MONDAY, Mar. 10, 2008 - Ken Bessette (MAIL RECEIVER, IN BRIEF)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: OBEDIENCE SCHOOL (64A: Command center? ... or where you might hear the starts of 17-, 28- and 49-Across) - Speak, Sit, Stay ... Good dog

The best part of this puzzle was the very end, where I spent many seconds staring at O-EDIENCE SCHOOL and wondering what letter could possibly go there. Did I mention that I'm sick? A horrible, disorienting, fairly non-descript kind of sick where everything feels off but no one symptom is particularly horrid. Head hurts, sort of. Congested, sort of. Body not regulating temperature well - I get hot and cold easily. Still, you'd think that on my death bed I could put the "B" in OBEDIENCE SCHOOL. The Down cross, P.O. BOX (54D: Mail receiver, briefly), looked completely foreign to me without the "B" - POLOX? POTOX? "Receiver" had me thinking electronic, so I imagined briefly that the answer was some kind of PDA or phone or other gadget I'd never heard of, e.g. The new Verizon POROX! But it's just a plain old, old-fashioned P.O. BOX. Goes nicely with TELEX (13D: Old message system) in the NE corner. Not symmetrical, but close.

I miss the Montreal EXPOS (71A: Bygone Montreal ball club)- their very name reminds me of my baseball-card-collecting childhood. Andre Dawson ... Tim Raines ... sorry, I'm drifting into a semi-feverish reminiscing timewarp. . . I'm back now.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: "Here he is now!" ("SPEAK of the devil!")
  • 28A: Be undecided (SIT on the fence)
  • 49A: Persist to completion (STAY the course)

I have taught my dog SIT and STAY - she's a little weaker on SPEAK. Not sure why you want your dog to SPEAK. Most people need to train their dogs to shut the @#$ up, if they need to train them to do anything. My dog can SHAKE like a pro, especially if there are liver treats involved. She can also lie DOWN, go to her place (a little mat we make her go to before we release her to eat her dinner), and give a HIGH FIVE (which is really a high ten). Oh, and if you say any part of the phrase "Go to the woods" she will start to freak out with glee.


  • 43A: Sgt. Snorkel's dog (Otto) - I never tire of seeing comics dogs in the puzzle. I think SNERT is my favorite (from "Hagar the Horrible"), but OTTO is up there. I like that of the top three OTTOs I can think of, two are cartoons. The other is a 19th-century German Chancellor.
  • 69A: For whom the bell tolls, in a John Donne poem (thee) - I can tell you right now, absolutely, categorically, with complete certainty, that this clue is inaccurate. This quotation comes not from a "poem," but from Meditation XVII from "Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions" (prose). How do I know this? First, I have the entire passage memorized (thank you, Mr. Berglund - high school English teacher). Second, I'm teaching the damned thing tomorrow. My Donne book is literally open in front of me right now. Not not not not a poem. I'm just sayin'.

"No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less; as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

That was from memory - just checked it against the book, and modernized spelling aside, I got it perfect. All Donne's meditations were written after he had recently recovered from a horrible illness. Probably great to read when you are healthy - not so fun (I can tell you) when you are, in fact, sick.

  • 10D: Schooner fill (ale) - never saw the clue, which is good, because I know not the word "schooner."
  • 2D: Reindeer herder (Lapp) - is that all those people do? Seems like the only time I see a LAPP in my puzzle is when he's herding reindeer.
  • 11D: Billet-doux (love letter) - experience tells me that lots of people don't know the word "billet-doux"; it got Googled like crazy the last time it appeared in a clue.
  • 30D: Message on a shipping crate (This Side Up) - this is more "instruction" than "message." A "message" might be: "Help me, I'm locked in this shipping crate. Call 911."
  • 72A: Quiet exercise (yoga) - not my class, that's for sure. Those dames won't shut their yaps! (I'm kidding, I love you, please please please don't kick me out of class)
  • 46A: No. on which a magazine's ad rates are based (circ.) - I got this easily enough, but it still strikes me as odd. Maybe it's the "No." part. It's more "stat." than "no." I'm splitting hairs, I realize. It's Monday, I gotta find Something to talk about...
  • 60A: Long Island airfield town (Islip) - one of the few places I hesitated in this puzzle. I know nothing about Long Island except a lot of my students are from there. To my credit, and for unknown reasons, ISLIP was the first thing that came to mind, but I needed a couple crosses before I would write it in.

Off to rest and read.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


ArtLvr 9:48 AM  

Rex, so sorry you're not feeking better yet! Best wishes for a speedy recovery -- though with the Donne quotation from memory, the bell is not going to be tolling right away, thank goodness. You would be missed!

I'm getting used to solving online, finally, and now am trying to work at it faster. Monday is a good day to zip along and hardly check the crosses when something fits, like SPEAK OF THE DEVIL!


doug 9:53 AM  

Lapps and herding made me remember this from the great Walt Kelly and Pogo:

'Do you herd sheep' my grandpa said,
my granma lept in fright!
'The grammer's wrong', to me she sighed,
'have you heard sheep' is right.

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

Wow, by miles the easiest puzzle I ever solved, filled it in as fast as I could read and type -- and it still took me at least six minutes! I do not, do not, know how you speed demons do it. I am in awe.

Johnson 10:14 AM  


Rest, rest, rest...hope you feel well soon.

Crosscan 10:15 AM  

Thanks for the Expos picture, Rex. I miss them.

As a 6 year old Montrealer when the Expos came to town, I can still remember the thrill of getting Rusty Staub's autograph.

And the crushing disppointment of the baseball strike cancelling the end of the 1994 season, when the Expos were the best team in baseball and destined for their first World Series.

I appear to be catching your fever. I'll stop now.

Back to our regularly scheduled puzzle. Four minutes, no snags.

Anonymous 10:33 AM  

The clue reads "For whom the bell tolls, in a John Donne poem" and not "For whom the bell tolls from a John Donne poem".

Get well.

william e emba 10:44 AM  

For a four-letter logic diagram I wrote in "Venn" at first. TREE? Ugh.

SCHOONER is both an olden sailing ship (which I thought everybody knew) and a drinking glass (which I've always thought of as crosswordese, but since I don't drink, I don't actually know).

I'm happy to see TELEX was not clued incorrectly as a fax predecessor, as it has been in the past. That happened in the pre-blog era, so I wrote a letter to Will Shortz, politely outlining the ancient history of faxing (early 19th century) versus the early history of telexing (mid 19th century). Shortz wrote back saying we can pretend the clue actually referred to business use, and I wrote back pointing out that this was just as inaccurate, and in fact, fax was widespread enough way back when that the NYT had its own fax edition back in the 30s.

I have not yet seen "The Family Circus" pets in the puzzle. Kittycat and Sam are hohum entries, but come on, we want BARFY!!!

Ulrich 11:14 AM  

@Rex: Best wishes!

Re. bad clues: I also zipped through this as fast as I could. The only hiccup came with the--surprise, surprise--clue for German "ein". If you ask a German what "ein" means in English, the answer will be "a", i.e. the indef. article. Conversely, if you ask what "one" means in German, the answer would be "eins", as in "eins, zwei, drei" (one, two, three). To me, the clue fails the substitution test in both directions. It's not wrong, though, in the literal sense, because "ein" can mean "one", but only when it is used as a numerical adjectice in combination with a masculine or neuter noun, e.g. "ein Euro" (one Euro). The clue is therefore misleading (in the wrong way) or clumsy. A better clue would have been "Freudian a", which would probably be too difficult for a Monday, or "_ Euro in Euskirchen"--well, make that Essen:-).

BTW the clue for "alte" in Friday's otherwise elegant puzzle had the same problem.

Bill D 11:21 AM  

Nice breezy Monday - the only change I had to make was replacing EGO for EIN as "Freudian one"; maybe I have to think more literally on Mondays! I also think we would only see the (incorrect) Donne clarifier on a Monday; any other day "For whom the bell tolls" alone would be a gimme.

A schooner is a sailing vessel having at least two masts (two apparently is the most common configuration) with the mainsail on the second mast. A schooner of beer or ale is a large, heavy glass of brew. The only place I ever saw a schooner of beer on the menu was in the old restaurant chain Lum's, a kind of steak and ale place featuring roast beef sandwiches and the aforementioned schooner of beer. Could it be Will Shortz is a Lum's alum?

@ Wm E Emba - Maybe FOCI offset TREE to hold down on the higher math for a Monday!

karmasartre 11:36 AM  

Hey, what's going on here? I checked in to get the comments on today's puzzle from the 166th greatest solver in the Universe. According to the latest results, that would be Marcia Sander. But instead, I get comments from the 55th greatest solver, someone named Rex Parker. Perhaps there is an URL mix-up? I like those 166th-ish comments in the morning, now I don't know how to link to them...

william e emba 12:18 PM  

My "ugh" is probably because I kept wanting to say "TREE diagram", and nobody actually says that. We just say "TREE" to describe a parsing.

On the other hand, I didn't think REN was clued badly, since my only knowledge of REN is from crosswords. I had no idea until Rex's little phillipic that REN was so last millennium.

Anonymous 1:08 PM  

Reading this blog, I just discovered that I had a wrong letter on a Monday--UGh. Instead of telex, I had telee thinking it was a shortening of telegraph (not telivision/telee). The NYC ave. was Lee, as in Lee Avenue which I believe is in Williamsburg, Brookly. Thought that was a difficult clue for a Monday especially impossible for non New Yorkers. However, felt it was a nice switch from Robert E ___.

Feel better Rex.


miriam b 1:25 PM  

Just a word about ISLIP. It's a township in Suffolk County, Long Island, and BTW is the namesake of a place in England. There it's pronounced ISSlip, but for some reason we call it ICElip.

Anyway, Long Island MacArthur Airport (ISP) is located within Islip township in a census designated place, Ronkonkoma (RonKONkoma). I live about six miles away, in a hamlet within Islip which is also a census designated place.

So ISLIP was a gimme.

Sorry you're still sick, Rex. Feel better soon.

Jim in NYC 1:31 PM  

Bill D, remember the deep-fried mushrooms at Lum's? I used to eat such things.

An ex-Expo named Derek Aucoin now runs a good baseball school and league here in New York City(

Anonymous fraidy-cat @ 10:33, it's not clear how your two versions of the clue are significantly different from each other. Please share your insights.

Bill D 1:42 PM  

And of course, the greatest Expo of them all was "Le Grand Orange", a title which is now free for our own Orange, mayhap?

Doris 1:43 PM  

Why couldn't they just have said "by John Donne" and covered their a***s? This is getting to be too much: First, some time ago they mixed up the Spanish agua with the Italian acqua and then there was the now-infamous Mischa Auer episode. They need new (maybe older) fact checkers!! No point is too small when it comes to the Times crossword! Grrr! (Irritable today.)

Macha 1:43 PM  

Congratulations Rex on getting to 55th - apologies for the tardiness of my congrats as I was off producing a baby boy as you were dealing with the butterflies going into Puzzle 1 - glad to get my brain back working on the crosswords!!

TCBuell 1:51 PM  

From my bartender days, I recall that a SCHOONER is a medium-sized glass in a slightly topheavy hourglass shape.

Sandy 2:03 PM  

I can't remember if it's Australia or NZ that has schooners. In my younger days, I drank plenty of beer in both places, so the term was a gimme.

Rex Parker 3:51 PM  

Macha, Congratulations. I can only hope that you named him OMOO or TYPEE or SNEE.

Best wishes,

HumorlessTwit 3:55 PM  

If she named it ERNE, you could finally have your ring tone of an erne call. Probably the only way you'ld get one.

@orange -
You have to decide, does the irony of a bad typist choosing a name as long as 'fatfingerredironist' transcend the humor of 'humorlesstwit'? It's all up to you.

doc John 4:02 PM  

Lum's was my favorite restaurant growing up. They had an Ollieburger that had some interesting spices and tasted great! And their Sloppy Joes- major yum!

Ah, EPIcenter- a word we Californians know all too well.

I've said it before and here it is again- an EEG is not a scan, it's a reading. The answer just to the left of it, ECHO, could be clued as a scan, as in "heart scan" (short for echocardiogram).

Another interesting juxtaposition- COO right next to LOVE LETTER.

Saw this on the net the other day and thought people who had a problem with a week ago Saturday's (3/1) puzzle might find this interesting. If only this had come a week earlier!
Click here

I'll stop YAPping now, hope I haven't been too GLIB.

GK 4:21 PM  

Rex, if you think you're in a feverish timewarp, have a little sympathy for those of us who regard the Expos as an interloping expansion team. In our world, there are 8 teams in the National League and another 8 in the American, with no clubs to the west of Kansas City and for heaven's sake no club in another country. The pennant winners jump immediately into the World Series, unless a 1-game tie-breaker is required. The Expos don't exist because they never existed at all!

Greg 4:44 PM  

hate to argue (well, sometimes I like to), but poetry can be written in prose. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. So I don't think there is anything wrong with the clue stating "poem," as many would consider Donne's writings "Prose Poetry."
Innacuracy? I don't agree.
A stretch? Perhaps.

Happy Puzzling!

Orange 4:59 PM  

But Doris, the clue in both the applet and Across Lite (and perhaps also the printed newspaper) reads "in a John Donne poem," which works just fine and is exactly what Rex transcribed in his post. Nobody has a clue what the anonymous commenter is grumbling about. Rex didn't say "from a John Donne poem," the commenters didn't say it, and the puzzle didn't say it. 'Tis a mystery—unless it's the print newspaper that somehow has the flub that's nowhere else.

NJPhil, how about the fat-fingered and oxymoronic "humorlesswit"? I think it's catchy.

markus 5:31 PM  

Billet-doux was a word of the day on my calendar a couple months ago and is the only reason I now know it is a love letter.
I have to go shovel snow.

jae 5:51 PM  

This seemed about average for a Mon. At least I learned something about Donne's work I didn't know.

@karma -- nice to hear from you!

@doris -- I'm a bit confused about the AUER issue. Having never heard of the guy and being on a cruise I read several NY based passengers the clue (its a good way to meet new people) and they all responded AUER with out any qualifications. Is he not a violinist?

PhillySolver 5:52 PM  

It tolls for thee...These famous words by John Donne were not originally written as a poem - the passage is taken from the 1624 Meditation 17, from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and is prose.
Perhaps, this quotation gets to Rex's point. It comes from an on-line treatise on Poetry.

My wife has an opinion of our relationship and says I should offer, "Ask not for whom the belle toils, she toils for me."

I liked the puzzle and found it easy in my plodding sort of way. I just returned from a day in Brooklyn and the Marriott awaits our return.

Doris 6:19 PM  


I guess I should not have resurrected this dead horse. The famous violinist was LEOPOLD AUER, the grandfather of Mischa (who was born Ounskowsky in Ukraine, but took his grandfather's name). Mischa was trained in music and could play several instruments, but he made his name in Hollywood as a comic actor, usually in the character of "the Mad Russian," and was very successful. He was never principally known as a violinist. Your fellow passengers were probably thinking of Leopold, not Mischa. The puzzlemakers goofed on this one, as they occasionally have done before. They need to do more thorough fact checking on matters of high culture, particularly opera, music, ballet, and Romance languages.

jilmac 7:15 PM  

From my bartending experience in England forty years ago, I also served many a schooner of sherry. The glass was sort of hour glass shaped and contained a lot of sherry!!

ArtLvr 7:23 PM  

p.s. I loved the photo of the little cat walking with great aplomb in front of the seated pups!

Talk about a BILLET-DOUX, not: I'm guessing that our NY Governor will not be invited to give the keynote address at the Democratic convention.... He may in fact find himself being given another kind of billet, sans key.


Anonymous 8:08 PM  


Read the clue 69A: For whom the bell tolls, in a John Donne poem (thee) -- then think! Read the reference in the blog -- then think! Incidentally, how can you so freely attribute characteristics to individuals you have never met, nor ever will -- isn't that highly presumptious on your part?

John Reid 8:29 PM  

Nice to be back to a relaxing easy Monday.

@Phillysolver - I love the 'belle toils' crack; I'll have to tell my dad that one, he'll get a kick out of it!

In Australia, when buying beers at the pub it was always a choice of either schooner or middy (basically, big or small.) So I had an edge on that clue. I could never work out why they named a drink size after a boat though!

Rex, feel better soon.

Orange 8:38 PM  

Anonymous, I still don't at all get your point in your comment from this morning: The clue reads "For whom the bell tolls, in a John Donne poem" and not "For whom the bell tolls from a John Donne poem." What's the in vs. from issue? Please expand on that.

Or forget the whole thing, because I really don't give a damn and I've had a long day.

And quit attributing presumptuousness to me—you don't even know me! :-)

Howard B 8:41 PM  

Get well soon, Rex.

PhillySolver 8:52 PM  

Maybe anonymous means that Rex's take on the poetry is much verse than his.

Twit it?

Kathy 9:23 PM  

Thanks, Orange, I thought maybe I was missing something with the mystery poster and the prepositional conflict. It was so matter of fact like it was obvious what it meant, but I am clueless also. I'd be curious...or...maybe not.

From what I remember from a Baudelaire course I took, there are poems and then there are prose poems, but that might not be enough of a differentiator. I shall defer to Rex's PhD both in and from this matter. And over and under besides.


Ulrich 9:27 PM  

Re. the Donne controversy (courtesy of my wife)

Here's a source according to which Donne quoted himself in a poem:

Sorry, making this a link didn't work. In any case, even if this turns out to be correct, it doesn't explain anonymous's supercilious tone.

Kathy 9:33 PM  

And ulrich, my mother always taught me to not adopt a supercilious tone if I were posting as anonymous! One needs an identity to make superciliousness really work.


Rex Parker 9:35 PM  

Meditation XVII is Not a poem. "Prose poems" are a modern concept (19c. France, probably). If you want to argue that any prose could be construed as poetry, then great, I write poems every day for you all. Perfect.


Sandy 9:37 PM  

Do you think the anonymouse thought the twit comment was aimed at him/her? Because it wasn't. Anonymouse! We aren't judging you, we just want to know who you are and what the heck you mean because we still don't get it.
Rex just dragged himself off of his sick-couch and upstairs to his office, so maybe he can deal with all of this.

Rex Parker 9:40 PM  

PS Ulrich that link you give appears to be merely some unattributed verse reconstruction of Donne's words. Also, the transcription is inaccurate (compare the "poem" to the original prose).


Ulrich 10:02 PM  

@Rex: Donne is one of my favorite poets (I love especially his Elegies), and I checked my Complete Poetry of John Donne (J. T. Shawcross ed.), and you are right: There does not appear a poem whose first line reads "No man is an island" in the index. But if you google it (as my wife did, who BTW has a PhD in English from the other SUNYB), it appears in numerous links that quote the passage as if it were a poem. The upshot is, for me at least, that you are right, but that one can understand why people may consider it poetry nonetheless.

mac 12:14 AM  

Kathy, Orange and anon, why the big todo? My very first thought after reading the clue was "thee". It was Monday easy.
Rex, please take lots of liquids, camomile tea, People Magazine, the soap with the puppet, and naps in between. You'll be well in no time!

andrea 2:25 AM  

lapps also dance

Greg 9:16 AM  

Of course all prose is not poetry, but much poetry is written in prose. One definition of poetry is: "Prose that resembles a poem in some respect, as in form or sound." I'm sorry to say that almost all of what you write doesn't resemble a poem in either form OR sound, so you can't really call any of what you write to us "poetry," as entertaining and informative as it is! :-)
Many may make the distinction "Prose Poem" and add the modifier, but it is still a poem!

Rex Parker 11:15 AM  

Greg - you're simply, factually wrong here. There is no one but no one who knows anything about Donne who would call Meditation XVII a "poem." The definition of "poetry" you offer (from where?) is absurd because it's circular: poetry is prose that sounds like poetry? You can't be serious.


Greg 11:46 AM  

In retrospect, I realize that I was writing and arguing for poems and poetry as being able to be written in prose, and sidestepping (nay ignoring) your comment that this particular Donne work was NOT poetry, but simple prose. I apologize. Not sure how I got so off tangent and stubborn about the whole issue, but yes, I see now and agree that Meditation XVII is in no way a poem.
Sorry for my beligerance, and Happy Puzzling to all! :-)

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

mr rex,

FYI w shortz has just posted that you are correct on the prose/poem thing

frank D

tinwhistler 4:53 PM  

Liked (as did John Reid) phillysolver's variant about the belle toiling for me. Also like the one about the mondegreen from the poetry club at which the reader exceeded the time limits on the nearby street parking. The club member heard, "Do not send to know for whom the truck tows -- it tows for thee."
Aloha ~~~ Ozzie Maland ~~~ San Diego

Jenny Lee 11:46 PM  

Nice information...
outsource invoice processing services

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP