Gossipy schoolmate on Facts of Life / SAT 2-9-19 / Servant to Queen Amidala / Manor occupant of yore / Prefix with spore sperm / Popular 1950s vehicle making comeback in 2010s / Lucky Rabbit's name in early Disney films / Tree pictured in van Gogh's Starry Night / Chinese snack with marblelike patterns on outside

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Constructor: Ryan McCarty

Relative difficulty: Medium (7:54)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: TEA EGG (14D: Chinese snack with marblelike patterns on the outside) —
Tea egg is a typical Chinese savory food commonly sold as a snack, in which a boiled egg is cracked slightly and then boiled again in tea, and sauce or spices. It is also known as marble egg because cracks in the egg shell create darkened lines with marble-like patterns. Commonly sold by street vendors or in night markets in most Chinese communities throughout the world, it is also commonly served in Asian restaurants. Although it originated from China and is traditionally associated with Chinese cuisine, other similar recipes and variations have been developed throughout Asia. (wikipedia)
• • •

This one WHIFFS pretty bad, which makes this week's themelesses a complete disappointment for me. I rely on these days to be good. Great even. Yesterday's was more a matter of taste—the puzzle wasn't empirically bad, it just missed me. Today's puzzle, however, has real problems. Constructors have to stop convincing themselves that stuff like IBANKS and CSCALE are good. I have seen IBANKS precisely once before, and I complained about it then, and I'm doing it again, both because it's not a great abbr. and because I want to soak in the world of investment banking about as much as I want to bask in the presence of the white supremacist terrorist organization that is the NRA (19A: Its PAC is the Political Victory Fund). What the hell kind of "comeback" is the TWO-TONE CAR making?! Where?! Also, further, what the hell is a TWO-TONE CAR?! I mean, I can infer that it is a car whose surface is painted two different colors, but honestly, that answer, especially as one of only two very narrow ways out of the NW corner, can go beeeeeeeeeep itself. Who's up for a fun day out of BAYONETING!? (a ridiculous present participle). The ABS are SCULPTED? I'm squinting up my nose at that. WASHBOARD ABS is a tight phrase. SCULPTED ABS ... is just a phrase. DESSERT crossing DESERT? Make better choices!

But IBANKS and CSCALE are both *gold*, however, compared to the stuff that's waiting for us in the SW. DOAFAVOR teeters on the edge of stand-alone-worthiness and is definitely about to fall off. THE NILE is superdumb with the definite article. INAREA is the worst thing in this grid and possibly any grid. And "WHAT A LOSER!" is just mean. More: TORCH RELAYS are in no way "preparations." They "prepare" nothing. Antecedence is not "preparation." UDON NOODLE is redundant, and also hilarious in the singular. There's more, but I'm done. So grateful I know something about baseball, as INDIANS really helped me out. Same thing with Dickens / "Little DORRIT" (2D: Dickens's "Little ___"). But mostly I solved this from the corners in. Got NW, then nothing; NE, then nothing; SW got me TORCH and then BUSHLEAGUE, which then got me the SE corner. And finally "WHAT A LOSER!" gave me the "S" I needed to see CYPRESS, which finally give me real traction in the center (where I finished).  Oh well at least I learned what a TEA EGG is. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld (Twitter @rexpaker / #NYTXW)

PS speaking of MEN (20A: Some couples)—we are now up to 36 puzzles by MEN to just 4 by women for the year 2019. 90% MEN. Ninety. Percent.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:05 AM  

Top third easy, middle tough, bottom medium...so, medium?

nypd before FDNY.

A tad bland, but KINDA liked it more than @ Rex did.

JJ 12:30 AM  

I stared at NINE for probably the same amount of time it took Rex to do the puzzle. When I figured it out, there was no "Aha"--more like "Sheesh"

Anonymous 12:30 AM  

Challenging, but joyless.

Loren Muse Smith 12:58 AM  

It’s been years since a themeless whipped me this bad. I mean, I gave up hardly even halfway in. Northwest was fine – bam bam bam done. But I tell ya – after that, it was hit and miss, mainly miss.

“butchering” for BAYONETING.
“cave” before CEDE

Rex – I kept writing in UDON NOODLE and then erasing it ‘cause it felt weird. But we say spaghetti noodle. The redundancy is what struck me- not the singular. I can think of lots of scenarios where talking about just one could work. When I tripped over a dried udon noodle stuck to his kitchen floor, I knew he was a slob. Those noodles are thick, man. Too much soft ooky starchy globness for me.

Never even considered C SCALE. “Scales” and “etude” yes. And I was a pretty serious piano player, could play The Maple Leaf RAG like nobody’s business. And it was the original undumbed-down arrangement. You have my permission to be impressed. Sigh.

I’ve given serious consideration to the claim, “antecedence is not preparation.” I like that. Buying a tree and wrapping presents is Christmas preparation; kissing someone under the mistletoe is not. Ok. The word preparation implies an act necessary for some (event) to happen. But if the Olympics can’t start unless that TORCH is LIT, then I dunno. Could be considered preparation.

I rather liked the DESERT/DESSERT cross. For the cake-taking thing, I was so committed to some kind of cool Tupperware holder that even when DESSERT CASE fell, I was thinking that I hadn’t realized that thing was called a CASE and not a carrier. Then I was like duh. The dessert case at a grocery store. Once I was standing in front of one, completely buying in to the idea that all that sexy stuff was delicious, when I noticed a sign in front of some cupcakes with plastic clowns stuck on top: “Character Cupcakes.” As I was processing this, the snooded lady asked if I was ready. I said, Yeah – do y’all have any character cupcakes? She said no. So I just went, Ok, I’ll just check at another store. Thanks anyway. Wonder if she ever noticed the sign.

I’ll just leave you with this gem of a headline, speaking of RAGs.

Anonymous 1:18 AM  

"ARTOODEETOO" is pretty iffy even if the clue were good, but who the hell thinks of it as Queen Amidala's robot before Luke or Anakin's?

puzzlehoarder 1:19 AM  

Great solve. This was five loosely connected puzzles and of course it solved that way. The NW and SE corners we're Wednesday easy. I did the NW first of course and going from there to the middle felt like stepping out of the kiddie pool right into the deep end. I had DESERT at 24D but only TWO- at 10D. When SIXPACKABS didn't fit at 32A I felt over my head. STOP didn't work at 25A but it could be CMON. The only C-tree I could come up with for 25D was CYPRESS. That was my first middle entry. Off that P and the S of DESERT SCULPTEDABS went right in. I suspected EDIT at 11A so DIATRIBE went right in for 12D. After much clue reading I came up with THENILE and WHATALOSER. Even with HEF in place I couldn't crack the SW corner or get any real traction in the middle.

Giving up on the hard stuff I quickly filled in the SE. It didn't give away TASSEL but it got me BUSHLEAGUE. Still that middle wouldn't crack.

I had to solve the NE first to finally get enough leverage for the middle. Of all things to be holding that NE up it was ENDO. That little bit of ese 101 turned out to be a stumbling block today. Once I had that even the bizarre TEAEGG couldn't slow things down.

I finished in the SW. I was thinking royalty for 56A right up until SERF was forced on me. As you can guess by the excessive detail I really enjoyed this puzzle.

Anonymous 1:27 AM  

Why is FIVE the answer to “orange ball”? Help!

Phaedrus 1:33 AM  

Huh, I liked it. Pretty ironic that Rex can whine about the meanness of “what a loser” when he’s a complete A-hole in probably 75% of his reviews.

Larry Gilstrap 2:28 AM  

The corners were populated way before the center. TEA EGG crossing a character from a show that was on TV for how many seasons? And every rack of billiards balls is consistently colored? News to me. Just enough stuff that was within range or discernible and the thing was filled.

Once on a lark in the early 2000s, I flew to Anchorage on the premise that I would drive around the Kenai Peninsula. The rental agency bestowed one of their ALEROS on me. Nothing about that vehicle seemed Grand Am. Alaska, on the other hand, was spectacular.

This Californian wonders why we had to trek all the way to Berlin for a GOLDEN BEAR, but perhaps McCarty is loyal to Stanford. Nice tough Saturday. A puzzle I could trust.

Thomas 2:39 AM  

Think pool balls- #5 is orange.

Anonymous 2:54 AM  

@Anonymous 1:27

Clue: think billiards

jae 3:10 AM  

@Larry - you may be confusing Grand Am with Trans Am.

Anonymous 4:39 AM  

Tea egg was the first answer I filled in. Learned about them 40 years ago in a Chinese cooking course here in Geneva.
Make them quite often as they’re delicious!

Anonymous 5:10 AM  

Is it weird that I commonly solve Saturdays like this one fair and square, but I rarely ever solve Sunday puzzles without resorting to Google?

I thought this was reasonably OK, but it wasn't lively at all. Finished in average time with little fuss. The northeast was the only place that gave me much trouble. But once I had DIATRIBE and TEAEGG, it all fell into place.

OffTheGrid 6:32 AM  

Very disappointing Saturday. I like difficult but many clue/answers today had very dubious connections. I thought "Uh, well, ok I guess" a lot, with no real "aha" moments. Rex is right again.

Jtull 6:36 AM  

The Indians were in the World Series in 2016. Please explain how they have the longest World Series drought.

Lewis 6:46 AM  

Where my brain differs from Rex's: 1. "TWO-TONE CAR" was a common phrase in my youth; I easily plopped this answer in after a few crosses 2. I also plopped in SCULPTED ABS with the C and ABS 3. DO A FAVOR sounds very stand-alone to me, as in doing a favor for someone 4. Christie wrote Death On The Nile, which I think justifies THE NILE

This puzzle has 13 answers not used in the NYT before, my favorite being SCULPTED ABS, TEA EGG, and TWO TONE CAR, and I'm amazed that the common DO A FAVOR and ESPY AWARDS are on this list. From BAYONETING down to WHAT A LOSER is essentially a quintuple stack, and I bet Ryan spent eons finding interlocking answers answers for that. At a spare 66 words, the grid is remarkably clean.

But most importantly, how was the solve? I love puzzles that make me guess answers and check crosses, sometimes checking crosses of those crosses, all without writing anything down. That's the kind of crossword grunt work -- where my brain breaks into a sprint -- that makes it come alive. This puzzle gave me several of these rushes, so oh yes, this was an excellent solve, one that left me in a state of contentment. And thank you for that, Ryan!

Hungry Mother 7:15 AM  

Another Saturday, another slog, another solve. No complaints.

Matthew G. 7:23 AM  

I originally had IN ARCS for {How plots are measured}--as in the plots of stories--and I liked it as a clever misdirect. When I found out realized that it was just IN AREA, I was pretty disappointed. That pretty much sums up my reaction to much of this grid.

I was busy yesterday so I just did Friday and Saturday back to back, and I agree with Rex that this was a pretty disappointing week for themelesses.

Jonathan Alexander 7:44 AM  

The one and only thing I liked about this puzzle was the juxtaposition of BUSHLEAGUE and ESPYAWARDS (I mean, what bush league play gets an Espy?).

The rest, awful for many of the reasons Rex noted.

Jonathan Alexander 7:46 AM  

Victory in the World Series is implied in the phrase I guess?

QuasiMojo 7:49 AM  

Tough Saturday outing. But I managed to finish this Aargh-Rated puzzle in roughly normal time. No cheating too. I groaned when I wrote in that absurd robot’s name. And CMON was supposed to be a HAHA moment. Thats what I wrote. I don’t think of C’mon in this sense. “You slay me!” Etc. Like JAE said I was sure of TBIRDS before ALEROS (never seen one) because I had Trans Am ingrained in my brain. I wonder if there is a Cis Am? Apparently the statue in Piccadilly is “erroneously” referred to as EROS. It’s actually ANTEROS. Accd’ing to Wikipedantry. And I always thought it was PUCK!

Aren’t Torch Relays part of the Olympics? I had Torch Routes at first because that sounds like preparation work. This whole puzzle felt like work. Not play, nor fun. Whatever, this was not a winner. I had hoped for some wittier clues and punchier fill. Yes Agatha Christie set a book on The Nile, but I was hoping the answer was Library or Cottage or something amusing because that was her genre. I also wanted Delivery Van for the cake carrier. I guess I prefer thinking of a lot of desserts, not just one. Off to the bakery to find this elusive AROMA constructors are always citing.

fkdiver 7:52 AM  

My first car was a '56 Dodge Coronet in two-tone blue. Grow up, Rex; just because it isn't on your personal radar doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Learn something for a change.

Amy Yanni 8:05 AM  

Not in my wheelhouse, not even in my doghouse (& I have only cats & a bird). Time for a run.

Robso 8:40 AM  

I finished and had to think about why “orange ball” was FIVE. Was sure I had it wrong—great clue. Also “field of flowers,” “small square,” “Best Play and Best Moment.” Was also a little surprised by the “Some couples” clue, since it seems rare that the NYT clues reference gay couples as an accepted thing—or is that just me?
For me, overall this was tough but do-able, just how I like it.

Hartley70 8:58 AM  

This was a toughie for me. The NW and SE went in quickly but the remainder of the puzzle was a giant swath of trouble. I needed two stabs to finish, at 3am and 8am, and a BAYONET would have been useful. I actually have one in the house but I didn’t want to get out of bed.

I actually knew who TOOTIE was although I am the wrong age to have watched the show. I wanted a DESSERT tray or cart since I like to have my cake accessible, no glass between us. @Tita came to my house in a little TWOTONECAR that was beyond cute! (A big white stripe counts, yes?)

The only bomb for me was INAREA. That got a raspberry as I filled it in. Otherwise I had a good (long) time.

Unknown 9:22 AM  

Some kind of basketball team metonym, akin to "nine" for baseball, maybe? SMH. Similarly mystified by NINE for "small square" at 16A. A puzzle where, even after completion, leaves the solver saying "huh?" is by some measure -- perhaps the fundamental measure -- a failure.

pabloinnh 9:27 AM  

Some dreck, some forcings, but my favorite puzzle in a long time, because of TORCHRELAYS, and here's why:

Before the 2002 Winter Olympics, the torch relay happened to pass through our little part of the world. Nominations for torch bearers were submitted, and my wife, unbeknownst to me, nominated me. Since she is a wonderful writer, I found myself jogging along carrying the OLYMPIC TORCH on a frosty January morning with people cheering and so on. Probably The Coolest Thing I Have Ever Done.

So Mr. McCarthy, thanks for the memories.

Dorothy Biggs 9:27 AM  

How does NINE equal "Small square?"

Also, had BAYONETING been a word I would be asked to spell, I definitely would have spelled it with two Ts.

Didn't like WHATALOSER. No one but a bully would say that about anyone. Sure, people come to be down on their luck, or struggle, or maybe even just get in the habit of making poor choices...but everyone is redeemable. Only assholes would pass some kind of public judgment on someone by saying "What a loser." Even the clue is bad. If you insist that it is a phrase worthy of being in a crossword, then clue it as a terrible way bullies talk to others.

Also, how does a DESSERTCASE "take" a cake?

Nancy 9:34 AM  

I was so deathly afraid that the "hospital attachment" (1A) was going to be some sort of ghastly TUBE. I was so relieved when it turned out merely to be an ID BRACELET.

Didn't realize that TWO TONE CARs were back. Are they as pretty as the ones from back in the '50s? Our family had a really cool yellow-and-black Buick. (Well, we thought so, at least). We dubbed it "The Bumblebee".

Re 50A: I assume there's a German phrase for GOLDEN BEAR if it's a German award? The only GOLDEN BEAR I know is Jack Nicklaus.

I had S-------ABS, and spent the whole puzzle wondering what kind of ABS they would be? SOLID ABS? SUPER-DUPER ABS? SHINY ABS (from all that oil)? Oh, yes, SCULPTED ABS! The proud possession of those who will never be found hitting the DESSERT CASE.

Terrific puzzle. I worked hard to solve it, and was relieved when I didn't need to cheat on TOOTIE. Thanks to TWO TONE CAR, I didn't have to.

Anonymous 9:35 AM  

3 squared is Nine

Unknown 9:35 AM  

How, exactly is an Alero a _competitor_ of a Grand Am? Pontiac and Oldsmobile are both of the GM family, so Taurus or Stratus would be appropriate. Only because of crosswords do the Alero, Alf, and Brian Eno escape oblivion.

Jett 9:36 AM  

It must be hard for you to not be recognized as the genius you know you are.

Anonymous 9:36 AM  

“Square”as in math; 3x3 is a square=9.

SouthsideJohnny 9:37 AM  

@Dorothy - 3 x 3, e.g. “three-squared” equals 9. The swquence gets larger from there - 16, 25, 36, 49, 64 . . .

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

Square as in math, 3x3=9.

Teedmn 9:42 AM  

I'm with @Hartley70 in having the NW and SE fill in and then having to take stabs at the rest. I finally finished in the NE - I had EGG in early crossing RAG but had to get the SCULPTED ABS (I wish) before DIATRIBE plopped in. TOOTIE? Right.

I got THE NILE from the H of WHAT A LOSER so I don't agree with Rex there. My big mess was "pane" as the sheet of 54A along with my big orange ball of FIrE. Pool and FLOE as the ice sheet eventually made that sector good.

___-eared - put the O in and see if the dog or the LOP-eared rabbit shows up. So far I haven't seen anyone gripe about FDNY. Is that the order they usually go? I splatzed in NY_D and waited for the F or P to show up...and waited...I didn't think FDNY would FLY but it must be just me.

Once again I must thank my mother for buying all those lots of books at auctions. She came home with a complete set of Charles Dickens paperbacks and which was my early introduction to the classics. Little DORRIT was my start today (though I don't think I have read that one.)

Ryan, this was a perfectly good Saturday, no WHIFFS.

Unknown 9:43 AM  

Had BYAREA, crossing ATBATS, a faux pas that screwed me for a long while...

Anonymous 9:45 AM  

Three squared is nine.

Fansince1939 9:46 AM  

The number 5 ball in billiards is orange. Nine is 3 squared: a “small(number) square”

GHarris 9:46 AM  

Cypress was a gimme that went in right after I aced the NW. The SE was also a lark even though I had to guess at Oswald. The middle and the NE were a bit of a slough and I’m guessing that nine has something to do with square root?

Hartley70 9:47 AM  

@pabloinnh, why can’t we get a like button here? That must have been such a thrill!

Unknown 9:48 AM  

Proposed clue for WHATALOSER: Presidential tweet.

Fansince1939 9:49 AM  

Finished with the same feelings. Proper Saturday solve.

GHarris 9:50 AM  

Takes the cake in the sense that a restaurant displays its desserts, especially cake, in a case on the counter.

Fansince1939 9:52 AM  

Happy with “theNile”, but would’ve been happier with “village”

Bob Mills 9:52 AM  

The Indians have the longest World Series drought as far as winning it is concerned. The clue was poorly written. It should have been "the longest victory drought in a World Series."

Uncle Alvarez 9:53 AM  

Look at Trump—WHATALOSER

Unknown 10:08 AM  

So is four, and sixteen -- and one, for that matter. Why, specifically, NINE? And I'm a math major...

Crimson Devil 10:10 AM  

Wow. Busted my chops, but I spose thas what Saturdays are for. Knew grand total of ‘bout half dozen answers. In spite of fair share of misspent youth in dim pool halls dining on pickled eggs, sausages and Slim Jims, didn’t even conjure up #5 ball !
Off=Less?? Small square nine ? Four maybe. Indians’ been to WS a few yrs ago, champs? No.
Best thing today is Post headline.

Nancy 10:21 AM  

Yes, @Teedmn, FDNY is the correct and recognized initialism.

@pabloinnh (9:27)-- Wow! Yes, I'm sure your wife is a terrific writer, but she must have had something to write about -- something that made you a strong and convincing choice for TORCH bearer. I also just looked up the 2002 Winter Olympics, wondering where in NH they were held, and it turns out they were held in Salt Lake City. So why was this ceremony in NH? Or were you @pabloinslc back then? Anyway, @pablo -- SPILL! You're perhaps a world-class runner? You have unusually strong arms that you enjoy holding high in the air? You're not afraid of fire? You're completely impervious to the coldest of weather? (Well, of course you are, you have to be, living in NH!) Anyway, congrats on your Olympics coupI was so deathly afraid that the "hospital attachment" (1A) was going to be some sort of ghastly TUBE. I was so relieved when it turned out merely to be an ID BRACELET.

Didn't realize that TWO TONE CARs were back. Are they as pretty as the ones from back in the '50s? Our family had a really cool yellow-and-black Buick. (Well, we thought so, at least). We dubbed it "The Bumblebee".

Re 50A: I assume there's a German phrase for GOLDEN BEAR if it's a German award? The only GOLDEN BEAR I know is Jack Nicklaus.

I had S-------ABS, and spent the whole puzzle wondering what kind of ABS they would be? SOLID ABS? SUPER-DUPER ABS? SHINY ABS (from all that oil)? Oh, yes, SCULPTED ABS! The proud possession of those who will never be found hitting the DESSERT CASE.

Terrific puzzle. I worked hard to solve it, and was relieved when I didn't need to cheat on TOOTIE. Thanks to TWO TONE CAR, I didn't have to..

@Hartley (8:58) -- Funny post!

mmorgan 10:22 AM  

I found this to be a challenging and rewarding puzzle, and enjoyed it a lot. Interesting solving pattern — NW, then SE, then NE, then SW, then middle. Well, I thought it was an interesting solving pattern.

Just read Rex and found out why I should have hated this. But I didn’t!

GILL I. 10:24 AM  

I don't like to think this way but the puzzle was annoying me. So little traction; I come to expect that in a Saturday but the reward, when finally getting an answer, was minimal.
My only smiles today were plunking in Little DORRIT and getting SCULPTED ABS (I really wanted STUD MUFFINS). Man, did I have to work hard. And speaking of, what a strange way to clue MEN. Are we trying to be all current and hip? I'm looking at that NRA MEN TOOTIE across and thinking yeah, that's about right. TOOTIE?
TEA EGG took some thinking. I've eaten them because I'll try anything once. They're quite good. Think hard boiled egg with additional tea and spice flavors.
ALERO wasn't coming to me as I read the clue as "competitor of arms." Dang, that center was confounding me no end. Who competes with arms? Someone BAYONETING? A TORCH carrier? A LOSER? OSWALD?
I felt like the poor guy who WHIFFS. Speaking of baseball...@Big Daddy from yesterday...thanks for the southpaw definition. Now I know. Do they do a lot of whiffing?
Hey...FLY crosses TWA. Loved The Aviator. Sad ending....
Hey @pablo. You must have a picture of your good deed somewhere? Make it your avatar so we can enjoy. Enhorabuena, amigo...

Sir Hillary 10:29 AM  

Very hard, which I like on Saturday, but a mixed bag in terms of enjoyment.

The Good
-- BUSHLEAGUE. My dad used to call me that when he thought I wore my baseball stirrups too high or asked for white cleats.
-- FDNY. Talk about true heroes.
-- The Cleveland INDIANS next to [DIA]TRIBE.
-- TORCHRELAYS. The Olympic torch passed through my Orange County town in 1984. It was really fun to go and watch.
-- My inner MATHLETE found it humorous that NINE, as clued, is entry 16, also a small square.

The Bad
-- I'm usually unbothered by these things, but BAYONETING was not what I wanted to see during breakfast, particular over SCULPTEDABS. Put those two together, and something's gotta give.
-- THENILE and its annoying article.
-- EEO. I hope that ONEDAY we will never see this again in a puzzle.
-- WHATALOSER of a clue for OSWALD. How effing obscure can you get? Just reference Lee Harvey in a Saturday-ish way and move on.
-- Jack Nicklaus is pissed at being denied a place in the clues. Especially today, when the AT&T is being played on the Monterey Peninsula, although not at CYPRESS Point as it used to be.
-- @Rex's absurd review, a sadly predictable DIATRIBE. IBANKS is definitely a real term, despite his dislike of the profession. Seeing IBANKS in a puzzle means he has to "soak in the world of investment banking"? Oh brother.

The Ugly
-- The amount of time I stared at ----DR before the headslap realization that it was RATEDR.
-- My DESSERTCArt error. Looks small, but it was a massive hindrance.

Bourbon Street 10:30 AM  

@Teedmn. The correct order is FDNY and NYPD. I made the same mistake as you originally until I realized that FLY was the only across clue that would work.

Lewis 10:33 AM  

@sir hillary -- Great catch with NINE on 16!

Nancy 10:33 AM  

Why was did my 2nd comment bleed into my 1st comment? That's never happened before. Hope it never happens again. Sorry for the repetition everyone!

Anonymous 10:35 AM  

CSCALE is not a piano beginner's exercise. The full scale with crossing the thumb comes later. Maybe an early exercise, but definitely not beginner's.

Nancy 10:35 AM  

Why did my 2nd comment bleed into my 1st comment? That's never happened before. Hope it never happens again. Sorry for the repetition, everyone.

Rube 10:36 AM  

Pool. Awful puzzle. Rec 100 pct right

Jillybean 10:41 AM  

Some blah fill ( and some really bad fill) but loooove having a tougher puzzle, so all good to me. Really wanted dessert cart.

Roo Monster 10:42 AM  

Hey All !
Letting out a "D'oh!" at not grokking the Orange Ball as a Billiards ball! Shows that it's been a while since I played it. Need to get back to it, even though I never was the best at it. Wanted FIrE first, not exactly a ball, but it is orange(y).

Fifty six people have answered the Small square clue. Theoretically, 1 is the smallest square, 4 would be next, then 9. So, 9 is a Small square, though not the smallest. Reading into it too much? Thought so...

Did enjoy this puz, typically tough for me like a normal SatPuz. Did use Check Puz feature today, otherwise it would take me way too long to complete! Wanted blaire for TOOTIE at first, it's been a minute or two since that show was on. Had fiEROS for ALEROS. Thinking of older Grand Ams. My sister had a 90's Grand Am, it was a zippy little thing. Don't associate an ALERO as a competitor, but what do I know of 2000's sedans?

I KINDA didn't like the DESERT/DESSERT cross, but hey, if it makes for a clean puz, so be it. Who wouldn't want a DESERT in the DESSERT? Well, maybe water first...

@Lewis, you missed the fact of the many OO's. 5 of them. Not one ROO, though. There's a BOO, three TOOs, and a NOO. Another 5 F'er today. Way to step up your game, constructors!

"___ man, you're killing me!" Better clue for CMON? Or am I A LOSER? Can't correct anyone, until I get a puz published ONE DAY. Until then I keep WHIFFing. Call me a BUSH LEAGUE constructor. Har.

TWO TONE CAR, I don't really see too many floating around these days. Maybe they will be big in the 2020's? That clue was KINDA off in it's wording. I was thinking of a specific car. "What 50's car is making a comeback?" thought I. "The Tucker would be cool if it came back." Anyone remember the Tucker? Way cool car, advanced for the time. Only made 51 of them, all hand built, until the Big Three forced him out of the car business. All 51 are accounted for today, and if they do come up for sale, they are around 1 million dollars!

NRA MEN and FLY TWA in consecutive crosses. DESERT REEF and ONE DAY BY NOW Downs. A BLAST to find stuff like that. Or is it just me? Probably.


Carola 10:42 AM  

Tough. And what I like in a Saturday puzzle, with moments of despair held just below the I-give-up threshold. Favorite clues: Field of flowers and Small square; favorite entry: DIATRIBE.
I was helped by knowing more of the proper names - DORRIT, THE NILE, EROS, TWA, GOLDEN BEAR, CYPRESS, RAG - than I didn't - TOOTIE, LENA, OSWALD, while geting slowed down by oEO, TWO-dOor CAR, stOp (CMON), and nerf (FIVE).
Re: STARES: that would be looking at plots measured IN A REA and taking a stab as BAY ONE TING: I had to check all the crosses on that one before the word finally snapped into focus.

CS 10:50 AM  

What Rex said. Not fun.

David 10:58 AM  

Math Major up there, why nine? Maybe because there were four spaces to put letters in? Just a guess.

The name of the book is "Death on the Nile", so y'all have to let go of the use of the article.

A vehicle which made a comeback is the Mini Cooper; a paint job which made a comeback is two tone.
Isn't the Alero the car which finally tipped Oldsmobile into bankruptcy?

Oh dessert case, c'mon over here and take this cake please!

It helps to read the clues correctly; I was looking for a novel option and New York's harvest for the longest time...
need more coffee I guess

sloggy for me; finished with a "meh"

Suzie Q 10:59 AM  

Your hint for "C scale" is the word beginner in the clue. The C scale has no flats or sharps.
This might not be a memorable puzzle but I enjoyed the victory.

I recently rented "Little Dorrit". Highly recommend it.

Banana Diaquiri 11:00 AM  

in the goode olde dayes, GM marques were produced in a price (value?) hierarchy:

you were supposed to trade up as you Yuppified your job. the top of the line were the Caddies with 3 foot tail fins.

Anonymous 11:01 AM  

New York’s Finest= NYPD. New York’s Bravest= FDNY. New York’s Strongest= DSNY (sanitation). New York’s Boldest= NYCD (correction).

QuasiMojo 11:02 AM  

Maybe I should have directed my Torch Relay question to @pabloinnh ! Cool story. Tbh the torch relay is my favorite aspect of the Olympics.

JC66 11:02 AM  

@Anon 10:08

Yes, ONE and FOUR are "small squares," too. But in Crossword land there are times when there's more than one correct answer. Think three letter shade tree.


Per wiki, the Olympic torch relay is the ceremonial relaying of the Olympic flame from Olympia, Greece, to the site of an Olympic Games. It was first performed at the 1936 Berlin Games,[1] and has taken place prior to every Games since.

Since the 2002 Olympics were held in Salt Lake City, it's understandable that the relay route was close to where @pabloinnh was living.

Bubblegum for the Brain 11:18 AM  

@Roo, you are not (theoretically or factually) correct. For example, 0.5 squared equals 0.25, and so on. In reality, there is no “smallest square”. If we confine ourselves to using only the sequence of Integers, then 9 is the third smallest of an infinite set of sqares, which may be characterized as “small” by any common usage of the term.

Carola 11:25 AM  

@Nancy, the German name of the award is Goldener Bär. The coat of arms of the city of Berlin shows a black bear in a shield with a golden crown.

girljosh 11:26 AM  

This one took a bit longer than usual for me because of FIATSPIDER for TWOTONECAR and DOASOLID for DOAFAVOR.

My oopses, but not an unpleasant puzzle. Actually, I generally find most of them pleasant and save my outrage for Twitter and other such nonsense.

Z 11:29 AM  

NW was easy. SE was easy. The NE to SW swath i had to hack away at. I finished most of the NE but having no idea what - - OTIE might be and having -ING, -BS, and -E wasn’t helping me get anything in the middle. Thought maybe TWO door CARs were making a comeback but that didn’t help. After lots of befuddledment I suddenly saw that -GUE could be BUSH LEAGUE. - - AREA to REEF to SERF/FLOE/FIVE (Oh, pool not politics) to HEF then the SW downs. Having the beginnings is always better than the ends and so the middle fell in quick order.

Hand up for scales and etudes before C-SCALE. Hand up for thinking letter dash word answers should only be used sparingly and tripling them is triply desperate (I-BANK, C-SCALE, RATED-R). Spelling out R2-D2, especially with the too precious by half “too” instead of “two,” lost its charm after its first appearance. C’MON, can we shelve it for a decade or three?

In short, I enjoyed the TASSEL tussle, but this could have been better.

My former Congressman passed away this week. I only met him once, but worked with his office on an initiative about 20 years ago. I always have had great respect for him. He left us this. I encourage everyone to take a couple of minutes to read it.

jb129 11:38 AM  

Hard & I agree with everyone who said "joyless."

jberg 11:39 AM  

I liked the idea of a NINE to FIVE puzzle, and I think I eventually solved it -- I had so many writeovers in the center that it's hard to be sure. I wobbled from C'MON to "stop" and back again, changing tartan to Madras and who knows what else before finally getting MOTTLE (Is that a pattern? Sounds like a verb to me -- guess I should look it up. OK, it's the third meaning, I can accept that on a Saturday.) I was sure taking a stab at would be some variation on 'giving it a go' and maybe Chicago had had that long drought. Then I got TASSEL, which seemed to confirm the 'it' part of that.

Meanwhile I had no idea who Queen Amidala was -- sounded like someone from "Black Panther" so I was looking for a KINDA African name there, even after getting the first OO from crosses. Then suddently I saw that we were looking for a different kind of field, put in BOTANY, and that fell into place.But I had no idea about LENA Headey, OSWWALD, or any of those awards in the SE. I mean, it was actually a nice feature to have them sandwiching the UDON, but I just didn't know about them, so it was tough.

@Gill, you win the blog today for your series of answers to "Who competes with arms?" Brilliant!

I thought having DESERT cross DESSERT was a feature, not a bug. But others may differ.

And AntEROS! Who knew? Well, I guess someone did, since someone had to write the Wikipedia article, but wow! Thanks, @Quasi, for educating us! (TBF, said article also says EROS and Anteros look just the same except for the details of their hair and their feathers, so I can forgive myself for my previous ignorance).

Final opinion -- I hated it while solving because of the proper names, and IN AREA and UDON NOODLE, but everything else was fair and challenging, and gettable, I guess (since I got it), so it was good in retrospect.

Masked and Anonymous 11:43 AM  

Cool theme. T-eggs included:
Meta on the letters C-I-R-I-D-R-D is still up for grabs, tho.

Like several others, I solved that NW area quicker than snot. NE got slightly harder, due to TOOTIE & the TEAEGG. The few filled-in letters thenafter left to spurt out into that witch-hunt of a ginormous center-area proved insufficient, as toenail-holds. So M&A high-tailed it for the other two corner areas. Etc. etc.

There were some real sneaky lil clues peppered thru-out this puppy. Them NINE and FIVE clues seem to have blown a few minds. CMON sure had a feisty {"You're killin' me!"} clue, which harvested a record number of incorrect M&A safe word responses, of which WHOA was my fave. Lost valuable nanoseconds, but did live to tell about it.

staff weeject pick: EEO. All-vowel version of "You're killin' me!"

Nice jaws of themelessness shady-block structures, on the E & W gridsides.

Thanx for the T-Eggs, Mr. McCarty. Enjoyed yer BOTANY clue's indirect ode to spring.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


Banana Diaquiri 12:08 PM  

#5 is not a billiard ball, it's a pool ball. billiard balls are (typically) 2 white and 1 red, larger table, and no pockets.

Unknown 12:09 PM  

I’ve worked on Wall St. 20 years & no one refers to “i-banks!” Further, it’s incorrect: They’re commercial banks, or c-banks for crosswords. Meaning, no says that—ever!!

Gretchen 12:14 PM  

What in the world is an orange ball...five?

Adam Frank 12:15 PM  

Really? I'm supposed to know which pool ball is which color/stripe? Give me a f*cking break! I had to come here to figure that out - I had the answer, and couldn't for the life of me understand why it was correct. I have some of the same issues @Rex did, although I didn't hate the puzzle nearly as much as he did. I got the NW, then the SE, then the SW, then the middle, and finally the NE. NINE I liked, actually, once I filled it in and reparsed the clue - I thought it was clever. And I learned what a TEA EGG is. The only GOLDEN BEAR I know is Jack Nicklaus; I tend not to watch the Berlin Film Festival, tbh. Agree on SCULPTED ABS and TORCH RELAY, which is the beginning of the Olympics, not preparation for them.

I did like WHIFFS, however. :)

Crimson Devil 12:18 PM  

Thanks for this link to Rep Dingell. Quite a tribute to quite a public servant. RIP

AW 12:25 PM  

How does 54D Sheet = FLOE?

Gene 12:32 PM  

So Rex refers to the long river of Egypt as NILE? Not THE NILE? Puh-lease. And getting the torch to where it needs to go is not preparation?

SJGR 12:35 PM  

Easiest Saturday in a long time. All of the clues were fair and fun. I’d like to show off my SCULPTEDABS in the TORCHRELAYS and then have some UDONNOODLE or just stare at the DESSERTCASE.

Roo Monster 12:43 PM  

@Bubblegum 11:18
Nice. The ole brain didn't entertain the notion of less-than-one number. Never claimed to be math-smart. :-) Speaking of which, whatever happened to mathgent?

Surprised no one corrected me on my DESERT in a DESSERT faux pas in my post. I imagine that's not very tasty, to have a DESERT in ones DESSERT. Har.


CDilly52 12:52 PM  

THANK YOU ALL!!!! I finally grokked the square root tho g, but really wanted the orange ball to be about basketball but since I am an obnoxiously dedicated Women’s NCAA and WNBA fan I had just never heard it so had no idea. Never learned a single thing about games in green felt tables with pockets other than the description in “Trouble” from “Music Man”.

CDilly52 12:58 PM  

Oh my goodness. 1:28+ but I finally did finish. Way out of my comfort zone, wheelhouse, solar system! @LMS, I fell into every single trap you did. I got part of every long answer and STILL couldn’t come up with solutions without slogging snail-like through all the downs and even then, t took waaaaay too long. Got kind of a kick out of DESSERT crossing DESERT, but it seemed as if that was a “goal” which (among many other things already mentioned) detracted from the experience. Or, Inam just inept-quite possibly that’s the ticket!!

pabloinnh 1:00 PM  

Few more TORCHRELAY things:

The 2002 Olympics were indeed in Salt Lake City and the torch started east and went west. It went through here at least in part because a lot of Olympic athletes have connections to the area. A few cool things were done with the torch here; it went off a ski jump and across the Connecticut River in a war canoe, for example. Torch bearers were chosen on the basis of community service (hi @Nancy) and, sadly, not on outstanding athletic ability. In my case it was recognition of 20+ years of volunteering as a youth coach for soccer and baseball. Hola @GILL I-yes there are photos, and a plaque and VHS tape, but I don't post that kind of thing. I still have my nice white track suit and ski hat and gloves, and could have had a swell replica of the torch, but it was way expensive and what the hell do you do with it?

Thanks to all for your interest and kind thoughts. Fun to relive all that stuff.

JC66 1:04 PM  

@Banana D

Pool is a form of pocket billiards,

Tim Aurthur 1:10 PM  

I worked in finance for over 30 years, and I can't remember ever hearing someone use the term IBANK. Nor have I heard CSCALE. A teacher will ask a student to play a C major scale or a c minor scale.

nyc_lo 1:11 PM  

Started off as “challenging” then segued into medium after I accepted how awful some of the answers were going to be. Once I saw it had to be TWOTONECAR based on crosses, I said “oh, so we’re going with any old made-up crap, I guess,” allowing me to see nonsense like CSCALE and DOAFAVOR. Which I really wanted to be DOASOLID for at least a bit of faux hipness. And minus 1,000,000 fun points for making me think about the NRA before my second cup. Boo. Boooooooo.

burtonkd 1:12 PM  

I thought the clue was a feature in that it let us know it was a team that ended its drought last year

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

Puzzle: hard but doable, liked it. Review: nasty, whiny, petty, hated it.

burtonkd 1:16 PM  

Think of a moving ice sheet

Anonymous 1:19 PM  

And we all know what pocket pool is.

Bob Vance of Vance Refrigeration 1:20 PM  

Where the hell has Stanley Hudson been?

Lynx 1:28 PM  

Ouch! The SW corner was excruciating for me between INAREA, and initially had SIRE instead of SERF, LAVA instead of FIVE -- Thanks to everyone who explained why 'orange ball' = FIVE.

Sally 1:31 PM  

Am happy that my amatuer status as a solver leaves me ignorant of all of the supposed flaws in this puzzle and let me just enjoy it. Had the pleasure of chipping away until it was solved, all without pissing and moaning about the content. Nice puzzle. Thanks, Ryan McCarty!

burtonkd 1:35 PM  

If we all buckle down and do our CHAIRBOGA, we can get SCULPTEDABS soon enough.

Funny story yesterday related to someone yesterday using that as an excuse to sit in the same chair for hours. I learned that horse-faring people in Asia make yogurt by keeping a satchel of milk and culture next to their bodies to keep it at the ideal temperature. It has been a goal to get one of those so that anytime I'm accused of sitting around doing nothing, I can counter with "Hey, I'm making yoghurt".

@LMS - First job I had as a professional pianist was to tour with the Boys Choir of Harlem. Second act began with a Ragtime Medley, so I played Maple Leaf Rag thousands of times between rehearsals and performances. Definitely not for beginners. Didn't see C scale right away, but certainly fair clue.

I love the clues that result in FIVE and NINE. I consider it a fail on my part with a great aha, not a fail on the puzzle for my not seeing it right away.

Is the "I" in IBANKS for investment or internet?

QuasiMojo 1:36 PM  

You are welcome @jberg. Good catch on “Nine to Five”!

JOHN X 2:07 PM  

OSWALD The Lucky Rabbit was involved in the greatest trade in sports history.

Oswald was created by the fledgling Walt Disney studio in 1927 for distribution by Universal Studios (later NBCUniversal), who also owned the copyright to the character. Universal maintained the copyright even as Disney grew into the large conglomerate it is today. It was the only Disney character owned by an outside entity.

In 2006, the NFL Monday Night Football game was moved from ABC-TV broadcast to ESPN cable-TV (both owned by Disney). The announcing team was the blue-chip pairing of Al Michaels and John Madden.

At the same time, NBC-TV (owned by NBCUniversal) was awarded the Sunday Night Football game for prime-time broadcast. NBC scooped up the entire ABC production team, including announcer John Madden, whose contract with Disney had just ended. However, Al Michaels still had some years left on his contract with Disney.

NBC wanted to keep the Madden/Michaels booth partnership intact. So Disney president Robert Iger offered NBCUniversal a trade:

Give us back all the rights to OSWALD The Lucky Rabbit and we'll let you have Al Michaels.

And they did. Thus it was so.

Also: This puzzle kicked my ass. DNF. I'll be drinking myself to death later this afternoon after I run some errands. In lieu of flowers please send money. Thanks.

JC66 2:28 PM  


Great story!

Crimson Devil 2:59 PM  

Good story: never heard of Oswald lucky rabbit. Miracle Michaels uttered one of more remembered lines in sports. Blue Devils gonna whomp Hoos this aft.

Lewis 3:22 PM  

@roo -- good catch on the os's!

chris b 3:22 PM  

Great fill except for ARTOODETOO (R2D2!). And awful, miserable clueing.

Slowest Saturday time in months.

Nancy 3:36 PM  

@JOHN X (2:07)-- Fascinating "insider" stories like your OSWALD The Lucky Rabbit story are one of the main reasons I read this blog. People here sometimes know the darndest things -- things you might not find anywhere else. Loved reading this!

Joe R. 4:59 PM  

Ugh. This puzzle was beyond miserable, to the point where I stopped even trying and just looked up some answers. Least fun I’ve had doing a crossword in months. I don’t even care enough to complain about all the specific things that were wrong with it, of which there were many.

Charles 5:05 PM  

Off = less is a weird one. Even though I've known the phrase "XX% off" all my life, it just didn't click.

Rainbow 5:24 PM  

I surmise that the general satisfaction with this puzzle reflects lowered expectations among solvers.

MattyG 5:44 PM  

DADA is babble? It's possibly junior's first bit of *coherent* speach. Sloppy cluing especially given there was no attempt at a misdirect.

ptck 5:50 PM  

Maybe a lip curl at times but I've never hated a puzzle.

Dale Wyttenbach 8:14 PM  

Hated it. Gave up after half way for many of the reasons Rex notes. Is there any editing at all?

Dale Wyttenbach 8:14 PM  


Anonymous 9:21 PM  

If you weren't able to finish the puzzle, it's because it was a hard puzzle and your solving skills weren't up to the challenge. Stop blaming the puzzle and admit you're not as good at this as you thought you were, Sheesh, what a bunch of whiners.

Todd 10:32 PM  

Does it ever occur to you that some of us might like sharing on crossword puzzles but don't carry or actually disagree with you on the NRA being a white supremacist organization. Why do you need to drag politics into the least political part of my day?

CDilly52 11:21 PM  

I don’t disagree at all. It was a very very tough solve for me, but when I actually DO solve, (and today started late last night, picked up early morning and I just had to keep coming back until after the noon hour) I am always happy.

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

@rex: Maybe the reason for the gender gap in NYT puzzle publishing is that women are too smart to work for such insanely low compensation...

warren howie hughes 4:32 PM  

Who the Dickens, pray tell moi, wrote "A Tale of Two Cities?"

Jack Lee 8:25 AM  

Am sad that STRIPPERABS are not a thing.

kitshef 11:08 AM  

Great puzzle. Tough but gettable. What a Saturday should be.

Unknown 11:42 AM  

Poorly worded. Maybe include champioship. Just wrong as written.

spacecraft 11:53 AM  

The Rexhate really came out today. What'd you ever do to him, Ryan? He didn't, thankfully, BLAST 39-down, possibly because of the benign--but much more obscure and thus Saturday-like--clue. But for the rest? Yikes!

I have no great love for the NRA, but it exists, and the letters sometimes DOAFAVOR for constructors. Let it go already, Fearless One. I think DESERT crossing DESSERT is KINDA cute; a little wordplay in the midst of a tough-ass puzzle.

This was a hard TEAEGG to crack, I knew DORRIT right off, but couldn't scope out anything else up there. Unlike many--but very much like ME--I found the NW to be the most resistant, and once again the last to fall.

RAG was also a gimme, but nothing built off that either. I finally got under way in the SE with ODS, FDNY (not NYPD: they're the "finest") and DOD LENA Headey. Wow, a non-Nicklaus GOLDENBEAR clue! Talk about your Saturday! "To the point" is one helluva clue for BYNOW; it borders on unfairness.

I don't love those letter add-ons either (IBANKS, CSCALE, RATEDR). Those are long-standing peeves with me; for a change OFL chimes in in agreement. But there's where my negative REVIEW ends. All the triumph points missing from yesterday showed up here--and I earned 'em! Birdie.

Burma Shave 1:02 PM  




5wksltr 1:48 PM  

I'm waiting for the day someone clues TWOS as BLUE BALLS just to see the reaction from this crowd.

rondo 2:41 PM  

If four was NINE, and mgm was RKO, and asyet was BYNOW, and TASSle was TASSEL, this puz woulda been LESS troublesome.

Remember when BOTANY 500 used to be so stylish?

There's a yeah baby LENA, but alas, no Ole nor Sven.

I can't go on a DIATRIBE like OFL since I KINDA liked it.

leftcoastTAM 5:21 PM  

To echo @rondo, I KINDA liked it, too, but also found it troublesome.

Notable troubles: TWO-TONE CARS and the crossing C'MON clued as "You're killin' me!". CSCALE wasn't fun either. Thought SCALEs would do just fine. FIVE for "orange ball"? Okay, I do pool, but wanted FIrE first.

Came close to finishing, but not close enough.

Plethora of PPP's peed me off.

Diana, LIW 7:47 PM  

Make my paint green!

So many unknown-to-me PPPs and a few odd phrases didn't even give me a toehold at first, and then came the dnf.

BAYONETING? DESSERTCASE? Really? Let's have a potluck - oh good, I'll try out my DESSERTCASE.


Over and out...

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

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