Former kingdom of central Vietnam / SAT 2-1-20 / Grain bristles / Home away from home sloganeer / Wine often paired with Roquefort cheese / Champagne-fueled song finale /

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Constructor: Mark Diehl

Relative difficulty: Easy (except for ... well, you'll see) (untimed, clipboard solve)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ANNAM (13D: Former kingdom of central Vietnam) —
Annam (VietnameseAn Nam or Trung Kỳ, alternate spelling: Anam) was a French protectorateencompassing the central region of Vietnam. Before the protectorate's establishment, the name Annam was used in the West to refer to Vietnam as a whole; Vietnamese people were referred to as Annamites. The protectorate of Annam became in 1887 a part of French Indochina. Two other Vietnamese regions, Cochinchina (Nam Kỳ) in the South and Tonkin (Bắc Kỳ) in the North, were also units of French Indochina. The region had a dual system of French and Vietnamese administration. The Nguyễn Dynasty still nominally ruled Annam, with a puppet emperor residing in Huế. In 1948, the protectorate was merged in the Provisional Central Government of Vietnam, which was replaced the next year by the newly established State of Vietnam. The region was divided between communist North Vietnam and anti-communist South Vietnam under the terms of the Geneva Accord of 1954. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well this one was full of surprises. When I saw the constructor's names, I thought, "uh oh, this one's gonna be tough, you're never on this guy's wavelength, good luck." Diehl's puzzles always strike me as ... I'd say old-fashioned tough. But not bad. Just a grind. For me. So the first surprise of the puzzle was absolutely tearing through it. AWNS SUE THOU and then WHATLLITBE (15A: Line at the bar) and *then* OBSTRUCTS (9D: Plugs up). So before I even finished filling in the NW, I was already down into the center. It was wild. Like being on a hot streak, where every shot you take goes in, every move you make is the right one, every step you take I'll be watching you. . . no, that's the Police. Where was I? Oh right, just shredding this puzzle. I kept waiting for the catch ... surely there was some trap door or some Minotaur or something that was gonna come along and stop me cold. But no, right down the west coast, into the center. Ironically, the first thing to cause me any trouble was an answer I *knew* but couldn't remember: the last name of the guy from One Direction. He's not Harry Styles famous, but he's very famous (with a certain demo), and I damn sure have seen his name many times, but ... blank. And since I also didn't know how PENTO- was going to end (30D: Puzzle piece made up of five squares) (?), no way I was getting into the SE. So I just went up and around. Tiny hesitation at 30A: Spear carrier?, even with PICK- in place, but then bam, PICKLEJAR, giving me the high-value "J," making DIY PROJECT very easy to get. Really closing in on it now...

Instead of finishing off the NE, I went down the ANGLE PARKING. Now here was the second surprise (well, third, if you count my totally forgetting Zayn MALIK's name): I don't know what GANTRY means. I know Elmer GANTRY and that is all I know about GANTRY, so I needed every single cross and even when I was done, I didn't know why the clue was right (38A: Cape Canaveral sight). I'm guessing it's something to do with rocket launches ... yup. The "2a" def of GANTRY at Merriam-Webster is a movable structure with platforms at different levels used for erecting and servicing rockets before launching." So if you didn't know, now you know. I wish it were just some dude named GANTRY. "Who's that over there watching the launch?" "Oh, that's old man GANTRY. He's always here." Anyway, GANTRY! Blew through it 'cause the crosses were easy (thank goodness). Headed into the SE with trepidation, but CLIME GUITAR PARKING just opened it right up. Zero trouble finishing it, despite never having heard of a PENTOMINO and despite the probably not-great proper-name crossing of MALIK and ALEK (who is like IMAN and EMME in that they are four-letter models who show up occasionally to help constructors keep their grids from falling apart) (44D: Supermodel Wek). But if you think MALIK / ALEK was a not-great crossing, well ... you ain't seen nothing yet.

So I head up to the NW to polish this thing off, feeling very triumphant, and there, at the very end, is the trap door / Minotaur / pick your damned metaphor. A Natick. A textbook Natick. A Natick the likes of which I haven't seen since I gave the Natick its name (when the"N" in NATICK crossed the "N" in "N.C. WYETH"). You know the cross I'm talking about. You probably came here hoping to see me complain about it. Well here you go: The 11A/13D crossing. Is. Inexcusable. Absurd. Ridiculous. Why? Well, crossing 1. two proper nouns 2. of non-universal fame 3. at a vowel 4. that is completely uninferrable—that is the recipe for the perfect Natick, and that is exactly what we've got here. Naticks are *unfair*; there are ways to stump people that are fair, and then ... there are Naticks. I've literally never heard of ANNAM. I am not that old, and while I knew Vietnam was part of what was once called French Indochina, ANNAM ... never made it into my brain. So _NNAM ... you could've convinced me of anything. And the dude on the Argo!?!?! I've read The Voyage of the Argo and taught classical literature and I *still* couldn't remember that dude. *Only* the fact that I *had* read the work and *had* been around the classics and classicists my whole life saved me at this crossing. I plugged the "A" in and thought "... yeah, IDAS feels right. It looks *insane*, but it feels right. IDAS / ANNAM ... gotta be it." Closed my eyes, pressed the button, and bingo. I guessed right. But literally everyone, me, you, every solver talking about this puzzle on Twitter right now, *everyone* knows that's a bad cross. How did the constructor not know? The editor? Editor's helpers?? Not going to blame the proofers, who *surely* knew, because WS is known for ignoring their concerns. Why would you do this? Once you "get" it, you can't even be sure you've "gotten" it without looking stuff up, which is, lemme tell you, the most dissatisfying way to end things. 

I do think the "A" is the best guess there at ID-S / -NNAM) ... you can eliminate the "E" and "O" because those are answers that would've been clued other ways in the Across (i.e. IDOS and IDES, being familiar things, would never get clued this way). So you're left with "A" "I" and "U" ... actually "A" probably feels the *least* classical-namey of all those options, but INNAM and UNNAM look truly insane. I don't know. The point is, no solver should be in the position of engaging in this kind of stupid guesswork. Again, no one is saying IDAS on its own shouldn't be in puzzles (although ... it shouldn't really, it's bad, don't). And no one is saying ANNAM shouldn't (sigh ... if you must). But recognize that they are both patently obscure, and treat them that way—with totally fair crosses. Crossing them at "A," wow. No. Absolutely not. That's editorial incompetence. Or negligence. At any rate, it's bad. And for the constructor make this *whole* puzzle, most of which is just fine, lovely even, but now the only thing anyone's gonna remember is IDAS / ANNAM and the residual icky feelings it caused. Why would you do that?  This is an editing fail of the highest order. Jaw-dropping. That is all.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. a Twitter reaction sampler:

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joaquin 6:38 AM  

I loved this one; lots of great, new fill (at least new to me, and I've been solving for decades). But I was surprised to find one MAN on top of another MAN in the SE corner. It didn't impact my enjoyment of the solve; just thought that was a "no-no".

Also - I'm actually a Vietnam vet and can't recall ever hearing of ANNAN but found it easily inferrable and a lot less Naticky than did Rex.

puzzlehoarder 6:57 AM  

I'm always glad to see Mark Diehl's name when I print out the puzzle. Along with the usual interesting material that gets it's late week difficulty through clever cluing he always fits in some entries that give it that extra touch.

Today there was the totally unknown PENTOMINO stacked next to the little known ALEK. Both of those were crossed by the even lesser known MALIK.

Up in the NE corner the unknown AMMAN was crossed with IDAS. IDAS is one of those of those more obscure pieces of crosswordese I haven't quite nailed down yet. Like ALEK and MALIK today I had to rediscover IDAS.

Smoking out those odd entries makes me feel I've gone that extra step and makes the solve that much more enjoyable.

Congratulations to Mr. Diehl for another well made puzzle.

OffTheGrid 7:07 AM  

Thought this was pretty clunky for a Saturday. It reminded me of Wednesday's puzzle. Ear locks and Spear carrier were the worst. Runner up-Ball handler.

Lewis 7:10 AM  

"Not this time," I said after my first pass with a pittance of production. And then, and then... a scattershot ping here, an educated guess there, a long answer -- finally! -- yonder.

"Maybe," I said when the grid was half full. Then a laugh out loud at PICKLE JAR, and a change from "VALET" to ANGLE re parking, and the next thing I knew, after a DIY step-by-step solve, a motivated plod, if you will, I, like @rex, was staring at my last blank square, the nowhere-in-my-brain ID_S / _NNAM cross. I guessed right, and felt that fabulous finishing flush that comes with a well-earned completion. I'd have felt the same had I guessed wrong.

"Oh, this was a classic Saturday solve," I said, with gratitude and high admiration for what you did, Sir Diehl, what you did with spark, skill, and GUILE. You, sir, are a Mark of distinction.

JJ 7:28 AM  

I had RTE, CLOVES, and NÉE in the NW. I had, for some reason, a DYI PROJECT in the NE. FYI, it should have been DIY. That top part of the puzzle took me a long time to sort out. The rest was fun, and challenging. Slowed by METER PARKING.
I’m not solving for speed, but I can appreciate Rex’s vexation at what was almost everyone’s terminal “a”. There was a lot of white space to cover, but it was very satisfying to finally fill it all in.

kitshef 7:29 AM  

Fun fact about Loki. In Norse mythology, Odin rides an eight-legged horse called Sleipnir. Loki, who is male, is Sleipnir’s mother.

Finally, a Saturday with some bite (though still easier than Wednesday’s).

Five things I did not know, all proper nounes: ANNAM, IDAS, GREG, MALIK and ALEK. Of course, ANNAM crosses IDAS and MALIK crosses ALEK. “A” was the only reasonable guess for the latter. DNF’d on the former. I guessed oNNAM/IDoS. Second guess would have been uNNAM; third iNNAM.

Chuckle of the day from Rex's column "he's not Harry Styles famous", to which I say "who the bleep is Harry Styles?"

Ted 7:37 AM  



Nah, Rex. I'm glad you got AWNS and THOU and TASE, but a lot of us didn't, and that NW was just a bunch of blank space for a long time. I got scattershot answers around the grid, mostly down the East side, but couldn't crack anything open.

SAUTERNES?! CORNTASSELS? PENTOMINO? I don't know these things.

Ugh. Hardest Saturday in ages.

EricNC 7:37 AM  

Agree with @Rex. Natick city.

Barney 7:53 AM  

All of the joy of a puzzle evaporates instantly when you're left with flipping a coin to see whether you'll get the final square correct or not. Last week, I did. This week, I didn't. And the feeling is exactly the same: thanks for nothing.

Why do puzzle constructors/editors do this? It can't be a blind-spot, right? Is it simply laziness? Would the difficulty or quality be so severely diminished if IDAS was clued: Wells and Tarbell, or something similarly Monday-ish?

mathgent 8:00 AM  

A toughie and I solved it without lookups. I had seen ANNAM before, probably in a history of the Vietnam War I read a couple of years ago. So solving it clean gave me a little rush. That, plus nine red plus signs in the margins, made this a satisfying solving experience.

After solving, which took a long time, I looked up some entries which I had correctly inferred from the crosses. CORNTASSELS I liked. I suppose that ELAL is the Israeli airline but I couldn’t find the slogan referred to in the clue. IDAS I guess was a buddy of Jason. I didn’t bother with MALIK, GREG, and ALEK.

I really liked WHATLLITBE and PICKLEJAR. But not SUNGTO and ASLEW.

Another reason I liked it: only six Terrible Threes.

Z 8:02 AM  

There is quite literally no wrong vowel at that crossing since BOTH words originate in not just different languages, but completely different alphabets. I suppose we have a good sense of what the sound is for ANNAM, but a vowel sound from a few thousand year old work based on oral tradition? Pshaw. And even for ANNAM, who decided to represent that vowel sound with an "A?" Is it A as in FAT or A as in fate or A as in father? Or would it be closer to our ear to "fete?" What I'm saying is that Rex was too kind.

If you're curious - M-W has a pronunciation for ANNAM. Wikipedia says IDAS is pronounced with a schwa which... can use just about any vowel as its representation.

BTW - I went with Y. Why? Well, the questions sort of answers itself doesn't it.

Anyone else roll their eyes at AGES AGO? Seriously? You're going to go with dinosaurs for AGES AGO? Not enough squares for something like "jurassic," so I knew something was amiss, but when I finally fixed the O I was not pleased.

@GILL I late yesterday - LOL. We do go on, don't we.

John H 8:04 AM  

Hated it. SUPER Naticked. And Ages ago is, like, the civil war, not when dinosaurs roamed. Because I have never heard of pentomino, which in retrospect makes sense, I couldn't escape from pentEmenio, which gave me the nonsense agesagE. So that one vowel killed me, despite having correctly guessed Idas-Annam-Malik-Alek.

emmet 8:07 AM  

West half went so fast. Much harder in east and last to go was 11a/13d and I too got lucky. Could have done President's wife and daughter. Everyone
doing crosswords knows Ida McKinley.

GILL I. 8:08 AM  

I see those NOSE TO NOSE shots on TV and I'm always wondering if they have bad breath. I remember reading somewhere that nobody wanted to kiss Clark Gable because he stank of tobbacky.
Really enjoyed your write-up today, @Rex. When you're good, you are primo and funny.
I haven't dined with the classics so IDAS ANNAM was my take out dinner. I've never used the word "Natick" yet but yeah, today I will dust it off and place it on the mantel. May I add MALIK and ALEK crossing each other? Well, those at least were gettable. I flipped a lot of coins on this one.
I started off with the Maleska AWNS THOU and NEE and hoped this wouldn't be an oldy moldy. Then I just stared. I did my usual get up and move around bit, came back and stared some more. Then I went about my merry way and added a fistful of esses. Sure were a lot of them.
I always want to start at the top and I'm bullheaded about it. Finally saw ATRACTION. Like @Rex, I began to feel confident and run with my answers. DIDN"T GET THE MEMO my first aha. Second was PICKLE JAR. AGESAGO looks like a cheese that would go with SAUTERNES. Why did I want to fit in a BENTO BOXS with that puzzle piece made up of five squares? Was I thinking of those little cute divisions where you put rice in one, the ginger in another and maybe some sashimi and eel in another?
What makes a supermodel a supermodel? Do they get paid more? Did anybody else want MOGULS for 25A?
A DNF today because I don't know names. Really didn't matter since I learned that some people actually drink SAUTERNES with Roquefort even though I'd prefer a Zin with Stilton.

CDilly52 8:11 AM  

I am right there with John Ciolfi and @Lewis on this one. What a classic Saturday tussle. My saving graces were that I am old and recall watching each and every Mercury 7 space shot all the way through the Geminis, ergo I can still hear Walter Cronkite from Cape Canaveral saying something like, “the launch is a go. You can see them beginning to pull back the GANTRY. . . “. And, in undergrad I took a history course that traced Viet Nam’s history and explored the myriad political influences that created the ultimate debacle that sent so many of my classmates to their all to early graves. Ugh! Those long nights watching the draft picks! So, I survived the Natick, and ultimately guessed several other places, but this was hard! Very thankful for AWNS, THOU and SUE at the front end. Sometimes I am grateful for some good old-fashioned crosswordese. I also agree with anyone who says PICKLE JAR was the marquee clue/answer today.

Hungry Mother 8:27 AM  

I needed the red letters to finish it off. Played very tough all of the way to Natick.

Suzie Q 8:29 AM  

I was skipping along happily until I tripped and fell in the NE.
That's OK because the rest was so much fun,
Rex can be pretty funny when he wants to. The Police, good one.
We discussed gantry the last time it appeared.
Loved the clue for guitar.
As for Alek Wek (who I've never heard of), is that the face of a super model??

Anonymous 8:38 AM  

Hated this puzzle. DNF for first time in ages (proper use of the word). Two nobodies crossing each other. How many people doing this puzzle know Malik Wek and Alek Zayn* ? I’m in my forties probably a median age solver. The boomers must’ve really struggled with this one. Grrrr.

*yeah I know

Matilda 8:45 AM  

ALEK WEK is not a supermodel.

CDilly52 8:55 AM  

I agree! We haven’t had what I would consider a “real Saturday” in a very long time. After over six decades of solving, I still get excited for Saturdays because those are the ones that should give me a real run for my money and that usually teach me some little piece of info that will serve me well in future solves. This one had some gems!

CDilly52 8:56 AM  

I could only think “muttonchops” for ear licks and that was an epic fail!

pabloinnh 8:56 AM  

Yep, a super Natick in the NE. Had the same thought process as OFL, eliminating vowels, and finally went with U. Eliminated IDAS, which I would have clued as "girls sweet as apple cider". Since I solve on paper, it looked OK to me and compared to the actual answer, it still looks OK to me.

SEVENGAMES for the World Series slowed things down forever.

As @SuzieQ points out, the GANTRY discussion is not that old. Even I remember it, that's how memorable it was.

Absolute worst timing for any answer in a long time-OBSTRUCT. Far too much of that is enough, thank you.

Tough stuff, MD. I'll give you a one-square pass, but only because it's in my nature to be forgiving.

Rube 9:02 AM  

Omg. I agree with rex today. Went with UNNAM because IDUS sounded more Greek

Anonymous 9:05 AM  

Anon 8:38: and John H. 8:04- I thing AGES AGO is meant to be taken literally. In that sense it works.

Teedmn 9:06 AM  

I slapped in the A at everyone's favorite spot in the NE but hedged my bets with a Y, a la @Z, outside of the grid, just in case. To me, IDyS looked more likely than IDAS (thinking of idyll, I guess) but ANNAM seemed better for the Vietnamese former kingdom.

My real problem was down in the SE. I knew MALIK after I got the IK but I didn't know PENTOMINO or ALEK. So 54A became PacER GAMES and I put it down to some arcane baseball term (and after yesterday, can you blame me?) So a two-letter DNF today. Perhaps, if I had actually pondered what PENTOMINO (which I had considered) might mean for 54A, I might have seen the World Series misdirection into POKER. But maybe not.

22D, I wanted CORN silk and had to wait for SAUTERNES to remember the TASSELS. I read 39A and with __ESAG_, I splatzed in AGE as the second half and then wondered what AGES AGe was. At least I fixed that one. 49D was "eat" up, then I considered "sew" UP but MILITIA helped me mop up there.

Yes, I had errors, so my time isn't relevant today, but I looked at my watch when I had the last three letters left and only 15 minutes had passed, so I think this was a super easy Saturday.

@Gill I, I read your late post yesterday, and my husband yelled, "Hey, what's going on in there" because the peals of laughter made him think he was missing something amazing. Of course, my explanation did not elicit the same reaction from him but he did smile.

amyyanni 9:10 AM  

Rex, funny riff on Elmer Gantry. Because he was stuck in my mind, I put in GANTRY, then looked it up in the dictionary to be sure. And yes, hoped you would address the in your face Natick, thank you. There was a lot to like, e.g., PICKLE JAR made me smile. Also wrote in AGE at the end of AGESAGO, which of course led me astray for a bit. Same with Face to Face for NOSE TO NOSE. Good challenge. Rabbit Rabbit!

SouthsideJohnny 9:11 AM  

This was absolutely brutal as my solving skills are a notch or two below the mean for the group who generally post here. In addition to the items already mentioned, ANKH and APIA added to the misery.

Additionally, the cluing on AMOR and GUILE are pretty substandard - I guess the Iglesias dude probably sings about romance (so does everyone else, btw), and “Trait of Loki” is brutal - even if you know he is a superhero (I didn’t), well don’t all superheros have GUILE, so what is unique about this one?

Can anyone explain how we get from “Ball handlers?” to SEERS ? That one still hasn’t registered for me.

QuasiMojo 9:12 AM  

This felt like a Maleska Saturday even with that ALEK lady. Easy? No way. I did manage to slog my way through the Natick up top but the ALEK / MALIK thing was also a Natick. What on earth is One Direction? Does it have Angle Parking?

Three thumbs up to the constructor however for offering us something A SLEW more challenging than the pablum of the last few months.

@GILL I'm not sure it was just tobacco in Gable's case. Bette Davis used to call Edward G. Robinson (whom she had to kiss in an early movie) "Liver Lips."

amyyanni 9:13 AM  

Boomer here. Because I run, I listen to a variety of music on my little SanDisk. So yes, I know Malik. Also guessing any Boomer around young people of a certain age would know him as he and One Direction were very popular.

Birchbark 9:24 AM  

I inferred the A in IDAS to finish the puzzle and feel a little awkward for not being mad about it. It's a Greek myth, as is the famous "Midas" story, ERGO IDAS.

I also feel smart-aleckish about SAUTERNES, which appears now and again on the work table in the kitchen along with the appetizers (Roquefort-cousin gorgonzola sometimes among them) when guests are over. Seemed right, but now I know it's normative from a crossword perspective.

Further to cheese, rereading Thomas Pynchon's "Mason & Dixon" last evening: a multi-ton "Octuple Gloucester" falls out of its wagon during a town festival and barrels down the hill straight at Mason. "He threw his arms in front of his Face and succumb'd before the cylindrickal Onslaught, with a peculiar Horror at having been singled out for misadventure ... The Victim of a Cheese malevolent, being his last thought ... hearing thro' his Belly the homicidal Ponderosity roll by him without the interruption of a flatten'd Mason to divert it from its Destiny."

Yet to the outside world, I seemed merely in a rocking chair, reading a book.

webwinger 9:35 AM  

This felt like the x-word equivalent of scaling El Capitan. Fittingly got my foothold near the bottom with ONE MAN BAND and PENTOMINO (featured in the wonderful YA mystery novel Chasing Vermeer, which I read with my daughter years ago) and worked my way gradually upward to finish, like many others it seems, in the NE with Natick-y IDAS crossing ANNAM. Took over 90 minutes, but was very satisfying and scenic along the way. Particularly liked PICKLE JAR.

Then @Rex had to ruin it by calling this Easy! Easy?! [Grawlix!!] Relieved to see almost no one else in agreement on that.

Now into my second month of free solo solving. Mixed feelings. Significantly increased time on tough ones like today’s. Like the feeling of accomplishment, but not the feeling of mystification upon successful completion with a number of WOE answers in the grid. Definitely no sense of moral growth. Will be glad in a way when this [grawlix] streak, now nearing 400 days, dies a natural death, and I can re-une with my buddy Goog.

SouthsideJohnny 9:40 AM  

Upon further review, I’m guessing that the SEERS clue refers to “crystal balls” or perhaps a Magic Eight Ball, lol. Seems weak, but acceptable - especially compared with some of the other entries today.

Anonymous 9:44 AM  

why is Ax with a pick (38D) a guitar?

Unknown 9:46 AM  

She absolutely is. Famous for years and has graced countless magazines and catwalks.

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

@southsidejohny. I think those are the crystal balls that "seers" (really frauds) use.

Bourbon Street 9:52 AM  

I was expecting an @Rex rant over RAN ARMS and MILITIA MAN.

Anyway, I had RAN guns for a long time and Nabobs instead of BARONS, both of which tied me up for some time. SUNG TO bothered me for a reason, but I can’t place my finger on why I find it irritating. I wouldn’t describe the last ONE MAN BAND I saw as “multitalented”; I’d describe him as more comedic.

Anonymous 10:02 AM  

Someone tell “The King” that it was French Indochina, not French “Indonesia”.

Nancy 10:02 AM  

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe. Three times I found myself in Natick-land and three times I threw up my hands and said "whatever". This would be at the IDAS/ANNAM cross; at the MALIK/ALEK cross; and at the PENTOMINO/MALIK cross. Unfair, unfair, unfair I protest -- but I loved the puzzle anyway.

Google doesn't accept PENTOMINO, which sounds like a cross between palomino, pentimento and pantomime. I have no idea what it is. At least I got POKER GAMES when I was initially thinking of a baseball World Series.

ONE MAN BAND is great. Loved the celebratory clue for SYNE. Roamed through all wines beginning with the letter S, wondering what went best with Roquefort.

But what is ANGLE PARKING and why only downtown? I live in NYC, but I don't drive and I live uptown. Is there one set of rules for them and one set of rules for us? Or is this a non-NYC thing? Please advise.

I guessed right on two of my three eeny meenies and therefore had only a 1-letter DNF. And I had an enjoyable time -- with much thinking required.

beam aims north 10:04 AM  

Agreed that Alek Wek is famous, I confidently put her name in there immediately. Also Zayn.

Glenn Patton 10:21 AM  

Lived the misdirection of the "spear carrier" clue next to 29a OPERA since "spear carrier" is also an opera production term.

JC66 10:25 AM  


In many cities and towns, the center of town or business district is referred to as downtown and to provide for more parking spaces, ANGLEPARKING is used rather than parallel parking.

r.alphbunker 10:30 AM  

Perhaps I have been doing too many of M&A's runtpuzzes but a solution to the controversial Natick could be
{Contraction of I would have} IDA

My cascos were

23A. {Smuggled weaponry} RANGUNS-->RANARMS

33A. {Was completely uninformed} DIDNTGETTHEMAIL-->DIDNTGETTHEMEMO

13D. {Former kingdom of central Vietnam} HMONG-->ANNAM

41D. {The tropics, for one} BIOME-->CLIME

54A. {World Series series} SEVENGAMES-->POKERGAMES

Details are here:

Nancy 10:34 AM  

@GILL -- I also thought of BENTO BOX (which luckily didn't fit) for the five square clue. Go figure. Great minds, and all that, maybe? Or maybe not? Also, if you say SAUTERNES don't go with Roquefort, I won't ever consume them together. I'm not wild about sweet wines anyway.

@Birchbark (9:24) -- The book reviewers scared me away from ever sampling Thomas Pynchon, and after reading you today, I shall get down on bended knee to thank them for it. But I do enjoy picturing you in your rocking chair.

My two favorite lines in the blog so far? @kitshef's "Who the bleep is Harry Styles?" and @pabloinnh"s "...but only because it's in my nature to be forgiving."

nyc_lo 10:34 AM  

Natick aside, it was the too-cute-by-half clueing that really made this an unpleasant slog for me. Entertained at the opera = SUNG TO? Ear locks = CORN TASSELS? Keeps fresh in the produce section = WETS? Blech.

TJS 11:01 AM  

No comments on "If Statement"? Is it really a thing? New one on me. I agree with one and all on the two Natick discussion, but I found that almost all the long fill made up for the negatives. Loved "Whatll it be", "Pickle jar" and "Didnt get the memo". Guessed wrong on "unnam" but not bummed out about it.
Spent alot of time wracking my brain for a country guitarist named Ax. Just remembered I was thinking of Hoyt Axton.
My new definition of Hell: Reading Pynchon novels with Dershowitz explaining them to me.

Mark 11:01 AM  

If it was a clipboard solve as OFL claims, then how does his statement of “Closed my eyes, pressed the button, and bingo. I guessed right.” get reconciled?.

Anonymous 11:07 AM  

I had to keep reading to figure out where the Natick is, but An Nam is my favorite restaurant in Leipzig, especially in the summer when you can sit at the sidewalk tables under the awn(ing)s. Good puzzle, hilariously entertaining response.

Ryan 11:09 AM  

Good for Rex that he was in the zone while solving this puzzle. But it was not "easy".

Perhaps I am displaying my ignorance here but SAUTERNES and PENTOMINO were completely unknown to me in addition to ANNAM and IDAS. I am supposed to know slogans for ELAL?

This puzzle was simply too hard for me. But I recognize its merit for those who do not find the typical Saturday to be difficult enough.

Joe Dipinto 11:10 AM  

I absolutely loved this, even with a few writeovers. I started with the symmetrical crossings at AMOR/PECOS and OPERA/APIA. It was looking a bit grim after that but I worked those two areas and managed to keep going. My first mistake was SAUVIGNON for the wine, which quickly seemed wrong as I remembered something about SAUTERNES vs. SAUTERNE. My other two initial goofs were SANG TO at 28a and IN ON at 8d but those were quickly fixed.

I vaguely remembered that Zayn's last name was MALIK, which made me vaguely remember ALEK WEK. So in they went. And complain all you want about IDAS/ANNAM: I maintain there is *no* other logical letter for that spot but "A".

A bang-up Saturday, if I may say so. Can we have more like this, please?

My song links won't work today for some reason, boo-hoo, but I'm too lazy to figure out why. I was going to play a song by Bread and a song by Three Dog Night that meet in the puzzle (they have a title word in common).

Mark 11:12 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John Child 11:14 AM  

I really liked this one. I recognized ANNAM as a Sanskrit word, though I didn’t remember the meaning (food or sustenance), so the Natick was OK here. So much goodness - [Having some valuable points] = TINED, [Issue a charge against] = TASE, ONE MAN BAND, ...

Ellen S 11:17 AM  

@Glenn Patton - hand up here for trying to squash “supernumeraries” in the space for the nicely misdirected PICKLE JAR.

@Nancy, Google knows all about PENTOMINO. You must have mistyped it. It’s a puzzle like Tetris.

I had to Google MALIK Zayn, or Zayn MALIK, whatever his name is, but no hope at all on that ANNAM/IDAS crossing. Other than that, I thought it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time, with nice misdirections making me feel clever for figuring them out.

jae 11:20 AM  

Mostly easy. My solve mirrored Rex’s except I guessed wrong at you know where. First DNF in quite a while. Liked the rest of the puzzle.

Ellen S 11:24 AM  

Hey, speaking of Thomas Pynchon, a long time ago I read Gravity’s Rainbow. The whole thing. And as I remember, I understood every word. ... The trouble is, put together in sentences, not so much.

Maybe I should try again. It was a different experience than reading anything by Anthony Burgess. Needed an unabridged dictionary for him, and a lot of times even that didn’t help. And yet, I always sort of got what he was getting at.

rageismycaffeine 11:24 AM  

Loved it until the Natick. I have a BA in Greek and Classic Civ and I couldn't have pulled IDAS out if you put a gun to my head. So I played vowel roulette and only finished by virtue of A being the first of the vowels.

Otherwise, a really enjoyable puzzle.

Arden 11:27 AM  

Guesses wrong on the idas/annam crossing, but otherwise nice crunchy solve

egsforbreakfast 11:29 AM  

I have always assumed that when Rex says “untimed, clipboard solve”, it meant that he solved a printed version which he had placed on a clipboard. If so, how would he have “closed my eyes, pressed the button, and bingo.”?

puzzlehoarder 11:30 AM  

IDAS crossing ANNAM is not a true Natick. If you check out the xwordinfo lists for both entries you'll see that this is the tenth time IDAS has been clued this way during the Shortz era.

What I found even more eye opening was when I scrolled down to the preShortz list for ANNAM. Prior to this current editor ANNAM was crosswordese 101. I started solving in 1990 so apparently I ran across ANNAM four times in 91' alone. ANNAM must be one of those "Maleskan" entries Shortz wanted to retire. Really handy four letter ese isn't so easy to get rid of.

Those nine previous Greek IDAS are the reason I gave A about a 90% chance and the remaining four vowels about 2+1/2% each. That's the nice thing about puzzles you don't have to know things cold they just have to look familiar.

As for ALEK and MALIK this is MALIK's third appearance. Other than an obscure film director Wek is pretty much exclusive for ALEK. The xwordinfo lists are a great post solve resource. If I'd had access to that kind of info back in the 90s I'd have learned my crosswordese that much faster.

Ellen S 11:30 AM  

@Mark, good catch: OFL must use an electronic clipboard with an app that doesn’t include a timer. Or he’s been hitting the SAUTERNES and didn’t remember how he solved it.

Bernie 2020 11:41 AM  

@Mark -LOL he was probably embarrassed by his time and didn’t want to post it. I don’t know why as I’m sure it was still faster than the 99%. It would have been easier for him to lie about his time instead. I guess there’s honor among thieves. No doubt Z or one of his sock puppets will ride to the rescue with some plausible explanation to defend his fair maiden’s honor.

jberg 11:43 AM  

I guess, like Rex said, it depends on your demo (i.e., demographic category). The cross that nearly Naticked me was MALIK/ALEK. A super model and a boy band? Neither means a thing to me. The other one was bad too -- I mean, the only Argonaut anyone knows is Jason, right? But I remembered ANNAM after I had most of the crosses, and IDAS was as good as anything else. My bigger problem in that corner was that I usually go to Home Depot (well, I usually don't) to buY something, so I put in those three letter and waited to see what I was buying. The sailor could have been IbAS, but FU-- just didn't work for 16A.

Also nutmeg before CLOVES (ugh!), and long before AGES AGO. I got bioME off the ME at 41D; and it never occurred to me that "entertained" in the clue to 28A was passive. It's pretty weird anyway -- you don't go to the opera to be SUNG TO.

So this puzzle was very challenging for me; I'm kind of surprised I finished it.

There were a lot of lovely answers, though -- DIDN'T GET THE MEMO, WHAT'LL IT BE, many more. So I'm happy.

Mohair Sam 11:43 AM  

@Nancy - There's ANGLE PARKING on Genesee Street in Bedford Falls in "It's a Wonderful Life". You should have all Jimmy Stewart movies memorized.

I'll bet they ANGLE PARK in Natick too.

Guessed right on both possible naticks. MALIK is a last name I've heard elsewhere. And A just felt right at 13D, and luckily I didn't even consider @Z's "Y" or I would have used it and DNF'd.

I love a Saturday struggle (when I'm done here we'll tackle Newsday's Saturday Stumper). But we had @Rex's experience - very easy until we hit the Natick town line - an uninferable vowel space does not a tough puzzle make.

Loved Ear locks/CORN TASSELS.

Katzzz 11:49 AM  

Think crystal ball

Anonymous 11:50 AM  

"Sung to" didn't sound right because it's wrong. Should be "sang to".

What? 11:56 AM  

/ instead of —. Takes up less curb space.

NY Composer 12:01 PM  

11A-13D textbook Natick. Unacceptable. And 44 isn’t too far behind.

Kevin 12:02 PM  

Same. Plus one.

The MALIK/ALEK crossing was unknown to me, but Alek at least sounded like a first name.

The IDAS/AMMAN was harder, but guessable.

I found myself trying to simultaneously get both of those and resorted to scrolling through the entry of each letter. After a long haul, I still couldn't figure it out, so I went back through everything else with a fine tooth comb.

FINALLY, I found my error. I wasn't sure about the five sided playing piece spelling, but had written in PENTEMINO first before looking at the cross. When I read the answer for when the dinosaur's roamed, I saw "Ages Age." Hmm. That actually seemed like a thing. I could imagine someone describing the whole window of dinosaurs (that covered many, many eras or periods) as the "Ages Age"--that is, the Age of natural history that is itself made up of lots of other ages.

Even looking at it know, it seems like a nice turn of phrase. In fact, if there are any paleontologists reading this comment, please try to work that into your next lecture. Hat tip appreciated but not necessary.

Dave C 12:03 PM  

Shout-out to Tim Croce's Club 72 puzzles - he occasionally moves off of the themelesses to give us variety puzzles; one of which is a puzzle with pentominos(oes?). Otherwise, I'd have had no idea. Probably shaved 20 seconds off of my solve, all of which was made up contemplating IDAS/ANNAM...

Kevin 12:04 PM  

Anonymous said...
"Sung to" didn't sound right because it's wrong. Should be "sang to".

The "entertained" in the clue refers to the audience, not the performers: "The opera goer was sung to (not sang to) by the singers."

Anonymoose 12:08 PM  

@Bernie2020. Surely you have something better to do than post tripe. (11:41)

jberg 12:10 PM  

@Gill, @Nancy - you really should try it, if you can afford the SAUTERNES (I can't anymore). Also good with caviar; it's the sweet/salty combination. But it has to be a good sweet wine, not a cloying one--no muscat. You can try port or an auslese or tokaji, too.

I had rocket before GANTRY, but was saved by childhood memories. I grew up in a town of 7,000 that had several shipyards, due to its location in a sheltered bay off Lake Michigan. One of the yards had a huge gantry that could be seen from all over town, and everyone called it that. So when I had to take out rocket because of GUITAR (@anon 9:44, musicians call their guitar an ax, for some reason, and of course you pick it (unless you strum it)), I eventually thought of it.

@TJS it's the programming equivalent of IF it rains, THEN open your umbrella, ELSE go on to the next step.

Newboy 12:27 PM  

Hardly “easy” for me. A SLEW of struggle with clues that came in with nouns where my first response was a verb, etc. And grounding out with sevenGAMES before POKER certainly made the southeastern briar patch impenetrable! Almost as much fun as Thursday. The natick at the top was rewarded by Mr Happy Pencil after only two wrong vowels, so I had a few more options left. If it had been easy, I’d have hated the same things that here I found amusing.

Brian 12:27 PM  


MichGirl 12:47 PM  

I had a stumble with my mind you sell arms and you run guns.

oldactor 1:01 PM  

@Ellen S:
Thanks “supernumeraries” was the word I was trying to remember but couldn't. Pickle jar was much better anyway.

Masked and Anonymous 1:01 PM  

ANNAM better clue: {Raggedy morning??}. Nat-tick problem solved. QED, un-imp-each-ably. No need for stinkin bolt-on witnesses. Heckuva way to run a rodeo, tho.

fave panoramic entries: IFSTATEMENT [M&A was a COBOL programmer, for a short spell]. WHATLLITBE. PICKLEJAR. DIDNTGETHEMEMO.

Wanted RANGUNS for way, way, way too long. Lost sooo many precious nanoseconds. Mighta been slightly easier to get RANARMS, if IDAS, ANNAM, and DIYPROJECT had been of any even semi-merciful help.
Better IDAS cue: {Actress Lupino and Mount in Crete}. Woulda given us two fightin chances.
Better DIYPROJECT clue: Anything that hints at an abbreviated start-up.
Another better ANNAM clue: {Heavenly food sent up from the other place??}. Don't make me come down there anymore, Shortzmeister.

Loved the POKERGAMES clue more than the fill item itself. (yo, @r.alph: Maybe I've been cluin up too many runtpuzs?)

Guessed MALIK/ALEK correct. But only because ULEK just didn't sound right, somehow.
Knew GANTRY. I think its yer hold-up-the-space-rocket structure dealy. Also kinda knew PENTOMINO, but it haunts the M&A, as to how I ever knew it.

staff weeject pick: MOP. M&A musta went thru about a good dozen other answers for that day-um MOP = {Finish off, with "up"} clue. Had to have it, as it was the gateway to that SE 10-stack. Really wanted USE, for quite a while, followed by desperately cyclin thru END, EAT, CUT, TIE, ICE, RIP, SEW, SOP, LAP, SUM, plus a few I ain't even gonna admit to.

Thanx for the MANNA backin up from Hades, Mr. Diehl. It was oddly somehow like pullin teeth. But, hey -- it's a SatPuz, so suck it up, M&A.

Masked & Anonymo5Us

p.s. Whoop. The houseguests arrive around 2pm. Gotta get busy, hang up the mask, and vacuum off the budgie. See y'all around.

no refunds:

Carola 1:02 PM  

A slow and very entertaining Saturday. I was too tuckered out from a whirlwind grandchildren‘s visit to properly engage with the puzzle nose to nose, but my repeated enfeebled swipes got me most of the way there. Brain power ran dry at IN?S x ?NNAM, leading to a DNF.
Help from previous puzzles: APIA; help from being old: GANTRY (memories of early Cape Canaveral launches).
Made me laugh: AGES AGO.

Farceur 1:29 PM  

Hey, that cross made those of us with degrees in Asian history feel like we got something concrete out our schooling. Let us have the moment.

Danny and Rachel 1:33 PM  

This one was extremely challenging for us. Just TOTALLY not on this puzzle's wavelength. Glad the NW was easy for you, Rex, but it was a total slog, here. Why the heck are tines valuable? My wife: "Because they help you pick up food?" Honestly that's our best guess. TASE felt super icky to me, surprised no comment from Rex. THOU without "a"? Are you serious? AWNS? AWWWWNNNNS? Never heard of CORNTASSELS despite the name making a certain amount of sense. Who new ELAL's slogan was "Home away from home?" PENTOMINO can get the **** outta here. Along with AGESAGO (ugh!) ANDS ALEK IDAS ANNAM GREG.

Reeeeally didn't like this puzzle.


SJ Austin 1:40 PM  

Yeah, IDAS / ANNAM was the least of my worries here. This puzzle was impossible. I was about 35 minutes in when I gave up and started—not just Googling, but telling the puzzle to reveal entire clues. (My Saturday average is 24 minuets, and I wasn't close.)

Having a dinosaur era clue with _G_ at the end, but not being something-AGE. SUNGTO, not SANGTO. IF (no "then"?) STATEMENT. ANGLE PARKING as a feature of specifically downtown streets? ALTERNATE DAY as something of concern to… party planners? The Oscars as an… EVENT. I mean, okay—but why not clue PAINT as "Green, for example"? AT… PAR? RAN ARMS? Obscure wine/cheese pairings. Still don't know what an AWN is, bad on me I guess. Maybe one or two of these I could have dug myself out of, but there was never any hope for me on this one, especially with NUTMEG plopped in there at 6D with only CRED as a crossing.

I rarely comment here and never really rant about puzzles, but this thing was like an absolute bull's-eye of Not On My Wavelength-ness. I'm actually mystified that this could be classified as easy. I'm gonna go do a USA Today puzzle to improve my morale (and mood!).

Anonymous 1:45 PM  

"4. He had almost a full set of dentures when he was only 32.

Because of a bad gum infection in 1933, he had to have most of his teeth removed and replaced by dentures, which caused him to suffer from halitosis. During the filming of Gone with the Wind, Vivien Leigh complained about how foul the stench was... but they got along really well other than that."

Given that many cable channels catering to boomers are running implant based dentures (which are only guaranteed for 5 years, IIRC) adverts, I wonder how to keep that stuff clean?

Lots of folks who play guitar call the thing an 'ax'. No idea why. Typically played with a flat pick; this often with finger pick(s|ing).

Frantic Sloth 1:49 PM  

Just this:

PENTOMINO, IDAS (as clued), and ANNAM all need to go home to Natick, and stay there.

Good gravy that was awful! Lucky to escape with all my limbs.

Anonymous 1:53 PM  

BTW, there's no such thing as just an IF STATEMENT, per se. Each programming language implements that logic/branching practice with mutually incompatible syntax. If you're in a multi-language programming shop, so much that is semantically identical is syntacticly completely different. After all these years of computers, one might think that programming languages would have settled on 'the one best way' to do logic (well, everything, really); certainly the hardware folks have. But there's always a 20-something who's convinced that he's discovered sex for the first time in human history.

Nancy 1:57 PM  

Thanks @JC66, @Mohair and @What for your various and varied ANGLE PARKING insights. Put them all together and they explain 1) why I've never seen it in NYC uptown, downtown or anywhere else and 2) why there's never a parking space to be found in NYC.

I'm trying typing PENTOMINO again, @Ellen S and it's still being underlined with a jagged red line. Maybe Google is trying to con me? Maybe it's not Google that's responsible for the jagged red line? Jagged red lines often appear on my screen when I know I've typed something that's completely right and I never do know why. Sigh.

Anoa Bob 2:19 PM  

I took some computer programming courses, albeit AGES AGO when we still used punch cards for input and got our results printed out on green bar paper, and I remember the 11D "Conditional programming line" as an IF-THEN STATEMENT. Just IF STATEMENT alone does not compute for me.

Only 26 black squares. Must have been a bear to fill. Significant help came from using six(!) two-POCs (Plural Of Convenience)-with-one-S. The first occurs at the end of 6D CLOVE and 25A BARON. For those still earning points toward your POC Merit Badge, find the other five and send in your results along with a six pack of Labatt Blue Canadian Pilsener for full credit. (Remember POC is a crossword term, not a grammatical one.)

So I would rate this grid as POC assisted. I would never have noticed those Ss before I tried my hand at constructing puzzles and found out how convenient they can be for filling the grid. For those who are not convinced, draw up a 4X3 grid and try filling it with and without an S in the lower right square. Report back.

DrBB 2:20 PM  

IDAS looked right to me, so I got it, but yup, a Natick. But then so was 43A/44D for me, MALIK/ALEK, though again my guess turned out right. Huge fan of 30A, not so much of 5D, my inner ear insisting on ALTERNATEDATE so loud it took me to the end to see "DAY" would work. 39A actually gave me the hardest time of the whole dang thing, because I was sure it had to be something ending in ----AGE, and the cross, PENTOMINO, isn't a thng for me. Felt kinda stupid when I saw my mistake. Mostly solid and fun though.

And once again I'm amazed at stuff some people have never heard of. GANTRY will be familiar to any kid obsessed with the space program. For me it's always going to be in the voice of Walter Cronkite.

GILL I. 2:22 PM  

Quasi 9:12. Hah!...I've never kissed liver before but I once took a bite out of a juicy tomato. Loved the tomato; the juice though, needed to be squeezed into some vodka.
@jberg 12:10. I've only had SAUTERNE once. Way too sweet and yes, they are very expensive. My husband introduced me to really good Port with a side of some fine English Stilton. THAT is manna from heaven - even if you don't like Port. The pairing of the tart cheese with the sweet wine is delicious.

Joe Dipinto 2:28 PM  

@Nancy – Angle parking is often seen on blocks with police stations in NYC.

Klazzic 3:04 PM  

Vietnam vet here: ANNAM was no problem, but IFSTATEMENT was really weak, if not incomprehensible.

Anonymous 3:05 PM  

My husband introduced me to really good Port

"And port is a wine I can well do without"

Anonymous 3:10 PM  

Why are so many solvers infuriated by a Natick? So you've got one blank square in a very tough puzzle, big deal. Anybody even glance at the front page of the paper?!? Consider directing your fury elsewhere.

Linda R 3:15 PM  

@Nancy - There's angle parking in front of the 10th Precinct - 230 W 20th St - in NYC.

Anonymous 3:57 PM  

There are 12 distinct ways of arranging 5 squares,joining complete edges,using 60 squares in all. This set makes Pentominos. They can be arranged to make every possible rectangle except 2x30 (one piece is 3x3) and many other nice shapes. Good spatial puzzles for kids.

Bourbon Street 4:18 PM  

@Anonymous 3:10 p.m. I’m not “infuriated” by a Natick, but I am irritated by one. Part of the fun of solving a good crossword puzzle is the “AHA” moment when you’ve figured out a fun clue (e.g. CORN TASSELS) or learned something new or caught onto a clever misdirect (e.g. PICKLE JAR). That fun isn’t there when a Natick is present because the solver hasn’t used any brainpower to fill in the correct answer; the solver is only guessing the correct answer.

Also, I read the front page of the paper every day (along with the rest of the paper) and I would hazard an educated guess that the vast majority of the posters here also do. I am infuriated at the injustices in the world. I solve crosswords to get my mind off of them.

Crimson Devil 4:42 PM  

Liked bar line and spear carrier, but not much else. Tough Saturday.

pabloinnh 4:46 PM  

Why haven't I connected PENTOMINOS and DOMINOS until right now?

There's nothing as annoying as an obvious truth.

Unknown 5:00 PM  

I had never heard of gantry, pentomino or Annam. Other than that, I thought it was a fun puzzle.

Farmer Jon 5:12 PM  


Corn silk is simply one of the female parts of the corn plant. The male part of corn is the TASSEL which sprouts from the TOP OF THE PLANT. The pollen comes from the tassel. Corn silks are actually tiny tubes where grains of pollen will land.

Conclusion: 22D is bogus. The tassel isn't even on the ear. It's not a synonym of silk.

Ronnie and The Dakotas 5:22 PM  

SUNGTO (Convertible Pontiac muscle car)

Anonymous 5:47 PM  

For those if you questioning whether "if statement" is a thing, just google it, for Pete's sake. That's what it's called. The syntax may include if/then/else, depending on the language, but it's still an if statement.

kitshef 6:19 PM  

It was a metaphorical button

Z 7:59 PM  

@kitshef - Nah. I assume that Rex fills AcrossLite (or whatever he uses) post-solve so that he can get an image of the completed puzzle to post. I do remember that AGES AGO (when dinosaurs stilled solved the puzzle) Rex would publish a pic of his pencil-fillled grid. If you look back to recent clipboard solves, though, they all have an image of a crossword puzzle solved on a computer. A bigger mystery to me is why anyone cares. Do they think he would lie about doing it on a clipboard? Why would it matter?

Regarding IF STATEMENT, I believe @anon5:47 is correct.

@pabloinnh - “There’s nothing as annoying as an obvious truth.” Exactly. Now let’s talk baseball... Oh, nevermind.

@Nancy - The red line is a spell checker. When you said “google” we all assumed you tried to do a web search for the term.

ALEK Wek is worth somewhere between $20 and $40 million and makes something like $3 million a year (the sources seem a bit sketchy, but I’ve seen similar numbers for other supermodels - Gisele Bündchen famously makes more than her husband). Seems super enough for me.

@Anon9:44 - Ax is slang for a GUITAR (I know this was answered, but I didn’t see anyone actually alert @anon9:44).

@SouthsideJohnny - ANKH and APIA will be back. Make a note. As for Iglesias, the name serves as a foreign language indicator. That “solving skill” you mention is at least in part learning what to ignore. This is especially true on Friday and Saturday.

@TJS - Hellish indeed.

JC66 8:38 PM  


If it's post solve how did @Rex say " Closed my eyes, pressed the button, and bingo. I guessed right?

Anonymous 10:04 PM  

@Z- Rex was clearly lying. No big deal Let He Without sin ...

TexanPenny 10:06 PM  

This one was exceptionally hard for me. My rule is no looking up any answers. However, I can ask someone else for help if THEY also don’t look up the answer. That is, the answers have to come out of someone’s head. That said, it took my sister and me 3 hours to complete, so yeah, NOT easy for us.
Once again, Rex and I have opposite takes on what’s easy and hard—in this case, the word “gantry.” It always seems (and I say this without rancor) that he feels if he hasn’t heard of something, nobody has. I think I’ve known the word gantry since about 1968, and Rex seems to be basically in my age group. But he certainly had me on the rest of the puzzle, which was a brutal slog.
And yes, Iike so many others, I ended the puzzle in the northeast corner guessing an “a.”

Outer Borough Denizen 10:29 PM  

Rex may be an a$$hole but he’s better than Mayor Big Bird. Terrorists took over Grand Central Station yesterday and this loser was nowhere to be found,

Anonymous 10:30 PM  

as to GANTRY, IIRC one was last used by Apollo. space shuttle didn't have a gantry. take a look at the wiki article. you can see the gantry for the Apollo at the bottom. the shuttle was standalone. IOW, you have to be kinda old to have actually seen a gantry-ed rocket lift off. in the flesh, that is.

Gina from Hazlet, NJ 10:47 PM  

@Z-He lied and was busted. No big deal. Rex is the Donald Trump of crosswords. Z is the Rudy Giuliani of crossword commentary.

Joe Dipinto 11:21 PM  

@Mark, 11:01 this morning – I am laughing at your palindrome illustrations.

Joshua 7:54 AM  

Not sure if I would have called this puzzle “easy.” I zipped through must of it, but struggled with the top, left corner. Valuable points = tines? Full court press = sue? Maybe it was because I used “face to face” instead of “nose to nose” (on 17 Across).

And like Rex, I had never heard of “pentomino.”

Charles Emerson Winchester III 12:39 PM  

Well said re the infernal combo of PENTOMINO (what is that, when it is at home? Totally unfamiliar to me), MALIK (utterly obscure but at least inferable - I mean, who is that?) and ALEK (whom I had as ALEx). This mess yielded me PixaRGAMES which I presumed to be some sort of computer-based baseball simulation - or as it is known in Cross-World, a big fat DNF.

On the other hand, proving that the relentlessly whiny Parker and I truly inhabit different universes, ANNAM was a gimme, and IDAS not far short of one. Really, what world does our intrepid blogger live in?

Despite the DNF, enjoyed this as it gradually revealed itself to me through a slow grind. Well done that man, Diehl!

Charles Emerson Winchester III 12:51 PM  

Long before Loki was a superhero - I’m guessing that is related to the unfathomable and insufferable explosion in superhero movies - he was a Norse god. More precisely, he was a trickster, hence GUILE is really his chief attribute.

Kimber 9:38 PM  

Another one of those puzzles where I struggle and struggle (2+ hours for this one) only to see Rex pithily (my inference) put down 'EZ' and make me feel horrible. Thanks dude. I can't even start on just how tough this one was for me.

I'm pretty sure what happens is I get totally confounded early, and it sets off a downward spiral where nothing in the world makes sense anymore. Not getting "Ax with a pick" was utterly humiliating given that I've been a guitarist for most of my natural life. I just couldn't see anything at that point.

tim 2:19 PM  

I'm surprised/interested to learn the origin story of Natick: I would've thought N.C. Wyeth was a pretty well-known illustrator. But if you don't know something you don't know it. God knows there are plenty of famous people I've never heard of.

Anonymous 9:38 AM  

Facetoface, bosses, didntknowathing, sevengames, muttonchops, -----parking, ----seatings, launch or rocket, semisweet, pbr (Pabst Blue Ribbon): all wrong or part wrong. After ONE WEEK all I was sure of was bods, wets, mop, and pecos. I like a really hard puzzle and am willling to work for weeks, but I felt I would never beat this one, and after seeing the answers, I was right. It was strictly for professionals, starting with awns. Brains aren't enoough.

rondo 9:35 AM  

Some single write-over squares having at first InON, IDoS. SaNGTO, and PENTeMINO. Get ITON seemed too racy; IDoS woulda been vows, but the o did look Greek; SUNGTO, well, tense; and that last one having thunk some kind of AGE at the end when it was AGESAGO. ALEK Wek automatic yeah baby selection. This puz was FINE.

Burma Shave 10:00 AM  




spacecraft 11:27 AM  

Agreed that sq. 13 is nigh to impossible to get. A? Table that. E? Nah, coulda clued 11a more fairly. I? Table that. O? See E. U? Interesting. Almost put U. But then, the -US ending is more Roman than Greek, and UNNAM looks really ugly. So: A or I? IDIS/INNAM or IDAS/ANNAM? I flipped, as per Ed Norton, a "kern," and it came up A. I don't know how you fix this, but its fixing is necessary.

As I said just yesterday, a solution involving a pure guess doesn't really feel like a triumph, but the way this one started, I feel I'm owed ASLEW of points, or TINES. First time through the list: nothing. I mean zero. A closer perusal the second time made me pause at "Ear locks?". Now, being Saturday, I know that "ear" is often a misdirect for CORN--and so is "locks" for hair. So maybe...CORNTASSELS? And that's how I began.

Big inkblots in the NW, because after getting EVENT/CLOVES, I thought 8d "Get___" was eveN. But then I took that out for facETOfacE. Yeah, had a helluva time up there. Finally realized that TASE was the "issued charge" of 3d (major misdirect, but hey: Saturday!) and straightened it all out.

35a clue reads "Wine," not "Wines," so the -S ending on SAUTERNES surprised me. Unless the name of the wine is actually "SAUTERNES." An oenophile I'm not. PENTOMINO was slow coming, but I have played Triominos, so the leap wasn't too far. The only thing I can think of for DOD is spelled differently in the grid: ROS[Y]ie Perez. A fun puzzle to unearth, somewhat spoiled by 13. Without that, a sure birdie or maybe even an eagle. Par.

Diana, LIW 12:41 PM  

easy my schmeazy. (look it up)

Even with a ton of cheating, I left in INON (as did others) and gave up on sussing the second line across.

even so, I had fun. As always...

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords


Unknown 1:59 PM  

I wish people woiuld stop complaining about Natick. Anyone in Massachusetts has heard of it. When I was a teen, I worked at the Natick Mall. My dad worked at the US Army Natick Laboratories. The Carling Brewery—famous throughout New England for its ads about being "on the shores of Lake Cochituate"—was in Natick. I'd say more people have heard of Natick than, say, Rex's Confluence NY.

And for Rex never having heard of the word "gantry?" Wow. And he's an English professor?

thefogman 2:05 PM  

Blechhhhh! That whole NE corner was just ridiculous. Got it. But only after looking up the long list of argonauts.

leftcoaster 2:19 PM  

Liked this puzzle well enough, and got most of it before yielding to google. But if I were to give it a rating, WHATLLITBE? FINE, I guess (or"whatever" as the clue puts it).

Wanted face-to-face instead of NOSE-TO-NOSE and PENTOgram instead of PENTOMINO.

Wonder if the MILITIAMAN appearing here is part of the "well regulated militia" required by the Second Amendment of the Constitution. Could be a ONE MAN BAND.

rainforest 4:35 PM  

In a tough puzzle, the ID_S/_NNAM crossing was brutal and where I DNF. I picked "I" there (sounded more Asian to me), and IDiS sounds more like a name than IDAS.

Had to guess the M and A of MALIK, but that seemed fair.

As I said, tough puzzle, and I liked it except for that one cross.

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