Bobby who wrote Route 66 / SAT 1-16-16 / Julie with two Tonys for Lion King / Stress test apparatus / 1974 film with three stars in its name / Sci-fi charcter who takes red pill rather than blue one

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Constructor: Sean Dobbin

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Bobby TROUP (54A: Bobby who wrote "Route 66") —
Robert Wesley "Bobby" Troup Jr. (October 18, 1918 – February 7, 1999) was an American actor, jazz pianist, singer and songwriter. He is best known for writing the popular standard "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66", and for his role as Dr. Joe Early, opposite his real-life wife Julie London's character, in the 1970s US TV series, Emergency! (wikipedia)
• • •

SPECIAL MESSAGE for the week of January 10-January 17, 2016

Hello, solvers. Somehow, it is January again, which means it's time for my week-long, once-a-year pitch for financial contributions to the blog. The idea is very simple: if you read the blog regularly (or even semi-regularly), please consider what it's worth to you on an annual basis and give accordingly. In making this pitch, I'm pledging that the blog will continue to be here for you to read / enjoy / grimace at for at least another calendar year, with a new post up by 9:00am (usually by 12:01am) every day, as usual. This year is special, as it will mark the 10th anniversary of Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle, and despite my not-infrequent grumblings about less-than-stellar puzzles, I've actually never been so excited to be thinking and writing about crosswords. I have no way of knowing what's coming from the NYT, but the broader world of crosswords looks very bright, and that is sustaining. Whatever happens, this blog will remain an outpost of the Old Internet: no ads, no corporate sponsorship, no whistles and bells. Just the singular, personal voice of someone talking passionately about a topic he loves. As I have said in years past, I know that some people are opposed to paying for what they can get for free, and still others really don't have money to spare. Both kinds of people are welcome to continue reading my blog, with my compliments. It will always be free. I have no interest in cordoning it off, nor do I have any interest in taking advertising. I value my independence too much. Anyway, if you are so moved, there is a Paypal button in the sidebar, and a mailing address here:

Rex Parker
℅ Michael Sharp
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Binghamton NY 13905

And here: I'll stick a PayPal button in here for the mobile users.

There. Hope that helps.

For people who send me actual, honest-to-god (i.e. "snail") mail (I love snail mail!), this year my thank-you cards are "Sibley Backyard Birding Postcards"—each card a different watercolor illustration by ornithologist David Sibley. You could get a Black PHOEBE. A California TOWHEE. Or maybe even a picture of some fabled SCARLET TANAGERS (15). Or give via PayPal and get a thank-you email. That's cool too. Please note: I don't keep a "mailing list" and don't share my contributor info with anyone. And if you give by snail mail and (for some reason) don't want a thank-you card, just say NO CARD.  As I say in every thank-you card (and email), I'm so grateful for your readership and support. So thanks, not A TAD, but A TON (partial fill! coming in useful!). Now on to the puzzle …

 • • •
This one played kind of STAID. It's got PHOTOBOMB (1A: Drop-in shot?) right out front, which is fantastic, but nothing else in the grid is anywhere near that interesting. What we get instead is a mostly (though not always) clean grid designed to please that segment of the solving population that doesn't like sports and doesn't like brand names and doesn't like contemporary pop culture anywhere near their puzzles. It's worth noting that this segment of the solving population is still pretty sizable. I actually thought most of this puzzle was solid, if workmanlike. It's loaded with tough-but-fair clues, many of them playful in a non-irritating way. But there were three areas that gave me a slight case of the grimaces, and so my feeling upon wrapping it up (in the SE) was not a terribly satisfied one—although if I play "LIP SERVICE" in my head, my mood does improve considerably.

Things started very, very badly. I actually took two screenshots documenting each of my first two answers. The first shot is titled "inauspicious," and the second "ReallyInauspicious":

Now MTAPO was a gimme for me, and those few of you who have been reading me for most of the past decade will (maybe) remember why: I completely crashed and burned on that answer once at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (in 2009), and was so traumatized by the event that I brought it up in one of my crossword write-ups. In the tourney, I guessed at an answer for the Philippine peak and it ... wasn't right. If you google [rex parker moapo], you'll see. So now when I see MTAPO (which is almost never, because it's terrible fill), I have some minor PTSD symptoms. It's very, very weird, for me, to open with MTAPO. Fills me with bad memories and dread of what I'm in for. To then cross it with OENO? ... oh, no. Now, eventually, that quadrant ended up cleaning up real nice, to the point where I almost forgave the junk. And then the NE corner was ... fine. Easy. Uneventful.

 [gratuitous cat picture]

But then I got into the SW corner. Seemed like no problem—nailed all the long Downs without too much trouble, so it was just a matter of finishing off all that little stuff at the bottom and ... then ... TROU-??? This was the point that I realized the cultural center of gravity for this puzzle was at least two decades before my own. ROB REINER was hard enough to come up with (I was a child). Bobby TROUP?? LOL, no. And you cross TROUP ('60s/'70s) with "S*P*Y*S" (1974)!? Now, despite never having seen "S*P*Y*S" and not even knowing stars were supposed to go in here, I figured out that "P." I'd *heard* of "S*P*Y*S." I have to think some younger (than 46) solvers (and some older) will not have. And since "S*P*Y*S" is a misspelled plural ... I don't know how inferrable it is. I am now imagining an animated movie about pigs called "S*T*Y*S" (PIG IT! ... Summer 2018). Gotta give credit to the "M*A*S*H" misdirection in the clue, though (51D: 1974 film witih three stars in its title)—"M*A*S*H" was four years early, but you'd be forgiven for not remember that. Also, turns out that the two movies have the Same Two Stars:

And who the hell knows what an ERGOMETER is? Does it measure how often you make logical connections. I've heard of ERGONOMIC furniture, but that is the extent of my ergoknowledge. And AD INITIUM, yikes! (55A: At the beginning) I had my face in a Latin textbook just yesterday and  that one still took work. AB OVO ... is how I would say "at the beginning" Latinly. It's how the crossword usually says it. AD INFINITUM is of course wrong, but it kept running around my brain anyway. So that SE corner was kind of hard to get into. I knew RENE RUSSO, but she didn't help much. Ironically, Julie TAYMOR was the one who bailed me out (I've never seen her work; just know her name somehow) (45D: Julie with two Tonys for "The Lion King"). Actually, TUBA was the real hero—the first thing I managed to throw down in that largely empty section (48A: It has a solo near the end of "An American in Paris"). Thanks, TUBA.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 8:16 AM  

Hand up for MTAPO being a gimme from Rex's 2009 ACPT writeup/rant.

Loren Muse Smith 8:30 AM  

I can't believe I didn't know TAYMOR. "The Lion King" is an assault on your senses. This clip is from Australia, but it's only one I could find that shows how it grabs you from the get go – how the animals walk down through the spectators. I've shivered every time I've seen it.

The Lion King(turn up the volume)

So not knowing AD INTITIUM dealt me the dnf death blow.

Otherwise, this was pretty doable for me – was thinking "treadmill" and "motifs" first. And I really tried to make "honker" fit for schnoz. I think the restaurant has hijacked HOOTER for a different body part.

SINGSONG went right in, but the word's very make-up for me doesn't feel "monotonous." At the very least, it would mean binotonous. In a creepy horror flick That Little Kid's About To Go Off On The Babysitter kind of way.

Highlight of the solve: "No-o-o-o!" for IT CAN'T BE. Boy, can't we all relate to that feeling. Here, let me introduce you to your dinner partner. He's an Amway salesman.

Lots to like here, Sean. Ladies, which is it for you? BRALESS or STAID?

George Barany 8:47 AM  

Thanks for a lovely writeup @Rex, complete with the gratuitous cat picture. Hope your fund-raising week is going well!

This is the fourth New York Times puzzle, and first themeless, for cyberfriend @Sean Dobbin. By his account, PHOTOBOMB could have been a debut phrase, but appeared in another puzzle subsequent to the acceptance of this one. Of the two true debuts, TROUP required some inspired guessing on crossings, but TAYMOR was very welcome. We were fortunate enough to see "The Lion King" when her revolutionary concept was still being fine-tuned in Minneapolis, ahead of its move to Broadway, and of course, there have been numerous other career highlights (and lowlights) that ought to be fun to learn about.

@Rex already mentioned the S*P*Y*S vs. M*A*S*H misdirect; another one was "Sessions of Congress" where Jeff is the junior Senator from Alabama, vs. PETE who (Google now tells me) is a Texas Representative. Yesterday's LENSCOVERS are replaced today by the much more natural LENSCAP, and good clues both days.

DBlock 8:48 AM  

Wow-- first to comment!
Fastest Saturday in a while
Rene and Rob gimmes so able to build from there
Do wonder about lens caps today, lens covers yesterday-- for paper solvers it was sitting right there.

AliasZ 9:05 AM  

Two full names with the initials R.R., plus a few other single ones occupying prime real estate, street lingo and other words I never heard, let alone said -- yech. What a stark difference between yesterday and today.

I refused entering the following words, thinking IT CAN'T BE, but nothing else fit:

BENDY -- Sounds like baby speak before learning the word "flexible." Britishism?
TUDE -- Who among us used this word, ever? Be honest.
MTAPO -- Ugly, obscure, a cheap trick to lengthen a three-letter word, like MTIDA.
LUTIST -- lutenist. My spellchecker doesn't recognize LUTIST.
IRONICAL -- sorta ironic-ish. Adding -al to an adjective makes it more adjectival-er. Remind me to brush up on my subatomical particles.

This is not how a Saturday NYT puzzle should be. This is not how any of this works.


Have a great weekend.

Phil 9:07 AM  

I thought i did good to remember manOMETER used for stress and load testing. But it gave in to crosses to a strange ERGOMETER.

Unknown 9:14 AM  

@Rex "Ab ovo" or ab initio mean from the beginning rather than at the beginning.

Interesting that while MONOTONOUS and SINGSONG can both mean tedious or mechanical, they are literally antonyms. MONOTONOUS means with an unvarying tone, while SINGSONG means an alternating rising and falling tone.

Unknown 9:16 AM  

The easy way to keep ab and ad straight in Latin is to think of the words absent and adeste (from the Christmas carol) or advent.

Dorothy Biggs 9:17 AM  

Challenging for me. Never heard of TAYMOR, MTABO, and I was convinced SINGular = Monotonous. So, yeah, hard.

Just an aside, I wonder if the cellist in the linked TUBA solo is the tuba player's wife. She seems very supportive...or, the guy messed up a bunch in rehearsal and she was waiting for him to mess up in a performance. Surely the person who recorded the solo was some kind of relative. Given the cellist's adoring glances and the fact just this solo was recorded (who cares about the violin solo just earlier), I halfway expected applause when he was it was some kind of personal triumph.

Anyway, it did sound good and now I need to dial me up some Gershwin with my morning chores.

Vincent Lima 9:19 AM  

Just finished solving this one at JFK, the airport. When I got 1-Across, I did so out loud. Then bit my tongue. Luckily, I'm still at liberty. The answer forced me to give up on Alabama senator Jeff Sessions crossing Motifs, which HAD to be right because how many Sessions could be in Congress?

Leapfinger 9:59 AM  

You want 'stars' in a name? Howzabaht "The Education of H*Y*M*A*N* K*A*P*L*A*N*"?? The only reason I got that Evil Square was because Bobby TROUT sounded Kilgore fishy.

To be frank, I didn't know a PHOTOBOMB from a PrOmOBOMB, and when I saw BIG HOOTER joined by BRALESS, I thought: So now wOENO that's how they're hanging, don't we?... and I wasn't wrong. Altogether a bit too swinging in the NW for me, as usually ME EjecTUP out of hand.

Contrary to @Rex's experience, I hadn't come acrossword MT APO, so thought the 'abbrev' might be for MT PinaTUBA, infamous for the '91 eruption in Luzon, but it doesn't have half the elevation. What I learned is that MT (there's you're abbrev!) APO -- elevation 9692' on the island of Mindanao -- is famous for "civet coffee", expensive because of its painstaking retrieval after the civets are done processing it. It costs about $100 a pound (if bought in 10# packages), and worth every penny, as you wouldn't want any scrimping in the prep. Apparently, it's marketted as "Coffee for Peace", though "Coffee for Poops" might be more descriptive.
It has been described as tasting somewhat of chocolate, but I'd be extremely cautious about that.

Other 'droppings':
Tried soft/silty and hard/hasty before finally getting FIRM/FATTY; that was less mattress, more missed ress.
Thought SCalP before SCOOP, which works if thinking Coneheads
Still waiting for someone to build a better SNEE RAT trap.
In this wintry weather, an enterprising startup could make it BIG delivering emergency chapstick... as a LIPSERVICE
That 49A clue [Swallows thing]=NEST is missing an APO's TROPE. Isnt it?

Some nicely BENDY and IRONICAL clueing, but not as CRUEL as I like a Saturday to be.

GOO GOO g'joob

Chem 101 10:10 AM  

IRONICAL is a piece of FeICAL matter.


Anonymous 10:23 AM  

For me the most irksome clue was "Button-down" for STAID. Should have been "Buttoned-down." A button-down is a shirt.

Z 10:32 AM  

Big ole DNF at TAYMOR. I gave up at SLug/AD INITIUn/gAYnOR/uBTUSE. uBTUSE clued me that I was wrong, but I wasn't seeing SLOT and TAYMOR is a WOE (although vaguely familiar post solve when I looked it up). The Latin looked wrong but plausible, so had I fixed OBTUSE I might have found my way to the end, but I bet I'd have finished with TAYnOR.

At least I got a little Elvis this morning.

"Don't make any sudden movements
These are dangerous amusements
When did you become so choosy?
Don't act like you're above me, just look at your shoes"

jberg 10:37 AM  

MT APO was bad enough, but I might have got that if I had not been so very, very sure that 22A had to be Senator Jeff Sessions. Not only is he the only Congressional Sessions I've ever heard of, but he is confirmed by the obvious MOTIFs (recurrent themes) at 4D. With those two errors locked in place, there was no hope for me. I also went with TROUt/StYS. I figured maybe Twinings had a brand or RED TAG TEA, and just gave up on the rest.

I'm old enough to have heard of ROB REINER, but I sure didn't think of him today.

Interestging prgression from LENS COVER yesterday to LENS CAP today; at least that cheered me up.

My daughter rowed in college, and every winter they'd come up to Boston for the "Erg Races" at Harvard. An ERGOMETER is a rowing machine that tells you how much work you have done. The 'races' involved rowing for a fixed amount of time -- whoever got the highest reading won.

It was always a memorable occasion, as all or most of her crew would stay at our house. They were all 6 feet tall and athletic, and would tend to lie around the house in heaps -- it was very impressive.

I did get that one eventually, but only after a long effort to make 'treadmill' work instead. Also oboe before TUBA following the '4 letter instrument=oboe' rule. Once I got it, I could hear the solo, too.

I was disappointed by the clue for 7D, "It's superior to Superior." Put that way, it reveals the capitalization and makes it obvious. Now, "Superior's superior" would have left us all guessing.

I don't think AD means "at" -- it means "to," always with a directional sense -- but it's been 55 years since I studied that sense, so I could be wrong.

Off to lick my wounds, and work on my memorization of the highest mountains in every country.

Hartley70 10:44 AM  

Tough as an overcooked London broil sliced with the grain. At my first pass I had NEO. Not a lot of help. Then I remembered TAYMOR, but yikes, GENE after that was the only gimme. Thank goodness the sun came out.

Anonymous 10:46 AM  

Detested this puzzle. Litre? Tres jolie is arbitrary. Break one's word vague and silly cluing. Bendy is just stupid. Sings on G? Loaders as bland as it is arbitrary. Same goes for firm toothbrushes. And who gives a shit about the advertising of a crappy 1974 film?

Unknown 10:51 AM  

(10:45 No comments visible as yet.)

Oh, my. This was CRUEL!

I paid LIPSERVICE to this grid with lots of wrong write-ins. Across much of the four corners is Rorschach territory for my finished pen-on-paper grid. My “helper” (the grid on-line) is filled with many letters placed there only by checks and reveals (words & letters).

I did OK in the ‘center of [the] square,’ but a long way from a trophy STATUE being placed there. As to that answer, I play summer gigs in town squares, so ‘gazebo’ went right in.
I‘ve done stress tests so ‘treadmill’ went right in (of course gazebo doesn’t end in “I” and ‘treadmill doesn’t have an “O”).

“No-o-o-o!” ‘IT’s A trap.’
‘Salada’TEA (which could be sort of IRONICAL).
’Singular’ seemed monotonous.
I studied Wagner so ‘motifs’ went right in.
I think I buy DESKpads at my stationers.
Maybe that’s an ‘oboe’ solo for ‘merican In Paris (I should have known this! Grrr.).
‘Soft’/FIRM went in and out.
A ‘sit-up’ can work the abs.

And so it went. As such, I had no BIG CLOSERS. On the other hand my very first entry was OBLATE. I was at least proud of that.

So, I DECLARE that winner of the contest between me and Mr. Sean (my son’s namesake) Dobbin was overwhelmingly the latter. However, I have no real ISSUES with his clues/answers….except AD-INITIUM!! I’ve a pretty good vocabulary and took 4 years of Latin, but still.... I didn’t know ERGOMETER either, though at least that’s something I could and maybe even should have known.

HOOTER in this puzzle is not the same as those sported by the waitresses I mentioned the other day. Mr. Durante had one (as in this puzzle) that was nothing to SNEER AT. The other variety is oft PHOTOBOMBed, maybe PROMPTed by the low SCOOP of a CINDERELLA gown or by going BRALESS.

The LUTIST answer is suspect. While Allan-a-Dale, as part of the legend, did not “appear” until the 17th century, if one accepts (and I think it reasonable) that the story takes place at the time the supposed “real” Robin Hood lived (12th century), the lyre would more likely have been his instrument.

“The lute really came into its own in the late fifteenth century.” (

“The [Lute] was known throughout Europe from at least the thirteenth century but only became truly popular in the sixteenth century,” Note that, “The harp is closely related to the lyre and [in] its early history is difficult to separate from the lyre as scholars cannot be certain which words refer to which instrument!...The basic shape we think of as denoting a harp - date from tenth century Britain. For the next few centuries, there are lots of images and references to minstrels performing on the harp, which shows that the instrument was very popular in England.” ( It is thus assumed some of those would be the similar looking lyres.

For what it’s worth, the drawing of Allan-a-Dale in Wiki shows him playing the more probable lyre (or harp if you will).

Per a traditional folk song, “Momma don’t allow no LUTIST playing ’round here.”

‘TILL next time we MEET UP….

TRÉS Cheers

Lobster11 10:55 AM  

This played difficult/challenging for me, but mainly because of some really bad luck that caused me to stubbornly cling to errors in three of the four corners. First, in the SW, I (probably like many others) was convinced that 51D had to be "MASH." I mean really, what are the freakin' odds of there being two early-70s film titles that each contain four letters and three stars? (Granted that the constructor may have capitalized on this freakish coincidence and the misdirect was intentional, but I'm still calling it bad luck.) Second, in the SE, the first two crosses I happened to get for 55A were the first two I's, and it just so happens that said I's happen to fall in exactly the same places as two I's in "INITIALLY." What could be a better answer for "At the beginning" than that? That error sat there until I finally gave up and looked up the answer to 45D (TAYMOR), which I knew I had no chance of ever guessing without cheating. That forced me to abandon my error, and the corner fell pretty quickly after that. Finally, in the NW, I confidently wrote in "MOTIFS" where TROPES should be -- easy mistake, right? -- and then immediately saw that that the F was in exactly the right place to give me "JEFF" (instead of PETE) at 22A. Now, I mean, if you have two perfectly good answers that cross each other -- and do so on the letter F, for God's sake -- you have grounds for writing those answers in indelible ink and rejecting any other answer in the puzzle that doesn't fit with them, right? And what are the freakin' odds that there are two members of Congress named SESSIONS, and whose first names both contain four letters? So those two errors also sat there until I gave up and looked up MTAPO -- another one I was sure I'd never guess without help -- after which that corner finally opened up for me and I was able to finish.

I am definitely not buying a PowerBall ticket today. Geez....

Ludyjynn 10:58 AM  

Some bizarre answers. I confidently wrote 'honker' for schnoz, as HOOTERs are breasts, not noses. OOLONG TEA forced me to correct, but still... IRONICAL? Really? Alanis Morisettte would find that ironic, eh?

The entire North fell easily for me despite the above gripes, but the South was a challenge and a half. My FedEx guy was a 'driver', not a LOADER, and I misspelled Julie TAYMOR, causing a big FAT DNF. Nooo...IT CAN"T BE!

Favorite answer was CLOSERS, reminding me of the tv crime solver, Brenda, played by Kyra Sedgewick (sp?), who specialized in solving knotty criminal cases as opposed to selling real estate. One of the rare instances where the original show spawned a spin-off of equal caliber, "Major Crimes", with similar TROPES.

Thanks for the workout, SD ad WS. No ERGOMETER needed.

Teedmn 11:00 AM  

Double DNF today with cOO instead of GOO and Julie TAYlOR. I should have caught the second one but it was the last thing I put in and I was so relieved to have filled in the grid, I didn't care what kind of gobbledygook I had in there. This was an epic Saturday battle. My toothbrush was FIRM then soft, then FIRM. My button-down was briefly plAID and my cause was comMiT before PROMPT. I couldn't think of anything quarter-sized except hail so when I saw SLOT, I literally SLAPped my forehead.

Thanks SD, for the enjoyable drubbing.

jae 11:10 AM  

Very easy for a Sat. for me. I put in PHOTO BOMB with no crosses and finished NW very quickly even though I briefly had HOnkER instead of HOOTER. My only other hang up was @Rex M*A*S*H before S*P*Y*S.

The symmetrical pairing of ROB REINER and RENE RUSSO was interesting.

I thought the grid was a tad zippier than yesterday's, liked it.

da kine 11:20 AM  

I had almost no problems except the dang NE corner. I had MOTIFS instead of TROPES, JEFF instead of PETE (for Sessions), and MTPIN instead of the PTSD-inducing MTAPO (isn't Mount Pinatubo a big old volcano?), so my NW looked like it was working. ROB REINER eventually got me there but it was a slog.

Nancy 11:30 AM  

Wow!!! Was it deliberate? Did the constructor fiendishly set his trap in two directions. Providing two "slam-dunk" answers that weren't slam-dunk at all? Two answers that almost blew the entire NW for me?

At 22A, "Sessions of Congress" "had" to be JEFF. Leading to "Recurrent themes" at 4D, which "had" to be MOTIFS. And the F meshed. F -- not exactly a letter that pops up every minute. And therefore I was absolutely (and disastrously) sure. But what to do about that impossible J near the bottom of 1D? Never mind. I'd think about it later.

First, there was the NE to contend with, where SNUB instead of SLAP threw me completely off, too. Then there was DECLAIM instead of DECLARE for a while in the SE, though I straightened that one out earlier than the others. Back to the NW, where, had I ever heard of PHOTO BOMB, my life would have been much easier. But I finally realized that there was another Sessions in Congress named PETE. Leading to TROPES -- not nearly as apt an answer as MOTIFS, I would protest. I ended up getting it all -- except for 2 squares -- the TROUP/SPYS crossing and the ERG-METER/NE- crossing (I forgot to look up the letter.) Oh, and I also couldn't get out of my mind that 53D "had" to be either SOFT or HARD. It took me forever to see FIRM, which meant I wanted SILTY, instead of FATTY at 53A. A diabolical puzzle, filled with one pitfall after another. I loved it.

Joseph Michael 11:34 AM  

Well, I DECLARE. IT CAN'T BE. No comments posted yet. That's a first for me. Especially at 10:20 AM Chicago time.

Enjoyed the puzzle in that it was one of the first Saturdays I was able to complete with no errors.

Thought the fill was clean and interesting with some good musdirection in the clues (hello, PETE Sessions). Especially liked PHOTO BOMB, LIP SERVICE, and HOOTER.

Was surprised to find another LENS CAP so soon after the other one this week and to see BRALESS in the NYT at all.

But, all in all, an enoyable solve

Carola 11:35 AM  

@Rex's MT APO is my S*P*Y*S: I rejected the P (wrong plural) for an in retrospect equally unlikely T, thinking that the stars might have replaced three letters. Not that I could come up with any likely ones. And even though I had vague crossword memories of SPYS. Vague crossword memories did help me with ROB REINER, though (the only funny Reiner I actually know is Carl) and the other double-R RENE RUSSO.

ISSUES: in the NW, for a long time my Sessions was JEFF, which I knew was right. And in the SE, I was first stressed by a TREADMILL. My deposits were sootY, siltY, and FilmY before FATTY. OBTUSE was apt, as I first spelled it with an intital "a."


Unknown 11:38 AM  

To add to my LUTIST comments, Allan-a-Dale is depicted in movies, for example, as playing the lute, but that strongly appears to be anachronistic.

"The harp was one of the most common instruments of the time. Middle Ages harps were somewhat smaller than those we are accustomed to seeing today, generally measuring about 30 inches in height. [they] were easily transported enough that they were yet another favorite among minstrels." (

So were fLUTEs. No mention of the lute or the harp-like lyre by this author.

All things considered, the most historically correct answer would have been "harpist" for the supposed time of Robin Hood.

I promise not to harp on this any longer, so don't make a lyre out of me.


Lewis 11:53 AM  

Solid, with just the kind of hard work I like. Nice to see HOOTER and BRALESS in the same quadrant, and this whole puzzle is actually filled with sexual innuendo the closer you look. Or is it just me? Excellent clues for GENE, ELOPING, and FATTY, and I did like the answer SINGSONG. How is IRONICAL different from IRONIC? Medium/difficult for me, and worth all the effort!

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

Where are all the comments? First of all, "hooter" is generally not slang for the nose (2D: "Schnoz") but for another part of the anatomy, specifically that of a mature human female, from which a certain very cheesy/sleazy restaurant chain derives its name. I was trying to get "honker" but of course it did not fit. And, while there is a member of Congress (in the U.S. House of Representatives, from the 32nd Congressional district in Texas) named Pete Sessions, I was thinking at first of Jeff Sessions, the junior U.S. Senator from Alabama, who is more famous (both are hard-line conservative Republicans, needless to say), but realized quickly that the letter "J" was unlikely to be in the fifth space of 1D ("cause"). For me, I got the "ATL/MEETUP" cross first. Not a great puzzle but not the worst. What saved it for me was Bobby Troup, whom I loved. Love especially The Rolling Stones cover of "Route 66." Also, he appeared in my favorite episode of the old "Perry Mason" show, "The Case of the Jaded Joker," from 1959, in which he played "Buzzie," the weed-smoking, piano-playing pal of the defendant in the murder case- one of the more intelligent depictions of a '50s beatnik on American commercial television. OK, I'll stop the trivia digressions now.

old timer 11:58 AM  

No comments yet! I rate this Hard for a Saturday, because I had to look stuff up. Well, I had to look up RENE RUSSO. I took Bobby TROUP on faith. The SW was the only Easy part. IT CANT BE made me think of "Me and My Uncle": "I know my uncle and he's as honest as me. And I'm as honest as a Denver man can be."

I never thought of Allan-a-Dale as a LUTIST, and anyhow, shouldn't he be a lutenist? AD INITIUM just seemed wrong. Shouldn't it be "ab initio"? So I looked up Ms. TAYMOR just to prove the answer was correct.

Wrote in "oblong" before the correct OBLATE. And wondered if OOLONG TEA counts as Green Paint in Rexworld. (Anyhow, if you think Twinings you think more of teas from India and Ceylon -- great tea company, BTW, doing business on the Strand in London for over 300 years).

mac 11:59 AM  

I liked it better than Rex, but noticed that the clues were more interesting than the answers for the most part.
Especially liked Reading volume.

Motifs at 4D and Jeff for Sessions held that section up the longest. In the end I discovered a mistake, I went for the Trout...

PeterW 12:03 PM  

In what way is 7D superior to Superior? Does it smell better?

Tita 12:04 PM  

My oboe had a solO. Had ADINcIpio ADINITIUM
Schnaz was a HOnkER. And I oughta know! I've never ever ever heard it called a HOOTER.
Bobby darin hid most of the SW.

I could go on ad infinitum with all my writeovers.
A technical dnf...had to reveal wrong letters to see that she isn't Julie rAYMOR, which allowed me to finally see SLOT, as I had no idea what Alan-a-dale is, and couldn't believe it could be what it is.

Liked clue for SLAP.

Rex...My cat, and occasional avatar, is an ashy pet. He sits about a foot from the raging fire. His black fur gets so hot that I can't touch it. If I had a kerosene heater, he would be there. Thanks for the pic.

Thanks Mr. Dobbin for a puzzle that put up a fight.

Rick 12:05 PM  

When I see the name of somebody I've never heard of in a crossword as T-A-Y-__-O-R, there's only one letter going in there, and it's not M.

Mohair Sam 12:08 PM  

Challenging and enjoyable Saturday made into a blast by @Rex's delightful description of his uphill battle with MoAPO syndrome.

We should get extra credit for the misdirect at 16A LITRE (Reading volume). My mother was born in Reading, PA and we live less than 45 minutes from there. We had to overcome more than the Monopoly problem.

No Latin in our backgrounds and Julie TAYMOR unknown to us. Hence we were torn between ADINITIUM and ADINITIal. But although TAyLOR seemed likely, OBTaSE could not be a word - so we guessed right.

There must be about 100 six letter teas, but OOLONG is so crossworthy.

I've taken a couple of stress tests Rex, and have no idea what an ERGOMETER is either, threw in "treadmill" without hesitating and added ten minutes to our solve time.

Grown Up 12:11 PM  

'BRALESS'? Seriously, who comes up with this stuff? Is it Beavis or Butthead? Grow up you snickering teenagers!

Unknown 12:29 PM  

Funny, your first 2 answers were my last, that last O. I was actually thinking it was a nattick. Was for me at least.

kozmikvoid 12:42 PM  

Medium-challenging for me. Mostly medium, but getting to many of the obscure answers mentioned by Rex gave me trouble. TROUP and SPYS I was able to guess at and it looked right. TAYMOR I guessed at only because of the Latin IU-. Had DESKjETS before fixing that, and struggled my way through the NW despite OBLong making things impossible for a while.

I'm surprised Rex didn't critique the appearance of LENSCAP today. Such a distinctive answer in such similar forms in consecutive puzzles? That clue/answer alone highlights how much better yesterday's puzzle was than today's. I also dnot like IRONICAL. Yes, I know it's a word. But it's archaic and people just don't say it anymore.

Anonymous 12:43 PM  

Julie TAYMOR is, as is customary for our society, probably more famous for the fiasco that was Spiderman the play than for The Lion King.

Andrew Heinegg 12:44 PM  

No comments at 12:34 Eastern time;! A net glitch of some kind; I am in agreement with Rex that this puzzle was passable but staid. I did not find anything to be particularly amusing or informative and I think the clue and answer for 40a type of team-cinderella do not compute. A team is not characterized as being a Cinderella team but, if they were able to go from rags to riches, metaphorically speaking, they would be Cinderella story. Better luck tomorrow;

Andrew Heinegg 1:02 PM  

I am in agreement with everything you wrote save that Major Crimes is just as good a spinoff as The Closer. I have absolutely no inside information but, I thought that Ms. Sedgwick's departure was caused by the sinking quality of the plots of the show. She was simply terrific in the role and, after her departure, it seemed to me that the spinoff had ever more tortured plot lines. My wife still watches it.

archaeoprof 1:04 PM  

Agree with Rex about the SW corner. Saw BENDY and just lost interest. For me, solving is for fun. But In the SW corner of this one I realized I just didnt care.

weingolb 1:21 PM  

Played easy for me (perhaps I'm in the non-sporty-brandy-et-al demographic Rex describes) though I can see the tough parts. Cunning bits like "Reading volume," "Activity for running-mates?" as well as the clever, but sussable clues for LENSCAP, LAP, and ONTARIO, were highlights.
Somehow I saw OBLATE coming despite first having OBLong, figured SPELLS would be the breakup the cluer wanted, immediately pictured STATUE as "Center of a square" without any crosses.
I don't know Sean Dobbin from previous puzzles but in completing this one I felt I shared every wavelength he used in its construction.
TROUP crossing SPYS was another toughie, maybe a flaw, but I guessed right, so I am happy with this Saturday.
Still, I am puzzled about Swallows not having an apostrophe, why "Buttoned-UP" isn't STAID and how HOOTER here has gone totally BRALESS in coming to represent the nose, of all body parts.
Finished in good time despite these.

Alby 1:23 PM  

Only time I've heard IRONICAL was by Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, and he was being IRONICAL himself. Clever to have "dense" used in two senses in two clues, and to have two OB- answers. Never thought of SINGSONG as synonymous with "monotonous," unless we're talking about Gregorian chanting. SINGSONG sounds like a charming quality to me.

GILL I. 1:56 PM  

Am I going to scream when someone explains to me why CINDERELLA is a kind of team? I liked SINGSONG as an answer but I always thought they were little gatherings. I bet anything I will forget MTAPO. Wouldn't "lardaceous" be a HOOT (ER) if clued for FATTY?
I wanted to enjoy this Saturday work-out but I would be paying LIPSERVICE if I said I enjoyed it. Too many things that felt OBTUSE.
@NCA Pres. I say TUDE. Our daughter has lots of it. I think it's a perfectly fine word without atti.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:11 PM  

Good Saturday puzzle; put up a fight, but ultimately workable.

My question regarding 19 A (MT APO) is, why does the clue specify "Abbr." on a Saturday, when late week puzzles often omit "Abbr." anyway, and when "Mt." is commonly accepted. An unusual mis-direct, IMHO.

My confusion that no one else seems to have suffered: for 22 A, "Sessions of Congress," I somehow got hooked on another "politician whose name could be a common word," and wanted to put in DALE, for the former Arkansas governor Dale Bumpers. Took me a while to clear that one up!

Greg 2:19 PM  

"...that segment of the solving population that doesn't like sports and doesn't like brand names and doesn't like contemporary pop culture anywhere near their puzzles."

Yep, that's me. Stick to wordplay and vocabulary, please.

Unknown 3:11 PM  

Comments, finally! Yea!! And I happily found myself, like yesterday in the in crowd, today due to the same troubles and a lot of other DNFs. So nice to have my assumed ignorance sort of invalidated. Because I know none of you are at all ignorant, I'll assume I'm not either.


Joe Bleaux 4:22 PM  

Joe to Joe: Thanks for the singsong/monotonous nit, which I was gonna pick if you hadn't beaten me to it. Always good to know it ain't just me.

Mohair Sam 4:24 PM  

@Alias Z - On 'TUDE - often used, it rhymes with Dude and is therefore handy when scolding snotty male children.

@Peter W - On maps ONTARIO Province is north of (above, or superior to) Lake Superior. Unless I got the answer right for the wrong reason.

@Many of you - Noses were frequently called HOOTERs for years before the sexist restaurant franchise became famous. Since then it's been all downhill for the schnozzola faction.

Z 4:39 PM  

@Anonymous10:46 - SINGS ON G is so much better than SINGSONG. Of course, SINGSONG is monotonous not monotone.

@PeterW - ONTARIO is north and east of Lake Superior, north = above on a map, above = superior.

@Grown Up - Hey, I'm not even on your lawn.

@GILL I - BRALESS HOOTERs, so not padded today (I would have blamed auto-correct). As for a CINDERELLA team, this is sports slang for a team that exceeds expectations in a tourney. For example, in the 68 team NCAA basketball tournament, any team seeded below an 8 seed (the bottom 36 teams) who gets to the third round will often be called a CINDERELLA team. This also fits in with the tourney being called "the big dance." Who knew that sports fans were so into fairy tales.

TRES jolie saved me from staying with jeff/motifS too oolong. ---jT was improbable.

michael 4:55 PM  

I had trouble with the northwest just like many others. Mt. Apo. Hooter for nose? And I had motifs and Jeff Sessions for a while though I knew the j had to be be wrong. Also got stuck for a while with "Taymer" instead of "Taymor."

Hard for me for a Saturday, maybe because I do well with sports and names and fill-in-the-blank.

OISK 4:56 PM  

It took me a long time to realize that Ad------- had to be a Latin word. Once I realized that, I finished without too much difficulty. A clean week! Helped by a Berry good Friday.

There were some clues I thought were a bit too contrived, (such as the clue for GIS, ) and some question marks, (Troup? Taymor, Bendy?) but not enough to detract significantly from the pleasure of solving a Saturday puzzle.

Anonymous 4:56 PM  

Enjoyed the vintage, mass-market antiestablishmentarianism of that trailer. CINDERELLA team is a species of rags-to-riches TROPE.

Anonymous 5:17 PM  


I finished on TROUP, figuring S*P*Y*S could be the movie, however ungrammatical.

I liked PHOTOBOMB, and also LITRE as clued by "Reading volume"---that was clever!

DigitalDan 5:26 PM  

For what it's worth, recall that the ERG shows up frequently as a teeny weeny unit of energy, leading I presume directly to ERGOMETER as a stress testing device. How that gets us to ERGONOMICS, I'm not as certain.

Masked and Anonymo6Us 5:35 PM  

BENDY. har. That and six U's. That'll do, Dobbin. That'll do. Thanx.

@muse: Lion Taymor, is how I remember her. Also, only show M&A ever saw on Broadway.

Doin the Gustave Caillebotte impressionist art exhibit in Ft. Worth, this weekend. Primo museum. Gettin my ass totally refined, takin all this in.


jae 5:42 PM  

Reading all the comments has provided some insight as to why I found this easy. First, PHOTO BOMB went in first which eliminated the motifs/Jeff misdirect. Second, I knew TAYMOR from the Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark debacle and must have read that she also did The Lion King. Third, I knew both MASH and SPYS and vaguely remembered Bobby TROUP.

@GILL - A CINDERELLA team is one that is a surprise championship contender. It only becomes a CINDERELLA team after posting an unexpected winning record.

Masked and Bent 5:57 PM  


@009: Artfully posed Random Kitty Pic (RKP). Yer blog is gettin 2 B pretty day-um snazzy.

Almost forgot: BENDY has the Patrick Berry Usage Immunity. har2. He has not used that meter that measures ERGOs yet, tho.

This Caillebrotte dude really painted up a storm. Did some cool scenes that looked like they were almost viewed from a drone. Now, on to the Montgomery Street Antique Mall. Has a whole room full of LPs, on sale for a buck apiece. @009: will check each one, to see if it has a SIDETWO.


dm3000 9:59 PM  

The first gimme answer, IRONICALly, was Troup. You've got to know your popular songs.

Unknown 2:44 PM  

Words Starting with "LA"

There are Total 1353 words Starting with La (Prefix) found after searching through all the words in english.

Example : Lasciviousnesses, Largeheartedness, Latensifications, Landlubberliness

Rearrangement words

teevoz 4:17 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
spacecraft 9:53 AM  

Never in all my solving experience have I been so totally defeated. Forget DNF; how about DNS?! I wrote in one gimme: M*A*S*H. Got nowhere--and no wonder. It was, as Fonzie would say, "wr-r-r..." Never heard of any other movie like that, including S*P*Y*S. So, BIG stop there.

Found OENO in the NW, dropped key beside it instead of BIG; another BIG (key) mistake. Nothing there. At last! Something substantial to get a foothold! The only stress test apparatus I've ever seen! The TREADMILL!! And it fit!!! And HARD for the toothbrush-mattress thing!

No-o-o-o. Nothing. Turns out it was all...well, you know. In the NE I did have an idea about SLAP and even ATTAGIRL, but could not come up with GIS for the "force." Nor could I fathom "Reading volume." Oh, now you're going to hit me with an English city that also just happens to be a real--and VERY misdirecting--word?? Man, even for Saturday that's a low blow. The rest of it was either impossibly obscure (MTAPO, TAYMOR), just-plain-didn't-know, or that-could-be-ANYTHING type answers. I got nothin.' INC.

Burma Shave 11:45 AM  


ATTAGIRL! I DECLARE, what could be cuter?
To MEETUP with her when she’s BRALESS (or not),
and give LIPSERVICE to her FIRM HOOTER(s)?


Cathy 12:55 PM  

Big DNF. But I tried!

Wanted Jäger BOMB for 1A drop in shot? Some kind of snap twirl for 12D "you go sister". Lotus???? For 21A exercise position for abs.
Arrgg, but pretty cool after seeing the completed grid.

Looking forward to Sunday:)

rondo 1:06 PM  

This is no puz to SNEERAT; it really made me work to complete. Like putting the Falklands in the ATL istead of Arg. And the one answer I was most sure of was parseS to break my words, no help there. The SE was of particular trouble for me with quarter sized “hail”, and silTY deposits making a “soft” toothbrush. But it all came around.

Can there be any doubt that a BRALESS RENE RUSSO (BRR) is the yeah baby of the day? And I’ll even give an ATTAGIRL to Julie TAYMOR.

I’ve got an Eb TUBA if anyone wants to buy it. ITCANTBE sitting in the spare room forever.

BRR, I just SHIVERED again. I get those SPELLS.

Sickly sweet Twinings product: GOOOOLONGTEA.


Diana,LIW 2:39 PM  

I want some of whatever Rex was drinking when he wrote this up, cause he was in a much better mood than I.

Instead, Weird Al's "One More Minute" song kept going thru my head - "I'd rather spend eternity eating shards of broken glass
Than spend one more minute with you"



Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Diana,LIW 2:41 PM  

Forgot to mention - I did enjoy the gratuitous cat.


leftcoastTAM 3:05 PM  

Sadistic Saturday.

Started with scattered entries but couldn't get a decent foothold anywhere.

Then drawing blanks and trying wrong answers in the NW (Jeff instead of PETE Sessions, motifs instead of TROPES), it didn't seem worthwhile to continue, so I yelled uncle.

Unknowns included TAYMOR, TROUP, "Twinings product", ADINITIUM; also odd clues for SPELL, GIS.

Answers appearing in recent puzzles and repeated here were also off-putting: LENSCAP, TUDE, ELOPING in its various forms.


Longbeachlee 3:34 PM  

I did learn something, Photoshop. I liked Cinderella. As for the rest, 'buff said.

Diane in Portland OR 5:28 PM  

Best takeaway for me is The Circle of Life! Thank you LMS!

rain forest 12:04 AM  

Finished the puzzle earlier, but then I discovered I had an infestation of pantry moths and their larvae. Anyone ever had this. Turns out the flour and other grains I had stored in my cupboard for my bread maker were a nice home for these little beasties. Spent a looong time (not an OOLONG time), getting rid of them with the help of cleaning solution, bleach and my trusty vacuum cleaner. You really wanted to know this, didn't you?

The puzzle-yes, it was difficult, mainly with the cluing, but with a few good guesses and that good ol' Canadian know-how, I got it done. ONTARIO was my first entry, followed by MEET UP, and BRALESS, enabling me to move from that foothold, slowly, through the rest.

Tough, but fair, in my opinion.

Scotsman 12:36 PM  

Tough one for me. DNF due to an obscure Latin phrase crossing with a little-known actress in the SE. I call foul.

Also had OBLong instead of OBLATE and didn't recover, but that one's on me. 😉

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Graham 2:56 PM  

Two incorrect clues: S*P*Y*S does *not* have stars in its title — it has bullet holes, as you can plainly see from the trailer and the poster ( ).

And swallows most definitely needs an apostrophe — else, it’s a verb, not a possessive plural noun.

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