Entry point in the walls of Babylon / SAT 3-27-21 / Singer with supporting role in 2019's Hustlers / Carrier based near Kuala Lumpur / Onetime name in weight-loss supplements / Divisor in the golden ratio / Six-time WNBA All-Star Moore / Eponym of an NYC cathedral

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Constructor: Michael Hawkins

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: "Caligula" by CAMUS (35A: "Caligula" writer) —
Caligula is a play written by Albert Camus, begun in 1938 (the date of the first manuscript 1939) and published for the first time in May 1944 by Éditions Gallimard. The play was later the subject of numerous revisions. It was part of what the author called the "Cycle of the Absurd", with the novel The Stranger (1942) and the essay The Myth of Sisyphus (1942). A number of critics have reported the piece to be existentialist; however, Camus always denied belonging to this philosophy.[3] Its plot revolves around the historical figure of Caligula, a Roman Emperor famed for his cruelty and seemingly insane behavior.
• • •

A slight step up from yesterday's puzzle. The grid is just a shade more interesting overall, and there are somewhat more top-notch answers (for me, BIG ASK, FAR FROM IT, "THAT'S ON YOU," and BACK FOR MORE ... though now that I look at those, they don't exactly sizzle, but I do think they're very good). It was very Saturdayish and I moved through it in very Saturdayish fashion, i.e. somewhat more ploddingly than Friday, but steadily and without significant slow-down. Very much not a fan of Marvel movies or weight-loss supplements, so at least a couple of the puzzle's marquee answers left me cold and somewhat squinch-faced, but overall, it worked fine. The one truly unusual answer (to me) was ISHTAR GATE (53A: Entry point in the walls of Babylon), which I've never heard of, and which really truly sounds like it wants to be ISHTAR'S something. ISHTAR wants to be possessive. ISHTAR GATE sounds like a scifi TV series, a probably very ill-advised space-opera mash-up of Elaine May's most notorious movie flop and the TV show "Stargate." Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman flying on spaceships and going through wormholes and, I dunno, solving space crimes or something. Luckily the short answers in the SE were well known to me, so I worked the ISHTAR answer out, but there were a harrowing few seconds there. Probably the worst "mistake" I made in the puzzle was beating myself for not knowing the Roman author CAMUS (pronounced, in my head, CAY'-mus) :( Did not dawn on me until I went to look his name up that CAMUS was the very famous 20th-century French writer Albert CAMUS (pronounced ka-MOO'). Caligula was Roman, CAMUS looks Roman, I had no idea the playwright wrote such a play ... and there you are: literary humiliation.

Had SUPPOSE before SURMISE (24D: Reckon). Managed to scrounge up PICAROS despite not being at all sure that it was a word. I know that there is a literary genre called the "picaresque" which involves dudes going on a series of adventures, so I thought, "hey, maybe those dudes are [Rogues]?" And there it was, PICAROS. While ISHTAR GATE was the answer I was least familiar with, the answer I struggled *most* with was actually CAMERA SHY. I did not have the "A" from CAMUS (because I still thought that the Roman (!?) author might at that point be someone named COMUS), so I looked at the obviously tricky clue, 31D: Out of the picture, say, and I looked at the answer boxes, C-MER-SHY, and wow I have no idea how I didn't see CAMERA SHY at that point, but I didn't. I sincerely believe I was unconsciously slotting an "O" in that second position, and so kept seeing COME as the first word in the phrase. Also probably wanted to make one word out of that answer, but COMERISHY ... not a word. OK, that's all, good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Riley Cooper 6:24 AM  

Nice puzzle, but ATOM was a little weird as clued. SPAMS made it possible to figure out, but thinking A to Z at first brought me to SPAZS. That could have been fun, too. Now it’s time to hit up PayPal for ole Rex.

Flying Pediatrician 6:40 AM  

Since I work in an ICU, if you catalogued all the words I said in a given day, SATS (short for “oxygen saturation”) would be top ten. On bad days, deSATS would beat it out.

My wife is pregnant with our third, who we are naming Frances (*not* with AN I!) after my grandmother. Very exciting times!

Liked the puzzle; it was just the right amount of work. Did anybody actually just *know* PICAROS? Or did everybody else just have to get it from the crosses? For the longest time I had PICAsOS, because, you know, his style was pretty “rogue” in the art world!

Lewis 7:02 AM  

Well, it’s my fault. Two weeks ago, when we had NOT IF BUT WHEN as an answer, I, just for a moment thought, “Yep, that’s me. If I stick with a puzzle long enough, I’ll complete it!” -- with the underlying ego-puffing “I’m getting pretty good at this!”

And so the universe presented me with this, a puzzle wrought with vagueness and not-knows to my feebler-than-I-was-thinking mind, and had me feeling like I was taking the SATS in fifth grade. After first pass, I was staring at the desert, and after the second, I filled in a few boxes.

They say, “Pride cometh before the fall”, and Pogo says, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

But I stuck with it, and, dripping blood, so it seemed, I started popping in some guesses and stabs, and then there were a few confirmations and gates opening. The puzzle begrudged as I trudged, but the tide turned somehow, and I finished, but not without two lookups.

Thank you, Michael, for reducing the swelling above my neck. Sincerely. I’ve been humbled, but actually, humility feels good, clean somehow, shaking hands with the truth. Let’s do this again soon!

ncmathsadist 7:07 AM  


Coniuratos 7:12 AM  

I genuinely thought PICARO was a word made up for a Tintin comic.

puzzlehoarder 7:15 AM  

When I saw the lack of triple stacks I expected a good solve and I wasn't disappointed. It's ironic that the constructor cites Robyn Weintraub as the inspiration for this grid because I got twice the puzzling from this as compared to her user friendly fare.

The first two crosses we're just unknown names. Naturally I started in the NE and made good progress down to the SE. Here I ran into trouble with a PIRATES/PICAROS write over. In addition to that problem I misread the 53A clue as "Every point in the walls of Babylon.' This made me very hesitant to write in ISHTAR. It didn't help that I expected 47D to be GIST. No write over there but just more puzzling to sort things out.

I finished in the NW. While LIZZO is a debut I must have seen it in the real world as it looks familiar.

This was the only puzzle I've taken the time to do this week so it was just that much better that it was a good one.

Hungry Mother 7:20 AM  

Easy, but would have been faster if I hadn’t written iNFAITH first. A DOH moment. Kuala Lumpur was a pleasant surprise when I visited it on a cruise.

Sarah 7:27 AM  

Seriously, you didn’t know Camus wrote Caligula? Seriously? Aren’t you a professor of literature? No shame, just surprised....

Mary Sofia 7:46 AM  

This puzzle felt more like a themeless Wednesday to me, in terms of difficulty. My time was 14:27 and the answers I didn't know were pretty inferable. I've noticed (as Rex pointed out a few weeks ago) that there's been a steep increase in the ease of the later-in-the-week puzzles in the past few years. I like that my times and (especially) my solve rate are improving, but I wish it were because I was getting better, not because the puzzle is getting significantly easier.

E. Kazan 7:47 AM  

Discovering that The Avengers "franchise" holds three of the top ten spots on the list of all-time highest grossing movies was a massively depressing way to begin the weekend.

bocamp 8:08 AM  

Thank you @Michael; a fine, crunchy Sat. puz; lots to like here! :)

Easy-med solve.

Off to a good start in the NW; navigated down the coast, over to the SE, and up the east coast, ending up with the only real challenge: the NE. Just couldn't see anything until USAIN Bolt gave me the "jolt" I needed to finish.

The Phantom of The Opera ~ Sarah Brightman & Antonio Banderas

yd pg -1

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Amity ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Mike G 8:10 AM  

I liked this one a lot. One of those grind, grind, grind, think about something else and suddenly a whole block opens up kind of puzzles. Nice job, Mr. Hawkins!

kitshef 8:11 AM  

After yesterday’s dermatology discussion, CAME RASHY is certainly appropriate. Possibly with SLOP ITCH?

Is HORSE SENSE the same as smarts? I seem to recall an old boss railing about these people who were so clever but had no horse sense.

The best THE AVENGERS movie is the only one not in the top ten.

John H 8:21 AM  

Pretty decent puzzle. 39A, PESTO/PASTS is typical Shortz (I don't lie it) and I have a problem with 7D, locale for moss. I had "log" which is where you will actually find moss, not "bog," which is where you will find algae, not moss, unless it's on a rock or a log in a bog.

ktmtfl 8:22 AM  

I liked this one! I'm still at a place in my puzzling journey where a Saturday solve is an accomplishment and I have my first 7 day streak in hand. Have a great weekend all!

Anonymous 8:30 AM  

IN FAITH instead of ON FAITH from someone who has never heard of that singer. Otherwise nice puzzle. I like it when I think I’m going to be stumped then figure it out (except one letter but THATS ON YOU).

Marion 8:34 AM  

Go to Berlin and see the reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate. It is awe inspiring

Z 8:50 AM  

Seems I found this easier than Rex and @Lewis. Huzzah.

ABBY Wambach was a gimme and I knew Staples was going to be some kind of STORE (initial thought was office STORE but there wasn’t enough room) so the NW was Tuesday easy. I don’t really know much about LIZZO, but I do know of LIZZO, so even that was easy. USAIN Bolt was another gimme, AIR ASIA filled off the AI and I and the NE was almost as easy as the NW. It did take me a few precious nanoseconds to de-dookify THEAVE N because I was assuming Potter or LOTR or Star Wars.
SE also wasn’t tough. The only section that slowed me down was the SW. TRIM SPA (I assume that’s how you parse it) crossing the unsignaled shortened ST. PAT (me: there are no three letter saints are there? so not ST.) and PREGO, not the kind you put on pasta because our pasta already has PESTO on it, was looking like a dominos of WOEs for too many precious nanoseconds. But I skipped up to the NoCal section where ROACH/REF/FAR FROM IT gave me enough of the beginnings of the long downs to drop those in. Then SPARE/AGER/TORE finally made ST PAT obvious. and I was done.

Hand up for finishing PICARO and shrugging with “looks kinda familiar.” Hand up for “CAMUS wrote a book named “Caligula?” No problem with ISHTAR GATE, ISHTAR doesn’t own it, it exists to honor ISHTAR.

As for THE AVENGERS, the clue is only true if you don’t adjust for inflation. The real list is Gone with the Wind, Star Wars, The Sound of Music, E.T, Titanic, The Ten Commandments, Jaws, Doctor Zhivago, The Exorcist, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Well, according to one 2019 article I found, but that looks about right compared to other articles I’ve seen.

mmorgan 8:50 AM  

I got 31D mostly from crosses, then looked back at it and couldn’t figure out what CAME RASHY could mean so I thought something must be wrong and almost took it out.

Joaquin 8:51 AM  

I thought it was appropriate that the clue for 14A was "Staples" because after finishing the puzzle I said to myself, "That was easy." I solve on paper and don't time myself but this has to have been one of the fastest Saturdays for me ever.

Guess it's a wheelhouse thing; only write-over for me was I initially dropped in PIrAteS where PICAROS belonged.

Dddaly 8:52 AM  

One of your best posts ever-that’s saying something!

Birchbark 8:54 AM  

THE AVENGERS alongside HORSE SENSE = "Steed," the dignified British spy from the 1960s TV series, "THE AVENGERS." His spy-partner, Diana Rigg, drove a really cool Lotus.

My dad was good at spotting things. On a backroads drive in the Allegan State Forest, he was looking for hunting spots and found a cranberry BOG down a little hill. When the season was right, we got buckets, put on our waders, walked through the "moat" that surrounded the BOG, and climbed up onto it. It is a floating island. If you jump up and down, ripples flow across the ground as the water below responds.

The wild berries are smaller and tarter than what we find at the store, which is why I SURMISE God invented sugar. Wild cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, fruit of our labor mixed with nature -- lively and delicious.

pabloinnh 9:00 AM  

Know what's worse than never having heard of PICARO? Knowing the word perfectly well and having it be about the last thing you fill in. I'm very familiar with Lazarillo de Tormes, possibly the first literary PICARO , a tale filled with picaresque adventures, I just haven't thought about it in about (coughs) years. Dios mio. See also Huck Finn as an American example, also one of my favorite books. C'mon pablo, wake up.

ISHTAR in this sense was a complete WOE but I've heard of the terrible movie and the word was familiar, so that made quasi-sense. The /=SPARE took too long, as my parents were avid bowlers and we used to go on Sundays way back when.

Anyway, I thought this was a great Saturday that put up a good fair fight. Thanks for all the fun, MH. Muy Hard, but Mucho Happiness involved.

Z 9:04 AM  

@iN FAITHers - I will take it ON FAITH that the idiom didn’t occur to you. The way I always hear it is that one tries iN good FAITH but accepts what someone says ON FAITH. Still, as crossworthy as LIZZO is, LIZZi is hardly implausible.

@pabloinnh - Did you see the late comments yesterday?

BTW - in my experience LATTEs are pretty average joe so that clue got the arched eyebrow.

Barbara S. 9:06 AM  

Ah, Rex was in fine form today and I thank him for “squinch-faced”, the famous Roman playwright Albertus CAMUS and “CoMERiSHY”, which I SURMISE is just a terrible state to be in. And to top it all off the cheesy sci-fi extravaganza, “ISHTAR GATE”. That last was a gimme: 1) hooray art history! and 2) I walked through the ISHTAR GATE in all its reconstructed glory in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin some years ago (hi @Marion, 8:34). It was weird to have one’s textbook come to life, assume three-dimensional proportions and invite one to amble on through and I loved it (except for the whole imperialist-power-stealing-other-peoples’-ancient-treasures angle).

Oh right, the puzzle. Well, I thought it was hard but doable, provided you could muster a nose-to-the-grindstone sort of attitude. UNTIL I got to the extreme SE corner. Man, I thought it was the end of a beautiful (but admittedly short) streak. I had the aforementioned I. GATE, but there my brilliance fizzled out. I wasn’t sure how PICAR__ was going to end, I had GdP, I didn’t know Ms. Moore, I couldn’t fathom ATOM and wanted “A TO something”, and both my knowledge and inferring abilities in relation to state mottos gave out. Then there were SPewS for SPAMS, a flirtation with “THAT’S ON her” and a complete lack of imagination about what could be called “Humor in a jugular vein”. It was ugly. But I used my secret weapon: I got my husband to sit beside me. Not that he knew any of these answers, but in griping at him and saying “what do they mean by this?” and “such-and-such can’t possibly be the answer here”, i.e. by arguing with the puzzle out loud in the guise of talking to him, I finally figured it out. Whew!

Today I give you Shūsaku Endō, born Mar. 27, 1923.

“For the first time in her life Tomoe came to the realization that there are fools and fools. A man who loves others with an open-hearted simplicity, who trusts others, no matter who they are, even if he is deceived or even betrayed-- such a man in the present-day world is bound to be written off as a fool. And so he is. But not just an ordinary fool. He is a wonderful fool. He is a wonderful fool who will never allow the little light which he sheds along man's way to go out.”
(From Wonderful Fool)

Tom T 9:14 AM  

My fastest Saturday, 24 hours after my fastest Friday, in a week when I DNF'd on Monday through Wednesday. Very confusing--especially given the responses of Rex and Lewis.

sixtyni yogini 9:22 AM  

Some of the clues were very broad, so ‘twas hard for YT to get a foothold on sections.🤔
And some, like Ishtar Gate might only be known by those with a specific knowledge of in this case art history (YT!🤗j) or history.
Thought it was overly vague, but then a bit of a newbie here.
So voila! If it had flowed more for me, would have loved it.🥰.

bocamp 9:28 AM  

@ktmtfl (8:22 AM) 👍

@Barbara S. (9:06 AM)

Gotta love "a wonderful fool". :)

@Tom T (9:14 AM) 👍

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Amity ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Wanderlust 9:33 AM  

Pabloinnh and I may be the only ones who knew PICAROS from reading the 16th century Spanish novel, Lazarullo de Tormes, that defined the genre. (I was a Spanish major in college.) I highly recommend it - it’s funny and full of delights, not least for skewering the Catholic Church at a time when that would get your head cut off in Spain. That’s why it was published anonymously. No idea if there’s a good English translation.

I liked this puzzle - challenging with some nice aha! cluing, which I always enjoy. (See clues for CROWSNEST, CAMERASHY, ATOM and ZIT.)

Guilherme Gama 9:40 AM  

Took me a while to get THE AVENGERS because, as far as I know, the franchise is known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, whereof The Avengers are a subset.

RooMonster 9:41 AM  

Hey All !
Struggle, struggle today. Plenty of open space after first go through. But was able to get the NE rather quick, so thought it would be an easy solve.
Got stuck everywhere else. Hit a time for over 5 minutes when rereading clue after clue after clue to see if something, anything would enter the ole brain. Had in some wrongness, started erasing things I wasn't sure of (read:quite a bit!), went back to SB for a minute, then came back, and off the REF F, finally was able to get FARFROMIT (had Fatchance for a bit). Which got me BACKFORMORE, and then chipping away at the block of ice whiteness, managed a slow and steady progress of inking in, as it were, the rest of the puz.

Wanted LATTE, but took it out, as had PIrAteS, with no reason to think it was wrong, giving me RELIrS for RELICS. But what else could LATTE be? Decided to erase the R-T-E of PIrAteS, saw THATSONYOU, which got me to PICA_OS, and ISHTA_GATE. PICAROS sorta-kinda heard of, but not sure, but what else could ISHTA_ be? Threw in the R, held my breath, and heard the Happy Music! WooHoo!

Silly clue for ZIT. That was a tough little corner. LCDS, LIZZO (who I have heard of, but don't partake in that type of music), and that ZIT. Had the ON instead of IN for 5D, so no trouble there. Agree with @Z's 9:04 distinction of ON and IN. Writeover of nuts-ZANY. Also up there, tuNeS-SONGS. Plus Yoda-Yogi-YETI. Also wanted euRASIA for AIRASIA.

SE writeover, sTeM-ATOM, thinking STEM is in everything. Har. Thought how clever was I. Another writeover that held me up a bit, AWw-AWS. Dang, as a not well read person, don't know who wrote "Caligula" (but have heard of it, so there's that ☺️), so the ending with the wrong W was really holding me up. After figuring COG had to be right, was finally able to see CAMUS, changing the w to an S. I've also heard of CAMUS, so not totally ignorant of books/authors!

So a nice SatPuz. Struggled, but managed to finish error free, even with stuff I didn't know. Does that mean I have HORSE SENSE?

Three F's

albatross shell 9:42 AM  

Yes, I would call PESTO as clued letter play. In this case I must have liked it somewhat because it produced an adequate aha. But not much fun otherwise.

Somehow I enjoyed rogues in the clue and ROUGES in the answers even though it made me feel crosseyed.

Looked up ISHTAR (saw the movie at a theater, thought it was junk. Saw it on TV, thought it was fun) and CORA during solve. PICAROS LIZZO after solve. In the @Lewis camp today.

ERIK (THE Phantom) and CAMUS look like they are fighting for the ROACH In the CROWSNEST. GNAWing going on. Tough PICAROS. Reminds me of some Dylan song.

Sixthstone 9:43 AM  

Solid Saturday. Played medium for me. A few points:

Has Rex moved past celebrating females in puzzles? 2 female athletes today (as well as Lizzo leading off). Soccer and WNBA. Also expected some haters in the comments, but none. Maybe we are making progress--it is Women's History Month after all!

Why all the hate for The Avengers? Fun, exciting movies for the whole family with great stories and comic relief that would make Shakespeare proud (that's right I said it1). If you haven't seen them, then please don't comment. If you have seen them and didn't enjoy them, that's fine. We all have our tastes!

My only real disappointment today was missing any hint of a libation or soiree. Saturday deserves to let loose a bit.

Unknown 9:57 AM  

"So at least a couple of the puzzle's marquee answers left me cold and somewhat squinch-faced . . . . ."

That kind of says it all . . . .

Having PIRATES for ROGUES slowed me down quite a bit, but overall a very lovely puzzle, despite what the resident squinch says.

Anonymous 10:02 AM  

Not in my wheelhouse at all, but liked it immensely, as it felt like a true Saturday. I've been blowing through them far too quickly of late, so doing two quick passes at the entire puzzle and still only having a handful of words filled in was deliciously humbling and put a grin on my face.

I could not conjure many of the proper nouns here, and figured out ISHTAR GATE long before I could bring THE AVENGERS to mind.

Loved HORSE SENSE, HAIR RAISER, THATS ON YOU, CAMERA SHY, and CROWS NEST. Learned PICAROS today (like everyone else, it seems). Didn't care for CHAIN STORE or DONT FORGET. Not terrible, just... didn't have that "Aha!" moment once I sussed them out. More like, "Oh. Okay."

Overall, a fantastic puzzle that took me down a few pegs (especially in light of how many people here deemed it easy!). More like this, please!

Andrea 10:04 AM  

I for one am extremely pleased with myself for having been able to finish both yesterday’s and today’s puzzles 🧩 (woohoo!) with just a few google searches.
There was a time when I wouldn’t even open the XW page (back when I did it on paper) Friday and Saturday, but it was actually @Rex himself, or probably Michael Sharp 😉, who once told me years ago that if I stick to it I’ll eventually get it; that it’d be necessary to conquer the fear and that then I’d see that they are actually doable.

Today I approach hard puzzles without judgment (towards myself) if I can’t fill anything at first; instead, I just keep plowing until I get one answer, then two.... then try to find the logic in the crosses, and so I continue, very slowly but certain that even if the puzzle is tricking me, I probably know most answers. And when I don’t (proper names, brands, idioms, sports references) I do a Google search —avoiding puzzle cheaters sites like the plague— where in turn and as an added bonus, I learn something new in the process.

Thus my crossword education. I might not be a queen of, or a master of, or even a pro that places high on tournaments, but I’m definitely an almost graduate 👩🏻‍🎓

Thank you Rex, this blog and this great community for the encouragement!

(Just felt like saying this today)

Andrea 10:06 AM  

I read it too! Required reading in middle school in Mexico.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:07 AM  

ISHTAR, also known as Inanna, was the Sumerian Goddess of both Love and War, sometimes simultaneously. The stories are pretty racy. I think she is also the patron saint of transgender people, or at least transvestites. The male priests in her temple often dressed and acted as women. I'd like to think she was kind of important.

GHarris 10:08 AM  

I’m sure Prof.Rex just wants to make the rest of us feel smarter when he claims to have had to look it up to learn that Camus was not a Roman.

nunya 10:16 AM  

Has anyone been able to access the Saturday Newsday Xword? Seems as if it's behind a paywall.

Joe Dipinto 10:16 AM  

Frances is often misspelled with AN I – really? Do you have statistics to back that up? Cause I have never once seen it misspelled with an I. Most people, I think, know that a woman's name is spelled with an E. How about saying "What Frances might be misspelled with"? If you have to use such a dumb clue to begin with.

That and the pesto/pasta entry are enough to put this puzzle right down the toilet. So much for Saturday cluing—it feels increasingly like we're in kindergarten.

Lewis 10:41 AM  

@Barbara S. -- Another magnificent quote. Thank you!

pabloinnh 10:43 AM  

@Z-finally caught up with the comments from last night and sorry for the misunderstanding of your original post. OTOH, it lead to a fun discussion of tenors, so not a total loss.

Steve M 10:43 AM  

Picaros WTF

Steve M 10:45 AM  

Picaros nope

JC66 10:47 AM  


Try using a different server.

Nancy 10:47 AM  

Suffered horribly during this ridiculously difficult solve, but managed to finish without a single cheat. My last letter in was the "L" of the LCDS/LIZZO cross and I ran the alphabet to get it. "Oh, LCDS -- I've actually heard of them!" I thought as I wrote it in. Certainly I didn't know LIZZO. Nor ABBY, nor CORA, nor TRIMSPA, and ERIK will always be just "the Phantom" to me. As for YETI -- I wanted a Disney character like Dopey or Sneezy. But none had 4 letters.

When was the last time you took the SATS, Michael? They last for hours. They are in no way "Senior moments". My "Senior moment" in this puzzle was CROWS NEST -- I wrote in CROW with confidence and completely blanked on CROW-what, exactly???

And BIG ASK???!!!! If someone ever said to me "I have a BIG ASK for you", I'd probably run in the other direction. If it's really a BIG ASK, there's no call for you to be so flippant about it, now is there?

You really made me work to finish this, Michael, and I respect that. But I can't say I really had much fun. FAR FROM IT, in fact.

Anonymous 10:49 AM  

I knew it readily; one of my best friends is named Willie Picaro!

Anonymous 10:50 AM  

See above.

nunya 10:54 AM  


Ryan 10:55 AM  

I'm seeing Rex and others lately talk about how the late-week puzzles have gotten easier. And yet a lot of experienced solvers struggled with this one, no? Including Rex?

I'm a newish solver myself and finished today's in decentish time, by my standards, so I'd be willing to credit the theory that the Friday-Sunday stretch has gotten easier, on the logic that any club I can join must be too easy to join, etc. Only that's pretty suspect logic. I'm in deep enough with Crossworld now that I'd genuinely love to see some data on this question (surely there's a grad student somewhere . . .), but data from a methodology that's less anecdotal and individual. Does anyone know of anything that fits this bill?

In the meantime, PICAROS and ISHTAR GATE did give me a good spot of bother, and it wasn't until the happy music came up that I realized I'd put the consonants and vowels in the right place.

Irasy 10:56 AM  

There are people who need to remember FrancEs is shE and FrancIs is hIm. If you only heard the name without a face, you wouldn't know which is correct.

The Vez 11:08 AM  

Great puzzle. 2 holdups.Genre for songs and pirates for picaros. Luckily I sussed them both out.

Newboy 11:14 AM  

“ The puzzle begrudged as I trudged, but the tide turned,” said a wiser soul, & I couldn’t agree more this Saturday. My solving and appreciation parallel @Amanda’s (10:04) for the ongoing support that Rex & his blog cohort provide. Reading Rex and @Lewis while taking repeated deep breaths has been as mind altering as psychotropics. Thanks Mr. Hawkins, I’m off to see your constructor note as I try to understand what makes you tick!

Carola 11:18 AM  

A proper (hard) Saturday for me: slow progress rewarded with delights like HORSE SENSE, BACK FOR MORE. FAR FROM IT, and the obvious "I warned YOU!" for 57A - and THUS, I ground to a halt in the SE. I was getting no help from the diet supplements or the rogues, and, as as for being out of the picture, yes, I was: I had CAME.... and thought it was a verb. But, committed though I was to "I warned...", I was also pretty confident about ISHTAR GATE. So: I erased...and finished

@pabloinnh, @Wanderlust, @Andrea - Pablo, you're not the only one who knew PICAROS but couldn't see it. I haven't read Lazarillo de Tormes, but the name is etched in grad school memories as the model for Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen, whose picaresque novel Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus appeared in 1669,

jae 11:20 AM  

Mostly easy except for the SE which put up a fight. MAYA, PICAROS, ISTAR GATE were WOEs, although knowing the movie bomb ISTAR helped a little.

Plenty of sparkle, liked it!

GILL I. 11:21 AM  

Well....let's see: I didn't know LIZZO because, well, because I never read Hustler. And I didn't know ABBY even though I love soccer and I've never had a ZIT under my nose. So that's how my day started.
Do the laundry time.
Go to the middle and see what pops. Ooh, some CHATS here, a ROACH there, a little ERIK, some CAMUS with a plop of PESTO. So, OK....I'm getting this (sorta).
I remembered ISHTAR GATE because the first long, hard word I memorized to spell was Nebuchadnezzar and he was the one that constructed the GATE. I got a little angst at PICAROS because I know that word in Spanish. I usually call someone a cochino because a picaro is a naughty little pig in my Spanish world.
So in the end, I finished folding my dirty laundry. Did I like this? It wasn't the best HAIR RAISER and maybe the MIDAS touch could've used a bit more glitter, but it was fine.

Day two of my second Moderna vaccine:
My arm is a little sore....BUT...my dreams are something else. I've been dreaming in color and they involve food. I LOVE food but I'm not really a big eater. So I get up at 3 in the morning and make myself a tuna salad sandwich. I actually cut up the celery in little pieces and add some minced red onion and slather it on Oroweat Honey Wheat Berry bread. I turned the tv on and watched "Monk" and felt happy as some PICAROS in a pig pen.
Anybody else? Is this a BIG ASK? Do I need a TRIMSPA?

Z 11:25 AM  

Speaking of “magnificent quotes,” I ran across this gem filling space in one of my science fiction magazines:
Man cannot live by incompetence alone. - Charlotte Whitton

Also, if the TWO clue raised an eyebrow for you like it did for me, it comes from this formula:
ϕ = (1+sqrt5)/2
For whatever reason I only remember the golden ratio as being more closely approximated by dividing a Fibonacci number by the preceding Fibonacci number (1/1, 2/1, 3/2, 5/3, 8/5, 13/8, 21/13, et cetera) as you get higher in the sequence.

@Joe Dipinto - In my experience there are a lot of people who don’t realize that Francis is used to name boys. I wonder if it is a Catholic/non-Catholic background thing. Also the whole i=male e=female thing doesn’t exactly come up in English very often. Indeed, this particular confusion is the only example I can think of quickly, making the answer a gimme for me.

@Birchbark - Besides M-89 isn’t every road in the Allegan State Forest a “backroad?”

@pabloinnh - No worries.

@Hard Puzzle Lovers - I just “finished” this week’s Tough as Nails. East was easy, west defeated me. 58A is timely given the PICARO discussion. So if you are looking for a little more challenge you might want to give it a try.

Son Volt 11:26 AM  

This didn’t put up much of a fight. Liked it for the most part - there were a few clunky areas. PICAROS x ISHTAR GATE is rough stuff as is TRIMSPA and PESTO. Did like CAMERA SHY and BIG ASK.

The overall clueing was a little simplistic - but it was an enjoyable Saturday nonetheless.

Carola 11:29 AM  

@nunya 10:16 - I'm avoiding the Newsday paywall problem by doing a Google search for "saturday themeless," which brings up as the second entry "Crossword Puzzles - Amuse Labs." Clicking on that gets me to the puzzles. Good luck!

Z 11:40 AM  

@Gill I - 😂🤣 - I bet you never watched Hustlers, either.
As for your vaccine reaction- I’m scheduled for round 1 on Wednesday. Happy to see the NYT reporting today that we are about to go from shortage to glut. I’m looking forward to crowded bars and traveling to tournaments yet this year. I don’t generally notice the side effects they warn about for flu vaccines, so I’m hoping that holds true for for whichever COVID vaccine I’m getting.

@Nunya - Did you get it? My Crosswords app downloaded it to my iPad like it always does.

alicat 11:48 AM  

Just added Wonderful Fool to my reading list. Thank you, Barbara.

Starting to do Saturday puz with a lot of head-scratching and a little help.

CDilly52 11:50 AM  

WHEW!!! This was nothing short of brutal! Not that the answers were unknown or barely knowable, they weren’t. Well, other than LIZZO, and the fact that I did not see Hustler, the answers were all within the range of what I would call reasonable. Today’s constructor and I though might as well be from different galaxies. I chipped away at this for just over two hours and finally finished. What a Saturday workout!

Anonymous 11:50 AM  

That would have been a "pretty rogue" spelling of Picasso.

Rex's style described as "cold and somewhat squinch-faced" seems about right. You shoulda listened when they said "keep making that face and it'll stick".

Teedmn 11:51 AM  

I made my start in the SE with MIDAS but I thought I was going to leave it unfinished with 49A, 49D and 51D all baffling. But I decided to look at 49A's clue just one more time. The “jugular vein” part kept me thinking about vampires but when I finally decided to concentrate on “comic book” and “humor”, MAD came to mind and all came clear. That was my last real hold-up and the rest was pretty smooth.

I only know LIZZO because she was living in Minnesota when she got her BREAK OUT moment. This song video https://youtu.be/nQaRQe86suA was filmed in part in front of the state Capitol in St. Paul. I've heard the song dozens of times on local radio but had never watched the video which made me laugh, it is so wacky. (blogger wouldn’t let me imbed the link because of the https).


Thanks, Rex, for the entertaining write-up, as @Barbara S wrote.

And Michael Hawkins, nice Saturday challenge!

Mr. Cheese 11:54 AM  

I’ve not seen any of the current Avenger movies.... but nothing will compete with my memory of Diana Rigg in the original Avenger series. There’s never been a sexier woman on B&W TV.

Masked and Anonymous 11:55 AM  

Knew LIZZO immediately. Did not know ABBY, however -- ended up with ALBY/LOG moss. No bonus points for the M&A, today. Bonus cinnamon rolls still apply, tho.

Tons of cool longballs in this puppy. Fun time, for a themeless. Some faves: BIGASK. HORSESENSE. FARFROMIT. BACKFORMORE. CAMERASHY. THATSONYOU.

Didn't know my walls of Babylon entry points, unfortunately. Or who wrote "Caligula". Or weight loss supplement names. So a few nanoseconds tinkled out, while tryin to build them pups from their crossers.
oh, and yeah … PICAROS = rogues was also tough at our house, especially goin thru that mysterious ISHTARGATE picaroesque-thingy.

staff weeject pick: AWS. Better, sweeter clue: {Was messed up??}.

FriNite Schlockfest update: Bro-in-law brought "Austaliens". Funny and pretty good. For the second feature, M&A selected "Shockwave", which was more serious but still a pretty good way to waste a couple of hours. We have no earthly idea how my chosen flick got that name, tho. Featured a bunch of giant robots gone amok on a remote, unsettled jungle island that had lotsa nice wide-open bare paths lined with pretty floral plantins. har.

Thanx for the fun, Mr. Hawkins dude. Nice PESTO/PASTA clue. Could make a good runtpuz theme, somehow …

Masked & Anonymo5Us


CreamyT 11:57 AM  

If it's any consolation, my wife and I just started doing Fri/Sat puzzles, and when we go to the archive for them or get them in packs (which goes back many years), we don't find them harder on average.

mathgent 11:59 AM  

I was in the same boat with Lewis (7:02). I had gone through all the clues and filled in all I could but I still had a sea of white. I kept on going back over the clues and got a couple of good ones -- CAMERASHY, ISHTARGATE (I had GATE from crosses and I guessed ISHTAR by having heard about the movie). But the grid was still insultingly white. My wife had just finished watching Audrey on Netflix and I passed the clipboard over to her. I call her The Closer and she came through again with MIDAS, FARFROMIT, and ROACH. I took it back and finished without any lookups.

I measure the difficulty of a puzzle by the number of mysteries, entries I don't know or opaque clues. This one had 18 of them, near my limit of 20.

Trying to be cute but failing. "Spot to have a look sea?" for CROWSNEST.

An American male tennis player is #56 in the world. His name is Frances Tiafoe. He was named after his father. who spelled it with an E. His father was born in Sierra Leone.

GILL I. 12:32 PM  

Good gravy, @Z. Thanks.....and you bet I'll never watch Hustlers. :-)
First shot - piece of cake...second shot...your mileage may vary. Everyone I've talked to seems to have different reactions. Good luck!

Monty Montague 12:38 PM  

I like today, although I had "A to Z" (instead if ATOM) for far too long. Left me with "SPAZS" and the always unsatisfying "Not Far Off" from the website.

bocamp 12:41 PM  

@Andrea (10:04 AM) 👍 / @Anonymous (10:02 AM) 👍

@Z 11:25 AM

Thx for the Tough as Nails link. :)

td pg -3

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Amity ~ Kindness to all 🕊

nunya 12:46 PM  

I did get it, thanks 😊! I like a hard copy because I hate trees. I had to futz around with it but I figured it out.

ChrisSaintH 12:48 PM  

Very pleasant solve for me. A few errors out of the (ISHTAR) gate: OFFICE STORE for CHAIN STORE, PIRATES for PICAROS, and VIDAL for CAMUS (apologies to Vidal, for the association would have surely GNAW'd at him).

PREGO for the fun puzzle!

old timer 12:48 PM  

My comment, after finally finishing with LIZZO and listening to her sing: I will be happy to never hear her sing again, ever in my life. I certainly don't want to see her. She probably has a ZIT under her nose. She probably gets it on with ERIK, the Phantom of the Opera! But you know, LIZZO was guessable in the end, and without her I would have had a DNF.

This is the first, and very likely the only, time in my life when I finished a puzzle @Lewis could not finish without a lookup. Hands up for having "Pirates" before PICAROS. 60 or more years ago, I studied Spanish with Percy Rogers, who was a bit of a PICARO himself. I still grin at the detailed advice he gave for those of us taking the Spanish AP Exam. He told us the exact wording we should use, for the literary parts we could, in those days, write in English. We knew he knew whereof he spoke, because he was one of the people who wrote the exam! And, because Lazarillo de Tormes write in a very easy to grasp form of Spanish, excerpts from his picaresque novels were part of the curriculum. Good teachers know that you need to assign works with amusing characters if you want boys to learn literature in any language.

I didn't know about the ISHTAR GATE, but somewhere I read the name ISHTAR. One of the Four Gates to the City? Or in the old song, were there four gates into Jerusalem?

I did want the blockbuster films to have something to do with the Godfather. Never saw an AVENGERS movie, but heard enough ads for them, so it was reasonable to put it in once a few crosses worked for it.

nunya 12:48 PM  

Thank you!

Robert Morris 1:04 PM  

This also played kind of fast and loose with movie terms. Lizzo's role in Hustlers is better defined as a cameo (I suspect as a cheap way to throw some people off and put in Lopez), and The Avengers isn't its own franchise, it's part of a larger franchise, The Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Anonymous 1:06 PM  

c'mon, it's PhenFen

albatross shell 1:21 PM  

I looked up TWO post-solve also. If I ever knew it, I sure had forgotten it. Hung my head in mathematical shame, and then spent about 20 minutes brushing on Kepler triangles, odd coincidences, and found some research on which uses of the golden ratio in by artists were planned, accidental, or inaccurate. Not everything but some of what I learned in high school was wrong.

The only real clunker in the puzzle was TRIMSPA. And Trimspa was a pill that went through several different concoctions. The most successful was with ephreda which I guess got banned. I have only known a couple of speed freaks who were overweight. I never heard of it so it strikes me as a useless obscurity. I don't think much of diet supplements of any sort. I have tried a few.

albatross shell 1:24 PM  

Yeah. I just look at the pictures too.

crackblind 1:26 PM  

I'm kicking myself about the Caligula clue as well but for two very different reasons. Initially because I put VIDAL there (Gore Vidal wrote the original screenplay for the infamous 1979 film but disavowed it after it was significantly changed (hah!) during production) which totally screwed me up in the middle. I ultimately disavowed that answer but got stuck at -MUS for a few minutes which for me is worse because my mother-in-law was in the original Broadway production and she has a poster for it in her apartment which I see every time I'm over there (which hasn't been as often as usual and as much as I'd like in the past year). The unintentional benefit is that I now have a great idea for a Mother's Day present as someone is selling a copy of the Playbill on Amazon.

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

12A: Obvi stolen from Agard's brilliant "Pop up a lot?" / literal dad joke just weeks ago.

31A: Makes zero sense.

32D: SATs are taken junior year, and aren't a "moment." Why is "moments" plural? Because the answer is? Strange.

39A: "Topping that becomes the food it's eaten with when its vowels are changed to A's."
vs. the wordplay clue PESTO & "Spells what you put it on if you change every vowel to A."

Not to mention the tons of verbatim clues from other venues, often appearing one time in non-NYT.

This is the future of the "gold standard" of crosswords? Sad.

Birchbark 1:39 PM  

@Z (11:25) -- All back roads lead to Allegan.

Old Actor 1:50 PM  

Caution..Names dropping ahead: I may be the only person alive who loved "Ishtar" even if the casting was ridiculous. Who can imagine Warren Beaty as a schlub who can't get a date? I had a few drinks with him one time and, Hell, I would have dated him. Dusty (we called him Dusty back then before he "Graduated") and I spent a sad Christmas together in NY when we were too poor to travel to family. I love everything he ever did.

Charles Grodin (whom I've never met) was downright hilarious as the CIA guy and worth the price of admission. Also Elaine May is probably the funniest person (male or female) who ever lived. Look up her speech at some award show honoring Mike Nichols it's a killer. Did I mention I met her?

Dave S 1:51 PM  

Well that's a disappointment. I don't usually get annoyed by the same things Rex does, but today some bad fill (ani, ada, ager) some obscurities (trimspa, air asia, ishtar gate (less so), and the very Naticky crossing of Erik with Cora annoyed me more than the puzzle's obvious strengths. So while I dutifully completed it, I was also looking forward to reading Rex ripping it apart. But it was not to be! So I was obviously wrong, and I admit it did have it's pleasures, especially clue/answer for crows nest and the rare appearance of picaro.

I still think of Emma Peel and John Steed when I think of Avengers, and had no idea the term linked films in a series, but that's on me.

oceanjeremy 1:56 PM  

Today I learned: CAMUS did not consider himself existentialist. I also did not know that he wrote Caligula, did not in fact know it existed, and did not know that he considered it part of a trio with The Stranger and Myth of Sisyphus (both of which I have read). Hooray, learning from crosswords!

I solved today with my fiancée, on paper, in ink, according to our ritual. I’m aware that when we co-solve it’s always going to be easier, but this seemed every bit as unchallenging as yesterday’s.

Agreed with Rex: Nothing much seemed to "sizzle" on this one for me. Things I liked:

• Only two sports clues — and both for women athletes!
• "/" as a clue for SPARE: I got this without crosses, which put me in the mind of The Big Lebowski. So I pointed at the clue "Not even close!" and asked my fiancée, "That some kind of Eastern thing?" and she smiled and said "FAR FROM IT" as she filled in the answer.
• I liked the cluing with a slight misdirect for AGER ("Follower of new or golden").
• "Wishes undone" for RUES made me happy

I didn't like any of the longer answers. I almost always dislike PPP on long answers, and especially dislike pop culture PPP (I'm looking at you, THE AVENGERS). ISHTAR GATE is a cool, evocative answer — but cluing it this way reduces it to mere trivia. THAT'S ON YOU and BACK FOR MORE aren't exactly "green paint," but it sure feels like that to me today.

And last nit for the day: There are so many interesting ways to clue DEUS, and there is nothing interesting about state mottos. In fact just after typing that sentence I decided to check, and yep — I just read through all fifty US State Mottos and they are all bland and disinteresting. Kansas (my birth state, uninterestingly) probably has the best with Ad Astra Per Aspera. The rest form a drab spectrum that ranges from yawn-inducing to nauseating libertarian tough-guy nonsense. Oklahoma's Labor Omnia Vincit is only worthwhile in the context of class warfare and strong unionism, and (checks Oklahoma's labor laws and history of union-busting) ... yeah, that ain't it.

My general take on this puzzle: Easy, enjoyable — but just a bit forgettable.

bocamp 2:09 PM  

@alicat (11:48 AM) 🤞

@CDilly52 (11:50 AM) 👍



pg -1

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Amity ~ Kindness to all 🕊

A 2:10 PM  

Happy National Joe Day! (The name, apparently, not the un-LATTE.) Here’s to @Joe Dipinto on his day! Lurking Joes, you too!

Whee! - oops, that was a typo for Whew! but whee works too. Whew and Whee! What a toughie for me! I was sure I wouldn’t get it, and about halfway through I started not to care. But I followed the sage advice of my betters in Rexland (U SAGES), didn’t give up, took a short break to pet the dog, and continued hacking toeholds. YETI met me at the IHOP, and was my FAITHful companion.

What Rex did with CAMUS I did with USAGES. Had _SAGES and just couldn’t un-parse the long A, a la oSAGES. Finally got the “oh, duh” moment post-solve. Not a pretty plural, imho. Ditto MIRES and ROUGES - more than one of either is excess USAGES.

Sometimes being wrong works out. SlAsh before SPARE at least gave me ST. PAT, from which I tentatively put in AGER and TORE. GdP led me to the GATE and confirmed SPAMS. Got to PICARO through the unrelated peccadillo, but, hey, I’ll take it.
Considered sTeM (Hi, @Roo) but held off long enough to get MAD. Wanted some kind of cropping for the marvelous “out of the picture” clue.

But I made it to the summit solo! Looking around afterwards there’s some fun symmetry: ABBY Normal teamed up with Mr. HYDE, THE AVENGERS BACK FOR MORE with HAIR RAISER-(Sharp) HORSE SENSE, and the ST. PAT’s Day SET-AT, with no RUES or REGS. The southern CAMERA SHY one BREAKS OUT up north. Are LIZZO’s ROUGES USAGES SPARE, or does she make it an EVENT? Are there ROACHes in the CROWS NEST? I would Bolt. (Just peeked at some of your posts, and @kitshef’s CAME RASHY is a great pairing with BREAKS OUT!)

Thanks, Mr. Hawkins! I eventually didn’t hate it (FAR FROM IT) and THAT’S ON YOU.

okanaganer 2:17 PM  

I had SICAROS for a while, figuring it was an alternate spelling of SICARIO. Though "rogues" would be kind of a mild clue for them. "Vicious killers" might be more apt.

In the end I finished with an error anyway, as I had moss growing on a LOG crossing ALBY Wambach (perfectly reasonable, I thought).

burtonkd 2:17 PM  

I think BIGASK is often used as an opening gambit, where the "ask" turns out only to be medium or not as much trouble as you imagine, then you're happy to oblige.

@Birchbark - nothing like a delicious dish made from food you gathered yourself. Thanks for the evocative story!

@Barbara S - one of the only impressions I do is Bullwinkle Moose saying, "Only fools do things the foolish way". Your story gives me a followup should it ever come up again.

@Sixthstone - it is one of my least favorite things to hear people brag about not having seen some kind of broad popular entertainment while simultaneously disparaging it as if that deems them superior to it all. The achievement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe of upholding multiple story lines over the course of so many films, directors, actors and almost 2 decades is staggering. As you say, it may not be your cuppa, and I usually have to watch some kind of small budget high minded fare after.

Frantic Sloth 2:31 PM  

Late to the party today and gotta run, so apologies if this has all been said before...

Really liked this one, though found it a tad easy for the Saturdee puzzle. Got PICAROS from Gof knows where, so that was fun.

Loved: BIGASK, THATSONYOU, FARFROMIT, HAIRRAISER, BACKFORMORE, and the rest was pretty much dreckless.


Ugh. When are we going to stop with the whole "GATE" scandal suffix??
Okay, so maybe ISHTAR wasn't the best movie of all time, but it certainly wasn't the worst either. If you wanna "GATE" a movie, look no further than The English Patient, which enjoyed such an inordinate amount of praise in its time. Now that was a scandal.
Elaine Benes will back me up on this. 😉

Until tomorrow!


Maddiegail 2:33 PM  

Have missed you, old actor. Glad you're back.

Z 3:03 PM  

@Birchbark (1:39) - True.

Deb Sweeney 3:21 PM  

Kinda surprised how many never heard of Lizzo. Feel like I shoulda got picaro from picaresque, And I guess A-DA . . . that cross was my only "huh"? letter.

Masked and Anonymous 3:25 PM  

Typo from first msg.:
Flick's name was "Australiens", not "Austaliens".
Crucial to get these must-see movie titles correct.


Sandman 3:55 PM  

I see 53 across as the the ultimate Razzie mashup of Ishtar and Heaven's Gate. After a year of COVID, those are both on my streaming short list...

kitshef 4:02 PM  

Honor Blackman played opposite Patrick Macnee for two seasons of The Avengers. Shortly after leaving the show, she appeared as a “Bond girl” in Goldfinger.

Diana Rigg played opposite Patrick Macnee for two seasons of The Avengers. Shortly after leaving the show, she appeared as a “Bond girl” in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Blackman is remembered today primarily for her role in Goldfinger. No one talks about her in The Avengers.

Rigg is remembered today primarily for her role in The Avengers. No one talks about her in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

RooMonster 4:19 PM  

Too bad there's never been a movie called "Attack of the Mutant Cinnamon Rolls".
Now that would be a cool flick.

RooMonster Cinnamon Cinema Guy

Barbara S. 4:24 PM  

@Z (11:25)
Charlotte Whitton was the mayor of Ottawa when I lived there in the early sixties. I was a kid then, but every Ottawan of any age knew Charlotte Whitton because she was so immensely colorful. To say that she was a formidable presence wherever she went and whatever she did is a massive understatement. And she had a “vicious wit”, as Wikipedia puts it, she didn’t suffer fools and no one was safe. She’s also credited with the line: “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.”

On another topic: The Roobarb Frozty.

@alicat (11:48)
If you do read Wonderful Fool, please report back. This was one of those days when I feared I wouldn’t be able to find a quotable author. At the last moment Shūsaku Endō bailed me out when I found that excerpt, but I don’t know the book at all.

@burtonkd (2:17 PM)
That was a unique response to a quotation. And I’m very happy to have supplied you with new material. I remember “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show” very well. My best friend and I went around talking in fake Russian accents a lot. I was Natasha and she was “Borees darlink”.

Nigel Pottle 4:24 PM  

This may have been mentioned but I haven’t read every post. FRANCIS may be a misspelling of FRANCÉS, but it is a perfectly legitimate name in its own right - it’s a name given to males - perhaps you’ve heard of St. Francis of Assisi. My mother and my aunt both had Frances in their names but my parents gave one of my younger brothers Francis (which he doesn’t like) as his middle name, but he might have been nicknamed Frank which I bet he would be just fine with.

Anoa Bob 5:23 PM  

This one kicked my booty well and properly. I tried ADELE, who I know only through crosswords, for the "singer" at 1 Across with confidence because it crossed the L in LIP for 3 Down "It might be right under your nose", which I also dropped in with confidence. Both were wrong! In a way I'm glad. Having a ZIT under my nose is not an image I would want to carry for the rest of the puzzle. (At least we were spared a specific location for yesterday's CYST. I shudder to think where that might have been.)

Even though I whiffed on a lot of stuff in this one, there were enough nice touches to give me a good solve buzz. HORSE SENSE and CAMERA SHY are both interesting and evocative phrases. Either could be a springboard for further thoughts and reminiscences. Maybe even an essay. And SURMISE tickled my word-nerd funny bone, so I'll be BACK FOR MORE.

Kenny Mitts 5:39 PM  

Kinda surprised Rex didn’t note the presence of so many exceptional women in this puzzle. Maya Moore, Abby Wambach, and Cat Cora all became famous for their talents in fields where mostly men get recognized. Lizzo is incredibly popular, her songs are catchy as hell, and her body positivity makes her a great role model. Not to mention that she was clued with the movie Hustlers, which is very good, and written and directed by a woman with a cast of mostly women.

A 6:46 PM  

@pablo from yesterday - Being odd myself, I think of being odd as being almost a badge of honor. Allow me to offer my most sincere apologies if I caused you a moment of bother!

Isn’t there a rule that if @Lewis had to look up something, it’s banished from future grids?

@John H, I balked at BOG, too - but I haven’t ever been in a BOG so just accepted it ON FAITH.

@Z 8:50am, Thanks for the interesting highest grossing films list. I wonder why anyone would fail to adjust for inflation.

@Birchbark, lovely story about jumping on the cranberry bog with your dad.

@Barbara, just saying questions aloud really does help the answers to come, doesn’t it? Thanks for sharing that ‘wonderful fool.’

@Nancy, @burtonkd, I think of “That’s a big ask!” as being said by the askee (or a third person) after said ask. Maybe followed by “I’ll see what I can do” or “What makes you think I’d even consider it?”

@Gill, your snack sounds yummy - I’ll keep it in mind for my 2nd Moderna on Monday. Hope your symptoms stay mild!

My Golden Ratio answer did not come from any knowledge on my part, but I did go look it up afterwards and was fascinated to read about its relationship to Fibonacci numbers.

@Old Actor - love the name dropping - especially Dusty!

@oceanjeremy - totally agree about the DEUS clue.

Time to get ready to play a live orchestra concert!!

Eniale 7:12 PM  

My mother's name was Frances and people (even my cousin, not just strangers) regularly misspelled it with ANI

pabloinnh 8:34 PM  


Absolutely no offense taken. Any group I have sung in in the last forty years has adjectives for tenors, "silly", "immature", wisecracking", "juvenile", etc. Usually we just say, "hey, we're TEMORS!". Maybe "odd" fits into these descriptions, but I think we just find the other folks "odd". Besides, if I were a bass, I would be part of the description that identifies "tone cluster" as "basses singing in unison".

Har. It's all in fun.

chinch 8:56 PM  

@Joe Dipinto, my grandmother’s name was Francis. Then again, she wasn’t French plus my family is a bunch of rubes. Seriously, can any sentient person doing the NYTX believe that there is a single correct way to spell a name?

kitshef 9:18 PM  

A bog or bogland is a wetland that accumulates peat, a deposit of dead plant material—often mosses, and in a majority of cases, sphagnum moss. So BOG sure worked for me.

Nancy 10:12 PM  

@Old Actor -- Re: Elaine May: I also think she may be the funniest woman who ever lived and agree that her Mike Nichols tribute is not to be missed. Would you believe that I'm more envious of your hanging out with Elaine than your hanging out with Warren Beatty. No, I'm not kidding. Warren's never really done it for me. Actually, I think it might be more fun to hang out with Warren's ditsy sister. But what a wonderfully colorful life you've had, @Old Actor!

@pabloinnh, @A, and et al -- I didn't know tenors were said to be odd. I mean maybe the really, really celebrated opera stars are a bit odd, but that's probably just because they're so celebrated and not because they're tenors. I doubt they're as odd as all those diva-like sopranos. (Who seemed more normal, more salt of the earth -- Pavarotti or Callas? I rest my case.) Anyway, the bottom line, Pablo, is that you've never sounded the least bit odd on this blog.

Matt g 11:52 PM  

Toughest Saturday in a while, I think? Finally able to finish after correcting "Alby" to "Abby" (moss can grown on a log, I think?)

zephyr 7:09 PM  

Form of latin sum = I sm. Is not erat:it was. Poor clue. 18A. If Something is tangled up, it is unlikely to be mired, as one has to do with knots and ropes and other with mud. 41A. Poor clue. Crux? 47D: not pith!! Too farfetched. Too many pivots. Poor usage not conducive to word sources.

Anonymous 4:48 PM  

Didnt much like this puzz. The things OFL liked, I didnt. Too much cute BS and shaky clueing. I guess i was ok with Ishtar gate, but that was about it.

Still solving paper and pencil. If I wanted to look stuff up it would ruin the experience.

Purity of Essence

thefogman 11:36 AM  

Medium? FARFROMIT. Got BOGged down at the cross of 34A and 26D. I SURMISED it was an R in ERIK and CORA and I guessed right. Not bad Michael Hawkins. I’ll be BACKFORMORE.

spacecraft 11:48 AM  

Way harder than medium, at the Space station. I filled in the grid with so many guesses that I wondered if I was even half right. When I saw that it was ALL right I was astounded, Must go to casino: it's my day!

Thank goodness for DOD and way into the puzzle ABBY Wambach, with her YETI in tow. However BREAKSOUT is a really off answer for "Soars to success;" that was one of my very last entries. So too was CHATS for heart-to-hearts. I do not think of a heart-to-heart as a "chat." Chat is casual and the connotation is "not very serious." The other is just the opposite. I object to this clue in particular as grossly misleading.

Learned a new word: PICAROS. One of several today that were formed by crosses, including non-Albert CAMUS (How would you pronounce that, KAY-muss?). When I had it filled in, I thought...well, you know what.

One writeover, agENT before EVENT. Either can follow field or sales. Excessive brain wracking for PESTO; big headslap when it finally came. All in all, a monstrously difficult solve; triumph points approaching infinity. Guess that means eagle.

P.S. The Eagles selected Devonta Smith: watch out now!!

Burma Shave 12:50 PM  


IT's no BIGASK when YOU're SET:


Anonymous 1:31 PM  

Pisser infestation. Not worth the time.

rondo 3:15 PM  

I HAD a few things up top but what really got me going was MAD magazine. Little inkfests where the ump turned into a REF and TrUe became THUS.

OH dear ABBY . . .

Saturday tough for sure.

leftcoaster 4:27 PM  

Surprised to find a pretty clear path from the SE to the NW in step-by-step fashion, with the downs and acrosses nicely interlocking. Much liked several of the longer clues and answers

Got 99.9 percent of it. The exception was one spot in the NW corner: Wanted iN FAITH instead of ON FAITH. Thought either worked, but had to choose one or the other, and guessed wrong. (That also left LIZZi instead of LIZZO.) Outliers were BIG ASK, SPARE (as in bowling), and the totally unknown PICAROS.

Overall, a very good feeling about this Saturday near-solve.

Diana, LIW 6:01 PM  

Adele's Lip got in the way of LIZZO'S ZIT for a bit. Sometimes I feel older than Rex's assessment of puzzle constructions.

Actually amazed at how much I was still able to suss out - then looked up the LIZZO error and off to finish the races. Fun.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Joe in Newfoundland 11:49 AM  

Syndicationland and 2 days late. Agree with Zephyr - ERAT is not a form of sum. "sum" is the first of the 4 forms that everyone learns, but it is not the infinitive. Constructors maybe shouldn't use Latin words if they don't know the basics of Latin, and if the editor doesn't, he shouldn't let Latin clues pass.

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