Star Wars surname / FRI 2-6-15 / Colonial heretic Hutchison / Fruit historically used for medicinal purposes / Fencing move that means arrow / Villain in Nativity play / 1960s Robert Loggia series about burglar-turned-bodyguard / Screenwriter who knew identity of Deep Throat / New England delicacies

Friday, February 6, 2015

Constructor: Kyle Mahowald

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ORGANA (40D: "Star Wars" surname) —
The House of Organa, also known as the Royal House of Alderaan, the Royal Family of Alderaan, or simply House Organa, was an Alderaanian Noble House that dated back to the earliest days of Alderaan's colonization. Throughout history, the Organa dynasty was the one that ruled over their homeworld the longest. Throughout several millennia of existence, the House Organa sired many well-known figures of the pan–galactic politics. Two of its most renowned scions were Viceroy Bail Prestor Organa and his adopted daughter, Princess Leia Organa. Following the destruction of Alderaan in 0 BBY, the name of Organa died out. (wookieepedia)
• • •

This seems a fine puzzle, but it is radically misplaced on Friday. This was the hardest puzzle I've done in a very long time. I got stopped cold at least three times, the last time resulting in my staring at a smallish patch of grid for something like five minutes. Cluing difficulty overall was jacked way up, and there were a couple crucially placed WTF? proper nouns that made both the NW and the SE (or parts of them) seem like death traps. Also, FLECHE? Only vaguely familiar to me as a French word, and I had seven years of French. Other things I just didn't know:

  • KILOBAR (got the KILO—and then just got the rest from crosses) (4D: Metric pressure unit)
  • ATS (I'm never going to remember this cruddy thing) (9D: Cadillac model that debuted in 2012)
  • POGOS (it's a dance now?) (26D: Dances by jumping in place)
  • JAMAL (after the "-AL" I actually "knew" it, but kept doubting it and taking it out when I couldn't get crosses to work; more on that in a bit) (23D: Crawford who won the 2014 Sixth Man of the Year Award)
  • ANNE Hutchison (no hope) (34D: Colonial heretic Hutchison)
  • FLECHE (as I said) (46A: Fencing move that means "arrow" in French)
  • AIR BOAT (got the BOAT—and then it was just a guess; had no idea those boats w/ giant fans were called that) (42A: Everglades transport)
  • LTGEN (honestly didn't know that was even a rank; can't remember ever seeing it in crosswords) (45A: Geo. Washington was the U.S.'s first)
  • CITRON (that's a real fruit?) (39D: Fruit historically used for medicinal purposes)
  • "THE CAT" (hahahaha no) (20D: 1960s Robert Loggia series about a burglar-turned-bodyguard)
  • ORGANA (hahahaha no) (40D: "Star Wars" surname)

I got this far without too much difficulty:

[You can just ignore that stray, incorrect ACT up there in the NE—that's just a reflex entry from seeing the phrase "When Romeo says…" in the clue] 

As you can see, I couldn't make the turn out of the NW and so had to start over completely in the SW, where HEROD was a gimme (or so I hoped when I wrote it in) (43D: Villain in a Nativity play), and HATRED was a good guess, and I gained traction from there. Once I finished the SW and threw THIS OLD THING across, I figured I was good to go.

But … no. I ended up with two Spots of Brutality: the J-SHAPED / "THE CAT" (!?!?!?!) crossing, and the single answer, ORGANA. In the first case, there was a pile-up of problems. J-SHAPED (23A: Like many hooks) was totally unexpected and the JS- looked wrong, so JAMAL went in and out a lot. "THE CAT" … I can't even say. Utter unknown. Blank. Ridiculous obscurity. But I was able to infer it, eventually, so … fairish? Then there was the brutal clue on nearby PALETTES (26A: Studio mixing equipment), which also made this little part hard to solve. I totally fell for the fake-out in that clue (imagining a music studio, not an art studio), so even with much of the answer filled in, I had no idea what was going on. Not knowing PALETTES meant I kept taking out and putting back in the "P" in POGOS. GOGOS? Who knows? So that section was a face-slap.

But the SW corner was worse. I was sure I had it. SCOURGES and TUBE TOP went in and I figured everything in their grasp would be mine. But the AIR- in AIRBOAT, no; LTGEN, no (out of desperation I almost tried USSEN, even though I knew a. that was wrong and b. that is not an acceptable abbr.). If I listed a million fruits, CITRON would not be one. I was running fruits like mad: CHERRY? CRAISIN? Is that a fruit? Gah! Could Not think of a fever-producer ending in "-O" (I wasn't considering abbrs., I guess, because no such thing was indicated). The worst thing here, though, is ORGANA. I wager than something way south of 5% of solvers had any idea there. I had none. Zero. I have a framed "Star Wars" poster on my living room wall. I'm guessing that this ORGANA crap is predominantly if not exclusively in those SCOURGES now labeled "Episodes I, II, III." Anyway, zero hope there. Only way I solved that corner was by finally shoving in ERAT and SNAP and *refusing* to take them out. Then I tried --GEN for the Washington answer, then just *guessed* that LTGEN was a thing. Can't believe I couldn't remember my cigarette brands, esp. a brand as familiar as SALEM(S). That might've made a big difference. But with AIRBOAT LTGEN CITRON ORGANA all barely or not at all known to me, hoo boy, that was rough.

Again, I think the grid is pretty solid. Lots of colloquialisms. Lots of zip. I am biased against this thing because it was misplaced on Friday and because its difficulty came excessively from proper nouns that I either had no way of knowing ("THE CAT"!?) or should not have to know because all "Star Wars" prequels are utter garbage (ORGANA).
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Oscar 8:01 AM  

    Brutal. I thought maybe the Mariners were A-HOLES.

    M. David Hornbuckle 8:02 AM  

    The pogo was the popular dance of the New Wave/Punk phase of the '80s. I did it at my prom.

    Rhino 8:10 AM  

    Organa Is princess leia's adopted last name.

    Jim Walker 8:15 AM  

    Extremely hard puzzle. Could not finish without Googling a few things like THECAT, ORGANA, and PTA. I loved the misdirection on PALETTES and PROBES. It was fun to finish even with the three cheats. Only gripe is SCRODS. Don't think it should be plural unless there are several species of Scrod. No biggie.

    Anonymous 8:16 AM  

    Medium for us. The long crossers were not difficult to work out. ANNE Hutchison a gimme, also LTGEN as we had just read about it in a book about W.T. Sherman. Have seen ORGANA in puzzles before. Guessed PANGAEA but weren't sure how to spell it. LORD first, then LADY. Same trouble as Rex in JSHAPED. As usual, clueless on all pop cultch entries.

    Nancy in PA 8:17 AM  

    Had a little "aha" moment when FLECHE finally fell into place.Have been mentally collecting names that indicate professions for awhile (Baker, Carter, Wainwright) and now know why Fletcher means arrow-maker. Even my time on the Camino de Santiago looking for las flechas amarillas didn't produce that connection!

    optionsgeek 8:19 AM  

    Uh, Leia ORGANS? Hello? Is that too obscure for a Saturday? Slap a couple of cinnabons on your head and you've got a frickin' Halloween costume.

    optionsgeek 8:19 AM  

    Oops, ORGANA, stupid iPhone.

    DShawMaine 8:19 AM  

    So happy to read that so far everyone thought this was brutal. Don't think I had even 10 entries before I hit Google, and then maybe only filled in 4-5 more before I gave up at 40 minutes - it just wasn't going to happen. Most Friday's are DNFs for me, but this was almost a DNS(tart).
    Remembered the Robert Loggia series (but not the name - thanks Google), so that was a sweet nostalgia moment. Would have liked POGOS better if clue had just been "Jumps in place" (no '80's dancing here).
    Live in New England and would never think SCROD is a delicacy - in fact, think it's a catch-all name for the fish of the day.
    Ah well, stay warm everyone. -10 degrees here this AM.

    jberg 8:22 AM  

    She's Princess Leia ORGANA right from the start in Part IV -- I thought that was a gimme, I just ran Vader, Solo, etc. for letter count and went with Organa right away.

    On the other hand, my hooks were s-SHAPED, and I actually let sAMAL stay in there. Perils of not thinking.

    But I blame it all on SCRODS. There are absolutely no such things as scrods; the only acceptable plural of scrod is SCROD. Same as with cod (for those of you not familiar with New England, it's a made up menu-word meaning "some kind of flaky white fish." The legend is that some chef had to order the menus printed before he went to the fish market, and wasn't sure whether he would end up with cod or haddock, so invented a new word.) At least it is appropriately located off the East Coast.

    But there's a saving grace -- the in-your-face cluing of a RRN with the dates of a Chinese dynasty.

    I wanted invasive or invaders before SCOURGES, so much that I almost gave up the gimme Nora EPHRON. But that was fair enough.

    Got to run, early morning meeting.

    Dorothy Biggs 8:29 AM  

    Lets just call a spade a spade, shall we? This puzzle wasn't challenging, it was downright hard.

    Lots of obscurity made for lots of Googling and puzzle checking. I wouldn't call the puzzle unfair, but it was close.

    Had mlbErS before PROBES. LOOKATTHis before LOOKATTHAT. And many others...

    This was a chewy puzzle if by "chewy" you mean it chewed on me.

    Anonymous 8:33 AM  

    Heh, I had the exact same "ACT[x]" reflex, which had me bogged down in NE until I went back and actually read the clue (novel idea huh)

    JP 8:40 AM  

    Impossible. Discouraging. At least I take comfort that Rex and others found this challenging.

    Sir Hillary 8:43 AM  

    Definitely hard for a Friday, but I didn't find this quite the brute that OFL did. All about sweet spots, I suppose. What made this hard for me was the fact that single entry points to the NW and SE effectively resulted in three separate puzzles.

    @Rex and I solved this in reverse from one another. I started dead center -- dropped in TAIGA, POGOS and JAMAL, which begat PANGAEA, YOURETOOMUCH and THISOLDTHING. Because I knew JAMAL (sports dork here!) JSHAPED was an easy get -- again, all about sweet spots, as @Rex's hang-up here shows. That led to the NE, and then I came back and did the SW. That all sounds simple, but it took a while. Falling for the music studio head fake, I almost wrote in ProtoolS -- thankfully, I held off, or I would still be working that section.

    The problem was getting anywhere from there. Even with OHGROWUP, the NW remained inscrutable for quite a while. My big breakthrough was KILOBAR -- that led to LOOKATTHAT, and then the whole region fell eventually.

    Finally, the SE, by far the toughest section for me. I had -IS----- at 33D, so of course was thinking KISS-something. Was there a revolutionary leader named kAi that I had never heard of? But again, I held off writing anything in. The breakthrough down there was EASYDOESIT.

    All in all, this is very solid work. Lots of things I had forgotten (ORGANA, KILOBAR, EPHRON being involved with All The President's Men) or never knew at all (FLECHE, THECAT, ATS) but the odd bits that I knew (JAMAL, AIRBOAT, ANNE Hutchinson whose eponymous parkway is a few miles from my house) were life-savers. Excellent Friday workout, which I am guessing will prove harder than Saturday's this week.

    And for those who simply found this too difficult, annoying or otherwise unpleasant...the puzzle itself invites you to vent your frustration, precisely at 37D: HIT HERE.

    Carola 8:48 AM  

    POGOS, SLUED, TACKS, ROCKED - a lively puzzle and an enjoyable challenge, yielding to steady pressure, lucky-to-know-it crosses (EPHRON x PANGAEA), a lot of guessing (J-SHAPED x JAMAL, CITRON x LTGEN), and an indelibly bad memory of undercooked SCROD. Shudder.

    Ditto @jberg on Princess Leia ORGANA, who saved me from an Everglades pontoOn. Also had to erase YOU'RE a stitCH. Somehow knew FLECHE from Girl Scouts, eons ago.

    @Jim Walker - Thanks for jogging my brain - I hadn't understood PALETTES until I read your comment.

    three of clubs 8:53 AM  

    Don't really care for using Roman numerals to represent years corresponding to Chinese dynasties. I was all set with Rat or some such.

    evil doug 8:59 AM  

    It wasn't "The Cat; it was T.H.E. Cat. I think his initials stood for Thomas Hewitt Edward, maybe....

    Interestingly, majors rank above lieutenants; but lieutenant generals rank above major generals.

    I often greet people, "Hit here!" I won't tell you where I point, though....


    Anonymous 9:04 AM  

    I agree this was a very challenging puzzle (I ended up with a DNF due to having S-SHAPED/SAMAL instead of J-SHAPED/JAMAL), but I would definitely take up Rex on his wager that "something way south of 5% of solvers had any idea there." I'm not a Star Wars geek by any measure, but ORGANA was the only thing that got me a toehold in the SW corner and it's what made me eventually give up FANBOAT.

    Star Wars is one of, if not the, most popular film series of all times, and right in the very first episode (Episode IV) it is clearly stated that the characters are Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Obi-wan Kenobi, Darth Vader and Princess Leia ORGANA. I can certainly understand if Rex somehow just can't remember it or if he is perhaps just not a fan of the movie, but it's certainly not obscure.

    Now, JAMAL -- that's obscure...

    Anonymous 9:09 AM  

    A proper challenge! Yesterday's curmudgeonly grousing about pop culture has been replaced with a satisfied sigh. All is forgiven.

    Unknown 9:09 AM  

    Definitely challenging, although my challenges differed from RP's. ANNE, AIRBOAT, LTGEN were gimmes. Lots of blank spaces for long periods of time though. EASYDOESIT and YOURETOOMUCH gave me the leverage I needed to break this puzzle down. No googling, so I am very pleased with myself this morning. So, I expect to be slammed by tomorrow's puzzle in retribution.....

    Bill 9:18 AM  


    Hand up for ACT_
    Had YOU CRACK ME UP at 27A for the looongest time after YOU and the gimme JAMAL.

    Kept thinking 35D was OH GOD, but with only 4 squares …


    L 9:22 AM  

    Brutal. Like DShawMaine above, I hit google after a handful of answers and gave up. Possibly hardest puzzle I've seen in a long while, at least for NYT. Airboat was a gimme, as I'm planning an Everglades tour for the kids who are huge Swamp People fans.

    Unknown 9:23 AM  

    So relieved to see this rated as Challenging.

    Had to laugh at Rex's screen shot...I had the exact same experience, ACT_ and all.

    Have lived in NE all my life and have never considered SCROD a delicacy. Also have never seen it in plural form.

    CITRON has shown up in other crosswords as ETROG....a fragrant lemon-like fruit used during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

    Leapfinger 9:23 AM  

    EASY DOES IT...Uh-huh!? YOURE TwO MUCH, you strangulated corners!

    Same here, for Rex's solve pattern, even unto the ACT_; for SCROD thoughts, for Burmese invaders, for PANG--- endings, for Lord/LADY, for MISdirects on PALETTE, TEE et alii. Only about 6004 different things will cause a fever.
    Also did a Che/MAO, hawed/SLUED, OH GROans,and wanted an extra H in AhCHOO and OhGod. Can't remember how I ended EX-, but it wasn't EMPT. My hooks started out U-SHAPED, probably M&A brainwashing.

    On the plus side, I FESS up to being pretty chuffed about deducing FLECHE from Fletcher, like @Nancy from PA. (Maybe it's a PA thing?).

    I really think I would have gotten ORGANA if clued Fata M_____.

    MAO HING? And DOOR may be the new DOOK...
    Da doo CITRON

    This IS NO SNAP, Kyle M, it's downright TACKSing. But THIS OLD THING had a grand time.

    Unknown 9:29 AM  

    Organa was my gimme in the SW corner. So easy for a Star Wars fan.

    Bill the Cat 9:40 AM  


    Leapfinger 9:41 AM  

    If you goto square 43 and are willing to turn corners, you can cobble together ANNE HECHE and [appropriately] HEADS ACHE.

    For women 'of a certain age' there's the HAT, RED... which I believe is supposed to have a purple band?

    Of course, it's T.H.E. CAT (headslap)

    Zeke 9:50 AM  

    I had this rated as easy-medium, thanks to a number of idiosyncratic gimmes. POGO I looked up last time it was in a puzzle (jump up and down), and all I could find was a reference to the dance, so my ire of recent weeks turned into a gimme today. I made my own arrows as a kid, so FLETCH similarly fell into place without a thought. THECAT should have been unforgivable, a 60yo show that ran for exactly one season, but it was readily inferable, so I forgave it. The seeminly unfogivable is funny that way. SCRODS was similarly horrible, but I found it amusing. SCROD seems to me to be a portmanteau of scrotum and cod-piece, i.e. a SCROD is a protective device for your scrotum but not your penis, providing a potentially dangerous sense of false security. On second thought, back when I rode horses more often, or badly, I wished I had a SCROD - all the protection you need but you can still hop off and take a leak without too much problem.

    Ω 9:50 AM  

    It is Princess Leia. Knowing her last name is ORGANA says something about you. I'm guessing the last name is mentioned once, maybe twice, in Star Wars.

    That Grid Image is an exact replica of my grid. Rex's comments are an almost exact replica of my response to this puzzle minus one element - I don't find pronoun laden colloquialisms all that interesting (THAT, THIS, YOU'RE, IT'S, IT, THERE, and for the bonus SIE). You certainly won't improve my opinion of your grid with the Chinese dynasty clue for a RRN. I did like the not baseball misdirect for PROBES.

    Tita 9:52 AM  

    @Nancy - Camino de Santiago? We've visited bits of it, in France and in Spain, and have considered doing more.

    Agree with @DShaw, @jberg re: SCROD.

    A few toeholds early on gave me hope, but the 3 separate puzzles were diabolical, and I needed a reveal or two to help TACK.

    YOUbreakmeup, YOUcrackmeup, YOUREsOfunny - what a RIOT!

    ANNE Hutchinson is a gimme, only because her eponymous Parkway runs right through the land of my youth.
    (@SirH - HITHERE neighbor!)

    A fair Friday fight. Thanks Mr. Mahowald!

    Norm 9:52 AM  

    Hard and boring. The long phrases were very dated. Does anyone really say "this old thing" or "you're too much" any more? Very dull.

    Steve M 10:01 AM  

    No hope

    John V 10:03 AM  

    Completely impossible, for all @Rex said. Didn't seem Kyle Mahowald wanted the solver to win. Not a good puzzle.

    Tita 10:13 AM  

    Tangential reference:

    Mom's family in Portugal in the 60s...
    Their cleaning lady went to a luggage shop, and asked the shopkeeper if he could show her bags.
    "Ladies bags?", he asks.
    She answers, "No - for maids."

    My mother tells this story, which while funny in the wordplay sense, is sad because it clearly illustrates the class distinctions that were so engrained. And still exist.

    Hartley70 10:15 AM  

    Fugeddabowtit! This was way too hard. I also got my toes wet in the NW and SE, but after that I was dry as a bone.

    Yes to the imaginary SCRODS and it's never a plural.

    I need help with PROBES, someone. I thought they were MLBers.

    @SirHillary years of traveling down the Merritt and onto the "Hutch", and I never made the connection to Anne. Thanks for the lightbulb.

    Nancy 10:15 AM  

    Boy, was this hard -- mostly in a good way. I didn't think I'd EVER get even one toehold; finally got one in the SE where ACHOO (great misleading clue) parallels HEROD (I had had JUDAS, at first, but the letter combinations were way off). ANNE should have been a gimme, but I didn't see it at first.
    To the Midwest: Aids instead of PAYS for 21 D (I was so sure!) threw off half the puzzle for eons. Finally, after much enjoyable suffering, I almost finished, Naticking at J SHAPED (thought it was C SHAPED) and JAMAL. Also Naticked at PANGAEA and TAIGA. But, because it was mostly such a good brain exercise, I will forgive the fiendishly located proper names that brought me down.

    noone 10:26 AM  

    Gave up without even googling because I only had 2 downs and the clues just weren't speaking to me. Why torture myself when I can go out and run in the 18°F sunshine?
    But SALEMS as an alternate to CAMELS?? I haven't smoked in 50 years, but menthol cigs are not a sub for Camels!

    Anonymous 10:27 AM  

    SCRODS??? SCRODS??? Shame on you Will Shortz!

    Whirred Whacks 10:28 AM  

    Et tu Brutal as well. Hardest of '15 for me (makes up for easy Thursday yesterday).

    @Three of Clubs Agree with you that using Roman numerals to date Chinese dynasties is just plain mean.

    Norm C. 10:31 AM  

    Epic fail here, too, for all reasons @Rex said. This would rank challenging for Saturday, I'm sure.

    Typical of the clues that tied me up is 14D. I've lived in Boston, and scrod is _not_ a delicacy any more than hamburger. (Not that it can't be prepared well.) And I _never_ heard or saw it pluralized with 's'.

    Jlb 10:32 AM  

    Oh good! I hate it when I find a puzzle hard and Rex and y'all say it's easy. But today we all pretty much agree. Hard! But I got it,

    Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:37 AM  

    I did better today than I did yesterday, where I know none of the the songs and could only guess at partials. At least the long answers today were fairly gettable.

    Aitch 10:41 AM  

    I also fell prey to ACT_ and entering/erasing Jamal. Got a gimme out of AIRBOATs thanks to Sterling Malory Archer and his Burt Reynolds fueled obsession with them.

    I have to say I'm a fan of the seeming shift in @Rex 's write-up focus from commentary on quality (or lack of) to detailed solving experience.
    Definitely interesting to see parallels (or lack of).

    Anyways, despite a few stumping unknowns (scrods, etc.), a very enjoyable challenge.

    Hartley70 10:46 AM  

    Never mind! I must have "spaced" out.

    Anonymous 10:49 AM  

    Brutal. Yet oddly THE cat was the first I knew. Generational thing I guess.

    Anonymous 10:58 AM  

    Challenging? I finished way under usual Friday time.

    wreck 11:06 AM  

    I don't think a single puzzle was day-of-the-week appropriate this past week. When I get THIS stumped, I don't resort to Google, I just give up and cheat!

    Fred Romagnolo 11:13 AM  

    I was the opposite, I cracked the NE first. I did not know: ORGANA, AIRBOAT, or T.H.E.CAT and I find colloquialisms annoyingly greenpaintish, in terms of it could be anything. Super-hard, and dissatisfying. We're still waiting for the promised rain, which was promised for yesterday, it's PST 8:12 AM. Didn't get a single drop in all of January.

    Ludyjynn 11:14 AM  

    First response was T.H.E. CAT, which I watched as a child of the '60s. Distinctly remember 'having the hots' for Robert Loggia, who played a sexy cat burglar.

    The SE quad fell easily after that, making me think I had a shot at this. Optimism was short-lived, however, for all the reasons noted by others.

    AIRBOAT was a gimme, having done some touring on one in Everglades National Park. You should try this, Rex. Touristy, but very EXHILARATing.

    Gotta HAND it to KM and WS; you got me 'good'.

    AliasZ 11:17 AM  

    Is it Saturday already? What happened to our Friday? You know, the usual "tough but fair" Friday? Because this was not fair.

    I got AIWA, ERAT, TAIGA and PANG-something (couldn't remember the spelling) at first pass and that was it. I stared at them scattered around haphazardly in the snow-white expanse for a good long time. But with a DOGLI CENSE of determination I cautiously started to enter a few more letters here and there. ACHOO came from remembering the exact same clue used a couple of months ago, took a guess at MAO -- crossworld's three-letter sweetheart dictator along with IDI, King of Scotland -- and pretty soon the SE puzzle was done, which did not help one iota in cracking the remaining two puzzles.

    The HIT HERE and ITS DOOR DIE (as door nail) MISREADS did not help. HIT HERE reminds me of the old joke about the IT guy who placed a red sticker on the server saying "HIT HERE". If it still doesn't work, use a bigger hammer.

    A very tough, unfair puzzle this was, made unnecessarily tougher by the segregation of its three distinct components, some strategically placed proper names, not to mention the overabundance of colloquialisms, of which my personal limit is one.

    I know J.S. Bach but who is J.S. HAPED? I also know Ahmad JAMAL. For the life of me I couldn't come up with a good reason to bypass him in favor of a basketball player.

    Best clue of the day: the utterance in Act 1 by Romeo:

    Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
    It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
    Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear,
    Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear.
    So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows
    As yonder lady o'er her fellows shows.
    The measure done, I’ll watch her place of stand,
    And, touching hers, make blessèd my rude hand.
    Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
    For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.

    Elephant's Child 11:21 AM  

    @Hartley70, thanks for throwing the Merritt into the mix with the Hutch and Anne; that made the connection for me. Best remembered as the site where I totalled my first car, a usually indestructible old Volvo station wagon. Mmm, must have been Sept '69.

    Nancy Klein 11:24 AM  

    I thought this was brutal as well. I rarely google or check answers on the app, but did both this time just to get it over with.
    I disagree on one point: flèche is not at all an obscure French word and I took only 3 years of high school French in the 70s. That answer, in fact, was my start to the puzzle.

    mathguy 11:27 AM  

    Pleased that I was able to get it with only one lookup (TAIGA) and a key get by The Closer. I called her in early. I had JAMAL and she saw JSHAPED.

    Bill Butler wasn't able to finish it -- he died in the NW.

    I guessed EPRON because she was one of our best-known screenwriters but I hadn't heard that she knew the identity of Deep Throat. I know that she was married to Carl Bernstein. I just checked the Internet and saw a quote where she said that Bernstein didn't tell her but that she deduced it.

    Sir Hillary: I like your idea of classifying puzzles in terms of the number of necessary entry points. In this one I only had three potential entry points: LED, ISNO, and JAMAL. I just tried to identify trains of entries with a red pen to see if I could see how the trains connected the quadrants but wasn't able to remember well enough.

    Liked hearing the discussion of SCROD. I don't think we get it here in San Francisco.

    Don't like the clue for SCOURGES. Why Burmese pythons in particular?

    Nobody's complaining about PANGAEA? Has it been in the puzzle before? The only words I know are those which have been in the puzzles.

    A bit too hard for me but quite an admirable piece of work.

    E.J. Copperman 11:27 AM  

    T.H.E. CAT was one of my few gimmes. I am old.

    Jisvan 11:31 AM  

    Hi Fred! We are waiting for rain also. In the ultra distance cycling world a Flèche is a kind of bike ride where riders from different areas converge on a predetermined location at a predetermined time, like arrows striking a target. Try that for obscurity, but it's a Thing in my world. I kind of liked this one, even with the fragmented grid. I google mightily by week's end, so it was educational, doable with Google and entertaining here. (We do not *reveal*, however! Unless we have given up all hope...) wow, the sun is actually shining now. Where is our water?!?

    jae 11:33 AM  

    I had this at medium-tough over all with NW easy, SE medium, SW tough for Rex's reasons (I refused to see Episodes 1-3) plus fan before AIR, and NE medium (me too for ACT).

    Also had the J vs. S SHAPED problem, but JAMAL (a WOE) seemed more reasonable than sAMAL.

    A fine Fri., Liked it.

    MetroGnome 11:36 AM  

    For some weird reason, I atypically remembered "T.H.E. Cat" and got "Organa" right away (in fact, that last one was so easy I thought it must be wrong). But as an old New Englander, I can asset that 'tain't no such things as "SCRODS," because 'tain't no such fish as a "SCROD" in the first place; it basically means "Catch of the Day," although I don't know its precise etymology (a play on the word "cod," I assume).

    "OXO" Never heard of it, likewise "ATS" (brand names almost always defeat me) -- and I got further annihilated by that "PANAGAEA"/"TAIGA" cross, neither of which I was familiar with either.

    And can someone explain to me why The Mariners are "PROBES"?

    jae 11:36 AM  

    And thanks ED for T.H.E. CAT. I had no memory of the series until you posted that.

    MetroGnome 11:38 AM  

    p.s. -- "ACHOO" is a sneeze, so it *IS* the "big blow," isn't it? How does it come BEFORE the blow?

    Anonymous 11:40 AM  

    Mariner 1, Mariner 2, Mariner 3, Mariner 4 and Mariner 5 were the names of space probes sent to Venus and Mars in the 1960s.

    Another Boston resident here who hated seeing SCRODS. No, you would never pluralize it and no, it isn't a delicacy. It's just a name used for any generic white fish.

    Conrad Carlberg 11:42 AM  

    LTGEN appeared in the 6/16/2007 puzzle.

    Anonymous 11:42 AM  

    People often blow their nose after sneezing...

    Anonymous 11:43 AM  

    The ranks used to be Lieutenant General and sergeant major general. The sergeant was eventually dropped,so now the ranks seem reversed.

    MetroGnome 11:45 AM  

    p.p.s. (SORRY!)

    What the frig does "NEER" mean????

    Anonymous 11:59 AM  

    It means "never" in poetry.

    ORGANA was not a gimme for Star Wars fans. Had trouble with the acrosses in that corner, so held out for the less-obscure KENOBI for a while.

    Ω 11:59 AM  

    @MetroGnome - NE'ER is poetese for NEvER. More common crosswordese is E'ER for EvER.

    R. McGeddon 12:09 PM  

    I also had YOUREastitCH for 27A, which was "confirmed" by sunup at 30D. That caused a freeze in the middle that was only broken by Googling JAMAL. Feel less humiliated from hearing others esp. Rex call this a major challenge. Thank you.

    Andrew Heinegg 12:18 PM  

    You need to be careful about critcizing a puzzle that required googling or flat out cheating for you to solve. The ego tends to block positive assessment of something that makes you feel small intellectually. That stated, this was a hopelessly difficult puzzle with a number of answers that were just flat out awful: pogos, you're too much, citron and tee, just to nane a few. Tee, clued as 'It gets swung over' is an incorrect statement. The tee gets struck along with the ball in a golf swing. If you want to publish as tough a nut to crack as this one, you, as in Mr. Shortz, are not doing your job when you permit clues like that to make their way into the puzzle.

    Don McBrien 12:18 PM  

    Couldn't finish NW corner because I had READ TO instead of ROCKED and N/AL TEAM for Mariners. Had DOG LICENSE, but gave it up because I was too stubborn to come off the other two. Fun puzzle.

    Andrew Heinegg 12:18 PM  

    You need to be careful about critcizing a puzzle that required googling or flat out cheating for you to solve. The ego tends to block positive assessment of something that makes you feel small intellectually. That stated, this was a hopelessly difficult puzzle with a number of answers that were just flat out awful: pogos, you're too much, citron and tee, just to nane a few. Tee, clued as 'It gets swung over' is an incorrect statement. The tee gets struck along with the ball in a golf swing. If you want to publish as tough a nut to crack as this one, you, as in Mr. Shortz, are not doing your job when you permit clues like that to make their way into the puzzle.

    Ω 12:20 PM  

    Possible FLÈCHE Clues:

    Church Spire
    Team cycling event
    Offensive épée
    Redan type

    for LA FLÈCHE we could get French town

    And, of course, "Parisian's arrow."

    Don McBrien 12:20 PM  

    @ Andrew, how about in T-ball?

    Anonymous 12:28 PM  

    hate when I have to use checks and it still took an hour, anyone who thought this puzzle was anything but challenging was lucky enough to have a couple of hits because there were NO gimmes. Broke a long streak for me. very humbling

    oldactor 12:31 PM  

    Shakespearean for NEVER

    joho 12:37 PM  

    Since I only got the whole NW filled in correctly with the exception of YOUREastitch (Hi, @Carola!) ... and because I do not Google, I DNF.

    The good news is there's no way tomorrow can be more difficult than this, right?

    Leapfinger 12:37 PM  

    @mathguy, I don't have dates and numbers to back this up, but Burmese pythons in particular because some escaped or were otherwise accidentally introduced into the Everglades. With not much in the way of natural predators, they are multiplying at a significant rate and decimating the natural fauna, since they are very good at what they do.
    From what I've heard, Hawaii is a prime example of how plant and animal stowaways can overtake the indigenous biota.

    Leapfinger 12:37 PM  

    @mathguy, I don't have dates and numbers to back this up, but Burmese pythons in particular because some escaped or were otherwise accidentally introduced into the Everglades. With not much in the way of natural predators, they are multiplying at a significant rate and decimating the natural fauna, since they are very good at what they do.
    From what I've heard, Hawaii is a prime example of how plant and animal stowaways can overtake the indigenous biota.

    okanaganer 12:39 PM  

    OK so lately it seems to be fair game that we get no indication when an answer is an abbrev. But have we now completely thrown out the rules for abbrev.s in clues as well? For 16 across I was convinced there was some misdirection because "Org" had no period. I thought maybe it was the old thing, and the answer was HTTP or HTML.

    Anonymous 12:39 PM  

    @ Andrew Heinegg

    After criticizing everyone who gave up and cheated or googled, you proceeded to explain how you found it "hopelessly difficult" and "incorrect." Condescend much?

    Tita 12:42 PM  

    @mathguy... let me pile on to the PANGEA/PANGAEA woes with this tangent...

    I recently found out that I live on the Cameron Fault Line, which is left over from when Gondwana crashed into Laurentia to form PANG[A]EA.

    And to bend that tangent over to touch the puzzle twice, I'm pretty sure that the Hutchinson River follows it too...

    (And the parkway isn't Anne's eponym - it's the river's. I stand self-corrected)

    btw - I lol'd at your only knowing words from puzzles - is that why you're *math*guy?

    jrstocker 12:47 PM  

    Not saying ORGANA is a gimmie to anybody that's seen Star Wars once or twice, but the amount of people that know that is way, way more than 5%.

    Lewis 12:52 PM  

    I'm with @Nancy who said it was hard in a good way. Every time I made a new inroad it felt like a triumph. A couple of areas fell easily; others were like slogging through the mud. I agree with the ugliness of SCRODS and the RRN, and HATRED seems to me to be basically a six-letter partial. Also, I agree with the person above who said SALEMS are no Camels alternative.

    But there was some terrific cluing -- BETS, TEMPO, PALLETTES, PANGAEA, SNAP, TUBETOP, and MISREADS. And I loved OHGROWUP.

    For me, the triumphs outweighed the difficulty.

    Maruchka 12:53 PM  

    Tricksy. 'Nuff said by all.

    Fav of the day - TAIGA. Would love to cross it in a troika..

    Liked the Northern mini-seafood theme. There is no common white fish more delicious than well-prepared SCROD, except for sand dabs (Hi @mathguy).

    Which reminds me of an old, corny joke, @jberg, @Carola, and all NEsters: Businessman goes to Boston for the first time and wants to dine on SCROD. He hails a taxi, gets in, and asks the driver, "Do you know where I can get a good SCROD?". Driver scratches his head and replies, "Funny, that's the first time I've heard that request in the past pluperfect!" Nyah, nyah..

    Atlantasolver 1:23 PM  

    Funny. Only gimme was Jamal Crawford. Played for the Hawks. Now with the Clippers. Lost to LeBron last night.

    mac 1:24 PM  

    Yes, hard in a good way. Two sessions and a couple of holes, but I did enjoy it.

    Learned how to spell exhilarate, that first a was an i for a while.

    I think only the skin of the citron, preserved, gets used, these days in baking. Kugelhupf anyone?

    dick swart 1:35 PM  

    My attempt got as far as Rex's picture. Then I said 'the hell with it!'.

    Lewis 1:47 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    LHS 888 1:51 PM  

    Another DNF here. In fact, this may be my worst DNF in a year given the amount of white space after 57 min. I had the far NW filled in in ~5 min, then down to the SE which was a struggle, but gettable. Then... nothing more. I had @Rex's snapshot, including ACT and the ED, but without the benefit of PROBES, PAYS, RIOT, BA. AIWA was in and out as a trade for aidS vs. ---S. The rest of the puzzle was just b-l-a-n-k when I finally caved and hit the "check all" button.

    To my shame I totally fell for the baseball misdirect for PROBES & the music misdirect for PALLETTES.

    Hand up for really, really disliking plural SCRODS & a RRN for dating a Chinese dynasty.

    I'm not a smoker, but I somehow knew a brand name was required. I just couldn't come up with SALEMS.

    Put me in the 95% who didn't know Princess Leia's last name. Skywalker, Solo, Vader, Amadala, Kenobe, Calrissian, Fett... these are last names I know from Star Wars.

    Errors & write-overs:
    invaderS > SCOURGES
    pres > EXEC
    sign > BETS
    incoma > EXEMPT
    Pegboard > PALETTES
    duke > LADY
    judas > HEROD
    luckyS > SALEMS
    ague > MONO
    takeitEasy > EASYDOESIT
    kenobe > vaders > ---ANA > ORGANA

    mathguy 1:53 PM  

    Tita: Thanks for your comment about the collision of Gondwana and Laurentia forming Pangaea. That prompted me to do a little Internet research. I'm impressed by your knowledge of paleogeograohy (another new word for me). I also learned that Pangaea was surrounded by the super ocean Panthalassa.

    Leapfinger: Thanks for the information about Burmese pythons.

    AliasZ: Thanks for quoting Romeo's lovely speech. I had forgotten that Shakespeare's major speeches rhymed.

    AliasZ 1:59 PM  

    The difference between LOOK AT THAT and LOOK AT THIS is the distance between the speaker of the words and the thing at which we are supposed to look. If it's near the person, it's "this", if it's far, it's "that". I don't know what the cut-off distance is. It may be inches or feet, yards or miles, or even light years. "LOOK AT THAT beautiful galaxy!" "Which one? That one over there?" "No, this one right here." LOOK AT THIS therefore is an equally correct answer to "Check it out!" And of course, that's what I entered.

    Is ORGANA the female version of organum? Inquiring minds need to know.

    "Organum is, in general, a plainchant melody with at least one added voice to enhance the harmony, developed in the Middle Ages. Depending on the mode and form of the chant, a supporting bass line may be sung on the same text, the melody may be followed in parallel motion, or a combination of both of these techniques may be employed. As no real independent second voice exists, this is a form of heterophony. In its earliest stages, organum involved two musical voices: a Gregorian chant melody, and the same melody transposed by a consonant interval, usually a perfect fifth or fourth.[...] Organum was originally improvised; while one singer performed a notated melody (the vox principalis), another singer — singing "by ear" — provided the unnotated second melody (the vox organalis). Over time, composers began to write added parts that were not just simple transpositions, thus creating true polyphony." (Wikipedia)

    Here is a perfect example courtesy Pérotin (fl. c. 1200): Sederunt principes. I could listen to this ad infinitum.

    Danield 1:59 PM  

    Tough, but all Friday's are struggles for me. Loved clues for Pangaea and palettes. Many minutes staring at puz before ltgen materialized. Thank you, Kyle, for a real tester.

    Lewis 2:05 PM  

    Factoid: In 1987, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis pardoned ANNE Hutchinson, revoking the order of banishment by Governor Winthrop 350 years earlier.

    Quotoid: "My mother-in-law had a pain BENEATH her left breast. Turned out to be a trick knee." -- Phyllis Diller

    Anonymous 2:08 PM  

    Got it...took me an hour plus because I SO wanted the Camel alternative to be VAPING. Which screwed up the SW something fierce.

    Anonymous 2:09 PM  

    Idiotic puzzle. Actually, the show, which aired for exactly one season (1966-67), was "T.H.E. Cat," the lead character having the name Thomas Hewitt Edward Cat. Get it? Yes, very obscure. Somehow solved this one, Anne Hutchison and all, with no Googles, etc. But it was a jerky and idiotic puzzle nonetheless. Finally got that the "Mariners" the puzzle asked for were interplanetary un-humaned (can't say "unmanned," don't want to be sexist/genderist, etc.) missions, not a baseball team. Got "fleche" (and I have about the same familiarity with French as Rex, i.e., pretty good) by assuming it was related to the English word "fletcher," i.e., someone who makes arrows for a living.

    Maruchka 2:16 PM  

    Rats, forgot to check edits. Question should read, "Do you know a place where I can get SCROD?"

    Marc 2:18 PM  

    I haven't done too many puzzles lately so this one was near impossible for me. I have very little filled in outside of the NW.

    I had TITANIC for PANAGEA so when I misspelled TAIGA has TiaGA it seemed to fit.

    But in the SW I had 5 answers filled in and that was it. I had SNAP along with... AIRBOAT LTGEN CITRON ORGANA. For some reason those all came easy to me (after going through all the Star Wars surnames I could think of).

    Alan 2:20 PM  

    Hard, but I finished, and that felt gooood. Like many others, finished in the SW, where I held on to fanBOAT for far too long. When I finally abandoned the fan, CITRON came immediately, and so did the rest. ORGANA only from the crosses, but then I'm only the level of Star Wars fan who has seen all of the movies, but not ten times, and I've NEER set foot inside comic con.

    Martel Moopsbane 2:35 PM  

    Agree with all who felt this was a tough one. Never got prOBES or aiWA (even though I once had an Aiwa reel-to-reel tape recorder!). One thing that made it tougher for me were the minimal one-box connections from the NE and SW blocks to the central diagonal core. It played a bit like three separate puzzles for that reason.

    chefwen 2:50 PM  

    So much for my Google free week, that was brought to an abrupt end. Got all my little squares filled in, but HOO BOY, this was tough.

    GILL I. 3:07 PM  

    SCRODS? Sounds like a male genitalic package....ORGANA??? is that the side dish?
    OOF but yes, in a fun sort of way.
    I think I'm in the @Wreck camp - the puzzles felt out of whack this week.
    Oh, I got FLECHE because what else can arrow be?

    Ω 3:32 PM  

    With so much undocumented commentary, I did a little fishing for SCRODS. Apparently it has devolved from "freshest" to "cheapest" catch of the day. Given the many definitions out there in the wild, the POC seems a stretch but defensible.

    Martel Moopsbane 3:36 PM  

    Let's re-clue SCRODS to: muscle cars in Columbia?

    Anonymous 3:41 PM  

    Difficult puzzle, but certainly do-able. 20 minutes, which is between typical Friday and Saturday times. Once again surprised at some of the things @Rex doesn't know.

    RnRGhost57 4:15 PM  

    Hard to imagine that OFL, a professor in the Humanities, is not aware of Anne Hutchinson. Along with Roger Williams, she was one of the first prominent religious dissenters in American history"

    Steve J 4:21 PM  

    I'm with many others in finding this brutally hard - the hardest puzzle I can recall in years. It reminded me of a few years ago before I started giving Friday and Saturdays a shot. Seeming eons gone by with just a couple scattered entries. More writeovers than I could count. Going nowhere fast.

    Finally raining here in NorCal. Which for me means a weekend staying inside, reading and catching up on a lot of missed xwords from other sources. Wonderful way to spend the weekend.

    Andy 4:39 PM  

    the only thing redeeming about this puzzle was it stumped the great Rex Parker in much the same way it stumped me. Doubting JAMAL several times and thinking CITRON was an Absolut flavor name, not a fruit. NEER thought I'd read Rex having the same problems (usually my Challenging-Impossible equals his Easy-Medium) and appreciate the honesty and partial grid shots, mistakes and all...

    Anonymous 5:13 PM  

    I think Rex and I just have different frames of reference. Because this is the second time in the last week or so when I've found a puzzle easy (relative to how Rex describes it), and Rex is constantly rating puzzles as easy that I have a lot of trouble with.

    Anonymous 5:17 PM  

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    Masked and Anonymo3Us 5:20 PM  

    Completely solved it in record time. Not a good-type of record, tho. It was almost like fightin three different, feisty FriPuzs: the NW one, the central diagonal one, and the SE one.

    NW puz was relatively easy, cuz the long stacks fell quickly. Biggest holdup was that nasty PROBES clue.

    Guessed right on YOURETOOMUCH, but didn't have much confidence in it, as still couldn't get much of the stuff crossin it. EPHRON, TAIGA, JAMAL and THECAT were of no help. Had to reboot in the SE, and later work back into the center.

    Once again, the long stacks really helped in the SE puz. Had some minor problems parsin ITS DOOR ?IE for a spell. FLECHE has not been used on NYT puz solvers since 1978. Them was 37 real good years.

    I'm in the tried KENOBI first camp. But I just wrote a puz over at that had ORGANA in a clue, so that was an easy second guess.

    @Leapinger is my hero, for tryin U-SHAPED on for size at 23-A.

    {Book deals?} = BETS was kinda yer primo example of a Desperate Clue. That and the crossin honrable mention Desperate Clue {Out of it?} = EXEMPT really made the NE corner play ornerier than a plate of 4-alarm chili beans.

    fave weeject: ATS. I really need to study up on them Caddy models a bit more. Have tended to go thru more of a rusted-out pickups phase, lately.

    Thanx, Kyle Mahowald, for a tough but can-still-be-friends challenge.


    Conrad Carlberg 5:26 PM  

    Can the spell caster help me patch things up with my scrod?

    Wrong Again M and A Breath 5:30 PM  

    My ipad dont type every fourth letter anymore. It POGOS a might.

    So, corrections...
    logpot = blogspot.
    @Leapinger = @Leapfinger.


    Played a couple hours of tennis outside this PM. Peculiar but nice Feb weather, here in MandAville.

    Ω 5:51 PM  

    @RnRGhost57 - The most salient feature of earning a doctorate is that one ends up knowing more and more about less and less. Further, OFL is like the rest of us, what we don't know (or remember) far outstrips what we do know. ANNE may be big in some circles, but I know far more about Albertus Christiaan van Raalte than her (van Raalte may or may not be the inspiration for the old joke in my hometown - "two Dutchman = a Church: three Dutchman = a schism").

    Mohair Sam 5:57 PM  

    Challenging/brutal here too. Toughest NYT puzzle I can remember (for us).

    Big time dnf. Got the top down to YOURTOOMUCH in normal Friday time, then stalled completely with the exception of THISOLDTHING, ANNE, and OGOD. Didn't know most of the words that OFL didn't - although I shoulda known LTGEN.

    Usually like puzzles that whip us, getting lots of aha moments when we find the solve - not so this time. Had fanBOAT for AIRBOAT, and didn't correct even though I had thought of SALEMS - they are simply not alternatives to camels any more than Yugo's are alternatives to real SUV's. THECAT? Really?

    Don't get the clue for MISREADS (33d) can someone help me?

    beatrice 6:21 PM  

    Ensalada la bomba by Mateo FLECHa (1481-1553)

    Sprightly, EXHILARAT(ing) little piece

    Unknown 6:33 PM  

    Want some wrongness?

    burmese pythons - invasive
    Star Wars surname - kenobe
    Washington was the nation's first - potus
    org chart topper - boss
    not so hard - easilydone
    screenwriter who knew Deep Throat - sorkin
    everglades transport - fanboat
    fruit used for medicinal purposes - orange
    sic ___ scriptum - ergo
    is beneficial -aids
    out of it - conked
    buoy - keepafloat
    changes course - turns
    tag base, perhaps - safe
    straight - true
    it gets swung over - axe
    check it out - lookatthis
    many a collar attachment - microphone
    leader who said it is right to rebel - che
    start of some pleas - nolo

    And some rightness: SNAP, HEROD, STP

    My reply ISNO

    2 hours. Greater than 50 errors. How did anyone do this? I'll now go read the other comments to see.

    Unknown 6:53 PM  

    I liked this very much. I was worried when all I had to go on was FLÈCHE but somehow managed to finish without a Google. KILOBAR clicked because that's what I have to set to 32 when filling my tyres at the petrol station.
    @Mohair Sam - I think MISREADS possibly refers to misjudging which side the noses should go on - Always a potentially awkward moment!

    Unknown 6:53 PM  

    @Z, yes SCROD is hardly a delicacy. It really is just the white-fish-of-the-day. So I went with SHRIMP. Another Einstein? Not really. SHRIMP is really isn't a delicacy. I just begins with S and has the right length, and we do have them here.

    Closer to the truth: SCALLOPS didn't fit. Now there's a New England delicacy! And that other shellfish we seem to have a lot of here in Maine. Yes. Luscious.

    Well, my hats off to all of you who got so far. Somehow you avoided my pitfalls. Really, with no traction anywhere, it was just a fruitless exercise. I did google a little, but did not get traction that way either. I used check puzzle copiously and have black marks on 96 (96!) squares. Boy, I tried and tried and kept on going.

    I think my approach is somehow wrong. When I put orange in for CITRON (crosses gave no help) I clearly have my head on almost right, but also really very wrong. I had guessed SNAP right. eRgo wrong. fanBOAT wrong. invasive wrong, so I used orange to knock out more wrongness that rightness, and introduced another wrongness . . . so I guess I still don't get how I can keep that from happening.

    Unknown 7:03 PM  

    The proper unit of pressure is PASCAL_, or newtons per square meter. So I had to spell it with an E to fit: pascale. It felt wrong. It was wrong. Too bad about the clue. I'd have use [Very high unit of pressure] rather than metric, unless I really mean to mislead.

    1 atmosphere is roughly 1 bar. 1 KILOBAR is 1000 atmospheres. That's high pressure.

    There, that's an Einstein for you.

    @SteveJ, this is where you tell me I'm wrong, anyway, and that a KILOBAR is technically a metric unit (albeit deprecated by every standards organization) so what am I complaining about? There. Just saved you the trouble.

    Dave in California 7:47 PM  

    Actually had to reveal the puzzle, which rarely happens

    Steve J 7:53 PM  

    @Casco: I got nothin'. I've never been able to keep units for pressure, etc., straight. (Looking it up ... it appears that there are some cases where metric units aren't SI units, and bar is one of those. News to me.)

    C. Ross Word 8:37 PM  

    @Casco Kid - LMAO. I always enjoy your comments, especially on difficult puzzles. Hit many of the same roadblocks.

    Teedmn 9:02 PM  

    Fantastic challenge! The NW was easy (for a Friday) until I got below ROCKED. Waited on putting in TAIGA, had HEROD and ACHOO in the SW and waited for inspiration.

    But I did something I rarely do, I put in "do you think so?" for 36A with no crosses to back me up. Finally TAIGA and ONSET got me going the right direction. I fought with the same problems as many here, though thank goodness "act" NE'ER occurred to me or I'd still be working on it.

    At times the tumbleweeds were rolling through the scrub of my brain so furiously that Google was Very hard to resist - but resisted and finished in two minutes short of an hour and felt that sense of triumph that comes when one of the tough ones fall.

    Isn't CITRON that nasty fruit found in Christmas fruit cakes?

    Thanks, Mr. Mahowald!

    Unknown 9:13 PM  

    I liked it. Of course, it did take me about an hour, including stepping away for a bit to do some "real" work, then returning to see the answer jumping out at me. No checks or internet searches. The perfect amount of hmmms, uhhhhs... Perfect Friday.

    retired_chemist 9:41 PM  

    Challenging to the point of disaster. But fun. Surprised I finished - I almost gave up several times.

    Thanks, Mr. Mahowald.

    Numinous 10:00 PM  

    Got this in 26 seconds ffaster than my average for a Friday but I had three or four googles. JAMAL, TIAGA, and one or two others.

    In Elizabethan times it was habitual to drop "v" from words as in e'er, NE"ER, Hea'en and so on.

    I had to laugh at PROBES wondering how that would go over here.

    Good puzzle for a late solve after a long day.

    Numinous 10:03 PM  

    Oh, yeah. Judas for a Nativity scene villain? Really? REALLY? Judas comes at the other end of the story!

    Anonymous 10:10 PM  

    As per previous comment, T.H.E. Cat was indeed T. Hewitt Edward Cat...and T was for Tom (I think) - and he hung out at a bar called El Gato...One of the first adventure/noir shows - it was excellent.

    Nancy 11:50 PM  

    To @Mohair Sam: MISREADS: Can't make out the writing, so your reading of it is clumsy. A pretty clumsy clue, actually.

    Clark 12:13 AM  

    @Casco Kid --

    I tried a few of your wrong answers, and almost all of yours were really good wrong answers. The trick is to wildly pull stuff out when nothing's working. I've been known to blank a whole quarter of the puzzle. (Actually, I've blanked the whole thing a couple of times.) Better to delete a correct answer (it'll be back soon enough) than to leave a wrong one in. It took me years to get where you are. Give it a chance. It'll come. Stuff gets rewired somehow. It takes a while.

    bwalker 12:55 AM  

    Went through the puzzle one time when I woke up this morning and thought, "Holy Guac-a-Mole!!!" Got LED first, then NEER, ISNO, and FLECHE (Archery merit badge, French class, and Army training), but then I had to let it go, busy day ahead. When I got back to it this evening, the vast area of white spaces had me bewildered, but I kept at it. Every time I was just about to cave I'd get another, until SNAP, and I finished google-free only four minutes slower than usual at 1:30:09. Didn't know THE CAT, or why the Mariners are PROBES, but I'm glad I got through it. I agree with everyone -- that was tough!!!

    Wood 1:28 AM  

    Agree, Saturday hard at least. The grid was almost completely empty after my initial run of the Acrosses. Got a few Down footholds but still dispiriting. Here's the thing though: I finished in under a hour without any googling, in spite of not knowing most of the same things Rex didn't. This is testament to using logic as much as knowledge to solve the harder puzzles. Figure out what an answer could only be, or couldn't be. I rely on hunch a lot in these cases and it pays off surprisingly often.

    Leapfinger 7:19 AM  

    @Maruschkinha, lol, you got SCROD!

    @Lewis, that trick knee earned a snort.

    @Alias, I knew someone who was known as Organ Alice.

    @MnA, that was a definite tip-off. Figured y'all got some Cinnabon crumbs in your keyboard.
    U're welcome.

    anonymous 10:21 AM  

    Saw the Imitation Game in the afternoon and then took a crack at this in the evening. Maybe Alan Turing could have solved this puzzle (if he'd been up to date on 21st century culture) but to me it was beyond brutal.

    OISK 1:17 PM  

    Finished it correctly, after staring blankly for several minutes. Had huge trouble getting started. I don't appreciate clues involving the last names of fictional characters from pop culture, so Organa was just a guess from the crosses. Never heard of The Cat either, but that made sense from the clue. Hard, but fair, I thought, and it felt good to finish. (During the intermission at "Lady Be Good" in NY)

    Anonymous 2:38 PM  

    Finally got it all. Took a couple of hours of sporadic looking but not writing. But my gimme was TAIGA and things flowed slowly from there. Palettes was a killer even though I had the whole ass end. Very misleading. Great puz. Thanks.

    Steve O. 5:44 PM  

    ANNE Hutchinson was a gimme; there's a river and a parkway with her name in the Bronx. But earned a DNF because I refused to believe TAInA could be wrong.

    Tita 10:05 PM  

    @Cynthia....I love your MISREADing of that answer...!!

    Italians and Portuguese do the first kiss of the requisite double-kiss of greeting on different sides - we Portuguese lean in to the right, Italians lean in to the left.
    Makes for some very embarrassing, sometimes painful, moments!

    Steve O. 11:10 PM  

    ANNE Hutchinson was a gimme; there's a river and a parkway with her name in the Bronx. But earned a DNF because I refused to believe TAInA could be wrong.

    aging soprano 1:24 PM  

    The first time I ate SCRODS was at
    dinner at my mom's nursing home. Certainly not a delicacy!

    aging soprano 1:25 PM  

    The first time I ate SCRODS was at
    dinner at my mom's nursing home. Certainly not a delicacy!

    Anders 8:16 PM  

    Not much for Star Wars trivia, but I have always remembered ORGANA from John Simon's mocking in his pan of the original Star Wars: "Here it is all trite characters and paltry verbiage, handled adequately by Harrison Ford as a blockade-running starship pilot, uninspiredly by Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker (Luke for George Lucas, the author-director; Skywalker for his Icarus complex), and wretchedly by Carrie Fisher, who is not even appealing as Princess Leia Organa (an organic lay).

    Anonymous 8:21 PM  

    FInally finished this on Sunday night. Maybe an hour altogether. Definitely a tough one.

    Slogged through and finished with no external help. Unless you count having my wife ask me the clues which always seems to do the trick.

    We both agreed Scrods is akin to deers and having lived in New ENgland for 40 years can attest it is anything but a delicacy as it is often the fish of choice for the Friday Fish Fry at the local diner, american legion, or Friendly's.

    Lots of other clues by inference which fit but felt like one of many answers that could have been used.

    My favorite part of the puzzle was Rex's desperate attempt to get the fruit clue - 'is craisin a fruit" . Been there...

    Sunday night - on to Saturday's puzzle...

    Unknown 3:46 PM  

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    Anonymous 12:01 AM  

    I got the SE but only got here
    and there in other parts. ie I
    got tubetop but scourges?
    a lot of things could be scourges.
    And in the NW what brand is OXO?
    And I would think you put your dogtags on your dog's collar and
    if you have to get a license for
    your dog you keep that inside or
    maybe in your wallet.
    I like palettes and hand wasn't

    Jane B 12:05 PM  

    How many folks have heard of Pangaea?

    Once I eliminated anything having to do with glaciers and the Arctic, I looked toward corporate break-ups. To even stay in the area of geology would have been unlikely.

    Yet no mention by Rex of this esoteric entry right smack in dead center-- 32A. To me this was the most difficult. I'm solving this nearly a month later, and haven't picked up any comment on it after a very quick scan of the copious comments. Thus, this post.

    Ω 1:06 PM  

    @Jane B - Tectonics is middle school science these days, so Pangaea isn't too obscure. You might want to file away the supercontinents Laurasia and Gondwana, too. They're more late week answers, but it seems like I saw Gondwana not too long ago.

    spacecraft 12:09 PM  

    HITHERE! Yeah, challenging for sure. Another one where I had NOTHING after the first two or three read-throughs. The first thing I put in? NEER. When before Juliet? Why, never. Seemed obvious. But I could get no traction there. So I went to, of all places (for me) the NW.

    There I tried LED and LOOKATTH__. I'd just wait on THIS or THAT. Nor did I help myself with TurnS for changes course--had to be in a lot of company on that one. I remember seeing a big sign in London: OXO. Stateside I've never seen it. Running the O_O alphabet it was the only thing that made sense. 4d was KILO-something, I was sure--and I suddenly saw OHGROWUP, and that was enough to take a different TACK with 7d.

    So the lead-in to the center was YOUR...what? Then I POGOed down to the SE, where my first try was another mistake: ITStOOlatE. I can hear Carole King even now. Never noticed that T was falling into a certain RRN, restricting me to I,V,X,L,C,D or M in that square.

    Finally got all that straightened out, and this time the center lead-out was -HING, and that was enough to suggest THISOLDTHING. E_H__, writer = EPHRON. I didn't know that. Really? Deep Throat?

    So I rode the AIRBOAT into the SW, and at last tackled the NE, where I refused to budge NEER. Once I had EXEC and EXEMPT ("Out of it?" one of many tough-but-fair clues), it all fell in. I didn't even mind J-SHAPED; that certainly describes hooks. No, what bothered me was SCRODS. The plural of SCROD is SCROD. Have to take something off for that. A-.

    Anonymous 12:15 PM  

    Hardest puzzle I have seen in years. Mariners are probes...OK; Organa....puzzle clues should be hard but not obscure to the point only dork sci-fi nerds know the answers. This puzzle doesn't belong on the NYT its more for Omni or some nerd publication. VERY disappointed I look forward to Friday's challenge all week but this one was WAY above my pay grade.

    rondo 12:34 PM  

    After LOOKATTHAT this one nearly kicked my butt. Ditto what @Spacey said where I know OXO from and taking wrong TurnS. Flat out guesses in places like JAMAL from only the J and THECAT from only TH. Hoped the RRN ended in I and put in the plural S from the as yet blank MISREADS, so from the SI got EASYDOESIT. Fortunately knew TAIGA for some help over there. This was a real challenge; I would say difficult for a Saturday. Wonder how it would rate if @SanFranMan was still keeping track?

    SALEMS seem like more alternative to Kools than Camels – the menthol thing.

    Heard about the python problem recently so somehow put in SCOURGES from the S ang G. Lucky enough there.

    Wanted something baseball for Mariners clue, but no.

    Kept resisting SCRODS, but there it was.

    rondo 12:35 PM  

    Maybe longest week-day solve time ever for a finish. As a challenge this puz ROCKED.

    Anonymous 1:31 PM  

    I finished this in decent time, but there was a whole lot of "I didn't know this was a word, but okay."
    Also, for "pogo"-ing, check out The Decline of Western Civilization. Punks pogo-ing galore.

    Burma Shave 1:57 PM  


    “LOOKATTHAT! OGOD what globes”,
    “OHGROWUP”, the LADY said,
    “And EASYDOESIT”, as she led,
    “EXHILARATE me! You’ve ONSET urges,
    “YOURETOOMUCH ANNE!”, I did sing.
    “Who?”, she asked, THISOLDTHING?”


    BS2 3:24 PM  

    oops LED in caps

    rain forest 3:32 PM  

    Very difficult, but ultimately finished. First entries: ALICE, ATS, TEE, NEER, MAO, AIWA, HEROD, TEMPO. As with others, the NW came down first, then the SE, and in several places, flat out guesses which turned out to be right, amazingly. I don't know from SCROD, so the plural seemed OK to me. 'Lemme have one of them SCRODS, please.'

    I won't bore you with some of my brilliant deductions, but let me just say that I had NO writeovers. Bragging, yes, however this beast took an hour and a half. Too long to spend on a puzzle, but I have to say I liked it muchly.

    DMG 4:09 PM  

    Add me to the DNF list. Managed three corners, except for sSHAPED, but the SW diagonal down from the incorrect partial YOUR---laugH is blank all the way down to SNAP except for THISLOLDTHING. Aside from thinking the snakes could be either "escapees" or "menaces", I hadn't any ideas about the rest, tho I could picture that boat thing with a "fan" on the back. On another note, just saw one of the TV cooks (Zimmerman?) fishing and he defined SCROD as "Special Catch Of the Day". Doesn't seem like an "s" would fit.

    As an update on those who six weeks ago were waiting for forecast rain (hint, it never comes),our "wet" season we are now told is over-with a total of something like 6 inches. If someone clould just figure out how to pipe water like oil, we'd be glad to tap into that back east surplus, and be able to flush every time!

    Anonymous 7:29 PM  

    Well probe this!!!

    Anonymous 7:40 PM  


    Anonymous 8:08 PM  

    Inasmuch as this ruined the start of my day, I hope Fate gives Mr. Mahowald a great big "wedgie" during a solemn part of a religious service. Thanks a lot, Mr. Pangaea.

    Ron Diego, La Mesa CA

    sdcheezhd 3:30 AM  

    The hardest Friday in a long time, especially the NE and SW. I had to put it aside twice. Big problems were Youcrackmeup for YOURETOOMUCH and Syrups for New England delicacies, crossed with Secy instead of EXEC so it took me forever to get rid of it. Especially since SCRODS isn't really a thing let alone a delicacy. I remember THECAT so with that an JAMAL I knew JSHAPED had to be something strange and then it all finally fell. CHE for MAO but not for long. SCOURGES took forever even with the S__URGES (Splurges?) And I knew ORGANA in the 70s but not now until I saw it.

    sdcheezhd 3:34 AM  

    A followup on PANGAEA, I knew it as Montgomery Burns' birthplace but never knew it had that 2d A.

    Dave Kennison 4:57 PM  

    How odd. I thought this puzzle was relatively easy, but I had a very tough time with the previous day's - just the opposite of Rex and many others. I'm never sure whether such anomalies have to do with the puzzles themselves or the mental state I'm in as I begin them.

    Paula 6:11 PM  

    I get the syndicated puzzle, so I'm writing this in March. DNF. But I'm writing because T.H.E. Cat was one fill I got early. That's what comes from being a child of the 1960s who studied the annual issue of the TV Guide when the new premieres were coming out in September. I never saw the show, never knew who the star was. I was unable to break the SW corner and got only some of NE, but, by God I got T.H.E. Cat!!

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