Title character of 2006 mockumentary / FRI 7-20-18 / Dreamhouse resident / Food portmanteau / Hydroxyl-bearing compound / Catwoman portrayer Meriwether / Colorful seasoning that originated near Himalayas / Five-letter capitol written as two words in its native language

Friday, July 20, 2018

Constructor: Robyn Weintraub

Relative difficulty: Easy (4:58)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: HAN characters (35A: ___ characters (Chinese script)) —
Chinese characters (simplified Chinese汉字traditional Chinese漢字pinyinhànzì; literally: "Han characters") are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. They have been adapted to write a number of other Asian languages. They remain a key component of the Japanese writing system, where they are known as Kanji. They were formerly used in the writing of Korean (where they are known as Hanja), Vietnamese (in a system known as Chữ Nôm) and Zhuang (in a system known as Sawndip). Collectively, they are known as CJK charactersVietnamese is sometimes also included, making the abbreviation CJKV. (wikipedia) (emph mine)
• • •

This is a very solid and smooth offering, for sure. Polished within an inch of its life. Near zero on the GarbageMeter. There's nothing terribly grabby in the way of fill, but when All Of It works, I am not about to complain. PINK SALT, that's pretty original, although I mainly think of it as "salt rich people will pay a lot for based on erroneous beliefs about its health benefits" salt. I also think we have some in the cupboard somewhere. Or did. We definitely use a salt mill, so that's pretty ridiculous. Where was I? Oh, this puzzle is good. NOSE-TO-TAIL is probably the most original thing here, and also the thing that gave me the most trouble. I did not realize this was a cuisine trend ... where you eat All Of The [Insert Animal Here]. I guess it's ecological or something, like farm-to-table. I am trying to eat (far) less animal. NOSE TO TAIL sounds like a kind of formation you would not want to be in. That answer was hardest for me, and helped make the SE corner the toughest corner. Not too tough. Just tougher than the rest.

Started out hot with BARBIE—my sister probably had a Dreamhouse, or wanted one; she definitely had the Corvette—but weirdly couldn't think of what the final four letters could be. Sincerely thought: "What was Barbie's last name?" DOLL. Her last name was DOLL. But just BARBIE was enough to get me going on the Downs. Went straight from there over into the NE via ERITREA. Tried to go into the SW, but somehow FIXTURES and UP NEXT just weren't going to reveal themselves from just their back ends, and so I worked the NE instead. Very fast there, with just a START SLOW hiccup before STARTS SMALL (11D: Not bite off more than one can chew). Biggest problem was figuring out what word I could make out of -ORKMA-- (31A: One might be by the water cooler). "... PORKMAIL?" Seriously, the -ORK was just so weird-looking.

Jumped over to RUBS, which quickly got me BORAT and RAISINS. Only problem in that quadrant was the HEFTS error I always make with the stupid sword handles (HAFTS). Getting into the SE was the only real problem this grid presented. I had HALF- and no idea what followed at 35D: Divided barrier. Eventually just guessed the DOOR part. Short Downs just weren't that quick in coming down there. Blanked on NRC (53D: Government org. concerned with radioactive waste). Also really struggled with both GAIN (49D: Appreciation) and LINE (50D: A cameo might have one). Had -AIN and -INE and still no idea, right at the end. Had to close them out by getting OGLE from O---E (48A: Check out, in a way). Today I was grateful to have "RUR" (24D: Play from which the word "robot" comes) and SABRA (36A: Israeli-born Jew) and ENOL (52A: Hydroxyl-bearing compound) in my big bag of crossword vocabulary (SABRA is the rarest of those, but common enough that it's worth remembering). A stupid lazy fly is buzzing in my office so I'm going to quit before I go insane like Walter in that one "Breaking Bad" episode. Bye.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    jae 12:13 AM  

    West half very easy, East half tough. I had AsIN before AKIN for much too long and it took a plethora of nanoseconds (@m&a) to see/parse NOSE TO TAIL.

    Very smooth with some fine stuff, liked it a lot!

    Ginny 12:18 AM  

    I know it's Friday and everything but I felt DEWARS/OJAI/HAIG to be rather Natick. Otherwise really liked this. And I learned SABRA isn't just a mediocre hummus brand!

    Trombone Tom 12:39 AM  

    @Rex said it all. Good review of a workmanlike puzzle.

    Only goof was trying grub before EATS. C'mon, what cowboy doesn't call it grub? Go to a diner if you want "eats".

    I agree that it was on the easy side for a Friday.

    sanfranman59 12:57 AM  

    This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 1/2/2018 post for an explanation of my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio & percentage, the higher my solve time was relative to my norm for that day of the week. Your results may vary.

    (Day, Solve time, 26-wk Median, Ratio, %, Rating)

    Mon 4:54 4:30 1.09 71.5% Medium-Challenging
    Tue 3:40 5:14 0.70 1.8% Very Easy
    Wed 12:33 6:45 1.86 99.4% Very Challenging
    Thu 9:41 9:46 0.99 49.1% Medium
    Fri 11:19 12:35 0.90 40.2% Medium

    My experience was Very Easy upper half (about 4:00), Medium SW quarter (about 3:15) and Challenging SE quarter (about 4:00). I should have come up with DONA (46A) much more quickly in the SE, but HALFDOOR (35D), NOSE TO TAIL (53A ... I love pork, but this one gave me the willies) and OSLO (47D) were opaque to me.

    BARBIE DOLL (1A) was my lucky immediate thought for Dreamhouse resident, BALM (1D) worked with that and then everything in the NE just kind of fell into place before I knew it. I was blocked from getting into the SW beyond RAISINS (25A) and reset in the NE with DUNST (29A), RUR (24D) and ERITREA (23A). The rest of that section went almost as quickly as the NW, though I didn't know of star ANISE (13D). I can thank my recent trip to visit Mom for her 80th birthday for knowing PINK SALT (21D) off of just the IN. She recently purchased a Himalayan salt lamp to help her sleep and she swears by it. She's not rich (believe me).

    A rather uneven solve, but a pleasant experience with lively cluing and answers.

    puzzlehoarder 1:06 AM  

    This required only slightly more work than her Friday from two weeks ago. The entries were more interesting this time.

    I had a NIBLETS/PELLETS write over and then had to work around ART. Even when I had the A and the R of that entry it still required a moment of thought. One kind of oil leads to another and to a good clue.

    Larry Gilstrap 1:10 AM  

    This effort left me feeling pretty smart; not MENSA smart, but have you ever known those people? They come with an attitude like triathletes, but with a paunch and a pallor. Some fill just seemed automatic: Skull and CROSSBONES and a BALLOT with a hanging chad, for example. Felt good about regular JOE, so that brought the TROT to a shuffle. Not sure how WORK MATE works as clued, but perhaps I'm missing something. I was a teacher, so I rarely worked with adults.

    Two Getty branded museums enrich the art scene in the L.A. area. Lots of oils, but also a rich variety of ART and antiquities abound. Visit the Getty Villa in Malibu for a unique cultural experience. Some driving is required.

    I will consume some animal protein, from time to time. Oysters and soft-shell crab are pretty much NOSE TO TAIL and are both delicious. Someone said "Never eat something with a face." Hell, I've eaten face: slow cook beef cheeks or quick sear halibut cheeks for some good groceries. OxTAILs appear in a meat counter near you.

    HALF DOOR was a Dutch DOOR for some reason. Happy Friday!

    Harryp 1:13 AM  

    Niblets for PELLETS, Elis for ELKS, wanted Adidas for 2Down, but still got enough traction with PPP to finish O.K. HAIG, ERITREA, DUNST, BORAT went right in. SABRA was also a gimme. Thx, Robin W. for a pleasant Friday.

    Anoa Bob 2:12 AM  

    I wasn't exactly IN RARE FORM at the POKER TABLE tonight, but I did manage to come away with a small GAIN. One thing that sets POKER apart from other card games is that you can win by THEFT. You can rake in the chips, even when you don't have the best cards, by betting like you do and pushing your opponents off the pot. That's the essence of bluffing. Telling a lie and then stealing the money. What fun!

    It's also fun to catch someone in a bluff and take a big chunk out of their chip stack. The bluffer is said to have been caught speeding. It's a cat and mouse game.

    I not familiar with the NOSE TO TAIL expression for "whole hog cooking". I would have gone with something like "How dogs OGLE each other". I have heard "go whole hog" used as the opposite of START SMALL.

    Mark 2:17 AM  


    chefwen 3:11 AM  

    What a treat after my utter fail with yesterday’s puzzle. The only thing I had to mend was head TO TAIL before NOSE TO TAIL.

    A stress free Friday, thank you Robyn.

    Lewis 5:59 AM  

    @rex -- Your riffs on PINK SALT and NOSE TO TAIL were extremely entertaining.

    This was one of those puzzles, to me, where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. Not a lot of wordplay in the cluing and a mostly not-out-of-the-ordinary fill (I did love IN RARE FORM and START SMALL, however), and yet, after that NW fell in a Monday-like splat, the puzzle engaged me in a lovely tussle, all the while exuding spark, fun, and high energy, as Robyn's offerings usually do. I believe that Fridays with Robyn -- eight of her last nine puzzles (the other being a Saturday) -- started strong and are getting stronger, a testament to her work ethic and to Will's knack for recognizing and bringing talent along. It's a win win win.

    Muscato 6:14 AM  

    For the record, BARBIE DOLL’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts. It’s because I remember things like that that I can never find my keys or my shoes.

    mathgent 6:28 AM  

    @Lewis (5:59): I feel the same way. Enjoyable overall without any standout parts.

    I looked up Bacardi because I was curious about a rum company owning a brand of scotch. I learned that Bacardi now is a liquor giant owning dozens of brands in almost every kind of liquor.

    Hungry Mother 6:40 AM  

    I saw harvesting of PINKSALT in a desert lake in Senegal whilst on a transatlantic cruise. I remember, as a kid, wanting to be an AVERAGEJOE, but my lefthandedness didn’t help in that quest. Pretty normal Friday’s outing.

    JJ 6:53 AM  

    Fun, somewhat challenging puzzle. However, I miss the morning "Musings" of LMS, and the commentary from EVIL DOUG

    G. Fring 6:55 AM  

    Funny thing about that Breaking Bad fly episode. It came about because the producers were running out of money for that season (BB was still gaining its audience and on a tightly restricted budget) and needed to do a cheap episode that would pretty much be filmed at one location - saving about $30,000 in location costs. According to creator and show runner Vince Gilligan : "We were hopelessly over budget ... And we needed to come up with what is called a bottle episode, set in one location."

    Maybe that fly in your office is a reminder to all of us to keep providing funding for your blog. And a man, a man provides. And he does it even when he's not appreciated, or respected, or even loved. He simply bears up and he does it. Because he's a man.

    QuasiMojo 6:57 AM  

    Lots of fun clues today (for SPATULAS, BRIT, EGGHUNT, POKER TABLE, BERATES, ROLLER RINK etc.)

    Never heard this expression STARTS SMALL. I wanted START A DIET. Never bought or heard of PINK SALT. I am not allowed to have any salt in my diet, alas. Hard to do in this day and age.

    How can HAIG be a Natick? He was practically POTUS for a day and a half. :) Besides OJAI is the only four-letter place in California I know (at least in the world of crosswords.)

    GORP is one of those words best left unsaid. I never know if it is LOGGED ON or IN.

    Having mostly worked for myself all these decades, WORK MATE seemed way off to me. I wanted WORK ROOM. I also struggled with BALLOT even though I live in Florida. Wanted AFRICA, then SAHARA. Tried HEDGEROW before HALF DOOR. ELIS before ELKS (I know!).

    SEA TURTLES fit in nicely. Favorite clue was the one for LINE.

    Robyn you were IN RARE FORM today.

    king_yeti 7:00 AM  

    I thought Getty oil was a very clever clue. Nice puzzle overall

    kitshef 7:24 AM  

    For the umpteenth time in the last leventy-seven weeks, Wednesday harder than Friday – in this case, much harder.

    NOSE TO TAIL made no sense to me (Google says it’s OK), and I don’t know OSLO as clued, so that section took some doing but the rest was smooth sailing and quite entertaining.

    Did have dixie cup before WORKMATE, but that did not last long.

    BORAT (full title - Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan) was an odd movie. I cannot recommend it to anyone – cringingly vulgar – but boy, did I laugh.

    kitshef 7:29 AM  

    Kirsten DUNST, on the other hand, has been in some movies I'd happily recommend to anyone, including:
    Bring it On
    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    Spiderman (1-3)
    Hidden Figures

    pabloinnh 7:50 AM  

    Started in like this would be a two minute puzzle-BARBIEDOLL, Bang! AVERAGEJOE. Pow! and the NW corner practically filled in itself. And that was the end of that. Some time later (I think timing yourself adds to the pressure and subtracts from the enjoyment) I was done and appreciating some really good misdirects, although the "batter" clue in the middle of baseball season was evil, as was putting "Chad" at the beginning of the clue so it was capitalized. Well played, RW.

    Overall, smooth as a smelt, as I have heard the old timers say around here.

    Sir Hillary 7:52 AM  

    Three excellent puzzles in succession -- we're on a roll! This is most junk-free grid I can remember for quite a while.

    So many pictures here:
    -- An AVERAGEJOE making a LIVINGWAGE. He would likely STARTSMALL at the POKERTABLE.
    -- Saturday night at a disco-era ROLLERRINK so crowded that each skater RUBS NOSETOTAIL against another.
    -- A RURAL mom at a HALFDOOR holding SPATULAS and calling the kids when the EATS are ready. No SPAM, PINKSALT or ANISE in this meal, thank you very much. Maybe RAISINS though.
    -- A BRIT (IAN), a HAN (LEE?), a LAO, a SABRA and BORAT all meeting in HANOI, then traveling to ERITREA by way of OSLO -- and, after that arduous itinerary, finally to a spa in OJAI.

    I had no idea Everything But The Girl covered Springsteen. That's a great version of an awesome original song.

    Wednesday, Thursday and Friday all great -- can wait to see what's UPNEXT.

    Teedmn 8:06 AM  

    This Weintraub Friday didn't play as easy for me as they usually do, which was a nice treat. Things like AVERAGE guy, OTRa, and, dumb, dumb, dumb, on 39A with BALL_T in place, deciding that the country of Chad had great BALLeT. Yeah. I blame that on 32D, which I persisted in reading as "Pleasant p[l]ace". And really, a TROT isn't a particularly pleasant pace. But hey, finished with no errors.

    This puzzle reminded me of my one trip to Hawaii in 2014. For some reason, at an open market in Kihei, I decided to buy Himalayan PINK SALT. Globalization at its best. And SEA TURTLES. The year we went, there had been an unusually high number of shark attacks, most of them on Maui. My husband became obsessed with sharks and read everything about the attacks and how to avoid them (my favorite was, "If all of the fish start moving in one direction, go with them"). On a guided snorkeling trip, we were told to stay away from where the coral ended and the sand began. My husband started swimming along with two SEA TURTLES and only after he was out quite a ways did he realize that he had long left the coral and all he was seeing was sand. He swam back to shore immediately. But what a great trip - we were there during peak whale birthing season. It was amazing to look out in the harbor and everywhere there were whale spumes. And the mother whale that passed under the boat we were on - it seemed as big as a jet plane as we stared down in wonder.

    I would add to @kitshef's Kirsten Dunst movie list, "Dick", about two girls and their acquaintance with Richard Nixon. The explanation for the 18 minute tape gap is hilarious.

    I really liked the misdirection of "Stole, maybe" in the clue for FUR, 22A.

    Robyn, your puzzles are always fun, thanks.

    Teddi and Teddy 8:20 AM  

    Pink salt and workmate slowed us down- after tearing through the rest at record speed. Great puzz. Knew nose to tail and knew pink salt too but wanted perilla(?) and even, gasp, considered biryani.
    Yeah. We know better.

    Birchbark 8:26 AM  

    I used to think of PINK SALT as sodium nitrate, which is used to cure bacon and other meats. It is (or was, when I was doing my own cures) artificially colored pink so that no one would mistake it for table salt, which would be very bad. Now, like so many other AVERAGE JOEs, we too have the "good" pink Himalayan salt in a grinder. (@QuasiMojo (6:57), I think you're right that no salt is probably best).

    @Larry G. (1:10) -- my daughter is at a camp at UCLA, and over the past couple of weeks visited both Getty museums. She sent a photo of a courtyard at the Getty Villa in Malibu -- impressive columns to say the least (but it's all relative -- the pair of downy woodpeckers bickering outside the window could care less). And only now do I understand why ART is the answer to the "Getty oil" clue. Nice.

    OldCarFudd 8:42 AM  

    Doesn't barbecue come from beard to tail (barbe a queue) in French? Pretty much the same idea as use to tail, although I've never heard it in English.

    TJS 8:51 AM  

    Where IS LMS ? Anybody?

    Bryce 8:57 AM  

    Not knowing RUR and having LOGGEDIN got me to "WINKMATE" which suggested some kind of stealthy office romance.

    Suzie Q 9:03 AM  

    I'm glad this little gem of a Friday is getting the praise it deserves. Some folks aren't happy unless their puzzle makes them sweat but this was so clever and fun, what's not to like?
    Only two iffy clues for me. Fixtures are to me the stuff above the plumbing like the faucets and shower head. Pipe fittings are the things under the sink. Spatulas are for flipping things in the fry pan not scraping the batter out of the bowl. Minor nits that are easily forgiven when we get so many wonderful clues/answers.
    Haven't heard "five finger discount" in ages.
    Thanks Robyn!
    @ Muscato 6:14, I hear you!

    Nancy 9:06 AM  

    Only one nit in this otherwise juicy themeless:

    How can UP NEXT (30A) be the answer to "about to go"? It's only a few steps from the on-deck circle to the batter's box. You're not "going" anywhere, really. Or, if you're unlucky enough to be behind someone who's UP NEXT at the deli counter and she's ordering sandwiches for a small army of her friends, she's not "about to go", either. She may not go for another 20 minutes.

    The clue only works for someone who's UP NEXT in an endless line for the Ladies Room.

    Other than that, a nifty puzzle. Great clues leading to colorful, original long answers. I was baffled by the NW and had to start all the way down at RUBS/RAISINS, head South and then come back up.

    So DEWAR'S is owned by Bacardi. I didn't know that. One's a Scotch, the other's a Rum. Seems strange. Did anyone here know that?

    Ethan Taliesin 9:21 AM  

    How is PINK SALT any different from GREEN PAINT other than the adjectives/nouns?

    pmdm 9:32 AM  

    A lot of excellent entires, but alas too much PPP for me.

    Nancy 9:36 AM  

    My favorite blog comment so far today? @Teedmn's 8:06 advice on how to avoid a shark attack: "If all of the fish start moving in one direction, go with them."

    A close second: Quasi's droll 6:57 comment on HAIG. I remember that so well, too, @Quasi! "I'm in charge here," is what HAIG said.

    And I should have known that my friend @Mathgent would also be intrigued by the strange Scotch-Rum marriage in today's puzzle. But he went farther than I did -- he looked it up.

    Tim Aurthur 9:46 AM  

    I once went to a méchoui in the suburbs of Paris, where a lamb was roasted NOSE TO TAIL over a pit. At the table sat an unhappy-looking woman who'd been dragged there by her boyfriend. The host came up to her and said, "You're a vegetarian, right?" The woman nodded. The host placed a bowl of raw carrots and celery in front of her.

    Anonymous 9:49 AM  

    Analogous: Had like, then as if, then as in, then, finally, AKIN. Whew!

    GILL I. 9:57 AM  

    @Robyn is fast becoming one of my favorite constructors.
    I had trouble getting started. Go pour yourself some coffee and see if you can remember how to spell MENSA. BALM bang in. AVIA of course. So I have BA for 1A. Hmmm who lives in a dreamhouse that starts with BA? BAD ASS something or other. The O in OJAI gave me DOLL. Oh...It's BARBIE. My sisters favorite. I, personally, hated those things. Her hair was awful, here boobs weren't right, and her eyes were too big and she looked stupid. Phew...got that off my chest.
    Anyway, that's how I got started and it kept getting better. Everything just kept getting plopped in. Like @jae, I had ASiN at 18A and left it. Forgot to check. My DNF because lots of calls are made at the POsER TABLE. Why not?
    @Quasi...PINK SALT is the purest and cleanest of all salts. According to some docs, it's actually good for you because of all the minerals it has. It's expensive because the salt is mined by hand. Speaking of SABRA, I'm a kosher salt gal.
    @Suzie Q. The only way you can get every little last bit of batter out of your bowl is with a silicone spatula. If you're flipping pancakes, you need a steel SPATULA.
    Cluing was the most fun for me. Like cooking that goes whole hog was neat. I kept thinking of a luau. My dad and his riding buddies would buy a piglet and we'd have a whole day roast fest. You could count on our feast just about every Sunday. The snout and tail were fed to the pups.
    Wanted GOSSIPER near the water cooler. Thank you RUR for setting me straight.
    TROT next to EATS...Hmmm.

    Banya 10:07 AM  

    I wrote in BARBIE too, wondering whether she had a last name!

    Birchbark 10:24 AM  

    @Teedmn (8:06) -- Really like the "Chad Ballet." Oddly, while BALLOT fell without crosses, I struggled with the same misread of "Pleasant p[l]ace." So much so that I had to run the alphabet the end to get TROT. Only then did I reread the clue correctly. I blame the editors.

    RooMonster 10:28 AM  

    Hey All !
    Nice clean FriPuz. West side way easier than East. Funny how that works. Some nice clues in here too. Only nit is HALF DOOR. What the what?

    Couple writeovers, bONE-TONE, ELiS-ELKS, buLLETS-PELLETS.

    4 F's today, nice count these past few days. :-)

    Agree with the GRUB better than EATS poster. Also surprised no one has said, "OSLO won in 2018!" Har.


    jberg 10:44 AM  

    DNF, sigh... I LOGGED iN, and although my first thought for what's near the water cooler was "fellow workers," I never saw that it could be WORK MATE. Thought DUrST was just as good as DUNST for a surname. It was my fault, of course, not a problem with the puzzle.

    Lots of fun, other than that. Rotisserie before ROLLER RINK, base before ENOL, ToM before TIN, but those all worked out.

    A little unhappy with 32A -- a TROT is not a pace, they are different gaits. But as applied to people, who only have two legs, I guess it becomes metaphorical.

    Tom 10:47 AM  

    Nice to have one with no junk. ELKS was the last entry. Fell for ELiS first, and thought maybe ROLLERINi was an Italian skating venue. Doh.

    20% faster than my usual Friday time. Got DOLL first from crosses, but couldn't figure out the kind of doll it was until I changed sAil to MAST and got BALM. Favorite clue was for SPATULA. Let's have more puzzles this clean!😍

    Anonymous 10:57 AM  

    @jberg - you have to go to definition 4b in Websters to find the definition of pace which caused your distress with the 32A clue. That's a pretty deep dive to register a complaint, no?

    Stanley Hudson 11:06 AM  

    Basically what @Lewis said. Robyn W is a fine constructor.

    I miss LMS.

    Pappybrewit 11:11 AM  

    “But he went farther than I did -- he looked it up.”

    Yalp, yalp! Thar’s this newfangled doohickey called Google that looks stuff up fer ya. Maybe some youngster under 70 kin larn ya how to use it.

    TomAz 11:12 AM  

    As a serious Fergus Henderson fan I was thrilled to see NOSE TO TAIL in the puzzle today!

    This played super easy for me today .. about 65% of my normal Friday solve time. I started with an error -- regular JOE at 15A but the J was right which gave me OJAI, and the crosses soon fixed the rest.

    Rex likes to complain about "the ALII/ALIA" dilemma and also "ASAMI/ASDOI" recently. The same complaint applies equally to LOGGED ON / LOGGED iN and OTRO/OTRa .

    The R in SABRA was the last to fall for me.. didn't know the word, and misread the down clue as "Pleasant place" rather than pace.

    All in all this was a very nice, clean, fun puzzle.

    Ghost of Christmas Past 11:15 AM  

    "Oh dear. I find myself at totally odds with certain friends on this blog. But put me squarely in the camp of people who are absolutely appalled by when [Nancy], of all people, makes such an egregious grammatical error. I agree with @SusieQ who called it "fingernails on a blackboard." I agree with the person who says that people who care about the proper use of English are not all Grammar Nazis. The reason I didn't comment earlier is that I hadn't read [Nancy's 9:36 post] know it's [further, not farther]. And if you do know, please don't go on thinking that the misuse of English is "cute" or ADORBS or playful. If you don't know, maybe you can find someone [] to *learn you some English*. Sorry, [Nancy], but this is important. Not only to the future of the English language, but to your future. One mistake like that and any job application of yours would probably be tossed unceremoniously directly into the trash.

    TubaDon 11:20 AM  

         Never having played with BARBIE DOLLs or imbibed DEWARS (vacuum flasks to me!), I initially blanked on the NW corner. Two long answers (POKERTALBE and CROSSBONES) started me off on the East side, but I temporarily fill into the NIBLETS trap and though DUTCH- would have been a better door. Got SEATURTLES from the ...TLES in the SW, and finally EGGHUNT -> HAIG -> OJAI -> JOE let me finish the NW.
    Took me a lot longer than you 5 and 10-minute speedsters, but thought it was a rewarding puzzle.

    JC66 11:29 AM  

    HAIG & Haig crossing DEWARS amused this scotch drinker (Hi @GILL I).


    Lorens' on vacation with"spotty" internet. I hope she's back soon.

    kitshef 11:44 AM  

    @ Suzie Q
    There seems to be a lot of regionalism about spatulas. To me, a spatula has a long, relatively thin metal blade and is used to apply frosting to cakes. A pancake turner has a rectangular flat metal blade and is used to flip pancakes. And a scraper has a rectangular, somewhat thicker rubber blade and is used to get the last bits of muffin batter out of the bowl.

    @Ghost of Christmas Past - I'm guessing, based the open quote that starts your rant that never has a corresponding close quote and that doesn't belong in the first place, your sentence fragment, your sentences that begin with conjunctions, etc., that your tongue is firmly in cheek.

    jb129 11:46 AM  

    Robyn, I love your puzzles!

    You killed me on "Nose to Tail" 53 Across! But great puzzle - I don't care if Rex thought it was easy! I enjoyed it after a crazy week.

    BTW Rex, talking about Lazy Flies - what about the fly in Norman Bates' last scene in "Psycho"

    Harryp 11:49 AM  

    Sorry to Robyn Weintraub for spelling your first name with an i, not a y. My typing was to blame.

    Lewis 11:50 AM  

    @nancy -- I saw it as "about to go to bat"...

    Joseph Michael 11:53 AM  

    From BARBIE DOLL to CROSSBONES, another work of ART from Robyn Weintraub.

    fiddleneck 11:56 AM  

    I've been told that our word barbecue comes from the French: barbe a queue--beard to tail.

    Malsdemare 12:01 PM  

    Lovely puzzle, just hard enough to keep me scratching my head a bit before tentatively putting in an answer that was sometimes right. I wanted HEADTOTAIL because NOSETOTAIL, while it fit the clue, didn't ring true to me. Made the same error as Rex with HeFTS before HAFTS.

    So here's a question: Do you think that constructors have "signatures" that as solvers we "catch" as we go through a puzzle? I guess "wavelength" is a more familiar term but I see this as more than an ESP sort of thing. If a puzzle is tough, I invariably can't get the NW until last. I poke around until answers get filled, poke around a bit more, and then return to the NW where BARBIEDOLL, AVERAGEJOE and LIVINGWAGE are suddenly obvious, even though all I've got are DEWARS, IAN, AND LOGGEDON (which I got courtesy of the NE). It really seems as though there's a through-line in puzzles, created by the constructor's mental processes, that I slowly pick up. Am I nuts?

    Now to read y'all's posts.

    Phil 12:35 PM  

    I think since there IS pink salt in Rex's house his riff may be a one sided tiff and rebuttal space should have been allowed by his better half.

    Ghosts of Christmas Past 12:36 PM  

    @Kitschef - No, that was Nancy's rant from a month or so ago about Annabel's grammar with all references to Annabel changed to [Nancy]. And yes, was missing a close quote, but beyond changing Annabel specific terms to [Nancy], we believe it's intact.

    JC66 12:47 PM  

    @G of CP

    My initial reaction to your 10:15 AM post was "too harsh."

    Now that I understand where it came from, I can't help but applaud it.

    It never ceases to amaze me how SHARP most of the people on this blog are.

    Masked and Anonymous 1:37 PM  

    Superb stuff. M&A can't help but wonder -- how long does it take to build a puz with all these primo longballs + all these accompanyin solid shorties? Does a computer program help U cut down the overall constructioneer time from years to weeks?

    fave fillins: the whole darn grid. Maybe ENOL to the rescue, for M&A's ow de speration fix. Better ENOL clue: {Like Kemo Sabe ridin on revlis??}.

    staff weeject picks: FUR RUR. Together, kinda sounds like somebody sayin "for sure", with a mouth full of cinnamon roll.

    This felt like the whole sheebang oughta have Partick Berry Usage Immunity. And just like one of his FriPuzs, the solvequest went real smoooth.
    Thanx, Robyn Weintraub darlin. themelessthUmbsUp.

    Masked & Anonymo5Us

    yo, @jae -- Most of M&A's NE corner nanosecond expenditures went into tryin to spell ERITREA right.

    'merican in Paris 1:37 PM  

    First off, many thanks to @M&A and @Mike in Mountainville yesterday for answering my questions.

    Second, I liked today's puzzle a lot. Very clean and solid. Felt nice to guess several of the long answers in the NW and SE quickly. I'm really impressed that the constructor was ale to fit in so many common words and phrases, as well as a few unusual ones.

    It took me 50 minutes to complete, but that's not a bad time for me for a Friday. My most difficult area was the north-east. Didn't know that SPAM is a portmanteau. And, like @jae I had AsIn instead of AKIN. Unlike @jae, however, I never corrected it, so ended with a DNF. My fault entirely. Also wrote in LOGGED iN, instead of ... ON, which made it difficult to see WORK MATE.

    As for PPPs, having DUNST and SABRA in that area also added to its toughness (at least for me), but at least I got ERITREA without a problem.

    For me, the cluing was above average. Loved the clues for BRIT, SPATULAS, GAIN, BALLOT, MENSA.

    Definitely a puzzle worth its PINK SALT!

    Suzy 1:47 PM  

    Me, too!

    'merican in Paris 1:47 PM  

    Oh, and I really, really liked the answer to 28D ("Creatures with which divers sometimes swim"): SEA TURTLES. I have many fond memories of boogie boarding in warm Hawai'ian waters and, while awaiting a wave to catch, being startled by the sudden appearance of a SEA TURTLE by my side. One time at Brennecke's Beach (hey @chefwen!), one of these gentle creatures hung out with me for at least a HALF hour.

    CDilly52 1:48 PM  

    Hand up for Grub and your comment. I was present at a chuck wagon contest in New Mexico a while back and without exception the cooks called it Grub.

    roscoe 88 1:49 PM  


    CDilly52 1:51 PM  

    The proverbial description for a tidbit of employment related gossip is something “heard around the water cooler” presumably while chatting with one’s WORK MATEs.

    Anonymous 2:00 PM  

    Logged in and logged on are equally valid. Part of doing the puzzle is to get the right one(for the puzzle)

    TomAz 2:02 PM  

    Those of you questioning NOSE TO TAIL ought to read this article


    I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

    Reasonablewoman 2:06 PM  

    Very nice puzzle.

    @Nancy, 30A-The clue says nothing about baseball.

    @SuzieQ, Pipe fittings and such. I think "and such" leaves a lot of room.
    There are many types of SPATULAS.

    Anonymous 2:40 PM  

    @Gill I - Pure salt has no minerals, so PINK SALT can't possibly be the purest. Whether it's good for you or not is another question. Some of the trace minerals are good for you; the mercury, lead, plutonium, radium, polonium probably not so much. How much of each, and how bioavaiable they are is undefined and, one would assume, highly variable. Buy Morton's & more fresh vegetables.

    Lindsay 2:45 PM  

    Liked Rex's comments today, especially PORKMAIL which still has me chuckling. Had to walk away and rest my brain for a bit after my certainty that Chad was in AFRICA, and that divers might be swimming with DOLPHINS or MANTARAYS or MANNATEES...SO many sea creatures that were wrong wrong wrong.

    Went to The Getty on a high school field trip, and entered a shaded courtyard from the sunny entrance only to walk right into a shallow water feature which is now appropriately roped off. Awkward.

    Thanks for another fun Friday puzzle, Robyn!

    kitshef 3:47 PM  

    @GCP. Nope, you missed a big chunk out of the middle, thereby creating a sentence fragment where none had been. So, not tongue in cheek but Muphry's Law.

    GILL I. 3:50 PM  

    Hi @Anony 2:40....I certainly don't buy into "PINK SALT promotes health and wellness." But if you're going to cook with it (and how can you not) then at least be free of fear in that it contains 84 trace minerals (At least that's what promoters of the stuff purport).
    There is a huge difference in taste - at least to me. If you are going to salt anything, you want to be able to see how much you're using. Morton"s Salt doesn't cut it except maybe on a hard boiled egg. I use Kosher because it tastes good and I can see how much salt I'm using.
    I'm no scientist nor dietician and there are so many different opinions about the use of salt and its cause of hypertension and murder and mayhem and warts, and I simply don't care. I like good food to taste good. Everything in moderation and cross fingers you inherited good genes...That's my motto.

    Anony 2:40 4:33 PM  

    @Gill I - The only difference between kosher salt and table salt, Morton's or anyone else's, is the size and shape of the granules. Kosher salt has large flakes (all the better for making meat kosher, i.e. drawing out the blood). The taste of kosher salt is no different than table salt. The only difference is with the larger granules you're more likely to get a big chunk of salt in your mouth so you actually notice it. I can't state that you can't taste the difference between regular and PINK SALT, but almost no one can. Blind test after blind test have failed to show a difference in the taste of the salts beyond the effect of the size of the salt grains.

    Harryp 4:37 PM  

    @GILL I. 3:50 I agree with your post completely. Thank you.

    wgh 5:29 PM  

    I would never get the cross to E_ITREA / _UR in a million, billion, fifty years

    JC66 5:49 PM  


    You probably will next time (or the time after); they're both in late week puzzles a lot.

    OISK 8:54 PM  

    No problem, no complaints. A nice, solid Friday puzzle. So I will take this opportunity to grouse about yesterday's which had exactly the kind of guaranteed Natick cross that I SCREAM about. (and not just because I got it wrong.) Down was SXSW, an acronym that even most people who have heard of it probably don't understand. When you provide an acronym where NONE of the letters are in any way discernible to those who don't know that acronym, you need to be very careful with the crosses. SXSW has appeared before, but the letters are so meaningless (to me) that I never remember it.

    Crossing it we had Women's name that sounds like two letters. E L _ I E. Could be Ellie, could be Elsie. Could be SXSW, could be SXLW. If you don't know the acronym, you are guessing. And it was avoidable! The clue should have been "Name that sounds like two CONSONANTS." Poof. Natick is gone. There's no excuse for making a puzzle unsolvable to so many people, especially on Thursday. (and I did not like the clue for "Tots" either.

    DavidL 11:42 PM  

    A SABRA is actually a cactus-like plant that grows in Israel. The name got applied to Israeli people because, like the plant, they are supposedly prickly on the outside but soft on the inside. That's the theory, anyway.

    joebloggs 11:59 PM  

    I did not. Getty oils maybe. Deliberately misleading clues are just a waste of time in my opinion...

    Z 1:01 AM  


    Anonymous 4:36 PM  

    Hi. Love the blog and I'm new to puzzles so bear with my sophomoric question. In 49 down what does the red "G" denote? The remainder of the letters are shaded in gray in that answer. Is this a formalism? I don't see it in every solved puzzle. Thanks!

    spacecraft 10:57 AM  

    This solve was a weird experience for me: a tale of two clue levels. I found most of the puzzle Friday-tough, thanks to Friday cluing. Then we get these twin "Accompanier" clues in the SE that seemed as though they weren't even trying to be hard. Scepter: ORB. Skull: CROSSBONES. Duh. Which made the SE easiest of all--and others keep saying the opposite. Goes to show how differently people's minds work. I'd rate this medium-challenging: medium only for the SE!

    Apparently there's a Getty who paints. What a way to clue ART! It's like that all over. I had to STARTSMALL in the NE, knowing only the two co-DODs Janis IAN and LEE Meriwether. They win the honor for giving me my first foothold, though Ms. DUNST surely deserves it as well. What the hey, make it a three-way. In the NE, AKIN allowed me to plunk down POKERTABLE--and remind me not to sit at one where @Anoa Bob is playing.

    As others have mentioned, this is squeaky-clean, no doubt the result of repeated RUBS to get it right. Ms. W. surely deserves consideration for 14-down membership. Eagle.

    Burma Shave 12:11 PM  


    but now TIM’S found his all ENOL,
    From NOSETOTAIL SABRA’s come of age,


    Anonymous 1:25 PM  

    Very challenging, very fair, and a lot of fun. An absolute delight to have solved it. One of the best ever.

    leftcoastTAM 1:37 PM  

    The long downs and acrosses help make this relatively easy, as did some gimmes (MAST, HAIG, BORAT) and some familiar crosswordese (OGLE, AVIA).

    Throw in some clever clues (e.g., "What can get batters out"? SPATULAS, of course!) and unknowns (e.g. Hadn't heard of Tony-winning OSLO), and you get a good, but not too strenuous, workout to TONE up for Saturday.

    rondo 2:44 PM  

    I didn’t find this puz too tough, although after BARBIEDOLL and AVERAGEJOE I wondered if there might be a theme involving names, but no. I almost entered “Africa” for Chad’s place, but I kept hanging on until some crosses confirmed BALLOT.

    It doesn’t seem that long ago since BORAT came out. Time flies.

    I’ve been to the Getty Museum in L.A. Lotsa ART there.

    In Austin, MN you can visit the SPAM Museum. Whole hog indeed.

    I had forgotten about LEE Meriwether’s turn in the Catwoman Spandex. Yeah baby.

    Nice puz. What’s UPNEXT?

    rainforest 3:16 PM  

    Despite the fact that my daughter had a BARBIE DOLL as a child, I knew nothing of a "dreamhouse". I started in the NE and then went clockwise to get back to the NW, moving smoothly most of the way through this gem of a puzzle. Wrote over THEREOn when I got HALF DOOR and OTRa for when ...BONES was entered.

    I took a bit of time getting the NW until LIVING WAGE became apparent, and then I was done.

    Nice work by Robyn...and me.

    leftcoastTAM 6:35 PM  

    Hey, @spacecraft, why not make it a foursome with Robyn Weintraub? (See xwordinfo.)

    wcutler 7:09 PM  

    @Anonymous 4:36 PM, I solve on paper, but my understanding is that the shaded answer is the last one entered, and the red square is the last square entered.

    Just once, I would like to see a Friday that I finish rated as even a medium. So far, my finishing it practically defines it as easy. I finished this, but it took three sessions, and for a while I wasn't convinced it was going to happen. It's nice to see that all the things RP rants about are really not necessary - people can create elegant puzzles.

    thefogman 10:08 PM  

    Nothing to HANOI here. I may be just an AVERAGEJOE but I thought it was a good one. Even MENSA member Rex liked it...

    Barry J. Williams 10:36 AM  

    Completely loved BARBIEDOLL atop AVERAGEJOE, all of them trying to eke out a LIVINGWAGE. Great action in the North.

    There can be no more swimming pleasure than sidling along next to SEATURTLES. POKERTABLE and EGGHUNT both excellent downs.

    This puzzle undoubtedly has Robyn Weintraub INRAREFORM indeed.

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