Assembly at a camporee perhaps / SAT 1-1-22 / Home for a farrow / Where scenes on Tatooine were filmed for Star Wars / Big outdoor June event / Length of a president's veto window / Baking aisle mascot / Red Guard's attire / Skylar of Perfect Pitch films / Leporine creatures / Pirates in old slang / Like some fruits and tennis players / Mopey teen's lament / Setting of Robert Graves memoir Goodbye to All That in brief

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Constructor: Peter Wentz

Relative difficulty: Extremely Challenging

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: farrow (12D: Home for a farrow = STY) —
litter of pigs.
v. far·rowedfar·row·ingfar·rows
To give birth to (a litter of pigs).
To produce a litter of pigs. (
• • •

It's New Year's Eve so I'm gonna try to wrap this up quickly so that I can be done by midnight, at which point ... I guess it will be Saturday. Not sure why I'm staying up, really. At any rate, I'm up, so I'm solving and writing now instead of in the morning. Solving context matters with this puzzle, or at least it really felt like it mattered, because I thought, "Oh, it's New Year's Eve, I've got the Nick & Nora Charles "Thin Man" movie marathon on, I don't want to interrupt the vibe, so I'll just bring my laptop downstairs and poke at the puzzle while I sit on the couch." And so I did that and got almost nowhere. Eventually, I got *so* nowhere that I had to stop the movie and sit up straight and really give the puzzle my attention, and while things got better, they didn't get much better. I am not kidding when I say I struggled more with this first puzzle of 2022 than I struggled with *any* puzzle in 2021. I may be in error, I may be forgetting some 2021 struggle, but I honestly don't remember feeling like I couldn't get traction *anywhere*. Every single clue seemed amped way way up, difficulty-wise. And many of the answers and clue terminology were absolutely new and baffling to me. From little things like not knowing "farrow," to medium things like having no idea who Sklyar ASTIN is, to big things like never having heard of MONKEY BREAD, I haven't felt so unwelcome in a puzzle in a long, long while. 
  • I have PAUSEd many a YouTube video but had no idea "K" performed that function
  • I had ECO-diversity before BIOdiversity
  • I thought the Red Guard was Communist, but Russian Communist, so MAO SUIT? No idea
  • I guessed the correct Jordan, but I put him on a SHOE (8D: Jordan is found on one, notably = LOGO)
  • I scraped my way to BREAD but then, even with -ONKEY in place, I had no idea and wrote in DONKEY BREAD (14D: Pastry that gets pulled apart)
  • I can't believe something as vague as SITE was clued via Fodor. Just baffling (26A: Fodor's listing)
  • I forgot what "leporine" meant (so mad at myself)
  • I never heard of SEA RATS and was not actually sure of the "T" (53A: Pirates, in old slang)
  • I wanted CLEAR DAY before CLEAR SKY (48A: Part of a forecast without clouds)
  • I thought [Singing duet?] might be INGS or GEES (since both appear twice in "Singing")
  • I have honestly never heard of a PEACE DOLLAR (45A: Coin featuring Lady Liberty and a bald eagle)
  • I love Patsy CLINE but that clue? No hope (44D: Singer with the 1962 album "Sentimentally Yours")
  • I don't know the Bartolomé guy at all (44A: Bartolomé de las ___, social reformer during Spain's colonial era = CASAS)
  • I wanted RANTS before LASTS (43D: Goes on)
  • I had TEARS AT before CLAWS AT (19D: Feverishly tries to open)
  • I don't know who Robert Graves is (do I?) (1D: Setting of the Robert Graves memoir "Goodbye to All That," in brief" = WWI)
  • I have been in the baking aisle—there are lots of "mascots" and anyway I've never seen DOUGHBOY without "Pilsbury" in front of it
  • I had "AS IF!" before "LIES!" (25A: "That's so not the case!")
  • I would've been here all day and never gotten to Oil-RICH (?) were it not for crosses
  • I have never started a Google search "WHO...?" WHO Googles in complete sentences?
  • I didn't know "CATHY" was still being published in 1998 and don't know why "snoring" should make me think "CATHY" (29A: Comic strip with the 1998 collection "I Am Woman, Hear Me Snore")
The thing is that the grid is basically fine—not one of my favorite Wentz grids, but still generally lovely. The clues just made it grueling, in a really unpleasant way. I had the bottom parts of the two long Downs in the NW ("I HATE IT HERE," "NO MORE FOR ME") and still had no idea what they were. Was it "IT HERE" or "I THERE" I was looking at? Didn't matter, as I couldn't make phrases out of either. And with -EFORME, I really struggled to come up with the NO MORE part. PLANBS is a weird plural and hard to parse ("When the truth doesn't work, try PLAN B.S.!"). There are lots of first names on daytime TV. Etc. Etc. The highlight of the puzzle for me was actually the zaniest answer in the grid: ZXCVBNM (32A: Line just before a comma) (if you don't get it, look at your keyboard). The lowlight was having to change TOUCH SCREEN (a great term that human beings actually use on a regular basis) to TOUCH SENSOR (sad tromboooooone) (17A: Smart device feature). There were so few gimmes today: SAX, CSI ... I wrote RED in with no crosses, but I wasn't at all certain (52D: Like diamonds) (think: card suit, not gemstones). Same with NEW / BLEW—put them in, but it took forever for me to feel comfortable with them, esp. since SAM'S seemed certain, which meant I was going to have an answer ending -NM, which seemed impossible ... until it wasn't (ZXCVBNM!). There were absolutely no carefree parts of this grid for me. The SW was the easiest, but only part of it. After that, the west was what fell first, then the middle and NE, and finally the E/SE, which by that point wasn't so hard since I could come at it from the west and the north. Plus, having the *front* end of the long Downs in that section, as opposed the *back* ends that I had in the W/NW, made taking them down so much easier. 

In summation, this was a bloodbath. I don't mind a bloodbath if I'm expecting a bloodbath, but frankly I no longer expect them from the NYT. The Newsday Saturday Stumper, some Fireball puzzles, some indie blog puzzles (which tend to be much more niche, much more "for my friend group," less edited for a general solver population)—*those* are ones where I brace for brutality. This one caught me off guard. But then again, if I'd just solved at my desk upstairs, with the office door shut, and no distractions, like I normally do, it's possible this puzzle would've seemed far less ferocious. But I do think it's objectively much harder than your average NYT Saturday (which, as you know, is already pretty hard). I wish this had been more fun to solve, because as I say, the grid actually looks pretty good. Ah well, Happy ZXCVBNM to all who celebrate. And best wishes for an enjoyable 2022.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jjpennyless 12:40 AM  

I complete a Saturday puzzle without giving up, googling, or checking a letter or two MAYBE one out of every five tries. There is no better feeling than doing so and then seeing "extremely challenging" at the top of Rex's review. Maybe 2022 is gonna be my year!

bocamp 1:23 AM  

Thx Peter; outstanding Sat. puz to start off the new year! :)


Tough time getting started; I think it was TEES, ARMOR, that provided a jumping off place on the West Coast, SAX, CZAR in the Rockies, and APPT, SMORE got me going in the East. Pretty much hit and miss the rest of the way.

NO MORE FOR ME facilitated success in the NW, but Slalom rACeS caused some major damage before SWITCHBACKS showed up.

Had DEA before ATF; TOUCHscreen also caused some problems in the Mid-West.

Learned Adolphe SAX from a recent puz.

ZX___NM was a mystery until the very end. lol

Very happy it all came together; I'd call this an ideal Sat. puz.

Enjoyed the challenge! :)

@puzzlehoarder / okanaganer 👍 for recent 0's

@JC66 👍 for -QB yd

Happy New Year! 🥳

yd 0

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

jae 1:38 AM  

Medium-tough. NW was last to fall as the west side was quite a bit tougher than the east.

I had some of the same problems as @Rex - gees before LALA, and ASTIN, PAUSE, and PEACE as clued were WOEs, and trying to figure out the top half of the NW long downs from the bottom half. Plus bteams before PLANBS.

My ethical question is: when you realize 32a is a keyboard clue and you are solving on line should you switch to paper?

kealoa - SERTA SEALY

Smooth, tough, and sparkly, liked it a bunch!

Joaquin 1:57 AM  

Well, I started this year off by cheating like crazy. Hope nobody noticed.

But if you did notice, cut me some slack. I'm old and I just spent a year in 2021.

Anonymous 2:50 AM  

-WOW! ! thought you were going to blow up over ZXCVBNM...
-Would have been nice to link 1D with 16A
-"I don't know who Robert Graves is (do I?)" Really???

Woody Van Dyke 2:56 AM  

Bella Spruce, Lettie Finhadden and I combined to finish this puzzle in about 30 minutes - slow for us, but not beyond the pale (horse). Thanks to Genesis (the band) for help in answering that Friday clue.

Did think for a while it would remain uncompleted. Peace Dollar took an embarrassingly long time for someone who likes that design. Nick and Nora may have used Peace Dollars to pay for their many drinks if not using folding money.

Happy New Year to all.

Brian A in SLC 3:22 AM  

I was on much the same wavelength as our fearless leader; hit a bunch of the same roadblocks. Still, I muddled almost the whole way through just fine; knowing Peace Dollar was a nice leg up.

But I took an impatient DNF in the NW corner. When "voice" and "noise" didn't cut the smart device sensor clue, I'd had my fill, hit "check puzzle." Maybe if I'd known the Robert Graves thing ....

Frantic Sloth 3:50 AM  

Geez, Louise! Another Saturdee, another twice my average solve time.
Hang on while I check if any extremities are missing...

That 32A (ZXCVBNM) is a stroke of genius, but since I'm doing this online, I feel that having a keyboard right there in front of me was a cheat too tempting to ignore. So I didn't.
I feel so cheap.

Never heard of a PEACE DOLLAR, but I've led a sheltered life. Also had a really hard time nailing down I HATE IT HERE and NO MORE FOR ME, since it seemed to me those could have been anything. "Mopey teen's lament"?? Limitless possibilities, no?

I'm just lucky enough to have made it out alive with just that one teeny tiny cheatlet.
Still haven't decided whether I enjoyed any of this, but I am amazed and extremely proud that I was able to finish.

Haven't read Rex yet, but did notice his "Extremely Challenging" rating which makes me feel somewhat better.


Lewis 5:34 AM  

My ten favorite clues from 2021
(in order of appearance):

Pop up a lot, perhaps? (3)(3)
Places to bear witness (4)
Quite a job, you have to admit? (7)
A little snowy, perhaps? (5)
Light brown seals (5)
Ford vehicle, familiarly (4)
It might have desks and drawers (3)(4)
Game of checkers? (5)
Animal that’s also a plant? (4)
Challenge while sitting (4)

NEW DAD (Erik Agard)
ZOOS (Kameron Austin Collins)
DOORMAN (Sam Exersky)
OWLET (Joe Deeney)
CORKS (Robyn Weintraub)
INDY (Sophia Maymudes and Kyra Wilson)
ART ROOM (Matthew Stock)
CHESS (Nam Jin Yoon)
MOLE (Jules Markey)
BRAT (Claire Rimkus)

Conrad 5:49 AM  

Challenging for a Saturday, not extremely. Only 1-1/2 cheats: used Wikipedia for WWI at 1D and sneaked a peek at my keyboard for 32A. Happily, this satisfies my New Year's resolution to exercise more.

Dale Gribble 6:12 AM  

I am six hours ahead in Europe and did the puzzle at noon my time. I didn't drink that much last night, but as I was doing this puzzle I was wondering "Did I drink more than I thought I did? Am I hungover? Did someone slip me a Mickey? Why does this puzzle seem impossible? Why is my brain empty? Should I go to the hospital?" Glad I wasn't alone.

mambridge 6:35 AM  

So happy to see "extremely challenging" -- I finished 2 minutes under my Saturday average. And didn't google a thing! 2022 I have you beat.

Zed 6:37 AM  

Everything I didn’t know about the PEACE DOLLAR. Including that a DOLLAR costs $85. Inflation, I GUESS.

SMORE was easy. I got the east coast Saturday easily from there and had ASHRAMS “helping” me in that NE corner. Winced at CLEAR SKY because it’s always CLEAR SKies in my forecasts. The rest of that SW corner wasn’t too bad, despite SEA dogS messing me up. Oh, CATHY was also easy. It didn’t help me at all, but it was one of my first entries. Otherwise what Rex said, just piecemeal solving everywhere else.

Never read any WWI memoirs, so the Graves clue was worthless to me. I looked him up post solve and see why the name tickles as familiar, but I’ve never read anything by him. My first guess there was “nam” so at least I got the “it’s probably a war memoir” part right.

@jjpennyless - Congratulations.

@jae - Wrote in SE and waited. Eventually TO SPARE resolved the kealoa.

@Anoa Bob & @JD late - I think the general consensus is that trivia is less interesting than word play so Shortz > Maleska in terms of crosswords. That doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions to the consensus, but it doesn’t take long on Crossword Twitter, say, to see that “Maleskan” is a criticism. As for cherry-picking- I was looking at that answer because of the question posed, so it was a random selection, but it epitomizes the difference in cluing between Shortz and his predecessors. I will criticize Shortz for lots of things, but his focus on wordplay over trivia is to be applauded.

JOHN X 6:45 AM  

This puzzle was pretty easy! I guess I just know a lot of things about a lot of stuff, including numismatics.

Here's an extraordinary photo of some of my silver coins

These coins sit on my desk in my command center. The first two are 1922 Peace Dollars, heads and tails; then a 1980's era $25 chip from Binions casino in Vegas; then a Morgan silver dollar; and finally an Eisenhower copper/nickel dollar. The silvers are circulated and not collectible, but they're worth their "melt value" in silver, so currently about $23 each. The Binion chip is worth $25 I don't know. Poor Ike is still only worth a buck, and he looks like a sci-fi villain with death-ray eyes. However, the reverse has the Liberty Bell and the surface of the Moon. All U.S. dollar coins should have an eagle landing on the Moon to remind the world that we own the Moon.

These are fun coins that I like having around. I got some good stuff in my safe deposit box.

A little more silver dollar lore: U.S Mint dollars were in widest circulation in the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. They were most popular out West where paper scrip was widely distrusted and precious metal specie was the preferred cash. In the east, banks would keep silver dollars vaulted until Christmas time, when parents would buy them to put in children's stockings. In January, all the silver dollars would come back to the banks through retailer deposits as the children spent their money, and the banks would vault them again for the next Christmas.

Also, the Morgan Dollar is named for the designer not the banker, and "Lady Liberty" on the Peace Dollar is that designer's young Italian wife.

The modern $1 coins are slightly bigger than a quarter and are about the dumbest things ever.

The U.S. Mint resumed minting the Morgan and Peace silver dollars in 2021 and 200,000 Peace Dollars sold out in 30 minutes at $85 each.

Lewis 7:02 AM  

Whew! Trying to tell us, Will, that in the year ahead we’re going to have to be alert and involved, and we’re going to have to perservere? This puzzle was no walk in the colonnade, at least for me. I had to fight for every inch.

Oh, it’s beautiful. Look ma, no dreck! Look at those gorgeous gorgeous vertical stacks, that is, see their without-exception colorful answers. Plus vague clues that the mind has to CLAW AT, and witty ones that beget ahas and smiles, like those for ERAS, TEA, and, of course ZXCVBNM, a clue/answer that will go on my short list of banner moments in my puzzledom life. It will not be forgotten.

When I see Peter’s name on top of a puzzle, I have to cloister – shut the door and banish non-puzzle-related thoughts. At several points, just one answer brought a blessed splat of others, but to get that one answer required an alternation of brain scouring and leaving the brain be to work on its own.

Nothing but beauty and excellence in this one, and may its uber-high quality auger an upward turn in the year ahead. Thank you for this gem, Peter!

SouthsideJohnny 7:38 AM  

I like Rex’s answers (INGS or GEES) for “Singing duet” better than the actual answer (LALA), and I totally missed the clue for REDS - I wonder how frequently that cluing convention is used, as in retrospect it seems so obvious.

I admire the way Shortz pays attention to the small details - even though we have a tough Saturday puzzle to start the new year, Will is still going to ensure that we have to cross a CASAS with a CLINE to get to the finish line - nice touch, he really has perfected his craft.

I do think they copped out to some extent in the center - if you are going showcase your made up word right at the centerpiece of your puzzle - go all out and own it ! ! ! Don’t cop out and try to blame it on a keypad or a typewriter ! Just throw something at the wall and leave it at that (we know you are going to do it again at least 300 times in 2022 - so go big or go home !).

Son Volt 7:41 AM  

Yep - I think Stan would have approved of this one - although normally we don’t see such a small word count grid in a stumper. It seemed like every clue was worked on and tweaked just enough - starting with 1a. Liked all of the long downs especially SWITCHBACKS. When my kids were younger my wife would make her version of MONKEY BREAD - apt cross with DOUGH BOY.

Actually knew Graves from I, Claudius and remembered his background. PEACE DOLLAR was completely new to me but the center stack and the SE corner let me back into it. Not a huge fan of the letter string at 32a - or the PLAN B plural. Other than those - this was squeaky clean.

My dad was a huge Patsy CLINE fan - I still have all of his vinyl. Not one of my favorites - Sentimentally Yours is not one I would have clued for her.

Enjoyable Saturday solve.

Anonymous 8:04 AM  

I agree with jjpennyless: I did this in 35 minutes while watching a soccer match on TV. Anything under 30 for Saturday is pretty good for me; so 35 while less-than-100% focused is good. Then Rex says "Extremely challenging". Well, ALL RIGHT!

TPrez 8:09 AM  

I never attempt a Saturday on Friday night, but I was bored and trying to make it to midnight (I failed there), but I succeeded here! One of my fastest Saturday times actually (which isn’t very fast, admittedly, at 37m), but I loved this puzzle! What a banger kick off to a new year…

hanDle 8:18 AM  

For a while I had “First person?” as SINNER, thinking, “well, Adam was considered a sinner,” and the memoir must have been set in SWItzerland.

John H 8:33 AM  

I should have cheated. I has no idea that so many do. NW was a complete loss for me. I thought I had a breakthrough when I got "monkey bread" off "Mao suit" (no, rex, the Red Guard was Chinese, not Russian) but no. I don't think of Whoopi as part of day time tv because I never watch it. Even with "epics" in place the NW was a total loss for me. Next time I will cheat. Now on to the acrostic, which I normally claim as a reward for finishing the Saturday. So today it's a consolation prize.

Oh, yes, I thought "ZXCVBNM" was wonderful.

Unknown 8:35 AM  

An unpleasant barrage of proper names. Peace dollar? Daytime TV? WTF? Who has time for that drivel? Yuck! A bad start to 2022, which looks like it's going to be a bad year: pi, rho, sigma, etc.

flowerchildska 8:38 AM  

Being from Minnesota/Iowa helped...I knew that pigs "farrow" and "monkey bread" is definitely something one brings to a "potluck" aka "covered dish" meal. And, for some reason, I remembered the Death Valley reference. Getting those two side-by-side long verticals helped. Good start to 2022. (Though you gotta wonder if Betty White said, "Not gonna happen" to 2022, should we be worried?)

Rube 8:40 AM  

Excellent. More like this.

Megafrim 8:45 AM  

Does anyone else here torture themselves with obsessive personal solving rules? Under no circumstances do I allow myself to derive an answer from any source other than my own head. So when I realized what was going on with ZXCVBNM I made myself enter the letters without looking down at the keyboard. But even so, I was using a tactile rather than a purely cerebral method. I keep asking myself: DID I CHEAT?

Trey 8:51 AM  

Wow - the kind of sweat-inducing end of the week challenge I enjoy. Loved the keyboard clue. I knew what it was immediately and thought “if I could only remember the layout of a keyboard.” 15 minutes later I look down and viola, there it is in my hands. Biggest errors were sunshine before CLEAR SKY and ings before LALA

Anonymous 8:52 AM  

Thanks Lewis. Always enjoy your picks.

Dr.Cooper 9:06 AM  

Is it fair for me to feel proud of finishing this puzzle with no cheats and 26 seconds below my Saturday average if I had no idea what the middle row of characters meant? I kept bouncing off that mess and looking elsewhere until I decided to let the chips fall where they may and press onward. I knew I could count on Rex to sort it out eventually. That’s why we pay him the big bucks! On a side note, I wonder if solvers with hangovers found this puzzle to be a pleasant distraction from illness or a reason to pick up the bottle again? At any rate, we have already handled a big challenge in the new year. We’re ready for ya, 2022!

amyyanni 9:06 AM  

Pshew! What a workout! Guess 2022 means business. OK, let's go...erm, as soon as I get a 2nd cup of coffee. At least I'm feeling better than Anderson this morning, I am guessing. Happy New Year everyone.

Ted 9:14 AM  

Blood: everywhere.

Just... brutal.

I knew several things and correctly guessed others, and then slammed into a wall.

ZXCVBNM was utterly mind bending. I had NO idea what this answer was, even when I eventually got it purely from crosses. I abandoned reason and decided I would have to come here and find out what the HELL I just typed. QWERTY? We all know that! ASDF... totally would have been gettable! But that BOTTOM row? I'm a touch typer, many of us are touch typers... we do not look at those letters, our fingers just know where they are.

Wanted TUNISIA for Tatooine, since a lot of Tatooine was filmed there very famously.

Teedmn 9:17 AM  

It isn’t often that growing up in a rural small town helps in a crossword puzzle. I thought of DOUGHBOY right away for 16A. To confirm, I checked 12D. A few seconds later I entered STY. I wonder if KBEW radio in Blue Earth, MN still airs the stock reports with the daily prices of grains and animals, including farrows and gilts.

On the other hand, NEW crossing BLEW and HARES were the only other entries I had in place for many, many minutes. And I'm ashamed of how long I considered “leporine” to refer to leopards, geez, what a dope.

I wanted CATHY for 29A and CZAR for 29D but that 32A was just getting weirder and weirder. I think I had VBNM in place before I figured out what was going on. So with Z_CVBNM in place, I air typed “the quick brown foX” to figure out that last letter since I wasn’t near a keyboard and might, might, have been able to resist looking if I had had one (probably not).

Yes, I had INGS in at 43A for far too long, along with Rex's ecO for 11D.

What I'm saying is yes, this was very challenging for me and I adored it. Thanks, Peter Wentz, for starting the new year off right. And Happy New Year to all here.

kitshef 9:24 AM  

Very hard, but not in a good way. Worst puzzle of the year so far.

If you know me at all, you know I hate more than anything else colloquial equivalency clues. See 3D, 4D, 25A, 55A and 41A.

I know I have enjoyed Peter Wentz’s puzzles in the past, so I hope this is just an aberration.

Excellent clue for RED.

Had to look up MONKEY BREAD after the fact. Neither the term nor the bread looks familiar.

MaxxPuzz 9:25 AM  

Wow, a true Saturday killer! But got it all with no cheats. SITE/SAX and CATHY were starting toeholds with little else to go on at first. A great start to the puzzling year!

pabloinnh 9:26 AM  

Same problems as most people, but finished without any cheats, so hot damn.

Some day I'll become familiar with "smart devices" and find out about things like TOUCHSENSORS, but alas, that day has not yet arrived.

Was considering SINNER for "first person". I blame Sunday school for that one.

OTOH, I knew CASAS and since I solve on paper, could have opened my laptop to check the keyboard, which I did not. even though I saw what was going on. Points for virtue there.

I found this harder than the recent runs of Saturday Stumpers, and thoroughly enjoyed such difficulty. Thanks for a real challenge, PW. I was Painfully Wincing through much of this but it made completion that much more rewarding.

CF 9:28 AM  

That took me 38 minutes (my Saturday average is 17) and when I finished I said "holy crap either I'm really hung over or that was the hardest crossword ever!" I think maybe both! I thought for sure I was hallucinating as I watched ZXCVBNM emerge smack in the middle of the grid. Great one to start the year!

Joel Palmer 9:34 AM  

This one kicked my ass

Blue Stater 9:36 AM  

Made all the mistakes OFL made, and more besides. This was a cruelly difficult puzzle, but not artificially toughened up with errors of fact and language in the usual WS manner. Of course this has no place in a general-circulation newspaper, but what else is new?

kitshef 9:37 AM  

On Shortz versus Maleska, to me the main difference is that variety Shortz brings to the cluing.

For example, here are the last five OREO clues from Shortz:
Name for a Dalmatian, perhaps
___ Os (Post cereal)
Cookie whose packaging shows a splash of milk
Treat with a 71%-to-29% cookie-to-cream ratio
Ingredient in a McDonald's McFlurry

In contrast, here are the last five from Maleska:
Mountain: Comb. form
Mountain: Comb. form
Mountain: Comb. form
Mountain: Comb. form
Mountain: Comb. form

Maleska used OREO 35 times, and 30 of those used that identical clue.

DrBB 9:45 AM  

Really tough solve for me, too. Had a lot of guesses but SO hard to get cross-confirmation on any of them. Penultimate low point for me: SITES. Just so so soooo generic. Why bother with "Fodor" if the answer is going to be completely non-specific to travel guides? I guessed SITES, but couldn't trust it for being so lame. Hate clues like that. Absolute nadir: ok, I had to google "keyboard shortcuts." I actually had enough crosses to have tried PAUSE but by then I was too flummoxed to trust the fill I had. Funny how a puzzle can throw you off psychologically like that, something I've noticed many times.

But seriously, as a PhD medievalist myself, I gotta say Rex sometimes astonishes me. We all have holes in our knowledge, but never heard of Robert Graves??? As in not just I Claudius of course but Graves' Greek Myths, as in the War Poets (hence WWI), as in friends with Wilfred Own, Siegfried Sassoon--you've heard of them, right Rex? RIGHT???? Cuz in your generals or orals this would have resulted in a really painful and awkward silence in the exam room, at least where I went. Yow.

DrBB 9:50 AM  

"Mopey teen's lament"--anyone else have I HATE MY LIFE? as a first attempt? Reminded me of an old SNL routine, can't remember which female comedian, but in a serious-seeming moment she shared a poem from her adolescence:

You are the river
I am the sea
You flow to me...
[long pause]

Steve Clancy 9:51 AM  

Although a few scenes set on Tatooine were filmed in Death Valley in the United States, the majority of desert scenes in the original Star Wars were filmed in Tunisia, with subsequent films in the series also returning to shoot footage in the country.

Joe Welling 9:53 AM  

I don't like either PLAN BS or PLANS B, because Plan B is backed up by Plan C.

DrBB 9:55 AM  

Still on Graves: worth noting his significance in the history of homosexuality in 20th C letters, which I would have thought would certainly put him on Rex's radar screen.

Anne 10:07 AM  

I'm pretty sure you'd find the Pillsbury DOUGHBOY in the refrigerator case, not the baking aisle. Still, this puzzle was a nice start to the new year.

JD 10:15 AM  

I'd thank Nancy Reagan for Monkey Bread (some dubious claim that she could actually bake). To suggest that might Plans B might be more appropriate,
and that if you have more than Plan B, you're on to Plan C, etc. (another dubious claim, I Know). To look at a Clear Sky and know the Potato Salad won't go to waste. And to admit that even though I had WWI, I couldn't get myself to Whoopi or Winner or Sensor.

Best to all on this new year!

mathgent 10:18 AM  

Despite the many reports to the contrary, the old man hasn't lost it yet. I solved it clean.

But it took me way past my bedtime.

My wife and I play gin rummy all the time but I couldn't understand why diamonds are red until I read Rex. I looked it up and learned that there are some very rare red diamond gemstones.

I'm a big NBA fan but "Jordan" didn't bring the great Michael to mind. I was thinking of some kind of map. In NBA circles, The Logo is the nickname of Jerry West. He's on the NBA logo.

I love all kinds of bread but I don't know MONKEYBREAD. I don't think we have it out here even though we have many prize-winning bakeries. Is it a Midwest thing?

What a great crossword. Peter Wentz is a master.

Carola 10:19 AM  

Tough, and fun to grapple with. Starting out, I was pretty sure of WWI for 1D, but the rest of the NW just got a blank stare. My first cross was MAO SUIT x MONKEY BREAD, giving me plenty of crossing opportunities through the central diagonal, while ASHRAMS opened my way to the right side. Three-quarters done, I then had to CLAW my way up the left side from the SERTA mattress into the white space above. Correcting WHy to WHO allowed me to see NO MORE FOR ME and get the rest. Last in: RICH x TOUCH SENSOR. Favorite moment: SMORE.

@Teedmn 9:97 - Your mentioning stock reports on the radio reminded me of my tearing my hair years ago over Wisconsin Public Radio's decision to cancel a Saturday Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde that I was dying to hear, because its longer-than-usual length conflicted with the ag report.

Happy New Year to all!

Zed 10:33 AM  

@DrBB - I took Rex’s (do I?) as a perfect reflection of my thought process. That is, “that name rings a bell but I don’t know why.” I still don’t know why, but probably from I, Claudius. I suspect someone has plugged the whole in his memory already.

@kitshef 9:37 - Yep. I think that’s a perfect example of why people criticize Maleska. We still have similar things appearing, that is answers that are automatic for experienced solvers just because they are experienced solvers. I always feel a twinge of guilt at being quicker not because I I know more but just because I’ve seen Uta Hagen in crosswords before.

@Anne - I thought the same thing.

Usually when we see wheelhouse/outhouse posts PPP is to blame. It’s actually pretty typical today, and some seeming PPP isn’t actually (unless you think knowing what IAMBS are is pop culture).

Nancy 10:35 AM  

I never, never, never, never, never want to see ZXCVBNM in another puzzle ever again! Never, never, never, never, never! Got that? Thank you.

More suffering today than I normally put up with before throwing the puzzle against the wall. It was unsolvable, of course. But after taking a lightyear to finally slog my way successfully up and down the East Coast -- with slight forays into the center -- I wondered if one simple 5-letter cheat would spring the puzzle open for me.

I doubted it, but I looked up CATHY anyway. (I had the "A" and was wondering if the comic strip was nAncY.)

And yes -- CATHY got me CZAR which got me ARMOR which got me SERTA and back up the West Coast I went. One measly cheat and I actually conquered this bear. But I'm also ready to climb back into bed right now.

I did have some big "Aha!"s when WINNER and IAMBIC came in. I'd been trying to squeeze "monologue" into the place where IAMBIC went. And the "M" of monologue would have given me NAM -- which is what I initially wanted instead of WWI at 1D. Challenging, indeed -- but much too hard for me to find it especially enjoyable.

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

I've been binge watching old Great British Bake Off shows before they disappeared from Netflix yesterday. They call breads such as MONKEYBREAD tear and shares on the show. Although I have lived in London several times, that was new to me.

32A's seemingly random letters made me question what was going on. I had the Z, X,C, N, and M in place, and knew those were correct, but the mishmash of high-valued Scrabble tiles stymied me for a while.

I happened to glance at my keyboard, and then I realized what was going on.

That, coupled with the same SENSOR/SCREEN error made for tough going for a while. I still managed to finish about 1:30 under my average, but it felt a lot slower than that.

RooMonster 10:38 AM  

Hey All !
WHOO(pi) BOY! Toughie, here. But didn't start cheating immediately, waited until I couldn't take the "endless rereading of clues with getting absolutely nowhere" feelings set in. First was HARES, as Leporine sound Lion-ish to me, plus I had 18D ending with trACKS. Second was ASTIN (I think of the female stars of that movie before the male stars), never would've gotten that! But after those two, was able to suss out the rest and finish. But wait! No Happy Music! Like others, had vOiCeSENSOR in, regardless that the Downs became IHAvEITHERE, NOBiTS, RICe. And that was after I had RICH written in! Oil-RICe? Why not? NO BiTS? No excuses! (Har!) I HAvE IT HERE? Missing the "had" for a lament. Ah well, can't start every year off gangbustery.

Thought Rex would lose his mind about ZXCVBNM, but he ended up liking it! The Wonders of Rex. I admit glancing down to get the X. 😁 (It was neat to just type that out, ZXCVBNM. ZXCVBNM. Har.)

My mom used to make MONKEY BREAD when I was a young-un. Good stuff. You could almost eat the whole thing, as each piece was small and delicious!

Nice misdirect at WHO. Wrote in WWW first. ADD could've also been SAY. TEA could've been EYE. Wanted NANCY first for CATHY. (Isn't Nancy a comic?) I don't think I had any more writeovers. Weird.

No WINNER for me today. But the puz was a WINNER. Made it through the silly year that was 2021. The Langoliers can't eat that last bit soon enough. Gonna echo @bocamp on his PEACE for the upcoming NEW year. Go 2022! CLEAR SKYs all the way, let's hope. And NO BUTTS! 😂

yd -3, should'ves 2


CDilly52 10:40 AM  

WHEW!!!! Thought I would never get the NW corner to fall! Actually, this was a tale of the East vs West halves. I could not get a toe hold anywhere on the e tire W side for the longest time.

I suspected PLAN BS, but was a big chicken to plop it in. Then MAO SUIT was obvious (probably because I am old) and then the e tire E column practically filled itself in. Made it easy to suss out ASTIN (never saw any if that movie franchise but I did know Anna Kendrick from the other day) and CASAS (whom I had come across in a European history class but forgot).

But then I had to do the rest if the puzzle. Center section came next because I got WAKE, CATHY (love her!) HARES, BLEW, LALA and I GUESS. That pretty much got everything except the keyboard clue - tricksy Hobbitses as Gollum would say! That was one tough but Saturday-clever clue.

And the keyboard clue was the beginning if my struggle to finish this one. The three NW answers: WIN ER, WHOOPI and IAMBIC were the very last to fall even though I had WWI at 1D immediately. That book made a huge impression on my college age self when I read it in college.

Wanted DEA i stead of ATF and I had no idea what Ice Breakers were until the downs - at long last - revealed the answer.

Thanks fir a wonderful Saturday struggle, Mr. Wentz! I’m exhausted.

Anonymous 10:40 AM  

Twice my usual Saturday time and an unprecedented four trips to Google. Feeling bloody and bruised.

RJPinVA 10:43 AM  

Twice my average. AND got so stuck in the NW because I was positive that 1D was “NYC” because of THIS

Took a long time to get out of those brambles.

JD 10:44 AM  

@Z, re. Maleska. Understood. Just from my own experience, I feel differently.

Mr. Benson 10:54 AM  

Agree with Rex today. This was difficult to the point of having the fun drained out of it. I had a technical DNF because I googled some things — whoever that Sklyar person is (there are more famous ASTINs!), what a “camporee” is (and then of course I had Scout as my answer for some time), what that coin is. Also, since when is a string of letters on a keyboard a valid crossword entry (other than qwerty, which has been used as the name of this type of keyboard)? And I also agree that “PLANBS” is inferior to “PLANS B,” though both are bad.

bocamp 10:57 AM  

@Megafrim (8:45 AM)

Pretty much the same approach for me. I already had ZX---NM, so, without looking at the keyboard, I made the motions with my fingers, then entered the missing letters once I mentally confirmed I had the right idea. I had to chuckle that it took me so long (even with the four letters I had in place) to twig on the idea of the computer keyboard, as opposed to something written before a comma, lol.

To answer your question: since you didn't look at the keyboard, I wouldn't call it a foul. You already had the right idea and it had to be typed in, so tactile's got to come in at some point. :)

@Teedmn (9:17 AM)

Had the same idea re: DOUGHBOY and checking 12D to confirm; great minds, lol. That made the NE much easier than it would have been otherwise.
td pg -8 (timed out; this one seems a perfect complement, toughness-wise, to today's xword)

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Jack Azout 10:59 AM  

Rex, I am absolutely sure that, as you surmise, had you solved this puzzle with no distractions you would have found it less challenging. I can't imagine trying to solve a Saturday puzzle while watching a movie! Anyway, I'll take the opportunity to thank you for all the joy your posts brought me in 2021. All the best for 2022!

Chris 10:59 AM  

Slammed in MAOCAPS and MONKEYBREAD (a no brainer for me, for some reason) to start and then wrestled it to the ground from there, correcting my MAO error towards the end.
Ended up just slightly faster than my normal Saturday. Nice puzzle.

puzzlehoarder 11:00 AM  

A great Saturday challenge and an excellent start to the New Year.

If I had to GUESS at my Saturday average it would be half an hour. This one took me 47 minutes so challenging but not too bad.

I had no hope of starting in the NW but the NE and the three long downs on the center we're user friendly. I only learned QWERTY a few years ago. My lack of familiarity with the keyboard made CZAR and SAMS into road blocks.

I'm not familiar with the PEACEDOLLAR. I expected 43A to be fALA.
LEG and I GUESS sat forlornly in the SW. To get the west going I had to put in TEES, ARMOR and SERTA then go up and down from there. Backfilling the NW I had a GAMBIT/IAMBIC write over.

Just yesterday I saw a blurb about June being Pride Month. This gave me 23 D which completely opened the east side of the puzzle.

I didn't get the clue for RED until after I'd finished. Happy New Year's Day to all.

Miriam 11:02 AM  

I filled in the "Bartolomé guy" first. He was an interesting and important person who advocated for Native American people during the early Spanish conquest/Inquisition period. He is really worth learning about.

The Vez 11:04 AM  

I knew I had the clues Sax and czar and said the beginning of a word zx was impossible. Then it dawned on me. This puzzle was tough but once I got a foothold it progressed fairly rapidly. Surprised Rex had it extremely challenging, I would have called it challenging. But it made me feel good that I completed it knowing how hard it must have been for Rex!

mmorgan 11:11 AM  

Wow, that was hard! I was delighted beyond belief — and more than a little surprised — when I heard the happy tune from Across Lite on my iPad. Wow.

Anonymous 11:12 AM  

This was a struggle until I got to SWITCHBACK. It gave me traction and made me thirsty. Switchback Pale Ale (brewed in VT) is a favorite of mine. If you ever get the chance, try it out.

Happy New Year!

Nancy 11:22 AM  

I also wanted either INGS or GEES where LALA ended up. But I didn't write either in because I couldn't confirm either one with even a single crossing letter.

@Lewis -- Would you believe that I got only three out of ten (#1; #4; and #10) of your *best clues of the year* recap? Proving that when you have a memory like mine, everything old is new again. (And during a pandemic, that does have its advantages.)

GILL I. 11:26 AM  

Why was the DOUGH BOY actor looking so unhappy? Because he lost out on a juicy MONKEY BREAD roll.
(feel free to never read me again)....
When I enter a Saturday puzzle, the first words I get sets the tone for me. I will either love the puzzle or I won't....Today I had enough smiles, aha's and "oooooh, I know that one", that I enjoyed it....I won't put the "LOVE" word in, but it was a close cigar.
WINNER WHOOPI set my IAMBIC bar high...she does that. If you haven't seen her in "Ghost" or "The Color Purple" then I feel sad for just might make 2022 a better year.
But did you have trouble with this one? you ask. Why yes....I did. I'm not a Saturday Mensa like some of you are, but when I get most of it done, I will do the fandango tango. Today, I had to look at my MacBook Air to learn that Mr. ZXCVBNM did some bodacious flirting with Ms. Comma. She snubbed her nose at him, though, and moved on to her favorite DEATH VALLEY SITE. She enjoyed that place a lot more. It was delightful to see her eating some POTATO SALAD and sipping her TEA. Her biggest disappointment was losing her PEACE DOLLAR to a bunch of SEA RATS. But....alls well that ends well.
I always love a Peter Wentz. When I see his name, for some reason I want to stand on top of a table and sing some Good King Wenceslas on the feast of Stephen.
Now back to watching the Rose Parade...a tradition in this family.

wrollinson 11:28 AM  

Came to post Wilco's "Hate It Here"


Joseph Michael 11:32 AM  

I nominate this for Best NYT Crossword Puzzle of the Year.

Man, this was hard until finally it wasn’t. Biggest resistance came from that NW corner, partly because I started with “Enough” FOR ME and OIL “lamp.” Had no idea who that daytime talker could be or how to handle the Shakespeare quote when “inner monologue” just wouldn’t fit. Then suddenly all became known in a very satisfying way.

Loved ZXCVBNM once I finally figured it out. Looks like something a comic book character would say when swearing.

Also loved I HATE IT HERE as well as @DrBB’s poem from SNL.
What the sated Boy Scout said at the camporee: “NO SMORE FOR ME.”

B. Blessed 11:34 AM  

Is there anyone in Rome who has not slept with my daughter?

If you caught the brilliant BBC production "I, Claudius" via PBS Masterpiece Theatre in 1978 (featuring, among many others, Derek Jacobi, John Hurt and Patrick Stewart), you surely know Robert Graves, whose two historical novels "I' Claudius" and "Claudius the God" were adapted for the television series.

BTW, don't eat the figs...

Tom T 11:35 AM  

Very pleased to succeed in this solve with happy music with the last letter entered (which happened to be the P in PAUSE, 10D). I found it very difficult and, like Rex, had various wrong guesses in the NE until I finally got it done.

My favorite Hidden Diagonal Word today intersects with NUB (Central point, 10D). The Diagonal not only rhymes with NUB, but could be clued with the exact same clue:

Central point: HUB

Happy New Year to all!

Newboy 11:39 AM  

Yowzer and then some. Rex nailed our solving today as a tag team, thinking out loud duo. And we were able to finish in under two hours which on a Peter Wentz Saturday makes this household a WINNER in the ZXCVBNM lottery! We usually solve solo and in absolute silence, but today…..just Yowzer. Only Brian Thomas’s Puzzles That Need A Home grids are so astern of our respective wheelhouses to require such a handholding, eraser sharing approach.

What a way to kickstart the 2022 Crossworld Tour. I GUESS I’d say , “SMORE please!” Back up top to see @Lewis, et al (betting that 32A clue makes his list) and search for @LMS whose return is eagerly awaited.

kitshef 11:42 AM  

I've been working my way through 1994 in the puzzle archives, and about two weeks ago solves a puzzle that had not only ZXCVBNM, but also ASDFGHJKL and QWERTYUIOP in it.

I see it also appeared in 2007. Based on this, we can expect the next appearance to come in the late 2030s.

Nick 11:42 AM  

Finished on paper with no idea what the central answer meant! And I still don't get why "like diamonds" is RED.... Had SnaketrACKS for a long time which didn't help! But a good workout for me...

Whatsername 11:57 AM  

Good grief! Upon my first WAKE this morning I felt at PEACE - not really like a WINNER but relatively normal. After doing this puzzle my entire brain feels UNMADE. As if things weren’t bad enough to begin with, I totally BLEW it in the west by reversing the two long downs and had POTATO SALAD/PRIDE PARADE backwards. If this had been a tournament I would’ve been SEEDED at the bottom of DEATH VALLEY.

When I saw ZXCVBNM, I thought WTF. But I have to say that it’s quite possibly the most brilliant clue I’ve ever seen.

Hardest puzzle of the year. No LIE!

Andrew R. 11:57 AM  

That list is so awesome it got me out of lurking!!

Stephen Minehart 12:00 PM  

@Nick 11:42

Playing card suits. Hearts and Diamonds are red, Spades and Clubs are black.

Solves this with my sister, who is better than Google, my normal Saturday partner.

beverly c 12:01 PM  

The thing that prevented my happy music was CsAR. I had no idea what the central letter jumble was about, and the keyboard in the NYT app doesn't include punctuation in the usual layout. Not that I thought to look - until a quick trip to google sXCVBNM led to qwerty. Still, I feel pretty good about it. I liked LALA and didn’t figure out why RED was right until I saw the explanation here. What a doof!

Occasionally those idiomatic phrases are fun, and provide big breakthroughs, but too many of them are a bit dull. I prefer wordplay when I can get it. Still, I enjoyed the challenge of this puzzle and ended up happy - once I put the Z in CZAR.

Anonymous 12:17 PM  

playing cards.

(One take) Woody Van Dyke 12:20 PM  

@B. Blessed:

Ah, yes - "I, Claudius." Caligula has undergone a metta-more-FAUX-sis.

Diane Joan 12:21 PM  

Thanks for a year of puzzle analysis Rex and bloggers! I didn't even try to analyze the "ZXCVBNM". Since I got the crosses I just went along with it, assuming it was some kind of Latin or Greek phrase I didn't recognize as my education in the classics is truly lacking. LOL And this with the keyboard right in front of me!

Happy New Year to all! and Happy Puzzling in 2022!

mathgent 12:22 PM  

My favorite comments this morning.

Lewis (5:34)
JOHN X (6:45)
Dr BB ((9:45)
Nancy (11:22)

bigsteve46 12:42 PM  

I know I'm missing something, but 27A "Assembly at a camporee" = smore?
I still don't get it.Help me, someone!

mickey Omostly 12:45 PM  

Ditto. Clad of ‘46

egsforbreakfast 1:02 PM  

We have something called MONKEY brains as part of our Christmas breakfast each year. It sounds like it’s the same dish. I think it starts with some biscuit-ish thing from the DOUGHBOY, cut up and rolled into little balls and covered with loads of sugar (yes @Z, I imagine it’s refined) and cinnamon before being baked. Whatever, I could eat about 10 pounds of it if decorum didn’t prevent it.

I felt about this puzzle kinda like Johnny Cash (as a boy named Sue) felt after having it out with Pops. “I tell ya I’ve fought tougher men, but I really can’t remember when.”

But I finished sans cheats and give it two thumbs up to start the New Year. Thanks, Peter Wentz.

Anonymous 1:02 PM  

Part of what made the NW so hard is that there are back-to-back downs of IHATEITHERE, NOMOREFORME, and NOBUTS. All are legitimate phrases, but they aren't that far from green paint, with multiple options even after you get some of the words, and having them back-to-back-to-back made it hard to get any traction in that area until you guessed what one of the complete phrases was.

sixtyni yogini 1:03 PM  

Yeah, mood and attitude affect one’s solve. I was prepared for a toughie, so enjoyed it . But if I’d been watching The Thin Man oldie, I would have got nowhere and nothing.
Good, challenging puzz.

Nick 1:03 PM  

@bigsteve46 - smores are "assembled" by making a sandwich of graham crackers with marshmallows as filling, then toasted over the campfire!

And thanks all for the RED explanations. Of course...

Debby Downer 1:05 PM  

I doubt anyone would care about my favorite clues or posts and I certainly don't care about anybody else's. Happy New Year!

Alex 1:13 PM  

yes, whew!

I lamented before reaching iambic,
'knew'Graves but wanted to place him somewhere.
first person, a sinner, right? SWI must be somewhere
well happy to let a WINNER start 2022 instead

Dave C 1:18 PM  

@bigsteve46 - building on Nick's explanation, find a YouTube clip of the S'mores assembly scene from the movie Sandlot for a wonderful visual interpretation of the clue.

Photomatte 1:22 PM  

Happy 2022!

This was a hard puzzle, especially since I solve on my iPad Mini and there's no comma on the bottom row of the keyboard; the key next to M is the key used to change over to numbers (123). Ironically, the comma does show up there now, as I'm writing this. That's weird. Wonder why the crossword software doesn't default to that.
I still don't get how 39 Across (Tanks and such) yields the answer ARMOR. Yes, tanks can be armored - we've all heard of armored tanks - but tanks themselves are not armor. Just a slight change to correct that clue would've been pretty easy.

Vote Blue in 22!

okanaganer 1:33 PM  

I found the clues particularly challenging; not as bad as Rex though. The clue for CASAS is uber Saturday hard unless you know him. Also the clue for EAU (I know a lot of French, but not hydrogen peroxide!)

UNTIDY for 54 across bogged me down.

[Spelling Bee: yd 0; I've never encountered my last word but it was guessable.]

Also yd: negative Covid test. Yay! Except whatever virus I do have is a royally unpleasant and I wish it would go away.


okanaganer 1:35 PM  

[Oops... SB yd last word forgot to put in the link.]

Scout 1:36 PM  

@Nick. You forgot the Hershey bars to go with the toasted marshmallow between the graham crackers.

Tim Aurthur 1:42 PM  

My favorite line from the TV "I, Claudius": Caligula (John Hurt) on hearing that a member of the royal court had "lost her husband": "Well, that was careless of her."

16A should have been clued in reference to 1D.

32A destroyed my life. I solve on paper so, unlike solvers with a keyboard or keypad, didn't have the answer right in front of my nose. Also, I don't think of the rows on a keyboard as "lines." They're "rows."

TJS 1:51 PM  

I had a happy flash back to my first puzzling days, sitting with my Dad and putting the "S" at the end of the probable plurals. That was nice, but I still had no actual entries. Tried "csi" and "leg" down South, and then...Zippola. Nada. Considered commenting here that "I was finished in four minutes" because "I just quit".

Then a stroke of genius. "sty" giving me "Dutchboy" and off to the races. I don't ever remember a wrong answer breaking open a puzzle for me, but it did this time. At one point I had the entire East side completed, top to bottom, and only "Whoopi" for the rest.

Anyway, a great puzzle. How the hell did Tuesday make POW with this one waiting in the weeds ?

@Dr.BB. Get used to it if you plan to stick around. A couple years ago Rex admitted only recently reading Gatsby. I still haven't got over it.

BTW, I, Claudius, both book and BBC presentation, are highly recommended. (By me.)

Deb Sweeney 1:51 PM  

Never heard of Robert Graves (SWI? OK seems legit) so I was content with "Sinner" for the "first person." Oh my. That's some sad dark Garden of Eden commentary right there. Let's pick Winner for a 2022 theme instead. I thought this was a fun puzzle. Like most Saturdays I thought man, I don't know any of these answers but it slowly unfolded itself over time.

Masked and Anonymous 2:15 PM  

Well, yeah -- pretty much harder than snot, like most SatPuzs. Wouldn't quite go all the way to @RP's "bloodbath" status, but then I suspect @RP sorta had other things on his mind, plus maybe some hard liquor in his head. har

The puzgrid is actually nice and smooothly filled. Only stickin points were ASTIN, CASAS, and of course ZXCVBNM. The real nanosecond gobblers were some feisty cluins. Picks of the litter …

* {Line just before a comma} = ZXCVBNM. Keyboard trivia.
* {Leporine creatures} = HARES. Leppin lizards! … who knew?
* {Setting of the Robert Graves memoir "Good-bye to All That", in brief} = WWI. This clue boldly informs U that there will be no gimme entry into the NW puzzone today.
* {Jordan is on one, notably} = LOGO. Queen Noor Airlines, probably.
* { ___ oxygenee (hydrogen peroxide: Fr.} = EAU. Pronounced "oww". French chemistry trivia.

Also did want TOUCHSCREEN, before TOUCHSENSOR. But them there ASHRAMS soon straightened that sensorless move out, yieldin one of them near-immediate SWITCHBACKS.

staff weeject picks: ATF & WHO. Thanx to these two lil pups, M&A was able to finally get "in" the puzgrid somewhere. Then the A-W letter combo got m&e CLAWSAT. And off I went, not stoppin until gettin to RED.

Always superb, to start the new year off right, with some extraquisite Jaws of Themelessness. And some MONKEYBREAD, of course.

Thanx for our first new year's bash, Mr Wentz dude. Real good work.

Masked & Anonymo5Us

p.s. PLANBS. har Always cool to start the year off with a little planned B.S., too boot.

[IOU one runt.]

DigitalDan 2:21 PM  

Agree on the difficulty, which is why I preen with pride for not HTG or anything.
Speaking of Google, I often type full "WHO/WHAT/WHY" queries at Google, only to be reminded that the main purpose is to find stuff to buy, and that after all these years there is virtually no true natural language understanding built into these search engines. a "Who" question should never yield a product or vendor as a result.

Had LIAR for LIES, and other such almosts that slowed me up.
As almost always, the downs were the salvation, the acrosses near impossible.

Blackbird 2:31 PM  

Really challenging. Got Doughboy, iambic, and smore immediately. So what. I read a great deal of Robert Graves, but not his memoir, so WWI was not a gimme. Rex says he didn't know who Robert Graves is, but I bet he would recognize the TV show "I Claudius", if not the Robert Graves book! He also published a scholarly compilation of Greek myths. So, a rough start for crosswords 2022! At least, mercifully, it wasn't chock full of sports clues, or contemporary pop culture clues. Eventually, I turned to Google, and then, in desperation, to Rex.

burtonkd 2:35 PM  

Happy New Year Rexblogworld! I thought it was my going to bed at 2:00am, but this was tough - I turned on autocorrect and hacked my way through and told myself I could have done it without that eventually. No googles, at least:)

JD 2:42 PM  

@Debby Downer, Just curious. why are you here?

Unknown 3:06 PM  

Thanks for your reference to the SB abbreviations yesterday. I'm coming out the lurking closet if I can figure out how to do it. Fyi I'm always a g on my own but 95% of the time a QB with hints etc. Obsessed with it!

Kath320 3:22 PM  

Yes - "Plans B", "attorneys general", "mothers-in-law", etc...

Schuly 3:25 PM  

SWI and Sinner, rather than WWI and Winner.

Aelurus 3:33 PM  

I was so sure Rex would say this was super easy and was so gratified when he rated it extremely challenging and so sad I didn’t remember that I too wanted to watch the Thin Man marathon and missed it completely, forgetting to set the DVR. But I did see the ball drop and Anderson Cooper pack away several shots with someone called Andy.

It’s still rare for me to reliably finish a Saturday but after an hour of struggle I had looked up only five things, the last one, in the NW, a good indicator I was worn out by the puzzle and done thinking about it: I had WHOO_ _ and couldn’t come up with a single thing so gave in and Googled.

The others:
• Had _ _CVBNM and because I was sure of the downs, some synapse turned on and connected to a comma at the end of a keyboard line. I started air-typing “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” so my fingers would tell me the missing two letters, but before I could finish I’d glanced down at the keypad on the iPad and saw that a ZX made 29D a CZAR, and SAX made sense, so kATHY was corrected.

• Did know Robert Graves wrote I, Claudius but had no idea about WWI, so Googled. That helped a lot in the NW, the last area to fall. Er, except for the well-known but elusive WHOOPI.

• Had no idea what came between P_ _ _ _ and DOLLAR and now I do.

• LOGO was the fifth to fall to, um, let’s call it “research,” as I never got out of the country to the basketball player. I do think PLAN BS would be the correct plural, not like attorneys general. This just sounds tonally better to my ear: “We’ve got only one Plan A but several Plan Bs, so let’s go for it!”

Wishing everyone a serene 2022 and hoping the new year finally gives the world the end to this pandemic!

Unknown 3:50 PM  

@ Kitshef, Unlike you my thoughts are: Very hard, but in a good way. Best puzzle of the year so far. This is what Saturdays used to be like.

Had only 4 answers on my first go-around, but each time I went back something else fell into place, and lo and behold, I finished in under 35:00 which for me, is a job well done.

The stacking of SWITCHBACK, DEATHVALLEY & MONKEYBREAD was pure genius.

If I read rex's critique correctly, there was nothing in the puzzle that rex particularly disliked, but the fact that it was hard, and he wasn't expecting that. I don't think it's fair to blame the constructor for that. I thought this was a spectacular way to start the new year.

Aelurus 4:00 PM  

@Joaquin 1:57 am – LOL!

@Lewis 5:34 am – great 2021 clue wrap-up. My favorites: clues for OWLET and ART ROOM. Thanks!

@amyyanni 9:06 am – We saw the same NYE feed – I bet you’re right.

@pabloinnh 9:26 am – sINNER considered for 1A, ha! Could be.

@Whatsername 11:57 am – LOL – Yes, hardest puzzle of the year :)

And belated thanks to Rex for explaining why the answer to 52D “Like diamonds” is RED. Only had room in my brain this morning for (1) the mineral/gem and (2) baseball field.

Unknown 4:02 PM  

Plans B sounds stupid.

htpsmnoptp 4:03 PM  

NO and NO in the same puzzle and especially next to one another is a NO NO in my book

Masked and Anonymous 4:14 PM  

M&A has to briefly brag about the meal his sweet PuzEatinSpouse cooked up yesterday…

* Brie cheese on crackers horse duvers.
* Shrimp cocktails -- with champagne.
* Beef Wellington with pate & a current sauce plus asparagus & oven-baked potato discs -- with red wine.
* Skip dessert. [Too full.]
* A skosh more champagne, while watchin the ball drop into 2022.


Weren't many years in the past, with as many twos in em, as 2022 has got.
1222 was the last such; they had the Cyprus earthquake and the Hungarian Golden Bull edict, back thenabouts -- plus a 6-year old kid became King of Sweden. But as an upside bonus, they didn't have FaceBook or COVID-19 or Trump; sooo … pretty good times, on balance. Extra historic milestone: Manchin opted to switch to bein an undecided vote on most everything, beginning sometime in late 1222.



pabloinnh 4:16 PM  

Just when I dis the Saturday Stumper as getting easier, along comes today's to put me in my place. Not exactly a bloodbath, but another "extremely challenging" for those of you who like to start a new year with a little masochism.

See also today's SB. Finally got to pg, but double digits away from 0. Yikes.

bocamp 4:20 PM  

@Unknown (3:06 PM)

yw :)

If you need any help with your un-lurking, e.g., going 'Blue', creating an avatar, etc. there are lots of people here who can help. Just ask! :)
td pg -3*

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Other Davd 4:56 PM  

Oh my, get thee to a library. Don't know who one of the most prolific and well known 20th cCE English poets, classists, and novelists is? Even as a US educated person, surely you've heard of "I, Claudius?" One of his other historical novels, "King Jesus," sends US evangelicals into paroxysm of rage (well, it used to when they read); that alone should endear him to us.

Pillsbury guy's name is "Poppin' Fresh," not "Doughboy." And, of course, the answer "doughboy" was a perfect chance to reference WWI or Robert Graves again... or perhaps Siegfried Sassoon, if you like. Guards in Red Square are not to be confused with Mao's Red Guards. The Peace Dollar is quite beautiful. I have a few.

I had touchscreen and have never heard "touchsensor" as a term. Live and learn I guess. Aren't there about 2,473 daytime talk hosts? Whoopi is more than that. No idea on Skylar or Bartolemé either. "Okay" before "Copy" slowed me down a bit. Also drew a blank at Certs since ice breakers are big ships to me.

Not a bad puzzle for me today. Not great either, but fun. Now I think I'll go pull "They Hanged My Saintly Billy" off my bookshelf and have a nice read.

Charlie 5:04 PM  

Somebody made "monkey bread" for us years ago and we ate it all in a day!! Fun and delicious. Never had it since, or seen a reference to it. I have a plastic statue of tHe Pillsbury doughboy and I always want to put him in the creche, and when anyone asks abouut him, I just say, "that's Round John Virgin," In sympaathy, I don't know what a Mao suit is either. Did know leporine since I have a Masters Degree in Latin and Greek.

PhotoAde 5:27 PM  

"Extremely challenging" is right. Was pleased to get ZXCVBNM early on with the SAMS and NEW crosses and confirmed it with CZAR/CATHY. Thought I was on a roll, but several show stoppers. In the NE, changed ECO/BIO multiple times along with 7A had cacheS and spAreS. Finally figured out xxxSUIT would force BIO, but hUBS instead of NUBS made 7A xxxHBS indecipherable, not to mention MAOSUIT being from an entirely different brain planet. The west side of the puzzle was brutal. SEARATS didn't help.

Charles Emerson Winchester III 6:02 PM  

You should do yourself a favor and read Robert Graves: “Goodby To All That” is a classic, and “I, Claudius” and “Claudius the God” are a fabulous and fun intro to Roman imperial history, quite apart from their literary merits.

jberg 6:25 PM  

Big DNF for me, absolutely stymied by the Midwest, despite cheating like crazy.

I slept very late after celebrating New Year's Eve, then went to a late brunch with my wife to celebrate the New Year, getting to the puzzle about 5 PM, and giving up a bit after 6. I did like ZXCVBNM -- I kept looking at that entry as the crosses filled in, thinking there must be some mistake; but the V from DEATH VALLEY made it all clear, and I figured out the Z all on my own. Terrific clue, in retrospect.

But "feverishly tries to open?" led to nothing except "uses a jar wrench," which wouldn't fit. The only entry I had in that little section was SERTA, and that came from Duck Duck Go.

I unlock my phone by putting my ThUmb on the SENSOR, and since that was confirmed by NO BUTS, I left it in. That led me to I HATE mysElf, alas.

OTOH, I used to teach Las CASAS as part of American Political Thought; and I definitely knew who Graves was, and that that particular memoir was about the way the war ended the English life of the 19th century. (Fun fact: when Siegfried Sassoon refused to return to the front in order to protest the mistreatment of the troops, Graves persuaded the establishment to send him to a mental hospital rather than a court martial. His experience there shows up in many works of literature, including Pat Barker fairly recently).

Never, ever heard the term SEA RATS for pirates, but with the A, what else could it be? Still took a long time to suss out, though.

Well, enough of that. Happy New Year, everyone!

Anonymous 6:30 PM  

I agree this was one of the harder puzzles I've ever done. Unlike Rex, that ZXCV.... thing was a lowlight, not a highlight. I thought it was PLAN B.S. of trying to make something work in that space. I guess Skylar Astin is Sean's kid? No? So then why would I know it? SEA RATS? SITE for Fodor's? K to PAUSE a video? No heckin clue.

Here are a few I did know:
Bartolome de las CASAS: from playing too much Sid Meier's Colonization as a teen
WWI because I love Robert Graves
CATHY because ACK!!!!

Anonymous 6:34 PM  

RooMonster 10:38

"Nancy" is a comic, but she's not a woman. She's a chaos vector of an elementary-school child ... like my elementary-school child of the same name. ;)

OISK 7:16 PM  

Finished correctly without having any idea what zxcv...was. Maybe that was because I had sxcv before fixing it. Happy to have conquered the "challenge", but can't say I liked it...

Anonymous 8:17 PM  

Went really slow but made progress, except and until the NW. Mental block on WINNER for first person, and I never would have connected IAMBIC to 'to be or not to be', plus have ENOUGHFORME first which didn't help with the other two problems, and I don't know any daytime talk shows since i am not home in the daytime and don't watch them on the rare occasion that I am. Lots of other things in the puzzle I didn't know (CASAS, ASTIN, 'Goodbye to all That') but could deduce from the crosses. I found it more typical Saturday than Rex.

Anoa Bob 8:22 PM  

@Maleska haters, I've tried several times but at the risk of confirming my stupidity by repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result I'll try one last time.

It's unfair to compare crossword puzzles from yesteryear to contemporary ones because constructors and editors now days have exponentially greater resources like computers and the internet to help construct and clue their work. Compare Maleska's work to other puzzles of his era and compare contemporary puzzles to other contemporary puzzles.

@Kitshef 9:37, how did other constructors and editors from Maleska's time clue OREO? Give me a few minutes on the internet and I can come up with a long list of cutesy factoids that could be used to clue OREO. (I just saw a site titled "12 things you probably didn't know about OREO cookies".) Maleska did not have that luxury so he just clued it straight up. The solver sees "Mountain: Comb. form", fills in OREO and moves on. No matter how one clues it though, it's still just OREO, four super common letters that we've seen many times before and will see again. It's crossword boilerplate. You can gussy it up however you like but it's still just boilerplate. Fill in OREO and move on. And let Maleska rest in peace.

Dan 8:22 PM  

You had a viola in your hand? What’s up, bro’?

Pete 9:24 PM  

@Anoa Bob - Maleska clued OREO that way because he refused to use product names in proper nouns. That was his choice, a wide open, engaging product or a vocabulary test.

Zed 9:50 PM  

@Anoa Bob - Yep. Wasting precious recycled electrons, but that’s okay. Your arguments don’t sway me but I understand where you’re coming from. To echo your endeavor from the other side…
Oreos have been around since 1912, yet every time before Shortz there was a mountain reference. That’s a choice to opt for obscurity. That’s not related to word lists or clue lists or available technology. To me that was just laziness masquerading as intellectualism, simply not caring about the short fill enough to bother being creative. Shortz has had 336 Oreos, but only once has the “mountain” clue been used. If you want to tell me that’s too many Oreos I won’t argue, but for all that Rex bashes Shortz about the short fill, he modernized the cluing immediately upon taking over as editor - which was before all this technology was available to anyone.
I will give Maleska a little credit, though, “mountainous cookie?” was an Oreo clue he published. Also, I should note again that until Shortz every NYTX editor eschewed cookies for mountains, so we shouldn’t lay this all on Maleska. Clearly, the NYTX solver has always liked the frisson of superiority generated by being able to write in obscurities in pen with nary a wasted nanosecond. Not me, of course. 😉

I finished tomorrow’s puzzle. I usually love Pasco’s puzzles, but I nearly threw this one through Nancy’s wall as soon as I sussed out the first themer. Some of you will love it and it is well done, just most definitely not my cuppa. And 112A. That clue goes back to 1942 and really, there isn’t much you can do to make an interesting clue, although I do have an idea of how to clue it worse.

JC66 10:22 PM  


How about "logo for a modern day real estate broker"?

Monty Boy 11:45 PM  

Way late, but I'll throw in my two-bits worth (does a silver dollar have 8 bits?)*

I grew up in Montana in the 50's where silver dollars were still in circulation. My dad always had three he would roll over with one hand - you had to see it to understand. A real treat was to get a dollar on Saturday and have enough for a movie (with popcorn and a Coke), a sandwich at the Owl Cafe and change left over.

We make Pull-Aparts for Christmas breakfast and I learned from the puzzle they are also called MONKEYBREAD. Who knew?

*and the old high school cheer: Two-bits, four-bits, six-bits a dollar. All for Laurel stand up and holler. Ah, nastagia.

Unknown 2:22 AM  

Fun China fact - The 'Mao Suit' is referred to in China as the 'Sun Yat Sen suit' after the first leader of the Republic of China, who popularized the design. Didn't know Americans were familiar with Red Guards. I wasn't before moving to China. The clothing style has endured for over a hundred years, but the Red Guards' outfits were usually green.

kitshef 9:10 AM  

@Anoa Bob. I would guess the resources available to Will in 1994 were roughly equal to those available to Maleska in 1993, but the introduction of variety in the cluing was immediate. Every Maleska OREO clue in 1993 is identical. Every Shortz OREO clue in 1994 is different.

@Pete - As to product names, Maleska did use OREO as a product name once(see Z's comment), so it was not a rule, but a choice.

Paloma Vita 3:57 PM  

Just got around to doing this one and I am so glad I encountered the same issues as you did. Makes me feel better about the "blood bath"... And thank you for clarifying the "red diamond" thing. My brain is still foggy from the holy daze and I could not figure out why diamonds were red! Blessings and happy new year!

Anonymous 4:36 PM  

Haven't done the NYT crossword in about 2 years and this was such a fun way to jump back in! Had almost nothing in my first pass but took a stab at Cathy and Monkeybread and got rolling along. Many answers made me smile like "K" being "pause" on YouTube, which is a useful tip as well as a clue! Smores clue devilish but also made me smile.

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eli 10:34 AM  

Extremely challenging? Rex must be getting daft. Too much liberal brain content. 20 minutes.

thefogman 11:47 AM  

To me, it was a really tough but enjoyable puzzle. Classic Saturday challenge with plenty of Aha! moments.

Burma Shave 12:06 PM  


IGUESS it SUITs har anyways:
on the SERTA making WHOOPI.


spacecraft 2:52 PM  

Well, and a big ASDFGHJKL: to you too! Sorry, I deal with those things we're finding fewer and fewer of these days in our crosswords: they're called "words." This? This was just a letter string, as in "a-i connection" for BCDEFGH. If you have to do THAT, perhaps your grid is not worth building.

Did I do it anyway? No, not by far. This was not just a DNF; it was a WTF?.

leftcoaster 4:20 PM  

Decided to look up (and at) XCVBNM and leave the UNMADE puzzle at that.

rondo 5:26 PM  

Once I turned the hUB into the NUB I finished off the NE and thus the puz. MONKEYBREAD? If you say so, never heard of it. Yeah, that ZXCVBNM can now be retired forever. Patsy CLINE stands out. Tough puz IGUESS.

Diana, LIW 7:17 PM  

SE corner came through first (with some work). And then just bits and pieces. Checked the bits - most were correct (some not). Finally finished. But those "look ups" qualified this as an "official" dnf, tho it's a victory in my world.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

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