Smuggled Weaponry

Mark Diehl is back with a suitably savage Saturday grid.

Comments: 208

  1. Sauternes isn’t a plural wine. It’s the region in France that the wine comes from.

  2. @Eoin While it seems obvious that the puzzle was indeed going for the singular French wine known as sauternes, named after the region, Caitlin is also technically right, since the California version is generally labeled sauterne (probably because they're not allowed to call it sauternes). Thus, sauternes could be the plural of sauterne from California as well as the singular form of the French wine.

  3. @Steve L It's nice of you to try to dig Caitlin out, but pairing Roquefort cheese with a California sauterne is like pairing it with Manischewitz. Sauterne is nothing like Sauternes. The clue knew what it was talking about. Sauternes are among the greatest and most long-lived things you can do with a grape. Chateau d'Yquem from 1784 was still excellent at a 1989 tasting. It's the best pairing for all sorts of rich foods, including foie gras and many cheeses. And of course, with desserts. Never chocolate, though, as that will ruin any wine. You can use your sauterne with chocolate.

  4. @Martin I visited SAUTERNES last summer and attended a piano recital held at Chateau d'Yquem. The pre-concert reception included Chateau d'Yquem wine "à volonté". Seeing as how this wine can sell for hundreds, if not thousands for a half-bottle, the evening was well worth the cost of admission! The winery is now owned by Louis Vuitton owner Bernard Arnault, who is an amateur pianist himself, and married to a Canadian concert pianist.

  5. Tough but ultimately do-able. It felt like a good workout. The 14 square was my last fill--Jason was the only Argonaut whose name I knew, and the clue for SEERS was a pretty serious misdirect. I ended up running the alphabet for it, hoping that I didn't have any incorrect letters anywhere else. I didn't have much to start with, but it was enough to get me going and to work with to build out each area. I had RAN GUNS before ARMS, but the S-T-G-T stretch in squares 3-4-5-6 of 11D told me that wasn't happening. Never heard of PENTOMINOs, but the name made sense from the clue. And SAUTERNES isn't plural, right? It's the name of the wine; it just has an S on the end of it. Someone more knowledgeable about wine than I am will weigh in, I'm sure!

  6. For me, this was a fairly difficult puzzle. I finished about one minute slower than my average, and given that my average goes back quite a while, I'm usually finishing in substantially less time than "average" these days. When I finish a full minute slower, it's a tough one (at least for me). A much larger proportion of guesses (vs. gimmes) went into the grid on the road to solvation. A few came back out, but most of them were good guesses.

  7. Wow, what are the odds! Was it @Polymath who referenced PENTOMINOs in a comment a day or two ago—the first time I’d ever seen the word before tonight? A couple of near Naticks for me and a fair bit of flyspecking at the end: IDES for IDAS was the culprit, though I was dubious of the MALIK/ALEK cross. I really, really liked this puzzle. So many entries that I just barely pulled out of my brain’s murky recesses, from SAUTERNES to IF STATEMENT to PENTOMINO (despite just seeing it a day or two ago). Fresh cluing, stellar long stacks, and a sharp, fair challenge. Everything a Saturday should be, imo. Was my POW! this week.

  8. VERTEX (Friday) Did it this morning when “Embarrassed” still had only one “r.” Couldn’t figure out what that image was supposed to be. Looked again tonight. Embarrassed is now spelled correctly and I saw what the Vertex was: a pair of beets, with greens intact, as in “beet red.” Just in case there’s another soul out there who was as troubled by this mystery as I was. We can both rest easily now (unfortunately, if you read this on Saturday, I don’t think you can go back and look at the picture to verify that, in fact, it depicts a pair of beets).

  9. @Puzzlemucker , I think I'm about done with Vertex. The idea is interesting, connecting the dots is easy but requires a bit of thought, but the execution of the pictures is just...bad. They need to go more abstract--dig into cubism--or add a gazillion more vertices (and lose most if not all their players).

  10. @Adina Today's Vertex does have a gazillion more vertices, which I found to be a pleasing challenge.

  11. "There are other downtowns"--yes indeed. I found this one difficult, several minutes over my average Sat. time.

  12. One of those Saturdays where the first passes appear hopeless, but I ended up with just the IDAS/AMMAN Natick. I started to run the vowels and got the congrats with the "A". About three minutes under my average surprisingly enough. Very nice puzzle.

  13. I think you mean Idas/Annam.

  14. 45 down: Sorry, but this one is off. A(n) ______, and the correct clue for one, is an: Islamic religious leader - i.e. of prayer or community or land - but not a *scholar of Islamic law. Such a person might incidentally be a scholar of Islamic law; but the correct term for one of those is 'alim, or faqih, or mujtahid, or even mufti, = a scholar who gives fatwas.

  15. @Sami R. Oops, even better and generally preferred: *Muslim religious leader. We reserve "Islamic" for 1/inanimate entities that 2/are considered or claimed to be formal manifestations of the religion. (The answer does meet the second criterion.) Thus, Islamic teachings, religious history, architecture; Muslim people, student group, friend. While we're at this, as for "states": only about a dozen nations today declare themselves "Islamic" states; the remaining ~32 are simply "Muslim-majority nations," in which the role of Islamic law varies from very big to very small. (In fact, about 10 of those declare themselves "secular" states in their constitutions, Turkey perhaps most prominently.)

  16. @Sami R. I've been doing NY Times crossword puzzles for 40+ years. Straightforward definitions as clues are so dull. The best constructed puzzles in my view have sleights of hand (tongue?) like this clue. These of course get a ton of complaints from people wanting more definitional clues. But personally, I wouldn't have stuck with Times crosswords if every time that word was the answer, it was clued as "Islamic religious leader". It'd be too easy ... and boring. DIfferent strokes ...

  17. Initially it looked impossible, but after a few good guesses it came in well under my average. I really liked DIDNTGETTHEMEMO and POKERGAMES, which had me for quite a while. Downtown Manhattan has angle parking on the Christopher Street side of the former Federal Building at 641 Washington Street. How’s that for obscure trivia?

  18. @LarryF I thought of that block, too, immediately, (i.e. before you posted your comment) because I lived two blocks away, at Washington and Charles, over 40 years ago. But I didn't comment on it because it seemed like such a small area, and wasn't sure it was still that way (Google Maps shows that as of their last satellite photo, it is!)

  19. Larry and Steve, Shall we grab a bite at Gaetana's? (There is angle parking on most police precinct blocks.)

  20. This was a fairly easy Saturday for me. The right side was significantly harder than the left. The MALIK x ALEK and IDAS x ANNAM naticks were guessed around as was PENTOMINO.

  21. I momentarily filled in BVD for 50D before the triple stack of clever entries in the SE corner emerged, and the lawyerly answer became clear.

  22. @RichardZ When I closed out ABA, I did so thinking American Basketball Association, which didn't lasted only briefly.

  23. Very chewy. Started out slow, but the SE came together. Took a chance with PICKLEJAR and IFSTATEMENT. Got ONEMANBAND but had sevenGAMES before POKERGAMES. The rest filled in slowly,and I was pleased to get to the end without having to look anything up. Phew! Great Saturday puzzle!

  24. I was fortunate with this one - - when Riesling was too short, I pulled SAUTERNES out of my hat. Filled two of the crosses and then it was off to the (losing) races. I very much enjoyed PICKLEJAR, GUITAR, and RANARMS, the latter of which had me humming along to the Mountain Goats - International Small Arms Traffic Blues. Speaking of which, the little bit extra which I felt this one was missing was definitely something more musical! (Neither OPERA nor Zayn MALIK quite tickle my fancy.)

  25. I found this very challenging but definitely solvable. I was not familiar with some biographical names such as IDAS, ALEK MEK or ZAYN MALEK. However, I really loved some of the cluing such as “ear locks?”, “spear carrier” and “line at the bar” (though I recall something similar recently). It was very satisfying to come up with solutions for these. Thanks for the challenge.

  26. I like the way a gluey start (AWNS, THOU, TASE, RTE) quickly gave way to a full-featured Saturday puzzle. Themeless specialist Mark Diehl delighted me with sparkling long entry/clue combinations. World Series series conned me into sevenGAMES, stalling the SE for a bit. And Ear locks? for CORN TASSELS really cracked me up. That one conjured up a self-absorbed Miss Piggy-like Sesame Street character, Miss Goldie Locks? Naw, too corny. But I see her, right there in Caitlin's photo! Double natick with PENTOMINO/MALIK and IDAS/ANNAM were resolved with lucky first guesses at the end. Thanks, Mark, for another of your Saturday Stumpers. Keep them coming.

  27. This one did not go well for me at all. There were so many things that I’d never heard of or would’ve had even a chance at getting. I had a hard time even getting started this time. None of this is against the constructor at all, of course! This one was just absolutely not even close to in my wheelhouse.

  28. @Ben Hey, it’s Saturday. It happens. We’ve all been there. For many years I could NOT do a Saturday puzzle, and I still resort to a search (as when an Argonaut crosses a Vietnamese central kingdom).

  29. OK, dumb question, but could someone help me/show me how you get from the clue 2D GRAND to the answer THOU? GRAND = THOU?? I just don't get it. Otherwise really liked the puzzle with a lot of things I didn't know and it took me a while to plod through although finished a few minutes below my average. I don't keep track of that but the NYT puzzle thoughtfully does for me and I thought I would check for fun.

  30. A grand is a thousand! So a THOU is short for thOUSAND. This, like AWNS, is one of those classic crunchy bits that comes up a lot in weekend puzzles but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it in the wild ;-).

  31. THOU is short for thousand. One grand = $1,000.

  32. THOU is very slangy and mostly see them in movies and TV dramas, often by criminal types (and goes by quickly, so you'd miss it). About on par with GRAND in slanginess but used much less. Nowadays it's a little dated because it's chump change. They talk about cool MILs, these days.

  33. SPELLING BEE 27 words 89 points. If there was a pangram I didn't notice. I'll go back & check while I compile my hints.

  34. Today's obscure word hints: Sex toy Extinct bird Hidden & still, canine word Sorrow R2D2 or C3P0 Dry amusement The state of being female (pangram) The state of being divine Pincushion curse or weathered rock Triumphal cross

  35. 2-letter starts: DI-2 DO-5 DR-4 GI-3 GO-3 GR-1 HO-4 ID-1 LO-1 OD-1 RI-1 RO-1.

  36. @Kevin Davis the pangram is a compound word having to do with a life stage for some people.

  37. SPELLING BEE GRID Feb 1st MMXX D G H I L O R WORDS: 27, POINTS: 89, PANGRAMS: 1, BINGO Starting Letters-Frequencies: D x 11 G x 7 H x 4 I x 1 L x 1 O x 1 R x 2 Word Lengths -Frequencies: 4L x 15 5L x 8 6L x 2 7L x 1 8L x 1 Grid: 4 5 6 7 8 Tot D 4 7 - - - 11 G 5 - - 1 1 7 H 2 - 2 - - 4 I 1 - - - - 1 L 1 - - - - 1 O 1 - - - - 1 R 1 1 - - - 2 Tot 15 8 2 1 1 27 (Y-Axis: Starting Letters, X-Axis: Word Lengths, X/Y Co-ordinates: Frequency/Number of Words for that letter and length)

  38. @Mari from the thread below, today's obscure word hints: Sex toy Extinct bird Hidden & still, canine word Sorrow R2D2 or C3P0 Dry amusement The state of being a young female (pangram) The state of being divine Pincushion curse or weathered rock Triumphal cross 2-letter starts: DI-2 DO-5 DR-4 GI-3 GO-3 GR-1 HO-4 ID-1 LO-1 OD-1 RI-1 RO-1.

  39. @Kevin Davis thank you as always for your clever clues. And to both you and @Mari for your solving speed! You are both quite impressive

  40. @Kevin Davis Thanks Mari and Kevin! Thanks for pulling double duty today Kevin with the two-letter list, which helped me get my last word, one of the DO-5s.

  41. 3D could use a question mark at the end.

  42. Not a fan of many of the answers (too many to list) - too obscure to make the cluing remotely quirky, or vaguely 'gettable'. Not fun, few 'aha' moments. Actually, if Im honest, boring.

  43. @Sonya Just to counter this: totally unboring. Gave me two hours of solid effort and entertainment. And I (like you, possibly) am a cricket fan which maybe helps. After all, two hours is a morning's play in five days of a test match.

  44. Letter Boxed Yesterday’s Solutions REFURBISH HOCKEY (NYT) FURBISH HOCKEY Still working on today’s

  45. @Lou F-S (8) S-T (6). Knowing Louis Carroll by rote gave me the first portmanteau word quickly, though I was surprised it was considered valid.

  46. @Lou Same here - I did start to post it (with a Lewis Carroll hint) but must have forgotten to hit 'submit'! same yesterday too,

  47. @Liane What is and isn't considered valid makes no sense to me. Have they ever explained it?

  48. Sauternes is properly used as a singular noun. Instead of writing an entire paragraph about her hang-up on this clue, the author should have looked up the word’s definition. To add to the earlier comment about dropping the “s” for California wines, it’s possible the dropped “s” is akin to the added “e” in whiskey for spirits not produced in Scotland (and distilled according to strict rules). Bottom line: whatever variations in spelling might exist, this just poor research by the author.

  49. @Tucker McElroy From “A Pace Like That” (by Yehuda Amichai) The longer you live, the more people there are who comment on your actions. Like a worker in a manhole: at the opening above him people stand around giving free advice and yelling instructions, but he’s all alone down there in his depths.

  50. @Puzzlemucker: Caitlin Lovinger may author a published column in the New York Times about other people’s work, but no one may comment on Ms. Lovinger’s work? Caitlin Lovinger is hardly “all alone down there in [her] depths,” and she’s definitely not “in a manhole” if any sort. She is the author of a published column in the New York Times, with access to plenty of resources (e.g. Internet access, a computer, a dictionary) to help her properly research her column. It’s sloppy work that should be corrected, not excused.

  51. @Tucker McElroy Any relation to Warren Betanko by chance? Poetry is poetry.

  52. @David Connell We were recently introduced to *reverse* angle parking here(back of car to curb). (Safer when pulling out, especially for passing bicyclists!) Forward angle parking is much easier!

  53. excellent Saturday! Stated with OPERA and APIA and filled in from there. Puzzle is a good example of creating clues for yourself from the crossings -- the art of the genre!

  54. Loved this very Saturday puzzle, though it's the first one I couldn't finish in many moons (was fatally naticked in the NE). But after a couple of sorties through the grid with few gimmes, I was delighted to complete as much of it as I did. So many brilliant clues. SEERS, lol--the clue for that one had me giggling. BTW the beautiful blond hair on that ear of corn in Caitlin's column reminded me of a visit to Dublin where I viewed the bog bodies in the Natl Museum of Archaelogy--they had hair like that! Delightfully creepy and totally fascinating. Highly recommend.

  55. @AudreyLM Smug-worthy, this one. Even Steve L said it was “fairly difficult,” which means it was tough as a huthermucker. (If you’re still in need, I left you a Bee clue in Kevin’s Bee thread).

  56. @AudreyLM Oh, oh, oh! I’ve been meaning to thank you profusely for recommending the 7/25/13 puzzle. Possibly my favorite rebus puzzle that I’ve ever done. Thank you!

  57. @Puzzlemucker Now you must go see the bog bodies!

  58. "Not this time," I said after my first pass with a pittance of production. And then, and then... a scattershot ping here, an educated guess there, a long answer -- finally! -- yonder. "Maybe," I said when the grid was half full. Then a laugh out loud at PICKLE JAR, and a change from "VALET" to ANGLE re parking, and the next thing I knew, after a DIY step-by-step solve, a motivated plod, if you will, I was staring at my last blank square, the nowhere-in-my-brain ID_S / _NNAM cross. I guessed right, and felt that fabulous finishing flush that comes with a well-earned completion. I'd have felt the same had I guessed wrong. "Oh, this was a classic Saturday solve," I said, with gratitude and high admiration for what you did, Sir Diehl, what you did with spark, skill, and GUILE. You, sir, are a Mark of distinction.

  59. @Lewis - I had VALET too. Then METER. Then ANGLE. So many choices.

  60. Saturday. Why did it have to be Saturday? My brain-pain in my smart-parts is discombobulated from my finger-typers.

  61. After a few surprisingly rapid Fri/Sat puzzles this was back to normal for me and I got it done in a shade under two hours with one tiny assist from Mr Wiktionary - it's 55 years since Mr Flex took me through the story of Jason and I think he'd forgive me for not having retained all the Argonauts. Like others here it was the ID_S/_NNAN natick (and I hope that someone somewhere will explain that reference for me) which had me. I was pleased at the number of my early guesses which wandered randomly and unjoined down the page turned out to be correct when a long connector (IFSTATEMENT, ALTERNATEDAY) finally dawned. A very satisfying puzzle.

  62. @Andrew A few seconds of effort (how did we manage before the inter tubes?) led me to Rex Parker's blog with an explanation for natick.

  63. @Andrew If you remembered the names of the probably 49 crew mates of Jason that would be amazing, especially as the list of possible Argonauts on Wikipedia is almost 100!

  64. Well, I did know ANNAM (first thing I filled in). Beyond that this was just way, way, way above my pay grade. Even looking up a number of things didn't get me enough in ANY section of this puzzle. Had to resort to serious cheating to get it all filled in. Probably the worst I've ever done on any puzzle (and there is lots of competition there). No judgment on the puzzle - just my lack of skills. A bit of analysis on answer history. There are 17 answers in this puzzle of 9 letters are longer. 9 of those are appearing for the first time. 4 more have only appeared once previously. 2 others twice previously. 1 other 3 times previously. The only one of those longer answers that has appeared more than that is ATTRACTION (making it's 7th appearance. And there is a 7 letter answer (RANARMS) also appearing for the first time. But... when I look at all of those relatively rare answers, the only complete unknown to me is PENTOMINO. Other than that they are all reasonable and fairly clued (for a Saturday). The more I think about it, the more impressive that becomes. I bomb on most Saturday so that's no basis for judgment. This was a very Impressive Feat of Construction. Wish I could have done better.

  65. @Rich in Atlanta I'll add a little story related to ANNAM. The reason I knew that is because our company commander had done extensive research on both the history and culture of Vietnam before he was sent over there. He kept in touch with many of us after the war and shared a lot of that information. The old capital of Annam was Hue. Our base camp was at Phu Bai just south of there but we were mostly out in the jungle or on firebases to the west of Hue. At one point we were assigned to a new firebase and got there late in the afternoon of a particularly foggy and rainy day. The next morning it was completely clear. One guy in my squad walked up to a high point behind us and then said, "Wow. you can see the gulf from here." One of the other guys said, "Really? Can you see Hue out there?" Response: "Oh yeah. Way, way out there."

  66. Rich, Phu Bai was all right. Right? (ANNAM gimme here too, of course.)

  67. @Barry Ancona Phu Bai was great. Second only to Eagle Beach. No work details, sleep on a cot, eat something other than c-rations. Who could ask for anything more?

  68. NOSETONOSE and not FACETOFACE for 17A... I had no chance today. The first time I do a Saturday completely unassisted will feel amazing. Sadly I think I have AGES *TO* GO yet.

  69. @Andrew Once it happens, don’t make the mistake of expecting it’s going to happen every Saturday. That way lies repeated disappointment.

  70. @Andrew AWNS is old crosswordese, although below the standard that I would have expected in an NYT Saturday puzzle, but at any rate it would have given you the N for 17A.

  71. (Toronto) Andrew, A good Saturday rule is to doubt your gimmes and wait for the crosses. I looked at 17A, considered both HEAD TO HEAD and FACE to FACE, but didn't enter either.

  72. Suitable sticky Saturday. World Series of POKER! Ohhhhh. You know where my head is! (MLB Opener, 7 weeks away)

  73. @Ann Suffering succotash. :) And I did suffer with this one.

  74. @vaer Same, sister!

  75. Best Saturday ever: Did one teeny lookup (last letter of supermodel name) in a fit of impatience, got the Wimpy Kid’s name from my son, ran through the alphabet a handful of times (to arrive at SEER, for example), and finished in 49 minutes and 50 seconds. I’m feeling kind of proud.😊

  76. @Kate Wow. You should be. This was the hardest puzzle I can remember. Awesome that you got a personal best on a puzzle the “community” found difficult. Even after I hit reveal word, I didn’t really appreciate the answers. I could never get on the same wavelength as the constructor, unfortunately. Impressive grid though...

  77. @Newbie Thanks! It is interesting how we get the vibe of some puzzles and not others—there are plenty of those “others” for me. I guess being wide awake at 6 on a Saturday morning is good for something.:)

  78. Another Saturday - - another “completion” (not even a capital ‘C’). I had so little filled in after my first two passes, (one across and one down), and so few parts of a skeleton to start hanging meat on, that I knew Mr. Autocheck was going to have to help me. And I read far enough in this column to get IDAS from Caitlin. But I “completed” without the need for any research or completely blind guessing - - or reading the rest of the column until afterward. Had some troublesome (but logical) errors that had to be fixed. NABOBS, LAUNCH, SEVEN GAMES, ASPARAGUS (?), and TAZE stand out. The water in MY dishwasher is NOT “sudsy”. In fact, I think all dishwasher detergents are intended to not produce suds. I once had a renter (of my condominium on Lake Michigan) put liquid dishwashing detergent in the dishwasher. The housekeeping service used some really “interesting” language to describe the result to me. For the first time, I kept a chunk of a security deposit. Stupidity is NOT it’s own reward.

  79. @PeterW Try washing dishes by hand!

  80. Kathleen, "Is your dishwasher under the counter?" "Why would I want to be down there?"

  81. @PeterW Haha, I was that renter once in college, ran out of regular dishwasher detergent, ended up with a huge sudsy trail throughout the kitchen. Cleaned it up, ran the dishwasher's rinse cycle, cleaned it up again. Literally rinse and repeat multiple times until it stopped leaking.

  82. After about four or five glasses, I find all wines-whether merlots or sauterneses-to be uncountable.

  83. @ad absurdum "sauterneses" - as wrong as it is expressive! Love it!

  84. Nice, original fill with clever misdirection. Some of these will show up on Lewis from Asheville’s top five. Well done.

  85. “Entertained at a 29 across” implies a past tense, not a past participle. Therefore, 29 across should be “sang to” not ‘sung to.”

  86. @Janet Tipple What would be the corresponding past participle? Aha!

  87. Janet, Turn around: if you are entertained, you are sung to.

  88. Great puzzle. Like the Emily Cox days. I actually used my brain to solve the clues, instead of IMDB. And not one Country Music reference—god bless you Mr Diehl!

  89. I went through all the across clues without filling in anything, entered 'nutmeg' for 6D, then nothing for another full pass of the clues. Tried 'eonsago' at 39A, which led me to 'day' at the end of 5D and on and on I slogged. Stared at the gird with a few tentative answers, until 'Picklejar' came upon me. After that, things fell into place, slowly at first but with gathering speed. Thought I was down with 'Annan' but no dice. Devastation and disbelief! Finally changed 'guise' to 'guile' for the happy music. And my sound was turned down! Great puzzle.

  90. @Megan I got SYNE right away, the only other across clue I had on the first pass was ASPARAGUS for 'spear carrier'. I was thinking cute, just the wrong guess. Had my 8 year old help me out with the Wimpy Kid. Tough puzzle today!

  91. @Megan Hand up for nutmeg!

  92. @Ann Nutmeg AND asparagus.

  93. Phew! That was a toughie. The upper left was the spot I had to keep coming back to. But the very last letter was the A in the cross of IDAS and ANNAM. I knew neither. I knew early on that I would have to finish the entire puzzle and then guess that square. Tried I then A. Fortunately it was a vowel.

  94. I thought crossing a supermodel with someone from one direction was strained.

  95. @solon - oui, mais....think of the children!!

  96. @David Connell Very good!

  97. @David Connell For the win!

  98. The last time I wrote an IFSTATEMENT it was in FORTRAN which probably dates me. That was in the days when the computer department was down the road and you had to go and beg (or pizza bribe) the beard behind the desk to accept your shoebox of Hollerith cards and maybe he'd run it that night and you could come back tomorrow and find out that it didn't run because you'd misspelled 0UTPUT. Not that that ever happened to me, of course.

  99. @Andrew All I remember from my Grade 10 "Data Processing" course was the term, "Garbage in, garbage out". That, along with stacks of punch cards.

  100. @Andrew - and what I remember is the bullies from the football team grabbing the nerds who took computer class and tearing our rolls of punch tape to shreds, um, I mean tearing their rolls...

  101. @Andrew I quit using FORTRAN about 1970 but used IFSTATEMENTS in several other languages until a few years ago. Unfortunately for my puzzle solving, the term for them sank to the back of my vocabulary long ago, even though I had IF and ...M__T.

  102. Tough puzzle, made tougher by two clues that are erroneous, though artistic license could be considered for one of them. “Sudsy” is not an apt description for dishwasher water since dishwasher detergent is designed specifically not to be sudsy. The “ear locks?” clue leading to “corn tassels” is recognized as dead wrong by anyone with knowledge of gardening. The “hair” on an ear of corn shown in the photo at the top of this commentary is the “silk.” The tassel is the pollen producing structure at the top of the cornstalk some 4-5 feet higher on the plant, and has no structural relationship with the silk or the ear of corn. The clue is very clever, but only if “silk” is the answer.

  103. @Art J I think both of your comments overly pedantic: dishwasher water has less suds than, say, water with dish soap in it intended for hand washing dishes—but as anyone who’s ever opened a dishwasher mid cycle knows: it’s definitely sudsy! And the crossword goes by common usage. So as you and others have pointed out the clue for corn tassels is botanically incorrect—but then do is common usage. We see this a lot when people with technical expertise in a field point out that a term used in the crossword isn’t correct as per the field. But crosswords reflect the gloriously varied nature of modern written and spoken English not how it’s used in technical contexts.

  104. @ethan f. Most people who grew up in the rural midwest and small towns would be quite surprised to be called "pedantic" for knowing the meaning of such a common term!

  105. @Art J TIL a lot about corn from you and many other botanist puzzlers!

  106. I guess there are no other farm kids out there! CORN TASSEL is not botanically correct. The tassel is the spiky growth on the top of the corn plant. It carries the anthers; pollen providers. It is the silk that's on the end of ear, and what is shown in the photo. That is essentially the stigma and style and resemble "locks" as in hair. The tassel would be more appropriate as a helmet ornamentation in some fancy dress military uniform :-)

  107. Joseph, Are you suggesting that the constructor and editors should have been detasseling?

  108. @Joseph F Yes, but it is colloquially correct - all of us city kids refer to the silk sticking out of the top of the ear as the tassel. But thanks for the lesson - truly. I learned something new!

  109. Yes, tassels are the male flowers and ears are the female. But, less technically, the silks are a tassel of filaments. In fact, the Wikipedia article on silk defines it as "the tuft or tassel of silky fibers that protrude from the tip of the ear of corn." The clue was so cute that I agreed the less technical definition of "tassel" (which is clearly applicable to silks) justified the clue on a Saturday. BTW, I've always thought it amazingly cool that every kernel gets one filament, and they're all bundled together outside the ear. Very fancy wiring.

  110. Wow this was hard . I wanted Face to Face instead of Nose to Nose forever , then I wanted Valet parking instead of ANGLE . Never heard of ANNAM -but should have guessed it was something " NAM" . A bunch of look ups ! I love the challenge of a crunchy puzzle and the misdirects like PICKLE JAR - but wish there were a few less random pieces of trivia like ANNAM .

  111. @Cathy P Valet parking was a much better guess than my first attempt at AmpLE. Ha! In what universe does a downtown have ample parking?

  112. @Cathy P Yes, and I even had head to head for a while.

  113. @Steve Tete to tete, mixing French and English.

  114. After reading all the chat about SAUTERNES, I reached for my Pocket Food & Wine Guide: Roquefort, Traditional Partner, Sauternes. Very easy to think it should be sans S however. The rest of the puzzle was too hard for me.

  115. @suejean - I waited many hours for a suejean post on this one!

  116. I’ll just add that I love blue cheese with sweet wine. And I did actually finish the puzzle with lots of help.

  117. After some quick fills earlier in the week, this one kicked my but even more than a usual Saturday. I ended up at 2 hours, and that was with several lookups which I tend to avoid until absolutely at my wits end. Double my Saturday average! I was seriously tripped up by having SAUVIGNON in place of SAUTERNES, being an exclusively white wine drinker and hating sweet wines I had never heard of this variety. Throw in IDAS and ANNAM (mysteries to me) and FACETOFACE for NOSETONOSE, and it made for a long morning. Looking back at the finished puzzle, it doesn't look that hard but oh how I struggled to get there. Still a good time, and proud that I did get a few of trickier fills right off the bat (PICKLEJAR and ONEMANBAND in particular). Already looking forward to tomorrow, and hopefully forgetting today's personal debacle quickly.

  118. Was going to write pretty much exactly the same thing.

  119. @Rob [Cincinnati native waves] I first put asparagus for spear holder and briefly thought I was clever even though it didn't fit the clue, much less any of the crosses.

  120. @Leslie S. I did, too, and was quite proud for several minutes.

  121. Waiting now for the farmers to support the IMAM clue "error" and the Muslims to support the CORN TASSELS clue "error" (and yes, I know Muslims farm and there are now mosques in eleven cities in Iowa; there was only one when I lived there).

  122. Some say this puzzle is chewy. I broke a tooth. But it is ok. It was a good stretch for me even with auto check. How else can you get better at these things, right? Could someone please explain ball handlers-SEERS? A good athlete who can see the game plays? If so that seems like a stretch to me but whatever. Thanks

  123. @TxMary Think 'Crystal Ball'

  124. @Bob ahhh. Thanks

  125. @TxMary Those question mark clues can be real toughies. After awhile, though, one begins to think in crossword logic.

  126. This felt very tough, though I was able to fill the southwestern 60% of the puzzle faster than expected. But the northeastern 40% truly was very tough! Needed two sittings. Finishing was entirely a question of fingerholds and toeholds. Very much liked the pop trivia-free fill. Cite before tase, nutmeg before cloves; got Idas and Malik thanks to crossings, never having heard of them before. Took a while before noticing that obstracts was not a word I didn't know but a misspelling, so sang —> sung did it, at last. A very fine and enjoyable puzzle.

  127. @polymath I had OBSTRACTS also—and GINGER and NUTMEG before CLOVES!

  128. Lovely puzzle that took just long enough to break into. Like many, IDAS was a what now? but only because my cold addled brain couldn’t see the SEERS.

  129. Well my wife and I worked through this but we felt as if we DIDNT GET THE MEMO. Yelp! It feels as if we were jabbed in the rear with some TINED instrument. We’re going to have to soothe ourselves with a few IPAs today. Thanks for a nasty (good) Saturday puzzle, Mr. Diehl. Have a good weekend.

  130. Many of us are fond of the humblebrag—“wow, I guess this one was really in my wheelhouse, I was well under my average!” So let me say to the world on this one: not only was it more than double my usual average, but I couldn’t even finish last night, and had to try again in the morning. In other words, a delightful Saturday puzzle. Thanks to Mr. Deihl and eds.

  131. ONE MAN BAND / MILITIA MAN. I resisted entering these answers for a long time, because I thought the same word with the same meaning appearing twice in a puzzle was against NYT crossword rules. I trust there is a revised rule book in the works to level playing field.

  132. Laszlo, MILITIAMAN is one word; no dupe.

  133. @Laszlo ONE-MAN is a bona fide word (adjective) with its own dictionary entry. As such I don’t see this as a duplicate.

  134. Am I the only one who found both of them offensive, without regard for a potential duplication?

  135. TIL that corn tassels are spelled E-L, not L-E. In my family, we frequently joked about getting or not getting the memo. So, we used that phrase 50 years ago. If several people showed up for a holiday meal in the same color, we'd joke that they got the memo and the one person in a different color would shrug and say they didn't. A really fun Saturday. Thanks for the challenge.

  136. All-in-all a fine Saturday offering --- any crossword with so many open squares brightens my morning. I did get one crossing incorrect, however; it never occurred to me to think of POKER in a "World Series" context --- maybe yesterday's discussion of base stealing focused my brain on baseball --- and my knowledge of supermodels (ALEK or otherwise) doesn't extend beyond Tom Brady's wife, Gisele.

  137. @Tony S I'm not sure what's happening tomorrow... Tom Brady's not playing so is there even going to be a Superbowl? heehee

  138. @Sophia Leahy A Super Bowl without the Patriots does seem odd but there is an excellent quarterback match-up tomorrow, one of whom used to be a Patriot.

  139. @Tony S Indeed. Removing tongue from cheeck now, I am looking forward to Mahomes v Garoppolo.

  140. Absolutely my kind of puzzle. Difficult but doable. I love when I have to solve the longer clues to be able to get some of the shorter ones. So many clever clues. Never heard of Idas before but we do have a tavern of that name in my town (with an 's). It wasn't named after the argonaut.

  141. Sauternes only exists with the “s”—one Sauternes, two Sauternes...

  142. EZ Pass, Internet traffic must be slow in Brooklyn; this matter was resolved here 14 hours ago.

  143. And now, in celebration of my having figured this out all by my lonesome, which happened *solely* because of the presence of IFSTATEMENT, a brief code ode :-) /* But before I forget, thanks to Mark Diehl for having made this wonderful treat */ var codeStatementMentioned = true; var name = 'Me'; if(codeStatementMentioned){ print('Congratulations, $name, you can do the puzzle!'); } else { print('Alas, $name, you\'re out of luck'); }

  144. @Michael Rogers Noice!!! [odd how you can't not check each line for the final ';']

  145. I really enjoyed this, though it took me a ridiculous amount of time (2 hours). I was thrown off by so many clues in the northwest section: get EVEN or LAID instead of ITON, NUTMEG instead of CLOVES for pumpkin spice ingredient, CITE instead of TASE for issue a charge against, HEAD TO HEAD or HAND TO HAND instead of NOSE TO NOSE. Draw=ATTRACTION also took forever, as I was going through other multiple meanings of the word: sketching, taking, pulling, selecting, or reaching for a gun. I guess this is what a Saturday should feel like.

  146. Today there was a lot of learning going on. Specifically, we learned (not every item for everyone): 1. Muslim describes people, Islamic describes things. 2. Corn tassels are really the things at the top of the stalk that makes corn stalks so easily recognizable, not the silk on the ears. 3. A lot of people think that the silk at the ears are the tassels, so it's a secondary usage that may become legit someday due to frequency. 4. Tassel is not spelled -le. 5. Sauternes is a good French wine, whereas sauterne is a low-grade California wine. Don't pair the latter with Roquefort cheese. 6. Don't put regular dish soap in the dishwasher.

  147. @Steve L I LOVE #3 and #5. Soo funny, it brightened my day :D

  148. @Steve L 7. Even the finest of columnists is not infallible. SAU TERNE the other cheek.

  149. (OT) Steve L — A delayed response to your comment about the Thursday WSJ puzzle: I worked it to see what you meant, and Gosh! As you said, it had a *huge* amount in common with the Joe DiPietro puzzle of Nov. 7, 2019. I wonder if this could just be a coincidence.

  150. Much has been posted about Caitlin’s “plural that looks singular”, which turned out to be a singular that looks plural. My own similar dilemma came with CLOVES, a plural with a singular clue. I had a similar discussion with David Connell months ago, over the word “chives”, and I eventually conceded defeat and exited the discussion with my tail between my legs. A CLOVE, however, is “a thing”, and CLOVES are “things”. I realize that an ingredient can be understood to mean “more than one of the same item”, but still, seeing the singular clue and the plural entry made me mildly uncomfortable.

  151. @Andrew - do you make your omelettes with egg or with eggs? Cloven. Consider yourself chived. (^_^;) hee hee

  152. @David Connell - I've just now tried to find - to no avail, sadly - an easy reference for "hobnail" notation. In the musical notation of Martin Luther's time (first half of the 16th century), German printers used a notation for the "virga" = "quarter note" = "crochet" that is called the "hobnail" because it looks exactly like the kind of nail used to cobble the sole onto a boot. The clove is named similarly, by its shape. A clove = "a cobbler's-nail-shaped item." Cloves are cloves because of their shape, not their taste. garlic

  153. @David Connell I use egg in my omelettes. Yes. I know that eggs are single items, capable of singular or plural forms, yet as an ingredient for crepes, for example, I would use egg. Ditto with flour. Now, if someone asked me to quantify the ingredients, that becomes a different story - particularly when making something which requires precision, such as a Béarnaise or a Hollondaise thenvi might specific. For an omelette though? I would say " Get some egg, beat it with some creme fraiche, pour into a hot pan, add some herbs, season while breaking the bottom of the thing, fold it, slide onto a plate and serve with toasted granary bread, cherry tomatoes and a glass of rosé.

  154. Like a lot of my Saturday puzzles, first pass through all the clues yields filling in one answer or less. I finished though, but made one error, misspelling PENTOMINOES as PENTAMINOES which kept me scratching my head about AGESAGE. In hindsight, duh.

  155. @Jim I meant I misspelled it as PENTEMINOS. Probably was thinking of the game PENTE, or perhaps, just not thinking at all.

  156. @Jim I had a similar experience as I was sure that the dinosaur entry would be ____AGE (STONE AGE was one letter too many). I left that there, only to later discover AGE at the beginning of the entry as well.

  157. @Jim, I have a feeling that hindsight's going to be big all year.

  158. Wow! I really enjoyed this, right down to my guess (wrong) at the crossing of IDAS and ANNAM.

  159. Top for MOP, slowed me down simpered Tom, sullenly. Beating the Swift reference like a rug, finished some 10 minutes faster than usual. Thank you Mark

  160. Mark - if you say so! Still picking the tassels out from between my gridded teeth!

  161. ugh, i struggled in several spots, especially the northwest, and finally read the column to get a few hints to go on 44:39, but no sense of pride in this "solve" that said, "pickle jar" was pretty cute

  162. Such poor traction in the northwest today.

  163. @Nathan same. i had enough to have the TLL in WHATLLITBE and it just looked so wrong to me. what words might end in a TL, or start with an LL (that could be an answer to the clue), i thought!? (a contraction didn’t occur to me.) this puzzle was a real, real hard one for me.

  164. After such an easy Friday I expected doom for Saturday. All I had on my first pass was facETOfacE, SUE (soon erased), CADETS, longAGO (soon fixed to AGESAGO), IPA and WETS across, and RTE, NEE, GUITAR, IMAM, and ABA down. For some unknown reason I thought of SYNE for 18A but rejected it as unrelated to champagne. I refused to write PANE for 46D because who would call the glass in a porthole that. Research got me OPERA and CLOVES before I gave up for the night, and Caitlin's help gave me all but the NW corner before I called it in this morning. A couple things I should have figured out for myself except I lacked faith in my crossings, and I really should have had AWNS and ANKH, but I am not at all chagrined by my failure to get WHATLLITBE (I suppose I've heard it on TV or in movies?), DIDNTGETTHEMEMO (brand new), or POKERGAMES (even though I'm sure I've heard of their World Series). An hour-and-a-half of very little fun this time. But I'm looking forward to seeing everybody else had a ball as I read the comments.

  165. Would never have finished without Caitlin's column. Crossing elements PICKLE JAR and ANGLE PARKING had me stumped. Getting the NW corner without any hints offers some consolation.

  166. DIDNTGETTHEMEMO has been in use since at least the early 80s, back when we actually received (stacks of) paper memos instead of email. I never thought of it as a TV newsroom specific thing, we thought of it as meaning not prepared for the meeting. At that time NBC News was probably more careful about what was said on air.

  167. Like actual corn tassels, I suppose, this one was way over my head.

  168. One does not sing TO a venue, one sings AT a venue. I think?

  169. Thomas, Think audience, not performer.

  170. @Thomas Solomon I agree that there is poor grammar in the clue. I initially entered SANG TO. The clue is phrased in past tense. “An opera singer sang to me” is past tense. “I was SUNG TO at the opera.” is not past tense it is past participle requiring a helping verb. Clue should have been written “Was entertained...”

  171. J F Norris, [I was] "Entertained..." [I was] SUNG TO What's your beef?

  172. Whew, that was a toughie...stared at an empty grid for 15 minutes before finally opening with REDUCED FAT and DIY PROJECT and then it was off to the races. Got hung up on ASSAM and SAUVIGNON (blanc) for a bit (yes, I read the debate from earlier, still think it should have been clued as plural, but whatever) but got the solve in 45 minutes after guessing at IDAS/IF STATEMENT. My quibble is not with the puzzle, but with ESPN, who broadcasts the World Series of Poker. It's a game, not a sport.

  173. The clue would be fine *even if* the intended meaning was the plural of the singular wine "Sauterne." That is because the word "wine" in the clue "Wine often paired with Roquefort cheese" can be read as a collective noun, and that certainly can be answered with several bottles thereof.

  174. @Grant Is ESPN broadcasting POKER any worse than The Learning Channel broadcasting 90-day Fiancé and My 600-pound Life?

  175. Am I the only one who entered ASPARAGUS for 30A? Erased it within minutes when I finally got AMOR, ROSY and ANKH. If ANKH had been there first (one of the only very easy clues) I would never have thought of ASPARAGUS. NE corner was a headache (as it was for many I’m glad to read) and slowed me down to a crawl. 1 hour, 21 minutes for this one. But I’m sure actual solving time was longer if you include all the minutes spent in frantic Googling. Resorted to the internet way too often, especially for all the odd “celebrities” and youth pop culture figures (the Wimpy Kid’s name, the supermodel and the One Direction drop out) all of which had me rolling my eyes. In addition to being extremely difficult this puzzle made me feel like an old fart.

  176. @J F Norris Nope. I chucked in ASPARAGUS almost immediately, and thought I was really rolling for about a minute. Don't recall now whether it was ANKH or AMOR that dissuaded me, but it was great fun to discover my ASPARAGUS replaced by a PICKLE JAR. I thought the Wimpy Kid's name was Fred, which sounds so much Wimpier than Greg.

  177. @J F Norris Nope, I speared the asparagus first, too.

  178. Savage isn't the half of it. I don't remember ever being this far away from a constructor's thinking process. I usually come to Wordplay for the witty writing. Today I needed the all the help I could get. Thank you, Caitlin! The number of gimmes was low and so unhelpful that I doubted whether they were correct. I got two proper names from research and like the alliteration of MALIK and ALEK crossing. At 38A I had launch then rocket. When they didn't work I couldn't remember the name of the thing that holds the rocket until GANTRY began to reveal itself on crossings. All in all maybe the toughest Saturday for me. The next time I see Mark Diehl's name I'll try to be gentle with myself and really think outside the box.

  179. Sauternes is singular. It is a region in Bordeaux that produces sweet white wines.

  180. Michael, Thanks. That will be helpful to anyone who has not read the comments in the past 18 hours.

  181. It was very helpful! Folks who don't have the luxury of inhabiting these columns tend to arrive late to the puzzle and the comments. But it's reassuring to know that you're still here, 18 hours on!

  182. Some random thoughts: If you think of "locks" as being like dreadlocks, then "CORNTASSELS" works better, although one can still kvetch that the tassel isn't on the ear.... If you read much about the Viet Nam war, you will run across the The Kingdom of ANNAM. Much like Babar and any number of Persian empires if you read about the Afghanistan war. Although the S in IDAS/SEERS was the last letter I filled in, it was relatively obvious given the 14D clue. The A in MALIK/ALEK was a total Natick for me, but the vowel that made the best sense and turned out to be correct. I thought this puzzle was a true delight. Solving, for me, had that wonderful unfolding experience that I associate with those puzzles I consider really good, as a few toeholds suddenly resolve long answers and entire sections fall into place. I finished it well under my average, although nowhere near my best, but it was a challenge the entire time, and I was surprised and thankful to get the happy music immediately, so no fly-specking was required. And yet at the same time, I was sorry it was done, much like the feeling I get from finishing a good book.

  183. Left the last 4 letters of 33A blank until I finally got pickled at 30. Very fine Saturday puzzle - sort of a DIY project.

  184. Slowest correct solution I can remember. NE = toughest corner.

  185. @Peter Biddlecombe ditto.

  186. Puzzle was tough! Whew... and then I had an error I couldn’t find. I’m thinking about skipping Sunday and just starting again at Monday. Nah, not really. ;-p

  187. Whew, a toughie for me. I knew CLOVES (I make pies), and some various small entries; OPERA, LIFE, SUE, ABA, guessed at PENT-, but had to research the names for this one. Tried to think of *some* AGE for the dinosaurs, and that it ended up being AGES AGO, made me laugh. Was interested to learn that big crane thing is called a GANTRY. Replaced Face to face with NOSE TO NOSE and soon got the music after that. Again, whew! :)

  188. Also, I put in *Totally Ignorant* right across the center, which I then erased, and once I had that out of my system, things started looking up! :)

  189. @Beejay Elmer, right? Me too. I didn't mind being reminded of Burt Lancaster one bit.

  190. @Leapfinger You probably think of him as a younger Burt, but I loved him in Local Hero and Field of Dreams.

  191. LETTER BOXED THREAD Feb 1st MMXX F - S (8), S - T (8) The first word by Lewis Carroll - kind of a made-up word! YESTERDAY: FURBISH HOCKEY

  192. When the king uses the toilet, it's a royal flush. (If you don't like these puns, suit yourself.)

  193. Brutal! Many look-ups today. I'm kinda proud of getting PICKLEJAR with no crosses, but I resorted to Google for all the geography clues, plus the supermodel, New Dimension guy, sloganeer, and grain bristles. Not proud.

  194. Why is Grand THOU? Oh. Nevermind. Stuck forever till now. Thank you.

  195. Loved the clue for GUITAR! Challenging puzzle, as a Saturday should be, but doable except for a few unknowns. (I'd like to say TIL, but I'm afraid some of them won't stick). I liked Caitlin's photo choice for the column. I came to Wordplay for some help, and right away the photo helped me get that answer, which set off a domino effect that led to a lot of others answers filled in. It was fun! What I did learn today was in the mini, how many children Pres. Tyler had. Wow! I think I will remember that! 😮 So many comments today! I got bored before I read them all since so many of them seemed to be a tedious argument about wine. Comments are more interesting to me when they aren't so pedantic.

  196. That hurt

  197. For me, the toughest Saturday puzzlet in a looooong time. Took me more than an hour, and then I had to resort to the "check puzzle" option. Grrr. A slew of the clues just weren't clicking for me. It's like I didn't get the memo or something. I hate when my yellow streaks are snapped by an ingenious constructor. TOUCHE!

  198. This was awful. Ugh. Broke my (admittedly not very long) streak as I just stared blankly at a sea of empty squares. I eventually chipped away at it, with lots of lookups, but yikes. What a toughie!

  199. Need a grade below "F" for this one. Militia man for one ready to serve in an emergency?

  200. Ouch but ahh!

  201. Yo the northwest corner, lame.

  202. This was the least entertaining puzzle I’ve done so far out of a couple hundred. Weird, awkward phrases, dubious pluralization, too-clever puns that ere not clever, just annoying. Someone didn’t get the memo that these are supposed to be entertaining.