Duchamp contemporary / FRI 9-14-18 / Six-time Grammy winner who is half of the group Gnarls Barkley / Novelist Ephron / Reddit Q&A sessions, briefly / "My baby at my breast," to Shakespeare's Cleopatra / 1974 Abba hit / Member of the 1920s Murderers' Row / Sarah who hosted the podcast "Serial"

Friday, September 14, 2018

Constructor: John Guzzetta

Relative difficulty: Easy (or maybe a bit harder depending on one's familiarity with proper names)


Word of the Day: DAX (45A: Shepard of "Parenthood") —
Daximus ‘Dax’ Randall Shepard (born January 2, 1975) is an American actor, comedian, writer, and director. He is best known for his work in the feature films Without a Paddle (2004), Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005), Employee of the Month (2006), Idiocracy (2006), Let's Go to Prison (2006), Hit and Run (2012), and CHiPs (2017), the last pair of which he also wrote and directed, and the MTV practical joke reality series Punk'd (2003). He portrayed Crosby Braverman in the NBC comedy-drama series Parenthood from 2010 to 2015. (Wikipedia)
• • •

Hi, CrossWorld. This is Evan Birnholz. It's been a while since I last subbed here but I write the Sunday crossword for the Washington Post Magazine these days. Most of the time my puzzles there are standard crosswords, but this weekend's puzzle will be .... not standard. That's all I'll say about it for now.

I enjoyed today's puzzle for the most part. I solved it on paper and it seemed pretty easy for a Friday, and then I saw multiple people on Crossword Twitter posting screenshots of blazing fast electronic-solve times, so it appears I'm not alone in that assessment. I had a couple of hiccups here and there, like writing CABS instead of VANS at 3D: Circlers at airports, and failing to see the correct month in 35A: Natl. Library Card Sign-Up Month despite having ??P in place -- I think my brain started cycling through the months and then, after going through JAN/FEB/MAR in one second, threw in the towel and said "Nope, other clues will be easier than this." They were, in fact, not easier than that; I would have benefited from spending a few extra seconds to come up with SEP., the only three-letter abbr. for a month that ends with P. Stupid Impatient Solving Brain.

My only major difficulty was in the southeast corner; it took a while to dredge up THAT'S GENIUS and there are some tougher-than-normal proper names down there like DEIRDREKOENIG (though I got her name quickly from remembering "Serial"), and (especially for me) DAX. I've never heard of him, I've never watched "Parenthood," and ..... well, Dax is probably somewhere between the 2,475th and 7,984th three-letter names I would have guessed if you just asked me to guess his name straight-up, though I unironically love that it's short for Daximus. A friend pointed out to me that he's married to Kristen Bell, and I know her from "The Good Place," so that's interesting. I'm a bit leery about the DAX/XKES crossing, though. I'm not much of a car buff, so I only know XKES from doing crosswords (47D: Classic Jaguars). If the XKE and DAX Shepard aren't in your wheelhouse, something like DAN/NKES could look pretty tempting. It's probably a fair crossing for a Friday, but still, that could be a trouble spot for some solvers. FILA (23A: Reebok rival) crossing FETT (23D: Boba ___, "Star Wars" bounty hunter) could be a tough crossing for some, too, although I'd argue that "Star Wars" is *so* famous as a franchise that I wouldn't call it unfair.

Putting on my Crossword Constructor Hat for a minute: Whenever there are stacks of three long answers in a themeless, my general rule is that at least two of them need to be winners and the crossing fill needs to stay relatively clean for it to be a successful stack (ideally all three answers will be fun and fresh phrases, but that can be quite tough to pull off and still keep the fill smooth). Or, if the stack features only one really sparkly phrase while the other two are just serviceable, having a really fun clue or two can liven things up. So maybe it's helpful to look at each stack one by one:

  • Northwest corner: WAVELENGTHS (1A: Differences between colors), IMAGINE THAT, (15A: "Well, what do you know?!"), DANGER MOUSE. (17A: Six-time Grammy winner who is half of the group Gnarls Barkley). The latter two are really nice answers; not everyone will be familiar with DANGER MOUSE, but both he and CEE-LO GREEN are very accomplished musicians in their own right. I have to admit my mind went a slightly different music route in that I started humming the tune to the British cartoon show "Danger Mouse" when I got that one ("He's the greatest / He's fantastic / Wherever there is danger he'll be there ...").

    Anyway, I'd say at least two of those long answers are fun, and WAVELENGTHS is solid if not super-exciting. The crossing fill is fairly good too, marred a tad by small stuff like -ESS and THU. But thumbs-up for that corner overall.
  • Northeast corner: ABOVE IT ALL (12D: Supercilious), ROTISSERIE (13D: Spit spot), PASS THE BAR (14D: Become legally certified). All of them are good, and ROTISSERIE has a nice near-rhyming clue. The worst crossing stuff is probably OTS (I don't like it as a plural abbreviation), but all else seems okay to me. Thumbs-up for that corner.
  • Southwest corner: SWISS CHARD (25D: Leafy vegetable related to a beet), HONEY HONEY (26D: 1974 Abba hit), TRIPLE TIME (27D: Mazurka meter). This corner didn't do as much for me as the others, but that's probably just personal preference. I'd never heard of the Abba song (it only hit No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100) and I feel like SWISS CHARD is more commonly just called CHARD. These aren't bad answers at all; they just felt more workmanlike than the others. Still, I can understand if others dug those entries more than I did. For the crossing fill, I didn't love SEP., and I always dread IN IT even though it's bailed me out of several jams, but all else looks fine to me. Let's call this corner a push.
  • Southeast corner: HUNT AND PECK (49A: Type unprofessionally), IT'S A MIRACLE (53A: "Hallelujah!"), THAT'S GENIUS (55A: "Brilliant!"). I wasn't really convinced while solving that THAT'S GENIUS is in-the-language; I suppose I could imagine someone saying it, though it felt a little arbitrary in the same way as THAT'S SMART or THAT'S CLEVER. Even so, the other two phrases are great and it's neat how the two one-word praising clues for IT'S A MIRACLE and THAT'S GENIUS stack on top of each other. I didn't like DECI- or the DAX/XKES crossing in that little 4x3 area, but LATE HIT and BABE RUTH are interesting answers if you're into sports. I'll call this corner a win, though I liked the NW and NE corners a bit better.
So to recap, that's at least three out of four stacks featuring two good-to-great long marquee answers, and maybe all four if you got a kick out of SWISS CHARD and HONEY HONEY. The small stuff like -ESS and OTS and DECI- did start to add up, but they were reasonably spread out and they held up some fun longer entries and so I didn't mind them too much. So on the whole, good puzzle.

  • BARB (34A: Offensive line— Neat re-purposing of a football term.
  • SYLLABUS (38A: Course outline) — Shout-out to all my friends in academia who will be forced to tell at least one student who can't be bothered to look up what they're supposed to read for next week that "It's on the syllabus."
  • CHEATER (41A: School copier, maybe) — I had C?EATER in place and I thought it was going to be CREATER, which isn't spelled correctly, but it still made sense in my head; a Xerox machine would create copies, right? The correct answer is much better (and it has a very nice clue, to boot).
  • HOTTER (43A: Like Mercury vis-à-vis Mars) — Hey whoa whoa whoa, New York Times. Way to insert your own opinion into the eternal "Who was hotter: Freddie Mercury or Bruno Mars" debate. (I'm kidding, y'all. This clue's about the planets. Although if we are going to take sides in this debate I just made up, I'd probably be on Team Freddie as well though it'd be a tough call.)
  • HAS-BEENS (10D: Distant stars?) — Nice. The NYT ran this clue ten years ago, but that's more than enough time for a clue to pass from most solvers' memories and it's still a good clue besides.
  • PAN (51D: It might receive zero stars) — It's worth noting that the "zero stars" clue is what appears in the puzzle's electronic version. In print, the clue looks like this: 
    The electronic clue feels a tad off because of the word "receive." The film receives zero stars. A critic might pan the film by giving it zero stars in the review, but the clue makes it sound like the review itself is what gets zero stars rather than the film itself (if that makes sense).
Signed, Evan Birnholz, Postmaster General of CrossWorld

[Follow Evan on Twitter (@evanbirnholz) and Facebook]


three of clubs 7:23 AM  

ABOVE IT ALL isn't quite as haughty as SUPERCILIOUS.

SJ Austin 7:27 AM  

What an interesting review! I enjoyed the peek behind the curtain. It's good to read some, ahem, constructive criticism.

SJ Austin 7:29 AM  

Oh and yeah, record Friday time for me. At least I think so. A bunch of my top times are very very low from occasions when I finished a solve after reloading the browser tab (or something that caused the timer to reset). But today was about 30% faster than average, so I'm guessing that's a real record.

If anyone knows how to remove these anomalies from my stats, hit me up!

michiganman 7:33 AM  

I got 1A almost immediately and felt confident. Mostly a good puzzle. I needed a teeny bit of google help with unknown names that I couldn't get with crosses. I guess TERSEST is real but I winced. IMO clue for 19a, ESS would have been better as simply "end of count" with no "?"

KELLER & ACLU were easy since they appeared here recently. Someday I'll remember SHTETL.

A few sports clues, always nice, as are car clues. LIEWITH is a nice double entendre. Liked seeing BEAVIS and DAX, though my reference for DAX is the character in Star Trek Deep Space Nine. The Dax life form (pronoun: it) is a Trill symbiont—one that lives inside humanoid hosts. I think DS9 was the best Trek series.

Z 7:48 AM  

This felt pretty easy here, as well. I immediately totaled up the PPP because it had a wheelhouse feel. Yep. 28/70, a hefty 40%. It feels like the Pop Culture is fairly diverse, Crossword Artist ARP, an ABBA song, baseball, football, Hip Hop (hand up for always thinking British animation), novels, Muppets, and a reappearance of Helen KELLER/ACLU. Still, I won’t be surprised at all if we get several outhouse comments today. My guess is that the SE is going to be the biggest issue, besides DAX/XKE that corner also has the DELIA/KELLER/KOENIG/DEIRDRE pile-up of Proper names. All three P’s packed into that tiny corner (Pop culture, Product names, and other Proper nouns).

No problem coming up with SEP, I intuited that it would be the month everyone is back to school. Good thing since I had at IT before IN IT. My only other writeover was wHAT a GENIUS to THAT’S GENIUS. I think I always hear it as THAT’S pure GENIUS, so share Our Fearless Substitute Leader’s niggle about the actual answer lacking a certain thingness.

Freddie definitely HOTTER than Bruno, even with that ‘stache.

FLAC 7:50 AM  

Maybe I’m crazy, but I love a puzzle with DANGER MOUSE in it. Great review, too.

imsdave 7:58 AM  

@Evan - thanks for filling in - can't wait for Sunday! Re: XKE - per Enzo Ferrari 'The most beautiful car in the world'.

puzzlehoarder 8:00 AM  

Another easy Friday. The 3x3 block in the NE corner went right in and I spelled ROTISSERIE correctly on first try. Since I know DANGERMOUSE the puzzle got off to a quick start.

An ATIT/INIT write over and not knowing DEIRDRE or KOENIG caused some slow down. However we just had the whole KELLER/ACLU thing recently and this allowed me to skip right past those two names into the SE.

For the SW, once I put in LAT at 39D I recognized CHEATERS. That gave me SWISS CHARD and the rest of that corner was a snap.

I just made it into the teens so this was more than a minute and a half faster than last Friday's puzzle.

mmorgan 8:09 AM  

Really liked the puzzle, really loved the review! Minor personal Natick on _ILA/_ETT -- I knew neither one.

Thanks Evan, and I'll look forward to your Sunday puzzle!

Charles Flaster 8:13 AM  

Loved the puzzle and review.
Easy but a DNF as I never changed DiNGER MOUSE.
One writeover: HAS-BEENS for pretEENS.
Liked creative clues for
I’ve seen “Fiddler” numerous times and still marvel at the treatment of the human condition!
Thanks JG

Hungry Mother 8:20 AM  

A bit slowed by the NW, but made it through. For some reason I wanted to abbreviate Thursday as THr. Is that a thing?

GILL I. 8:21 AM  

DANGER MOUSE? If you say so. You were my last entry Mr. MOUSE but I got you.
ROTISSERIE was my first entry and thanks to that spit I finished that whole little east cost. Miss Piggy's little BOA confirmed that.
Sailed through the middle. Nothing fooled smart me.
SWISS CHARD slid right in. The leaves look just like beet leaves but they are tastier. And yes, I add the SWISS to it.
Came to a halt in the lower east coast. Did not like the pile up of DELIA DEIRDRE KOENIG DAX. It felt like John was saving up his pile of names just to make the finish that much harder. I don't like to HUNT AND PECK so many proper names in one little corner.
Other than that, no CHEATER today and IT'S A MIRACLE for moi.
Thanks Evan for a fair and interesting write-up. I miss your daily input here but it looks like you're mighty busy....

QuasiMojo 8:39 AM  

Welcome back Evan. Fab review. Is there a way to do the Washington Post puzzle online sans subscription?

While this puzzle is way, way out of my wheelhouse, except for ABBA, I managed to figure it all out in 19 minutes despite several early errors. I put in VAST for WIDE and then thought “that’s genius” when I plopped in Variegation for the color clue. Never saw Friends so THU was one of many WOES. SAM Shepard before DAX (whoever that is). Most critics can not give Zero Stars so that clue for PAN irked me. Glad to know the print version was more apt. I was thinking of Roman mythology so I tossed in FASTER for Mercury vs Mars. Mercury had those dope winged sandals, which I doubt FILA makes. Wanted VANS there but got it later at the airport. If you’re lucky! And on and on, but I persevered. While I normally cringe at so much pop stuff, especially Star Wars HASBEENS, in the end I admired the neatness and cleverness of this puzzle. Loved the BABE RUTH clue. A fine Friday offering. My how time flies!

Sir Hillary 8:44 AM  

Thank you, DANGERMOUSE, for my entrée into the puzzle. He's also half of Broken Bells with James Mercer (of the Shins) and a highly-regarded producer and collaborator. A real talent. (Real name: Brian Burton, also 11 letters. Hmm...)

Overall, I liked this a lot. To see the "Oh my goodness"-ness of IMAGINETHAT, ITSAMIRACLE and THATSGENIUS in TRIPLETIME -- how can you not be inspired?

LOL at Freddie vs. Bruno. I don't know who's HOTTER, but Freddie is truly iconic. Bruno is damn good though.


Fascinating summation of the corners in the write-up. Really fun to get a constructor's perspective. Thanks Evan!

Suzie Q 8:52 AM  

Two cups of coffee worth of fun.
Great clues today like the ones for has-beens. Also the one for asp.
Up in the NW I stalled the longest. Egg-ova-egg.
@ imsdave, Ferrari is right. Beautiful car. Where have you been?

@ jae from yesterday, I also loved Mote in God's Eye. If I picked it up now I wonder if it aged well.

Anonymous 9:04 AM  

Growing up (some 50 years ago) I only ever knew from SWISS CHARD, and it was always from a garden. Maybe it’s generational. Interestingly Wikipedia suggests there’s not much that’s SWISS about it.

DNF at the vILA/vETT cross. I’ve seen FILA, so that was more of an oversight. I don’t like something about the 44A clue. Seems strained somehow—and not in the service of a pun, say.

Anonymous 9:06 AM  

Th. Thu. Thur. Thurs. Thr.

Your choice

RooMonster 9:07 AM  

Hey All !
Here is that XKE y'all heard about. It is a nice looking car.

Didn't find todays puz exceedingly easy as some of these professional solvers. Typical FriPuz toughness for me. Got stuck in SW, ended up hitting Check Puzzle to find a few mistakes. SWISS CHARD was a new one on me. Also had ENROLe, (why?) and after seeing it was wrong, changed the E to L, which got me __TETL, and from puzzling, knew it was SHTETL. Then corrected my ArI to ANI, atIT to INIT, and finally seeing DYE (couldn't get cut out of the ole brain), was able to finish puz.

So an overall Friday FruPuz. Har. THATS GENIUS. IMAGINE THAT.


Chopin's ghost 9:09 AM  

I don't think John Guzzetta knows what TRIPLETIME means. Here's a hint to John: *double time* means twice as fast...so triple time would mean...yeah, NOT a mazurka.

Mazurkas are in triple meter...sometimes referred by tin pan alley songwriters as "3/4 time."

but TRIPLETIME ≠ 3/4 time or triple meter.

sorry. thanks for playing, though.

john 9:13 AM  

Not big on cars either but knew XKE from the old Jan and Dean song, Dead Man's Curve. If you saw Mama Mia, you'd know Honey Honey. Good puzzle, good review. I like Evan's Sunday puzzles.

oldbizmark 9:20 AM  

Anyone else have "THAT'S BADASS" before "THAT'S GENIUS?" I thought that was such a cool answer. Set me back a bit, it did.

Same with HUNT A RACOON (sic).

I did really enjoy this puzzle despite all the proper names, like KOENIG which, since everyone calls them K-Cups, I couldn't parse.

Linda Vale 9:22 AM  

Truly, a refreshing review of the puzzle. It drained the swamp of persistent bitterness in this blog.

Adam Lipkin 9:23 AM  

HONEY HONEY was the first of the southeast downs I got, so I had to wait to see if it would be SEP or FEB (even though the former does make more sense). The northeast ending up being the hardest section for me (in spite of BEAVIS being my first get in the puzzle); for some reason, the clues just didn't click like they did elsewhere. Loved the clueing for CHEATER. FETT was both easy for me, and saved me from guessing NIKE as the crosser.

amyyanni 9:29 AM  

Lovely, informative review. OK if I tip off my Reston, VA friend about your Sunday trickery?

Nancy 9:31 AM  

I guess if he's a six-time Grammy winner, someone must have heard of DANGER MOUSE, but that someone is not me. And because I had rIfE instead of WIDE (1D) and cAbS instead of VANS, my DANGERMOUSE line of letters looked like this:
F-BGER--OU-A. I thought it was the FAB someone-or-other.

But much much worse was what I had at 1A: rAcELE-GT-S. It sure looked like RACE LENGTHS -- and the clue was "Differences between colors" (!) Oy!! Were RACE LENGTHS some sort of term for RACE RIOTS or the like? If so, what an ugly clue. Since it never occurred to me to change RIFE to WIDE and CABS to VANS, WAVELENGTHS could not be sussed out. And, DANGERMOUSE -- you were no bloody help at all!

Add to that the podcast person, the Star Wars bounty hunter, the MTV toon teen, the Shepard guy, and two car model nonsense letters, and you can well IMAGINE what I thought of this PPP-laden nightmare. The answer is: not much.

Slow solver 9:36 AM  

Thank you @ Evan! I also use paper. Dashed off 'frequencies' for 1 across and felt sheepish afterwards

Cassieopia 9:43 AM  

Great review, any post with a pic of Freddie Mercury is golden as far as I’m concerned.

Got stuck exactly where @Evan predicted. Had sAm for DAX, giving me sEMI liter (good, right?) and mKES for the Jags. Looks pretty solid, doesn’t it. SIGH.

You can bet I’ll be hunting up the Sunday WaPo puzzle.

Banya 9:52 AM  

DANGERMOUSE should always be clued as "British Cartoon Rodent"

Music Man 10:06 AM  

Re: 26D, “Honey Honey” was Abba’s 2nd top 40 hit in the US. It peaked at #27 in October, 1974. Their first US hit was “Waterloo” which peaked at #6 earlier that year in August.

pmdm 10:06 AM  

Part of the puzzle went down easy because I figured out TRIPLE TIME, inaccurate as it may be (as mentioned above). [And HUNT AND PECK helped in the SE corner.)If you start trying to explain the difference of the terms double time, half time, alle breve and so on, one might get those listening to the explanation a bit dizzy and somewhat lost. Chopin wrote many mazurkas, some faster than others. I don't think I play most of them at anything that approches triple time, and I don't think most concert pianists do either., Still, triple meter did not fit into the entry, so it was fairly simple for a musician to figure out what to fill in.

Still, while I got further into the puzzle than usual before I had to research the PPP entries, the PPP made the puzzle difficult. Today's puzzle demonstrates how subjective it is to assign a difficulty level to a puzzle. If you are comfortable with the PPP in a puzzle, it will feel very easy. If you don't it might feel impossible.

By the way, the clue to 43A can be misleading. We all know (I hope) that the same side of the moon always faces the earth. I believe that the same side of Mercury always faces the sun. The side that faces the sun is extremely hot, but the side oppsite is extremely cold. So, at any time about half the planet would be colder than Mars. Venus would have been a better choice for the clue.

GHarris 10:15 AM  

Had to google nemea which gave me mouse and made wrong guess on Dax (went with Max). Otherwise somehow sussed out the rest and feel pretty damn proud of it.

Mr. Benson 10:40 AM  

"Mercury or Mars" would be a great misdirection clue for SINGER or ROCKSTAR or some-such. Evan should claim copyright protection.

Malsdemare 10:41 AM  

I was a CHEATER 'cause I had tO google for DAX and DANGERMOUSE. But I'm feeling quite smug about getting the rest despite having absolutely no idea who narrated "Serial" and had to go really deep into the swamp to find Bobo FETT. This is the kind of puzzle I like; looks totally ungettable for a while (differences in colors? Huh?) and then just slowly reveals itself.

In case it’s not inferrable, this was not an easy puzzle for me. Maybe that's because Houdini dog left the premises at 6:45 am and this retired lady does NOT like trekking all over the wilderness to retrieve said dog. Happily, the tracking device worked really well, but man! This day did not start well.rethinking having a six foot fence professionally installed.

Anonymous 10:45 AM  

I’m fairly certain that the clue for TRIPLE TIME is correct. There’s no reason why the phrases double time and TRIPLE TIME should be analogous. Also, Mercury rotates. Its average temperature is hotter than Mars'.

Malsdemare 10:51 AM  

@jae I read "The mote in God's Eye" recently for the first time, and yes, it held up well. I've read most of what was on the list; may need to return to yesterday's blog and make note of those I missed.

Forgot to thank the constructor for a really nice puzzle. THATSGENIUS, John.

Betty Danger 10:56 AM  

A good puzzle and a good review. What a pleasure to read an intelligent and objective analysis of the puzzle's strengths and weaknesses, without acrimony or hysteria. Kind of like this blog used to be before RP got engaged in his one-sided feud with WS.

mmespeer 11:10 AM  

For those who would like to get Evan's WP Sunday puzzles, go to Diary of a Crossword Fiend site and download for free.

Anonymous 11:19 AM  

@Jae, @Malsdemare, and @ Suzie Q
The only wood worth celebrating actually has its feast day today.
Ave Crux, sepes unica.

I'm so glad I read all the comments. I was going to cite il Commendatore as well. Your recall may be better than mine, but is it possible he said the most beautiful car ever made?

burtonkd 11:20 AM  

@chopin’s ghost, as a musician who has gone to conservatory, and played on broadway, I can’t recall ever seeing triple time or hearing it called out on a bandstand. Intellectually it works, but not really a common thing to suddenly go three times as fast. At any rate, ultimately "gettable" and a really solid puzzle with enjoyable clues.

Had DIMAGGIO for BABERUTH. Wrong era, but wanted a single name, for some reason

There are many varieties of chard. Swiss chard is a popular one, as is rainbow chard, that could have worked in yesterday’s puzzle

Being a pianist, I have a very fast typing speed, but solving on my iPad reduces me back to HUNTANDPECK

Since I played for a Mary Poppins production last year, I had "SPIT SPOT SPIC AND SPAN" going through my brain and couldn’t get the meat sense of spit. At any rate, I’m still practically perfect in every way. Now you can share my ear worm.

Freddie Mercury was definitely hotter sexier. Bruno Mars more in the cute adorable sexy vein. Definitely a fan of both

Loved the write up. Will look for your puzzle on Sunday.

jb129 11:24 AM  

Never heard of Danger Mouse.

burtonkd 11:29 AM  

Went ahead and looked it up addendum: triple time shows up like this: "triple meter, also known as triple time..." so legit variant. Many dance pages show up.

TubaDon 11:35 AM  

Promptly blocked myself by guessing VAST, CABS, OVA, USHERED for the top downs, so had to look elsewhere to get a grip on the puzzle. Luckily I immediately got one of the long answers in every 3-stack, so when I worked my way back to the top I finally got on the right WAVELENGTH. Never heard of DAX, AMAS, or that guy DANGERMOUSE, but guessed them all from crosses.
     Pmdm is wrong about one side of Mercury always facing the sun. It is tidal-locked into a 3:2 relation between its rotation and revolution, but he is right about the night side being extremely cold,, so the clue is only partially correct.

Anonymous 11:58 AM  

The amount of proud ignorance on these comments is just mind-boggling. Mind. Boggling.
It's really kind of an amazing accomplishment that RP has managed to attract so many people who have no clue what they're talking about, but talk about it so loud and so proud nonetheless.

Suzie Q 12:11 PM  

@ Anon 11:19, I'm not Catholic and I thought we were talking about a sci-fi novel so OK, I'll bite. What are you referring to?

Science Schmience 12:12 PM  

Mercury: The day side of the planet reaches temperatures of up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit (427 degrees Celsius). In contrast, the chilly night side can get as cold as minus 290 F (minus 180 C). The planet has an average temperature of 332 F (167 C)

Mars: In winter, near the poles temperatures can get down to minus 195 degrees F (minus 125 degrees C). A summer day on Mars may get up to 70 degrees F (20 degrees C) near the equator, but at night the temperature can plummet to about minus 100 degrees F (minus 73 C).


So, the average temp on Mercury is greater than the maximum temp on Mars, and we're debating whether Mercury is hotter than Mars? At any time, is there some square foot on Mercury that's colder than some square foot on Mars? Sure. That doesn't negate the fact that Mercury is hotter than Mars.

JC66 12:16 PM  

Not to nit pick, but the clue for 40D should read "Sarah who hosts (not hosted) the podcast Serial." They just posted a trailer for a new season on Sept. 5th.

i. kharamot 12:22 PM  

Dax Shepard and Danger Mouse became famous around the same time (2003–04) with their involvement in MTV's Punk'd and The Grey Album, respectively. Since then they've probably both had a hand in shows/movies you've watched and music you've heard, even if their names aren't front and center. I liked this puzzle and this review.

Anonymous 12:35 PM  

I loved, loved, loved this puzzle...probably because the Gnarls Barkley clue was a gimme and I was off to the races. @Sir Hillary I appreciate the DM component of Broken Bells too. I've found that PPP is only a nightmare when the PPP is out of one's wheelhouse. Also, seems like a lot of what is pop culture eventually gets promoted to a "classic" a "masterpiece" or whatnot....speaking of which Mercury for sure, and Mars is a maybe.

Anonymous 12:41 PM  

I really liked 44A and it evaded me for a while, kept coming back to it.

tom-a-to, tom-ah-to

Boggled Mind 12:43 PM  

Let's see now, Anon 11:58 -- what are those areas that the people here are so "Mind Boggling" ignorant about and that you know so much more about? The temps of the planets? Triple time? Musicianship in general? Beautiful cars? MTV? Please don't keep us in the dark. Let us know where your incomparable GENIUS lies, GENIUS that we unworthies can only dream of.

i. kharamot 12:44 PM  

"Triple time" and "triple meter" are basically synonymous. I get the comparison with "double time" (which you probably wouldn't use to describe a 4/4 or 2/2 time signature) but it doesn't really work because how often does a piece really call for you to increase the tempo x3? It might be more of a jazz thing to say "Time" instead of "Meter" in this context.

Unknown 12:52 PM  

I’ve been doing these puzzles for years. First time commenting. I don’t understand the emphasis on speed. I like to take my time. Drinking coffee. Taking a break. It’s enjoyable so why rush. Oh I’m delighted when all the squares are filled in. But also a little sad. Now work begins.

Maruchka 12:55 PM  

Not (pause) one (wait for it) do-over. ITS A MIRACLE! Must confess to cheats, tho. PPPs, especially recent ones, are my bane.

Confusing 28-D with 25-D led to much head scratching. 'SWISS CHARD is now a wrapped hotel amenity??? Vegan has gone a bridge too far', she cried. Oops, no SOAP_.

Many thanks, Mr. G.

Rainbow 1:00 PM  

Thank you for a reasoned, informed explanation.

OffTheGrid 1:02 PM  

It's OK to pick nits. No shame.

Teedmn 1:17 PM  

I was all pumped up on my record or near-record time today until I found that sECI-LITER and mKES were wrong. Yes, Sam Shepard was the only three-letter Shepard I knew. But I have seen "Idiocracy" so I recognize who Dax is now that I've post-solve Googled him. DANG[ERMOUSE].

Otherwise, this went fast. I had to change NEvEA to NEMEA at 7D - I think I was mixing up the rather strange baby name choice of NEVAEH (Heaven backwards, which I'm still trying to wrap my head around even though it's been a thing since 2001) with Hercules' trials. But all I had to do is add legs to either side of my "v" so no extra black ink!

My boss is the fastest HUNT AND PECK typist I've ever seen. But because his hands hover above the keyboard rather than float, the impact of each keystroke is harder than usual so you can hear his typing all across the office. I should ask him if he goes through a lot of keyboards.

Thanks, Mr. Guzzetta. Usually I find your Friday puzzles more...puzzling but I'll take an easy, albeit incorrect, solve on a Friday.

foxaroni 1:36 PM  

And all this time I thought Gnarls Barkley was a country group (or duo). My bad. I think I've seen Cee-Lo Green's name, but have no recollection whatsoever for Danger Mouse in this context.

Don't get Duchamp vs. Arp, and not interested enough to look it up. Same for DAX.

Of course I tried NORA Ephron before crosses gave me DELIA.

Enjoyed the puzzle a lot--it was a good workout. Thanks, Mr. Guzzetta.

Unknown 2:00 PM  

Great review. Thanks Evan.

Z 2:04 PM  

Thanks @burtonkd. It’s pretty rare for Shortz to make that kind of mistake. Also, @Chopin’s Ghost - the rule of thumb is if the problem is the grid it is the constructor, if it is the clue it is the editor.

@Anon12:35 - Exactly. That’s why I find too much PPP to be suboptimal. If how easy or hard a puzzle is results from cleverness and word play it pleases all of our puzzle solving, pattern seeking souls. But when the difficulty is based on PPP relative success comes from the arbitrariness of experience. If you don’t know DANGERMOUSE there’s no particular aha! moment once get all the crosses. And the -ett/-ila crossing is a name from Sci Fi and a brand name. If you know neither about the only letters you can eliminate are the vowels and Q, so you end up with a 5% chance of guessing right. I liked the puzzle, but I am empathetic to anyone who didn’t.

@N. G. Haiduck - I think you are misinterpreting the discussions of people’s times. Compare it to a five kilometer road race. Everyone running has some sense of their time. Some will finish very fast, under 15 minutes, while others are quite pleased if they break 33. Both might comment that the race was easy or hard because of hills or heat or weather. But, in the end, both the woman running a sub-15 minute 5K and the dude struggling with 11 minute miles is only racing themselves in the end. If someone else eschews the race and just walks the course to enjoy the scenery, that’s okay, too.

Tim Aurthur 2:08 PM  

Naticked by FETT and FILA.

Evan 2:43 PM  


If you click on the link in my first paragraph above it'll take you to the Washington Post's Sunday puzzle page and you can solve it in your browser or print out the PDF for free. You can access the last five weeks' worth of puzzles there. Or if you prefer solving in Across Lite, the .puz file is available at Diary of a Crossword Fiend (also for free) as @mmespeer mentioned.

Evan 2:45 PM  

@Amy Yanni:

Not just okay, but encouraged! Thanks for spreading the word.

Evan 2:56 PM  

@Amy Yanni:

Although I should reiterate that this Sunday's puzzle is going to be very unusual compared to what I normally do, so if difficulty is a concern and you want to ease your friend into my puzzles, there are others currently available at the Post's Sunday puzzle page that will be easier to solve (I'm told that "Misreading" is one of the easiest ones I've ever written).

Kale Lady 3:09 PM  

Somehow I confused DANGERMOUSE with modestMOUSE, so DNF the NW corner. Apart from that, pretty easy.

QuasiMojo 3:26 PM  

Thanks @Evan, I will definitely check it and them out. I don't have a printer so the browser option is better for me. Congrats on the gig!

Doc John 3:42 PM  

Great writeup, Evan! It's nice to see the puzzle and its construction constructively analyzed instead of nit-picking every little bit of cluing or fill that doesn't appeal to your sensibilities.
Hope we see you more frequently.

Evan 4:42 PM  

@Mr. Benson:

Funny you mention it. That joke occurred to me because I used that misdirection in my Feb. 4 puzzle earlier this year called "The Replacements." The clue [Emulate Mercury or Mars] led to SING.

Wm. C. 4:48 PM  

I finished with a fair amount of help from Mr. Google, typical for me with a late-week puzzle.

But I filled in XKE right off, since one of my fraternity brothers had one. As I recall, it cost around $6,000 back then, around twice as much as my TR-4a. That XKE truly was a beautiful car.

Lots of fun getting the 12 long-fills with 3-5 of the crossed done.

Anonymous 6:36 PM  

You construct terrific puzzles. And that would be awesome enough. But the fact that you've been graciously responding to the commentariat all day, really, is reallly impressive. And obviously above and beyond. Thanks.

Sunnyvale Solver 7:24 PM  

Good puzzle, good write-up.

But I'm going to disagree about the clue "Distant stars?" for HAS-BEENS. Presumably "distant" refers to time - they were stars quite a while ago. But "has-been" refers to someone who is still around but whose popularity and reputation have faded; it's quite a negative term. But Caruso and Fred Astaire are distant (in time) stars; so is Shakespeare for that matter. But none of these would be called a "HAS-BEEN".

Too many constructors stretch meanings when to try and get those punny "?" clues.

BarbieBarbie 7:44 PM  

1a clue, ugh. It’s correct to say that different colors can be represented by different wavelengths, in many cases, so that generalization is fine in PuzzleWorld. But to clue WAVELENGTHS as differences in color is just wrong. The wavelengths aren’t the differences. Ugh. I left that one blank thinking there would be some esoteric answer like metamerism or something. Butnooooo. Ugh. Ugh.When the puzzle editors are all lit majors, can’t they just walk to the science editor’s desk and ask a simple question?

Fun puzzle otherwise. Longtime solvers are probably sneering at the grid, but I’m really impressed.

jb129 7:45 PM  

I'm always happy when someone else agrees about the "time" on puzzles (ie, N.G. Haiduck & others). I mean, what's the rush? If you can, just enjoy the experience.....

Anonymous 7:59 PM  

Evan seems like a good guy.

Bill T in WV 8:01 PM  

I think "genius" (as an adjective for an idea or plan - as in "That's genius!") is a British English usage that may be making the leap across the pond.

RooMonster 10:32 PM  

@Bill T 8:01
I thought it was "Brilliant".


Here Diagonally 12:39 AM  

Really enjoyed this one and at a surprisingly fast clip for me. Smugly threw up CEELOGREEN(E) for 17A until AMAS showed me the error of my ways. Had no idea there were that many Ephrons. Am convinced I’ll never remember SHTETL. Always happy to see GTOS over Aleros, especially if they include a 1969 “The Judge” with a Ram Air IV in Carousel Red.

kitshef 11:07 PM  

Sure not easy for me. Probably in the % of hardest Fridays. I know the other half of Gnars Barkley, but not this one. And XKES/DAX is flat out unfair. On a Friday, on a Saturday, anywhere, anytime. Guessed right, but it was just a guess.

thefogman 9:43 AM  

I went with sAm for 45A. DAX is unknown to me and so are vintage Jaguars - MKES. So that crossing did me in. I still don't quite understand the cluing for 5D. Overall it was a pretty good puzzle, even though there were a few THUDS for me this time.

spacecraft 11:27 AM  

DAX Shepard is a total unknown to me, but thank goodness there's no such thing as a "meciliter." However, I am indebted to him because I have been wanting this long time to pin the DOD sash on the extraordinarily beautiful Terry Farrell, who played Jadzia DAX in STDS9.

Neither have I heard of DANGERMOUSE as the name applies to a real (?) person. That was my last entry, and it contained three guesses. I had no idea what 2-down might be, and VANS?? Circling at airports??? Wha??? THAT clue needs some 'splainin.'

Leaving me with the Natick at NE_EA. Not up on mythic place names; sorry. But the only other candidate was H, so: NEhEA or NEMEA? yeah, M's gotta be it. -->Oh, just thought of a couple more: -louse? -souse? Nah.

@thefogman: I feel your pain on the 5-down clue. For me it went in mostly on crosses, but after seeing the final entry I do recognize the phrase: "Our best chances LIEWITH a surprise attack." It's a helluvan awkward clue, but it'll PASSTHEBAR by a whisker.

I think the constructor worked all the way into the SE before he realized his grid had no Scrabble tile WORTH more than 4, so he threw in a couple of K-names and then Scrabbled up that tight corner as best he could. ROTISSERIE may be one of the longest words possible using only one-pointers. Lots of plurals in the middle help soften the job there. And then there's TERSEST. Yawn.

Nice misdirect clue on BABERUTH; I was thinking about gangsters. Overall a decently Friday-tough solve; say, medium. Nothing much to pick at in the fill; as EB said, INIT can bail you out. Birdie.

Burma Shave 11:51 AM  


IT’SAMIRACLE what that HASBEEN had taught her,
ABOVEITALL, they FOUND WORTH in ‘Whitewater’,
so she’d LIEWITH that CHEATER,
HUNTANDPECK for his peter;


rondo 12:43 PM  

Knowing of DANGERMOUSE was very helpful since I couldn’t fit CeeLo Green in there, IMAGINETHAT. The clue in the St. Paul Pioneer Press for 51d was ???? instead of stars, so that was no help. I see that the Mpls. StarTribune had it right.

Lotsa 10s and 11s in the corners, THATSGENIUS.

Also lotsa women’s names in the puz today with DELIA, DEIRDRE, KELLER, KOENIG, and BARB, but I’ll stick with the only real answer for ANI – Righteous yeah BABE ANI DiFranco.

I FOUND this puz EZ and fun. Well WORTH the time.

Diana, LIW 1:38 PM  

I wasn't on a WAVELENGTH for that colorful clue! And with our cats on patrol, I never heard of a DANGERMOUSE.

But I got 95% of the rest, so a pat on my back for a Friday.

Learned to type in grammar school so I never had to HUNT AND PECK my way through a paper.

@Rainy from yesterday - the car saga has to do with buying a car out of-state and getting it plated in my home state. The problems I've had have all been from dealers, not state laws. First salesperson "overpromised" (a word I learned from another salesperson.) IMAGINETHAT. But my WOES should be over soon.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Anonymous 2:11 PM  

From Syndication Land:

The best thing about this puzzle was the review by Evan Birnholz! So refreshing to see a professional critique by a constructor with no axe to grind.

I know nothing about Reddit, so AMAS was new to me. I googled it after solving, and it means, "ask me anything." So I learned something new today! Nice to see a new clue for the old crosswordese!

rainforest 3:56 PM  

A fine puzzle which, except for the NW, was easy-medium here. A mighty struggle consumed me at the end, where my success was to LIE WITH the chance that DANGER MOUSE was correct. Funny, I know CeeLo Green, but not that duo name nor the entry.

XKES are iconic, and KELLER/ACLU seem to go together as per a previous puzzle, so DAX was a no-brainer, although if a DECIlitre is called for, one would usually use the term 100 ml.

49A off the H, and 25D off the SW helped a bunch. To me 6D has always been ENROL, but maybe the shown answer is an Americanism, something I've always had issues with.

The only three-letter artist I know is ARP, and with KELLER in place it wasn't that hard to get the NE.

I'm sure that @Spacey didn't miss D.O.D. as the clue for NSA.

@Lady Di - I hate those "overpromises". My tactic is to say "here's what I want; here's what I'll pay. Call me when you can do that".

Really pleased with the puzzle and my solve.

Diana, LIW 4:28 PM  

PS - @Spacey - Airport hotel and car rental VANS circle about the airport, picking up their customers.

@Rainy - that's how I started, and it prompted the "com on in" overpromise... grrr

Lady Di

leftcoastTAM 6:36 PM  

The NW and some PPP's there and elsewhere, absent helpful crosses, did me in today. So it goes.

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