Okonkwo's people in Things Fall Apart / SAT 10-9-21 / Much-covered New Orleans standard based on Mardi Gras chants / Arc-shaped musical notation / Part of a Navy officer's rotation / Painter whose cataract surgery allowed him to see and paint in ultraviolet / Arm muscle slangily

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Constructor: August Lee-Kovach

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: IBOS (45D: Okonkwo's people in "Things Fall Apart") —
The Igbo people (English: /ˈb/ EE-boh, also US/ˈɪɡb/; also spelled Ibo and formerly also IboeEboEboe, Eboans, Heebo; natively Ṇ́dị́ Ìgbò In Nigeria, Igbos are indigenous to various states. Igbos are majorly found in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States. A good population of Igbos are found in Delta and Rivers States while Igbos are a minority in Akwa ibom, Benue, Cross River, Edo and Kogi states. Large ethnic Igbo populations are found in Cameroon, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea, as well as outside Africa. There has been much speculation about the origins of the Igbo people, as it is unknown how exactly the group came to form. Geographically, the Igbo homeland is divided into two unequal sections by the Niger River – an eastern (which is the larger of the two) and a western section. The Igbo people are one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa.
• • •

The weirdest thing about this grid is how smooth the middle came out relative to the NW and SE corners. That stagger-stack of 9s at the heart of the grid is really pretty impressive. All solid, vivid, common words and expressions, and if you don't know what SPLITTERS are, well, you're gonna have to forgive the puzzle, it's baseball playoff season (no NATS this year). A couple of song titles (i.e. proper nouns) might also have posed a challenge for some solvers, familiarity-wise (I somehow had Zarathurstra SPRUCH-ing, though I'll be damned if I didn't get "IKO IKO" off the "I"!), but otherwise that wide-open middle gets all its difficulty from clues, not weird fill, which is admirable. You end up with a creamy center that is delightful to make your way through. So if this big, wide-open space at the center of the grid is so beautifully filled, why are the much easier-to-fill, less wide-open corners so much worse? Well, the NW isn't bad, but SEA DUTY??? (3D: Part of a Navy officer's rotation). There are times when I want to shout "Don't listen to your software! Fight back!" If the answer doesn't really mean anything to you, if you wouldn't even really know it if it hadn't been suggested to you by your wordlist, it's at least worth considering not using it. If you can build the center of this grid as well as you did, you can put three good 7s alongside a 6 in the NW. 

[29D: Much-covered New Orleans standard based on Mardi Gras chants]

The SE is much worse, based almost solely on the ridiculous alleged word, OVOIDAL (42A: Egglike). If you solve crosswords, you've definitely learned your egg-words. Those words are OVATE and OVOID. You know the Latin phrase "ab OVO," sure, and OVUM and OVA (singular, plural), but where actual English words are concerned, you have OVATE and OVOID near at hand. Perhaps, like me, you don't really know why we need two words for "egg-shaped," but it's crosswords, sometimes you need vowel-heavy 5s to make your grid come out, and OVATE and OVOID are two that you know. But let me tell you, when I got here.

... I wanted to quit. I do actually quit puzzles that aren't the NYTXW. I quit one earlier this week because it tried to foist BOUTOUTCOME on me. Nuh uh. No. That's quite enough. And here, once I had OVO, I knew I was going nowhere good, as there were way too many spaces for OVOID, which itself isn't even the better of the five-letter options for "egglike" (#teamovate). So it was with mild horror that I watched the absurd OVOIDAL come into view, and crossing HELLENE, which is also, er, uh, not the most familiar of words (38D: Spartan, e.g.). I use "Hellenic" all the time, but that's because I sometimes teach ancient literature—I have never not once used HELLENE; it's a thing, for sure, but pretty obscure, and again, I come back to the center of this grid, and wonder why it flows so nicely, while this SE corner seems to clunk and sputter to the finish line. I can tolerate HELLENE on its own, in an otherwise sparkling corner, but, yeah, it's a shame about OVOIDAL. Just because a dictionary somewhere tells you something *is* a word doesn't mean you should use it. Trust your gut; also, lean toward the words / phrases that you actually know, that seem familiar, or at least familiar-ish. Otherwise you end with OVOIDAL, which isn't a word so much as a really mean thing to call Al.

I was struggling in the NW, not thinking of a VISA as an "item" (i.e. an object) (1A: Travel item), and having no idea who CEDRIC Richmond is, but then [fanfare!], Ron ELY to the rescue. OOF, revisiting this SEA DUTY corner is making me a little seasick. Anyway, once I got going, everything was pretty easy, including the center. Had TEN before SSN (56A: Fig. often written with X's), but no other missteps, minor or major. I remembered IBOS today! (45D: Okonkwo's people in "Things Fall Apart"). Like "IKO IKO," I got it off the "I." Sometimes you learn things from crosswords of yore (like Ron ELY!), and even though they don't seem like the freshest of fill, they can really save your bacon from time to time. This is where I'm a crosswordese hypocrite—I don't necessarily love it to look at, but it bails me out of many a tough spot, for sure. Nothing else in this puzzle seems particularly tricky or obscure. Mostly a fun time; there's just some fill here and there, particularly in the SE, that should've been o-voided.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


dadnoa 6:33 AM  

Totally agree with Rex’s take. Ovoidal needs to roll away for good. Can’t believe I’m posting before Joaquin! Go Berkeley!

Lewis 6:44 AM  

Oh, by the way, this constructor -- and this is his debut -- is 14.

MaxxPuzz 6:44 AM  

IKOuld not thIKO what in the world this might be. Guess I need a trip to NOLA during Mardi Gras. But, um, no thanx.
Wow, I am the first first to post today!

Lewis 6:45 AM  

Given the clue for PLOTS – [Units of land, with or without the first letter] – It would have been sweet if OVOIDAL was clued: [Egglike, with or without the last two letters].

MaxxPuzz 6:46 AM  

Oh, Lewis just edged me out.
Yipes, 14?!!

Conrad 6:48 AM  

Needed Sergey and Larry for 55A OMEN and an online thesaurus for 42A OVOIDAL. At first misspelled AMATURE for the type of film at 11D, but that was easily corrected. IKO IKO at 29D was a WOE but fairly crossed.

Runs on Dunkin 6:53 AM  

Darn near set a PR today, despite having no idea what Iko Iko or IBOs are, and many of the same issues as @Rex. Pretty impressive debut for a 14 year old!

Joaquin 6:56 AM  

In the words of Frank Barone, “Holy crap!” This constructor is 14 years old (< not a typo).

I hate to even think of all the stupid stuff I was doing at 14. I rarely got caught (also, never got published in the NYT).

Trey 7:10 AM  

@Lewis (6:45) - excellent thought about OVOIDAL. That would have been brilliant

Liked the puzzle - several things slowed me down but nothing that was unfair.

Only real misstep was FAIRSHArE for FAIRSHAKE. Was able to fix it on the review as I figured IKOIrO had to be IKOIKO - would never have gotten that song without a lot of crosses, but once I had most of the letters, it became obvious

Lewis 7:19 AM  

That five-answer staggered stack in the middle is a thing of beauty (Hi, @rex!), terrific answers all, and not crossed through with junk. That alone made this puzzle worth the price of admission. But then we had additional lovely answers, like NO DRAMA, BE SEATED, and even SPRACH, a word I just love the look of (not to mention the powerful music it evokes).

The clues for VACCINE, ILLEGAL, STRIKE ONE, PLOTS, LOLLIPOP, and LIBRA were excellent, and the resistance strong enough to get me to beat my chest (metaphorically) afterward, so this made for a strong and satisfying Saturday for me. And did I mention the PuzzPair© of SEA DUTY and a backward NEMO?

August, you have beyond-your-years talent and between your family (as you report in your notes) and the editors, a most wonderful support team. This bodes well (I am reminded of David Steinberg). Congratulations on this stellar accomplishment and thank you for this most enjoyable puzzle!

Trey 7:20 AM  

@TJS (2:16 yesterday)

I went back and did the 4/18/2008 crossword and read Rex's post and some of the comments - I absolutely have to agree with all that was there. That is one of the most non-Natick Natick's out there. I had heard of neither the across or down, and the down just seems like two random words put together to make a new word that makes no sense. The across may have been OK if the down were a common word.

I also like doing the old puzzles. Started with the Saturdays from '93 until I started doing them regularly, and am now on the Sundays. Will probably do the Thursdays before the Fridays because I prefer the chance of a clever theme over a slightly tougher puzzle

Anonymous 7:42 AM  

Fastest-ever Saturday, at 13m 14sec. There's sea duty and there's shore duty.

Twangster 7:45 AM  

There's a New Orleans mini-theme here with Cedric Richmond, Emeril, and Iko Iko.

Also, Joe Ely is more famous than Ron Ely, at least in my house.

Lobster11 8:00 AM  

Oh c'mon, Rex. If OVOIDAL (real word) and SEADUTY (real thing) are the worst entries in a puzzle, you have to recognize it as a gem. (I'll admit, though, that I would quit over BOUTOUTCOME.)

Yentl 8:02 AM  

Sea Duty, and Shore Duty, are common rotations for both officers and enlisted. These are (or used to be?) 3 year stints.

Teedmn 8:03 AM  

Besides trying (mentally) multiple times to slot in SPake at 24D (Nietzsche, not Strauss), this really held no real challenges for a Saturday. No OWIES, NO DRAMA, just smooth sailing.

I had no idea that cataract surgery was available in the early 20th century (though not always successful, I gather, from the article I read about MONET's travails.)

August Lee-Kovach, congratulations on your debut!

Ray Yuen 8:15 AM  

I usually start with the Universal puzzle from The Globe to warm up the keyboarding fingers, before getting into meaty puzzles. Today's Globe had four lovely 8-9 stacks, each one current, edgy and fun. The puzzle was created by a 13-year-old. It was such a joy to do.

This middle stack was garbage. I guess if you're a huge baseball fan, hooray, but if you hate baseball as much as I do, you're damned. The rest of the puzzle dropped in 6 minutes, then the middle stack took 9 minutes blind stabbing. I bounced from ice palaces and fair share / fair stake, before stumbling into the answers. That's the absolute definition of no-fun. I spitter at splitter. I schprit at sprach. I spit at baseball.

Go Bills!

Son Volt 8:16 AM  

Definitely not a stumper. Liked the center stack - agree that the corners were a little flat. The mini baseball theme was nice this time of year and the TAIL FIN x TRUE CRIME cross was fantastic. However - the OVOIDAL x HELLENE cross is brutal and should have been cleaned up.

We get music from ‘68 with SPRACH and ‘65 with the Dixie Cups version of IKO IKO. Something tells me the 14 yo constructor didn’t come up with those. Saw the Dead cover IKO IKO in ‘77 at Colgate - they did eventually get more playful with that song but back then it was almost dirge like.

Not that I’m complaining - but the puzzles trended on the easy side this week. Enjoyable Saturday solve.

kitshef 8:21 AM  

Crazy easy, other than the fact that I DNF’d at LOLLyPOP/yBOS.

Two clue/answer combinations that meant absolutely nothing to me today: for IBOS and for IKOIKO.

Oval, ovate, ovoid, ovoidal, oviform … how many of these words do we need?

amyyanni 8:27 AM  

Fantastic debut, August. Looking forward to that Thursday one that is pending. Appreciate the baseball references. Speaking of, there will be baseball on Marathon Monday in Boston! (Race is being run Oct 11 this year instead of on Patriots Day in April.) That's a good thing. We're having Porchfest here today: hope your day is what you want it to be.

mmorgan 8:40 AM  

I somehow convinced myself that the beaver was the National animal of pANAmA, which created severe havoc for quite a while. I guess I just saw Panama in those squares and didn’t think about the clue. And SPRACk and MeSS and TORn sure didn’t help either. Once I cleared that all up things fell into place. Does anyone say BOWLING LANE — as opposed to alley? Yes a bowling alley has lanes, but… anyway, I liked this.

Unknown 8:41 AM  

What Rex may have overlooked on Hellene is that "Spartan" is both an adjective AND a noun. As an adjective, its counterpart is Hellenic. As a noun, its counterpart is Hellene. I've read enough of Greek history to have come across both words.

SouthsideJohnny 8:53 AM  

Lol, I really wanted RRN (Random Roman Numerals) for the figs written with X’s clue.

I enjoyed Rex’s rant today regarding the NYT’s penchant for using quasi or made-up words (and it was about something crossword-related ! ! ! ). Personally, I wouldn’t consider OVOIDAL as egregious as some of the other things that they come up with, but it is a dud of a word for sure.

Would also love to see a Rex rant on the foreign stuff v.v. the alleged “common usage” requirement that Shortz claims to enforce. SPRACH may get a pass as a Saturday PPP entry, but some of the other foreign crap they throw in is really WOE-worthy. They once even had a foreign entry from a LANGUAGE that I had never heard of, lol.

Weird clue for STEAKS (dog treats ?). Seems like a stretch, although I was thinking more along the line of a treat as a toy - I guess if it’s edible you could throw the dog a (fake) steak instead of a bone.

pjd 9:04 AM  

In defense of SEA DUTY, while that might sound bullshit-y to civilians, it is very literally the term Navy men and women use to describe a stint at sea, or at least with the potential for going out to sea, as opposed to "shore duty."

It is a real Navy term, not just an arbitrary phrase.

mooretep 9:28 AM  

Great Writeup Michael!

Loved the Iko Iko reference video of the Rainman Intro.

Rainman also has at least two other baseball references:

Terrific puzzle August.

mathgent 9:31 AM  

My wife and I did the puzzle together while watching the Giants shut out the Dodgers, shouting out entries to each other across the room. Great game, great fun.

It needed more sparkle. Only seven red plus signs in the margins. Most Saturdays have double-digit.

The Giants are pitching Gausman tonight. His best pitch is the SPLITTER, i.e. the split finger fastball. He lost it somehow mid-season but got it back his last two or three starts.

The other meaning of "discouraged." Doing that is discouraged. Not only is it discouraged, it's actually ILLEGAL.

TheMadDruid 9:37 AM  

My experience mirrored Rex’s. To a t. Or “ovoidal “. I was even annoyed at the same answers. You live long enough…

Nancy 9:41 AM  

"Sinking fastballs" sure looked like they were going to be SPITTERS, didn't they? Except that I think the spitball is a sinking curveball, not fastball. A SPLITTER must be that thing called a "split-fingered fastball", right? I read about it somewhere.

I resisted writing in ACURAS as ong as I could. While I wouldn't recognize an ACURA (or pretty much any car) if it jumped up and bit me in the leg, I've never thought of them as luxury cars. To me luxury cars are Rollses, Mercedes, Lexuses, Porsches -- that sort of thing. (Of course I wouldn't recognize those cars just by looking, either.)

What on earth is IKO IKO???? And, anyway, a phrase like that doesn't sound like it's from New Orleans. It sounds like it might be from Hawaii. Or perhaps from Mork from Ork's planet.

Interesting info gleaned from the CLAUDE MONET clue. Clever clues for ILLEGAL (2D), LIBRA (28D), and PLOTS (41D). Absolutely awful clue for FAM (11A).

Biggest hangup for me was SPRAke instead of SPRACH (24D). I was so sure it was right and it caused unnecessary problems in the midsection.

Love, love, love NO DRAMA clued as "easygoing" at 36D.

This had its very easy moments, but enough of it was challenging to make for a satisfying Saturday and an enjoyable solve.

Rico 9:56 AM  

Fun puzzle, but how did this get past editor as Saturday worthy? Zero resistance, would have been a wonderful Wednesday!

Unknown 10:04 AM  

Loved the puzzle, but the SE corner was a real stumper.
Not being a Harry Potter fan didn't help me.
Clearly the constructor is a baseball fan!

Zwhatever 10:14 AM  

Was CLAUDE MONET OVOIDAL? And did it hurt?

No problem with HELLENE, thank you Mr. Harvey.*

Pretty much what Rex said. I had OVO - - - - L and no clue which egglike word we would get. I am now surprised that we haven't seen an egg free fad diet called Ovoidance.

Lots of baseball yesterday. The first two games were pretty good. The third was the Rays being too fancy by half and giving up two touchdowns. The fourth was on too late and I already had switched over to watch the fourth episode of Foundation (It has been so long since I read the books that I have no idea how faithful but it's been pretty fun to watch regardless), but I am constitutionally unable to root for the Giants so I am disappointed in the result. I still think the puzzle was a wee heavy on the baseball.

What kind of parent encourages their 14 year-old to create crosswords? Everybody knows that proper 14 year-old behavior involves falling in love at dances with the children of your parent's enemies and then entering into tragic and ultimately fatal fake suicide pacts. The surprise is not that a 14 year-old can make a good crossword puzzle. The surprise is that they would want to.

*One of my high school teachers

Carola 10:15 AM  

This week's Wednesday's puzzle had been my Saturday, so I enjoyed this one as a bonus end-of-week romp, from today's VACCINE to days-of-yore's HELLENE. Especially liked TAILFIN, LIE LOW, NO DRAMA, FAIR SHAKE. Learned SPLITTERS, shoulda remembered IKO IKO from a past puzzle.

@Lewis, thank you for letting us know about the constructor.

@mmorgan 8:40 - To complement your beaver in pAnAmA, I offer my one-time grid entry of the Tuaregs' home in bALI.

@August Lee-Kovach - What a terrific debut! I look forward to what else you have in store for us.

Johnny 10:18 AM  

Can attest that SEADUTY is not always just a part of a Navy Officer’s rotation, having spent 100 % of my 3 years of active duty aboard the USS Saint Paul waiting in vain for a shore billet.

Chris 10:38 AM  

Played very easy for me, as I knew most of the trivia, including CEDRIC, as we currently live in LA.
Mostly, though, I want to pile on re. sea DUTY. We've all got our blind spots, but it's ridiculous rants like that that force me to quit Rex for weeks.

Chim cham 10:39 AM  

Brilliant puzzle until the SE. I quit fairly quickly (for) for me because I could just tell I wasn’t going to crack it. Looking up the solution confirmed my hunch. I would have grappled with it all day and not gained a single additional word. The rest of it was really fun and well clued.

Kale Lady 10:40 AM  

My only hiccup was getting IgBO rather than IBOS, which initially got me the mysterious gOWLINGLANES. Ended up getting it right through crosses, so I guess now I’ll remember my Nigerian ethnic group name variants… (also, I’m now inspired to reread “Things Fall Apart”)

GILL I. 10:44 AM  

14?????? Good gravy on mashed peas....I was still sucking my thumb - barely out of diapers - finally throwing away my chupeta and here we have a puzzle genius. I loved this little gem....yes I did.
Where to start....I had some trouble with my starting point at 1A. Oh, look....VACCINE at 1D gave me the V and...why VISA to the rescue. I started dancing all over the place. I asked my bestie to come and help me. She is one of the smartest people on this planet but she won't do puzzles. She says she doesn't understand half the clues. We each poured ourselves a little drinky-poo and went to bat. Guess what she gave me....!!!! She said "Is OVOIDAL a valid word?" Jump for joy...it fit. Neither one of us know much about baseball so I had to cheat with SPLITTERS at 27A. Anyway, it didn't matter since I explained to her that a Saturday puzzle with just one cheat is like winning the Lotto. I think she just may try puzzles. Dang...this was so enjoyable. Don't you just love words like OOF and OWIE and IGUANAS and a word like SPRACH? (She gave me that one).
@Nancy...IKO IKO Jock-a-mo Fee no nay.... take a little listen to the Dixie Cups sing it and I'm betting you just might want to dance the Fandango Tango. I'll show you.....

@Anony Late last night at 9:56. Very interesting and thank you....(I think)....
I'm not necessarily scared of getting COVID while going out, I'm scared I might pass it on to my husband if I got a variant. He would most likely die because his immune system is compromised. I say I'm not that scared only because I've lived and travelled in places that had every disease imaginable - and then some....I've gotten every kind of measles, chicken pox, mumps and even had worms. Survived all of them and it probably made me stronger. Both my children were vaccinated against all of these illness and to this day, I don't understand anti-vaxxers.
I'm here in Auburn visiting my dear friend. Just about NO ONE is wearing a mask. The people here are some of the friendliest, nicest people you'd meet, but they have no fear of this horrible COVID. I will still wear my mask and be extra careful.....for my husband and for any person that might not be as strong as I am. I'm confident we will conquer this disease sometime soon; when that happens, I will happily travel to NYC and see my friends. Hell...I just might take a trip back to Cuba and do the fandango tango.....Che is dead YAY!

bocamp 10:47 AM  

Thx August, for an excellent and fun Sat. puz! :)


Pretty much on August's wavelength.

Another top to bottom effort with only one sticking point: FAIR SHArE instead of FAIR SHAKE.

IKO IRO didn't look right, so adjustment made.

In either case, evoked memories of my fave Mariner, Ichiro Suzuki who could hit SPLITTERS and anything else that came his way. ⚾️

Liked this one a lot! :)

yd pg -1 (same one missed previously) / td pg -3 (after reg)

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

puzzlehoarder 10:52 AM  

I hate to throw shade on an otherwise brilliant debut but I found out that today's constructor is actually 50. He just never grew up and it was the direct result of childhood puzzle solving. Where was DCFS?

Other than the NE and SE corners this puzzle was almost as easy as yesterday's. In the NE I had a hell of a time coming up with the F and the E for FEATURE. I kept wondering if amateur could be spelled amATURE. That's kind of how I spell anyway. In the SE I thought that I had finally met my match for Harry Potter clues. It took a while for me to remember what a "grim" was.

Speaking of Harry Potter when I saw the constructor's photo at xwordinfo I couldn't help but wonder if there was a lightning scar under those bangs. There was definitely some kind of wizardry going on.

yd pg-6 bad day!

Zwhatever 10:55 AM  

Rex writes There are times when I want to shout "Don't listen to your software! Fight back!" If the answer doesn't really mean anything to you, if you wouldn't even really know it if it hadn't been suggested to you by your wordlist, it's at least worth considering not using it. and people are upset? If the constructor had been a Navy vet it would be one thing, but I read "if you wouldn't even really know it..." and nod my head in agreement. It just feels like something off a wordlist rather than something "in the language." I dislike the NW less than Rex because I think CLAUDE and CEDRIC's IGUANAS are worth SEA DUTY, but SEA DUTY most definitely got the "yeah, that's probably Navy slang" reaction here. Then I read the constructor is 14 so I doubt he knows the term from personal experience (although maybe he is just into war history - I know I spent some time around that age reading every WWII book in the Herrick Public Library collection). Anyway, not quite sure why what Rex wrote has sparked so much TskTsking.

Steve M 11:01 AM  

SE nah nah

jae 11:02 AM  

Easy. MeSS before MUSS and phd before NTH were my major nanosecond suck erasures.

I knew IKO IKO from the HBO series “Treme”. I highly recommend it! IBOS, however, was a WOE.

My 2 years in the Navy were all SEA DUTY except for boot camp.

Smooth with some sparkle, pretty good debut for a 14 year old.

Anonymous 11:05 AM  

last time I looked (a while) the purpose of a spitter is a lazy man's knuckleball; no one has any idea where it's going. the funny thing: today's protocol with umps checking pitchers for 'substances' is to find gripping aids. apparently baseball has decided that rotation speed (the reason for gripping aids) is what matters, and rosin (legal forever) doesn't get one enough grip.

Frantic Sloth 11:14 AM  

Geez Louise! If this dude spent his time doing things a real 14-year-old would do, I wouldn't spend my time doing what nobody my age should have to do: feel like a comparative idiot.

Then again, it wouldn't be the first time. And you could leave out "comparative".

Late to the party today, so most things I would say have already been said, so:

Favorite word: SPRACH (Hi, @Lewis!)
Least favorite word: OVOIDAL (Hi, everyone!)
Favorite clue/answer: PLOTS (Hi, @Lewis & @Nancy!)
Least favorite clue/answer: FAM (Hi, @Nancy!)
Favorite old friend: ELY (Hi, Rex!)
Favorite new friend (as clued): CLAUDE MONET (Hi, @Teedmn!)
Least favorite old friend: TAM (not really, but I only saw the two from which to choose) 🤷‍♀️
Least favorite new friend: BOWLING LANE (Hi, @mmorgan!)

Whew! I'm exhausted. It's so much easier commenting before reading all y'all! And now I'm gonna read all the comments that will appear when I refresh the page.


🧠🧠🧠 (a soft 3, because easy for the Saturdee)

Masked and Anonymous 11:37 AM  

OVOIDAListically speakin, I got a hoot out of this puz.


Not too tough a solvequest at our house, for a SatPuz. SE corner gobbled up a few extra nanoseconds, I'd grant. Hard to ovoid, sometimes.

staff weeject pick: NTH. Better clue: {Ninth, third, fourth, and fifth??}.

Nice bonus Jaws of Themelessness puzgrid squares.

Thanx for the fun, young Mr. Lee-Kovach. And congratz on yer fine debut.

Masked & Anonymo4Us


JD 11:43 AM  

Oof! This was as tough for me as yesterday was easy, but so worth the hanging-in-there.

What I really loved. Order In The Court for Be Seated, Equal Opportunity for Fair Shake, Pop Group for Fam, Conductor's Cry for All Aboard, More Than Discouraged for Illegal, and Blows Away for Floors. That all just blew me away. Great cluing for interesting answers.

The rest of the thing I just plain loved. All of it, everything.

Random stuff. Got hung up on Zarathustra, I only knew Spake from that old cut-up Nietzsche. The Canadians love beavers and that's why I love the Canadians. Looked up this Monet surgery thing, "…afterward, he destroyed many of his late canvases," crying Ces sucer!"

14-years old. Day-um.

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

@Nancy. The Acura is Honda's luxury line, as Lexus is Toyota's.

Not Nolan Ryan 11:51 AM  

All fastballs sink - two seam, four seam, split finger . . . Doesn’t matter. Some are just flatter than others (and may create an illusion that they are rising).

bocamp 11:52 AM  


"A split-finger fastball or splitter is an off-speed pitch in baseball that looks to the batter like a fastball until it drops suddenly. Derived from the forkball, it is so named because the pitcher puts the index and middle finger on different sides of the ball.[1]" (Wikipedia)

"A spitball [spitter] is an illegal baseball pitch in which the ball has been altered by the application of a foreign substance such as saliva or petroleum jelly. This technique alters the wind resistance and weight on one side of the ball, causing it to move in an atypical manner. It may also cause the ball to "slip" out of the pitcher's fingers without the usual spin that accompanies a pitch. In this sense, a spitball can be thought of as a fastball with knuckleball action. Alternative names for the spitball are spitter, mud ball, shine ball, supersinker, or vaseline ball (because originally, Vaseline was used to give the ball a little more break)." (Wikipedia)

@puzzlehoarder (10:52 AM)

🤞 for td! :)

@jae (11:02 AM)

Thank you for your SEA DUTY service! ⚓️

pg -1 (after 1st ot)

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Newboy 11:52 AM  

Nice debut & great to continue a FAM good tradition August. I look forward to seeing your byline again, but do consider the commentariat advice to make an even better grid for your future fans.

Great to see a Post-Colonial nod to (b) Things Fall Apart (/b); shouldn’t be too long before Abdulrazak Gurnah joins Rushdie and Achebe in the spellcheck grid rotation!

Easy like Wednesday for the nice middle stacks, but those NW & SE corners were a struggle.

Malsdemare 11:57 AM  

@Zuzz. Perhaps August's mom or dad, another family member are/were in the navy. Maybe he lives near a naval base. Assuming SEADUTY came from a word bank is a little presumptive. I knew the word and have none of the above connections.

I loved the puzzle! I remember at 10 trying to construct a crossword puzzle (God knows why). It was fun for a bit until I was about halfway through and realized none of it was going to work. Hung up my spurs at that point. I'm gob-smacked by August's creation.

Anonymous 12:02 PM  

Easy for a Saturday

Anonymous 12:14 PM  

The Canadians love beavers

My brother lived in Burlington, VT for a while. Found out that the standard insult for any northern New Englander and nearby Canadian was another rodent: woodchuck. Guaranteed to get you in a fist fight. Still no idea how it came to be an insult. I mean, it's not like Redneck, which has a real world declination.

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

@Not Nolan Ryan:
All fastballs sink

all pitches sink, at least with human motivation. perhaps the science types amongst us can do the arithmetic to find out how fast a ball, weighing whatever a baseball does and diameter, has to move 60 feet 6 inches without falling due to gravity. I'll bet it's a how bunch.

old timer 12:21 PM  

My early answers included ICE CASTLES, CLAUDE MONET, and SPRACH, which gave me SPLITTERS and broke the puzzle open. It is SPLITTER season for us Giants fans. But my first answer based on no crosses at all was IKO IKO. I went to dozens of Dead concerts back in the day, but don't remember them singing it. But I certainly remember hearing the Dr John version on the radio, and the girl-band version, though I had no memory their name was DIXIE CUPS. IKO IKO pretty much defined New Orleans Mardi Gras music for me, and taught me about the Black krewes that were for my friends who went to Nola the highlight of the festival.

So I rate the puzzle Easy. The only hard part was at the bottom, where BOWLING LANE was not obvious, and neither was NO DRAMA, though had it been clued as a presidential nickname, I would have gotten it at once. I sure miss NO DRAMA Obama, and his lovely family. During the campaign, an Irish friend turned me on to an hilarious song, "There's No One as Irish as Barack Obama" written by some folks from Moneygall, and memorably sung by Shay Black, of San Francisco.

Frantic Sloth 12:21 PM  

@Z 1055am You better hope and pray that CLAUDE and CEDRIC's IGUANAS doesn't open a franchise in RYE. Then every night is "of the IGUANA" and you're out of business in the blink of a cataract-surgeried eye. 🤯

Nancy 12:22 PM  

My favorite line from the comments to today is from @kitshef: Oval, ovate, ovoid, ovoidal, oviform … how many of these words do we need?

I never realized that Honda even had a "luxury line". I thought it was a car manufacturer strictly for people of very modest means.* Worse, I thought the Lexus was made by a company called Lexus. Had no idea it was a Toyota. Cross my heart, I really did. This, and not OVOIDAL, is the most surprising thing I learned today.

*BTW, do you think that I was confusing the Honda Accord with the Honda ACURA when I thought of the latter as a pretty shlubby car? Or I being unfair to the Accord? I wouldn't know either car if I fell over it.

smalltowndoc 12:26 PM  

This was my fastest Saturday and I thought it was well constructed.

One big nit to pick, and this is certainly not the first or last time we’ll see it: "ade" or, worse, its presumed plural, ADES, are not words. Ade is a suffix of a number of sweet drinks, a back-formation derived from lemonade. It’s not in most dictionaries, although Merriam-Webster lists -ade as a suffix for some soft drinks. That’s fine, I sup. But the plural, ADES? I don’t think so.

On a different topic, why does today’s SB not accept "pentangle"? That’s a word I can find in the dictionary.

mathgent 12:29 PM  

My favorite posts this morning.

Teedmn (8:03)
Nancy (9:41)
Anonymous (11:48)

albatross shell 12:34 PM  

Memory is both odd and has little time awareness. Or maybe it's just me. I put OVOIDAL right in because I remembered it from a recent puzzle because of the outrage it caused here. It turns out it was from Thursday April 18th 2019. It was a puzzle with the stages of a butterfly theme with CATERPILLAR down the middle and the circled alphabetical letters A to N forming a butterfly image in the grid. That I forgot. Then maybe it was something else that was more recent I remember: Ovoidic? Ovateness? I do remember ranting about OVA OVUM and the prefixes OVI and OVO when that last one showed up. That still bothers me more than OVOIDAL.

Yes I was fairly sure there was nothing wrong with SEADUTY. I was going to call my son today if the Navy folks here did not pipe up. So far they have. Rex does need military and science tech-guys.

I got some enjoyment out of the quartet of double LLs, the pair of doube CCs. Then double SSs and the double TTs. A pair of overlapping double OOs too. with a triad of ROOs. One backing up or diving headfirst off a cliff. One at a right angle taking the opportunity to brush up on his trig ratios I imagine.

A couple of other pairs of note. HELL[ENE] ITSWAR. So maybe Trojan or Sherman in Georgia too. But pretty pathetic battle cry. Charge, attack, kiilll, help me, save me, medics, I'm dead.


The positive stuff Rex said I agree. Enjoy his OVOIDAL rant too but wordlist is just a shortened dictionary. It is a saturday afterall and HELLENE and OVOIDAL are not so bad or so difficult to infer.

He is 14 but just getting to solve Monday Tuesdays on his own. And he creates a Saturday. Congrats!

Whatsername 12:35 PM  

Posting late today after a major attack of feng shui when I got up this morning. Whew! I feel so much better and my house no longer looks like a tornado hit it. Anyway, was tempted to skip the blog but this puzzle was so outstanding that I had to say congratulations to August for this dynamite debut. As yummy as a not WELL DONE ribeye STEAK! Impressive for anyone at any age but especially for a 14 year old. Great job!

It’s interesting that Rex chose to FEATURE the 1978 original ICE CASTLES film, and Jeff Chen opted for the 2010 remake in his writeup. I have not seen the later version but the original was beautifully made and a real tear jerker.

JC66 12:52 PM  

Too bad there's no John Lennon refererence today; he and I have the same BD.

GILL I. 1:27 PM  

@JC sesenta y seis 12:52. As they say in Spain: APY VERDE TU JOO....Hope you celebrate today with a delicious Martini. Cheers, amigo

Zwhatever 1:32 PM  

@Mals - True enough. But if you had to bet enough money to matter to you would you bet that the constructor knew the word or it was just on their wordlist? Like I said, it is possible that I knew the term at 14 but even if he was my age it still looks like a word from a wordlist rather than a word in common usage.
Also - I feel like a little context reminder would be helpful - I think the crosses make SEA DUTY worth it, but I see Rex's point and was more wondering why the comment generated so much TskTsking.

@Frantic - Easy solution - IGUANA Chili!

The physics of baseball is an often fascinating subject. Curveballs really do curve, it's not just an optical allusion. A rising fastball is theoretically possible (it has to do with the Magnus Effect) but the combination of backspin and speed needed is not attainable by a person. The SPLITTER is a very effective pitch because the spin looks just like a regular fastball to a hitter but it is typically 5-10 mph slower and "falls off the table" as it nears the plate. The entire "sticky substance" controversy is related to Daniel Bernoulli and the Bernoulli effect. And besides all this Randy Arozarena stole home in a playoff game! (I still think there was too much baseball in the puzzle)

CDilly52 1:32 PM  

Loved the nod to post season baseball, without a doubt my favorite time of year in the sports cycle! Although it isn’t as much fun maintaining all of our post season superstitions and traditions without my husband, they are still worth doing. Loved the SPLITTERS.

Groaned the moment O related to an egg, I groaned-literally out loud groaned. Sure, I’m a silver and therefore must be acquainted with (as @Rex points out) all the “egg words.” That occasionally includes fake egg words like today’s OVOIDAL. Really? Must we?

Knowing our debut constructor’s ripe old age is 14, I give him a pass with a gentle warning. Please try to avoid fake Latin and made up egg words-we have a plethora of real ones!

Classy and beautiful 9-stack in the center. Fresh and just lovely! Easy for a Saturday but a fun solve and a feather in your TAM!

Wanderlust 1:54 PM  

MUSS is one of those fun words where you can replace the vowel with any other vowel (not counting y) and still have a word. I know of 8-10 where all five variations are fairly common words. To name one MORE, PACK-PECK-PICK-POCK-PUCK. Wordsters can try to find more.

Liked the puzzle, not really bothered by HELLENE or SEA DUTY, but agree OVOIDAL is bad. Love the song IKO IKO, but wanted IGBO before IBOS. Read “Things Fall Apart” if you haven’t. Really good.

Amazing to read that the constructor is 14. The LOLLIPOP-OWIE cross may have come from recent memory.

Frantic Sloth 1:55 PM  

@JC66 Happy Birthday, dear man! Who needs JL to celebrate you? 😘🎂🎉🍾🥂

@Z 132pm IGUANA stop you right there. Don't bother trying to beat them at their own game. P&T chili can compete with the best. Maybe work on the ambience instead? (for one thing, get that &$@*#@ roller coaster out of the dining room.)

Kath320 1:56 PM  

The Commander at the Coast Guard base I worked at was famous for his hatred of his sea duty tours - he got violently sea sick every time...

Mr. Grumpypants 1:56 PM  

Zuzz 10:45 Maybe constructor is a Navy brat and knows exactly what he's talking about. Former Marine brat here, so I had no problem with SEA DUTY. One of Rex's least appealing traits is his tendency to whine about things that are foreign to him.

Jillybean 2:01 PM  

Agree with red on all. I also find it annoying hen there are duplicate words in back to back days- e.g. ACL and ACCESS(ing)

jberg 2:28 PM  

When I was growing up everyone knew and probably had relatives in the military. For me it was uncles in the Air Force, but I knew about the Navy, and there were plenty of novels that involved Navy life. I certainly knew people got shore duty and SEA DUTY. Has that all changed? I guess it's part of the general breakdown of society into communities that don't (inter)communicate. Unfortunate, IMO.

My daughter was a big Cindy Lauper fan, and she recorded IKO IKO (here's a live performance in France. But I never knew what it was about until much later, when my step-daughter was living in NOLA. Here are they lyrics and an explanation by Dr. John, no less.

Just to clear it up, Nietzsche was German, and named his little book "Also Sprach Zarathrustra" -- the "Thus Spake...." is an English translation. It inspired the Strauss work.

The thing is, OVOID means 'almost but not quite oval,' so OVOIDAL means almost ovoid. Doesn't really make sense.

IBOS, though. I spent a couple years in grad school studying African politics, so I knew IBO, and that it was not IGBO; but the clue is for 'the people,' which would be IBO with no s. So I put in Igbo, and wanted to use the G to put in where I usually get the ball rolling, namely the GUTTER. I couldn't figure out how to make it long enough, though.

All in all, In enjoyed the puzzle, but it was a little too easy.

okanaganer 2:38 PM  

Agree totally about OVOIDAL, but can't understand Rex's rant about SEA DUTY. Sure, it's not a scintillating sparkler, but neither is TEAM EVENTS which is the longest answer in the grid.

I'm trying to remember if a VISA is an actual "item". It's been 35 years since I had to get any, and seem to recall they were just stamped on pages in my passport? So the passport was the only actual "travel item".

[SB: yd 0**, QB for 11 days now]

[** yd was a nailbiter.. my deadline is midnight, and I got the last answer at 11:20 pm PDT. The streak miraculously continues!]

Hartley70 2:43 PM  

The little SE was a snarl for me because I didn’t see NTH or LORE and I was wrong to think I was well versed in Potterdom. I guessed OMEN but never met a grim in any of the books. Otherwise the puzzle was interesting.
SPARCH was odd. I needed the crosses.
I was amazed and horrified to learn that MONET had cataract surgery. Dear God, what anesthesia was available? It’s not like he could close his eye as the scalpel approached. I hope he had a pal like @Gill I to pour him cocktails before the procedure and another few friends to hold him down.

JD 2:57 PM  

This is pretty fascinating. I've been wondering today what Monet's paintings would look like when he had cataracts. I found this https://www.davisart.com/blogs/curators-corner/claude-monet-cataracts-paintings/

His pallet went from blues and greens to red and yellows and then back again after the surgery. You can understand why he destroyed them.

@jae, Interesting about Spake.

LorrieJJ 3:03 PM  

Had a DNF at intersection of IKOIKO (what the heck is that?) and FAIRSHAKE ... I was convinced it was FAIRSHARE.

LorrieJJ 3:05 PM  

Cd u please explain yr code at the bottom of yr posts?

Trey 3:09 PM  

@Southsidejohnny (8:53) there is at least one major brand of edible dog treats shaped like a steak. I don't know which ones but I have seen them on TV. Maybe you missed the word “shaped” in the clue?

JD 3:10 PM  

And Anon @12:14, Woodchuck, so great. Can't wait to use it on a certain surly clerk at my grocery store:

"Excuse me, do you think they can open another lane."
"I have no idea."
"Thanks ya $+@# woodchuck."

Thus spake JD

Nick 3:16 PM  

Give it another five years and we’ll be seeing OVOIDALESQUEISH.

bocamp 3:18 PM  

Didn't realize August is a 14 yr old. Give youth a chance and it will shine! ☀️

@okanaganer (2:38 PM) 👍 for 0 yd

Awesome streak; keep it up! :)

td 0 (in double ot)

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

foxaroni 3:25 PM  

Congratulations to August for his first NYTXW (and for being 14). Excellent puzzle.

All of the dog treats I've seen are shaped like little bones. But I'm a cat person, so what do I know about dog treats?

Loved "soled" and the fam clue, "pop group."

Joe Dipinto 3:50 PM  

Steak-shaped dog treats. In porterhouse, ribeye, and filet mignon flavors. Yum. (Ask your pooch to specify degree of doneness.)

GILL I. 3:50 PM  

@Hartley setenta....HAH! I had cataract surgery over a year ago. My eye surgeon said I was a bit young (I wish) but she also wanted to put a lens in my left eye so that my amblyopia would get better. Because the surgery was early in the morning I didn't have A BIG FAT DRINK. But I did afterwards and I'll be damn if I couldn't see again without my glasses....Viva la pepa....!!!!

pabloinnh 4:04 PM  

Spent the morning at the flea market in Fairlee VT. the next town south is ELY. I mention this because when I clue ELY as "town just south of Fairlee", in my Saturday puzzle you won't think its' obscure.

I have had cataract surgery and highly recommend anesthesia. You're awake but you obviously don't feel anything, but you do see some interesting shapes and colors and images. Also, they don't do both eyes at once, of course, but once you see what the world looks like without the cataracts, you'll wish they could.

Can't have too much baseball, like the Sawx can't score too many runs.

Amazing debut, A L-K. Anticipating Likely Knighthood as Sir Crossword. Thanks for the fun.

JC66 4:12 PM  


Thanks, I was 66 (16 years ago) when I first created my Google account. Ergo; JC66.


Thank you, too. FYI, my ex-wife shares her BD with Paul McCartney. As far as we know, Yoko had nothing to do with our divorce.

Bax'N'Nex 4:51 PM  

Lewis: you are just the best! Cheers!

Robert Berardi 5:14 PM  

Did OMEN really have to be clued with Harry Potter trivia? Just a big screw you to those of us who never wanted to read 4000+ pages of drivel, huh?

Wellmet 5:37 PM  

Kudos to the fourteen year old constructor for creating a NYT quality puzzle and a Saturday no less. Fun puzzle to do.

Unknown 5:37 PM  

Is Sunday’s clue for 4 across a typo?

Unknown 5:54 PM  


Joe Dipinto 6:21 PM  

@Unknown 5:37 – yes, the print edition contains a typo.

Aelurus 6:41 PM  

Am with @Rex on that SE corner, the last to fall – and now that I’ve read the comments before posting this, many others too. Had OVO, so figured it had to be OVOID not “ovate.” And the last two squares? Threw in AL, then threw it out as not being a word. Then threw it back in when I suddenly got TRAINER. I have a vague memory of someone coining a term for that particular vacillating crossword move; does anyone remember? As I finished filling in that corner, 36D, NODRAMA, made me nostalgic (hi, @old timer 12:21 pm).

@Frantic 11:14 am: Amen! I try to post more quickly but it’s 3 hours earlier than in NYC here. (I wonder how it is to do the puzzle the night before...)

Appreciated all the clever cluing, my favorite being 33A, start of a count, STRIKEONE.

Had the N for 56A and did what I usually do with last squares in crosses — check to see if they’re plural. And they seemed to be, so got SSN, instead of the other possible choice, as Rex noted, “ten.”

Learned that CLAUDE MONET had cataract surgery (and that it was available in 1923) which let him “see and paint in ultraviolet”...but did it? Interesting article on his ophthalmologic woes. This was not covered in my modern art class. Don’t see mention of any ultraviolet acuity, though there is a bit of art critique at the end.

@Lewis 6:45 am – great substitute clue! And 14? @MaxxPuzz 6:44 am, @Joaquin 6:56 am et al. – yipes indeed! @Malsdemare 11:57 am – Gob-smacked, indeed!

@Nancy 9:41 am – me too, resisted adding ACURA until the very end. Seemed too easy. Once wrote an article on “luxury” cars and Acura was one of them. All I remember is it had something called adaptive headlights that lit up the nighttime corners before you turned into them. It is also the only time I ever drove a Porsche. It was a standard and had “paddle” shifters (awkward!), very stiff steering, and I was glad to get back to my nonluxury easy automatic Prius. Ditto “sprake” for me until that didn’t work.

@Gill I. 10:44 am – Thanks for the Dixie Cups suggestion. Wonderful! Googled it for more and found one with lyrics so knew that “hips be windin’ “ is definitely a thing, but maybe not with a soup-prep spoon dancing around the kitchen. (It's pasta e fagioli, or, as the recipe calls it, "pasta fazool)

Was a very enjoyable solve and I think my fastest Saturday ever without a single Google. Thank you, August!

Anonymous 6:44 PM  

The clue for 22 Down “Repair” is incorrect. When you Add something, you Amend it. When you Edit something (change, repair) you Emend it.

Zwhatever 6:45 PM  

@Nick - OVOIDALESQUEISH (15) - Looks like a seed entry to me.

Zwhatever 7:01 PM  

@Aelurus - The puzzle comes out at 10pm eastern most days, the Sunday and Monday come out at 6pm eastern. So if you are living on Pacific Time that’s 7 pm and 3:00 pm.

@Anon6:44 - Whoever taught you that was oversimplifying. Here’s a nice explainer from Merriam-Webster:
Choose the Right Synonym for emend
CORRECT, RECTIFY, EMEND, REMEDY, REDRESS, AMEND, REFORM, REVISE mean to make right what is wrong. CORRECT implies taking action to remove errors, faults, deviations, defects. // correct your spelling RECTIFY implies a more essential changing to make something right, just, or properly controlled or directed. // rectify a misguided policy EMEND specifically implies correction of a text or manuscript. // emend a text REMEDY implies removing or making harmless a cause of trouble, harm, or evil. // set out to remedy the evils of the world REDRESS implies making compensation or reparation for an unfairness, injustice, or imbalance. redress past social injustices AMEND, REFORM, REVISE imply an improving by making corrective changes, AMEND usually suggesting slight changes // amend a law , REFORM implying drastic change // plans to reform the court system , and REVISE suggesting a careful examination of something and the making of necessary changes. // revise the schedule

(BTW - MW uses the same examples for Choose the Right Synonym for amend)

JC66 7:54 PM  

@Joe D

? Looks good to me. Tell me tomorrow.

Whatsername 8:27 PM  

@JC66: This is the first chance I’ve had to get back to the blog since posting earlier so - really sorry I missed your birthday. I hope it has been a very happy day for you and I wish you many more.

GILL I. 8:28 PM  

Hey @Aelurus....Now you have me dancing all around the kitchen....!!!!!! Hey Now, Hey Now.. ;-)

Joe Dipinto 9:08 PM  

@JC66 – Check your email. And happy birthday—party at your place? I'll be there in about an hour. ;-)

JC66 9:52 PM  

@Joe D.

Got your email.

I'm waiting with open arms (and a pretty good liquor selection).

albatross shell 10:44 PM  

I think you are jumping to unjust conclusions just as Rex jumped to an incorrect conclusion. Rex jumped to the conclusion that SEADUTY was not a real thing. It is a real thing and has been from at least 1946. It is mentioned as a real thing in Navy regulations and is important to Navy personnel and their families. For some reason you assume a 14 year old would not know this from his family or a friend's family. Worse, you assume he did not google the term or research it some other way. If you google it you easily find out it is real thing. So even if he got it from a wordlist he may have done the work and decided it was fine. Not that your advice was bad to any constructor but to assume a 14 year old needs this advice who has just produced a puzzle with fewer such words than many puzzles here seems a bit snooty snobby or snotty. Or at least a bit of adultsplaining.

Unknown 10:44 PM  

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a typo. WS must be livid. ;-)

firoz mahmud 11:32 PM  
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