Marco Island locale / WED 3-16-11 / What's in carrots not celery / Morlocks victims / Modern screening device / Meal with Four Questions

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: FULL-COUNT PITCH (59A: With 61-Across, follower of the five starred clues) — Starred clues are "three BALLs and two STRIKEs," which, in baseball, is known as a FULL COUNT. What "follows" a 3-2 count? A FULL-COUNT PITCH, though ... I don't know what part of this puzzle represents the "pitch," exactly

Word of the Day: EILAT (51D: Israeli seaport) —

Eilat [...] is Israel's southernmost city, a busy port as well as a popular resort, located at the northern tip of the Red Sea, on the Gulf of Eilat (or Gulf of Aqaba). Home to 46,600 people, the city is part of the Southern Negev Desert, at the southern end of the Arava. The city is adjacent to the Egyptian village of Taba to the south, the Jordanian port city of Aqaba to the east, and within sight of Saudi Arabia to the south-east, across the gulf. Eilat's arid desert climate is moderated by proximity to a warm sea. Temperatures often exceed 40 °C (104 °F) in summer, and 21 °C (70 °F) in winter, while water temperatures range between 20 and 26 °C (68 and 79 °F). The city's beaches, nightlife and desert landscapes make it a popular destination for domestic and international tourism. (wikipedia)
• • •

There's a good idea here somewhere, but I don't quite understand how the theme revealer makes sense. Something "follows" the "starred clues"? In theory, or in actuality? I'm guessing the former, since the clues themselves can't be the "PITCH," and I don't see a "PITCH" anywhere else. Also, FULL-COUNT PITCH only works if it's imagined as a "follower" of the starred clues *taken as a set*, which is not clear from the wording of the clue. Add in the odd visual placement of the revealer (PITCH behind, i.e. to the left of, FULL-COUNT), and the whole "reveal" moment feels clunky as all-get-out. But it's always possible there's some brilliance I just don't see. Puzzle felt super-easy except for the far south (the CURIAE section), which took probably a third of my total time. I've seen CURIAE before, but couldn't dredge it up. Ditto EILAT. Took me a while to deduce COMEDIENNE—always tricky to figure out the answers in these reverse-clue-type theme answers (i.e. where the clue is the answer and the answer is the clue). "Answers" never quite feel natural (e.g. BOWLER'S ... COUP? OK. Not a phrase that trips off the tongue, but accurate enough). Not much else to say... no great answers. Not much dreck. Just a theme that feels wonky to me.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: *Ball (GREAT TIME)
  • 24A: *Strike (WORK STOPPAGE)
  • 29A: *Ball (LAVISH PARTY)
  • 40A: *Strike (BOWLER'S COUP)
  • 46A: *Ball (TV COMEDIENNE)

  • 26A: What's in carrots but not celery? (HARD C) — old trick, though I considered other letters before realizing it was the first one.
  • 62A: Marco Island locale: Abbr. (FLA) — All the answers I didn't know were in one place: CURIAE, EILAT, FLA, DUFFY (this last one was particularly confusing, since Julia is also the name of a *character* in "Designing Women": Julia Sugarbaker, played by the late, great Dixie Carter (49D: Julia of "Designing Women")).
  • 47D: Modern screening device (V-CHIP) — I've never seen one of these in action, so the answer rarely occurs to me right away.
  • 66A: Meal with the Four Questions (SEDER) — I've been to precisely one SEDER, 22 years ago. Memorable enough for me to get this with only the slightest hesitation.
Going to trying to sleep now, though the news out of Japan is going to make that slightly difficult, I fear.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


PurpleGuy 1:09 AM  

In total agreement with @Rex on this one.
Difficulty level was in the same place.
Got the revealer, then had to look back at the clues to figure the theme/gimmick.
"wonky" is a great word. Will try to use it today.

Hope you all have a great Wednesday/Hump Day.

On a sadder note, 102 yr old mom died peacefully in her sleep with a smile on her face.
She always enjoyed my reading the comments to her.
Thought of Rex as an adopted "son."
Sleep warm, momma !



Steve J 1:28 AM  

PurpleGuy, sorry to hear about your mom and sorry for your loss. Glad she went peacefully and happily.

Rex, I think you may be overthinking the theme a tad, at least as related to the connection between pitch and the starred clues. You're correct that the theme pertains to the starred clues as a set. You're also correct that that's left ambiguous as it is. I think the theme works structurally (i.e., its internal logic is there and applied correctly: if you have three balls and two strikes, you have a FULLCOUNT), but it certainly does not work elegantly.

Add in that the theme answers didn't have any sparkle, and the whole thing fell flat for me.

And there wasn't enough here outside the theme to make up for the theme's foul ball. Absolutely nothing jumped out at me as a great word or a clever bit of cluing. Very mechanical today.

CoolPapaD 1:29 AM  

@PurpleGuy - I am so sorry for your loss. 102 years old, smiling, peaceful, and with loving family around you - can't go to heaven any better than that.

I enjoyed this, and had no trouble with the theme. After three balls and two strikes, the next pitch is a full count pitch. Alas, I did not hit this one out of the park, and had one error (the cross of CURIAE and EILAT). Still and all, this remains one of the better crossword weeks in recent memory thus far.

NAMES (NAMES) was wonderful, and like everything else in life that is funny, it evoked a great Seinfeld episode.

Clark 1:32 AM  

The full-count pitch follows the five starred clues [taken together]. I liked it. No reason to think that 59A/61A followed each of the five clues, except an assumption. Learning to puzzle my way out of such assumptions is what makes it fun for me. (We've had two successive puzzles that have had some controversy involving pitch!)

@PurpleGuy -- My condolences to you, but I also want to say Three cheers for your mom! 102 and with a smile. Feels like we lost the Great-Grandmama of the blog. Shantihi.

Gil.I.Pollas 1:34 AM  

I'm not sure that PAN AM and TWA could have ever been compared as rivals. PAN AM was always known as the first overseas carrier throughout its history. Does anyone remember the PanAm Clippers?
TWA, on the other hand, was so well known for its European service - especially from JFK. Nostalgia folks....first class service included filet mignon; asked how you liked it cooked. Economy, same food - only difference they didn't ask you how you wanted it but it didn't matter, it was still wonderful.
I just read your entry: I'm new here but have been following Rex for some time and know about your mom. I belive she's having some good stuff with my mother and all her friends along with playing some good bridge with @Jesser and her mom and her best friend in that blue sky we look up to.

Tobias Duncan 1:35 AM  

This is the worst puzzle of the year.Have I mentioned here that I despise sports? If you have never heard the phrase "Full count pitch" this puzzle turns into a big pile of steaming &%$#@#.
Ughhh my heart is sooo full of hate right now I cant think straight.
If I found a magic lamp and a genie gave me three wishes, My first wish would be for the elimination of all spectator sports, second would be world peace.Third wish ? I dont even need a third wish. I would give the third wish away to a passing stranger as long as the genie assured that me the sports could not be wished back into existence...

lit.doc 1:47 AM  

[12:25 CDT] I am sooo glad Rex has already posted. Finished a few minutes ago (the puzzle, not my beer), and am still sitting here staring at the puzzle trying to figure out the theme. Do. Not. Get. It. I will now read Rex’s post. Back shortly.

@PurpleGuy, my condolences on your mom’s passing. I sat by my mom’s bedside for same a year ago almost to the day. Think how good the crosswords in heaven must be!

As to the puzzle, 30:27 of utter confusion culminating in “OK, well, I filled in the squares correctly”. Some stumbles out of the gate, like 9A PETER and 40A BOWLER SCORE (yeah, I know, but hey). Same reaction as Rex to 53A—knew I knew it, but couldn’t spell it to save my life. Also “knew” 51D—HAIFA, obviously…

Evidence of learning: sussed 26A as a “letteral” clue instantly. Anyone know who coined that term, BTW?

Tobias Duncan 1:48 AM  

Purpleguy,your comments about your mothers reactions to our shenanigans here will be sorely missed.I have a wonderful picture in my head of a loving mother and a devoted son. I am so glad to have been exposed to you and your mother in this odd backwater of the internet during the past year. I hope you will continue to make time for us.

DJG 1:51 AM  

I love sports the way Tobias Duncan apparently hates them, but I have similar feelings about the quality of the puzzle. (I definitely wouldn't call it the worst of the year, but it wasn't very good.)

BOWLINGCOUP is bad. Super forced, and I'm not even sure I'd call it "accurate enough" as coup implies an element of surprise and extraordinariness. Stikes in bowling are very common even among mediocre bowlers. A 300-game -- I'd buy that as a "bowling coup", I guess.

ACME 1:53 AM  

I love Alan Arbesfeld.
Obviously not a sports fan here, but I really liked the puzzle.

Started seeing the three balls two strikes thing, so I assumed the asterisks were just to point out those clues, nothing more or less.

I am also not a fan of the definition in the puzzle thing, so "saw" COMEDIENNE rather early but there were only two letters preceding so I hesitated.

Ironically my only trip up was indeed writing in Dixie for the Designing Women clue, and I used to write for the show!!!
Coincidentally, Julia DUFFY is also from Minnesota non-Scandinavian and not very nice, which is VERY unMinnesota.
Must have been why I blocked her out.

Anyway, I always find AA inventive, with a light touch.
There was an ACHE and an ACRE in this puzzle, but no ACME!

(insert old argument here about how un-PC GYP is)

Also heartfelt condolences. That peaceful in sleep thing is big big big, you will see. Thank you for sharing her with us all these months.

chefwen 1:55 AM  

@PurpleGuy, My heart goes out to you. I lost my dear, sweet, Mother just a couple of months ago. It's difficult. We are so fortunate that we had them around for as long as we did.

Rex, if you can't find brilliance in this puzzle I am sure no one can. Was going at warp speed until I hit the CURIAE/EILAT area, had to Google both (on a Wednesday, horrors!)
Not up on my Star Trek so UHURA had to be obtained by downs.

All in all a fun week. A rebus tomorrow, oh please, please.

Octavian 3:55 AM  

Puzzle seems perfectly reasonable to me. Not bad at all. Not the greatest ever, but definitely fun and mildly interesting.

What seems to have tripped up people is that normally the revealer refers to the ANSWERS, whereas this time it refers to the CLUES.

When I figured out it was clues, I went, "Ball 1, Strike 1, Ball 2, Strike 2, Ball 3 --- ahhhh ... FULL COUNT" ... nothing wrong w/ that as a theme.

While it's still spring training for the pros, today was the first day of high school baseball season. Great time of year.

Only thing that tripped me up was the TV in front of Comedienne. Did not see VCHIP until the last second.

All told, I would say this puzzle walked in the running run.

JaxInL.A. 4:18 AM  

@PurpleGuy, I almost felt like I had met your mum. I enjoyed when you posted the picture of the two of you, too. What a great blessing to have her compos mentis all the way. My grandmother made it to 101, but I couldn't really talk with her past 95 or so. That smile on your mum's face and the peaceful passing also say a lot for your good care. Thanks for sharing her comments with us these many months. I hope you can take care of yourself now, too.

JaxInL.A. 4:27 AM  

Wait, @Gil.I.Pollas said "with @Jesser and her mom and her best friend in that blue sky..." What happened to @Jesser?

Gil.I.Pollas 6:46 AM  

AAAACk. I didn't mean to off @Jesser. My grammar sucks.

nanpilla 8:01 AM  

I was bothered that PITCH doesn't have a symmetrically paired theme answer. Why not just leave it out of the reveal and let it be a little bonus? FULL COUNT could simply be clued as what you have after the five starred clues.

@purpleguy - I will miss your stories about your mom's enjoyment of this blog. You both added such a warm presence to our group here. Your obvious devotion to her care was an inspiration.

mmorgan 8:45 AM  

Three dumb errors:

I had AHS at 58D but changed it (relucantly) to uHS, thinking that 57A was UHURu.

Guessed wrong on the first letter of the 9D/9A cross -- I was pretty sure it was Topsy or Fopsy or Lopsy (oops) and had no idea on the Spartans. (They're Greek to me.)

And I should have known that COMEDIaNNE was wrong but for some reason, aILAT looked better at 51D.

Otherwise, not a lot of pleasure here, and I agree with Rex that the reveal was clunky. And some clues didn't sit all that well. For example, I would have preferred "Feel enmity toward" rather than "Show enmity toward" for HATE at 26D; hate is an emotion, not a behavior.

And not that I'm a bowler, but I also think that strikes are far to common to qualify as a COUP.

Was surprised to see GYP (35D).

PurpleGuy, my deepest condolences to you. I'm so glad it was peaceful.

dk 8:51 AM  

@purpleguy, I echo the sentiments above. In your prayers to your mom advise her not to take the martini offered to her by my dad. And, if he suggests a dance under the disco ball she should smite (strike) him mightily.

I had to come here to get the theme... although I am a bear of little brain. Fill was fine and fun for Wednesday.

A better clue for 18D would have been: What dk carries for Acme (IMHO).

I am doing puzzles online these days as the paper delivery folks cannot seem to find my door. As a luddite who is adverse to change I miss the paper so my posts have been erratic (good news to most I am sure).

Last day on the local slopes will be Monday. Snow is melting fast.

Back to work... sigh.

CFXK 8:56 AM  


Following World War Two a fierce and extended battle emerged for international routes pitting Juan Trippe (PanAM) against Howard Hughes (TWA). Trippe managed to dominate through his enormous political clout (remember when routes were allocated by the government?), but Hughes managed to to be a constant thorn in his side (and get routes that Trippe thought he had locked up) through cleverness and persistence. It's a classic competitive battle in the history of American industry.

efrex 9:00 AM  

@Purpleguy - Condolences on your loss. May your fond memories of your mother give you comfort and joy as time hopefully eases the pain.

As a long-suffering Mets fan (is that a redundancy?), I didn't mind the theme or the payoff. BOWLERSCOUP is extremely weak, IMO; however, I might just be ticked because, like @lit.doc, I had BOWLERSCORE (and HAIFA too!) and couldn't give it up, resulting in a pair of Naticks at 34 and 35D. MOPSY/MSU cross was also a bit iffy to me.

Still, I must be getting the hang of this a bit. The last two Arbesfeld puzzles left me gasping for air; this one, just mildly dizzy.

jesser 9:23 AM  

@PurpleGuy: "What is hardest to accept about the passage of time is that the people who once meant the most to us are wrapped up in parentheses." -- John Irving

My condolences to you, and Godspeed to her...

Hard to transition to the puzzle from that. I DNF. I did not know the Designing Women woman. I don't follow baseball. I have no grasp of Israeli seaports. And when I say, "Yay, me!", I say, "I Rock!"

I so did not rock, and that section is stark in its lack of ink. And so, thanks for the ass-kicking Mr. Arbesfeld!

Pilsin! (what I'll use to chase The Good Stuff tonight as I raise a toast skyward to friends and family departed) -- jesser

chefbea 9:33 AM  

Did not like the puzzle. Never heard of full count pitch.

@Purple Guy - My condolences also. What a great lady she must have been.

Lindsay 9:40 AM  

@Purple Guy: I am sorry to learn of your loss, and wish you well.

As for the puzzle, it seems rather cheerless, but I think that's because I solved in dreary pencil rather than colored pens as is my wont. I have the idea pencil is de rigeur at the ACPT? Usually I start with a happy-color felt-tip and write over in something darker. I guess that's what I'll do until I'm told I can't.

I am looking forward to baseball season.

Never knew "curiae" had so many vowells.

mac 9:57 AM  

@PurpleGuy: Condolences to you. So glad she went peacefully. I'll miss your sweet reports on your mother.

The puzzle felt pretty easy as I was doing it, but I just realized I have TSU/Topsy in the NE...

Had bowling coup for a moment, and it took me way too long to get that x in lax and xed. Not a huge sports fan (though I love my Yankees), but the sequence made sense to me. I agree with Nanpilla, the pitch could have been left out.

Why don't I remember Julia Duffy in Designing Women? Know her better from the Vermont Inn series.

Favorite clue: 7D, names (names).

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

I did not like this puzzle with the sport theme. Never heard of FULL COUNT PITCH. Did not get the theme until I read Rex comments. But then I don't follow baseball.
Complicating factor was the overwhelming number of pop culture answers or crosswordese that I don't care to know or remember.
A few of them: MOPSY, SNAPE, UHURA, ELOI, DUFFY). Even simple answers were clued to require pop culture knowledge (EERIE, YENTE for example).
So I needed a good dose of Googling to finish it.
The saving grace of this puzzle was that the "theme" answers themselves were clever. GREAT TIME, TV COMEDIENNE, LAVISH PARTY for ball and WORK STOPPAGE for strike.
Difficult and not particularly enjoyable.

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

I got the theme okay but like Anon 9:59, I've never actually heard the phrase "full count pitch." Seems like "payoff pitch" is more common.

Biggest bad though, is on Mr. Shortz for running this puzzle this week. This week marks the start of the NCAA men's & women's basketball tournament as well as the men's & women's NIT. Thus, anyone knows that the proper fill for FULLC_ _ _T P _ _ _ _ is FULLCOURT PRESS!

jackj 10:09 AM  

@purpleguy-Your wonderful memories will always keep her close.

As for the puzzle, Alan Arbesfeld should have anagrammed a nom de plume to attach to this one.

joho 10:12 AM  

@PurpleGuy, I too, echo the sentiments above. It is a blessing that your mom left this world with a smile and in her sleep and also that she had you as a loving son.

I admired the originalty of the theme. Guessed correctly at the "I" at the CURIAE/EILAT cross.
I think yesterday's tour de force was a hard act to follow.

Will tomorrow bring leprechauns and pots of gold?

Kurt 10:16 AM  

@Purple Guy. Add my condolences as well. I know how much it hurts.

I thought that the puzzle was good, even though I agree that the revealer was a bit underwhelming and clunky.

Thanks Alan & Rex

chefbea 10:26 AM  

@Lindsay - as I recall I think there is a prize for neatness at the ACPT!!!

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

@PurpleGuy - I'm so sorry and will miss your mum and your updates.

Working in a law office "curiae" was my first write-in.

And woe to the sports hater - I am really like sports in crosswords but that's because I'm a fan.

I enjoy reading the blogs - thanks everyone.

Jim 10:30 AM  

The comments are funny -- to me, the problem is an extremely simple one. FULLCOUNT is plenty; we certainly don't need PITCH. It's completely superfluous. If it wasn't in there, I'd have been beaming. All PITCH did, as a result, is slow down the SW, unfortunately. While the rest of the puzzle didn't particularly pop, I certainly enjoyed it.

To those so ignorant of sports not to infer or recognize a full count...that's on you. You don't have to be a fan to be cognizant of such things; it really is just common knowledge.

Howard B 10:32 AM  

@purpleguy: Sending my condolences to you, and happiest thoughts to your mother. We should all live such a full life and have such devoted family members.

- FULL COUNT PITCH is a solid theme unifier here. Think of the sequence of baseball pitches leading up to a full count of 3 balls and 2 strikes. Now if the term is not familiar, then yes, this will fall flat. But I liked it nonetheless. There's flaws in the puzzle here already discussed, but I think that theme itself works.

By the way, if you've been to a bowling alley enough times, and if you're not a fairly experienced bowler (the majority of us), a strike is indeed a COUP. Especially if you've got a kids' birthday party over on the next lane. See that kid rolling that heavy ball s..l..o..w..l..y.. down the alley? See all the pins finally fall? Tell me that's not a coup ;).
Over and out.

Matthew G. 10:33 AM  

I liked the puzzle more than I disliked it, but then, as a baseball fan counting the days till I go to my first game of the year on April 2, anything baseball-related scores points right now.

That said, I agree with Rex that the asymmetry of the reveal answers is a weakness, and I wasn't a fan of BOWLER'S COUP (I had BOWLER SCORE and didn't question it for a long time, which made the down answers crossing U and P the last entries in my grid). 

Also, who actually _says_ "FULL-COUNT PITCH"?  I mean, yes, any baseball fan knows what it means, but usually you use the term "full count" to refer to the state of affairs, and the pitch that follows is more often called the "3-2 pitch" or the "payoff pitch."  All of which is a roundabout way of saying that the reveal might have worked better if "FULL COUNT" had been the entirety of the reveal.

Difficulty-wise, I say Easy.  One of my fastest Wednesday times, although a bit short of my record.

quilter1 10:37 AM  

@Purple Guy, peaceful and in her sleep, what a blessing for you both. Peace to you, too, and I will miss her comments.

Breezed along until the bottom where I had Dixie and EILAT and "knew" both were right. Did not know Duffy was on that show (a not nice Minnesotan? Impossible. Even my nicest cousins got nicer when they moved there), but even though I did not watch it I knew Dixie Carter. So DNF. I don't know enough about the game to know FULL COUNT PITCH so the starred clues were no help in getting the crosses right. Boo.

The chocolate hazelnut tart is awesome.

jesser 10:41 AM  

@ Jim 10:30 -- What's 'common knowledge' for you vs me might represent a pretty wide chasm. I don't care a fig about sports in which people fight about a ball, so I never watch and therefore don't have the nomenclature in my wheelhouse. Remarkably (to me), I can usually figure out the sports-related answers, but this one doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense to my little brain. And that's OK.

Two Ponies 10:43 AM  

I feel as strongly (almost) about sports in my puzzles as @Tobias Duncan who really cracked me up today. I have never heard of this phrase so no fun for me.
Like @ mac I only know Duffy from some Bob Newhart show.
DNF because of that seaport. I guess it would have helped to be Jewish today. BTW what are the Four Questions? And isn't it yenta?
Totally agree with @ DJG that any fool can get a strike but 300 would be the coup.
I think gyp is derived from the word Egypt.
Very sorry purpleguy. That's the way I want to go.

Jim 10:47 AM  

My point with the ubiquity of FULLCOUNT is that is as 'inside' to baseball as ARIA is to opera, MONET is in painting or BAROMETER is to science.

There is a pervasive snobbery among some here when it comes to sports, wherein any reference to it (unless it's women's crew, perhaps) is neanderthal and offensive. Get over it.

OldCarFudd 10:48 AM  

My condolences to PurpleGuy. I thought of your mother as one of our blogger family.

I'm no sports fan but I enjoyed this puzzle and had no problems with it.

John V 10:52 AM  

I mean, I got it, albeit a bit more slowly in the South, per @Rex. But, didn't find the theme terribly gratifying. Almost felt theme-less, as a practical matter.

Sure looking forward to some sun in the NY area

Rex Parker 10:55 AM  

Yes, PITCH is the problem.

As I said privately, PurpleGuy, my sincere condolences. She was lucky in so many ways, as were you, clearly.


archaeoprof 10:56 AM  

This puzzle plays on the words BALL and STRIKE in _five_ different ways. Then it uses both in a baseball theme reveal.

I'm impressed. A tip of the (baseball) cap to Alan Arbesfeld.

@Purple Guy: we are all thinking of you today. As the ancient rabbis said, "May the memory of the righteous be a blessing."

mmorgan 10:57 AM  

I really don't meant to get into this but I find @Jim's statement inappropriate. It's perfectly reasonable to say something like, "Hmmm, it's interesting that you didn't know that, I would have thought it was common knowledge." But to DEMEAN others for something that is "common knowledge" to YOU is off-base (sports reference unintended). We've seen way too many instances in which one person's "common knowledge" is another person's Natick (and Natick is actually "common knowledge" to me!). Ease up a bit.

Two Ponies 11:13 AM  

@ Jim, I agree with @ mmorgan.
I am offended by your remarks.
I come here daily and never notice snobbery.
I also have nothing against Neanderthals.

Rex Parker 11:17 AM  

Do not send the comments section into a flame war tailspin, please. Thanks.


Masked and Anonymous 11:21 AM  

Really sorry, PurpleGuy. Your mom was a real sweetie. Sincere sympathies and all the best to you.

Great puz, if you pitch PITCH. I got an A+ on it, but had written in about as small an "i" at E?LAT/CUR?AE as humanly possible. Judges woulda needed the electron microscope.

Am interested in how 44 does in the big ACPTourney. Probably won't be a 44 anymore. [Sniff] I'm thinkin' 22 would be a cool number. My money is on Amy Reynaldo to win it all.

eleanor 11:26 AM  

Thanks for the Lucy clip, Rex. She was great, a very funny woman.

Greene 11:34 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle and I'm a sports ignoramus. For me, at least, the sports part of this was very gettable from crosses even though the phrase FULL COUNT PITCH is foreign to me. I had more trouble sussing out TV COMEDIENNE, although in retrospect that seems pretty obvious.

I did get in serious trouble with the EILAT and CURIAE cross. The "I" was a complete and total guess on my part. I was surprised when Mr. Happy Pencil appeared. I wish I could crow I RULE, but I don't think the phrase should be invoked when sheer dumb luck completes the solve.

Just landed in NYC this morning. I'm going to take in some musical shows over the next couple of days and have tea with the fabulous @Mac. Hope to finally meet some of you in Brooklyn this weekend.

@PurpleGuy: My condolences as well. It sounds to me like you (as a person) are your mother's greatest reward for a life well lived. How proud she must have been of you.

Jim 11:40 AM  

I suppose I'm not surprised at least two people were 'offended' by my comment that...what? That the definition of a FULLCOUNT is common knowledge? Really? When GYP is in the puzzle (whether they be Egyptians or Gypsies)? Get a grip. I refer you to Stephen Fry's commentary on 'offense'.

My only other point is that, it's one thing not to know what a FULLCOUNT is, perhaps...perhaps. But then to take to the blog and rail against its inclusion is snobbery. What else can one call it?

FULLCOUNT is far too common to engender a defensible complaint against it...ergo, the only 'legitimate' reason to pillory it is that it's beneath one's attention; the Times shouldn't pollute one's sensibility by including something as banal and, as I said, neanderthal as sports trivium. If you don't believe me, read the vitriol in the early comments.

I'm done. Have a good day.

P.S. rp, I hear you...I just call 'em like I see 'em.

syndy 11:45 AM  

purple guy;sorry for the loss of purple mom-mine passed last month. Puzzle ruined for me at 35 down;insulting either roma or egyptians unacceptable.recent events in europe show this is not a dead issue

Nancy in PA 11:47 AM  

@PurpleGuy, my condolences as well. I enjoyed your sharing the blog with her and sharing her with us. I am keeping vigil with my dad these days and his quality of end-of-life would be much improved if he were a puzzle fan...

I'm not a big sports fan but knew FULLCOUNTPITCH and enjoyed how this one all came together.

william e emba 11:53 AM  

I'm with Jim. FULL COUNT is common knowledge, in the sense that all that is needed is the most cursory awareness of baseball beyond the fact that it's a sport. In contrast, most of the clued-for baseball players scene in the puzzle are not common knowledge.

In fact, I'm baffled that anyone is puzzled over the theme. I saw Ball Strike Ball Strike Ball and was just waiting for FULL COUNT to show up. What else? If you want to think it's some kind of word completion theme, well, too bad. I did have to figure out PITCH, nothing worse. A little Google reveals that contrary to some claims here, the entire phrase is used in sports journalism. (Add Uggla to your search string.)

I had a high school friend who instead of saying "Tom Dick and Harry" would say "Flopsy MOPSY and Twinkletoes". It was years before I learned he was referring to Peter Rabbit's sisters (you see, I had a deprived childhood, and didn't know), and he changed the name of the third sister, no doubt inspired by Fred Flintstone's many bowling COUPs. To this day, I can name two out of three of Peter Rabbit's sisters correctly, but always fail on the third. Some friend.

Oh, which reminds me. My only gripe is that BOWLER'S COUP is highly artificial. I originally had BOWLER SCOre, and fixing that up was for me like fixing up Texas was for Rex.

Technically speaking, the SEDER is not the meal, but the entire service with the drinking of the four CUPs and eating and crumbs in between, a kind of LAVISH(non)PARTY and definitely a GREAT TIME.

Tobias Duncan 11:57 AM  

Jim said ;"FULLCOUNT is beneath one's attention; the Times shouldn't pollute one's sensibility by including something as banal and, as I said, neanderthal as sports trivium."

That is all I have been trying to say!!!
Finally someone understands me, thank you Jim!!

Vega 12:03 PM  

Aside from the EILAT/CURIAE I crossing, the other one I was surprised to see in my Wednesday puzzle was the M in MOPSY/MSU. Didn't feel inferable.

Agree that PITCH ruins the reveal.

@PurpleGuy, your mother sounds like a really amazing person, and so do you. My condolences.

william e emba 12:16 PM  

Even simple answers were clued to require pop culture knowledge (EERIE, YENTE for example).

On the other hand, Rod Serling has become the gold standard of EERIE. Sort of like the Three Stooges are the gold standard for slapstick.

YENTE, Yenta, Yentl are three versions of a one-time popular Jewish girl's name. Their use in Yiddish/Yiddish-inspired literature has led to their passing into ordinary "Yinglish" language use. Heck, there was a Get Smart episode "The Man from YENTA" involving an Israeli agent.

JaxInL.A. 12:16 PM  

@TwoPonies, about the Jewish stuff today:
YENTE can also be yenta.  Since the word is written in Hebrew letters, the spelling in English can change (though only the last letter).  A good thing to know for crosswords. 

Four Questions:
Passover this year begins at sunset on Monday, April 18 and continues through sunset on Tuesday, April 26.  For anyone who has never attended a seder, give it a try this year. Many churches and synagogues hold public Seders, as do college Hillel chapters. They can be very fun.  Or you can do your own.  Cokie Roberts (a Catholic) and her Jewish husband Steve have just published a book called Our Haggadah about how they have been holding sederim in their inter-faith marriage for some 40 years.

Don't start out hungry, though, because it takes time to get through all the rituals (including the four questions) before you get to the real food.  

The Four Questions keep kids interested in the ritual retelling of the story of the Exodus of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt that structures the meal.  The youngest person at the table asks why this night is different than other nights in four specific ways. We eat only matzah (why?), we eat bitter herbs (why?), we dip our food twice (why?), and we recline while eating (why?).  If you google it you will get a much more thorough answers, but that's the gist.  For some reason when at most of the screen is taken up with an ad for Bacon Salt. !?!

Captcha: regcne - when the king has bad skin?

ANON B 12:50 PM  

Baseball at one time was America's
favorite sport. If you don't know
much about it or you detest it,
you're in the minority.
I don't understand or like Shakespeare but references to him
are common in xwords.
So what? Live and learn. All
this nitpicking is boooooring.

Bacon Salt 12:51 PM  

Kosher Certification
Yes, there are rabbis out there with enough chutzpah to certify our products as kosher. If you keep kosher, the good news is that all of J&D's products are Kosher certified ... [some flavors] are Kof-K Parve, [some flavors] Kof-K Dairy or OU Dairy.

All are also vegetarian.

retired_chemist 12:55 PM  

@ PurpleGuy - I can add nothing to the foregoing as condolences on your mother's passing. A wonderful life and the company of a loving child at the end is how anyone would like to go. Thank you for sharing stories of her with us.

Puzzle - OK. 16A SNAPE was a wild guess that turned out well. 1A US AIR, not so much.Had CON before GYP, which slowed me down in the Mid-Atlantic. Also did not immediately know what to do with the two letters before COMEDIENNE for a while, since I had erased TAUPE by the time I got that far.

Thank you, Mr. Arbesfeld.

Gil.I.Pollas 1:00 PM  

Yes, you're right. Thanks to the government and its need to carry mail overseas, Trippe enjoyed a monopoly on international routes.
I well remember flying PanAm to and from Havana.
My point is that before deregulation, PanAm wasn't able to start domestic operations which TWA was already enjoying. The two airlines were so very different.
I suppose if you pit Trippe and Hughes together it would of course be a rival.

Anonymous 1:13 PM  

agree 100% that that puzzle did not feel right. I describe it as awkward. Bowler's coup?? How about mark or score? The one that really bothered me was 33a. How many times do you see a foreign word ie Jacques friend, Havana mister etc and the answer is amie, senor etc. Frittata begs for uovo as the answer since its italian but instead we get egg.Why not omelette need? As far as curiae its legalese for friend of the court. Its when like minded parties, not involved in the suit submit these briefs to help influence the court. These are only used on appeal not trial. Good example is the ACLU filing an AC brief on behalf of Rodney King's appeal of the verdict that his civil rights were not violated

Anonymous 1:19 PM  

so sorry for your loss, purpleguy. you and your mom were both blessed.

as for the puzzle, dnf. found it difficult for a wednesday. full count pitch wasn't common enough for me and i needed to see rex to get it. the whole idea was over my head. snape, curiae,eliat :tough.

also was surprised and unhappy to see gyp in the nytimes.

Anonymous 1:20 PM  

purple guy my sympathy. my mom is 89 and not doing well. glad to hear she was peaceful and at home.

treedweller 1:47 PM  

wow, and I thought I disliked sports.

Anonymous 1:56 PM  

Bravo, Jim. I have been reading this blog for a short while and learning how things go here. It was thus quite apparent that this puzzle would trigger some reflexive negativity. I was, at once, amused and annoyed to read the comments that deride one of this country’s great institutions (baseball). But attempts to salve ignorance with scorn or dismissal do nothing to alleviate the lack of basic knowledge thereby revealed.

Just as I was forced, by circumstance, to learn that Pagliacci is some sort of clown in a famous opera written who knows when, by who knows whom, to entertain who knows what population, those who titter disapprovingly about the appearance of “full count,” a common term in present use in a major pastime enjoyed by millions in this country right now, should get a real education.

And, it is not just sports, as science too is the subject of this species of ignorance. I recall the reaction to a reference to the Oort Cloud, a well-known feature of our solar system. The solar system in all its glory actually exists, right now. That clown from the opera never did. Thus, if presence in the real world is the barometer by which to assess relevancy and importance as it relates to puzzle-worthiness (or attention-worthiness), then science and sports should be favored and imaginings less so. It is all how one decides to filter the words that reflect humanity into terse entries on a grid.

Anonymous 1:59 PM  

I'm in the camp of loving the theme. I don't follow sports, in general, and I don't follow baseball in particular, but I really enjoyed how the clues combined to give you a structural situation in a baseball game. I never heard of a full-count, but I didn't even mind not knowing. I knew there must be some relevant term for that, and I just liked the idea of it. Refreshing.

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

To all you opera and sports lovers, Snape was a gimme for me. nanny nanny boo boo. ;)

Moonchild 2:48 PM  

I guess I don't mind a baseball theme but the theme phrase was totally unknown to me. I take it that the next pitch will be the full count so that's why it's included. At least there were no players' names! I really flail when that's part of the grid. And those nick names...don't get me started.
I can't quite figure out why the rabid comments today. It seems some people hate opera and the Bard as much as I hate baseball.
To each his own. That is no reason to call people names like ignorant. This is a very smart and open-minded crowd.

Really old geezer 3:09 PM  

49D 'Julia of "Designing Women"' meant nothing to me. On the other hand, 'Owner of the tavern where the elite meet to eat" would have rung a bell.

One generation's "pop culture" is another's obscurity. As someone just said, live with it!

Stan 3:11 PM  

Okay (to synthesize some previous comments): Say we make the clue for 59A "Dracula when he's fed, or follower of the five italicized clues" and 61A just "It can be perfect" without reference to the theme.

@PurpleGuy: Very sorry to hear of your loss.

Sport ignoramous 3:19 PM  

@Anon 1:13

Frittata, in several dictionaries I consulted, is an English word (derived from the Italian).

fikink 3:23 PM  

Not long ago, ‬FIL was doing a puzzle while I made dinner and asked me what position Mark McGwire played. I said, "He was a batter." FIL, at 90, just looked at me, disgusted.

I was expecting "Ball, ball, ball, ball - WALK," and was delighted that I knew two strikes and three balls was a FULL COUNT.

@Bob, your grace has long been my inspiration in caring for FIL. Know that your goodness reaches far beyond your mom's peaceful exit.

@Jesser, nice John Irving quote. thanks

JenCT 3:25 PM  

Found this one difficult; just not on the constructor's wavelength. Longer-than-usual time for me for a Wednesday.

I'll stay out of the sports discussion.

@PurpleGuy: my condolences.

william e emba 3:37 PM  

Well, if learning of Pagliacci from the opera is too much work, I suppose the next best thing would have been to learn of Pagliacci from the comics, like I did oh so many years ago. From Rorschach, in Alan Moore Watchmen:

A man goes to the doctor. Says he's depressed. He says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. The doctor says "The treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him, that should pick you up." The man bursts into tears. He says "But doctor... I am Pagliacci."

Hahaha. Hoho. Hee.

Anyway, if even that is too much work for you, you can always search on YouTube for the movie excerpt.

FULL COUNT and out.

JFek 3:41 PM  

@purple guy: although this is only my second comment, I've been reading the blog for about a year. So sorry for your loss, but oh how you loved one another.

Anonymous 3:55 PM  

I chose LAW as "far from harsh" for 29D, and I think WED is a good answer for' voted, sort of' on 39A. Oh well.

sanfranman59 3:55 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)

Wed 12:45, 11:44, 1.09, 75%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Tue 6:29, 5:47, 1.12, 81%, Challenging

My sincere condolences to you, PurpleGuy. You and your mom are an integral part of the Rex community.

Anonymous 4:20 PM  

"Gyp?!" Seriously? How is it that this racist slur is somehow acceptable in a crossword puzzle. Geez.

Blue Stater 5:07 PM  

This was one nasty puzzle for a Wednesday. "Bond former"? Sheesh.

Alan 5:22 PM  

Concerning the quarrels about the awkward PITCH -- in England, where I learned my sports, this would be called a sticky wicket. my stickiest wicket was 29A when my down crosses gave me -AV-S----T- and I, wondering how Mr. WS could possibly have allowed it, wrote in h--e-exwi-h.

Stan 5:40 PM  

Funny comment, Alan. Thanks for stopping by, and for being a good sport.

Jamie 6:02 PM  

@PurpleGuy - Condolences. I have enjoyed your many comments about your mother over the last year.

Sparky 6:13 PM  

Had BOWLERSscore at first. but it had to go when downs would not work. Also llc before INC. Figured theme clues pointed to baseball. And COMEDIENNE showed the answeres had nothing to do with baseball. PITCH did seem unnecessary. @Stan: Good peacekeeping; @Really Old Geezer: Archie the manager, here. @Wm E Emba: Cottontail.

@Purple Guy: Will miss your stories. Hang on to the good memories. My condolences.

CoffeeLvr 6:35 PM  

@PurpleGuy, deep sympathies on your loss; your mother was fortunate to have you with her every day, and you to have her for so long. I think it was Freud who said that there is no greater love than that between a mother and her son.

@Anonymous @ 10:09, FULL COUrT Press, YES! [Mizzou fan in Jayhawk territory.]

@CFXK, thank you for documenting the TWA/PanAm rivalry. I remember it well, as my Dad worked for TWA for 41 years (including his WWII service in the count.) Natural bias in my household.

Ugh, Ugh, Ugh, for 35D. The term is not acceptable to me. Yes, @TwoPonies, the term in English is derived from "Egyptian," but referred to the itinerant Roma people.

I liked the puzzle otherwise, mostly because I solved it solo. Lucky guess on EILAT, since I did not know how to spell "CURIAE" with certainty. Came up with FULLCOUNT easily, but had to dig for PITCH.

Yes, there was a fair amount of pop culture today, but from so many different eras and areas. So okay by me. I expect the puzzles to require me to stretch my horizons, and don't judge which pursuits are superior.

@Alan, very funny.

Look Up Guy 6:35 PM  


"It’s often said that to gyp derives from gypsy ... However, direct evidence is lacking, and the term arose in the US, where gypsies have been less common than in Europe. Gypsies don’t call themselves that, by the way, but Roma, from their word Rom, a man. The verb only began to appear in print near the end of the nineteenth century and took some time to become well known (it’s not in the 1913 edition of the Webster Unabridged Dictionary, for example).

The confusion may lie with another sense of the noun, for a college servant at the University of Cambridge (the English one). Though gyp in this sense is also sometimes said to come from gypsy, it may equally well come from the obsolete gippo, a menial kitchen servant; this once meant a man’s short tunic, from the obsolete French jupeau...

Even if the verb does come from gypsy, ... [i]t’s a connection that has become stronger as we have become more sensitive to possible racial slurs, as a result of which the possibility of offence is treated more seriously than evidence of actual offence warrants. (Much the same process has happened with squaw).

Incidentally, the word gypsy or gipsy itself was given to itinerants in Britain when they arrived from continental Europe in the sixteenth century; the word is a contracted form of Egyptian... It was thought that the people came from Egypt..."

jberg 7:02 PM  

PurpleGuy my condolences - don't know you, as I've only started to read comments recently, but I know what you are going through.

I was a little surprised by "bum" as well as by "gyp." Fine with 'full count pitch,' but disliked 'bowlers coup.' And Lucy was more than TV!

Two Ponies 7:53 PM  

@ Look Up Guy, Thanks for confirming my vague memory about the origin of gyp. Much as I hate stereotypes my only personal encounter with a real gypsy, or Roma, and his family unfortunately was so much like the stereotype as to be almost comical.
At this point it is so deep in our language that it seems overly PC to object. I abide with blonde jokes with good humor. Maybe we should all relax.

Sfingi 7:56 PM  

Why is this night different from all other nights?

Because I DNF on a Wednesday.

Yes this puzzle is "pitchy" to me.

I was once chastised here for using the verb "gyp." Gypsies are thought to have come from India, based on linguistic analysis. I speculate they were of a low caste and got tired of it.

@Purple Guy - sorry for your loss. Oddly, I just went to a wake today for one of the "gals" at the Home where my 91 year old mom lives, now. I'm one of the regulars, as was the husband of tiny Ernestina's. Then I went to the cemetery to clean off the plaques, which I was able to do with a large branch. The snow is melting, but it's still soggy. I have to confront the fact, that my mom will be there in not too long a time. She is non compos mentis, but is pleasant and likes to sing in 2 languages.

fergus 9:28 PM  

In the bowling milieu, I was wondering about the ambiance and perhaps the leitmotif when one of the participants is engaged in a succession of one of those COUPS?

(Plus, wouldn't it take a 300 game to really make it a proper COUP, or was WS just using the literal French for Strike?)

"And there's the full-count swing; a full-count grounder to short, he steps on second and fires to first for a full-count double play!"

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 7:04, 6:55, 1.02, 62%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 10:07, 8:55, 1.13, 84%, Challenging
Wed 13:21, 11:44, 1.14, 81%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:40, 3:41, 0.99, 49%, Medium
Tue 5:09, 4:34, 1.13, 86%, Challenging
Wed 6:16, 5:47, 1.08, 78%, Medium-Challenging

Glitch 10:42 PM  


Glad knowing this group gave your Mom some pleasure.

Sad at her passing.

Hope we can now add to your comforting.


SEO 6:38 AM  


puzzle satış

Bill 8:06 AM  

I was going to say it was easy - after i had to check with Rex's answers since the twits at the Montreal Gazette didn't italicize the 5 clues. I noticed the 3 balls but overlooked the 2 strikes. Anyway, got it done.

We are losing quite a few people these days - I lost my younger sister 4 days ago to breast cancer which spread to her brain - she was only 61.

Anonymous 11:56 AM  

Yes, Annoying enough to be a month and a half late, when the syndicated puzzle omits the italics (they could have starred the clues) It's a pain. I liked the Full count, but it made me miss the expos again.,,

Normand Houle

boardbtr 1:41 PM  

This is pretty stale after 5 weeks, but here goes. I may have misinterpreted Anon 9:59 comments regarding pop culture and Mopsy, but according to Wikipedia, the story was written in 1893. That's some pretty presistent pop culture, it seems.

rain forest 3:28 PM  

3 balls and 2 strikes IS a full count. What "follows" is the full count pitch. If you read left to right as I do, then "pitch" follows "full count". It's America's pastime for Pete's sake. Puzzle was just fine.

Dirigonzo 4:35 PM  

I see the prime-timers' early week love-fest has come to a screeching halt. I liked the puzzle just fine (despite the missing italics as others have already pointed out) and thought the theme, which I actually saw for a change, worked just fine.

It was nice to see Flopsy, MOPSY and Cottontail make an appearance in advance of the arrival in a few days of their friend the Easter Bunny.

Sharon AK 5:56 PM  

@boardbtr. Yes, I got a chuckle out of Anon's comments and again from your comment on it.
@Dirigonzo "in advance of their friend..." Cute.

As to "gyp". I've heard that all my 72 years and never heard the suggestion it was a racial/ethnic slur until this blog. Many words have meanings/usages that don't even make sense if you try to tie them to other forms, or even the same word in a different context.
Please, give up the griping about "gyp"
Enjoyed the puzzle theme though I had to Google "full count pitch" to be sure it meant what it seemed to mean. Thought several answers were quite fun. Only objected to "show" enmity for reason previously posted.

Dirigonzo 8:12 PM  

@Sharon AK - Thanks for the shout-out. There are a lot of Rex-ites in syndicationland and it would be nice if a little community of us could sprout back here on the tail end of the comments, if just to lend moral support to one another. A few syndi-solvers have already posted today and a couple of regulars (@Waxy and @NarB, where are you?) who usually have something interesting or entertaining to say have been absent for a while but may reappear. So thanks for the ackowledgement - it's nice to be noticed.

Anonymous 8:14 PM  

Realizing that they probably won't see this since I'm posting from syndication-land...

@Two Ponies and JaxInL.A.
13D is Yente and not Yenta because it is clued as the Fiddler on the Roof character. Both the cast of characters for the play and the credits for the movie list her as Yente. If it had been clued as more generically (such as "Jewish matchmaker" or "known for gossip") then either spelling would be acceptable.

66A was a gimme, since the first night of Passover was this Monday.

lodsf 11:20 PM  

[syndic] @Purpleguy – I’d like to add my condolences if you get syndic comments. It’s 5 weeks later but I’m sure your feelings on your mom’s passing are still fresh. I’m glad to know – from your postings – that you’re carrying many happy memories forward.

I thought this was a hard puzzle with clues to throw one off – Julie DUFFY not Dixie Carter who played Julia, port city EILAT instead of more IMO Wednesday-ish Hafia. Eloi? Curiae? -- maybe those are crosswordese that I just don’t know, but still didn’t know them. Oneidas or SENECAS – not misleading but they both fit. And another thumbs down for 35D (“swindle”).

None of the theme answers came easily to me… blank squares and (even worse) initial wrong answers didn’t help! I had no idea what a FULL COUNT PITCH was. (Now, post-blog, I know.)

Eventually ended with only 4 errors, but still this one ‘strike you’re out’ for me. Thanks Alan A. for some fun, some challenge; but no thanks for the road blocks!

@JaxInLA (if you see this) - thanks for the discussion on the 4 questions.

@Diriginzo - liked the (nomw) timely bunny intro

Dirigonzo 6:00 AM  

@lodsf - Two things: First, I was looking for a way to express condolences to @Purpleguy 5 weeks late but couldn't come up with the right words. What you wrote was very nice and I hope he sees it, and understands that there are others here who know him from his posts and wish him well.

Second, (nomw)? I don't understand, can you explain, please?

lodsf 11:19 AM  

@dirigonzo - should have been "now" (as in "now current" not current 5 weeks ago). Sorry, about my fumble fingers.

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