Grenade in gaming lingo / SAT 11-19-22 / Whirling toon familiarly / Fed on the sly? / Quirky old fellas / Birds that rarely swim despite having webbed feet / Half of a Polynesian locale

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Constructor: Benji Goldsmith

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none, unless the grid is supposed to look like Frankenstein's monster, such that the grid CREATES A MONSTER (17A: Isn't able to control the outcome of one's actions)  

Word of the Day: CETE (5D: Pride : lions :: ___ : badgers) —
a number of badgers together. [First recorded in 1400–50; late Middle English, of obscure origin; perhaps variant of Middle English cite “town,” a usage suggested by similarity of Middle English forms for borough and burrow] (
• • •

A very easy walk from AT ONE WITH NATURE to "IS THIS SEAT TAKEN?" That is the best spin I can give on this solving experience. Nice longer answer up top, a non-grueling journey down the grid, and another nice longer answer down below. If I describe it that way, I leave out some perfectly fine bits but also a bunch of winces and head-tilts and head-shakes and other general unpleasantness. The dangers with these grid-spanning 15 is always the cruddiness of the crosses, and while I don't think today's crosses were, on the whole, any cruddier than you usually get with stacked 15s, there also wasn't enough interesting fill in the grid to lift it out of humdrumitude. Further, there were some cluing moments that were a little "ugh." When your overall grid is stacked with great answers, a stray "ugh" in the clues for short stuff isn't going to mean much. But when there aren't a lot of highlights, then the lowlights shine forth with unfortunate brightness. The first jarring bit is of course CETE, which is the kind of "you'll-never-use-it-or-see-it-outside-crosswords" obscurity that used to be much more common back when I started solving in the early '90s. It's the kind of desperation you only bring forth when you have set yourself a challenging architectural goal, the kind of answer you convince yourself is OK but it's in the dictionary. See also "OH, ME," which is bad even in "AH, ME" form. As "OH, ME" ... oh my ("oh my" being an actual expression one might use).  The rest of the short fill (except maybe -INI) isn't actually bad, but too much of the cluing either tries to be cute and misses or tries to get tough and just annoys. For example, the clue on INA (which is, actually, pretty bad fill). Cluing a two-word partial as a (singular) "preceder" (4D: Preceder of word or sense)!? Why are you going out of your way to call attention to a piece of fill you can't possibly want anyone to dwell on? Cluing OTTER as a paint shade? I think of odds being EVEN (no "S"), so the clue on EVENS (plural) feels particularly clunky (42D: Erroneous answer to "What are the odds?"). In what context would you even make that “erroneous answer”?? Again, if there were more whiz-bang answers in this thing, I probably wouldn't even remember this stuff. It would be a sideshow at best. But when there are few highlights, I tend to notice every little creak.

For me the puzzle missed with its marquee answer, CREATES A MONSTER. It's not just that the clue feels ... not quite on the money ("outcome of one's actions" doesn't really get at MONSTER), it's that CREATED A MONSTER is so so so so so much better as a standalone answer that I'm super-distracted by the fact that it isn't, in fact, the answer. "I've created a monster," that's the meaty phrase that everyone knows. CREATES (?) A MONSTER is ... well, a MEAT ALTERNATIVE by comparison. Speaking of MEAT, what the hell is up with the answer to that [Paleo, e.g.] clue!?! DIET FAD!? LOL, last I checked they were called FAD DIETs. It's this kind of tin-eared, close-enough, uncanny-valley quality that makes the puzzle less than fully enjoyable today. I google CREATED A MONSTER and I get all kinds of stuff: song titles, books, definitions, etc. I google CREATES A MONSTER and I get ... "Paper Mario CREATES A MONSTER"!? (four hits, all at the top of the results). What the hell even is that!?

There were some other moments that I liked, though. The "?" clues worked today. [Fed on the sly?] is NARC because a NARC is a federal employee who works undercover, i.e. "on the sly." Pretty good disguising of "Fed" there (with the capital masked by appearing in the first position, where all first letters are capitals). [Show up in labor?] also has good misdirection on both "show up" and "in labor" (OUTWORK). Not as thrilled with [Question asked without reservation?] since "IS THIS SEAT TAKEN?" is not a question you'd ever ask in a situation where one normally has a reservation. Usually you're in a movie theater or at an event of some kind where there's general admission, or maybe the bar, or maybe you want to take a seat from another table that doesn't appear to be using theirs ... I like the cleverness of the clue, but the contextual aptness isn't really ... precise. There was one other little cluing moment I liked, and that was the successive clues at 26- and 27-Down (26D: British ___ / 27D: Whitish). It's a small thing, but something about the way they echo each other suffixially made me smile.

Wanted DIALS BACK at 30A: Moves from 9 to 5, say. There doesn't really seem to be anything in the clue suggesting an "IT," but I do like the phrase DIALS IT BACK well enough. I also like the clue on SMALL TALK (33A: It's sometimes weather-related), as it is perfectly accurate while having nothing on its surface to signal its relationship to talk. Not a big aha there, but a fairly substantial "hey, that's true!," which is something. Wish there'd been a few more moments like that. Enjoy your Saturday, see you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Conrad 6:04 AM  

I found the puzzle more challenging than OFL did. My main trouble was in the north:
5D: No clue about the name of a group of badgers
6D: robS before AWES
7D: I only know "stigmatism" as its optical antonym, astigmatism. Applying it to a LISP is news to me.
17A: @Rex CREATEd A MONSTER complicated seeing LISP
8D: OHno and OHMy before OHME
19A: ESPNEWS remained hidden until the very end. Wanted "ESPN NEWS," which didn't fit.

OffTheGrid 6:43 AM  

I disagree with all of @Rex's nits. There was one item, *Erroneous answer to "What are the odds?"/EVENS*, that @Rex didn't seem to understand. Odds in this case refers to numbers not chances. "What are 1,3,5,7?" "EVENS" as an answer is erroneous.

@Conrad. Sigmatism. Only one T. Repetitive use of the letter S; lisp.(Collins English Dictionary)

Burghman 6:57 AM  

I liked the clue on EVENS - I took it to be a reference to numbers not wagers. “What are the odds? (1,3,5,7)”. An answer of EVENS (2,4,6,8) is maybe not punny but cutesy and erroneous.

Burghman 6:59 AM  

@Conrad There’s only 1 ‘t’ in the clue for LISP - “sigmatism”

Gunner 7:01 AM  

Sig-ma-tism. Only one "t".

Lewis 7:02 AM  

Ooh, that’s a striking grid, hour-glass like. Those black square clumps on the sides look like barbell weights, and the image in the upper middle, when I squint, looks dachshundish. DYAD is an appropriate answer, as the grid design boils down to three pairs – the weight stacks, the dachshund and its mirror image, and the single blocks on top and bottom. Elegant.

The seven longest answers – four spanners and the stack in the middle – are all engaging winners, IMO. Three of those four grid spanners have never been in the Times puzzle in all its 80 years, giving the puzzle a lovely fresh feel.

I liked the pair of double-i palindromes (INI and LIMIT), the PuzzPair© of SMALL TALK and THEY SAY, and, speaking of A-TRAIN – BORA, ILSA, OREIDA and ILSA.

This was a day-brightener of a puzzle. Congratulations, Benji, on your (Saturday!) debut, and I hope there’s more where this came from!

TTrimble 7:02 AM  

Just about the easiest Saturday in memory. It just flew by.

That being said, I think I pretty much agree with Rex on everything, both on what he liked and what he disliked. (Like CETE and OTTER, pfft.)

There was general agreement the other day about IERE being ugly fill. I think today's winner is INI. I didn't even see it while solving, but now it sticks out, even worse than IN A which Rex commented on.

ESPNEWS looks weird to me, the two implicit N's welded into one. I called my grandfather "Granddaddy", and I often had trouble deciding, when writing a thank-you letter, whether it should be Dear Granddaddy (stop! too many d's!) or Grandaddy (wait, that doesn't seem right).

"Sigmatism". The other day we had SIGMA as the answer to "symbol for volatility" (I think it was), but no, nothing to do with variance or volatility. I feel like if I entered "sigmatism" into a Google search, it'd ask me "did you mean astigmatism?". Then too, the answer LISP makes me think of other ess-y things like "sibilance": you know, the whistling sound that some old men, or (so THEY SAY) people from Essex, make every time they pronounce something with an s in it. If you're one of those, there's free help for you in this elaborate video. Or, the word "sussurus" -- say that with a LISP. Or lisp along to the song Sussudio. Or, for that matter, say IS THIS SEAT TAKEN?

Side note here, that there is no paucity of POC in this puzzle, EVENS being the most nose-wrinkling example.

I can't figure out how to ATONE WITH NATURE ;-).

SB: yd 0. Last word was tied for the longest. Today's reminds me of the Billy Joel song with all those -ack -ack -ack syllables.

Anonymous 7:24 AM  

Interesting to know that Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake we’re MOUSEKETEERs.

E.Z. Aspie 7:38 AM  


In fact, this is the easiest Saturday since........

Hmmm, let me think....

Got it.

LAST Saturday.

Either that, or my crossword skills have soared practically overnight.

Jon 7:40 AM  

dNF. I could not get ESPNNEWS, as I had OHMY and other incorrect downs. Was thinking it was online gaming, but ESONYWS made no sense.

Loren Muse Smith 7:44 AM  

I tell you, once I got my toehold (TEE), things went swimmingly, especially down south. Loved the clue for IS THIS SEAT TAKEN? I don’t have the balls to be That Person who shows up early at an event to drape coats, sweaters, etc. over the backs of like 12 seats to save them for friends who’re getting there later. This just doesn’t seem fair. And when I see others do it, I get really nervous and upset that some kind of fight’s gonna ensue. I mean, c’mon. It’s your kid’s graduation and you get there at a reasonable time only to find all the good seats covered in apparel, saved for aunts and cousins who chose not to arrive at a reasonable time. Even though I have no dog in that fight, I hate the spectacle, dread the (justified) confrontations.

“Khaki” – what my daughter’s friend in Boston starts his Audi with.

So if you’re a gamer and you give your favorite e-grenade a name, could it be Kermit the FRAG? Asking for a friend.

@Conrad - I had never seen the word sigmatism, but it follows that you can have both a sigmatism and astigmatism.

For no reason other than procrastinating working on lesson plans, I looked into how to inflect the verb ANTE. Past tense: anted, ing form: anteing. Hah.

People might say that tofu is a MEAT ALTERNATIVE, but they ain’t foolin’ no one. It sure doesn’t eat like meat, doesn’t have the same mouth feel. I do like it in miso soup, but honestly, I have no idea why.

I actually had a dnf ‘cause my group of badgers was a “cote” – never seen the word CETE. What with all the animals in the grid, I’ll helpfully offer up their official group names:

MACAW - flock
RAT - mischief
MOUSE – [see RAT]
SOCK-EYE - bind
BAT – colony, cloud, cauldron
OTTER - raft
TERN - flock

Speaking of that MACAW – I adored its clue. OH NO, you don’t understand. Mr. Beaks is not a pet; he’s my companion. Mr. Beaks and I take in a matinee and then grab a bite at Panera. We go to a Christmas concert together. Maybe check out the Rosa Bonheur exhibit at the Met.

PS - Also – in my research of animal groups, I went down a rabbit (warren) hole when I saw hippopotami There’s a ton of arguing and pedantic posturing about his, but many argue that you should pluralize the “horse” part, so it would be hippoipotamus, the Greek equivalent of our notaries public or French’s culs-de-sac. Kinda.

mmorgan 7:59 AM  

I had to keep checking the calendar on my phone to make this was really a Saturday — and not a Monday. I don’t time myself and I’m not a speed-solver but this was (using Rex’s term) WHOOSH WHOOSH WHOOSH and I was done. Maybe I was just on the constructor’s wavelength to an unusual degree. I think Rex’s criticisms are not misplaced, but I was done too quickly to notice — it felt like a fraction of my usual Saturday time and effort.

Wanderlust 8:08 AM  

I almost naticked with ItI and DItESH. Luckily, I thought DINESH sounded like a more common South Asian name (probably because of the idiot D’Souza, and I’m glad he wasn’t the clue). And then I realized INI is a much more common pasta ending than ItI. I think I had ziti on my mind. Hmm, can I have my leftover pasta for breakfast?

I liked the opposing long pair up top with AT ONE WITH NATURE and CREATES A MONSTER. Frankenstein was hardly at one with nature when he created the monster, he was at odds with nature. (And speaking of odds, I agree with the commenters’ parsing of that clue, which makes EVENS an excellent answer.) I also like GOES MAD crossing CREATES A MONSTER.

it also went pretty quickly for me, and I thought the cluing was great, including my favorite for IS THIS SEAT TAKEN - I get Rex’s objection, but the clue is so clever I didn’t notice it. Another great misdirection clue he didn’t mention is “it provides more coverage than a tank” for TEE. I love it when a good clue saves a boring answer. Another example - LAS. Not a clever clue, but I did get a nice Aha when crosses revealed the answer.

The names of paint colors are so silly. Can you picture the color of an OTTER? Isn’t it just dark brown? Definitely not TAN. Are there other paint colors named woodchuck and stoat, each slightly lighter or darker than OTTER?

Anonymous 8:09 AM  

Somewhere in Hell, ETM is laughing his ass off...

Gary Jugert 8:15 AM  

Well, DIALS A CLOCK and DIALS IT BACK are pretty much the same, but I went with the wrong one and it skunked me. Finally had to Go-ogle "Flutter" to escape the jam and even upon finding the answer I couldn't understand how it's BAT for a bit. OHO, definition number 7. It's Saturday... Saturday people like definition number 7.

Looked up the two starlets, but otherwise a clean fun puzzle.


Look I know it's the end of the week and we're supposedly into obscurities, but three clues were written by a heathen.

You put in CREATES A MONSTER and then give it a lame-o clue like that?! Gimme Igor and Dr. Frankenstein, or kids art project, or pours a Big Gulp, or "Gives baby boomer the wrong change at the cash register," or anything with a sense of humor. It's a MONSTER and you know MONSTERS are the best.

Speaking of cute, OTTER is a color of brown? You're wasting OTTER? Gawd. One of the greatest cutest sweetheart of an animal that'd rip you to shreds if you messed with it and you go with "brown."

The clue for EVENS was ridiculous, even for a Saturday.


1 We say, "Fat old white men man-splaining and man-ducating anyone they can trap into listening to their rambling diatribes on kids these days, and the way things used to be, and how you're doing it wrong."
2 Probably two, piratewise.
3 Gobble down the cheese on the charcuterie board faster than those other pro-Mozart mouth breathers.
4 One bringing home the frozen peas to vasectomy survivor.


jammon 8:25 AM  

"CETE" is completely wrong. A group of Badgers is a "PARTY." Come to Madison any football Saturday and I'll prove it to you.

Gary Jugert 8:28 AM  

@Loren Muse Smith 7:44 AM
"who're" 🀣

TJS 8:33 AM  

A bit too easy, maybe because of the scarcity of PPP, but I found a lot to like in this one. I'm in new cell phone Hell today so I can use the extra time. It's not easy being 73, I need a 12 year old to show me what I'm doing wrong.

kitshef 8:34 AM  

To me growing up, GEEZER was just another word for a man, along the lines of bloke, gent or chap.

It was not until I was in my teens, where my influencers changed from my (British) parents to my (American) teachers and schoolmates, that I first recognized another meaning, that of an eccentric person.

And much more recently, I think in the last twenty years, it became pretty much synonymous with ‘old person’. That last change always kind of bothers me. I still expect ‘geezer’ to mean just an odd person, and have to remind myself that it’s now most often being used to mean old person.

“OH no” initially for 8D, which had me flirting with the idea of CREATES AN OYSTER at 17A. I’m going to try using that expression in hopes it will catch on.

Great clue for SMALL TALK. Great Sniff ‘n’ the Tears video from Rex today. Or rather, an okay video for a great song.

Son Volt 8:34 AM  

More Friday-like for me but enjoyable. The goofy looking grid probably doesn’t help - I’m with Rex on some of the unfortunate short stuff - HTS was the biggest culprit for me.

I liked all of the spanners - AT ONE WITH NATURE is top notch. DIET FAD did seem backwards - needed the crosses for DINESH. Always liked when John Raitt wanted something more than SMALL TALK from Doris.

Tofu was the original MEAT ALTERNATIVE and can be delicious - all the Impossible stuff and the like they are pushing today belong in PRISONS. MOUSE and RAT subtheme? I liked the EVENS clue.

Under the MILKY Way

Enjoyable Saturday solve. @bocamp and pablo - Matt Sewell’s Stumper is a little trickier but still gettable today.

andrew 8:37 AM  

For the second Saturday in a row, set personal best and didn’t feel good about it. Too too too easy! Last week was 9:15, this week was 8:16 (my average is 14:04). Not that the stats mean anything to anyone, I only check when I’ve filled impossibly fast (for me).

I understand this is Benji’s debut and congrats on that but this was Tuesday/Wednesday level. And THAT only matters because I get revved up for the Sat challenge and can watch football and vacuum while filling out Mon/Tues puzzles the night before.

Probably following the excellent Robyn xword on Friday with this too straightforward and too simple slog didn’t put the debut in the best light either.

Nancy 8:38 AM  

An enjoyable puzzle -- with just about no proper names. And any puzzle that leads with AT ONE WITH NATURE is MAGICAL in my book. Thanks to those of you at the top of the comment section who explained EVENS. I was going to question it, but now I get it.

There's a color called OTTER brown??? Who knew? Britney and Justin are old enough to once have been MOUSKETEERS? Who knew?

A nifty clue for SMALL TALK that gives nothing away. A lovely clue/answer for IS THIS SEAT TAKEN?

I don't do DIET FADs like Paleo, but even more I don't do MEAT ALTERNATIVES like tofu. But tofu isn't the worst. Seitan is the worst. It chews like shoe leather. I sampled a small bite -- but not small enough -- years ago when I was dining with my vegetarian niece and it took all my will power not to spit it out. I felt like I was in a Charlie Chaplin movie. How I managed to swallow it I'm not quite sure.

This was quite easy for a Saturday. I found yesterday's puzzle much harder. But a fun puzzle nonetheless.

burtonkd 8:43 AM  

@Wanderlust - The names of colors are truly mind boggling to me. I enjoy looking through paint samples and marveling that people have come up with so many distinctive names. I started today with Ochre, OchER (maybe alternate spelling), then okay I guess an OTTER is brown.

Hands up for disagreeing with the nits. This one went by quickly, and looking back at the puzzle, I only see good solid answers. If the best practice is to just have a couple of nondescript glue, only having INA and INI far apart seems pretty well done. As Lewis mentions, 3 of the spanners are debuts. ISTHISSEATTAKEN clue seems just fine and a lot of fun. Who says the place has to usually take reservations? While CREATEdAMONSTER is the more common phrase, I enjoyed thinking of it in a different tense, and doesn't rule it out as a solid entry. CETE fair from crosses - I must have seen it on a list of strange animal collective name lists at some point, but would never come up with it.

@TTrimble - It seems there is a whole genre of novel, including A Walk in the Woods mentioned by Rex, that are basically people's attempts to ATONE WITH NATURE. We could probably start with the work of Thoreau.

Anonymous 8:45 AM  

Along with Christina Aguilera and Ryan Gosling

RooMonster 9:15 AM  

Hey All !
Add me to the Easy SatPuz list. 4 minutes slower than my record. Puz looked ominous at first, with all the open spaces, but amazingly the ole brain decided to tweak to most of the "third definition" clues. I got Rex's "whoosh whoosh" from Yesterday.

Funky grid design. Got 42 Blockers, which is a high count normally, but especially for a themeless. Although a large chunk are basically "hidden" on the sides.

@egs, TTrimble - Got an almost ASS at AAS. Har.

Nice Themeless, would've liked it even if I didn't do it as fast as I did.

A story:
In the Army, I had a high-and-tight haircut (for those not in the know, it's when you have hair just on the top of your head, shaved straight across, resulting in a flat-top, and shaved close to the skin on the sides) that I let go for longer than I should've. My hair was up kind of high (by Army standards). My buddy said one day, (as my hair was still just the top of my head, standing up probably a good 2" or so) "You look like a Rooster!" So he started calling me Rooster. After the Army, a friend from PA said the nickname needed to sound better, so he changed it to RooMonster.
And that's how one CREATES A MONSTER.

One F

Anonymous 9:17 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tom T 9:34 AM  

@Rex's "... something about the way they echo each other suffixially made me smile," made me smile.

Second (maybe third) consecutive Saturday that I finished noticeably faster than the Friday. What's up with that?

Last square entered was the N in DINESH/INI--didn't know Kumail's "Silicon Valley" role and thought the cross could be ItI. But the N seemed more likely.

Wanted OHMy before OH ME: TERNS out it was wrong.

Clearly old enough, but not sure I am quirky enough to join club GEEZERS.

Nancy 9:37 AM  

(I meant to post this last week, but because of a major distraction in my life I forgot.)

I was late getting to Lewis's wonderful puzzle in the LAT -- which so many of you here solved online -- because I was waiting for the printout that Lewis was kind enough to send me, via smail-mail. I absolutely loved it and think it's a brilliant example of one of my favorite puzzle types: a type that can be more devious and baffling than any other kind of puzzle. At least it is for me. And here it's done so smoothly that you may not see what's going on for quite a while. Highly recommended to those who missed it and who like challenges.

Birchbark 9:39 AM  

IS THIS SEAT TAKEN? = A good campaign slogan if I ever run for office.
It is taken? OK SHOOT.

ATONE WITH NATURE is a nice surprise on a Saturday morning.

Sam Ross 9:51 AM  

Cruised through the bottom two thirds of the puzzle and got really stuck on the top section. Even once I had AT ONE WITH NATURE (and it took me a while to get there), I was struggling to see CREATES A MONSTER. First kept trying to make PROBLEM work in place of MONSTER, and I had no idea that there’s a ESPN program (?) that doubles up that N for ESPNEWS. Wanted OH NO or OH MY in place of OH ME. I typed in and erased OK SHOOT about three times. I think I spent legitimately half my solve time in the NW, which sucked all the joy out of it for me. Still no idea what HTS and OUTWORK mean, having not yet read Rex’s write-up or any comments above.

Tom T 9:55 AM  

@RooMonster: loved the origin of nickname story.

Meanwhile, reflecting on the DIET FAD answer (which bothered me like it bothered Rex and others), I think the point might be that a FAD DIET is some modern, made-up nonsense, whereas the Paleo thing is attempting to recreate an ancient diet. So it is a DIET FAD, not a FAD DIET.

Geezer 9:57 AM  

Oh yeah? Well ya know what? Yur a Quirky old fella. So there!

Sam Ross 9:57 AM  

Wait - I’m not getting any clarification above. Would someone please explain HTS and OUTWORK to me?

Wanderlust 10:06 AM  

HTS is an abbreviation for Heights (Brooklyn Heights). “Show up in labor” refers to showing someone up in something, or outdoing them.

Mary McCarty 10:07 AM  

@sammRoss: Brooklyn Heights and OUT- WORK, as in out-do, out-run. Etc.

@LMS, since “hippopotamos” (sorry I can’t use the Greek letters) is a single word, only the ending needs to be pluralized, hence:HIPPOPOTAMOI, but I’m impressed that you knew the -oi ending!

IMO, OH ME is the worst of the bad stuff…it’s OH My or ah ME.

Lewis 10:09 AM  

@Nancy -- Thank you for those kind words! For those interested, it was in the WSJ November 3. You can get to it for free (Google "Wall Street Journal Crossword"), and at the bottom of the page there are links to recent puzzles. You can print it out or solve it online. Title: CHARACTER DEFICIENCIES.

burtonkd 10:15 AM  

@ Sam Ross - thanks for asking again, I finally figured out OUTWORK: You "show up" someone as in prove you are better.
Brooklyn Heights is a neighborhood, here shortened to HTS. Surprised Rex didn't go after that for bad fill.

Carola 10:24 AM  

More like a toughish "medium" for me, good in the sense that I got the Saturday challenge I look forward to. After a promising start with MAGICAL x MACAW and A-TRAIN, I faltered; just couldn't get a grip in the NE. But gradually the grid yielded up its pleasures - highlights for me were CREATES A MONSTER, DIALS IT BACK, and OUTWORK (I had envisioned "labor" in the delivery room for way too long). And I liked the cross of MOUSEKETEER and RAT-LIKE.

Do-over: OH no. Help from being a grandma: a couple of years ago my 6th-grade grandson wrote a story entitled "A CETE of Badgers" (code name for a group of tweens out to overthrow regime of cruel authoritarians). No idea: DINESH. Hardest for me to see: ESPNEWS.

@Wanderlust, thank you for the grid pairs and crosses.

@Roo Monster - I love your "origin story."

Teedmn 10:24 AM  

MACAW Wuss ATRAIN WIMP, whoosh. That's how this puzzle went and except for creating a new word, I MAGICly flew through this. Disappointing that it was Friday-easy, but nice as themeless puzzles go.

Speaking of creating new words, I have to admire Rex's humdrumitude and suffixially.

CETE, I kept going back to the crosses to see if I could have erred - CETE ≠ PRIDE as animal groups go, in my opinion. I see from xwordinfo that it was last used in a puzzle in 1996 which explains why I haven't run into it before as I started solving NYT puzzles a year or so after that.

MOUSEKETEER is a debut which astounds me, it seems so common.

I agree with Rex on DIET FAD, OTTER as a color (brownish gray?), and OH ME. But I enjoyed BAT = Flutter. Did those two words become synonyms because bats flutter? I just made salmon salad sandwiches for dinner yesterday so SOCKEYE splatzed right in. And "Studies" as a noun, nice.

Thanks, Benji Goldsmith, and congratulations on your NYT debut.

Beezer 10:30 AM  

Very nice themeless that looked intimidating as hell to me but managed to end up being fairly easy for a Saturday.

There is some glitch in my brain that tends to get MACAWs mixed up with toucans, or I think of them as big black birds. Perhaps the CAW makes me think of crows. The whole thing got me looking at them as pets. Yikes! Parrot ownership seems to involve a lot more than even dogs!

@Roo…great story! And here I always thought it might be tied to kangaroo-ROOS!

B Strayhorn 10:34 AM  

2D: ...Duke Ellington classic"? NFW. I wrote it. Ellington hired me to write a whole bunch of new tunes for him, I wrote it for him, and his band played it, but it's my damned song. Depending on whom you believe, I, or the Delta Rhythm Boys, or Joya Sherrill, or some hodge-podge of all of us, but not by Ellington.

bocamp 10:36 AM  

Thx, Benji; I was definitely AT ONE with your MAGICAL creation! :)


Smooth sailing all the way; no holdups anywhere. Been quite some time since I've been this much on a constructor's wavelength for a Sat. puz.

Didn't know CETE, DINESH or that ESPNEWS has only one 'N'. Didn't matter, since crosses obviated the need.

Fun romp.

On to Sewell's Stumper (hi @Sun Volt, Pablo, etal). 🀞
Peace πŸ•Š πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all πŸ™

GILL I. 10:43 AM  

A Saturday without help is a joy to behold. And here I thought how brilliant I've become only to realize that I'm not the only stand-out Mensa. Everybody here is just as brilliant. Can't I covet the DAIS; be the queen for a day and enjoy my own little fandango tango?
I guess I should start by thanking old friends ILSA and ETSY. Their well known names gave me MEAT ALTERNATIVE and IS THIS SEAT TAKEN. Imagine that? Sometimes it is MAGICAL when off of just two letters you get your answer. It's like someone finishing your sentence for you without being asked. I once dated a lawyer who loved to finish my thoughts. I didn't last long with him. I even think he only ate tofu.
Did anyone else want the incredible cute OTTER to have once been an OCHRE? The OTTERs I see are silky black.
Loved SMALL TALK in the center. There is no such thing in our family. We all talk at the same time and it's big. I also love ATONE WITH NATURE. I do that often.
How else could you clue INI ? As in ones belly button?
I looked up the origin of the word GEEZER. It refers to a man who performs in a costume (guise), but it morphed into an odd old man. Is the female equivalent geezelles or maybe a geezel?

Masked and Anonymous 10:45 AM  

Well, wow… This here puzgrid sports the rarely-seen SuperJaws of Themelessness. And on toppa that, it's got some primo dental partials out there in the middle. Or maybe they're Mouseketeer Hats. Or somesuch. Anyhoo, … neat.

This played out fairly neighborly, for a SatPuz. Partly, I reckon -- as @Nancy darlin mentioned -- cuz there weren't a whole lot of no-know names in it. CAMUS and DINESH and done.

staff weeject picks: INA & INI. Primo Moscowteer names.

CETE suspiciously did not show up in the Official M&A Help Desk Dictionary. M&A will hafta appoint a special master counsel to investigate that puppy further … [might take a coupla extra months].
In the meantime, M&A strongly recommends: Bale of badgers.

fave SatPuz ?-marker clue [of apparently 4 candidates]: {Fed on the sly?} = NARC.

Thanx for the otter-milky-tinged fun, Mr. Goldsmith dude. And congratz on yer grid-spannin-spangled debut.

Masked & AnonymoUUs

p.s. @Muse darlin: TEE for toehold today? M&A got in up somewhat higher, offa AAS/MACAW.


beverly c 10:54 AM  

Not my fastest, not my slowest solving experience. I was bogged down in the NE - OKSHOOT just didn’t occur to me, nor MONSTER and the clue for OUTWORK! OHME!

Loved SMALLTALK and CREATESAMONSTER when I finally worked then out. ISTHISSEATTAKEN was nice too.

Diego 10:55 AM  

Same as most everybody. . . easy but enjoyable. And a DEBUT, Rex, you coulda given the guy a break; but that doesn’t seem to be in your NATURE. Sad.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 11:04 AM  

Regarding the ridiculous 4D, INA: The Times Food section just on Wednesday had a Big feature of "INA Garten's Store-Bought Thanksgiving'. Better known as 'The Barefoot Contessa. Her recipes are about as much trouble as cooking from scratch but presumably more expensive. As an example, there's recipe for mushroom-and-gruyere bread pudding where you use Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix instead of stale bread. It saves you the trouble of adding herbs. What you then do with the bread crusts everybody has lying around, I don't know. Throw them out, I suppose.

Anonymous 11:05 AM  

Re: Cete
There is a wonderful book, amazingly still in print, by the late and sorely missed James Lipton. It is called An Exaltation of Larks: The Venereal Game. It tells about the school of knowledge called Venery, in which an educated young man in medieval times was required to know the group names of every known animal. Lipton lists over 500 discrete terms in use during those times. Cete of Badgers, Pride of lions, Murder of Crows, Exaltation of Larks, Parliament of Owls, and so on. There is also a section of delightfully witty terms Lipton creates for such modern groups as lawyers and psychiatrists.

For those who don't know him, James Lipton was an American writer, lyricist, actor, and dean emeritus of the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University in New York City. He was also the executive producer, writer, and host of the TV series, Inside the Actors Studio, which debuted in 1994. He retired from that show in 2018 and passed away in 2020 at the age of 93.

mathgent 11:09 AM  

Out here, GEEZER just means an old guy, quirky or not. We have geezer bars.

I see the explanation for EVENS but I still don't like it. Better: "Half the integers."

If you're anything like my wife and me, skip The Menu which opened yesterday, even though it got a Critics Choice check mark from NYT. The only plus: it has the utterly charming Anya Taylor-Joy, the star of The Queen's Gambit.

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

Britney and Justin clearly were not among the ORIGINAL Mouseketeers. The late Annette (Be still my heart!) Funicello, for example, would have turned 80 this year.

Michelle Turner 11:19 AM  

I knew cete from Scrabble, so it was a gimme.

jae 11:20 AM  

Easy and easier than yesterday’s which was very easy. codgERS before GEEZERS was it for erasures, and CETE was my only WOE except I now know that OTTER is a paint shade. Interesting grid with a bit of sparkle. Liked it, but this is not a Saturday puzzle.

Whatsername 11:25 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Whatsername 11:29 AM  

I liked it. It was a challenge, yes but I expect that on a Saturday so I was not disappointed. My only raised brow was the clue for 3D. I thought GETS MAD was a better answer for the clue. GOES MAD implies insanity as opposed to losing one’s temper. And didn’t care much for OTTER clued as a color of paint. But overall very impressive. Surprised to see it was a debut. Nice job Mr. Goldsmith, an enjoyable Saturday.

THEY SAY made me think of a certain politician who likes to hear himself TALK and uses that expression freely to back up his alternative facts. You know, if he can convince you that enough people are saying it then it must be true.

egsforbreakfast 11:29 AM  

DYAD sounds like a gutted DIETFAD. Or, rather, like a DIETFAD in need of an Electronic Funds Transfer (Abbr.).

What? No complaint from @Southside Johnny about the inclusion of the made-up foreign word ETRE (41A)?

I think that Rex’s objection to 55A could have been avoided by combining it with 57A. Clue: Question asked without reservation at a $5.99 All-You-Can-Eat Buffet joint? Answer: ISTHISSEATTAKENGEEZERS.

Have you ever noticed how people often report that they made SMALLTALK, but never Big Talk? Speaking of which, 30A and 33A combine to describe many of my family phone conversations (at least in the days of rotary phones): DIAL. SITBACK. SMALLTALK.

I would have a very different mental picture of @Roo Monster if he had remained simply Rooster. Thanks for the origin story.

Someone, usually me, has to insert the reminder at times like this that the constructor does not choose which day to run the puzzle. This was an excellent debut, for which I thank you, Beni Goldsmith.

Sam Ross 11:32 AM  

Thank you. Born and raised in Brooklyn Heights (not kidding) and have never seen that abbreviation before.

OISK 11:43 AM  

I see I am not the only one who double checked to see whether this was a Saturd
day puzzle. It played like a Tuesday for me. This is not a complaint, I was very happy to complete the week with an easy win, after a DNF on MONDAY.

The contrast with yesterday's far more difficult, but also more elegant and creative puzzle seemed pretty stark to me. Everyone here raved about Friday's constructor (Ms. Wientraub), with good reason!

Several years ago, in one of the National Parks, we discovered that due to our advanced ages, we could purchase very cheaply a pass that would be honored at ALL National Parks. Stepped up to the desk, and asked the ranger "Can we purchase the over 65 Park Pass?" And she turned to a colleague across the room and said "We need two more geezer passes."

Made in Japan 11:53 AM  

I'm sure that this is obvious to all the crossword constructers out there, but for the other dilettantes like me I'd like to point out the restrictions that this grid imposes. Most grids have a 180-degree rotational symmetry, so adding or deleting a black square in one part of the grid only requires you to change a square that is directly across the center of the puzzle. This puzzle has up-to-down symmetry and left-to-right symmetry (across the x and y-axis), which incidentally also gives it rotational symmetry. Therefore, changing the placement of a black square in one spot requires changing the placement of THREE additional squares (unless the square is ON the x or y-axis). It had its flaws, but I'd give it a thumbs up overall.

Jazz lover 11:53 AM  

@B Strayhorn. Thanks for your post from the other side. May I call you Billy? I am happy to make your acquaintance. Your input is informative but, just to nitpick, the clue doesn't say Ellington wrote it. Say hi to B Goodman for me.

Anonymous 11:54 AM  

I hope 2 Saturdays does not make a trend. Please let's go back to interesting challenging 20+ minute puzzles and away from themeless Tuesday

Made in Japan 12:09 PM  

If, 50 years from now, someone finds this puzzle on a newspaper wrapped around a piece of glassware in a musty box, might they fill in GEnZERS instead of GEEZERS for 57-A?

B Strayhorn 12:30 PM  

@Jazz Lover - You know what's "a Duke Ellington classic:? It Don't mean a thing (if it ain't got that swing). That's a "Duke Ellington classic", because he wrote it. Take the A Train is a Billy Strayhorn classic, because I wrote it. It was written for, and most famously played by, Duke Ellington and The Duke Ellington Orchestra, respectively. Except when Monk played it, which he did better the Ellington, but that's a different story. Ellington is most famously associated with it, but I wrote it and it's not his, it's mine.

Joe Welling 12:51 PM  

I don't think "sigmatism" was the intended answer. Having a lisp is stigmatized. I think the answer is a crosswordy neologism of that, and not the technical term for a lisp. (Inventing the noun STIGMATISM when we already have a noun--stigma--is no worse than verbing "gift" despite the existence of a perfectly good verb "give.")

CDilly52 12:53 PM  

When I looked at the grid, I thought it looked like weights (Hi @Lewis!), and thought, well it is Saturday-traditional “heavy lifting” day. But no! My first thought for the “walk through the woods” clue at 15A was in fact AT ONE WITH NATURE. However, having been trained by my Gran (who solved on paper in ink), I never just plunk in an answer, especially a grid spanner, without at least a cursory cross check, I looked at the first few downs. MACAW, A-TRAIN, GOES MAD and IN A confirmed my suspicion and zoom zoom zoom, just like that, I’m off to the races.

Sure, the CETE of badgers was a new one. I have to confess though, I am delighted to learn that badgers congregate in CETEs; I’m a sucker for all those trivia greats like Pride of Lions, Murder of Crows and now a CETE of badgers. A special bonus today!

Best clues were the ones for NARC, OUTWORK and EVENS with the EVENS clue being pure genius. So clever, in fact that @Rex didn’t catch the meaning. EVENS in fact is an erroneous answer to “What are the odds” when odds refers to odd numbers, as so many have already pointed out.

My one slow place was occasioned by my thinking Pago rather than BORA. It was a very minor glitch, and “The Gran Rule” saved me from having to delete because BALED and SOCKEYE were easy, and once I had the B, smooth sailing, all the way to Polynesia.

While this was easier than most Saturdays, I really enjoyed it. Far from the heavy lifting I anticipated, but very enjoyable.

Anonymous 12:56 PM  

Two Saturdays in a row with no Saturday puzzle.

pabloinnh 1:03 PM  

May God bless and keep you always
May your whooshes all come true
May you set yourself a record
Like the other Rexites do....

Beginner Saturday. It happens. Fun though, and enjoyed the long answers. Could have included a clue about a badger trying to join an exclusive group and asking ISTHISCETETAKEN ? OK, probably not.

Also, I'm still lobbying for OTTER to be clued as "pabloinnh's favorite animal", but no luck yet. And GEEZERS was kind of funny, until it applied to me and most of my friends. Now it's just accurate.

Nice enough Saturdecito, BG. Be Glad to do lots more of your constructions, and thanks for all the fun.

Off the bunny slope now and on to the double black diamond of the Stumper.

jberg 1:03 PM  

I didn't get a toehold until WIN, figured out OUTWORK and mOwS from there, but really resisted TERNS because I doubted the webbed feet. I looked it up, though; they have talons, but tiny webs between the bases of those. But mOwS was ruling out the obvious chinook for the salmon. I eventually got OREIDA, having forgotten they sell more than potatoes, SODS, and SOCKEYE. After that I worked my way through the rest of the puzzle. Aside from NATURE and TAKEN I needed a lot of crosses for all the grid spanners, but it was fun to eventually see what they were.

I was looking for a suffix to add at the end of ristorante, not one that's you find in use within. Once I saw it, I had a vision of driving up in my Lamborghini, ordering a martini, followed by some rotini, while the waitress sported her bikini. OK, enough.

@OISK, back when I was 65 I visited Yellowstone Park with my friends Tom and Anne. Tom was driving, and had his geezer pass already; I mentioned that I intended to get one but since we could use his I wouldn't delay us by going through the procedure. "No, get it now!" he said. They're free now, and they're good for your lifetime, but they might start charging for them in the future." He sure called that one; it was good advice, I got one then, and have saved hundreds of dollars (at least) since.

TOFU can be delicious, but you have to prepare it right. The best pad Thai I ever had was with tofu.

@Greater, I thought of the Barefoot Contessa too -- I saw that NYT article; she must be as old as the hills by now.

puzzlehoarder 1:10 PM  

Two early week Saturdays INA row. This is a perfect example of why I've almost completely stopped solving the NYTXW. It comes as no surprise that today's constructor along with last Saturday's both gave shout outs to Robyn Weintraub. I've always thought of her as the marshmallow lady for her dedication to the dumbing down of themeless puzzles. Unfortunately she appears to have a following and WS is a major fan. Solving late week puzzles used to be fun but filling in today's stunt grid was downright boring.

Bass 1:27 PM  

Spent a disturbing amount if time ALONEwithnature...

Nancy 1:41 PM  

@Lewis -- Right. The WSJ. Well, no one ever said I had a good memory. Sorry.

Anoa Bob 1:46 PM  

I think yesterday's and today's puzzles should have been in reverse order. Then CREATES A MONSTER on Friday would have been followed by MONSTER MASH on Saturday.

I'm well into my GEEZERhood and wonder if my inveterate POC (plural of convenience) hunting makes me "quirky". Speaking of which there were several of them on display, including some of the two for one variety, where a Down and an Across both get a letter count, grid filling boost from a single, shared S at the ends of TERN/SOD, PRISON/LID and EVEN/GEEZER. The one that sticks out the most for me is one of the grid spanning entries doesn't quite span the grid in its basic form and needs some convenient help from an S, as happens with 17A CREATE A MONSTER. 30A DIAL IT BACK also needed some aSSiStance.

I'm constantly amazed at how people still fall for the latest DIET FAD like the ones on magazine covers displayed at supermarket checkout lanes, often of the "Stubborn belly fat busting, metabolism boosting, lose weight fast" ilk. For dang near half a century the only diet that has received scientific research validation for being a healthy diet is the Mediterranean diet. I think all the rest just try to make us lose $ fast.

bintycook 2:18 PM  

I probably read the clue 10 times before noticing there was no “t” in between the first and second letter

kitshef 3:15 PM  

@OISK, @jberg - the lifetime passes start at age 62, and now cost $80 which is still an incredible bargain.

Tim Aurthur 3:34 PM  

The 36D/44A cross killed me. The suffix could conceivably be ITI and I thought kEAN could be a synonym of "study."

jberg 4:22 PM  

I think folks are being too literal with EVENS -- it's a pun! It doesn't mean either integers or probabilities; it slides back and forth, in its eel-like way, between the two. The question, "what are the odds?" of course refers to probability, nothing else works idiomatically. But the answer EVENS is wrong either way; as a probability, it should be in the singular, and as integers, its's the wrong set. It would be better if it could have been EVEN, clued as "paradoxical answer to 'What are the odds,'" but length constraints had their way.

Beezer 4:32 PM  

@kitshef…I agree on THAT! My husband had to pay for his geezer pass but still a bargain in our mind!

@Joe Welling…not sure if you checked, but Merriam-Webster and other dictionaries have a definition for “sigmatism.” This is from a person who had no clue what it meant. You say it’s a neologism but aren’t most words at some point? Who knows. Maybe having a “lisp” wasn’t always stigmatized.

johnk 4:45 PM  

Easy for me and, likely, other GEEZERS. THEY SAY GEEZERS, but we just ANTE DATE them.

TTrimble 5:37 PM  

@burtonkd 8:43 AM
I was trying to be humorous. The answer is, as Rex wrote, AT ONE WITH NATURE, but it's easy to read it as ATONE WITH NATURE. You could try to parse that phrase in various ways, but such a dumb throwaway joke like the one I was making doesn't merit such a serious effort. [Cue Emily Litella.]

pmdm 6:04 PM  

Well, I liked both the puzzle and the grid. Nice job for a debut.

Z often pointed out that to be correct for a crossword, an entry can be any one of multiple correct possibilities, even it is not the most preferred entry. That would be especially true for late week puzzles. Those who complain about CETE should ponder this.

ATONE or AT ONE for 11A? I vote for AT ONE.

And a comment to a reply from yesterday. I guess it evened out for Sam. He deserved to win on Thursday but lost due to a stupid bet. But on Friday he should have lost, so I guess things evened out. Hopefully those who read the comments also watch Jeopardy! or they won't know what I'm talking about.

Beezer 6:58 PM  

@pmdm….probably MY comment. All I know is that Sam is funny as hell.

TTrimble 9:02 PM  

I was much taken by your hypothesis last night (will the real Sam Buttrey please stand up?), and hope it's true. This type of detective work is up @Nancy's alley.

I was legit impressed by all three Jeopardy! contestants last night. Actually, I'm gonna make that four, because former contestant Ken Jennings was right there with them, all the way. Juggernauts, all of them.

Joe Dipinto 9:57 PM  

@puzzlehoarder 1:10 – totally agree on Weintraub. I don't get what people find so amazing. To me she's the bland leading the bland.

JC66 10:35 PM  

@Joe D

I hope you didn't stuff yourself on tomorrow's Acrostic. :-)

albatross shell 12:22 AM  

I assumed it was AT ONE WITH NATURE because that is the common phrase, and all constructors seem to strive for using common phrases. I was going to joke about it being ATONE WITH NATURE and assumed most people who used that were joking too. A couple seemed to think that was the intended answer. I would disagree.

OhioGabe 10:50 AM  

How is ESPN News a 'venue'?

Anonymous 10:58 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
thefogman 10:21 AM  

This is Benji Goldsmith’s debut NYT crossword so congratulations go out to him. It’s not bad, but IMO it could have been great if the editor(s) cleaned up some of the iffy fill. But alas that was not to be. OHME! When will the NYT be MAGICAL again?

spacecraft 12:39 PM  

Easy-medium except for the center, where OchER nearly unseated me. OTTER is a paint color??? If you say so.

For a debut, this isn't bad. The so-called "jaws" of themelessness seem to have morphed into the vise of themelessness. Feels like the center is about to get crushed. The gridspanners go 3 for 4, with only MEATALTERNATIVE coming off as dull. Some raggy fill, but not all that painful. Had to throw a guess at DI_ESH/I_I; not knowing a thing about the name, I was left with INI or ITI. Went with the N. Yay me. Birdie.

Yay me also in Wordle: YYGBG GGGGG! A rare eagle!

Speaking of Eagles: BEAT DALLAS!!!!!

Anonymous 1:54 PM  

I don't keep track of time, but this was probably my fastest Saturday NYTxword puzzle ever. All but one first guess on the long ones was correct.

Burma Shave 2:41 PM  




rondo 2:54 PM  

Nice puz but having 40-some black squares seems like a lot. Unsure of exactly how @D,LIW feels about SOCKEYE salmon but willing to bet she GOESMAD for it.
LIV Tyler, OHME.
Only a wordle par today.

Diana, LIW 4:01 PM  

It's MAGICAL that we have another puzzle that I completely finished w/o help. On a Saturday. Yes, @Rondo, I should celebrate with Nova - or sockeye.

I always seem to do best with long fill ins. They are as good for me as names are bad, bad, bad.

Oh those MOUSEKETEERS - I remember watching them as a little tyke.

Happy Holidays to all!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Santa

Anonymous 4:16 PM  

Otter brown is an actual paint color made by Benjamin Moore.
Who knew?!?!

rondo 5:33 PM  

Who knew?
The 0.01 percent of people who have actually seen an otter and also shop for Benjamin Moore paint.

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