Slow-simmered stew of northwest Africa / SAT 11-4-23 / Paradise of the Beat Generation / deux vins tipsy Fr. / City nickname that includes its state's postal code / Title woman in a Beatles song

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Constructor: David P. Williams

Relative difficulty: Medium (Easy ... then one wrong answer in the SE corner stopped me cold)

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: TAGINE (15A: Slow-simmered stew of northwest Africa) —
  1. a slow-simmered stew of northwestern Africa traditionally cooked in a covered earthenware pot
    also  the pot in which tagine is cooked (
• • •

This weirdly had more whoosh than Friday, despite the obnoxious, highly segmented grid architecture, which would seem to impede it. Not a big fan (or even a small fan) of these grids where the corners are completely cut off from the body of the grid, such that they play like entirely separate puzzles. Flow > Segmentation! But everything *between* the corners played beautifully, with lots of crisscrossing action, sharp turns, and quick reveals, and all the answers coming in at least solid (HORSE TRADER), sometimes strong ("DON'T SWEAT IT"). The NW corner was like a diving board on which I took a little time to position myself before the plunge, and then, off the "LI-" ... 

As I wrote it in, I thought, "Well, if LIFE IS SWEET is wrong, I don't wanna be right. Let's take a screenshot and cross our fingers!" And it all worked out. FAIRS to STIRS to DEBTS and ITHACA, and at that point I was confident my first long Down was correct. Rather than work more of the LIFE IS SWEET crosses, I followed Odysseus to ITHACA and beyond, into North Africa for some stew, and the wheeling around the NE corner and shooting back across the grid with a dog (or yo-yo) I somehow picked up across the way:

[this is some top-level whoosh right here]

With two long answers driven straight through the heart of the puzzle, what had been a daunting amount of white space suddenly became a playground, where I romped around picking up every word and phrase almost as fast as I could look at the clues. Got that SW corner surrounded and finished off without too much effort, and then ... well, then it was time to go back into the damn cut-off corners again, this time in the SE. And that was where the (minor) misery started. I figured 46A: Take some hits probably had something to do with "SMoking" since I had the "SM-," but I only wrote in SMOKE. In retrospect, SMOKE POT seems obvious, but I don't hear "pot" much any more, and I forget how much the NYTXW loves to call it that, so ... "weed" didn't fit and I figured, just leave it, you'll get it from crosses. And in fact, that answer wasn't the real problem down there. No, the real killer was a three-letter wrong answer that spun me into a six-letter wrong answer that absolutely crashed my car. Namely: for 47D: Some bank deposits, with the "O" in place, I wrote in ORE, and *then*, for 51A: Value, with the (erroneous) "E" in place, I wrote in ESTEEM. Game Over. Well, temporarily over. The worst part about being stuck was mentally singing "on a cold winter's night that was so deep" in my head and having it turn into like a thousand different carols in my head: "O Come All Ye Faithful," "Silent Night," "Jingle Bells." I am out of carol training. Despite what the stores and your neighbor's yard might be telling you, It's Not The Season (Yet). Anyway, it's "The First Noel" and there is a line (-up) of NOELS in that song, for sure. "NOEL, NOEL, NOEL, NOEL / Born is the King of Israel," I think is the way it goes. The clue is playing with "line" (not the lyric, but the string of NOELS all in a line there). 

Annnnnyway, no luck there. Eventually I got real mad that I couldn't get 49A: It's a bad look with its first three letters in place (which for me were ERI-), so I tore out ORE and its "R" and that's when EVIL ... and then OVA (47D: Some bank deposits) ... became obvious. ESTEEM turned to ASSESS, and whoosh, the whole corner went down. All that hold-up because I thought OVA was ORE. UGH. These cut-off, isolated corners really do take the joy out of things. But still, my overall impression of the puzzle was good. Everything from NE to SW was a swirly delight.

  • 15A: Slow-simmered stew of northwest Africa (TAGINE) — foreign foods often flummox me, but not today. This wasn't a gimme, exactly, but I recognized the word eventually. A slow-simmered stew sounds good about now. The temperature fell through the floor here in Central New York this week.
  • 19A: Acute ... or the opposite of acute (GRAVE) — OK someone clearly has studied French, because you've got ÊTRE there at 23A: To be overseas?, and then on top of it you've got this play on words that involves French accent marks: accent aigu goes up (like so: Γ©), and accent GRAVE goes down (thusly: Γ¨)
  • 22A: Appropriate word found scrambled in "pedantic" (NIT) — I hope it's not pedantic to say this is the stupidest clue I've ever seen. A hidden ... scrambled word? So ... not actually in the word at all. Gotcha. (Sidenote: I wanted NITS at 8D: They get under one's skin, informally (TATS), only to have NIT show up here later)
  • 12D: War historian's tally (DEATHS) — look DEATHS happen, I have no problem with DEATHS at all, but you want to make the frame of reference a body count? From a war? Now? This seems like the kind of clue that should've been taken in a less gruesome direction. [Features of a tragedy's last act, often] or just [Ends] ... something like that.
  • 41A: Paradise of the Beat Generation (SAL) — If there's one literary movement that I've never given one damn about, it's the Beats. Well, no: it's Kerouac, specifically (I think Capote's line about how On the Road "isn't writing at all—it's typing," really stuck with me). But I know enough about On the Road to know that SAL Paradise is the main character (narrator). 
  • 4D: Pluck (NERVE) — I had VERVE.
  • 39A: Square meal? (BENTO) — loved this one. Japanese meal conventionally packed / served in a box, hence the term "BENTO box." Boxes are "square" (-ish). Ta-da! Square meal!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 6:13 AM  

I made the exact same errors in SE corner. Glad to be in good company.

Prefab 6:18 AM  

Don't worry, Rex: my instinct is also to ESTEEM ORE rather than to ASSESS OVA. Which is why this puzzle took me nearly twice as long as a normal Saturday.

Conrad 6:50 AM  

Very challenging for me. Too many overwrites to list them all. Put in FOUNTS right away at 1A, then took it out when I didn't see any crosses other than SIP. Went to the NE, where I had d'oh for "Not again?" (9D), then decided that Greek islands end in -os, so that part went into 18A. Eventually got corrected except for the Marilyn Monroe quote at 7A and ended up with TA_INE for the 15A stew. TAhINE is a thing, isn't it? No, that's TAhINi, and it's not a stew. But Googling "tahine stew" yielded "Did you mean TAGINE stew" and with that I filled in the corner. This was typical of the solve.

Anonymous 6:58 AM  

I had the same issue as OFL with assess and esteem and ova and ire. Walk the dog was a fun memory —does anyone still play with a yo yo? That and a top were my two favorite toys.

Anonymous 7:06 AM  

This was no fun at all which is what we are here for…that segmented grid is the worst…I am sure this constructor worked very hard on this and kudos for that but this is a hard pass for me…

Son Volt 7:24 AM  

Mostly strained clueing that just tried too hard to be tricky - the misdirects fell flat. There were some nice in the language longs - ITS THAT TIME x DON’T SWEAT IT but others that flopped - HORSE TRADER, TABLE TENNIS etc.

Agree with the big guy on the obtuse (opposite of acute) grid - forces the choppiness especially in the starting corner that forces FOUNTS crossing both OMERTΓ€ and the inane TREE clue.

Maybe not overtly in your voice Rex but many of your still-noble causes are rooted in the Beats. The Stumper gives us Milton today - hopefully he’s more to your ear.

This one should have been EDDIED.

Mary Mack dressed in black

Andy Freude 7:37 AM  

Gee, I liked this puzzle. Similar challenges in the SE, but that’s what I expect on a Saturday. SMOKE POT does sound quaint now, dated in a way Rufus Thomas isn’t (thanks for that, @Son Volt).

Lewis 7:43 AM  

Random reactions:

• This is David’s second NYT puzzle – both Saturdays – and already he’s established himself to me as a master grid-filler and cluer.
• Grid-filler: A skimpy 66 words, and no – none! – junk. Try that sometime. This, mind you, is with three 11s crossing three 11s, all terrific answers. Wow!
• Cluer: The best kind of vague clues – gettable vague, where the correct answer pops up with one or two crosses. Plus, high-level witty clues, such as [Acute, or the opposite of acute] for GRAVE, as well as “Hah!”-makers like [Square meal?] for BENTO. Wordplay heaven between Robyn yesterday and David today.
• I glanced at his debut puzzle and noticed some serendipities next to today’s. It had SPLIFF, SIDE EYE, ACT, and GOLLY, while today’s had SMOKES POT, EVIL EYE, ACT II, and GOSH.
• Lovely answers today, with IMPERIL, DECREPIT, and FIDGET, and lovely NYT answer debuts IT’S THAT TIME, SMOKE POT, and WALKS THE DOG.

David, your puzzle is rich with personality and range of culture. You had me at some points treading water, and at others galloping, and throughout, enjoying the heck out of the sightsee of your brain. More, please, many thanks for this, and for coming to Crosslandia!

SouthsideJohnny 7:47 AM  

I was another victim of the OVA situation, but fortunately one of my favorite cities (NOLA) along with SMOKE POT and ASSESS bailed me out down there.

Some of the clues felt really forced - almost like the constructor was having trouble amping up the difficulty level and just chucked up a few Hail Mary’s which didn’t really land (Spring winds for COILS, Second for AIDE and that awful clue for LUI, for example).

I enjoyed learning that there is a catch all term (MINCED OATH) for words like GOSH, et c. It’s not at all surprising in retrospect - it just never occurred to me before that they had their own category / characterization.

That little SW section with the aforementioned LUI and AIDE was tough for me as WOODLAND and SAL seem a little esoteric, even for Saturday (and I thought that ROOKing was closer to CHEATing than just TRICKing).

Rex should go back to posting occasional videos of him solving - it would be interesting to see him manhandle a Saturday like today by just filling in answer after answer while barely referring to the clues - would sort of be like watching an Olympic slalom event or some other stellar athletic performance (GOSH - I’ll bet I’m the first person to compare OFL to a world class elite athlete !)

kitshef 7:55 AM  

After yesterday's breeze, it was nice to have a puzzle with some bite. It was basically a word here and a word there until I finally got going in the SE corner - the only easy section of the grid (and, curiously, where Rex went awry).

Significantly, none of the difficulty was due to unknown-to-me names. This is what I want my Saturdays to be.

PH 8:16 AM  

This is my favorite Saturday puzzle in quite awhile. The segmented grid is the price of admission for a triple 11-stack intersecting another triple 11-stack. Fill was surprisingly clean with a low count of trivia and proper names. Helped to know ITHACA and TABLE TENNIS off the bat. 12-Down clue might be a nod to Veterans Day next week, but LIFEISSWEET certainly saved the day. Very polished, kudos David P. Williams!

Fun_CFO 8:22 AM  

Dislike the grid. Which formed my opinions of the NW and SE regardless of content. The main body from NE to SW was whooshy, but unlike Rex, couldn’t salvage puzzle overall for me.

Doesn’t mean anything, but after the 3 long downs, which collectively had double SS, EE, NN and TT, the bottom half seemed like every other answer had double consecutive letters somewhere.

pabloinnh 8:24 AM  

Agree with OFL's dislike of segmentation like this, as this turned into four corners and a middle. I started in the SW, and went SE, NW , NE, fly over section, which took the longest, mostly because I had LIFEISGREAT, which threw a monkey wrench right into the middle of things.

I resisted NOELS, even though I know the carol perfectly well, especially the repeated NOELS which have a nice rising tenor part where I always show off, but NOEL with the appended S just looked plain wrong.

OFL didn't mention the other (totally) French clue and answer, ENTRE deux vins, which I had never heard but makes some sense, if the "vins" are full bottles.

I liked the Monroe quote, but I spent too much time trying to make FUTILE work. Hers is way better.

Just the right amount of crunch for a Saturday, DPW. Didn't Produce Whooshes all over the place but a nice satisfying solve. Thanks for all the fun.

Rochelle 8:28 AM  

RP wrote “ SMOKE POT seems obvious, but I don't hear "pot" much any more, and I forget how much the NYTXW loves to call it that, so ... “ . This is the constructor’s second NYTXW. The first was in August. Are we to believe that Shortz changed this guy’s puzzle around to include SMOKE POT ? πŸ‘Œ

EJames 8:28 AM  

I got the answer immediately and I'm glad you all seemed to enjoy it, but it irritated me. A RECTANGLE IS NOT A SQUARE! Though a square is, in fact, a rectangle.


Your Resident Grumpy Math Teacher Solver

Bob Mills 8:29 AM  

Finished it without cheating, yesterday and today both. Hurray! Needed trial-and-error for the TAGINE/TATS cross, and FOUNTS was hard to get because the word is usually seen only before "of knowledge." The puzzle didn't seem easy to me, especially with DECREPIT and IMPERIL in the same area as FOUNTS. And HORSETRADER took a long time to get, because from the clue I was sure the last five letters spelled "rider."

"Nurse" as an answer to SIP should be clued "nurse, sometimes" or otherwise qualified. The other clues were typical of Saturday, but not unfair.

Ann Howell 8:32 AM  

Hated this one - the isolated quadrants were more annoying than challenging. No fun answers and the longish ones were dull. They can't all be winners, but will save hope that Sunday's will be more pleasant.

Dr.A 8:42 AM  

Bentos are NOT square!!! Ok, that bothered me. And had the same exact issues that you did, and the same pretty much progression. Ore didn’t seem right anyway. FIDGET really messed me up and considering both I and my daughter have ADD it really should NOT have! But I tend to avoid that word and just say, “looks like you need a break” LOL. It’s a noun now! As in “do you need a fidget to keep you busy?’

Aaron 8:43 AM  

Really really really did not enjoy the overly tough "gotcha" type clues on this, the reveals on this, or the way entire sections would be stuck because of that. Zero flow, constant sticking points, and obscure terms that made it just not for me.

Plus a TAGINE is not necessarily a stew, so get right out of here with that clue.

Oh, and I'll just rant for a second that I hate obscure quotes from famous people as clues, they're lame. Do better. No one has memorized the various sayings of every single quotable celeb or historical figure, half of which that get used in these puzzles are just obscure blather or have nothing to do with associated person. Or they could've been said by anyone since the quote doesn't associate well with the general perception of that person. Here's a good one to have in an upcoming puzzle "I'm ______." -William Howard Taft (BEFUDDLED)

Kent 8:48 AM  

NeRds for DORKS hung me up right in the middle of everything.

Had the same problem as Rex with the Christmas carol - I wanted Glooooooooooooooooria from Angels We Have Heard on High. ‘Tis most definitely NOT the season. I was dismayed and disheartened when I went to grab a drink at Starbucks and the bright red menu was all peppermint this and gingerbread that. Can we not hang on to fall for a few more weeks?

Eh Steve! 8:57 AM  

Same troubles in the SE, but it was SKId for SKIS. It seemed reasonable at the time.

Len 9:04 AM  

Beatle needs may cry "foul" on 28D. Although Sadie is presumably a female name, the the title is another sly John Lennon disguise. The song is about the Maharishi and his alleged unwanted advances towards a young lady at the retreat in Rishikesh in 2968.

Anonymous 9:12 AM  

Several of Kerouac’s books were quite influential and important to me. I’m glad his publisher saw what an English teacher did not. — SoCal RCP

Teedmn 9:26 AM  

Sure, I too (reluctantly) put down ORE/ESTEEM but ore seemed far too obvious so I was dubious. SMOKE POT went in right away. NOELS actually was the reason I dumped eStEem and Ore though the rest of that sector needed filling in before OVA and the EVIL EYE were apparent.

I started out so happy with my solve when I got IMPERIL off my first entry, SIP. I must say I was a tad nervous when looking at NE__E with the clue “Pluck” but smiled when NERVE came to me, an ambiguity worthy of the new Connections game.

LUÍ gave me the SW, I liked the clue for BENTO. But my favorite part of the puzzle was when I was trying to work into the NE. I had FA__S in at 20A and was convincing myself that folks who had a bus or train ticket could be FAreS, so when it turned out to be its homophone, FAIRS, that was fun.

Thanks, David Williams!

Anonymous 9:28 AM  

Add me to the ESTEEEM ORE crew. This puzzle took me way longer than the usual Saturday.

I really dislike NOELS and its clue.

Voyajer 9:31 AM  

Northwest corner wouldn’t give. Had to start in northeast, then southeast. Made it super difficult to get into the center.

Terrific puzzle and all … but what a headache!

Can someone explain GODOT to me?

RooMonster 9:39 AM  

Hey All !
Managed to solve the entire middle section before any of the corners. That's strange. My corners were solved, NE, SE, NW, SW. I had the same ORE/ESTEEM in as some of y'all, but had a sneaky suspicion of both NOELS and SKIS, so I too erased everything, putting in my maybes, and then seeing the correct answers.

Toughest corner for me was SW. Had _OOKS/_E_IDE/_AL, and not seeing what 33D, Live could be. Was it Live, as in seeing a band perform, or Live, as in exist? ROOKS clue holding me up, was it BOOKS, HOOKS, TOOKS? Dang, ROOKS definitely a "third-definition" there. Never heard of SAL Paradise. Was thinking CAL there, for California to be the Beat Generation Paradise. Har. But the ole brain finally saw RESIDE, threw it in, and Happy Music ensued. Physically threw my arms up in a "Yay" moment!

NW a toughie, too. Some not often seen words in there. Nice to start the puz with an F. 😁

So a toughie to start, that ended up not too tough to solve. For me, a perfect SatPuz. Worked the ole brain just enough to stir the brain cells without sending some packing.

A missed opportunity to put a Blocker in SW final square for ASSES. Har.

Happy weekend! Is time change tonight?

Two F's

Sam 9:41 AM  

Really challenging and had to recruit some help from a friend to finish

Imfromjersey 9:46 AM  

Hand up for ORE/ESTEEM that corner had me stymied for quite a while. I also has ONE, then TWO before TAP for the mic check that also slowed me down substantially. But I like a challenging puzzle and this was closer to a Stan Newman Saturday stumper level though not as hard as those.

Nancy 9:51 AM  

I, too, wanted ORE before OVA and ESTEEM over ASSESS -- though ESTEEM didn't fit.

My LIFE was SWELL before it was SWEET -- making it very hard to see BENTO. I'm trying to think of a meal that's square. PIZZA is square in Chicago, but I live in NYC where it's round.

Such a knowledgeable blackjack player am I. I thought the last card was the UPCARD, not the first card.

Lovely clues for GRAVE, COILS, HORSE TRADER, and NIT.

Who would have thought of Marilyn Monroe as the coiner of memorable aphorisms? I know, I know -- she's said to have been very bright and thereby tragically misunderstood, but all I can say is you certainly could have fooled me.

This was a perfect Saturday, I thought. I had to work, but I never suffered -- not even once.

Rich Glauber 9:52 AM  

Pretty rough but ultimately gettable, I'd go with Medium-Ghallenging. But hey, those are the ones that provide the greatest reward when you hear the music. I wonder who DIDN'T go with ORE ESTEEM in the SW, pretty tricky. Kudos to David for a slick construction.

Beezer 9:54 AM  

This was a challenging and fun puzzle and I was surprised I finished/didn’t REALLY finish, to wit…my first across entry was ITHACA. I had the same problems that @Rex and others did in the SE corner and somehow eventually sorted it out. BUT why didn’t I REALLY finish? Well. I care not about “streaks” so when my “congrats!” Didn’t pop up I hit “check puzzle”. Yeah. I was dense when it came to Grand trio AND yo-yos. I could only think about “wavering” with yo-yos and I thought there might be a PIANOLEt so I ended up with THAT and WALKTHEDOT. Hah! I thought it was an idiom I’d never heard!

@Voyajer…The play “Waiting for Godot” does not have Godot…only the peeps waiting for him.

Carola 9:58 AM  

Good one! Lots of pleasure seasoned with a little bite. Gifts: TAGINE + ITHACA, leading to GOSH x GODOT and on to HORSE TRADER and WALKS THE DOG, giving me enough crossing possibilities to get to the bottom. That left me with the NW, empty except for the single SIP. I pondered the lemon and orange - flavors, colors..., then remembered from previous puzzles: TREE - enough to unlock the rest. Treats for me: FOUNTS, IMPERIL PIANO LEG, the clue for PASTES. All-around fun to solve.

Anonymous 10:00 AM  

Got badly stuck in the NW with stRum for 4-Down, and the lack of integration with the rest of the grid kept me stranded for-like-ever, despite getting SIP and DECREPIT early. Finally decided 23-Across had to be ETRE, which led to __CARD (know almost nothing about Blackjack) and then the rest. Overall not a bad Saturday, but far from easy for me.


Gary Jugert 10:21 AM  

Never got on board with this one, but I write that on half of the Saturdays. Sometimes they're at least funny, but not this one. And those two blocked off corners didn't help at all.

The long centers are nice of course.

Never in a hundred years would [Minced oath] ever meant anything to me. I really wanted ["Hansel and Gretel" setting] to be THESTOVE.

Tee-Hee: You should ASSESS If you love to SMOKE POT in DENUDE cuz you might have a job with the NYTXW editing team. It's their obsession too.


1 Makes old fashioned scrambled eggs.
2 I hate thinking about those holidays when he said he was coming and never showed.
3 Mercury poisoning according to my guy who charged me to put it in there and now wants to charge me to take it out and put a different kind in.


My Fascinating Crossword Uniclue Keepsake from Last Year: Adjust after your leg falls asleep. REDEPLOY LAP DOG.


andrew 10:21 AM  


(Read enough comments here and eventually your mind goes to POTty…)

Whatsername 10:23 AM  

GOSH!! I felt quite STUPID before this was over. And the advice DONT SWEAT IT was easier said than done. I had to TAP every FOUNT of knowledge I could think of and then some. I traded the HORSE, WALKED THE DOG, paid all my DEBTS, made a pot of TAGINE and still wasn’t finished.

When I finally did get to the ENDS, I was able to stealthily DENUDE old SAL and LUI in the one corner, but fell straight into the sneaky POT trap of the other. I had ORE deposited in my bank, measured my value via ESTEEM and sang NOELS in NOLA for a long TIME before the SMOKE cleared and I finally laid the last CARD on the TABLE. In my defense, however I have to say TOUPEE is not the first word that comes to mind as a disguise, nor is PASTES as a synonym for wallops. Basically that entire corner was just EVIL.

Dan 10:31 AM  

I think that "square" in the context of this clue, is being used in the more general sense of the adjective, like when one is talking about an angle. ("Does the ceiling look square to the wall?")

Since "square meal" is such an in-the-language phrase, I think the play on words makes the clue more than acceptable. And I think everyone here realizes that not all rectangles are squares.

Newboy 10:40 AM  

I’m torn between giving David’s grid the EVIL EYE and exclaiming GOSH, LIFE IS SWEET. Very slow and frustrating to begin and then delightful moments of pennies dropping into the appropriate slot. Poker player stayed way too long until finally that damn question mark gave HORSE TRADER its proper due. I hate to resort to the “check word” unless I’m not having fun, but today I resorted to it at least a dozen times—half confirmed/half STUPID. Certainly a weekend worthy constructor as @Lewis observed and a name to remember with equal measures of dread and delight!

egsforbreakfast 10:42 AM  

Yesterday I commented that LSDTRIP seemed a bit off to the modern ear. Today it's SMOKEPOT (hi @Rex) which could be a mini theme with HORSETRADER (Heroin Dealer). This just reminds me of my disappointment last week when trick-or-treating yielded no Nose Candy for me.

NOELS could have been a themer yesterday, clued as Yu_e Caro_s.

SWEET crossing SWEAT got me to thinking that you could pretty much divide the world into those who think Life is Sweet and those who think Life is Sweat.

Shouldn't DENUDE mean to put on clothes? Just like DECREPIT means to make yourself less crepit.

If you're tipsy on white wine from a certain appellation in Bordeaux, you're ENTRE deux vins on Entre Deux Mers.

I found this puzzle to be delightful, although super easy for a Saturday. I really loved a lot of the cluing. Thanks, David P. Williams

Photomatte 10:51 AM  

Whew, that was a tough one today. I also had ORE and ESTEEM and couldn't figure out why those SE down answers looked like they should end in S (since the clues were in the plural form), but didn't.
As for 3-down (UPCARD), that reminded me of playing blackjack in Barcelona a few years ago. The dealer dealt everyone an up-card, including herself, then dealt everyone a down card ... except herself. She only had the up-card showing and we were supposed to make our decisions (hit, stay, split, double down) first, before she gave herself a down card. Nope, no way, that's crazy. I asked the dealer where her down card was and she acted like I was the crazy one. Not only did I quickly lose my €10, I also had to pay for the drink I ordered, even though I was sitting at the blackjack table, with an active hand, when I ordered it. Someone needs to tell Barcelona that's not how things are done. To top it all off, I was propositioned by a very pregnant teenager as I left the casino. Um, really? Come on, Barca ...

pabloinnh 11:01 AM  


Finished it but what a bear. I'm going to go lie down for a while.

Joe Dipinto 11:28 AM  

So this is what happened:
No sooner than Marilyn Monroe said "Fear is stupid. So are regrets," Tom Hanks showed up to respond "Stupid is as stupid does. Wanna play table tennis?" So they played a game of stupid table tennis, which Marilyn regretted because Tom/Forrest Gump won.

"Why don't we star in Waiting For Godot together?" suggested Marilyn. "I like the way you said the title in italics", said Tom/Forrest. He assessed the idea. "Well, it has an Act I and an Act II. I can visualize it: We entre from a woodland, on skis. Vladimir –that's me– says 'Life is sweet. Don't sweat it.' Estragon –that's you– says 'Is this a dagger I see before me?'"

Tom/Forrest continued, "Then they sit down under a tree next to a grave to smoke some pot. A horse trader comes by, walking a dog. 'I have bento boxes if you're hungry for some tagine', he says. His toupee falls off, leaving his tattooed scalp denuded. Then it ends."

Marilyn said, "I like it! But it's that time. We should get going." She and Tom/Forrest sat there and fidgeted. But they didn't stir.

Then Marilyn said:
"What kind of tree is this we're sitting under?"

jae 11:32 AM  

Medium. Me too for esteem before ASSESS plus nerdS before DORKS.

This one involved more staring than whooshing for me.

A delightful Saturday challenge, liked it a bunch!

Tom T 11:41 AM  

Wanted TAP for 26A (Touch) only to have it appear at 35A (Part of a mic check).

No happy music--knew the problem had something to do with the SW, but not enough time or enthusiasm to try to figure it out. Hit "Check Puzzle" and solved it from there. Turns our for "Tricks" I answered BOOKS (confusing bridge, where you take tricks, with go fish, where you collect books--all the 4s, all the 5s, etc.). So for "Live" I had BE_IDE and, having no idea about the Beat generation clue, plunked in a T, figuring "whatever may BEtIDE had something to do with being alive. Once I ran the alphabet to get ROOKS instead of bOOKS, RESIDE became obvious. Sigh

Gary Jugert 11:47 AM  

I told my wife about the challenges many of you are facing while violating Joaquin's Dictum that clues are not synonyms. The tragedy of the squareness of bento boxes unfolding today for some is a tough bit of over processed meat to swallow. I thought my wife would say, "Why do you read that stupid blog?" but instead, she said, "I like those people." She likes precision use of language and I prefer it to be adventurous and messy. So, I Google image searched for Square Bento Boxes (since even one would cause the clue to be 100% accurate) and a few of you will be disheartened to learn there are many many square bento boxes and some are super cute and pink. Now, from a purely mathematical viewpoint, really nothing in life is a true square so maybe you have a point. I like square meal ... it's one of a few highlights in this puzzle. Rectangle meals, triangular meals, semi-circular meals, mobius strip meals, and triquetra shaped meals all sound lovely and I am ready to gobble them up from my oval lapboard while sitting in front of my rectangle TV. In our modern society, shape isn't supposed to matter.

GILL I. 11:59 AM  

Ay ya ya. Saturday woes. Some good, others bad. Shall I start by saying that I failed with my favorite 1A? SWAMI was my source of wisdom. If you squirm at 1D does one SIDGET? FOUNTS then STUPID cleared up that mess on aisle 1.
A word here...a word there. Stare.
Like @pablito, that added S to NOEL made me sing off key. I know every word of the song; I sing it at our Christmas pageant.....The clue starts "Line" not lines.
Ay ya ya #2. The cluing on this puzzle tried so hard to mislead me that I almost called it quits. I didn't.
I managed the long downs but they took forever. LIFE IS SWEET was my first longie. Opened up some doors. Second longie was WALK THE DOG. I used to do that with my white diamond studded yo yo.
Inch by inch.
Got down to BENTO...@Dr. A 8:42...A BENTO box sometimes comes in a round and a rectangle. My first was a square.
On to 35A. and the clue for part of a mic check. I had ONE then TWO. That whole section gave me my agita, angst, dyspepsia malady. Is it really TAP? It must be because I was pretty sure that bronze clue was ALLOYS. OK. I'm in the ORE camp.'s EVIL something. EYE. Finished.
I, of course, expect all Saturdays to be EVIL hard. This was one of them. I don't mind sweating a bit but today I felt like Sisyphus. Usually, when I finish a Saturday with little or no help, I jump for joy. Today, I couldn't find a dance partner.

Anonymous 12:03 PM  

I found this difficult. Cluing vague

CT2Napa 12:04 PM  

@Anonymous 6:58

Yo-Yo championship

Paula 12:10 PM  

Earlier this morning, I was thinking how infuriating I find all references to women's reproductive organs/capacity in puzzles since Roe was overturned. Opened up this puzzle, and the ubiquitous "ova" strikes again.

Echoing Rex yesterday, yeah, did not care for war historians tally either.

Anonymous 12:11 PM  

I knew DEATHS would bother Rex when I filled it in. I get where he's coming from, obviously, but less than appropriate stuff happens once in a while. Unsurprising

Beezer 12:16 PM  

@Gary J…loved your second post! And let me second that emotion.

jb129 12:16 PM  

I struggled with pretty much every square (including, of all things, TREE). Relieved to have finished but it was an enjoyable Saturday. Really liked BCCED & SMOKE POT (I needed a joint after this). Good to see Marilyn Monroe.

Thanks for the workout, David.

Ruth F 12:17 PM  

So, I started with ELDERS for 1A, confirmed with DEALER at 3D. Took a while to clean that up. But I had no problem with ASSESS and OVA. Go figure.

Masked and Anonymous 12:20 PM  

Primo 4 Jaws of Themelessness puzgrid decor.

Also enjoyed: HORSETRADER. WALKSTHEDOG. DONTSWEATIT. Mainly cuz I got em all off just a few endin letters. Not to mention the New Mexico-friendly SMOKEPOT.
Had a bit of extra trouble with TAGINE and its surroundins. Lost some precious nanoseconds before PIANOLEG dawned on the M&A brain.

What…? Only 7 ?-marker clues? Seemed like there was at least twenty of em. Sneaky/feisty stuff, those clues today. [Insert yer fave minced oath, here.]

staff weeject pick: LUI. It's kinda ITALIC-related.

Thanx for the challenge, Mr. Williams dude.

Masked & Anonymo4Us

p.s. We was on a roadtrip for quite a spell. Several highlites, includin Arches National Park in Utah. Dead Horse Point in Utah was also real scenic. And Santa Fe was quite nice, too boot; ate lotsa good Mexican chow.


Anonymous 12:31 PM  

Exact same trouble in the SE, exacerbated by my unwarranted confidence in "INDY" rather than NOLA.

Anonymous 12:51 PM  

I fell into the ore/esteem trap but got out of it quickly because of the plurals on downs meant the last two letters were probably "s." I wasn't sure about FOUNT because it's pronounced without the "u" so that corner took me a while. I thought the Marilyn Monroe quote was too stupid to be STUPID so didn't trust that answer until everything else fit. Had never hard of OMERTA before. 41 minutes

Anonymous 12:51 PM  

Ok, someone help me out, please. How would a cowboy ride a COLT? Although he might carry one. Isn’t the phrase etre deux vin? Is Entre also a thing? I’m bad at Fr.
Last question because I’m slow- Can someone please explains the pun for GRAVE? How is it opposite of acute?
Thank you!

Georgia 12:59 PM  

I thought I knew every Beatles song ... . not true.

Anonymous 1:10 PM  

Never mind, I figured out the acute/grave dissimilarity.

JC66 1:10 PM  

@M & A

Welcome back. You were missed.

Anonymous 1:12 PM  

You all should try actually reading the blog some time. It’s full of interesting information

bocamp 1:18 PM  

Thx, David; SWEET Sat. puz! 😊


First pass in the NW produced only SIP and ETRE, but the 'I' & 'T' from LIFE IS SWEET & TABLE TENNIS gave me DECREPIT, and Bob was my uncle.

My main FIDGET was the 'G' in TAGINE; the other possibility was an 'h'. Is UhH a thing? [apparently it's a var of UH]. Anyhoo, guessed right.

Initially, wanted Ore, but the EVIL EYE put the kibosh on that.

No prob with SAL, having had it not too long ago. I can still recall the mnemonic I created for some of the toughies from that puz, e.g., SHANDY, WKRP, OPPO, KAL EL, CHANG-rae LEE, 'myrmecologist', etc.

Also, took some thinking time to grok the 'line of NOELS'. Clever clueing!

Enjoyed the challenge; fun excursion! :)

@CT2Napa (12:04 PM)

Thx for the yo-yo vid; all I can say is wow-wow! I texted the link to the granddaughters. πŸͺ€
On to Steve Mossberg's Sat. Stumper 🀞(congrats to @pablo for the solve!). Balton & Stewart's NYT acrostic on tap for tm.
Peace πŸ•Š πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness ~ Freudenfreude & a DAP to all πŸ‘Š πŸ™

jberg 1:37 PM  

I came to ASSESS from ALLOYS and PASTES, so I was saved from that. But much earlier, I looked at 32-A with the final T in place, noticed that IT'S ALL RIGHT fit, and totally screwed up the puzzle. Well, not totally, I finally worked my way back there, but it took some time.

@egs, I think that pun is the source of the phrase "entre deux vins."

@Aaron, the secret to solving quotations from famous people is to pay no attention whatsoever to who said it, just pursue the logic of the quotation. You'll usually get it with a cross or two.

Many BENTO boxes are actual squares; many others have rounded corners. But we all got it, didn't we?

Btw, I finished with cAL instead of SAL, but I'm counting it because in my mind I'd written RESIDE for 33-D.

okanaganer 1:50 PM  

Funny how everyone's different; for me this was much more challenging than yesterday. It was a perfect tough Saturday.

Hands up for ORE and ESTEEM. To me, 14 down wants to be LIFE IS GOOD but it's too short, so I kept the G and put LIFE IS GREAT which slowed me down a lot in the middle.

For 17 down 1988's new Olympic sport, looking at T-B----N--- I saw TOBOGGANING!

@EJames, as Dan and others said, in geometry "rectangle" not== "square", but in everyday vernacular USE, it often is. Think "square" == "rectilinear".

[Spelling Bee: Fri 0; QB streak 10 days.]

Gary Jugert 1:59 PM  

@Masked and Anonymous 12:20 PM
Phew! Glad you are back.

Joe Dipinto 2:08 PM  

@Anon 12:51 – Rex explained Acute vs. Grave in his notes: opposite accent marks in French.

tea73 2:24 PM  

Rex's comment about Jack Kerouac reminds me that eons ago we used to listen to books on CDs on long road trips and for one of them we thought "On the Road" would be an appropriate thing to listen to. We put in the first CD and listened to over half of it before we discovered that we had inadvertantly put it on shuffle. Oops.

This puzzle was challenging. We inched our way in from the corners. Took me forever to remember TAGINE even though I've made it. All I could think of was couscous - so close!

egsforbreakfast 2:40 PM  

@jberg. D'Oh! I guess I'll have to be a little more thoughtful now that I know someone is actually reading my stuff.

Anonymous 2:41 PM  

exactly however, square meal.. plus question mark.. saturday puzzle. chefs kiss!

Anonymous 3:10 PM  

No junk? Four answers were in foreign languages.

Carola 3:30 PM  

@Stumper fans - One corner just about sank me, but then I erased one of my "for sures" and saw the light. Invigoratingly tough, really satisfying to finish! @pabloinnh, I'm following your lead and heading for a nap.

Unknown 3:32 PM  

Life is Sweet is a great movie! I loved the scene where Timothy Spall puts out the candles in frustration. And Andy Williams's The First Noel was exactly what was going through my head to solve. My father had to hide that album after Christmas to keep me from playing it all year round.

Anoa Bob 4:10 PM  

Without direct knowledge it's impossible to know who is responsible for any given clue. Clueing is where editorial changes are most likely to happen. I always follow crossworder Tyler Hinman's dictum and if I like a clue, I credit the constructor and if I don't, I blame the editor.

Talking about RETRO, SMOKING POT has a Cheech and Chong "Up in SMOKE" (1978) vibe to it, no?

The grid fill benefited significantly from the plural of convenience (POC) starting right out of the gate with FOUNTS. This was followed by several of the super helpful two for one POCs where a Down and an Across both get a grid-fill friendly letter count boost by sharing a single final S. This happens at STIR/DEBT, TAT/FAIR, DEATH/SOLO, COLT/ROOK and HANK/END.

Also of note to the POC aficionado is the POC enabler ASSESS in the bottom right row. That one entry gives SKI, NOEL, ALLOY and PASTE all a leg up in filling their slots. (The enabler par excellence would be ASSESSES which has appeared nine times in the Shortz era.) The Committee gave this grid a POC Assisted rating.

Teedmn 4:17 PM  

Re: the Stumper, I just couldn’t finish in the NW, had 4 mystery squares. Rats.

johnk 5:17 PM  

Food problems today gave some posters upset stomachs. A tagine is a cone-shaped pot. The food cooked it might be a stew, might be a piece of meat. "Pot of northwest Africa" would have been a great clue. You could actually SMOKE that POT.
And then we have BENTOs, which are often square, but often round, or rounded.
But in solving, I didn't let those clues bother me. I enjoyed the solve and had no overwrites.

jae 5:47 PM  

@M&A - Nice to have you back. We’ve poke around in some of those same places, sounds like a great trip.

Anonymous 8:04 PM  

The northwest forced me to bust out my NY Times Puzzle Dictionary from the early 90s!

A Real Math Guy 8:11 PM  

What a bunch of chumps - is the bento box square or merely rectangular? No one cares whether it's 2D or 3D? I don't care whether its projection on the xy-plane is square or not, but it has to be 3D, i.e. a hollow prism. You know, so that it can actually hold something

Anonymous 10:16 PM  

Oof… first DNF in a while.

Anonymous 11:18 PM  

The clue didn’t bother me bc the internal compartments are totally squares sometimes (while the box itself is nearly always a rectangle). I just assumed the clue was referring to that. While there are surely exceptions, I don’t think it invalidates the clue.

Anonymous 11:26 PM  

Sorry to be judgy, but (in 2023)…anyone who doesn’t have a tagine (crockery) for preparing a tagine (North African braised dish) (or isn’t at least aware of either) should maybe start branching out a bit more? Tagines have been in suburban America and purchased at Pier1 for years now…

Anonymous 9:10 AM  

Just FYI: It is verboten in the production industry to TAP a microphone as you could damage it.

Casarussell 10:46 AM  

BENTO boxes are more rectangular than square, but I don't want to pick any NITs.

All the french I know (very little) is from crosswords, so the NW slayed me, unfortunately. Otherwise, smooth saturday puzzle!

Anonymous 9:34 AM  

Different error for OVA: IVS. Blood banks, you know. Right idea, wrong body part.

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