Literary/film critic Janet / SAT 12-20-14 / Plato portrayer in Rebel without Cause / Flying female fighters in WWII / Dr archenemy of Fantastic Four / Jazz/funk fusion genre / Faddish food regimen / Practice with Book of Shadows

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Constructor: Kevin G. Der and Ian Livengood

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Dock ELLIS (50D: Dock ___, Pirate who claimed to have thrown a no-hitter on LSD) —
Dock Phillip Ellis, Jr. (March 11, 1945 – December 19, 2008) was an American professional baseball player. A pitcher, Ellis played in Major League Baseball from 1968 through 1979 for the Pittsburgh PiratesNew York YankeesOakland AthleticsTexas Rangers, and New York Mets. In his MLB career, he had a 138–119 win–loss record, a 3.46 earned run average, and 1,136 strikeouts.
Ellis threw a no-hitter on June 12, 1970. He later stated that he accomplished the feat under the influence of LSD. Reporters at the game say they do not believe the claim. Ellis was the starting pitcher for the National League in the All-Star Game in 1971. That year, the Pirates were World Series champions. Joining the Yankees in 1976, he helped lead the team to the 1976 World Series, and was named the American League Comeback Player of the Year in the process.
Ellis was an outspoken individual who advocated for the rights of players and African Americans. He also had a substance abuse problem, and he acknowledged after his retirement that he never pitched without the use of drugs. After going into treatment Ellis remained sober and devoted the remainder of his life to counseling drug addicts in treatment centers and prisons. He died of a liver ailment in 2008 at the age of 63. (wikipedia)

• • •


Hi all. It's time for my week-long, just-once-a-year-I-swear pitch for financial contributions to the blog. If you enjoy (or some other verb) this blog on a regular or fairly regular basis, please consider what the blog is worth to you on an annual basis and give accordingly. In making this pitch, I'm pledging that the blog will continue to be here for your enjoyment (or some other noun) for at least another calendar year, with a new post up by 9:00am (usually by 12:01am) every day, as usual. I'm in my ninth (!) year of writing about the puzzle every single day, and while there are occasions when the daily grind gets a little wearisome, for the most part I've been surprised by how resilient my passion for solving and talking about crosswords has been. It's energizing to be part of such an enthusiastic and diverse community of solvers, and I'm excited about the coming year (I have reason to be hopeful … mysterious reasons …). Anyway, I appreciate your generosity more than I can say. This year, said generosity allowed me to hire a regular guest blogger, Annabel Thompson, who now brings a fresh, youthful voice to my blog on the first Monday of every month. So thanks for that. As I said last year, I know that some people are opposed to paying for what they can get for free, and still others really don't have money to spare. Both kinds of people are welcome to continue reading my blog, with my compliments. It will always be free. I have no interest in cordoning it off, nor do I have any interest in taking advertising. I value my independence too much. Anyway, if you are so moved, there is a Paypal button in the sidebar, and a mailing address here:

Rex Parker
℅ Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton NY 13905

And here: I'll stick a PayPal button in here for the mobile users.

I assume that worked.

For people who send me actual, honest-to-god (i.e. "snail") mail (I love snail mail!), this year my thank-you cards are "Postcards from Penguin"—each card a different vintage Penguin paperback book cover. Who will be the lucky person who gets … let's see … "Kiss, Kiss" by Roald DAHL? Or "The Case of the Careless Kitten" by ERLE Stanley Gardner? Or the Selected Verse of Heinrich HEINE? It could be you. Or give via PayPal and get a thank-you email. That's cool too. Please note: I don't keep a "mailing list" and don't share my contributor info with anyone. And if you give by snail mail and (for some reason) don't want a thank-you card, just say so. No problem. Anyway, whatever you choose to do, I remain most grateful for your readership. Now on to the puzzle …

• • •

Wow, Christmas is coming early this year. Or maybe it's the eight great puzzles of Hanukkah. Just a crazy Friday/Saturday themeless constructor line-up this weekend. Wilber/Peterson yesterday, Der/Livengood today. Makes me want to ask "Where the hell have y'all been lately?" But let's focus on the wondrous bounties of the present moment. I found yesterday's a snappier puzzle than this one here, but this one here is still lovely. A little sturdier, a little more inside-the-box, but still packing a decent wallop, and hiding a few real surprises. Biggest surprise (the one that came closes to knocking me flat on my ass) was UNO DUE TRE (13D: Italian count?). Try parsing that **** from the back end. Me: "What the hell ends in -UETRE!?" Had me doubting DEA and everything. Didn't help that the Italian answer was abutted by the highly questionable MANSLAYER. I mean, really, what is that? Murderer = slayer. MANSLAYER is redundant, at best. What, is it supposed to remind me that I'm not dealing w/ Fenimore Cooper's "The Deerslayer"? Manslaughter, I've heard of. Maneater, same (watch out boy, she'll chew you up). But MANSLAYER, choke yuck ack. I had the -SLAYER part and still struggled to get that. I teach crime fiction: no MANSLAYERs up in there.

Still, there's great answers APLENTY here. REAL GOOD stuff. Speaking of APLENTY, not so easy to see when you have decided 36D: Caterwaul is HOWL. Had 35A: In abundance ending in -ENTH for too long. Also went for NINJA over WICCA (9D: Practice with the Book of Shadows). Even in retrospect, seems plausible. The only thing I'd really never heard of was "NED'S Declassified" (54D: "___ Declassified" (old Nickelodeon show)). But then I never even saw the clue. That corner, and its symmetrical opposite, were pretty easy. It was the other corners that smacked me around a bit. 6x9s somehow way harder to piece together than the 5x8s. Puzzle started out very easy with a gimme at 1D: Tagliatelle, e.g. (PASTA), with the "P" then confirming my suspicions that 1A: Where much grass grows was POT-related. There were a sizable number of Gimmes today: PASTA, MOLIERE, SERAPE, novel-ETTE, Dr. DOOM, Janet MASLIN. Still, puzzle clocked in only slightly faster than usual. I think the clue on ABBA (5D: Ones repeating "I do" in 1976?) was my favorite, though I don't think it needs a "?", actually. Clue is pretty damn literal.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    jae 12:07 AM  

    NW and SE easy, NE medium, SW tough.  @Rex hOWL for a long time before YOWL contributed to the SW difficulty as did Gap before GEL.  YAMS finally opened it up for me. 

    My first thought for 1a was Mendocino which didn't fit, but it was nice to find out I was on the right track. 

    SCARY cross: MASLIN/ HILDA.  E might have worked?

    Tough clue for ABBA. 

    Delightful puzzle guys.  Clever clues, a fair amount of zip, plus my last name is in it. 

    Richard 12:23 AM  

    My first answer was ABBA. I have never listened to their music but I remembered a Bryan Walden puzzle with an IDO rebus repeated a number of times. The two Bs helped me quickly complete the NW.

    Anonymous 12:27 AM  

    OMG This was the bestest, most incrediblest, superest, fantasticest, puzzle I've ever done in my entire life!!!

    Or maybe not.

    It's certainly better than yesterday's trivia parade, but Rex is apparently still hung over from yesterday to hand it such praise. With the exception of pot farms, nothing in this puzzle is creative or notable. The only thing that keeps it from being a wholly pedestrian effort is its difficulty.

    Detox, Rex, detox.

    Charles in Austin 1:22 AM  

    I loved it. Far easier than yesterday's, without the creepy cluing -- like STORE for [Play] house, TON for Lot, etc., and no bad short fill. Or tedious answers like ANLKESTRAP and ADDIN.

    For me, yesterday's puzzle was a tiresome slog that left me exhausted and vaguely nauseous. Today's was exhilarating.

    ZenMonkey 1:24 AM  

    @jae I had Humboldt first, which does fit, but I didn't really think it was the right answer. Amused me, though.

    David Phillips 1:56 AM  

    Awesome Saturday themeless. It doesn't get much better than this.

    John Child 3:15 AM  

    I liked this puzzle much more than yesterday's. Yesterday the long and interesting answers came at the price of 35! three- and four-letter answers, half of the grid. Today there are only 16, including mung, yowl, and ankh which are pretty interesting short fill. That's a world of difference, IMO.

    This went down quite quickly except for the NW, where Maslin was a WOE and the clues were tough for me. On the subject of clues, be sure to see this fascinating write up by Will Shortz about today's puzzle:

    Moly Shu 4:39 AM  

    Agree with the "better than yesterday" vibe. ABBA, REACHINTO, MINEO, MEME and ELLIS were my footholds. SodFARM first, all different kinds of DIETS (cArbO, lActO, etc.) barnACLE before TENTACLE. hOWL also, for a split second. OPERAROLE seems like a textbook example of green paint. Liked DAUPHIN and WAMPUM, I'm sure @M&A did also. Nice shout out to @Casco et al at 49d. Finished in about the same time as yesterday's, but this one kept me entertained throughout.

    Anonymous 5:25 AM  

    Good puzzle except that in rugby a TRY is a five-point score (41across)

    Anonymous 6:46 AM  

    HI Anon 5:25 According to wiki: In rugby league, a try is worth four points, increased in 1983 from three points. In rugby union, a try is worth five points; this point value having varied over time. Although a try is worth less in rugby league, it is more often the main method of scoring due to the much smaller value of a goal kick. In rugby union, however, there is heavier reliance placed on goals to accumulate points at elite levels due to the significant value of goals and the defending team's skills.


    Anonymous 6:52 AM  

    I really, really wanted COLORADO for 1A...

    Mohair Sam 7:25 AM  

    Zipped through this one except for the NE where we had a complete fail. WICCA unknown to us, thought "salt" for AGAR, have never before seen PALEO attached to DIET, didn't suss the Italian count (great clue), and refused to believe MAN would be the opening for SLAYER (green paint?); liked MULES but still couldn't see the obvious WAMPUM. Never had a chance.

    With @Rex on the questionable "?" on the ABBA clue. A gimme here, but hesitated because of the ?.

    Don't ya hate it when you quit early and see the answers? WAMPUM, CALLON, and CREEDS all getable, yet we failed. Sad Saturday.

    Hartley70 7:34 AM  

    This was an unusually straightforward and clean Saturday solve for me. I didn't fall for any misdirection. UNODUETRE was the first thing that came to mind and I knew MASLIN. After feeling like a dope on Thursday this was a nice way to end the week.

    Robso 7:48 AM  

    Swore that Nexus 7 was some kind of shampoo . . .
    Thanks for that Dock Ellis video, Rex. I remember it from the last time you posted it, and still love it.

    Susierah 8:03 AM  

    This week's puzzles have been fun! I really had to work hard, but love that satisfaction of finally getting it. Lots of aha moments.

    I chipped away at this for 45 minutes to finally get it all, but a dnf. I made up a word (ha) by entering domicity. Now that I go to dictionary, I see there is no such word. Never knew ulster, so I just stared at coup d'état, for five minutes, never realizing that the first letter was a c, not an m. Anybody else ever just create new vocabulary? Somehow I got from domestic to domicity.

    So, this week new vocabulary words are litotes and ulster

    Horace S. Patoot 8:32 AM  

    Rex, MANSLAYER is just manslaughter without the LAUGHTER.

    evil doug 8:41 AM  


    Wanted staRTS, as in basketball, for 'tip-offs'.

    I'd spell it 'tranq'.

    Here's to the WASPs, cracking a door that took decades to fully open. No female pilots in USAF when I was in, and only three at Delta when I got hired. The women I flew with were REALGOOD.

    Your last name is Etail?


    He's STILL an ass 8:50 AM  

    Once again, Rex's review is "These are great constructors. Therefore it's a great puzzle." Yawn.
    Enjoyable easy Saturday.

    Susierah 8:59 AM  

    @evil Doug. Thank you, I didn't get track until I read your post.

    Dorothy Biggs 9:01 AM  

    Fairly normal Saturday for me...a couple of Googles here, a quick puzzle check there...I wouldn't personally call this "medium," more like "challenging as Hades," but ultimately doable.

    Ultimately fair, in other words.

    I got COUPDETAT from the crosses and it looked like it...once filled in, the clue made sense. DOCILITY was not easy. UNODUETRE was actually my first, rather felicitous entry...I really didn't think it would last, but it did.

    I did not know the meaning of TRANK. Maybe if it was spelled with a Q? Tranq?

    Unknown 9:09 AM  

    How stupid am I? Let me count the ways....

    Can't believe I struggled with tagliatelle. That is a Monday-level gimme. I'm thinking, hmm, some sort of bauble perhaps? A tiara? Finally, after wasting much time trying to decipher the NW (and thinking maybe POT might have something to do with the grass), an anti-aircraft searchlight-sized lightbulb went off. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh - PASTA you big dummy.

    And that, kids, is how you can make an easy puzzle hard, all by yourself.

    I am going to complain, once more, about the legitimacy or lack thereof regarding critics names for clues. Too esoteric. Yet I will concede to the jury that the same might be said of Dock ELLIS.

    please fly away 9:17 AM  

    Hey, did anyone here know that evil doug is a pilot? Because, apparently, he REALLY needs everyone to know. We're all REALLY impressed.

    butterbutt 9:20 AM  

    LOVED yesterday's and today's puzzles. Interchangeable Friday/Saturday as far as I'm concerned. Both took a little luck, involved a little learning, and had a lot of aha's. Very little dreck. A fine start to a puzzling weekend.

    Unknown 9:22 AM  

    TRAN_/AN_H was a roll of the 26-sided die. I went with E. I still like E as TRANe is a phonetic spelling of TRAIN, which is a common root nickname for a prize fighter. TRANK is nothing at all here. Considered it and dismissed it as a variant of SKANK, which really doesn't describe a good enough looking woman to be considered a knockout. ANKH could be clued as [four random letters] for all I know. I don't consider this a fair crossing. Sorry. Perhaps approriately (and not remotely ironically) I erred at dRESS/dLUED as a garden dress is a thing but garden CRESS was dubious. So "In dLUED" had to be a hipster expression I hadn't heard. Clearly, CLUED in is a thing, so garden CRESS must be a thing, too. I'll take the blame for guessing wrong on the huh? cross.

    The rest of the puzzle was pretty tough. I needed 2 hours and a half dozen googles to get as far as I did. NEDS MAMMA IPADMINI ELLIS were among them. There may have been more. The NYT ipad app overwrites the pencil notation after the solve, so I dont have any annotators to remind me.

    Challenging, unsolvable, not altogether fair.

    Not fair. WAH! 9:37 AM  

    People claiming puzzles or clues are "not fair" because they weren't clever enough to figure them out is getting pretty old. It's a Saturday NYT crossword (and this one was relatively easy as you can see from solving times). Most people could never in their lives complete one. So just because you can't do it doesn't mean it's "not fair." It's a puzzle, which is an artificial construct-- made by constructors, edited by editors, and solved by solvers. "Fair" is not a factor.

    Thornrose 9:37 AM  

    Loved this one. Took me almost 45 minutes, but felt great that I was able to do it without Googling. A lot of pondering interspersed with "Oh, I get it." Oddly, my experience was in some ways the opposite of Rex's: PASTA was a gimme, but so much so that I doubted it the entire time. Couldn't use it to get a foothold on the across clues in that corner. On the other hand, PALEODIET and UNODUETRE came very quickly. Ended up working my way clockwise, with the NW corner being the very last to fall. Wasn't helped by hOWL for YOWL, or lInDA for HILDA. I had never watched Ugly Betty, but thought it would be clever for her sister to be named "Linda" (pretty). Sometimes you can overthink things. A lot of fun cluing here: COUPDETAT and PLAYMATES, for example. Great fun.

    Unknown 9:42 AM  

    @Moly I dropped MAINE right in :) but considered taking it out when I couldn't find a single cross for it. Googles for ELLIS and MAMas (sic) started to help, but rather obviously didn't help completely enough. Tough damned puzzle.

    Unknown 9:54 AM  

    Update: my expert solver friend pointed out that ANKH was indeed a fair clue, just beyond my ken. TRANK seems to be a contaction on tranquilizer. Hmm. At least ANKH was fair, ultimately, and so also the puzzle. I withdraw my previous criticism.

    RooMonster 9:54 AM  

    Hey All !
    Nice fill, challenging over here. If you use the NYT online puz-solving-thingy like I do on days off work, there is a graph to the right that lists the fastest solve times. It's unbelievable! There are people who completed this puz in slightly over three minutes! The top 10 are all less than six minutes. It took me over three minutes just to read all the clues on the first go-through, never mind type in the answers if I actually knew any of them! How do these people do it? More importantly, if these people are that smart, why aren't they using their talents to better the world? Solve financial problems? Fix the health care debacle? Something...............

    Back to the puz, usual Sat time and Check Puzzle usage! Nice long fill, AFROBEAT was a new one on me. There's that crazy MUNG bean again. Had terrific, then saw ____GOOD, tried veryGOOD, wereGOOD, finally REALGOOD. Esale for ETAIL, fava, soya, MUNG.

    Good week of puzzles, lots of collabs. See y'all Sunday!


    Bob Kerfuffle 10:06 AM  

    Nice puzzle; solid Medium for me.

    One write-over, but made it a double: MEWL => HOWL => YOWL.

    Dorothy Biggs 10:08 AM  

    @Not fair. WAH! (I hope I got that spelling right...)

    You have a point about talking about the fairness of a puzzle. I admit, for me, it's a fine line. I wish I could objectively tell you what I mean by it, but I can only point it out when I see it. (For what it's worth I thought this puzzle was :ahem: fair...)

    Some here use the term "crunchy" or "chewy" as descriptors of puzzles...I guess we all have our way of describing a subjective aspect of a puzzle...and sometimes when we don't like a puzzle and it's hard to put a finger on it, we use words like "fair" or "unfair" or "chewy" or "challenging" to describe it.

    For me personally, btw, "fairness" isn't a function of my inability to parse a clue. It's more about the clue itself and whether it is so gratuitously misleading as to be not fair or to be cleverly misleading. It's a fine line, I know.

    mathguy 10:10 AM  

    There are unfair puzzles. Ones where the clues go beyond being clever and don't narrow down the possible entries. "A phrase containing words." But this isn't one of them.

    Gimmes covering 14 squares, unknown entries covering 44 squares, so an MGI of 30, about the same as yesterday.

    Tough to solve for me but it came down to finding four can openers, one four each quadrant. OPERAROLE, COUPDETAT, PALEODIET, and, the last to pop into my head, TENTACLE.

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:13 AM  

    BTW, since many found this puzzle easy, and perhaps have a great deal of time to fill, they might be interested in trying this seasonal, novelty puzzle by Patrick Berry. (Click on the Saturday Puzzle, Candy Canes.) I haven't done it yet myself, but, hey, it's Patrick Berry!

    quilter1 10:22 AM  

    It has been a crazy busy week and I haven't had time for puzzles, so getting to solve this one was a pleasure. Worked slowly and persistently, went away and came back for my aha moment and finally filled in the great southwest corner. I had hOWL for a long time and my bullet was silver, both of which held me up. I know watercress but am not familiar with garden CRESS. POPGUN popped right into my head and I was impressed. Hmmm, how do I do this new captcha?

    John Child 10:28 AM  

    @mathguy - I get your gimme squares to wtf squares ratio, but what does MGI stand for? I compare the number of short answers to long ones and fresh ones (<10 occurrences) to 'ESE' (> 100 occurrences).

    Steve J 10:31 AM  

    I'm with those who liked today's puzzle more than yesterday's, although I'm not nearly as effusive about either one as Rex. For every bit of nice fill - POT FARM, COUP D'ÉTAT, PALEO DIET - there's a clunker like MANSLAYER, REACH INTO or the green paintish OPERA ROLE.

    Solved this east to west, having particular difficulty getting going in the NW. My variation on getting going in the wrong way at 36D was baWL.

    All in all, about a medium Saturday for me, both in difficulty and impression.

    Nancy 10:33 AM  

    I fall into the category of liking yesterday's more than today's, though I was too tied up yesterday to post a comment. Thought it was more challenging -- and yet I solved yesterday's, but didn't finish today's, due to big trouble in the NW. If only I had known that tagliatelle was a pasta and not a dance! I wanted ACID something-or-other for 15A; I don't know why TENTACLE is a place for a sucker; and it took me the longest time to figure out ABBA, since I don't know their body of work. (Great clue for those who DO know.) Raced through the rest. A very nice puzzle, but not as much fun as yesterday.

    Steve J 10:37 AM  

    @Nancy: For TENTACLE/sucker, think of an octopus.

    OISK 10:40 AM  

    Finished it with difficulty. Never heard of Trank or Afrobeat, didn't know the Abba song, (Abba means "Daddy" to me) and don't know an IPAD mini from an IPOD maxi, but the GREAT "Coup d etat" (power outage? what a great clue!!) saved me. Never heard of mung beans either, but I think it has appeared before. Still, there were fine clues aplenty, and I finished feeling real good. I don't understand the clue for "meme" Lolcats? - but the whole "meme" concept seems to have passed me by..

    Nancy 10:48 AM  

    I've come back to say:
    EVERYONE AT THIS SITE SHOULD SEE "THE IMITATION GAME"! It seems that mathematician and cryptologist Alan Turing ran a crossword puzzle in a British newspaper in order to ferret out and attract the brainy team that would ultimately crack the Germans' Enigma code. The ad said something like: "Solve this puzzle and an important, fascinating job can be yours." Just think, fellow cruciverbalists, that some of us might have helped break the code, if we had been in England at the time. (Not me, however. If I'd been on the team, WWII would have been lost! I'm good at word puzzles; hopeless with machines.) Anyway, what a fascinating, enjoyable movie!

    Fred Smith 10:48 AM  

    Pretty bad! ... My mother-in law was. WAST, and I put in WAAF.

    She was a tough lady, grew up on a farm in Western Pennsylvania, earned her flying lessons by selling tickets for the barnstormers when they came through.

    She was also very tough on her trainees; her T-6 trainer was called "The Washbucket" (as in "wash out") by the cadets. She said that the pilots had to be very good, many of them who went into fighters had to protect defenseless bomber crews. (BTW, did Evil fly bombers?)

    After teaching basic in Alabama, she taught aerobatic (dogfighting) techniques in Texas. A tough WASP, indeed ...

    Dansah 10:49 AM  

    Easy except if yer 100% certain that SODfarms is correct and quite one's cleverness.
    Imho, "fair" is a word so subjective as to be useless

    Norm 10:55 AM  

    ABBA + REACHINTO yielded MINEO and then MUNG which gave me POPGUN, and I was off and running. Still took a good 10 minutes, but a lot of fun. Enjoyed getting the UNODUETRE off the bottom three letters

    jberg 11:06 AM  

    A bit easier than yesterday, and at first I, too, would have said less snappy -- but that was because I had PastuReS at 1A (didn't want it, but then I got PASTA and thought it had to be.) I still don't much care for YES YES, either, but the rest is fine. I spend a couple weeks every August on Deer Isle, MAINE (which is near ELLIS, by the way).

    My first answer for 38A was "Not so baD," going for the litotes.

    Looks like the two-week paint stripping job in our music room, begun in August while we were in Deer Isle, will be finished this morning. It is beautiful, I have to say. So I'm off to move furniture.

    Cheerio 11:11 AM  

    More fun than yesterday. Wonderful puzzle. I had never heard of the paleo diet and that corner was the hardest for me. So many creatures have crests.....

    Mr. Benson 11:20 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Mr. Benson 11:21 AM  

    DEA, MULES, POTFARMS and Dock ELLIS almost qualify as a mini-theme, I think.

    Anonymous 11:24 AM  

    @Fred Smith

    Looking at his picture, it appears that @Evil couldn't even qualify as a bomber pilot.

    He's standing in front of a prop transport. A "trash hauler," as the real pilots call them. ;-)

    Ludyjynn 11:29 AM  

    I did REALGOOD almost everywhere, but got stymied in the NW corner. Like @Dansah, I invested in 'sod'FARM way too long. Despite being a big ABBA fan, having seen "MAMMA Mia" years ago in London, the clue eluded me. Head slap. Agree that spelling of TRANK is off-putting.

    Knew WASPS only because it was an answer on "Jeopardy" this week!

    TENTACLE was very clever, but for too long I had 'popsicle'. Head slap number two.

    Just finished peeling apples and making batter for my famous apple latkes; am now refreshed and ready to attack the potatoes for the traditional recipe. Having a Chanukah/holiday party tomorrow eve. and am trying to prep. as much as possible today. Wish me luck.

    This puzz. was CLUED beautifully, esp. NE and SE quads. Thanks, KGD, IL and WS.

    Happy Chanukah!

    Carola 11:39 AM  

    Agree on the REAL GOOD rating for the puzzle: for me, just enough resistance for a Saturday (my hardest corner was the SW: PARTY food? fare? OPERA hero? name?) and pleasurable entries APLENTY: WAMPUM, IGUANA, SERAPE, DOCILITY, ULSTER...

    I enjoyed picturing a PALEO DIET PARTY TRAY (mmm bone broth [SCARY!]), liked the French connection: MOLIERE, LIS, COUP D'ETAT, DAUPHIN, and wondered about the WICCA-DOOM connection.

    Fred Romagnolo 11:45 AM  

    I'm flabbergasted at all you clever young people; here's what I didn't know: AFROBEAT, HILDA, MEME, IPADMINI, ELLIS, NEDS, WICCA, PALEODIET, TRANK, DOOM. Then there's all the stuff I knew, but could't infer from the clues. All in all, a colossal DNF. I'm beginning to feel like @Casco did when he started. He's progressing, but I'm regressing!

    Gareth Bain 11:56 AM  

    @Anon 6:46: Except rugby = rugby union. Rugby League is virtually never called just rugby. Would you accept football clues that refer to Canadian Football?

    Z 12:00 PM  

    I'm wondering if I played ultimate in the 80's with these guys since there are two references to team names:The Happy Club (think about it) and Nexus 7 (a Blade Runner reference).

    Over an hour, but I'm dealing with an electrician while I solved so no idea on my real time. Typical Saturday, no idea to Oh! To a corner falls quickly. Great puzzle with minimal dreck and non-trivial trivia. I give it a Founders All Day IPA rating.

    Hey @Evil - you have your own pet troll. I lost mine awhile back. I guess I didn't feed and water mine enough.

    Z 12:04 PM  

    @Gareth - Not on Monday, but I would accept "Number of players on a football team" for twelve on a Saturday.

    mathguy 12:08 PM  

    John Child: Since I'm often watching TV while solving, I don't time myself. So I take the difference between the wtf squares and the gimme squares to measure of how hard the puzzle is for me, The MGI, mathguy index.

    evil doug 12:09 PM  

    Yeah, Z, I'm guessing it's the same moron who popped up a couple months ago and proceeded to publicly humiliate himself more effectively than I ever could. I like him. He kind of serves as my own little puppy!


    Anonymous 12:13 PM  

    Hey, Evil ...

    You red-hot pilot, you. How'd you like haulin' all that trash around in the AF?

    mac 12:14 PM  

    Another great puzzle, which needed a couple of sessions, one in the car. No, I wasn''t driving.

    At 1A I kept thinking "over the septic tank". The sucker got taken at the TENT SALE, I didn't know afro beat and star base, stumbled over the spelling of trank but ankh fixed that. I knew DEA from binge watching Breaking Bad.

    old timer 12:15 PM  

    I found it Saturday-tough, lots of writeovers. Because I was sure it was "HOWL", I was looking for a synonym for abundance that looked something like "aplinth". Coming up with "APLENTY" is what gave me YOWL.

    But I was charmed by this one. Lots of AHA moments that made me smile, especially COUPDETAT, UNODUETRE, and PALEODIET. Well done!

    Rex sometimes does not think before writing. MANSLAYER is obviously right, though obscure. Unless you're a PETA member, "slayer" is not a good answer for "murderer" because people slay deer and cows and pigs all the time and have committed no crime.

    Unknown 12:16 PM  

    @fred, I didn't know most of your list either. The ones I got right were plausible guesses. So were the ones I got wrong. I could translate the clues: [Female name] HILDA.
    [French playwright] MOLIERE. [Evil sounding comic character-type name] DOOM. [Type of multicultural music you might hear on public radio] AFROBEAT [that diet that was in a puzzle a few weeks ago] PALEODIET

    To paraphrase Hamlet, "The rest is . . . google."

    Anonymous 12:17 PM  

    Hey, Z ... Your pet troll is back. Hope things are good for you up in that Garden of Eden, Detroit.

    AliasZ 12:17 PM  

    15A is incorrect. The fusion of jazz and funk is junk.

    My first entry was MOLIÈRE. I enjoyed COUP D'ETAT and its clue, perhaps the best in the grid. The 8's and 9's in the corners were mostly OK, but not overly colorful, except for POTFARMS and AFROBEAT if you are into that sort of thing. It's not easy to REACH INTO a REAL GOOD OPERA ROLE and pull out a winner. None of these sparkled. But I loved UNO DUE TRE, DOCILITY (temerity, timidity at first), DAUPHIN, PRENATAL, ULSTER and few others. I did not care for PALEODIET much, and if I never see ETAIL and any I-gadget again, it won't be too soon.

    PLAYMATES should have been clued as "Hef's stable." Why is Will shying away from such an obvious Playboy reference, a symbol of the sexual revolution for over 5 decades now, yet he is OK with pot? Is getting high on pot politically correct now, but sex still a taboo? Curious.

    Overall, a supremely junk-free and well-clued puzzle CALLON, ETTE and AGAR notwithstanding, for which Kevian Livengoodder deserve only bravos. However for me it was somewhat disappointing due to too many neutral entries and not too many clever ones. REAL GOOD, OPERA ROLE, REACH INTO, NET SALES etc. are not terribly fresh or exciting, are they?

    I was thinking to link to the orchestral suite Le bourgeois gentilhomme, Op. 60 by Richard Strauss, but decided to go instead with another orchestral suite, this one from the incidental music to the Aristophanes play The WASPS subtitled Aristophanic Suite by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

    Enjoy your weekend.

    pmdm 12:25 PM  

    John Child: You are correct. The commentary is today's Wordblog is a must read. But did you notice Mr. Shortz's error? There are indeed two creeds that can be recited at Mass: the Nicene Creed and the Apostles' Creed.

    AliasZ has not yet posted his daily music link. I just heard something I did not know of that I was amazed at. First, the original.

    Next, a typical orchestra, but of a piano transcription of the original.

    Finally a (to me) amazing orchestration by Joachim Raff (composer and orchestration teacher of Franz Liszt).

    Unknown 12:32 PM  

    Regarding fairness, [What the constructor will still be for the next few months, sadly] was a clue at AVC recently. Please, someone, provide an impassioned defense of how that's a fair clue. The existence of unfair clues is about as obvious as the existence of stupid questions.

    @Dansah, as many have said, Rex in particular, it is easy to make a puzzle impossible to solve. It is substantially harder to make a puzzle easy to solve. It is much, much harder still to clue a puzzle to be hard but solvable, but it is a tiny step from hard-to-clue-but-solvable to come full circle and back to unsolvable-but-easy-to-clue. We're here to police the beginning/end of that circle. Do not expect unanimity of opinion.

    Lewis 12:34 PM  

    I liked both yesterday's and today's puzzle a lot; they were just different in the style of cluing, and the percentage of pop culture answers. They both put up a fight with good feelings with every victory.

    I liked the clues for TENTACLE, HATEMAIL, and GEL. Nice to see PALEODIET, though I think adherents would rail at it being called faddish.

    If I were pitching a baseball on LSD, that home plate would be moving all over the place; it would be like skeet shooting.

    @m&A -- 6 u's, respectable!

    Fred Romagnolo 12:38 PM  

    Nobody pointed out that today's Met OPERA broadcast is "The Marriage of Figaro." 10 o'clock EST. THE best Mozart opera IMO (I'm not humble).

    Fred Romagnolo 12:40 PM  

    correction that's our (Pacific) time; it's 1 o'clock EST. oops!

    Teedmn 12:52 PM  

    I'm with @Roo Monster: how can people even fill in the answers that fast.? Let alone "know" the answers that fast? Never gonna be me, for sure.

    Like @Hartley, I felt my self esteem seep back after Thursday's drubbing since yesterday and today went smoothly. MoMMA threatened to slow the TRANK down but my aha at PRE NATAL helped that. Eerie before SCARY. ABBA should have been a gimme, wasn't. uNODUETRE was.

    Nice puzzle, thanks, KD and IL!

    Z 1:01 PM  

    @Casco - even harder is providing puzzles for a wide range of normal. In 2011 or so I'd have been googling all over the place to solve this one. Now it seems on the hard side of medium to me. I wouldn't want puzzles that 2011Z could solve.

    AliasZ 1:14 PM  


    My favorite version remains the one by Nathan Milstein.
    And the Busoni piano transcription.
    And the Stokowski orchestration.

    I consider this composition the pinnacle of human achievement.

    Anonymous 1:23 PM  

    But Gareth the other day the clue was "the king of football" and the answer was "Pele." Since Pele is best known for Brazilian futebol, the clue was a classic misdirect.
    I don't recall ever seeing Pele described in any of these terms in English language newspapers:
    "The Black Pearl" (Pérola Negra), "The King of Football" (O Rei do Futebol), "The King Pelé" (O Rei Pelé) or simply "The King" (O Rei), and certainly almost never in the NYT.
    Anyway, nobody's arguing with you. The clue could have been better.
    Happy holidays.

    okanaganer 1:39 PM  

    Hey everyone, interesting writeup at the NYT Wordplay blog by Will Shortz, detailing exactly what clues were changed in today's puzzle, and why.

    Lewis 2:15 PM  

    Factoid: The star-nosed mole, Condylura cristata, of North America, has 22 short but conspicuous TENTACLEs around its nose. They are mobile and extremely sensitive, helping the animal to find its way about the burrow and detect prey. They are about 1–4 mm long and hold about 25,000 touch receptors called Eimer's organs, perhaps giving this mole the most delicate sense of touch among mammals. (Wikipedia)

    Quotoid: "TRY not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value." -- Albert Einstein

    Benko 2:26 PM  

    @z: My love of all things Philip K. Dick kept me from getting that "Nexus 7" clue for a while. Didn't know it was also a tablet.

    AFROBEAT is a great style of music pioneered by the revolutionary genius Fela Kuti. His drummer, Tony Allen, just released a new album with tons of big name guest stars.

    Josh 2:36 PM  

    About eight minutes on the NW, NE, and SW combined; about twelve minutes on the SE alone. Just couldn't make any inroads until I found SERAPE somewhere in my brain.

    Amazing that this puzzle features those big-ass white expanses with almost no junk (really just ELLIS, AGAR, and ETTE, maybe LIS).

    Agree with Rex that it's been a great Friday and Saturday for the NYT puzzle.

    aa 2:43 PM  

    Speaking of mini-themes, did anyone else find Afrobeat, Soul, Pop, and Opera?

    Josh 2:46 PM  

    @Casco Kid Regarding that recent AVC clue: I think the beauty of an AVC puzzle (or any puzzle created by the many indie constructors out there) is that not every clue has to be fair all the time. (And if I recall, the crosses were all very get-able.) I like that they have leeway to clue entries in ways that the NYT/LA Times/WaPo cannot.

    Of course, you certainly could make the argument that since you're paying for those puzzles (unlike BEQ's or Birnholz's or whoever's), clues should be fair.

    That said, I hate those cutesy self-referential clues that pop up once in a while in various indie puzzles.

    Whirred Whacks 3:23 PM  

    In 19A "Place for a sucker," did anyone initially have TEsTiCLE in place of TENTACLE?

    Unknown 4:18 PM  

    Ah! bagatelle != tagliatelle hence my consternation over a nonmusical solution to that clue. Living. Learning. WINNING! OK. Two outta three ain't bad.

    R. McGeddon 4:20 PM  

    I can't recall MANSLAYER to mean murderer, but have heard it used for femme fatale. Both senses are given in the OED.

    Dirigonzo 4:46 PM  

    sOdFARMS, dammit!

    Jon 5:06 PM  

    No Googles today, that's fer sher.
    I came straight here to clear up this g d puzzle.
    Happy hols,

    wreck 5:24 PM  

    Hand up for SODFARM For way too long and had no idea what TRANK was until I came here. Most Saturday's are still beyond me, but I think I'm getting better at them. I have a much better time with "?" mis-direct clues than proper names.

    Dave 5:39 PM  

    Started with "pastures" for 1A, so I finished everything but the NW fairly quickly. Slowly filled in the rest of the NW once I ceded pastures was incorrect.

    On Borrowed Time 7:40 PM  

    A quick lesson for today's antagomice-

    "Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured."
    – Mark Twain

    Please consider these words when you are making your New Years resolutions. Thank you.

    Teedmn 8:01 PM  

    @Nancy, some weeks past, someone, @George Barany, I believe, posted a link to the puzzle that was published as the recruiting tool for the Enigma-cracking team. I would not have saved the world with my puzzle-solving prowess! The only progress I made involved heavy usage of the "check" tool and I gave up a quarter into it.

    Anonymous 10:20 PM  

    I miss Gene Maleska more and more as this nonsense continues. I'll probably cancel my sub next month.

    Tita 12:09 AM  

    @jae - I figger'd it would be HeLgA or HILDA - guessed wrong, took me forever to bring it back 'round to HILDA.

    Major DNF yesterday - today finished all by myself! It was a struggle, and I never thought I would, but I did.

    @Hartley - first thing that came to my mind was "UNODUETRE", but held back, cause I didn't think it could be.

    Doc ELLIS was somewhere deep in my somehow bubbled up - I was a diehard Yankee fan back in those days, but had no idea it was spelled Doc"K". That threw me.

    @Z - I was just thinking of that troll - wow - I can count many ways that I would be dismissive with our irregular ED - but this particular post was nowhere close to one with which I would take umbrage. I got to your post and lol'd.

    Of course, I loved the puzzle, because I finished it clean. Yes - I brazenly admit that I love any Friday/Saturday puzzle I can finish.
    Thank you Mssrs Der & Livengood.
    (Must ask Ian at the next ACPT if he is related to my friend Mr. Goodfriend.)

    Tita 12:16 AM  

    A coupla years back, my cat Marzipan (pictured being snarky as my avatar), brought me a star-nosed mole. A departure from his usual gifts of voles, moles, and mice.

    I dug a shallow grave for it back behind the stone wall.

    Some time later, Marz shows up with a star-nosed mole! Can there be two?? No - this one smelled of the grave. Marz was so proud of it, and apparently, so baffled at my behavior, that he carefully recovered it, once again placing it carefully at the back door.

    (He is purring placidly in my lap as I write. I think he may have forgotten the incident.)

    Anonymous 3:33 PM  

    "Trank" is an absolute B.S. clue. I'm a medical professional and have never heard it; and if I did it would probably be spelled "tranq" ...

    Unknown 3:52 PM  

    How I Got My Lover Back {}...

    What a wonderful and a straight forward spell caster that has brought back joy and happiness into my life after i saw a post on how he helped a lady called Nicole Morgan; i decided to contact him for help, when i told this God sent man Dr Eboehi on how my lover left me for 2 years without calling nor texting me, When i shared this my sad experience with Dr Eboehi he said everything would be okay within 3 days i was like am i sure what this man is saying is real, So i decided to give him a try and at first i was thinking he was a scam and i taught he was like other spell casters who come online to add pain to people's life not knowing there feelings but to make money, this great man Dr Eboehi is never like that because he is for good and to make people happy with the one they love, am just so happy, Even before the 3 days i just got a call from a man who has left me for 2 years saying that he his sorry and that he wants me back to his life i was so happy, He invited me for a dinner which i met with him there and we both talked, he said he wants to prove that he would never leave me for any other lady he engaged me and also made me had access to all his account am so happy all thanks goes to this great man Dr Eboehi a man who has brought back joy to my life, friends that need help in getting their lover's back i would advice you contact Dr Eboehi via email: because he is the right man to help you get your problem solved.

    Thanks... Stacy Donald

    spacecraft 12:02 PM  

    The world in which MASLIN is a "gimme" is not my world. That puppy, and a few others--needed every cross.

    On the initial read-through of the clue list, I found one (UNO) gimme: the way-too-soon-gone Sal MINEO. But what bean starts with M? Well, that turned out to be another Needed Every Cross. Aha! THAT's what NEC stands for! MUNG bean? Sounds too close to dung. Just as SNOG sounds too much like snot. By what nonsensical route did SNOG ever come to mean kiss??

    But I digress. The clue for 8d, "Girded," indicated an -ED ending; the D suggested DOCILITY, Dr. -OO- had to be DOOM, and a 7-letter French playwright starting with M? MOLIERE, why not? It was like that all the way around, me taking wild stabs in the dark and somehow hitting them. APLENTY just came to me; I REACHed INTO my brain-pocket and pulled it out.

    The NW was toughest of all, but fell after the duh! moment: FORTH for "Into the open."

    Bottom line: full-bore challenging, a little too tech-heavy in the SE for my taste, but still gettable. At least there were no rappers. YESYES! A.

    107: Knockin' at the door.

    rondo 1:15 PM  

    Medium my butt. Almost nothing on the first pass except plural S and womens name A spots. Somehow filled in everything east of the Mississippi and little else. Having worked for a landscape outfit many long years ago was sure of sOdField then sOdFARMS so the NW was a real slog.
    But I love the challenge and finally finished with many writeovers.
    Thought this puz was CLUED with much difficulty.
    @Spacey - virtually all of what you said, too.

    Captcha today?

    rondo 2:17 PM  

    FWIW - my alternate clue for 29d - There are 12 new ones each year.

    Anonymous 3:11 PM  

    Back in the saddle again.......This puzzle was challenging but with only one look-up I finished with no mistakes and a lot of guessing. Never heard of trank or Hilda (looked it up in TV book) and paleo diet is foreign to me and several acquaintances. All in all an hour's fun.
    Notice how gabby those regular commenters are?? Hmmmm.

    Ron Diego, Not a robot

    DMG 3:53 PM  

    This puzzle was write-over city for me. From PastuRes to NETvalue it was a struggle. I wanted my crested creature to be a bits and also to feeLGOOD. But preserverance paid off. Last letter was the Final E in MEME. No idea what "lolcats" mean left me with the choice of E or O. So, since I really don't comprehend MEME either, I chose the O. Suppose it shouldn't really count as a real finish, but I'll take the gold star anyway..I get so,few on Saturdays!

    @rondo; thanks for,explaining NEC.

    Captcha: Check!

    DMG 3:55 PM  

    Shouxd proof read before I post. I actually chose the E!

    Waxy in Montreal 5:05 PM  

    TRANK, AFROBEAT and MASLIN simply not being in my wheelhouse led to DOOM in the NW. Found the rest of the puzzle REAL GOOD although the IPADMINI/NEDS cross took forever to evolve. Happily MINEO, ELLIS, MAINE and MOLIERE were gimmes.

    rain forest 5:52 PM  

    In agreement, for once, with OFL. Two REAL GOOD puzzles in a row--on Fri/Sat no less.

    Got the W half of the NW almost instantly, then had @Spacey's experience with DOOM, DOCILITY, MOLIERE, MINEO, which really helped. Btw, I knew MUNG bean because ex-wife used them to make her own bean sprouts.

    I took a flyer on UNODUETRE, and as M&A says, there's yer rodeo, except MANSLAYER is a little iffy.

    CRESS and NEDS came only from crosses. Never heard the term "garden cress", ever.

    Anyway good sport these last two days.

    Strange captcha: 62-4 Super Bowl prediction? Can't be. I'm sure the Seahawks can score more than just two safeties...

    Anonymous 6:24 PM  

    I am fairly sure that WASPS were never fighters in W.W.II. It was much to their dismay that they were never allowed to go into combat.


    Ginger 8:28 PM  

    @Anon 6:24 You're right, the WASPs were never in actual combat, however, they towed targets for the new male trainee fighter pilots to shoot at. With LIVE ammunition. Some were hit.

    BTW, WASPs is one of my very few gimmies. I needed Google APLENTY to tame this beast. A fair fight indeed.

    DMG 10:03 PM  

    @Ginger: Glad to see you back. Wouldn't be tennis season without you. As I write this Sharpova is playing, and, I,hope, winning! gotta watch!

    Googly Girl 11:05 PM  

    I am impressed and intimidated by the people who can solve Sat puzzles and brag about their solving time! A few more IQ points than me! However, instead of eschewing them, I am happy to google 1/2 the answers and improve my trivia knowledge and vocabulary. Kudos to the brainiacs! : )

    Tracer Kesey 11:13 PM  

    Has anyone solved the Saturday puzzle in 3 minutes without googling while high on LSD?
    Would make an interesting tale.

    KariSeattle 11:19 PM  

    Hey don't deflate the balls of the 12th man! We are going to score and take the Patriots out!
    Go Hawks!!!!

    Joe in Montreal 10:07 AM  

    Syndication coming in here. I agree with Gareth Bain about rugby and tries. What would you think of "last down" - THIRD?
    Tracer Kesey - and playing Tetris?

    Bananafish 3:05 PM  

    I really think TRANK is the worst thing I have ever seen in more than 4 decades of crossword solving - I cannot believe it did not generate so much as a mention by Rex or far more indignation among the comments. That is all.

    Anonymous 12:12 AM  

    NW was my downfall. Didn't know HILDA or MASLIN, and the only entry I had was REACH INTO, which was not enough to get any of the quad-8s. Finally had to look up tagliatelle in the dictionary, at least avoiding an online search. From PASTA it wasn't hard to get TENTACLE, ABBA, POT FARMS, and everything fell from there. I thought STARBASE was poorly clued. I don't remember starbases being the headquarters of anything - they were usually maintenance facilities or far-flung outposts.

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