Amphibian that Ogden Nash once rhymed with bottle / SAT 1-30-21 / Singing style with African-American roots / Longtime Sacha Baron Cohen persona

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Constructor: Nam Jin Yoon

Relative difficulty: Easy (more Friday than Saturday)

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Milan KUNDERA (34D: Milan ___, author of 1984's "The Unbearable Lightness of Being") —

Milan Kundera (UK/ˈkʊndərə, ˈkʌn-/Czech: [ˈmɪlan ˈkundɛra] (About this soundlisten); born 1 April 1929) is a Czech writer who went into exile in France in 1975, becoming a naturalised French citizen in 1981. Kundera's Czechoslovak citizenship was revoked in 1979. He received Czech citizenship in 2019. He "sees himself as a French writer and insists his work should be studied as French literature and classified as such in book stores".

Kundera's best-known work is The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Prior to the Velvet Revolution of 1989, the communist régime in Czechoslovakia banned his books. He leads a low-profile life and rarely speaks to the media. He was thought to be a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and was also a nominee for other awards. (wikipedia)

• • •

A smashing success. And I smashed it. As with yesterday, this felt very very easy for a NYTXW themeless. I have not been timing myself regularly these days, but it genuinely feels like the NYTXW is deliberately making its F and Sat puzzles more accessible (i.e. easier), bringing them (in that respect) more into line with the New Yorker themelesses (which come out M, W, F and get progressively *easier* as the week goes on, but which are never harder than an NYT Friday). There's something to be said for easier themelesses. They're great fun, and there's no reason only the most experienced solvers should be able to enjoy them fully. Still, if you solve a lot, it's nice to encounter puzzles with real bite once a week or so. The Saturday Newsday crossword (formerly the "Saturday Stumper") recently changed its name to the "Saturday Themeless" (worst name change ever) and is being made somewhat easier now (though I'm happy to report it's still pretty ****ing hard). The upshot here is that I have adored the last two NYTXW puzzles (today, Friday), but didn't get to spend enough time with them because they were clued so easily. I am not asking for torture. Just a little fight. But on to the puzzle...

This one started with a gimme at 1A: Hero of Philadelphia (HOAGIE). If you've done enough puzzles, the word "Hero" (esp. on a Saturday) is gonna shout "sandwich" at you, the way any number of clue words (on a Saturday) radiate with potential doubleness of meaning (or tripleness, or quad- etc.). "They mean the sandwich," dropped in HOAGIE, immediately checked the crosses, and got enough of them to confirm HOAGIE's correctness. Fast start in the NW (where the front ends of the long answers are) heralds speed, and sure enough, immediately after HOAGIE confirmation, this happened:

Counterpoint: I do not hate to see it. I love this answer. Such a great way to have the puzzle blow open. Very current and colloquial and just mwah. I feel like this is more a social media phrase than an irl (in real life) phrase, but then most of my human interaction these days is online so separating online from irl languages is getting increasingly difficult. Anyway, YOU HATE TO SEE IT brought me joy. It's not ROCKET SCIENCE! Give me pizzazz in the long answers on a Fri/Sat and just don't botch the short fill and tighten up your cluing and boom I am Happy! Seemed like almost no time until I was already at the halfway point. Here:

From here I dipped into the SW corner, where I am happy to report, that yes, I knew *and* misspelled both AXOLOTL (AXOLATL) and SAOIRSE (SAORSIE): quite a pair, those two. Luckily, the crosses for those were fairly transparent, so I didn't wallow in my misspellings too long, and then, just as easily as I threw the long answers across the top, I repeated the feat down below:

This is the only point at which I ran into a little resistance, as I couldn't see CROW or DOO-WOP there in the crosses. I *should* have just looked at the Down clue over, because KUNDERA would've been a gimme, but instead I jumped over the the SE corner and hammered at the short stuff, swung up into the middle via KITTY CAT (keety!!), and down around and done, finally, at RODE (47A: Was on). The answers that were hardest for me in this puzzle were all short. SCAB clue didn't mean anything to me (15D: Natural cover), even with SC- and then SCA- in place. Even then, I guessed SCAR. And then CROW, even with -OW in place, couldn't see how you get from the end of a magic trick ("ta-da!") to CROW. I guess you are boasting about your accomplishment. OK.

PASTED was also hard, as there are soooo many words for defeating someone soundly (54A: Absolutely trounced). Clues on TET (51D: Banh ___ (sticky rice cake)) and AKA (3D: America's first historically black sorority, in brief) were also new to me (nice new clues on overfamiliar stuff), so there was hesitation there. But mostly there was just speed. And delight. This is really good. I haven't yet seen a ton of puzzles from this constructor, but I must've seen a few because my reaction on seeing the byline was "oh ... this is a good sign, I think." And I was right. Was worried it was going to get over-tech-y on me there early on (ITERATE, CODE), but no, it was nicely restrained. And then it gave me a KITTY CAT, COATES, CRUST (my favorite part of the pie!) and KUNDERA—all things I enjoy. Really lively, really wide-ranging fill. Hurray. Until tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. just realized that it's possible one might not know either ALI G or GENA Rowlands, in which case that cross would be a harrowing guess. If this was you, my sympathies. Proper nouns, man ...

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Lewis 6:42 AM  

Oh man, look at the lack of junky answers here, and the surfeit of gorgeous ones: ROCKET SCIENCE, PANG, KITTYCAT, SCONCE, MORE POWER TO YOU, ITS NOW OR NEVER, DOOWOP, CANDOR, ONE OF US. Plus, the fact that every person in the grid is intriguing – Ta-Nehisi Coates, Saiorse Ronan, Gena Rowlands, and Milan Kundera. And AXOLOTL, God bless AXOLOTL, which I’ve never heard of and which looks like it randomly fell out of the ether into this grid. It is so silly; yet, it’s the word that will be echoing through my head all day.

Add oblique and vague cluing, particularly on the across answers, to delay satisfaction, but, when it comes, make that satisfaction all the more sweet. On the other hand, there are enough openings and footholds so that you’re not feeling like you’re banging your head against a wall, or running out of the house screaming.

A beautiful balance of lovely elements to make for a most enriching experience. Much gratitude for this, Nam Jin Yoon!

Anonymous 6:57 AM  

This was all over the place and I couldn't connect. There was Monday stuff, wonky stuff, really obscure PPP, a few clever clues, but too many that were disingenuously a bit off the mark.

Z 7:00 AM  

Proper nouns man. It is a little unfortunate that such a clean puzzle has that potential natick. My issue with GENA Rowland’s is that first vowel, though, so I just threw in G-NA and waited on the cross. That this was automatic probably means I’ve made the GiNA mistake multiple times before.

Felt medium here. I didn’t remember the Philadelphia term for a submarine sandwich, so didn’t get off to the flying start Rex did. My real start came at ADO/TOTS/ADIEU (cute crossing homonyms) and I built out the south from the SE corner. From that start I made steady progress clockwise through the south into the west and northwest. Finished in the NE where MOUSSE took a long time to appear. MOUSSE is firmly filed in the big hair 1980’s. I’m sure it is still a common hair care product, just not in my world. And CRUST? While a poor CRUST might ruin a pie its sole purpose is as a delivery device for the good stuff. When it finally dawned on me it wasn’t so much an “aha moment” as a “yeah, I guess” moment. Still, this was another clean and fun solve with lots of good stuff. Nothing CRUSTy about it.

DISC ERNS - I assume that’s a Beach Ultimate team.

Anyone else surprised that KITTYCAT didn’t result in cat pics? Instead we get Elvis and Mystery Science Theater? Alrighty, then.

TFW Rex misspells SAOIRSE exactly the same way I did. At least we got COATES and not Ta-Nehisi. KUNDERA was the only WOE for me, but the randomness of proper name spellings is on full display with today’s PPP. Nothing too challenging for me, but SMH, proper names man.

Z 7:10 AM  

Oh - because he’s posting the KITTYCAT pics on Twitter.

Anonymous 7:14 AM  

AXOLOTL ... R.I.P. Mad Magazine!

Z 7:28 AM  

BTW - I should add that, despite the way they are spelt and the ALI G/GENA crossing, this is unusually low in PPP (Proper Names, Product Names, and other Proper Nouns), just 10 of 68 for 15%. How unusually low? My handy spreadsheet that I use so that I don’t have to calculate the percentage every time starts at 15. There’s never been a puzzle with just 10 PPP answers as long as I’ve been checking. The ten include DROID (Star Wars clue) and AXOLOTL (Ogden Nash clue).

Trockmn 7:28 AM  

DNF - EnACT crossing AnOLOTL.

Anonymous 7:34 AM  

Mad Magazine - yes!

Also liked the cross of Ado and Adieu.

pabloinnh 7:37 AM  

This was mostly wheelhouse stuff for me, although I wanted ROCKY for 1A, but he didn't fit, of course. ROCKETSCIENCE went in off the C of OCHO. (Favorite variation--It's not rocket surgery, you know), I've been waiting for AXOLOTL for a long time, has to be a Nahuatl word, and it's easy to see why.

The most fun was down south, where DOOWOP crossed ITSNOWORNEVER. I've sung in a doo wop group for almost thirty years, and right now I'm co-teaching an Elvis class on Zoom. The last thirty minutes of every session features a live performer, and I'm up next. One thing I'm doing is "It's Now or Never" with a segue into "O Sole Mio", just to show its origin. So a timely and fun moment for me there.

So many thanks for a sparkly Saturday NJY. Edging dangerously close to too much fun.

Barney 7:40 AM  

One of the best puzzles in quite some time. So thoroughly enjoyable with a combination of fresh fill and clues. Loved it.

puzzlehoarder 7:59 AM  

I can see where this could be an easy puzzle for some especially after I'd finished and looked back over all the entries that kept the solve moving.However I started slow thinking to the 1A clue was a movie reference. HOUND and OCHO straightened that out but then I had a SKIN/SCAB write over to fix.

The SW corner was my favorite part of the puzzle. AXOLOTL next to SAOIRSE was classic late week material. If I've see the former I've completely forgotten it and the latter I can't remember past the SA. Luckily I've learned ALIG from previous puzzles and GENA I just knew.

All in all a very doable puzzle but with just enough unknowns to put it in solid Saturday territory.

Frantic Sloth 8:01 AM  

The byline gave me pause because I remembered a puzzle by Nam Jin Yoon from one of the Zoom crossword tourneys in 2020 - and it gave me fits.

This one was much easier and still put up quite a fight. What fun!

Besides, how can you not love a KITTYCAT in the grid? I only hope this provides an excuse for Rex to post some Alfie & Olive pics. Toe's a-tapping...

The wordplay here wasn't exactly diabolical, but no cakewalk either. The longs weren't especially exciting, but they were a notch above average. It was a decent challenge, but not ROCKETSCIENCE by a long (space) shot.

What we have here is your basic "Yes, but" puzzle. Not a lot of nits, not a lot of thrills.

I wonder if anyone else thought MOREPOWERTOYOU was more of a sarcastic comment than a form of encouragement. I've never heard anyone say it with sincerity, but then I run with the snark circles.

It made me think and kept me off the streets, so it did its Saturdee crossword job.


Hungry Mother 8:06 AM  

Miserable plethora of names today. Nauseating that constructors are so lazy.

Anonymous 8:11 AM  

AXOLOTL is not capitalized in normal usage and Ogden Nash is irrelevant so a case could be made for only 9.

TTrimble 8:11 AM  

Yes, I agree this played easy -- for a Saturday. A solve time significantly less than my usual. Could Rex be right, that a new trend is being set to make the end-of-week puzzles accessible to more people? I don't know how I feel about that. I'm generally all for inclusivity, but on the other hand I kind of like having my mettle tested.

Yes, the lovely SAOIRSE Ronan has a hard-to-spell name. I'm a good speller, but I got this wrong at first. Irish. I'd almost bet there are speakers who will go on and on that phonetically it's very regular, but I think I'd need to take a course before I could correctly match spellings to sounds. Like anglicized Tibetan, if you've ever seen that. Sample (IIRC): 'Naomh' is an Irish female name, and it's pronounced "Neeve". Ms. Ronan's name is pronounced something like 'Sursha', I believe.

Nice words, though! AXOLOTL, SCONCE, DOOWOP, KUNDERA, YALTA, DETENTE, TET. And the fill looks squeaky clean: very few abbreviations, just ATL and AKA I believe, both completely acceptable. I recall the constructor's name from before and I think this is an excellent effort.

Will we rehash the great ITERATE debate today? Time will tell.

TTrimble 8:17 AM  

Oh, and I meant to add, perhaps mainly to @bocamp since he's one of the few who registers these things any more: yd 0. First time in a while.

Elle54 8:17 AM  

Rex has been hacked by someone who loved a puzzle! Haha!

Sally slap tear 8:32 AM  

How is lock mousse at 28A

Anonymous 8:34 AM  

There may have been fewer proper nouns, but I didn't know ANY of them. That's usually a rarity for me, so color me surprised. The rest of the fill was right up my alley, except for CUING(???) and ROO. I'm just not up to speed on my Australian slang, I guess?

A quick google on CUING says it's a common misspelling of CUEING, which I would have been able to suss out much more quickly. Left a really bad taste in my mouth

ChuckD 8:35 AM  

I kind of liked this better than yesterday - it did feel more like a Friday. The grid work here is top notch - almost no short gluey stuff. The ITS NOW OR NEVER x DOO WOP cross really popped for me. Backed into KUNDERA and had to finagle SAOIRSE in there - I knew her from Brooklyn but the spelling escaped me.

Nice misdirects on the cluing without being smarmy - ICINESS, SCONCE and CLEAT and agree with @Z on the wonderful lack of names here. The Saturday Stumper is still the most difficult puzzle of my week - especially when Stan actually constructs. Rex is correct though - they have dummied it down recently - I guess to stay in line with the path of the general public.

Really nice puzzle for a bitter cold morning.

Richard 8:39 AM  

My only beef was a sconce really just ‘holds’ a torch, it doesn’t CARRY it.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 8:42 AM  

As the resident from Fall River I guess I have to give you the Ogden Nash Poem, which is renowned for more than its nearly-extinct amphibian:

I never saw an axolotl

But Harvard has one in a bottle

Perhaps,- and at the thought I shiver,

​The very villain from Fall River

Where Lizzie Borden took an axolotl

And gave her mother forty waxolotl.​

The axolotl, by the way, is also known as the Mexican walking fish; it was a staple of the Aztec diet, but throve then. It's the modern world that is doing it in.

Meredith 8:53 AM  

Same issue!

amyyanni 8:56 AM  

Very smooth, which is a compliment, except when applied to jazz. Stellar start to Saturday.

Z 8:59 AM  

@Anon8:11 - A perfectly reasonable position. I even tend to think this is the rare case where adding Ogden Nash to the clue actually makes the answer accessible to more people because if one is not a marine biologist one probably only runs into AXOLTOL at all via Nash. Still, if a non-PPP answer is clued via Pop Culture I include it in my count.
(Also - for those I confused earlier, Pop Culture, Product Names, and other Proper Nouns - The Proper Nouns duplication was an early morning brain fart)

@Sally slap tear - the lock is a lock of hair and MOUSSE is that hair product that stiffens hair so it holds in place, so a “lock holder.”

@Frantic Sloth - In a small piece of irony given the logo, Rex has joined the legion of people who share an excessive number of cat pics on Twitter. Besides crossword bloggers, science fiction writers, political pundits, ultimate players, reporters, scientists (no birders, though), ... really just about every type of person imaginable, share cat pics. It is close between the cat pics and the dog pics, but I imagine it is possible to have a Twitter feed that is exclusively pet pics.

Jim Lemire 9:01 AM  

I tend to think of arcane as more “mysterious” or even “mystical” and not simply “difficult to understand” I had seCrET SCIENCE for 22A at first. I didn’t really like that answer, but it sounded like something that might be a thing and it fit with enough crosses. So it stayed in long enough to make the NW irritatingly confusing. Eventually I saw HOUND and realized my mistake.

Nancy 9:01 AM  

Rex has the oddest concept of "easy". I was doing just fine until I arrived in the SW. Then, all hell broke loose. (Even though I may be one of the few people for whom GENA Rowlands was a slam-dunk. Wasn't she married to either Peter Falk or John Cassavetes?)

First of all, I didn't know the "buck, boomer, jack, flyer, or jill" answer. I had R-- and it could have been anything. It could have been RIB or ROD or RAM or RNA, for all I knew. But it got worse.

I'm a good rhymer myself and I love Ogden Nash, but what can you do if you've never heard of an AXOLOTL? And then there was A--G for the SBC persona. What, who on earth could that possibly be. Finally, I have no idea how to spell SAOIRSE. I ended up with SA--RSE and didn't even try to fill it in.

A perfectly fine puzzle until I got to the SW. I found that section risible in its Natickyness. (Which could have included GENA too if I hadn't watched so much "Columbo".)

bocamp 9:09 AM  

Thank you, @Nam, for a perfect Saturday puz. Just the right amount of resistance! :)

Slightly north of medium. Slow steady progress throughout. The NE was toughest for me.

Ta-Nehisi "Coates"; one of my favorite authors.

Here "Kitty Kitty Kitty" (Hold That Tiger) ~ Les Paul & Mary Ford

"It's Now or Never" ~ Angelina Jordan (Allsang på Grensen 2017)

yd 0

Peace Tolerance Kindness Togetherness 🕊

BarbieBarbie 9:12 AM  

@Z, seems to me it’s the density of PPP that is important. And a bunch of the 10 were together. I thought it was sloppy. The rest of the puzzle was great, esp. the crossings noted earlier. Loved the long answers.

Marion 9:13 AM  

Mousse is gel for hair (lock)

Marion 9:17 AM  

I am a Phiily girl. Hoagie was and still is a word used in real life. I had never heard the word sub before moving to New England

kitshef 9:19 AM  

ONE OF US! Gooble gobble!

Not a fan of long phrases like YOU HATE TO SEE IT in my grid, and this one is chock full of them. Also, I’ve never heard anyone say YOU HATE TO SEE IT – had YOU HATE TO … for a long time before I finally gave up on REin (before REED) and finished the phrase. Apparently, this is because I do not spend enough time on social media.

On the other hand, AXOLOTL is welcome any time.

Scotsman’s statement about his least favorite kilt: IT’S NO’ WORN EVER.

Abu Afakski 9:20 AM  

hair is locks
you put mousse on your hair

Birchbark 9:24 AM  

YOU HATE TO SEE IT: The scene is cocktails preceding a dinner party, circa 1971, the SCONCE candles friendly, warm, decorous, 'mid ambient sounds of grownups talking. I've been managing a decent seen-but-not-heard role, shepherding overcoats, etc. These are good people.

One of them is Mrs. Ryan. My toddler sister will one day be her daughter's maid of honor. Tonight, though, Mrs. Ryan's hair is on fire. She's mingled too closely to one of the SCONCE candles. And what with a head full of hairspray and all, it's not ROCKET SCIENCE.

The ambience of a emergent crisis is at cross-currents with the ordinary banter of those who haven't noticed. Someone snuffs the fire with a cloth napkin from the table setting, no injury. Soon enough, collective variations on concern, curiosity, reassurance, embarrassment, tentative humor, reality, practical things to do. The air smells of burnt hair, and I'm glad when my dad quietly asks me to open a few windows.

Which I do, something of a prodigy in the cross-ventilation technique, and the memory fades after that.

bocamp 9:27 AM  

@TTrimble 8:17 AM 👍

Peace Tolerance Kindness Togetherness 🕊

Nfld educator 9:27 AM  

Axolotl is the mascot of Trivia Mafia (based in Minneapolis), because they axolotl questions. :-)

Frantic Sloth 9:30 AM  

@Z 859am I guess I'm gonna hafta start following Rex on Twitter then. Or, you know, use Twitter. 😕

FYI of the day:
Sing a song of SAOIRSE

Teedmn 9:35 AM  

As Rex said, the "hero" in 1A screamed sandwich, but I couldn't think of a six-letter word for that kind of sandwich until I got OCHO. Then, Rex's joy was my pain - I had YOU HAvE TO SEE IT throughout my entire solve. Every once in a while, I'd look back up there to see if I had remembered a word that starts with GEv, but no, never happened. It wasn't until I had the entire grid filled in except the hole, GEv, _RA_, CO_E. Finally, Ta-Nehisi let me GET GOING!

I've read "The Unbearable Lightness of Being". Meh. I met a woman at a bar who spoke rapturously for a couple of hours about that book. Of course, I ran out the first chance I got and bought it. Anticipating a wondrous read, I was so disappointed, I don't remember if I finished it. :-( "Unbearable" is right.

I ran the alphabet for 15D's natural cover, SCA_. SCAn, SCAd, SCAm, SCAt, SCAr, SCAB. I got BASELINE eventually to point out the correct one (though obviously, only SCAR and SCAB really worked.)

Nam Jin Yoon, thanks so much for the fine Saturday struggle.

Vicki and Neil 9:35 AM  

Does crediting the editor get equal time with bashing the edi5or?

lukiegrifpa 9:41 AM  

Mousse like for holding a lock of hair in place.

burtonkd 9:46 AM  

I wouldn't say EASY, but it provided resistance for a while, then all of a sudden all the tough parts just opened up. Very satisfying puzzle.

ALI G: I flipped the O and I in SAOIRSE, so was looking at A_O_, which left A-ROD in my brain, blocking access to a character I know well. I actually feel bad for Andy Rooney text watching his head explode over ALI-G's intentionally bad grammar.

MOUSSE should be over CRUST to make a nice piece of pie. Although on second thought, the wetness of the mousse usually leads to a thick tough crust. Fork goes through mousse way too fast and gets stuck wrestling with crust, destroying integrity of said mousse.

I can't help but laugh seeing CROW. The brilliance and home-constructed nature of Mystery Science Theater make it an all time classic. Still holds up, although some references are dated. Whenever I see a D grade movie, I always expect to see the little silhouettes at the bottom of the screen.

ADO and ADIEU look alike and sound similar, but not Homophones, unless really not trying to get any of the French pronunciation. Reminds me of the grocery store near Cooperstown Hommedieu's "man, god". Local pronunciation: "Hammadooz"

AXOLOTL = "bunch of letters with an O, T and L toward the end"

AKA - "three Greek letter initials", wish I could say I knew this one.

For ROCKETSCIENCE, I guess the clue works and is fresh, but I think of "arcane" as being more mysterious or obscure. People use ROCKETSCIENCE more for describing something complex that takes great intelligence and study. (I see Jim beat me to this, so hands up)

burtonkd 9:48 AM  

Favorite wrong answer that makes a phrase even more current:

Unknown 9:52 AM  

Loved this puzzle! Really wantef GRITTY to be the hero of Philadelphia though!

RooMonster 9:59 AM  

Hey All !
41A clue is missing Monster. :-)

Original PA resident here. Yes, it is HOAGIE. In Connecticut, just two states away, it's a Grinder. Also heard it as Hero, Sub, Po Boy. Sub, as in SubWay shops. When I go there, I just call it a sandwich!

This played typical tough SatPuz for me. Had to use Check Puzzle feature many times, even cheated and Used Reveal Square three times! I still think it's psychological. The ole brain says "Gear up, it's a SatPuz, and it's gonna be tough!" Although there were a few things I didn't know. AKA as clued is one.

Had mALTA for YALTA, starting off 14A as mO_H, and wondering if OCHO could possibly be OCtO, which would at least give me a chance that 14A could start mOuth. robot first for DROID. Dang, when it comes to Star Wars, should know it's DROID. Don't know KUNDERA, cause as y'all probably know, I'm not a reader, so KITTYCAT was tough to see. Had the CAT part, wanted something like babyCAT or miniCAT, both too short. littleCAT? Too long. Har. TET as clued a wha? Give me the New Year!

So hold-ups like that all over. I lose patience after a while of staring at white space, not figuring anything out. That's when I start to use Check feature. :-) Looking back over puz, there's just a few things I didn't know, and possibly could've figured out the puz without help, but hey, impatience usually wins out. Same thing with the SB, my goal now is Genius, if I get a few words after that, good. I usually end up missing easy words. Oh well. No one cares!

Rex and some of y'all say puz is easy, MORE POWER TO YOU! I SAY NO, it was tough! Anyway, gotta GET GOING. Have a great Saturday!

One F (in FEN, another wha?)
One ROO!

TJS 10:00 AM  

Yes ! A worthy Saturday struggle that drove me all the way to the SW before I got any knid of a toehold, then battled my way inch by inch to the finish. Thanks to Rex, of all people, for somehow recalling Mr. Coates, since I remembered OFL commenting on him some months back.

"throve" ?

@Z, what the hell does "slap/tear" mean ?

@Lewis, I want to apologise for the excessive snark of my comment yesterday. I think that puzzle just put me into a bad mood. I actually look forward to the way you find positive things to say on a daily basis. My bad.

Richard Stanford 10:01 AM  

Not sure that “Piece of the pie?” deserved its ? since CRUST is literally a piece of the pie.

I also had EnACT having never heard of AXOLOTL, and ran into difficulties at the end with the cl of CLAD and the at of ATL. Otherwise a very pleasant challenge

Unknown 10:06 AM  

Barbiebarbie @ 9:12
You make an excellent point: if the names are scattered throughout the puzzle, they might be easier to suss out. But when they adjoin each other . . . .
As far as the Czech writer being in someone's wheelhouse, that kind of dates the solver . . . .
I wanted Tom Hanks for 1A . . . . When I think of Philadelphia sandwiches, I think of cheese steak, not hoagies, but I get it. I grew up on Long Island, where they were called heros. I went to college in the Boston area, where I first heard of grinders.
For those who are interested:

Smith 10:21 AM  

@Frantic 8:01

"I wonder if anyone else thought MOREPOWERTOYOU was more of a sarcastic comment than a form of encouragement."

I think or it as wry or you've explained to your parents how you're going to travel the country for six months and then fly to Europe to start a new life without even coming home for Christmas and your parents, instead of saying what they really think, smile and say "MORE POWER TO YOU."

I'm actually one of the parents...sigh. Although I can sort of remember my mother having a similar response to me in a similar situation.

GILL I. 10:34 AM  

@Mohair Sam.....If you're peeking in today, I thought of you at 1A.....Boy did I want to fit in a Philly cheesesteak sandwich at Donkey's Place. And, and, and....@pablito and DOO WOP. Yessireebob. I first heard DOO WOP (drum roll)..... of all places.... in Argentina!!!! Yep. My stepmom's best friend took me out to one of my first night clubs in Buenos Aires and we danced to Fools Fall in Love and The Book of Love. I'm going to listen to some more right after I walk the pups.
What an enjoyable puzzle. I just wish I could spell. Ay dios mid. Why can't English be phonetic like God intended. I had to cheat for AXOLOTL SAOIRSE KUNDERA. All three belong in a lawyers office or, at least, walking into a bar.
First mistake was YOU HAvE TO SEE IT instead of the dreaded HATE. Didn't Mr. Whipple of toilet paper Charmin fame say something like that? Anyway, GET GOING on the down side got me the G I needed. Did anyone else have GAY MEN for 12D? No? Where's my fav RuPaul when I need him...
Other than checking up on my atrocious spelling, I found this one fairly easy AND I LOVED IT. I felt like ADO Annie.

@JD from last night.....Your late comment yesterday touched my heart. What a sweet welcome comment. I went to bed with a smile on my face. Gracias, amiga.

Katy 10:36 AM  

As a Falcons fan all I can say on 22A is Too soon, man. Too soon....

JD 10:37 AM  

My first thought seeing the grid was that it was a work of art. My second thought was, you're toast.

And from Ocho all the waaay down to that SW corner (@Nancy, we had the opposite experience) it was almost true. The Ceramic / Casing crossing gave me a toehold and I assumed if it was Nash it was going to be totally silly. So I actually started at the bottom and climbed the steps to the top and then up, down, up down to finish with Crow, DooWop, Kundera, and Discerners to give me Pasted. My thought as I tackled Kundera was that with the famous K u people I could think of, the next letter is always N (Mila Kunis, William Kunstler). A tough but doable Saturday, so must've been easy for the crossletes.

Loved Rocket Science. Had a friend back in the 90s whose husband was actually a Rocket Scientist. I asked him how they managed to insult one another's intelligence and he said, "We say it ain't brain surgery."

@Nfld educator, Har!

Lewis 10:42 AM  

@tjs -- Thank you for that and for your kind words. Forgiven and forgotten.

Z 10:43 AM  

@TJS - @Z, what the hell does "slap/tear" mean ? Hey, that’s not my nom de blog so don’t ask me. @Sally slap tear 8:32 might have an answer for you.

@burtonkd - ADO and ADIEU look alike and sound similar, but not Homophones - To quote Marcel Marceau, I think you’re making much ADIEU about nothing.

@Frantic Sloth - I said it was possible to have a pet pic Twitter feed.

@Birchbark - prodigy in the cross-ventilation technique - That’s quite an enlightening tail (or was it an updo?), but I can’t help but wonder what you’ve done with those prodigal skills lately.

RoccoChaz 10:53 AM  

AXOLOTL/SAOIRSE/GENA mess was a Natick minefield. None of those are especially inferable from crosses.

ALIG was the key. That’s a bit unfair IMO, even on a Saturday. Rest of the puzzle was nicely constructed.

Colin Bos 10:54 AM  

I was temporarily tripped up by YOU HATE TO SEE IT -- wrote it YOU HAVE TO LAUGH. wonder if anyone else did this.

TTrimble 10:56 AM  

@Unknown 10:06 AM
Uh, if you say so? Maybe I'm in the minority, but I often like to reread books, and since I recently reread The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by KUNDERA, he was sort of fresh on my mind. (@Teedmn, maybe you'd like that better?)

If someone reads or rereads a work by Austen or Dostoyevsky, say, are they dating themselves? If not, then which authors are the ones that by sheer virtue of (re)reading them, you'd be dating yourself?

@Richard Stanford
Normally, if I hear "piece of pie", I'm thinking a sliver, so I think there is a slight element of misdirection there with the clue for CRUST.

@Anonymous 8:34 AM
That smells like British spelling vs. American spelling. I think (but I'm not absolutely sure!) I'd personally write CUING.

Now, if you're talking about 'queuing' vs. 'queueing', I'll go with the latter, because all those vowels in a row are just fun. :-)

srobs 10:58 AM  

Sorry, but the Cossing problem is much worse than just the Ali G and Gena. It is Ali G and axolotl and Ali G and Saoirse. Without Ali G there was no way to intuit either of those answers.

JOHN X 11:05 AM  

As per MST3K (that's Mystery Science Theater 3000):

I much prefer the early episodes where Joel Hodgson was the host. He created the show and was instrumental in the puppet and props designs, and he had this laconic upper-Midwest dialect that was just funny in itself. Mike Nelson was the head writer and would make hysterically funny cameos related to the film they were watching - my all time favorite was when he showed up as Steve Reeves as they were watching a particularly bad Hercules film.

When Joel left and Mike took over as host, it was still very good, but the chemistry was just not quite the same. I compare it to the last season of Monty Python's Flying Circus, when John Cleese had left. It was still good, but something was missing.

Frantic Sloth 11:10 AM  

@Birchbark 924am Bravo! I could close my eyes and be (not-seen-nor-heard) at one of my parents' typical dinner parties (sans flammes de la coiffure) of the early 70s.

@burtonkd 946am Funny. I had the EXACT opposite reaction to Andy Rooney in that clip. Clearly curmudgeonry wasn't just a character choice for him. Ha!

@GILL 1034am With you on drag queens, but the stodgy "grey lady" would never deign to acknowledge their reign. More's the pity. Also, LOL at "ay dios mid"!

@TTrimble 1056am Hmmm. Good point. I have a question, though...If I'm rereading "Dick and Jane" for the umpteenth time, does that not "date me" as much as "peg me"? (True confession: I only read it for the Spot and Puff articles.)

PhotoAde 11:10 AM  

AXOLOTL was tough enough if you've never encountered one, but even harder if you had the (IMHO) perfectly acceptable EnACT CHANGE for 38A. Auntie Google was kind enough to help us with that last letter.

Carola 11:10 AM  

Lovely. I found it on the easy side for a Saturday but encountered enough points of resistance to remind me of what day it is. I was interested in @Rex's surmising that the Saturday puzzles are deliberately being made easier: recently, I've found myself humming, "Where have all the Saturdays gone, long time passing?", recalling the days of needing a couple of sessions and an eyes reset before being able to finish one. I do miss those knock-down drag-out fights, where getting PASTED was a real possibility.

I liked "YOU HATE TO SEE IT?" followed by "SAY NO" and the "somebody used too much product" cluster of MOUSSE paired with DAUB and CRUST.

@Trockmn 7:28 and @Richard Stanford 10:10 - "EnACT" was my first thought, too, but I happened to know the lizard.

Help from previous puzzles: AXOLOTL, ITERATE. Help from being old: GENA. Do-over: RUst before RUBY.

BEE-ER 11:29 AM  

I'm in an unusual situation in the SB today, a little past Genius but no pangram yet.

Anonymous 11:31 AM  

by my conservative count, 35 of the Q/A can easily be constructed as Trivial Pursuit cards. so, yeah, they're really the same thing.

Newboy 11:39 AM  

Yep, two great puzzles in a row! Is it possible that Sunday will keep that streak going? Thanks to Nam Jin Yoon for today’s (not easy) open to interpretation cluing — CaVE before COVE. And that Ogden Nash rhyme fish-like thing which seemed to be spelled as an homage to Georgian romance with all those x’s & o’s tossed saladlike with ATL or some such. As is often the case, @Lewis summarized my solve better than I could. Holding my breath for tomorrow .

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

I had never heard the word sub before moving to New England

well... in most of NE land, it's called a grinder, and long before the word got that other meaning.

Anonymous 11:45 AM  

I first thought this puzzle was getting a little highbrow--how on earth am I supposed to know the particular names of Aphrodite's priestesses, the Hero of Aphrodite, and the one who dwelt in that town in ancient Lydia named Philadelphia? Hoagie brought me down to earth. I idn't know it was distinctive to Philadelphia.

I use the expression "this is not rocket science" at least once a week when I leave a message for people in charge of delivering the newspaper, as in "delivering papers is not rocket science." The NY Times, to save a few bucks, fired their competent deliverer, who is now approaching homelessness, and turned the delivery over to someone who handles the local paper, the Wall Street Journal, and the NY Times (and USA Today, if they deliver). I get whatever newspaper the deliverer finds handy--today it was two copies of the NYTimes, from two separate carriers working for this service. Often I get the Times and the Wall Street Journal, sometimes just the WSJ.

I butchered the SW, not knowing Saoirse or the second vowel in Axilotl. I don't sail, but I guessed 41A buck, boomer, jack, etc. were nautical terms, and that what I filled in, rib, was some informal nautical term also.

Anon. i.e. Poggius

bocamp 11:54 AM  

Re: "cuing" vs "cueing"

Webster lists both, altho "cuing" before "cueing".

Cambridge lists only "cueing".

Dictionary dot com lists only "cuing".

Couldn't gain admittance to OED; above my pay grade. LOL

@TTrimble 10:56 AM wrote:

"Now, if you're talking about 'queuing' vs. 'queueing', I'll go with the latter, because all those vowels in a row are just fun. :-)"

Love it!

@Frantic 11:10 AM

Mom taught me to read Dick and Jane prior to 1st grade, so that was a feather in my cap; it was one of the primary sources for class instruction. Thx, you've prompted me to re-read the Spot and Puff parts. 😊🐶🐱

SB stuff

@BEE-ER 11:29 AM

I hear ya; always unsettling not getting the pangram early on.

Now embarking on today's SB adventure. 🤞

Peace Tolerance Kindness Togetherness 🕊

egsforbreakfast 11:56 AM  

ROCKETSCIENCE took me back to the late 80’s when I was working in municipal finance. One of my clients at some point was the City of Los Alamos, NM, which consists essentially of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the infrastructure to support it. Basically, a town of super-smart nerds before nerds were cool. The City Council consisted entirely of PhDs from the Lab, one of whom won a laughing acquittal for running a red light when he argued to the judge that he was going so fast at the time that the red light had been Doppler-shifted to a green wavelength in his perception.

But the relevant memory was in taking 3 council members, along with a couple of city staffers to New York for meetings with the bond rating agencies and some key investors. Early in our first meeting, I believe with Moody’s, an analyst expressed confusion about the meaning of a chart in our presentation. One of the PhD. Councilmen said “Look, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand this ....but of course we all are!”. Much giggling ensued. The line in one form or another was worked into all the subsequent meetings. It was corny but endearing.

BTW, I AXALOTL a Saturday puzzle, and Nam Jin Yoon certainly delivered.

Whatsername 11:57 AM  

Well this was, dare I say it, easier than the usual Saturday. I like that, makes me feel so much smarter than I actually am. Didn’t mean it wasn’t a challenge though and I had to work for it. I don’t think I will ever remember how to spell SAOIRSE but I knew GENA Rowlands, a very underrated actress. I’ve never seen her in anything where her performance wasn’t superb.

Brilliant clues for CUING and CRUST. Loved ADO crossing ADIEU and DAUB crossing MOUSSE. Last night my KITTY CAT misjudged her leap off the fireplace mantle and kamikazed the TV. It’s toast. I’d been thinking about getting a new one anyway so IT’S NOW OR NEVER. Get ‘er DONE. Does anyone know where I could get some industrial-strength duct tape? For the TV, not the CAT.

jberg 11:58 AM  

As I've mentioned, I'm aperson who DISCERNS the tiny numbers of the clues only with great difficulty, so I started off with CLAD as my first entry -- at 16A rather than 18. Oddly enough, that gave me HOAGIE, only because it got me to look at 1A long enough to pick up on the obvious misdirect. After that, almost everything was in my wheelhouse-- AXOLOTL from MAD, as others have said; KUNDERA from being old (but note that it was a gimme for Rex, as well), I knew it was GENA. I did have tANG before PANG< but that was easy to fix. And although I saw early that it was looking for ROCKET SCIENCE, count me among those who think that means "difficult" rather than "arcane." 7th Century theological arguments are arcane; rocket science is just plain hard. (I was once at a conference where a NASA representative was presenting some of their new products, and at one point as he explained some easy point, said "it's not rocket science..." -- then did a double take as he remembered what he was talking about, and said, "well, actually it is, but it's not hard." says CUING is legitimate cluing.

I watched the presidental inauguration on Jan. 20; the commentators did a lengthy analysis of Kamala Harris's outfit. First, that she was wearing purple as a tribute to Shirley Chisholm, and second that she wore pearls as a tribute to her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. I've known several women who were Alphas, and it's a big deal; so that was part of my wheelhouse thing.

Gotta bone up on my Latin, though. I put in Rose at 25D until the crosses mad MOUSSE obvious.

While I can handle it, I can see that some may be put out by the trend to foreign-language math problems as clues. Doubly difficult because you need to know both the Spanish numbers and how to add.

Barbara S. 12:16 PM  

@kitshef (9:19)
I laughed till I cried at your Scotsman joke. Laughed, because I think it’s delightfully amusing. Cried, because you beat me to posting it. My husband and I both have Scots backgrounds and when alone together we often lapse into cartoonish brogue. Och aye, we’re as daft as fleein yetts.*

Quotation from Milan KUNDERA’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” in which an unexplained presence, “the narrator,” breaks in every now and again with his/her two cent’s worth:

As I have pointed out before, characters are not born like people, of woman; they are born of a situation, a sentence, a metaphor containing in a nutshell a basic human possibility that the author thinks no one else has discovered or said something essential about…The characters in my novels are my own unrealized possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented. It is that crossed border (the border beyond which my own “I” ends) which attracts me most. For beyond that border begins the secret the novel asks about. The novel is not the author’s confession; it is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become.

I like the FEN country of East Anglia. When you go by the city of Ely on the train you see the cathedral rising out of the low-lying flatlands all around it. If there's mist, it looks like a dream of the medieval trying to solidify in the modern day. “Ely,” says Wikipedia, “is built on a 23-square-mile Kimmeridge Clay island which, at 85 feet, is the highest land in the Fens,” hence the visual dominance of the cathedral. Ely is very crossword friendly: before the Fens were drained for agriculture, the area saw eel fishing and osier harvesting, and pottery production (today’s CERAMIC) has been going on for 700 years.

DUSTS – Hah! Love those contronyms. Seed, cleave, weather.

* fleein yetts: Yetts are gates. Fleeing yetts are gates banging open and shut uncontrollably in the wind. The image can be used metaphorically for zany people.

Nancy 12:16 PM  

@Nfld educator (9:27) -- Nice wordplay!

@Birchbark (9:24) -- Scary story! You remember it in remarkably vivid and enthralling detail. So that I'm surprised you don't seem to remember the quick-thinking, fast acting person who put out the flames. I think that's the thing I'd be most likely to remember.

@Teedmn (9:35) -- Ah, yes. The book that someone else absolutely adores -- someone you both respect and trust -- is a book that you find completely unreadable. We've all been there. Here's my suggestion -- one that the Internet makes really easy:

Go online and read an excerpt from the book. It's the rare book where you can't find an excerpt online. You'll know in a minute whether the prose and the writing style immediately grabs you or whether the words just lie limply on the page like a dead turtle. It's a technique I learned from my years at The Literary Guild. There, we checked out books in person, of course. We even had a name for it: "The Literary Guild Shelf Test". Riffle through the manuscript at the readers' shelf before taking it back to your desk, because once you brought it to your desk, you could not put it back.

JC66 12:25 PM  

Well, I'm in good company.

Like @Poggius & @Nancy I was stuck in the SW even though I knew GENA (yes, she's was married to John Cassavetes).

Never heard of AXOLOTLE; didn't know how to spell SAOIRSE; couldn't get ROO off of just the R.

The reason for the ? for CRUST: the clue is "Piece of THE pie."

Lexus Salesman 12:46 PM  

I don’t read your blog a lot, but I have read it enough over the years to find myself surprised today that you actually liked a puzzle. Seems like a rare occurrence.

jae 12:56 PM  

Medium. I got hung up by not knowing KUNDERA or TET as clued and PASTED didn't come easily. Delightful puzzle, liked it a bunch.

I, like some others, knew AXOLOTL from Mad Magazine and here is why:

Anonymous, with apologies to William Wordsworth
(from Mad Magazine, issue #43 in 1958)

I wandered lonely as a clod,
Just picking up old rags and bottles,
When onward on my way I plod,
I saw a host of axolotls;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
A sight to make a man’s blood freeze.
Some had handles, some were plain;
They came in blue, red pink, and green.
A few were orange in the main;
The damnedest sight I’ve ever seen.
The females gave a sprightly glance;
The male ones all wore knee-length pants.

Now oft, when on the couch I lie,
The doctor asks me what I see.
They flash upon my inward eye
And make me laugh in fiendish glee.
I find my solace then in bottles,
And I forget them axolotls.

Geoff H 12:56 PM  

Was highly disappointed that 1A turned out to be HOAGIE and not GRITTY.

Slo Diddly 1:07 PM  

I'd just like to point out the currency to the cluing on AKA today which I wouldn't know if my wife weren't an AKA. Our new vice president is an AKA and all her sisters are bursting with pride.

Birchbark 1:16 PM  

@Nancy (12:16) -- I hear in your kind words the voice of Hercule Poirot (or is it Columbo?), right at the good part. Very nice.

@Z (10:43) re cross-ventilation prodigy, long since drifted up and away into the æther. Now I mostly wonder where the draft is coming from.

Z 1:17 PM  

@bocamp et al. - re: CUING v CUeING - is free and is a partnership that includes Oxford, so good enough for most OED things. It lists the E version first. Even more importantly, scroll down and you’ll discover CUe was originally a “variant” of queue. Well, depending on which meaning of CUe you mean that is.

@barbiebarbie - I think the reason ~33% is where PPP always gets problematic is because at the point it is too dense. Lower percentages with lots of long PPP or where it is concentrated in a section also can be problematic. That four of the ten PPP answers are in the SW corner is clearly causing some people problems. It’s interesting to me that we have a record low PPP and still have PPP complaints.

Cassieopia 1:27 PM  

@geoff h: I saw your exact same comment on r/Philadelphia! All Hail Gritty!

As for the puzzle, love love LOVED it. True to my Rule of Rex (ease of puzzle for me is directly inverse to ease of puzzle for Rex), this was a toughie but I loved every single second. Fresh answers, clever cluing, a real beaut. I especially struggled with the frigid NE corner ("Frosty air?" "De-frosting" - so perfect for this frigid NE day...) and the "Aha!!" payoff made me want to CROW.

Beautiful puzzle, one of my favorites this year. Many, many thanks to Nam Jin Yoon for a fantastic Saturday experience!

Unknown 1:35 PM  

@Z 1:17 I think @barbiebarbie really hit the nail on the head: it's not the percentage of PPP per se that creates problems, it's when they connect with each other. Obviously the higher the %, that increases the likelihood that some tough patches will appear, but not necessarily. At some point (perhaps around 33% as you suggest), you're going to have a critical mass of PPP such that there are only so many squares in the puzzle and you're simply bound to run into difficulty.

JD 1:41 PM  

@Jberg, Thanks for the info on AKA. There are a few Alpha women on this blog but I have no idea if they were ever in a sorority. Story apropos of nothing ...

In the movie Everything is Illuminated,(set in Ukraine), a elderly blind man who serves as guide has a dog that wears a sign, "Seeing Eye Bitch." My 17-year-old son, thinking it hilarious, started referring to me as the Alpha Bitch when he talked to our clueless Dachshund who feared only me when it came to his lazy potty habit.

The kids could get away with murder if they were amusing enough.

The book by Jonathan Safran Foer and the film directed by Liev Schreiber are both excellent. Unlike The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I tried desperately to like because of the spectacular title but just couldn't.

pabloinnh 1:42 PM  

@jae-ah yes, the Mad poetry parodies. Wonderful stuff.

I have heard the last two lines of the original reimagined as

And the my heart with rapture fills,
and dances with the imbeciles.

old timer 1:54 PM  

It wasn't all that Easy for me. In fact I had to look up DROID and COATES and it took a long time to remember ALIG (Borat would have been way easier, but you can't avoid the fact it has 5 letters).

Still a technical DNF as I left in "cave" for COVE. I don't think of a COVE as a "natural recess", just a normal feature of most shorelines.

I was delighted by most of the puzzle, and am proud to have gotten AXOLOTL and DOOWOP right off. I did think the clue for CERAMIC was off. Artists get all fired up "about" clay and used it "for" making POTS and other CERAMICS.

bocamp 1:57 PM  

@Z 1:17 PM

Beauts; thx for this additional resource! 🤓

pg -1

Peace Tolerance Kindness Togetherness 🕊b

DigitalDan 2:34 PM  

Compared to the average Saturday, this one was insanely difficult for me. Lots of tentative fill with other words that would fit, almost no acrosses the first time around. A few downs saved me.

CDilly52 2:34 PM  

Two fabulous puzzles in two consecutive days! Yippee!! This one got off the ground quickly with HOAGIE, HOUND, OCHO, and AKA. Then I was stopped dead on my tracks in the NE. I just could t get anything over there. Never seen any of the Mandalorian but I thought that IG-11 was probably a DROID, but not certain, but even with the DROID’s help, the downs were just too clever, so to the bottom I went.

The long answers, ITS NOW OR NEVER and MORE POWER TO YOU opened the bottom right up. Loved seeing SAOIRSE, such a lovely name. My best friend from high school named his daughter SAOIRSE, so I learned how to pronounce it ages before the talented Ms. Ronan appeared on the scene. I blew through the bottom half in pretty much Monday-Tuesday time and back up to the NE I went.

Painful doesn’t quite describe it for me up there. I felt as if I had suddenly become completely brain dead and all of the oh-so-clever clues just made me crazy!! With REE, I (a professional musician for years) finally saw REED, and couldn’t believe how dumb I still feel about that mental gaffe. Thanks to the pie CRUST, I began to see the tunnel and when I got MATTE as the glossy alternative, the proverbial light at the end of that dark, dark tunnel finally came on.

This was just a complete joy. Like yesterday, the cleverness and complete lack of junk provided a blissful Saturday experience.

CDilly52 2:41 PM  

I thank my mother, a huge Ogden Nash fan for AXOLOTL, and it has served me well over the years. And I remembered another Nash while solving today because of the KITTY CAT: The trouble with a kitten is that/eventually it becomes a cat. That one was my dad’s reason for never allowing my kitten Charlemagne into the house. And he did become a cat-a huge, 12 pounder. I would frequently go down to our side door at the basement landing, let him in to come upstairs to sleep with me. As soon as he would hear my dad stir in the early mornings, he would race downstairs and slip back down to the side door and wait for me to come and quietly let him out. Grest memoriesnfrom puzzles.

sanfranman59 2:45 PM  

Medium NYT Saturday ... 8% below my 6-month Saturday median solve time (close to my Easy-Medium Saturday range)

I found this to be about 80% Easy/Easy-Medium (for a NYT Saturday), 10% Medium-ish and 10% Challenging, mostly in the SW. Contrary to what Rex says, my stats suggest that this is properly slotted on Saturday (i.e. it came in closer to my Saturday 6-month median solve time than my Friday).

The Challenging bits:
-- AXOTOTL {32D: Amphibian that Ogden Nash once rhymed with "bottle"} crossing ROO {41A: Buck, boomer, jack, flyer or jill, informally} ... This was the last cross in the grid for me. I never can remember the random letter sequence for Ogden Nash's amphibian. Thank goodness the first O finally dawned on me since I don't readily associate any of those words with kangaROOs.
-- MOUSSE {28A: Lock holder?} ... tricky, punny, good clue
-- CLEAT {53D: Spike in activity on a sports field?} ... ditto
-- SAOIRSE {33D: "Little Women" actress Ronan} ... another spelling challenge in the SW
-- 'GiNA' before GENA {46D: Actress Rowlands} ... I always seem to get this wrong. I had a real problem with spelling in this area of the grid
-- KUNDERA {34D: Milan ___, author of 1984's "The Unbearable Lightness of Being"} ... all crosses
-- TET {51D: Banh ___ (sticky rice cake)} ... ditto

KRMunson 3:12 PM  

Exactly my issue....

GILL I. 3:16 PM  

@Frantic....Damn autocorrect. Sent to my husband:
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday dead husband
Happy birthday to you

I think I'm going to kill myself now.

Frantic Sloth 4:04 PM  

@JD 141pm I like your son. Is your Dachshund really clueless or just devious? Living in that house, one wonders... 😉

@GILL 316pm OMG!🤣🤣🤣 Don't kill yourself over any of this (unless you want to join your husband). Not knowing him at all and knowing you only virtually, I am assuming he got a good guffaw out of it. Just a hunch. BTW, I thought you misspelled "mio" on a joke. Shows me. 🙄

Anonymous 4:27 PM  

That's the 1st thing I thought: this is a guest blogger, it's too pleasant for downer Rex.

JD 4:30 PM  

@Gill, HBD to your husband and besos to you! Mine pulled the same trick on me but I know they're still here!

JD 4:32 PM  

An btw @Frantic, the daughter is the truly hilarious one (another Alpha).

A 4:33 PM  

Very entertaining puzzle, and I managed to DISCERN everything except for three itty bitty letters, giving me:
AqI l
and lENA. My favorite is anoqotl.

My talent workers were agenTS before they became SCOUTS.

When I DAUB I don't smear. Pretty much the opposite.

Enjoyed the GRAD next to DONE. Also the SUITE CRUST. ONE OF US receiving ICINESS in lieu of DETENTE. TOTS not on the POT.

KITTYCAT and KNITs don't mix. Sorry about your TV @Whatsername. My pets conspired to maim me yesterday. I let the dog in (Malamute, not HOUND) and she playfully lured me downstairs for a game of "run around the pool table," where I pretend to chase her. She had to stop and wait for me once a lap, so it isn't as though I was traveling very fast. Just as I was rounding the corner by the laundry room, where the KITTYCAT gets her dry food, said CAT darted out at my feet and brought me down onto the cement floor. Lucky for them I didn't break anything. At least the dog came over and licked my face - the damn cat still wanted me to feed her!

KUmbayA and ADIEU

Z 4:34 PM  

@Birchbark - So now you are both a drafty prodigal prodigy and the Poirot of pneumatic mysteries?

@unknown1:35 - 👍🏽

Anonymous 5:02 PM  


It's my birthday today too (70th!). Will it make you feel better that my wife and I laughed hysterically at your post?

Chip Hilton 5:21 PM  

Yeah, it’s late, but just wanted to share. I flew through the bottom two-thirds of this one, but the top right just killed me. Especially vexing was YOUHATETOS————. Turns out, I didn’t. For the longest time. Kind of funny that I knock off AXOLOTL and SAOIRSE without difficulty but trip up on very common words in what is, I guess, a familiar phrase. Anyhow, thanks for giving me a full Saturday, wrestling with this fun puzzle. (And, no, don’t think I’ve been working on it all day. Yeah, I got PASTED, but I do have a life. Kind of.)

Anonymous 5:47 PM  

I'm in the found it on the harder side of things, but not every puzzle plays the same for everybody. I just wasn't on this wavelength.

JC66 5:50 PM  


My next birthday is in October. In won't give you the date so you can't send me a greeting.

puzzles personalizados 6:20 PM  

Thanks for sharing these puzzles . They are of a lot of help during Covid times !

Really appreciated !

Unknown 6:27 PM  

Wow. Doo wop group for 30 years. That’s incredible! This puzzle was all yours. xx

Whatsername 6:29 PM  

@A (4:33) Sounds like your pets are in cahoots and plotting against you. I get that too, at least until it’s time to eat and then they’re blissfully ignorant of any and all suspicious activity. Funny how it always works out that way.

Frantic Sloth 6:30 PM  

@JD 432pm A mini you no doubt. Color me gobsmacked. 😏

@JC66 550pm 🤣🤣🤣

@GILL BTW, Is today your husbands b-day?? If so, Happy Birthday Mr. GILL! 🎂🥂🎁⚰️

Unknown 6:30 PM  

Ha ya I didn’t like CUING at all

A 7:09 PM  

Just came back to express appreciation for the fun comments today.

Totally agree with @JIm Lemire, @burtonkd, @jberg about arcane. From Online Etymology Dictionary:
1540s, from Latin arcanus "secret, hidden, private, concealed," from arcere "to close up, enclose, contain," from arca "chest, box, place for safe-keeping," from PIE root *ark- "to hold, contain, guard" (source also of Greek arkos "defense," arkein "to ward off"

@Lewis - Glad you weren’t “banging your head against a wall, or running out of the house screaming” like I was, but if that ever happens to you I know my grid will be snow white ICINESS.

@Z - CRUST just “a delivery device for the good stuff?” Not in my world. For me it’s the proper balance of crust to filling, and I plan every last bite like it’s ROCKET SCIENCE.

@pabloinnh - I’m not a huge Elvis fan, but wow, that is quite a coincidence! What else are you performing? Maybe another tune will pop up in tomorrow’s grid!

@Birchbark - Enjoyed your story, and it’s a good reminder to be careful with real candles: I know someone who lost a house to an unattended SCONCE.

@Roo - Sounds EXACTly like my experience with the SB.

@Barbara S. - Love your ‘cartoonish brogue’ example- Daft as fleein’ yetts is my new way to refer to some of our politicians. (Hah! fleeing yetis is what Otto Korrekt came up with - there’s an image!)

@Nancy - “the words lie limply on the page like a dead turtle” is a phrase which does not.

IMDb says that Virginia Catherine “GENA” Rowlands’ name rhymes with henna. Maybe that will help me remember she’s not lENA?

And I forgot to say “Bravo Nam Jin Yoon!”

Nancy 7:17 PM  

@GILL -- First, you should tar and feather Autocorrect and ride it out of town on a rail. There must be some way to get rid of it. I don't have it: my computer just puts an ugly red squiggly line under what it doesn't approve of, alerting me to correct it. Sometimes they're right; sometimes they're wrong. And when they're wrong, they're often just plain annoying. But mostly I find it a feature, not a bug -- especially since I'm a sloppy proofreader.

After banishing Autocorrect, have a good laugh with your husband. It's probably the funniest thing he's seen in many weeks. Better than Woody Allen. Better than Jerry Seinfeld.

There's only one downside and that's if he laughs hard enough to bust a gut or break a rib. Otherwise, consider it a birthday you'll both laugh about for years.

Nancy 7:38 PM  

I just saw @jae's 12:56 citing of the poem parody of the AXOLOTL taken from an old edition of Mad Magazine. It's a charming parody of both the AOLOTL and of Wordsworth (thank you for providing the link, @jae) and reading it made me curious about what this strange critter looks like. So I Googled some photos.

There are two possible reactions and I had them both at the same time:

This is the most plug-ugly creature I have ever laid eyes on!

This is one of the cutest, most adorable, and hilarious creatures I have ever laid eyes on!

No need to ever do the "glass half-full"/"glass half-empty" test again. This can take its place.

JD 7:52 PM  

@Gill, Wait a minute! You meant to say DEAR husband, right? I hope.

pabloinnh 8:02 PM  

@A--Actually, I've never been a huge Elvis fan either. I'm reading a two-volume biography right now which tells you everything you could ever want to know about him, and lots more. He was definitely larger than life and absolutely changed American culture.

Anyway, I'll be doing "Aura Lee" as the basis of and followed by"Love Me Tender", "Heartbreak Hotel", "Precious Lord (Take MY Hand)", and "Can't Help Falling in Love with You", which I had to include, because my doo wop group sang it at my son's wedding.

One thing he and I have is common is that we both really love to sing.

Thanks for asking.

GILL I. 9:23 PM  

Yes....I sent Paulie this last year. And DEAR sweet DEAD husband laughed. I would've never married him had he not had a sense of humor. He will be 71 on the 11th of this month and is mourning losing his 70's.... @Anony 5:02..... a big Happy VERDE to you.
@JC66...I can't wait until October..... :-)

A 9:44 PM  

@pabloinnh - Those all seem like awesome entries in an Elvis tribute puzzle, banish the thought. (Well, the last one would require a very large puzzle. And for your son to allow you to sing it (or anything) at his wedding speaks volumes. Anyway, good luck on your Zoom performance. Hope your lass is appreciative. I meant class. God I love mistakes. Speaking of which....

....@Nancy - Nooooo! Otto Korrekt is the greatest source of serendipitous amusement. Like when you start to lose your eyesight around forty and misread highway signs. Oh, wait, you don't drive. Well, trust me, it's funny. As funny as the axolotl images I looked up before (and after) I saw your link. I would give an example but forty was a long time ago and I can't remember any.

I remember Mad fondly ( Fond madly?) but not Mystery Science Theater. I'm curious.

Teedmn 10:56 PM  

@Nancy, your advice is so welcome. The incident I mentioned in regards to the Milan Kundera novel may have preceded such on-line explorations; I can’t recall when it was. I recently read, in e-book form, a novel beloved of book clubs and highly recommended by two friends, a novel by a world-renowned author. I hated it. I did a review search and on Goodreads of all places, the first review so fully echoed my disgust that I was heartened that not all “literature” was accepted by the masses as wonderful. Not that I'm the bellwether of great literature but if I dislike something so beloved in such a visceral way, I'm glad not to be alone.

Yet, my mind is not closed, and if I happen to run into the Kundera book recommended by @TTrimble 10:56, I will give it a (limited) shot.

thefogman 10:59 AM  

I disagree with Rex. This one was definitely not easy. In general, I feel the Fridays and Saturdays have gotten a bit tougher lately. Not scientific, but I judge a puzzle’s difficulty by the amount of white-out I use to correct my misteaks.

spacecraft 11:05 AM  

I was going to put down a few lines from Elvis' "ITSNOWORNEVER," but OFC upstaged me. Instead I'll offer

What if God was ONEOFUS, just a slob like ONEOFUS,
Just a stranger on a bus tryin' to find his way home?

I will never forget Joan of Arcadia, a series canceled WAY too soon.

Anyway, the puzz. Great stuff, and I have to concur: either I'm getting smarter while getting older, or the late-week fare is being tamed down. Maybe a little of both. I did not know KUNDERA, needed every cross--but AXOLOTL? Piece of cake, as any reader of Mad Magazine could tell you. SAOIRSE was also an unknown, but thanks heavily to her amphibian neighbor, she went in crosswise as well. She'd be DOD if not for GENA Rowlands.

Outside of those two, this baby wasn't exactly ROCKETSCIENCE. Eagle.

Burma Shave 12:53 PM  




rondo 1:15 PM  

I didn't think it was *that* easy, but got DONE only writing the PAin with PANG. Had the __Y__ and wondered puppYdog or KITTYCAT, but gimme KUNDERA came along to save it; I read at least part of that book, pretty bleak as I recall.

Wish all puzzles could be this quality.

leftcoaster 4:21 PM  

Maybe “easy” for others but not-easy-for-me Saturday.

Did get SAOIRSE (I’m a fan) but not her abutting AXOLOTL (though I like Ogden Nash, too). Wanted agents before SCOUTS, didn’t know COATES, and the foamy MOUSSE de-frosted on me.

Wasn’t PASTED but definitely DONE.

Diana, LIW 7:19 PM  

Afraid I was trivia-ed out of this puzzle. My KITTYCAT helped, but only so far.

Diana, LIW

Jokr22 7:20 PM  

I suppose if you know axolotl, Saoirse and Ali G (not to mention the “too clue”) the puzzle is easy otherwise it’s a DNF

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