Trans-Siberian railway hub / FRI 3-19-21 / Journalist Ronald whose book The Bureau identified Deep Throat as W. Mark Felt / Sandwich originally named the Aristocrat / Manhattan strip synonymous with golden age of American songwriting / Rap per old-school rappers / Parts of ears from Latin for snail / Candies shaped like truncated cones

Friday, March 19, 2021

Constructor: Kameron Austin Collins

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Ronald KESSLER (10D: Journalist Ronald whose book "The Bureau" identified Deep Throat as W. Mark Felt) —
Ronald Borek Kessler (born December 31, 1943) is an American journalist and author of 21 non-fiction books about the White House, U.S. Secret ServiceFBI, and CIA. [...]In his book The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI, Kessler presented the first credible evidence that Bob Woodward's and Carl Bernstein'sWatergate source dubbed Deep Throat was FBI official W. Mark Felt. (wikipedia)
• • •

Brutal. This was harder for me than most Saturdays. The combination of proper nouns I didn't know and deliberately misleading (i.e. intensely Saturday-level) cluing meant that I moved easily through almost no portion of this puzzle. I'm just glad the timer wasn't on. That said, the grid looks very nice, and many answers were genuinely pleasurable to discover, particularly MISE-EN-SCÈNE, TIN PAN ALLEY, and ALOE VERA GEL, which I'm not sure I *like* liked it so much as I enjoyed the odd sensation it gave me as it floated into view, as if from the fog. It was eerie. Like my fingers just sort of slowly made it appear, partly resistant to the odd letter combinations that were unfolding, partly curious to see where it all would end. There's something monstrous about it, ALOE VERA GEL. Sounds like some uncanny creature you'd encounter in Dungeons & Dragons. It's an answer that looks like it swallowed a lot of other, smaller, unsuspecting words, words like EVE and EVER and ERA and AGE and RAGE, poor things. So my feelings for it are more like a biblical Awe or respectful Terror than love. It was memorable, at any rate. 

But yeah the names got me today, pretty badly. Actually, one name got me worse than any others: KESSLER. Zero idea. None. And while at times I wanted KESSLER (there was a poet who used to teach her named Milt KESSLER who was kind of a big deal, so at least I'd seen the name before), but when crosses wouldn't work out, I'd start doubting KESSLER. Just couldn't stick to it. The very worst letter was the last because it was the first letter in RHYME (31A: Rap, per old-school rappers), which absolutely stymied and befuddled me, despite the answer's ultimate obviousness and simplicity. In fact, because of that obviousness. I had no idea RHYME was "old-school," that it had stopped being a word for rap, which probably means that I am old, which ... yes, that checks out. But I also was unclear on how to spell COCHLEAS (I only know the term from the adjective "cochlear," as in "cochlear implant, and I honestly thought there were two "C"s immediately preceding the "H"). Then YEAS and MESH were just too hard for me to get, so the "Y" and "M" in RHYME stayed hidden. Throw in my near-total unfamiliarity with whatever SODA ASH is (45A: Water-softening compound), and that eastern section gets Real Scary. Somehow eventually got YEAS from that clue (32D: Consensus from a bloc), and crawled to the ending. Horrible feeling to have the last thing you get (RHYME) be such a simple thing. But we can't choose how we go out. These things just happen.

Had the same RHYME-type experience with MYA (4D: Grammy winner for 2001's "Lady Marmalade"), where, once I got her from crosses, I thought "Oh, her ... *she* was on that track!?" I can name *three* other women who sang / rapped on "Lady Marmalade" (L'il Kim, Xtina, Missy ... ooh, looks like Pink's in there too), but wow, MYA ... I just forgot. Oh, hey, here's a thing I just learned, MYA has an accent aigu over the "Y" (!) (like on the "E"s in ÉTÉ, every solver's favorite French season)—my keyboard won't even let me put that accent on a "Y." Only the real vowels are allowed such an accent, apparently. So just remember to mentally supply it. Not sure what it's supposed to do to the pronunciation. But that's her name so that's her name. Other name snags: OLGA (54D: 2018 Liteature Nobelist Tokarczuk)SOTO (30D: Mississippi's De ___ National Forest (De SOTO was an explorer, and I know his name now that I see it, but I was never gonna get it from "De ___"); and BIG MAC (!) (1A: Sandwich originally named the Aristocrat) (no clue). Then there was NINON, which ... wow that is at the bottom of my five-letter crossword fabrics list. TWILL TULLE TWEED ORLON NYLON SATIN SERGE BAIZE CREPE LINEN MOIRE TOILE VOILE ... but NINON? Non, non. It's not even on wikipedia's List of Fabrics, LOL. So that was rough (not NINON, NINON is a smooth, sheer fabric, but coming up with NINON as an answer—rough). Also rough, comparative adjectives no one would ever say, i.e. WINSOMER (22D: More charming). Love "winsome," but the comparative is an implausibility. But if I was SADDENED today it was mostly by my own feeling of incompetence. The grid feels mostly very solid and occasionally delightful.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


American Liberal Elite 6:41 AM  

Learning the the Big Mac was once the Aristocrat has made my day.

Conrad 6:44 AM  

Lost time at the 45A water softener. Had S _ _ _ A _ _ and immediately went for -- what else? -- SeasAlt! Took a while to correct that.

Lost more time because I had BURkA instead of BURQA at 46D, and lost my (modest) streak to QUA at 60A.

Anonymous 6:47 AM  

Has there ever been an NYTXW puzzle "analysis" in before today's where Jeff hasn't mentioned the constructor's name at all?

Lewis 6:53 AM  

Wordplay heaven from a mind that, it looks to me, not only analyzes, but also has fun. I marked nine wordplaying clues that pushed my happy button. Wow! This is on top of devilishly evasive non-wordplay clues to sweetly wrangle with.

Often on the weekend the grid is filled with fairly ordinary answers that sing because of the cluing. But here we have more – words that sing on their own as well. OKAY I’LL BITE! MEGALOPOLIS! MISE EN SCENE! CHINTZY! BOUNTEOUS! TIN PAN ALLEY! CLOISTER!

What a gridmaking talent. Kameron, you opened with BIG MAC, but today, in my eyes, you are The Big KAC. Thank you for one terrific ride!

TonySaratoga 7:01 AM  

Same. Saved me from despair at a brutal Friday time.

Space Is Deep 7:05 AM  

I thought I might not finish this one. But I managed to piece it together, letter by letter. A good workout.

SomeOneHasToBeMe 7:06 AM  




The sadism. The sheer, inhuman sadism to go and find a word like OMSK and deploy it in a crossword puzzle.

I can't even complain. I know what OMSK is and how to spell it. KESSLER is a common enough name and easy to brute force that last letter.

What impressed me is how many long, fair, non obscure, inferable, fair crossed absolute bastard answers are in this. I reasoned my way though OKAY ILL BITE like a sodoku. "Well if the "L is "I'll, then there's a T....oh, did they spell out "OK"

MISEENSCÈNE! MEGALOPOLIS! And yes, the immensity of "ALOE VERA GEL rising like a giant squid into squamous horror. Who knew three Monday gimmes could be jammed together into this nightmare. OEVE? what the hell is an OEVE?

Loved it.

kitshef 7:25 AM  

Final four squares in the SW corner took me four minutes. Wanted BURkA, but could not make anything out of kU_. At one point, took out the clearly correct ROE, ALOUD and ADD (twice) because nothing was working.

Odd puzzle. All the difficulty was crammed into the bottom five rows: QUA, STEAD, NINON, LAC, OLGA, and a hall of shameworthy clue for DECADE.

ALOE is appearing in more and more stuff. As someone who is allergic to it, I find this a very bad development. It’s nothing life-threatening; just makes my skin turn read and a little puffy, like I got a bad sunburn. We’ve stayed in hotels where all the bathroom stuff – soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, wipes – have aloe. It's like they don't want me to wash.

Stimpson 7:32 AM  

@Anonymous 6:47

This is the constructor who wrote a screed excoriating Jeff in February.

Hungry Mother 7:38 AM  

After doing my best to fill the grid, I turned on the red letters and saw 8 errors, a personal worst. I still couldn’t fathom all of the names and revealed the puzzle. Not my day.

PGregory Springer 7:41 AM  

End of my 42 day streak

ncmathsadist 7:42 AM  

This was a beating consisting of obscure proper names nad oh-too-cute cluing

OffTheGrid 7:46 AM  

WINSOMER is only one of many ugly items in this puzzle. It was difficult but not in a clever, fun way. More like in a WTF way. This puzzle, like yesterday's is a BOMB.

Unknown 7:48 AM  

Actually there was no one person who was "Deep Throat." Dave Obst, who was Bernstein and Woodward's literary agent, wrote extensively about this in his memoir, "Too Good to Be Forgotten." He wrote: "In the original proposal of All The President's Men, Deep Throat did not exist."

Upon suggestion of Robert Redford to spice up the story, Woodward and Bernstein re-cast their tale and made themselves and their investigation the focal points, and created Deep Throat.

Obst leads readers through the claims made in All the President's Men and smashes them. For instance, Deep Throat was said to be a high official yet he had the time to not only drive past Woodward's apartment every day to check for the flower pot. And he "would have had to get out of his car and enter a small courtyard, then crane his neck to see if the flowerpot on Bob's sixth floor balcony was out. I couldn't imagine a high government official, especially one who doesn't want to be linked to Woodward and the Post, risking hanging out in Woodward's courtyard every night to see if Bob wanted to meet."

Also, the scenario that when DT wanted to meet he left a message in Woodward's copy of the NY Times was ludicrous. Many copies of the NYT were delivered to the building, left in a stack, and the doorman handed them out; there weren't specific copies for specific apartments. Furthermore, even if that wasn't the case: the lobby door was locked, so how would Deep Throat have got inside to mark the paper? Then fold it back up and hand it back to the doorman, yet keep his identity secret?

These are just a few of Obst's points.

W. Mark Felt was named as Deep Throat after he had developed severe dementia. As the #3 man at the FBI, who was a strong supporter of Hoover, he didn't like or trust Nixon, and may have passed on some information. Many people did. (Obst believes that Deep Throat was a composite; Woodward and Bernstein got information from many people and sources.) Felt didn't have the access to Nixon's inner circle that much of the information came from.

Shirley Freitas

Joaquin 7:56 AM  

Somehow I managed to drop in OK I’LL BITE at the outset; then, nothin’. Finally BIG MAC hit me and I was off to the movies. Yep. It reminded me of “Pulp Fiction” so I watched several scenes from that movie on YouTube. So many classic scenes: “Royale with Cheese” got me started and I finished with the dance contest. What a great movie!

Oh, yeah. The puzzle. Totally kicked my butt; cheated but finished.

pabloinnh 7:58 AM  

This is the day I needed a "check puzzle" feature on my pencil, as the K vs. Q problem in the SW was impenetrable, at least by me. Running the alphabet does me little good, as the happy music at a successful completion is only produced by yours truly. So it goes.

Thought this was a really good tough but fair Friday. I learned NINON(?). ALOEVERAOIL is not a thing, I discover, but turning OIL into GEL will complete a corner, even if you haven't met OLGA. I can't remember the last time I saw the long form of RATATAT, which usually appears as RAT___. Same reaction as OFL to WINSOMER, and I learned the proper use of SODAASH.

I'm familiar with KAC's oeuvre, as he frequently has puzzles in the New Yorker, and you'd better be a Keenly Aware Crossworder if you want to finish them. Thanks for the fun, sir, and well done you.

Guilherme Gama 7:59 AM  

I solved a puzzle that Rex found challenging. Today is a good day.

About WINSOMER - a Google Ngram comparison shows that "more winsome" is far more commonly used than "winsomer", thought the latter did find its way into some literature.

Oddly enough, both forms got a big bump around 1900, for some reason.

Anonymous 8:01 AM  

Got 1A thanks to "Pulp Fiction" somehow:

Royale with Cheese. What do they call a Big Mac?

Big Mac's a Big Mac, but they call it Le Big Mac.

Royale-Aristocrat seemed a plausible jump.

Birchbark 8:04 AM  

This puzzle overall was a BOUNTEOUS challenge. I really worked hard, with the feeling of reward at the end that comes from it.

Ironically, the "Aristocrats" punchline was originally BIG MAC -- they had to take it out for legal reasons. And some of the jokes were off-putting, even by that movie's standards. So everybody wins.

@Rex is at his best on ALOE VERA GEL. The emergent, devouring word monster -- you wonder how it will fare against AMOEBA if there is ever a sequel to this puzzle. Just a thought, Mr. Collins.

oceanjeremy 8:06 AM  

Holy cow this threw me for a loop.

Oh Friday Puzzle, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways:

- MEGALOPOLIS is defined as “two or more roughly adjacent metropolitan areas” (as per Wikipedia). The cluing, “Heavily populated urban complex,” does not bring to mind the sprawling MEGALOPOLIS. When I hear MEGALOPOLIS I think of William Gibson’s “The Sprawl,” or the futurist imaginings of “BosWash,” an uninterrupted cityscape stretching from Boston to DC. “Heavily populated urban complex” makes me think of a single high rise apartment. Boo.
- SODAASH? I refuse to write this as two words, SODA ASH, because 1) I’ve never heard of it and it seems like Rex never had either and 2) when solving it looks like SODAASH, which looks like nonsense, which made this whole area of the grid impossible today.
- DECADE. “Score” means twenty. It does not mean “Twenty years.” Even its most famous usage in regards to time, in the Gettysburg Address, specifies that it is a score of years: “Four score and seven years ago.” You might as well have just clued this “Ten?” or “Two times five?” and expected solvers to know the answer is DECADE.
- NINON: What?
- WINSOMER: You know what? F#¢& you, WINSOMER.

I do love some parts of the puzzle! TIN PAN ALLEY made me happy, maybe just because it was a long answer I could get with few crosses. RHYME and LEEK pleased me, and I actually learned something with the LEEK cluing (“What the French call ‘Poor man’s Asparagus’”). BASE TEN, because yay math nerddom!, and ULTRAVIOLET, because it was another long answer I could get with few crosses. IKEA Effect is good short fill, imho.

Side note: For those of you who have been following my and my fiancée‘s housing adventures, we got the lease to Our Dream Apartment in Brooklyn (a short stroll from Prospect Park! Double the square footage of our current apartment!) but we can’t uncork the champagne just yet. It’s a sublease in a co-op building, and we need approval from The Board before we can move in. We have a Zoom meeting with them at 5pm today. We have to convince them we are not crazy persons (somehow).

Please wish us luck!

Son Volt 8:15 AM  

Definitely put up a fight. I liked it for the most part - thought some of the clueing tried too hard. OKAY ILL BITE and MISE EN SCENE are fantastic. Didn’t know KESSLER or NINON. Liked CLOISTER x BIG MAC and SET AT EASE.

Order of magnitude didn’t feel right with Liberal and BOUNTEOUS. I count in BASE TEN - is the count on play there geared towards rely on?

Enjoyable solve - could have been a Saturday Stumper.

bocamp 8:28 AM  

Thank you @?? haven't yet looked to see who's guilty of this dastardly construction, but got to hand it to her/him/them: this is definitely one doozie of a puz … so far. LOL

Excruciating solve; had to pack it in last eve to resume this AM. Got (maybe) most of the top half, although 20A MISEENSCENE makes no sense (except for the SCENE part), and all the crosses seem correct, altho, don't know for sure about KESSLER. And, if the "R" in said journalist is right, it isn't helping at all with my old-school rappers at 31A.

The bottom half of the puz looks like Swiss cheese, and I'm already over 2x my Fri. avg. time. I do love a challenge, tho, so here goes. 🤞

I hope you've all done better than I. :)

The Trolley Song (Meet Me in STLOUIS) ~ Judy Garland

I'm grateful for the BOUNTEOUS posts on this blog and for the camaraderie that the vast majority of contributors exhibit. 🙏

yd pg -1

Peace ~ Empathy ~ TOLERANCE ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Z 8:28 AM  

Well, that was fun. Like just about everyone else I was wondering why my Saturday Stumper came a day early and in the NYT. Boy howdy, FDNF was strong through the whole solve (Fear of a Did Not Finish). You might think getting IKEA and GAGS would lead to a fast start, but you’d be wrong. Then MILES gave me OMSK but my train still wasn’t leaving the station. That little NE section was easy, but -CENE was no help. No, I didn’t get on to solid footing until TIN PAN ALLEY was a gimme, abetted by my seeing through the “score means 20” misdirection. I built the south, had a brief writeover of BURkA to BURQA, COCHLEAS finally appeared to firm up the east coast, finally pronounced “wind” correctly to fill in OKAY I’LL BITE from the back, and found myself surprisingly nearly done with just the BOUNTEOUS section to complete. ZOO —> CHINTZY —> WINSOMER (oof) and boom, BFF for the win.

I’m seeing PPP complaints (Pop Culture, Product Names, and other Proper Nouns) early so I checked. Sorry everyone. This comes in at a very NYTX typical and nowhere near excessive 17 of 72, for 24%. And it is diverse; news, music, theater, candy, fast food, French lit, geography, religion, football. No, this was tough because it was tough, not because the toughness was ginned up with outré PPP.

The List



@Stimpson - Wow. Impressive. One sentence and you manage to insult both Collins and Chen.

Mr. Cheese 8:47 AM  

20 day streak over. I don’t feel bad. This was a bear!
Kudos to all who finished.

Becca 8:48 AM  

Though it was brutal, I had fun! Very gratified to see it played hard, since my time was DOUBLE my average Friday time--I was willing to put it down to my recent cotton-candy-strength brain, but apparently other folks felt the same!

Love seeing OLGA Tokarczuk, whose work I just adore (An English translation of "The Books of Jacob," which has been called her magnum opus, is being published this November!!)

Like others, I also liked BIGMAC, esp the way it was clued, and found so many answers gratifying after I had to hunt for them. CHINTZY, in particular. Rex's experience w ALOEVERAGEL was exactly my own. A friend in elementary school used to call me ROLO due to my initials, and I was given the candy all the time. Pity I don't much care for caramel.

There are things I could be cranky about w this puzzle but honestly I liked the challenge today.

albatross shell 8:53 AM  

A kick-ass Saturday. And it did mine. I spent an 90 minutes on it before looking anything up and another 90 minutes trying to keep it to a minimum. Enjoyed all 3 hours. My experience of the puzzle was much like Rex's. Of course, some of the names and obscurities that made him sweat, I looked up. But the way the puzzle came together was still pure joy. SETATEASE had me looking for a single word for a long time. ULTRAVIOLET TINPANALLEY were my early anchors.

Thanks for the Deep Throat story. It seems quite credible considering Woodward's later books where he likely did similar things. I think his stories are mostly dead on. But how he got them is open to some debate.

Frantic Sloth 8:54 AM  

"Mom, when I grow up I wanna be a blog moderator", said no one ever.

Talk about your thankless headache of a job. I would like to thank all the mods who do the impossible and amazing work of managing this menagerie of maniacs. Also, to those of you sweeties who (yesterday) offered words of encouragement, either directly or indirectly, mwah! 💋 Your kindnesses are very much appreciated.

Now to the business at hand.

First time through I think I had 2 answers: STLOUIS and TINPANALLEY. Both were (lucky) guesses. How dispiriting.

Second time through, I pretended I was someone else and that's the person who caught the wavelength. Suddenly, words and phrases just started dropping in out of nowhere, totally freaking me out. I love when that happens!

This was a nice little workout with beauties like OKAYILLBITE, MEGALOPOLIS, MISEENSCENE, and COCHLEAS, and clever, fresh clueing for what might have otherwise been boring fill.

Who thinks of ROLOS as "truncated cones"? And yet, they were the first thing that came to my mind. What is up with that??

Overall, liked it a lot a lot a lot.


What's that Dorothy Parker quote? "You can SET A TEASE on fire, but you can't lead her to water." Or some such.

WINSOMER is a strange wordomer.

Is there anything that says "Aristocrat" better than a BIGMAC?
God, I hope so.


Barbara S. 9:10 AM  

Man, oh man, I’m still bandaging my brain. That was some sparring match. I found the puzzle difficult all over and ended up in the same COCHLEAS/RHYME/SODA ASH area as Rex. Just a boatload of mistakes and unknowns. My BURQA also originally had a K, CLOISTER was CLOseTEd, WEED was Wade, BOUNTEOUS started to be yOUNg-something-which-made-no-sense until I nixed it. Funniest mistake was in response to “Partner ‘4 lyfe’” – I put “yfe” – it seemed like plausible text-speak for "wife"! On top of mistakes there was a lot I didn’t know, causing me to stare dumbly at white squares (e.g. NINON, OMSK, and RHYME used that way). I enjoyed OKAY I’LL BITE just under BIG MAC and nearish to ASP. Loved the clue for ZOOS (Places to bear witness?) and OBOE (Wind up on the pitch?). OMSK could be my grandmother’s OMG, as she used to say, “Oh, my skies!” whenever rattled. I once pointed out that a commoner expression was “Oh, my stars!” and she gave me a baffled look.

Today’s quotation is by PHILIP ROTH, born Mar. 19, 1933.

“Is everyone to go off and lock the door and sit secluded like the lonely writers do, in a soundproof cell, summoning people out of words and then proposing that these word people are closer to the real thing than the real people that we mangle with our ignorance every day? The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It's getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful consideration, getting them wrong again. That's how we know we're alive: we're wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget about being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that—well, lucky you.”
(From American Pastoral)

Z 9:15 AM  

Some Z’s Placebo and Tentacle Pub updates. We already have Steak Sam and Diane on the menu. Steak Jack and Diane, too. Now we are adding The Aristocrat. It will be like a BIG MAC, only it’s secret sauce will be Russian Dressing (which we will coyly list as “Tsar Dressing” on the menu). The Aristocrat comes with a side of Roasted Poor Man’s Asparagus. HR (led by M&A) has also determined that all wait staff will be WINSOMER than any other wait staff. Z’s Placebo & Tentacle Pub: Home to The Winsomest Wait Staff™️.

Brit solves NYT 9:19 AM  

Strange when your experience is so different to most others. Solved this one easily in under ten mins (rare on a Friday for me) and expected the review to say it was easy. Guess I just knew the answers, nice change!

Joel Palmer 9:20 AM  

I now feel much better knowing that Im not the only one finding this "challenging"

Guerin Wilkinson 9:26 AM  

I got nowhere.

Nancy 9:28 AM  

Yes, it's a Friday, but this is not -- not really -- a themeless. If it had a title, the title would be DOOKY, DOOKY, DOOKY.

There were three of the DOOKiest answers I've ever seen in one puzzle -- two of them initially headscratchers for me when they came in and one easy because it was so familiar. In descending order of recognizability:

ALOEVERAGEL (to which my initial reaction was "Whaaaa???")

SODAASH (I had AASH before I had anything else, making me sure I had something wrong).

MISEENSCENE (I didn't have any trouble with this one but maybe you did?)

I had one write-over. As we all know, all xword cities that begin with OM are OMAN. It took me a while to iron out my problem at 9D and then OMSK finally dawned on me -- giving me an S and not an A to begin my 9D answer.

The most aristocratic-sounding sandwich I could think of was the REUBEN. Luckily I didn't write it in. The absolutely inedible and thoroughly unacceptable BIG MAC is the least aristocratic "sandwich" I can think of, and anyway I never think of any burger as a "sandwich". Sandwiches are sandwiches and burgers are burgers. They should stay in their respective lanes.

I had very good time with this puzzle.

Pete 9:34 AM  

Yeah, this was brutal (but a good brutal, if you're with me here), at twice a medium-challenging Friday time for me. I thought a MEGALOPOLIS was merely a big city, not a place within a big city, or an agglomeration of adjacent (not big) cities that would be a big city if they were one city and not multiple not big cities. What's the Greek for "a bunch of people"? It ain't MEGALOPOLIS, that's the Greek for "big city".

I still can't parse ALOEVERAGEL without effort, and even that letter salad was hard to get, given that I was dedicated to not going to the LAV as I insisted on sticking to my LOO.

BURQA or Burka raises my ire every time it pops up. You see, Allah told Muhammad that women should cover their breasts with their headscarves, and that both men and women should dress in loose clothing so they don't spend time and effort to show off their bodies to one another. Anyone got a problem with that, other than humans not spending time showing off is just not going to happen and Allah should have know better? Somehow, "covering their breasts" became "wear a gunny sack with eye-holes" thanks to some 10th century Imam who was forced to marry too many women because he desired them, so he decided it was their fault that he found them attractive and a gunny sack would cure that. A millennium of women wearing gunny sacks because some dude blamed them for his problem. What a great job White Dudes did!

Nancy 9:36 AM  

Oops. OMAN is a country. It would have helped if I'd thought of that sooner :)

puzzlehoarder 9:44 AM  

This played much more like a Saturday than a Friday and a tough Saturday at that. Doing this on my phone last night didn't help either. At least when I put in the final letter I got a "Congratulations" rather than that annoying happy music.

How have MYA and NINON been slipping through the cracks all these years? I really needed the crosses for both but they came.

My Webster's says that NINON is a nickname for ANNE. There has to be some sort of Queen Anne's Lace connection there.

This was almost 35 minutes to a clean grid. Another outstanding puzzle by KAC.

Sir Hillary 9:48 AM  

One of those that is way more fun to look at post-solve than to actually solve. The finished grid is quite lovely -- pretty Scrabbly (especially up top), superb 11-letter Acrosses, nice mix of cultural references.

But wow, what a tough road to get there. I almost had my Waterloo (not WaterLAV) in the SW, where ALOUD stood there between BURQ[K]A and...what? I had to run the alphabet on both the third and fourth letters of ST**D, which took a while. I really should have sussed ROE earlier, but what can you do?

My other holdup came from misreading 36A's clue as Candles shaped like truncated cones. siLOS? bOLOS? taLOS? Anyone know where I can get a better set of eyes?

Perhaps worst of all, ALOEVERAGEL looks, to my eye, far too similar to this cheesy tune. Anyone know where I can get a less annoying memory for music?

BTW, yesterday was absolutely brilliant. Since we are in the middle of awards season, it feels timely to assert that we will be reading about that puzzle again, when the Orca nominations come out.

TTrimble 9:58 AM  

I'm proud to say I got through this in only a few minutes over my Friday historical average.

Rex's write-up reflected my own feelings to a goodly degree, but some of this felt just mean. Yeah, KESSLER: not a spark of recognition. BURQA in the corner instead of BURkA! (That disarming two-letter clue "As".) I also first had STanD instead of STEAD. Yowch. NINON! Then too, BASE TEN was tricky. Had a hard time with GEL in ALOE VERA GEL -- wanted to go with "oil" for a spell.

I had the AA before getting SODA ASH. I thought something had to be wrong with that. I wanted a single- or double-word synonym for "relax", something with TEnSE in it (SET AT EASE). I had BOUNTiful before BOUNTEOUS. I never say "bounteous". There's something about that word that to my ears sounds like it's trying too hard, like someone who relies too much on a thesaurus to sound sophisticated. But no way "bountiful" was getting along with CHINTZY.

De SOTO -- yeah right. (There's that random bit of dialogue from Seinfeld on who is their favorite world explorer. Jerry's is Magellan. George: "I like De SOTO". Jerry: "Why, what did he do?" "He discovered the Mississippi." "Yeah, like they wouldn't have found that anyway.") I also don't know this MYA.

OMSK! What, does this constructor specialize in unlikely-looking letter combinations? Even STLOUIS begins to look outré, for the same reason.

On the other hand, the assemblage of OKAY, I'LL BITE with MEGALOPOLIS and MISE EN SCÈNE is sort of impressive.

BIG MAC née "The Aristocrat": that's almost as ironic as the infamous joke "The Aristocrats".

Hey, where's the J? And the X?

Grouch 9:58 AM  

When did Relax become a transitive verb in it's usual sense of...well...relaxation. I had SiTATEASE. SET AT EASE is saying that one can relax someone else. You can ask or tell someone to relax but you can't do it for them. You can relax restrictions, say, but that's something else.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:09 AM  

Whew, what a workout. First two words I got were TIN PAN ALLEY and ..... OMSK! I'm reading a book called 'The Lost Pianos of Siberia' so I know all the hubs on the Trans-siberian railroad, this week. I will have forgotten them in a month or two. But the stories I will remember forever, of the people so desperate to keep a connection to Western civilization. Maria, wife of Prince Sergei Volkonsky, a leader of the Decembrist Revolt who was sent into jail and exile in 1825, who brought her 'clavichord', strapped to a sledge, 4,000 miles from Moscow to near the Mongolian border. The night before they left for Siberia they threw a party where they all sat close around the piano and Maria begged them to sing, so she wouldn't forget their voices while in exile. After the first year Sergei was transferred to a prison where his wife was permitted to join him; she brought the 'clavichord' along, to his windowless cell. After his 10-year sentence was up they settled in Irkutsk and built a concert hall.

Also I am reading the stories of people with no such connection. The colonies of Old Believers, exiled with nothing centuries ago. They still have nothing. No books, no TV's, no radios, no theater, no musical instruments (Chekhov remarked that Siberia was a place where the women couldn't sing and you rarely hear an accordion), no art. They entertain themselves in the evening recounting their dreams to each other. Not daydreams, night dreams. I keep thinking about that. It seems so important to me to keep Western-European musical civilization going. I think my dreams are full of Western-European music. And the other parts of them I wouldn't want to tell anybody about.

johnk 10:19 AM  

Pretty easy for me. Only problem I had was KUA (oh! BURQA, not BURKA.

Tim Aurthur 10:24 AM  

The name Kameron Austin Collins always fills me with dread. But I didn't find this one especially hard, despite starting off on a gigantic wrong foot with Chernow in 10D. OKILLBITE, MISEENSCENE and TINPANALLEY were outstanding. And the cluing was particularly clever, especially the one for 26D.

johnk 10:26 AM  

Oh - and there's a possible new craze spelled out in the NW: BOMB IKEA GAGS. Can't think of one, offhand, but ...

PaulyD 10:31 AM  

This would have been awful on any Saturday, but on a Friday following Thursday's near-masterpiece? Terrible.

Unlike Rex, I did not once experience any delight upon getting an answer (other than perhaps remembering Omsk). The best word I can come up with to describe this puzzle is "smarmy".

I'm now extremely curious to see the Saturday that follows these last two. Perhaps it will be in Cyrillic.

A 10:31 AM  

Happy National Caramel Chocolate Day! (no kidding, it’s ROLOS Day)

I like my caramel unchocolated. Just gets in the way of the gooey goodness.

Lots of gooey goodness in Mr. Collins’ grid today. I was SET AT EASE by an initial, and unusual, success in the NW, which continued as I was able to recall MISE EN SCÈNE, and somehow KESSLER sounded right, though I wanted KEStLER first. All my instincts panned out so nicely. I even guessed RATATAT and REVILE!

Then everything went to the LAV. NINON, non non non! Somehow I inserted a ‘u’ in COCHLEAS where the ‘H’ is, and got stuck on the rap clue with Ru—E. If YEAS had been clued better (and I do cry foul there because the YEAS may “have it” but the consensus is not YEAS) I might have straightened that out. But I have to take the cat for a checkup so no time to sit and stare.

So, cheating on RHYME revealed MESH and the REVILED YEAS. Saw SODA ASH and wanted to throw my head at @Nancy’s wall. Another one I really should have known is ALOE VERA GEL, but lINeN had me thinking there must be something to do with gold leaf application called aleève râgel, and Basetel is a brand name of slide rules.

So close, and yet so CLOISTERed.

Y’all have fun!

Thanks for the hard ROLOS, Mr. Collins! Come back on Saturday sometime!

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

A seamstress married to a master plumber and the last words I completed were ninon and soda ash.

My husband has never heard of using soda ash in a water softener (of which he has installed and serviced many).

I've been working with fabric for over 50 years and I've never heard of ninon.

Anonymous 10:45 AM  

Why in the world was “BFF” clued as “4 lyfe”?
What’s with the “y” instead of “I”?
Auto spell wouldn’t even allow “y”!
Does it have some meaning or significance I can’t comprehend?
It’s the little things like that which spoil a puzzle for me.
Aside from the impossible answers for some clues.

Steve M 10:50 AM  

A puzzle for xword geeks only

bocamp 10:57 AM  

Thank you @Kameron, for this marvel!

Toughest Fri. puz in recent memory; over 4x my Fri. avg.

Just one more example of hanging in there and believing. Actually finished with no errors. :)

td pg -2

Peace ~ Empathy ~ TOLERANCE ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Carola 11:01 AM  

Pros: Challenging; replete with lovely entries; doable.
Cons: The pile-up of ? clues.
Help from previous puzzles: OMSK, but also from teaching a story called "Reise nach Omsk" (Journey to Omsk) a thousand times in 4th semester German, where the city represents a never-attainable goal.

GILL I. 11:08 AM  

How did I love, hate, adore, cry, scream with delight thee? Let me count the ways......
Like my best friend @albatross, I spent about 3 hours working this thing. (Till death do me part).
BOMB was my first entry. So I had B in place and looked and looked at 1A wondering what Aristocrat sandwich started with a B? I make sandwiches all the time. I know these things. So I did my usual get up and do the laundry thing. I moved on to 20A. I had the MISE EN and plopped in PLACE because I was thinking food again. ARGH...its SCENE...And so my dance with the devil began and ended and began again.
My worst fandango was with OLGA, MYA, KESSLER and.whoever Rap RHYME is. The oof de la oof reared its ugly head. Do I cheat? Do I just keep going because I'm really loving this? Do I put on my best shoes and try dancing on top of a table? Why yes....I do. Did I finish with a flourish? Was this BOUNTEOUSly delightful? Did my ULTRAVIOLET CHINTZY NINON dress get tangled up in the BURQA shielding me from shame? Yes....
And so......I actually this very hard work-out. YES....I cheated with the names. I had to because I wanted to.
As an aside and no one will care.....My very first hamburger eaten when I came back to the USofA was a BIG MAC. It made me sick as a dog. I will admit, though, that I loved the special sauce.
@ocean J.......Fingers crossed. I once counted how many places I've rented in my life......Can you. top 23?

RooMonster 11:15 AM  

Hey All !
Sat down for a friendly FriPuz, and got summarily punched in the face! Holy SOTO, this was a toughie. Managed to suss out the North and Center, but succumbed to the South. In the North, had MEGA_OPOLIS forever, trying to figure out what letter would go there. I always thought it was just MEGAOPOLIS. Was it MEGApOPOLIS? MEGAtOPOLIS?

ALOE VERA GEL just wasn't being seen by the ole brain. NINON a major what-the-what? further exasperating me. Had lINeN, like others, as that seemed correct. But then couldn't unsee ALeEVE RAGEL. I couldn't get off of thinking of marijuana there.

Eventually cheated for LAC, as had Les. Still didn't help. Put on OLGA off the OL, finally twisted my mind into seeing WEED (tough as clued), and erased the wrong LE of lINEN. Sussed out BASETEN from _ASETE_, after erased that L at the end. STEAD went through STanD, STEeD. Ended with BURkA, even though kUA an unknown. Finally was able to think of QUA, as that was something I have seen before.

One other cheat was for COCHLEAS. Kept thinking of COCCYXES. Har. Wrong part of the body!

Pangram try, but missing a J and X. Lots of COOL words today, lots of obscure clues. MISEENSCENE - I know of it, but couldn't get it whilst solving. I was like, "what's a MISEEN SCENE?"

Puz took me over an hour! It feels like when I first starting solving. So ya got me good, KAC. I was FLOORed.

Two F's

Masked and Anonymous 11:27 AM  

This puppy put up a real stiff fight, at our house. Raised-by-wolves clues. Names and words of mystery. Overturned furniture. The works.

Had trouble just gettin into the fight, actually. Finally made a correct semi-verifiable "+" choice at OMSK crossin MILES. Then M&A fled to the relative safety of the NE weeject stack.

staff weeject pick: QUA. Can they do that, now? Have we come down to this? Clue for QUA can just be {As}? When crossin the likes of BURQA? Man, that's harsh. OK, the FriPuz gloves are off. Bring it Shortzmeister. [snort]

M&A counted 6 ?-marker clues. fave: {Mistifies?} = FOGS. And another 11 clues that were pretty day-um evasive. fave: {Victor in France, once} = HUGO.

sparkliest sparkler: OKAYILLBITE.

Thanx for the BIG Smack, Mr. Collins dude. Yer puzgid was a marvelous MEGA-BITE-O-POLIS. Looks to m&e like the NYTPuzs are gettin harder, @sanfranman …

Masked & Anonymo6Us


Joe Dipinto 11:31 AM  

@oceanjeremy – good luck with the board meeting, I'm sure you'll do fine. What neighborhood are you in? I'm just north of the park.

Whatsername 11:32 AM  

As @Z would say, boy howdy! This was tough. I started out great. City with four NFL franchises? Practically my home town. All easy fills across the top but didn’t take me long to abandon any hope that I was going to finish without serious googling.

New stuff: dramaturge, TIN PAN ALLEY and the fact that the BIG MAC was once considered an aristocrat. I actually thought MIS EN SCENE was something “missing/unseen” until I came here to find out otherwise. A hint there that it’s French might’ve been helpful. But it is a most impressive expression which I am now proud to know.

Not so impressive was WINSOMER. Sounds suspiciously like an Adjective Of Convenience. However, the clues for ZOOS, LAV, OBOE, and DECADE were diabolical. Sheer genius in the brain behind those.

@Frantic (8:54) You’re welcome. 😉

ZGR 11:32 AM  

I don’t think “rhymes” has gone completely out, but in recent years it has largely been replaced by “bars”.

Mikey from El Prado 11:33 AM  

Living out West at the edge of the Rockies and being an avid climber, hiker, backpacker, fly fisher, camper, etc.I have had numerous encounters with bears, but never can I remember ever seeing one in a zoo.

Mikey from El Prado 11:39 AM  

Oh yeah, I stand corrected on my last comment.... I’ve seen polar bears in zoos.... a cruel thing to do to a beautiful creature that is being tortured by climate change.

Newboy 11:43 AM  

When Rex says challenging, OKAY ILL BITE! Great morning workout. We see GEL, VERA & ALOE often in Crossworld, but combined as they are today? Wowser. Really liked Kameron’ grid throughout, but 1A sent me in search of my favorite Tarantino clip. Trying once again to embed:

Aristocrat by any other name

burtonkd 11:45 AM  

The Aristocrat reminds me of the Quarter Pounder being called the "Royale" in France, per Pulp Fiction. Who knew McD's had such high aspirations?

Nice that the constructor gets a puzzle published when it isn't Black History Month! I really liked the wordplay and variety of answers. Also, a malicious pleasure that this was one of my faster Fridays and I see Rex "struggled", although probably still ran laps around me:)

for STLOUIS, New York and Oakland also fit. Was trying to remember if 2 other NY teams had existed other than the Jets and Giants, plus whether the Raiders moving back and forth added up to 4 and counted.

I think I may have had help with the SK in OMSK in a roundabout way from Seinfeld when they watched "Rochelle, Rochelle" A young girl's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk.

TJS 11:51 AM  

Have no idea why the raves keep coming for yesterdays' puzzle, but this one was great. Epic fail at the KUA/BURKA crossing but I don't worry about streaks or times, so no big deal.

Wow, our comments section has really upped its game lately, IMO. A big reason, the quotes supplied from @Barbara S. Wish that @LMS could return to her regular ways, but you can't have everything. And good ol' Rex rants and nits to start us off.

Have a great weekend, y'all.

egsforbreakfast 12:19 PM  

I sat down to Relax with this puzzle but found that Kameron Austin Collins had SET A TEASE. While the puzzle was overall excellent but tough as snot, I do protest NINON. How obscure would a word have to be to just not be useable in the eyes of the editor. Especially when crossed by a somewhat mis-clued BASETEN (Something you can count on). One can count in base ten, but ON? Maybe I missed something in the wordplay there.

Nancy from Chicago 12:21 PM  

@Nancy, the biggest DOOK for me was SETATEASE. I kept staring at it, thinking "is 'set a tease' an expression?" Finally figured it out, but I am still seeing it the original way.

Anoa Bob 12:24 PM  

I said a few YEAS ALOUD while solving this one. My favorite course to teach was Sensation and Perception and two entries were directly related to that subject. COCHLEAS (21D), clued as "Parts of ears named for the Latin for 'snail'", do indeed look like tiny snails. They are coiled chambers filled with a fluid that transfers vibrations from the ear drum to hair-like filaments inside the "shell" that in turn generate neural impulses that travel to the auditory cortex which gives rise to the psychological perception of sound. The whole process of converting a purely physical stimulus into a purely psychological experience is nothing short of miraculous.

The other Sensation and Perception related entry was ULTRAVIOLET, part of our sun's electromagnetic radiation that is just above and outside of the human visible spectrum. It's counterpart at the other end just below the visible spectrum is "infrared". The ULTRAVIOLET radiation or "UV rays" is what damages many things including human skin. If you get too much UV exposure, you may want to try some ALOE VERA GEL. Not only can it be soothing, it also provides a protective barrier. (There are ALOE VERA farms down here in TexMex Land.)

Nothing CHINTZY about this puzzle. It was right up my ALLEY.

GHarris 12:26 PM  

This was one of those days when I turned early to the crutch of auto check. I justify its use by telling myself that I am improving my solving skills and will be better able to deal with these late week monsters unassisted in the future. One interesting thing I have learned is that being supported in this way I become much more venturesome putting down answers I would find unthinkable were I putting pencil to paper. And ,oddly, they often turn out to be right.i suppose that’s a cit like a novice acrobat working with the comfort of a net.

Whatsername 12:28 PM  

@Anonymous (11:12 last night) I get ya now. ☺️ Appreciate the clarification.

@Guilherme (7:59) Thanks for the info on WINSOMER. Interesting history.

@Barbara (9:10) “... lock the door and sit secluded ... summoning people out of words and then proposing that these word people are closer to the real thing than the real people ....” Sounds a lot like the past year for many of us, especially the part about the word people. Like @bocamp (8:28), I'm grateful for this blog and the camaraderie that we word people share.

@Mikey (11:39) I watched a National Geographic program about global warming’s effects on the polar bears. They followed one who had to swim 6 miles to find food. When he finally got there, prey was abundant but he died because he was too exhausted to hunt. It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen.

jb129 12:29 PM  

More like the hardest Saturday ever - had to cheat.

oceanjeremy 12:29 PM  

@Joe Dipinto: Thanks! The map tells me we’ll be in Kensington. Right where Ocean Pkwy meets Prospect Expressway. Close enough to the amazing Cortelyou Rd in Ditmas Park for good eating and drinking, a ten minute walk from the Southwest tip of Prospect Park. This is all contingent, of course, on how the meeting with the co-op board goes!

@GILL I.: You prompted me to count, So I did. And I’m at 23 right now! Just like you! I am counting my first NYC apartment, even though I slept on the couch for two months in 2003 to 2004. It was my address — I received mail there. I am also counting the month I spent with keys to a very empty apartment off Times Square in 2004 (nothing but a bed). Again, I lived there (and there only) and I received mail there. I am not counting the six-or-so months (non-consecutive) I spent sleeping on a cot in my band’s various rehearsal spaces (though I did receive mail at them!). If I include those, I am up to 25 places of residence since I left my parents’ house in 1997.

My fiancée and I also once moved into an apartment I had previously inhabited. I am only counting that address once.

So if we pass the muster of the co-op board (fingers crossed!) this will be my 24th address (or 26th, if the rehearsal spaces counts).

Malsdemare 12:31 PM  

My experience was much like @Gil's. I had to look up KESSLER and OLGA, and had COCCular for a long time. I'm lousy at remembering how the hell I get where I got so the rest is a mystery. Like many, I had BURkA for a long time, until I finally caved and decided STEAD was an okay answer, giving me kUA which could NOT be right. Q fixed that. Oh, and MYA??? I know Lady Marmalade as a Patty Labelle masterpiece; in fact, YouTube is my next destination, unless it’s on my phone (and it may be). It’s part of soundtrack to “The witches of Bellville,” a truly fun movie from years ago.

Malsdemare 12:34 PM  

And @OceanJeremy, good luck on the zoom interview.

Nancy 12:34 PM  

@oceanjeremy -- Break a leg! You should do fine. I'm sure that you and your fiancee will appear more than sane enough to satisfy the Board. It's only Zoom itself that might look or act crazy.

@Barbara S. I love, love, love "YFE" as the answer to that ridiculous "4 lyf" clue. I also love "Oh, my skies" for OMSK.

Like @Barbara and @Whatsername, I thought ZOOS and OBOE had brilliant clues. I also liked the clue for FOGS. And as for 33D, it had me thinking LUNG at first, not MESH.

@TTrimble -- Thanks for reprising that wonderful Seinfeld DE SOTO joke.

pmdm 12:37 PM  


As you see, you can enter the character Sharp desired (at least if you use a Mac). I emailed the full instruction to Sharp.

On to the puzzle. I thought is was typical, maybe even a bit easier, than a typical Friday puzzle. Some of it I got easy, and some was a bit tough. I liked it better than most Collins's puzzles. I guess Z's comments recognize how much a solver's reaction to a puzzle depends not on the absolute quantity of the the PPP entries but on their familiarity to the solver.

jae 12:41 PM  

Yep, tough! @Pabloinnh - ALOEVERAoil was the biggest nanosecond suck for me.

Terrific Fri. Hardest in a very long time, liked it a bunch!!!

DCborn 12:50 PM  


kitshef 1:13 PM  

@Mikey from El Prado - lived in Maryland just outside DC as a youth, from where one could hop on the T2 bus to the National Zoo and see the original Smokey Bear. Smokey is long gone, but they still have Andean (spectacled) bears.

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

As others have said, BASETEN is misclued. You count in it, not on it.

bigsteve46 1:26 PM  

I have a friend in Minsk
Who has a friend in Pinsk
Whose friend in Omsk
Has friend in Tomsk
With friend in Akmolinsk ...

I knew that having these Tom Lehrer songs stuck in my mind for 50 + years would come in handy some day ... (although I had to look up the spelling on "Akmolinsk!")

Teedmn 1:28 PM  

How sad I am, that I fought my way successfully through this puzzle, section by section, reveling in the fight, until, like @kitshef, I fell to BURkA in the SE. Unlike @kitshef, I did not come back with the QUA. My 48D was first STanD. The bass ROE changed that to STE_D. Yes, STEAD occurred to me but it didn't improve my chances of seeing QUA. Bah!

Loo/LAV at 53D. I threw Loo in but kept in mind that LAV was possible and ALOE VERA GEL made me change it.

My only problem with MISE EN SCENE was originally leaving off the first E but it eventually filled in correctly.

I think I've made this error before, assuming that "snail" in Latin resembles "snail" in French. I had SEC in place and thought, "esCargot"? but not much going on with ears there.The MISE EN SCENE in ST. LOUIS warmed the COCHLEAS of my heart.

KAC, you got me again, in a good way, thanks!

JD 1:53 PM  

@Frantic, Had to swing by to see comments on this thing. Dorothy Parker, asked to use Horticulture in a sentence, said, "You can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think." But you probably knew that.

As for me, I'm not feeling any more winsomer these Rona days. I think that Dorothy Parker, asked to use winsomer in a sentence once said, "You can winsomer or lose some more, but your word made me drink."

@Z,For me, it was not the amount of PPP, it was the impossibility of it.

Unknown 1:56 PM  

It was the spelling of BURQA that befuddled me in the SW.
Everything else was a painful pleasure.

John 2:01 PM  

Well, this was a streak-breaker. DNF. :-(

dukieboy 2:05 PM  

For me today's puzzle was easy while yesterday's was very difficult. For you, the opposite was true.

foxaroni 2:33 PM  

Too tuff 4 me, ma-b 4 life. :-(
Wouldn't Ultraviolet Owl be a great name for a band? Aloeveragel looks as if it's a relative of an onionabagel. Even though I was a theatre major at one time, I would never have come up with "mise-en-scene." The best I could come up with was "unseen-scene." Neither here nor there, but I changed majors to printing technology. Whereupon after graduation I spent over 30 years in radio. Go figure.
Great puz, Mr. Collins.

Joe Dipinto 2:47 PM  

Yesterday it was Much Ado About Nothing; today it's A Winsomer Night's Dream; tomorrow The Comedy Of Errata...

Alicat 2:48 PM  

Great puzzle and strangely, I flew (relative to my solving, not yours) through it. But the best of all were the comments. Witty, wise, funny, informative... perhaps stimulated by Rex's funny and positive blog. Interesting how a leader's attitude influences a group.

Son Volt 2:49 PM  

@oceanjeremy 12:29p - good luck. I did a lot of work on the Culver line (F and G trains) down there and always liked the area.

Dave S 2:57 PM  

Oof. Slow as molasses, but I finally made it through. That said, I loved all the clever cluing. When I wasn't cursing and groaning at it, that is. Thought I was being clever when I put in "ear" for "flat facility" but I was only fooling myself. But I did it all myself without cheating, so I place a very high value on this puzzle. Not sure what that effect is called.

Anonymous 3:08 PM  

No. The St Louis Gunners are very much outre PPP. They were an NFL franchise for a total of three games. 87 years ago. The All-stars at least played an entire season but that was 98 years ago. No matter how you slice it, we're still pretty deep in the weeds NFL-wise.
I've spent more time working for the NFL than Z has in education. And it took me a good long while to come up with the Gunners (St. louis came well before owing to crosses)

JC66 3:09 PM  


As a former co-op board member, I don't think you have anything to worry about.

jordanhorowitz 3:22 PM  

No one has mentioned this so the answer must be completely obvious but I’m completely befuddled by “what’s the trouble?” being a clue for AILMENT. Ok, a doctor asks “what’s the trouble?” and you say “I have an ailment” but that’s not how crossword puzzle clues work! Shouldn’t the clue be a synonym or description of the answer? How is “what’s the trouble?” a synonym or description of “ailment”?? Feel like I’m going crazy here!

Joe Dipinto 3:26 PM  

@oceanjeremy – Kensington and Ditmas Park are nice areas. There's a restaurant I liked on Cortelyou called Farm On Adderley – I don't know if they're reopened for dining. You'll also be a couple of subway stops from the legendary DiFara's Pizza (one hour wait time for a pie, they say!), and just a handful more stops from Coney Island. I think you'll like Brooklyn :-)

BarbieBarbie 3:26 PM  

Where is @chefwen today? For some reason I associate MISEENSCENE with kitchens. Recipe prep times are given mise en scene. They don’t count all the time you spend assembling tools and ingredients, or converting said ingredients into the specified format.

But anyway. I also thought ALOEVERAGELlooked jumbly, but my overall delight with it was mainly that positioned with TINPANALLEY it easily led to a vision of Aloe Vera Gal. Take it away, songwriters!

CDilly52 3:54 PM  

Holy moly!! Tough, I guess! And after the fun that was M-W, and the absolute ridiculous agony of yesterday, hard to switch gears from stupid to just plain brutal. As for yesterday, I draw the line at blank crossword blocks. Drawings and symbols are foul enough-purist that I am. Ugh!!

I must agree with @Lewis, though. The artistry of this Friday struggle was the fair crosses. Or at least inferrable or, in some cases just WAGs (one of my husbands military acronyms - wild-assed-guess).. There were quite a few of those-NINON being a giant one.

MISE EN SCENE really messed me up, and both my daughter and son-in-law being theatre artists/writers as well as teachers who both insist on working dramaturgy into their students’ work. My trouble stemmed from the way the letters presented themselves. At first it made me want to put MISsed-something, and it didn’t look that outrageously wrong. Ouch.

Next, I had thensamentroublenspelling BURQA that others experienced and kept removing my correct answers to try to “fix” the problem.

Then there is the host of things I simply didn’t know. The only easy part was the tiny NW corner that made me hopeful. Cruel trick that!!! No idea why I recall that the BIG MAC was to
Be introduced as the Aristocrat, but I did. I do recall it’s debut in Ohio growing up. It competed with White Castle with my set and was found wanting since one could get 5 White Castles for a quarter and and a Frosty Malt was another quarter. Big lunch for $0.50.

Devilish. Deceptive. Odd clueing (as @Rex says, more Saturday-sequel) and clever word play. “Output from a bass,” for example. As a musician, my brain flatly refused to read that as the fish! Not gonna do it. Period. That one (complete with an actual head smack) just made me laugh. My absolute favorite clue of the wonderful bunch.

Painful but excellent.

Frantic Sloth 4:08 PM  

Rex's ALOEVERAGEL taken is just classic. LOL!

@oceanjeremy 896am Fingers, toes, legs, arms, and eyes crossed...starting at 4:50pm. Let's not get ridiculous. I gotta eat. 😉

bertoray 4:27 PM  

OMSK reminds me of Dr. Strangelove, wherein President Merkin Muffley asks Premeir Kissoff how to get a hold of Russia's air defense in order to help prevent B-52s from delivering their payload which would trigger the Doomsday Device. Kissoff tells him to call OMSK information.

Barbara S. 4:36 PM  

@Nancy 12:34 PM
Tee Hee.

@Whatsername 12:28 PM
I never thought of the Roth/COVID-lifestyle connection. Good observation.

@TJS 11:51 AM
That was a lovely thing to say. Thanks to you and to everyone who's reading the quotations. I'm having the best time posting them and, let me tell you, it's an ongoing education, using the greatest textbook of them all, the writings of the world's authors. I'm happy that the passages are speaking to people on the blog and grateful for your indulgence.

newbie 4:38 PM  

Can’t believe I finished it. Wild ride.

Started easily with COCHLEAS (well, actually, cochleae, but that was easily rectified when nothing but DRS would do). Finished by taking out the “k” in burkas and plugging in letters until “q” hit. Of course! I’d been afraid that it was going to be one of the many synonyms for burka that I can never remember.

In between, ESP took over with WINSOMER (after a nap), TIN PAN ALLEY (not Broadway), ALOE VERA GEL. Felt like a genius when I got ZOOS and LEEK and that I should have had OBOES sooner (I’m finally getting into crosswordese). Wanted GDANSK but that didn’t fit. NINON? So Rex has a list - I’ll have to start one - I’ve been trying to remember everything. SODA ASH came to me because of our aging pool, which always seems to be too acidic.

They’re going to take my high school/college Thespian Society certificate away:
I got MISEENSCENE but thought it was MIS-SEEN SCENE spelled without the double “s” for some unknown reason - but it fit so I stuck with it! 😂. I looked that one up after I finished and learned about “mis en place” as well - it seems that the French have a name for the kitchen prep that enables chefs on TV to finish making a meal in 5 minutes that takes a cook at home an hour!

Just want to mention that I enjoyed @Old actor’s tale the other day about the Mexican flag - keep those entertaining theater stories coming!
Hey, if you had used that flag, that might have been a “mis-seen scene!” 😁 Or a (Les) Mis-seen scene!

Felt like I rode a mechanical bull but when I finally finished it seemed like a fun two-step.

newbie 4:53 PM  

@Barbara 9:10 am - Whether you intended it or not, the Philip Roth quote could aptly be applied to today’s puzzle - or puzzles in general. Crosswords. People. Life. Nice one. 🙂

Whatsername 5:35 PM  

@jordanhorowitz (3:22) I didn’t like that clue/answer combination either. It was awkward at best.

newbie 5:37 PM  

@Greater - I may have to read The Lost Pianos - sounds really good if, like all books about Russia, very heavy.

@Brit makes me want to start a new persona who posts incredibly short times, just to drive everyone crazy 😂. It would take too much energy, though.

@ocean - by now you may have told us that you got in but I haven’t refreshed this page in awhile - I beamed good thoughts your way at 5 pm.

Newboy 5:47 PM  

Glad to see others enjoying today’s grid (& having to struggle as did I). Promise this is my last post clogging commentariat inboxes today. But as I said previously, I really liked Kameron’ grid throughout, but 1A sent me in search of my favorite Tarantino clip. Trying once again to embed:

Aristocrat take two?

Anonymous 6:01 PM  

Ninon should be banned forever and ever.

"Winsomer"? As in "you win some, er, and you lose some, er?

Brutal, nearly psychotic cluing, IMO.

Joe Dipinto 6:18 PM  

@jordanhorowitz 3:22 – it's a type of clue the editors are enamored of these days, an attempt to be colloquial and cutesy. Usually the clue is couched in the imperative, for example: Sit here! as a clue for CHAIR. They are no-end annoying.

I have to ask: Are you the "La La Land" producer who so deftly took charge during the Best Picture announcement debacle at the Oscars that year? If so, my hat's off to you. (And, fwiw, I thought your film was better than "Moonlight".)

Z 6:24 PM  

@DCBorn - 🤣😂
@Joe Dipinto - 😂🤣

@JD and others - For me, it was not the amount of PPP, it was the impossibility of it. - I think the #1 reason I’m better now at late week puzzles and beasts like today is that I no longer accept that they are impossible. As Henry Ford is reputed to have said, whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right. Part of this is also learning to strip clues of useless details. Take 23A. I got it off the -UIS because I “translated” the clue to “City with multiple NFL TEAM ending in UIS” (@anon3:08 - Agree that the ST. LOUIS Gunners are outré, but I thankfully didn’t need that tidbit for the solve). Or KESSLER. No idea about this guy, but since the quantity of PPP was low most of the crosses were fine. As for OMSK crossing it, there are advantages to not being a newbie and an OMSK gimme is one of them. The K for a Russian city seems obvious to me, but I can see how that crossing is troubling to newbies. For experienced solvers, though? The solver who finishes most Fridays? I think that crossing is fair. I agree this puzzle was a bear, but I don’t think you’ll find an example of puzzle PPP fairer than this.

@jordanhorowitz - It is a “clue” not a “definition.” As such it sometimes omits certain typographical elements that help with understanding, especially late in the week. I interpreted the clue as meaning “What is the (other word for) “trouble?” The “?” is especially tricky because it is indicating a play on words but that isn’t entirely clear as presented.

@BASE TEN clue is wrong people - “In” sounds better to my ear, too, but I can’t come up with any reason that explains why it can’t be “on.” Indeed, the idea of “BASE” implies something being “on” it (on second BASE, on an Army BASE, a pedestal needs a stable BASE to rest on).

@Pete - I never heard that BURQA origin story. When I was in Dearborn there were lots of head scarves but relatively few BURQAs. The head scarves were explained to me as a cultural artifact as much as a religious one. But then I was getting my explanations mostly from a sociologist not an Imam.

@Anon10:45 - I assumed “lyfe” was some “kewl” spelling, but I also found that it can mean “Love You For Ever.” I have no idea how prevalent that usage is, but it fits as an emphasizer for BFF so maybe that’s why it is used.

@Whatsername - I stole “boy howdy” from Muse.

@Grouch - Sloth: Your Organic Chemistry class is really nervous about the final. Can you help them to relax?
Z: Sure. They will be SET AT EASE when I tell them it’s an open book final.
Sloth - It’s a 5,000 page textbook. I don’t think that will help.

@Shirley Freitas 7:48 - Hand up for enjoying your post.

oceanjeremy 6:26 PM  

Apparently the meeting went well, because 45 minutes after it ended we received an email stating that we’re fully approved for the apartment and we need to schedule our move-in date with the super.

Thanks everyone for your crossed digits and limbs and your well-wishing!

We knew it would be a formality and we had little to worry about. But this really is a dream apartment. Neither of us felt like we could ever afford to live somewhere this nice in the five boroughs. Neither of us could really believe we had gotten this lucky until just now, when we received the confirmation email. So yes, it was just a formality — but the combination of relief, joy and wonderment we feel right now is disproportionally enormous.

@Son Volt: I used to live close to Newkirk Plaza so I know and love the area. ALSO, I love Uncle Tupelo and Jay Farrar, so your comment board handle makes me quite happy.

@Joe Dipinto: I’ve been to Farm on Adderly a few times! Had a first date with an old girlfriend there in 2014 (don’t tell my fiancée!), and had brunch there with my fiancée a few times when we first met. Never been to DiFara’s — we’ll have to try it. And we’ve already talked about how we are a 30 minute bike ride from Coney Island.

OK sorry everyone for the non-NYTXW content. I promise to keep it more germane going forward! :)

Anonymous 6:35 PM  

Tell me more about White Castle. I’m an East coaster and love it waaay more than I should. But it wasn’t part of my childhood or even teen years, so I don’t know the culture if you will. I ask because I was waxing poetic about the castle to a co-worker ( from The Queen City) and he wasn’t quite appalled by my standard order, clearly believing it substandard. Certainly unorthodox. No, his Midwest upbringing prevented him from giving voice to his disapproval, but I have way of discerning the truth. I did mention that I’m from the East Coast and was graduated by one of the ancient eight, didn’t I?
In any event, his belief was that White Castle meant: one patty, onions, steamed bun, and under no circumstances,cheese.
The swine I abandoned almost all his precepts. I went, and still do, double patties and you better believe they’re accompanied by the miracle we call cheese. I’ll table the onion ring/ crinkle cut fries debate because, although it’s hopelessly old fashioned,
ladies are present.
With bated, and possibly slightly , oniony-breath I await your reply.
I give you my word I will take it under advisement the next time I hit the Castle.
Also: for the usual suspects in the NYC metro area, I’m happy to treat you to a White Castle meal. It truly is a burger like no other, but franchises in the region are fading fast.
If you are a devotee of the slider, get to White Manna. The one in Hackensack NOT Jersey City. It’ll change your life.

Is he right? Anyone posting on this forum is clearly in need of validation

Perry 6:41 PM  

This was one of the least pleasant xwords I have done in a long time. Lots of answers with one square unfilled where I *STILL* couldn't finish it.

And technically speaking, I am pretty much 100% certain that the plural of cochlea is cochleae. I know that it's a crossword and that the normal rules are often not followed, but COCHLEAS is not a word.

JC66 6:45 PM  


Mazel Tov!

SpyGuy 6:58 PM  

I needed several of the downs before I got 23A. That may not seem remarkable until I tell you I have lived in St Louis all of my 48 years and am most definitely a sports fan......thank goodness I'm also a scientist so UV came to me immediately (well, after I figured out Near Infrared didn't fit).

bocamp 7:20 PM  

@Barbara S. (9:10 AM) / @Whatsername (12:28 PM)

Yay "word people" 😊

@oceanjeremy 👍

Another take on BASETEN: you can "rely" on base ten for most of your counting needs.


td 0

Peace ~ Empathy ~ TOLERANCE ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Son Volt 7:41 PM  

@Z 6:24p - I’m leaning more towards the play being “count on” = “rely on” since it is our standard system. Either way I liked it.

Joaquin 7:56 PM  

@oceanjeremy - As my late Grandma used to say, "Live there in good health!"

Colette 7:59 PM  

Wasn't going to comment until I saw the Anonymous comment on White Castle. I lived in St. Louis for 11 years -- and I have moved 38 times, so I think I win that prize, as all but 4 were rentals -- and, as I recall, White Castle was quite close to Ralston Purina's HQ, with the checkerboard logo quite similar to RP's checkerboard logo. We used to call White Castle's "food" rat burgers, and I often wondered if the proximity to RP was more than coincidental. BTW, I only remember eating at least 3 to 6 rat burgers to make a "meal," and often spending the rest of the night in the lav.

What a tough puzzle -- only finished with help from hubby. Difficult, painful, but so glad for the happy music.

Whatsername 8:01 PM  

@CDilly (3:54) and @Anomymous (6:35)
I’ll see your five White Castles and raise you one Maid Rite. Both meat and buns steamed, topped with cheese, mustard and pickles. Pure hamburger heaven! 😂

@Z (6:24) I’ve heard “boy howdy” most of my life but just noticed you’ve been using it lately. It’s a great expression.

Deb Sweeney 8:40 PM  

Whoa that was hardest in a long while! It was one of those where after finishing (with a couple of cheats) that I still had to puzzle over how the heck the clue generated that word. But my daughter came up with ninon right away. Which I had never ever heard of. So yay! One person likes NINON.

Anonymous 9:36 PM  

Delivery here in the sh!tkicker parts of NE being what it is (and too often isn't), I never got the paper. I haven't looked at the puzzle, just the comments (which do provide some cheat, I suppose), in the event (rare lo it is) that it shows up tomorrow. Remember that old saw: "one foot on the stove burner and the other in a bucket of ice; on average, your comfortable". Sounds like the average of opinion on this one.

Graham 11:03 PM  

Ended my 116 day streak. Sad :(

Jared 11:52 PM  

This was one of the least enjoyable crosswords that I've ever solved. Why is a tough Saturday being used on a Friday and why did this constructor have to put so much random dribble in this? Just terrible.

Anonymous 12:50 AM  

WINSOMER could easily have been changed to WINS OVER.

Bob Mills 7:50 AM  

Impossible. Every clue is a misdirect.

Mickey Bell 8:03 AM  

Hated this one. Plural of cochlea ends with an e based on some googling, and I have not heard someone use the term bounteous that way since... well, maybe ever. Too much antiquated word use and obtuse clueing resulted in a terrible slog for me.

Anonymous 9:24 AM  

Thank you for trying to explain “lyfe”.
It is a reasonable explanation.

stephanie 12:12 PM  

a total slog and an unsatisfying one at that. i'm just surprised to see i'm not alone. usually when that happens i feel like everyone including rex says "easy! this was great!" lol. so, sympathy abounds, anyhow. that's something.

DNF - never heard of NINON and couldn't come up with OP ED. (but at least the latter was an "oh!" reveal unlike most of this puzzle.) before that i cheated and googled TIN PAN ALLEY because i had never heard of that either. so then everything was filled in but something was still wrong, apparently. not wanting to put any more time into this incredibly boring puzzle (and i already had damn near three hours) i just came here to learn about "OMSK." i had "OMAN" just because it was a four letter crossword country that begins with "OM." nevermind that ATINTS didn't make sense, but NESSLER seemed plausible.

sigh. usually when i go through all the clues and still have so much empty space on the board, i start thinking "i should just give up, i'll never get any further." and then i start working at it, and slowly but surely break it open. and then, even if i don't finish all the way, i get at least 3/4 or more and i feel a sense of pride and accomplishment, while having several "aha!" moments along the grind. usually.

but this puzzle? almost every answer i put in i was like "is this a word? is this a thing? i's this?" and then i would use google to double check my work and every time find "yup, that's it..." regarding a variation on a word or phrase that had lodged in some dusty corner of my mind with no further context or meaning attached. but there was no fun, no soul to this puzzle at all, imo. i did like ALOE VERA GEL - especially after i thought for so long it had to be something about marijuana/cbd. the BIG MAC clue is a bit of trivia that's nice to have i guess? but i needed a lot of help from crosses to uncover it because i don't call burgers sandwiches. (at the start i had "REUBEN.")

although i very much enjoyed thursday's puzzle, i also enjoy the straight up, gimmick free, just good hard crossword crosswords. can't recall if it was last friday or the friday before or maybe both, but there have been some good ones lately. so it's not like i need every answer to be a pun or every puzzle to be a theme or a joke but this one...if it was a color it would be GREIGE.

stephanie 12:31 PM  

oh, also, really did not like DECADE and wanted it to be DIVIDE. (scoring something in half? anyone? bueller?)

but also also, i guessed DE SOTO early on because of a favorite book from my childhood, DR. DE SOTO. i had the real thing and the book on tape that i would have my mom put on in the car constantly. it's about a dentist who is a mouse. he gets a fox for a patient, and has to crawl inside the fox's mouth to repair his tooth and trust that the fox will not eat him. my favorite part is when the fox is unable to open his mouth after a fantastic and wise deception by the good doctor and upon leaving, the fox says to dr. de soto, FRANK OO BERRY MUSH. ("thank you very much.") i still say FRANK OO BERRY MUSH sometimes, and think it probably more than a regular person might.

so what does dr. de soto, mouse dentist, have to do with a national forest? nothing as far as i can tell.

Julsherman 5:02 PM  

Well, I had hours for what fliers keep track of, most of the pilots I know log their hours. That said, there are plenty of great clues for miles- kinda blue guy; Peter, Paul and Mary's 500; deduction on Schedule C etc....but I loved this puzzle done in 1 hour, but I did have a boo boo.

Rexpuzfan 8:22 AM  

I’m a regular person and I think Frank oo berry mush offf and on...

alicat 10:06 AM  

I'm a regular person and I think Frank oo berry mush offf and on...

Anonymous 10:22 PM  

This was a the most difficult nyt xwd puzzle I have ever done. I agree with most of OFLs comments, but found the hazy clueing a bit difficult to manage. After perusing all clues there was only one which I was sure of immediately, 56D, which marks the first time i have started any puzzle in the far SW. (For some reason i skipped over Director Anderson quickly - probably out of growing concern for no easy clues, but that helped out later when I was attacking the middle and gave me the oddly structured winsome) Soto helped next and then it was interestingly some long crossers that finally got me moving: ultraviolet, Tin Pan Alley and eventually miseenscene and megalopolis, another first. From there it was just grinding, moving from the SE with the help of burqa. Finally worked out the top half and was left with aloeveragel and from ther the elusive ninon. It was eventually enjoyable but it looked grim for quite a while. The star clue/answer was the Aristocrat - I always like to learn a little something for my pain. I will proudly use my solver name Purity of Essence for this comment

Anonymous 11:00 AM  

obviously got my W and E mixed. I did it in paper and pencil and would enjoy seeing someone doing it in an hour that way.
Purity of Essence

thefogman 11:22 AM  

I BOMBED at 46D. Had BURkA not BURQA. That was a bit CHINTZY on KAC’s part. So many dense FOGS to cut through (NINON, WINSOMER, COCHLEAS, ALOEVERAGEL etc.) All tough ROEs to hoe. I was a bit SADDENED until I read how Rex was also FLOORED. That’s COOL. Consequently I am SETATEASE as I bid you all ADIEU.

spacecraft 11:28 AM  

Sweated some precious bodily fluids on this one. At last, a toughie that OFC calls a toughie! I don't know what I would've done if I opened this page and saw "easy." It likely would have involved a poison pen letter. Or worse.

Hardest to parse was 20-across. It's a French expression I'm familiar with, but forgot about, and I'm there staring at __SEENSCENE, trying to put in UN- and not making sense of the downs, neither of which was readily apparent from the clues.

But that struggle pales in comparison with the SW! Sly clues abounded, and the one for BASETEN was the slyest. When I finally remembered BURkA, it created an aha! moment that will be hard to rival. And now we come to the downs. Position with ST__D = STanD, of course. That's where I stand. Mishmash going across. Mini-aha: the bass isn't an instrument, it's a fish! So ROE. That changed STanD to STEAD. Now what is kUA?? Not much of a clue to work with : "As." Final aha: QUA, and the Arabic version of BURQA--and done! One caveat though: you can't get rid of your Q that way in Scrabble; the word's not listed. With the K, sure, but not the Q.

Only other glitch was oiL before GEL with the ALOEVERA thing. Soon fixed. Never heard of 54-down, but OL_A just about has to be OLGA, name-wise. DOD is MYA. Finished with an absolute truckload of triumph points, counting in BASETEN. Loved CHINTZY, one of those words I was just waiting to see in a grid. Eagle, almost an albatross. Say, second shot hit the flagstick and bounced a foot away.

Burma Shave 11:35 AM  


That MEGALOPOLIS ain’t up my ALLEY,
so BOUNTEOUS with CHINTZY sleaze.
I’LL be COOL MILES out in the BIG Valley
where it’s OKAY to SET_A_TEASE.


Barbara Munic 2:42 PM  

Wow. I had to go to the vintage fashion forum to find information about ninon. And this is coming from an experienced sewing and collector of vintage!
I think is was a great answer, but so obscure. Taught me something today.

Diana, LIW 3:30 PM  

sooooooooooo much nicer than yesterday. (tho NINON was an outlier)

Loved the misdirects like DECADE and BASETEN. See what you can do with real, actual, words????

Diana, Thankful Lady-in-Waiting

leftcoaster 6:24 PM  

I agree with virtually everything Rex said about this out-of-reach puzzle after coming here.

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