Host Bert of old games shows / FRI 12-28-18 / 1997 Notorious BIG hit whose title lyric precedes strictly for weather / Car that went defunct in 1936 / County east of Devon / Instrument whose name comes from Latin for heavenly / 12 points typographically

Friday, December 28, 2018

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Medium (though w/ some potentially deadly Naticks* if your Name Game is not *tight*) (5:44)


THEME: none

Word of the Day: ALAIN RENÉ LESAGE (54A: "Gil Blas" author) —
Alain-René Lesage (French pronunciation: ​[alɛ̃ ʁəne ləsaʒ]; 6 May 1668 – 17 November 1747; older spelling Le Sage) was a French novelist and playwright. Lesage is best known for his comic novel The Devil upon Two Sticks (1707, Le Diable boiteux), his comedy Turcaret (1709), and his picaresque novel Gil Blas (1715–1735). (wikipedia)
• • •

Well this was just way too reliant on proper nouns, which can have the effect of either thrilling you ("woo hoo, I know it, look at me go!") or destroying you ("what... letter... who...?). Sometimes you get to experience both outcomes multiple times in the same puzzle, as I did today. I mean, my first solid answer (after LAG) was LUIS Severino, whom I know a large chunk of the solving population will never have heard of (a large chunk of the solving population is somewhat-to-very sports averse). So LUIS, and later RUY and NOTH and COTY were all on TeamRex and the top half was mostly joy and laughter (though what the hell with the clue on "GOING BACK TO CALI"!?!? If you say those four words to me, there is only one song I am going to start singing, and it ain't by Biggie...):

[I grew up in "CALI" and lived in "CALI" when this came out—clue shoulda been [1988 LL Cool J hit whose title lyric precedes "hmph, I don't think so"]

So yeah I'm doing all right. Master of Names! And then I hit that bottom stack and whoosh and whomp, there go the wheels. I know what Russian nesting dolls are, and now that I see it, I've definitely encountered MATRYOSHKA before, but man, while solving, I was like DOLLS and ... prayer. BABUSHKA DOLLS? No? Oh well. But those dolls are not criminal. Tough, but a fair thing to ask people to come up with on a Friday if crosses are fair. No, the real crime down there is ALAIN RENÉ LESAGE. The clue itself is a bleeping insult: 54A: "Gil Blas" author. Me: "Oh ... right ... he used to be crosswordese back when crossword fill was actually much more terrible because people didn't have databases to help them and they thought that just because a name had been used before you could use it again and so it proliferated like kudzu or MATRYOSHKA DOLLS or whatever ... that guy. What was his name?" No idea. None. I have a Ph.D. in literature—never encountered this guy. I took French for 7 years—never encountered this guy. I cannot overstate how singularly unimportant this guy is. He is reanimated crosswordese. Even knowing that I had seen his name before, I needed almost every single cross. Luckily for me, Bert CONVY was an old TV friend (47D: Host Bert of old game shows), so parsing the stupid French guy's name took less time than it might have. I don't know why you make a relatively lovely grid and then put in a section that is kind of gross, that will almost surely be the only thing anyone remembers. For its grossness.


Five things:
  • 26D: "Je vous en ___" (French for "You're welcome") (PRIE) — speaking of "I took French for 7 years" ... totally forgot which PRIX went here :(
  • 4D: Many employees of the Lego company (DANES) — this was absurdly hard. Makes sense now, but not while solving
  • 23D: Highish bridge holding (TENACE) — I know absolutely nothing about bridge except the crosswordese. I felt guilty throwing this down so fast. 
  • 9D: Event of 1964 and 2020 (TOKYO GAMES) — This is some pretty serious green paint**. Any Olympic site + GAMES? RIOGAMES? LAGAMES? No. SUMMER GAMES, sure. SOCHIGAMES, uh uh
  • 51A: New toy? (PUP) — tfw you get the "?" misdirection ... and still guess the wrong answer (PET)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

*Natick = unfair crossing, usually of proper nouns (see sidebar for more info)
**Green paint = makeshift answer made up of words that one might say, but that don't really constitute a solid, stand-alone phrase

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

103 comments:

Tommy 6:32 AM  

Once again the NYT online site gives away one of the long answers by having a picture of Matryoshka dolls directly below the puzzle! In this case it was actually about 1/8 of an inch below the answer itself. You had to remember what they were called, but still how hard is it not to put spoilers on your own website? I agree wholeheartedly with Rex on the rest, a lot of proper names and green paint (except for Convy, we must be of the same generation as he was a gimme for me as well). Definitely more of a slog than I would have liked.

'mericans in Paris 6:59 AM  

Another joint effort by Mrs. 'miP again, this time with her starting. Took us half the time of Thursday's, but we were still uncertain on several, such as _UY and NO_H. Still, when I typed in that "T", I got the Happy Pencil immediately, much to my surprise and delight.

Agree with @Rex that the bottom stack of 15s (YOW!) was much harder than the top ones. Knew that Gollum was the fallen Hobbit, but that clearly did not fit. NOTHing came to me at first, but slowly the answer came to me, like a creepy real-estate mogul emerging from a DEEP, dark cave, and I recalled SMEAGOL. If you've never read LOTRs, you'd better hope you can get that answer from the crosses.

Funny to see RAUNCH in the puzzle. With "The", that was the nickname my brothers gave to me when I was a pre-teen, owing to my slovenly character. We called my younger brother "The Grig", which was a portmanteau of GORILLA and pig. (My older brother -- the LEADER OF THE PACK -- was called "The Scrounge", by the way.)

Finally, a question. Could somebody (je vous en PRIE) explain what ENS has to do with "Pair of nines?" (57D).

Jon Alexander 7:04 AM  

Yup....totally naticked at FECUND, RUY, NOTH. (The names even staring at it now just look wrong, and I also confused the meanings of fecundus and pecunia, think the former had the latter definition of "relating to money", which didn't fit the clue). So I went with FECARD, RAY, ROTH (the two names looked better and I thought maybe just didn't know the term) then XXXXX. Decided to plop in UN then, cause hey maybe money is related to being "prolific" and happy song. For some reason I didn't have much trouble in the south and was able to parse the persons name who I will undoubtedly waste zero brain cells remembering.

The upper triple stack was nice and MATRYOSHKADOLLS has a beautifully tricky clue. Aside from being heavy on the names, I enjoyed.

Irene 7:19 AM  

I usually finish Fridays. This time I could barely start it. I knew LeSage, but not his first names. Knew Alfa Romeo, but spider? And didn't know the name of the Russian stacking dolls.
Small accomplishment: I knew Noth (Mr. Big) for what it was worth.
A definite Saturday at the least. Ugh.

JJ 7:39 AM  

I thought the clue for 59 across was ingenious

kitshef 7:43 AM  

Mostly pretty easy, but a tough SW corner with ALAIN and needing to spell the DOLL and REO and some tricky clues.

Yet my DNF was in at CeTY/ADAPTeR. I really thought it should be ADAPTOR, but for some reason CeTY is in my head and the horrible clue was not help.

But any downside was overwhelmed by my smug proudness that I actually knew a car for once (the SPIDER).

Disagree with Rex on the green paint; XXXX GAMES is absolutely fair for any Olympics city.

Anonymous 8:03 AM  

There are two N’s (a pair of them) in the word “nines.”

Jeff 8:09 AM  

Francophile here, and after that I'll LESAGE was ridiculous. But with seven years of French you should know PRIE, not PRIX. It's a verb nd I can't think of a single first person verb conjugation that ends in -x. I guess it may exist, but it's rare, and the -e ending is pretty much the default for je.

I think the pair of nines clue refers to the two n's in the w? Still, weird clue.

Anonymous 8:12 AM  

NiNes... pair of N’s

pabloinnh 8:16 AM  

I have one of those MATRYOSHKADOLLS sitting about five feet in front of me on a shelf because my granddaughters like to play with it, and I sort of knew the name because I have looked it up many, many times, and I never remember how to spell it. Maybe this will do it.

GOINGBACKTOCALI a total unknown in any iteration. LEADEROFTHEPACK, OTOH, that's more like it (They told me he was bad, but I knew he was sad..).

"Pair of nines"=ENS=two "n's" in the word nines. May I be one of many. Thanks.

Lots of names, liked it anyway.

Rob 8:22 AM  

I am very proud that I knew MATRYOSHKA DOLLS and just wanted to brag. Other than that, solid puzzle, except I had to guess at the ALAIN RENE LESAGE/CONVY crossing. I'm happy to say I was right but that area needed to be written.

Unknown 8:26 AM  

Definitely DNF. I knew very few of the proper names. Biggest crash-and-burn puzzle for me in months.

Nora 8:36 AM  

Adapter v. Adaptor. The puzzle uses the second, wildly less popular spelling. Nearly killed me. https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=adapter%2Cadaptor&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=5&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cadapter%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cadaptor%3B%2Cc0

Anonymous 8:38 AM  

Rex,
Tenace, not Ten Ace

Definition of tenace
: a combination of two high or relatively high cards (such as ace and queen) of the same suit in one hand with one ranking two degrees below the other
(from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenace)

My crosswordese may not be strong, but I do know my bridge....

David 8:44 AM  

loved seeing elocute and fecund; other than that, meh

Z 8:54 AM  

Pretty much what Rex said. Solved this on 4 hours of sleep after driving 12 hours yesterday, 11:30 of that time in the rain, and still came in sub-20. Considering how much in the puzzle I don’t know that is a good time. I will say this about the ALAI- RENÉ LESAGE/CO-VY crossing, that N is fairly inferable from ALAI-. The G at SMÉAGOL, though, might be deadly for people who aren’t big LOTR fans.

@Jeff - I think Rex was using the “x” in “prix” the same way I used the dash above, as a placeholder for some unknown letter. I did a double take, too, because I only ever think of “prix” as in “prix fixe.” But, then, who knows for sure.

Okay @everyone, how long has that explainer been on the sidebar? Did Rex just add that today or has it been sitting there unnoticed for years?

Twangster 8:55 AM  

Tommy said ... I go to https://www.nytimes.com/crosswords to get the puzzle and have never seen any spoiler photos. It sounds like you're going to the NYT's crossword blog.

Joe R. 8:55 AM  

I got screwed by CeTY/ADAPTeR as well, as I've never heard of this cosmetics company. I also hate this clue, which I first interpreted as meaning they would appear consecutively in left-to-right order (that is, the name was embedded in the phrase), until I was certain of KRISPY, and knew that meant it was non-consecutive letters.

I had some real trouble in the center area because I had EYEopenERS instead of EYEPOPPERS, and it wasn't until I had almost all of DORSET spelled out that I knew I was wrong.

And having only the 'M' in the center of 39D, my brain flashed quickly to Hotmail before deciding that maybe it wasn't quite that old.....

Odd Sock 8:59 AM  

Raunchy I know. Raunch is new to me.
I'm supposed to know the informal name of a foreign political party?
@ Roo, Being on the road a lot in Vegas I'm guessing that when a clue says "high-end" car the Alfa is not your first thought. Lots of expensive cars to be seen there and plenty from Italy that cost more than a Spider.
I wonder when D.S. wrote this puzzle. It feels like his older stuff.
Got it done but don't know how.

Z 9:06 AM  

@anon7:29yesterday - You’re right. Many of us received very little actual education about Native American history, but I was overly general.

@anon8:38 - I was going to say the same thing. I think Rex has made the exact same error a previous time TENACE appeared.

Anonymous 9:20 AM  

I still don't really understand the "new toy?" = PUP clue. Can someone explain that? I get that a pup is a newborn, but what's that got to do with toy?

Dewayne 9:21 AM  

Did no one else guess PARKS first instead of CONVY?

Chim cham 9:26 AM  

Was watching Match Game ‘75 on Amazon Prime while visiting my parents for Christmas. Bert CONVY was fresh in the memory bank as he occupied the top left seat for a couple episodes. That said, I quickly realized this puzzle was going nowhere without loads of googling (which I normally resist as a defacto DNF). Rex’s write up was a nice consolation.

Teedmn 9:32 AM  

Thank goodness TEN ACE and TENACE work the same in the grid - I know little to nothing about bridge and would have had a hard time seeing Chris NOTH if that T hadn't worked. I know him from "Sex and the City", not "The Good Wife".

This was a tough one for me, for a stack puzzle and a Friday. One of those that has you questioning the things you know because they aren't leading anywhere. CONVY for one - it went in and then back out. REO plopped in and then I kicked myself. "Don't put that stuff in like you know that's what it is, no matter how many times REO is the 3-letter answer for an old car."

Finally, IMO crossing SMEAGOL got me a start.

Like Rex, I can hear LL COOL J's "GOING BACK TO CALI" - if he hadn't mentioned it, I would still think that WAS the Notorious B.I.G. "song".

I thought one might count sheep in a pEn or in bEd so I put in the middle E and waited...and waited...ha, it's LEA.

Great clue for GO DEEP, though it works for both a thrown football and an H-bomb.

GUST and GUSTO?

Thanks David, for a KRISPY (not kRuStY) Friday.

ArtO 9:40 AM  

Man, this was tough to break through which even @Rex admits. So, how do you finish in under 6 minutes??!

MATRYOSHKADOLLS I was well aware of but had no idea of how to spell. I'm an old timer but never heard of Bert CONVY (just never watched game shows).

In any event, an almost finish for a DS Friday is good morning by my standards.

RooMonster 9:43 AM  

Hey All !
Yeah, @Odd Sock, although ALFAs are rarer to see than Ferraris and Lamborghinis.

Managed to get most of North and Center of puz without any kind of look-ups, with the exception of FECUND/RUY. The bottom stack, had ALLOVERthEplace first, mucking things up nicely there. That whole SE corner was tough. Actually, that whole bottom stack was tough. IMO. Har.

As far as Stacks go, this was a nice puz. Nice intersecting long Downs. Didn't like DUMA, though.

GORILLA PERK
RooMonster
DarrinV

Cho Da 9:49 AM  

Je peux.

Anonymous 9:55 AM  

Agree with everyone on adaptOr/cOty, which killed me.

PhiskPhan 9:56 AM  

Thanks for the term "green paint," which describes a lot of the Bonus Round answers on Wheel of Fortune when the category is "thing." I've been describing these as "red dress," but "green paint" is even better.

Suzie Q 9:57 AM  

How I finished this is a mystery to me.
It felt like hacking my way through the jungle with a blunt machete.
The reason I do crosswords is to entertain me, keep my memory sharp, but mostly to have fun. This puzzle did not give me enough of any of those things.
I suppose Coty makes cosmetics but I only associate that name with cheap perfume.

QuasiMojo 10:06 AM  

Bravo! I do not have a PhD in Literature but I have heard of LeSage. Perhaps being a book collector helps me there. I’ve never limited my knowledge of authors merely to those I’ve read. How else would I know who Philip Roth or John Updike are? It’s from reading about books or talking to like-minded souls. Figuring out LeSage’s given names was easy. For those of us who still listen only to our crusty old music Going back to Cali might be more of a problem. Yet I think David Sternberg does a good job of providing enough of the easily gettable stuff to make it all come together. So someone might have to cheat a bit by looking up the Russian nesting doll name. That’s part of the fun of solving. Learning new things. Although those dolls have been featured in many previous puzzles hither and yon. Thanks David for a terrific puzzle.

Dorothy Biggs 10:07 AM  

I'll add the requisite (and much expected by Mr. Steinberg, I'm sure) nope comment. I'm sure he's all giddy about getting these kinds of comments. And, if he's reading this, probably all giddy about me thinking he's giddy about these kinds of comments.

I'll just say that there is no virtue in this puzzle, lad. You have, like you usually seem to do, gone through a dictionary (or data base) and found the most arcane words/names known to man and figured out how to fit them together. That isn't art, sir. That's just doodling. Art is when you are able to do this with some kind of purpose or connection or rationale. This is just a bunch of random proper names along with overly contrived clues shoe-horned into a grid that you (and WS, I guess) think will be "difficult."

I like to think of xword puzzles as art. In almost all artistic endeavors, there is a pretty commonly accepted axiom that 80% of what exists as "art" is schlock, and the remaining 20% is actually good. I would argue that the 80% needs to exist in order to enrich that golden 20%, but that doesn't make the 80% any closer to being good. It's just a necessary evil, i.e., necessary failures to find the good stuff hiding beneath the surface.

This was schlock. Sure, it was "refined" and "nuanced," but ham-fistedly so. Like being hit over the head with a hammer refined.

Back to the drawing board, m'lad. Occasionally you show signs of brilliance, and while this was probably a challenge to construct, that is not always a sign that something is any good.

jberg 10:14 AM  

Yeah, LESAGE was tough. I've heard of Gil Blas, but never read it, and vaguely thought it might be by Victor Hugo. Good thing he's a short-named guy, or I'da been stuck. I did know that there was an author named LESAGE, so once I had the ESAG I filled the other two letters in, and got the rest from a combination of the crosses and knowing we were looking for French names. Fortunately, the other two bottom 15s were pretty gettable.

And speaking of contractions (like I'da up there), I thought NO MA'AM was a nice bit of deception -- I bet I wasn't the only one looking for NO -----n't.

Anonymous 9:20 AM -- think of a toy poodle, for example.

@Z, do you mean the explanation of Natick? I think I've seen it before, though maybe in a briefer version, and if I wasn't looking at the blog I'd have guessed it was in the FAQs.

The hardest part for me, after M. Lesage, was confidently throwing in bLacken at 37D. I needed a lot of crosses to fix that. ORD should have done it, but I wasn't confident enough. LGA, maybe? I thought. Ridiculous, but it held me up.

What's an AFI LIST, though? Is there an American Film Institute? I had guessed hit LIST, until I was the ROME in the middle of 16A.

Anyway, I enjoyed this one a lot.

Nancy 10:20 AM  

I finished this horror -- don't ask me how. Usually I can't solve a puzzle when I'm so mad at it that I want to fling it across the room. And all the proper names and pop culture made me really, really cross. I'm thinking: You can make these types of puzzles, David, even though I've asked you so very, very often not to. But you can't make me do them.

It's not just that I didn't know GOING BACK TO CALI; NOTH; LUIS; OMAR; SMEAGOL; CETY; CONVY and, most emphatically, ALAIN RENE LESAGE. I also have no idea what MATRYOSHKA DOLLS are. I suppose you fit them inside one another? Would this be something you do at the Russian DUMA?

I finished it because my mantra has always been "GO DEEP or Go Home." But, honestly David, you sorely try my patience; you really do.

GILL I. 10:29 AM  

I'm pretty sure I used @Suzie Q's blunt machete to hack away as well. Oof and double oof.
Talk about staring at all the gnarly vine growth and wondering where to even start. Oh...ERGO and ROB looked promising while I was upstairs. Then CLEO had to be it. Chop chop. First long entry was ALFA ROMEO SPIDER. Lamborghini wasn't going to fit so, sure, lets get the SPIDER in there. A close friend of mine bought one after watching Dustin Hoffman drive his red Alfa in "The Graduate." I got to try it and it was fun - five gearshifts and all.
Although I wasn't raised in California, I was born here and have every right to say that CALI is the ugliest abbreviation in the world - except for maybe Frisco. I suppose I should be happy that I even got GOING BACK TO CALI.
I was able to hack away at the top answers and had my serious problems in the middle. ELATION instead of ECSTASY. Thank you SMEGOL for making me change.
Wasn't going anywhere until I Googled PLEDGE for that brother to be plus it opened the door to the basement.
I agree with @Rex about Gil Blas. But since he's been in plenty of crosswords, I sorta remembered his name. I loved the DOLLS clue. I've got some hanging around somewhere but I think our daughter lost a few of the smaller ones while playing Barbie.
ELOCUTE FECUND. Such grown up words.
I'm off to go play outside.

Nancy 10:34 AM  

Well said, @Distancia (10:07)! I, too, see him constructing puzzle clues with his screen open to Wikipedia for every single one of them.

@'mericans (6:59) -- Not since the heyday of the Marx brothers has there been a family of brotherly siblings quite like yours. Maybe not even then.

Bob Mills 10:39 AM  

A tenace is not literally a ten and an ace. It's two honors with a space between them, like king/jack or ace/queen. So it's OK. The problem with this puzzle was too many obscure answers, like ALAINRENELESAGE and MATRYOSHKADOLLS.

JC66 10:48 AM  

Never read LOTR so Naticked at the SMEAGxL/LESAxE cross.

@Twangster

If you look right below the grid on the NY Times web site, you'll see a promo for Deb Amen's column with a picture of the dolls.

@ANON 9:20

A TOY is a type of dog, i.e.TOY poodle.

mmorgan 10:54 AM  

In a word: impossible.

In five words: so much I didn’t know.

TubaDon 10:55 AM  

      CELESTA got me going in the NE and even though B.I.G. was not on my playlst, I filled in the top with few problems. The southern hemisphere was another story., not helped by my falling into the Bert PARKS trap. After a refreshing nap and a wake up cup of Irish Breakfast tea, SHEAGOL finally got me the ends of that stack, and even though I struggle in French, I could guess the first names of LESAGE easily enough. Finally flipped a coin for the Y vs I in the doll name for the final letter.

Katzzz 10:55 AM  

Really wanted Parks.

Katzzz 10:57 AM  

Translation: the puzzle was hard for me so I did not like it

burtonkd 11:05 AM  

Didn’t we have matryoshka dolls as a clue recently? Also a different Alain so the French spelling is at least in the recent memory bank. If so, nice planning by mr. shortz.
Rene at least a common French name. Can’t say I would ever come with that name without many crosses.
Krispy Kreme donut is the least crispy one out there.
Thank you Incredible Hulk for Greek letter + ray construction

king_yeti 11:15 AM  

@jberg you nailed it on AFI. Check out afi.com

Banana Diaquiri 11:36 AM  

so, how many remembered it as MArRYuSHKA dolls?

Twangster 11:43 AM  

JC66, when I go to https://www.nytimes.com/crosswords to do the puzzle on my laptop, the only photo I see is an ad for Audi, and I have to scroll down quite a bit to see it. There is a link that says "read about today's puzzle on Wordplay," but that has no photos. Maybe it shows up differently on different computers.

Outside The Box 11:44 AM  

Bert Parks (of “Miss America” fame) was also a host of many old game shows. That threw me off for quite a while in solving the the entire South area pofvthe puzzle.

Hungry Mother 11:45 AM  

An assist from my wife changing ELOCaTE to ELOCUTE finished this one for me. Another real slogfest.

kld 11:47 AM  

@burtonkd yes, I vaguely knew the name of the dolls because of the recent clue. I tried to commit it to memory at the time, so knew vaguely how to spell it, but it took a bunch of crosses to figure out which letters went where. The French guy's name was pretty inferable with crosses. Last square I filled in was the C in CONVY/COPA, but like others my DNF was adaptEr/cEty. Both spellings of adaper/adaptor seem valid according to Google (in fact "adaptor definition" goes to the -ER version), and both coty/cEty satisfy the clue if you don't know the company. My second hour-plus time in two days

puzzlehoarder 11:49 AM  

This was one of your harder grid spanning stack puzzles. My initial scan of the top stack got me only ERGO and CLEO. PICA was a strong suspect but needed confirmation. Oddly, my real start was a mistake. ALPACA at 32A gave me CELESTA. Then TSP and COTY allowed me to see the error of ALPACA and ANGORA went right in.

The solve went smoothly after that. However my luck ran out at CONVY. I knew the last letter of that entry had to be an E, an I or a Y. I narrowed it down to the I or the Y and picked wrong. This error really got under my skin as I knew we had those DOLLS in a recent puzzle. Finding out that they were a clue for LARGEST, only eight days ago, made it worse. Between Christmas and this new Scrabble obsession I haven't paid much attention lately.

Banana Diaquiri 11:55 AM  

@GILL I.
CALI is the ugliest abbreviation in the world - except for maybe Frisco.

could be worse, the Frisco Bowl (one of the 40, count 'em 40, college football games) could have been played in San Francisco. I just assumed it was, of course. a closer look at the listing said, 'Frisco, TX'. wherever that is.

Malsdemare 11:59 AM  

Ugh, just ugh! Sometimes I can get Steinberg's puzzles; this was not one of those times. For some idiotic reason, I wanted to spell COTY with a D and that hindered me more than I like admittng. Not a chance I'll know Biggie; Ijust know RBG. I've watched — and loved — The Good Wife, but rarely attend to who the actors are, so NOTH wasn't going to be there to help. Blocks everywhere. I did finish, but with help. Without it, I would have gotten violent.

I actually think TOKYOGAMES is fair. I had ALLOVERtheplace which made that whole Se corner impossible. I could go on, but reliving this challenge is even less fun than tne first time around, tho I will admit I loved MATRYOSHKADOLLS.

On to other things.

Anonymous 12:01 PM  

@kitself - I concur that somewhere GAMES isn’t really green paint (tho I realize it’s OFL's coinage). There’s a closed set of city hosts, and one certainly hears the phrase(s) often.

@Z - I just recently noticed the Natick sidebar myself.

JC66 12:03 PM  

@Twangster

The dolls pic shows up on my Mac laptop in Safari, Chrome & Firefox. Email me if you want me to send you a screenshot.

Carola 12:06 PM  

A fun one to rassle with - Could I guess all of those names I didn't know? - but I ended with a DNF at CONVo x MATRoOSHKA.
@Tuba Don - Me, too, for being grateful for CELESTA in an otherwise blank top tier. Crucial for getting PACK and then the rest of that stack.
@Dewayne 9:21 - I would have guessed PARKS, except that despite major brain-racking, I couldn't remember it!
For me, the categories in the Name Game were:
1. Knew: DANES, DUMA, ORD, CLEO, RUY
2. Knew when jogged by a cross or two: OMAR, COTY, DIOR, ALFA ROMEO SPIDER, DORSET, COLT, LAREDO, SMEAG?L (had to wait for that vowel)
3. E-Z to guess: LIB, LUIS, ALDO
4. No idea, but saved by pattern recognition when crosses reached critical mass: GOING BACK TO CALI, ALAIN RENE LESAGE
5. Needed every cross: NOTH. The N in FECUND was my last square.
An EYE-POPPing array of. names, for sure.

Anoa Bob 12:20 PM  

Learned that ALL OVER THE PLACE has the same number of letters as ALL OVER CREATION (58A).

My first impulse for 36D "Friend of Tarzan" was Cheetah, the chimpanzee. I thought he just had a nodding acquaintance with the GORILLAs.

SMEAGOL (40D) looks like it could be a foul-smelling exudate from an abscessed carbuncle. RAUNCH, right?

DavidL 12:24 PM  

Naticked by the French author and the Tolkien guy.

TomLynne 12:25 PM  

Wow. Tough one, nine minutes over my average Friday, but I finally got it without looking up anything. BTW, have you checked the prices on some of the vintage Alfa Spiders lately. Not The Graduate kind, but the vintage ones like the 2600 Spider? In the triple figures. Definitely high end.

Satisfying finish, even though it took an eternity compared to Rex and the rest of you prime solvers.

ERC 12:26 PM  

This puzzle was absolutely brutal, and it felt miraculous when I eventually finished (and I was SO proud I didn't crack and start Googling).

I didn't know just about any of the proper nouns (GOING-BACK-TO-CALI, LUIS, RUY, COTY, CELESTA, LAREDO, ALDO, and don't get me started on ALAIN-RENE-LESAGE and CONVY). So to solve this puzzle I basically had to stare hopelessly at the non-proper-noun clues until I eventually cracked them. I thought MATRYOSHKA was spelled MATROISHKA (although I started off trying to make RUSSIAN, NESTING, and BABUSHKA work somehow). I plugged in a variety of weird combinations for 58A (ALL-GODS-CREATION, IN-ALL-OF-creation). And very few of the answers, even once I'd entered them correctly, felt certain: AFI-LIST, DANES, BETARAY, GO-DEEP, MISDO, and OLD-SALT, for instance.

That said, I did love some of the answers — I particularly enjoyed FECUND, ELOCUTE, and PLEDGE.

FWIW, I'm a 30-year-old female, and some of the references may have been a bit too old school for me to recognize them.

Masked and Anonymous 12:28 PM  

yep. A few EYEPOPPERS in this here xword. Got the top 15-stack without much nanosecond carnage. But … Bottom stack was Research City time -- cuz M&A just wants to have fun with the puz, and the constructioneer probably had to look some of that stuff up, anyhoo.

staff weeject pick: RUY. As in the Old West's rUy rUgers. Had a nice raUnch and TV show. And a bunch of restaUrants.

fave fillins: LEADEROFTHEPACK. Also a hit song, way back before that CALI tune of mystery. By the Shangri-Las, btw.
ECSTASY and ADAPTOR were solid spellin challenges, at my house. GUST and GUSTO sounds like the seedlets for a cool runt-theme. Too bad there's no ERG to go with ERGO. Or ROBO for ROB. … Is PUPO a word?

fave clue: {New toy?} = PUP. Doggies are the best.

Thanx for the FriPuz with 'tude, Mr. Steinberg.

Masked & Anonymo5Us

Unknown 12:44 PM  

I don't buy this. Does anyone ever refer to their dog as a TOY? If someone asks you what kind of dog do you have and you answer TOY, does that make any sense to them? No.

Unknown 12:45 PM  

Someone please explain NEW TOY? = PUP. And don't tell me that TOY uniquely identifies a specific breed of dog.

Banana Diaquiri 1:09 PM  

@Calman Snoffelevich
And don't tell me that TOY uniquely identifies a specific breed of dog.

neither does PUP, of course. usual misdirected clue. of course, there's the interpretation of NEW: if it's just NEW to you, then it could be an olde dog from a shelter that won't learn NEW tricks, or it could be recently whelped and thus a PUP of no specific breed.

QuasiMojo 1:28 PM  

@Anoa Bob, Tarzan in the novel was raised by a tribe of great apes, although according to experts in such matters, not gorillas. In the movies, he befriended CHEETA, a chimpanzee. There are some interesting articles about the one who starred in the film. Some claimed he lived to be 82 and was also Bonzo in that Reagan movie. The Washington Post debunked some of these misconceptions about him ten years ago. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/25/AR2008112500939.html?noredirect=on

Karl Grouch 1:31 PM  

Je veux

Pamela 1:37 PM  

Fecund and elocute were salves for my ego. The rest of the puzzle: a nightmare. Even though my career was in fashion/beauty, Coty was a long reach. For me, the south came first, helped by All Over Creation and Dior. Eventually I realized that I knew about those dolls. Then lots of struggle, aided by google. After yesterday’s slog and this, I dread tomorrow.

Masked and Anonymous 1:43 PM  

@Calman Snoffelevich: Cute avatar doggy.

The M&A Official Reference Dictionary has this #2 definition for "toy"…

"2 [ as modifier ] denoting a diminutive breed or variety of dog: a toy poodle."

I think probably that's what the PUP clue was trying to get at.

M&A Help Desk

Malsdemare 1:44 PM  

@Calman Snoffelvich, TOY is one of the AKC categories of dogs; it includes Llasa Apsos, Maltese, Chihuahua, and other what we here in Malamute land call drop-kick dogs. Other categories are working, sporting, hunting, non working, herding, and another I can’t remember. For a fun read, check out Jennifer Rubin’s Dec 25 column, “Best in Show.” It’s a hoot.

Joe Bleaux 1:57 PM  

Damn, that was a hard puzzle! It’s ... inelegant in places, but David Steinberg didn’t slip a single notch on my short list of favorite constructors. Overpowering this bear with no help and no mistakes gave me a needed confidence boost. Have a nice weekend, all.

Vincent Lima 2:07 PM  

MATRIOSHKA is a perfectly acceptable rendition of матрёшка, so not knowing CONVY from CONVi, I sat there and stared at my completed, incomplete Friday, wondering what the matter was.

Woof 2:12 PM  

This clue is a pretty loose connection but toy is a size designation for some dog breeds.

jae 2:13 PM  

Me too for north easy, south a tad tougher. I needed all the crosses for the Russian DOLLS. Solid Fri. with some zip. Liked it.

John V 2:23 PM  

Total trainwreck .

TomAz 2:25 PM  

I was a French major and I did not remember LESAGE or even Gil Blas for that matter. I don't think of ALFA ROMEOs as particularly high end, though I just googled the price on the 2019 SPIDER, so maybe I'm wrong. I think of GOIN BACK TO CALI as a line from a particularly good Gillian Welch song. Got COTY only on the crosses.. I seem to be in the minority who routinely spell ADAPTOR with an O. MATRYOSHKA DOLLS I knew, but I was struggling to remember how to spell it. Ditto SMEAGOL.

To echo Distancia Horticrux and others: difficulty just for the sake of difficulty is pointless and dull.

OISK 2:39 PM  

I finished it correctly. When I saw David's name on the top, I threw the paper across the room, but I tried, grunted, slogged, and finished. So much not to like! Car models! Cosmetic companies. 1997 Rock "hit." Even Lesage, of whom I have heard - but did I know he is "Alain Gene"? Airport acronyms. Even if you guessed that O'Hare was the airport, where would you get "ORD"? ( I have been to O'Hare, so I got it, but I don't like it). What is "AFI List"? Matryoshka??? Sméagol?? Omar Little?? Aldo Gucci? (oh, wait, American film institute list? Terrible.)
Like my friend Nancy ( we are going to see Pirates today, by the way...) I somehow put all the right letters in all the right places, found very little to enjoy. Liked the clue for "Go Deep." But overall, for me, a tedious, meaningless mess.

Anonymous 3:20 PM  

I’ve heard it used as a differentiator:

“What kind of dog do you have?”
“A poodle.”
“Oh, nice! What kind?”
“A TOY. We call him Rex.”

Ando 4:19 PM  

Worst thing about ADAPTeR/ADAPTOR is that both are accepted spellings, and both CeTY/COTY work with the clue (letters appearing in that order in 'cosmetics company'). So if you don't know COTY you could be DNF like me.

Unknown 4:27 PM  

Anonymous: a "toy" dog is a breed, as in Pug, Chihuahua, other small pups, etc.

ArtO 5:06 PM  

TOY is possibly also a reference to toy poodle.

Z 5:13 PM  

I’m sorry, but I didn’t know a whole bunch of the PPP and still managed to solve this fairly easily. The only truly unfair crossing I see is the one I mentioned earlier today (SMÉAGOL/ALAIN RENÉ LESAGE). The PPP is high (I just counted it at 38%, but it is hard to do with a hard copy of the solve so I could be off) so the plaints are to be expected, but this is the first time I recall having so many outhouse answers and still solving without much gnashing of teeth. Weird. Or maybe I’m just smarter than all of you.*

@jberg and @anon12:01 - The Vocab section is still there in the FAQs, and the sidebars had been so constant for so long that my eyes just never wandered that way anymore. I remember one of the last times I really looked there were a whole bunch of dead links. Apparently Rex has been doing a little housekeeping. If he hadn’t mentioned it at the end of his post, though, I might have gone a long time before noticing.

Regarding TENACE, the holding doesn’t even necessarily have to be all that high. Late in the play of a hand a five/three of trump sitting behind a four/two could be a TENACE. The strategy is simple. If the person holding a TENACE has to play first they win one trick, but if they play after their opponent they can take two tricks.











*Seriously? If you didn’t realize I was kidding about being smarter please just save us both all the grief and skip my comments.

Anonymous 5:45 PM  

A little bit on the difficult side for me, but a pleasant solving experience just the same. Thanks very much Mr. Steinberg.

Joe Dipinto 6:06 PM  

Fun fact: Bert Convy was in the original Broadway cast of "Fiddler On The Roof" as Perchik, the radical student who gets exiled to Siberia (setting up the song "Far From The Home I Love").

I enjoyed this puzzle. Almost got naticked in the SE but somehow I pulled Smeagol out of my brain and since I've seen LeSage as a surname elsewhere, all ended well.

Anonymous 6:18 PM  

I just want to say that Sméagol was never actually described as a hobbit, but as a hobbit-like creature.

Z 6:47 PM  

@Anon6:18 - I thought the same thing, so looked it up. Here’s an accessible article. I don’t have a copy handy to look it up in the appendices.

Anonymous 7:34 PM  

Alfa Romeo Spider isn't a high end sports car even if some vintage models can go for top dollar at auction. It's a great car but not high end.

CDilly52 7:53 PM  

COTY was a 5 and dime store brand of cosmetics during my 1950s-1965 childhood. The nail polish and cheap lipstick, blush and really hideous scent was easily available to young teenage girls whose income was derived from babysitting at $0.50 per hour and $0.75 after midnight. Ah those were the days! Not many gimmies for me today and if it weren’t for downs and good guesses I’d still be working. This one took me all day at intervals and I had to run the alphabet several times to get the last ones. I don’t mind tough but I do mind tough and waaaay out of nearly everyone's wheelhouse.

joebloggs 8:06 PM  

That’s a helluva stretch

joebloggs 8:09 PM  

Spider high end? Not a bit compared to most Ferrari, Lamborghini or Maserati models. It’s one thing to have some difficult clueing. Another thing to be misleading, which this is.

joebloggs 8:10 PM  

No need to deliberately mislead with the clue about Biggie Smalls. Could have left it alone as LL Cool J and it’s difficult enough. Not fun.

retired guy 10:49 PM  

@Jeff there are French verbs the first person singular present form of which ends in "x" --- such as vouloir (je veux), pouvoir (je peux). It is just that prier (je prie) isn't one of them.

Anonymous 11:05 PM  

Translation of the translation: I’m edgy.

Unknown 10:41 AM  

Couldn't agree more. I struggled mightily here, running down those three, plus DeTomaso and Bugatti (though the latter's actually French). Alfa never even crossed my mind given "high end".

And it certainly didn't help that LAG was shamefully clued for 1D: "latency" is the actual term, and I couldn't fathom what other problem there could be. AFK, maybe?

OlyL 3:17 PM  

Like Z 5:13, I’m smarter than the rest of you, if you include the asterisk. I like a hard, trivia heavy, obscurely but fairly clued xword. I am thrilled to complete it. Overjoyed if I can do it without over-writes( I do it in ink so I can see what I’m doing.). This was an over-writer: had Essex for Dorset for a while, because x’s tend to be popular.

Hobbit or not, Sméagol should be pronounced as nasally as possible while scrunching up the probocis and elongating the ea.

Unknown 7:21 PM  

47D
Didn’t anyone else think “Parks” instead of Convy?

Anonymous 7:28 PM  

I groan every time I see David Steinberg’s name on a crossword, because I know it will be loaded with proper nouns and words drawn from personal interests that I don’t share. Such a misguided way to construct a crossword! But this time in addition to the obscure ego-trip/self-celebration stuff (like 3D, 23D and 17A) it was full of incorrect clues. 2D, 15D, 36D, and 40D are all false. (Tolkein specifically described Smeagol’s race as possibly having a common ancestor with Hobbits many ages before LOTR; he was certainly NOT a Hobbit.) The answers to 13D, 14D and 41D are misspelled. “Raunch” and “misdo” aren’t even words. This puzzle doesn’t deserve to have been published. But just for the record, there’s nothing at all wrong with 51A (got it instantly), it isn’t a stretch at all although so many people complained about it. And 36A (“go deep” clued as “prepare for a bomb”) is brilliant. But the rest of this puzzle was miserable, and for me it’s the last straw with David. From now on, when I see his name I’ll “just say no.”

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

40 Down, having reaad JRR Tolkein's books several times, Smeagol is a Hobbit Character, actually a man corrupted by the ring which he finds in a river many years before running into a Hohhit Bilbo Baggins.

spacecraft 11:05 AM  

It amazes me that I came as close as I did on this one. DNF because of COCO, whose letters appear...etc. Didn't know the instrument, and KRISPo looked wrong but...I just never thought of COTY. I guess, if you skip a whole bunch of letters in "COosmeTics companY, you can do it, but YOW! that's a bit unfair.

Did anybody else think of the former Miss America host--and game show host--Bert PARKS? That one cost major time down south. Working the bottom line from left to right, I was sure I'd goofed somewhere, with that start: MATRYOS---and yet all the downs looked solid. When I got to the DOLLS part, I figured the rest of it was just some Russian word--or name, so OK. But never heard of this. Oh well. To come this close on a Steinberg Friday is almost worth some triumph points, but of course no score. No DOD either (sigh).

One of my most vivid sports memories is watching the men's 10K meter run at the TOKYO games, when a Marine named Billy Mills came out of NOWHERE!!! in the last half-lap to win going away.

Diana, LIW 12:48 PM  

Typical Steinberg solve for me. At first, nada. Then, one or two. Then, "I'll try this." Then I see that. Love that.

But giant Natick in the SE, due to lack of Hobbit and author's name knowledge.

But like @Space, I'm proud to have gotten what I did.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Burma Shave 1:11 PM  

PRIE PERK

There’s a PLEDGE by THE LEADEROFTHEPACK,
IT’S that he won’t be GOINGBACKTO BACK.
EGAD, with CLEO IT’S, “NOMA’AM, NO sleep,
IT’s FECUND ECSTASY when I GODEEP.”

--- ROB RUY RAUSCH

rondo 1:41 PM  

Don’t ever ask me about Harry da Vinci’s Rings; I don’t know from Potter’s Code Lords. Or obscure French authors, for that matter. But I plunked in that crossing G to avoid the DNF. FECUND lucky.

MATRYOSHKADOLLS I know from, but I’m sure I woulda spelled it some other (wrong) way. When I was in Moscow I coulda bought a set with Bill Clinton on the outside, Hillary and Monica were smaller, and the smallest was a cigar. RAUNCHy Russian humor.

That 29a clue has Will’s fingerprints on it.

OLDSALT is a great use of the clue ‘tar’.

Really liked this puz, even with one-letter write-overs ALLOVERCREATION.

rainforest 3:12 PM  

From the depths, CONVY to the rescue! I initially had Parks, but as I moved from East to West in the South, I saw that Parks had to come out (didn't like him anyway). Then CONVY just came. I must be smart, just like @Z.

The North was pretty easy, mainly because of LAG, then ALFA ROMEO (Either SPIDER or SPyDER). Felt proud to get COTY pretty quickly, and I knew most of the remaining names. I did think that those nesting DOLLS had a name that started with P, but CONVY gave me ALAIN and OVER, and so MA'AM, and that's all she wrote.

Really, too many names, IMO, but I finished.

@rondo and @fogman. Thanks for your suggestions. I tried everything, even checking the thermostat, but I think the fridge/freezer has lost refrigerant. It's old anyway so right now I'm going out for a replacement. Damn.

thefogman 4:24 PM  

Medium? NOMAAM! This one was tougher than wrestling with a GORILLA. I spent a goodly amount of time and vast amounts of whiteout on it. IMO, the FECUND wunderkind is a reliable LEADEROFTHEPACK in terms of quality xword puzzles but this one was a bit off. I don't like acronym stuff like AFILIST, which I solved but hated anyways. I went with/guessed yOLO (You Only Live Once) and yOMAAM (Yo Mamma) for 42A and 42D having no knowledge of the legalistic/latin NOLO. ERGO I felt a bit ROBbed but I'll admit, ITS my MISDO. Alas and YOW! DEAD again because of one little square. Time to hop into my ALFAROMEO and pick up an ALFA Juliet. Ciao for now!

leftcoastTAM 6:05 PM  

"Medium" for today's Steinberg? Maybe so, but Will easily could have saved this one for tomorrow (which also would have been out of my range).

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