THURSDAY, Oct. 25, 2007 - Susan Harrington Smith

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: ITALIAN / PROVERB (16A: With 55-Across, description of 23-, 36- and 44-Across)

The "proverb":

  • 23A: Beginning of some folk wisdom ("To trust is good")
  • 36A: Folk wisdom, part 2 ("Not to...")
  • 44A: End of the folk wisdom ("... trust is better")

This is a stupid proverb. Sorry, Italians. Are you sure it's not "MAFIA PROVERB?"

For many reasons, I have no time to devote to this today (I say that every day, but today, it's true). I really liked this puzzle, but entirely for non-theme reasons.

The star answers:

  • 4D: Exact proper divisor, in math (aliquot) - AliQUOT? AliQUOT? ("QUOT" is supposed to sound like "What?" there). Reminds me of AZIMUTH, another crazy, scrabbly, mathy word I learned from the puzzle. This actually didn't vex me that much, as I'd heard it before, but I could never have defined it for you.
  • 17A: Wither (atrophy) - such a pretty word for such an unseemly concept. I mean, who wouldn't want to win A TROPHY?
  • 21D: Medicinal cardiac stimulant (digitalis) - got this off the "-IS" and was so happy; I'm almost certain I learned this word from either Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers, and it was probably used to off some rich old white dude.
  • 8D: Incised printing method (intaglio) - like ALIQUOT, I'd heard of it, which helped me piece it together from crosses. I like it 'cause it's pretty. Unlike its neighbor EARLOBE (9D: Pendant place).
  • 62A: Makeshift hatrack (antler) - aside from the animal-killing that would necessarily have to go into making such an item, I LOVE this clue. Brilliant, funny, slightly tacky.
  • 45D: Dividing membranes (septa) - gross, but it pleases me as an answer
  • 48D: Fighters for Jeff Davis (rebs) - took me a few beats to get this, because I could picture only Jeff Bridges.

Displeased with:

  • 27A: Pacific islands in W.W. II fighting, with "the" (Gilberts) - not sure what I dislike more - that I had never heard of these, or that Google is almost unfamiliar with the practice of calling them "The Gilberts." Lots of hits for "The Gilbert Islands." But I guess this clue is better (much better) than [Obnoxious Gottfried and others]
  • 43A: Norwegian coin (ore) - fancy clue, but still a boring answer
  • 2D: "_____ to be alone" (words attributed to Greta Garbo) ("I vant ...") - first of all, "words attributed to." What the hell kind of concept is that? Those can go in puzzles now? Second, VANT is not a "word," so I challenge this clue times infinity.
  • 18D: Melancholy woodwind (oboe) - really? First time I've seen it called that. I'm picture a sad oboe sitting under a tree pulling petals off a flower and ruminating on his lost clarinet love.
  • 25D: The last Pope Paul, e.g. (sixth) - hatred rising ... so many better, less popish ways to clue this. We need a rule that popes are to be avoided if at all possible. We see them plenty as it is - we don't need you going out of your way to give us more popes with our puzzle. I had NINTH, which really really slowed me down, because it made the (alleged) ITALIAN PROVERB begin "TO TRUST IN ...," which is totally plausible.

Didn't Know:

  • 1A: "Thou art not lovelier than _____, - no" (Millay sonnet start) ("lilacs") - pretty. Pretty like INTAGLIO. Yesterday, IRIS, today, LILACS.
  • 30A: Hugh _____, successor to Louis V as king of France (Capet) - had an error here at first (SAPET!) because of entering SEAR instead of CHAR at 30D: Scorch. This also gave me EIRE instead of HIRE (35A: Charter), and as any crossword solver knows, you really aren't too apt to blink at EIRE when you see it.
  • 33D: Robert of "The 39 Steps" (Donat)
  • 39D: Bumps on a ride (jounces) - most unappealing word of the year. I can't even say this word, can't even look at it, without feeling like someone is scraping a chalkboard nearby.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


rick 9:32 AM  

The puzzle wasn't on your site so I could not see the answers so I am going to assume your 39D was not a typo.

Wouldn't it be JOUNCES and RATIONAL?

Also, I VANT to be alone has to have been said by infinity Garbo impersonators.

rick 9:34 AM  

Your puzzle is now on the site and you do have JOUNCES.

Mary 10:02 AM  

For a while I had FILBERTS instead of GILBERTS, speculating that perhaps it was where the nuts come from.

Also, I wanted Ms. Millay to be talking about LILIES, not LILACS, for the longest time. And as it crossed with the fearsome ALIQUOT I was messed up in that corner for quite a while.

Getting DIGITALIS helped. So did having gone to Catholic school--Paul the SIXTH was pope for most of my academic career.

Finishing a Thursday thrills me!

Ivan Tobealone 10:05 AM  

I enjoyed doing this one. It provided many good discovery moments, when I went from a blank quadrant to a solved one without gimmes, without too much esoterica, without moans....just plenty of good old-fashioned solving. A good balance.

My only quibble was the melancholy clue for OBOE. Is there some musical connection that I have missed? Perhaps I should listen to "Peter and the Wolf"? I just bought the DBowie-narrated one for my granddaughter.

The T where CAPET crosses ALIQUOT was a pure guess on my part.

Rex, "azimuth" is well known to Stereo wonks, even of the non-math variety, as it is an important adjustment of the stylus/cartridge tracking angle on a tonearm/turntable setup.

I hope this series goes more than four games.....

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

Garbo's misquote is usually spelled as "VONT", whereas today's puzzle gives us "VANT". Also, in the post, it's "JOUNCES", rather than "JAUNCES" (a lost relative of "jaudice"?).

Nitpicker Ned

Anonymous 10:18 AM  



lislepammysue 10:21 AM  

Thought is was easy for a Thursday. Knew "Gilberts" from watching 'Victory at Sea'. Knew 'Capet' from history class. I believe 'capo' or something like that means 'head' --- so Hugh was the head of the line! Thought Rex would be in a better mood after yesterday's game.

Anonymous 10:23 AM  


You'd have to have been alive and over about 8 to remember "the Gilberts." It was much in the war news for several years of WW II. The battle of Tarawa was bloody.

Penny 10:32 AM  

Just for the record, I've been alive longer that Rex and don't know way more than he doesn't. Thanks to short term memory (like two hours ago) I wanted COLBERTS for the islands but did finally settle for Gilberts.

Bumps on a ride (jounces) I was thinking of something one does with a baby on one's knees. Thanks for getting me to look again. I coulda killed the lil thang.

Read my clues too fast and thought Sonny and Cher had a golden oldie called DUST.

My Pope was NINTH then IRISH and then finally SIXTH. I don't kiss rings either.

I'd also like to mention that I got many many things right and had a very good time..

rick 10:38 AM  

Only half of Sonny and Cher would be DUST at the moment.

triplerose 10:52 AM  

Hey Rex -

Rest easy, you don't have to actually kill a deer to get his antlers - they shed them every year, so you can go scavenging in the woods (or go to!

penny 10:58 AM  

Dust. Ha! Maybe I will join your religion, Rick. No kissing rings though.

marcie 11:00 AM  

Having no knowledge of Pacific Ocean geography, I dropped in Marianas where Gilberts belonged, on first run thru. It fit and at least I had heard of them, so that hung me up for a minute. The Marianas fell when digitalis took over, and the rest fell on the crosses.

Never heard of Aliquot... I will try to use it in a sentence several times to make it "mine". NOT!

I liked Capet. I think I dredged that up from capo also... which made "sear" fall to char and hire fall into line.

A fun puzzle, though I am not a big fan of quotes and quips (or proverbs) as themes.

Jim in Chicago 11:14 AM  

On the "Sonny and Cher" clue I had the DU first, and very much wanted the answer to be DUMB.

To Rex's list of hated answers I would add ALBEES. It is now acceptable to add an S onto any family name as an answer for "....and others"? I call this cheating. I also have problems with thinking of the OBOE as being melancholy, although it certainly does frequently assume that role. But, it can be so many other things as well. Reminds me of an old joke - Q. Why are Bassoons better than Oboes? A. They burn longer.

Jim in Chcago 11:16 AM  

Oh - I forgot. I would call this easy for a Thursday. It felt more like a Tuesday plus or a Wednesday minus. I got the entire eastern seaboard (working my way from Maine down to Florida and then westward to the rest of the souther states) without even thinking about it, and that is very unusual for a Thursday.

Anonymous 12:00 PM  

I'm surprised at the lack of commentary on the proverb. It reminds me of an Arab proverb that goes something like "Trust in God...but still tie up your camel."

profphil 12:08 PM  

I was one letter off again. Strange week as yesterday's puzzle off by 1 letter too. I made some of Rex's mistakes too: sear instead of char and eire instead of hire. Good to see I'm on the king's wavelength. Found the puzzle hard but doable except for "capet" and its cross "rhee" and "aliquot." Finished the puzzle except for the last 2 letters in capet. I guessed "ot" as "capot" sounded possible. It turns out the "t" was correct but the "o" was wrong. Googled and got the correct letter: "e." Frustrating but fun.

Orange 12:44 PM  

Nitpicker Ned, I hate to nitpick, but I think you're wrong. I Googled both phrases and "I vant to be alone" kicked the butt of "I vont to be alone" to the tune of about 20,000 to 400.

Carl 1:07 PM  

I have only heard "jounce" in the novel "A Separate Peace" by John Knowles in which a character "jounces" a tree branch that he and another student are standing on causing the second student to fall off and break his leg.

Victor in Rochester 1:22 PM  

Aliquot is well known to chemists, as in any analysis, you add an aliquot of something meaning a part or some of it, but measured carefully. Measuring aliquots killed me in quantitative analysis class.

al in la 1:34 PM  


I hope the Sox sweep and each game is just like last night.


I hate the Sox (and FOX). So let their fans pay $1000 for a seat and sit there in the rain til midnight watching this sorry spectacle. I told my wife it was like watching someone beat up a drunk. What fun is that? (We had the sound off by the 3rd inning and switched to "Modern Marvels" by the 5th.)

Enjoy it my friend!

(Yeah, it's me. The same bitter guy who couldn't spell "success." A transplanted NYer in L.A.)
--al in la

Parshutr 1:39 PM  

From Wikipedia,
[Garbo later commented, "I never said, 'I want to be alone.' I only said, 'I want to be let alone.' There is all the difference."]
There are numerous other citations to bolster the notion that the correct quote was "let alone".

Rikki 1:46 PM  

I ambled through this puzzle while listening to the Sox game on the radio. Sure felt like the big boys were showing the little guys how it's done (the game, not the puzzle). But the Rockies aren't flattened yet (oooh, that's so bad). Sniff, sniff... is that sour grapes I smell, al from la?

The puzzle was fun, with everything eventually gettable. I join the ranks who didn't know aliquot. It's hard to imagine that I could get through a complete public school and post graduate education without ever hearing this term. Also didn't know intaglio which sounds like a kind of pasta to me. Liked pipedream, jounces, digitalis, rational, stencil, oberon. When did green become eco and not the color green?

Never saw the word bishoprics before despite a Catholic upbringing and don't understand the answer "sees." Can someone elucidate?

Things I learned: Donat, the Gilberts, Rhee, Capet, though guessed correctly on the Rhee/Capet cross and the islands and Bob fell on crosses.

I recommend the second movement of Mendelssohn's third symphony for a decidedly unmelancholic oboe part.

Finally, thanks, Rex, for your loyalty to your bloggers. We all know what too much work feels like and appreciate your commitment. Neither [white stuff that falls from the sky] nor [wet stuff that falls from the sky] nor [what the sun generates] nor [partial darkness] of night stays this puzzler from his self-appointed blog.

Anonymous 1:48 PM  

In how many old Spencer Tracy and Jimmy Stewart movies, for example, have we seen a fedoraed male come into a room that had a deerhead mounted on the wall and casually toss his hat onto one of the antlers? One doesn't have to ask who shot the deer.

Huda 1:49 PM  

Aliquot: Interesting word. I knew it as a lab scientist, where it means dividing up a solution into exact amounts and separating the protions-- e.g. I aliquoted 100 ml in 200 tubes with 0.5 ml each...

In case you all were dying to know : )


anoa 1:50 PM  

I just vant to say I enjoyed the Garbo clue. I initially wrote "iwant" and then immediately went to the cross to see if Susan wanted us to copy the accent and vas delighted she did.

Rex Parker 1:51 PM  

@Anon 1:48

I give up. How many?

victor in rochester 1:55 PM  

Huda: Never heard aliquot made into a verb as you did. Is it used commonly that way in your lab?

Anonymous 2:05 PM  

The Vatican is often referred to as "the Holy See" as in the numero uno bishopric...

Anonymous 2:09 PM  

re "Sees"


Rikki 2:16 PM  

Thanks, Leon. I'm sure I'll have occasion to use this in future puzzles.


rick 3:35 PM  


I want to thank you for starting this blog. I found it while googling a clue (something I've quit doing) and it has made the NYT xword more enjoyable.

Also, thanks for the "This Week in Milford" link. It's become a daily stop for me.

Eric 3:45 PM  

Between "Adrenalin" (sp) for Digitalis, "Dutch" for Sixth (I don't know pope), and "Parlour" for earlobe (who wears a pendant on their ear, isn't that more for a necklace?), The whole middle section was a mess for me.

Eric 3:46 PM  

Oh, and "Jostles" for "Jounces".

Anonymous 4:17 PM  

Garbo did actually say "I vant to be alone," but in the film Grand Hotel, not in real life, at least not in those exact words. It was just on TCM for the zillionth time and still grand indeed.

dk 5:38 PM  

Sigh, had filberts for gilberts as well. But figured out that difitalis...

Did get to buy my NYT in NYC this morning and work the puzzle at Ninth Street Espresso (9th and Avenue C). Go there!

I liked the dixe cup and rebs. A tiny Southern theme?

Orange 5:44 PM  

Victor, aliquot's in the Oxford dictionaries (English and American) with both noun and verb senses. It's a transitive verb, according to the New Oxford American Dictionary. Bust that one out at your lab and see if you can't make it more popular.

jae 5:47 PM  

Pretty good Thursday. Didn't know ALIQUOT, INTAGlIO, DONAT, or CAPET but was able to infer from the crosses. I took a while but I finally dredged up the GILBERTS. Guessed on the Pope but what else was it going to be with DIXIE cup. I also had SEAR and WANT at first. I liked the theme only because I guessed the phrase early and it speeded up the process. Other than that it sounds vaguely un-PC?

rick 7:15 PM  


Went to your blog but couldn't find a blog.

45 was the highest I got on rice.

Andrew 7:39 PM  

The clue for "aliquot" is absurd. I daresay that this word was last used in a mathematics classroom by Abraham Simpson ca. nineteen dickety-two. Ditto two-fold for the supposed opposite "aliquant." My English is, how do you say, inaliquant.

Michael 7:45 PM  

I got Gilberts because I had an anthropology professor who did his research there, but thought it was an obscure clue. I enjoyed this puzzle -- just right for a Thursday. I missed one letter. I had bounces instead of jounces, thinking that "Bonah" was a biblical prophet (not at all my area of expertise) that I hadn't heard of. [yes, I know about Jonah. Doh...]

Martin 7:49 PM  

Jim in Chicago,

The Brahms Violin Concerto was controversial when premiered because its most beautiful melody is an oboe solo. Beautiful and melancholy.

Anonymous 8:13 PM  

Onery Orange

...and OJ wasn't guilty because Google acquit cause the glove didn't fit!

Nitpicker Ned

Anonymous 8:24 PM  

Garbo's famous byline was always said to be, "I want to be alone," spoken with a heavy accent which made the word 'want' sound like "vont" (not "vant"). This quote as noted comes from her role in Grand Hotel. However, Garbo later commented, "I never said, 'I want to be alone.' I only said, 'I want to be let alone.' There is all the difference."

billnutt 8:28 PM  

I believe it was in Agatha Christie's SAD CYPRESS that I first encountered digitalis (a.k.a., foxglove).


I understand the reservation about the "s" in "Albees," but I had the chance to interview Edward Albee five years ago, so I don't mind.

"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer" - now THERE'S an Italian proverb!

Don't ask how I could remember Hugh Capet.

Annielee 8:29 PM  

I love that Brahms piece. Maybe because of that I thought melancholy was a good description for an oboe.

It took a bit of time, but I finished without help, but like penny, I misread the clue and decided Sonny and Cher must have had a hit called Dust. Had never heard of the Norwegian ore, so dust and ors seemed reasonable answers.

Orange 9:08 PM  

Rick, if you mean you didn't see posts about the crosswords, click on the "read more" link after each batch of solving times to expand the post. (Clicking "summary only" will zap it back down.)

Badir 10:03 PM  

In physics, they talk about momentum as the time derivative (rate of change) of position and acceleration as the derivative of velocity. Sometimes people call the derivative of acceleration "jerk". And I read about a study where they found that acceleration was more important than velocity for a good roller coaster, and people enjoyed jerk more than acceleration. And, in fact, even better was "jounce", the time derivative of jerk!

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