Regular readers know that they can find Madness posted by 10:00 p.m. (MST). That will generally be the case, except...for the next few months, I won't post the Saturday puzzle until Saturday morning. Tax season has officially started, and Friday nights will be spent with Don. For now, dinner out...as the season progresses, I'll take dinner to his office. But I'm a fairly early riser...I was up this morning at 7:00 solving the puzzle, and the post will be up within the hour.
Saturday puzzles are supposed to be tough...and Paula Gamache's puzzles are usually tough. I couldn't have done this without outside help. By the way, although I often say that I Googled something, the search engine I use is Dogpile...All the best search engines piled into one. Check them out if you haven't. Their dog is always dressed in something cute...a vampire for Halloween, in formal attire for the Oscars, a leprechaun for St. Patrick's Day...they're very creative.
On with the tough puzzle. It was superb...maybe even one of Paula's best.
Horizontal stacks top and bottom, all excellent:
1A: Saucily titled best-selling diet book (Skinny Bitch). Haven't read it but might. A bit of trivia...it became popular when Victoria Beckham was photographed holding it. That may be reason enough not to read it. I can't think of anyone who needs a diet book less than she does.
15A: It's featured in "A Night at the Opera" (Il Trovatore). Even knowing that it means The Troubadour, I had an A instead of an O for the third letter, messing up its cross at 5D: Cry from a daredevil cyclist (no hands). Once I got that, I was off and running in that quadrant.
17A: Target of a school bully (teacher's pet). I know we've seen that phrase in the past six months. I was the teacher's pet in some of my college classes...they loved nontraditional students...but no one beat me up.
51A: They really ought to be kicked (nasty habits). Excellent clue and answer. I wish my girls would kick their nasty smoking habit. I still find it hard to believe that two smokers came out of this household...I love them, but I don't love how they smell. And I hate what it's doing to their young bodies.
55A: Sign of stress? (acute accent). I didn't even see that answer...must have gotten it from the downs. Clever.
57A: Is a hero (saves the day).
And the vertical stacks:
12D: Yosemite Valley peak (El Capitan). That shouldn't have taken me so long to figure out.
13D: Dumped (poured out). I was thinking of dumped, as in a relationship.
14D: Harms (ill treats).
28D: Where Fredo Corleone gets shot (Lake Tahoe). That Sonny. [Oops, it was Michael...thanks, Bob.] I'm much nicer to my brothers better than he was to poor Fredo. I only saw the first movie...required for a World's Greatest Films class. I Googled (Dogpiled) to read about what happened in the later movies.
29D: Passive-aggressive and the like (oxymorons). The very best answer in the puzzle. I love the word (an X!), and I love oxymorons...jumbo shrimp, military intelligence. I can't think of a third one...maybe some of you will share your favorites.
30D: Common desiccant (silica gel).
Favorite clues include 16A: Tickled user's response (LOL), 37A: Yes or no follower (siree), 50A: Not be generous with (hog), 8D: Wee, to a wee 'un (itsy) and 40D: No Yankee fan (reb). I wasn't crazy about the cluing for 11D: They're straight (heteros) or 27D: Babes (foxes). Both are insulting and could have been clued otherwise.
Things I didn't know but got from crosses (or Dogpile):
35A: Château __-Brion (Bordeaux wine) (Haut).
36A: Arizona senator Jon (Kyl).
42A: Ben Jonson poem (To Celia).
49A: Peggy of "The Dukes of Hazzard" (Rea).
3D: __ disco (European dance music) (Italo). Should have known that...I think it's been in the puzzle before.
6D: 1884 short story by Guy de Maupassant (Yvette).
31D: Kentucky college (Berea).
37D: Steinbeck's birthplace (Salinas).
43D: Governor who helped found Ohio State University (Hayes).
In addition to the long answers, other favorites include 23A: Chooses by divine election (anoints), 27A: Enamel strengthener (fluoride)...I've always loved the UO combination in the word, 33A: Alliance (axis)...right next to 34A: College bookstore stock (texts), 39A: Lands in the Persian Gulf (Emirates), 43A: N.F.L. salary limit (hardcap), 47A: Like 1, but not I (or is that l?) (Arabic), 1D: University of Alaska Southeast campus site (Sitka)...have been there, so it was a gimme, 2D: Anne of fashion (Klein), 10D: Private dos? (crewcuts), 24D: Every month has one (ides), 34D: Body found high in the Andes (Titicaca)...remembered it from a previous appearance and 45D: UnitedHealth rival (Aetna)...my health insurance provider.
I had a couple of wrong answers in the northeast that made the downs hard to see. 12A: Center starter? (epi)...thought I was smart with CEE...and 32A: T preceder (to a)...not ESS.
I don't see how 53D: Dating letters is BCE. What am I missing?
Today will be my no-driving day for the week. I'm looking forward to hanging around in my flannel pants and a t-shirt, taking down the Christmas tree, baking bread...and working the Sunday puzzle later in the day.
Here's the Saturday grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.