Folklore character whose stockings are tied with eyelashes / Ex video game franchise / Lane on eastern boundary of Covent Garden / Language introduced in 1995 / SAT 6-6-20 / Perp's mark in cop slang / Scene of W.W. I fighting

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Constructor: Doug Peterson

Relative difficulty: Challenging (slowest in months)


THEME: none

Word of the Day: N'DJAMENA (1A: Capital of Chad) —
N’Djamena (/ənɑːˈmnɑː/; FrenchN'Djaménapronounced [n(ə)dʒa.me.na]Arabicانجمينا‎ Injamīnā) is the capital and largest city of Chad. A port on the Chari River, near the confluence with the Logone River, it directly faces the Camerooniantown of Kousséri, to which the city is connected by a bridge. It is also a special statute region, divided into 10 districts or arrondissements. It is a regional market for livestocksaltdates, and grainsMeatfish and cotton processing are the chief industries, and the city continues to serve as the center of economic activity in Chad.
• • •

Well I was wrong. Thought I would finish today's faster than yesterday's, but this too was just brutal for me. Slowest Saturday (which means slowest puzzle, period) in recent memory. It was also just not a very exciting grid, as Doug Peterson puzzles go (bar is high). It's quite solid, but there's not much shine, and there's ... well, I just can't get very excited about AMBUSH PREDATORS as a marquee answer (8D: Leopards and anacondas, e.g.). I did not know that was a thing. For me it was just [random adjective] PREDATORS, and it took me forever to see AMBUSH, and then when I got it, no "aha," just a "... really? that's a thing?" I had a similar adj. + noun issue with SKIN DIVERS (13D: Key explorers). Got DIVERS then thought, "well, that could be anything," and it could. I wanted REEF, I think. I don't know why MARIA CALLAS is "Tony" (43A: Tony soprano?) (except that she sings notes, like any soprano, and notes are ... tones? I get that you want a TV character pun there in your clue, but ...).


The biggest issue / downer for me, though, was 1A: Capital of Chad (N'DJAMENA). At 1-Across, that is such a f***-you kind of answer. People who have been on "Jeopardy" and trivia nerds who memorize world capitals will know it, and everyone else won't (I was a "won't"), which is it breaks hard into two very very very different camps: Absolute Gimme or Absolutely No Idea. And what's more, if you have no idea, it's not a city you have any chance of spelling in any kind of inferential way. All random letters if you don't know the answer. So the whole NW becomes torture. Throw in my having no idea re: another name (DEUS) (20A: ___ Ex (video game franchise)) and another name (SARA) (35D: Shepard who wrote "Pretty Little Liars") and having even names I did know buried in clues that were either vague (FRED SANFORD) (23A: '70s sitcom title role) or inscrutable to me (TOM THUMB) (17A: Folklore character whose stockings are tied with eyelashes), and wow was this thing a struggle. And not a fun one. Too reliant on proper names to be truly enjoyable. The top half was twice as hard as the bottom half. The last letter I put in was the "1" square, a thing that virtually never happens. Had -OTE and still had to think for a bit about what letter could complete it (1D: Mark down). Looking it over now, there's just So Many Names. Great when you know 'em ("LOVIN' You"!) not so great when you don't, esp. when you're cluing everything as hard as possible.


Clue on EXUDED just didn't make sense to me (6D: Couldn't contain). You can contain things you exude. Why not? The ability of one to contain or not contain something seems to me to have nothing to do with exuding. Awful. I had EMO before ALT (4D: Music genre prefix). REDS and GEMS before (ugh, that's all) HUES (28A: Ruby and sapphire). APES before AXES (38A: Forest swingers). Knew Elizabeth CADY Stanton but thought she was a CATY, I really really did. Man, who is the CATY that I know? Do I even know a CATY??? I must not. SALAD was also ridiculously hard (26A: Bar assembly). But in general, this was two puzzles: the bottom (pretty normal Saturday) and the top (torture). Really really don't like VIC right now (29A: Perp's mark, in cop slang); you can really bury all "cop slang" for a long, long time, and I would not mind. Thanks.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    PS Zoe Caldwell won a Tony (!?!?!) for *playing* MARIA CALLAS in "Master Class," but if that is the reference in today's clue, that is some snotty inside-baseball bull***t. Your "?" clues should not require a paragraph of footnotes. Their aptness should announce itself at once, bam.

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

    168 comments:

    Joaquin 12:02 AM  

    Little known fact about Chad: In the native tongue of Chad (Chadwickian) the word NDJAMENA translates to the English word “Natick”.

    Also - Three of the five US states that border the Pacific have six letters, as does Natick, and some other place that took me way too long to figure out.

    Frantic Sloth 12:05 AM  

    This went faster than Friday's challenge, but not by much. It took some tenacity, but I felt adequately rewarded with a sense of accomplishment that was missing from yesterday's experience.

    Not sure why that is, especially when the very first word of the whole shebang is NDJAMENA. I'm a tad less proficient on my Chad geography than well, possibly everyone, so no surprise there.

    Actually, the entire top of the grid - up until FREDSANFORD - was one, big, orgy of fast and loose stupidity for me.
    I still don't know how I got outta there, but outta there I got and yay, me!

    Not sure RICECAKE and "treat" belong in the same neighborhood, but maybe that's just me.

    Sealed lips? There otter be a law.

    🧠🧠🧠.5
    🎉🎉🎉.75

    Mike in Mountain View 12:30 AM  

    My solving experience was almost exactly the same as @Rex's. Got the rest of the puzzle in the time it typically takes me to complete a difficult Saturday, and then I stared at the NW corner wondering whether I'd ever be able to solve it. Couldn't see what came before SHPREDATORS. Whiffed on DEUS, which I should have figured out from DEUS ex machina. (@Rex, as an English prof, should have figured that out, too.) Finally had an aha moment on ORALEXAM and then, still slowly, filled in the rest of the NW.

    @Joaquin. Great line about 1A.

    WhoisMark 1:14 AM  

    As a TV loving "Jeopardy!" (with the exclamation point always) champ I had an easier time with the puzzle (including 1A) than others might and was proud to get the Redd Foxx character with just the F.

    Anonymous 1:26 AM  

    Rex Parker couldn’t contain his disapproval of 6D; he exuded contempt.

    puzzlehoarder 1:26 AM  

    A nice Saturday. The NW corner really held out. Originally I had 8D as STEALTHPREDATORS. It can be hard to come up with an alternative when you're so sold on the mistake. Eventually NOTE, JAMS and NAMED found their little friend AMBUSH to bring them all together. Prior to that I actually tried TOMSPRAT at 17A. I really couldn't remember TOM who until that B showed up.

    I haven't commented in a few days as I've been working a great deal. I'll do Friday's puzzle tomorrow as I'm taking the weekend off.

    jae 1:29 AM  

    Mostly easy-medium except for the NW which was tough and the last to fall. The capital of Chad is not exactly inferable, DEUS was a WOE, somehow guessed right on AMBUSH, and the clues for NAMED an EXUDED were pretty tricky...so, pretty much @Rex’s and @Mike’s solve (including ApES before AXES).

    Plenty to like here, nice one Doug!

    Tale Told By An Idiot 2:01 AM  


    Brad finished his oral exam - the final hurdle before Larson gave her assent to his posting to Ndjamena. The department feted him before he left. A flunky brought him food - rice cakes from the snack bar and a salad that he eyed with alarm. They gave him gifts: spy cameras and axes for the tasks ahead. They gave him standing ovations as they bid him farewell.

    On Brad’s first day in country he decided to drop a little acid, to ease the transition. Suddenly, things got strange. Fred Sanford was arguing with Tom Thumb; alligators and ambush predators were everywhere, threatening Tom and Fred and Brad and each other; and Maria Callas was trying to soothe them all with song. It appeared to be a battle between harmony and chaos - the ultimate battle between the fiend and the deus.

    Finally someone managed to arouse Brad. At last they could ask him about the chaos, the destruction and the birdie of rainbow hues that all could see but none could explain. “My lips are sealed” he said.

    Richardf8 2:10 AM  

    Ambush Predators was not new to me. Oh, and congrats to Rex on adopting one.

    This had quite a lot of crunch, and I found most of it rewarding, but 1A sent me crying to Grampa Google.

    Jmorgie 2:15 AM  

    the tony soprano answer is Fay Dunaway did a one woman show about Maria Callas that was just fabulous .. real tour de force. wish i could find it on video.

    okanaganer 2:27 AM  

    Agree with all Rex verdicts except I got the northwest pretty quick, as ORAL EXAM, TOM THUMB, and the crosses were grokkable. But the northeast!!...

    I saw 9D "HQ with runways" and instantly entered HUB. Perfectly clued, so I never looked back (clue's hint to acronym not noticed). And 14D "viewed" I had SEEN. And for 10D "Long faces", looking at ----FS it just had to be SERIFS! (you know, type 'faces' with extensions to make them...longer?). But just no way the crosses could work, so I tried abandoning each in turn, for it seemed like ages. Then I deleted all three, and Bam! within a minute the puzzle was solved. But slow overall.

    59A wanted to be FOOD CART or something on those lines.

    Yes, Rex, way too many names. At xwordinfo, Jeff Chen notes the capital of Burkina Faso would be a great answer in the vein of 1 across.

    Ann Howell 2:29 AM  

    Agree with Rex about most of it. Was especially disappointed by AMBUSH PREDATORS. Had several wrong answers filled in confidently - including APES for AXES, as well as FREE Jazz (which led me to suppose that Tom Wolfe's book was "LIFE in Full". All in all, not a very satisfying solve. By the way, I think "Tony soprano" refers to the meaning of tony as "elegant" or "high-fallutin'".

    chefwen 2:57 AM  

    Got the bottom half, no problem. Top half remained pretty much empty until I Googled 1A. Even if I had tried to work the downs I wouldn’t have accepted NDJ as a suitable beginning to anything. I cry foul and mean spirited, Doug.

    On a lighter note, we are expecting three ALPACAS to arrive in the not too distant future, we’re giving up on raising cattle, too much work. They like to break down fences, get into the neighbors property, and have to be rounded up, let back into our fields, mend fences, etc. Husband is over it. I see a miniature petting zoo in our future.

    If I never hear the so called “song” LOVIN YOU” in the future, it’ll be too soon. That thing makes my teeth hurt.

    Was so looking forward to a cheat free weekend, 1A foiled it. Boo!

    Unknown 2:57 AM  

    1 across totally unfair. Also too many proper names. They could be figured from the crosses but 1 across could not be.

    Anonymous 3:24 AM  

    The title of the sitcom is not “Fred Sanford” so that’s not technically correct. It could also have been Son Sanford then.
    100% is Already an A plus. 110% just means you got some extra credit.
    You would never ask someone to “kick in” their ante. It’s not like an option. It’s usually more someone yelling “who didn’t ante yet?” and everyone saying they did until that one guy says, wait, maybe I’m thinking of the hand before this.
    Calling a rice cake a “treat” is generous. Is it smothered in chocolate?
    What’s an ambush predator? Seems invented. Do other predators politely ask you before they attack?
    I still don’t understand “skin divers” though it sounds vaguely pornographic?
    Jarts? Jon’t even...
    Too hard to finish and not pleasant.


    Kevin 4:32 AM  

    The ONLY reason I ever got started on the NW was that I had —-US- at 9A (Charge) and put in AMBUSH. Once I stared at that for 20 minutes before erasing it, it was stuck in my brain. So when I finally got to ——-HPREDATORS, I was primed. Still very, very hard.

    Adam12 5:05 AM  

    Maria Callas was a soprano AND won a Tony Award.

    JOHN X 5:13 AM  

    Happy D-Day!

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    Hello folks, JOHN X here. Seriously, in this time of strife and confusion, we all need to come together in peace and harmony, and I can't think of a better way than by buying one of my lovely JOHN X greeting cards. The more you buy, the more love I spread, and I think that's a message we can all get behind. God bless.

    As for the puzzle, two ass kickers in a row! Now this is the NY Times X-word puzzle I remember! And just like yesterday, I got stuck in the NE and NW. I had ASSESS and SEEN in the NE for far too long, but I stripped it and then reality appeared.

    As for the NW, man that was killing me, 1A 15A 17A, I didn't know what those were. I started guessing at the downs and finally got it, to my surprise.

    I'll see ya down at the Emporium!

    AdamW 5:52 AM  

    I assume Tony means Tony Awatd

    Lewis 6:46 AM  

    A terrific balance of heaven and hell to satisfy my Libra tendencies.

    Hell from the things I didn't know, such as the capital, the Tom Wolfe title, the video game and more, plus things I may as well not have known because they were brutally clued (ORAL EXAM, SALAD, CLIFFS and more), in addition to a NW that was opaque for a long time (for the second day in a row).

    Heaven in filling in each and every square, including two modest splat fills down south, as well as grin producing clues for MARIA CALLAS, AXES, KEY EXPLORERS, and even SNACK BAR (the second excellent hot-dog-related clue this week).

    So, a terrific balance, a trek and a treat. Thank you, Doug!

    GILL I. 6:46 AM  

    Thank goodness we have interesting comments to start off. Gadzooks, why did I listen to Minnie? She might've been the one and only reason I wanted to chew my leg off when she hit that un human high note that makes the ceiling vibrate.
    Thank you Doug for not inserting Yamoussoukro in your grid. I knew Chad had one of those "how the hell do I spell it?" names.....Try pronouncing OAXACA (Hi @CaryinBoulder)....
    Where do I begin? I'll agree with @Frantics "orgy of fast and loose stupidity." I was proud, though, that I got TOM THUMB and FRED SANFORD. Does that age me? I think all the named people in this puzzle are dead?
    Sometimes you just need to take a breath and come back for a second go-around. It seemed to help. I left the attic and went down to the basement. I felt better about myself. One of my girlfriends who weighs about 3 lbs lives on RICE CAKEs. Why? They taste like rubber bands. I like ALPACA. I still have a lovely black sweater that my step-mom knitted for me. The only problem is that it sheds and little black wooly things get in your nose.
    You got me in some places, Doug and I did use a Google or two - mainly for those names you could've left at home, but otherwise it was an interesting romp.
    How do you police JARTS?

    ChuckD 6:53 AM  

    Tried too hard to be difficult. It was rough - but I got the longs quickly so that helped - but mid length stuff was brutal. NW was last to fall and backed in to most of it. Loved FRED SANFORD in the 70s but he wouldn’t make it today - cancel culture and all. My wife let me know there was a Tony play about MARIA CALLAS - not so sure she won a Tony. Overall liked the toughness of this one but it just wasn’t enjoyable.

    Anonymous 7:19 AM  

    Did Maria Callas win a Tony Award?

    This one was brutal. I finally solved with AXES---I had APES, and was very sure of it, thanks to another geographical cross no one should be expected to know.

    AMBUSH PREDATORS was good and came easily (I watch a lot of nature and survival shows!).

    Longest Saturday puzzle ever for me.

    Anonymous 7:28 AM  

    In response to another's comment about FRED SANFORD: yes, the title of the sitcom was "Sanford and Son"---but the clue asked for the title character, and the "Sanford" of "Sanford and Son" was FRED SANFORD. I don't see any problem.

    amyyanni 7:33 AM  

    Much prefer a challenge on Saturday than a too easy offering, which this certainly wasn't! World capitals are fair game, so today I learned another, thank you Google.
    Having been a history major, FALA & CADY & YSER came easily, and knew Brie Larson from "Room," which is a riveting novel by Emma Donahue.
    Really wanted to cram Sara Bareilles in for Tony Soprano (she was nominated for "Waitress"), so much so I flirted with a rebus possibility there.
    So happy to be free from the little corner of the spare room that is my work "cube" these days. Florida is opening up, but so is our case count. Over 1300 each of the last 3 days, 1495 yesterday.

    Anonymous 7:39 AM  

    For all of you complaining about AMBUSH PREDATOR and SKIN DIVER please check Google. AMBUSH PREDATOR leads directly to a Wikipedia article, and SKIN DIVER gets you both a Wikipedia article and a magazine that proclaims it has been in existence since 1951. Those entries were fine. The rest of the puzzle, not so much.

    - Jim C. in Maine

    Anonymous 7:44 AM  

    “Tony” means fashionable or stylish, so Callas, who was a billionaire’s mistress and lived lavishly, was tony. And a soprano.

    Giovanni 7:52 AM  

    I guess it is something that I finished this with no look ups in 1 hour 49 minutes. I'm proud I didn't give in and look up the capital of Chad. Almost everything Rex said were my issues, the very last thing I got was NOTE. I had LPs for a long time. Finally I thought of EPs so I ran every possible 2 letter combination in _O_E for probably 20 minutes to get NOTE.
    I had HUMB and just assumed it was a folklore name I didn't know. I OM HUMB forever and thought it had to be LumbHumb or something. I also had EMO and got Note and Alt last.
    Worked out the NE and that killed me. Like Rex I had reef divers. I have not heard anyone say Skin Divers in a long time that even after I wrote it it looks weird. I guess people say Scuba divers more often.
    It was hard but an ever better sense of accomplishment to know Rex also found it hard. Yesterday took me 1:35 not easy.
    Someone here once warned me to throw FALA onto my crosswordese list. Also I recalled YSER from before.
    I remember JARTS from another puzzle where I looked up the history of them: Yikes! Well good brain work out. Hey Rex, You Are Something, to quote our Toddler-in-Chief.

    Joe Dipinto 7:52 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Anonymous 8:08 AM  

    JARTS was almost a killer for me.

    I also couldn’t stop thinking “AMISH PREDATORS” when I was trying to get that fill going down. Then I started to think of those phenomenal Amish in Minneapolis who came out for the protests this week. Maybe one day we will have an AMISH PROTESTORS clue.

    Twangster 8:08 AM  

    I read the clue the way anonymous at 7:44 did and thought it was clever. I didn't know that about the billionaire but figured opera is a tony genre in the fancy sense.

    Alex M 8:09 AM  

    TONY as in "fancy" Rex, come on now.

    Anonymous 8:09 AM  

    The clueing for this puzzle was just off in so many ways...my big issue (other than all the others mentioned here) is Fiend as an answer for devotee...there were other ways of clueing this...devotee doesn’t come any where near implying the level of insane fandom that fiend does.

    mmorgan 8:12 AM  

    I moved remarkably steadily through this considering it was filled with things I didn’t know. That tells me all the crosses were fair. I kept surprising myself to see whole chunks filled in despite being clueless (so to speak) about many answers. The NW took the longest, by far, but even that fell into place. I did have an error, though, because I figured that dARTS were banned outdoors and that dAVA was just something else I didn’t know. I’d never heard of JARTS. I got MY LIPS ARE SEALED from the L and the second S and FRED SANFORD off the first Fvand the N. I agree that AMBUSH PREDATORS was kinda clunky, but overall I found this to be a solid and challenging but (mostly) fairly easy Saturday.

    Hungry Mother 8:17 AM  

    Luckily I spent some days in OAXACA on a RV caravan in 2004, so I was familiar with the city and the state. Long slog, especially in the NW.

    Diver 8:22 AM  

    Tony means stylish. Oaxaca is a state in Mexico(great queso blanco from there). Fred Sanford was a funny character. Okay, the capital of Chad is pretty obscure, but we all know it now, don't we? Once again, Rex's main complaint is that there are so many clues that are out of his personal wheelhouse.

    Nancy 8:22 AM  

    Oh, Joaquin (first comment of the day), that is SO funny!!!!!!!! Wish I'd said it!!!! You're the only comment I've read so far, but if they're all that good...

    Oh, yes, the puzzle. The NW took the heart right out of me. I cheated on NDJAMENA and was surprised to see that the N and the J I had were right, since I had thought it most unlikely. I had guessed right on TOM THUMB, miraculously, but FRED SANFORD was as Naticky for me as NDJAMEN. Between the two of them, I wasn't going to solve no how, no way without cheating.

    Has there ever been a more Green Paint-y answer than AMBUSH PREDATORS? If so, I've never seen it.

    A pretty good puzzle everywhere else -- but with one corner so, so bad that it ruined the entire enterprise. FWIW, everyone, it's not just pop culture names I rail about. I can get pretty worked up over a name like NDJAMENA, too. Again, kudos to @Joaquin who nailed it today.

    MR. Cheese 8:24 AM  

    You’re not gonna believe this! I had to look up the Capital of Chad!

    Anonymous 8:29 AM  

    The keyword to solving SKIN DIVERS is “Key”. In the Florida Keys the water is so warm that you don’t need a wetsuit, you can just dive in your own skin.

    KnittyContessa 8:39 AM  

    Brutal. I agree 110% with Rex. So many names made for a frustrating, joyless solve. A RICECAKE is not a treat. Not even if it's covered in Nutella. I had meringue for the longest time. The North was the hardest overall. Really felt like a NYT Saturday from 1994. Finally gave up and googled 1A.

    @gilli Try putting your sweater in a plastic bag and putting it in the freezer overnight. The next day you should have less shedding. It's an old knitter's trick for angora. I'm betting it will work with alpaca, too.

    Mike Herlihy 8:42 AM  

    I had junglePREDATORS for too long, making the NW extra hard.

    Joe Dipinto 8:47 AM  

    Minnie Riperton is singing the name of her daughter Maya Rudolph at the end of Rex's video.

    I assume they were hoping solvers would contort their brains into reading "tony" as "high-class" in 43a, but it's an idiotic clue: it's not clever, it makes no sense on that or any other level, it's one more editing disaster.

    (Having trouble posting today for some reason.)

    Lorelei Lee 8:55 AM  

    Having been completely defeated from the get-go in the NW corner, I marched my way to the middle and plunked in My Lips Are Sealed. From there, it was a middle out Scrabble approach, mostly to the south.

    The UN recognizes about about 190 countries. Should we start learning the capitols of all of them?

    Anon@7:19, I had the same thought. Found this:

    ... Master Class, starring Tyne Daly as a late-career diva Maria Callas ... The play about the famed opera star won the 1996 Tony Award as Best Play.

    Anon@8:08, Har! I wish I'd been at the toy company meeting when someone said, "I know! How 'bout foot-long metal darts with pointed ends that kids can fling in each others' directions out in the yard."

    Blue Stater 9:02 AM  

    Hate to repeat yesterday's comment, but it's just too apt: terrible, terrible, terrible puzzle. In the running for WOAT. Again. This weekend, so far, is well ahead in the running for Worst Weekend of All Time. We'll see what tomorrow brings. Considering the Tom Cotton op-ed, this has been a dreadful week for the NYT in general.

    Pepper 9:05 AM  

    My East Asian opinion is that “rice cakes” are dense, steamed concoctions; I would call what this puzzle seems to be going for “puffed rice cakes”. Also what kind of extremely sad person considers those to be a treat, wow

    John R 9:06 AM  

    It is appropriate that the RICECAKE on the SNACKBAR is crossed by ICK.

    I had to change APES to AXES before I got the success message. Some day I will learn some geography.

    Rob Buccino 9:09 AM  

    Thought I'd cracked this (finally) without having to cheat, but missed the sarcasm of "big whoop" and put in YEH instead of MEH. Googled the Chadian capital and groaned.

    CyC 9:09 AM  

    Brutal. Just about killed me. Thinking about going back to bed. NW and SE in particular. I've never heard of a SHAMUS and just could get MAY or ANKA for some reason. Mental block. Had "LOSIN' you instead of "LOVIN" which meant I couldn't see OVATIONS.

    I don't understand the Maria Callas thing. Did she win a Tony at some point? Even if so, aren't a lot of Tony winners sopranos?

    Unknown 9:09 AM  

    Too many answers like exudes that left me thinking "I suppose technically it's not wrong...but"

    William of Ockham 9:14 AM  

    Took me 1:59

    To enter the completed grid into the NYT page

    I RULE

    pabloinnh 9:18 AM  

    I've said this before for other answers, but the capital of Chad looks like a Scrabble rack I'd trade in (and I know there are too many letters). Is there such a thing as "stocking ties"? News to me. Shame on me for not making the connection between "eyelashes" and a tiny person. "Face-to-face" seems a little more combative than an ORALEXAM would be. In short, the NW corner was a bear, who I guess is not an ambush predator. At least I know where OAXACA is, and I can pronounce it.

    Thanks for the double black diamond run through the moguls, DP. Survival is all.

    Airman 1st Class 9:19 AM  

    Why is AFB (Air Force Base) an "HQ" with runways. Most (if not all) AFB's have runways...but most AFB's are NOT command HQ's.

    glennkenny 9:26 AM  

    Amen. Some really perverse clueing here.

    Anonymous 9:27 AM  

    It doesn’t matter who reads this, but, my opinion is that this WAS two puzzles: one with real, recognizable clues and one with impossible clues. I wonder how many real clues were constructed by the author and how many by the editor, who should retire.

    kitshef 9:29 AM  

    Absolutely flew through this like it was a Wednesday, from my entry at NDJAMENA to FRED SANFORD off the 'ED' to AMBUSH PREDATORS to MARIA CALLAS to LARSON, this was a total wheelhouse puzzle.

    Until I ground to a halt in the NE. That one corner took at least a third of my solve time and 90% of my effort.

    I think of a FLUNKY as a go-fer, not a yes-man - though my dictionaries confirm the puzzle's usage is acceptable.

    Fun fact: N'Djamena and Phnom Penh are the only national capitals that begin with three consonants. But with Phnom Penh you don't have that apostrophe to confuse things.

    Was hoping for the Go-Go's Our Lips are Sealed to make an appearance in Rex's column today. Instead we get the odious Lovin' You, the worst popular song of all time.

    mathgent 9:29 AM  

    Great! It has everything I want in a crossword. Doug Peterson is one of the masters.

    We have a Mexican club/restaurant here in town named Wa-Ha-Ka.

    I had NDJAMEDA filled in from the crosses and was sure that it was wrong.

    I also learned about JARTS, and that they are banned, from a puzzle I did long ago, not a NYT.

    I suppose that apes are jungle swingers, not forest swingers.




    Anonymous 9:36 AM  

    gave up in the NW on 1A. just couldn't be bothered any longer. had RICEpuff for too long, since a RICECAKE is the realm of the very poor and extreme dieters; it ain't no treat. wanted some kind of fireplace stand for SNACKBAR, again for too long (the feet on same are called DOGS). went with, reluctantly, AFB which finally cleared the NE.
    only long gimme was ALLIGATORS, if that'd been wrong wouldn't have continued. ORAL EXAM is iffy, in that 'face-to-face' isn't how orals work; their FACE to FACEs, 'some group with a name', often committee. a nit, yes I know.

    Teedmn 9:38 AM  

    Ah, the NW. Besides ALT and MEH, I had nothing above FRED SANFORD. I thought the puzzle was quite easy until I got stuck there, which I estimate was at the 15 minute mark. After that, I have no idea how long it took because I took a break at minute 24 and forgot to NOTE when I picked it up again.

    Post-break, I put in EPS which I had EYED before but had resisted, just because. With ___AM___ in the grid at 1A, I kept thinking alhAMbra, which I know is in Spain and isn't a capital city but still...

    I started doodling in the margin with _____SH PREDATORS, putting all the vowels and maybe an R in front of that SH. I quickly dismissed the U as ridiculous in favor of A, I or R. Har.

    Finally, I stared at 2D until the paper nearly started on fire and DROP dropped. I used the same method on 3D and got JAMS. Now the dam was broken but __BUSH had me guessing in-BUSH or something. I carefully picked my way across the stony ground of the NW until only the #1 square was left. I closed my eyes and splatzed in the N. I was about to Google to see what kind of mess I had made when instead I went to my library and pulled out the giant world atlas my mother had given me one Christmas after I had asked for it. I could hear her say, "That was kind of expensive!" and remember my nephew handing it to me, grunting with the effort because it was so heavy. How rewarding it is to open a book and caress the pages and admire the colors on the maps (not pushpins!)

    So, Doug Peterson, I'll be ready for you in 2030 with Ouagadougou. Meanwhile, thanks for the classic Saturday solve. I never UNDERVALUE such a solving experience.

    QuasiMojo 9:38 AM  

    Zoe Caldwell won the Tony in 1996 playing Maria Callas in Master Class by Terrence McNally who died recently from complications due to COVID-19.

    Be careful what you pray or prey for. I wanted a hard Saturday. And this delivered. I had a DNF. Thought that ST JEANNE sounded like a capital in Chad. It got so bad I even thought, is this a reference to Bush Gore election?

    SAD END for me when RAPUNZEL didn't work for TOM THUMB.

    Putting in LIPS TO GODS EAR didn't help matters.

    I always get LOVIN U mixed up with Muskrat love. Speaking of prey.

    Great piece about Iguana hunters in Florida in yesterday's WSJ. Apparently they prey on each other when mating.

    KnittyContessa is right. Rice Cake a TREAT? Try giving one to a kid on Halloween.

    Fun puzzle even if I failed to finish it.


    Amelia 9:38 AM  

    Good Grief. Are you people Wiki-challenged?

    Master Class by Terence McNally (Dead of Covid-19).

    A fictional master class by Maria Callas.

    The play won the 1996 Tony Award for Actress. NOT Tyne Daly. Zoe Caldwell. Audra McDonald won for Featured Actress in a play. Guess the parts.

    A revival in 2011 starred Tyne Daly. I saw that one. Big whoop. She was much better in Gypsy.

    JC66 9:39 AM  

    @Airman

    Yes, not all AFBs are HQ's, but all "HQ's with runways" are.

    @KItshef

    Congrats on finding this easy. Unfortunately, my experience was like most other commenters...brutal.

    Anonymous 9:45 AM  

    Labored mightily on this one but finally conquered it with nary a Google. But I cavil about rice cake being characterized as an "airy treat." To me it's like eating a ceiling tile, which it closely resembles.

    Anonymous 9:46 AM  

    As to MARIA CALLAS: she did not win a Tony, nor was she (uniquely) stylish. However the play based on her life “Master Class” won a Tony for Best Play, and the actress who portrayed her, Zoe Caldwell, also won a Tony for Best Actress. The clue presumably refers to the actress not the play.

    (Red Foxx was nominated three times for, but did not win, an Emmy for Sanford and Son).

    burtonkd 9:52 AM  

    Most apt wrong answer of all time: FALSELEADS for things planted by plants (SPYCAMERAS).

    JARTS was a favorite game, my specialty being grabbing them out of the air before they had a chance to hit the ground. Side skill as a knife and torch juggler came in handy.

    Hands up for wanting AMISHPREDATORS, GEMS, HTML for JAVA (thanks to this blog, I now know 4 HTML commands)

    Learned SHAMUS and looked up capital of Chad, can't say I could spell it for you tomorrow.

    I was visualizing some kind of giant that would need an endless supply of eyelashes, so TOMTHUMB coming into view was a surprise.

    Good way to mix up the clue for ANKA and realize the rare longevity of the career.

    Idaho 9:53 AM  

    Meh

    Anonymous 10:00 AM  

    Yes, this was torture. Around 2x normal for Saturday. And while I think Rex makes good points, you know what? Occasional torture is totally fine by me. I learned a lesson in humility today.

    Michele Angelini 10:10 AM  

    Absolute slowest Saturday puzzle ever.

    I was totally stuck in the NE and could not figure it out.

    The issue with the clue for Tony soprano is that I was trying to think of a Tony winner who was a soprano rather than an alto...but MARIACALLAS refers to her character in Terrence McNally’s Tony-winning play, “Masterclass.” So, it makes sense but it was tough, even for me!

    Tomorrow’s puzzle better be enjoyable! Yesterdag and today were stressful.

    QuasiMojo 10:13 AM  

    PS, @Amelia, I was just thinking the other day where have you been. Great minds etc... :)

    I meant the iguanas prey on each other when mating, not the hunters. Altho in FL who knows?

    @Tale Told, hilarious!

    Anonymous 10:17 AM  

    Horrible puzzle and difficult. Rice cakes are not 'treats'. That is just misleading. I have skin dived many times, but I would never call myself an island explorer. I've never been to the Keys. Will Shortz seems to love such cutesy clues. I find them misleading and unfair. Sorry. I'll take Maleska every time and I know you won't like that, Rex. There's something about 70s sitcom title role—the show was 'Sanford and Son', not 'Fred Sanford'—that also really bugs me, though the show did not.

    RooMonster 10:22 AM  

    Hey All !
    Naturally, 1A was a gimmie, it wasn't for you? Who doesn't know the Capital of Chad? HAR.
    Some might not even know Chad is a Country. (I do, but Not its Capital.)
    Well, let's see, I ran to Google like a scalded cat for a few answers. 1A, obviously. But also Wolfe's AMAN, and AFB, with its insane clue. Ah well, three cheats to finish a quite tough puz. Sometimes you gotta bite the bullet.

    Hopefully all you tough-wanting-puzzle-people got your fix from this one. After my three cheats, still had a DNF with tAUpES for SAUTES. Because DUEt is just as good as DEUS, and OPpS -- OK, OPpS makes no sense!

    Wondering if Doug said, "Let me see if I can make a puz with as many odd-letter combos I can." Because if he did, he did an outstanding job.

    Alt. clue for FALA - Words before seven LAs - OK, so LA in clue not the best.

    Toughie that has my rear sore. Har.

    Five F's - Redeemable factor!
    FLUID FIEND
    RooMonster
    DarrinV

    Z 10:24 AM  

    I don’t doubt @anon/Jim C. in Maine is correct, but I had the same reaction as Rex to AMBUSH PREDATORS. So much so that with the SH in place I resisted writing down the AMBU because it seemed like too much of a random adjective/noun pair. Unlike Rex, NOTE was my first entry, not that it helped. The NW was my next to last section to finish, but once I really focused on it 1-8 down all seemed fair enough.

    The last section for me was the NE. I have heard the term SKIN DIVERS, but what I put down first was reef DIVERS. Ugh. This gave me only one very unlikely letter string there, EfD, but I just wasn’t coming up with an alternative. When ACCUSE finally occurred to me the corner fell easily, but that was billions and billions of nanoseconds wasted.

    For those wondering, the PPP is “only” 21 of 70 for 30%. NDJAMENA just makes it seem higher. It is a little odd, only 8 PPP in the acrosses and none in the downs until 27D, so as I’m circling the clue numbers to count I’m wondering what was skewing my reaction. But then, Bam! 13 of the last 18 downs are PPP. This was the easier part of the solve for me, but I feel sorry for newer solvers who do not have FALA and YSER at the ready.

    @Joaquin - Nice start to the comments.
    @Frantic Sloth - I really like one, big, orgy of fast and loose stupidity but as I think about it isn’t it a little redundant? Are there orgies that aren’t fast and loose stupidity?
    @Anon8:08 - Nice. Got a real laugh here.
    Lots of LOVIN YOU hate today. If I had to pick one and only one song to explain 1975 to a Millennial I’d give them some mescaline and play this.

    Today’s Elvis.

    jberg 10:29 AM  

    I was in a third camp: knew it, but thought it was NDJAMENE. That led me to eBLlem PREDATOR— you know, predators that are also corporate emblems—although I’m not sure anaconda copper is still extant. So I didn’t have anything certain until CADY, which gave me MY LIPS ARE SEALED/AMAN in full, and it all worked itself out. (Except for merino before ALPACA.)

    When I started following @Rex, he announced that he was engaged in learning the world capitals. I guess he still is.

    Lorelei Lee 10:31 AM  

    We now know with certainty the story of Maria Callas and the Tony award, as we know that Grant is on the $50 bill.

    Whatsername 10:39 AM  

    A total slog from start to finish, hardest puzzle in recent memory for me. Starting off with an answer that was next to impossible, I felt as though there was an AMBUSH PREDATOR waiting to thwart my every attempt at a defense. A challenging Saturday can be a good mental workout - sometimes painfully humbling and sometimes gloriously satisfying. But this? This I would categorize as beat-your-head-against-the-wall frustrating. My head hurts from the effort. But I did like the clue for SNACKBAR, ICK crossing RICECAKE, and ALPACA gave me a warm fuzzy feeling, so there’s that.

    You know what kind of HQ always has runways? A major airport that airlines call a HUB which is a three-letter word that ends with a B. Just saying. I’ve eaten RICECAKES of different varieties and flavors but would not consider any one of them a treat in any sense of the word. Apparently they’re supposed to be a good snack if you’re dieting, but I could never see the point if you have to eat a dozen of them in order to feel like you ate anything.

    @Joaquin (12:02) You made me laugh and feel a little better about my utter and absolute drubbing. Thank you.

    Unknown 10:43 AM  

    This puzzle confuses the language JAVA (created in 1991) with the language JAVASCRIPT (created in 1995). They're very different!

    Carola 10:48 AM  

    Enjoyably tough. Ditto here for a NW fight to the finish. In the 1970s, my sister-in-law was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chad, and I remembered how the name of the capital sounded, but other than "Begins with an N and ends in A, and there's an M in there somewhere" I'd never learned how to spell it; nevertheless, having some idea of where we were headed phonetically was a big help in sorting that corner out. AMBUSH PREDATORS gave me a lot of trouble, too; only after I had it filled in did I recall having read about the differentiation between them and "pursuit predators," like cheetahs, who rather than lie in wait to pounce, give chase.

    Joe Dipinto 10:51 AM  

    Any role that is somehow referred to in a work's title qualifies as a "title role". George VI is the title role in "The King's Speech". In "Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands" all three of them are title roles. Stop the pointless hairsplitting.

    Mr. Benson 10:56 AM  

    That clue for OAXACA is definitely trying to bait you into Oregon if you just have the O. I wrote that in, then immediately took it out because I figured no Saturday clue would be that straightforward.

    Anonymous 10:57 AM  

    If one checks the wiki, or has a perfect memory, java language didn't exist until 1996, in public. it was first called Oak as a set-top box (you remember those, too, right?) from about 1990-ish. no one really knows for sure, since Sun didn't and doesn't talk about that, although the agreed upon start gun is attributed to 1991. java 1.0 is dated to 1996. of course, there were beta versions out before that, named java.

    Phipps44 11:04 AM  

    My take also.

    Nancy 11:07 AM  

    @Quasi and others -- I was fortunate enough to see Zoe Caldwell and Audra McDonald in "Master Class" on stage and it was a real privilege. It was one of the most scintillating and entertaining, not to mention funny shows I've ever seen. I wonder if it can be found on YouTube? Even one scene would give those who didn't see it some idea.

    All these years later, I still remember one line that absolutely stole the show. Callas says to someone, I don't remember who, maybe Audra: "Don't take it personally but you don't have a 'look'. Get one. As quickly as possible!"*

    *I looked this line up to make sure I had it right. I would have been fairly close, but I would have been wrong. I remembered it as" "You don't have a 'look'. You require a 'look'. Don't come back until you have one!"

    I'm going to YouTube to see if I can find something from his production. If it's there, I'll post the link.

    ChuckD 11:08 AM  

    @Z - fantastic clip. He’s obviously had his career since then but I’ve always felt Aim is his Astral Weeks and as you note clearly representative of my life in the late 70s.

    Joe Welling 11:13 AM  

    Count me in the camp taking "Tony" to mean aristocratic or elegant. As a noun (short for Tony Award) the clue doesn't parse. You wouldn't say someone is an "Oscar actor," would you? But I think Rex was way off thinking it might have something to do with "tones."

    RooMonster 11:14 AM  

    @Joaquin 12:02 AM (Early! Or late...)
    Awesome! Gave me a literal LOL.

    @Tale told by an idiot
    Not idiotic, that. It was fantastic!

    Here is the awesome game! What's a little unintentional stabbing amongst friends?

    **SB section Alert**
    Got QB today! WooHoo! First one in 10 days. Past 10 days, missed 3, 3, 2, 4, 9(ouch), 5, 2, 2, 6, 3. Close many times. Gonna enjoy my Queen status today!

    **Alert over**

    RooMonster Good Old Days Of Dangerous Toys Guy
    (Dangerous Toys was also a good 80's hair band!)

    Frantic Sloth 11:15 AM  

    @GILL I. 646am "How do you police JARTS?"
    You post a "No JARTSing Police Take Notice" sign, get some popcorn, sit back, and watch the inevitable debate over its meaning: warning to ne'er-do-wells or request for law enforcement to B.O.L.O.* for said ne'ers.

    @Z 1024am The response I got from the Department of Repetitive Redundancy Department was "no and no." 😉

    @jberg 1029am Loved "eMBlemPREDATOR". You might already know this, but there is a recent example of this very issue and George Takei, et. al. had something to say about it.

    @Lorelei Lee 1031am Amen! Police Take Notice.

    *Be On the Look Out

    ❣️Note to commentariat: I'd be ever so grateful if any reaction(s) to my little post here does/do not devolve into a series of screaming screeds on my tone-deaf mentioning of law enforcement.
    Thanks in advance of your anticipated cooperation. 🤫

    Nancy 11:16 AM  

    I FOUND IT!!!! 27 minutes of scenes from the original production of "Master Class" with Zoe Caldwell. Including "the look" scene, which comes up first. Have fun, everyone!

    Crimson Devil 11:26 AM  

    Way too much for me; only benefit was being reminded of Tom Wolfe, and his Candy Colored Tangerine Flaked Streamlined Baby, and The Last American Hero...vroom !!

    Blackbird 11:27 AM  

    Impossible puzzle. Agree with Rex about almost everything -- which is rare. The only thing I think Rex missed is that the 43A clue, "tony soprano", for the answer "Maria Callas", is a fine pun, since I think the intended meaning for the word "tony" is "high toned", "fancy-shmancy", "ritzy". Of course, today, the slang word "tony" means just the opposite, a "shlemiel". I was so stuck doing this puzzle that when I decided to cheat, I went way past the Google phase of cheating, and headed straight to Rex's blog. Sneaked a peak, one word here, one word there, and got nowhere. Rex solved the puzzle for me, and I just filled in the spaces, as if....

    Unknown 11:30 AM  

    I am stoked because I usually struggle with Saturday puzzles and got this one. I took the Tony to be a Tony award for Maria Callas and it turns out I was https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_Class

    CDilly52 11:36 AM  

    @Tale told by. . . 2:01. LOL!!!

    Newboy 11:39 AM  

    VIC was was I today. Starting in the bullseye of the grid seldom happens, and when it does it spells Trouble right here in River City. Rex whined, “ The top half was twice as hard as the bottom half.“ I’d whimper “thrice?” in sympathy. Done with no cheats, but 😕 😑 😒 no joy either. Hope others found more to like; I’m off for more coffee & a dose of @Lewis to clear my palate.

    John R 11:40 AM  

    @mathgent - I agree with your comment that APE would be more of a jungle swinger than a forest swinger.

    An AXE doesn't seem to me to be a swinger at all. It is the thing that gets swung. A lumberjack might be a forest swinger. The AXE is more of a swingee, if that is a word.

    Brian 11:49 AM  

    ROTFLMAO

    Z 11:51 AM  

    @Unknown10:43 - Oracle is celebrating 25 years of JAVA. Wikipedia says development of JAVA began in 1991, but it was actually released in 1995. Since the clue says “introduced” it is correct. Also according to Wikipedia, JAVA was released in May and JAVAscript in December.

    How do you know you are an experienced Saturday solver? Reading “State bordering the Pacific” and not even bothering to consider any US state. One has to be careful, though. Sometimes the cluer will play with us experienced solvers and actually make it a US state. Fortunately for me my first thoughts, Korea, China, and Vietnam, were all the wrong length. Fixing Bolt (?!) to BRAD made OAXACA obvious here.

    I see some are still niggling over AFB. Note the first definition. We sometimes adjectize* HQ for clarity with words like “main” or “temporary” or “transitional.” We also make it a verb as in “the 927th Air Refueling Wing used to be headquartered at Selfridge AFB.” Yes, it’s a stretch. If you don’t like that kind of stretch you might want to stick to early week puzzles. Personally, I much prefer playing with words like that then memorizing capitals and esoteric 1950’s haircuts.



    *Verbifying the noun “adjective” makes me smile in the snarkiest way imaginable.

    TJS 11:52 AM  

    Joining the chorus, NW was god-awful. Forced to google for 1-A, which I hate but I had just run out of patience. Reminded me, tho, that we will probably never see the clue "Capital of Djibouti" in a puzzle.

    If anyone is still planning on doing the L.A.Times puzzle co-authored by Rex, skip the rest of this (I did wait two days to share the news). Here is just a quick glance at the fill: BBC,Pec,YSL,TCU,USSR,HDMI,INST...Ashe,Orr,BobRoss,Splenda,Parr,LeBon,Ritz,Ara,ShaniaTwain,Safeco. And it actually gets worse. Would have loved to read OFLs' review.

    CaryinBoulder 11:53 AM  

    Totally brutalized by the top half. Even after Googling the obscure capitol I had lots of holes. Everything Rex said, and more. I am humbled.

    My only joy was knowing OAXACA (pron. wah-HA-ka), a place I dearly love and miss. (Thx for the shout out, @GILL.) I have friends that are waiting out the pandemic on the Pacific in Puerto Escondido. I am so envious. I’m sure their morning was more fun than mine.

    TAB2TAB 11:58 AM  

    No way this puzzle was constructed by coming up with 1D NOTES, 2D DROP, and 3D JAMS, then thinking, "Hmmmm, what word would fit nicely in NDJxxxxx? Oh, I know, NDJAMENA - perfect!!"

    The only logical conclusion is that NDJAMENA was pre-meditated: "Hmmmm, what is the worst possible combination of letters I can construct in the very first answer to the puzzle? Oh, I know, NDJAMENA - perfect!"

    Intent is everything. There are Saturdays that are hard and there are Saturdays like this. This is sadistic.

    Perry 12:00 PM  

    "Capital of Chad ... [a]t 1-Across, that is such a f***-you kind of answer."

    My thoughts precisely.

    Rug Crazy 12:02 PM  

    Great Blog today. very difficult puzzle, right from the get go

    Barbara S. 12:02 PM  

    I found yesterday and today extremely hard, but prevailed in both. For me, the feeling of accomplishment in finishing tough puzzles eclipses perceived puzzle shortcomings. I get that music and all is forgiven.

    32D OAXACA immediately brought back a festival I once saw there: La Noche de Los Rabanos (Night of the Radishes). It's always held on December 23 and developed out of the Christmas market tradition. Oversized radishes are carved into myriad shapes, displayed in the town square, judged and awarded prizes. Lively, commercial, festive, unusual. Let's hope it's a go (in safety) this year.

    Radishes

    I didn't know the capital of Chad but, miraculously, got it through crosses. I seemed to get hung up on little words: I didn't know that meaning of BRAD, for example. I thought it was going to be something-ROD. I was convinced I knew the correct spelling of FLUNKie -- wrong, according to MW, that's a less common variant. 9D AFB had me going for the longest time. In fact, that whole NE corner was harder for me than the NW. I stared at 10D (Long faces?) for far too long.

    In the end, all these JAMS were FLUID and I'm LOVIN' my A PLUS (until tomorrow).

    What? 12:04 PM  

    Tony can also mean stylish.

    Anonymous 12:04 PM  

    Anon 342-
    No predators don’t ask. But some stalk. Others lay in wait. Others use traps. There are different techniques for killing. Leopards don’t hunt like lions. Hence the useful distinction of ambush to describe how a leopard Hunts.
    And poodle cuts aren’t esoteric they’re iconic.t

    What? 12:11 PM  

    Awful. But not Peterson’s fault, it’s the editor, allowing stuff like this. What is wrong with him?

    Masked and Anonymous 12:13 PM  

    Tougher than snot. But that's ok, on a Saturday NYTPuz. It's good for U & m&e to suffer.
    Any puz that starts out with NDJAMENA and all them sneaky clues is just sorta clearin the streets with gas grenades for the upside-down satanic Bible photo opp, I reckon.

    staff weeject pics: TEC & VIC. Primo portion of SamSpadeese. Like. YSER.

    AMBUSHPREDATORS was a hard get, at our house. MYLIPSARESEALED was an easy get, however. Sooo … ok, grid-spanner-wise.

    fave sparkly non-gas-grenade moments (of which there were many): LOVIN. ALLIGATORS. FLUNKY. SNACKBAR & SALAD clues.

    Thanx for the feisty fun, Mr. Peterson. Primo job on them clues, dude.

    Masked & Anonym8Us


    **gruntz**

    jb129 12:16 PM  

    A great Saturday even tho I cheated on 1 across.

    Brian 12:19 PM  

    So there Was a theme!

    webwinger 12:22 PM  

    Can’t remember the last time I felt so defeated by a puzzle. Even with help from Google (which I should have turned to as soon as I found no crossing foothold for 1A), had a DNF: Initially filled in JAVA at 33A, then changed b/o decision to go with dARTS at 33D. WOE is JARTS?

    Many of the same gripes as @RP. And a RICE CAKE is not a “treat”. It’s what you settle for when you want a treat if you’re feeling unusual self-control.

    @Z: Replied via email re the New Yorker article you referenced late yesterday. Will share with anyone on request.

    Joe Dipinto 12:34 PM  

    @Anonymous 11:54 – And I suppose you think Alice is not the title character of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" because she is not the same thing as her adventures.

    Anonymous 12:39 PM  

    If memory serves, Callas was the patient zero of Bitch Diva which is to say talented with the personality of a gorgon, which is not synonymous with 'tony'.

    Matt Messinger 12:44 PM  

    Joaquin's comment about N'djamena makes this puzzle (and blog) all worthwhile to me. Thanks!

    Newboy 12:50 PM  


    Thanks @Joaquin for the geography lesson; it amused me more than did today’s solve.

    “a trek and a treat. Thank you, Doug!” I knew @Lewis would find that silver lining, I find his posts an expected treat— always better than any RICE CAKE

    Frantic Sloth 12:56 PM  

    @Nancy 1116am Thank you! Absolutely sublime!

    jberg 12:59 PM  

    OK, several people have mentioned Jeff Chen and the capital of Burkina Faso, so can I spell it? I think it's Ouagadougou. (Spellcheck fixed that for me, I had Ouago...). Put it right in the center and make M&A very happy! Do any other world capitals start with three vowels?

    @Frantic sloth, thanks for the Space Force logo link! Fun in itself -- and I also noticed that the SF, which I thought the man in the White House had announced as a new branch of the military, says "Department of the Air Force" at the bottom of its logo.

    I saw Master Class years ago (at a regional theater in a Boston suburb), and loved it. I don't think I knew it had won a Tony, though, so I was going with the "high-class" explanation until I came here.

    I think a jungle is also a tropical rain forest. And when you're at a square dancer and they tell you to swing your partner, she swings; so just imagine your partner is an axe, and the clue makes sense.

    Finally, I want to put in a word for broad-mindedness. I don't much like rice cakes either, but evidently many people do, and they deserve their chance to be in the puzzle.

    Randy (Boulder) 1:00 PM  

    I thought this was awesome. Exactly what I want out of a Saturday - really difficult! Took me more than an hour, and at least a half hour of that was spent with an almost totally blank NW. If I hadn't gotten AMBUSH to go with PREDATORS, I think it would have been my first DNF in years.

    It was especially tough because the capital of Chad could end up basically any grouping of vowels and consonants, so would have to get every letter from crosses, and the beginning grouping of NDJ... did not disappoint.

    jberg 1:00 PM  

    Also, in international law a sovereign country is known as a "state" -- so I went with Panama, all the As confirmed by crosses.

    Third time and out.

    Anonymous 1:10 PM  

    Great Puzzle! Typical difficult Saturday. Like most people, I expect, the upper left was the hardest. Finally got 1A by the, to me, very hard crosses. I didn't recall the description for 17A, so it took a long time. 1,6,7D were all hard clues for me. Was very pleased when I confirmed that my filled-in 1A was indeed correct.

    Great fun. A near-perfect Saturday. Exercised my brain and didn't take hours. One slow cup of coffee. Only mistake, corrected along the way was 'APES' for 38A. Sad because I was expecting a Mexican state for 32D but didn't picture it until I had to correct 38A.

    Highlights were 8D, 34A, 43A, 23A

    More, please!

    PGregory Springer 1:18 PM  

    My live-companion, Alexa, told me N'Djamena was the capitol, but she didn't tell me how to spell it and I didn't ask. She's very useful regardless. Love Oaxaca. Elote vender on northeast corner of the plaza worth the trip. And the cheese. And the mezcal

    Frantic Sloth 1:21 PM  

    @Barbara S. 1202pm I always enjoy your various arcane tidbits, but today's radish story made my week. Of course, my initial reaction to "Night of the Radishes" was more on the horror/sci-fi movie wavelength and I thought "how scary are radishes, anyway? Even Killer Tomatoes don't scare me!"
    Well, there's more than one way to skin a...vegetable. Apparently. And those Wikipics are quite the sight! 😮

    QuasiMojo 1:21 PM  

    @Nancy, I saw Zoe in "Master Class" too. I also saw Patti Lupone and later Dixie Carter. Each one excellent but Zoe was my fave. She captured the belle laide aspect of Callas perfectly. And the tragic side. Loved Zoe in "Medea" too. Did you happen to see McNally's play, "The Lisbon Traviata"? It's not about Callas exactly but she's the title role, so to speak. Wink wink.

    egsforbreakfast 1:30 PM  

    Like most solvers I hesitated on Reading my very first clue, wondering whether NDJAMENA is the capital of Chad, or just another city. Harder than snot the rest of the way too. By the time I got to RICE CAKE, I thought, “MY LIPS ARE SoiLED”.

    Anonymous 1:39 PM  

    I worked in N’djamena for a week or so, and thus had an incredible advantage. But had not known virtually any of the other names except Sanford and Thumb. I hate the name game. So random and so unfair.

    Sue T. 1:49 PM  

    I thought for sure this would be a DNF for me (breaking my streak, which currently stands at 334) -- I started it last night but got stuck on the brutal NW corner. Then this morning, I looked at it again, immediately got TOM THUMB, and thus was able to finish it. Whew.

    Michael Page 2:30 PM  

    Agree with all, grueling slog, slowest ever.
    But . . . Aren’t pretty much all predators “ambush predators”? I mean, how many predators saunter up to their prey and ask “excuse me, but if it’s not too much trouble would you mind joining me for dinner”? Spiders, I suppose. I had Amazon predators, which I stubbornly stuck with far too long given the first two letters. And no, next time around I won’t remember the capital of Chad.

    Adrian K. 2:30 PM  

    SALAD being clued as "Bar assembly" with SNACK BAR in the grid is MEH.

    Anonymous 2:35 PM  

    Mixed up Chad and Mali and confidently wrote in Timbuktu for 1A. My wife and I eventually gave up and had to Google it after a long time staring at an otherwise blank NW corner.

    Actually thought that everything except the NW was easy by Saturday standards. Had a few letters of MARIA CALLAS and then filled it in, assuming that "tony" was being used in the sense of "classy" or "expensive."

    Anonymous 2:41 PM  

    I was under the impression that a clue could not have a word that was in the puzzle. That thing me up with "Bar assembly" clue and SMACKBAR answer

    Anonymous 3:09 PM  

    Mike page
    You don’t see a difference between a leopard waiting in a tree for prey to come to him, and a lion which stalks its prey?
    Go on safari. There are always good deals, but now, you can go for a song.

    pmdm 3:11 PM  

    I was going to comment on the odd way most of the PPP is squeezed together, but Z beat me to it. Not so hard, since I do all the Sunday and Saturday puzzles before coming here. I suspect I'm missing something about tomorrow's theme and will confirm tomorrow if I am correct.

    I am humored how upset some get when the puzzle pushes them beyond there comfort level. Something like saying "If it's too hard for me, it shouldn't be in the puzzle because it's too hard for everyone." [That's a very loose paraphrase.] I enjoy researching the PPP so today's puzzle was no more difficult for me than most themeless puzzles. Still, I don't like it when the clues get too cute. I don't solve crossword puzzles for the purpose of tyring to figure out what the clues mean. Still, this one gets the normal Saturday pass from me.

    I wonder if I am in the great minority from recognizing Minnie's name from her role in the first wonderful album by Rotary Connection. [Do I hear some of you asking "Who's that?"] Her high notes on Like a Polling Stone are amazing. If she sang classical music, she would have had composers line up to write for her. WNEW in NYC played that first album often. I should find the CD and listen to it. Very odd album, especially the first side [of the LP version].

    pabloinnh 3:40 PM  

    For tough Saturday fans--

    I found today's Newsday's Saturday Stumper to be a really tough but very satisfying challenge. No answers that you will have never seen before (hello 1A) but the cluing (clueing, clewing) is diabolical. Good stuff.

    Linda 3:40 PM  

    Rex doesn’t like it if it’s too easy/obvious, doesn’t live if it’s too arcane/difficult. He puts down clues and answers he finds
    He has to work for. Why is this man the crossword guru? Surely there’s someone less narcissistic and self-important than he who can be more objective, intelligent, we’ll read, with knowledge of things that happened before his time (history).

    syracusesolver 3:43 PM  

    @pabloinnh from yesterday—I’m saddened that cursive writing is no longer taught. Soon it will be a relic of a more gracious, gentle era.

    No fun today.

    Hope tomorrow is therapeutic.



    Anonymous 3:50 PM  

    I wish I could award Joaquin's comment with some stars--Always happy to see Chadwick mentioned.

    Dave S 3:54 PM  

    I don't really have anything to add to the conversation but I was so glad to make it through this I feel I have to post something. Northeast corner is a complete mess of cross-outs even though AFB came quickly and eyed seemed likely. You would think having the first and last letters would be a big help, but no. Most obscure geographic terms at least draw a glimmer of recognition once I've put them together, but Ndjamena only elicited an "oh, really?" rather than an "oh, yeah!" I'm old and getting older, but Fala, Maria Callas and Paul Anka all seemed fusty to me. Not my favorite, but everything did make some sort of sense eventually and I feel good for negotiating it anyway.

    KnittyContessa 4:00 PM  

    @Nancy Thank you! You made my day!

    GILL I. 4:09 PM  

    @amyanni 7:33. California has new Corona cases as well. As we have moved into phase 3, we've had another 3,000 people who have tested positive.
    @Knitty C 8:39...Oooh, thanks for the tip. I guess I'll have to wait until my freezer is empty. It's now packed with hoarded food in case we have a pandemic.
    @Frantic...As usual, you never fail to amuse...popcorn, indeed. I'll bring up my lounge chair and pour myself a little tinto.
    Please continue to wear masks.....There is no cure yet and people are mad as hell.

    Anonymous 4:10 PM  

    @pmdm -- Is it fair for you to put down people who complain about PPP being too obscure when you Google the answers and they don't? Of course nothing's too obscure for YOU if you look up all the answers you don't know. They could do that too, but choose not to. You say today's puzzle was no harder for you than any other puzzle? Of course it wasn't if you Googled everything. You're entitled to "solve" a puzzle any way you like, but you have no right to criticize the reactions of the people who don't "do research" the way you do. Love your euphemism, BTW.

    pabloinnh 4:11 PM  

    @syracuse solver-Agree with you on the demise of cursive, since I was good at it and still think it looks elegant.

    I learned enough calligraphy to address all my son's wedding invitations, but there's (I hope) a limited demand for that particular exercise.

    Let's go Sunday!

    JC66 4:39 PM  

    It's after 4:30 and surprised no one's mentioned that it's DDAY.

    pmdm 4:58 PM  

    I prefer not to reply to people whose names I don't know, but perhaps I was not clear enough so I will elucidate. I was not complaining about what others say, I was observing. It's tough to catch nuance when you read print. For example, I think a number of comments here misinterpret irony or satire for arrogance (I[m thinking of some of the comments aimed at Z, for instance.) If a person complains about a puzzle, that is a fact (unless it's ironic). Why the person complains is not always evident. Intentions can be misinterpreted. I personally don't care that a person doesn't like a puzzle, but I do care why. Enough said.

    Old Actor 5:19 PM  

    JC66: John X did.

    Anonymous 5:19 PM  

    Pmdm,
    “Enough said”. If only.

    Anonymous 5:21 PM  

    Oops. Mods spiked a comment because it picked on a favorite. In this case z.
    My question is why?
    Care to explain?

    JC66 5:27 PM  

    @Old Actor

    Thanks, obviously I missed it.

    Arden 5:44 PM  

    So I got the northeast through crosses, but the northwest was totally over my head. But I am happy when I can’t finish a Saturday. It means my brain is getting a workout.

    Xcentric 5:57 PM  

    After I finally cracked the NW and axes for Oaxaca ai got my jingle and gold star. Figured 1A was some obscure name so didn’t worry about the ndj . Got Tom Thumb and oral from note, drop and meh. Exuded got me exam. About right for a Saturday.
    Went back and groaned again at some of the misdirects.

    oisk17 6:19 PM  

    Multiple fail. Didn't know the capital, never thought of Meh, had eluded instead of exuded, don't like the clue for oral exam. Looked up the capital, once I gave up, and then filled in the NW. But wait! I had Darts, not Jarts. Worst finish for me in months. I admire all those who had the guts to fill in N_JAMENA with a D.

    Lion 6:21 PM  

    Me too. I kept rejecting AMBUSHPREDATORS because I didn't know pythons were...

    Anonymous 6:34 PM  

    IS THIS A CROSSNAME PUZZLE OR A CROSSWORD PUZZLE? JUST MY OPINION, BUT PROPER NAMES, WHETHER OF TV PERSONALITIES, RAPPERS, SPORTS FIGURES, ETC., ETC. DON’T BELONG HERE. I WANT TO TRY TO THINK OF THE RIGHT WORD, NOT TRY TO REMEMBER A 70S SITCOM CHARACTER.

    manitou 6:36 PM  

    15A: STANDOFF or ONE ON ONE

    17A: RAPUNZEL

    Anoa Bob 7:02 PM  

    This one was a real tussle. DNF but agree with those who think that's a good thing now and then.

    Nice to see an old friend YSER. Took me back to a time when a knowledge of European rivers was de rigueur for the accomplished xword solver. Clio, Erato, where are yous? Drop by and say hello, okay?

    I've had AXES throughout most of my life and not one of those ever did a single swing. Not once. But, hey, it's Saturday, so close enough.

    Been to OAXACA back in the early 90's driving from San Christóbal de Las Casas in Chiapas to Veracruz (the city) in Veracruz (the state). It was on one of our groups regular Explorando La Ruta Maya expeditions. We were already seeing an increase in the number of military roadblocks and inspections. Those were always unnerving. We stopped going in the late 90's. Didn't feel safe driving a private vehicle down there anymore.

    How are yous pronouncing the tropical storm Christobal? The city in Chiapas gets an accent on the second syllable but I'm betting most are saying KRIS toh bul.

    Anonymous 7:52 PM  

    Fun puzzle, 1A and all. I muddled through but shot myself in the foot a couple of times.

    Splatzed down OUR LITTLE SECRET at 34A and never looked back. Until almost none of the crosses made sense. Did you know it has the same number of letters as MY LIPS ARE SEALED? It does!!!

    Good times, more tomorrow.

    AROUSE MARIA CALLAS!!
    Mark, in Mickey's North Forty

    JC66 8:22 PM  

    @Anon 6:34

    What did you say. I can't hear you.

    Anonymous 8:33 PM  

    JC 66 ,
    Huh? Oh, you think you’re clever. Funny but I can’t hear myself think but for my laughing at your criticism of anon 6 whatever.
    Funny how you’ve conflated visual with audio. Or, having read your post for too long, maybe not.

    Anonymous 8:53 PM  

    @JC66:

    HE'S DROPPED HIS EAR HORN!!!

    Anonymous 9:00 PM  

    Really. Capital letters are loud? Ok. a silly convention gets you in a twist. Wow.
    One question. Why would someone shouting necessarily need an ear horn? Are you saying all hearing impaired folks are shouters? How ableist of you. Well done JC and anon 853.

    Michael Page 9:17 PM  

    To anonymous . . .
    Been on safari, twice, and have been literally three feet from a lion ambushing a (former) eland. Anacondas, on the other hand, don't drop from trees, they are aquatic, and grab their prey from the shore, wrap them up, and either crush or drown them. Most days are good days to come across them, as they eat only 4 or 5 times a year.

    barryevans 9:34 PM  

    SO proud of myself for finishing this, no help...can't wait to drop the capital of Chad into conversation...
    Anyways, loved it, even the tough parts. Made my day.

    TexanPenny 9:35 PM  

    Except for Cady/Caty, Rex’s entire write-up was my experience also. This one was brutal.

    Anonymous 9:58 PM  

    Mike.
    Where were you on safari?
    Lions don’t ambush. Anacondas of course do. The distinction between terrestrial and aquatic predation is a non starter.

    Anonymous 10:00 PM  

    What would a lion need to ambush a former anything. If it ceased to be, I.e., It was dead, there’s no need to ambush. That’s carrion.
    Your story needs work Mike.

    Clark 11:23 PM  

    @chefwen: Semi-puzzle partner asks me to tell you that we hope someday to pet the Alpacas. Hard to believe it has been ten years.

    1A and Oaxaca gave me big trouble. I often enjoy a puzzle that defeats me. But this one was a bit too much like pulling teeth.

    Wilson 9:37 AM  

    "tony" and "maria" are characters from west-side story

    Nancy from Chicago 11:41 AM  

    The NW was just brutal for me. First DNF in almost 6 months (broke 181-day streak). :(

    Joe Welling 12:54 PM  

    Wilson said...
    "tony" and "maria" are characters from west-side story

    And that's a worse understanding of this clue than Rex's.

    Charles Emerson Winchester III 1:41 PM  

    Do what (most) of) the rest of us do: ignore OFLs ranting, and instead go straight to the delightful, witty, wise commentary provided by others.

    Charles Emerson Winchester III 1:52 PM  

    It was brutal - but as is often the case, my solving experience was a mirror image of most others: NDJAMENA went straight in, as did CADY. Otherwise it was just a long but not unenjoyable struggle. Indeed, I had to sleep on it and only finished Sunday morning. The Pacific state caused me most problems: started out with Hawaii since I had the first A. Later it became Panama. And finally, in an inked mess in the middle it reached its proper state as OAXACA. I required the help of domestic management on several critical occasions: she could supply SANDFORD where I had FRED and a lot of blanks. (I am aware of the show but never watched it). Likewise, I had AMBU for the longest time, think along ambulance or ambulent terms, getting nowhere, when she glanced at it and said AMBUSH.

    Hands up for interpreting “Tony” as classy, though Domestic Management did ask if it related to a theater award. (I am not familiar with the play Master Class, but I am weak on plays in general).

    And I agree entirely with the consensus that RICECAKEs are categorically not treats but abominable ordure in culinary terms.

    Anonymous 1:59 PM  

    Definition of tony: marked by an aristocratic or high-toned manner or style. Clue had nothing to do with the Tony Awards

    Bob Mills 2:24 PM  

    I agree that the clue "COULDN'T CONTAIN" bears no relationship to the answer, "EXUDED." It made the NW area impossible.

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