Merrill in movies / FRI 8-17-18 / Mill owner in California gold rush / 30-foot-long dinosaur able to walk on either two legs four / New England prep school attended by JFK / Hallucinagenic edibles in slang / Lieutenant Miderbinder of Catch 22 / Constellation between Cygnus and Aquila / Process by which neutrinos are produced

Friday, August 17, 2018

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium (shading toward Easy-Medium for me) (5:30)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: HARLAN Stone (43D: Former Supreme Court justic Stone) —
Harlan Fiske Stone (October 11, 1872 – April 22, 1946) was an American political figurelawyer, and jurist. He served as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1925 to 1941 and as the 12th Chief Justice of the United States from 1941 to 1946. He was also the 52nd United States Attorney General. His most famous dictum was: "Courts are not the only agency of government that must be assumed to have capacity to govern." (wikipedia)
• • •

Slow fast slow. That's how this went. I struggled to get off the ground, and in fact abandoned the NW when I couldn't make it all come together, but then pushed through the NE and SE pretty easily before slogging my way back up the west coast to end near where I began—at the crossing of AU NATUREL and TEE SHOTS, both of which had menacingly vague clues (14A: Bare / 15D: Drives). Got that AUNA- at the beginning of 14-Across and figured I had to have an error. Crosses checked out, but "nothing starts that way," I reasoned. This puzzle seemed very name-heavy, and I had trouble with what felt like half of them (probably closer to 1/3). Historical names like SUTTER and HARLAN eluded me, whereas, clued differently, they would've been gimmes. Pitcher Bruce SUTTER? Author HARLAN Ellison (or HARLAN County)? Woulda nailed those. Alas. But I guess you gotta put in some speed bumps. Also had no idea re: GREG or MILO (confession: never read "Catch-22"). But I *did* know TERRI and DINA (solely from doing crosswords), so not all names were trouble ... but it's at least a little dicey to rely so heavily on names in your puzzle.

I don't know how taps work, apparently. So ... an AERATOR is attached to the tap? I assumed this was an ALE tap, but it's just an ordinary home faucet. It appears to be largely an anti-splashing technology. I really should pay more attention to ... stuff. I knew CHOATE solely because my cousins went there. Then straight to Yale. Which was not necessarily an obvious place for them considering they grew up in Idaho, but ... anyway, true story. The true story of how I knew CHOATE today. SAGITTA means "arrow" in Latin. I'm a Sagittarius (who has had a smattering of Latin). I still don't like this answer. I don't think I'd like CYGNUS or AQUILA either. If you need a short constellation like ARA or LYRA or URSA or maybe ORION to get by, find, but longer than that, and if you're not an ultra-famous constellation, then I object. I also object to STATE CAR, but mostly because I just don't know what that is. A kind of car? An official government car? It feels like some boat-of-a-car that Lincoln made circa 1981.

Was the CRISCO / CISCO thing supposed to be cute? KNURL may be my last favorite word. People don't like "moist," I don't like KNURL. At least "moist" can apply to brownies, which are delicious. You ever eat a KNURL? No, you have not, and if you did, it would be disgusting. KNURL sound like some kind of skin growth you get on your knuckle. A fleshy knob that curls into a KNURL. Puzzles should not have KNURLs. No KNURLS Allowed! I liked Z IS FOR ZEBRA, though its misdirecting clue (51A: Primer finish) failed to throw me because I had the Z-BRA in place before I even saw the clue. [Trim] for ADORN was hard, as was 44A: Court figure whose job is to detect 36-Across (TASTER), largely because of the phrase "Court figure," which suggests D.A. or judge or bailiff or stenographer or some such legal figure. I'd like to thank all the SOTS for giving me the penultimate vowel in IGUANODON, which I always think is an "A." The end.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Brian 12:15 AM  

The too easy streak just ended for me.

okanaganer 12:16 AM  

HARLAN?: Ellison, sure. Coben, great. Obscure jurist from 70+ years ago?: meh.

"Primer finish", on the other hand, is a great clue.

Note that the symmetric answers 11D and 30D both begin with IGU! Coincidence?

Patrick O'Connor 12:23 AM  

I loved this puzzle quite a bit. Somehow I convinced myself that "Drives" could clue "SEES HOME," which gave me so many correct crosses that the actual correct answer across there was a mystery until the very end, which was actually very satisfying to clarify. If Rex doesn't like it, he can go sit on a knurl. Knurl! ("Humperdinck! Humperdinck!" "I'm not listening, I'm not listening!")

Puzzled Peter 12:23 AM  

Too cute, too many names, too much obscure stuff. Not my cuppa.

Unknown 12:41 AM  

Ale is not likely to be served at Oktoberfest. Germans brew lagers. Ale is not synonym for beer - it should never be clued as if it were.

JOHN X 12:50 AM  

I found this particular puzzle to be no signifigant obstacle.

GASSY APE POISONS SCAB, SOBS is the plot of a movie I'm writing that I hope to sell to a large film studio for a great deal of money, enough to buy back pa's farm and make everything better just like it was before.

KNURL is a nice word. If you want to sound witty and sophisticated pronounce it KUH-NURLED, as in KUH-NURLED KUH-NOB. I used this trick at several fancy cocktail parties during Fashion Week and the response was very favorable.

The Wikipedia article on STATECAR is worth reading just to learn that the President of Uruguay drives a Volkswagen Beetle.

Robin 12:58 AM  

"I say tomato, you say tomahto."

I thought the clues for HARLAN and SUTTER were perfectly fine. True, I would have gotten them just as fast if they had been Ellison and Bruce, but SUTTER at least should have stuck in your mind from US history classes.

Anywho, mostly blew through the top half, the slowed down on the bottom. But filled in ZISFORZEBRA (nice one!) based on the (first) Z, (first) R and B and worked it out from there.

Somewhat agree about SAGITTA, and thought STATECAR stunk.

Finished in 2/3 my average Friday time.

chefwen 12:58 AM  

I struggled with this one especially in the SE, didn’t know CHOATE, HARLAN and I had no idea what the hell a neutrino was. Had BE DECAY in place, no clue as to the TA. Finally looked it up and gave myself a proper headache reading all about NEUTRINOS. I still have no idea what I even read. Obviously, I never excelled in science. Oh well, the rest of it was delightful.

puzzlehoarder 1:32 AM  

This was painfully slow for me. There were a few unknowns like SAGITTA, CHOATE and HARLAN but a lot of my problems we're of my own making. There was noun/verb confusion with some clues, getting the tense wrong with another and just missing alternate meanings for crucial clue words.

To make a long story short I wound up with a dnf at SAGYTTA. The dictionary gives no preference to SLIEST or SLYEST but the former will always look wrong to me. The word is SLY. Why the vowel change? I guess it wouldn't be English otherwise. I've seen Sagittarius as many times as anyone else but it sure doesn't mean I can spell it. I can pronounce it just fine which got me thinking about that second vowel sound. Sure enough it's phonetically represented (in Webster's) by that inverted lower case e. This sound can generated by any vowel and I can't tell you how many dnfs it has cost me. It has to be the vaguest sound in the whole language and you can play whack-a-vowel with it all day long.

Clark 1:41 AM  

Here's a crossword star lesson. (Stuff I know only because I am a sometime serious star gazer.) There's a group of three northern stars that are known as the summer triangle. They're pretty easy to spot if someone points them out to you. The star Altair is in the constellation Aquila (the Eagle), Deneb is in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan), and Vega is in Lyra (the Lyre). The Eagle and the Swan are flying toward each other. I forgot all about Saggita, so I had to get it from crosses. But these three stars and three constellations are fair game in late week puzzles.

The nose of Draco (the Dragon), a constellation that wraps halfway around the Little Dipper, points right at Vega, which is very bright. And Altair and Deneb (completing the triangle) are also very bright. They are the three brightest stars in that part of the sky.

Dolgo 2:10 AM  

Even though I know what it means now, I don't think I'll ever use KNURL. It's too hard to say and besides, nobody would know what I'm talking about.
Cavil: Either SLY(I)EST or SAGY(I)TTA is a variant spelling. That threw me for a loop for awhile.
Now I Know what ROCKED IT and IGUANODON are, I wouldn't have had such a hard time with the northeast. I gather from Rex's comment that the latter is a "crossword puzzle word" (boo, hiss!!)

Anonymous 3:37 AM  

I’m so sick of seeing ALE clued with Oktoberfest - it’s wrong! Oktoberfest beer is lager, not ALE! Shortz I guess doesn’t care because this error has been made before, at least on April 19 of this year and October 19 of last year.

Melrose 4:11 AM  

A tough one for me, many stops and starts. Finished at last, except for having slyest instead of sliest. (OK, even the spell-checker on this page wanted to change the i to a y, so I don't feel too bad about that 😁).

Lewis 5:55 AM  

@johnx -- Very entertaining post!

This was great fun, peppered with treats. A basket of goodies. MARMELADE! KIBITZED! SECRET SAUCE! KNURL (I love this word, Rex)! Terrific smile-producing misdirects. Puller out of words I had no idea I knew yet dropped right in (DINA, HARLAN, CHOATE). And Z IS FOR ZEBRA is brilliant answer (also a NYT debut) with a brilliant clue.

You can take it to the bank that Jeff's puzzles will be laboratory clean, but this offering was anything but sterile. It wasn't easy (another good thing about it), and it wasn't quick, but with treat after treat, I felt like I was zip-lining through it.

Lewis 5:59 AM  

And @rex, you HAVE to read Catch-22. It will speak to you. You will remember it for the rest of your life and be grateful for it.

pantiesinabunch 6:30 AM  

I am so upset I can't even finish this puzzle. I started in the SE. PRMAN? So women can't do PR? What a bunch of misogynistic garbage.

BarbieBarbie 6:31 AM  

DNF’d myself. Misspelled MARMeLADE, then had a hazy recollection that it was the job of the jeSTER to taste for poison, then saw the J had to be a T, thought TeSTER was a pretty dumb green paintish answer, and it didn’t trigger me to question that e. Sigh. Fun puzzle. Loved the mirror symmetry of IGUANODON and IGUESSNOT. Great mix of current stuff and throwbacks. I would say it beat me, but actually I did that. If I hadn’t, this would have been such a happy-sigh kind of solve.

Pete S 6:40 AM  

I had an inkling that the "court" figure was going to lean courtly and so poison fell into place quite quickly. Alas, it turns out that I POISIONed my MARMALADE with a rogue E (and perhaps some SHROOMS) and so chuckled at the thought of a miserable looking jester doing the job as I filled him in. Such was my conviction that stajecar --> statecar ended up being my final correction. Egads, as the NYT editors doubtless say.

Small Town Blogger 6:57 AM  

Had a Natick at the 33A/34D space, guessed “G” and was wrong.

Charles Flaster 7:00 AM  

Friday easy because I knew most of the proper names.
Favorite clue was for MARMALADE followed by Z IS FOR ZEBRA.
Always liked DINA Merrill as an actress.
Thanks JC

kitshef 7:14 AM  


We recently had a couple of Jeff Chen clunkers, but this is a great constructor ROCKING IT.

Frederick Reines won the 1995 Nobel Prize in physics for detecting the neutrino – in 1956.

I love the word 'knurl'. And the word 'moist', for that matter.

Teedmn 7:23 AM  

My biggest hang up today was staring at TEES____ and assuming “Drives” was a verb. Could there be a golf term TEES HOme? Fixed that. Was blank on BE__DE___ for neutrino forming processes but DECAY to the rescue. And an IGnominious finish where I briefly had IqUANADON in (it's early) and wondered what Middle-Eastern scientist __qAN I was looking for. Fixed that.

Nice Friday, thanks Jeff Chen.

T-Rex 7:24 AM  

When a Dinner Party Was Held in an Iguanodon.

BarbieBarbie 7:29 AM  

It’s weird that KNURL would be such a big deal. If you have a toolbox, some of your tools probably have knurled handles. It’s that crosshatch pattern that helps grip.. works for winding stuff up, too, to prevent it from sticking together.

ncmathsadist 7:36 AM  

Knurling is a set of grooves on a tool that creates a rough surface and a good way to grip it. It is not a protuberance. This is flat out wrong.

emmet 8:09 AM  

Have to chime in on the ale clue. If it says Oktoberfest, it is saying Munich. Only lager is in the tents and from the six breweries in Munich. Yes you can get wine and other drinks now but ale is not part of the party.

P-CO 8:15 AM  

I agree. Rex, read Catch-22. Beside being brilliant, it fits your humor.

Suzie Q 8:27 AM  

@ JOHN X, Maybe Tarantino is your man for that movie. I bet you two would hit it off.
I saw ale/Oktoberfest and thought "Here we go again".
Does trim mean adorn for anything besides a Christmas tree?
Man, I have to know the map of Iowa and a star map too?
Tear can be such a tricky homophone as a noun and also a sly little verb too.
Cisco and Crisco in the same grid?
Is a state car the official vehicle like a state tree?
You think you have a crappy job? How'd you like to be that tester?
I suppose any puzzle that generates that many questions in my mind is worth my time but I can't really say it had much sparkle.
But I do love me some dinosaurs!

mmorgan 8:30 AM  

Outstanding puzzle though it was slow fast slow slow fast fast slow for me. Somehow got phrases like SECRETSAUCE, TEESHOTS, and ZISFORZEBRA in the blink of any eye. Got CHOATE off the H and the A. Was able to dredge up GREG and HARLAN with surprisingly little effort. Wanted jeSTER for awhile but gave up on that. Also had SLyEST but I KNURLed that Y out of there. Crisp and crunchy puzzle with lots of great stuff!

Forsythia 8:36 AM  

@Rex, if KNURL (awful word) is your "last favorite" then that means it is in your favorites?! Or Last of your Least Favorites? Do you have a Least Favorite Word List or a Favorite List of which KNURL is the last? Inquiring minds want to know.

kitshef 8:43 AM  

Words often have multiple meanings. KNURL can mean either a protuberance or a set of grooves.

A Grimwade 8:45 AM  

Totally agree...a Bavarian would hurl if served an ale at Oktoberfest

Crimson Devil 8:47 AM  

Careful with spell-check: tis a dangerous crotch.

pmdm 8:57 AM  

I associate most of Mr. Chen's puzzles as gimmick puzzles (and I'm not being cirtical with that comment). It was nice to solve one of his puzzles that lacks a compelling gimmick. While I would have preferred less esoterica (by my definition, anything I don't know), I thought it was a good Friday puzzle. (That definition was a joke.)

Yesterday I commented about cirticizing for the sake of criticizing. Today's write-up employes a different technique. For whatever reason, Mr. Sharp seems to be at odds with Mr. Chen. As a result, a number of Mr. Sharp's comments about Jeff's puzzles were considered overly harsh be some who comment here. What I notice is the relavtive lack of praise towards a Chen puzzle when there is nothing to criticize. Am I just imagining this?

Happy 75th birthday, Mr.De Niro.

Anonymous 9:01 AM  


Decorate (something), typically with contrasting items or pieces of material.

synonyms: decorate, adorn, ornament, embellish; More

Anonymous 9:10 AM  

I am disappointed there was no ELP video from Rex.
Greg Lake as 1A started me off with a smile.
Fantastic on the acoustic guitar.
Keith Emerson a keyboard wizard.
Carl Palmer extraordinary percussion.
Worth a YouTube search if you don't know them.

Jim Lemire 9:10 AM  

@Andy Piacsek - I thought the same thing when solving this puzzle. I kept the answer blank for too long, refusing to believe ALE was correct. Factually inaccurate!

Maruchka 9:13 AM  

KNaRLy at times, but nice overall. I agree with OFL and others re: I v. Y - altho, hay, dats de trikey BYTE.

'CANTI sing [cantos] at the CISCO fete? I'll bring the CRISCO - SECRET's in the SAUCE!' (ref. 'Fried Green Tomatoes', y'all)

Tanks, Mr. Chen

GILL I. 9:16 AM  

@JOHN X...Give TARANTINO a buzz. You two would make a great couple.
I loved, love, loved this puzzle. Took me quite a bit of time but I enjoyed it all. I wish I had started this last night. This is a sit in you favorite sofa and sip a bit of Talisker single malt scotch whiskey puzzle. Alas, I started in the morning but at least I had my favorite Peet's to drink.
I give this the POW. My only head scratcher, get up and move around and think, came with IGUANODON. I don't know my 2 and 4 legged critters. I had IGUANA MAN. SOTS gave me the O and my very last POISONS entry finally cleared up that mess. Then I could sit back and enjoy EVERY SINGLE entry. WOW.
Nothing bothered me. I did Google but only for the spelling. I'm not up on my KIBITZED nor SAGITTA but I GUESSed right.
KNURl and moist don't bother me at all. I hate toenails and anything to do with renal. Fecund is pretty bad as well.
You ROCKED IT Jeff Chen. For me, a Friday that I was able to complete and enjoy is primo.

Jim Lemire 9:21 AM  

Following off @Clark the fall and winter in the northern hemisphere, there’s also the “Celestial G” - a letter G made by connecting several prominent stars. I won’t go into all the details here, but it includes the star Sirius (the dog star), Castor and Pollux (in Gemini), Capella (in Auriga, the chariot) and several stars in Orion.

Anonymous 9:21 AM  

Knurling isn't just for tools like pliers and wrenches.
People have contact with knurling every day in the form of quarters and dimes, which have knurled edges while nickels and pennies do not.
Those who still wear wristwatches might well have a knurled winding stem, the better to get a grip on it.
The knurl is the rugose shape itself, whether it is produced by adding or removing material isn't the point.

@Suzie Q - yes, you can trim windows, trim mantles, trim cakes and cookies, and even throw a party with all the trimmings. Not just for Xmas anymore!

jackj 9:30 AM  

"Also had no idea re: GREG or MILO (confession: never read "Catch-22")."

So said Rex, which speaks volumes about our blogmeister.

Hope he'll correct this blatant deficiency.

QuasiMojo 9:35 AM  

I drink Ginger ALE during Oktoberfest.

One of Jeff Chen's best puzzles. Some great clues for SCAB, SAGAN, SECRET SAUCE, SHROOMS and SPARE TIRE. And the misdirect in CRISCO ROCKED IT.

Confessions of my TRUE SELF. I went to CHOATE (well after Jack.) And SAGAN (Carl, not Francoise) was the guest speaker at my graduation from Yale.

I also knew AERATOR right off the bat because mine is not working properly! It only lets out hot water. Saves me time though when boiling an egg.

Some things I didn't like. REACH IN. SOTS (my bugaboo). TASTER felt wrong to me. Isn't it "official taster" or some such? Anyone can be a taster. But I liked how it jived with ORAL EXAMS.

Never heard of an IGUANODON and I first put in IGUANA REX. Maybe I was thinking of our fearless leader.

pabloinnh 9:39 AM  

I think the gaps in our collective knowledge are fascinating. OFL has never read Catch-22? This is the one novel I had with me in Madrid in English--thanks goodness it bears repeated readings. OFL doesn't know what an aerator is? I put one on a faucet yesterday. The AUN that OFL found mystifying was a dead giveaway, at least for me. And so on. I won't dredge up the Mede/Persian thing again though, I promise.

Thought the oxymoronic quality of primer/finish as a clue was brilliant, and ZISFORZEBRA was correspondingly terrific.

I'm joining many others in saying that this one was a pure pleasure. Bravissimo, Sr. Chen.

Nancy 9:40 AM  

So when I had SA-AN at 16A, I wondered: "Did Satan really say that?" I ran the alphabet to come up with SAGAN, a much better choice. Whew!

Wanted to write in GROTON for JFK's prep school, but it's Friday and it's Jeff Chen. Better wait for some crosses. I did, and was rewarded with CHOATE.

I've never heard of a KNURL and I didn't know the dinosaur (11D), but the play "Night of the Iguana" got me the "U" of IGUANODON. (Note to self: Brush up on your dinosaurs, ASAP.)

Z IS FOR ZEBRA is brilliantly and fiendishly clued. AU NATUREL is a lively, spicy answer -- like a great SECRET SAUCE. And, like a great SECRET SAUCE, this enjoyable puzzle provided just the right amount of crunch. Liked it a lot.

FLAC 9:47 AM  

What @Lewis said. Wonderful puzzle.

Can't believe Rex hasn't read Catch-22 (or that he'd admit it).

ghthree 9:53 AM  

My wife and I (we solve jointly on paper) live in northeastern Ohio,
and have visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, on the shore of Lake ERIE.
So I confidently entered ERIE for 1A, which messed up my first pass at the Northwest.
On a re-visit, I noticed that "Lake" appeared twice in the clue, and figured
it must be somebody's name. Never heard of Greg, but eventually got it from crosses.

Had DOLTS before TWITS for 9A, and TRUENAME for 37A. My wife suggested TRUESELF,
which fixed that problem. Loved MARMALADE, IGUESSNOT and ZISFORZEBRA. The clue
(primer finish) had us both thinking of paint. Beautiful misdirect, leading to an
AHA moment.

HARLAN and CHOATE were both gimmees.

Bruce R 10:00 AM  

Add me to the list that says ALE is incorrect. Is it possible that some Oktoberfests serve ales? Sure. They might also serve Coke. But Oktoberfest is a celebration of lagers, not ales. The dipschitz at the NY Times repeatedly make this mistake. They think ALE and BEER and LAGER are all synonymous.

Nancy 10:06 AM  

Ignorance is bliss, but this blog sometimes kills it. I just found out from @BarbieBarbie that I had the same DNF she had: MARMeLADE/TeSTER. Never questioned TeSTER. Oh, well.

Like @Lewis, I also loved your comment, @JOHN X. You're a funny guy. Keep 'em coming.

I chuckled over IGUANA MAN, @GILL. Obviously there have been many too many superhero answers in comics and movies of late. But DC Comics should certainly give some thought to IGUANA MAN. I imagine he'd be fun to draw.

@Quasi -- Carl SAGAN was your graduation speaker at Yale? Lucky you. I would guess he ROCKED IT.

Carola 10:16 AM  

Just-right tough for me, and so enjoyable. My favorite moments were the revelations of the primer ending, the court figure, and the "ingredient" - and especially discovering that the big name in oil was not ConoCO. One other do over: my first "spinner" was Pedal.

Re: Oktoberfest. There are a bunch of Oktoberfests held around Wisconsin, and I would't be surprised if they serve ALE

Thanks to those who who elaborated on KNURL I recently inherited a watch whose stem needs daily winding, and now I have a word to use instead of "jiggy-jaggy edge."

Thanks, @Barbie Barbie for the IGUANODON-IGUESSNOT match and @QuasiMojo for TESTER + ORAL EXAMS.

TubaDon 10:16 AM  

     Will too many whoppers with SECRET SAUCE create a SPARE TIRE? Those two answers got me traction in the NW, then I promptly fell asleep. I wanted ZINC oxide or something at 51 across, and only because I once resided in the same town as CHOATE was I dissuaded. Wanted GNARL at 18A, which had me feeling I DUNNO about the NE, but Carl SAGAN (whom I had a summer seminar with!) helped break the back of that multipedaled dinosaur.

TJS 10:27 AM  

I have to give Rex credit for being willing to open himself up to astonished reactions when he admits not knowing or reading something. I wonder what courses you can avoid and still get a PHD in English, having not read Catch 22 or even The Great Gatsby (until four years ago, if I remember his past comment correctly). I do remember reading something about Shakespeare not being required in some English degree programs anymore. Anyway, for some reason I feel like applauding Rex for honesty today rather than criticizing. Maybe because I am watching a bald eagle floating over the lake outside my window this morning. Hard to be churlish with that view.

Ebert 10:37 AM  

I never read it either but I knew Milo from the movie played by Jon Voight.

Z 10:41 AM  

I had the same PPP reaction as Rex, but then I counted. There are only 19 Pop Culture, Product Names, and other Proper Nouns in the puzzle. It would take 23 to put this over the 33% line that means "excessive." In retrospect, it is the datedness of the PPP that makes it seem like there is more. Brain Salad Surgery was released in 1973 and ELP broke up in 1979. Carl Sagan died 22 years ago. Catch-22 was published 57 years ago. DINA Merrill was born in 1923. Young Frankenstein was released in 1974. HARLAN Stone has been dead for over 70 years. None of these PPP answers are bad. It is just that the accumulation gives this puzzle a musty, moldy feel. Even current PPP like TERRI Clark had their start in the last century.

In short, this level of PPP wouldn't usually generate many wheelhouse/outhouse comments but that we are already seeing several suggests that even relatively low PPP can seem like a lot when it is dated PPP.

@pmdm - My impression is that Chen constructs NYTX normal puzzles and Rex thinks NYTX normal is substandard for "the gold standard" of crosswords. Others, obviously, disagree.

I do wish (with little hope of my wish ever being fulfilled) that people would consult a reference work before declaring something "wrong." I get called a pedant because I bother to look stuff up and post links. Perhaps. I prefer pedantry to errory.

QuasiMojo 10:52 AM  

@Nancy, 10:06. Yes, Sagan was great. He spoke eloquently about the future of the human race and the planet. Fitting that he should appear in this grid today since seeing IGUANODON reminded me of his remarkable book "Dragons of Eden."

Z 10:54 AM  

@TJS and others - Getting a PhD in any subject means knowing more and more about less and less. So a doctorate in medieval literature would not in and of itself lead to being broadly read in 20th century American Literature, 19th century British Literature, or Shakespeare. Quite the opposite, a narrow focus in one's subject area could exclude being broadly read in the literature of other eras. The choice is between having knowledge a mile wide and an inch deep (useful for crosswords) or an inch wide and a mile deep (useful for PhDs). No one has knowledge a mile wide and a mile deep.

TJS 11:11 AM  

@Z, point taken. On the way to a PHD, however, there are stops at the BA and MA levels, which could be expected to broaden one's range of knowledge in a particular subject. I had FitzGerald and Heller assigned in high school. But I agree that at the doctoral level the focus can narrow greatly. Even to the comic book speciality, apparently. Anyway, thanks for responding.

jberg 11:21 AM  

Great puzzle, but tough for me. The family story is that one of my remote ancestors was a TASTER for the king of Norway, so I got that one all right, but it was still hard because of all the deceptive cluing. Just what I want in a Friday puzzle.

I have no idea who Bruce SUTTER is, but it must have been 4th or 5th grade where we learned that gold was discovered in California at SUTTER's mill. Not only that, but the late-20th century craze for zinfandel was kicked off by the eponymous SUTTER Home winery.

One of the saddest days of my life was the day I was wandering through a university bookstore and noticed that there is a Cliff's Notes for "Catch 22," so that students wouldn't have to read the actual book. Terry Eagleton says someplace that in order to make it acceptable to teach contemporary literature in the university, its advocates had to show that it was difficult to understand, a goal which they have achieved.

But @Rex's comment reminded me of the David Lodge novel (I think it's "Trading Places") where the English faculty play a game called "humiliation" at cocktail parties. The way it works is that one person writes down the name of a book that he or she has never read, and everyone else tries to guess it. A junior faculty member wins it with "Hamlet." He's accused of cheating -- no one sees how it can be possible -- but he argues that of course he has seen the play many times, and didn't really need to read the script. He wins the game; but a couple of years later he comes up for tenure, and the committee can't bring themselves to vote for someone who has never read Hamlet.

Hey, you stargazers -- is SAGITTA aligned with Sagitarrius so that the archer is shooting the arrow?

Also -- does anybody know what kind of beer they serve during Oktoberfest? I was always too drunk to remember.

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

Glad to see the SAGAN quote. You can learn more about making things from scratch here:

Thank You.

old timer 11:42 AM  

I could not post on Safari. Captcha glitch. Trying Firefox. My comment was essentially, ALE as clued was unforgiveable

Bob Mills 11:44 AM  

The clue for "ZISFORZEBRA" was a brilliant misdirect. Kudos to Will Shortz. Very hard puzzle, and finishing it 100% was satisfying.

GHarris 11:46 AM  

Apes, twits, sots, dolts, dweebs, asses. Those stupid, unfathomable, take your best guess type words invariably appear and mess up otherwise perfectly good puzzles. Bah, humbug.

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

Huh? I know two PhDs with profound knowledge in their field and encyclopedic knowledge of the world. Genuine polymaths. Just because you've never seen such an animal, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Joseph Michael 12:02 PM  

Too many proper nouns for me, so it felt too often like a trivia contest rather than a crossword, though I did love SECRET SAUCE and Z IS FOR ZEBRA.

@John X, you’re too late. I already wrote that movie. Maybe you can do the sequel?

Bob Mills 12:02 PM  

Don't understand why "PRMAN" suggests that there are no PR women. Does the word "MAILMAN" offend people? How about "CONGRESSMAN?:" Congress is pretty awful, so the feminists should be glad they aren't included in the word.

Harryp 12:03 PM  

I didn't get the Happy tune so went looking for my wrong answer. It turns out that I had IGUANaDON, thinking of blazing through SATS! DNF on paper solve for sure.

Anonymous 12:05 PM  

T*E*STER/TASTER (both acceptable answers)
MARM*E*LADE/MARMALADE (both acceptable spellings)

I concur with the earlier posters I've quoted below, and submit that we have identified a construction crime which needs its own name, like "Natick." (or does it already have a name, and I just do not know it yet? if not, I propose either "Marmalade" or "beit and switch"; punishable by 3 years in jeil). Would've been a nearly-record Friday for me but for this unfair DNF. Will Shortz: do you heer me? :).

BarbieBarbie said...
DNF’d myself. Misspelled MARMeLADE, then had a hazy recollection that it was the job of the jeSTER to taste for poison, then saw the J had to be a T, thought TeSTER was a pretty dumb green paintish answer, and it didn’t trigger me to question that e. Sigh. Fun puzzle. Loved the mirror symmetry of IGUANODON and IGUESSNOT. Great mix of current stuff and throwbacks. I would say it beat me, but actually I did that. If I hadn’t, this would have been such a happy-sigh kind of solve.
6:31 AM
Pete S said...
I had an inkling that the "court" figure was going to lean courtly and so poison fell into place quite quickly. Alas, it turns out that I POISIONed my MARMALADE with a rogue E (and perhaps some SHROOMS) and so chuckled at the thought of a miserable looking jester doing the job as I filled him in. Such was my conviction that stajecar --> statecar ended up being my final correction. Egads, as the NYT editors doubtless say.
6:40 AM

Nancy said…
Ignorance is bliss, but this blog sometimes kills it. I just found out from @BarbieBarbie that I had the same DNF she had: MARMeLADE/TeSTER. Never questioned TeSTER. Oh, well.

Anonymous 12:20 PM  

It took me forever to find my last mistake. After all, "iguana" does end with an "a", and a blitz is an intense prep session for the SATs. Fun puzzle.

ArtO 12:39 PM  

Liked this a lot even though had a DNF due to inability to suss out NE despite getting TWITS, SAGAN and SNLHOSTS. Never heard of an IGUANODON even though I've been to a number of dinosaur exhibits at various museums.

Learned that neutrinos are produced by BETADECAY and felt good about remembering HARLAN stone as Supreme Court justice and SUTTER mill in gold rush. Just goes to show how different are the areas of expertise we each bring to these puzzles.

Amelia 12:41 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 1:10 PM  

Anonymous 11:48 am said...
... Just because you've never seen such an animal, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

You don't know @Z very well.

Z 1:12 PM  

@TJS - We need to be careful or we'll end up starting a tedious debate over what's "canon." There is so much good stuff out there that what is discussed in courses at even the best Liberal Arts schools is idiosyncratic and inevitably exclusionary to some great writers. My wife was the English major, and ran into Fitzgerald but not Heller. My youngest majored in writing, so lots of literature, but neither Heller nor Fitzgerald made a reading list. Indeed, I think he made it through four years without reading a single work with CliffNotes available (Hi @jberg). I've actually read more Chaucer than Shakespeare in an academic setting. All of which is a long way of saying "what we haven't read continues to be orders of magnitude more than what we have read."

@anonymous11:48 - Accepting what you assert is true, "encyclopedic knowledge" is still a mile wide and two inches deep. Even your "true polymath" is ignorant of far more than they know. This is not an insult, just an observation of the human condition.

Larry 1:21 PM  

Back to back Oktoberfest clues. Yesterday was BIER, so I was trying to think in German, but of course ALE is one of the crossword standbys, even if the clue was not spot on.

MAN endings are required in so much of crosswordese so I think we should all just relax. Perhaps the clue should be backward looking but then you loose the punning of a "spinner?". But being politically correct is all about being humorless then isn't it?

Anoa Bob 1:31 PM  

I thought that both the Catch 22 book and movie were great. It's unusual when that happens, right?

Sagan was a big hero for me when I was in grad school. @Z, I would say he had knowledge that was miles wide and deep. These days I GUESS lots of people have knowledge that is a mile wide and tweet deep.

Speaking of grad school, ORAL EXAMS are "Grueling grillings"? When I got to that point, all my committee members (who were the EXAMiners) had been on board throughout the dissertation process, had given suggestions and approvals all along the way, and as a result, the EXAM was a formality and the meeting was casual, friendly and peppered with congrats and wishes for good fortunes down the road. Then we all went to lunch and had a couple of libations.

I've had good success losing weight with a vegan, no-carb, gluten and FAT-FREE, colonic cleansing diet. Now if I can eliminate those last pesky traces of protein, I'll be slim as a reed in no time at all. Well, I might slip in a few SHROOMS.

Speaking of ORAL EXAMS and SHROOMS, even top tiered constructors lean on the S tile to get 'er done. Even a two-for one POC at the end of SNLHOST/POISON. Any SOBS out there? I GUESS NOT.

@Clark, Your comment about stars being "pretty easy to spot if someone points them out to you" reminds me of my favorite variation on that theme, "I'm quick to grasp the obvious, when it's pointed out to me".

Girish 2:19 PM  

@Lewis 5:59 AM Do you think Rex was, perhaps, playing hooky in high school so that he failed to read it? Latin class must have come later. Catch-22 applies to so many things, including the NYT crossword. Hope you’re enjoying summer. ��

Anonymous 2:36 PM  

I love "errory"

Hungry Mother 2:50 PM  


fairplay 2:50 PM  

It doesn't matter if TeSTER and MARMeLADE are "acceptable", they are WRONG!! for the puzzle. And anyway, I challenge that marmelade is an acceptable spelling. Another issue: You and Barbie and Nancy took DNF's over spelling errors and Gill googled for spelling and did not take DNF. Discuss.

Hungry Mother 3:06 PM  

This PhD, who DNFed today, has reads “Catch-22” many, many times. I was thrilled, while in San Carlos, Mexico with a RV caravan in 2004, to find the remnants of the airstrip that they made there to shoot the movie.

JC66 3:13 PM  


From past comments, it seems that different commenters have different definitions of DNF based on their puzzle solving experience/ability.

Seems fair to me.

Anonymous 3:20 PM  

@Nancy & Quasi - well, I just figured out Quasi is my age exactly ... Carl Sagan was the Class Day speaker, not the Graduation / Commencement speaker, in 1981. Yale doesn't have graduation speeches, except in the godawful event that Presidents of the USA associated with Yale come and make policy speeches at the cameras behind the graduating classes while the rest of the crowd wishes they would ... go away.

pmdm 3:28 PM  

Z: I often do not have a chance to back back to this site until the same morning, so usually I don't reply to a reply. Today is different.

Perhaps a little profession jealousy may be involved. (From a crossword constructor's perspective.) Only Mr. Sharp could clarify, and I suspect he prefers to read the banter on his blog. Whatever, sometimes I get the impression he is unjustifiably reluctant to praise some of the constructors. Perhaps he believes that's a good way to seed discussion on his site. Perhaps he is overreacting a little bit to Shortz's refusal to publish his Natick entry. I think I have said before that what Mike does has resulted in his losing whatever chance he had to influence Sortz, and that's unfortunate.

There is so much hatred posted on the internet these days that I cringe when I read such stuff, even when the criticism is well deserved. I prefer the way Jeff criticizes and analyzes the puzzle in a manner that sometimes makes me laugh rather than cringe.

What i laugh at is that many times when I have seen or read about what Will has rejected, I think to myself "Gee, that was better than what Will published." Then I think, "Gee, it's only a puzzle." Then I think, "You can't please people all the time, so at least try to please everyone at least some of the time." So when I encounter a puzzle I hate, I come here and read comment solvers have posted describing how pleased they were with the puzzle. That makes me mappy.

So I would never want Mr. Sharp to lower his standards, but just to always give praise where praise is due, even when you hate the people you praise.

That is, except when you want to praise Trump. But let's peek politics out of the comments section.

Joe Bleaux 4:14 PM  

Another Jeff Chen puzzle, another swollen head and another stiff shoulder from patting myself on the back for solving with no help and no errors, after thinking I wouldn't even get started. My entry was made, finally, with MILO. (Not sure whether one of my favorite Milo stories is in the movie, but in the book he swings a deal involving a bombing run that could kill Americans. He quips [paraphrasing], "If their folks are poor, they need the insurance money; if they're rich, they'll understand.") What am I not getting about POISONS TASTER (apart from the fact that I've never heard of such a "court figure")? How many times can a poisons taster do the job? Excellent Friday puz, JC. Thanks! (@GILL I, Scotch whisky, lass -- no "e," please.)

JC66 4:39 PM  

@Joe B

I think it refers to medieval Kings who would have a minion taste his food to insure it was safe to eat.

GILL I. 5:18 PM  

@Joe Bleaux:
Dafty...I'm a ned. I have the bottle (now) in front of me. No e for sure. My Gaelic ancestors would be disappointed...
Abair ach beagan's abair gu math e.
Let's see if my MacBook Air changes that one. Shame on him..... ;-)

Wanderlust 5:52 PM  

I had IGUANADON and SATS for the longest time. Couldn’t figure out how SATs are blitzed but didnt see the dinosaur misspelling. If not for that, it could hve been one of my best Fridays. The proper names that gave Rex trouble were no problem for me, but I agree on KNURL, which I have never heard of and never hope to again.

Phil 6:20 PM  

Way over my average at 1:50. I guess slogging thru the NW a long time is relative. I have to figure I’m traveling at .6c compared to Rex. Just happy to get a gold finish. Guessing MILO helped.

Had knoll for protruding thing

The bumpy little things that make a tactile surface on a dial or some type of control knob is done by knurling. Interesting...I think anyway.

Anonymous 6:26 PM  

I agree. No point in learning new words.

Cassieopia 6:54 PM  

Scrolled through comments to discover no one (here, at least) went in the Zinsser direction for “primer finish”. I couldn’t get my mind to go in any other direction - the name Zinsser was too well engraved into my neural pathways from my hard core home renovation days. Nice puzzle even though I DNF.

Jock Kildaire 8:01 PM  

Très drôle Gill I. Who are you aiming this pithy expression at? Sláinte.

Ian 10:48 PM  

Or Kim Jong Un. Or der Trumpster, aka General Bonespurs.

Monty Boy 10:56 PM  

Tough for me, but I learned a lot. I appreciate well done misdirection.

Did anyone else notice that KVETCHED and KIBITZED have the same number of letters? And give headaches in solving when you choose the wrong one?

Three of my favorite movies tangentially used: Young Frankenstein, Pulp Fiction, and Catch 22. Every time I see YF, I see another gag. My favorite is when the constable's eye patch and monocle switch eyes. So does his mechanical arm and Igor's hump.

I'd like to see the Painless Pole in a crossword (oh wait, that's from MASH not Catch 22).

Big J 12:18 AM  

Rex, What's going on?? The first puzzle on your website, was not the one I solved!!! The second one, which was not there untill a few minutes ago. Whats going on!!!!

das Karlchen 9:57 AM  

Will Shortz has got to start hearing more forcefully from us "ale-is-not-synonymous-with-beer" purists. Ale and beer are made differently and taste differently. They are NOT the same. I'm a beer/lager lover who is getting sick and tired of being presented with "beer lists" at American bars and restaurants that list only ales. If the New York Times is going to escape the Trumpian insult of being a purveyor of "fake news", this would be a good place to start. Let's have all beer/crossword lovers make a pact to bombard Will and the Times with complaints every time they commit this egregious, sloppy error!

rondo 10:29 AM  

1a GREG a gimme and the NW a piece of cake. Finished up at CHOATE and HARLAN. SAGITTA from crosses and could just as well have been SAGyTTA. I think SLyEST / SLIEST has been discussed before.

I agree that ALE is not beer. Different brewing methods and ingredients. I like beer (lager/pilsener); I dislike ALE. Ale will not be at Oktoberfest. ALEs are preferred by microbrewers because they are easier to brew and can hit the palate in a shorter period of time. In other words – laziness.

A STATECAR is what I get down in the motor pool if I need one for business travel.

It’s dueling yeah babies with Teri GARR and TERRI Clark. I’ll eat @spacey’s hat if there is a 3R TERRRI.

I can say I liked this puz, CANTI?

Burma Shave 11:06 AM  




spacecraft 12:00 PM  

When I saw the byline, I knew my brain was in for some serious gymnastics--and I was right. Challenging to the nines; in fact, to finish it:

Ooh, what a lucky man he was!

However, I didn't remember Lake's name. Had to start in the north central with SUTTER/SCAB/BLEU. Then came AERATOR, and off the -U_EL I got AUNATUREL (a STATE in which I'd love to see DOD Teri GARR). No I wouldn't. It's better dressed and imagined.

Anyway, for a change I nailed down the NW quadrant first, though I too had trouble parsing TEESH___. SE was confusing momentarily because I couldn't fit ZasinZEBRA: one too short. When I finally went the Sue Grafton route all was well.

Much clamor about PPPs; I'll add my voice to that. A major misdirect with the "court" clues. Had to think medieval, not modern. But my biggest "No, please don't do that!" is EXED. Or it could as easily be XED. Please, guys, strike those out! EX them out, if you have to!

Withal, the triumph factor swells mightily, so the court Jeffster geta a birdie.

thefogman 12:05 PM  

I thought Rex would like this one since it was themeless and kind of tough. The top half was like an EASYA course for me. The bottom half, not so much - especially the SE corner. IDUNNO. I can't say Jeff Chen ROCKEDIT this time, but is it as bad as Rex makes it out to be? IGUESSNOT. And I am not Jeff's PRMAN.

rainforest 1:52 PM  

This was very challenging for me. My start was MOP, SECT, BLEU, SOTS, and MILO, thinking "I'm not going to finish this". It didn't help that for some brain-dead reason I was thinking Madeline Kahn instead of MY yeah baby, Teri GARR (Canadian). Stoopid.

Anyhoo, I persevered, and a few lucky stabs gradually revealed some of the hitherto unknown stuff like TARANTINO, IGUANODON, and I GUESS NOT. I slowed down wondering about SL(y)IEST and TERR(y)I. I know that Terry Clark was the drummer in Doc Severinson's Tonight Show band back in the day. Pretty sure he didn't sing.

Eventually, I finished up and like @Spacey felt the warm balm of triumph.
Tough puzzle. Good puzzle

Wooody2004 2:57 PM  

I like it that ORAL EXAMS and BETA DECAY could also be ORAL DECAY and BETA EXAMS.

I don't walk around AU NATUREL because of my SPARE TIRE.

IDUNNO if the rumors are true about IGUANADON's SHROOM-shaped penis.

Diana,LIW 4:02 PM  

It's Friday - time to play horseshoes.

BTW - it really doesn't help to leave some squares blank. Sheesh!

Lady Di

wcutler 5:12 PM  

Thanks to Anonymous 11:37 AM for the link to the toaster from scratch TED talk video. That was fun, and I thought all in jest, so I was surprised to learn that he actually plugged it in.

I enjoyed the puzzle, and the comments too.

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