Designer McCartney / THU 12-23-10 / Reggae/dancehall artist Paul / Notorious 1999 computer virus / Jedi big forehead

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Constructor: Oliver Hill and Eliza Bagg

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: GHOTI (30D: "Fish") — George Bernard Shaw's alleged fanciful explanation of how to spell "Fish": 17A: What to use to spell 30-Down, according to George Bernard Shaw, reputedly, Part 1: THE 'GH' FROM 'ENOUGH' (36A: Part 2) THE 'O' FROM 'WOMEN' (Part 3) THE 'TI' FROM 'NATION'

Word of the Day: STELLA McCartney (3D: Designer McCartney) —

Stella Nina McCartney (born 13 September 1971) is an English fashion designer. She is the daughter of former Beatles member Sir Paul McCartney and the late photographer and animal rights activist, Linda McCartney. (wikipedia)
• • •

First off, thanks to Caleb Madison and Natan Last for doing the write-up yesterday, and thanks to many of you for the interesting and mostly kind comments (and emails) regarding my ALL IN puzzle.

Today's puzzle falls generally into that category of "Theme Answers as Instructions," though it's somewhat funny and thus somewhat more interesting than "Do this" or "Fold here" or whatever. I know of this "GHOTI" thing only from GHOTI's appearance in a crossword a while back. Appears to be a well known wordplay gag to many. As I was solving this, I couldn't remember the joke very well, and after getting GHO- wrote in GHOST at 30D (confusing this "Fish" thing with the game of "GHOST," which I also know only from crosswords). If you are familiar with the whole "GHOTI" trick, then there's no great reveal here, and if you're not, then ... maybe there is.

As for non-theme stuff, there are some weak spots, but they're mostly small and out-of-the-way (e.g. the little TERR/SEENO/ARR section in the west and the unlovable TEHEED in the NW—which I blew because I didn't check my crosses after filling in SAT at 14A: Lay (SET), thus ending up with TAHEED ... finding out it was really TEHEED didn't improve things much). Otherwise, much to enjoy, including "HELLO, MELISSA!" (20A: Shout into a canyon + 22A: Notorious 1999 computer virus) and "HERE WE GO!" (37D: Shout at the top of a rollercoaster) and "DETROIT!" (52A: Lion's home) (my losing but much improving football team—really hoping that after he inevitably wins Rookie of the Year, Ndamukong Suh starts to appear in puzzles). One thing I still don't get, even after asking another constructor—what is 39D: Good radio station for a bride? (WIFE) supposed to mean? Is that a famous radio station? In NYC? Constructor I asked is from NYC, so that would be weird.

[26D: Reggae/dancehall artist ___ Paul]

  • 4A: Originator of the phrase "rosy-fingered dawn" (HOMER) — translator originated the phrase, but still, Gimme.
  • 32A: Books often read on Saturday (TORAH) — did not know the singular was the plural.
  • 41A: Object of Andy's affection in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (TRISH) — saw the movie, liked the movie, forgot the name—although figuring out her name probably doesn't start SR- helped me change GHOST to GHOTI.
  • 61A: Zero, in slang (BAGEL) — I had AUGHT at first. Not really "slang," I guess.
  • 1D: Panama and Suez (ISTHMI) — deliberate trickery. Of course I wrote in CANALS right away.
  • 9D: One fighting urban sprawl, say (ZONER) — I was trying to explain to someone earlier tonight how low word-count puzzles tend to have lots of strange -ER words in them ...
  • 38D: Who'll "talk 'til his voice is hoarse," in a 1960s sitcom (MR. ED) — First thought: MR. HANEY ... kidding.
  • 55D: Jedi with a big forehead (YODA) — not a feature I'd single out, but OK.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Noam D. Elkies 12:40 AM  

A single 32A:TORAH scroll comprises the five Books of Moses (five as in Pentateuch). If for some reason you need a plural, the Hebrew would be תּוֹרוֹת, torot(h),
though that wouldn't normally be used for several Torah scrolls: a single one is fully "sefer Torah", a book of the Torah, and to get several of them you'd say "books of the Torah", "sifrei Torah" — not *"s(e)farim Torah" because it's in construct form.

NDE [from NYC, where I was traveling for much of the day; belated congratulations to Mike # on yesterday's NYTimes deuxième.]

SethG 12:44 AM  

I hate "good name for" clues. WIFE appears to play country music somewhere between Indianapolis and Cincinnati. All of their on-air staff appear to be men.

I remember the fish thing from the old puzzle, so this went by pretty quickly. "Reputedly" is I think in the clue because he didn't say that. I learned that in...The New York Times.

syndy 12:46 AM  

Okay but I don't understand "peace out"=later? Over_all I enjoyed the battle although the clue for 30 down pretty much said it. I fell for the canals but knew that torah is always plural (being the five books)but such a lovely way to clue oboes!! Off now to google Ostmopathy!

Matthew G. 12:47 AM  

W is one of two letters (K being the other) that serve as the first letters of radio station call names in the United States. Stations often come up with call letters that somehow suit their locales or subjects. E.g., WNYC in New York, KFOG in San Francisco, etc. So a bridal station might be WIFE.

Very weird clue. But, I laughed.

My main reaction upon finishing this puzzle was: What the $%!& in God's green Earth was THAT? Then I Googled GHOTI and began to vaguely recollect having heard this supposed illustration of the vagaries of English pronunciation before. And it was a fun solve. Really loved the misdirection on ISTHMI and the clue for TOAST.

Object to TEHEED, though. I submit to you that few or no people write that, and a quick Google search backs me up. It's TEEHEED --- two sets of double-Es.

syndy 12:49 AM  

Osteopathy-makes more sense maybe I am seeing things

Anonymous 12:52 AM  

Now, this puzzle was almost as much fun as listening to a Jack Benny radio program at Christmas, even though Jack was a Jew from Waukegan, Illinois. I mean, when canals turns into ISTHMI, does it get any better? Makes me think of Casablanca, when Rick said he went there for the waters and there were none.

It was the cluing from 1D to 9A. 20A - Shout into a canyon – everyone wants to shout HELLO in the Grand Canyon to hear the echo. Memento from an old flame – ASH, how great is that 3 letter fill? Cigarettes, cigars, whatever, there was the ash and with the cigar, the longer, the better. Have no idea why I knew ANTIOCH with only the A.

And, what a theme! Never saw it this way before. It’s not a saying. It’s a bunch of sayings. And what a great and interesting challenge!? And Shaw was a socialist so the constructor put in TORYISM to counter that. Brilliant! But unlike when it’s a single quotation, the theme actually helped. The central north fell first with GHOST and the GH. At this point the entire North was done and done with a feeling of satisfaction.

LOL. Not ANTIOCH. AMHERST, of course, because it’s in New England where all good things in education emanate. Then aims turned into ENDS and Soup and eyes became WATERY and the SE had DIE OUT and STONED beside each other.

MR ED – hoarse? Another good one.

Noisome noise? SNORE. Not me….

GHOST turned into GHOTI and then I just stared when I got Part 3 because MHP did not pop out and GHOTI made no sense.

Then remembered it was QED, not QEM, and MHP appeared. No cheats other than no MHP, but still had no clue what GHOTI was. Sounded like the Dapper Don spelled differently. But after Googling, I learned something. That’s what I like about the NYT puzzle. It’s fun and I learn something....

PS. They could have changed SERF to SURF and EGGS to UGGS, but so what?

John Do-little

retired_chemist 1:03 AM  

Not exactly like shooting GHOTI in a barrel, but quite doable. Most enjoyable. I was buffaloed at first by the theme, then saw the 30D clue with GH___ in place, and KNEW. Slow going but fair.

Hand up for CANALS @ 1D, like everybody else. 5D was ODD after I gave up on IMAGO (which was my favorite wrong answer today) @ 15A.

My radio station was WIDO and my -pathy was NEURO. 42A was ETD until the true ETD appeared at 66A. With all these (and more) writeovers, I am not surprised I made a medium puzzle one of my slowest Thursdays that didn't have a rebus.

But kudos to the Hill-Bagg team. This puzzle was a winner in my book.

davko 1:05 AM  

I've seen BAGEL for zero often in puzzles, but the only time I seem to hear it used regularly in the world at large is by ESPN's Carl Ravitch, whose alliterative "Bagels on the Board" aptly summarizes baseball games in which both starting pitchers have a shutout going.

ISTHMI is another gem that is not often found to be UTILE; it never occurred to me until now that this is how the plural would appear, if ever called upon.

Anonymous 1:48 AM  


WIFE - Look at it the other way. If there were a radio staion with the letters WIFE, that works for a bride.

John Do-Little

r.alphbunker 2:43 AM  

Dot-comifying is the practice of converting a word into a URL by prepending "www" and appending" ".com" to it. On a whim I dot-comified GHOTI and got a web page that consisted of a single image of a rooster sitting on the back of a goat. The goat is looking forward and the rooster is looking backwards. The page has the header "Janus". Somebody out there has a nice sense of humor. BTW, doticomification is a potentially dangerous practice because of viruses. At the very least the word you dot-comify should pass the breakfast test.

The puzzle went very fast because I knew about GHOTI and spent six years at UMass.

Anonymous 2:50 AM  

I didn't get TEHEED. TO HEED crossed with SOT woud have been more interesting

andrea isthjustmi michaels 3:37 AM  

I loved the idea of favorite wrong answer of the day...

I guess mine would be "Originator of the phrase "rosy-fingered dawn", I had HOpER, like rose-colored glasses, I guess.

@Clark, might you stop by to elegantly explain how Homer couldn't really have originated that phrase bec he didn't speak English.

Agree with Rex that that HELLO and HEREWEGO were lively and I love when you can "hear" a puzzle.

And I love clues like 54A "Like some eyes and soup." Fun.

And who will be first to raise eyebrows at the greylady/high/STONED blah blah blah
(or did I miss it?)

ISTHMI or do others also think that's the new ugliest word, despite the coolness of starting and ending in "I". (hmmm, I feel a puzzle coming on...)

Ulrich 4:01 AM  

Didn't know the GHOTI story and therefore had a real aha experience along the way. Thx @SethG for providing background!

From what I know (and I admit I'm not an expert), English spelling isn't really arbitrary--there was a time when words were spelled as written--it's just that the spelling hasn't kept up with the changing pronunciation. I'm reminded of this every time I see a word containing "ght"--chances are, there is a similar German word with a similar meaning containing "cht"--like Licht (light), Nacht (night), or acht (eight). In all cases, the "ch", unlike the "gh", is pronounced. It seems the English and German words derive from the same Old-Germanic (I don't know the correct term) word in which the gh/ch was pronounced.

jae 4:11 AM  

Yep for CANAL and ODD, plus ROT for MAR and TNT for the cable station. Other than those about Med. for me. (Oops, forgot about PREFACE). I had heard the Shaw "quote" but didn't remember the specifics so this was all about the crosses. Which is to say I liked it. I mean (@andrea) ISTHMI, how could you not.

Falconer 4:40 AM  

Found this puzzle challenging until I figured out the theme. Enjoyable solve despite the speed at which it came together once the theme was revealed.

HELLO was the most subversively awesome clue/answer of the week. Loved it.

Re "Peace Out" -- the most infamous use in movies was in "Napoleon Dynamite." It was Kip's signature exit line. Here's a clip:

fikink 5:07 AM  

Wow! Really loved this one, especially because I had no idea what it all meant, even after finishing it correctly. I had to work for everything incrementally.

@r_c: "Not exactly like shooting GHOTI in a barrel, but quite doable." good one, my friend!

@Seth, thanks for the quick link. (I have to learn to embed!) Your story cites "action" instead of NATION. Did the constructors fudge this?

@ACME, I know what you mean about "hearing" a puzzle.

This was a good Thursday workout for me, though I imagine to someone familiar with the story, it was a Tuesday snap.

I skip M-W 5:20 AM  

First fill was 1A its in NW, Isthmi followed at once. I knew GBS was a phonetic alphabet nut — he left a lot of his fortune for this project — and I also knew ghoti spells fish, so the rest fell very fast, for me. But fun, though agree with @Rex's annoyance at teheed and Homer.

captcha Mizedigh is another word GBS would simplify

Rex Parker 6:24 AM  

I understand the logic of the WIFE clue but think it's *ridiculous* for a non-famous radio station. Can any four-letter W-word be clued this way? [Good radio station for a construction worker?]=WELD? [Good radio station for a coward?]=WIMP? Etc.?

Smitty 7:05 AM  

@retired chemist

My favorite wrong answer of the day was BIGEL (big "L" or "Loser") for Zero.

I don't know my dynasties well enough to refute it.

Anonymous 7:11 AM  

Or any K word. My first answer there was KISS.

Megan P 7:30 AM  

"Noisome noise." I've lately seen "noisome" used as a synonym for "noisy." It actually means stinking, fetid, and nauseating.

I liked the puzzle!

glimmerglass 7:41 AM  

GHOTI is an old gag, but I never knew it was falsely but reasonably attributed to GBS (who wanted to simplify English spelling). English spelling is weird because after 1066, the language was spoken for two centuries chiefly by the underclass and it lost its Germanic grammar. That meant it could easily borrow words directly from other languages, which it continues to do today. In the puzzle, I caught on early that the theme was the gag, and that made the puzzle (which contains some tricky parts) much easier than it would be for someone who never heard it.

smev 8:03 AM  

@Ulrich - in Scots, words such as licht and nicht (light and night), do still use the 'ch' sound.

Yogeshvara 8:11 AM  

I still don't get the ghoti thing. Maybe I'll like this puzzle in a few days?

efrex 8:14 AM  

Must. Remember. To. Use. Pencil. After. Wednesday. (*thwacking self on forehead repeatedly*). Having CANALS for ISTHMI really messed up the NW corner of the grid something fierce.

Knew the Shaw quote right off the bat, so the theme answers fell extremely quickly. Thought I was gonna tear through this thing, but got tripped up in some of the uglier fill. ISTHMI, MDI, and HOHOS just had me groaning OOO... TEHEED hasn't shown up in over a decade, and I don't mind if it takes another 11 years before it does again. "Blech" fill saved by HELLO & HEREWEGO, as well as the clue for ASH.

The five-year-old just heard Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" for the first time recently, so the OBOES clue resonates pretty strongly with me. Solid B/B+ effort.

Yogeshvara 8:15 AM  

I looked it up on Wikepedia. OK now I get it, but not knowing it made the puzzle a slog. Even with some cute fill this just seems like a bad quote puzzle. Where the payoff is not worth the effort.

John 8:30 AM  

Not knowing of "GHOTI" made this much more difficult than it should have been. I had ghoti written in, and then had to google it to see what it was all about. If I knew the context earlier in the puzzlie, I think it would have been easier, and more clever. I did not, and found it difficult, odd and confusing at times.

Anonymous 8:40 AM  

@mac - Re yesterday: If you go check out Eataly, be certain to avoid the gelato - $4.99 for a small cup with a false bottom. It looks as though it is about 2 inches deep from the outside, but when you put your spoon in, you will find it is only about half that depth.

David L 8:41 AM  

Didn't care for this. THE[X]FROM[Y] theme answers were annoyingly repetitious, and the effort of getting them all into a grid made for some dreary fill -- TBS, MGR, ARR, REG, QED, MDI, ELO, etc etc. Not to mention WIFE, which is just silly.

But some of my dislike of this puzzle may be spillover from my dislike of GHOTI as a supposed example of weird English spelling. Whether or not it had anything to do with Shaw, it's a smart-alecky but fatuous illustration of -- nothing, really.

Oh, yeah, and as @Megan P said, a SNORE isn't likely to be a noisome noise, unless the snorer has been eating garlic and anchovies...

retired_chemist 8:47 AM  

@ Rex - sure. WIFE may be totally fictitious but is nonetheless a fun answer. Beats letter runs and randon Roman numerals IMO.

Favorite Scottish pronunciation is Auchinlech, pronounced AFF leck. Ever see the phonetic pronunciation? :-)

Anonymous 8:49 AM  

The word is fine, it's the clue that sucks.

mmorgan 8:55 AM  

I know the "GHOTI trick" well (always thought it was GBS) but I still enjoyed the puzzle (even if more people knowing it now takes away some of the pleasure of knowing it ;-). It's fun (if a bit cruel) to show to people learning English.

Mostly smooth but had PREFACE for PRELUDE for awhile at 48A, and I was just lucky to guess the A in the KAUAI/SEAN cross, neither of which I knew. Almost wrote down DEnROom before DETROIT, but it felt weird. I also liked the CANALS/ISTHMI trick.

Didn't even realize I had put down AMHERST -- and that's where I live!

retired_chemist 9:01 AM  

@ anon 8:49 - I meant I liked the clue-answer pair.

joho 9:07 AM  

I really liked this. GHOTI was new to me so that added to my enjoyment of the solve.

@anon. 7:11 ... KISS is definitely the best wrong answer of the day. @ret_chem & @ Andrea -- I'm on board for this idea ... it's as much fun, or more, as malapops!
All I could think of at 1D was, "ISTHMI or you, kid."

Thank you Oliver and Eliza!

Howard B 9:11 AM  

Knew of GHOTI, but not the quote, so that made the puzzle a few notches more difficult.

Noam expertly covered the TORAH clue explanation, much better than I could possibly have done. My understanding stopped at (one Torah = 5 books), and (I previously thought) the plural was 'Torot'. Glad I read the previous posts...

Digression: The WIFE clue was absolutely bizarre. I agree with Rex on that one. Don't want to open the door to a category of arbitrary "radio call letter" clues. The "Good name for" type of clues are cute ("a cook? = STU"), and that's OK since there's a valid pun involved, but here it's simply a word. Don't want to sound grumpy, but really, this type just kinda seems flat. ("Pick any 4-letter word starting with W or K, instant radio clue"). End of digression. :)

Time to end this before I ramble on about something completely random. Have a great (early) weekend, all!

Rex Parker 9:14 AM  


Letter runs and random roman numerals? Of course WIFE is better than those things. And I like dogs better than pizza, but ... thankfully, no one ever asked me to choose.

That is to say: the issue with WIFE is the clue, not the word.

Matthew G. 9:15 AM  

By the way, my single favorite thing about this puzzle is that ITS crossed ISTHMI. Such an easy answer crossing such a hard one, and yet the constructors had to know that many people (myself included) would insist on trying CANALS first despite the cross which would probably be ITS, since it _could_ be something other than ITS.


Rex Parker 9:16 AM  

Ah, I see someone has said as much. Carry on.


Anonymous 9:20 AM  

Yes the radio station clue is lazy as all get out, but it might be the only way you can eventually sneak in "Good name for a radio station for tailors"

Glitch 9:22 AM  

Radio Station WIFE 100.3 FM, covers roughly the same area as the fictional WKRP.

See (read) also @SethG at 12:44a


The Hag 9:22 AM  

The stuff I liked, I really liked - ISTHMI (I had CANALI at first, despite the fact that I know they on Mars >_<), clever use of BAGEL and TOAST, HEREWEGO, FERRET. But the stuff I disliked, I really hated - OOO, MDI, ZONER, TEHEED (tuh-heed?). GHOTI is a chestnut, but one that I enjoy and it took we a little while to get the connector - LIKE? ASIN? Oh, FROM. So overall, it was a fun solve for me with just a few sour notes.

jyp0625 9:30 AM  

How can this puzzle make sense unless you know the quotation and the story behind it beforehand? I labored to complete the puzzle with a heavy dose of googling and I still had no clue of what the quotation meant.

I needed to google GHOTI to understand what it all meant.

Not much fun in completing the puzzle but at least I learned something that I did not know.

Jo 9:37 AM  

Nice puzzle. Had to google object of Andy's affection and one of five colleges, then got the whole thing but did not "get" ghoti until I saw it explained. School's out, no classes, and I have time, or so I believe, to do the puzzle, check the comments and sign in. What fun!

deerfencer 9:51 AM  

Fun, challenging puzzle IMO. Only mild googling to verify the designer McCartney, who my wife informs me is Paul's daughter.

Favorite radio station of a Rush Limbaugh fan? WIND of course.

Christy 9:54 AM  

The first time I have ever looked at the theme and immediately been able to fill in all theme answers (except NA in part 3). Very fun if you knew GHOTI. This week has improved a lot since Monday and Tuesday.

mitchs 10:00 AM  

Loved it. I had a vague recollection of seeing "GHOTI" but no contextual reference. For me, that made this a perfect late week puzzle. Started out with scattered crossing with no real footholds - then the ahas started coming. Fun.

RPS 10:06 AM  

Had not encountered that quote before, and it made for quite an interesing/head scratching experience.

Linguistically, wouldn't the 'f' sound be the result of 'ugh' as opposed to just 'gh'? And the 'sh' the result of the 'ti' and the following vowel much in the same that a tilde-n in Spanish requires a following vowel to drop the 'y' sound in front of?

Van55 10:25 AM  

Knew the GHOTI thing (without the GBS attribution) so the puzzle fell fairly easily for me.

Admired the ISTHMI misdirection and opposite of invoices clue.

TEHEES, OOO, ASH, MDI, ELO and WIFE are all quite unfortunate. Snoring is noisy, not noise some.

I generally dislike cross-referenced clues but somehow FIEF and SERF gets a pass today.

Not a great puzzle for me, but not noise some either.

Van55 10:27 AM  

Reas noisome for noise some please

7thecow 10:35 AM  

I'm with The Hag. Knew the GHOTI story from way back, filled in 17A and thought "This will be a real headscratcher if you don't know ghoti, I mean THEGHFR- where is this going?" I really liked the WIFE clue, even better that there actually is such a station. Did not guess A for KAUII, and rappers often have odd names SEIN, so finished with an error.

Shamik 10:40 AM  

I'm guessing if you knew GHOTI ahead of time, the puzzle fell a lot faster. Am always interested to see who needs specific things explained by the write-up or blog comments. And I have been the grateful recipient of many of those explanations.

I didn't know about GHOTI before this puzzle, but it's pretty self explanatory in the long clues. Ended up being a medium-challenging puzzle for me for a Thursday. And while some things were fresh (GLISTEN, ISTHMI, WATERY, HEREWEGO), I didn't like the puzzle.

Two Ponies 11:02 AM  

I was not familiar with the quote so the discovery at the end changed my WTF to Aha. Always a good thing.
Tehee, teehee, tepee, teepee, tipi we've seen them all and just have to be patient to ferret out which one it will be.
Some odd clues, to be sure, like what do soup and eyes have in common?
If you guys are right about noisome then that was an unfortunate editing error.
I do enjoy illustrations of the whacky language we speak so thumbs up in the end.

Jim 11:03 AM  

Had to get 37 of the 43 theme letters from crosses before I could see the answer clearly. Took a while, then, as you might imagine. I wonder if sanfranman will comment on what I predict will be a very high standard deviation in solving times today.

Didn't know 'five College' area was well-known enough to clue it as such. I live here so it was no challenge but...

Five schools in an approx 7- mile radius. Probably more than that, though, is the clear personality distinction between all 5. The only way they could be more diverse is probably to throw in a random, evangelical-type school, like Bob Jones 'university', into the mix. Come to think of it, I'm all for it; that would be fun.

GBS 11:37 AM  

What does the puzzle world have against me? I wrote some of the most insightfull plays of the 20th century, dedicated my life to shining a light on the injustices of the human condition, and the only time I appear in puzzles is for either something I didn't say, or when you all bitch about not liking musicals when you don't seem to remember that the musical was just some stupid commercial (though, thanks for the residuals, they were great) adaptatation of one of my plays.
You want a GBS quote? Pick up a play of mine at random, and I guarantee there's one worthy of a puzzle on every page.

treedweller 11:39 AM  

I don't get the "I didn't know GHOTI so this was no fun" crowd. I did not know GHOTI, so this was actually a challenging process of discovery--a puzzle, if you will. I did have to google for MELISSA, though, since I was in the canals crowd and my best guess for 1A was "any.".

My favorite wrong answer was "wanton" for eyes and soup. Didn't really last long, since I quickly realized the soup is spelled differently.

Mel Ott 11:43 AM  

Did not know the GHOTI thing, so this was challenging for me. With the beginning of the theme (THEGHFR...) not making any sense, I plugged away until the light finally went on with about 85% of the grid filled.

All of which is to say that this was a most enjoyable solve. The payoff was certainly worth some of the weak fill.

efrex 11:52 AM  

My favorite wrong answer was "wanton" for eyes and soup. Didn't really last long, since I quickly realized the soup is spelled differently.

That's it! I hereby insist on a "favorite wrong answer of the day" feature... brilliant! (the earlier ones as well)

Now, anybody know how to clean tea stains off of a flat-screen monitor?

captcha: deness - what de boids haveta leave when dey grows up

Ulrich 11:59 AM  

@treedweller and MelOtt: I'm totally with you. I actually believe not knowing the quote made the puzzle more fun, i.e. a greater challenge, with the payoff being an opportunity to pat yourself on the back, once you got it, until it hurt.

OTOH @GBS: I have such a high opinion of you that I was really relieved when I learned that you were not the source of this, in the end, flat-footed pun, or whatever it is...

@efrex: Caught (notice the silent "gh"!) you just in time to lol you

@sfingi: I you e-mail me, I have an address to respond

Clark 12:13 PM  

@andrea isthjustmi michaels --

I think Rex said it well, "translator originated the phrase." But, as far as translations go, this one is pretty straightforward.

What HOMER said was 'ῥοδοδάκτυλος ἠώς'.

ῥοδοδάκτυλος (rosy-fingered) is a compound of ῥοδόεις (rosy, rose colored) and δάκτυλος (finger). and ἠώς is daybreak or dawn.

Vega 12:24 PM  

My dad, who speaks and reads several Indian languages as well as Russian and has forgotten more English literature than I'll ever read, told me this joke when I was very young (over. and over. and over) to illustrate how distressing it is for non-native speakers to learn English spelling, so I absolutely adored this puzzle. I wonder how I would have liked it if that weren't the case. I have nothing else meaningful to add; just sharing that anecdote with all y'all.

mitchs 12:38 PM  

@Clark: well that's now crystal clear!

Jim 12:41 PM  

BTW, WIFE provided the most meaningful chuckle and got it w no crosses. Seemed cute--and for the slippery slope-ists out there (surprisingly, rp), I see no difference between this and other cutesy clues for repetitive 4-letter fill.

Like cinnamon...can be overused, but at the right time and in the right amount... delightful.

william e emba 12:47 PM  

I've known GHOTI=fish since I was a wee one, and before I could ever forget it, something always reinforced it.

In particular, I remember the Batman episode where EGGhead'S hideout is the Ghoti Oeufs Caviar Company. Batman has to explain to Robin the "Fish Eggs" pun/joke.

GHOTI, pronounced fish, was the name of an intelligent yet near mindless card game very popular among graduate students at UCB when I was there. It was a very enjoyable way to wind down.

There is exactly one word of Klingonese I know: ghotI', meaning fish, but pronounced as if you're choking on a fish bone. (I used to know the original Klingon for their proverb "revenge is the best revenge", but that was a long long time ago.)

william e emba 1:21 PM  

The ridiculous complexity of English spelling is caused by far more than just the pronunciation change (known as the Great Vowel Shift) that someone referred to above, although it certainly was significant.

Those who originally knew and cared about spelling were mostly educated in Latin and French. They didn't really take English spelling seriously, nor even knew it was possible to do so. When the Gutenberg revolution came, English printers were for decades continentals, mostly Dutch. Worse, English also had sounds represented by letters (edh, thorn, yogh, aesc, wyn [memorize these!]) that the existing typesetters didn't have, so there was a free-for-all shoehorning of these letters into the restricted alphabet. Now they are only seen in scholarly discussions or crossword puzzles.

And then there were scholarly attempts to alter spelling to reveal known or fancied etymology. "sedule" became "shedule" or "schedule" with different pronunciations over the years, and so on.

Then there was class warfare. The upper classes kept changing pronunciations so that those not to the manor born who somehow made it big were still marked as inferior. Correcting the spelling was a no-no: the whole point was to be deceptive.

And there were scads of other influences along the way. For example, the Scottish kept the yogh 'ȝ' for the longest time, but it eventually mutated into 'z'. The proper pronunciation of McKenzie is "really" muh-ken-djee.

PlantieBea 1:24 PM  

Didn't remember the GHOTI deal, so I got to the end of this one thinking that GHOTI was the name of a fictional matriarchal tribe. Mini-theme was completed in my mind with WIFE and many thoughts of the women's colleges that make up two fifths of the FIVE COLLEGE consortium.

Two Ponies 1:40 PM  

@ w. e. emba, Thank you. That is just the sort of informative comment that keeps me faithful to this blog. It's not the only reason, of course, but I appreciate it.

Stan 2:29 PM  

This was a real puzzle for me, with tricky misdirection (ISTHMI and OFF were the best) plus odd answers like FERRET, WATERY, TAROT, and HERE WE GO that weren't at all obvious at first. Good one, Oliver and Eliza.

Knowing the (non-)quote made it easier, plus I went to UMass.

Love the wrong-answer-of-the-day idea -- let's return to this!

william e emba 3:27 PM  

A delightful account of the chaotic history of English spelling is David Wolman Righting the Mother Tongue: From Olde English to Email, the Tangled Story of English Spelling (2008). It's one of those books that I think all English language lovers absolutely must read. Wolman himself confesses to being a lousy speller ever since grade school, and as a professional writer, he certainly had issues!

As for GBS posting here complaining about the slop he's being remembered with here, well, hah! You've got to take what you can get. Many years ago there was a NYT acrostic where I had a very rough start, only getting three words on the first pass, and not picking up anything from the grid afterwards. At some point as frustration grew, I noticed the starts of those three words were G-B-S in order. I then noticed the spacing was perfect for GeorgeBernardShaw. Could it be? Since I was solving in ink, I mentally checked first, but yes, about a fourth of the letters from his full name were enough for me to get the clues. I certainly finished that puzzle in record time. The only downer was the source text was not Candida but Letters.

Ulrich 3:39 PM  

@Clark: You've got guts, man! I'm typing this although I'm rhododaktylos on account of my not wearing gloves in the cold.

Rube 3:40 PM  

Had canals, of course, and knew GHOTI from somewhere. Thus, although this looked difficult at first, went quickly after the theme was revealed. Had NoTION at first, but no biggee.

AMHERST was just there and enjoyed KAUAI as this is where I currently am. @chefwen, they are talking to you.

"Rosy fingered dawn", "Wine dark sea", "Fair haired Athena", all gimmes from Homer. These, and others, that some early translator originated, later translators dare not change.

Really enjoyable puzzle.

andrea koko michaels 3:48 PM  

I'm tickled the Favorite Wrong Answer of the Day seems to have caught course we need a name for it!

Let's see what naturally catches on, but here are some suggestions:

FWAD (Favorite Wrong Answer of the Day...has a sort of FATWA feel to it!)

IMAGO, in honor of Retired_chemist unwittingly triggering this idea with his... and it evokes what he "imagined" might go there.

GHOTI, the puzzle that triggered the idea, and the absurdness of that word it's self and how many wrong answers it probably led to wrong answer and what I had "hoped" would be right.

Other suggestions?

Re: that ridiculous WIFE clue, the only thing I can think of is maybe it WAS named after the head CEO's wife...and he just said I'd like to name the station after my WIFE.

It's like ALICE here in SF (what a ridiculous name for a station yet it caught on...and I can only imagine it was after his daughter or some such...maybe his wife?

Jobs had his LISA, Ford his EDSEL.
Folks should know better than to name for their kids.
(insert indignant responder's WENDY's anecdote here)

Doc John 3:51 PM  

I was hoping to get the "GHOTI" thing by coming here but guess I'll have to look it up on my own. The puzzle was a slog because of my lack of knowledge.

I usually shout "Give it to me, baby!" at the top of a rollercoaster, especially on a really good one like Thunderhead or Millennium Force. But that's just me.

mmorgan 3:59 PM  

I vote for FWAD... but would not in the least mind calling it a GHOTI either!

SethG 4:21 PM  

F-wad means fuckwad.

If you're gonna do this, why don't you just use words? That way, new readers won't need to read a glossary to read the blog comments.

Nebraska Doug 4:45 PM  

Ouch! One of the slowest Thursdays ever for me. Not knowing GHOTI was a killer. I've done Saturday puzzles faster than this one. A real struggle for me.

Anonymous 4:51 PM  

"That way, new readers won't need to read a glossary to read the blog comments."

Yeah, we don't need another gd NATICK just to say obscurity.

Evgeny 5:07 PM  

@all lamenting the follies of the English pronunciation: Don't be too sad, it's still an incredibly easy language to learn and to speak. Indeed, imo, the pronunciation rules are pretty straightforward and - this is the most important thing for non-native speakers - exceptions to the rules are very few, compared to, say, my native language (which is Russian)

retired_chemist 5:33 PM  

@ Evgeny - don't you think that German is much freer of exceptions?

Jim 5:57 PM  


I certainly agree, but the fact no one mentioned something similar yesterday is surprising.

I understand those two are brilliant constructors, and evidently they're just kids, too, but two bigger obscurantists you'll never find. It was PAINFUL reading about this 'feud' coming to an end...who knows why?...who gives a turkey?

I'm no blogger, but I've no doubt the successful ones understand you don't write only for the die-hards. These two don't even do that; I've read the blog every day for six months and I STILL don't know what the hell they're talking about.

Anyway, since all the comments were unabashed praise, this needed to be said. Once they got to the puzzle, mildly entertaining and observant comments (though with a big mistake assuming 28A was Saarinen and hadn't been changed). Very mild. Comon kids, it's better you realize sooner rather than later, not every idea you have is gold.

Anonymous 6:01 PM  

@Rex 6:24 - one of your traits I admire is the stubborness by which you answer your own question and then reject the answer because it did not comport with your original assessment. So, according to the laws of Will, you can do that for a 4 letter fill as long as it begins with a W (east of the Mississippi or a K (west of the Mississippi). I liked your reasoning at 6:24 more than your commentary and suspect we'll be seeing WELD soon.

Chip Hilton 6:04 PM  

My fastest Thursday, not surprising when GHOTI was my first fill. I used this every year with my fifth grade students - wonder if any of them tried today's puzzle?

I have a vague recollection of an essay that showed the crazy irregularities of the English language by explaining exceptions to 'rules' and then adopting them as the essay progressed. By the end, it looked like jibberish but was readable if you had been paying attention. Does anyone know the name, or author, of it? Wouldn't be Shaw by any chance?

Under 50 6:10 PM  


I suspect the problem wasn't just insider-ness, it was your age. Some of us had no problem understanding what they wrote. Giveaways include "who gives a turkey", "Comon kids", and the fact that you didn't get their Saarinen joke.

Evgeny 6:22 PM  

@retired_chemist: certainly not much freer. Maybe there's less exceptions in German, pronunciation-wise (although i'm not sure). It makes up for that by having a quite difficult grammar, though. obviously, I have no data on English being easy to learn/speak, it's just my perception, which, however may be biased by the fact that i learned German first.

Jim 6:27 PM  


I'm 33. And now I don't know what the hell YOU'RE talking about.

There was no joke about Saarinen; in AL (evidently) and in the paper (definitely) the FINN was changed to Jean Sibelius. That's just sloppy.

And every Homer knows a turkey is a bad person. I can do 'inside' with the best of them. But I'm not blogging, I'm just commenting.

mac 6:27 PM  

I loved this puzzle. It was a medium-challenging one for me because I never heard of "gothi" and even after I figured out what was going on early on, it was still sort of tough!

Put me on the canals-odd-rot list. I was really wondering what memento you would have from an old flame. Great clue. No problem with WIFE, had to laugh, although I didn't drown my laptop this time.

Are Hill and Bagg at Amherst??

@Anonymouse 8.40: thanks for the tip! I tend to go savoury rather than sweet.

mac 6:50 PM  

@Two Ponies: second your comment. Today was such a good day.

WBE: I took note of the Wolman book.

Anonymous 7:09 PM  

It is amazing that so far nobody has asked Rex about his foot fetish.

Stan 7:13 PM  

Re: "Are Hill and Bagg at Amherst??"

Robert Bagg, a distinguished poet/translator/Classics scholar, was at UMass Amherst for most of his career. Any relation? (None of my business, really, except that I like it when constructors sneak random bits of personal autobiography into the fill.)

Anonymous 7:27 PM  

I think that daughter Melissa Bagg has close ties to Amherst also. She would be faculty. (I could be wrong.) Melissa = Eliza ?

Chip Hilton 7:31 PM  

@anonymous, 7:09 : But suddenly, we realize why Rex Ryan's favorite player of all time is Lou 'The Toe' Groza.

Anonymous 8:17 PM  

@mac - I think Eataly is probably over-priced in other areas as well as at the gelato counter. I was still incensed about it the next day and decided to write the Batali and Bastianich crew a letter of complaint. I did not expect a reply and they did not disappoint.

william e emba 8:30 PM  

As per Chip's request, here is the almost definitive article on the various Spelling Reform Parodies out there, along with authorship attributes and the like. The essays all start out in normal English, and implement reforms sentence by sentence.

Well, not quite definitive, I have not seen a reference to the date/page/issue of The Economist mentioned. Also, certain longer versions of the "Mark Twain" (not!) text begin with an acknowledgement of Shaw.

Shaw also introduced his phonetic "Shavian alphabet". Here, for example, is xkcd(!) rewritten in Shavian.

Forθ end owt.

Christopher Guest 8:38 PM  

This whole enterprise is ripe for my next mockumentary.

Anonymous 9:19 PM  

Acme at 3:47 - You don't like WIFE and I don't like "it's self" so I think it's a good radio station for a bather -- WASH....

mac 10:19 PM  

@andrea: let's stick with "gothi". That way I will remember it. I will be using the term very regularly.

andrea herewego michaels 3:51 AM  

except it's g-h-o-t-i! If you are already misspelling it, that's a bad sign re: good naming.
And anonymous already chewed me out for my typo of it's self! Which I caught post-posting, but too late, even tho I try and be patient enough to hit "review" first.

I sort of like FWAD, despite/maybe because of, what you are now telling me it means!
(Tho I also agree there is no need to get too-insider-y, yet I would love to give a name to this favorite wrong answer phenomenon, not to exclude newcomers, but as a shorthand!

There is a big difference to me between just making a mistake you later correct and having something be SO wrong that it's fun in retrospect. I still chuckle over STDODGE from time to time.

I skip M-W 3:33 AM  

@Andrea, Henry Ford didn't name the Edsel after his son, because he (HF) was dead himself when the car was named. HF II named it after his FATHER.

NotalwaysrightBill 12:35 PM  

Pen & syndiLATE paper (STRIB) solver.

Good radio station for a doticomificator: WTF or, better, WWW. (where you can "hear" the "dot").

This joint's great: the fooey ya learn!

Had CANALS like everybody else, but somehow knew it was tricksy wrong even as I was penning it in. Getting a feel for Thurpuzzes and when Occam's Razor's GOING to apply (SEENO evil) and when it could but PSYCH! So now I learn that Suez is the isthmus as well as the canal. Good stuff.

GOUTI not original with GBS, OK, and some investigators trace it to at least a year before his birth (as found in some William Ollin's letter or something, although said Ollin got it from the Klingons of course, as has been pointed out). But Shaw DID use it on occasion to illustrate his case about English. Very few can cite the pre-Shakespearean source of "A Winter's Tale" either; but a story--even if just an anecdote--in the hands of a good writer: like Ava Gardner told Richard Burton in "Night of the Iguana," "you could do worse, baby, you could do worse." There's a REASON why GHOTI stays attached to Shaw.

Ducks and hautboys: PEACEOUT.

Gil.I.Pollas 2:35 PM  

Coming to you live on Jan. 27th.
I asked British husband if he knew about the meaning of GHOTI. He said no and when I read him some of the comments, he started reading Rex's blog for the first time! He'll do some easy Sunday's but won't touch a NYT. Maybe he'll start.
I'm with @Mac. I think coining the word "Ghoti" is perfect. Further, if anyone needs to know what it means, there will always be a helpful soul who will provide the info.

Waxy in Montreal 2:36 PM  

Too bad the constructors didn't find a way to include a "Big inits. in Eng.Lit." clue or we could have had a referential GBS to go along with the TBS in the grid.

And if ISTHMI is the plural of ISTHMUS, then shouldn't GHOTI be the plural of GHOTUS as in Mr. Shaw g(h)ot us but good? Just asking.

Anonymous 2:39 PM  

John GHOTI = SE Asian gangsta?

Flanman 2:44 PM  

My FWAD: GERONIMO for 37D, which morphed into the Spanish pronunciation, HERONIMO, before finally reaching HEREWEGO. It was a slippery slope.

NotalwaysrightBill 6:39 PM  

Given what SethG tells us that FWAD stands for, I think we should change it slightly as a matter of keeping in good taste. Not TOO much: FWADWAD?

YEAH I want to see it, DUH!.!.! What, couldn't have had it be a butterfly like everyone else? Never mind, very nice.

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