Central Honshu volcano / SAT 9-19-15 / Lepore of women's fashion / Movie plotter / Tongue with six phonetic tones / dromedaries carob trees / Longtime maker of model rockets / satay sauerbraten / Vulture lookalikes of falcon family

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Constructor: Kevin Adamick

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: ASAMA (10A: Central Honshu volcano) —
Mount Asama (浅間山 Asama-yama?) is an active complex volcano in central Honshū, the main island of Japan. The volcano is the most active on Honshū. The Japan Meteorological Agency classifies Mount Asama as rank A. It stands 2,568 metres (8,425 ft) above sea level on the border of Gunma and Nagano prefectures. It is included in 100 Famous Japanese Mountains. A cruiser class of the Imperial Japanese Navy was named after it, including lead ship Asama. (wikipedia)
• • •

Another entry from the Big Database School of Constructing. It's been so nice not to have seen one of these in a while. I guess their return was inevitable. Sigh. I took one look at this grid and said "No way. There are only a few people on the planet I would trust to fill *that* grid (58 words!?) well. This is going to go poorly." With my expectations set super-low, the puzzle surprised me by not being ultra-terrible, but it still had most of the problems that low word-count stunt grids have. The bad fill is not as plentiful as I would've expected, but when it was bad it was awful. I keep looking at ASAMA on top of UCLAN and wondering how much contempt you have to have for solvers to do that. But my main issue here isn't how bad the fill is. It's that grids like these are made with an eye to showing off, not to ENTERTAINing. "Will it fit" takes precedence over "Is it cool? Is it fresh? Will it produce nice feelings in the  pleasure centers of the human brain." I wish constructors would spend time becoming good puzzlemakers before they tried their hands at stunt grids. Actually, I wish constructors would rarely, if ever, try their hands at stunt grids, because they aren't generally designed with solving pleasure in mind. They're designed for hanging on your wall or getting you in some imaginary record book.

The truth is that anyone with a massive enough word hoard (i.e. database) and patience can produce a workable low word-count themeless grid. Database management is not the same thing as constructing. To this puzzle's enormous credit, that NW corner *is* actually pretty entertaining. It's also remarkably smooth (the smoothest of the four maddeningly isolated quadrants). But TESTATORS and TOYERS and ESTES MANAT ESSES etc. is not my idea of a good time. I look forward to themeless weekends because, with the restraint of the theme lifted, the constructor can prioritize fantastic words and phrases and make the grid (mostly) extra-squeaky clean. There's no excuse for it not to be. Unless, of course, you decide self-impose a word-count of 58.

Lots of wrong turns today:  
  • DIETS for VICES. (1D: Subjects of New Year's resolutions)
  • GASSY for INANE (I was trying anything at that point). (2D: Like folderol)
  • ESPERANTO for CANTONESE. (17A: Tongue with six phonetic tones)
  • PREEN for ADORN. (5D: Opposite of uglify)
  • Some kind of SHARKS for SEA SNAKES. (21A: Reef swimmers with no gills)
  • MOTOCADES for AUTOCADES (?). (10D: They're often escorted by police)
  • FATTED for BASTED. (35A: Like some geese and turkeys)
  • ANNOY for CHAFE. (41D: Vex)
  • ANNETTE for NANETTE (??). (34D: Lepore of women's fashion)
  • Some kind of BIRDS for CARACARAS. (25D: Vulture lookalikes of the falcon family)
  • EBOLA for ECOLI. (39A: It has some bad strains)
When I google UCLAN, literally every hit relates to The University of Central Lancashire. CARACARAS (?) reminds me of "Cara Mia" by Jay and the Americans, which I just today learned is one of my daughter's favorite bands. I knew the teenage years would bring weird disclosures, but this ... this was surprising.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 12:02 AM  

Unfortunately crosswords consist of more than one quadrant.

jp flanigan 12:18 AM  


I couldn't get a real foothold anywhere and eventually gave up. Oh well, just not my day I guess. I liked the NW corner, but thats the only section I finished.

My house mate graduated from UCLA, so I asked him

"Do you consider yourself a UCLAN?"
"What the F*** is that?"
"Nothing...don't worry about it"

chefwen 12:26 AM  

Saw the ocean of white and sighed. Saw the constructor and decided I had to change my attitude and go in with an open mind. His last name is so close to mine they might as well be the same.

Had a little Google fest to get me started, but after that it was pretty much smooth sailing. When I uncovered UCLAN I had to look it up. Figured out it must have been University of California somewhere remote. When I saw where it actually was I let out a verbal "you gotta be kidding me".

Finally finished and now I NEED A NAP.

Anonymous 1:07 AM  

This is one of Rex's best rants. UCLAN is frankly a horrible answer in every conceivable way. AUTOCADES is a close second. The constructor and Shortz demonstrate their contempt for solvers with crap puzzles like this. As constructed this should never have been in the NYT.

Music man 1:12 AM  

Big fat DNF for me on this one. Also had DIETS.

mrucker 1:27 AM  

I am a BRUIN, my son is a BRUIN, my cousin is a BRUIN....what the heck is a UCLAN? When you cut us, we bleed Blue and Gold...I have never heard the "word" UCLAN in my life!

wreck 1:28 AM  

Again.... a Friday night attempt after several drinks, but this was the hardest Saturday I have ever encountered. I had to cheat so much, I don't consider this one as even attempted.

Anonymous 1:57 AM  

A UCLA student is a Bruin, not a UCLAN.

jae 2:14 AM  

Holy .... this was tough.  I got it but it took a very long time.

I probably put in and took out MARINATED 4 times.


Uglified stuff: UCLAN, TESTATORS, TOYERS (had TeasERS for a while), AUTOCADES...


QUA?? before TETRA

I really like tough puzzles, but I got to go with Rex on this one, the stunt was a tad too much.

jae 3:08 AM  

Errata: Oops (Hi Rick Perry), I didn't get this one. Had Men AT so DNF. Tough puzzle.

George Barany 3:58 AM  

I've said it before and I'll say it again ... there is only so much time that I'm willing to devote to any given puzzle before pressing "check" and/or "reveal." I did not recognize the constructor's name, but it turns out that @Kevin Adamick has published one previous New York Times puzzle, on Wednesday, May 16, 2012, which at first glance looked like a themeless but in fact had a rather cute theme. As for today's offering ... what can I say that @Rex hasn't said already?

Wanted I'M_SO_TIRED (think Beatles song) ahead of I_NEED_A_NAP (a sentence that often comes out of my mouth, though you won't find me wearing EYESHADES). Thought IRAQI rather than IRANI, DIETS ahead of VICES. MAN_AT arms could just as well been MEN_AT arms, crossing the uninferable CARACARAS (previously used in 1965, in the Farrar era). Google taught me that "Fiat Lux" is the motto of the University of California at Berkeley -- their football team is the Golden Bears, so how do we get from there to UCLAN which to those of us from the rest of the United States sounds like someone at the University of California at Los Angeles -- their teams are called Bruins. But speaking of California schools, I'm kind of proud of myself for figuring out SANTA_ROSA despite having never heard of Empire College (a two-year private university offering business and law degrees; thank you Google).

I did get a chuckle out of the VERSO clue, coming a day after we saw RECTO. Does the left side of the page know what the right side is doing? The E_COLI clue was amusing, but I would have used a more explicit chemistry clue for ANALYZER (Google "amino acid analyzer," perhaps -- an instrument that was invented at my alma mater, Rockefeller University, and recognized in the 1972 Nobel Prize to Moore and Stein).

Finally, it was fun to see Jon LESTER, whose career was mainly with the Red Sox, until a mid-season trade in 2014 to the A's, and this year's free agent signing with the playoff-bound Cubs. Lester beat cancer, and has both World Series wins and a no-hitter on his resume. As for the Lepore clue, all I can say is No No NANETTE, and suggest that interested readers of this blog look into the connection between that play and the Curse of the Bambino.

Loren Muse Smith 6:16 AM  

One look at the grid and I saw that I had four little puzzles to solve. First to fall was the northwest. Rex - me, too, for "diets" before VICES. ENTERTAIN righted that one. But then I thought I had made a big mistake when I saw the clue for EYE MASKS – thought my NAP in 15A was wrong maybe?

EYE SHADES is new to me. On the occasion I fully commit to a nap, I get my Brookstone eyemask, work in my cylindrical ecru earplugs (they're the only ones worth having), turn off the ringer… And then lie there until I give up.

I imagine that some had trouble with the southeast because of "expressos."

ARNAZ was my first entry and then RADIATE. So my AUTOCADE was some kind of "parade" first. Didn't know you could call it anything but a motorcade.

Speaking of AUTOCADES, I had my first homecoming parade yesterday. Low man on the totem pole, I was the freshman class sponsor stuck with doing the float. We got her done, but next year, I think I'll just hide in a storage closet and drive upholstery tacks into my gums instead. (Hi, David Sedaris) Actually, I shouldn't complain; I experienced a deus ex machina in the form of two lunchroom ladies who came to my room during planning a couple of days ago and said they wanted to help. They brought the chicken wire, wood, and power saw. They sweet-talked the bus boss guy into letting us build it in a bus bay where the parade would originate. They brought the balloons and the helium machine. I was just asked to bring 2000 white napkins. Once again, I was humbled and incredibly moved by the kindness and hard work of these people.

I had a dnf because I went with "Omani" and "Vance" crossing some kind of "_ _love" for the self-sacrifice thing. Oh well.

I guess the PENTA was deliberate? I see Rex's point about a stunt puzzle, and this one with its four PENTA stacks fits the bill, but I never mind them and enjoyed the challenge.

Unknown 6:36 AM  

When I filled in 15A -I NEED A NAP after seeing 47A clue - "Power nap wear"...my heart sank..

Unknown 6:58 AM  

I thought UCLAN was meant to indicate someone at UCLA.

Wm. C 7:00 AM  

Disagree with Rex on nearly every count. This was a beautiful, challenging Saturday puzzle. CARACARAS are known to anyone who knows anything about birds or who has traveled to central or south america. Rex is full of 2 things: crap, and himself.

Chavenet 7:12 AM  

Also, that dream buy for huge fans? With a fan shape in the black squares? Weird distraction.

steven 7:29 AM  

Please...that was a dense and clever puzzle that fought back.

Dorothy Biggs 8:12 AM  

i gratuitously and unabashedly cheated throughout. If you're going to create a puzzle like this with things like LESTER, ASAMA, TOYERS, UCLAN, etc., then I'm going to use Google.

I solved the puzzle, I did not quit. But after I finished I just gave it a single-digit salute and decided o move on with my day.

Anonymous 8:21 AM  

not sure if i agree with that "caracaras are known...or who has traveled to central or south america" comment. i live in brazil and caracaras and amazon ants were new to me.

this was hard, harder, hardest, and southwest corner! wasn't last saturday's puzzle a lot harder than usual, too? i'm hoping the editor is just getting some hard puzzles off his desk.

Z 8:26 AM  

I presume there is at least one member of the U CLAN. I didn't realize he was a student.

"Didn't know you could call it anything but a motorcade." You can call it anything you want if you don't mind arched eyebrows, rolled eyes, and/or side eyes. This puzzle's so bright I gotta wear EYESHADES.

@Wm C. - "challenging" I can agree with. ASAMA, UCLAN, TETRA, ESSES, ESTES (POC much?), CARACARAS ("bird lovers who've been to South America" may not be as big a group as you think) and the clue/answer NAP dupe all make me question the "beautiful" designation.

SCENARIST? I've never seen that in the credits. Sounds like a job created for the producer's niece.

dls 8:28 AM  

UCLAN reminds me of the time that Will tried to pass off "NHL Players" as a clue for ICERS. Just, no. I thought the puzzle was a fair if unexciting challenge until the NE quadrant, which spoiled the enjoyment for me.

r.alphbunker 8:30 AM  

Puzzle report

There was some good stuff in this puzzle.

The NE corner drove me crazy with possibilities. I finally had to ask for incorrect letters to be highlighted but was able to finish without googling or revealing letters.
24A {Ball go-with?} ARNEZ-->ARNAZ
14D {One doing a dissection} EXAMINER-->ANALYZER
2A {Midway attention-getter} SIREN-->CARNY
13D {Like satay and sauerbraten} FERMENTED-->MARINATED
16A {Student with the motto "Fiat Lux," informally} YALIE-->UCLAN
10D {They're often escorted by police} MOTOCADES!-->AUTOCADES

{Like dromedaries and carob trees} ARABIAN stopped me cold and I went through the following names for {Lepore of women's fashion} trying to suss the last letter

This puzzle also appears to have set the record for the number of open squares in a 15x15 puzzle with 130. The old record was 127. An open square is one that is surrounded by 8 white squares.

A downside is that I counted 22 LCMs (see puzzle report).

Possible clue for UCLAN: {People who like to see the 21st letter of the alphabet in puzzles}

Anonymous 8:44 AM  

"Criticism is easy, and art is difficult."
Phillipe V. Destouches Source: Glorieux (II, 5)

Rex has no idea how this puzzle was constructed and very little appreciation for the dedication required to develop a puzzle of this magnitude.

Rex continuously mentions that this puzzle is a 58 worder. He forgot to mention that the puzzle set a new NYT record with 130 open squares. Specific statistics for NYT crossword puzzles may be found at xwordinfo.com, not an imaginary record book.

This puzzle has only 29 blocks. One of the last 58 word NYT puzzles appeared on August 12,2011 with 44 blocks (15 extra blocks) along with the following fill: RETS, ITCHIER, DENARII, REGRADE, FLEERED, LOVE-SHY, LONG BED and MEECES.

The puzzle on August 12, 2011 pales in comparison to the one today. It has a wide open grid with an artistic flair. I liked it.

AliasZ 8:58 AM  

I love wide-open spaces in a grid, but I hate isolated mini-puzzles. Today we get four 5x9 puzzles for the price of one 15x15. In this one the extreme segmentation outweighs the vast, blinding white spaces by about ten to one, sorry to say. Only super-experienced veteran constructors should attempt such low word-count puzzles: Joe Krozel, MAS, Patrick Berry and a few others, who can make solving them a continuous, smoothly flowing, satisfying experience.

- Iraqi, Omani, yes, IRANI, no. It is IRANIan.
- Motorcades yes, AUTOCADES no.
- Sleep mask, eye cover yes, EYESHADES no. Eye shadow yes.
- Manet, Monet yes, MANAT no.
- UCLAN -- University of Clandestine? Clangor? Clanswomen?
- Not only geese and turkeys are BASTED. I like my roasting lambasted as well.

AMAZONANT was resonant, and ALABASTER was my favorite entry today.

SCENARIST sounds made up for those who can't remember what that guy is called, oh, you know, the guy who makes sure the backgrounds are historically accurate, visually well composed and artistic. You mean the Art Director? Yeah, that's it! For movies, the title Production Designer was invented by David O. Selznick and given to William Cameron Menzies for his role in creating all visual aspects of "Gone with the Wind", in 1939.

TATAS for now. Bodacious ones.

Robso 9:01 AM  

DNF. Died in the SW, due to IRANI in place of OMANI. This was hard, but still fun.

Lobster11 9:04 AM  

Way too tough for me. Once again, an easy Friday giveth, and then a brutal Saturday taketh away.

Tommy 9:34 AM  

If you want to follow me
You've got to play pinball
And put in your ear plugs
Put on your EYE SHADES
You know where to put the cork

Mohair Sam 9:47 AM  

Anybody else lose a ton of time putting in "eight" and "seven" before discovering PENTA and TETRA? And hand up with the crowd on "diets" before VICES.

Played brutally tough in this house. Neither of us would have come close to solving this alone. I knew SPENSER and LESTER and she knew MARINATED and ESSES, and how the hell she knew CARACARAS off one letter is beyond me. Finally, I lost a business deal once because somebody died intestate - hence TESTATORS filled easily, and we had a toehold.

Once again I'm very much in agreement with @Rex's take on this one. That's about four days in a row, he must be getting good at this.

Equally horrid clue for 16A: Graduates of Miami of Florida (with "The")

Steve M 10:06 AM  

Fugetabout it

Teedmn 10:07 AM  

Whoo hoo - where to start? That was not a TRUE/FALSE question today. Chain went in at 24A, rectO went in at 44D, crossed it with ESPRESSOS and sat there. I guessed 35D would end with UP so I put in the U but hesitated at BONES because the B didn't lead me anywhere near geese or turkeys.

My big breakthrough was RADIATE which gave me the whole east side, eventually. In the West, an aha on TRINITIES off ECOLI was the only thing that saved me down there. And having nothing but 'diets' in the NW and the second SA at 6d, I made a Hail Mary entry of SANTA ROSA and decided that I NEEDANAP was right, the clue to 47A notwithstanding. After that, it was only a matter of DNFing at omANI and vANCE (hi @LMS).

I had TruElovE at 31D at first but had to take it out due to the TRUEFALSE question. I think 25A as clued was brilliant. With the T of TRINITIES, I kept wanting banTAm there but never wrote it in, luckily. Then I had REBALANCE but only the O of ROSA gave me CARTON.

Is Mt ASAMA NONACTIVE? Why is addition EASIER than division? And today we have ESSES VERSO ESTES. Who will win? What SHADES of EYE does NANETTE have? Obviously I have many questions to ENTERTAIN. Thanks, Kevin Adamick, for filling my Saturday with folderol!

quilter1 10:07 AM  

I put in snorklers before SEASNAKES and thought I was very smart. I still like my answer better. Tough puzzle but I finished.

Anonymous 10:08 AM  

Six peepee ASSES? One more damn way to work in a RRN.

Generic Solver 10:15 AM  

Rex is spot-on with his comment to the effect that the goal of these puzzles should be to entertain the solver, not the constructor. That said, as soon as I ruled out trying to speed-solve this one, all but the SW fell reasonably easily for me. And then somehow I remembered that Hormuz was a city in Iran, and I was business. So not my worst solving experience by any means.

GILL I. 10:23 AM  

Huh? I really don't know anything about puzzle formatting and wouldn't know a database constructor if it hit me in the nalga.
I thought there were four lovely puzzles in a big pile. Each little one had a word or two that I liked. I also thought the cluing wasn't obnoxious and the answers were actual words - well, maybe TOYERS is kinda made up.
I went to my first carnaval in Spain. The CARNies there are all gitanos and so good looking it made your CARA CARAS turn from ALABASTER to a lovely flush pink. I spent all of my pesetas trying to win a stuffed bull (sigh) no luck...but I got a wonderful candy eyeful just the same. Would they be called TOYERS?
Last beautiful day left in Sacramento today so we're off to play.

The Real Wm. C. 10:25 AM  

@phony Wm C. --

Caracaras -- "...anyone who knows about birds or has travelled to Central or South America."

Hm-m-mm, lemmee see. Do I know about birds other than familiar ones? Nope. Have I ever been to Central or South America? Don't think so. I guess I'm an exceptionally ignorant and untraveled NTYXWorder. Shame on me.

Hey, this is a Saturday, so it's gonna be tough. But I agree with many above that ASAMA on UCLAN is a travesty. I got ALTERNATE (easy) and LESTER (I'm a summer Bostonian), but that wasn't nearly enough.

The rest was Saturday-appropriate and enjoyable.

Anonymous 10:27 AM  

Challenging! Had to use check function, so cheated, but finished eventually. Feel pretty good about it all told.

Anonymous 10:28 AM  

this puzzle is prompting me to comment here for the first time. i love hard puzzles and greatly look forward to thursday,friday,saturday challenges. i don't always finish and when i do it takes me longer than people who are really good solvers. so, the fact that i DNF this one isn't why i HATED this puzzle. but this puzzle was awful and robbed me of a couple hours of my life i won't ever get back.
"autocades", "ucla-n", "toyers". seriously?
poor food references irritate me too. satay is not always marinaded. it is more likely just grilled and served with a sauce for dipping. does anyone baste turkey's anymore?
i am an east coaster who travels to northern california a lot. i have driven through and visited santa rosa (home to the great russian river brewing co) several times. i have never heard of or seen signs for "empire college".

Carola 10:32 AM  

I guess I'll repeat my "Hmmm" from yesterday (easy for others, challenging for me), as I'd rate this one as medium - and entertaining. Speaking of which, ENTERTAIN was first in, and the cross with INANE let me know it would be a SEA something.... Anyway, I motored right along until I had to deal with the CARACARAS and AMAZON ANT: having AfricAN dromedaries and carobs slowed me down there for a while, but other crosses came to the rescue. Loved ALABASTER, TRINITIES, laughed at the cross of TOYERS and TRUE, as I had trouble believing it.

Sir Hillary 10:37 AM  

For me, a puzzle this hard ought to have some sort of interesting payoff. As OFL pointed out, there was none to be had here. This one was hard for hard's sake -- that's all. BEQ did a 58-worder earlier this week, and it was far more satisfying.

Z 10:38 AM  

@Mohair Sam - hand up for wasting time on seven/eight.

@r.alphbunker - Several interesting discoveries in your puzzle report. The 1947 clue for VERSO is better than today's clue (imho, of course). UCLAN has been annoying solvers since 1962. ASAMA is a partial. None of these discoveries improved my appreciation of this puzzle, though.

Do they sell TRI-NITIES at Victoria's Secret?

Hungry Mother 10:39 AM  

Should have quit after getting the NW. I got ESPRESSOS, but I liked my first try, SEXPHOTOS. I spent far too much time on it before giving up because I'm resting before a triathlon tomorrow.

joho 10:39 AM  

I got off to a dismal start when I realized that my brilliant answer to the clue,"Reef swimmers with no gills," SnorkelS was wrong (Hi, @quilter -- I like SnorkelS better, too!)

My mom went to UCLA and I couldn't see that answer to save my life. Now I'm wondering if a UCLAN has a mind meld or crazy hand salute?

I'm also in the "it has to be" EYEmaskS camp of wrong answers.

Yesterday's puzzle was easy, today's impossible.

Oh, and turkey buzzards didn't fit at CARACARAS who are obviously indigenous to CARACAS, right?

I did get ARNAZ right off the bat, so good for me. In that one spot. Of the entire puzzle.

@Rex, excellent write-up today!

jae 10:40 AM  

Errata #2 - that should have been TeasEs not TeasERs and me too for diet and @r.alph examinER.

Anonymom 10:45 AM  

lol, @Alias! You're an officer and a gentleMANAT arms.


Malsdemare 10:48 AM  

I will spend serious time on a puzzle I think I will eventually get. But this? After half an hour and maybe five entries (among them eight and seven), I cheated.. And when that didn't get me a toehold, cheated some more. This was uglified! I think if you have to be a birder who's traveled to Brazil to get an answer, maybe the constructir needs to rethink some of the entries.

Headin NE to do leaf-peeping, whale-watching, friend-visiting and wine-drinking ... Not necessarily in that order. Tata!

John V 11:01 AM  

So, took a look at the grid and expected that this would be an unhappy event. I actually got nothing my first time through, save for the letter R in cell 23 and 44D VERSO. With no three letter words and only two 4s, I found no place to get a toehold. Like @George Barany, I only have some much bandwidth for a Saturday puzzle. I marked in my DNF after 10 minutes.

I have had success with stunt/stack grids from Joe Krozel and Martin Ashwood-Smith, so I don't think it's the grid's fault per se. I just think today's puzzle was poorly done, 58 words for their own sake, certainly not mine.

gifcan 11:07 AM  

First time through, blank. I chipped away by making a lot of guesses based on experience. The NW fell followed by the SE. Eventually ran out of gas and died in the SW.

SCENARIST? New to me.

(Started with vodka after midnight, finished with coffee in the morning.)

Norm 11:07 AM  

I wasn't aware that ECOLI had any good strains. NE was bad; SW was even worse. Bad puzzle, bad.

gzodik 11:07 AM  

Wow. Rex said challenging, and I found it easy and fun. I often don't make it past Thursday. CARACARAS was a gimme, have seen them in S. Texas, next TAKEMINE, and the SW fell. CANTONESE and SEASNAKES, no sweat, then TETRA, ONEAL, and ARNAZ in the NE. The SE took a while, tho. And only one Damned sports clue today!

RooMonster 11:08 AM  

Hey All ! Like @NCA Pres, I too, cheated unabashedly! Didn't Goog, but did make ample use of Check Puz feature and Reveal Letter/Word feature. Agree NW corner best one. SE nice, only nit there is TESTATORS. SW nit is MAN AT, otherwise good. NE, after those first two Huhs? was good. ASAMA/UCLAN mucking things up but good.

Is M&A a U CLANsman?

Tough SatPuz, out of my Ken. Did like clues for TATAS and ATOB.


Steve J 11:08 AM  

UCLAN perfectly encapsulates the abject awfulness of this puzzle. Horrible fill, the worst kind of trivia-fest, isolated quadrants, completely joyless cluing. Absolutely nothing to like here.

Andrew Heinegg 11:10 AM  

To me, the ' test' of a puzzle you had a dnf without cheating in some fashion is this: are you disappointed in not know/figuring out the answers you did not get and pleased by the ones you did? When the answer to both parts of the question is no, I tend to not think much of that puzzle. I thought this was awful and, despite the srar(standard rant against Rex) by Wm. C, I consider the write up by Rex to be kind and almost a bit soft.

GPO 11:13 AM  

Oh my effing word. This was tough. I was very proud of myself for finishing this bastard with no Googling.

And I am also glad that no one else knew what (or who, I was thinking) an UCLAN was. I 've never seen any Star Wars movies so I was actually wondering if there was a character who went around saying "Fiat Lux" between classes.

NCA President: I give the Saturday puzzle a single-digit salute upon completion every week.

Sarah 11:29 AM  

This was impossible, mostly because of all the answers that were so obviously (or easily) something else (but weren't) eg UCLAN should of course have been BRUIN; AUTOCADES should have been MOTORCADE; CARTON could just as well have been RIBBON, OMANI that could have been IRANI, INEEDANAP could have been IMSOTIRED etc etc. VIPPASSES was nice, but beyond that, oof. So different from last Saturday, which was fun, clever, and enjoyable. This was just tricky for trickiness's sake.

Nancy 11:31 AM  

One of the toughest puzzles I've ever managed to finish. (Well, strictly speaking, I suppose I didn't, because like @jae, I had MEN AT, instead of MAN AT, giving me CARACERAS instead of CARACARAS.) But in a puzzle this hard, that's a moral victory at the very least. And I didn't cheat! Which is also a moral victory, since one of my favorite people on the blog is right now making a truly momentous decision of whether to Google or not. (Don't do it! Don't do it! It's SUCH a slippery slope!) Anyway, this is the kind of challenge I just love...in a masochistic sort of way.

Tom R 11:37 AM  

I really wanted snorklers in place of sea snakes. Oh well....

Nancy 11:44 AM  

Forgot to say that my favorite answer was TAKE MINE. What a misleading clue! I wanted ALTRUISM at 31D for like forever, but I never wrote it in, because I couldn't see a single cross that was going to work. But it never occurred to me to look for an "offer" in the form of a phrase. Did anyone else fall for the misdirection?

Master Melvin 11:48 AM  

Difficult but doable - just what I like for a Saturday AM.

What I like about this kind of grid: minimum of short crappy fill. No 3-letter answers. Only 2 fours. Everything else five and above. Dunno what @Rex's problem is with the fill. Seems better than most to me.

What I don't like about this kind of grid: it is almost like 4 separate puzzles because of the restrictions in the center. Got 3 quadrants OK, then struggled with SW. Finally got it when I removed some wrong answers (SAHARAN for ARABIAN, EBOLA for ECOLI, etc.)and saw TAKE MINE.

Knitwit 11:50 AM  

The moment I saw this grid, I knew it would be painful. First sweep thru the clues and all i got was NANETTE, confirmed it. Did not enjoy this one.

old timer 11:56 AM  

Absolutely agree with OFL on this one. The puzzle reeked to high heaven. Oh, not everywhere. The number misdirect (PENTA and TETRA where most people would write in "eight" and "seven" was clever, and gave me the NW, since I knew SANTAROSA at once. Took me a while to remember PETES tavern, though I've probably poked my head in. I'm a McSorley's fan myself.

In the SE, I'll admit it, I Wikipeded for NANETTE. TESTATORS was then obvious. NONACTIVE a good guess. Yeah, eye masks is what I wanted, too, but EYESHADES fit.

The SW was inexcusable. CARACARAS no one -- well, almost no one it seems -- has heard of. But two of the long Downs there are misclued. If you fix ledger errors, you just put in the correct entries instead of the wrong ones. The REBALANCE takes care of itself. And TRINITIES are not "holy alliances" in any world I've heard of. The Holy Trinity (father, son, holy spirit) is not an alliance, it is different aspects of the same God. Though come to think of it the Holy Alliance was between three monarchs -- the Czar, the Emperor of Austria, and the King of Prussia. I guess that's a trinity, but then there was only the one Holy Alliance.

I had no problem with "scenarist", which is a word for the writer of plots, or scenarios. Lots of problems with UCLAN and AUTOCADES for the reasons others have given. Though "Uclan" has sometimes been used in the past, and there was a UCLAN theater in Westwood when I was a kid. They changed the name to the "Crest" and it was recently renovated.

Anonymous 11:58 AM  

Impossible for me, including the Empire College clue -I'm a graduate and live in Santa Rosa! Still thrilling to see my home town as a NYT crossword puzzle answer!

Lewis 12:06 PM  

I do not mind a stunt puzzle every now and then. This one required a huge knowledge bank; with it, this puzzle would be very enjoyable. I don't have that bank, and and some point (like George B), in that instance, I will Google as minimally as possible so as to solve as much as I can without help. Which I did today, keeping the puzzle tough, but making it enjoyable. I guess sometimes cheating has its own rewards.

So, without feeling exasperated, I was able to enjoy some of the fine cluing: BABYSTEP, ESPRESSOS, TATAS (my favorite of the day), CARTON, TAMERS, and TAKEMINE. And some cool answers, like CARNY and BONESUP. And afterward, looking at the puzzle, and seeing that there are only a few words I don't recognize, I'm impressed by the stunt. But Will, please keep them adequately spaced apart!

John V 12:41 PM  

Let me add that I just completed BEQ Themeless Monday, 331, of this week, also a 58 word puzzle, sans stunts. Low word puzzles can be great, in the hands of a master.

GeezerJackYale48 12:52 PM  

Well, I am in the minority who enjoyed this puzzle, although when I put it down half-finished at 8 AM and went for a workout, I felt much different. When I picked it back up and my refreshed brain starting firing in answers and inventing caracaras and such, I felt pretty smug. Finished! Yes! Good Saturday.

Anonymous 1:09 PM  

I was going to challenge anyone to find a sentence in the wild with "toyers" used to mean "flirty types," but on the 58th Google hit, I found "So tired of all these players and toyers. If you want to be bae then don't treat me like dirt. Seriously I won't plan on the future if you don't make the present worth it." I assume that the last sentence is clever wordplay.

mathgent 1:32 PM  

Feel good that I got it without looking up any clues. But I had an error, MENAT instead if MANAT. Bill Butler made the same mistake.

Ten entries I didn't know, notably CARACARAS and AMAZONANT.

Rex didn't like the grid, but it was responsible for there being ZERO Terrible Threes. Huzzah!

The cluing was tough but fair with the exception of "Flirty types" for TOYERS.

Bill from FL 1:38 PM  

I finished after three separate sessions, but with CARACERAS crossing MENAT work--the plural being the usual way the latter phrase is heard. Not sure if that qualifies as a Natick, but I'm a lot more familiar with NATICK than with CARACARAS.

David in CA 1:59 PM  

@Mohair Sam - "seven" and "eight" were my 1st entries, and oh did it take me a long time to take them out!
Seems pretty consistent to me that if an end-of-week puzzle doesn't have a couple long "gimme"s in the form of pop culture or other proper noun entries to get the speed solvers started it is instantly vilified by Rex and others here. Anyone else notice that? This puzzle just took a lot of perseverance and thinking, at least for me, and eventually fell - very rare for me on a Saturday.
Is there any chance of getting people to tone down the personal attacks on the constructors and editor, and just say what *you* didn't like? There is no indication that Rex even knows Mr. Adamick - where does he get off accusing him of having massive contempt for solvers? What is "cool"? Almost universally when Rex finds an answer "cool" or "fresh" it is a WOE for me.
So how about a little more kinder /gentler and a little less republican presidential debate style?

Tim Stadler 2:11 PM  

Love how people bitch when they're challenged by a puzzle... like professional golfers complaining when the rough is too tall or greens are too fast. Nut up and admit it's a tough puzzle. Took over an hour, and yeah, UCLAN was bizarre. I was missing the S in ASAMA and the C in UCLAN, but eventually by process of elimination figured it out.

KevinDenelsbeck 2:13 PM  

Last week was a DNF but I knocked this one out in 29:56, which is not pro-level but I'll take it for a grid this obtuse. I made a lot of lucky guesses on the first try and, I don't know, I often feel on the same cluing wavelength on Saturdays (more so than on Fridays). I suspected immediately that 1A was VIPsomething and so I immediately went with VICES for 1D. The NW went quickly. I tried CRIB for 37A and that hung me up for a while, but eventually I got the SE. The SW was a dogfight but I guessed right with ECOLI and MANAT and knew that 26D was some sort of ANT. Once I chanced AMAZONANT, it fell into place. Now the NE. I was beginning to despair early, because I filled in SCENARIST quickly but an early MOTORCDES (yes, I wasn't paying strict attention) nearly did me in. Once I noticed my mistake and went with the eye-widening AUTOCADES (really? is that a word?) it finally gave in and I finished. I was surprised with the clue for ANALYZER, which seems awfully nonspecific, but am proud to have deduced UCLAN even as I held my nose a little. (I do propose, however, a West Coast rap consortium named the Uclan Tang, or something similar.)

Tita 2:15 PM  

Hooray - a tough Saturday that I finished, finally, wo google, that Rex rates "Challenging"!

Boo - he hated it.

It was really hard for me, but there was enough that I felt smart working out.

I was annoyed by the 4 separate puzzles, but isn't that part of what makes a hard puzzle hard?

We went through an ESTES rocket phase, so I loved that clue. Hours spent walking up and down the flats on Cape Cod, searching for one lost rocket that totally devastated poor Dave...at 8 years old, he was absolutely inconsolable. 2-year-old Emi, sensing David's loss, summed it up over and over again that weekend. Rocket - go up... Rocket no come down. David sad.

I guess tons of us had dIetS for forever... That wrong e also gave me esperanto as the tonal language.

You can ADORN something without prettifying it.

ANd probably everyone already mentioned NAP in clue and in answer.
Thanks Mr. Adamick. (ANy relation to AdamAnt, who might have been the answer to 26D? Oh wait - maybe that was AtomAnt...)

Anonymous 2:33 PM  

How this puzzle got approved for publication is beyond me. Will Shortz certainly didn't edit this one! The very worst puzzle I have encountered in a very long time.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:38 PM  

Utterly impossible.

Anonymous 2:45 PM  

lousy puzzle, not enjoyable at all.

Bill from FL 2:58 PM  

I meant MENAT arms, of course.

Anonymous 3:23 PM  

Although I had the same one wrong letter (MENAT instead of MANAT, hence CARACERAS), I found this puzzle most enjoyable. As usual, I disagree with Rex- I think this is just right for a Saturday.

nick 3:33 PM  

Don't know enough construction well enough to be put off by grid shape so when nw went down easily, felt hopeful. SE was OK as well. But UCLAN was ridiculous (for short it would be a "Bruin") and from then on, a dispiriting slog. Also noticed that yesterday we had recto, today verso.

Mr. Grumpypants 3:40 PM  

@George Barany "Fiat lux" is actually the motto of the entire UC system, not just Berkeley,but that, of course, does not make UCLAN any more acceptable. What is next? UCBan? UCDan? UCSBan? To the barricades! It's time to revolt and bring down the evil house of Shortz! JK ...

jberg 3:41 PM  

I slept until 7, expecting a leisurely Saturday morning -- then about an hour later remembered that today was Plant Giveaway Day at the Arnold Arboretum, and that i had better get there by 9:30 if I didn't want them to run out of the plants I was seeking. So I put the puzzle aside half solved and came back to it at about 12:30 PM.

I fell for the seven/eight trap, put in Lackey before LESTER, had lookalikE for ALTERNATE at one point, saharAN before ARABIAN -- in short, it was really tough. But somehow I got it all, hooray!

I think the CARNYs are everyone on the crew, not just the attention-getters; and I have roasted many a goose and never BASTED one once - not sure why you would, since they are continuously pouring out fat as they roast.

Oh yeah, not knowing my college mottos I started with 'yalie' before UCLAN, and then had UconN at one point.

I did know about CARACARAS, being a birder, but it still took a long time to tink of it.

I can see @Rex's point, but I kind of enjoyed the struggle.

jberg 3:44 PM  

@Leapfinger from yesterday, thanks for the chemical correction! I like to get these things right.

mac 4:06 PM  

This one beat me, and embarrassed me at the hairdressers'. I had a reputation to uphold.

Anonymous 4:45 PM  

brutally difficult. the northeast went down because i knew Lester and Carny then stumbled upon Arnaz. The southeast fell when i threw in eyeshades for the heck of it. the entire west was a complete blank other than Sea. In desperation tried Kazan and slogged home from there.

michael 4:57 PM  

I happen to know caracara because I've spent a lot of time in Central and South America and have many friends who are birders. But I can certainly see why people would complain.

I had to google asama to get this. But like others uclan was mysterious to me. Bruins, right? My pet peeve, though, was "scenartist," which no doubt is a legitimate word but was news to me (and probably others).

duaneu 4:57 PM  

I feel better about finishing this one after reading about everyone else's struggles. I'm not above giving up if I can't get any foothold. And I did actually go to bed last night with only the SE corner filled in. But I came back to it this afternoon and managed to struggle my way through it. The only thing that kept me from getting Mr. Happy Pencil on the first try was MeNAT arms instead of MANAT. What would I know a CARACARA from a CARACeRA?

Masked and Anonymous 5:34 PM  

I finally gave it up.

What a Sea Snake of a SatPuz! har. This puppy was flat-out designed to be harder than snot:
1. Three fill-in the blanks, two of em names almost as obscure as republican candidates.
2. Zero weejects. Two Tetra-lettered. One of em RIRE, the other clued with the dreaded "?"
3. Grid had the corner-to-corner connectivity of a traffic circle in the middle of a total evacuation of NYC.
4. The usual gang of Sat-level clues, that are inclined to pull the wings off the most angelic of solvers.
5. Due to items 1-4, very little fighting chance to land on the beach and start marchin.
6. As far as I got, only saw one U. It was at the California crash site of UCLAN/AUTOCADES.

Hey, it didn't (literally) kill me, so it made me stronger. And made me scared of grids with a "+" in the middle.


**gruntz without + sign**

Pefhaps not that easy 5:34 PM  

@gzodik - If you had ONEaL you had a DNF.

jae 5:52 PM  

@John V - I agree that BEQ's 58 word puz on Mon. was more fun, but I also missed that one by one square. Oddly enough another bird I'd never heard of crossing an airline I'd never heard of.

OISK 6:54 PM  

There is a nice sense of accomplishment when Rex says "Challenging" and I finish it with no errors. I am a birder, and have seen the crested caracara in Texas. I join many others in really disliking the ASAMA, UCLAN, Scenarist section, and I don't get the "Carny" clue at all. Autocades??

Agree with all those who objected! But after two consecutive Saturday DNF, it was nice to succeed...

Teedmn 8:06 PM  

I was reading M&A's newfound fear of the plus sign-centered grid and was contemplating (by my count) the 4 'cheater squares'.

To eliminate them, ANALYZER could easily become a POC, leaving the cross BASTEDS, clued as "East Coast no-goodniks, var.". Other side of the puzzle, replacing cheater square with an 'S', you get sCARTON clued as "Anglicized village peopled by the injured" crossing sTAKEMINE, clued as "Offer to let someone else kill the vampire."

Or maybe not.

Anonymous 10:29 PM  

Norm: every healthy person has a large ecoli population inside. It is the bad variants that you read in the paper, hence lead to the conclusion that all ecoli are bad.

Anonymous 10:35 PM  

UCLAN used in a headline about UCLA in 1960. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=336&dat=19601122&id=_TQxAAAAIBAJ&sjid=a0kDAAAAIBAJ&pg=7047,4928640&hl=en

dm3000 11:52 PM  

I only took the ebola wrong turn, and I got everything else with one wrong letter (men at vs. man at). But it was tough. I love tough. I live for tough, stylistic comments aside.

George Barany 11:58 PM  

@Mr. Grumpypants, thanks for your illuminating explanation that the UC system-wide motto applies to the UCLA campus as well as to the UC Berkeley flagship.

KMS 10:29 AM  

Help - CARTON a lightweight boxing option?

KevinDenelsbeck 10:37 AM  

Let me add about SCENARIST: it is the old-time Hollywood word for a scriptwriter. Like, 1910s-1920s, before we had talkies, and when movies were much shorter. If you're an aspiring screenwriter who's read a history of the craft (raises hand) it's a relatively easy answer for the clue, but if you're not in that realm then, yeah, I can see how made-up-looking it might appear. I toyed (flirted ;)) with the idea of writing screenplay software called "SCENARIST" for a few years, and then I got Scrivener and saw that all my cool ideas had already been done, and done well.

bswein99 12:33 PM  

The worst was the cross of caracaras and manat. Since men-at-arms is as legitimate an answer as man-at-arms, and no one can reasonably be expected to know "caracaras," one has no choice but to guess whether the vulture-like falcon is a caracara or a caracera. So I did something I desperately try to avoid--I googled it.

I stupidly pluralized aorta as aortas and then spent some time trying to figure out who HSF could be (Harry S Fruman???)

pdplot 12:35 PM  

You don't have to go to S. America to see a caracara. They're uncommon but always seen when driving across south Florida from Sarasota to Palm Beach. Big black birds with hooked beaks. I thought this puzzle was hard and had to cheat on the NE corner in order to finish. Uclan? That's UCLA to me. Poor cluing in spots.

Tim Pierce 12:52 PM  

I guess I have very different tastes from Rex's. This one was fiendishly hard -- there were no gimmes for me, anywhere at all -- but in the end I found it mostly fair, and mostly satisfying. I got through it without looking up anything, and DNF only because of one square: the MANAT/CARACARAS crossing. Without knowing CARACARAS, I had no way to choose between "man-at-arms" or "men-at-arms". That's not cricket.

Although Rex is right on the nose about ASAMA, UCLAN, and AUTOCADES, even those I was able to deduce (painstakingly) from guessing roots, suffixes and crossings, one letter at a time.

I can do without ever seeing RIRE or NANETTE in any puzzle, ever again. But EYESHADES, AMAZONANT, TAKEMINE and even TESTATORS filled me with admiration. And some of the cluing was first-rate: "Lightweight boxing option", "It's left in a manuscript", "Byes at Wimbledon", are instant classics.

terry 12:53 AM  

This one truly sucked. UCLAN will ever be acceptable

Ellen 7:22 PM  

@KMS: "Boxing" as in "putting things into boxes."

Anonymous 1:42 PM  

Just putrid. (1) Eyemasks not eyeshades, I use them regularly and buy them at Brookstore (as another commentator said). (2) UCLAN no such word. (3) Toyers - no such word, and wouldn't be accurate even if it existed since it is perfectly possible to flirt and have serious hopes of landing the fish. (4) 26D is wrong because there a plenty of ants in the Amazon jungle that DON'T do these things, and it doesn't appear that a species that does do so is actually called "Amazon Ant". Can we please have words that actually exist and accurate definitions? Then, lots of proper nouns and extremely obscure information. Also don't understand one commentators lavish praise of 44D as an "instant classic" -- it's a standard crossword definition (usually phrased as recto instead of verso, i.e., the right side) -- it was an utter no-brainer for me. However, in defense of 32A, "Lester" isn't obscure to any baseball fan (despite the complaints), he's been an ace ever since he came up; that was actually the first clue that I answered.

spacecraft 10:56 AM  

I did half of it (NW and SE) and thought I won! I started with ALABASTER and curB--what a marvelous clue "Baby step?" would be for CURB!--and finally, after I BASTED my fatTED birds and BONEd UP for this test, made the change to (grrr!) ATOB.

But even with endings like -DES, -IST, -ATE, -TED and -ER, plus TETRA thrown in, I could not make the NE work. Did I try to squeeze MOTORCADES intp nine spaces? You bet. Almost became convinced we were on a rebus. AUTOCADES?? Nah. Flag that baby. No one says "AUTOCADES." And do they really call them "UCLANs?" The "Ball go-with" was very clever, but it sailed over my head. The volcano was of course a WOE, as was the NBC newsguy; I tune to CBS and just leave it on for Jeopardy!

As to the SW...forget it. I thought about CARTON, but the "lightweight" clue part made no sense. Cartons are made in varying strengths, including heavy-duty. They all have a seal on the bottom stating the "edge crush test" in PSI. It can range from 25 to 200--and those puppies are ANYTHING but "lightweight." Never heard of the CARACARA or the AMAZONANT.

I quit on this because I got tired, ran out of time, and my brain started to hurt. With more time I might have gotten the NE, but that SW was just never going to come. DNF.

rondo 12:08 PM  

Nearly impossible. Had almost all the same mistakes as OFL (for better or worse?) plus the “seven” and “eight” as mentioned above. What else could they have been? The SE is the only area that doesn’t look like an ink blot. But it carried me up and over as much as it could before guesses (like KAZAN) kicked in. And by dumb luck, I’ve been through SANTAROSA (furthest north in CA that I’ve been). This took forever. RIRE???

SPENSER (for Hire) and SNEAKIN took care of my language problem. Absolute mess in the NW. Glad I knew sauerbraten was MARINATED, I’ve made it several times.

No chance for a yeah baby in grid like this. Time for brunch, then INEEDANAP.

Burma Shave 12:25 PM  


It’s EASIER than this puzzle, if one BONESUP to be wiser.


leftcoastTAM 3:37 PM  


Well, no. The truth is that this puzzle was erroneously published in my local paper a month ago. I clearly remember that it was an all-time frustrating DNF.

So I worked through it again today just to see how fast I could dredge up, and wonder of wonders, I finished it in record time!

Longbeachlee 7:52 PM  

By no authority but common sense I give dispensation to all caraceras/men at work humans. No Hail Marys, etc. Give yourselves an A and get on wth your lives.

Unknown 8:41 PM  

Can we make it official? That was a shit puzzle.

Anonymous 6:45 PM  

I am way late, and nobody will read this, but I gotta say it. The most distinctive feature of the vultures is their bare head, which a caracara does NOT have, and therefore cannot be a "vulture lookalike." So yet one more example of a horrible clue in this puzzle.

Anonymous 10:56 PM  

A very hard puzzle indeed.

Even a newish birder will know about Caracaras. However, as someone else said, they don't really look like vultures. Also, you don't have to go to Texas or Florida to see them -- we had one in New York (rather amazingly) last spring. I think it was April, upstate on the way to Albany. Dozens of people got to see it.

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