Talisa Maegyr's portrayer on Game of Thrones / SAT 12-8-18 / Symbol created in 1958 as the logo for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament / 2016 WNBA champs, informally

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Constructor: David Steinberg and Trenton Charlson

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: OONA CHAPLIN (19A: Talisa Maegyr's portrayer on "Game of Thrones") —
Oona Castilla Chaplin [ˈuna kasˈtija ˈt͡ʃaplin] (born 4 June 1986) is a Spanish actress. Her roles include Talisa Maegyr in the HBO TV series Game of ThronesThe Crimson Field and the series Taboo.
A member of the Chaplin family, she is the daughter of actress Geraldine Chaplin, the granddaughter of English filmmaker and actor Charlie Chaplin, and the great-granddaughter of American playwright Eugene O'Neill.[1] She was named after her maternal grandmother Oona O'Neill, Charlie's wife.
• • •

Hi there, Rachel Fabi in for Rex today.  First of all, I want to congratulate OONA CHAPLIN for her first full-name NYT crossword appearance, not counting her grandmother's appearance in 1972 under the clue "O'Neill's daughter." You know you've made it when constructors start using the non-OONA parts of your name in puzzles!

This puzzle and I got off on the right foot; I threw down COMIC SANS, OPENLY GAY, MEAN GIRLS, and PEACE SIGN in my first four moves. And then I immediately crashed into a brick wall made of SYSOPS (???). I googled the term after finishing the puzzle, and I honestly still don't understand what it means. I even considered making it the word of the day, but the wikipedia definition is so vague and jargony ("an administrator of a multi-user computer system") that I can only guess it means 6D: Post masters? if SYSOPS are the people who... administer... internet posts?? Commenters, please send help.

SYSOPS aside, however, I don't have much to criticize about this puzzle. The cluing was tough but fair, and occasionally quite funny (see 29D: Really clicks with a partner, say? for TAP DANCES). The fill was also very clean, with the exception of maybe PHU (56D: Vietnam's Dien Bien ___), although the term does make an appearance in a very catchy Billy Joel song, so maybe it is fair game.

I do vehemently disagree with the spelling of SYNCH (does anyone spell it with an H in 2018?), but my delight at seeing THANKS OBAMA in the grid more than made up for it.

I also found the clue for PG THIRTEEN to be exceptionally misleading. After all, when you think of the characteristics of things that are 23A: Like "Wonder Woman," the MPAA rating of the 2017 live action film is probably not high on that list. That said, I don't think it was unfair-- just very, very Saturday.

And I think that may be my final verdict: overall, it was a clean, moderately challenging, Very Saturday™puzzle (let's make that a thing).

  • 36A: Access to the slopes (SKI PASS) -- did anyone else fill this from the downs and then do a double take because your brain parsed it wrong? No? Just me? 
  • 52A: 2012 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, informally (THE EU) -- I just looked to see what they won for, and turns out they got it pretty much just for existing for 60 years and keeping France and Germany from going to war again? Cool!
  • 10A: Rock climber's challenge (CRAG) -- I recently started indoor rock climbing, so I confidently threw down WALL and did not revisit it, making the NE corner the last place I filled. Oops.
  • 12D: Half of a 1980s sitcom duo (ALLIE) -- I do not know who Allie is, nor do I know who the other half of this duo is. 
Thanks to Rex for the opportunity to fill in -- hope to puzzle critique at you all again sometime soon.

Signed, Rachel Fabi, Queen-for-a-Day of CrossWorld

[Follow Rachel on Twitter, where she mostly tweets about public health, ethics, and immigration]


jae 12:25 AM  

Yesterday’s was on the easy side for me and today’s took around two minutes longer only because I double checked the grid before putting in the E in HOE. No erasures or major pauses or WOEs. So, on the easy side again, and again, plenty of zip, liked it.

@Rachel - That would be Kate.

jp flanigan 12:56 AM  

Damn You SANS SERIF for fitting in 1A...I made up for that gaff when CHILLPILL fit with no crosses.

Patrick O'Connor 1:22 AM  

Kate and Allie was a sitcom. All I remember was that Jane Curtin was one of them and that they were both divorced. Wikipedia says 1984-89 and that Susan St. James was the other one, and who am I to disagree? The two policewomen were Cagney and Lacey, 1982-88, Tyne Daly and Sharon Glass, for future reference, you Younger-Than-Rex (I'm guessing) person, you. (Very nice write-up, and thank you.)

Anonymous 1:22 AM  

1,000 blessings for not being baited by arguably gender-neutral DOLL.

Anonymous 1:33 AM  

I tossed in comic sans right away and cursed appleaday for fitting perfectly.

Anoa Bob 1:35 AM  

I knew SARGASSO right away and also got AGING off the "Gerontology" clue, though that's technically the study of getting old. AGING begins at conception.

I watch "Forged In Fire" a lot so that helped with STEEL BLUE.

I'm on the latest DETOX DIET---I can have one HUSH PUPPY and as many SODAS as I want per day---but so far all I've gotten is a bad case of the RUNES.

puzzlehoarder 1:43 AM  

This was a fun puzzle. There were a few clues that gave me nothing and answers had to be forced on me but eventually they were. I narrowly aboided a dnf by changing CYSOPS to SYSOPS. Maybe I just liked how much it looked like CYCLOPS. The last time we had SYSOP it was a problem for me so that may be why it came back to me. That and just plain old logic. What would a CYSOP be anyway? Maybe a one-eyed systems operator. Speaking of which HAL was my favorite "aha" moment.

Today's puzzle was the first one I've done since last Saturday. The reason is I'm retired now and have gone from being the oldest guy in the firehouse to the youngest member of the Scrabble club. I didn't think anything could take the place of puzzles but Scrabble is like crack.

SYSOP is in the Scrabble dictionary. That's one Scrabble word I won't have to learn.

Unknown 2:12 AM  

I'm in IT and I don't like sysop.

Post => mail => email

Sysop job usually includes maintaining email servers. Meh.

Deep Mac 2:13 AM  

Siri is not necessarily female. A male voice is an option in an iPhone's Settings.

Loren Muse Smith 2:20 AM  

Thanks, Rachel. I’m impressed that you nailed the northwest so handily. That was the last area to fall for me. And I had another dnf with “imps” crossing “Ami” instead of ILLS/ALI. Pfft. (Yeah, yeah – my WNBA team was from Pennsylvania. Sue me.)

“Beset” before NAG AT and “blasé” before MATTE. And my rock climber’s challenge was “face” before CRAG.

Trenton, David – Terrific that you have OPENLY GAY sharing the grid with THANKS OBAMA

I love the menacing feel of “business end.” It can take even the benignest thing and make it sinister:

You watch out, buddy, or I’mma introduce you to the business end of this Snickers bar.
Man, if you don’t get out of my face, you’re gonna get the business end of my ski cap.


“You Decide” would be a brilliant name for a restaurant. So, where should we eat? . . .

@Deep Mac - IRIS eluded me for a while because I changed my Siri to be a British man. The best thing about him for me is that I can tell him to add something to my grocery list, and boom – there it is. Once I told him to add dry erase markers to the list, and it appeared like this: dry erase marker’s. I swear. Hah. Even Siri has drunk the plural apostrophe Kool-Aid.

DETOX DIET. (Loved your riff on this, @Anoa Bob!) Do they really work, or are they just outré regimes embraced by Gwyneth Paltrow sheeple? I dunno. I did that “cleanse” once where you just drank maple syrup, vinegar, cayenne pepper for three days, but if anything, I just felt angrier. Maybe detox diets are like cleanses but more turbo? ‘Scuse me for a minute. The business end of my detox diet is kicking into action.

Anonymous 2:24 AM  

Bad puzzle editing strikes again! SYNCH = Not a word, because the "c" in SYNC is a "hard c", SYNC is not a homophone with cinch!
SYSOPS have nothing to do with posts of any kind. In a multiuser computer environment, end users only deal with applications while SYSOPS deal with the operating system. The term is confused with Sys Admins who perform administrative duties including, for some applications, administering posts.

Greg Charles 3:24 AM  

I spell it synch, and I thought mostly everyone did. Based on a little research though, I see synch and sync both have their proponents, and sync wins in slightly more places than synch. However, for synched and synching vs. synced and syncing, there's no contest. There the "ch" spelling clearly dominates. So, if you just want to follow the most popular usages, you should use sync, synching, and synched. I'll stick with synch for consistency.

Lewis 6:13 AM  

Either Trenton, David or the editors wrote the clue for IRIS, and if I were a betting man, I'd put it all on David.

Hungry Mother 7:21 AM  

Wow! An easy Saturday to make my weekend. The SE had me stalled for a while, but it all came together. Some, but not all, of the hurt from yesterday is gone.

David 7:34 AM  

Abbreviations are not words; so either sync or synch are correct. Siri is neither male nor female, it's a computer program.

Dien Bien Phu was the final battle in the French Indochina war; the French asked President Eisenhower to use an atomic bomb against the Vietnamese, he wouldn't do it. In the limo on the way to Kennedy's inauguration, Ike leaned over and told JFK, "you're going to have a war in Vietnam". The rest is rather important history for any American citizen to study carefully to learn the folly and uselessness of open-ended asymmetric wars of choice; most especially those entered into illegally.

Oops! Too late. We're 15 years into another one with no end in sight. Thanks W!

PS, it is true that JFK had decided to pull the US out of Vietnam in the late summer of 1963. [Confirmed by Arthur Schlesinger and Robert McNamara.]

RickBoardman 7:41 AM  

In the 70s & 80s, pre Twitter & Facebook, we had internet "discussion fora". In case of disputes or complaints among users the final arbiter was the almighty "sysop", short for system administrator. The Sysop was god. We could use a good and reasonable Sysop these days.

mmorgan 7:53 AM  

Thanks, Rachel, nice write-up. I am, however, quite curious as to what Rex would have said, because I am so often wrong in my predictions of his reactions. Sure, there are some nits one could pick here -- I've only recently stopped using an H in Sync (thanks partly to Google Backup and Sync), so I had to push myself to put it back in. And I suspected some would wince at SYSOPS.

But those were a small price to pay and I love love loved this puzzle. So many challenging but clever and fair clues, so many lively and fun answers (TAP DANCERS!!)... it's a wonderful puzzle, it shines and sparkles and glows, and not just because I found it 1000 times easier than yesterday. (In this one, the stuff I didn't know came easily from crosses.) Thanks for a very satisfying workout.

ghthree 7:55 AM  

A SYSOP is a System Operator. SYNCH is a short form of Synchronize. It is a homophone of SINK (as in kitchen sink). I'm a bit puzzled by Anonymous's comment at 2:24, since nobody claimed it was a homophone of CINCH.

QuasiMojo 7:57 AM  

I’ve always spelled it “synch” so no prob there. I almost had a DNF because I put in LAV rather than IAN and forgot to change it. I seem to recall this Mila actress from Black Swan. But I couldn’t recall if it was Kuvis or Kuris. But patience today was a virtue. As it usually is. I also had trouble with the Post clue, thinking Sloops, then imagined horse racing nomenclature or perhaps even cereal names! Bah! But finally got Sysops, which my autocorrect turned into Susie’s. Loved the clue for Art Dealer! Despite feeling this was awfully challenging I finished quicker than yesterday’s. I don’t use Siri but if I did I’d go with the Irish one. His voice is quite fetching. And Siri backwards is almost Irish. As am I. Well half...

Joe R. 7:58 AM  

I'm guessing that the intent for SYSOPS is that among the SYStems that SYSOPS OPerate are bulletin boards, and they can edit or remove posts by any user. It's a terrible, terrible clue, hinging on one tiny detail of a job performed by a tiny fraction of SYSOPS.

hatton-man 8:03 AM  

This Atlantic article provides better info about the term SYSOP. The term was in common use in the 80's. The clueing in this puzzle is appropriate IMHO.


ncmathsadist 8:09 AM  

A sysop is a UNIX system administrator. Sysops install software, resolve user difficulties, and maintain security for UNIX servers. They DO NOT do stuff like maintain blogs. "Post Master' is an el-wrongo clue

Then there is KUNIS. WTF? Some character from a ten-years past old TV show.

amyyanni 8:25 AM  

Tap Dancing! And lots more to love here. Got traction in the SW...was a little scared for a bit. For those of us of a certain age, Dien Bien Phu is a gimme. Mean Girls, not so much. All's fair.

Stanley Hudson 8:26 AM  

@David 7:34, would love to see citations re: Bob McNamara and Schlesinger Jr.

Unknown 8:39 AM  

I had APPLEADAY instead of CHILLPILL. Ouch. The clue for SYSOPS is a big non-starter for me; too much of a stretch, even for Saturday.

BillChas 8:41 AM  

Not for nothing, but HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey had more than one eye.

Ovaltine 8:44 AM  

Anon 0122: But you apparently were.

pabloinnh 8:52 AM  

The word of the day is SYSOPS. Try to work it into a conversation today.

If you want to discover a comical last name, fill in THANKUOBAMA. I solve on paper so when I finally looked at that long enough and fixed it, I did my own happy pencil jingle.

Thought this was a great Saturday. Thanks guys.

Teedmn 9:13 AM  

I found this appropriately Saturday-challenging, mainly due to the SYSOPS and SYNCH area. MEANGIRLS and OONA CHAPLIN went in with no crosses but I didn't know the end of the COMIC____ font and couldn't parse the OPENL_G__ clue. OPEN LeGAl? With __SO_S at 8D, I thought it would be maSOnS. They pour footings for posts (maybe) so, ergo, "Post masters?" When it became __SOPS, I couldn't imagine anything other than aeSOPS. As for SYNCH, I had written in my margin __NCH and the five vowels next to it. Har, forgot the Y. I eventually came up with COMICSANS, which cleared up the mystery but that area probably accounted for 5 minutes of my solve.

SIRI - my co-worker's 80-something mother always addresses her female assistant as "Alexa darling". Cluing Alexa backwards would involve referencing a double or triple AXEL-A.

Sag before SET, easily changed because I was not misdirected in the least by 38A's "Plot device?" clue.

Somehow, I find it hard to believe one could hear the stories of the SAINTs, often martyrs for their faith, and think "Goody two-shoes".

I feel like OONA CHAPLIN was included facetiously, to balance THANKS OBAMA in sarcasm. I don't think I'm giving any spoilers by pointing out that the character Talisa Maegyr didn't exist in the books and I have no idea why the HBO series decided to make that change. As such, including the full OONA in the puzzle seems over the top. The only other GofT characters we regularly see in the grid are Ned Stark and Lena Headey, who plays Cersei, both much bigger parts of the plot.

SYNCH - we usually see SYNC in puzzles but I always feel like that H is unfairly lopped off. Hey constructors, how's about SYNCHronizing the usage of such words?

Thanks, Trenton and David, for the fun Saturday solve.

kitshef 9:33 AM  

When THANKS OBAMA (huh?) makes your day, and you have no idea who Kate and ALLIE are ... we are not from the same world.

The wacky week continues. On Wednesday, we got a Saturday. On Thursday, we got Tuesday. Yesterday we got another Saturday and today we get a Wednesday. Entry was PEACE SIGN and it was off to the races.

36A is quite the DOOK.

I absolutely adore a HUSH PUPPY. There was a restaurant in Maryland called Peter Pan that we went to maybe once a year when I was young. They had peacocks, and enormous drink glasses that you could take home as souvenirs, and oh my hush puppies to die for. I remember nothing else about the food … just those hush puppies.

Z 9:37 AM  

You can’t SURPRISE ME with PPP plaints today. Depending on how you deal with IAN and IRIS (both clued generically at least in part) the PPP is either 22 or 24 of 70, so a high 31% or an excessive 34%. This played easy for me (started at kickoff and finished in the 26th minute) for a Saturday, but most of the PPP is at least close to my wheelhouse.

@computer experts - The SYSOPS clue has been explained twice already, once with a link that explains it in detail. The clue is fine, your knowledge of computer/internet history needs expansion. Here’s a suggestion (because we have almost all been there) spend a little time with SIRI or Uncle Google before proclaiming “wrongness.”

@LMS - The NYT has an excellent article that might help us all understand things like DETOX DIETs.

@ghthree - I read @anon2:24 as suggesting that “ch” is always pronounced as we would pronounce it in “church.” I don’t think that is accurate, but I will leave it to others to come up with examples other than SYNCH.

@BillChas - I had the exact same thought. That HAL had “eyes” everywhere (and could read lips) is a significant plot element. I get that the other characters and the movie viewer only ever saw/interacted with one “eye” at a time, but I still chafed.

@David - While W and Cheney deserve much derision, I must point out that our entry into the quagmire was a bipartisan affair. The conduct of the NYT in the early naughts is really all the evidence I should need to convince people it is really a center-right media institution, but of course evidence never sways people from their prejudices. Anyway, if you haven’t already read it, let me recommend Presidents of War by Michael Beschloss. Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it and all that.

Lewis 9:39 AM  

Sweet thoughts to yesterday's and today's constructors. The cluing has been bursting with tricks and treats.

GILL I. 9:42 AM  

I sometimes wonder if whether I have a good night's sleep or not has any effect on my liking/disliking a puzzle. I didn't sleep well. My puzzle work-out didn't end well either.
All I did was stare for about an EON. Got the two Spanish clues and that was it.
I have no idea what COMIC SANS is nor MEAN GIRLS nor why SYSOPS even exists.
I thought I knew all my GoT crew. I forgot about OONA CHAPLIN. Such a minor role and such a minor actress. I worked once (thank goodness) with her mom, Geraldine. I was the translator for her lothario husband on a film he was producing. She was a snoot to boot. SKIP ASS indeed.
When I can't get far on a puzzle, I'll put it down for a while. I did this in fits and starts and had to Google the above mentioned "no ideas." Even with some help, I grumbled to the end. Just not fun and way too hard for me.
THANK goodness for UHURA showing up about a million times this week (I finally remember how to spell your name) and for the only CHILL PILL gimme.

Z 9:47 AM  

@kitshef - re THANKS OBAMA, it is a meme with at least three different usages. Initially it was used sarcastically by conservatives for mistakes (sometimes real, sometimes not) made by OBAMA. It was then co-opted by liberals to emphasize OBAMA’s policy successes (sometimes real, sometimes not) as a sort of in your face rebuttal to conservatives. Finally, it became a “shut the fuck up already” meme where anything not remotely related to anything political would end with a THANKS OBAMA. As in, “The Lions lost again. THANKS OBAMA.”

gfrpeace 10:06 AM  

I'm probbaky the obnly person here who threw down GROW A PAIR for metaphorical prescription. I had the P. Oh well.

Curmudgeon 10:07 AM  

@David, where did you run across that Truman/Kennedy conversation? I'd like to read more. Johnson didn't want to get bogged down in it either. His mentor Sen. Richard Russell told him we'd be there 10 years and he wouldn't win. And yet...

Puzzle was fun for this fact. We ordered tap shoes for my 94-year-old mother-in -law this morning so that one fell easily. The rest kicked by butt.

Nancy 10:19 AM  

Oy. After what must have been close to an hour of suffering, I broke down and cheated. "I'll allow myself just one of the crossing pop culture answers," I told myself, "so be sure to pick a good one." And, of course, I picked the longest. Then, once OONA CHAPLIN was entered (I thought she died decades ago; oh, no, it seems that was a different OONA), everything else that had stymied me just flew in: the awful SYSOPS; CLAPTON; COMIC SANS (whatever that is); and the diabolically clued PG THIRTEEN. Whew. Now I had an inkling of what the puzzle felt like for the folks who know their Game of Throneses, their Rock and Rollers, their Enterprise officers, and their Wonder Women. I, who knew none of them and who don't want to know any of them, had a truly horrible time. I think I need a CHILL PILL right now to recover. Remember -- I had a similarly unpleasant experience just yesterday.

I hate being driven to cheat (I didn't yesterday, btw) by all the crossing, and to me mindless and inconsequential PPP. I really hate it a lot. But if the alternative is to bone up on pop culture (I might do it for Jeopardy where there may be tens of thousands of dollars to be won, but not for a mere crossword puzzle), then I suppose cheat I must or else fling the uncompleted puzzle across the room..

Randy (Boulder) 10:20 AM  

Many years ago, I asked Siri (on a friend's phone; I am not an Apple-r), "are you a man or a woman?" "It" replied something like, "I have not been assigned a gender."

What is the answer now?

ghostoflectricity 10:43 AM  

You never heard of the '80s sitcom "Kate and Allie"? It was considered rather groundbreaking in its time. It was about two divorced women sharing an apartment, along with their tween kids (a daughter for Kate, a daughter and son for Allie) while trying to make it in the New York of the '80s. "Kate" was portrayed by Susan St. James, who had been a glamour-girl actress of the '60s and '70s and best known previously for being the "Wife" in the '70s mystery anthology that included "McMillan and Wife" (as well as "Columbo" and a couple of others); Rock Hudson was the "McMillan"). "Allie's" portrayer was Jane Curtin, original cast member (and considered the one sane, sober member of the original cast and crew; a collection of unabashed drinkers and druggers except for Gilda Radner, who merely had a severe eating disorder) of SNL ( she was the original "Weekend Update" co-anchor and the wife half of the alien couple The Coneheads, with Dan Aykroyd as her husband and Laraine Newman as their daughter).

Northwest Runner 10:49 AM  

I started with ski lift once I had the k and had to back the second part out. The places I add the h in sync are in synching and synched (even though my spell checker disagrees) because otherwise sync seems to become since.

Mary McCarty 10:50 AM  

Am I really the only one who plopped down LAPDANCERS at 29A? Or does that not pass the breakfast test? I guess you might call me “PRO-lIP”. (Damn these fonts that barely distinguish between the numeral 1, uppercase I and lowercase l. ) At least you can tell the difference in COMIC SANS and if I knew how to change fonts you’d see it.

Nancy 10:52 AM  

@GILL (9:42) -- Were you one of the women Geraldine's husband lotharioed? Tried to lothario? Or was he lotharioing someone entirely different? Just asking, because we all know what a fox you are :)

GILL I. 11:12 AM  

@Nancy....Let's get a drink!

TubaDon 11:20 AM  

Even though COMIC SANS and SARGASSO were gimmies, this puzzle roughed me up. Aided by my initial guesses of RUPEE, ALTA and DETROP, finally cleared up by hints from DW. Many tricky clues and two brutal ones: WonderWoman and OutAndAbout. Two women's BB teams on successive days, coincidence?

burtonkd 11:22 AM  

Feels kinda will shortz to me...

jberg 11:30 AM  

I threw in COMIC SANS from the clue; my thought process was, 'gee, COMIC SANS would fit, but probably lots of other fonts would, as well. But this is the only one that's commonly known, so I'll give it a try.' It proved very helpful. (I'm not a designer, but I know some, and COMIC SANS is an iconic no-no; beginners think it will be nicely informal, but there are very few situations where it will look good. Sort of like using the 'blink' command in HTML.)

Then of course I knew PEACE SIGN, which gave me CLEO and SYSOP (I'm 75, all right?) and there was the OO. I've never watched Game of Thrones and probably never will, but this is a good example of a classic solving technique: if you don't know the answer, reduce the clue to its fundamentals: an actress starting with OO. She's the only one well-known enough to be crossworthy, even on a Saturday.

So the top 60% of this puzzle went in very fast -- but then I hit a brick wall. The biggest brick in the wall was 'jump' (thinking checkers rather than figure skating) before AXEL. I also violated my general rule by putting in ALTa, rather than leaving the last letter blank -- and then having my mind taken over by 'eerie' for 53D. Also elveS before RUNES -- excellent trick clue there!. Finally I saw STEEL BLUE, and everything fell into place.

Yeah, Dien Bien PHU was a really big deal, but it happened in 1954. Not everyone knows about it -- but then, it's Saturday!

Funny, I could have sworn that the band was N'SYNCh and that I SYNChed my phone to my computer with iTunes. Wrong on both counts. But then, I talk into a mike and start a piece of journalism with a lead, so I'm pretty unreliable.

@Loren, @Deep Mac -- I too changed Siri to a masculine voice, because my wife was getting jealous. Well, actually she was getting jealous of the voice of Google Maps, and that didn't change. But I left Siri masculine anyway. All the humans I know who are named Siri are female, though.

jberg 11:37 AM  

I almost forgot -- did anyone else think if a couple really clicked it might involve lAP DANCING? I was about to write it in when TAP occurred to me. Between that and SKIP ASS, it was not a PG THIRTEED puzzle!

Anonymous 11:43 AM  

Whoa! Excellent puzzle. Challenging, but not painful. Perfect. Thanks very much Mr. Steinberg and Mr. Charston. Well done.

Carola 11:50 AM  

I'm with those who filed this one under "fun," as in: requiring just the right amount of brain racking to elicit an AHH rather than an aaarrgghh of frustration and with some satisfying correct guesses with just a couple of letters to go on (COMIC SANS, HIPNESS).

CLEO and AGING were enough to get me the NW, with CLAPTON and GLENN doing the same in the NE.
At the bottom of the SARGASSO Sea, though, things got rough. I didn't know the L.A. team and had no idea about the OBAMA meme (in general, "meme" in a clue = will have no idea). "Tempering" for me means futzing with chocolate or treating your eggs gently when making custard, so the metal association came only very late. Last in: DETOX DIET x THE EU.

Thanks to previous puzzles for SYSOPS, UHURA, the reverse SIRI.

For those who may have missed it - the actor who voiced HAL died recently; interesting background about it in the NYT obituary.
"Douglas Rain, 90, Shakespearean and Voice of Computer Named HAL, Dies",

Z 11:52 AM  

@Beginners and others - Let me highlight this paragraph!
Then of course I knew PEACE SIGN, which gave me CLEO and SYSOP (I'm 75, all right?) and there was the OO. I've never watched Game of Thrones and probably never will, but this is a good example of a classic solving technique: if you don't know the answer, reduce the clue to its fundamentals: an actress starting with OO. She's the only one well-known enough to be crossworthy, even on a Saturday.
That there is some day-um good solving advice.

Speaking of “day-um” - @M&A, are you responsible for the plethora of Lt. UHURA appearances this week?

@Nancy - I thought the same Lothario question but I didn’t get asked to share a drink.

Anonymous 11:54 AM  

Yes. Those were the days...

Marc 12:23 PM  

Also got COMICSANS, OPENLYGAY, etc. right away and had trouble with the PGTHIRTEEN in Wonder Woman. Thought SYSOPS was correct but looked funny with WW clue. Do not watch GOT, but got OONACHAPLIN from crosses, guesses, and it seemed to work with all time favorite answer OONA. Figured she was related. Had MINDY for ALLIE, EAGLE for SABLE, and JLENNON for CLAPTON, even though I knew it was wrong, so NE gave me the toughest time.

THANKSOBAMA was my favorite.

jb129 12:25 PM  

This puzzle kept me going & I enjoyed it a lot. I know this sounds dumb, but even after googling it, I still don't know what a meme is ("Thanks Obama"). Anyone?

Masked and Anonymous 12:29 PM  

@Z, U magnificent beast: yep. That there UHURA-fest is all my doins … and if wishes were fishes, we'd all swim in riches.

I'd say this SatPuz and yesterday's FriPuz came out about the same, at my house, re: level of difficulty and amounts of SKIP-ASSin desperately around, lookin for lucky breaks until U can finally step away from the oh-so-pristinely completed puzgrid. But, M&A hit his head real bad on a cabinet overhang yesterday, while sweepin out the day-um [p.s.: ok to swear, if it's got an extra U in it] garage, sooo … might not be all right in the in-scull-terior parts.

This here was a pretty darn solid SatPuz, considerin it was done by a committee of colluders. fave fillins included, in order of admiration: PGTHIRTEEN [PGTH- opener … don't see that every day]. HUSHPUPPY. PEACESIGN. CHILLPILL. THEEU. UHURA.

staff weeject picks: PHU. NGO. Sounds like a real good quickie foodmart name: PHU 'N' GO.

fave "I'm a SatPuz and U is gonna sit there & take it & like it" entries: SYSOPS/OONACHAPLIN. DETOXDIET/DEMODE.

Thanx for gangin up on us, Charlson and Steinberg dudes.

Masked & Anonym007Us


jb129 12:32 PM  

Read the blog - thanks Z & kitchef (re: Meme "Thanks Obama")

Barbara Bolsen 12:37 PM  

If you were alive during the Vietnam war you'd know Phu immediately, and any skier would've gotten ski pass on the spot. Did anyone else try to make steel gray or gray work for way too long? All in all a great puzzle.

Adam 12:52 PM  

Threw in COMIC SANS (a pox of a font) and MEAN GIRLS off the bat, so the NW was relatively easy for me. The rest of the puzzle fell without too much trouble until I hit the SE. Couldn't get DE MODE (wanted REMOTE) or DETOX DIET or THE EU or OUTRE (wanted EERIE but that I....) Finally got CHILL PILL, then SAINT, and eventually finished. A nice, difficult but fair and fun Saturday puzzle.

Loved THANKS OBAMA. Had SKI LIFT instead of SKI PASS, so the downs were more difficult than they should have been. Finally figured it out with the wide SARGASSO sea (the only way I know that particular sea), and we were off.

By the way, UHURA has been in like 3 or 4 puzzles in the last week - does @Will Shortz save them all up for the same week or something?

JC66 12:54 PM  

@Barbara B

I'm a skier and threw in SKI lift before SKI PASS.

GILL I. 12:55 PM  

@Nancy. I really do mangle the English language, don't I? I wasn't the lotharioee......
Drinks on me. I'm paying, and of course @Z is invited as long as he orders something other than cheap beer.

Pam Fletcher 12:56 PM  

Nice upbeat write up Rachel. Very refreshing.

Larry Levinson 1:04 PM  

HAL had many eyes, no matter how many he used at any one time. Almost as bad as SULU as navigator, though that's an old argument.

Crimson Devil 1:13 PM  

Thoroughly Saturday: liked out & about, ern, tapdances, hushpuppies (they’re addictive), iris/siri, forger’s mark. Dunno sysops or hinds.

EricStratton 2:11 PM  

Dude those were fritters not hush puppies. No corn meal involved. Peter Pan was a fun place. Those glasses are called Hurricanes. We used to go on the way to band camp in PA.

Masked and Anonymous 2:23 PM  

Primo blog write-up with the bullets, Queen Rachel.
Thanx for subbin for the Parkermeister.
Re: yer last bullet: I think the TV show was called "Kate & Allie". I'm probably the 100th person to tell U that by now, tho...


OffTheGrid 2:42 PM  

I'd never heard of the Sargasso Sea. Looked it up. Fascinating!

Siri and Alexa are creepy.

Suzie Q 2:52 PM  

I don't know what was wrong with me this morning but I have never stared at a blank grid for so long. The few ideas I had were not able to be verified with the crosses so I gave up and went for a walk. That was not the tonic it usually is so I cheated! I haven't done that in years so congrats to David and Trenton.
My only cheat was comic sans, whatever that is. I must look that up.
With the one answer I was able to go all the way and really enjoyed it in the end. Whew!
I just saw Chaplin: The Movie with Robt. Downey Jr. so Oona was fresh in my mind. Pretty good show.
Hush puppies are definitely made with corn meal at my house.

Anonymous 2:56 PM  

I was all set to thank you for the link to a wonderful, uplifting speech I’d never heard before and which had me shedding a few tears. The abrupt switch to diarrhea humor (thanks, too, to @Anoa bob) brought me to my senses....

Anonymous 3:29 PM  

From Mayo Clinic website:

Detoxification (detox) diets are popular, but there is little evidence that they eliminate toxins from your body.

Specific detox diets vary — but typically a period of fasting is followed by a strict diet of raw vegetables, fruit and fruit juices, and water. In addition, some detox diets advocate using herbs and other supplements along with colon cleansing (enemas) to empty the intestines.

Some people report feeling more focused and energetic during and after detox diets. However, there's little evidence that detox diets actually remove toxins from the body. Indeed, the kidneys and liver are generally quite effective at filtering and eliminating most ingested toxins.

Gene 3:31 PM  

Raises hand for ...GRAY 😁

Marty 3:34 PM  

WING DINGS also fits

Sydney 3:57 PM  

Examples of ch pronounced like k. Loch Ness ( unless you’re going to go all Scottish on me). And Mach 4. I liked the puzzle...I knew stuff like Phu and Kate and Allie...and synch... but never heard of Comic Sans! I am continually amazed by the things people never heard of...and by the things absolutely everyone (except me) seems to know.

QuasiMojo 3:58 PM  

Poor Cleo could have used a Detox Diet after getting bit by an asp.

Anonymous 4:44 PM  

POST is an acronym for Power-On Self-Test and unlike computer jargon that has entered into the common language like ram and cpu it's always captialized POST. Made it hard to see SysOp which is a shortened jargony term as well. Inferable but I'll bet the non-captialization was an error rather than an intentional ramping up of Saturday difficulty.

Sunnyvale Solver 6:40 PM  

Nice puzzle, but I must complain about the clue for DETOX DIET. A diet is not a ritual. A ritual is a discrete event, even if it occurs every day. Really threw me off in the SE.

Cheerio 8:11 PM  

OMG Loren Muse - SO FUNNY!

OISK 9:07 PM  

Cringed when I saw Steinberg. The usual mix of expressions I've never heard (Out and about = openly gay??), computerese, (Comic sans
???) movies I've never seen (Mean girls), Bad clues - "Film villain with one eye???" for "Hal." How about "Falstaff's princely friend" ? Or "Actor Holbrook," "Basketball star Greer"? Just no excuse for cluing "Hal" that way.

Hush puppy is a shoe. Never watched "Game of Thrones," but know the name Oona Chaplin. Sysops?

But I got through it. Better than yesterday, where too many of the pop culture clues were in one sector.

salty 11:36 PM  

I used dial-up BBS's in the 80s so was well aware of the term sysop but still thought it was a bad clue. I don't think POST was meant as an acronym as suggested above, although that expansion is valid the clue would make even less sense.

Or course, any old-school Unix sysop would balk at "synch" - "sync" being a Unix command that synchronized cached data to disk. There was a convention to run "sync" 3 times before rebooting the machine to avoid data loss (this had a grain of historical truth but was mostly superstition)

Ben 12:45 PM  

Can someone please explain “ERN” for “it follows directions”?

Anonymous 4:27 PM  

I am newer to the NYT crossword puzzles so that might explain some of my issues, but I found several of the clues for this to be really unfair. Wonder Woman? Also, isn't it true (especially on harder days) that when a clue is followed by a question mark that you must not think of the most obvious answer? That there is a second meaning or twist? Then WHY is the answer to High in the Andes? simply the spanish word for high? I thought immediately of alto/a but then thought, well, surely its harder than that since there is a question mark.
Can someone please explain this to me?

Z 4:54 PM  

@Ben - WestERN, eastERN, northERN, and southERN

@Anon4:27pm - I think the “?” is indicative of a foreign language in this case, since one would presume answers are in English usually.

Anonymous 5:01 PM  

Thank you Z

Anonymous 12:56 PM  

Uggh! David Steinberg is so frustrating, because he could be great if he concept of crosswords wasn't so fundamentally off-course. 45A, 57A, 67A and 49D were all worthy of Patrick Berry. (I do agree with Rachel that it's "sync" not "synch" and would add that 27D should be "aah" not "ahh".) But David's puzzles are always permeated with his personal interests and with proper nouns that you have to share his interests to answer. Why does David force me to watch all the TV shows and movies that he watches? If I made a crossword, I wouldn't expect David to share my TV shows and movies. The worst part is that these "you all share my interests" and proper nouns don't just account for 3 or 4 squares together, but for long answers. Not cool David! Ditch the proper nouns, pop culture and your personal interests and try to communicate with all your solvers, not just the hipsters. P.S. Surprised hipsters would have ever heard of "hush puppies"! I never heard of them before I retired to Charlotte NC. Very popular with the locals but utterly vile! Amazed that David would have ever tasted one.

thefogman 1:45 PM  

Very Saturdayish. Very Steinbergy - and Charlsonesque?. Who could ask for anything more?
There were plenty of unknowns (HUSHPUPPY, THANKSOBAMA, OONACHAPLIN) in this one for me. The wunderkind never ceases to SURPRISEME. Lots of AHA! moments with a hint of HIPNESS. My grid was full of write-overs and INC blots, but I got 'er done. I'm so happy I can TAPDANCE to Eric CLAPTON now.

5wksltr 3:09 PM  

Thanks Steinberg.

Anonymous 3:11 PM  

Had "lapdances" also, but wondered about the clicking...

leftcoastTAM 3:43 PM  

I like David Steinberg's (and today, his partner's) clever sense of wordplay, and we get a good taste of it here, Also like Rachel's review, which covered it all well

TAP DANCES wins the wordplay cleverness award, and SURPRISE ME, uh..., surprised me. THEEU looked weird until finally parsed.

Most trouble in the NW, aka coffin corner, with the COMICSANS/SYSOPS cross. SYNCH (the H) didn't help either. PGTHIRTEEN, just below, was a sneaker.

Troubles, but a worthwhile attempt on good Saturday puzzle, ending in a small letter d n f.

thefogman 4:02 PM  

*Make that lots of AHHa! moments...

Burma Shave 4:13 PM  


they SYNCH their HIPNESS in that way.
AHH, but it wouldn’t SURPRISEME
if those DOLLs are OPENLYGAY.


Diana, LIW 6:01 PM  

I read and reread thru the puzzle, and can't understand what @Anon 12:56 meant by Steinberg's "personal interests and proper nouns." Yes, there was some PPP, but nothing out of the ordinary, nor did it skew too young or old, IMHO. Do you need to be a "hipster" to know John GLENN, THANKSOBAMA, UHURA, or RUNES? Yes, pop culture, but DS was a kid (if not merely an eye gleam) when they came about. The only recent show was "Game of Thrones," and I could easily suss out that answer. One of the things I LIKE about DS is his range o interests. He goes to used book stores and buys crossword books all the way back to Maleska and beyond, studies them, learns from them, and uses them in his Mozart-like genius way.

That said, I did have to look a couple of things up - only 'cause my brain was too sleepy to work properly. That cold is STILL hanging around.

Much more fun than yesterday pour moi.

Diana, LIW

strayling 7:07 PM  

SYSOPS brought back memories of 80s bulletin boards. Whoever ran the BBS was the sysop and had absolute control over what was posted. It's a bit of an obscure usage, but legit.

rondo 7:23 PM  

Nary a write-over today, but not finished very quickly. Didn't post earlier due to buying a new car. Not STEELBLUE, but a shade of BLUE; same color as D,LIW's.

Gotta love CLAPTON, in every incarnation. Especially solo BLUEs.

A tie between DOLLs Mila KUNIS and the fully spelled out OONACHAPLIN. Yeah babies.

What a day! I spent at least 1.25 million RUBLEs. Fine puz.

Anonymous 8:06 PM  

@Ben, ERN is a directional ending, as in eastern and western.

Anonymous 7:12 PM  

Got some of the longer stuff quickly (comicsans and peacesign) then plodded through the rest. An enjoyable puzzle and a good thing Rex didnt do the honors this time. For one who eschews any outside help during the completing of the puzzle paper and pencil style, I found it to be moderately difficult but generally fun nonetheless. Less crossword BS than the usual Will Shortz vehicle was a plus. Still anonymous due to not wanting to become a regular on this blog.

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