Angelique composer / THU 8-26-10 / Period of Cenozoic Era / Bing Crosby hit your branches speak to me of love

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Constructor: Henry Hook

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: [Where to see X's and O's] — that's the clue for three grid-spanning *16*-letter theme entries:

  • FOOTBALL DIAGRAMS (18A)
  • END OF A LOVE LETTER (35A)
  • HOLLYWOOD SQUARES (56A)

Word of the Day: IBERT (25A: "Angélique" composer) —
Jacques François Antoine Ibert (15 August 1890 – 5 February 1962) was a French composer of classical music. [...] Ibert's music is considered to be typically quite "light" in character, often witty, colourfully orchestrated with attractive melodies. Although he was not a member of Les Six, his music shares some characteristics with theirs. His best known work is probably the orchestral Divertissement (1930), based on his incidental music for Eugène Labiche's play, Un chapeau de paille d'Italie (The Italian Straw Hat). In the course of the work he comically quotes many pieces, including Mendelssohn's Wedding March. Other prominent pieces include Escales (1924) for orchestra, the symphonic poem La ballade de la geôle de Reading (based on the poem by Oscar Wilde), his concerto for flute and Concertino da Camera for saxophone and Histoires for solo piano. He composed a number of operas, such as L'aiglon (The Eaglet), and the operetta Les petites cardinal, some together with Arthur Honegger. His ballet Le chevalier errant (épopée choréographique, 1951) was premiered by Georges Tzipine with the ORTF. Among his film scores is the one for Orson Welles' version of Macbeth (1948). In 1956 he wrote the work Bacchanale to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the BBC Third Programme. Its premiere was given by Sir Eugene Goossens.


• • •

Wow, that was easy. So easy, I thought I must be missing something. I mean, this is Henry Hook we're talking about here—his puzzles can be wicked hard; in fact, just this past weekend, there was a crossing at 1A/1D in one of his Boston Globe puzzles that was pure impossibility. I just shut the puzzle down in frustration. More than tough, however, he's good, and this is a nicely filled grid. Doesn't feel like it belongs on a Thursday — extremely straightforward, themewise — but with a superwide grid and at least two low-familiarity proper nouns, the puzzle is sufficiently interesting. In addition to the 16-wide grid, there are cheater squares galore. I don't know that I've ever seen this many in a weekday Times puzzle (these are black squares that don't change the word count — two in the east, two in the west, and then one each in the NW and SE). Gives the grid an unusual look, and likely makes the fill smoother. What's weird to me: IBERT is not an unfortunate obscurity necessitated by the surrounding fill. That's choice. Just change the "B" to "N" and you've got common words all around. Sometimes, constructors actually enjoy sending you into dark corners, I guess. Also, INERT / NUDGE is boringer.

Was actually taken aback with how fast I was doing the puzzle. Kept waiting for the axe of horror to fall, and it never did — POINCIANA (51A: Bing Crosby hit in which "your branches speak to me of love") felt like some kind of ax, in that I had to get literally Every letter from crosses — but I got it. TERTIARY (38D: Period of the Cenozoic Era) isn't a period I'm familiar with, but it's a word I recognize. Otherwise, the only place that gave me any trouble was the NE. I plopped down FOOTBALL DIAGRAMS quickly, but then doubted DIAGRAMS when I couldn't get the NE to work. All those little Downs — 11D: Big section of Bartlett's: Abbr. (SHAK.); 12D: "___ Strange Loop," 2007 Douglas Hofstadter book ("I AM A"); and 13D: Symbol of revolutionary power (FIST) — failed to roll over for me at first. Wanted ANON. for the Bartlett's clue, never heard of the Hofstadter book, and FIST (while perfectly clued) wasn't anywhere near the front of my mind. Managed to push back up into that section with momentum from the (easy) center of the puzzle.



Bullets:
  • 44D: V as in Versailles (CINQ) — big help knowing French. "V" is Roman numeral for "five," and French for "five" is CINQ. That "Q" made HOLLYWOOD SQUARES a cinch to uncover.
  • 48D: Captain with a "regal overbearing dignity of some mighty woe" (AHAB) — a great quote, but you don't really need it. Captain + four letters = AHAB. On Monday, On Saturday, On Any Day. Unless it's KIRK, I guess. [or NEMO, of course; another crosswordesey captain who might be described through a literary quotation — I think I had the initial "A" in place before I ever saw the clue, and that made AHAB certain.]
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

86 comments:

Aaron Riccio 12:15 AM  

I've been with you all week on your rankings. I'm sure I didn't fly through this as fast as you, but this was definitely my fastest Thursday.

The puzzle itself was fun, too.

Rube 12:19 AM  

I too had trouble in the NE, but guessed ACROSS and all broke open. Still not sure about the clue for ACROSS. I think of CHAI as the word for tea everywhere but for us northern European types, spicy or not.

Had write-overs for UNCUT, (UNity), Oka/OSU, nd JADe/JADA.

In short, I loved this puzzle. Minimal worn out fill and some nice 16s.

Obviously my operatic background needs some improvement. Never heard of IBERT or his opera Angelique. All I cound think of here was the Singing Nun from the 60s and her song of the same name... no, wait, that was Dominique, oh well.

Did not know that EBOLA was named after a river.

Any puzzle with ABNER in it has to be great!

The Corgi of Mystery 12:21 AM  

Finished this one faster than Caleb's puzzle on Tuesday, so way easy for me.

"I AM A Strange Loop", if you haven't read it, is absolutely worth your while. It's a shorter, more accessible version of "Godel Escher Bach" (by the same author) which proposes a theory of how consciousness can arise from physical matter.

chefwen 12:29 AM  

@SanFran @Noam - Happy Birthday, would have said it earlier but I was already at three and didn't want to get my knuckles rapped with a ruler.

Threw the puzzle on my desk to await Rex's rating (knew it had to be EASY)
Husband gaped at me saying "you're done already, isn't this Thursday's puzzle, you never finish a Thursday this quickly? Breezed right through this puppy.

Had two write overs 36D had flawed before FAULTY and 61A test before BEAD. Guessed at the I in 38D and 51A crossing, which was my last fill and was right, SWEET!

Steve J 12:32 AM  

A four-letter captain is hardly an automatic AHAB. Capt. Kirk, Hook, Nemo, Kidd. Just off the top of my head.

Found this way too easy for a Thursday, and completely lacking any sort of clever payoff that is typical for Thursdays. I literally asked myself during the puzzle, "This is a theme?" upon encountering "Where to see X's and O's." It's really not any better than "Look at all the B's!" from yesterday.

It doesn't help that two of the three theme entries aren't phrases or titles in common usage. They're just descriptive. And if you're going to do an X's and O's theme, how do you not have TICTACTOEBOARDS?

Least entertaining Thursday in a long time for me.

Rube 12:37 AM  

@Corgi, Tx for your recommendation. I read Godel Escher Bach umpteen years ago and enjoyed it, but much went over my head. Will put I am a Strange Loop on my reading list.

I forgot to mention that any Thursday puzz I can do before 8PM PDT on Wed night has got to be graded as "Easy". I had to wait quite a while for @Rex to post before making my comments. What's the matter Rex, having trouble staying awake? It's only past midnight, your time.

Robin 12:38 AM  

The NW was so easy I thought I had slept from Wednesday to Monday. However, that led to a false confidence that allowed me throw down Football Practice rather than Diagrams. Fixing that slowed me down quite a bit. Plus other stupid things, like spelling Provost as Prevost, Noble for Title. So yeah, the NW was a booger-bear.

SE error was Glided for Sailed. Took awhile to straighten that out, too. But overall, still a very fast time for me. An accomplishment for me just to finish a Thursday.

It's really all because OldCarFudd said yesterday that we are cruciverbalists, so felt I had to rise to the standard. Plus it was an easy puzzle. Don't expect to hear from me on Friday.

*whaana* be a solver!

Tinbeni 12:43 AM  

@Rube
ACROSS going down was cute.
ABNER made me think it was a "shout-out" to your Avatar.

48d, AHAB, A 4 letter Captain, other than Kirk, also reminds me of Nemo. (But with ANNE already in, AHAB is a gimmie).

WOD, IBERT was the learning moment. Always a plus.

Liked seeing the JETS in a puzzle with FOOTBALL DIAGRAMS. Hope they have some good plays this season.

This was way too easy for a Thursday.

retired_chemist 12:59 AM  

About medium here. LOTS of 4 letter captains, as Steve J pointed out, but AHAB is the crossworthiest. HOOK would have been a nice self-shout-out by the constructor though.

FOOTBALL DRAWINGS at first. ACUMEN @ 48A ditto. Fixable.

Also HOLOCENE instead of TERTIARY, "confirmed" by OAKS @ 41A. POINCIANA - WTF. The SE took me a while. CINQ clue was my favorite.

Enjoyed it, Mr. (Capt.?) Hook.

deXter gOrdOn 3:59 AM  

Fun, fast puzzle. Fell into the NUDGE / INERT trap.
POINCIANA is a great tune. Dig Ahmad Jamal's much hipper version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMprn3uDAVI

I've read and enjoyed Hofstadter's "G.E.B" and the quirky "Le Ton Beau De Marot", but IMhO (slight humility) "i Am a Strange Loop" is not crossword-worthy.

44d. (V as in Versailles) Why "as in" and not just "in"?

SethG 4:33 AM  

This fell in about average Thursday time, but the part of my average range that's longer than my average Wednesday time.

Never heard of IBERT, never considered the N. Resisted the DIAGRAMS, because no one ever calls them that. They're diagrams of football plays, sure, but FOOTBALL DIAGRAMS? Okay. And I had just as much trouble with the END OF A part with LOVE LETTER. But I also had trouble getting CURES and
ALTER EGO, so maybe I'm just off today.

Does SEL mean something other than just salt? Or can it be a verb in French, too? 'Cause otherwise, I'm not sure how "Season" works for that...

jae 4:42 AM  

Yup, easy, but Hook always gives you at least one problematic cross. This one for me was TERTIARY/POINCIANA. Didn't know either but the crosses were pretty gettable. Nice puzzle. I do the Sunday BG every week and enjoy both the Hook's and the Cox/Rathvon's.

Doug 7:36 AM  

Well, this was easy for me until I got to the SE. I didn't get CINQ so I had HOLLYWOODS ???? SCREENS? Uh-uh. I never watched the show, so SQUARES just never occurred to me. Struggled to finish down there. I loved the fact (trivial, of course, and maybe not planned or noticed by anyone but Henry Hook) that the word LOVE is precisely in the middle of the grid.

crosswordnovice 7:41 AM  

first thursday i've completely finished!!

Went on here and was *slightly* disheartened to see that it was designated as easy but oh well.

Evgeny 7:48 AM  

Maybe it's just the usual lack of feel for my tertiary :-) language, but I'll ask anyway: shouldn't the clue go "V, in Versailles"? To me "V as in Versailles" implies the meaning of V in the word "Versailles".

Anonymous 7:52 AM  

Ditto easy.

I still can't see what a "cheater square" is, though...


Sam.

dk 8:05 AM  

@crosswordnovice, don't worry just when you think you got it down some puzzle will dress you up like a mailman and make you dance. In short, enjoy seeing with the beginners eye. Good work the Thursday bar is a great one to clear.

Thought EBOLA was EBOLI and that insured 15D was not Joe Btfsplk (favorite cartoon character next to Alice the Goon from Popeye). Got the Crosby tune in the Xs.

I remember the TERTIARY period and its spinning tectonic Plates as if it were yesterday. The volcanic activity made dusting a chore.

** (2Stars) Thank you Henry Hook

ps: keep some dryer lint with waterproof matches in your car, purse, murse, backpack and you will always be able to start a fire. Starting a fire is the first thing you should do when your lost. It will keep you busy, warm you and draw attention to your location.... particularly if you are lost in a department store.

d(Ranger Rick)k

dk 8:10 AM  

@Anon Sam, a cheater square is a dork who dates behind his/her significant other's back. You can find that in my secret addition of the DSM IV (there is that pesky V again).

d(the dr. is in)k

joho 8:17 AM  

Well, my composer was named InERT which I thought was very odd.

I also ended up with POIrCIANA which made me think of pigs.

Needless to say, I can't rate this as easy because I had two mistakes. But I did finish wrongly very quickly.

Anonymous 8:32 AM  

Where not to see an "x"? This puzzle.

David L 8:46 AM  

I would have said easy except that I finished with an error -- NUDGE for BUDGE, giving me the unknown composer INERT, which seemed peculiar but not impossible, and which has to me the same degree of unknownitude as IBERT. Not Quite Fair, I think, that crossing, since NUDGE and BUDGE are equally plausible. I was worried POINCIANA was going to be wrong, since it looked so unlikely, but no prob there.

fikink 8:46 AM  

@Rube - "Angelique, -lique -lique..." LOL!

@Corgi, thanks for Hofstadter recommendation. I didn't know there existed a clarification of GEB. Like @Rube, it is on my Amazon list.
@Clark ?

@SteveJ, "...how do you not have TICTACTOEBOARDS?" Exactly!

@Sethg, "seasoning" would have been more precise, no?

@d(RR)k, were those spinning plates on sticks and did The Tectonics make it to The Ed Sullivan Shoo?


@Henry Hook, nice solid fill! Pull this one out again in a couple years, cryptically clue everything and turn it into a Saturday puzzle.

Anonymous 8:47 AM  

Fun -- and easy! -- puzzle.

jesser 8:51 AM  

@ Joho: Me, too. Dammit. I had HOLLYWOOD SQUARES, but I have never heard of Mr. Crosby's 'hit.' Off the POI, I was thinking, "POIson ivy? Was Bing a masochist?"

Some really cool fill, I thought: ALTER EGO, FORENSICS, ACUITY, PROVOSTS, etc.

My bowling league starts up again Sunday after a blissful summer off, so the clue/answer pairing at 5D made me grin, then wince, then grin again.

Happy belated, Noam and SanFran!

And that will be the END OF A LOVE LETTER for me. XOXOXOXOXO, friends.

Aouseath! (Whatever it is, it's clearly Polynesian with all those vowels and but three lonely consonants) -- jesser

PIX 9:24 AM  

Thursdays should have something very creative...I kept waiting to find out what was going on in the puzzle that I didn't see...I'm still waiting...Fine puzzle for a Wednesday but very disappointing for Thursday.

chefbea 9:24 AM  

I agree..very easy for a Thursday

Hand up for Inert/nudge

I know V=cinq in French, but in Versailles it is just a letter? Can someone explain?

Sclafani 9:28 AM  

Easy, very easy. Let's be clear though -- spooning is not the same thing as necking; or am I interpreting that incorrectly.

JenCT 9:32 AM  

Got stuck at POLL/POINCIANA - just looked wrong. As did INERT. Finished in good time anyway.

I thought the puzzle had some new, fresh fill - liked it. Agree that this was easy for a Thursday.

Van55 9:40 AM  

Didn't love it. Didn't hate it. Thought the V in Versailles was about the best use of a RRN I have seen, but that's faint praise.

Easy Thursday, indeed.

retired_chemist 9:47 AM  

@ Sciafani - SPOONING and NECKING meant the same thing in my parents' generation. That would be the 1920's. By the Light of the Silvery Moon, published originally in 1909, cintains such a use of "spoon."

The term has evolved. Or else my folks were hotter than I ever thought.....

Glitch 9:49 AM  

@SteveJ & @fikink

TICTACTOEBOARDS is only 15 letters, the grid is 16 wide today.

I think HOLLYWOODSQUARES, which features a huge "T-T-T Board", a satisfying substitute ;)

Also, I chalk up "V as in Versailles" to Thursday level mis-direction. It's not wrong, just [intentionally] unclear ... and it worked!

.../Glitch

Kurt 9:49 AM  

While I really enjoyed the puzzle, I do have a small nit to pick. Footballs are not diagrammed, football plays are diagrammed. I had to get FOOTBALL DIAG---S before I felt comfortable throwing down the RAM. I had trouble believing the obvious because I kept imagining a blue print at the Rawlings football factory.

As I said, a small nit. And the puzzle was a fine one. Thanks Mr. Hook and Mr. Parker.

OldCarFudd 9:53 AM  

I guess a Thursday doesn't have to be hard if it's smooth, and this one is. I wanted "Talks like Daffy" to be lithpth, but then I guess the clue would have had to be Talkth.

archaeoprof 10:01 AM  

@CrosswordNovice: way to go! I'd say you are entitled to a new nom de blog.

escalante blogger 10:03 AM  

Old bands still the same as being great as what they are before.

fikink 10:09 AM  

@Glitch, point taken!
How 'bout TICTACTOERSSIGNS :)

Anonymous 10:12 AM  

I'm still trying to understand what a cheater square is. Would someone tell me exactly where one is in this puzzle? Please.

Always here 10:14 AM  

@Anon 10:12 - The square just to the right of 1A, JADA, is a cheater square. If that were not black, you could put a 5 letter word across, a 6 letter word down, and the number of entries in the puzzle would not change.

foodie 10:17 AM  

I liked this puzzle. I found it Monday easy in some spots but there were pesky corners and intersections. POINCIANA did not help- at all. But I did wish that the puzzle fill had included words where X's and O's showed up together-- mOXie? tOXicology? eXOtic? aXOn? Am I asking too much?

I too read GEB at some point. I probably wouldn't have the patience to do it again. But given @The Corgi's recommendation, I have ordered it. Young man, if it sucks, I will hunt you down at the SfN meeting and make you pay. Or I might buy you lunch and ask you to explain.

Actually, I occasionally use Escher drawings as illustrations in my talks, and did it before reading GEB, so that that strange loop idea must appeal to me.

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

Aha, thank you!

CoffeeLvr 10:23 AM  

Ditto to many, my comments have been made. Hand up for composer InERT.

Since I am now severely limiting my nightly imbibing, I am trying an experiment: doing the puzzle at night instead of the morning. Worked great on Wednesday, but fell asleep last night knowing POINCIANA had to be wrong, yet I was certain of all the crosses, except how does one spell TERTIARY? The top of this puzzle was easy, got harder on the way down, or maybe that was the sleep meds kicking in. LOL

Two Ponies 10:25 AM  

Agree that this was too easy both for a Thursday and a Hook.
It was OK but also seemed to follow too closely on the heels of yesterday's swarm of B's.
The V clue was odd. The season clue didn't bother me. You season your food. You salt your food.
Like @ jesser I thought about Poison Ivy although those branches don't make me think of love!
I had to wait for the cross to decide between Jets or Mets. I will never learn all of those stadium names. Besides, they seem to be getting boring corporate names these days.
How did I know Jada? Cosby Show?
Not Mr. Hook's best but I satisfied my puzzle jones.

Zeke 10:35 AM  

Wasn't Mr. Hook quoted once as saying his goal when creating a puzzle was to make the solver cry or something? His name scared me at the start, but have to agree with the easy rating, except for the I[n]ERT/[n]UDGE cross.
I have a new criteria for fairness - If you're citing a composer, and Amazon doesn't sell a single one of their recordings, it's unfair, outside of Saturday. I don't know how this criteria absolves me of never thinking of BUDGE, but give me some time and I will.

captcha: unamiti - Variant of unanimity, the situation we all seem to be in solving today

The Big E 11:17 AM  

like others, I fell for Inert/Nudge at first, and also needed all crosses to get Poinciana.

One thing I take issue with...
A Doppleganger is a physical double, a look-alike. You walk into a store and see someone who looks exactly like your friend John Doe - that's a doppleganger...
An Alter-ego is something internal, like Jekkyl and Hyde.

I don't think the cluing for that is accurate...
Thoughts?

Greg

P.S. Rex et. al., sorry for over-posting yesterday (and other days?).

hazel 12:01 PM  

@Corgi - thanks very much for the book shout out. It was timely in that I'd just 2 nights ago finished a disappointing "consciousness" book (Human Traces, a novel by Sebastian Faulks), Even though I continue to do this a lot, I was reminded AGAIN NOT to judge books by their covers!! A big disappointment after Birdsong, which I thought was wonderful.

As to the puzzle, blazing fast - new Thursday record - and also enjoyable. The K-T (Cretaceous-Tertiary) boundary is an incredibly fascinating time in the earth's history. Go Geology!!

Also interesting to think of the symbology of Xs and Os, their radically different connotations - hugs, linebackers, random gamepieces. Someone get Langdon on the phone.

Lurker0 12:03 PM  

@Two Ponies said...

The season clue didn't bother me. You season your food. You salt your food.

---

The season clue should bother you, because it is bogus.

"Season on the Seine" intends to misdirect to "season" (noun) -> ÉTÉ. But "season" (verb) cannot be solved by SEL (noun). Unlike "salt," which like so many English words serves flexibly as noun or verb -- or adjective also, for that matter.

However, "Seasoning" (noun) in the clue takes away all the fun. :-(

Lurking Larry the Golden Bear, GRRRing up for football "season" (noun) -- starting on Sept. 4.

Zeke 12:16 PM  

@Big E -
From Wiki: In fiction, folklore, and popular culture, a doppelgänger is a tangible double of a living person that typically represents evil.
It goes on to say that in the vernacular it has come to mean exactly what you said, a physical double.

So, its original (and still a of the valid one) meaning was a tangible Mr Hyde. Seems close enough.

Steve J 12:23 PM  

As Larry the Lurker mentioned, sel is not a verb in French. So this does break the convention of having clue and answer be interchangeable in a sentence.

@The Big E: I had the same issue with Doppelgänger and ALTEREGO as you. But, I'm pretty sure I've heard alter ego used at times to describe another person, so my guess is that there is enough supporting usage for this.

@Glitch: thanks for pointing out the grid size. I had assumed a 15. You could make the singular work, though, with a black square at each end.

The Big E 12:24 PM  

@Zeke - but doesn't the word "tangible" go against the concept of an alter-ego? I though an alter-ego was internal to the physical body (a la jekyll and hyde). EIf a dopplegnager was at one point a tangible representation of evil, that to me sounds more like a mechanism that Science Fiction and Fantasy have used - Evil Jean-Luc Picard vs. Good Picard; Bizarro Superman vs. Superman, etc.
Still seems off to me... :-(

The Big E 12:27 PM  

From Wikipedia:
Alter Ego: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alter_ego

Doppleganger: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doppleganger

So from this perspective, using the Superman analysis...

Superman's alter ego would be Clark Kent.
Superman's doppleganger would be Bizarro Superman.

CaseAce 12:36 PM  

Rex, the pic, supposedly of Jacques Ibert, 1890-1962, looks far more recent than almost 50 years ago...are you sure it,s him?

Anonymous 12:45 PM  

Who said the pic was of Ibert?

Rick 12:59 PM  

I had a hard time in the SW corner, because I had ACUMEN instead of ACUITY and TWOS for draft choices instead of ALES. I guess I was thinking NBA draft. But, still, very fast for a Thursday - and this is from someone who has yet to finish a Friday puzzle. This puzzle almost makes me want to try extra hard tomorrow.

Grace 2:15 PM  

Yup another easy one in a week of insultingly easy puzzles...

shrub5 2:41 PM  

@CaseAce: The picture of the man with his thumb up is of Roger Ebert, film critic.

Agree with most that this was easy for a Thursday and stumbled into the same pitfalls: I had INERT for the composer but just knew that couldn't be correct so changed it to IBERT; also had FLAWED before FAULTY.

I knew POINCIANA from The Manhattan Transfer's excellent version -- didn't know it was a der Bingle hit. Spelled V in French CINC so that left me with HOLLYWOODSC----S. I thought of SCRIPTS figuring X's and O's were used to indicate where the actors stood or moved...crosses soon corrected that notion.

Favorite clue: Alley oops (SPLIT).

Shamik 2:41 PM  

Yup, easy at 7:04.

XOXOXOXO to all.

fatio=Mexican food eaten outside on the veranda

fergus 3:04 PM  

Yeah, Hook on a Thursday without any obstacle, gimmick or trickery? Maybe the expectations are those that provide its Thursday appearance?

Anonymous 3:15 PM  

isn't that a picture of Roger Ebert, not Ibert???

william e emba 3:20 PM  

According to William Shakespeare Much Ado About Nothing, Act IV, Scene 1, lines 141-145:

--why, she, O, she is fallen/Into a pit of ink, that the wide sea/Hath drops too few to wash her clean again/And salt too little which may SEASON give/To her foul-tainted flesh!

"salt" the noun and "season" the noun are interchangeable. Both OED2 and W3I list this sense of "season" for seasoning as obsolete. But on ?-clues, I think of labels like "obsolete" as optional, certainly in regards to the Bard. Hook and Shortz are correct.

As for the missing tic-tac-toe board: come on, it's in HOLLYWOOD SQUARES. That switcheroo cracked me up.

As for the question about why the clue is "V as in Versailles" and not "V in Versailles": in English, we like to emphasize a letter by saying things like "A as in apple". The clue is riffing on this to add a layer of misdirection, confusion, and puzzlement. In other words, it's a crossword puzzle clue.

Sue Grafton has her well-known mystery series with titles going down the alphabet--we sometimes see them as a partial. (Not as well-known are the Lawrence Treat short stories "A as in Alibi", "V as in Vengeance", etc published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in the 60s and 70s. The title of Isaac Asimov's "Ph as in Phony" was originally published under a different title because the editor felt Treat owned that gimmick.)

SethG 3:54 PM  

I guess [Son's son?] can be used for NEPHEW then, too. Cause, well, Shakespeare and M-W both have it.

In case anyone's still confused, here are pictures of Bert, iBert, iberty, Iberia, and José Eber.

harryhassell 3:55 PM  

HA! I didn't notice at first but yes, that is a picture of Roger EE-bert not Jacques ee-BEHR - nice, Rex :)

Easy puzzle, but still a good one. Being a saxophonist and flutist, I loved seeing IBERT in the puzzle. For once, I have an edge!! The YouTube clip is pretty funny, too, seeing how the kid completely biffs the opening lick. Then again, he's certainly better than I was when I was 18.

I hesitated, too, but if one thinks of the CINQ clue as "V as [it is] in Versailles" then it makes perfect sense.

sanfranman59 4:29 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 13:33, 19:11, 0.71, 6%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Thu 7:398, 9:13, 0.83, 29%, Easy-Medium

This puzzle seemed to me to be a Monday puzzle with a couple of Friday/Saturday crosses thrown in. It was almost as though Will didn't have any Thursday puzzles lined up, so he grabbed a Monday, changed InERT/nUDGE to IBERT/BUDGE and reworked the SE to make it Thursday tough. Didn't anyone besides me confidently write in FOOTBALL plAybook? I've been an ardent football fan all my life (it goes with the territory when you're born and raised in Massillon, Ohio) and have never heard the term "football diagram". I see that the phrase is not foreign to Google, so I guess I must grudgingly admit that it's legit.

Evgeny 4:45 PM  

@ all Versaillesiens: thanks for the explanations

@ The Big E: I knew there was another clue I thought was weird! 'Doppelgänger' means 'look-alike' in German - and nothing else. However, Merriam-Webster tells me

doppelgänger

1: a ghostly counterpart of a living person
2 a : double
b : alter ego
c : a person who has the same name as another

But then again: why mislead the poor foreign solver by capitalizing the clue (and don't tell me they're all capitalized) thus making him think it's German? Oh well. Had to get V crosses to come up with alter ego was wanted.

PuzzleNut 4:49 PM  

Had POINCIANA from the crosses and thought something must be wrong, but let it be. Turned out OK.
Had InERT from the crosses and thought something must be wrong, but let it be. Oops.
Otherwise a very easy puzzle, but enjoyable as well.
captcha - sessessa - a whole bunch of ess's (in keeping with this week's puzzle themes)

J 5:01 PM  

I, as many did, had NUDGE, which fits "Move slightly" better than BUDGE.
I, too, had no idea who INERT was as composer. I had equal knowledge of IBERT.
EBERT, I know.

Had HOLLYWOOD SQUARES by simply counting the letters.

Like Rick, had ACUMEN at first.

"Holiday celebrations" would have been better than "Year-end" because the latter makes you think of New Year's Eve.

Like Rex had NO idea about POINCIANA.
TERTIARY I also knew as a word, not an era. As in who do you pass to when the receiver and tight end are both covered?

CaseAce 5:08 PM  

Thank you, Schub5 and Anon, for identifying the Roger Ebert pic in todays blog. I failed to recognize him, not only because he's still battling the Big C, but also because he wasn't wearing his customary specs in the photo appended. I also managed to overlook his signature Thumbs-up sign!

Anonymous 5:11 PM  

Also, the fact that the image is titled 1277852343-ebert.jpg.

Cathyat40 5:16 PM  

Those Four Freshman don't look like they have a rhythmic, savage beat inside them, despite what they say.

Clark 5:26 PM  

@fikink --

I'm pretty sure there is a website somewhere with pictures of Roxie somewhere, but I haven't had a moment of peace during which I might figure out what it is. Later.

I read Gödel Escher Bach when it was still in manuscript. It's a delightful romp. @foodie, I bet you'll enjoy reading it.

Chip Hilton 5:47 PM  

OSU as a rival to Nebraska? That threw me, as I always regarded Oklahoma as the Cornhuskers' rival, not Okla. State. But maybe Mr. Hook refers to Nebraska's move to the Big Ten and it's Ohio State he's after. Whatever . . . it stopped me for a moment. The Bing/Cenozoic crossing was my other stumper.

babes 7:57 PM  

Thank you Sclafani and retired_chemist for bringing up the reason I'm visiting Rex today...I was stuck on that and gave it to my dad (a 60s guy) and he said "oh you're too young to get this one..it's neck for spoon" to which I launched into "what are you talking about??? spooning is NOT the same thing as necking! etc. etc."...at about the 4th etc. I realized the inherent awkwardness of the conversation and immediately turned to Rex for some type of justification...

foodie 8:41 PM  

@Chip Hilton even I with my S-IQ (S as in Sport) hovering around 60, felt the same as you did. What happened to the Wolverines as the classic OSU rivals? I guess that was another way to move it from Monday to Thursday difficulty?

@Clark, I was not clear in my earlier post. I ordered I AM A Strange Loop, based on @The Corgi's input. I had read GEB many moons ago. But now, I'm really fascinated. You read GEB when it was a manuscript? So cool! Are you an editor? Hofstadter's friend? His colleague? Inquiring minds want to know.

Clark 9:11 PM  

@foodie -- I was a student of Doug Hofstadter (and a friend) at the time GEB was published. (I was actually a graduate student in the music school at the time, but on the side I studied artificial intelligence.)

Sfingi 9:55 PM  

DNF, Found it difficult. Got only first one of theme (the sports!). Wanted Tic Tac Toe. Wanted "storks" for Meadowland (dump) squad. Had Faure before IBERT. Never heard of S. PADRE I; or OSU. Didn't know CHAI was spicy. Didn't like YULES. Don't understand REST.

Won't buy NYT tomorrow.

@Cathyat40 - Hubster's trying to blame me for the existence of a 4 Freshman LP in our house. Just 'cause I'm a mayonnaise face.

Liked the beautiful red-flowered POINCIANA tree that can't grow in Zone 5.
That Hofstadter book that I never heard of sounds good.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:50 PM  

Did puzzle at beach today.

Can't say anything bad about Henry Hook. I know he was born in East Rutherford, NJ, where I went to High School. Internet won't tell me where he went to High School, but he is about nine years younger than I am.

Still would have preferred a nice rebus.

across carla michaels 12:31 AM  

@Shrub5
I loved "Alley oops!' too till I saw ALLEYWAY in the grid. Has someone else mentioned this and I missed it?
(Late to the party big time today... Speaking of which it's Will Shortz's bday to boot!)

And what about the 10D clue? Do folks like those meta-self-puzzle-referential clues? If so, pls discuss, I'd like to know that as a sometime constructor.

I was also a bit surprised to see the plural in the first theme answer, but I guess to fit HOLLYWOODSQUARES in the puzzle (perhaps the raison d'etre of the puzzle to begin with), it had to be 16.
Thought that is where @Rex was going with his discussion of "cheater squares", I don't know if adding an S to a theme answer counts as that too, but I'm always getting chastised (by writing partners) for that.
HOLLYWOOD Squares is more fun than CHEATER Squares.

I was relieved that was the final answer bec I wanted TICTACTOEBOARD(s)
from the word go.

And, altho I too fell for InERT/nUDGE
after debating for the final few minutes, it felt like a Tuesday for me.

I need to re-read the blog bec I didn't even see reference to Rex being in the WSJ today! POTASH!

shrub5 1:10 AM  

@across carla: I didn't 'get' the clue to 10D at all so the answer ACROSS came totally from the crosses. THEN I got it and chuckled (slightly--one heh.) So I guess I like it for late week clues. I kinda put it in a category with clues like: Center of gravity, answer: VEE.

Mary 1:51 AM  

Too late for anyone to read this, but I wanted to thank @Corgi, too, for the "I am a strange loop" recommendation! I, too, thoroughly enjoyed GEB many years ago, and this one is on its way me now! @Clark, very interesting comment about your having read it in manuscript!

Nebraska Doug 3:42 PM  

As a lifelong Nebraska resident and NU alum, I can assure everyone that OSU is not a NU rival, an opponent, but not a rival. Not even close. Many schools in the Big 12 could be considered a rival of NU before OSU. The OU Sooners first and foremost (from the Big 8 Days). Later Colorado became a heated rival. KU, KSU, Missouri and ISU would all be ranked above OSU as rivals.

Anonymous 11:31 AM  

18A first cut was FOOTBALLPLAYBOOK
but after that only 10A and 12D were problems [I don't do well on modern idioms]

Llurking, Just Behind You! 12:52 PM  

not in the puzzle, but -boringer- (thanks @Rex) is my word of the day.

Prof 3:47 PM  

Doppelgangers can be nominal (same name), physical (lookalikes) or psychological (Jeckyl and Hyde), so the clue works just fine for me.

Love this blog. This is my first entry. Hope to be brave enough to contribute more often.

Puzzle was easy. Thanks HH and RP.

rideitforward 3:24 PM  

This puzzle threw me for a bit of loop because it wasn't 15 x 15. I will occasionally do the NYT diagramless, using some blank grids I printed out on my computer. The clues in this puzzle were very easy but I got into trouble and had to start over when I realized the symmetry wasn't what I expected. Can anyone tell me how often a NYT daily ISN'T 15x15? Thanks.

rideitforward 3:26 PM  

Ran into trouble when doing this diagramless. I usually use a blank 15x15 grid that I print out. This 16x15 had me scratching my head for a while and I had to start over when I figured it out. Can anyone tell me how often the NYT daily has a non 15x15 grid? Thanks

plantfan40 2:48 PM  

Hi, first time here. I thought this was a little more challenging than usual- I fell for the SEL/ETE and UNCUT/INERT before the Hollywood Squares answer jumped out at me. But, could someone please explain the answer to 34D? Got the correct SRS from the acrosses but I don't understand "the ones with rings." I get that it is most likely wedding rings and that it is an abbreviation, but isn't there usually something that points to Spanish when the answer is SRS for SENORAS? Anyway, enjoyed being able to do a Henry Hook- husband does his cryptics!

Dropout 8:58 PM  

@plantfan40 - I believe "the ones with rings" are Seniors, as high school or college Seniors, SRS, who have their school rings. But what do I know; I'm a dropout!

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