Fancy term for a long prison sentence / SAT 1-25-20 / Musical family from Cremona / Olden land north of anglia / Pistolet par exemple / One-third of literary trio

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Constructor: Stella Zawistowski

Relative difficulty: Medium (7-something, with another minute to hunt down an error)


THEME: none

Word of the Day: DURANCE VILE (55A: Fancy term for a long prison sentence) —

durance vile

long prison sentence. He's a known criminal, that's why he's in durance vile. (the free dictionary (idioms))
• • •

This played very unevenly for me. Struggled to start (I feel like I say this every day—maybe that's just the norm), even though DEFAT was a gimme. Never heard of NEGGA (or "Loving," though now that I look at the movie poster, yes, I have heard of it) (3D: Actress Ruth of "Loving") and couldn't see TRUES from the clue and had no idea what a "lemniscate" is and the other Acrosses were just never gonna come. Then later, the SE corner also ground me to a halt, with its honestly ridiculously obscure DURANCE VILE. But as for the rest of the grid, I tore through it like it wasn't there. Can't believe how easy the NE was (30 seconds, tops, for the whole thing), and since PALAVER is a great word that I enjoy, and TRANSFER was a piece of cake, I also got into the SW easily and destroyed it. So two corners were slogs, and the other two I don't remember because they were so easy. I do like 5/6 of the long Acrosses in this thing, and the long Downs are more than solid, so the bones of this one are mostly good. I just wish the difficulty had been way more evenly distributed, and that DURANCE VILE had never ever shown its ridiculous face. I mean, I couldn't even good a good definition of it. Dictionaries have "durance" in them, and they say "usually in the phrase 'durance vile," but then They Do Not Tell Me What That Is. One of the references for DURANCE VILE at freedictionary.com was a book called "Endangered Phrases," which gives you some idea of its, uh, currency. I think the word "Fancy" is outright horrid here. It's meaningless. Unless ... would you use it at black tie events, when discussing your former broker's prison term? Fancy??? The term and the clue are vile. Because "durant" means "during" or "lasting" in French, I put a "T" where the "C" was supposed to go, figuring that maybe "I Love Lucy" was on (in reruns??) on TBS and the clue was just getting cute (57D: "I Love Lucy" network (CBS)). You have to treat answers that outside-common-parlance as if they were nuclear. It would be great if they weren't in the grid at all, but if you really have to use them: crosses, crosses, crosses. Mind your crosses.


Had the "A" at 19A: Burning feeling (ANGER) and wanted at least three different things, none of them ANGER: I wanted AGITA, I wanted ARSON, and I wanted ARDOR. Weirdly started this solve with LAG SOLES -ING (inferred suffix of 8D) DOWNS WAR, and then just sat there going nowhere for a bit. Then I went and got NEE MOHEL ENT, and things started to move. Worst mistake I made all day was probably EVE for NYE (56D: Dec. 31). I mean, I was close, in that NYE stands for New Year's EVE, but ... no. And since I had EVE running through what was supposed to be DURANCE VILE, well, I wasn't getting any help undoing EVE until I finally changed SLIDE to FLUME at 45D: Water park feature; then, after trying to think of *any* literary EMILs besides the titular character in "Emil and the Detectives," I eventually just got BRONTË and worked backward. EMILY. NYE. OK. Not with a bang but a whimper, as TSE says.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

89 comments:

Joaquin 12:03 AM  

I had trouble getting started on this puzzle. But then … I had the basketball game on tv in the background and when they announced the “tip-off” I remembered 10D and was off to the races.

Also, proud to report I had no personal knowledge of or experience with DURANCE VILE. But what a cool phrase to drop into a conversation.

puzzlehoarder 12:09 AM  

Excellent Saturday. Lemniscate? DURANCEVILE? These are terms you don't see every day of the week.

There was some real late week resistance in that NW section. Even as it fell this puzzle earned the hoarders' respect.

I didn't think it could get better and then I saw the constructors' photo at xwordinfo. The overhead keg, the guns, the sweaty armpits and that motto on the T-shirt... I was verklempt.

Stella Zawistowski you can piss in the weeds with the big dogs any day of the week.

jae 12:15 AM  

Mostly easy except for the NW. JoltED before JARRED, ANGst before ANGER, and trying to make TierS work for TRUES conspired to suck up more than a few nanoseconds (you can fill in the parens).

This was delightful! Liked it a bunch. A fine solo debut. I hope Stella is back for good.

DURANCEVILLE and the lemniscate clue were WOEs.

GAMIN I knew from the feminine GAMINe for a waif like, elfin, young girl (think Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany’s or Mia Kirshner in The L Word).

Patrick O'Connor 12:23 AM  

Chacun a son gout, I guess, but even though I have never consciously heard the phrase before I just loved DURANCE VILE. It's a Saturday! It was eventually inferable! (yes, only after one erases eve for NYE). It sounds really cool! I wouldn't be surprised if it's in a Gilbert and Sullivan lyric! Just a very satisfactory mix of crazy hard and smooth sailing.

chefwen 1:53 AM  

Medium tough for me. Fell into a couple of snags that Rex did, slide before FLUME, eve before NYE, that one tripped me up not too long ago so an easy fix. Our biggest hang up was puzzle partner filling in ActivistS at 31D, which sure looked good at the time, until nothing worked off of it save the A and the S. It took SPORTS BRA to set us on the right track. Did end up with an error at 55D and A. Not familiar with Nebraska senators, so with the EB in place I figured it was probably JEB, that rings a bell in politics and my long prison sentence was JURANCEVILE. O.K. That could work.

teevoz 2:42 AM  

I knew it was CBS but changed it to T too and tried explaining it to myself as DURANTE-VILLE, but I didn't think Jimmy had been in prison so I put the C back and was glad to get the gold.

Solverinserbia 4:03 AM  

palaver, gamins, durancevile??? No one stood a chance

Klazzic 6:00 AM  

Criminal attorney for two decades, attended hundreds of sentencing and sentencing seminars. Not once, nada, never have I heard the phrase DURANCEVILE, or durance vile, or whatever the hell it is. Inexcusable and pathetic as a clue. Thankfully the downs saved my ass.
LEMNISCATE?? Geez, Louise. For a debut constructor: awful. Back to the drawing board, Stella. Not a nice way to open up my Saturday.

Hungry Mother 6:25 AM  

Luckily I got up at 4:30am for a local 8am race, so I had plenty of time to slog my way through this. Very satisfying to finish in what might be a personal worst time.

Lewis 7:03 AM  

@joaquin - Hah!
@rex - Hand up for EVE before NYE.
@jae, @klazzic -- This is not a debut puzzle. Stella has had 15 puzzles in the NYT, 14 under her former name Stella Daily.

Nothing vile accompanied my 'durance through this offering. It had a sense of permanence -- no flighty neo-pop culture references that will vanish in a puff of smoke in a trice, be gone anon. Terrific obscure terms that felt cool to me. On top of DURANCE VILE, LEMNISCATE, and GAMIN, I learned "tatterdemalion" when, after my solve, I looked at words related to GAMIN.

Then I had the image of the MOHEL facing an anti-circumcision group, waving his arms and shouting, "DON'T JUDGE ME!"

With sufficient Saturday struggle, plus some relieving splat-fills and those fun words, this was rollicksome, frolicsome, and toothsome. Effortsome but never cumbersome. That is, stellar, Stella. This is your first puzzle in a dozen years -- please don't be such a stranger again!

GILL I. 7:11 AM  

STELLAHHHH. You got me good.
I loved PALAVER because why wouldn't you.
Lots I liked...Lots I didn't know and Lots I wasn't sure I liked. I'll start with the Likes: PALAVER which I already mentioned and DEFANG. I didn't know DU RANCE VILE because I've had the good fortune of never having to grace a prison. I kept thinking of Martha Stewart and Club Fed. I also didn't know lemniscate nor do I want to. I wasn't crazy about the clue for ALMA MATER nor FLUME. FLUME? What happened to the slide?
So PEORIA is middle America? How sweet. I've never been there but I suppose I should go and taste it.
I just noticed AIRBALL crossing LOB. Whoohoo.
The clue for BOA is cute and I Liked the SPORTS BRA ending with ASS. You get both ends.
Thanks for the BEALE STREET, Stella....Can you do a puzzle with A Street Car Named Desire theme?

Suzie Q 7:22 AM  

Very satisfying solve. I would not have struggled so badly in the NW is I had remembered how to spell mohel. I loved those long unusual clues and answers. It figures that the only current PPP stumped me.
What I find astounding is that Rex did not focus on the gender of the constructor nor the abundance of feminine clues and answers. Is it only fun to complain? I mean, c'mon Rex, this is your wish come true!
Now I must go to xwordinfo to see what @puzzlehoarder is talking about. From the description I'm almost afraid to do it.

mooretep 7:36 AM  

Thank you for the Schoolhouse Rock on Figure Eight.
I'm a big Blossom Dearie fan, and this brought a tear to my eye.
It's use of multiplication to tell a story was beautiful.
I'm also a teacher, and I often ask my students to do mental math, before they default to their "magic number box" for the answers.

Reading a great book by Steven Strogatz on Calculus, "Infinite Powers".
A topic that many people cringe at and something I performed for years before understanding it.
Like the Schoolhouse Rock video, it enhanced my understanding of the universal beauty of mathematics.

Oh yeah, liked the puzzle. Just enough "crunch" for a Saturday. A couple of "Today I Learned..." answers.

Thanks Stella for a nice solving experience.

Thank You Rex for one of your better reviews.

three of clubs 7:44 AM  

For some references to "durance vile" Google the following:

"durance vile" long prison term -dictionary

pabloinnh 8:12 AM  

I started in the SW and went around, ending in the NW, which was my personal briar patch, but got 'er done, and found it a good solve. I'm in the group that doesn't mind learning a new word, in fact, it's one reason I do these things. Obscure doesn't necessarily mean unfair.

I think @GILL I likes PALAVER because it started out as "palabra", Spanish for word, and morphed into English.

One NH attraction in the White Mtns. is The Flume, so a gimme there.

Pretty speedy Saturday, and one I was sorry to finish, due to fun factor. Thanks, SZ.

kitshef 8:14 AM  

So far this year, every Saturday has been easier than the preceding Friday. Going back a little further, December 20-21 was the last time Saturday was not easier than Friday. What gives?

What little resistance there was today came entirely from unknown names – NEGGA and DEB. Well, and my only overwrite: aVIan before OVINE.

Had no idea Jobs owned PIXAR – that was neat to learn.

BarbieBarbie 8:27 AM  

It’s weird when an English prof is illiterate. Victorian-era literature, dude. DURANCEVILE everywhere.

At my house, 7 minutes plus another minute finding a mistake is 8 minutes. Maybe that’s because Saturdays would never tempt me to equivocate. Even my fastest ever is two digits, making the honestly-counted error-finding time a relative Meh. Sometimes I have typos that I can’t find and have to hit Reveal. Huh, I’ve been counting those as DNFs. I should reconsider.

This puzzle was Medium-Easy for me, based on time, but I had to put it aside unfinished at night and get it done with my morning brain. So, mainly, fun and crunchy throughout. I hope this constructor does many, many more solos. She made my day a good one!

Hartley70 8:28 AM  

Wow! What a Saturday. Somehow I saw FIGUREEIGHT IMMEDIATEly from the crosses without having any idea what the clue meant. DURANCEVILE, however, was beyond me even while the squares were correctly filled. I stared at it for ages last night and then again this morning, giving me an appalling time. I was sure it was wrong until little LeX winked at me and was changed to LUX, giving me the happy song. The only way I can make sense of it is to think of it as a VILE enDURANCE.

Z 8:33 AM  

Ugh! Thought A-LINE but wrote in ALaNE, so finished with DURANCE VaLE which looks plausible. I also cast a side eye at crossing two unusual words at a vowel. Playing Whac-A-Vowel is never fun. PALoVER/PALAVER was a coin flip, GAMINS was a WOE. This was a fine Saturday tussle despite the DNF which struck me as just a wee bit unfair.

@Lewis - Zawistowski mentions that this is her solo debut over at xwordinfo.com. And, yes, @puzzlehorder, that’s an awesome picture.

@GILL I - Is there a LOOSE ST. in that play?

Quickie PPP
24/70 for 34%
This is right at the “excessive” line. I counted TACO Tuesday and WAR but not MOHEL. There are reasonable arguments either way for those three. At the same time we get stacked EMILY BRONTË and BEALE STREET as well as stacked AMATI/SCOTIA. My own experience was this played hard because of rare words, not Pop Culture. But I won’t be surprised if the combination makes this nearly impossible for some.


Barney 8:33 AM  

It's difficult for me to have much love for this puzzle given DURANCE VILE/CBS.

If you're of a certain age and watched I Love Lucy, you tuned into TBS because, as pophistorydig.com notes: "In the U.S., reruns have aired nationally on TBS (1980s–1990s), Nick at Nite (1994–2001) and TV Land (2001–2008) as well as various local channels."

CBS can be clued how many ways? If the puzzle-maker/editor felt it was essential to reference a show, why not choose one that aired only on CBS rather than nearly two decades on TBS as well? Alternatively, why not eliminate the confusion with a better clue: "Original broadcaster of..." or something similar?

Vague clues are fun, excellent, challenging, etc. except when paired with a ridiculously obscure phrase. When that happens, for most solvers, getting the solution becomes a coin-toss, which isn't much fun at all, whether you guess correctly or not.

amyyanni 8:53 AM  

LOL, @Joaquin. Another former public defender here who never encountered "DURANCEVILE." Good to learn new (old) things. SW was my ticket in: thank goodness for good old Nick NOLTE in the SE, and for Scott Simon mentioning PEORIA while I was solving.

mambridge 9:02 AM  

How is DURANCEVILE pronounced? If DURANCEVILlE, I'm going to be even more annoyed.

Teedmn 9:07 AM  

I thought this was a great puzzle by Stella and I was happy to be able to solve it successfully. I think it was Rex who posted a couple of weeks back that Stella was going to be posting hard, themeless puzzles at Tough As Nails. I did her first two puzzles - the first one was really hard. The second one was impossible for me and I cheated my way through it by marking letters wrong. I loved them! Stella won the Lollapuzzoola tournament two years ago (2018). They have a tradition of making the winner of the tourney construct a puzzle the following year, which Stella did in 2019. My first year at Lolla, Stella sat at my table and I really liked her. I'm a big Stella fan, if you can't tell.

Anyway, this was medium for me. Only DURANCE VILE gave me a lot of trouble, some of which was due to the popular slide-FLUME, evE-NYE errors. But toggling back and forth, mentally, between DEB and jEB, CBS and tBS, and thinking that VILE really needed another L (VILlE) ate up some solve time. I was convinced 55A was supposed to be all one word - if I had realized it was DURANCE VILE, I would have (I think) seen the light sooner. As it was, I splatzed in D and C and was right, yay.

I circled two clues: 46A's "Take a bite out of?" for DEFANG (I love that one) and 48D's "Something worn with flare?" for A-LINE. I thought the flare-flair implication was sweet.

Stella, glad you're back, and even stronger!

CDilly52 9:12 AM  

Thanks @Joaquin-a true LOL moment!

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

Ok, durance (15th century origins) definition 'restraint by or as if by physical force —usually used in the phrase durance vile'

The posting goes on to explain the 'vile' is just what it says.

Twangster 9:20 AM  

One of the first things I put in was NATURAL LIFE where DURANCEVILE ended up.

mathgent 9:33 AM  

Instead of “fancy term” for being jailed, the clue should say “old term.” Robert Burns used DURANCE VILE. I can’t remember where I’ve come across it before. Not in a puzzle, I think.

Seeing MOHEL reminds me of a story Alexander King once told on the Jack Paar show. A man had a stopover in a town in Poland. Walking around, he came across a shop with a watch hanging from a chain in the window. He went in and said to a bearded man there, “Can you look at my watch. It isn’t keeping good time.” “Oh, sorry,” the man said. “I’m not a watch maker. I’m a mohel.” “So why do you have a watch in your window?” the visitor asked. “What should I have there?” the bearded man replied.

Lewis 9:39 AM  

Oops! Sorry @jae -- you mentioned that this was Stella's solo debut, not overall debut, which is true, and thank you, @Z, for pointing that out!

Todd 9:46 AM  

I just wrote in figure eight, I know it from math and also Tarot cards. And then it got ugly. Usually even words I don't know ring a little bit after you get them. But not Durance Vile. I'm sure I've never seen or heard it before.

Brian 9:52 AM  

Don’t graze me bro

QuasiMojo 9:56 AM  

Lemme get this str8t, a lemniscate is a figure eight? LOVING that. I was sure the other obscure answer was ENDURANCEVILLE as in some kind of slang, so I searched for a rebus or some dropped letters. No such luck. I also tried PALLIVER (thinking the LL thing was going on there too). But no. Finally grokked it all without cheating. LABORIOUS? Not really. I finished faster than a usual Saturday and enjoyed the quirkiness and lack of overkill in the pop culture arena. Now I can't get the idea of a MOHEL singing "You must remember this... a bris is just a bris..."

Oh and I got BEALE STREET thanks to Jeopardy! It was a wrong final answer from a contestant in the recent GOAT (ovine) competition. The correct answer was BASIN ST in New Orleans. Sometimes to ERR is divine. Forgive me.

Factoid: I am older than Spandex. So Sad!

Bubbabythebay 9:58 AM  

A nice tribute to The Bard on Robbie Burns Day... DURANCE VILE and SCOTIA, of whom he wrote

But if ye wish her grate fu prayer
Gie her a haggis

Nancy 10:05 AM  

A tough puzzle with MAGNETISM. It took me a long time to DEFANG it.

DURANCEVILE was a huge "Huh?" for me, as I'm sure it was for everyone else. I've never seen it before and I suspect I'll never see it again. Which is fine with me.

Oh great. We've long had legalese and now we have mathese. Mathematicians call a FIGURE EIGHT a "lemniscate"??? C'mon, people, speak English, why don't you? (Just TEASing you, @Mathgent. But is that what you guys really say?)

I'm trying to think of a poet who's ever said EVER AND ANON to mean "once in a while". Maybe Shakespeare? He's said everything else, after all.

I fell into the TIERS instead of TRUES trap and it therefore took me forever to complete the NW. It would have helped if I'd known NEGGA.

Don't even get me started on the spandex in a SPORTS BRA. In fact, don't get me started on spandex at all. The worst invention of my lifetime -- right after the nuclear bomb and the jackhammer. And because of the misery of the thing, I thought of SPORTS BRA right away -- before I had a single cross.

Fun puzzle.

xyz 10:07 AM  

Grousing over CBS?

Arden 10:11 AM  

Jeb or Deb? That is the question.

Bunnifred 10:17 AM  

This comment had me laughing. Ha-cha-cha-cha...

albatross shell 10:20 AM  

I declare TACO MIMOSA Saturday in honor of this puzzle. Wonder-filled Saturday.

I was shamed to have forgotten LEMNISCATE with my math background. I had looked it up back in the day studying infinite sets. The
source for the name of the sideways figure 8 symbol. It looks like a bow. That is where the ribbons come in. Also called devil curves based on a juggling game, Diablo, that has a yoyo-like object spun and tossed by a string and 2 sticks.

How can you not like the delightful sounding antique DURANCE VILE, Even if you spent infinite microseconds LABORIOUSly trying to make it a Dime for some kind of VIcE.

It is not necessarily true that an ALABAMAN ends up being backwards ASS.

I would listen to BEALESTREET PALAVER all day if it could.

JC66 10:23 AM  

Like @Teedmn, having taken @Rex's recommendation and done the first two "Hard As Nails" puzzles, I expected a real struggle today. It wasn't quite that difficult. I did have to do some work (i.e. DURANCEVILE), but the AcrossLite app tells me I finished in average Saturday time.

Alex M 10:24 AM  

Ruth NEGGA has surely appeared in the puzzle before? Not as often as Issa Rae but she feels like a common sight to me. (Just checked XwordInfo, today is her debut! Guess I'm living in a Mandala effect alternate universe...) I know PALAVER as a term roughly equivalent to SNAFU, so I was hesitant to drop it in today for this clue. This puzzle felt just right for a Saturday solve.

Taffy-Kun 10:27 AM  

Not true that no-one will know “Durance Vile” as you can see from comments. Shows up quite often in English literature, maybe easier as a Brit.

Nancy 10:27 AM  

"You must remember this/A bris is just a bris..." sings the MOHEL. (9:56)

If you want to know why I so love reading @Quasi, this is why.

webwinger 10:31 AM  

After getting a foothold, felt like I was flying through this; finished in about average Saturday time, but with NO googling, a rarity until my resolution to go as far as possible into this year unaided. (I still refuse to call it cheating.) Then I sat staring at the SE corner for about 15 minutes, figuring jURANCEVILE had to be wrong, but with all crosses solid except the initial letter. Didn’t know the 55D referenced person, and tried many letters there without success before I realized, with much chagrin, that this senator must be a woman! And so she is—but a member of that VILE party that has closed ranks around you-know-who. Half expected @Rex to take offense at her inclusion in the puzzle with neutral clueing. But, also unmentioned by OFL, the constructor is a woman too. Hmm, can we blame the whole thing on WS?

Putting politics aside, I have found the recent comments about Z’s sister’s passing from him and others very moving. Still have my one sibling, and nine first cousins with whom I have remained fairly close, but increasingly aware that losses in my generation of the family can no longer be dismissed as unlikely or far off. (And sorry I called you a troglodyte a few days ago, Z, and if I am mistaken in assuming you are a “him”.)

QuasiMojo 10:34 AM  

@Nancy, you left out leaf blowers and car alarms, or at least those stupid overthetop beeping things when you lock it. I miss the days of rakes and silent keys.

TJS 10:41 AM  

What a tough crowd. @Gill.I beats me to my "STELLA" yell,@teevoz beats me to my Jimmy Durante comment. But neither would have been as funny as @mathgent. Great joke !
Loved this puzzle. 45 minutes of pure struggle, but eventually one error; neo rather than nee, because I wanted a "y" in mohhel anyway. So many "aha moments". And it definitely required that mind-blending with the constructor that a great puzzle requires.
Think "durance vile" might have been encountered in one of Dumas' Three Musketeer books many,many years ago.

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

55A DURANCE VILE, I had not heard of. There was so much Latin in the puzzle (alma mater, Scotia, and lemniscate, from the Latin and Greek for ribbon, hence the figure 8 in mathematics and I think biology), that I thought 55A must be Latin too. With the last 6 letters I looked for something like damnum civile, which doesn't fit. But Latin is not "fancy" like French, and I finally crossed my fingers and filled in the phrase with the crosses, worrying about DEB.

15A, EVER AND ANON. I always thought this term meant "on a continuous basis" starting soon, rather than "once in a while." The beautiful Epicurean poem by Lorenzo de' Medici, "Quant' e' bella giovinezza, che si fuge tuttavia" I always translated "how beautiful is youth, which flees ever and anon," the tuttavia meaning ever and anon, not "however" as the term more often means in Italian.

Anon. i.e. Poggius
Z, sorry for your loss. Made me think to call my own sister, about her age.

TJS 10:54 AM  

@JoeD, had to run thru the words of Basin Stree Blues, then Walkin in Memphis before I was sure of 61 across.

Joaquin 11:02 AM  

Did I miss a memo or update? What's the status of LMS?

Newboy 11:03 AM  

Thanks Stella for your solo heavy lifting today. No SLAG here, just terribly hard answers made possible by fair crosses which themselves caused head scratching. Never heard of DURANCEVILE, but BEALE STREET provides enough leverage to get a grip on BRONTE for example. Glad you got inspired to give us a tussle!

Adam 11:11 AM  

Started in the SW with OBAMAS and finished that area quickly - I loved PALAVER. Got PIXAR and AIRBALL and then got the rest of the SE other than the D and C or DURANCE VILE. I've never heard the term. Ever. Thought it was supposed to be "VILLE", didn't know DEB Fischer and thought it could be JEB, and had the same CBS/TBS dilemma as @Rex. Went up to the NW - loved DON'T JUDGE ME and EVER AND ANON; got FIGURE EIGHT from the crosses, although still have never heard of TRUES used in that sense.

Solid, enjoyable, but DURANCE VILE really killed me. I guessed right on both the D and the C - but it was just guessing. Feh.

pmdm 11:32 AM  

Suzie Q beat me to it with her comment. Perhaps Nancy's comment the other day had an effect.

First themeless puzzle in a while that left me satisfied. Now to see if a redelivery included the Magazine section of tomorrow's paper. If not, no solve until tomorrow.

Newboy 11:33 AM  

Today’s commentary has been as delightful as was the puzzle itself. And thanks @webwinger for your @z response. My feelings exactly as I’m sure they are shared by many like me who empathize but can’t find words worthy of the occasion.

jb129 11:37 AM  

Very tough for me & DNF but I enjoyed the experience. Thanks, Stella.

jberg 11:38 AM  

Commenting after reading Rex, before reading other comments. Hey, it's Saturday! And this puzzle presented a beautiful Saturday solving experience. Unlike OFL, I loved DURANCE VILE, not to mention EVER AND ANON, LABORIOUS and so much else. I didn't know what a lemniscate was, either -- that's the whole point, you have to figure it out! Again, it's Saturday.

I didn't manage to figure out where the 2000 Olympics were, though -- so I went with SO bAD/AUb, meaning to go back and figure out where that might be (pretty sure it wasn't Auburndale), but then forgot to, so I have to give myself a DNF.

Ron 11:55 AM  

I enjoyed most of the puzzle, but stacking three trivia words in SE (DURANCEVILE, EMILEBRONTE, and BEALESTRE) with several trivia crosses (PEORIA, CBS, NOLTE, DEB) was really cruel!

jberg 12:06 PM  

I once spent a summer working at an electronics factory, where my job was to degrease parts that were going to be soldered, a process we called "degreasing" -- so I balked at DEFAT, but finally went with it, and the dictionary confirms that it's a word. Live and learn.

@Arden, I didn't remember that Senator either -- but the constructor seemed to be putting women into the puzzle (all to the good), so I went with DEB.

Here's a contemporary use of DURANCE VILE. It's from some role-playing game site. All you lawyers who never heard it have been practicing in the wrong millennium.

@Gill, there's an old expression, "but will it play in Peoria?" - originally from show biz, I think, more recently applied to politics. It's asked about anything that looks good in New York, but maybe is not a good candidate for touring. I spent 3 days in Peoria once, working -- and it seemed pretty nice, actually.

Anonymous 12:12 PM  

@Webwinger: I’m sure there are a few left wing nut jobs who would object to Deb Fischer’s inclusion in the puzzle just as there are probably a few right wing nut jobs who would object to the inclusion of the Obamas. Fortunately Will Shortz ignores the crazies.

What? 12:26 PM  

One of the pleasures in solving crosswords is trying for the Aha moment. A case in point is FIGURE EIGHT. The clue is undecipherable to most and could easily have been changed to e.g. Symbol for infinity or Compulsory ice skating routine. No really Aha moment there. Instead we have to the rely on the cross fills. ENT, UNE, DDE, DEFAT, MOHEL. These give enough letters to allow our brains to fill in with a common phrase. We did it without reference to the clue. Aha!

TJS 12:28 PM  

"Will it play in Peoria" will probably be most recognised from the Oval Office tapes revealed during Nixon's impeachment. Some scheme Nixon and Haldemann were cooking up if I remember correctly.

jae 12:51 PM  

@Suzie Q - You reminded me of another problem I had in NW. It took me three tries to get MOHEL right.

Bree140 12:56 PM  

As @mathgent and @Bubbabythebay have
already pointed out, “durance vile” was almost
certainly intended as a tribute to Robert Burns,
who was born 261 years ago today. The term
appears in these lines from his poem, “Epistle
from Esopus to Maria”:

A Workhouse! ah, that sound awakes my woes,
And pillows on the thorn my rack’d repose!
In durance vile here must I wake and weep,
And all my frowsy couch in sorrow steep;
That straw where many a rogue has lain of yore,
And vermin’d gipsies litter’d heretofore.

DrBB 1:14 PM  

Guess I'm lucky that my dad was a great lover of all things literary and historical, and orotund expressions like DURANCE VILE were part of his joy in life. We knew about slithy toves before any of us was old enough to read books without pictures.

Still, I would have thought would be right in Rex's gimme zone. Robert Burns--not exactly the most obscure figure in what used to be considered the canon. We all have our blind spots of course, but it's the huffiness that surprises me. I was trained up to be embarrassed rather than self-righteous at such lapses. And to chortle in my glee at having a delicious old expression like this one to fill that gap.

Swagomatic 1:36 PM  

Durance vile was auto corrected to furnace vile on my Kindle, which is pretty much what my brain did. Oddly, through, I was below average in my Saturday time. Overall I enjoyed it. But 55A was tierra incognito for me.

Masked and Anonymous 1:41 PM  

Tough but fair SatPuz, at our house. No overturned furniture, but boo-coo erasures.

fave stuffins: The NW stack of eleveners [way to scrabble-twerk a "J" right in there!]. Also fond of: PALAVER. MAGNETISM. DEFATFANG. AIRBALL.

Precious nano-second SLAG-LAG-SCOTIA District:
* DURANCEVILE. Had no earthly idea. Made the solvequest lag a lot, in the SE.
* NEGGA. Closest I come to knowin this is that EGO gal on SNL. Which ain't too real close.
* MOHEL. I've probably seen this pup before, but it sure didn't stick to the old brainpan. But, then … why make a mountain outta a MOHEL: all the crosses were gettable, for all three of these entries of mystery.

Y'all haven't had a FriNite Schlock Flickfest update in quite a spell. Last night's picks for m&e and the bro-in-law were especially noteworthy…

1. "The Green Slime" - The theme song had to be heard to be believed. Also, the story & effects weren't too bad, for a 60s space schlocker -- only short-napped once. I blame that large supper, at the sorta-Thai beanery.
2. "Drums of Fu Manchu" - viewed chapters 3 and 4 of this primo 1940 Republic cliffhanger serial. Fu Manchu lair trapdoor dumps U into an underground giant octopus tank. Hero fell thru and is bein grabbed … how will he survive!?! day-um. Have to wait til next week.
3. "The Triclops" - fabulously desperate budget 2016 flick! Borrows a lot from "King Kong". Holds yer interest, due mostly to the drunken pilot dude and the stop-motion weirdball beasts.
But, I digress … Don't Judge M&E! ...

staff weeject pick: DDE. Flatout luved that there clue. Very runtpuz-like. Coulda been a double-?? clue contender, in my book.

Thanx for the themeless fun, Ms. Zawistowski darlin. Mighty Upliftin.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


**gruntz**

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

DrBB,
Your dad sounds wonderful.
As for Rex's huffiness... Well, your graciousness in describing it is as terrific as his self righteousness is embarrassing.

Joe Dipinto 2:01 PM  

It's sad (so sad), so sad
It's a sad, sad situation
And it's getting more and more absurd


@Joaquin 12:03 AM – thanks for giving us the skinny on your thought process.

This played less laborious than I initially expected, except for that thing occupying 54a. The bright side of DURANCE VILE is that it makes lots of nice anagrams:
Curved A-line (A-line!)
Elder Vicuna
Lunar Device
Carvel Nudie
Clue Invader
Nuclear Dive
and many more!

I think I thought EVER AND ANON just meant "forever", so that clue was also instructive. We had DEFAT, DEFANG – where were defeat, defile, defrock, defuse, and Willem Defoe?

A Split Decisions puzzle for Sunday – can't wait!
This is for @TJS.

okanaganer 2:06 PM  

I love learning stuff, so the unnecessarily tough clue for FIGURE EIGHT was okay by me. It is Saturday, right!

I thought I recognized in 'lemniscate' part of another word: ANALEMMA. (It's the particular figure 8 path traced out by the sun throughout the seasons; you will see it if you take a picture due south at noon every day for a year.) But Wikipedia says otherwise.

Another fun fact: SCOTIA originated from a Latin term for Irish!!

Barney 2:07 PM  

There's nothing inherently wrong with using an obscure term like DURANCEVILE (and, by obscure, I mean, I question if even 0.0001% of solvers could plop it in without any letters).

Similarly, there's nothing inherently wrong with providing a clue that has more than one correct answer (like CBS/TBS for "I Love Lucy network").

The problem is crossing those two.

DEB/JEB is not the same because no one named Jeb Fischer is or was a senator from Nebraska. In contrast, CBS was the network that initially aired Lucy and TBS was the network that subsequently ran it for nearly two decades.

Bottom line is that if you're remotely interested in elegant puzzle design, given the obscurity of DURANCEVILE, the clue for CBS should have been written more precisely, so only one answer legitimately fits.

It's not like CBS is such a difficult answer that it's impossible to avoid this type of conundrum. It simply reflexes laziness or sloppiness or both on the part of the constructor and/or editor. And that's a shame because the puzzle is rather quite good otherwise.

Carola 2:14 PM  

For those commenters who knew the term, it must have been such a delight to write in DURANCE VILE. I hadn’t a clue and went with a “t” instead of a C, and that was my last letter in and my ruin. Thank you @Bree 140 for the Burns quote and @DrBB for the wonderful description of your father. Thanks to the OED, I can contribute another citation: “ 1791 J. Mackintosh Vindiciæ Gallicæ Introd. p. xiii ‘For the delivery of the peerless and immaculate Antoinetta..from the durance vile in which she has so long been immured in the Thuilleries.’”

Like @Teedmn, I was prepared for the puzzle’s pleasures by having followed @Rex’s tip about Ms. Zawiskowski’s “Tough as Nails” crosswords. I’d missed seeing the second one posted, so off to give that a try now.

Jillybean 2:22 PM  

LOVED today’s puzzle! The mix of tough and easy made it more fun, never knowing if the clue was being clever or straightforward. Several obscure but cipherable terms and aha moments to boot!

Blade 2:47 PM  

My nit: fortuitous means owing entirely to chance. It is neither qualitatively favorable or unfavorable chance. So the opposite of fortuitous would be something occurring entirely by design. A better clue for 24A would have been “opposite of propitious.”

Joe Dipinto 2:51 PM  

Oh my bad, it's Willem DAfoe. So Daniel Defoe then.

Anonymoose 3:02 PM  

Lots of whining today about CBS. It's correct. It's direct. It's Saturday.

Barney 4:20 PM  

Yep. For Lucy network, CBS is correct. TBS is as well. Unfortunately, only one is correct with the cross. The problem is the combination. DURANCE VILE, per Google Ngram, topped out in usage around the 1880s.

It is a Saturday, so a largely unknown, specialized, foreign phrase rarely used except sparingly more than a century ago isn't completely unexpected. But one would hope that the crosses would be less obscure, if possible, and include clues that do not have more than one equally legitimate answer.

Of course, if you don't really care whether you ace the puzzle or not, then whether it includes a coin-flip answer crossed with something absurdly obscure is irrelevant. That's cool. It's as valid of a perspective as any.

But if you do care, and the problem could have been easily avoided without any effect on the difficulty of the puzzle, you're left scratching your head. A Saturday puzzle isn't great because it has a gotcha! Should I pick the network that originally aired this show or the one that played its reruns for three times as many years? Who cares? I flipped a coin and got it correct, but there was zero joy in it. CBS contributes nothing interesting or original to the puzzle. And here's the thing: if it was clued like a Monday puzzle so the overwhelming majority of people plopped it in without a second thought, I suspect less than 0.0001% of solvers would have been able to write in DURANCE VILE with no other crosses. There was no need to provide a clue with two legitimate answers, so why do it?

I suppose I'm vexed because it was a good puzzle otherwise, but when I finished I wished I had simply flipped the coin first and not wasted the time solving.

Of course, carping about it is even a bigger waste of time, so I guess there's that.

Fred Wollam 6:20 PM  

DURANCE ~meaning "duration" (it's French, so... accent on 2nd syllable)
VILE ~meaning "vile"... awful... pronounced ~like "veal."

Amelia 6:23 PM  

You should all know (and probably some of you do) the story of Loving v Virginia. A very important moment in 20th century history. The Supreme Court struck down state laws banning interracial marriage in the United States. The Supreme Court decided that "anti-miscegenation” statutes were unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment. The decision is often cited as a watershed moment in the dismantling of “Jim Crow” race laws."

The film (not the poster) was excellent.

https://www.history.com/topics/civil-rights-movement/loving-v-virginia

As for Ruth Negga, she's now about to play Hamlet.

Mike from Mountain View 6:58 PM  

Fine puzzle, but 31 Down probably should have been clued as a variant. The most commonly used term for people from Alabama is Alabamians.

IlluminatingLight 8:03 PM  

"For a debut constructor: awful. Back to the drawing board, Stella."
@Klazzic - since you don't know who Stella, she could break you into two, and deservedly so. You'd scream her name.

Phil 9:07 PM  

DNF onthe LEX for LUX

bob mills 7:06 AM  

"INSTANTANEOUS" would be a correct clue for "IMMEDIATE." "INSTANT" is a noun, while "IMMEDIATE" is an adjective.

a.corn 1:00 AM  

Dude that’s really funny.

GTownInfo 5:50 PM  

Hoping all is ok for her.

Burma Shave 11:15 AM  

IMMEDIATE TRANSFER

EVERANDANON ALINE rhymed, but DON’TJUDGEME victorious
for SAD PALAVER ILLTIMED, and TEASES SO LABORIOUS.

--- ROBIN ENGELS

rondo 11:38 AM  

So, at first I made a rabbi out of a MOHEL, I was brought to TierS before TRUES, I had to rid myself of deMoNS to get GAMINS, and aries had to go at the first sign of a ROBIN. I FIGUREEIGHT words or so written over. Molly SIMS has that yeah baby MAGNETISM. LABORIOS, but the kind of test I FAVOR.

spacecraft 12:01 PM  

Talk about 1a setting a tone! As if she's saying it to OFC, on her NYT debut. My dear, he has JARRED many a newcomer, but I think you're (mostly) safe with this one.

Two out-and-out outliers, NEGGA and that one down there that we're all talking about, had to rely 100% on crosses at my house. I am most surprised that OFC, an English prof, didn't think of the Brontes almost IMMEDIATEly. After all, there aren't very many literary trios to pick from. This forced NYE, so no EVE confusion there. The last across was also a gimme: "Well I'm walkin' in Memphis; I'm walkin' with my feet ten feet off of BEALE..." The square that gave me the most pause was 55. Was my Nebraskan senator JEB or DEB? I went, thankfully, with DEB, and it's all good.

ARME might be a little left-fieldish, but really the whole grid outside the two above cited was solid as can be. Medium tough for a Saturday, with most impressive 9- and 11-stacks. As smooth a 70-worder as you'll find. DOD is...oh, what the heck, why not the constructor? Stella, please come back EVERANDANON. Birdie.

Diana, LIW 3:15 PM  

Guess I just don't PALAVER enough, so the SW eluded me. Gt the rest. Good for me.

Diana, LIW

leftcoaster 3:24 PM  

Tough enough for a Saturday, and it took some time."Aha's" scattered throughout as the grid slowly filled in.

Hardest part was the middle South, especially DURANCEVILE, FLUME, and even AIRBALL, an otherwise easy one, but had to wait to sort out the crosses.

A one-square error: LeX instead of LUX, which also gave AeS(?) instead of AUS.

Enjoyed the challenge.

leftcoaster 3:32 PM  

Something just DOWNed my comment. In short, a one-square error with LeX instead of LUX. Enjoyed the challenge and close finish.

rainforest 5:09 PM  

Proud was I to complete my solve with nary a write-over only to come here and discover that it is DEB and not jEB. jURANCEVILE sounds fine to me, anyway.

Despite the DNF, I loved this puzzle. Not counting the 11-stacks and the 9-stacks, there were great answers here: PALAVER, GAMINS, TRUES, PEORIA, SCOTIA - probably more, as well as some excellent clues.

I like the cut of this constructor's jeb, er, jib.

leftcoaster 5:50 PM  

@spacecraft -- Agree with you about Stella.

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