Transition effect famously used in "Star Wars" films / SAT 1-21-23 / Alternative to bread crumbs in some gluten-free recipes / Earring Magic 1990s doll that developed a cult following

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Constructor: David Distenfeld

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Earring Magic KEN (12D: Earring Magic ___ (1990s doll that developed a cult following)) —

Earring Magic Ken is a model of the Ken doll introduced by Mattel in 1993 as a companion to its Earring Magic Barbie figure, one of six dolls in the Earring Magic Barbie line. This generation of the Ken doll featured an updated look, including blonde highlights in his traditionally brown hair, outfits including lavender mesh shirt, purple pleather vest, a necklace with a circular charm and, as the name indicates, an earring in his left ear.

The doll is notable for supposedly being the highest-selling Ken doll in history and for the controversy that ensued upon its debut. [...] Mattel had conducted a survey of girls asking if Ken should be retained as Barbie's boyfriend or whether a new doll should be introduced in that role. Survey results indicated that girls wanted Ken kept but wanted him to look "cooler". The redesigned Ken was the result. Observers quickly noted the resemblance of Earring Magic Ken to a stereotypical gay man, from the pastel-colored clothes to the earring to the necklace, which was described as a "chrome cock ring". Kitsch-minded gay men bought the doll in record numbers, making Earring Magic Ken the best-selling Ken model in Mattel's history.

The doll received news-media press, even making it to the cover of The New York Times Arts and Leisure section. The clothing choices led to speculation that Mattel toy designers had unknowingly taken inspiration for the doll from gay raves in LA or NY. The doll debuted in stores for around $11 (equivalent to $20.63 in 2021) and had completely sold out by the Christmas season, largely due to gay men buying the doll in droves.

Despite the commercial success of the doll, a public exposé on the secret meaning of the "circular charm" as a gay sex toy from gay-community commentator Dan Savage in the Seattle, Washington, alternative weekly newspaper The Stranger led Mattel to discontinue Earring Magic Ken and recall the doll from stores. (wikipedia)

• • •

running on the actual Sabbath—nice touch. That was just about the only struggle-struggle-Breakthrough! moment (i.e. proper Saturday moment) I had while solving this one, so I liked it quite a bit. The rest of the puzzle (everything outside that center stack) was a piece of cake—well made, but much more Friday than Saturday. I think the vast majority of yesterday's puzzle was easier, but I finished this one more quickly for sure (no YUVAL NOAH HARARI to contend with!). I like that the toughest knot to untangle is right in the center, and that the payoff with those answers is fairly strong. Befuddled on 29A: End-of-week greeting at first, since I had -HAB- and then wanted BENT which got me -HABB- and still I could not make anything comprehensible out of it. After "TGIF!" I'm pretty much out of "end-of-week greetings" ... and "TGIF!" isn't really a "greeting" anyway. I thought was looking at ... honestly, I don't know what. Some kind of "YABBA DABBA DOO!" variant!? And then for whatever reason my brain just toggled over to Hebrew. Maybe YUVAL NOAH HARARI had primed me for that toggling. If so, I thank him, because having SHABBAT SHALOM come to me was definitely the peak "aha" moment of the day. Second peak came with PEOPLE-WATCHES, the clue for which was befuddling me primarily because of the hyphen in it (32A: Tourist-spots, maybe?). The hyphen was annoying me. But then when I (finally) got the answer, I saw that the clue was actually trying to help me—PEOPLE-WATCHES is hyphenated, and the hyphen in the clue was trying to tell me "psst, it's a verb, not a noun, dummy." And I was slow to catch on. But not that slow, since, as I say, the puzzle was very easy overall and even these "tough" ones in the center weren't too much of a trial. More of a light, pleasant challenge. I'm grateful that I got my full Friday experience for the week, even if it did come a day late.

This puzzle features a sizable contingent of Crosswordese Greatest Hits (AGRA, APSE, OLES, NAS, SRI, SSN, MSN, ABIT, etc.), and yet you don't notice so much because they're spread out and dramatically overshadowed by the longer marquee fill. When your long stuff is strong, the short stuff can be just so-so and it's fine. INDEX FUND is the kind of finance-related answer that does nothing for me, but it's got that "X," which is kind of kicky and fun, and anyway its neighbor TINSELTOWN is a winner, so I was in a pretty good mood before I'd even left the NW ... and then whoosh-whoosh, the two long Downs out of that section exploded across the grid (HALF-SIBLING! EXTRA POINT!) and the puzzle was well and truly underway. I really do wish there had been a few more speed bumps today. AGRA was a gimme at 1A: Major Indian tourist site, as was ATTIC at 1D: Top story and then CDS at 21A: Their sales rose in 2021 and 2022, after two decades of decline; without the "C," I might've written LPS in here, though I think their comeback started earlier in the century—I had no idea CDS were making a comeback (anywhere but my own house, where, like Fred, Wilma, and the other citizens of Bedrock, I prefer physical media). 
It was very easy to move around the grid. I had SETH before even seeing the SETH ROGEN clue, so who else was it going to be. I had BEST OF- at 23D: Playoff format, and while THREE fit, USE gave me the "S" that made SEVEN obvious, and that helped annihilate the SE corner. I didn't know LIU but that hardly mattered (28A: Simu ___, star of "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings"). I had NATIVE LAND before NATIVE SOIL, but that hardly mattered either. Speaking of "hard(ly) matter(ing")—we get HAILS *and* ICE PELLET, which I thought was a nice (if accidental) combo (5A: Comes down hard / 10D: Part of a cold shower, maybe). I also liked WITH CHEESE, as it reminded me of the opening of "Pulp Fiction."

I also like (i.e. love) the clue on KEN (see "Word of the Day," above), though ... "cult following" doesn't *quite* get at the particular nature of the following. Maybe "gay following" or "following among gay men" was deemed too controversial, but "cult following" feels too vague. Anyway, one of the great moments in toy history, for sure. See you tomorrow (with some ... "personal news," as they say ... it's good news ... it's four-legged news ...)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymoose 5:57 AM  

@Rex. Did you even read the Ken blurb? ".....the necklace, which was described as a "chrome cock ring".... Word of the day? I'm disappointed. One more thing. EEEWWWW!!

Conrad 6:03 AM  

A while back, I was concerned with maintaining my "streak." One Saturday I solved on paper and then later copied my answers to the NYTXW Web site, to maintain my streak. My time today was faster than that.

Lewis 6:09 AM  

A true grit puzzle for me. Lotsa white early on, and while there were a few names I didn’t know, it was mostly tough cluing that fought me. Clues that could yield several answers, and clues whose answers just weren’t obvious to me, like [End-of-week greeting].

There always seemed to be little cracks that shed light though, along the way, so this was more motivating than frustrating, and when an answer did fill in, oh my, that felt mighty good – not only from finally getting it, but also often from the cleverness behind the clue. A whee and a wow. And those few splat-fills, when they happened, well, they felt divine.

In other words, this was a proper Saturday puzzle that made my brain go woot-woot throughout and afterward. While solving, yes, it was true grit, and after the sweet battle, it was SHABBAT SHALOM indeed. This puzzle was ACES for me, DD, and I’m very grateful to you for making it!

Birchbark 7:11 AM  

I like DEET next to BITERS.

"First winner of the Canadian Comedy Awards Person of the Year" -- the longer I think about it, the funnier it gets.

kitshef 7:19 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 7:33 AM  

The only sport I watch with any regularity is NFL Football, and they’re in the playoffs now so I kept trying to make some version of SINGLE ELIMINATION or BRACKET work.

For quarter pounder qualification I could only think of the WEGHT BEFORE COOKING caveat.

Obviously none of those answers fit, but my brain was locked in on them so it took forever for me to solve that part of the puzzle. Damn brain. Be more nimble.

Joaquin 7:36 AM  

After reading @Rex's write-up, I no longer care about the puzzle itself. His posting of the movie clip has me totally refocused. "Pulp Fiction" has two of my favorite scenes ever: The one Rex posted - "Royale with cheese" - and the dance contest at Jackrabbit Slim's, where the heat simply jumps off the screen.

And then Rex teases us about his new pet (I hope it's a dog but another cat would also be ok).

So ... for me, all is well in Puzzletown and it has nothing to do with solving a crossword.

Eater of Sole 7:46 AM  

I had a moment of horror when I had enough crosses for 11D (alternative to bread crumbs...) to think "OMG do people really use ***cheez-its*** as bread crumb substitutes???" Thankfully, BITERS came to the rescue shortly afterwards.

kitshef 8:00 AM  

HALF SIBLING feels green paint-y to me.

Loved the clue for PEOPLE WATCHES.

I like the word SHOD.

Danp 8:01 AM  

I assumed CDS were certificates of deposit.

Twangster 8:01 AM  

I think I may be the cause of the rise in CD sales, since I keep picking them up by the dozens at library and garage sales for 2 or even 4 for a dollar.

SouthsideJohnny 8:07 AM  

Nice write up by @Lewis - you captured the essence of what a solving experience is like when things slowly start to fall into place and first feel hopeful, then ultimately see the light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t frequently get there late week (and today was no exception), as I'm not proficient enough to string together 10-15 Fri/Sat level crosses to get a SHABBAT SHALOM or yesterday’s grid-spanning dude for example. However I do feel the same sense of exuberance when I struggle and struggle my way through a Sunday grid, have a few light bulb moments, and eventually realize I can finish the thing with zero cheats.

Bob Mills 8:15 AM  

When I finish a Saturday in a half-hour, it has to be easy. Yet it didn't seem all that easy, especially in the NE.

I don't particularly like the clue "Sore spot" for ACHE, because "spot" suggests a specific area, while it's possible to ache all over. A better clue would be '"Sore spot, sometimes." I also think DEET and CHEERIOS should have been clued as product names.

TTrimble 8:17 AM  

Rex, dude, that was one nitpicky final paragraph. You really don't need more specificity here; "cult following" is completely adequate. (Thanks for including the Wikipedia excerpt; I didn't know any of this hilarious back story.)

Putting doWn instead of LEWD (for "blue") created a nontrivial slowdown. Putting in SHOe instead of SHOD also, but that was easier to see through.

SHABBAT SHALOM will probably always remind me of an early Curb Your Enthusiasm, where Larry has to appear before a judge after being charged with stealing silverware from a restaurant. He tries to curry favor with Judge Katz by greeting him with SHABBAT SHALOM; it doesn't work.

Yes, I remember the quarter-pounder WITH CHEESE scene. The guy they're just about to bust in on, Brad [check out the big brains on Brad!], was played by someone who lives in my town (Frank Whaley).

Quite a nice puzzle! Neither too hard nor too easy for me.

SB: 0 yd. Last word.

Son Volt 8:20 AM  

The ladder grid here made the solve Saturdayish for me. The small, isolated corners are rough and that center tri-stack is critical to the fill. All the longs were solid - flip flopped on ROGaN and ROGEN. Didn’t know that little tidbit about CHEERIOS.

I’ve never heard HALF SIBLING - but I guess it’s fine. The GRIND - RINDS pair felt awkward. The La La Land clue took me some time to get through - I was thinking Candyland. Rex highlights the short glue.

Enjoyable Saturday solve - but I think Anna Stiga’s Stumper is a little slicker.

TRIP Shakespeare

Diego 8:24 AM  

A Quarter Pounder WITH CHEESE nestled within a Bordelaise, maybe blanketed with CHEERIOS, a side of pickled watermelon RINDS, washed down with a NEHI??? Oh, yes, that would absolutely create a major natural gas emission, a BELCH at best (ironically, the clue is a blast of fresh air).
Indeed, Mr. Distenfeld, SHABBAT SHALOM!!! You made this Saturday for moi.

Anonymous 8:30 AM  

Never heard of Kaley Cuoco so had Tuoco/Tab there, and couldn't find the error.

Diego 8:30 AM  

Oops. . . NEHI was in yesterday’s puzzle by Mr. Greenfield. But these two constructors do seem to live in the same neighborhood.

Anonymous 8:33 AM  

As a parent of a GF child, I was stuck on Cheerios, especially as early on they were not for sure GF. And I kept seeing Oreos at the end, until there were enough crosses.

TaylorSlow 8:51 AM  

A new Saturday PB by a mile. All those long answers came very fast and without much ado. It's going to be a long, long time before I break today's record. If ever.

But I was smiling all the way through--much freshness in the cluing. Really liked 33A and 32D, two clues I don't recall ever having seen before. CHEERIOS in place of bread crumbs? How clever! When I was doing a lot of commuting by car between grad school and boyfriend, I frequently broke up the four-hour drive with a Quarter Pounder WITH CHEESE. All the stuff people pile onto burgers these days, when all a burger really needs is cheese and onions!

JHC 8:54 AM  

Like anonymous at 8:30, I did not care for the 40A/40D crossing. I had the same (entirely plausible) error.

Anonymous 9:17 AM  

ICK! That NE corner stumped me.

Sir Hillary 9:17 AM  

I enjoyed this quite ABIT. The long entries are the stars -- 13 of 8+ letters, and all of them really good. SHABBATSHALOM is just lovely.

PEOPLEWATCHES initially felt strange to me as a third-person verb ("She people-watches every day in Central park") but then I realized that I use it all the time in other tenses ("She loves to people-watch", "I people-watch every day in Central Park").

Being a James Bond dork and less of a "Star Wars" fiend, I associate a WIPE with "Thunderball".

LOL, Earring Magic KEN. I somehow missed that in the '90s, along with a lot of other pop culture tidbits, as I was immersed in working way too hard at my job and raising young kids. If I had to do it over again, I would work way less at my job. But learning about KEN today is still a hoot.

I hope Brett Maher didn't do this puzzle, as EXTRAPOINT would have triggered him big-time.

Weirdest HAILS/ICEPELLET story I have: My wife and I were in Florence in September 2014, enjoying a lovely late summer day, when a sudden HAILStorm battered the city for about 15 minutes. The streets cleared entirely. It was intense, leaving about an inch of ICEPELLETs covering everything. And then, just as quickly, it was gone, and the sun was back. Two waiters from a sidewalk cafe set up a table in the ice, including napkins, cutlery and a bottle of wine, and everyone took pictures. Quite charming. The only downside was that the Uffizi closed for the rest of the day, so we missed it. The next morning, the local newspapers ran huge-print headlines about the "grandine" because it was so unusual.

pabloinnh 9:18 AM  

Very sticky until it wasn't, which is just right for a Saturday. Living where we do, I almost never hear anyone say SHABBATSHALOM, so that was a major slow down.

And then there were the names, some unknown--LIU, OLSEN, and COUOCO, and some unknown as clued--FEY, SETHROGEN. At least my go-to first guess for a three letter rapper was correct.

Took far too long to see ICEPELLET, which we have seen lots of lately, and I learned an interesting thing about CHEERIOS.

Liked tis one a lot, DD. Some Devilishly Deceitful clues. Thanks for all the fun.

And now on to the Stumper.

David Eisner 9:23 AM  

As a Jew, my aha moment on SHABBAT SHALOM was combined with guilt (of course) for not getting it sooner. Such a shanda.

David H 9:23 AM  

"I had SETH before even seeing the SETH ROGEN clue, so who else was it going to be."

While not Canadian, SETH greEN would like a word. (When he isn't busy delaying my solve)

Whatsername 9:27 AM  

My kind of Saturday. A BIT tough but NOT SO hard that I got too discouraged. Great never-before-seen entries, at least never seen by me. I hope Lewis will let us know if they’re debuts. Naturally 29A stands out. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the clue and immediately thought TGIF, then saw I needed three times that many letters - and they started with SHAB of all things.

Thank you David, quite a pleasant Saturday. And may I say I also enjoyed your commentary at XWordinfo. Even though I didn’t understand half the words you USED, it should go down in history as the funniest Constructor Notes ever.

KateA 9:34 AM  

I enjoyed learning about Ken and about a new pet at Rex’s house. Like @Joaquin, I would choose a dog (not a parrot or a ferret), but a cat would be nice too.

Anonymous 9:34 AM  

Amy: had to sort out ICE PELLET from bucket and other unlikely candidates. Otherwise, found this easy for Saturday. DAWGS was a gimme, living in the ATL, and BEST OF SEVEN fell into place for this baseball fan. No complaints. Fast and fair = Fabulous.

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

I believe CD is a Certificate of Deposit as interest rates today are higher than in decades.

Wright-Young 9:54 AM  

I really wanted GNATS & CURS to be pro sports teams.

RooMonster 10:00 AM  

Hey All !
Tough SW and NE corners today for me. In SW, caGE before LOGE, POSTDOCS sneakily clued, OLES and DOLT oddly tough to see. In NE, CHEERIOS took a bit to materialize, along with ICK as clued and KEN as clued. Never heard of said doll.

But ended up getting the Happy Music in the end, so YAY ME!

That SHABBATH SHALOM took a bit to figure out, but once I got the second B there, giving me (at that point) _HABBAT____ knew what was wanted, only not how to complete it. I knew what it was from the movie "The Big Lebowski". Anyone else? Walter said it quite a bit in that movie. The Roo abides. 😁

I like when Longs cross and not resulting in made up type words to support them. It's not as easy to do as it seems.

For 17D (Touchdown follower, often) wanted SILLY DANCE or somesuch. Remember the days when all that happened was a few high fives? Now it's a eleven man choreographed dance video. What's next? All 53 players run out to the field, make a TOUCHDOWN formation with humans-as-letters, and break out into a Rockettes line?

Anyway, nice SatPuz, off to Wordle (had a 31 day streak going, then on day 32, it popped up without saying anything about the streak, did it anyway, and it announced, You've got a 1 day streak! What happened? Currently on a 60 day streak!), and continuation of the SB. Still do, don't comment about it. Some days better than others. Some days don't even get to G. Silly brain.

Two F's

Lodsf 10:16 AM  

Anyone else wonder why WALL is a “feature” of the Vietnam Memorial, which is a wall? I had name at first.

Diane Joan 10:18 AM  

I usually learn something from a puzzle. Today I was so pleased to learn about using Cheerios as a gluten free coating in place of bread crumbs. A family member is severely allergic to wheat and we are constantly searching for products that can be safely used in our favorite recipes. That clue passed the breakfast test in more ways than one.
I’m also so happy to hear of the new pet! Hope we get a peek soon Rex!

Tom T 10:19 AM  

Nice tease on the new four-legged news, Rex. Anticipation ...

Bit slower for me than recent Saturdays--SHABATSHALOM fell quickly, thanks to my years in interfaith clergy work, but NATIVEland made for some real untangling in the SE. Also, having S _ R _ NG for the Turkish coffee made me left me wanting an ING ending for longer than it should have. TINSELTOWN was a good lucky guess early on; just spent a few days in LA, but saw no tinsel. Only lots of rain!

Dan 10:19 AM  

I must point out the irony of the first comment:

Anonymous Anonymoose said...
@Rex. Did you even read the Ken blurb? ".....the necklace, which was described as a "chrome cock ring".... Word of the day? I'm disappointed. One more thing. EEEWWWW!!
5:57 AM

The very thing you found so disturbing to read, you posted at the very top of the comments so everyone coming here will read it again before they even see any other comment. Well played! Hilarious....

Camilita 10:26 AM  

@kitshef 8am We found a HALF SIBLING on Ancestry this year. was working with my cousin on the family tree and oops, Grandaddy wasnt a virgin when he married mum. The half sibling was over 70 years old a suddenly put up his DNA! It all is turning out quite nice as we now have a gaggle of new relatives across the pond in our NATIVE SOIL.

Nancy 10:36 AM  

After a too-easy beginning, it got harder -- mostly due to a lot of (unloved on my part) pop culture. But I did like the fact that those unwelcome clue/answers made me have to work harder.

Writeovers for me: ACME before ACES (45A) and IS IT before IT IS (45D). The latter kept me from seeing NATIVE SOIL.

Some observations:

"Touchdown follower, often"???? That EXTRA POINT is a "touchdown follower" just about always -- or else you and I haven't been watching the same sport.

I think of "a qualifier" as indicating a negative -- so that WITHout CHEESE would have worked better for me than WITH CHEESE (20D).

I guess there are people who say "It's BEEN real" but I don't know any.

PEOPLE WATCHES. Is that an activity? Does it occur mostly outside of green-painted houses? Or is it something that people wear on their wrists? As opposed, say, to PUPPY WATCHES.

And speaking of Green Paint, my ICE PELLETS have a very strange hue. I didn't have a chance to Google ICE PELLETS so maybe they're even Google-able. Like they occur when it HAILS? I'll go look now.

This puzzle gave me a lot to write about -- so there's that. Actually it was pretty entertaining once I got past the slam-dunk NW corner.

mathgent 10:52 AM  

Very happy to learn SHABBATSHALOM. If I were still working, I would greet my coworkers with it on Fridays.

The constructor has an amusing bit on Jeff Chen. He describes his elation when this puzzle was accepted.

GILL I. 11:00 AM  

Oh good gravy....At one point I wondered if @Nancy's WALL was still available.
To coin a little bit of @Gary J : What do ICK and ACHE have in common? NOT DOING SO HOT.
This wasn't easy at all for me. It seems like every time I'd get a bit ahead, I'd meet up with a name I didn't know.
I'll tell you this, though. I stuck with it. I started out with my ATTIC AGRA TRIP and felt that maybe this would be a breeze. Wrongy Dongy...I managed a lot of the West Coast with the likes of HALF SIBLING crossing TINSELTOWN. The fandango tango music was playing in my ears. A sudden big halt at SHABBAT SHALOM. I didn't know SETH ROGEN. That made the S impossible for me to see. I had a few down answers but nothing was coming. That's when I began to get the ICK ACHE symptoms. I wanted to just go back to bed. I am stubborn, though and I wasn't going to let my angst, agita, dyspepsia get the better of me. I continued on hoping I'd see a few lights. I actually did.
This took me over an hour to complete but I managed to stick to it and finish. I looked up BITERS and SETH and CUOCO. BITERS was really hard for me. I didn't know that gnats bite...I thought they just loved to buzz around your face and make you scream. Just looking up this answers opened some doors for me.
Was delighting myself for getting CHEERIOS WITH CHEESE...SHABBAT SHALOM waved me in. OK so I'm not a complete DOLT. CUOCO cheat gave me WINE SAUCE and NATIVE SOIL. And my last entry: POSH.
I needed a lot of time for this and I did get frustrated with the names. But when I finished I felt better. It was a tough work-out for me but 3 cheats ain't so bad for my Saturday struggles.

nyc_lo 11:04 AM  

I’m also still struggling with PEOPLE WATCHES, with or without a hyphen. Do people now people watch as a group, like whale watches? Felt like a stretch to me.

Teedmn 11:07 AM  

I was mentally groaning about how easy this puzzle was - AGRA at 1A? Sheesh. But when I finished, I was astonished that I wasn't in Friday territory but in medium Saturday time. So it wasn't too easy after all which is nice.

I'm not sure what it says about me but reading 17D's clue, I was trying to picture what happened after a space capsule touched down long before football came to mind. Hmmm.

Checked the crosses more than once when _HAB___ showed up in 29A. Nothing to do with TGIF, obviously. Then SHABBAT arrived but I didn't know the second half of the greeting. I finally saw it with the SUM cross.

Tricky 46D clue which in my grid was IN RE, then ATTN before ASAP. And I had to ponder how CAB might fit with 40A's clue - CUOCO was a total WOE. Quick as in "short for", aha.

David Distenfeld, nice job, thanks!

Lewis 11:12 AM  

@whatsername -- David's puzzle has eight NYT crossword debuts, overall, excellent additions to the oeuvre: BEST OF SEVEN, HALF SIBLING, ICE PELLET, INDEX FUND, NATIVE SOIL. NOT DOING SO HOT, PEOPLE WATCHES, SHABBAT SHALOM.

Notice that all three of the answers in that gorgeous central stack are NYT debuts!

R Duke 11:12 AM  

@Nancy, you must have missed last week’s Dallas-Tampa Bay. The Dallas kicker missed 4 of 5 kicks for the extra point. Also, teams have the option for a two-point conversion after a TD.

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

Can’t tell if this is homophobic or just prudish, but either way, take a deep breath.

mathgent 11:17 AM  

Teams have been attempting a two-point conversion about 10% of the time recently, usually when they are behind late in the game. Kicking the extra point and going for two are about equally effective. Kickers make about 96% of their attempts and teams are successful on their two-point attempts about 48% of the time.

Beezer 11:19 AM  

This was one of those days that I am glad I solve on the app because I had to delete multiple wrong entries today. I wont bore you with an exhaustive list but the NE and SE gave me fits. That’s okay because I enjoyed untangling everything.

@Nancy….sometimes TDS are followed by two point conversions.

@Danp…Certificates of deposit came to my mind also BUT I googled and compact discs have experienced an uptick in sales the last two years.

jae 11:26 AM  

Easy. About the same as yesterday’s. ACnE before ACHE and Attn before ASAP were my most nanosecond draining erasures. LIU as clued was a WOE (what ever happened to Lucy?). Pretty smooth with a bit of sparkle, liked it.

Newboy 11:31 AM  

I was NOT DOING SO HOT on the first pass down David’s grid. Patience and perseverance, however, paid off as the crosswordese that Rex noted blended with those eight “unique to this puzzle “ entries as smoothly as CHEERIOS in gluten-free “breading” and all was well in the ICE PELLETed landscape outside our window. Got a warm and fuzzy feeling after this solve & reading David’s equally creative constructor note over at xwordinfo. Makes me wish for more ethnic/cultural mix that many among the commentariat enjoy, here in lily-white la-la land ….sigh.

Can’t wait to see the new addition to Rex’s menagerie.

Mr. Benson 11:34 AM  

Rex derides even INDEX FUND as a distasteful “finance-related” answer? Does he not have a 401(k) (or, I guess, as an employee of a state institution, a 403(b))? From prior posts I gather he’s about 52 or 53 years old (about my age). Hope he’s planning for retirement. Can’t go wrong with an INDEX FUND.

jberg 11:39 AM  

My biggest problem was rAmp before WALL (which is indeed a 'feature' of the monument -- due to pressure from people who thought the Wall wasn't glorious enough, some statues of soldiers were added, off to the side; no one ever notices them.) That had me fearing that the Bordelaise would turn out to be a 'roux SAUCE,' accurate but horrible, and left me completely unable to see ELITE of OLSEN. I finally looked up the latter, and then everything fell into place pretty quickly. If I'd got SHABBAT SHALOM earlier the whole thing would have gone faster.

I've never seen Kimmy Schmidt, and to my shame the word 'actor' had me thinking male, so I needed AHOY to get Tina FEY there.

As everyone says, the longs were beautiful; and it was nice to see an investment offering other than IPO. Beautiful puzzle all around.

Whatsername 11:46 AM  

@Lewis (11:12) Thank you and wow!! I suspected three or four but not eight. And yes, that center stack a thing of beauty. Amazing!

bocamp 11:48 AM  

Thx, David; excellent Sat. puz! :)


Started off like the blazes in the upper section, but floundered down under.

Like @Anonymous (8:30 AM) & JHC (8:54 AM), dnfed at the CAB / CUOCO cross; had jAB (as 'a shot'). Did consider both tAB & CAB. :(

Looking over the extensive list of movies to Kaley's credit, I seem to have missed them all. Maybe will give 'The Big Bang Theory' a jAB today.

The SW was by far the toughest to put together.

Nevertheless, a good exercise. Enjoyed the battle! :)

Off to Anna Stiga's Sat. Stumper. 🤞
Peace 🕊 🇺🇦 ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🙏

MichGirl 11:49 AM  

I got half-sibling right away but I still don't get why it needed maybe and a question mark.

Anonymous 12:05 PM  

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like the puzzles at the end of the week have gotten easier, sometimes too easy. I have always looked forward to the Friday/Saturday challenge, especially Saturday. In the past I would complete maybe 20% of them, and when I did it was a great sense of accomplishment. As Tom Hanks said in "A Leage of Their Own", "The hard is what makes it great". But more recently Friday and Saturday feel more like Wednesday and Thursday. I would rather miss more of them and feel challenged than get most of them and feel "meh". What do you think?

Gary Jugert 12:06 PM  

Well, I am positive we all enjoyed the long list of "super famous" people clogging up the puzzle. It ruins an otherwise delightful experience. Go-ogle cleared out all the C-listers and left a fun solve afterward. The stuff that is not Hollywood is great.

My most-proud moment was writing in WITH CHEESE with only a single E in place. Sometimes Spidey Sense works. And years of poisoning my body with corporate murder played a key role. The other long answers filled in nicely.


1 That maudlin feeling as you stand atop Kilimanjaro soaking in the pride of summiting and wallowing in the knowledge you'll never be back.

2 One way to get poor?

3 Taxi intended to be lifted by its bumper during non-traditional athletic demonstrations.

4 Me.

5 Seventeen years of listening to undergrads whine and department chairs making horrible decisions in exchange for health insurance and a salary that won't cover a third bedroom.






Anonymous 12:13 PM  

@Lodsf: The wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is the most prominent and best-known feature, but there are other components to the memorial: a statue (The Three Servicemen), the Vietnam Women's Memorial and the "In Memory" plaque.

kitshef 12:14 PM  

@Gio - not denying they exist, but I would surely call that person a half brother, not a HALF SIBLING. The only time I would use sibling instead of brother or sister is in the plural, when I have two or more half siblings of varying sex.

Google Ngram seems to confirm that, with half siblings getting a fair amount of use, but half sibling falling below the 'skyey' threshold.

egsforbreakfast 12:27 PM  

If your step mother acts as surrogate to carry one of your biological mother’s eggs which as been fertilized by your biological father. Is the newborn your one and a HALFSIBLING? Maybe I’m overthinking this stuff right now because just yesterday a friend told me that his daughter and her wife each had babies from one wife’s eggs and sperm from a male friend of theirs, making the babies full biological siblings. Cool, but kinda mind warping for a few nanoseconds.

The NW corner is my life writ small:

AGRA TRIP was fun.
TINSELTOWN got old, so I left.
Now I’m living off my INDEXFUND and CDS.

Pssst! Hey stagehand! If you don’t give me my cue, IMON kill you!

Like a fool and his money, a (43A) DOLT and his (44A) WINESAUCE are parted.

Very enjoyable Saturday. Thank you, David Distenfeld.

puzzlehoarder 12:29 PM  

A Ken doll with a cock ring? How did I miss (or just completely forget) that. It could put a whole new spin on those choking hazard warnings they put on toys.

Today's puzzle was a Jeckyl and Hyde experience for me. The NW and SW corners along with the first half of the stair stack were early week easy and then the wheels completely fell off. I couldn't figure out for the life of me how to make SHALOM work. The possibility of "Aggregate" being a verb some how never crossed my mind so an M at the end of 24D seemed impossible. My PEOPLE was a WATCHER and my best guess for 33A was NOTDOINGSwell.

In the SE COUCO was a big stumbling block and my ISIT/ITIS write over didn't help either. The NE corner was just a blank.

Finally getting AHOY which immediately got FEY to pop up broke the dam but by then things were well into Saturday territory. At the end I couldn't be 100% sure of CUOCO and CAB but I stuck with it and ended with a clean grid. I'm not surprised that many people found the entire puzzle to be equally easy. That east half just managed to catch me flat footed.

SB, Sun-Tu -0, Wed pg-3!, Thu+Fri -0

Milhouse 12:29 PM  

Anyone else have NOTGOINGSOHOT instead of NOTDOINGSOHOT??

Joe Dipinto 12:29 PM  

I think saying the Ken doll "became a cult item" would be a better way of putting it. It was gone too quickly to develop a "following". Either way, the story is the funniest thing ever. I don't remember that fiasco at all. And the product line tag – "Earring Magic" – wtf was that supposed to mean?

As for the rest of the puzzle, AGRA was the tip-off that it was going to be another easy Saturday. And so it was. Always glad to see INDEX FUND in the puzzle. (ha-ha) SHABBAT SHALOM was handily the star of the show. Do people really people-watch to try to spot tourists? That seems dubious. Celebrities, yes.

A two-fer today.

Carolita 12:46 PM  

@Whatsername Thank you for steering me to XWordInfo for David's comments. They were hysterical. All words used in my family while growing up. I will never forgot my mother saying, "What's that shmate you're wearing?!" I didn't know at the time that it meant rag, but I knew it wasn't good.

Loved the puzzle, David, because it was probably my best Sat. time ever. None of the names were too hard to figure out and those long answers were really clever.

Thanks for the great fun!

Anonymous 12:55 PM  

@Nancy - Besides two point conversions, sometimes touchdowns are followed by an announcement to remain in your seats until the plane has

okanaganer 1:12 PM  

"Brother from another mother"... that's me! We just had Sister from another mister a few days ago.

Typeover: NATIVE LAND before SOIL. Probably because it's in our national anthem.

As @R Duke noted, EXTRA POINTs (or the lack thereof) were quite a thing in that NFL playoff last weekend. There were 7 touchdowns in the game, and the conversion failed on the first 5!

[Spelling Bee: yd 0, last word was this 6er.]

Unknown 1:28 PM  

Fun fairly easy puzzle. Nice to see Everything But The Girl. They have a new album coming out soon!

Masked and Anonymous 1:35 PM  

Got that NW area done pronto, but then couldn't escape to the other parts, since aided only by a 10- and 11-long pathway of the two entries at 5- and 17-Down. Finally got my SRI/SHOD goin, then EXTRAPOINT became visible unto the M&A brain. Solvequest kept goin downward, until I had most of the western half conquered. Then handed it over to the PuzEatinSpouse to feast on.


Thought havin both HAILS and ICEPELLET together in the puz was pretty cool. Only thing cooler maybe would be to have both ICEJAMS & JELLIES, I'd reckon.

staff weeject pick: LIU. With the clue sportin Simu LIU, in lieu of Lucy LIU. Made it a no-know, at our house.

Thanx for a thoroughly engagin SatPuz, Mr. Distenfeld dude. Peace and Happy Saturday to U, too.

Masked & Anonymo4Us

one of them occasional runtpuz 23-Acrossers:

Anonymous 2:29 PM  

I agree! Because interest rates are rising CDs are more attractive

OISK 2:33 PM  

I'd have preferred Lucy in lieu of Simu, and the clue for "Olsen" left me Wanda-ing, but I really enjoyed this puzzle. For me, a very easy Saturday, with clues that made me smile throughout. Shabbat Shalom, everyone. Shabbat shalom today, Yuval Harari yesterday - nice trend!

Carola 2:43 PM  

First, easy; then, MIssion Impossible (almost). Like some others, I breezed through TINSELTOWN and followed HALF-SIBLING and EXTRA POINT to the bottom of the left side. A guess at SHABBAT and its cross with DAWG got me only DEET and its -ET poking into right side: nowhere near enough to go on. The rest was a TRIP on the stuggle bus, an aggregate of wrong guesses, misunderstood clues, a dopey typo, and just having no idea. The rewards that kept me going: BITERS, ICE PELLETS, WITH CHEESE. Chipped away, erased, chipped some more and finally finished. A great Saturday challenge for me. I liked the touch of CAB(ernet) over WINE SAUCE.

Do-overs: aCK before ICK, ACnE before ACHE, A few before A BIT, Set before SUM, Is It before IT IS. No idea: LIU, CUOCO, KEN. Help from previous puzzles: NAS.

Anonymous 2:44 PM  

There is one substantive mistake in the clues that is a health hazard for people with Celiac disease. Cheerios aren’t safe for those with the disease because the oats they use aren’t certified gluten-free and are in fact often contaminated with wheat or other gluten containing grains. Canada made General Mills remove the GF label because of the frequency of contamination. GM would say that sufficient certified oats aren’t available for their needs. Fair enough, but then don’t claim that the product is GF. Further, the label complies with US FDA rules, but our rules are dangerously wrong.

JJK 3:14 PM  

This was a relatively easy Saturday for me except for the NE corner, where I was completely stumped, thoroughly and absolutely stuck. I got ACHE and that was it. Never heard if this KEN doll, CHEERIOS as an alternative to breadcrumbs is a new one on me, the clues for ABIT and ICK were not apt, and I had AFEW and UGH first. So that was a mess, and a DNF.

Why was there a “maybe” on the clue for HALFSIBLING? A brother from another mother is a half sibling, no maybe. So that threw me off as well. Hmph.

Nancy 3:17 PM  

@R. Duke (11:12)-- I did miss it. For me this year, it's been pretty much all NY Giants, all the time. But if that's true, I'd say Dallas should definitely be in the market for a new placekicker! That just shouldn't happen.

@mathgent (11:17) Big, big difference between a 96% success rate in 1-point conversion attempts and only a 48% success rate in two-point conversion attempts. Small wonder that teams try two point conversions only when it's late in the game, when they're losing, and when they therefore absolutely have to! That's how I'd coach my football team too, btw :)

egsforbreakfast 3:37 PM  

@Nancy 3:17 pm. Actually there is no difference between .96 x 1 and .48 x 2. If two teams score 4 touchdowns each and one makes 4 extra points while the other makes 2 two point conversions and misses two, it’s a damn close game.

B-money 3:39 PM  

A great Saturday (on the easy side) with so many nice answers.

Re: "INDEX FUND is the kind of finance-related answer that does nothing for me, . . . ."
I would have thought "Index Fund" is a pretty mainstream term by now. If you're in the market, you're probably in some index fund (or at least you should be!)

Never heard of the Ken doll, and nothing about the description fazes me.
But having YUK instead of ICK made that NE corner tough for a while.

CDilly52 3:56 PM  

First of all, @Nancy and @Barbara S, the uniclues from yesterday - laughed out loud. Thank you! I always read everything in the blog before I go to sleep (usually about 1 AM), and it always gives me some good laughs and reminds me how much good is out there. Thanks everyone.

As for today, I loved everything about this one❣️. David Distenfeld did a wonderful job with wordplay and crossing the several names fairly. Had be not, I would have been in the weeds.

I chickened out up at the top thinking that “this can’t be a Saturday - too easy! Wanted AGRA at 1A and it fit with the watermelon RINDS, so OK. But my “Saturday angst” got the better of me and I opted to wander a bit.

5D and 17D seemed too obvious but I slapped them in anyway. Lo and behold my EXTRA POINT went right through the uprights! Since our recent “somebody of a other person” discussion the other day, HALF SIBLING seemed an incredibly safe bet. Right again. Then whoosh whoosh diagonally down through the little SW piece. What astonished me was the wavelength connection that seemed firmly established between our able constructor and me today. That simply does not happen on Saturdays unless the Times slides in an inappropriately easy one in a Saturday slot. Not so today.

While today was easy for me, throughout my entire solve, I kept waiting for the other shoe. I remained fully SHOD in my own little cat slippers though. Whoda thunkit?!

My beautiful in every conceivable way possible college roomie, Lila taught me SHABBAT SHALOM. With only the “AB” that one fell nicely and I was so chuffed that I took a break to get coffee and think about my freshman year at Illinois and my many late night trips across the quad l with roomies Paula and Lila. Paula is a concert pianist and I was a flautist/singer. We would be coming from the practice rooms at Smith and we would meet Lila coming from some journalistic project or the lab. We loved to sing Bing Crosby tunes and pretend to be able to dance down the huge staircase in front of Lincoln Hall. Thankfully this was decades before smart phones and social media! Aside: remember the year if college streaking? Oof!!

I digressed. But I really felt so privileged to learn about Jewish customs, practices and religious observances. So SHABBAT SHALOM everybody.

One of the most extraordinary constructor techniques I noticed today was adding just enough of a clue to tough ones to give the solver a fighting chance without diluting the challenge level too much. Example was clue at 52A seeking MSN as the answer. Adding “same day as Windows 95” was super helpful. In case anyone has been worried about needless public expenditure in Oklahoma, my computer in the DA’s office had Windows 95 installed until 2013. If I had not had a Federal employment case that went to trial that year the upgrade wouldn’t have occurred. Because we could not sync our Pretrial Report with those of the plaintiffs’ counsels, we had to upgrade. Thankfully.

I can’t seem to stay on topic today so I’m going to quit. I loved this one.

Anonymous 5:09 PM  

It’s compact discs. Look it up. —RP

CWT 5:48 PM  

Question: Do the times that appear with every post reflect Eastern Standard Time (Rex time) or that of the poster?

Anonymous 5:52 PM  

Haha yeah take a deep breath for sure

Anonymous 6:00 PM  

Great story!

dgd 6:09 PM  

Late week puzzle clues at least routinely do not say the answer is a product name. Anyway recipes often use product names so Cheerios is a valid answer. I thought it was a good clue/ answer combo. As someone above said, I am happy it wasn't Cheezits!

jae 7:23 PM  

@CWT - blog posts are on EST - if you post from the West Coast your post time is 3 hours later than when you actually posted.

Nancy 7:57 PM  

@egs (3:37 p.m.)-- You write: "Actually there is no difference between .96 x 1 and .48 x 2. If two teams score 4 touchdowns each and one makes 4 extra points while the other makes 2 two point conversions and misses two, it’s a damn close game."

What I say is "average-schmaverage". This is real life, not math. Let me ask you a hypothetical question. You are forced against your will to play Russian Roulette. You are given a choice. You can fire one shot at your head that has a 96% chance of blowing your brains out. Or you can fire two shots at your head, each with a 48% chance of blowing your brains out. Which option would you choose?

It's not a close call, is it, @egs? I rest my case.

Anonymous 9:40 PM  

Glad there’s someone out there with the exact same brain as me!

egsforbreakfast 10:05 PM  

@Nancy 7:57 pm. The math may say otherwise, but you’re certainly right. Touché.

Camilita 10:17 PM  

@kitshef 12:14 yes, I see what you mean. I see that one wouldn't use that term. But half sibling seemed like a familiar word to me for some reason. Now I realize why! On the Ancestry website under the DNA breakdowns, where you look to see what possible relationship this % of dna matching is, they do use the term Half Sibling. I had the match to this person showing first cousin , but my cousin, who has a greater percentage of DNA matching this person, 25%, it showed Half Sibling. We stared at this for hours trying to make heads or tails of who this could possibly be, as we had already identified all our cousins. They use the gender neutral term on that site.
That was a shocker! Life has surprises, that's for sure.

TTrimble 11:08 PM  

@egs, @Nancy

You were right the first time, @egs. The point you were making can be illustrated like this: let's change .96 to 1 and .48 to .5. And let's say that instead of football, we have two players, Alice and Bob, taking turns at a game. On each round, Alice is automatically awarded 1 point, whereas Bob flips a coin; if he gets heads, then he wins two points that round. It should be clear that neither player has an advantage, i.e., over the long run, the ratio of their accumulated points tends to 1.

@Nancy's thought experiment has nothing to do with accumulation of points (as in a football game, or the game I mentioned), but with an entirely different scenario of surviving rounds of Russian roulette. Again, change from .96 to 1 and .48 to .5. Obviously you'd prefer to take two rounds with half the chambers loaded: if there's a .5 chance of surviving each time the trigger is pulled, then the chance of surviving two rounds is .25, which is greater than 0. But again, this is a completely different problem, and does not bear on the accumulation of points over time.

JC66 11:24 PM  

Who cares?

The Giants got creamed!

Anonymous 11:26 PM  

I always delight in learning new tidbits through the crossword, and I don’t think such tidbit has delighted me more than the backstory of Earring Magic Ken! I was cackling reading about it; what a gem!

CWT 11:48 PM  


Anonymous 12:05 AM  

The chances of making a two point conversion by running are far better than making it by passing, but most of the time they try passing. I can't figure out why.

Victoria 12:53 PM  

I am so very happy for all of you and Ida Mae!!!

Anonymous 3:19 PM  

I kind of hated this puzzle, and the clue 33 across (On the struggle bus, it might be said), is BS. Said by who? No one.

Milwaukee Talkie 8:22 AM  

OLES? Is that the opposite of TSKS?

Again, a plural no one ever says. Why not just make it OnES?

Anonymous 1:48 PM  

Two puzzles in a row with really bad long answers. Strange, off-putting clues, also. NOT "easy".

Burma Shave 2:04 PM  


be ELITE, POSH, or hip,


spacecraft 6:12 PM  

ABIT harder than yesterday's, which makes it...a Wednesday? Yeah. Tough clue on LIU, but I'll rewrite it for DOD Lucy.

Twice now killing the NW. Are constructors trying to placate me? Easy, too much so for a Saturday, but so be it. Birdie.

Wordle bogey. Minus fifty points.

rondo 8:23 PM  

Tired of ICEPELLETs and snow and such. This MN winter has had far too much of all that.
Wordle par.

Diana, LIW 9:32 PM  

@Rondo - I hear ya about the Minney winter!

Of course, when I manage to get the puzzle correctly, names and all, all by myself, OFL calls it "easy." Hah! Ah well, on to Sunday.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords, still happy about the solve

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