SUNDAY, Sep. 9, 2007 - Patrick Berry

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "The Process of Elimination" - 127A: The Process of Elimination: In the answer to each starred clue, cross out any letter that appears _____; then read the letters that remain (twice)

This puzzle is a good - no, great - example of how an amazing feat of construction does not necessarily result in an amazingly enjoyable solving experience. I'm stunned at the structural complexity of this puzzle, but the payoff was anticlimactic, and the non-theme fill was ... well, it was OK. It certainly wasn't bad. I'm just saying that this is a very show-offy puzzle that was only moderately fun to do. If you do what 127A tells you, the remaining letters (exactly one per answer) spell out LEFTOVERS. At first I thought the word was going to have something to do with ELVES, but then I realized I had mistakenly put the "E" before the "L."

  • 25A: *One who gets beaten badly? (sore loser) => "L"
  • 27A: *Sticks in the medicine cabinet? (anti-perspirants) => "E"
  • 40A: *Forbidding countenance (hatchet face) => "F"
  • 49A: *Lacking compassion (hard-hearted) => "T"
  • 68A: *"It's true, like it or not" ("If the shoe fits...") => "O"
  • 87A: *British motorist's right? (driver's side) => "V"
  • 94A: *1999 romantic comedy based on "Pygmalion" ("She's All That") => "E"
  • 108A: *It's taken by doctors (Hippocratic oath) => "R"
  • 115A: *Follow-up to a potential insult ("... no offense") => "S"

One horrible cross that I think is borderline unfair, though I went with my gut and guessed right:

  • 64A: "Sketches by _____," 1836 (Boz)
  • 51D: Expert, in England (dab hand)

Somewhere in the back of my head, the BOZ answer came to me, though I know next to nothing about Dickens and have certainly never read said sketches. DAB HAND is absolutely extraterrestrial, as far as I'm concerned. This crossing underscores one of the most annoying features of this puzzle, which is its insane Anglophilia. In addition to those two answers, we get:

  • 84A: "Holy moly!" ("Egad!")
  • 87A: *British motorist's right? (driver's side)
  • 38A: Battle of Britain grp. (RAF)
  • 59D: Head of England (loo)
  • 86D: People who haven't a chance, in Britspeak (no-hopers) - that's the absolute worst of the lot
  • 95D: Waugh's "Sword of _____" trilogy ("Honour")

I'm sure there are others lurking in there, but these just stood out for their aggressive Englishness.

I got 1A: Talk follower (Q and A) right off the bat, no hesitation, which felt great, as that's the kind of answer that normally trips me ("What the hell's a QANDA!?"). Know EQUUS (19A: Horse genus) better as a play - one in which Daniel Radcliffe, aka Harry Potter, recently starred. Naked. Of the two Middle Eastern kings in the puzzle, I got HUSSEIN (42D: Late Jordanian king) easily, but had a harder time retrieving FAISAL (69D: 1960s-'70s Saudi king). 60A: Song that Elvis's "It's Now or Never" was based on ("O Sole Mio") provided a soundtrack for my solving experience - the tune got in my head, and it would not leave. I suppose there are worse songs to get stuck in your head. I'd make a reference to something by 41D: Jazz singer Laine (Cleo), but I have no idea what she ever sang.

There are many tricky or exotic or otherwise mysterious little answers in today's puzzle, including:

  • 12D: "East of Eden" twin (Aron)
  • 15D: Ferrer of "Lili" (Mel) - I'm sure he's famous, I just ... I had nothing
  • 16D: Site fortified by Herod the Great (Masada) - couldn't place this on a map right now if my life depended on it
  • 28D: Minority member in India (Parsee)
  • 58A: Typewriter brand (Royal) - "Typewriter"!? What year is it?
  • 81A: Belgian painter James, known for bizarre fantasies with masks (Ensor) - actually a gimme for me, but maybe hard for others. He's been in the puzzle fairly recently.
  • 71D: Vehement (fervid) - you know, it's weird ... I thought the word was FERVENT. What the hell is the difference!? Oh my god, the answer is: NOT MUCH! The first definitions of both involve the phrase "marked by ... zeal." FERVID sounds more diseased, less innocuous.
  • 94D: "Sophie's Choice" narrator (Stingo) - yikes! That's pretty rough.
  • 92A: "The Princess Bride" character _____ Montoya (Inigo) - remembered the "Montoya" part, not the INIGO.
  • 123A: Near East hotel (serai) - never ever seen this word. How is that possible. Seems like it should have become crosswordese by now, with those common letters in such a weird combination.
  • 80D: Intl. commercial agreement first signed in 1947 (Gatt)

Here are some answers I really dislike:

  • 9D: Blockhead (stupe) - no no no. That's just not a word, no matter what any dictionary says.
  • 10D: Down in the dumps (mopish) - DITTO!! I had the much more sensible MOPING for a while.
  • 72A: _____ up (get dressed) (tog) - "TOG up?" Is that British too?

Answers I loved:

  • 102A: The Big Aristotle, in the N.B.A. (O'Neal) - Shaq at his self-promoting goofiest
  • 20A: Dantean division (canto) - I start teaching the Big D again next week. He makes Hell fun. [given how many of you are searching this clue, I should probably explain: a CANTO is the equivalent of a chapter (you all were probably thinking the "division" would have something to do with RING or LEVEL or something, right?). Inferno is divided into 34 cantos, then 33 each in Purgatorio and Paradiso, for a total of 100]
  • 63D: Letter-writing aid (stencil) - tricky, in a good way
  • 29D: Reference books? (read) - awesome; "Reference" is a verb - who'd have thought?
  • 56D: Wade at Cooperstown (Boggs) - was my hero when I was a teenager; then he joined the Yankees and won a World Series. Then karma came back around and he went out of the league, ignominiously, as a DRay. I still love him. Greatest hitter of my lifetime to date (yes, better than George Brett and Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn, etc.)

I also love SHAKE A LEG (35D: "Hurry up!") running directly parallel to TARANTULA (36D: Fuzzy crawler). Lots of great letters, and a kind of thematic relationship too. You would shake your leg hard if you felt a tarantula on it, is what I'm saying.

It's late and ickily hot and sweaty here in upstate NY - worse than it's been all summer. So I am done. Off to hang out in our home's one air-conditioned room.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

62 comments:

Anonymous 10:42 PM  

"My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." A classic. Watched it tonight with the kids.

Sam.

Jerome 11:17 PM  

Rex,

I had exactly the same reaction to this puzzle as you did and imoo the puzzle really doesn't deseve your fine blog. I didn't even bother to go through the excersise of crossing out the letters to get the final solution. And after reading yor blog, I'm really glad I didn't waste my time.

jae 11:52 PM  

I did cross out the letters and got the theme but it bugs me when knowing the theme doesn't contribute to the solving experience. That said, I found this pretty easy except for the ENSOR, INIGO, DABHAND, BOZ area that Rex covered so well. I also made a lucky guess with BOZ. (Probably heard it somewhere a long time ago??) Between the forced stuff (e.g. EDENIC) and the crosswordese (ASTA, EGAD, UTES, INDO, INNS, LOO etc.) this was not that enjoyable.

I've got a couple of Cleo Laine LPs circa 1970s. She has an amazing voice, on a par with Ella. She covers standards that Sinatra and Ella covered in the 50s and 60s, (e.g. But Not for Me) as well a more current stuff for the time (70s, e.g. Carol King's Music).

Orange 12:50 AM  

Fervent is definitely more common than fervid. Better than either is perfervid, meaning "ardent; impassioned; marked by exaggerated or overwrought emotion."

Anonymous 1:03 AM  

This puzzle was annoying and boring at the same time. I think it is terribly unfair to have, what, 35? sports references then not make it up with interesting, clever clues in the rest. I just stopped after doing 90 percent of the puzzle. Not worth the time or mental effort. The only thing interesting and worthwhile about this puzzle is what Rex has to say about it. : )

Karen 2:35 AM  

As Inigo would say, 'I do not think that word means what you think it means.' There's too many great quotes from that movie.

profphil 3:02 AM  

Rex,

I got Masada immediately but none of the sports clues except by filling them in from the other clues. I laughed when I got Masada as I thought, What is Rex going to think of this.

Masada was a mountain fortress in Judea (the ruins are still there in Israel) which was the last stronghold in Rome's war against the Jews. It fell years after the rest of Judea, including Jerusalem, ca. AD73. When the Romans were about to capture it and at best enslave the Jews there, the Jews comitted mass suicide to avoid the pain and disgrace of capture.

Fitzy 3:45 AM  

Sam & Karen,

I know what you mean... I LOVE "The Princess Bride"!

I'm a high school teacher and I decided to teach the book/movie last year but was concerned that the kids would find it corny...
Wrong! They absolutley ate it up!There were certain scenes they just begged me to rewind & replay! They'd actually say "Aww!" when the bell would ring!

Sometimes I ask myself who my favorite character in this story is & I just cannot come up with an answer... so many great characters (Montoya, Fessik, Vizzini, et al)... & so many great lines!

Dread Pirate Roberts 4:04 AM  

To Fessik the Giant, wherever you are tonight:
"I do not envy you the headache you will have when you awake. But for now, rest well and dream of large women."

Evad 8:32 AM  

Funny experience with STINGO--I was working on an (ultimately rejected) puzzle with another constructor and we were in a tight spot with filling a corner, and STINGO popped up as the only entry that would fit. (It has only appeared once before--in a CrosSynergy puzzle by Bob Klahn clued as "Brit's strong brew.") Neither of us felt that we could get away with that.

The name kept nagging at me, though...for some reason I kept hearing Meryl Streep saying it with a strong Polish accent ("Schtingo," I hear), and finally leafed through our copy of Styron's "Sophie's Choice" and saw the name there in black and white. I thought, "aha! we can finally fill in that corner," but my co-constructor hadn't heard of that reference either and thought it even more obscure than the British brew!

Evad 9:02 AM  

Mebbe after bestowing so many honours on the Brits today, they just couldn't add this one more.

Orange 9:23 AM  

Evad, my recollection is that Sophie called him "Stinko." He was played by Peter MacNicol, who years later went on to appear in Rex's #1 most despised TV show, Ally McBeal.

jlsnyc 10:01 AM  

"this is a very show-offy puzzle that was only moderately fun to do."

yeah. i felt much the same way; it took a lotta work to complete this -- yet i totally marveled at the construction.

speaking of construction/architecture -- nice when (for variety) "inigo" is clued with a name other than "jones."

mel ferrer, btw, was once married to audrey hepburn. read all about it:

mel ferrer

happy sunday, all!

janie

wendy 10:11 AM  

OK I'm half hysterical here ... what am I missing? How was I supposed to glean that ____; means 'twice'?????

I've stared and stared at it but didn't see it and don't see it. Granted I have a migraine but I didn't see it last night either.

jlsnyc 10:36 AM  

wendy --

>How was I supposed to glean that ____; means 'twice'?????

i think it's simply that the *fill* tells you the answer is "twice" and then ya use "twice" to fill in the blank in the clue (and then follow the directions...).

but headaches -- and migraines especially -- can make these things less evident!

hope yer feelin' better!!

;-)

j.

karmasartre 12:17 PM  

I started looking for an explanation for the asterisk-ed clues, came to 127A, and knew it was TWICE. So, I had the theme and no theme answers...and the theme had nothing to do with solving the theme answers. WTT (what the tarnation)?

When I had the E of ENSOR, but nothing else, I wanted ELGIN based on recent crosswords

No idea on DABHAND. Anything to do with skill in filleting sand DABs? Brylcreem?

HATCHETFACE is charming. Never heard it before.

My bad 1: I have not seen "The Princess Bride". I'll add it to the Netflix list today.

My bad 2: Couldn't remember Joe PESCI (until the crosses filled it). Kept thinking Pepsi, Pepys, etc.

NOOFFENSE but, not a scintillating exercise today. And I just read the "for Dummies" book which is chock-full of great PBerry puzzles

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

And I enjoyed it all immensely. Go figure. Yes, true, it was work but such lovely work. I had one correction to make to get my Thank you and that was the letter M at 16 to have Masada and meg. I thought the fill was fun and classy and not weighed overly in one direction or the other. I will admit to loving dab hand, loo, Boz, RAF, honour ... even paste, come to think of it, reminded me of a wonderful Hercule Poirot mystery. NOW I get it. As a wonderful character in Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence gushed ... ooooh. I just love zeeee Eeeeenglish!

Penny

C zar 12:53 PM  

Were it not for the mention of an minor Northfield, Minnesota college and a major basketball star, I could have sworn I had logged onto the Times of London. Never heard of DABHAND, and struggled because it crossed with the equally unknown ENSOR.

C zar (Carleton '85)

Wobbith 12:53 PM  

I'd have had my fastest time ever for a Sunday but for staring at holes in BOZ/ENSOR/DABHAND.

Still, you are right on, Rex... admirable construction but not much fun. The 127A clue elicited a groan. It says: "The theme entries are totally unrelated; the theme will not help you". IMO the theme should help, or at least entertain, or at the very least provide an "Aha!" moment. This one does none of that. LEFTOVERS, bleh.

BTW according to the OED, "NO HOPER" is Australian slang, not "Britspeak".

Gotta love INIGO Montoya, though.

glocon 1:10 PM  

This is just a philosophical question: Very roughly speaking, English has a low estimate of 750,000 words, and the average guy knows about 5,000 of them.
If people like to solve crosswords because they love words and word games, why do many of them seem to enjoy the ones that use only the 5,000 ones that they know already and resent use of the rest?
Why do they call the ones they don't know 'obscure'? Why are old-fashioned words frowned on as poor quality? Who said puzzles had to be only modern-language based? Do they not want to learn new (to them) words, or admit there may be huge gaps in their knowledge?
Just wondering.

kim 1:32 PM  

I, too, am reading Patrick Berry's fine construction how-to. I'm also a fan of his puzzles but today's left me cold; although I admire Mr. Berry's skill. (It's rather like reading "Ulysses" - I appreciate the artistry but it's not my favorite novel).

And, as long as I'm whining, there were too many pop references for my taste.

Bonnie 1:42 PM  

I found 81A a gimme, remembering the song, "Meet James Ensor" by They Might Be Giants. ("Meet James Ensor/Belgium's famous painter/Dig him up and shake his hand/Appreciate the man.") The rest of the song laments that history has forgotten him. Apparently so.

Orange 2:00 PM  

C zar! Do I know you? I graduated in '88.

Good question, glocon. I do have a soft spot for old words, but only if they've got some zing to them.

Rex Parker 2:29 PM  

glocon's question is not good. It would be good if those stats were anywhere close to correct, but they're not. The average person knows way way way way more than 5000 words. That may be how many he uses on a regular basis, but if you are trying to suggest that somehow readers of this blog / solvers of xword puzzles know only 5000 words and hate the imagined 745,000 (!?!?!?!) unknown words just because they're unknown - I'm sorry, that's nonsense.

The HIGH estimate of the number of words in English language is a quarter million, and that's including 47K+ that OED deems "obscure." Acc. to David Crystal (or so I read), avg. English-speaker has active vocabulary of about 50K words, and a passive vocabulary 25% again as big.

My stats are all culled from cursory Google searches, so they're debatable, but they're WAY more correct than glocon's.

rp

jae 2:53 PM  

Thanks for the fact check Rex, glocon number's sounded way off to me also. Personally, I enjoy learning new words/meanings via the puzzles (e.g. SUE in Friday's). What bothers me is the juxtaposition of obscure proper nouns in ways that force most solvers to either guess or look up the answer.

Orange 3:03 PM  

Yes, jae. Words and names are entirely different creatures in the land of crosswords.

Obscure and little-used words can be wonderful bits of linguistic archeology, or they can be woefully dull. Case in point: I've seen DEMIT twice in recent crosswords. Googling suggests that the word's now used by the Masons and hardly anybody else, and it's flat and uninteresting and adds no color to one's vocabulary. Now, DAB HAND is obscure to most Americans, but I think it's kinda catchy.

Obscure names of people and places appeal to some but irk so many more. When two collide into a deadly crossing, blech.

Anonymous 4:28 PM  

The OED has 300,000+ main entries, and many of those represent a number of inflected forms. "Follow" is one of those 300,000 entries; "followed" and "follows" are not. According to wikipedia, the OED includes 615,500 word forms.

But it seems the quality of glocon's question does not hang on the accuracy of his numbers. Certainly the NY Times crossword of 25 years ago was more of a vocabulary test than it is today. For some people, those were the good old days. For others, the lack of tricky, witty cluing makes old puzzles boring. A sampling of Fifty Years of Sunday NY Times crosswords is a good way to experience these different styles.

glocon 4:53 PM  

Sure, Rex, your numbers are probably more accurate than mine. And plenty of old words are boring -- I'm no Maleska fan of true obscurities.
But 'dab hand' isn't obscure if you're at all familiar with Sherlock Holmes stories, or various other English 'classics.' And that one's a colorful term.
I love tricky cluing as well as anyone and don't ask to have it lost.
Maybe I just can't get over how woefully limited is many people's vocabulary and how narrow their realm of knowledge, common or proper nouns. Here's an example:
Michelangelo Antonioni, a world-famous director, died last week, and his obit was all over the media. Yet someone thought this was really far-out knowledge.
I guess each to his taste. (I dare not say it in French.) :-)

Rex Parker 5:40 PM  

Part of the reason this blog exists is so that people (taking my example) will be open about their ignorances and not fear the scorn or consternation of pedants who take it upon themselves to roam around lamenting the demise of Western Civilization because people don't know this word or that movie director. What you don't know could fill volumes (and by "you" I mean all of us). Unless you understand that, you aren't that smart.

Fergus 6:28 PM  

"... for shallow draughts do intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again."

I might go so far as to say the key to an education is to realize how unreliable 'certain' knowledge can be.

This puzzle was annoying since it was kind of smart-ass, and the conceit had no mollifying recognition of its flagrant virtuousity.

I still don't understand why Made of paste is IMITATION?

And Rex, I think Ichiro is a better hitter than Boggs was. Similar in style to Carew, who I also think was better. Have you seen the book of hyper-statistical adjustments that places Gwynn at the top for all time? While I don't agree, it was an interesting attempt at filtering out all the factors that aren't consistent, like the huge amount of foul territory in Oakland, for example.

flailer 6:48 PM  

IMITATION = "made of paste" because this refers to false stones in jewlery. Why, having been made of paste, they are reasonable conterfeits I do not know. (paste is not very shiny!) I learned it from watching Deadwood, which is where one can enjoy the use of a great many antiquated words interspersed with the most blistering profanity.

glocon 6:49 PM  

Rex said, "What you don't know could fill volumes (and by "you" I mean all of us). Unless you understand that, you aren't that smart."
Never said I was (at least I don't think I did). For example, Fergus just now talked about baseball waaay beyond my ken, and it was interesting.
I want to let him know that one meaning of 'paste' is imitation, as in imitation jewelry. Of course it's not particularly meaningful that he didn't know that.
Still, I can't help but think there's a basic range of knowledge that's been lost in education for the last I don't know how many years, and I think it's too bad. Guess I'm just a geezer.
You have an interesting blog and an appealing style of writing. That's why you have so many people who find it helpful and fun. I find it fun too.

Anonymous 6:59 PM  

Paste jewelry is made of glass paste. That term, in turn, is used for either a heavily leaded glass of high refractive index (to simulate diamond), or the colored glass mixture called p√Ęte de verre in French, which is used to simulate colored stones. Simulating jewels with glass goes back to the Egyptians and Romans, and high quality paste jewelry was made in Europe in the nineteeth century that is much sought-after by collectors. Quality paste today (such as Bulgari) is usually just called "imitation jewelry." Of course, synthetic minerals like cubic zirconia and man-made ruby has raised the bar on ersatz gems.

green mantis 7:16 PM  

Did this puzzle ever piss me off. I think I must have already been in a bad mood, and then as time went on I just got more and more irritated. Where's the joy? The humor? The wink?

It was like having to eat a four course meal with the world's tiniest cutlery, then getting the table scraps (leftovers) for dessert. You're just staring at those rinds and parsley sprigs going, "really?" Tedious with no pay off.

And on the glacon comment, I don't think it's that crossword people only like "their" words and resent unknown ones. For me, the pleasure of a crossword is largely in pulling off the mental/intuitive/whatever leap required by a wonderful clue. The answer itself can be a simple word or phrase, but it's the, you know, journey. That journey is an altogether different one when the answer is a stretch for most people. In those cases, there is less use for the creative thinking that I would argue is part of the enjoyment for crossword peeps. So it's not that I mind learning new words; it's just that that's not my primary reason for doing crosswords.

Nor, in my opinion, are crosswords a very efficient way to learn new words. They can be, but more often I add to my vocabulary through reading. Context is key, for the same reason you learn a new language faster and with greater depth of understanding by immersion than by drilling with flashcards.

So a new word can be a bonus when it arrives dovetailed sweetly in an elegant framework, but it can also sometimes feel forced, overly obscure, and unrewarding. Sometimes. Just saying.

Fergus 7:41 PM  

I was sort of a jerk just recently when, astounded that a friend had never heard of "On the Road," I questioned rhetorically, "and you have a college degree?" Oops; I apologized, but the incident did point out the peculiarities of what exactly does constitute a 'common body of knowledge.' The paste for fake jewelry, just as an example, must have seemed commonplace to those in the know, and yet it was completely beyond my ken. I know there's always some new book or magazine cover story that's asserting what everyone with any educated affectation ought to know, but I'm wondering if there actually is a standard 'canon' of learned references?

In most matters and circumstances I tend left and liberal, but when it comes academic erudition I go all stodgily conservative. I was appalled that some of my contemporaries at Berkeley could get a degree with essentially no exposure to a foreign language or anything beyond the most rudimentary mathematics. A proper education should consist of solid core of cultural references and the vital principles of history, language and the scientific method. I won't pretend to be the judge on what is at the core and what is superfluous, but I do think it very important to be an opinionated critic, and yet persistently remember that it is only an opinion, and quite conceivably could be wrong. And that brings me to the point of recognizing the somewhat mature pleasure in finding one's self in error or ignorance, since that's the occasion where one's horizons might expand.

Jim in NYC 7:45 PM  

Nth the other comments on "The Princess Bride." Inigo, Masada, GATT, serai and Stingo were gimmes.
In the new Millenium we are so divided from one another in which subsets of popular entertainment and random printed matter we happen to see, it's no wonder that one person's gimme may be another's mystery.

Fergus 8:06 PM  

Green Mantis, your description of the crossword allure resonates with mine. The play with the plasticity of language is the real draw; cataloging (hey Rex, did you turn off the spell check?) little facts is only a minor attraction.

glocon 8:10 PM  

Well said, guys. Thanks for your interesting and intelligent points of view. I'm glad I raised the issue.

voiceofsocietyman 8:18 PM  

I found this one of the easiest Sunday puzzles I've done in my relatively limited exp. As many of us have noted, it's funny how our experience doesn't always gibe exactly with others -- gimmes for me (Masada, Inigo, shake a leg) were prolly hard for some, while killers for me were easy for others.

I agree that this puzzles was oddly anglophilic. I happen to be married to an anglomaniac, so all of the Britty clues were a cinch (even dab hand). I loved 'no-hopers' -- I hear that phrase all the time. We watch about 10 hours of British tv and movies a week (going thru the Dr Who oeuvre now via NetFlix). I don't know if it's orig'ly Ozzie, but I lived in Sydney for a year, so it made no difference -- another gimme for me.

Much more to say, but I won't bore y'all. Love the blog, Rex. Keep up the great work! Same to you, commentors!

jae 8:22 PM  

Mantis is right, crosswords are not a great way to learn new things. Context is indeed important for acquiring lasting knowledge. This is why (as I think I mentioned a while ago) I often hit google or the dictionary after finishing a puzzle to satisfy my curiosity about stuff that is new for me and to create additional context for future encounters.

jlsnyc 8:23 PM  

fergus (et anyone else who's interested...) -- i always associate "paste" with this classic short story by de maupassant:

the necklace

enjoy --

janie

jae 8:25 PM  

...and this blog is an excellent source of context.

Fergus 8:28 PM  

"La Parure" is one of the saddest and most beautiful 'contes' j'ai jamais lu.

Fergus 8:38 PM  

... but I had no recollection of how the two necklaces were distinguished. Thanks for the sweet reminder -- I wonder if I still have the "Contes Choisis" that my magnificent high school French teacher prevailed upon us to appreciate when we were at a very cynical age. She had us read Voltaire, as well as all the other French All-Stars, which ushered in a life-long literary dalliance.

Sue 9:01 PM  

Janie, thanks for the Maupassant link. I had encountered "The Necklace" many years ago and loved this refresher reading.

I treated today's puzzle as themeless, since the eliminations came so near the end. The accomplishment of the constructor was just a little bonus. Not our ordinary Sunday fix.

jlsnyc 9:07 PM  

fergus and sue -- mon plaisir!

;-)

Howard B 9:11 PM  

Similar thought here. 'STINGO' was somewhat alien to me, and last week alone, I was completely frustrated at both the names 'ANTONIONI' and 'JACQUELINE DUPRE', which gave me some difficulty in finishing those puzzles. After reading brief biographies on both of these people, the frustration was gone, replaced with the satisfaction of have learned a little something new.

It's the expanding of your knowledge, the learning of stuff you didn't even know you didn't know, that makes the experience more fun. That's just my view; I can't say what effects the educational system, society, or my recent cravings for key lime pie have on the limits of my knowledge.

Puzzles are fun, but only if the content is diverse, fresh, and interesting (but reasonably fair).

Rambling commentary done :).

Fergus 9:16 PM  

Hunted around and finally found some Maupassant. In English, with some haughty translator (Roger Colet) who deliberately left out "The Necklace", assertively with no apology, substituting "The Jewels" in its place. Irritating, but I did dredge up Gogol's "The Overcoat" in my search, which will serve as my sad consolation this evening.

Fergus 10:25 PM  

And since I'm in a spewing frame of mind this evening, I think that the other true artists of the short story are John Cheever, Joyce, of course, O. Henry, Henry James (though his are are more in the novella zone), and above all else, Anton Chekhov. His plays are great, but I find many of the stories he wrote to be completely brilliant.

Murakami, whose stories show up in the 'New Yorker' is also a fine exemplar, as is T.C. Boyle. (Don't even want to try to spell what the C stands for.)

Anonymous 4:39 AM  

I had a lot of fun with this puzzle although not much of it had to do with the puzzle structure!

The Ensor clue had me singing They Might Be Giants through out the puzzle. (Reference Bonnie for some lyrics)

The Princess Bride reference reminded me of the perfect retorts to those pesky English clues, “Inconceivable!” and “I don’t think that word means what you think it does.”

But the head-slapper for this puzzle was definitely Dantean division. It wasn’t until I got pair and antsy that it clicked and hand smacked forehead. I definately over thought that one.

Jim in NYC 9:29 AM  

The above comments include the words "prolly" (see http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=prolly)

and "gimme". Rhetorical question: one of these is older than the other but they are similar in their structure and how they came into being. Is either "wrong"?

I often feel that any expression that came into being through error (one of many examples is "she could care less") is an error forever and cannot ever become English. Is this attitude too narrow?

Regarding a "common core of necessary knowledge", now that I am reading more blogs I am becoming amazed and horrified at how many people can't distinguish "its" and "it's". Surely there is a core curriculum. Defining it precisely is just a detail.

Rex Parker 9:42 AM  

I can't believe that it's 2007 and you are just now getting the memo on the "it's"/"its" confusion.

Yes, again, the world's going to hell, standards are falling, the sky is falling, more's the pity, what's to be done, [hand-wringing], [tongue-clicking], [finger-wagging], yadda yadda yadda.

rp

shel/montclair,n.j. 3:04 PM  

I enjoyed doing this puzzle. I didn't quite finish it (same BOZ area as some),but I found it enjoyable and challenging.

gabby 11:20 PM  

I learned the word "paste" meaning imitation jewels from a Nancy Drew mystery I read as a child and have always remembered it. Funny how some words just stick with you.

mydogischelsea 1:37 AM  

Amen, Rex. This puzzle is icky and not fun at all. Entirely too much Brit wit required. And the theme? Not so impressive.

But Wade Boggs! (I am a Yankee fan—don't hate me.) Glad to see his name turn up in a puzzle.

Anonymous 7:28 AM  

Just curious but,

How could you forget Inigo he said it like 50,000 times. Near the end of the movie he said to the 5 fingered man " Hello,I am Inigo Montoya, you killed my father prepare to die!" He kept saying it until the five fingered man finaly said "Stop saying that!"

It's hard relize that he (Mandy Patinkin)is the same person who is the star of the CBS TV series "Criminal Minds" As Jason Gideon.

TimeTraveller 12:42 PM  

... a week later.

The stupid Vancouver Sun provided neither italics nor asterisks, which made following the directions in 127A a little secondary puzzle all by itself. The themic device isn't brilliant, but I'm compulsive about getting all the squares filled in so it was nice to have the theme explained at the end.

I suppose Canadians find the brit vocab easier than most of you do, and yes there were gimmies there for me. But I get that vocab from reading english lit and watching the telly--resources that are available to the most parochial american.

New things and good words can be found in other places than pop culture.

Christine 3:24 PM  

I was offended by the simplistic clue about Katie Holmes (57A). Duh! There could have been much better clues, such as "Holmes from GO" or "Holmes from Pieces of April". Separate those who read only People Magazine from those who see little known but great films.

jpChris 1:49 PM  

And speaking of knowledge and education: When my grandmother passed away about 40 years ago, I ran across one of her old 8th grade schoolbooks dated 1899. And, I can guarantee you that any high-schooler (and maybe college students) would not be able to pass the tests.

Education back then *meant* education. If you failed, you failed and stayed until you passed.

While I'm not proud of this, I have a friend with a 9th grade education (I'm a college grad) who most times is a better cruciverbalist than I.

Anonymous 2:22 PM  

botheration! Stupe! Come on, what language are these supposed to be taken from?! Horrible.

Rudiger 7:06 PM  

Later that month...agree with Rex re: disliked clues, though allow me to register my own shock & awe about what constitutes easy & obscure answers to my fellow posters.

Many of those answers mentioned above were gimmes for me (FAISAL, IMITATION-Paste, e.g.) though what apparently are common cultural references I had no clue about until other answers led me to them (STINGO, INIGO, e.g.) so...(to tie in to another train of thought in the above commentary) crosswords may not be a "great" way to learn new things/words, but it is a fun way, IMHO, since we all don't know/read/watch the same things, obviously.

PS - Boggs better than Gwynn?!? Hitting for a high average with the Green Monster smiling down on you pales in comparison with hitting in cavernous San Diego/Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium. I always chuckle to myself when I think of Boggs's chicken superstition: shouldn't you get a hit EVERY time if you eat the same thing day in & day out? Good hitter, but not the best.

Anonymous 9:28 PM  

Also dealt with non-italicized clues (thank you Vancouver Sun), but it was easy to guess most of the relevant clues. Got TWICE (127a) in the first few minutes from the crosses, and ultimately used LEFT_VER to help me solve IFTHESHOEFITS. Didn't realize NO OFFENSE was supposed to be itlaicized, so LEFTOVER was singular, not plural, in my world. Never did get the BOZ/ENSOR/DABHAND crosses. Gave up and came here instead.

As a West Coast Canadian, I often struggle with East Coast American clues. The British streak in this puzzle was refreshing.

Love the NYT puzzles, but wish there was less trivia and more mindbending cluing leading to those joyous Aha! moments.

GPS

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