Jazzman Earl / SAT 12-15-18 / 1988 security guard comedy / Folklore monster whose name means goat-sucker / Nickname for Ulysses / Setting of 2000s comedy central police show

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Constructor: Erik Agard

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging for me  (9:15, w/ an error) but I've seen other times, and it's apparently more Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: "RENO 9-1-1" (30D: Setting of a 2000s Comedy Central police show) —
Reno 911! is an American comedy television series on Comedy Central that ran from 2003 to 2009. It is a mockumentary-style parody of law enforcement documentary shows, specifically Cops, with comic actors playing the police officers. Most of the material is improvised, using a broad outline with minimal scripted material. The series spawned a film, Reno 911!: Miami, featuring the same cast. Thomas LennonRobert Ben Garant and Kerri Kenney-Silver all starred in and are billed as creators of the series. (wikipedia)
• • •

HELLO, SYNDICATION SOLVERS! (i.e. the majority of my readership—those of you who are reading this on Saturday, January 19). It's early January and that means it's time for my annual pitch for financial contributions to the blog, during which I ask regular readers to consider what the blog is worth to them on an annual basis and give accordingly. As you know, I write this blog every. Single. Day. OK, two days a month I pay young people to write it, but every other day, all me. OK sometimes I take vacations and generous friends of mine sit in, but otherwise, I'm a non-stop blogging machine. Seriously, it's a lot of work. It's at least as much work as my day job, and unlike my day job, the hours *kinda* suck—I typically solve and write between 10pm and midnight, or in the early hours of the morning, so that the blog can be up and ready for solvers to read with their breakfast or on the train or in a forest or wherever it is you people enjoy the internet. I have no major expenses, just my time. As I've said before, I have no interest in "monetizing" the blog in any way beyond simply asking for money once a year. I hate ads in real life, so why would I subject you all to them. I actually considered redesigning the site earlier this year, making it slicker or fancier somehow. I even got the process partly underway, but then when I let slip that I was considering it, feedback was brisk and clear: don't change. Turns out people don't really want whistles and bells. Just the plain, internet-retro style of a blogger blog. So that's what you're getting. No amount of technical tinkering is gonna change the blog, which is essentially just my voice. My ridiculous opinionated voice yelling at you, cheerfully and angrily, about how much I love / hate crosswords. I hope that this site has made you laugh or taught you things or given you a feeling of shared joy, or anger, or failure, or even given you someone to yell at. I'm fine with that. I also hope I've introduced some of you to the Wider World of Crosswords, beyond the NYT. I am passionate about puzzles and I (mostly) adore the people who solve them—so many of my friends, and the thousands of you I've never met. I can't stop, and I won't stop, and I hope you find that effort worth supporting.

Some people refuse to pay for what they can get for free. Others just don't have money to spare. All are welcome to read the blog—the site will always be open and free. But if you are able to express your appreciation monetarily, here are two options. First, a Paypal button (which you can also find in the blog sidebar):

Second, a mailing address:

Rex Parker c/o Michael Sharp
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All Paypal contributions will be gratefully acknowledged by email. All snail mail contributions (I. Love. Snail mail!) will be gratefully acknowledged with hand-written postcards. This year's cards are illustrations from "Alice in Wonderland"—all kinds of illustrations from throughout the book's publication history. Who will get the coveted, crosswordesey "EATME!" card!? Someone, I'm sure. You, I hope. Please note: I don't keep a "mailing list" and don't share my contributor info with anyone. And if you give by snail mail and (for some reason) don't want a thank-you card, just say NO CARD.  As ever, I'm so grateful for your readership and support.

Now on to the puzzle!
• • •

Parts of this were very easy. I came right down the west coast like it was no problem at all, or not much of one. But after dropping ELGRECO into the SW, and then SONAR and HINES into the middle, things started to go very wrong. I just couldn't push up into the NE and couldn't really push down into the SW. Cape ____, I don't know. CIGAR ... what? ROOM? Seemed like a lot of possible four-letter answers (32D: Locale for Cubans). And then ... I just had a problem of not looking at long gimmes soon enough. I was in the SW a while, struggling with Downs, before I looked at 56A: #1 hit for the Jackson 5 and Mariah Carey ("I'LL BE THERE"), a total gimme. Before that, though, I had ELGRECO SELA CERES and a whole lotta nothing. I had COOLER but didn't believe BEER COOLER was a thing. You can put anything in a COOLER, right? Is there one they make *just* for beer? Also, side note: PBRS is an atrocious plural. Whatever, I was slow down there, and very slow getting out because I kept putting SLEDDERS in and taking it out because it was resulting in an impossible cross at 46A: CDD-. Ugh, how is a CD DRIVE a *program* opening. I get that you might put a disc into the drive. But the disc is not the program. There are programs on discs, presumably, but the disc isn't the program. The cluing on this one was irking me all over, from BEER COOLER to CDDRIVE to IRAQI (what's w/ the gratuitous militarism here?) (47D: Operation Red Dawn defender) to HESITATION (I mean, I guess that's a pre-jump thing, but so is vomiting or fainting or shouting 'Cowabunga!' —also it is not an *ideal* pre-jump thing, as I understand it), to CHUTZPAH (5D: Arguing with God, for example) (why are you bringing God into this? that word is used for ordinary stuff). But the worst clues, for me, were in a bunch, in the east. Let's start with GOOSE (33A: Stimulate).

I think it's really "Stimulate" that is the problem here. That word has positive connotations where physical touching is concerned, and the verb GOOSE, as I've most commonly heard it, involves pinching, often men pinching women, often men pinching women's asses. Wow, actually, the M-W definition is much more graphic:

"Upward thrust"!? I did not know that was required, or definitive. So, yeah, the clue is technically correct, for def. 2, but making the clue a positive-touch word when the answer's primary meaning is such a negative-touch word ... not great. Editing! Also, hey, am I the only one who says the "L" (sort of) in POLK? (27D: Apt surname for an acupuncturist?) POKE and POLK sound different to me. Or feel different coming out of my mouth. I hated this version of the "apt name" clue for this reason. I also didn't like the clue on CLAW (37A: Cardinal point?). If I had to name all the parts of the bird, I would never say CLAW, ever. Bears have CLAWs. Birds have talons. Therefore, I wrote in CRAW. This left me with an acupuncturist named PORK, but I didn't really stop to think about that. PORK / CRAW, very real words! Done!

Here's the thing—if I had looked at 5A: Folklore monster whose name means "goat-sucker" (CHUPACABRA) early on, this solve would've gone very differently. Because that long answer was a Gimme. If I'd gone *there* after the NW, instead of struggling in the south and east, I would've gotten PIED PIPER and SIT 'N' SPIN (two answers I could Not get trying to come at them from the puzzle's middle). Also would've come at SOCCER TEAM from the *top* (so much easier than the bottom) (26D: United, e.g.). I was coming at a bunch of answers from the wrong side. CHUPACABRA, a top-row gift, would've changed all of that. Once I (finally) looked at it, the puzzle sped up again. I still would've finished with PORK / CRAW, but I would've finished *quickly*!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS also had a triple-wrong answer fiasco in the SE at one point with NEHI NESS TEAL (instead of TRIX EARP AQUA). Good times.

PPS from reader David P: "While I agree with your criticisms of today's puzzle, there is another, egregious, misclue.  Mono is not a VIRUS.  It is an abbrev for mononucleosis which is a diagnostic criterion for infectious mononucleosis, usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.  (45A)." 

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Lewis 7:07 AM  

This was a solid Saturday solving trek, which should, and did, include GRRs, CLAWing, D'OHs, and some sitting and spinning, balanced by a host of ATTAs. Kudos to Erik for smoothly pulling off the pair of quad stacks.

I did like the contrasting cross of CHUTZPAH and HESITATION. Kind of how I feel as I approach a Saturday puzzle.

Ted 7:15 AM  

Huge amounts of easy from some serious gimme answers right off the bat, like CHUPACABRA and PIEDPIPER. I cruised through the whole puzzle from the top down in Monday/Tuesday fashion.

Then I confidently put in ADDRESS for 46A (Program opening?) and that felt rock solid absolutely right from _DDR_ _ _. No one but NO ONE puts a CD in for a program any more, but you sure as heck ADDRESS a room to start a lecture/course/program.

That made the SE unworkable for a few minutes. AERES still looked like a reasonable name for a god, but nothing else worked.

Rob 7:26 AM  

This was... okay? It felt like a bit of a slog, not a lot of answers with sparkle. Did have that Saturday thing going where I felt like I wasn't getting anywhere after my initial pass but slowly puzzled out the rest. I didn't enjoy some of the answers where either the constructor or the editor got cute, like 46A: "Program opening?" I see what they were going for but IMO it doesn't really work. I feel the same way about POLK.

Eliza 7:32 AM  

PBRS? Assist, please.

Anonymous 7:52 AM  

PBRs is definitely legit. RP went to the wrong colleges, I guess?

mmorowitz 7:53 AM  

I hit chupacabra right away and this came in just a minute over my pwrperso best. Probably would have hit it if I didn't have 3/4ths of a bottle of wine in me.

OffTheGrid 7:54 AM  

Beautiful, awesome puzzle. It was work but not drudgery. Bit by bit. We've had 3 great days in a row. My older brother used to come up behind me on Dec. 25 and say, "Did you get your Christmas goose yet?" And then..... All in good fun. (I'm male)

Anonymous 8:07 AM  

Thanks, man. Nice report. It’s counter intuitive, but late week long answers are often. But 5A was no gimme for me. You were kidding - right?

Unknown 8:14 AM  

Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Anonymous 8:20 AM  

a claw, especially one belonging to a bird of prey.

nitram lepok 8:22 AM  

I remember Hugh Obrian when I was way younger but for some reason I thought he was Eliot Ness. As Costner was. Ruined that corner. Then Earp came to me as I remembered my old Zenith console

Anonymous 8:23 AM  

Is a GOOSE as icky as an EXCON?

mmorgan 8:28 AM  

Lots of this was very easy, and lots (mostly NE and SE) was impossible... Or just came very, very slowly. Every now and then, one word would quickly lead to 6 or 7. EG, once I accepted that it really was CDDRIVE, the SE corner popped right in. I also put in and took out SLEDDERS several times, since it didn't rally feel very Olympic. I agree that numerous clues were just sorta kinda off, but to me that's part of the challenge and fun of a Saturday, so no complaints here.

JOHN X 8:36 AM  

This was a pretty good Saturday. So good that I had a DNF in the SE corner.

I had ADDRESS for "Program opening" instead of CDDRIVE and I just never suspected it was wrong despite the fact that nothing else worked down there. Other than that fatal error, the rest of the puzzle was pretty solid.

I agree that GOOSE was icky and really triggered some horrible imagery. I'm kidding of course, that was really stupid.

Off to the glue factory with me then.

Unknown 8:50 AM  

Blecch! Not much problem on the rest of the puzzle, having CHUPACABRA as my very first answer, and chuckling in POLK without a cross. SITNSPIN must be some gadget far after my time, and with no kids, had to fill it in from SOCCERTEAM, which itself got no help from the very lame CLAW.

Minor bumps on the road, tho. Ultimately took a DNF due to the SW. CDDRIVE (uh, huh?) -- kept putting that in, then erasing it, muttering "that just couldn't be right".

And I'm sorry, but cerulean and aqua are nowhere near kin, distant cousins at best. Got stuck there trying AZUL or other variations of azure, obviously fruitlessly. And speaking of fruit, I've never slurped up soggy TRIX (is TANG still only orange? does it still exist?), and never saw Red Dawn or its apparently dreadful reboot, but knew about Charlie SHEEN being in the original, and like Rex, couldn't fit anything between NESS and MIST, so threw in the towel after scratching my head red without anything dawning.

Unknown 8:51 AM  

A bit early for that?

Kiki 8:51 AM  


PBR cans forever!!! Come to Charleston for a few--the Recovery Room sells more than any other bar in the world.

Matthew G. 8:54 AM  

There’s a terrible lager called Pabst Blue Ribbon, PBR for short. If you want to get a buzz but are afraid you might taste something in the process, it’s a good option.

agarlock 8:54 AM  

PBR = Pabst Blue Ribbon (cheap beer)

Birchbark 8:54 AM  

HESITATION re 32D CIGAR SHOP -- I don't think it's legal [yet] to sell Cuban cigars in the US. If so, "Locale for some Cubans, elsewhere" would be a better clue (with due courtesy to the EXPATs and others elsewhere, for whom the clue as written may be fine).

Suzie Q 8:58 AM  

I had a lot more fun than Rex did. I can't help but feel sorry for people who ruin their own days. My world is so much sunnier than his is.
Beer cooler over season pass was a good pairing.
I'm OK with claw as clued. Talons are for raptors and such, claws are for perching birds such as cardinals.
Anybody can give or receive a goose, it's about being startled.
I used to watch Reno 911 and thought it was really funny.
In ice the other day but on ice today.
Besides not being sure how to spell that cryptocritter the tricks today were all in the clues.
Thanks Erik.

Dr. Haber 8:59 AM  

What does est have to do with attendance?

EricStratton 9:03 AM  

Eliza: Pabst Blue Ribbons. Cheap beer popular for that reason. I actually find it not bad. Sometimes you just want a plain old beer.

Unknown 9:04 AM  

And about the right brew for a tailgater...

mmorowitz 9:17 AM  

Haha. Late Friday night!

OxfordBleu 9:20 AM  

Loved this puzzle. Nice clean fill for the most part. And a PB so I’m not complaining :)
@Eliza PBR=Pabst Blue Ribbon. Super cheap beer drunk in excess by college students along with Natty Lite. Both disgusting.

Rex - if you continue demand sterilization of the English language while at the same time balking at words/things you’ve never heard of, I fear you will achieve your goal of having crosswords that are remarkably easy and fast to solve purely because of the ridiculously limited vocabulary left for the constructor!

OldCarFudd 9:23 AM  

I can assure you that chupacabra is not a gimme for everyone, although I got the CABRA from the goat part of the clue after I had everything else from crosses. While infectious mononucleosis isn't a virus but is caused by one, it's common in ordinary people speech to say something like: "Antibiotics won't cure mono, 'cause it's a virus." So I think that clue and answer are legit.

GOOSE!! 9:30 AM  

PBRs: official drink of hipsters. Please drink ironically.

Yes, Rex, BEERCOOLERs are a thing. You have your cooler that holds stupid things like food, and well, food...and then you have the dedicated and highly sought after BEERCOOLER that holds the important stuff for tailgates, backyard bbqs, birthday parties, etc. See also "beer fridge."

A bird my claw you with their talon, but they don't have claws...they have talons. All of them. Kinda like quadrupeds...while they have forelegs, which should be "arms," they are legs. You could call them arms if you like, similar to calling birds' scratchy things "claws." But they are legs, and birds' scratchy things are called talons.

I like how SITNSPIN is above GOOSE for obvious reasons.

And I thought MRMOM was a comedy. I saw it back in the day and don't remember any "drama" in it. I guess there may have been touching moments, but it's not a drama.

I'm sure Erik A is a very smart guy, but there are huge misses in this puzzle.

QuasiMojo 9:35 AM  

I put in IPA for the beers and Soda Cooler since I don’t drink alcohol. Perhaps that’s why I don’t go to too many tailgate parties. But never saw a PBR at one when I did. Had no idea about the goat sucker. Reminds me of the Chutzpah of Edward Albee when he wrote that god-awful play The Goat about a man who falls in love with one. Albee made suckers of us all with that swindle. Or was it swill? Back to PBR again.

Fun outing Erik! ATTA boy! Keep ‘em coming! Quite stimulating! Gave me GOOSE bumps. Seriously... loved Zambezi and Garlicky and seeing Cerulean. “AQUA ça sert l’amour?”

Teedmn 9:37 AM  

I just finished a series of seven books about cryptozoologists over Thanksgiving and every one of the books mentioned CHUPACABRAs at least once - seven books and I couldn't dredge up how to spell the dang thing. CHUppabeRA was what was coming to mind. As Thomas Dolby sings, my brain is like a sieve.

But I eventually worked through that section, albeit with HESITATION.

My GOOSE was rOuSE at first. And I had ______PAH in place for 5D for a long time and was a bit worried that I was going to have to rework one of the three crosses but was really convinced ESP, RENTACOP and Earl "Fatha" HINES had to be right.

Was there a pointy red hat that cardinals wear is what passed through my brain for 37A. CLAW was iffy to me as clued.

Erik, I liked this and was surprised to see your name on it because it didn't twist me into knots as your puzzles so often do.

Peter P 9:45 AM  

Easiest Saturday I've finished so far. I should have beaten my record, but missed it by five seconds because I had a typo with SUrPRESSED that took me about ten seconds to find.

It all started well with CHUPACABRA and CHUTZPAH going down instantly, and the puzzle pretty much branched out naturally from there. I did have some issues in the SE, when I had the DDR of CDDRIVE but entered aDDRess instead. Also had TEAL instead of AQUA there for a little bit, as Rex did.

The only other major pause was that it took me a minute or so of thought and a couple of letters to remember ILLBETHERE, but now it's been stuck in my head for the last half hour. For some reason, my brain could only conjure up "I Want You Back," "ABC," "The Love You Save," and, for some reason "Corner of the Sky" (originally from "Pippin," the musical.) Stupid brain!

Otherwise, very smooth solve for me, and very easy for a Saturday. Heck, I only finished two puzzles this week without any type of help: Monday's and today's.

John 9:48 AM  

A BEERCOOLER is definitely a thing. I've seen those cheap styrofoam coolers sold specifically as such. CLAW is fine. PBRS was clever. I liked it. CDDRIVE for Program Opening??? One of the worst clues I've seen. Ever. I had ADDRIVE for the longest time, thinking maybe it was something done to fund a television program.

John Child 9:49 AM  

I also had a ton of false starts, but that’s Saturday for ya. I’m on board with many of Rex’s quibbles, though I think the clue for CHUTZPAH was heaven sent. Liked the puzzle a lot.

Wanderlust 9:56 AM  


pmdm 9:57 AM  

Any puzzle with this much PPP is, for me, for of a hassle than an enjoyable solve. What I've come to expect with Eric. Where's the cream pie?

I don't think it's been mentioned here yet. There is a special puzzle section in tomorrow's paper that includes a "mega" crossword puzzle. Puzzle fans take note.

Uncle Alvarez 9:59 AM  

Maybe Rex spent his college years drinking wine coolers and virtue signaling as the only male in the women’s studies class.

kitshef 10:10 AM  

Easy Saturday. 1A and 5A both gimmes, which really opens things up. I expect an Agard to have some piece of modern lingo that boffles me (both boggles and baffles). Not today.

Tang (which seemed wrong) before TRIX was quickly fixed. Ditto USer before USDA. The one that cost me a bit was EsE before ENE. IsD couldn’t be right, but for some reason I kept questioning CDDRIVE instead of EsE.

@DR Haber – EST is short for estimated, which announced attendances usually are.

Worst Rex write-up in a loooong time. Off base in so many ways.

HOTEL BARs are seldom as much fun as you want them to be. You want to meet interesting people who are away from home and feeling social. You occasional get lucky, but mostly meet a lot of drunks. Of course, the folks who meet me in the hotel bar are no doubt equally disgruntled.

kqrbob 10:12 AM  

Thank you. He really is a pill! Good, challenging puzzle, with just enough fun stuff.

Blue Stater 10:19 AM  

I found the cluing Just Awful, as OFL has pointed out in detail. A complete waste of a Saturday morning.

The guy in Nampa 10:25 AM  

I don't care about "time"... I enjoy clever clueing. But I like it to be accurate. Something that makes me think "well, of course. Now I see it."
Weird "stretch" interpretations are annoying, mostly.
Factually inaccurate make it not fun.
Hey, just my opinion.

TubaDon 10:26 AM  

Very uneven. I zoomed through the West, as Rex did but had to slog through the rest, not helped by initially choosing NESS and ADDRESS in the SE corner. I agree that CLAW seems off, but have no idea why lots of solvers thought CHUPACABRA was a gimmie. I only got it from crosses.

LGreenfield 10:27 AM  

Why has everyone heard of a chupacabra? I have never heard that in my life!

Nancy 10:35 AM  

There seems to be a ginormous hole in my knowledge, and it's spelled CHUPACABRA. I was going to chastise Eric for this answer, but at least 5 people so far called it a "gimme", and for many, it was their first answer in. As for me, I have no idea what he/she/it is.

SITNSPIN was one giant "Huh?" for me. I know nothing about Operation Red Dawn and don't want to. The #1 hit was unknown. It sat in the worst possible place: right above the "tailgater's tote", where I had confidently written in WINE COOLER instead of BEER COOLER. This kept me from seeing "some family folks, informally", at 50D. First I had --WS and wondered: could it be LAWS? Then when SUPPRESSED came in, I had S-WS. Surely it couldn't be SOWS, could it? As in family of pigs?

Another Agard pop trivia-fest that I DNF and DNC. I live in constant terror that, when Will Shortz retires, Agard will inherit his mantle and that every future puzzle will be exactly like this one.

GILL I. 10:44 AM  

Quite a work-out. Some easy CHUPAs some unheard of comedies, yada yada yada. Didn't really matter because I really enjoyed this one.
When I saw 5D Arguing with God I thought uh oh, Erik better not get too cutesy. I kept thinking who does that anyway? Then he put in a favorite word of mine, CHUTZPAH and the flood gates opened.
@Rex's problem areas were similar to mine. The one that really got me was just staring at SITNSPIN. I had the SITN and absolutely nothing came to mind. GRR. If I wanted to open up the east coast, I had to Google that answer. Then like everybody else on this planet, I couldn't figure out what in the world stimulates you that begins with a G. Dang, another Google. GOOSE? wow. I always think of those wedgies things people like my 7 year son would do to his dad and then run away giggling. Now I see that GOOSE is a poke in the buttocks. Why is the poor GOOSE given a bum rap?
Had the same ADDRESS vs CDDRIVE mistake. This time I worked backward. I remembered IRAQ in Red Dawn so I got the V for VIRUS and DRIVE magically appeared.
I don't watch sitcoms because the laugh tracks drive me to drink too much. RENT A COP, MR MOM and RENO were guesses.
Yeah, no Cuban CIGAR SHOPs here in the USofA. I think we're the only country left that still doesn't allow them. My dad's favorite H.Upmann's came from Canada.
Isn't it Manchester United? Is there a SOCCER TEAM named United? Hmmm.

kitshef 10:45 AM  

@Lisa Greenfield, @Nancy, @TubaDon, @Sorryifimissedanyone. About once a year someone takes a picture of a coyote or fox with mange and it gets published as a 'real' chupacabra photo. Take note of National Enquirer covers and Weather Channel click bait. Or better yet, don't.

I think it's bigger in the southwest and definitely in Puerto Rico, which is where I first heard of it.

'mericans in Paris 10:49 AM  

Mrs. 'mericans and I completed this one in just under an hour. Liked it, but DNF: had tASTING instead of CASTING at 10D.

Quick posting here, as our son & girlfriend just flew in today from New York.

CHUPACABRA reminds me of a Brazilian phrase that I learned from a colleague used to describe an obese person: CHUPetA de baleia (pacifier for a whale). Brazilians definitely have a way with words!

TRADE TALKS was very close to home. Fifteen years ago I sat in as an observer in negotiations at the World Trade Organisation to forge a trade agreement that would have lowered or eliminated import tariffs on a list of "environmental goods". That list had to be defined and agreed upon -- not an easy task, and ultimately the talks broke down. My favourite memory from that period was one of the delegates explaining to the 200 or so other people in the room why "waterless urinals" should be included on the list. Apologies to those of you enjoying breakfast as you read this.

jberg 10:53 AM  

DNF -- I had ADDRESS and stuck with it even after I changed the dress to a DRIVE. Maybe you have to sells ADs before you can launch your program, right? Assuming the program is something like expanding the high school band. When I first saw 46 D the A ruled out CERES, so I just erased her from my mind -- even when I looked at AERES, which could have been the god of soybeans, or something, I figured.

BTW, this is quite a divine puzzle, what with the crop deity, the demigod, and the God you argue with.

Of course the Cardinals have CLAWS -- that's why it can be so difficult to elect a Pope.

Hey, since @Rex was kind enough to reproduce the Merriam-Webster definition of GOOSE, everybody go back and look at sense #2: SPUR, or, you know stimulate.

I can't help but notice that a lot of people who complain about what they see as attempts to suppress free speech try to suppress anything they disagree with by calling it "virtue signalling." Ah well.

Amelia 10:55 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
RooMonster 11:08 AM  

Hey All !
Quite a scrabbly puz today. But guess what? No F's! GRR! 😋
To be fair, also no J's, but you'd figure an F would be easier to get in than a J. That SE corner was a scrabble-fest all by itself. A-E-I-M-P-Q-R-S-T-U-V-X. Nice.

Knew CHUPACABRA, but misplaced the H at first, CupachABRA. Had a HESITATION, though, when 6D started UE. Respelled, and then made sense. Agree with Rex that the West side was easier than the East. Had to start Check Puzzle-ing to manage the East. Did find an error in the SW. For 60A, had SEtS Of PA_S, was like, PANS? Who collects pans? Har. Also, SUrPRESSED, must be confusing it with SURPRISED. That got me 52D as rLEt. Figured it was some computer related thing I hadn't heard of.

But an overall clean grid. Nice corner stacks. Almost fell into the aDDRess trap, but figured aERES looked wrong, so saw CD-DR___, but really wanted it to be CDD Roms. An extended Program opening? 😄

SIT N SPIN almost sounds like an insult. Got a chuckle out of MUST BE NICE. I seem to say that alot. Especially puz acceptances!


Anonymous 11:10 AM  

I always thought a GOOSE is what you gave to the Pillsbury Doughboy. I had no idea the buttocks were involved.

Talons are the specialized CLAWs of raptors and the like, amirite? Haven’t seen any cardinals sporting them. Besides, cardinals don’t technically have CrAWs. (Totally made that up.)

I don’t see how PBR'S is less legitimate than, say, Budweisers—as in how many Buds are left in the COOLER?

jb129 11:28 AM  

I know its Saturday, but you're killing me, Erik!

jae 11:30 AM  

NW and SE corners easy, the stacks in the NE and SW more than a tad tougher...so, over all medium tough seems right. Liked it, nice to have a bit of a challenge.

David 11:32 AM  

I liked the top and bottom long stacks.

Rex, I'd say going on 6,000 years of Talmudic debate makes "Chutzpah" perfectly clued.

Had "soccer club" but, I suppose if you're going to Americanize the sport's name, you may as well do so with what the group of players are called as well. Hamm was a gimme.

Cardinal point? I had "tuft".

Thanks for folks letting me know what PBRs is about, I haven't seen that stuff since I was a teenager some 50 years ago, and I don't go to many football games. Went to the Army/Harvard game at West Point when I was about 12. Wore a Harvard sweatshirt.

"CD drive"??? Nobody's loaded programs from one of those since when? 1995? After that there were DVD drives, and now they're gone entirely. But no, not "program opening" nor even "program opener" (although that makes it more clear). Now we download programs--to save the corporations which sell them money--over our "high speed" internet which, when compared to the rest of the developed world's, may as well be measured in Hz rather than GHz.

DrBB 11:41 AM  

This one was full of guesses that turned out to be correct, even thought they were stymied for a long time by seemingly contradictory crosses. Which is kind of characteristic of hard puzzles generally in my experience. At any rate early guesses, not filled in until later on for me were:
5A, because I knew what was wanted but couldn't be absolutely sure of the spelling
26D, because I couldn't make any sense of the cross at 46A (too many consonants, can't be right!)
8D, which I got really early on but kept retracting because I couldn't make sense of the cross at 25A.

That last one--25A--was just about my nemessis, acting as an obstructor to both East quadrants. Once I realized that the N was actually an 'N', with the apostrophes, as in Speak 'n' Spell or the like, then I got it and the rest of the puzzle fell, though I had to take it on trust that SIT 'N' SPIN is actually a thing. Guess it's been too long since my kid grew up.

Anonymous 11:46 AM  

I found this to be a very enjoyable, quick-moving solve. Great way to start a Saturday. Thanks so much Mr. Agard!

DrBB 11:47 AM  

@Ted, 7:15am: ditto on ADDRESS clogging up my SE for a while, and for the same interpretation of the clue.

Bruce R 11:50 AM  

I'm not used to seeing PBR without the F.

Also, I had CRAW/PORK and was wondering why accupuncturists would be PORKing their patients.

DrBB 11:58 AM  

Re GOOSE is a problem? Seriously? Do you get offended whenever someone says "This sucks!" too?

Nancy 12:06 PM  

@Amelia (10:55) -- Like you, I really like hard puzzles. Most people on this blog who've known me for lo these many years know I much prefer hard puzzles. But for me, this is the wrong kind of hard puzzle -- one dependent on knowledge of arcane trivia that most likely will be forgotten in five years, if not sooner. Film comedies, toys, song hits, fruity products, police shows, and whatever Operation Red Dawn is -- I'm not really sure. Now there were some clue/answers in this puzzle I actually liked: HESITATION (16A); CHUTZPAH (5D); SEASON PASS (though I didn't get it) at 60A; PIED PIPER, as clued (8D); ESP (24A). But the constant emphasis on ephemeral pop culture really gets my CHUPACABRA.

Erik Agard has been quoted as saying that he feels it's his mission to introduce puzzle-solvers to the latest in pop culture. I feel it's my mission to resist being force fed thusly-- and therefore to not look up a single answer, even if it means not finishing. But I hope you won't think for a moment that I don't like challenging puzzles. Explore the ones I've raved about in the past and the ones I shall rave about in the future, and note in what ways they differ from this one.

Banana Diaquiri 12:10 PM  

ah GOOSE. reminds my of 'Harvard Lampoon's' Dildo Bugger. and surprised that so many folks are surprised that such a form of GOOSE involves reaming the sphincter. guess you had to be a frat boy at Faber College to know that.

Dan Fesperman 12:16 PM  

Yeah, I'm as liberal as they come, but the "gratuitous militarism" comment and the "goose" critique were just silly. My complaint was with "Polk," which is not pronounced "poke." As for difficulty, that's the very reason I look forward to the Saturday puzzle. It;'s the best challenge of the week, and I welcome some difficult clues and some oddball ways of getting to certain answers. For a guy who seems so culturally hyper-sensitive, Rex sure does seem to get upset by puzzles that stray into areas of knowledge that he's not familiar with. A paradox. But I do love that he puts in the time to solves these, and offers a critique. So, thank you, Rex.

Carola 12:17 PM  

Easy here, due to fortuitious crosses that gave me just enough for solid guesses at the next-up entry. ZAMBEZI x CHUTZPAH was a particularly productive cross.
First in: HAMM x HERTZ, last in: CHUPACABRA x ANDS.
One moment of HESITATION: thinking the I of HENRI was a Roman numeral and trying to come up with a 4-letter French king.
Help from previous crosswords: SELA, rescuing me from Ward Bond.
AQUA MIST sounds to me like some kind of COOLER, perhaps nice ON ICE.

Winston Smith 12:21 PM  

@Jberg: LOL

puzzlehoarder 12:22 PM  

Another disappointingly easy Saturday puzzle. Big stacks look impressive but their difficulty to construct seems to lead to the inverse for solving.

Other than CHUPACABRA what stood out about the 10 stacks was their blandness. I got a clean grid in only 45 more seconds than it took me to solve yesterday's pop culture retread.

Once again these are the only two puzzles I've done since last Saturday. The solving high just isn't the same. The Christmas crunch is on too but mostly it's my new Scrabble obsession.

I'm glad others enjoyed this more than I did.

Harryp 12:24 PM  

I had Air Carrier for 26D United for a while, along with 28D Egad, but I finally figured those out and finished in slightly over average time. Liked it.

Masked and Anonymous 12:31 PM  

This lil goatsucker of a puz was clean and easy and fun. themelessthUmbsUp.

Great clue for HESITATION.
Like for @RP, CHUPACABRA was a gimme. Owe it all to clean livin and FriNite schlock flickfests.

staff weeject pick from a mere 8 of the lil goatsuckers: GRR. Has 'tude.
fave fillins included: MUSTBENICE. ZAMBEZI.
news to m&e: SITNSPIN. Sounds like Trump binge-watchin MSNBC, or somesuch.

68 words, so gotta be some primo desperation -- but not much, for the Agardmeister:
* PBRS. Plural abbrev meat. But, it deftly crosses BEERCOOLER, sooo … ok.
* ATTA. Cool clue, tho -- sooo … ok.

Thanx for the good stuff, Mr. Agard. Long time, no see ... 18 days or thereabouts, hereabouts; har.

Masked & Anonymo6Us

MinorThreat 12:36 PM  

The west side of the puzzle was easier than the east side. I remembered CHUPACABRA from an x-files episode. I had BEAK for cardinal point and NESS for Costner role (never heard of O'Brian). There are better ways to clue GOOSE; how about Mother _____ ?

Joe Bleaux 12:41 PM  

Saturday and Agard, challenging and fun, HAMM and eggs, GOOSE and POLK😉. Did anyone else think (even briefly) "beak" for the old cardinal point? No? Well, what about "ad drive" ... you know, the flurry of commercials before the show starts? No? OK, it *is* just me. Anyway, after I figured out that ADDRESS was wrong and deduced what worked with MIST. AQUA, and EARP, I finished off this gem in the SE with no mistakes (and no help). This will not be the first and only Agard puzzle to get a lower grade than A from me.

Alex Cope 12:56 PM  

Just a note about CDDRIVE: I believe the clue refers to the first part of a program’s address if you’re using an operating system like Windows, the part that reads C:\. This refers to the drive the program is located on, which can be a CD drive. Technically obscure to be sure!

Unknown 1:01 PM  

“Gratuitous militarism” lol. Rex is such a self parody

TJS 1:16 PM  

I'm worried. Where is Z to agree with everything Rex says?

What? 1:25 PM  

Pretty easy for a Saturday. I too had PORK CRAW but PBRS? Horrible. Where was Shortz?

Masked and Anonymous 1:27 PM  

M&A's been meanin to say ...
Hearty welcomes back to @Aketi and @Numinous and anyone else cool that I ain't recallin. And @RP.



Bourbon Street 1:31 PM  

I thought the clue for CHUTZPAH was fresh and challenging. I believe the most famous definition of CHUTZPAH is attributable to Leo Rosen in “The Joys of Yiddish”, i.e. he refers to a man who kills his mother and father and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

What might precede a parachute jump; I am trying to imagine dinner conversation at Rex's house with him in full censorship mode. I might jump without the chute. How on Earth does his wife do it?

Lewis 1:44 PM  

@bourbon street -- Hah! I think I've heard that before, but totally forgot about it, and am glad you revived it!

Amelia 1:54 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlotte 1:55 PM  

How come so many of you know about chupacabra? Where does it come from? I've never heard of it.

Peter P 2:22 PM  

I'm one of those folks who pronounces the "l" in "folk," "polk," and "yolk," but if you check most dictionaries, you will either see only one pronunciation (without the "l") or possibly the "l" pronunciation listed second. Looking online, Dictionary.com only lists "pohk" for "Polk." Same with Merriam-Webster online. "Folk" similarly is only given the ell-less pronunciation, but "yolk" has both "yoke" and "yolk."

And before somebody chimes in and says something about this being some new-fangled descriptivist nonsense, this isn't new. I just checked a Webster's Collegiate Dictionary: Third Edition of the Merriam Series, published by G&C Merriam Co., in 1917, and on p 1185, under "Polk" it says: "pōk".

So, yes, the standard "Polk" pronunciation is "poke." I don't pronounce it that way, but that is the way that it is and has been rendered in dictionaries for over a hundred years.

Anonymous 2:57 PM  

Your goose clue is good.....for monday.

Phil Schifley 2:57 PM  

If I can't affectionately poke some strange woman I've never met on an elevator with an upward thrust to get buttocks than what can I do? Jeez, this PC world is just making like hard for us pervs.

Occasional HOTEL BARgoer 3:04 PM  

You nailed it in your remark about HOTEL BARs. As long as you’re leaving room for other folks’ disappointment in you, though, my guess is that you’d be good company.

michiganman 3:12 PM  

I just don't see excessive pop trivia in this puzzle, as alleged. Sour grapes for a poor solve?

Hey @Z, What's the PPP here and is it high for Saturday?

Crimson Devil 4:27 PM  

Amen, Ms Nancy: similar void in my knowledge/experience.

Doc John 4:36 PM  

@Amelia 10:55- Hear hear!

I'm surprised that Rex didn't get her panties in a bunch about HOTEL BAR (which certainly has a "green paint" aspect to it) as well as the ambiguous United clue. Are there any soccer teams that are just called United? (I'm not a fan so maybe there are.) I do agree with him that the cluing was definitely off today, especially that egregious CDDRIVE clue. The one for MONO wasn't great, either, but as most people would say that MONO is caused by a virus and they wanted to keep it Saturday-ambiguous, I'll give it to them. This time.
And finally, am I the only one who tried to squeeze "Wolverines" into where the Gratuitous Militarism™ went?

Hungry Mother 4:37 PM  

I bungee jumped off of the Victoria Falls Bridge, so the ZAMBEZI was a gimme. Not much of the rest in that category. A long slog to victory.

Thanks, Roo 4:45 PM  

Your comments often annoy me (although that’s on me; not your fault) but I ‘d never have noticed how many letters the constructor squeezed into the SE corner if you hadn’t flagged it so explicitly. Nice. Thanks to EA for doing it and to you for noticing.

Puzzled Peter 4:48 PM  

@Nancy 12:06 -- Bravo. Totally agree.

Rainbow 5:15 PM  

Buncha whiners today! Jeesh! Lots of "creative" nit picking.

DavidL 5:50 PM  

I am just blown away that so many people thought CHUPACABRA was a gimme. Just a random collection of letters for me - had to get every one from the crosses.

Just read the Wikipedia article on it - the legend only dates from a supposed sighting in Puerto Rico in 1995!

Adam 7:36 PM  

Who are you people? Before today, I never heard of the word chupacabra. I know of capybaras from Zoboomafoo, and of course ROUS, but chupacabra? Never ever. What am I missing that seemingly every other commenter, including OFL, threw in CHUPACABRA without HESITATION?

OTOH, I figured out SITNSPIN, CD DRIVE, and some others without too much trouble, but it took me forever to get into the NE, given that I was working from the bottom up. Got PIED PIPER with the last 4 letters, then PSI, then CASTING and ANDS, then a couple of the crosses, but I had to look up CHUPACABRA.


Peter P 8:16 PM  

Huh. That's really interesting about the Chupacabra. I feel it's like a cryptozoological character I've grown up with a la the Loch Ness Monster, the Yeti, and Sasquatch, but I guess it really is a more recent entry to the category. I would have been twenty when it was first reported. To be honest, I have no idea why I'm so aware of it, but I asked a few people my age (early-to-mid-40s) and they all were aware of the Chupacabra, so it's got a good deal of popular culture cachet, I guess. I do remember a South Park episode based around it in the last ten years. But I really can't pinpoint why we all know about it.

orangeblossomspecial 8:36 PM  

Regarding 57A: EARP. The clue mentions first and family names while the answer is only the family name. Shouldn't the clue and answer be consistent?

Z 8:41 PM  

So sorry to make you worry, @TJS. I was at a Hat Tournament today, then had lots of chores to do, so got to the puzzle late. Then French king Louis really messed up my NE corner, then there were almost 100 comments to read. As for agreeing with Rex, he’s wrong about PBRS, that’s about the only thing you’ll hear more than one called these days. As for IRAQI, cluing it through a military operation is both “militarism” and “unnecessary.” Hard to argue with accurate descriptors, not that several haven’t tried. As for GOOSE, I’m more team @jberg than team Rex, but more team Rex than any of the other critics, who are mostly fine examples of “when you can’t win on the issue attack the person.” There’s a Latin phrase for that.

Late PPP Analysis
Pop Culture, Product Names, and other Proper Nouns

Yep, 23 of 68 for an excessive 34%. I didn’t include CHUPACABRA, which would would take it to 24 of 68, or 35%+.

Keith D 9:45 PM  

I had to fight for every letter in chupacapra, right down to the final fill-in ("r" in rook). Must have been sick the day they covered this in HS Cryptozoology class.

Flying Pediatrician 10:55 PM  

OFL and I consistently have completely opposite solving experiences! I’ve only been solving Saturdays for about 6 months now, but this was my PR by far—about 1/3 faster than my average. This puzzle was a joy!

When I was about 16, I was fortunate enough to attend the Hugh O’Brian Youth World Leadership Congress, thanks to “Wyatt EARP.” It was a life-changing experience, introducing me to peers from all over the globe, and forever changing my worldview. Quite a treat to be reminded of that this evening.

bauskern 11:36 AM  

Chupacabra as a gimme? I guess for some folks, but not me. This was by far the easiest Saturday puzzle I had ever done, but for the NE corner. Luckily my wife took a quick look, gave me PIEDPIPER and then the grid came together quickly. I'm not a language Nazi (oops!), but I did raise an eyebrow at GOOSE for stimulate.

william levine 4:48 PM  

Red Dawn was an actual US military operation. Not just a movie hence the answer IRAQI

Sian 7:32 PM  

I LOVED this puzzle!! Right level of challenge for me and very satisfying to finish.

Yam Erez 1:29 PM  

Checked acronymFinder but still in the dark as to IRD as a political designation. Anyone?

Anonymous 12:36 PM  

You mean RID, as in RID OF, to cleanse.

sdcheezhd 3:54 AM  

PBRS is definitely a thing, liked it crossing BEERCOOLER, I think Rex needs to get out more.

spacecraft 11:22 AM  

I'll take Erik Agard for $2000, Alex. And I took him down today. Looked daunting at first, but perseverance was rewarded. Great puzzle, and very little fill crap. I don't mind PBRS, nor lifting a knee for the Captain. (The fact that I hardly ever drink has nothing to do with it.)

I note that OFL has his offense-taking armor on, mentioning the military clue for IRAQI and the God reference in the clue for CHUTZPAH.* Silly offense-taking, IMHO. But if you want a real offender, that nobody seems to have picked up on? Try ATTA. We have seen this one several times as a corruption of "That's the." However, it also happens to be the name of the bastard who flew a plane into the WTC, so I don't like seeing it. Let's put ATTA away, okay? That's MY offense taking for the day.

On to more pleasant things. And what could be more pleasant than my #1 DOD of all time SELA Ward? You go, girl! She deserves a paragraph all to herself.

*Single-letter writeover when I misspelled ZAMBEsI, but quickly corrected via the wonderful word CHUTZPAH.

@Yam Erez: You have a letter wrong: it's IND (independent, like me). The cross is the dir./suffix ENE, as in benzENE, etc. and east northeast.

with triumph points aplenty, I give this one a birdie. (Eagle putt rimmed out, thanks to 11-down).

Burma Shave 11:40 AM  




rondo 12:06 PM  

Well, what was such a gimme for others was a WTF for me. CHUPACABRA? If you say so. Flew down the west and up the east until the HESITATIONs of the NE, where at first nothing was UNDERSTOOD. Talk about SITNSPIN. Largely because I was enticed to follow an entrapper before the PIEDPIPER and my science was ecOL before BIOL. That imaginary critter came only by crosses.

No problem here with GOOSE. When my dad would be tinkering with the family car he might ask me to GOOSE the throttle. So I knew GOOSE in that way before it became a grab-ass deal.

AND yes, a BEERCOOLER is a thing. Nobody in their right mind (except maybe amateurs) wants their PBRS (also real things, not exactly atrocious) to taste/smell like hot dogs or potato salad. AND the BEERCOOLER is the one you don't want to see the kids digging into. Keep it separate. AND PBR me ASAP.

AND what, OFL? Never been to a CIGARSHOP? Must be tough to have lived a life so SUPPRESSED. ISAY!

There is a SOCCERTEAM in town called Minnesota United (AKA Loons). Can't that SOCCER league be a bit more creative?

@spacey is sure to have kind words for yeah baby SELA ward. Perhaps even DEMI Moore.

Decent puz save for that 5a critter, NEW to me.

Diana, LIW 2:11 PM  

So CHUPACABRA wasn't a gimme - it didn't fiv you NOHESITATION? You didn't have no double negatives? You don't not care? Crossing ZAMBEZI later on?

Lady Di, Waiting for the Big speech this afternoon, just like you aren't

thefogman 2:31 PM  

Diana, Lady in Waiting for trouble tomorrow

How right you were M'Lady!

Tough one. So hard it HERTZ. Lots of DOH! and GRR! moments that made me SITNSPIN. But hey. It's Saturday and the puzzle is supposed to be tough. It MUSTBENICE to finish in less than ten minutes. It took me about 18 Rexes to complete. All I know is that CHUPACABRA doesn't just suck goats. It sucks the living soul out of crossword solvers too. ISAY without HESITATION that this is one of Erik Agard's finest - no ifs ANDS or buts. I MIST a few in the beginning then had many aha! moments after I solved and UNDERSTOOD the clever wordplay. This kid has CHUTZPAH to burn. Full of fun and NEW TRIX. Now, time for a HAMM sandwich with GARLICKY aioli spread and some some PBRS. Later, a trip to the CIGARSHOP and perhaps a few RUMS ONICE.

rainforest 2:42 PM  

Well, Thusday's puzzle was hard, but I got it. Yesterday's was very easy and I got that, too. Today I DNF, thanks to that goat-sucking critter. What the heck is that?
I had CHUPApABRA, thinking that a teacher will assign, ie, "paste" stars on students' work. A little wonky there.

Otherwise, this was medium for me, with plenty of easy answers, and two nice 4-stacks. If you have BEER in your COOLER, it is a BEER COOLER. QED.

Totally agree on SELA Ward. Haven't seen her recently.

If faced with a parachute jump, I'm sure there'd be a HESITATION to the point where a firm push would be required.

Liked the puz except for the fictional animal.

leftcoastTAM 4:01 PM  

With others here on that CHUPA...whatever, thing. Sealed off the NE for me, and not helped by HESITATION just below. The SW was something of a chiller, too, though mostly, but not fully, gettable without some cheating,

Favorite answer, with requisite tone of envy: MUST BE NICE

Cleverness, misdirection, and some vague cluing can make for a tough Saturday, which is in order and fair enough, and Erik Agard is one to provide it.

Thanks (I think), Erik.

thefogman 5:15 PM  

Does anyone remember CHUPA Chups?

spacecraft 6:13 PM  

@rainforest (MUSTBENICE to have you back!): Check out the boss on FBI, a CBS series at 9pm pacific on Tuesdays. There's my girl SELA.

strayling 6:58 PM  

@fogman Yes, and thanks to the clue I now know why they're called CHUPA Chups. It was always a bit of a mystery to me when I was a kid.

\ pun unintentional, honest

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