Automaker Adam / FRI 6-7-13 / Neighbor of Hercules / Hungarian city known for Bull's Blood Wine / 1958-61 polit. alliance / Home of Sinbad sailor / Antes up for peanuts / Jack Benny persona / Humanoid cryptid

Friday, June 7, 2013

Constructor: Ed Sessa

Relative difficulty: Challenging


THEME: none

Word of the Day: EGER (19A: Hungarian city known for "Bull's Blood" wine) —
Eger (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈɛɡɛr]GermanErlauTurkishEğriLatinAgriaPolish:JagierSlovakJágerSloveneJagerCzechJagerSerbianJegar/Jerpa/Jegra/Jerap;CroatianJegar/Jerpa/Jegra/Jerap) is the county seat of Heves, and the second largest city in Northern Hungary (after Miskolc). Eger is best known for its castle, thermal baths, historic buildings (including the northernmost Turkish minaret), dishes and red wines. It has an estimated population of 56,530 as of 2011, which makes it 19th largest city inHungary. The city is located on the Eger Stream, on the hills of the Bükk Mountains. (wikipedia)
• • •

Not the kind of puzzle I needed this morning. Grid looks OK, now. But it took me forever to solve. Combination of my not being fully awake and this puzzle's being written by someone who is clearly a generation older and enjoys different things than I do (e.g. Sawyer Brown), made my solve ridiculous. I felt like I was in my mid-20s again — in the worst way possible. Back then, late-week puzzles were epic struggles. I'd spend forever just trying to get Any traction. Five minutes in to this one and there was just tentative scattershot nonsense in my grid. Three little answers huddled together, here and there, trying to start something and failing. Somehow, between IVS and ICU, I got into the NE and then got MAKE THE BEST OF IT *and* (after humming "We Can Work It Out" to myself over and over and over and getting Nowhere) LIFE IS VERY SHORT . But that didn't help. At all. I just went back to being stuck. Nothing made any sense to me. The middle was impossible because  I've literally never seen or heard the phrase BALL THE JACK until today. Toward the end, I had all but two letters—no idea what they were. BELL THE PACK? Made about as much sense. Also couldn't see JIMI (had OTIS, then ELLA) (47A: "___ Plays Monterey" (posthumous 1986 album)). Forget "BETTY'S," no way. Had OLDS for OPEL (27A: Automaker Adam). And so on.


Jack Benny and EVE / ARDEN ... before my time (62D: With 54-Down, Best Supporting Actress nominee for 1945's "Mildred Pierce"). MISER was all crosses (9D: Jack Benny persona — "Jack" is also in the grid, btw, but I guess that doesn't matter). Did not know: that CAT'S PAW meant "Dupe"; that "Troglodytes troglodytes" was a bird (WREN); what BALL THE JACK meant; who PENROSE was (63A: Mathematical physicist Roger); who in the world ever said NICEN or used the abbr. RCT. (42A: Last item bagged, often: Abbr.); whether BUMPPO had two "M"s or two "P"s; the Mozart aria "Idol MIO"; who ERIC was (58D: "The Little Mermaid" prince); who was bein' bad (33A: "___ Bein' Bad" (Sawyer Brown country hit)). And that's just the "didn't know"s. Then there's the "couldn't see"s. Too many to mention. Tough cluing everywhere (Swinging halter, for short? — great, and brutal, clue for TKO).

The interlocking 15s are nice. You can take the rest of the grid, which isn't terrible—just ordinary. Sometimes puzzles are generation-specific, and this one was definitely felt like it would resonate best with an older crowd. That said, it's not "old" in the sense of stale, old-fashioned, Maleskan. Some days, the puzzle just isn't in (or anywhere near) your wheelhouse. For me, this was one of those days.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    101 comments:

    Z 7:59 AM  

    What @Rex said. DNF.

    Some great clues. Antes up for peanuts had me all twisted up at the poker table. Acted like a sponge had me in the ocean instead of the poker table. I'm still wonderin' who hasn't played Monterrey posthumously because I, too, had Otis and Ella there. I also tried ASTars before ASTRAL. I also thought I was so smart when Cold War gave me a single measle. Ouch

    RCT is still WTF.

    After getting the NE and then the whole eastern seaboard I had hopes of rasslin' this one to the ground. No such luck. Some days you're the SNARER and some days the snared.

    Milford 8:03 AM  

    Oh geez, am I really one of the first posters?

    My ego is beyond happy to see the challenging rating. I think I had to start googling at the 75% filled-in point, just to get traction.

    I had a very similar solve as Rex, not knowing BALL THE JACK or CAT'S PAW. Both do feel old-timey.

    But I did figure out LIFE IS VERY SHORT pretty early on, and I did know EVE ARDEN and ERIC.

    I'm sure many of you here figured out the ANAGRAM early on, but that one took *forevah* for me to see. Wicked good clue.

    Tough one, but good.

    Z 8:03 AM  

    30A really should have been "whack."

    Anonymous 8:04 AM  

    RCT = receipt

    Bookdeb 8:06 AM  

    @Z the last thing you put in the grocery bag is the ReCeipT, tho I usually don't bag it and never abbrev. it that way!

    Mike in DC 8:10 AM  

    Started it last night. Couldn't get going. Figured that meant I was tired, so I went to bed. Woke up in middle of the night. Returned to puzzle. Realized it was just plain tough.

    Solved it though, eventually. And felt like I'd accomplished something. So, overall, a good experience. And finally got back to sleep.

    Milford 8:12 AM  

    Ah, "receipt". I missed that, too. I actually considered "egg" (just one!) as the last item bagged.

    @Z - whack is pretty funny. Except I think it's spelled weird for the game.

    wordie 8:24 AM  

    Exactly what Rex said. I thought for awhile that 20A was hunter, and was really going to whale on the presumed answer to 6D, AAHh. Because it can be aaah, or ahhh, but not aahh. This was soooo hard. DNF big time. I had to google for the very last square, after multiple prior googlings, to get the U in BUMPPO/UAR. I didn't enjoy this puzzle.

    r.alphbunker 8:27 AM  

    Definitely a challenging puzzle.

    Had MAKETHEmoSTOF it and needed to be told that the m was wrong to rethink it.

    Liked TKO as the answer for {Swinging halter, for short}. That is a long call from an article of clothing.

    Anonymous 8:30 AM  

    Alas, I think Rex is spot-on about the generational thing. I just turned 56 yesterday and this puzzle was totally in my wheelhouse. I'd have preferred being too young and having it feel totally alien!

    Glimmerglass 8:31 AM  

    I'm definitely older, so CATS PAW, MISER, and EVE/ARDEN were (eventually) recalled. More recent EMO and ENO, not so much. Some great (Friday) cluing. ANAGRAM, YAO, ICICLE. Never did work out BALL THE JACK (I remember it as a song/dance that had nothing to do with "Go for broke.") So I had Bets THE fArm, which actually gave me some correct crosses, but also some incorrect ones. Definitely a challenging Friday (which is a good thing).

    Zeke 8:36 AM  

    There are two things about your country cousins that you eastern elite probably don't know. On is that here in the Ozarks there are gradations of the dirt-poor. This manifests itself in housing, clothing, and the tools of agriculture, the default occupation of the dirt-poor. Generations ago, when horse-power was king, mules were the animal of choice. The better -off of the dirt-poor had jacks, the lesser had jennys, as they are less obedient, not as strong, not as durable.
    The second thing is that while we're all bible-carrying, Deuteronomy quoting Puritans, we have a certain, well, understanding about what goes on behind the barn. So, say some farmer (hi Dad) spends an entire day walking behind his pair of jennys, watching their hips sway to and fro as they step through the furrows. By the time they work up a froth between their legs, so will the average man. So, we don't get too upset about said farmer spending some additional time with his jennys.
    However, we take great exception when someone BALLsTHEJACK. That's just sick.

    jae 8:48 AM  

    Medium-tough for me.  SE easy, NW and center tough, NE and SE medium.    Erasures: abaft for STERN and BETTer for BETTYS. 

    The 15s were excellent and  BALL THE JACK crossing OVER THE EDGE was delightful.  Plus quite a bit zip.  SNARER and NICEN (WOE???)  were my only cringes. 

    Iffy cross for me SCUSI/PENROSE.  I keep wanting to put a Z in there somewhere.

    The stuff "I only know from crosswords" count was pretty low: bookends ENO and EMO.

    Really liked it! Close to a perfect Fri. 

    dk 9:10 AM  

    @Zeke, Great post. Learning the origins of popular phrases (except to young whippersnappers like REX) is a the cats meow.

    Began with PLUM… and the rest followed. We used to play a game where you picked a literary character and the rest had to guess your pick through a series of questions. You racked up a point for each no answer to the players question. I won with BUMPPO.

    TKO was inspired IMHO.

    �������� (4 Stars) Ed you da man.

    Questinia 9:33 AM  

    Thought RCT was marvelous.
    Knew the neuroscientist Penrose so said WTH, probably his brother?
    Kept not seeing TROGLODYTES troglodytes as NOT possessive which added at least ten minutes

    Totally guessed on BALL THE JACK which, as a phrase, I kinda like...
    NW was toughest for me thinking CATS PAP and PREY were the most fitting sorta but not making sense with SNARER. Finally filled in WREN as a WTH and got the "hurrah" after 45 minutes.
    Liked the challenge of it and didn't mind that there were phrases and words that seemed obsolete.

    More vocabulary grist!

    Wikipedia 9:34 AM  

    Whac-a-Mole

    And Z always puts his RCTs in his wallet, not the bag. No wonder it made no sense to him.

    jackj 9:35 AM  

    I would have groaned about this puzzle had it run on a Saturday but having it as a Friday puzzle flips the custom of smooth solve on it’s head with the likes of EGER, PENROSE, BETTYS, OPEL, WREN, MIO and NICEN and gives us a veritable gallimaufry, a rather unsavory hash.

    There were moments and entries to enjoy, certainly, the clever ANAGRAM clue, for example, and “My bad, Mario!” for SCUSI was fun and fair game, as was the Rear Admiral’s backside for STERN and the TOASTED brides and bagels.

    But, too many pieces of the puzzle had no “flow” and it seemed that the constructor filled his grid in an on again/off again manner that forced disparate answers into the puzzle without creating the hoped for harmony of a cohesive constructing style that has become a hallmark for the better Times Friday crosswords.

    Even something that should have been enjoyed, (like the Snuffy Smith plaint of being PLUM(B)TUCKEREDOUT), proved mildly irritating when the correct PLUMB, that of totally or absolutely, was replaced by the incorrect PLUM, that of fruitiness, to accommodate the 15X15 grid.

    Clara asked the question, “Where’s the beef?” but we’re forced to wonder, “Where’s the fun?”

    Gill I. P. 9:36 AM  

    Ed Sessa always gives me frightitis and this was no exception.
    The threes gave me the hardest time. I don't know my UAL from UAR or my EMO from MIO.
    @Zeke what might you make of mALL THE yACK? So many wrong answers that I just didn't correct because I was too PLUM TUCKERED OUT.
    We're supposed to be getting over 100 degree heat this weekend so we're headin for the coast so I'll see YAO later.

    Sir Hillary 9:37 AM  

    Thank goodness I have a day off from work today -- this took me a solid 90 minutes to finish. Very similar experience to @Rex, except what he experiences as a flashback to his 20s are what I feel almost every Friday and Saturday!

    I started with MAKETHE--STOFIT, knowing there were two possibilities there (not helped by my inability to remember EMERY vs. emory). That led to the NE first, but it took a while. My wife and I puzzled and puzzled over the Beatles lyric -- she even knew the subsequent "my friend" but we were unable to put it to music. Even after LIFEISVERYSHORT EVINCEd itself, I still couldn't place the song -- oy, "We Can Work It Out" is one of my favorites, too.

    The SE fell next (fun clue for TOASTED) but then came a loooooong dry spell, even though KOBE was sitting there waving to YAO. Like others, the Monterey player was fooling me, because I was thinking someone jazzy who died in 1985/86 (before looking at the grid, my first thought was MILES -- oops, he passed in '91). The breakthrough in the middle was T--TER (totter?) which begat YETI which begat OVERTHEEDGE which eventually led to the rest of the west. Tough trek!

    Superb grid, great mix of answer categories, some really tough and clever cluing -- this was everything a Friday (or Saturday) should be. I never feel better as a solver than when I finish one this hard. Thanks Ed!

    David 9:43 AM  

    I consider myself a middling solver, yet found this one to be relatively easy. But I am of an age to know Eve Arden and Jack Benny. I found this quite enjoyable and think I finally understand the old folk song Wanderin':

    My daddy was an engineer
    My brother drives a hack
    My sister takes in laundry
    While the baby balls the jack
    And it don't look like
    I'll ever stop my wanderin'

    loren muse smith 9:56 AM  

    When I saw the “challenging,” I did a quiet little happy dance with my feet (since I was at the gas station and didn’t want to SEEM too, uh, BUMPPO?)

    Wow. I remember what it used to feel like chipping away desperately at a Saturday puzzle (and this for me was an impossible Saturday). I threw in the towel fairly early, too. First brilliant entries were “Saab,” “anew,” “wobble,” and I was off and TEETERing expertly AROUND. Had “viewer” for SNARER and liked mine better, but, yeah, that likely plural coming down wasn’t ending in any v.

    Like Rex and @Milford – never heard CAT’S PAW or BALL THE JACK.
    Mini theme here: DRANK, CAROUSE, TOASTED, ON A TEAR, OVER THE EDGE, and then just PLUM TUCKERED OUT.

    Didn’t we have the NICEN Creed recently? ;-) SCUSI.

    YAO and EDGE again today. EVE next to ARDEN – good! PET/PAW - ditto.

    Anagrams are starting to make me pause. TOASTED anagrams to
    -DOE TATS. I guess a buzzed deer could consider a small butterfly on her ankle – ya know, tasteful, discreet.

    -SOT DATE. Been there, done that, got the T shirt.

    All of you who dispatched this toughie easily – UAR some sharp solvers! UAL should be proud; US NAiled a PLUM here.

    jberg 9:58 AM  

    Yeah, Jack Benny, Eve Arden, Jimi Hendrrix, Natty Bumppo--easybfornus old folks. I made this a medium, starting with the gimme MAKE THE moST OF IT (since LIFE IS VERYBSHORT) crossing EMoRY. Straightened that out only with the last entry, BALL THE JACK.

    Pen rose is well-known if you read NYROB, otherwise not.

    Our last day at Trapp Family Lodge, so so long, folks!

    chefbea 10:00 AM  

    too tough for me!!

    Shout out to our good friend Andrea as the first hurricain of the season. Boy is it windy here!!! Wonder if she had anything to do with the naming of these storms???

    Cheerio 10:08 AM  

    EVE ARDEN and ANN BLYTH both had the right number of letters to be an answer to 62D. And both actresses were nominated for Best Supporting Actress for "Mildred Pierce." I thought that was elegant: a puzzle added to a puzzle for the amusement of us lousy googlers.

    Twangster 10:09 AM  

    Wow, I went to bed stumped about what RCT was all about. Wikipedia wasn't much help: Random conical tilt, randomized clinical trial, Rational Choice Theory,Regents Competency Test, Regimental combat team,
    Reverse conducting thyristor, etc.

    Ellen S 10:15 AM  

    Yup. We complain when they're easy, then complain when they're hard. This was sure enough hard. I am a generation older and enjoy different things than Rex but I still couldn't get a toehold for the longest time. Finally started working my way up from the bottom, and did all right until I got to BASRA, which I had to look up, along with LYRA and WREN (realized troglodytes troglodytes wasn't a possessive so had to be a scientific name of something, but all I had at that point was the E and my brain was PLUM TUCKERED OUT so I Wikipediaed it. I had gotten UAR all by myself (I still think it exists, some of the time, as I float in and out of lucidity) but had to look up Star Alliance to get UAL.

    Last thing I put in was ANAGRAM. Which kind of describes the state my brain was in by that time, pretty much pureed. Lucky me, I don't see harmonies and stuff in the grids, just interesting clues and answers, which this puzzle was full of. Thank you Mr. Sessa!

    p.s. I'm not going to say anything about the English Literature prof not knowing how to spell BUMPPO.

    Noam D. Elkies 10:38 AM  

    63A:PENROSE is known for the quasicrystalline Penrose tiling, which you've probably seen without knowing its name. Retired_chemist would have preferred PENTOSE, a 5-carbon sugar such as ribose (the R of RNA), but <a href="http://http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=MTE>MTE</a> has yet to be seen in the NYTimes grid, even on Fri/Sat.

    Noam D. Elkies 10:39 AM  

    Oops, the second hyperlink attempt flopped. Remove the first "http://", or take my word for it that 's a TLA for "My Thoughts Exactly".

    NDE

    Susan McConnell 10:48 AM  

    Ditto the happy dance on seeing the challenging rating. I agree with all of the details that Rex pointed out, except: I LOVED IT! I loved that it was tough, I love all those long phrase answers, I love how the grid looks, and most of all I loved that I could solve it without the googlator.

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:54 AM  

    One version of the song Ballin' The Jack.

    Started confidently with a gimme, 19 A, EGRI, which turned out to be wrong. I knew the wine "Egri Bikaver," so I'll guess without looking that Egri is the Hungarian possessive of EGER.

    Finally worked everything out, I thought, but finished (on paper) with 50 A as USMA (hey, that's a real place, and I guess they play that stupid football there, too) crossing 52 D as MICEN (in retrospect, NICEN makes more sense, but when a clue says "in dialect", anything goes.)

    Good puzzle overall; I do like a challenge.

    Miss Manners 11:00 AM  

    @Ellen S - Please list all those things you didn't know in the puzzle, 365 days per year, 5 years running, so that we may have the opportunity to not post snotty remarks about them.

    DBlock 11:01 AM  

    After an easy week, a nice challenge and even if you knew a lot, still a lot to be humbled by.
    I kept Ann Blyth in way too long before I reverted to Eve Arden--knew them both, just stubborn-- which held me up but whole East side went much easier than the West.
    But the question is--what things are 'generation' proof--the Beatles? Shakespeare? the Sopranos??
    I am always amazed by what are gimmes for some and totally alien to others (starting with myself) and that is the true joy of the puzzle.

    Bob Kerfuffle 11:03 AM  

    By way of fuller explanation, I had been working on the theory that 56 A, "Cold war weapon?", was ICE___, like ICE AXE or something more obscure, which gave me 52 D as _ECEN. This led to MECEN, total nonsense, when I saw USMA as a possibility, so by the time I got ICICLE, MICEN looked as good as anything!

    David 11:04 AM  

    Once in a while, being a Deadhead helps me with xword puzzles. Here are the lyrics to a very old GD song called Easy Wind, which gave me BALL THE JACK (albeit still with 5-6 crossings needed):

    "I been balling a shiny black steel jack-hammer,
    been chippin' up rocks for the great highway,
    live five years if I take my time,
    ballin' that jack and a drinkin' my wine.

    I been chippin' them rocks from dawn till doom,
    while my rider hide my bottle in the other room.
    Doctor say better stop ballin' that jack,
    if I live five years I gonna bust my back, yes I will.

    Easy wind cross the Bayou today
    cause there's a whole lotta women, mama,
    out in red on the streets today.
    And the rivers keep a talkin',
    but you never heard a word it said.

    Gotta find a woman be good to me,
    won't hide my liquor try to serve me tea,
    cause I'm a stone jack baller and my heart is true
    and I'll give everything that I got to you, yes I will.

    Easy wind going cross the Bayou today
    there's a whole lotta women
    out in red on the streets today.
    And the rivers keep a talkin',
    but you never heard a word it said."

    SW almost killed me with the BUMPPO/PENROSE crossing, and not seeing NICEN for quite a while.

    Bob Friedman 11:14 AM  

    Couldn't finish. I'm almost 64. Rex thought being older would help. Matbe I could solve this when I'm 80.

    Anonymous 11:18 AM  

    I was doomed as soon as I crossed JUST-tuckered-out with take-a-look-AND-SEE.

    But, can anyone explain 35-Down? FEEL and SEEM do not mean the same thing at all. If I FEEL sad, that has nothing to do with whether I SEEM sad. Those words are not interchangeable at all. What am I missing?

    Sandy K 11:33 AM  

    This was truly challenging and hand up for being PLUM-TUCKERED OUT. (Thank you, Half-pint, for telling Paw that you're PLUM-TUCKERED- on Little House on the Prairie!)

    First thing in was LIFE IS VERY SHORT. Then EGER- growing up with Hungarian Grandma.

    Guessed on a Lot of it...but I finished. Almost naticked out on CATSPAW/WREN and had BETTer, 'til' I figured it had to be YETI/SEEM/and JIMI.

    AAH, very relieved that it all fell in...

    evil doug 11:40 AM  

    Kerfuffle: Like ICy BMs--a particularly toxic missile....

    Evil

    Michael Hanko 11:44 AM  

    @Anon 11:18:

    It feels like a coincidence = It seems like a coincidence.

    Corey 11:44 AM  

    This puzzle was ridiculous, and obviously served to stroke the ego of its creator. Clues that could not possibly be found out, except in head of the author?

    This one was a big FAIL on the part of the NYT.

    It's like giving the clue: "It's the child of red and blue"
    Answer: 'Barney'! (purple dinosaur)

    Dumb, dumb, dummo.

    Chorister 11:46 AM  

    I'm one of those a generation older than Rex who still had trouble getting going on this.

    Plopped in JIMI without knowing I knew that but had to sort out my Beatles songs. Thought Mildred Pierce was a classic and thus that I was the only one needing a cross or two to get EVE ARDEN.

    As is often the case, my bone to pick doesn't seem to bother anybody else: PLUMB not PLUM in this instance.

    Enjoyed the puzzle.

    Charlie Sheen 11:50 AM  

    @anon 11:18

    Sometimes interchangeable-

    These implants seem phony.
    These implants feel phony.aa

    Carola 11:53 AM  

    Oh, so satisfying. I loved solving this one - maybe because I'm in the older generation. I so enjoyed all the DIVERSE entries that SEEMed very fresh.

    Liked EMAILED over MISSIVE and OVER THE EDGE over TEETER.

    ANAGRAM was my second-to-last; the last was WREN - I'd believed until the end that it would be something from Gulliver's Travels, like "W-mEN" (I totally missed the missing apostrophe!). Was briefly flummoxed when LIFE IS much too SHORT wouldn't fit. Took ages but I finally remembered CAT'S PAW from an earlier puzzle.

    @Anonymous -How about "That feels wrong to me" = SEEMS wrong.

    Mitzie 12:01 PM  

    Masseur (6D)?

    Hey, this is the 21st Century! We use the term "massage therapist" here.

    DNF.

    Lindsay 12:16 PM  

    Challenging here too, and I see I finished with an error: NICiN' up crossing the Italian physicist PENROSI. Oy. Speaking of oy, I actually wrote down seDER IN for "Have meals delivered". This from someone who has never heard of a seder outside crossword puzzles. And of course as a pen & paper solver, I thought the last item to be bagged would be the nyT, which the bagger folds in half and places on top of your groceries.

    Notsofast 12:26 PM  

    Harder than any Saturday in memory. Finally got everything but the middle. Agree with everything Rex wrote. And it's not PLUM, it's PLUMB tuckered out. So there.

    Evan 12:27 PM  

    This left a really bitter taste in my mouth. Super, super hard, and I still ended with a mistake.

    BALL THE JACK? I've heard of lots of old-timey slang, but even that feels like it could be obscure even among old-timey slang experts. Never heard anyone use that one, not even ironically. I have heard of CAT'S PAW, but can never remember what it means, so that was hidden for a while. COME DUE? Is that a phrase? I guess it is, and I think it's probably related more to finance than anything (like in Monopoly, where you can get a Community Chest card that says "Life insurance matures, collect $100." But....yeesh.

    Other really tough stuff: The clue for 37-Across made it really hard to see OVER THE EDGE because the clue implies a verb when it's really going for an adjective phrase, so I refused to fill it in for a very long time. "BETTY'S Bein' Bad"? Wow, that sure ain't familiar. The clue for WREN is Newsday Stumper-level. I had the same problem as others with HUNTER and AHHH before SNARER/AAHS. SNARER is one of those Verb + R = Noun defined as "One who [verb]s" entries that I hate. I think I've seen RCT more often in puzzles as RCPT, but I can't say I'm crazy about either abbr.

    But what really killed me? The PENROSE/BUMPPO cross. I've never heard of either, so I went with LENROSE/BUMPLO. PENROSE sounded like it might be right, but I thought BUMPPO was way too strange to accept (how does one even pronounce it?). In fact, there are lots of other consonants which could plausibly work there (BUMPHO, BUMPLO, BUMPRO), so that was Natick City for me. Credit goes to those who know James Fenimore Cooper characters well, because I sure don't.

    On the other hand, I liked the long answers (BALL THE JACK excepted), and the clue for ANAGRAM is brilliant. That was a tough get too, but I was very satisfied to figure that out.

    Ngrams 12:30 PM  

    It looks like PLUM was the original but that PLUMb took over for good as more common in the 1930's.

    Ellen S 12:47 PM  

    Dear Miss Manners, thank you for not being snotty.

    @loren, did we have the NICEN creed about the same time I accidentally burned Tycho Brahe at the stake?

    @Ngrams -- wow. Google provides some truly splendid services. Finding out about that is worth getting scolded by whoever "Miss Manners" is an ANONYM for! (which reminds me, thank you @R.Alph for the EEL clues the other day. Really liked the internet train -- both of my annoyances in one three-letter answer!

    Eric 12:47 PM  

    ERIC!!!!!

    Is that 3 times this week my name has been used? Awesome. I will never tire of this.

    Though I hope I don't become the new ALAI or ASHE. Whatever. I'm still basking.

    John V 1:02 PM  

    This older solver got all but the NW which was friggin impossible. Otherwise, what @Rex aid, exactly.

    John V 1:03 PM  

    "said" of course

    Two Ponies 1:13 PM  

    Had to Google to get some traction so DNF for me.
    I seem to remember an old song with the refrain in the chorus
    "And that's what I call ballin' the jack". Maybe that's why I knew Jack Benny was a miser and Eve Arden. OTOH no idea who Prince Eric was.

    joho 1:36 PM  

    I just finished this sucker. It really helps to to walk away when I'm stuck. I could've walked to Russia today.

    I did get it, though, and got it right, yippee!

    Thank you, Ed Sessa, challenging, indeed, and just what a Friday should be!

    Mohair Sam 1:44 PM  

    Thank you Mr. Sessa. Brutally tough Friday on just the right day - rain! I "skew" old so the Beatle's clue was a gimme and a good start. SW corner was a snap because I had spent a few hours last Sunday at the Fenimore Museum in Cooperstown where there are countless references to heroic Natty BUMPPO. But after that this puzzle was one OMG after another as the answers slowly filled.

    Old Ella Fitz blocked JIMI for me for a long time. BALLTHEJACK? What the heck is that? EMO? CATSPAW? WREN? Wicked clueing. 2D is a classic clue, as is 40A.

    Took a long, long time but finished this toughy with no dictionary, no Google. I'm PLUMTUCKEREDOUT, but I'll MAKETHEBESTOFIT and not go OVERTHEEDGE.

    Notsofast 1:44 PM  

    Re: PLUM vs PLUMB. All the NGRAMS chart shows is that beginning in 1870, PLUMB ( straight or precise ) was misspelled often as PLUM. Understandable, but that doesn't make it right. It was wrong then; and it's wrong now.

    Astral Comedue Misers 1:44 PM  

    chip chip chip...

    Same experience as @Rex, complete with one M or two for Bummmpppo. Natty guy, once you NICENed him up!

    Also never heard of BALLTHEJACK.
    And that ---------GE of EDGE went thru a raGE and off the hinGE period. Mess!

    Of course, the fab four was my jumping off point...
    have sung it at Beatles SIngalong but still had to go thru whole song, as it's not the title ("We can Work it Out"...classic John)

    New skill of embedding:
    <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWTLINTfVUo>Beatles!</a>

    acme 1:46 PM  

    Beatles

    JanetM 1:54 PM  

    Can't figure out how to embed the video from my iPad (yes, I am old), but if you go on to YouTube and put in ballin' the jack, you can see a charming Gene Kelly explaining the craze and dancing to the song.

    Masked and Anonymo7Us 2:04 PM  

    themelessthUmbsUp.
    fave clue: "One catching the game"
    fave fillins: ICICLE (Primo better answer, @Evil Duck), LIFEISVERYSHORT (Fun singin to self, to suss it out), ASTRAL/LYRA.
    Fave weeject: RCT (also known as RacCoon standard Time -- relates to when you put the garbage out for pickup)

    Nancy 2:13 PM  

    Had to cheat twice to solve. I never Google answers, but analog cheating is sometimes OK by me. When I'm really, really stumped. So I looked up EGER in my Atlas and EVE ARDEN in my movie review collection. Even then, it was tough. My favorite clue was "Antes up for peanuts." It was almost the last answer to come in, even whe I'd had the A-G-R for ages. Great puzzle!

    Anonymous 2:37 PM  

    No old Deadheads solving today?

    Easy Wind, on Workingman's Dead:

    I been ballin' a shiny black steel jack-hammer
    Been chippin' up rocks for the great highway
    Live five years if I take my time
    Ballin' that jack and a drinkin' my wine.

    Wrote it in with just a few crosses...

    Great puzzle, "nicen" notwithstanding. Actually knew "wren."

    LaneB 2:57 PM  

    Troglodytes troglodytes a WREN? REally?? An EMO to keep those Goths company? Wow! MAKE THE BEST etc came out HAVE THE BEST etc. Also HAVE A LOOK AROUND replaced the correct TAKE A LOOK etc. All of which lrd to a big NW corner ???? And a Friday DNF which in turn caused me to lay a fatwa on Mr. Ed Sessa. And all this after Googling myself into a stupor given all the crap I' d never heard of before. Felt like something of a CATSPAW ( whatever that turned out to be.). Henceforth Sessa shall be avoided so I can try and solve without getting PLUMTUCKERED OUT.

    syndy 3:02 PM  

    Okay so I'm old! tough,DIVERSE but doable Friday!Roger Penrose,while not a gimmee is certainly an important enough figure that I've heard of him as well as James Fennimore Cooper. Balling the Jack called to mind knee swinging with knees tight but still and all!TAKE A LOOK AROUND! WE've had the CATSPAW discussion already this year.now I PLUMbTUCKERED OUT

    retired_chemist 3:05 PM  

    Mostly, what everybody said. Excellent cluing, albeit with a couple of clunkers. Interesting answers. Lots of chances to err and fix it, which always feels good. Finishes without googling - yay!

    @ NDE - I was happy with Roger PENROSE. We had him lecture at our University since we have a small but well-connected relativity group (or did at that time).

    Did no one else have BRA for "Swinging halter, for short?" or "WENT BANANAS" for "Flipped out?"

    Clunkers: BALL THE JACK is clued obscurely. Mostly it means "Go like a bat out of h**l." Obsolete phrases ought not be clued with obscure meanings. CAT'S PAW is someone used bu someone else for some (usually) dirty deed. A DUPE is someone deceived, which is irrelevant to the term CAT'S PAW. PLUM, more correctly, is PLUMB with TUCKERED OUT. PLUMB is an intensifier, PLUM is a fruit.

    It took me FOREVER, like 25 min, or probably twice Rex's forever. But the virtues of this challenging puzzle far outweigh its weaknesses. Several thumbs up.

    Thans you, Mr. Sessa.

    Anonymous 3:13 PM  

    I'm "old" and still had a hard time! I never heard of "ball the jack" either, nor Betty, nor cat's paw, nor the wren etc. etc. Misery loved your company Rex. I would never have finished this if it weren't for you. I live in the Monterey area but the Pops festival was before my time here. I also thought Ella!

    Anonymous 3:28 PM  

    Ha, I'm vigorous and in my late 60's and I slowly but steadily followed pretty much the same path Rex did to the solution. JIMI was my last entry, after I surrounded it and make it succumb.

    This was one of those puzzles that reminded me of how I did well on the College Boards - by guesses that may have had some deep root in my Jungian self. :)

    I mean really, who remembers Natty BUMPPO, much less how his name was spelled. Why didn't BUNYAN work? :)

    And PENROSE - well when you have PE_ROS_, that was a natural guess.

    It was satisfying to finish.

    Associated Press International 3:30 PM  

    Headline: Andrea Washes Away Sporting Events on East Coast

    She finally gets her revenge.

    LaneB 3:32 PM  

    @ Loren Muse Smith.

    How nice of you to reply! I' m in Sausalito over the GG Bridge. I don't Tweet but can be e-mailed @. Lpb345@gmail.com. It will probably be a long time before I get to West Viirginia but Sausalito is a popular destination and if your travels haven' t brought you out this way, they should do so... I look forward to your daily comments and enjoy your good-humored candor when stumped. I hate it when many of the regulars tell me how fast and easy everything is whilst Iam rolling around in frustration.

    Un caro abbraccio

    Chip Hilton 3:41 PM  

    Beatles clue got me started and, eventually, I finished this beauty. Probably helped that 'When I'm 64' is the present for me. I thought that this was a classic example of every hard clue getting help from the crosses. I struggled with CATSPAW, BETTYS, and PENROSE, among others, but some educated guesses led to the finish line. Great cluing on TKO, ANAGRAM. Fridays are meant to perplex. This fit the bill.

    Mohair Sam 3:46 PM  

    @not so fast . . Great catch on plum(b). You are dead right.

    @anonymous . . Batty Bumppo deserves more respect!

    Milford 4:24 PM  

    After seeing here that "Ballin' the Jack" is a song title, I realized that it's the song Bette Midler is singing on the beach with Barbara Hershey's daughter in the movie "Beaches".

    Total, random trivia, I know.

    The ICICLE-as-a-weapon clue makes me think of Die Hard II.

    BTW, I never considered Ann Blyth for the "Mildred Pierce" clue, but kudos to the smart movie buffs that did!

    sanfranman59 4:28 PM  

    Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

    All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

    Fri 28:18, 21:35, 1.31, 94%, Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Fri 17:09, 12:19, 1.39, 93%, Challenging

    By this method, this puzzle currently rates as the toughest Friday since Tim Croce's 1/18/2013 puzzle. It broke my personal best string of 16 consecutive successful Friday solves. Alas, all good things must come to an end. @MetaRex ... sorry that I couldn't serve as your pace setter today.

    Bob Kerfuffle 5:06 PM  

    Very late in the day (Friday, June 7), but for the benefit of that select group who are as out of it as I am, allow me to note a guest puzzle by, and interview with, Alex Boisvert at BEQ's site.

    Tita 5:10 PM  

    Ha ha, @Z - today I was definitely the SNAREe...
    Revealed about 8 squares around the grid hoping for some mercy.

    BETTer for BETTYS made that area even harder.

    Happy to learn about those little wrens and how they got their name.

    Learned the word cryptid. Might get to see one in Scotland when I go there this fall.

    The term CATSPAW is a very familar to sailors as the gentle ripples on otherwise flat water that signal some much needed wind to fill one's JIB.
    Never ever knew it meant dupe too.
    Hmmm...the CATSPAWs on Lake Candlewood often dupe me into chasing them....
    Wow - all along I thought they were so named because they *looked* like cats' paws.

    @M&A - RCT - lol!

    @API - ditto...

    Arlene 5:24 PM  

    I am so glad to see these comments, as I couldn't finish this puzzle, even with Googling. It's great to know I wasn't alone on this! Being "older" surely didn't help - except I did know Jack Benny was a miser, and had heard of Eve Arden (of "Our Miss Brooks" fame.)

    retired_chemist 5:39 PM  

    Jack Benny was not a miser in real life but that was his shtick. To me the funniest skit EVER (Radio OR TV) was "your money or yout life" (see link).

    mac 6:27 PM  

    Tough Friday puzzle, the toughest I can remember for a while. Also couldn't do it in the morning, had a Dutch coffee/luncheon to go to. So much rain in CT..... It's scary.

    I started out with "Michelle, ma belle" and hunter. Had to sing a couple of songs to figure out 12D, that was fun.

    Didn't like UAL and UAR on the same side of the puzzle. After getting a couple of letters I had "Sell the farm" at 18D. Looked good to me, never heard of ball the jack, or cat's paw, for that matter. Add Penrose, Betty's and Bumppo (should have remembered that from a couple of books) and I was in real trouble.

    I also missed the B in 60A. Oddly enough, I enjoyed my time working on this piece.

    jae 7:49 PM  

    @Bob K -- Thanks for the heads up on BEQ.

    Being of a certain age did help me on this one. The Beatles lyric was a gimme as were the Benny and EVE ARDEN clue/answers, had heard the term CATS PAW used to describe a dupe, and knew the phrase BALL THE JACK just not in that context.

    The only real WOEs for me were PENROSE, EGER and BETTYS.

    Shamik 9:53 PM  

    Am older. And it did NOT resonate.

    MetaRex 10:10 PM  

    I like the folk saying/folk wisdom vibe from the long answers...

    Came in ahead of my pace car tushnet for a change...sanfranman59 is far harder on himself than MR if his sixteen consecutive successful Friday solves means he never got the incorrect signal...by MR's robot villain standards it's a successful solve as long as there's no Googling...

    michael 10:23 PM  

    I didn't find this as hard as most of you. Old enough to know Eve Arden and Jack Benny and Penrose was the first answer I put in. Never heard of "ball the jack" and "wren" was a surprise (still don't get it).

    Liked the puzzle.

    dm3000 11:13 PM  

    Why does a puzzle creator have to play fair? If everything's familiar then there's no challenge. What fun is that? I live for the tough ones. Do you really have to be over 50 to know who Jack Benny was?

    Anonymous 1:45 AM  

    Got hung up on 40A --- Wanted BRA, finally grokked TKO. Great puzzle, way enjoyable

    August West 6:25 AM  

    "I been ballin' that shiny steel black jack hammer
    Been chippin' up rocks for the great highway..."

    Yup. That kind of solve.

    221b BakerSt 3:19 PM  

    Holy frustration, Batman!
    I wanted to crumple up my computer monitor and toss the whole thing into the wastebasket, for all the same reasons Rex mentioned.
    Ended up with random sections that still led me nowhere, and every freaking word seemed to be a struggle.

    Not only a DNF, but a DN even want to keep trying.
    Sad face.

    nebraska doug 10:46 PM  

    It took me 3 days, but i finally finished (with one mistake). Ouch, this one was really tough! It made the Saturday puzzle feel like a Wednesday.

    spacecraft 10:44 AM  

    Finished successfully--with no help--but it took me a solid hour. A giant gimme to get in the door: the truism LIFEISVERYSHORT. It sure is, John. Yours was way TOO short.

    Now Ed, I am a Pennsylvania Dutchman of the first water, hex signs all over the place, and I have NEVER!! EVER! heard of "NICEN." "Neaten up?" Sure. Make the light out? You bet. But not "NICEN." And where outside of PD could one hope to find such a word? Noplace. This is strictly a made-up-for-crossword word, period. If I threw the challenge flag in a Scrabble tournament, you'd lose your turn for sure.

    But, it was forced in on crosses, because thankfully I knew that Staubach had played at Navy.

    BETTYS crossing YETI made me smile; there's a popular slot machine called "Betti the Yetti."

    NW was the last, and hardest. Finally sussed that "Antes up for peanuts" is indeed an ANAGRAM, very clever; and that "Mature" does indeed mean COMEDUE. Not a clue about "Troglodytes troglodytes," which turned out to be a biological designation for WREN, but I was looking at WREt, since my "One catching [the] game" was StARER. I figured, WREt can't be right; even NICEN is closer to a word than that. Then the final AAHS moment hit: it was one catching game, not THE game, and the answer was SNARER! Sticking "the" in that clue was dastardly underhanded, sirrah! I shall stab you with my cold-war weapon, the deadly ICICLE!

    Re 18d: From somewhere in the deep recesses came a R&R oldie: "BALLin' THE JACK." I don't even remember how it goes, just the title. I assume from the posts here that "JACK" refers to a jackhammer, but I wouldn't know what "BALLin'" would be.

    In that context.

    Torb 2:29 PM  

    Yikes! Another themeless Friday. Didn't think that I'd even come close but finished it after head scratching over an hour. "Life is very short" clicked & then I was off! I tried to "make the best of it", & was almost "over the edge" & was "plum tuckered out" before the end. Thanks for a great puz!

    Waxy in Montreal 4:16 PM  

    Certainly not ONATEAR today. Was unaware of MRE as an abbrev. for Meals Ready to Eat. (Only knew it as shorthand for Moral and Religious Education.) Had ACHE before AAHS, BETTY D & DEEM for the BETTY'S/SEEM juncture and never made an ANAGRAM of 2D.

    On the other hand, LIFEISVERYSHORT was a gimme along with PENROSE and USNA so much of the puzzle evolved steadily although it ultimately was a DNF.

    Right now, I'm PLUMTUCKEREDOUT so think I'll ORDERIN for my supper tonight. Might even complete the evening with some SCENTEDTEA (Earl Grey, of course.)

    CaliTina 5:11 PM  

    All of the above except my 22A sponge stANK before it DRANK

    Solving in Seattle 5:23 PM  

    @Waxy, why not ORDERIN an MRE?

    Watch out for NICEN laced letters!

    I like the word EVINCES, and will pledge to use it at least once in my lifetime.

    capcha: ramgin. Either a new Dodge truck power plant, or what one does Friday after work.

    Dirigonzo 6:08 PM  

    Pretty much what @Spacecraft said, except it took me most of the afternoon to finally see the peanuts anagram and finish the NW. I circled that clue plus "Swinging halter, for short" as being my faves.

    @CaliTina - I also considered stANK but never actually wrote it in. It would have been interesting if DRANK had been clued as "Acted like a fish" as the phrase "drinks like a fish" is pretty common, at least in my little corner of syndi-land.

    Waxy in Montreal 7:27 PM  

    @SiS, great idea as long as it includes a TOASTED bagel...

    Syndi Solver 7:45 PM  

    This one was way too hard for me. No way I could finish without a lot of help. I wrote ? next to many clues, either because there were words in the clue that I did not recognize (cryptid?) or the answer was a person or thing that I did not know. But I tried to MAKE THE BEST OF IT.

    My favorite clue was for ANAGRAM. A close second is the clue for TKO. It took me until just now to understand "swinging halter" -- for others who are as confused as I was, a TKO halts the swinging (stops the fight). Clever!

    I'm a birder but don't know any of the scientific names so Troglodytes troglodytes was no help. I have heard the phrase BALLin THE JACK (from old movies, I thought it was a type of dance?) so at least the short version of this was not completely foreign. I've never read any Cooper at all so BUMPPO was completely unknown. I do know a few songs by The Beatles but I have not memorized lyrics because LIFE IS VERY SHORT. :-) I guess "We Can Work It Out" is a song I've only heard a few times since I only got this from crosses and guesses, not memory.

    Last of all, I was confused by the spelling of PLUM TUCKERED OUT. Shouldn't there be B at the end of PLUM? That's how it has been spelled when I've seen it in print. That first word does not refer to fruit. Plumb means fully or completely in this expression. Hmm, maybe this is an example of an eggcorn? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eggcorn (thought I'm not sure how plum works in this expression)

    Dirigonzo 8:05 PM  

    @Syndi Solver - I read your comment as a list of things you learned from the puzzle; that's a good thing, don't you think? As to PLUM, it seems you are absolutely right - see @Notsofast 1:44pm comment which sums it up nicely.

    sdcheezhd 8:16 PM  

    Last thing I filled in was ANAGRAM, great clue and a nice way to end. I have heard of NICEN up before but not sure I've ever said it. BALLTHEJACK?? Really?? Bell or Bull weren't any more familiar but I figured when you play jacks you use a ball. This took about 3-4x longer than last Friday and that was with a pretty quick East end since LIFEISVERYSHORT was a gimme for me.

    Syndi Solver 8:28 PM  

    @Dirigonzo, yes, absolutely, learning new things is a good thing from my point of view!

    I do these Fri-Sat puzzles even though most of them are too hard for me to finish without help. I figure that I will learn something and maybe even remember it for next time! :-) But this one SEEMed even harder than most of the Friday puzzles I've done.

    I posted today without reading any old comments. Only later did I see the discussion agreeing on the missing B from plumb. So thanks for the heads up.

    By the way, I posted my thoughts on "Gaily bedight" yesterday (that extract from Poe's poem Eldorado). I memorized that poem way back in high school so my guess could be completely wrong.

    TAM 8:29 PM  

    I'm a mid-level solver who worked my way slowly, very slowly, through this great puzzle, but was finally done in by ANAGRAM, which denied me a finish in the NW.

    Syndi Solver 8:39 PM  

    One last comment, in case it was not clear (I tend to ramble...). I had fun with this puzzle even though it was so very hard. Not complaining!

    Ginger 1:59 AM  

    DNF, not even close, but I've got to say there was a lot of clever clueing, and some interesting answers. On my first run through I had both BUMPPO and JIMI, go figure. depiCtS for EVINCES held me up though I eventually sorted that out. BALL THE JACK needs the 'in'. Really wanted bra for 40-A.

    I'm old, but this played too tough for me. Google helped some, but in the end I needed to come here. If tomorrow is harder then this, I'm in real trouble.

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