Julian, for the challenge. Unfortunately I couldn't meet it!

mac 11:02 AM  

I had to get up and do something else for a while, then get back and move through it much more quickly. I Still ended up with RunDoc/OCO/Octet.
Only two letters wrong, though.

Hand up for sissie and resting. I thought "movie" was a little broad as a Cruise vehicle, I was trying to remember names of series of films he was in (and I have not seen).

I filled in Uhuru, but I have to admit I was thinking of a Star Trek character.

Thanks a lot, Julian, for the Juliana answer. It was a great help.

Anonymous 11:02 AM  

Easy-medium????? From what GALAXY did you just fly in from, Rex??? Are your fourteen tentacles tired? (A variation on the old joke). This puzzle was ludicrous. I finally figured it all out WITHOUT Google, but it was absurd beyond belief. I agree that MULATTO is a word that should have been retired a long time ago. (Ever heard of "mixed race" or "multi-racial" or "biracial," Mr. Lim?). The idiocies are too numerous to go into here. The cluing was needlessly obscure and all done to show off Mr. Lim's supposed cleverness and erudition. I know it's a Saturday puzzle, but come on! RICRAC? Whoever heard of that- and with no 'k's' at the end of each syllable? And ASCETICAL? That is LITERALLY a stretch so that he could add on "RATED A" and ONENIL (another idiotic fill) to complete his grid. "EARING" with one "r"? Is that even a word? To ear- for a corn-crop to bring forth ears. Perhaps some farmer in Iowa used that term in about 1878, I don't know. I could go on, but what's the point?

RooMonster 11:21 AM  

Hey All!
Another day when the NYT website won't load up for me! What the heck is going on? Is this happening to anyone else?

Today I did look at the answers (to heck with waiting for tonight till the site decides to load!) and did like some of answers. UHURU, wheres M&A when you need him? On the fence about MULATTO, as @silasxl pointed out, it can mean mule, however, it wasn't clued like that here.

Crazy @Rex, no sleep, jet lagged, able to breeze through the puzzle , wow. I can't stay awake for that if that were me! Kudos.

And I see I have an Anonymous fan! Cool! Thanks for the comment.


jdv 11:45 AM  

Med-Challenging w/1 error. RIClAC/lENO. Spent 13 minutes tracking down this error. It's going to be hard to be objective about this puzzle. Like REX, I also noticed the mini-Italian theme and the Berry-esque staggerstack. Like a lot of you, I wanted SEAmonser. At 49a, I wanted bills that added up to a cnote like TENtens. Took me awhile, post-solve, to figure out what was going on with 7d AITCH. 39d 'Set Apart' SELECTED is too far a reach in my mind. Liked COSSET and WOWFACTOR, but had no LOVEBITES for this puzzle.

North Beach 11:49 AM  

College a cappella group sub-theme:


A (former) Smithereen.

Dirigonzo 12:29 PM  

My first success came with the staggered stack in the center of the grid and I worked outwards from there, finishing in the NW where I had wanted GETS REAL from the get-to but didn't write it in for lack of confirming crosses. When I finally put it in on faith the crosswords came easily enough.

Did anybody but me want to squeeze "andrea carla michaels" into 15d, "Provider of "!!!" "?

OISK 12:39 PM  

Ugh. A two square DNF for me, but both are pop culture slop, as usual. Had no idea who Will Ferrell impersonated since I stopped being entertained by SNL decades ago. Had Leno and Riclac, (never heard of ricrac and couldn't imagine anyone imitating Janet Reno, nor her brother Robert) AND, Uhuru or Uhura? RandMC or Rundmc? I guessed wrong, since R and MC might be the name of a group, but RUNDMC? That's why I hate rap clues. It's not just that I have no idea, never listen to it, nor read about it - that's OK - plenty of solvers don't listen to what I like. But each letter in the answer could be anything at all, so the crosses need to be pretty evident. I actually had RUNDMC first, and then changed it...

Anonymous 12:58 PM  

Was anyone else bothered by the conjugation "deserve to be listened to" in the clue for 58 Across? It led me to enter "know best" for the answer. Shouldn't the clue have read "deserved to be listened to..."?

Anonymous 1:01 PM  

@RooMonster, I too have had trouble lately with the puzzle not loading. I just keep refreshing the damn thing until it finally loads. Takes about 6-10 times.

Mulatto is not only un-PC (today), it's incorrect as applied to Eliza. She was a mulatta (which is what I wrote in first), and was probably referred to as such in the time UTC was written. Disturbing to the modern eye, like reading Flannery O'Connor and seeing the n-word throughout.

I found it tough but doable. Took me 2 1/2 innings while listening to the Dodgers whallop the Giants.

Lewis 1:05 PM  

Welcome back, Rex! Two things will help with your jetlag -- get out in the sun, and do yoga. Laugh as you will. These two things have helped me greatly over the years, even coming back from Kilimanjaro.

I've been looking for EARING as defined in this puzzle in the web dictionaries, and still haven't found it. But maybe there's a corn minitheme, with it and STALK. The clues for MOVIE and TIN were terrific.

When I see Julian Lim's name, I know it's going to be tough going, and that my face will be serious most of the time. And this one fit the bill. But afterward, my brain thanks me for the workout.

Can we put ELI on the "shelf forever" list? UHURU must be one of those words M&A dreams about.

POST PUZZLE PUZZLE (PPP): The across answers ALITALIA, WINONA, MULATTO, and RADON belong to the same group. Only two down answers also belong to this group. One is TIMELY. What is the other?

If you wish to post an answer, just write the second letter of the answer, or you can use rot13.com.

SenorLynn 1:13 PM  

43 min, not bad for Sat, but had to google OPRAH, JERSEYSHORE, & Porto NOVO.
The Prince Valiant comic strip--still a favorite after 50+ yrs for me--featured the Scylla for several weeks recently.
@OISK I'm no rap fan either, but RUNDMC is a seminal band, particularly for their inclusion of mainstream rock.
Had WyNONA for a long time.
Checked with the Ohio-native wife about EARING, & she said it's a common term.

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

Umm ... Anonymous@12:58 "know best" IS the answer.

Moly Shu 1:20 PM  

@Oisk, since I often look for you posts regarding opera and classical music explanations, I thought I'd return the favor. Joseph Simmons aka DJ Run and Darryl McDaniels aka DMC are, RUNDMC. (I won't even go into Jason Mizell aka Jam Master Jay, the turntable operator). Probably one of the most famous and arguably most influential rap groups of all time.
You don't care, I know.

Your anti-rap stance, while perfectly understandable, seems to, at times, venture beyond ignorance and become something like intolerance. I'm sure this is not your intent. I don't listen to, or know anything about opera or classical music other than what I've learned from crosswords or gleaned from you and other commenters here. For that, I thank you. I know eroica, eri tu, Aida, how to spell Handel correctly, etc. I wouldn't refer to it as "slop" however, just not my thing. Anyway, I'll meet you in the back of the cave, and we can talk baseball.

Norm 1:20 PM  

As much as I have complained in the past about rapster clues/answers, I had to smile at RUNDMC -- which I got only because of the Golden State Warriors team of many years ago that featured Run TMC!!

Loved your trivia quiz, r.alph. ILE de la Réunion is known (at least to me) as the site of at least one Aubrey novel by Patrick O'Brian (RIP good sir).

chefbea 1:26 PM  

Too tough for me, as was yesterday's and I wasn't even going to comment but.... went to a yard sale this morning and the lady was selling home made pillow cases trimmed with RicRac. So I had to tell her about the puzzle

Anonymous 1:26 PM  

Best: middle stack, worst: ASCETICAL and MULATTO.

Matt Gaffney is a hell of a pinch-hitter, but welcome back Rex.

@George: don't often follow your site, but today's offering is a gem. Very clever theme.

Anonymous 1:53 PM  

Yup, makes perfect sense that we need to "spread more interest in crosswords" to people who are posting comments to a blog about crosswords. They're obviously not interested in crosswords.

Anonymous 2:05 PM  

Anonymous@1:15 - Oh, dear God. Thank you. I was having a brain fart.

-Anonymous @ 12:58 (now Anonymous of, probably, 2:06)

Carola 2:09 PM  

@r.alphbunker - Having taught Goethe's "Erlkönig" many times, I think I could ace the first question on your test, hoping to garner some extra credit, because otherwise I could answer only #5, 12, 15, 16, 20, and 26, plus a 50-50 chance on 28. I'll take that first question as a prompt to respond to...

@AliasZ, about the boy in the poem "who hallucinates about the elf king taking him away." My students were always reluctant to entertain the thought that the Erl King might really exist (in the context of the poem). However, when the boy resists his repeated enticements, the Erl King says, "Ich liebe dich, mich reizt deine schöne Gestalt. Und bist du nicht willig, so brauch' ich Gewalt" (I love you, your beautiful form charms me (or, more strongly: your beautiful body arouses me). And if you're not willing, I'll use force). Those words, with their sexualized overtones, have never struck me as something a small child would come up with. The poem was written at around the same time the Grimm brothers were collecting fairy tales, and for me, the Erl King is as real as other fairy tale figures, like, say, the witch in "Hansel and Gretel."

Norm 2:37 PM  

For all you grammar savants and pedants out there: Is ASCETICAL really legit? Is it any different from ASCETIC? My Bryan Garner treatises are in my office, so I can't check what he might have to say, but I expect he would call it a needless variant. Doesn't make it illegitimate as a crossword entry, but I have to admit that it did annoy [sometimes pedantic] me.

Bomaka 2:51 PM  

Man, I was in the HORSE latitudes for most of this one !!! Had to throw overboard almost everything I started with in order to get any movement at all:

Torero => EL TORO
Scotch (I know, weird, I just like it) => TOYdog => TOYOTA
gAmE => rare
teal => smew

Any many more...!!!

Porto-Novo Benin aka Dahomey - bought some fabulous appliqués there on the way through.
Ricrac, though spelling seems weird
St Moritz

Can someone explain OOO?

Thank you @ gill I.p. And @lms for the welcome! Yes, friends!

Glad to have Rex back!

Off to pop the squirrel in the butt who has been crushing my flowers. Unfortunately they have learned to sound of BBs rolling in the gun as I pick it up...

Steve J 3:09 PM  

Welcome back, Rex! And I echo the thanks to all the guest bloggers. They were all great and entertaining.

This puzzle kicked my ass. Couldn't get a foothold anywhere. The downs at first seemed to be a fibonacci sequence of increasing obscurity to me. I never got in a groove.

MULATTO is a horrible answer. What's next, quadroon and miscegenation? Simply does not belong in a 21st century puzzle.

Questinia 3:18 PM  

There are ten TEN SPOTS in a C-note to be precise. Together with DOOZey and not knowing PIBB that really gave me leaden paralysis in the SE. I spent a fair amount of time circling the drain until I flushed it out.
Put in MULATTO incredulously.

Very ambivalent about this one.

rating: dk dk

GILL I. 3:40 PM  

@Moly Shu: I'm going to jump on the "completely agree with @OISK" band-wagon. To wit, most rap artists have names that can hardly be pronounced, much less spelled.... even if you happen to know who they are.
@Anony 1:01: MULATTO is a [person] - male, female or otherwise, of mixed color. Hence you need not use the A...Still, hateful word!
@Bomaka: Remember, you just might one day, come back as a squirrel....:-)
@George B...Thanks for the extra bonus puzzle. Music! To my ears!

Bomaka 3:55 PM  

@Gill I.P.

I will more likely return as a rodent with racing stripes, aka chipmunk... I never injure these little beasties, just let them know where they are not welcome!

RooMonster 4:01 PM  

Just popping back in to say I love Mr. Pibb! I always got it when I was a kid, then it went away for a while, but came back! WooHoo!

Ahem... okay, carry on.


R. McGeddon 4:06 PM  

"Mulatto" can possibly be defended as the word Stowe used many times in the book, referring both to men and women. Times change. It's a racist term now, but no one can accuse this book or its author of being antithetical toward the characters of African or part African descent.

wreck 4:16 PM  

Mr Pibb will never measure up to a Dr Pepper! Coca Cola's feeble attempt to squeeze out competition for their machines and fountains.

Unknown 4:16 PM  

1:05. Eight googles. No cheats. No errors. Googles for JERSEYSHORE, SEACREATURE, OPRAH (Anika Noni Rose deserves the shoutout, not O), STMORITZ, ELTORO, MICA, ONUS and NOVO, after which the other clues were gettable, but sadly no before. Granted my patience was thin, and I didn't want to go much over an hour.

restING for PAUSING was a false anchor. macauley for JOEPESCI was another false anchor. Wanted aCcute migraine for OCULAR. All responsive answers, all marching quietly to oblivion. So you see. I needed the damned googles. Badly. Good for you guys for avoiding these traps.

Lewis 4:32 PM  


The group these words belong to is "answers whose clue begins with a vowel". The missing one is UHURU.

jae 4:34 PM  

@Moly Shu - There's an interview with Joseph Simmons, who now goes by Rev. Run, in the LAT today. He is becoming a spokesman for preventing type 2 diabetes.

Anonymous 5:23 PM  

xxx <a href="

Unknown 7:04 PM  

I give up. What, or who, is Mr. Pibb ?

RooMonster 7:23 PM  

Hey there @Frank Buxton.
Mr. Pibb is a cola, comparable to Dr. Pepper. I personaaly think it's better, but that's just me. Scroll back and see @wrecks comment, 5 comments ago.


OISK 7:33 PM  

@Gil I.P. and @ Molyshu - thanks, Gil for agreeing with me about rap names, but Moly Shu makes a valid point as well. I should not refer to rap (or any other pop culture) as "slop," because it demeans those who enjoy it. I AM intolerant of rap, and don't see why I should tolerate it, but that is not an excuse for referring to it as slop, garbage, or noise, even if that is how it seems to me. So this is an apology.

I have no problem with mulatto. That is the word used in the book, and it is not used in any objectionable way. Yes, usages change, but I don't see why using that word in a puzzle is in any way offensive, when the original source is included.

Moly Shu 8:07 PM  

@Oisk, wasn't looking for an apology, but I'll accept it, was just trying to convey how I perceive your comments. Sorry if I sounded preachy. You say whatever you want, I'm grateful for your insight.

@Gil I.P., you're %100 right. The same could be said for names of operas and classical music composers, no? Well, at least to me.

@Jae, thx for the info on Rev Run (still can't get used to referring to him that way). He is still outspoken. Kudos to him.

GILL I. 8:50 PM  

@OISK & @Moly Shu: A welcome class act!
OK @MS you mean to tell me you can't spell Tchaikovsy?

Z 9:21 PM  

@600 - (from yesterday) your comment made my day.

Regarding MULATTO, I'm with OISK, it is historically relevant and clued in that context. Yet, cluing "nigger" with a Huck Finn reference wouldn't work, and MULATTO is but one or two steps shy of "nigger." Perhaps the difference to me is that MULATTO doesn't carry the same power and isn't a word with much currency.

I'm also with @OISK on rappers in puzzles - get out your 26-sided die and give it a roll, because if you don't know the artist or the work you have a 1 in 26 chance of getting it right.

Isn't ASCETIC the noun form and only the noun form? I guess I will have to look it up.

In Chess notation, O-O represents castling on the King side and O-O-O represents castling on the Queen side. Why? Because that is the sound a new player makes when they learn about castling.

Forgot ERL, never knew RICRAC or rickrack, and the SE was a total fail. Wanting twenties or Jacksons for change didn't help, nor did COddle. Not my favorite.

Z 9:29 PM  

****LAT spoiler alert****
Once upon a time there was a bit of an ongoing kerfuffle about putting self-referential answers in the puzzle. Mr Lim pushed it today, but the LAT constructor managed to put his unaltered name at 1A. Personally, I thought the criticism was overblown before, but today's doubling up is too much in my opinion

Arlene 10:51 PM  

It's almost Sunday, so I better get in my Saturday puzzle comment ASAP! I did the puzzle, Googled to get through it - and agree with everyone's comments. It was not easy for me.
And just to note that I always spelled it RICKRACK - and I've actually used the stuff!

Anonymous 5:31 AM  

Really, really did not like the use of the word 'mulatto' in 36A. Strikes me as a highly racist, inflammatory word which has also been out of use for years. Deservedly so.

bswein99 9:14 AM  

I promised myself I would never read this blog again if I opened it and discovered that the Saturday puzzle was "Easy." I got the NW and SE pretty easily, and sea creature, but for some reason I took forever to get Jersey Shore even though I HAD the shore part (I guess I don't think of it as a program or as anything really). I finally broke down and googled the mica clue in the NE, and after that, the rest fell into place. But EASY???!!!

Debby Weinstein 10:29 AM  

Aspiration is the letting out of breath, which you have to do to pronounce the letter switch.

Debby Weinstein 10:31 AM  

That should read aitch

bswein99 11:31 AM  

The N-word is in a category of its own and will never appear in a NYTimes crossword puzzle no matter how artfully clued (though I bet NWA could appear--hmmm). I'm a historian of Brazil, where the term "mulato/a" is still used pretty frequently (anyone who is a fan of Brazilian music knows that "mulata" is regularly used to refer to an attractive woman of mixed race). But in Brazil as in the US, it's loaded with all sorts of questionable or offensive racial and gender implications (e.g., a mulata is always presumed to be sexy and more attractive because not "too" black). But as a historian, the question for me is whether something like mulatto could be clued as an archaic term that we wouldn't use now, but exists as a historically significant word. For example, Like Rebecca in Ivanhoe? Answer: Jewess. If somebody calls me that, they'd better be twice my size, but it's the appropriate word for the literary context. Still, there's the cringe factor (which I guess is the opposite of the wow factor).

Anonymous 3:49 PM  

Hey, Rex.
Love your tirades. But I gotta disagree today (July 27). The problem is not that the fill is old, but that it's old ephemera. Seems like you want to replace old ephemera with new ephemera. That's no improvement. I say just get rid of the ephemera entirely.
Keep up the good work. I wish I could do the puzzle as fast as you can, but I'm just not that smart!

Bob Kerfuffle 11:28 AM  

Tough one for me, especially because my first entry was at 2D, TORERO! (Hi, @jberg, @bomaka!)

Anonymous 12:01 PM  

I don't know how I finished this in less than an hour, but I did. And, with only one google - rundmc. Sign me in as hating "Rap" but if that is your preference so be it. I consider it child-like and neither poetical or musical. So there. As far as mulatto is concerned, it's a perfectly correct historical term and has never been associated with the "N" word.
Of course I'm an old geezer and don't agree with all the political correctness in today's society, which, to me, is nothing more than avoiding the truth.

Thank you Mr. Lim for a great puzzle.

Ron Diego 9:AM PDT 8/30

spacecraft 12:20 PM  

I don't know which surprises me more: that I did this with no cheating or that OFL would DARE to call it "easy-medium." I sat and stared at it for who knows how long, and all I knew for sure was O-O-O. Amost gave up.

You might not believe what got me kick-started: "Cry to a tickler." STOP! That was enough for JOEPESCI, and the rest is history.

One lone w/o was lENO. Surely Jay has benn at least as popular an impression victim as our distaff AG Janet. Neither RICLAC nor RICRAC made a lot of sense to me, but at least RICRAC sounds like RICKRACK, which I believe is a kind of decoration, so I went with it. Never saw it sans K's.

Many more never-saws here. EARING and COSSET just on one line. Too many more to list.

UBER-challenging, and yet I somehow pulled it off! I live for these moments! Gotta be an A!

931. This is why I don't gamble much.

Solving in Seattle 2:45 PM  

I dropped in TOYOTA at 24A and was off and running. Was I the only one who had toreRO before ELTORO?

Wanted sawbucks for 49A. Liked the clue "Follow to closedly" for STALK.

My raised eyebrows came on ASCETICAL, RICRAC, EARING and the MULATTO entry. Nowadays, people are either black or white. Back then there were definitions like Octoroon. And, of course, we have the continuing "Redskin" issue. Julian threw a little WASABI into the discussion.

@Z, the Oberon was quite good. Thanks again.

1093 ain't gonna win butkis.

DMG 4:04 PM  

@maleska's comment about being arcane and @r.ralph...'s quiz aptly demonstrate why I had such a struggle with this one. Fortunately, I somehow started with GETREAL, and knew JULIANNA. But that's not much to build a solution on. Particularly as my Scylla was originally an "enchantress". A real mess to sort out! However I eventually mostly got there, tripped up only where a rap group and a chess move crossed old time music. Finally threw in ocTET, circling the "oc" because it had to be wrong, and called it quits! Pretty good for me for a Saturday. Not so good is the Captcha ...

1355. Only 1point above above @spacey and @SIS, and surely not good enough to survive!

1:03pm PDT

Anonymous 9:21 PM  

This one was just way too easy!

Dirigonzo 9:45 PM  

Just dropped in 5 weeks later to read the syndi-comments and check my capcha. It appears 105 may be good for the gold?

(Still struggling with David Steinberg's offering in real time.)

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