Perianth component / SAT 8-29-15 / Microsoft release of 2013 / Big producer of novelty records informally / My Darling Clementine locale / Surveying device with letter-shaped rests / Longtime Washington Post theater critic Richard / Spice mixture in Indian restaurant

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Constructor: Evan Birnholz

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: David CAMERON (40D: Brown's follower) —
David William Donald Cameron (/ˈkæmrən/; born 9 October 1966) is a British politician who has served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2010, as Leader of the Conservative Party since 2005 and as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Witney since 2001. (wikipedia)
• • •

This played hard, then easy, then hard, then easy. So "Medium." Couldn't get started, then couldn't understand how I had failed to get started, as I knocked off well over half the puzzle without much effort. Then got badly stuck in the SE. Then figured out what the hell [Brown's follower] meant and went on to finish the puzzle somewhere in the SW, possibly at the "Y" in YLEVEL (59A: Surveying device with letter-shaped rests). Overall it seems pretty decent. It's not a showy grid—looks oddly like a weekday/themed grid in its segmentation. There are no stacks of longer answers—in fact, it doesn't contain any answer more than 11 letters long. But there's a bunch of good stuff in there: OXFORD COMMA (20A: Much-debated grammar subject) and "LAY IT ON ME" and SCARE QUOTES being my favorites. SEX APPEAL's not bad either. Next to no junk. Nice. I found it a little annoying at first (and this may explain the difficulty / frustration I had getting started) because there seems to be sooooo many &%^$ing "?" clues. When I finished the puzzle, I counted—there are only seven (7) "?" clues total. It's just that five (5) (!) of those originate in the NW quadrant, where my solving experience also originated. Anyway, once I figured out XBOXONE, I took off, and the whole "?" issue ceased to matter.

Not sure how I feel about crossing ICBM and IBAR at the "I." I think I'm against it. Something about having to say the "I" out loud (as a letter) in both seems ... like duplication, even though one "I" is an abbr. and the other is just the letter qua letter, the shape of the letter being the issue. I definitely object to the dupe at XBOX *ONE* and SIDE *ONE*. So, to be clear, the "I" thing would never bother me if those "I" s weren't in the same box. Like, if IBAR were way on the other side of the grid from ICBM, I wouldn't even have notice, let alone cared. But the crossing ... not sure why it bugs me, but it does. I don't consider that a dupe, though. A dupe is a duplicate word in the grid. Here's the thing I realized about dupes—if they are fewer than three letters long, I don't care (again, unless they're intersecting). Like, you could have four "ON"s in the grid, and I'm not sure I'd notice. I certainly wouldn't notice two. But once you get into longer words (3+), then I think you shouldn't dupe them. It's just an elegance issue. No one is harmed by the two ONEs. But ideally, you don't do that.

  • 30D: Color (TINCT) — Had TIN-. Guessed TINCT. Worried it could be TINGE. This doubt caused some of the ensuing problems in the SE.
  • 48A: "La Dolce Vita" setting (ROME) — this caused some more of the problems in the SE. I plunked down ROMA with no hesitation. The title of the movie is in Italian, ROMA is the Italian spelling, parallelism takes over ... ROMA. But no. I also convinced myself that ESTOERA was a word (39D: Things rarely seen), so I didn't get that, or TEXAN (44A: President #36, #41 or #43) for a little while there. That section fell because I finally realized the way "diet" was being used in 41D: Mideast diet (KNESSET)
  • 5D: Unpleasant things to pass around (COLDS) — I had GERMS. So ... I was close. 
  • 23A: Battle of Isengard participant (ENT) — never saw this clue, which is how it should be with short / over-common fill. That stuff should be inconspicuous to the point of invisibility. It should also be scarce, especially in a themeless, which, as I've said, it is today.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


wreck 12:10 AM  

I too found it tough, then easy, and tough to finish as well - but, that is pretty much the norm on a Friday or Saturday for me. (I am not sure if I just used an OXFORD comma or if it was just poor grammar over all!)

Moly Shu 12:16 AM  

Definition of EXOTICA? WEIRDAL standing next to AXLROSE. And I had MILli as in vanilli, before MILEY.

jae 12:21 AM  

Medium-tough for me, with the north center the tough part.  MEeting before MEMO PAD and rEsidency before TERM LIMIT caused most of the problems.  Also, @Rex TINge before TINCT. 

Liked the WEIRD AL, AXL ROSE, MILEY, and Little "Locomotion" EVA mini-theme. 

Didn't we recently have some discussion of the OXFORD COMMA, @lms??

Delightful Sat. Evan.  Lots of zippy stuff plus a smooth grid.  Very nice job!

chefwen 12:47 AM  

It took two of us, well three if you count Uncle Google, easy only factored in a few times, more like hard, hard, medium and harder. We probably would have bailed without the Unc. MASALA was a given, but Y LEVEL???

Looking forward to Sunday.

Pete 12:51 AM  

Is the Oxford comma really a much debated subject? I would think the argument 'If it clarifies the sentence in any way, use it; if not don't' would pretty much settle things.

Laser sights help in target practice, red dots not so much. I don't believe that hat check is a thing, i.e. a room, a rack, a closet, so it's not as if it goes there. I've never "trimmed up" an XMas tree, nor have I ever trimmed it down later. The clue for yolk was way to Honeymooners for my taste.

In short, too many near misses to be a truly good puzzle.

Mette 2:24 AM  

DNF due to TABlET along with lInEONE and REDnOT (?). So much fun before that. Just enjoyed reading the Wikipedia entry on OXFORD COMMA.
Thanks, Evan. It was a treat. You made me count back to LBJ. And I'm glad you left HATCHECK in.

Charles Flaster 3:34 AM  

Medium puzzle with SW proving most difficult.
Much easier than yesterday.
Write overs were DEPORTED>>DivORcED and
Liked cluing for HAT CHECK, KNESSET, CAMERON and LABS.
I believe "Lady and the Tramp" won an Oscar as did BRUCE LEE.
Thanks E B.

Unknown 4:00 AM  

@Pete - HATCHECK was definitely a thing, back in the day of the fedora. Before my time, but I have heard it referenced in many a film.

Typical challenging Saturday. Solid, no tricks but boy did I keep looking for them. That bit of foreign flair in the SE (CAMERON, KNESSET) slowed me a lot, but the NE provided the toughest challenge overall. Ultimately the solve took a few minutes over my Sat average.

And now I will try to go back to sleep.

Roberta 6:26 AM  

I think I hit an all-time high for erasures on this one. Especially because I put in awards show rather than TV special. But the Taken by Trees video made up for it. Thanks!

Jeremy Mercer 7:36 AM  

Why is ECONOMY a High class?

Loren Muse Smith 7:52 AM  

Finally a Saturday I finished. I agree – lots of nice entries, my favorite being SCARE QUOTES because I had never heard the term. Cool. I guess even more derisive could be SCARE air QUOTES if you do it right.

I had just filled in IBAR when I put in "TAB bar" crossing "rat out," thinking no way both because of the two "bar"s and the off clue for "rat out." Glad I was wrong.

"Bree" before EDIE and a dumb "folk lore" before FOLK HERO messed me up for a bit.

Anyone else notice how ambiguous the "do some drills/BORE is? If not, you've never led a German class practicing verb conjugation.

@Ludy from yesterday – if you have to ask whether I caught the bitchy reunion (redundant, right?) then you can't understand just how addicted I am to the Real Housewives franchise. If there were some kind of way to disguise what TV show you're watching the same way you can get a fake book cover to make people think you're reading Portrait of a Young Artist when you're really reading Sweet Savage Love, I would be all over it, especially when my husband looks up from his Toynbee's A Study of History and asks what I'm watching.

@jae – yeah, I think 20A came up recently. How funny would it be if the "much debated" subject spilled over into the election:

Cruz says his first day in office will be dominated by rescinding "every illegal unconstitutional OXFORD COMMA used by Barack Obama."

"Nothing's more important to me than my faith, my family, and my OXFORD COMMA," Kasich says

"What's happening in sentences is a disgrace," Trump adds, "and it's going to lead to destruction. Over the last six years, we've seen the consequences of the Obama OXFORD COMMA," he replies.

Kelly asks Trump about his record on the OXFORD COMMA. "I've evolved on many issues over the years," Trump responds. "You know who else has? Ronald Reagan." He adds that he changed his stance on the comma after friends of his almost edited a sentence, a sentence that grew up to be "a superstar sound bite."

Christie goes on to say he's "darn proud" of how far his sentences have come. His answer underscores a reality for many governors: If you're elected in the grammar hell of 2009, you're going to have a better situation in 2015. Whether that's because of the OXFORD COMMA—or because of the singular they—is hard to parse.

Cruz is asked about @Pete's Law, which would require undocumented immigrants who are deported and return to the U.S. to face sentences using the OXFORD COMMA. Cruz, who supports the law, says, "A majority of candidates on this stage have supported the OXFORD COMMA; I have never supported the OXFORD COMMA."

Hey, Evan – I liked this one and am getting a kick out of watching you become a first-class constructor. Good job.

Doris 8:01 AM  

Hamlet—a complete education in itself, as usual:

Act III, scene 4

    O Hamlet, speak no more!
Thou turn’st mine eyes into my very soul,
And there I see such black and grainèd spots
As will not leave their TINCT.

Re the Oxford comma (AAAGH!): As a professional (albeit semi-retired) journalist, I have found that you have to Go With the Flow—i.e., whatever the house style of the particular publication is. The New York Times eschews it; an arts magazine I worked for always employed it. I prefer it myself, as it almost always clarifies things. It's also known as the "serial comma," which would also, were it correct, fit in the grid.

Anonymous 8:09 AM  

Oy! I never read the a YOLK clue as a nod to domestic violence. Pete you win the sensitivity derby.

Bill from FL 8:26 AM  

    O Hamlet, speak no more!
Thou turn’st mine eyes into my very soul,
And there I see such black and grainèd spots
As will not leave their TINCT.

Glimmerglass 8:27 AM  

Can't resist a grammar argument -- it's a disease. Here's what I told students: Although some people say the comma before the "and" is often unnecessary, it's never WRONG to include it. It IS sometimes wrong to leave it out (examples are easy to find). Why bother to waste time thinking whether or not it's necessary? Just make that the way you write a series. I think I heard somewhere that Time Magazine has saved millions of dollars in the cost of ink since they dropped the Oxford comma. I don't pay to print what I write, and eventually nobody else will either.

r.alphbunker 8:31 AM  

My solution

Had USEOFACOMMA as the much debated grammar subject for a while.

In the Reagle test I got 9 of 70 correct without hints

jberg 8:58 AM  

I've never considered the OXFORD COMMA to be debatable, as Fowler settled the matter once and for all! I did enjoy seeing it in the puzzle, though. This one played easy for me -- started with ICBM, and most answers just fell into place. mostly I was lucky, I think -- put in SEX APPEAL off the L, and it turned out to be right. Same with MILEY off the M -- I had no idea, really, was just guessing well today. My only real problem was TINge, which kept me from going with the otherwise obvious HAT CHECK.

But what is Clementine doing in the OK CORRAL? The song ('miner, forty-niner') is clearly set in California. Is there some movie about the gunfight where someone sings the song, or something?

Maruchka 9:06 AM  

Medium, indeed, and fun. Clever cluing, though hadn't a clue for awhile. Thanks, Mr. Birnholz.

Fav of the day - HAT CHECK. Conjures night clubs, cocktails, cigars, and screwball comedies.

@Jae - Thanks for the Little EVA shout out. My 50th reunion dinner dance fast approaching. Let's Do the Locomotion!

@LMS - OXFORD COMMA debate amongst the illiterati? Love, love, and love it. I checked out the Mental Floss site. More fun with ,,,

ADONAI Eluhanu Shalom.

Anonymous 9:17 AM  

@jeremy I think it means "high" in terms of "on a plane". As in flying economy class.

chefbea 9:22 AM  

Too tough for me. Now to go see Haley Gold's take

Wm. C. 9:23 AM  

@Jeremy --

"Economy" is a HIGH CLASS, along with "First,'" and (sometimes) "Business."

See what I did? I used an Oxford Comma, and am about to use a Wink. ;-)

Unknown 9:25 AM  

Did it within seconds of my average time, so I guess medium for me, too. I enjoyed it immensely -- good crunch, but I could tell it would be fair.

I've recently started dating after many years off the market, and so I joined Tinder. You would not believe how often the Oxford comma comes up in people's profiles. To the point that some people say, "If you mention the Oxford comma in your profile, swipe left." Also a lot of sky divers. So many sky divers. I had no idea.


Dorothy Biggs 9:38 AM  

I had a similar experience to Rex and many of took a while for me to get started, then a deluge of fill, followed by scarcity, then plenty, then...well, you get the idea.

Diet = governmental body. I also knew that "Brown's follower" would be some guy and not something to do with Brown University, but I'll be jiggered if I knew who that guy was. I got Cameron with the crosses (and the realization that the diet was the KNESSET).

Good to see GNUS in a puzzle again.

I don't often make these kinds of connections, but I was immediately struck at the STEAMY/SEXAPPEAL crossing...add to that the "almost" steamy EROtICA and EX(r)OTICA and the puzzle gets downright saucy...LAYITONME, baby. WINK, WINK.

I didn't like the two ONEs.

I didn't know Clementine's locale was the OKCORRAL. I thought it was a cavern. In a canyon. Or a mine.

Had Yahweh before ADONAI and TINge before TINCT.

mac 9:40 AM  

Medium puzzle and a thoroughly enjoyable one! Thanks, Even, what a great job.

I also had the easy, hard, easy, hard and easy routine going on. Miss that Oxford comma? That was my favorite clue/answer.

Looking over the puzzle there are quite a few answers I didn't know outright, but one or two crosses and an educated guess got me to finish this in a good time. And if we hadn't been invited to a Bar Mitzvah last year I would have had some trouble with Adonai.

Bright, hot day in NY, no rain on our son's wedding day! Off to see if I can find a parasol/light colored umbrella for the ceremony by the river.

mac 9:41 AM  

@Loren, you really outdid yourself today, very funny!

Lobster11 9:45 AM  

Count me among those baffled by "High class?" as a clue for ECONOMY.

Cluing the already-tough KNESSET with "diet" was just downright cruel.

Otherwise, really liked this one.

Ludyjynn 9:50 AM  

Medium for Rex and some of you; challenging to impossible for me. Puzzles like this one keep me humble. Even managed to mangle the spelling of one of the few gimmes, WEIRDAL. Oh well. I could have used intervention from above, as in ADONAI, not ECONOMY class!

Change of subject: This past week in the garden has been spectacular, w/ hummingbirds, monarch and eastern swallowtail butterflies seeking out pollen, and the goldfinches perched atop sunflowers, picking out seeds and gorging on them. Nuthatches and downy woodpeckers abound. Yesterday, I saw something novel, a woodpecker positioned itself on the side of a tree, hallway up, in broad daylight, and took a siesta against the bark, oblivious to all the birds feeding nearby and flying within inches of his temporary nesting spot.

Earlier in the week, as I sat on the bench taking it all in, I became concerned when I saw a baby cardinal by herself just sitting on the fence, motionless, for several minutes. I need not have worried. After a while, out of nowhere, Mom and Dad swooped down, sat on either side of baby and proceeded to lecture her sternly about wandering off by herself. After the loud admonition was over, they flew off together. Lesson learned!

Thanks for the workout, EB and WS.

Fischgrape 9:50 AM  

I'm with Jeremy in wondering why ECONOMY is 'high class'

Also, I don't get the connection between BROWN'S and CAMERON

Teedmn 10:00 AM  

Don't TATTLE on me but I DNFd due to leaving in ROMa per @Rex. KNESSET a KNaSSET, neither in a green or yellow TINCTed basket.

This one was much easier for me than yesterday's. 16A was ERestu briefly, had erg rather than ANT at 61A and miLK for YOLK until I saw ANNOmED wasn't working.

A HAT CHECK must be what the hockey team goon squad gets when they make three crucial slams into the boards.

Spice mixture for MASALA is certainly accurate but simplistic. My cookbook shows 14 different spices to be roasted and ground (including asaFETIDa). Not something you just measure out in coffee spoons, Mr. Eliot.

I mixed up Clementine with Waltzing Matilda briefly and was looking for a Down Under locale. I like how locale in the clue echoes the CORRAL in the answer.

Me too for MILli before MILEY and I was going to ask how ECONOMY was high class but while I was trying to decide how to phrase the question, I got it, albeit by groaning.

Nice Saturday, thanks Evan Birnholz. My fave use of the OXFORD COMMA is the joke behind the book title, Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss.

AliasZ 10:17 AM  

AXL ROSE and WEIRD AL make an odd couple in the SW. If you throw BRUCE LEE, one or more of the Flying WALLENDAs, David CAMERON, desperate EDIE Britt, Little EVA, Richard COE, and MILEY Cyrus into the mix, we may witness a wild and bloody "shootout" at the OK CORRAL, as ADONAI directs the flight of bullets from above. [I normally don't use them, but did you notice my OXFORD COMMA and SCARE QUOTES?]

The theme of today's themeless puzzle is proper names. Full names, if possible. I am not a fan of puzzles weighed down with proper names. Two or three will do thank you very much, and on occasion a very well known one may offer the first toehold into an otherwise impenetrable grid. But so many of them ANNOYED me. They became a major GNUSance (the COE-CAMERON crossing, e.g.) in an otherwise excellent puzzle. Too bad. Sorry, @Evan.

The conflation of TINCT, HAIRGEL, and XBOX/AXE/AXL suggested to me the tone poem Tintagel by Sir Arnold Bax (1883-1953).

Enjoy your weekend.

Nancy 10:23 AM  

Wow, was this ever hard for me! I had a career in publishing, I'm a writer and published author and I never in my life heard of an OXFORD COMMA. What in the name of bleep is it???? I've also never heard of SCARE QUOTES, only of air quotes. Add to that all the pop name stuff that may have been gimmes for younger solvers: WEIRD AL, AXL ROSE, BRUCE LEE, XBOX ONE -- none of which were any help along the way, although I had heard of all of them except XBOX ONE after the fact -- and this was more suffering than pleasure. I finished, finally, with one missing letter: the first X of XBOX. (Why, oh why, didn't I see AXE at 1A, when I had A-E. My bad.)

And oh, the early mistakes that were sabotaging me from the get-go. MEETING, instead of MEMO PAD at 7D. RELATE instead of TATTLE at 13D. TAB BAR instead of TAB SET at 8A.

What let me into the puzzle at the outset was HAIR GEL leading to HAT CHECK. Until then, I was mostly looking at white space. I saw SALE early and if I were a better Jew, I would have seen ADONAI much, much sooner.

There was some fabulous cluing here and I was fooled by just about all of it at one time or another. Loved the clues for ECONOMY, COLDS, SEX APPEAL, KNESSET, DEPORTED, ERR and HAT CHECK.

Should have loved this puzzle much more than I did. But the suffering involved in (almost) completing it was much too great to produce real pleasure.

Mohair Sam 10:26 AM  

This was probably the toughest (for us) Saturday that we were able to complete, hence we really loved it. Thank Heaven for Google so we were able to look up the connection between OKCORRAL and the song before posting here and avoid making fools of ourselves.

TainT before TINCT, BRUCELEE a gimme, HATCHECK clue a beauty.

Lots of great misdirection in this one, terrific clues. Some nasty nouns - not being Jewish, Indian, nor surveyors might have killed us in SW, but the odd couple of WEIRDAL and AXLROSE bailed us out. The cleverly clued KNESSET was going to be a gimme, but diet not being capitalized made me say no. Wasted too much time proving I was right after all. TEXAN a quick gimme at 44a - Texas governors always look smart because their state rolls in oil money, hence we think they're good at fiscal matters and elect them President.

The OXFORDCOMMA might be "much debated" (my SCAREQUOTES) by you writers and academics, but for the rest of us it is a forgotten term in grammar class several decades back. Although we still enjoy the results of the unused OXFORDCOMMA every day.

@lms - Thanks for reprinting that portion of the Republican debate, I had nearly forgotten it. Farina, btw, promises that as President she will use her telephone and pen to require all Americans use the term "All Y'all" when addressing groups of 5 or more individuals.

Maruchka 10:34 AM  

@Jberg, @NCA Pres - My Darling Clementine is an almost great John Ford film, set in Tombstone, and featuring the Clanton and Earp fabled shootout at the OK Corral, relocated to Monument Valley (almost always with Ford). The cinematography is amazing.

RAD2626 10:40 AM  

Same BreE before EDIE, and buttress before WALLENDA. Same dnf with ROMa as @Teedmn. Thought this was a terrific puzzle and a fun workout. SW and NE corners were tough. No easy footholds. MASALA, YLEVEL, and TAB SET were not gimmes for me at all. Really good cluing. Liked clue for HAT CHECK a lot, although I have not seen anyone in a bowler in 40 years.

Susierah 10:45 AM  

Very fun, but challenging puzzle. I enjoy Evan's work, always lots of good aha moments. Dnf, I had tab bar crossing academy, so never figured out the red dot; also steely instead of steamy, and also Roma. But for me it was a successful solve to get that close to the finish line on Saturday, and with no googles.

John V 10:45 AM  

Easiest Saturday in a quite a while. I typically do week with Evan's puzzles. Agree, though, that the two ONEs were a touch inelegant, but no biggie.

RooMonster 10:47 AM  

Hey All !
Typical tough SatPuz for me today. Like Rex said, interesting grid for a themeless. Still only 31 blocks. J and Z from a pangram.

OXFORD COMMA debates funny! Didn't realize it was such a big thing! SCARE QUOTES is strange.

Not too much to say today, looking forward to a nice SunPuz.

Y LEVEL? Because it was uneven.

Nancy 10:48 AM  

Now, if I'd seen all these comments before I posted (seems they were going up while I was posting), I would have learned what an OXFORD COMMA is and never would have asked. It seems I've been using it all my life, without knowing what it's called. I don't know or care whether it's "right" or "wrong"; I'm with whoever said: Use it if it makes a sentence clearer. (Was that you, Doris?). To me, it almost always makes a sentence clearer. @Loren: I think your parody of pols debating the OXFORD COMMA is a howl.

Interesting that two people within a couple of minutes of each other used the same "Hamlet" excerpt to illustrate TINCT.

@Ludy -- Once again, I find myself green with envy at all the wondrous wildlife you seem to find daily in your very own garden. But the weather in NYC has been and is spectacular this week and I am going to Central Park to look for such wildlife as is there. Doubt I'll find all the critters you found yesterday and I probably wouldn't be able to name them if I did.

GPO 10:52 AM  

Hard easy hard. I like that. I got it done by going purely counterclockwise. That's the only thing that worked.

Treedmn, that is funny by not an example of the Oxford comma.

Anonymous 11:02 AM  

"My Darling Clementine" is a John Ford Western with Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp.

Isn't Little Eva in fiction from Uncle Tom's Cabin?

J. D. KaPow 11:06 AM  

Wow, funny how much the solving experience can vary. This was, for me, by far the easiest Saturday I've ever encountered. It played easy, then easy, and finally easy. Tuesday type time. Whereas last week, I think I gave up after filling in zero firm answers.

Hartley70 11:06 AM  

@Mac, Congratulations on the wedding today! The weather couldn't be more perfect. I hope we're as lucky in a month.

What a toughie! My first pass gave me MAY, ROME, EROICA and Yahweh. I knew I was in worse trouble than yesterday and this ended up 15 minutes longer than my usual Saturday, albeit with some interesting cluing. I loved NBA, CAMERON, ECONOMY, SEXAPPEAL and I would have loved SCAREQUOTES if I'd ever heard of them.

I love the feeling when I look at a correct answer and there's that zombie stare in the dark until the light goes on. CAMERON did it for me today. It's like when the elevator jerks a bit and then gives a downward lurch. You're suspended for a moment. It's why I pay money every year for access to the NYT puzzle app.

Teedmn 11:22 AM  

Whoops, my example isn't an example of the Oxford Comma. I hit my link to see if it worked, read the Title joke again and hit my head with a "doh". But it is a funny grammatical joke, IMO.

mathgent 11:25 AM  

Terrific puzzle. Seven learnings. Only ten three-letter entries. All the crunch The Closer and I could handle without Google.

I don't think that it is accurate to call the Oscars a TVSPECIAL. The first awards presentations weren't televised. I take a TVSPECIAL to be a show produced exclusively for television. Like a Michael Buble Christmas special.

jae 11:30 AM  

"My Darling Clementine" was a John Ford movie, starring Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp, about the gun fight at the OK CORRAL.

Malsdemare 11:37 AM  

I felt so good after finishing yesterday's puzzle with nary a wrinkle. Told myself, "Self, you are getting better at this." And then I hit today. Totally, depressingly, and embarrassingly screwed.

After years of using college textbooks, I now edit them, and thankfully, our house style calls for the OXFORD COMMA. It's hard enough sorting out what gets hyphenated, whether to use an en dash or an em dash or a plain old hyphen, all the while trying to make horrific prose more user friendly. Oh, and sort out the (dis)organization. Thank you, Human Kinetics. However, I know it as a serial comma, so OXFORD____a was a woe. Or a wtf.

I did not have the experience of easy to medium to impossible, etc. it was all pretty much impossible, from the diet (which I failed to see as a government thingee) to the plinth, the surveyer's tool. Refused to accept IBAR, confidently wrote in yahweh, on and on it went, til I gave up and cheated my way through.

I love hard but gettable puzzles. This one was just hard. Not the fault of the constructor or Will; just not in my world. You know how bad it was? I got EVA right, but it was "Uncle Tom's" EVA. Sheesh!

GPO 11:39 AM  

Hard easy hard. I like it. I finished this by going 100 percent counterclockwise.

Last square had me wondering "What's so hot about wearing and BOa, and what the hell is a REaDOT"? Then I figured it out.

Teedmn, I like that joke too, and am as much an advocate for the preservation of the comma as the next guy, but I don't think that it is an Oxford comma the absence of which makes your joke funny.

Annette 11:47 AM  

OK Corral tripped me up, too, as I sang it to myself. There's an episode of MASH in which Col. Potter was thrilled to get his fave film, My Darling Clementine, and I always was mystified that the scene shown was a shoot-out with Earp.

Smiled at diet, Brown, also divorced before deported.

Took me a long time, but looooved it, since I blew Friday's when I shouldn't have..


George Barany 11:47 AM  

I was pleased to see OXFORD_COMMA in @Evan Birnholz's Saturday puzzle. My son Michael spent a year at Cambridge (a fierce rival of Oxford), which also happens to be the seat of several prestigious publishing enterprises. Michael has regaled me with stories about his fights with the editorial staffs, in which he implored them to restore commas they had deleted in proofs of his articles.

XBOX_ONE and SIDE_ONE today echo ONE_ON_ONE yesterday. I_BAR and Y_LEVEL rely on confidently knowing the crossing word to get the first letter.

A friend wrote to me that ELOHIM also fits in the slot for ADONAI [the third letter crosses AXL_ROSE, which we learned from this very blog, less than a week ago, anagrams to a two-word phrase generally not found in a family newspaper -- though the crossing SEX_APPEAL does seem to pass muster]. Click here for images of Clara Bow, "The It Girl" from the Roaring Twenties. Quite STEAMY, huh?

Ludyjynn 12:07 PM  

I was daydreaming during my manicure and mulling over the puzzle. All of a sudden, one of my favorite episodes of M*A*S*H popped into my head from Season 5, Episode 21 (1977). In it, Col. Potter obtains a copy of John Ford's classic 1946 film, his all-time favorite, "My Darling Clementine" and shows it to the camp to improve morale. But the film keeps breaking and tensions rise. To kill time, Father Mulcahey plays the piano, Radar does impersonations and everyone acts out scenes from the shoot em up scenes at the OKCORRAL. "Jocularity" ensues. Brilliant television.

Anonymous 12:20 PM  

"My Darling Clementine" is classics John Ford Western starring Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp.

Wouldn't fictional "Little Eva" be from Uncle Tom's Cabin?

Carola 12:21 PM  

@Evan, it was great to see your name at the top of the grid. Super puzzle!

Medium for me as well, as in: slow but steady + a few erasures (TINge, DEPaRTED, yahweh) + no moments of despair.

OXFORD COMMA went in right away, with a laugh, as I first became aware of it as a subject for debate on this very site (hi @loren - and more laughs at your debate QUOTES!).

I'm guessing someone else will have already cleared up Clementine at the OK CORRAL, but just in case - the clue refers to John Ford's 1946 movie, "A Western retelling the tale of the shoot-out at the OK CORRAL" (IMDb), starring Henry Fonda, Linda Darnell, and Victor Mature.

RooMonster 12:22 PM  

I, don't, see, why, people, object, so, vehemently, to, the, poor, Oxford, Comma. Seems, to, me, to, be, logical, to, use, it.
Just, sayin.


Arlene 12:31 PM  

Not sure if anyone has answered these queries -
"My Darling Clementine" seems to be referring to the movie of that title, which puts it in the OK CORRAL area.
The High class being ECONOMY - "high" is referring to altitude - and ECONOMY is one of the classes at high altitude.
I was happy to learn about the OXFORD COMMA - I don't know how that term has eluded me until now - I've had two books published (click on my name to see the titles on my website) - and have had heated discussions with various editors about content and grammar - but never anything about the OXFORD COMMA - never came up.

Lewis 12:37 PM  

@loren -- Funny as hell, thank you for that!

Evan, I remember, it was just shy of two years ago when you posted here that you had your first two puzzles accepted by Will, and how excited you were. Now after seven NYT puzzles published, your creations are right in their groove, made with care and a solid degree of confidence. This puzzle is clean as can be, with some stellar tough/fair cluing (NBA, LABS, ECONOMY, HATCHECK, KNESSET, TRAMP, and HAIRGEL), and I liked the answer LAYITONME. I didn't know OXFORDCOMMA, SCAREQUOTES (nice to learn these two!), COE and YLEVEL, but the crosses were fair. I like seeing the TRAMP down, but not the falling WALLENDA. In some of your earlier puzzles I thought on some of the cluing that you tried too hard, but not here. Bravo! This was a great solving experience.

GILL I. 12:42 PM  

@Loren...."What difference - at this point, what difference does it make whether we use the OXFORD COMMA, Hillary says.
I really enjoyed Evan's Saturday puzzle. I remember the first one I did of his and just stared at an empty puzzle. I like him a lot more now because of words like ADONAI, EROICA, TATTLE, STEAMY and DEPORTED TEXAN.
I did have woes though. Started off with sty. Had a hock in there being pounded away and I wanted a rock HERO for some sort of romanticized figure.. Took a break and MILEY said LAY IT ON ME.
@Ludy...Sounds like you're in Nirvana....! I love my hummingbirds which I've taken to name. Bossy Boots and Chutzpah will (almost) come feed out of my hand. You have to be still and patient and not let the sweet syrup run out of you hand....
We might get rain today in Northern California. Stay safe you hurricane watchers...

pmdm 12:45 PM  

This has already been answered correctly. With the staggered posting of the comments, I don't know if those who conitnued to ask the question did so because the answer was not posted yet, or because they didn't understand the answer. In case of the second reason, I'll reword the answer.

When you travel by plane, you fly HIGH in the air. If you are traveling by commercial airline, you fly HIGH [in the air] in one of the airlines's cabin sections. One of the cabin sections on a place is usually the ECONOMY class. Restated, airlines travelers fly HIGH in the air in ECONOMY class.

Even with the "?" there are few clues I like less than this one. One of the reasons I absolutely hated this puzzle.

Wm. C. 12:55 PM  

Re: questions on "my Darling Clementine" and "OK Corral:". I too was thinking canyon, cavern, mine. But "My Darling Clementine" was also a '50s John Ford western starring Henry Fonda, that included the famous shootouts.

Re: Brown/Cameron: David Cameron is the British Prime Minister, succeeding Gordon Brown in 2010.

Leapfinger 1:00 PM  

Milli Vanilli Cyrus.
Rare ErOTICA? It took a TEXAN to turn me on to EXOTICA. EROICA EXOTICA?
Once upon a time, there were HATCHECK girls, so there must have been HATCHECKs.
My first mortgage was with CAMERON Brown. Didn't know what those names were about then, nor when I filled it in now. Well, that's going to be rectified.
Wanted EGGS, cuz you don't beat YOLKs as much as whites. Cannot find @Pete's sensitivity special anymore. Has it been rescinded?
Still have to figure out why Clementine at the OKCORRAL.

'It' had me haring off after Clara Bow. No cigar.
Clues like 'Do stuff' made me see RED, drove me DOTty.
Ditto 'Forced out at home?',which had to be baseball. DEPORTED made me rebel against that 'at', even in a Saturday. ANNOYED? Yes.

Always remember:
If called by a perianther,
Don't perianther.
[Once again, that excess of Botany courses proves useful.]

Loved the High class ECONOMY of scale, the Flying WALLENDA(s), and remembering "Lady and the TRAMP", which WARMS my cardiac cockles, even though not STEAMY with SEX_APPEAL. Pasta, anyone?

Funniest thing: Didn't think I particularly knew an OXFORD_COMMA from a Cambridge apostrophe, and then it turned out I've been using it all along, because that's what's taught North of the border.

Found this on the tough side of fair. Gave me a glimpse of what EVILS lurk in the heart of Evan B.

Old timer 1:03 PM  

Great puzzle. The kind where you get stuck, put it down for a while and all sorts of answers come to you. Such as HATCHECK and WEIRDAl.

Tried cavern and canyon then remembered the classic Western movie which I figured could be set in Tombstone.

Leapfinger 1:04 PM  

Forgot to add:
Liked the XBOX_SIDE_two and the SET of TAB and KNES.

Masked and Anonymous 1:46 PM  

Good workout. NW corner slaughtered me…

NW1. Learned what an OXFORDCOMMA was, today. Believe I'm in the "favor" column on it.

NW2. 24-A gave me fits. Had _ _ _ K. Wanted FORK. Then tried WISK (missp.?) Then started getting progressively more simpled out & desperate, with: PORK. MILK. COOK. MASK. And finally MINK. Seems misleadin -- either beat the whole day-um egg, or leave it the ohfoo alone. What did that lil unborn chick do to U?

NW3. 3-D. Bomber hat? BOOBCAP? Wrong again, M&A breath.

NW4. 2-D. Microsoft release? NEXTONE? I could normally care less, as all my computers are in the one Apple basket.

In other gnUs, this puz had 3 U's. One under par, in a bad way.

This Birnholz dude is a real contender, as a fave constructioneer. One of those that they should just lock up in a little room and make em crank out crosswords all day, for the likes of u&s.

@muse: har, on Cruz/Trump stance on OXFORDCOMMA. This could tip the whole election…
Perry, Rubio, … yadda, yadda ..., Trump Bush and Cruz into the gop convention.

fave word: SQUIB. I think lil M&A was fed really awful-tastin vitamins made by that outfit. Tasted like gnus filler, all right.

fave weeject: NAV. For this pup, I favor the clue: {Odyssey in reverse??}.

themelessthUmbsUp, despite my battle scars.

"Registered Mink Beater"

** gruntz **

OISK 2:28 PM  

@Nancy pretty much summed up my feelings, although I did finish. (Perfect week! Hurrah for me!) Too much meaningless (to me) pop stuff to keep this one enjoyable. Xboxone? Weird AL? (have heard of him though) Axlrose again? If not for the puzzle, would not know who that was, but now, when I see the "X" I assume that's who it is, Miley? Another name from the crossword. Never watched "Housewives," so Edie is meaningless. I don't understand "Squib" in 47 down, and have no idea what Eminem sings. I have no idea what scare quotes are. Aside from the pop stuff, which doesn't bother most people, this was a very cleverly clued puzzle. So, good work, Mr. Birnholz, and I'm sure that what is exotica to me is pleasantly easy to others.

Anonymous 4:24 PM  

because when you sit in economy, or any other section of an airplane, you are 35,000 feet up, which is pretty high.

joho 5:59 PM  

Kudos, Evan, fantastic puzzle!

I dnf at SlEAzY instead of STEAMY. Thought lILL was another way of saying LIL. Obviously I didn't know MASALA either. No matter, this didn't diminish my fun.

@Loren, brilliant!

@mac, so happy for you and your son ... tell us about it tomorrow!

michael 6:21 PM  

I thought this was easy for a Saturday -- I finished in a bit more than Wednesday speed. Much easier than yesterday's puzzle, which I had to Google to finish. Favorite answer - Oxford comma, a term I only recently learned.

Liz 6:30 PM  

"Among those interviewed were Merle Haggard's two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall." It's important, that Oxford comma!

Leapfinger 7:11 PM  

Yeesh, @MohairS, your reasoning about TEXAN governors being elected suggests that we're going to Trump the upcoming Presidency!!

@Malsdemare, as time goes by, I do less and less with "nary a wrinkle".

Cameron Brown, as it happens, is
*an Outside linebacker and defensive end;
*a man who was recently found guilty of throwing his 4-year old daughter over a cliff -- not an accident, but done in order to avoid paying child support;
*an American jazz double bassist;
*as previously noted, the insurance company that underwrote my first mortgage.
The fact that, in all these cases, Brown follows Cameron does not faze me for a moment. There's no law against getting the right answer for the wrong reason.

I think we've reached the point where, if you're wondering whether a question has been answered, it's safe to assume it has. Still and all, it's interesting to see the range and variability in responses.

All those comedians who turn to politicians for their source material? They're so right; there's nothing "apter"!

Think I have my finger on the Oxford comatose now.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:14 PM  

Did this one at the beach this morning, so I don't remember much of my solving process.

What I do remember:

(1) Damn fine puzzle, Evan. Great aha moments with OK CORRAL, KNESSET, etc.

(2)What led to my one write-over: "WALLENDA, one L or two?"

(3) Last entry: SCARE QUOTES.

Z 11:17 PM  

@Pete and @Anon8:09a.m. - The constructor disavows the YOLK clue. There was a lively discussion on Twitter about it last night.

@ludyjynn gives a beautiful example of proper comma use. If it is a series and you don't use the comma before the "and" you have changed the meaning of your sentence. Yes, most readers can suss out what you meant, but literate readers think you are a cretin when you omit it from a series. So, to answers Ezra's question (see the first video), I do.

Anonymous 9:26 AM  

Thought i was being clever when i filled in gimme ENT and crossed it with stONers for " high class."

Ted in Denver

Appreciative Reader 9:37 AM  

@Z, I went back to @ludyjinn's comma comment and agree it's a cardinal example that commands commendation, but must say that @Liz's 6:30 pm version knocked it out of the park.

spacecraft 11:52 AM  

Oh come on! No one? Did NO ONE write in DASH and DUTCHMAN? Part of ;-) and "Flying" one?? NOBODY??? That was the "gimme" where I started! No wonder I was at it so long. I had to AXE the Dutchman shortly thereafter, when GUNSNROSES wouldn't fit, forcing AXL and thus SEXAPPEAL. The aha! of WALLENDA and WINK was a doozy.

I also forgot about My Darling Clementine, and as I had the OK start I went with OKlahoma. Duh. Brain fart; I knew the movie; just forgot. Hey, how about the Oxford semicolon (WINK)?

I rate this medium-challenging, possibly brought about by that initial ERR. But not really: cluing maintained a Saturday LEVEL throughout. Several little aha!s along with that giant one. A very enjoyable solve, done at last correctly, marred only by those repeating ONEs. A-.

Burma Shave 12:03 PM  


MILEY has that BOD and SEXAPPEAL, she MAY WINK at you and vamp,
her TVSPECIAL’s a STEAMY deal, but I’m ANNOYED she’s such a TRAMP.


rondo 12:27 PM  

Several people helped me solve this puz and without them there was no chance: BRUCELEE, WEIRDAL standing next to AXLROSE, WALLENDA, MILEY, and CAMERON. Sometimes the name game can get me all ANNOYED, but I needed them today.

EDIE as played by Nicollette Sheridan, yeah baby, but weren’t all of those desperate gals? And MILEY, yeah baby too, in a wild child sort of way. LAYITONME.

Used to do a lot of surveying, so YLEVEL was easy for me, though personally I own a Dumpy level. Both types are old school.

It’s getting all STEAMY in here with words like EXOTICA and EROICA. Close, but no cigar though. Nudge, nudge,WINK, WINK.

I’d have to say this puz was very difficult for me, especially the NE and NW corners where my aforementioned helpers weren’t much help.

Torb 3:02 PM  

Somebody call the coroner. I just got murdered. Haven't done so poorly in years. Oxford comma? Scare quotes? Just too obscure to get a handle on this brutal puz.

Unknown 4:29 PM  

Today was quite frustrating. Thought I was doing fine until...

Clue for EROICA, a "piece" of the movie? A "piece"? It's the name of an entire wonderful symphony, not a "piece."

I know about the COMMA problem, but never heard it called the OXFORD comma. (Yes, my ignorance.)

So the OKCORRAL was the "locale" of the movie? OK, but the locale was Tombstone in my world, and the corral was but a particular off-street place in Tombstone.

Finally, "The Oscars" are a TVSPECIAL? Well, it's about as regular and routine a show as you see annually on TV. Is it really a SPECIAL?

OK, I know, I'm whining. On to next week.

Anonymous 4:42 PM  

Whew! Well I finished it but not before a lot of research and help by Mr. Wiki. 1A was rid, sty, axe before finding Microsoft issue of XBoxone in Wiki. The NE corner was the last fill-in. Had to look up Axl Rose and Bruce Lee. Never heard of Ylevel or Oxford comma either. In my book this was a Challenging, Challenger, plus!

Not only is my hair grey but my little grey cells are getting greyer.

Ron Diego, La Mesa, CA
(Where this year's Octoberfest was more like a Soberfest).

Unknown 7:34 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown 12:15 AM  

@spacecraft -yep, I too suspected dash and wrote in Dutchman, but termlimit showed me dash must be wrong.

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