SATURDAY, Apr. 4, 2009 - M Ginsberg (Rival of Roach early film comedy / Nafta's overseas counterpart / Feodor III's successor as czar)

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "LAST LETTERS" (33A: Explanatory information about this puzzle is revealed by reading these in the clues) - here's the thing: you need to read the FIRST LETTERS of the clues (***all*** of the clues, not just the theme answer clues) because, as those letters spell out, "ANY CLUE FOR A WORD OF EIGHT OR MORE LETTERS IS THE OPPOSITE OF THE WORD TO BE ENTERED"

Word of the Day: ATEN - n. Mythology.

An Egyptian god of the sun, regarded during the reign of Akhenaton as the only god. (answers.com). Aten (or Aton) was the disk of the sun in ancient Egyptian mythology, and originally an aspect of Ra. (wikipedia)


IN SECRET and LAST LETTERS are phrases, not words, so the "explanatory information" message is slightly off. Aside from that, I thought this puzzle was amazingly ingenious, if far far far too easy for a Saturday. I went at a very leisurely pace, actually stopped in the middle to try to figure out the LAST LETTERS thing (no luck), and still finished in 9 minutes (!?). A grid like this is hard to evaluate on an aesthetic level, since the intricacy of the gimmick puts so many restrictions on both the entries and the clues. What I can say is that the puzzle was extremely smooth. Often stunt puzzles involve torturing clues and torturous fill. Here, it's almost all creamy goodness. I looked suspiciously at INACTIVATE for a second ("shouldn't you be "DEACTIVATE?"), but then I let him pass.

Theme answers:

  • 18A: Friendly side in a debate (opposition)
  • 23A: Asymmetry, as in a relationship (evenness)
  • 49A: Make more important (relegate)
  • 54A: Energize (inactivate)
  • 3D: Tripping over one's feet (graceful)
  • 4D: Hardly necessary (essential)
  • 9D: Overtly (in secret)
  • 32D: Well-proportioned (irregular)
  • 35D: Remaining leery of (trusting)
  • 36D: Draw together (separate)

I started out with wonderful and very plausible mistakes in the NW. Put in the horrid but very possible GOER at 1A: Attendant (someone who "attends" a movie is a movie-GOER, right?), and then "confirmed" that answer with the brilliant REDUNDANT at 4D: Hardly necessary. I tore this out shortly thereafter, when I realized both 14A and 17A likely ended in "S," not "E" and "D," respectively. From there, really really smooth sailing.

I am guessing that many, many people finished the puzzle and still had no idea what was going on with the LAST LETTERS answer. I'm also guessing that at least a handful of people have an error at the SENNETT / IN HERE intersection. If you've never heard of director Mack SENNETT (22A: Rival of Roach in early film comedy), then SEMNETT might seem a perfectly fine answer, and I'M HERE certainly fits as an answer for 19D: One possible answer to "Where are you?" Other than that, I'm not sure where any trouble might have presented itself. I didn't know EEC (45D: Nafta's overseas counterpart), but the crosses were a cinch, and once I got it I realized I'd probably heard or seen the abbrev. many many times (European Economic Community). Many solvers (especially the sports-averse) won't have known TREY Wingo (60A: ESPN anchor Wingo), but even so, the crosses are all simple words. Didn't know the czar, but could tell he was PETER something, and so just waited to see if he was a "I" or a "V" (31A: Feodor III's successor as czar).

Tons of verb-to-noun -ER words, but none of them strange at all. There's a great kitchen/bar theme going on with PEELER (1D: Implement in a kitchen) and OPENER (41D: Barkeep's gizmo) and CHASER (25A: Wile E. Coyote, often). I guess people still have BEEPERs, somewhere (44A: On-call accessory). Coffee is for CLOSERs (5D: Expert dealmaker), and too much coffee might get you amped up and turn you into a SPEEDER (24D: Ticket taker?), and Way too much coffee, or not being able to get the coffee you need, could, I guess, theoretically, turn you into a RIOTER (12D: Tears may be brought to one's eyes), though, without your coffee, I doubt you'll have the energy.

Bullets:

  • 26A: Overhead supporter (rafter) - because it's Saturday, I was turning over all the different meanings of both "overhead" and "supporter" - turns out the answer is as straightforward and literal as can be.
  • 37A: Its streets are immortalized in a classic cowboy ballad (Laredo) - I'm sure I've played this song before, but since it's "immortal," I guess it's worthy playing again. Nope, wait. I'm going to switch in "St. James Hospital" by the (truly immortal) Doc Watson. Check it.



  • 47D: Rakes' shedmates (spades) - Again, because it's Saturday, I at first went looking for a non-yard rake - a libertine or lothario. By that definition ... well, who knows what the rake is doing in the shed?
  • 56A: Leucite source (lava) - never thought of LAVA as a mineral source, but mainly because all images I have of LAVA involve red hot spewing or flowing stuff that no one could tap for its mineral content without, you know, dying.
  • 6D: Optimists keep them alive (hopes) - more right-over-the-plate cluing. This puzzle really could have used some toughening up.
  • 28D: "How to Make an American Quilt" author Whitney (Otto) - It's Whitney OTTO, not OTTO Whitney, in case you were wondering. I certainly didn't know.
  • 40D: Option for dressing down (t-shirt) - again, different meaning of "dressing down" entered my head at first.
  • 50D: Rob of "Melrose Place" (Estes) - OK, now That is a Saturday clue. I vaguely remember this name floating in the air in the mid-90s, but I would never have gotten it correctly without help from a few crosses.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS if you're in the mood for a more standard themeless Saturday, you could try the LAT puzzle. Orange's extended write-up is over at "L.A. Crossword Confidential"

PPS need more of a late-week themeless workout. Try Merle Baker's "Saturday Stumper" at the Newsday site. It's a toughie that Orange and I are quite divided on (I'm pro, she's con).

80 comments:

JannieB 8:43 AM  

When I knew that "In Secret" had to be correct, I just assumed the long answers were opposites and solved it from there. Never saw the instructions in the clues until I was all done. I did think, "Hmm, a themed Saturday???".

A nice feat of construction, a very unsatisfying solving experience. 12 minutes on a Saturday - no thanks.

alanrichard 8:48 AM  

This was the easiest Saturday I have ever done. It took less than 10 minutes, probably alot less. I had no idea what the theme was until I was done. Actually I didn't even know the theme then.
I went over to the NY Times Crossword In Gothic to read Donald's blog and learned a new word, "ALGORITHM" and finally understood the theme. Of course opposites would have been a sufficient category for the theme - but "ALGORITHM" might appear someday in a hard puzzle and I'll know what it means - especially with the diagram to help!

Megan P 9:01 AM  

Yes, way too easy. And yes, theme way too obscure, as everyone says. So obscure, I still don't understand it - but please don't explain, anyone!

Rex's dedication to this project is truly awe-inspiring. Is he never hung-over or just wanting to sleep in on a Saturday or Sunday morning?

HudsonHawk 9:02 AM  

Definitely quicker than usual for a Saturday. I had the L in LAREDO and wanted 4D to be OPTIONAL, but it wasn't long enough.

Then I looked at the clue for 33A and saw the first letter message and figured it out. While MANDATORY was long enough, it still didn't work and ESSENTIAL came into view. From there, the grid fell into place. May have to get an early jump on Sunday now...

chefbea 9:06 AM  

Very easy Saturday. I knew all the theme words were opposites but didn't understand why til I read Rex's write up. Didn't we have a puzzle this past year where the first letters of all the clues spelled out the theme?

I thought Fridays and Saturdays were themeless

John 9:08 AM  

Way too easy for a saturday, though very enjoyable nontheless.

alanrichard 9:12 AM  

Not only was Rex's blog more entertaining than todays very easy puzzle, but earlier this this week I followed some of the comments and started doing the LA Times puzzle too. THe NY Times is much better and challenging - except for today, which was clever in theme and probably a project to construct - but (at the risk of being redundant), way too easy for a Saturday!

Neil 9:12 AM  

Cleverly crafted, but an otherwise boring puzzle.

Alex 9:16 AM  

A grid like this is hard to evaluate on an aesthetic level, since the intricacy of the gimmick puts so many restrictions on both the entries and the clues.

Maybe I'm missing something but I'm not sure how this theme puts any real restrictions on the entries. It doesn't require any specific words (other than LAST LETTERS) beyond the fact that the long ones must have some kind of opposite.

And if we made a game of it, I'm sure we could take almost any entry and come up with clues that start with nearly any letter in the alphabet (reverse Scattergories!).

So it seems to me the feat of construction is coming up with a sentence to spell that had the exact correct number of letters while conveying what needed to be conveyed. And this type of theme where the clues spell something just don't amuse me much (especially in the applet where they are very hard to see). But that's my problem not the constructors.

Didn't like EVENNESS. I just wouldn't ever say anything like (nor can imagine anybody else saying): The great thing about my relationship with my wife is its evenness.

Kurt 9:20 AM  

Oh baby. What a constructing feat! Like chefbea, I didn't understand LAST LETTERS until I read Rex's explanation. I kept trying to relate to the last letters of the clues....like "necessary" for ESSENTIAL. But that seemed to be the only clue where that worked.

After Thursday & Friday, I was expecting a real knuckle-buster today. But instead I got a relatively easy, creative, fun puzzle with great clues, great fill and an amazing "first letters" deal.

Thanks Matt Ginsberg! Enjoy the weekend everybody.

Crosscan 9:28 AM  

Oh come people! This is a brilliant puzzle, easily the best of the year so far. It was a quick solve for a Saturday, but so what?
Great is great. Fun is fun.

Bravo!

foodie 9:28 AM  

I agree that this was both easy and fun. Felt like a Wednesday to me, but I do think it requires that the solver keep an open mind and be willing to invert things even when not so sure. Then it all comes tumbling down. I think this flexibility comes from experience in solving.

Rex, in science we make a slight distinction between INACTIVATE and DEACTIVATE. The latter implies that something was already active, the former, not necessarily so. For example, when we create a "knock out mouse" (Doesn't mean it's gorgeous : ), we INACTIVATE a given gene and prevent it from ever turning on. But we can deactivate (or inactivate) a gene or protein that has been going its merry way and say causing havoc (e.g. in cancer). Sorry, end of scientese...

Rex Parker 9:32 AM  

@Alex,

Here is what you are missing:

ENTRIES have to be words/phrases that have an opposite. Not every word does. Keeps us in the realm of pretty ordinary words, and not, say, AXOLOTL.

rp

ArtLvr 9:41 AM  

Very easy, except finding the gimmick explicitly spelled out! Knowing I have a penchant for taking things too literally, I always have to remind myself not to be too TRUSTING -- which certainly helped here!

Favorite fill included DECOY and Willy LOMAN of "Death of a Salesman". Thinking about the tragedy yesterday in Binghamton, I'm reminded of the observation by writer John Malcolm that it's often the non-gambler who snaps in a time of devastating adversity which was not of his making. Those who have learned to measure risk-taking seem better equipped to face reverses of fortune.

At any rate, heart-felt condolences to Rex and Sandy and all in NY's southern tier... Nearer Albany, the recent concern has been teen-age suicides -- four in the Schenectady high school in the last five months. Terribly sad.

bigredanalyst 9:47 AM  

I agree that this was clever construction but boring solving.

I finished quickly but didn't understand the theme until I read Rex's blog.

My reaction to the theme was "who cares, the answer is extraneous."

I guess every Saturday can't be a gem.

archaeoprof 9:51 AM  

@Rex: didn't get the theme until I came here. Thanks for a very interesting and helpful write-up today. It cannot have been easy for you.

Has anyone ever considered the role that crosswords might play in building a better world?

Anonymous 9:53 AM  

Just plain dumb! Easy and fun but to far fetched to infer the fist for the last.

Karen 10:00 AM  

I read into the middle clue early, having only the opposite OPPOSITION in the grid, and immediately looked at the first letters of the clues and saw the theme. Which helped a lot. I filled in LAST CLUES a few clues later.

I messed up the SENNETT crossing. I tried SAM NETT first, and never questioned that M.

I also had GLOWS instead of GLOSS at the bottom; I figured it crossed with a random actor's name.

Good Thursday level puzzle (I wonder if it was bumped due to the Jeopardy shenanigans).

twangster 10:02 AM  

I read 33-across about 20 times, knowing it somehow explained things. But I never got it, and I never would have, even if my life depended on it, because I was focused on the clues to the "opposite" answers. For example, I looked at the last letters of each word in 18-across, which yielded "yenae". I wonder if more people would have figured it out if it had said: Explanatory information about this puzzle is revealed by reading these in all the clues.

Sandy 10:18 AM  

So, ok it was easy and even I finished it. But it was still kind of fun. I might have enjoyed it more if I wasn't constantly wondering when it was going to kick in to gear and beat me the way Saturday puzzles usually do.

But hey, this means I have time this weekend to do the LAT Saturday.

PlantieBea 10:29 AM  

Agree that it was very easy, but I too had to come here to figure out what the whole last letter deal was all about. Seeing the opposites was easy, but not being able to make the connection of opposites with the explanatory first letter scheme kind of flattened the puzzling pleasure for me. At times like this, I'm glad I can depend of Rex Parker and company for an explanation.

Raising hand for falling into the SEMNETT/I'M HERE trap. Also entered GLOWS for GLOSS :-(

Greene 10:43 AM  

I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle. I thought it was extremely clever and well executed. A bit on the easy side yes, but a wondrous feat of construction that was still a pleasure to solve. The theme came quickly and I even figured out that we were supposed to look at the first letter of the clues to see the theme message. Reminded me a bit of that Simpsons puzzle we had last year by Merl Reagle. Great work, Matt Ginsberg!

Oh Rex! A photo of the original cast album of Mack and Mabel? You make me blush.

Greene 10:43 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Norm 11:07 AM  

Shouldn't this have been an April 1 puzzle? Maybe that would have made it too obvious. But April 2 would have been cool.

XMAN 11:13 AM  

From champ to chump with one blow. It's not nice to fool mother nature--even if you're clever as Odysseus.

joho 11:17 AM  

Definitely easy and delivering fun. It felt good not to beaten up on a Saturday for a change.

I admire the constructor's feat.

Really liked the image of a cop asking a SPEEDER for his/her LICENSE.

Thank you Matt Ginsberg for a enjoyable Saturday puzzle that made me feel smarter than I are.

dk 11:17 AM  

I finished the puzzle and did not get the theme. I came here and I still do not get it. I am a bear of little brain.

It seems LAREDO is our puzzle city of the week.

Matt Ginsberg your puzzle reminds me of the elaborate rows of dominos that are set up and then knocked down:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrtMliHG3Fo

Congratulations on the construction.

Xavier 11:58 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle. Somehow even though I know it was about Thursday difficulty it doesn't take away my sense of accomplishment at having finished a Saturday puzzle. Although I must admit I am in the SEMNETT/IMHERE crowd. At least Rex validated our mistake before we had to feel bad about it!

I think last year's Merle Reagle Simplsons puzzle just primed me to look at the first letters of the clues. I also remember a puzzle where clues were alphabetical by first letter. And one in which all the clues started with a C maybe? Having those in the back of my mind made me find the theme easily.

Xavs

Chip Hilton 11:58 AM  

Those of you complaining about how easy this was might like to consider how good it made some of us feel to roar through a Saturday puzzle.

Not everyone here is a Roger Bannister solver.

Guess what? I loved it.

josh 12:03 PM  

My father is a cardiologist and still carries a beeper. I believe people waiting for a donor for an organ transplant are also given beepers. The reason why is that beepers work almost anywhere, whereas cell phones are dead in way too many places for them to be relied on exclusively for important stuff like that.

Leon 12:14 PM  

Thanks Mr. Ginsberg, an awesome feat of construction.

Thanks RP for the St. James clip.

SENNETT famous for frantic chases above CHASER was amusing.

Badir 12:18 PM  

I had lots of fun with this, and got to have my second-fastest Saturday time! As a mathematician, I love these puzzles that play logical games.

Fortunately for me, I read the clue for 33A before I had any crosses, so my first thought was to try the first letters. That gave a sensible sentence, and I saw it would apply to 33A, and I was set. But I'm itching to see how my work solving group does on this with only the down clues!

Gee, Rex, isn't that a desperation move, reading 59A, A TEN, as one word to get in your Word of the Day? Well, I guess with all the common fill, you didn't have much choice.

foodie 12:23 PM  

@ Artlvr, very interesting post-- your reference to John Malcolm that "it's often the non-gambler who snaps in a time of devastating adversity which was not of his making." Can you remember where or in what context you saw this? I'd love to get a precise quote. In my other life, I study the brain biology of risk-taking behavior and how it affects how one responds to stress, and the kinds of mental illnesses to which one is vulnerable (e.g. substance abuse vs. depression).

Sorry, Rex, this is not exactly on topic, unless you want to consider Saturday solving risk-taking/novelty-seeking behavior (which I do : ).

Two Ponies 12:33 PM  

After the severe whipping I took yesterday this puzzle was the perfect tonic for me.
Great fun and as, Rex pointed out, no groaners in the fill.
Well done Mr. Ginsberg!

Doc John 12:35 PM  

Not much more to add other than a BEEPER story:
When we started our clinical rotations at the beginning of the third year of med school, we were all given beepers. We all thought it was really cool and some even paged themselves. However, by the end of the first day, the GLOSS had completely worn off and after having been paged countless times for some scut task or other, we never wanted to see a beeper again!

Stan 12:35 PM  

Pleased that I finished this (my third Saturday ever) but couldn't make the final leap from LAST to first letters. Though it's obvious enough when you think about it, since all the other long answers were opposites.

fikink 12:58 PM  

@Foodie, I think in articulate speech the same distinction between INACTIVATE and DEACTIVATE can be made. (btw,"Knock out mouse" is a cool term of art,imo.)

@artlvr, funny how our favorite passages come to mind during crises. As the wheels are coming off the world, I am constantly reminded of the line in The Second Coming, "The center cannot hold."

@archaeoprof, I think Rex's use of crossword puzzles to further civil discourse is his contribution to a better world. (Rex, were there funds in the coffers, I bet you could apply for a grant.)

@dk, nice analogy. I agree, the puzzle seems more like a "contraption" but I enjoyed it and don't have time to stay inside with a bear of a puzzle today.

Hoople 1:01 PM  

Hey all;
Long time lurker, first-time poster; adding my voice to the Easy Sat/Nice Construction chorus. Also, loved the intersection of LOMAN and CLOSER. Dustin Hoffman in Death of a Salesman meets and Jack Lemmon in Glengarry Glen Ross.
ABC = always be closing, or perhaps for this blog -- always be crosswording.
-Hoople

Rex Parker 1:08 PM  

@Hoople,

Thanks for entering the fray. New voices = (almost always) a good thing.

ABC,
RP

Hoople 1:25 PM  

@RP,

Thanks for the encouraging welcome.

Is it just me, or does Doc Watson look disturbingly like James Carville with hair -- especially at the 1:40mark of the video?

ABC,
Hoople

jeff in chicago 1:30 PM  

As someone who is struggling to get over that Friday/Saturday puzzle hump (and boy, can that leave a mark!), I cannot count this as a Saturday success. I know Saturday. I've worked hard at (and been defeated by) Saturday. You, puzzle, are no Saturday.

chefbea 1:32 PM  

Welcome hoople!! You are an official Rexite now

SethG 1:42 PM  

Any relation to Mott? Welcome!

Not much trouble with the puzzle, no trouble with the theme.

Maybe because when I wrote up Krozel's LIES puzzle last year I couldn't decide if the count of the lies was one of them. The puzzle said there were ten, but I counted only nine. There were ten--turns out, Otto von Bismarck was not French. But it didn't surprise me that the theme revealing clue here followed the theme.

Relatively easy, but fun.

Mike the Wino 2:09 PM  

I. don't. get. it.

I just don't. No matter what 1st letters of the clues I read, in any order, I don't see how it becomes:

"ANY CLUE FOR A WORD OF EIGHT OR MORE LETTERS IS THE OPPOSITE OF THE WORD TO BE ENTERED"

What am I missing? Megan P. asked that nobody explain, but I respectfully plead for the OPPOSITE. Usually I "get it" when I read Rex's explanation, but not today.

Too much of my product last night? I think not.

Enjoyable puzzle, though. For a Thursday.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:25 PM  

Not all that easy for me, since I saw 33A early on and took it literally, and even after I successfully finished, I had to read Rex's blog to understand the puzzle.

But, food people, no objection to 5A, No mild pepper - CHILI?? How about a nice poblano? And there must be others?

I might have caught on from the cluing of 1 D, Implement in a kitchen. When I first read it, I thought, that's Saturday clever, and "implement" is being used as a verb, so the answer must be "stir in" or something. Now I know that it was not clued as "kitchen implement" only for the sake of the first letter. But the answer to that and so many other clues turned out to be so bland, I hesitated a long time before putting each one in. Way to make an easy puzzle harder!

Clark 2:27 PM  

I loved this puzzle! And I'll take easier on that rare occasion when it comes my way.

@Mike the Wino -- You'll kick yourself when you see it. (Or else you're messing with us.) The first letter of the first clue (1A) is 'A', the first letter of the second clue (5A) is 'N', and so on.

No speed demon 2:33 PM  

@Chip Hilton-

Not everyone here is a Roger Bannister solver.

Amen, Brother. I'm reminded of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" when Lou Grant said to Mary: You got spunk. I hate spunk!!"

Mike the Wino 2:56 PM  

I have not refreshed my screen, so as far as I'm concerned, nobody has answered my previous comment.

I had my AHA moment in the shower a few minutes ago. Verified it after drying off. So per Megan's request, I won't explain the answer.

I sometimes do my best thinking when I'm all wet. And since I live in the Seattle area, that should mean something. Problem is that it's really nice here today.

Doh!

Mike the Wino 3:07 PM  

@Clark,

I really wasn't messing with anyone. My problem was that I was trying to use only the letters from clues to the eight and longer answers! So my first letter was "F" from 18A, followed by the "S" from the second word of that clue, etc. Since that didn't work, I tried the "F", then the "A" from 23A, and so on until I had "FAE" which obviously wasn't going anywhere...then I tried mixing in the first letters of the longer down clues...

My brain was gonna asplode, so I decided to move on with my day. That's when it hit me!

Now I really like it as a Thursday puzzle!

Cheers all!

Anonymous 3:11 PM  

Hmm, I got the theme right away once I looked at 33A, and never would have gotten the longer answers without it. (Then again, my skill level is about a Wednesday/Thursday, so that's not surprising. It was nice to be able to do a Saturday for once.) Unfortunately I fell into the SEMNETT camp, having no idea who that was. Stuck on RIOTER (actually, a lot of that corner) for a long time too, but liked it when I got it.

PIX 3:32 PM  

If the Times prints it on saturday, it's a Saturday Times Puzzle. I completed (almost) a Saturday Times Puzzle. That makes one.

@REX: my thoughts and prayers are with you and the people of Binghamtom. I spent four years at SUNY Binghamtom (class of '75) and the community people were always extremely nice, decent people. Used to hitch-hike all over the place without ever worrying about safety; they were all so friendly. Sorry about yesterday's unpleasentness.

jae 3:32 PM  

Liked it for a easy-medium Thurs. although didn't get the first letter ruse until coming here. Simpson puzzle deja vu.

edith b 4:01 PM  

Put me in the camp of solvers who never figured out the theme but solved the puzzle.

Once I saw that opposites were part of the strategy, if the clue didn't make sense, I reversed it. Held me in good stead and I solved this in record time - 18 minutes, good for me

allan 4:24 PM  

@Mikethewino: Look at the first letters of the clues for 1a, 5a and 10a. The spell out the word any.

allan 4:29 PM  

When I finally posted about yesterday's puzzle, it was almost 1:00 am. I said that I did not expect to do today's puzzle because I was so beaten by yesterday's.

Shock: I breezed through this. It was fun though.

@Matt Ginsberg: Hope you read this and respond. Any chance that you have a family tie to Tottenville?

Donald 4:31 PM  

Thanks so much for the Newsday link!!

michael 4:57 PM  

I didn't find this as easy as many of you. Not getting the theme, I kept trying things like "no secret" instead of "in secret." And I just stared at "trusting" trying to figure out what I was missing. Finally, I concluded that some of the answers must be opposites and I finished quickly, but then looked at last letters without the penny dropping.

I'm glad this blog exists; without it I'd still be mystified.

Anonymous 5:19 PM  

@Michael It's opposites, so don't look at the last letters, look at the first letters.

green mantis 5:46 PM  

Hi kids! Long time poster, new lurker...

I wish I had an interesting story to go with my absence, but I don't. Nothing that would pass the relevance table test, anyway.

I liked this puzzle. I like problems that wrap up nice and neat.

Anyway, hope everyone is doing well. Anyone in the Bay Area neighborhood is invited to my graduation from grad school May 16, and anyone with any sense at all should plan a visit to Oaxaca to come see me as I count grains of sand from the embrace of my hammock, where I will be posted unapologetically for the following several months. Seriously.

You guys are great; just wanted to pop in and remind you of the fact.

chefbea 5:55 PM  

@green mantis glad to have you back. Hope all is well.

fergus 6:18 PM  

Finally, half-way through reading the Comments when the fog of enigma lifted. Rex's "more over-the-plate cluing" exactly mirrored my disappointment with the puzzle. I really hate the Notes that tell you what's going on with the solution, and while this puzzle wasn't as bad, it's still like having a joke explained.

Malapop on the PEELER since I pictured my Bartender pulling off a nice twist of lemon for a Daquiri.

Matt 6:28 PM  

I'm here; I'm responding. :)

This has been an unusually interesting set of comments for me to read. As an artist hoping to be heard, I make the puzzles mostly to read what the bloggers have to say, at least in some sense!

I'm trying to figure out if there is a correlation between how much people liked the puzzle (if at all, perhaps) and whether or not they figured out the theme. I'm not sure.

From what I can tell, people seem to have varied wildly as to how hard they found this. I expect that Will's tester found it hard, and that's why it wound up as a Saturday.

-- Matt Ginsberg

Jane Doh 6:55 PM  

Matt Ginsberg has a big brain and excels at high-concept puzzles. Add me to the list of those who enjoyed this one. I'll guess it appeared on a Saturday because the theme was so difficult to decipher, even though the puzzle wasn't difficult to solve. From understanding comes admiration.

--JD

foodie 7:43 PM  

@matt, it's always great to hear from the constructor! I do think that figuring out the answer added to the fun, it was like getting dessert. I believe that part of the enjoyment was because it was different. Even though I've been at this for only a couple of years, I feel that some themes repeat themselves, and seeing a new take on a puzzle kicks up the whole experience. Thank you!

@green mantis, it's amazing (a wonderful kind of amazing) to hear from you. I just mentioned you today in an e-mail to someone from this blog. And you're graduating soon! Congratulations!!! Fantastic!

Ashish 7:59 PM  

Matt - Great concept with a nice twist! Enjoyed it.

joho 8:06 PM  

@Matt: so nice of you to drop in.

@green mantis: you, too! Long time no hear you chewing on prey. Seriously, congratulations on your graduation!

@Andrea: are you lurking, too?

Bill from NJ 8:26 PM  

@Matt-

Thanks for the puzzle! I didn't totally decipher it until the very end but that didn't detract from my enjoyment. I do enjoy the layers of a meta-puzzle like this one.

@green mantis-

Welcome back! I was away myself for a while and it is always goood to see a Cyber friend..Congratulations on your graduation.

fikink 8:32 PM  

@green mantis, Hey, you! Thanks for the boogie check.
Congratulations on the addition to the alphabet after your name. I, too, was just asking after you.

Anonymous 9:34 PM  

Just discovered this site while googling to find more information on this Sam Nett fellow, thrilled that I had actually finished a Saturday for the first time. Not. Ah well.

Anonymous 9:36 PM  

Whoops, I meant 'SEMNETT'. I did at least have "in secret" right.

Nebraska Doug 11:59 PM  

Fun puzzle, but should have been a Thursday puzzle, felt out of place on a Saturday. Now if only I could finish the SE section of the Friday puzzle...I'm horribly stuck. Almost, but not quite ready to give up,

william e emba 12:54 PM  

This was the fastest Saturday I ever did (by 30 seconds) but despite knowing of Mack SENNETT (and the Keystone Cops), I still had SEMNETT anyway. Aargh, no excuse for that one.

I got the theme rather early, off of 18A OPPOSITION, found 33A, figured out what that meant, and breezed ahead.

There is something seriously unhinged about 45D "Nafta's overseas counterpart", with answer EEC. The EEC went defunct before NAFTA was created! From a technical point of view, the two are only partly comparable. Both are/were free intratrade agreements. However, EEC went further and was a customs union, meaning that tariffs and customs for non-EEC goods were identical for identical goods.

This led to immense headaches, as countries argue over what is "identical". Europeans now argue forever over what, exactly, is "chocolate" and "butter" and "champagne" and so on. NAFTA, in contrast, has a different set of headaches, as incoming goods have to be clearly identified as to country of origin, lest an importer evade high US tariffs, say, by importing via Mexico and free-trading up to the US.

So to a Martian, they might be comparable, but up close, they are quite different animals. I'm not saying there's a mistake in the clue, just a noticeable false note.

Anonymous 3:04 PM  

That I could solve this puzzle is simple proof that it was not a Saturday puzzle. I liked it, but I could solve it. Therein lies the dilemma.

Crosscan 3:18 PM  

A home run off a rookie counts the same as a home run off an all-star pitcher.

Completing a Saturday is completing a Saturday.

edith b 6:23 PM  

Rather straightforward, bland sort of puzzle. I kept looking for the "hook" but none existed and that was the only problem I had with this one.

I spent a half hour at a steady pace. Really, I ground this one out.

Shin Kokin Wakashu 6:53 PM  

I'll add my name to the long list of people here who figured out the opposite thing just through getting answers and didn't understand the "last letters" thing until reading the blog.

crjflyer 10:09 AM  

Well, as I was solving it, I thought to myself, "this is pretty doable for a Saturday." And then I see that the Regal Rex had deemed it "far far far too easy for a Saturday." Oh well. I loved it, because it's the first Saturday puzzle I've completely solved on my own! Nevermind that it's unusually easy and themed. Makes me feel good anyway. Usually I struggle with some Weds, can do about half of a Thurs., and stall out completely on Fri/Sat. Sundays are doable if I do them together with my mom, but she lives 7hrs away and doesn't subscribe online like I do. Oh well.

Anonymous 1:21 PM  

Since this puzzle was a Wednesday level of difficulty, I imagine that the constructor wanted it to run on April Fool's Day, which was last Wednesday.

Anonymous 5:58 PM  

Well, I did this one in the Minneapolis StarTribune, so here’s my 6-weeks-(and-one-day-)later comment.

I figured out the opposites thing fairly early, although I was a little surprised by 3D & 39D being opposites, only anticipating that for the adjacent 4D & 36D.

I had the M in SEMNETT briefly but changed to SENNETT because I had heard of Mack Sennett. I know I had "heard of" as opposed to "read about" him, because I would guessed the spelling was Max Sennet.

I came here, though, because I was stuck on the 33A theme clue. I was convinced there was really something to the last letters and never looked at the first letters!

Here's why: I jotted down all 68 last letters, and there appeared to be some sort of vague pattern. There were 11 Rs, 10 Es, and 8 each of D, S, and Y. That's 45 of the 68 clues ending with these 5 letters. Then there were 6 each of Ns and Ts, so that 57 of the 68 clues ended with only 7 different letters. The remaining 11 clues ended with 3 Fs, 2 each of Os & Ps, and 1 each of A, G, L, U.

OK, it all amounted to nothing, and the frequently appearing end-of-clue letters are fairly frequent end-of-word letters, but I'm sure many of you can understand why I got stuck on this! (As if any of the regular commenters will even see this, having finished here 6 weeks ago.)

Anonymous 2:51 PM  

kathkin said
misread 40D as option for dressing GOWN and still got the right answer. What does that mean? Very easy puzzle.

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