Homer with one RBI in baseball lingo / FRI 4-24-20 / Destructive 2017 hurricane / Historic destination in County Kerry Ireland

Friday, April 24, 2020

Constructor: John Guzzetta

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (6:16)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ISLA Fisher (25A: Actress Fisher) —
Isla Lang Fisher (/ˈlə/; born February 3, 1976) is an Australian actress and author who began her career on Australian television. Born to Scottish parents in Oman, she moved to Australia at age six. After appearing in television commercials at a young age, Fisher came to prominence for her portrayal of Shannon Reed on the soap opera Home and Away from 1994 to 1997, garnering two Logie Award nominations.
Fisher made a successful transition to Hollywood in the live-action film adaptation of Scooby-Doo (2002), and has since achieved fame for her roles in Wedding Crashers (2005), Hot Rod (2007), Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009), The Great Gatsby (2013), and Now You See Me (2013). Her other notable film credits include I Heart Huckabees (2004), The Lookout (2007), Definitely, Maybe (2008), Burke & Hare (2010), Bachelorette (2012), Visions (2015), GrimsbyNocturnal AnimalsKeeping Up with the Joneses (all 2016), and Tag (2018). In addition, she has voiced characters in animated films such as Horton Hears a Who! (2008), Rango (2011), and Rise of the Guardians (2012). On television, she was cast in a recurring role on the fourth and fifth seasons of Arrested Development (2013, 2018). (wikipedia)
• • •

Rough. Before I was half done, I had exclaimed "what?" or else audibly groaned something like half a dozen times. This thing was stale the second I bit into it (i.e. at TIETACK), and though parts of it are decent, the overall taste was unpleasant, for sure. Fitting that it has ARCHAISM in it, because it felt old and ... old. In a bad way. In the way where ... like in the olden days, when you just had to know random biological trivia or you were ****ed. BRISTLECONE PINE? SHAGBARK? News to me and *real* news to me, respectively. Take your botanical fetish back to the Maleskan era, thank you kindly. While you're at it, take back your colonialism (BRITISH RAJ) and your TSAR and ABBA and poor old Will GEER and NCO and TRALEE and UPI and SSN and  ELLS and IDED and everything else that is in one way or another crusty. What is with the pile-up of plurals!?!?! GIRTHS over IDAHOS! STELAE (ugh, with the -AE spelling). PESTOS!? This puzzle was heavily reliant on plurals, but those, ouch. And they came in such quick succession. And my god the painful bombardment of four-letter "I" names. You get one of those in crosswords. We all accept that you're probably gonna need, like, an ILSA or INGA or something to get you through. But IOLA (clued via a Hardy Boy's girlfriend!!??!?!) *and* ISLA *and* IRMA. This is comical, or would be if it weren't joy-sucking.

[I only know one kind of pine...]

What does BERTHA have to do with THE BAR (33D: Name that's an anagram of THE BAR). It's like you're shouting at us, "I have no idea what this name is!!!!! It means nothing to me! It was in my wordlist! Just deal!" I mean, if there was a great legal mind named BERTHA, I'd be happy to learn this, if only because it would help me learn what the hell was going on with this clue.  I will never not hate GIBE and I feel the same about JIBE. I'm not going anywhere near either of those. Unwelcome, always. I ... BEDAMN (!?) them (18A: Swear at). You know what's an ARCHAISM, besides "Thou"? BEDAMN. BEDAMN is an ARCHAISM. Is TOMBOYS and ARCHAISM? It feels like one. Did the MINOTAUR really just sit in the "center" of the maze? I have to reread my mythology. Seems like he might've, I dunno, moved around (54A: Center of a maze). This has been the weirdest puzzle week. I did not enjoy the two days that are usually my favorites (Fri, Mon) and thought the mid-week themed stuff (often dire) was pretty dang good overall. The Quarantine is messing Everything up. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Loren Muse Smith 6:06 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 6:27 AM  

This was about cracking tough clues and overcoming unknowns, two of my favorite solving elements. Several times, one cracked clue with its glorious "Hah!" led to a regional splat-fill, with its glorious hah, so rather than a steady-stream solve, it was more a succession of booms, all the way to the last square, that G in GEER, which was an educated guess.

So it was a Boomer solve, and much better than an ok boomer. Thank you, JG, and I loved the clue for BLUR!

Loren Muse Smith 7:06 AM  

(I posted a response to yesterday’s dust-up at the end of that thread.)

Rex – Yeah. The quarantine is messing Everything up. Here’s a sweet story that lots of you will have to go back and look at again and again. I sure have.

This was beastly hard. Sheesh. The thing that did me in was putting in “pastas” for PESTOS. That little mistake prevented BRISTLE CONE PINES to slide into sight. TRALEE, STELAE, and BCUP were just not gonna happen. Oh, and Rex - I had a ridiculous name, “Barthe,” thinking it must be the British way to spell “Bart.”

I also spelled EXPEDITE wrong at first. Expidite. Looked just fine in the little squares, but as I see it here prosified, it looks bad.

TENTHS – 1 vowel, 5 consonants. Strengths - one vowel, 8 consonants.
Strong strings’ strengths thrill Dwight. 5 vowels, 29 consonants. Procrastination spawns useless mind meanders. I just don’t want to dust.

THOU – archaism. Ahem. Bet when people started to switch from the familiar THOU to the formal you, they were seen as making a mistake. And the people who resisted this mistake saw themselves as superior. Whom is now on its journey to archaismdom.

I liked SOLO SHOTS sharing the grid with BLUR (as clued). Bet lots of us have a BLUR story. Mine happened in Cordova, Alaska and involved

1. bandanas tied tightly around our foreheads to push our eyebrows down to troglodyte level
2. cocktail straws with cherries on the ends inserted into bandanas for antennae
3. flashlights repurposed into pretend microphones
4. Stoly.

Our skipper, Larry, woke up flat on his back headfirst down a hill to a policeman asking if he was ok. His antennae were still intact. Epic.

kitshef 7:16 AM  

Really slow start as I struggled to get any momentum. Any time I started to get flowing, I’d run into an “Actress Fisher” or a “Joe Hardy’s Girlfriend”. Unknown names, the worst type of fill.

Then I hit the three long acrosses, all gimmes, and things got much faster. After that, the only issues were “Actor Will” and the very good, difficult clue for RADII.

I always resent it when puzzles pretend that Olympics are hosted by countries, rather than cities. Here we go one step worse to a peninsula. Coming soon: 2018 Olympics host: THE MILKY WAY.

Diver 7:21 AM  

BristleconePine was a gimme, so was cattlerustlers. With those lines in place the rest of the grid just filled itself in towards the top and bottom. Nice Friday, if not quite a full cup of coffee.

pabloinnh 7:36 AM  

This one was A-OK with this boomer, mostly because IOLA went in instantly, as did BRISTLECONEPINE, as did SHAGBARK. Knowing stuff that OFL does not is always a minor thrill. DEFAME for BEDAMN was a slowdown (I like my answer better), and thought of FIFTHS before GIRTHS, thinking something like, how many rounds in a bottle, anyway?

At least we got a SOLOSHOT. I'm afraid my local cable company is going to run out of Red Sox highlights pretty soon, and then what?

On to search for the elusvie Queen Bee, which I almost wish I didn't know about, because the challenge to achieve such superiority is going to take lots more time. i suppose there's nothing wrong with that right now.

Thanks for some memories, JG. Joe and Frank and Chet and Callie all say hi.

Joaquin 7:41 AM  

Sheesh! Rex really has a case of the ass today! You'd think he'd enjoy learning new stuff (e.g.: BRISTLECONEPINE and SHAGBARK) - he is, after all, a teacher. But instead, he whines that the constructor has a "botanical fetish".

To LMS, MaryCatherine, and the others involved in yesterday's discussion of the evolving language: Last night's Jeopardy! had a clue, the answer to which was the word "Unique". The clue was something to the effect of this: "The OED now permits this six-letter word to be modified." While this has long been a pet-peeve of mine, I will concede defeat. And life goes on ...

Hungry Mother 7:53 AM  

Pretty DAMN easy around these parts this morning. I drank a shot of Lysol with my oatmeal and am breathing easier. Fun Friday.

Anonymous 7:57 AM  

I pretty much agree with Rex, except I don’t think either Bristlecone Pine or Shagbark Hickory sre that obscure. I know nothing about plants and trees and flunked leaf identification in high school, but I got those with no trouble. Maybe just read them in the newspaper or something. Just goes to show we know what we know and don’t know what we don’t know. I know none of the pop culture clues.

Ciclista21 8:05 AM  

I agree, Rex, this puzzle just felt icky all over. Bedamn!

I thought the tree names were among its few saving graces, though. Never heard of either BRISTLECONE PINE or SHAGBARK hickory, but since both names are made up of familiar words, both became inferable after getting a few a crosses in place. So they seem fair game.

BRISTLECONE PINE, in fact, came as a relief. When I saw the clue – “Tree that’s among the oldest known life forms on earth (4,800+ years)” – I thought, Oh dear, I hope they’re not asking me to remember the name of that prehistoric pine that almost got wiped out in the Australian wildfires. (https://apnews.com/435824943626453d4fa96b43443393e5)

But then CONE and PINE and _RISTLE started emerging. Not really a Natick to fill the last blank, but I did have to downsize a “certain bra spec” to get it. But come on, nobody thought it was gonna be DRISTLECONE PINE, did they?

What’s that bra spec doing in there anyway? References to cup sizes always feel faintly voyeuristic to me. I know the eighth-grade boys on Team Will Shortz love anatomical references. I can hear them snickering now. For me, that’s part of what’s icky about this puzzle.

Suzie Q 8:15 AM  

Hmm, British Raj gets Rex all in a twist but a monster like Che gets no mention? I'm sorry to see that name so soon or at all considering the history lesson @ GILL.I gave us very recently.
On a more pleasant note I enjoyed @ Loren's shot story a lot!
I entered the trees with no hesitation. I'll take birds, animals, or plants any day. Just don't ask me actors, esp. TV ones.
I liked the clue for rustlers.
Many of the clues today seemed to require careful reading. The whole puzzle (except for the trees) felt like a lot of work.

mathgent 8:24 AM  

I had everything but the NE. The 3x6 block above EXPEDITE was blank except for SSN at 13D and a shaky THA beginning 11D. And 10D seemed to end with a double I. It was time to cheat. I asked Dr. G to show me a picture of Pac-Man and I noticed for the first time that his mouth was a slice of pie. Aha. RADII.

Nice puzzle. Mr. Guzzetta’s personality came through clearly. Liked a lot the clues for BLUR and MINOTAUR.

webwinger 8:24 AM  

Well, this certainly had crunch! I found more annoyance than joy during the solve, which took about half again as long as my Friday average (still without googling, which I still eschew, just because, while still refusing to call it cheating), but after completion I found a good bit to like, or at least admire. All the long answers, across and down, were quite good and nicely clued IMO.

CATTLE RUSTLERS went straight in; something in the clue made me suspicious right away. Only BRISTLE CONE PINE was a WOE, but gettable from crosses, and now a thing I’m very glad to know about. ABBA as clued was a gimme—nice to see this angle for a change. Could have done without IOLA and ISLA. Damn BEDAMN! Sorta knew STELe but was thrown off by the -AE plural from a bedamned variant.

albatross shell 8:25 AM  

BRISTLE CONE PINE and SHAGBARK were not ****ing me up at all. The latter was a gimme, one of the most recognizable trees in the forest, and a tree I probably knew when I was ten. Huge and distinctive. The former are famous for growing in poor soil in mountainous terrain and often tortured appearance. Older than redwoods and almost a natural bonsai. And one of the best bonsai. I needed the B and about 4 crosses to get it and was pissed it took that much to remember them. I admit I am a tree guy, but those are both entry level, not that I expect everyone to know them.

ISLA IONA unknowns but fair crosses. BRITISH easy, RAJ fair crosses. Thinking waistS before GIRTHS, but the good clue also conveniently had me thinking of RADII. Puzzled everything out with no aids until the SE corner.
Did not know BAIO. I had OPENS for the bar prep and went with OPEN Study, (I thought they might have some for the exams) and never recovered. Thought of ARCHAIc, but not of S and M. What is wrong with me? Not enough pornography? I'm as ignorant about Pippi as rex is about plants. Two cheats to overcome mistakes and ignorance. If I had only thought of MINOTAUR. I don't amaze,but I am a maze guy.

I remember saying to Debbie at a post prom party I remember when you were TOMBOY. She was embarrassed, and maybe insulted much to my chagrin and dismay. I meant it as a compliment. A woman who could hit and throw a baseball. Maybe even armwrestle. WOW. She was trained out of it, I guess. Or did it have lesbian connotations I was unaware of? The good ole days weren't always good.

SOLOSHOT MAJORS ARM BLUR Good clues.or answers.

Z 8:31 AM  

I just recently read a nice article in Harper’s about the oldest BRISTLECONE PINE (again, Americans, WTF? it’s location can’t be marked because people mess with it). Did that help me ? Not until I had about a third of the crosses.

I went to write in “the RAJ” and saw too many squares. If I hadn’t hesitated writing in BLUR the B might have helped me sooner. But I had to finally concede BLUR and then write in BRITISH RAJ while asking myself, “was there another RAJ?”

I’m barely a Boomer, so maybe that’s it, but this skews older than Boomer to me. IOLA Morton first appears in 1927 or so. That’s 10 years after the TSAR was deposed. CATTLE RUSTLERS is pretty Gunsmoke/The Big Valley, so I guess that’s technically Boomerish, but it just feels very 1885 to me. IRMA and BERTHA both sound like a Boomer’s elderly aunts, the two who still live on the family demesne and call it that. There’s some nice stuff here, but I felt like I was in the attic, waving away cobwebs to find the two or three treasures worth keeping while wondering why most of this junk wasn’t tossed 10 years ago.

TokyoRacer 8:34 AM  

Re Minotaur: The story doesn't say whether the Minotaur was in the center of the labyrinth (maze and labyrinth are the same, but it's always called the Cretan Labyrinth, never maze). When the 14 youths (7 boys and 7 girls) were sacrificed, they would wander around, trying to get out, but the Minotaur would find them and eat them. Theseus went looking for him/it, found him asleep, and beat him to death with his fists - of course he had no weapon with him. Then followed the thread Ariadne had given him and found his way out. He sailed away with Ariadne and then either abandoned her on an island or left her there to recover from a sickness and then went back for her, but she had died. I prefer the second version.

Todd 8:38 AM  

I didn't know Demesne and Tralee so had to guess estate and got lucky. But loved Bristle cone pine. I will take words like it over an obscure rap artist 7 days a week.

GILL I. 8:38 AM  

Well when I got to that anagram of THE BAR and it turns out to be BERTHA, I almost gave up. I guess cluing it as a howitzer or that serial killer Bertha Gifford would've been too gruesome?
I'm like @Rex in loving me a Friday. I used to bite my fingernails to the quick when Friday rolled around. I would count the times I ran to my tattered and torn Webster's. I'm pretty good now and can usually finish without señor Google. This puzzle took me back to the Last TANGO in Paris and wishing Marlo hadn't been such a butterfinger...just kidding!
Yeah, let me join @kitshef in the Joe Hardy's girlfriend camp. I'm not ANTE new words..but please don't give me a GIBE RADII ARCHAISM to a meaty day. And...Since you have CHE in your grid, why not clue ISLA as the beautiful place he destroyed? Wow...I'm on a roll.
I used to drink Fanta but it was always the orange one. MINOTAUR is cool beans and so is GRAB A BITE TO EAT. I say that all the time. I also wondered why people say that. I like to sit down, order a glass of wine, peruse the menu, order the catch of the day and stare at people. I can't wait till we get back to those days....wearing a mask and all! (Hi @Z)......

Klazzic 8:39 AM  

Not a bad Friday puzzle —- actually enjoyed it for the most part. I’m with you, Rex, on THE BAR clue. I think a better clue would have been HEAVY HOWITZER NAMED AFTER KRUPP’S WIFE.

JOHN X 8:45 AM  

Heya! (I learned that in New Zealand)

I thought this was a pretty good Friday puzzle, with two notable exceptions. First was 6D Castro comrade being CHE. Isn't that a last name clue with a first name answer? And the second was HAND for 40A, which should have been AHAND the way the clue was written.

Other than that, it was okay.

I love when Rex bashes things he doesn't know. How can you be from California and not know the BRISTLECONEPINE? Also Will GEER was blacklisted so he should be your hero. He also founded the Theatricum Botanicum so there.

The BRITISHRAJ is amazing to study. And if you don't want to read British accounts of it then read Indian scholarship on it, and there's a ton of it. They have always said that the British gained an empire by accident. The various principalities on the subcontinent basically gave themselves to the British East India Company. And the British played them against each other masterfully, a little island ruling all that from 5000 miles away. I studied it in depth and now I rule my neighborhood homeowners association with an iron fist.

CATTLERUSTLERS is always great. As for the rest, it's a Friday puzzle and you need to know things or else take a hike and go do the Junior Jumble.


Plus size natick 8:55 AM  

Gristlecone pine seemed just fine to me.

Anonymous 9:04 AM  

OK, I'll start with an apology: it's mean to bite the hand that feeds. I do like the fact that Mr. Parker runs this site. But what a turd he can be; and indeed often is. Amen to Suzie Q for calling out the 'British Raj' versus 'Che Guevara' inconsistency. And many others for pointing out that Bristlecone Pine is not that obscure. It's been at the center of the Skeptical versus Rabid climate change debate for years. Anyone who hasn't heard of bristlecone pines hasn't been paying attention (which far-from-guarantees they won't have a strong opinion).

And the puzzle? I liked it. Breezed through in a faster-than-average Friday time, for me, of 15 minutes. Best Friday time is 11 minutes. So, OK, I haven't wasted as much of my life doing crosswords as some I could name. But this one was pretty easy. Oh, yeah, I'd heard of shagbark hickory too. So there.

At least this puzzle wasn't botched up with half-a-dozen peripheral rap "stars" that nobody will remember in 20 years.

Except Rex of course.

Again, apologies. I do like the fact that this resource exists. i just can't stand RP's ultra-woke virtue-signalling. Still, it's his site........

Frantic Sloth 9:04 AM  

"Hey, could you give me HAND with this piano?"
"Ladies and gentlemen - HAND for our guests tonight."
Said nobody ever.

Something is off about the clue for OPENSATAB.
How is opening a tab preparing for the bar? If anything, it's more accurate to say opening a bar is preparing for a tab.

At my nits end.

Fun Friday puzzle. Took some real effort (well, mostly patience) without making my head hurt. I might even say I'd like to give it HAND, but not at the breakfast table.

Now to read Rex and the real reason I come here - all y'all! Hang tight!

Whatsername 9:05 AM  

@LMS (04:50 from yesterday): When I woke up this morning, for some reason that particular statement I made was on my mind, and I realized that my wording might have sounded condescending - exactly as you inferred it. Not to belabor the point, but I just wanted to say I meant no offense to you or your students. I’m sure they’re fine young men and women who will do well in the world, and I wish them all the best.

albatross shell 9:05 AM  

Forgot to mention. Boxcar ___ would be a good clue for BERTHA. Great cast, Scorsese's second film, based on a book Sister of the Road, very loosely. Check it out. Maybe not great, but weirdly interesting. I do not mind the anagram. I know some do.

Clue: Noble one who can make thing and think

Anonymous 9:07 AM  

Anyone else take issue with Castro's last name cluing CHE's first name?

Also a missed opportunity for linking SOLOSHOT to OPENSATAB.

Waltroze 9:07 AM  

I loved this puzzle! It had both my dear, long departed grandmothers' names; BERTHA and IRMA. What are the chances of that? Maybe it's an omen. "THATSWEIRD"

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

John X: Regarding an empire by accident, I seem to recall a quote from someone in the British Civil Service, perhaps the "Colonial Office", (back when) along the lines of: "Britain acquired its empire in a fit of absent-mindedness". I always like that.

puzzlehoarder 9:09 AM  

A slightly challenging Friday. The resistance was all in the corners. Given the length of the middle stair stack I expected it to be easy but not this easy. CATTLERUSTLERS went in just off that first set of TL letters. That was with an incorrect SOFTLY in place of SUBTLY. Not being familiar with BRISTLECONEPINE is like not knowing what a redwood is. I'll admit to needing some crosses for SHAGBARK but the PINE is common knowledge.

In the NW my slow down was a TIERA K/TIETACK write over. The NE was probably the toughest section. BEDAMN is odd looking and a blast from the past. I had to change EXPIDITE to EXPEDITE and I briefly considered RIDE for 8D. It's a good thing that DEFAME never crossed my mind for 18A because that would have delayed cracking that corner even longer.

I spent a good ten minutes with the Spelling Bee before I came here and it looks like it will be a tough Queen Bee today.

TJS 9:25 AM  

Have to agree with Rex on this one. And @Z, your final sentence describes my reaction better than anything I was going to come up with. And "Here's Johnny", always a pleasure. Puzzle-wise, this week sucked, but the commentary made up for it.

Nancy 9:32 AM  

Couldn't get the SE. I had OPENS A cAn instead of OPENS A TAB; had no idea that a MINOTAUR was the center of a maze; thought Scott BAIO had to be BAIR or BAIL or BAIN, and had no idea the Pippi Longstocking was a TOMBOY. I thought she was a nanny -- not that I wrote it in. I had RHO instead of OHM. Too much that I didn't know. The one thing that might have helped me: BUSY = "packed" didn't help me. I had B-S- and still didn't see it. A tricky clue.

Elsewhere -- where I did finish, but struggled -- my TIE TACK was a TIE RACK. I wanted MORTGAGES instead of HOME LOANS and I wanted to GRAB A BITE TO GO, only it didn't fit. (I wanted that "G" for my also very wrong MORTGAGES.)

A tough puzzle that kicked my butt. I enjoyed it when I wasn't Suffering :)

Another Anon 9:41 AM  

@Anonymous 9:04. You are no more enlightened than you perceive RP to be, when you disparage everyone who doesn't know what you know.

clk 9:48 AM  

BERTHA could have been clued as, Grateful Dead song beginning with the mondegreen “I had a hard on, running from your window.” In the dozens of Dead shows I went to in my youth, I never once didn’t hear it that way.

Also, BRISTLECONEPINE was a gimme. It was the first thing I filled in.

CMorgan 9:57 AM  

Loren, “strengths” is also a nine-letter word having only one syllable! I know of no others, but I’m sure there are some. I’d really be surprised to see a ten-letter example!

OffTheGrid 9:58 AM  

Speaking of HAND, I can't resist this opportunity to post THIS VIDEO

sara 10:01 AM  

I don't usually post -- just lurk, with great appreciation for everyone's comments. Love LMS re her teaching. Love the humor by many. Today, I havent done the puzzle yet - but want to post pretty early to ask for more info about the Spelling Bee which has become an obsession for me in this home-confined time. Was so glad to read yesterday about how the Genius level works - I can generally get there but it has seemed so mysterious. I can't always see the pangram - my mind fills in blanks easily (crosswords) but can't separate and rearrange (anagrams impossible generally) - the SB is somewhere in between, a good workout. Thanks to postings yesterday, I found a site nytbee.com which explains a lot, but I can't find the "Deb Amiens blog" that was referred to. Wordplay? If so, where? I can't find any "blog with 'recommended' tab" as was described yesterday. would appreciate some info! Thanks!

Frantic Sloth 10:03 AM  

@pabloinnh 736am I'm with you on the upped ANTE for Spelling Bee. Anything short of Queen Bee is going to be a downer.
BTW Thank you to @BobL for yesterday's SB tips!

@LMS Loved your BLUR story. My relatively tame experience involved waking up on a body-covered floor in a Vermont cabin. One person found the inhuman strength to actually rise and start stumbling around, which prompted someone's muffled utterance: "Follow it. See what it eats."
Well, I found it funny, and with apologies to Erich Segal, drunk means never having to see your sorry BLUR.

@puzzlehoarder 909am Thanks for the SB heads-up!

Rex, maybe BERTHA is opening THEBAR to prepare a tab. (Or "a Tab" if this is the 70s.)

Frantic Sloth 10:10 AM  

Hi, @sara and welcome!

The blog can be found in the READ ABOUT TODAY'S PUZZLE link that's just beneath crossword on the main puzzles page.

Sir Hillary 10:11 AM  

Today, I find @Rex's commentary less about the puzzle itself than about his personal biases, which skew nothing if not predictable. Not really sure why I read his takes, but it's a hard habit to break.

Nothing at all wrong with this puzzle, except for the silly and unnecessary clue for BERTHA and perhaps an overreliance on slightly dodgy plurals. Aside from that, what's not to like? It's a nice open grid with a beautiful central stack, it's hard but not Saturday-brutal, it's clued tougly but fairly, and it forced me to use crosses to suss things I didn't know (SHAGBARK, STELAE, MINOTAUR). INTHREED is ten times crappier than anything we got today.

Skews old? Young? Bro-ish? Feminist? Gay? Progressive? Imperial? (Insert adjective here)? Never once has this been even close to my leading impression of a puzzle. I guess I just look at them as a collection of intersecting words and ignore the supposed zeitgeist.

burtonkd 10:11 AM  

There was a radio lab show about an arborist who cut down a bristlecone pine to discover that it was one of the oldest living beings. Very sad how it turned out for him and the tree..Also, due to warming temperatures, these trees are now under threat from insects that used to be frozen out of their territory.

@Z from yesterday: I get your point about the masks presenting a false sense of security. My sister in law declared she didn’t believe in sunscreen. Having been burned when not wearing it, and protected with it, I couldn’t understand her position until it became clear she avoided the sun altogether in the hours that you could be overexposed, rather than grease up and go out in ultimately damaging conditions.
That being said, my understanding is that if you do need to go out, the masks can certainly diminish the size of your droplet profile, so can be a good practice to avoid the spread of contamination when you do need to go out.
I personally think of how far away I can smell perfume, a peeled orange, or something less pleasant and think that something has been carried from that person into my nose, so I really go for a 20 foot barrier myself and hold my breath if forced to breach that.

@LMS et al: lots of fun reading the “dust up” yesterday.

Z 10:13 AM  

@Anon9:07 - No, but I would have preferred an SNL clue.

@Frantic Sloth - I had the same arched eyebrow at OPENS A TAB.

@John X - So, was their a different RAJ?

I spent nanosecond pondering the possibility of a Ramadan clue today. Yeah, right.

@anoabob late yesterday - “It's simple. If we all wear face masks or coverings, it will slow the spread of the virus. Capeesh?” I’ll let everyone ponder why my reaction to this statement was, “proves my point, doesn’t it.” If you are going to wear a mask you should read and watch everything here and here.

Sorry about being so strident, but I really would prefer that we all live long enough to argue about important stuff like whether or not language is going to hell in a handbasket and kids these days.

Unknown 10:16 AM  

Thoroughly enjoyed this one! Intelligent and meatier than puzzles of late. There are more of us bristle cones out their than you whippersnappers imagine!

KnittyContessa 10:21 AM  

I stumbled through this one. I never heard of BRISTLECONEPINE and had PASTAS before PESTOS. PESTOS still looks odd to me.

Did anyone know IOLA?

Barbara S. 10:21 AM  

There actually is a noteworthy "legal" BERTHA, but unhelpful in the context of the NYTXW because so few solvers would have heard of her. So here I am waving the red maple leaf again. BERTHA Wilson was the first female Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. She held office from 1982 to 1991. Her judicial opinions were important in many of the ground-breaking cases of that era regarding abortion, domestic abuse, statutory rape, and equality rights, to name a few. Before her time on the Supreme Court, she was the first woman appointed to the Court of Appeal for the province of Ontario (1975). But, frankly, how many Canadian solvers would be aware of her now? Probably not that many.

As of yesterday, I became an adherent of the Spelling Bee. I'm glad (because it's such a good mental workout) and sad (because I envision whole cumulative months of my future life being devoted to this pastime). By bedtime last night, I'd got 21 of the alleged 24 words that could be constructed from yesterday's letters. Just as I was drifting off, I had a flash of the elusive word that used ALL the letters, I leapt out of bed, filled it in, got the GENIUS flag, and went to sleep happy. Still don't know what the two words I missed were, though -- AW SHUCKS. Yes, I know -- you don't have to tell me: I'm talking about the wrong puzzle on this blog and I'll stop now.

RooMonster 10:32 AM  

Hey All !
Harkening back to the Golf Puz we recently had, BERTHA could've been clued as a driver (golf club). Something like "Golf's Big ___" Way better clue to me. (Well, because I thought of it!)

Ignorance confession time! Seems y'all know BRITISH RAJ, well, not me. I had BRITISH RAn, wondering why MAnORS were declared. My one-letter DNF spot. RAJ, rah rah.

Pretty good themeless. The South was way harder for me than the North. 15 minutes to get everything to the PEST HISSES line, then another 15 for the South. That SW was especially tough. SHAGBARK, BORNEO, RAJ, GEER. SE slightly easier, but still a toughie. Thankfully, I know Scott BAIO.

IOLA, har. Talk about am obscure clue. South Park did a rather funny take on the Hardy Boys, they called them the Hardly Boys. As with South Park, raunchy fun followed.

Can you pluralize anything ending in A with an E? ABBAE, many tribute bands? IOLAE, ISLAE, SODAE.

Have a lot of drinking BLUR stories, but most I can't remember.

No F's, two days running. (Poor little guys!)

John R 10:32 AM  

This puzzle was tough for me. The NE was the last section to fall, because for a long time I had WIDTHS instead of the correct GIRTHS.

I read all the Hardy Boy books as a kid, but still did not remember IOLA.

Bristlecone Pine and Shagbark were difficult for me, but the crosses helped.

The discussion of what should be considered common knowledge reminded me of the George Carlin line about driving. Anyone going slower is an idiot and anyone going faster is a maniac.

Nancy 10:33 AM  

Ditto everything you said!

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

Bristlecone pine is far from obscure.
Don't know how common shagbark hickory is, but my dad taught it to me as a boy in the woods of Bucks county.
Great puzzle Mr. Guzzetta.Thank you

QuasiMojo 10:38 AM  

Let's not forget Bertha Venation from Torch Song Trilogy.

Winston 10:45 AM  

A great book about the BRITISHRAJ is The Anarchy by William Dalrymple. A masterpiece.

Sgreennyc 10:47 AM  

In terms of criticism, Rex’s comments have now become so utterly subjective that they are worthless.

Newboy 10:48 AM  

Today’s was a tag team effort with a second cuppa to ease the pain. Mrs N. Had SHAG BARK from her days in the service of a garden shop where she purchased the BRISTLECONE PINE that now grows slowly in the front yard. Still a new synonym for ADAGES & clues like that for MInotaur made a SOLO SHOT I probable. Add in the cryptic IRMA, ISLA & other obscuriata as OFL noted and BEDAMN this grid became a BLUR of ARCHAISM. But the sun shines on IDAHOS 🥔 crop, we were able to get a fresh bottle of Lysol to gargle and so once again we mask up to face the beautiful morning (and for @LMS and her grammar minions please add that possessive apostrophe before spud).

Tip of the chapeau for Mr. Guzzetta.

and for those who missed late posts yesterday
@Anonymous added spice to the grammar discussion:
“And always have a little piece of poetry for mic checks.
Big Steve. 3:19 PM” A great story & perfect validation of good advice from Kiss Me Kate (brush up your shakespeare youtube). Still working toward an embedded post, sigh!

We liked it pretty well & now off to see what @Lewis and others find amusing .

Tom R 10:50 AM  

Hey, c'mon Rex, your less than stellar background in science is showing. The single easiest answer in the entire puzzle was bristlecone pine. And as for the rest, I'm and old guy and it was refreshing for me to have a bunch of "stale" answers in the puzzle and not so many modern culture questions like names I never heard of or music I never listened to or TV cartoon characters from shows I never watched. Cattle rustlers was pretty cool, too. I vote for more puzzles like this one.

Z 10:50 AM  

@Barbara S - I’ve certainly seen more obscure people than first woman Justice on the Supreme Court of Canada. Granted, she’s no Yma Sumac, but definitely crossworthy in my opinion, and much much much better than an anagram clue.

@KnittyContessa - Yes. Somebody mentioned that they put it right in. I had an IOnA moment, but easily fixed it. Somewhere around 1972 I read every Hardy Boy Mystery owned by the Herrick Public Library as well as every book about WWII in their youth collection. Somewhere around 1973 I discovered girls.

Somebody recently asked about whether or not schools had stopped teaching about the Gadsden Purchase. What has somewhat oddly been diminished in the curriculum are the life sciences. STEM should really be Tems, with the primary emphasis on technology and everything else in the curriculum only viewed as useful as it relates to technology. As a result things like plant names get short shrift. BRISTLECONE PINE and SHAG BARK shouldn’t be obscure, but I think they are. They were two of my favorite entries today.

@burtonkd - I was getting worked up again, so I went with a “less is more” strategy. As a result I deleted a simply brilliant cloth condom metaphor (You all are just going to have to accept that it was brilliant). What some (not all) epidemiologists are saying is masks might be worse than nothing. Some of this has to do with the availability of effective masks, but a big part of it is based on a cynical but probably realistic view of human behavior. My anecdotal experience lines up with the cynics.

Taffy-Kun 10:50 AM  

As a Brit with an ancestor who fought in the Indian Mutiny the history of the Raj is fascinating - I agree you need to read both sides. Amazing to me was the number of East India Company officers who became so completely absorbed in Indian culture and language (at least Sanskrit) that they never left India on retiring, in some cases failing to follow their wife and children back to Blighty.

deerfencer 10:51 AM  

Having been an arborist in a previous life I had great fun tearing through this puzzle. Smoothest Friday ever! Bravo Mr Gazzetta.

Kathy 10:51 AM  

Held onto my Hatrack for too long, then TIErACK, which really TIEd me up in the NW. Then, BAM, I suddenly remembered Joe Hardy’s girlfriend Iola! I think she was Chet Morton’s sister, now that the memories come flooding back.

Did anyone else devour Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew back in grade school? Those olden series fueled my love of reading and outdoor exploring. My favorite childhood activity was looking for suspicious dilapidated houses near wooded areas, where my friends and I hoped to discover a “mystery” to be solved. It’s a wonder I lived to tell the tale.

DNF, the SE got me again as it did yesterday. There were also a few “suspicious” clues. BEDAMN? I’ll put Frank and Joe on the case.

Anonymous 10:53 AM  

RE 35D. A drinker "Prepares for the bar" by opening a tab. Seems logical. (It's a play on the word "bar")

Masked and Anonymous 11:02 AM  

Wishful headline: Trump volunteers to mainline inject self with Lysol.
Actual headline: Trump volunteers to spray reporters with Lysol.

Nice, more proper, use of the Jaws of Themelessness today. All is well, again.

In the name game dept., M&A did not know: IOLA. ISLA. Did know: CHE. BAIO. GEER. IRMA. Sooo … ok, on balance.

Pretty cool even on Stoly dept. sparklers: SOLOSHOT. CATTLERUSTLERS. SUBTLY. MINOTAUR [weird clue, tho].

staff weeject pick: STS. Better clue: {Preceded by a runt-roll from above: Crossword stuff like IOLA and ISLA?}.

Wow clues: ABBA. RADII. BERTHA. BERTHA was raised-by-the-anagram-wolves good.

Thanx, Mr. Guzzetta. "Demesne" ?!? Is that one of them ARCHAISMs? Askin for a friend on Lysol & Stoly.

Masked & Anonymo4Us


Whatsername 11:04 AM  

@sara (10:01) I had the same problem and could not find the Deb blog so thanks for asking. Hope you’ll join the conversation again in the future.

@Frantic: Appreciate the link. I’m probably halfway to becoming queen bee now, thanks to your guidance. LOL.

Adam S 11:14 AM  

The BRISTLECONEPINE is so obscure it had a 6,000 word article published about it in the New Yorker earlier this year!

See https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/01/20/the-past-and-the-future-of-the-earths-oldest-trees

CDilly52 11:20 AM  

Thank you to my mom whose botanical knowledge was vast and shared with us while traveling, to my Scout leaders who were also botanists at heart, to the Universe for allowing me to continue to age (gracefully or not), to my Dad who loved a nice TIE TACK, and of course to my Gran, who hooked me on crosswords. So, this solved old? I just call it easy! I cut through this baby like the proverbial hot knife through butter! Record Friday time. My only snag was in the NE where I could not make sense of GIRTHS and RADII. I admit I had no idea what a Pac Man is, so that was the root cause of my RADII problem..

After the solve, I looked up PAC Man, and vaguely remembered the giant machines that took quarters and that adults seemed to enjoy both the original and Ms. Pac Man (really? Ms.Man?).

I expected @Rex to go all the way off on this one and was not disappointed. An epic rant. Another instance (in my ever so humble opinion) of his excoriating a puzzle primarily because the answers lie outside his crossword ken. My solution for that problem is to try to remember the word for the next time. build the lexicon.

We had an ancient Shagbark Hickory in my back yard. Hickory nuts are just ridiculously difficult to extract from the shell so mostly we left them for the squirrels. My dad was a woodworker and sourced native wood from all kinds of places. He coveted that hickory tree but alas it remained robust and healthy until long after he had passed.

As for cocktail party trivia, you can’t beat the Bristlecone Pine. The fact that they are nearly 5000 years old is beyond impressive and (again, IMO) knowing that species is worthwhile.

Best clue was the one for CATTLE RUSTLERS. Overall an enjoyable Friday, made more enjoyable because I now am acquainted with Big Poppa! As always, @LMS impresses! Good puzzle for an old broad.

CDilly52 11:21 AM  

Loved the Hardy Boys more than Nancy, because as a veteran TOMBOY, I was somewhat dismayed that Nancy didn’t have quite the adventures the boys had.

healingmagichands 11:25 AM  

Oh for heaven’s sake. OFL apparently thinks it is just fine that we are expected to know the names of every freaking rap singer in the Universe, bit part players in movies and Broadway plays, but quails when faced with BRISTLECONE PINE or SHAGBARK hickory. I can still remember him repetitively complaining about ICE AXE in years gone by; apparently has never seen a photo of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norway standing on the summit of Everest with their ice axes.

xyz 11:27 AM  

Very easy except the few parts that were extremely obscure/obtuse/ridiculous (ABBA - don't know {poop emoji} about Heberew anyway, but Google says no to ABBA yes to AB/AV and other stuff)

BRISTLECONE PINE live near the tree line and are the highlight of some walks in Rocky Mountain National Park and in the Sierra Nevada.

I'd say the TOP & BOTTOM of Pacman's mouth are RADII, not the sides.

meh, an almost good puzzle

Swagomatic 11:27 AM  

Yeah, it was not good, though I knew a few of the long answers right off the bat. I was a bit below my Friday average time, so it wasn't hard. I think Rex has a point about the staleness.

Oh, and SHAGBARK was pertnear ungettable for me.

Reno retired 11:27 AM  

Thinking about why Che can be in a puzzle and accepted without comment leads to a disturbing conclusion. To have the socialist utopia that the Uber left wants requires all dissenters to be executed. That’s ok if it is done in the name of the working masses. Sad to know this is where we are going.

xyz 11:35 AM  

Oh yeah, (BIG) BERTHA was a WWII Gun (Uhm - ever hear of a HOWITZER) and Callaway Golf's Driver Name since like 1990's.

So, in another (non-Rex) world
33D Big ______ Driver
33D Howitzer

Perspective is all. Golf or War - related words are bad but Heberew and seventh Thesaurus choices are OK?

Bill 11:37 AM  

Tomboys? Who says this anymore?

Anonymous 11:47 AM  

Tomboys is a good and useful term. Were it used more, and recognized for what it is, many of the children being treated for "transgenderism" wouldn't be butchered.
The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break is a fantastic book.

bauskern 11:49 AM  

Nothing can suck the joy out of the morning faster than one of Rex's negative rants. That said, we have tons of shagbark hickories growing along our street and in our woods, and who has never heard of the bristlecone pine? Rex, even if something is out of your wheelhouse, that doesn't mean the constructor was unfair to use it. Loved the reference to the Hardy boys. Who was Frank's girlfriend???? Sally? Chet's sister? But I digress. It was odd that Rex, who tries to signal virtue whenever possible, glossed over the British Raj. Personally, I wasn't remotely offended by the clue, but was sure that would come up in the blog. *sigh* He let me down.

bagelboy 11:49 AM  

got stuck. had "better EAT" . Did not know the Irish thing 24d, and either SUBTLE or SUBTLY fits 23d. Other than that, liked it a lot.

ebtobiassen 12:02 PM  

"Ka-VEYutch, ka-VEYutch, ka-VEYutch!" Eatcherhartout! What a negative, nit-picking, fault-finding review of a delightful puzzle. I understand that what's down my alley may not be down Rex's. But I don't take it personally or as a reason to damn the puzzle if it is down his and not mine. It is one thing not to like a puzzle; it's another to cook up a stew of petty complaints to prove it is objectively a bad one. Great clue for CATTLERUSTLERS. THATISWEIRD was a nice surprise.

egsforbreakfast 12:09 PM  

My BLUR story is perhaps a bit longish for this venue, but suffice it to say that it involved a lot of tequila (of course), a live performance by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, several car crashes and a long, long list of criminal charges, the most astounding of which, judging by my father’s reaction, was Inciting a Riot!

I liked this puzzle. I also very much like @Loren’s linguistic attitude.

nunya 12:20 PM  

Tough but fair. My favorite kind of puzzle.

turkeyneck 12:21 PM  

Lordy, lot of stuff on this guy felt bitchy and obscure in the way that it wouldn't contribute to your general education but instead serve to gall you. So much was solved by grinding interpolation and rash guessing. Agree with Rex about ARCHAISM and BEDAMN. At least ABBA wasn't clued with the usual trite Euro band allusion. Very few ways to end an entry with a J, so kudos there. I also liked TIETACK as a rare answer for haberdashery. A Hardy Boys devotee in my youth, it took awhile for IOLA Morton to dawn on me. All in all, avoided the skunk that almost ruined my Thursday as well.

tim 12:25 PM  

This was the first puzzle I ever gave up on, and just sullenly hit "reveal puzzle." It was the insoluble NW. Don't know what tie tacks have to do with hats. Don't know sports. Never read Hardy Boys. Still don't get how ells are wings. "That's so irritating!" doesn't make sense as a clue for RASH. I should've realised of course the TSAR was the leader in the Crimean war. But I'm not sure that would've helped.

Anyone who read the Guinness Book of World Records knows the Britstlecone Pine is the oldest living thing on Earth.

TokyoRacer, minor correction: there is indeed a difference between a maze and a labyrinth. A maze, you go in one end and have to find your way out the other; in a labyrinth, you din your way to the center and then back out. Which is why Ariadne's thread was so helpful.

tim 12:27 PM  

TokyoRacer, minor correction: there is indeed a difference between a maze and a labyrinth. A maze, you go in one end and have to find your way out the other; a labyrinth, you go to the center and have to find your way back out. Which is why Ariadne's ball of thread was helpful.

old timer 12:37 PM  

Silly me! Here I thought OFL was going to rip this puzzle for being too easy for a Friday. I raced through this one, even though I didn't know of the SHAGBARK hickory. Of course like most Californians who paid attention in school, I knew BRISTLECONE PINE. Furthermore, my TOMBOY daughter lives in Bishop, so I have hiked up the easy trail in the Whites to see them more than once. Said daughter wore boy's clothes, or clothes a boy could wear, from the time she was a toddler. The first time I saw her in a dress was when she went to the Junior Prom in high school. How did she meet her husband? Climbing boulders,naturally. Nice to see her two small children on Zoom today. Nicer still when we can go see them, or they us. Unlike the young woman in the Peggy Seeger song, she never wanted to be an engineer -- and ended up a nurse practitioner, and now qualifies as a hero of the Covid age.

Speaking of heroes, @LMS is always my hero in this little group. Her story today had me howling, as it often does. I would point out that the OED is descriptivist, and is intended to cite every meaning of every word, no matter how improper. Its inclusion of a word meaning is not en endorsement of bad grammar. Merriam-Webster is the authority for which uses are proper. In fact, it is more unique these days. \

jberg 12:46 PM  

When I was a schoolboy back in the 1950s, it was very exciting to learn about the BRISTLECONE PINE, older than the redwoods, older than any other living thing in the world. How could I forget that? (Apparently they've since found a mushroom, in Pennsylvania, I think, with a mycelium that's about a mile wide, and that may be older, hence the use of "among" in the clue.) As for SHAGBARK hickory, one look and you'll never forget that, either.

STELAE is the plural of stela; the definition of stela (in dictionary.com) is "Stele(defs 1-3)." The plural of stele is either stelai or steles. Go figure; but my point is that stele is the prevalent way of spelling that thing; I needed a HAND to come up with the variant.

As for 34D--it's tough to think about right now. My daughter works in one; their current patients are about 250% of what used to be their maximum capacity, before they converted other floors to supplemental units.

Well, that's enough of that.

Irene 12:48 PM  

I stared at this for a long time, unable to find a way in. I finally did, thanks to Xcup and UPI and after that things opened up. As for archaisms, well Rex I'm pretty archaic myself.

CaryinBoulder 12:56 PM  

Putting BERTHA and THE BAR in context. Anyone who has lived in Baltimore (my city of birth) during the last five decades has seen these bumper stickers and t-shirts:
Eat Bertha’s Mussels

A lot of WEIRD four-letter names today. I’ve rarely seen “Happy Days” but I know Scott BAIO as a prominent MAGAt. Surprised Rex wasn’t all over that.

Trevor Story’s 505-foot SOLO SHOT at Coors Field in September, 2018, is the longest in the majors since Statcast began projecting home runs in the 2015 season. It also measures as the longest HR ever hit at our homer-happy stadium.

BORNEO is the only island governed by three different entities (Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei) that I’ve personally been to. It held such an exotic place in my mind that, in 1998, I went to great effort and difficulty to place a call to my Mom just to tell her I was there — actually Kalimantan, the Indonesian sector. Had some great food there in Banjarmasin.

Didn’t we see BRISTLECONE PINE some other time recently? I didn’t know it from the clue, but it filled in pretty easily. SHAGBARK may be a gimme in the Midwest or Southeast, but it’s new to me. Wanted GIRTHS to be FIFTHS or NINTHS, forgetting that there was already a TENTHS. Still, I knew that (although not why) the Pacman clue had to be RADII, because fADII or nADII? But tripped up on “jibe” being agreement and the homophonic GIBE being mockery. What immediately came to mind was JAPE, a word I learned long ago from the Philip K. Dick novel, “The Man Who Japed.”

old timer 12:58 PM  

Gotta add, the reason it was called the BRITISH RAJ was that the Indian (Bengali I suppose) word that can mean empire was RAJ, from which we get the more familiar word rajah. India had its own empires for centuries, though the emperors were often merely ceremonial -- crowned amidst great pomp, and unable to tell any of the more local rulers what to do. Not unlike the Holy Roman Empire (which was neither holy nor Roman nor (except on rare occasions) an empire. And not unlike the Ottoman Empire in its long decline, whose North African possessions paid only ceremonial respect to the Sultan in far-off Constantinople.

David 1:01 PM  

Boomer here too. Wife had a Grandma Bertha, but I put in Barthe. Black American sculptor prominent in the Harlem Renaissance. Had an accent on the "e" but this is a puzzle so that doesn't matter. On the next cross I saw the Bristlecone Pine so changed it to granny's name, then "grab a bite..." then the thieves. Those central longs were nice, and I've not problem with shagbarks either.

Minotaur? I've seen many a corn maze in my travels, now I know better than to venture into one.

Another odd "abbreviation" and many plurals took a bit of the fun out for me, but overall I liked it. Loved the clue for "blur" and accepted "pestos" because of "pest." But then: heroes, echoes, potatoes, tomatoes, PESTOS? That's weird. How about Pestae?

I imagine Che didn't trigger Rex today because of the way it was clued. Nothing about tee shirts or college dorm rooms...

Nice Friday, thanks.

Teedmn 1:05 PM  

I should have been saying THAT'S WEIRD when I filled in BEDAMN but I was just so DAMN relieved to have figured out what word ended in MN that I didn't think to give it the side-eye until later.

I thought a demesne was a larger area than just an estate. Realm came to mind but, too short. Then, in my mind's eye, it became "region" and that would put Galway as the historic destination in Ireland. Well, I've stayed overnight in both Galway and TRALEE so I was happy to trade in Galway for the actual answer.

Of course, 37A was the perfect clue for CATTLE RUSTLERS, though I was rethinking my GRAPE Fanta, if CounterfeitERS fit. Naw, that would mess up too much of the grid I already had filled in. BRITISH put CounterfeitERS to bed.

Not my favorite John Guzzetta Friday puzzle, but it had the proper crunch and some nice fill.

pmdm 1:17 PM  

By Wednesday, there are usually some entries I cannot figure out. By Friday, these can become prevalent. Sometimes these entries get me upset, sometimes I appreciate them. Today, I appreciated what I didn't know. So I would call today's puzzle a very good puzzle.

LMS: Thank you for your observations yesterday. In both latin (which I took 6 years of courses) and classical Greek (two years) the declension of verbs allows a number of English words to be thrown out the window. Similar to the conditional tense in French. And of course, unlike in French, "I you love" doesn't make much sense. I think my point was that the "rules" of any living language change with time. And inevitable there will exist "grammar police" who push back against valid change.

And I think my point about "crossword rules" is that I find them silly at best. Which is one of the reasons I have never tried to construct a crossword. I would try to brake as many rules as I could. I always rejoice when I solve a puzzle that brakes a rule. And I always lament which I don't notice a rule that gets broken - as happened recently with a non-symmetrical puzzle grid.

By the way, considering when your comment got posted, do you ever sleep?

thfenn 1:23 PM  

I got hung up forever with mOrtgageS before HOMELOANS, and still didn't enjoy giving that up, thought it was just annoying. Thought the long acrosses we're all great, and both those trees deserve general awareness. It's Friday, and I got through in less than half an hour without cheating, so couldn't be happier with this one.

Anonymous 1:33 PM  

Me too.

This was a great puzzle. I broke in with 36A, but still had to work through tough clues to fill the grid. 39A was the last to fall. Had to realize that 23D didn't have to end with 'E'.

How can any relatively aware person be ignorant of the oldest trees? Especially when climte change is a topic of general interst. In person they are amazing to see.

All the long answers were fair and clean in retrospect. The oddball crosses were not the usual dreck, but could be inferred once the important answers were filled in.

A completely fair, fun and hard puzzle. Two thumbs up.

meepmoop 1:38 PM  

I'm finding these comments the last two days wildly disappointing, to the extent that I, a lurker, am now commenting. Who's moderating these?

Who approved of the Anonymous comment "Were [TOMBOY] used more, and recognized for what it is, many of the children being treated for "transgenderism" wouldn't be butchered."

And yesterday -- between the somewhat racist flippant comparison of Uttar Pradesh to a Simpsons character (please look up "The Problem with Apu,") to the soapboxing about how masks aren't important (???) What is going on?? You can fill all the crosswords in the world and you still wouldn't be right.

webwinger 1:48 PM  

BERTHA, from German meaning bright or glorious, was once very popular as a girl’s name in the US. After that cannon became widely known as Big Bertha, no girl was ever so named again.

Comments seem just to keep getting better! Feel guilty now for not having known about BRISTLECONE PINE. I too had to change TIE rACK, PaSTaS, and mOrtgage. Guess I’d better take a serious look at Spelling Bee.

@LMS: The dog story you linked to perfectly captured the manifold and conflicting deep emotions engendered by this time, in a way that was very much a la mode. And great story to go with the great clue for BLUR!

@Suzie Q: Right on about @Rex and RAJ and CHE!

@JOHN X: Don’t know how you manage to keep topping yourself!

@Frantic Sloth: Now I’ll never be able look at a HAND during breakfast again without laughing!

@M&A: Fantastic headlines! (But don’t get what follows your runt-roll?)

@Anonymous 9:04: Fine comment! Now please do yourself and the rest of us a favor and get yourself a proper handle…

Joe Bleaux 1:51 PM  

What a workout. It left me feeling old😉.

@Nancy, I too wanted GRABABITETOGO, which wouldn’t fit — but GRABABITEANDGO did, so I went with it. And I too wanted MORTGAGES, so I popped it in (I even mentally applauded the clue for the cute “of interest to”). I hope the upshot for you wasn’t what it was for me; most of my solve time was spent in the SE finding and correcting the missteps I’d been trying to accommodate.

Oh, well. It’s not as if I were going anywhere anyway. On an island of blue down here in neck-red Jawjuh on Gov. Brian Kemp’s Grand Reopening Day, I’m not about to leave the house (although I’m just north of Atlanta, which is ignoring his airheaded decree).

Happy and safe weekend, all.

sf27shirley 1:59 PM  

I grew up in the Sierra Nevada mountains and was happy to find two very Western references. CATTLE RUSTLERS still operate, at least in California. Long live the BRISTLECONE pine!

Bruce G. 2:13 PM  

I actually didn't find this that difficult for a Friday. It certainly helped though that I have been to Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest so knew that answer.

Rug Crazy 2:42 PM  

Did anyone else think the clue on 6D should have been Fidel comrade?

Rug Crazy 2:45 PM  

Note to anonymous: Che's first name is Ernesto

Ernonymous 3:47 PM  

I was happy I got this done with no look ups in 90 minutes. I am not familiar with the BRISTLE CONE PINE, but I know it now. I have never traveled out west. A lot of times I do know something that others struggle with. I was so tempted to look up these proper names. I thought the Crimean War clue was also a proper name. I was very stuck in 3 of the corners. It was fun after googling the Bristle Cone Pine, to follow links to other World's Oldest things, including people! It's good to learn from crossword puzzles although sometimes it is embarrassing admitting you don't know something that others call a GIMME.

I also thought of @GILL I story about Cuba the other day which unfortunately this monster was in the forefront of my mind so I got that one quickly. What a strange coicidence. I have not commented on your story but it really got to me. As a big I Love Lucy fan, I do know the story of Desi Arnaz escaping Cuba and he used to tear up talking about how much he loved the life he had in America and owed so much to his adopted country.

@Joe Bleaux I am also in Northern Atlanta suburb and I am NOT going to the nail salon or bowling alley.

I feel very antsy today as I had an argument with a friend on facebook. She was saying that is fine to ride your bike in a group. As an avid cyclist I corrected her beccause when we ride, we spit and cough and blow snot rockets, touch our faces a lot (wiping our own snot) and adjusting sun glasses. Plus scientists have shown that riding behind someone in a paceline going 20mph the droplets being hacked out by the lead rider form a type of torpedo and shoot back. You can be sitting in that air stream for a few hours so it is not that far fetched that this could easily spread in a peleton. Well she told me that "even if I did get it, chances are I would be perfectly fine". This pissed me off as my son is Special Needs and he would die. My ex spouse has Lymphoma and we interact and would also die. This kind of attitude is absurd. I thought this to be true in February when another friend was hosting a guest just returned from China and was so worried he was going to catch the virus. I said it is only 1% death rate. Now we know in NY it is around an 11% death rate.
I don't remember how to insert hyperlinks but if anyone is interested in the cycling article it is http://www.bikeirvine.org/news/2020/4/1/riding-in-the-time-of-covid-19

Masked and Anonymous 3:51 PM  

@webwinger: STS preceded by the PE (first two letters of 21-D) rolled-in from above = PESTS.

Surprised now to hear that Trump claims he was just bein "sarcastic" yesterday, when he proposed injectin Lysol and such. Sooo … just kiddin, pandemic-wise. Guess he's not gonna try it personally, after all. <:-(

M&A Help Desk

manitou 5:00 PM  

Can we please get rid of the 5,000 year old trees and have some trees that were born THIS decade?!!

Malsdemare 5:33 PM  

For my first five minutes, this thing looked impossible; I could not get a toehold anywhere. Then I got one answer, then three more, and I was off to the races. I didn't know the BRISTLECONE PINE, but it was easy to figure out. I do know hickories; we have one off our deck (on the edge of a forest) and that, along with an immense oak tree, feeds every squirrel in within five miles, who in turn entertain my dogs to no end. CHE evoked Gill's moving story from yesterday. A good friend of mine has a similar story to tell and it’s clear he will never stop missing Cuba and the life he had before Castro.

@Tim. Haberdashers are purveyors of men's clothing, including TIEs and TIETACKS. If you get a RASH, it will irritate your skin. And often when you have a wing on a building, it is ELL-shapped.

Tough puzzle. Thanks JG.

egsforbreakfast 5:36 PM  


Sarcastic - Marked by bitterness and a power or will to cut or sting. Sarcastic implies an intentional inflicting of pain by deriding, taunting or ridiculing.

Who was Trump intentionally inflicting pain upon by suggesting the internal use of disinfectants? Why was he intentionally inflicting pain?

Joe Dipinto 5:44 PM  

@bauskern – Frank Hardy's girlfriend was Callie Shaw (waves to @pablo). Iola Morton was the sister of their friend Chet Morton.

Iola was also the name of Dave Brubeck's wife. She wrote lyrics to some of his songs.

Linda R 5:53 PM  

Sara 10:01 AM - I found Deb Amlen's blog but finding the Bee thread in it was harder - but I just found it. At the top of the Comments section, instead of a "Recommended" tab, I found "Reader Picks." And when I clicked on that, Doug's post about today's Spelling Bee came right up. I hope this is the way to find Doug's Spelling Bee post every day, but I guess I'll have to wait till tomorrow's blog to see if clicking on "Reader Picks" brings it up again.

jae 5:56 PM  

Easy-medium except for SE which took some sussing. I knew STELE from crosswords but I don’t remember ever seeing the AE plural, so erasing was required.

Solid but not particularly scintillating, liked it.

@Barbara S - After all of yesterday’s comments, too tried SB for the first time last night and got to somewhere in the early 20s on my first few passes. Then I too had a pangram epiphany late in the evenings and quit when I got the genius designation. It’s an addictive game.

Teedmn 6:08 PM  

Laugh-out-loud chuckles today from @manitou's plaint about bristle cone pine trees skewing old, and @kitshef's Milky Way remark which had me picturing the Olympics fans in the stands wearing their bandannas and maraschinoed straws.

GILL I. 6:31 PM  

@Giovanni...Can I nag you like I have @Suzie Q, @Barbara S, @Pamela, @Kathy and several other newcomers, to become blue? Well...@Suzie isn't exactly new, but she knows what I mean. It really is easy and free. A picture is worth a thousand words.....
I've come back, not to really nag but to nod and clap at your bike story. Our daughter is an avid bike rider. She has stopped going out with her friends precisely because of what you said. The air stream that you inhale with "things" that come out of the front biker's mouth while you're huffing and puffing uphill is not pretty. Sacramento is a big bike riding society and I've yet to see any of them wear any kind of protective gear. Alas....should we all be drinking some Lysol with vodka soon?

Ernonymous 6:59 PM  

@gill I thought I was blue. I definitely was at some point and I had my poodle avatar and it's vanished. I'll fix it! Show your daughter that article. I think the person on Facebook that was arguing with me didn't actually read it! Around here, we have cancelled all group rides. Everyone is riding solo. It's not bad because there is no traffic and the air is cleaner.

webwinger 7:04 PM  

@Giovanni: An excellent thoughtful personal assessment of risk. If I were you I would behave exactly as you plan to.

Our (Democratic) governor in Colorado has been a terrific leader during this crisis. He has announced that beginning next week the state’s policy will change from “stay at home” to “safer at home”. With explicit guidance not yet spelled out (and highly detailed rules would most likely be very confusing, controversial, subject to constant revision, and difficult to enforce), that is generally interpreted to mean that businesses can reopen and people without symptoms can gather in small groups provided masks are worn and 6-foot separation is maintained. (When I go out walking now I see almost 100% compliance with these rules.)

Our state has documented cumulative infection in 0.2% of the population (11.3K cases). The number is now increasing by a pretty steady 3% per day (doubling time about 4 weeks if sustained at that level). At no time has anything close to exponential growth in cases been seen statewide, and many of the new cases are associated with localized outbreaks. Total COVID deaths to date number 557, about 0.01% of the population, close to the usual number of deaths from other causes in 3-4 days.

The problem has certainly not disappeared, and many people have suffered terribly as a direct result of the virus, but it now looks far less worrisome from an overall public health perspective than it did when stay-home was imposed about a month ago, despite the continued modest upward trend in numbers. The hardship caused by economic and social consequences of stay-home, however, continues to snowball, and implicit in that is growing risk from secondary health issues.

Even if COVID rates are underreported by a factor of 10, it seems hardly foolish for healthy people to take advantage, with precautions, of relaxed restrictions. If there is convincing evidence of growing danger after a short period of careful observation, policy will need to change; if not, we can all sigh with relief as we scurry to prepare for likely greater pandemic problems beginning a few months from now. (Also, I can’t see how testing is essential for this: Numbers of hospital admissions and ICU admissions should tell what is going on quite reliably.)

Z 7:12 PM  

@oldtimer 12:58 -Thank you.

@meepmoop - I don’t think the Uttar Pradesh comment yesterday was being flippant. I think it was someone just observing why they were confused. As a non-Simpson watcher (we do exist) I understood the potential to confuse a place you’re not really familiar with and a t.v. show that is used a lot to clue names.
And nowhere did I say masks were unimportant. I get why you thought that, but no.

@Reno retired - @Gill I especially, but not solely, has discussed CHE at length. Let me refer you to @Gill I at 8:18a.m. on this past Wednesday and the responses to it throughout the day. I suspect that she didn’t mention it today because the clue was relatively neutral and she had just written on it at length two days ago.

@Adam S - Oops, I said Harpers but it was the New Yorker article I read. It’s a good article. Thanks.

GILL I. 7:36 PM  

@Z....si, mi compadre. I don't care if CHE is in a clue. I don't care if MAO is included as well. They are part of our history. I think I might've blown a gasket when Erik Agard clued him as "Hero buried in Santa Clara, Cuba." I know I went on a tirade.....and had he, or Will, has said "hero to many" I would've swallowed my spittle and moved on. Yes...Hollywood and people who are ignorant (there, I've said it) want to glamorize him... so be it. He was a monstrous murderer. Even Castro thought so, at the end.
Cheers...and wear a mask....I can show you how to make one made from old smelly socks!

Runs with Scissors 9:39 PM  

This was not your typical Thursday. Enjoyable for the most part, but went a bit too quickly - for a Thursday.

Bristlecone Pine was the best of the lot. Those trees are simply amazing, and vastly misunderstood.

@Loren - Regarding whenever this came up, "whom" cannot die quickly enough for those of us who realize Latin isn't all that. English neither needs nor uses case since, what, 1400 Anno Domini?

As an aside, no language needs more than one way to say "the."

Azzurro 10:38 PM  

Am I the only one bothered by ARMS clued as “Assets of QBs”? When the clue is abbreviated, so is the answer; those are the rules. ARMS may be the assets of a quarterback, but the assets of a QB are WRs and whatnot.

I agree with Rex about the rest. Some tough stuff mixed in with irritating obscurities.

kitshef 10:49 PM  

@Giovanni - observation from the multi-use trail that runs behind our house. The faster the user, the less they respect social distancing. Walkers are great - they'll cross all the way to the other side or walk in the grass to give enough space. Runners usually do, but if they would need to slow down appreciably to allow a gap to develop, they'll sort of duck heads and move through. Cyclists rarely make any effort at all. These are all generalizations and there are exceptions, but the exceptions are rare.

Ernonymous 11:45 PM  

@kitscheg real cyclists don't ride on recreational trails. I don't know why anyone would ride a bike fast on a trail with walkers. Around here the recreational trails are so packed, everyone is too close. My friend who lives right off a popular trail said the runners are spitting on everyone. She's not walking there any more. Too many people, and she is ready to strangle the runners.
These are also generalizations, but I'm not going to say there are rare exceptions. I'm going to say there are a lot of exceptions.

Anonymous 12:29 AM  

Please restrict your comments to the crossword. You obviously are clueless about the virus. I remember that not long ago you were saying confidently that deaths in the U.S. would not be more than 20,000. And now unlike just about everyone in public health in medicine, you are failing to understand the importance of testing.

Monty Boy 12:58 AM  

I like this one a lot. Not much the first pass or 5, but a few lucky guesses and I got the SW done and slowly marched through the rest. At least is seemed slowly; my time came well below average.

A nit: Big Bertha was a WWI (not WWII) German cannon, a naval gun on a railroad car.

Seeing IOLA reminded me of an aunt-in-law (or some such distant relative) named IOLA. I never met her, but my folks would occasionally mention her in some story from long ago. Funny how those things turn up.

For our quaranteened dog, we have a closed back yard and bunnies under the deck. He gets a lot of fresh Colorado air (as long as the traffic flow is reduced).

Carola 11:30 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
johannesclimacus 3:30 AM  

Simply the worst puzzle I’ve done in years. I hated every minute of it.

spacecraft 11:05 AM  

My biggest surprise was seeing OFC's rating of med-chal. I found it easy-medium, made even that difficult by a few 75-cent clue words. So not that many triumph points--and not many for anything else, either. GRABABITE[TOEAT] has to be the greenest paint I've ever seen. It was so green...

[audience] HOW GREEN WAS IT? --Sorry, been watching way too much Match Game lately. During a pandemic, you get used to daytime fare, so it's either game shows or soaps.

Now, when was the last hurricane that WASN'T "destructive?" C'mon, man.

Mr. G has never been on my a-list of constructors, and he has done nothing today to make it. DOD to ISLA Fisher. A listless list of words. Bogey.

DaveR8R 2:12 PM  

If you want a challenge, Dec 6, 1994, hope you know your foreign films!

Burma Shave 2:17 PM  


YET THAT’SWEIRD about their hair:
BRISTLEs under SKIRTs are rough;


rainforest 2:36 PM  

Well, I guess I'm in the minority here in that I liked this puzzle, though it was easier than most Friday puzzles. THAT'S WEIRD, I heard someone say.

I liked the three-stack in the centre, as I did BRITISH RAJ, as I did TO THE LAST, SOLO SHOT, and OPENS A TAB. I have two friends named BERTHA and one of them is a lawyer, so that resonated a bit. There *were* a number of plurals, PESTOS being the least fun, but what the hey! It's a puzzle. Plurals help. Constructors need help, and on many occasions, a HAND.

Happy to oblige.

leftcoaster 3:49 PM  

BUSY with PPPs? Let them BEDAMNed, as he OPENS A TAB.

rondo 4:54 PM  

Hand up for PaSTaS before PESTOS, so I ended up finishing in that area, and TRALEE. Otherwise not terribly difficult. Started with gimme SOLOSHOT, of which I may need numerous if someone OPENSATAB. This is the one day of the week I had planned to work in the office, but the whole MN Capitol Complex and widely surrounding areas are shut down due to the unrest in the Twin Cities. So working from home today is a real challenge. Loot a Target store? No problem if you’re wearing a COVID mask. Most banks also completely shut. May I SUBTLY say ISLA Fisher WON the day?

Diana, LIW 7:54 PM  

Succumbed to the SE corner.

But wait - it wasn't PASTAS? I'm having a terribly confused day.

Diana, LIW

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