Evergreens whose leaves are used culinarily / SAT 2-23-19 / Web tv broadcast about celebrities / Dweller in eastern Himalayas

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Constructor: Sam Ezersky

Relative difficulty: Easy (5:08 — faster than Thursday, faster than Friday)

THEME: answers that start with initialisms ... or so I thought, until I realized, no, that's just in the NW, and it's really just a themeless

Word of the Day: BAY TREES (39A: Evergreens whose leaves are used culinarily)
Laurus nobilis is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with green, glabrous (smooth and hairless) leaves, in the flowering plant family Lauraceae. It is native to the Mediterranean region and is used as bay leaf for seasoning in cooking. Its common names include bay tree (esp. United Kingdom), bay laurelsweet baytrue laurelGrecian laurel, or simply laurelLaurus nobilis figures prominently in classical Greco-Roman culture. (wikipedia)
• • •

Here's how it went: Immediately wanted TMZ NEWS, which was wrong, but not entirely. Then I got LIL (4D: Wee wee?) and VENI (6D: Start of an old boast) easy, and so went in with TMZ LIVE (correct!). Got ZIKAVIRUS off the "Z" and whoosh, off and running. Knowing that ZIKAVIRUS and LIL were indisputable made coming up with WWIIVET much much easier than it probably would have been otherwise. Those "I"s! Had to sort of sound out MWAHAHAHA. Once I got AARPCARD I really did think that there was some weird Saturday theme going on (TMZ ... WWII ... AARP), but then there were no more initial initialisms, and the whole thing just settled into a solid (if very easy) themeless. Fewer sparks and explosions outside the NW, but still a well-made and entertaining puzzle overall. I feel like having known Sam for years helped me a bit with this puzzle, in that I was much more certain about the ultra-current answers like TMZLIVE and the adventurous answers like WWIIVET, and I was also much more confident that whatever answers turned up would be non-junk. When you know you are doing a puzzle by someone who is Very Good, you know you might struggle, but you also know you are highly unlikely to struggle and then find out that you were struggling with crap. Today, turns out I didn't struggle much at all. Very much on Sam's wavelength. Which makes me feel so young! Or else ... Sam, maybe you've gone full middle-aged white guy before your time. Not sure. Either way, good puzzle, I say.

["TWO A.M." ... also, this video features a rebus puzzle (see 47A)]

I did struggle in one place. One weird, tiny place. Basically ... here:

This continues a pattern of my getting stuck on two-word answers where I have the second word and cannot for the life of me get the first (yesterday, had STAR but not CHILD; had SUGAR, but not ADDED, which I'm still mad about ... "ADDED" is not a kind of sugar and its calories are no more "empty" than any other sugar's dagnabbit!!!). So today, I wanted FIR TREES for 39A: Evergreens whose leaves are used culinarily. Yeah yeah, "culinary uses," but what do I know? People might use pine needles in cuisine. I've seen some of these Scandinavian fancy restaurants on "Chef's Table" or whatever, you never know what local flora people will stick on a plate or in your fish. So: FIR TREES, but I knew FIR was wrong. It's just -URL did nothing for me (39D: Bump on a log). I honestly thought "... NURL...?" for a half-second. Is KNURL a thing!? YES IT IS AND IT MEANS "A SMALL PROJECTING KNOB OR RIDGE," DAGNABBIT! Please change the "B" to "KN" ... yes, there are KNAY TREES now, I don't care—KNURL is the official right answer in my kingdom now. Speaking of "sticking out"—SALIENT? Means that? Er ... huh. Because I did not believe that, I had no idea about Uncle SAM, which in retrospect seems so easy (37D: Uncle's name). You don't wanna know the Uncle I was considering. Also three letters. Also ends in "M." Yeah. Seemed like something the NYT might think was a good idea, and later regret. But it's SAM. Ha ha I just got that that's the constructor's name. My own (real) (last) name is in the grid, too. Yes, that's right, my real name is Clarence SEXTAPE. It's MALTAn.

Five things:
  • 17A: Mob rule? (RIOTACT) — RIOTACT: for when you're in Brazil on a sensitive diplomatic mission!
  • 19A: Best-selling compact S.U.V. introduced in 2007 (NISSAN ROGUE) — I got this so fast but it didn't make me feel good; made me feel like "yeah, of course you know the name of the car for older people who want to feel like they're still driving a sporty-ish car but really just want a sensible, reliable vehicle that will allow for easy transport of kids, pets, and groceries. Congrats, buddy."
  • 5D: Man's name that spells a fictional people backward (IVAN) — this answer reminded me that there will be about seventy-four new "Avatar" movies coming out between now and the probable end of my life, so I did not like this answer.
  • 47A: Conjunction in a rebus puzzle (OAR) — you may be surprised to know that *outside* of CrossWorld, "rebus" means a picture puzzle, where addition and subtraction signs are used in conjunction (!) with pictures to lead you to an answer, which you sound out as you go along. OAR = "or."
  • 48A: New contacts, informally (ADDS) — as in, people you "add" to your contacts list. I really thought this was a clue about contact lenses. I still want it to be.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld (Twitter @rexparker / #NYTXW)

P.S. here is my favorite Twitter exchange of all time. Enjoy:

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Harryp 6:54 AM  

Big fat DNF over one square. I had a B instead of an M at 2Down MWHAHAHA, and stubbornly refused to change it. Later on I googled BWAHAHA, and it is an acceptable spelling. Otherwise, an Easy Saturday.

Anonymous 7:07 AM  

Super easy Saturday for me. Felt like a Tuesday or Wednesday.

Loren Muse Smith 7:10 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chim cham 7:11 AM  

My great aunt Imo used to call me “spiffy” and SHARP when she’d see me in my church clothes. Also enjoyed seeing BHUTANI. Looks like Bhutan would be such a fascinating place to visit.

Smitty 7:19 AM  

My first thought for BAY TREE was Laurel, then Bay leaf. I always thought Laurel was a shrub, not a tree. Guess not.

Dan M 7:26 AM  

My fastest Saturday ever! 8:29! Fun puzzle.

QuasiMojo 7:29 AM  

Enough with the ageist jokes, Rex. And why is it okay to fat shame a sitting president, whether you like his politics or not? Or his behavior?Don’t fight fire with fire. Double standards are counter productive Which reminds me, I first put in STDS for standards as in flags, rather than ETDS. Took me a WEE moment to grok that one. NAVI???

I too had TB first before TM and even thought SIKA might be right. But I couldn’t imagine anyone watching TBS LIVE or dead. So I fixed it.

I loved this puzzle. Especially the clue for ACNE.

Tom Taylor 7:33 AM  

Set a PR for Saturday. Had rosemary in for BAY TREE at first ...
really though just got lucky that, like Rex, I was clearly on the same wavelength as Sam. WWIIVET, TEENDRAMA, and INEEDANAP all fell in right away with no crosses ... sometimes the brain helps ... (though often it does not). Funny, but pretty easy, Saturday.

Paul Harrington 7:36 AM  

Could't get oar. (It went in as my answer, but made no sense) Wanted "rebus puzzle" to be some sort of logic puzzle. Tried to force it to be an abbreviation of or/and. Baytree, very easy for a 60's kid where a bay leaf went into every other family meal.

Loren Muse Smith 7:42 AM  

Great themeless! Sam, I loved the menacing juxtaposition of MWAHAHAHA next to ZIKA VIRUS. Damn villain mosquitoes.

@Clarence SEXTAPE – you do good-mood-nice-guy very well. I enjoyed your write up through and through.

I’m geography-challenged, so I had to guess the B in RABAT. But I got it.

MEERKATs are officially the coolest animals on the planet. When awake, they try to look interested and engaged. I think if I could have a conversation with one, his listening manner would make me feel fascinating and scintillating. I NEED A NAP

Speaking of funny animals, this. (Credit where credit is due: - thanks to Deb Amlen for putting this on my radar screen.) Warning – if you’re gonna go all decorous and refined on me (and are eating breakfast), just don't watch.

“Strong winds may push them back” – My sister went through a phase of wearing those clip-in hair pieces. You know – those things that are pretty much the pileous equivalent of a padded bra? That look unsettling just sitting on a bathroom counter or on the floor of your closet? Anyhoo… one boondoggle to Chicago during a particularly windy time ended that phase.

I misspelled Sally’s name as “Yeats” and so, poetry on the brain, my wee wee was sma. [Pause. Crickets.] You know there’s some really good material there… Ok. Nevermind.

@Quasi – you’re right. I should not follow his lead by fat-shaming. Mea culpa.

Bob Mills 7:43 AM  

I had "BWAHAHA," also. I've never heard anyone laugh like that, but I see it all the time in print on blogs as a way to show contempt for another person. Otherwise, I thought it was easy for a Saturday.

@mericans in Paris 7:51 AM  

We found today's puzzle super-easy, but had never heard of ORPHAN BLACK,, nor knew the word for a Hebrew leader, so ended up with several errors in the SW: MaMMA, SmARt, and ANcH.

That meant that we had MEERcAT, which I agree with @LMS are fascinating, very alert and curious creatures (we saw a big den of them in Namibia two years ago). I should have recognized its Afrikaans origins. KAT = cat, and MEER can mean "lake" or "more". I'm not sure what is the etymology here. Did the first Afrikanner settlers espy these rodents near a lake? Or did they reckon that they were more cat than something else -- a house cat, for example? I'd love to see how a MEERKAT and a ring-tailed lemur would get along.

Some nice geographic clues and answers today. My younger brother and his wife decided for their first big trip abroad, about four years ago, to join an organized trek in BHUTAN. Oh, Lordy, were they unprepared -- for horny yak bulls in their campground at night, for the ever-present danger of being knocked off the side of the mountain by a stampede of ponies, and for fast-moving streams they had to ford and the risk of falling in and being carried over a waterfall.

RABAT, by contrast, is a very safe, attractive city, with excellent food and a charming, tranquil kasbah. If any of you travel to Morocco, I would highly recommend Rabat. It's a lot lest over-run by tourists, and hawkers who pester tourists, than, for example, Marrakech.

Now onto Sunday's.

Lewis 8:03 AM  

@rex -- Whatever you did before writing your review, do it again and again. That was one hellacious good writeup!

Sam's puzzles shift me into a calm high-alert state, where my brain becomes uber-receptive because it knows every corner will be drawn upon, yet at peace because it knows that with patience, the grid will fill in. Today being no exception.

I loved the throwback to my original concept of "rebus", where pictures represented words rather than the current squeezing of letters in a box. My favorite clue was that for MASS. I noticed the double-e mini-theme (5), and the plethora of A-ending answers (11), which inspired the following doggerel:

Plus an Evil Ways SANTANA

mmorgan 8:18 AM  

I found the top half really tough and challenging — and fun. So I was surprised to find the bottom half extremely (well, relatively) easy — but still fun. Maybe I just had to wake up. Really nice puzzle — I always enjoy it when I find myself scratching my head wondering how on earth did I know that...?

QuasiMojo 8:23 AM  

@Loren, thumbs up! :) Also your anecdote about pileous attachments reminds me of an aunt of mine who used clip-on pieces occasionally. She called them stitches. Sometimes after a long evening they’d be dangling, askew, off of her coiffure. Loved the meerkats too.

pabloinnh 8:38 AM  

Zippy Saturday. On the plus side, a new clue for ACNE and a reference to BURLS, which my good friend the wood turner makes into beautiful bowls. On the minus side, thinking about anything preying on a MEERKAT is something I'd rather not do. Hand up for not knowing ORPHANBLACK, but I suspect that's a consequence of being the owner of an AARPCARD. Alas, I've never been asked to produce said card as "evidence of eligibility".

Fun stuff, but over too soon. Thanks SE.

DeeJay 8:57 AM  

Does anyone remember the rebuses under Ballantine beer caps?

There were probably a couple of different puzzles, most of them dead easy. One, though, had an alarm clock on the back of a pickup truck . . .

Wm. C. 9:04 AM  

@Lewis8:03 --

Thanks for the other meaning of rebus. I'm vaguely aware of the concept, but didn't know the name for it. I got OAR from the crosses, but had no idea why.

Nancy 9:12 AM  

So TMZ LIVE is a show about celebrities. Does it include any celebrities who were stupid enough to make a SEX TAPE? BAD IDEA, celebrities!

ORPHAN IN BLACK is another TV series I've never seen. And of course I've never heard of the NISSAN, though ROGUE sounds like a spiffy car. And speaking of spiffy...

I had SmARt before SHARP at 46D. I think it might be a function of my gender. Fashionable women look SMART. Fashionable men look SHARP.

WWIIVET is quite a DOOK, and I couldn't see it for the longest time.

Why is MWAHAHAHA the cackle of a villain? Isn't MWAH a kiss? An air kiss? Made famous by the late and beloved Dinah Shore?

My favorite clue/answer is MASS (43A).

An enjoyable puzzle. Yes, there was some current pop culture, but mostly it was perfectly fine and do-able even for those of us with an AARP CARD.

Teedmn 9:25 AM  

This had the makings of an easy Saturday until I hit the SW. ANACONDAS going down and R____ was probably going to be RABAT but not getting OAR held me up there. Thank you, Rex, for explaining OAR. I got what kind of rebus was meant in the clue but I guess I haven't seen enough of those in the wild to get the image.

From there, I was completely stymied. I had no idea about the hit sci-fi series for 50A (I had BURr at 39D, which I never changed, DNF, sigh). I finally came up with SmARt for 46D and somehow I leapt to MEERKAT off of that R. I then filled in the rest but ORPHAN BrACK :-(.

I thought the ETaS would be pushed back by strong winds; O__LANa wasn't giving me any California cities. Remembering ZIKA helped a lot there. I NEED A NAP weaned me off LACTal, and RECUT helped me change NabS to NETS (and immediately brought up the image of a butterfly collector. I hope no one still collects butterflies - too few left in the wild. I rue the poor specimens I caught for my Dad, back in the day. I don't see those blue and yellow swallowtails anymore.)

So do Egyptian hieroglyphs show anyone with acne scars? I thought they might treat AChES with honey but TEEN (crossing ACNE, har) saved that.

Thanks, Sam. You weren't as hard on us as I know you're capable of.

Anonymous 9:28 AM  

An AARP card is not evidence for senior discounts. You can get one at 50

Wow 9:32 AM  

Ok, if there is any puzzle out there, that proves Will Shortz is (and should be) done with his job, and keeps publishing his buddies puzzles, it's this one.

Stop it. Please, I'm begging you, Stop. This. Garbage.

Look at that NW corner. TMZ, WWIIVET, AHA, MAVS, AARP CARD, LIL, ETDS. Can I get an actual complete word? Is that too much to ask for? How the hell that corner wasn't reworked is ridiculous. What made Will want to put this in? I bet Sam said, Hey, Bud, I need a little money to help pay my College tuition. Help a brother out?

My God, Will, just because he's your friend/ex-co-editor, don't give him a free pass with absolute trash like this. I really hope Will reads this.
Retire already. Take your AARP CARD and go live on a beach somewhere.

puzzlehoarder 9:35 AM  

VENI and SHOD were where I started. This made NISSAN ROGUE and the rest of the NE corner very easy. Things slowed down a bit moving south. I was slow coming up with MALTA and had an ACHE/ACNE write over.

Getting into the SW corner the puzzle began to feel late week. I've never heard of ORPHANBLACK so the ORPHAN half had to be worked around. I wasted time wondering if OAR could contain an actual rebus. It finally dawned on me that it was a rebus in the most literal sense. A misread of the 61A clue as "Hebrew letters" helped with ALEPHS. I still had to overcome my SMART/SHARP an d MAMMA/MOMMA write overs.

My longest hesitation (and where I finished) was the M of TMZ. It's one of those acronyms I've only recently learned (and subsequently forgotten.) It's a fooler in that it appears to be something new from the internet but is actually an old Hollywood acronym. What finally made the M click was my remembering the MWAH kiss entry we've had in the past. Once the M was in place TMZ just looked right. I was glad to get that last letter without resorting to running the alphabet. Even though I solve on paper that's a technique that still feels like a dnf.

This was a good solve. Not really challenging but I made enough missteps to make it interesting.

Z 9:36 AM  

Easy. No idea on time, but I had only the briefest of struggles. Really felt more like a Wednesday here. The PPP is not numerically bad, 20/70 for 29%, but I do wonder if the fact that so many are longer answers and the NW is PPP triple stack might make this harder for some.

@Quasi - Uh, Rex is cracking jokes about himself. As for “fat-shaming” President Voldemort, I generally agree except he has made his size an issue. When you compel an Army officer to lie about your height and weight making fun of your height and weight becomes fair game. I don’t think his weight is an issue, or really any of our business other than in a generalized “is the prez going to suddenly drop dead from a massive coronary” sort of way. But lie, and lie so ineptly, and derision is our natural right. Also, as a general principle, I take less issue with punching up than punching down.

I can’t believe the anonymous poster(s)* was still at it late yesterday. I do think one point of clarification is warranted. This is pretty irrelevant and trivial so most of you will want to skip this.
If I call something “definitional” I can see why an argument looks circular, that’s a common misunderstanding. Here is a simple example:

You can define 3 differently (-1+4, for example), but that does make 1+2 not 3. Likewise “favorite” is the definition of that answer (no spoiler here). Saying so is no more “circular reasoning” than saying 3=1+2.

*Theres no reason to believe there was more than 1. They all read like the same guy.

kitshef 9:41 AM  

My entry was MAVS, which may be a sign that clue should be retired. Quickly confirmed by ???AM and ZIKA VIRUS, and it was off to the races. This week in general seems to have skewed unduly easy.

From the “nobody cares” department, starting to catch up from vacation and just did the Feb 3 puzzle, detested by Rex and maybe 80% of commenters. I absolutely loved it, and think was one of the best Sundays in ages.

Also the Feb 6 puzzle, which Rex hated but was more split among the commentariat, which was utter joy for me.

Z 9:43 AM  

@Anom9:28 - Not for ALL senior discounts, but it is evidence of eligibility for SOME senior discounts, so the clue is fine. This distinction irks lots of people, but you can see the sample principle at work throughout the puzzle. Not all web and TV broadcasts about celebrities are TMZ LIVE yet we all understand that some are. The clue still works.

Marc 9:47 AM  

Same as everyone else. apparently, superfast time for me as well. Had a Wednesday feel to it. Only Hiccup I can remember was Uncle TOM instead of SAM

GILL I. 9:51 AM  

I think Sam over cutesied with his String of churches clue. ROSARY? Maybe beads of churches?
Another quickie. Another now what do I do with my extra time.
OAKLAND first entry because Kamala owns the place. ZIKA VIRUS next. I kept thinking this was too easy and something would bite me. One hold up/mistake - easily fixed- was the NISSAN Rodeo/ROGUE.
Morocco was the first African land I visited. We used to take the ferry to Tangier; spend the night and use our money on leather, rugs and trinkets and then for real relaxation, drive on down to RABAT. @merican is right about that city. It's well worth the visit. A day trip to Casablanca makes it even more worthwhile.
This will be the first time that renewal of the "Must have because of all the discounts" AARP CARD won't be forthcoming. My AAA card does better. Hell, just ask for any senior discount and you get one. Turning 50 made me feel old. My first gray hair. My first wrinkles creeping up. Gaaah, I'm losing my teeth!
Love me some Oye Como Va SATANA.... Evils Ways ain't too shabby either.
Love spiffy, not fond of TMZ LIVE, (too full of Evil Ways) and I guess I should put ORPHAN BLACK on a list somewhere to watch.
Is MOMMA regional? Like meemaw? I think I say MAMMA....
It's real cold today and there is snow everywhere. I might go out and play in it.

kitshef 9:53 AM  

Okay, have to give the counterpoint to @mericans in Paris. Bhutan is, beyond anything else, poetically gorgeous. Ordinary houses there are decorated like temples are elsewhere. The views of the mountains and waterfalls are ubiquitous and spectacular. One temple we went in to we were not permitted to bring in anything so had to leave backpacks, cameras, etc. outside. No one was watching or guarding the stuff - you just put it down outside the temple. For us, not such a big deal but there were people there with camera gear costing thousands. In some countries that would be snapped up in thirty seconds. In Bhutan, perfectly safe. Paro Takstang, (aka Tiger’s Nest sanctuary), is overpublicized, touristy, and utterly beautiful and completely worth the trip. Oh, and we met the King, more or less by chance.

Anonymous 9:55 AM  

You over estimate your ability to discern. There were at leat two anonymous posters explaining your error regarding number one seeds.
And you remaon wrong. Your explanation tpday is lunacy. All you say in your ridiculous math puzzle is true but not on point.
More, your proof of late Tnursday was circular, unless you're using the tern definitional to mean axiomatic and of course thats easily dismissed.
As many have noted tourneys are run by assns. Those groups are often bound by rule on how to seed entrants. Given that cir umstances often cbange quickly and radically in competitionm its easy to see that a 1 seed may be anything but the favorite.
Number 1 and favorite simply are not synonymous.

Nancy 9:59 AM  

@puzzlehoarder (9:35) -- Running the alphabet to get an answer -- unless you're using some sort of digital "check function" -- is emphatically NOT a cheat! To cheat means to rely on something or someone outside yourself. What you do inside your own head cannot ever be considered cheating. You know how scrupulous I am about never looking anything up and calling it a DNF in those very rare instances where I do. But I often run the alphabet to jog my memory and I never call it a cheat. You shouldn't either. (And btw, @puzzlehoarder, I answered your comment to me late yesterday, if you didn't see it.)

Another hand up for AChE before ACNE.

I love your doggerel, @Lewis!

Dorothy Biggs 10:01 AM  

BHUrANI/SEPrA...a hidden mistake that did me in. "Sepra" looked completely fine because, you know, "separate." And "Bahrani" are people too. So, I literally didn't see the problem.

Otherwise, easy Saturday. As for fir needles, does rosemary qualify?

And also, I'm kind of surprised there is no such thing as some kind of pine flavoring in food. Not that I would eat it, but there's a lot of stuff I don't eat that other people do. Pine smells good...I'd just figure people would have, at some point, decided to put some pine needles in their soup or on top of their roast chicken. May sound weird, but plausible.

BarbieBarbie 10:02 AM  

Love MAVS and NETS facing off.
Love IVAN and VENI. I dunno, it’s just a nice juxtaposition.
Of course there are SHARP and SAM playing nice together.
Kinda dnf on MOMMy and yLEPHS but corrected it after the app sneered at me. Not sure that counts as a win.

@Z, this one made me wonder where to draw the line on what is a PPP. What’s your count today? Seems lowish.

Had fun with this one!

Linda Vale 10:18 AM  


Use your imagination....

Suzie Q 10:19 AM  

I thought this was just so-so.
Not many interesting words but plenty of crap.
I can do without mental images of hyenas and meerkats. I know predators have children to feed too but hyenas aren't very picky so go find something already dead and leave those meerkats alone!

jae 10:21 AM  

Yes, easy. A couple of minutes slower than yesterday’s which was very easy.

Plenty of fine stuff here, MWHAHAHA alone is worth the price of admission, liked it a lot!

ORPHAN BLACK is one of those shows you really ought to see if you haven’t already. It ranks in quality with shows like Justified, Breaking Bad, Treme, The Wire ... I believe it’s available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

Freddy Murcks 10:23 AM  

Even though this was shockingly easy for a Saturday puzzle, I set my new best time for Saturday and I am still going to feel good about it.

DrBB 10:40 AM  

I'm calling a total NATICK on that 1A - 3D cross in the NW corner. Ended up having to run the dang alphabet--the WHOLE alphabet, obviously. Other than that, pretty fun and easy. I like it when the answer to the hoary old "brag" clue (6D) is the Latin, not "I saw." SLowed in the SW by my inability to remember 50A--I had BLACK MIRROR for some reason. Slow, too, on the last half of AARP, but when CARD finally occurred to me that cracked everything but that last stubborn cross in the NW. Which is a NATICK, darn it! For me anyway. Because I really really really don't care about celebrity news and do my best to avoid it.

nyc_lo 10:41 AM  

Oddly (or not) WWIIVETS was the first answer I filled in, then saw the IVAN/NAVI cross and knew it was right. Off to the races from there. Personal best Saturday time, starting off my weekend feeling way smarter than I actually am. Disaster will no doubt ensue.

jberg 10:47 AM  

Outsmarted myself, so DNF. I started with MOMMy at 43D, eventually changed it to MaMMA because whatever the Hebrew leader was, it wouldn't start with y. A few more crosses and I knew I was dealing with ALEPHS -- but what about the hit sci-fi series? No clue -- wait, that WAS a clue, wasn't it? But no idea of the answer. Finally decided that, being about clones, it was probably alPHAN BLACK. I could see that AlIEL was less likely than ARIEL, but who knows what these filmmakers might come up with in the way of names? I'd even thought of ORPHAN, but when Annie didn't fit the clue, I decided against it, and completely forgot that it was a choice, so I didn't go back to it when I could. Gah!

My other big problems were bWAHahhah before MWAHAHAHA, compounded by Med before MRI -- but I managed to work those out. Also all stAr before IRONMAN, and having a hard time coming up with SANTANA -- I seriously wondered whether ShanANA was really named after someone named SHA (or SHArp or SHAnks or something.) But that finally fell into place.

My start was just the opposite of @Rex's -- no idea about TMZ LIVEm but WWIIVET with no crosses (specifying the dates pretty much gave that one away.)

OK, now I'll read the comments.

Carola 10:55 AM  

For me, Sam Ezersky as the constructor = lots of names I won't know = a real struggle. The first part was confirmed by the clue for 1A, but to my surprise, like others, I found the puzzle easy. First in: ROSARY x YATES, and then the clockwise crosses just kept coming. Last in: TMZ LIVE x ETDS.

I liked the Tempest crossing of ARIEL and MIRANDA.

@Nancy, I think you're a cryptics fan. Do you do these?

DBlock 10:57 AM  

My two cents:
Far too easy for a Saturday
I don’t time myself
My metrics are how hot my coffee is as I’m solving
I like a puzzle that challenges
Best when I need to reheat
Today I was still at the ‘cautious sip’ phase because it was piping hot
Give us a struggle on Saturday please

Unknown 11:03 AM  

Does every villain say MWAHAHAHA? Don't any say MWAHAHA or MWAHAHAHAHA? Ridiculous answer.

jberg 11:13 AM  

The clue for 4D naturally made me think of this song. Actually it made me think of the Jean Redpath version, which I heard live years ago, but I can't find a link to that.

@Loren, I loved the lemurs, and loved even more that they'd actually made it as a fundraising video!

@Nancy, I agree about running the alphabet -- perfectly legitimate if you do it in your head, but I'm gathering that some people mean trying out all the letters in an online app until the bell chimes, or whatever.

Time to get some work done!

lymank 11:21 AM  

I guess I’m dense, but even after reading Rex’s explanation of the rebus clue and the answer (OAR), and everyone’s explanations here, I still don’t get it. When Rex says OAR = “or” are we supposed to read the two words as homophones? If so, I still don’t get it. Help!

Crimson Devil 11:25 AM  

Good Sat puz. NE and SW quite tough for moi. Rest easy enough. MWAH...quite convenient for constructor, liked it. BHUTANI, OAR, RABAT,MEERKAT,ALEPHS, ANKH not so much.

Georgina 11:27 AM  

Who is kamale harris, sex tape victim? Tired of unknown celebs or pop stars.

old timer 11:33 AM  

Hey Nr, SEXTAPE! You cab make me laugh in the morning, even after a disappointing DNF up there at the start (TMZ LIVE simply is not anything I ever heard of and I was stymied in that sector even after I changed "Nil" to LIL).

I felt I had to comment even before making breakfast to express my appreciation for today's OFL opus -- back later to read the comments from the regular commentariat.

Anonymous 11:35 AM  

With ABC, ALEPHS, ANKH, CTS, ETDS, HIES, LIL, MRI, RABAT, RECUT, and VENI, this item did not feel like a Sat. NYT crossword. Plus, no one says, writes, or sees anywhere except certain crosswords AARP CARD or WWII VET. It's time SEX TAPE was deleted from our word lists. No matter the context, it's not fun, and, truth be told, until it was used as the title for a 2014 Cameron Diaz movie, it would have been considered contrived. Of course, its use in that film guarantees it will not be deleted from word lists.

Valletta 11:37 AM  

Maltan? It's Maltese. Prof needs to get out a bit.

David 11:40 AM  

Bay tree was simple for me as I have a small potted one sitting in a sunny spot along with my rosemary, thyme, and oregano plants. If you ever have one yourself, you'll: a) never buy that useless dried stuff again and b) understand why some chef would use as an ice cream flavor.

TMZ is a show about people talking about celebrities. It's exceedingly shallow and pretty useless.
I suppose it's a ratings giant.

Found this one pretty easy and my favorite thing was, as I was finishing the fill, I looked down and saw "sex ape". Bwahahaha

To me that's a belly laugh. Maybe the "m" turns it into a villain's cackle, I don't know.

Unknown 11:41 AM  

In a rebus puzzle, a picture of an OAR🚣‍♀️ would be sounded out to mean the word OR.

Unknown 11:44 AM  

Disappointingly easy. Look forward to a Saturday challenge. Rosary and Orphan Black (highly recommend, the star is an amazing actress) were my toeholds.

Jillybean 11:47 AM  

Ironically a super easy puzzle that was a DNF- damned CASABA. mind didn’t think of SCABS so I had CASAVA even though I thought it had 2 esses.

@dorothy rosemary tastes just like pine, or at least what pine smells like as I haven’t tried eating it :)

kitshef 11:52 AM  
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kitshef 11:53 AM  

@Georgina - Kamala Harris is neither celebrity nor pop star. She is a US Senator and candidate for president (anointed by Donald Trump as his toughest opponent among those who have said they are running).

leah712 11:55 AM  

I really liked this puzzle, especially AARPCARD, but I'm still grumbling about HUGOWEAVING from Thursday.

GHarris 11:55 AM  

@Suzie Q
Hyenas and jackals are very different animals though,granted, they often gather around carcasses with jackals dining last.

Georgina 11:56 AM  

Tx Kitshef. I don't know all the Republican candidates yet but good to see CA coming in early. I will look out for him.

Matt 12:05 PM  

Aleph is not a Hebrew leader as in a person who leads. Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. So it “leads” the alphabet.

Teedmn 12:08 PM  

OAR rebus

Banana Diaquiri 12:16 PM  

I, too, don't buy BAYTREE. it's a bush/shrub. moreover, there's more than one kind. the common is a laurel, and the common version is California bay, and has virtually no aroma. if you can find Turkish bay (McCormack, of all vendors, sells it), it's a smaller leaf and nicely pungent.

oh yeah. ORPHANBLACK is from that socialist country called Canada. that must be why they are afraid, very afraid.

Banana Diaquiri 12:19 PM  

throw REX from the train? or is that a regionalism, too?

Nancy 12:23 PM  

What an absolutely hysterical song, @jberg (1:19)! I've never ever heard it before. My loss.

OffTheGrid 12:27 PM  

Well, yes but in a different sense. The puzzle clue had to do with an OAR picture meaning the conjunction "or".

Auto Otto 12:33 PM  

It suited me to have a faster puzzle today and it was fun. I hesitated at NISSANROGUE because it is not the best selling compact SUV. That distinction goes to Toyota RAV4. My only nit.

Marigold 12:36 PM  

I really wanted AS IS to be Stasis and the red-haired princess to be MErida, with some kind of letters off the grid thing. So the SW was very tricky until I went through the entire Disney repertoire. Ariel. D'oh!

Anonymous 12:48 PM  

I had TOM instead of SAM for the longest time. I don't see what Rex has against TOM. He is a very decent character in a respectable and well-known book. That is not nullified by unauthorized sequels or more recent politicized uses of the phrase.

Also forgot about KNOX for a long time and could only think of NASH, which led to gNASHing of teeth in the whole corner until I realized.

Suzie Q 12:49 PM  

@ GHarris, By golly, I did mix up my jackals and hyenas. I do know the difference but my feelings still remain. Go gnaw on a carcass.

Amelia 12:58 PM  
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TomAz 1:14 PM  

I started this last night, after a wedding rehearsal dinner and subsequent imbibing. Staring at a puzzle after having a few more than a few is not a recipe for a good time. And yet, this morning, sharp as a tack again, fog gone, I plowed through this. total time 11:15.. as Rex noted, faster than Thursday or Friday for me too.

Knew BAY leaves immediately but that didn't fit so I went with BAY leafS for way too long. For some reason I am reminded of that silly scene in Blazing Saddles where they are welcoming the new sheriff "with this laurel, and hearty handshake."

I had OAR but I didn't know why. Thanks Rex for explaining it.

Tennis Fan 1:15 PM  

In tennis tournaments seeds are based on world rankings. Novak Djokovic is number one in the world. The French Open is played on clay. Raphael Nadal is the best clay court player. Thus, Nadal was the number two seed last year despite having had won the tournament ten times. He was still the prohibitive favorite in the bookies and he won. He now has eleven titles and will again be number two seed this year and is the odds-on favorite in the bookies. Z is often wrong but will never admit it.

Malsdemare 1:17 PM  

@Georgina. Kamala Harris, a woman of color, is a Democrat. I don't know if any Republicans have yet to officially run against Trump in the primary, but Senator Harris is one of a very large field. And yes, she's quite a threat to Trump; she's smart, articulate, personable,and she gets things done.

My time would say this puzzle was easy but it did 't feel easy. The nW was blank, except for WWIIVET, for a long time. SE fell,the central plains states, then the SE. Finally I got VIRUS, and with the I, got ZIKA, the Z gave me TMZ and then the rest filled itself. But the SW really resisted for a long time. I ended up cheating to get MASS and then the remainder slowly revealed itself.It took RABAT to get me finally change BURr to BURL, that gave me BLACK and I was done. Whew!

Good puzzle but didn't last long enough. Hiwever, I appreciate the workout. Thanks, Sam.

Anonymous 1:31 PM  

Very enjoyable puzzle. Thank you very much Mr. Ezersky.

Hartley70 1:43 PM  

I rushed through this with OAR being my only uncertainty. ORPHANBLACK must be the best show that few here have ever watched. I loved MASS and ROSARY and the ACNE clue was a fun surprise. This was a very good puzzle that was finished too soon.

Michiganman 1:54 PM  

I strongly second your sentiments about the "?" clues. Grrrrrr!

Rainbow 1:58 PM  

I lovingly suggest that those still feuding about "SEED" meanings, put it to rest and move into today. You may
be happier.

Hobbyist 1:58 PM  

I am not Evil Doug but still wonder what has become of him. Miss his semi trenchant comments.

Masked and Anonymous 2:25 PM  

Signature SatPuz [see 37-Down]. Enjoyed the puzfight. Thanx, Mr. Sam E-Z.

Like @RP, first entries were at LIL and VENI. Unlike @RP, that's about as far as M&A got to, in the NW. Did not know of TMZLIVE. Is TMZ sorta like a dmz for somethin that starts with a "T"? "Toadie?"
Also couldn't quite remember that ZIKA part of the virus. Wrote in ANKAVIRUS, real lightly and desperately.

And … M&A has lived a pitifully uneventful life, totally oblivious to such important stuff as: NISSANROGUE. BHUTANI. BAYTREES. ORPHANBLACK. And of course the mysterious TMZLIVE. Fortunately for M&A's solvequest, these neer-tasted fruits were pretty much spread out, sorta isolated like cacklin, villainous viruses. Overall, an average SatPuz sadistic difficulty, at our house.

staff weeject pick, other than the obvious SAM: CTS. Plural abbrev meat.
fave fillins: BURL. The overly-long sadistic villainous MWA-laugh one. MEERKAT, and anything else that ancient Egyptians would put honey on. INEEDANAP.

Cool themeless grid design … primo open-yet-scruffy look.

Masked & Anonymo3Us

absolute ultimate in biterdom:

Georgina 2:39 PM  

@Malsdemare Even better. Thank you for clarifying. I need to pay more attention but have been ignoring the news since moving to Lyons.

Masked and Anonymous 2:52 PM  

@Hobbyist: yep. Sometimes in the past, @Evil Doug has disappeared for very long spells, before finally returnin, in spades.
One time M&A stopped commentin for a month or so, and when I came back, @Evil called me a "wuss", becuz I had had such a pitifully short sabbatical.


TJS 2:54 PM  

Have to say that the twitter exchange that Rex provided is hilarious.

OISK 2:55 PM  

MWAHHAHAHA? GGGRUBBISH! I was lucky that TMZ seemed vaguely familiar, or I'd have DNF with BWAH...Bwah, humbug! There's something about "MWAH" that makes the subsequent HAHAHA villainous? Never heard of Orphan black, but that's just about the only other ?? in a solid puzzle. It is only via these puzzles that I knew that "Santana" is both a person and a band - got it instantly.

Pleased generally with the past two weeks of puzzles! I'm sure there will be a lapse back into the more "Current" or "topical" cluing full of computerese, hip hop slang, and movie characters with indiscernible names. But I'm pretty content with what we are seeing lately. In fact, my only error over the past two weeks was last Sunday - a cross of "Timon" with "Taye."

About Kamala - it is possible to wager (in Britain) on U.S. elections. Harris is 5 to 1 at Ladbrokes right now. But I bet on her early on, and got 18 to 1. ( this in no way indicates a political preference. I don't post politics here!)

SJ Austin 3:39 PM  

I wanted RICOACT so bad…

puzzlehoarder 4:01 PM  

@Nancy, yes I saw your response and I checked out one of the profiles you mentioned. I'll need my wife to coach me on how to email. Sad but true.

albatross shell 4:11 PM  

I did not have TOM, went straight to SAM. But did not think of KNOX when I had the K, so tried KLAN just on the off-chance hope nyt had a nasty streak. Much easier than Friday, not quite as easy as Thursday for me.
Seems I remember Porky, Bugs and Daffy doing the MWAHAHA bit, always rubbing hands together. Maybe originated with earlier stage and movie villians.
BAYTREES is the common usage among gardeners in my area. My 15 year old potted bay tree died a year ago. I have been too heartbroken to buy a 10 inch replacement so far. Maybe this spring.

Nancy 4:29 PM  

Not a problem, @puzzlehoarder. Both my contacts have my home phone number as well, and I'm happy to let them provide it to you if it makes your life easier. (I have a cell flip phone as well, but it mostly sits in my drawer turned off, I never check it, and you'd never reach me.)

Malsdemare 5:00 PM  

@Georgina. If I lived in Lyons, I might ignore politics here as well. But pay a little attention to Kamala; she's impressive.

Anonymous 5:21 PM  

Fun puzzle! Mr. Ezersky says he hid a Horcrux in the NW corner. Anyone find it??

Everyone 5:57 PM  
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sanfranman59 6:50 PM  

Very Easy NYT Saturday (8:54, 45% below my 6-mo median, 1.7 Rexes) ... 8:54 is my 2nd fastest time of 380 NYT Saturdays, 31 seconds behind James Mulhern's 1/21/2017 puzzle. I didn't make my first correct entry until the 0:48 mark.

Apart from racing through it, I really enjoyed this one. My immediate reaction without reviewing grid is that there was lots of liveliness to it. That NW corner is a real Scrabble-fest (that's good, in my book). I'm not sure how I'd feel about MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (2D) otherwise, but with all the other fun stuff around it, I give it a pass.

I prefer more of a challenge on Saturday, but this was fun.

Banana Diaquiri 8:24 PM  

oddly, no one appears to have nuked OFL over the Burl Ives video. during McCarthy, Ives was among the snitches. not the sort of folk that OFL would support.

Shuls 6:17 AM  

@Rex, seriously didn’t know SALIENT, as in Ypres? It’s been all over the place since the centenarry of the end of WW1 last year.

RL VanN 1:29 PM  

Fun despite the early thought we were in for an initialfest. Zikavirus busted it open, ineedanap was the difficulty. I’m not sure why crosswords appropriated the term “rebus” for multiple letter boxes. It would be fine for the occasional puzzle that uses a word such as “star” which can be drawn in the box and is an actual picture - but to use the term for numbers, playing cards etc. seems like a stretch. Perhaps puzzlers can invent a better term for multiple letter boxes.

I will not complain about the use of tmz or orpahnblack and would appreciate it if commenters would stop harping about clues both ancient and contemporary. It’s supposed to be fun and if you know every reference every time you’re probably kidding yourself.

I will use my real name as I am starting to get a better feel for the blog and Rex’s occasional dyspepsia, which is overcome in the end by his love for crosswords. I will probably regret it the first time my name is used in one of those endless political kerfuffles.

spacecraft 10:50 AM  

I had to get out of the NW before seeing an actual WORD (by itself) as an entry. I still don't know why I bothered to continue, but I did, just wanting to see how bad a BADIDEA can get. I mean, come on now: look at that NW. SAM, didn't you look at that and say to yourself "I can't send THAT in!"?

Even the good fill is a bunch of downers: besides BADIDEA we have RAINDELAY, the ZIKAVIRUS and the dark (though well done) ORPHANBLACK. SEPTA to me will always be the public transit system in Philadelphia (SouthEast Pa. Transit Authority). The great SANTANA is a welcome island in a sea of garbage. Double bogey.

Burma Shave 12:44 PM  


is a BADIDEA", says MOMMA,
"That ACNEd SCRUM just ADDS mayhem,


rondo 1:00 PM  

Yeah, hard to find a real word in the NW, and yet another vanity allowed for SAM. There have been several lately. Gotta be Will's clue for 5d IVAN. I've got no KNOX on the rest of it.

The NBA's MAVS and NETS are on the same line.

Country songbird MIRANDA Lambert deserves a yeah baby, but Carlos SANTANA is the real musical star.

I got nothing more SALIENT to ADD. INEEDANAP.

leftcoastTAM 4:04 PM  

Made relatively short work of the East, which was confidence-building. The West put me in my place.

Among the put-downs were TMZLIVE, MWAH....., BHUTANI, CASABA, ORPHANBLACK, and MEERKAT. And OAR, randomly singled out as a rebus conjunction, didn't resonate.

A bit aggravating, I have to say.

Diana, LIW 6:59 PM  

Put me firmly in the camp that knows SEPTA as the mass transit of Philadelphia.

Too many unknowns for me to finish cleanly -oh well.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords, Packing up for Washington!

strayling 7:34 PM  

Anyone else buy Mickey's malt beer for the rebuses under the caps, OAR is it just me?

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