Turpentine-yielding conifer / SAT 1-8-22 / Two-person log-cutters / Increased likelihood of extreme scenarios in statistics / Number pattern named after a 17th-century French mathematician / Maipo Valley exports / Eschew Uber say / Player first Black woman to become president of a four-year college / Life is short Jacques Torres quip

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Constructor: Freddie Cheng

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: statistics :/ ... but that's just two answers; overall, there's no theme

Word of the Day: MUSETTE (36D: Small knapsack) —
  1. 1. 
    a kind of small bagpipe played with bellows, common in the French court in the 17th–18th centuries and in later folk music.
  2. 2. 
    a small, simple variety of oboe, used chiefly in 19th-century France. (google)
1a bellows-blown bagpipe popular in France in the 17th and 18th centuries
2a small knapsackalso  a similar bag with one shoulder strap 

  called also musette bag (merriam-webster.com) (emph. mine)

• • •

A throwback grid—throwback to the time when 15-stacks were de rigueur. I don't know if there's a way to track this, but it feels like you used to see stacks like this all the time in the '00s, but during the '10s they diminished significantly in favor of grids that were less show-offy, more pleasing to solve. Not that a 15-stack grid can't be pleasant to solve. Today's is pleasant enough. I mean that back in the day it was seen as a kind of flex: watch me stack three and even four 15s! Or else watch me drive my word count way way down, or use hardly any black squares, etc. The constructors who did these kinds of technical stunts were invariably men, and many of the grids were impressive, but they often yielded less-than-entertaining results from a solver's (this solver's) perspective, mostly because the demands on fill quality were just too high. Construction software has enabled constructors to fill formerly tough-to-fill grids more and more cleanly, so for the most part stunt puzzles like this no longer have fill that seems tortured. It's weird that I've been doing puzzles long enough that INTIMATE APPAREL feels like OREO to me when I see it in a 15-stack context; that is, I've seen it used many, many times in a 15-stack (not just in the NYTXW). It's a series of letters that must be very useful / versatile in a stacking situation. See also SCARLET TANAGERS and A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE (which for a time were used often enough in 15 stacks to become a kind of joke). With stacks, it frequently feels like at least one element of the stack is a dull and/or awkward answer that's just kind of helping hold the better answers up. But today's answers are all solid enough. No real stars, but no real clunkers either. If you're into PASCAL'S TRIANGLE, well, there you go, that's your star, right up top. That answer doesn't mean much to me, just as the paired statistics answers didn't mean much to me, but not all puzzles are made just for me, alas. The stack parts of this grid are both the most solid and easiest parts of the grid. It's in the connective tissue that I had all my troubles.

First trouble was SSN / ANOSMIA. You'd think in COVID times I would've become intimate with the term for [Loss of smell], but the "SM" part felt very wrong, which made me doubt SSN (18A: Certain acct. info), mostly because "Certain" (?) made me feel like there was something specific intended. I think of SSN as a general ID you might need in any number of situations. I rarely think of Social Security as an "account," though of course it is. This is all to say I seriously thought I might have an error at SSN / ANOSMIA, but I couldn't fathom what it could be, so I moved on. Didn't know either stats answer, and while FAT TAIL might seem to be the harder of the two, today, for me, it was not. I didn't know SACHA but it was the best guess I had, and it turned out to be right. I didn't know WILLA, but the WIL- part seemed probable. And somehow I was able to make the words FAT TAIL out of the crosses I had in place. It was slightly harder rounding the corner into the SE, since TAKE A --- could've been CAB *or* BUS, and WILLA could've been WILMA (as far as I knew). But getting into the bottom of the grid from the center proved remarkably easy, so I was able to polish those 15s off and come at TAKE A CAB from underneath. My last stand was semi-fatal. I am routinely stunned by the dumb ways in which I can screw things up. Today's major screw-up was so small I didn't notice it. Here's my grid with just two squares remaining:

The clue on that highlighted answer is 34A: One way to manage expectations, and I was baffled. Worried. No idea about the stat answer, no idea about the knapsack, not able to make a word out of AI--OW. Then the crossword muscles kicked in, I realized the answer was not one word but two words, and bam, AIM LOW! Done! ... wait ... not done? Not correct? See, this is what happens when you give up on an answer as a total unknown—if I'd just looked at the stats clue again, I would've seen it called for a *plural*, which would've meant (probably) a terminal "S," which would've obliterated LEFT, which ... why did I write in LEFT!?!?! (44A: Taking off). It works great for [Taken off] ("having taken off ... having left ..." yep, those swap out!), but for [Taking off], actually, no, LEFT is bad. I don't feel bad about not knowing MUSETTE (what the actual hell??? Unless it fills out the lyric "Jouez hautbois, résonnez ___!" I have No Idea what a MUSETTE is. Never heard of it. But I should've gotten LESS. And I should've gotten DECILES. Oh well, congrats to the stats folks. Hope you enjoyed this one. I also enjoyed it, mostly, but probably less than you.

  • 27A: Pings, maybe (IMS) — you "ping" someone when you send them an internet message
  • 8D: Hymns of thanksgiving (TE DEUMS) — notably not capital-T "Thanksgiving"; TE DEUMS are Latin Christian hymns, short for the opening words (or "incipit"), Te Deum laudamus ("We praise thee, O God"). More here.
  • 10D: Shuffles and such (IPODS) — there used to be such a thing as an iPod Shuffle
  • 50D: Jewelry store? (SAFE) — just ... where you might "store" your "jewelry"
  • 53D: Canine protection org. (ADA) — American Dental Association (so tooth canines, not dog canines)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Brian A in SLC 6:42 AM  

I was clueless on pretty much all the proper nouns - Pak, Willa, Pascal, Sacha - which made this pretty chewy for me, even for a Saturday. But I quite liked it; cheers to the return of more frequent 15-stacks. Thanks Mr. Cheng!

OffTheGrid 7:04 AM  

I loved the puzzle but hated all the "?"'s. Not the clues, they were good, but the "?" itself. It dumbs down an otherwise classy Saturday. Saturdays don't need the hand holding that the "?" represents. You especially don't need it on a clue like National geographic books. The g of geographic is small case so you already know it has nothing to do with National Geographic. Thank you. You've been a great audience.

Lewis 7:10 AM  

Firstly, that is one gorgeous grid design to arrive at, that gapped X, or maybe SpaceX.

Secondly, at 66 words and only 21 blocks, I expect to see more than a dab of glue. Nope and remarkable!

Thirdly, sensational stacks above and below. Even PASCAL’S TRIANGLE, which I never heard of, looks fabulous. That answer, by the way, made me erase FIBONACCI SERIES (I’m sure I’m not alone here), made me get enough to see PASCAL, made my brain dig out that somewhere I heard of Pascal’s *something*, then made me work to suss out TRIANGLE. That’s a lot of bang for one answer’s buck. Sweet bang, I might add.

Fouthly, this was a scrabble-fest for me, not just finding words, but literally scrabbling all over the grid. I was like a crab, zipping from one zone to another from beginning to end, a constant tour of the grid. But on most legs of this jagged journey letters popped in, pings indeed, and pings galore. There I was, filling in words I’ve never heard of, while uncovering old friends. That was one heck of a good time!

Fifthly, I loved the 5-S diagonal topping the diagonal of squares, not to mention the quadruple-double-L fiesta in the SE. Furthermore, I couldn’t believe CLUB PRO has never appeared in a NYT puzzle before.

Finally, I bow down in gratitude, Freddy Cheng, for a spell of amazement, plus a passel of today-I-learned moments, and a puzzle that turned my wake-up into a perkup – the perfect springboard to my day.

Conrad 7:14 AM  

Medium-Challenging for me, maybe even Challenging. Had a vague memory about PASCAL'S TRIANGLE, but thought the name was spelled Pascale. So PASCALeTRIANGLE made STEROIDS hard to see. Different problem from @Rex in the SW:was very confident in bId LOW at 34A, making me doubt TRUER and making ATLASES hard to see.

But my worst overwrite was rAT TAILS instead of FAT TAILS at 24D. That gave me rATE at 24A, which while it didn't relate to the clue, at least it's a word. Had to run the alphabet to get FAT x FATE.

Bruce Borchardt 7:15 AM  

From watching bicycle races, I knew that musette bags are handed to the racers in the feed zones.

MaxxPuzz 7:28 AM  

Rex, I loved your nod to French Christmas carols! If my memory serves correctly, here is the exact wording:

Il est né, le divin enfant
Jouez hautbois, résonnez musettes

Hautbois are oboes.

Enjoyed this puzzle. I raced through the west and sourh but also got bogged down in the rest. No idea for the stats answers.

Unknown 7:32 AM  

Thank goodness for eating dessert first—I didn’t see any way into this tough puzzle until I got that yummy phrase. Good Saturday workout, challenging.

Trey 7:45 AM  

I like the 15 stack puzzles. I find them super easy **IF** I can guess the long ones off the clues or if the short downs give me enough letters to get a toehold. Then there is today, where the only long I could get was INTIMATE APPAREL, and I was stuck with downs that I had no clue about (PIT SAWS, LARCH, and TEDEUMS on the top stack). My second answer filled in was PHTEST, and it was clear that I was going to have to solve from the middle out. It was challenging with bite, which is what I look for in a Friday/Saturday puzzle. My time was good for me, which is surprising as I never felt like I was moving at a good pace.

IPODS had a great clue, I just missed it today until the end. I had NAw before NAH. The WILLA/FAT TAIL crossing was tough, as I knew neither. I am glad her first name is at least a name I have heard of before (as in WILLA Cather), or that would have been a fatal crossing.

Like @Lewis, I first thought of Fibonacci Series (although I gave up when I typed in "sequence" and it did not fit), as you cannot always judge nationality by the last name of a person.

Unknown 7:48 AM  

Hautbois - oboe
Or were you just kidding?

Anonymous 7:51 AM  

Love this one. Really like the grid design. Wanted Fibonacci for 1A, but he’s not French. Haha. Answers fell ion from bottom to top for me.

TrudyJ 7:54 AM  

I’m really curious to know if I’m the only person who, by putting NAW instead of NAH for “Don’t reckon so,” had to try for most of the puzzle to convince myself that TOO TIRED TO TWERK was something the kids were saying these days.

Anonymous 8:00 AM  

Forgot: loved seeing the (at least) three math clues at 1A, 22D, 24D. My fave puzzle in quite a while.

Son Volt 8:03 AM  

Fantastic puzzle - I dig the triple stacks whether it’s showing off or not. This one provided just enough easy crosses to get a foothold increasing the enjoyment level. The math geekiness was right in my wheelhouse.

I taught one son how to calculate combinations - n choose r - using PASCALS TRIANGLE and the other how to write recursive code with it. I’m sure some like Rex may find it meh - but I love how it spans the top of this grid.

Approaching retirement - my investment graph limits the standard deviations and is pretty tight staying far away from the FAT TAIL distribution. I’ll leave that for the young guys.

The plural TE DEUMS threw me a little. Years ago - as an altar boy we had to or tried to memorize the TE DEUM - a stand-alone prayer that begins “You are God, we praise you”. I’ve never heard it used in today’s general context.

Great clue for our recent friend PH TEST. Liked how 6d used conifer instead of evergreen. Didn’t know MUSETTE but made a nice connection using the La Boheme clue and MUSETTa’s.

This one did not AIM LOW. A highly enjoyable Saturday solve.

Harryp 8:05 AM  

I thought Thursday was a fine puzzle, but this one really was POW for me. Guessing the long answers and filling in the Downs was fun. Like Rex, I had trouble with the SW corner, but figured it out. Wow!

mmorgan 8:12 AM  

LEft screwed me up too. I always enjoy making the same mistake as Rex!

bocamp 8:16 AM  

Thx Freddie; very nice Sat. offering! :)


Surprisingly, got the top three grid spanners w/o much resistance. Actually, the bottom three weren't much harder.

Took some time to recall the 'PH' part of TEST.

DECILES / AIM LOW / MUSETTE was also a bit tricky.

The SE was by far the toughest section.

An excellent adventure; liked this one very much! :)

"The statistical term ‘fat tails’ refers to probability distributions with relatively high probability of extreme outcomes. Fat tails also imply strong influence of extreme observations on expected future risk. Alas, they are a plausible and common feature of financial markets." (Systemic Risk and Systemic Value)

@puzzlehoarder 👍 for 0 dbyd
yd 0

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Tom T 8:17 AM  

Hidden Diagonal Word (HDW) clue:

Liturgical vestment (3 letters, answer below)

@ Lewis beat me to the 5 diagonal S's on top of the diagonal squares. Each S in that string qualifies as a POC (plural of convenience), I suppose, but to see them lined up so elegantly makes it worth it. Very cool.

I did not know that, as Rex points out, INTIMATE APPAREL was a frequent 15 letter answer, but it was the first 15 squares I filled in, getting me off to a good start.

And the EAT DESSERT FIRST quote gave me a big smile in memory of my late mother-in-law.

A fun solving experience--always feels pleasant to finish a Saturday below my average time with no errors.

HDW answer:

ALB (begins with the A in 40D, BALLET, and moves SW)

ps. As a retired "person of the cloth," I was glad my initial entry for 19A, Diatribes, turned out to be incorrect. I had S _ R _ _ _ S and entered SeRMONs. Happily, the correct answer turned out to be SCREEDS. :-)

Trey 8:18 AM  

Ohhhh - TE DEUMS makes more sense than TEDEUMS (thinking "like something that is tedious")

Ray M 8:19 AM  

Not a particularly fun puzzle. A lot of wheel-of-fortune and cross solve moments, but got through the puzzle and was left with one square to solve “taking off.“ I used “legs” thinking that something that has legs is taking off (mugette was just as good as musette in that I had no idea for solving a small knapsack). Disappointed when that did not solve the puzzle. Then came back with less. Got credit for the solve, but it’s not as satisfying as filling that last square and hearing the chimes on the first go at it, especially on Saturday.

Unknown 8:21 AM  

I wonder too about musette. There is a Musetta (and her waltz) in La Boheme. With two other Boheme clues, not a theme but sort of a leitmotif.

CF 8:35 AM  

Not being a religious type, I wouldn't have known TE DEUMS except for the great Tom Lehrer song "We Will All Go Together When We Go", a cheerful ditty about nuclear annihilation that contains the delicious rhyme, "Just shout out a 'Te Deum' when you see that ICBM".

pjd 8:43 AM  

"IMS" was the final entry for me because the clue could just as easily apply to "IDS" (where "pings" is a verb meaning "identifies" like on radar or something), and TE DEUMS is completely foreign to me. Could just as easily have been TEDEUDS (??) as far as I knew.

kitshef 8:53 AM  

I like a nice math-y, science-y puzzle, so this was very much my cup of tea.

Another week, another Saturday that is much easier than Friday. Really only two squares put up a fight: Cross of the unknown MUSETTE with the hard-to-see LESS, and cross of the unknown TE DEUMS with the hard-to-see IMS.

The two unknows, MUSETTE and TE DEUMS, are really close to being anagrams.

SouthsideJohnny 8:55 AM  

I also thought of Fibonacci first, but it only took a few crosses before PASCAL came to the rescue. Found some real stumpers today - was wondering WoE TEDEUMS are/were - I think Rex indicated it’s a Latin song or something like that - well, oh ok.

Enjoyed the clue for ADA (canine protector) - there’s been quite a few of the “play on types of teeth” clues recently, hopefully they don’t overstay their welcome. Similarly the Times would do well to stop using the names of diseases (or conditions, or syndromes) such as ANOSMIA for a while. They probably don’t mean anything to like 99.8% of us (and for me at least, they don’t add anything of interest to the solve).

LARCH and the SACHA dude were new to me (wondering how many people actually know any of these directors, lol), as was WILLA but the crosses came to the rescue there. It’s been a while since I have heard the term BEL - I saw that there was no abbreviation in the clue so that eliminated like my first two dozen suspects, lol.

Right with Rex on MUSETTE - when a guy who has done 10,000 puzzles comes across an unknown word (in a Saturday grid no less, where there is less help from the crosses), well let’s just say that I’ll be in for a tough time with that one.

I'm just saying... 8:55 AM  

I put Poincaresequence in 1-Across and was hopelessly lost!

pabloinnh 8:57 AM  

Discarded Fibonacci as not French, but was feeling all smart by writing in INTIMATEAPPAREL off one letter and then discover by reading OFL that this is a cliche. News to me. Nice to remember what a PITSAW is--you can see them in historical recreation towns, as they were used to turn logs into boards. Someone on top, someone underneath. Same idea as the two-man ice cutting saws. (I kid, I kid.)

I have sung the Christmas carol in French, but also knew what a MUSETTE was without it. At least as soon as I had most of the letters, anyway.

Made the acquaintance of SACHA, WILLA, and PAK today. Always nice to meet new people.

So a Saturday that knows how to Saturday. A Fitting Challenge, FC. Thanks for the fun.

Joaquin 8:59 AM  

@TrudyJ (7:54) - I was certain I was the only one who would be TOO TIRED TO TwerK. But NAw, there you are all twerkless, too!

John Gavin 9:01 AM  

It's funny that MUSETTE was one of the easiest answers for me because I am an avid cyclist and during stage races like the Tour de France musettes are the food bags handed to the riders in the feed zones :)

Unknown 9:11 AM  

Man, I feel for SSJohnny

amyyanni 9:13 AM  

Just not on this puzzle's wave length. One example: works leading to leaps of imagination is BALLETS. To me, ballets are full of actual leaps. So barely stumbled through without any flow.

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

My first thought for 1A was something to do with Fibonacci, even though I knew he was an 11th century Italian mathematician. I know that because I named my dog Fibonacci. When I tell people my dog's name, they always ask me if I 'm a mathematician. Sadly, the answer is no. I just like the way the name rolls of my tongue.

puzzlehoarder 9:20 AM  

It's only January 8th and already we have a contender for puzzle of the year. The combination of grid art and difficulty was impressive. There wasn't any trade off in the quality of the fill that you would expect for such a bold design.

Being completely unfamiliar with 1A and initially falling for the "Teddies" clue put me off of the scent for the top stack and made a good first impression.

While the PIT portion of 1D would come later the obvious SAWS half was all that was needed to start. With a few squares left blank in the western choke point of that big X I was able to make the short work of the southern stack that I've come to expect with grid spanning stacks.

Going north through the eastern choke point was even more daunting than going south on the western one. This forced me to go back to the north and hammer out enough downs to recognize what was in the top stack.

Mopping up the choke points took some patient thinking. Why it took me so long to recognize AIMLOW is a mystery. Maybe it was because this puzzle AIMmed so high and hit the mark so well.

The Scrabble player in me loved learning learning ANOSMIA, DECILES and MUSETTE. This puzzles' combination of great sevens along with that difficult top stack made for a terrific solve.

yd -0

DrBB 9:23 AM  

"The stack parts of this grid are both the most solid and easiest parts of the grid. It's in the connective tissue that I had all my troubles."

Same here. Because one of the interesting things about those 15-ers is that they often fall to a good guess and only a few crosses, and then they're a big accelerator for a whole section. That was my experience today. Would have been a standard 15-minute Saturday except for the center-East, which is where I had the hardest time connecting the top and bottom. Some pretty good proper-noun blocking and specialized terms, like FAT TAIL I've heard of "long tail" in a statistical context (web stats to be specific), which was a persistent distraction even though it wasn't going to fit, and it led me to try "FAR" instead of FAT because SHREW took a long time to show up, and then there was GOLF PRO. Raise your hand if you took the darnedest amount of time before accepting that some other PRO was required. And then what? I guess CLUB PRO is a thing, but don't these PROs usually go by the specific sport they've been hired to help duffers out with? (Everything know about golf I learned from crossword puzzles). I mean, I guess if you're at a golf club or a tennis club, the type of pro is redundant, and just "pro" sounds truncated. Or something. But tell me that cruel constructor didn't know a statistically increased likelihood of extreme numbers of solvers were going to be sitting there with a big fat GOLF in the way for half their solve time.

Andy Feinberg 9:27 AM  

Maybe TMI but your first and second answer are related since the sum of diagonals of Pascal’s triangle generates the Fibonacci sequence!

Anonymous 9:27 AM  

An early commitment to RIPSAWS at 1D impeded me a while.

Andy Feinberg 9:28 AM  

Maybe TMI but your first and second answer are related since the sum of diagonals of Pascal’s triangle generates the Fibonacci sequence!

Joe R. 9:28 AM  

PASCAL’S TRIANGLE was a gimme for me, and then I got enough of the downs that the whole top area fell quickly. Came down the west without trouble, and got STEADY AS SHE GOES with just the first two letters. I was close to record pace as I filled in the south… and then ground to a halt in the east. SACHA, WILLA, PAK, and FAT TAIL were my real problems, and it took a while to see some of the other things without key letters. Ended up well off that record time.

@Lewis and others - for future reference, Fibonacci numbers are a sequence, not a series. It’s a distinction important to mathematicians, and one that is meaningless to anyone not knowledgeable about mathematical terminology.

Patrick K 9:32 AM  

Also wound up exactly as @pjd above did, on IMS which I had as IDS.

Sailed through east and south, worked my way through west with BOWSAWS and a few other variations until PITSAWS came through with what had to start with TOO(TIREDTOTHINK) and the middle then became easy since I already had THINK in the east.

Mike G 9:32 AM  

I really enjoyed this one. I had a hard time getting any traction at all to start but finally crossed ATLASSES with APE in the SW and built it out from there. The stumper for me today was SHREW, because I was never going to get SACHA or WILLA. No idea why that was so hard, but my brain refused to see it until the very end.

Mr Cheng - thanks very much for a great puzzle!

kitshef 9:35 AM  

Couple of notes on the oft-guessed (including by me) Fibonacci.
- Introduced Arabic numerals and the idea of zero to Europe
- 12th-13th century
- Real name "Leonardo".

Zed 9:40 AM  

Never TOO TIRED TO TwerK but kind of bummed I didn’t make that error.
@amyyanni - the leaps are real but it took some imagination to come up with the BALLET.

Knowing Fibonacci wasn’t French was no help so my first rock solid, I can build from this, entry was TAKE A CAB. I know a fair amount about the MARINERS woes (setting the single season victory record then not making the World Series still has to sting two decades later), so that combo gave me enough to finish most of the bottom. Thinking it was tuLLA Player, though, caused some issues getting back into the north. STEROIDS and dinERS got me enough to start in the north, giving me enough connective tissues to see TOO TIRED TO THINK. INTIMATE APPAREL took me a long time because I overthought the clue and was thinking stuffed bears, but I eventually worked it out, leaving only the WOE director/ tuLLA Player section to work through. I figured —CHA might be SACHA, meaning FAT TAuL might be FAT TAIL (and finally understanding what the clue was getting at) and the W in SHREW/WILLA was my final writeover/letter entered. A fine tussle.

I’m surprised nobody has screamed about Rex’s error yet. IM’S are Instant MessageS, not Internet MessageS.

Why have there been only SIX Pope Pauls? Seems more Popish than Leo to me. Maybe it’s just that not enough Popes can play the bass.

DrBB 9:42 AM  

TE DEUM trivia:
They are notoriously hard to write a decent musical setting for, due to the length of the text. Hence their nickname among choir singers, "tediums."

Shakespeare's Henry V, Act IV, sc. 8 has the king call for the singing of a Non Nobis and Te Deum, which Branagh turns into the pinnacle moment of his film version of the play. One of those things where I'm not sure people really get that it can read different ways. Like people who think "Every breath you take" is a great wedding song. Branagh's visual accompaniment reads scathingly ironic rather than reverent to me. Bodies strewn everywhere, everyone soaked in dirt and blood, "All yours, God." If I'm God, I'm not necessarily appreciating the offer.

Nancy 9:46 AM  

"Medium", Rex? Surely you jest. I found the lower half of it almost impossible, but I ended up solving it without having to cheat. The result? I suffered mightily and right now I'M TOO TIRED TO THINK.

With RO- for the spreadsheet question, I couldn't think of anything it might be other than ROW. (I know nothing about spreadsheets.) But that left me with A----W for "one way to manage expectations" and I didn't have a clue. I wanted the word to end in LY...and it didn't. AIM LOW was a completely unexpected (pun intended) answer, but it's also a pretty depressing one -- don't you think?

I had written in tRite for "uninspired, as writing", but finally, when I ended up with tARIS, I did have to change it to PARIS. Now what to do? Could the uninspired writing be PROSY? That's ridiculous. All prose is PROSY. Uninspired prose is PROSAIC. I did not like this clue.

I had A--- for "seasoned" and for the life of me could not come up with AGED. Not until I had all the grid-spanners below. PROSY finally gave me STEADY AS SHE GOES; after which SET A GOOD EXAMPLE came in; and finally the quite wonderful EAT DESSERT FIRST became obvious. It's my favorite answer in the grid.

The masochistic side of me loved this puzzle. The hedonistic side-- not quite as much.

Teedmn 9:49 AM  

Yeah, yeah, long line of black ink at 1A where everybody's favorite number series had to be crossed out after not a single cross could be found (no, I did not notice the “French” in the clue). I had to visit the Mini-MART before I got my start in this grid.

The bottom of this puzzle was quite gettable but it seems like I sat for long minutes, listening to the crickets, with nothing above SSN, IMS or PH______. I finally thought of SCREEDS, leading to LARCH and thus HOURS. Then it was just a matter of pecking away at the rest. I'm chagrined that INTIMATE APPAREL didn’t occur to me earlier because I was thinking 16A was either dealing with stuffed animals or lingerie.

Freddie Cheng, I'm always on the lookout for hard themeless puzzles and you certainly provided today, thanks!

RooMonster 9:55 AM  

Hey All !
TOO TIRED TO THINK after this one. Holy ELKMEAT, this was tough. Ample use of Check Puzzle feature. Didn't even care. Non-use of that feature would result in a hole in @Nancy's wall.

Congrats to all who solved this beast without help of any kind.

I ended in the same spot as Rex, having the correct LESS, but still couldn't see anything in either Down, and couldn't see how AI__OW could be something. Finally decided to focus on AI_, running letters that went with that, D, no, L, no, M, yes! Then finally saw AIM LOW.

Add me to the Fibonacci Series first group. Also a 15'er. But, isn't it Fibonacci Sequence, not Series?

Defeated soundly, thank you Freddie. Revel in your superiority. 😁

Did enjoy the trip 15's.

A SHREWd puz, leaving a GRIMACE. And giving me a FAT TAIL. Har.

yd - 7, p -1, should'ves 5

Two F's

Unknown 10:16 AM  

AWESOME PUZZLE, thanks Freddy Cheng. 25 minutes for my son and me. Not bad for a Saturday, and learned some things--FAT TAILS and PASCALSTRIANGLE. Loved "EAT DESSERT FIRST" and "STEADY AS SHE GOES". Great puzzle. The LESS/MUSETTE cross was our worst spot, and it took a while to get "CLUB PRO". Thanks for a terrific puzzle.

Nancy 10:16 AM  

Of course I thought of Fibonacci just like everyone else, but even I know he wasn't French. I do know a lot more about PASCAL than Fibonacci, but maybe not as much as I think I know. To me there are TRIANGLES and then there are "number patterns" and they're not really the same thing. Can you use the numeric relationships found in triangles to establish number patterns that will be useful in non-triangular situations if you see what I mean?

I cannot believe how much math I've forgotten over the years! Did I once know this or did I never know this?

Keith D 10:19 AM  

To me, this is every bit as good as a Weintraub puzzle. But I guess Freddie doesn’t have a cult following.

TJS 10:22 AM  

Like the wide receiver who started a post-game press conference with "First, I'd like to thank my hands", I would like to thank my brain for only knowing Fibonacci "sequence". If I had thought of "series" I would have had a disastrous beginning to this great puzzle.

With all the obscurities of mathematical terminology, all those specialists were okay with "fat tails" ?

Man, I wished I had come up with "Too tired to twerk".

I some how related "musette" to a piece of French WW2 equipment so I gave it a shot.

DNFed with 21 across as "at it" giving me "anostia" and "teciles". I can live with it.

An amazing construction feat, IMO, without that "See what I did" feel. Thanks to Mr. Cheng.

smalltowndoc 10:25 AM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle. One of my favorite Saturday NYTXWs in a long time. The 15s were all legit and clued fairly, except, maybe, 52A, which was tough, but clever. I’ve been a longtime fan of Pascal and his triangle since the days when binomials were all the rage.

55A is my New Year’s resolution.

Favorite clue: 51A, "Measure of volume", as in the volume control on your phone (or, if you’re my age, stereo preamp). A BEL = 10 decibels.

Least favorite clue: 10D. I mean, c’mon, it’s 2021…damn, I mean 2022 (give me til February to get that straightened out). The IPOD Shuffle is an antique. Nobody has an IPOD anymore (except me; I have one plugged into the USB port of my car so I can listen to my top 1,000 favorite tunes. Much to the chagrin of my kids, wife, hitchhikers, etc.)

jae 10:29 AM  

Easy-medium. TEDEUM, MUSETTE, SACHA, and WILLA were WOEs. Very smooth and solid with a hint of sparkle, liked it.

Carola 10:31 AM  

Medium, except for one challenging rat's nest, and lots of fun to solve. For me, it was a tale of two stacks: the top one a piece of cake (DESSERT FIRST!) that made the upper third of the grid easy to fill, but the bottom one needing a raft of crosses into order to come into view and allow me to climb into the white space in the midsection above. Final area was the rat's nest in which SACHA, WILLA, FATTAIL, and PAK were ensnared.

Favorites: the mix of SCREEDS, TIRADES, and TE DEUMS and being reminded of the MUSETTE bag, an item I haven't thought of in years. Do-over: DECadES, WILmA. Help from previous puzzles: PROSY as clued. New to me: PASCAL'S TRIANGLE, PIT SAWS, DECILES.

TrudyJ 7:54 - NAw was my first thought, but I didn't write it in because I didn't trust the "w." TOO TIRED TO TwerK is awesome and would have made a nice complement to the BALLETS below.

Birchbark 10:33 AM  

AIM LOW -- I finished exactly where @Rex did, but with LESS correct, and the SCREEDs and TIRADEs of congratulatory MUSETTEs took arms against a sea of troubles.

My kingdom for a SAMOSA or two in the fridge to reheat for breakfast. Yesterday's breakfast was one egg over easy with homemade Italian sausage and toast. I cooked extra sausage and nibbled on it throughout the day. I was the only one home for dinner: a cookie sheet 3/4 full of Tater Tots at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, which paired very well with a light and bright pinot Grigio. The last two or three Tater Tots were a bit much, if I'm honest. But STEADY AS SHE GOES, and the plate was clean.

Whatsername 10:34 AM  

The blank grid was a thing of beauty and I love this type of layout with the long stacks but yikes! If Saturday stumper was the goal here, this certainly SET A GOOD EXAMPLE. The Propers alone were enough to make me take aim at Nancy’s Wall.

TE DEUDS? I wanted a Psalm of some kind there. My fluffy cat has a big FAT TAIL but I don’t know from statistics. “I did love the EAT DESSERT FIRST quote though,” SHE said while thinking of the last piece of Christmas cheesecake lurking in her freezer.

I over cooked my oatmeal in the microwave this morning and ended up with molten lava all over the dish and the microwave glass. I think cleaning up that mess was LESS of an effort than this workout. TRUE story. I feel TOO TIRED TO THINK.

And yet, I did have one question still lingering in my mind: How many LENGTHS does it take to equal a stretch?

Frantic Sloth 10:37 AM  

Not a fan of puzzles that make me feel much dumber than even *I* know I am.
And for some reason, despite appreciating a good intellectual spanking now and then, this one left me particularly sour-mouthed.
To me, it reeked of "look at how smart I am and you're not", but that's probably just because it took me a long time (twice my average) to finally solve it and only half the time to catch the vibe.
That might not be statistically or mathily accurate to say, but shut up.
So there.


*only because 5-brainers are reserved for DNFs and I still somehow managed to finish without any "cheats". I'm as surprised as you are.
** negative party favors work the same way: the more there are, the more I disliked

burtonkd 10:39 AM  

Yes to MUSETTE from Tour de France.
Fun fact about the instrument. The modern version is an accordion with 3 sets of reeds playing the same note. One set is in tune, 2nd set is tuned sharp and 3rd tuned low. This gives that tremolo effect you associate with French cafes. Different countries make the tuning further off, the Scotch apparently the wildest.

I had too many unknowns and guesses in the Mid East, so hit the check feature, then was able to fill in the rest, slapping my head for not seeing things the first time.

I wanted soyMEAT for too long.

Loved AIMLOW - a philosophy that leaves you permanently pleasantly surprised.

Nice to see a shoutout to WILLA Player for her achievement, but did anyone know her or the college? How many college presidents can anyone name as general knowledge?

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

We did it in DECILE time!

pabloinnh 11:01 AM  

Anyone else try today's Saturday Stumper? Yikes. Took me twice as long as the NYT, but doable.

Joseph Michael 11:06 AM  

Not well versed in number patterns, statistics jargon. or names of college presidents, nor have I ever lost my sense of smell, used a two-person log cutter, or sung a hymn of thanksgiving, so solving this puzzle was for me like wandering around lost on another planet without even a small knapsack of knowledge to fortify me.

My only pleasure from this experience was coming here and seeing the phrase TOO TIRED TO TWERK. Thank you, @Trudy, for the much needed laugh.

Okay, that wasn’t my only pleasure. I also liked EAT DESSERT FIRST. I wish I had done that instead of trying to solve this puzzle.

mathgent 11:09 AM  

The Pascal Triangle (rarely called Pascal's Triangle) is much more important in mathematics than the Fibonacci sequence. I suppose that Fibonacci is better known here because it fits into crosswords better.

(If any of you are interested, I could briefly describe what The Pascal Triangle looks like.)

I had the top if the grid all filled in and the bottom all white. I guessed at the answers to 34D, 35D, and 36D meaning that 56A started STE. Could it be STEADYASSHEGOES? Yes!

When I was an Air Force reservist in 1956, we were issued a MUSETTE bag. I think that we would strap it around our waists on long hikes.

Remembering Airplane. Nancy: Surely you jest. Rex: No. And don't call me Shirley.

FATTAIL sounds like a more polite form of lard ass.

I sometimes make fun of Lewis for overpraising the puzzle. Not today. A wonderful piece of work.

Anonymoose 11:09 AM  

Did anybody else.....

....enter liTmus for Basic analysis?

....think of "The Larch" from Monty Python? (turpentine conifer)

....think of the old Lowered Expectations bit on SNL? (AIM LOW)

....notice that there's an ASS centered at the bottom of the grid?

Zed 11:09 AM  

@Keith D - Didja even read the comments? “I loved the puzzle…” “Good Saturday workout.” “It was challenging with bite, which is what I look for in a Friday/Saturday puzzle.” “Love this one. Really like the grid design.” “My fave puzzle in quite a while.” And those were just the 8:00 a.m. and earlier comments.

Whatsername 11:14 AM  

After reading Rex and comments, I see that my TE DEUDS should have been TE DEUMS … which would’ve been equally foreign to me. However in my defense, at 27A I had IDS (as in identifies) which IMHO is a perfectly acceptable answer to the clue “pings, maybe.” Just sayin’.

GILL I. 11:18 AM  

Ay huevos revueltos....my eggs did some bodacious scrambling hither and yon.
I'll start with 1A. I'm a math stoopy George W Bush. I know some math names like that Fibonacci dude (the only one I know) but at least I know he's Italian and Freddie wanted a Frenchman. I kept thinking this was going to be that kind of nightmare puzzle where I wake up screaming "Why don't you know this thing"?
I left 1A to his own misery and tried to tackle 1D or at least 2 D. Nope. Wasn't going to happen. Do I cheat already? Do I take out my mighty swift sword and slay this monster? No? Instead, I went to bed hoping the nightmare would subside in the morn. Nope. Man that top corner just ate my tuna fish sandwich. I was happy that I managed TRIANGLE but PASCAL didn't invite me for his crepes suzette. I had to call Mr. Know-It-All. I'm glad we had a chat because he opened up some might strong floodgates. I was dancing the fandango tango with my INTIMATE APPAREL draped over my shoulder and then my swift footed TOO TIRED TO THINK partner came to my rescue. I'm glad he doesn't think, but he sure can dance.
On to fight this dragon. And I did....
I came to @REX's AIMLOW problemita....I like my wrong answer better. I had AS A MOM managing expectations. HAH....wrongy dongy. Head for La Boheme setting. I had ATTIC instead of the correct PARIS. Wrongy dongy again. Freddie likes math and the French it seems.... All I'll ever remember of La Boheme was counting the hours Mimi would die screaming. These two wrongs never could be righted again...so another chat with Mr. Know-It-All...Dang...5 so far. So do I call it a day or forge on...I was loving this puzzle too much to give up. I wanted that dragon's ear hanging like a trophy somewhere.
I moved on down to the basement hoping that dim light bulb on the ceiling wouldn't show me any spider webs. The coast was clear. No spiders. I was the STEADY AS SHE GOES mistress of success. Boy did I want to SET A GOOD EXAMPLE and EAT DESSERT FIRST. I ate the crepes last but Bruce Almighty, they taste yummylicious.
And so...I didn't take home any trophies but I sure had fun trying.
By the way....WILLA and SACHA came to my bar last night. They were sure fun to have a drink with.

Frantic Sloth 11:21 AM  

🖐 Hand up for Fibonacci because since I learned of it in crosswords, I just go ahead and make it my go-to as if it's the only term in all of mathematics. Besides, it might as well be for the likes of me.
Also, as @Trey 745am points out, what's in a name?

@pjd 843am Thank you! I thought I was crazy for thinking IdS was solid despite the weird-looking TEDEUdS. You say "TEDEUMS", I say "TE what now?"

@Z 940am 🤣 Pope Pauls. Maybe because there just weren't that many cute popes.

@Z 1109am I suspect @Keith D's comment was more of a swipe at Weintraub and her fawning fans than anything else. But that's probably just because I'm one of those fluffnuts. 😉

Zed 11:22 AM  

@mathgent - I don’t know about relative importance in mathematics, but I do know that Fibonacci Numbers and the Golden Ratio come up a lot in art history (just google Fibonacci and Parthenon for one example) and also a lot in natural sciences (artichokes and tree leaves, for example) and so I’ve run into Fibonacci Numbers discussions often. Far more often than I’ve run into PASCAL’S TRIANGLE, which is only vaguely familiar to me.

Son Volt 11:29 AM  

@pablo 11:01a - Matt Sewell is becoming one of my favorite constructors. Today’s Stumper did not disappoint - a beast.

Frantic Sloth 11:36 AM  

Just Googled PASCALS TRIANGLE and what do you know? Wholly beyond my ken, but it's pretty cool!

I'll just throw this out there...
I get the whole EAT DESSERT FIRST sentiment and all, but what if you prefer savory? Speaking for myself (because really who else?) even the best desserts I've ever eaten come in a distant second to some pretty good main courses. Is that so wrong?

Rick Walker 11:54 AM  

Surprised I got this one all the way through since some of the answers were way out there too me. The proper names and the math terms. But it's a great picture and Mr Cheng played fair and the crosses filled it all in nicely. Yeah

egsforbreakfast 11:57 AM  

What do you say about a guy who’s TOOTIREDTOTwerK?


@Nancy 9:46 am. I had to guffaw when I saw this: “But that left me with A----W for "one way to manage expectations" and I didn't have a clue.”

I assume that you, as a veteran constructor and solver, know that you did have a clue (hint: it’s actually contained within your quote above).

This grid looked scary at first, but a bunch of the grid scanners fell quickly enough that I finished in average or better Saturday time. Thanks for a wonderful Saturday puzzle, Freddie Chong.

JD 12:00 PM  

I had exactly as much chance of getting Pascal's Triangle as I had of getting Pit Saw, Anosmia, Larch, and Elk Meat. But I read the clues to those words and stopped.

No party favors. I repeat. No party favors. This one wasn't for me.

Chris Mc 12:06 PM  

Pascal's triangle is also statistics adjacent! It can be used in probability calculations.

What? 12:06 PM  

Crosswords are so weird (or is it me?) I zipped through Robyn’s puzzle of the year yesterday and today - well, after STEADY AS SHE GOES and a couple of others, nada, just TOO TIRED TO THINK I guess. Maybe because I had a bad night (I’m 85 and into STEROIDS, ELK MEAT with a bit of ANOSMIA and a bad pH TEST). Then I get silly. LIFE IS SHORT leads to ART IS LONG which makes me think of Ashe hitting it beyond the baseline. PASCALS TRIANGLE makes me think of a ménage a trois (oh those AMIS, n’est pas?).
Time for a capsule or two. Harumpf.

Raphael 12:20 PM  

See Pascal's triangle https://g.co/kgs/6EmNZj

mathgent 12:20 PM  

My favorite comments this morning.

OffTheGrid (7:04)
Lewis (7:10)
bocamp (8:16)
CF (8:35)

Masked and Anonymous 12:20 PM  

Yeeks. Lotsa gridspanners, plus tonsa stuff that were no-knows. Led to M&A spendin deciles of extra nanoseconds on this puppy.
No-Knows included: MUSETTE [fave of the litter -- reminded m&e of a miniature @Muse darlin]. DECILE. PITSAWS [SAWS part was easyish, tho]. ANOSMIA [Caused by too much SAMOSAs]. TEDEUMS. FATTAIL. PAK.

staff weeject pick: IMS. Tough pingy clue. For an even feistier clue, see the runtpuz below.

fave gridspanner: EATDESSERTFIRST. Knew a workplace friend named Julie that almost always went that route. M&A kinda likes the gridspanner approach -- leads to some neat ahar moments. And as a bonus, when U stack em, U can get some really cool crossin Ow de Speration moments. [A Good Set of Examples: PITSAWS. ANOSMIA. CIT. TEDEUMS. APTS.]

Thanx for the themeless fun challenge, Mr. Cheng dude. Particularly liked the fatal FATE/FATTAIL crossin.

Masked & Anonymo3Us


JD 12:26 PM  

@Frantic 11:36am, No, same. Especially overblown restaurant desserts.

@Keith D, The cult following meets Thursdays at midnight when we prepare a burnt offering in a pizza shop basement in DC. It's doubles as the toast. I have nothing bad to say about this puzzle, it was just over my head. And it's not getting nearly as many complaints as others do.

Anonymous 12:34 PM  

I somehow got LESS right away, so this played easy for me except for WILLA which I needed to finish the right side. Wonderfully-paced puzzle with enough smiles and interest to keep you going. Does anyone else find that Saturdays always play more easily than Fridays?

Newboy 12:37 PM  

Pretty typical Saturday solve here for myriad reasons cited previously as I trampolined around the grid. Knew Pascal’s wager from Sunday school long past, but the math? NAH! Did send me to wiki where images of the TRIANGLE abound. Again I’m accepting that humility is its own reward; thanks Mr Cheng.

Unknown 12:43 PM  

Can someone explain BEL to me?
I solved the puzzle in under my normal time, but have no idea how BEL fits.

"The constructors who did these kinds of technical stunts were invariably men, . . ."

David Grenier 12:52 PM  

Loved this puzzle!

I'm getting a mid-career Masters in Applied Mathematics so PASCAL'S TRIANGLE was right in my wheelhouse. One of the few times I've put an answer I wasn't 100% certain on in my first pass through the grid. DECILES and FAT TAIL eluded me for a bit because the type of statistics I've studied doesn't deal so much with those.

The top half mostly fell pretty quickly for me, which is rare for a Saturday. The bottom half was a lot harder. I didn't think an APE was a hominid (I was confusing the the family Hominidae with the genus Homo). I had no clue on any of the longer answers on the bottom.

MUSETTE I recognized after getting it from crosses, because I like a style of music I think is called "Bal Musette" - sort of French traditional music, the kind that plays in the background of a movie where everyone wears stripey shirts and berets and laughs like "Aw haw haw". You know the laugh.

WILLA bothers me a bit because there's no reason anyone would know her. Even in various lists of black women in higher education I don't find mention of Willa Player. That's clearly a "software provides name, google name and grab the first sentence from wikipedia" kind of clue.

To this day I cannot see or hear the word BALLET without thinking of Lenny asking Homer, "Gonna go see the bear in the little car, huh?". Some day I'd love to see a crossword clue it as such, but that's probably even more niche than Willa Player.

Nancy 1:05 PM  

I'm completely with you, @Frantic. The best desserts I've ever had can't hold a candle to the best savory dishes I've ever had. I would rather have coulibac of salmon than chocolate mousse, venison than crepe suzettes, duck a l'orange than molten lava chocolate cake. If I can only afford -- or only have room for -- two courses in a restaurant, I'll always have the soup or appetizer course rather than the dessert.

But still I love EAT DESSERT FIRST. I love it for its culinary hedonism and for its in-your-face flouting of all the civilized rules of dietary health.

Deb Sweeney 1:18 PM  

Today was the day I learned that there are "bels" in addition to "decibels." And "sapor." Don't think I've ever encountered either word.

Anonymous 1:26 PM  

This was on the challenging side for me (took me about an hour to solve). Wanted FERMAT'S LAST THEOREM for 1A, but it didn't fit, and I'm not sure it's really a "pattern" anyway. I think of Pascal more as a philosopher or theologian, but I remembered he was also a mathematician, so I eventually got his name in there and worked the crosses until TRIANGLE appeared. The phrase with Pascal's name that comes to mind much more readily is Pascals' Wager. In any case, I've always thought that this dark, existential observation from his Pensées was depressingly accurate: "Let us imagine a number of men in chains, and all condemned to death, where some are killed each day in the sight of the others, and those who remain see their own fate in that of their fellows, and wait their turn, looking at each other sorrowfully and without hope. It is an image of the condition of men."

Anonymous 1:28 PM  

I find the clue for AMIS to be really stupid.

La Boheme is an Italian opera, not French.

With so many possible clues, why pick one that is patently wrong?


Frantic Sloth 1:36 PM  

@JD 1226pm & @Nancy 105pm Thank you! I think we might be in the minority, though. I don't have the statistics to prove that, however. Big surprise there.
And @JD, that cult toast sounds yummy.

Carola 1:48 PM  

@pabloinnh 11:01 and @Son Volt 11:29 - I agree with you about today's Saturday Stumper, a very enjoyable wrestling match. I don't do the Stumpers every week, so I haven't built up a sense of the individual constructors' style...need to start paying attention.

pmdm 2:05 PM  

Because of yesterday's weather, my paper came only today, so I solved three puzzles today. A bit much, but the puzzles were at least for me all enjoyable.

If my memory is correct (and enough of times it is not) Fridays puzzles during the Maleska era tended to have stacks of 15s. Saturday puzzles used an early week grid with very difficult clues. Can't really make up my mind which policy I like better.

smalltowndoc 2:08 PM  

@Unknown 12:43 PM

Regarding BEL, Read my post from 10:25 AM.

Anonymous 2:08 PM  


anyone who refs Lehrer is OK by me. shall we go poison some pigeons in the park?

early on in my educational life, it was given to me that Fibonacci sequence was vewy, vewy useful in my later life in maths. got all the way to diffEq, which was a disaster (no surprise there; it's far and away the prime exit point for failed maths), and never encountered it. it's a cute exercise, IIRC, a fabricated sequence, i.e. not the result of observation of real world phenomena, yet claimed to be useful in modelling real world. bah.

Anonymous 2:15 PM  

Haut = high. Bois = wood. Americans managed to pronounce it o bo.

Zed 2:23 PM  

@Anon Villager - La Bohême may be an Italian opera, but the title is French, it is set in Paris, and the clue is in French. How much more do you need to come up with AMIS?

Hand up for savory > sweet. I find many DESSERTs described as “great” by others to be just cloying and awful. A good Dutch Apple Pie made with northern spies with a scoop of French Vanilla ice cream, though, is pretty damn good. Also, a good carrot cake. My favorite local restaurant once had a flourless chocolate cake with cayenne. That was also pretty damn good. But that pretty much exhausts my list of great DESSERTs.

@JD - DC? I’ve been going to the meetings in Rye.

@Unknown 12:43 - Did you see @Deb Sweeney’s comment?
@Deb Sweeney - What I don’t know is do 10 BELs make one deciBEL or do 10 deciBELs make one BEL.
Speaking of which, in Ed Stats we work a lot with quartILEs, from which I inferred DECILES.

@David Grenier - It’s alway possible someone just went to the Wikipedia disambiguation page for a WILLA clue, but She seems Crossworthy to me, more so than some others we’ve seen.

Smith 2:30 PM  


I find it impossible to believe that anyone would use Every Breath You Take as a wedding song. Troll much?

Anoa Bob 2:37 PM  

Don't usually notice diagonal patterns but today we get an in-your-face POC man cascade that could be clued as "Sound of a tire deflating". All five of those Ss could be changed to black squares, the clues slightly tweaked and nothing of value would be lost. There would just be an extra five black squares in the grid inflating the count from 21 to 26.

The relative frequency of the letter S in this grid is a little over 12.7% (26 out of 204) which is about twice the rate of its 6.28% frequency in standard English text per cornell.edu, a sign that the plural of convenience likely played a significant part in filling the grid.

I once read a short story about about the Biblical punishment of STONING where a couple, each of whom had lost their spouse, were caught in flagrante delicto and were punished by being buried in an earthen pit up to their necks and then being STONed to death, with each adult in the village participating in the gruesome process. It took a long time and was described in excruciating detail. I wish I had never read that story. I can't erase the scene from my mind so seeing STONING at 3 Down put a damper on my enthusiasm for ALL ELSE of the solve .

Thus endeth my SCREEDS.

GILL I. 2:42 PM  

@Frantic 11:21. Oh boy...I'm with you on knowing fancy mathematicians only through crosswords. I get the stoop tiara prize when it comes to naming smarty pants math people or scientists. Hell, it took me forever to find out that Avogadro was an Italian scientist and not some bright green fruit you slather on toast.
@Nancy, @Frantic and Z.:
@Nancy...while I agree on all the main courses you listed (especially coulibiac of salmon), I'm inviting all of you to the Ritz London. I'm betting you'll drool and order the Gateau St. Honore before touching your duck liver ballotine. The Ritz is know for its deliciousness....but...but...if you first feasted your eye on their Gateau, you'd give the duck back his liver and wish him a long good life......I kid you not!

Smith 2:44 PM  

@Frantic & Nancy

I'm standing over here with you in the "I'd starve to death if locked in the M&M store" crowd. I'll join you for duck a l'orange any day. Or how about a wheel of gruyère?

Zed 3:04 PM  

@smalltowndoc - Oops. Forgot about your earlier comment which also answered my question.

@Anon2:15 - English got oboe from the Italians, so blame Italy for its poor French.

@Smith - Believe @DrBB. It’s so common that it’s #1 Brides’ Worst Wedding Songs List. It has to be the best example of people not actually listening to the lyrics.

bocamp 3:30 PM  

@burtonkd (10:39 AM)

Recently read or listened to a piece on WILLA Player. Didn't know her or her college previously. My knowledge of College presidents, I'm ashamed to say, is one. :(

@Z (2:23 PM)

Agreed re: the crossword-worthiness of WILLA Player. Thx for the link! :)

Here's the first para of the Wiki article:

"Willa Beatrice Player (August 9, 1909 – August 29, 2003) was an American educator, college administrator, college president, civil rights activist, and federal appointee. Player was the first African-American woman to become president of a four-year fully accredited liberal arts college when she took the position at Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina." (Wikipedia)
td 0*

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Chip Hilton 3:35 PM  

One letter killed me: the H in PHTEST. I couldn’t get myself to realize that it might be a consonant. Hence, the mammal also had me looking for a vowel on the second space. As far as Ms. Player was concerned, I got stuck on cILLA, as in the British pop star of the ‘60’s, Cilla Black. Other than that section, much fun. I for one love 15 stacks. Today’s bottom three fell in mere minutes while the top three required far more work, even after getting INTIMATEAPPAREL without the benefit of crosses. Again, highly enjoyable

Nancy 3:44 PM  

Wow, @GILL -- I accept!!!!!!

There are lots of photos of the Gateau St Honore, but I had to go to Twitter to find the best photo of the Ritz London incarnation. And although I'm not on Twitter, Twitter actually let me in to OGLE the cake. OMG, does that ever look delicious!!!!!!!

Maybe they'll let y'all in to OGLE it, too. Would any of you turn this wonderful invitation down??? I sure won't. (Though I'm now off to [hopefully] OGLE that duck liver ballotine dish you also mention, @GILL.)

Anonymous 4:02 PM  

@Anoa Bob:

let me guess? Old Testament? certainly Not What Jesus Would Do.

GILL I. 4:33 PM  

@Nancy....The last time I was at the Ritz/London was about 10 years ago. I WILL NEVER EVER FORGET THE TASTE OF THE GATEAU. We're going back (hopefully) next year and if they've taken if off the menu I will strangle the pastry chef with a duck ramming guillotine. the Duck livers were good, though......
Let's hop on a plane...shall we?

Smith 4:38 PM  

@Z 3:04

Ok, I believe you both, but that's just really scary to contemplate

medical 4:56 PM  

thanks for sharing this post with us

Zed 5:10 PM  

@Smith 4:38 - 😂🤣😂 - Right!? I get why this R.E.M. song is misunderstood as a love song (“Fire! Fire!” for a chorus should be a clue but Stipe is infamous for being hard to understand), but the Police tune is pure Stalker Anthem.

camilof 5:11 PM  

@sonvolt Came here for La Bohème/MUSETTE connection :)


okanaganer 5:32 PM  

I just love stacks; I enjoyed this thoroughly because it's been a while, and it was fun! All those interlocking words. And what a beauty grid; only 6 black squares in all the 3 outermost rows/columns. Exquisite!

[Spelling Bee: yd (Fri) 0; td (Sat) 0. Lotsa weird sounding words today.]

Barbara S. 5:49 PM  

The "Every Breath You Take"/wedding tune discussion makes me think of Ronald Reagan's relationship with "Born in the U.S.A." There may have been a superficial disjunction between music and lyrics in that song. But, seriously, don't people listen to the words?

ANOSMIA sounds like a term a kid might come up with for the inability to smell. It seemed so spot-on that I hesitated to fill it in. I went 180 degrees wrong on STEROIDS, putting in "nonsaIDS" instead. "Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs."

Great puzzle, though. Got the lower two-thirds first, then came back and tackled the rest. Couldn't manage without the odd cheat, though, so Freddie got me good. I'll be ready for him next time.

Frantic Sloth 5:57 PM  

Holy cheese, @GILL - that does look heavenly! (Thanks for the link, @Nancy!) I accept, too - airfare and hotel included, right?

@Barbara S. 549am I just had a distressing thought. What if those who like "Every Breath You Take" actually do know the lyrics and think they're just ducky?

GILL I. 7:23 PM  

@Ms Sloth 5:57.....But of course! All will be flying First Class on British Air; you each get your own sleeper bed. We'll be staying at the Ritz in London and each will have their own suite. First night there will be the 5 course dinner at their 20 star Michelin Baroque style restaurant. The next night we can only eat dessert.
Now excuse me while I hop on my Greyhound bus to Reno and play some craps.

JC66 7:40 PM  


Sign me up.

Joe Dipinto 7:44 PM  

@Anon 1:28 – I think the AMIS clue is dimwitted too. I suspect the way their brains worked was that, since they clued Paris —which is in France— as the setting for "La Bohéme", wouldn't it be fun and clever to clue AMIS —which is a French word— to also reference "La Bohéme"? Dumb.

They could have used:
Les ___ de l'ABC, student revolutionary group in "Les Misérables"
– no fuss, no muss, it's all French

I also see at XWord Info that the constructor thanked the editing crew for "improving" the clues for 40d and 42a, which, imo, are two of the worst clues ever. People rail about Harry Potter clues here, but I'll take those over Simpsons clues any day of the week. 16 words to get to SIR. Sheesh.

Anonymous 8:09 PM  


interesting. sounds like the A380, and 'Air Disasters' just re-ran the episode on Qantas 32: blew up an engine right after take-off. nobody hurt, but a bit dicey all the same. just looked it up, and BA is bringing back their A380s to service. and Airbus gave up on the thing. sad. OTOH, there's talk of one or more SST coming. why can't we just go in a one-horse shay?

GILL I. 8:59 PM  

Anonymizes 8:09...I have a beautifully refurbished Boeing 747 parked in my garage. It even has a fully stocked bar. I've had it gassed up so we can go anytime.

CDilly52 9:07 PM  

Inknown 7:15 am

Merci! Il est ne’ is one of my very favorite noels.

Nancy 9:21 PM  

@GILL -- Is this the menu we'll be ordering from?

Wow! I am really excited!!!! Also I can't wait to fly on your own personal Boeing 747! I bet when we get our first glimpse of it we'll all be tempted to say "THAT'S SO YOU".

Anonymous 9:34 PM  

I didn't believe it when I first heard it, but it is true, at least according to him, that Travolta (who is multi-engine instrument rated) was offered a retired 707 at a reasonable price. he said he demurred. may be he'd be willing to pilot GILL's 747? I mean, a Scientology fest at 36,000 feet!

TTrimble 11:38 PM  

PASCAL'S TRIANGLE went in essentially right away. I usually hear and say that rather than "Pascal Triangle", and the possessive form is what's used in the WP article for example. But I wouldn't turn a hair at "Pascal triangle".

It is indeed fundamental, as @mathgent* said. Here is part of it:

1 1
1 2 1
1 3 3 1
1 4 6 4 1

If you write it this way, and sum the diagonals, you get 1, 1, 1+1=2, 1+2=3, 1+3+1=5, so 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, get it? The Fibonacci sequence. Both Pascal's triangle and the Fibonacci series are studies in recurrence, where succeeding entries are formed from prior entries by following a rule.

By the way, the relation between the Fibonacci sequence and phyllotaxis (arrangements of leaves or other plant structures), as in the numbers of fruitlets appearing in spirals that you see on pineapples being Fibonacci numbers -- that's a real thing, and there are plausible arguments for why that occurs. That's not an old wives' tale. The ideas about the dimensions of the Parthenon (or various lengths seen in Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man) being in proportion to the golden ratio: those claims should be taken with a goodly grain of salt. (The Golden Ratio is the limit of fractional values 1/1, 2/1, 3/2, 5/3, 8/5, 13/8 where the numerator and denominator are successive Fibonacci numers.)

I remember Donald in Mathmagicland, produced in 1959, spent a fair amount of time on the matter. I think there was fad around 40's and 50's where people experienced a kind of pareidolia, seeing the golden ratio just about everywhere, but I think that's died down recently. Writers like Matila Ghyka (The Geometry of Art and Life) had something to do with that trend.

Oh yes, the puzzle. I liked it. After my initial entry in the top row, I had some trouble in the north so headed down south. It was a slow but methodical and ultimately satisfying solve. Some trouble in the east before deciding that SHREW was the likely answer to that damned Soricidae question, with PH TEST following. Lots of Natick potential in that area: the obscure cluing of the mammal, this WILLA Player whom I've never heard of, same with PAK of Se Ri fame, same with SACHA Gervasi, and FAT TAIL was a long time in coming.

TE DEUMS, LARCH, AMIS, ELK MEAT, ANOSMIA -- they also came very slowly.

STONING -- eww. That's a lot more gross than just about anything Rex writes about in disgust.

*@mathgent once sent me an article on a 3-dimensional version of Pascal's triangle and the relation with multinomial coefficients. Thanks, @mg!

SB: yd, td 0. Yeah, today's was a little weird, what with alternate spellings and somewhat ungainly letters. Yesterday's was satisfying.

Brian A in SLC 12:25 AM  

Thanks for the asterisks. Seems like I've seen you use those before, was too lazy to attempt to decipher.

Bob Mills 2:49 PM  

"LEFT" cannot be an answer for "TAKING OFF." "TOOK OFF" would work with "LEFT." This is a bad, bad error for a New York Times puzzle. It's especially bad, because all of the following would be good clues for "LEFT."


Dovish side of the aisle

Political stance


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thefogman 11:21 AM  

DNF. Burned by the MUSETTE.

Diana, LIW 11:48 AM  

Got lost and never found my way out.

Diana, Lady, Waiting for brain to come back

Diana, LIW 11:50 AM  

And...I was not a MUSETTE.

Lady Di

spacecraft 12:41 PM  

well...Fibonacci wasn't French, and I didn't know anybody else. Through the clues I searched, looking for ANYTHING to get started--and found: my DOD, Se-Ri PAK. Then next to her were the hapless MARINERS, and I was in. Thus was the south solved first, in my usual bass-ackward manner, and thence northward.


TOOIREDTOTHINK, I pressed on, refusing to AIMLOW. Besides, I wanted to SETAGOODEXAMPLE for other solvers. In the end, I had to finish with a few outright guesses. Luckily, they were all correct, so here comes an avalanche of triumph points. *Ducks* That was close. Eagle.

Burma Shave 12:58 PM  




rondo 2:05 PM  

Must admit to DNF. Must have been TOOTIREDTOTHINK. Got most of it but ALLELSE made me GRIMACE. This was not on my radar wheelhouse's waveLENGTHS.

leftcoaster 4:57 PM  

From the start, I knew I was in trouble with PASCALSTRIANGLE. MUSETTE and BEL didn’t help, among others. (I’m just not often into Saturday wheelhouses.)

spacecraft 6:25 PM  

Ha! In reading my first post, I see I left out a T and the result was TOO IRED TO THINK. Freudian slip?

Gweeni 4:03 PM  


Wall Decor 11:41 PM  
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