Liberal political activist Ralph / SAT 6-18-16 / Wendi ex-wife of Rupert Murdoch / Big comics character / Tavern assistant / application of democracy to love per HL Mencken

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Constructor: Todd Gross

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: squaresville (actually, none, I think) 

Word of the Day: RUNAGATES (3D: Fugitives) —
1. A renegade or deserter.
2. A vagabond.

[Alteration of obsolete renegate, renegade (influenced by run and agate, on the way), from Middle English, from Medieval Latin renegātus; see renegade.] (
• • •

Yipes. 45 black squares is ... a lot. I'm gonna say "too many" (esp. on a Saturday). The weird floating-square pattern is not without its charm, visually, but from a solving standpoint, that swiss-cheesiness just seems like a cop-out. Give me back my Saturday white spaces! (which sounds vaguely racist, but ... you know what I mean). The fill was highly uneven and frequently ugly. So ... many ... VANESSAS. Long name plurals always seem ridiculous to me. If only we could've paired the VANESSAS with a [Sergio et al.] clue for the equally-not-good LEONES. Just look at all the plurals and otherwise "S"-ending words. I mean, how many NOONS do you need? Note how the "SS" in VANESSAS and the "SS" in HARASSES are both positioned to give us "S"-ending Downs. ITERS, god, no, make it stop (44D: Things that lead to Rome?). That one's bad enough in the singular. CLI!? Come on. And who in the what in the who is NEAS??? (29D: Liberal political activist Ralph). That's just bonkers. If that were anybody, anybody crossworthy, we'd've seen him in Countless puzzles by now. According to wikipedia, "Ralph Neas (born May, 17, 1946 in Brookline, Massachusetts) is former President and CEO of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA), a Washington, D.C.-based trade association, representing generic drug makers and suppliers." What is happening?!?! Who? Ah, here we go:
From 1981 through 1995, he served as Executive Director of the nonpartisan Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR).[5] At LCCR, Neas directed national civil rights campaigns including the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988, the 1988 Fair Housing Act Amendments, the Japanese American Civil Liberties Act of 1988, and the 1982 Voting Rights Act Extension. Senator Edward Kennedy, in a 1995 Senate floor statement, described Neas as the "101st Senator for Civil Rights.
I'm sure he's a nice guy, but in a puzzle already glutted with obscuritude, and crossing the godawful LEONES, no. It's like the grid was built to accommodate a few decent longer answers, but literally nothing else. Honestly, this thing should be torn down all the way to its bones (i.e. the grid-spanners) and rebuilt. And that's only if you accept the grid design as it is, which I'm not sure I do.

This puzzle was 3/4 pretty easy and 1/4 insane—that quarter being the NW corner. The BAR part of BARBACK was easy (1A: Tavern assistant), but the rest, less so, especially considering that with __T in place at 5D: Part of the conjugation for "avoir," and *knowing French*, I went with the clear choice ... ONT. Third person plural present indicative. . . But no. Too common, I guess, because the puzzle went with third person singular present *subjunctive* AIT (hey, puzzle, you know that's an island in a stream, right? ... that is what that is). Ugh. AIT. But the big ugh, the queen bee ugh in that section, was 3D: Fugitives (RUNAGATES). It's like someone shouting at his marbles: Flee, marbles, flee!!! I have never seen that word in my life. Reaction on Twitter from serious solvers is so far similar. Run ... run ... where are we running ... somewhere ... but where? I'm guessing that a not insignificant number of people will solve this thing right down to the DENG / RUNAGATES crossing and then, just, die. Or guess, I guess. That crossing is death. Also, completely unpleasant. Luckily, I remembered that the ex Mrs. Murdoch was Asian, otherwise, lord knows what letter I'd've gone with instead of the "G."

AMII? (38D: ___ Stewart, singer of the 1979 #1 hit "Knock on Wood"). Wow. That's how you spell that? I knew it was a weird spelling of "Amy," but I didn't know it was Insane Latin Plural-looking weird. ENSE! Why won't that horrible motto part die? I'm gonna let this one go now. The only thing pleasant I'm taking away from it is the nonsense phrase "BARBACK Obama," which I hope someone turns into a wacky theme answer right quick.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. OMG, AIT is *literally* "(an island) in the stream" (i.e. it crosses the STREAM of MAINSTREAM MEDIA). How in the world do you give it the stupid French subjunctive clue, aargh?!

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


eveostay 12:04 AM  

Also, the plural of iter is "itinera".

jae 12:06 AM  

Medium for me and a tad scary as ANANDA, RUNAGATES, NEAS, and AMII were all WOES and all involved iffy letter sequences. Fortunately, I was pretty sure of Wendi DENG, LEONES, and AMEN so I guessed right and finished.

Interesting grid, some fine 15s, a fair amount of crunch, liked it more than Rex did.

Anonymous 12:19 AM  

If the way you get a 60 word puzzle is to have 20% black squares, don't have a 60 word puzzle.

Loren Muse Smith 1:11 AM  

Rex - you nailed it - "I'm guessing that a not insignificant number of people will solve this thing right down to the DENG / RUNAGATES crossing and then, just, die." Yup. I died there. And I didn't guess, but had I, I don't think I would've considered a G.

I also didn't guess at the LEONES/NEAS cross. I or Y could've worked there, too.

I did put AIT right in, not realizing that it was subjunctive. But it was off "bar maid."

I had a devil of a time solving this. First entry was LYIN. Yay for a new way to clue that one. Pretty soon after that, I put in "lymphatic system." Bet I'm not alone there.

I also was going with some kind of "_ _ race" ( and hence "Amai" Stewart) for MR AMERICA. I even considered "aroma race." Seriously. And so coming down, I put in "Amenra" for the Buddha disciple. Heck. There's so much I don't know about world religions, I thought maybe China had poached a few guys from ancient Egypt.

And I noticed the anagrammatical cross of NOEL/ONE L.

TATER TOTs are the world's second-most perfect food. I had no idea that's how the package says to cook them. I dump the entire bag on the cookie sheet and then start reaching in to taste test after about 5 minutes. Yes. I eat some that're still frozen in the middle; they're that good, and I'm that excited about them.

I loved the clue/answer ATTENTION GETTER. Man oh man, that's fun to think about. Last year I almost filled my Windex bottle in class with blue Gatorade. My plan was to be talking and start acting like I had a scratch in my throat. I was going to let it progress until I vaguely looked around for my water bottle. Then I was going to act desperate and open the Windex and start drinking. Then I overthought it and decided not to. (But I am going to fill a small mayonnaise jar with greek yoghurt next year…)

I got a kick out of all the floating squares. Really cool grid, Todd.

Loren Muse Smith 1:26 AM  

From yesterday -

@jberg – Your doctor sounds like a good one, but if he always ran late, why didn't they take that into account when scheduling? I walked out of a dermatologist's office once– right out of the room with the posters and paper-covered bed thingy where I had waited for over an hour– and he chased me out to the parking lot. My heart sang. I did a "talk to the paw" gesture and drove away.

And, fwiw, if at any point someone had looked in to let me know that he was running late and why, I would've happily sat there longer.

@Jamie C - I checked to make sure I had spelled TEBOW correctly in the grid. I mispelled it in my commment.

@Hartley 70. Just so you know, I'm making KIT KAT brownies today to take to a party. (Now that was just mean of me.)

Anonymous 1:31 AM  

RUNAGATES: unacceptably terrible, ridiculously obscure, and just lazy, lazy, lazy. Yes, trivial to get from crosses, but just a terrible, terrible word in a puzzle.

Note to self: Prepare for the hordes of Rex readers who will tell everyone how they "know" runagates. Hence: an anonymous response.

George Barany 1:32 AM  

Today's puzzle by my friend @Todd Gross had me flummoxed in essentially the same places already highlighted by @Rex's review, though I somehow was able to retrieve Wendi DENG's name from mid-term memory--she is rumored to be currently dating Vladimir Putin, even as her ex, Rupert Murdoch, recently married MIck Jagger's ex Jerry Hall.

On the other hand, I couldn't imagine a Roman numeral V being pluralized in a film title, no matter how far into the chain of sequels it might be. Then, there was the Latin-looking AMII, crossing an undecipherable (to me) clue for AMEN. Still, there was much to enjoy during the half hour that I had set aside ahead of clicking on "check" and "reveal"--and it was certainly a pleasure to learn about the illustrious career of Ralph NEAS.

To those Rex-ites who are interested in an additional challenge from @Todd, try Rock Around The Clock, a Sunday-sized themed puzzle that we hope you'll find amusing. There is at least one three-letter word in common with today's New York Times offering--see if you can find it.

I skip M-W 4:17 AM  

For once, @Rex, I'm entirely with you, except I'd rate it challenging. I was sleepy, but it still took incredibly long, I was pretty sure of Ralph Neas, because a few years ago I wrote him a letter (snail mail) that he never answered. Still "Neas" went in and out as I tried to make sense of the rest. Tiki bar? Luau bar? Etc.

da kine 6:20 AM  

I solved in in Thursday time despite having no idea about AIT or RUNAGATES. Those are terrible. I don't mind the false plurals since they at least make sense. ITERS is really bad, too, since the plural is ITINERA, right?

Glimmerglass 7:03 AM  

@Rex's comment is spot on: 3/4 easy, 1/4 nuts. I spent 90% of my time trying to make ReNAGAdES cross ALLUSION and STAY, both of which were clearly correct. No idea about Mrs. Murdock. I finally decided we had some kind of portmanteau word and just guessed the G in DENG (left over from renaGades. The crazy blotches were visually interesting, but I was a bit disappointed there was no point to them.

Anonymous 7:09 AM  

Points for effort, but mostly what you said.

JimD 8:10 AM  

Yep. Deng/Runagates killed my grid. Since I did it on the Acrosslite app and G was the last letter I just ran the letters and voila. Blech.

Jacob Roth 8:13 AM  

Somebody is going to have to explain to me why the currency of a West African country is so terrible. I really do not understand that at all.

I really don't understand any of the value judgements Rex makes most of the time. To me a clue or answer is only bad if it's an unforgivable stretch (or if it's just flat wrong; I don't see it anymore, but they used to clue SSG as "Marine Corps NCO" which is wrong, the Marine Corps Staff Sergeant is SSGT). But official currencies? Names of people? Why is it acceptable to pluralize short names but not long ones? It all seems very arbitrary to me.

And if you didn't know RUNAGATES before, well now you do. Can't you take pleasure in learning something? Must the puzzle always cater to your existing knowledge base?

Aketi 8:22 AM  

Gosh DENG that RUNAGATE for making me think there was something wrong with my CRANIUM or possibly that today's puzzle featured some weird letter swap.

I suppose I really am going to have to study furniture that doesn't come from IKEA if I'm ever going to get answers like BARBACK and that Scottiish guy that everyone else knew made furniture, His first name has akready been relegated to the F(orgotten)FC bin in my brain as "not Barney Fife"'.

My French may have saved me with AIT, but the time I spent in West Africa did not help me with LEONES. I literally went through every country I had visited in West Africa trying to remember if I used some currency other than the Central African Franc and I came up with nothing, It was only when I had enough downs that I saw a lion emerging and remembered Sierra Leone. Stil, it was not quite as bad as wandering around in upstate New York for an answer. Thankfully my son has saved me from actually wandering around lost in upstate New York on college tours with his expertise in using Siri. He is the only person I know that can successfully use VOICE COMMAND.

ALIENVSPREDATOR really helped me out. Who knew that watching bad scifi movies would help with crosswords?

@hartley70, thanks for the update on Nancy yesterday. I'll have to invite her for a drink at the boat house to help her recuperate.

Donkos 8:30 AM  

After finishing, I just stared at runagates and asked, what the heck is that, how can that be a word? I initially had roads but when I realized it was "iters" I gagged. Does iters mean road or was it the name of a road? Also, Latin doesn't use "s" for plurals so I wanted "iteri"

Dorothy Biggs 8:53 AM  

With the same energy that Rex dissected this puzzle, like buck many problems, where to begin?...after I finished I was befuddled, at sea, speechless. Not one, not two, but at least three spots that were just crazy.

DENG is one of them (DENt, anyone?), PARSEC, SPELMAN/MRAMERICA, LEONES/NEAS. Okay, four spots.

All the plurals and RRNs and now, evidently, not only do we need to know random French words, but how to conjugate random verb forms.

Hey, it's very possible my anger toward this thing is because I got a bit smug by throwing in some of those long crossings (ATTENTIONGETTER and ENDOCRINESYSTEM) almost immediately. I figured this would be romp with all those boxes filled in. Boy was I wrong. I got to the end with 90% of the grid filled and was completely stopped at those spots mentioned above.

And I realize it's a Saturday...the kingpin of challenging days...the reason people fear the NYT puzzles...but seriously. How in the utter f*ck are we supposed to know PARSEC, NEAS, RUNAGATES, and DENG all in the same puzzle...and without a fair shot at even inferring them?

Yesterday I posted about my love of puzzles and why I do them in spite of not liking some of them. This one challenged by doing them at all ever again. In fairness my MRAMERICA-like reactions to puzzles like these doesn't happen often. But when it, it sucks.

I'm even looking forward to the Sunday puzzle now...which really says a lot about this puzzle.

Kathy 9:05 AM  

Ugh! I finally did a reveal answer on VANESSAS. I was pretty sure of DENG, but totally refused to believe that RUNAGATES was a word, and had never heard of the movie. Still don't believe anyone actually uses it. Ditto BARBACK. WTF?

Had lAkE before EAVE (that was the only error on my one reveal errors), I was thinking about melting glaciers. We don't have such problems in central NC.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 9:20 AM  

I thought the look of the puzzle, unfilled-in, was really striking. The fill, not so pretty. But I often don't finish Saturdays, they're a busy working day for me.

pmdm 9:37 AM  


I get the Sunday Magazine delivered on Saturdays, which is when I do the Sunday crossword. Be aware that there are problems with the presentation in some of the solving formats. So if you do solve solve the print version, make sure to look at the PDF version regardless of the format you like to solve in.

To say any more might be considered a spoiler, though I really don't think so..

kitshef 9:41 AM  

DNF at, yes, DENt/RUNAtATES. But the RB in BARBACK were uncertain (though logical) guesses, as I've never heard of that, either.

Way prefer AIT as clued to the stupid island clue. And completely agree with @Jacob Roth that world currencies are fair game.

Loved the look of the grid, and the struggle to get through it. Thought I might have a major, 10+ square DNF until MRAMERICA unlocked the bottom half. If I were to go on a rant about anything in the puzzle, it would be the odious "You ain't LYIN'".

Felt like a lot of double letters. I wonder if anyone counted them?

Anonymous 10:00 AM  

Thought Sam and Dave made the song a hit.

JD 10:00 AM  

There are so many clues you could use for missile, and spitball is an gratuitously difficult one for it unless you are or once were a 10-year-old boy. Use runagates in a sentence, "Thelma, did they catch them runagates yet?" Eld? CLI? Ait? There were some wonderful things here, but the dumb stuff ruined the overall solving experience for me.

Oscar Madison 10:03 AM  

Sorry, but the clue for "LLD" is wrong. Law profs got LLBs before the early 1970s (the predecessor to the modern JDs) for graduating law school. LLD is an honorary doctorate conferred by any university on any person it chooses to honor. Law profs are no more likely to get an LLD than anyone else.

Tim Pierce 10:06 AM  

I indeed DNF at the RUNAGATES/DENG cross. A bit heartened to find that this is not one of those Olde Crossworde Clews that everyone and their uncle knows but which I missed out on in the Margaret Farrar years.

While RUNAGATES killed me in the NW, I found the SE overall way more of a challenge, with:


all LYIN in wait to trip me up.

By comparison, LEONES didn't feel so bad -- I'm not at all familiar with the currencies of African countries in general, but knowing that Sierra LEONE is a West African country meant that as that clue came together, it was guessable.

I liked it for a puzzle on the easy side of a Saturday, and I don't mind giving up some wide open white space for a dynamic grid. The long answers are gorgeous, and I daresay would be getting high praise from Rex on any other day.

Teedmn 10:07 AM  

Loved the look of this grid when I saw it come off my printer. Square planets circling a square sun, gotta love it.

After spending some mental time trying to "stretch" the grid at 28A to fit "spandex", I got a chuckle when INNING appeared.

The AMEN/AMII/ANANDA tri-cross was solved by a Hail Mary run of the alphabet as I have neither asked nor been asked for an AMEN before.

And a DNF at BAR jACK which was BAR mAid for so long.

So not a classic Saturday puzzle but welcome just the same.

jre 10:14 AM  

to make it all a little better: trippy video of Amii Stewart

Anonymous 10:29 AM  


John V 10:35 AM  

What @Rex said.

Glimmerglass 10:38 AM  

&Donkos: Actually, the Latin plural is itinera, but you are correct that ITERS is bogus. The root, however, is in lots of English words (iterate, itinerary).

Ω 10:44 AM  

Not much to say about the puzzle. Visually the grid is attractive, but I guess the "Ooh, this looks interesting" raised my expectations to a point the actual solve couldn't meet. As Rex and others have pointed out, my last letter in was a coin flip between T and G. DENG seemed to tickle a deep recess in the memory banks, so a correct finish. Woo Hoo!

I do like the ADULTERY clue. I didn't realize sinning could be so patriotic. Explains a lot about the current state of our politics.

@anon1:31 - Hmm... Why do you care if others know something you didn't? Seriously. I was truly amazed the other day when so many people knew Duncan Phyfe. It happens.

BTW - Any truth to the rumor I'm starting that IKEA is launching its Duncan Phyfe Collection this ÉTÉ?

PPP Analysis
Pop Culture, Priduct Names, and Proper Nouns as a percentage of the answers. One star for "musty," two for "ephemeral."

18/60 for 30% - nearing the danger zone.


ALIEN VS. PREDATOR (what is it about truly bad schlock that makes it timeless? No Stars because I predict this will be remembered for decades. Lesson - if your making bad art, make it truly bad art)
OHM'S law
Big NATE**
Ralph NEAS**
NOVELETTE (as clued - and what is the difference between a NOVELETTE and a Novella?)
AMII** Stewart

Nothing overly musty (lots here that I consider classic or canonical, not musty), but quite a bit that is of the moment.

Charles Flaster 10:56 AM  

Agree with Rex review but I still enjoyed the challenge.
Finished in two twenty minute sessions but only because I somehow saw LOIS LANE this morning.
Many write overs totally impeding any progress-- RUNAGATES(?) for ReNeGAdES, PARSEC for PulSar, ALL IS LOST for ALL IS gOnE, and ADULTERY for flatTERY.
Although there were many obscure answers I enjoyed sussing them and it was a fine puzzle.
Thanks TG.

Carola 10:56 AM  

Yeah. I "remembered" Wendy DENt, so allowed myself to think that RUNAtATES made sense. Wish I'd considered a G - it's a nifty word. Kind of nice that the RUNAGATES are at cross purposes with STAY>

There were very few entries I knew right off: ALLUSION, BLAKE, ONEL, EAVE, ETE, and PARSEC, the last thanks to Star Wars: the Millenium Falcon did the Kessel Run in 12 of them. (See also: Clue 19A: "We're doomed! - C-3PO ALLUSION!).

Why can't I ever remember: ___ Law = OHMS

Anyway, lots of head scratching over this one. I enjoyed the battle of wits.

Mohair Sam 10:58 AM  

So we finished this baby as quickly as we ever finish a Saturday, coffee still remaining in the cups. Then this genius noticed a word spelled RUNAGATES and decided we couldn't be done. I also decided that "allude" (which I use all the time) did not have to be literary only, and we have no clue who Murdoch may have married. The only constant was there could be no RUNAGATES. So we invented "renanates", and "allesion", and a big fat DNF.

Yup, there were two Saturday quality natick traps in this one (NEAS/LEONES being the other - we sussed LEONES) - but they didn't make us mad as they did Rex - it is a Saturday, and it is gonna test your deep, deep knowledge. I'm going to agree with OFL on the plural clues for VANESSAS and NOONS however, strained to say the least. Also mumbling along with him about AIT and BARBACK.

Anybody else waste time running through super females before reversing direction to LOIS? LED bulbs preferable to CFL's don't you think? Not much of a poetry guy, but Blake's "Tyger! Tyger" has always stuck with me.

Unknown 11:04 AM  

"Runagate Runagate" is a poem about escaped slaves and the underground railroad. It was required reading when I was in school.

old timer 11:08 AM  

VANESSAS was a total guess. I looked up VANESSA Hudgens afterward, and her Wiki entry states she is a "household name". Not in my houshold!

I don't know how you can rate a puzzle as Easy when it has RUNAGATES and DENG. I ended up Googling for the Murdoch wife, that's how I got it. Googled for NEAS too. But in retrospect I should have guessed INNING and if I had, LEONES would have become clear.

However, TANDEM rig was impossible for me. DNF in that corner. Apparently it's a fishing thing. The only TANDEMS I ever heard of were bikes.

Unknown 11:14 AM  

Jacob Roth said

"And if you didn't know RUNAGATES before, well now you do. Can't you take pleasure in learning something? Must the puzzle always cater to your existing knowledge base?"

Can I get an "Amen!"?

jberg 11:23 AM  

DNF, because even after I ran the alphabet I didn't believe RUNAGATES could be right. Probably latent ethnocentricity, as DENG had not occurred to me -- I was focusing on DENt or DENn. At least, I'm glad to have @Rex confirm that I am 'not insignificant.'

Enough people already have complained about the English plural of the Latin ITER (like @Donkos, I started with ITERi -- haven't taken Latin since 1964, so I'd forgotten the correct ending).

So let me turn to LLDS -- that's strictly an honorary degree (the advanced degree in law is the LlM). I guess you could list in in your resume (too tired to go to character map for the accents today), but more likely there's be an "honorary degrees" section where you just list the institutions that have given one to you. (I've never had to solve this problem, so I'm not sure.)

I really, really wanted the big black squares to have some hidden meaning. Maybe they do, but if so no one seems to have discerned it yet.

Off to the pet shop -- they're having a big sale on CORALS today.

GILL I. 11:29 AM  

Trivia, lots of TRIVIA and BARmaid and "Can I get an A PAT" and all the complaints about RUNAGATE and sh** names like DENG AMII NEAS.
What's this en Espanol is que es esto. TATER TOTS will always remind me of my next door neighbor and his fixation on those things. We could hear him yelling at his wife for burning a couple of them. He also used to kick his dog.
I guess I should be proud of the answers I did get even though I had to work the arse off. I liked getting ST PETE first thing and MR AMERICA. I don't like nor understand nor care that GUN is the answer to "on making a report."

Masked and Anonymous 11:36 AM  

Well, shoot. Maybe Mr. Gross was goin after the NYTPuz record for "fewest black blocks", which he wins, on a technicality. I count 13 black blocks. Congratz.

This played pretty hard with my head. M&A was blocked at every turn. Pretty much the same probs that the early-riser commenters had. Can't help but sit back and admire the DENG-LLDS-CLI row, for its continuity of desperation.

@indieWHA009: BARBACK Obama. har. I musta tried a record number (AIT or nine, at least) of BARthings out. Had RENAGADES at 3-Down, cuz it was somethin I had heard of before; and I can't spell worth a snot.

Thanx, Mr. Gross. Liked yer "different" grid look. I now refer to them as gross blocks.

Masked & Anonymo3Us

p.s. Gonna go on vacation, for a spell.

Phil 11:38 AM  

Rex was right though I failed in not sussing out the ALLUSION which was doable.

Unfortunately barback meant nothing to me especially since BARjoCK seems to be a fit and JRS had enough undergrad sense to hang me and make me erase my BaS.

Plus the obvious agreeable crossing with onT.

Just a killer but an ALLUSION should have got me there.

AZPETE 11:44 AM  

Left a bad taste in my mouth!

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

Knew who Wendi Deng is, but otherwise the cluing for this puzzle borders on, or crosses over into, idiotic. AMII? Really? When you solve that, you go "what the ****?!" I'm pretty good at French, but the word "ait" (third person singular subjunctive of "to have," i.e., she/he would have, is really pretty far-fetched. And the word "runagates," which many modern on-line dictionaries do not have, gave me my second "what the f***?!"- I kept thinking they meant "renegades" and that I would have to change "allusion," etc. And what the HELL is a "barback"? Where has that word ever been used in any familiar literature? And crossing it with a non-island-in-a-stream "ait"? INEXCUSABLE.

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

Consecutive personal bests! Friday was 7:30 below average, today was a full 12:30 below average.

What is going on here? Some mid-summer gifts from NYT?

Aketi 12:00 PM  

@Jacob Roth, some people get as much enjoyment out of critiquing as others do from praising. Both can, in the right context be helpful to leaning.

Since you seem to like African currency of course I couldn't help making a list of all of them. (TMI alert for those of you who want to FFC LEONE and others)

Most countries have adapted currency names from other mostly western countries.
18 counties use the CFA franc, 6 countries use francs specific to their own country, 3 counties use their own dollars,, 3 use their own pounds, 2 use their own rupees and 2 use their own dinars.

LEONE, like the old ZAIRE at least enables you to guess based on the country.

The unique currencies are:
Angola: Kwanza
Botswana: Pula
Cape Verde: Cape Verdian Escudo
Ethiopia: Nakfa
Gambia: Dalasi
Ghana: Ghanaian Cedi
Lesotho: Loti
Madagascar: Malagasay Ariary
Malawi:Malawian Kwatcha
Mauritania: Ouguiya
Morocco: Moroccan Dirham
Mozambique: Mozambiquan Metical
Nigeria: Naira
São Tomé & Príncipe: Dobra
South Africa: Rand

I only knew three on the above list. Whe I enjoy knowing that I can look these up, I'm not sure I would enjoy committing all if these t my already cluttered memory banks.

nick 12:09 PM  

Between the subjunctive of 'avoir' and being asked to know anything about Rupert's personal life, this one lost me. 'Ran the gates' however, I never heard before but kinda love knowing.

Ω 12:21 PM  

@Joseph Welling - RUNAGATE RUNAGATE - It seems a worthy read to me.

"Priduct Name?" And I even previewed. Gah!

LLD is not wrong. It seems like we had this argument before.

@Jacob Roth - My biggest issue with LEONES is the POC - which is what Rex seems to be writing about. I'd go further than just the POC issue and say that I like difficulty from word play more than difficulty from obscurity. So INNING is made better by the clue. LEONES is just an obscure currency, trivial trivia.

Anoa Bob 12:23 PM  

Huh? 45 black squares? I thought there had to be some justification, some connection, for such a big block party, so to speak, maybe a tribute to Rene Magritte, or some such. Or maybe it's just clumps of RUNAGATES.

The old POCometer has been in sleep mode for a couple of months now. It was beginning to look like the xword ess-fest epidemic had abated and I thought I might just as well unplug it and put it in mothballs. But it sprang back to life today, with the likes of BSS, LLDS, ITERS, LEONES, and all the rest. The meter needle was hovering between "POC Assisted" and "POC Marked".

Ananda ait, eld parsec ense cli. Esta ete amii onel neas. Amen.

Lewis 12:25 PM  

@rex -- I agreed with you 100% today and loved how you said it.
@m&A - Have a good trip!

This was just... quirky. That wild looking -- cool looking, actually -- grid. The handful of obscure answers: RUNAGATES, DENG, SPELMAN, ANANDA, ELD. (Does ANANDA reduce to ANA, that is, AN AND A?) I did like the clues for INNING, MENU, and EYECHART. For "_____ a one" I wanted AND (I was thinking Lawrence Welk). The puzzle was easier for me than yesterday, but it always feels good to complete a Saturday, though I must admit I guessed at the G in the DENG/RUNAGATES cross, but it was an educated guess!

My heart is saying it's too early to see the word GUN after Orlando, though I know this puzzle was in the works long before that...

Anonymous 12:37 PM  

Agree with everything, but must add that I am mighty tired of college degrees and "onels".
Maybe if someone cited a course for twols or threels there would be some humor to appreciate.
And now to cop to being over sixty, I ask: ou sont les "piano tunas" et "brother's kippers" d'antan?

Anonymous 1:07 PM  

Ditto, @JosephWelling -- I was familiar with RUNAGATE from Robert Hayden's "Runagate Runagate," a great poem about the deep historical trauma of slavery. Frankly, encountering a term that has those associations with such a dark chapter in history (Fugitive Slave Act, violent control and trade of human beings, etc) in an otherwise cheerful crossword puzzle left a bad taste in my mouth.

Andrew Heinegg 1:16 PM  

I thought this was mostly easy but for the nw, which gave me a dnf. Overall, I did not care for it because of a number of answers- bar back, par sec, Leones, rungates, etc. even though I got most of them. My spellchecker forced me into a wrestling match for rungates just to put it down here.

I do have to disagree with the statements by a few of the bloggers about the Lld business. Lld is still an advanced degree after law school such as the Lld given by NYU for taxation.

Perhaps the saving grace of the puzzle is the adultery answer for 54a. Cute.

Unknown 1:16 PM  

GILL.I said

"What's this en Espanol is que es esto."

Re-read the clue as: What's "this" in Spanish? . . .meaning, "What is the Spanish word for this?"

dumbnose 1:17 PM  

Yup, solved it right down to the Deng / Runagates cross, and then just stared.

Also, the plural of iter is not iters. Grrr.

kitshef 1:42 PM  

To add to what @Jacob Roth said, two weeks ago ONEL was a WoE for me. Today, it went right in with no crosses.

Of course, ONEL's gotta be real tempting for a constructor and I expected to see it again. RUNAGATES, not so much.

Unknown 2:10 PM  

I will grudgingly accept anglicized plurals for words that are in common use but ITERS is simply an abomination.

Pete 2:11 PM  

I'm all for gender parity in puzzles, but not so much with having DENG in this one. While she had some business success her fame, and specifically with the clue, lies mainly in bedding / wedding famous men, and apparently not always bedding the one to whom she's wed. Loul DENG is probably no less obscure than Ms Deng, and at least his accomplishments were his and not his spouse's.

If the DENG entry were chosen just to balance out the male/female entries in the puzzle, I would submit that clueing a woman simply by the man she married does women no favor.

Michael 2:13 PM  

I went through this puzzle very quickly and even knew Wendi Deng. And Neas was at the very edge of my brain (especially because leones looked plausible). But then I came to a complete stop in the same places as a lot of other people. Amii! barback! and runagates (which I got and thought couldn't possibly be right after reluctantly abandoning renegade)

Michael 2:14 PM  

I forgot to mention that I always missed "ait." I don't know if this clue is fair or not. If it were the equivalent construction in Spanish, I would have known it.

Lobster11 2:50 PM  

Close but DNF for me, for the same reasons cited by Rex and many others. I've got nothing else to add other than to say that I thought today's Word of the Day wasn't in the puzzle, but rather in OFL's writeup: "obscuritude."

Yet, despite finding the puzzle frustrating and (IHMO) unfair in places, I have to say that I mostly enjoyed it. After several days of really miserable weather, this morning was perfect -- cool, dry, and sunny -- so I was perfectly happy to sit out on the deck to work on it for however long it was gonna take. In fact, later in the morning I went back out and did the Todd Gross puzzle linked by @George Baranby above. Thanks, George!

Unknown 3:01 PM  

Yup. I died too at the DENG/RUNAGATES crossing

cwf 3:05 PM  

I will remember this Natick as "RUNAGATEgate"

OISK 3:07 PM  

Add me to the folks who DNF on Deng. Dang! I really don't mind the appearance of a new (to me) word like runagates, (obscure enough that the spellcheck keeps trying to fix it...) but I really object to the use of DENG as clued, crossing it. Ex-wife of Murdock??? When it could be clued "Leader after Mao." In that case, with DEN__, I think many people could have gotten it. There is just no excuse for crossing an obscure word with an obscure semi-celebrity. There were other things not to like, like AMII, and Barback, and NEAS, (while I did not mind Leones)

I don't like this puzzle, but a DNF because I did not know an actual English word is a lot less annoying than last week's DNF because I did not know a character called "General something" from a movie. At least this time, I learned something of value. ( Yes, I value an improved vocabulary over an improved recollection of movie characters...) But Wendy Deng????

Anonymous 3:23 PM  

Lady Capulet refers to Romeo as a "runagate" while plotting to have him poisoned for killing Tybalt.

Anonymous 5:11 PM  

I count eight cheater squares. Really good looking grid.

madsymo 5:27 PM  

The grid evokes a soccer ball pattern. With both Europe and the Americas holding separate football tournaments (France and USA, hosting) it is apropos.

Unknown 5:43 PM  

I don't mind the English plural for ITERS nearly as much as I mind using ITER at all. The normal Latin word for "road" is VIA (plural is VIAE). ITER is at least arguably crosswordese.

Anoa Bob 7:22 PM  

I'm surprised so many are unfamiliar with BARBACK. It's someone who keeps the beer, wine and spirits stocked, replaces empty beer kegs, dumps trash, washes glasses, mugs, etc. Kinda like a busboy. I first heard the term in the '70s when I was slinging drinks. I never had one. It was just me behind the bar trying to keep a bunch of drunks on the other side happy.

Anonymous 8:14 PM  

I'm with you. I frequently find myself particularly enjoying the puzzles Rex hates while finding his favorites frustrating and unsatisfying. Yesterday's ESPN RADIO was one of the last clues I sussed out as a non-jock, and "bread at a store" for ATM INSIDE?? Are you kidding me?? I didn't even figure out I wasn't looking at some strange French-origin term for "bakery" until I looked the term up and Google suggested it might be two words. Derp.

Today's puzzle was much more fun and introduced me to words I didn't know well, but got the chance to learn without being made to feel stupid for not recognizing a clunky pun (without even the curtesy of an indicative question mark, no less).

Tita 8:18 PM  

Way late to the party. I needed to put this one down lots of times before some of those revealed themselves.
flatTERY before ADULTERY had me feeling all wink-wink smug about myself. I erased GUN for Gat to make the former fit.
But several glasses of wine and some sightseeing let me fix that, along with plenty of other tough ones.

Ultimately dnf'd guessing that Ms. X was German, hence DENz, which is a name I know.

ELD reminds me of my best next-door neighbor ever,, a dear French woman who befriended me and many others in our condo townhouses...
You see,, she didn't know that the closer in proximity to one another Americans live, the more aloof one should be. Hence, she befriended everyone. My life is so much richer for having known her.
Oh...and while her English was nearly perfect, my favorite mistake of hers was "olderly" for elderly. It makes total sense, n'est-ce pas?

I could've asked her about the second person subjunctive and avoided the onT trap.

Great puzzle, Mr. Gross, as viewed well after-the-fact with the wine goggles I am now sporting.

Tita 8:30 PM  

@Aketi...thanks for the rundown on the African interesting view into that continent's evolution.
I would say that Cape Verde (Cabo Verde) needs to I've to the adapted climb, as the escudo was the pre-Euro currency of Portugal.

@M&A...gUte Reise!

Hartley70 8:34 PM  

@Loren, my mind said "rise above" and to ignore your sadistic reference to KITKAT brownies, but my finger had a mind of it's own and clicked on the link to see if it sent me to that guy singing that weird song. No such luck..

Hartley70 8:39 PM  

@Aketi, that's a lovely idea and I'm sure Nancy will accept. She'll need an audience to fully vent her frustration with all things Verizon.

Hartley70 8:52 PM  

I wanted BARmaid until I remembered the catering bill from last fall's wedding. There were BARBACK charges all over that sucker! I never got a good explanation of what those guys were up to. I always suspected they were out BACK slurping the leftover oysters with a beer, but perhaps they were hired to carry cases of bubbly up the stairs to the reception like Sherpas. Like any good parent of the bride, I paid the bill and smiled.

Greg 9:42 PM  


Anonymous 11:07 PM  

Given all the regulars that mention drinking in bars or working in restaurants so few know who the bar back is. I had no problem because I recognize the hard and vital work done by the guy (usually male) who washes/stocks the glasses, fetches the ice, etc. so the bartender can provide you decent service on a busy day, the bar back. My father the bar fly could even tell you the bar back's name.

puzzle hoarder 2:02 AM  

I've been traveling and have a lot to catch up on. I did this puzzle on paper tonight and this entry may be too late to get in.
I came away with a clean grid but I can't remember the last time a puzzle irritated me this much. Taking awhile to get MRAMERICA was my own fault. I'm not familiar with ANANDA and I kept trying to make 46A into some kind of race for a long time.
As for that NW corner I just gave up and put ALLUSION back in figured RUNAGATE must be an actual word and let AIT stand. That clue for AIT is debut cluing taken to an extreme and I'm surprised the constructor made no mention of it in his comments.

DavidB 7:38 AM  

Someone please explain corals law?

Ω 9:05 AM  

@DavidB - 8D is OHMS law.

Hartley70 1:13 PM  

Oh man, I need help! Suddenly every post here is showing up in my email in-box. It's a deluge and I don't even show my address on my profile. Anyone have a fix for this? Every post is shown as an answer to a "liberal political activist Ralph" post on Saturday. And the return address is no reply-comment on blogger.

Ω 7:45 PM  

@Hartley70 - You can't fix it for the Saturday Puzzle, but you can prevent it in the future.
Below the comment box there is a section labelled Choose an Identity. Below your Google Account ID there will be a check box (not on Saturday's anyore, but it will be there for the Sunday puzzle and the Friday puzzle). You must have inadvertently checked that box for one of your posts.
Once you check the box and hit publish all approved comments for that day will be emailed to you for all eternity. In five weeks you will get about a dozen or so emails. These will be the people who solve the NYTX in their local paper (Syndyland).
If you don't want the emails just make sure that you don't check that box.

Nightowl 10:20 AM  

It's July, so I just did this June puzzle in Mn.
Make a report--refers to the noise of the gun--I realized that as I was reading your comments!

spacecraft 11:02 AM  

Boy, I thought this was going to be a piece of pie. ("Cake," he corrected). Okay, easy as cake. ("Pie," he corrected) Preceding exchange from "2010," another sci-fi sequel, though vastly inferior to the original. Unfortunately, one ALIEN was quite enough for me, despite being a Weaver fan, and so I never even heard of that "hit" (?) movie at 2-down.

Yeah, starting in the east, I had so much laid down so fast that I thought it was a slam dunk. Then came the west and a slew of WOEs.

BARBACK? DENG? RUNAGATES? SPELMAN? AMII?? ANANDA? ENSE? Ya got me. But the monkey wrench in the whole mess was the clue for 47-down. "Kind of bar"--without even a question mark!--is supposed to lead us to MENU????? Hoo boy, that may be the single unfairest clue so far this year. FLAG, bigtime! And with all those blanks, I didn't have enough to see TATERTOT or NOONS.

This is the reverse of my usual experience with tough puzzles: first I despair of getting anything, then find a wedge and slowly fill it in. Not today. This time I sailed right in...and DNF.

Kind of bar. MENU. I ask you! Horrendous! I'm not saying it's not TRUE, I'm just saying nobody's gonna get there from there. You finished this one, you had it in on crosses before you even saw the clue.

Burma Shave 1:44 PM  


a TRUE ALLUSION to what's sultry.
No LYIN' it's an HONOR
when she HARASSES me into ADULTERY.


leftcoastTAM 2:23 PM  

Agree with Rex, a lot of bad and obscure stuff in this puzzle. The RUNAGATES(?!) crossings with DENG and PARSEC did most to spoil the fun, and they made a few others of the crosses tough to get as well.

AMII and NEAS were HARASSers.

Disappointing DNF after having some fun with the much easier full court long ones, except for the elusive VS in the sci-fi movie (not a fan), which should have popped out but didn't.


Sailor 3:09 PM  

Well, I liked this better than a lot of folks did. Loved 3 of the 4 grid-crossers, actually, and lots of the shorter fill, too. Great clue for ADULTERY!

But, but... everything good and true about this puzzle is, sadly, overshadowed by that surpassingly ugly crossing of 20A and 3D. Even NEAS, too obscure to be crossworthy, was gettable from the crosses.

I am willing to stipulate the cultural and literary value of the Hayden poem, but it is hardly well-enough known to justify the use of RUNAGATE, which is either an archaism or a corrupted spelling, depending upon the authority you choose to consult. A suggestion of same was needed in the clue, if the word was to be used at all, as were gettable crosses from which the correct spelling could be deduced. 20A was certainly not that. As has already been noted, DENG could have been clued as the name of the famous world leader, rather than some rich guy's ex-wife. As it stands, the 20A-3D crossing qualifies as a Natick.

Diana,LIW 9:12 PM  

Pretty much what @Spacey and @Rex said. RUNGATES? Did get MENU and TATERTOTS and BARBACK. And SPELMAN.

Just got back late last nite from 4 days in LaLa Land. FIlled in answers during the flight to xwords in a puz book I bought at the newsstand getting on the plane. Made me appreciate the NYT puzzles from Tues thru Sat I'm working on today. Slowly getting back to reality. LA was lots of fun, interspersed with DOT (Drive Of Terror) periods. (Apologies to Rambo for DOT usage.) On the way back to the airport our GPS told us we had ten minutes until arrival. One hour later, we were there. On an alternate route. All the back streets near the airport have speed bumps to slow down the enraged drivers who have left the main arterials and "free"ways.

No more time for small talk. Good to be home.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting and catching up with Crosswords

rondo 10:35 PM  

BARBACK a gimme since I used to be a bartender. Was also once a ONEL. Don't care what any reference book says, RUNAGATES as a puz entry sucks. And NEAS just bites, probably bites AMII. Alotta BSS in those. ADULTERY I can live with. And have. But not on my part. At least not yet.

Yesterday's plural TERIS has more than nuttin' on VANESSAS. Yeah babies galore on both accounts, if you think about it. But not too long.

The grid layout was an ATTENTIONGETTER. From the outside in - 1 by, 2 by and then 3 by. If it was Sunday maybe we could get a 4 by in there to occupy 16 more spaces.

@spacey so riled that there was NARY a mention of the RRN. My eyes would be LYIN' if I said this puz was easy. AMEN.

Bananafishie 1:46 AM  

When I saw the unusual (and to my mind, attractive) grid, I thought "A-ha, there is going to be some interesting theme here." Then when I saw the liberal activist Ralph clue, I instantly thought NADER, and figured that since the answer was only 4 letters with the start and finish abutting a couple of those big black boxes, somehow the extra letter would go into one of them as part of the puzzle's theme. When I saw the clue _____ Stewart, I "remembered" that it was ANITA, and when I saw again that the answer was only 4 letters with the start and finish abutting two of the big black boxes, the theme hunt was on!

I liked it anyway, certainly more than Rex, but that is true about every puzzle. Still not sure why he even solves them since he hates them all so much.

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