Largest steel producer in U.S. / FRI 12-20-19 / Early illustrator of Uncle Sam / X Men film spinoff starring Hugh Jackman

Friday, December 20, 2019

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Maybe on the hard side ... I solved it on a clipboard, on my couch, half-watching "Christmas at Dollywood" on the Hallmark Channel ... the grid is oversized, at any rate (16x15)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: FURMAN University (51A: University near the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains) —
Furman University is a private liberal arts university in Greenville, South Carolina. Founded in 1826 and named for the clergyman Richard Furman, Furman University is the oldest private institution of higher learning in South Carolina. It became a secular university in 1992, while keeping Christo et Doctrinae (For Christ and Learning) as its motto. It enrolls approximately 2,700 undergraduate students and 200 graduate students, representing 46 states and 53 foreign countries, on its 750-acre (304 ha) campus. (wikipedia)
• • •

C.C. (Zhouqin on her NYTXW bylines) is one of my favorite constructors. She had an APPLETURNOVER puzzle in the Universal Crossword (ed. David Steinberg) earlier this week that I thought was a near-perfect early-week gem: vertical themers inside of each of which was hidden the name of a variety of apple, running upward (i.e. so, literally turned over). She is prolific and has gotten demonstrably better over the past decade or however long she's been constructing. Glad to see her name on a themeless puzzle (Fri/Sat puzzles tend to be dominated by men even more than the themed stuff). This one played way off my wavelength—though distracted solving may have had something to do with that. Usually when I solve, I can't have any distractions. This time I was curled up on the couch w/ my clipboard and a cup of tea, just letting the Hallmark Christmas universe bathe me in its tepid festive glow. So I never really picked up any momentum with this one. Lots of trouble right away, not knowing SONYA, and thinking the [Alternative to white] was RED (it's RYE). Wanted ICY GLARE not STARE. Thought SHAHs were exclusively Persian and so had no idea about this Jahan guy at 20A. The real wall, though, was NUCOR, which I am literally seeing for the first time today. Never heard of it, never seen it. Hilarious (to me) that this can be true when it's the [Largest steel producer in the U.S.]. It's never been in the NYTXW before today, which seems bizarre if it's so major. But if it's the largest, then it's worthy. It's just ... it was five random letters to me. Also new to me, FURMAN, a name I know only from the OJ trial. But that's OK, sometimes you don't know stuff. Things were a little smoother for me in the eastern half of the grid, with "ABOUT THAT..." being the highlight for me. There weren't that many real highlights, and it was a bit trivia/name-heavy, but most of this was lively and solid. I will take it.
I got LASER PEEL pretty easily, though I have next to no idea what it entails (27A: Treatment that reduces wrinkles). I'm guessing they don't just shoot lasers at your face and then peel your face off to reveal a different (better?) face underneath. Stunned that they didn't do that cutesy linked-clue thing with AUSTIN (home of University of Texas) and LONGHORNS (the Texas mascot/team name). Seems like a missed opportunity. Not like any of the clues they're using are so great. Lotta lotta lotta names today. I won't list them all, but I'm guessing that at least some of these gave a bunch of solvers trouble: NUCOR, FURMAN, LOGAN, LAMAR, NAST, NANTZ, SONYA ... interesting that the names are more concentrated in the middle and western parts of the grid (which were also the parts where I was slower). The DEMI MOORE clue would've been great if DEMI MOORE had annnnything to do with singing. But she doesn't. So it's just weird. (18A: Actress whose full name can be made from the letters of DO RE MI)

Beyond my struggles with the proper nouns I didn't know, there weren't that many real holdups. Had SENATE RUN instead of SENATE BID (47A: Congressional campaign). Biggest comprehension problem came at 33D: "Really, now? Really!?" ("CAN YOU NOT!?"), largely because those don't seem equivalent at all, to me. Or, rather, the clue seems like it might be uttered in any number of contexts, in any number of tones, while the answer has a very narrow range of meaning, i.e. "Stop it!" I actually had "CAN YOU, NOW?" written in the grid for a bit, which continues my weird habit this week of writing in answer that contain clue words, i.e. that are obviously incorrect. This error led to trouble with 61A: Tricks (GETS), which I had as GEWS, which led me to seriously consider that this was some slangy term (like GEWGAWS?) that had somehow managed to elude me lo these 50 years. Then I had trouble with MPG, which I thought might be MPH ... (???) ... I've never been in an electric car, so I don't know what MPG is being ... converted ... to (55D: No. that's converted for electric cars). This miniature train wreck in the far SW was probably the most significant slow-down for me (outside of NUCOR). I think the main lesson today is, don't Hallmark and solve, kids. Turn the TV off. "Christmas at Dollywood" will still be there for you when the puzzle's over.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. NAST is Thomas NAST, an enormously important political cartoonist who used to appear in the crossword more often (52D: Early illustrator of Uncle Sam). His cartoons are responsible for popularizing the donkey and elephant as symbols of our two major political parties.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


polinium 1:50 AM  

Even my Materials Science Engineering PhD husband hadn't heard of NUCOR. Admittedly his doctoral research was in polymers, not metallurgy, but one would assume this would have come up somewhere in his career.

LASER PEELs seem terrifying. I'm fairly skincare obsessed and have seen reference to laser therapy for various derm conditions without having the same kneejerk reaction as when the word peel is attached.

Anonymous 1:54 AM  

Hello - I may be having some kind of senior moment: Can anyone explain what EVE (54A) has to do with its clue (1/2 vis-à-vis 1/3, say)? I don't get it.

Thank you!

jae 3:36 AM  

On the tough side for me too. My excuse is tres leches cake and scotch celebrating my brides birthday. A damn fine Fri.! Nice one CC.

I had some of the same trouble spots that Rex did...NUCOR was WOE...but I did know LAMAR, LOGAN, NAST, and NANTZ so, tough but doable.

kaoconno 5:44 AM  

January 2 is the eve of January 3.

Conrad 5:44 AM  

@Anon 1:54: I didn't get that either, but on reflection I think it refers to dates. 1/2 (January 2nd) is the "eve" of 1/3 (January 3rd). If anyone has a better explanation, I'm all ears.

SJ Austin 6:04 AM  

To get EVE, think of dates, not fractions. Nice bit of misdirection!

Never heard of Universal Crosswords before. Will check it out along with the USA Today, now that EA is editing that one.

Good puzzle today. I finished with one error because I could not not not see STAR and had to guess at the NAS_. It's a fair cross, not a Natick, just my stuck brain. Other than that, I was a couple minutes under my Friday average.

Kevin 6:18 AM  

Jan. 2 is the eve (day before) Jan. 3.

Doug M 6:30 AM  

I think it means that January 2nd is January 3rd Eve, a la Christmas Eve/Christmas.

Lobster11 6:35 AM  

Anonymous: Think of 1/2 and 1/3 as dates (month/day).

Unknown 6:38 AM  

I guess it's Jan. 2nd vis a vis Jan. 3rd.

bulgie 6:43 AM  

Not sure, but I conjecture it is hinting at "January 2nd is the EVE of January 3rd". I actually hope that's *not* it, because I think that is pretty weak.

HZ 6:48 AM  

@Anon...Think of it as calendar dates rather than fractions, January 2 (1/2) is the day before January 3 (1/3) and thus the EVE.

GILL I. 6:53 AM  

Not to mention NAST also invented Santa - or at least the creation of our modern version.
I don't think I've met a CC puzzle that I didn't like. She always makes me smile. My only bugaboos were NUCOR NANTZ . Yeah, a bit heavy on names, but, by golly, I got them through crosses.
Loved her DO RE MI DEMI MOORE. Somehow, I don't picture her in The Sound of Music.
My last entry was RED HERRING. I had monkey BAR at 15A. Didn't last long. I've never read The Onion so AREA MAN was a who? I guess it's a parody of the writing style of local newspapers....or so I've heard.
I never say ERITREA out loud because I don't know how to pronounce it.
This was most enjoyable.

Klazzic 7:01 AM  

EVE? Huh? Pretty tough but SLOGged through it for an eventual RUN scoring victory. My gawd, Rex. If I didn't know better, I would swear this blog was written by my Aunt Gertie: hate men, sipping tea while curled up on the couch watching a Hallmark movie. With a clipboard no less. Good to see your inner yin emerge after 50 years of suppression. Can I get you a biscuit with your tea, sweetie? How about a pedicure, dearest?


Anonymous 7:05 AM  

I took these to be referencing dates, ie; January 2nd as related to January 3rd.

Floyd 7:10 AM  

January 2 is the eve of January 3.

Michael A Macdonald 7:16 AM  

I think these are dates, so Jan 2 is eve of jan 3. Not a great clue imho

kitshef 7:16 AM  

The world has turned upside-down. I normally don’t like Agards, but yesterday I did. I normally like Burnikels, but today I did not.

Started to feel miffed around ABOUT THAT, but kept going only to run into OPEN THE DOOR, and the straw that broke the camel's back, CAN YOU NOT. Not sure if that was Will’s clue or CC’s, but it is poor.

SLOGS, ANNOYS, GRATES, MARES NEST … at least the puzzle knows itself.

Suzie Q 7:19 AM  

I really had to fight for this one. Some tricky clues worthy of late week puzzles kept this from being a total slog but I can't say it was much fun.
@ GILL.I, Nice cowgirl.

amyyanni 7:29 AM  

What a fine gift of a puzzle! Got the SW first thanks to PROGRESSO (wait for BOGO) and MPG. RED HERRING made me take out RED and TEND, fairly smooth sailing after that. Hope we all have easy days on this penultimate Friday.

Joaquin 7:32 AM  

CAR STEREOs were a thing when 8-track players were aftermarket items that created a MARES NEST in your car with all the big, clunky, cartridges. But we were cool!

Today we have “audio systems” that play music from the phone in your pocket. We’ve come a long way in a short time.

OffTheGrid 7:37 AM  

Well, we don't normally use EVE except as the day before a holiday. Yet that's a plausible explanation for 1/2 vis-a-vis 1/3 and likely what the constructor meant. My interpretation was that 1/2 is even and 1/3 is odd, hence EVE. So that's what my brain did. I take no responsibility.

OffTheGrid 7:44 AM  

I now see that only whole numbers are odd or even.

Charles Flaster 7:55 AM  

Loved it.
First heard of FURMAN in the fifties when they had two scoring leaders in the NCAA!!
Thanks CC

JJ 7:58 AM  

My Dad made a lot of money buying NUCOR stock. It split 2 or 3 times, so I bought some shares. It then went nowhere for years. I sold the stock, and it went up again—-the story of my stock purchasing life.
I stand in awe of CC’s puzzles, because I know she grew up speaking another language. She usually has such great wordplay with our native tongue, and the breadth of her knowledge always makes for a challenging puzzle that makes me smile while I’m doing it.
Can anyone imagine the rant had Bruce Haight introduced NUCOR to our world?

Lewis 8:04 AM  

Whew! CC took me to just where I want to be -- perplexed by devilish cluing and feeling like I'm on Jeopardy with unfriendly categories. This is where, for me, patience pays off and every square filled in feels like a paycheck. Can't ask for more than that, if the puzzle is fair, and the NYT puzzle inevitably is.

The most USUAL FARE among the answers, to me, was that backward ENO at 7D.

I always love taking a CC ride, whether the territory is smooth, or, like today, rough. Thank you ever so much, ma'am!

pabloinnh 8:22 AM  

First pass through this one revealed a puzzle from another zip code. Yikes. But chipped away and after what seemed like a long time, put down my pencil with a smile on my face. SAVAGE for RAVAGE and TEND for MIND were real speed bumps and NUCOR and LAMAR as clued total unknowns. The joy of discovery tempered somewhat by an I don't care.

Liked all the long answers ending in O, especially MANOAMANO, which is what this felt like. Thank goodness for FURMAN appearing in football scores and a familiarity with Jim NANTZ ("Hello friends.).

Nice one CC. Satisfying black diamond run.

Rube 8:33 AM  

The onion? Come on. This was a good puzzle but when areaman was the last thing to go in, I had no idea what that was. I have never read the onion. I don't subscribe to anything on line and I guarantee that I am more politically astute than the average reader of this blog. AREAMAN? Aristophanes? Ridiculous.

WhatDoing 8:38 AM  

Are we all really going to pretend that mare’s nest is a thing? It’s not.

mm 8:39 AM  

Liked Nantz-Endzone cross

QuasiMojo 8:40 AM  

NUCOR was the one thing today I did know. I really didn't enjoy this SLOG. I am rarely on this constructor's wavelength and too many of her idiomatic phrases seem just plain off to me. Or slightly flat. Her clue for Mano a Mano, for instance.

I'm also not sure a person can be a Red Herring. It's a situation or a plot element. The noted literary critic, Wikipedius, seems to agree with me.

"A red herring is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important question.[1] It may be either a logical fallacy or a literary device that leads readers or audiences toward a false conclusion. A red herring may be used intentionally, as in mystery fiction or as part of rhetorical strategies (e.g., in politics), or may be used in argumentation inadvertently."

Anonymous 8:41 AM  

Not sure if anyone's pointed this one out yet, but January 2nd is the eve of January 3rd.

Hartley70 8:46 AM  

This was a toughie. I had to come here to understand EVE. I couldn’t see past the fractions to the dates. It was a terrific misdirection. I didn’t know NUCOR or NANTZ. I was stuck on John Nance who comes on ABC News as an aviation expert I think. He has a cute little lisp in any case and is as reassuring as one can possibly be after an air disaster.

PROGRESSO OPENed THE DOOR for me today. The cluing was great, but I thought I’d be on the porch knocking forever.

Language Sleuth 8:49 AM  

It is. Look it up.

RooMonster 8:50 AM  

Hey All !
Ok, the Queen of Mondays decides to make a FriPuz? And make it 16 wide? AND make it this tough? It RAVAGEs the ole brain.

Some very nice clues and/or answers in here. Had trouble in every section. Writeovers aplenty, plus wrongness aplenty.

Red-RYE(thinking how clever was I to figure out wines), herA-RHEA, NANce-NANTZ (I accept no responsibility for that one), tSA-NSA, _oRMAN-FURMAN. OK, maybe not that many. :-)

Wrong, FWE (Finished With Errors) - KAli for KAMA(wondering what the hell a lARES NEST was), teND for MIND(shoulda seen RED HERReNGS, and another what the hell with AREA tAN[although AREA MAN is also a mystery]), hEwS for GETS( because MPh is defensible, and so is CAN YOU NOw). So a six-letter DNF/FWE. I'll take it!

One F. Try for more, CC! Har.

I'm OUTTA here.

Anonymoose 8:53 AM  

Help please. Is CC the constructor's real name? Why not ZB?

mmorgan 9:11 AM  

Tough, good, solid. Much I didn’t know, but fairly gotten from crosses. As always, her puzzles are superb.

Speedweeder 9:29 AM  

A leisurely solve with a cup of tea and a Hallmark movie results in a positive, rant-less review. Rex actually seemed to enjoy doing a crossword, a rare occurrence. I'd like to see more like this. Maybe speed-solving engenders cantankerousness.

"But that's OK, sometimes you don't know stuff" - so much better than the usual "is that even a thing?" reaction.

Z 9:47 AM  

I count 19 squares where I wrote over my original letter. Ergo, challenging. Hand up for wondering why US Steel didn’t fit. Looked up NUCOR (short for “Nuclear Corporation” apparently) to discover its roots are with old crossword friend RE Olds. It is kind of amazing that we haven’t seen NUCOR before.

I also learned that MRS GRASS shares lots of letters with PROGRESSO, but is one letter short.

FURMAN was a gimme. I have occasion to drive to Greenville SC from time to time and FURMAN is on the route. I had to pause on SHAH, but The Mughal Empire is often described as “Indo-Persian,” a fact buried somewhere in the deeper recesses. It seems a little unfair that RHEA can be goddess, actor, or bird, so herA had to be corrected.

Maybe name heavy, but a fun tussle.

@QuasiMojo - you’re thinking about it wrong. The nervous witness seems like they must be guilty but it’s always the calm butler. So the “nervous witness” trope is the RED HERRING.

@Anonymoose - Why is “Dick” the shortened version of “Richard?” I imagine that’s how she got from Zhouqin to CC.

@Rube - The Onion is satirical so “ridiculous” is the point.

SouthsideJohnny 9:50 AM  

Interesting the way that Rex mentions how much he respects the constructor and then picks apart the puzzle entry-by-entry, lol. Frequently when he hasn’t heard of something, he deems it unworthy - today he not only mentioned the heavy reliance on trivia, but seemed to actually embrace it. Obviously some bias has crept in today to tramp down the vitriol, which is fine - he’ll find something to rant and rave about again in a day or two.

MARES NEST was a new one for me. I enjoyed the clue on IVIES. NUCOR above OSAGE was pretty brutal.

Unfortunately, we also have the inclusion of another n-word spewing, obscene rapper to contend with as well.

Sir Hillary 9:54 AM  

This is a very nice grid, but for some reason I never really got into it. Less about the puzzle and probably more ABOUTTHAT extra Manhattan I had at a holiday party last night -- hard to enjoy a puzzle with a headache.

Great misdirective clues for RYE (I had Red) and ESPYS (I had tonYS).

Other first-pass errors: teND (forgivable) and LemonPEEL (not at all forgivable).


Nancy 9:59 AM  

The whole time I was struggling through this, I was thinking that the constructor had me in mind when she made this puzzle: You think my puzzles are too easy and simplistic, Nancy? I'll show you what's not easy! You have no idea how not easy this new puzzle is going to be!!

I don't know how I finished this, though I did. How, for example, can "the largest steel producer in the U.S." be a company I never heard of? Has anyone heard of NUCOR? What on earth does "Really, now? Really!?" have to do with CAN YOU NOT? Many names I never heard of. Like FURMAN. And MARC. And LOGAN. And AREAMAN. Who he? I would have much preferred NO NAMES at all.

Some clever and very difficult cluing: CAR STEREO and MANO A MANO (where I had oppOsed tO). RED HERRINGS as clued is a stretch. I'm a mystery buff and I'm not sure that I've ever seen a "nervous witness" per se as a RED HERRING. A nervous witness who's nervous because he has a history of forgery in his past which turns out to be irrelevant -- now that's a RED HERRING.

I didn't love this, but I did prefer it greatly to ZB's too-easy puzzles of yesteryear. Certainly her cluing is light years better. Hope she'll be a bit fairer next time, though.

Escalator 10:16 AM  

I am proud to say that I got NUCOR right away. What a good boy I am 😊

Anonymous 10:35 AM  

@Rex - You're pretty much correct about the LASER PEEL, but they only claim to zap off the top layer of dead or dying skin. You can do that at a spa chemically, with the laser, with derm-abrasion, or you can just wash your face with soap, water and a washcloth. As with most things in life, just do what your grandmother taught you to do and you'll be ok.

@Anon 8:53 Ms Burnikel goes by C.C. all over the web, and quite possibly in most of her real life. The NYTimes requires that you use your legal name in the puzzle, here she is Zhouqin Burnikel, whereas when she blogs the LATimes puzzle, and publishes elsewhere she is CC Burnikel.

@Z - Don't try to refute @Rube - you forget he's more astute than are you.

Randy (Boulder) 10:36 AM  


As in, "Area Man's Intelligence Probably Just Too Intimidating For Most Women."

OSAGE County, KS 10:36 AM  

Pretty easy for me. NUCOR was a many 5-letter steel companies are there? In fact, almost all the names were gimmes: I have friends who went to FURMAN, LAMAR is a pretty decent rapper, NAST is old timey xword, I know MONACO because I used to follow open-wheel racing, just so many write-ins.

My mom called hair-dos she didn't like, MARESNESTs.

There was also a lot of crossover from the mini puzzle: TNT/FUSE and SENATEBID/HOUSE. That helped a little too.

Way too easy for a Friday.

Randy (Boulder) 10:40 AM  

Liked it. Crunchy but not impossible.

Rex, I haven't seen anyone yet address your q about MPG. Obviously, in electric cars there are no "gallons" of fuel, but the one can still measure energy efficiency. So, the mpg equivalent for e cars measures that.

Randy (Boulder) 10:46 AM  

Well, if we have to look it up to know it's a thing, is it really a thing?

This is one of the many ezpressions I know only from crosswords. So, thanks, crosswords?

Any idea where the expression comes from? Nope, don't want to look that up, either.

dadnoa 10:50 AM  

Hard to fathom Rex not whacking this incredibly weak clue straight into the back of the net (soccer terminology) why not go with 10/12 vis a vis 11/12 or 1/3 v.a.v. 2/3? Lame.

kitshef 10:54 AM  

AREA MAN has been in the puzzle a couple of times in the past, I think generally clued using The Onion.

MARES NEST may not be a common expression, but I have heard it and it passes the "skyey test" (shows more usage than the word 'skyey' in Google Ngram).

puzzlehoarder 10:54 AM  

A good Saturday tough Friday puzzle. This constructor seems to have developed an ironic sense of humor. Solvers routinely complain about the use of obscure names to generate late week difficulty. Smack in the middle of that name heavy SE corner she put NONAMES at 40D. It's sandwiched between two names and crosses four others. This can't be a coincidence.

NAST and LAMAR were gimmes. The rest I had to work for. I'm not surprised that NUCOR is a debut. RED had to be changed to RYE and the clue for SITIN was excellent.

AREAMAN has somehow slipped under the radar but it was inferable. A cut above the average Friday.

Dan Miller 10:59 AM  

Major points for the stellar cluing on AREA MAN

QuasiMojo 11:05 AM  

@Z just because someone acts suspiciously does not make him or her a "red herring." It wouldn't be a mystery if there weren't multiple suspects. Nor is the fact that someone is nervous a red herring. The red herring is much more ingenious and hidden than that. If there is one. Look at @Nancy's comment. She knows what she's talking about.

@GILL I forgot to mention I loved your comment yesterday.

MattG 11:07 AM  

Perhaps they didn't link AUSTIN-LONGHORNS since the middle is already pretty sports heavy with NANTZ, ENDZONE, ARENA, and RUNS.

Gerry Kelly 11:14 AM  

I had RED also and still don't get RYE! can someone explain it to me!!

JC66 11:17 AM  

@Gerry Kelly

Think bread.

Gerry Kelly 11:18 AM  

never mind! doh!! I got it a minute after the first post!

SouthsideJohnny 11:28 AM  

Lol, so is “skyey” the Mendoza Line of Crossworld - that is, the standard by which we define incompetent cluing ? That will be a real achievement (failing the test) and a pretty select club - maybe Rex can post the qualifying constructors’ names on his blog page. I think we should dub it the KITSHEF test. Thus if you get an answer published that scores less usage than “skyey” you become an official member of the KITSHEF CLUB.

The beauty is that it is extremely objective. Of course, there will be some inevitable disputes and discussions around the appropriateness when applied to foreign words and phrases, as well as the NYT’s special breed of “quasi” and made-up words, etc. I will nominate Sir Kitshef himself to be the final arbiter of such matters, assuming he is willing to bear the burden of that responsibility.

Newboy 11:34 AM  

Typical Friday solve here: long pause with ICY STARE, then random TAO, nasty NAST and devious DEVO entries leading to scattered links around the grid. Finally done and able to appreciate the great clues for DEMI MOORE, SIT IN, CAR STEREO among the dreck noted by Rex. All that I wanted after yesterday’s BORDER LINE rebus; glad to have these presents to open before the true madness descends. Thanks Ms Zhouqin—wish you’d posted constructor notes on this one on xwordinfo.

Z 11:37 AM  

@anon10:35 - If only I had tried to refute @Rube.

@danoa - British? In the US it’s month/day so your examples are a month apart.

@QuasiMojo - You mean @Nancy who immediately gave an example of a nervous witness as a RED HERRING? “A nervous witness who's nervous because he has a history of forgery in his past which turns out to be irrelevant....”

Quickie PPP - 27/73 for 37% which is a high percentage of Pop Culture, Product Names, and other Proper Nouns.

Ethan Taliesin 11:38 AM  

I had three, strategically placed errors that prevented me from completing without cheating.

I don't remember ever hearing MARESNEST before.

Didn't understand EVE until the comments (thanks)

NUCOR, huh? Sounds like should have come across that before in the fill-in-the-boxes world. Sounds totally new to me

Anonymous 11:40 AM  

let's see

an OSAGE orange isn't an orange. first, and so far only time, seen on a back road on Block Island. animals that will eat anything avoid it.

NAST is best known, I'd assert, as the first American editorial cartoonist with a remorseless political agenda. he hated fat cats. and the Irish. :)

both: see wiki.

Kathy 11:46 AM  

I guessed hARE, although I had never heard that critter invoked with messy spaces. The answer is MARE?!? A new one for me.

The Northwest had me flummoxed, thus I lingered up there way too long. No help from the downs, few of which I knew. Decided that the STARE was ICY, then thought of MONACO and the rest finally fell.

@kaocanno, and a slew of others, thanks for explaining EVE. I enjoy a good misdirection. I actually thought it might be a French word due to the vis a vis clueing, meaning “more than” as in comparing fractions.

Completed but with two errors. That’s ok for me on a Friday. I will try to do no worse tomorrow. My bar is still low, but rising every month. A few months ago the Friday and Saturday puzzles were out of my league. It’s been rewarding working my way up the rungs of difficulty!

jberg 11:50 AM  

I loved this puzzle! In particular, I love long entries made up of common everyday words in a common phrase, e.g.ABOUT THAT... or OPEN THE DOOR, where the answer is not obvious from the clue. Lots of fresh fill. I had heard of NUCOR, but still had trouble thinking of it. I used to be on an advisory committee that met for 3 days a couple of times a year, and one of the other members taught at FURMAN -- so it was a gimme, but if not for that experience it would have required all the crosses. As for CAN YOU NOT? one has to interpret the clue as "Really, now, really, you are doing that annoying things once again?"

Yes, MARE'S NEST is a thing. I was going to say that it was clued wrong, because the 'real' meaning is some new discovery that you think is remarkable, but really isn't. However, apparently it has joined "Nimrod," "beg the question," and who knows what else in acquiring a second meaning, viz., "rat's nest." H.E. Fowler called this the war between idiom and analogy, which, sadly, analogy generally wins. Alas.

A modest suggestion, though perhaps not feasible -- maybe once five commenters have explained the same thing, e.g., EVE, the moderators could put all the similar explanations into a single thread that you could click on to expand. No, not feasible, I can see that now.

Gerry Kelly 11:50 AM  

was thinking booze!! tells you something about me!!

Swagomatic 12:02 PM  

I got Nucor, because we buy steel from them all the time at my work, but I did not think that possibly could be correct. Overall, I liked it.

Rube 12:05 PM  

Ridiculous is an reference to the Odd Couple. You're probably too young.

Malsdemare 12:11 PM  

Wow, the things I know and don't know. Mr. Mal has been in the steel industry for 50 years; I knew NUCOR. NAST was a gimme. FURMAN came from nowhere. Of course I didn't know LOGAN, LAMAR, or NANTZ but those I got with crosses. Almost everything else fought me MANO A MANO but I prevailed except for rAMA for KAMA. Schade!

Thanks, CC, I had fun.

Masked and Anonymous 12:28 PM  

The thing about themeless puzs: They lack that extra meta-oomph that figurin out the theme mcguffin gives to them. They can somewhat still appeal to M&A, if they 1) have funnier-than-snot clues or 2) maybe include some sort of fillins that pull on my chain. This themeless pup got to me a little bit, on both counts. Sooo … ok, for a themeless.

10 eminantly pedigreed weejects to pick from. The staff pick came down to their clues; three weeject clues stood out, at our house:

* {1/2 vis-a-vis 1/3, say} = EVE. Cute, in spite of its French innards.
* {What "r" might signify} = ARE. M&A was just sure the answer was gonna start with an R. wRong again, M&A breath.
* {Boomsticks?} = TNT. I'm callin "witch hunt", on this one.


Different DEMIMOORE clue. Truly a noted actress, I reckon.

Thanx for the themeless puzfun, CC darlin. Like for @RP, U "r" one of M&A's fave constructioneers.
Man, did U ever bag old M&A on MONACO … I was sure it was LEMANS; lost many valuable nanoseconds. U wouldn't do that on purpose, would U? [Santa is keepin a list.]

Masked & Anonymo6Us


James D. Cormier 12:28 PM  

I've literally never heard the term "mare's nest" before.

Northwest Runner 12:30 PM  

Great and challenging puzzle from CC. Harder than most Saturdays for me. Wanted steam iron for wrinkle treatment at first. Lots of proper names I didn’t know that eventually took shape, but it was all good learning so stars to this fine puzzle.

Richardf8 12:38 PM  

Rex, If the clue is “O.J. Simpson Prosecutor” you’re going to have seven letters to fill. Not six. That’s because it’s Fuhrman, not FURMAN. A point we FURMANs are a bit attentive to, especially my cousin Mark.

It was a nice crunchy puzzle. NW was toughest for me and last to fill.

And I never realized that I shared a first name with F.U.’s founder. Ick.

Oh and on LASER PEEL? That thing you say you don’t imagine is what it is? I think that’s what it is. I had layer peel in there for much of the solve.

I’m pretty sure I’ve heard MARES NEST from my wife’s mouth once or twice. Pretty sure she’d be surprised to hear it from me.

What? 12:46 PM  

As usual on themeless puzzles, online to Wikipedia for one or two (or more). That reminds me, as Wikipedia does when I check in, they need donations to keep going. I’ve given, and given (this doesn’t stop their asking but that’s ok), so here’s a plea from me to give, else I will not often finish a themeless.

jb129 1:05 PM  

More like a Saturday for me - but kept trying without any luck. Oh well.

CDilly52 1:06 PM  

So, apparently, a MARE’S NEST arrived via the 16th century to indicate that one had found something amazing or that was thought not to exist. This makes much more sense to me than it’s obviously rarely used meaning today: “total mess.” I’ve heard MARE’S tail from one of my great uncles, and dairy farmer.

Uncle Herb was born old and cranky. I am certain of it. I groomed the horses to earn ride time during the summers when I could get down there. Believe me, horses (all of them really) do get their tails tangled, especially when they are outside in the summer swatting flies. So, having untangled many a MARE’S tail and listened to my uncle ask me (often), “Do you always make such a mare’s tail of everything at home or is it special for me?” I think I can agree that a MARE’S NEST is at best a bit off.

I completely forgive Ms. Burnikel. She delivered me a fine Friday experience. And it was a toughie! I got going in several places only to be stopped dead in my tracks just a few clues later.

What impresses me with her puzzles each and every time is her ability (as today, for me) to create almost insurmountably difficult spots only to allow you just enough “gettable” but not “gimmes” to keep you pushing ahead searching for those breadcrumbs, RYE today, not white.

While even the easier placed were all just a bit outside my wheelhouse, I made it to the end on sheer persistence. Pick it up and put it down, repeat. Makes me feel as if I have actually accomplished a solid day’s work when I can finish one like this on Friday. Would that I felt this good about my actual job every day. OK, back to that for which the taxpayers subsidize me. . .

Have a wonderful weekend everybody!

mbr 1:16 PM  

@Rube: Thank you for reminding me of one of the absolute best episodes of the original Odd Couple with Tony Randall. Husband & I have often used "Aristophanes" to mean just that: ridiculous. (It's an all-purpose clue!)

eddy 1:18 PM  

All of you young whippersnappers never heard of Frank Selby? Played basketball for FURMAN (1952-3)and set matchless scoring records, like 100 points a game.

And then along came Darell Floyd setting scoring records for the same college, FURMAN, a few years later.

THAT I can get right away, but some rapper named who again? That's the trouble with xwds, no matter how brilliant we tell ourselves we are, we don't know everything. So what do times of solve tell us? Whether we know this or that or not. In other words, nothing.

Teedmn 1:23 PM  

My first entry for 24D was trekS. With OS___ in place at 36A, I wondered if the inedible orange was an OSaka orange. Deciding that 4D would NOT end in an A, I took TREKS out. Post-solve Googling the OSAGE orange gave me a chuckle - I saw those things laying on the ground all over in Missouri on a bicycle trip. I even brought one home for some reason. Later, I saw them being sold in our local grocery store as a mosquito repellent! They weren't labeled as osage oranges, that I can recall. Hedge balls, I think they were called.

Many more incidences of PPP today than CC's usual puzzles, most of which were not in my wheelhouse. I do eat PROGRESSO soup, I remember Kendrick LAMAR has a ton of Grammys though I don't listen to his genre, I do listen to indie rock so I knew where SXSW is held, and ERITREA crossed perfectly with today's first-word-in, STATUE. That leaves a whole bunch of WOES, though "OUTTA control" was pretty inferable.

Thanks, CC, for the RED HERRINGS in the grid. I found little that GRATES, and enjoyed the difficulty so rare on Fridays of late.

Z 1:41 PM  

Probably not the way MARC Anthony wanted time be in the news today.

Leslie 2:29 PM  

Osage oranges, aka hedge apples, aka horse apples (horses will eat them), and the tree is also known as bodark, a corruption of bois d'arc (wood of the ark) because it is indestructible and immediately dulls any chain saw. We used to spray paint them gold at Christmas. You can also slice them into rounds, bake them, and string them for an all-natural garland. If you so wish.

Anonymous 2:36 PM  

I knew MARE'S NEST as words, but remembered it as synonym for pig sty. do I get a deduction?

"an extremely confused, entangled, or disordered place, situation, etc."

second def. from on-line dictionary. in horse shoes, a leaner.

Nancy 2:39 PM  

@Quasi interpreted my comment correctly, @Z. The "nervous witness" isn't himself a RED HERRING. As Quasi points out, a RED HERRING isn't a person at all. Rather it's a situation or plot development or subplot-- something that's completely irrelevant to the denouement, but made to look relevant to the reader at the time-- that casts suspicion on someone who isn't guilty for a specific reason. Or even, as the devilishly clever Agatha Christie has done more than once, casts suspicion on the person who IS guilty and then deliberately sabotages either that bit of information or the person delivering it so that now the person who IS guilty looks innocent. My lips are sealed as to what specific works this plot device has been used in, but one of them is an all-time Christie classic.

Let's talk about your "nervous witness," @Z. That alone is not a RED HERRING. Witnesses can be nervous and often are. But here's the RED HERRING: Chester Chadwick is perfectly calm on the witness stand until he is asked why the attache case he is carrying has someone else's initials on it?!!! Suddenly Chester stammers and stutters and starts to hyperventilate. Assuming that the attache case has absolutely nothing to do with who committed the murder or why, this is a RED HERRING. But it's the attache case with the wrong initials and not Chester himself who's the RED HERRING.

Hope I've made this clear.

Steel versus steel 2:40 PM  

Just a note to say that most of us tend to think of steel mills as the large integrated “new” steel manufacturers such as US Steel and Arcellor Mittal. Nucor produces steel from scrap in what have been referred to as steel “mini-mills.” They do not have the huge separate structure blast furnaces that produce the pig iron necessary to make new steel nor do they have the basic oxygen furnaces where they combine the pig iron with all the magic ingredients to make the steel. You could drive through flyover country and pass a mini-mill and have no idea what is going on inside unless you see a sign.
I thought the puzzle was very tough in many places, but I enjoyed the challenge!

Anonymous 3:38 PM  

@Steel etc:

If you go to the wiki or some such, you'll see that steel production (aka, not recycling) in the USofA peaked during and after WWII and has been in steady decline ever since. Along with precious Trump's precious coal production; you can't turn iron ore into steel without coal. And, btw, our ore reserves are a fraction of what they were prior to WWII, which ate up much of it making war materiel. The reason the Good Guys won that war, and the reason we didn't win one afterwards. It's really difficult to bomb a country back to the Stone Age.

"In 1945, the US produced 67% of the world's pig iron, and 72% of the steel. By comparison, 2014 percentages were 2.4% of the pig iron, and 5.3% of the steel production. " the wiki

"Although in 2014, the US mined only 1.8 percent of all iron ore mined worldwide, the US was previously a much larger factor in the world iron ore market. From 1937 through 1953, US iron ore made up more than a third of the world's iron ore production; the proportion of world iron ore mined in the US peaked in 1945 at 56 percent. " the wiki

Here: is the current state of ore reserves. We don't much matter any more.

George Mikan 3:52 PM  

@ eddy: you’re on the right track, but he was (is?) Frank Selvy, not Selby

oisk17 4:08 PM  

Selvy played briefly for the Knicks, IIRC. Not to be confused with Ron Sobie.

I'm always happy to get through a Friday perfectly after getting defeated (3 Naticks) on Thursday! Knew the South by South West festival because its abbreviation has appeared in the puzzle pretty often. Lamar crossing Logan were two complete unknowns for me, but discernible enough. Same for "Outta" control. Last entry was Car stereo when I finally realized it was a stare, not a glare.

Very fine, well constructed, well clued puzzle.

Anonymoose 4:10 PM  

Road Apples!

Frantic Sloth 4:45 PM  

I can't tell you how tempted I am to ask for an explanation of "1/2 vis-à-vis 1/3, say".

TJS 5:19 PM  

My favorite Onion headline was something like "Jerusalem Times : Area man crucified with two others".
I read Rex but know other comments yet, but I thought this was a great puzzle, with tricky cluing that took some real devious thinking to figure out where the constructor was going. I loved it. For some reason, the preponderance of names didn't bother me.

TJS 5:25 PM  

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention... I like to rate men by weather I could enjoy being in a boat, fishing with them for a few hours. Rex curled up with a cup of tea to watch Dollywood ? He's not even allowed on the pier.

albatross shell 6:34 PM  

Is that a rainy or a snowy or hail rating?
Are real men allowed to knit on this boat? How do you rate women on this boat? If you are English can you drink tea? Tell us. We can't wait.

Malsdemare 6:37 PM  

Well, I'm jumping in on the REDHERRING discussion. To me, if someone is stammering and sweating, leading me to think he has a guilty conscience, I consider that misdirect of my thinking a RED HERRING. It’s the mistaken inference, not the person, but the person is the precipitator of the mistake. Clear as mud, right?

xyz 6:39 PM  

Friday, not hard, not easy. As usual one stubborn block, NE for me this time.

I really like Friday. Never an OREO in sight.

Anonymous Help 6:55 PM  

Nucor steel is/was a big job producer in Auburn, NY. Didn't know it was largest in US. Don't know if it still exists in Auburn.

albatross shell 7:26 PM  

I have often read the phrase "mare's nest" in it's later meaning of a jumbled mess. I learned of it's earlier meeting later. Somewhat confusing.

Now in this puzzle with REDHERRING which was likely to cause a Christie conversation by this sly and talented constructor, I must ask: Do you think she is aware that Dame Agatha uses "MARESNEST" in both meanings of the phrase in different places in the "The Mysterious Affair at Styles"?

I would not put it past her.

Also like the way LONGHORNS ARENA JINNANTZ all cross ENDZONE.

And either I am mis-membering or Rex failed to notice that there was recently a Indian ruler and Shah in some clue-answer combination.

Hungry Mother 9:01 PM  

I solved this on the flight from Miami to Vegas. It didn’t take the whole time, but it was a slog. I was in MONACO when the Grand Prix course was being set up and flew over AUSTIN today. A fun way to pass time while in the air.

albatross shell 9:06 PM  

One more thing
Bois d'arc (osage orange) is better translated as wood of the bow. French traders gave it this name because the tribes made bows from the wood. Probably the best native wood for a bow. Hedge rows were planted to keep cows in and in some cases to keep Injuns out. Nasty thorns. Modern disadvatage: they can puncture tractor tires.
Beautiful wood, changes from a yellow orange to a dark red as it ages. I made an Osage bow. I was a beginner, it's a bit heavy, but shoots pretty well anyway.

Anonymous 10:48 PM  

remember: India is not 100% Hindu. The Taj Mahal is an *Islamic* edifice. So, built by a Shah.

David W 10:59 PM  

I would think mares would be very tidy.

pdplot 9:06 AM  

Anyone else put LeMans for Monaco? Screwed me up real good. Rhea was easy - it's my wife's name. Always glad to see her name in a puzzle. I didn't get eve either until I came here.

TJS 10:19 AM  

Wow, I had mis-spellings in both of my comments. One too many cervesas on the playa, apparently.

calli 11:37 PM  

We had a huge osage orange tree in the front yard. Nasty, hard, bumpy, lime-green balls those "oranges." Neighborhood kids called them monkey brains and rolled them into the street so cars would squish them. Made a stinky mess. Yuck. Don't live there anymore. Why a tree like that exists in a suburban neighborhood I have no idea.

Burma Shave 8:28 AM  




spacecraft 10:45 AM  

I thought maybe gimme and DOD DEMIMOORE would OPENTHEDOOR for this solve; alas, it did not. DNF in the entire (except for her) north. I had -RRING and still...nothing. A nervous witness is a REDHERRING??? Is this by way of saying that the mystery writer is giving ME, the reader, a red herring? I'm supposed to think the N.W. did it? That's the only sense I can make of it, and if so, brother, that clue moves to the head of the "unfair" class. NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE is going to get that from that.

CANYOUNOT is almost as bad. How we're supposed to get that from the clue is beyond me. Must be some form of Newspeak. And NUCOR? LARGEST steel producer? I never heard of it! Never until looking at the finished grid. How can that be?

The NW? I won't even talk about the NW. It sits there, blank. Ya beat me senseless this time, CC.

Diana, LIW 4:16 PM  

I finally got the NW, but died in the Mid-West area. In total agreement with @Spacey's middle paragraph.

Usually I love me a CC puzzle, but this one... onward.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoaster 5:09 PM  

Have to agree with spacecraft. Puzzle really did GRATE on and ANNOY me. Especially the unlikely cluing of REDHERRING and CANYOUNOT?. And NUCOR? Never heard of this "Largest steel producer in the U.S." Do I live in a DEN somewhere? MPG/GETS are both head scratchers. How is MPG (gallons) "converted for" electric cars?

Oh, well.

strayling 7:50 PM  

The pleasure in this one was managing to infer the answers to all those pub trivia questions from the crosses.

We take what we can get, I suppose.

strayling 7:56 PM  


They try to figure out what an electric car would use if it ran on gasoline and call it EMPG. The idea is to have a directly comparable number between electrics and gas cars.

(It doesn't work and nobody pays much attention to it.)

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