First human character on Sesame Street / SAT 5-9-15 / First name among 1991 divorcees / Hamstrings kneecaps / John's accompanier / Royal who toured US in late 1970s / Main antagonist in Disney's Hercules / Marine mollusk named for its earlike tentacles

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Constructor: Kristian House

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none

Word of the Day: AGENA (61A: It was boosted by Titan) —
1.a U.S. upper stage, with a restartable liquid-propellant engine, used with various boosterstages to launch satellites into orbit around theearth and send probes to the moon and planets:also used as a docking target in the Geminiprogram. (

• • •

Mostly enjoyable, totally acceptable Saturday puzzle that also serves as a mini-primer in old-school crosswordese (the kind that you see somewhat less now than you did, say, a couple decades ago—god bless you, computers). I didn't mind the crosswordese this time—it was lightly sprinkled around the grid, and it was a bit like meeting old friends. Or former enemies who have now grown up and moved on and have kids and you're like "Hey, how's it going, long time no see, I don't hate you any more because we've both grown up and moved on to other things." Like that. I mean how am I gonna be mad at AMAH? She hardly gets out any more. And AGENA? Poor guy barely gets work these days. Even AGHA and OGEE are mostly retired. Now MOATED is borderline nonsense, and REHONE is All The Way nonsense, so them, I resent a little. But I'd sit down for a beer with AMAH and AGAH. Talk over the good/bad old days. Sounds like a good time.

There's some decent long fill here, though I would've appreciated a greater "Wow" factor. I likely feel this way largely because I am jaded—or, rather, experienced; I have seen MUFFIN TOP (1A: Effect of tightening an extra-tight belt, maybe) and BATARANG (12D: Weapon for the Caped Crusader) and DOCTOR WHO (58A: Long-running show about a Time Lord) and most of the rest of the grid's bouncy fill before. If not in the NYT, other places. So if I were a less constant solver, this might have impressed me more. AS IF I CARE, ironically, was the answer I cared about most: love it. And I really like most of the 8+-letter fill, though at first I didn't think things were going to go well. Here's what my grid looked like, right out of the gate:

So it's enough of a Thing that I got it instantly, but also enough of a non-Thing that I stopped to take its picture. I stopped again at REHONE because … well, because REHONE. You don't see that every day. Just like yesterday, I was fortunate to hit a cross-reference clue at Just the right moment, such that, instead of holding me up (as such clues usually do), it propelled me into another part of the grid. Crosses gave me D-RW-- at 42A: Champion of 11-Down, and without even looking at 11-Down, I wrote in DARWIN (what other name fits that letter pattern?). Quick glance at 11D: Change of life let me know the answer was EVOLUTION, which opened up the whole NE.

Hang-ups were few today. Forgot that NATAL was a port, and that it meant "Christmas," so I needed crosses there. ISADORE was a guess based on having the IS- and then getting the "D" from DUTCH (56A: Reagan nickname). Had WAY for FAR (47A: Considerably), as in "my dog's WAY better than yours." Oh, and I had MATURE before MUTATE (29A: Undergo change). But I still finished in just over 7, and that's with the clock still running while I took multiple screen shots. So, yeah, Easy.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Facebook and Twitter]


    Seth 12:04 AM  

    I got Double Naticked at AMAH/MARIN/AGENA. All three are total gibberish to me. Other than that, great fun.

    wreck 12:08 AM  

    I came here expecting Rex to explode over the "crosswordese" mentioned, but I too kind of liked it! I usually struggle mightily with Saturday puzzles, but not so much today. So yeah, it must have been rally easy and I expect to hear the wrath of those who expect a bigger challenge on the weekends!

    jae 12:12 AM  

    Easy Sat. for me too.  I DONT  before AS IF I and one before TEN were it for erasures.  

    After wrongly trying WADI earlier this week it was reassuring that @Rex "old friends" AMAH, AGHA and OGEE went in without a hitch. 

    North central CA mini theme: SALINAS, MARIN, and SPY GLASS if you go with the Monterrey golf course. 

    A tad too easy for a Sat., but with stuff like MUFFIN TOP, HUNKERED, DOCTOR WHO....I gotta like it. 

    andrew 12:15 AM  

    didn't know TORUS or LUIS. when I got those, app said "almost there" - whaa? Took me a while to see I had SEOHARE because I misspelled ISODORE. Changed it to the more logical SEAHARE and voila!

    But those were my only hiccups - seemed fairly easy for a Saturday (typically only a ONEINFOUR chance I finish)...

    Thomaso808 1:21 AM  

    Rex 7 = me 30 = Easy Sat

    TOA turn and MUFFINTOP were both terms unknown to me but the T where they cross was an easy guess. Wikipedia has a nice write up on the origin of "done to a turn". Warning: It also has some disturbing images for MUFFINTOP!

    Great clue on SUTURE. I wrote in the answer thinking it was the last thing the surgeon said when closing, but while writing, realized the SUTURE itself was also the last "line" being used. Nice play on words.

    As Rex and others said, there was the classic crosswordese such as AGHA, OGEE, and AMAH, but 30D was an actual crossword ESE!

    DTS was clued without indicating an abbreviation, even though it is such for "delirium tremens". I guess some abbreviations get a pass on the rule for cluing if they are so common as be almost considered words in their own right, but is it an arbitrary call by WS as to what qualifies?

    I don't think I would have known the word FATWAS even five years ago, but now it's a gimme and an indication of our times.

    dmw 1:31 AM  

    Any Saturday I finish, even with checks, even just under an hour, is an easy Saturday. Wife was doing the puzzle before me, shivering a little (it's cold in Boulder tonight), and I asked her if she had the DT's. She just laughed.

    Unknown 2:03 AM  

    I found it a rather easy puzzle and clocked in just shy of ten minutes. In reference to Rex's retro musings, it made me wonder what even happened to the old Eugene T. Maleska staple "Celebes Ox" - ANOA.

    Curious to know when that chestnut last graced the NYT pages.

    chefwen 2:10 AM  

    A Google free Friday and Saturday, life is good!

    How many ways can you spell KABAB?

    Loved it Kristian.

    John Child 2:30 AM  

    Lovely, easy Saturday puzzle. [Dish providers] and [Royal who toured the US] are extremely nice clues. I paused to ooh and aah over each one.

    I've been working backwards through the Times archive from 2011, when I started doing the puzzle regularly. I like themeless puzzles best, so I've done every Fri and Sat puzzle (and some others) for the last 10 years. My unscientific sense is that Fridays have held a pretty consistent difficulty level, but that Saturday puzzles now are not as hard as they were a decade ago. Anyone else have an opinion?

    Charles Flaster 2:36 AM  

    Agree with Rex totally as we have had easy Friday and Saturday this week. Expecting a tricky Mother's Day theme tomorrow.
    The NE with EVOLUTION crossing MUTATE near DARWIN was a highlight extraordinaire
    One writeover of NFC for NFl slowed me a little--AS IF I CARE.
    MARIN crossing SALINAS was cute.
    Liked cluing for ENTERTAIN and SUTURE.
    Thanks K.H.

    r.alphbunker 4:15 AM  

    Stalled for 3.5 minutes on a blank NE until IVANA came to me. It helped that she is a frequent answer in crossword puzzles. The V gave me EVOLUTION and that was enough to finish off the puzzle.

    Anonymous 5:06 AM  

    Very good LA Times puzzle today.

    Jim Walker 5:11 AM  

    Same here. Easy for a Saturday. Am I the only one who dropped in MENOPAUSE for "Change of life"? That was the euphemism back in the '50s. Loved ASIFICARE. Looks vaguely like a very cold-hearted health plan. My compliments to the setter.

    pfb 5:25 AM  

    I agree with Rex. This solved very fast, so I feel good.

    GILL I. 5:59 AM  

    Liked it...perfect for a Friday night insomniacal bout.
    MOATED, FIFED and KEBAB sounds like an expensive law firm. For some reason, MUFFIN TOP and PANTY LINE always remind me of WalMart.
    I thought I knew my mollusks but SEAHARE was new to me. I wonder how you eat eat them....One nibble at a time?
    I thought Reagan was a gipper but then I remembered DUTCH.
    For the life of me, I don't know why a BIDET isn't in every single American bathroom. You can soak your feet, shave your legs and rinse your under garments in that thing. What do Europeans know that we don't?
    Love your name, Kristian House, and I really enjoy your puzzles.

    Susierah 6:22 AM  

    Nice puzzle! But a dnf because I guessed wrong with Lois instead of Luis, and I have no idea why torus is a hoola hoop!

    jberg 7:25 AM  

    @Susierah, the shape of a hula hoop is a TORUS.

    @Jim Walker, I almost fell for menopause too, but it was too obvious, so I figured it was a trap and waited for crosses.

    Like @Rex, I got MOATED very quickly, but my first answer was ONE______, waiting for crosses to see if it might be -fourth instead of IN FOUR. Other than that, my only problem was Atlas before AGENA. It was a slow struggle for me, though, I suppose because of the low connectivity among the sections. I like to work from crosses, but I kept having to start over. The Atlas mistake helped, actually, as it gave me AMAH, which gave me AGE -- (range or LIMIT?), BIDET, and SKYLAB.

    FIFED is worse than REHONE, though.

    Have a nice weekend, everyone!

    Z 7:45 AM  

    @John Child - I was thinking that I was getting better at these. I have a book of old (Shortz era) NYT puzzles and the six top hat puzzles regularly defeat me.

    @Nancy from yesterday - See, I read that article and chuckle at how young "old" is. Just remember, the reason young people think they know all the answers is that they barely know any of the questions.

    Was Diana a divorcée in 1991? Isn't the "organization" the league? That HURTS clue is sorta depressing. AS IF I CARE has the same number of letters as I don't CARE. I sussed it all out in the end, but not automatic here.

    Anonymous 7:56 AM  

    17 - 24 seems like a range rather than a limit. I'd expect a limit to be a single number.

    RAD2626 7:57 AM  

    Agree with everyone about relaxing Saturday. Like @jae, liked the mini-California theme, and liked DARWIN and EVOLUTION being linked. Entire week has been good. MOATED and ONE IN FOUR was a gimme feel good start.

    GeezerJackYale48 8:00 AM  

    When I finish a Saturday puzzle in 15-20 minutes, it must be too easy- but it was fun! I thought having "mutate" and "evolution" in the same corner was neat, as were "skylab" and "agena".

    Hartley70 8:06 AM  

    Any Saturday I can do error-free in under a half hour is a Who-Hoo! The Who is in honor of The Doctor. I was channeling him yesterday when I called Mr. Livengood "clever boy", and unsurprisingly the blue box appears today. You've gotta love a Time Lord.

    Davidph 8:18 AM  

    Oh, joy unbounded,
    With wealth surrounded,
    The knell is sounded
    Of grief and woe.

    With love devoted
    On you he's doated,
    To castle MOATED
    Away they go.

    -- from Trial by Jury, Gilbert and Sullivan

    GeezerJackYale48 8:22 AM  

    Hey Z

    I also have an old (2006) NYT puzzle book by Shortz. I started with the six top hatters, and worked my way forward. So I don't recall if they used to be harder. I apparently did finish them, though, which suggests the contrary. These days, I have less Saturday puzzles like today - 15 or 20 minutes to complete - and more that take an hour or more - or occasionally defeat me. Of course, years have passed since 2006, and I have a feeling that although I may be more skilled in doing puzzles, I am fighting loss of grey cells (along with loss of hair).

    Steve O. 8:27 AM  

    Has anyone ever tried to construct a puzzle where the word NATICK appears multiple times, crossing with an impossibly obscure word at each occurrence?

    Dorothy Biggs 8:29 AM  

    My first entry was MUFFINTOP...first clue, first answer. That is unheard of for a Saturday. Usually I go through a long way before I get something. But today's puzzle just sort of peppered its way together (if that's a thing) and so I'll agree that today was definitely an easy Saturday for me. No Googles, no spellchecks, and no rewrites. I got the happy jingle with the last letter entered.

    The last letter was the U in the DUTCH/HURTS crossing. Can someone tell me how "Hamstrings or kneecaps" are HURTS? I know you can hamstring something, which hurts it, but kneecaps?

    SKYLAB brought back memories.

    I've never heard of adding ANISETTE to espresso.

    Not a fan of FIFED...piped, maybe...fifed, um...

    TOA that where we get "to a t" from?

    Least favorite clue/answer: 40A "Trial and error, eg." I really don't like meta-clues.

    Good puzzle. Agree with Thomas808, my 32 minutes was a decent time for Saturday (with no googling, etc), for Rex it's 7. Reason number 72 for me to not enter any xword tournament.

    Generic Solver 8:37 AM  

    The Cardinals and Saints belong to the organization known as the NFL. The NFC is a conference, not an organization, so bad clue there IMO.

    Malleus Malificarum 8:39 AM  

    Sexist puzzle today: MUFFINTOP, PANTYLINE, IVANA trump, YENTAS.

    If anyone wants to know the extremes women go to to eliminate MUFFINTOPs and PANTYLINEs they should watch Tina Fey on Letterman from a couple of days ago. Priceless.

    John Child 8:42 AM  

    @NCA President: Tonya Harding had Nancy Kerrigan kneecapped.

    Mr. Orange 8:43 AM  

    @ NCA President @8:29:
    As DUTCH would say, "Here we go again." Why not look it up? Kneecaping someone is "the terroristic act or practice of maiming a person's knees (as by gunshot)." It's right there, on the internet.

    chefbea 8:51 AM  

    Easy Saturday - I agree but still don't understand HURTS. So you can Kneecap someone..but how do you hamstring someone???
    Love the clue for bidet

    Bat Girl 8:52 AM  

    I wonder if a BATARANG has ever been used to kneecap someone?

    chefbea 8:53 AM  

    I googled I know

    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 8:54 AM  

    Really??!! Do you people not have internet access??!! Hamstring: "to damage or ruin the force or effectiveness of (something or someone)." This is not hard stuff.

    Dorothy Biggs 9:05 AM  

    @Mr. Orange, the question was rhetorical.

    @John Child: thanks for the example.

    I still maintain that "kneecapping" or getting "kneecapped" is not mainstream...and certainly not as much as "hamstrung." I know, I know...if you google "kneec---" kneecapping is about 3 entries down...but just because a word pops up in google when you almost spell it out fully, doesn't mean it's in the common lexicon of words.

    Hell, it's a noted underhanded tactic in football to take out the quarterback at his knees...but "kneecapping" is not used commonly to describe it. You'd think the penalty for doing that would be 15 yards for kneecapping.

    So, yeah. Lots of words to say "kneecaps" is marginal. And if you know it intimately, your last name must be Gotti or Gigante.

    Anonymous 9:13 AM  

    Oh NO, a saturday NY Times crossword constructor used a word that is not "mainstream." What ever shall we do? "Kneecap" is WAY more "not mainstream" than Port NATAL or BATARANG or SEAHARE or...
    This is sort of the point of good crossword puzzles, is it not?

    Carola 9:16 AM  

    Very ENTERTAINing puzzle. And easy for ME, TOO, as I solved it from 1A on with no skipping around - very rare for me on a Saturday.

    I used to ride the campus bus to work and got on early enough in the run to get a seat, leaving me at eye level with the waistlines of students who got on later and had to stand in the aisle. Perhaps ONE IN FOUR had a MUFFIN TOP, displayed with an AS IF I CARE attitude. PANTY LINEs were not a problem for those who went to class in pajama pants. Man, the EVOLUTION of campus fashion.

    I liked the little nursery school area: TOY x PLAY, ME TOO, OWIE HURTS.

    @Jim Walker - I laughed at your health plan.

    RodeoToad 9:18 AM  

    I agree with everybody above who says the same thing I do. I like the puzzle. I like Rex's write-up. I'm glad he's buried the hatchet with his old crosswordese enemies. Maybe they'll all come out of retirement to join up for one last job against Sudoku. I'd pay to watch that. I've never seen Batarang and could't remember whether Batman or Superman was the caped crusader. They both wear capes. Neither of them really crusades.

    Name that tune 9:22 AM  

    The top is the best part of a muffin. Hate the stump:

    Mr. Lippman: Elaine. I'm in over my head. Nobody likes my muffin tops.

    Elaine: So? What do you want me to do about it?

    Mr. Lippman: You're the muffin top expert, tell me what I'm doing wrong.

    Elaine: Mr. Lippman, when I worked for you at Pendent Publishing, I believed in you, you know as a man of integrity. But, I saw you in that paper hat and that aprin...

    Mr. Lippman: What if I cut you in for 30% of the profits?

    Elaine: Deal. Here's your problem. You're making just the muffin tops. You've gotta make the *whole* muffin. Then you... Pop the top, toss the stump. Taste.


    Whirred Whacks 9:27 AM  

    15 across was easy if you remembered this unforgettable 1991 headline from the New York Daily News:


    Tina "Spanx" Fey 9:28 AM  

    Here's the link that Malleus referred to above. Priceless:

    Tina Fey gives Letterman the best gift ever

    Anonymous 9:31 AM  

    Please explain how "disposition" = UNSEAT. Is "disposition" being used as a verb? (Sorry if I am unusually dense today.) --ChrisP

    Loren Muse Smith 9:31 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    John Child 9:32 AM  

    @Stephen M O'Neill -- try this puzzle: Only one NATICK but many Naticks, all in service of a higher, nay even royal, purpose.

    Three and out.

    mac 9:34 AM  

    Pretty and very easy Saturday, probably my fasted ever. I must have known just the right things off-hand to get crosses that helped me out to get the next. I think that's often the reason a puzzle seems easy. I'll take luck anytime.

    @Jim Walker: I thought of menopause, too, but I got Darwin right after and that settled that.

    I had never heard of the batarang, but it makes sense.

    Yes, there is a retro feel to this puzzle.

    Anonymous 9:35 AM  

    Anon @ 09:30 it's a (albeit questionable) pun. That's why there's a "?" DIS-POSITION="un-POSITION" or remove from a seat.

    Teedmn 9:36 AM  

    Easy here at 20 minutes even with over-writes: first in was Stitch but YUM made me change it immediately so no real delay. KaBoB first, MaTurE like @Rex, pkg before CTN, maims before HURTS (and more accurate, in my opinion) and I nearly quit at the last entry because the 34D 41A cross didn't immediately fall but I gave it a few extra moments and YENTAS suddenly appeared.

    I see AEON almost as often as EON because it seems the science fiction/fantasy authors I read prefer that spelling.

    AGENA is not in my mental crosswordese dictionary so I'm glad I didn't need to know it 'cause the crosses were all there.

    @John Child, about two years ago I was finding Friday's harder than Saturday's. Last week's Saturday puzzle was the first "classically hard" puzzle for me in a while. But since I've been reading this blog, my ideas of hard have become skewed so I can't really tell anymore. It varies...

    Thanks. KH, for a (fast) fun puzzle.

    Loren Muse Smith 9:36 AM  

    @Gill I. – I was thinking “Gipper,” too.

    @jae, @Z – I also had “I don’t” before AS IF I. I bet we’re legion today.

    @andrew – I almost put “Isodore,” too. Then SEA “horn” before SEA HARE. Also – kept trying to make “cutlass” fit for SPY GLASS. And I loved the clue for NOUNS.

    If you’ve got a bathroom fancy enough for a BIDET, are you really going to call the thing next to it a “John?” I think I’d just call it the “crapper.” Whatever - SUTURE self. (Hey – someone had to do that.)

    I agree with @Charles Flaster – that EVOLUTION-MUTATE-DARWIN was elegant.

    Here’s a good TENET to live by – if you see a, gasp, PANTY LINE or a MUFFIN TOP, don’t point it out unless you’re specifically asked to. No reason to embarrass anyone.

    I couldn’t see AGE LIMIT forever. Kept thinking IQ range and quietly snorting, all snarky and judgmental.

    It’s so satisfying to finish a Saturday. Good job, Kristian.

    Caitlin Upton 9:40 AM  

    Hey now, beauty pageant contestants are smart:

    Miss Teen USA South Carolina

    Teedmn 9:41 AM  

    @LMS, SUTUREing yourself sounds like it HURTS.

    (Good one).

    LUIS L'amour 9:48 AM  

    OGEE, IVANA BIDET in my bathroom!

    Steve M 9:53 AM  

    Just Dutchy

    Cosmo Kramer 9:55 AM  

    Prevent PANTYLINEs: freeball it!

    Ludyjynn 9:58 AM  

    Approached this one from Southeast to Northwest. Found the process very ENTERTAINING. Writeover: 'hairy legs' was my INITIAL response before PANTYLINE, but YENTAS and MARIN took care of the problem.

    Speaking of Marin Co., what a beautiful place. However, when I last visited a friend living there, she neglected to tell me that her neighbors were nudists, who gardened au naturel. I was in for quite a spectacle when I opened the blinds in the morning!

    Note to my troll(s): if you don't like my comments, do us all a favor and just skip them. Otherwise, you can EATDIRT, IMHO. Have a nice day!

    Thanks, KH and WS, for a fun solve.

    Nancy 9:59 AM  

    SALINAS: you're not going to vanquish me twice in one week. I'm onto you, pal.

    TORUS: While I've never heard you used in ordinary conversation, I'm a puzzle solver, and so I'm onto you, too, sweetie.

    But BATARANG, you done done me in. I never heard of you and so I wrote down BATARAma, giving me TImeS instead of TINTS. And ANISE Tea, instead of ANISETTE gave me for 39A either OAAE or OAAQ (because 30D had to be either ESE or ESq). Needless to say, I did not finish.

    @Carola -- this is one of the rare times I had a solving experience so different from yours. You found it easy. I found it pretty challenging, even where I did finish it. But an enjoyable workout for me.

    Z 10:04 AM  

    Why would one choose to appear mean because someone else apparently didn't get a clue/answer pair? The "Hamstring or kneecap" clue is a classic attempt at misdirection. When I put in the "H" I was still thinking "sports injuries?" It never would have occurred to me to bother to google the terms. A simple "think Tonya Harding" would have sufficed to turn the light on. Of course, I also wonder why someone is so seemingly insecure that they feel the need to post as if they are someone else. Be nice. Be yourself. It's okay.

    dk 10:08 AM  

    🌕🌕🌕 (3 mOOOns)

    REHONE was a groaner and spelling moat as moot was my Waterloo. Not to be confused with my BIDET.

    Fun and smooth solve.

    Thank you Ms. House

    lawprof 10:11 AM  

    It wasn't until my thirties that I got to Europe for the first time. Checked into a hotel in Florence and saw this odd appliance in the bathroom. I didn't know squat about BIDETs and for the life of me couldn't figure it out. Just seemed to squirt water all over the floor. When my wife (more worldly than I) explained its use, my thought was, why not just take a shower -- until I saw the shower.

    duaneu 10:12 AM  

    REHONE reminded me a little of the rant about RECARVE from a few years ago.

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:17 AM  

    Good puzzle; tended toward Medium for me, mostly due to a slow start.

    I looked at a lot of clues before committing pen to paper, so I finished the SW corner first -- but that included my one write-over, 54 A, AGE RANGE before AGE LIMIT; as others have already noted, RANGE seemed to fit the clue better.

    Leapfinger 10:26 AM  

    @jberg, I went back to the wording in the clue for 15A. If you're talking about the 'chance of getting heads...', it seemed that natural language would make it either 25% or ONE IN FOUR. That was my first entry.

    @Gill, after your comment yesterday, had to laugh when BIDET cropped up. One if by night, two if BIDET!

    Agree it was Saturday Lite, but with fun entries and clever clues. Only re-dos were ArY to ANY and AGErange to AGELIMIT (hi again, @jberg!), cuz 17-24 is a range; 17 and 24 are lower and upper LIMITs, respectively, so the clue, as written, conflates the representation (range) with the number (singular). This may be a unique case of a SOC -- @AnoaBob alert! [end rant]

    MOATED wasn't too bad, though we're perhaps more used to seeing de-MOATED. Not sure that @Davidph's citation is a much support, since G&S were rather the Ogden Nash of their day. otoh, I had no problem with REHONED: once upon a time, I made slides of mouse embryos with congenital cleft palate/cleft lip (yes, children, that used to be done by hand!), and I would HONE and REHONE that microtome blade to cut smooth micron-thick sections.

    From same wheelhouse: like @Chas Flaster, thought the DARWIN-EVOLUTION-MUTATE triad an ingene-ious nod to natural selection.

    From another wheelhouse: Making 'Hamstrings and kneecaps' verbs instead of NOUNS was a cute trick which got me for way too long. That means I get to retaliate with a quibble: kneecapping certainly HURTS, but I propose that (figurative) hamstringing doesn't HURT as much as it LIMITS. I say that's the 2nd place this grid needs LIMITS, but SUTURE self.

    Sadly, I can relate to 1A MUFFINTOP, but think it's over the TOP to pair it up with FAT WAS. (Once upon a time, FAT WAS beautiful...or at least bountiful.) In the same vein, PANTYLINE seems less Fantastic than YENTAStic. I think we need to go easy on this body-image stuff.

    Looking forward to what @LUIS will have for Fact-and Quotoids.

    Anyway, Kristian House, that's NATAL I could say about your puzzle, but I have to run away to some early Mother's Daying thing. Enjoyed the solve and the post-solve, and I really like your INITIALS.

    joho 10:28 AM  

    What a lovely puzzle! I agree with all who marveled at how Kristian worked DARWIN, EVOLUTION and MUTATE into the grid.


    @Loren, "crapper" LOL!

    TY Mr. House!

    Anonymous 10:28 AM  

    @Z said "I also wonder why someone is so seemingly insecure that they feel the need to post as if they are someone else. Be nice. Be yourself."

    I guess you ARE posting as yourself. Your full given name is "Z?" What a joke.

    Anonymous 10:29 AM  

    Easiest Saturday ever for me. Almost made me feel smart.

    On another note I 6-letter-word-for-detest* Rex's snap shots of his puzzle solving. Does he really think we'd like to know the inner workings of his self proclaimed fertile mind? The 6 letter-letter-word-for-arrogance** !!!

    * LOATHE
    ** HUBRIS

    It's a moat point 10:32 AM  

    Economic Moat


    DUKE VINCENTIO: It lies much in your holding up. Haste you speedily
    to Angelo: if for this night he entreat you to his
    bed, give him promise of satisfaction. I will
    presently to Saint Luke's: there, at the moated
    grange, resides this dejected Mariana. At that
    place call upon me; and dispatch with Angelo, that
    it may be quickly.

    Measure For Measure ,Act III, scene I

    mathguy 10:41 AM  

    Humbled by all of you who found it easy. I struggled mightily. But feel good that I was able to get it without any lookups.

    IMO, I should learn some words if a puzzle is worthwhile. Today: MUFFINTOP, BATARANG, SEAHARE, IDADORE.

    I agree with Anon 7:56. 17-24 is not a limit.

    Anonymous 11:01 AM  

    My MUFFINTOP is MOATED, so I'm probably not going to be a factor in the Miss America contest.

    Anonymous 11:03 AM  

    FAR and away the easiest Friday/Saturday combo I can remember. Ready for a drubbing tomorrow.

    Aketi 11:36 AM  

    @lms, your comments about the bidet made me laugh, which HURTS right now. I thought I might need Internal SUTUREs for the OWIE I got on Wednesday night. Even if I needed it, however, I was not about ready to do iit myself. Fortunately my physical therapist said the torn cartilage will heal on its own in time for my black belt test,

    I've never read or even heard of ISADORE's book, but I kinda like the concept of live well, age later or perhaps my interpretation: live now, age later. But I think the wife of one of the guys who will be testing with me for our black belts probably thinks there should be an AGE LIMIT for Martial Arts. He literally hurt his hamstring, but like me, is working through his injury.

    I can never think about PANTY LINES without thinking about thongs which used to be something I wore on my feet as a kid and again in Peace Corps. It was not something that you wore so as to avoid PANTY LINES. One of the child birth educators I know called them butt floss, a term that I can't eradicate from my brain. I always wash my feet and wear flipflops before I step on the mats for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and I always have to remind myself not to call them thongs.

    The California clues were all gimmes since I grew up in MARIN County.

    @nancy, I have you to thank for pushing myself to remember the part of the Martial Arts Credo (not TENET) about perseverance. When I first looked at this puzzle I just could not get started anywhere. I am demoting myself from yellow belt to white belt because I did cheat to see if credo was right and then I was finally able to make progress when I realized it was credo's partner TENET. I still cheat, but I cheat less because of you.

    Also, Nancy I haven't felt up to doing puzzles since Wednesday so I didnt read your late night post on that day. I wanted you to know that there is nothing special about having learned to sew In the exurban enclave where I grew up. P It was an era when all the moms stayed home and did lots of crafts and taught their daughters to do the same. I don't speak that many languages, My French is decent enough for nonParisians, my Spanish is an abysmal cringe-worthy mix of mostly French words pronounced with as Spanish an accent as I can manage to imitate. I've forgotten most of my LiNgala and I bailed on Quechua. As for Martial Arts, I have many instructors who are fifth degree black belts so I still consider myself very much a beginner.

    Lewis 11:47 AM  

    @rex -- Terrific writeup. I loved your description of visiting old friends.
    @lms -- SUTURE self made me smile.

    Solid puzzle, and seconding most everyone, easy for a Saturday; felt like a Friday. Liked the clues for TENET, KINGTUT, and YENTAS, and enjoyed seeing EATDIRT and MUFFINTOP.

    AliasZ 12:01 PM  

    My well-honed old-timey crossword chops have been dulled over the past two score years since KING TUT hath made his last royal voyage upon these shores, thus I was chuffed when the opportunity to hone them anew presented itself today.

    AMAH, AGHA, AEON and OGEE, I welcome ye. Ye hath allowed ingress into thy MOATED bastion. Thou mayst consider remoating thy mighty fortress -- not unlike the way I am remoating my LCD TV even as I scribe these lines -- lest Vandal marauders unworthy of thy riches scale thy foreboding walls.

    - On Wednesday IT'S IN, today it's NOT IN. It must have slipped out while we weren't looking.
    - A case of mistaken identity: "Doctor Livingstone, I presume." "DOCTOR WHO?"
    - People are telling me that TOYED has quite a different meaning on adult websites. I wouldn't know.
    - Bagel is also a TORUS.
    - Bagel was playing tag with his kid brother Agel, but the young'un didn't get it. Bagel had to yell repeatedly: AGEL,I'M IT!

    LUIS de Milán (aka Lluís del Milà or Luys Milán, c.1500–c.1561, Valencia) was a Spanish Renaissance composer and publisher of much music for the "vihuela de mano", an older, gentler version of the guitar. Likewise, LUIS de Narváez (active early-mid 16th cent., Granada) was a composer and vihuelist of the same era.

    The following two clips: three pavanes by the former and seven diferencias (variations) by the latter will set the perfect mood for this Saturday.


    old timer 12:03 PM  

    For many, many years before I subscribed to the Times, I would buy the Saturday edition for the puzzle (and of course the Sunday edition for the puzzle and all those sections). This very much reminded me of the kind of puzzle I used to do: Nary a Natick, but always some answers you did not know or would have to think long and hard about. In fact, some of those Saturday ones were finally finished Sunday afternoon. As with today's puzzle, they often could be solved section by section starting in the NW.

    I, too, immediately got MARIN and SALINAS, but daily solvers from Maine to Florida could have gotten them, since both have appeared recently.

    Only writeover: NFC for NFL IFICARE was so common at one time I thought Shortz must have banned that answer in recent years. AGENA and BATARANG were the two answers I had to get entirely from crosses. And SEAHARE, but the crossing Downs were easy.

    My very favorite answer: TENNESSEE. It would be hard to do some of these puzzles if you never played Monopoly -- which I did before I was old enough to read -- like most kids, I could read street signs before I could read sentences.

    Aketi 12:08 PM  

    @Maleus/Tina "Spanx" Fey,
    Now it HURTS all over again since I watched that clip and more disturbingly my ribs made sound like popping bubble wrap.

    I have actually discovered the bathing suit equivalent of Spanx. They are called swim tights, but are far more comfortable and just as compressive as Spanx. A tankini is perfect for covering the MUFFIN TOP that inevitably oozes out of the top of the swin tights.

    Of course the better approach is going to Coney Island where there is absolutely no AGE LIMIT or size limit for wearing bikinis or speedos. A perfect place to let it all hang out with complete disregard for your appearance.

    Anonymous 12:15 PM  

    I wanted "Royal who toured the U.S. in the late 1970s" to be George Brett.

    Malleus Malificarum 12:15 PM  

    I'm glad to have inflicted such uproarious injury upon you.
    See, even we anonymice have something to contribute once in a while!

    Lewis 12:39 PM  

    Factoid: In 2012, Sheikh Murgan Salem al-Gohary of Egypt, a former Taliban, issued a FATWAH calling for "the destruction of the Sphinx and the Giza Pyramids in Egypt," because "God ordered Prophet Mohammed to destroy idols." (Wikipdia)

    Quotoid: "The quietness of his TONE italicized the malice of his reply." -- Truman Capote

    Anonymous 1:10 PM  

    Geez...I had to Google Batarang because even after seemingly solving the puzzle, still didn't know what it was. Somehow forgot that was something Batman used. Duh!

    Maruchka 1:11 PM  

    Many distractions made for a less than focused DISPOSITION t'day:

    Eat diss (yo bro!)/EAT DIRT
    Let ME/ME TOO
    Menopause (that's right)/EVOLUTION (indeed)

    Otherwise, mostly clever and smooth. Thanks, KH.

    Fav of the day - PANTY LINE.

    @Aketi - OWIE! Hope you'll be bopping around in them soon! And amen to Coney Island swim wear, so admire the fearless Russians.

    @LMS - Bidets are fairly common in older grand NYC apartments. Tried it once for lower rinsing, with same result as @lawprof. Agree with @Gill re: other uses.

    @Gill - Funny avatar day!

    @LUIS L'amore - OGEE! IVANA Trump to buy it FOUR U.

    Dave 1:13 PM  

    Started with evolve for 29a, then had mature before finally getting mutate. But otherwise, this was the easiest Saturday in a aeons!

    kitshef 1:20 PM  

    Thumbs down from me. Lots of lovely stuff in here: MUFFINTOP, ONEINFOUR, DOCTORWHO, PANTYLINE, EVOLUTION, KINGTUT...

    But then stuff I hated - funnily enough, the exact stuff @Rex liked: OGEE, OWIE, ESE, AMAH, AGHA, AEON. A couple of those I was almost disbelieving that any would still use them in a serious puzzle. I did agree with @Rex on MOATED and REHONE, and was wondering why he spared the equally bad FIFED.

    The answer that pushed the puzzle from "so-so" to "bad", is ASIFICARE. I hate phrases in general in puzzles, but this one is not especially bad, so this is more about it being the last straw than being an especially bad answer. But I really don't understand Why @Rex has this love of these artless constructs.

    OWeE before OWIE, bUcKEled before HUNKERED (thinking to self: that spelling can't be right), NFl before NFC.

    Very easy for a Saturday, which probably also helped induce my thumbs down. I like my weekend puzzles challenging.

    Maruchka 1:24 PM  

    @Steve J - Just read your vodka post and thanks. Thought process was like tequila; i.e., joven to reposado range.

    weingolb 2:05 PM  

    DNF and how soon I forget: Just filled in an OWIE in another puzzle, recently had a greek shot with Sambuca (I hated ANISETTE mixed with espresso, but as a chaser, I highly recommend it), and responded to a job vacancy at AGHA Khan ... yet I was clueless till the very last minute when I scribbled them in.

    Had dicKERED instead of HUNKERED (which helped steer me away from AGHA permanently).

    I thought the 8-letter acrosses had clues that were written up to be gimmes or at least taken at face value. So it seems an easy puzzle, but only at first. Most downs were either obscure or clued to HURT. The whole SW was a big long OWIE.

    Got wed for "even a single" - out-tricked myself forcing even to be a verb.

    But really, the only reason I feel I might be able to add to the conversation here is that yes, LUIS was the first thing in the whole grid I filled in. I'm that weird.

    Janis Joplin 2:05 PM  

    One day up near SALINAS, Lord, I let him slip away
    He's lookin' for that home and I hope he finds it
    But I'd trade all o' my tomorrows for one single yesterday
    To be holdin' Bobby's body next to mine.

    Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose
    Nothin', that's all that Bobby left me, yeah
    But, feelin' good was easy, Lord, when he sang the blues
    Hey, feelin' good was good enough for me, mm-hmm
    Good enough for me and my Bobby McGhee

    Anoa Bob 2:26 PM  

    Brett Chappell @2:03 AM, yeah, that's a real head-scratcher why we don't see ANOA in the NYT xword, at least occasionally, these days. That's a real handy sequence of letters and the ANOA is an actual animal and that's its actual name. Last time I looked there's an ANOA exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo. (I couldn't find an ERN/ERNE exhibit though.)

    By the way, The ANOA isn't a "Celebes OX", it's a buffalo, the smallest one, and an endangered species from Indonesia.

    AZPETE 2:49 PM  


    aging soprano 4:59 PM  
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    aging soprano 4:59 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Anonymous 4:59 PM  

    Just curous. What happened to Casco Kid?

    aging soprano 5:10 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    aging soprano 5:10 PM  

    Just a quick question about yesterday's puzzle: is HALITE connected to Halitosis.?

    Fred Romagnolo 5:12 PM  

    Pretty much agree with@Mathguy, except I got ISADORE. Only DNF 'cause didn't know MUFFINTOP and had PRoPS, and iNTenT. I enjoyed Rex's walk down nostalgia lane. When I was a child and local newspapers had crosswords with 2 letter answers I marveled at the recurrence of "ra" or "re" for Egyptian god. San Francisco had a population of 600,000 then, but we had four major papers: the Examiner, the Chronicle, the News and the Call-Bulletin; the 1st 2 were morning papers, and the latter 2 evening papers. Now Hearst's Examiner bought out the Chronicle but kept the name, and sold the name Examiner which was Citizen Hearst's original paper. now we have only the Chronicle, which is a morning paper and has a pretty good (hard) crossword; and Merle Reagle and the L.A.Times crossword on Sunday.

    Rug Crazy 5:33 PM  

    I thought, for sure, that "John's accompaniment"
    was "trick"

    dick swart 5:36 PM  

    @ Fred Romagnolo

    I very much appreciated your reference to the demise of newspapers that were delivered to your door morning and evening, or available on omnipresent newsstands for your commute into work and back home.

    Competition was fierce for the ad dollars, nationally and locally. At BBDO (383 Madison Ave) as it was in those days), the media department on the 6th floor was jammed with reps from the papers vying for the ad budgets of Betty Crocker, Campbell's Soup, Hormel, DeSoto, Sheaffer Beer and other dollar-laden accounts! This meant innumerable lunches with reps at very nice restaurants and enough martinis to ensure that the PM was going to be pretty much a slow time.

    This puzzle was a thoughtful Saturday AM accompaniment to coffee and pain au chocolate.

    Anonymous 6:09 PM  

    I'm bewildered by the clue for Luis. Luis wasn't even around in the first episode, much less the first human to appear. Gordon was first.

    RooMonster 6:11 PM  

    Hey All !
    Nice puz, done late in the day. Entertaining with some nice clues and answers.

    I know that sounds like a pre-recorded message, but that's all I got for ya today!


    Noah B. Day 7:43 PM  

    Marushka -- Bidets are common in grand old NYC apartments? I've never seen one and I've been in many 7-9-room Park Avenue apartments built circa the late 1920s. So my question is HOW grand and HOW old?

    Z 8:06 PM  

    @Anon6:09 - A little research shows you're correct. LUIS seems to be the first human character added after the original cast, a full two years after Sesame Street debuted. Big Big OOPS there. It looks to me like the clue might have been edited into wrongness.

    jae 8:33 PM  

    @Fred Romagnolo - I could be wrong but I think the Chronicle uses LAT puzzle for it's daily puzzle.

    Maruchka 10:51 PM  

    @Noha B'day - UWS c. 1890-1920, far more European than the UES. Tho' my favorite NYC bathroom fixtures are the lower East Side johns with shelves.

    Noah B. Day 11:06 PM  

    Deprived Eastside New Yorker, moi. That's very interesting to know, Marushka. Thanks for filling me in, so to speak.

    OISK 11:51 PM  

    Delighted to have finished correctly, avoiding 3 consecutive DNF. (hasn't happened to me since Lindauer week). but Batarang???? Wha?? Also never heard of Agena, some character named Luis, or muffin top. But the crosses were good, and I got through. All solid puzzles the last three days, but relieved to have finished this one with no errors.

    What the heck is a batarang? (as if I care...)

    Anonymous 8:48 PM  

    Just getting to last week's puzzles a week late. This was just wonderful, so enjoyable, and often put a smile on my face for a change. No truly objectionable clues -- there's nothing wrong with "moated", books talk about moated castles, it's by no means crosswordese. The folks here who are calling this "retro" have a totally wrong conception of what a crossword puzzle is -- they think it's supposed to be loaded with pop culture trivia and lots of obscure info known only to hip people. Sorry Rex, this isn't a "retro" crossword puzzle, but rather it's a crossword puzzle. What Rex calls a crossword is something else entirely.

    spacecraft 10:52 AM  

    The two most surprising things about today's puzzle:

    1. I had to relook at the calendar (hey, if you can REHONE, you can relook), and yes, it WAS Saturday. Is.

    2. OFL seemed to LIKE it (go figure!). Even adore.

    Thus we have ISADORE, our Mr. Obscurity for the day. How did I like it? Well, by now I have MUTATEd into a being who expects a severe cranial workout come the weekend. Now my brain is relaxing by the pool. Hey, I guess every good brain needs the occasional weekend off. But it felt like...when you push a very heavy-looking door and it flies open and you nearly land on your MUFFINTOP. Sure, some of the cluing stabs at difficulty, but mostly this was a breeze. It was...OK.

    I found myself wishing that the DARWIN/EVOLUTION thing could have been expanded to a theme: maybe GALAPAGOS for 31d. BEAGLE would fit nicely into 31a--but alas the G would already be there. Oh well.

    The clue for TENNESSEE was a bit bland, just an arbitrary Monopoly property. I'd have rather seen--to go along with another clue in the same area--"Ford nickname." You know, Ernie. Um, the "16 Tons" guy. Okay, so I'm old. Ya hadda be there.

    This one had a few OWIEs; give it a C. And reassign it to about Wednesday, at the latest.

    Burma Shave 11:31 AM  


    that her FATWAS making a PANTYLINE thru which you could SEAHARE.
    She made METOO horny, it HURTS to PLAYAT it too long,


    rondo 11:51 AM  

    Biggest problem was Bimbo to accompany John, but that cleared up before long. Agree on the easiness, of the puz, not a Bimbo.

    @Spacey – I was there, I remember TENNESSEE Ernie and his 16 Tons very well as it was on TV and radio seemingly all the time. My folks couldn’t get enough of it.

    Never watched one episode of DOCTORWHO, tried but didn’t get it, I guess.

    I recall IVANA as a sort of yeah baby, maybe not a TEN, but not bad.

    Easy puz, no OT on a weekend for the first time since Feb., what next?

    DMG 4:23 PM  

    Liked this one. Some old words, e.g. AMAH, some new to this oldster words, e.g. MUFFINTOP that somehow all came together. And then there were the got-by-the-crosses words, like BATARANG. Can't imagine what that looks like! Also, got my divorcees mixed up, and the crosses had MUTATE diANA into IVANA. Loved HUNKERED, haven't heard it in years! A good day for me after yesterday's fiasco.

    @Fred Romogalo: frond memories of all those papers. We took the Call-which was easily distinguished by its pink cover page My Grandmother took the Examiner, which I somehow associate with green- maybe some inside section? Can't believe how long ago that was! Now I watch as the LA Times has bought the San Diego Union, and wonder how long before the later disappears. I hope never, we take and enjoy both.

    @Rondo: Agree about Dr. Who. I lasted about 5 minutes. Maybe you had to watch form the beginning? Had the same reaction when I tried Orphan Black. why those shows get such raves just passes me by.


    Teedmn 10:56 PM  

    @Burma Shave, your repurposing of FATWAS made me snort.

    @rondo, @DMG, I first watched Dr. Who in the late '80s when the local PBS station acquired all the episodes for the first 7 Doctors and I was hooked. Since then, a friend of mine says to go back to the 2006 episodes and watch from there but haven't found them to stream and don't care enough to pay for them so...

    KariSeattle 12:38 AM  

    Woohoo! I've not completed a Saturday in a while, and did this with only 3 googles. Had trouble with ream for Staples staple: was thinking of Staples Center in LA! Fun and doable! Ending the week feeling confident instead of obtuse!

    Anonymous 12:17 AM  

    Can't remember the last time a Saturday was this easy. Started easily in the NW and proceeded roughly in a clockwise fashion. I kept expecting to get stuck, but kept going as if it was a Wednesday, without barely a pause. I appreciated the dearth of sports and pop music esoterica, but I would have liked a bit more of a challenge on Saturday.

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