Medieval steel helmets with visors / SAT 4-9-16 / Mongolian for hero / Steven who co-created Sherlock / Wilber who founded fast food chain / Member of comicdom's SHIELD / 250-year span in Japan's history / California city for which element #116 was named / Ragg Sweeney Todd's assistant / Focus of some high profile 1970s lawsuits

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Constructor: David Phillips

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: PIETISM (46A: Old Lutheran movement) —
Pietism (/ˈptɪsm/, from the word piety) was an influential movement within Lutheranism that combined the 17th century Lutheran principles with the Reformed emphasis on individual piety and living a vigorous Christian life. //  It began in the late 17th century, reached its zenith in the mid-18th century, and declined through the 19th century, and had almost vanished in America by the end of the 20th century. While declining as an identifiable Lutheran group, some of its theological tenets influenced Protestantism generally, inspiring the Anglican priest John Wesley to begin the Methodist movement and Alexander Mack to begin the Brethren movement among Anabaptists. // Though Pietism shares an emphasis on personal behavior with the Puritan movement, and the two are often confused, there are important differences, particularly in the concept of the role of religion in government. (wikipedia)
• • •

A largely unpleasant affair for me, first because it was riddled with obscure proper nouns (MOFFAT?) and esoterica (BASINETS? PIETISM?), and second because it seems to believe "THE BIG BANG THEORY" is so good a marquee answer that the grid deserves to be widened to 16 just to accommodate it. The fake nerdism of that show is unbearable to me. Unwatchable. Barf. But that's just a matter of taste, I realize. The bigger issue is just the overall feel of the grid, which felt either esoteric or just dull to me. Pseudo-current stuff like BROMANCE already feels dated to me, and certainly isn't enough to overcome all the NEB BATOR CCC NYAH SCARERS and blahness of the rest of the grid.

The SW corner may as well have been an entirely different puzzle. That thing is guarded on either end by what for me were no-hope answers. I still don't really know what an AIR CARRIER is or how it's a [Sky line]. [Looks it up] Well, look at that: it appears to be just another word for an airline. Huh. I was thinking something like "aircraft carrier," but ... in the sky? Dunno. AIR CARRIER seems like an awfully wordlisty answer. An answer only a computer could love. Who *chooses* to put that in their grid? Wow. OK. Real gatekeepers of the SW corner, though, were OSBORN (30A: "The Paper Chase" novelist) and TOBIAS (28D: ___ Ragg, Sweeney Todd's assistant) (who and who?) up top, and BASINETS and PIETISM (ditto) down below. For a time, I just had BLTS and AGT in there. I basically just pieced that corner together brick by brick, slowly and painfully. BATOR was the answer which, when it finally dropped, pushed things from stuck to finish.

But man, it was a slog, allayed only infrequently by moments of pleasure (I like SHELL GAME well enough, and NO HARM DONE is nice). I read Batman for years and never heard of THE SIREN (?) (38D: Alter ego of "Batman" villainess Lorelei Circe). And MOFFAT at 1-Across??? I don't / can't / won't understand where the pleasure in this thing was supposed to lie. LIVERMORE!? (13D: California city for which element #116 was named) I'm *from* California and that answer left me [shrug]. "Oh, element #116, you don't say ..." [nods knowingly] [remembers he only knows like ten elements by number] [continues to nod knowingly]. That clue was, uh, not helpful. Seriously, whom did that clue help. Does that clue Want us to look at the periodic table? I fail to understand. Not for the first time.

How did I get into the grid? I know you're dying to know. Well, thusly:


Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:20 AM  

Medium-tough for me too. Top half medium, bottom half tough. RentS and RendS before RIVES, StewS before SNITS, anon before ET AL....tough SE corner. On the other side OSBORN and TOBIAS were WOEs and CELIE was somewhere in the cobwebs so....tough SW corner. On the bright side THE BIG BANG THEORY (I've never seen it for reasons similar to Rex's comments) was a gimme when The Simpsons wouldn't fit.

MOFFAT was also a WOE and I misspelled FLYER with an i which made RAY hard to see.

Crunchy Sat., liked it more than @Rex did but he's right about the obscure stuff. A high PPP perhaps @Z ?

Anonymous 3:02 AM  

For the record, Tobias Ragg is not Sweeney Todd's assistant, at least not in the musical which is how most everyone knows the story. He works for Sweeney's rival and then, after Sweeney has killed said rival, assists Mrs. Lovett in grinding the human meat for her pies until he goes insane from terror.

Just bein' pedantic.

George Barany 3:04 AM  

The review of @David Phillips' Saturday puzzle by @Rex is much appreciated for several reasons, not the least of which was to make me feel better about my total unfamiliarity with THE_SIREN, PIETISM, MOFFAT, and OSBORN, among others. It was also a welcome reminder of how much this blog has benefited by proactive measures to eliminate TROLLING.

I may have mentioned on other occasions that I'll give myself a half hour tops for all but the most exceptional non-Sunday puzzles before starting to hit "check" and then "reveal" on troublesome letters and words. I got off to an auspicious start by confidently inserting HOAX for 4-Down, but that was fixed easily enough, and I had most (but not all) of everything but the southeast corner correctly filled in when the witching hour hit (and the Twins-Royals were still tied, 2-2 in the 7th inning).

I suppose it's on me that I had RED_DRESS (what was I thinking, REDRESS?) instead of RED_CROSS, but LL? at 55-Down was a WOE, and the square with 46 in it was still blank, so no idea where 46-Down was headed (maybe going up in flames?). RILES (instead of RIVES) at 44-Down made it difficult to uncover the EVIDENCE, and I kept looking for an artist [EL_GRECO, a distant relative of EL_ONGATE, anyone?] for the painting at 57-Across. OTOH, I did not fall for the Whitehouse trap on 59-Across, and remembered enough of the "Monsters, Inc." movie (or is that "Monsters, LLC"?) to scare up SCARERS.

In fairness to @David Phillips, we learn from that this puzzle has been in the New York Times queue since October 2013, i.e. 2 1/2 years. It's actually the fifth use of BROMANCE, a portmanteau that entered the vernacular in 2005 but (as @Rex points out) already feels dated. In other words, someone like me had a fighting chance with it. I did know Marilyn MC_COO, but had to scratch my head at NELSON and LEARN as clued. NYE as an abbreviation for New Year's Eve, while inferable, probably elicited significant groans in the household of Bill, the Science Guy. Two fast-food magnates in RAY_KROC (a gimme) and HARDEE (tough), and don't forget the Whopper, which I understand is served at BLTS.

Kinyak 3:12 AM  

The BLTS/BATOR/TALLONES situation drove me to cheat. I had BaTS for the longest time, was trying to find something that ended with ALLONES like, I don't know, a weird Italian variation on gallons, and am more familiar with the spelling Ulaanbataar and didn't register the whole BATOR situation. I actually enjoyed the top half and am well familiar with MOFFAT as the name I curse when I watch Doctor Who, but the bottom half made me little sad.

jae 3:23 AM  

So I'm watching the late news tonight, and a story comes on about adopting shelter animals, and this lady is holding up a very cute kitty and she's saying "oh, he's a real LAP CAT"

chefwen 4:04 AM  

It took two of us to rassle this little puppy to the ground, but we did it. Oh, I guess three of us, uncle Google helped us out on two occasions, MOFFAT being one of them. I thought that's what will happen if you eat too many ECLAIRS.

The first thing I filled in was THE BIG BANG THEORY and Rex, I couldn't agree with you more. If, by chance, I accidentally flip to that show I can't flip out of it fast enough.

Alby 4:13 AM  

Can't say much for the construction or answers, but some of the best cluing I've seen in a long time. Just clever and well thought out. The smirk brought by a good clue can make me forgive other flaws.

Loren Muse Smith 6:54 AM  

Well, David didn’t know that his hard act to follow would be a Patrick Berry gem. This had plenty of entries I liked: TALL ONES, RED CROSS, SHELL GAME, NO HARM, and CUT ABOVE (by Jeff Chen, one of the most stunning puzzles I've ever seen).

After checking that a couple of crosses could work, my very first entry was THE BIG BANG THEORY. I'm with Rex - - but I just don't "get" this show. And that's saying something; I love watching vapid tv.

I had a dnf because of three squares in the northwest. My mind never went to the pamphlet meaning of circular – I had "arced" knowing it couldn't be right. And that crosses some weirdo, Rick Roc. So often there are obscure names I don't know, so Rick Roc guy didn't set off any alarms. Kept see-sawing between FAKE and "joke" for the book, but finally I just gave up.

Anyone else resist GLEE CLUB because of the clue for BLT?

I know if I hadn't had DOER firmly in place, I would have written in "pale ales" instead of TALL ONES.

First thought on TROLLING was "phishing." I don't know which is worse. I said recently that I'm getting friend requests on Facebook now by drop-dead gorgeous men who are "from America but I currently lives in the UK and wuld like too be your freind." Damn Phacebook.

RIVES – I had to look it up to see how to say it. Rive Gauche was interfering. Wonder if David chose this instead of "lives" because of LIVERMORE?

Boy, do I remember that PINTO mess. My best friend's dad worked for Ford, and they had a mean little Chihuahua named PINTO. Saw her take a spectacular tumble all the way down Tori's stairs once. Little dog just never seemed as mean after that. (My dad worked for Chevrolet – our dog was named Corvette. Four on the floor.)

All in all, a good Saturday workout. Just wish I had seen FLYER.

George 7:18 AM  

AIR CARRIER is what an airline is called in regulatory documents, such as 14 CFR Part 121 Air Carrier Certification. If you have never had to delve into the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR,) count yourself lucky.

Anonymous 7:50 AM  

AIR CARRIER is actually a pretty common term. It's really the least of this puzzle's problems. The bigger issue is way too many proper noun references to pop culture: HOUNDDOG, CELIE, THESIREN, MOFFAT, etc.

Blue Stater 8:29 AM  

Absolutely right, Rex. Just. awful.

John Child 8:38 AM  

{Whopper server} = LIAR beat me fair and square, but OSBORNE and CELIE were never going to come, given that TOBIAS was a woe. Osborne as maker of the first portable computer and Tobias Funke would have worked for me... ECLAIRS as "fingers" feels unfair, and why clue NYE as a never-used abbreviation?

Lots to admire in this puzzle, but I have to rate it Impossible.

Lobster11 8:40 AM  

What Rex said.

Looking forward to seeing Z's PPP analysis.

astroman 8:43 AM  

Hated this. Peas are shelled not shucked.

Glimmerglass 8:51 AM  

@Rex: in case you haven't noticed, It's Saturday. What's interesting, fun, exciting about today's puzzle is that it's really, really hard! Even though there were lots of facts I didn't know (BASINET, PIETISM, OSBORN, MOFFAT, THE SIREN and I never Google), some others I once knew but needed many crosses to get (CELIE), and lots of tricky clues it took a long time to suss out (COPY EDIT, and I was once a copy editor!), I found this delightfully challenging. Lots of places to use inferences. One intellgent guess works like magic! How you can find it dull is incredible to me. As I've written here before, the difference between us is that you are made amazingly uncomfortable by slow solving times, and for me, a slow time just means it's going to be more satisfying when (sometimes, if) I finish. This one took me well over an hour. What would I have done with that time otherwise? Meh. Something not as much fun, something I can do just as well later on. On Monday, when I get the puzzle correct, it's just routine. Today, I got it right and I feel great!

Dorothy Biggs 8:54 AM  

I'd like to thank WS for the shoutout with "GERM"...having just talked about that yesterday. Kinda weird.

I agree with anon @3am: TOBIAS isn't Todd's assistant, per se...certainly not knowingly. And when he discovers what's been going on, he has no more to do with it. He also doesn't actually go "insane" because he's already kinda slow...that is, if he's played as an older person. He can be played as a kid, though I don't know if SS wanted it that way. I've seen it both ways.

Nice to see NEB in the puzzle. That abbreviation is hardly used any more, though. NE is enough.

There's something wrong with NELSON's clue. I can't put my finger on it, but it doesn't seem like it lands right. And if it's referring to wrestling, it should be preceded by full or half.

Lots of proper nouns I didn't know it made it a bit tougher in places. Other places I whizzed through.

three of clubs 9:02 AM  

Always nice to be reminded of one of America's premier research institutions. The clue isn't really about the element any more than Berkelium, Californium, Einsteinium, Fermium, ...

Seem far more mainstream/current to me than a character from some old movie which I didn't see. (I had Celia until I fixed it.)

Mostly though I like the feeling that some stray piece of trivia lurking in a corner of my mind comes to the fore to be inspected and slotted into a new place.

Kind of entertaining that there is also a Senator Nelson currently serving.

Brett Hendrickson 9:05 AM  

"It may be out for blood" for REDCROSS is pretty good, you've got to admit.

jberg 9:08 AM  

I'm nerdy enough that I would definitely watch THE BIG BANG THEORY if I had a TV -- in fact, when I put in the puzzle, I thought maybe I should buy a season to watch on my Kindle Fire. So I'm probably not representative when I say I got LIVERMORE from the clue. It's not that I'd ever heard of that element, but there's the Lawrence Livermore Lab there, and since elements are named by physicists it seemed like the most likely possibility.

At that, I really got stuck, between Ltd before LLC and BarS (where I might go, being too old to enjoy clubs) before BLTS. That one took a long time, I had to dredge up CELIE from memory, and give up the idea that there might be yet a third THE in the puzzle before I could see SHELL GAME. Brilliant clue, by the way.

So yes, it was quite a struggle. I had to put it aside, flip the folded-up paper over to the two KenKens and solve those, then come back to it. And it was still tough.

I didnt'k know THE SIREN either -- but given a name like "Lorelei Circe" I really should have been able to figure it out.

Other things that slowed me down: thinking BASINETS needed a double S (var. spelling, it turns out), and wanting either 'enwrap' or 'clasp' instead of NELSON.

But so many great clues -- I enjoyed this one a lot more than OFL.

kitshef 9:09 AM  

Agree completely on the unpalatability of today's puzzle. For a themeless, you should have at most two things as bad as SES and AGT. Well, this one has those two, plus two far worse: SCARERS and SML. SML in particular should never be allowed, and I can't imagine what in that SE corner was so dear to the constructor that he just couldn't redo it to get rid of SML. I'm also giving a semi-pass on NYE as clued. You tried something different to avoid using the Science Guy, it didn't work, don't do it again and we'll move past it.

And then there is the PPP hitting the fan. MOFFAT? OSBORN? TOBIAS? CELIE???! That's just ridiculous.

On the other hand ... Even with all the obscure names, almost everything was gettable either from crosses or inference. I can imagine OCALA/MOFFAT might Natick some folks, and the CELIE/TOBIAS cross is clearly unfair. You could put an E or an L or a B there and have plausible answers, but the I looks much more likely. The rest was all fair.

Easy-medium for me (right side easy, left side medium). Hardest part was getting started. Put in GLEECLUB, then took it out when I got no crosses from it. Put in NTH, got no crosses from that. Schrodingered cob/ear for 23A, and again for 24A. Shrodingered MOO/lOw for 33A. Finally hit THEBIGBANGTHEORY, which went in with complete confidence when neither FUTURAMA nor THESIMPSONS would fit, which got me TROLLING, which got me rolling.

So that's at least three shows where both Hawking and Aldrin have appeared. I wonder if there are more?

Imfromjersey 9:21 AM  

@rex Moffat was a gimme for me. As one of the creators of both Sherlock and the reboot of Dr Who, he is both loved and reviled, mainly reviled for Dr Who for "Moffat Logic" where stupid plot lines appear to resolve a difficult situation. There is even a Tumblr about it Moffat Logic . I had a ton of trouble with this ne but for me it was the NE that was the last to fall. For a long time I has WAS for 11D - retry sure there is a Bellevue WA.

Cleared2Land 9:29 AM  

AIR CARRIER was a gimme for me cuz thats how we reference them in air traffic. But then I couldn't resist typing AWESOME for the type of sauce even tho I knew it was ridiculous. Elvis and the HOUNDDOG saved me there. A slog, yes, but crosses made the obscurities gettable, so I enjoyed the journey.

More Whit 9:30 AM  

Rex: I couldn't agree more with your assessment of The Big Bang Theory. The series reinforces hackneyed stereotypes of physicists that are light years from the actual mosaic of human beings who pursue fundamental puzzles of the cosmos. Check out Feynman or Einstein or Curie or Randall...and myriad others...nary a one resembles the inanity depicted in the show. As far as the puzzle: too many obscure proper nouns.

Unknown 9:38 AM  

This was an odd mix of easy / hard. Some good answers came with just one or no letters, like the “T” for CUTABOVE, “E” for GLEECLUB, nothing for THE BIG BANG THEORY (I’ve seen about every episode; the ”N” was superfluously there from ELONGATE gotten from only the first “E”), nothing for MERGE, “B” for BELITTLED, nothing for HOUND DOG, and like that for several others.

Contrarily some other answers took almost all the letters to finally get them, like NO HAR_ D_N_, BROMA__E, and THE S__EN. Of course there were the PPPs I didn’t know like ANG, OCALA, MOFFAT, MCCOO et al only filled with crosses (including a cheat for the “A” for ANG, not knowing the helmet either).

Eventually I had to cheat for a couple of other letters to get it finished. However, I did not feel a nice sense of accomplishment when did, which I usually do even if I have to cheat. I think this was because, for various reasons, some of the clues/answers left me cold, like “iHOP option”: OMELETTE, SCARERS, EDOPERIOD(?), ‘Sky line,” COPYEDIT, “Three piece”: TRIFOLD, “shuck” not “shell” a PEA?, “Watch’s partner”: LEARN, MOO: a “report?,” NYE, and “Ending for evil or wrong”: DOERS.

What was to like was BLTs (with BaTS holding court for too long), SHELL GAME as clued, RED CROSS as clued, CCC (nice twist on the let’s-ban-them Roman numerals with SRS [law students] for that also in for too long), LIAR as clued (and being over BLT, the LT some of the ingredients in a Whopper), and the cool word: RIVES.

A good/bad rating would be roughly what’s in my coffee: half and half, though in my coffee it’s all good. After reading @Rex and the few comments, it appears this critique (from a dilettante at this for crosswords) is justified and this feels much better than the solve :>)

Not unusually, clues or answers often lead to other things. To wit:

It was through a college freshman GLEE CLUB gig with a girl’s school that I met the yet to be famous, (and sadly late) Lesley Gore. At a small, after concert party, she sat at the piano and performed a song I was told she had recorded, but was not yet released: “It’s My Party” (and I’ll cry if I want to). Two months later, it was #1 on the pop charts.

Looking her up on Wiki, I was astonished, and I do mean astonished, to learn this was not only produced by Quincy Jones, it was his first hit single! As well, Claus Ogerman (whom I well know of) was the arranger and conductor. Well worth the look for more “who knew?” about Lesley….Really! – such as also being the recording artist for Marvin Hamlisch’s first hit composition:

Also some remarkable “who knew?” about the song, some of it directly involving producer Phil Spector:

I’m sure you’ve heard of Quincy Jones, but if you don’t know who Claus Ogerman is, you might say “who knew” as to a couple of the folks he has worked with as their arranger and conductor: (jump to paragraph 5.2)


Maruchka 9:43 AM  

PPP to the NTH degree! (courtesy of @Z...)

Argh. Slog. Sniff. DNF. When this occurs (more frequently than it should), I cheat freely, then review the fill. Clearly 'my bad' most times. Not today, alas. Wish I'd liked it.

First thought was BERKELEY (Berkelium) but LIVERMORE has the right number of boxes, and the Lawrence Lab. It's also en route to the Altamont racetrack of Rolling Stones and Hell's Angels infamy..

Fav of the day - PINTO. I bought one in the 70s (long story - wish he'd stolen a nicer car). It was a clunker but, thankfully, never blew up on me. Sold for parts asap.

High hopes for tomorrow, please.

Teedmn 9:48 AM  

Deliciously tough Saturday for me though an ultimate DNF because I went to my trusty hard copy dictionary to look up 37D and it had a neat drawing of several types of BASINETS. My Lutherans were having a citrus crisis with acETISM. When DOER wasn't helping at 51D, I put in "ways" crossing "war". No help. 40 minutes into it, I caved.

After I finally cheated, I literally had to rewrite the SW grid on my piece of paper because my grid was so full of black ink, I could no longer read any of it, but the one look-up sufficed and I successfully concluded.

Hand up for not a fan of THE BIG BANG THEORY. I studied engineering in college and there were no nerds so clueless as that show would have you believe.

Thanks, David Phillips, for all the GERMs.

Mohair Sam 9:56 AM  

Except for his medium/challenging rating we totally disagree with OFL today. Liked this one a lot. We expect some tough PPP on a Saturday, and as long as the crosses aren't brutal we don't complain. MOFFAT crossed fairly, and PIETISM is from the word piety, not much of a stretch. LIVERMORE is a California name linked to science and not a difficult stretch to think a tie to an element when a few letters are filled - a nice Saturday clue.

AIRCARRIER is a common term and I thought it was wonderfully clued, what's Rex's thing about wordlists there?. Methinks OFL was getting in a pick, pick, pick mood because of his dislike of THEBIGBANGTHEORY. In fact, it struck me that a peeved Sheldon might have written Rex's first paragraph today.

Might have failed in the SE but for good old Marilyn MCCOO Davis. Loved the clue for REDCROSS. Nifty how constructor worked in two fast food names. CELIE one of the great book/movie characters ever.

@LMS - Naming the family dog "Corvette" because he had four on the floor! Great stuff.

Super Saturday David Phillips, thanks.

Nik 10:11 AM  

@Glimmerglass - The shucking of peas may be a colloquialism. I have fond memories of sitting on the deck with my grandfather and my four sisters shucking peas in Michigan. There were never enough left in the bowl for dinner. Shucks, I still shuck peas today; we "clean" the corn.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:15 AM  

Challenging for me, took the better part of an hour (including preparing and eating breakfast.). But I thought it was a lot of fun. More write-overs than I care to list, but worked it out, on paper, to a good finish, letter by letter.

For the most part, what @Glimmerglass said.

Steve M 10:28 AM  

Saturday smackdown😒

Carola 10:34 AM  

I really liked this tough customer and was surprised at Rex's pan. There was plenty I didn't know, from the medieval to MCCOO, but I found it very fun to figure out.

The GERMs of my solve: first the 2 "shucks" got me PEA x EDO PERIOD and EAR x FL?(hi, @jae)ER, followed by CELIE, ANG, and SML. Then chip-chip-chip away. German studies helped me see PIETISM and know that the Lorelei is a SIREN. LIVERMORE took me a while, but then I remembered Lawrence Livermore Labs - I'd always thought it was a person's name! HOUND DOG: Way back then I asked my parents for it for Christmas. No way - I got "Ghost Riders in the Sky."

Tita 10:34 AM  

Rats. A Saturday that I finished after a real struggle, but with no cheating, that Rex rates Med-Chall...but it turns put it's terrible.

Thank heavens for @lms and @alby to reconfirmed the really good stuff in the grid.

@NCA Irish cousin signed up for a semester abroad in the US...told her counselor she wanted to be in New England, to be near us. He inked in NE, so yes, she wound up in NEB.

Favorite smarty-pants wrong answer...hmmm for Idea starter...some of my best and/or dumbest ideas start that way.

At 38D said hmmm...didn't know that was catwomaN's alter ego...When I finally ripped that out, SIREN was obvious. that PPP is why it was so so tough (wow, did it make my brain hurt to squeeze those lyrics through the various dusty synapses to force HOUNDDOG out), but the great clues were great.

Thanks, Mr.Philips!

mac 10:41 AM  

Medium-Challenging here, but the last words to go in were in the NW. Moffat, eclairs were unknown to me,
Ray Kroc needed a few crosses.

I'm worried about David, too much fast foor with Ray Kroc, Hardee's and IHOP.

I liked some of the cluing, especially Red Cross.

James F 10:42 AM  

6 L's = CCC ?

Andrew M 10:51 AM  

As a huge fan of Sherlock I dropped in MOFFAT immediately and raced through 3/4 of the puzzle in 5 minutes (helped much by getting LIVERMORE off of LI-, because I am in fact a giant nerd who memorized the periodic table in college. So to answer Rex's question about who that clue is supposed to help: possibly only me). Then the SW put up a good fight until I parsed SHELLGAME, and intuited some of the weirdo answers. Well under average, but also got two bizarre gimmes. I guess I liked it well enough.

AliasZ 11:02 AM  

I pity the fool who by an unfortunate twist of fate becomes the cause of post-PB depression. Patrick Berry is "a hard act to follow" indeed, and this puzzle proves it.

I totally agree with @Rex that THE BIG BANG THEORY was not worth the additional column or the hard work to build a puzzle around it. Even more so when surrounded by NYE NYAH, DOER, APTTO, SCARERS, an arbitrary Roman numeral plus thirteen proper nouns, many of which are obscure names way beyond the expectation of recognition once filled from crossings. SHELL GAME and NO HARM DONE, TRIFOLD and ECLAIRS, TALL ONES and EROTICA and a few others worked hard to save this one from the trash heap, albeit not very successfully.

There are few words that set my teeth on edge more than BROMANCE [nails on blackboard]. Frenemy, Brangelina, Mao, Che and Idi come close.

Favorite word today: BATOR (Hun. bátor = brave, courageous, valiant -- a leftover from the Asian roots of Magyar tribes).

MOFFAT? A good excuse to introduce a pair of father-and-son baroque composers named MuFFAT:
Georg (1653-1704) and Gottlieb (1690-1770).

Enjoy your weekend.

Mike Rees 11:07 AM  

Finished this one about 25% over average time. Googled Sweeny Todd and read through it until I found the assistant, the rest was picked at and largely lucky-guessed at. I didn't have any of the complaints that @Rex did, I think Saturday puzzles are supposed to be hard and obscure and challenging, with just the right amount of dreck in them.

An enjoyable solve, mostly due to the challenge.

Nancy 11:15 AM  

Puzzles like this are the reason that the word ARCANA was such a gimme for me yesterday. Ugh! But I decided to listen to the person on this blog whom I consider perhaps the wisest voice: @Lewis. He has spoken about Googling in order to increase his enjoyment of a puzzle that is not enjoyable. So I decided to allow myself one Google (there were so, so many I might have chosen!) and picked 1A. And this one cheat enabled me to "complete" all but the SE to middle SE. (Well I did do an Atlas cheat on LIVERMORE, but I already had LIV - - - -RE.) So I still didn't finish, despite the two cheats.

I'm not going to mention all the ARCANA I hated. You know what those clues and answers are; you suffered through this nightmare too. Or did you? I'm so late 1)getting to this puzzle (I woke up late) and 2)working on this puzzle, that I haven't had a chance to read you all yet. I'll do it now. All I can say, though, is: If this were the kind of puzzle that appeared every day, I would have taken up a different hobby. Like underwater basket weaving.

Hartley70 11:16 AM  

After being urged by friends several years ago, I gave THEBIGBANGTHEORY a try for about 10 minutes and that was all I could stand. Absolute drivel. It was so memorable that while I knew the show referenced here, for the life of me I couldn't remember its name. Selective memory can be a good thing even though it made this puzzle much harder to solve.

My solve was much like Rex's except way slower of course. The last answers to fall were BATOR and COPYEDIT. I thought there were some lovely misdirects such as SHELLGAME and ECLAIRS and REDCROSS. I had MOFFAT, but THESIREN and OSBORN were new to me. LIVERMORE and BASINETS were ridiculous! Who knows that stuff? Saturday constructors who were science majors and like to go to medieval renactment fairs on the weekend when they're not binge watching THE BIGBANGTHEORY? AKA the perfect blind date.

Z 11:20 AM  

I put the puzzle down for an hour. Came back and put in pALe alES, which was enough to grok SHELL GAME, change BaTS to BLTS, see AGT which gave me BATOR and TALL boyS and OMELETTE and RED CROSS. Just a little clean up on TALL ONES and the P for PINTO/PIETISM and I was finally done. Tough, tough, tough SW corner.

Never grokked how six L's yielded CCC until I was reading the blog. Ugh to the three hundredth power. What? A little history is too obscure for a Saturday so we go cutesy RRN clues and answers? Ugh to the NTH.

PPP Analysis
Pop Culture, Product Names, and other Proper Nouns as a percentage of answers. When the percentage is 33% or a CUT ABOVE the puzzle is likely to play unfairly for some solvers

24/71, 34%
As Rex pointed out, the SW is blockaded by four PPP on the north side and two PPP in its NE corner. Fully one third (8 of 24) of the puzzle's PPP answers can be found in that corner. No wonder early comments are focused there.

The list, with an * indicating the PPP comes from the clue:

RED CROSS (the clue is good word play, so I almost didn't count this one)


Sonia S 11:26 AM  

LIVERMORE wasn't so bad when i thought about which California cities are likely to be names of weird elements that exist for a half second in a lab. Figured it had to be Berkeley or Livermore. I suppose someone might come up with something down at that Stanford place but that's not a city. Can't really imagine Paloaltium ever being a thing.

I buzzed my way through this one without too much anguish (for me), PIETISM notwithstanding, but SE was just one long kick in the delicates.

Sonia S 11:30 AM  

@Cleared2Land Man I wish awesome had been the type of sauce. That would have been ...

Nancy 11:37 AM  

@Kinyak (3:12 am) -- I had BaTS before BLTS, too. Keeping me from seeing SHELL GAME, one of the two great clues in this awful puzzle.

@John Child (8:38) --I agree with you that both ECLAIRS and NYE were terrible.

@Brett Hendrickson (9:05) -- A great RED CROSS clue alone doth not a good puzzle make.

@OISK (who hasn't posted yet.) Don't! Watch a baseball game. Watch a basketball game. Watch a tennis match. Watch the Masters golf tournament. But whatever you do, don't attempt this puzzle. You'll throw it across the room and you might break something.

r.alphbunker 11:44 AM  

I know one thing about Mongolia and that is Ulan Bator is its capital. So I guessed BATOR was the Mongolian word for hero.

I had heard of Livermore Labs, knew he was a scientist and guessed that the atomic element in the clue was hinting at that.

35D. {Dec. 31} EVE-->NYE
3D. {Circular} FLIER-->FLYER
16D. {Slight blemish} FLUFF-->SCUFF
18A. {Big name in fast food} RAYKOCH-->RAYKROC
45A. {Alternatives to clubs} BARS-->BATS-->BLTS
55D. {Inc. cousin} LLC LTD-->LLC
54A. {Some brewskis} TALLALES-->TALLONES
44D. {Tears apart} RENDS-->RIVES

And in case anyone is dying to know my journey through the grid.

Trombone Tom 12:07 PM  

Pretty much what @Rex said. I thought the cluing was clever.

I had no problem with LIVERMORE (grew up in Berkeley). MOFFAT AND PIETISM were WOE's.

Really liked the clue for RED CROSS.

My kids like to watch THE BIG BANG THEORY but it has never captured my fancy.

I think of "The Naked Maja" as good art, rather than EROTICA.

Andrew Heinegg 12:09 PM  

This is the worst possible kind of puzzle for moi. I just did not know some of the proper names, e.g., Moffat, Osborn But, more to the point, when I cannot finish a puzzle without cheating and then I think that the ungettable for me answers are dull as dirt, well, I wish I had done something else with my time.

old timer 12:15 PM  

Easiest answer for those of us of a certain age: HOUNDDOG. The NW is where I really messed up. Wrote in "hoax" instead of FAKE and "Myers" instead of OCALA, and did not know MOFFAT at all -- should have, I've seen the show and read reviews, but didn't. Had to Google for that one and then overwrite almost all the section. Oh, I also wrote in "phishing" before TROLLING.

Had to, um, *research* the Batman lady, too. Knew it was THE - something because I guessed THE BIG BANG THEORY pretty quickly and had HARDEE and SCARERS right off the bat. I thought the SW was actually the easiest part: BATOR seemed obvious to me, as was SHELLGAME, and just had to change "Ltd" to LLC to complete the section. I liked REDCROSS a lot. I kicked myself for not remembering BASINETS, but crosses helped there.

Jayhawkprof 12:27 PM  

I thought it'd be relative easy because I got "The Big Bang Theory" right off the bat. But I pleasantly slogged through it, and proud and satisfied (and gratified) that I finished. A big help was my guess for "hero" in Mongolian (Bator), which I got because we have a good friend in Ulan Bator. Now I just have to figure out what Ulan means!

Nancy 12:29 PM  

@Rex -- I love the term "no hope answer". It describes so succinctly the feelings that a puzzle such as this one elicits at every turn. I may want to borrow it in the future and I hope you won't mind. Just as I don't mind the fact that others have borrowed "after-the-fact theme" from me, which I THINK I coined. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, of course.

I skip M-W 12:41 PM  

What @ Glimmerglas said.

Tim Pierce 12:43 PM  

The reasoning for the clue at 13D: California city for which element #116 was named is pretty clear even if you don't know the California atlas or the periodic table by heart:

Element #116 is a high-numbered element, suggesting it's one of the radioactive elements, most of which are named in honor of great chemists or physicists. A radioactive element named after a California city... well, when I think "physics research" and "California," I think "Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory," which, well, there you go.

It wasn't a gimme for me, but once I got ----RMORE I saw where they were going with it. All of the pieces are there; you just have to apply a little everyday knowledge.

J. D. KaPow 12:50 PM  

It's rare that the first Saturday clue is a gimme, but that's what MOFFAT was for me, and presumably for anyone who follows "Doctor Who" as well as "Sherlock". Overall, found this one quite enjoyable.

Anonymous 1:09 PM  

CHANNELS for "remote possibilities"---hunh??

nick 1:30 PM  

Wordplay in this one -- hard and mostly fun. Trivia -- random and often ridiculous. I'm in accord with those who point out that peas are not shucked. Also, 'snits' doesn't equal 'dithers'. A wash in terms of enjoyment on this one.

GILL I. 1:30 PM  

Yes, brick by little cracked brick...and I'm a lousy mason. It took forever to build my enjoyable RED wall but I finally got her done. After lots of hard work and starting over and over, I enjoyed my work of art (EROTICA???.
I just always let out a loud groan when 1A starts with a name I don't know. BROMANCE was my first entry. Google is always my friend Mr. MOFFAT and Mr. OSBORN. I took my time and I'll get on @Glimmerglass' bandwagon (if I may) and say "I LIKED IT."
I thought the cluing was primo. The ONION and SHELLGAME were two of my favorites.
I always wanted to know why the HOUND DOG was no good.
Saw Sweeney Todd with Angela Lansbury in NYC millions of years ago but I remembered TOBIAS.
One Less Bell to Answer Ms MC COO....!

Doc John 1:31 PM  

Sorry you grew up in California (and even went to college there) and never heard of the famous nuclear laboratory at Livermore. I've heard that people like you existed.

Masked and Anonymous 1:39 PM  

EDO. Period.

For really neat ACPT pics, including @still009 without a hat and not workin on his essay, go to here:

The Big Bang Theory is not as bad as "Mutants", which is the DVD our film jury selected as part of the local FriNite Schlockfest. Wow, does that not say much for TBBT. Period.

Ulanless BATOR. Sadness.

@oldtimer: yep. "Hound Dog" was a friend of mine, too.
@James F.: Random Roman numeral math: VI x L = CCC. My fave desperate weeject, btw. Speakin of which …

This was a classic themelessthUmbsUp kinda grid, for the M&A. Mind-jarringly perfecto blend of Desperation and Sadism. PuzEatinSpouse and me and Mr. Wikipedia solved this sucker in a matter of nanoseconds*. Our stink eyes burned a hole thru the paper in only a few spots, which is pretty good, for a SatPuz.
Stink eye bullets:

* BASINETS/PIETISM. SE-hole at the cross in "I".
* EDOPERIOD+LIVERMORE. SE-hole (so … more of a trough) along the entire 9-stack. But, hey -- got em from crossers.
* MOFFAT/OCALA/fat fingers?/RAYKROC SE-gapin-hole in yer openin corner. Made it our *closin* corner. But, hey -- we did finish ok.

Masked & AnonymoUUs

* We only count each semi-jillionth nanosecond. Common practice, for desperate solveteams.


Z 1:39 PM  

Apparently, it is really Ulaanbaatar and the name means Red Hero. More importantly, it is located along the Tuul River (appearing soon in a gruntz puzzle near you).

@James F - just in case it hasn't dawned on you, yet, L is the Roman Numeral for 50, so six of them equal 300, or CCC in RRN speak.

Re: The central entry - I have friends who love it but I, too, have not lasted 10 minutes in my attempts to watcht. It seems there is no middle ground here.

puzzle hoarder 1:43 PM  

I wish I could have done this on paper because it was far easier than the last two days. Maybe I'm just getting the hang of using the phone but the top half went in one answer after another. I've never seen 36A but the title the nature of the clues' celebrities and having a few letters made it obvious. The problem was the phone wouldn't let me see the lower half. I'd sweep it up and briefly see a row or two and then it would snap back down like a broken window shade. When I did get it to stay put by keeping a finger on it it wouldn't respond touch to show the clues. It should have taken less than half the time it did. Now I see the blog rating it medium-challenging. Difficulty like taste is just too subjective to measure. This really hit home when I was pouring over yesterday's puzzle. I'm not really measuring the puzzle's difficulty so much as it's uniqueness. Today's puzzle was 28.36 overall. It had 9 Shortz era debuts! Two of them BTW were MOFFAT and OSBORN. Yesterday's puzzle had an overall of rating of 40.28. This is very misleading as the six 11 character entries that form the core have a combined rating of 1.66. Since 1 is as unique a rating as you can get that's pretty amazing, even with the 5 and 6 character entries that pad the center out to a diamond shape you're still at a score of 5.7. The four 8 character entries that pinwheel off the central diamond score a 1.75. The numerous 6 character entries that comprise the bulk of the corners were 11.9. The puzzle was like a bastion of uniqueness guarded by four redoubts of slightly less unique material. As Mr. Phillips mentioned in his comments it was going to be a tough act to follow. I think he did a great job of it. Anyway from now on my ratings will be referred to as uniqueness rating. They do have an overall rough correlation to the difficulty but it's always subjective.

Z 1:43 PM  

Anon1:09 - TV remotes give you the option to select between your 500 CHANNELS.

Lewis 2:23 PM  

Coming in so late it probably won't get posted till the nether hours (yesterday when I checked at 9:30ish p.m., the latest post had been sometime between 10 and 11 a.m.). While many have aired their issues with this puzzle already, I'd simply like to point out five spectacular clues that made me smile: Those for CHANNELS, COPYEDIT, BLTS, REDCROSS, AND FLYER.

ZenMonkey 2:32 PM  

Why is a puzzle objectively bad if the solver doesn't know the answers? MOFFAT was a gimme for me and many many people who love Sherlock and/or Doctor Who which he's also been running for years. His is a legit pop culture name and I was delighted to see it. Puzzles shouldn't be rated by how many clues were gimmes for the solver.

Penna Resident 2:54 PM  

you wanna know what really is a tough act to follow? the finale! and its also tough to follow the acrosses with that. omelette finally fixed that but im glad to see the difficult rating because i had to google osborn to finish.

also followed ralphbunkers bars-bats-blts. its tough when you 'fix' something like this and then you are sure you have it right the second time.

Masked and Anonymous 3:04 PM  

SCARERS. har. Now, that's what I'm talkin about.
N.Y.E. har2. BILLNEWYEARSEVE (15), the science guy. Whoa -- Masked celebs! Potential puztheme! I am so on it. [grubby mitts off, USA Today!]

Well, shucks: We used to shuck PEAs for Ma [hold the &], on the back steps. Corn ears, too. Work in OYSTER, and U got yerself a dandy mini-theme.

In-incorrect auto-correct correction: In first M&A msg, first stink-eye bullet: "cross in" should be "crossin". snort

Primo MOO clue. HARDEE har har.

[Scale-hands gesture] Masters golf tourney or TBBT reruns … Masters golf tourney or TBBT reruns ...


DigitalDan 3:38 PM  

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd -- probably Sondheim's most complex production. Toby turns out to be more or less the only survivor.

116 is a pretty big ATNO, which implies that the element was discovered relatively recently. That leaves out Lawrencium and Berkelium, leading more or less logically to Livermorium or whatever it is.

Air Carrier probably derives from the formal designation of telecommunications companies as "common carriers," which means they sell directly to the retail public, they transport signals or people, and are (were) subject to regulation by the government.

Rex, you are just not friends with the right kinds of nerds. The ones in TBBG turn out to have relatively broad interests and abilities, which often mirror those of the actors who play them. Oh, well, different strokes.

tb 3:54 PM  

@George Barany: This puzzle "...was also a welcome reminder of how much this blog has benefited by proactive measures to eliminate TROLLING" because he won't let us call you out on your self-aggrandizing, self-promoting, bloviating bullshit.

BTW, I also disliked this puzzle.

michael 3:59 PM  

I guess I am in the minority here I found this fairly easy for a Saturday and didn't find the clues/answers all that obscures. But unlike many, I like and do well with puzzles with lots of proper nouns. It helped that Livermore was easy for me after I got a few letters, that "Pietism" was in some remote corner of my brain, that I remembered "Osborn," and that I knew that Sheldon Whitehouse was a senator from Rhode Island. Took me too long to get "The Big Bang Theory" and here I am with Rex and the majority here in not getting why this show is so popular.

Took me quite a while to figure out why "remote possibilities" were "channels" but have to admit that it's a good Saturday clue.

Don't much like "scarers."

Anonymous 4:02 PM  

Average difficulty for me. The pop culture references were clued well enough to guess. E.g. Lorelei led directly to THE SIREN since I had already inferred THE and RE. Similarly, giving element 116 tells us easily that it's trans-uranic and the only possible relevant CA city is Livermore. That's really basic stuff. I didn't guess PIETISM until I figured out PINTO. Overall a pretty normal Saturday. Certainly nothing to carp about. I didn't even notice it was 16x16.

Chronic dnfer 5:43 PM  

Two dnf'd. Face/raycroc and paitism/basanets. I would call it a major victory. Closest I've ever come on a Saturday.

Sonia S 6:00 PM  

SCARERS somewhat redeemed for me because that's what the movie called them. Which beats HOLISM, a thing no human has ever written except in a crossword grid.

Joe Bleaux 6:34 PM  

Anyone: What is the meaning of PPP?

Z 8:41 PM  

@Joe Bleaux - see my 11:20 post today.

Mohair Sam 9:36 PM  

@Joe Bleaux - From @Z yesterday: "PPP Analysis Pop Culture, Product names, and Proper nouns as a percentage of answers. 33% or more and complaints will ensue."

The concept is a Z creation, he counts 'em up most days.

Unknown 10:08 PM  

Wow, for once I thought this was an easy puzzle. I expected Rex to totally complain that it wasn't worthy of a Saturday.

Moffat was a gimme for any dedicated Who/Sherlock fan. I am vindictively happy that so many here had trouble, after so many times reading this blog and seeing people say things like, "Oh, Bon Ami, a gimmee" and thinking -- that was no gimme! And then so many other nerd references to help us along: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., TBBT, Nth degree, trolling! OTC was another gimme that helped. Admittedly, the SE corner was a slog, but senator got us into it and we finished w/o cheating.

Anonymous 10:35 PM  

Joe Bleaux, see Z 11:20 AM for the explanation and analysis.

Techne 9:16 AM  

I second this. Big Bang Theory, Moffat (who was showrunner for Dr Who as well) and Livermore were fun low hanging fruit for the science type of nerd.

Joe Bleaux 9:42 AM  

Got it! Thank you.

Eliza Penn 7:25 PM  

I really enjoy this but I get a little sad because of all your sneers at older people .I am old and I am sick with advanced cancer and I don't much like being regarded as expendable in the world of cross words..Really couldn't you be a little less intolerant of people older than you are? I say this without rancor because you are so very good at this.

Anonymous 9:58 AM  

25 years bar business, TALLONES???
Tall Boys maybe.
TALL (cool) ONES are for Robert Plant

Anonymous 12:51 PM  

I still don't really know what an AIR CARRIER is or how it's a [Sky line]. [Looks it up] Well, look at that: it appears to be just another word for an airline.

the clue response is VAPOR TRAIL which indeed is created by the airplane which is operated by an AIR CARRIER - so YES - it is a tourtured and messy wind-up


spacecraft 11:00 AM  

Just enough gimmes (HOUNDDOG, THEBIGBANGTHEORY, MCCOO) to allow a finish. I should have also known OSBORN--I loved both the movie and the series--but had to be reminded. As for "Watch's partner," I can only say to DP: "Watch and LEARN. See yesterday's grid." Not a single abbr. Today? NEB OTC LLC BLTS and we haven't even come to the unbelievable stuff yet. CCC? SML??? NYE, for cryin' out loud????? Well, okay, as @M&A pointed out that one could have been clued via the science guy--and as such passed muster. But Dec. 31? Horrid.

Let's see, I'm at The Element Store. I think I'll have a slice of LIVERMORium. What? GONERS in 60 nanonanoseconds? Forget it. What good is a thing whose existence we can only prove by a particle trail? And the machine costs HOW many billion? Sorry, but I just don't see the upside.

For the DOD, we have THESIREN as played by Joan Collins. Enough to, um, ELONGATE...okay, we won't go there. And BTW, calling "The Naked Maja" EROTICA is ridiculous. Bogey.

rondo 11:46 AM  

Pretty much what you should expect in a Sat-puz. Biggest problem was down south where RendS instead of RIVES did not show me any EVIDENCE of EROTICA sitting on top of former Wisconsin SENATOR Gaylord NELSON. But some PIETISM was an unlikely helper. Solid Gold yeah baby Marilyn MCCOO was the only gimme down there.

The name’s not Croc, just call me Ray. The name’s not Croc, that’s Kroc with a K, like crocodile but not spelled that way. It’s dog eat dog and rat eat rat - Kroc style, boom, like that. – Mark Knopfler, “Boom, Like That”. Brilliant, just brilliant.

Too few know that HOUNDDOG (written by Leiber and Stoller) was first recorded by Big Mama Thornton years before Elvis made it a big hit.

There are all types of common carriers, of which an AIRCARRIER is just one. Allied Van Lines, Amtrak, Greyhound, even oil and gas pipelines are all common carriers. Don’t see why OFL carries on so.

So with a nice puz and comment completed, this afternoon I’ll try to relax with a few TALLONES, if they let me.

leftcoastTAM 3:10 PM  

Rex found this one "unpleasant." It was much worse for me.

The puzzle left me before I left it. Quit early because I would only have wasted time.

Let me lick my wounds, like an old HOUNDDOG.

rain forest 5:18 PM  

Bit of a toughie today. I started with the exact two entries that OFL did, and not knowing MOFFAT, I had to gradually get all the downs. Balked at ECLAIRS (never heard them called "fat fingers"), but I could see that AIR--- might be something in the sky.

CCC was cute, and a different take on the RRN. Since Berkelium is already a known element, it was just a bit of nudge to get LIVERMORE.

The bottom was much tougher, with your RIVES, PIETISM, SNITS (as clued), but the great clues for BLTS and RED CROSS had this one finishing with a BANG. At least that's my THEORY (don't much like the show, though).

Burma Shave 7:05 PM  


THESIREN said, “NOHARMDONE.” ,but of the FAKE EVIDENCE be leery.



BS2 7:06 PM  


TALLONES or short, you’ll LEARN sooner or later (you zero),

when you DOER for sport, you’re no master BATOR (hero).


leftcoastTAM 8:42 PM  


I apparently missed the final time cut yesterday, and I may again.

Essentially, I said that you're right-on in suggesting that your perspective from Canada may be different from those of us in the U.S. about racial/ethnic terms.

Diana,LIW 9:42 PM  

I've only done the NE corner - today was too busy. Had to take sweet kitty into the vet this am for mystery illness. Ergh!

Then we went to the rehearsal and show of Prairie Home Companion. When it reruns tomorrow you can hear all about Spokane. That's me, there in Rox AAA Seat 3, with hubby in Seat 2. His last show will be July 1, airing on July 2. (not live) Then ate at our fav small plates place. Elton Bishop was the guest musician. I was married on a Blues Cruise, so I knew hub would be happy with the music - he was.

Keillor was playing a crossword puzzle in one of his skits. After rehearsal he had Q&A time with the audience. I should have asked him if he was going to the Minn. Tourney.

Now - off to finish the puzzle.

Diana, Lady Who's Late

PS - Lady to Tower - Kathy - great news that you might join the little band of Syndies at the June 12 tournament.

Diana,LIW 11:10 PM  

Agree with Rex today. PPP - phllgghhhhg! Never saw BBT but got the clue...why? But others - ugh!

So - Cheat City. Some fun answers, on with the rest of my life.

Posted in the (near) future (Sunday) early.

Kitty is eating again. Yeah Quincy. Next to Mr. Waiting Q is my best bud.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for you tomorrow

Lisa H. 11:56 AM  

We have the same philosophy. It's not about the destination, it's about the JOURNEY

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