Hippie confab / SAT 9-4-21 / Iranian port near the Iraq border / Malt liquor bottle in slang / Ancient siege weapon for launching stones / Marengo for Napoleon / Chaparral or savanna / TV lingo for using established hits to prop up weaker shows / 1914 Freud essay that introduced the concept of "ego ideal"

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Constructor: Byron Walden

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: ABADAN (33A: Iranian port near the Iraq border) —
Abadan (Persianآبادان‎ Ābādānpronounced [ʔɒːbɒːˈdɒːn]) is a city and capital of Abadan CountyKhuzestan Province, which is located in the southwest of Iran. It lies on Abadan Island (68 km or 42 mi long, 3–19 km or 2–12 miles wide). The island is bounded in the west by the Arvand waterway and to the east by the Bahmanshir outlet of the Karun River (the Arvand Rood), 53 kilometres (33 mi) from the Persian Gulf, near the Iran–Iraq border. Abadan is 140 km from the provincial capital city of Ahvaz. [...] The civilian population of the city dropped close to zero during the eight years of the Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988). The 1986 census recorded only 6 people. In 1991, 84,774 had returned to live in the city. By 2001, the population had jumped to 206,073, and it was 217,988, in 48,061 families, according to 2006 census. Abadan Refinery is one of the largest in the world. The population today has reached almost 350,000 people. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well that was a proper Saturday. Very doable, but not without its scary moments. Slow and steady wins the race. For me, nearly all of the trouble came in that bottom corner, that vast RANGELAND that runs from south to east, and includes the tail end of RANGELAND, a term I couldn't get a handle on for some reason. I had RANGELINE in there at some point. Bizarre. Would've helped if I'd ever heard of ABADAN, a real geographical poser. But I hadn't. Consequently, or seemingly consequently, RANGELAND/ABADAN ended up being the beginning of troubles that spread all the way to the bottom of the puzzle. But above ABADAN, and west of ANODES (which I had as ANIONS at first, sadly), almost everything was very tractable. Not a breeze, but not a disaster either. All the green ink on my printed-out puzzle is roughly in the south and east. And yet the puzzle still felt very smooth and even. It's not as if that SE segment were cordoned off in such a way that it felt like an entirely different puzzle. Despite all my struggles there, the puzzle continued to have ... what's the word? Flow? I felt like I could always move about, try a new tack, etc. There were always strings to pull, new avenues to follow—I just had to pull and follow a lot of them to get things to work out. This felt old-fashioned tough and old-fashioned good. Cluing was clever and tricky in a way that was mostly satisfying instead of annoying. Even the clue on ON A LARK, which I found irksomely bizarre for most of the puzzle, ended up being right on the nose, such that I had to admit ... "yeah, that works" (35A: Out of whimsy ... not "Out of" in the sense of "No longer having" but "Out of" in the sense of "On account of," as in the phrase "out of spite"). 

This puzzle got me on its side early with a big flourish, a long answer with a trick clue that unfurled with fanfare accompaniment (in my head):

All I had was the "UNM-" part, but that was the crucial part, it turns out. Loved that moment where my brain went from "golf and tennis" to "geopolitical drama." Good aha. I was lucky enough to know Superman's dog, as he had his own comic there for a bit in the '00s and I used to buy it for my daughter. I should've known it from teaching comics for many years, but my interests just aren't that solidly in the DC (or Marvel) universe. I couldn't move down from the NW (largely because 23D: Mostly online writing genre was ALT blank and I wanted FIC but wasn't sure so (wisely) laid off). So I moved to the NE, where TENTPOLING gave me trouble. I wanted TENT POLES but it wouldn't fit. That is, I knew the lingo—hit shows are TENT POLES—but turning it all into one "-ING" word, that I hadn't seen before (20A: TV lingo for using established hits to prop up weaker shows). Anyway, I got it, and then after I moved through the NE with only a SHORE-for-SHOAL error (16A: Sight at low tide), I hit my first and only real wall:

Again, probably should've gotten RANGELAND, and almost certainly should've put together "ON NARCISSISM" from what I had in the grid (21D: 1914 Freud essay that introduced the concept of "ego ideal"), but nope on both counts. Iranian city, nope. And then there's RAW EGG, which, again, I should've gotten, in retrospect. Tartare is raw, so ... R-- should've been RAW. I ended up getting the EGG part and still just having R--EGG. Considered ROE EGG, but that seemed, well, redundant. RED EGG? Fish eggs are red, right? Sometimes? My brain was just off ON A LARK, I guess. But EGG got me GADS which got me the first letters of all those 5s in the SE, and that little bit of traction was all I needed to get going again, so that I could come at that whole SE section from underneath. BALLISTA was pretty harrowing (36D: Ancient siege weapon for launching stones), but luckily inferring the spelling from "ballistic" worked, and I'd heard of HIALEAH (38D: Florida city with a large Cuban American population (70+%)), so eventually I managed to get out of there alive and finish things off in the much easier west and southwest. I DON'T ASK why I DON'T ASK has an "I" at the front of it (7D: "Better off not knowing"), which sounds weird to my ears. It's really the only thing that feels slightly wobbly in this puzzle. Love the clue on (Stephanie) MEYER (52A: Favorite novelist of Twihards) and now hope TWIHARD(S) shows up in a grid someday. Anything else? Oh, I thought the [Hop-hop subgenre] was some kind of RAP, like ... [some letter] RAP, like G-RAP (gangsta?) or E-RAP (emo?) or something. But the word "rap" was an illusion. It was TRAP music, a genre I associate with the band MIGOS (I think they've been in the grid before?). I can't really define it, so I'll let wikipedia do the work:
Trap is a subgenre of hip hop music that originated in the Southern United States during the early 1990s. The genre gets its name from the Atlanta slang word "trap", a house used exclusively to sell drugs. Trap music uses synthesized drums and is characterized by complex hi-hat patterns, tuned kick drums with a long decay (originally from the Roland TR-808 drum machine), and lyrical content that often focuses on drug use and urban violence. It utilizes very few instruments and focuses almost exclusively on snare drums and double- or triple-timed hi-hats. (wikipedia)

That's your final (and perhaps only) lesson for the day. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Loren Muse Smith 6:19 AM  

Jeez Louise this was hard. I think my toehold was TET, and then crickets for like forever. Rex is right today: slow and steady wins the race. Perfect Saturday that starts off near impossible but in the end is gettable. Love your work, Byron.

I felt smart writing in PARSIMONY off just the P.

Goofed with “hoy” for OLA. I guess it’d be spelled “oy” anyway.

The biggest mistake was thinking that NARCISSIST had an SC in it somewhere. I managed to put it crossing MONOPOLI_ _, so I happily wrote in “monopolice” loving this new-to-me portmanteau that would describe who. Roosevelt? Taft? I don’t speak history.

Liked PET/STEED, Marengo. He was a good boy.

Referring to the UN as a country club is genius.

LISTLESS is a weird word. Seems it derives from Middle English liste meaning desire, delight. Listen comes from the same root. So does lust.

I was chatting with a student yesterday about the survivor shows on TV and why the heck when the survivalists resort to eating a bug, they EAT it ALIVE. We both agreed that we’d pop that puppy in and swallow it whole like a vitamin.

I have eaten steak tartare. I like steak tartare. But I didn’t realize it involved a RAW EGG. This is more disturbing for me than the raw meat. I have to leave the room when Rocky drinks those RAW EGGS before the morning run scene. I did know steak tartare had a bunch of shallots. It’d be just my luck to be seated next to some tipsy person having just polished off a pile of raw meat, raw eggs, and onion. He’d turn lean into me and waft, I have a huge home, a HIALEAH HACIENDA.

The word SHAMPOO is just so delicious. Go back and reconsider it. Ya ready? . . . I SHAMPOOED my son’s friend in 4th grade when I put a fake poop on the commode and implied that he had been the culprit. He bought it hook, line, and sinker and vehemently swore he had not made the mess. Sent him home with his own brand new one, still in the package, to SHAMPOO his mom with.

FINALS – already fretting over what That looks like at my school, what with the revolving door that is our enrollment. I haven’t asked anyone, but deep down I’m wondering if we just can’t be excused from the nightmare. Probably just listful thinking though.

OffTheGrid 6:51 AM  


Lewis 7:02 AM  

You can always count on Byron’s puzzles to be polished – worked over hard – as well as rich with interesting answers, rich with clever clues (including at least one that knocks me over with wit), and tough. Once more, here we are.

I picture him returning again and again to his puzzles-in-progress, thinking, “How can I make this better?”

Look at these sweet answers: OVER UNDER, PARSIMONY, TENTPOLING, LISTLESS, ON A LARK, GAMINS, HACIENDA, EATS ALIVE, SAME TO YOU, and ON NARCISSISM. The knock-me-over clue? [Access to a country club, in brief?] for UN MEMBERSHIP. Dang, Byron.

I’ve learned over the years that patience and faith will usually take me through, as it did today, but there is always glorious grit to triumphantly conquer.

Byron, you bring class and quality to crosswords. Thank you for this beauty today.

Lewis 7:03 AM  

@loren -- Sham-poo -- Hah!

Liz1508 7:03 AM  

Agree with Rex, it was difficult for me but it all kinda flowed and fit together. My problem area was the NE instead of the SE. Got too stuck on “running in” for 12D. Could not conjure up “asyla” but like that word and have added it to edens and oases. :-) Satisfying Saturday. Good clues.

BunnyR 7:13 AM  

I have to ask, is 43A valid? I took it to mean an ending for TERM. Wouldn't it be INALS? MINALS would make it a double-M. Am I overthinking this?

Anonymous 7:19 AM  

@Bunny. A school term ends with FINALS (exams)

TTrimble 7:42 AM  

Pretty tough puzzle. I had to walk away and come back to it a few times. Only in a few places (mostly in the west) did I get a solid bite; the rest was me nibbling away until I was done.

The NE was problematic. I was imagining an -ing ending instead of YOUNG, based on the syntax of the clue. ASYLA is hard to see; I think by that point I knew that the plural ending was an -A (because of the MT ETNA cross -- that one was also hard for me -- can you imagine jumping into lava?), but the crosses were not cooperating for quite a while.

TENTPOLING and KRYPTO were new to me. This mania for comic books. I won't dis them, but I DON'T read them. And as for TENTPOLING: for 21 D I had -NN-R and was thinking "inner something" -- hard to see ONN-R until the parsing ON Nsomething and then at length I could guess ON NARCISSISM. So that gave TENTPO---- and there aren't that many options from there.

A propos the RAW EGG, here is Roland Barthes on steak tartare (from the essay Steak and Chips, in the collection Mythologies):

"To eat steak rare therefore represents both a nature and a morality. It is supposed to benefit all the temperaments, the sanguine because it is identical, the nervous and lymphatic because it is complementary to them. And just as wine becomes for a good number of intellectuals a mediumistic substance which leads them towards the original strength of nature, steak is for them a redeeming food, thanks to which they bring their intellectualism to the level of prose and exorcize, through the blood and soft pulp, the sterile dryness of which they are constantly accused. The craze for steak tartare, for instance, is a magic spell against the romantic association between sensitiveness and sickliness; there are to be found, in this preparation, all the germinating states of matter: the blood mash and the glair of eggs, a whole harmony of soft and life-giving substances, a sort of meaningful compendium of the images of pre-parturition."

yd 0
td pg -6

Son Volt 7:52 AM  

Almost an hour long work out for me - which is straight up stumper category. There were a lot of gimmes - but also some first timers. Luckily the NERD in me knew LOGIC and have built both BALLISTAe and trebuchets in past engineering classes. Have been to the track multiple times in HIALEAH including seeing Alydar win the Flamingo.

Hand up for fighting with RANGE LAND - put RANGE right in but couldn’t get the redundant LAND. Loved the playful UN MEMBERSHIP. PARSIMONY, and the SAME TO YOU and IN A MOMENT stack.

TENT POLING, ABADAN, GAMINS, CHOI??? The high level of this puzzle was brought down by the LE BARON entry. Maybe qualify the clue with old model or similar.

Highly enjoyable Saturday solve.

puzzlehoarder 7:54 AM  

I did this on paper last night and it took almost the same amount of time as yesterday's solve which I did using my phone. Medium sounds about right but while solving I couldn't help thinking that this should be going much faster.
That NE corner is a perfect example. Entries like ASYLA, ACCRA, ALG, TET, RELO and TONGA are the kind of material you can put in while asleep. However there was always some CHOI and ABADAN mixed in to provide resistance.

The cluing really stood out in places most notably the country club one. After solving I looked up the definition of PARSOIMONY because the "mental" aspect of the clue for it caused me to hesitate writing it in. I was not aware of the whole Occam's razor connection but you learn something new every day.

My last entry was the M of MSS. That was the only thing I wasn't rock solid on. My best guess was, messages? Close enough but how I've managed to not memorize this in 30 years of solving is beyond me. Abbreviations are some your more distasteful entries and I tend to give them short shrift.

While this constructor always makes quality puzzles, I've never really found them to be challenging so medium was pretty good and as always his material was entertaining.

Rocinante 7:56 AM  

Medium - bah!

I tore through the NW and then the battle was real all the way to the seemingly intractable SE. Pretty much the same pitfalls and foibles as Rex.

Proper Saturday hard for me. Worst time in a long time - maybe I was just having an ill-timed bad night.

Ω 7:57 AM  

A Tale of Two Puzzles. OVERUNDER anchored the NW and I made fairly quick work of that corner. Same Aha! Moment as Rex on UN MEMBERSHIP got me a toehold heading south and using Star Trek to clue LOGIC was always going to be super easy for me, so the whole west side of the grid had me thinking I was looking at a sub 10 minute solve. then … Screeched to a stop.
Between a plethora of vaguely familiar geography (and the “how many towns are there in south Florida?” moment) and the movie person I’m only vaguely aware of and trebuchet not fitting and having only read about Freud and wanting the “spread” to be some relative of a tapenade and ASYLA being slightly off to the side hiding from me the entire east side was a barren wasteland with just a few plants maybe sprouting here and there. AP BIO, ANODES, and BE IN we’re not enough to get me anywhere. It was somewhere around my third or fourth look at “Havens” where ASYLA finally finally hove in to view, kicking and screaming about being disturbed from its repose in some comfortable dark space in my brain. That’s the answer I needed. “D’Oh, it is ACCRA” followed and suddenly SHOAL and YOUNG made sense and I had the beginnings of the long downs and boom boom boom, the rest of the puzzle fell with only the most minor of missteps of trying SoapPed up before SHAMPOOED.
I went from thinking I might break 10 to being happy I broke 30 minutes, but an enjoyable half hour was had. There’s more geography than I like (ACCRA, TONGA, ABADAN, HIALEAH, MT ETNA (the Yoko Ono of volcanoes), but otherwise I thought it was fair and challenging in the way I like crosswords to be challenging (I’ll just ignore the LE BARON clue - you all know my feelings about spelling and letter play).

@LMS - Now I’m wondering why a listing ship has a haunted LISTLESS look to it.

J. Voight 8:10 AM  

I understand that originally Walden intended VOLVO to be the car in 27A. Then, impulsively, he decided to go with a LeBaron.

Seems like a strange choice.

bocamp 8:12 AM  

Thx Byron for this very crunchy Sat. puz!

Very difficult solve in progress.

Approx. one hr. into this very engaging challenge with another 1/3 to complete. Feels somewhat like a Tim Croce Freestyle. (hi @jae)

Bedtime now (Fri. eve), so looking forward to tackling the rest today.

yd 0

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Trey 8:20 AM  

This was a great puzzle (lots of challenges, but fair). After the first run through the clues I had around 10 answers that I was fairly sure of. I was worried that my streak of completed puzzles (404) was at risk, which tells me that this puzzle was harder than average even for a Saturday. Then the hard work began, slogging through. My only erasures were INAsecoNd, oLa, MTossA and RawEGG, but each of those delayed seeing other answers a bit quicker. The cluing was great (loved "access to a country club") and the fill was solid. Thoroughly enjoyed this

Conrad 8:27 AM  

What's the difference between a WOE and a WTF? A WOE becomes a WTF when it's @Rex's Word of the Day and you've not only never heard of the word but never heard of any of the "clarifying" references in the Wikipedia article.

ABADAN aside, it was on the easy side of medium for a Saturday. I found it easier than yesterday.

@Z: "The Yoko Ono of volcanoes" made me LOL!

A friend came to visit while we were staying in south Florida. In a phone call before his arrival we asked what he wanted to do. He said, "I'd like to see HIALEAH." We spent some time trying to figure out what he wanted to see there. At one time there was a race track, but it has long since closed (simulcasting only). Turned out what he actually said was, "I'd like to see jai alai."

Ω 8:28 AM  

Clean Up on Aisle Yesterday
@Stephanie10:40 pm - You’re right. 4 21st century clues might be an all-time high for Shortz.
@BDLinPS - Instead of scouring Google Maps maybe try plain old google (Link is a spoiler to one of yesterday’s clues). Google Maps probably has it listed under its Americanized name.
@MarthaCatherine - Rex posted the video where you can hear for yourself that the clue was correct.
@Gio - Did you see the response? It’s really quite amazing.

Frantic Sloth 8:47 AM  

27A is a perfect example of one of the most obnoxious types of clues there is. Not one, but two PPP wrapped in a letter-drop word-soup. Only thing missing is the anagram or a quote.

Still, I found this much easier than yesterday's even though it took longer than average for me.

Kind of workmanlike in that it provided a challenge and I'd never heard of TENTPOLING, so learned something new, but nothing flashy or rankling. Except maybe the LEBARON clueage.

And don't even get me started on "90 Day Fiancé". Certain people I know are addicted to that channel (TLC) because, and I quote, "that's where I do my learnin'!"

IDONTASK because it makes me LISTLESS.


amyyanni 8:54 AM  

Gotta love a puzzle with PARSIMONY in it. This was a toughie, but no complaints. Exactly what a Saturday should be. TIL ASYLA. And thanks for the lesson on trap music, Rex. Now off to explore some Atlanta parks. Beautiful day here.

kitshef 8:59 AM  

Significantly easier that yesterday … though still within normal Saturday range.
Most significant wrong turns:
cAtapult – BALLISTA

Comment on receiving a cold brewski: HI, ALE. AH.
Barefoot Contessa’s fifteen minutes of fame: INA MOMENT
Only passed gas: SHAM POOED

TonySaratoga 9:15 AM  

I thought it should be FINALM since M is the terminus of the word term. Why is S correct?

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

I had to look up ballista. This seige engine was usually used to hurl spear like projectiles. The clue reference to launching stones threw me. I learned that this weapon could also be used for launching stone projectiles so there you go.

Ω 9:28 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ω 9:29 AM  

@Frantic Sloth’s last comment reminded me to point out that Rex missed on the I DON’T ASK comment.

Parent’s friend: What does your college frosh do on the weekends at school?
Parent: (shaking head worriedly) I DON’T ASK.

@kitshef - I’m glad my brain went to the oh so Saturday trebuchet and never thought of catapult. That would have messed me up and that section already took me way too long.

@Frantic Sloth - Someone I may or may not be married to and her best friend were really into 90 Day Fiancé. I’d criticize but then I realize their weird fascination with train wrecks parallels the fremdschämen a certain “fan” evokes in me. You know you should just look away but morbid curiosity wins the day.

@TonySaratoga - FINAL examS at the end of a term, not the last letter in “term.”

@Conrad - 👍🏽 - I wrote that and immediately decided that Mauna Loa is the Brian Eno of volcanoes. I wanted to make Mauna Kea the Yma Sumac of volcanoes but we haven’t seen her recently, so maybe the Oreo of volcanoes. But then a heated debate erupted over whether my new categorization had to be only musical people. 🌋

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

Only knew HIALEAH from old racetrack references. I guess it was spot for celebrities and A-listers back in the day, as it was mentioned enough on TV that it stuck in my brain.

Finished this one in less time than Friday's puzzle. OVERUNDER was the first entry. "YO" in YOUNG finished it up.

JD 10:05 AM  

Epic fail.

My Parsimony, which I threw right in, keeps me from knowing any gambling terms. Couldn't get out of my literal mind enough to think of the U.N. as a club.

Seriously wondered if the Twihards might inhabit an island in the South Pacific where early explorers left behind some book. Altlit? Another no.

All the geography.

My only ancient weapons are a trebuchet (because my son and his friends built one in high school and launched a watermelon … I Don't Ask), a battle ax, and a mace.

I kind of doubt you'd see Cots at a bivouac, but that's just sour grapes in parting.

Nancy 10:07 AM  

If I tell you that I couldn't enter this puzzle until RELO -- all the way over and down at 29A -- you'll have some idea of how hard I found it. And I couldn't solve it without some highly "honorable" cheating. Here is my definition of honorable cheating:

You look things up based on what you already have filled in and not on the information in the clue. You make an honorable guess and then see if there is such a word or name.

Thus did I check the first A of ABADAN. Was BALLISTA a weapon? It looks like that title's going to be ON NARCISSISM, yes? Is there such a thing as ALT LIT? Seems so. And suddenly this puzzle that was EATing me ALIVE was finishable. Back, back, back I went -- to finally get MERCH and TENTPOLING and UN MEMBERSHIP and FORTY and all the other things that were completely stumping me.

But honorable cheating doesn't make me feel smart and a puzzle this tough is a bit too close to masochism for my liking. One of the hardest Saturdays I've ever done.

Shawa 10:12 AM  

Can anyone explain why OLA is upside down? Did I miss something? Drove me crazy as I had it initially which was keeping me from getting SHAMPOOED.

Gio 10:16 AM  

@Z assuming I'm Bio, I looked at it now. This Anon troll dude cannot make a post without mentioning the European White Man and his culture.He's happy they forced European culture onto native peoples in the America's, Canada, Australia, and all over the globe, after all, it's the best!
When I first read your post "Gio did you see the response, it's really quite amazing", I thought you meant Rex responding to my post yesterday, since he last responded to a post in here maybe 8 years ago. I think he skimmed a few comments to see how mad people were about the sub being late. My post told him I love his bitching and whinging, so I guess he replied. He was probably still drunk on the ICEE. I don't think he reads the comments more than a few now and then.

willzimjohn 10:26 AM  

"Just drivin' 'round in Jon Voigt's car", though it turns out it was John Voigt's car.

Carola 10:49 AM  

From the above: "tough," "doable," "challenging", "fair" - yes to all. Really tough to get into! My initial-stab crosses were COP TO x OSHA, ACCRA x ALG, I MET x LOGIC, and TET x TONGA, none of which provided the hoped for BALLISTA-like breach of the grid but at least allowed a slow chip-chip-chipping away at the wall of white. For me, a proper, old-school Saturday workout, satisfying to finish.

Favorite fake-out clue: the country club. Moment of geographic confusion: I rejected ABADAN for quite a while, sure I was thinking of Nigeria's Ibadan + the A from Abidjan. Help from being old: like an @Anonymous above, I knew HIALEAH as a race track from Rat Pack days. I liked learning that Marengo, besides being a battle site and chicken preparation, was the name of Napoleon's STEED. SNORT!

jae 10:52 AM  

Medium, and easier than yesterday’s.

SHelL before SHOAL
ANions before ANODES (Hi @Rex)
aura before ELAN
oLa before ALO - @LMS I suspect you meant ALO not OLA.


Solid and smooth, liked it.

Frantic Sloth 10:53 AM  

@LMS Oh, hell no! I hope to Gof that you kill that bug before popping it like a pill! The only thing I can imagine that's worse than chewing a live bug, is having one crawling around inside! *gack* Erase! Erase! Erase!

@kitshef 859am 🤣👍Great ALT clues!

@Z Thanks for getting me to look at yesterday's (later) comments. Always a pleasure to read anonytroll's take. 🙄
Which reminds me...curiosity, morbid or otherwise, has led me to some ghastly unpleasantries in my life.

Al Canuck 11:00 AM  

Players engaging in a face off are not exclusively 'centers'. Any player can take the drop. Many times it is a winger. I apologize for the extreme nature of my rant.

Nancy 11:05 AM  

Sung to the tune of the "Hallelujah Chorus" :

Who is Handel?

That's how I knew HIALEAH. The gamblers have a code for placing bets at racetracks so the Feds won't catch them. The only trouble is that I thought is was part of "Fugue for Tinhorns" from "Guys and Dolls" but instead it's part of "It's a Simple System" from "Bells Are Ringing". You might want to find it on YouTube: it's quite funny.

Teedmn 11:09 AM  

Typical Byron Walden hard-Saturday, yay. I don't know how much of my time was due to having to solve online, which is like typing through a sty for me (though no SNORTing occurred), but I set no solving speed records today. And there's the DNF at TENT-PiLING crossing iN NARCISSISM. ON NARCISSISM sounds like an ode to the disorder.

And is it a coincidence that MONOPOLIST crosses NARCISSISM?

I found the NE baffling - Oases didn't work for 10D nor did ports "in a storm". And that clue for YOUNG at 18A was tough.

I loved this puzzle - thanks Byron!

albatross shell 11:10 AM  

Same as Rex on ANODES. Opposite on about everything else. ONALARK from a couple crosses made sense immediately. I knew KRYPTO from earlier Superman comics cause I was a kid. Even then I thought it was silly and resented being a target demographic (boys with dogs) even though I had no idea such terms existed or his own comic. LABARON was a gimmie. My third or fourth entry. MTETNA then gave me the MB of MEMBERSHIP and the U inferred from QUIT gave me UN the puzzle's concensus aha.

So the western 2/3 of the puzzle done with no cheats. I had 2 seemingly correct answers fighting each other: FINALS and cAtapult. And had brilliantly decided the TV term was TENTPackers. And of course _ NN at the beginning of a word meant the blank was likely an A confirming it. So the Freud publication had to be ANNA O. history casefile or some such. I only had SHOAL RELO BEIN (trending in NYTCW) in the EAST so eventually looked up CHOI, which took the shine off my brilliance but did get me ING and PO eventually. Then cracked the SE dismantling my catapult. Trebuchet was not a fit and the crosses gave me nothing. Looked up BALLISTA and went on to finish. Slowly.

So Saturday with 2 look-uos. Better than average.

Really liked the MONOPOLIST clue. But getting it ruined my nickname for a malt liquor container - FaRTY. Maybe a SHAM POO container?

Whatsername 11:14 AM  

This was about as pleasant as having FORTY TONGAS HAILING on my head. Felt like the hockey puck that got battered between two CENTERS. I read a lot but not about vampires, don’t drink malt liquor, read ALT LIT or Freud. Thought ALO was OLA and kept trying to make 21D about ANARCHISM. Why? Probably best if YOU DONT ASK.

One thing I did know was RAW EGG because I had just watched this scene in Wall Street where the suave MONOPOLIST gives the naive NERD his first taste of steak tartare.

anónima 11:21 AM  

Like some others, I confused HOLA & OLA. HOLA means Hello, as does ALO. OLA means Wave.*

*Per a Google inquiry.

Trey 11:23 AM  

I am shocked that many think that this puzzle was easier than yesterday - I breezed through Fridays puzzle in half the time of today's, despite having fewer distractions today (being at work yesterday has the potential to get in the way of a good solve time). The Friday puzzle was also easier for me compared to other Friday puzzles than the Saturday puzzle was compared to other Saturdays if I use my solve time for both puzzles as a percentage of my average for those days, or if I compare the best times ever for those days to the times this week. Double my best for Friday and triple my best for Saturday.

I guess a lot of it has to do with either what is in your wheelhouse, or which clues you are confident enough in to put down to help see the grid open up. To me, it opened up very slowly today.

SaltySolver 11:25 AM  

The cluing for BEIN and crossing with ABADAN is pretty much a Natick for me.

Never heard of them, and trying to decipher wtf a confab also threw me for a loop.

Nevermind whatever GAMINS is supposed to mean, but at least the crosses make that solvable!

Best part was trying to figure out a word ending with so many vowels in a row before the aha moment of SHAMPOOED

TheMadDruid 11:46 AM  

But ola is Portuguese for hola. 54d confused me.

Andy Constructor 11:54 AM  

I appreciate tough cluing, but this puzzle had too much. It was not a fun solve. This is my first time posting here. I'm a constructor. Let me know if this posts.

Rex, I have a shit-ton of past puzzles that need revamped for submission. Do you collaborate? Anybody on this blog wanna collaborate? Let me know

jb129 11:58 AM  

This WAS TOUGH! But it's Saturday so I wouldn't give up & I'm glad I didn't.

(Had to cheat on the Tent Poling & altho 21D should've been a given, it intimidated me so I didn't get it.

But all in all a great Saturday.

bocamp 12:05 PM  

One of the toughest NYT Sat. puz's I can recall. Was fortunate to have only a one-cell dnf, not being able to parse ON NARCISSISM, misspelling HACIENDA with an 'S'.

Always enjoy a Walden creation, and this one was not an exception; very much enjoyed the couple of hours spent on it. Just need to be more patient with the parsing.

pg -2

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

jberg 12:07 PM  

I too thought of 'trebuchet' but when that proved too long I went with cAtapult. I thought at the time it was too easy for a Walden Saturday, but BALLISTA just didn't come to me. Man, did that mess me up! It blocked all the crosses; I had to get all the way down to SHAMPOOED before I was convinced that it was wrong.

My first entry was OSHA, and even there I considered USDA (another kind of plant). I'd heard of Empedocles, but had no idea about the terminus of his life; and even though my current bathroom reading is a review of a couple books about the history of Sicily, it just didn't spring to mind as a place for ancient Greeks, so I needed the MT___A to see ETNA.

Then -- and this one is entirely my fault -- I thought ACCRA was an inland city. It was the only 5-letter capital in the area that I could think of (Lagos is no longer a capital, and Abuja is in the center of Nigeria), but I held off for the crosses. And I loved "Parasite," but of course didn't know the actors.

Car model names and athletes? How could I possibly get that? I don't know these things; but then I had RON, looked at the clue again and saw that it specified which letter to take out, and there it was -- I actually did know them both. Old, you say? I DON'T ASK.

My impression has been that the word is pronounced 'MERCH' but spelled MERC, but maybe that's not universal.

As for UNMEMBERSHIP, wow! I had the whole thing, all from crosses, and was still parsing UN as a prefix; like maybe non-members could enter the clubhouse but not play golf. Then it hit me. Again, wow.

Has anybody seen @John-X lately? We need him to make a joke about TENTPOLING. Let me just say that it has an alternate meaning.

Andy Constructor 12:12 PM  

Hi Rex,
I am a scientist. I am a cancer researcher. I am also a crossnerd. I'm a constructor. I've published a Fri puzzle in LAT. I have lots of puzzles with great themes ready for publication, but probably need to be screened by someone with the expertise that you hold.

These puzzles would be great for everyone. At this point, I'd like to take on a co-author on some puzzles if you can help clean them up and approve the theme. There are not many constructors out there these days so I would hope you respond...

dramawritcomp 12:21 PM  

eGADS. This was tough, but ultimately doable. The law firm of HIALEAH, ABADAN, BALLISTA, and CHOI would have EATEN me ALIVE if it weren’t for the crosses which were often challenging but ultimately fair. Thanks for the workout, Byron.

Filled in PARSIMONY without really knowing for sure what it meant. Wrestled with the clue for COUNTED IN which baffled me for much too long. “Considered a participant?” Reluctantly gave in to TENT POLING which I had never heard before as an action in reference to either TV or camping. Other things that were alien to me: OVERUNDER, ALTLIT, and TRAP as a hip-hop subgenre. Maybe they are all hip-hop subgenres I DON’T ASK.

Liked MONOPOLIST crossing ON NARCISSISM. A real “me” MOMENT.

Bad memories of steak tartare. Tried it once years ago (minus the RAW EGG), got severe food poisoning, and never touched it again. Now, as it turns out, I don’t eat red meat of any kind and can’t say I miss it.

Thanks to @lms for the image of Napoleon saying “Good boy” to his STEED Marengo. My favorite moment reading the comments.

albatross shell 12:41 PM  

Now that they have been mentioned. COT and ALO bothered me. Also the stones mis-direct. ALO and BALLISTA have been somewhat explained. COT seems to also rely on a rather expansive definition of bivouac. Is this just Saturday being Saturday? Weak cluing? I mean if it is deception for its own sake why pick COT? I couldn't think of any alt-answer. Stones seemed intentional. Obvious better known answer. Otherwise why not use spear or launcher in your clue. Ola-ALO was confusing, but perhaps just correct. Was the puzzle better or worse for these three? My vote is worse except ALO. Which is strange because COT only caused a short pause and catapult fell fairly quickly. ALO caused me the most trouble.

Also agreed with @Z about Rex's take on IDONTASK. At least I did. Now I'm thinking the problem is the clue has no pronoun and to be correct or parallel to the clue the answer would have an I if it had one. It was left out because of the I in the answer. And if the clue is correct for I DON'T ASK it must also be correct be correct for we, they, you DONTASK as well as just DONTASK. Seems just a bit sloppy or too flexible or convenient some how. Worth a side eye maybe.

Ω 12:52 PM  

@Al Canuck - 🤣😂🤣 Well Done impression of a Canadian. To be argumentative, when taking the face-off the player is a center, even if the rest of the time they are playing on the wing. I’m American so I won’t apologize for being argumentative.

@Teedmn - No, I missed that. But now that you point it out it’s pretty funny.

@Gio - My sense is that Rex is a little miffed when he gets complaints and has to check in on the comments. At least you got a positive response. He posted a screenshot on Twitter with a snide comment about one of us misidentifying Return of the Mack as “Rap.” To which I mentally responded, “if only you read some of ‘rap’ comments here” (of course, not reading those sorts of comments is probably a big reason behind him staying away - way too much grampa mike* when anything African-American hits the puzzle)(Rex hid the poster’s nom de blog).

@Andy - Good luck. There are at least three published NYTX constructors here, so maybe they will contact you. My sense is that Rex doesn’t do much constructing anymore, but you’ll have more luck emailing him than posting here. Also, I think there are some constructor groups out there that might be of interest to you. Maybe somebody here can point you towards them.

@Trey - Both yesterday and today were more challenging than my usual Friday and Saturday solve times, but yesterday’s was harder compared to my Friday average than today’s was compared to my Saturday average. So in that sense today’s puzzle was easier than yesterday’s even though it took me three minutes longer to solve.

*@grampamike - the original member of the commentariat - we stand in the shoulders of giants.

joebloggs 1:04 PM  

As a Brazilian American I can tell you we don’t say ola or hola. We say alo. It was easy for me but if you are not Brazilian very obscure. Hated this puzzle.

joebloggs 1:07 PM  

What does studying have to do with getting down?

mathgent 1:21 PM  

This is a puzzle that Patrick Berry would admire. Clean, clever, fun. Byron Walden is a master.

Yesterday's was a DNF for me, but I solved this one clean.

Historic day at the US Open. Two eighteen-year-olds knocked out the #3 seeds. The Canadian girl, Layla Fernandez, is a delight.

Ω 1:27 PM  

@joebloggs - To “get something down” is slang for learning something. As in “I really need to get down all minor seaports with useful letters if I want to improve my Saturday solve times.”

Masked and Anonymous 1:44 PM  

Parts of this rodeo were mighty hard bronc ridin, and parts were calfs that just laid down for a ropin. Sooo… Medium difficulty kinda works, at our house.

Byron Walden must really aim for that SatPuz slot. Of his 102 NYTs, 65 have been Saturdays.

hard stuff: TENTPOLING. BALLISTA. ABADAN. CHOI [More about CHOI below, tho.]


staff weeject pick: ALO. I kinda knew this, thanx to previous xwords. U hafta surely wonder if ALOHA somehow derived from it: "ALO … HA! -- I meant goodbye, this time! Gotcha!" Them jokey Rio-Hawaiians are a hoot.

Didn't know the CHOI name part, but it did bring back a fondest memory from my army tour in Saigon. Here goes…
We were billeted in a Saigon hotel, which had a little bar/restaurant in it, where we'd watch a USO-donated movie on Saturday nights. One time they were showin a schlock horror or scifi flick, and a monster did somethin really radical, like bitin a head off or somesuch. One of the Vietnamese waitress gals hollered out a grossed-out-soundin "Choi oi!"

This outburst of course immediately made ever-curious M&A ask other GIs at my table what "Choi oi" meant. Consensus was that it could mean a variety of things, dependin on the tone of the speaker's delivery. Sorta like "Holy ___!", where U fill in a fave filler, dependin on the situation. har

Thanx for the fun and nostalgia, Mr. Walden dude. But, ballista? Choi oi!

Masked & Anonymo4Us

Here's another debut M&A wordplay term, sorta like Worducken -- @Muse darlin oughta enjoy it:

nyc_lo 1:51 PM  

The only thing that kept me going through this joyless mess was the certainty that Rex would shred it to pieces. No luck there either.

He just sort of shrugged off IDONTASK like that’s a thing anyone has said, ever. Don’t even get me started on the naticky mess involving ACCRA, CHOI and ASYLA. You’d think a puzzle that quoted Spock and referenced Superboy’s dog would get my seal of approval, but those were the sole glimmers of enjoyment for me here.

Oh, and since I’m ranting, Trig is the prerequisite for Calc. Sure, you have to take ALGebra first, but then you may as well just say MATH.

Tim Carey 1:55 PM  

I died in the NE.

Alison Dickey 2:02 PM  

My solving group had a lot of trouble with 29-across. "Relo" means to "move, informally?" Is that crosswordese we are not familiar with? "Relo," as in short for "relocate?" Nobody says that (do they?!)!

A 2:11 PM  


Mr. A is a better tennis player than I. We used to play doubles with an even more mismatched couple - she was the strongest of the four of us and her husband barely knew which end of the racket to hold. One time her serve flew past him so fast he didn’t even try to hit it. He said “No.” All of us saw the ball in, and she started to get upset. Then he explained that he hadn’t meant “No” the serve was out, he meant “No, I didn’t see it.”

No, I did not see this puzzle. At least not much of it. It’s pretty sad when my entry into a grid is clued with a basketball star. So much out of my wheelhouse - OVERUNDER TENTPOLING CHOI TWIHARDS MEYER BALLISTA GAMINS TRAP TLC. IMET my match and then some.

Really, some idiotic relationship show is broadcast by a channel with Learning in its name? GADS.

Early on I thought I might get a break with catapult but "No." Tried to cheat on the Iran port by looking at a map. Still “No.”

Thought the one “Needing a jolt” was a LIfeLESS body. COME QUICK and bring the defibrillator! Funny, but again "No."

On LISTLESS - from Middle English liste "pleasure, joy, delight" (Hi, @Loren), also this:
list (v.1)
"to tilt, lean, incline to one side," especially of a ship, 1880, earlier spelled lust (1620s), of unknown origin. Perhaps an unexplained spelling variant of Middle English lysten "to please, desire, wish, like" with a sense development from the notion of "leaning" toward what one desires (compare incline (v.))

Sorry, this Walden/Shortz effort gave me no liste. Fortunately, after my cheat-filled solve, I found this highly (or lowly) amusing video that cheered me up immensilly. And I learned that Bruckner and Milhaud share a birthday. Now that’s worth a LISTen.

JD 2:29 PM  

@A, Yeah, it was something like that for me. Thanks.

@Allison, People say relo.

@Albatross, Thank you on Cot. If yer gonna drag a Cot out there why don't ya just bring a tent?

(Waited all day for some complainers to show up 😀).

bocamp 2:32 PM  

@A (2:11 PM)

Thx for the Darius Milhaud vid; playing it in the background. 🎶


Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Tom T 2:33 PM  

TENTPOLING was unknown to me, and although I felt like CRYPTO (derived from kryptonite) must be the name of Superman's dog, I failed to realize I had choo for CHOI, whiich left me with TENTPOLoNG. "Long" seemed like it might be a decent ending for the TV slang cue, so ..... dnf.

Unknown 2:36 PM  

@ andyconstructor
I'm interested. I'm 0 for 3 with my NYT submissions. Reach out at auskernlaw@gmail.com

INAMINUTE had me stuck for more than a MOMENT
And having GRASSLAND for RANGELAND made the NE corner very tough

Loved SHAMPOOED and UNMEMBERSHIP; they made the puzzle.

It did feel like a lot of PPP, especially ABADAN crossing with TONGA.
Going back to Z's mythical 33% bar for PPP, the more I've done puzzles, the less I think it's a pure percentage. I think he's oversimplifying. The real issues are, if there are a lot of proper names, how long are they? If there's a bunch of tough 7- and 8-letter proper nouns, they will tend to dominate the square and if they're out of your wheelhouse, that's going to create problems. And if your tough proper nouns cross at an ambiguous vowel, then that's going to complicate things further. Whereas if the PPP is tucked in a corner, is not overly long, and doesn't really interfere with the rest of the grid, then the impact is much less. Just my 2 cents.

Hartley70 2:40 PM  

This is my idea of a perfect Saturday puzzle combined with perfect Saturday weather. There were a few stumpers of course, ABADAN, TENTPOLING, CHOI, and BALLISTA for me, but the crosses were fair and gave me what I needed to complete the solve. I particularly liked PARSIMONY and UNMEMBERSHIP. The grid was packed with few black squares and a lot of goodies!

TTrimble 2:49 PM  

I thought, while solving that I wON'T ASK might be just as serviceable an answer as I DON'T ASK. It all depends. It could be that you begin to ask someone why they think or behave a certain way about something sensitive but then think better of it and retract the question, saying "never mind, I won't ask". Or, it could be two people talking about the actions of a third, where I DON'T ASK feels like the more natural thing to say.

Shoulder shrugs at MEYER and ALO. I had not the foggiest until two minutes ago, when I looked it up, that a "Twihard" is die-hard fan of the Twilight series, so that explains that. Not that that would have helped me, because I didn't know the author, and took a guess. (Not a hard guess -- I had -EYER and while I didn't know about a manuscript(?)-slush pile connection, M seemed the most plausible letter for the cross.) Hand up for trying oLa before ALO, but the correction to ALO looks/sounds enough like "hallo" that it seemed like it could be right. Am glad to hear more about this from @joebloggs.

I wouldn't say trig is the prerequisite. Actually, where I teach, we have several different versions of first-semester calculus, and one of them doesn't involve trig at all. The class of functions for that particular stomping ground (besides ad hoc functions used to illustrate various limit concepts) is the class of algebraic functions. I would add that the biggest downfall for most calculus students is an insecure grasp of ALGebra. To sum up (heh), I think ALG is a perfectly legit answer.

@Frantic Sloth
Hand up for being moderately acquainted with 90-Day Fiancee (hmm, it's two e's in the title? because strictly speaking that applies just to females). My wife watches it a fair bit. Right now we have the TV on a Pimple Popper marathon. Now that's learnin', on The Learning Channel. And Dr. Lee applies good TLC.

td 0

mathgent 2:49 PM  

My favorite posts this morning.

Lewis (7:02)

Hartley70 3:00 PM  

@Andy Constructor, what you should do is to visit the Facebook group “Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory”. Post there and you should find just the assistance you are seeking. Good Luck!

chance2travel 3:26 PM  

@nyc_lo agree on Trig being the pre-req for Calc; @ttrimble, my hot take is that the clue would do well to specify either a remote pre-req, or a indicate in the clue that the Calc in question is non-trig based; isn't that Biz Calc?

@allison yup, especially if the company is paying for a move, it's a relo

Other than that, all I can say is I made it out alive before I had to start googling. Pencilled in a bunch of rando words before things finally clicked in the NE. 30 min for me.

Anonymous 3:51 PM  

an ancient derivation of 'getting down' is simple: you don't really know a subject (long and complicated or short and sweet) unless and until you can get it down in writing. lemma: you don't really know a subject (long and complicated or short and sweet) until you can teach it.

Anoa Bob 3:53 PM  

Ah yes, the old Law of PARSIMONY (17A), aka Occam's Razor or less often Lloyd Morgan's Canon, I know it well but was thrown by its clue "Mental or fiscal tightness". The "tightness" part seemed off. Maybe "conciseness" would be more apropos there.

I've seen many low tides so when the last two letters for what might be exposed were ___AL, I put in CORAL. Took a while before CHOI and ASYLA corrected that to SHOAL.

There's no way I'm going to eat raw meat (parasites) or a RAW EGG (Salmonella). It's too close to EATS ALIVE. Anything but DESIRABLE if you ask me, although I realize some of you may be I DON"T ASK types.

My first thought upon reading 20A "TV lingo for using established hits to prop up weaker shows" was COAT TAILING. Too many letters. TENT POLING? Really? How so? Or would it be better if I DON"T ASK?

I thought it was an excellent, old school type puzzle that was a challenge to solve but one that gave me a sense of accomplishment for having completed it.

Anonymous 4:00 PM  

this: https://math.wikia.org/wiki/Prerequisites_for_calculus

doesn't include trig. in my experience, Alg I/II and analytic geometry are what you really need to know. calculus of trig functions mostly come out in the wash; you just have to memorize what (function) goes with what (derivative, indefinite integral).

TTrimble 4:16 PM  

Well, teaching the subject is part of my job. "The" is the wrong article. Whether the course involves trig functions or not, algebra is by no means a "remote" prerequisite, because as I said before, not having a solid command of algebra is by far the most common downfall of the calculus student. Do you teach or have you taught calculus in a classroom setting?

Anonymous 4:16 PM  


re: TENT POLING yes, a real term. like at a circus the central TENT POLe holds up the body of the tent so that the circumferential ones don't fall down. so, a strong show, esp. back before cable/sat and channel remotes, tended to keep some %-age of viewers from getting out of the La-Z-Boy to change the channel. the strong save the weak. just like in politics. well, some of the time and in some places.

SFR 4:24 PM  

I have the same definition of 'honorable cheating'. It's a relief to know I'm not alone!

pabloinnh 4:30 PM  

Just now checking in after another dive into downsizing at the flea market, which is where I did this one on paper. Cheats not an option but unneeded anyway, as it turned out. Same sense of despair as many after a quick run through on the clues but shared the pride of completion also felt by many. A proper Saturday, this one.

Only thing that was a complete WTF for me was a "twihard", which makes sense when explained, not that it would have helped, because I didn't know the author either.

@jberg-In the absence of JohnX, I can say that I too knew TENTPOLING as a desired effect of Viagara. Ahem.

CDilly52 4:34 PM  

Oh happy, happy Saturday on Byron Walden’s ‘pond.” A perennial Saturday favorite of mine is the UGG style grid (UGG=Ultimately Gettable Grid, and the sound I make when running full tilt into a brick wall of “I have no idea.”).

So, I get out my hammer and chisel away at the mortar until brick by brick- with the aid of plenty of caffeine - I drop the last letter into the grid and receive my reward of happy music 🎶 !

All the geographical “As” caused my first stumble. AnkarA no ACCRA, Aden no ABADAN (which I just didn’t know). Then I absolutely know what a chaparral and a savanna are, but really, really, really wanted RANchLAND dang it!

OK, in fact the whole NE corner flummoxed me. I tried for a ridiculous amount of time to think of a synonym for “tidepool” moving slowly despite my morning tai chi class. Maybe I’m too zen. (Y’all can laugh now. Even folks who only know me a little bit can feel the manic Type A-ness radiating from my chi).

I don’t watch much network TV so had no idea about TENT POLING, but guessed it when “flapping” had too many letters and upon further consideration didn’t make a lot of sense. But c’mon now, you know, the camel’s nose in the tent and all? My brain thought maybe getting the proverbial camel’s nose in meant acquiring notice for a show with sagging ratings but now, (I’d say “obviously, but for me it was certain anything but) POLING clearly makes more sense and sounds less like cheating. If that matters.

So many clever and oh-so-Waldenesque clues today. HACIENDA had me looking everywhere but right “at home,” so well done you, Mr. W. Loved but didn’t bite on the clues for STUDY and SHAMPOOED, although I freely admit that ANODES, HIALEAHA (that I always misspell by leaving out the first A), and BALLISTA caused their own problems.

Re BALLISTA (thank the CW Gods for my rather large storehouse of and familiarity with odd things): With my sketchy (at best) knowledge of the specific scientific principles of ancient and medieval siege machinery, learned from such erudite places as Monty Python’s Flying Circus (after all, how did they get all those cows over the walls?!) and fairy tales and a little bit of ancient history classes, I have been under the apparently misguided apprehension that a catapult was a lever device and a BALLISTA was more of a crossbow arrangement. I apparently read way more into the clue than I should have but the word “stones” made me jump to the wrong conclusion. I would have launched burning things with my BALLISTA and heavy objects with my catapult - and probably would have lost the war. And thus Mr. W has taught me something fascinating today - one of my favorite benefits of cruciverbalism.

I have absolutely nothing at all but praise for this one! 100% well done and 109% fun and 100% Saturday-perfection!! A lovely day here at “Walden’s Pond.”

CDilly52 4:56 PM  

Note to the Neighborhood

I’m just taking a moment to express my profound and heartfelt thanks to everyone who so kindly takes time to read my flights of fancy that have only the most tangential relevance to the puzzle of the day. I think sharing these stories has become the way I can “discuss” family memories that I would have recounted to my husband as I often did during or after my daily solve with a “Hey, Dilly, do you remember when. . . “ Every time afterward he would ponder what brought the story to mind or would ask, “Is this another crossword nugget? “ or shortly before his death he’d add a very LD crack, “keep solving, it should help when we both can’t remember s*#t anymore!” Another of my faves was after waiting through a particularly long and arduous solve that lasted well past a meal time, “I’ll cook if it’s easy or we could just have crossword nuggets.” He was one of a kind.

My heartfelt thanks to you all whether you comment or not.

Anonymous 5:18 PM  

Anon 4:16,
Correct. But in film and television it’s also used to refer to things within the work itself. That is, the tent poles are the plot elements or set pieces or, more broadly key scenes which serve as anchors that help the rest of the elements span the work.
It was all the rage maybe 8-10 years ago.
It’s still used by some in the industry, but it marks the user as a not-quite-in-the-inner circle guy. Ya know, the guy who discovers a fad just as it’s fading, but uses it anyway.
Reminds me of some frequent posters here who indulge in argot that’s past it’s sell-by date.

Ω 5:30 PM  

@Unknown2:36 - Other than “mythical” I more or less agree. I count Ono every time she appears although I find it very doubtful that the overused 3-letter answer ever causes anyone any consternation. ABADAN is clearly much more difficult but gets equal weight in my oversimplified method.
Still, the 33% is derived from counting it everyday and seeing at what point people started complaining about it. The times where a lower percentage gets the same “wheelhouse/outhouse” effect are few. I have some speculations on why this is so.
First, If the PPP is relatively low percentage but all long then the crosses will help solvers suss out an unfamiliar name. For example, if there are four grid spanners that are PPP but the crosses are not PPP a solver is likely to get enough crossing answers to see a pattern. This wouldn’t be so if the PPP is foreign places or randomly spelled names, but we don’t often get grid spanners like that.
Second, at around 33% of answers it is almost certain that the puzzle will have multiple PPP crossings and a high likelihood of a natick. PPP density is actually worse than simple percentage but at a higher percentage PPP density is inevitable.
Third, longer answers provide more opportunities for patterns generally. In a different puzzle a 5 letter rap artist I didn’t know immediately from the clue became obvious after two letters gave me enough of a pattern to see what the second half of the name would be. SIA/NIA/MIA don’t give you any pattern so if you don’t know the person you are completely dependent on the crossing words.

You also missed what I see as a flaw in just giving the percentage. If a puzzle skews young or skews old then PPP is going to impact some solvers even if it doesn’t reach 33%. Same if the PPP skews heavily sports or heavily musical theater or heavily geography. That’s why I dislike the all too common movie based themes. If you have a theme based on movies anyone not that interested in movies is excluded. So a better measure would account for how diverse the PPP is with the assumption that a wider variety is fairer.
In short, yes, measuring how diverse the PPP is and how dense it is would be better than how I do it, but that’s more data collection and encoding than I’m willing to do.

Tl;Dr - You make some good points, but reasons.

Anonymous 5:35 PM  


I will attest to the fact that the angst of calculus, and higher maths, was simply not having internalized HS Alg I. why? simple, unfortunately. manipulating symbols follows the 'rules' learned in the earliest part of Alg, and quickly forgotten by most. most of calc involves equation solving. and don't get me started on writing proofs!! math teach[ing|ers], in my experience, always assume that students of later courses, have in fact, internalized those rules and can recall them on command many years later. NOT. how many of this commentariat can recite the legal operations to balance both sides of an equation? and so forth.

Teedmn 6:21 PM  

@CDilly52, IMO, some of the joy of doing crosswords is in how we can tangentially reference them to our real lives (hi @r.alph!) and your stories are very welcome.

@TTrimble and other math commenters, in my high school experience, algebra, geometry and trig were pre-reqs (taken in that order) for pre-calc my senior year. In pre-calc, we barely touched on proofs, only enough that I learned a couple by rote and never got a grasp on how to construct one on my own. And when the entire HS Pre-calc class flunked limits, my teacher should have spent more time on those but no, she just gave the 10 of us a pass. When I got to college, the two Calc quarters dealing with limits were my worst, surprise, surprise. (I still remember loving Linear Algebra and Differential Equations though.)

TTrimble 6:31 PM  

@Anonymous 5:35 PM
We agree. It's a very, very sad situation. I'm quite convinced that many (and perhaps most) high school teachers of mathematics don't themselves have an adequate understanding of algebra (which by the way is a vast subject, but even the stuff in the high school curricula is deeper than just rules and procedures). I can attest to this because many of the students in my classrooms are future teachers of high school mathematics, and many of them are shaky on their own subject. (Not all of them. I also see some very fine and enthusiastic students.)

The notion of a 'variable' has its subtleties. Ideally a HS teacher or middle school teacher would be aware of the nuances and subtleties -- because in the event that a thoughtful student asks a probing question or anyway a question that involves internal struggles to understand, it's terrible if the teacher resorts to "because that's the way it is". That's what's actually transmitted to students. I can't really explain it, but these are the rules, and you the student need to memorize them if you want to get a good grade. That actually never works, because as you say the material is never thereby internalized at anything more than a temporary level, lasting three weeks perhaps, and it's a very flimsy basis for math education.

We might disagree that college teachers just assume the student knows the prerequisite stuff. A college instructor who is committed to the students will try his/her best to shore up the weak spots in math backgrounds, but one can only do so much. At many institutions, the instructors have much bigger fish to fry, like trying to conduct research that has some impact or impresses the right people for career advancement, and the teaching of undergraduates is regarded as a lesser activity. Those instructors are usually very aware that the students are lacking, but there are Course Objectives to get through and this is life in the big city. Sorry, wish I could do more to help. There's a math clinic down the hall. Or, ask your TA.

I suspect what is usually lacking in math instruction is passion. There is a real subject here with great beauty and intellectual depth, and in fact this subject permeates my life. Who are the teachers in your high school or college that had the most impact? Those who transmitted their passion and commitment.

(I am going to guess that @LMS and @bocamp are among the pedagogues here who have made a difference in their students' lives.)

stephanie 6:51 PM  

hard, but appropriately so, i thought. unfortunately the place names did me in and i had to consult google at the end to finish. had GOING before YOUNG which left me guessing JOIN IN ON for "considered a participant." remembered TET randomly right at the buzzer and then i just could only see JOINED IN...no...JOINTED IN? that sounds bad, but then again I DONT ASK was also bad and that was correct so, maybe? finally looked at a map of guinea and saw ACCRA. i should remember this crossword word but it's one of several that my brain refuses to allot any memory to. anyway, back to the drawing board. RANGELAND and CHOI were gettable/guessable. had ROLL before RELO (as in "let's roll.") finished up that bit but still googled ASYLA when i was done. a latin plural? ew.

didn't know ABADAN or TONGA, thought the latin american spread would be a food (okay, maybe i just wanted it to be a food)...then HACIENDA looked right but i thought, wait, doesn't that mean house or kitchen or something? google translated it and got "tax authorities." tf? six years of spanish even though it was awhile ago and i knew that wasn't right. finally found the "estate" meaning.

have to give props to this here comment section for teaching me BE-IN recently - that one stuck in the brain, thank glob. didn't know BALLISTA but the B was guessable on the ballistics LOGIC. never heard of HIALEAH.

OINKS before SNORT and TOOK A BATH before SHAMPOOED. UN MEMBERSHIP took me a LOT of read-overs to figure out what the hell an "unmembership" was haha. ON NARCISSISM now seems so obvious, but with the crosses i had and the word being vertical, i couldn't see it for so long. actually typed out the word with the blanks in my phone's notepad so i could see what i was looking at a little better. it was partially my own fault too since early on i thought "someone who has it all" must be an -IST but forgot to write it in, then somehow invented MONOPOLANT and then MONOPOLENT (??) before realizing my foolishness.

although there weren't any fun(ny) reveals or trips down memory lane this go round, this was one for the NERDs and i enjoyed feeling pretty big-brained for getting as far as i did, and being able to finish with a map.

stephanie 7:08 PM  

@Loren Muse Smith

i had OLA for a long time until i finally got ALO.

i said in my comment there weren't any fun (in the wordplay sense) reveals today but you're right - the UN as a "country club" definitely was one!

re: RAW EGG, that one i knew, the image of a little tuna can-esque mass of tartare with the bright yellow, round yolk sitting on top lodged in my brain although i've never tried it. no raw whites for me, please. in related news, one day when i was a kid my dad asked me if i wanted to see the "disappearing egg trick." as i have always loved magic, and he had taught me some good card tricks previously, i was very interested. then, to my horror, he cracked a raw egg into the last bit of beer in his glass and downed the whole thing in one gulp. never seen him do such a thing before or since, and not sure what possessed him. i'm sure the look on my face was worth however it tasted going down XD

Anonymous 7:10 PM  

(I still remember loving ... Differential Equations though.)

wowza!!! to me, at least, angst with calc but love for diff eq is a total non-sequitor. to me, at least, that's hating (and failing to qualify) a Cessna single, but nailing a 747.

stephanie 7:10 PM  

@BunnyR & @TonySaratoga college terms (or any school term i suppose) end with taking FINALS. :)

stephanie 7:25 PM  

@Z i didn't care for I DON'T ASK at all, but after reading your example, i feel better about it. thank you.

stephanie 7:31 PM  

@Nancy & @SFR me three. i often think of something and then ask google "i'm right, right?" i'm fine with this. the next level down for me is knowing the answer but not knowing the answer, e.g. "dang, i know that guy played oj's bff, the guy who drove the bronco! but what in the heck was his name..." this is used very infrequently and results in giving myself a technical DNF. but it's like an open book test. still using the ol' noggin, just in combination with the tools at my disposal. but never just googling the clue and reading the answer from a crossword site. that's no fun.

nancy's comment also reminded me i really wanted FANFIC for ALT LIT. oh well.

stephanie 7:36 PM  

@Shawa & @joebloggs i took spanish in jr. high & high school, and "alo" was how we were taught people answer the telephone. (when it's not digame, anyhow.) this was in rhode island and to the best of my knowledge my teachers were white, tho. (in other words, i'm no expert!)

stephanie 7:48 PM  

@albatross shell for the long time i spent on this puzzle, COT was one of the few i was able to get without too much trouble. whenever i've seen soldiers or various military personnel in a tent in tv shows or movies, there's bound to be at least a few banged up and receiving care while laying on COTs.

stephanie 7:52 PM  

@Z wow - everybody being so distraught about That One Late Blog this week makes grampamike's comment all the more amusing so many years later!

Birchbark 7:54 PM  

If you are interested in a super challenging Saturday puzzle, try September 28, 2002. My typical Saturday is around 15 minutes. Today's challenger, including a couple brief diversions, was 22 minutes. But 9/28/02 = 1 hour, 6 minutes. It took quite a while for solving confidence to kick in. I cracked the basic challenge about half-way through. And there was an "aha" close to the end when I cracked the method and used it to solve. Tough crosses bore up well under the pressure.

"And only I am escaped alone to tell thee." -- Job, as quoted in Moby Dick (Epilogue)

Joe Dipinto 7:54 PM  

Match the city to the UN member state in which it is located.


A. Côte d'Ivoire
B. Iran
C. Nigeria
D. Philippines
E. I have no idea

stephanie 8:04 PM  

@CDilly52 this brought a few tears - may we all enjoy the time we have with loved ones while we have it. crossword nuggets for dinner it is! <3

TTrimble 8:04 PM  

@Teedmn 6:21 PM
My sympathies for everyone involved, students and teacher alike. (Teaching is so often a melancholy enterprise. But some interactions can make it all seem worthwhile.)

I'm somewhat divided on teaching first-year calculus students epsilon-delta proofs. That kind of thing can take a while to really understand, and the generality for which it's meant is of questionable usefulness for the typical consumer of calculus, in my opinion. Of course it's important for math majors.

Personally I think it's better for the usual student to gain a sense of what calculus can be used for. We spend a certain amount of time talking about "areas under curves". But that's not really the point. A more important point is how a great wealth of scientific problems (for example, computing energy consumption in kilowatt-hours) can in principle be recast in the form "compute such-and-such area" -- it's not computing areas as such that is of burning interest, but that it serves as a prototype for a vast array of real scientific problems, once you realize how to cast them in that form.

@Anonymous 7:10 PM
Could reside in a difference in styles and emphases between teachers of the respective courses. For example, a traditional DiffEq course won't spend much time on continuity or differentiability of functions via epsilon-delta. Understanding existence and uniqueness theorems for solutions of initial value problems might not be deeply tested. But more formalistic procedures might.

JC66 8:15 PM  

@Joe D

Natick=Massachusetts. 😂

stephanie 8:20 PM  

re: MATH - in high school we had algebra I and II, and then something called elementary functions before calculus. truly i have no idea if elementary functions is trig or pre-calc or algebra or nothing at all. i had always liked math and been pretty good at it, but elementary functions was misery. i was an all A's & occasional B+ honors student, and the first quarter of EF i barely passed with a D! it soon became clear as to why.

see, my dad is a teacher. he did a short stint with highschoolers before switching to teaching SAT prep, helping people get their GED, helping those people write resumes, tutoring, and other odds and ends at the local college. anyhow, whenever i had trouble understanding something, he would explain it to me. and if i still didn't grok it, he'd show me a different way. (it would be years before i realized it wasn't that school came easy to me, but probably more that i was an only child with a personal tutor invested in my success at my disposal 24/7.) but as it happened, everything post-algebra was where his expertise or jack-of-all-trades-ness ceased. so he couldn't help. and when i went after school for extra help from my teacher, she seemed annoyed with me and frustrated. all she did was teach the lesson from that day a second time. literally. word for word. i was mad. i didn't have trouble paying attention or hearing what she said, i had trouble understanding the CONTENT of lesson, the actual math. and damn if it wasn't exactly like @TTrimble described - she herself no doubt didn't understand the material either, so she just read from the book and told me "that's the way it is." a shame indeed.

after that, i don't know how but i was mercifully allowed to skip out on calculus my senior year. (i probably picked up some AP classes in other subjects - i do recall taking a random environmental science class as well.) wish i could have learned the math instead but, c'est la vie.

Ω 8:29 PM  

@TTrimble - Mathematics was one of my biggest challenges as an administrator. First, it is one of the few subjects, and only required one, where a huge portion of our society accepts that some people just can’t do it. I have had otherwise successful professionals tell me that “our family just can’t {that’s right - cannot} do math.” Lots of math teachers have the same attitude (although better at phrasing it) so there was a common attitude amongst teachers and parents, and hence kids, that a good chunk of students not mastering math was expected and therefore okay. To sort of quote Henry Ford, if you think you can’t you’re right.
The second challenge was that many of our supposed “best math teachers” were actually only good with our best students who had a facility for math. The implications of this is fodder for several EdD theses.
The Third challenge is the Math Wars are only slightly less political and virulent than the Reading Wars. I’ve spent way more time with Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics than I would have thought possible when I was in admin school and the fact they were so controversial says too much about politicians and American anti-intellectualism.
Dealing with math did make one of the central observations of my Organization Theory class easy to grok: Systems are perfectly designed for the outcomes they get AND the community likes it that way (“likes” isn’t quite the right word, but “there are embedded interests that will seek to minimize any change to maintain the status quo because they are advantaged within the status quo” is so wordy).

Joe Dipinto 9:02 PM  

@JC66 – (bzzz) Wrong. Massachusetts is not a UN member.

JC66 9:19 PM  

@Joe D

Neither is Natick.

Anonymous 9:19 PM  


you just triggered. in either Jr HS or HS I ran into both SMSG (we called it Some Math, Some Garbage) and Math Tutor Text. this was a bit before New Math, ~1965. I will attest that some parts of schooling have tried to be more effective at teaching math. at that age, and date, my city had four public HS: Trade, Commerce, Technical, and Classical. not too surprising, I went to the last. the notion of education, at least there, was a Serious Subject. and the school (system?) took modes of teaching seriously. what is today labelled a Blue State.

and, just by the way: all of these efforts were driven by Admin, not The Horrid Teachers' Union.

Anonymous 9:49 PM  

Medium?? Many of the answers (parsimony, rangeland, abadan) sucked (if the spell check doesn't catch it I shouldn't know it!) and the clues were even more obscure. To me the difference between a good Saturday and a bad one is difficult vs obscure. This one tended to the latter for me.

CDilly52 10:32 PM  

@TTrimble. I’m with you, although O struggled through Trig but dropped the first semester of Calc my senior year in HS. I thought fourth year Latin difficult but I am certain I would find Sanskrit learned on stone tablets simple by comparison. I have long posited that law school and the practice of law was invented for very smart people who just can’t do math. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

CDilly52 10:35 PM  

@Teedmn: same with me only Trig was one semester and it morphed into “pre-calc” semester two so that we drowned (or not) in “real” calc as taught in my Columbus HS (about half a mile from Ohio State’s campus entrance off High Street) by one or the other junior profs from the OSU math department. I would have failed no matter how hard O tried or how much tutoring I received. Know your limits, I say.

A 10:48 PM  

@CDilly52, always love your posts. "manic Type A-ness radiating from my chi" is a classic! I agree, sharing thoughts here is therapeutic. Keep it coming!

CDilly52 10:51 PM  

AMEN, TTrimble! I revere teachers with a true gift for their profession and a love of teaching. My own life has been forever enriched by those special few teachers with whom I have been fortunate to interact, as well as those who came along during my and my daughter’s educational journeys. I also wish I could do more to improve recruitment, training and especially improving the compensation and working conditions of our teachers especially in the US public schools. Oklahoma is so, so low in person capita expenditure as well as every other quality educational metric, and a majority of voters have no problem with it. I still hear “but they only work 10 months a year,” and it makes my y blood boil!!!!

CDilly52 11:12 PM  

@Stephanie-replying to me. Thank you for that comment. It was exactly what I was thinking as I finished my post. How lucky I was to have 45 years with my best friend, and the absolute love of my life and how deeply I wish that for everyone - in whatever manner each defines “life partner” or “best friend.”

albatross shell 12:12 AM  

Just noticed your COT comment.
M-W and some other dictionaries specifically define bivouac as not including tents and sleeping covers from the definition of bivouac. The wiki page allows backpacking tents. Even the sleeping bags seem to be on the luxury side for a bivouac camp. Mainly and maybe totally a hiking backpacking thing. Barracks have bunks or cots. Large tents moved around by trucks could have cots. But that is probably stretching bivouac too far. Yes I put it in. The clue worked. But not because it was right. But because it suggested military which suggests cots. But bivouac suggests no cots. But it probably isn't the best clue for bag either.
Turns out, my feeling that it was wrong was correct. Not that I minded your response, but you know its JD1005am who started it all.

crayonbeam 12:04 PM  

This puzzle was remarkable for the wide variety of ways it annoyed me. I thought about coming back to it when I was in a better mood about it, but I just wanted to get the thing over with.

What a slog.

And abortions are health care, full stop.

egsforbreakfast 12:14 PM  

Like many, it seems, my first time through the clues left me a woebegone patchwork of isolated results. As it happened, the first place I got some traction was in the SE, and my first realization of how the themers would operate involved the pair at 111A. TALKSTRASH and TALKSSTRAIGHT. I thought that each theme pair would be opposites, or at least nearly so. This would have been a pretty neat feat, but my next solved pair, HOGWASH and HOGWARTSHOUSE disabused me of this notion. Still, I liked the theme and the entire puzzle, tough as it was.

If you want to know the most crucial prerequisites for calculus, they are Euclid and Ptolemy, at least as taught at St. John’s College in Annapolis and Santa Fe, where calculus was learned from Liebniz and Newton.

@CDilly52. I love your posts and I now cherish being a tiny fraction of something that lets you feel a bit like you’re still in you’re still in your best friend/love of your life relationship.

old timer 2:46 PM  

In a BIVOUAC, the soldiers likely sleep on the ground. But the Lieutenant would be entitled to a COT.

Taxed Too Much in NJ 11:50 AM  

Me too!

Taxed Too Much in NJ 12:12 PM  

Well, naturally!

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