Eldest of Pleiades / SAT 6-2-17 / Palmlike tropical plant / Smallest infinite cardinal number / Cousin of polecat / Assigned as to do charity work in modern lingo

Friday, June 2, 2017

Constructor: John Guzzetta and Michael Hawkins

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: CYCAD (3D: Palmlike tropical plant) —
noun
noun: cycad; plural noun: cycads
  1. a palmlike plant of tropical and subtropical regions, bearing large male or female cones. Cycads were abundant during the Triassic and Jurassic eras, but have since been in decline.
Origin

mid 19th century: from modern Latin Cycas, Cycad- (order name), from supposed Greek kukas, scribal error for koikas, plural of koix ‘Egyptian palm.’ (google)
• • •

Misplaced (felt way more Saturday than Friday) and irksome in its unevenness. Also, it just wasn't on my wavelength, anywhere, ever. VOLUNTOLD? No. Please, stop. It's one thing to put "new" things in a puzzle—a good thing—but use discretion. See also BACONATOR.  Here's what I liked: SQUEAMISH, IDRIS ELBA, PIECEMEAL. The rest is fine but unrermarkable, except for the following remarks I have about some bad patches. Actually, the grid divides neatly into thirds—doable / clean middle and eastern thirds, and then a western third that I wish a massive earthquake would cause to fall into the Pacific. CYCAD? MAIA? ALPEH (!??!!?!) NULL? Go ahead and high-five yourselves, math nerds, but that answer is crap. Seriously, all my red ink is on the left side of the grid. ("Red" signifies pain)


The esoteric fill is one issue. There's not a ton of it, but there was enough of it, strategically placed, that things got gunked up good. Then there was the bizarro cluing, like 1D: Company once named Socony-Vacuum (MOBIL). That clue tells me precisely nothing. I had -OBI- and had to run the alphabet. I didn't have the "M" because I thought 1A: Churchill Downs, to horse racing fans (I am not one) would be specific, not this dumb MECCA answer. Why is LTD Lucasfilm specific? (22A: Abbr. for Lucasfilm) It's a general company designation. If you think that NW corner was clean, then you have low standards of clean. You probably have BACONATOR ON YOU.


Had ROAR for CLAP (26D: Sound in a storm), ANNOY for IMPLY (29A: Get at) (I was probably thinking [Get to]), nothing for MAIA (35A: Eldest of the Pleiades) (?), nothing for ALEPH (!!?). In fact, I literally just had NULL (38A: Smallest infinite cardinal number). Down below, jeez louise, 55D: Relative of "die" is brutal. That clue could have gone so many different ways. Here (in case you still haven't figured it out, which seems plausible), "die" means "the" in German and "LES" means "the" in French and so ... relatives? Eh? Eh? Arf. Another rough clue: 57A: Plasma, for one (STATE). Had the second "T" and thought "some kind of TV." So this thing had competent parts but they were overshadowed by blecch. Not outnumbered, but overshadowed. Doesn't take much blecch to bring a whole puzzle down.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

126 comments:

Casimir 12:10 AM  

Never having seen The Phantom Menace, I had Saul/sow instead of Maul/mow. Oh well. Otherwise, challenging and painful as OFL said, but doable. More like a Saturday for me, particularly the cluing.

Anonymous 12:19 AM  

Speaking as a math nerd, I've never heard of ALEPH NULL. That's esoteric even for people who like math.

I didn't think CLAP was so bad. But a lot of that western side was terribly clued.

George Barany 12:32 AM  

Thanks, @Rex, for your analysis of today's puzzle by @John Guzzetta and Michael Hawkins. I agree with you about the northwest corner, and was further flummoxed by two of the movie roles (the one I knew you can guess by solving this tribute puzzle from 3 1/2 years ago). However, ALEPH NULL was delightful, bringing back memories of George Gamow's "One Two Three Infinity" book that I read at a key juncture of my education.

Seeing the word "acid" in the clue for 6-Across led me to instinctively fill in HCL as the only 3-letter acid to readily come to mind. Post-solve googling revealed that the common acid in car batteries is sulfuric acid, but I could not conceive how to get H2SO4 into the grid. Undaunted, I found that lithium sulfur dioxide (LiSO2) is used in some rechargeable batteries. It took further internet gymnastics to find "battery acid" among a long list of street names for lysergic acid diethylamide (which, by the way, is a base!), the compound discovered by Albert Hofmann and found to have psychedelic properties.

It was interesting to see ALTO as an answer, two days after BASS. In each case, the word was clued in ways that conjured up a lot of thoughts ahead of vocal range. Finally, on opening night of the 2017 NBA playoff finals, we have a flashback to Shaq, whose Hall-of-Fame career included several years with the MIAMI HEAT, also LeBron James's team in between two stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

P.S. (added during proofreading) Ditto to @Casimir on SOW instead of MOW.

Seth 12:34 AM  

Speaking as a math nerd, ALEPH NULL was a total gimme. But I definitely see how virtually no one would know that answer. But, selfishly, I loved it!

BACONATOR is not new. It's been around for a while. I never eat fast food and I put that answer in immediately, with no letters.

And VOLUNTOLD is awesome. I've heard it all over the place. I was psychd to see it in a puzzle. (I'm 32 and teach in a high school, if that means anything about who uses that word/where it's used.)

Despite all those disagreements between Rex and me, I also thought the NW was hard and kind of unfair and Natick-y. But whatever. Good puzzle!

Jared 12:34 AM  

Surprised that you found this tough Rex, so I guess I'll have to give myself a pat on the back for this one. Usually when I finish a Friday or Saturday in a near-record time you breeze through it easily too.

I will say that ALEPH NULL is kind of bizarre. Never seen that term before and we may never see it again.

puzzlehoarder 12:34 AM  

This was a mixture of easy and a little bit of difficult. We just had SEC yesterday and covered dressage with LIPIZZANERS so GAIT was another gimmie. My only dnf was ...MAUS for ...MAUL. I had no idea from the clue if this was an actual Star Wars title or some animated spoof. It looks like 'The Phantom Tollbooth." I have to admit I've never seen a single one of those movies not even the original. I always thought it was puerile crap and the bits and pieces I've seen on TV just confirm it. I was close on ALPHENULL. I never reread the clue so I remembered it as plural. I didn't reread it as it was such a waste of time to read it in the first place. After solving the dictionary definition did nothing for me either. I'll file this one right next to SINE and COSECANT. An enjoyable solve never the less.

atomman 12:36 AM  

Average Friday for me, though veered near DNF territory. Looked at 1A and said "I'M AT A LOSS". MECCA, huh. MOBIL was the last to go in. Remembered ALEPH NULL from the excellent article "Georg Cantor and the Origins of Transfinite Set Theory" in the June 1983 Scientific American. Didn't understand the LES/die connection until Rex made that clear.

Liked VOLUNTOLD, BACONATOR (though I haven't had one and am not likely to), MATCHPOINTS and MALLSANTA.

Tough but fun. Thanks.

jae 12:47 AM  

Medium-tough for me too. Plenty of erasures: gAIA>MAIA, thx> LTD, sith>MAUL (I knew sith was wrong but couldn't come up with MAUL until I sorted out some crosses) sOW>MOW, yAH>HAH, dyson>MOBIL...but only ALEPH NULL was a WOE.

The vertical corner stacks are excellent. Finally a Fri. with some teeth, liked it a bunch! Nice one guys!

Mike in Mountain View 1:12 AM  

More challenging than a usual Friday, but just enough easy stuff and inferrable stuff to fall together in aaverage Saturday time.

Never heard of VOLUNTOLD and did not remember ALEPHNULL but i was not ATALOSS because some answers were ASEASYASPIE. Like @Rex, had annoY before IMPLY.

Liked it.

Robin 1:46 AM  

Finished in over-average time. Had the most difficulty in the SW despite guessing ALEPHNULL after thinking the term sounded sort of familiar. Eventually got PIECEMEAL based on its first two Es and then was able to club the rest of the corner down. Maybe this would have been easier if I could have remembered when Shaq played for the MIAMIHEAT, but that's so long ago now that I would have guessed late 1990s.

Having taken a couple plasma physics classes 30 years ago, I should be delighted to see plasma clued as a STATE of matter, but I had the same problem as Rex, trying to fit a TV in there.

Also did not like the LTD clueing. The only TLA I could think of related to Lucasfilm was ILM (Industrial Light & Magic). And also did like the bears cluing for HAS. Say what?

This felt like a Saturday on one side and a Thursday on the other.

Eli Abbe 1:51 AM  

LTD / CYCAD was a major Natick for my (Ironically, the original Natick was not!). The rest of it was difficult, but there were enough crosses to get everything else. I have never heard of ALEPHNULL, but once I had NULL and a few other letters, I recognized ALEPH as a Hebrew letter, which seemed good enough.

Larry Gilstrap 1:58 AM  

Made pretty good headway solving this Friday effort and then realized I'M AT A LOSS. I'm gritty, so I stare and flounder and ERASE, repeat that process over and over. I am not "One who might target four minutes" for a Friday effort, Hi @OFL, but this puppy contains some gnarly fill. For those of you who found this AS EASY AS PIE, remember, tomorrow looms.

The good: I taught The Merchant of Venice for many years and know the play. Labeling Shylock as a SCAPEGOAT is surprising, insightful, and delightful. The play has it all: humor, drama, prejudice, romance, and suspense. Not a protagonist in the whole bunch, well, maybe Portia.

The bad: When I do some plot work, I may sOW or I may MOW. That left me hanging. Star Wars films have been a very lucrative franchise for LTD, but most are still deep on my Netflix queue. I've heard of DARTH. Is he the one with the congestion?

The ugly: I know cardinal numbers; they're the ones without the "th", "nd", "rd", or the "st." Correct? So I'm thinking that I can figure this out because rarely does the NYT puzzle leave anyone up s#!t creek without a paddle. Pardon my French! The crosses were fair enough, except for the last letter, (see above). Nobody VOLUNTOLD me to do this thing as part of my penance for some violation, so I'm hardly sadder, but wiser, I guess.

Let's shoot BBS at each other. Keep your eyes closed. They only sting. Sorta like a ninety-eight MPH fastball to the buttocks.

Bobby Grizzard 2:46 AM  

I am a mathematician, and so I did get ALEPH NULL easily, but there was no high-fiving, becauze no one I know calls it that. We call it "aleph naught." Plus, it just doesn't belong in a crossword puzzle, I agree.

Scrollfinger 2:50 AM  

Hey, don't forget you can avoid trolls by clicking or tapping on "anonymous" when it appears at the bottom of your screen. The comment will disappear.

Loren Muse Smith 4:52 AM  

Hardest Friday I’ve lost to in a while. “Axel” for QUAD and Rex and Mike in MtV’s “annoy” for IMPLY were the double whammy death blows that had me give up.

I’ve never heard the word VOLUNTOLD, but that alone was worth the price of admission. That’s how I ended up being in charge of our homecoming float every year (probably how anyone ends up being in charge of a float). That’s how I found myself secretary of our professional development committee. I’d never been secretary of anything, and after about the fourth or fifth email from me to the asst. superintendent along these lines…

Kelli, did we say the training would be at the elementary school because they’re working on the AC here for the entire building or was it just the first floor? If so, did we say which rooms? I missed that in my notes. Sorry to bother you!

Kelli finally emailed and said simply, You’re overthinking this.

For some ridiculous reason, I enjoyed the word “vacuum” in a clue and EQUUS in the grid. Bet @M&A did, tuu.

That “axel” had me considering “real set on” as in Maw-maw is all tight-lipped because they went to McDonald’s and she was real set on a Baconator and large Frosty.

I don’t think the word INSATIATE was on my radar screen. It doesn’t feel like a synonym for insatiable, though. It feels more like a verb, something you do to someone to make them sick of something. My avatar is a picture of this owl, Martha (left), who my daughter tells me is the head foster owl at the rescue center in Pittsburgh. Says she’s really good at teaching the younger owls who are being rehabilitated so they can be released back into the wild. Says she’s very strict and a little mean. I’m obsessed with this picture to the point that I’ve insatiated all my friends with it. I can’t stop looking at Martha and can’t stop making other people look at Martha again. I tell them that if Martha were a person, she’d wear sensible shoes and have only dry toast for breakfast. That she still carries handkerchiefs and irons them. She has a supply of those disposable plastic rain bonnets and knows how to use them. She uses the word behoove.
Look at her face and posture again I tell people. Her right eyebrow is raised. Can’t you just see her saying, “It would behoove you to cover your head in this rain” as she smartly secures her bonnet? I can insatiate with the best of’em.

John, Michael – I loved BACONATOR and VOLUNTOLD. And SCAPEGOAT. And PIECEMEAL and MALL SANTA. But this one kicked my cul.

BarbieBarbie 5:57 AM  

@LMS, I loved all those words too, and many of them had not heard before, but got from enough crosses to infer.
Average to easy based on time. Felt that way too. Very enjoyable.
@GeorgeBarany, Gamov made me fall in love with physics! Because of discovering Mr. Tompkins! A great set of stories for a kid to read (though the wife was an idiot), and then later a handy reference book. Gamov later caught my attention again when I read his seminal paper co-authored with Alpher, and also credited to Hans Bethe in absentia, so that they could say it was by Alpher, Bethe, and Gamov. Creative guy. Thanks for that, I hadn't thought of him in a long time.
Missed on the plasma clue as I entered PHASE before STATE.

phil phil 5:58 AM  

Top was part was too much for me. But I had a few good tries I couldn't let go and some correct answers I erased as suspect.

Reviewing if I got off my 'par' for one on one I may have gotten TIE and surprisingly would have keyed a bunch maybe the rest.

Took out GAIT because scheister (misspelled) was shylock.
Kept cgi for lucasfilm abbr
Took out MOBILE for cgi
Etc etc. sETAT for LETAT
SOH for guess at sulferic acid formula for battery acid

BarbieBarbie 5:59 AM  

Forgot to say. MAIA is a gimme to any Mary Poppins fan. The books, not that sappy movie.

Dolgo 6:18 AM  

Well, I agree that there was a lot of obscure stuff here, but I figured out most of it like VOLUNTOLD and even ALEPH NULL, even though I hadn't heard of either of them. As is often the case, though, sports was my comeuppance. You will probably all laugh, but I never heard of MIAMI HEAT, so I got it, but had to sneak a Google to get ONEAL.
When I was in grad school at Indiana U I used to go to Louisville to play the ponies. So MECCA was a gimme.
The good news--great puzzle for insomniacs!

webwinger 6:51 AM  

After DNF past 2 days (stuck with labeled for libeled on Wed, badlot for sandlot on Thu) I sailed through this one, almost 10 min faster than usual Friday time. Filled in alephnull right off the bat (another Gamow fan here). Had to google for mobil, but other oddities popped right up from crosses. Fun solve overall.

Anonymous 6:57 AM  

MECCA a gimme, just from general knowledge (no need to be a horse racing fan). Was ready to concede a Natick at CYCA_/LT_. Lucky guess of D. Puzzle was hard but gettable otherwise. Loved VOLUNTOLD. The resolutely cheerful Mr. Barany is probably the only person to be delighted by ALEPHNULL. Spouse and I circled it warily, wanted it to be Alpha.

Anonymous 7:10 AM  

You got me to look at Martha. Twice.

kitshef 7:13 AM  

There’s some really cool stuff in here: EQUUS, CYCAD, MATCH POINTS, AUNT MAY, ALEPH NULL, MALL SANTA, and the cluing overall is great – deceptive and obscure but ultimately gettable.

But there is also a lot I didn’t like: I CANT WAIT, IM AT A LOSS, WOE IS ME, DEAD SET ON.

And some stuff that is just … no: INSATIATE, VOLUNTOLD. That NE corner is simply bad. I’m pretty much 180 degrees from Rex on the good stuff/bad stuff today, except for VOLUNTOLD.

A puzzle with two constructors that actually feels like two different brains at work. One brain smart and funny, and one trying way to hard.

Hungry Mother 7:23 AM  

I first learned of ALEPHNULL through the book "One, Two, Three, ... Infinity", which changed my life forever. In some branches of mathematics it's known as "countable infinity", which played a role in my PhD thesis. I was close, no cigar today.

kitshef 7:30 AM  

Hand up for recommending George Gamov's One, Two, Three ... Infinity. The discussion of the different levels of infinity is just a small piece in a wide-ranging book. Among other things, it provides a wonderfully clear explanation of relativity.

Bryce 7:49 AM  

Huh, I thought a grid full of fun clues and interesting answers with little crosswordese would get kudos. Guess that's ON YOU, Mr. Parker. I thought this puzzle was fantastic from voluntold to baconator, one of my favorites in recent memory.

@Bobby Fellow mathematician here, and I had in ALEPHZERO before the crosses fixed it for me.

wgh 8:32 AM  

Math nerd here... with enough letters I was able to recall ALEPH NULL but had no clue what it meant. I appreciated the break from the traditional wide-open Friday.

Two Ponies 8:32 AM  

I'm with Rex today. I haven't thrown in the towel in ages but the NW was just too far out of my realm. 1D - Oreck? Dyson? What is that robot vacuum called? An oil company? Okay... really? 3D - Too many unusual plant names to choose from and this one was new to me.

Loved Plutarch"s definition.

Al Pacino as Shylock is worth putting in your Netflix queue.

mmorgan 8:39 AM  

I had problems in the same places as Rex, but for me getting the answers was pleasant, not painful. I enjoyed the crunchiness and getting correct answers I'd never heard of (VOLUNTOLD, among others) though I guessed wrong on SAUL/SOW.

r.alphbunker 8:42 AM  

Will Shortz giveth and Will Shortz taketh away. My math background made ALEPH NULL a gimme. My one college chemistry class did not give me 57A {Plasma, for one} STATE and my one high school German class did not give me 55D {Relative of "die"} LES

Details are here.

JP 8:44 AM  

Weird mix on this one. Overall too much trivia for my liking (AUNTMAY, DARTHMAUL, IDRISELBA, MIAMIHEAT/ONEAL, etc.), but a lot of it felt fresh.

Highlights: BACONATOR, EQUUS, MALLSANTA, VOLUNTOLD, SQUEAMISH

Lowlights: ICANTWAIT, IMATALOSS, DEADSETON, MILER (ugh)

???: CYCAD, ALEPHNULL (got PHNULL from the Downs and took a guess), MAIA

I luckily got most of the trivia clues right away. Took a while to get going (stuck in NW for too long) but overall pretty quick for a Friday.

Anonymous 8:50 AM  

Everything but the NW corner fell into place for me fairly easily. I started with "sales," guessed "easy as pie," and "TLC" and that corner fell fast, or almost--I had "roar" instead of "clap" initially.

. I am the opposite of a math nerd--took the math SAT in the 16th century by choosing "c" for every mutiple choice. But "aleph" seemed likely. Then got "prone" in NE, and that quadrant fell. I suspected the answer to Churchill Downs was "mecca", but the Lucasfilm idiocy stumped me--I had "ILM," international light and magic very wrong. Eventually, though, mecca, baconator, and "on you" forced my hand and Ltd became obvious. The one clue I could's get was LSD, because "battery acid" is armyspeak for coffee, i.e., joe. I did then get stoic, which made ETA irresistible, but my fatal mistake was "set at" rather than "let at." I had no idea about Phantom Menace (by then had Saul), though "Darth" seemed like a good guess. In the end, only LSD eluded me. As Rex notes, it was really only the NW that resisted me, mostly because of "LTD" to which I would like to reply, "WTF."

three of clubs 8:52 AM  

Liked it. Tough but gettable. One metric for rarity might be: has one ever used the word before ever? For me: CYCAD and INSATIATE (I always go with insatiable). Oh, and glad to have learned VOLUNTOLD!

ALEPH has followed me around for a while now. When I was first learning English, we had series of cards (SRA?) which included a reading on Semitic alphabets starting, of course, with ALEPH, BETH, GiMMEL,...which I guess leads us to alpha, beta, gamma. Next thing you know, I can actually know some math.

I wouldn't actually call Shylock a SCAPEGOAT. By the way, isn't it kind of unfair expecting modern crossword solvers to have read The Merchant of Venice?

ColoradoCog 8:53 AM  

I also found this on the challenging side of medium, but only slightly. I agree that MOBIL was poorly clued, but I thought MECCA was only weakly clued. Unlike Rex, I thought VOLUNTOLD was fine, but maybe that's because I hear it all the time at work. Also, I had no issues with the clueing for LTD. It's such a prominent part of their logo, and the logo's image is burned into my memory from opening movie credits, so I call it fair for a Friday.

QuasiMojo 8:54 AM  

Be careful what you SOW. Yep, I had it too. I have never heard of Darth Maul or even of the Phantom Menace, and that NW PASSage was brutal. I had MIELE before MOBIL because it's a vacuum company, n'est-ce pas? I thought DERBY before MECCA (a much overrused and misused word for a must-see place IMHO.) Wanted JOE instead of LSD because of the mud served up a few weeks ago here. I also wanted CYNAR instead of CYCAD (whatever that is.) A "cynarus" is an artichoke. Sounds tropical to me! I'M AT A LOSS why LTD has anything to do with LucasFilms. Isn't there some other abbreviation for his company? And shouldn't QUAD (I can just hear Dick Button gasping out the word) be indicated as an abbreviation? Otherwise this puzzle was almost AS EASY AS PIE. (Except I had ABASE instead of ABASE, which left me with STASE. WOE IS ME.

Speaking of god-awful food from Wendy's, I went there the other day on my way to a Memorial Day party and thought I'd pick up some chicken tenders (talk about false advertising.) They offered me a box of 6 for 3.99, I think, and then a box of 10 for $6.99. But when I said I needed more they suggested the family pack of 50 for $9.99!! The math made no sense so I "leapt" at the chance to get it. I could only eat a couple of them, before gagging. The fish got the rest.

Tom4 8:54 AM  

Easy and then brutal! Was cruising in record time and then hit ALEPHNULL. Thanks to a lucky guess on LES I got STATE, but still don't get why, and then from there was able to scrape it out. Rough!

Steve M 8:58 AM  

Saturday should be a breeze.....

Sir Hillary 9:00 AM  

Brutally difficult for me. I would say the same if the puzzle ran on a Saturday.

No major complaints though -- the LTD clue is terrible, but aside from that this was simply hard. VOLUNTOLD is somehow not crossworthy because...? Come on, gang, we need this kind of stuff to keep things modern.

I actually thought the NE corner was going to be a millennial's wonderland because I put in hEADSETON, thinking it must be a term derived from a coder being hard at work. Oops.

Interesting that tiebreakers and MATCHPOINTS have the same number of letters. Thank goodness I didn't write in the former.

Favorite clue is "Vacancy sign?" for STARE.

I'm too lazy to research it myself, so can someone please explain how STATE relates to plasma? Thanks in advance.

Anonymous 9:13 AM  

Better Call Darth Saul!

Jon 9:15 AM  

Totally agree with you on voluntold. Loved it.

evil doug 9:17 AM  

Don't know the 'Vacuum' background, but Standard Oil Company Of New York led me to MOBIL.

'battery acid'-->bad coffee-->muD

POPS? Willie Stargell.

Diggin' on Idris and Jimi. Kind of had a thing for Sally during her Burt years. My grandsons are still weirded out by MALL SANTAs and the Easter Bunny.

ALEPH NULL this....

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

@ Sir Hillary - Plasma is a STATE of matter (often referred to as the fourth).

As for me, I had addLe for IMPLY (29A) for far too long; AUNT MAe (5D) seemed credible.

Anonymous 9:20 AM  

Isn't an *alto* a man, or has this word, like *soprano* been desexualized? I would have called each an *alta*. Since I had not heard of *voluntold*, I worried that some obscure car company had created something called a Cher or Adele, and that neologism voluntold was actually voluntoud--ok, it doesn't make much sense. I still wince when "bravos" are heard for female singers after operas.

Mr. B 9:21 AM  

This one gave the ol' noodle a workout. What's not to like?
I'm always amazed at how you can do the puzzle every day...and every day there is usually one or two things completely brand new to you. I knew ALEPH and NULL separately but never came across ALEPH NULL til now (read about it post solve...aaaand it went way over my head...math wiz that I am...).
I do love VOLUNTOLD though.
Started on the wrong foot when I put dErby an 1A cuz it was a good fit for 2D ENACT...
Bit by bit...the puzzle slowly filled in for me.
Liked seeing EQUUS in the middle. BABES in arms wuz cute (awwww).
Got SIDE A... because fooled me once, shame on...etc.
Had ANNOY there too. STATE was a nice surprise for plasma since I tried Serum there at first.
Finished quicker than my FRI average.
I say this was fun Messrs. G & H
and have a great weekend all.

semioticus (shelbyl) 9:22 AM  

Never heard of VOLUNTOLD before. That was a head scratcher.

Some clues I didn't care for. "Vacancy sign?" Not punny enough. "Uber app abbr." I mean, I guess it's on the map but I don't get it. "Queen's "We Are the Champions," vis-à-vis "We Will Rock You"" Isn't being Side-A a standalone feature? Why vis-à-vis?

I finished this faster than my Friday average, but it just didn't do it for me. Maybe I'm just grumpy today.

three of clubs 9:32 AM  

@SirHillary

Here's a link http://pluto.space.swri.edu/image/glossary/plasma.html

and then we of course also have at the other end of the spectrum...the Bose-Einstein condensates.

Kind of cool that there are more states than the canonical three, or was it four (earth, wind, fire, and water)?

pdevlinmath268 9:38 AM  

I disagree. Aleph null is some pretty standard stuff in math world, but it's definitely something only a math major would get. (e.g., engineering majors who take a lot of math certainly wouldn't see it because they are studying a different flavor of math than math majors would) People learn about aleph null the moment they learn that infinite sets can be very meaningfully compared and that some infinities are larger than others in fundamentally meaningful way.

Nuanced and niche, yes. But ought to be a no-letters-needed gimme among math majors.

mathgent 9:43 AM  

Aleph null (more commonly in the US, aleph zero) is the size of the set of natural numbers, 1, 2, 3, ... Other mathematical sets are larger, hence aleph one, aleph two, etc. For example, the set of real numbers (all the points, rational and irrational, on the number line) is larger than the set of natural numbers.

One counterintuitive fact about infinite sets is that they don't always have more elements than one of their subsets. For example, the set of natural numbers is the same size as the set of the even natural numbers. The two sets can be paired perfectly, 1 with 2, 2 with 4, 3 with 6, etc. They both have size aleph zero.

PRSolver 9:45 AM  

I always misspell "sow" as "sew" and so I missed DARTH MAUL and couldn't see POPS despite having been a member of the New York POPS and having once played a concert with the Springfield (MA) Symphony under the direction of the venerable Arthur Fiedler. Embarrassing.

Tita A 9:48 AM  

Like @Robin, knew there was a three letter acronym for Lucas' film company, but unlike @Robin, couldn't come up with ILM. Agree with Rex...that is a stupid green paint masking as clever misdirect.

DNF with the popular sOW/sAUL.

This was way too PPP-heavy for me...just a trivia-fest, and I'm not even including MAIA in that list.
(Who knew that those sisters actually had names???!! Remind me to go look up the other 6 gals, in case Will has set himself a personal goal to cover each one...)

I did enjoy slogging through, even to my one wrong letter.

@lms...I'm googling Martha as we speak (type?). I'm sure your description fits her to a t. We have a barred owl family nesting nearby for several years now. I think barred owls are much more laid back...

Nancy 9:49 AM  

This felt more like a Saturday than a Friday to me, too, but I persevered and solved it. You didn't defeat me, PPP, such as DARTH SAUL and AUNT MAY and IDRIS ELBA, although I thought for a while you would. HAH! Nor did you defeat me, Things I Never Heard Of, such as BACONATOR, ALEPH NULL, CYCAD, and VOLUNTOLD (what an awful coinage. btw.) I agree with you, Loren, that INSATIATE is an odd substitute for the much more normal "insatiable" and that it sounds like a verb, not an adjective.

I thought of MECCA immediately, but didn't write it in because I couldn't confirm a single letter in that fiendish NW. My entry point was all the way over at 19A, SALSA -- with nothing but unfilled white spaces between. I came close to losing heart at times. But MATCHPOINTS and SCAPEGOAT were long answers that opened up the west for me and kept me in the game. I loved/hated this puzzle. It was a lot of work, but it was a worthy opponent. Was it unfair? You can't call a puzzle unfair if you solve it, right?

oldbizmark 9:57 AM  

With the exception of MECCA/MOBIL cross and CYCAD, I found this puzzle to be Medium (Easy for a Friday). Slightly harder than last weeks holiday Friday easyfest but still a bit easy for a typical Friday. Enjoyed the solve.

dumbnose 9:58 AM  

I loved Aleph Null. I have to constantly figure out "famous" people's names that I've never heard of. At least math terms have some meaning to them that you can work out. Proper names do not. Here's a vote for more math terms in the #nytxw.

three of clubs 9:59 AM  

I'm with @pdevlinmath268.

Aleph null is part of the Fun with Math classes taught in most colleges. Oddly enough, the best chance of not encountering it early is if you are a math major --- so you are probably taking a third semester calc class and may have missed out on some set theory and advanced algebras in high school.

jberg 10:07 AM  

I, too, ended up with the sOW/sAUL error. And that was after I finally figured out that it was EQUUS, not EQUis, which had had me muttering "Boston PaPi? No one calls him that, it's Big Papi!"

It was a long time ago that I learned how one infinite number can be bigger than another one -- probably from that same Gamov book -- but it was so exciting that I was able to dredge up the memory. And I'm old enough to remember when Socony -- creeated by the antitrust breakup of Standard Oil -- merged with someone else to become Mobil (and has now merged with the other big Standard spinoff, reversing the original antitrust action). So that confirmed MECCA, and went right in.

Like @Dolgo, though, I had no idea of the MIAMI HEAT - well, little enough idea to need 80% of the crosses -- and couldn't spell O'NEAL until I got ABATE.

I still think that while I might SOW or hoe a garden plot, what I MOW is a lawn. But I'm just being a sore loser here.

DJG 10:08 AM  

Count me among those who found ALEPH NULL to be a total gimme (and who, once upon a time, had his mind blown learning that there were different levels of infinity).

With that said, I really dislike it as an answer. For one thing, as Rex pointed out, it's too esoteric even for a Friday puzzle. For another thing, I've written ALEPH NULL hundreds of times and never once have I written it "ALEPH NULL". I've always written it א‎0.

This isn't quite as bad as writing out the "AND" in a brand name stylized with an ampersand (e.g., A AND E). But it's close.

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

Really enjoyed this puzzle. I'll take crunchy over easy any day! Took me forever to get MALL SANTA, but loved the AHA moment. I was thinking that it was some kind of bearded ant! Also thought battery acid was Joe, but rejected it when it seemed unlikely that "unleash upon" was JOUST. Never heard of baconator or voluntold but loved learning of them. Aleph-null lived somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain, and I'm delighted that it still works! Thank you, John, Michael, and Will!

Chris 10:17 AM  

This is close to the perfect puzzle for me. Hard but gettable. Agree that the west took a while, as I am in the never heard of ALEPHNULL camp. Also in the never-heard-of-but-love VOLUNTOLD camp. Yes, you can nitpick some of the clues, and yes, I fell into some of the traps others did (hello ILM), but the good so far outweighed the bad, it gets full marks from me.

Stanley Hudson 10:20 AM  

LSD = "acid" yes. LSD = "battery acid" no.

Like George Carlin once said about "maryjane" for "marijuana": "Nobody _ever_ said it."

three of clubs 10:21 AM  

So my morning routine is to wake up around 6. Bumble around and then do the Times puzzle just to make sure my brain is working still. Check in with Rex to get my morning's worth of schadenfreude, and then in on the comments, to find some joy.

Today has been kind of nice. I was an English major but always tried to keep abreast of contemporary science and found myself consistently dismayed by the disdain of the liberal arts guys.

Anyway, I want more like this. Not necessarily topical, but apt. And, I will put up with your hiphop.

CDilly52 10:26 AM  

Oh my, what a melange of everything. Thanks to my math-major-scientist-genius-husband (of 43 years) we (ok, he) sussed out ALEPH NULL, but he, like @BobbyG, 2:46, insisted it had to be "naught" so when I got the double L and suggested NULL, he relented with a snort, and "that guy is not a mathematician!" He also mentioned "One, Two, Three Infinity." I just thanked my lucky stars (for the zillionth time) that he showed up in opera orchestra as the percussionist for "Le Nozze de Figaro" at the U of Illinois in 1972 so I could snag him! He, of course, says I was the "snagee" because every drummer worth his salt wants to date a flautist because we have so little to carry that we can always lend a hand to move the mountains of stuff drummers require.

Stumbled badly many times: 55 down took to the end to think "dee" not "dye" and grok that it was an article needed; JOE to MUD for LSD, and MUD stayed too long because it gave me MAD AT for 6 down (even thought it did not make grammatical sense); AXEL for QUAD and on and on. Good thing I wasn't solving on paper or the erasures would have shredded it like my cat shreds our paper towel rolls...but that's another story.

Not offended at all by VOLUNTOLD, and in fact think it is vastly superior to the frequent text speak dreck that shows up as fill. It is certainly au courant.

Nice mix, diabolical clues in spots and tough, tough, tough. But I did manage to finish...ok, the hubs finished for me, but after 43 years I think we deserve joint credit.

Mohair Sam 10:28 AM  

HAH! When this flexitarian falls off the wagon he falls straight into a BACONATOR, MECCA a gimme, as was ONYOU - the NW y'all battled fell in seconds here. But the rest of this medium/challenging Friday gave us a good workout.

Lotsa stuff we just didn't know. Last letter in was the second "U" in EQUUS (hope M&A came through that one OK). Figured it had to be a "U" or an "I" and "Darth Mail" didn't sound very intimidating, so we guessed correctly.

Read a book long ago on the breaking up of Standard Oil (hi Evil) so MOBIL no prob. Grandkids students in Maryland where you have required volunteering for a high school diploma - VOLUNTOLD not new to us. I didn't see the play, but "EQUUS" was one terrible movie - weird story and awful acting. Liked learning ALEPHNULL. Spent some time trying to make Dwyane Wade's last name five letters long. Clever clue for LAMB. And agree with @Rex that the clue for LTD was strained at best, didn't really want to put the D in there.

Testing Friday. Great long downs. Anything with BACONATOR leaves a good taste in my mouth. Thanks guys.

JC66 10:37 AM  

Hand up for sOW instead of MOW.

RooMonster 10:52 AM  

Hey All !
Yes, yes, the SW was my downfall. I was really AT A LOSS there. Couldn't remember Shaq was a MIAMI HEATan, way odd clues for STATE/SALES/LES, couldn't get LAMB to enter the ole brain, and MAIA? ALEPH NULL? Oof. NW actually wasn't too bad. But that non-AS EASY AS PIE SW kicked my SCAPEGOAT.

Rest of puz came along slowly, but steadily. After having to Reveal Word thrice in SW, finished without correct notice, so hit Check Puz and found my EgeSt wrong, so had to ERASE it. :-)

Liked Get at in clue, and LET AT in puz. Why? Who knows?

BACONATOR, I CAN'T WAIT. HAH!

Overall, a good FriPuz brain workout. WIDENs the knowledge base.

SALSA ON YOU
RooMonster
DarrinV

Cheerio 10:53 AM  

I loved the "LES/DIE" clue. I enjoy misdirects that I haven't come across before. Thanks!

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

I also ended with Darthsaul and Sow....frustrating ending!

Aketi 11:09 AM  

@Sir Hillary, here is a recipe that is AS EASY AS PIE to create the STATE of plasma in your microwave. I'm surprised someone hasn't coined this as the GRAPINATOR experiment. Caution, I've heard rumors that it can cause your microwave to suppose. It was after my son tried this at home and I heard those rumors that I was even more grateful that I could send him off to a good public school that had labs with safety goggles, eye washes, and fume hoods. I would never have been willing to home school him.

@lms, now that my son is heading off to college I hope my days of being VOLUNTOLD are forever done.

old timer 11:11 AM  

The NW was for me the easiest part. I knew that when Standard Oil was broken up, one of the resulting companies was Socony MOBIL (i.e., Standard Oil Company Of New York) and while I didn't remember it was "vacuum" before MOBIL, that's a factoid of the sort one often learns as a puzzle solver. MECCA seemed obvious: probably every race lover feels he needs to go at least once in his life as Muslims feel about MECCA.

I got ASEASYASPIE immediately, and of course JIMI so the SE fell quickly. As did the NE, though I had to run the alphabet to come up with the delightful VOLUNTOLD, a word very much in the language I now find. (BTW I've never found PIE that easy to make. Piecrust is hard if you don't learn the technique at your mother's knee, as my wife and therefore my daughters did.)

It was only in the SW that I had to consult my iPhone. Never heard of MAIA. Guessed NULL but never would have come up with ALEPH in a million years. I avoided math in school. When I did learn ALEPH, I figured that "annoy" must be wrong, and guessed IMPLY, and the rest of the puzzle fell into place. MALLSANTA was very clever, but I needed that initial M to figure it out.

Congrats to Messrs Guzzetta and Hawkins. Great work!

GHarris 11:11 AM  

For once I totally agree with Rex. The NW was bad and unfair. Had to Google for Mobil and come here to get ltd, cycad and baconator. Otherwise hard but doable. Even worked out alephnull and I'm hardly a math nerd. Also erred on darthmaul, because I spelled equus with an i for the second "q".

GHarris 11:13 AM  

Sorry, that's the second "u".

Aketi 11:20 AM  

@scrollfinger, clicking on the anonymice to disappear them is not as much fun as Cow Clicker because there are no sound effects. Is there an app for that?

Aketi 11:22 AM  

@Sir Hillary, I'd correcd the autocorrect that transformed "explode" into "suppose", but I'd have to redo the html.

Trombone Tom 11:23 AM  

I seldom so completely agree with OFL, but we walked down similar paths today. This was a Saturday bear served up on Friday.

A couple of WOE's: CYCAD, ALEPHNULL. And hand up for trying sOW before MOW.

I can remember seeing "Socony-Vacuum" on some MOBIL signs when I was a kid.

All-in-all a tough and crunchy one to chew on. Hats off to John G. and Michael H.

Maruchka 11:24 AM  

Well, Google-a-Plenty. Agree with @Tita on PPPness. HAH! Stuttering just now made it mo' fun.

Ya know, I do like the idea driving VOLUNTOLD (haven't we all been treated thus?) but it don't scan. Not nasty enough, either.
VOLUNTrod, anyone?

Thanks for the 'Merchant' analysis, @LarryG. I love the play's deeply flawed characters and puzzling redemptions. Will must have struggled with the denouement.

GILL I. 11:35 AM  

A lot of work and I loved every minute except I never want to see ALEPHNULL ever again nor read about it or care to understand it. I'm good with multiplications though.
I don't even know which entry I liked best. They were all good except CYCAD. That took me the longest. Had a bit of trouble with MALL SANTA because I couldn't get BILLY GOAT out of my mind.
I often get a craving for a good burger and my go to place for a quickie is In-N-Out. My first burger I had when I came to the States was a Big Mac with large fries and a chocolate malt shake. I got sick as a dog. I can't even stand the smell of McDonalds. On an afternoon craving, the only place around was Wendy's. I didn't order the BACONATOR but I had a double stack of these square pieces of meat with square cheese and square bacon. All it needed was some square pancakes.
VOLUNTOLD is a wonderful word that is new to me. Loved the clue for Mary's LAMB, the LES didn't fool me, like the two PIEs in PIECEMEAL and EASY AS PIE. Love Shaq ONEAL now. I hated him when the lakers played my beloved Kings. He did everything he could to pounce, shove and push my boyfriend, Vladi Divac and he'd get away with it. Now, I love him and his goofy ads. He does a lot of charity work (VOLUNTOLD?) for children.
Yes, women can sing ALTO. Just ask @Nancy.

kitshef 11:35 AM  

@Aketi - thanks for the cool video. Our ancient microwave is nearing an end. Maybe I'll give that experiment a shot when we get a new one.

Carola 11:47 AM  

Oof! Like others, I tanked in the NW - just couldn't get the burger x tropical plant x Lucasfilm. I couldn't help feeling that I was being mocked at the crossing of I'M AT A LOSS and AS EASY AS PIE. HAH!
Nice little array of QUADrupeds: GOAT, EQUUS, LAMB...BACON. I also liked the echo of DARTH MAUL and MALL SANTA - quite a pair.

Nhart1954 11:52 AM  

Wheelhouses....Socony-Vacuum no problem for this lawyer. Math stuff, not so much. I gave it a good fight, but first Friday in a while to defeat me. I, too, loved VOLUNTOLD.

Lewis 11:54 AM  

@nancy -- Sorry to tell you this, but if you had DARTHSAUL/SOW instead of DARTHMAUL/MOW, you just missed acing the puzzle.

Not knowing four long crosses and one long down did make this feel like a Saturday-level puzzle to me, and I ended up needing two Googles to finish. I loved the clues for ETA (certainly one of the best I've seen), WIDEN, BABES and STARE, and the answers MALL_SANTA, VOLUNTOLD, and SQUEAMISH.

MECCA is correctly placed in the puzzle as the place to face while praying, if you live in Yemen, by the way. And LSD is correctly placed no matter where you live -- high.

Old Hippie 12:02 PM  

Battery acid, like Maryjane, just was never said.
I was there so I know.

Thanks for the Breaking Bad reference whoever said "Better call Saul!"

Maruchka 12:17 PM  

Well said, @Gill. ALTO, sopranO, contraltO ranges are not necessarily gender specific. Nor are tenor, counter tenor, baritone and bassO. The only one I know that is, sadly, castratO. I heard a recording of a Russian castrato singer many years ago. It was so haunting.

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

I too had *sow* and *Darth Saul*. Part of the problem was that I originally had *hoe* for 27A, and then when the downs got me -ow, I thought of sowing a garden rather than hoeing (sp.?) it. Hsdn't heard of "The Phantom Menace." But I should have figured this out, and would have if I had bothered to run the alphabet on 27A. Even for someone un-PC like myself having a really wicked character named *Saul* would have been a bit much. It would sound anti-Semitic, particularly when Paul of Tarsus dropped the name *Saul* to make himself, I think, appear a little less Jewish and more Roman/Hellenistic.

Unknown 1:07 PM  

I was a math major and never encountered aleph null, but rather aleph naught or aleph zero (which I had written in, and it took me a while to undo). Wikipedia specifically notes that aleph null is the German term. So I'd personally agree that it's obscure even for mathy types, since it's only one of several names for the set.

GILL I. 1:27 PM  

@old timer...I know what you mean about the old PIE crust conundrum.
My grandmother used to make hers with half butter and half lard. I didn't really start to cook until I lived in San Francisco. She showed me her secret and I followed her recipe to a T. Never worked. She said it was because she lived in dry Riverside and I lived in wet SFO and that made a difference.
Now I use a food processor and I use cream cheese and butter. Works every time and it's flaky too!

ArtO 1:28 PM  

As another "old timer" I had a similar experience to @oldtimer. MECCA and MOBIL went in right away but the rest of the corner was a struggle. The SW was a disaster for the reasons noted by @Rex. But, for me to do about 85% of a Friday is somewhat satisfying when it's rated as today's.

Bill Feeney 2:04 PM  

There is another Shakespearean reference at 13D, given Malcolm's promise at the end of Macbeth. Only one hour and 16 min. to finish. I admire those of you who can wrestle to the ground a puzzle this difficult.

relicofthe60s 2:14 PM  

Gee, I thought this was pretty easy. Did it in 13 minutes, which is fast for me. Didn't know ALEPH NULL, but it 's easily gettable from the crosses. Is there now a new rule that current stuff is great as long as it's obscure rappers and other stuff Rex knows and likes but not stuff he doesn't, like VOLUNTOLD and BACONATOR? Just trying keep up.

One nit I would pick: I'd say the main villain in Phantom Menace is Papatine/Darth Sidious. DARTH MAUL is his apprentice.

Pete 2:16 PM  

As an old mathematician I took exception to ALEPHNULL (as opposed to zero or nought), but before I actually said anything aloud, I checked Google NGrams and was shocked to learn that aleph null was, by a large margin, the term of choice in actual text books at the time I actually looked at textbooks. And my first, failed, PhD thesis was on the cardinality of algebras with a given presentation.

Naryana Gora 2:23 PM  

I guess Thursday + Saturday = Friday.

hankster65 2:34 PM  

If I never see another Star Wars related answer I'll be fine with that. (Just as I'm fine with never having seen a Star Wars movie.) Never seeing ALEPHNULL again will also not break my heart. I finally managed to finish this beast but it took me nearly 3 hours. Good thing I live a hollow life or I'd never have the time to finish one like this!

Anonymous 2:36 PM  

Kathy Griffin is now the victim. Straight out of the liberal playbook.

Dick Swart 2:40 PM  

WOW! What a whiner Ol' Rex is today.

If he doesn't know the answer, it's the constructors fault!! My God, I thought that the point was in making it hard.

Not in everyones 'wheel house' (Mark Twain, Deep Water) as an answer or a clue? Isn't this what crosswords are about? Being difficult?

Art Wholeflaffer 3:35 PM  

Although I know that O'NEAL played for Miami at some point, I don't pay much attention to basketball, so that was not a gimme. But ALEPH NULL was a big Gimme. For me.

So next time GEORG CANTOR comes up....

Anonymous 4:04 PM  

Another all time high for markets. Glad I didn't listen to Paul Krugman last Fall.

Joe Bleaux 4:15 PM  

Cruciverbalists, do we have only four days to solve the cryptic COVFEFE? If this means nothing to you, Google "June 2 CROSSWORD OVERLORD." Happy Friday, all.

Teedmn 4:47 PM  

I disagree with @Rex about this puzzle except for his first sentence - this played more like a Saturday for me also. Like @Nancy, I wanted MECCA at 1A. ENACT said "yes". ONYOU with the CY that would give me said "no". I was both gratified and chagrined when it turned out to be correct.

27A, that pivotal 3 letter entry, was hOe, followed by sOW. For some reason, (not due to any knowledge of DARTH MAUL), I changed that to MOW right before throwing in the pen at the 40 minute solve time so a rare non-DNF for me today. That time did include answering a couple of emails and eating lunch while staring at the grid.

I thought I was so smart when I fitted Segue in at 46D since that's what happens to the Queen song but SEC pulled me up short and I had to remember IDRIS's first two letters to get to SIDEA.

I'm with @ED with thinking 6A was some sort of morning "joe" (but never put it in.) Really, it was the NE (with the NW coming in a close second) that caused me UNTOLD grief (and joy) today.

So a BELLA Friday puzz, thanks JG and MH.

Anonymous 4:59 PM  

Hey snowflakes wailing about the climate accord - keep it down. Mom and dad are trying to watch tv upstairs.

Charles Geshekter 5:27 PM  

Hey Anon 4:59, finish up your afternoon milk and maybe mom and dad will let you watch TV with them.

Nancy 5:46 PM  

Aw shucks, @Lewis. And I've been so pleased with myself all day.

Joe Dipinto 5:52 PM  

Since I make a special point of never seeing any Star Wars movies, count me in with the DARTHSAUL/SOW crowd.

Top left corner was excruciating. I agree with Rex about the clues for MECCA and MOBIL. The cluing in general seems to keep getting weirder and weirder. Like, a clue will mean something sort of close to what the answer is, but not be a true synonym for it in any context.

I do like VOLUNTOLD, which I've never heard before. ALEPH NULL, not so much.

Anonymous 6:59 PM  

As a liberal I have a major problem with Kathy Griffin culturally appropriating ISIS with the depiction of a decapitated Trrump.

Ralph Phillips 8:04 PM  

Sounds like a line from a Mel Brooks movie.

Anonymous 8:06 PM  

Liberals are always victims. Poor snowflakes.

Anonymous 8:12 PM  

You know it's bad when Stuart Smalley bails on you.

Randy 8:13 PM  

Solved this in about half my usual Friday time, mainly because of lucky guesses on almost all the longer clues. I'm not sure I've heard it called ALEPH NULL but I got NULL first, and ALEPH was a gimme. Definitely something you either know or you don't, though.

I like how much ASEASYASPIE looks like nonsense when you take away the spaces.

I skip M-W 12:04 AM  

I got cycad, Mobil , aleph null, and state right away. Much easier than some dumb pop song from the eighties. Rex seems to be in his worst crybaby mode today. I never saw "phantom menace,." but just general scuttlebutt recall. led pretty quickly to Darth Maul and, hence, mow. Maybe one day there'll be a movie about Georg Cantor and the fact he sadly ended up in an asylum. Since "A Beautiful Mind " has already been taken , how about "an Uncountable Infinity"? Enjoyable puzzle.

Tim Pierce 1:11 AM  

"Go ahead and high-five yourselves, math nerds"

why thank you I think I DON'T MIND IF I DO after having been told eleventy-five times that any character who appears in Paradise Lost is a gimme, YES I AM GOING TO CLAIM ALEPH NULL AS A GIMME AND I AM GOING TO BE GODDAMN RIGHT

I can't actually remember for sure where I first encountered aleph-null -- I want to say it was a Martin Gardner book, like "aha! Gotcha", but might it have been "Gödel Escher Bach"? Both are possible. It's definitely "aleph null" in my mind, too.

VOLUNTOLD? Awesome.
BACONATOR? Awesome.
MALL SANTA? Awesome.
IM AT A LOSS, DEAD SET ON, DARTH MAUL? Awesome, awesome, awesome.

My only solid complaint about this one is the LTD/CYCAD cross: LTD there deserved a more plain clue, especially crossed with "Company once named Socony-Vacuum" and "Palmlike tropical plant" at the same time.

felix fortinbras 2:38 AM  

Rough one for me, but managed to squeak under 30. Also, it really must've felt like a Saturday for Rex because the post title contains "SAT 6-2-17"

Robert Konigsberg 3:41 AM  

Voluntold is a thing, and I've used it, and I cackled at its use.

Leapfinger 4:05 AM  

S_IMPLY grand, with the best fill in the NE. Had to laugh there, having been well & truly VOLUNTOLD countless times. Also, as undergrads, a nerdy group of us took to saying I'm saysht when we were IN (or near) SATIATEd; I still think it that way. (We also drank Mateus Rose, but I've stopped doing that.) Wonder whether DEAD SETON refers to author Anya.

I guess with a schpritz of WD-40 I can slip DARTH_MAUL_SANTA into my Horatio Alger Hiss folder. A local MALL hired a MALL SANTA who hailed from Saudi Arabia, regularly made Hadj and everything. He was a bit unusual for the job, granted, but everyone Said he made a great MECCA Nick.

Thought 54A was going to be Obama for a SEC, and didn't mind a bit to see his faithful Veep JOT WIDEN nearby.

Especially liked the clues for BABES and the Marian devotee, and noticed
Guzzetta & Hawkins seemed to IMPLY/ Was St. Francis of ASEASY ASPIE?
[Mole power to them all, if so.]

Enjoyed all 39 minutes, but still don't know what PARCH meant.

I have no mouth and I must SQUEAM

Leapfinger 8:04 AM  

@Loren Muse S, just reread your comment and have to say that the closing of your INSATIATE paragraph sounds absolutely David Sedaris. But totally. So, you go, gurrul!

otoh, for some reason, entering CUL reminded me of learning (on an OB-Gyn rotation long long ago) that there's a pelvic CUL de sac somewhere in the general Utah Rhine area. So, I'm sorry you were kicked in yours.

Hah! When it comes to HEIR lines, I CAN TWA IT.
TGIF no more.

Z 2:35 PM  

Still catching up.

@Evil Doug - Maybe if I'd been older than three in 1963 or ever lived in New York the "Socony" in the clue might have helped. As it is, a four square DNF at -E-CA/-BIL-/-YCA-/-T-

I wouldn't mind so much except for one thing, the MOBIL clue is the first line from the fucking Wikipedia article.* Seriously? I do hope whoever wrote that clue at least donates to the Wikipedia Foundation.

Not a math nerd, still got ALEPH NULL. Do I dare look it up on Wikipedia?



*I had other adjectives available but the one I used seemed most apt.

felix fortinbras 3:39 PM  

Rough one for me, but managed to squeak under 30. Also, it really must've felt like a Saturday for Rex because the post title contains "SAT 6-2-17"

evil doug 4:50 PM  

Z,

Around here it was SOHIO. Made SOCONY a little more intuitive.

Kath's Yarns 11:43 AM  

At last,math grad school pays off! High giving myself! I feel aleph null miles high right now

Anonymous 11:08 AM  

I need one hint to finish the puzzle but made two mistakes on my own. Asked if someone if they knew a Boston that stared with PO. They give me POPS. Two letters there. Of what I finished alone there were two mistakes. Had BLOP instead of CLAP and ATS where it should have been HAS. Counting both you have 6 letters off for the whole puzzle. 183 out 189 letters. So about 97-98 percent.

VOLUNTOLD,INSATIATE,and MOBILE took the longest to figure it out but got them all.

Mark

spacecraft 12:05 PM  

This one had a quirky, herky-jerky feel. Many really tough clues on the fill--but far too many long gimmes to mount a real challenge. For example, I had STARE filled in all on crosses before I even read the clue! That sure saved me from trying to figure out what "Vacancy sign?" meant.

In the NW--which, for a change, I did in order--I just had to take 3-down on faith. There are probably even some botanists who wouldn't get CYCAD. But, crosses to the rescue. First out-and-out gimme: AUNTMAY. I've never even seen TASM, but come on, who else could an aging Field play? It was like that all through.

Re sOW vs. MOW: look at the name--even if you don't recognize it. What are you going to name a villain, SAUL--a Biblical character who became the greatest Apostle, or MAUL, synonymous with "maim" (as in "I maim nine men in MIAMI," another flat gimme)?

Hand up for INSATIATE: nah, it's -able by a MILE(r). Gotta give POINTS off for that. Finally, I loved the crossing antonyms IMATALOSS with ASEASYASPIE. Today? More the latter. Easy-medium. No BABES in the grid, so I have to take my DOD from the clue bank: Cher.
Give this a par, 'cause I expect a little more resistance that I found here, for a Friday.

Burma Shave 12:14 PM  

WIDEN ENACT

That BABE’S DEADSETON what I IMPLY,
I’m so SQUEAMISH ICAN’TWAIT.
To get her PRONE is ASEASYASPIE,
her INSATIATE STATE will not ABATE.

--- JIMI “POPS” L’ETAT

Diana,LIW 1:22 PM  

Got most of the bottom half before getting some help with the top - then finished it off with the sOW finale knife in the dnf.

But lots of fun sussing on the way. Mr. W, math genius, didn't know ALEPHNULL.

Many answers were not VIVID to me. I blame the HEAT.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Anonymous 1:45 PM  

It was all over for this stinker with five immediate pissers in the NW. Rejected.

Anonymous 1:48 PM  

From Syndication Land:

I think this puzzle (with two constructors) felt like it was made by two constructors. The resulting dichotomy can be seen in Rex's red circles. The right side was my entry point, then I solved clockwise until I hit the NW again. Had to Google for the first time in ages! I tried to think of all the vacuum companies and still came up empty. I was thinking Aunt May was Ellie May or Ida May or something May! Anyway, congratulations to all those that solved this without help. For those that did google an answer, and then called it medium...I say you DNF.

rondo 2:34 PM  

Wasn’t getting much at all in the top third until I landed on the CAY from where I came down with the CLAP and AWAY it went, the puz, that is. One rather queer write-over at hOe/MOW. Gimme JIMI. ALEPHNULL and CYCAD only by crosses.

My uncle doesn’t chew tobacco, but my AUNTMAY.

WOEISME with no answer as a yeah baby, so I’ll agree with @spacey on Cher via clue. I gotta line ONYOU BABES.

Kinda liked the easy/hard back and forth moments of discovery. Didn’t think this puz was entirely ASEASYASPIE.

Teedmn 2:56 PM  

@rondo, your CLAP and AUNTMAY jokes got a laugh from me. The latter reminds me of one of my husband's favorite "farm" jokes: Pa didn't know her but manure.

leftcoastTAM 5:27 PM  

Rex took the words right out of my mouth. Difference is that I came up with a big, fat DNF.

Diana,LIW 7:08 PM  

Rainey - oh Rainey - where are you???

Lady Di

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