Cavalleria Rusticana baritone / SAT 11-25-17 / Devil Hatfield Kevin Costner / Musician with 1963 gold-selling album Honey in the Horn / Portraitist with Baltimore museum named after him / Beverage brand whose logo depicts three claw marks / Siempre much covered 1965 song about Che Guevara

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Constructor: Kevin G. Der

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: PAMPAS CAT (27D: Striped or spotted animal named for its habitat) —
The Pampas cat (Leopardus colocolo) is a small wild cat native to South America that is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List as habitat conversion and destruction may cause the population to decline in the future. It is also known as the colocolo or Pantanal cat over parts of its range. It is named after the Pampas, but occurs in grassland, shrubland, and dry forest at elevations up to 5,000 m (16,000 ft). [...] The Pampas cat is a small, but heavy-set cat. (wikipedia)
• • •
Low word count. Hard for the sake of hard. Not my favorite puzzle type. This Is Why I Need Fridays to Be Fridays—Bouncy, lively themelesses! Tough, but doable. Pleasurable. I would be happy if Saturdays were like this too, but Fridays are my most-liked day because they tend (more than other days) to be in that sweet spot, that Goldilocks Zone: tough but not unpleasantly tough. And free from the restraints of themes that often don't pay off. Today, 60 words, and clues (as well as fill) that were designed to be not clever but brutal. Dealing in vagueness and obscurity. The worst of this came in the NW, where ANSE and ALFIO made me want to quit right there. Never heard of either. I had FEEL -A-E staring at me for 3D: Have peace of mind and I just shook my head and prayed that something would come to me. Didn't take long for SAFE to drop in there, but ugh, ANSE, ALFIO, that's just horrible. Going this low in the word count just isn't worth it most of the time. The stacks in the NW and SE are pretty good—the Acrosses, at least. Well, they're solid, anyway. The NW > the SE, which holds up, but doesn't shine. SPILL BLOOD over TEAR INTO adds some vivid, brutal energy to the puzzle, which is nice. But mainly this felt like a slog. Trivia about LAREDO, ridiculous clues for common stuff like OTTER (?!) ("known to chase its tail?"—my parents live near Monterey, I've seen lots and lots of OTTER activity ... never that). I felt like I only finished in reasonable time because I just happened to know dumb **** like what the MONSTER logo looks like (37D: Beverage brand whose logo depicts three claw marks). Things started out very promising ...

... but then frequently ground to a halt. I have no idea what a PAMPAS CAT is, and I'm guessing you haven't either. Also, I still don't think I understand how the clue for TABLET PC works (38A: Consumers want to get their hands on it). Far and away the roughest answer for me, even after I had TABLET--. I thought it was TABLE TOP, for a bit, to be honest. I get that a TABLET PC has a touch screen, so you use your hands on it ... but you use your hands on all computers. I'm using my hands on this ordinary laptop right now (OK, I'm actually using a wireless keyboard, but I could *easily* be using the laptop's own keyboard). I spaced on John MCCLANE's last name, despite having rewatched "Die Hard" just a few months ago. Wanted that second letter to be "C," but TABLE T-C made no sense. TABLE TIC!? Again, if PAMPAS CAT had been an actual animal anyone knew anything about, my problems here might've been avoided. Anyway, the lesson is, don't get cute with your clues unless the solver's gonna get a solid "aha" out of it.

My great coup was getting LAREDO off just the "D" and BATALI off just the "L" (despite knowing nothing about jalapeño contests or "Iron Chef"). The only PEALE I know is Norman Vincent, so this [Portraitist...] guy was rough. I put in LALO off the initial "L," but kept doubting it, thinking I'd confused the [Contemporary of Sain-Saëns] with a modern film composer (turns out I was thinking of LALO Schifrin ... so the confusion was merited). Lots of proper nouns today, which meant the puzzle was heavy on trivia, light on cleverness / wordplay. I resent 40D: Opportunity for people to act badly? as B-MOVIE refers to lower-budget films, not bad acting, and bad acting in high-budget films abounds. Some of my best friends are B-MOVIEs, is what I'm saying. [Producer of loose leaf notes?] was about as close as any clue got to cleverness. Why do lines form quickly for SLAM POETS? Is "quickness" an essential part of slam poetry? Can a slam poet not recite at a normal, non-quick pace? Clearly these clues just aren't working for me. Maybe they made more intuitive sense to the rest of you all. I hope so.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. In case you missed it earlier this week, I made you this:
Off-Season Baseball Crossword 01 

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 12:24 AM  

Giant. Piece. Of. Shit.

Mark 12:25 AM  

I finished it, but it was pretty hard and took me a long time. I thought I wouldn't finish for a while. I agree with most of what Rex said. I don't mind that it's hard, but would like more normal words with interesting clues rather than so much esoterica.

puzzlehoarder 12:32 AM  

Seeing no three letter spaces when I was printing the puzzle got my hopes up and I wasn't disappointed. What really helped me out were all the editors clue changes. The constructor details some of them in his comments. The patented Shortz wordplay was peculiarly specific to a lot of the entries and I read it correctly just about every time.

Ironically my first guess for 1A was SANDTRAPS. I almost supported it at 4D with DEALSIN but it was a letter short. All I was left with was the S. It was all that was needed as SAYPLEASE went right in. 18A was some sort of CUP and by coincidence we just had CALDER in a recent clue. SPILLBLOOD went in on off the L of 9D. That was one of the Shortz clues that really clicked.

From then on it was steady fun work. The little things I didn't know like LALO, PEALE and ROTI I just went right around and back filled.

This was easier than average but not to the point where I felt disappointed.

joebloggs 12:36 AM  

Not enjoyable at all

tkincher 2:28 AM  

Too much vague, obscure, or outside my realm of knowledge. Hard fought but ultimately a DNF for me. I enjoyed parts of it, mostly the bottom half. On the whole, though, not so much.

Dolgo 2:45 AM  

AT LAST, A TOUGH OPERA CLUE! Take that sports fans. The revenge of the pedant-in-residence. Hahahahaha!

Sue T. 3:11 AM  

The Peale Museum was killing me because I lived in Baltimore for over a decade and never heard of it. Well, it turns out it became part of another museum in the early 80s and closed entirely in 1997, according to Wikipedia, so that was truly obscure trivia. I did manage to finish but it was a 30-minute slog.

jae 3:13 AM  

This one reminded me of the late '90s puzzles I've been doing from the archives. Tough and not fair (the late '90s were not big on is a Sat. after all). Liked it a bunch. Inferring through unknown trivia is a lot of fun. I got this one but I missed Daniel R. Stark's Sept. 12, 1998 puzzle by a couple of squares. If I remember correctly the NE killed me.

Anonymous 3:28 AM  

The clue for SLAM POETS refers to improvisation, no?

Margaret 4:17 AM  

Wikipedia has the PEALE Museum listed as “defunct” so not even a valid clue.

Trombone Tom 6:23 AM  

This one was a real tailtwister. My experience largely paralleled that of @Rex.

Naan before ROTI, Dewey before OCCAM, and sic 'em before I'M HIT.

As far as OTTERs go, I think tail chasing is characteristic of the river type, not those OFL has seen near Monterey.

Thank you Kevin Der and Will Shortz for a genuine workout.

Lewis 6:48 AM  

@rex - My experience echoed yours, but you had more success than I. Your comment, "... don't get cute with your clues unless the solver's gonna get a solid 'aha' out of it" is So Well Stated and So True.

This was brutal for me. I'm guessing that if I could look in there, I could see my brain sweating. There were 15 answers (as clued) that I just had no idea about, and so I had to look up a few. But even after those few lookups enabled my solve, it was clear that I never would have gotten those answers had I just waited for them to come to me. I simply didn't know them. Puzzles like this teach me new words and keep my head down to size, and I am grateful for them. And those times in this puzzle where I filled in a fair amount of space were very very sweet. So a genuine thank you, Kevin, for this!

Jon Alexander 7:13 AM  

LALO, PEALE, PAMAPASCAT was the death of me....did not know any of the three so sitting there with a big fat _EA_E representing what could be dozens of names I gave up.

Toughest section otherwise was SE for me...wanted CASHLIMIT so bad that it was blinding me to some of the more obvious down answers.

But that Natick in the middle was brutal, rough, and, all in all, too much.

LaurieG in Connecticut 7:19 AM  

Hand up for relentless misery start to finish.

Willie Weller from Walla Walla 7:26 AM  

After my initial go-throughs of across and downs I had maybe 10% filled in and went nowhere from there. Nothing. I figured the NHL trophy was a CUP but I googled the first president (any outside help is officially a DNF for me) and that got me a little farther but then I got stuck again. I eventually came here and looked up the missing words.

That's my own fault. I'm a big proponent of Saturday being the Big League day and you gotta know stuff on Saturdays. Everything was gettable if you thought it through. I failed, and I'm ashamed, deeply ashamed, not just for dishonoring myself but for dishonoring my family, my hometown, and my coworkers down at the plant. I'd like to apologize deeply to all of them, and although I make no excuses I would like to point out that right before I started the puzzle I took a big ol' bong hit. Thank you and God bless.

TomAz 7:27 AM  

L'obscurité pour l'obscurité. I prefer cleverness, myself.

Admirable, intelligent, but not terribly enjoyable today.

QuasiMojo 8:17 AM  

Puh-lease! Tough Saturday, which I normally crave, but the esoterica today was very rough. I am a huge opera buff but had to google for ALFIO in order to finish. I kept thinking of CANIO and TONIO because Cavalleria is so often shown with Pagliacci. Turiddu is the star in Cav. But he's a tenor. Alfio has one memorable number.

LALO too is rather obscure although if you are in the music world you will know his name right off the bat.

LA SCALA is a tourist attraction? Would you say the Met in NY is a tourist attraction? It's an institution, a landmark, yes, but it's not on the same level as the Tower of Pisa or the Pyramid at the Louvre (which was my first guess.)

I've never heard of baseball cards referred to as AMERICANA. Ephemera or memorabilia, yes.

I liked the clue for SLAM POETS. I'm not sure but I think the idea of "slams" is that you pick up the theme from the one who improvises before.

This is one consumer who has no intention of getting his hands on a TABLET PC. I thought maybe it was going to be "Table Art." (I've seen those napkins in the shape of swans too often...)


Nevertheless I much prefer this type of puzzle to the mindless themes we're so often subjected to.

Can some kind soul out there explain to me what LEFT LANES has to do with drivers getting around? Does it refer to U-Turns? If so that's pretty convoluted. :)

Oh, and @Loren Muse Smith, were you being sarcastic and ever-so sly when you said Streep was overrated? I laughed out loud for sure.

Matt 8:21 AM  

I had SONATA clogging the SENTRA slot for an inconvenient while. But yeah, brutal with obscurities today! PAMPASCAT, PACA, CALDERCUP (not a hockey guy...), et al. I also dropped ADLIBBERS into that annoying SLAMPOETS slot very early on, which was a timesuck to slowly unravel. In sum... UGH.

mmorowitz 8:23 AM  

PEALE, PAMPAS CAT, LALO, SOMBREROS were the last to fall for me. I've never ever heard of this cocktail at all.

Anonymous 8:31 AM  

I googled Museums inBaltimore. The Peale Museum never appeared. It was a 44 minute workout--I loath exercise

Anonymous 8:35 AM  

The LEFT LANE is the passing lane on highways.

Steve Wolf 8:39 AM  

I tried MUDSLIDES before SOMBREROS, messing up some of my acrosses that turned out to be correct. Loved the TEA TASTER clue (first had DNA TESTER). I had to use Google as a crutch all over this one. Definitely a toughie.

Anonypuss 8:49 AM  

If crossword solving is supposed to make me feel better about my lightning-quick mind and fabulously broad knowledge, this puzzle left something to be desired.

But I loved it. Finally something to sink my teeth into. Give it to me hard, baby, just the way I like it.

mooretep 8:55 AM  

Anonymous stone throwers....Stay away from Saturdays.

I felt challenged. I wouldn't call it a slog. Learned stuff.

Bloom before Occam, BeatPoets before SlamPoets, MacLane before McClane.
Pampas Cats are cute, but they don't look domesticable.

Near Natick at Anse & Alfio, but they didn't cross, so....okay.

Left lanes clever. Tablet PC, ugh, but acceptable.
El Mariachi was Robert Rodriguez debut in cinema.

mathgent 9:08 AM  

Rex is right. This is a bad puzzle.

I like a puzzle to challenge me but it should be a fair fight. Its OK that there were 13 entries I didn't know -- that's on me. But there were 8 clues which were either bad or outright unfair. For example, the movie ELMARIACHI. I follow movies closely but had never heard if it. It has grossed 2 million after all these years.

Which is not to say that there was nothing positive about it. Zero Terrible Threes, tremendously rare. And five clever clues. One of them was pointed out by a blogger. SLAMPOETS for "Entertainers for whom lines quickly form." But the ratio of fun to the hours I spent solving was close to zero.

I don't even have the satisfaction of having solved it clean, I had one cheat. I had MO?S?E? and Googled "mobster beverage." The response was "Do you mean Monster beverage?"

kitshef 9:16 AM  

PAMPAS CAT is perfectly fine. Just because Rex doesn’t know any animal besides a squirrel …

Played extremely challenging (and very fun) for me. Partial list of writeovers:

When I’d looked at every across clue all I had to show for it was … nothing. COMME had gone in, then comme out when I couldn’t get any crosses. Same for veto power. That’s it for first pass on acrosses.

mmorgan 9:17 AM  

Utter. Fail. I guess I respect the puzzle but Not My Wheelhouse. Agree with many that obscure over clever = not much fun.

Nancy 9:21 AM  

I came to a thudding halt at 27D and had nothing filled in beyond that South to the southern border and and East to the eastern border. (Except for the ACHI of EL MARIACHI, a title I just guessed at.) After doing my full quota of suffering -- but not a good kind of suffering -- I said to myself: Enough is enough. I came here to find that had I stared at this puzzle until the PAMPAS CowS came home, I would never have finished it. The only answer in this section that I knew but didn't write in was TAKE TIME at 31D. I wasn't sure; I couldn't check it; and had I written it in, it wouldn't have helped.

Names, names, names, up the wazoo. Divided into the pop culture names I never feel responsible for and the names that every well-educated person should know. I didn't know those, either -- not the baritone, not the portraitist or museum, not the Saint-Saens contemporary -- nada. Then you come to the non-name long answers at 48A, 51A, 53A, 55A. Other than SLAM POETS, all were ridiculously unfair and green-paint-y. Unless you do puzzles to learn stuff -- which some people here do but I don't -- this was a pretty awful experience.

QuasiMojo 9:24 AM  

@thank you very much, Anonymous at 8:35. I don't have a car. And @kitshef, I first put in PHOTO OPS, too.

Mohair Sam 9:29 AM  

Ran totally aground in the SE. Blaming Rex's PAMPASCAT, not knowing ROTI nor MARIACHI, and falling off the razor's edge with OCCAM and TREN - just couldn't get a toe hold with anything along the bottom right and flamed out.

Misspelling MCCLANE didn't help at all, as did lack of any Che knowledge. Too bad, 'cause we fought through most of this war fairly well - kind of like Jimmy Brown in "The Dirty Dozen" (on TCM last night) - the constructor got us just before we escaped.

El Paso before LAREDO, anybody else? Saul before BAAL too. Seems like most animals with tails like to chase them, doesn't it? Bill Buford's book "Heat" about his adventures working in Mario BATALI's footsteps is a terrific read.

I'm sitting here convinced that if I'd only known the "P" in PEALE I would have gotten PAMPASCAT and sussed this whole thing out.

Tough Saturday Kevin Der, nice one - ya whupped us.

kitshef 9:30 AM  

@Quasimojo - the LEFT LANE is also known as the passing lane. Slower drivers keep to the right lane, so an if you are going to go AROUND them you move over into the left lane, pass them, then move back to the right. All of this of course is completely hypothetical. In reality (in the US), people have an unfortunate tendency to sit in the left lane and clog up traffic.

Also, Loren Muse Smith's comment was a tweeter-in-chief reference.

George 9:32 AM  

Yes, the LEFTLANES are passing lanes! That includes all you drivers in the Hutchinson River Parkw

Non Ymous 9:39 AM  

Welcome @Willie Weller from Walla Walla. And say hi to Joe from Accounting. We love you.

Puzzle was a CNS for me. That's could not start.

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

I had "pampas cats" off of pam. But then I erased it because an answer ending in PC didn't make any sense to me and I knew it must be wrong. I would be more interested in seeing those pampa cows that Nancy talked about. What a hoot. I had to google many answers as this puzzle was way out of my wheelhouse. On to Sunday.

Blue Stater 9:43 AM  

Right on, Rex. Terrible puzzle, all too typical of the WS era.

Anonymous 9:49 AM  

43%+ proper names, a little French, Spanish & Latin, 40s slang, 60s hit, obscure film.

Real crap, a new low, no fun at all.

Z 9:51 AM  

Mile 5 of a 10K road race, the early morning cool has given way to a hot sun. You’ve been feeling good about yourself but the muscles are starting to ache and suddenly there’s a steep hill in your way. Is this race ever going to end?

Sunday of an ultimate tournament. You’ve had a good Saturday, upset a team to get into the bracket, and your reward is a pissed off 1 seed who got upset Saturday. Your body hasn’t had enough time to recover and now you’re lined up against the fastest, tallest player in the whole tourney. Win? Hell, you hope you can keep it close.

That’s this puzzle.

In case anyone wants data to go with their kvetching, the PPP comes in at 23/60, 38%. And it felt even higher than that with trivial trivia like ROTI and TREN.

How much did I not grok TAPLETPC? I parsed it TABLE TPC and wondered if there was some sort of table top golf game I had never heard of.

@anon3:28 - I think it is a reference to improvisation like you.

@Dolgo - Uh, knowing opera doesn’t make one a pedant. I know sabremetricians are frequently pedantic when they get into discussing why Wins is a poor measurement of pitching or why OPS is better than batting average to measure a hitter. So, if you want to live up to the title of Pedant-in-Residence you’re going to have to provide a brief discourse on why everyone should know Cavalleria Rusticana and why ALFIO is the prototypical baritone role.

I only think of OCCAM in relation to his razor.

GILL I. 9:58 AM  

@Mohair...Your El Paso makes more sense than my TOLEDO. I thought why do the Ohioans have a jalapeno festival?
This was a puzzle that was easy/hard. Got some answers off of only one letter and crossed my fingers the answer was correct. EL MARIACHI (great movie) off the E in TESLA. HASTA off the H and so it sorta went.
AL HIRT actually named an album "Honey in the Horn"????
I had to go back and Google HASTA Siempre to see if I knew the song because no one hated Che as much as I did and I wanted to see if I liked the song. I remembered it. Blah. Don't understand adulation for a mass murderer.
Then we get to the SOMBREROS. Can't figure out why that name for Kahlua and cream. I know White Russian and a Mudslide but why a hat?
I finished Fridays puzzle late last night but I haven't read the comments yet. I hope everyone loved it as much as I did. That was one terrific Friday.

Two Ponies 10:08 AM  

Proper know them or you don't.

I considered Table Top as a vague possibility if the consumers are consuming food.

Left lane was fast lane for a bit.

Do okapis chase their tails? Mine did for a while.

That animal was either a cat, bat, or rat. Eliminating the striped or spotted bat was easy enough. That sort of thinking is usually an asset in puzzle solving but is of no use at all if you don't care about action movie heroes and celebrity chefs.

Anonymous 10:19 AM  

Too difficult for me, therefore not enjoyable.

Roberto 10:25 AM  

A real tough slog, especially when I'm still in recovery from Thursday's food coma. Cash audit? Rough, and I still don't get the tabletpc clue

Although if you are into ''ecotouring,' pampas cat was more or less a gimme

SJ Austin 10:27 AM  

Ugh, brutal. Nearly the entire SE left empty for me and not a single "aha" (and several "ughs") as I reviewed Rex's solution.

Sir Hillary 10:28 AM  

Tough, tough, tough. A great Saturday workout.

Took me forever just to get started. MCCLANE was my way in.

SE was by far the hardest for me. bOffO? CASHlimIT? ECOTripS? ACCedeto?

Worst of all: sicem at 45D. Not only was I completely bogged down, but I was needlessly SOREAT what appeared to be a clue in very poor taste.


I still have no idea what a PACA is.

Wm. C. 10:29 AM  

OK, Saturdays are supposed to be hard. But when I finally suss out the hard fill from enough crosses, at least I'd heard of it, mostly. Here, though, way too much in the " never heard of" category.

Anse, Alfio, Peale, Socko, ElMariachi, SlamPoets, Livia, Acers, Roti, Lalo, Paca, Batali, Monster.


rgards 10:31 AM  

I didn’t know “alfio” and ”anse” but “feel ease” was enough to move forward to my DNF. Also, I was so confident of “tea master” that, although baffling, “I’m him” seemed something you might cry in the fog of war. Until I came here I was exulting in a rare Saturday triumph.

Wm. C. 10:39 AM  

@SirH --

I'm not sure, but I guess you feel the "Cry in a Dogfight" referred to dogs actually fighting each other for the entertainment of watchers. Which was my first take, also.

But I think it actually refers to aircraft dogfights in the sky, wherein a pilot's plane gets hit by the gunfire or Missile of an enemy aircraft.

Katzzz 10:44 AM  

I went with "feel sane" which gave me," which gave me "Alnio" as the opera character. Seemed possible, right? If I didn't know the name of Tony Soprano's mom, I might not have found another toehold to get me going.

Bela 11:03 AM  

Dr. Moreau: What is the law?
Sayer of the Law: Not to spill blood, that is the law. Are we not men?
Beasts (in unison): Are we not men?

Loren Muse Smith 11:04 AM  

Brutal, as @Lewis reports. A bloodbath. Most spectacular dnf for me in a while. I had lots of the same goofs that some are reporting (Hey, @Trombone Tom):

“sic’em” for I’M HIT
“Dewey” for OCCAM. His razor sure didn’t work here.
“naan” for ROTI

And I had some other missteps:

“ad libbers” for SLAM POETS
“rest easy” for FEEL SAFE
“tea master” for TEA TASTER
“mudslides” for SOMBREROS – totally defensible guess, @Steve Wolf and @Gill I.

Two other reasonable guesses –

“growl” for the chow line clue
“bon mot” for the brief comeback. I’m proud of those.

I can’t imagine a worse fate than finding myself at a slam poetry event. Maybe a John Cage concert. Or an Amway convention.

Yeah - the Meryl Streep dig was a snark. I think she’s brilliant.

Kevin Der’s name at the top of the page continues to cause

Rock ‘n’ Roll Ghost 11:17 AM  

Are we not men? We are Devo!

Molson 11:20 AM  

This was made super hard for me by misspelling MCLANE as MCLAIN and having Batman and Spiderman doing VIGILANTE acts. Fit with IMHIT and MONSTER so that was a tough one to dig out of.

Stanley Hudson 11:23 AM  

An a**kicker and not much fun. At least there are some good football games on today.

Years ago Jack Palance played a great Devil Anse Hatfield in a film the title of which I’ve forgotten and don’t care to Google research.

Anonymous 11:24 AM  

@Kitshef - I don't know where you live, but here in FLA the old-folk just get in the left lane, put the car on cruise at 10mph under the speed limit and stay there. Ergo, your LEFTLANE explanation makes no sense.

Two Ponies 11:26 AM  

@ Bela 11:03,

Just three nights ago I watched Island of Lost Souls.
Not until the credits rolled did I realize why I remembered your character named as "Sayer of the Law". It was your voice well-disguised behind that hairy face.
Very scary movie that for me has stood the test of time.
Jules Verne is a certain guest at my imaginary cocktail party.

Did Devo borrow that line?
Are we not men?
We are Devo!

Two Ponies 11:29 AM  

@ Rock'n'Roll Ghost,
Darn, you were posting while I was typing!

Churlish Nabob 11:32 AM  

Thank god Semioticus hasn’t written another tedious and tendentious post today.

Hey @Two Ponies, @Rock n Roll Ghost already brought up Devo.

Anonymous 11:33 AM  

Hey dumbass, two Ponies acknowledged it.

Joseph Michael 11:34 AM  

This was about as much fun as a CASH AUDIT.

Had "sand traps" before LEFT LANES, "naan" before ROTI, "browsers" before ECO TOURS, "tea reader" before TEA TASTER, "pampas owl" before PAMPAS CAT. and so on.

Agree with Rex that B MOVIE refers to budget not acting quality. Don't know what a PACA is and have never seen an OTTER chase its tail. Thought that SOMBREROS would have been more welcome in yesterday's hat-flipping grid.

I liked HOT CEREAL. As I suffered through this puzzle, it made me FEEL SAFE.

HASTA la vista.

Fountains of Golden Fluids 11:36 AM  

Does anyone remember Devo?

Matthew G. 11:36 AM  

I liked this quite a bit, so I suppose I’m in the minority today. I live for ultrahard Saturdays where much of the difficulty comes from the clueing, so I was a happy camper today.

Nancy 11:42 AM  

I'm always happy to see a puzzle that I acutely dislike get trashed by many other Rexites. And I'm always happy to find out that others here have failed as badly as I. The 2nd best experience after sharing the unadulterated joy of a great puzzle is sharing the misery of a bad or unfair one.

An exception today is @Lewis (6:48). Our brilliant, beloved Lewis found the puzzle "brutal" and was put in the ignominious position of having to Google a fair amount of trivia. Yet, he is "grateful" for the puzzle and actually thanks Kevin Der for it. Sorry, I don't buy it. If a really, really smart person like Lewis has to Google to solve a puzzle, then the puzzle is not a good puzzle. Lewis, I think you were being much too generous.

Missy 11:43 AM  

Left lane meaning passing lane. Go around slower cars.

Outside The Box 11:44 AM  

Rex—I don’t get your comment that because you “never heard of either” (re 2 clues), the puzzle is therefore hard/boring/poorly constructed etc.

So are the only acceptable puzzles the ones you can breeze through in your never ending quest to be super-fast? Stop complaining.

Yeah, I never heard of ANSE and ALFIO either, but the other fill helped me get them—after a long period of time. In the end I finished the puzzle in 2 sittings. Fast, no. But satisfying? Yes.

Anonymous 11:54 AM  

I was hoping the Streep takedown was genuine. I know it's a wildly unpopular notion, but I Think she's a lousy actress. She's a world class mimic certainly, but imho, not much of a thespian.

As for the puzzle... I thought it was wonderful. It's the first one I haven't finished in some time. I'm not sure it whipped me, but it sure got the better of me.

Thanks Mr. Der

Anonymous 11:56 AM  

Huge piece of cake. Tasty!

evil doug 12:00 PM  

With apologies to Devo:
Whipped me good.

Isaiah Berlin 12:04 PM  

ANSE Hatfield was the patriarch of one side of the most famous feuds in American history. It’s not obscure if you’re reasonably well educated and don’t spend all your time reading comic books and pulp fiction. And watching “Die Hard.”

mac 12:09 PM  

Rough puzzle! Many of the same missteps mentioned before. Hardest Friday I've done in a long time.

QuasiMojo 12:15 PM  

Thanks to everyone who chimed in about LEFTLANES. When I did drive it was on the country and most roads were two lane so there were few if any left lanes. Passing lane makes more sense. What used to fall me were the people who tailgated, then passed at breakneck speed only to slow down to a speed lower than the one you were doing in the first place!! I’m so glad I gave up my car for a bicycle. Apologies to @Nancy... lol

Anonymous 12:20 PM  

Well, aren't you all smug and hoity-toity @ Isaiah Berlin.
Am I supposed to be feel guilty and small now?
Sorry, didn't work.
You deserve to be called some nasty word but so many of them are appropriate for your case that I just can't chose.

Chance 12:23 PM  

I liked this puzzle, but it took a good long time. Lots and LOTS of new material for me. Yet, it didn't feel like a slog to me. It rode that fine line between exasperating and challenging.

Feel free to stop by my crossword blog and record your own time if that's your thing.

Chance 12:26 PM  

By the way, learning about the CALDER CUP just last Thursday (clued then as Bobby ORR, the youngest ever winner) helped a lot.

Mona 12:27 PM  

Just a big ugh for me. Not fun, nor pleasant...head scratching ridiculously hard.

I AM WOMAN 12:27 PM  

Really wanted uteRi for SACRA.

Herbert George Wells 12:29 PM  

"The Island of Doctor Moreau" was written by me.

Mona 12:30 PM  

And then there’s McLean, too? I struggled with his one.

Lewis 12:34 PM  

@rgards -- hands up for TEAMASTER and IMHIM, for a while.

@Nancy -- If a puzzle goes beyond one's wheelhouse, is it the fault of the puzzle or the wheelhouse? My wheelhouse continues to grow through life/learning/puzzles/other and I'd like to think that if this puzzle came to me in two or three years, I wouldn't have needed those Googles. But who knows? In any case, thank you for your kind description of moi!

Blackbird 12:36 PM  

Lines form for slam poets means the poets think of lines for their poem. Poems have lines, you know. And slam poetry is competitive. The poets recite their own poems, and try to top the other poets.

Ridiculously difficult puzzle. A lot of the answers are obscure, not in my wheelhouse. 18A Calder Cup. I don't follow hockey. 20A Anse. Really? Who knew that right off the bat? 43A El Mariachi. Anyone see that movie? I never heard of it. 26A Alfio. I'm not an opera afficionado. Who else would know that answer except an opera buff.

Some clues and answers were entertaining, though. 1A, left lanes. 48A, slam poets. 55A, tea tasters.

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

Tip for @M&A: check out today's WSJ. U'll love it!

Two Ponies 1:31 PM  

@ H. G. Wells,
My sincere apologies. I just can't seem to
win for losing today.
Back to the House of Paaiin! for me.

Unknown 1:32 PM  

Rex, I really do love your free-bonus "Fan Duel" puzzle, but if you're going to keep posting it you should fix two clues. 19A should be "Goat-man," not "horse-man." 39A should read "post-season series." "Post-game series" is not a thing, is it?

Bob MILLS 1:46 PM  

SLAM POETS? What the hell are they? Several answers fit the clue: ADLIBBERS, TEENIDOLS, TEENICONS. But SLAM POETS? There's just no reasonable way to arrive at that answer from the clue.

Masked and Anonymous 1:50 PM  

@maskless Anonymous 12:44 … thanx. Can do for sure. They've been deliverin Saturday WSJ's to our place for a couple months now, and we can't make em stop.

Official M&A Rating Dept. NYTPuz evaluation: Harder Than Snot. Harder than the snot of a pampas cat, even. Made my pencil curl up and my eraser run dry. Nanoseconds spewed out in shockwaves of desperation. Small furniture got overturned. The budgie left home, headed for the pampas. And we resorted to lotsa research, at our house.

staff weeject pick: - [or, alternatively, M&A's NOSe]

fave entry: BMOVIE. Of which the FriNite Schlock Flick Festival featured two wild ones, at our house:
* "The Thing". But not just any old thing… this was the prequel to John Carpenter's version of the "The Thing". Good schlock.
* "Castle Freak". Has to be seen to be believed, but a little too graphic for M&A's delicate sensibilities.
* "Ash vs. the Evil Dead". This is our cliffhanger serial substitute, since we've about used em all up. We watch a couple episodes per Festival. Again, perhaps a lil over-spattery, at times.

We worked another host's xwordpuz lately, where one of our answers appeared to come out as CRISPY TATERS. This was becuz we had so many other wrong answers in place.
Anyhoo … today's NYT SatPuz was full of CRISPYTATERS, for m&e.

Thanx, Mr. Der. I'm sure someone was able to successfully solve this lil sucker. [I reckon @RP was, f'rinstance.] So this puz did present a level of solvin expertise to aspire to. But M&A expired to it, on this particular getgo.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


Carola 1:59 PM  

Yowza, was this hard for me! I kept at it only out of sheer stubborness (Taurus) and not wanting to have to come here and report a DNF. Lots and lots of entries in my "no idea" column, Enough wrong guesses to slow me down even more: bon mOT (hi, @Loren), PiCA before PACA, the misspelled stanly (geez) CUP, and the even more embarrassing dogfight cry "sic 'em" - and how many times have I watched the TIE fighters vs. X-wings? Last in: FEEL SAFE x ANSE and ALFIO, thank to alphabet run for ALFIO's F. Agree with @Rex and @Joseph Michael in defense of B-MOVIEs.

Mike Rees 2:08 PM  

And thus ends my 46-day crossword streak. Far, far, FAR too much obscurity in this one that couldn’t even be intelligently guessed at. Feels unfair, in a way, but my new streak starts tomorrow.

RAD2626 2:10 PM  

Totally brutal. Very little inferable or gettable from crosses.

I you like baseball at all, do the gift puzzle from Rex. Fun. Maybe Tuesday or a Wednesday degree of difficulty. Disagree with one entry as clued but will not do spoiler. Pleasant respite from agony of today's effort.

Fred Romagnolo 2:42 PM  

@Quasimodo: Thank God for the fact that some people are opera fans, but I think you were slightly unfair to ALFIO; his duet with Santuzza aint bad at all. @Sir Hillary: ditto on ACCede to; PACAs are, I believe, the worlds largest rodents - they look like enormous (a la Sci-Fi) lemmings. @Bela: the Laughton version far outshone the Lancaster one. My mother called 15D a King Alphonse, she would let me have a sip, and I loved it. Anon 11:24: that "old folk" comment was blatant ageism - I've seen a helluva lot of exasperating drivers who weren't yet eligible for Social Security. I did finish this one after Leonard Maltin gave me MCCLANE (have never seen a Die Hard) and EL MARIACHI (never heard of). I have to agree it was too obscure in its clueing.

Dick Swart 2:59 PM  

Good Lord! I got NW, parts of Central America, and parts of the SW. A total bust ... DNF.

Obscurity in a puzzle shows me how much i have to learn!

The Pampas Cat has shat on my day!

mathgent 2:59 PM  

@Lewis: When the clues are bad or unfair, solving doesn't have much to do with your wheelhouse. And you have a big wheelhouse.

Dolgo 3:47 PM  

Alfio is, of course, the bad guy.

Joe Dipinto 3:48 PM  

The Florida area was simply incomprehensible. I thought 30A was SORTIE (in verb form), but no. A lonely TREN passing through was all I flagged down there. What a ghastly mess, both in cluing and answers. TEA TASTERS? CASH AUDIT? I'M HIT? SLAM POETS? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?

Unknown 3:55 PM  

The Peale museum closed 20 years ago.

Dolgo 4:08 PM  

OK. Mascagni's Cavaleria Rusticana, the breakthrough opera of the style known as "verismo," using more everyday plots and characters than previous works, is a one-act, often paired on programs with the other one-act of the period, Leoncavallo's I Paglacci. Alfio is the rival of the hero, Turridu. Usually the opera "heavy" or bad gut, in Western opera is a baritone to contrast with the heroic tenor. In this case, Turridu is not an unqualifiedly good guy, since he has deserted the pregnant Santuzza and is pursuing Alfio's girlfriend, Lola. The opera is a classic, and has some truly lovely music--especially the ever-poplar "Intermezzo," an instrumental interlude. Many of you may know that the opera is featured in Godfather III. Micael and Kay's son sings Turridu in a few snatces of a performance at the Same Carlo Opera House in Naples at the end of the movie just before the daughter, played by Sofia Coppola, gets fatally shot by mistake on the front steps of the opera house.

Dolgo 4:10 PM  

SAN Carlo Opera House (cursed auto correct).

Frayed Knot 4:15 PM  

Answers I would not have come up with if given a week to finish this, either because I never heard of it or would in no way connect it to the vagueness of the clue:

... so, needless to say, this one was a big DNF. Haven't finished this little of a puzzle (less than half) in maybe several years.

Dolgo 4:20 PM  

PPS I forgot to mention that Alfio shoots and kills Turridu with a pistol at the end of the Opera. I guess that qualifies him as the bad guy, despite Turridu's shortcomings. BTW, I said the tenor is usually the hero in "Western" opera to contrast with the baritone heroes in Russian opera.

Mohair Sam 4:29 PM  

@Dolgo (4:08) - Great stuff. I always use Sofia Coppola's performance in Godfather III as the quintessential case against nepotism.

Johann Sheisse, Rag Man 4:33 PM  

@Dolgo 4:08 PM
Thank you for that informative piece on the opera featuring today's ALFIO. I've actually looked it up and am listening to a bit of based on your description and it is wonderful. I want to hear the entire opera now, or even better see it performed live!

However, your auto-correct also made another error: When you referenced "Godfather III" your auto-correct wrote "many of you remember..." when you actually meant "none of you remember..." because nobody saw "Godfather III" and if they did they didn't stay until the end. Auto-correct is weird that way.

Hungry Mother 4:41 PM  

Way beyond my pay grade. Only got about half of it before I packed it in.

Anonymous 4:41 PM  

Could someone let me know how to comment without being "anonymous"? I used to be able to do this without problems, but now I seem to need to sign into various accounts and create passwords. Am I not understanding something? Rather than clutter up the comments section, perhaps someone could email me at Thanks!

Anonymous 4:57 PM  

@Anon 4:41 - some other posters submit as "anonymous" but then sign their post internally. Seems to be a simple way around being just another "anon."

-- signed, Me Myself and I

Anonymous 5:11 PM  

I have never once used the word SOCKO, and I don't see myself starting to use it any time soon.

kitshef 5:16 PM  

@Robert Epstein – Rex’s clue for 19A in his baseball puzzle is correct as written. You are correct that 39A needs editing.

@Fred Romagnolo – capybaras are the largest rodents. Pacas, on the other hand, are also known as gibnuts. Can't wait to use PACA in a puzzle, clued as 'gibnut'.

Alpha-Data 6:33 PM  

Hated, hated, hated this one. Also hated it!

Kenneth Jost 6:40 PM  

disliked to the max.

Rob 7:55 PM  

I'm born and raised in Baltimore and I haven't the slightest idea WTF the Peale Museum is. Apparently because it's closed and has been for 20 years according to the comments above. This puzzle is a giant turd.

Unknown 8:45 PM  


The Clerk 8:53 PM  

Probably the worst puzzle I’ve ever done. Complete dreck.

beam aims north 9:00 PM  

The only thing I really hated here was SOCKO, which sounds like something someone said once in a comic strip in 1930.

jberg 10:49 PM  

Coming here very late, and I don’t have time to read everything, so I’ll just mention that I actually put in PAMPAS ass before CAT—and didn’t notice the pun until much later. Really sorry it turned out wrong.

Also, there were two Peale brothers, Rembrandt and Rubens. Which one was the museum named for?

Fred Romagnolo 10:53 PM  

@kitchef: Thanks for the correction on capybaras, they're what I had in mind. Now I'm not sure how I knew about PACAS.

Anonymous 11:36 PM  

Thanks, This is what I was planning to do if no one sent me a suggestion of an alternative (and no one has so far)

Dolgo 1:54 AM  

Oops! Should have included a warning!!!

Dolgo 1:58 AM  

Me, too! But she's been a much better director. The rumor is that Winon Ryder was originally supposed to play the part but withdrew dangerously late.

Dolgo 1:59 AM  

Subtle cinema criticism.

semioticus (shelbyl) 5:31 AM  

Wow. Just wow. I thought I was gonna do a nice, themeless Saturday puzzle but I was apparently trasported to a really tough trivia night.

Fill: BAAL, SACRA, ANSE, ALFIO, PEALE... Yeah. Good effort and good construction in certain places but a load of obscure stuff, Naticks etc. Nope. 9/25.

Theme/Long answers: The 10-letter words were OK. SE 9-letter words were good. NW, not so much but passable. PAMPASCAT why, especially crossing PEALE? 17/25

Clues: Well, at least it figured out it was a trivia puzzle and when it was not, it handed out decent, Saturday-appropriate clues. "Entertainers for whom lines quickly form" was nice, for example.

Pleasurability: Some nice clues, some feeling of "oh OK I'm tackling a tough puzzle, nice." That's it though. I just kept toggling between answers and after a while the novelty wears off. Oh, and that NE corner I don't want to ever see again. Go SACRA yourself.

TOTAL: 54/100, 2.5 stars, C+.

semioticus (shelbyl) 5:37 AM  

Also, after reading the Constructor's note, I'd like to thank Will Shortz for improving this puzzle a little bit with less brutal clues. I could and maybe should a couple more points away from the Clues category.

dm3000 7:46 PM  

Great! It made me work like the Newsday puzzle does. A worthy Saturday.

Chip Hilton 12:49 PM  

Hi. It's Monday, but I feel like commenting after scrolling through all these comments. I'm in agreement with most of you. This was way beyond my ability level. I completed the top half after much effort but could've worked on the bottom until next Monday and it would still have been largely blank. I had LIVIA, ARIEL, SENTRA, and little else. I had ALpeRT instead of ALHIRT and actually smiled at that near miss when I figured it out. xMOVIE instead of BMOVIE convinced me that 38A. started with TAx. What a mess.

Congrats to the successful solvers. Glad you enjoyed it.

Ando 12:58 AM  

You know what entertainers find lines forming quickly? FREESTYLE RAPPERS. You know which find their lines forming at normal speeds? SLAM POETS.

CY 8:46 AM  

Otters are famously playful creatures, which makes OTTER a good candidate for an educated guess as to an "animal known to chase its tail", IMHO.

Eric Weber 8:26 PM  

Did not finish. Pampas cat? Come on....

dls 11:40 AM  

Just got around to finishing this one. I'm surprised not to see more complaining about CALDER CUP. There are two different trophies named after Calder. The one you could maybe expect people to recognize is the NHL's Rookie of the Year award, which is called the Calder Trophy. The Calder *Cup*, on the other hand, is the championship trophy in the AHL (the main North American minor league). While the clue is correct, as a serious hockey fan CALDER CUP seems too obscure to me to be puzzle-worthy.

Separately, I'm not a fan of "campaign buttons" cluing AMERICANA, since (in contrast to baseball cards) there's nothing particular to America about campaign buttons .

rondo 12:10 PM  

Nope. Not today. DNF all over the east. First time through I got the CALDERCUP SENTRA and ARIAL. Enough to fill in the west. tArsA would not leave ofr SACRA and that t had me drinking tiamariaS. Only gimme in the SE was MONSTER, since it is shelved right next to my Red Bulls in the stores. Wanted phOTO__ something for ECOTOURS. It did TAKETIME to get even that far.

And no hint of a yeah baby, so no help there.

I don't mind a tough puz, but wow! This was a MONSTER.

Burma Shave 12:34 PM  


to find ACTION yet FEELSAFE somewhere sleazy,
those PAMPASCATs are usually ANTICRIME,


Anonymous 1:02 PM  

Sombreros? I know them as Brown Cows...same number of letters. Was the only clue I was absolutely sure of...

spacecraft 1:05 PM  

DNF: SE. What in the WORLD is a "SLAMPOET?" And MONSTER is the brand name of a beverage? I don't think I'll drink that. What is a PACA? Oh wait, I think I know one. His name is AL. As in brutAL. On to tomorrow...

centralscrewtinizer 1:10 PM  

I smiled as I wrote in SAY PLEASE, expecting other entries to fall as easily. Hah, everything after that was 'Say what?'.
Fell hook, line and sinker for naan/Murano cross, which at least allowed me to write something in, wrong as it was. I don't know hard drinks so delts/daiquiris looked fine also. Otherwise just a desert of blank excepting -CUP. Ugh. Dismal defeat.

rainforest 2:42 PM  

Despite getting the entire West, most of the centre, and some of the NE, I DNF in the SW. PAMPAS CAT? PACA? SOCKO?

Anyway, I was proud of the small parts that I did get, and so we move on to Sunday. By the way, if I'm SORE AT someone, I'm hardly ready to attack.

Anonymous 3:12 PM  

From Syndication Land:

I love a challenge, but this puzzle was not in my wheelhouse. I thought I would HTG, but I swallowed my pride and collaborated with my husband! It's amazing how bouncing things off another person helps with the solve. I think part of it might be just saying the clue out loud. I was really happy about finishing this, and came here to find I had one mistake! For "have peace of mind" I cleverly thought FEELSANE.

Just don't know my opera baritones!

Syndicate Bob 3:13 PM  

I, of course did not finish the puzzle but what made it OK for me was the inclusion of El Mariachi. It is a very good thriller made with the skill of a true artiste. If you get a chance to see it, please do, especially if you are interested in the art of film making. After watching, or before if you want to cut to the chase, be sure to watch it again with the alternative sound track. In case you didn't know, some movies have soundtracks that talk about the movie, while the movie is playing. Kinda like Mystery Science Theatre.

Except you can have wonderful commentary. Roger Ebert did this for Citizen Kane. Anyway, when you listen to the director explain how he made the movie, how he financed it, how he used available talent and his ability to make something out of nothing you will be amazed. Amazed if you want to know a tiny bit about how movies are made.

This movie is something of a classic, but it was originally made not for release in theaters, not direct to DVD, but direct to Mexican DVD. The fact that you have even heard of this movie is astonishing once you know what it cost to make. When you first see the movie you will enjoy it. It is one of the better movies of its genre.

leftcoastTAM 4:45 PM  

"...not clever but brutal. Dealing in vagueness and obscurity." I'm with Rex.

That and the plethora of PPP's did me in early.

Diana, LIW 5:26 PM  

Put me in the group that was glad to get what I got. @Rex said something like hard for the sake of being hard. Yup. Glad I don't have that need to always complete. But SOCKY and SOREAT were beyond the pale...

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswrds

Diana, LIW 7:22 PM  

That's SOCKO - not SOCKy. Either is, well, kinda sucko.

Lady Di

rondo 8:01 PM  

Looks like a whole lotta DNF amongst syndies. Not surprised, this was hard.
@Syndicate Bob - thanks for the film info, I hope to give all that a look. I often wonder what a director was looking for in a certain scene. The thought process is intriguing.
Keep on commenting. We need all we can get.

thefogman 10:35 AM  

Add my name to the long list of syndies who DNF'd. This one had my number. I even resorted to various forms of cheating and still remained stuck. I finally gave up and discovered the constructor was quite unfair in the cluing. Not enjoyable at all.

thefogman 11:31 AM  

I just have to say it...
The cluing for PAMPASCAT is the work of a pompous ass.

Gloucester de la Vegas 6:02 PM  

I thought this was utter garbage. Obscurity linked with bad clueing, linked with over-long phrasings that could be essentially. One of the worst I've ever seen.

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