1953 biblical movie / SUN 10-11-15 / Designer of Florence Cathedral bell tower / Readhead on kids tv / How you make me feel in van morrison song / O'Hara 2015 Tony winner for King I / Title girl in 2002 Disney movie

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Constructor: David J. Kahn

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "For Variety's Sake" — An SNL-themed puzzle, where names of former stars are hidden in the theme answers, inside (mostly non-contiguous) circles. Grid also contains frequent guest hosts STEVE MARTIN and ALEC BALDWIN, as well as the famous introductory line, "LIVE FROM NEW YORK / IT'S SATURDAY NIGHT" (102A: With 120-Across, intro heard every week on 56-Across):

Theme answers:
  • SAFELY (Tina FEY) (4D: One way to get home (2000-06))
  • PORTABLE SHELTERS (Amy POEHLER) (23A: Tents and the like (2001-08))
  • "MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY" (Eddie MURPHY) (37A: 1964 Charlie Chaplin book (1980-84))
  • GRANDSTANDER (Gilda RADNER) (58A: Show-off (1975-80))
  • HANDWARMER (Bill HADER) (68A: Muff, e.g. (2005-13))
  • CARROT CAKE (Chris ROCK) (71A: Dessert often topped with cream cheese (1990-93))
  •  EASTER PARADE (David SPADE) (81A: Berlin standard (1990-96))
  • WINING (Kristen WIIG) (108D: Dining partner? (2005-12)
Word of the Day: GIOTTO (39D: Designer of the Florence Cathedral bell tower) —
Giotto di Bondone (1266/7 – January 8, 1337), known as Giotto (Italian: [ˈdʒɔtto]), was an Italian painter and architect from Florence in the late Middle Ages. He is generally considered the first in a line of great artists who contributed to the Renaissance. // Giotto's contemporary, the banker and chronicler Giovanni Villani, wrote that Giotto was "the most sovereign master of painting in his time, who drew all his figures and their postures according to nature. And he was given a salary by the Comune of Florence in virtue of his talent and excellence." // The late-16th century biographer Giorgio Vasari describes Giotto as making a decisive break with the prevalent Byzantine style and as initiating "the great art of painting as we know it today, introducing the technique of drawing accurately from life, which had been neglected for more than two hundred years." // Giotto's masterwork is the decoration of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, also known as the Arena Chapel, completed around 1305. This fresco cycle depicts the life of the Virgin and the life of Christ. It is regarded as one of the supreme masterpieces of the Early Renaissance. That Giotto painted the Arena Chapel and that he was chosen by the Comune of Florence in 1334 to design the new campanile (bell tower) of the Florence Cathedral are among the few certainties of his biography. Almost every other aspect of it is subject to controversy: his birthdate, his birthplace, his appearance, his apprenticeship, the order in which he created his works, whether or not he painted the famous frescoes at Assisi, and his burial place. (wikipedia)
• • •

Tribute puzzle. When I saw David J. Kahn's name, I should've known. He's famous for these things. Whenever anyone famous dies, the joke among constructors (well, those I know) is always "and cue David Kahn tribute puzzle in 3, 2, 1..." I'm not even sure how many NYT tribute puzzles he's published, in reality, but reputation-wise, that is his thing. One of his things. He's also a veteran constructor who has had many puzzles in the NYT, at the ACPT, etc. I have a book of his baseball crosswords here on my shelf. His puzzles feel a little old-school, both theme-wise and fill-wise, but they're usually very well done. And even though I am on the record as being a non-fan of things "hidden" in randomly placed, non-consecutive circles, I thought that as tribute puzzles go, this was fine. The longer theme answers were at least odd / unusual, i.e. not dull. And you got the whole intro line in there, plus the two famous recurring co-hosts (whose names are the same length, serendipity!). There's a bunch of fill I don't really like, but DJK probably hand-filled this baby, and that's the price you pay. MILNER (37D: John ___, greaser in "American Graffiti")—the price you pay is MILNER. And SO FREE. And NEI. And especially REPARK. But honestly, the junky answers are few and far between. There's nothing earth-shattering or amazing here, but as commemorative puzzles go, this is just fine.

The one issue I have is the arbitrariness of the hidden names, i.e. scores of well-known people, out and out stars, have been part of the cast of "SNL," so how you arrive at this particular set of names, I don't know. It's a good sampling. But everyone who has ever watched "SNL" can name at least a dozen other names of cast members famous enough to warrant inclusion. True (very true), you can't include everyone, and there probably really is no way to create an internal rationale. Still, part of my brain goes, "What about Chase and Farley and Murray and Morris and Curtin and Belushi on and on?" But as I say, this is fine. And it's a *true* anniversary puzzle, running on the exact day, so hurray for that!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:05 AM  

Medium for me.  My main problem area was GIOTTO/ TSU/MOC/CASTE. tASTE could have worked and GIOTTO and TSU were WOEs. 

I haven't watched SNL in years, but the former stars are pretty famous,  so that helped the solve a little bit.  

What Rex said.  Nice tribute. Liked it.

DrLee77 1:10 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle while waiting to go to the ER to admit a patient. I have no idea from what depths of memory i pulled out GIOTTO; since my knowledge of Italian architects is rather scanty. A_BEAD and ALUMNA gave me my first start.

TAGALOG is almost always a gimme since I had to speak a few words of it in my junior class play 50 years ago. GIL Hodges confirmed it. HELTER skelter was a bad memory from the late sixties via the Manson family.

I kept skipping around finally getting GRAND_STANDER and CARROT CAKE. CORNELL was easy from reading many of Carl Sagan's books and watching the old and recent remake of Cosmos.

Finally, I had just enough fill to make LIVE FROM NEW YORK IT'S SATURDAY NIGHT fall yielding SNL. From then on most things fell. I was somewhat red-faced having so much trouble getting NUCLEI as a physician and an avid science and science-fiction reader..

Ironically, I never got the circled answers parsed until I got to your blog. I left for the ER at 9:30 eastern time just after my last entry. The circles are rather pale on my computer and I just got back to read your blog at 0100.

I enjoyed the write-up and agree with many of the nits. Overall, though I enjoyed the puzzle and thought it was a good tribute to SNL. Many of my favorites were left out as well.

Da Bears 1:39 AM  

Sigh. Another Rex write-up that does not want to offend because he needs their support or they are his buddies or they are part of the club.

Music man 1:47 AM  

Oh quit cutting your friends so much slack. You know if it was a new constructor you'd be ripping this apart. AAAS PLS? Booo.

chefwen 2:16 AM  

Can' remember how old I was before I finally outgrew SNL, but it seemed like a long time coming. A couple of names I was unfamiliar with HADER and WIIG were two. Never watched Amy Pohler or Tina Fey but know them just by reputation and many of the other things they are accomplished in. Very funny ladies.

In the 70s and early 80s I used to wait with bated breath (whatever that means) for Saturday night. Going out wasn't even an option on Saturday. That had to be done on Fridays or Sunday. Crazy Kid!

This puzzle was a real treat.

Tyler James Young 2:18 AM  

I thought for sure you'd take this puzzle to task for all the un-famous proper nouns, difficult stacks of 3s and 4s, the non-thing-ness of ECASH, cluing WINING with “dINING”, etc., but I'll settle for someone providing me an example of “weeds” used to mean CIGS.

Also, is there any way to fix post editing here? I can't be the only one who can't edit (even before posting).

Anoa Bob 2:51 AM  

One of the many reasons I enjoyed living and traveling in the Philippines was that English, as one of its two official languages, is spoken pretty much wherever you go. Seeing TAGALOG (31A), the other one, brought back lots of pleasant memories. Salamat po.

These days it's rare to find something to satisfy a word nerd's SWEET (63D) tooth in an NYT grid. "Subsidiary proposition" for LEMMA (57D) did the trick. No fluff there. More like that please.

One of the best excuses for stepping outside from a bar or party or pool hall or porker game or what have you, to freshen up your buzz, is "I'll be right back. I have to go REPARK (72D) my car".

Steve J 6:15 AM  

Meh. There just wasn't much of anything scintillating here. A ton of SNL-related fill, fitting Shortz's view that more of a theme somehow makes it better. I just don't get the obsession with theme density that has permeated the puzzle in recent years. The show presents a worthy topic - not just because its initials are extremely well-worn crosswordese - but the names this one called out definitely felt arbitrary and haphazard, and I don't think the volume of them ultimately added anything to the puzzle compared to a more concise listing.

At the same time, there wasn't anything egregiously bad. Following this past week's worth of puzzles, that's a notable accomplishment. So, points in favor on that count. But ultimately this was played too straight to the vest, with minimal surprise (which would account for my near-record solve time) and playfulness. Perfectly adequate puzzle, but absolutely nothing more than that.

Trombone Tom 6:15 AM  

What can I say? This was an interesting concept on the SNL theme, but overall a so-so puzzle. None of the longer entries had much "Wow" and all were pretty obvious once a few crosses were in place. The clue for 62A was a good misdirection for STIES. Didn't know LEONA Lewis, but that's what I get for not being an X Factor fan.

SmartJanitor 6:24 AM  

I have a problem with 71-Across, "Dessert often topped with cream cheese". Because it's wrong. Carrot cakes are usually topped with cream cheese frosting (or cream cheese icing, depending on where you grew up), but, unlike bagels, an unceremonious slathering of TempTee atop your carrot cake would probably shred the cake. A frosting needs more ability to be spread--and that can come from eggs (in some frostings) or from sugar, as in the cream cheese frosting now under consideration.

It's a little like saying, "Please have them put canola oil on my ham sandwich," when what you want is mayonnaise. Can't be leaving out these key ingredients.

Hartley70 6:36 AM  

Nice and easy Sunday puzzle offering, but I can't imagine where Rex sees the medium rating here unless he's adding it for the few solvers who neither own or watch televisions. I imagine the rest of us could have solved this while watching baseball/football, ironing and making Veal Prince Orloff for dinner. That said, I liked it.

'mericans back in Paris 6:51 AM  

Kudos to David Kahn for a cleverly constructed tribute puzzle. It is an impressive piece of work. But my wife and I found little joy in it. Some is our own "fault" for having lived outside of the country so long, which means we haven't seen SNL for decades. The only modern star, or former star, we know of is Tina FAY. So, like Rex, we looked in vain for Chase, Murray or Belushi. Fair enough, though, if the puzzle is supposed to be representative of SNL's full two-score years.

Otherwise, the puz has too many proper names, for our liking, especially in the Idaho-and-Nevada AREA. Had to look up MYA, watched half the video, and understood why her name never lodged in my brain.

Don't like the cluing to 21 across ("Shellac finish?"): CEE. Did a web search on Shellaccee and got my first Googlewhack. Then I looked up "Shellac" and "CEE" and saw that there is a nails salon called CEE. In that case, I could understand why "shellac" might be an answer to "Cee finish?", but not the other way around. But maybe my brain is still addled by jet lag.

Did like the diversion of 81A ("Berlin standard"); I was thinking of the city, not the composer. Other faves because of their originality: CARROT CAKE, TAGALOG, BERKSHIRE, and A BEAD. Also chuckled at the crossing of HELTER-skelter with (Gimme) _SHELTER_. HAND WARMER as an answer to 68A ("Muff, e.g.") had me thinking of an old joke which ends with a young man asking his girlfriend if she can now warm up his ears.

Mrs. 'mericans thought that the "law" in the clue for 38D ("__ law") should have been capitalized, but a Google search shows that as many articles seem to leave it uncapitalized as capitalized.

Shout out to OFL: the word "or" is a nice friendly little word, and doesn't take many key strokes. Try it, you'll like it!

Lewis 7:01 AM  

Can Rex or someone explain why hand filling a puzzle (I assume as opposed to letting a computer fill it) is "a price to pay"?

Lewis 7:20 AM  

I guess it's hard to find words that embed ACKROYD, BELUSHI, CHASE, CRYSTAL, DOWNYJR, FALLON, FERRELL, LOUISDREYFUS, MEYERS, MORGAN, NEWMAN, PISCOPO, SANDLER, SHORT and STILLER. Or maybe we just needed a bigger grid. This is just a sampling of a very impressive ALUMNi list. Congrats to a show that has brought so many smiles in many ways over the years.

F.O.G. 8:01 AM  

Had fun with this. Thank you, Mr. Kahn.

But even after getting the Across Lite "Happy Pencil," I couldn't figure out why SHES was the correct answer for 119D "Does." Until a few seconds later...deer me!

Favorite clues were 81A "Berlin standard" for EASTER PARADE and 108D "Dining partner?" for WINING.

paulsfo 8:04 AM  

Fastest Sunday solve ever, for me, though it worried me at first. It was mildly entertaining. No especially clever clues at all, in my opinion, which is a bigger problem (for me) than the ease.

Haven't ICU and TATA both been used recently, with similar clues?

George Barany 8:25 AM  

You're right, @Rex, nobody does tribute puzzles like @David Kahn. As luck would have it, this puzzle hit the 40th anniversary of SNL on the nose.

Two more Kahn crossword book recommendations: Metropolitan Opera Lovers and The Grid Reaper. Each has given me many hours of enjoyment.

Anonymous 8:29 AM  

Nobody cries I WON after a victory. They say I WiN.
Notwithstanding that, this was an easy as PIE Sunday, and an impressive tribute puzzle.

Loren Muse Smith 9:19 AM  

I didn't know today was the 30th anniversary of SNL. Serendipity again that it falls on a Sunday because as Rex said, there are oodles of stars whose names could've been circled. Here are some I had in my margins, @Lewis…


And right, how do you choose?

I thought they yelled, "IT'S SATURDAY NIGHT live!"

FEY's circled F on the same line as POEHLER slowed me up momentarily. Just for a second, though.

All these guys are great, but I tell you, I could watch WIIG all day. She can subtly nail a mannerism that's at once deft and wickedly skewering.

Someone just posted this on Facebook

Don't be the Grammar Crank

And if you insist on being the Grammar Crank here in this casual/informal setting, better check your stuff for spelling errors. And sentence fragments.

Nice Sunday romp. A fine tribute to a terrific show.

Teedmn 9:21 AM  

This puzzle left me with only one diLEMMA: DNF at the ArTE/VOrTA cross. Otherwise, it was a fun theme idea, especially given that SNL has become so despised as crosswordese, a sort of inside joke. (Speaking of inside jokes, EELS are ambush predators? I suppose, now that I think of it, they lurk in holes waiting for prey, but it wasn't my first thought. EELS under ELLES was nice).

The idea of someone "discovering" METHANE seems funny. Discovering its structure, yes, but I'd opine that METHANE predates Mr. VOLTA by a few ERAs.

Do any APODs have ears ALOP? Did anyone else think CheeseCAKE before realizing the clue would 'preclued' cheese? Has anyone wondered why PIE is considered EASY? I think rolling out PIE crust is an art. This does not mean I ever use store-bought crusts, but I'm always glad the ingredients are so cheap because I usually have a couple of failures in the TRASH BIN before I get one that works.

I had to laugh at getting the full STEVENSON today. Our favorite AES DOES seem more popular now than ever in the '50s. I liked how I had to get 4D with a cross or two because I didn't know who was ahead in the SNL host rivalry, thus making 73D a gimme when I got there. And for me the trick clue of the day was for 45A, ELHI. I took edspeak to refer to editors and had ETAL there, GIL and GIOTTO both being WOEs, OHM saved me from the double DNF.

Thanks, DK.

Z 9:27 AM  

@anon8:29 - I spent 8 minutes last night looking for that exact error. I have heard of LEONA Lewis, but LEiNA looks plausible.

@dabears/Music man - Wondering how closely you read the blog.

@Joe Bleaux yesterday - Since this is a moderated blog, you have to wait for the moderator to okay your post. No need to try over and over again. Rex approves when he's not busy drinking.

@Lewis - not a constructor, but I have inferred from what I've read that the big advantage of computer assisted crossword building is in the word list. If you are hand-filling your word list would likely be more limited than the one stored on your iMac.

Tributes. 21x21 grids. Random circles. All sub-optimal stuff. That this puzzle still managed to be a decent solve despite starting with three strikes against it says something.

Billy C. 9:38 AM  

@'Mericans --

Re: Shellac: The word ends (finishes) with the letter C.

PS: Eons ago I too lived (and worked) in Paris. Actually, started work at our office in the Eighth, a short walk from l'Etoile, but we got pushed out to La Defense when our office population exceeded the city limit (50, as I recall).

And only lived in the city a short time before renting a nice house in Le Vesinet, a short walk to the RER line.

As to the puzzle, I DNFed, messed up MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY, even after getting GRAPHY, as well as Gulag and Dabs At correctly in place. Never heard of Milner, thought her name was spelled Bursten, wrote in LilY. grr-r-r-rr!

Honeysmom 9:41 AM  

For previous commenter: Shellac ends in C, hence cee. Who the heck ever heard of alop for cockeyed? Not even in my Webster's! Otherwise, enjoyed this. And SNL was much better in the olden days with Murray, Martin, Radner, et al.

Anonymous 9:49 AM  

My issue with this one is that the cluing made some parts ridiculously easy, but the ease was way overcompensated by very obscure fill in many places. Lots of proper nouns...we have EVA intersecting with VOLTA crossing ALTE. Speaking of which..an entire clue in German? Yeesh. Not to mention LEEMA (??), ALTA, LIEF, NEI, TIO...I DNF'ed at the NW corner but the Western intersection of so many foreign names and phrases seemed a bit much. Puzzle was both too easy and too hard, making for an unsatisfying experience all around.

Tita 9:54 AM  

@Lewis..me too for wanting to know why Rex calls out hand-filling as something bad. I thought CAF (computer aided fill) was "bad"...or at least, unchecked CAF. NOt being snarky, I genuinely want to understand.

As for the puzzle, triple-meh. I feel robbed of a clever tricksy Sunday. I guess I am not a fan of tribute puzzles, if all they that is going on is a bunch of names embedded in totally random, not-connected-to-the-theme phrases. Disappointing.
I remember one tribute to Alan Turing that involved needing to do some encryption/decryption of the themers...now THAT was clever. I think that was our own JohnV...

Favorite thing on this puzzle was learning that Charlie Chaplin named his autobiography MYAUTOBIOGRAPHY. Didn't spend many sleepless nights coming up with that title...
I wondered...is that a common title? 30 seconds of googling show only one other book...the second autobiography of a Manchester United football coach. (Really...he's so fascinating he needed to write 2?)

joho 10:02 AM  

Easy and enjoyable, thank you, David Kahn!

Margin notes: Murray, Hartman, Belushi, Chase, Curtin, Ferrell.

Instead of the actor's names it would have been fun to see their famous lines: "Schweaty balls," "More cowbell!" I actually submitted a puzzle with that concept but it wasn't nearly as well put together as this puzzle. And it was rejected 😊

I've stopped watching SNL because it just isn't as funny as it used to be but I do use my DVR in hopes that "this time" it will be laugh-out-loud funny again. In fact, I'll be watching Amy Schumer a little later today hoping for the best.

GILL I. 10:07 AM  

Where's "Thank you Hane" Curtin?
I enjoyed this puzzle. Like @chefwen, I haven't watched in a million years. When I did it was because nobody asked me out on a date. I did enjoy the Rosannadana early seasons though. The week-end up-dates were rib-tickling funny.
Lots of names..@'mericans - by the time you read this, you'll probably get a million responses to the word shellac ending in "c" That's an old trick.
@Tyler...Me too! I can't seem to edit and I cross my finger hoping I don't sound too stupid or have added way too many commas!
Yes....I really don't understand SHES for does? Another trick?
Beautiful day today but NO RAIN....I need to do a dance or something.

Ludyjynn 10:11 AM  

Speaking of SNL ALUMNA, Jane Curtin guest starred on "The Good Wife" season opener last Sunday as a bemused probate court judge. Her comic timing remains impeccable.

I really liked the clues for TRASH BIN and MR ED. Wilburrrr...

Took me a while to get to CARROTCAKE. First had 'cheese", changed it to 'coffee' but the awkward REPARK made me use the R. Eureka.

The falling Autumn temperature has created increased activity at my SUET bird feeders. Looks like everybody is starting to fatten up for Winter. BTW, I have been ravenous, myself, the last week. It was pointed out to me that we're just like the birds and the bears, plumping up for the cold months ahead. Sigh.

Thanks, DJK and WS, for a walk down memory lane.

Nancy 10:27 AM  

Anyone else have loRd before EARL at 81D? That gave me an impossible answer for the "Berlin standard" at 81A: PAST SERENADE. Now I know every standard that Irving Berlin wrote and that's not one of them! So now, I'm thinking: Could they mean Berlin, the city? Only when I corrected to EARL did I see it: Oh, yes! EASTER PARADE! Whew! (Or, from yesterday, PHEW!)

This was by far the most interesting thing that happened to me in solving this rather meh puzzle that lacked any sparkle in either the cluing or the answers. And once again, tiny little circles. WS seems to love them, but I regard them as annoying 132 Acrosses to be ignored or swatted away. Although the constructor obviously lavished effort on the construction process, it didn't add all that much to the solving experience. I will now relegate this puzzle to the 10A, 101A.

Nancy 10:28 AM  

I meant LAST SERENADE. Didn't have my wrong answer in front of me; I erased it.

jberg 10:30 AM  

I got bored in this one. I think it was the theme, or rather the theme consisted mostly of non-consecutive circles inside long answers that had nothing to do with the theme. I guess if you were more familiar with the show than non-TV-watching I, you would get a circle or two filled in and try to guess the name -- that might be more interesting than trying to see what GRANDSTANDER and CARROT CAKE have in common.

@'mericans -- er, uh, shellac ends with the letter CEE. Probably you've figured that out by now. OTOH, I didn't understand the Berlin thing until I read your comment. I was figuring maybe the mother of all Easter Parades happened in that city, and wondering how I was supposed to know that.

Nice fresh clue for EELS, at least!

tkr 10:43 AM  

Weeds for CIGS still has me. I have no idea in what universe that makes sense.

mac 10:54 AM  

Good Sunday with a plentiful theme. Then again, it's a Sunday. Almost always a slog for me.

I had the most trouble in the SW, mainly because I had: "Here from...." instead of "Live...".
Why don't I know about this Easter parade?

Deborah Wess 10:59 AM  

Never heard of OHMS, but I've been an educator for 30 years, well-versed in edspeak, and never heard of ELHI either. I enjoyed it because so easy.

chefbea 11:06 AM  

Use to watch SNL all the time in the days of Chevy Chase. Dan Ackroyd, John Belushie etc. Haven't watched it in quite a while. Fun puzzle...brought back a lot of memories

Ellen S 11:13 AM  

@'mericans -- "CEE" is the last letter of Shellac. These days, you have to underthink these puzzles. Looking for clever misdirection will be the end of you.

81A Berlin Standard is the only notable cleverness. I got SNL immediately upon seeing the clue but didn't like the puzzle's title -- "For Variety's Sake" I would have preferred fewer golden oldies in the fill. Or ... not golden. Whatever color answers turn when they TURN.

RAS have been appearing here more frequently lately. I was just thinking, "feed those dorm heads to the EELS" when what should I discover but undersea ... what was the clue? -- ambush predators. I guess they're also APODs. Doing crossword puzzles is supposed to keep your brain limber but this one felt like what you get in airplane in-flight magazines. Just fill-in-the-blanks.

Or have I gotten to be a crabby old lady? When I moved into my house in Sacramento, next door was a really crabby old lady. She would threaten to shoot the neighborhood children if they ran past her house giggling and shrieking. Time passed, she passed, and now I'm old. I hope I never feel like shooting the latest crop of children, but sometimes these puzzles ...

Bob Kerfuffle 11:23 AM  

Minor bit of weirdness: 36A - 37A - MYA - MYA UTOBIOGRAPHY.

Two w/o's: 97D, YUM>>MMM, 101A, CAN>>BIN.

AnonyMomma 11:32 AM  

@Anonymous 0829, perhaps nobody cries I WON after a victory -- how do you know that for sure? -- but in that case everybody is wrong. I WIN is true only at the exact moment of victory; immediately thereafter it becomes a case of I WON. Truth is Grammar, Grammar Truth.

Now isn't that Special?

Buss Smith 11:32 AM  

'Shellac' end with the letter 'c' (cee).

Buss Smith 11:34 AM  

'Shellac' ends with the letter 'c' (cee). Or were you kidding?

Buss Smith 11:34 AM  

'Shellac' end with the letter 'c' (cee).

old timer 11:39 AM  

I'd as LIEF have today's Sunday puzzle as any other. In fact, I liked it, because after discovering the theme in the E, it helped me with many answers in the W. Example: I wrote down "lord", forgetting that an EARL is also a member of that peer group. Wrote down "head" WARMER before HAND, and I wonder, what kind of muffs warm hands rather than ears?

It's been decades since I've watched SNL at 11:30, because I'm in bed by 10, the better to get up and read my papers over early-morning coffee. No matter. We've all heard of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and the others I didn't need because the cluing was pretty easy: I had forgotten Irving Berlin wrote EASTER PARADE. But he lived an amazing long time. He wrote "Call Me Madam", one of the wittiest and most tuneful musicals ever, with the inimitable Ethel Merman as the star. And, he had a transposing piano -- he never learned to read music, and preferred the modal sound of the black keys, so with that piano, he could play a song in G and have it sound in the key of F-Sharp. Worked for him, at least.

Nice to see 'mericans back in Paris, and back among the commentators here.

Joseph Michael 11:46 AM  

As much as I like SNL, I disliked this puzzle and almost stopped doing it half way through the solve.

Too many names throughout the grid, too much cross referencing, too much crosswordese. The best thing about this puzzle is that it is being published exactly on the 40 year anniversary of the show.

In addition to all the things I hated about the names spelled-in-circles theme, how could an SNL tribute not include the great Belushi?

Numinous 11:51 AM  

Good sports don't cry, "I WON" or, "I WiN", they shake hands and say, "Thak you, good game." Ok, ok, maybe baseball players and football players do. Is Lacrosse a polite sport?

@Chefwen, I outgrew SNL long ago too, like, maybe thirty years ago. I've only seen it a few times since and cringed at what I think of as stupidity, not humor. I have to wonder if Mary Jane had anything to do with staying in to watch it not LIVE but delayed FROM NEW YORK when IT(S) was still SATURDAY NIGHT in California. Somewhere in there, Monty Python's took over from SNL. Somehow, thought hardly less stupid, British humor appealed more to me and my circle of friends. I did have no problem remembering the lead-in line. The clue for 3 Down gave the game away. I scanned down to 56 Across in the grid and saw it was three letters and it was obvious. STEVE MARTIN took a long time to fill though.

Nothing sticks in my mind with this puzzle as being either brilliant or dispicable. I did like the misdirection of "Berlin standard." I was looking for some European time zone written in full before I got EASTER PARADE.

I never really got the circled-letter names while I was solving. Usually I find those things to be something I look at after the fact and say, "Oh, okay," which is about as much as I can say for this puzzle.

GeezerJackYale48 12:02 PM  

Never thought SNL was worth watching, so I struggled to fill in the blanks without much enjoying it. Didn't bother with the circled names when I finished, because most would be just that: names. So a whole culture has been lost to me, I guess. Does watching Steven Colbert make up for it I wonder?

Numinous 12:10 PM  

@Tyler James Young, when I was in junior high school (yeah, I started smoking young) and in high school, "weed" was a common name for cigarette. We used to sneak across the street to the park for three or four minutes to smoke a weed between classes. That clue and answer actually provided me a "blast from the past."

@ 'mericans. Captain Obvious here. CEE is the answer to the meta-clue "Shelac finish" Ess aitch ee. el, ay, CEE. I do have to give you credit for watching MYA's video half way through, I barely made it a quarter of the way.

JMajers 12:19 PM  

"cee", as in the letter "c", "finishes" the word "shellac". This is, I think, a reasonably common, if somewhat regrettable, type of clue.

Leapfinger 12:28 PM  

Hey, David J Kahn.
Thanks for reminding me of the remarkerable Dorothy REPARKerable. Remarkerable for leading a horticulture but not making her think; for naming her canary Onan because he spilled his seed upon the ground; for describing Kate Hepburn's acting as covering all the emotions from A to B. She described another woman as knowing 18 languages but unable to say "No" in any of them. The first things she did every morning was brush her teeth and sharpen her tongue. She suggested her tombstone read: "Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment". What was ultimately carveyed on it was "Excuse my dust".

Perceptively, she wrote: Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words.


Andrew Heinegg 12:30 PM  

This is yet another puzzle like recent NYT ones that does not generate a strong response either way from the bloggers, me included. I thought it was 99% easy although I must confess I never bother to do the 'solution' of the jumbled words. If I want to do a jumble, I'll do the Arnold-Argirion one. But, I found this one to be a tad on the borrrring side.

Indypuzzler 12:31 PM  

Like @Jae I was hung up with the TASTE and MOT area and I think it is because I think of a "moc" as a style of shoe and not automatically something akin to a house slipper. It was a great misdirect for me (and I do know what MOT means) and the result was a dnf.
I guess I never grew out of SNL but got out of the habit of watching it religiously during its time slot so anymore I can be a tick behind on the latest cast members....but I knew all of these. Even so, there was something about this puzzle that just wasn't as fun as you would expect in a tribute to an iconic comedy skit program.

Malsdemare 12:46 PM  

I'm just relieved, after such an awful week, to finish a puzzle. Like others, I haven't seen SNL in years but I knew the stars, don't ask me why. Something about this TRASH BIN brain of mine, I suppose, containing all sorts of junk I would like to dispose of to make room for the important stuff, like where the heck is my phone. I would like to lodge a wee complaint at TRASH BIN; it's a can. That one MESSed me up for a bit. DNF because I failed to correct BuRKSHIRE, even though CuE made no sense whatsoever. Sigh!

Also stared at LEMMA for a long time and still am lost, so I'm off to visit Mr. Google.

Roo Monster 1:11 PM  

Hey All !
Give this one just an OK. Thought Rex was gonna tear it up, but no. Seems SNL puzzles are getting worn out. IMO. This one at least has more colorful SNL answers. I have problems with some of the answes as clued. 66A, Quarter=AREA? Like on a college campus maybe? 81A, Berlin standard =EASTER PARADE? 81D, Peer group=EARL? 114D, Weeds=CIGS? Also, LIEF, LEINA WOEs. We get two triples, AAAS, MMM.

Did like the theme density, and the themers with the hidden names were all fairly common. Plus add in the whole SNL intro. Had my famous One Letter DNF, spelled BURSTeN. Which got me Me AUTOBIOGRAPHY. EEK! Why not?

Lots of double letters for @Lewis, and a Runt clue for M&A. 21A, Shellac finish?=CEE.

Overall, two thumbs sideways on this one. Wasn't meh, but didn't blow my skirt up either. Now I'll SHUTS my TRASH mouth.


Rex Parker 1:50 PM  

@Tita @Lewis

I'm surprised you don't understand the issues involved w/ hand-filling vs. computer-assisted filling (CAF) by now. Neither is inherently better, but hand-filling is generally much harder and, almost certainly, you will be relying on older, tested, tired, awkward, or arcane short fill (your EEROs and ELIELs and plural suffixes and what not) to make your grids work — short fill that we've all become accustomed to if we've been solving a long time, bec. that was what was required. That was normal. That was standard. But computer-assisted filling (CAF) makes it possible to make much, much cleaner grids, if you are diligent enough. If you had ever tried to construct using both modes, you'd see very quickly the difference between the two methods of construction. Most constructors nowadays opt for a heavily regulated CAF; that is, you let the database help you, but you do not let it push you around, you turn it off a lot (because it can sometimes actually *limit* the possibilities you can see, ironically), and you never ever settle for "good enough." "Good enough" is no longer good enough. If you can get to "good enough" w/o too much effort, then you need to try harder. That is true for both methods of constructing, probably; it's just that when you construct by hand, it can feel like a huge triumph just to get to "good enough," and it seems a lot of hand-constructors are content to stop there.


Always check your grid 2:04 PM  

@Roo - you had a two letter dnf if you had LEiNA

nick 2:05 PM  

I reluctantly agree with those calling bs on the generous review of a lackluster puzzle.

'mericans in Paris 2:41 PM  

Thanks to the innumerable commentators who explained the answer to 21 across. I guess I deserve a shellacking for not thinking of the simplest explanation. (There really is a chain of salons called "Cee Cee Nails", so I assumed, once I started looking on Google, that it had to be related to that.) As @Ellen S says, "These days, you have to underthink these puzzles. Looking for clever misdirection will be the end of you." Too true.

I'm glad that @Malsdemare complained about TRASH BIN. That bothered me, too. Strikes me as a mix of the American (TRASH can) and British (rubbish BIN).

@Billy C.: Thanks for the Paris story.

@Old Time: Always a pleasure to read your posts!

The last sentence of @Rex's helpful comment on non-CAF constructing sums up what I suspected: "it's just that when you construct by hand, it can feel like a huge triumph just to get to 'good enough,' and it seems a lot of hand-constructors are content to stop there." I've been working on some old NYT puzzles from the 1990s, and (especially since he pointed it out a few weeks ago) I've noticed the difference in the quality of the fill.

Leapfinger 2:54 PM  

Hi, @Teedmn! You got me to wondering whether getting 'the full STEVENSON' was anything like getting the full Monty. Sadlai, I think not. I do remember way back then, my cousin, who liked AES, saying that he had no chance, since this country would never elect an intellectual. Just his OPINION. [Sentence fragment be damned.]

Agree on the important issue of the PIE, easy only when that critical roll-out-and-transfer-crust step is avoided. Fortunately, my Linzer torte recipe lets me PAT the pastry into place like Play-doh, and the general consensus is that the result tastes and looks MAHvelous.

Re SNL, have to admit I can't stand PAT*, but enjoyed the recently aired anniversary special enormously. If all that history carried over to increase today's enjoyment, sobeit. SNL may not be what it once was, but Seth Myers played here last year, and kept up a rapid-fire routine for two hours without pause and without notes; had people in pain with laughter, so the talent's still around. SNL still does some of the better political take-offs around, with ATTACKS on both their houses.
*It isn't the sexual ambiguity; it's the wining giggle.

The fill fooled me with 'screen icon'; thought we were getting TRAcy, but it couldn't have BIN Spencer in 3 spaces. Also noticed the CEE TEE had no SCAN to TAGALOnG, but that did GNAT bother me too much.

Enjoyed the diversion, DK (all caps); now what's happened to dk (lower case), that charming fellow?

old timer 3:12 PM  

I'm going to drop back in just to recommend, for those of you who do the puzzle in the Magazine, today's Split Decisions, by the admirable Mr. Piscop. No, I haven't finished it yet, but I've done most of it, I think, while watching Seattle tromp on Cincy.

But then again, it may be I have some bad answers in the part I haven't finished. In the old days, it took me the better part of a week to finally do a Split Decisions right. We have a very rich language, and it is hard to think of every word that might fit.

In fact, I am glad that the Magazine has gone back to some old standbys, including a one-person Ethicist for me to yell at.

Masked and Anonymous 3:15 PM  

Primo SNL tribute. Only thing: M&A really wanted LAND SHARK.
Cool warm-up entry in SatPuz: NOT LIVE.

@009: As a (now accepted NYTPuz) puz constructioneer, here is my take on CAF:

1. What's wrong with "good enough"? I bet even PB1 reaches a "good enough" point in fill in his grid. It's just that he has a real high "good" cutoff mark. But perfection in crossword fill probably pays about 1 cent/hour.

2. I think CAF can save one some time, in this sense: if CAF can't fill a corner at all, that ain't a real good sign. Saves M&A the trouble of bangin his brick head against that crossword corner for way too many precious nanoseconds. But CAF often misses cool fill, that I happen to think of on my own at times.

3. If U have three different "good" fills for each corner, how do U decide which one is "goodest"? Send 27 (9 corners x 3 choices per corner) versions to the Shortzmeister? Why make him think U are a weenie constructioneer? Make the call! But then, how to decide between versions: obviously, lots of plus/minus considerations. Sparkly versus widely-known. Plural versus abbr. Names versus boring (non-U, etc.) letter choices. Eye of the beholder, dude. CAF probably won't help make that call, much.

4. I personally wish all grids were all, at most, very sparingly CAF-filled, and that the clues were always mostly the constructioneer's own clues. Let us see the personality/style of the constructioneer shine thru. I know this means that a great idea for a puz theme may occasionally not make it to press, becuz the constructioneer can't fill a paper bag, or uses too many double-?? clues out of desperation.

5. Pure-bred dogs are fine. But mutts can also be pretty day-um entertainin, as long as they don't bite. Near-perfect puzs might be some solvers' preference. Funky puzs can also be fun, as long as they give solvers a fighting chance. De bustagut.

6. I really don't think much about puttin EERO or EEROLIEL into my grids. CAF does, tho. (Perhaps I do have a few crosswordese-tolerant tendencies. "Crosswordese" is a pretty subjective term.)

7. I never use CAF on a runtpuz. Like killin an ant with an atom bomb. Plus, CAF ain't near desperate enough, to complement the M&A persona's style. But, I digress.

8. In my spare time, I luv to plunk twenty random U's into the latest SAtPuz grid layout, and turn CAF loose on it. Watch out, crossworld ...


**Non-CAF gruntz**

joho 3:15 PM  

My SNL update: Amy Schumer delivered big time. Her opening monologue was laugh-out-loud funny. Finally!

Carola 3:36 PM  

The puzzle came close to being a themeless for me, as I've never seen the show (@Hartley70, I'm one of those who doesn't have a TV). I did recognize the name RADNER and wondered if she'd been known as a GRANDSTANDER. I also wondered if ROCK was a comment on the density of CARROT CAKE. Eventually, I did catch on to the SNL theme, but for me the delight factor was low.

One do-over: fain before LIEF.

@Teedmn - My mom was one of those Norwegians who mixed up pie crust in a big ceramic bowl with a fork - tender, flaky, the epitome of pie crust Alas, the PIE crust gene was not passed down to me But after years of life-on-the-edge, nail-biting, tear-inducing efforts, I found a keeper of a recipe and method, in case you're interested in giving it a try.

Anonymous 3:48 PM  

Help me please!
I don't get it.

Michael Green 4:00 PM  

I'm old enough to have been there when it all started, but for the life of me, I can't figure out the relationship between the long clues and their dates. I guess Hand in hand warmer gets me Jack Handy but I can't be sure.

Roo Monster 4:27 PM  

Thanks, Check Your Grid@2:04, you're correct!

Is that better than a one-letter DNF? :-)


joho 4:33 PM  

@ old timer, "Seattle tromp on Cincy" ... HAH!!! Go Bengals!

jberg 4:42 PM  

Going back a few days, Hayley Gold has just posted her cartoon commentary on last Thursday's puzzle.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 5:09 PM  

Not that anybody cares at this point, b ut this largely unpleasant puzzle was good beca. use it got me back onto the solving train. Friday the horrific happened, my morning paper deliverer gave me a Wall Street Journal instead of an NYT, I started to do their puzzle but meh meh meh. Having not done the Friday puzzle I just could not get up enough steam to attempt Saturday. But this one got me back on the horse. Left a couple of blank spots out of annoyance -- myA crossing leAse and tRash crossing Ras.The dopey basketball coach with eeK, I wrote in under protest. Not an SNL fan. Knew Giotto and methane/ Volta.

MamaKarma 5:22 PM  

Was an SNL fan until I got too old to stay up that late and it became not funny enough to DVR it. Still, enjoyed the references in this puzzle, and it brought back good memories of Belushi, Radner, Curtin, Murray, et al.

Thanks, @F.O.G., as I finally "got" SHES only from reading your post.

Had trouble with TRASH BIN initially; agree BIN is British, and had to fiddle a while before making sense.

But learned something on LEMMA, so a fair trade.

R phone 5:29 PM  

Screen icon is Trash Bin? Huh? What am I missing here?

aging soprano 5:35 PM  

STEVENSON on the left and the man who beat him, DDE, right smack in the center. I wonder where they would locate this year's gaggle of Republican contenders. Probably off the grid.

Jon Roberts 6:05 PM  

All in favor of a one year moratorium on SNL references, please raise your hands.

Norm 6:15 PM  

@R phone: Look at the icons on your computer screen.

Norm 6:16 PM  

Anonymous @ 3:48 LEMMA is a logic term. Google it.

R phone 7:16 PM  


Z 7:48 PM  

@aging soprano - I'm not sure this answers your question, but It is interesting to consider. Personally, I think DDE's politics are closest to Obama and Clinton while people like Paul and Cruz and most of the "Freedom Caucus" would have run as Democrats in the 1950's.

Hugh 10:59 PM  

Late as usual to the party. Got the "S" and "N" fairly quickly at 56A so it was fairly easy going with the themers after that. Got 102A and 120A with no letters at all (Intro heard every week on 56 Across), after all, what else could it be?

DNF as the Northwest did me in - I only had 3D - "STEVEMARTIN" which I got with just the "R" crossing from Cornell.

Big fan of SNL - (at least from 70's to early 80's) but not much excited me here. The theme was a bit too straightforward and simple (56A gives step by step instructions for the solve) and there was no real room for any "aha" moments or even chuckles. Rex's write-up was a bit too gentle IMHO but I agree it was a nice tribute well timed.

Have a great week all!

Tyler James Young 9:45 AM  

Doe, a deer, a female deer, gets counted one she, two SHES, three shes, more!

I mean, nobody actually does that and neither my phone nor I readily recognize the plural of “she”, but that does appear to be the intended angle.

Tyler James Young 9:54 AM  
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Tyler James Young 9:58 AM  
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Tyler James Young 10:04 AM  
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Anonymous 3:57 PM  


spacecraft 11:24 AM  

So I'm there racking my brain for that famous (?) screen icon, TRASH somebody. Who's he? I've heard of Crash Craddock, but...oh, THAT kind of icon! *headslap* See what happens when they keep stuffing grids with all those proper names? We start thinking names first, words second!

Stuffed as it is with names, this one impressed me with such awesome theme density. I didn't bother counting, but it has to be close to half the grid, if you include the entire lines where names are circled. No wonder we have AAAS and PLS and REPARK. "You know, I think I left my car too close to the corner. Maybe I'd better go REPARK." Why not REMARK, with SMA (same as "wee") across? I think Mr. K missed that one.

It played somewhat sloggish for me, but not too bad. Despite CORNELL being a gimme (big Sagan fan here), the NW resisted till last. Weird how often that happens to me. I had fun with it. Too good for a CEE despite the presence of that spelled-out letter. Make it a B.

Burma Shave 1:00 PM  


He DARES BURSTYN her cabin and SHUTS the door, the ICECAPPED farmer,
and SAID, “You NEEDN’T fear, my SWEET.” WHYYES, he didn’t alarm her.
SHE’S suddenly SOFREE to open THEROBE to her DEAR new charmer,
she SAID, “CASTE your fingers in here, CEE, it’ll make ANY HANDWARMER.”


rondo 1:36 PM  

There have been so many SNL ALUMNAe and alumni I suppose it’s hard to choose. I saw that first episode and probably most since then, so I can live with this tribute.

And this puz is flush with yeah babies. Top o’list is yeah baby EVA Green who returns and could Bond with me. Ellen BURSTYN yeah baby in her day. KELLI O’Hara you B’way yeah baby, yes Siam available for you. LEONA Lewis sometimes yeah, others, no baby, watch your FREIGHT. MYA, hop me to the hip yeah baby.

Someday when I write MYAUTOBIOGRAPHY, I’ll include the story about me and the college girl who appeared in Playboy in the early 1990’s, before they decided to cover girls. IWON her heart, for a day.

PORTABLESHELTERS seems like green paint.

I tolerated this Sun-puz much better than some recent fare, so it was a fair CONTEST, IMHO.

AnonymousPVX 4:30 PM  

A week late so nobody reads this but - I thought the clueing "strained" and the theme meh and I am an SNL fan.

Not much else to comment on.

Justine Shaffner 7:44 PM  

We get the puzzle a week late in the Denver Post, but have to say this was the easiest and most boring NYT Sunday puzzle I've ever done, and that's saying something as there haven't been many clever ones recently. I guess being an SNL watcher made it a lot simpler, but just awful clues, none of which caused me any trouble. I don't think I smiled once, except when I sat down to do it while eating a dill pickle and my dog grabbed it (and loved it! very weird as lately she even eschews Cheeze-its).

Tim Goodenough 10:00 PM  

Agree with APVX...read through previous comments, surprised nobody else complained about Pharaoh as a clue for TNT (89A) and trucker's circuit for ATE (95A) immediately below. Way too obscure. I call foul!

Phillip Blackerby 3:34 AM  

If, by "easy" you mean I could finish before midnight Sunday, then yes it is easy. CEE is terrible. Yes, I get it, but it's still terrible to have the answer actually in the clue. And SNL. Yes, it came easily, but is "TV" supposed to be the indicator that the answer is an abbreviation? Yech. My local paper publishes the NYT puzzle a week late, so I get to be the last commenter, and read all the others' rants.

paulsfo 8:49 PM  

@Tim Goodenough: those two asnwers are actually ANT (still a bit obscure?) and RTE (not obscure).

wpg alien 3:18 PM  

he crafted the puz by hand, not using a computer program which would give more word choices...

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