Bronze statue on top U.S. Capitol / THU 5-13-10 / London borough containing wembley stadium / Camera innovator George / Bartolommeo Angelico

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Constructor: Patrick Merrell

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Double puns — familiar phrases that feature repeated words have those words punned in two different directions, creating Wacky answers, which are clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: FRA Bartolommeo (19A: Bartolommeo and Angelico => FRAS) —

Fra Bartolomeo or Fra Bartolommeo (di Pagholo) (March 28, 1472 – October 6, 1517), also known as Baccio della Porta, was an Italian Renaissance painter of religious subjects. (wikipedia)

• • •

The first pun was so painful that I had trouble finding the will to go on — WEE WHEE is supposed to be an "instruction?" "W" and "WH" are pronounced the same? — though thankfully, the remaining answers weren't as awful. I don't understand why the central theme answer is inconsistent in form — I mean, it still has the double-pun, but the puns aren't adjacent, as in the others. I guess the fact that it sits in the center gives it some leeway. I'll buy that. What I won't buy is the "OOXTEPLERNON'S dinner" of short bad fill (OOXTEPLERNON is the god of short bad fill who first manifested himself in this puzzle from last October; see my comment at 10:18am). Again, a small handful of the following would be just fine; but I count 19 on the following list, and I gave a bunch of borderline crosswordese (ELI, OISE, AERIE) a pass:
GIA, ENS, RES, EES, SSTS, EPS, OTTS and AMELIAS and AHEMS and FRAS (how many "things that aren't naturally pluralized" are you gonna shove in here?), ENV, ENO, ETTA, AHS, SSW, OH I, HTS, IZE, ALER
To the puzzle's credit, there is virtually no obscurity, and there is some sassy stuff like FOUL-UPS (12D: Bobbles) and REVVING (37D: Gunning) that I enjoyed. But mainly this is just a groaning pun puzzle, propped up by scads of shortish dreck.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Instruction to an overexcited Frenchman? (WEE WHEE MONSIEUR)
  • 23A: Really wet grass expected tomorrow morning? (DEEP DEW DUE) — the best, by a mile
  • 34A: What quilting farmers do? (SEW AND SOW)
  • 45A: Whitecaps next to an underpriced beachfront property? (WAVES BY BUY) — almost as painful as the first one
  • 53A: Simplify things at a ricotta factory? (WEIGH WHEY EASIER) — is this even grammatical? There may be gray area here, but "EASIER" is a comparative adjective. I think "more easily" is the phrase you'd want if you were actually saying this (absurd) phrase.
My grandmother is having her 90th birthday party this weekend in St. Maries, Idaho, so I'm out of here at 4:30am tomorrow, and will be back with the Monday puzzle on the 17th. I've got 2/3 of my weekend guest-writers lined up. I'm still waiting to hear back from a certain lazy, song-writing Texas lawyer...

I'm not really sure how difficult the puzzle was, as I did it on paper, untimed. I got 1A: Archaeologists usually find things in this (SITU) right off the bat, though I don't think of SITU as a "this." The WEE WHEE part of that answer took a good while to make out, and certainly didn't come into view until I had the MONSIEUR part, starting with HTS (9D: Dearborn ___, MI) and moving across the NE. I know a Dearborn, MI. Had no idea there was a "HTS," involved, but then again, I must have heard of it somewhere, some time, because it was the only answers I considered. Also had no idea that the 11D: Bronze statue on top of the U.S. Capitol was called "FREEDOM." Also didn't know BRENT, though the clue feels like something I've seen in the past month or so (48D: London borough containing Wembley Stadium). Other than that, all recognizable words and phrases.

Found the NW rather depressing, and not just because of the WEE WHEE pun and the iffy cluing on SITU. There's UNWARY (4D: Heedless), an odd word I kind of like, but one that feels like its barely a word, struggling for survival, wobbly and vulnerable, like a newborn calf. Come on, UNWARY, you can do it! Stand! Also, the clue on ICE FLOE!? (2D: Seal's resting place, perhaps). It's like some horrible commercial about the effects of global warming. The phrase "resting place" makes the FLOE sound like the place where the seal is doomed to die. As for the "THE" in "THE REDS" (3D: Great American ballpark team) — let's just say I look forward to seeing THEEXPOS, THEDIAMONDBACKS, and THENATS any day now. I wonder if there are rules governing the "gratuitous THE" (an actual phenomenon in crosswords, though I don't think it has an official name).

  • 5A: Cutlass part (HILT) — First answer I wanted: DOOR.
  • 9A: 1992 Jack Nicholson title role (HOFFA) — Jack's back! (see yesterday's puzzle)
  • 14A: Asta in the book "The Thin Man," e.g. (SCHNAUZER) — bouncy word. I get mail every time ASTA is clued as a SCHNAUZER, with dog people / movie people indignantly telling me that the dog was a wire-haired terrier. These are people who forget the "The Thin Man" was a book, so I thank Will/Patrick for making the book part clear today.
  • 38A: Auvers-sur-___, last home of Vincent van Gogh (OISE) — ??? I know OISE as a river, so this was kind of a lucky guess. OISE is near the top of that "Four-letter EuroRivers every crossworder should know" (see also LENA, EBRO, ELBE, ORNE, etc.)
  • 42A: Commodity for John Jacob Astor (PELT) — Everything I know about this guy I learned from crosswords and ensuing discussions on this blog. Two years ago, I wouldn't have known this. Today, gimme.
  • 43A: Camera innovator George (EASTMAN) — another gimme; maybe this puzzle was easier than I thought...
  • 59A: Old Dodge hatchbacks (OMNIS) — OMNI is also a hotel, a bygone Atlanta arena, a book of Mormon, a bygone science magazine ...
  • 23D: Tournament starting points (DRAW) — a really interesting clue. Technically accurate, yet gets you a singular answer from a plural clue. (Pa)Tricky.
  • 35D: Object of a French prayer (DIEU) — God. Gimme. Not thrilled with Fr crossing Fr (DIEU/OISE), but the "I" should be inferrable ... right?
  • 36D: Beach locale of song (IPANEMA) — another longish gimme. I think I first learned this song from an advertisement for some kind of beauty product, though I could be confusing it with "Bain de Soleil for the ST. TROPEZ tan!"

["Andy Williams!?"]

  • 47D: Unsophisticated boob (YAHOO) — Crossworld has a nice "unsophisticated boob" vocabulary. See also YOKEL.
  • 55D: Only 20th-century prez without a coll. degree (HST) — had a lively back-and-forth with a WaPo columnist (no name-dropper, I) last week about the (in-)validity of the clue [Shift blame to another] for PASS THE BUCK. He was against — seeing "BUCK" as responsibility, not blame — and marshaled, as part of his argument, the famous sign that sat atop the desk of HST: "The Buck Stops Here." In support of the clue, I threw all kinds of dictionaries at him, but this didn't faze him one bit. This is why I like him. Passion for words and their meanings, even quixotic passion, is OK by me.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. I'm pretty sure today is my grandma's *actual* birthday, so happy birthday, grandma! I'll see you tomorrow.

P.P.S. Still accepting recipes for the yet-to-be-created mixed drink, the SONATINI (see yesterday's blog). Have received a handful so far. Would love more. Be creative. Send to rexparker at mac dot com.


joho 8:42 AM  

Interesting write-up, @Rex. I uttered ughs at the same punny spots in this puzzle.

Actually, the clue for 17A is practically nonsensical to me. And as for the answer, I know what oui, oui, monsieur means, but WEEWHEEMONSIEUR means what? I want to see smaller whees from you, buddy! Maybe I'm missing point, somebody please clue me in.

Also the answer WEIGHWHEYEASIER doesn't stand alone as a common phrase. It's something somebody would say, but I don't see it hanging in a needlepoint frame.

On the plus side, it's really fun to say SCHNAUZER.

Hey, Wade, accept the invitation, please!

Tinbeni 8:45 AM  

Usually I like puzzles with puns.
These were pretty lame.

@Van55 It also has your favorite plane.

I figure I'm doin' good just remembering "The Thin Man" dog is ASTA (FDR's, Fala). Damn, now I have to know the breed? And SCHNAUZER isn't one I spell often. In fact, I think today was first time.

Geez, a week ago, or so, it was the Wimbeldon locale. Now it's Wembley Stadium, BRENT?
I better get a map of British sport sites.

Time to take my morning WHEE on this one.

abide 8:49 AM  

Thanks for the Tom Jobim clip (the George Gershwin of Brazil). I also like the Sinatra version where Frank is blowing smoke in his face.


jesser 8:56 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jesser 8:59 AM  

Birthday hugs to your Nana, Rex!

About the puzzle: A big fat fail. Tinge at 16A killed me dead in the NE, while idiot (not a single correct letter!) at 47D and one PLEASE at 60A allied to Quayleify me in Louisiana. I got 39D via the crosses, but it still makes no sense.

Totally agree with Rex on the crappy fill. But that's probably just because I'm bitter.

Patrick Merrill, you old SEW AND SOW!

Centesse! (probably a French jail term) -- jesser, tail between legs

Tinbeni 9:01 AM  

So I go and google it, and Wiki says that ASTA was a Wire Haired Fox Terrier.
Which only fits in a Sunday grid.
And like @Joho said, I love the sound of SCHNAUZER.
It has panache!

David L 9:08 AM  

For many people (me, for example) WEE and WHEE are indeed pronounced identically. But that doesn't make the phrase any easier to interpret -- I'm with Joho -- what the heck is 17A supposed to mean?

OTOH, I kinda liked WAVESBYBUY -- so gloriously awful a pun becomes admirable.

Everything else about this puzzle was pretty blah, though.

CaseAceFos 9:08 AM  

Tinbeni, What would you like along with your panache's this morning...Canadian bacon or sausage links?
Hey! I, like Patrick Merrill, can pun badly too!

joho 9:10 AM  

I forgot to mention ... speaking of Harry Truman ... when visiting Key West we took the tour of the "Little White House." One bit of surprising information was that President Truman took scotch with his orange juice every morning before he went on his morning walk on the beach!

Aunt Hattie 9:11 AM  

Deep dew due makes up for everything.

Van55 9:27 AM  

I agree that deepdewdue partially redeems this one. But SSW, ALER, SSTS all in one puzzle? That's EPIC FAIL right there even putting aside the rest of the awful fill listed by Rex.

PuzzleNut 9:29 AM  

Thought this was a tough Thursday. Even though I finished it without any errors, it still didn't feel right.
After WEEWHEE (??) and DUEDEW, I thought the theme might be a little juvenile, but it went in a different direction.
I didn't realize the possible knicknames foe AMELIA, but always liked that name.
I've finished puzzles in the past where it took me a day or two to fully appreciate the cleverness of the clues. Those puzzles are the reason I enjoy crosswords so much. Unfortunately, today's awkward puns leave much to be desired.

fikink 9:30 AM  

Tend to agree with @Aunt Hattie - kudos for DEEP DEW DUE.

Rex, thanks for posting Buck's final song...following that whole project was inspiring.

@Wade, time to belly up to the bar, Buddy!

mitchs 9:55 AM  

A picture of Marge Schott to represent Cincinnati's Reds? Ouch! I also didn't like the clue. It should have run along these lines: team whose young pitching staff is finally fulfilling its promise - evidenced by this week's sweep of the Pirates which included back to back shutouts.

Agree about the THE. WTF?

ArtLvr 10:08 AM  

"Do, do, do what you done, done, done before, Baby" ran through my head en route to the finish -- and it turns out that the song is from a George and Ira Gershwin 1926 musical called "Oh, Kay" featuring Gertrude Lawrence, their first big hit apparently! I'd be amused to see that show title in a crossword...

This Thursday puzzle was just okay, IMHO.


Stan 11:07 AM  

With puns, there's always a fine line between 'so bad it's good' and 'so bad it's not good' and for me all these fell on the funny, good side except the aforementioned 17A. Thanks, Patrick, for the enjoyable groans.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:19 AM  

I bow down to Ooxteplernon, since I never would have solved this one without the short fill. But I loved the puns when I finally sussed them out!

poc 11:28 AM  

A bun is the lowest form of wheat.

syndy 11:55 AM  

Kinda liked "weigh whey easier" I thought it was much less cheesy! What do "e.e" or "e.n" mean anyway?

foodie 11:58 AM  

I was in deep dew due on that one because... you had to have been born here? Punning is such a special kind of American humor... I'm still working on it.

I got the theme answers, in the end, but some of them sound so wrong to me... you mean So, Sew, and Sow sound exactly the same? I guess.

@SethG, thank you for yesterday's link to "This is Carson Your Doorman". I was redeemed. It made me happy. Not because I hate to be wrong. As a scientist, I am wrong for a living... But I had such a clear memory of exactly that sentence, it was driving me crazy. You're the best!

OOXTEPLERNON's Apologist 11:58 AM  

@Syndy - EE is Electical Engineer, EN is an EN-Dash, a measure in printing. There are hyphens, EN-dashes, and EM-Dashes, in that order of increasing width.

Wade 12:16 PM  

Actually, I'd say most EE's are somewhere between an EN and EM dash in width. They're pretty wiry.

Glad I didn't draw this puzzle to blog about--you'd still be waiting for the write-up. Thanks for the plug and the invite, Rex. See everybody tomorrow.

igetcreative 12:16 PM  

actually 23D Tournament starting points does give the plural answer DRAWS... who can hate a puzzle that has deep dew due in it?

Dave 12:20 PM  


Clark 12:29 PM  

I think these puns put the puzzle in the so bad it's good category. The DEW, the WAVES and the WHEY were particularly good. That we are able to take the three words of the answer, and guided by the clue, combine them into a unity in thought -- very cool. Like accomplishing a really twisty yoga pose. Oh I can do that? It's a pretty good example of the imagination functioning the way Kant says it must for cognition to be possible at all. (I know, I know, Kant?, I try to keep it to myself.)

kaby 12:40 PM  

Love Patrick Merrell puzzles with this one being a HUGE exception. Weak fill necessary to accommodate a worse theme does not bring much joy. Looking forward to Patrick's next.

dls 12:42 PM  

I am also at a loss and can't parse it as anything other than the overexcited Frenchman being instructed to pee. Someone please find another explanation.

poc 12:45 PM  

@dls: Oui, oui monsieur

Martin 12:48 PM  


"You may utter "whee!," but quietly.

Anonymous 1:04 PM  

@Martin - So it's a Scotsman instructing a Frenchman on the limits of his outburst? Then it would be WEEWHEELADDIE.

foodie 1:09 PM  

alternate 17A clue:
"Urologist instructions, to François"


Sparky 1:11 PM  

I'll utter a wee whee for a puzzle I really enjoyed Had to stop in the middle to go for root canal (really) Home to finish; eagerly log on to blog to find out I am sophisticated boob. There's always tomorrow. I did't realize Asta schnauser in the books. It's been so long since I read them. Thanks as always.

Sparky 1:12 PM  

I'll utter a wee whee for a puzzle I really enjoyed Had to stop in the middle to go for root canal (really) Home to finish; eagerly log on to blog to find out I am sophisticated boob. There's always tomorrow. I did't realize Asta schnauser in the books. It's been so long since I read them. Thanks as always.

Martin 1:18 PM  

@foodie and others,

I'd love to make this a one-two minitheme, balancing DEEP DEW DUE, but it's a dry well. Wee, yes. Whiz, yes. Whee, no.

chefbea 1:37 PM  

Not my favorite puzzle. Had to google a lot.

Just made lemoncello so a toast to Grandma Parker

CoolPapaD 1:40 PM  

I'm just sad, because, in reading about the Carlton / doorman issue, I just found out that Nancy Walker died - ALMOST 20 YEARS AGO! Am I going crazy? Weren't the Bounty commerecials just on? Am I really getting older?? Am I losing it?

LOVED the puzzle. Puns are wonderful, and the worse, the better. DEEP DEW DUE was awesome!

jae 2:01 PM  

Had about the same take as everyone else. It seemed harder than the usual Thurs. and 17a was not pretty. DEEPDEWDUE helped but this one is in the negative column for me.

PlantieBea 2:10 PM  

I'm glad I'm not the only one confused by the wee whee! Had to check in here after puzzling this one out while waiting for my kid's dental work. No errors for me, but I had a bit of a start when I stared at "bobbles" = f*** ups. Happy travels to Rex and happy birthday to Rex's grandma. Enjoyed the last Nutcracker Buck video--thanks for posting.

edmcan 2:35 PM  

I loved this puzzle and zoomed through it until 'assay'. I wanted asses so badly, 'waves by bus' sounded good, even though I knew who George Eastman was. Nutz.

imsdave 2:45 PM  

Not going to mention when I started this puzzle out of deference to Greene (he's tired of hearing about it). I will say that I put it down after 20 minutes, did the other 3 morning puzzles, went to work and moped.

I got home about twenty minutes ago and the mostly blank east half of the puzzle clarified itself. I was truly scared of an epic fail when I left the house today.

I would ask if there is something wrong with me, but I know you people all to well and am afraid you would answer.

Go Wade!

Shamik 2:53 PM  

Blyecch. I knew MONSOEUR didn't look right. Other than that, came in at medium challenging time on a puzzle that aside from the DEEPDEWDUE was deep doo-doo.

Happy Birthday to Rex's Grandma!

Wish I could hear Wade sing, but the slow connection in Skagway prohibits videos. : ( Off to blog.

chefwen 3:05 PM  

Finished but did. not. like.

2 thumbs down.

WAVES BY BUY was the worst to me, DEEP DEW DUE, the best of the groaners.

Cathyat40 3:27 PM  

really wanted "puts in one's____" EAR for OAR



but, ultimately got it straight :)

sanfranman59 3:37 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Thu 22:01, 19:23, 1.14, 84%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 10:38, 9:16, 1.15, 84%, Challenging

SethG 4:43 PM  

Mild puns are annoying. These were dreadful, but I agree that if you're gonna fail, you should fail spectacularly. So...thumbs up?

Most bothersome were the pronunciation shifts, if one can imagine that phrases like these have proper pronunciations. If I were to say "so and so", I'd most stress the first "so". With "sew and sow", I think it'd be the "sow". I'd say "WAY, way easier", but I'd say "weigh WHEY easier". "waves BYE Bye", but "WAVES by BUY". "DEEP doo-doo", but "deep DEW DUE". "oui OUI, monsieur", but "WEE whee, monsieur".

Ach, I'm probably just a Yahoo among the Houyhnhnms. But do EEs actually wire?

mac 6:04 PM  

What a strange puzzle this was for me. I love wordplay, but, like Foodie, probably pronounce some words slightly differently or think they should be pronounced differently....

I got "sew and sow" right away because it is so straightforward. Waves by buy was sort of understandable, but the wee whee man lost me completely.

Happy birthday to Grandma Parker. Wish I could try that home-made lemoncello! Saw a recipe once and I remember the huge amount of sugar.

Looking forward to Wade tomorrow! I think I saw and heard most of those Nutcracker songs! Wade's theory about "country music" and its place was very interesting and I believe he is right.

ed-words 6:41 PM  

Not to nitpick (well, maybe a little), but Wikipedia says (and I have always thought) that Asta is a wire-haired fox terrier.

Martin 6:51 PM  


Did you miss this section in that article?:

The original character of Asta in Dashiell Hammett's book of the The Thin Man was not a male Wire-Haired Fox Terrier, but a female Schnauzer. Due to the enormous popularity of the Asta character as played by Skippy, interest in pet terriers skyrocketed. Asta's enduring fame is such that the name is a frequent answer in The New York Times crossword puzzles (crosswordese), in response to clues such as "Thin Man dog" or "Dog star."

What kind of clue would work? This one went out it its way, didn't it? Maybe "Asta in the book "The Thin Man," e.g., as opposed to Asta in the movies, which was a male terrier, not a female of this breed"?

Ben 7:01 PM  

My garage band in high school was called "Gratuitous The."

Note the lack of an opening "The." Despite our name, we were against gratuitous "the"s.

We were cool like that.

edith b 7:51 PM  

These puns were way too tortured for my taste. Although I was able to solve this one correctly there was very little enjoyment involved which I thought was the end result of doing these puzzles.

Epic fail, IMOO.

JenCT 8:28 PM  

Boo for this puzzle. 'Nuff said.

Anonymous 8:53 PM  

No way! In today's comments we have

did. not. like.
'Nuff said.

Are you kidding me? What the...? If someone would just say "just sayin'", that would Make My Day.

CrazyCatLady 9:59 PM  

Agree that this puzzle was DEW DUE. I have biodegradable bags for that. I did it while waiting for the appliance repairman to fix my dishwasher door. My Wire Hair Fox Terrier jumps on it when it's open and screwed up the hinges. @Rex and @ Martin are right about the DH book Asta being a SCHNAUZER and the movie Asta being a Wire. Wires became very popular in the 50's and 60's due to "The Thin Man" movies. They were overbred much like Dalmations, Pugs, Jack Russels, Bulldogs and Chihuahuas have been of late. The LA SPCA has recently been airlifting Chihuahuas to other states since they have so many, resulting from recent movies and Paris Hilton.

Responsible breeders are now returning Wires to the way they should be. Intelligent, hearty, cheerful little dogs. I have had my share of rescue dogs. All were wonderful, but decided to return to the dog of my childhood. No regrets!
@Rex Parker Happy birthday to your grandma! Loved the Girl from Ipanema juxtaposed with Bain de Soleil. I guess that was back before we had to worry about skin cancer.

sanfranman59 10:03 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 7:30, 6:55, 1.08, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 9:55, 8:52, 1.12, 81%, Challenging
Wed No data
Thu 21:50, 19:23, 1.13, 82%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:10, 3:41, 1.13, 82%, Challenging
Tue 5:03, 4:32, 1.12, 80%, Challenging
Wed No data
Thu 10:04, 9:16, 1.09, 77%, Medium-Challenging

fergus 10:16 PM  

Rex, wouldn't the obvious name for the gratuitous THE be Articliation?

fergus 10:18 PM  

My subsequent captcha is BANTER. Surprised this doesn't show up more often for blog posts.

raidodaze 10:57 PM  

Yesterday's puzzle, DEFINTLEY " CARLTON THE DOORMAN"! AND did you also know, That same Apartment set was Jerry Seinfeld's, speaker box and all???

Al 12:45 PM  

"OISE is near the top of that "Four-letter EuroRivers every crossworder should know" (see also LENA, EBRO, ELBE, ORNE, etc.) "

And don't forget: Aare, Aire, Aras, Arno, Aube, Brda, Ebre, Erft, Gurk, Krka, Leba, Lech, Lyna, Neva, Nida, Obra, Oder, Prut, Reda, Rega, Sava, Sava, Ural, Vaga, Wkra, and Yser.

Although, the day that Wkra appears in a puzzle, I'm quitting!

This also looks like the basis of a song by Tom Leher. see:

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