Score marking to play higher or lower than written / SAT 9-12-20 / Slangy sedative / Mesoamerican language family with about half a million speakers / Onetime airer of Music City Tonight / Dolohov one of Death Eaters in Harry Potter books / Early movie mogul Marcus

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Constructor: Ryan McCarty

Relative difficulty: Easy(3/4)-Challenging (1/4) (7:34)

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: OTTAVA (43A: Score marking to play higher or lower than written) —
at an octave higher or lower than written  used as a direction in music (
• • •

Not bad, but almost completely devoid of the things that made me love yesterday's puzzle. First off, the grid, which is highly segmented—those NW and SE corners are pretty cut off from the rest of the grid, which means they're apt to play as puzzles within the puzzle, and lord help you if you get bogged down, because there's no escape. I find cut-off corners claustrophobic and annoying, and today, mainly because they can make the solve feel so uneven. Today, the NW corner was a total nightmare, difficulty-wise, whereas the entire rest of the puzzle provided only Wednesday-like resistance. That unevenness was unpleasant. And then unlike yesterday's puzzle, today's is awash in *names* (and also niche vocabulary). I laughed when I got REDBONE (one of the only things I actually *knew* in the NW) because I thought "hollllly moly is anyone under 50 (my age) gonna know that? Most people who know that *song* don't know that" (1D: Band with the 1974 hit "Come and Get Your Love"). Can you name a second REDBONE song? You cannot, thanks for playing. And then BILGERATS? (19A: Lowly sorts, in pirate lingo). Whatever, no idea, matey. Just none. I was kind of able to infer BILGE somehow at the very end, but yikes. AIMEE Bender? (5D: Novelist Bender). Dunno. ZAPOTECAN? (26A: Mesoamerican language family with about half a million speakers). Ultimately inferable for me, but still, not exactly common knowledge. OTTAVA I had to piece together letter by letter, with that first "A" being guessable only because of SIBILATE (which, again, who uses that word? No one) (30D: Hiss). I don't mind the names and obscurities when I can fight through them, and I fought through these, but ... this is an old-school way to achieve "difficulty." I'll take clever cluing of (somewhat more) common knowledge for my "difficulty" any day. Again, did not dislike this, just found it somewhat more of a drag than yesterday's (which, admittedly, is an unfair comparison, as yesterday's puzzle was Fire).

Struggled mightily in the NW to start, then switched to the NE and it was like a completely different, much more remedial puzzle. TCM and "The Simpsons" right off the bat? That is definitely my alley. Ants on a log: easy. BYES: easy. Dumb plural EL GRECOS: ultimately easy because everything else up there was easy and that corner was done in maybe 30 seconds. And then I went PER PERSON, PAVES OVER, JELLO, JOWL, 1 2 3 4, without hesitation, and they were all right. East coast to southwest coast in maybe 10 seconds. This is what I mean about how separated and stand-alone the NW corner felt. Now I had to work a little to fill in the SW and the middle, but because I had the *front* ends of the Acrosses in the SE, as opposed to the *back* ends in the NW, the SE was *much* easier to open up. That left me back in the NW at the end, where every answer was surprising. When I abandoned it, all I had was REDBONE, ENEMIES, WEIR, OSAGE, and ERS. That would normally be enough to make a corner fall, but not today. I think I eventually guessed RIPSAW and (more tentatively) BILGE, and that got me over. The end. Not many outright mistakes today, except: SMUDGY (?) for SMOGGY (4D: Polluted, in a way), and DYNAMICS (!?!) for DC COMICS (16A: Flash setting) (you may know him as *The* Flash). Not much more to say ... except SNOW CONE does not have a "W," thank you for coming to my carnival food lecture (45A: Summer carnival treat). Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Pat Vegas 6:43 AM  

The word "redbone" is a Cajun term for a mixed-race person, which the band adopted to signify their mixed ancestry.

The band Redbone was comprised of Native Americans.

The song "Come and Get Your Love" starts the movie Guardians of the Galaxy.

Roberto 6:47 AM  

Too many proper names. Zener crossing an obscure language not fair.

ChuckD 6:51 AM  

Tough one for me - finished but took me long enough. Liked the look of the grid but Rex is right - the corners are tough and don’t give you much to back into. Liked most of the longs - DC COMICS, BILGE RATS and SHOEHORNING were all nice. It did trend 70ish with the Brady Bunch, REDBONE and JELLO but if you know the obscure stuff it helps and it’s not as annoying. Toughest for me was the GOETHE/OTTAVA cross - initially wanted Milton and just whiffed in OTTAVA until I got JOWL and LEPERS.

Tough but enjoyable Saturday - I liked it. Queen of New Orleans was another REDBONE song that had some playtime - I think written by Bobby Bare but they were pretty much a one hit wonder.

Frantic Sloth 6:53 AM  


I feel like I've been through a war for cryin' out loud! Okay, that's a tad hyperbolic, but really!
Between the misdirects and the arcane and the near-Naticks, it's a wonder how it got done at all.
I was like a dog with a bone with this one. Don't know how many times I hit a seemingly insurmountable wall, only to shimmy here and SLUE there in order to work around obstacles. Usually one stinkin' letter at a time. S l o w going, I tell ya!

Baby steps. It was a war of baby steps and bloody determination and man! Did I love this challenge!

Almost popped a capillary at the 26A & D cross because I'm not a freakin' magician! I had to stab and I chose "Z" as my victim. Well, not @Z...just "Z" and as sheer luck would have it, it was correct.

There was positively not one speck o' dreck to be found.
FAB came closest, but...nope!

Far too many gems to enumerate, it I think my faves were BILGERATS and the clue for STILETTOS.
There's an image: BILGERATS in STILETTOS. Divine!


Lewis 6:53 AM  

Look at all those chunks of interlocking white! That could only come after an eternity of trial and error, and thank you, Ryan, for all that effort. Yes, there were obscure entries in there (eleven for me) but hardly any tired junk. Indeed, with nine excellent NYT debut answers, the puzzle was brimming with freshness. And clever and tricky cluing, my favorites being [Flash setting] for DC COMICS and [Really digging] for NOSY.

Solving included some square-by-square areas, some blank-to-splat-in-nothing-flat, some hopeless to hopeful to full, and some come-back-again-and-again areas. Much work and reward. No BYES.

Not a trudge, though, but rather a dig-deep and scour-the-brain experience, and, in the end, that not only felt cleansing, but it also brought me to life, and I’m ready to charge into my day. My mood is up, and my thumbs are up. Terrific one, Ryan!

Joaquin 7:07 AM  

I like learning new things while doing the crossword but today I feel like I should be awarded a PhD in obscure [stuff] for finishing this one (even though I cheated off the guy in the next row, Irving Google).

The last thing I filled in was 7A (THEMOB) which provided the “aha” of the year for me.

ncmathsadist 7:25 AM  

ESP does not exist, so why should I know anything about "esp cards." Also, ZAPOTECAN? Also: GETONIT. I first had GOFORIT and GETTOIT.

JD 7:26 AM  

This puzzle was constructed for people who talk or think about things like Enemies, Bilge Rats, Death Eaters, DC Comics and The Mob, and a Rip Saw, Fast One, Trank, or Five Iron. Somewhere in there is a script for a teenage horror film. I know those people and love them but as a collection this stuff isn't in my wheeluniverse.

Snow Cones, Jello, and Santa Hats felt oddly out of place (don't be scared guys, just keep walking) but I cheer for their jolly bravery in showing up.

Uniquely trounced by and ok with all of it.

BlueMan 7:33 AM  

Took just over two plays of Come and Get Your Love to finish

Dr. Cooper 7:46 AM  

For those of us in the Class of ‘71, say, the Native American band Redbone had at least one more hit: “The Witch Queens of New Orleans”. It reached #21, so at least they rose above one-hit wonder status! Also, having “Come and Get Your Love” make the soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy might have made Redbone a more familiar name, at least to us comic book aficionados. It was a great start to the puzzle for me, dragged down later on by SNOWCONE. Seriously? Name one county in the country where they sell snow cones instead of SNOCONES!

Rich Fisler 7:50 AM  

Witch queen of New Orleans

pabloinnh 8:06 AM  

I thought this was great, mostly because I finished it without looking anything up. Looked at 1A and wrote in RIPSAW and thought, shucks, an easy Saturday. Looked over the rest of the clues quickly, and, nothing. Be careful what you wish for. Finally guessed STILETTOS and filled in the SE, then upward and onward, ending in the NW with the aforementioned RIPSAW which was still sitting there all by itself.

Liked seeing BILGERATS, as I'm a huge fan of Talk Like A Pirate Day, and I've heard of the Zapotecs but didn't know they had their own language. Trust MAGGIE to be the one to do away with the execrable Mr. Burns. SIBILATE was news to me but easily guessed from sibilant. Have sung many carols while wearing a SANTAHAT. GOBERSERK seemed a strong in that I was thinking of "flip" as an adjective and not a verb. OTTAVA made sense and led to the Beavis and Butthead snicker at ASS.

In short, enough stuff that eventually became clear or was dredged up from the brain pan, which made, for me at least, a Saturday that knows how to Saturday, for which thanks, Mr. McC.

kitshef 8:13 AM  

Exact opposite of yesterday's gem.

Unknown names: DANA. AIMEE. LOEW.

TCM and TNN.


Not a disaster; but just not fun.

BarbieBarbie 8:27 AM  

Got AIMEE with no crosses- one of my favorite writers, mainly for her short stories. If you like Etgar Keret, read Aimee Bender.

Even so, my only other NW gimme was ERS. I puzzled some stuff out but gave up and consulted Google for REDBONE, so DNF really.

@GilI, are you OK?

Small Town Blogger 8:34 AM  

Zapotecan crossing Zener??? Total natick for me. Also had nose for 40D which took me forever to figure out and fix.

Pamela 8:34 AM  

Ouch! Not in my wheelhouse today, just Saturday tough.

Why is Ants on a log BYES?

DeeJay 8:35 AM  

Beautiful grid, tough solve. Id rather have this level of challenge than a more inferrable (so?) set of answers.

mathgent 8:36 AM  

Lewis counted eleven obscurities. I had twelve mysteries. A mystery for me is a word I don’t know (ZAPOTECAN, OTTAVA) or one I know but with a clue that doesn’t narrow down the possibilities much (NOSY, GOETHE). That’s 20% of the 60, usually my limit. I was lucky to solve without a cheat.

I can’t think of a sentence where PERPERSON can be substituted for “A pop.” We had twelve beers for the five of us, that’s about two PERPERSON. Not two a pop.

For 6D I had ???R and I immediately wrote in WEIR, a word I have never seen outside of crosswords. New solvers need to create a little cache of words like that.

I had forgotten ZENER cards. I once had a deck of them for an ESP experiment I did in a statistics class.

Can’t say that I enjoyed doing it, but it’s really good.

Leslie 8:49 AM  

Fantastic! When Redbone came to me, I really felt my 61 years. Enjoyed everything but snowcone which obviously doesn’t have a w.

Z 8:58 AM  

AIMEE Mann is my go to AIMEE. I had to read up on AIMEE Bender and... huh. Okay, she’s won some awards, but I’m not at all convinced someone known for her surreal characters and whose Wikipedia page spends as much time on the teaching career as the writing career and never mentions a place outside southern California is truly crossworthy.

Speaking of, ANTONIN Dolohov? That’s a real Harry Potter deep cut. As symbols of evil named ANTONIN, Dolohov is definitely in second place on my list.

ZENER/ZAPOTECAN seems like a pure natick to me. Karl ZENER died in 1964 and the cards were developed in the 1939’s. Crossing a language primarily spoken in a single Mexican state? I, of course, got it easily. I see there are ZAPOTECAN speakers in New Jersey. I wonder how many have visited the marina in Rye, NY.


In case it isn’t obvious, I thought this was decent puzzle lessened by the plethora of obscurish PPP. Wordplay is always better than trivia.

Z 9:04 AM  

@mathgent - Concert tickets were $45 a pop. Concert tickets were $45 PER PERSON.

@Pamela - your mixing your across clues with your down answers.

Anonymous 9:09 AM  

Hey Rex, do you think anyone under 50 has heard of the “Guardians of the Galaxy”?

Ted 9:10 AM  

Naticked by the Z in ZAPOTECAN / ZENER. Hilariously unguessable letter there on two words I've never seen.

The NW corner was indeed hard to crack. "Flash setting" deserved a question mark to clue us in that it was a misdirect. BILGERATS actually came to me off of just the R_TS at the end so that was a way in at least.

JD 9:12 AM  

@Dr. Cooper, In my new zealous campaign to go Berserk on any NYT crossfake answer I can ferret out, I immediately jumped on Snow Cone.

But it exists, "snow cone's ice is coarse, crunchy, and granular."

The Innuit have multiple words for ground up ice with sugar syrup. Not the don't, I just made that. But the other part is true.

Kevin C. 9:25 AM  

@Pat Vegas, @Anonymous

I knew the song from Guardians of the Galaxy. But that didn't help me in terms of knowing the band. I assume that's what Rex was getting to with

" Most people who know that *song* don't know that""

Unknown 9:30 AM  

I've only seen it spelled as SNOCONES, which confirms the dumbing down of America.

A lot of obscurities. AIMEE Bender was inferable, but never heard of her. The ZENER crossing was tough: I was just plopping in letters at that point.

I agree that REDBONE is a bit of a mystery for anyone under 50. They will always be a one hit wonder.

Thought rex would love this b/c of DCCOMICS. He must be a Marvel fan. For me, comics are MEH.

DrBB 9:33 AM  

Got it all except the annoying Natick at 26A/D. When I get one of those at the end and it takes 3 total stabs in the dark to guess it, it counts as a win in my personal record book, because it's just a cheap way to amp up the difficulty without offering an Aha! in return. So I call that constructor error and the win goes to the player. I mean, I have seen "Zenner" cards in a puzzle before, but always with the name in the clue not the answer, and my brain doesn't store that kind of information very well any more.

Other than that, a good Saturday workout. First time through I had the esses on a couple of plural clues and the rest a desert of blanks. Very satisfying when it comes slowly, then accelerates to the end. Except for that Natick. Feels like the constructor giving a raspberry to the solver. Not fun and not nice.

Carola 9:33 AM  

A worthy Saturday - lots of rewarding answers + a looming threat of a DNF. I was ready to call Ryan McCarty a dirty BILGE RAT for that NW corner; for a while, that area of the grid looked like I'd dumped a bunch of random Scrabble tiles on it Only after changing my guess at "Aiden" Bender to AIMEE did actual words snap into focus, and I was able to finish (REDBONE x DC COMICS).

Liked: SHOEHORNING x STILETTOS. Help from previous puzzles: ZENER, STEPPARENTS. Yay for the Humanities: GOETHE, EL GRECO. No idea: REDBONE, AIMEE, MAGGIE, ZAPOTECAN, DANA, OTTAVA. Do-over: "hit men" before THE MOB,

RooMonster 9:35 AM  

Hey All !
My ASS is sore right now from being kicked by this puz. Hope all you tough-wanting-puzzlers got your fix today.

JOWL, oof. Had the W, and put in paWs. Got LEPERS and put in hOWL, which seemed fine. At least JELLO was inferable.

Natick!! at that Z. Only know of those cards from 2984's "Ghostbusters". Didn't know their name. Ran the alphabet by literally putting in every consonant and hitting Check Puzzle. Figures it would be a Z. So much for @Z's that Z's are the future. 😂

Ample use of Check feature to ferret out the wrongness today, plus one Goog for AIMEE Bender. Only Bender I'm familiar with is on 'Futurama'. Har.

NW corner was a bugger. But pretty much stuck all over. Oh well, SatPuz.

WEIR - no idea.
PE CLASS - sneaky.
DC COMICS - sneaky.
RED BONE - popular song with an unknown band name.
JOWL - ouch (see above)
SNOW CONE - penalty flag! No W.
HEW TO - who wah?
TRANK - isn't it TRANQ?
SIBILATE - hiss!
The Z words - Yikes!
THE MOB - clever, but I wanted even more clever hitMen. 😋

Three F's

Sixthstone 9:40 AM  

Most difficult puzzle of the year for me. NW was brutal. Fighting through the puzzle one guess at a time sucked all the joy out of things that would normally thrill me (the Flash, Simpsons, rock'n'roll). ZENER/ZAPOTECAN crossing is totally unfair though somewhere in my brain I could hear a little voice whisper "ZAPOTECAN." Lucky subliminal guess.

It's a well-built puzzle with some good answers but also quite a few obscurities and some tough, tough cluing. I guess it was like a mental PECLASS. I got my exercise, just didn't have much fun doing it.

Nancy 9:45 AM  

Saturday hard, but not in a good way. I found this much closer to pain than pleasure, thought I'd have to cheat on the pop trivia often to have any chance at all, and ended up not cheating once -- but also not finishing. I didn't know the ?APOTECAN/?ENER cross and wouldn't have known it if I'd stared at the puzzle nonstop for another two weeks. And, not knowing REDBONE and not being able to swallow "really digging" for NOSY, I left that square blank, too. It was guessable, I guess, but I didn't want to.

It's ironic that I often fear PPP from Agard and he didn't burden me with any in yesterday's gem. McCarty (whose name doesn't mean anything to me one way or another) saddled me with it today and I didn't know almost anyone he put in the puzzle. Not ANTONIN, nor MAGGIE, nor LOEW nor AIMEE nor the relationships of the Brady Bunch nor any of the aforementioned answers. I also didn't know that there's CELERY in ants on a log; I only know (I think, having never eaten them) raisins.

I had RATS plus a G and had no idea what kind of RATS. I thought BILGE RATS sounded like something a pirate might say, and I was right.

The clues for FOUL TIP; STILETTOS; PE CLASS and THE MOB are truly inspired, but they don't compensate for all my suffering today.

puzzlehoarder 9:59 AM  

A tough Saturday, partly it was due to solving by phone which I consider a handicap.

I finished by backfilling the NW. This was ironic as REDBONE was a gimme as we're RIPSAW supported by WEIR. However the other downs didn't fall and I thought the "Really digging" clue had to be INTO. This made me question REDBONE especially as I then recalled that there was a Leon Redbone and maybe that was what made my think of the name.

Moving on I filled in the NE then the SW. This gave me the lower center stack and opened up the SE. From that point the rest of the center and backfilling the NW was a mop up.

It was a struggle to get over the hump on this one and a beautiful puzzle as well. All of this constructors' work has been outstanding.

Teedmn 10:15 AM  

Difficult puzzles are always more fun when you successfully solve them, so I enjoyed today's struggle though at one point I was convinced I would have to look something up to finish the NW.

I put in WEIR first (I remember looking down at running water with a wooden dam pooling the water behind it, in Ireland, and thinking, "hey, a weir!"), a word I really love, and then ENEMIES and ERS. With the end W at 1A, I kept wanting winnoW for a 1A grain misdirection (even though winnoWing has nothing to do with harvesting the grain, duh) and wasted a lot of time trying to make that work. I finally left the NW like a BILGE RAT on a sinking ship and found my lifeboat in the NE, with similar experience as Rex, CELERY crossing TCM being gimmes.

Twice in this solve, I had the thought, "I'll just need a couple of crosses and I'm sure the answer will come to me." This proved true at ZENER, but not at REDBONE. I can hear the song blaring out of my transistor radio, but the band name, all I can think of is Leon Redbone (who was not in the band).

I'm glad I became politically aware in the 90's because that meant DANA Perino was known to me, though more for her stint as GW Bush's press secretary than for her political commentary. That opened up the SE and ended my search for the right word at STI______. Having never worn STILETTOS ever in my life, but having walked with STILts, I was going in the wrong direction. STILtters? STILtsmen? And I agree on the SNO vs SNOW. I tried hard to interpret 45A as a plural but DOT COM sunk that, just like they've sunk so many brick-and-mortar businesses.

Ryan, as usual you've served up a delightful Saturday challenge, with an impressively low word count. Thanks!

Richardf8 10:19 AM  

So a Marvel reference and a DC reference in one corner.

Larry 10:27 AM  

Perhaps I should buy a lottery ticket today. I was stuck in the NW corner because of 1D (and I'm in the over-50 crowd). I remember the song, but couldn't come up with the artist name. I was listening to a certain satellite radio service while solving, and while I was pondering 1D, guess what song popped up? Song artists, especially of the one-hit wonder variety, are not my strong suit.

I got the three long down answers (14, 17, 20) on the first pass, which gave me 19A, but the rest of the NW was a slow fill-in today, until the radio intervention.

I'm a member of the Osage tribe, but growing up we never called them Osage oranges. The trees were called bois d'arc, and the fruit was a horse or hedge apple.

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

Of course I can name a second Redbone hit: Witch Queen of New Orleans.

Trouble is, I could never name the other one. I grew up always thinking it was Strumming Guitar Love.

Hungry Mother 10:35 AM  

I almost gave up, but went out for a 10 mile run instead and came back with GOETHE. The rest was simple. I’m always happy with a W on Saturday.

Dr. Cooper 10:35 AM  

@Pat Vegas If you are the real deal, I love your music! “One More Time” is another favorite of mine. Fellow readers, Pat Vegas formed the group Redbone with his brother Lolly. I bet he didn’t have any trouble with 1-Down. Perhaps Rex hasn’t been watching all the Marvel movies in order - again. 😀

GILL I. 10:38 AM  

I had to piece so much of this - letter by letter - that I rattled my bones and kept feeling like a mortal fool. The smoke is getting to me.
So I thought everyone on "the Simpsons" wanted to kill Mr Burns. What do ants do on a log besides carry boulders to their little homes? How do you test ESP unless you can bend a spoon on your nose? I really pondered the Death Eaters in Harry Potter. EL GRECO, who happens to be Greek, does hang in the Prado, but so do the Riberas and the Madrazos and damn...Velazquez doesn't fit. My Bucktooth runneth over at RED BONE, and AIMEE kissed OTTAVA goodbye. And so it went.
So I started this late last night after drinking a Talisker with my husband. We pondered our death by fire; he went to bed and I stayed up trying to figure out a puzzle. I put it down and picked it up this morning...but first I looked outside and yep.....the sun is orange again....(sigh, and then some).
I had the same reaction as @Rex. There is some really good stuff here and my stale, happy feet, did a dance or two. I loved getting the long ones without help and I loved a lot of the devious cluing.
My favorite: SANTA HATS. My sisters and I once went caroling in South Carolina. It was hot and we were drunk. Nobody opened their doors.
@Barbie B...Thank you for asking. We're ok and we do lots of finger crossing. Choking smoke and red eyes but we have wine. If I ever meet a person who wants to throw a gender reveal party, you might be able to reach me in the pokey.

Steve M 10:41 AM  

Toughest of the year DNF

GILL I. 10:44 AM  

@Whatsername from yesterday....You are right...there is no place like home. At least we haven't had any tornados ...yet. I'm expecting the "Big" one to hit any day, though...we're not far from the San Andreas fault. :-)

Mark F 10:47 AM  

Very cool that the first comment on the first down answer Redbone, is by the band founder Pat Vegas. Very quick.

William of Ockham 10:50 AM  

SNOCONES SNOWCONES tomato toe-mah-toe? hurt me

NW>>>SE. I'm not learning Harry Potter. BILGE RATS made perfect sense. Eventually

Wavelength + Rather a flawed puzzle - today wasn't yesterday

WhoisMark 10:51 AM  

Carol Brady: "The only steps in this house are the ones leading upstairs".

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

I don't recall a puzzle with so much obscurity in it. Very disappointing.

ChuckD 11:05 AM  

@Z - nice link. I listened to Every Picture.. a few weeks ago and after all this time and so many different genres I’ve gone thru it’s still one of the great albums start to finish. I like most of that early Rod the mod stuff and the Faces etc but gave up on him later in the 70s.

ow a paper cut 11:10 AM  


jberg 11:16 AM  

Darn I had to look up REDBONE and AIMEE. If I hadn’t had Puberty for the student body activity (clever, huh?) and burnt orange I might have been able to duds it out, but no.

Tiny nits: RIPSAW is the name of the tool. To use it as directed is to “rip.” And I’ve never seen OTTAVA on a score— just a little arrow above or below the staff with an arrow pointing up or down.

Btw, I’m well over 50 but still don’t know that band.

TTrimble 11:17 AM  

For me, this puzzle was hard af. I believe I started off with a confident GOETHE, and a somewhat less confident ASS (doesn't that seem just a tad vulgar, NYT?), but just about nothing else was immediate. Hunkered down and solved the SE first, although I don't know Harry Potter and tried ANTONIa first, leading to a perplexing ?OMEAS for 49A (bOMEaS? wOMEaS? oh. WOMEN's). SW was the next to fall. For 38A I had TNt which later caused a lot of trouble getting SHOEHORNING. ZENER I had seen recently although I wasn't sure about the first letter. A lot of trouble getting ZAPOTECAN. For one thing, dRANK for 27D looked plausible, as in "purple drank. Then was thinking "Picassos", not EL GRECOS, and maybe "Barnie"? instead of MAGGIE. (Didn't see the episode.) "Slogs"? instead of DRAGS, etc. Eventually the NE fell.

For 14D I had SlAM ARTISTS, thinking of tennis pros delivering overhead slams, before SCAM ARTISTS. Wanted "Agent" instead of OSAGE. WEIR I had trouble coughing up. Naturally, although I'm old enough to know, REDBONE wasn't going to bubble up without a lot of help from crosses. The NW was a real slog, a better word for me than DRAG. Oh, and easy for 3/4, Rex? Easy, my ASS.

SIBILATE is sort of in my wheelhouse (sample sentence: some old men make a whistling noise when they SIBILATE; doesn't that make you GO BERSERK?), but like "sibilant", it's one of those words where I'm never sure if it's one or two L's. My speling seems to get less secure as I get older.

Yeah, I think this definitely qualifies for Saturday tough. A lot of crunch though. I like it!

Frantic Sloth 11:19 AM  

@JD 726am "Snow Cones, Jello, and Santa Hats felt oddly out of place (don't be scared guys, just keep walking) but I cheer for their jolly bravery in showing up."

Maybe my most favoritest metaphor evah! Poor, little, simple dudes found themselves in a sketchy neighborhood of "urbane" development. 🥺
Also love "jolly bravery", well even just the word jolly.

@Z 858am My thoughts exactly about ANTONIN. Some HP haters' heads are gonna explode with that one. Don't blame them.
Also, little known fun fact: There is a cell of ZAPOTECAN-speaking ne'er-do-wells who have (naturally) settled in Rye. The marina provides maritime access for long-distance satanic criminality.

@Roo 935am "Figures it would be a Z." 🤣🤣 Like his ego needs expanding. (I kid the @Z! 😘)

Hand up for the side-eye on SNOWCONE, but that spelling apparently exists. Go know.

Okay! Okay! The Witch Queen of New Orleans Sheesh! 😉

And this has nothing to do with anything, but I keep looking at GOBERSERK and thinking GOBsmERK. Or, I guess the expression one makes when one is GOBsmacked.
I know, but if I didn't put it out there it would be rattling around inside my head for the rest of today. You're welcome.

Xword west 11:32 AM  

Unpleasant, with a ‘neener neener’ vibe. Voluntary dnf because it just wasn’t worth the time.

Masked and Anonymous 11:32 AM  

First entry in was at MEH, so it gets the staff weeject pick, for helpin old M&A out.
Kinda knew REDBONE, due to the "Guardians of the Galaxy" connection. Ironically, another of their singles was called MAGGIE (see 18-A).

Tough, as expected, SatPuz solvequest. NW corner didn't exactly give me fits, tho. And not quite seein how three lanes into that corner constitutes it bein "cut-off". Beautimous Jaws of Themeless foursome, in the puzgrid design, btw.

Didn't know OTTAVA and ZAPOTECAN. And kinda not SIBILATE ["My bad on bein tardy, Sis"]. BILGERATS was mysterious but gettable. faves: SANTAHATS. GOBERSERK.

Thanx, Mr. McCarty.

Masked & Anonymo1U

15x15 desperation incarnate:

Hack mechanic 11:33 AM  

Had "hitmen" off the M, took forever to straighten out that corner

Crimson Devil 11:33 AM  

Z did me in.
CELERY, not so much: huh?

MLC 11:43 AM  

Could someone explain CELERY for ants on a log? Apparently a gimme for many but I totally don’t get it.

Stix 11:48 AM  

I had the same experience as ofl. Nw was brutal. Only knew Redbone. Great song and an awesome drumbeat btw.

Z 11:51 AM  

@Frantic - I was very pleased that @Roo remembered that Z is the future. I’ve also been pondering that the HPHA* should be glad that SIBILATE didn’t get potterized.

@jberg - “puberty” is a much better answer. 👍🏽👍🏽

@Chuck D - That song has a Harold and Maude vibe. Agree that he seemed to lose artistic edge when he got huge.

REDBONE, the definitive version.

*Harry Potter Haters Association

Z 11:54 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Z 11:57 AM  

@MLC - CELERY with peanut butter and raisins is known as “Ants in a Log.”

The Mighty Masked One with the deep cut REDBONE knowledge.

Newboy 12:05 PM  

Delightful day of obscurity clues crossing marginally meaningful trivia. Ye Gads it was a sweaty morning in Crossworld! Thanks Ryan for a grid worthy of its Saturday placement. I hope you have more in Will’s in basket. STILETTO & THEMOB both deserved their ? and their respective guffaws when the penny finally slotted. Tough, but fun I’ll settle for every time.

Ethan Taliesin 12:26 PM  

That NW section was beyond my abilities but the rest was doable. I wish i had been able to solve the whole thing without cheating for the NW in the end.

Other than REDBONE, I there were things I didn't know (BILGE RATS, OTTAVA, FOUL TIP) but I just put in whatever letter I thought looked the best and was rewarded with a little computer ditty in the end.

SIBILATE is a great word.

old timer 12:38 PM  

So difficult I had to look up the song that made REDBONE famous. My last entry was the Z in ZENER, which confirmed ZAPOTEC, a group which is better known to me than REDBONE. (Well, I would have remembered Leon R, but I knew that was not one of his songs.

I may be to old to remember REDBONE the band, but I am definitely old enough to remember SNOW CONES. They existed before SnoCones. One summer I went to a day camp that featured an overnight trip from L.A. to Yosemite, when they still had the fire fall every night. All the way up Highway 99, we clamored for SNOW CONES -- I think we got them twice before reaching Fresno, and once on the way home.

jae 12:39 PM  

Yep, mostly easy-medium except for the NW which took three times as long as the rest of the puzzle. agent>navel>OSAGE finally broke it open for me.

Add me to those who knew the song but not the group.

Pretty much what @Rex said, liked it.

Anonymous 12:39 PM  

30D SIBILATE. Beautiful word, little used. Like its precise Latin counterpart, sibilare, just pronouncing the word creates a hissing sound. Made me recall the passage from Euripides' Medea, where Medea upbraids Jason, and her fury causes sibilants to come one after another, and she is really hissing at him like snake: "Esosa s', hos isasin Hellenon hosoi" etc.

Now mad at myself for not using the lockdown to work on my Greek, which really stinks. Of course I could start today but probably won't.

Anon. i.e. Poggius

bocamp 12:45 PM  

@ Ryan – Thank you for a very pleasant solving experience! 😊 @ Rex – As always, an informative and interesting review; thank you! 🤓

Below ave. times yesterday and today; always pleasantly surprised when that happens back-to-back on Fridays and Saturdays. 🧚‍♀️

Immediately dropped "ripsaw", "weir", "ers" and "-----rats" in, but came to a standstill in the NW. Wanted "the enemy"; just couldn't see "enemies". Finished up in the NW, with the exception of 26A/D.

Definitely older than "50" but never heard of "Redbone" other than "Leon" .

I could see 26A/D being a potential Natick, and was the final cell to fall. I'd seen both answers (numerous times over the years, I'm sure), but needed to think a bit on this one. Didn't take but a few seconds before the "z" came to mind, and I was 99% sure it was correct. 👍

Off to grab a bite to eat. More later.

Peace 🕊

Frantic Sloth 12:46 PM  

@GILL I 1038am Glad to see your pluck hasn't suffered during this living nightmare you're enduring. And I would def be your cellmate...or at least blockmate.

@TTrimble 1117am Yep - I immediately filled in "agent" orange, while simultaneously thinking "Really. What are the odds?" Second-guessing (and third and fourth) was about the only thing I did right today!

@Z 1151am A Harry Potter SIBILATE reference might actually have been easier than that ANTONIN business! At least for me, which as we know, is all that really matters.

Thought I remembered "ants on a log" as some form of dessert with raisins. When CELERY appeared, I thought "Oh, right - CELERY and cream cheese with some kind of (black?) seeds." Turns out I was only half (or less) right on both counts which equals squadoosh.
Yep. It was peanut butter killed the beast.

Unknown 12:46 PM  

Thanks for calling out snocone

Z 12:57 PM  

@Frantic Sloth - You were righter than you thought. My new personal favorite? So glad you asked: Hippopotamopodes on Thomases.

Whatsername 1:17 PM  

This was one tough puzzle. I nearly always get schooled on Saturdays, and today I felt like the worst student in class. I will say it was a beautifully designed grid and very satisfying to solve.

Seemed heavy on the Propers, and I really struggled with most of them. I thought “pile of laundry” was a clever way to clue WHITES which could have been tricky given the current social climate. Speaking of which, some days I long for the boring innocence of the Mike and Carol Brady Bunch. They all got along. Why can’t we?

Not too sure I’d get along with someone who tried to serve me celery stuffed with peanut butter and raisins though. Sounds totally gross and calling it ants on a log isn’t gonna make it any less so. I’ve been battling ants in my kitchen all summer and there are days I swear I’ll go berserk and start smacking them with a sledgehammer. If they don’t go away soon I guess I’ll have to order some teeny tiny little SANTA HATS for them to wear. If you can’t beat ‘em, kill ‘em with kindness. Or a STILETTO.

chance2travel 1:40 PM  

That NW corner. This will be the puzzle that cements WEIR in my vocab. At 28 min I was seriously considering going to the googles for small dams and Bender novelists. With only 3 of the acrosses and 1 of the downs I started trying high-frequency letter combinations until my brain grokked "the" Flash setting.

Earlier, when I had -APOTECAN and somehow recalled it was a Z, I knew it would be the pain point. But funny enough I ended on 1A/D -IPSAW and -EDBONE and had more hesitation there. 😝

It was tough, it had that 26A/D trap, but none of the fill was yuckier than TCM and TNN.

Positives - I'll finally remember WEIR, my name was in a clue (42D) and I'm juveniley titillated anytime I see ASS in the NYT.

Lastly - the Redbone reference and OFL's link to the Childish Gambino version led me to Youtube's video of the original, where the comments are 90% people searching Guardians of the Galaxy and 10% searching F is for Family. Which then led to the scene from Avengers End Game "so he's an idiot"

Frantic Sloth 2:02 PM  

@Z 1257pm Hippopotamopodes is my new favorite word to say. Hippo-pod-ə- MOP-ə-deez!

@Whatsername 117pm 😂 Recommendation: First, SANTAHATS, then STILETTOS.

Ernonymous 2:04 PM  

I had RASTAHATS. Don't carolers wear Rasta Hats?

William Guerin 2:17 PM  

Am I the only person on the planet dumb enough to put BADMINTISTS for Racquet pros?

bocamp 2:26 PM  

My first thought was "sno-cone".

Possibly, my "sno" preference results from other "sno" related products one sees, e.g., "Sno-Cat" , "sno-balls" , snomobile , etc.

I searched Google for "snow cone", "snow-cone", "snowcone", "sno cone", "sno-cone", "snocone, "carnival sno cone", "sno cone carnival, "carnival snow cone", and "snow cone carnival".

In every case, the vast majority of hits were in favor of "snow cone", whether one word, two words, or hyphenated. As always with search engines, "your mileage will vary."

Here are just two of the results:

"snow cone" (99,100,000) "snow cone" and "sno cone" (11,100,000) "sno cone" .

Peace 🕊

bertoray 2:42 PM  

Booger of a clue for NOSY.

JD 2:46 PM  

@Frantic, I would add, except for watermelon Jolly Ranchers, but I just checked online and found this, "No Halloween is complete without the fun-filled hijinx of the fruit gang. Get in the Halloween spirit with JOLLY RANCHER Hard Candy."

That's pretty damn jolly.

David from CA 3:02 PM  

I think 1 across is one of those very rare actual errors that slipped by Will. A correct answer would be RIPPED, since "rip" is the verb. Checked 2 OL dictionary and neither one gave anything but the noun definition for "ripsaw".

I _am_ a HP fan, but could never have come up with ANTONIN without all the crosses, having to make rasonable guesses for FAB and DANA. Never a fun experience.

Mark 3:29 PM  

One of those puzzles I'm glad to have realized early on that I shouldn't bother with.

mmorgan 3:43 PM  

DNF — I knew absolutely nothing in the NW. Liked the rest!

bocamp 4:03 PM  

Re: 1A verb usage wrt "ripsaw/rip saw"

Webster online doesn't seem to think "ripsaw" is a verb. Most others do: ; Wiktionary ; Collins Wordnik ; Your Dictionary ; The Free Dictionary

Anagrammer defines it as both noun and verb for a "Scrabble word"

Google returns:

"rip saw" (1,470,000 hits); "ripsaw" (1,050,000 hits)

"Ripsawing" video: "Ripsawing with a Hand Saw" by Woodworking Masterclass.

Peace 🕊

oisk17 4:05 PM  

Ugh. Never heard of REdbone (except for Leon Redbone), nor ants on a log (???), Zapotican, Trank, another Harry Potter clue, - is "Dvorak" for "Antonin" too easy? How about "He did orchestrations for Johannes"? But for all the annoying cluing, I got it down to two blank spaces. _apo_ecan. No idea. But there is often info. lurking in our minds that we didn't know we had. "Zener cards" just seemed right. Zapo_ecans. Had to be a letter that can go before _ranks. Went through the alphabet, and "t" looked best. Bully for me!

But much of this was ultra-clever, like "collection of offers" - the mob... and "sharp increases in height" for stilettos...

MarthaCatherine 4:09 PM  

Count me among those who dislike Harry Potter and comic book clues. My daughter in law is the all-time Harry Potter QUEEN! and even she didn't know ANTONIN.

So I googled.

I had the P and the C of 26A so I wikipeida'd Mesoamerican languages. Did you know there are about 90 of them? and the one with the P and the C in the right places is the second to last one?

I'm not proud. But I now can remember the names of about 20 precolumbian languages. I'm ready for the next meso clue.

Hand up for wondering about the errant W in the carnival treat.

Anonymous 4:19 PM  


emily 5:06 PM  

Class of ‘71 here! This was hard for me, but Saturday’s are that way. Even the things I thought I could answer were wrong; raisin/ celery, online/dot com and HEWTO???

emily 5:08 PM  


emily 5:14 PM  

That’s how I remember them, hedge apples. The WPA or CCC planted them in Kansas between fields to try to stop some of the soil erosion done by wind. Little did they know that the cattle would eat the apples and the hedges would start growing in the middle of the field.

Krytykal 5:23 PM  

Often critical of Rex but today's write-up made me laugh. Well done, sir.

bocamp 5:26 PM  

Odds 'n ends:

Had a neighbor, name of "Weir"; was told it meant, "small or low dam"; always remembered that one.

"Five iron" evoked fond memories of golfing w/ Dad. He started me at a fairly young age at Glendoveer in Portland (in the '50s it offered two 18 holes courses). The "five iron" was my go-to club, both for mid-range fairway shots, and short chips from the apron.

As for the mob, I'm ashamed to admit that "The Sopranos" was one of my favorite series.

Wanted "river rats" before "bilge rats" LOL

"Santa hats" are a thing at our Christmas gift exchange. I keep my Xmas things up all year, so I'm surrounded them (all shapes and sizes). Ho HO HO 🎄

Yay "women!" "2017 Women's March" . My son and I would participate in what we then ('80s) called The Mother's March of Dimes .

"PE class", lunch and choir were my favorite classes (not necessarily in that order) LOL

Peace 🕊

willzimjohn 6:37 PM  

My first time commenting here,though not a newcomer to crosswords. I "did the math " early on and realized I was never going to finish this one. I needed Google to get a foothold in a couple of quadrants and to confirm a few guesses so as not to chase the proverbial wild goose. You can't win 'em all and I at least got a partial solving experience.

Anonymous 6:46 PM  

Get Ottava here with this clunker.

RPCV Cameroon 8:31 PM  

When I was in the Peace Corps in Cameroon I saw people with leprosy. And have visited Kalaupapa National Historic Park where people with the disease were exiled. But the term leper is one with heavy baggage and people with Hansen’s disease (the accepted medical term ) would really prefer that “leper” be relegated to the trash heap of history

bocamp 10:17 PM  

@ willzimjohn 6:37 PM – Welcome from another newcomer. 😊 I've followed the blog from way back and have left occasional comments, but now I've got the time and energy to be more of a contributor. This was a very difficult puzzle for many, as can be seen from the comments. Keep the faith! 👍

Peace 🕊

floatingboy 10:26 PM  

Half hour on the NW. That's some grade A horse puckey. Even when I'd have an "AHA!" and get a word, it did nothing to help me. OSAGE orange?! INCISOR (as clued)?! REDBONE?! Give me a break. I must've filled in and erased PECLASS a dozen times. SMOGGY too.

The rest was pretty easy.

bocamp 10:28 PM  

@ RPCV Cameroon 8:31 PM - Bless you for your service in the Peace Corps. I admire you and all who care for those most in need, at home and abroad. And, your thoughtful reminder about Hansen's disease and hurtful labelling will not go unnoticed. 🙏

Peace 🕊

Nancy from Chicago 12:38 AM  

Was it just me or was the NW corner impossible? I have never heard of Redbone and the crosses were impossible too, for me. "Nosy" is "really digging"? OK, but I am used to "digging" meaning liking so I was stuck on "into." "Osage" for "___ Orange"? I went back and forth between navel and agent, osage never even entered my mind. I have never read a comic book in my life so I did not get the "flash" reference; that's my bad. And I knew it had to be something "rats" but since I had literally no crosses, I couldn't figure it out. The rest of the puzzle was done in 5 minutes, but that corner was impossible for me.

97-day streak down the drain. Oh well, tomorrow is another day.

bocamp 8:08 AM  

Really interesting article re: the edibility of "osage" orange seeds. The article (along with reader comments) also attest to the utility of the "osage orange tree" itself, including the robustness of its wood.

Three paragraphs (see below) from the article are salient, especially as relating to the "sometimes-wrongness" of "everybody" including Wikipedia. NOTE: in fairness to Wikipedia and other media, it looks like this article was written in 2009, so there is likely better information on the subject in 2020.

For example, here is a great YouTube video on the subject (from 2015). How to eat an Osage Orange - Weird Fruit Explorer Ep. 119 .


"Sometimes everybody is almost wrong."

"If you Google “Osage Orange” or “Maclura pomifera” (mak-LOOR-uh pom-EE-fer-uh) (in 2009) you’ll get some 50,000 hits.* Approximately 49,997 of those sites will tell you the Osage Orange is not edible. Two of three remaining sites, here and the one below, will say it is edible. The third one reports we say it is edible but we must be wrong."

"In all fairness, not all of the fruit is edible. Only the seeds are. In fact, the Osage Orange is closely related to the Mulberries, which we do eat, and the Paper Mulberry which also has an edible fruit. But, 99.999999% of the Internet sites say it is not edible. Why? Two reasons. Somebody a long time ago said the fruit was not edible, and the Internet is mostly cut and paste wrong. I have truly become disgusted with sites like Wikipedia regarding the inaccurate information about plant edibility."


NOTE: The reader's comment section following this article is absolutely skookum. So much good info on the osage orange tree itself, as well as its fruit. The author has also attached an addendum, updating the original 2009 article, stating the number of search hits increased from 50,000 in 2009 to 1.5 million in Sept. of 2014.


Going to finish watching the above mentioned video now

Cheers from smoky Vancouver (from the forest fires in Washington state); prayers going out to all those on the west coast who are affected. God Bless! 🙏

Peace 🕊

RPCV Cameroon 9:43 AM  

@bocamp. Thank you -that means a lot to me on both counts.

Anonymous 12:05 PM  

In perhaps the nerdiest backstory ever, I got WEIR because the starter town of Threshold from the D&D basic set has one on its lake and I must have re-read that manual over and over again a hundred times when I was a kid, absorbing all of the maps and other pieces.

This was a tough one, but nothing new to the conversation, NW was probably half the time on the grid.

BFG 2:59 PM  

Surprised no one else had an issue with 27D, TRANK.

Because of the epic Natick situation happening with both 26A+D, I had _RANK and thought, ‘Duh, DRANK!’ which makes sense if you’ve listened to Hip-Hop in the last 15 years. Unlike TRANK, that’s actually commonly used slang. Have never, ever heard anyone say TRANK.

LenFuego 3:38 PM  

Yeah, that NW corner is maybe the most difficult corner I have ever seen in my decades of NY Times puzzles. I cheat by looking things up about 5 times a year - I cheated twice in that corner and still almost could not solve it. (I really wanted SCALAWAGS for the pirate lowly sorts, but that was not the hang-up in that corner, as STEPPARENTS set me right on that rather quickly.)

Not having a '?' on the clue for "Flash setting" is not only wrong, it was just needlessly cruel.

sdcheezhd 2:59 AM  

The NW was definitely the hardest but 1974 was my peak year for listening to Top 40 so that helped. I thought I'd get a DNF for the Z on ZENER/ZAPOCECAN but guessed right. Go Bananas first was the only wrong guess and yeah it's Snocones which fit but it didn't ask for a plural.

sdcheezhd 3:01 AM  

Haha it was a DNF, I had CRANK.

thefogman 11:13 AM  

DNF. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. NW corner was my downfall. Clue for 7A was a bit too clever. Just mean. Designed to defeat, not delight solvers. Tough is fine but it’s got to be fair too. This was just cruel.

Burma Shave 1:25 PM  


those FAB FIVE HOSTS rely,
to GET IT ON like WHITE lab RATS;
IT's FAST how time 'DRAGS' BYE.


rondo 3:52 PM  

Took about a half hour to finish correctly due to at first having OcTAVA (who the heck was GOEcHE, duh), GETatIT, and 'into' where NOSY was really digging.Didn't even hesitate with the 26 square Z. Not one comment about the word FIVE appearing in a clue and answer ON THE SAME LINE!?!?! Thought that was a nono. Be careful these days cluing WHITES.
DANA Perino garners a yeah baby in my book.
Tough but fair Sat-puz even if not a FASTONE.

leftcoaster 3:59 PM  

It just won’t do to say, “it’s a Saturday puzzle, it’s supposed to be tough”. I think Mr. McCarty, Shortz and associates, have pulled a FAST ONE.

After a filling in the SE corner with little trouble, ran into patches of vagueness and obscurity, particularly in the NW, but not only there.

At least one clue/entry with up-front, down-home clarity: ASS clued by “rear”.

Tsk-tsk, NYT.

Diana, LIW 6:22 PM  

Lots and lots of this puzzle was a (32 Down) UNFAIR TRICK for me. Guess I lost track of my (26 D) ZENER cards.

Some easy, and some I just didn't know - made it not fun.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for CROSSWORDS, CROSSWORDS folks, not trivia contests

Dave A 8:21 PM  

ZENER crossing ZAPOTECAN is a Natick moment if there ever was one...and my SNOCONES also are W-less...

Also anybody think that "ASS" for behind and "TRANK" are a little edgy for the NYT? I do...but alas I am old, so...

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