Landlocked land along the Silk Road / SAT 8-1-20 / Worshiper of goddess Mama Quilla mother moon / Natural feature near Queensland / Former name of subsaharan Africa's largest country / Like the last complete symphony of Gustav Mahler

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Constructor: Adam Aaronson and Paolo Pasco

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: hard-to-spell proper nouns — not really a "theme," but ... a design element, for sure (see 1A, 68A)

Word of the Day: KYRGYZSTAN (68A: Landlocked land along the Silk Road) —
Kyrgyzstan (/ˈkɪərɡˌstɑːnˌ -ˌstæn/ KyrgyzКыргызстан Qırğızstan [qɯrʁɯsˈstɑn]), officially the Kyrgyz Republic (Кыргыз РеспубликасыRussianКыргызская Республикаtr.Kyrgyzskaya Respublika) and also known as Kirghizia (Киргизия [kʲɪrˈɡʲizʲɪjə]), is a country in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country with mountainous terrain. It is bordered by Kazakhstan to the northUzbekistan to the west and southwestTajikistan to the southwest and China to the east. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek.
Kyrgyzstan's recorded history spans over 2,000 years, encompassing a variety of cultures and empires. Although geographically isolated by its highly mountainous terrain, which has helped preserve its ancient culture, Kyrgyzstan has been at the crossroads of several great civilizations as part of the Silk Road and other commercial and cultural routes. Though long inhabited by a succession of independent tribes and clans, Kyrgyzstan has periodically fallen under foreign domination and attained sovereignty as a nation-state only after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. (wikipedia)
• • •

This puzzle was not all-over hard but it was cluster-hard, for sure. There's a knot of answers right around and including FEED, and virtually all of my problems were there and radiating out from there. Everything circled in green in this shot, basically:

That little gimmick with the "K" proper nouns in the first and last Across answers, yes, that slowed me down, but not because I didn't know the answers, only because I wasn't sure how to spell them (which was surely the point ... though I don't know why that is "fun," truly; I mean, I see what you're doing, but ... yeah, that sort of "cute" just isn't my thing). Everything pictured in the green knot above, however, did legit slow me down. I am very mad at myself about "I RESIGN," which I honestly should've seen much more quickly (27A: Words from a quitter). I had the -ESI- but all I could think of was "I DESIST," and I was like "wow, that's terrible." Yes. Terrible and wrong. I was also mad that I just couldn't come up with the ROLL of EEL ROLL (47A: Sushi with unagi). I know very well that unagi is eel and I got the EEL part no problem, but ... I just kept picturing the eel sitting on sushi rice and thinking "what ... do you call that? EEL RICE?" When I think "sushi" I think raw fish (or, if eel, cooked fish) on rice. The whole ROLL possibility ... I just blanked on. Found the cue on FEED hard and the clues on DUEL (35D: Go one on one) and AGES (25D: So long) vague and thought 'SCUSE ME was a single word ending in "-EME" (39A: "Comin' through!"), and then there was NECROMANCY, which had a very hard "?" clue (29D: Dead reckoning?), but one I could normally battle through pretty easily if the adjacent answers were normally cooperative. Alas, they were not. The rest of the puzzle—a snap (again, except the spelling bee at the first and last Acrosses).

It's a nice grid overall, for sure. The two *long* Acrosses are the real stand-outs, but won't get the attention they deserve because of the look-at-me-ness of the K-words. Big PLAY WITHIN A PLAY fan ("The Murder of Gonzago" is in "Hamlet"). Nothing else really Sizzle-sizzles, but the big chunks are all smooth and none of the short crosses are horrid, and "I'M HONORED" at least feels original / creative, so, yeah, looks good, more of this would be fine, thank you.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joaquin 12:03 AM  

I don't feel the least bit guilty for looking up one answer I already knew. If fact, I'll bet ya that even Coach
"K" has to look it up every time he writes his name.

jae 12:11 AM  

Tough. Jeff gave this POW but I thought yesterday’s was better and more fun. That said, this was fine, liked it, although I did miss it by one square, I had NECROMANCe, so DNF.

Harryp 12:11 AM  

For me the hardest part was keeping the consonants and Y's straight when solving!A and 68A. I had EXES in and out of 21A two or three times, til REDUX confirmed it. About average Saturday solve time and a lot to like; (AD)NAUSEAM, NECROMANCY, IDIDN'TCATCHTHAT, all and more took some work. Good puzzle.

GHarris 12:13 AM  

1 and 68 across are prime examples of symmetric cruelty. I knew the answer to 1across and was able to intuit the answer to 68, but spelling each was a nightmares. Ultimately tamed this tiger but only with a bit of electronic assistance.

puzzlehoarder 12:29 AM  

Easier than yesterday's puzzle. This time I checked my grid before entering the last letter and went right to the happy music.

Mostly this solve boiled down to letting the crosses make sense to smoke out a couple of difficult to spell names.

HAYDN I knew from previous puzzles. KYRGYZSTAN cried out for an H somewhere and I put it in place of that second Y for a time. That was one of the corrections I made before entering the M of TEAM to finish.

My other mop up was changing NAUSEUM to NAUSEAM. I'd have sworn that second U was correct but my spelling is not to be relied on.

KRZYZEWSKI came entirely from the crosses. I knew it would of course have a K but not where. The double billing was a surprise too.

Thanks to @ Hartley70 and @jc66 for the shout outs. I apologise if I can't recall your tags correctly. Even on vacation I have little time to check. Still commenting from Astoria Queens. Thanks for remembering about my knees and yes they're getting better.

Alex S. 12:30 AM  

I know unagi very well. But I was reverse I had the roll immediately and never thought to put in eel even though I know what unagi is. I've never heard it called an eel roll so was trying to think of a japanese name for it other than unagi nigiri. Felt dumb when it was just EEL.

Knew how to spell KYRGYZSTAN from the get go but while I knew the name immediately hadn't a clue on spelling so needed almost every cross.

For some reason got NECROMANCY off the first N but ESTATE PLAN on the other side had me messed up for a little bit.

mathgent 12:32 AM  

What a great creation by these two young guys! Eighteen red plus signs in the margins, the highest total since I started keeping track five months ago. And, with the possible exception of HAR, it was completely junk free.

I follow basketball closely and have seen his name in print many, many times but I hadn’t noticed that Coach K had two z’s in his name until tonight.


amyyanni 12:40 AM  

Rabbit Rabbit, good luck to us all. Auspicious start to August, wasn't this delightful? While the coach and the country were vaguely familiar, really had to work the downs. Lively cluing. Impressed these Gen Zers included the Monopoly chance cards (Take a ride on Reading. Collect $200 sticks in my brain.) Great finish to Friday night and start of the weekend.

Pamela 12:42 AM  

Wow, tough, but so satisfying! I struggled all over the place for a long time, but gradually cleared things up little by little until I had most of the the long entries and both K words. I’m fascinated by the Silk Road, so have at least heard of KYRGYZSTAN. I had to feel my way with the spelling- BAEZ helped a lot. Once I got that, the Ks and the Zs at 1A were easier to suss out even though I didn’t know the guy from Adam. That was exciting!

But I was stuck in the NE, and in the same place Rex was, I had Anti, then ArMs for AMMO, couldn’t think of ROW, thought maybe COHO salmon but wasn’t sure so kept taking it out. I knew 11D had something to do with HONOR but couldn’t make anything fit, and the other 2 downs made no sense at all. In the lower section DeaL for DUEL, Stow for SALT, kIARA for CIARA made that all impossible.

Eventually SMARTHOME became recognizable and the rest slowly got worked out. Lots of work, but never a slog. One of my better Saturdays, at least in terms of enjoyment and eventual success. As for time, I don’t keep track because I don’t care, but this one definitely took a while.

Tom R 12:42 AM  

I thought this one was fun. I cheated. I knew 1A, but I looked up the spelling. With that at the top and Kyrgyzstan at the bottom, surprised there wasn't kazoo in the middle.

okanaganer 1:03 AM  

Boy, I was so prepared to hate this puzzle. 1 across was a giant slap in the face, an extended middle digit to anyone (me, eg) who hates any college sports clue/answer. A name I have never heard of, and even if I had I couldn't spell it, and since I hate college sports, just awful. But the rest of the puzzle was just fine. But I can't get past that initial hate-vibe. Constructors, please don't put niche obscure (if you're not into that niche), scrabble-f**ing answers in 1 across. If you really can't help yourself, put them somewhere else. Please.

Anyway, at least there wasn't any stupid college acronym eg UNCA or UFXV. Or stupid college mascot. Or stupid college team name (eg yesterday LION). Really, the rest of the puzzle was pretty great. You see, KYRGYZSTAN is hard to spell, but it is a real country, not a stupid college sports coach. Of course I had KAZAKHSTAN which fit just fine, until Joan BAEZ knocked it out, but really Saturdays should be like that. All the other long answers were really great. Coach K, you ruined this for me.

turkeyneck 1:17 AM  

As it turned out, those two long acrosses bailed me out. The K words were a tangle, and I certainly don’t know 1 Across before or after, but the crosses and long neighbors will always help you out.

Jyqm 2:19 AM  

I know I’ve seen KRZYZEWSKI’s name in an NYT puzzle before, and of course I hate it’s impossible to spell, but I kind of love it just for the screw-you to speed solvers. This is the puzzle’s way of saying, “It’s Saturday, slow down and enjoy the struggle.”

Some exquisitely brutal Mahler shade at 26A...

chefwen 2:30 AM  

WooHoo Saturday with no help fromThe Great Uncle G. Puzzle partner knew 1A and I knew 68A, but no clue how to spell either. Had to rely on downs only to help us out and they did, phew.

Dead reckoning, spit take and sound heard in a delivery room brought kind of an ick factor into play, but I’ll ignore them all for a fine EEL ROLL.

The Bard 6:09 AM  

Hamlet, Act III, scene II

KING CLAUDIUS: What do you call the play?

HAMLET: The Mouse-trap. Marry, how? Tropically. This play
is the image of a murder done in Vienna: Gonzago is
the duke's name; his wife, Baptista: you shall see
anon; 'tis a knavish piece of work: but what o'
that? your majesty and we that have free souls, it
touches us not: let the galled jade wince, our
withers are unwrung.

Lewis 6:28 AM  

So much to like here...
* Two entries that you know the answer to but don't know how to spell. How often does that happen in a puzzle? A rare and charming challenge.
* The fun Scrabbliness. (And not to take away from that, but in case anyone was wondering, this is a J, Q, and V short of a pangram.)
* Seven NYT debuts, including the fantastic PLAY WITHIN A PLAY, and surprising-it-hasn't-shown-up-before ESTATE SALE, EEL ROLL, and KYRGYZSTAN.
* A varied journey through the performing arts, astronomy, geography, sports, science fiction, fauna, and more.
* [Spit take, perhaps?] and [Facial joint].
* Learning RICK.

I'M HONORED and grateful for this offering, A&P. That's two super-thumbs-up themeless puzzles in a row, so let me extend that thanks to Will Shortz and crew!

Unknown 6:42 AM  

Same error

Xcentric 6:45 AM  

Scuseme - need a hotshower.
Wacko names ad nauseam
Imhonored to have finished.

JJ 6:47 AM  

I’ve followed Duke b-ball since a local kid, Christian Laettner, was playing there. 2 of my kids went to Duke, and my wife and I watched every game we could to try and find them in the crowd with the “Crazies”. We have probably seen more of Coach K than everyone here combined. We laughed, that after all these years, we could only be sure of the K and SKI.
I really enjoyed all of the long answers, in both directions. What a great way to finish the week.

BarbieBarbie 7:20 AM  

My streaker was a NUDIST for a long time, pairing with nearby ad HOMINEM, so I had a real mess going for awhile! I completely loved the K words. Did not even try to spell them, just relied on crosses. A very fun element In the puzzle- clues you absolutely know the answers to but still cannot answer!

More more more please. This was so much fun.

GILL I. 7:22 AM  

Well I just stared at my YAK and ASTORS and then wanted a HOT SHOWER. At least I knew that coach K started his name with a K. Gee, thanks for that, at least.
This was one of those puzzles where I needed to just take a deep breath and just dive in and hope for the best. Seemed so daunting at first but little by little words began to appear.
Coach K gave me the KNIFE at 1D. From there I got the I DIDN'T CATCH THAT. Amazing what door that opened for me.
Loved the facial joint clue for SPA. Heck, I loved all the cluing. Cool beans. SCUSEME while I kiss this guy.
Learned about RICK and how to spell NAUSEAM (hi @puzzlehoarder) and that the one named singer wasn't Charo. My mistake which I left as is. I should've known my STAN's.
I had a few Googles - mainly to check my spelling. My one real cheat was 11A. For the life of me I couldn't see ISH. I'm glad I cheated on that one because it gave me all the other downs.
Isn't NECROMANCY a neat word for the dead? Sounds kinda romantic.
Mahler and HAYDN meet up with BAEZ. Three favorites. Oh, and by the way....I seriously doubt anyone hears SNIP in the delivery room.
Good job AA and PP.

Hungry Mother 7:25 AM  

That was a lot of fun. Very gettable long entries with those two cool K names. Lots to like here.

Hungry Mother 7:29 AM  

My wife drinks CAB and I drove a Yellow CAB in Philly in 1961.

Lance 7:31 AM  

Nixon tape before audiotape really slowed me down. The rest fell pretty smoothly other than the trouble spelling.

Coniuratos 7:33 AM  

Really enjoyed it, and was actually a ways below my usual time for a Saturday. Probably helped that, being Cleveland fan, I could just throw in RAINDELAY with no crosses, even if it brought back some unpleasant memories.

OffTheGrid 8:08 AM  

@Rex described this as "cluster-hard". For me it was a cluster something else. Just didn't do it for me but glad others liked it.

Z 8:21 AM  

Ooh, PPP and random spelling. Be still my beating heart. And let me add that anyone finding the little exploit at 1A and 68A charming is forever banned from complaining about randomly spelt Rap Artists.

The puzzle was otherwise pretty good. Similar to Rex, I RESIGN was hard for me to see and was my last entry. The TOGA clue wasn’t especially helpful since I have never heard that sculpting a TOGA is any more difficult than sculpting any other feature. My other mistake was writing TECH where TEAM belonged because the TE was there and I didn’t look closely at the number. That wasted many nanoseconds.

I agree with Rex that the real standouts in the puzzle are the grid spanners. I think he was too easy on the PPP spelling exercise, which struck me as nothing more than a stunt. I don’t find spelling interesting and spelling foreign names is the least interesting spelling exercise of them all. Somewhat ironically, overall the PPP is low in this puzzle (18 of 72, 25%), so normally I’d be praising this puzzle for the low PPP. So, more like this without the cutesy randomly spelt words please.

Whatsername 8:29 AM  

I'm headed out on a road trip this morning and had planned to skip the puzzle today but stopped in to read the blog out of habit. Goodness, this looks too intriguing to miss so I've saved a printout for when I return home in a few days. I skimmed the comments and noticed a few hints which I will probably need but I'm quite sure will have completely forgotten by that time. [Sigh] Wishing everyone a wonderful August(!) weekend.

Hartley70 8:36 AM  

Wow, those K names were tough! I’d never heard of Coach K. Men’s basketball ends with UConn around here. My first guess was that K might be notable as a woman whose first name might be Karen! It took me a while to untangle that mess.

After that slow start the pace picked up and the puzzle became really interesting. I’m looking at you, NECROMANCY! I wanted dye job for “Streaker” giving me bale instead of RICK, but RICK came to me in the nick of time for a very quick Saturday finish. I do prefer zYg to GYZ so I probably mispronounced KYRGYZSTAN the bazillion times I had to say it when I nagged my middle schooler to finish the report he’d been assigned on the topic. Those middle school years were hell. Need I say more than the Bessemer Converter?

ChuckD 8:42 AM  

Nice Saturday for the most part. The K’s were a stunt but very gettable and the overall fill fresh and interesting. Really liked PLAY WITHIN A PLAY, the 3 NE long downs and the ECLAT of Mahler and HAYDN.

Tough enough that i started - went for a run and had to finish afterwards. Nice start to hockey day.

Carola 8:50 AM  

Medium here and very enjoyable. I liked the parallel KRaZY consonant clusters, smiling at their "Now don't you wish you'd learned how to spell us?" message to me. It definitely helped to know the PLAY, as it backed me into the SW and unlocked that section for me..
One do-over: SlaP before SNIP (I wondered how many delivery rooms the constructors had been in, thinking of many more vivid sounds one might hear).

kitshef 9:11 AM  

I loved this. The KRZYZEWSKI/KYRGYZSTAN thing is cute, but really incidental to the solve. Look at those lovely long answers:
DNA SAMPLE (Superb clue)

And even some nifty shorter fill like ZAIRE and HAYDN

It’s rare that I really, really love a themeless, but I loved this one.

bauskern 9:12 AM  

As a Dukie, any puz that starts off with Coach K is a winner in my book.
@ okanaganer [1:03], Coach K truly is a national icon. Not only is he the coach with most men's basketball wins, but also coached the US Olympic team to gold medals. If you've never heard of him, don't blame the constructor.

Were the two K clues hard to spell? That is part of the charm of today's puz. I can see why rex, a speed solver, would not appreciate that aspect of the grid, but for the rest of us, it was like, Hey, how *do* you spell that country? In fact my misspelling of the country led to a DNF.

That rex chooses not to publish his solving time tells the rest of us that in fact, yes, this was a challenging puzzle. Happy Saturday.

rjkennedy98 9:27 AM  

As a huge Duke Basketball fan I am probably one of the very small number of people that actually knows how to spell Coach K's name, which immediately endeared me to this puzzle, and made it unforgettable. In his introductory press conference Coach K actually lead off with spelling his name not just because its hard to spell, but because it symbolized how everything thought he was a terrible hire. Groups at Duke even lobbied to get him fired after only 2 years. Just goes to show that you got to give people a proper chance to prove their worth.
As to the rest of the puzzle, I struggled on the top right corner. I wanted to put KING in instead of COHO as an alternative to sockeye and I never could figure out SCUSEME since I was looking for a real word, but once I got HOT SHOWER it broke. PLAY WITHIN A PLAY is a fantastic long answer, and would make a great theme. I also loved the clue for RAIN DELAY (as a Cubs fan). Its crazy that my two favorite sports teams (and Coach K's as well) are featured in this puzzle.

TTrimble 9:32 AM  

I didn't know Coach with the KR[a]ZY spelling either, but then it so often happens that I need to start elsewhere than 1 Across (in this case, ASTORS crossing INCA and HSN) that it didn't bother me at all. NEAT AS A PIN fell soon after and it was off to the RACING, or at least relative to my historical average, which is more than twice my time today.

In truth, this did not come across to me as Saturday-difficult. BAEZ always seems to come naturally, particularly as I am in close contact with another BAEZ who is Joan's first cousin. The Z, coupled with the near certainty that the crossing 68 Across was one of those STAN-countries, and then with the easy THY, made KYRGYZSTAN not that hard. Absolutely love NECROMANCY, both the word and the dead-clever cluing. And the array in the east, in the area of AUDIOTAPE: really well executed.

Incidentally, the spelling NAUSEAM should never cause any trouble. So it's "Nausea", which everyone knows not to spell as "Nauseu", but with the case ending -M. Yay, Latin!

IMO, the puzzle was beautifully constructed, with a near-zero yuck factor, making it for me probably this week's highlight. Congrats to the constructors for this achievement.

---[SB Alert]---

-->> some spoilers for yesterday <<--

Well, yesterday's was very annoying. Seriously, Sam Ezersky needs to be raked over the coals for not including "edema", and instead including LAMELLA and LAMELLAE. What is that, anyway, LAMELLA? "A thin layer, membrane, or plate of tissue, especially in bone. Or, in botany, a membranous fold in a chloroplast." Then I see this etymological note: "Origin late 17th century: from Latin, diminutive of lamina ‘thin plate’." Okay, that last bit is helpful to me. Still: dirty pool.

My other missing word was HEMAL, which maybe I should have guessed since I already had HEME (which was I admit a bit of luck, but something I hope to remember).

I learned that LAME+HEAD(ED) takes a hyphen (drat). And I was mildly disappointed although not surprised that MEADHALL is not in the list, as in "Hrothgar and his thanes were drinking in the meadhall as Grendel came stealing through the fens" (yes, I made that up).

I think I may have to give up SB for a spell, or at least give up the obsession with reaching QB. A huge time-suck, especially in view of these nasty-ass stinkers of Ezersky.

Sixthstone 9:34 AM  

Enjoyable puzzle. I liked the K gimmick--it was fun to know the answer but not know it (from a crossword perspective). Some tough clues but overall workable and enjoyable. Even Rex didn't hate it, which is rare for a Saturday.

RooMonster 9:36 AM  

Hey All !
Had the NECROMANCe some of y'all had, but looking at the country, that E didn't see to fit. Last letter to change to get Happy Music. Second to last was the U to A of NAUSEuM/NAUSEAM. If it 'museum' why isn't it 'nauseum'? Third to last letter was having SaPS for SIPS, and getting I RESIGN, but the ole brain elided over the fact the A was there. Weird how you see/think something is there that isn't.

So a nice themeless that took a bit of work, but was ultimately doable. Pretty clean fill. NEAT AS A PIN, one might say. Better than NEAT AS A KRZYZEWSKI.

***SB stuff***

What in tarhooties were those two long L words? Holy moly. And todays is easy, I believe I need one more. I don't look at NYT.BEE unless I'm really stuck and want to see what's left. I usually do the math (on the phone calculator) when I get to Genius. Take the points and devide by .7 It's one or two points from the total. Today is approximately 110, I'm at 106.

***SB over***

Three F's

ChuckD 9:44 AM  

@ Gill I think you’re right - I had the privilege (I guess) to cut the cord for both of our sons and after being front and center for the screaming and yelling of delivery I don’t recall the SNIP sound or really anything for that matter lol.

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

Dukie, (TeeHee)

Teedmn 9:48 AM  

Like most here, I enjoyed this puzzle and like some, admired the first and last across answers. The first, gah, downs only. The second, I had no idea but I knew RICK which started me in the right direction (K_______STAN), but like @okanaganer, I was thinking Kazakhstan (and could spell it no better than KYRGYZSTAN) but the downs again rescued me. I did really want HAh at 63D instead of HAR, as clued but needed that R.

My one writeover was 42A. I ignored the big, honking hint of Groom in the clue and thought the two products might be eco-friendly ways to get rid of aLgA. Eventually, totally blank on what word _gE_ could mean as "intersect", I cleaned that out and started over. HAR.

Adam and Paolo, thanks so much for the great Saturday romp today!

Mohair Sam 9:52 AM  

Easy/medium here - and I don't think we've ever enjoyed a Saturday puzz more than this. Loved the phonetic nightmare Ks top and bottom. All the longs were fun, and the cluing marvelous. How often do you get to chuckle your way through a puzzle? A little Monopoly, a little Shakespeare - CIARA, BAEZ, and HAYDN sharing a corner. NECROMANCY! How cool is that in a puzzle? PLAYWITHINAPLAY - c'mon, you can't beat that. And the clue for RAINDELAY was inspired. I could go on ad NAUSEAM - we flat out loved this puzzle.

Thanks A.A. and P.P. - keep 'em coming.

@Z (8:21) Good point on Rap Artist spellings, and well taken. I'll never grumble about that again.

KYRGYZSTAN - A gimme if you were taught, as we were (we have a son who spent a year there), that it is spelled exactly as it sounds if you remember there is only one "non-sometimes" vowel. That's provided, of course, that you pronounce it correctly.

William of Ockham 10:01 AM  

KYRGYZSTAN - a crossworder worth one's salt should know the STANS, along with Azerbaijan
Coach K - the crosses were Wednesday level gimmes. (Kyrgyzstan as well)

This puzzle is surely as easy a Saturday as has ever been published.

Sir Hillary 10:14 AM  

Didn’t get to Friday’s until late yesterday, and solved this one upon waking this morning, so perhaps there is some recency bias in this comment, but...these two puzzles constitute the best Fri-Sat combo we’ve seen in AGES. Absolutely loved them both.

Birchbark 10:21 AM  

Those who would crush a dream are guilty of "Wondercide." What a way for a FLEA to go.

PLAY WITHIN A PLAY flew across the page with no crosses on a cool, sunny Saturday morning. So I can die with a smile on my face, as the narrator sayeth in "The Big Lebowski."

@The Bard (6:09) -- Yes. Hamlet asks the players if they know "The Murder of Gonzago" in Act II, scene 2. Embellished with "a speech of some dozen or sixteen lines which [Hamlet] would would set down and insert in't," it becomes "The Mousetrap."

Nancy 10:30 AM  

Fiendish and sadistic. So why did I find the puzzle lovable rather than hateable? Two reasons: 1) Both unspellable, unpronounceable names were gettable with some effort -- albeit a lot of effort -- and 2) those were almost the only names in the puzzle. All the other bafflement was accomplished with clever cluing and wordplay.

Could RAIN DELAY (32D) possibly have been clued in a more interesting manner?

Do I detect a bit of award show spoofing in the clue/answer I'M HONORED?

Only after I got PLAY WITHIN A PLAY did I realize that that's the play Hamlet has performed for King Claudius.

Who knew that a TOGA is the hardest thing to sculpt? I was looking for TOes, initially.

I might have clued SNIP, however, (45A) with a less "ouch!"-inducing image.

A worthy Saturday opponent that took me a deliciously long time.

RooMonster 10:32 AM  

**SB Gloating**
Got QB! WooHoo! I was two away from last post, not one. The last one I got should've been the first one, as I had memories from my childhood of it. Don't want to give spoilers. If you're really curious (I'm sure you're not!) I'll tell ya tomorrow.

RooMonster Where's My Tiara? Guy

egsforbreakfast 10:36 AM  

My little brother attempted to pronounce Coach K’s name having only seen it and not heard it. The result was something like Curr-see-zoo-ski, We have jokingly called him that whenever he’s come up over the years, which I think makes it easier for me to spell it. In any event, I got it almost right without crosses, and quickly corrected thereafter.

I was struck by the sequence DNTCATCHTH contained within 16A. It probably isn’t often that 9 of 10 consecutive letters are vowels within a straightforward, ordinary phrase.

For a time I had TOes instead of TOGA, as I remembered reading that in the dark ages painters lost the ability to realistically represent fingers, and this ability was gradually regained during the Renaissance. Figured that if fingers were artistically tough, surely the Romans Might have originally had trouble with the lower phalanges.

I tBought this was a very clean grid with lots of challenges. I’d go with Jeff’s POW over yesterday’s.

Loren Muse Smith 10:48 AM  

Yo. Dukies. KRZYZEWSKI ain’t krzyt.

Go Heels.

TJS 10:59 AM  

You know how long I have been familiar with Coach K's name ? I watched him PLAY high school ball at Gordon Tech in Chicago. Did it help me spell his name ? NO.
When was an estate sale ever a mandate? I've been dragged to plenty of them by my ex and never heard of one being ordered by a judge.
Okay, that's over with.
I loved this puzzle, a true Saturday challenge. I think I set a record for most mis-spellings (5) because "estate rule" left me with "drapes" and "nauseum" (which I still like) and yellow "lab" gave me a new word, "raling" for going very fast. Never hurts to be taken down a peg or two by a truly great puzzle. Happy Saturday, everyone.

Anonymous 10:59 AM  

@TT. mead hall is 2 words but there is an establishment in Cambridge, MA named Meadhall.

Perry 10:59 AM  

I felt like I was getting killed, but then it all broke free and I finished in a fairly normal (for me) time for the Saturday. I hate it when the puzzle starts with a person's name. There is a reason why they call him 'Coach K.' No one can remember how to spell his name and nobody knows how to pronounce it.

KnittyContessa 11:05 AM  

I hate proper names in puzzles. I don't watch sports, I know nothing about sports. When I read the clue for 1A I literally cursed out loud. At least I had the K to work with. Managed to get the corner and the rest went fairly quickly. Except for the KYRGYZSTAN/NECROMANCY cross. I had KYRGeZSTAN/NECROMANCe.

Masked and Anonymous 11:08 AM  

Coach K's name is pronounced Mike shih-ZHEF-skee. I kinda knew how to pronounce it, but that didn't help much with spellin it right. Had that -SKI part nailed, tho. Coulda done a credible job on MIKE, also.

Some of them clues were killers. See FUR. Or SPA. Or HSN. Or AID.
staff weeject pick: HAR. In honor of all them afore-mentioned killer weeject clues.

fave fillins: SCUSEME. NECROMANCY [schlocky]. The K twins [If only KRZYZEWSKI were a KYRGYZSTANI].

Thanx for gangin up on us, Mr's. Aaronson & Pasco. Kool stuff. Kinda hard on my old nanoseconds, tho. … FEED?!?

Masked & Anonymo3Us


Z 11:31 AM  

@Mohair Sam - I just want to point out that I complain about all creatively spelt names so i have “randomly spelt rap artist kvetching” immunity. 😇

@bauskern - You post about Rex’s time every. single. day. Why the obsession?

@Loren Muse Smith - We see what you really care about. Being from Michigan, I have my own opinions of Duke and Coach K. What I have found truly amazing is how little Duke merch and Duke support one finds here in western North Carolina. I see more Michigan, Ohio State, Clemson, and Georgia support than I see for Duke. UNC rules, of course, but the dearth of Duke support is gob-smacking.

@TJS - The clue says “Will mandate,” which I presumed meant “No fighting over my stuff, sell it all and split the proceeds.”

Swagomatic 11:32 AM  

I really like this puzz. Especially since I have always been fascinated by the spelling of Coach K's name - almost a gimme. Two pencils up.

Anonymous 11:45 AM  

Z’s point on rap artist’s spellings is risible. Both 1 across and 68 across are transliterations. Each abides by the rules of its root language— Polish and Kyrgyz. Rap artists don’t abide by the rules of language. They’re not translating anything, merely applying their own taste in lieu of reasonable understanding of linguistics.

Crimson Devil 11:46 AM  

Finally got Coach K in puz ( I had heard he’d been here before, but that was prior to my introduction to this “pleasure”).
I knew that’d get a rise outta Ms Smith, of UNCCH fame.
GTHCGTH !!! Go Devils 😈

Ethan Taliesin 11:54 AM  

Fun, with just the right amount of difficulty.

I did not think having "shopping" in the initialism HSN was kosher since the word "shopping" was also in the clue. Should have used retail or something.

Richardf8 11:55 AM  

Eel Rice? No Rex, you’re supposed to say “but nigiri wouldn’t fit!” Rex’s bane was mostly in my wheelhouse, NECROMANCY was one of the first things I filled in.

TTrimble 12:01 PM  

*** SB

@Anonymous 10:59
Thanks. As I say, I wasn't surprised. I believe I've seen "meadhall" in print, but that was probably John Gardner taking a literary liberty in his Grendel. Maybe to slyly recall the type of fusions one might find in Old English words.

Yay me, QB! Congrats also to RooMonster. Today's was not really difficult; only one word was less than intimately familiar. Seems like a fun word to have in the lexicon.

Azzurro 12:23 PM  

Loved it! I’ve seen Coach K.’s name in print countless times but needed almost all the crosses to spell it. Fun challenge to get that and the others.

Hack mechanic 12:23 PM  

Had ad hominem at first 'cause the m works. When I did see it I boned it up a second time by misspelling it ad nauseum.

Ernonymous 12:30 PM  

I always thought the Play within a Play was originally the idea of Pirandello with Sei Personaggi in Cerca D'autore, but he must have stolen it from Shakespeare. That was my first thought because that clue phrase is so associated with Pirandello. I guess Shakespeare just mentions a play title within his play, he doesn't actually put on a play within his play.
Another Saturday where I'm shocked I finished just under an hour when after the first pass I had 2 entries. I always think "this week I'm doomed I'm in way over my head", and then I complete it with no look ups. I didnt know Coach K and I also had Kazakhstan at first. Fun. It was a weird week of puzzles. I hope Sunday is good and makes Rex happy. Fingers crossed as there is a 1 in 30 chance he'll like a Sunday.

sixtyni yogini 12:33 PM  

Very hard (for me) but loved it and the “k” words. 👍🏽😎👍🏽

sanfranman59 12:35 PM  

The clue for NECROMANCY {29D: Dead reckoning?} doesn't make a lot of sense. NECROMANCY is communicating with the dead, right? What does that have to do with "reckoning", which, according to my Funk & Wagnalls means a calculation of some kind? Also, why is DRAPES {31A: Hangs loose?} clued as a pun? I think that's a pretty literal definition of that word. OTOH, the clue for SPA {8D: Facial joint} could have used a ?.

It's very cool to have KRZYZEWSKI {1A: "Coach K" of N.C.A.A. men's basketball fame} and KYRGYZSTAN {68A: Landlocked land along the Silk Road} bookending the grid. I even managed to come close to spelling Coach K's name correctly. As a long-suffering, die-hard Cleveland Indians fan, I could have done without the painful reminder of the completely unnecessary RAIN DELAY {32D: Apt occurrence during the game that ended the Cubs' 108-year World Series drought} that took all the momentum away from my team in that game. Thanks a lot AA & PP!

JC66 12:35 PM  

****SB ALERT****

@TTrimble, Hey @Roo

Congrats. In haven't started today's yet, but now I',m really looking forward to it.


re: yesterday's: Funny thing, hand up for not knowing LAMELLA or LAMELLAE, but I got HEMAL but not HEME.

ow a paper cut 12:40 PM  

Although I’m not a Duke fan I have respect for Coach K and was happy to see his name in 1 across. The puzzle contributed to an enloyable morning.

ow a paper cut 12:42 PM  

Oh. SB= spelling bee. I do those every day : )

TTrimble 12:44 PM  

No, the "-mancy" in NECROMANCY refers to divination, as in tea-leaf readings and the like. So I think the cluing is accurate (albeit sly).

Richardf8 1:03 PM  

I saw Coach K, and thought “Polish” and SKI went in directly. Got the rest on the crosses.

Anonymous 1:04 PM  

truely sorry for family.

Anonymous 1:08 PM  

Ban the dang "?" altogether! We can think.

Barbara S. 1:12 PM  

*** SB ALERT ***
@Roo, @TTrimble
Kudos, guys -- and yay, me three for QB! This is the first time I've Queened since July 17, so I hope I've finally broken the curse of the Bambino, or whatever's been holding me back.

For now, lookin' good in a colored paper crown...

jberg 1:24 PM  

I was a big sports fan during my school days, but have gradually lost interest in all of it-- so while I have heard of the NCAA, and of men's basketball, I had no idea about Coach K. I didn't even feel confident that the first letter would be K, since the answer might have been "Joe Kleiner," or something along those lines. But the crosses were pretty easy, what with all the ZANY WACKOS. Fortunately, Nigeria wouldn't fit (it's the most populous country, but not the largest), and I eventually figured out REDUX (@BarbieBarbie, thanks for the Updike ref!)

Fortunately, I spent a few days in Samarkand, on a group tour, back in 1979, so I knew Kazakhstan was too far north for the silk road; I still had to change both Ys from Is before I got it right.

I always love long answers made up of 4 or 5 ordinary words, an outstanding feature of this puzzle.

I'm left with a couple of questions. Why the "so-called" in the clue for 55D; is there some doubt about Haydn's role? And, I'd forgotten that Hamlet changed the name of the play to "The Mousetrap." Was Agatha Christie referring to that in her play of the same name (which I've never seen)?

Speaking of risible, the idea that Polish or Kyrgyz rules are transliterated by the rules of their root languages is just that. Languages do not come with instructions about how to write them in English! Transliterators make different choices all the time; many people have different surnames (Smirnoff, Smirnov) that would be identical in the original language.

@Sanfranman - I had the same question about dead reckoning and NECROMANCY, but I looked up the latter and it means (in its narrow sense) divination through communication with the dead; I think the Venn diagrams of divination and reckoning probably overlap somewhere.

Me too for wanting AD hominem; fortunately, ESTATE SALE ruled that out.

Anonymous 1:48 PM  

You’ve misunderstood. The transliteration is only the letters. And those letters do follow the rules of the root language. Of course transliteration involves making choices about which English letter best represents the sound the foreign language letter or letters make. And just as surely Smirnoff and Smirnov are obeying those rules. That they aren’t identical doesn’t prove they aren’t following rules. Rappermatical 5 on the other hand is not a translation of anything. Just nonsense

old timer 2:08 PM  

What I look for in a Saturday puzzle is a pleasant morning, up to an hour of my time, that ultimately can be solved with no outside help. Thad was my experience, so color me delighted.

I certainly had forgotten how to spell Coach K's name, and even how to pronounce it, I now learn. And yeah, how to spell that K country on the Silk Road. Knew what it was, though, and STAN went right in.

Hands up for writing in "hominem" before NAUSEAM.

bauskern 2:22 PM  

@Z [11:31] It bothers me when people w/ big egos post/brag about how fast/wonderful/great they are, and are quick to tell us their, say "average" score . . . . But then "neglect" to time themselves when, oops, perhaps they're mortal after all. Sort of like the guy who shows up at all the local running races but if you beat them, then you have to listen to them tell you that they were "really just out for a training run." I guess I just abhor hypocrisy, in whatever form it shows up. Does it push my buttons? Apparently. So there you have it. But hey, thanks for following me! :) Happy Saturday.

Eniale 2:33 PM  

I haven't even looked at puzzle yet (West Coast, late up, chores) - BUT I MADE QUEEN BEE! Please don't tell me it was a much easier one than usual.....

bertoray 2:58 PM  

I too thought it was fun, but cheated. There's a reason he's referred to as Coach K.

Anonymous 3:01 PM  

one thing about the K man: for years and years he dissed all those other coaches who 'hired' one-and-doners by the six-pack, until he figured out that was the only way to win. he brought in his own six-packs. dissing went the way of high-button shoes.

Barbara S. 3:08 PM  

I saw Joan Baez perform when she was (I guess, 5 months) pregnant, not at Woodstock. She played an outdoor concert in Canada in July 1969 at a ski hill near the city I was living in. It was well-attended -- there were people everywhere sitting on blankets on the grass (no mud) -- a miniature-scale dress rehearsal for what was to come. I remember she talked a lot about her husband, David Harris, being hauled off to jail for draft resistance and how traumatic that was for all concerned -- it had just happened, maybe a week or so before the concert. I remember that when singing, she never closed her eyes and emoted as many singers do. I don't criticise other singers for doing that -- the music takes one in various ways -- but Joan faced her audience fully present and clear-eyed at all times. And I remember she sang this with much joy.

Solverinserbia 4:27 PM  

Krzyzewski was a bizarre entry because it was a Monday level clue with the only question being can you spell it?

Kyrgyzstan on the other hand had a real clue plus the spelling issue. I figured out this answer and inferred the spelling.

Luckily for me I'm a college basketball nut and knew the spelling of Krzyzewski. Always great to have a long 1a off the bat.

Bill L. 4:39 PM  

Today has been a good day. Once the K-words were untangled this went pretty smoothly. Liked it.

I also smoked the SB and Saturday Stumper so I’m feeling smart for once. Today’s Stumper may be the easiest I’ve encountered.

****SB Alert****

Agree with @TTrimble that it was odd that “edema” wasn’t included yesterday. “Edam” too, but maybe because it’s a town as well as a cheese?

I was lucky to know LAMELLA. I design water treatment plants and lamella plate clarifiers are a common treatment process prior to filtration.

And when it comes to the SB I will tack an “e” onto the end of almost any word ending in “a” and see if sticks.

Z 4:49 PM  

@bauskern 2:22 - I get why you feel that way, but that’s not Rex. I like to time myself on occasion, especially on early-week puzzles. I'm always in a kind of low-level training for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (again, above link). I don't care if you are faster / slower than I am, or if you don't care about timing at all. More power to you. Everyone does the puzzle differently. There are solvers of all different speeds who read this site. There's no reason for anyone to feel defensive / self-conscious. From the FAQs. Also from the FAQs: I rate puzzles according to RELATIVE difficulty: that is, I rate their difficulty relative to the typical difficulty for That Day Of The Week. This baffles people so much that I may stop doing it. In other words, Rex provides a rating on relative difficulty of each puzzle and his solving time is the benchmark. He’s faster than most of us, but isn’t actually in the upper echelon of solving speed. That’s it. No bragging, just saying.

@jberg - Well, I was trying to make people laugh, or at least crack a wry smile, so “risible” isn’t completely off.

@anon1:48 - That the rules aren’t the ones you and I were taught doesn’t mean there aren’t any rules. I pretty much agree that Rap Artists stage names are often unfair, but for the same reason Mauna Loa/Kea or Ionesco/Ionescu is unfair. “Just nonsense” is farther than I would go. Also, KRZYZEWSKI isn’t a transliteration, it’s the Polish spelling of something that we might spell as Shihzhefskee (that’s one way Wikipedia shows the pronunciation). We don’t normally transliterate from languages using the Latin alphabet, even when the sounds don’t line up very well. In that regard KRZYZEWSKI is more nonsensical than Rappermatical 5 (and wow, “Connecticut Hip Hop” - Who knew?).

ChuckD 5:08 PM  

@ Barbara S. - I could listen to memories like that all day. Such a different time we are living in now.

Jen 5:13 PM  

Clue on 45A - cringe!

Jeff 5:20 PM  

Liked this puzzle a lot. Really wanted FLAKES for "eccentrics, in slang" but NEATASAPIN finally ruled that out. And that made me recall that Coach K's name only *sounds* like it has an F in it.

Two gripes: first, no modern corporation has a TECH department; IT (information technology) sure, but no one calls it "tech". Second, have a hard time with the FUR clue: yes, I know that a stole *is* a fur but "Stole something?" is just outright misdirection, not a pun or clever wink.

Anonymous 5:42 PM  


agree. one says, 'mink stole' not 'stole mink'. even so, the possibilities aren't endless.

Pamela 6:12 PM  

*****SB ALERT*****

@Roo Monster, @TTrimble @Barbara S @Bill L and whoever else made QB today- Congrats and party hats!

Also for me, QB. First chance I had to finish off the last couple, only took a minute or two. Didn’t feel all that hard today. I guess it wasn’t since you all got there earlier. I wonder what he’ll do to us tomorrow...

jae 7:14 PM  

I’m very pleased to join the QB ranks today, it makes me feel a bit better about my DNF (I hate when that happens).

StellaBlue 7:42 PM  

The play's the thing...

GaryMac 7:56 PM  

@Bill L 4:39 PM

I was going to save the Stumper for tomorrow as I frequently do, but after seeing your comment I had to give it a go today. I did it in one sitting in 47 minutes, which for me is smoking it. I agree that it was one of the easier ones I've encountered. I got QB today also, but I think everybody else did too. Yesterday - NO NO NO. It was a bear.

StellaBlue 7:59 PM  

A play called The Mousetrap, adapted by Hamlet from a play called The Murder of Gonzago, is performed in Act III, scene II. "The story is extant, and written in choice Italian..."

StellaBlue 8:05 PM  

Agatha Christie wrote a radio play called "Three Blind Mice", broadcast on the BBC during World War II. In 1952 the play appeared in the West End as "The Mousetrap", a title which Christie in her autobiography said her young grandson invented.

Sian 9:07 PM  

I loved this puzzle! Great fill leading to more great fill. Best Saturday for a long time. Thanks Adam and Paolo!

Ben 12:56 AM  

Hi! I enjoyed this puzzle, so I guess I'm who it's "for." I thought it was cute and delightful

Sometimes I wonder why Rex does crossword puzzles, as he seems to find them all endlessly tedious. Maybe take up knitting?

Anonymous 7:36 AM  

Chose to try to this in pen. The good is I solved it without hints. The bad is that three questions were wrong. I had ESTATEDUES instead of ESTATESALES and SEAROLL instead of EELROLL. And FEED instead of FLEA. Hence DEA in ALE. Just to finish a Saturday in pen is a accomplishment enough.

Mark Ricard

spacecraft 11:04 AM  

Well well, a not-really-themeless Saturday! First and last: knowable but hardly spellable long K-names. They tried to make it hard with a really obscure clue for the PLAYWIYHINAPLAY instead of "A Midsummer Night's Dream, or, of course, "Hamlet." After all, it IS Saturday.

One blotch: had ESTATEruLE before the SALE, but I knew that it was ADNAUSEAM instead of -UM. Once again, Joan BAEZ wins DOD, the more remarkable for having been so far along during the concert; I did not know that.

Lively, entertaining fare, difficult but eminently doable: say, medium. Nothing to get hung about. Eagle.

P.S. Congrats to the Golden Knights. who somehow prevailed against one of the most awesome goalies I've ever seen, Thatcher Demko. His name certainly deserves to be seen here. Wish we had him.

Burma Shave 12:22 PM  


Coach KRZYZEWSKI said, " IRESIGN in advance,
I'MHONORED FUR the NINTH time in a ROW, it seems,
and IDIDN'T yet CATCHTHAT one last CHANCE,
'SCUSEME, NOW I'll take a HOTSHOWER with my TEAM."


rondo 12:55 PM  

I've seen Coach K's name a thousand times but I'd probably mis-spell it again tomorrow.

What seems really amazing is that the snail mail has gotten snailier. Trump issues? A CARD in an envelope by first class mail postmarked August 25 in Spokane arrived here yesterday. 11 days for a first class letter! You can't convince me that's not on purpose. It used to be a coupla days. Anyway, thanks @D,LIW, IMHONORED and getting snail mail is fun.

Back to the puz - Before TOGA, I had a Roman nOse as hard to sculpt which set me up for eonS before AGES. My answer to 'Tries' was SueS before SIPS came along, so that whole middlish area was last to fall into place.

Mrs. Russel Wilson, known as CIARA, for yeah baby today.

NOW this was a good puz.

thefogman 1:26 PM  

I liked this one. It would have been nice to see Krazy Kat join the K-lettered PPP Parade.

leftcoaster 3:18 PM  

Lots of good stuff here. Managed to piece together the correct spellings of Coach K and and the "K-stan" country with help from the stacked acrosses in the NW and SE corners, but resorted to look-ups elsewhere in this clever and challenging Saturday puzzle.

Diana, LIW 6:26 PM  

Didn't know the Coach but Mr. W did - once I got the spelling, RUMPLESTILLSKIN, the rest fell into place.

Gonna go drink some Zevia - and I mean that.

Lady Di

Diana, LIW 6:28 PM  

And yer welcome, @Ron! I wondered why you didn't comment when I said you were a "card" on the 27th. ;-)

Diana, LIW

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