Old nickname for China / FRI 12-4-15 / Cliffside detritus / 2004-11 Lakers forward / Actor Spall of Life of Pi / Candy counter eponym / Scopes Trial city

Friday, December 4, 2015

Constructor: Martin Ashwood-Smith

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: APIS (35D: Egyptian bull god) —
In Egyptian mythology, Apis or Hapis (alternatively spelled Hapi-ankh) is a bull-deity that was worshipped in the Memphis region. "Apis served as an intermediary between humans and an all-powerful god (originally Ptah, later Osiris, then Atum)." [quote: Virtual Egyptian Museum] // Apis was the most important of all the sacred animals in Egypt, and, as with the others, its importance increased as time went on. Greek and Roman authors have much to say about Apis, the marks by which the black bull-calf was recognized, the manner of his conception by a ray from heaven, his house at Memphis with court for disporting himself, the mode of prognostication from his actions, the mourning at his death, his costly burial, and the rejoicings throughout the country when a new Apis was found. Auguste Mariette's excavation of the Serapeum at Memphis revealed the tombs of over sixty animals, ranging from the time of Amenophis III to that of Ptolemy Alexander. At first each animal was buried in a separate tomb with a chapel built above it. (wikipedia)
• • •

15x16 to accommodate that central quad-stack. Super-segmented grid typical of grids like this, where you gotta keep a majority of those quad crosses pretty short; thus the top and bottom tend to play like completely separate (and usually much easier) puzzles. So structure-wise it's a fairly typical specimen. Fill-wise, given the severe limitations imposed by quad-stacking, I'd say it comes out OK. You've got the Egyptian bull gods and hare constellations and minor Homeric characters that inevitably congregate around this kind of puzzle, but they certain don't overwhelm the grid. I'd argue that COMPUTER MONITOR and OPERATING SYSTEM and APPLIED RESEARCH are really, severely, aggressively, perversely dull 15s—all straight out of some nondescript building in some office park in suburban D.C. But the other 15s are pretty interesting, as are the longer answers that shoot through the quad-stack.

I had zero luck starting out in the NW, and so ended up getting traction in what felt like a weird place—first with ROM, then ODOM, then MGS, then IRISH SHA APRILS. Thus:

Felt like I was clinging to the rock with my fingertips. Also felt like I was starting on the wrong end of the puzzle. Working right-to-left-always feels slightly backwards to me, so it was especially odd to find myself, not much later, with the east side of the grid filled in, but totally unable to make any of the 15s shoot back across the grid:

Actually, at this point, I probably looked back up and realized that the Who title was "I CAN SEE FOR MILES" (37A: The Who's only U.S. top 10 hit). Earlier, I was thinking it was MILES AND MILES or "FOR MILES AND MILES" ... whatever I was thinking, it wasn't working. I also have never ever head of DAYTON, TENNESSEE, so front end of that was tough ... especially when I threw down MISSISSIPPI at 24D: Their state song is a waltz (MISSOURIANS). In my defense ... I don't know. It fit? Anyway, that gave me DAYTIN, which ... really looks (and is) wrong. No idea who that RAFE dude is. He was RENÉ for a hot second somewhere in there. Aren't THREE TENS actually better than a [Pretty good poker hand]. Wouldn't you win most of the time with that hand? Three of a kind, esp. THREE TENS ... I don't know, "pretty good" seems insufficient. I had no idea that you could use PAX without following it with "Romana" (54D: Time of wide-ranging stability). It literally means "peace," but I guess that since the Romans committed some amazing atrocities during their PAX, maybe the clue definition is, in fact, more accurate. I discovered today that I hate guns so much that I don't even want to see them in my crosswords any more. I didn't find the ARMED clue funny (48D: Piece-keeping?). This is not the fault of the constructor or editor. It's a matter of personal taste. I've just had it. [Note: Martin tells me clue was not his—again, not mad at anyone here...]

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:05 AM  

Easy for me except for the NW which was medium, so easy-medium for me too.   My solve was similar to @Rex's.  The Southern third was very easy.  My only erasure there was zed before ISE.  I also tried aceS before TENS in the CTR stack.

Liked the 4 stack in particular and the puzzle in general except for being too easy.  

Steven Clemens 12:32 AM  

I found it easy for a Friday. Unlike Rex I had trouble in the NE as I confidently wrote in BODYSPRAY for Axe in the bathroom. That messed me up for awhile. I knew the Who song with very little and despite being a tech nerd didn't get COMPUTERMONITOR till the very end.

John Child 12:36 AM  

This is just what a Friday puzzle should be, IMO: challenging enough to be fun bur accessible enough to have no long stalls that are frustrating. I finished in the NW corner having been stumped initially by the clues up there - {Big drop...}; {Superman} a fLIEr maybe?; and the {Constellation} LuPUS? no, that would be the anti-rabbit constellation.

But DEODORANT and LONG-STEMMED went right in, and I was off. As OFL has noted before, stacks aren't too hard if you work away at the shorter crosses until there is enough to pattern match. Like him today I found the right ends of the center stack and had to work backwards.

For all the great Who songs I was surprised to learn that they had only one US top-ten hit. My favorite of all is The Real Me with its remarkable bass line by John Entwistle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pohhMx9EdNc

For more Martin Ashwood-Smith, see "OperaBoxes" here: http://tinyurl.com/operapuz

chefwen 12:54 AM  

Someday, I hope soon, I'll face a MAS puzzle with positive rather than negative THOUGHTS. Unfortunately, today wasn't the day. My first pass through got me LONG STEMMED, PROLIFIC and USER NAMES. That was it! Oh yeah, and full house at 17D, guess how far that one got me? At least the ones I was able to get we're kinda long and I was able to scrounge around to fill in around them. That stack in the middle, nada, except the Who song finally came to light.

Scratched, clawed and Googled my way to the finish line and was done with another MAS puzzle, until the next time. Phew!

Ravini 2:02 AM  

Had good time with this especially when "I Can See For Miles" opened things up quickly. If you haven't heard this song, go for it. And please turn it up loud. "One liner" was actually one of the last to fall -- kept thinks it just didn't feel right with that clue. All in all a fun traipse. Not hard but not fall down easy, either.

madchickenlittle 3:00 AM  

I liked it. But I like ones I know the answers for. ��

Hays 3:38 AM  

I got "Celestial Empire" from Deadwood and figured it was pejorative from the way it was (partially) slung about on the show, but, like a lot of things, maybe I'm wrong. I should probably look into it out of curiosity, but it's after 3am and my eyes are closing involuntarily.

Cyrano 4:10 AM  

"I discovered today that I hate guns so much that I don't even want to see them in my crosswords any more. I didn't find the ARMED clue funny (48D: Piece-keeping?). This is not the fault of the constructor or editor. It's a matter of personal taste. I've just had it."


Aketi 6:14 AM  

If I didn't have a teenage son, I would have probably out the iPad down and gone back to sleep after the cats woke me up and I thought I might as well try the crossword puzzlle. I read the clues and my mind was a total blank until I got to Axe. My nostrils recoiled in horrified recollection of the scent of teenage boys whose EXCESSIvely apply that DEODORANT.

My reaction to COMUTER MONITORS, APPLIED RESEARCH, and OPERATING SYSTEMS was the opposite of Rex. I thought of all the info sessions on the college tours ive sone with my son where the engineering professors were so passionate and adorable that I want to go back to college myself for an engineering degree. So while Rex's mind went to the DC burbs, mine drifted to the Mountain Top campus at Lehigh.

As for equating RATSNESTS wither the disorders created by hoarders, I have to say that if I think about the hoarder who lives across the hallway, the comparison is completely unfair to the rats. I had a pet rat as a child and they are actually quite tidy and they make very good mothers. Our resident hoarder managed to snag two rent stabilized apartments by moving in with the neighbor who had a stroke. When he passed away the landlords realized she had two apartments and made her give up one apartment. For an entire week, she fill thr hallways of two floors in our building with boxes from floor to ceiling stacked two deep. She filled three full sized U hauls trucks.

Anonymous 6:24 AM  

An excellent, "keep at it and you'll figure it out" Friday puzzle. Big water drop? Nice. Nothing easy here, folks. Just keep moving.


Foghorn Leghorn 7:20 AM  

Sharp as a bowling ball.

NCA President 7:46 AM  

I set a new best Friday time. Breezed through with no snags and no cursing. I immediately got DAYTONTENNESSEE because I did a paper on the Scopes trial in HS and I live in Tennessee. That cross helped a lot.

@Aketi: I have a 20 year old son...he still uses Axe. I also work with students in a university...they all smell like Axe. Or Abercrombie. Or Old Spice. That's okay...they probably talk about how I smell like patchouli and sandalwood all the time.

This is probably one of those puzzles that people would say is "in their wheelhouse." Most of the misdirects were transparent so I had no hesitations, and the words I didn't know (LEPUS, INO, SCREE) were filled in with crosses. Today's time beat my Thursday average by a mile and even flirted with my Wednesday average. (I like the website's feature of keeping track of averages).

AliasZ 7:52 AM  

Superb quad stack puzzle today, all 15's were excellent, unforced. CELESTIAL EMPIRE, APPLIED RESEARCH and I CAN SEE FOR MILES stood out as especially colorful, the others perhaps more mundane, but still enjoyable to discover.

The long downs trespassing the wide-open swath of white in the middle were also beyond reproach, especially DETOX DIET, LONG STEMMED and MISSOURIANS. The THREE X'S were THREE II'S at first, which more accurately fits the "pretty good poker hand" clue. Of the other entries not involving the 15's, PROLIFIC was my favorite, and the clue for RAT'S NESTS: "Hoarders' disorders." MAS, you're a poet and don't even know it.

I like ONELINERs, they pack a wallop. For instance: "I bet you I can stop gambling." Or: "Rex, I would agree with you, but then we would both be wrong."

How about some LYRE music to thank God it's Friday?

John Sayles (not the semi-famous one) 8:10 AM  

The first time I've been on the same wavelength as Mr. Ashwood-Smith. Groaned when I saw his name as I usually struggle mightily with his work, but this one fell without much resistance.

I don't understand PLAY ON for "Take selfish advantage of". Didn't get happy pencil until I changed from PLAN ON ... DANTON, TENNESSEE seemed legit.

Also not a big fan of peace/piece pun. I was thinking my offense was a function of timing, but we seem to have mass shootings so often that such levity would never be appropriate.

Hungry Mother 8:13 AM  

Easy Friday for me. Rainy again this morning, so lots of patience here today.

Sir Hillary 8:42 AM  

This one felt nostalgic to me. I remember a while back it seemed like we had a MAS stack of 15s seemingly every other Friday or Saturday. Not recently, so this was a welcome return of an old friend.

Like others, I was quite surprised to learn that The Who have had only a single top 10 US hit. I almost went with my gut reaction and dropped in youbetteryoubEt, which had the unfortunate coincidence of fitting perfectly. Thankfully, RAFE Spall (son of Timothy) prevented that error. Even so, ICANSEEFORMILES would have been way down my list of guesses.

I agree with @Rex that there's not a true sparkler among the 15s, but the fact that six long downs knife through the stack is very cool. The THREETENS are certainly painted green, but no big deal.

RIP, San Bernardino victims. And sad to hear about Scott Weiland, an all-too-predictable victim of his own EXCESSES.

eveostay 8:43 AM  

I CAN SEE FOR MILES was on an album called The Who Sell Out, so I guess it worked.

Hartley70 9:08 AM  

@Aketi, I used some APPLIEDRESEARCH to discover that it was the noxious AXE that was creating white blobs on my dark colored towels. AXE = Better than Bleach! That stuff took the color right out!

I did a mental happy dance when I saw it was MAS as the constructor! Oh how I love his stacks and they are few and far between THESE days. Grumble. Will may have gone off them, but I had barely discovered his work when WS declared a moratorium.

I had a hard time getting started, almost no toeholds except LONGSTEMMED, DEODORANT and DETOX. I tried a long time to make TENNESSEE work for the waltz clue, but once I substituted MISSOURI things began to move quickly and I had a fast Friday time. That's what I love about MAS puzzles. The start can be agony but the stacks fall like dominos in the end and give one a bit of a rush!

UMGBlue 9:23 AM  

Just say "no" to guns.

Carola 9:32 AM  

A satisfying Friday. Like others, I worked from right to left across the central stack. I agree with @Rex about the ho-hum quality of COMPUTER MONITOR, APPLIED RESEARCH and OPERATING SYSTEM, but they sure helped open up the left side for me. I had no idea that the Chinese EMPIRE was CELESTIAL, and speculated for quite a while on what I might have done FOR MILES, once I saw that Cried didn't fit.

Loved DETOX DIETS, MISSOURIANS, PROLIFIC, the clues for THOUGHTS and FALLS, and the DONTS, EXCESSES, RATS NESTS nexus. LONG-STEMMED is very nice, running Down.

Same reaction as @Rex to ARMED.

RAD2626 9:37 AM  

Unlike apparently others, did not find it easy at all, taking longer than Friday average by quite a bit. Probably hurt by not knowing DAYTON TENNESSEE. But thought it was a beautifully constructed, totally fair puzzle with not only the quad stack but lots of great other long entries and cluing.

Jeff Chen did not like THREE TENS, which diminished the puzzle for him. While it did not bother me, upon reflection the clue is fairly nondescript. How about "Bo Derek and two peers" or "A bowling turkey" or "Perfect Dancing with Stars Performance"? Entry seems fine to me. Just needs a more colorful clue.

Anyway, great puzzle. Lots of aha and oh, wow moments.

jberg 9:44 AM  

I guess if I was the editor, and this was going to run today, I'd have changed the clue on 48D to "Venus de Milo isn't." Other than that, my experience was a lot like Rex's, including falling for the misdirect to MISSissippi.

Also, why is Donna SHAlala's name broken up like that in 22A? Trying to trick us into putting "trA" in there? I would have if IRISH wasn't so unambiguous.

That's all.

Maruchka 9:47 AM  

This is a well-tempered Friday puzzle. Grown up, and just enough of a challenge to awaken the creaky memory archives. I spent time at a technical college, so APPLIED came quickly. @Aketi is spot-on the sweetness. And the LYRE video is a three-fold treat - sound, instrument, and hands. Her hands remind me of Stieglitz's photo of O'Keefe's. Thanks, as always, @AliasZ.

Had TRA before SHA. Also nice to recall "Baby, It's You". I loved the Shirelles.

Fav of the day - GAD. Gad about. Fiddle about. "Tommy". The Who. Well, that's how my old brain works...

mac 9:51 AM  

Easy Friday to me, and I enjoy the occasional stack.

I learned Lepus today, which started out as Lapus (lapin related?).

Ludyjynn 9:52 AM  

Very satisfying solve, much like eating a PECAN praline; yum.

Hand up, Rex, for 'Mississippi' before MISSOURIANS. NPR forced me to see I had ERRED. Hand up for 'zed' before ISE.

@Foghorn Leghorn, I loved your explanation of DIM. BTW, I do a great Foghorn impression. Once had a higher-up in the office who liked to terrorize the staff. Behind his back, I mimicked his Foghorn cadences. BUT we finally usurped the SOB. Too many EXCESSES by him for the big bosses to continue to ignore!

The front page of today's NYT has photos and a detailed list of the assault weapons, ammo and explosives used in the San Bernardino attacks. Like Rex, I was squeamish when I filled-in ARMED. Bad timing as we are in the midst of the opposite of PAX.

Thanks, MAS and WS. The misdirects enhanced the puzzle.


Nancy 9:55 AM  

So hard that I almost gave up on it completely, but I ended up finishing it with one major cheat: I looked up the city in TENNESSEE. Without DAYTON, I could not have completed. None of the long answers were in my wheelhouse -- not even CELESTIAL EMPIRE, which is hardly a modern clue, but I never heard of it anyway. I thought almonds were in pralines, not PECANS; I, of course, didn't know the song; I thought the disorders of hoarders' disorders was a psychological illness, not a dwelling. Thus didn't see RAT'S NEST. Was looking for ETC, but could only see EXTREMES for 59A and not EXCESSES. So never wrote ETC in. Had EEE at 11D before FAT. Every area of this puzzle was a misery for me and I didn't enjoy the challenge at all. While I seldom remember constructors' names, I seem to remember, like @chefwen, always having a problem with MAS. Don't know why; he didn't do anything wrong here. But I just didn't have fun.

Z 9:55 AM  

My sons survived the Axefication of the high school male without ever using the stuff. Thank god for small miracles. They were (and are) the sort that find preoccupation with appearance distasteful. I quietly refrain from pointing out that they are just as diligent at fitting in with their tribe. They'll figure it out on their own.

Really wanted it to be DArwiN TENNESSEE.

I missed the implication of "their" in the clue and blithely wrote in MISSOURI usa. Those three letters meant that sussing out what kind of SYSTEM, disorder, and behavior took some time. Realizing PAX and ETC fit showed me the error of my ways. (Wondering why my iPad "corrected" sussing out to "sushi get" - some sort of OPERATING SYSTEM eel infestation perhaps).

I guess I don't quite know what a shaggy dog story is, so got ONE LINER from the crosses. I also didn't get what the clue was doing with Final finale. "Oh, an S not the preferred Z." Otherwise a medium Friday. Nothing came too easy, but it all came together without too much hair pulling. A fine Friday.

Re ARMED: This. I saw a piece on MSNBC on how Red America and Blue America interpret and talk about events. The link isn't that, but makes points we all need to remember whether the nutcase is from South Carolina or Pakistan.

quilter1 10:06 AM  

Got my toehold in the SE and went from there. Does anyone else remember the really, really old horror movie Day of the Lepus featuring giant rabbits?
Ditto to ARMED.

thomas greisen 10:20 AM  

Nice puzzle today. I enjoyed it alot.
I also agree with the gun sentiment. Enough is enough. lets get out the vote and stop the killing and the NRA.

Robso 10:36 AM  

This played hard for me, but I liked it. Has kind of a southern science nerd feel to it. PAX is Latin for peace, but don't forget the PAX Britannica and the PAX Americana.

relicofthe60s 10:38 AM  

Having lost with three of a kind more than once, I would "pretty good" is about right. It beats a lot of hands and a lot hands best it. It partly depends on what variety of poker you're playing. It would a very strong hand in draw, weak in Omaha, and, well, pretty good in Hold 'Em, which is what most people play these days.

Benko 10:43 AM  

Better to keep talking about guns and have the conversation than to pretend like the issue doesn't exist.

Noam D. Elkies 10:49 AM  

For non-Roman PAXes (or PACES), there's also "et in terra ___" (and peace on earth), plus modern adaptations like Pax Britannica/Sinica/Americana.

Pax vobiscum,

Roo Monster 10:59 AM  

Hey All !
Groovy themeless puz. Started difficult for me, but then the ole brain decided to twist into MAS-speak, so the THOUGHTS started flowing. Agree with S being the easier part. Amazingly enough, only two writeovers, tra->SHA, DEODaRANT->O. Got today's (and yesterday's) puz 100% correct! Go me!

Lots of POCs for @Anoa Bob. We get REESE crossing GEESE, a SCREE and a THREE, PARSE & PERSE, and eccESSEs/tennESSEe. Just some weird observations.

Liked the long Downs crossing the 15's Across. Hard to have words/phrases that make sense with that much space to fill. And with very small dreck. (Maybe just CTR.) So, good job MAS!


Malsdemare 11:13 AM  

I'm usually more tolerant of heavily laden words but I'm with everyone else. I don't want any more guns in my morning brain workout.

I liked this one. Super hard to get going, had to ask Mr. Google for help but once I got DAYTON (had TENNESSEE), I was off to my tortoise version of the races. After my total meltdown of yesterday, it was nice to actually finish with very little help.

And the House voted down a bill to outlaw selling guns to terrorists. So if you're a terrorist, you can't get on a plane but you can buy a semi-autimatic weapon. Who ARE these nutjobs?

Gonna go decorate our holiday dead forest artifact and play 'Pinball Wizard' real loud!!

Bob Kerfuffle 11:25 AM  

Fine puzzle; played Medium for me, which is to say, just what a Friday should be.

Hand up for TRA >> SHA.

Chuck McGregor 11:27 AM  

Cyrano 4:10 AM

Seems I am ‘nth-ing’ your seconding of @Rex re the "ARMED" clue. The opposite is true for the implied homonym. For example, I didn't find living under the threat of ARMED nukes that allegedly kept the peace during the Cold War at all peaceful! This certainly did not stop a bunch of various conflicts during that time.

Several times this tenuous, so-called nuclear-armed "piece-keeping" was seriously threatened. Among the worst was the Cuban Missile Crisis. The ship I served on while in the Navy (USS Gearing DD-710) was the first warship to intercept and turn back a Soviet ship carrying missiles to Cuba.

Guns and nukes make me nervous, i.e. provide no peace for me.

On the less GRIM (@yesterday) side, a tough but doable puzzle (with a little help from my friends Reveal and Google!).

Though apparently few chances, PER SE, for random juxtapositions In a grid full of long answers, a little APPLIED RESEARCH turned up quite a few for your amazement and amusement:

ALIEN DEODORANT (a good thing to have around because, when the ALIEN Apocalypse comes, they might smell)

LONG STEMMED LYRE (string of yore for tall musicians; also really long ones for bass players)

[Quibble on how that was clued. A LYRE or, say a violin, is a {are} “strings?” Don’t get the “s” unless, “The band had a bunch of LYRE for instruments” is okay. I think not. Various sources agree.]

SCREE GEESE (I just like the look and sound of this, even so backwards: ESEEGEERCS, which sounds like it should mean something)

SNUG MISSOURIANS (what they try to be in winter)

ROESHA (Rorschach Test, informally)

ALOHA PECAN (what a delighted pie lover says at a Christmas dinner)

AIR ONE LINER (have Henny Youngman on your show)

FAT APRILS ENTER (a monthly, weight-losing, reality show)

ACID SORE (homonymously [yes, it’s a word], a great buzz)

ROM BELONGINGS (one’s collection of archived data)


And there’S NO USS GAD (or, of course, business like show business)


Anoa Bob 11:31 AM  

There are a lot of different poker games. THREE TENS would be a good hand in some, like Texas Hold 'Em, middling in others, like Seven Card Stud, weak in some, like Omaha, and very bad in any game where low hand wins, like Razz.

I grew up in TENNESSEE so knew DAYTON as the site of the Scopes' Trial, but mused, like @Z, that it would have been ironic had the town been named DArwiN.

Another good one from the PROLIFIC multi-stack dude.


old timer 11:42 AM  

The most interesting part of this blog is going to be, "what long Down did you get first? Two states came to mind for 24D: MISSOURI (their waltz was Harry Truman's favorite tune) and TENNESSEE, because their waltz was a mega-hit when I was small, and inspired Jesse Winchester, who wrote the unforgettable "Brand-New TENNESSEE Waltz". The easy ACIDS gave me I CAN SEE FOR MILES, hence MISSOURIANS. Lots of easy short answers everywhere in the bottom, so I solved bottom to top.

DAYTON TENNESSEE was a gimme. Our prep school did "Inherit the Wind" when I was there, so I knew all about the Scopes Trial. I enjoyed having PERSE and PARSE in the same puzzle. I finished with FACTS and FALLS (great clue there, MAS).

My only quibble: I've never heard of SHA la-la. Only Tralala, which is a word you often hear in France. My Larousse translates it as "affectation" but there are lots of English words you could use, depending on context.

Lewis 1:03 PM  

@benko -- agreed
@aliasz -- loved your one liners!

This one fought with me, but just when I thought there was no hope, my brain would pop an answer in my head, sometimes totally unrelated to what I was consciously thinking at the time. It is rare and wonderful when that happens. Great clues for FALLS, ROE, ARMED, SASS, and ONE-LINER. Mini theme of double EEs (5). I have missed seeing these big stacks and I sense the work that went into making this one as smooth as it is. Not only a great job constructing, MAS, but the puzzle you made was an extremely enjoyable solve!

cwf 1:07 PM  

Since I know MAS tends to come here to see his puzzled complained about I just wanted to say I found this one to be clean and fun. Thanks!

Oh, and not bragging but I got ICANSEEFORMILES off just the I.

Leapfinger 1:10 PM  

@John Child, I always love a good astronomical immunology joke. Lepus not into Penn Station.

She played on his fear of the dark to lure him out into the open.

LYRE, LYRE, Pants on fyre.

Wrats. NDE beat me to PAX vobiscum, which nerdy I still use occasionally prior to departure, 'cause I think it's preferable to 'Ciao'

There isn't a day goes by but I BE_LONGING for a MAS trip- or quadstack, There something just so satisfying... I didn't find this one all that easy, but those buffer zones of 3s separating the sections were a big help in the transition across sections. Agree the long Downs were more flavourful, but there isn't a one I'd ask to leave the room.

My delight was in finding SCREE. Don't know about cliffside detritus, exactly, but I remember the bottom of a ravine in the BC/Alta Rockies: a small riverbed, and wall-to-wall SCREE. I learned it's called scree if the rocks aren't worn by wind and water; those sharp edges made for some bloody hard walking. And some great photographs. Next installment, we'll talk about moraine.

Rock on, MA-S! Anda good Friday to all.

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

FYI: my original submitted clue for ARMED was I believe "Kind of forces" (or something very similar).

Even though this puzzle was constructed about a year ago, and I believe edited about 10 to 15 days ago (at a guess), I can assure you that this clue meant no offense, so this puzzle was very much complete, iedited and finalized by the time of the recent tragic events. But it does illustrate how unfortunately well a "teaser clue" (that is: clue that may often involve a pun, followed by a question mark) that involves modern weapons, and in particular guns, etc., can unfortunately be overtaken by tragic events. So I agree, less witty clues for guns/arms would me more appropriate.

-MAS: AKA: Martin Ashwood-Smith

Numinous 1:33 PM  

I'm going to call this one EASY. I finished it in 13 seconds over my best time for a Friday and that was because it took me 1:59 to find the typo in RATS NEeST. I always check with the down clues starting with the first down. Those typos are usually at the bottom of the puzzle for me. I should probably use [shift] [tab] and work backwards.

In my youth, I used to tell "shaggy dog" stories. I especially liked to tell them after indulging in EXCESSES of diet pills. I could go on for hours. I don't suppose any of you noticed that I can be a bit wordy anyway. I got ONE LINER from the N and the L. Happy sigh.

I got MISSOURI___ but didn't presume to fill in the ANS until the crosses made it plain. CELESTIAL EMPIRE took crosses to figure out before I had that "Oh, yeah, I remember that" moment.

@Benko: I'm with you 100%.

Jay Ferguson 1:34 PM  

SHA-la-la-la-la-la my lady
In the sun with your hair undone
Can you hear me now calling your name
From across the bay
A summer's day laughing and a-hidin'
Chasing love out on Thunder Island

Big Jim 1:34 PM  

What is ISE (final finale in Britain)?

Big Jim 1:36 PM  

Sha la la etc is used in an Al Green song I know of but not sure that is the reference .. What is ISE for Final Finale in Britain?

Jamie C 1:44 PM  

@John Sayles @8:10am: How about PLAY ON someone's fears, as in "Many politicians PLAY ON popular fears by exaggerating the threat of crime and terrorism?"

Masked and Anonymous 1:46 PM  

Flat out amazin grid. I worked out the difficult north and south sectors, and left the easy midsection for the PuzeatinSpouse.

@009: Couple things:

1. These mass shootings are just terrible. Guns suck. Lots of gun collectors out there, who got their old guns handed down to em thru many generations. Not a day goes by, that cousin Cletus don't admire his old greatgrandpa's Civil War uzi, hangin there up over the fireplace. It'd be g-r-e-a-t to have zero guns, but them folks, and possum hunters, ain't apt to give em up. Scheiss -- in Texas they're gonna have open carry laws ok-ed, for even people that hang out in bars; what could go wrong, there?

I say outlaw bullets. Could be that's the part of guns M&A really don't like. Invent some electronic gizmo, attachable to any gun, that'll say "bang!" whenever they pull the trigger, instead. Some dude with a deep voice could be hired out, to record a real good authentic "bang" yell. The dude that did Darth Vader's voice, maybe …

2. APIS! God of bull! This would be a god much easier to recall the name of, than OOXTEPLERNON (™).

p.s. There ain't no National Bullets Association lobby yet, right? I say act now, before them NRA folks can figure out what's goin on. If U can't outlaw bullets, convert em all to pop out as small cream-filled cinnamon rolls, or somesuch. Then arms-nuts can still see how they did, at aimin. Compromise. That's the ticket. They can still at least shoot the possums with em, until they're too fat to get away. (Hell, that "bang" yell'll probably scare em to darth.)

fave weeject: ISE. = {British drink cooler??}
NE weeject stack was also admirable. Many would consider pluggin it with a small cream puff, I betcha.

Wanted THREE ACES, in my one attempt to march into the central dmz. But, was repelled, by a witherin fire of mini-C-rolls.
[Embarrassed comment by a weeject aficionado who just lost a pile of dough to someone with a hand of three tens: "Beats ten threes, I reckon." Then he plugs the dude with a small pastry, grabs the pot, and runs off … ]

Masked and Anonymo4Us

Thanx, Mr. Ashwood-Smith. Fun and masterful, even tho U had the low Patrick Berry Usage Immunity, on yer fill. (28 out of 69). Probably all them grid-spanners. And APIS. har

Teedmn 1:47 PM  

I love MAS stack puzzles. One of his Friday stack puzzles is the reason I've been solving the NYTimes puzzles since the late '90's and this one was a fine example. A bit sticky in places, which I prefer to PB smooth. I had FAr momentarily before FAT and LutE before LYRE but otherwise a pretty fast Friday for me and I wasn't going for speed.

A big Aha at 6D where the PE became PER SE for some magical reason. I was about to put in UnfRiendS at 26D when the word Handles made me rethink that one. I will agree that THREE TENS doesn't scream a great poker hand to me. I was expecting TENS to be aceS but I let the crosses fill that in. I like seeing PARSE and PERSE, (no "purse"). I'm glad I didn't put in my first guess of MISSissippi at 24D because the clue seemed to indicate we needed residents of said state.

So thank you, MAS, for the lovely Friday - at 80 NYTimes puzzles, I would say you are PROLIFIC and terrIFIC!

Tita 2:05 PM  

This played medium-challenging for me, but I did finish. Yes to MISSissippI for way too long.
Also having talus instead of SCREE, noT (as in "in my backyard"), era before PAX...
But alternating persistence, putting the puzzle down, and staring finally paid off. The SW was last to drop, but fixing the waltz state let me race to a clean finish.

IN wondering how to spell DEOD_RANT...a, e, o?, I realized [aha!] that it is based on the word ODOR...had never noticed that!

I had two 1960 MGAs...a coupe and a ragtop. And that term was quite accurate...what passed for a roof was closer to a rag than a top...
But then, with semi-transparent sliding panels called "side curtains" instead of windows, you kinda knew that staying dry was not a valid expectation when driving a British car of that vintage. I never did get around to restoring them, but they were fun while they lasted.
(In fact, the mere act of driving was not to be taken for granted either...)

Good one, MAS. Thanks.

Aketi 2:54 PM  

@NCAPres, You destroyed my hope that the Axefication (thank you @z for the new word) of my son might end before he finished high school.
@Hartley70, I'll have to share the results of your APPLIED RESEARCH on Axe Deorderant with the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu guys.They often go to EXCESSES in the hygiene department due to the FACTS that practicing BJJ a) produces PROLIFIC amounts of sweat, b) requires rolling around on the floor hugging each other and, as a result, c) does increase the risk of skin infections. I witnessed one of the guys Purell his bald head after class because he was so concerned. I'm sure if I ever ERRED by committing one of the BJJ DONTS of forgetting to wear flip flops on my freshly cleaned feet until I step on the mat, I would be permanently ostracized. Sometimes, even their best efforts at sweeping the mat before class don't always pass the white gi (kimono) test. Axe might prove useful to bleach out the gray stains that develop in the knees and elbows of the Gis.

Z 3:21 PM  

@Chuck McGregor - My post-solve justification of that S is that a LYRE has more than one string. Don't buy it? Me either, but I think technically okay.

I avoid the tra trap by having the S already. Those LONG STEMMED roses and glasses also helped change body spray to DEODORANT.

Mohair Sam 3:45 PM  

Thank you Will, oh how I've missed MAS. This Friday test was just a dandy - A nifty quad stack with so many clean long downs. He's the best at this type of puzzle, and I wish Will would let us have more of them.

1a FALLS (Big drop of Water) an exceptional joy of a clue that I would never have gotten without Lady Mohair, she was on the MAS wavelength this morning. DAYTONTENNESSEE a gimme here, loved "Inherit the Wind" and remember being disappointed as a kid when I discovered that Clarence Darrow did not look like Spencer Tracy. Never a big "The Who" fan but did like ICANSEE back in the day. Can you imagine them trying to get "Pinball Wizard" by the PC police today? Betcha "Tommy" would have been done differently, or not at all.

btw, ain't it SHA Na Na and tra la la?

Anonymous 4:32 PM  

Serious question for Rex: Has your distaste for guns ruined old detective fiction for you? Or is that stylized enough, or far enough removed from modern day to not be a problem? Not being snarky; genuinely asking.

Nancy 5:05 PM  

@old timer -- I completely forgot to say that, like you, I never heard of SHA LA LA either. I've heard of OOH LA LA and I've heard of TRA LA LA and I've heard of SHA NA NA. But absolutely never of SHA LA LA. Which made this nearly impossible puzzle that much harder.

I am so delighted at the comments that ARMED has elicited. Especially yours, @Malsdemare. I try to avoid political comments, figuring they will make approximately 50% of the regulars mad at any given time. But this entry just screamed for negative comments and I'm so glad they're actually here.

From the WHY I AM NOT A POKER PLAYER column: I'm reading all of you to see whether THREE TENS is a good hand, "a pretty good hand" (as the clue says), or a hand that seems good (but really isn't) and can only bring you grief if you bet on it. And after reading you all, I STILL don't know. What you should know about my poker playing bona fides is that, for better or worse (probably worse),I had THREE ACES as my initial answer.

kitshef 5:36 PM  

Expected outrage from Rex and the board about THREETENS, which might have a workable clue involving Yuma, but is the greenest of green paint as clued.

Great puzzle but waaay too easy for a Friday. LuPUS before LEPUS, bodyspray before DEODORANT, LutE before LYRE.

Last letter in was the F in FALLS/FACTS -- the first time ever the topmost leftmost square has been last.

mac 6:48 PM  

@Nancy: same here with the three aces! And I also second your sha..... diatribe.

Anonymous 7:25 PM  

`FALLS' was joy for me, guessed it early.
`PEOPLESREPUBLIC' fit in for `CELESTIALEMPIRE' but the second was fun to work out.
Lots of small joys like PERSE and PARSE in the same puzzle, PST for `B.C.Setting'.

Sha-la-la-la-la is out of Baby It's You from the Beatles...


Nice riff of James Mason impersonation...


old timer 8:33 PM  

@Nancy, if you have a case 10 and two more in five-card stud you are very likely to win. If you have a pair of tens in draw poker and draw another, you have a pretty good chance. In tournament poker like you see on TV, you will lose, but that's because they rarely broadcast the hands where those three tens win, unless they turn into a full house, which beats the always entertaining straights and flushes.

Music Man 8:41 PM  

This played tough for me. I breezed through the north in maybe 5 minutes and it took me until just now to finish it. I CAN SEE FOR MILES is not one of my favorite Who songs for sure, surprised that's their only us top 10 hit. Didn't hate it, don't it love it...the puzzle that is

Z 9:06 PM  

@Big Jim - the finale of "finalize" in Britain is ISE because the British are a bunch of Zed bigots.

Numinous 10:09 PM  

"Final finale in Britain", @Big Jim: In British English spelling, that includes New Zealand, Australia, India, and the rest of the former commonwealth and probably including Canada, FinalISE would be the spelling. so ISE is the finale to "Final . . . " in the clue which I believe was brilliant.

@M&A: a friend of mine who, as a Franciscan Friar, studied Latin in Seminary was given a challenge by a professor of Latin in his college days. Later, as a lapsed Franciscan, when teaching Latin at a girls school, he presented this same challenge to his students. Translate the phrase on the blackboard and recieve an A in th class regardless of your progress. I'm not sure if he spelled it with two Ss or not, but roughly this was it: "It is APIS potanda bigone." Figure this one out and send the answer to me in my email and I'll grant you all of my runt sized cryptic puzzles in PUZ format.

Violins, celli, violi, lutes and guitars et al will be referred to as strings in an orchestra or an orchestral score. It stands to reason that you would refer to, say, a double bass or a harp as a string instrument. Ergo, string is not such a bad clue for yet another instrument that has strings.

Aketi 10:45 PM  

@M&A, I will happily join your National AntiBullet Association. I can think of a lot of fun stuff you could shoot that would not cause immediate harm or death. Of course PETA might complain about theming term obesification of possums. I figure Brazilian Jiu Jotsu is as far as I'm willing to go in self defense, Don't need adding full protective body armor to the list. My dear little sister (who is actually tougher than I am at four foot 11 and three quarters inches and don't dare forget the three quarters) lives very close to San Bernadino. My circle just moved down to that area too to teach elementary school and all the little ones she was teaching had to go on lockk down. At that age I was only worrying about pea shooters and spit wads,

Masked and Anonymous 11:38 PM  

@Numinous: Egyptian outhouse?

LaFayette 1:25 AM  

@Z, thanks for your take on the British Zed bigots, who coincidentally view the 'murrican post-colonials as unmitigated Yahoos who had best secrete their touted Manifest Destiny directly where the Midnight Sun don't shine.

As always, your shedyooled input is appreciated.

Aketi 7:00 AM  

Sorry, auto correct infiltrated again
I meant tha "long term effects of obesification of possums"
And "My niece just moved"

Chuck McGregor 8:53 AM  

@Numinous 10:09 PM

Not to belabor, but methinks you defeat your own argument :>)

You said “Violins, celli, violi, lutes, and guitars et al will be referred to as stringS ….Ergo, string is not such a bad clue for yet another instrument that has strings. “

Absolutely true! However, “string” in the singular was not the clue.

The problem is not whether a LYRE is a string (or stringed, if you will) instrument. It clearly is.

The problem is that a single violin, cello, viola, lute, guitar…or LYRE is not referred to as stringS.

Ergo –
“String of yore”: Lyre
“Strings of yore: Lyres

It is a bad clue when a plural refers to a singular item (or vice the versa), no matter how it is parsed.

Caveat: This is all based on my finding no source citing LYRE as both the singular and plural form, like sheep and sheep. But it's possible I missed one. Apart from this issue, I think the singular “string” might have made it a slightly harder clue.

I play the strings on my string (bass) amongst the other strings in a string orchestra (seriously, I do). Our conductor, who plays a mean string / violin:

Dino Liva

I second @M&A 11:38 PM: Egyptian outhouse.


Steve 4:34 PM  

Conan isn't even a truly weekdaily show, only Monday-Thursday. It's a partial weekdaily.

Uncle Moishy 6:07 PM  

I don't often comment (and always late, because I'm usually a day behind with the puzzle), but I felt the need to this time.

I really liked this puzzle: A nice quad stack, two other grid-spanners and some good long downs crossing it all. Easy side of medium, I agree, but not without some blind alleys (mine was Memphis, with Tennessee misspelled, before I made some changes). Personally, I thought the top-10 hit had to be Pinball Wizard, but then I counted the letters and looked elsewhere.

Given that, Rex, and your history of excoriating MAS for some of the painful multi-stack solves he's inflicted on us in the past (I disliked some of them nearly as much as you did), I found your response to today's puzzle a little too tepid, and the characterization of the three technology-themed 15's as "really, severely, aggressively, perversely dull" worthy of a piling-on penalty. With only a smattering of dreck, and with none of the 15's relying on the dreaded "ONES" crutch (e.g., "FEELINGONESOATS" or "BEEINONESBONNET"), I think this deserved a better reception from you. I notice that none of the other commenters took you to task for this, so maybe I'm being hyper-sensitive on MAS' behalf, but still...

BTW, I think the technology mini-theme could have been bolstered by cluing APIS as "Computer sys features" or something similar. API (Application Program Interface), although an info-technology term, has crossed over enough to be familiar to lay people in business environments (e.g., me). There's already an "APIs for Dummies" book and it gets its own Wikipedia entry (as does Apis the god).

Note to Anon 725pm: It's true the Beatles sang "Baby, It's You," but I think more people are familiar with the original by the Shirelles.

And for those looking for a more recent example of SHA LA LA, there's "Mr. Jones" by Counting Crows:

Thanks for listening.

Diana,LIW 9:37 PM  

Addendum to Leftcoast from yesterday. May I take a pass for checking in regard to spelling? I taught many, many students in re how to read a grammar guide. My basic philosophy - you dont' need to memorize all the rules of grammar - just know when to look something up. Just like spelling. Aside from spelling bees, who cares if you know how to spell - just know when you might be wrong and need to look something up. Sure, an absolutely "pure" solve feels great, but if you're on the edge of a solve and simply are not sure of your spelling, I think that's just as important. That's why dictionaries exist. The two items I wanted from my in-law's house were my grandfather-in-law-s autobiography and my f-I-l's OED.
Diana, Lady in Waiting for Crosswords from Syndieland

Burma Shave 2:18 PM  


tells FACTS about my EXCESSES with no pretense,
I need a few PROLIFIC LONGSTEMMED blondes
to PLAYON, BUT they must be all THREETENS.


spacecraft 2:26 PM  

Late today because of an early app't., not because of any difficulty with this. How yesterday's puzzle could precede today's in the week is mystifying. I mean really: "Like some roses and wineglasses?" DUH!

It was a pleasant enough solve, dull in places but not actually ugly. Got the Who tune off just the IC start. THESE GEESE express EXCESSES of E's and S's. I did enjoy seeing the PROLIFIC IRISH, but would just as soon not have to write the name at 8-down; I have NO time for anyone who abuses women. Wanted PreYON before PLAYON, but hadn't inked that one too soon. Easy-peasy. C+.

rondo 3:04 PM  

Darn nice puz. Just enough help where you need it, and then those looong answers.

Can’t believe The Who didn’t have more top hits. They sure got alot of radio play back in the day. I saw them live c. 1980, St. Paul Civic Center. The smoke was too thick to say ICANSEEFORMILES.

I’ve been accused of being too blue and way left, BUT I have no issue with the ARMED clue. I have two loaded handguns in my home. I took my wife to a shooting range on our anniversary (at her request), and she’s practically a commie. Guns are not bad PERSE. Condemn my views if you must, BUT no cringing to a xword puz answer, please.

I’m not seeing any yeah babies, so I guess I’m done. Great puz. ALOHA.

leftcoastTAM 4:32 PM  

Relatively smooth and easy-medium Friday, with a few slow-downs in the middle: first had aces instead of TENS and had to suss out DIETS and RAFE.

Then of course no-nos before DONTS.

I'm not at a level of solving where I consider writeovers a failing.

leftcoastTAM 4:42 PM  


I'm with you on setting the bar for a successful solve where at a reasonable level. That's a personal prerogative. I also think one should be up-front about it, but that, too, is a personal matter.

rain forest 4:52 PM  

After yesterday's brick wall (which I eventually finished), I expected today's to defeat me, but it turned out to be a pussycat. There really wasn't anything to fuss about, and of course, it is always nice to get those stacks.

@M&A - lemme join your NABA, even though I'm a Canadian. The whole gun (and bullet) culture in the USA is really abhorrent to me. I literally do not understand it. However, the ARMED clue and answer didn't bother me. The rest of your comment was hilarious, as always.

Cathy 6:58 PM  

I APPLIED myself to finish this Friday puzzle. Fun! Used my trusty dusty dictionary, and google. I agree with @leftcoastTAM and @DianaLIW.

My take is Mon-Thursday I (mostly) can ace. Fri-Sun (with help), I can finish. Both gratifying. Yet I wouldn't boast I aced it today.

As for PIECE-KEEPING, geez... Nut allergies can be fatal. Therefore I don't want to see PECANS in my crosswords anymore.

Hey, where's Ron Diego?

D_Johnson 7:33 PM  

I had DaLton Tennessee instead of DaYton, until I recalled that I pass through Dalton in Georgia just before I get to Tennessee on my return from Florida each winter. FALLS was one of the last to fall for me. I wanted RECTO instead of Facts for a while.

leftcoastTAM 8:07 PM  


It's good to see you again. We syndilanders are a small group, and we need some bolstering.

rondo 9:10 PM  

@Cathy - funny on the nut allergies, thanks.
And yes, I was also just wondering about @Ron Diego. I think I remember something about chemo in one of his posts? Would hate to lose his wit. , ,

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