Parker handbag retailer / SAT 11-13-21 / Notorious online hub for illegal file sharing / Eponym of Israel's largest airport / Scented products that cause underwater explosions / Maker of the Karma quadcopter drone / Capital whose name means smoky bay / Netflix series that caused a 2017 surge in Eggo sales / Something good eaters join

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Constructor: Adam Aaronson

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: white-eye (14A: Like white-eyes and wheatears) —
The white-eyes are a familyZosteropidae, of small passerine birds native to tropical, subtropical and temperate Sub-Saharan Africa, southern and eastern Asia, and Australasia. White-eyes inhabit most tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, the western Pacific Ocean, and the Gulf of Guinea. Discounting some widespread members of the genus Zosterops, most species are endemic to single islands or archipelagos. The silvereyeZosterops lateralis, naturally colonised New Zealand, where it is known as the "wax-eye" or tauhou ("stranger"), from 1855. The silvereye has also been introduced to the Society Islands in French Polynesia, while the Japanese white-eye has been introduced to Hawaii.

• • •

This is a fine grid and there are many things in it that I like but *man* is it a trivia test. Who is this actor? What is this website? Director? Singer? Character? What is the capital of this country? That country? Where is this airport? This mosque? Who makes this product? Who is this hockey player? Etc. etc. etc. It leans hugely and heavily into proper nouns, in both the fill and the clues, and doing so gives it a "here are a bunch of things I'm into and know about!" vibe, as opposed to a "welcome to my puzzle, please have a good time" vibe. Again, I enjoy and know of many, in fact most, of these proper nouns. But I did feel often like I was on some game show I don't watch or like, with questions being fired at me that I either knew or didn't know, rather than clever clues being ... fired at me, I guess ... that caused me to have to think my way to the answer. Trivia-based clues tend to be togglers: YES I know, NO I don't. And some of these are inevitable in any puzzle, and they are enjoyable; they give the grid life and range and yeah, cool. But they aren't the most enjoyable way (for me) to achieve Difficulty in a puzzle. I'd rather have my slog end with an aha that comes from decoding the clue properly, rather than end with a name ... that is a name ... but possibly means nothing to me. "The hockey player's name is KANE!" "Huh ... you don't say." The flip side of the Trivia Game is that the puzzle can get too Easy. "STRANGER THINGS—instant get. TIMOTHÉE Chalomet—instant get. I get the thrill of recognition, and I get to feel like a champ, but I don't get *so much* the thrill of *solving*. Again (again again) this is all a matter of *balance*; I'm happy seeing People and Places and even Brands in the grid. Just ... sprinkled, not doused. You don't have to try so hard to make your puzzle feel "Now!" Also, there are other ways to do it. I mean, PROBS (which I loved :)

The best, and I mean the Very Best thing in the grid is DURAG and its clue! 6D: "Anyone who has ever worn a ___ spells it '___,'" per a 2018 New York Times article. Thank you, Adam, for using the NYT to tell the NYT to Stop Spelling It "DORAG" (and if the clue is somehow Will's and not yours, well good for both of you). I've screamed this point for years, but to see it done in the grid itself: genius. The longer Acrosses today are really colorful. I don't know who uses the term CLEAN PLATE CLUB (42A: Something good eaters "join")—is it for children? It sounds like a bad, coercive, food-issue-causing club ("good" eaters? yeesh), and yet I knew it and it just sounds so happy, like the Mickey Mouse Club or something, so I enjoyed seeing it. Do BATH BOMBS really "explode"? Even metaphorically? I've been in LUSH a lot, but mainly for shaving and face-cleansing stuff, ooh, and this shower gel I like ... but I haven't gone in for BATH BOMBS yet, I confess, so I don't really Know what they Do. Great answer, though. 

All of my trouble came early, as I hate drones as a concept and have no idea who makes them, and I've never heard of either white-eyes or wheatears, and I wrote in RHEA before GAEA (1D: Mother (and wife!) of Uranus), and RAILROAD was well and truly disguised (that's how you do difficulty!). I got OVERSLEEP easily enough, but forgot PIRATE BAY existed (haven't thought about that site since the aughts), so without the letters in GOPRO to help me out with the long Downs, I was not going pro, or going anywhere. Then I moved to the adjacent northern section and immediately spun out on the trivia trifecta of DILI (nope) IRENE (kinda wanted it, but had zero confidence) and KANE (now that I see his name, sounds familiar, but during the solve ... nope). But then "STRANGER THINGS" came to the rescue in a big way—I rode that answer back into the NW and up into the N/NE. Exhilarating, though I felt guilty that the most helpful answer was such a gimme.

From here on out, as I say, things got much easier. I got stalled out a bit going from the center of the grid to the bottom, but then I was able to drop TACKLE BOX (29D: You might take the bait from one), the *second*-most helpful answer of the puzzle, down to the "X" at the bottom of the grid, and the rest of the grid just bloomed off of that.

Five things:
  • BBS (31A: Not-so-big shot) — stared for far too long at _BS wondering what the hell this could be
  • NAIL CARE (36D: You might have a file for this) — got the NAIL part easily, but then ... nothing. Silence. The answer's next word ended up being so general (CARE) I never suspected it. 
  • MENSA (59A: Collection of brains) —meh, we all have brains, and the intelligence of this group continues to be widely and embarrassingly overvalued by crosswords. 
  • PISA (50D: Site of a famous tilt in European history) — ah, wordplay. I thought of "tilt" as a joust (stupid medieval literature degree!), but it's just the literal "tilt" of the tower. Yes. This is the trickery I (sometimes) enjoy.
  • JOHNS (19D: Heads) — I feel like all of these toilet euphemisms are very bygone, very pre-"Psycho" (where you get to see a bathroom with an actual functioning toilet in a movie, the horror!). They seem to have an afterlife, though I can only imagine them being said by a wacky older uncle, possibly while excusing himself from the Thanksgiving table. We just say "bathroom" or "restroom" now and it's fine. It's great, actually. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. yes, 9-to-5, *those* are ODDS (26D: 9-to-5, say). ONE PERCENT is not ODDS. Thank you for issuing this correction to Wednesday's puzzle

P.P.S. geekily happy to learn about white-eyes, which in NZ are called tauhou, which in Maori means "stranger," which means that, in NZ, white-eyes ... are STRANGER THINGS. Have a nice day.

P.P.P.S. Happy birthday, mom :)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


The Joker 6:45 AM  

I just took my dog for our morning walk. The grass was quite wet. I wiped my shoes with a dew rag.

Anonymoose 6:53 AM  

On the topic of bathroom slang. Anything is better than potty(makes me squirm just to type it), or little boys/girls room. My mother would often call it "the necessary room".

Conrad 6:53 AM  

Medium here. I was forced into a scattershot approach, getting threesies and foursies until the longer answers came into view. I know STRANGER THINGS but it took a few crosses to materialize. BATH BeadS before BOMBS caused a bit of havoc in the SE. I know Sam RAIMI but I always have trouble getting the vowels in the right places, and that trouble was exacerbated by the BeadS. REYKJAVIK went right in except for the "J", which required the cross. Mls (Major League Soccer) before MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) at 52D. WOEs included @Rex DILI and Donnie DARKO.

Lewis 6:53 AM  

OMAN, that was a workout! “G’DAY,” this puzzle said, “I am full of DARKO SECRETS!”

With eight answers out of my wheelhouse, including three long ones, plus some tricky cluing, this one had me digging way farther than KNEE DEEP, dredging my inner resources. This wasn’t just a Puzzle, it was more a PPPuzzle. Fortunately, I love a crossword challenge.

Before Will Shortz put the emphasis on wordplay, it was on knowledge, and, to me, this puzzle echoes that emphasis. If you know the stuff, it’s a piece of LAYER CAKE, and if you don’t, it’s a battle royale. So, I donned my determination and dug in, and now I’m filled with gratitude for the stretch it forced me to make. I grow through those stretches. And I learn new things.

I must add that in addition to the sparkle in answers and some lovely clues, Adam belongs to the Clean Grid Club – where’s the junk? AXED.

I’ll be eager to run across you again, AA, after I catch my breath. And that will be STAT. Thank you for this!

Ann Howell 7:03 AM  

Liked this so much more than yesterday! Wound up in the SE corner, where putting "JAIL CAKE" at 36D held me up for a while... otherwise, a nice Saturday solve.

Roberto 7:17 AM  

Too many proper nouns many obscure. Made it no fun. But I could deduce them from crosses. Got durag wrong. Never heard it like that before

Son Volt 7:26 AM  

Trivia fest today - not my idea of a good time. Worked it form the middle out due to brain freeze in the NW. Lots of K’s everywhere.

Kids and wife watch STRANGER THINGS - I’ve tried but just don’t see the appeal - it was a gimme long at least. Movie sucked but loved the Tears for Fears song in Donnie DARKO. Continue to rewatch the new Dune and really dig it.

The few wordplays here are decent - SECRET SANTA, OVER SLEEP, TACKLE BOX are all solid. Full on disdain for the ARAL - URAL and ONE - SEC cross reference clues. I’ll add the singular LA RAM to that club also.

This had some moments and would have gotten a GRAZIE mille from me if it wasn’t KNEE DEEP in trivia.

bocamp 7:38 AM  

Thx Adam, for a fine Sat. puz! :)

Med., but played harder.

Wanted GDAY, but the finger went with DDAY. This made the NE tougher than it should have been. With the 'D' in place, DEAR IM prego seemed possible. lol

Didn't know GRAZIE or the correct sp. of REYKJAVIK, so JOHNS and OZONE weren't apparent. Finally saw the typo at DDAY, changed to 'G'DAY', twigged on GRAZIE prego, dropped in CINE, which led to 'N' for JOHNS and finally the 'J' to complete REYKJAVIK.

Last to go in was the 'E' for the EDIE / TIMOTHEE cross; thot what else could it be but an 'E'.

Got the happy tune, and Bob was my uncle. :)

Another excellent adventure; time well spent! :)

@okanaganer👍 for 0 yd

Missed that 'shortie' first time I encountered it last year. Haven't missed it since.


yd 0

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

ncmathsadist 7:47 AM  

Way too much trivia and too many proper names. KANE?

SouthsideJohnny 7:49 AM  

@Z* may despise PPP more than I do, but if he does, it’s not by much. So I stepped right up to 1A and it was as if the constructor was hitting me in the face with a cast iron skillet - GOPRO crossing GAEA right from the get-go, next to DILI crossing Marie Curie’s daughter and a NYT quote (DURAG). Rex and many of the multitude here have the solving chops to fight their way through such a obscurity-laden minefield on a Saturday. Alas, I, a mere mortal, had no chance.

Throw in the items such as GRAZIE, DEVON, TIMOTHEE, RAIMI, DARKO et c and you are at the point where a significantly large percentage of your crossword puzzle aren’t even real words. I’ll just step back and tip my hat now in admiration if you are into this type of thing and enjoy it. Hopefully tomorrow will at least be a little less wheelhouse-effect intensive.

Hartley70 8:15 AM  

The long answers across and down were of easy-medium difficulty. I liked them all. The fill gets a “you’re killing me” rating. IRENE and ELENA, KANE and GAEA, AXED vs eXED, AVIAN and DILI, DURAG vs DoRAG were Saturday worthy. My favorite entry was LAYERCAKE. Why? Well because it is CAKE and I needed a treat.

Z 8:34 AM  

The new Dune movie was better than I feared. Although I do wish there were an Imax theater nearby.

The puzzle and Rex’s CLEAN PLATE CLUB/JOHNS observation reminded me of a science fiction short story I just read that had an alien race that viewed eating and defecation as just opposite ends of the same biological process and so equally disgusting. The human love of social dining is the equivalent of group public shitting to the aliens. The writer did a nice job of giving a disgusting description of mastication and its product.

Oh yeah, the puzzle, not just puzzle inspired ruminating. I really dislike Whac-A-Vowel, and that is exactly what we have at DILI/IRENE. I went with “IRENE is most likely” but can you completely rule out any vowel there? Especially on a Saturday? I did look up DILI East Timor after finishing to see if I had a one letter DNF. Yeah Me. Having said that, the PPP isn’t quite as excessive as it seems (24 of 70 for 34%). Still over the “excessive” line, but not the worst that we’ve seen. It seems like there is more, I think, because we start with a heavy salvo in the NW, and then there are four longer than usual PPP answers. I will give the PPP credit, only one dead person, so at least we have a living breathing puzzle today. (PPP is “Pop Culture, Product Names, and other Proper Nouns)

Anyone else really dislike the URAL/ARAL cross-referencing? Unlike Rex, I also disliked going to Monopoly/discontinued business for our RAILROAD clue. OTOH, If we’re going to have random capitals in the puzzle I like the audacity of using REYKJAVIK. That it was my first guess and turned out to be right and I only had one letter wrong on my first spelling guess (Yeah Me) didn’t hurt either.
On the other other hand, Patrick KANE would not be my cluing choice. “Lack of Evidence” is not the same as “innocent” and the guy had a history of being out of control. He’s not in Cosby territory, but I’d go with with a different KANE option if I were writing the clues.

thfenn 8:43 AM  

This was rough. STRANGERTHINGS was no gimme, so all three sections in the north were a struggle. AhoY before GDAY in NW. Thought DURAG, was originally something more related to a bURka in the NC. AVIAN and ARAL still wouldn't give me GAEA, but with those two and the RR the NE was the easiest.

White-eyes sparked my initial interest in ornithological taxonomy, in part because they look a lot like a white-eyed vireo, but are a completely different family.

PROBS was rough in the SE. Was running through OMG, IMHO, TTYL, FWIW, NSFW, BRB...nothing. In the SW, not khaki, not denim, by then I'd been working to hard for CHINO to bubble up. Knew, happily, that an NEPAT won the 2019 Superbowl, but no idea who they beat.

After all that, last in was fixing the CLEArPLATE - didnt see that made no SErSE, well, until I did...

Exhausting. Not much to do now other than go clean my TACKLEBOX.

amyyanni 8:50 AM  

As Rex described, this one played very unevenly for me. Liked a lot of the cling. READING is great, but I played a lot of Monopoly as a kid. Glad DEBATE TEAMS got a nod. Say Rex, I believe today is also AG Garland's bday. Good day for us all, let's hope.

TJS 8:53 AM  

Loved the puzzle so I guess the PPP was in the ol' wheelhouse.

A couple things, Patrick Kane is possibly the greatest American born hockey player. The fact that I lived in the Chicago area for 65 years has nothing to do with this statement.

Tackle boxes do not contain bait. They contain lures and all sorts of related paraphanalia that fisherman get sucked into buying when in the bait shop. But the bait comes in either minnow buckets or worm containers. My go-to baitshop in Hayward, Wi. is called The Happy Hooker, btw.

Anonymous 8:55 AM  

I spell it do-rag. But then I’ve never worn one so that does not contradict the 2018 NYT article.

TJS 8:56 AM  

Oh yeah, why "durag"? Hair styles are "do s", no ? What the hell is a "du" short for ?

Dr.A 9:01 AM  

My father-in-law says “head” instead of bathroom and actually says “I gotta hit the head”. I didn’t know WTH he was talking about at first and now I see it all the time in the puzzles.

Anonymous 9:06 AM  

I don't understand complaints about trivia. Isn't every single answer in every single xword puzzle trivia? Is knowing the brand name of a drone more trivial than knowing who Uranus's wife and mother is (are)?

Is being able to translate "Ah, yes, of course...." into "IREMEMBER" less trivial than knowing the French word for movie? Are Israeli airport names less trivial than deciphering a clue like "Word with talking or horse"?

Please, someone, tell me which answers in this puzzle are NOT trivia.

And just for the record, I loved this puzzle.

TJS 9:06 AM  

@Z, if I was a Red Wing fan I wouldn't be a Kane fan either. And when I first read your closing comment, I thought you wrote "Crosby territory", which I might give you, but my God, bringing "Cosby" into the conversation is just unforgiveable. You seem to be on a roll the last few days.

Spencer 9:14 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 9:14 AM  

I really wanted 1A to be STARK

Anonymous 9:16 AM  

Cosby is a free man today because the prosecutor acted even more abominably than Cosby. He should be disbarred.
As for lack of evidence not being the same as innocent, well, yeah, no sh**t. And the judicial system is all the better for it.
If Kane gets convicted, incarnate him, otherwise STFU.

Tom T 9:17 AM  

HDW (Hidden Diagonal Word) clue for today's grid:

Sax essential (4 letters, answer below)

Like Rex, one of the long across answers got me started (when, like yesterday, I drew a blank on pretty much the entire northern region of the grid)--CLEAN PLATE CLUB. From there, the puzzle came together bit by excruciating bit. Did not know GAEA or DILI or IRENE or KANE, or even STRANGER THINGS (although it came together with crosses).

But the happy music sounded when the last block was filled on the first try, another pleasing outcome. Managed it in over ten minutes ahead of yesterday's puzzle.

Answer to the HDW:

REED (the D is in the 34A block; in truth, there are two (4 letter) hidden diagonals here--REED and its semordnilap, DEER

Anonymous 9:21 AM  

Why not scold Rex for not spending the 20 seconds and google Dorag? Your favorite authority, Wikipedia, says it’s do-rag and that durag is merely an alternate, not the standard.
Either way, anyone who wears one is immediately disqualified from polite society. Same with anyone with a tattoo that’s visible while dressed.

Z 9:23 AM  

@TJS - A remarkable talent who seemed hell bent on throwing it all away. It seems his close call with prison has straightened him up, but who knows what wreckage he caused before he finally woke up. On the ice I think Red Wings fans appreciated him more than Crosby because Crosby was more of a prima donna. But, to be clear, there’s a single known report, some reporting of him being aware of the sexual abuse happening around him (now that story is really ugly and sad), and some misdemeanor charges related to drunken excess. So he’s no Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein, but he has made comparisons to them relevant. Like I said, not the KANE I would go to.

DrBB 9:24 AM  

Totes agree with PROBS and the problem of the proper-noun-trivia effect. You finally get it, and the emotion you feel is a triumphant "meh." Really hate that. That north center section was a total Natick meh for me.

Anonymous 9:24 AM  

My wife uses potty. I feel precisely as you do, every time she says it I fantasize about divorce before reminding myself that marriage is Sacramental and that my vows are inviolate. Doesn’t help much in the moment though.

MarthaCatherine 9:26 AM  

Some words you don't know how to pronounce because you've only ever seen them in print. I remember the first time I heard someone say detritus out loud. or eponymous. I knew what they meant; just never heard them in conversation.

There are also words I've only ever heard spoken and never seen in print. Durag is such a word. I DNF'd because I figured there's a river somewhere named the oRAL.

RooMonster 9:37 AM  

Hey All !
DILI? Oof. Had DaLI, because... DILI?? Dangli, my one-letter DNF. aRENE sounds like a plausible name. Maybe West Timor's Capital is DALI.
Nope, Googed it, it's Kupang.

Always trouble (well, how often does it show in a puz?) with the first vowel of REYKJAVIK. Is it an A, an E, an I , or a U? (O doesn't fit in the sound-ness of it.)(Quick aside, why does "an U" not sound correct?) Figured the tough spot in that city's name would be the KJ pairing.

With that exception, finished in a super-fast-for-me-SatPuz-time of 22 1/2 minutes. Apparently the PPP was for me-me-me. (Heeheehee!) Did like the "look at me"-ness of ARAL and URAL. If you end up with those two, why not shove it in the solvers face? Keeps from people complaining about them. It's like "Look, similar stuff! Take it all in."

I'm a "member" of the CLEAN PLATE CLUB, unbeknownst to me. I always eat everything, though I didn't know it was a thing.

I REMEMBER, something I say not often! (Hi @Nancy!)

I'm out, so G'DAY.


No F's (O MAN!)

Patrick K 9:53 AM  

Thoroughly enjoyed this one.

pmdm 9:59 AM  

I like the write-up. I like the puzzle less because it has so much PPP it seemed to me to be more of a slog than a brain exercise. Seems to me it would for most be either fairly easy or quite hard.

A though about some of yesterday's comment debate. Seems to me that many co-opt a prejudice and use something like religion to justify the prejudice. Truly a case for me to blame the messenger, not the justification.

Nancy 10:10 AM  

I certainly didn't GO PRO on this one. I went AM. As in "amateur". I looked at the clues and thought to myself: Are there really this many things in the world that I don't know?

It turns out that there are.

And not just the pop culture stuff either. Not only GO PRO and DARKO and KANE and ELENA (as clued) and EDIE and PIRATE BAY (as clued) and STRANGER THINGS and TIMOTHEE and RAIMI. Also the geographic stuff: DILI and DEVON and REYKJAVIK. Even when the latter started to come in, I had to look up the spelling.

My first answer in was MOLE -- all the way down at the bottom. Don't ask.

A "senior moment" kept me from remembering "GRAZIE" (it was driving me crazy) and therefore I had AHOY rather than G'DAY for "Call to a mate". If I'd only had that "G"...

I ended up with three-and-a-half cheats: GO PRO, DARKO, DILI and the spelling of REYKJAVIK. I'm not happy about it -- not one bit. But I would not have "finished" the puzzle without them.

pabloinnh 10:16 AM  

I started this one at MOLE, which caught my eye as the one answer I knew instantly, and chipped away. Lots of stuff I had kind of heard of--STRANGERTHINGS, TIMOTHEE, RAIMI. Some things rose to the surface-BENGURION, KANE. Some things brand new PIRATEBAY, EDIE as clued, DILI.

GOPRO as a brand I knew but only because they make cameras that skiers put on their helmets.

My favorite comical guess today was having many of the letters for BATHBOMBS and writing in MOTHBALLS. Well, they might explode under water, I wouldn't know.

@MarthaCatherine-I could add two words to your pronunciation list--debacle, which
I rhymed with tentacle before I knew better, and synecdoche, for which you can use your imagination.

Nice chewy Saturday, AA. Some Advanced Aggravation but lots of fun, for which thanks.

JD 10:16 AM  

Thought I was dead at Maker of the Karma Quadcopter Drone but many passes and a few walkaways later tada! Rewarding.

Epitome for Height is the kind of crossword clue I love. Not an exact, matching definition but it'll get you there and then you think oh yeaah. I also like PPP that I can spell but still giving props to Ronnie and Gorby for teaching me Reykjavik. The most groan-worthy set up of a Pearls Before Swine ended with the punchline Mr. Korby's chef, tear down this Whaaa! You had to be there.

Durag, Kane, & Dili were the last to fall and I could do something with that but I'm taking the day off. Oh for the days when Kane was a soap villain was my thought at the moment. No junk here. Perfect Saturday for me.

Anon, Nice touch on the puzzle fake. Upped your game.

I'm gonna leave Ural & Aral to @Gill.

Teedmn 10:21 AM  

Of course, STRANGER THINGS have happened in the course of my crossword solving career, but it's EERIE to have DARKO, CINE crossing GRAZIE and MOLE all placed in the grid but nothing else. @Conrad 6:53's scattershot description applies for me today.

TIMOTHEE, STRANGER THINGS, DILI, KANE all WOEs that were gettable with crosses. I was not fooled by the Reading in 4D's clue nor the big shot for BBS at 31A, but only because I've seen those tricks before.

I've always belonged to the CLEAN PLATE CLUB. My friends can ask for their to-go boxes, not I.

I did really, really dislike the cross-referenced, cutesy, "oh, here's a new way to clue" clues for ARAL and URAL. Bah.

With _UR__ in place at 6D, I tried bURka first because it worked with baLI (but Bali isn't a capital, a little voice cried). Unlike @Roo :-), I didn't think aRENE looked good as a name and the G of STRANGER THINGS finally brought forth the necessary DURAG.

Adam Aaronson, thanks for the Saturday challenge.

Wanderlust 10:21 AM  

Loved the puzzle, and as usual, disagree with the PPP-haters. To me, the two clues about world capitals show when PPP is cool, and when it’s just trivia. The REYKJAVIK clue told you something interesting about the place, and if you think about Iceland, you do envision bubbling hot springs, so the clue actually helped. The DILI clue was blah. I knew it right away. I love geography and not just as trivia. I traveled a LOT to obscure places in the before times for work, and I’ve been to DILI and REYKJAVIK (but not OMAN). DILI is maybe the tiniest world capital I’ e been to - one stoplight when I was there. But quite beautiful, on the water, ringed by mountains. Great food, mixing Indonesian and Portuguese tastes. Wonderful people.

Re DARKO, the Washington Post had a story today about Taylor Swift releasing a longer version of her song that trashed her ex, Gyllenhaal. Apparently, her fans just relish her cryptic lyrical takedowns of former boyfriends. I’ll always love Jake for Brokeback Mountain, but other movies as well. Sorry, Taylor.

Some very clever clues in the puzzle. DEBATE TEAMS, BBS, OVERSLEEP, RAILROAD, TACKLE BOX and NAIL CARE all made me smile. So did remembering the taste of MOLE.

More like this, please!

Anonymous 10:26 AM  

So much random trivia it’s tough to get a toe-hold, or any flow. Had a sneering quality to it. Not much fun at all.

hankster65 10:30 AM  

Three hours of head banging to get to the happy song. I liked yesterday's puzzle much better.

jae 10:32 AM  

Easy-medium. Three things helped with this one (1) I’m a fan of STRANGER THINGS (season 4 is coming this summer), (2) I’ve played a
lot of Monopoly and (3) I just finished watching “Dune”.

...and speaking of STRANGER if you haven’t seen it already I highly recommend “Enola Holmes” on Netflix starring 11 from STRANGER.

Hang ups: Spelling REYKJAVIK and khaki before CHINO.

This was excellent, liked it a bunch!

ghkozen 10:33 AM  

KANE is a major current NHL star, and has been for ten years. I’m regularly called upon to suffer through far more obscure players of the brain-killing stupidity that is baseball—and Rex always crowd about how much he loves clues about some lesser award recipient from 1972. Just because you don’t like a sport doesn’t make it obscure trivia Rex.

Aunt Hattie 10:34 AM  

Anonymoose--in olden days the outhouse was called the Necessary--Good word for it, I always thought. When I was a child my mother always wanted us to join the clean plate club--and I am 85, so it has been around a while. Good puzzle--

GILL I. 10:49 AM  

Proper nouns give me agita and dyspepsia of my soul. No, you devil...I don't know you nor do I like you.
STRANGER THINGS happen on my Saturday.... they usually don't involve a DILI that should be nestled in a pickle jar, a GOPRO that should be on a hike with GORP, a DEAD DARKO getting lost in a "smoky bay" unpronounceable and (how do you spell that?) name....
Please take your TIMOTHEE to the CLEAN PLATE CLUB and make sure RAIMI, IRENE, EDIE, ELENA, KANE and the rest of the gang eat their vegetable. ARAL AND URAL are the bartenders today. They are putting YOKES in the martinis. If you don't like YOKES, the MOLE will have to do.
My BATH BOMB truly runneth over.

Carola 10:56 AM  

An old-school Saturday for me, very challenging and satisfying to finish. My initial sprinkling included CINE, DARKO, RAIMI, and MOLE, with SECRET SANTA and LAYER CAKE close behind. Then it was SEEK, SEEK, SEEK for something, anything....with the treat of those long answers keeping me going and in good cheer. I especially liked the CLEAN PLATE CLUB and the SPY and MOLE with their DARK SECRETS.

Do-overs: Pat-on-the-back-for-being-so-smart rhEA before GAEA; should-have-known-better essex before DEVON; wild-stab-in-the-dark "hares" before AVIAN. Help from previous puzzles: IRENE, ALT, MMA, RAIMI. No idea: PIRATE BAY, ELENA, DILI, KANE, EDIE.

Tim Carey 11:22 AM  

It's a Navy term.

Peter P 11:26 AM  

@RooMonster - "An U" doesn't sound correct because "U", when said aloud, does not start with a vowel sound. The rule for using "a" or "an" is based on the sound (not spelling) of the next word. It just helps elide the two words together, and sticking an "n" before a "y" glide/semi-vowel (a "w" is another example of a glide/semivowel in English.) There is some waffling on weather certain words beginning with "h" take an "a" or an "an." For me, the decision is based on weather your pronounce the "h" that follows or not in your dialect. For example, I do aspirate the "h" in historical, so for me, it's always "a historical occasion." If you only lightly aspirate it or completely eliminate it, that "an (h)istorical" works. And yet others keep the "an" for, well, historical and/or literary reasons. (Some finesse the rule a bit more, saying that it would be "a history" but "an historical," as in "history," the stress is on the first syllable, so the "h" is clearly pronounced, while in "historical," the stress is on the second, so the "h" is only lightly aspirated or almost omitted, hence "an" sounds better there.) Use your ears.

Anonymous 11:50 AM  

Check out your favorite authority, Wikipedia. They say Kane was set up as it relates to the sexual assault charges.
But yeah, you do you and smear him.

jb129 11:51 AM  

I had Weight Watchers for sooo long...

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

Yes, some people cloak prejudiced in religious terms. They’re clowns.
If you’d like to learn why read Adrian Vermeule on natural law and classical jurisprudence.

Unknown 11:57 AM  

I did the same thing

PhotoAde 11:59 AM  

Each corner felt too claustrophobic and trivia pitfalls everywhere - DILI URAL REYKJAVIK KANE block... really? More of a crossname than a crossword, but yay if you know them. I did not.

mathgent 12:11 PM  

I went to bad last night with an ocean of white. This morning, I turned it over to The Closer. She also does well in the middle innings and came up with TACKLEBOX and SECRET SANTA, plus a couple of others. She gave it back and I was able to finish.

Maybe it's sour grapes but I didn't like it. Very little sparkle. The entries I didn't know aren't welcome additions to my data base.

Last night we saw Anatomy of a Murder from 1959. Jimmy Stewart, Ben Gazzara, George C. Scott leading the dynamite cast which included Lee Remick, Arthur O'Connell, Eve Arden and Joseph Welch. Welch was not a professional actor (he was a lead counsel in the Army-McCarthy hearings) but he stole two or three scenes as the judge. The movie holds up very well.

I don't think that Stewart gets enough credit as an actor. He totally loses himself in every role.

Trey 12:11 PM  

(Writing this before reading the blog or any other comments - pardon if this seems repetitive) Any puzzle with REYKJAVIC in it requires some level of sanity in the PPP in the surrounding area. This puzzle did not have that - DILI crossing with IRENE Curie (a Nobel Prize alone does not make a name cross-worthy). DEVON and KANE all lead to potential errors when in that same segment. I was able to figure it all out, but not without added anxiety. All of this with the new (for me, at least) spelling of DURAG.

Is PISA really European history? Yes, architecture. Yes, landmark. History, no. This crossed with RAIMI which I know (but always struggle with the spelling). RAIMI also crosses with BEN GURION (????)

I will say this was a challenge, and that puts it mildly. Probably one of the hardest NYT puzzles that I have completed that did not contain a rebus or other trick to fill. I enjoyed the challenge and some of the fill (learned about Eggo sales), but this reminds me a lot of the puzzles from the early 90’s that I found to be a mental drain when they were this tough puzzle after puzzle.

Malsdemare 12:31 PM  

I decided five minutes in that this was going to be a learning experience. The list of trivia that I didn't know was immense so Dr, Google became my teacher. It would be easy to get mad at the puzzle and constructor but much of what I didn't know won't hurt me to learn. After my graduate trivia education, I was able to get the tricky clues and that was fun. I'm not going to like having to go back to school constantly, but once in a while, it’s a good comeuppance.

Thanks, Adam, but please don't do that too often.

jb129 12:35 PM  

When this clearly wasn't an "Easy" puzzle, Rex, you should've called it as Medium (even tho it wasn't). You & many of us didn't find it easy either. That's all I have to say.

old timer 12:40 PM  

Decades ago, I would drive to Starbucks to buy the Times, to do the Saturday puzzle, and it often took me until Tuesday to finish it. (I really only decided to subscribe to the Times when my local Starbucks stopped carrying it). This was a classic Saturday puzzle, incredibly difficult, with all sorts of stuff I actually knew but at first didn't know I knew.

There were seas, nay, oceans of white space, though I did figure out the URAL/ARAL answers almost at once. A few false starts, when I wanted tele(medicine) instead of NANO, and was sure I was looking for a burqa or burka instead of DURAG. I read the article about that one a few years ago. DURAG is just plain dumb. I say that as someone whose professional career involved representing many Black defendants, which brought me into contact with their mamas, who very often wore "do rags" -- scarves fashioned into head coverings. They all had the sense not to wear them if called to testify, and invariably had a choice of fancy hats to wear to church on Sundays. Never heard of a DURAG until I read that article in the Times.

DILI was very much in the news during the East Timor civil war. And PIRATE BAY was in the news a lot when the Feds finally shut them down. And if you ever worked in an office, you were involved in SECRET SANTA exchanges. My partner organized ours -- the trick being we would all buy each other toys or dolls to exchange, which after our Christmas office lunch, my partner would take to one of those charities that gave away toys to families in need. The fun part was trying to buy something that the donee probably would have loved in his or her childhood.

The hardest thing for me was coming up with STRANGER THINGS, a show I have never seen and probably never will. BENGURIOM would have been hard if I hadn't immediately had BBS, CROP and CLUB.

mathgent 12:41 PM  

My favorite post this morning.

Anonymoose (6:53)

puzzlehoarder 12:45 PM  

DURAG is a correct answer? I don't care how unlikely a river called ORAL is I'm not putting DURAG in a puzzle. I've been putting idiot speak answers in puzzles for years because that's what the crosses say it is. Why this one irks me so much I'm not sure. Maybe it's the self referential nature of the clue. Whatever the reason I want nothing to DU with DURAG. In crossword speak it's time to take a long puzzling vaycay.

Beezer 12:51 PM  

Wow, my solving experience was very much the same as @Rex. The puzzle seemed to be enough in my wheelhouse that I enjoyed but also figured many would have difficulty with TIMOTHEE (thanks @Z for the mini-review of the new Dune), STRANGERTHINGS, etc.

I tend to think of ARAL as the Sea, and URAL as the mountain range s but I finally had enough crosses to go ahead and fill it in for the DURAG win. Hmmm. Last letter filled in but something was wrong. I went through to make sure I had no typos. Stared at @Rex’s puzzle and still couldn’t figure it out so finally pulled the “check puzzle” plug and whaddaya know…I had EXED instead of AXED! I think EXED “works” with the clue BUT I should’ve figured out that the sports thing would be an ASSOCIATION.

Good fun!

Anonymous 1:04 PM  

I dunno. Stewart was held in awfully high esteem. He was nominated for 5 Academy Awards. ( His win in ‘40 is actually an error. Cary Grant was better in the same picture, and Henry Fonda might have been the bes of all in The Grapes of Wrath.)A lot of folks believed that Stewarts’s win in 1940 was the Academy apologizing for have made the mistake in 1939 of giving Donat the Oscar thatStewart deserved. And in a sign of immense respect and admiration, he was given a lifetime achievement Oscar. In short, Stewart wasn’t just appreciated, he was lauded. In death the praise continued.The American Film Institute ranks him as the third greatest male star in history.
Also, if you’re ever in Indiana , Pa. you can see a statue of their favorite son.
Even the US Army appreciated him. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for leading something close to two,dozen sorties in B-24s over Germany.
Really, his only black mark is having gone to school at Princeton.

oldactor 2:07 PM  

@Zygote: Your alien story reminded me of a young man I met at a dinner party who would not eat in front of other people. He happily sat at the table chatting with everyone, but wouldn't take a bite. He even said that he equated it with defecation. Now I know he was an alien.

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

Interesting comment in the NYTimes Wordplay column that Will Shortz has leaned heavily into wordplay for crossword cluing, so much so wordplay seems the standard way of making a puzzle harder for all venues. This puzzle is quite atypical for a Saturday NYT puzzle since it is much more about trivia.

I like wordplay, but some Saturday NYT puzzles are exhausting in how every single clue has to have a trick. I wish some of the trivia here was more guessable if you don't know the entity. PIRATEBAY and TIMOTHEE, for example, are probably extremely difficult to see if they are totally unfamiliar. But I found this a nice change of pace for the Saturday NYT.

Anonymous 2:34 PM  

It was interesting to me that a few commenters said MOLE was a first entry or at least a gimme. The M was my very last completed square. I pondered M_A and mentally ran letters to see if anything clicked. Mixed Martial Arts seemed feasible even though Mole still made no sense to me. By luck, it worked.

Nancy 2:50 PM  

@That is really funny, @oldactor (2:07)!

Actually, I was on my way here to respond to that very same @Zygote post-- but in my case to say: Remind me not to ever read that sci-fi short story!

I also love @puzzlehoarder's 12:45 DURAG rant.

And I enjoyed everyone's PPP rants today. All of them are more than legitimate, I thought. But @GILL's anti-PPP rant has to be the funniest.

imnotbobby 2:55 PM  

There were so many ways in, once I got started (NW). Trying to figure out if it was ONE SEC or NOT NOW or NOT YET was fun. And for some dad-joke reason, I'm enjoying clues like "Passages in a long story?" more than I used to.

Trey 2:59 PM  

My brother had a friend who thought “misled” was pronounced “mizzled” with a long i sound

Nancy 3:03 PM  

Re: The LAT puzzle of mine and Will N's of 11/4. Someone let me know the day the puzzle came out (off-blog, I think, but I'm not sure) that they had techie online trouble with accessing the puzzle...or filling it in...or printing it out or something of that sort. I simply can't remember who that was.

Today, a friend in the building gifted me with a PDF version sent to my email. I can now forward it, via email, to anyone who wants it and whose email I know. You'll be able to dodge all the techie issues and print it out if you have a printer. Let me know if you'd like it forwarded.

Nancy 3:19 PM  

@Trey (2:59)-- I had a friend, Marie R, who also thought "misled" was "mizled". I wonder how common that is? We were exchanging the mispronunciations of our respective childhoods at the time and I told her my own deathless one. Now don't judge me too harshly -- I was VERY young:

I thought "awe" was pronounced "AW-eee".

I was not nearly so young, though, when I shocked my mother by saying (in the middle of some illness or other) "I feel such le-THAR-gy."

"You feel such what????", my mother exclaimed, almost vaulting out of her chair. "Such what????

I'd never heard the word spoken. I'd only heard the word "le-THAR-gic" spoken. So why shouldn't they be pronounced the same way?

The moral of the story: A little reading is a dangerous thing. You'll come across words that you've never heard uttered, and there's always a chance you'll get them wrong.

egsforbreakfast 4:15 PM  

My dug Sput wears a DURAG.

CLEANPLATECLUB should be an organization for umpires. IRENE, IREMEMBER IRE MEMBERs would show for you.

In honor of @Anoa Bob, I’d ask if a single episode would be a STRANGERTHING? Then we could donate the S to the LA RAM.

This was an enjoyable puzzle, but it played hard to get with me from just outside my house o’ wheels. Thank you Adam Aaronson.

jberg 4:24 PM  

DNF. Somehow, I read the clue for 18A thinking it was for 35A, already had LAYER CAKE, so I put in DAkka, alt. spelling of the capital of Bangladesh. I never noticed that one; it gave me TIMaTHEE, but that was fine with me, I don't really know that actress. And I never read the clue for 30D.

I didn't know either Chalamet or DARKO anyway, so I might still have failed.

However, I am very proud that having put in SoCcer mANiA for 38A (I figured it was some sort of fantasy sports thing, and that you drew names to put together a team) I managed to see eventually that it was SECRET SANTA.

I didn't much like the singular LARAM; and, as @TJS said, you really don't want hellgrammites crawling around in your tackle box.

My wife and I were planning a trip to REYKJAVIK this January; then we looked at the State Department advisory, which said "Do not travel to Iceland," due to level 4 danger of Covid. So we're going to Hawaii; but at least I knew how to spell it, once I stopped trying to fit the answer into 35A.

My comical childhood mispronunciation went in the other direction -- I knew the words 'brother' and 'sister,' of course, but the first time I saw them in print I read them aloud with long vowels. My mother never let me forget it.

NetworkTVAddict 4:35 PM  

Am I the only "Vampire Diaries" fan on this whole, entire blog?? Are predatory, blood-sucking denizens of the night beneath all you people?? But actually, most of the vampires in the show were good gals/guys. They got their blood from abbatoirs or picked up recently expired stock from blood banks. OK, OK, TMI, I get it. But the point is: they didn't murder people.
My problem was *not* not knowing ELENA, but wondering if the answer might be Damon, Klaus or Tyler. I suppose "The Vampire Diaries" stole a leaf from "Buffy the Vampire-Slayer"'s book: the high-school-is-hell trope brought to literal life (and death). But the strength of both shows was the demonstration of how unbreakable bonds can be forged between people and how those bonds can help an individual withstand, overcome and triumph over just about any horror they might encounter.

Going off to get a life now...

albatross shell 4:42 PM  

detritus noun
de·​tri·​tus | \ di-ˈtrī-təs \
plural detritus\ di-​ˈtrī-​təs , -​ˈtrī-​ˌtüs

This is from M-W.
Detritus has a plural that is spelled the same but an alternative pronouciation that is (slightly?) different. Strikes me as rather unusual.

Anonymous 4:47 PM  

Easy??? OFL is out of his bloody mind.

albatross shell 6:21 PM  

Picking up on a lack of a plural of convenience for detritus: I did not realize Gaea and Gaia are the same mother and wife of Uranus. Thus she presents consrtuctors with a vowel choice of convenience. I assume that might not bother @anoa much because it does not lengthen the word. It might cheapen Gaea's value somehow.

Really enjoyed @thfenn today with white-eye Vireos, and "CLEArPLATE - didnt see that made no SErSE, well, until I did" and going to clean his tackle box. I asked MyK do you put bait in your tacklebox? No. It would make it dirty and smelly and I'd have to clean it. So I knew what you were getting at.

I liked the URAL ARAL clueknot. Read do not listen.

The PPP did not bother me much. It's Saturday. Make me look up something. See if I care. I can live with that. Still fun puzzling the rest. If I only have to look up a few PPP and can puzzle out the rest. Fine and dandy.

CLEANPLATECLUB did strike me as a seemingly benign way to create food issues for your kids.


Connecting HEIGHT to its clue is not trivia like knowing the capital of East Timor or knowing the last name of an actor you do not know the first name of. One you can get by thought and crosses. One you can only get by crosses and guesswork. You can call them all trivia if you want to but the difference is clear.

Anonymous 7:58 PM  

I often find Rex' gimmes my sticking points and vice versa. But as a long time member of the Clean Plate Club (although I didn't realized I "joined"), I resented his condescension towards parents who did not force, but TAUGHT, their children how hard they worked and sacrificed to feed them. To this day, I finish every meal I am served and I thank everyone who served me

JC66 8:35 PM  

@Anon 7:58


Joe Dipinto 10:27 PM  

@jberg 4:24 – but the Icelandverse wants you to come. How could you resist such a great promo?

Joanna Powell 12:54 AM  

Here to continue the rants of a few other folks — perhaps a single player on the LA RAMS could be referred to as an “LA RAM,” but the “loser” of the Super Bowl was the team as a whole, ie the LA RAMS. The answer is simply wrong without the “s.”

webwinger 1:23 PM  

Consistently solving a day behind this week. I got CLEAN PLATE CLUB with no crosses (often heard that as kid), had no idea about STRANGER THINGS. Stared for minutes at the completed but unsung grid, until it occurred to me that there was more likely a URAL River than an oRAL one (though that was an intriguing concept); my acquaintance with DURAG comes mostly from the NYT, I think, so natch I had used an "o" in it initially.

Regarding euphemisms like JOHNS or Heads, in Israel a common expression is Beit Shimush, which literally translates to "House of Use", nicely neutral sounding in English, nicely onomatopoietic in Hebrew.

pdplot 8:53 PM  

I had Jailcake instead of Nailcare. Think about it. File?

kitshef 4:16 PM  

Very much a wheelhouse puzzle for me, with DILI and REYKJAVIK and AVIAN and KANE and DARKO and almost IRENE being gimmes (my head said IRENa). TIMOTHEE/EDIE was a complete guess, as I'm sure it was for 99% of the world.

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